Saturday, February 02, 2008

UNESCO chief: We are trying to mediate over Temple Mount bridge
By Assaf Uni, Haaretz Correspondent

Tags: Jordan, Mugrabi Gate, Israel

PARIS - UNESCO is attempting to mediate among Israel, Jordan and the Waqf Muslim religious trust over construction at the controversial Mugrabi Ascent in the Old City of Jerusalem.

The director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Koichiro Matsuura, discussed the efforts in an interview with Haaretz this week. Matsuura is visiting Israel next week.

atsuura said that although a three-way meeting in Jerusalem two weeks ago ended without progress, the talks were "conducted in a positive atmosphere" and he is very optimistic about the next meeting, scheduled to take place in the next few weeks.

Last month the Jerusalem planning and building council approved the government's construction plan for the area, which includes expanding the women's section of the Western Wall plaza as part of the building of a new bridge leading to the Temple Mount. The Waqf and Jordan are continuing their vehement opposition to the Israeli plan.

"It's too early to say whether the solution will be a compromise between Israel's bridge plan and Jordan's demands," Matsuura said. "We see our role as a facilitator and mediator, and our aim is to arrive at an agreed solution."

Background here and here. Note alternate spellings Mugrabi and Mughrabi.
COPTIC BOOK BINDING for high school students:
SMITH, Esther K. How to Make Books: Fold, Cut & Stitch Your Way to a One-of-a-Kind Book photos by David Michael Zimmerman. illus. by Lindsay Stadig. 128p. index. Potter Craft 2007. Tr $25. ISBN 978-0-307-35336-8. LC 2007014216.

Adult/High School–From the letter-press cover on thick cardboard to the simple, step-by-step instructions that are accompanied by illustrations and photos of finished products inside, this how-to will be the favorite of anyone who wants to make a book. Absolute beginners can be successful from the first page with an instant book–all that is needed is a sheet of paper. Besides paper, most projects call for the same three materials: awls, curved needles, and waxed thread. The most complicated one involves Coptic binding, which might take a couple of tries to get right but, even so, is doable. A resource list is included, as well as a bibliography of titles the author recommends. It is easy to see that bookmaking could become addictive. Crafty teens as well as those who create their own zines will want to take a look.–Charlotte Bradshaw, San Mateo County Library, CA (reviewed in the School Library Journal)
Related post here.

Friday, February 01, 2008

A DEAD SEA SCROLLS LECTURE on 5 February by Professor Alex P. Jassen at the University of Minnesota: "Prophecy after The Prophets?: The Dead Sea Scrolls and the History of Prophecy in Judaism."

(Via the Agade list.)
ANCIENT JEWISH LAMPS IN VIET NAM? On display, that is. See the last sentence below.
Fine Arts Museum keeps the lamps on

(31-01-2008) [Viet Nam News)

HCM CITY — Antique aficionados are in for a treat with an exhibition of more than 300 ancient lamps from the personal collection of Nguyen Huu Triet, bishop of Tan Sa Chau Parish in HCM City’s Tan Binh District.

The Fine Arts Museum organised the exhibition in celebration of Tet (Lunar New Year).

The collection features more than 180 lamps that use vegetable oil, animal oil and kerosene, and many of which date back to the 12th and 13th centuries.

There are baked earthen jars with characteristics of the Dong Son and Oc Eo eras, Viet Nam’s oldest known cultures dating from the 1st to 3rd centuries.

Many of the lamps came from Viet Nam’s well-known pottery kilns, such as Bat Trang in northern Viet Nam and Lai Thieu in the south.

The collection includes ancient lamps made in China, France, India, Japan and Israel.

APOCRYPHA WATCH: The opera Tobias and the Angel is to be performed in Baltimore.
If The Yellow Wallpaper is confined to a bedroom, British composer Jonathan Dove’s Tobias and the Angel was written for a sacred space; it will be performed in the nave of Mount Vernon’s Emmanuel Episcopal Church in late February.

The Opera Vivente production is the North American premiere of the work, which is based on the Old Testament Book of Tobit. (Regarded as apocryphal by Protestants and Jews, the book was probably written in the 2nd century B.C.)The opera follows Tobit’s son Tobias on a mission to collect money; he is accompanied by the angel Raphael in disguise, who helps him see the divine in all things. General director John Bowen describes this production as “a communal event,” involving the children’s chorus of the Handel Choir of Baltimore, student dancers from the Baltimore School for the Arts, and members of local chorales along with professional opera singers, including acclaimed countertenor David Walker as the angel Raphael.

“The Apocrypha is equally claimed—or disclaimed—by both Judaism and Christianity,” Bowen says. “It’s very much an interfaith story.”
With apologies for the cross-posting:

Love is in the air! We're looking for a few good scholars to display both eros and erudition in our first (and possibly last!) Ancient Near Eastern Valentine's contest.

We want no more than three of your original[*] compositions, in any ancient Near Eastern language (we'll bend the rules a bit and allow Greek), accompanied by an English translation. Artwork is similarly welcome. All entries should be sent via e-mail to akerr at eisenbrauns dot com before noon on Wednesday, February 13.

The decisions of the judges will be final and, most likely, extremely arbitrary. Prizes will be given. Winners will be announced on February 14, 2008, and winning entries will be showcased on the Eisenbrauns website. Submitting an entry constitutes permission to reproduce your work.

[*] We have memorized the entire corpus of Near Eastern poetry, and will be watching for cheating. OK, we haven't -- but someone out there will catch you at it if your words are not your own, and that wouldn't be good. So don't.

Have fun with it!
James Spinti
Marketing Director, Book Sales Division
Eisenbrauns, Good books for more than 30 years
Specializing in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical Studies
jspinti at eisenbrauns dot com
Phone: 574-269-2011 ext 226
Fax: 574-269-6788
Philologists need love too.

(From the Aramaic list.)

Thursday, January 31, 2008

EILAT MAZAR has revised her reading of the new Hebrew seal inscription. "Shelomit" it is. This from the BAS website:
I accept the suggestion made by Peter van der Veen and followed by many other scholars to read Sh l m t. Actually, I love it. For the time being, this reading is preferable to my reading of t m h or h m t. This is an opportunity also to thank the many scholars who took part in the various blogs contributing their knowledge on the subject.
(Via Joseph I. Lauer's list. Background here.)
A PUNIC NECROPOLIS has been discovered in Tunisia, apparently on the site of a museum while it was undergoing renovations:
Tunisia: Major Archeological Discovery of Necropolis in Sousse Sheds Light on Punic Life in The 4th century BC

Tunisia Online (Tunis)

28 January 2008
Posted to the web 29 January 2008


A Punic necropolis dating back to the 4th-5th century BC has been recently discovered at the museum of Sousse during extension and refurbishing works that started last May and are due to be completed by the end of the current year.


The vault which is being restored by the INP, contains 2 tombs with the remains of some 13 members of the same family buried together along with sacred ceramic vessels.

No word on whether there was any inscriptional material in the vault.
Antique Scrolls: Pieces of History Up for Sale

By Leah Hochbaum Rosner (The Forward)
Wed. Jan 30, 2008

When a Torah scroll is so faded or damaged that it can no longer be used, Jewish law states that, like the dearly departed, it is to be buried. But Spiritual Artifacts, a California-based company, hopes to bring new life to presumed-dead Torahs by putting them on display for all to see and offering them up for sale.

Run out of the Los Angeles home of Australian-born computer programmer and educator Sam Gliksman, 50, and his wife, Deborah, 49, a graphic designer, the new company takes fragments of ancient Torah scrolls and then frames them in handmade museum cases using acid-free, museum-quality archival materials.


After consulting with a number of sofrim to find out how to get their hands on the scrolls, the Gliksmans have amassed a collection of roughly 50 pieces. Some of them are whole books from the Torah; others are just small sections. Most are between 200 and 400 years old, but some are more than 500 years old. The scrolls cost anywhere from $375 to $1,250, depending on country of origin, age, theme and number of panels in the piece. Popular portions include the Ten Commandments, the Ten Plagues, the Exodus From Egypt and Creation. The most expensive piece they currently offer is a 250-year-old, three-panel Ten Commandments-themed piece from pre-Holocaust Europe that goes for $1,250.


When asked if he thought that some Jews might be opposed to the idea of taking a Torah that should be buried and instead putting it on display, Gliksman was adamant that Spiritual Artifacts is adhering fully to Jewish law. “Part of our research was speaking with rabbis and making sure that we weren’t offending anyone by doing this,” he said. “I understand that some might say that a Torah’s not something that should be hung on the wall. But others love it. We were very careful to make sure that halachically we’re not doing anything wrong.”

According to Jewish law, it is forbidden to destroy documents, such as prayer books or bibles, that contain the name of God. Gliksman said that the rabbis he consulted saw no problem with framing pieces of the Torah, as long as they are preserved and respected and show kavod (Hebrew for “respect”) for the Torah. In keeping with this, Gliksman and his wife are exceedingly careful not to tear the fragments. “Pieces are sewn together when a scroll is created,” he said. “We just undo the stitches.”


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

JAMES VANDERKAM will be lecturing on the Dead Sea Scrolls at Missouri State University:
MSU hosting public lecture on the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Missouri State University religious studies department and the College of Humanities and Public Affairs will host a public lecture on the Dead Sea Scrolls at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the Plaster Student Union Theater.

The lecture, entitled “So What’s Happening with the Dead Sea Scrolls Today?” will be presented by Dr. James C. VanderKam, professor of Hebrew Scriptures at the University of Notre Dame.

Gender and Hebrew Bible conference
Monday August 4th to Wednesday August 6th 2008

Keynote Speakers: Professor Athalya Brenner (University of Amsterdam and Tel Aviv University), Dr Tarja Philip (Hebrew University), and Dr Deborah Rooke (King's College London).

Other participants include Prof. Claudia Camp and Dr Alicia Ostriker.

Proposals are warmly invited for papers on sex and gender in biblical and post-biblical texts with a priestly worldview or concerns. Programmed events include 'Group Texts', a creative Hebrew reading session, and 'Comparing Notes: Ancient Sex and Gender in the British Musem', a tailor-made tour of the collections, followed by a guided discussion.

To register or propose a paper, please complete the form on the link by 29th February.

Conference Fee: UK £90 (includes meals but not accommodation, which may be arranged via King's: Phone 020 7848 1700, E-mail


Graduate student day conference on Hebrew Bible/post-biblical texts On Thursday 15th May 2008, 11-5.30, King's, in partnership with SBL, is hosting its first day conference on the Hebrew Bible and early post-biblical texts specifically for graduate students throughout the UK (and beyond). This is an opportunity for PhD students, and MA or MPhil students intending to continue, to meet their peers, acquire experience giving papers, get feedback on their research, and spend a day at King's College in the heart of London. Proposals are invited for 20 minute long papers, which will be followed by 10 minutes of audience questions and constructive feedback from a small panel of highly supportive professionals: Drs Lutz Doering (KCL), Charlotte Hempel (Birmingham), Diana Lipton, (KCL) and Deborah Rooke (KCL), and Professor Hugh Williamson (Oxford). Prof. David Clines will speak at a reception.

*All graduate students registered will receive a complimentary one year SBL student membership.*

To register or propose a paper, please complete the form on the link by 15th February.
(From Deborah Rooke on the SOTS list, with minor formatting adjustments.)
THE X SYMPOSIUM SYRIACUM and the Conference on Arab Christian Studies will be held in Granada (Spain) on September 22th-27th, 2008. For details see the letter of invitation from the President of the Foundation ICSCO, which can be downloaded from here.

(Via George Kiraz on the Hugoye list. More details at that link.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

HEBREW WAS A DEAD LANGUAGE for a long time, but Slate Magazine seems to think it was considerably more dead than it actually was. In an article on dead languages and their revival ("How Do You Learn a Dead Language?"), this is what the writer, Christine Cyr, has to say:
For almost 2,000 years Hebrew was extinct, but Jews around the world continued to use it daily in a limited capacity in prayer, religious ceremonies, and writing. The rise of Jewish nationalism in the 19th century spawned the movement to revive Hebrew as a native language. Because no Hebrew dictionary or grammar books existed (the only written documentation was the Old Testament and a few other pieces of literature), people had to borrow words from other languages or create new ones to fill in gaps in the ancient Hebrew.
"The Old Testament and a few other pieces of literature." Those few other pieces of literature would include the 63 tractates of the Mishnah; the 59 tractates in the Tosefta; extensive (Hebrew and Aramaic) commentary on 37 of the Mishaic tractates in the Babylonian Talmud; the Midrashim; countless Geonic responsa; many of the works of the Rishonim (Rashi, Nahmanides, Maimonides, and many others); later responsa, law codes, and commentaries; poetry from all periods; and so on and so on, constantly expanding as we move closer to the present. (Very brief summary here and more detailed treatments [I haven't looked at these closely] here.) And there were numerous grammars and dictionaries of Hebrew going back to the Middle Ages. In short, although Hebrew was technically a dead language in the nineteenth century, a truly vast and much studied and much commented upon literature had been produced in it. It is true that Jews wrote in various other first languages (Aramaic, Arabic, etc.) in addition to in Hebrew as a literary language. It is also true that words like television and telephone had to be improvised as need for them arose in the new spoken language. Nevertheless the basis for a viable spoken Hebrew was already there in the surviving literature.

It would be refreshing if more journalists would do a little elementary research before making these uninformed generalizations.

UPDATE (30 January): Iyov comments here.
AN ANCIENT MOSAIC from Caesarea:
1,400-Year-Old Mosaic Restored in Israel

By RORY KRESS – 11 hours ago

JERUSALEM (AP) — Experts have restored a 1,400-year-old glass mosaic glowing in gold, recovered from a site next to the Mediterranean Sea, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Monday.

The mosaic panel is believed to be the only one in the world, the antiquities authority said, citing the quality of its preservation given its age and its craftsmanship indicating Christian origins.

"It's a unique find, a piece of art," Joseph Patrich, professor of archaeology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. "It's in its original state," Patrich said, because the panel fell face down, protecting its green, blue and gold facade from debris and damage.

The mosaic was discovered in 2005 in Caesarea, an ancient city on the Mediterranean coast known for its ancient Roman, Byzantine and Crusader ruins. ...

Monday, January 28, 2008

A SYMPOSIUM AT THE GRONINGEN QUMRAN INSTITUTE in honor of Florentino García Martínez is being held in April. Eibert Tigchelaar e-mails the program:
Honoring Professor Florentino García Martínez’s great achievements for the Groningen Qumran Institute and Dead Sea Scrolls studies and initiating a new series of biennial conferences, the Qumran Institute announces

The Authoritativeness of Scriptures in Ancient Judaism:
The Contribution of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Related Literature

A Symposium at the Groningen Qumran Institute, 28–29 April 2008
Organization: Mladen Popoviç (

Monday, 28 April 2008
9.15-9.30 Opening
9.30-10.15 Ed Noort (University of Groningen): The Need of Authority: From Joshua the Successor to the Joshua Apocryphon
10.15-11.00 Julio Trebolle Barrera (Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain): Authoritative Scripture as Reflected in the Textual Transmission of the Biblical Books
11.00-11.30 Break
11.30-12.15 Arie van der Kooij (University of Leiden): Authoritative Scriptures and Scribal Culture
12.15-13.00 Émile Puech (École Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jérusalem, Israel): Quelques observations sur le canon des Écrits
13.15-14.15 Lunch
14.30-15.15 George van Kooten (University of Groningen): The Authority of David and Christ’s Davidic Lineage in Paul (Romans 1.3, 4.6, 11.9)
15.15-16.00 Tobias Nicklas (Universität Regensburg, Germany): “The words of the book of this prophecy” (Rev 22.19): Playing with Authority in the Book of Revelation
16.00-16.30 Break
16.30-17.15 Michael Knibb (King’s College, London, UK): “The Mosaic Torah is Conspicuously Absent in the Early Enochic Literature”: Reflections on the Status of 1 Enoch
17.15-18.00 Hindy Najman (University of Toronto, Canada): Exile, Exemplarity and Revelation in 4 Ezra
18.00-19.00 George Brooke (University of Manchester, UK): The Apocalyptic Community and Rewriting Scripture
19.30 Dinner
Tuesday, 29 April 2008
9.15-10.00 Jacques van Ruiten (University of Groningen): Rewritten Bible and the Authoritativeness of Scriptures
10.00-10.45 Emanuel Tov (Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel): From 4QReworked Pentateuch to 4QPentateuch
10.45-11.15 Break
11.15-12.00 Mladen Popoviç (Qumran Institute, University of Groningen): Ezekiel and Pseudo-Ezekiel in the Dead Sea Scrolls
12.00-12.45 Eibert Tigchelaar (Florida State University, Tallahassee, USA): Aramaic Texts from Qumran and the Authoritativeness of Hebrew Scripture
13.00-14.00 Lunch
14.15-15.00 Charlotte Hempel (University of Birmingham, UK): Pluralism and Authoritativeness: The Case of the S Tradition
15.00-15.45 John Collins (Yale University, New Haven, USA): Prophecy and the Authority of History in the Pesharim
15.45-16.30 Jan Bremmer (University of Groningen): How Holy are Holy Books? A Comparison of Greece, Rome, Early Judaism and Early
16.30-17.00 Break
17.00-18.15 Keynote address: Florentino García Martínez (University of Groningen /Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium): Rethinking the Bible: Sixty Years of Dead Sea Scrolls Research and Beyond
18.15 Reception
19.30 Dinner
ANOTHER REVIEW of Geraldine Brooks, The People of the Book, in the Sydney Morning Herald:

The survival of the Sarajevo Haggadah, as this fragile illuminated volume is called, from its creation in Spain 600 years ago until today, is a tale to stir the most irreligious, war-hardened heart. Geraldine Brooks is a savvy, almost shrewd storyteller. As a former journalist, she knows she's onto a good story here: an illustrated codex, created in mysterious circumstances in Spain to be read at the table during Passover, miraculously threading its way across southern Europe over centuries to end up safe and sound, the treasured possession of a museum in Bosnia. And there are mysteries as well.


This polyphony, amplified by myriad voices from the vast supporting cast, is satisfying, at times even enthralling. Occasionally there is a whiff of the costume drama about these historical scenes: people "tarry", "mislike" and protest that "no, I cannot speak of it". On the whole, though, these richly imagined cameos are engrossing and, thanks to Brooks's meticulous historical research, convincing.

So exhaustive, however, is the research on everything from neurosurgery to recent Bosnian history, so vividly imagined every detail of the significant stages in the Haggadah's journey, so densely spun the web of relationships and events around every character, that the reader can do little other than admire the performance.

As a result, there is something peculiarly American about this novel, for all the colourful Australian expressions squeezed into it. It comes not just from the religion and violence but from the sense of people constantly acting out redemption rituals for the approval of God or, if He's not looking, a mass of spectators whose job is to sit, be moved and applaud. Towards the end the pace becomes frenetic, as if the saga had mistaken itself for a crime thriller. There's a heist, a lost father is redeemed, love blossoms, we dart between Boston and Sydney, Sarajevo and Jerusalem, and even drop in on Arnhem Land where Hannah (and why is this unsurprising?) has switched to conserving Aboriginal rock painting. The frenzied final pages are not unenjoyable but have a manipulative edge to them that is disenchanting.

The redemptive symbolism of the Sarajevo Haggadah is obvious: a Jewish religious text, illustrated according to the Christian model of a Book of Hours, saved by Muslims in a city almost destroyed by ethnic hatreds. Despite its overeager desire to be a crowd-pleaser, People of the Book reflects this breadth of spirit in compelling and inventive ways. This novel has everything. If it has a fault, that's it.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

THE TEXT OF THE COPTIC PSALTER is the subject of a book reviewed in BMCR:
Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2008.01.37

G. Emmenegger, Der Text des koptischen Psalters aus Al-Mudil. Ein Beitrag zur Textgeschichte der Septuaginta und zur Textkritik koptischer Bibelhandschriften, mit der kritischen Neuausgabe des Papyrus 37 der British Library London (U) und des Papyrus 39 der Leipziger Universitätsbibliothek (2013). Text und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur 159. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2007. Pp. xxviii, 391. ISBN 978-3-11-019948-2. €118.00.

Reviewed by Thomas J. Kraus, Hilpoltstein (

Word count: 1718 words

This is a just slightly revised version of Gregor Emmenegger's Th.D. thesis (Theological Faculty Fribourg/Suisse, 2005), enlarged by an index of biblical references. Title and subtitle of the book reveal Emmenegger's (hereafter E.) main concern: a full-scale investigation into the text and context of the so-called Coptic Mudil-Codex, which preserves the complete Psalter in the textual form of the Septuagint, and its implications for Septuagint studies. In addition, E. compares the Mudil-Codex with other codices and their relevant textual passages. In two addenda, both of them standing on their own, E. offers re-editions of Papyrus 37, a Greek codex, and Papyrus 39, a Greek roll. Of course, E.'s editorial work and studies will certainly not attract the attention of readers without (at least some) expertise in textual criticism and consequently will not find a broad readership. This is due to (a) the use of the relevant original languages Hebrew, Greek, and the Coptic dialects (without accompanying translations into German) and (b) the technical language and terminology that is necessary for editing and assessing ancient manuscripts. However, this does not mean that E. did anything wrong.On the contrary, he provides an indispensable tool for all those concerned about the text and textual history of the Septuagint and its manuscript witnesses. Scholars like E. with such a splendid expertise, i.e. scholars who possess the skills to edit manuscripts and the knowledge of ancient languages, are hard to find these days. Thus, E.'s impressively meticulous and learned work is very much welcome, and he must be thanked for taking over the sometimes enervating and tiring work of providing others with text-critical studies of the Mudil-Codex and re-editions of two other important textual witnesses.

(Via the Agade list.)
METATRON WATCH: A band called The Mars Volta has a track entitled "Metatron" on their new album, The Bedlam in Goliath.