Saturday, August 12, 2017

Chabad's citrons — archaeology to the rescue?

CITRON CATASTROPHE: As Italy’s citron crop fails, an archaeologist looks to fruit’s 2,500-year history in Israel. After a disastrous frost that looks to wipe out the majority of this year’s etrog yield, Chabad Jewry braces for a crisis ahead of the Feast of Tabernacles (Amanda Borschel-Dan).
The natural disaster, alongside the closure of the small family citron farms to make way for tourism, make for a dim future for Chabad Jews reliant on this citron, which has been grown in the region for at least 2,000 years.

So perhaps they should look to a place where they have been cultivated for even longer — Israel.

A recent study of the migration of citrus fruit to the Mediterranean region by Tel Aviv University Prof. Dafna Langgut illustrates through archaeobotanical proof that the citron first appeared in Israel, and only about 500 years later in Italy.

Langgut’s discipline of archaeobotany involves the identification of botanical remains in archeological contexts. In the case of the citron (Citrus medica), she and her team discovered pollen from the fruit in a private garden in Jerusalem which dates back to the First Temple period.
It is not clear to me whether Chabad is actually considering using Israeli citrons for Sukkot. The Calabrian ones were prescribed by their late leader Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, so there is considerable authority behind their use. But the losses of the Calabrian citron crop sound catastrophic. I suppose they may need to look to other options.

The discovery of ancient citron pollen at Ramat Rachel was noted here in 2012. For more on the Ramat Rachel excavation, see here and links. And I noted that recent study of the ancient use of citrus fruit, including citrons, here.

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Saving — and conserving — Mosul's manuscripts

SYRIAC (ETC.) WATCH: This priest preserves Iraqi culture found in historic manuscripts (Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency).
Since 1750 many antique manuscripts had been kept in the library of the Dominican monastery in Mosul. They were moved from the monastery starting in 2007, amid the backdrop of increased violence against Christians and other minorities at the hands of extremist groups. The documents include more than 25 subjects, including theology, philosophy, astronomy, medicine, history, and geography, many of which date back to the 10th, 11th, and 12th century in Aramaic, which is the language of Jesus Christ.
Regular readers may remember the story of the rescue of thousands of manuscrips from Mosul by Father Najeeb Michaeel and his colleagues. PaleoJudaica followed it here and here. This article covers those events. It also tells more about the contents of the manuscripts, which are written in "Syriac, Arabic, Turkish, Armenian, Hebrew, Persian, and more." And it brings the story to the present. The rescuers and their coleagues have not been idle.
Rome hosted an exhibit and conference on just a small sample of the many photos and manuscripts June 10-17.

This exhibition was “just a small fragment of what we have in Iraq with respect to manuscripts and archives and materials and photos, because we have as well the largest deposit of photos in Iraq,” Najeeb explained.

The more than 10,000 photos “tell the story of the past: the face, the work and much more,” he continued. “Even the archaeology. And we have many archaeological documents in cuneiform as well, very ancient.”

Since 2009 the Dominicans in Iraq have also partnered with Benedictine monks, who also help with the supply of equipment and organizing internships.

Their internship program has about 10 young university students, Najeeb said, which provides “practical information for true professionals in the field of the restoration of manuscripts, for their protection and digitization, and also the process of storing them and protecting them with sophisticated technology to be able to officially protect them in a scientific way.”
Good news.

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The Talmud in Hungarian

TALMUD WATCH: Hungary Emissary Presents Netanyahu With Translated Talmud (Lubavitch.com). Prime Minister Netanyahu visited Budapest last week.
[Hungary Rabbi Shlomo] Koves presented netanyahu with a copy of the Hungarian Talmud, which was recently published weeks after a decade of work by Hungary’s chief Chabad emissary, Rabbi Boruch Oberlander.

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Jubilees: Isaac, Jacob, the Amorites, and Esau

READING ACTS: Expansions on the Stories of Isaac and Jacob in Jubilees 24-38. Phil Long continues his series on the Book of Jubilees as part of his larger series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. For notice of past posts, start here and follow the links.

The stories of Judah's wars with the Amorites and with his brother Esau and Esau's sons, are not found in the Bible. But, as I have noted here, they do appear elsewhere.

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Privatizing Israeli salvage archaeology?

ARCHAEOLOGY: Israel to Begin Privatizing Large-scale Archaeological Excavations. Senior archaeologists warn the decision will lead to unprecedented destruction of archaeological findings and serious harm to archaeology as a science in Israel. Netivei Israel, the company that normally handles salvage excavations, has some big projects coming up. So they are planning to privatize the process. But the IAA and others see problems.
The Antiquities Authority and university archeological institutes were shocked to discover the conditions included in the bidding process. The contractor is required to meet strict deadlines, for example in the Motza dig, the authority estimated just the initial stage would take about a year; while the tender requires the entire dig to be completed in seven months – with almost no taking into account of the findings. In addition, the experience required for the archeologist n charge of the excavation is minimal, only 10 squares over the past 10 years. Now the archeologist will be required to dig hundreds of squares in a few months. “It’s like taking a home renovator to build the runway at Ben-Gurion Airport,” said someone involved in the matter.

Another problem is that the tenders do not require the scientific publication of the findings, which means the results might not be available to scholars in the future, say archeologists. The bids also do not specify the depths of the excavations, giving the contractors an incentive to dig as little as possible and discover as little as possible to keep to the tight schedule.
I'm sure we'll hear more about this.

You may need a (free) registration with Haaretz to access this article.

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Collins, The Invention of Judaism

THE ASOR BLOG: The Invention of Judaism. Torah and Jewish Identity from Deuteronomy to Paul. John J. Collins gives us a preview of his new book. Excerpt:
The official status of the Torah after the time of Ezra did not entail that it was closely observed. Rather, it had iconic importance, in the sense that people revered it even if they did not pay much attention to its content. This iconic importance can be seen in the Book of Ben Sira, in the early second century BCE. Ben Sira declares that all wisdom is the Torah of Moses, but he does not engage it in any detail.

Attitudes to the Torah changed, however, after the attempt by Antiochus Epiphanes to suppress it. The Maccabees, and their descendants, the Hasmoneans, were not especially pious, but they insisted on the observance of those aspects of the Law that had symbolic importance. During the century of Hasmonean rule, we see a “halakic turn” in the emergence of literature such as the Temple Scroll and Jubilees, that engages the legal aspects of the Torah in great detail. We also see the rise of sectarianism, fueled by disagreements over the details of the Law, as can be seen especially in the Dead Sea Scroll called the Halakhic Letter (4QMMT).

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Jubilees: Abraham

READING ACTS: Expansions on the Story of Abraham in Jubilees 11-23. Phil Long gives us a nice summary of the section on Abraham in Jubilees.

A couple of past PaleoJudaic posts on the same subject are here and here.

Phil Long has been blogging on the Book of Jubilees as part of his series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. For notice of past posts, start here and follow the links. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.


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Goat's milk — A Talmudic remedy

TALMUD WATCH: How A Two Thousand Year Old Remedy Cured My Daughter (Ilana Kurshan, The Forward).
“Well,” he told me, “There is one proven remedy – you can give her fresh goat’s milk to drink. That works like a charm.” I looked at him like he was crazy. “Goat’s milk? Can I get that at the supermarket?”

“You can,” said the doctor, “But what you really want is the unpasteurized kind, and that you can only get from a farm. It’s best if they milk the goat for you, and then she drinks it right away, while it’s still warm.” I couldn’t really believe that my daughter’s recovery would come from squeezing the udders of a goat, and so I ran down the block to the pharmacy, where I was told the same thing. “Take her to a goat farm, and get her some fresh milk.” On the one hand, my heart was sinking – was there no other way to help my child? On the other hand, my mind was racing – now I was finally beginning to understand a Talmudic story that had long baffled me.
I post this because it is a good story that involves the Talmud. It is not medical advice. You should not look for medical advice from philologists.

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Another Galilean stone-vessle workshop

ARCHAEOLOGY: Galilee Excavation Reveals 2,000 Year-Old Stone Vessel Workshop (JNi.Media).
A rare workshop for the production of chalkstone vessels, dated to the Roman period, is currently being excavated at Reina in Lower Galilee. The excavations are unearthing a small cave in which archaeologists have found thousands of chalkstone cores and other types of production waste, including fragments of stone mugs and bowls in various stages of production.

The ancient site was uncovered during the course of construction work at a municipal sports center conducted by the Reina local council. This is the fourth workshop of its kind ever to have been uncovered in Israel; an additional workshop is currently being excavated near Reina, located one kilometer from the current site. The two remaining known sites were uncovered decades ago far to the south, in the Jerusalem area.

[...]
About a year ago there were reports of a stone-vessel workshop excavated in a cave in the Galilee. The name of that site was Einot Amitai. (See here and here.) Perhaps that is the other site, the one being excavated near Reina? In any case, both sites are producing some exciting finds.

For more on stoneworking in the Roman world, see here.

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The NLI Kitv Collection online

DIGITIZATION: Israel’s national library launches online database of Jewish manuscripts (Jewish News/JNS.org).
The National Library of Israel (NLI) has launched a massive online database of centuries-old Jewish manuscripts from across the world.

The archive is known as the “Ktiv: The International Collection of Digitized Hebrew Manuscripts.” Ktiv is Hebrew for “written word.” The archive contains nearly 4.5 million images from 45,000 manuscripts, including prayer books, biblical texts, commentary, philosophy, literature and scientific writings in various Jewish-related languages such as Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino and Judeo-Arabic. The Ktiv was launched at the opening of the World Congress of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem on Aug. 6.

[...]
Some examples of the contents:
According to the NLI, the digitized archive also contains the Leningrad Codex, writings from Maimonides, the Aleppo Codex, “some of the oldest extant Talmudic manuscripts, documents from the 13th century detailing struggles within the Yemenite Jewish community, [and] commercial and personal records chronicling Jewish life in Afghanistan in the 11th century.”
You can access the Ktiv Collection here. I ran a few searches on mystical and magical subjects. Not surprisingly, the searches yielded better results if I typed them in Hebrew rather than English. The listing of manuscripts looks vast and probably comprehensive, but the digitization itself is only well started.

This collection will be an increasingly important resources as it develops.

For many other manuscript digitization projects, start here and follow the links.

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More on the St. Catherine's Monastey palimpsests

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: The Invisible Poems Hidden in One of the World's Oldest Libraries. A new technique is revealing traces of lost languages that have been erased from ancient parchments (Richard Gray, The Atlantic).
For centuries they have gathered dust on the shelves of a library marooned in a rocky patch of Egyptian desert, their secrets lost in time. But now a collection of enigmatic manuscripts, carefully stored behind the walls of a 1,500-year-old monastery on the Sinai Peninsula, are giving up their treasures.

The library at Saint Catherine’s Monastery is the oldest continually operating library in the world. Among its thousands of ancient parchments are at least 160 palimpsests—manuscripts that bear faint scratches and flecks of ink beneath more recent writing. These illegible marks are the only clues to words that were scraped away by the monastery’s monks between the 8th and 12th centuries to reuse the parchments. Some were written in long-lost languages that have almost entirely vanished from the historical record.

But now these erased passages are reemerging from the past. In an unlikely collaboration between an Orthodox wing of the Christian faith and cutting-edge science, a small group of international researchers are using specialized imaging techniques that photograph the parchments with different colors of light from multiple angles. This technology allows the researchers to read the original texts for the first time since they were wiped away, revealing lost ancient poems and early religious texts and doubling the known vocabulary of languages that have not been used for more than 1,000 years.

[...]
I noted this story back in March here, but this article has much more detail. For example, Caucasian Albanian is a language whose vocabulary has been been vastly expanded. (The article is not very clear on whether it has been doubled or increased by 50%, which are not the same thing.) There are also new discoveries in Christian Palestinian Aramaic. And then there is the Syriac Galen palimpsest, on which more here, here, and here. And there is more, so read the article

For other past PaleoJudaica posts on palimpsests, start here and follow the links.

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Jubilees 1-10

READING ACTS: From Creation to Flood – Jubilees 1-10. Another post in Phil Long's series on the Book of Jubilees, which is part of his much longer series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. For both, start here and follow the links.

Past PaleoJudaica posts on the relationship between the Watchers, the giants, and the demons (and the role of the last in the New Testament) are here, here, here, here, here, and links. Dr. Who and Sauron come up as well.

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Judges, courts, and verdicts in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Lest Ye Be Judged. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ how Talmudic rabbis carried the life-or-death burden of sitting in judgment of others.
It is because they recognized the moral responsibility of judging that the rabbis were so hesitant to impose extreme verdicts, especially the death penalty. The law code given in the Torah is full of capital crimes: everything from adultery to idol worship to violating Shabbat to disobeying your parents can be punished by death, often by the particularly horrible method of stoning. But by the Talmudic era, it is clear that judges had lost their taste for such bloody punishments. Indeed, they introduce such high barriers to the imposition of capital sentences that, in practice, the death penalty could almost never be used.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Kugel, The Great Shift

INTERVIEW AND NEW BOOK: Divine Encounters of Biblical Times: PW Talks to James Kugel (Lenny Picker, Publishers Weekly).
In The Great Shift: Encountering God in Biblical Times (HMH, Sept.), Bible scholar and professor emeritus of Hebrew Literature at Harvard James Kugel looks at people’s encounters with God as they are depicted in the Bible, including Moses speaking to a burning bush. Closely examining the ancient texts and drawing on modern psychology, neuroscience, and more, Kugel explores why encounters with God have changed dramatically from the Biblical Era to today.

[...]
More on James Kugel, who was one of my teachers, here and links.

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Jubilees: space and time

READING ACTS: Sacred Geography and Sacred Time in Jubilees. Phil Long continues his series of posts on the Book of Jubilees as part of his larger series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. (See here and many links.)

Past PaleoJudaica posts on ancient Jewish calendars — particularly the solar calendar, which was important for the theology of Jubilees — are here and links.

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Those 53 verified people in the Hebrew Bible again

EPIGRAPHY AND THE BIBLE: Researcher gives seal of approval to 53 biblical characters’ existence. Lawrence Mykytiuk looks for ancient personalities who have made an impression — be it on a signet ring or a monument (Rich Tenorio, Times of Israel). An interview with Dr. Mykytiuk, whose project is familiar to regular readers of PaleoJudaica. (See here and links. But this article also has some information about his new project:
Mykytiuk is continuing with his verifications — this time, involving the New Testament).

He said that after his first 50 Old Testament verifications, Shanks told him, “We can finish the New Testament, too.” (Shanks declined to comment for this story.)

Mykytiuk described this as “a challenge. I’m a Hebrew Bible guy. I would go on a New Testament study. It’s a very different ballgame, with Greek and Latin inscriptions and coins that you don’t deal with in Old Testament, Hebrew Bible studies.”

His next article will include verifications of 23 New Testament political figures. He expects to publish it in the September/October issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. Unlike his Old Testament verifications, the New Testament ones will include both men and women.
Regarding the last point, the 53 verified names from the Hebrew Bible are only of men.

The new project will have its own set of challenges. Will it be limited to mentions in inscriptions or will mentions in Philo, Josephus, and Roman writers count too? For some thematically related posts, see here and links.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The neglected antiquities of Tiberias

THAT'S A BIG ANNIVERSARY: Celebrating 2,000 Years, Tiberias' History Is Buried Under Garbage. Ancient bathhouse under weeds, beer bottles covering a mosaic. Archaeological sites around the city could have been tourist attractions, but many are abandoned and neglected (Noa Shpigel, Haaretz).
A trip down a short dirt road at the southern end of Tiberias reveals an ancient Roman theater. A wooden lookout post perched above the ruins has a commanding view of the Sea of Galilee and beyond. The spot could be a tourist magnet, but the theater was never restored and isn’t open to visitors. Not to mention that the access road remains unpaved and features mainly trash containers.

Next year the Jewish-Roman city of Tiberias marks its 2,000th anniversary from its foundation by the Jewish royal Herod Antipas of the Herodian dynasty in about 20 C.E. He established it as a wholly new polis (city-state), not just another town, says Prof. Michael Eisenberg of Haifa University.

[...]
I hope it gets spruced up for next year.

Some past posts on Tiberias and its antiquities are collected here.

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On philosophy, balls, and Jewish ritual

MICHAEL SATLOW: Shared, but How?
What is a “ball”? Does a ball exist when there is nobody around to see it?
Despite what might seem like an unpromising opening, this blog post is actually a nice report on a recent conference on Jewish ritual practices at the University of Erfurt. The work of Bruno Latour comes in too, especially in relation to that ball.

HT AJR.

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Caiaphas and Luke-Acts

THE BIBLE PLACES BLOG: Luke & Acts (7): Caiaphas (Michael J. Caba). This is number seven in the series, formerly called "Historical Reliability of Luke-Acts.

For notice of past posts in the series, see here and links. For past PaleoJudaica posts on the Caiaphas ossuaries, see here and links.

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Amy-Jill Levine publishes children's book on Jesus

VANDEREBILT UNIVERSITY: Levine’s scholarship on Jesus’ parables featured in new children’s book (Ann Marie Deer Owens).
Amy Jill Levine, a Vanderbilt New Testament scholar, is the co-author of a new children’s book that imaginatively retells three of Jesus’ parables from the perspective of a first-century Jewish audience.

Who Counts? 100 Sheep, 10 Coins, and 2 Sons (Westminster John Knox, 2017) was co-written by Levine, University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies, and Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, best-selling children’s book author and Butler University faculty member.

The beautifully illustrated volume looks at three popular parables in Luke 15—the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son. The pictures set the three parables in modern time using multicultural, multiracial figures.

[...]

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Monday, August 07, 2017

Bathhouse at Bethsaida?

ARCHAEOLOGY: The Lost Home of Jesus' Apostles Has Just Been Found, Archaeologists Say. Archaeologists believe Julias, the home of Jesus' apostles Peter, Andrew and Philip, was located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee (Noa Shpigel and Ruth Schuster, Haaretz).
Archaeologists think they may have found the lost Roman city of Julias, the home of three apostles of Jesus: Peter, Andrew and Philip (John 1:44; 12:21). A multi-layered site discovered on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, in the Bethsaida Valley Nature Reserve, is the spot, the team believes.

The key discovery is of an advanced Roman-style bathhouse. That in and of itself indicates that there had been a city there, not just a fishing village, Dr. Mordechai Aviam of Kinneret College told Haaretz.

None other than the Jewish historian Josephus Flavius – in fact the only source describing this city's existence – wrote that the Jewish monarch King Philip Herod, son of the great vassal King Herod, transformed Bethsaida, which had been a Jewish fishing village, into a real Roman polis (Ant. 18:28. Though whether it was built on Bethsaida, or by it, remains unknown.)

[...]
Yes, quite. The situation is complicated. Read on for the details.

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On Jewish-Temple denial

I'M GOING WITH YES FOR BOTH: Was there a Jewish temple in Jerusalem? Were the pyramids built in Egypt? (Jeremiah J. Johnston and Craig A. Evans, Fox News). Regular readers of PaleoJudaica will be familiar with the stories covered in this article.

For the unfortunate 2015 article on the Temple Mount in the New York Times, see here and links. For the unhelpful comments on the Temple Mount by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, also in 2015, see here. For the recent terrorist attach just outside the Temple Mount, see here. For more on Yasser Arafat's odd claim that the ancient Jewish Temple was in Nablus, see here and here.

Cross-file under Temple Mount Watch and Jewish-Temple Denial.

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Spoken Biblical Hebrew?

THAT WOULD BE COOL: Could Biblical Hebrew be making a comeback? (Rome Reports). The Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome is giving it a go. But now that we have Modern Hebrew, the appeal of spoken Biblical Hebrew is likely to be to a niche market.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Jubilees: The Law

READING ACTS: The Law in Jubilees (Phil Long).
In Jubilees, the law is established in creation, therefore “Obedience to the Law is the central message of Jubilees” (Wintermute, “Jubilees,” OTP 2:40). The writer desires to place as many Jewish customs and religious features as early in the history as possible. The earlier a practice can be rooted in history, the better. As Michael Segal, states, “one of the most distinctive features of Jubilees is the juxtaposition of laws generally known from the legal corpora of the Pentateuch with stories of the patriarchal period” (in Reworking the Bible: Apocryphal and Related Texts at Qumran, 204.

[...]
For past posts in Phil's long series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, start here and follow the links. The last couple posts have been on the Book of Jubilees.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Tu B'Av 2017

THE FESTIVAL OF TU B'AV begins this evening at sundown. Best wishes to all those celebrating.

Tu B'Av (which just means the 15th day of the month of Av) is an ancient matchmaking festival. It has been revived in recent years as a kind of Jewish Valentine's Day. For more background on it, see here and links.

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The Huqoq mosaics

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Huqoq 2017: Mosaics of Jonah and the Whale, the Tower of Babel and More. Huqoq excavations expose vibrant Greco-Roman and Biblical scenes (Nicola McCutcheon). A brief, but good overview of the many mosaic discoveries at the Huqoq excavation in Israel. Some of them have been found quite recently.

For past PaleoJudaica posts on Huqoq and its mosaics, start here and follow the links.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Nineteenth-century correspondence on the LXX

WILLIAM ROSS has been at the Cambridge University Library reading other people's mail. In two blog posts he shares some of what he's found:

SOME LETTERS OF H. B. SWETE – PART I
Although you may think reading hundred year-old mail to learn more about a failed project is bizarre, the fact is that the correspondence I’ve been sorting through is over two thousand years more recent than the Egyptian personal correspondences I typically mull through in papyri.

But I digress. The point is, I haven’t yet found anything more about this delicious hint of a Cambridge Lexicon of the Septuagint that never was. However, I have found some other fascinating items, which I’d like to share here in a few posts.
SOME LETTERS OF H. B. SWETE – PART II
I’ve been giving in to the temptation somewhat recently as I’ve been reading through most of Swete’s mail and wandering off into interesting subjects not directly relevant to what I’m actually looking for. Oh well.
There's more coming and I look forward to it. But I also hope William keeps focus on his doctoral dissertation!

Regular PaleoJudaica readers will recall Williams past interviews with Septuagint scholars posted on his Septuagint & C. Blog. For notice of these, start here and follow the links.

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The purposes of Jubilees

READING ACTS: Why Was Jubilees Written? This is the second recent post on Jubilees in Phil Long's ongoing series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. For previous posts in the series, start here and follow the links.

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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