Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Talmud on obeying secular governments

LAST WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: ‘The Law of the Kingdom Is the Law.’ This week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study refutes the ‘dual loyalty’ charges against Jews.
Dina de’malkhuta dina: “The law of the kingdom is the law.” This Aramaic phrase is one of the most famous quotations from the Talmud, and one of the most consequential. It seems to refute, in just three words, the accusation that has been brought against the Jews again and again in the history of the Exile—the idea that Jews are loyal only to themselves, not to the governments they live under. This was the charge that Haman used to convince Ahasuerus to massacre the Jews of Persia, and it was the charge hurled against Alfred Dreyfus when he was framed for spying. In the form of complaints about “dual loyalty” to Israel, it continues to echo even in America today. After all, didn’t the Jews bring with them into Diaspora a set of books—the Talmud itself—which prescribes laws for every area of human life, from money to ritual and from sex to agriculture? How can they be bound simultaneously by those laws and by the laws of non-Jewish governments and societies, especially ones that were often hostile and predatory?


Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

The Coptic Patriarch on the Gospel of Barnabas

WELL IT'S CERTAINLY APOCRYPHAL: 'Gospel of Barnabas' That Claims Judas Was Crucified Instead of Jesus Is a 'Fake,' Says Coptic Patriarch Tawadros (STOYAN ZAIMOV, Christian Post).
Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II has said that the disputed "Gospel of Barnabas," a document that claims that Judas Iscariot was crucified in the place of Jesus, and that Christ predicted the coming of the prophet Muhammad, is a "fake" and the work of a "forger."

Fides News Agency reported on Friday that Tawadros said that the text, written in Syriac on animal hide, is "a book full of historical and geographical errors, the work of a forger."
Regular readers of PaleoJudaica are well aware that, first, the Gospel of Barnabas is a very late, perhaps early modern, apocryphon; and second, that the Syriac manuscript in question is not of the Gospel of Barnabas; and third, that the Syriac manuscript itself may be a modern forgery. Background here and links.

Latest on Isis and antiquities sites


ISIS to Turn Biblical Prophet Jonah's Tomb into a 'Fun Park' (A7/Jewish Voice). I can't imagine what their idea of a "fun park" would be. More on the (traditional) Tomb of Jonah (etc.) is here and links.

Islamic State Transforms Cathedral into 'Mosque of Jihadis' (Raymond Ibrahim, Middle East Forum).
The Islamic State posted notices around the captured city of Mosul announcing that the Syriac Orthodox Cathedral Church of St. Ephrem, seized a year ago, is to be become the "mosque of the mujahedeen," or "jihadis."

UN: Islamic State destruction of heritage sites a war crime (AP). Actually the resolution said "may amount to war crimes."

Save Palmyra From ISIS's Rampage (Razi Rumi, Huffington Post). That sounds like a good idea in principle, but the West needs to decide first just how much blood and treasure it is willing to expend if it wants to try to stop the carnage in the region, let along protect Palmyra. Some related reflections from a few years ago are here. Recent posts on ISIS's rampage through the antiquities of the Middle East are here, here, here, and here. And follow the various links for still more.

Palmyra - An oasis of cultural history (DW). A photo essay. Much more on Palmyra here and links. Cross-file this post under Palmyra Watch.

Joe Golem: Occult Detective

GOLEM WATCH: Exclusive: Mignola and Golden Resurrect Joe Golem for Dark Horse This November (Steven Fox, Paste). A new comic book mini-series about the title character in the novel Joe Golem and the Drowning City, a character who in turn is loosely inspired by the Golem legend.

There's lots more on the Golem legend and its many modern incarnations here and links.

Ghost letters resurrect Ben Sira

NOTES FROM THE QUAD: Ghost letters hold clue about long-lost ‘Ben Sira’ chapters (Yale University).
Scholarship around Ben Sira took a major leap forward in 1896 with the discovery in a Cairo synagogue of what were later proven to be authentic Ben Sira Hebrew manuscripts. Among them was so-called Ms A, which was hand-written by scribes around 1100 CE. Just one problem: The manuscript is missing its first folio page, which contains the first two chapters of the text and five verses of the third.

Has some of the missing page finally been discovered thanks to the realization that its letters rubbed off on a surviving page? [Dr. Eric D.] Reymond is convinced the answer is “yes,” and he is excited by the new possibilities this creates for getting a better grasp of what those first chapters contained.

“This gives us a window on the Hebrew text as it was written in antiquity, and sheds light on the history of Ben Sira’s text,” Reymond says. “Because the material is secondary, made up of interpolated verses, it cannot reflect what Ben Sira wrote himself, but rather reflects the ideas of the scribes who read and copied his book in antiquity and in the middle ages.
Bit by bit, a letter at a time, whatever it takes. Until we're done.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Back from the Eighth Enoch Seminar

THE EIGHTH ENOCH SEMINAR happened last week on 21-26 June at the Villa Cagnola in Gazzada, Italy, focusing on the subject of "Apocalypticism" and "Mysticism." There were many interesting papers and lots of good discussion. I got some good feedback on my paper, which I will incorporate into the published version.

On Tuesday we took the day to travel to Turin to the Egyptian Museum. And once there, how could we not stop to view the Shroud of Turin on (as it happened) the the last day, perhaps for many years, on which it would be on display? We rounded off the day with a boat trip on Lake Maggiore. Click on the images below for a larger view of all but the first one.

The Villa Cagnola.*

The view from in front of the Villa Cagnola. Those are the Alps.

The view of the garden in back. That's Lake Varese.

The same scene at sunset. The bright star is the planet Venus, approaching a rare conjunction with the planet Jupiter (just visible up and a little to the left).

At a certain point it was cool to erect faux ruins in your Italian garden. This tower was put up in the garden in the late nineteenth century to give the impression that it was all that remained of an ancient building such as a monastery.

The last session of the Seminar, which happened to be my paper. You can see me sitting in front of the screen on the right side.*

A column from one of the manuscripts of the Book of the Dead in the Egyptian Museum in Turin. That's the funerary god Anubis.

The Shroud of Turin. It looked just like in all the photos you've seen. Past posts on the Shroud of Turin are here and here and many links.

*Photos with asterisks are courtesy of Gabriele Boccaccini. The other photographs are my own.

Fourth-century mosaic excavated in Nazareth

AT THE CHURCH OF THE ANNUNCIATION: Early Christian Mosaic Floor Unearthed in Nazareth (Archaeology Magazine).

Mysterious dolphin sculpture

ARTIFACT: Mysterious 2,000-year-old marble dolphin surfaces near Gaza. Archaeologists think 16-inch-high statuette found in southern Israel may have been part of larger sculpture, wonder how it ended up in Byzantine floor (Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel). It kind of looks like a relic of the Lovecraftian elder gods.

Developments in Palmyra

PALMYRA WATCH: While I was away, there were some developments concerning the ruins of Palmyra, none of them good.

ISIS Terrorists Mine, Booby-Trap Ancient Palmyra, UNESCO Site (Hana Levi Julian, The Jewish Press).
It is not yet clear whether the terror organization is preparing the destroy the ancient ruins, or has planted the explosives in order to deter government forces from advancing towards the city.
IS destroys ancient Muslim mausoleums in Syria’s Palmyra Deeming venerated tombs ‘a return to paganism,’ jihadists blow them up, reportedly lay mines throughout ancient ruins (AFP/Times of Israel).

Background here and links.

The Church of the Loaves and Fishes

A STORY OF REVERSALS OF FORTUNE: A history of the Church of Loaves and Fishes: Burned down, again. Originally built in the 4th century, the ancient church was lost to time, rediscovered in the early 20th century and rebuilt – only to be badly damaged by fire last week (Elon Gilad, Haaretz). Excerpts:
On Wednesday night [i.e., a week ago Wednesday - JRD], the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes in Tabgha, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, suffered serious damage that the police suspect was caused by arson: Hebrew graffiti found on the site read “False idols will be smashed.” The church was only 33 years old, but was built on the same site of the first church built to mark the spot more than 1600 years ago.


The gospels do not say exactly where this miracle happened, beyond Luke’s account that it was in “a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida.” We are not sure where Bethsaida was either. But during the first three centuries of the Common Era, a tradition developed among local early Christians that the rock formation by the side of the road on the northwestern corner of the Sea of Galilee was the site of the miracle.

First church, 4th century: Founded by the convert Josepos

In the middle of the 4th century CE, a small church was erected on the site, possibly by a convert named Josepos.


Second church, 5th century: The Egyptian custom

During the second half of the 5th century, a much larger Byzantine church was built on the site of the original church. The patron of the construction project was Martyrios, the Patriarch of Jerusalem.
Background on the heinous destruction of the church is here and links.

UPDATE: Thousands of Christians hold protest rally outside burned Galilee church (Peter Kenny, Ecumenical News).
Thousands of Christians have held a protest rally in the Galilee, near the historic church in northern Israel that was seriously damaged after a suspected arson attack which included anti-Christian sentiment scrawled in Hebrew on a wall.

The Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha was set on fire early on June 17 and the suspected hate crime drew fierce condemnation from Israeli leaders from major political parties, The Times of Israel reported.

Yes, the response of the Israeli government has been exemplary. I hope they catch the perpetrators soon.

On the Deuteronomistic History

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: Who really wrote the biblical books of Kings and the prophets? The paean to King Josiah and exalted descriptions of the ancient Israelite empires beg the thought that he and his scribes lie behind the Deuteronomistic History (Elon Gilad, Haaretz). Excerpt:
Scholars have long rejected the idea that the Deuteronomistic History was written by the characters depicted in the story. Firstly, none were written in the first person, which is how witness accounts are generally written. If anything, they are written from the perspective of an all-knowing narrator writing from a vantage point well into the future.

In addition, had these books been written by different people over hundreds of years, we would expect quite a bit of variation in language and style from part to part (note the differences between Middle English and modern!).

Yet the bulk of these books are written in a uniform manner. That indicates they were written at about the same time, if not by the same person.

Take for example the phrase “to this day.” It is rare in the rest of the Bible, appearing only 13 times outside the Deuteronomistic History. But within, the phrase abounds (multiple times in each of Deuteronomy 6; Joshua 13; Samuel 11; Kings 13). This first of all suggests single authorship. It also attests that the author was not writing about contemporary events but events in the distant past.
This is a good account of the mainstream scholarly view about the origins of the Deuteronomistic History. There is, as the article observes, plenty of variation in the views held by specific scholars, but most would hold to something not far off from this. I have some more observations on the Deuteronomistic History here.

I am back from Italy and have a big backlog of stories to post on, and it will probably take me a few days to catch up. I'm working on a brief conference report, but I need to interchange the photos on my various incompatible devices before I can post it. Perhaps this evening.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Of lead codices and lead coffins

FAKE METAL CODICES WATCH: Pondering Lead Sarcophagi and Codices … hmmmm. Over at Rogue Classicism, David Meadows has noted some intriguing parallels.

Background here and links.

Miller, The Name of God in Jewish Thought

The Name of God in Jewish Thought
A Philosophical Analysis of Mystical Traditions from Apocalyptic to Kabbalah

By Michael T Miller

Routledge – 2016 – 256 pages

Series: Routledge Jewish Studies Series

One of the most powerful traditions of the Jewish fascination with language is that of the Name. Indeed, the Jewish mystical tradition would seem a two millennia long meditation on the nature of name in relation to object, and how name mediates between subject and object. Even within the tide of the 20th century’s linguistic turn, the aspect most notable in – the almost entirely secular - Jewish philosophers is that of the personal name, here given pivotal importance in the articulation of human relationships and dialogue.

The Name of God in Jewish Thought examines the texts of Judaism pertaining to the Name of God, offering a philosophical analysis of these as a means of understanding the metaphysical role of the name generally, in terms of its relationship with identity. The book begins with the formation of rabbinic Judaism in Late Antiquity, travelling through the development of the motif into the Medieval Kabbalah, where the Name reaches its grandest and most systematic statement – and the one which has most helped to form the ideas of Jewish philosophers in the 20th and 21st Century. This investigation will highlight certain metaphysical ideas which have developed within Judaism from the Biblical sources, and which present a direct challenge to the paradigms of western philosophy. Thus a grander subtext is a criticism of the Greek metaphysics of being which the west has inherited, and which Jewish philosophers often subject to challenges of varying subtlety; it is these philosophers who often place a peculiar emphasis on the personal name, and this emphasis depends on the historical influence of the Jewish metaphysical tradition of the Name of God.

Providing a comprehensive description of historical aspects of Jewish Name-Theology, this book also offers new ways of thinking about subjectivity and ontology through its original approach to the nature of the name, combining philosophy with text-critical analysis. As such, it is an essential resource for students and scholars of Jewish Studies, Philosophy and Religion.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Slifkin, The Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom

NEW BOOK: New from OU Press: “The Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom” by Rabbi Natan Slifkin. Note that this is the Orthodox Union Press, not Oxford University Press. Be that as it may, it sound interesting, especially for the lavish illustrations. But I suspect I would not be convinced by some of the identifications of biblical animals with modern ones. For example, Behemoth is a cosmological monster in the Bible and ancient Jewish tradition and is associated with the sea monster Leviathan. I very much doubt that Behemoth is to be identified with the hippopotamus.

John the Jew conference

JAMES MCGRATH: John the Jew (2016 Enoch Seminar Conference). This is the Sixth Nageroni Meeting of the Enoch Seminar, with a venue in Camaldoli, Italy. James will be there and I am planning on attending too.

Nelson, The Temple Complex at Horvat Omrit, vol. 1

The Temple Complex at Horvat Omrit
Volume 1: The Architecture

Michael C. Nelson, Queens College of the City University of New York. Volumes Edited by J.A. Overman, D.N. Schowalter, and M.C. Nelson.

Volume One of The Temple Complex at Horvat Omrit presents a detailed examination of the surviving architecture of the three Roman period temple phases at the newly excavated sanctuary at the archaeological site of Omrit in northern Israel. All three temples were built according to the Corinthian order and the author describes and illustrates the state of the remains, proposes reconstructions of each phase, and places each temple in the broader historical context.


I'M BACK IN ST. ANDREWS. More later.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Pajunen and Tervanotko (eds.), Crossing Imaginary Boundaries.

Pajunen, Mika S. & Hanna Tervanotko (eds.) (2015) Crossing Imaginary Boundaries. The Dead Sea Scrolls in the Context of Second Temple Judaism. Publications of the Finnish Exegetical Society 108. Helsinki: Finnish Exegetical Society.
For details see this post by Rick Bonnie at the Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions Blog: NEW PUBLICATION: “CROSSING IMAGINARY BOUNDARIES: THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS IN THE CONTEXT OF SECOND TEMPLE JUDAISM.”

Review of Kosmin, The Land of the Elephant Kings

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Kosmin, The Land of the Elephant Kings. By Nathan Schumer in Book Notes. Excerpt:
... Despite this growing trend, when it comes to the role of the Seleucid Empire in the Maccabean revolt, there is still a regrettable tendency in the field of ancient Judaism to treat the Seleucids as generic advocates of Hellenism, rather than as dynasty with its own specific idioms of imperialism crafted for its territory.

Paul Kosmin’s The Land of the Elephant Kings is an invaluable corrective to this problem. In his book he attempts to understand the royal ideology of the Seleucid dynasty, examining how this vast empire was constituted and imagined by its rulers. ...
I noted the publication of the book here.

Ein Tzuba

TRAVEL: Walk through clear water at Tzuba’s ancient underground spring. At kibbutz on outskirts of Jerusalem, a short ladder now leads into a cleaned-out tunnel and an arched chamber completed in Second Temple period (AVIVA AND SHMUEL BAR-AM, Times of Israel).
Ein Tzuba, a spring near Mevasseret in the Judean Hills on the outskirts of Jerusalem, burst out of the ground through a very narrow crack in the rocky soil. Thus, not only was its flow scanty, but in summer its waters ceased to flow entirely. Nevertheless, the tribe of Judah settled in the hills about 3,500 years ago just above the little spring. It is more than likely that their settlement was the biblical Tzova, mentioned in the Talmud as well, and it grew by leaps and bounds.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Conference on the Hebrew and Jewish Collections of the John Rylands Library

JOHN RYLANDS RESEARCH INSTITUTE CONFERENCE 2016: 'The Other Within' – The Hebrew and Jewish Collections of the John Rylands Library. Monday 27–Wednesday 29 June 2016 at The John Rylands Library, Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Marzouk, Egypt as a Monster in the Book of Ezekiel

Egypt as a Monster in the Book of Ezekiel

Appealing to Monster Theory and the ancient Near Eastern motif of "Chaoskampf," Safwat Marzouk argues that the paradoxical character of the category of the monster is what prompts the portrayal of Egypt as a monster in the book of Ezekiel. While on the surface the monster seems to embody utter difference, underlying its otherness there is a disturbing sameness. Though the monster may be defeated and its body dismembered, it is never completely annihilated. Egypt is portrayed as a monster in the book of Ezekiel because Egypt represents the threat of religious assimilation. Although initially the monstrosity of Egypt is constructed because of the shared elements of identity between Egypt and Israel, the prophet flips this imagery of monster in order to embody Egypt as a monstrous Other. In a combat myth, YHWH defeats the monster and dismembers its body. Despite its near annihilation, Egypt, in Ezekiel's rhetoric, is not entirely obliterated. Rather, it is kept at bay, hovering at the periphery, questioning Israel's identity.

Kiperwasser and Shapira, "Irano-Talmudica III"

FORTHCOMING ARTICLE: Irano-Talmudica III: Giant Mythological Creatures in Transition from the Avesta to the Babylonian Talmud (Reuven Kiperwasser and Dan D.Y. Shapira, Academic.edu).

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bond & Hurtado (eds.), Peter in Early Christianity,

LARRY HURTADO: “Peter in Early Christianity”: Forthcoming Book. The volume contains papers from the 2013 conference on Peter at the University of Edinburgh (noted, e.g., here). Due out in the autumn of this year.

Psalms and Prayers workshop


Ulrich, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Developmental Composition of the Bible

The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Developmental Composition of the Bible

Eugene Ulrich, University of Notre Dame

Eugene Ulrich presents in The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Developmental Composition of the Bible the comprehensive and synthesized picture he has gained as editor of many biblical scrolls. His earlier volume, The Biblical Qumran Scrolls, presented the evidence — the transcriptions and textual variants of all the biblical scrolls — and this volume explores the implications and significance of that evidence.

The Bible has not changed, but modern knowledge of it certainly has changed. The ancient Scrolls have opened a window and shed light on a period in the history of the text’s formation that had languished in darkness for two thousand years. They offer a parade of surprises that greatly enhance knowledge of how the scriptural texts developed through history.