Saturday, March 23, 2024

Purim 2024

HAPPY PURIM to all those celebrating! The festival begins tonight night at sundown.

Last year's Purim post is here, with links.

UPDATE: Additional Purim-related posts this year are here, here, here, and here.

UPDATE: Sadly, also here.

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Friday, March 22, 2024

Review of Levine, Ancient Synagogues Revealed 1981–2022

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Review: Ancient Synagogues Revealed 1981–2022 (Reviewed by James Riley Strange).
It turns out that more than archaeologists and scholars of early Judaism and Christianity care about these things. For this reason, in 1981 the Israel Exploration Society published Ancient Synagogues Revealed, edited by Lee I. Levine, a luminary in the field of synagogue origins. It has taken 42 years for the companion volume to arrive: Ancient Synagogues Revealed 1981–2022, edited by Levine and two other noted archaeologists, Zeev Weiss and Uzi Leibner.
I noted the publication of the book here.

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Shorthand Aramaic?

GENIZA FRAGMENT OF THE MONTH (JANUARY 2024): More about less: A New Shorthand Targum Manuscript: Oxford MS Heb. f.56/1-12 (Dr Kim Phillips).
Several years ago I stumbled across yet another ‘shorthand’ Targum fragment, raising the total number of currently known such manuscripts to five.5 This fragment is described and transcribed below, and its surprising relationship to one of the Taylor-Schechter shorthand Targum fragments is discussed.
The shorthand system is the "first-letter-Serugin method," in which only the first letter of each word is written.

Cross-file under Aramaic Watch.

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Thursday, March 21, 2024

AJR (SBL) on E. P. Sanders

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW has published the papers from a 2023 SBL session in memory of E. P. Sanders.

E.P. Sanders In Memoriam (Adele Reinhartz)

Through his studies, he became convinced of four main points: (1) New Testament scholarship then (as now) paid too much attention to theology and not enough attention to religion. (2) To know one religion is to know none. The human brain comprehends by comparing and contrasting, and consequently comparison in the study of religion is essential, not optional. (3) New Testament scholars ought to study Judaism. (4) Scholarship on the New Testament, second temple, and rabbinic Judaism must be conducted on the first-hand study of the primary sources in their original languages.
E. P. Sanders and His Impact on the Study of Second Temple Judaism (Annette Yoshiko Reed)
Sanders did much to update the scholarly discourse to fit these shifts, recognizing that mere revision would not suffice. On the one hand, he criticized many of the common habits and assumptions in the practice of studying Judaism within the ostensibly academic but fundamentally Christian frame of New Testament Studies as embodied by Schürer. On the other hand, Sanders worked to construct an alternative, writing synthetically in a manner that was equally comprehensive but framed around a different set of questions.
Paul the Apostle and Sanders the Critic (Matthew V. Novenson)
For the purposes of this short essay, I would like to reflect on two words that sound like they should be synonyms, but are not, both of which figure prominently in Sanders’s argument in Paul and Palestinian Judaism, namely: legalism and nomism. ...
E. P. Sanders and the Historical Jesus (Helen Bond)
In contrast, Sanders shifted the focus from what Jesus said to what he did. He started with a list of eight “almost indisputable facts” about Jesus, and then - with impeccable and unrelenting logic – worked outwards from what was most secure in the tradition to what was more debateable. Sanders realised that where the investigation starts has a profound effect on where it ends up, and he chose to begin his analysis with one of the most secure of his “almost indisputable” facts, the Temple controversy. ...
E.P. Sanders: My Guide in the Field of Rabbinics (Yair Furstenberg)
Ultimately, I was captivated by Sanders’ original vision for advancing the study of early Jewish law, which challenged my own scholarly traditions. This included a novel approach to rabbinic source criticism; social contextualization of current legal discourse, and the consideration of the actual real-life experience of Jewish law. In what follows I will briefly relate to these three aspects, which amount to a new image of Jewish Law in practice, resonating with his concept of “common Judaism.”

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Yadin's birthday

WELL, YESTERDAY'S: Today’s Jewish Birthday: Yigael Yadin (San Diego Jewish World).
Thereafter, Yadin devoted himself to archaeology, winning the 1956 Israel Prize for his doctoral thesis on seven Dead Sea Scrolls, three of which his father had purchased in 1947 from a Bedouin goatherd and four that Yadin purchased in 1954 in New York. He excavated such sites as the Qumram Caves, Masada, Hazor, Tel Megiddo, and the Judean Desert caves where artifacts from the Bar Kokhba revolt were found.
For more on Yadin, and his father Eliezer Sukenik, see the links collected here, plus here.

(And, no, the Hazor archives have not yet been found. Amnon Ben-Tor, who took over the Hazor excavation after Yadin's passing, is also no longer with us.)

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Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Christians, Jews, and Biblical Archaeology

Biblical Archaeology—Between Christians and Jews

There is a built-in tension between religious studies and academic ones in the humanities, including archaeology. The students in the yeshivas see themselves as protected within “the tent of the Torah” and any egress to the academic world opens one up to the dangers involved in exposure to opinions and worldviews that are contrary to the religious world.

See also, The Changing Landscape of Israeli Archaeology (Routledge, 2023).

By Hayah Katz
Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee
March 2024

Cross-file under New Book.

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Review of Allen, Coptic: A Grammar of Its Six Major Dialects

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Coptic: A Grammar of Its Six Major Dialects (David Mihalyfy).
James P. Allen. Coptic: A Grammar of Its Six Major Dialects. Eisenbrauns imprint of The Pennsylvania State University Press: University Park, 2020.

... Egyptologist James P. Allen’s new Coptic dialect grammar is therefore useful for anyone beginning to grapple with language variation, with the proviso that the study of Coptic dialects is a relatively underdeveloped discipline whose present state and shape do not yet allow for the creation of the more effective tools that should one day become possible. There does remain a justifiable frustration to studying Coptic dialects, but this is often attributable to the nature of the texts and the underlying disciplinary research. ...

It is fascinating that, even in a relatively small geographic area like Egypt, isolating six dialects is not fine-grained enough to capture the linguistic diversity of an ancient language. "Dialects" are, of course, artificial slices of a continuous linguistic field that varied from village to village, from neighborhood to neighborhood, and ultimately from person to person.

Cross-file under Coptic Watch.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Male hair from ancient Jerusalem

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: The Only Ancient Jewish Male Hair Ever Found Biblical scholar James Tabor examines a rare ancient Jewish male hair specimen from the "Tomb of the Shroud."

The poor guy was a leper too! For more on the Tomb of the Shroud at Akeldama near Jerusalem, see here.

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Review of La Babylonie hellénistique

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: La Babylonie hellénistique.
Laetitia Graslin-Thomé, Philippe Clancier, Julien Monerie, La Babylonie hellénistique. La roue à livres, 98. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2023. Pp. 336. ISBN 9782251454139. Review by
Gregory Crane, Tufts University.

... Summing up, this is a wonderful collection that begins to make more accessible an extraordinarily rich and understudied world where Greek and Mesopotamian cultures interact.

For more on Babylonian scribes in the Second Temple era, see here.

This volume sounds like a treasure trove of information on Hellenistic-era Babylon, which is of no small interest for the study of Second Temple Judaism. See, e.g., here, here, and here.

And for more on Hellenistic-era Babylon, see here, here, here, here, and here.

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Monday, March 18, 2024

Ancient underground complex in the Galilee

SUBTERRANEAN ARCHAEOLOGY: Bar Kochba Revolt era hiding complex revealed near Sea of Galilee. The area is mentioned in the Book of Joshua (Joshua 19:34) and has been settled since ancient times (Judy Siegel-Itzkovich, Jerusalem Post).
The excavation also revealed that, as part of the preparations for the First Revolt in 66 CE and the Bar Kochba Revolt in 132 CE, the residents of Huqoq converted the water cistern that had been dug during the Second Temple period into a hiding complex. In addition, at the time of danger, they broke one of the walls of the mikveh and dug a tunnel into other cavities.

Several tunnels allowed maneuvering in narrow, low spaces underneath the houses. In this underground system, which was the largest and most impressive discovered at the Galilee, there are about eight hiding cavities. The connecting tunnels are dug at 90 degrees make is difficult for the heavily armed Roman soldiers to chase the rebels. The excavation also yielded hundreds of broken clay and glass dishes, an impressive ring for a precious stone (the stone itself was not found), and other fascinating finds.

Huqoq, the archaeological site that keeps on giving. Background on the ancient synagogue and mosaic is here and many links.

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The Mount Ebal curse tablet/fishing weight as "The First Ancient Postmodern Inscription?"

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION: The Mt. Ebal Tablet: The First Ancient Postmodern Inscription?
This is not the decipherment of an ancient text written by a scribe, but the creation of a new, artificial text by Galil. It is a purely academic (though very imaginative) exercise. Galil and his coauthors believe in this experiment: they spent much time and resources, and the results confirm their underlying ideological convictions. But this does not change the conclusion that this experiment has no historical value for the ancient world.

By Raz Kletter
University of Helsinki
Faculty of Theology
Docent for Near Eastern Archaeology
February 2024

An interesting assessment of the supposed inscription, its announced discovery, and the response to it. Read it and see what you think. I too am not persuaded that there is any writing on this object.

For background, start here and follow the many links.

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Heal on Genesis 37 and 39 in the Early Syriac Tradition

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Pursuing Joseph in Early Syriac Literature (Kristian S. Heal).
Kristian S. Heal. Genesis 37 and 39 in the Early Syriac Tradition. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2023.

... The Syriac Joseph texts include some of the finest works in the early Syriac tradition, but also produced some of the most derivative. I would suggest that only when we recognize both ends of the spectrum do we start to see the full scope and range of a literary culture. This is perhaps my way of confessing that the book presents as a contribution to the history of exegesis, and it certainly is that, but my highest hope is that I contributed to better understanding the Syriac literary tradition, especially the tradition’s creative, dynamic, and prolonged imaginative engagement with biblical stories.

This is the first of two volumes.

Dr. Heal contributed a translation of a Syriac Joseph text to MOTP volume one. See n. 7 of the current essay.

Cross-file under New Book.

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