Saturday, November 13, 2010

More on Crossan's The Greatest Prayer

MORE ON JOHN DOMINIC CROSSAN'S The Greatest Prayer, this time in the LA Times. Excerpt:
Crossan has written several books about the historical Jesus. In a sense, he said in an interview, each one has helped lead to his latest book, "The Greatest Prayer: Rediscovering the Revolutionary Message of the Lord's Prayer" (HarperOne 2010).


Crossan calls the Lord's Prayer "a prayer from the heart of Judaism on the lips of Christianity for the conscience of the world."

To understand it, he said, it is necessary to comprehend the culture in which it was written, that of 1st century Judaism. The prayer appears in the New Testament twice, in slightly different forms: In Matthew 6:9-13, and in Luke, 11:2-4. In both cases, it is delivered by Jesus, which helps explain the revered status it holds.

When Jesus' disciples heard the prayer, Crossan said, they would have responded differently than a modern churchgoer. To begin with, he said, the term "Father" — "Abba" in the original Greek or Aramaic — connoted a "householder," one who oversaw the affairs of a family. A householder, he added, would have been judged by how well he provided for everyone.

When the prayer continues with "hallowed be thy name," he said, what it means by "hallowed" is "a fair distribution for all, the justice of an equitable household."

In other words, Crossan said, the prayer is about "distributive justice," about making sure that all are cared for.

"It is revolutionary," he writes, "because it presumes and proclaims the radical vision of justice that is the core of Israel's biblical tradition.… It dreams of an Earth where the Holy One of justice and righteousness actually gets to establish — as we might say — the annual budget for the global economy."
But not everyone is convinced.

Background here.

Talmon, Text and Canon of the Hebrew Bible

Text and Canon of the Hebrew Bible
Collected Studies

by Shemaryahu Talmon
EIS - Eisenbrauns

Eisenbrauns, 2010
Via lots of people.

Mandaic Unicode


More on the Mandaeans (Mandeans) and Mandaic here (immediately preceding post).

Friday, November 12, 2010

Iraqi Mandaeans hard to resettle in 1 place

MORE TRIBULATIONS for the Mandaeans: UN: Iraqi Mandaeans hard to resettle in 1 place (AP).

More on the Mandaeans (Mandeans) here and here and follow the many links.

Related: Fear of jihad driving Christians from Iraq (USA Today) (cf. here).

Ancient figures associated with Tyre

A ROLL CALL of ancient classical and biblical figures associated with the Phoenician city of Tyre appears in an American Spectator travel piece:
With its expensive purple dye made from a local mollusk, the murex, Tyre was the center for the Versaces and Givenchys of the ancient world. Paris took Helen of Troy here on a shopping expedition to drape in sumptuous fabric the frame and face that launched a thousand ships.

King Hiram of Tyre was an ally and trading partner of Jerusalem's King Solomon. Hiram sold Solomon the cedar timber for the great Temple.

The Jerusalem-Tyre relationship was rocky then as now. The old Hebrew prophets inveighed against the wealthy city and its neighbor, Sidon, as hotbeds of heathenism and vice. Jezebel, a Tyrian princess (and Dido's great-aunt) who married Israel's King Ahab, came to an unhappy end.

Egypt's pharaohs many times made war against Tyre. Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar battered Tyre in the 6th century B.C. Some 250 years later, Alexander the Great already had established effective mastery over the entire Levant when he demanded to offer sacrifice at Tyre to its principal god, Melqart. Alexander maintained that he himself was divine because, he said, he was a descendant of divine Herakles, of whom Melqart was only an avatar. The Tyrians didn't cotton to that.

When diplomacy failed, Alexander mounted a costly siege whose success resulted in the slaughter of thousands of Tyrians, deportation into slavery for the survivors, and ruin of the splendid city. Modern historians say there was no strategic rationale for Alexander's destruction of Tyre and its people. The impulse for the genocide was something like the rage of a deranged, spurned lover. Is "education" the answer to war and the world's other problems? Consider that the Macedonian sociopath had for his personal tutor the serene and rational Stagirite who wrote the Nicomachean Ethics.

When Jesus walked up the short road from Galilee to Tyre, preaching to the people and driving a demon out of a local woman's daughter, he saw what Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander had done to the place, fulfilling the prophecies of, inter alia, Amos, Ezekiel, Zechariah and Jeremiah. He instructed his disciples to say to Galilean towns that rejected them and their preaching: "It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for thee."

Tyre, its glories, and its devastations have inspired much English-language poetry, not all of it great. The shakiest entry in the Shakespeare canon is Pericles: Prince of Tyre, a weak work slapped together in a regrettable collaboration between the Bard and some London hacks from a mediaeval tear-jerker, Apollonius of Tyre. The Gnostic Necromancer Simon Magus and his paramour Helen of Tyre, who lived just after the time of Jesus, are themselves the figures of fascinating legend. Longfellow was obsessed with Tyre, but being no Dante with Paolo and Francesca, he spoiled the story of Simon and Helen in a tedium of moralistic stanzas -- "pious gurglings," as Mencken put it.

In praise of paper handouts and blog posts

PAPER HANDOUTS do not crash and need to be rebooted during a conference presentation. They also don't cost $25-$75 per presentation. This confirms my long-held view that Powerpoint is evil.

This time, however, I'm skipping the handouts and posting both my papers on this blog in advance. Read them with me on your smartphone or your iPad during the presentation. Problem solved.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Still More on Rachel's tomb

STILL MORE ON RACHEL'S TOMB: Leen Ritmeyer, at his Ritmeyer Archaeological Design blog, and Tod Bolen, at his Bible Places blog, present conflicting views on where the actual tomb of Rachel was. As Todd notes, it does not bear on the current debate about UNESCO calling it a mosque. I don't know whether there was an actual Rachel to start with, but I have no problem with the possibility that there was a different and older tradition about where the matriarch was buried.

Background on the UNESCO controversy is here and here.

Happy 7th blogiversary to Exploring Our Matrix

HAPPY SEVENTH BLOGIVERSARY to James McGrath's Exploring Our Matrix. I didn't realize it had been around that long.

More on Israeli High Court's Waqf ruling

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Further to Sunday's post on the Israeli High Court's rejection of a lawsuit to halt the Waqf's illicit excavations on the Temple Mount, Joseph Lauer refers me to an IMRA page that post's Shurat HaDin's press release on the subject. After discussing the specifics of the case, it concludes:
This week the BAGATZ rejected our petition and gave the Islamic Waqf a freepass to continue its destruction of Israel's sacred heritage sites. The justices held that our efforts to safeguard the ancient First Temple artifacts on behalf of world Jewry could not be done by means of a private prosecution. Alternatively, it refused to order the AG to take action against the Waqf.

It is absurd that while the Israeli government is mounting an international campaign against UNESCO to protest its labeling Rachel's Tomb and the Cave of the Macpelah in Hebron as Muslim mosques and denying their Jewish origins, it obstructs Shurat HaDin from acting to safeguard the status of the Jewish people's holiest site.
I'm not a lawyer, but it's hard for me not to come away with the impression that the High Court relied on technicalities to avoid having to rule on this contentious issue. It seems unfathomable that there should be no way to pursue a legal remedy.

On Rachel's tomb etc., see here and here.

On Jeremiah and Zionism

Needing Jeremiah

By Aryeh Tepper (Jewish Ideas Daily)

One of the most significant accomplishments of the Zionist project was to re-vitalize the Bible as a Jewish national document. Or, if not the Bible as a whole, at least parts of the Bible. The early Zionists were attracted in particular to those books, like Joshua and Isaiah, which appealed to the dream of return and political restoration. One biblical book that most definitely didn't fire the Zionist imagination was the book of Jeremiah.


To this day, indeed, Israeli high-school students are exposed to only a very small portion of the book of Jeremiah, while to most Israelis the story of the prophet's life remains unknown. This is a situation that Rabbi Benjamn Lau, a leading figure of the religious-Zionist camp, has set out to change in Jeremiah, a Hebrew-language book that is soon to be translated into English. In redeeming the prophet from the margins, Lau both retells the book's "plot" and enters a striking claim for Jeremiah's relevance to contemporary Israeli concerns.


Lau's Jeremiah is thus a rabbi's warning against national and/or religious self-confidence divorced from a social conscience and the commitment to moral excellence. In one sense, it may be said (though Lau doesn't say it) that his warning goes to the heart of the modern project itself, and to the war waged by hard-boiled thinkers like Machiavelli and Hobbes to emancipate politics from theology. Reversing the trajectory, Lau's Jeremiah reconnects the two by implying that their disconnection was what doomed the Jewish state in the first place. In this sense, his warning is pertinent to contemporary situations, and dilemmas, well beyond the state of Israel.

Sounds interesting.

The Nabataeans in Saudi Arabia

THE NABATAEANS (NABATEANS) IN SAUDI ARABIA are the subject of the second half of an article in the Arab News. Excerpt (there's more):
HEGRA (Madain Saleh)

Hegra, the Al-Hijr and Madain Saleh of the Holy Qur’an, is the most prominent archaeological site in Saudi Arabia, its international importance reflected by its registration as the Kingdom’s first UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008. In the Louvre exhibition, the grandeur of Hegra’s Nabatean monuments was conveyed by a series of impressive photographs that come near to conjuring the feel of Hegra for those who have not visited it.

The Nabateans were a north Arabian tribe, well established at their capital city of Petra in Jordan as early as the 4th C. BCE. Before the 1st C. BCE, the kings of Nabatea established a trading outpost at Hegra in the territory of the Lihyanite kingdom and when the Lihyanites fell, the Nabateans emerged as their successors, making Hegra their southern capital.

The wealth that the Nabateans gained from control of the international incense trade route between south Arabia and the Hellenistic and Roman world of the Mediterranean is reflected in the great carved tomb façades that the kings and high families of the Nabateans had carved from the red sandstone mountains of Hegra and Petra alike. The inspiration of their designs is a combination of the architecture of the Hellenistic world and elements deriving from Assyria, Iran and southern Arabia.

The inscriptions at Hegra are largely written in Nabatean script while some are in an early Arabic. They record precise legal dedications, showing a society ruled by law. A system of fines existed for those breaking the law. Greek and Latin sources describe the Nabatean kingdom as peaceable and well governed, and extremely prosperous and sophisticated in its tastes.

The Nabatean inscriptions on the tombs at Hegra are precisely dated and incised directly into the rock, thus ensuring their preservation. There are far fewer inscriptions that help dating at Petra and this has led to a complicated problem for archaeologists estimating the date of each Petra tomb. By contrast, the chronology of the surviving Hegra tomb façades is much clearer.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Teaching fellowship in HB at Exeter

A TEACHING FELLOWSHIP IN HEBREW BIBLE (fixed-term, part time) is being advertised by the University of Exeter.

A Greek Esther scroll

AN ESTHER SCROLL in Greek from the late first/early second century CE. I didn't know about this one.

The Dig at the Pool of Siloam--2005 until Now

BEN WITHERINGTON: The Dig at the Pool of Siloam--2005 until Now.

Sixth meeting of the Enoch Seminar, plus 4 Enoch Encyclopedia

THE ENOCH SEMINAR'S SIXTH MEETING, scheduled for June in Milan, now has a preliminary schedule published here. The topic this time is the books of 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch.

Note also the many and ever-increasing resources at the 4 Enoch Online Encyclopedia of Early Judaism

New Jesus book from Geza Vermes

GEZA VERMES has just published a new Jesus book, a collection of his essays:
Jesus in the Jewish World (SCM, 2011)
Despite the listed date, I have confirmation from the author that it has just been released and that there will be a launch at Foyles in London on 18 November at 6:30. Table of contents:
1. Jesus the Jew: Christian and Jewish Reactions [From Jews and Christians in a Pluralistic World, edited by Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde & Edward Shils, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1991, pp. 25-42]
2. Jesus the Jew and his Religion [unpublished]
3. Jesus of Nazareth in a Nutshell [unpublished]
4. Flavius Josephus, the Fifth Evangelist? [“Jesus in the Eyes of Josephus”, Standpoint, January-February 2010, pp. 54-57]
5. A Dream [From The Changing Faces of Jesus, Penguin, London, 2001, pp. 269-270]
6. Bible and Midrash - Early Old Testament Exegesis [From Geza Vermes, Post-Biblical Jewish Studies, Brill, Leiden, 1975, pp. 59-91]
7. Scripture and Tradition in Judaism: Written and Oral Torah [From The Written Word: Literacy in Transition (Wolfson College Lectures 1985), edited by Gerd Baumann, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1986, pp. 79-95]
8. Methodology in the Study of Jewish Literature in the Graeco-Roman Period [From Journal of Jewish Studies 36, 1985, pp. 145-158]
9. How the New Schürer came into being? [From Jüdische Geschichte in hellenistisch-römischer Zeit, edited by Aharon Oppenheimer, Oldenbourg Verlag, Munich, 1999, pp. 1-8]
10. Hanina ben Dosa: A Galilean Contemporary of Jesus [From Geza Vermes, Post-Biblical Jewish Studies, Brill, Leiden, 1975, pp. 178-214]
11. The Binding of Isaac: Genesis 22 in Rabbinic Literature, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament [“Isaac the First Lamb of God”, Standpoint, October 2009, pp. 62-65]
12. The Battle over the Scrolls: A Personal Account [From Geza Vermes, Providential Accidents: An Autobiography, SCM Press, London, 1998, pp. 188-207]
13. The Significance of the Scrolls for Understanding Christianity [From Journal of Religious History, 26, 2002, pp. 210-219]
14. Methodology in the Study of the Historical Jesus [To appear in a different form in the Princeton-Prague Symposium on Perspectives on the Historical Jesus]
15. The Son of Man Debate Revisited (1960-2010) [To appear in Journal of Jewish Studies 61, no. 2, 2010]
UPDATE: Professor Vermes e-mails to clarify regarding the date: The British publication date was 29 October. January 2011 is the US date given by

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Facsimile of the Leiden Manuscript of Talmud Yerushalmi

THE LEIDEN MS OF TALMUD YERUSHALMI is online in facsimile - all 682 folios. Links at the AWOL blog. And they aren't kidding about them taking a long time to load.

Pre-Islamic religious artifacts in Saudi Arabia

PRE-ISLAMIC ARTIFACTS seem to be causing disquiet in Saudi Arabia. In an essay in the Huffington Post (brought to my attention by Joseph Lauer), Sabria Jawhar discusses the problem. Excerpt:
But offering Madain Saleh as a tourism stop is not a problem. It was first inhabited by the people of Thamud who are mentioned prominently in the Qur'an. But what of the non-Muslim sites? Like most Saudis, I know little of pre-Islamic sites, although occasionally amateur archeologists come across such places. Frankly, it's gross negligence to destroy or hide these discoveries. The government in recent years has taken positive steps to recover and catalog artifacts, but there's a disagreement with what to do with them once they are found.

It's right that churches are not permitted in the Land of the Two Holy Mosques. But what's less certain is whether crucifixes, if found, should be destroyed or hidden. More precisely is the issue of whether Christian or Jewish artifacts can be displayed in the proper context in a Saudi museum as an acknowledgment of a people who called pre-Islamic Arabia their home.

My guess is that most Saudis will say no. Many Saudis believe there is no place in the Kingdom for such relics.

The Associated Press the other day reported that Sheikh Mohammed Al Nujaimi said non-Muslim artifacts "should be left in the ground." He said that Muslims would not tolerate the display of non-Muslim religious symbols. "How can crosses be displayed when Islam doesn't recognize that Christ was crucified?" he said. "If we display them, it's as if we recognize the crucifixion."

Most Saudis probably agree, although the argument can be made that displaying an ancient cross doesn't necessarily recognize that Christ was crucified but only acknowledges a previous non-Muslim civilization.
There is much to comment on here, but I will focus on one point. Let me get this straight: if ancient Christian or Jewish religious artifacts are excavated in Saudi Arabia, it is not certain whether they should be destroyed? The most sympathetic way that I can read this is that Ms. Jawhar is personally opposed to their destruction (she doesn't quite come out and say this), but finds it in any case to be an open question in Saudi society. The idea that religious artifacts should be destroyed because they belonged to another faith moves from the provincial into the barbaric. Indeed, Saudis even destroy their own ancient religious sites (see here and here), which is just as bad but even more unfathomable.

UPDATE (10 November): Duane Smith comments at Abnormal Interests.

Happy 10,000th birthday to Jericho

World's 'lowest city' Jericho celebrates 10,000 years

Nov 08, 2010 by Judith Sudilovsky (Christian Century)

Jerusalem, November 8 (ENInews)--Many people in the area believe there is little to celebrate, but Jericho, made famous in the Bible and one the earth's lowest and oldest inhabited cities, has begun a year-long celebration of its 10 000th anniversary.

So far it has been a quiet affair as the city that borders Jordan in the Palestinian-administered West Bank area is not a global tourist haven. Still a special cabinet meeting opened the festivities on 10.10.10, a day deemed good for the biblically-famed town that features in many popular Western songs.


Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of 20 consecutive settlements in Jericho, the first dating back to 9000 BC. They have also found urban fortifications dating back to 7000 BC. Archaeological remains in the area also include the winter palace of King Herod, who ruled in the area at the time of Jesus. There is the winter palace, dating from AD 743 and what Israeli archaeologists claim to be the world's oldest Jewish synagogue dating back to 50-70 BC.
Technically these Jerichos are at more than one site, but, as far as we have information, they all preserved the identity of the one city.

More on "Rachel's Tomb" as a mosque

MORE ON RACHEL'S TOMB: This Jerusalem Post article by Nadav Shragai explains how and when "Rachel's Tomb" became "the mosque of Bilal ibn Rabah":
How Rachel’s Tomb was Islamicized

Between 1993 and 1995, Palestinian groups committed terror and suicide attacks that killed 80 Israelis. In February 1996, the IDF feared that Rachel’s Tomb would furnish a convenient target for an attack of this sort, as it was situated on the main highway connecting Jerusalem and Hebron, with heavy Jewish and Arab traffic. Demonstrations of a nationalist Palestinian character erupted at Rachel’s Tomb as Muslims began to raise the argument that the site involved “Islamic soil.”

At the end of September 1996, the “Western Wall Tunnel Riots” broke out. After the attack on Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus and its fall to the Palestinians, hundreds of Arabs from Bethlehem and the Aida refugee camp attacked Rachel’s Tomb. They set on fire the scaffolding that was erected around the tomb as part of fortification work at the site and tried to break into the compound. Marching at their head was Muhammad Rashad al-Jabari, the governor of Bethlehem, an appointee of the Palestinian Authority. The IDF dispersed the demonstrators with gunfire and stun grenades. Scores were wounded, including Kifah Barakat, the commander of Force 17, the presidential guard of PA chairman Yasser Arafat.

With the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000, Palestinians again attacked Rachel’s Tomb, and for 41 days Jews were prevented from visiting the site due to shooting incidents.

The Muslims also escalated their rhetoric. They stopped calling the site “Rachel’s Dome,” as they had done for hundreds of years, and began calling it the Mosque of Bilal ibn Rabah. The Muslim religious authorities (Wakf) first began to employ this name in 1996, and it eventually took root in Palestinian national discourse.

Bilal ibn Rabah, an Ethiopian by origin, is known in Islamic history as a black slave who served the household of the prophet Muhammad as the person in charge of calling the Muslims to prayer five times a day – the first muezzin. Upon the death of Muhammad, he went to fight the wars of Islam in Syria, was killed there in 642 CE, and was buried in Damascus. The Palestinian Authority raised the argument that, according to Islamic tradition, the Islamic conquerors of the country called the mosque that was established at Rachel’s Tomb after Bilal ibn Rabah.

Yet the Palestinian argument ignores the presumptive ownership that the Jews acquired at the site for many hundreds of years and from the firmans that the Ottoman authorities issued awarding Rachel’s Tomb to the Jews at the beginning of the 19th century.

The Palestinian arguments ignore even the accepted Muslim tradition that venerates Rachel and identifies the site as her burial place. Prof. Yehoshua Porat termed the claim of a mosque at Rachel’s Tomb as mendacious. He noted that the place was known in Arabic as “Rachel’s Dome – a Jewish place of worship.”

For many years in official publications of Palestinian national bodies, there was no reference to any other name for the site, including in the Palestinian Lexicon issued by the Arab League and the PLO in 1984, or in the Al-mawsu’ah al-filastiniyah published in Italy by the Palestinian Encyclopedia organization after 1996.
The article has much more on the history of the site from the Middle Ages through the modern period.

It sounds as though UNESCO's use of the title "Bilal bin Rabah Mosque" is historically spurious.

Background here, focusing on the site in antiquity.

Gospel of Judas will not go on display in Egypt

THE GOSPEL OF JUDAS will not be displayed in Egypt according to Zahi Hawass:
“We will keep the manuscript in storage at the Coptic Museum out of respect for the feelings of Egypt's Coptic Christians,” Hawas said, noting that the alleged gospel contained material deemed disparaging to the Christan faith.
This is political correctness run amok. Meanwhile, I think Coptic Christians would rather that their government expend more effort in protecting them from being murdered. Getting this trial finished could be a step in the right direction.

UPDATE (10 November): Duane Smith comments at Abnormal Interests.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Ph.D. scholarships in Divinity at University of St. Andrews

PH.D. SCHOLARSHIPS in Divinity at the University of St. Andrews:
*PhD Scholarships in Divinity for 2011 Session*

The School of Divinity is delighted to be offering the following PhD Scholarships once again for applicants intending to commence in the 2011-12 academic session:

* The Matthew Black Scholarship: for a student working in the field
of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible;
* The Donald M. Baillie Scholarship: for a student working in the
field of Theology;
* The Richard Bauckham Scholarship: for a student working in the
field of New Testament Studies;
* The Emanuel Tov Scholarship: for a student working in the field of
Text Criticism in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible;
* The Queen Margaret of Scotland Scholarship: for a student working
in any field of Divinity;
* The Lady Kenmure Scholarship: for a student working in any field
of Divinity.

Each scholarship covers tuition fees for a UK or EU student, or a contribution of around £3500 per annum towards overseas tuition fees for a student from outside the EU.

An additional stipend of £3000 per annum (£1000 in the case of the Emanuel Tov scholarship) will be offered to each recipient for three years. The Matthew Black scholar will engage in Hebrew language teaching in years 2 and 3 of his/her residency, the Richard Bauckham scholar in equivalent teaching of Greek. The Donald M. Baillie scholar will contribute similarly to the School’s undergraduate teaching programme in Theology. The Queen Margaret and Lady Kenmure scholars will undertake equivalent teaching and/or research assistance work as invited by the Head of School. The Tov scholar will be supervised by Professor Kristin De Troyer, and will provide research assistance to her.

The successful candidates will join a rapidly expanding School of Divinity postgraduate programme. No separate application process for the scholarships is required. All applications for doctoral studies will automatically be considered, and awards will be made on merit. Further information is available from Ms Margot Clement, Postgraduate Secretary

Obituaries for Ehud Netzer

OBITUARIES FOR EHUD NETZER have been published in the New York Times, the LA Times and the Telegraph. From the Telegraph:
Ehud Netzer

Ehud Netzer, who died on October 28 aged 76, was an Israeli archaeologist who spent his career in pursuit of one of the Bible's most reviled figures; having at last discovered his quarry's tomb, however, Netzer concluded that Herod the Great was not so much a monster as a man of "outstanding talent".

Published: 5:45PM GMT 05 Nov 2010

It was a dramatic reappraisal of Herod, Rome's gore-soaked client king who ruled Judaea from about 37BC and is thought to have butchered a host of adversaries and rivals, including several members of his own family. He is infamous for the Massacre of the Innocents – the murder of newborns in Bethlehem which Matthew's Gospel records was ordered by Herod to eliminate Jesus.

The fact that Herod is thought to have died in 4BC, well before the usually claimed birth date of Christ, has not helped to clear his name or rescue his reputation. But Netzer, in excavating a series of monumental sites in the Holy Land, was central in shedding light on a less bloody aspect of Herod's rule – presenting him as a visionary "builder-king" who was able to marshal resources and men both to negotiate the political intrigues of his day and leave an architectural legacy that has endured for 2,000 years.

Background here and here.

Steinsaltz Talmud completed

THE STEINSALTZ TALMUD has been completed:
Steinsaltz completes Hebrew translation of the Talmud
The completion of this feat was marked on Sunday with the Global Day of Jewish learning.

By Haaretz Service

Forty-five years after beginning his monumental quest to translate the Babylonian Talmud into from its archaic Aramaic into contemporary Hebrew, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz has completed the task.

The completion of this feat was marked on Sunday with the Global Day of Jewish learning.
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

The six-continent event kicked off with a life broadcast of Steinsaltz completing the final words of the translation.


Sunday, November 07, 2010

Israeli High Court rejects petition re Waqf destruction on Temple Mount

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH – I don't remember hearing about this case before:
Suit Rejected; Destruction of Temple-Era Finds to Continue

by Maayana Miskin (Arutz 7)
Follow Israel news on Twitter and Facebook.

The High Court ruled against the Israel Law Center this week in a petition aimed at stopping the destruction of Jewish artifacts dating back to the Temple era. The court ruled that the destruction cannot be stopped using private prosecution. In addition to rejecting the private case against the Islamic Wakf Authority on the Temple Mount, the High Court rejected the Israel Law Center's demand that the attorney general be ordered to take action against the Temple Mount destruction.

The Israel Law Center (Shurat HaDin) had filed suit against the Wakf on behalf of 150 Israeli citizens. Charges were filed over the Wakf's use of bulldozers to carry out unauthorized construction in the area, despite archaeologists' warnings that the machinery was demolishing ancient Jewish artifacts.

There's additional background in this article:
Islamic Wakf Authority Accused of Deliberately Destroys Jewish Artifacts

Posted by Shinta Dewi on November 6th, 2010 — The Israel Law Center (Shurat HaDin) filed a suit against the Islamic Wakf Authority on the Temple Mount at the Israeli High Court aimed at stopping the destruction of Jewish artifacts from the Temple era. But the Israeli High Court ruled out the petition saying that private prosecution can not be used to stop the destruction.

More on the Waqf's illicit excavations here and follow the many links.

UPDATE (11 November): More here.

Inscriptifact updates

INSCRIPTIFACT UPDATES – Bruce Zuckerman e-mails:
Thought everyone might be interested in an article I just posted and which can be downloaded at:

The reason the article needs to be downloaded is that it contains a lot of animated illustrations and is therefore too big simply to send as an attachment.

It is written in In-Design and readable through Adobe Reader 9 or higher (which, if you don't have it, is a free download, as is explained in the cover note on the site).

There are distinct limitations to what one can do in this format, but it was, to date, the best one I could find for an article of this nature.

This article (expanded from a print version in the recently published Rediscovering the Dead Sea Scrolls [Eerdmans 2010] edited by Maxine Grossman) summarizes my perspective on the methodological issues involved with the study of DSS in a digital environment using the currently available imaging tools.

Featured in the article (toward the end) are "reflectance transformation images" of the Dead Sea Scrolls we photographed in the Syrian Orthodox Church collection in Teaneck NJ. As far as I am aware, these images are the first RTI images ever done of DSS. The impact of RTI imaging—especially for the paleography of DSS—is preliminarily assessed in the article.

At the same time, InscriptiFact (8.6) has just been released and this contains a comprehensive set of ALL the images we did in NJ, including RTI images.

InscriptiFact 8.6 is a major upgrade that has been moved to a new server with new hardware. So it needs to be reinstalled by ALL users. It also contains a full set of images of the "Vision of Gabriel" inscription, more images of the Persepolis Fortification Archive and many other things as well.

For current InscriptiFact users, it will be necessary to go to

and click on the "InscriptiFact Banner" to reinstall the database. It should take less than a minute.

Those who wish to register for InscriptiFact for the first time, should go to and download and send in a signed "Use Agreement" (either as a PDF attachment, a fax, or even by conventional mail) as instructed. They will be assigned a user name and password which will be sent to them by email. Use of InscriptiFact is free of charge.

Anyone who encounters difficulty downloading or using my article, should contact me at

Should anyone run into technical glitches reinstalling InscriptiFact they should contact Li Hunt at
For more on Professor Zuckerman's work, go here and here and follow the links.