Sunday, December 31, 2017

Interview with James Kugel

THE BOOK OF DOCTRINES AND OPINIONS (BLOG): Interview with James Kugel – The Great Shift (Alan Brill).
James Kugel in the exciting new book The Great Shift discusses a great change, similar to the Axial Age theory, between the era when God walked with people and the era when he no longer did. Kugel quotes the Catholic author Flannery O’Connor “I do not know You, God because I am in the way. Please help me push myself aside.” For Kugel, our modern selves get in the way of our knowing God and, more importantly for this book, understanding the Bible. Biblical people had very different semi-permeable senses of self, different than the modern self, that allowed a direct experience of God. This is the thesis of the book. But conversely, our modern sense of the self causes us to misread the Bible as if it shared modern concepts of the self.
An excellent interview. For more on Professor Kugel's new book, see here.

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Another review of Bible Nation

BOOK REVIEW: How Hobby Lobby Appropriates Jewish Culture To Shill For Christ (Raphael Magarik, The Forward).
Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby
By Candida R. Moss and Joel S. Baden
Princeton University Press, 240 pages, $29.95
Excerpt:
In “Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby,” Candida Moss and Joel Baden examine the Green family’s Bible-oriented philanthropy, which extends far beyond Torah scrolls. The Greens have assembled a world-class collection of Bible manuscripts, some of which remain unpublished and unstudied, and a team of well-paid scholars to study them. They have created their enormous, multistory Bible museum and have given untold millions to missionizing and to Bible-translation projects. They have even sponsored the writing of a Bible curriculum, which has proved too controversial (and likely unconstitutional) for American public schools but is catching on in Israel. Alarmingly, Moss and Baden show that in the process, the family has ignored basic tenets of biblical scholarship, antiquities preservation and academic ethics. The Greens have pursued single-mindedly their narrow religious mission, yet, as Baden and Moss write, “none of these projects has preceded smoothly.” Their story, then, is both a cautionary tale about big money attempting to muscle an intellectual culture into submission and a slapstick comedy about the pratfalls along the way.
The reviewer specifies that the scornful tone of this review comes from him, not the authors of Bible Nation.

For more on the book, see here and links. And for other posts on Hobby Lobby, the Green Collection, and the Museum of the Bible, start here and follow the many links.

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Azariah de Rossi on the Letter of Aristeas

RECEPTION HISTORY: Azariah de Rossi’s Fascination with the Septuagint (The Lehrhaus).
The fate of Aristeas among rabbinic Jews began to change in November of 1570, when the Italian Jewish scholar Azariah de Rossi was forced out of his home by a series of earthquakes that devastated the city of Ferrara. During his wanderings, he was approached by a Christian scholar for clarification on several difficult points in the Latin translation of The Letter of Aristeas. The scholar was surprised to learn that there was no Hebrew version of a work that is so complimentary of the Jewish Bible. Over the following three weeks, Azariah produced a Hebrew translation of Aristeas, which he called Hadrat Zekenim. Though he was nearing 60 years of age and was extraordinarily erudite, this was the first work that Azariah wrote for publication.
HT AJR Twitter.

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Sommer et al. (eds), Mosebilder

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Mosebilder. Gedanken zur Rezeption einer literarischen Figur im Frühjudentum, frühen Christentum und der römisch-hellenistischen Literatur. Hrsg. v. Michael Sommer, Erik Eynikel, Veronika Niederhofer u. Elisabeth Hernitscheck. [Pictures of Moses. Thoughts on a Literary Figure's Reception in Early Judaism, Early Christianity, and Roman-Hellenistic Literature.] 2017. IX, 478 pages. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 390. 149,00 €. cloth. ISBN 978-3-16-155790-3.
Published in German.
Moses – prophet, leader and mediator of God’s revelation. As Israel’s spokesperson and negotiator, he plays a decisive role in early Judaism as well as early Christianity. But he is also mentioned by pagan authors. Beyond doubt, Moses’ history of reception is very complex and convoluted. In the course of time, this figure was associated with various ideas and fulfilled different functions depending on the literary context. Certainly, the multifaceted portrayals of Moses reflect the diversity of early Jewish and early Christian conceptions and are the product of their complex history. By also focusing on often-neglected and less well-known texts, the particular aim of this volume is to illuminate the manifold depictions of Moses.

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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Israel turns in paperwork to withdraw from UNESCO

POLITICS: UNESCO chief receives Israel’s withdrawal notice: ‘I regret this deeply.’ Audrey Azoulay's confirmation of Israeli departure comes after last minute scramble to submit paperwork; Jewish state will leave UN's cultural arm on December 31, 2018 (Agencies and TOI Staff). There is still time to turn this back, but UNESCO will have to change its tune. Background here, here, and here.

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The ruins of the Khokha Synagogue in Egypt

A CALL FOR RESTORATION: Fallen from Grace: Rabbi Hayyim El-Imshati Synagogue (Samar Samir, Egypt Today).
CAIRO - 30 December 2017: Walking in through the two-meter-wide entrance, you will find in the semi-demolished ramshackle and stumble across a big cement block and a corridor leading to a rickety staircase leading to the second floor, which is now collapsed and filled with an acrid smell. A few hundreds years ago, this place was a Fatimid-Caliphate era synagogue filled with supplicating people; now it is left to turn in to ruins.

Around 150 kilometers away from Cairo, at the Mahala Al Kobra’s Souk al-Labn in the Delta, stands the ruins of Rabbi Hayyim El-Imshati Synagogue.

The synagogue is also known as Synagogue of Khokhet El Yahoud, Ostad Synagogue and Rabbi El-Imshati Synagogue. The history of Khokha makes it a good candidate to be part of the Ministry of Antiquities’ future plan of developing and restoring the Egyptian Jewish heritage. The ministry has started on a big project to restore Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Alexandria, and has also registered Alexandria’s Menasce Synagogue as an antiquity, giving it further protection and potential restoration privileges.

Khokha Synagogue, however, is unregistered as an antiquity, an obstacle that stands in its way to restoration or being preserved.

[...]
This synagogue was founded in the eleventh century so it is not precisely ancient. But it is very old. It deserves some attention, so I am giving it some here. I hope it makes it onto the restoration list.

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Best of Bible and Interpretation 2017

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION: Editors' Choice: The Best of 2017. I think I linked to most or all of these.

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No, the Temple did not stand over the Gihon Spring

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Jerusalem’s Garbage. How garbage disposes of the idea that the Temple once stood over the Gihon Spring (Leen Ritmeyer).
It is interesting to read historical sources including the Bible, but if the interpretation of the text conflicts with archaeological evidence, positive or negative, the theory itself becomes garbage.
Background here.

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Friday, December 29, 2017

Monster Theory

REMNANT OF GIANTS BLOG: Monster Theory in Biblical Studies. And what better place to catch up on your Monster Theory?

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A rabbi reviews the Museum of the Bible

MUSEUM REVIEW: A Rabbi’s Take on the New Museum of the Bible (Rabbi Perry Tirschwell, The Jewish Link).
Should Orthodox families and yeshiva day schools visit this museum, which opened just before Thanksgiving in Washington, D.C.? It was founded, and to a large extent paid for, by the Evangelical Christian family who are the owners of the 600-store Hobby Lobby chain, who successfully challenged Obamacare’s mandate to pay for morning-after pills in the Supreme Court. Is this museum a subterfuge for Christian indoctrination? I went to find out.

I was simultaneously blown away, and underwhelmed, by the Museum of the Bible.

[...]
For many, many past PaleoJudaica posts on the Museum of the Bible and related matters, see here and links.

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

A year 5 shekel from the Great Revolt

NUMISMATICS: NGC Ancient Coins Highlight January 2018 Auctions (Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, Coin World). There are two coins from the Jewish War, including this unusual one:
Lot 32080 – A Year 5 silver shekel from the Jewish War, graded NGC XF with a 4/5 Strike and 3/5 Surface. This extremely rare coin was struck in 70 or 71 CE, during the terrifying, final stage of the Jewish revolt against Rome that led to the destruction of Jerusalem. Heritage Auctions estimates its value at $100,000 to $150,000.
As always, but especially with unusual artifacts like this one, I hope the buyer will be willing to make the objects available to scholars for study, if requested.

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CFP: Conference on Religious and Philosophical Conversion in the ancient Mediterranean

RELIGION PROF: #CFP Conference on Religious and Philosophical Conversion in Ancient Mediterranean Traditions (James McGrath). In Bonn in September of 2018. Looks interesting.

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Thursday, December 28, 2017

Ross on the founding of the IOSCS

WILLIAM ROSS: JELLICOE’S LETTER & THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE IOSCS. IOSCS stands for the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies. This is the first in a series of blog posts on an archive of information about the IOSCS that William recently acquired from Robert Kraft. I look forward to many more posts on this material.

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Joseph as a prophet?

JASON TRON: Joseph: The Making of a Prophet (TheTorah.com).
The Torah is silent about the nature of Joseph’s dreams: What do they mean? Do they come from God? This ambiguity is part of the literary artistry of the story, which relates Joseph’s “coming of age” as a prophet.
I would call Joseph a "mantic sage," like Daniel, rather than a prophet. I'm surprised that there is no reference to Daniel in this essay. The parallels between the mediatory functions of Daniel and Joseph are extensive.

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CT's Biblical Archaeology top 10 for 2017

IT WAS A GOOD YEAR: Biblical Archaeology’s Top 10 Discoveries of 2017 (Gordon Govier, Christianity Today).

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Did Jesus Exist? - reprised

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Did Jesus Exist? Searching for Evidence Beyond the Bible. Lawrence Mykytiuk’s feature article from the January/February 2015 issue of BAR with voluminous endnotes. This BHD essay was originally published in 2014 and I linked to it here. But things are quiet and they've just republished, so I'm linking to it again. Related PaleoJudaica posts are collected at the latter link. And more recent relevant posts are here, here, here, and here.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The camp of the 6th Legion near Megiddo

ARCHAEOLOGY: Cremated Soldier Found in Cooking Pot at Vast Roman Camp in Israel. The camp discovered by Armageddon is the only full-scale Roman legionary base found so far in the East: It housed the 'Ironclad' Sixth Legion, a cremated comrade in a cooking pot, and a Sacred Eagle, whose birdly squawks would be interpreted as portents of war (Philippe Bohstrom, Haaretz).
A monumental gate and dedicatory inscription in Latin are among the finds unearthed at the vast Roman military encampment discovered at Legio, near Tel Megiddo in northern Israel. The huge gate led to the principia, or headquarters.

The existence of the camp categorically proves the assumption, which had been based on multiple sources, that ancient Rome maintained a massive military presence in the Galilee some 1,900 years ago.

The camp at Legio (also known as Lajjun) dates to the 2nd and 3rd centuries C.E. Today covered by crops, then it was home to the famous Sixth Legion.

[...]
A long and informative article. Past PaleoJudaica posts on the excavation of the camp of the Sixth Legion are here, here, here, and here.

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On the elusive Elder John and lost books

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
Would the Real Elder John Please Stand up?

Our information about the “Elder John,” the source of our earliest traditions about the origins of the Gospels, is quite meager. There was even a basic disagreement among Patristic interpreters about whether or not the “Elder John” should be identified as or distinguished from the “Apostle John.” This article will explore the competing ideological agendas in the debate over the Elder John’s identity. It draws on the third chapter of my book The Beloved Apostle? The Transformation of the Apostle John into the Fourth Evangelist (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2017). Used by permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers. www.wipfandstock.com.

See Also: Why Did the Gospel of Mark Survive?

By Michael J. Kok, Ph.D.
www.jesusmemoirs.wordpress.com
December 2017

I know others have strong views about the matter, but I myself cannot do any better than the conclusion of this essay.

Back in 2005 I quoted Michael Pahl's mention of Papais' Expositions of the Logia of the Lord as one of those lost books that we really wish we still had. It almost certainly will never be recovered, but if it were, it would answer many questions. No doubt it would also raise many more.

Incidentally, that 2005 post introduced PaleoJudaica's longstanding interest in lost books. For past posts on the subject, see here, here, and here, and follow the links back to the original 2005 post.

And incidental to that, isn't it interesting to see how many of the blogs I linked to in that original post now themselves are lost books?

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Review of the "Keep Up Your Biblical Languages in Two Minutes a Day" series

WILLIAM ROSS: REVIEW: KEEP UP YOUR BIBLICAL LANGUAGES IN TWO MINUTES A DAY (HENDRICKSON).

You don't necessarily need these books to keep up you biblical languages. But if you find them helpful, by all means use them.

For many other interesting blog posts by William Ross, see here and links.

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Again on the birth stories in Matthew and Luke

REMNANT OF GIANTS: Jesus’ Birth in Bethlehem Again: Possible Harmonizing Interpretations versus Probable Contextual Interpretations. A follow-up post by Dr. Galbraith to his earlier post on the New Testament Nativity stories, noted here. Yes, I was agreeing with Deane. I also agree that two conflicting accounts can always be harmonized by introducing enough secondary assumptions, but that often that is not good exegesis.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Exhibition on Hippos-Sussita

AT THE UNIVERSITY OF HAIFA: New Exhibition Tells Story of Sussita as Israel Transitioned from Paganism to Christianity (JNi.Media).
A pagan amulet used by a senior clergyman at the church in Hippos (Sussita), a fresco depicting the Greek goddess Tyche on a wall by the church; and a figurine of one of the regular participants in the alcohol-soaked processions devoted to the god of wine Dionysus all tell the story of ancient Hippos during the transition from the pagan Roman period to the Christian-Byzantine era. These and other findings are on display in a new exhibition in the University of Haifa’s Hecht Museum entitled Before the Earth Shook: the Ancient City of Hippos-Sussita Emerges. “The case of Hippos clearly shows how in the center of the city, the residents – including Christian clergy – openly and publicly continued to use the pagan emblems of the Roman era,” explains Dr. Michael Eisenberg of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa, who is directing the excavations at Hippos.

[...]
The site of Hippos-Sussita has produced many exciting artifacts and architectural finds. For past PaleoJudaica posts, start here and follow the links.

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

Postel (trans. Weiss), On the Conciliation of Nature and Grace

NEW BOOK FROM MAGNES PRESS:
On the Conciliation of Nature and Grace
A Latin Translation and Commentary on the Zohar by Guillaume Postel (1510-1581)


By Guillaume Postel
Translation: Judith Weiss

Publisher: The Hebrew University Magnes Press
Categories: Jewish Studies, Christianity, Jewish Mysticism
Publish date: November 2017
Language: Hebrew
Danacode: 45-141030
ISBN: 978-965-7759-28-8
Cover: Paperback
Pages: 373
Weight: 800 gr.

Ever since its emergence in the thirteenth-century, Jewish Kabbalah, and most prominently – the Book of Zohar, has captured the hearts of Jewish as well as non-Jewish readers. Significant interest in Kabbalah is evident in the Renaissance, when various Christian Scholars accepted the traditional Jewish narrative, according to which the corpus of medieval Jewish Kabbalah is the Oral Law given to Moses on Mount Sinai. The sixteenth century is rightfully considered the golden age of this kind of Christian interest in Jewish Kabbalah. During this period a group of scholars, high-rank priests, and secular rulers were familiar with Kabbalistic notions, some of these Christians read the Kabbalistic treatises, whether in their original versions or in translation, some even composed commentaries or translated them into Latin, and most important - they incorporated Kabbalistic notions into their own theological and messianic conceptions. Among Kabbalistic writings, most of these thinkers' attention was drawn to the Zohar, and some of them attempted to translate parts of it into Latin. The first comprehensive, though not complete Latin translation of the Zohar was composed by the French orientalist and mystic Guillaume Postel in the middle of the 16th century. Postel was a prolific and original thinker, who developed an elaborate messianic theological schema, which he based upon Kabbalistic notions. Convinced, as he was, that the Zohar is the perfect and ultimate expression of his own messianic concepts, he embarked on his life project – producing a Latin translation and commentary on the Zohar. This fascinating commentary on the Zohar never appeared in print nor was it ever translated into any language. In Judith Weiss's On the Conciliation of Nature and Grace substantial parts of Postel's Commentaries on the Zohar are presented in the original Latin vis a vis her Hebrew translation, accompanied by introductions and notes, elucidating Postel's unique perception of the Zohar and the Kabbalah.
Cross-file under Zohar Watch. For many past PaleoJudaica posts on the Zohar, start here (cf. here) and follow the links.

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Another review of Jenkins, the Crucible of Faith

BOOK REVIEW: Baylor history professor sees crucial era shaping Christmas story (Carl Hoover, Waco Tribune-Herald). Excerpt:
“There’s a real cultural and spiritual revolution in that period,” Jenkins said.

Power struggles over territory in the decades after Alexander’s death in 323 B.C. — primarily between the Seleucid and the Ptolemaic dynasties, with Rome coming to dominate both — and popular revolts against those ruling powers made ripe conditions for cultural and theological ferment, captured in the title of Jenkins’ newest history, “Crucible Of Faith: The Ancient Revolution That Made Our Modern Religious World.”

Jewish books and writings from that period, some preserved in the Apocrypha found between the Old and New Testaments in many Bibles, show the development of new ideas on angels and demons, Satan, heaven, hell, a messiah and a final apocalypse between good and evil, Jenkins said.

The Book of 1 Enoch, written in approximately the second century B.C., proved a pivotal work, particularly in its description of supernatural beings and existence.
For past PaleoJudaica posts on the book, see here and links.

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Tucker, The Holiness Composition in the Book of Exodus

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: PAAVO N. TUCKER, The Holiness Composition in the Book of Exodus. [Die Heiligkeitskomposition in Exodus.] 2017. IX, 230 pages. Forschungen zum Alten Testament 2. Reihe 98. 79,00 €. sewn paper. ISBN 978-3-16-155190-1.
Published in English.
In this study, Paavo N. Tucker considers the different models of formation for the Priestly literature of the Pentateuch through an analysis of the Priestly texts in Exodus and how they relate to the Holiness Code in Lev 17–26. The texts in Exodus that are traditionally assigned to the Priestly Grundschrift are not concerned with the priestly matters of Exod 25-Lev 16, but are better understood as relating to the language, theology, and concerns of Lev 17–26, and should be assigned to the same strata of H with Lev 17–26. The same applies to the Priestly narratives beginning in Gen 1. The Priestly literature in Gen 1-Lev 26 form a composition that develops the themes of creation, Sabbath, sanctuary, and covenant to their climactic expression and culmination in the legal promulgation and ethical paraenesis of H in Lev 17–26. The author shows that, rather than being a “Priestly composition” as Erhard Blum argues, it is more fitting to see this literature as an “H composition,” which weaves narrative and law together in order to motivate obedience to the laws of Lev 17–26.

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Monday, December 25, 2017

Why gold, frankincense, and myrrh?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Why Did the Magi Bring Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh? Medicinal uses of frankincense may help explain the gifts of the magi. Maybe. But I doubt that the baby Jesus was suffering from arthritis.

Cross-file under 'Tis the Season.

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A Maccabean battle at Shilo

BELATED HANUKKAH-RELATED NEWS: Ancient findings show how Maccabees defeated the Greeks. Archeological excavation in Shilo reveals ancient Greek community attacked by the Maccabees in the Great Revolt, showing the great battle that took place at the site (Elisha Ben Kimon, YnetNews).
Rare finds discovered in excavations conducted in ancient Shilo in Binyamin show how the Maccabees defeated the Greeks there.

A Hellenistic (Greek) structure that was destroyed during the Maccabean Revolt, which broke out following the religious decrees of Antiochus IV, was discovered in the excavations.

[...]
The discoveries more "show that" than "show how," but are significant nonetheless. Incidentally, the phrase "Great Revolt" is usually reserved for the first revolt against Rome in 66-70 CE. This article is about the Maccabean Revolt in 167-164 BCE.

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

On the rescue of the Mar Benham manuscripts

THE MANUSCRIPTS MEN: The men saving history from ISIS. In the face of danger, a pair of padres are finding and protecting ancient religious books and manuscripts from terrorists (Lesley Stahl, 60 Minutes).
We have come across an unlikely band of brothers on the battlefield against terrorism. They are men of the cloth, a pair of padres, who go into harm's way to find and protect ancient religious books and manuscripts.

We joined them in a region of Iraq that was once Mesopotamia where human culture and learning really began. It's believed to be the birthplace of mathematics, writing and agriculture and recently, the scene of some of the fiercest battles in the U.S.-backed war against ISIS.

Father Columba: I think it's the graffiti that's most horrifying to me.

Father Columba, a Benedictine monk from Minnesota and Father Najeeb Michaeel, a Dominican friar from Iraq decided to partner up to rescue what old documents they could from places like this monastery, Mar Behnam, in Northern Iraq that goes back to the 4th century. It was occupied and defaced by ISIS.

[...]
See also: The manuscripts saved by a monk. A monk from Minnesota travels the world to preserve ancient documents. Here's a look at what he's saved from war, weather and other forces of nature (60 Minutes Overtime). The monk is the abovementioned Father Columba Stewart, on whom more here.

PaleoJudaica followed this story as it was happening, although parts happened behind the scenes and only came to light later. Before the ISIS occupation, Father Yousef Sakat hid more than four hundred manuscripts at the site of the Mar Benham monastery and they remained hidden until the monastery was liberated. For details, see here and links.

It's good to see 60 Minutes taking notice of this story.

While we're on the topic, let's take note that here at the end of 2017, ISIS has been annihilated in the Middle East. Only its last pockets of resistance remain to be mopped up. That doesn't mean it can't still cause some trouble, there and elsewhere, but it is critically weakened.

I didn't see that coming. Things looked very grim in 2014 and 2015. But good riddance. Let's hope for better things for the people there in 2018.

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Maronite Aramaic at Jish

(MODERN) ARAMAIC WATCH: Do you hear what I hear? Christians in Holy Land revive the language of Jesus (CBC/Yahoo News).
In the hills of the Galilee, the lush region in the Holy Land where it's said that Jesus Christ grew up, residents of the town of Jish are preparing to celebrate Christmas Mass in the language Jesus spoke.

A handful of people from Jish are at the centre of an effort to revive the Aramaic language — centuries after it all but disappeared from the Middle East.

[...]
More on the Maronite revival of Aramaic in Jish here and links. I'm glad to hear that they are still at it.

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Christmas 2017

MERRY CHRISTMAS to all those celebrating!

For posts of Christmas past, see my 2016 Christmas post and links. Christmas-related posts in the last year are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here (cf. here), and here.

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Sunday, December 24, 2017

Britt and Boustan, The Elephant Mosaic Panel in the Synagogue at Huqoq

NEW BOOK FROM THE JOURNAL OF ROMAN ARCHAEOLOGY SUPPLEMENT SERIES:
Published December 13, 2017.
S106. THE ELEPHANT MOSAIC PANEL IN THE SYNAGOGUE AT HUQOQ: OFFICIAL PUBLICATION AND INITIAL INTERPRETATIONS, by Karen Britt and Ra'anan Boustan. Paperback, 7 x 10 inch. 82 pages, 21 figures including colour. List price $49.75. Prepublication price to JRA individual subscribers $39.75.
Huqoq elephant panel update: with information on further discussions of the interpretation of the mosaic
Authorized photographs of the mosaic are now available on the National Geographic Society's popular news website: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/09/mysterious-mosaic-alexander-the-great-israel/ The full publication of the mosaic, however, is only available in JRA Supplement 106.
More on the ancient elephant mosaic from Huqoq is here and links. And for much more on the Huqoq excavation and the other mosaics excavated there, start here and follow the links.

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Brooke to give Dirk Smilde Fellowship Inaugural Lecture

UPCOMING AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GRONINGEN: 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 Feburary 2018.
Prof. George Brooke’s inaugural lecture asks: to what should the Dead Sea Scrolls be compared? Over the years, many comparisons have been offered: sometimes with texts from the second millennium BCE, sometimes with texts from the Middle Ages, and with everything in between. Comparisons have also been made with items from Babylon to Italy, and from Asia Minor to Egypt. How should such comparisons be controlled? What makes a comparison appropriate? With eight examples from the Bible to the Copper Scroll, from Libraries to Voluntary Associations, the lecture will address some of the issues as it seeks to locate and illuminate the Dead Sea Scrolls within a broader comparative frame of reference.

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Jesus' birth according to Matthew and Luke

REMNANT OF GIANTS: The Two Stories of Jesus’ Birth in Bethlehem. In a festive spirit, Deane Galbraith reminds us that the Christmas story is a combination of two irreconcilable accounts from the New Testament.

Cross-file under 'Tis the Season.

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Jesus films poll at Duke

'TIS THE SEASON: Favourite -- and least favourite -- Jesus Films (Mark Goodacre, NT Blog). Professor Goodacre was surprised by this year's result, but I am not. Who can resist Aramaic?

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Saturday, December 23, 2017

What wine did the Maccabees drink?

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: What Were the Maccabees of Hannukah [Sic throughout] Drinking? (NeatPour).
Today, Hannukah is celebrated by millions who light the menorah, eat some latkes, and enjoy a seasonal tipple of their libation of choice. During the uprising that inspired the holiday, the surroundings were harsher: hostile Roman Legionnaires, dangerous bacteria in the water, and not enough oil to light a lamp, let alone fry a latke. However, what did they drink? Research suggests that our holiday protagonists were sipping’ on watered down Marawi wine.

[...]
I don't know how accurate this. The consistent misspelling of "Hanukkah" does not speak for the rigor of the research. But some of the details are interesting. The part about watering down the wine sounds right.

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Review of Shyovitz, A Remembrance of His Wonders

THE TALMUD BLOG: David Shyovitz’s “A Remembrance of His Wonders.”
David Shyovitz, A Remembrance of His Wonders: Nature and the Supernatural in Medieval Ashkenaz, reviewed by Miri Fenton
Excerpt:
His book reframes the German Pietists (Hasidei Ashkenaz), and their interests in the supernatural, werewolves, adjuration, and divination as “markers of intellectual sophistication and integration into a broader European culture that was investing unprecedented energy into investigating the scientific workings and spiritual meaning of its natural surroundings” (3). ...
This deals with an area somewhat later than PaleoJudaica's usual range, but I have an interest in the Hasidei Ashkenaz because of their reception and editing of earlier traditions, notably the Hekhalot literature.

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Farming myrrh, frankincense and ... amber

'TIS THE SEASON — FOR ENTREPRENEURS: Smells Like Heaven: Israeli Farm Recreates Magi’s Gifts to Jesus (Reuters and the Algemeiner).
The aromatic plants bestowed on the infant Jesus are being cultivated by an Israeli entrepreneur who aims to transform the gifts of the Christmas story into therapeutic balms and incense.

Manger aside, the baby Jesus may have been swaddled in pleasant and pricey fragrances, thanks to the presents that the Bible says were given to him by the Wise Men of the East.

[...]
I see no reason to think that the gold in Matthew's nativity story was meant to be understood as anything but gold. That said, amber is nice.

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

When and where was the Joseph story written?

DR. SHIRLY BEN-DOV EVIAN: Was the Joseph Story Written in Egypt During the Persian Period? (TheTorah.com)
Egyptologists have long searched the details of the Joseph story for clues to when the story was written. Does the Jewish experience as a diaspora community in Egypt hold the clue to the story’s origin?

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"Operation Zeus" seizes thousands of artifacts in Turkey

APPREHENDED: Nearly 26,500 ancient artifacts seized in biggest operation in Turkey’s history (Hurriyet Daily News).
Istanbul police on Dec. 21 seized 26,456 ancient artifacts and detained 13 suspects as part of an operation considered the biggest in Turkish history in Istanbul.

Among the items recovered were a golden queen's crown with an inscription of the Hellenistic god, Helios, a bust dedicated to Alexander the Great's conquest of India and a statue of a goddess dating back to the Hittite era 3,000 years ago.

The 26,456 objects recovered also included Egyptian-origin statues and Phoenician-type teardrop vials.

[...]
Once again, the Turkish authorities demonstrate their attention to the problem of antiquities smuggling. Good for them.

There is no mention of Torah manuscripts or metal codices in this haul and I don't see any sign of either in the photograph. This group of detainees may not be the same as the one(s) who were dealing in such dubious artifacts. But it sounds worthwhile to keep an eye on the story just to see what else comes up as the seized artifacts are examined.

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

Those animals in the Nativity scene

'TIS THE SEASON: An ox, an ass … a dragon? Sorry, there were no animals in the Bible’s nativity scene (Meredith Warren, The Conversation).
From nativity plays to crèche sets to Christmas cards, animals are ubiquitous in our vision of the birth of Christ – but according to the Bible, not a single animal was there. Where did all these animals come from, and why are they now so central to the story?

Only two parts of the Bible talk about Jesus’ birth: the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. Mark and John skip over Jesus’ infancy and head straight to his adult life. So how similar are the narratives of Matthew and Luke to the version familiar to anyone who has attended a Christmas church service or children’s nativity play? Christmas carols such as Away In A Manger sing about the cattle lowing – and in Little Drummer Boy they keep time. There’s even a song called Little Donkey about the beast that carries Mary to Bethlehem in our vision of the Christmas story. But do these images appear in the actual Gospels?

[...]
They don't in the canonical Four Gospels. The Protevangelium of James (cf. here) and some other apocryphal gospels are another matter. And, yes, dragons are involved too. Cats are a more recent addition.

HT AJR. Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch.

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Friday, December 22, 2017

The Protevangelium of James in the New York Times

'TIS THE SEASON: Away in a Manger... Or Under a Palm Tree? (Mustafa Akyol, New York Times).
A key Christian document that diverges from the gospels of Matthew and Luke on the Nativity is the Protevangelium of James — a “Gospel” that didn’t make it into the New Testament and thus remained “apocryphal.” Its purported author is James, the brother of Jesus, but scholars think that it was written generations later, sometime in the latter half of the second century. It is called a “protevangelium,” or “pre-Gospel,” because it highlights the life of the infant Jesus, which is not discussed much in the New Testament.

In the Protevangelium, we read that Jesus was born not in Bethlehem but somewhere in the “desert” between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Mary, according to this story, went into labor while riding between the towns. Her husband, Joseph, found a nearby “cave” for her and went out to Bethlehem to find a “Hebrew midwife.” When Joseph returned with her, Jesus was born. “My soul has been magnified this day,” the midwife said, according to James’s account, “because my eyes have seen strange things, because salvation has been brought forth to Israel.”
Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch. For more on the Protevangelium of James, see here.

As the author of the article notes, the Qur'an also has a variant account of the birth of Jesus which may have some overlap with the Protevangelium of James.

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

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Hunter and Coakley (eds.), A Syriac Service-Book from Turfan

NEW BOOK FROM BREPOLS PUBLISHERS:
Berliner Turfantexte (BTT 39)
A Syriac Service-Book from Turfan
Museum für asiatische Kunst, Berlin MS MIK III 45


E. Hunter, J-F Coakley (eds.)
X+307 p., 17 b/w ill., 111 b/w tables, 210 x 297 mm, 2017
ISBN: 978-2-503-57471-4
Languages: English, Syriac
Paperback
The publication is available.
Retail price: EUR 65,00 excl. tax

An edition and study of an 8th-9th century Syriac manuscript from Bulayïq near Turfan, the earliest extant witness of the Penqita or ḥudra.
In 1905, a substantial Syriac manuscript of 60 leaves, containing a Christian service-book, was discovered by the second German Turfan Expedition at the monastery site of Bulayïq. Since then, although the existence of this manuscript (which has received the signature of MIK III 45) has been mentioned from time to time in the scholarly literature, its text has never been published. The present volume offers ‘for the first time’ an edition of the Syriac text, English translation and critical introduction to MIK III 45. The Syriac text is of the Penqita, the book later known as the ḥudra, containing the variable parts of the daily offices and eucharist, to which have been appended some occasional services of the Church of the East, including the burial service. The 60 folios are the surviving part (about one quarter) of a manuscript datable to the eighth or ninth century and, on account of this dating, can be considered to be the earliest extant witness to the Penqita which was the project of the seventh-century patriarch Isho'yab III who drew up the outline for the ecclesiastical year that is still followed today in the Church of the East. The editors argue that MIK III 45 was probably written in Merv –it would be the only Syriac manuscript known from that Christian centre – for transport to the Christian church in distant Turfan.
Cross-file under Syriac Watch. HT Dr. Erica C D Hunter at the Hugoye List.

For past posts on the important manuscripts found at Turfan, which include fragmentary copies of Manichean (Manichaean) manuscripts of the Book of Giants, see here and links.

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Cautions about digital technology

THE ETC BLOG: The problem with digitizing our discipline (Peter Gurry). He raises some legitimate concerns. Cross-file under Technology Watch.

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

Deconstructing Delilah

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
Re-Imagining Delilah’s Afterlives as a Femme Fatale

The biblical narrative is riddled with gaps and ambiguities around Delilah’s character – we are told nothing about her social status or ethnicity, her personality, the nature of her relationship (emotional, sexual, or otherwise) with Samson, or even her motives for betraying him. This ambiguity in turn provides readers and creators of her cultural afterlives with a ‘multi-layered system of realized and unrealized potentialities’ that they can engage with imaginatively to construct their own afterlives for this intriguing persona…

See Also: Reimagining Delilah’s Afterlives as Femme Fatale: The Lost Seduction (T&T Clark, 2017).

By Caroline Blyth
Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies
University of Auckland
December 2017

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Jerusalem Estates and coins of the Jewish revolts

NUMISMATICS MEETS REAL ESTATE MARKETING: VIDEO: Ancient Jewish Coins A Key Motif Of Jerusalem Estates Linking The Luxury Development To The Past (Yeshiva World).
Yerushalayim…Concurrent with the rapidly rising Jerusalem Estates luxurious residential complex is an extraordinary effort to conserve the historic character of the 150-year old Schneller Compound. At the same time that one of the most contemporary and modern housing developments is being built is a parallel tract of linkage to the thousands of years of history of the ancient holy city. As part of the creative development that links the project with the glorious past of Yerushalayim is a program that designates each building by an ancient coin with its original name and motif. These are antique coins from the period of the end of the second Bet Hamikdash and Bar Kochba.

[...]
Cross-file under Popular Culture.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Byzantine-era monastery uncovered in Beit-Shemesh

ARCHAEOLOGY: ARTIFACTS FROM 1,500-YEAR-OLD MONASTERY AND CHURCH UNEARTHED IN BEIT SHEMESH. Well-preserved Byzantine-era colored mosaic floors and imported marble antiquities discovered (Daniel K. Eisenbud, Jerusalem Post).
With a little help from over 1,000 teenaged volunteers, archeologists recently unearthed the well-preserved remains of a 1,500-year-old Byzantine-era monastery and church in Beit Shemesh decorated with colorful mosaic tiles and imported marble antiquities.

[...]
Three years ago I noted an article on this excavation here. At the time the excavators had tentatively identified the site as a monastery, but the evidence was not yet conclusive. Now the identification seems to be secure. At the time there was not yet any sign of a church, but that appears now to have been uncovered too.

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

Ignatius and pseudo-Ignatius on Sabbath observation

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Dissertation Spotlight | Phillip Fackler.
Phillip Fackler, “Forging Christianity: Jews and Christians in Pseudo-Ignatius,” Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 2017.
Excerpt:
The early Christian writer, Ignatius of Antioch (d. ca. 107 ce) did not mince words about the issues that concerned him. He criticized people who denied Jesus’ divinity, warned against churches without bishops, raised suspicions about people who were too bookish in their piety, and railed against “Sabbatizers.” In his formulation, even ancient Israel’s prophets rejected the Sabbath (lit. sabbatizontes) and instead lived “according to the Lord’s day.” [1] That is, they revered Sunday and its association with Jesus rather than observing Sabbath.

Those familiar with Christian thought, especially certain readings of Paul, may understand a rejection of “Jewish” practice to be a crucial component of Christian thought, then or now. Curiously, however, the most careful ancient reader of Ignatius saw things rather differently. Sometime near the end of the fourth century, an anonymous scribe carefully read and revised the Ignatian epistles, extensively amending many of the letters and adding a few of his own in Ignatius’s name. This “Pseudo-Ignatius” amends the earlier text to support the view that Christians should observe Sabbath. What distinguishes Jews and Christians is not observing Sabbath but how they do so. ...

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UCLA and the Sinai Palimpsests Project

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Lost ancient texts recovered and published online through international partnership. Arcadia funds project of St. Catherine’s Monastery, the UCLA Library, and Early Manuscripts Electronic Library(Kathy Brown, UCLA Library).
Previously unknown classical Greek mythological and medical works, newly discovered classical scientific texts preserved only in Syriac translation, religious writings in extinct languages, an ancient Christian poem describing Old Testament figures in Homeric style and detailed illustrations of plants, buildings and people have re-emerged for the first time in centuries through the Sinai Palimpsests Project.

[...]
It's good to see that my alma mater UCLA is involved with this important project.

For new readers: a palimpsest is a manuscript that has two layers of writing on it, an older one that has been erased, and a more recent text that was written over the erased one. Modern technology is increasingly allowing us to recover the erased lower layer of writing on these manuscripts.

For more on the palimpsests from St. Catherine's Monastery, see here and links. For other posts on palimpsest manuscripts, start here and follow the links.

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

Synagogue opened in Western Wall tunnels complex

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH (SUBTERRANEAN EDITION): NEW WESTERN WALL TUNNELS SYNAGOGUE OPENED. The synagogue is deep inside the complex and is adjacent to the area above which the ancient Jewish temples on the Temple Mount stood, and the inner sanctum of the Holy of Holies in particular (Jeremy Sharon, Jerusalem Post).

This news is not playing well in some circles: Israel unveils new synagogue in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa (Middle East Monitor).

The MEMO article appears to deny any Jewish connection to the Western Wall (the "Al-Buraq Wall"). In actuality, the Western Wall was part of the retaining wall for the Herodian Temple. In Islamic tradition, it is also where the Prophet Muhammad tied his celestial steed Al-Buraq during his visionary visit to Jerusalem and heavenly ascent (Al-Miraj). Some more background on that is here and links.

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

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Ten-part series on the (Proto)-MT by Tov

PROF. EMANUEL TOV: The (Proto-)Masoretic Text: A Ten-Part Series (TheTorah.com). The link is to Part 1: The Bible and the Masoretic Text. The other nine parts are as follows:

Part 2 – Judean Desert Texts Outside Qumran
Part 3 – Socio-Religious Background and Stabilization
Part 4 – The Scribes of Proto-MT and their Practices
Part 5 – Precise Transmission of Inconsistent Spelling
Part 6 – Scribal Marks
Part 7 – Key Characteristics of the (Proto-)MT
Part 8 – Other Biblical Text Traditions
Part 9 – Evaluating (Proto-)MT
Part 10 – Editions and Translations of (Proto-)MT

This is an important subject and Professor Tov is the most qualified person to write on it. It is very good to have his overview of the subject here.

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The Talmud and the letter of the Law

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Letter of the Law. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ how a badly educated Jew might be able to complete a sex act with an ‘impure’ woman and not be sinful while a Talmud scholar could not.
Clearly, it matters to God that sacrifices are performed in just the right way. At the same time, however, the Talmud is insistent on bringing an ethical and spiritual dimension to laws that, in the Torah, often seem more like arbitrary superstitions or taboos. The rabbis do not say that any old sacrifice is acceptable to God; the law must be followed to the letter. At the same time, however, the ritual action must be performed in the proper spirit, with the heart directed to God. Kavanah, intention, is crucial to Jewish observance; in the kabbalistic tradition, it would even be endowed with cosmic and magic powers. This is the Jewish response to the Apostle Paul, a Jew turned Christian, who convinced the world that Judaism was a religion of the letter, while Christianity cared about the spirit. Not so, the rabbis would reply: what Judaism cares about is the right letter performed in the right spirit.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Developing historical sites in Jerusalem

ARCHAEOLOGY AND POLITICS: Regev pushes for extensive Old City excavations in Jerusalem. Culture minister initiates $70-million plan to uncover, preserve and develop historical sites from Har Etzion to City of David; 'This is the best response to those denying our bonds to Jerusalem and the best implementation of the Trump declaration,' Regev says (Itamar Eichner, Ynetnews).
Culture Minister Miri Regev has ordered the Israel Antiquities Authority to put plans in motion to undertake far-reaching archeological restoration of many historical Jerusalem sites, in a bid to strengthen Jewish bonds to the ancient city. Should the plan be approved, however, it may arouse stringent condemnation in the Arab world.

[...]
Some specifics:
Among the sites to be developed as part of the project are the Pool of Siloam, the Spring Fortress, the terraced street climbing from the City of David to the Temple Mount, the Givati parking lot, the Tanners' Gate plaza, the Western Wall's foundations below Robinson's Arch, the Southern Wall's Triple Gate and others. Works are intended to preserve, reconstruct and develop the sites, as well as to make them more accessible to visitors.
Well, that should make things interesting.

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The disputed Temple in Haggai

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
The Book of Haggai and the Rebuilding of the Temple in the Early Persian Period

It is more likely that any work that might have begun on the temple came to a halt because of problems within the community. This is suggested by the fact that the books of Haggai and Zechariah both assume that the people of Yehud, not outsiders, are to blame for not rebuilding the temple. The reasons for the slow progress on the temple are never directly stated in these books, but we can surmise what at least some of the obstacles to reconstruction may have been on the basis of what we know of the economic, social, political, and religious role of temples in the ancient Near East.

See Also: Disputed Temple: A Rhetorical Analysis of the Book of Haggai (Fortress Press, 2017).

By John Robert Barker, OFM
Catholic Theological Union
Chicago
December 2017

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Monday, December 18, 2017

The Maccabean Revolt in Daniel 7

'TIS THE SEASON (HANUKKAH EDITION): Daniel’s Vision of the Four Beasts: The Prehistory of Chanukah (Prof. Michael Segal, TheTorah.com).
The four beasts of Daniel 7 represent four kingdoms. The terrifying fourth beast with ten horns and iron teeth is the Greek kingdom of Syria. This beast grows a talking horn, which represents Antiochus IV, whose persecutions (167–164 B.C.E.), the biblical author believes, can only be stopped by divine intercession.

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Review of Wasserman, Jews, Gentiles, and Other Animals

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | Jews, Gentiles, and Other Animals: The Talmud After the Humanities (M Adryael Tong).
Mira Beth Wasserman. Jews, Gentiles, and Other Animals: The Talmud After the Humanities. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylania Press, 2017.
Excerpt:
Mira Beth Wasserman’s thoroughly researched and beautifully written monograph is an ambitious foray by a Talmud scholar into the diverse, often-fractious, and notoriously difficult jungle of critical theory. Wasserman’s project has a number of moving parts, but essentially, it is a sustained reading of the entirety of the Babylonian Talmud tractate Avodah Zara (hereafter, “AZ”) as a literary whole. She argues that a close reading of the tractate reveals the Bavli’s redactors not as disinterested editors working merely to preserve texts they received, but as artists in their own right, carefully organizing the material in AZ under “an overarching plan or an undergirding logic” (p. 23). ...

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Ritmeyer on the Royal Stoa on the Temple Mount

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: The Royal Stoa of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (Leen Ritmeyer).
During the Herodian period, a colonnaded hall, known as the Royal Stoa, graced the whole length of the Southern Wall. Constructed in the shape of a basilica with four rows of forty columns each, it formed a central nave in the east end and two side aisles. The central apse was the place of meeting for the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish Council. The main part of this building was used for the changing of money and purchase of sacrificial animals.

[...]
Dr. Ritmeyer interacts with the recent publication by Dr. Orit Peleg-Barkat (see here) and proposes a somewhat different reconstruction of the area.

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Duncan, Novel Hermeneutics in the Greek Pseudo-Clementine Romance

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: PATRICIA A. DUNCAN, Novel Hermeneutics in the Greek Pseudo-Clementine Romance. [Roman-Hermeneutik in griechischen pseudoklementinischen Homilien.] 2017. XIV, 204 pages. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 395. 99,00 €. cloth. ISBN 978-3-16-155265-6.
Published in English.
Patricia A. Duncan examines the fourth-century Christian novel traditionally known as the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies (but here referred to as the Klementia) in order to show how the lengthy and complex narrative coheres as a rhetorical whole and works to initiate the reader into a revised, esoteric vision of the origins of Christianity. The novel is well known for its distinctive doctrine of “false pericopes” in the scriptures of the Jews, but equally important is the way it capitalizes on its narrative genre to correct false pericopes in the Gospels of the New Testament. Key to the novel's project is a construction of the apostle Peter as the chief tradent and the fully authorized interpreter of the words and deeds of the True Prophet Jesus. This Peter offers up of a law-abiding, monotheistic “Christianity” that is fully continuous with the religion of the followers of Moses.

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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Moss on Hanukkah

'TIS THE SEASON (HANUKKAH EDITION): The Mad King and the Secret History of Hanukkah. The story behind the holiday of Hanukkah is full of palace intrigue and rebellion (Candida Moss, The Daily Beast).
In their analysis of the Maccabean revolt, scholars tend to see Antiochus’ actions less as those of a persecutor and more as those of a legislator who sided with one (the reformist) of two competing factions in Jerusalem. Whether you see Antiochus as a pragmatic ruler or a crazed persecutor, these legislative actions culminated in the desecration of the Temple in Jerusalem.
A somewhat related PaleoJudaica post, with links, is here. On the fate of the Temple menorah, see here and links. And for many past posts on ancient menorahs and representations of menorahs, see here and here and links.

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

The early history of Hanukkah

'TIS THE SEASON (HANUKKAH EDITION): The Original Meaning of Chanukah (Prof. Eyal Regev, TheTorah.com).
Why did Judah Maccabee establish the holiday? What were the religious and political factors ​that inspired the Maccabees to promote it throughout Judea and the diaspora?

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Inauguration of St. Catherine's Monastery

NOW REOPENED: St Catherine's Library and Mosaic of Transfiguration inaugurated after restoration. Work on restoring the library of St Catherine's Monastery began in 2014 (Nevine El-Aref, ahramonline).
Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany, South Sinai Governor Major General Khaled Fouda, and St Catherine's Monastery Archbishop Dimetriose have inaugurated the first phase of the St Catherine's Library conservation project, including restoration of the Mosaic of Transfiguration.

The opening ceremony was attended by a number of ministers along with members of parliament and ambassadors of foreign countries in Egypt, as well as representatives of Pope Tawadros II and Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb.

El-Enany described St Catherine's as "a source of inspiration that radiated across civilisation, both regionally and globally." He added: "St Catherine's Monastery combines Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This is what we could call the genius of Egypt and its reflection on the harmony between its components and its great people."

[...]
The article has some good photos. Background here. And follow the links from there for much more on the vast collection of precious ancient manuscripts in the monastery. And also see this: What you must know about St. Catherine Library (Angy Essam, Egypt Today).

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

PSCO report on thinking with ancient animals

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: PSCO 2017-18: Thinking with Ancient Animals (Matthew Chalmers).
What, then, does thinking through animals get scholars of ancient religion? It opens a rich ancient archive, articulated with an alternative framework than those which we often use—religion, theology, scripture, or human history. It encourages us to engage more closely with possible relationships between religion and science. Technical knowledge, like that of divination or medicine or psychology functions within regimes of knowing entangled with non-human animals. And it cheerfully impedes taking our intellectual desires and projects for granted. If we are animals as well, what to do with conceptions of ancient religion that have space only for the human?

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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Review of Collins, Scriptures and Sectarianism

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Scriptures and Sectarianism: Essays on the Dead Sea Scrolls (Amanda M. Davis Bledsoe).
John J. Collins, Scriptures and Sectarianism: Essays on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 332. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014.
Excerpt:
Although most of the essays contained in this book have been previously published elsewhere, their collection into a single, readable volume nevertheless provides a valuable resource to scholars and students alike. Its inclusion of extensive indices of modern authors and ancient sources, further increases its accessibility and greatly contribute to the volume’s overall usefulness.

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Tamar, rule-breaker

PROF. JACQUELINE VAYNTRUB: “Her Name was Tamar”: Invasive, Destructive, Redemptive (TheTorah.com).
The character of Tamar draws on a botanical motif—the tamar, the date palm—to evoke a recurring trope of female family members whose beauty and presence have the power to destroy or save the family.

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LXX studies

THE LOGOS ACADEMIC BLOG: So you want to study the LXX? Here’s why and where to do it. Cambridge doctoral student William Ross has a guest post on the important and expanding field of Septuagint studies. I have noted some of his related posts on his own blog here and links. And for his series of interviews with Septuagint scholars, see here and links.

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Siegal, Grünstäudl, and Thiessen (eds.), Perceiving the Other in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Perceiving the Other in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity. Ed. by Michal Bar-Asher Siegal, Wolfgang Grünstäudl, and Matthew Thiessen. [Die Wahrnehmung des Anderen im antiken Judentum und im frühen Christentum.] 2017. VIII, 196 pages. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 394. 99,00 €. cloth. ISBN 978-3-16-154962-5.
Published in English.
In what ways, both positive and negative, do ancient writers interact with and relate to those outside of their ethnicity or religious tradition? This volume examines religious tolerance and intolerance amongst ancient Jews and Christians, focusing particularly on the New Testament and early rabbinic literature.

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Friday, December 15, 2017

On the Pope and temptation in the Lord's Prayer

MEREDITH WARREN: ‘Lead us not into temptation’: why Pope Francis is wrong about the Lord’s Prayer (The Conversation).
Pope Francis recently announced that he thinks the common English translation of the Lord’s Prayer is mistranslated. He is calling for a new version that doesn’t imply that God might lead people into temptation –that, he says, is the Devil’s job. But aside from changing hundreds of years of tradition in the English version of the prayer, is the Pope’s claim that the English misrepresents God an accurate one?

[...]
I'm not going to comment on God or the theology of evil. But the traditional English translation of the Greek phrase is not a mistranslation. It is correct. Grammar is grammar and the text says what it says, even if it is theologically problematical.

I kept meaning to write a blog post on this story, but Dr. Warren has saved me the trouble. Go and read her essay.

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Hanukkah and early liturgical poetry

'TIS THE SEASON (HANUKKAH EDITION): In Praise of the Hasmoneans: Chanukah Beyond Rabbinic Literature (Prof. Ophir Münz-Manor, TheGemara.com).
The relative absence of Chanukah from rabbinic literature has been seen by many scholars as evidence that late antique Jews were ambivalent about the holiday and its Hasmonean founders. However, the highly suggestive evidence of piyyut (liturgical poetry), which extensively and creatively thematizes Chanukah and the Hasmoneans, suggests that this apparent ambivalence was not shared across late antique Jewish society.
So Hanukkah and the Hasmoneans were popular in paytanic circles from the fifth century on. This is important to realize, althought it doesn't tell us about the earlier period of the Tannaitic literature. But it does remind us that there is a lot we don't know. The compliers of the Mishnah had their own agenda, and we have few other sources for that period. We need not assume that all Jews shared exactly the same views.

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New Jewish Museum in Italy

INAUGURAL EXHIBITION: National Jewish museum opens in Italy. New exhibit details history of Jewish presence in Italy from ancient Roman times until the Middle Ages (JTA via Times of Israel).
FERRARA, Italy – Italy got a Hanukkah present – the opening of a national Jewish museum.

The National Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah, or MEIS, opened Wednesday with an inaugural temporary exhibit called “Jews, an Italian Story: The First Thousand Years,” that illustrates the history of Jewish presence in Italy from ancient Roman times until the Middle Ages.

The exhibit, which will run until September 2018, is the first step in a multi-year program of exhibits and events that will culminate in the final form of the museum and its permanent core exhibit, expected in late 2020.

[...]
I'm surprised that I don't seem to have heard about this before. Very good news.

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Geniza Fragments 73 and 74

GENIZA FRAGMENTS, the Newsletter of the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit, Cambridge University Library has published two new issues since I last posted on it. I was sure that I had posted on the April issue earlier this year. I certainly was watching for it and noticed it. But apparently I didn't put up a post. Anyhow, here they are now:

Geniza Fragments 73 (April 2017)
Geniza Fragments 74 (October 2017)

Both have articles on the Discarded History Geniza exhibition, as well as other articles of interest.

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Porcupines everywhere!

APPREHENDED: ‘We were just hunting porcupines,’ claims antiquities robber. Twice in one night, Israel Antiquities Authority theft-prevention unit catch suspects excavating at 2,000-year-old sites (Amanda Borschel-Dan).
Tuesday night was busy for the Israel Antiquity Authority’s theft-prevention unit in the Lower Galilee region. In two separate instances, inspectors encountered antiquities robbers in the process of illegal excavations.

“We were just hunting porcupines,” said one of the robbers in explanation of his presence in the middle of the night at a 2,000-year-old grave on Mount Hazon near the Druze/Arab village of Maghar.

[...]
Of course they were.

Sort-of-related porcupine stories are noted here.

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Questions about the Greek First Apocalypse of James fragments

DAVID MEADOWS IS ASKING QUESTIONS: Oxyrhynchus and the First Apocalypse of James: Collection History Just Got Murkier (Rogue Classicism Blog). I leave the reader to decide how much weight to give David's concerns. In any case, it should be a straightforward matter to produce a paper trail showing that the papyrus was excavated in 1904/5 and has been held by the Sackler Library at Oxford since then.

Background here and here.

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The Joseph story as literature

PROF. GARY A. RENDSBURG: The Joseph Story: Ancient Literary Art at Its Best (TheTorah.com).
The Joseph story invites the reader to be transported to Egypt itself through the inclusion of Egyptian words, proper names, and customs; to analyze the unsurpassed use of repetition with variation; and to enter the mind of the character (in this case, especially Pharaoh) through the use of interior monologue.
It's a good story.

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Review of Curtis, Interpreting the Wisdom Books

READING ACTS: Book Review: Edward M. Curtis, Interpreting the Wisdom Books (Phil Long).
Curtis, Edward M. Interpreting the Wisdom Books: An Exegetical Handbook. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Academic, 2017. 204 pp. Pb; $21.99.
Excerpt:
Nevertheless, as with the other contributions to this series, this handbook for the Wisdom books succeeds in its goal of providing students of Old Testament wisdom with the tools for teaching and preaching this difficult material in the Hebrew Bible. This would make a good textbook for a college or seminary class on the Prophets, especially in more conservative circles.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Talmud on the the Talmud's organization

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Order of Things. The reasoning behind the Talmud’s categories and sub-categories isn’t always apparent. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ the Talmud wonders about its own organization.
The beginning of Tractate Shevuot, which Daf Yomi readers started last week, is one of the rare places where the Talmud wonders explicitly about its own organization. In the order of tractates, Shevuot follows Sanhedrin, which deals with capital crimes, and Makkot, which discusses crimes punishable by lashes or exile. The main subject matter of Shevuot is the taking of oaths—that’s the meaning of the word shevuot—and in its later chapters, we will learn about the oaths administered to witnesses in court. This explains why Shevuot is in Seder Nezikin, following Sanhedrin, which laid out court procedures and the laws of witnesses. It also answers the question of why Shevuot does not follow Nedarim, the tractate devoted to personal vows, even though the subjects of oaths and vows might seem to belong together. The vows in Nedarim were voluntary and had to do with making gratuitous promises to God (which the rabbis generally discourage), while the oaths in Shevuot are part of court procedure.

Yet while the first word of Shevuot is “shevuot,” the first chapter turns out to discuss oaths barely at all. ...
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Hasmonean-era findings at Susya

ARCHAEOLOGY: Ancient Jewish town from Hasmonean period discovered ,100-year-old Jewish community found in Judea, dating back to Hasmonean period, 600 years earlier than previous finds at the site (Mordechai Sones, Arutz Sheva). Previous remains only went back to the Talmudic period.

Past posts involving Susya, which was caught up in a political controversy a couple of years ago, are here and links.

There are lots of news stories about the Hasmonean era this week. Cross-file under 'Tis the Season (Hanukkah Edition).

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That gold-lettered Turkish Torah is a "crude fake"

HERE WE GO AGAIN: Ancient 'Torah' uncovered in Turkey actually a crude fake: experts (i24 News).
An ancient Torah scroll reportedly seized from smugglers by security forces in Turkey in November is in fact a crude forgery, the museum analyzing it said on Tuesday.

The story of the seizure gained worldwide attention in several media outlets last month after Turkish news agencies said police in the country’s south west had unearthed what they believed was a 700-year old holy text being offered by "smugglers" for $1.93 million.

Pictures of the rare discovery showed a colorful but haphazardly leather-bound book, with Hebrew markings that appeared at first glance to be upside-down and don’t seem to resemble actual Hebrew phrases.

[...]
The writing appeared upside-down because the book was being held upside-down. But, yes, it wasn't a Torah, as I had already said. I should have clarified that it is a book, not a scroll. I don't know if it is a fake per se, or just a crude tourist trinket.

Background here, with links to notices of many other doubtful antiquities that have surfaced recently in Turkey.

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News on St. Catherine's Monastery

REOPENING: Antiquities minister to inaugurate St. Catherine's' library on Saturday (MENA, Egypt Today).
CAIRO - 11 December 2017: Antiquities Minister Khaled el Anani will open on Saturday the library of St. Catherine Monastery and the renovation work of the famous mosaic of the Transfiguration in Church of the Transfiguration, St. Catharine’s largest church.

Director General of Research and Archaeological Studies and Scientific Publications in Lower Egypt and Sinai Abdul Rahim Rayhan told MENA that the library contains six thousand manuscripts, including 2,319 in Greek, 284 in Latin, 600 in Arabic in addition to Coptic, Syriac, Ethiopian, Armenian, English and French manuscripts as well as other religious, historical, geographical and philosophical ones.

[...]
There was a notice of the closing of the monastery "for security reasons" back in 2015. The current article seems to indicate that it is now reopening, which is good news.

For many other past posts on St. Catherine's Monastery and its precious collection of manuscripts, see the last post above, plus here and here, and follow the links.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Hanukkah 2017

HAPPY HANUKKAH (CHANUKKAH, CHANUKAH) to all those celebrating! The eight-day festival begins tonight at sundown.

Last year's Hanukkah post is here. It links to past Hanukkah posts with additional historical background. For PaleoJudaica posts in the last year that relate to Hanukkah, see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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

Pereginations of an ancient stone menorah-incised door

ARCHAEOLOGY: Archaeologists uncover bittersweet end of 1,800-year-old Tiberias menorah. Once carved on a Jewish grave, the menorah had two more lives -- as the base of a mosque and then in a Crusader-period sugar factory (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
The 68×78-centimeter (27×31 inch) seven-stemmed menorah was uncovered in a dig led by The Hebrew University’s Dr. Katia Cytryn-Silverman, which has been ongoing since 2009. The door the menorah decorated was typical of a Jewish tomb from circa 150-350 CE, said Silverman in conversation with The Times of Israel on Monday.
For many past PaleoJudaica posts on ancient menorahs and representations of menorahs, start here and follow the links. Cross-file under 'Tis the Season (Hanukkah Edition).

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Maccabean-era candle holder excavated by porcupine

DISCOVERY: MOTHER AND DAUGHTER DISCOVER ANCIENT CLAY LAMP FROM HELLENISTIC PERIOD Second century CE relic dates to Judah Maccabee’s battles against ruler of Antiochus (Daniel K. Eisenbud, Jerusalem Post).
A leisurely afternoon hike in the North’s Beit She’an Valley turned into much more when a mother and daughter discovered an ancient clay candle holder dating to the Hellenistic period – when Judah Maccabee fought against the ruler of Antiochus 2,200 years ago.

While making their way through the mounds near the historic area by the Jordan River Valley one week ago, Hadas Goldberg-Kedar, 7, and her mother, Ayelet, first noticed the well-preserved pottery vessel near the entrance to a porcupine cave.

[...]
Yes, the porcupine was the excavator. For another, similar example of porcupine archaeology, see here. Cross-file under 'Tis the Season (Hanukkah Edition).

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Reprising an ancient menorah sketch

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Understanding the Jewish Menorah. Does this ancient menorah graffito show the Temple menorah?
The Jewish menorah—especially the Temple menorah, a seven-branched candelabra that stood in the Temple—is the most enduring and iconic Jewish symbol. But what did the Temple menorah actually look like?

In early August 2011, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) issued a press release announcing the discovery of “an engraving of the Temple menorah on a stone object” in a 2,000-year-old drainage channel near the City of David, which was being excavated by Professor Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron. (An unusually well preserved iron sword in its leather scabbard, which presumably belonged to a Roman soldier, was also found there.) The IAA release went on to say that “a passerby who saw the [Temple] menorah with his own eyes … incised his impressions on a stone.” The excavators were quoted as saying that this graffito “clarifies [that] the base of the original [ancient] menorah … was apparently tripod shaped.”

But does it?

[...]
I noted the discovery of this menorah sketch at the time here. This BHD essay was first published in 2011, but I missed it then, so here it is.

Another ancient (nine-branched) menorah graffito was discovered in Aphrodisias in Turkey in 2015.

Cross-file under 'Tis the Season (Hanukkah Edition).

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