Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Talmud and heresy

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Talmud and the Thought Police. ‘Daf Yomi’: Do heretical Jewish thinkers have a say in the World to Come?
Still, the Mishna in Sanhedrin 90a makes clear that there are a handful of crimes so terrible that they can cause a person to forfeit his share in the World to Come. Significantly, these are not crimes against fellow human beings or infractions of Torah law; rather, they are what George Orwell called thought-crimes. Specifically, they involve dissent from what the rabbis regarded as the core doctrines of Judaism: “And these have no share in the World To Come: One who says, There is no resurrection of the dead derived from the Torah, and one who says, the Torah is not from Heaven, and an epikoros.” An epikoros is a mocker of religion, someone who denies honor to God and to the rabbis, God’s representatives. It’s not clear whether the truly culpable thing here is holding these heretical opinions or “saying” them aloud, trying win adherents for them. But in any case, the rabbis make clear that a person who believes these things is in some essential way not a Jew.
Incidentally, the debate about whether the doctrine of resurrection is found in the Torah (it isn't, although there have been many efforts to read it in) also comes up implicitly in a discussion between Jesus and the Sadducees in Mark 12:18-27 and parallels.

Also, as this essay goes on to note, Rabbi Akiva is reported to have classed reading "external literature," that is biblical apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, as heretical.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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

The origins of BAR

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: (Hershel Shanks).
In 1972 Hershel Shanks took a sabbatical from his legal practice in Washington, D.C. He and his family went to Jerusalem for a year. Once there, the Shanks family became part of a network of friends and colleagues who comprised some of the archaeological luminaries in the Holy Land at the time. That year proved to be the catalyst for the creation of the Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS) and its flagship publication, Biblical Archaeology Review. Hershel reflects below on the birth, evolution and legacy of BAR.

[...]
This is an old essay: I linked to it back in 2009. But it seems worth reviving now as Hershel Shanks steps down as editor of Biblical Archaeology Review and Robert Cargill takes up the mantle.

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

Gallagher and Meade, The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity

NEW BOOK FROM OUP: New Book: The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity (John Meade , ETC Blog).
Our purpose for writing The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity: Texts and Analysis is to return this evidence set to the prominence we believe it deserves in the conversation so that readers can rediscover its significance for the formation of the canon. To that end, after a substantial opening chapter in which we survey the early history (through 400 CE) of the canons of the Old and New Testament, we present the early canon lists in the original language (Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Syriac) with a parallel English translation, notes, and further commentary. The lists of Athanasius, Jerome, Eusebius, Baba Batra (yes, we include the Jewish lists of Josephus, more of a discussion than a list, and Baba Batra) et al. are all finally available in one volume. We also include a chapter on select manuscripts of the first millennium. The book concludes with a major Appendix summarizing the evidence of reception for the more popular Antilegomena and Apocrypha.
I cited some of these canon lists in an old Wish List of Lost Books.

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

Review of Jenkins, Crucible of Faith

BOOK REVIEW: 'Crucible of Faith: The Ancient Revolution that Made Our Modern Religious World': the making of the modern religious mind. A religious historian explores ancient non-canonical texts (REBECCA DENOVA, Pittsburg Post-Gazette).
A recent spate of scholarly texts explores both the Jewish and Greco-Roman context of early Christianity. While many of them focus on the internal debates within the communities (orthodoxy vs. heresy), Philip Jenkins, author of “Crucible of Faith: The Ancient Revolution That Made Our Modern Religious World” (Basic Books, $30), takes us back to what he terms an earlier, “crucible” era that actually created much of the template for our modern Western religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

[...]
Past PaleoJudaica posts on the book are here and here.

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

Provenance evidence for those dubious DSS fragments

THE LYING PEN OF SCRIBES BLOG: “American Priest, later serving in Switzerland”: On Provenance (Årstein Justnes and Ludvik A. Kjeldsberg).
Most of the post-2002 Dead Sea Scrolls-like fragments come with stories. The following list presents information that we have been able to gather about their alleged provenance.
It seems that PaleoJudaica is a source of information for one of them.

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

That eclipse and Joshua again

ASTRONOMICAL PHENOMENA: Biblical Record of Eclipse 3,200 Years Ago May Rewrite Pharaonic Era in Ancient Egypt. Joshua said the sun and moon stood still: Now archaeologists think he recorded an annular eclipse in 1207 B.C.E. (By Ruth Schuster, Haaretz).

I note this story because it's cool that astronomers can date an ancient eclipse so exactly that we can celebrate its 3200-year anniversary today. But for reasons I have explained here and links, I do not think that a credible case has been made that Joshua's stopped sun and moon were an eclipse.

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

Coptic metal icon seized in Egyptian airport

APPREHENDED: Hurghada airport officials foil attempt to smuggle 18th-century Coptic icon. The antique religious object was seized at Hurghada International airport as a passenger attempted to smuggle it to Germany (Nevine El-Aref, ahramonline).

This story caught my eye because this triptych icon has images and (Coptic) writing on it and is made of metal — copper, but it looks like gold in the photos.

Someone tried to smuggle it out of Egypt. I wonder if the recent recovery of smuggled metal codices in Turkey has any connection. There is certainly an antiquities market for metal books.

This object has no direct connection with the metal codices and the similarities are superficial. But I thought the incident worth flagging anyway.

Cross-file under Coptic Watch.

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

Honor Frost

ARCHAEOLOGICAL PIONEER: Honor Frost: a legacy in the field of underwater archaeology (Fabian Mangion, Times of Malta).
Honor Frost’s death on September 12, 2010, brought an end to an era. She represented the heroic period of aqualung diving and was the first person to marry it to archaeology – a double pioneer. She was also the first to promote underwater archaeology as a serious discipline and to introduce it to the world.

Frost saw aqualung-diving and the archaeological method as a necessary balance and was fond of quoting “si le plongeur savait – si l’archeologue pouvait…” (if the diver knew – if the archaeologist could) and in herself combined the two in style.

[...]
She did underwater archaeology in many places, including Tyre and Sidon. She excavated a Punic shipwreck off the coast of Sicily. She also worked with Kathleen Kenyon at the ground excavation at Jericho. Saturday was the centenary of her birth.

Cross-file under Phoenician Watch and Punic Watch.

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

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Shelling near the (traditional) Tomb of Nahum

MORE FIGHTING: ANCIENT TOMB OF JEWISH PROPHET 'IN DANGER' AMID IRAQ-KURDISH TENSIONS. The origin of the tomb is often said to date back 2,700 years (Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post).
The tomb of the Prophet Nahum, which overlooks the Nineveh plains in northern Iraq, is now near the forefront of tensions between the Iraqi federal government and Kurdistan Regional Government.

Since last week Iraqi forces, including Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias, have been fighting with Peshmerga in an attempt by Baghdad to push Kurdish forces out of disputed areas and take oil fields and strategic border areas from the Kurds. Although a cease-fire took effect on Friday, tensions remain high.

Shelling in a Christian town near the Jewish tomb is the latest in years of turmoil that have affected the site.

The tomb is in the ancient Christian town of Al-Qosh, inside a complex that also served as a synagogue and has partly collapsed over the years. The Jewish community of this area of northern Iraq and Kurdistan left in the 1940s and 1950s.

[...]
I am sorry to hear that, even with ISIS now in retreat, there is still fighting in the region.

Background on the (traditional) Tomb of Nahum and its precarious situation is here and links

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

Stone, Secret Groups in Ancient Judaism

NEW BOOK FROM OUP: Secret Groups in Ancient Judaism.
Were there groups in Ancient Judaism that cultivated esoteric knowledge and transmitted it secretly? With the discovery and burgeoning study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and particularly of the documents legislating the social structure of the Qumran group, the foremost paradigm for analysis of the group's social structure has become the "sect." This is still dominant, having replacing the monastic paradigm used by some of the earliest scholars of the Scrolls.

But after studying what has been written on secret societies more generally, Michael Stone has concluded that many known ancient Jewish groups-the Qumran covenanters, Josephus's and Philo's Essenes, and Philo's Therapeutae-should be viewed as societies at the heart of whose existence were esoteric knowledge and practice. Guarding and transmitting this esoteric knowledge and practice, Stone argues, provided the dynamic that motivated the social and conceptual structure of these groups. Analyzing them as secret societies, he says, enables us to see previously latent social structural dimensions, and provides many new enriching insights into the groups, including the Dead Sea covenanters.

By examining historical and literary sources, Stone uncovers evidence for the existence of other secret groups in ancient Jewish society. This line of study leads Stone not only to consider the "classical" Jewish apocalypses as pseudo-esoteric, but also to discern in them the footsteps of hidden, truly esoteric traditions cultivated in the circles that produced the apocalypses. This discovery has significant implications, especially considering the enormous growth of study of the apocalyptic in the Judaism of the Second Temple period and in nascent Christianity over the last seventy years.

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

Review of Fritze, Egyptomania

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Ronald H. Fritze, Egyptomania: A History of Fascination, Obsession and Fantasy. London: Reaktion Books, 2016. Pp. 444. ISBN 9781780236391. $35.00. Reviewed by Maya Muratov, Adelphi University (mmuratov@adelphi.edu).
Ronald Fritze’s book joins a plethora of publications dedicated to the fascination with ancient Egypt, which fall under the wide term Egyptomania.1 The book is substantial in size and broad in scope. It is apparent that the author is much more at ease with the texts, hence the book’s emphasis on literary sources, and not on the (equally) rich visual and material culture of Egyptomania, the focus of the majority of works on the subject. Therefore it is not surprising that the illustrations are few and their selection at times seems random.

In the introduction, the author underscores the difference between Egyptomania and Egyptology2—and it is important to realize that this book deals with the former. Egyptomania is a social phenomenon that has very little to do with actual Egypt and more often than not belongs to the realm of popular culture; it is related to Egyptology only inasmuch as when new and fascinating finds or scholarly discoveries stir up the popular imagination. This particular focus on misunderstandings and misrepresentations of Egypt and its culture is undoubtedly related to Fritze’s interest in the history of pseudo-science, the subject of his earlier publication.3

The book consists of 12 chapters arranged in two parts. Part one “Egyptomania through the Ages,” comprises eight chapters, arranged in chronological order. It begins with a chapter on “The Real Egypt,” which covers the basics —geography and the environment — followed by a brief overview of Egyptian history. Chapter Two, “Ancient Egyptomania: Hebrews, Pharaohs and Plagues,” treats the Hebrew accounts of ancient Egypt, from the earliest biblical reference in Genesis through the works of Josephus.

[...]
And so on.

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

Review of Vance, Athas, and Avrahami (eds.), Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: A Reader’s Edition

THE JOURNAL OF BIBLICAL AND THEOLOGICAL STUDIES: REVIEW OF BIBLIA HEBRAICA STUTTGARTENSIA: A READER’S EDITION EDITED BY VANCE, ATHAS, AND AVRAHAMI (David M. Smiley).
Overall, I believe that this should be the standard HB that instructors use in an intermediate Hebrew course. The information given can be understood by anyone who has had two semesters of Hebrew, and it is nearly perfect for sight reading and translating. Unlike most electronic software, this book does not enable habits that undermine the learning process. This does not, however, mean that one will lose time translating in comparison to software, especially once the parsing system is mastered. Any student of the HB will want this book on his/her shelf.
The Biblical Aramaic reader mentioned in the review was noted here.

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

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Who Were the Phoenicians?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Who Were the Phoenicians? Exploring the Phoenician empire (Megan Sauter).
Who were the Phoenicians?
Where did they come from? Where did they live? With whom did they trade?

Ephraim Stern addresses these questions—and much more—in his article “Phoenicia and Its Special Relationship with Israel,” published in the November/December 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. He explores the rise and fall of the Phoenician empire and highlights the special relationship that the Phoenicians had with their neighbors, the Israelites.

[...]
The article by Stern is behind a subscription wall, but the BHD essay is interesting in itself.

Now and again I like to remind readers why PaleoJudaica takes an interest in Phoenician and Punic, with a link to this post.

Cross-file under Phoenician Watch.

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

Another review of Kurshan, If All the Seas Were Ink

TALMUD WATCH: Getting Personal About The Talmud. Ilana Kurshan’s memoir about her journey through the ancient tractates (SANDEE BRAWARSKY, New York Jewish Week).
“If All the Seas Were Ink” by Ilana Kurshan (St. Martin’s) recounts the 7 ½-year period in which she participated in daf yomi, learning a page a day of Talmud. The details of her life unfold, not in a linear way, but through her engagement with all the tractates of the Talmud, the vast compendium of Jewish religious and commercial law and legends. Kurshan, who grew up on Long Island and now lives in Jerusalem, writes beautifully about the complexities of love, loss, shame, growth and the things that matter. Her voice is refreshingly modest, gently confident and profound.

Other works with fresh literary takes on the Talmud include “Six Memos from the Last Millennium: A Novelist Reads the Talmud” by Joseph Skibell and Jonathan Rosen’s “The Talmud and the Internet,” both memorable and original works. Kurshan’s is the most personal; her entry into the world of daf yomi was sparked by grief over her divorce after less than a year of marriage. While running the hills of Jerusalem, she learns that her running partner, who is not particularly observant, has just begun day yomi.
Earlier PaleoJudaica posts on the book are here and here.

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

Sahidic Coptic intensive course at Wuppertal

COPTIC WATCH: Wuppertal Coptic Intensive 2018 (Christian Askeland, ETC Blog). Christian is teaching the course in February of 2018. Follow the link for details.

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

Friedman et al., The Trial of the Talmud

MARGINALIA REVIEW OF BOOKS: The Trial of the Talmud Anti-Judaism and the Talmud in Medieval French Society (Sarah Ifft Decker).
The Trial of the Talmud: Paris, 1240, ed. John Friedman, Jean Connell Hoff, and Robert Chazan. Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2017, 182 pp., $19.95
Excerpt from the review:
Gregory’s letters set into motion the series of events that have been termed “the Trial of the Talmud.” Nicholas Donin, a convert to Christianity who had received an extensive Jewish education, claimed that the Talmud was a human creation that the Jews valued over the Torah, and that it moreover contained blasphemous and anti-Christian teachings. If proved true, such accusations would justify banning the Talmud—a major blow to Jewish religious practice. Despite the efforts of Rabbi Yehiel of Paris, a scholar who acted as the chief Jewish representative, Donin proved his charges to the satisfaction of a hostile Christian jury, and copies of the Talmud were burned in 1241 or 1242.

The Trial of the Talmud: Paris, 1240 brings together in English translation the primary source texts essential to understanding this series of events.These sources include a series of Latin letters, sent by and addressed to two popes, the Latin text of the accusations brought forth against the Talmud, and Latin records of the testimony of two learned Jews, as well as the substantial Hebrew account penned by Rabbi Yehiel and a Hebrew lament on the burning of the Talmud.

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

Friday, October 27, 2017

Bauckham (ed.), Magdala, Jewish City of Fish

RICHARD BAUCKHAM has kindly sent me details of his forthcoming book, which I mentioned recently. For other past posts on Magdala, start there and follow the links.
MAGDALA, JEWISH CITY OF FISH

Edited by Richard Bauckham
Baylor University Press, autumn 2018

Contents

Chapter 1 Magdala As We Now Know It: An Overview

Richard Bauckham

Chapter 2 The Harbour
Anna Lena

Chapter 3 Domestic and Mercantile Areas
Marcela Zapata-Meza

Chapter 4 The Domestic Miqva’ot
Ronny Reich and Marcela Zapata-Meza

Chapter 5 The Synagogue
Mordechai Aviam

Chapter 6 The Synagogue Stone
Mordecai Aviam and Richard Bauckham

Chapter 7 Magdala and Trade

Santiago Guijarro

Chapter 8 Magdala and the Fishing Industry
Richard Bauckham

Chapter 9 Magdala and the Jewish Revolt
Morten Hørning Jensen

Chapter 10 Magdala in the List of the Twenty-Four Priestly Settlements
Richard Bauckham

Chapter 11 Magdala in Rabbinic Literature
Richard Bauckham

Chapter 12 The Prosopography
Richard Bauckham

Magdala Bibliography

Comprehensive Bibliography

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

Reviews of books on ritual purity

BOOK REVIEWS: Purity and Obscurity (Shai Secunda, Jewish Review of Books). Dr. Secunda reviews three books on ancient Jewish ritual purity:
Taharah u-kehilla ba-eit ha-atikah: mesorot ha-halakhah ben Yahadut Bayit sheni la-Mishnah (Purity and Community in Antiquity: Traditions of the Law from Second Temple Judaism to the Mishnah)
by Yair Furstenberg
The Hebrew University Magnes Press, 479 pp., $42

Purity, Body, and Self in Early Rabbinic Literature
by Mira Balberg
University of California Press, 262 pp., $90

At the Intersection of Texts and Material Finds: Stepped Pools, Stone Vessels, and Ritual Purity Among the Jews of Roman Galilee
by Stuart S. Miller
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 423 pp., $188
Posted online by Magnes Press, the publisher of the first book on the list.

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

Besler, Rabbinic Tales of Destruction

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Disability Studies and Rabbinic Resistance to the Roman Conquest of Jerusalem (Julia Watts Belser).
Roman conquest leaves its mark on Jewish flesh. Whether through the physicality of war itself, the privations of famine, or the brutalities of sexual violence and enslavement, imperial dominance has powerful effect on the bodies of the conquered. In my new book, Rabbinic Tales of Destruction: Gender, Sex, and Disability in the Ruins of Jerusalem, forthcoming in November 2017 from Oxford University Press, I argue that disability is central to the Jewish experience of conquest in late antiquity. I read rabbinic texts through the prism of disability studies theory, in order to probe the cultural and political significance of physical and mental difference in early Jewish culture. Rather than taking disability as a straightforward medical category, disability studies hones critical tools to analyze how societies construct and contest notions of normativity and deviance, illuminating the way disability becomes a site for negotiating stigma and social power. In rabbinic accounts of the destruction of Jerusalem, the disabled Jewish body serves both as a visceral occasion for lament and a potent site of protest against empire.

[...]

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

Scholz on Reading the Bible in a Feminist Key

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
Reading the Bible in a Feminist Key: Three Challenges for Feminist Biblical Interpretation Today

Yet despite these and many other scholarly accomplishments, feminist biblical interpreters face several cultural-intellectual challenges. They pertain to the pervasive ignorance about feminist biblical studies among lay and scholarly Bible readers, the persistence of essentialist views about gender in (feminist) biblical studies, and the overall lack of engaging feminist theories and practices in feminist biblical exegesis.

See Also: Introducing the Women's Hebrew Bible (Bloomsbury T&T Clark; 2 edition, 2017).

By Susanne Scholz
Professor of Old Testament
Southern Methodist University
October 2017

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

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Kalimi on Fighting Over the Bible

THE ASOR BLOG: Fighting Over the Bible: Jewish Interpretation, Sectarianism and Polemic from Temple to Talmud and Beyond (Isaac Kalimi).
The Hebrew Bible/Old Testament stands as an important sacred text for all branches of the Abrahamic faiths, although these maintain fundamentally different attitudes towards it. Nonetheless, far from unifying Jews, Christians and Muslims, the biblical texts divided them, and have regularly been used as weapons to condemn opponents – insiders and outsiders – rather than as tokens of unification and reconciliation.

Fighting Over the Bible, explores the roots of those interpretive conflicts, especially as they are reflected in pre-modern Jewish literature. It addresses the place of the Bible in Judaism, and the rich Jewish interpretative and theological methods that grew out of internal and external controversies in the Land of Israel and the Jewish Diaspora. It illustrates how the study of the Scriptures filled the vacuum left by the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple (70 CE), and became the foundation for Jewish life and existence at all times and places.

The focus, however, is on Jewish texts from the late Second Temple, talmudic and medieval periods, that is from ca. the 2nd century BCE to the 16th century CE. The creative intellectual and spiritual activities of the Jews – including their Scriptures – are explored within the historical, political, social, economic, religious and academic circumstances of the societies among whom they lived.

[...]
I noted the publication of the book here earlier this year. This essay provides a useful summary of it.

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

Inscribed Coptic tombstone partially deciphered

COPTIC WATCH: Newly discovered Coptic tombstone in Luxor belonged to a child: Study. The medieval headstone has been partially deciphered as studies continue (Nevine El-Aref, ahramonline).
A preliminary study carried out on the Coptic tombstone recently discovered in Luxor reveals that it belonged to a little girl named "Takla," who died at the age of ten sometime between the 7th and 10th centuries AD.

[...]
Stay tuned!

Background here.

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

Lecture on Armenian-Syriac relations

SYRIAC WATCH AND ARMENIAN WATCH: Ararat-Eskijian Museum Present a Lecture on Armenian-Syriac Relations (Asbarez).
MISSION HILLS, Calif. – Ararat-Eskijian Museum presents a talk by Onnik Kiremitlian entitled “Armenia-Syriac Cultural Relations and Armenian Translation of Syriac Literary Works” to take place on Sunday November 5 at 4pm at the Sheen Chapel of Ararat-Eskijian Museum (15105 Mission Hills Road, Mission Hills, Calif., 91345).

[...]
Even if you can't make it to the lecture, the rest of the article is informative and worth reading.

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

Stephen Greenblatt on Adam and Eve

INTERVIEW: Stephen Greenblatt On How The Story Of Adam And Eve Shaped History (Talya Zax, The Forward).
Has there been a more consequential story to the history of humanity than that of Adam and Eve?

In the assessment of Stephen Greenblatt, Shakespeare scholar and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Swerve,” probably not. But for Greenblatt, the significance of the origin story of Abrahamic religions ranges past its tangibly profound impact on the course of western society, presenting an unmatched opportunity to explore the elusive yet absolute power of stories.

“This is fiction at its most fictional, a story that revels in the delights of make-believe,” Greenblatt writes in the introduction to his new book “The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve.”

“Yet millions of people, including some of the subtlest and most brilliant minds that have ever existed, have accepted the Bible’s narrative of Adam and Eve as the unvarnished truth.”

Greenblatt and I met to discuss the book. Read excerpts of that conversation, below.

[...]
Cross-file under New Book.

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Abraham as a hero?

PROF. EVERETT FOX: What Kind of Hero is Abraham? (TheTorah.com).
The lack of details surrounding God’s first call to Abram—לך לך, “go forth”—or about Abram’s trip to Canaan contrasts starkly with other biblical figures, highlighting that Abraham is not a typical hero.
A past post on Lord Raglan's typology of the Hero is here.

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

Review of Brooke and Feldman (eds.), On Prophets, Warriors, and Kings

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | On Prophets, Warriors, and Kings Former Prophets through the Eyes of Their Interpreters (Joshua Matson).
George J. Brooke and Ariel Feldman eds., On Prophets, Warriors, and Kings: Former Prophets Through the Eyes of their Interpreters (BZAW 470), VI + 268 p., € 99,95, Berlin: De Gruyter 2016, ISBN 978-3-11-037738-5.
Excerpt:
When pieced together, these essays create a mosaic about biblical interpretation that is illuminating, challenging, insightful, and beneficial for any scholar related to the texts or reception of the Hebrew Bible.

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

Blade Runner 2049, the Bible, and Gnosticism

CINEMA: Forget it, Kinbote, it’s Chinatown: A Blade Runner 2049 reference guide (Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, AV Club).
Call it the ultimate tribute to the original’s religion-obsessed atheist director, Ridley Scott, a hodgepodge of crypto-Judeo-Christian references: the Nicene Creed, The Epistle To The Galatians, contrasting artificial women named Joi (Ana De Armas) and Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), a flight into the desert. And then there’s the successor to Tyrell’s fallen replicant-making empire, the aforementioned Niander Wallace, who took over the business after making a fortune on synthetic food. A very literal life-giver, feeding the huddled human masses trying to weather the global flood, hidden in his fortress headquarters (lit by reflections off pools of water, of course), where he tends and is tended to by his “angels,” the superhuman replicants.

Wallace speaks of battles at the gates of heaven and the wombs of Old Testament prophets’ wives as though narrating portentously. It should be noted that like Milton, who wrote Paradise Lost by dictation, he is blind. But this pseudo-poetic, antagonist world-builder isn’t very redolent of a personal Christian god, is he? He’s more like the demiurge of gnosticism, an old religious philosophy that obsessed Dick, the author of Blade Runner’s source novel, in his later years.
This is from a long review of the film that discusses the influences behind it, including biblical influences, in great detail. Worth reading in full, if you're interested in the film.

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

Is the Bible true?

ARCHAEOLOGY: Is the Bible a True Story? Despite feverish searching with Scripture in one hand and cutting-edge technology in the other, evidence backing the Bible remains elusive. But there are some surprising anomalies (Nir Hasson, Haaretz).
Beauty and biblical evidence both lie in the eye of the beholder, it seems. No evidence of the events described in the Book of Genesis has ever been found. No city walls have been found at Jericho, from the appropriate era, that could have been toppled by Joshua or otherwise. The stone palace uncovered at the foot of Temple Mount in Jerusalem could attest that King David had been there; or it might belong to another era entirely, depending who you ask.

Archaeologists always hope that advances in technology will shed fresh light on at least part of this ancient mystery: Did the Bible really happen? So far, what discoveries there are, tend to indicate that at the least, the timelines are off.

[...]
In general, the writers of the Bible were not very interested in the sorts of historical questions that interest us. And archaeology is often not well suited to answer our historical questions either. So much of the actual (in our terms) history of ancient Israel remains a mystery and it is likely only loosely related to the biblical narratives.

In any case, go get your favorite beverage and sit down and read this long, balanced, and informative article before it vanishes behind the subscription wall.

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

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Museum of the Bible is opening soon

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: The Museum of the Bible in the Spotlight. Washington, D.C. Bible museum invites dialogue (Robin Ngo and Megan Sauter).
A new museum dedicated to the best-selling book of all time will open next month in Washington, D.C.—just three blocks from the U.S. Capitol. The Museum of the Bible is large and impressive. With a total square footage of 430,000, the museum boasts six floors, including part of a recreated first-century C.E. Jewish village, a ballroom, a performing arts hall, a rooftop garden with Biblical plants, and a 140-foot-long LED screen on the ceiling of the museum’s lobby. It would take a visitor 72 hours to see every artifact, read every placard, and participate in all of the museum’s activities.

[...]
Some of the material in this essay is reproduced from the earlier BHD essay noted here. But some of the information is new. For other past posts on the Museum of the Bible, Hobby Lobby, and the Green Collection, start here and follow the many links.

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

Magdala

ARCHAEOLOGY: Magdala (Rhona Lewis, The Jewish Press).
If you haven’t heard of Magdala, it’s where you can find out about the unearthing of an ancient fishing port on the edge of the Kinneret and a first-century synagogue, one of only seven synagogues in the world from this period of time.

[...]
This is a nice overview of the fascinating discoveries at this site.

By the way, Richard Bauckham is editing a new book on Magdala and the ancient Galilean fishing industry, which is coming out soon. I will keep you posted as more information becomes available.

For many past PaleoJudaica posts on the discoveries at Magdala, start here and follow the links.

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

Library of Congress given Italian Talmud

TALMUD WATCH: Rome’s rabbi gifts Talmud to Library of Congress (Chris Mathews, Religion News Service).
WASHINGTON (RNS) — The Library of Congress got an Italian-Jewish present, brought all the way from Rome by its chief rabbi.

Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni of the Roman Jewish community on Monday (Oct. 23) presented the library the first volume of the first Talmud to be printed in Italy in 500 years.

[...]
For more on the recent translation of the Babylonian Talmud into Italian, see here and here.

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

Inscribed Coptic tombstone excavated at Luxor

COPTIC WATCH: Coptic tombstone unearthed at Sphinxes Avenue in Luxor. The object is carved of limestone and decorated with a cross and Coptic texts (Nevine El-Aref, ahramonline).
Egyptian archaeologists in Luxor have stumbled upon a decorative Coptic tombstone buried on the eastern side of the Sphinxes Avenue, under Al-Mathan Bridge.

The tombstone is carved of limestone and decorated with a cross and Coptic texts, Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Ahram Online.

The exact date of the object has not yet been ascertained, nor the identity of the deceased. However, Mostafa Al-Saghir, director of the Sphinxes Avenue, said experts are now studying the tombstone find out.

[...]
The photographs are good enough for the surviving text to be readable. Enterprising Coptologists can have a go at deciphering it.

UPDATE (26 October): More here.

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

Monday, October 23, 2017

Review of Wilke, Farewell to Shulamit

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Carsten Wilke, Farewell to Shulamit: Spatial and Social Diversity in the Song of Songs. Jewish thought, philosophy and religion, 2. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2017. Pp. viii, 170. ISBN 9783110500547. $91.99. Reviewed by Susan Sorek, Oxford Continuing Education (suzor16@hotmail.co.uk).
The Song of Songs has long been the focus of various conflicting debates amongst Old Testament scholars. Is it theological allegory, a story, or a compilation of erotic folksongs? There is only one constant throughout the Song, the central female character Shulamit, who appears to embody an ideal ‘norm’ of womanhood. Wilke examines the text in terms of spatial diversity and finds that the Song displays a discontinuous cycle of personal encounters within urban, rural and pastoral scenes. Then he attempts to contextualise the Song by comparing it with the conventions of Hellenistic love poetry and with the ritual symbolism of Dionysian cult, within the historical framework of the multiethnic borderland east of the Jordan.

[...]

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

Septuagint Studies Supervision (3)

WILLIAM ROSS: SUPERVISORS & PROGRAMS FOR SEPTUAGINT STUDIES – PART III. Part three in a three-part series. I noted part one here and part two here.

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

The Shekel Prize

NUMISMATICS: New book prize created by AINA (Numismatic News).
A new award called the Shekel Prize has been created by the board of directors of the American Israel Numismatic Association.

It is to be given annually to the author of the best book published on the subject of Ancient Judaea, Holy Land, Israel or Jewish Numismatics.

[...]

The first prize winner is Yoav Farhi, author of “Khirbet Qeiyafa Vol. 5: Excavation Report 2007–2013, The Numismatic Finds: Coins and Related Objects.” Other contributors to this volume are C. Lorber, S. Shalev and S. Shilstein. The Shekel Prize medal will be presented later this year in a ceremony in Israel.

[...]
It is good to hear of this new award. Congratulations to Yoav Farhi and colleagues.

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

Penn State acquires Eisenbrauns

CHANGE: Penn State University Press acquires Eisenbrauns as new imprint. Eisenbrauns has been a major publisher for scholarly books on the Bible and the Ancient Near East for a long time.

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

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Aramaic "Pseudo-Daniel"

IN THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS: What the Bible Doesn’t Tell You About Daniel (Exclusive) (Andrew Perrin, Christian Week).
Most would know Daniel as a sage, courtier, dream interpreter, and lion tamer. If you’ve read sections of the Apocrypha you’ll also know him as a dragon slayer. Yet Daniel’s resume in the Dead Sea Scrolls was even broader. We gain glimpses of this from a newly discovered Aramaic text suitably called Pseudo-Daniel.
All of the Danielic material is pseudepigraphic, including the biblical Book of Daniel. So "Pseudo-Daniel" isn't a very descriptive title. But the text gives us some new legends about the figure of Daniel.

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

Provenance issues with a Coptic Galatians manuscript

THE BIBLE NATION: Is An Ancient Text In The Museum of the Bible Real Or Fake? Sketchy doesn't even begin to describe the controversy surrounding artifacts in the new Museum of the Bible, which is backed by evangelicals investigated for illicit artifacts (Candida Moss and Joel Baden, The Daily Beast).
In 2014, an exhibit of biblical artifacts was displayed with great fanfare at the Vatican. Called “Verbum Domini,” or “The Word of the Lord,” it featured items from the Green Collection, which had been amassed by the owners of Hobby Lobby, the Green family of Oklahoma City. That collection of artifacts amassed by the evangelical family is part of the controversial soon to be opened Museum of the Bible.

Along with rare fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls and a first edition of the King James Bible were lesser-­known items, including some never-­before-­seen ancient biblical manuscripts.

Among the two hundred artifacts was a papyrus fragment of the New Testament. Its edges are frayed, but it is clearly decipherable: the text is from the second chapter of the book of Galatians. It is written in Coptic, the language of Egyptian Christianity for much of the first millennium. While visually it looks like Greek, because it uses many Greek letters, the script hints at the papyrus’s origins in the arid climate of late antique Egypt. Given its small size—­about four inches by four inches—­most visitors probably gave it little more than a passing glance. But it immediately caught the eye of Roberta Mazza, a papyrologist from the University of Manchester. Although this was the first public display of the papyrus, Mazza had seen it before: it had been offered for sale on eBay less than two years earlier.

[...]
This article is adapted from the authors' new book, Bible Nation, on which more here and links. For many past posts on the Museum of the Bible, Hobby Lobby, and the Green Collection, see here and here and follow the links.

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

A political science professor looks at the Talmud

TALMUD WATCH: Talmud as seen by a political scientist (Ira Sharkansky, San Diego Jewish World).
JERUSALEM — For something like 15 years, I’ve been studying Talmud Shabbat mornings for an hour or so with a religious (i.e., Orthodox) neighbor. We’ve been friends for more than 40 years, since we were both at the University of Wisconsin.

I’ve commented several times, perhaps not to his delight, and to other religious friends, also not to their delight, that the experience has made me more Jewish but less religious.

The short explanation is that I perceive what is trivial and even ridiculous in the holy text, along with considerable wisdom and much to admire intellectually.

[...]
A thoughtful and wide-ranging overview of the topic by a nonspecialist.

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

Whales during the Flood

TALMUD WATCH: Was there room for whales in the ark? The rabbis wondered how the majestic sea-creatures survived the Flood (Rabbi Dr Raphael Zarum, The Jewish Chronicle). Noted because the article cites passages from the Babylonian Talmud and Midrash Genesis Rabbah about the fate of aquatic creatures during the Flood. The author gives specific references, which is helpful. I have not checked the references myself, but there you have them.

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

Saturday, October 21, 2017

More on the recent discoveries at the Western Wall

ARCHAEOLOGICAL IMPLICATIONS: As the Romans did: discoveries show Jerusalem’s transformation after destruction (Adam Abrams, JNS.org).
Israeli archaeologists this week unveiled the results of large-scale excavations that lend unprecedented insight into the transformation of Jerusalem around the time of its destruction during the Second Temple period more than 2,000 years ago.

The discoveries—including massive portions of the Western Wall unseen for 1,700 years and an ancient Roman theater—were made in excavations conducted during the past two years in Jerusalem’s Old City. The findings were disclosed at a press conference held by the Israel Antiquity Authority (IAA) beneath Wilson’s Arch in the Western Wall Tunnels.

The newly revealed eight stone courses of the Western Wall had been hidden beneath 26 feet of earth and were perfectly preserved after being excavated. The Roman theater contains approximately 200 seats and, according to archaeologists, required a “great deal” of investment in its construction.

[...]
Background here. Cross-file under Temple Mount Watch.

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

Spellbinding music

VIDEO ART: Israeli video artist Victoria Hanna brings spells ancient and modern to Berkeley (Laura Paull, The Jewish News of Northern California).
Hanna today is a singer, composer, teacher and video artist who performs in Israel onstage, at schools, official ceremonies and important national occasions, and for international audiences at festivals. Her unique angle is that she creates songs from modern and ancient Hebrew texts, adapting musical styles from traditional Jewish music to new music and hip-hop.

[...]

With support from the Schusterman program, UC Berkeley students and the public will be able to participate in a collaboration that explores new territory in Jewish culture. As the Magnes’ fall 2017 resident artist, Hanna will co-teach Spagnolo’s new course, “Jewish Nightlife: Poetry, Music, and Ritual Performance from Renaissance Italy to Contemporary Israel.” The course explores the cultural impact of the arrival of both Kabbalah, a branch of Jewish mysticism, and coffee, of all things, to Venice “in the roaring 1570s,” Spagnolo said.

“Coffee allowed people to stay up at night, and propelled the invention of new Jewish rituals based on the nighttime singing of Hebrew poetry, that have impacted many ideas and practices to this very day,” he said.

As the course’s music lab component, Hanna and the students will develop a performance series that will be open to the public. It was Spagnolo’s idea that Hanna use some of the Hebrew amulets held in the Magnes collection as a creative source.

[...]
What an interesting project. Be sure and watch the video at the link.

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

Museum of the Bible press conference

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: The Museum of the Bible in the Spotlight. Washington, D.C. Bible museum invites dialogue (Robin Ngo and Megan Sauter).
Chances are you’ve heard some of the controversy surrounding the Museum of the Bible in the months leading up to its opening. Rather than hide or pretend such issues don’t exist, the museum chose to address them directly. On October 17—one month before its opening day—the Museum of the Bible held a press conference featuring a panel of the museum’s leaders and academic consultants to “outline the rigorous process used to create content displayed throughout the museum and answer questions about the museum’s collection practices, some of which have been challenged.” In the first half of the press conference, the panel members addressed a variety of topics on the museum’s approach and exhibit content.

[...]

When the panel took questions from the media, one word dominated the conversation: provenance. An artifact’s provenance is its record of ownership. Such a record can provide information on its place of origin and corroborate its authenticity.
I received an invitation to apply to attend the press conference, but I was unable to be in Washington D.C. for it. It's good to have this report from BAS.

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

Review of Bible Nation

THE ETC BLOG: Brief review of Bible Nation (Peter M. Head).
Over the weekend I managed to read the new book by Candida Moss and Joel Baden called Bible Nation: the United States of Hobby Lobby.

[...]
I noted the book as forthcoming here.

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

Friday, October 20, 2017

Batchelder Conference for Archaeology and Biblical Studies

THE BIBLE PLACES BLOG: 19th Batchelder Conference for Archaeology and Biblical Studies (Todd Bolen). Coming in early November at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

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

Irish "Gnostic" (?) island for sale

FOR YOU, SPECIAL DEAL: Dream of owning your own private island off Ireland? This is epic (Frances Mulraney, Irish Central).
West Skeam Island is a small 33-acre island with a monumental history from the Vikings to the Great Hunger and for a cool $2.3 million, you could own it all.

[...]

The island is home to three quaint, old Irish cottages, revamped on the interior to give you most of your mod cons, but from where you can distance yourself from the mainland and enjoy West Skeam’s four private, attractive beaches or explore the ruins of its 4th-century Gnostic Christian Church.

With a rumored Viking burial ground and an out-of-use, overgrown WWII-era landing strip, this Special Area of Conservation was first inhabited in 350 AD by early Gnostic Christian settlers escaping persecution under Pope Constantine, while the next recorded inhabitants were two families by the name of O’Regan who lived on West Skeam from the time of the Famine in the mid-19th century to the 1950s.
It sounds like a lovely island, and if I had a couple million to spare I might be tempted. But I am skeptical about this Gnostic church business. As you can see, the link leads to an article about Irish saints and it has nothing to do with Gnostics. I don't doubt that there is a ruin of an ancient church on the island, which is very cool in itself. But I don't know of Gnostic Christianity reaching Ireland with an active community and a church building in the fourth century. I can find no indication that that happened. Irish Christianity is not my area of expertise, but I do know a good bit about Gnosticism.

Still, it sounds like a nice island with its own ruin of some kind or other, if you're in the market for that sort of thing.

If any specialists in Gnosticism or Irish Christianity want to correct me and provide evidence, please drop me a note.

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

The Lod Mosaic is returning to Lod to stay

MUSEUM: Breathtaking 1,700-year-old Lod mosaic to finally have a floor to call home. Decades after its discovery, country's 'finest' tile art will be displayed to the public at the central Israeli city's Mosaic Archaeological Center - when it's completed in 2019 (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
After touring the world, Israel’s most impressive mosaic will finally have a port of its own. Before dropping anchor at the Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Archaeological Center upon its projected completion in 2019, the massive mosaic, decorated with seafaring motifs, had an adventure of its own.

[...]
PaleoJudaica followed the Lod Mosaic's travels for some year. For past posts, start here and follow the links.

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

What did Ham do to Noah?

DR. RABBI DAVID FRANKEL: Noah, Ham and the Curse of Canaan: Who Did What to Whom in the Tent? (TheTorah.com).
Why does Noah express such a severe curse for the seemingly minor sin of observing his nakedness? Why does Noah curse his grandson instead of his son?
This interpretation has been around for a while. For my part, I am very skeptical of exegesis that requires a major rewrite of the story as a reconstruction of a hypothetical original. But read the essay and see what you think.

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

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Fuchs, The Geonic Talmud

NEW BOOK (IN HEBREW) FROM MAGNES PRESS:
The Geonic Talmud
The Attitude of the Babylonian Geonim to the Text of the Babylonian Talmud


By Uziel Fuchs
Edited by: Amos Geula

Publisher: World Union of Jewish Studies
In collaboration with: Herzog Academic College
Series: Eshkolot – Jewish Studies Series
Categories: Talmud, Jewish Studies, Jewish Thought
Publish date: August 2017
Language: Hebrew
Danacode: 45-131148
Cover: Hardcover
Pages: 374
Weight: 1200 gr.

The Babylonian Talmud is the fundamental work of the Oral Law, both by virtue of the widespread and intensive study of it, and by virtue of reliance on it in halakhic writings, for over a thousand years. The Talmud gained much of its importance during the Geonic period. Throughout this time its transmission shifted from oral recitation to written copies, its text became standardized, and it was sent out from the Babylonian academies across the Jewish diaspora. Its intensive study and complex system of transmission both orally and in writing resulted in many variant readings between extant copies.

This book deals with questions concerning the ways in which the Babylonian Talmud became such as seminal work, and especially the Geonate’s treatment of the its textual tradition: the ways in which the Geonim related to the variant readings, how they chose between them, and according to what criteria; to what extent were its early readings preserved and to what extent was its text altered. In the second half of the book the entire corpus in which the Geonim deal with Talmudic variants is presented and discussed.
A few past PaleoJudaica posts on the subject of the book are here, here, and here.

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

Review of Rapoport-Albert, Women and the Messianic Heresy of Sabbatai Zevi

YESHIVA UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR JEWISH LAW BLOG: Review of Rapoport-Albert, _Women and the Messianic Heresy of Sabbatai Zevi, 1666–1816_ (Joshua Schwartz).
Review of Ada Rapoport-Albert, Women and the Messianic Heresy of Sabbetai Zevi, 1666-1816. Oxford: Littman, 2011. 400 pp. $64.50.
Excerpt:
Rapoport-Albert now argues that the Sabbatian movement represented a bellwether moment for women’s liberation within Jewish history, a “veritable gender revolution that the Sabbatian movement envisaged, and in no small measure put into effect.”
This book review is from a few years ago, but it just came to my attention.

Past PaleoJudaica posts on Shabbetai Zvi and Sabbatianism are here, here, here, with many links. In particular, this post has some reflections on how Shabbetai can help us better understand some aspects of ancient messianism.

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

Underground Roman-era stables looted in the Galilee

APPREHENDED: Family Finds Roman-era Stables Beneath Their Garden, Arrests Made Over Looting.Eilabun residents uncovered elaborate caves carved out of bedrock in ancient Galilean Jewish village, and allegedly robbed the site (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz).
It’s not rare in Israel to burrow in the garden, say, to plant flowers, and to find an ancient artifact. One family in the Galilean village of Eilabun found not some measly oil lamp or pagan figurine under their courtyard, but the opening to an elaborate system of underground caves dating to the Roman era, about 2,000 years ago. Earlier this week, authorities made two arrests for illegal excavation of the precious site, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Wednesday.

Back in the Roman days, the caves seem to have served for storage and stabling, over centuries.

Which begs the question: The caves are about three meters below the surface, archaeology inspector Nir Distelfeld told Haaretz. So, how did they get horses down there and why would they? Why not build a stable with walls above ground?

[...]
Neither the headline nor the article make it very clear (at least to me) who was arrested.

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

Ebeling et al. (eds.), The Old Testament in Archaeology and History

NEW HEBREW BIBLE TEXTBOOK: UW Religion Today: The Ancient Israelites Through Archaeology, History and Text (Paul V.M. Flesher, University of Wyoming). Excerpt:
Does that mean we should ignore the Old Testament? By no means. Both archaeology and Scripture constitute primary sources for the study of ancient Israel. They must be used together for the most complete historical picture.

This fall sees the publication of the first introductory book that does just that -- a book suitable for both general readers and introductory college courses. It is called “The Old Testament in Archaeology and History” and is edited by a team led by Jennie Ebeling and Edward Wright, and includes Mark Elliott, a former longtime Cheyenne resident, and myself. The chapters are written by experts in archaeological research and biblical studies, and bring together the latest finds and best analyses to provide a history of ancient Israel.

The book takes a historical approach to understanding the ancient Israelites, bringing together biblical evidence and archaeological discoveries to address questions of historical analysis and understanding. Rather than pit the two kinds of data against each other, it treats all the information equally; indeed, it often finds them on the same side.

I will end with a shameless plug: Read this book! You will gain the fullest and most complete understanding of ancient Israel available.

Note: “The Old Testament in Archaeology and History,” edited by Jennie Ebeling, J. Edward Wright, Mark Elliott and Paul V. M. Flesher. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2017.

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

More on the UNESCO withdrawal

MORE ON THE U.S. AND ISRAELI DECISION TO WITHDRAW FROM UNESCO: Scolding UNESCO, GOP lawmakers introduce resolution on Jewish ties to Jerusalem. After Trump administration announces it will withdraw from UN cultural body over anti-Israel votes, Sen. Cruz and Rep. Gaetz accuse agency of 'trying to rewrite history' (ERIC CORTELLESSA, Times of Israel).
On Friday, Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, and Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, followed up on the move by authoring a resolution that “recognizes and affirms the historical connection of the Jewish people to the ancient and sacred city of Jerusalem.”

It goes on to cite archaeologically excavated sites, like the City of David, that contain vast quantities of antiquities from the ancient Jewish and Christian presence in the city.
This Opinion piece is also of interest:

Alan Dershowitz: Trump was right to walk away from UNESCO -- for now (Wathington Examiner).
Background here and here and many links.

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

Sefer Yetsira

KABBALAH WATCH? ‘Sefer Yesira,’ the Story of a Text in Search of Commentary. An ancient, tiny book cataloging the components of the cosmos: was it magic, Kabbalah, a philosophical treatise, or something else? (Tzvi Langermann, Tablet Magazine).
The minuscule composition known as Sefer Yesira (SY), so tiny some thought it to be meant as an amulet, is a challenging text, begging for commentary. Though the Hebrew text is very short (about 1,000 words), it has played an important role in Jewish thought, and in more recent times, in the academic study of Jewish thought. The “book” itself contains very little prose; it consists mostly of catalogs of the components of the cosmos, in groups of two (pairs of opposites), three, and seven, and their sums—10, 12, 22, and 32. The cataloged components are those making up the physical universe, the human body, and time. The 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet are very significant as well and are matched to the other components of the universe. The original intent of the author or authors is not known.

A book of this sort cannot be understood without commentary, and SY has been interpreted in very different ways. Some claim that it was originally meant to be a work of mystical magic, but this reading is clearly prejudiced by the kabbalistic appropriation of the text, a process which began in the 12th century, and, even more so, by a fierce turf defense by academic specialists in the Kabbalah.

I do not know if at it is at all possible to assert anything about the original authorial intent behind the text. One can, however, speak with a great deal of certainty about the way the first interpreters of SY read the book. We possess extensive commentaries, in Judaeo-Arabic and in Hebrew, written by individuals throughout the Jewish diaspora in the early medieval period. Some are famous, others are familiar mainly to specialists. Each of the following glossed Sefer Yesira, reading it as a book of science: ...
Sefer Yetsira is indeed a mysterious text, more so even than is indicated in this article. There is no agreement on its original date of composition or what the original text looked like. Some years ago I comment briefly on it and gave some bibliography here. It is foundational to the mystical traditions of Kabbalah and the Zohar, whether or not it is itself a mystical text.

Variant English spellings include Sepher Yetsirah, Sefer Yetzira, and Sefer Yesira.

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

Birds in the Flood Story

DR. GUY DARSHAN: The Motif of Releasing Birds in ANE Flood Stories (TheTorah.com).
The ancient Near East had many versions of the flood story, such as Atrahasis, Ziusudra, Utnapishtim, etc., most of which predate the Torah’s account of Noah’s flood. But what is the earliest extant version of the releasing birds motif?
The answer may surprise you.

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

Festschrift for Michael Stone

FORTHCOMING (IN NOVEMBER) BOOK FROM BRILL:
The Embroidered Bible: Studies in Biblical Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha in Honour of Michael E. Stone

Edited by Lorenzo DiTommaso, Concordia University Montréal Matthias Henze, Rice University and William Adler, North Carolina State University
This Festschrift contains forty-one original essays and six tribute papers in honour of Michael E. Stone, Gail Levin de Nur Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies and Professor Emeritus of Armenian Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The volume’s main theme is Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, envisioned in its broadest sense: apocryphal texts, traditions, and themes from the Second-Temple period to the High Middle Ages, in Judaism, Christianity and, to a lesser extent, Islam. Most essays present new or understudied texts based on fresh manuscript evidence; the others are thematic in approach. The volume’s scope and focus reflect those of Professor Stone’s scholarship, without a special emphasis on Armenian studies.
Congratulations to Professor Stone!

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Jerusalem's lost theater found

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: 'JERUSALEM’S LOST THEATER’ AND 8 ANCIENT STONE COURSES DISCOVERED UNDER WESTERN WALL (Daniel K. Eisenbud, Jerusalem Post).
A rare 200-seat theater from the Roman period and eight large ancient stone courses have been unearthed under the Western Wall’s Wilson’s Arch by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

[...]

“This is a relatively small structure compared to known Roman theaters, such as at Caesarea, Beit She’an and Beit Guvrin,” said [excavator Tehillah] Lieberman. “This fact – in addition to its location under a roofed space, in this case under Wilson’s Arch – leads us to suggest that this is a theater-like structure of the type known in the Roman world as an odeon.”

“In most cases,” he continued, “such structures were used for acoustic performances. Alternatively, the structure might have been what is known as a bouleuterion, the building where the city council met – in this case, the council of the Roman colony of Aelia Capitolina.”

Interestingly, the archeologists believe the theater was never used.

[...]
Also, over at the Bible Places Blog, Todd Bolen has some commentary on the find.

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

The rebellious elder in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Rebellious Elders. Daf Yomi: Why heresy is rare in Talmudic law, where judicial dissent and tiered courts institutionalized freedom of thought.
In Chapter Eight of Tractate Sanhedrin, we saw how the rabbis dealt with the case of a “stubborn and rebellious son,” ben sorer u’moreh. Such a wayward youth is condemned to stoning by Torah law, yet the rabbis interpreted the law so strictly as to render its application virtually impossible. This week, in Chapter 10, the rabbis dealt with the complementary case of a “rebellious elder,” zaken mamre; but in this case, it was interesting to see, they make no such effort at extenuation. It seems as if the rabbis are harsher on rebellion when it comes from an elderly and respected member of the community than when it comes from a gluttonous and drunken youth. But why should this be so? After all, the punishment for the elder is strangling, which is considered a lesser sanction than stoning; this might suggest that his crime is less severe.

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

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

Review of Burns, The Christian Schism in Jewish History and Jewish Memory

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | The Christian Schism in Jewish History and Jewish Memory (Joshua Blachorsky).
Joshua Ezra Burns. The Christian Schism in Jewish History and Jewish Memory. Cambridge University Press, 2016.
Excerpt:
Joshua Burns, in The Christian Schism in Jewish History and Jewish Memory, has offered a fresh new foray into this conversation, which he describes as a “Jewish history of the Christian schism” (p. 12). Burns continues the trend of eschewing the traditional parting model and envisioning a split only after the beginning of the 4th century. But he does so with a novel lens, focusing on the rabbinic evidence. In Burns’s interpretation, Tannaitic texts, c. 200 CE, view Jewish Christians as those who practice incorrectly but are wholly Jewish, indicating that the rabbis did not see any decisive split as having yet occurred. However, due to social and religious changes over the next few centuries in Roman Palestine, whereby a wholly gentile Christianity won the day, Amoraim knew only of this later group. Thus later, Amoraic texts speak of gentile Christians, and do so as total others. Burns, accordingly, locates the rabbinic perception of what he calls a “schism” in this later, Amoraic period.

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

The Te’omim Cave

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: The Te’omim Cave: Rebel Hideout and Cult Site. Jerusalem hills cave reveals layers of history (Robin Ngo).
During the Bar-Kokhba Revolt (132–136 C.E.), Jewish rebels sought refuge from the Roman army in secret hideouts throughout Judea. One such hideout was the Te’omim Cave, a massive cave complex in the Jerusalem hills west of the city. There, within the innermost chambers of the cave, archaeologists discovered three hoards of Roman, Judean and revolt coins, weapons and pottery evidently hidden by the rebels.

[...]
As usual, this column is a summary of a BAR article that is behind the subscription wall. But the column is interesting in itself.

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

Monday, October 16, 2017

Reynolds on Jewish apocalyptic and the NT

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION: Jewish Apocalyptic Tradition in the New Testament.
It has been noted on numerous occasions by scholars that the term “apocalyptic” may be used to refer to three distinct aspects. The first is the apocalyptic genre, i.e., apocalypses, which I will discuss more fully below. The second is apocalyptic worldview, i.e., apocalypticism. This term is used to describe the viewpoint evident in apocalypses and that was held by those who wrote apocalypses. Finally, apocalyptic eschatology refers to the eschatology present in some apocalypses, which is often concerned with the end of the world. Apocalyptic eschatology usually presents history as a series of stages with the present stage preceding the final, climactic stage. This final stage of history often includes the judgment of the wicked and the vindication of the righteous. The wicked may be judged by a messiah figure who will then gather the vindicated righteous to God.

See Also: Reynolds, Benjamin E. and Loren Stuckenbruck, eds. The Jewish Apocalyptic Tradition and the Shaping of New Testament Thought (Fortress, 2017).

By Benjamin E. Reynolds
Associate Professor of New Testament
Tyndale University College
Toronto, Canada
October 2017

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

Hershel Shanks is retiring as BAR editor

BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW: First Person: My Final “First Person” (Hershel Shanks).
In the next issue of BAR, I will have a new title: Editor Emeritus. Yes, after 42 years I will be retiring. I will still be around—putting in my two cents. But I will not have the responsibility for making sure it is all there and putting it all together.

That will be the job of the new editor, Robert (Bob) Cargill. He is young, and he is smart. In some ways, under his editorship BAR will be the same magazine; in other ways, it may be new and different. I am confident you will continue to be enthralled with the magazine, and I think you will like Bob.

[...]
Bob Cargill has been mentioned often at PaleoJudaica. He will do a great job as the new editor of BAR. I look forward to following the publication under his leadership. And all best wishes to Hershel, who has devoted himself faithfully to making BAR an informative and stimulating popular source for biblical scholarship for more than a biblical generation.

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

Rohr Institute course on Great Debates

ADULT EDUCATION: Rohr Jewish Learning Institute Launches Great Debates: 6-Part Course on Dead Sea Scrolls (Hana Levi Julian, The Jewish Press).
Seventy years after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute is poised to launch a course that examines the historical debates about Jewish philosophy and practice that were brought to light by those texts.

Some 20,000 participants who are part of what a JLI spokesperson called “the largest Jewish education network in the world” will be studying the six-part course in 400 different locations around the globe, beginning at the end of October. The course was created under the guidance and direction of Professor Lawrence H. Schiffman, the Judge Abraham Lieberman Professor of Hebrew and Judaic studies at New York University and a leading expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Schiffman, born in 1948, has been working on the Scrolls for nearly 50 years.

[...]
The website for the course is here. The headline is a little confusing. The Dead Sea Scrolls are covered only in the first of the six units. The second unit will be on the fall of Masada. There are more modern topics as well. See the details at the link.

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

Septuagint Studies Supervision (2)

WILLIAM ROSS: SUPERVISORS & PROGRAMS FOR SEPTUAGINT STUDIES – PART II. Part two in a three-part series. Part one was noted here.

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

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Langlois on those 9 dubious DSS fragments

MICHAEL LANGLOIS: Nine Dubious “Dead Sea Scrolls” Fragments from the Twenty-First Century. Professor Langlois gives some background to the recent Dead Sea Discoveries article on the same topic, which I noted here.

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

Jenkins on historical amnesia

THE ASOR BLOG: Revolutionary Biblical Discoveries and the Need for Historical Amnesia (Philip Jenkins).
The Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife… every few years, the media report new finds of ancient texts that supposedly throw revolutionary new light on the Biblical world, and (commonly) on Christian origins. In reality, such finds rarely tell us much that is new or unexplored, and are mainly of use to hardcore specialists. In most cases, the claims that are made are actually quite familiar, and have been made on many previous occasions. Any kind of historic perspective shows that even what initially look like the most radical ideas in this field have a long prehistory. Successive claim about new and explosive discoveries rely on a process of recurrent public amnesia.

[...]
This essay summarizes material that Professor Jenkins covered in more detail in posts at The Anxious Bench blog. I have noted them here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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

Frey and Jost (eds.), Gottesdienst und Engel im antiken Judentum und frühen Christentum

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Gottesdienst und Engel im antiken Judentum und frühen Christentum. Hrsg. v. Jörg Frey u. Michael R. Jost. [Liturgy and Angels in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity.] 2017. VIII, 447 pages. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2. Reihe 446.
99,00 €
sewn paper
ISBN 978-3-16-154195-7

Published in German.
Some Second Temple Judaism and New Testament texts describe or presuppose heavenly and earthly communities interconnected in prayer and liturgy. The motif has been discussed especially in view of the Dead Sea discoveries. But it is also of interest to general discussion on the character of liturgy, as well as the ecumenical debate with Orthodox churches in whose form of worship angels play a particularly significant role. In the field of systematic theology, the issue was Roman Catholic theologian and historian Erik Peterson's central focus and subject of debate with Karl Barth. This volume presents the multidisciplinary contributions of a symposium held in Zürich on the interrelation of earthly worship and the heavenly host.

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

Documentary on the Ritman Library

BOINGBOING: New documentary is a magic portal into a weird and wonderful library (FERDINANDO BUSCEMA).
The Hermetic Philosophy

There is an underground current of thought beneath Western culture, running quietly like a vein of quicksilver: The Hermetic Philosophy. This ancient and multifaceted phenomenon is often found rising up from the shadows during times of intense cultural transition and upheaval.

[...]

The Ritman Library

For those of us enthralled by such ideas – and the wondrous, precious tomes expressing them – the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica (BPH) is a must-see. Also known as The Ritman Library, it is aptly located in Amsterdam, a city historically known for freedom of religion, freedom of expression and freedom of printing.

[...]
The early Hermetic literature was mainly Greco-Egyptian popular Platonism, but it also had some interaction with ancient Jewish traditions. Most of the holdings of the Ritman Library seem to be of the Hermeticism of a later period.

A while ago I noted another story about the Ritman Library here.

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

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Herodotus and the Persian Empire

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Herodotus and the Persian Empire. This is the subject of a new issue of the journal Phoenix. One of the articles, by Karel van der Toorn, is on the Judean community at Elephantine.

For many past PaleoJudaica posts on Elephantine and the Elephantine Aramaic papyri, start here and follow the links.

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

On the Golb impersonation case

ANALYSIS: Raphael Golb Is Facing Jail Time — For Parodying a Dead Sea Scrolls Scholar (Arthur S. Hayes, The Forward). One law professor's view on the merits of the case and where it should go from here. So far the appeals courts have not agreed, at least fully, but we'll see what happens.

Again, I have been following this case for years because of its connection with the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Background here and many links.

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

A new leader for UNESCO

POLITICS: UNESCO selects France's Azoulay as new chief (John Irish).
PARIS (Reuters) - The United Nations’ cultural agency selected former French culture minister Audrey Azoulay as its new chief on Friday, handing her the keys to revive UNESCO’s fortunes after the United States pulled out.

[...]
This is a somewhat surprising result. She was not the front runner in the first rounds of voting. It's possible that the announced withdrawal of the U.S.A. and Israel from UNESCO influenced matters. In any case, congratulations to Ms. Azoulay. She has lots of work ahead of her.

Background on the appointment of a new UNESCO leader, and on criticisms of UNESCO resolutions involving Israel and the Temple Mount, is here and many links.

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

"The Concept of Our Great Power" translated

ALIN SUCIU: Guest Post: Anthony Alcock – The Concept of Our Great Power: Annotated Translation. The Concept of Our Great Power is a Coptic text from the (sort of) Gnostic library from Nag Hammadi.

Cross-file under Coptic Watch.

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

Talmudic medical discourse

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: “Curiosity Cures the Reb:’” Studying Talmudic Medical Discourses in Context.
Dr. Lennart Lehmhaus shares a rabbinic case study in order to reflect upon the history of science and rabbinic texts: "A careful study of the discursive strategies and the embeddedness of such medical knowledge within their broader contexts of theology or religious law (Halakhah), allows one to highlight the differences in form and content in the variants of this narrative."

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

On names and Greek breathings

THE ETC BLOG has a couple of posts about biblical names in Greek and whether they have a rough or a smooth breathing:

Why give Abraham a rough breathing? (Dirk Jongkind)

Isaiah: rough or smooth? (Peter Williams)

The takeaway is that in the Greek manuscript tradition the name Abraham sometimes has a rough breathing and the name Isaiah always (in the manuscripts consulted) does. That means that in the mind of the scribe, both were pronounced with an initial aspiration or "h" sound. A smooth breathing would be silent.

I would not expect this result from the Hebrew forms of the names, but the Greek scribes probably didn't know Hebrew. Who knows where they got the idea? And who knows how the names were actually pronounced in Greek when the Septuagint and the New Testament were written? But, as Dirk Jongkind observes, modern editions have to include a breathing for any Greek word that begins with a vowel. The manuscripts can at least offer some guidelines on which to use.

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

The Firmament

OREN FASS M.D.: My Encounter with the Firmament (TheTorah.com).
The Torah describes God’s fashioning the firmament (רקיע) on the second day of creation. This piece of the universe, however, doesn’t actually exist—a problem obfuscated in my yeshiva education.
For more on ancient Hebrew cosmology, see here. Also somewhat related is this post, which deals with one mystical understanding of the firmament. Encounters with that one are perilous.

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

U.S. and Israel give notice to withdraw from UNESCO

POLITICS: ISRAEL, US TO QUIT UNESCO CITING 'ANTI-ISRAEL BIAS'. President Donald Trump has in general been critical of the United Nations and complained about the cost and value to the United States (MICHAEL WILNER, HERB KEINON, TOVAH LAZAROFF, Jerusalem Post).
Hours after the US’s dramatic decision to withdraw from UNESCO, citing anti-Israel bias, Israel stated that it also planned to leave the education, scientific and cultural body.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday night directed the Foreign Ministry to “prepare Israel’s withdrawal from the organization in parallel with the US.”

[...]
This is one of President Trump's favorite strategies: walk away from the negotiating table. He has used it again and again throughout his career. It motivates the other party to rethink and offer the best deal possible. This move comes at a particularly sensitive time, with a new UNESCO leader about to be appointed.

The withdrawal does not take effect until the end of 2018, so there is plenty of time for things to change. But the next move is UNESCO's.

Background on concerns about bias against Israel in various recent UNESCO resolutions is here and many links.

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