Sunday, May 20, 2018

The vision of Ezekiel

EZEKIEL CHAPTER ONE, the Merkavah vision of Ezekiel, is the haftarah (reading from the prophets) for the first day of Shavuot (which started yesterday at sundown). This chapter is the foundation for both Jewish and Christian mysticism and its traditions have also been influential on Islamic mysticism. For some comment on the influence of the passage on Jewish tradition, see Why Read Ezekiel on Shavuot? Tradition connects the prophet's vision to the revelation at Sinai by Michael Fishbane at My Jewish Learning.

In Christian mysticism, Ezekiel's vision was to a large degree mediated through the work of Pseudo-Dionysius the Aeropagite, a late-antique Neoplatonist philosopher and mystic. For more on those traditions, see the Wikipedia article on Christian angelology.

And for more on Ezekiel's Merkavah vision, see here and here and links.

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Judges in Pseudo-Philo

READING ACTS: The Book of Judges in Pseudo-Philo (LAB) (Phil Long). Phil's opening post on this book was noted here. His series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha continues.

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Why does the Torah come in five books?

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: Why Is the Torah Divided into Five Books? (Dr. Elaine Goodfriend, TheTorah.com).
The division of the Torah into five books is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible, yet this division may be ancient and inherent. Already in Second Temple times, Philo speaks of it, and by the early first millenium C.E., the Torah became known by the Greek name, Pentateuch, literally, “five scrolls.” Is this division due to practical, thematic, or symbolic considerations?
Fun fact: the first recorded person to use the term "Pentateuch" for the Torah of Moses was a Gnostic Christian. He said that Moses only wrote part of it.

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Archaeology and Virtual Reality

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Virtual Reality in Archaeology. Visualizing antiquity through modern lenses (Abby VanderHart). Past posts on Lithodomos and similar technologies are here and links. And here's an older post on the prospect of such technologies — a prospect that today is partially realized.

Cross-file under Technology Watch.

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Saturday, May 19, 2018

Shavuot 2018

THE FESTIVAL OF SHAVUOT (Weeks, Pentecost) begins tonight at sundown. (For real this time!) Best wishes to all those celebrating. Last year's post gave links with biblical background.

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Mobile sifting update

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Archaeologist for a day: Find Temple Mount treasures — at a school near you. The Temple Mount Sifting Project takes its show on the road with a pilot program in which it uses dirt to connect students to the past and future of the Jerusalem holy site (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
Petah Tivka high school pupils got their hands dirty on Wednesday and Thursday this week when the Temple Mount Sifting Project’s new mobile unit paid a visit.

The Yeshurun High School’s hands-on experience was the second of the pilot project’s pit stops in an effort to “bring the mountain to Muhammad.” Previously, elementary school pupils in Tekoa also had the opportunity to sift for treasure during a special session with the Temple Mount Sifting Project’s staff using wet-sifting apparatus.

Students are given a presentation by an archaeologist on the history of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount in particular, and are then trained on how to search to artifacts among the dirt. Using water, they “wet-sift” batches of dirt, and sort out the various rocks, pottery and other debris.

So far the pupils in Petah Tikva have found huge amounts of pottery, mosaic tiles, glass and metal. Luckier students have discovered a Crusader coin, a 1st century CE coin, a partial 3rd century CE oil lamp, an iron hook, a leg of an unidentified, potentially First Temple period cultic clay object, all of which will be cleaned and analyzed at the Sifting Project’s Jerusalem lab.

[...]
I noted the new mobile sifting project here. This article gives details about how it's going.

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Philo at Oxyrhynchus

NEWS YOU CAN USE: The Oxyrhynchus Codex of Philo of Alexandria (Brent Nongbri, Variant Readings). And don't forget to read his follow-up post on the archaeology of the Philo codex: Excavating the Oxyrhynchus Philo Codex.

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Krul, The Revival of the Anu Cult ...

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
The Revival of the Anu Cult and the Nocturnal Fire Ceremony at Late Babylonian Uruk

Series:
Culture and History of the Ancient Near East, Volume: 95

Author: Julia Krul

In The Revival of the Anu Cult and the Nocturnal Fire Ceremony at Late Babylonian Uruk, Julia Krul offers a comprehensive study of the rise of the sky god Anu as patron deity of Uruk in the Late Babylonian period (ca. 480-100 B.C.). She reconstructs the historical development of the Anu cult, its underlying theology, and its daily rites of worship, with a particular focus on the yearly nocturnal fire ceremony at the Anu temple, the Bīt Rēš.

Providing the first in-depth analysis of the ceremony, Julia Krul convincingly identifies it as a seasonal renewal festival with an important exorcistic component, but also as a reinforcement of local hierarchical relationships and the elite status of the Anu priesthood.

Publication Date: 26 April 2018
ISBN: 978-90-04-36493-6
As I've said before, I like to keep track of developments in the study of late ancient Babylonia, because of its background interest for Judaism of the Second Temple Period.

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Friday, May 18, 2018

Archaeology, Jerusalem, and the Jewish people

DISCOVERIES: ARCHEOLOGY IS CHANGING THE (SUR)FACE OF JERUSALEM. Archaeology provides the most powerful proof of the authenticity of Jewish history and the connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel, and particularly, Jerusalem (Moshe Dann, Jerusalem Post). This article has a clearly-stated agenda, and the interpretation of some of the discoveries is controversial. But it gives a nice summary of some important recent and longstanding archaeological findings associated with Jerusalem.

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Hygoye 21.1 (2018)

A NEW ISSUE: Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies 21.1 (2018). It's always good to see another issue of this excellent open-access journal. It is associated with the Beth Mardutho Syriac Institute and the Hugoye e-mail list. For more on both of those, see here. Cross-file under Syriac Watch.

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The Canaanite alphabet in Egyptian?

THE HISTORY OF THE ALPHABET? Earliest Version of Our Alphabet Possibly Discovered (Owen Jarus, Live Science).
The earliest example of our alphabet — a possible mnemonic phrase that helped someone remember "ABCD" — has been discovered on a 3,400-year-old inscribed piece of limestone from ancient Egypt, a scholar believes.

Three of the words start with the ancient equivalent of B, C and D, creating what may be a mnemonic phrase.

Thomas Schneider, a professor of Egyptology and Near Eastern Studies at the University of British Columbia, reported the discovery in a paper published recently in the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. This discovery "would be the first historical attestation of 'our' alphabet sequence," he told Live Science in an email.

[...]
This is a different — and more credible — story than the one a couple of years ago about an Egyptian inscription containing Semitic words. Thomas Schneider also figured in that one, but as a skeptic.

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Mobile sifting

THE TEMPLE MOUNT SIFTING PROJECT BLOG: Restarting the Sifting!!
Hello everyone, we have some HUGE news to share with you. The Temple Mount Sifting Project is renewing its activity outside the lab! For the first time in the history of archaeological research in Israel –the site will be coming to you. We will be bringing the antiquities-rich soil that was illegally removed from the Temple Mount in the late 90s to various communities and institutions throughout Israel. Students and volunteers will be able to sift through this material and take part in the important work of recovering the ancient artifacts within. A sifting activity was undertaken yesterday in the Yeshurun School in Petach Tikva – but this is just the beginning! We’ve already started taking requests from other communities throughout Israel.
Follow the link for details. The post also has a bonus section with discoveries in honor of Jerusalem Day.

For many, many past posts on the Temple Mount Sifting Project, start here and follow the links. They are still looking for funding!

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Geniza Fragments 75

GENIZA FRAGMENTS, the Newsletter of the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit, Cambridge University Library has published its April 2018 Issue. Some topics are a new novel about the Cairo Geniza, the Bible scribe Samuel ben Jacob, and a Festschrift for Geoffrey Khan (congratulations!).

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Correction! Shavuot starts on Saturday evening.

SORRY ABOUT THAT. Please ignore the deleted post. It was meant for Saturday. I pushed the wrong button somewhere.

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

A horse-racing curse in an Aramaic amulet

ARAMAIC WATCH: Ancient Jewish gambler’s chariot race curse found in decoded 5th Century scroll. A nailed-shut amulet uncovered in Turkey in the 1930s, written in Jewish Aramaic and newly translated, pleads for help from Balaam's ass at the track (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
When a typical nailed-shut 5th century curse scroll was uncovered by the University of Princeton in a 1930s excavation under the hippodrome in the city of Antioch (now in Turkey), the team of archaeologists didn’t realize what a unique find they had in hand.

It would take almost another 90 years to discover that the amulet, made of thin lead, is the only known example of a curse written by Jews against a chariot horse racing competitor.

In the curse, written in a Jewish dialect of Aramaic in Hebrew lettering, the gambler beseeches God and his panoply of angels to thwart the competing horse and cause him to “drown in the mud,” said Tel Aviv University doctoral student Rivka Elitzur-Leiman, who recently deciphered the miniature 8.8 x 2.1 cm lead tablet.

[...]
I am currently working on a new English translation of the late-antique Hebrew magical tractate Sefer HaRazim ("The Book of the Mysteries"). It includes a magical rite for making race horses swift. But I agree that (as far as I know) this new Aramaic amulet is the only surviving ancient Jewish cursing rite that involves horse racing.

This discovery is also covered in an article in Haaretz by Ruth Schuster: Ancient Scroll Shows Jews Tried to Hex Chariot Races in Turkey 1,500 Years Ago. Ancient Greeks and Romans were notorious for their elaborate curses but a metal tablet with a hex in Aramaic is the first evidence that the Jews indulged too, Israeli researchers say.

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Pseudo-Philo's LAB

READING ACTS: Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum (LAB) (Phil Long). A good quick overview of this book.

This is the first text covered in Phil's new OT Pseudepigrapha series for summer, 2018.

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Festscrift for Leonard Greenspoon

FORTHCOMING BOOK FROM PURDUE UNIVERSITY PRESS:
Found in Translation: Essays on Jewish Biblical Translation in Honor of Leonard J. Greenspoon (Hardback)

James W. Barker (Editor) Anthony LeDonne Editor) Joel N. Lohr Editor)
format: Hardback
publisher: Purdue University Press
pub. date: 07/15/2018
page count: 317pp
subject(s): Language Arts & Disciplines, Jewish Studies, Global Languages and Literatures
language: English
dimensions: 6.00" x 9.00"
ISBN 10: 155753781X
ISBN 13: 9781557537812
status: Awaiting Publication

Book Description
Found in Translation is at once a themed volume on the translation of ancient Jewish texts and a Festschrift for Leonard J. Greenspoon, the Philip M. and Ethel Klutznick Professor in Jewish Civilization and professor of classical and near Eastern studies and of theology at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. Greenspoon has made significant contributions to the study of Jewish biblical translations, particularly the ancient translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, known as the Septuagint. This volume comprises an internationally renowned group of scholars presenting a wide range of original essays on Bible translation, the influence of culture on biblical translation, Bible translations’ reciprocal influence on culture, and the translation of various Jewish texts and collections, especially the Septuagint. Volume editors have painstakingly planned Found in Translation to have the broadest scope of any current work on Jewish biblical translation to reflect Greenspoon’s broad impact on the field throughout an august career.
Congratulations to Professor Greenspoon!

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Back to the OT Pseudepigrapha

READING ACTS: Summer Series: (Even More) Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Regular readers will be familiar with Phil Long's series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, which he ran in the summers of 2016 and 2017. He's back to it now for the coming summer.

He promises to continue with the Charlesworth edition, covering biblical expansions and sapiential and poetic texts. He hopes to move on to Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures vol. 1 (ed. Bauckham, Davila, and Panayotov; Eerdmans, 2013) (a.k.a. MOTP1).

Phil's opening post above includes a very useful index of his past pseudepigrapha posts.

I look forward to this new installment of the series.

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On the Sogdian language and its decipherment

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: The discovery and decipherment of Sogdian. Sogdian is a Middle Iranian language. It has come up on PaleoJudaica occasionally because it sometimes preserves translations of material important for ancient Jewish studies, notably fragments of The Book of Giants. Sogdian was first identified and translated from manuscripts excavated in Turfan in (modern day) China. Other past posts involving the Sogdian language and the discoveries at Turfan are here and links, and here and here, and here and links.

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The Pool of Siloam

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY has a couple of recent essays on the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, famous as the site of one of Jesus' healing miracles according to the Gospel of John. It is also associated with Hezekiah's Tunnel, the original location of the important Siloam Inscription from the reign of Hezekiah.

The Siloam Pool: Where Jesus Healed the Blind Man. A sacred Christian site identified by archaeologists.

Where Is the Original Siloam Pool from the Bible? Hunting for the Biblical Pool of Siloam from Hezekiah’s time.

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AJS Review 42.1 (2018)

A NEW ISSUE OF AJS REVIEW IS OUT (Volume 42 - Issue 1 - April 2018). It has, intera alia, some articles and lots of book reviews of interest for ancient Judaism. It's a paid subscription site, but even if you're not a subscriber you can read the TOC and the abstracts at the link.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Talmud on invalidated sacrifices

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Blood of the Soul. This week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study continues to explore the real—and hypothetical—practicalities of ritual animal sacrifice.
This week’s Daf Yomi reading introduced us to a crucial concept in the law of sacrifice: piggul, which literally means “a vile thing” or “an abhorrent thing.” According to Leviticus 7, the meat of a sacrificed animal is strictly required to be eaten either on the day of the sacrifice or the following day. If it is eaten on the third day, “it shall be piggul and the soul that eateth of it shall bear his iniquity.” The rabbis explain that eating piggul carries the harshest punishment in Jewish law: karet, the divinely inflicted “separation” of the soul from God after death.

[...]
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Where did John get "Armageddon?"

ETYMOLOGY: Armageddon 101: The True History of the End of the World. Revelations associates Megiddo in northern Israel with the end of days, but as the struggle over Jerusalem threatens to bring the apocalypse closer, we may want to revisit that assumption (Elon Gilad, Haaretz).
Revelations consists of a prophetic description of how the world will end. Its writer identifies himself as John, but other than his name, nothing is known of him, and the traditional identification of him with John the Apostle is likely not true.

Yet whoever this John was, he played a decisive role in molding the Christian conception of the eschatological end of days. John, who wrote Revelations in Greek, also bestowed upon the English language two words for the end of the worlds: apocalypse and Armageddon. The origin of the first is clear, but the latter is puzzling.
Revelation, dang it! It's the Book of Revelation, singular.

Elon, I expect better from you. But otherwise, nice article on a challenging topic.

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Review of Hezser, Rabbinic Body Language

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | Rabbinic Body Language: Non-Verbal Communication in Palestinian Rabbinic Literature of Late Antiquity (Erez DeGolan).
Catherine Hezser. Rabbinic Body Language: Non-Verbal Communication in Palestinian Rabbinic Literature of Late Antiquity. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2017.
Excerpt:
There is something counterintuitive in a study of body language and non-verbal communication in Palestinian rabbinic literature. For one thing, non-verbal communication is instinctively associated with living, visible, bodies. Such a study, therefore, may appear relevant to ethnographers who immerse themselves in fieldwork but not to scholars whose primary sources are silent and unmoving texts. Moreover, assuming an inquiry of literary portrayals of non-verbal communication is possible, rabbinic discourse may be problematic due to the fact that the voices of the rabbinic documents are generally perceived as coming out of, literally, talking heads. At first glance, then, the data seems resistant to a meaningful analysis of rabbinic body language.
But ...

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No Chamber of Secrets in Tut's tomb

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Third Scan Searches for Queen Nefertiti’s Tomb. The verdict is in for what’s behind King Tutankhamun’s burial chamber (Robin Ngo). Oh well, it wasn't looking very promising. But as I have said before, the exciting thing about this story is that our technology is now advanced enough that we can have this conversation at all.

Background here and links.

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Monday, May 14, 2018

More on the big house at Tel ‘Eton

ARCHAEOLOGY: Proof of King David? Not yet. But riveting site shores up roots of Israelite era. Based on controversial carbon dating, Prof. Avraham Faust's Tel 'Eton excavation offers up startling look at a settlement formed at the foundation of the United Monarchy (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
Standing next to his Tel ‘Eton excavation on a straw-covered hill in the southeastern part of Israel’s Judean Shephalah (lowlands), a little over 20 miles southeast of Ashkelon, Bar-Ilan University Prof. Avraham Faust describes with disbelief the media storm of misquotes and half-understood facts surrounding him for the past two weeks. “It’s been a real learning moment,” said archaeologist Faust.

The eye of the tornado? The publication of results garnered from carbon-dating a few olive pits and charcoal uncovered in the foundations of a rare complete massive Israelite building that once towered over the hilltop.

Even today, under a deceptively hazy sky where a welcome breeze blows occasionally during our three hours at the hill’s lookout, the outline of the 225 meter squared structure is readily impressive, with its 750 kilo sophisticated chiseled “ashlar” cornerstones, to its skeletal, multi-room divisions that illustrate the practical uses of its stone-walled spaces.
Background here. Regular PaleoJudaica readers are familiar with the story, but this article has more details. An earlier story on Tel ‘Eton (Tel Eton) was noted here. And past posts on Khirbet Qeiyafa are collected here.

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Review of Milstein, Tracking the Master Scribe

MARGINALIA REVIEW OF BOOKS: Authorship and Ownership: Whose Bible Is It Anyway? Michael Hundley Reviews Sara Milstein’s Tracking the Master Scribe (OUP, 2016). Excerpt:
Milstein’s Mesopotamian analysis is immensely helpful for both Assyriology and Biblical Studies. Since Assyriology generally eschews diachronic analysis, her study helps us to better understand textual (re)production in ancient Mesopotamia as well as gives the reader a fresh reading of the different versions of the stories. It also offers important comparative data from the world in which the Hebrew Bible was written. Her work is especially helpful in demonstrating that the Bible is not unique in its inclusion of inconsistencies (an assumption that many have come to largely because of a general lack of diachronic studies of other ancient Near Eastern texts). Rather, inconsistencies are part and parcel of the production of texts in the ancient Near East, including in Mesopotamia and the Hebrew Bible. Studying the introduction and conclusion as loci of editorial activity likewise indicates that the tendency to preserve tensions may go well beyond the desire to preserve different voices. One could even argue that, at least in some cases, the different voices are not meant to be highlighted; rather, they are allowed to remain because they have been suitably reframed by a new narrative framework. Leaving behind portions of the old also allows the master scribe to borrow the authority of the original while reframing or even subverting its message.

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Report on the Temple Mount Sifting Project

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: What We Learned from Sifting the Earth of the Temple Mount (Dr. Gabriel Barkay and Zachi Dvira (Zweig), TheTorah.com).
The founders and directors of the Temple Mount sifting project explain the origin of the project, its goals, and highlight some of its important finds.
PaleoJudaica has been follow the progress of the Temple Mount Sifting Project since its inception. They are about 70% done and are currently on hiatus until they can raise more funding. Wealthy philanthropical PaleoJudaica readers take note!

For many, many past posts on the Project, start here and follow the links. And also have a look at their blog, listed in the Blogroll to the right––>.

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Talmud and the working Mom

FOR INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S TALMUD DAY: How Daf Yomi Became Part Of This Working Mom’s Routine (CAROLINE MUSIN BERKOWITZ, JOFA Blog).

Background here. And there's more on Ilana Kurshan's book, If All the Seas Were Ink, here and links.

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