Saturday, September 06, 2014

New Oxford Handbooks

The Oxford Handbook of the Psalms
Edited by William P. Brown

OUP USA Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology
684 pages | 4 illustrations | 248x171mm
978-0-19-978333-5 | Hardback | 22 May 2014
Price: £97.00s
  • Represents diverse approaches, theories, and disciplines
  • Points to future trajectories of research on the Psalms
  • Offers vast bibliographical coverage of past and present scholarship
Intended for both scholar and student, The Oxford Handbook of the Psalms features a diverse array of essays that treat the Psalms from a variety of perspectives. Classical scholarship and traditional approaches as well as contextual interpretations and practices are well represented. From ancient Near Eastern backgrounds and Hebrew poetry to Qumran studies and ancient translations to Asian and African-American approaches and liturgical usage, the Handbook's coverage is uniquely wide ranging. This handbook serves as a rich introduction into the increasingly complex field. This volume is an indispensable resource for all students of the Psalms.

Readership: Scholars and graduate students of Biblical studies.

The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Iran
Edited by D. T. Potts
Oxford Handbooks


Iran's heritage is as varied as it is complex, and the archaeological, philological, and linguistic scholarship of the region has not been the focus of a comprehensive study for many decades. The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Iran provides up-to-date, authoritative essays on a wide range of topics extending from the earliest Paleolithic settlements in the Pleistocene era to the Arab conquest in the 7th century AD. The volume, authored by specialists based both inside and outside of Iran, is divided into sections covering prehistory, the Chalcolithic, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Achaemenid period, the Seleucid and Arsacid periods, the Sasanian period, and the Arab conquest. In addition, more specialized chapters are included which treat numismatics, religion, languages, political ideology, calendrics, the use of color, textiles, Sasanian silver and reliefs, and political relations with Rome and Byzantium. No other single volume covers as much of Iran's archaeology and history with the same degree of authority. Drawing on the results of the latest fieldwork in Iran and studies by scholars from around the world, this volume addresses a longstanding gap in the literature of the ancient Near East.



Review: The Iranian Talmud
Hezser, Catherine. 2014. Review of Shai Secunda: The Iranian Talmud. Reading the Bavli in its Sasanian context. Theologische Literaturzeitung 139(7/8). 867–869. (Earlier reviews etc. are noted here and links.)

Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians
New book: Herman, Geoffrey (ed.). 2014. Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians: Religious dynamics in a Sasanian context (Judaism in Context 17). Gorgias Press.

Review: Gods and demons, priest and scholars
Stausberg, Michael. 2013. Review of Bruce Lincoln: Gods and demons, priests and scholars. Critical exploration in the history of religions. The Journal of Religion 93(2). 244–246.

Inscriptions and Life in Roman Asia Minor

Inscriptions and Life in Roman Asia Minor - May 31-June 6, 2015, Post-seminar optional tour, June 7-10, 2015
Seminar $US995; Tour $US395 (in double occupancy) Seminar leader: Dr. Rosalinde Kearsley, Macquarie University, assisted by Dr. Mark Wilson. For more information contact Mark Wilson (Asia Minor Research Centre):

Seminar Topics include: Introduction to Epigraphic Method; Early Epigraphic Testimony for Jews and Christians; Roman Government and Administration; Roads and Communication; Roman Colonies and Soldiers; The Imperial Cult; Life in the Greek Cities under Roman Rule and Civic Elites.
From Paul Middleton on the BNTC list.

Friday, September 05, 2014

PhDiva swimwear

LOOKS LIKE DOROTHY LOBEL KING NEEDS SOME LINK TRAFFIC: Le Fluff et Le Puff ... Bikinis. Happy to oblige.

Smith, Poetic Heroes

Poetic Heroes
Literary Commemorations of Warriors and Warrior Culture in the Early Biblical World

Mark S. Smith

PAPERBACK; Coming Soon: 9/15/2014
ISBN: 978-0-8028-6792-6
660 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9

A close reading of several classics of ancient warrior poetry

Warfare exerts a magnetic power, even a terrible attraction, in its emphasis on glory, honor, and duty. In order to face the terror of war, it is necessary to face how our biblical traditions have made it attractive — even alluring.

In this book Mark Smith undertakes an extensive exploration of "poetic heroes" across a number of ancient cultures in order to understand the attitudes of those cultures toward war and warriors. Smith examines the Iliad and the Gilgamesh; Ugaritic poems commemorating Baal, Aqhat, and the Rephaim; and early biblical poetry, including the battle hymn of Judges 5 and the lament of David over Saul and Jonathan in 2 Samuel 1. Smith's Poetic Heroes analyzes the importance of heroic poetry in early Israel and its disappearance after the time of David, building on several strands of scholarship in archaeological research, poetic analysis, and cultural reconstruction.
See also “Violence, Warrior Culture, and the Bible” by Mark S. Smith at the Eerdword Blog.

Brill books

Apocalyptic and Merkavah Mysticism
Second, Revised Edition

Ithamar Gruenwald

This is a new and revised edition of the book first published 1980. It contains new introductory and concluding chapters as well as a Bibliography and updated Index. Furthermore, substantial corrections, updates, and changes have been made in the original text. The changes concern matters of language and style, they nuance the line of argumentation, and they update the discussion of major issues. The new chapters fill several scholarly gaps that have opened since the initial publication of this book in 1980. The new Introductory Chapter explores new venues and issues in the study and assessment of the Hekhalot literature and relevant passages in apocalyptic literature, and this in light of epistemological and ontological considerations. The Concluding Chapter discusses the ritual praxis of the experience of the Hekhalot mystics and its affitnity to magic, and this in terms of new approaches to ritual theory.

Second Corinthians in the Perspective of Late Second Temple Judaism

Edited by Reimund Bieringer, Emmanuel Nathan, Didier Pollefeyt and Peter J. Tomson, all of the Catholic University of Leuven

In the framework of a larger research project into ‘New Perspectives on Paul and the Jews’, eight scholars from Europe, Israel, and North America join forces in querying Paul’s relationship to Jews and Judaism. The sample text selected for this inquiry is the Second Letter to the Corinthians, a document particularly suited for this purpose as it reflects violent clashes between Paul and rivalling Jews and Jewish Christians. While the first three articles address more general literary and historical questions, the following five present in-depth case studies of much-studied passages from the letter and the underlying issues. An introductory essay queries how in the case at hand we can gain an adequate understanding of Paul’s theology while fully respecting his particular place in Judaism.

A Concise Lexicon of Late Biblical Hebrew
Linguistic Innovations in the Writings of the Second Temple Period

Avi Hurvitz in collaboration with Leeor Gottlieb, Aaron Hornkohl, and Emmanuel Mastéy

The Hebrew language may be divided into the Biblical, Mishnaic, Medieval, and Modern ‎periods. Biblical Hebrew has its own distinct linguistic profile, exhibiting a diversity of styles ‎and linguistic traditions extending over some one thousand years as well as tangible diachronic ‎developments that may serve as chronological milestones in tracing the linguistic history of ‎Biblical Hebrew. Unlike standard dictionaries, whose scope and extent are dictated by the contents of the ‎Biblical concordance, this lexicon includes only 80 lexical entries, chosen specifically for a ‎diachronic investigation of Late Biblical Hebrew. Selected primarily to illustrate the fifth-century ‘watershed’ separating Classical from ‎post-Classical Biblical Hebrew, emphasis is placed on ‘linguistic contrasts’ illuminated by a rich collection ‎of examples contrasting Classical Biblical Hebrew with Late Biblical Hebrew, Biblical Hebrew with Rabbinic Hebrew, and Hebrew with Aramaic.‎

Thursday, September 04, 2014

BNTC 2014

I'M OFF TO MANCHESTER FOR THE BRITISH NEW TESTAMENT CONFERENCE, where I will be chairing the New Testament and Second Temple Judaism Seminar and presenting a paper in the seminar as well: "Roles of Angels and Demons in 1 Enoch and the Synoptic Gospels." The latter is a last-minute substitution for a paper that had to be withdrawn when the presenter had an emergency that prevented him from attending. I have also presented this paper at the 7th Enoch Seminar and you can read something about it at the link.

For many years Dr. Darrell Hannah and I co-chaired the NT&STJ Seminar. Darrell stepped down last year and this is my final year as chair. I am very happy to be passing the Seminar on to Dr. Matthew Novenson of Edinburgh University, who is also presenting a paper this year. I still plan to attend in future years, but it's good to have some fresh leadership for the Seminar.

Meanwhile, it's nice this year just to be an attender and participant rather than running the whole show.

Other posts relevant to BNTC 2014 are here and here. I have a ticket to the joint session at the Rylands Library and I am looking forward to it. I'm told that this year's Twitter hashtag is #bntc14. I will be very busy for the next few days, but I'll try to fit in some blogging, and I have also pre-posted some things, so keep coming back as usual.

UPDATE (8 September): I have posted a couple of notes relating to BNTC 2014 here and here.

UPDATE (20 October): More here.

Tarbiz 82.3

THE HEBREW JOURNAL TARBIZ has a new issue out (82.3). TOC in English translation:
The articles in this volume:

Aharon Shemesh and Moshe Halbertal - The Meʾun (Refusal): The Complex History of Halakhic Anomaly

Shulamit Elizur - The Early Scope of Parashat Sheqalim

Gideon Bohak - The Hidden Hekhalot: Towards Reconstructing an Unknown Hekhalot Composition from the Cairo Genizah

Avraham Grossman - The Impact of Rabbi Samuel of Spain and Reuel of Byzantium on Rashi’s School

Idit Einat-Nov - Uncertainty as a Poetic Principle: A Reading of Nəʾum Ašer Ben Yəhudah by Shlomo Ibn Ṣaqbel

English and Hebrew Abstracts

Dobroruka, Second Temple Pseudepigraphy

Vicente Dobroruka, Second Temple Pseudepigraphy: A Cross-cultural Comparison of Apocalyptic Texts and Related Jewish Literature (Ekstasis 4; De Gruyter, 2014)

At this point of the scholarly debate on the nature of Second Temple pseudepigraphy, one may ask why another look at the problem is needed. This book is not the definitive answer to that problem but it proposes different paths - or better still, a two-fold path: on one hand to understand Second Temple pseudepigraphy as a mystical experience and on the other, for lack of a suitable ancient example, to compare it to modern-day automatic writing.
A review copy for Reviews of the Enoch Seminar.

Noted earlier here. I have some related thoughts in my 2006 SBL paper "Scripture" as Prophetically Revealed Writings.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Ancient lead coffins

PHOENICIAN WATCH: Ancient Israelites imported lead coffins from Tyre, say archaeologists. A fragment forgotten and stashed away in a kibbutz turns out to be identical with metal coffins found in Lebanon (Ran Shapira, Haaretz).
For decades, a fragment from an ancient lead coffin lay stashed away in the basement of a kibbutz library. But a few months ago, a librarian came across it and showed it to researchers from the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology - who realized that they had a rare find. The fragment of coffin found in the cellar of Kibbutz Gesher Haziv was absolutely identical to one found about a century earlier in the Lebanese city of Tyre.

The fragment dates from the late Roman era, the second or third century C.E., say the archaeologists.


Back then, it wasn’t the norm to hand antiquities over to a state agency. So kibbutz members who found antiquities in their fields would use them to ornament the kibbutz. The lead coffin fragment was displayed in the library for a while, but was eventually stuck into a corner and forgotten.


The lead coffins of Akhziv were discovered during the period of the British Mandate, before the State of Israel's birth; Aviam believes there are more to be discovered.

Aviam and Shalem compared the decorations on the coffin fragment to those of other lead coffins found in Israel and concluded that it belonged to a group of coffins made in Tyre in the second or third century C.E. But the real surprise was when they discovered it was identical to a coffin found in Tyre, some 27 kilometers to the north.

The decorations on the Tyre coffin, which is whole, are identical to those on the fragment from Gesher Haziv. The decorations were also ordered in exactly the same way. The conclusion is they were made with the same mold.

This discovery is of considerable interest in itself, but it also illustrates that ancient lead from the vicinity of Israel is out there, some of it just lying around in kibbutzim. This is not irrelevant to the (now played-out) discussion of the fake metal codices.

Beit Guvrin-Maresha

SPELUNCER'S PARADISE REVISITED:The land of a thousand caves. The 480 caves of Beit Guvrin-Maresha, Israel’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site, are very cool – in more ways than one. (Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel21c). Excerpts:
Tsvika Tsuk, chief archeologist of the Israel National Parks Authority, took ISRAEL21c through Beit Guvrin’s well-known Bell Cave complex — 70 connected bell-shaped quarry caves — on a hot summer day. The spectacular complex is as cool to see as to feel; the temperature goes down dramatically as you descend inside.

Tsuk confides that the Bell Cave is responsible for his choice of profession. In 1972, while hiking here with army buddies, he came across the remains of an ancient ossuary (human bone box). He eventually turned his find over to the Antiquities Authority, where it’s kept in storage with others like it.

The experience led Tsuk to Prof. Amos Kloner of Bar-Ilan University, who helped excavate Beit Guvrin-Maresha in the 1980s and 1990s and still is producing reports on the 480 caves. And it also inspired Tsuk to pursue a doctorate in archeology.


The national park is replete with 85 columbarium caves, once used for raising doves and still inhabited by many pigeons. We visited the main Columbarium, the most impressive of the Tel Maresha caves, dug in the third century BCE. Some 2,000 nesting niches are carved into the Columbarium, reflecting the ancient premium put on their meat, eggs, dung and value as sacrificial offerings.

Also of note are the Sidonian burial caves from the Hellenistic period (third to second centuries BCE); the Maze Cave consisting of about 30 interconnected caves; the Bathtub Cave that served as an ancient bidet; the reconstructed agricultural site with olive and grape presses and a wheat-threshing floor; a partially reconstructed Hellenist villa; a Crusader fortress; a Roman amphitheater for gladiator fights; and the Polish Cave, a small cistern and dovecote where visiting Polish soldiers carved an inscription in 1943.
Background here and links.

More on the Yazidis

YAZIDI WATCH: For Yazidis, Exile From Spiritual Homeland in Iraq Dilutes Ancient Culture. Some are contemplating migration, severing ties to their holy land. Others want to stay and protect their shrines. (Rania Abouzeid, National Geographic).
Lalish, in Iraq's northern Kurdish mountains, is to the Yazidis what Mecca is to Muslims, or what Jerusalem is to followers of the three great monotheistic faiths: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.

It is the holiest site of an ancient Kurdish minority faith whose members have been in flight since early August, scattered by the tempestuous advance of Islamic State (IS) insurgents into Sinjar, a majority Yazidi town in northwestern Iraq, and its surroundings.

The Yazidis were propelled into the international spotlight last month, when tens of thousands fled on foot, climbing into the imposing but largely barren Sinjar Mountain range to escape IS militants besieging them at its base.
Most of them seem to be relatively safe now, but the situation remains volatile.

Background here and links.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

JSP 23.3-4

THE JOURNAL FOR THE STUDY OF THE PSEUDEPIGRAPHA has published a couple issues in 2014. The TOC of 23.3 is as follows:
Ralph Lee
The Ethiopic ‘Andəmta’ Commentary on Ethiopic Enoch 2 (1 Enoch 6–9)
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha March 2014 23: 179-200, doi:10.1177/0951820714528628

Ariel Feldman
Moses’ Farewell Address according to 1QWords of Moses (1Q22)
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha March 2014 23: 201-214, doi:10.1177/0951820714528629

Arye Edrei and
Doron Mendels
Preliminary Thoughts on Structures of ‘Sovereignty’ and the Deepening Gap between Judaism and Christianity in the First Centuries CE
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha March 2014 23: 215-238, doi:10.1177/0951820714528630

Shifra Sznol
Traces of the Targum Sources in Greek Bible Translations in the Hebrew Alphabet
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha March 2014 23: 239-256, doi:10.1177/0951820714528632
The TOC of 23.4 is as follows:
Ilaria L.E. Ramelli
A Pseudepigraphon Inside a Pseudepigraphon? The Seneca–Paul Correspondence and the Letters Added Afterwards
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha June 2014 23: 259-289, doi:10.1177/0951820714536495

Christfried Böttrich
Apocalyptic Tradition and Mystical Prayer in the Ladder of Jacob
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha June 2014 23: 290-306, doi:10.1177/0951820714536497

Chris H. Knights
The Rechabites Revisited: The History of the Rechabites Twenty-Five Years On
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha June 2014 23: 307-320, doi:10.1177/0951820714536499
The abstract for the last, by Knights, reads:
In this article the author revisits the ‘History of the Rechabites’, chs. 8–10 of the Story of Zosimus, a text he first studied in the 1980s, in the light of the work done on the text more recently by Nikolsky and Davila. He looks more closely at the reasons why the text may or may not be Jewish and concludes that, despite his earlier published views, it is more likely to be a Christian composition than a Jewish one.
Dr Knights kindly sent me an offprint of this one. My work on the Story of Zosimus from 2003 is online here and here.

Carlisle Floyd on Susannah

APOCRYPHA WATCH: Carlisle Floyd discusses the narrative dimension of opera
(Stephen Smoliar, The Examiner).
Yesterday evening San Francisco Opera (SFO) presented the first Insight Panel of the its 2014–15 season. The Panel was hosted by Jon Finck, Director of Communications and Public Affairs; and the topic was the company premiere of Carlisle Floyd’s 1955 opera Susannah. What made this a particularly special occasion was that Floyd himself, who turned 88 last June, was on hand to participate, along with SFO General Director David Gockley, soprano Patricia Racette (who will be singing the title role), stage director Michael Cavanagh, and conductor Karen Kamensek.

As I have previously observed, Floyd wrote his own libretto for Susannah and did the same for all of his later operas. While the story is loosely based on an episode in the Biblical apocrypha originally associated with the Book of Daniel, Floyd was actually inspired by a Renaissance painting of that portion of the story in which the elders are spying on Susannah while she was bathing. Floyd’s libretto “Americanized” the tale, setting it in the mountain town of New Hope Valley, Tennessee.

Susannah will be playing in San Francisco starting Saturday. Past performances are noted here and links.

Biblical Studies Carnival

THE BIBLICAL STUDIES CARNIVAL FOR AUGUST 2014 has been posted at the Biblical Studies Blog.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Saving Syriac inscriptions

SYRIAC WATCH: While ISIS destroys, Hamilton man battles to preserve historic texts. Team conserving photos of ancient inscriptions, buildings that now no longer exist (Kelly Bennett, CBC News).
A group of librarians led by a Hamilton man is racing against time to preserve inscriptions of centuries-old artifacts and documents currently threatened by ISIS’s destruction across much of Iraq and Syria.


Some of the photographs and rubbings in the collections the centre is processing could be the last remaining evidence of some of the inscriptions and, in some cases, the buildings that housed them. Some of the inscriptions date back to the 7th century.

[Colin] Clarke, [founder and director of the Canadian Centre for Epigraphic Documents at the University of Toronto,] works with a team of library scientists, language experts and academics, all of who volunteer for the centre's work. The centre started four years ago to catalogue and conserve the largest collection of Ancient Greek inscriptions in Canada.

Last year, the centre began working on a collection of Syriac documents. Syriac is an international language that was once used throughout much of the eastern world, being transported along the Silk Road. The dialect is related to Aramaic, the language Jesus reportedly spoke.

Many inscriptions convey Christian thoughts and poems. One key collection of Syriac documents comes from a University of Toronto professor and Mosul native Amir Harrak, an expert in Iraqi Syriac inscriptions.

Background on the situation in Iraq is here and links. By the way, Syriac is not "related to" Aramaic, it is a dialect of Aramaic.

R. Hillel meets the t-shirt

"IF NOT NOW, WHEN?" H&M sells popular t-shirt with Hillel quote (European Jewish Press).

More from Diesel on Hannibal

PUNIC WATCH: Vin Diesel Shows Off Hannibal Title Treatment During Crazy Helicopter Video. Diesel is reportedly "haunted" by the fact that he has not yet completed the Hannibal movies. As well he should be.

Background here and links.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Lost Armenian monastery

EVERY PHILOLOGIST DREAMS OF THIS HAPPENING: Ani ruins reveal hidden secrets from below. New underground structures have come to light in Ani, one of Turkey’s most breathtaking ancient sites. History researcher Sezai Yazıcı says the ancient city’s structures should be promoted (Hurriyet Daily News).
“In 2011 while working on a United Nations project in order to promote Kars and to reveal its historical and cultural heritage, I came across some pretty interesting information. One of the most important names of the first half of the 20th century, George Ivanovic Gurdjieff, who spent most of his childhood and youth in Kars, had chosen [to stay in] an isolated place in Ani along with his friend Pogosyan where they worked for some time together in the 1880s. One day, while digging at one of the underground tunnels in Ani, Gurdjieff and his friend saw that the soil became different. They continued digging and discovered a narrow tunnel. But the end of the tunnel was closed off with stones. They cleaned the stones and found a room. They saw decayed furniture, broken pots and pans in the room. They also found a scrap of parchment in a niche. Although Gurdjieff spoke Armenian very well, he failed to read Armenian writing in the parchment. Apparently, it was very old Armenian. After a while, they learned that the parchments were letters written by a monk to another monk,” Yazıcı said, speaking about how he became interested in the underground structures.

“Finally, [Gurdjieff and his friend] succeeded in understanding the letters. Gurdjieff discovered that there was a famous Mesopotamian esoteric school in the place where they found the letters. The famous school was active between the sixth and seventh centuries A.D. and there was a monastery there,” he added.
HT Cornelia Horn on Facebook.

Some past posts on ancient Armenian are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. And this story deserves a nod to The Rule of Four.