Saturday, December 09, 2023

Review of Vanden Eykel, The Magi

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Review: The Magi in History and Tradition.
The Magi Who They Were, How They’ve Been Remembered, and Why They Still Fascinate
By Eric Vanden Eykel
(Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2022), 218 pp.; $28 (hardcover), $25.99 (eBook)
Reviewed by Christopher A. Frilingos
For many PaleoJudaica posts on Matthew's Magi, see here and links, plus here and here. That first link also covers the Star of Bethlehem again for this year.

Cross-file under 'Tis the Season.

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Lightstone, What Were the Early Rabbis? (Cascade)

What Were the Early Rabbis?
An Introduction from a Sociocultural Perspective

Westar Studies

by Jack N. Lightstone
Imprint: Cascade Books

340 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.68 in

Published: June 2023
$39.00 / £31.00 / AU$59.00

Published: June 2023
$59.00 / £47.00 / AU$89.00

Published: June 2023
$39.00 / £33.99 / AU$56.99


Over the first eight centuries CE, the religious cultures of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and many European lands transformed. Worship of "the gods" largely gave way to the worship of YHWH, the God of Israel, under Christianity and Islam, both developments of contemporary Judaism, after Rome destroyed Judaism's central shrine, the Jerusalem Temple, in 70 CE. But concomitant changes occurred within contemporary Judaism. The events of 70 wiped away well-established Judaic institutions in the Land of Israel, and over time the authority of a cadre of new "masters" of Judaic law, life, and practice, the "rabbis," took hold. What was the core, professional-like profile of members of this emerging cadre in the late second and early third centuries, when this group first attained a level of stable institutionalization (even if not yet well-established authority)? What views did they promote about the authoritative basis of their profile? What in their surrounding and antecedent sociocultural contexts lent prima facie legitimacy and currency to that profile? Geared to a nonspecialist readership, What Were the Early Rabbis? addresses these questions and consequently sheds light on eventual shifts in power that came to underpin Judaic communal life, while Christianity and Islam "Judaized" non-Jews under their expansive hegemonies.

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Friday, December 08, 2023

The Hasmonean Heritage Museum in Modi’in

HANUKKAH RELATED: Hasmonean Heritage Museum (Hava Preil, Jewish Link).
As the candles glisten, let’s go back to the land of the Chanukah story. According to the book of Maccabees I, the Hasmonean Revolt against the Seleucid Greeks began in the city of Modi’in in the year 167 BCE. When construction of the modern city of Modi’in began in the 1990s, archeological excavations began to reveal Modi’in of the past. These excavations have yielded finds from all eras of history until today. Many of these finds are on display at the Hasmonean Heritage Museum.


I noted the opening of the Museum a couple of years ago, but all the links in that post have rotted. So here it is again.

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

Circumcision through the ages

HANUKKAH RELATED: Persecuting Circumcision (Dr. Alexandria Frisch,
Samson, Saul, Jonathan, and David insult Philistines for being uncircumcised. Antiochus IV prohibited circumcision, while, Mattathias, and later John Hyrcanus, forced others to circumcise. In Roman times too, Emperor Hadrian forbade circumcision and Bar Kochba circumcised Jews by force. Was circumcision a reason for the revolt?

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Wise, Language and Literacy in Roman Judaea (Yale)

Language and Literacy in Roman Judaea
A Study of the Bar Kokhba Documents

by Michael Owen Wise

Series: The Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library

544 Pages, 6.12 x 9.25 x 1.37 in, 18 b-w illus.


Published: Tuesday, 26 May 2015


This comprehensive exploration of language and literacy in the multi-lingual environment of Roman Palestine (c. 63 B.C.E. to 136 C.E.) is based on Michael Wise’s extensive study of 145 Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Nabataean contracts and letters preserved among the Bar Kokhba texts, a valuable cache of ancient Middle Eastern artifacts. His investigation of Judean documentary and epistolary culture derives for the first time numerical data concerning literacy rates, language choices, and writing fluency during the two-century span between Pompey’s conquest and Hadrian’s rule. He explores questions of who could read in these ancient times of Jesus and Hillel, what they read, and how language worked in this complex multi-tongued milieu. Included also is an analysis of the ways these documents were written and the interplay among authors, secretaries, and scribes. Additional analysis provides readers with a detailed picture of the people, families, and lives behind the texts.

This is another one that I missed when it came out, quite some time ago. But it seems worth noting now.

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Thursday, December 07, 2023

Hanukkah 2023

HAPPY HANUKKAH (CHANUKKAH, CHANUKAH, HANNUKAH) to all those celebrating! The eight-day festival begins tonight at sundown.

Last year's Hanukkah post is here. It links to earlier Hanukkah/Hasmonean-era-related posts. Some more recent Hanukkah-related posts are here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

UPDATE: And more 2023 Hanukkah-related posts are here, here, here, and here.

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

The Hasmoneans, the Oniads, and the high priesthood

HANUKKAH RELATED: The Hasmoneans Usurped the High Priesthood from the Oniads (Prof. Daniel R. Schwartz,
The family of Onias long controlled the high priesthood before the persecution of Antiochus IV and the Hasmoneans’ (“Maccabees’”) rebellion. When the dust settled, the Hasmoneans found themselves in charge of the priesthood and the Oniads had relocated to Egypt. 1 Maccabees, a pro-Hasmonean work, defends the legitimacy of the Hasmonean accession to the high priesthood, and the fact that it went to the family of Judah Maccabee’s brother, Simon.
For PaleoJudaica posts on the Oniad Temple at Leontopolis, in Egypt, see here and links. For more on the Maccabean Revolt, see the immediately preceding post—here—and links.

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

Two revolts against Hellenistic Kings

HANUKKAH RELATED: Two Major Native Rebellions Against Hellenistic Kings. Here are two stories of Greco-Macedonian rulers of the Hellenistic period coming to blows with the native population of their empires (Benjamin Davies, The Collector).
The Hellenistic period saw Macedonian rulers on the thrones of both Asian and African empires from 323 BCE until 31 BCE. Although there was certainly a division between the Greek culture of the rulers and the native cultures of the ruled, Hellenistic kings were far more invested in cooperating and displaying themselves as the rightful rulers of their native subjects. However, there were still tensions between the rulers and the ruled. Native rebellions did sometimes erupt and two of these rebellions will be the subject of this article: the Maccabean revolt and the Great Rebellion.


The "Great Rebellion" of the Ptolemies against the Egyptians is the lesser-known one today. But King Ptolemy IV Philopater appears in the Bible. For more on him, see here and links. And the Rosetta Stone is arguably connected with the aftermath of the revolt.

The Maccabean Revolt is the better-know and more immediately seasonal one. This article gives a good, brief but nuanced, account of that revolt.

Some PaleoJudaica posts on the Maccabean Revolt are here, here, here, and links.

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

National Judith Day?

OLD TESTAMENT APOCRYPHA WATCH, SORT OF: National Judith Day 2023: History, FAQs, Dates, Activities, and Facts About judges. This day is observed as an opportunity to express gratitude to those who share the name Judith on an international scale. The feminine given name Judith is derived from the Hebrew name Yehudit, which translates to "woman of Judea" (unatttributed, Newsd).
... The Hebrew form of the biblical name Judith, Yehudit, translates to “Jewess” or “woman from Judea.”

Apocryphal records of the incident [referent unclear - JRD] can be found in the Book of Judith. Judith’s narrative is replete with tragedy, triumph and determination, sex, deceit, and murder. The narrative of Judith is situated during the Babylonian subjugation of Assyria by Nebuchadnezzar. Judith is identified as Manassas’ affluent widow. It was stated that she possessed an attractive countenance and was a sight to witness.

This is a new one to me. But salutes to all readers named Judith.

There seems to be some confusion in the headline and the article between Judith Day and Judges Day.

For PaleoJudaica posts on the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Book of Judith, its historical background, and its reception history, see here and links, plus here.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Roof tiles from Antiochus's Acra? Maybe.

SAVED UP FOR HANUKKAH? Archaeologists May Have Found Roof Tiles From Antiochus’ Missing Citadel in Jerusalem. Antiochus Epiphanes built a mighty fort in Jerusalem in the second century B.C.E., and may have used ‘pagan’ tiling technology to annoy the Jews a little more (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz).
Fragments of clay roof tiles dated to the second century B.C.E. have been found in Jerusalem, even though such tiles were unknown in Judea at the time, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Wednesday.

These special tiles may have come from none other than the missing Acra – the massive fortress built somewhere in Jerusalem (where is quite the question) by the angry Seleucid Emperor Antiochus IV, aka Antiochus Epiphanes, as part of his drive to subdue the rebellious region in the late second century B.C.E.


It was more the second quarter of the second century BCE.

In 2015 the first claim came in that remains of Antiochus IV (Epiphanes)'s Acra had been excavated at the Givati parking lot in Jerusalem. It was greeted with some skepticism. See here and here.

These roof tiles potentially add some support to the claim, but there is still a lot of inference involved. And part of what we thought we knew about the Acra's location has to be explained away.

This is one of those things that will probably not be resolved unless we find a plaque inscribed in Greek with "Welcome to the Acra." We'll see.

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Statue smasher acquitted and hospitalized

A "JERUSALEM SYNDROME" DEFENSE: Jerusalem court acquits man who smashed 'blasphemous' statues at Israel Museum. The president of the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court sent him to involuntary hospitalization for four years, a period equal to the maximum prison sentence for the offense attributed to him (YOAV ETIEL, SHLOMI WELLER / WALLA!, Jerusalem Post).

I don't think I got around to this episode when it happened, but you can read the whole story at the link.

For some PaleoJudaica posts on the Jerusalem Syndrome, start here and follow the links.

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

Jonathan N. Tubb (1951–2023)

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Milestones: Jonathan N. Tubb (1951–2023). Leading British archaeologist of the biblical lands (Konstantinos Politis).
Jonathan Tubb, renowned archaeologist and long-time curator of Levantine antiquities at the British Museum, passed away on September 25, 2023 in London. He was 72 years old.


Cross-file under Sad News and Obituary.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2023

Latest on the Mount Ebal curse tablet / fishing weight

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Hook, Line, and Sinker: Mt. Ebal Curse Tablet Debunked? Archaeologist offers new interpretation of controversial artifact (Nathan Steinmeyer).

A good summary of the evidence that the object is a fishing weight. Includes a photo of ancient lead fishing weights that look strikingly like the Mount Ebal artifact.

Also, at the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project Official (and Unofficial) Weblog, Aren Maeir reports that Articles on the Mount Ebal lead object have appeared!

Glad to report that the three articles dealing with the lead object from Mount Ebal, have appeared in IEJ.
The new issue is still not up (i.e., for sale) on the IEJ website, but hopefully that will change soon.

Background here and links.

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

Elledge, Early Jewish Writings and New Testament Interpretation (OUP)

Early Jewish Writings and New Testament Interpretation

C.D. Elledge

Essentials of Biblical Studies


This item has an extended shipping time. The typical delivery time is 2 weeks.

Published: 21 November 2023

224 Pages


ISBN: 9780190274580


Early Jewish Writings and New Testament Interpretation is a concise, introductory volume to orient undergraduates, seminarians, and interested readers to some of the most important early Jewish writings that currently inform New Testament interpretation. While the literature of Early Judaism is vast, five specific literary categories stand at the forefront of modern New Testament research. These include wisdom writings, apocalypses, rewritten scriptural narratives, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the writings of Philo and Josephus. Individual chapters explain their respective contributions toward interpreting the theological ideas, socio-historical settings, and literary features of specific New Testament writings.

The volume further describes literary collections that the church would later classify as “apocrypha” and “pseudepigrapha,” providing an historically nuanced perspective on what “scripture” might have looked like prior to the formation of the biblical canon. Interpreted within their ancient context, many of these writings offer insight into a religious environment in which Judaism and the nascent church were still emerging religions that had not yet gone their “separate” ways. The reader of the New Testament today can, therefore, understand the indebtedness of the New Testament literature to traditions found in contemporary Jewish works, while also appreciating the creative, new ways in which the church interpreted them.

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Brakke, The Gospel of Judas (AB Commentary)

The Gospel of Judas
A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary

by David Brakke

Series: The Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries

296 Pages, 6.12 x 9.25 in


Published: Tuesday, 22 Feb 2022

A new translation and commentary on the extracanonical Coptic text that describes Judas’ special status among Jesus’ disciples

Since its publication in 2006, The Gospel of Judas has generated remarkable interest and debate among scholars and general readers alike. In this Coptic text from the second century C.E., Jesus engages in a series of conversations with his disciples and with Judas, explaining the origin of the cosmos and its rulers, the existence of another holy race, and the coming end of the current world order.

In this new translation and commentary, David Brakke addresses the major interpretive questions that have emerged since the text’s discovery, exploring the ways that The Gospel of Judas sheds light on the origins and development of gnostic mythology, debates over the Eucharist and communal authority, and Christian appropriation of Jewish apocalyptic eschatology. The translation reflects new analyses of the work’s genre and structure, and the commentary and notes provide thorough discussions of the text’s grammar and numerous lacunae and ambiguities.

This came out in 2022, but somehow I missed it.

For more on David Brakke and his work on the Gospel of Judas, see here. For many other PaleoJudaica posts on the Gospel of Judas, start here and follow the links, notably here.

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

Monday, December 04, 2023

Biblical Studies Carnival #212

READING ACTS: Biblical Studies Carnival #212 for November 2023 (Philip J. Long).

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Olyan, Animal Rights and the Hebrew Bible (OUP)

Animal Rights and the Hebrew Bible

Saul M. Olyan


Published: 20 September 2023

152 Pages


ISBN: 9780197609385


Does the Hebrew Bible ascribe an implicit form of legal personhood or legal rights to animals? If so, which animals—domesticated or wild, or both—receive which rights, and for what purpose? Scholars have been slow to consider these questions, and animal-oriented research as a whole, in the field of biblical studies. For the first time, author Saul M. Olyan addresses these questions in detail and explores how the evidence of the Hebrew Bible might contribute to contemporary debates about animal rights in the academy, in the courts, in the public square, and in religious communities.

In this book, Olyan demonstrates that seven different biblical texts extend both legal personhood and rights to animals. The rights conferred upon them are mainly specific and situational, and the legal personhood associated them is in most cases best characterized as limited. Nonetheless, he argues that the animal rights described by these texts are genuine because they are not contingent on the needs or demands of others, they do not disappear or give way because of conflict with the interests of another legal person, and they may not be violated with impunity. Finally, Olyan considers how the biblical texts examined in his analyses might be used to extend or strengthen the arguments of those advocating for animals in judicial, academic, political, or religious settings.

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

The Assassination of Sennacherib

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: The Assassination of Sennacherib. The history behind a little-known biblical story (Nathan Steinmeyer).
The assassination of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, is presented in the Bible as God’s divine justice against an evil king. Outside of the Bible, however, this was one of the most significant events in the history of the ancient Near East. Collecting records and references from contemporary and later sources, historian Christopher Jones has provided a renewed look at this event and its aftermath in the Journal of Ancient Near Eastern History, allowing for the most complete recreation of events to date.


You can read the abstract of the underlying article at the link, but the article itself is behind the subscription wall. The BHD essay summarizes it.

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Sunday, December 03, 2023

Pioske, The Bible Among Ruins (CUP)

The Bible Among Ruins
Time, Material Remains, and the World of the Biblical Writers

AUTHOR: Daniel Pioske, University of St Thomas, Minnesota
DATE PUBLISHED: October 2023
FORMAT: Hardback
ISBN: 9781009412605

£ 85.00


Biblical writers lived in a world that was already ancient. The lands familiar to them were populated throughout by the ruins of those who had lived two thousand years earlier. References to ruins abound in the Hebrew Bible, attesting to widespread familiarity with the material remains by those who wrote these texts. Never, however, do we find a single passage that expresses an interest in digging among these ruins to learn about those who lived before. Why? In this book, Daniel Pioske offers the first study of ruination in the Hebrew Bible. Drawing on scholarship in biblical studies, archaeology, contemporary historical theory, and philosophy, he demonstrates how the ancient experience of ruins differed radically from that of the modern era. For biblical writers, ruins were connected to temporalities of memory, presence, and anticipation. Pioske's book recreates the encounter with ruins as it was experienced during antiquity and shows how modern archaeological research has transformed how we read the Bible.

  • The first book that provides a history of ruination in the Hebrew Bible
  • Compares the biblical writers' response to ruination with our own contemporary efforts at archaeological excavation
  • Draws on an inter-disciplinary conversation involving recent developments in biblical scholarship, historical theory, philosophy, and archaeology

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The Bloomsbury Handbook of Material Religion in the Ancient Near East and Egypt

The Bloomsbury Handbook of Material Religion in the Ancient Near East and Egypt

Nicola Laneri (Anthology Editor) , Sharon R. Steadman (Anthology Editor)

$230.00 $207.00

Ebook (PDF)
$207.00 $165.60

Ebook (Epub & Mobi)
$207.00 $165.60

Product details

Published Jul 27 2023
Format Hardback
Edition 1st
Extent 526
ISBN 9781350280816
Imprint Bloomsbury Academic
Illustrations 106 bw illus
Dimensions 10 x 7 inches
Series Bloomsbury Handbooks
Publisher Bloomsbury Publishing


With contributions spanning from the Neolithic Age to the Iron Age, this book offers important insights into the religions and ritual practices in ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern communities through the lenses of their material remains.

The book begins with a theoretical introduction to the concept of material religion and features editor introductions to each of its six parts, which tackle the following themes: the human body; religious architecture; the written word; sacred images; the spirituality of animals; and the sacred role of the landscape. Illustrated with over 100 images, chapters provide insight into every element of religion and materiality, from the largest building to the smallest amulet. This is a benchmark work for further studies on material religion in the ancient Near East and Egypt.

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