Tuesday, July 29, 2014

(Modern) Phoenician metal sculpture

PHOENICIAN WATCH: In ancient Byblos, metal sculptures add a modern touch (Nohad Topalian, Al-Shorfa.com).
Lebanese artist Sami Khoury is lighting up the ancient walls of UNESCO's International Centre for Human Sciences in Byblos with 34 plaques sculpted out of aged metal which portray three-dimensional Phoenician figures.

The exhibition, titled "Ahiram: Metal and Light" after the Phoenician king of Byblos, will remain on display through August 20th.

Khoury, a well-known choreographer who is trying his hand at sculpture for the first time, spoke with Al-Shorfa about his new project.

Ahiram, King of Byblos c. 1000 BCE, and his inscribed sarcophagus are well known, at least to Northwest Semitic epigraphers.


GNOSTICISM WATCH: How an Obscure 2nd Century Christian Heresy Influenced Snowpiercer (Michael M. Hughes, io9).
Wilford, the creator of the eponymous Snowpiercer in Bong Joon-ho's visionary science fiction epic, has fabricated our world in microcosm. It's an enormous, interconnected ecosystem that — because of its function as an ark for the all that remains of humanity —truly is their only world (young Timmy calls it "the whole wide train"). Snowpiercer flips the Gnostic model of the cosmos sideways, however, and instead of moving vertically from the lower material world to the higher, more exalted spiritual realm, the tail-enders' quest takes them horizontally from the Dickensian hell of the caboose to the rarified heaven of the eternal engine.
Sounds like an interesting movie.

More on Gnosticism's influence on films and in other modern contexts here, here, and here, and links

Crowdfunding campaign for Third Temple

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Online Campaign Aims to Build Third Temple. The Temple Institute launches an indiegogo campaign to build the Third Temple, under the title: 'Don't make history, make the future' (Arutz Sheva). I say it again: no building or excavation on the Temple Mount unless and until it can be done using non-invasive and non-destructive scanning technologies.

More on the Temple Institute is here and links.

Destruction in Mosul

MODERN ARAMAIC WATCH: Does Jonah's tomb signal the death of Christianity in Iraq? (Joel S. Baden and Candida Moss, CNN). (The (traditional) Tomb of Jonah in Mosul was reportedly destroyed by ISIS last week. I have refrained from commenting until now to see if the story held up, but current indications are that it is true.) Excerpt:
Last week, ISIS reportedly issued an ultimatum to Christians that they must convert to Islam, flee or face the sword. Earlier this month ISIS had allowed Christians to pay a non-Muslim tax known as jizya. On July 17, Christians were notified that jizya was no longer an option. They must now convert, flee or die.

Among the last Christians to leave the city were monks – residents of the ancient Mar Behnam Monastery – who left behind them 1,400 years of rich Christian tradition, as ISIS refused to let the monks take any of their precious relics with them.

Despite its antiquity and rich tradition, Christianity in Iraq is on the brink of eradication.

The heirs to those who first discovered the tomb of Jonah, and those who helped to keep Greek philosophy alive in the medieval period, are being ejected from their homes and from a land they have held sacred for centuries. This is the face and reality of Christian persecution.

Jonah was one of the earliest symbols of the resurrection for Christians. Will Christianity ever rise again in Iraq?
Related: Trampled in Abraham’s dust: The destruction of Near Eastern Christianity (Franck Salameh, Jerusalem Post).

Background here and links.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Review of Marks, First Came Marriage

Susan Marks. First Came Marriage: The Rabbinic Appropriation of Early Jewish Wedding Ritual. Judaism in Context Series. Piscataway: Gorgias Press, 2013. ix + 261 pp. $183.04 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-59333-585-4.

Reviewed by Jane Kanarek (Hebrew College)
Published on H-Judaic (July, 2014)
Commissioned by Jason Kalman

Ancient Jewish Weddings between Ritual and History

With the goal of uncovering practices that have heretofore been unnoticed in ancient Jewish weddings, Susan Marks sets her methodological task as negotiating between the poles of ritual and history. She contends that approaching the study of Jewish weddings from the perspective of ritual theory alone misleads, but so too does the sole perspective of history. ...

Review of Outside the Bible

THE SEFORIM BLOG: Review of Outside the Bible: Ancient Jewish Writings Related to Scripture by Shaye J.D. Cohen. Excerpt:
The canonization of the Hebrew Bible was an enormous goad to Jewish creativity. Across genres, styles, and languages, the Jews of the second temple period reacted to, interacted with, interpreted and re-interpreted, the words of the Bible, especially the Torah, in an extraordinary variety of ways with an extraordinary variety of results. The words of the Bible, especially the Torah, seem to have consumed the Jews to such an extent that they produced little literature that did not somehow engage the Bible and its concerns. Outside the Bible is a good entry point for the study not just of ancient Bible interpretation but also of ancient Judaism as a whole.
There is also a favorable mention of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, vol. 1.

For more on Outside the Bible see here and links.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Review of Swartz, The Ancient Jews from Alexander to Muhammad

KRISTA DALTON: Who Exactly Were The Ancient Jews? At least according to Seth Schwartz. Excerpt:
In a more condensed and perhaps more self-reflective form of his earlier chronology in Imperialism and Jewish Society, 200 BCE to 640 CE, Schwartz produces a succinct minimalist historical narrative, heavily nuanced by archeological evidence and Neusnarian skepticism.
Via Antquitopia. The Ancient Jews from Alexander to Muhammad was noted last month as forthcoming here. It's now out and already reviewed. Things move fast in the Blogosphere!

Bloomsbury books

'I Lifted My Eyes and Saw'
Reading Dream and Vision Reports in the Hebrew Bible

Editor(s): Elizabeth R. Hayes, Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer

Published: 31-07-2014
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 272
ISBN: 9780567605665
Imprint: Bloomsbury T&T Clark
Series: The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
RRP: £70.00
Online price: £63.00
Save £7.00 (10%)

About 'I Lifted My Eyes and Saw'

This volume addresses the rhetorical function and impact of vision and dream accounts in the Hebrew Bible. The contributors explore the exegetical, rhetorical, and structural aspects of the vision and dream accounts in the Hebrew Bible, focusing on prophetic vision reports. Several contributors employ a diachronic approach as they explore the textual relationship between the vision reports and the oracular material. Others focus on the rhetorical aspects of the vision reports in their final form and discuss why vision reporting may be used to convey a message. Another approach employed looks at reception history and investigates how this type of text has been understood by past exegetes. A few chapters consider the inter-textual relationship of the various vision reports in the Hebrew Bible, focusing on shared themes and motifs. There are also papers that deal with the ways in which select texts in the Hebrew Bible portray dream/vision interpreters andtheir activities.

Imagining the Other and Constructing Israelite Identity in the Early Second Temple Period

Editor(s): Ehud Ben Zvi, Diana Vikander Edelman

Published: 25-09-2014
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 400
ISBN: 9780567248725
Imprint: Bloomsbury T&T Clark
Series: The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
RRP: £70.00
Online price: £63.00
Save £7.00 (10%)

About Imagining the Other and Constructing Israelite Identity in the Early Second Temple Period

This volume sheds light on how particular constructions of the 'Other'contributed to an ongoing process of defining what 'Israel' or an 'Israelite'was or was supposed to be in literature taken to be authoritative in the latePersian and Early Hellenistic periods. It asks, who is an insider and who anoutsider? Are boundaries permeable? Are there different ideas expressed withinindividual books? What about constructions of the (partial) 'Other' frominside, e.g., women, people whose body did not fit social constructions ofnormalness? It includes chapters dealing with theoretical issues and casestudies, and addresses similar issues from the perspective of groups in thelate Second Temple period so as to shed light on processes of continuity anddiscontinuity on these matters. Preliminary forms of five of the contributions werepresented in Thessaloniki in 2011 in the research programme, 'Production andReception of Authoritative Books in the Persian and Hellenistic Period,' at theAnnual Meeting of European Association of Biblical Studies (EABS).

Reading Ecclesiastes Intertextually

Editor(s): Katharine Dell, Will Kynes

Published: 25-09-2014
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 344
ISBN: 9780567331250
Imprint: Bloomsbury T&T Clark
Series: The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
RRP: £70.00
Online price: £63.00
Save £7.00 (10%)

About Reading Ecclesiastes Intertextually

This volume continues the study of intertextuality in the ‘Wisdom Literature’ initiated in Reading Job Intertextually (Dell and Kynes, T&T Clark, 2012). Like that book, Reading Ecclesiastes Intertextually provides the first comprehensive treatment of intertextuality in this wisdom text. Articles address intertextual resonances between Ecclesiastes and texts across the Hebrew canon, along with texts throughout history, from Greek classical literature to the New Testament, Jewish and Christian interpretation, and existential and Modern philosophy.

As a multi-authored volume that gathers together scholars with expertise on this diverse array of texts, this collection provides exegetical insight that exceeds any similar attempt by a single author. The contributors have been encouraged to pursue the intertextual approach that best suits their topic, thereby offering readers a valuable collection of intertextual case studies addressing a single text.
Follow the links for TOCs and ordering information.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The ANE and psychotropic drugs

ASOR BLOG: Psychedelics and the Ancient Near East (Diana L. Stein).
As courts today debate whether to legalize or regulate the use of drugs like cannabis, it is interesting to look at the history of man’s relationship with mind-altering substances.Several books, exhibits and catalogues have recently explored the topic. Yet, despite the consensus that “every society on earth is a high society,” the Ancient Near East is omitted from these surveys. Is it too remote? Do we know so little? Was it unique? The evidence suggests otherwise.


The Coinage of Carthage

PUNIC WATCH: The Coinage of Carthage (Mike Markowitz, CoinWeek).
Most of what we know about Carthaginians was written by their enemies–first the Greeks, then the Romans. They are described as greedy, treacherous and brutal. Yet even Cicero, a Roman politician born 40 years after Carthage was wiped out, grudgingly admitted that “Carthage would never have held an empire for six hundred years had it not been governed with wisdom and statesmanship.”

None of its literature, and very little of its art, architecture or material culture survives.

But we have the coins.

The article puts the coinage into a nice capsule history of Carthage.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Hurtado on Wright on Paul

LARRY HURTADO: Review of Wright Published. An early review of my St Andrews colleague N. T. Wright's magnum opus, Paul and the Faithfulness of God (SPCK, 2013).

Brill books

Women in the Bible, Qumran and Early Rabbinic Literature
Their Status and Roles

Paul Heger

Women in the Bible, Qumran and Early Rabbinic Literature: Their Status and Roles portrays the tension between the unity of husband and wife and their different legal and social status from a wide range of perspectives, as deduced from the texts of the three corpora. The volume discusses the related topics of divorce, polygamy, woman’s obligations to fulfill precepts, membership in the community, genealogy and attitudes toward sex, such as rejection of asceticism. Women in the Bible, Qumran and Early Rabbinic Literature begins with an objective interpretation of the biblical narratives of the Creation and the Fall, the intellectual basis of Jewish attitudes toward women, and then analyzes the divergent interpretations of Qumran and the Rabbis, the grounds of their distinct doctrines and halakhot.

The Cave 4 Apocryphon of Jeremiah and the Qumran Jeremianic Traditions
Prophetic Persona and the Construction of Community Identity

Kipp Davis

The Cave 4 Apocryphon of Jeremiah C from Qumran survives in several copies, and presents significant links between the prophet Jeremiah, the scriptural book of Jeremiah, and the collectors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Because the prophet is only occasionally named in the Scrolls, and there are only a few clear instances where the book is cited, Jeremiah appears to have had a limited impact on the imagination of the Qumranites. However, through a careful appraisal of the Apocryphon manuscripts, and a reconsideration of Jeremiah's influence in the Dead Sea Scrolls via his reputational authority, this study shows that clusters of traditions were tied to Jeremiah’s prophetic and priestly distinction, with an emphasis on matters of leadership and empire.

Psalmen oder Psalter?
Materielle Rekonstruktion und inhaltliche Untersuchung der Psalmenhandschriften aus der Wüste Juda

Eva Jain

Psalms or Psalter? This study creates a new, solid foundation for discussions on the psalm manuscripts found in the Judean Desert. A variety of explanatory models, statistics and synthetic hypotheses have already been produced in the course of numerous analyses and interpretations. However, the disparate and fragmentary character of the manuscripts has barely received any attention since the main focus has mostly been on discussions of the content. For the first time, the entire preserved fragment material of the psalm manuscripts from the Judean Desert is here being presented and edited as a whole. In this way, it can be defined and analyzed in future studies.
New ways of exploring the contents will particularly result with regard to the best preserved psalm roll, 11QPs a.

Psalmen oder Psalter? Die vorliegende Studie schafft eine neue, tragfähigere Basis für die Auseinandersetzung um die Psalmenhandschriften aus der Wüste Juda. Im Rahmen zahlreicher Analysen und Interpretationen wurden schon vielfältige Erklärungsmodelle, Statistiken und Gesamthypothesen zu den Psalmenhandschriften geliefert. Da das Hauptaugenmerk der meisten Untersuchungen bislang auf der inhaltlichen Auseinandersetzung lag, wurde der disparate und fragmentarische Charakter der Manuskripte kaum berücksichtigt.
Erstmals wird nun das gesamte erhaltene Fragmentenmaterial der Psalmenhandschriften aus der Wüste Juda umfassend dargestellt und aufbereitet. Auf diese Weise lässt es sich definieren und für weitere Untersuchungen auswerten.
Gerade in Hinsicht auf die besterhaltene Psalmenrolle 11QPs a ergeben sich so ganz neue Wege zur Erschließung der Handschrift.
And a couple other of tangential interest to ancient Judaism but which I find interesting for one reason or another:
Codex Schøyen 2650: A Middle Egyptian Coptic Witness to the Early Greek Text of Matthew's Gospel
A Study in Translation Theory, Indigenous Coptic, and New Testament Textual Criticism

James M. Leonard, Louisiana State University and Loyola University New Orleans

In 2001, the exciting but enigmatic 4th century Coptic Matthew text, Codex Schøyen, was introduced as an alternative, non-canonical Matthew. In this book, James M. Leonard refutes these sensational claims through fresh methodological approaches and easily accessible analysis. Leonard reveals that the underlying Greek text is one of great quality, and that Codex Schøyen can contribute to the identification of the earliest attainable text—but only with due concern for translational interference. Leonard shows how Codex Schøyen’s close alliance with Codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus allows triangulation of the three to help identify an earlier text form which they mutually reflect, and how this impacts a dozen variant passages in Matthew.

Dark Enlightenment
The Historical, Sociological, and Discursive Contexts of Contemporary Esoteric Magic

By Kennet Granholm (Stockholm University, Sweden)

In Dark Enlightenment Kennet Granholm explores the historical, sociological, and discursive contexts of contemporary esoteric magic. The book is focused on the Sweden-originated Left-Hand Path magic order Dragon Rouge in particular, but through a detailed contextualizing examination of this case study it offers a broader visage of contemporary esotericism in general. The author takes cue from both the historiography of Western esotericism and the sociological study of new religions and religious change, aiming to provide a transdisciplinary framework for a comprehensive study of esotericism in late modernity.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Review of Jones, Between Pagan and Christian

BOOK REVIEW: Between Pagan and Christian, by Christopher P. Jones, by Candida Moss in the Times Higher. Excerpt:
This is important subject matter and a worthwhile read, and Jones is peerless in his discussions of the 4th century and beyond. For those interested in details as well as broad strokes, he is just the man to show us exactly how fuzzy the notion of paganism was in the ancient world. Engaging anecdotes - for instance about the conversion of various ancient figures - punctuate a book replete with linguistic definitions.

But when he refers to the world before Constantine, Jones’ erudition and constructivist interests seem to slip. Not only are the facts of the 1st century idealistically borrowed from traditional ecclesial histories and the Acts of the Apostles, his interests in historical constructivism evaporate. ...

Iraqi Christians expelled from Mosul

ARAMAIC WATCH: Purged by ISIS, Iraq's Christians appeal to world for help (Fox).
Iraqi Christians are begging for help from the civilized world after Mosul, the northern city where they have lived and worshiped for 2,000 years, was purged of non-Muslims by ISIS, the jihadist terror group that claims to have established its own nation in the region.

Assyrian Christians, including Chaldean and Syriac Catholics, Syriac Orthodox and followers of the Assyrian Church of the East have roots in present day Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran that stretch back to the time of Jesus Christ. While they have long been a minority and have faced persecution in the past, they had never been driven completely from their homes as has happened in Mosul under ISIS. When the terror group ordered all to convert to Islam, pay a religious tax or face execution, many chose another option: flight.


Mosul is home to some of the most ancient Christian communities, but the number of Christians has dwindled since 2003. On Sunday, militants seized the 1,800-year old Mar Behnam Monastery, about 15 miles south of Mosul. The resident clergymen left to the nearby city of Qaraqoush, according to local residents.

The BBC has a story about the monastery: Isis militants 'seize Iraq monastery and expel monks'.

Background on Mosul and on related issues in the Middle East is here and links.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Talmud on the Book of Esther

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Is the Book of Esther—a Story Told In Human Terms, Not Miracles—a Holy Book? Talmudic rabbis, like us, can only study the course of history for the elusive signs of God’s intentions.
This week, Daf Yomi readers began a new tractate, Megilla, which deals with the holiday of Purim—the day on which we read the Megilla or Scroll of Esther. And in Megillat 7a, we learned a surprising fact about that scroll: “Rav Yehuda said that Shmuel said: The book of Esther does not render the hands ritually impure.” All the other books of the Bible transmit tumah, ritual impurity, to those who touch them: As the Koren Talmud explains, the sages instituted this rule in order to discourage people from handling the biblical books too casually. Why doesn’t the Book of Esther follow this pattern? “Is this to say,” the Gemara asks, “that Shmuel maintains that the book of Esther was not stated with the inspiration of the Divine Spirit?”

The rabbis went to quite a lot of effort to find God in the various lucky breaks in the book. The Book of Esther continues to get attention today, especially in international political contexts. See here and links. And yes, that link happens to be the post immediately after the one linked to in the post I just put up, and that's how I noticed it. Coincidence? Do you really think so?

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Canine Aramaic?

NEWS YOU CAN USE: Talking to a dog in Aramaic (Adam McCollum).

As good as pirate Aramaic.

SBL program book

THE SOCIETY OF BIBLICAL LITERATURE has posted a searchable Preliminary Program Book for its upcoming annual meeting in San Diego on 22-25 November. I'm in the following session:
Mysticism, Esotericism, and Gnosticism in Antiquity
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
500 (Level 5 (Cobalt)) - Hilton Bayfront (HB)

Theme: Early Judaism
Featuring reviews of James Davila, Hekhalot Literature in Translation: Major Texts of Merkavah Mysticism (Brill, 2013)

M. David Litwa, University of Virginia, Presiding
Ra'anan Boustan, University of California-Los Angeles
Review of James Davila, Hekhalot Literature in Translation (20 min)
Rebecca Lesses, Ithaca College
Review of James Davila, Hekhalot Literature in Translation (20 min)
James Davila, University of St. Andrews, Respondent (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Ryan E. Stokes, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Reconsidering the Assumption of Moses (25 min)
Tom Hull, Monash University-Victoria Australia
Honest to God: Truth, theodicy and the heavenly law court in 3 Enoch (25 min)
INCHOL YANG, Claremont Lincoln University
The Influence of Ezek. 40-48 on 1Enoch 14:8-25 (25 min)