Saturday, May 25, 2024

Lag B'Omer 2024

LAG B'OMER, the 33rd day of the Counting of the Omer, begins tonight at sundown. Best wishes to all observing it.

My 2023 Lag B'Omer post is here with links.

For the biblical and rabbinic background of the holiday, see here and here.

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Smith, Luke Was Not A Christian (Brill)

Luke Was Not A Christian: Reading the Third Gospel and Acts within Judaism

Series: Biblical Interpretation Series, Volume: 218

Author: Joshua Paul Smith

In this volume Joshua Paul Smith challenges the long-held assumption that Luke and Acts were written by a gentile, arguing instead that the author of these texts was educated and enculturated within a Second-Temple Jewish context. Advancing from a consciously interdisciplinary perspective, Smith considers the question of Lukan authorship from multiple fronts, including reception history and social memory theory, literary criticism, and the emerging discipline of cognitive sociolinguistics. The result is an alternative portrait of Luke the Evangelist, one who sees the mission to the gentiles not as a supersession of Jewish law and tradition, but rather as a fulfillment and expansion of Israel’s own salvation history.

Copyright Year: 2024

E-Book (PDF)
Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-68472-0
Publication: 18 Dec 2023
EUR €119.00

Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-68471-3
Publication: 20 Dec 2023
EUR €119.00

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Friday, May 24, 2024

Epigraphic finds at Berenike, Egypt

GREEK EPIGRAPHY: Letters from Roman Centurions Found in Ancient Berenike, Egypt: “I Send Them with Dromedarius, Take Care of Them” (Guillermo Carvajal, LBV).
The correspondence preserved on the papyri are letters from centurions or commanders of Roman legions. Names appear in the letters: Haosus, Lucinius, and Petronius.

In this correspondence, Petronius asks Lucinius, stationed in Berenice, about the prices of certain exclusive goods. There is also a statement: I give you the money, I send them with dromedarius (a troop of legionaries who move on dromedaries). Take care of them, so that they are provided with calves and tent poles, describes the archaeologist [Dr. Marta Osypińska].

Berenike Trogodytika was a port on the coast of the Red Sea in Ptolemaic times. It is named after Queen Berenike I (Berenice I), the wife of Ptolemy I. The latter appears under the code name "king of the south" in Daniel 11:5. I have mentioned the site here, here, here, and here.

Berenike continues to produce interesting finds, including, last year, a Roman-era Buddha statue. This year's excavation found inscribed ostraca and papyri, as well as an international assemblage of pottery and a cloak fastener.

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Should we trust reconstructions of fragmentary texts?

THE ETC BLOG: What level of confidence we should have in reconstructions of fragmentary papyrus texts? (Peter M. Head).
But someone might say: “I wish we had a test case where a published text of a NT papyrus manuscript was later supplemented by the publication of a fragment or two which gave total clarity on the beginnings and endings of lines and could help us with an assessment of what level of confidence we should have in reconstructed texts.”
My provisional reply to the headline question would be Very Low.

The empirical test of the question described in this post yielded a surprising high score; nearly 50%. But it was of a biblical manuscript, in which the base text would have been more or less set. I would actually have expected the score to be higher, but the evaluation included word divisions, spelling, and punctuation. Such things often have a high rate of variation in ancient manuscripts.

The real test would be to revisit scholarly reconstructions of a fragmentary, otherwise unknown, nonbiblical ancient text after new fragments had been found which filled in some of the missing text. I expect the success rate would be well below 50%.

I know there have been cases where new fragments of a fragmentary (leather) text have been discovered; for example, Aramaic Levi and the Damascus Document. But I don't know if anyone has done a comparision of previous reconstructions after new material was found. If anyone knows of one, please drop me a note.

UPDATE (27 May): Reader Ounieh Carlson points to the Greek fragments of the Gospel of Thomas, which were discovered before the complete Coptic text was. "The reconstructions provided by scholars proved to be wildly off." A couple of links on the Greek Gospel of Thomas are here and here, but I don't have time right now to follow up the pre-Coptic reconstructions of the Greek.

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

Cyril and Methodius Day

OLD CHURCH SLAVONIC WATCH: May 24: Bulgaria Celebrates the Legacy of Cyril and Methodius - Culture, Enlightenment, and the Slavonic Alphabet (
May 24 holds significant cultural and historical importance for Bulgarians, marking the celebration of the Bulgarian Education and Culture, and Slavonic Literature Day, known as "Saints Cyril and Methodius Day." This day commemorates the brothers Cyril and Methodius, who are credited with devising the Glagolitic alphabet, which later evolved into the Cyrillic script. The Cyrillic alphabet is used by many Slavic languages, including Bulgarian, Russian, Serbian, and Ukrainian, among others.


The brothers translated much of the Bible into Slavonic. And they and their successors also translated other religious texts, including some important Old Testament Pseudepigrapha that might otherwise have been mostly lost.

The day is celebrated on 24 May in Bulgaria, Ukraine, Macedonia, and Russia, and on 5 July in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The Roman Catholic Church celebrates their saints' feast day on 14 February. It is celebrated on other days in other churches. For posts on these various days and on Old Church Slavonic in general, see here and links, plus here and here.

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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Ancient ship etchings found in church near Rahat

GRAFFITI ART: 1,500-year-old Byzantine-era ship etchings revealed at Negev church. Site, just south of the Bedouin city of Rahat, was likely the first inland stop for Christian pilgrims touring the Holy Land after arriving by sea at Gaza (Gavriel Fiske, Times of Israel).

Two late-antique mosques have also been excavated recently at Rahat.

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

More on the Crosby-Schøyen Codex

BACKGROUND INFORMATION: An ancient manuscript up for sale gives a glimpse into the history of early Christianity (Ian N. Mills, The Conversation).
The Crosby-Schøyen Codex was discovered alongside more than 20 other codices near Dishna, Egypt, in 1952. These manuscripts are collectively known as “the Dishna Papers” or “the Bodmer Papyri,” after the Swiss collector Martin Bodmer.

Though often overshadowed by other 20th century discoveries, this trove of ancient manuscripts represents one of the most significant finds for understanding the history of early Christianity. ...

I didn't realize that the Crosby-Schøyen Codex was part of the Bodmer collection. For many PaleoJudaica posts on the Bodmer papyri, see here and links plus here, here, here, and here.

The Crosby-Schøyen Codex goes up for auction next month. Background here and here.

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

Biblical archaeology conference at Lipscomb University

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Debating the Future of Biblical Archaeology (Glenn J. Corbett).
This past January, prominent archaeologists and biblical scholars from around the world gathered for a weekend of lectures and discussion at the Lanier Theological Library in Houston. The event, organized by Lipscomb University, was primarily a commemoration of the work and legacy of William Dever, the longtime leading voice of American biblical archaeology,* who celebrated his 90th birthday in November 2023. ...
For more on Lipscomb University and biblical archaeology, see here and links.

For more on William Dever's work on biblical archaeology, see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

On the Molekh sacrifice

DR. DANIEL VAINSTUB: Molekh: The Sacrifice of Babies (
Jeremiah excoriates the Judahites for sacrificing babies to Baʿal at the Tophet, in a valley near Jerusalem. Archaeological excavations throughout Carthage uncovered the remains of thousands of babies offered to Baʿal and his consort Tanit, together with dedicatory inscriptions, referring to the offering as a molekh, the very term the Bible uses to prohibit child sacrifice.
For more on the Molekh (Molech) sacrifice and the evidence from Carthage that it involved a child-sacrifice cult, see here and links plus here.

For many PaleoJudaica posts on the Aqedah (the binding of Isaac, Genesis 22), see here and links, especially here.

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

Goodman Festschrift (Brill)

Looking In, Looking Out: Jews and Non-Jews in Mutual Contemplation

Essays for Martin Goodman on His 70th Birthday

Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, Volume: 212

Volume Editors: David A. Friedman and Kimberley Czajkowski

Martin Goodman’s forty years of scholarship in Roman history and ancient Judaism demonstrates how each discipline illuminates the other: Jewish history makes best sense in a broader Greco-Roman context; Roman history has much to learn from Jewish sources and evidence.
In this volume, Martin’s colleagues and students follow his example by examining Jews and non-Jews in mutual contemplation. Part 1 explores Jews’ views of inter-communal stasis, the causes of the Bar Kochba revolt, tales of Herodian intrigue, and the meaning of “Israel.” Part 2 investigates Jews depiction of outsiders: Moabites, Greeks, Arabs, and Roman authorities. Part 3 explores early Christians’ (Luke, Jerome, Rufinus, Syriac poetry, Pionius, ordinary individuals) views of Jews and use of Jewish sources, and Josephus’s relevance for girls in 19th century Britain.

Copyright Year: 2024

E-Book (PDF)
Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-68505-5
Publication: 08 Apr 2024
EUR €140.00

Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-68503-1
Publication: 29 Nov 2023
EUR €140.00

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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

The earliest manuscript of the Tosefta

MICHAEL L. SATLOW: Ms. or. fol. 1220, or: A Walk through Jewish History.
The Erfurt manuscript is the earliest and best witness to the Tosefta. Yet the Tosefta is itself a somewhat mysterious document. It reads much like the Mishnah, largely following its order. Some parts of it are identical to the Mishnah; others presuppose and comment on passages found in the Mishnah; and yet others seem to precede the Mishnah. While the Mishnah became the base text for two Talmuds (Palestinian and Babylonian), we do not know where, when, or why the Tosefta was redacted as a single document, nor how it was used. The Erfurt manuscript is our earliest manuscript that people were actually reading the Tosefta as an independent document.

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Patrich, The Jerusalem Temple and the Temple Mount (Mohr Siebeck)

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Joseph Patrich. The Jerusalem Temple and the Temple Mount. Collected Essays. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 514. 149,00 € including VAT. cloth ISBN 978-3-16-163269-3.
Published in English.
The Temple eclipsed in its splendor and importance all other institutions of the Jews, both in the Land of Israel and in the Diaspora. It was the center of religious and national life; a goal of pilgrimage.
Already in the 19th century, 'The Quest for the Temple' had spread beyond the limited circles of Jewish commentators, becoming an interest also of Christian scholars. The Dead Sea Scrolls, especially the Temple Scroll, first published in 1977, brought new source materials pertaining to the pre-Herodian Temple to the fore. Some water cisterns still extant under the upper platform of the present Muslim compound are hiding a telling story, left unnoticed so far. Its unravelling in an interdisciplinary approach, an attentive re-reading of all available literary sources, and a re-evaluation of the said archaeological remains, lie at the core of the studies presented here.

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Monday, May 20, 2024

Forthcoming John the Baptist books by James McGrath

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Publication Preview | Two Portraits of John the Baptist (James F. McGrath).
Christmaker: A Life of John the Baptist. Eerdmans, June 2024.


John of History, Baptist of Faith: The Quest for the Historical Baptizer. Eerdmans, October 2024.

At the outset of my first (and hopefully not last) full-year sabbatical, I set out to do something I had never done before. I planned to write two books about John the Baptist: a biography accessible to a general audience and a monograph detailing the distinctive methodology and contributions of my study. As the publication date of the former approaches, it seems appropriate to provide not only a preview of both but also a reflection on how (and why) I’ve undertaken this larger project.


For many PaleoJudaica posts noting Professor McGrath's work on John the Baptist and on the Mandeans (Mandaeans), see here and here. And for still more on John the Baptist, start here and follow the links.

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The Hebrew Bible and its ruins

THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST TODAY: The Hebrew Bible and the Meanings Ruins Hold (Daniel Pioske).
The Hebrew Bible is in many ways a book of ruins, written in a world where wreckage and loss, or the threat thereof, were common.
I noted the publication of Daniel Pioske's book, The Bible Among Ruins, here.

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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Themes and Texts, Exodus and Beyond (T&T Clark)

Themes and Texts, Exodus and Beyond

Robert J. V. Hiebert (Anthology Editor), Jonathan Numada (Anthology Editor), Dongshin Don Chang (Anthology Editor), Kyung S. Baek (Anthology Editor)

$175.00 $157.50

Ebook (PDF)
$157.50 $126.00

Ebook (Epub & Mobi)
$157.50 $126.00

Product details

Published Feb 22 2024
Format Hardback
Edition 1st
Extent 384
ISBN 9780567705488
Imprint T&T Clark
Dimensions 9 x 6 inches
Series The Library of Second Temple Studies
Publisher Bloomsbury Publishing


This volume of essays is focused on the significance of the book of Exodus for studies in the Septuagint, Second Temple Jewish literature, the New Testament, and Christian theology. A diverse group of scholars from various parts of the world, many of whom are well-known in their fields, employs a range of methodologies in the treatment of text-critical, linguistic, literary, historical, cultural, exegetical, intertextual, and theological topics. Parts of the relevant literary corpus that are dealt with in relation to the book of Exodus include Genesis, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Zechariah, 3 Maccabees, the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, the Epistles of 1 Thessalonians, Hebrews, and 1 Peter, as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls. This book will be a valuable resource for scholars and students in the areas of biblical and theological studies, as well as clergy.

The distinguished contributors include Emanuel Tov, Albert Pietersma, Daniela Scialabba, Craig A. Evans, James M. Scott, Martin G. Abegg Jr., and Wolfgang Kraus.

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