Friday, September 15, 2023

Rosh HaShanah 2023

HAPPY NEW YEAR (ROSH HASHANAH - Jewish New Year 5784) to all those celebrating. The New Year begins tonight at sundown.

Last year's Rosh HaShanah post, with links, is here. A more recent related post is here. For biblical background, see here.

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Is that new Oxyrhynchus fragment Q?

SPOLIER: NOPE. NT Pod 102: Has Q Been Discovered? Mark Goodacre has an excellect podcast on the new Jesus sayings fragment P.Oxy. 5575.

Background here.

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The Horvat Ethri synagogue

ANCIENT ARCHITECTURE: Ancient synagogue at Horvat Ethri reveals Jewish village and hidden caves on Judean coastal plain. Historic structure features impressive Second Temple period remnants of Jewish settlement (All Israel News).
Israel's National Jewish Fund (KKL-JNF) recently welcomed Israeli guests to visit recently updated sites of two ancient Jewish synagogues, one in Ma'on – located in Israel's southern Negev desert – and the other, Horvat Ethri in Adullam-France Park, located in the Judean coastal plains.


For the synagogue and mosaic at Ma'on, see here and links.

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Thursday, September 14, 2023

The Enuma Elish and the Akitu Festival

WITH REFERENCE TO ROSH HASHANAH: Enuma Elish: Babylonia’s Creation Myth and the Enthronement of Marduk (Prof. Wayne Horowitz,
The new year and Akitu festivals in Babylonia were celebrated in the spring, during which the high priest of Marduk’s Esagil temple would read the Babylonian creation story, Enuma Elish. This narrative tells how the young god Marduk became king of the gods by saving them from Tiamat and her army of monsters.
A good overview of the Akitu Festival and the Enuma Elish.

For more on the Enuma Elish, see here. For more on the ancient Akitu Festival, which has been connected with both Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, see here and links. As that post notes, the ancient Babylonian festival has been revived and is celebrated annually in the spring by Assyrian Christians.

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Another review of Wilson, Ancient Wisdom

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Ancient wisdom: an introduction to sayings collections.
Walter T. Wilson, Ancient wisdom: an introduction to sayings collections. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2022. Pp. 335. ISBN 9780802875433

Review by
Craig Davis, Smith College.

... Expansive in its inclusiveness and meticulous in its scholarship, this user-friendly volume will be an invaluable resource to all students of archaic proverbial traditions in world literature, both for quick reference and deeper study.

I noted another review of the volume here.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Persepolis tablets to be returned to Iran

PERSEPOLIS WATCH: Iran says U.S. will return thousands of ancient tablets after nine decades (Tehran Times).
So far, hundreds of those tablets (and fragments), which were on loan from Iran to the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago since 1935, have been returned home. For example, in 2019, Iran received 1,783 of those important objects being kept at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History and the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute.

In February 2018, and following years of ups and downs, the fate of those ancient Persian artifacts was left in the hands of a U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of Iran.

Archaeologists affiliated with the University of Chicago discovered the tablets in the 1930s while excavating in Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the Persian Empire. However, the institute has resumed work in collaboration with colleagues in Iran, and the return of the tablets is part of a broadening of contacts between scholars in the two countries, said Gil Stein, director of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.

For many PaleoJudaica posts on Persepolis, the ancient Achemenid ceremonial capital city, start here and follow the links. For some introductory material, see here and links.

And for that U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Persepolis archives, see here and links. The archives are not directly relevant to ancient Judaism, but they provides us with background information on scribal practice and Aramaic in Iran in the Persian Period.

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Schiffman on the Legio X Fretensis


A PDF offprint of an article in Ami Magazine. The article surveys the history of the Legio X Fretensis, notably its role in the suppression of the two Jewish revolts against Rome.

I noted the seizing of the looted bricks here. For the Great Revolt coins found recently near the Black Sea, see here.

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Biblical Studies Carnival 209

ZWINGLIUS REDIVIVUS: The ‘Why is it so Hot?’ August Carnival of Biblical Studies Hotness: The Climate Change Catastrophe (Jim West). Noted belatedly.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Fragment of an early collection of Jesus sayings?

(NEW) NEW TESTAMENT APOCRYPHA WATCH? Over at the ETC Blog, Peter Gurry notes a newly published fragment of a manuscript from Oxyrhynchus which contains Jesus sayings known from Matthew, the Gospel of Thomas, and maybe Luke. The editors date it to the second century CE, which is quite early for any kind of gospel manuscript.

New 2nd-Century ‘Sayings of Jesus’ Oxyrhynchus Papyrus

Synopsis of P.Oxy. 5575, Matt, Luke, and Thomas

Brent Nongbri has an evaluation of the paleographic case for a second-century date over at Variant Readings: The Date of the New Oxyrhynchus Sayings of Jesus P.Oxy. 87.5575.

I tend to agree with the editors about the similarity of the scripts of 5575 and 4009, but in my first look at the proposals for dated parallels (for both the pieces), I cannot say that I find any of them especially compelling. This is not to criticize the work of the editors. It is very difficult to find good, securely dated comparanda for scripts like these. A more detailed evaluation will have to wait for another occasion.
A lot of questions remain about this new text. Is it a sayings gospel based on oral traditions? Is it a compilation of sayings extracted from earlier gospels? Is it some other kind of work that just happens to cite some Jesus sayings in what survives? And how secure is that second century date?

I imagine all of these questions will be debated for a long time to come. In any case, P.Oxy. 5575 is an important discovery.

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Teenager finds ancient ring at Sussita National Park

ANCIENT ARTIFACT: Treasure hunt: Israeli youth finds Roman-era ring in national park. While visiting Sussita National Park, 13-year-old Itamar Grossman found an 'ancient-looking' ring lying on the ground and insisted that it be examined (Yair Kraus, Ynet News). Well spotted!

Sussita National Park opened this spring. For PaleoJudaica posts on the many archaeological discoveries at Hippos-Sussita, follow the links from there.

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

Monday, September 11, 2023

Of swords, stalactites, and the Valley of Salt

WHAT'S BEEN HAPPENING. Yes, I know I said I was "on the mend" a week ago. That was a bit optimistic. But I'm back now and catching up on everything, including blogging.

The big story of the last week, of course, has been the discovery of those four swords in a cave:

Four 1,900-year-old Roman swords found in Judean Desert, likely from Bar Kochba revolt. Apparently stolen by Jewish rebels, the incredibly well-preserved weapons are ‘an extremely rare find, the likes of which have never been found in Israel’ (MELANIE LIDMAN, Times of Israel).

The four swords were discovered shoved into a small fissure in a cave near Ein Gedi National Park, near the Dead Sea. The cave is already well-known to archaeologists, as it contains a stalactite with a fragmentary ink inscription written in ancient Hebrew script characteristic of the First Temple period.

Recently, Dr. Asaf Gayer of Ariel University, geologist Boaz Langford of Hebrew University, and Israel Antiquities Authority photographer Shai Halevi returned to the cave to photograph the stalactite with multispectral photography, which can decipher additional parts of the inscription not visible to the naked eye. While inside the cave, Gayer spotted an extremely well-preserved Roman pilum — a shafted weapon — in a deep, narrow crack in the rock. He also found pieces of carved wood in an adjacent niche that turned out to be parts of the swords’ scabbards.

The researchers reported the find to the Israel Antiquities Authority and returned to the site with the Judean Desert Archaeological Survey Team, which is conducting a multi-year comprehensive survey of more than 800 caves in the Judean Desert to find and preserve archaeological remains before they are looted.

It was then that they discovered the four swords, three of which were found with the blades still inside their scabbards. Researchers also found ornate handles made of wood and metal with leather strips nearby. The arid climate in the Judean Desert helps preserve fragile artifacts that might otherwise be lost to the ravages of time, including materials such as leather and wood, which are rarely found in wetter parts of the country.

That fragmentary ink inscription that precipitated the discovery has received less attention. But it's important.

Redeciphered First Temple inscription may shed light on biblical ‘Valley of Salt.’ Quest to use multispectral imaging on an ancient inscription on stalactite in remote cave near Ein Gedi has surprising side effect: The discovery of four Roman soldiers’ swords (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).

The reconstructed inscription appears to read:

Blessed is YHWH
Blessed in the Valley of Salt(?)
Blessed is God.

The newly recovered letters are of the words "in the Valley of Salt(?)" in the second line. The article fills out the implications.

The Judean Desert Archaeological Survey Team appears to be the current title of what was once called Operation Scroll (see here and cf. here; subsequently, see here and links). Last week there was an update article tied to the discoveries above:

Crack unit of rock-climbing archaeologists claims success in curbing antiquities theft. Six years into wide-scale Judean Desert cave survey operation, few Dead Sea Scrolls fragments are found. But the Land of Israel’s historical picture is ever more in focus, says IAA (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).

Speaking with The Times of Israel at a celebratory unveiling of the team’s most recent discovery — four almost perfectly preserved Roman swords dating from the era of the Bar Kochba Revolt — Dr. Eitan Klein, the deputy head of the Theft Prevention Unit, said the Judean Desert operation marks the first time that the unit is playing offense versus defense with antiquities looters.
For the discovery of the Jerusalem Papyrus in 2016, see here. There has been a lot of debate on whether it is genuine or a forgery. For many posts, start here and follow the links.

For more on the escalating issue of looting, unprovenanced artifacts, and the antiquities market, see here, here, here and links. And for more on the messy situation involving the Heliodorus Stele, see here and links.

That's not all that's been happening, but it's enough for now. I am still catching up.

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