Saturday, June 18, 2011

Targuman posts translation of Targum Ruth

TARGUMAN has posted a draft of his new translation of the Targum to Ruth.

Leptis Magna used as archaeological shield by Gaddafi

PHOENICIAN AND PUNIC WATCH: Col. Gaddafi is reported to be using at least one archaeological site as a shield for armaments:
A petty tyrant hides behind the relics of a magnificent civilisation

Historian Bettany Hughes worries for the future of Leptis Magna, as Colonel Gaddafi moves his tanks among the treasures.

By Bettany Hughes (The Telegraph)

7:00AM BST 18 Jun 2011

... Rebel forces in Libya reported this week that Colonel Gaddafi is using the site as an archaeological shield. Missiles, launchers and troops are, they say, snuggled among columns, corridors and archways. Nato forces – in Gaddafi’s reckoning – won’t bomb them, or his men. Clever. They won’t. But if Gaddafi is holding explosives in this World Heritage Site, a single stray cigarette butt could kick start a sequence that sends it all up in smoke.

The loss of Leptis would be unthinkable. Founded by Phoenician traders in the Bronze Age, the city-complex has been a theatre of power and pleasure, of indulgence and intellect for more than 3,000 years. It is one of the best-preserved ancient sites in the Mediterranean. Ruled by Carthage for centuries, the Romans quickly conquered it. Recent discoveries include an eye-wateringly exquisite series of Roman-period mosaics, where warriors hound animals and a spent gladiator lords it over the corpse of his sparring partner. It was a local boy, Septimius Severus, who in the 2nd century AD really made Leptis roar, rebuilding the forum and the port – as Roman emperor he promoted the city to the premier league. Leptis is a megalithic incarnation of this region’s high-octane, personality-driven history.

Aerial bombardment of the site with water balloons filled with refined liquid putrescine would clear it pretty quickly of people, and then the weaponry wouldn't matter much. The ruins wouldn't mind. No one ever listens to me about these things.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A little daily Hekhalot is good for you

A LITTLE DAILY HEKHALOT is good for you and helps keep the dangerous angels at bay. I hope Jared Calaway makes this a series. With MOTP volume one out of the way, I begin a year of research leave soon in which I aim to finish my translation of the Hekhalot literature.

More on the completion of the CAD

MORE ON THE COMPLETION OF THE CHICAGO ASSYRIAN DICTIONARY from Chuck Jones at the Oriental Institute blog.

Background here.

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron coming to the West

ARCHANGEL METATRON WATCH: El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is being released in North America on 26 July and in Europe on 9 September. This demo review has a detailed description and lots of images. I can't play the video here, but it may work where you are.

Background here.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Reveiw of Garber, "The Jewish Jesus"

Jesus for Jews

By Eve Levavi Feinstein (Jewish Ideas Daily)

That Jesus lived and died a Jew would hardly be regarded as news by most educated Jews and Christians today. Still, while the historical Jesus is ever-elusive, the figure of Jesus, for Jews, has become more accessible. The pronounced decline of Christian anti-Semitism in our day has allowed for more freedom to discuss not only the tortuous and changing relationship of Jews to the Church, but also to its founder and the central figure of its concern: namely, Jesus.

The past half-decade has seen a spate of books on the topic written by Jews, with titles like The Misunderstood Jew and From Rebel to Rabbi. In 2007, the Christian scholar Peter Schafer published a challenging study on the place of Jesus in the Talmud. The newest entry in the field is a collection of essays edited by Zev Garber, The Jewish Jesus: Revelation, Reflection, Reclamation.

While the collection is composed in part of papers presented at a 2009 symposium, the word "reclamation" is a tip-off that the editor's interest in the subject is not merely academic. The Church's task, as represented in this volume, is to foster a more positive and respectful relationship with those who, according to the book's dedication, "practice the faith of Jesus." For Jews, acknowledgment of Jesus' Jewishness opens the door to a deeper and more constructive relationship with those who, in turn, "believe by faith in Jesus." In short, reflection on the Jewishness of Jesus promises to serve as the basis for enhanced Jewish-Christian dialogue.


Antiquities looters caught

Antiquities Robbers Caught Red Handed

by Hebrew site (Arutz Sheva)

The Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Theft in the Antiquities Authority has staged a successful operation in which Arab antiquities robbers were caught red-handed while digging at an archaeological site, where they were attempting to plunder archaeological findings.


The action was taken following a severe wave of theft digs in the area of the Elah Valley near Beit Shemesh. According to archaeologist Alon Klein, who commanded the operation, the gang had been digging in at least three other sites that all contain Jewish artifacts from the 2nd Temple, up to 70 C.E. and Bar-Kochba Rebellion, ca. 132 C.E. periods.


Quotations from Lost Books in the Hebrew Bible

HERE'S MY HANDOUT for my keynote paper at the St Andrews Graduate Conference, being presented even as this post appears:
    Lost Books Cited in the Pentateuch
  • The Book of the Wars of YHWH plus a work song (Num 21:14-18a)
  • Excerpt from an Amorite Victory Song (Num 21:27-39)

    Lost Books Cited in The Deuteronomistic History
  • The Book of the Righteous (The Book of Jashar) or The Book of the Song (Josh 10:12-13a; 2 Sam 1:17-27; 1 Kgs 8:12-13 MT // 1 Kgs 8:53a LXX)
  • A book on the conduct of the kingship (1 Sam 10:25)
  • The sapiential works of Solomon (1 Kgs 5:12-13 [Evv 4:32-33])
  • The Book of the Acts of Solomon (1 Kgs 11:41)
  • The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel (1 Kgs 14:19; 15:31; 16:5, 14, 20, 27; 22:39; 2 Kgs 1:18; 10:34; 13:8, 12; 14:15, 28; 15:11, 15, 21, 26, 31)
  • The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah (1 Kgs 14:29; 15:7a, 23a; 22:46; 2 Kgs 8:23; 12:20 [Evv 12:19]; 14:18; 15:6, 36; 16:19; 20:20; 21:17, 25; 23:28; 24:5)

    Lost Books Cited in 1-2 Chronicles
  • The Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah (2 Chr 27:7; 35:26-27; 36:8a)
  • The Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel (2 Chr 16:11; 25:26; 28:26; 32:32)
  • The Book of the Kings of Israel (1 Chr 9:1a; 2 Chr 20:34)
  • The Midrash of the Book of Kings (2 Chr 24:27a)
  • The Acts of the Kings of Israel (2 Chr 33:18)

  • The Acts of Samuel the Seer, The Acts of Nathan the Prophet, and The Acts of Gad the Visionary (1 Chr 29:29-30)
  • The Acts of Nathan the Prophet, The Prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and The Visions of Jeddo the Visionary Concerning Jeroboam Son of Nebat (2 Chr 9:29)
  • The Acts of Shemiah the Prophet and Iddo the Visionary for Enrollment by Genealogy (2 Chr 12:15a)
  • The Midrash of the Prophet Iddo (2 Chr 13:22)
  • The Acts of Uzziah (2 Chr 26:22)
  • The Words of the Visionaries (2 Chr 33:19)

    The Chronicler's sources as a single digest of The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel and The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?

  • The Book of the Chronicles of King David (1 Chr 27:23-24)
  • King David's plan from YHWH for the Temple (1 Chr 28:19)
  • Writings of David and Solomon on the divisions of the Levites (2 Chr 35:4)

  • The Laments of Jeremiah and the singers over King Josiah (2 Chr 35:25)
Just to get you thinking. You will have to wait until Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures volume one comes out to read the full article.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Test results on the new Jordan metal codices

FAKE METAL CODICES WATCH: News from the Jordan Times:
Tests support 'Jordan texts' authenticity

By Taylor Luck

AMMAN - Preliminary lab results indicate that a collection of metal books unearthed in northern Jordan may indeed represent the earliest Christian texts ever discovered, according to experts.

According to the Department of Antiquities (DoA), initial carbon tests to determine the authenticity of lead-sealed metal books billed as the greatest find in biblical archaeology since the Dead Sea scrolls have been “encouraging”.

“We really believe that we have evidence from this analysis to prove that these materials are authentic,” DoA Director Ziad Saad told The Jordan Times.

The tests, carried out at the Royal Scientific Society labs, indicate that the texts may date back to the early first century AD, at a time when Christians took refuge from persecution on the east bank of the Jordan River.

The codices, which were retrieved by Jordanian security services from the black market last month, are believed to be part of a greater cache of 70 lead-sealed books allegedly uncovered in Jordan and smuggled across the River Jordan into Israel.


Efforts to repatriate the texts from Israel are pending the final results of the carbon dating, currently being carried out at the University of New Mexico, the Getty Conservation Institute and Sheffield University.
This needs to be taken apart piece by piece.

1. The claim is that the new metal codices in the hands of the Jordanian Government are part of the same cache as those announced back in March. I take them at their word, but no proof has yet been advanced.

2. What's this about "carbon tests" and "carbon dating" on metal plates? Carbon-14 dating is applied to organic material. Is there organic material, such as leather scroll, associated with these plates? Or, more likely, has someone made a careless mistake here?

3. Assuming the latter, it appears that the current tests indicate that the metal of the plates is ancient. It has been known for a long time that the fake metal codices may be made of genuinely ancient metal. The first report, on 3 March, in the Jewish Chronicle (cf. here), reported this:
Undeterred, Mr Feather instead cites the findings of Peter Northover, a metals analyst at Oxford University. Conducting tests on two samples of metal from one book, Dr Northover concluded that their composition was "consistent with a range of ancient lead," and that it was clear from the surface corrosion that the book was "not a recent production".

The IAA remains unconvinced, arguing that the metal could have been taken from an ancient coffin while the messages could have been fabricated later.
This test was done privately and has not been published. The IAA has replied adequately: such ancient metal is available and could be used for such forgeries, so the new test does not tell us anything very interesting.

4. As has been noted here and elsewhere many times, one of the codices in the original cache is a clumsy, transparent fake. Some of the other codices in this cache have their own problems that cast serious doubt on their authenticity and most or all of them have stylistic and iconographic features that tie them closely to each other and to the obvious fake codex. In other words, at least most of them are fakes, although quite possibly fakes inscribed in the modern period on ancient metal.

5. If the current reports that these new codices are from the same cache is correct (and aside from this vague assertion we have been told nothing else about them), all indicators are that they are fakes too.

6. I have summarized the case against the authenticity of the first set of metal codices here. It is telling that no one defending the authenticity of these texts has made any effort to reply to these problems. Mr. Elkington did make the ridiculous assertion that Dr. Thonemann was not qualified to comment because he is a Greek classicist rather than a biblical scholar. In case you're wondering, Greek classicists are generally considered qualified to comment on (purportedly) ancient Greek texts. Also, biblical scholars mainly take interest in texts that have some clear connection with the Bible, which these metal codices do not. Oh, and Mr. Elkington also said that the photographs are not very good. And whose fault is that? In any case, the forged Greek text is entirely readable, despite the forger's poor knowledge of Greek.

So, to sum up, the fake metal codices are still fake (see the first link in point 6 above for nuancing), and if the new discoveries are part of the same cache, it is likely that they are fakes as well, albeit fakes inscribed on ancient metal.

Recent background here, here, and here and follow those links.

UPDATE: Tom Verenna fills out the point about C-14 dating. His link to "Jona" is here. He also notes that Jim West and Robert Deutsch have new photographs that raise further doubts about the authenticity of the plates.

At St Andrews Graduate Conference

I'M AT THE 1ST ST ANDREWS CONFERENCE FOR BIBLICAL AND EARLY CHRISTIAN STUDIES today and tomorrow. Probably won't have much time for blogging.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

News on the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project

NEWS ON THE MORE OLD TESTAMENT PSEUDEPIGRAPHA PROJECT: I am very happy to announce that the first volume of texts edited for the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project has been sent to the publisher (Eerdmans) and we anticipate its publication within the next year. Below is a flier being circulated at the conference tomorrow which gives some additional details, and below that is a list of the table of contents of the volume.

A second volume is underway, but it will be some time before it comes out.


The More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha project at the University of St. Andrews ( has assembled an international team of scholars to translate a new collection of Old Testament pseudepigrapha. The project is headed by Professor James R. Davila and Professor Emeritus Richard Bauckham, with Dr. Alexander Panayotov as co-editor. The "Old Testament pseudepigrapha," as the term is now commonly used, are ancient books that claim to be written by a character in the Old Testament or set in the same time period as the Old Testament and recount narratives related to it, but which do not belong to the Jewish, Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant biblical canons. The Project is publishing two new volumes of pseudepigrapha, most of which were not included in the massive two-volume collection edited by James H. Charlesworth or the important collection edited by H. F. D. Sparks, both published in the 1980s. (The few overlaps are cases where we have significant new manuscript data or we believe that a text requires a new treatment for other reasons.)

Our new corpus consists of about 100 documents, about two-thirds of which are complete and the rest are fragments or quotations. They include apocalypses—angelic revelations to prophets and sages such as Elijah, Ezra, and Daniel; magical, oracular, exorcistic and mantic works attributed to prophets and sages such as Moses, David, Solomon, the Sibyl, and Jeremiah; songs and poetry attributed to Old Testament characters, especially David; "rewritten scripture" that retells stories known from the Old Testament from the fall of Adam and Eve to the deaths of the Maccabean martyrs; legends and tales set in the Old Testament period and usually, although not always, involving Old Testament characters such as Enoch, Melchizedek, Levi, and even the antediluvian giants; and various other obscure and intriguing works, including a legendary account of the hiding places of the Temple treasures, lost pre-exilic oracles of the seer Balaam, and a legend of how all human knowledge was preserved in the Great Pyramid during the Flood. The first volume of texts is now in press with Eerdmans and is slated to be published by mid-2012 under the title Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures.

The Old Testament pseudepigrapha are an important and much neglected part of the biblical tradition. The earliest were written down at the same time and in the same geographic area as the Hebrew Bible, and some are even cited therein. They continued to be composed and copied throughout antiquity and the Middle Ages and, indeed, new pseudepigrapha are still being written in the modern era. The corpus being published in these two volumes adds a great many texts to those already known from the earlier collections and together with them provides the reader with virtually all known surviving pseudepigrapha written before the rise of Islam. Some of these compositions provide us with fascinating background material to the New Testament. Others are a rich source of information on the reception history of the Hebrew Bible by Jews, Christians, and pagans through late antiquity. They frequently give us different perspectives from those found in writings of the same period which later acquired an authoritative status in Judaism (the rabbinic literature) and Christianity (the patristic literature). Together they present us with the sacred legends and spiritual reflections of numerous long-dead authors whose works were lost, neglected, or suppressed for many centuries. By making these documents available in excellent English translations and authoritative but accessible introductions we aim both to promote more scholarly study of them and to bring them to the attention of the vast lay audience who appreciate such treasures.

Table of contents of volume one:

James H. Charlesworth

Richard Bauckham and James R. Davila



Adam Octipartite/Septipartite
Grant Macaskill with Eamon Greenwood

The Life of Adam and Eve (Coptic Fragments)
Simon J. Gathercole

The Book of the Covenant
James VanderKam

The Apocryphon of Seth
Alexander Toepel

The Book of Noah
Martha Himmelfarb

The Apocryphon of Eber
James VanderKam

The Dispute over Abraham
Richard Bauckham

The Inquiry of Abraham
Richard Bauckham

The Story of Melchizedek
with the Melchizedek Legend from the Chronicon Paschale
Pierluigi Piovanelli

The Syriac History of Joseph
Kristian S. Heal

Aramaic Levi
James R. Davila

Midrash Vayissa‘u
Martha Himmelfarb

The Testament of Job (Coptic Fragments)
Gesa Schenke

The Tiburtine Sibyl (Greek)
Rieuwerd Buitenwerf

The Eighth Book of Moses
Todd E. Klutz

The Balaam Text from Tell Deir ‘Allā
Edward M. Cook

Eldad and Modad
Richard Bauckham

Songs of David
G. W. Lorein and E. Van Staalduine-Sulman

The Aramaic Song of the Lamb (Dialogue between David and Goliath)
C. T. R. Hayward

Exorcistic Psalms of David and Solomon
Gideon Bohak

The Selendromion of David and Solomon
Pablo A. Torijano

The Hygromancy of Solomon
Pablo A. Torijano

Questions of the Queen of Sheba and Answers by King Solomon
Vahan S. Hovhanessian and Sebastian P. Brock

The Nine and a Half Tribes
Richard Bauckham

The Heartless Rich Man and the Precious Stone
William Adler

Jeremiah's Prophecy to Pashhur
Darrell D. Hannah

The Apocryphon of Ezekiel
Benjamin G. Wright III

The Treatise of the Vessels (Massekhet Kelim)
James R. Davila

The Seventh Vision of Daniel
Sergio La Porta

A Danielic Pseudepigraphon Paraphrased by Papias
Basil Lourié

The Relics of Zechariah and the Boy Buried at His Feet
William Adler

Sefer Zerubbabel: The Prophetic Vision of Zerubbabel ben Shealtiel
John C. Reeves

Fifth Ezra
Theodore A. Bergren

Sixth Ezra
Theodore A. Bergren

The Latin Vision of Ezra
Richard Bauckham


The Cave of Treasures
Alexander Toepel

Palaea Historica ("The Old Testament History")
William Adler

Quotations from Lost Books in the Hebrew Bible
with an Excursus on Quotations from Lost Books in the New Testament
James R. Davila

Hebrew Visions of Hell and Paradise
Helen Spurling

Origen's Hexapla online

ORIGEN'S HEXAPLA, or what was left of it in 1875, is online:
Origenis Hexaplorum quae supersunt
sive, Veterum interpretum Graecorum in totum Vetus Testamentum fragmenta. Post Flaminium Nogilium, Drusium, et Montefalconium, adhibita etiam versione syro-hexaplari, concinnavit, emendavit, et multis partibus auxit Fridericus Field.

Published 1875 by E typographeo Clarendoniano in Oxonii .

Table of Contents
I. Prolegomena. Genesis-Esther.
II. Jobus-Malachias. Auctarium et indices.
(HT James Harding on FB.)

The Hexapla Institute is currently working on a new edition of the Hexapla which contains material discovered after Fields's time.

James McGrath: Harmonizing Judas with Doctor Who

JAMES MCGRATH is Harmonizing Judas With Doctor Who and he has tagged me on Facebook to participate. I'm pretty busy with two conferences in the next fortnight, but I'll see if inspiration strikes me.

Duane Smith on the philology of the serpent's craftiness

DUANE SMITH looks at the philology of the serpent's craftiness over at Abnormal Interests:
ערום In Old Greek And Even Older Greek

Targum Onkelos for Genesis 3:1a Reads Something

Sex in the OT Pseudepigrapha

WHY DIDN'T I THINK OF THIS? Tablet Magazine has a reviewlet of a new book on sex in the Old Testament pseudepigrapha:
Modern ideas about Jews’ and women’s sexuality can be complex and strange, but some of the images that circulated in antiquity were downright bizarre. William Loader demonstrates this in The Pseudepigrapha on Sexuality (Eerdmans, March), the third installation in his vast five-volume project “exploring attitudes toward sexuality in Judaism and Christianity during the Greco-Roman era.” In The Testament of Solomon, a pseudepigraphical text believed to have been composed sometime in the first four centuries of the common era, the notoriously polygamous Jewish monarch encounters a group of demons. One of them, named Onoskelis, is “a female demon of mixed form, a human woman with the legs of an ass,” who gleefully explains, “Sometimes I strangle men; sometimes I pervert them from their true natures.” Just imagine how much more trouble Weiner might have gotten himself into if she were still around.

The BBC on the CAD

Dictionary of dead language complete after 90 years

By Cordelia Hebblethwaite BBC News

Five volumes of 21 volumes of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary. Photo by Jason Smith The first volumes of the dictionary were published in the 1950s

A dictionary of the extinct language of ancient Mesopotamia has been completed after 90 years of work.

Assyrian and Babylonian - dialects of the language collectively known as Akkadian - have not been spoken for almost 2,000 years.

"This is a heroic and significant moment in history," beamed Dr Irving Finkel of the British Museum's Middle East department.

As a young man in the 1970s Dr Finkel dedicated three years of his life to The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary Project which is based at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

That makes him something of a spring chicken in the life story of this project, which began in 1921.

Background here. More on Dr. Finkel here.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Photo: Samaritans Celebrate The Festival Of Shavuot In The West Bank

PHOTO: Samaritans Celebrate The Festival Of Shavuot In The West Bank.

A Byzantine-era building at Acre

Archaeologists unearth Acre church from the Byzantine Period

Discovery of public structure in north Israel city is breakthrough, first time Christian structure has been unearthed in Acre, a city said to have been highly influential in early years of Christianity.

By Jack Khoury (Haaretz)
The headline pretty much says it. But an earlier IAA press release was more cautious about calling it a church.

BMCR: Mason, Josephus, Judea, and Christian Origins

Steve Mason, Josephus, Judea, and Christian Origins: Methods and Categories. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2009. Pp. xx, 443. ISBN 9781598562545. $34.95.

Reviewed by Livia Capponi, Newcastle University (

This book collects various papers that were previously published in not easily accessible places. These papers have been rearranged by Mason in three parts, the first on the interpretation and historical use of Josephus, the second on Judean society, and the third on Christian origins and the Gospels. The concern for method and categories is present throughout the book. It is a lucid reappraisal of the earlier scholarship on these subjects, and its clarity and lucidity make it an extremely useful tool for both students and scholars in ancient history.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Happy 30th to Raiders of the Lost Ark

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK turns 30 today. In honor of the anniversary, Brian Mciver gives us Raiders of the Lost Archives - 30 things you didn't know about Indiana Jones. Note that number 7 has missing bits of number 14 in it.

UPDATE: The original cinema trailer for Raiders is here. And here's another Indiana Jones tidbit: Archaeology's Tech Revolution Since Indiana Jones. Cross-file under "Technology Watch" and take the part about the 17 pyramids with a grain of salt.

St Andrews Conference on Authoritative Texts and Reception History

CONFERENCE REMINDER: The 1st St Andrews Graduate Conference for Biblical and Early Christian Studies: Authoritative Texts and Reception History: Aspects and Approaches is on Wednesday and Thursday of this coming week at the Divinity School of the University of St Andrews. Follow the link for the schedule. I am one of the plenary speakers, as are Professor Kristin De Troyer, Professor N. T. Wright, and Dr. Mark Elliott.