Saturday, January 20, 2018

Tickets on sale for Denver DSS exhibit

COMING SOON: TICKETS ARE NOW ON SALE FOR THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBIT IN DENVER (Sadye Hazan, 303 Magazine).
Tickets are now on sale for the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, which is coming to Denver on March 16, 2018, at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. ...
And here's one bit of information about the exhibition:
For the first 10 scrolls [of 20 total that will be displayed], the one piece that has never been seen in public is scroll 4Q247 Tohorot (Purities) A. This scroll discusses purity and people in the Second Temple period and how they strove to preserve the community’s purity. The scrolls will be on display in a massive, dramatic exhibit case with carefully regulated individual chambers with a transcript of the scrolls in English (since the scrolls were originally written in Hebrew).
The show opens on 16 March.

Background here. Other important scrolls-related goings-on in Denver were noted here.

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Wandrey (ed.), Jewish Manuscript Cultures

OPEN-ACCESS BOOK FROM DE GRUYTER: Jewish Manuscript Cultures. New Perspectives. Ed. by Wandrey, Irina. Series: Studies in Manuscript Cultures 13.
Aims and Scope
Hebrew manuscripts are considered to be invaluable documents and artefacts of Jewish culture and history. Research on Hebrew manuscript culture is progressing rapidly and therefore its topics, methods and questions need to be enunciated and reflected upon.

The case studies assembled in this volume explore various fields of research on Hebrew manuscripts. They show paradigmatically the current developments concerning codicology and palaeography, book forms like the scroll and codex, scribes and their writing material, patrons, collectors and censors, manuscript and book collections, illuminations and fragments, and, last but not least, new methods of material analysis applied to manuscripts.

The principal focus of this volume is the material and intellectual history of Hebrew book cultures from antiquity to the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period, its intention being to heighten and sharpen the reader’s understanding of Jewish social and cultural history in general.
The TOC is here. For you, special deal!

HT Michelle Chesner, Library Lorax via AJR Twitter.

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More on the palaeographic dating of NT etc. manuscripts

FURTHER TO THIS POST, two more recent blog posts deal with the problem of the palaeographic (paleographic) dating of early Christian manuscripts.

Larry Hurtado: My List of Second/Third Century Manuscripts.

ETC Blog: Justified Commitment Issues in Dating P.Egerton 2 + P.Köln VI 255 (and Other Literary Papyri).

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Chaverdi, Callieri, and Callieri, Persepolis West

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Persepolis West (Fars, Iran). Notice of a new book, an archaeological report on the Persepolis excavation:
Askari Chaverdi, Alireza & Pierfrancesco Callieri. 2017. Persepolis West (Fars, Iran): Report on the field work carried out by the Iranian-Italian Joint Archaeological Mission in 2008–2009 (British Archaeological Reports International Series 2870). BAR Publishing.
Follow the link for a description. Note that in this case "BAR" does not stand for Biblical Archaeology Review, which also uses that acronym.

For past PaleoJudaica posts on ancient Persepolis (some of whose artifacts have been the subject of an important legal case in America for years), start here and follow the links.

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

Friday, January 19, 2018

A potsherd with an image from the Parthenon?

ANCIENT CERAMIC ART: ISRAEL: ANCIENT VASE SHOWING GREEK GODS DISCOVERED IN BIBLICAL SITE WHERE JESUS MAY HAVE PERFORMED MIRACLES (Kastalia Medrano, Newsweek).
Archaeologists in northern Israel discovered an ancient Italian vase featuring an image originally found on the Parthenon in Athens. The location where it was unearthed was once the biblical kingdom of Geshur, according to Haaretz. The site might also correspond to a second biblical location—a mysterious town referenced in the New Testament.

The archaeologists discovered the ceramic artifact at e-Tell, which sits about a mile north of the Sea of Galilee. E-Tell is among the leading contenders to be the original site of the biblical town Bethsaida, purportedly the hometown of apostles Philip, Andrew and Peter, according to Haaretz.

[...]
Classicist David Meadows is skeptical of the identification of the image with the one from the Parthenon: ‘Parthenon Pediment’ Image from Bethsaida: Yeah … about that. This is well outside my field of expertise, so I do not have a view myself.

For the proposed identifications of the site of Bethsaida, see here and follow the links. The site of el-Araj is also a contender. Again, the question is outside my expertise. I blog, you decide.

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About that mysterious "Hebrew" fragment

ARAMAIC WATCH? A Proposed Reading of a New Aramaic Fragment. As an update to my earlier post Mysterious Hebrew fragment from Oxyrhynchus, I note that Jim West has posted a communication from Richard Steiner which proposes to read the mystery fragment as Aramaic.

For more on Professor Steiner's work, see here.

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Rupschus, Frauen in Qumran

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR-SIEBECK: NICOLE RUPSCHUS, Frauen in Qumran. [Women in Qumran.] 2017. XII, 335 pages. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2. Reihe 457. 84,00 €. sewn paper. ISBN 978-3-16-155647-0.
Published in German.
Nicole Rupschus touches upon classical and current issues in Qumran research relating to the community’s inhabitants, the intention of its texts, and the source value of the Essenes accounts to discover the role played by women. Her consideration of three important elements – the archaeology, the sectarian texts found in caves near and next to Qumran, and the ancient accounts of the Essenes – are vital in enabling her to draw conclusions about the skeletons of women and children found in burial grounds. Other focal points are the Damascus and Serekh texts as well as the Rule of the Congregation, the connections between them, and their assignments to the community. Together with a final content analysis of the ancient Essene texts, a fresh image of women is revealed that opens up new perspectives in Qumran research.

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The decipherment of the Rosetta Stone

EGYPTOLOGY PHILOLOGY:The Quest to Decipher the Rosetta Stone (Evan Andrews, History.com). An oft-told story, but always worth hearing again.

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

AJR Forum in Honor of Ben Wright

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: A Genius for Mentorship: A Forum in Honor of Ben Wright on his 65th Birthday (Francis Borchardt and Eva Mroczek). So far there are ten essays posted. Follow the first link above for abstracts or excerpts of each.

INTRODUCTION TO A GENIUS FOR MENTORSHIP: A FORUM IN HONOR OF BEN WRIGHT ON HIS 65TH BIRTHDAY
by Francis Borchardt and Eva Mroczek

DAY ONE:
VOICE AND PRESENCE IN THE GENESIS APOCRYPHON
by Jacqueline Vayntrub

BEN SIRA AS A BABY: THE ALPHABET OF BEN SIRA AND AUTHORIAL PERSONAE
by Jillian Stinchcomb

THE ROLE OF WISDOM FOR THE SCRIBE AND SCHOLAR
by James Tucker

DAY TWO:
THE TRANSLATION OF THE TORAH IN ALEXANDRIA AND THE RELEVANCE OF THE ROSETTA STONE
by Stewart Moore

EMULATION IN BEN SIRA AND ITS HELLENISTIC CONTEXT
by Elisa Uusimäki

ERASING THE HYPHEN FROM THE STUDY OF EARLY JUDAISM
by Francis Borchardt

DAY THREE:
EDUCATION AS DEMONSTRATED AND EDUCATION AS DISCUSSED IN THE LETTER OF ARISTEAS
by Jason M. Zurawski

SOLOMON, THE SEPTUAGINT, AND SECOND TEMPLE STUDIES
by James Nati

ON BEN WRIGHT AND THE MODELING OF SCHOLARSHIP
by Sean Adams

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Conference at Yale - Inscribing Death

CONFERENCE ANNOUNCEMENT:
Inscribing Death: Memorial and the Transmission of Text in the Ancient World
Yale University, February 23, 2018

Cross-culturally, spaces of the dead have been productive places for considering the inherent difficulty of transmitting traditions and texts. This nexus between text, tradition, and death is seen across a range of genres including law, treaties, and wisdom sayings. Within these genres, the efficacious and correct reception of texts and traditions as lived by actual individuals is paramount. "Inscribing Death" brings scholars together to explore the dynamic connections between textual anxiety and anxiety about death in the ancient world, including ancient Mesopotamia and the Levant, Greco-Roman Egypt, and late antique Judaism and Christianity. It will also seek to integrate ongoing interdisciplinary work with ritual theory, sociolinguistic approaches to ancient textuality, linguistic anthropology, and, more broadly, the material turn in the study of the ancient world in order to further our understanding of ancient attitudes toward the nature of transmission and the reception of traditions and texts in the spaces of the dead.

We would be delighted if you would join us. Registration is free. To register and for a full schedule, please visit: www.inscribingdeath.com

​For questions, please contact Mark Lester at mark.lester@yale.edu


Speakers:
Emily Cole, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World
Maria Doerfler, Yale University
Ellen Muehlberger, University of​ ​Michigan
Laura Quick, Princeton University
Annette Yoshiko Reed, New York University
Seth Sanders, University of California, Davis
Jeremy Smoak, University of California, Los Angeles
Kerry Sonia, Bowdoin College
Matthew Suriano, University of Maryland, College Park
Jacqueline Vayntrub, Brandeis University


*This conference is supported by the Kempf Fund, Yale Religious Studies, Yale Divinity School, and Archaia.

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Elledge on Resurrection in Early Judaism

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
Resurrection in Early Judaism

While it remained popular within sectors of early Judaism, some writings clearly prefer the immortality of the soul, without particular regard for resurrection (Wisdom of Solomon, 4 Maccabees, Philo of Alexandria). Resurrection was also opposed or ignored by a significant proportion of the Jewish populace.

See Also: Resurrection of the Dead in Early Judaism, 200 BCE-CE 200 (Oxford University Press, 2017).

By C.D. Elledge

Gustavus Adolphus College
January 2018
Cross-file under New Book.

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On palaeographical dating of literary manuscripts

LARRY HURTADO: The Limits and Difficulties of Palaeographical Dating of Literary Manuscripts. I have mentioned Brent Nongbri's important work on paleographic dating here and links. But it is worth underlining again. When palaeographers (or paleographers) give a specific date for an ancient manuscript, they mean that date plus or minus fifty years.

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

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Massive looting in Archelais

THE TEMPLE MOUNT SIFTING PROJECT BLOG: ISIS-Style Destruction of Antiquities, Right Here in Israel. The staff of the Temple Mount Sifting Project made a very disturbing discovery at the site of Archelais, north of Jericho, while on a recreational field trip at the end of 2017.
This is quite possible the biggest archaeological destruction in Israeli history. While the Temple Mount may be a more important site rich in antiquities from all different time periods, in size, the whole-sale destruction, covering about 100 dunams (about 25 acres of land) in Archelais is much larger than that of the south-eastern corner of the Temple Mount. We were shocked. We never saw such massive destruction, and we’ve been working with the Temple Mount material for 13 years. There were hundreds of pits, many trenches, and the entire site was turned over by bulldozers looking for archaeological “hot spots.” We could see many archaeological artifacts strewn across the site, including ashlar stones, pieces of architecture, column drums, and farming tools.

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The aqueduct at Caesarea

THE HOLY LAND PHOTOS' BLOG: Seldom Visited Aqueduct at Caesarea (Carl Rasmussen).

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Taylor, What Did Jesus Look Like?

FORTHCOMING BOOK FROM BLOOMSBURY/T&T CLARK:
What Did Jesus Look Like?
By: Joan E. Taylor

Published: 08-02-2018
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 288
ISBN: 9780567671509
Imprint: T&T Clark
Illustrations: 77 colour illus
Dimensions: 216 x 170 mm

About What Did Jesus Look Like?

Jesus Christ is arguably the most famous man who ever lived. His image adorns countless churches, icons, and paintings. He is the subject of millions of statues, sculptures, devotional objects and works of art. Everyone can conjure an image of Jesus: usually as a handsome, white man with flowing locks and pristine linen robes.

But what did Jesus really look like? Is our popular image of Jesus overly westernized and untrue to historical reality?

This question continues to fascinate. Leading Christian Origins scholar Joan E. Taylor surveys the historical evidence, and the prevalent image of Jesus in art and culture, to suggest an entirely different vision of this most famous of men.

He may even have had short hair.
Related post here.

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

Robinson, Jude on the Attack

NEW BOOK FROM BLOOMSBURY/T&T CLARK:
Jude on the Attack
A Comparative Analysis of the Epistle of Jude, Jewish Judgement Oracles, and Greco-Roman Invective


By: Alexandra Robinson

Published: 14-12-2017
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 272
ISBN: 9780567678782
Imprint: T&T Clark
Series: The Library of New Testament Studies
Volume: 581
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm

About Jude on the Attack

Alexandra Robinson examines the letter of Jude in the light of repeated scholarly references to this source as an invective, a polemic, and an attack speech, with a dependence on both Jewish and Greco-Roman sources. Moving beyond the 'Hellenism/Judaism divide', Robinson specifies what these elements are, and how they relate to the harsh nature of the discourse.

This study shows how, where, and why Jude borrows from these contemporary genres, with a detailed survey of Greco-Roman invectives and Jewish judgement oracles; comparing and contrasting them to the epistle of Jude with consideration of structure, aims, themes, and style. Robinson argues that Jude has constructed a 'Jewish invective,' and that his epistle is a polemical text which takes the form (structure, aims, and style) of a typical Greco-Roman invective but is filled with Jewish content (themes and allusions), drawing on Israel's heritage for the benefit of his primarily Jewish– Christian audience.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Belial

PHILOLOGOS: How Evil Became Personified. The story of the biblical word b’liya’al (Mosaic Magazine).
Where, however, did this understanding of the term come from? Why was it so different from the understanding of the rabbis? One can only speculate—and though I am no Bible scholar, permit me to do so.
I find his speculation implausible. I know of no parallel to the idea that the phrase "a son of Baal" would mean something like "an evil man" in biblical Hebrew. That doesn't sound right to me. And when the name is altered elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, it is altered to keep it from looking like a divine name. What would be the reason for the change in this idiom?

Past PaleoJudaica posts on the diabolical one in his various guises are here and follow the links.

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

The Talmud on oaths about quantity and substance

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: In the Talmud, Size Matters. This week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ helps Jews swear in disputes of the kind they might encounter in small claims court. Plus: if an oath must be taken in the name of God, can the literal name be spoken? And is Abraham’s penis a sacred object?
In general, the mishna says, “one takes an oath only concerning an item that is defined by size, by weight, or by number.” That is, the dispute must be about the quantity of a substance, not about the substance itself. But the question of what defines a substance, what makes a thing the thing it is, is one that always creates problems for the rabbis. Thus the Gemara in Shevuot 43a asks about a situation where the plaintiff claims a large candelabrum from the defendant, and the defendant admits only to possessing a small candelabrum.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Paul and utopian cosmopolitanism

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Galatians 3:28—Neither Jew nor Greek, Slave nor Free, Male and Female. As published in Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2018 (Karin Neutel).
At the end of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. alludes to the apostle Paul’s words in Galatians 3:28: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (NRSV). In her Biblical Views column in the January/February 2018 issue of BAR, republished in full below, Biblical scholar Karin Neutel examines Paul’s vision for how we would live together in an ideal society.—Ed.

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Jewish DNA analysis

PROF. STEVEN J. WEITZMAN: DNA and the Origin of the Jews
Is there a genetic marker for cohanim (priests)? Are Ashkenazi Jews descended from Khazars? Why is there such a close genetic connection between Samaritans and Jews, especially cohanim? A look at what genetic testing can tell us about Jews.
A careful and nuanced overview of the DNA evidence.

For past posts on Professor Weitzman's research, including his recently published book, The Origin of the Jews: The Quest for Roots in a Rootless Age, see here and links.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Again, Kurshan, If All the Seas Were Ink

TALMUD WATCH: MEMOIR BY ILANA KURSHAN, MODERN FEMINIST, SHOWS RESPECT FOR JEWISH TRADITION (Martin Lockshin, Canadian Jewish News). I've linked to other reviews of If All the Seas Were Ink, which deals with how Ms. Kurshan went through some big life transitions during the last Daf Yomi cycle. See here and links. Here's an excerpt from this review:
Her approach to Talmud is personal and creative. For example, the talmudic volume, Sukkah, teaches that fixed meals have to be eaten in a sukkah but snacking, what the Talmud calls achilat aray, temporary eating, can take place anywhere. (Kurshan playfully calls it “achilat awry.”) At the time when she was studying Sukkah, she was recently divorced and felt that much of her life and even her eating patterns were aray. Furthermore, by definition, a sukkah is a temporary structure but it has to have a certain amount of stability. Kurshan compares this to her own personal status while she studied this volume, living a life that seems flimsy and temporary while trying to find permanence and stability.

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Job in BH, Rabbinics, Aramaic, etc.

LEO BAECK COLLEGE: Lecturer in Biblical Hebrew with further specialisation in Rabbinic Literature, Aramaic or other Cognate Areas
Leo Baeck College, based in North London, UK, is seeking to recruit a permanent Lecturer (Part-time 60%- 70%, teaching only, Open Rank) in Biblical Hebrew. The candidate should have teaching ability in a related area, such as Aramaic (Biblical, Targumic and/or Babylonian), Rabbinic Literature (Midrash, Talmud, Traditional Bible Commentaries) or other related areas such as Jewish History or Theology. The post entails teaching Introductory Biblical Hebrew Grammar in addition to modules in the candidate’s other area of specialty. For the right applicant this position has the potential to grow in the future depending on the candidate’s qualifications and experience. The candidate will be an active participant in the life of the College, including membership in academic committees and administrative contributions as relevant.

Leo Baeck College is a dynamic progressive rabbinical seminary in the vibrant Jewish community of North London with good library holdings. Most students at Leo Baeck College will be pursuing academic studies leading to degrees and rabbinic ordination.
Follow the link for further particulars. The application deadline is 15 February, 2018.

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Carthaginian coins in Croatia

PUNIC WATCH: UK Archaeologist Serves as Fulbright Specialist in Croatia (Whitney Hale, University of Kentucky).
[Paolo] Visonà is a Mediterranean archaeologist and numismatist with expertise in the pre-Roman coinages of Punic North Africa and on the coinage of Issa, an ancient Greek city on the island of Vis in today’s Dalmatia, a region made famous by the filming of the “Games of Thrones” HBO series. He was invited by his Croatian colleagues to give a series of lectures and workshops on the monetary circulation in this area of the Adriatic before the Roman conquest.

Since the 19th century, an unusual concentration of finds of hundreds of bronze coins of ancient Carthage, Numidia and Ptolemaic Egypt in northern Dalmatia and northwestern Bosnia has puzzled archaeologists and historians. During his stay, Visonà was given unprecedented access to this material. In addition, he had the opportunity to discuss with Croatian students and scholars a new research methodology known as “coins in context,” which entails the study of all the datable evidence associated with the coins found in a stratigraphic excavation.
My bold-font emphasis. Cross-file under Numismatics.

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Review of Blenkinsopp, Essays on Judaism in the Pre-Hellenistic Period

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Joseph Blenkinsopp, Essays on Judaism in the Pre-Hellenistic Period. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 495. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2017. Pp. x, 262. ISBN 9783110475142. $137.99. Reviewed by Salvatore Infantino, Syracuse, Italy (infantino.salvo@gmail.com). Warning! The review is in Italian.

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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Mysterious Hebrew fragment from Oxyrhynchus

BRITISH LIBRARY ASIAN AND AFRICAN STUDIES BLOG: A papyrus puzzle: an unidentified fragment from 4th century Oxyrhynchus (Zsofi Buda and Miriam Lewis).
The Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project team has just started working on five papyrus fragments, which are some of the earliest Hebrew texts we have at the British Library. The fragments are a fascinating mystery, one that we hope you can help us solve.

[...]
It turns out there are a number of early Hebrew fragments from Oxyrhynchus:
We are not able to precisely date these fragments, but the current consensus is that they are from the fourth century CE. Three of them (A, B and E) are poems, all written in Hebrew language and script. Fragment D is a Greek contract, with Hebrew text in the margins, which is probably also of a legal nature. Fragment C is written in Hebrew characters however the language – except the last three lines –is yet unidentified. This is where our mystery lies – and perhaps it is about to be uncovered by one of you.
Have a look at Fragment C and see if you can decipher it!

HT AJR.

UPDATE (20 January): For a possible (Aramaic) decipherment of the mystery fragment, see here.

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New Aramaic inscription from Iran

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: First alabastron with Aramaic inscription in Persian period. It is only three letters and it may refer to the contents of the alabaster vase.

Cross-file under Aramaic Watch.

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Medical School Phoenician?

PHOENICIAN WATCH: USJ is offering a course about the Phoenician language (Grace H., The961).
In an interview with Kalam Ennas, Professor Roland Tomb announced that the Medical School of the University of Saint Joseph (USJ) is offering the course “Introduction to the Phoenician Language.” Tomb, who is the Dean of the school, will be teaching Aramaic next semester.

[...]
Well good, although I'm baffled as to why this is being offered in a Medical School. Actually, I can't recall ever hearing of a semester course that was only on the Phoenician language, although that doesn't mean there haven't been any. Usually, even in research programs in Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Phoenician would be taught as part of a course on Northwest Semitic epigraphy or the like. But anyhow, more power to them.

The photo is of the Kilamuwa Inscription.

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Who will review the peer reviewers?

THE ETC BLOG: Peer-reviewing the peer review—why not? (Peter Malik). Now's your chance!

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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Phoenician DNA

PHOENICIAN WATCH: Ancient Phoenician DNA tells a story of settlement and female mobility (PLOS Research News).
The genetic comparison showed evidence that some lineages of indigenous Sardinians continued after Phoenician settlement in Monte Sirai, Sardinia, which suggests that integration between Sardinians and Phoenicians occurred there. They also discovered evidence of new, unique mitochondrial lineages in Sardinia and Lebanon, which may indicate the movement of women from sites in the Middle East or North Africa to Sardinia and the movement of European women to Lebanon. Given their findings, the authors suggest that there was a degree of female mobility and genetic diversity in Phoenician communities, indicating that migration and cultural assimilation were common occurrences.
The multi-author PLOS ONE article is Ancient mitogenomes of Phoenicians from Sardinia and Lebanon: A story of settlement, integration, and female mobility.

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A search tool for documentary papyri

THE ETC BLOG: Trismegistos Words: New Tool for seaching Documentary Papyri (Peter M. Head).
here is a new tool in town for searching morphological analysis of 5 million words in the Duke Database of Ducmentary Papyri. I’ve only been able to have a brief play around so far (on αὐθεντέω which has only five occurrences [4 of which are very late]), but I thought you might be interested to hear about this and try it out.

[...]
Sounds very useful.

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The DSS during the Six Day War

HISTORICAL FOOTNOTE: How the Dead Sea Scrolls survived a war in the 1960s. Excerpt from the January 20, 1968 issue of Science News (Bruce Bower).

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Brooke Inaugural Lecture at Groningen

REMINDER: Dirk Smilde Fellowship Inaugural Lecture by Prof. Dr. George J. Brooke: "A Summer's Day? With What Shall We Compare the Dead Sea Scrolls?" On 2 February in Groningen, the Netherlands.

Noted earlier here.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Gerbil bones and Byzantine Agriculture in the Negev

OSTEOLOGY: Gerbil Bones Attest to Successful Byzantine Agriculture in the Negev ( JNi.Media/Jewish Press).
“A large accumulation of bones belonging to Meriones tristrami, also known as Tristram’s jird, a species of gerbil common to the Middle East, which were found in the ancient Byzantine agricultural fields in the northern Negev, are the first biological evidence of thriving agriculture there some 1,500 years ago, according to a study of the University of Haifa (A glimpse of an ancient agricultural ecosystem based on remains of micromammals in the Byzantine Negev Desert, Journal of the Royal Society of Sciences).

[...]
Good to know.

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Mosaic reviews the Museum of the BIble

MUSEUM REVIEW: Who's Afraid of the Museum of the Bible? Critics accuse it of threatening the separation of church and state; in truth, Washington’s new museum makes an invaluable contribution to American (and Jewish) cultural literacy (Diana Muir Appelbaum, Mosaic Magazine). As you might guess from the headings, Ms. Appelbaum liked the Museum of the Bible. Much of the review consists of responses to other reviews and to Candida Moss's and Joel Baden's book, Bible Nation.

For past posts on the Museum of the Bible and related matters, start here and follow the many links.

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LXX Summer School in Salzburg

WILLIAM ROSS: 2018 SEPTUAGINT SUMMER SCHOOL IN SALZBURG. This is being offered by my former St Andrews colleague Professor Kristin De Troyer, with a stellar cast of specialists. The focus this year is the Book of Joshua. If you want some expert training on the Septuagint, you should plan to attend.

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DId the Phoenicians even exist?

PHOENICIAN WATCH: Did the fabled Phoenicians ever actually exist? They were celebrated throughout the ancient world as fearless merchant adventurers — yet they remain as elusive as ever (Justin Marozzi, The Spectator). This is a clickbait title, but the article and the book under review make the legitimate point that no on antiquity called themselves "Phoenicians." They were Tyrians, Sidonians, Carthaginians, and so on. And their national identity would have resided in their city-state rather than in some meta-identity as a Phoenician. Still, it is an etic term that is useful to us and we're not going to stop using it. Nor is there any suggestion that we should. The book is In Search of the Phoenicians, Josephine Quinn, Princeton, pp.360, £27.95. Excerpt from the review:
Ultimately, Quinn is surely right to resist an anachronistic nationhood foisted onto this ancient geographically and culturally diverse community. But one might argue that she is as insistent on a malleable, fluid identity today as the 19th-century European nationalists were with their definition of the Phoenicians as a people. Which is no more than to observe that we are all a product of our times — from the high-spirited Herodotus to today’s careful academics.
This book just came out and I haven't mentioned it before, but I have noted a couple of essays by Professor Quinn here and here.

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Harari on early Jewish magic

THE ASOR BLOG: Early Jewish Magic (Yuval Harari). This is an excellent, brief introduction to the subject.

Professor Harari mentions The Sword of Moses. As I have mentioned before, his translation of this Hebrew and Aramaic work is slated for inclusion in volume 2 of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures (MOTP2).

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Jerusalem's ancient garbage

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Taking Out the Trash in Ancient Jerusalem. Using the archaeology of garbage to reconstruct ancient life (Megan Sauter). As usual, this is about a BAR article that is behind the subscription wall: Yuval Gadot, “Jerusalem and the Holy Land(fill).” But this essay is an informative summary of it.

Past PaleoJudaica posts on this excavation are here and here.

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Update on MNTA2

THE APOCRYPHYCITY BLOG: Update on More New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 2 (Tony Burke). The post includes "the (hopefully) finalized table of contents."

For my review of New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, volume 1 (ed. Burke and Landau), see here and links.

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Dawson, "The Books of Acts and Jubilees in Dialogue"

IN THE TEXT (BLOG): Dawson on Acts and Jubilees. David Stark notes an article by Zachary Dawson in the latest volume of the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism. It is available online for free. For you, special deal.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

More on the Sinai Palimpsests Project etc.

SAINT CATHERINE'S MONASTERY: Layers of history: The Sinai Palimpsests’ Project (Jenna Le Bras, Mada).
From the shrine bathed in the early morning light, Father Justin lets his eyes linger on the arid peaks of South Sinai with contentment. “Can you see the sentry box at the top of the mountain? There is always someone guarding over there. It’s important to protect this place, but first and foremost to show that it is protected,” he says.

[...]
I know we have seen many articles on Saint Catherine's Monastery, its manuscripts, and the Sinai Palimpsests Project. But this one gives a good overview, along with some details that I don't remember seeing before. It tells more about Father Justin, the monastery's librarian (mentioned before here and here) and about the recent reopening of the library. There are also some interesting details about the palimpsest manuscripts, for example:
Double palimpsests, remarkably common in the library of St. Catherine’s Monastery, have also been studied. One of them is a 6th-century copy of the First Epistle of Paul to Timothy from the New Testament in Syriac translation. Phelps uses the term “jewels” when he speaks about the palimpsests, some of which have revealed nine layers of successively erased and rewritten texts.
Worth reading in full.

Review: a "palimpsest" is a manuscript whose writing has been erased and then new writing has been written over it. New technologies are making it increasingly possible to recover the erased writing.

For Saint Catherine's Monastery, its manuscripts, and the reopening of its library, see here and links. For the Sinai Palimpsests Project, see here and links. The latter post also leads to past posts on other palimpsest manuscripts.

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Review of books by Goodman and Schama

BOOK REVIEW: A History of Judaism by Martin Goodman and Belonging: The Story of the Jews 1492-1900 by Simon Schama – review. Goodman details the complex history of a dynamic religion while Schama’s immersive book resists bleakness, his varied protagonists blazing with vitality (Daniel Beer, The Guardian). Professor Goodman's book deals with Jewish history from antiquity to the present, while Professor Schama's book covers the last five hundred years or so. Both discuss a failed messianic figure in the sixteenth century, David Ha-Reuveni.

I noted the publication of Goodman's book here. Earlier reviews etc. of the first volume of Schama's two-volume work are noted here and links.

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Moss on the Jerusalem "City Governor" bulla

CANDIDA MOSS: Does This Tiny Piece of Clay Mean the Bible Is True? A seal found buried near the Western Wall in Jerusalem has led to grandiose claims about its ability to verify parts of the Bible (The Daily Beast).
It may seem like historical detritus, but the discovery of any evidence of Judaism near the temple is a politically delicate matter.
Background here with a relevant link.

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Womanist readings of the Hebrew Bible

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
Reading the Hebrew Bible through Marginal/ized Female Characters

Reading women’s stories in the Hebrew Bible using feminist and womanist questions and perspectives reveals a Bible so different from the one with which readers have previously been acquainted that it may seem like a new book.


See Also: Womanist Midrash: A Reintroduction to the Women of the Torah and the Throne (Westminster John Knox Press, 2017).

By Wil Gafney
Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible
Brite Divinity School
January 2018

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Tuesday, January 09, 2018

The Talmud and oaths denying knowledge of a matter

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Sworn Testimony. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, how a flying duck aimed at a judge gets the ancient sages out of a moral and intellectual bind.
Chapter Four of Tractrate Shevuot focuses on a type of oath known as the “oath of testimony,” which can be administered to witnesses in a court case. Based on the name, one might think that this is an oath to give truthful testimony, along the lines of the one administered in American courts: “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” In fact, the oath of testimony functions differently: it is taken by potential witnesses who refuse to come to court to testify, on the grounds that they deny knowledge of the matter in question. ...
Read on for the flying duck.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Epiphany and the Magi

NEW TESTAMENT APOCRYPHA WATCH: EPIPHANY: ANCIENT CHRISTIAN TEXT ADDS TO BIBLICAL STORY OF THE MAGI TRAVELING TO BETHLEHEM FOR BIRTH OF JESUS (KASTALIA MEDRANO, Newsweek). That text is, of course, The Revelation of the Magi, on which more here and here and links. It was edited by Dr. Brent Landau, "who modestly refers to himself as 'more or less' the world’s leading expert on the Magi."

I think that's about it for 'Tis the Season 2017.

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National Geographic exhibition on The Tomb of Christ

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Virtually Explore Jesus’ Tomb at the National Geographic Museum. 3-D technology brings Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre to life (Samuel Pfister).
The Tomb of Christ exhibit, which is located at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, DC, opened on November 15, 2017, and is set to close on August 15, 2018. A modest admission price of $15 also admits the visitor to the exhibit Wild by National Geographic photographer Michael Nichols.
For more on the Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher (Holy Sepulchre) and the recent, archaeologically important, renovations on it, start here and follow the links.

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A one-plague Exodus?

DR. RABBI DAVID FRANKEL: The Death of Pharaoh’s Firstborn: A One Plague Exodus (TheTorah.com).
After commissioning Moses at the burning bush, God commissions Moses again in Midian, and then again on his way to Egypt. In this third commission, God instructs Moses to tell Pharaoh, “Let My son go, that he may worship Me, yet you refuse to let him go. Now I will slay your firstborn son” (Exod 4:22-23). How does this narrative fit into the exodus story?
Pentateuchal source criticism is always fun.

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Monday, January 08, 2018

The NYT on the Museum of the Bible

MUSEUM REVIEW: The Museum of the Bible Is a Safe Space for Christian Nationalists (KATHERINE STEWART, New York Times). Excerpt:
If you walk in thinking that the Bible has a single meaning, that the evidence of archaeology and history has served to confirm its truth, that it is the greatest force for good humanity has ever known and that it is the founding text of the American republic — well, then, you will leave with a smile on your face and a song in your heart.

The museum is a safe space for Christian nationalists, and that is the key to understanding its political mission. The aim isn’t anything so crude as the immediate conversion of tourists to a particular variety of evangelical Christianity. Its subtler task is to embed a certain set of assumptions in the landscape of the capital.
For past posts on the Museum of the Bible and related matters, see here and follow the many links.

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BAR Stager obituary

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: In Memoriam: Lawrence Stager (1943–2017). Bible and archaeology news (Megan Sauter).
Lawrence Stager, the Dorot Professor of the Archaeology of Israel, emeritus, at Harvard University, died on December 29, 2017, at the age of 74. Although he is no longer with us, his legacy of excellent scholarship and interdisciplinary work will live on. May he rest in peace.

Below, read a short biography of Stager from the September/October 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.
Background here.

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What was the Hebrew word for "giant?"

AT THE REMNANT OF GIANTS BLOG, Deane Galbraith updates his blog post Was Genesis even authoritative for the Book of Watchers? In what sense? John J. Collins with a response to my comments here. He tends to disagree with my view that the Book of Genesis knew a version of the story of the watchers and the giants. Others disagree too, and he and they could well be right. The question is difficult.

That said, I do want to take up his comment that Genesis 6:1-4 "makes no reference to giants." I'm not so sure. The passage does refer to the Nephilim, and they are understood in Numbers 13:33 as "men of great stature" who made the spies of Canaan feel like grasshoppers.

Deane takes this meaning to be secondary, but it's hard to establish that. It depends on assumptions about which story is earlier, which is later, and our ability to determine how much the traditions were or were not mutually influential before they reached the form we have now. I have less confidence in such assumptions than I used to.

As far as I can tell, there was no specific word in ancient Hebrew for "giant." A giant was specified as someone of "great stature" or the like (Numbers 13:32-33; Deuteronomy 2:10, 21; 1 Samuel 17:4; 2 Samuel 21:24) or someone whose armor, weapon, or furniture was very big (Deuteronomy 3:11; 1 Samuel 17:5; 2 Samuel 21:19; 1 Chronicles 20:5). The Nephilim, the Anakim, and the Rephaim all seem to have been associated with extraordinary height.

Was the idea of great stature already inherent in the word "Nephilim" when Genesis used it? I don't know. We don't understand the etymology of the word and we only have two examples from which to establish usage. One specified great height and the other says nothing specific except that they were there at the time the story took place and afterward. But it seems entirely possible that great height was part of the meaning. In that case, the story does refer to giants.

By the way, an irrelevant but interesting detail: the words "Anak," "sons of the Nephilim," and "very great" (גדול מאד) are the ways to express the word "giant" according to the Alcalay Dictionary of Modern Hebrew. It also gives the word gigant, (גיגנט), clearly based on some form of the root of the word "gigantic."

UPDATE (9 January): Deane has replied to the above in a second update to his original post.

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The canon and the New York Times

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: What Athanasius Decided. Philip Jenkins:
The New York Times recently published a wonderful article entitled A Fragile Biblical Text Gets a Virtual Read, concerning the application of modern digital technology to reading an ancient Egyptian codex that includes the Book of Acts. The article itself is fascinating and informative, and the methodologies described are enormously promising. But I do have to quibble with its author, Nicholas Wade, for one remark.

[...]
I noted the Times article here with some links. The remark referred to above has to do with Athanasias's comments on the biblical canon in his Paschal Letter. You can read Professor Jenkins's whole blog post yourself, but he concludes:
Athanasius had his opinions, and they deserve full respect. But in matters of canon, they settled nothing. If his list prefigures the post-Luther Bible, that is mainly a matter of coincidence.
Indeed.

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Sunday, January 07, 2018

Recovering the text of a charred biblical codex

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: A Fragile Biblical Text Gets a Virtual Read (Nicholas Wade, New York Times).
But having lain in obscurity for half a century, M.910’s day in the limelight has finally arrived. Last month, a television news crew documented every movement of the little codex and of its two new enthusiasts: Paul C. Dilley, an expert on early Christianity at the University of Iowa, and W. Brent Seales, a computer scientist at the University of Kentucky.

Dr. Seales has spent 14 years developing a technique for reading ancient scrolls that are too fragile to unwrap. Fine-detail CT scanners can visualize the ink of letters inside such scrolls, but the alphabet soup is unreadable unless each letter can be assigned to its correct position on a surface.

Dr. Seales has developed software that can model the surface of a contorted piece of papyrus or parchment from X-ray data and then derive a legible text by assigning letters to their proper surface.
M.910 contains a Coptic translation of the Book of Acts and possibly something else. The results of the scans should be available later this month.

Petter Gurry has some comments at the ETC Blog.

For more on the work of Brent Seales, including the recovery of the text on the carbonized Leviticus scroll, start here and follow the links.

Bit by bit, a letter at a time, whatever it takes. Until we're done.

UPDATE (8 January): More here.

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Smith obituary

AAR RELIGIOUS STUDIES NEWS: In Memoriam: Jonathan Z. Smith (1938–2017) (Russell T. McCutcheon).
On the recent afternoon and early evening of New Year’s Eve many of us were shocked to learn the sad news that Jonathan Z. Smith, arguably the world’s most influential scholar of religion over the past fifty years, had died the previous day from complications due to lung cancer. He was 79 and had been undergoing treatments since his diagnosis last summer.

As should be evident, there is a tremendous challenge to writing about Jonathan’s life and career. ...
What follows is a densely informative account of both. Worth a read.

Background here.

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On the 13th Satrapy of Achaemenid Persia

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: The Administrative Division of the 13th Satrapy of Achaemenid Persia in the Reign of Darius II. Notice of a recent article:
Khorikyan, Hovhannes. 2017. The Administrative Division of the 13th Satrapy of Achaemenid Persia in the Reign of Darius II. Metamorphoses of History, Scientific Almanac 10: 174-180.
It's always good to keep an eye on current developments in the history of the Achemenid Period.

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Saturday, January 06, 2018

Was Genesis authoritative for the Book of Watchers?

REMNANT OF GIANTS BLOG: Was Genesis even authoritative for the Book of Watchers? In what sense? John J. Collins (Deane Galbraith).
What do you think? Was Genesis more like Harold Bloom’s literary canon, to which Collins may here allude? Or was it ‘authoritative’ in some further sense (as Collins still entertains, while also asking “in what sense” Genesis may be regarded as authoritative for the Book of Watchers)?
I think the relationship between Genesis and the Book of the Watchers is complicated. On the one hand, the Book of the Watchers knows, and to some degree is responding to, the Pentateuch, including the book of Genesis. But on the other, the passage on the sons of god, the daughters of men, and the Nephilim in Genesis 6:1-4 looks very much as though it is reluctantly and rather incoherently summarizing an earlier story. That earlier story was presumably too well known to ignore, even though the writer of Genesis didn't like it much. And Genesis 6:1-4 sounds a lot like a summary of some version of the story of the watchers and the giants.

So my tentative understanding is that the story of the watchers and the giants existed before Genesis and was briefly summarized by Genesis. Later, the story of the watchers and the giants was retold in more detail, and probably with some elaboration, in the Book of the Watchers. But the Book of the Watchers also knew the story in Genesis and refers back to it as well. At that point Genesis was too well established to ignore, even though the Book of the Watchers was also working with material that was earlier than Genesis.

In other words, the watchers and giants story was in some sense "authoritative" for Genesis. Likewise, Genesis was in some sense "authoritative" for the Book of Watchers. But in both cases the authority rested in the fact that the earlier story was too well known to ignore. It had to be included even though the new author didn't care for it and tried to redirect it. We are far away from anything like "canonical" authority in this process.

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DeConick, Seek to See Him

REISSUED IN PAPERBACK BY BAYLOR UNIVERSITY PRESS:
Title: Seek to See Him
Sub-title: Ascent and Vision Mysticism in the Gospel of Thomas

Series: (Library of Early Christology Series)
By (author): April D. DeConick
ISBN10-13: 1481307924 : 9781481307925
Format: Paperback
Size: 230x155mm
Pages: 225
Weight: .400 Kg.
Published: Baylor University Press (US) - July 2017
List Price: 25.99 Pounds Sterling
Availability: In Stock Qty Available: 5
Subjects: Church history : New Testaments : Biblical studies & exegesis : Christian theology

April DeConick argues that the Gospel of Thomas, contrary to the way Thomas is normally understood, does not originate from gnostic traditions. Instead, she proposes that Thomas is best explained by Hermetic and Second Temple Jewish mystical traditions. DeConick substantiates her proposal by first examining the developmental stages of the Gospel of Thomas, questioning the classification of Thomas as gnostic on the basis of Thomas' dualism and his speculation about original sin. DeConick carefully delineates the difference between Thomas' and gnostic views of the world and of salvation before going on to demonstrate the crucial role of purification, heavenly ascent, and visio dei -- final transformation through an experience of seeing God -- in this Gospel. In the end, DeConick shows that Thomas is best explained as arising from the fusion of Jewish Mysticism and Hermetic praxis and not as being shaped by gnostic traditions.
Another in Baylor's new Library of Early Christology reprint series, on which more here and links.

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The Greek LXX Reading Group

ON FACEBOOK: The Greek LXX Reading Group.
A reading group to read the Greek LXX version of the Old Testament. We will have different readings each year. Feel free to add any insights or helps.

Reading Helps.

Every week, we will put up a “reader’s dictionary” for that week. It will be based on words that appear 20 times or less in the NT, and OT words that don’t appear in the NT.
The plan for 2018 readings is now posted.

If you want some structure and some company for your 2018 Septuagint readings, this looks like the place.

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Hurtado has advice for young scholars

LARRY HURTADO: Advice for New Scholars (from an older one). Good advice.

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Friday, January 05, 2018

Smithsonian's top 10 lost books

LIST: The Top Ten Most Important Ancient Documents Lost to History. Either due to conquest or simply the ravages of time, these founding papers of civilizations around the world will remain mysteries forever (Duncan Barile, Smithsonian.com). One could endlessly debate what should be on this list, but these are all certainly books that would be worth having again. Number 10 is of special interest to PaleoJudaica:
Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel
The Hebrew Bible refers to some 20 works that no longer exist. The frequently cited “Chronicles” was a detailed early Iron Age history from which numerous other biblical narratives may have been drawn.
For past posts on those lost books quoted in the Hebrew Bible, see here and links. And for past posts on many other lost books from antiquity, start here and follow the links.

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Reading the discarded papyri of mummy cases

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Scan technique reveals secret writing in mummy cases (Pallab Ghosh, BBC).
Researchers in London have developed scanning techniques that show what is written on the papyrus that mummy cases are made from.

These are the decorated boxes into which the wrapped body of the deceased was placed before it was put in a tomb.

They are made from scraps of papyrus which were used by ancient Egyptians for shopping lists or tax returns.

[...]
This sounds like a technique that should work on mummy masks as well. They are constructed in a similar way with discarded manuscripts. This would be a much better approach than dismantling them with Palmolive soap.

Bit by bit, a letter at a time, whatever it takes. Until we're done.

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Alouf, "Halokh ve-daber: Elijah the Prophet ..."

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Dissertation Spotlight | Hilla Alouf
Alouf-Aboody, Hilla. “Halokh ve-daber: Elijah the Prophet as a Bearer of Wisdom in Rabbinic Literature,” Ph.D. Dissertation, New York University, 2017.

My dissertation entitled Halokh ve-daber: Elijah the Prophet as a Bearer of Wisdom in Rabbinic Literature explores the different roles that Elijah embodies in rabbinic literature and their connection to the wisdom tradition. One of the most striking things about the Elijah texts are their variegated nature, including the different traditions and legends that surround his character. Elijah appears in traditions regarding the Messianic era, in halakhic discussions, and in rabbinic legends. At first glance these traditions seem so strikingly different from one another that it is difficult to find any common link besides for the presence of Elijah. However, through analyzing a significant number of the Elijah traditions, I demonstrate how a common thread seems to permeate through many of them, mainly their connection to the wisdom tradition.

[...]

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The problem of Moses' name

DR. RABBI DAVID J. ZUCKER: Did Pharaoh’s Daughter Name Moses? In Hebrew? (TheTorah.com).
She named him Moses (מֹשֶׁה) explaining, “I drew him (מְשִׁיתִהוּ) out of the water” (Exod 2:10).
A very thorough review of commentary on these questions through the ages.

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Thursday, January 04, 2018

Introducing Robert Cargill and the new BAR

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: First Person: A New Chapter. From the January/February 2018 Biblical Archaeology Review (Robert Cargill).
Hello, I’m Bob Cargill, the new Editor of BAR. I am honored to be taking the reins from Hershel Shanks, the man who founded BAR and who devoted his career to exploring and promoting issues pertaining to archaeology and the Bible. Through BAR, Hershel has brought the latest archaeological discoveries from the Holy Land to you, our loyal readers, since 1975. I’ll say more about Hershel—and trust me, there is plenty more to say and many stories to tell—in our next issue.1 Hershel has been promoted to Editor Emeritus and will continue to write periodically for BAR. It has been a privilege apprenticing under Hershel over the past year, and I look forward to working with him for many years to come—as the BAR editorial staff works to bring you timely, responsible, credible, and entertaining information about archaeology and its relation to the Bible.

[...]
I have known Bob Cargill for a long time and I am happy to see the editorship of Biblical Archaeology Review in such capable hands.

Background here and here.

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Nilometers in late-antique mosaics in Israel

DECORATIVE ART AND ANCIENT TECHNOLOGY: Nilometers in the Land of Israel (Ticia Verveer, Times of Israel [Blog]). Excerpt:
In that [late Roman and Byzantine] period Israel yielded an astonishing wealth of magnificent mosaic floors. In Galilean Sepphoris, archaeologists unearthed a mosaic with the depiction of a nilometer in a Byzantine public structure. As the name suggests, the device originates from the area of the Nile in Egypt. The nilometer was invented for recording the annual inundations in Egypt and to control the floodwater. Since the invention of writing, the ancient Egyptians began to attempt to record observations of their world. Egyptian administrators were appointed to make accurate measures of the inundation levels. These records became vital for survival.The column nilometer type appeared during the later Imperial period, and can be depicted as an individual item or shown with human figures engraving the newly risen flood level
Follow the link for more mosaic nilometers and photos.

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Moses and Zoroaster?

DR. SHANA STRAUCH STRICK: When Moses Was Born the House Was Filled with Light. The Iranian Origins of a Talmudic Midrash (TheGemara.com).
It is therefore unsurprising that the authors of the talmudic midrash would have depicted the singularity of Moses and his innate goodness by adapting an apparently popular motif into the narrative of his birth. Conceivably, the midrash might have functioned as a polemic against claims to the superiority of Zoroastrianism. Regardless, whether the midrash emerged as an intentional appropriation of a Zoroastrian motif or the unconscious incorporation of a prevailing contemporary religious image, it offers evidence of how the rabbis of Babylonia encountered, negotiated, and ultimately incorporated aspects of Sassanian culture into their own religious lore.
Some relevant PaleoJudaica posts are collected here.

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Finkelstein Festschrift and ASOR/SBL lecture

THE ASOR BLOG: A Proper Answer: Reflections on Archaeology, Archaeologists and Biblical Historiography (Israel Finkelstein).
ANEToday is pleased to present comments by noted archaeologist Israel Finkelstein, delivered at a joint session of ASOR and the Society of Biblical Literature titled “Rethinking Israel” (Boston, November 2017). The session honored Professor Finkelstein’s many contributions and presented him with a festschrift, Rethinking Israel, Studies in the History and Archaeology of Ancient Israel in Honor of Israel Finkelstein, edited by Oded Lipschits, Yuval Gadot, and Matthew Adams.
Excerpt from the lecture:
Speaking about material culture, we need to admit that the southern Levant was a marginal, backwater of the great Ancient Near Eastern civilizations. It has no outstanding monuments, no great archives and no beautiful art-treasures. As an archaeologist, I can disclose to you the sad fact that the people of the southern Levant were not capable of constructing a straight wall, or manufacturing a museum-piece object. The importance of archaeology in this part of the world stems from one thing only – the Bible – the Old and New Testaments. The world is interested in what we are doing, universities open positions, students come to dig with us and the media is enthusiastic to uncritically report every outrageous bit of babble or spin that issues forth from our mouths, only because we work in the cradle of Western Civilization. How to deal with biblical historiography is a different matter.

I see myself as being lucky on three fronts: to deal with the archaeology of such an important region, to focus on important periods related to the rise of Judeo-Christian civilization, and because of timing. Speaking about timing, I reached the frontline of research into the history of Ancient Israel when the traditional fortress of biblical archaeology started crumbling, enabling one to think differently and freely without being crushed by “authority” – the Thought Police. Many of us were there when the time was ripe; only some of us grabbed the opportunity. Make no mistake, there were endless attempts to stop me and others like me, with all sorts of “tricks and schticks,” some funny and others less so.
Congratulations to Professor Finkelstein on this Festschrift recognizing his great contribution to the field.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Lawrence Stager, 1943-2017

SAD NEWS: Lawrence Stager, Creative Biblical Archaeologist, Dies at 74 (Sam Roberts, New York Times).
Lawrence E. Stager, a pre-eminent American archaeologist who unearthed evidence that anxious ancient Israelites sinned by worshiping a “golden calf,” just as the Bible said, and who helped redeem the vulgar reputation of Goliath and his fellow Philistines, died on Friday at his home in Concord, Mass. He was 74.

[...]
I was a doctoral student in the Harvard NELC program in 1986 when Professor Stager arrived. The Ashkelon expedition was in its early years back then, and I worked as an assistant square supervisor there in the summers of 1987 and 1988.

Larry also opened up the basement of the Harvard Semitic Museum and began using its vast collection of ancient Syro-Palestinian pottery to train his students in ceramic typology. I was never much of an archaeologist, but I learned a lot from sitting in on his basement sessions of what he called "Pot Luck."

I mentioned the Ashkelon calf figurine recently here. Past PaleoJudaica posts on the Philistine cemetery discovered in Ashkelon in 2016 are here and links. There are many other past posts on the Ashkelon excavation. For some in recent years, see here, here, here, here, and links. You can find others in the archives.

Another obituary of Professor Stager has been published by H-Judaic: Obituary: Passing of Prof. Lawrence Stager.

Goodbye, Larry. It was an honor to work with you and to learn from you. Requiescat in pace.

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Hulster, Figurines in Achaemenid Period Yehud

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: IZAAK J. DE HULSTER, Figurines in Achaemenid Period Yehud. Jerusalem's History of Religion and Coroplastics in the Monotheism Debate. [„Figurinen im achämenidischen Jehud: Die Religionsgeschichte Jerusalems und Koroplastik in der Monotheismus-Debatte“.] 2017. XV, 225 pages. Orientalische Religionen in der Antike 26. 114,00 €. cloth. ISBN 978-3-16-155550-3.
Published in English.
Were there figurines in Yehud during the Achaemenid period, and in particular in Jerusalem? A positive answer to this question disproves the general consensus about the absence of figurines in Yehud, which is built on the assumption that the figurines excavated in Judah/Yehud are chronologically indicative for Iron Age II in this area (aside from a few typological exceptions). Ephraim Stern and others have taken this alleged absence of figurines as indicative of Jewish monotheism’s rise. Izaak J. de Hulster refutes this ‘no figurines → monotheism’ paradigm by detailed study of the figurines from Yigal Shiloh’s excavation in the ‘City of David’ (especially their contexts in Stratum 9), providing ample evidence for the presence of figurines in post-587/586 Jerusalem. The author further reflects on the paradigm’s premises in archaeology, history, the history of religion, theology, and biblical studies, and particularly in coroplastics (figurine studies).

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Lavee, The Rabbinic Conversion of Judaism

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
The Rabbinic Conversion of Judaism
The Unique Perspective of the Bavli on Conversion and the Construction of Jewish Identity


Moshe Lavee, University of Haifa
In this volume, Moshe Lavee offers an account of crucial internal developments in the rabbinic corpus, and shows how the Babylonian Talmud dramatically challenged and extended the rabbinic model of conversion to Judaism. The history of conversion to Judaism has long fascinated Jews along a broad ideological continuum. This book demonstrates the rabbis in Babylonia further reworked former traditions about conversion in ever more stringent direction, shifting the focus of identity demarcation towards genealogy and bodily perspectives. By applying a reading-strategy that emphasizes late Babylonian literary developments, Lavee sheds critical light on a broader discourse regarding the nature and boundaries of Jewish identity.

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Hurtado, Texts and Artefacts

NEW BOOK FROM BLOOMSBURY/T&T CLARK:
Texts and Artefacts
Selected Essays on Textual Criticism and Early Christian Manuscripts


By: Larry W. Hurtado

Published: 30-11-2017
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 256
ISBN: 9780567677716
Imprint: T&T Clark
Series: The Library of New Testament Studies
Volume: 584
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm

About Texts and Artefacts

The essays included in this volume present Larry W. Hurtado's steadfast analysis of the earliest Christian manuscripts. In these chapters, Hurtado considers not only standard text-critical issues which seek to uncover an earliest possible version of a text, but also the very manuscripts that are available to us. As one of the pre-eminent scholars of the field, Hurtado examines often overlooked 2nd and 3rd century artefacts, which are among the earliest manuscripts available, drawing fascinating conclusions about the features of early Christianity.

Divided into two halves, the first part of the volume addresses text-critical and text-historical issues about the textual transmission of various New Testament writings. The second part looks at manuscripts as physical and visual artefacts themselves, exploring the metadata and sociology of their context and the nature of their first readers, for the light cast upon early Christianity. Whilst these essays are presented together here as a republished collection, Hurtado has made several updates across the collection to draw them together and to reflect on the developing nature of the issues that they address since they were first written.
Cross-file under Material Culture.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Azoulay's statement on Israel's withdrawal from UNESCO

POLITICS: Declaration by UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay on the withdrawal of Israel from the Organization. I have a lot of respect for Ms. Azoulay and this is a good statement. But it concentrates on the past relationship between UNESCO and Israel. Any progress will come from focusing on the present and the future.

Background here and many links.

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More on the Museum of the Bible and Judaism

MUSEUM REVIEW: Washington's new Bible museum talks a lot about Jews. So why are some Jews so skeptical? (Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post, reprint St. Louis Post-Dispatch). Excerpt:
A panel at this month’s annual Association for Jewish Studies conference included panelists who agreed that the museum’s “self-description as religiously neutral” was inaccurate, said Mark Leuchter, professor of Hebrew Bible at Temple University .

However, while some Jewish visitors said they felt like props, or felt they were being proselytized to, or had concerns about the legality and authenticity of some items (Hobby Lobby, a craft chain whose owners founded the museum, paid a $3 million fine this summer for smuggling ancient Iraqi artifacts), other Jews are happy with the museum.

The museum collaborated with a number of paid Jewish consultants, including Bible scholars, community advocates and rabbis. The consultants sit on an international advisory board or are expert guides. The museum’s director of content, Seth Pollinger, said 35 to 40 percent of the board and of the guides are Jewish, a dramatic number when you consider Jews are less than 2 percent of the adult U.S. population, according to the Pew Research Center (and less than a half of 1 percent, worldwide, Pew says).
For past posts on the Museum of the Bible and related matters, see here and follow the many links.

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Pre-emptive list of 2018 archaeological discoveries

GETTING STARTED EARLY: 5 Major Archaeology Discoveries to Look for in 2018 (Owen Jarus, Live Science). The prediction of greatest interest to PaleoJudaica readers is of the discovery of a 13th Dead Sea Scroll cave. I hope it comes true. I also hope that that next Dead Sea Scroll cave has some actual Dead Sea Scrolls in it.

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

Top 10 BHD posts from 2017

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Top 10 Bible History Daily Posts in 2017. Ring in the new year by looking back (Robin Ngo).
From archaeological evidence confirming the existence of people from the Bible to an eclipse of Biblical proportions, Bible History Daily covered quite a range of topics in the last year! Below, check out our top 10 blog posts published in 2017 that received the most web traffic. Did your favorite post make the cut?
I linked to most of these during the course of the year. This updated version of an older post is also worthy of honorable mention: 53 People in the Bible Confirmed Archaeologically (Lawrence Mykytiuk).

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

Monday, January 01, 2018

"City Governor " bulla excavated in Jerusalem

ARCHAEOLOGY AND EPIGRAPHY: Governor of Jerusalem's Seal Impression From First Temple Era Found Near Western Wall. The bible mentions the Governor of Jerusalem, a high appointment by the king, in the contexts of the reigns of Hezekiah and Josiah (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz).
A fantastically preserved seal impression made by the biblical Governor of Jerusalem during the First Temple era has been found by archaeologists where it fell 2,700 years ago.  

Many dozens of seal impressions and seals themselves have been found in ancient Jerusalem, including in this area by the Temple Mount. Also, several seal impressions of the Jerusalem governor ("sar ha'ir"), who was the highest-ranking officer in  the city, have been making the rounds in the black market, Dr. Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah told Haaretz.

But this lump of baked clay, all of 1.3 by 1.5 centimeters in size and just over two millimeters thick, is unique in being of unquestionable provenance.

"Ours is special because this was the first time the seal of the Governor of the City of Jerusalem itself was found in the right place," Weksler-Bdolah says.

[...]
The decipherment looks right to me, although it is odd that "city" lacks the definite article.

For the Hezekiah bulla (seal impression) excavated in Jerusalem two years ago, see here and links.

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Jonathan Z. Smith, R.I.P.

SAD NEWS: Jonathan Z. Smith Has Died. The news has been spreading through the internet over the last day or so. This post on James Tabor's blog gives the obituary circulated by the late Professor Smith's wife. Professor Tabor also links to an AAR lecture by Professor Smith from 2010: Remembering Jonathan Z. Smith.

I met Jonathan Z. Smith at a conference on ancient magic in 1998 in California. We had a couple of very illuminating and helpful conversations about the book I was writing at the time, Descenders to the Chariot: The People Behind the Hekhalot Literature. I thanked him for these in the book's preface. He was also influential in my thinking about how to conceptualize Judaism in antiquity and the present, on which more here. I developed these ideas in my book, The Provenance of the Pseudepigrapha: Jewish, Christian, or Other?

I also draw on his ideas in my lectures on Judaism in our first-year Introduction to World Religions at the University of St. Andrews. It was taught most recently in the autumn of 2017.

Professor Smith's contributions to methodological rigor in the field of religious studies, not least biblical studies, was enormous. A giant in the field is gone. Requiescat in pace.

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Syriac news: Beth Mardutho anniversary, plus Peshitta Institute update

SYRIAC WATCH: In the last couple of days of 2017 two posts on the Hugoye list provided some welcome news about important matters in Syriac Studies.

First, from George Kiraz: 25 Year of Beth Mardutho. Congratulations to the Beth Mardutho Syriac Institute on its 25th anniversary in 2017. Follow the link for details.

Second, from Professor Bas ter Haar Romeny: Peshitta Institute: some notes on progress. This post has lots of information about the recent progress of the work of the Peshitta Institute (formerly of Leiden, now in Amsterdam).

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

Jacob and Israel, J and E?

DR.RABBI TZEMAH YOREH: Jacob Is Renamed Israel (Twice): Why Does the Name Jacob Remain? (TheTorah.com).
The different usages of the names Jacob and Israel reflect a geographic divide between the northern and southern kingdoms’ stance toward this patriarch.
Maybe, but there is little consensus among scholars these days about the nature, extent, and even existence of the putative Yahwistic (J) and Elohistic (E) sources in the Pentateuch. The essay does acknowledge this to some degree.

More on Pentateuchal source criticism here and links.

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2018

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Have a great 2018 and please keep coming by often to visit PaleoJudaica.

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