Sunday, July 24, 2016

Mugridge, Copying Early Christian Texts

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK:
ALAN MUGRIDGE

Copying Early Christian Texts
A Study of Scribal Practice


[Die Vervielfältigung frühchristlicher Texte. Eine Untersuchung der Praxis des Abschreibens.]
2016. XX, 558 pages.
Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 362

159,00 €
cloth
ISBN 978-3-16-154688-4

Published in English.
It is widely believed that the early Christians copied their texts themselves without a great deal of expertise, and that some copyists introduced changes to support their theological beliefs. In this volume, however, Alan Mugridge examines all of the extant Greek papyri bearing Christian literature up to the end of the 4th century, as well as several comparative groups of papyri, and concludes that, on the whole, Christian texts, like most literary texts in the Roman world, were copied by trained scribes. Professional Christian scribes probably became more common after the time of Constantine, but this study suggests that in the early centuries the copyists of Christian texts in Greek were normally trained scribes, Christian or not, who reproduced those texts as part of their trade and, while they made mistakes, copied them as accurately as any other texts they were called upon to copy.

Review of Stebnicka, Identity of the Diaspora

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW:
Krystyna Stebnicka, Identity of the Diaspora: Jews in Asia Minor in the Imperial Period. JJP Supplement, 26. Warszawa: Journal of Juristic Papyrology, 2015. Pp. xi, 380. ISBN 9788393842568. €60.00.

Reviewed by Søren Lund​ Sørensen​, Freie Universität Berlin​ (josephus70@zedat.fu-berlin.de)
Table of Contents


The book under review is a translation of Krystyna Stebnicka’s work published in Polish in 2011.

In the introduction (3-13) Stebnicka concisely addresses the issue of sources. No preserved literary texts can with certainty be said to have been written by Jews of Asia Minor, and the scholar is thus heavily reliant on non-literary texts, i.e. the many inscriptions collected in IJO II.1 Ameling’s corpus, Paul Trebilco’s monograph on Jews in Asia Minor 2 and more recent studies have shown how different the Jewish communities were in the various diasporas. This, then, serves to justify the present study, which seeks to ask questions concerning Jewish identity in the diaspora of Asia Minor.

[...]

The Bible in the Syropalestinian version

AWOL: GOSHEN-GOTTSTEIN, The Bible in the Syropalestinian version. Cross-file under Aramaic Watch.

The Davka Talmud

THERES AN APP FOR THAT: Ancient Jewish Texts Now Accessible in English Talmud App.
[prMac.com] Chicago, Illinois - Davka Corporation today is proud to announce the release of the Soncino Hebrew-English Talmud for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The Soncino Talmud presents the Talmud, the central text of Rabbinic Judaism, in Hebrew and English, together with a speedy search engine that allows users to search the text in both languages, quickly locate relevant results, and view full texts instantly.

According to Rabbi Alan Rosenbaum, Vice-President of Davka Corporation, "The Soncino Hebrew-English Talmud makes Talmud study practical for on-the-go usage. It is affordable and easy to use."

In addition to the app's search capabilities, users can browse and study the texts, and mark, copy and email selections for future reference. The Soncino Talmud includes a number of useful features that make it versatile and powerful ...
Past posts on other Talmud apps are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

The Sibylline Oracles

READING ACTS, having concluded its series on the ancient Books of Enoch, has begun a new series on ancient Old Testament pseudepigrapha, this one dealing with the Sibylline Oracles. The first post is: Introduction to the Sibylline Literature.

Past PaleoJudaica posts on the Sibylline Oracles are here and links, here, here, here, here, and here.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Review of Gardner, Alcock, and Funk, Coptic Documentary Texts from Kellis, Vol. 2

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW:
Iain Gardner, Anthony Alcock, Wolf-Peter Funk, Coptic Documentary Texts from Kellis, Volume 2: P. Kellis VII (P. Kellis Copt. 57–131). Dakhleh Oasis project Monograph 16. Oxford; Philadelphia: Oxbow Books, 2014. Pp. 366 p.; 18 p. of plates, 1 CD-ROM. ISBN 9781782976516. $130.00.

Reviewed by Malcolm Choat, Macquarie University (malcolm.choat@mq.edu.au)


When Mani’s disciple Koustaios looked into the future soon after the apostle’s death, he foresaw a great war, after which a new generation would arise, and find the scriptures and books of Mani (Homilies 7.8–42.8, see esp. 28–29). Even though Koustaios’s hope that this would herald the final triumph of the Manichaean Church has not come to pass, his vision was partly fulfilled by the rediscovery of original Manichaean texts over the past century. In Egypt, in addition to the Medinet Madi codices in Berlin and Dublin and the ‘Cologne Mani Codex’, the last 25 years have witnessed the unearthing of the papers of a Manichaean community in the village of Kellis, modern Ismant el-Kharab in the Dakhleh Oasis, deep in the Western Desert.

This volume, which publishes 75 Coptic documentary texts, brings to a close the publication of Coptic texts from the site. It forms a companion to the first volume of Coptic Documentary Texts from Kellis (P.Kell. V, 1999, by the same editors), and should also be read alongside the two volumes of Kellis Literary Texts (P.Kell. II & VI, ed. Gardner 1996, 2007), and the Greek papyri from the site (especially P.Kell. I., ed. K.A. Worp, 1995). This long-awaited volume sheds light on (among other matters) the textile trade, Coptic epistolography, women’s literacy, book copying, travel between valley and the Oasis, religion, and above all, the life of an extended family over several decades. It provides both a new perspective on previously published material and a major addition to the dossier of fourth-century Coptic documentary material.

[...]
Cross-file under Coptic Watch and Manichean (Manichaean) Watch.

Dandamaev, A political history of the Achaemenid Empire, rev. ed.

BIBLIOGRAPHICA IRANICA: A Political History of the Achaemenid Empire, new edition. Notice of a new edition of book that I have not noted before: Dandamaev, M. A. 2015. A political history of the Achaemenid Empire (Historical Library). Saint Petersburg: Academy of Cultural Studies. 3rd (2nd Russian) Edition. The revised edition, like the first edition, is in Russian, but the first edition has also been published in an English translation. Follow the link for details.

Cosmic secrets in 3 Enoch

READING ACTS: 3 Enoch and the Cosmic Secrets. Past posts in the series on the ancient books of Enoch, plus on related matters, are noted here and links. The series concludes with this post, but stay tuned!

Jerusalem Museum of Tolerance set for 2018 completion

Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem Moves Forward. Long embroiled in controversy, the troubled project now has 2018 as its completion date (Esther Hecht, Architectural Record).
Despite its tortuous history, the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem is “rapidly progressing,” according to its backer, the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center. “All of the building's concrete walls and floors are in place,” the Center announced this month.

The news followed a long media silence regarding the controversial project, located at a prime site in central Jerusalem. Originally designed by Frank Gehry the museum was tied up in court for years and then abandoned by the architect. It was designed again, on a smaller scale, by the Israel-based Chyutin Architects, who also walked away from the project. The project is now in the hands of the Los Angeles office of Aedas and its Jerusalem-based project affiliate, Yigal Levi Architects.

According to the Center, the museum is set to be completed in time for the celebration of Israel’s 70th Independence Day, in the spring of 2018. But the statement’s optimistic tenor belied the project’s troubled gestation and lack of clarity about its function.

[...]
The long story of the controversy is summarized briefly. The construction was begun in 2006 but halted after it became clear that it involved excavating from the Muslim Mamilla cemetery and objections were lodged. Decades ago a parking lot had already been built over the cemetery without objection, which did not make the situation less complicated. The go-ahead to resume construction was given in 2009, but other complications had arisen by then. My last post on the subject, in November of 2011, is here, with links leading back to 2006 when the controversy erupted. In 2011 construction had begun again. Things seem to have been pretty quiet since then, although I may have missed some coverage.

More on claymation "Golem"

GOLEM WATCH: In ‘Golem,’ the Troupe 1927 Shares a Stage With a Claymation Co-Star (ERIC GRODE, NYT).
The company’s dependence on useful but risky technology fits perfectly with the subject matter of “Golem,” a fanciful adaptation of the ancient Jewish legend about a clay figure that eventually turns on its creator. In this telling, updated to confront the anxieties of our smartphone era, Golem is a lovable (at first) companion with a penchant for helpful tips that happen to favor certain brand names.

“Although we are very reliant on the technology, we also dictate the technology and are constantly dirtying it up,” said Suzanne Andrade, the author and director of “Golem,” who created 1927 with Mr. Barritt. (The company takes its name from the year “The Jazz Singer,” often described as the first full-length talking picture, had its premiere.) “But we are aware that this is a story that looks in on itself.”
About to be performed in the Sottile Theater at the College of Charleston in Charleston, S.C. PaleoJudaica mentioned this Golem production last month here. Follow the links there for many, many other past posts on the Golem legend.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Vossen Collection

ALIN SUCIU: The Vossen Collection of Coptic Manuscripts. Cross-file under Coptic Watch and New Testament Apocrypha Watch.

JSQ 23.1 (2016)

JEWISH STUDIES QUARTERLY has published a new issue (23.1):
Jewish Studies Quarterly (JSQ)

Editors: Leora Batnitzky (Princeton) and Ra'anan Boustan (University of California, Los Angeles)

Advisory Board: Steven Aschheim (Jerusalem), Elisheva Carlebach (New York), Michael Fishbane (Chicago), Christine Hayes (New Haven), Jeffrey Shandler (New Brunswick), Israel Yuval (Jerusalem)

Managing Editor: Sally Freedman (Princeton)


ISSN 0944-5706 (Print Edition)
ISSN 1868-6788 (Online Edition)

Founded by Peter Schäfer and Joseph Dan and established in 1993, Jewish Studies Quarterly (JSQ) offers studies of Jewish history, religion and culture.

Current Issue

Jewish Studies Quarterly (JSQ) Volume 23, Number 1, 2016

Articles
Matthew Goldstone, Rebuke and the Self-Acknowledged Limits of Rabbinic Authority; pp. 1-21(21)
Jonathan A. Pomeranz, "Seven Pits for the Good Man": Torah and Popular Wisdom in Rabbinic Babylonia; pp. 22-46(25)
Doron Forte, Back to the Sources: Alternative Versions of Maimonides' Letter to Samuel Ibn Tibbon and Their Neglected Significance; pp. 47-90(44)

Review of Masterson, Rabinowitz, and Robson (eds.), Sex in Antiquity

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW:
Mark Masterson, Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz, James Robson (ed.), Sex in Antiquity: Exploring Gender and Sexuality in the Ancient World. Rewriting antiquity. London; New York: Routledge, 2015. Pp. xx, 567. ISBN 9780415519410. $205.00.

Reviewed by F. Mira Green, University of Washington (mirag@uw.edu)


Preview

[Before I begin, I would like to apologize for the lateness of this review.]

The topic of sex has been recently getting a lot of action (ahem) in scholarship about the ancient world. Since the 1990s, many have turned their attention to questions about sex and sexuality in antiquity; this year alone has had a least three studies (including the one under review) on sex or sexual labor.1 In the introduction to their edited volume, Mark Masterson, Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz, and James Robson observe that the study of gender and sex in the ancient world has entered a retrospective stage. They outline three major movements that mark the development of scholarship on the study of gender and sexuality in the past decades: the first movement (roughly 1978-1984) was a period when scholars began to recover historical women and engaged in feminist critique of male authors; the second phase (1990-1993) saw a joining of scholarship on gender and sexuality; and finally, the third (or current) one is often marked by the compiling, summarizing, and reflecting on past efforts of gender studies (4-6). The editors offer some caution about this trend and point to one of the main objectives of their volume: “Taking stock is always a good idea, but there is also a need for new work...We must always revisit and renegotiate our relationship with the past” (6-7). With this aim, the editors of and contributors to this volume offer insightful and sometimes unexpected conversations that take place between current and past scholarship, and provide opportunities to explore the trajectories that scholarship on sex, sexuality, and gender in antiquity might now take.

[...]

Angels in 3 Enoch

READING ACTS: Angelic Beings in 3 Enoch. Past posts in the series on the ancient books of Enoch, plus on related matters, are noted here and links.

Bauckham Festschrift

FORTHCOMING BOOK FROM EERDMANS:
In the Fullness of Time
Essays on Christology, Creation, and Eschatology in Honor of Richard Bauckham

Daniel M Gurtner
Grant Macaskill
Jonathan T Pennington
HARDCOVER; Coming Soon: 9/5/2016
ISBN: 978-0-8028-7337-8
286 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9

DESCRIPTION

Cutting-edge reflections on a variety of biblical and theological subjects

Over the course of his distinguished career Richard Bauckham has made pioneering contributions to diverse areas of scholarship ranging from ethics and contemporary issues to hermeneutical problems and theology, often drawing together disciplines and fields of research all too commonly kept separate from one another.

In this volume some of the most eminent figures in modern biblical and theological scholarship present essays honoring Bauckham. Addressing a variety of subjects related to Christology, creation, and eschatology, the contributors develop elements of Bauckham's biblical and theological work further, present fresh research of their own to complement his work, and raise critical questions.
I am delighted to see that the Festschrift for my retired St. Andrews colleague Richard Bauckham is about to be released. The volume includes my essay, "The Book of Revelation and the Hekhalot Literature." You can find an earlier draft that I presented at the 2008 Annual Meeting of the SBL here and here.

Congratulations to Richard Bauckham on this well-deserved recognition of his massive contribution to many fields, not least the study of early Christianity and ancient Judaism.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Hebrew Ben Sira conference

ANNIVERSARY:
“Discovering, Deciphering and Dissenting:
Ben Sira's Hebrew Text, 1896-2016”


12-14 September 2016

St John's College, Cambridge


A conference on the 120th Anniversary of the Cairo Genizah Discoveries.

Sponsored by the Polonsky Co-Exist Fund, University of Cambridge and the ISDCL.

On the 120th anniversary of the discovery of the Genizah manuscripts of Ben Sira, this conference will consider the particular contributions of the Hebrew manuscripts of Ben Sira, in connection with the language and transmission of the book. Despite the existence of six versions in the Genizah as well as the scroll from Masada and two tiny fragments from Qumran, the characteristics of each Hebrew witness have been neglected and their palaeography is due for serious consideration.

In this light the conference will examine the features of individual manuscripts, the synoptic problems of the witnesses, their text-critical value and the history of the discoveries. It will also consider the place of the manuscripts in Jewish literary history, the Hebrew language of Ben Sira, and the interpretative character of the Hebrew.
Follow the link for further particulars. Bookings close on 10 August 2016. This is another one I wish I were able to attend.

Septuagint Studies Prize 2016

IOSCS: The John William Wevers Prize in Septuagint Studies.
The International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS) offers an annual prize of $350 to be awarded to an outstanding paper in the field of Septuagint studies. The prize has been named in memory of John William Wevers to honor his many contributions to Septuagint studies.

The field of Septuagint studies is construed broadly, and a paper may focus on any aspect of the study of the Greek translation of the Jewish Scriptures. The IOSCS wants to encourage the study of these translations by younger scholars, and eligibility is thus limited to advanced graduate students or recent Ph.D. recipients (4 years or less after receiving the degree).

[...]
The deadline for submission is 15 August 2016. Follow the link for further particulars.

Metatron

READING ACTS: Who is the Angel Metatron?. Past posts in the series on the ancient books of Enoch, plus on related matters, are noted here and links.

Incidentally, the OTP translator of 3 Enoch is Philip Alexander, not Anderson. I have a couple of old essays that deals with the archangel Metatron here (introductory) and here. They were published in revised form as a single article here. And for much, much more on Metatron in popular culture, run "Archangel Metatron Watch" through the PaleoJudaica search engine.

Payis

YONA SABAR: Hebrew word of the week: Payis (lot/lottery). Not specified in the column, but the word goes back to the Aramaic Targumim and the early Rabbinic literature.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Update on that auctioned shekel

JOSEPH I. LAUER has circulated an e-mail update concerning yesterday's auction of that shekel coin from the fourth year of the Great Revolt against Rome (66-70 CE) ("Results of the July 19 auction for the two Jewish War coins"):
The July 19 auction for the two Jewish War coins has ended.
The silver shekel from the fourth year of the Jewish War against Rome, with an opening price of $23,000 and an “Estimation” of $28,000 - $32,000, was not sold. See
https://winners-auctions.com/en/content/silver-shekel-fourth-year-jewish-war-against-rome
The silver shekel from the second year of the Jewish War against Rome, with an opening price of $2,000 and an “Estimation” of $5,000 - $6,000, was sold for $5,280. See
https://winners-auctions.com/en/content/silver-shekel-second-year-jewish-war-against-rome-1
So, unlike the Great Revolt silver shekel auctioned several years ago, neither of these was a million dollar shekel.

For more on the coins auctioned yesterday and in 2012, see here and links.

Humbach and Faiss, Avestica

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Avestica. Notice of a new book: Humbach, Helmut & Klaus Faiss. 2016. Avestica. (Münchener Studien Zur Sprachwissenschaft. Beiheft NF 25). Dettelbach: Verlag J.H. Röll.

How many books in the Bible?

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
How Many Books are in the Bible? Qualitative Numbers, or Math for Biblical Scholars

Josephus, the Jewish historian writing in Greek after the Jewish revolt in 70, tells us that the Jews have 22 sacred books—although he doesn’t say precisely which ones. And the apocalypse Fourth Ezra mentions a revelation of 24 books. The numbers 22 and 24 also appear in later patristic Christian lists, and 24 is indeed the number of books in the rabbinic Bible…. Did Josephus have 22 specific titles in mind? Maybe. We cannot know. Either way, he, like the later writers, is working with an iconic number that exists prior to a particular catalog. To ask what exactly the 22 books were may not be the most interesting question. It’s the number itself, not any specific list, that tells us more about the scriptural imagination of some Jews in antiquity.

See Also: The Literary Imagination in Jewish Antiquity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016).

By Eva Mroczek
University of California, Davis
July 2016
Indeed. And then there are those 70 books books given to Ezra to share only with the wise of his people (4 Ezra 14:46). Hmmm ... 70. Do you think that could be a symbolic number too?

Review of Dillery, Clio's Other Sons

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW:
John Dillery, Clio's Other Sons: Berossus and Manetho, with an afterword on Demetrius. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2015. Pp. xxxviii, 494. ISBN 9780472052271. $50.00 (pb).

Reviewed by David Branscome, Florida State University (dbranscome@fsu.edu)


Publisher's preview

It is a good time for Berossus of Babylon and for the Egyptian Manetho of Sebennytus. Both of these early Hellenistic native priests—who wrote (now fragmentary) histories of their respective homelands in Greek—have received a lot of scholarly attention recently.1 In the last decade and a half, Dillery himself has written a series of articles on Berossus and Manetho, which culminates in the book under review. The first monographic study that seeks to elucidate Berossus’ historiographical context, aims, and methods by comparing them with those of Manetho (and vice versa), Clio’s Other Sons represents a major contribution to several fields at once: Greek historiography in general, Hellenistic historiography in particular, and even Babylonian and Egyptian history.

[...]

Ancient Roman ports project

CONGRATULATIONS TO PROFESSOR KEAY: Honour for expert on Roman ports (Southern Daily Echo).
HE IS the man at the forefront of unearthing Europe’s Roman ports.

Professor Simon Keay, of the University of Southampton, was awarded €2.49 million of European Research Council funding to study a large network of Roman ports in the Mediterranean – stretching from Turkey in the east, to Spain in the west.

Now Prof Keay has has been elected a fellow of the British Academy in recognition of his groundbreaking research.

In total, the Roman Mediterranean Ports project is examining 31 ports in nine different countries including Ephesus, Pitane and Kane in Turkey, Gades and Tarraco in Spain and Portus and Putroli in Italy.

The project will use satellite imagery and archaeological data to study the remaining 23 ports in France, Egypt, Tunisia, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Libya, Israel and Greece.

Prof Keay is leading the project in very close collaboration with ancient historian professor Pascal Arnaud from the Université de Lyon La Lumière, France, and will analyse key Greek and Latin texts to find out more about the ports. His 15 years of re-search into Roman ports has culminated in this project.

Research will last until 2018 and will concentrate on the first two centuries AD, considering the layout, activities, hierarchies and commercial and social connections made between Roman ports.

[...]

3 Enoch

READING ACTS: What is 3 Enoch?. Past posts in the series on the ancient books of Enoch, plus on related matters, are noted here and links.

I would not advise using 3 Enoch as background to the New Testament. For some more or less relevant reflections, see my 2008 SBL paper The Book of Revelation and the Hekhalot Literature (also here) and my recent comments on Catrin Williams's Enoch Seminar paper here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Abgar family tomb in Urfa necropolis?

SYRIAC WATCH: World’s largest necropolis in Turkey's southeast (ŞANLIURFA – Doğan News Agency/ Hürriyet Daily News).
A large number of expansive rock tombs which could constitute part of the world’s largest necropolis have been discovered during work carried out by the Şanlıurfa Municipality around the historic Urfa Castle in southeastern Turkey.

[...]
"Urfa" is the modern name for ancient Edessa, the city whose Aramaic dialect (Syriac) became the language of Eastern Christianity.
Among the newly found tombs, one was situated on the highest part of the castle’s hill and was bigger than the other tombs. It was estimated to have belonged to the nobles of Edessa King Abgar’s family. The tomb had rooms for 10 people. Also, floor mosaics were found in one of the tombs.
The Abgar dynasty is best known from the apocryphal correspondence between Jesus and King Abgar V, preserved by Eusebius in Greek and in other manuscripts in Syriac. The article does not explain why the tombs are connected with the Abgar dynasty.
Syriac inscriptions and fine engravings can also be seen in another tomb in the area.

[...]
Back in 2009 I noted the report of another Syriac inscription discovered in Urfa. Most of the links have rotted, but follow the Hygoye link to see a photo of the inscription.

Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch.

More on the goring ox in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Tied Up in Knots Over a Goring Ox. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ the Talmud tries to make sense of an incoherent Biblical law about awarding damages.
In this week’s Daf Yomi reading, the Talmud continued to elaborate the laws about how to deal with a goring ox. The original biblical statement of this law, in the Book of Exodus, is the origin of the concepts of negligence and due care in halakhah. The owner of an ox that goes wild and kills another ox or a person is not held responsible for its actions; the ox itself is to be killed, but its owner does not have to pay damages. If, on the other hand, that ox has a history of goring, and the owner does not take any precautions for restraining it, then he becomes liable for the damage or death it may cause. It is a simple and fair principle, but as often happens, the rabbis of Talmud find that it does not cover all the many complications that may arise in real life, or in the curious minds of the commentators.

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

Rare coin from the Great Revolt being auctioned

NUMISMATICS: Rare Bar Kochba [sic!] shekel offered for sale. Winner's prepares to auction off rare coin from fourth year of Bar Kochva [sic!] revolt, expected to fetch $28,000 to $32,000 (Eliran Aharon, Arutz Sheva).
Winner's auction house is offering a unique item for sale: a rare shekel decorated with a cup containing nine dots.

The early Hebrew inscription "Israel shekel" surrounds the cup, above which is an abbreviation for "Year Four," showing that the coin was minted in the fourth year of the Bar Kochba rebellion.

The reverse side shows a branch with three stylized pomegranates surrounded by the inscription "Holy Jerusalem." The coin weighs 13.55 grams and is 22 millimeters in diameter.

The Bar Kochba rebellion (66-70 CE) holds a significant place in Jewish history for its tragic results, included the country's complete destruction, the murder of numerous Jews and the destruction of the second Temple.

[...]
Joseph Lauer has circulated corrections to this story, which has been misreported in a number of places. The revolt in 66-70 CE was the First Jewish Revolt or the Great Revolt. The Bar Kokhba Revolt was in 132-135 CE. An earlier version of this post, covering a different article, went up briefly before I saw his correction. Sorry for the error.

For the sale several years ago of an even rarer shekel coin from year one of the Great Revolt, see here and links.

As always with the sale of rare artifacts, I encourage the buyer to make the object available to scholars for study and to a museum for display (or even to donate it to a museum!).

UPDATE (20 July): more here.

On that "unprecedented" Philistine cemetery

ARCHAEOLOGY: First Ever? Discovery of Philistine Cemetery Draws Criticism (Owen Jarus, LiveScience).
A 3,000-year-old graveyard with the bones of about 200 individuals discovered in Ashkelon, Israel, is being hailed as the first (and only) Philistine cemetery ever found.

[...]

However, experts not affiliated with the excavations are not yet convinced of the claim, saying that the identity of the people buried at the Ashkelon cemetery is not clear-cut and the finding itself has not been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Further muddying the waters, other burials found in known Philistine cities, though never confirmed, also have dibs on the title of "first-discovered Philistine cemetery."

[...]
Follow the link for details. Background here.

2 Enoch 64-73

READING ACTS: Enoch and the Birth of Melchizedek – 2 Enoch 64-73. Past posts in the series on the ancient books of Enoch, plus on related matters, are noted here and links.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Roman Jewish catacombs

NOW WITH OPEN DAYS: Inside the catacombs, buried history ties Jews to ancient Rome. Rich with symbolism, the mysterious underground chambers tell an unfinished tale of communal Jewish life 1,800 years ago (ROSSELLA TERCATIN, Times of Israel).
But the Catacombe di Vigna Randanini is unique compared to the dozens of Christian catacombs in the city: only a few meters into the site, in a cramped, painted chamber, a large brick-red menorah is silhouetted against the upper part of the wall in stark contrast to the stone and earth surroundings.

To reach the menorah’s chamber, visitors must descend into the ground. With flashlights as the only source of illumination, the small staircase that separates the bright summer day from the dark, cold gallery is like a time machine to Ancient Rome.

Over the centuries, robbers and explorers have stripped this catacomb of most its content — the bones of those who were buried here, the decorations, the objects left by the mourners. But the hundreds of loculi (burial niches) excavated in the walls are still in situ, together with dozens of inscriptions, fragments of artifacts, and evocative frescoes which bear witness to how Roman Jews lived and died 1,800 years ago.

“The chamber with the painted menorah was the private chapel of a prominent family. There used to be a sarcophagus for the head of the family,” caretaker Alberto Marcocci tells The Times of Israel.

[...]
Not a new story, but this article has lots of interesting discussion of the site and some good photos. Past PaleoJudaica posts on the Jewish catacombs in Rome are here, here, and here.

Secunda goes to Bard

CONGRATULATIONS TO SHAI SECUNDA: Distinguished Scholar of Religion Shai Secunda To Join Bard College Faculty.
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—Bard College announces the appointment of Shai Secunda as the Jacob Neusner Professor in the History and Theology of Judaism. Secunda, who joins the faculty in fall 2016, is a specialist in Talmudic and Judaic studies and will teach courses in Jewish Studies and other topics through the Religion Program at Bard. An endowed chair, the Jacob Neusner Professor in the History and Theology of Judaism was established in recognition of Neusner’s distinguished contributions to the field and to Bard College.

“I am thrilled to join the Bard faculty, and I am deeply honored to accept the Neusner chair,” says Secunda. “Half a century ago, Jacob Neusner, one of the 20th century’s most influential scholars, invested immense efforts toward taking Jewish studies out of its parochial past and putting it in dialogue with religious studies. I hope I can build on Neusner’s legacy and work to further integrate the study of classical Judaism and Jewish literature within the contemporary humanities, as exemplified by Bard’s invigorating liberal arts setting.”

[...]
Professor Secunda is well known to PaleoJudaica readers for his posts at the Talmud Blog and for his book, The Iranian Talmud. He was here in St. Andrews a could of years ago for the Iranian Kingship Workshop. Congratulations both to him and to Bard College.

Ethnocentric law in the Talmud

LAST WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: One Law for Jews, Another Law for Gentiles. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ non-Jews are denied equal protection under the rules of the Talmud.
This is all clear enough, so long as both ox-owners are Jews. But what if a Jew’s ox kills a gentile’s ox, or vice versa? I imagine this situation couldn’t have arisen very often in ancient times, since Jews would usually have lived among Jews. Even if it did arise, I don’t know whether the gentile involved would have been judged by Jewish law. Presumably a Roman or Persian involved in a dispute with a Jew would have gone to a government official, not a Jewish judge. But still the question remains: Does Talmudic law treat Jew and gentile the same, or is there a legal difference in their status, even when it comes to non-ritual matters like this one?

In this case, there is no avoiding the fact that the Talmud is heavily biased in favor of the Jew against the gentile. The mishna in Bava Kamma 37b says, “With regard to an ox of a Jew that gored the ox of a gentile, the owner of the belligerent ox is exempt from liability. But with regard to an ox of a gentile that gored the ox of a Jew, regardless of whether the goring ox was innocuous or forewarned, the owner of the ox pays the full cost of the damage.” In other words, a gentile doesn’t even benefit from the rule about an innocuous ox costing only half the damages; his ox is automatically considered forewarned and so responsible for full damages. But a Jew’s ox can hurt a gentile’s ox with impunity.

The inequity here is blatant—so much so that the rabbis of the Gemara are made distinctly uncomfortable by it. ...
Ethnocentrism was the norm in antiquity. The ancients lived in a very different world from ours.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

News on the Mt.t Zion excavation

EXCAVATION: Archaeologists Uncover Second Temple-era Priestly Quarter of Jerusalem. Luxuries, like a bathtub, signal that the 2000-year old house being dug up in Mt. Zion, near Caiaphas' home, belonged to a member of the ruling class (Philippe Bohstrom, Haaretz).
Archaeologists excavating in the heart of ancient Jerusalem have begun to uncover the neighborhood that housed the elite 2,000 years ago – most probably the priestly ruling class.

One of the houses had its own cistern, a mikveh (a Jewish ritual bathing pool), a barrel-vaulted ceiling and a chamber with three bread ovens.

Inside a room found with its ceiling intact was a bathtub – an extremely rare luxury that commoners of the time could not afford.

Bathtubs, as opposed to ritual dipping pools, have so far only been found at King Herod's palaces in Masada and Jericho, and in the so-called "Priestly Mansion" in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.

“It's clear from the finds that the people living here were wealthy, aristocrats or perhaps even priests,” Prof. Shimon Gibson, co-director of the excavations, told Haaretz.

A ritual stone cup with a priestly inscription, used for purification rituals, also found there supports the archaeologist's theory that this area was the Priestly Quarter of ancient Jerusalem.

“Caiaphas' house has been located. It's up on the hill not far from our site," Gibson points out in additional support of the thesis.

[...]
Long article. Read it all. Past posts on the Mt. Zion excavation, with special attention to the inscribed cup, are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Back to posting

I'M BACK IN THE OFFICE. It may take me a while to catch up with recent stories, but I'll try to make a good start today.