Saturday, November 23, 2013

DSS in Utah

OPENED YESTERDAY: The Leo rolls out the Dead Sea Scrolls (Jaime Winston,

Background here with many links.

Modi'in in the news

HANUKKAH | Modi’in struggles to preserve its ancient Maccabean history (judy lash balint,
Modi’in is a town mentioned in the Mishnah as home to the Maccabees of Hanukkah fame, and where the oldest synagogue in Israel was discovered. But it is also the Jewish state’s largest planned community and bills itself as “The City of the Future.”

Reconciling those two aspects of Modi’in is at the heart of a struggle playing itself out on local, national and international levels, as archeologists and preservationists try to raise awareness of Modi’in’s rich Hanukkah-related history and preserve ancient sites, while most city and government officials are focused on developing services for today’s residents.

The specific site of ancient Modi'in remains debated among specialists, but Umm el-Umdan definitely has some important ancient architecture from the Maccabean era.

Background here and links.

Postdoc at the Hebrew University:

The Center for the Study of Christianity at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem invites applications for a postdoctoral research fellowship in one of the following areas of study:

* New Testament, Early Christianity, its literature and Jewish context

* Eastern Christianity

* Christianity in Palestine/Eretz-Israel (in all fields and throughout its entire history)

* Jewish-Christian relations

What the CSC is offering:

* The successful candidate will be awarded for one year (or 6 months), beginning on 1 September 2014, a grant **of $2000 per month

* Travel expenses

* Library privileges at the Hebrew University
The deadline for application is 1 February 2014. Follow the link for full application details etc.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fine, Art, History and the Historiography of Judaism in Roman Antiquity

Art, History and the Historiography of Judaism in Roman Antiquity

Steven Fine, Yeshiva University
Art, History, and the Historiography of Judaism in Roman Antiquity
explores the complex interplay between visual culture, texts, and their interpretations, arguing for an open-ended and self-aware approach to understanding Jewish culture from the first century CE through the rise of Islam. The essays assembled here range from the “thick description” of Josephus’s portrayal of Bezalel son of Uri as a Roman architect through the inscriptions of the Dura Europos synagogue, Jewish reflections on Caligula in color, the polychromy of the Jerusalem temple and new-old approaches to the zodiac, and to the Christian destruction of ancient synagogues. Taken together, these essays suggest a humane approach to the history of the Jews in an age of deep and long-lasting transitions—both in antiquity, and in our own time.

SBL 2013

I'M OFF TO BALTIMORE for the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature.

This year I am responding to several reviews of my new book, co-edited with Richard Bauckham and Alexander Panayotov, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, Volume one (on which much background here and links). Here is the information on the session:
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
334 - Convention Center

Theme: Review session, R. Bauckham, J. Davila, A. Panayotov, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, Volume One

Judith Newman, University of Toronto, Presiding (5 min)
John Collins, Yale University, Panelist (20 min)
Liv Ingeborg Lied, Det Teologiske Menighetsfakultet, Panelist (20 min)
Robert Kraft, University of Pennsylvania, Panelist (20 min)
Hindy Najman, Yale University, Panelist (20 min)
James Davila, University of St. Andrews, Respondent (25 min)
Note that both the online and the paper Program Books have some inaccuracies in this entry. They omit Professor Najman, give the respondents in the wrong order, and assign incorrect times to each presentation. Please go by the information given above. Also, Professor Lied provides a foretaste of her review here.

If you are attending SBL this year, we hope to see you there.

As usual, I will blog as much as time permits during the conference. Also as usual, I have pre-posted something for each day I'm away, so do keep visiting PaleoJudaica over the next week.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Horn (ed.), The Bible, the Qur'an, & Their Interpretation: Syriac Perspectives

Cornelia Horn (ed.), The Bible, the Qur'an, & Their Interpretation: Syriac Perspectives (Abelian)

As Sacred Scriptures for the believer, the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Qur'an inspire and guide billions of faithful women and men, young and old, across the globe. One of the exceptionally fruitful contexts in which the reception, interpretation, transmission of, and engagement with these holy texts flourished was in the Syriac-speaking milieu. The articles collected in this volume illuminate the critical contribution of Syriac studies to understanding important aspects of reading Jewish, Christian, and Islamic sacred texts in historical contexts. They open the reader's imagination to the contribution of the Syriac-speaking world for the cross-fertilization of these sacred texts and their interpretation.


Women's work in ancient Israel

HAARETZ: What's changed? Nothing: In ancient Israel, women did all the work. How did the people of the ancient Levant really live? For women, it was grinding on their haunches. ( Miriam Feinberg Vamosh). The headline, for which the author is obviously not responsible, mischaracterizes the content of the article on a number of counts. The point of the article is that running a household in antiquity was vastly more work than today, and that work fell to women. Excerpt:
Grain can actually be eaten fresh, but only in early spring, when it’s still green and full of sugar. It can also be toasted, which is the way Ruth and Boaz enjoyed it on their first lunch date (Ruth 2:14: At mealtime Boaz said to her, Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar. When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain.) Turning it into bread was a lot harder. The earliest food processor in history was a grinding stone, the likes of which have been found in excavations going back many thousands of years. Scholars say that even though the baking itself took only a few minutes after plastering the raw dough on the inside walls of the oven, it probably took a woman about three hours to produce enough flour for a minimum-sized household of six.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Yom Kippur in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSH IN TABLET: The Talmud’s Yom Kippur, With Sacrifice and Blood, Is Nothing Like Jewish Ritual Today. The rabbinic tradition arose from the fact that the Bible doesn’t tell us what we need to know to lead our lives.
But the Yom Kippur we read about in the Talmud is not exactly the Yom Kippur Jews experience today. For the last 2,000 years, the Day of Atonement has been observed with prayer and fasting. But in the days when the Temple stood, the heart of Yom Kippur was an elaborate daylong ritual performed by the high priest, the Kohen Gadol. This involved animal sacrifice, confession of sins, and the sprinkling of blood in the Holy of Holies, the innermost chamber of the Temple; and most of Tractate Yoma is consumed with getting the details of this ceremony exactly right. Unlike Eruvin, then, which is intensely practical in its focus on what ordinary Jews can and can’t do on Shabbat, Yoma is highly abstract. It is about a ceremony that hasn’t been performed for 2,000 years and that even then was performed by just one man out of the whole Jewish people.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

DSS interview

RISA LEVITT KOHN, co-curator of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition currently about to open in Utah, is interviewed by Brian Staker in the Salt Lake City Weekly: The Dead Sea Scrolls: The Leonardo's exhibition brings the time of biblical writing to life.

Background here and links.

Day-Conference on Polemic in the Study of Jews and Judaism

Call for Papers - Warring Words: Rethinking Polemic in the Study of Jews and Judaism
Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference
University of Pennsylvania, Jewish Studies Program, Thursday, March 20, 2014
[organized by Marc Herman, Rachel Ellis, and Phillip Fackler]

There exists a strong scholarly consensus that polemic has played a central role in Jewish history. Whether we consider polemics involving Samaritans, Christians, Qaraites, Muslims, Haskalah thinkers, Zionists, “the nations,” or contemporary group identity formation, polemical forms of argumentation and representation have been widespread in thinking about Jews and Judaism. However, this scholarly consensus often obfuscates rather than clarifies, preventing the category of polemic from receiving careful scrutiny. The label “polemic” can render certain aspects of a text unproblematic or irrelevant, because scholars frequently view polemic as a dishonest form of argumentation that bears little or no relationship to a writer’s “real” views. To move this situation forward, scholars must begin to ask the following questions. How can scholars identify polemic and delimit its boundaries? Does the label polemic imply that a given author actually held different views? How is that view identified? Are there limits to polemic, either based on reasonableness or believability? Do consumers of polemic share the scholarly skepticism of polemic or recognize the rhetorical strategies at play? What role does relationship with a real or imagined “Other” play in constructing identity?

This one-day graduate student conference at the University of Pennsylvania will focus on these and similar questions. It will feature Dr. Elisheva Carlebach as the keynote speaker and students of different periods and disciplines in the study of Judaism and Jewish history who will bring different data to bear on these theoretical questions. This one-day event will be held on Thursday, March 20, 2014.

Proposals should be 500-800 words, and include a title, description of the specific materials studied and method, and a statement of thesis. Relevant papers might investigate specific texts, monuments, movements, people, or examples from material culture from any period of Jewish history, including contemporary research, with an eye toward the theoretical and methodological issues raised by problematizing the category of polemic. Papers may focus on any aspect of Jews and Judaism, from any perspective. We welcome submissions from graduate students both affiliated with and outside the University of Pennsylvania. Selected papers will receive small travel stipends.

Please submit proposals to by January 6, 2014.
(HT Annette Yoshiko Reed on the PSCO list.)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Gold cuneiform tablet again

APPEAL VERDICT: NY court rules ancient gold tablet belongs to Berlin museum, not Holocaust survivor’s heirs (AP).

Background here and links.


LARRY HURTADO: Jesus’ Wife Fragment: What’s Happening? I was asking the same question back in April. Crickets still chirping.

That said, I don't think I've yet mentioned Anthony Le Donne's new book, The Wife of Jesus: Ancient Texts and Modern Scandals (Oneworld, 2013), so there it is.

Additional background on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife is here and keep following the links back.

More on Bible Secrets Revealed

MARK GOODACRE: Bible Secrets Revealed on History Channel, Wednesday. That would have been Wednesday the 13th, so the first episode has aired (in the USA). I've heard some good things about it.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Schröter (ed.), The Apocryphal Gospels within the Context of Early Christian Theology

J. Schröter (ed.) The Apocryphal Gospels (Peeters, 2013)

Recent scholarship has become increasingly aware of the significance of the apocryphal gospels for the transmission and interpretation of the Jesus tradition in the first three or four centuries. Against this background the 60th Colloquium Biblicum Lovaniense was devoted to these texts and their role and status in the formation of the New Testament Canon. The present volume contains the proceedings of the conference. Some of its contributions deal with well-known apocryphal gospels as, e.g., the Gospels of Thomas, Mary, Peter or Judas. Other essays treat thematic aspects, such as the influence of Platonic tradition, the way Jesus is presented in these gospels, or his dialogues with his (male and female) disciples. Important facets of the present volume are also early traditions about Jesus, e.g., in the so-called Infancy Gospels or in texts on the Mary. The volume thus gives an extensive overview of important areas of current research on the apocryphal gospels within early Christian theology.