Saturday, June 17, 2023

Ehrman, Journeys to Heaven and Hell (Yale)

Journeys to Heaven and Hell
Tours of the Afterlife in the Early Christian Tradition

by Bart D. Ehrman
Course Book
344 Pages, 6.12 x 9.25 in

Published: Tuesday, 7 Mar 2023

Published: Tuesday, 5 Apr 2022
Out of Stock (as of this posting)

A New York Times bestselling scholar’s illuminating exploration of the earliest Christian narrated journeys to heaven and hell

“[An] illuminating deep dive . . . An edifying origin story for contemporary Christian conceptions of the afterlife.”—Publishers Weekly

From classics such as the Odyssey and the Aeneid to fifth-century Christian apocrypha, narratives that described guided tours of the afterlife played a major role in shaping ancient notions of morality and ethics. In this new account, acclaimed author Bart Ehrman contextualizes early Christian narratives of heaven and hell within the broader intellectual and cultural worlds from which they emerged. He examines how fundamental social experiences of the early Christian communities molded the conceptions of the afterlife that eventuated into the accepted doctrines of heaven, hell, and purgatory.

Drawing on Greek and Roman epic poetry, early Jewish writings such as the Book of Watchers, and apocryphal Christian stories including the Acts of Thomas, the Gospel of Nicodemus, and the Apocalypse of Peter, Ehrman demonstrates that ancient tours of the afterlife promoted reflection on matters of ethics, faith, ambition, and life’s meaning, the fruit of which has been codified into Christian belief today.

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Codex Sassoon copycat in Turkey?

HERE WE GO AGAIN: Turkey recovers 1,100-year-old Hebrew Bible in smuggling raids. The 28-page leather-bound collection of papyrus scriptures was seized during Turkey's latest smuggling crackdown in Istanbul (Ezgi Akin, Al-Monitor).

Once again, a story about the recovery of an improbably old Hebrew manuscript in Turkey. Obsevations:

As always, I commend the Turkish police for going hard on antiquities smuggling.

But the authorities need to consult with some actual experts before making these extraordinary claims about seized manuscripts. Repeatedly we read reports of one-thousand- or two-thousand-year-old Hebrew or Aramaic manuscripts being recovered. These reports, dubious to start with, mostly sink into oblivion without followup. The photographs that sometimes emerge are generally of obviously modern fakes, which seem to abound in Turkey.

The photo in the article is of an actual 1,100-year-old manuscript, the Codex Sassoon. It was recently sold to a private buyer who has commendably donated it to a museum in Israel. But the photo has nothing to do with the 28-page book seized in Turkey. The latter seems likely to be another modern fake, although I would have to see photographs to be sure.

In recent years I usually have been ignoring such stories coming out of Turkey, but occasionally once comes up that I think calls for a response. I have collected many such stories here (cf. here).

Turkey produces many geninue, fascinating stories about archaeology, antiquities, and history. I have noted a few in the last year or so here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. It is a pity that someone feels the need to dilute them with stories like the current one.

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Friday, June 16, 2023

IAA antiquities amnesty update

A SUCCESS: New campaign to anonymously return illegally held antiquities nets thousands of items. 15% of public estimated to be holding antiquities in their homes that by law belong to the state; Israel Antiquities Authority’s collection drive extended another week (MELANIE LIDMAN, Times of Israel).
Thousands who were illegally holding antiquities in their homes returned the items during a two-week campaign this month, the Israel Antiquities Authority and Ministry of Heritage reported on Thursday.

The campaign — “If it’s old – return it with a click!” — encourages private citizens who have artifacts to report them online and return them anonymously and without questions.


For the story of the returned late-antique anchor, see this Jerusalem Post article: Israeli returns 1,700-year-old anchor to Antiquities Authority after 26 years. This anchor, a rare find in the country, was recovered by a citizen named Moshe during a diving expedition off Palmahim Beach in 1996.

For background on the antiquities amnesty campaign, see here.

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"First Fragments" at the Chester Beatty

EXHIBITION: First Fragments Biblical Papyrus from Roman Egypt.
Explore some of the world’s earliest surviving biblical papyrus books.

The surviving remains of early biblical papyrus books are amazing artefacts of the past. The Chester Beatty’s current exhibition First Fragments: Biblical Papyrus from Roman Egypt focuses on the internationally important collection of manuscripts known as the Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri. Dating from the 2nd to 4th century AD, these ancient pages reveal a world of book production and early Christian scholarship in Roman Egypt.

These papyrus fragments have much to tell us about the material histories of writing and bookbinding, textual histories of translation and transmission, and later object histories of ownership, publication and display. Explore their fragmented histories through the lens of scribes and bookbinders, authors and readers, scholars and collectors throughout the centuries. This exhibition offers a glimpse into the past through the histories of these ancient books.

Featuring some eighty objects from Roman Egypt, this exhibition includes pages from some of the earliest surviving biblical papyrus books alongside early Coptic bindings, ostraca (pieces of pottery used for writing), related papyrus fragments, illuminated Coptic manuscript pages and loans from the National Museum of Ireland.

The site has a 3D virtual exhibition page as well. It allows you to go through the exhibition and look at each of the scrolls.

Bible History Daily also has a notice of the exhibition, with some additional details: First Fragments: Biblical Papyrus from Roman Egypt.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Hyrcania is being excavated

ARCHAEOLOGY: Hyrcania fortress site in Judean Desert excavated for the first time in Israel (All Israel News).
For the first time, archaeologists are excavating a Hasmonean fortress from the second century B.C.E., known as “Hyrcania" after John Hyrcanus, who was a Maccabean leader and a Jewish high priest during that time.


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Journal issue on the ending of Mark

THE ETC BLOG: Ending of Mark Papers Published (Peter Gurry).
The papers from the Mark 16 conference around this time last year have now been published in the latest issue of Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies Bulletin. I haven't had a chance to read them yet myself but look forward to.
The ToC follows.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Jerusalem's Tower of David reopens

RENOVATION: Iconic Tower of David Reopens: Jerusalem Like You’ve Never Seen It Before. After a $50 million renovation, the revamped, expanded museum in East Jerusalem reopens this month (Naama Riba, Haaretz).

Although the current Tower of David was built in the 17th century, its architectual origins go back to the Herodian period:

“Parts of the fortress were built during the Herodian period, over 2,000 years ago. Other major sections were built during the Crusader and Mamluk periods and it was finished in the early Ottoman period. In many respects the Tower of David constitutes a kind of miniature of the entire city,” [geographer Prof. Yehoshua] Ben Arieh wrote.

The soubriquet “Tower of David” was attached to the site by the Roman-Jewish historian Josephus about 1,000 years after the time of King David. In his book “Wars of the Jews,” Josephus wrote, “The city of Jerusalem was fortified with three walls, on such parts as were not encompassed with unpassable valleys; for in such places it had but one wall. The city was built upon two hills, which are opposite to one another, and have a valley to divide them asunder; at which valley the corresponding rows of houses on both hills end. Of these hills, that which contains the upper city is much higher, and in length more direct. Accordingly, it was called the ‘Citadel,’ by king David” – (Translated by William Whiston, A.M. Auburn and Buffalo, John E. Beardsley, 1895).

For PaleoJudaica posts on the renovation of the Tower of David, see here and here.

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Neis on Rabbis and the Reproduction of Species

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Rabbis and the Reproduction of Species (Rafael Rachel Neis).
Rafael Rachel Neis. When a Human Gives Birth to a Raven: Rabbis and the Reproduction of Species. University of California Press, 2023.

In my hot-off-the-press book, When a Human Gives Birth to a Raven: Rabbis and the Reproduction of Species, I start with the perhaps obvious, perhaps controversial, premise that we should take ancient worldmaking seriously and “literally.” ...

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Tuesday, June 13, 2023

IAA asks public to return antiquities

ANNOUNCEMENT: Antiquities Authority calls on Israeli public to return stolen artifacts Citizens can reach out to the IAA to determine if items are antiques and return items at one of four collection points throughout the country (Jerusalem Post).
The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) in May began a large-scale operation to encourage the public to return illegally acquired artifacts, to restore them to their original site where possible, gain historical knowledge and raise awareness around the issue.


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Weston Fields (1948-2023)

Dr. Weston Fields, 1948 – 2023

On Thursday, May 25th, Dr. Weston Fields passed away on his beloved Bear Island in Alaska. ...

While working on his doctorate at Grace, Weston was increasingly drawn to the emerging scholarship on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Weston mastered speaking Hebrew and in 1985 he moved to Jerusalem, Israel, with his family in order to pursue a Ph.D. in Old Testament at Hebrew University. While in Jerusalem he studied with such internationally notable Old Testament scholars as Shemaryahu Talmon and Emanuel Tov. His thesis on biblical literary motifs was published under the name “Sodom and Gomorrah: History and Motif in Biblical Narrative.” While studying at the Hebrew University, Weston heard his professors decrying limited funding for Dead Sea Scrolls analysis and publication. In 1991, working with Emanuel Tov, Weston initiated and chartered the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation. Weston served as the Managing Director of the foundation to jumpstart funding Dead Sea Scrolls research and publication for scholars around the world to use. This project became Weston’s life work and legacy. Weston brought a unique combination of practical business skills and a qualified scholarly appreciation for the finer details of the research. As a public speaker, Weston was riveting to listen to, and he had the ability to combine just the right number of facts with just the right amount of story-telling and charm to hold his listeners captive.

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Monday, June 12, 2023

Hutzli, The Origins of P (Mohr Siebeck)

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Jürg Hutzli. The Origins of P. Literary Profiles and Strata of the Priestly Texts in Genesis 1 – Exodus 40. 2023. XI, 447 pages. Forschungen zum Alten Testament 164. 154,00 € including VAT. cloth ISBN 978-3-16-161545-0.
Published in English. In this study, Jürg Hutzli analyses all Priestly texts in Genesis-Exodus. He evaluates crucial questions concerning P, namely inner stratification, literary profile, historical setting, and relationship to the non-P »environment« separately for each Priestly unit or section. An important result of the author's study is the conclusion that the Priestly texts form a stratum that is more composite and less homogeneous than previously thought. Single units like Gen. 1, the Priestly flood story, and the Priestly Abraham narrative have their own distinct theologies that do not fit that of the comprehensive Priestly composition in every respect. Furthermore, as recent studies point out, the literary profile of P is not the same in every section (either a source or a redaction). The author evaluates these observations diachronically for an inner differentiation of the Priestly strand.

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The Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri at Ninety (De Gruyter, open access)

The Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri at Ninety
Literature, Papyrology, Ethics

Edited by: Garrick Vernon Allen , Usama Ali Mohamed Gad , Kelsie Gayle Rodenbiker , Anthony Philip Royle and Jill Unkel
Volume 10 in the series Manuscripta Biblica

About this book

Open Access

Despite the significant work carried out on the text, transmission, materiality, and scribal habits preserved in the Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri since their acquisition by Beatty ninety years ago in 1931, these early copies of Jewish scripture and the New Testament have, for the most part, belonged primarily to textual critics. The goal of this book is to resituate this important collection of manuscripts in broader contexts, examining their significance in conversation with papyrology as a discipline, in the context of other ancient literary traditions preserved on papyri, and in discussion with the intellectual and cultural history of collecting, colonialism, and scholarly rhetoric. The Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri, and other papyrological collection with which they are inextricably bound, remind us of the critical value of examining old manuscripts afresh in their historical, scholarly, and intellectual contexts. These studies are relevant for all scholars who work with manuscripts and ancient texts of any variety.

HT the AWOL Blog.

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Sunday, June 11, 2023

Poirier (ed.), L’Hymne de la Perle des Actes de Thomas (Brepols)

L’Hymne de la Perle des Actes de Thomas
Introduction, texte, traduction, commentaire. Deuxième édition, revue et augmentée

Paul-Hubert Poirier (ed)

Pages: 471 p.
Size: 156 x 234 mm
Language(s): French
Publication Year: 2021

Buy print version
€ 140,00 EXCL. VAT
ISBN: 978-2-503-59121-6

Le plus célèbre poème de la littérature syriaque, qui anticipe les récits de la quête du saint Graal.

SUMMARY v Les Actes apocryphes de Thomas, qui racontent l’activité missionnaire et le martyre de l’apôtre en Inde, figurent au nombre des cinq grands Actes apostoliques anciens, avec ceux de Jean, de Pierre, d’André et de Paul. Connus par une version syriaque et une version grecque, ainsi que par des formes dérivées en latin et dans plusieurs langues orientales, les Actes de Thomas sont les seuls à nous être parvenus en entier. Même s’ils appartiennent au genre du récit romanesque et se rapprochent à ce titre des romans de l’Antiquité gréco-latine, les Actes de Thomas intègrent des éléments que l’on ne retrouve guère dans cette littérature : des prières, des épiclèses ou invocations baptismales et eucharistiques, des discours où l’apôtre propose un message caractérisé par un idéal de renoncement sexuel, des descriptions de rites baptismaux et eucharistiques, et des hymnes, dont le plus fameux est sans contredit l’« Hymne de Judas Thomas l’apôtre, quand il était au pays des Indiens », mieux connu sous le titre d’« Hymne de la Perle » ou d’« Hymne de l’âme ». Transmis en syriaque et en grec, par un seul manuscrit dans chacun des cas, et par une paraphrase byzantine, l’Hymne de la Perle se présente sous la forme d’un récit qui raconte l’épopée d’un jeune prince oriental envoyé en Égypte pour en rapporter une perle, précieuse et unique, gardée par un serpent. On a volontiers vu dans ce poème, dont la composition est antérieure à celle des Actes de Thomas, une évocation de la destinée de l’âme, d’origine céleste, en exil dans le corps et la matière. Une lecture plus attentive de l’hymne permet cependant de le situer dans un contexte historique et doctrinal précis, celui de la réappropriation des Actes de Thomas par les manichéens, qui ont vu dans l’hymne une évocation poétique saisissante de la vocation et de la destinée de Mani. Cet ouvrage propose une édition, une traduction française et une synopse des trois versions de l’Hymne de la Perle, précédées d’une introduction et suivies d’un commentaire.

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Smith & Landau, The Secret Gospel of Mark (Yale)

The Secret Gospel of Mark
A Controversial Scholar, a Scandalous Gospel of Jesus, and the Fierce Debate over Its Authenticity

by Geoffrey S. Smith and Brent C. Landau

240 Pages, 6.12 x 9.25 in, 8 b-w illus.
Published: Tuesday, 21 Mar 2023

A groundbreaking account of the Secret Gospel of Mark, one of the most hotly debated documents in Christian history

In 1958, at the ancient Christian monastery of Mar Saba just outside Jerusalem, Columbia University scholar Morton Smith claimed to have unearthed a letter written by the Christian philosopher Clement of Alexandria and containing an excerpt from a previously unknown version of the canonical Gospel of Mark. This excerpt recounts a story of Jesus’s apparent sexual encounter with a young, resurrected disciple. In recent years, an influential group of researchers has alleged that no Secret Gospel or letter of Clement existed in antiquity, and that the manuscript that Morton Smith “found” was a modern forgery—created by none other than Smith himself.

In this book, Geoffrey S. Smith and Brent C. Landau enter into the controversy surrounding this document and argue that the Secret Gospel of Mark is neither a first-century alternative gospel nor a twentieth-century forgery by the scholar who announced its discovery. Instead, this account is intimately bound up with the history of Mar Saba, one of the oldest monasteries in the Christian world. In this fascinating work, Smith and Landau present the realities and misconceptions surrounding not only the now-lost manuscript but also its brilliant, enigmatic, and acerbic discoverer, Morton Smith.

For PaleoJudaica posts on the Secret Gospel of Mark, see here and links (cf. here).

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