Saturday, June 03, 2023

Early coinage of Tunisa

PUNIC WATCH: Coinage of Tunisia: The Beginning (Bob Reis, Numismatic News).
Tunisia has had written history almost as long as there has been writing. People have been making coins there almost as long as we have been making coins.
This article is more a brief history of Tunisia than an account of its numismatics. It does get to the title subject eventually. And there is a photo of a billion tridracm coin, something you don't get to see very often.

Since new readers might wonder why PaleoJudaica is interested in Phoenician and Punic history and language, I like to link to this post now and then to explain.

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More on the renovation of Carthage

PUNIC WATCH: Carthage was Rome’s greatest rival. Go see its side of the story. Roman conquerors tried to erase the past of this ancient Tunisian port city—but these historic sites shed light on the true glories of Carthage (NICK HILDEN, National Geographic).

For a National Geographic article, this one is thin. It amounts to an infomercial for tourism to the renovated site of Carthage. But the information is accurate and it does have some new details about the renovation and some nice photos.

Given recent events, I would still be cautious about traveling to Tunisia, but you can do your own risk assessment.

Background here.

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Friday, June 02, 2023

Eliav, A Jew in the Roman Bathhouse (Princeton)

A Jew in the Roman Bathhouse: Cultural Interaction in the Ancient Mediterranean

Yaron Z. Eliav
A provocative account of Jewish encounters with the public baths of ancient Rome


Price: $45.00/£38.00
ISBN: 9780691243436
Published: May 16, 2023
Copyright: 2023
Pages: 392
Size: 6.13 x 9.25 in.


Public bathhouses embodied the Roman way of life, from food and fashion to sculpture and sports. The most popular institution of the ancient Mediterranean world, the baths drew people of all backgrounds. They were places suffused with nudity, sex, and magic. A Jew in the Roman Bathhouse reveals how Jews navigated this space with ease and confidence, engaging with Roman bath culture rather than avoiding it.

In this landmark interdisciplinary work of cultural history, Yaron Eliav uses the Roman bathhouse as a social laboratory to reexamine how Jews interacted with Graeco-Roman culture. He reconstructs their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about the baths and the activities that took place there, documenting their pleasures as well as their anxieties and concerns. Archaeologists have excavated hundreds of bathhouse facilities across the Mediterranean. Graeco-Roman writers mention the bathhouse frequently, and rabbinic literature contains hundreds of references to the baths. Eliav draws on the archaeological and literary record to offer fresh perspectives on the Jews of antiquity, developing a new model for the ways smaller and often weaker groups interact with large, dominant cultures.

A compelling and richly evocative work of scholarship, A Jew in the Roman Bathhouse challenges us to rethink the relationship between Judaism and Graeco-Roman society, shedding new light on how cross-cultural engagement shaped Western civilization.

See also the related essay by the author on the PU Press website: Rabbis in the Roman public bathhouse: Ancient perspectives on modern sensibilities.

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Dysentary found in ancient Jerusalem toilets

ARCHAEOPARASITOLOGY: 2,500-year-old poop from Jerusalem toilets contain oldest evidence of dysentery parasite. A fecal analysis from two toilets dating to biblical times in Jerusalem has revealed the oldest evidence yet of the parasite that causes dysentery (Kristina Killgrove, Live Science).
The researchers discovered evidence of G. duodenalis under stone toilet seats previously found at two large sites that were likely elite residences dating to the seventh to sixth centuries B.C. The stone blocks had a curved surface for sitting, a large central hole for defecating, and a smaller hole that was possibly for urination, and were situated above a cesspit. Because the ancient toilets were still in their original locations, a unique opportunity arose for specialists to identify microorganisms in the old poop.
I was not familiar with the "house of Ahiel" toilet, but you can read more about it here. I noted the discovery of intestinal parasites in the fecal matter from the toilet excavated at Armon Hanatziv here. Follow the links from there, plus here for more ancient Latrine News.

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Thursday, June 01, 2023

Seeking copyright owner of Margalioth, Sefer ha-Razim


Dear PaleoJudaica readers,

I am currently seeking to contact whoever has copyright ownership of Mordecai Margalioth's book, Sefer ha-Razim (ספר הרזים), which was published in Hebrew in 1966 in Israel. The author passed away in 1968. For more on the author, see

The volume was funded by the American Academy of Jewish Research. The Academy does not own the copyright. The publication information is given as "'Yediot Achronot' Print" (מהדורת ’ידיעות אחרונות׳ תל–אביב). Yediot Aharonot is a longstanding Israeli newspaper. They do not seem to own the copyright, or at least have shown no interest so far in claiming it.

If no publisher claims the work, the copyright defaults to the author, or if the author is deceased, to the author's descendants. That appears to be the situation here.

If any reader can give me further information on the book's publisher, or can put me in touch with any of Dr. Margalioth's direct descendants, I would be very grateful.

The best way to contact me about this is my University e-mail address,

Many thanks for your help!

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Manguel, Maimonides (Yale)

Faith in Reason

by Alberto Manguel

Series: Jewish Lives

256 Pages, 5.75 x 8.25 in, 16 b-w illus.

Published: Tuesday, 21 Mar 2023


An exploration of Maimonides, the medieval philosopher, physician, and religious thinker, author of The Guide of the Perplexed, from one of the world’s foremost bibliophiles

Moses ben Maimon, or Maimonides (1138–1204), was born in Córdoba, Spain. The gifted son of a judge and mathematician, Maimonides fled Córdoba with his family when he was thirteen due to Almohad persecution of all non-Islamic faiths. Forced into a long exile, the family spent a decade in Spain before settling in Morocco. From there, Maimonides traveled to Palestine and Egypt, where he died at Saladin’s court.

As a scholar of Jewish law, a physician, and a philosopher, Maimonides was a singular figure. His work in extracting all the commanding precepts of Jewish law from the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud, interpreting and commenting on them, and translating them into terms that would allow students to lead sound Jewish lives became the model for translating God’s word into a language comprehensible by all. His work in medicine—which brought him such fame that he became Saladin’s personal physician—was driven almost entirely by reason and observation.

In this biography, Alberto Manguel examines the question of Maimonides’ universal appeal—he was celebrated by Jews, Arabs, and Christians alike. In our time, when the need for rationality and recognition of the truth is more vital than ever, Maimonides can help us find strategies to survive with dignity in an uncertain world.

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Studia Philonica Annual XXXIV (SBL)

The Studia Philonica Annual XXXIV, 2022: Studies in Hellenistic Judaism

David E. Runia, Gregory T. Sterling, editors

ISBN 9781628374469
Volume SPhiloA 34
Status Available
Price $60.00
Publication Date December 2022
Hardback $60.00
eBook $60.00

The Studia Philonica Annual is a scholarly journal devoted to the study of Hellenistic Judaism, particularly the writings and thought of the Hellenistic-Jewish writer Philo of Alexandria (circa 15 BCE to circa 50 CE).

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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Review of More New Testament Apocrypha volume 3 (with an update on MOTP2)

READING ACTS: Tony Burke, ed. New Testament Apocrypha, Vol. 3: More Noncanonical Scriptures. Phil Long reviews MTNA3.

For my four-part review of MNTA1, see here and links. For the six-part AJR review of MNTA2, see here and links. And editor Tony Burke has posts on the editing of MNTA 1-3 at his blog, Apocryphicity, here and links, here, and here.

Regular readers may be wondering whatever happened to the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project (MOTP). I am happy to report that volume 2 of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, edited by myself and Richard Bauckham, is on track and nearing completion. All going well, it should be in your hands by 2025.

For volume 1, see here. For a preview of one of the showpieces of volume 2, see here.

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Review of Adler, The Origins of Judaism

BOOK REVIEW: 'The Origins of Judaism': Finding how far back rabbinic tradition goes - review. Prof. Yonatan Adler’s book provides proofs both for and against how far back ‘rabbinic Judaism’ goes (ARI ZIVOTOFSKY, Jerusalem Post).
Adler presents a treasure trove of ancient texts (e.g., Josephus, Philo, Letter of Aristeas, Septuagint, Dead Sea Scrolls, assorted papyri) and archaeological findings related to a variety of commandments. The sources are enlightening, intriguing, sometimes surprising and, as he explains, prove without a shadow of a doubt that by 2,100 years ago, Jews in the Land of Israel practiced Judaism in a manner similar to today.

But what about a few hundred years earlier? Adler’s thesis is that it all started only about 2,100 to 2,200 years ago. Overall, he tackles about a dozen religious practices and tries to show that they only emerged in the first/second centuries BCE. His data are impressive, his conclusions less so.

This review is worth a read. The author has some thoughtful criticisms of Adler's case.

That said, he does not seem to understand, or at least does not make clear, that the problem with the Elephantine "Passover Papyrus" is that the word "Passover" does not actually survive on the document. It has to be reconstructed. The reconstruction seems plausible to me, but that's not the same as having the word on the leather.

For PaleoJudaica posts on Adler's work, especially his book The Origins of Judaism, along with some of my own criticisms, see here and links.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Is the Pentecost story a lost resurrection appearance?

BELATEDLY FOR PENTECOST (SHAVUOT): Pentecost, Resurrection, and the Chasm of History (Philip Jenkins, The Anxious Bench).
This coming Sunday marks the feast of Pentecost. In connection with that, I am posting a substantially revised version of an offering of mine at this site some years ago. As I’ll suggest, the astonishing events that we read about on that first Pentecost were, at one time, regarded as even more critical than we now think of them. Specifically, I will argue that when early Christians first told that dramatic tale, it was as a Resurrection appearance, just as clearly so as the better known stories that we tell around Easter time. The whole phenomenon raises fundamental issues of definition and understanding, and above all in how we think of that idea of Resurrection.


I think the proposal is very speculative, but who knows? A resurrection appearance to 500 people does seem like a big event to misplace.

For more on the events of Acts chapter 2 and their relation (or not) to the festival of Shavuot, see here and here.

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Re-creating the Balm of Gilead?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Harvesting the Balm of Gilead. Israeli archaeologists extract biblical balm from pistachio trees.

I had no idea the Balm of Gilead came from pistachio resin. Another report from many years ago said it was "a member of the myrrh family." I still doubt that it was the "gold" of the three magi.

Thsi BHD essay summarizes a BAR article by Zohar Amar which is behind the subscription wall. But the essay is well illustrated and informative.

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Sunday, May 28, 2023

Weiss, De 2 à 4 Maccabées (Mohr Siebeck)

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Emmanuel Weiss. De 2 à 4 Maccabées. Étude d'une réécriture. [Vom 2. zum 4. Makkabäer. Untersuchung einer Umschreibung. From 2 to 4 Maccabees. Study of a Rewriting.] 2023. XVII, 427 pages. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 498. 154,00 € including VAT. cloth ISBN 978-3-16-161095-0.
Published in French.
Dans la présente monographie, Emmanuel Weiss étudie la façon dont l'auteur de 4 Maccabées combine plusieurs sources, dont la principale est certainement 2 Maccabées. Cet auteur ne se contente pas de reproduire le récit du martyre d'Éléazar et des sept frères, il le réécrit en profondeur. La théologie de 4 Maccabées se démarque de celle de 2 Maccabées: le lexique de la souveraineté y est transféré de Dieu à la Raison humaine qui, conformément aux représentations du stoïcisme tardif, est la partie supérieure de l'âme, qui a néanmoins besoin d'un guide, la Loi juive donnée par Dieu. Ce faisant, l'auteur de 4 Maccabées justifie paradoxalement une vision assez traditionnelle du Judaïsme en l'appuyant sur des conceptions empruntées à la culture dominante de langue grecque.

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