Friday, August 18, 2017

On nine dubious DSS fragments

IN DEAD SEA DISCOVERIES: Nine Dubious “Dead Sea Scrolls” Fragments from the Twenty-First Century. By Kipp Davis; Ira Rabin; Ines Feldman; Myriam Krutzsch; Hasia Rimon; Årstein Justnes6; Torleif Elgvin and Michael Langlois. Abstract:
In 2002 new “Dead Sea Scrolls” fragments began to appear on the antiquities market, most of them through the Kando family. In this article we will present evidence that nine of these Dead Sea Scrolls-like fragments are modern forgeries.
Prepublished on the Brill website. I'm not sure whether you need a subscription to read it the full text, but do read it if you can.

Also, the recent ISBL meeting Berlin had a session on "Tracing and Facing Possible Forgeries: Methodology, Ethics, Policies." It was livestreamed and you can watch the video at the International Organization for Qumran Studies (IOQS) page on Facebook.

For past posts on the new Dead Sea Scrolls fragments that have come to light in recent years and the question of their authenticity, see here and links.

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Witches in the Bible?

DANGEROUS PHILOLOGY: Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Witch to Live: A Murderous Mistranslation? Not everybody agrees that the biblical reference in Exodus is to 'witches' as we understand them (Elizabeth Sloane, Haaretz).
“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” - Exodus 22:18 (22:17 in Hebrew)

This quote, found in the King James Version of the Bible, has been widely held responsible for the witch burnings that plagued Europe, and later America, in the Early Modern Period (1450 C.E. – 1750 C.E.). But the murderous practice may have all been the result of a Biblical mistranslation.

The original Hebrew word used in Exodus, translated as "witch," is mekhashepha. But what that word actually meant when Exodus was written thousands of years ago, we cannot know, leaving us with only modern interpretations.

I'm not sure that ancient Israelites would have made a sharp distinction between a "poisoner" and a "sorceror." In any case, there don't seem ever to have been many, if any, "witches" in the sense of people who practice magic to do evil. "Witchcraft" has functioned more as a social tool to use as an accusation against religious intermediaries who became troublesome in some way to the authorities.

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In defense of Dr. Blumell

HOBBY LOBBY FALLOUT: Accusations against BYU professor appear unsubstantiated (Jesse King, BYU Daily Universe).
BYU religion associate professor Lincoln Blumell was recently accused of working with illegally obtained artifacts owned by Hobby Lobby.

According to Blumell, he does not work with the type of artifacts he is accused of handling, and the claims appear unsubstantiated by anonymous sources.

David Meadows has already discussed this case, as noted here. One should always treat anonymous accusations with great caution.

Follow the last link above for background on this case, as well as for links to past posts on the Hobby Lobby settlement with the U.S. Justice Department, the Green Collection, and the soon-to-open Museum of the Bible.

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Life/Apocalypse of Adam and Eve

READING ACTS: The Apocalypse of Adam and Eve. Phil Long posts on the Greek version of the Life of Adam and Eve, also known as "The Apocalypse of Moses."

This is his second post on the Life of Adam and Eve. The first was noted here. I have some comments there as well. Follow the links from there for past posts on his longstanding series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Ancient glass exhibition at Yale

MATERIAL CULTURE: Yale Art Gallery serves up ancient glass in ‘Drink That You May Live’ exhibit (Joe Amarante, Litchfield County Times).
The exhibit “Drink That You May Live: Ancient Glass from the Yale University Art Gallery,” curated by Sara E. Cole, opened recently at YUAG and runs through Nov. 12, showcasing 130 objects from the gallery’s holdings.
It turns out that Hellenistic-era Israel made a significant contribution to glass-working technology:
“The single most significant revolution that occurred in glassmaking technology,” said Cole, “was the development of free-blown glass… and this occurred in the first to second century B.C. in what is today Israel.”
Past PaleoJudaica posts on ancient glass are here and links.

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Hobby Lobby and the Israeli antiquities market

RELIGION NEWS SERIVICE: After the Hobby Lobby scandal, a spotlight on antiquities sales in Israel (Michael Chabin).
JERUSALEM (RNS) – The arrest of five antiquities dealers who allegedly helped Hobby Lobby purchase illegally obtained ancient artifacts has shone a spotlight on the sale of antiquities in Israel and revived questions about the ethics of the trade in general.

On July 30 five Jerusalem-based Palestinian dealers were arrested and charged with tax evasion on the sale, which took place in the United Arab Emirates. Israeli and American authorities believe the dealers drafted bogus invoices and receipts for antiquities sold to Steve Green, president of the national craft store chain.

This article is basically a recap of what we already knew, but it includes commentary by some prominent Israeli archaeologists.

Background on Hobby Lobby's recent settlement with the U.S. Justice Department over improperly acquired antiquities is here and links. And follow the links there for past posts on the Green Collection and the soon-to-open Museum of the Bible.

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The Life of Adam and Eve

READING ACTS: The Life of Adam and Eve. The Latin version of this work is called "The Life of Adam and Eve." The Greek version is called "The Apocalypse of Moses." The title differs because the latter version frames the story as a divine revelation to Moses.

Recent work on this text calls into doubt that there was a Hebrew original behind the Greek and Latin. I agree that it was probably composed in Greek. A good case has also been made that it is a Christian composition. See M. de Jonge and M. Tromp, The Life of Adam and Even and Related Literature (Guides to Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha: Sheffield, 1997) and the relevant essays in M. de Jonge, Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament as Part of Christian Literature: The Case of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchas and the Greek Life of Adam and Eve (SVTP 18; Leiden: Brill, 2003).

UPDATE: For previous posts in Phil's ongoing series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, start here and follow the links.

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Sound in the classroom

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Sound Pedagogy (Sarit Kattan Gribetz).
Sound was not the central topic of this course, nor the primary mode of analysis – it was one of several. But I had never before used sound so prominently and deliberately in my pedagogy, and by the end of the semester I was surprised by how effective a pedagogical dimension sound had been in my classroom. I hope that these reflections are helpful to others who might wish to incorporate sound more fully into their courses.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

"Whoever Saves a Life Saves the World"

PHILOLOGOS: The Origins of the Precept "Whoever Saves a Life Saves the World." And what they tell us about particularism and universalism in Jewish tradition (Mosaic Magazine).
An Islamic principle? Isn’t the precept cited by Saleh, the startled reader asks, a Jewish one, one of the noblest of its kind, found in the Mishnah as well as other talmudic-period texts? How can it be claimed for the Quran, which was written in the 7th century after the entire Talmud was redacted?

And yet Saleh was not making it up. In the 32nd verse of the fifth Sura, or chapter, of the Quran is a retelling of the biblical story of Cain and Abel. ...
There follows a wending journey through medieval Mishnah manuscripts and back to the Qur'an.

This essay is from October of 2016. This was before I noticed Philologos's new home at Mosaic, so I missed it. Here it is now.

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Lombatti: The Shroud of Turin is still a forgery

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION: The Shroud Is Just Another Hoax Forged During the Middle Ages (Antonio Lombatti).

Past PaleoJudaica posts on the Shroud of Turin are here with many links. Professor Lombatti has been writing on the Shroud for many years.

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Ascension of Isaiah 6-11

READING ACTS: Christian Visions and the Ascension of Isaiah. Phil Long has a second post on the Ascension of Isaiah as part of his ongoing series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. For the preceding post on the Ascension of Isaiah, along with my comments see here. And follow the links from there for earlier posts in the series.

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

YHWH and Dionysus?

THE ASOR BLOG: Were YHWH and Dionysus Once the Same God? This essay sounds wildly speculative to me, although I concede that a blog post is not an adequate venue for a full defense of it. But I'm going to wait until the case passes muster in a peer-review journal before I take much notice of it.

Meanwhile, I don't doubt that there will a response from others in the Blogosphere. I'll let you know when I hear of something and you please do likewise.

UPDATE: A reader has pointed out the article (published in JSOT) on which the essay is based: Was YHWH worshipped in the Aegean? You can read it at Okay, fair enough. It has been published in a peer-review journal. It will be interesting to see what responses it receives.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Online database of Jewish art

DIGITAL ARCHIVE: Hebrew U Launches World’s Largest Jewish Art Index (JNi.Media).
The Bezalel Narkiss Index of Jewish Art is a collection of digitized images and information about Jewish artifacts from all over the world. The online collection includes more than 260,000 images of objects and artifacts from 700 museums, synagogues and private collections in 41 different countries, as well as architectural drawings of 1,500 synagogues and Jewish ritual buildings from antiquity to the modern day.
The site can be accessed here. There are many sub-categories in the collection. There are also many indices. Especially interesting for the purposes of PaleoJudaica is the section on Ancient Jewish Art. It has two sections, one with 3428 images and the other with 310 objects.

This will be a very useful resource for the study of Jewish art in all periods.

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

On the hoarding of DNA-rich ancient bones

OSTEOLOGY: Stop hoarding ancient bones, plead archaeologists. Scientists call for wider access to rare samples rich in DNA (Ewen Callaway, Nature).
The quest to chronicle the past using DNA from ancient humans and animals has become a cut-throat ‘game of bones’, in which a handful of genetics laboratories are hoarding precious samples, three archaeologists charge in a 9 August letter to Nature.

The scientists call for more careful stewardship of DNA-rich bone specimens to ensure that they remain available to multiple research teams to study. They point to the example of a newly established centre in Israel that will act as a national clearing house to curate animal bones from archaeological sites, so that many researchers can access samples for genetic analysis.

Did you know what part of the body preserves DNA the best? This article will tell you.

Genetic analysis is becoming ever more important for the study of the ancient past. Some examples from the last couple of years are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and links.

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The Ascension of Isaiah: unity and provenance

READING ACTS: The Martyrdom of Isaiah (Phil Long).
The first five chapters of this work are a Jewish expansion of 2 Kings, detailing the martyrdom of Isaiah. Chapters 6-11 are a Christian work which detail Isaiah’s ascension through the seven heavens. This section is akin to the apocalyptic literature of Enoch in that Isaiah’s soul is ushered through various stages of heaven. Each section is a composite of various sources. This complicates the dating of the book. The Jewish section was likely written in Hebrew and translated into Greek. Hebrews 11 appears to refer to the martyrdom of Isaiah (“some were sawn asunder”) or the same tradition that Isaiah the prophet was martyred by being sawn in half. This would imply a date prior to the late first century.

This was the state of the question until the early 1980s. But more recent scholarship on the Ascension of Isaiah (the preferred title now) doubts this division into a Jewish source and a Christian source. Rather, it seems to be a single second-century Christian composition. The work by Mauro Pesce, Enrico Norelli. et al., is in French and Italian, and so has not always received adequate attention in the English-speaking world. The work in English by Robert Hall and Jonathan Knight has also been important. Richard Bauckham has also published on this text and he surveys the major issues in his article "The Ascension of Isaiah: Genre, Unity and Date," which you can read part of here. See also Darrel Hannah's article, Isaiah's vision in the ascension of Isaiah and the early church.

For notice of past posts in Phil Long's ongoing series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, start here and follow the links.

UPDATE: At the Vridar Blog, Neil Godfrey has summarized some of Norelli's work on the Ascension of Isaiah.

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Reform or repeal of the Fiscus Iudaicus under Nerva?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Roman Emperor Nerva’s Reform of the Jewish Tax. How Jews and Christians became further differentiated under Nerva (Nathan T. Elkins).
The coins of Nerva have sometimes been interpreted as evidence of the abolition or partial repeal of the Fiscus Iudaicus by him.2 But a strong case can be made that the coins instead celebrated a reform of the tax rather than its abolition. After all, ostraca from Egypt indicate that Jews there paid the tax at least through Trajan’s reign (98–117 C.E.).3 The meaning of the coin can be sharpened as referring to the charge of atheism and the harsh prosecutions that resulted in death and/or the confiscation of property of that second group of people prosecuted by the tax under Domitian: Jewish sympathizers and gentile Christians, as these appear to have been the new victims in Domitian’s reign.
This essay was first published in 2014, but I seem to have missed it at the time.

I noted a book on the Fiscus Iudaicus here some years ago.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

One letter can make a big difference

PALEOLOGRAPHY: Alphabet Soup in Dead Sea Scrolls Opens a Window to an Ancient Hebrew World. With a little help from his wife, researcher Alexey Yuditsky substituted one letter for another and got a lesson on the expulsion of man from the Garden of Eden (Nir Hasson, Haaretz).
Yuditsky says his wife proposed that if this was the story of the Garden of Eden, then one of the words he didn’t understand, dalal (thin out) should be kalal (curse). The problem was that the letter involved looked like a dalet (ד) or a resh (ר), not a qoph (ק) as kalal would seem to require.

Sure enough, things made more sense when he substituted a qoph for a dalet or a resh in a few cases. The qoph he found was part of a little-known Hebrew alphabet. Later, the researchers viewed the Israel Antiquity Authority’s new photographs of the Dead Sea Scrolls – a product of multispectral photography that can reveal letters invisible to the human eye.

Understanding the use of the qoph and examining the new photographs allowed Yuditsky to decipher 25 words from the scroll.
(This is a premium Haaretz article, so you may need a (free) registration to view it.)

The revived paleo-Hebrew script of the Second Temple and Roman periods can be difficult to understand. And surprisingly often with the fragmentary Dead Sea Scrolls, the proper reading of a single letter, or even a single blank space, can be of significant aid for deciphering the text. For another example, see my story about 4QGenesisj here.

Bit by bit, a letter (or blank space!) at a time, whatever it takes. Until we're done.

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More on the Reina stone-vessel workshop

ARCHAEOLOGY: Ancient Stone Workshop Sheds New Light on Roman-era Galilee Jews' Faith. Turns out Galilee Jews were as devout as their Judean counterparts ■ Chalk cave could be source of stone jars whose water Jesus turned into wine at nearby Kafr Kana. (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz).

Much of this article recaps earlier reports on the story, sometimes with additional details. I do not post it because of any speculative connection between this workshop and the stone vessels in the water-into-wine story. I would not get too excited about that. But the article does have a worthwhile discussion of the importance of stone vessels for ritual purity in Second Temple Judaism.
Stone is heavy, chalkstone is absorbent and it’s no walk in the park to clean. This adoption of this considerable inconvenience was apparently based on evolving thought about purity, originating with a curious omission in the Bible’s Book of Leviticus, explains Yonatan Adler of Ariel University, director of the excavations for the IAA.
Read on.

Background here.

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More 19th-century correspondence on the LXX

WILLIAM ROSS: A LETTER OF H. REDPATH. William publishes some correspondence relating to a Septuagint concordance project.

For his posts on some other LXX-related correspondence from the same period, see here.

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Numismatic evidence of Hannibal's defeat

PUNIC WATCH: Roman coins show evidence of Hannibal's defeat, scientists say (The Telegraph).
Study co-leader Dr Katrin Westner, of Goethe University in Frankfurt, Gemrany, said: "Before the war we find that the Roman coins are made of silver from the same sources as the coinage issued by Greek cities in Italy and Sicily.

"In other words the lead isotope signatures of the coins correspond to those of silver ores and metallurgical products from the Aegean region.

"But the defeat of Carthage led to huge reparation payments to Rome, as well as Rome gaining high amounts of booty and ownership of the rich Spanish silver mines.

"From 209BC we see that the majority of Roman coins show geochemical signatures typical for Iberian silver.

"This massive influx of Iberian silver significantly changed Rome's economy, allowing it to become the superpower of its day.

"We know this from the histories of Livy and Polybius and others, but our work gives contemporary scientific proof of the rise of Rome.
Cross-file under Numismatics and Technology Watch.

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Crowdsourcing the Cairo Geniza

GENIZA WATCH: This Amazing Project Invites The Public To Help Unlock Medieval Jewish Documents (Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt, The Forward). And be sure and watch the video on the work of Professor Marina Rustow.

It happens that this summer I have been working on material from the Cairo Geniza. I have been deciphering and translating the main Judeo-Arabic manuscript of the Talmudic-era Hebrew magical treatise Sefer HaRazim ("The Book of the Mysteries"). Judeo-Arabic is Arabic written in Hebrew letters. The two alphabets match up very imperfectly, so it is quite a challenge.

This work is contributing to my English translation of Sepher HaRazim for volume two of the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project.

A post on the Princeton Geniza Project from some years ago is here. For other and more recent posts on digitizing the Cairo Geniza, start here and follow the links. From this current article, it sounds as though they have made impressive progress.

For many other manuscript digitization projects, start here and here and follow the links.

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Mastrocinque, The Mysteries of Mithras

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: ATTILIO MASTROCINQUE The Mysteries of Mithras: A Different Account. 2017. XXI, 363 pages. Orientalische Religionen in der Antike 24, 99,00 €, cloth, ISBN 978-3-16-155112-3.
Published in English.
In this work, Attilio Mastrocinque cautions against an approach to Mithraism based on the belief that this mystic cult resembles Christianity. While both Christian and pagan authors testified that Mithraic elements were indeed borrowed, according to Attilio Mastrocinque this was only done by some gnostic Christians. He counters that Roman Empire ideology and religion provide better clues on how to approach the matter, contending too that Virgil proves to be more important than the Avesta in understanding Mithraic iconography. The meaning of the central scene – the Tauroctony – thus becomes clear when the Roman triumph's central act of bull sacrifice is thought of as just that, with Mithras playing the role of victor as author of this success. The episodes depicted on many reliefs relate to a prophecy known to Firmicus Maternus and other Christian polemists, and which foretold the coming of a saviour, i.e. the first emperor, when Saturn returns and Apollo-Mithras will rule.

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Brooke and Smithuis (eds.), Jewish Education from Antiquity to the Middle Ages

Jewish Education from Antiquity to the Middle Ages
Studies in Honour of Philip S. Alexander

Edited by George J. Brooke and Renate Smithuis, The University of Manchester
In Jewish Education from Antiquity to the Middle Ages fifteen scholars offer specialist studies on Jewish education from the areas of their expertise. This tightly themed volume in honour of Philip S. Alexander has some essays that look at individual manuscripts, some that consider larger literary corpora, and some that are more thematically organised.

Jewish education has been addressed largely as a matter of the study house, the bet midrash. Here a richer range of texts and themes discloses a wide variety of activity in several spheres of Jewish life. In addition, some notable non-Jewish sources provide a wider context for the discourse than is often the case.
Congratulations to Professor Alexander on this well-deserved honor.

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Engels, Benefactors, Kings, Rulers

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Studies on the Seleukid Empire between East and West. Notice of a new book: Engels, David. 2017. Benefactors, Kings, Rulers. Studies on the Seleukid Empire between East and West (Studia Hellenistica 57). Leuven: Peeters. Follow the link for ordering information and a description.

For some comments on the importance of the Seleucid (Seleukid) Empire for biblical studies, see here.

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Chabad's citrons — archaeology to the rescue?

CITRON CATASTROPHE: As Italy’s citron crop fails, an archaeologist looks to fruit’s 2,500-year history in Israel. After a disastrous frost that looks to wipe out the majority of this year’s etrog yield, Chabad Jewry braces for a crisis ahead of the Feast of Tabernacles (Amanda Borschel-Dan).
The natural disaster, alongside the closure of the small family citron farms to make way for tourism, make for a dim future for Chabad Jews reliant on this citron, which has been grown in the region for at least 2,000 years.

So perhaps they should look to a place where they have been cultivated for even longer — Israel.

A recent study of the migration of citrus fruit to the Mediterranean region by Tel Aviv University Prof. Dafna Langgut illustrates through archaeobotanical proof that the citron first appeared in Israel, and only about 500 years later in Italy.

Langgut’s discipline of archaeobotany involves the identification of botanical remains in archeological contexts. In the case of the citron (Citrus medica), she and her team discovered pollen from the fruit in a private garden in Jerusalem which dates back to the First Temple period.
It is not clear to me whether Chabad is actually considering using Israeli citrons for Sukkot. The Calabrian ones were prescribed by their late leader Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, so there is considerable authority behind their use. But the losses of the Calabrian citron crop sound catastrophic. I suppose they may need to look to other options.

The discovery of ancient citron pollen at Ramat Rachel was noted here in 2012. For more on the Ramat Rachel excavation, see here and links. And I noted that recent study of the ancient use of citrus fruit, including citrons, here.

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Saving — and conserving — Mosul's manuscripts

SYRIAC (ETC.) WATCH: This priest preserves Iraqi culture found in historic manuscripts (Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency).
Since 1750 many antique manuscripts had been kept in the library of the Dominican monastery in Mosul. They were moved from the monastery starting in 2007, amid the backdrop of increased violence against Christians and other minorities at the hands of extremist groups. The documents include more than 25 subjects, including theology, philosophy, astronomy, medicine, history, and geography, many of which date back to the 10th, 11th, and 12th century in Aramaic, which is the language of Jesus Christ.
Regular readers may remember the story of the rescue of thousands of manuscrips from Mosul by Father Najeeb Michaeel and his colleagues. PaleoJudaica followed it here and here. This article covers those events. It also tells more about the contents of the manuscripts, which are written in "Syriac, Arabic, Turkish, Armenian, Hebrew, Persian, and more." And it brings the story to the present. The rescuers and their coleagues have not been idle.
Rome hosted an exhibit and conference on just a small sample of the many photos and manuscripts June 10-17.

This exhibition was “just a small fragment of what we have in Iraq with respect to manuscripts and archives and materials and photos, because we have as well the largest deposit of photos in Iraq,” Najeeb explained.

The more than 10,000 photos “tell the story of the past: the face, the work and much more,” he continued. “Even the archaeology. And we have many archaeological documents in cuneiform as well, very ancient.”

Since 2009 the Dominicans in Iraq have also partnered with Benedictine monks, who also help with the supply of equipment and organizing internships.

Their internship program has about 10 young university students, Najeeb said, which provides “practical information for true professionals in the field of the restoration of manuscripts, for their protection and digitization, and also the process of storing them and protecting them with sophisticated technology to be able to officially protect them in a scientific way.”
Good news.

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The Talmud in Hungarian

TALMUD WATCH: Hungary Emissary Presents Netanyahu With Translated Talmud ( Prime Minister Netanyahu visited Budapest last week.
[Hungary Rabbi Shlomo] Koves presented netanyahu with a copy of the Hungarian Talmud, which was recently published weeks after a decade of work by Hungary’s chief Chabad emissary, Rabbi Boruch Oberlander.

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Jubilees: Isaac, Jacob, the Amorites, and Esau

READING ACTS: Expansions on the Stories of Isaac and Jacob in Jubilees 24-38. Phil Long continues his series on the Book of Jubilees as part of his larger series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. For notice of past posts, start here and follow the links.

The stories of Judah's wars with the Amorites and with his brother Esau and Esau's sons, are not found in the Bible. But, as I have noted here, they do appear elsewhere.

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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