Saturday, June 03, 2017

Ezekiel and Babylonian scribal culture

DR. LAURIE PIERCE: Ezekiel: A Jewish Priest and a Babylonian Intellectual (
Ezekiel, a priest born, raised, and educated in Judah, lived and prophesied much of his adult life in Babylonia in contact with cuneiform scholars and scribes. Ezekiel’s use of Akkadian loanwords,[1] his allusions to masterpieces of cuneiform literature (such as the Gilgamesh Epic), and his understanding of Babylonian cosmology all attest to his rather complete integration into the cultural milieu of Babylon.
Ezekiel is a strange character. The picture he presents of the priesthood of the First Temple is somewhat different from that in the Priestly source of the Pentateuch. I think this may be partly because P purged elements from the tradition which Ezekiel preserves. But it makes perfect sense that some of his strangeness comes from the influence of Babylonian scribal (and therefore literary and mythological) traditions.

Past PaleoJudaica posts on the Babylonian-Judean cuneiform tables of (āl-)Yāḫūdu are here and links. Past posts involving Babylonian scribal traditions are collected here. Seth Sanders's new book, From Adapa to Enoch is also relevant.

Moxon, Peter's Halakhic Nightmare

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: JOHN R.L. MOXON Peter's Halakhic Nightmare The “animal” vision of Acts 10:9–16 in Jewish and Graeco-Roman Perspective. 2017. Approx. 450 pages. Forthcoming in May. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2. Reihe.
Published in English.
Did Luke intend Peter's visionary command to eat 'unclean animals' in Acts 10 to suggest the dissolution of the Jewish Law? Whilst scholars have argued over sources, inconsistent redaction and later reception, many have failed to notice here the novel use of a type of transgression anxiety dream. John Moxon shows how by the incorporation of such naturalistic motifs, Luke takes “revelation” in a new and decidedly psychological direction, probably imitating similar developments in Graeco-Roman biography. If the vision reveals an illegitimate transfer of disgust within an exaggerated halakha of separation, then its target is prejudice and inconsistency, not the Jew-Gentile divide as such, as underlined by the ironic contrast with the pious Cornelius. In this reading, Luke's non-supercessionism is maintained, whilst showing him acutely aware of the kinds of nightmare holding many back from the nascent Gentile mission.

T. Reuben

READING ACTS: The Testament of Reuben. Phil Long mentions a number of New Testament passages that can profitably be read with the Greek Testament of Reuben. Its association of the angelic watchers with the idea of women as seductive temptations also makes me think of 1 Corinthians 11:10, on which more here.

I would be very cautious about using the Greek Testament of Reuben as Jewish background for any New Testament text. But it is source of information for second-century Jewish-Christianity which can be usefully read alongside the New Testament.

Earlier posts in Phil Long's blog series on the OTP are noted here and links.


AS I'VE SAID BEFORE, YOU SHOULD KNOW THESE THINGS: The Best Words From the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee. The championship turned on the word ‘marocain' (Frankie Caracciolo, Inverse).
Besides the winning word, of French-Moroccan origin and first used in the 1920s, here are some of the best words from the final rounds of this year’s Spelling Bee and their definitions according to Merriam-Webster. ...

Naassene: (pronounced \nāˈaˌsēn) a member of one of the Ophite group of Gnostic sects noted for its worship of the serpent as the principle of generation.
Congratulations to Ananya Vinay, the winner of the competition. And also to her runner-up, Rohan Rajeev. They both spelled Naassene correctly.

A few past spelling-bee posts are here, here, and here.

A third reconstruction of Palmyra's Arch of Triumph

DIABOLICAL PORTAL WATCH: Rabbi Warns Pagan Arch Is End-of-Days Gateway, But Who Will Walk In? (Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, Breaking Israel News). This inevitable story arises from the replica of Palmyra's ancient Arch of Triumph which was recently erected in Florence, Italy. The rabbi of the headline connects it with the recent G7 meeting and the coming of either the messiah or (I think) the evil New World Order. This is the third time the arch has been reconstructed and put on display since its destruction by ISIS in 2015.

As I and others have pointed out before, the Arch of Triumph was not the entrance to the temple of Bel/Baal. The whole, um, edifice of inferences about its import collapses when we realize this. I have discussed the issue in more detail here and links. I can't see that that this archway represents an omen, either good or bad.

Cross-file under Palmyra Watch. The many past posts pertaining to Palmyra are here and follow the links.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Sanders, From Adapa to Enoch

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: SETH L. SANDERS, From Adapa to Enoch. Social Culture and Religious Vision in Judea and Babylon. 2017. XIV, 280 pages. Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 167.
Published in English.
What was the relationship between ancient scribes' religious visions and their literary creativity? During the first millennium BCE both Babylonian and Judean scribes wrote about and emulated their heroes Adapa and Enoch. Seth L. Sanders offers the first comprehensive study of their scribal ideologies and the historical connections between them.
The book is listed as "forthcoming in May," which I hope means that it is finally out. I noted it as forthcoming back in 2015.

The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs

READING ACTS: What are the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs? (Phil Long). They are a second-century (Jewish-)Christian composition that draws more or less extensively, but also very freely, on Jewish sources in Aramaic and Hebrew. The history of research is complicated, but that's pretty much where the scholarly discussion is now.

One note. Please don't use the Greek Testament of Levi for Jewish background to the New Testament. It is a very free translation and adaptation of a Jewish work that we call Aramaic Levi. And we actually have substantial portions of Aramaic Levi from the Cairo Geniza and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Go straight to the source and use Aramaic Levi.

I have published an English translation of Aramaic Levi in in Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, volume 1 (ed. Bauckham, Davila, and Panayotov; Eerdmans, 2013), pp. 121-142. It is a translation of my own eclectic reconstruction of the text based on all of the surviving fragments. The introduction also discusses the relationship between Greek Testament of Levi and Aramaic Levi in greater detail.

I have posted some related comments here. For past posts in Phil Long's blog series on the OTP, see here and links.

May Biblioblog Carnival

JEFF CARTER: Biblioblog Carnival - May 2017.

Retro DSS report

THE UCOBSERVER: Seeing the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Editor’s note: The discovery in 1947 of ancient biblical manuscripts in a rugged cave near the Dead Sea triggered a scholarly detective project that continues to this day. In the early 1950s, Rev. R.B.Y. Scott, a United Church minister and academic, participated in some of the initial excavations, as well as efforts to reclaim fragments that had fallen into the hands of antiquities dealers. Sixty years ago this month, Scott wrote this story about one of the Qumran caves that had yielded a trove of text fragments.
Rev. Scott's report on the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls holds up pretty well, even after sixty years.

The pseudepigrapha, the DSS, and the Women's Home Companion

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Alternative Scriptures: Jesus, the Zadokites, and the Women’s Home Companion (Philip Jenkins). In a 1939 article the readers of the Women's Home Companion were made acquainted with many Old Testament pseudepigrapha, as well as the Damascus Document.

Earlier posts in Professor Jenkins's series on "alternative scriptures" are noted here and links.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

The Getty has put its Palmyra photos online.

AWOL BLOG: Online Exhibit at the Getty: The Legacy of Ancient Palmyra.

Back in 2015 I noted the acquisition, by the J. Paul Getty Trust, of Louis Vignes's mid-nineteenth-century photographs of Palmyra. Now the Getty has made them, along with the late eighteenth-century etchings of the site by Louis-François Cassas, into an online exhibition. This is an excellent idea. Well done.

Cross-file under Palmyra Watch. Past PaleoJudaica posts on Palmyra are here with many, many links.

Thatcher et al. (eds.), The Dictionary of the Bible and Ancient Media

BRICE C. JONES: Book Notice: The Dictionary of the Bible and Ancient Media. Edited by Tom Thatcher, Chris Keith, Raymond F. Person, Jr., and Elsie Stern. Bloomsbury T&T Clark. Forthcoming in 2017.

Salome in 4 Enoch

4 ENOCH: Category:Salome (subject). 4 Enoch is the online encylopedia of research on Second Temple Judaism sponsored by the Enoch Seminar. Some past posts mentioning it are here and here.

This meta-article on Salome briefly describes the ancient sources pertaining to her, then lists and links to a compendium of 4 Enoch articles addressing, as near as I can tell, everything that has anything to do with her from antiquity to the present.

Past PaleoJudaica posts on Salome are collected here, plus here and here.

Apocalypse of Elijah: The Antichrist

READING ACTS: The Antichrist in the Apocalypse of Elijah (Phil Long). Including a pre-tribulation rapture?

For past posts in Phil's recently revived series on the OTP, see here and links.

AJR reviews Marx-Wolf, Spiritual Taxonomies and Ritual Authority

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | Spiritual Taxonomies and Ritual Authority: Platonists, Priests, and Gnostics in the Third Century CE (Peter Morris).
Heidi Marx-Wolf. Spiritual Taxonomies and Ritual Authority: Platonists, Priests, and Gnostics in the Third Century CE. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016.
I will be reviewing this book in the Mysticism, Esotericism, and Gnosticism (MEGA) Section at the SBL annual meeting in November. Other past posts on it, with some related links, are here and here.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Gamla excavations final report

THE ASOR BLOG: The Gamla Excavations Final Report, The Rest of the Story (Danny Syon). Well done. Three volumes are now out, with one still forthcoming.

Recent PaleoJudaica posts involving Gamla and Josephus are here and here.

Review of Winter, Divine Honours for the Caesars

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Bruce W. Winter, Divine Honours for the Caesars: The First Christians’ Responses. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2015. Pp. x, 338. ISBN 9780802872579. $35.00 (pb). Reviewed by Scott D. Charlesworth, University of Divinity, Melbourne.

Divine honors for the Caesars was a live issue for ancient Jews as well. Not surprisingly, they too figure importantly in this book.

Incidentally, the Holy Land Photos Blog has a recent post that seems worth mentioning in this context: I am a Pagan — A Rare Papyrus from A.D. 250

The Coptic Apocalypse of Elijah

READING ACTS: The Days of Tribulation in the Apocalypse of Elijah. Phil Long gives a good summary of the critical issues for and the content of the Coptic Apocalypse of Elijah. For an English translation of the work online, see here.

For past posts in Phil's recently revived series on the OTP, see here and links.

Cook on the origin of Mishnaic Hebrew

AT CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY: Annual Ullendorff Lecture in Semitic Philology - 2016: Language Contact and the Genesis of Mishnaic Hebrew. Professor Edward Cook, Catholic University, Washington DC. The lecture took place on 19 May.
Abstract: The origin of Mishnaic Hebrew and its differences from Biblical Hebrew have been explained in different ways, e.g., in terms of chronological development (MH is later), register (MH is colloquial), or geographic (MH originated elsewhere than in Judea). None of these accounts explain, however, just why MH is different in the way that it is different, especially in the pronounced and drastic simplification of its verbal system vis-a-vis BH.

Recent advances in contact linguistics suggest that MH originated out of a very specific kind of contact with Aramaic, namely, the fairly rapid adult acquisition of Hebrew as a second language by Aramaic speakers, which left the language permanently changed. The most likely historical framework for this contact situation is the expansion of the Jewish state under the Hasmoneans in the second and first centuries BCE.
Follow the link above for a link to a pdf file of the full text of the lecture. Cross-file under Philology.

Review of Pachoumi, The Concepts of the Divine in the Greek Magical Papyri

REVIEW OF BIBLICAL AND EARLY CHRISTIAN STUDIES: The Concepts of the Divine in the Greek Magical Papyri.
2017.05.11 | Eleni Pachoumi, The Concepts of the Divine in the Greek Magical Papyri. Studies and Texts in Antiquity and Christianity 102. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2017. XVI, 258 pages. ISBN 978-3-16-154018-9.

Review by Paul Linjamaa, Lund University.
I noted the publication of the book here and a related article by Eleni Pachoumi available online here.

UPDATE: Bad link now corrected!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Shavuot 2017

THE FESTIVAL OF SHAVUOT (Weeks, Pentecost) begins tonight at sundown. Best wishes to all those celebrating. Some biblical background is noted here (cf. here).

The Apocalypse of Adam

READING ACTS: Apocalypse of Adam. Again, a pretty good summary of the text. It is a Gnostic text of the demiurgic-myth variety, with a lot of Christian, Jewish, and pagan ideas mixed in.

My reading of the section on the thirteen kingdoms is different from Phil Long's reading.

The illuminator of knowledge is Jesus, who at his third coming performed miracles and his flesh was punished by the powers and their god. The angels and the generations of the powers erred concerning him. They asked where the errors came from. The listing of the various contradictory views of the thirteen kingdoms (of Ham and Japeth) follow immediately after this question and it appears to be answering the question by listing the error of each kingdom. The correct answer is then given by "the generation without a king over it."

"Holy baptism," looks like a Christian phrase. I know of no Jewish text that used it. The various hints about virgin birth are also likely based on the Christian belief about Jesus. The writer was implying that the thirteen kingdoms had distorted bits of correct knowledge about the "illuminator." And "Yesseus Mazareus" who is the "[Living?] Water" looks like a word play on "Jesus of Nazareth."

That's how it looks to me. I blog, you decide.

These points come from notes I made many years ago in the margins of MacRae's translation of the Apocalypse of Adam in Robinsons The Nag Hammadi Library. I probably got the ideas from somewhere else, but I don't remember where.

For past posts in Phil's recently revived series on the OTP, see here and here and links.

Yadin's Temple Scroll edition on sale

FOR YOU, SPECIAL DEAL: Emanuel Tov forwards the following e-mail from the Israel Exploration Society (
Subject: THE TEMPLE SCROLL--FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY! Yadin's 3-volume(+supplement) editio princeps is being offered at an unprecedented discount to scholars and students

Dear Friends,

I am writing you concerning our publication: The Temple Scroll, a boxed set consisting of three hard-cover volumes with a soft-cover volume of supplementary plates. Attached is a description from our catalog entry. You are certainly well familiar with this set.

We are in the process of reducing our warehouse stock and would like to know if you are interested in obtaining a quantity of these sets or have any other ideas about organizations that might be interested in acquiring copies. We have a considerable number of sets in stock in both English and Hebrew editions. We can offer you sets at a considerable discount: NIS 200 (or $50) per set (not including shipping--please inquire concerning shipping rates).

This offer will be available for a limited time only. We accept payment with all major credit cards.


Hillel Geva

The Temple Scroll is the longest scroll found at Qumran and one of the most important Dead Sea documents. It contains religious laws, most of which concern the Temple, its purity regulations, its festivals and the sacrifices and sacred food eaten there. Some of the laws differ from those found in other Jewish sources of the Second Temple period.

THE TEMPLE SCROLL, Y. Yadin [editio princeps in three volumes with supplement] (1984)
32 x 25 cm., hard cover, boxed
Price: $240 ($180 to IES members)
Vol. I: Introduction (408 pp.)
Vol. II: Text and Commentary (468 pp.)
Vol. III: Plates and Text (220 pp.)
Supplement: Supplementary Plates

Israel Exploration Society
POB 7041
9107001 Jerusalem
Tel.: 972-2-6257991
Fax: 972-2-6247772


YONA SABAR: Hebrew Word of the Week: sheva‘ "seven, oath." As often, timely. This time, given the holiday that starts this evening.

Anti-Semitism in the Roman era

THE PUBLIC MEDIEVALIST BLOG: Anti-Semitism Is Older Than You Think ("Dr DarkAge"). Despite the name of this blog, this post is about evidence for anti-Semitism in the ancient Roman era, including references from Apion (via Josephus), Cicero, and Tacitus. HT Mosiac Magazine.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Landfill archaeology in Jerusalem

MATERIAL CULTURE: JERUSALEM DIG SHEDS LIGHT ON 2,000-YEAR-OLD EATING HABITS OF LOCAL JEWS. Sheep and goats were the order of the day, pork and shellfish nowhere to be found, and pigeons were bred for sacrifices on Temple Mount (Daniel K. Eisenbud, Jerusalem Post). Not surprisingly, the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the first century C.E. followed the kosher dietary laws.

The archaeology of garbage often gives us social information beyond what we find in ancient architecture, artifacts, and texts. Garbage also be a rich source of small artifacts such as coins and jewelry. And once in a great while, it even produces a trove manuscripts (e.g., Oxyrhynchus).

Some additional PaleoJudaica posts on the archaeology of ancient garbage are here, here, here, and here.

Professor Charlotte Hempel

CONGRATULATIONS TO CHARLOTTE HEMPEL, who recently gave her Professorial inaugural address at the University of Birmingham. The title was "The Dead Sea Scrolls: Isolationism, Elites, and Austerity."

You can watch the lecture on YouTube:

The rediscovery of Hebrew Ben Sira

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Alternative Scriptures: Finding Sirach (Philip Jenkins). The story of the rediscovery of substantial portions of the original Hebrew of Sirach (Ben Sira, Ecclesiasticus) in the Cairo Geniza at the end of the nineteenth century. Additional fragments from the late Second Temple period were found at Qumran and Masada. The essay includes this little thought experiment in counterfactual history:
This is an evocative tale in its own right, and it has often been retold. But for present purposes, the central point is that within the past century, we have established the fact that Sirach was definitely read and venerated in Hebrew in the Second Temple era, and indeed into early Christian times. Although the Qumran sect did not have strict guidelines as to what might be considered approved scriptures, Sirach probably did enjoy canonical or near-canonical status in the last couple of centuries BC.

If the Hebrew text had survived the Middle Ages, and had been known to West Europeans, I wonder how they could have avoided including the work fully in the approved canonical Bible? It was a near run thing.
Some past PaleoJudaica posts on the Hebrew text of Ben Sira are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Past posts on the Cairo Geniza are here with endless links. And other past posts in Professor Jenkins's "alternative scriptures" series are noted here and links. Cross-file under Old Testament Apocrypha.

Lautenschlaeger Awards 2017 at Heidelberg

LARRY HURTADO: Young Scholars of Promise. Congratulations to all ten young scholars who are recipients of a Lautenschlaeger Award this year. One of them is my St. Andrews colleague T. J. Lang.

Amorous angels and veiled women

CANDIDA MOSS: Leering Angels, Sexy Hair & Feminism: Why Women Wear Veils Why did the Vatican require Melania and Ivanka Trump to cover their heads? It may have started with amorous angels (The Daily Beast). I am astonished that I have never posted on the likely relationship between the Enochic watchers myth and Paul's instruction that women should wear veils "because of the angels" in 1 Corinthians 11:10.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sela, Abraham Ibn Ezra’s Introductions to Astrology

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL: Abraham Ibn Ezra’s Introductions to Astrology. A Parallel Hebrew-English Critical Edition of the Book of the Beginning of Wisdom and the Book of the Judgments of the Zodiacal Signs. Abraham Ibn Ezra’s Astrological Writings, Volume 5. Edited, translated and annotated by Shlomo Sela, Bar Ilan University.
The present volume offers a critical edition of the Hebrew texts, accompanied by English translation and commentary of Reshit Ḥokhmah (Beginning of Wisdom) and Mishpeṭei ha-Mazzalot (Judgments of the Zodiacal Signs) by Abraham Ibn Ezra (ca. 1089–ca. 1161). The first, the summa and by far the longest of his astrological works, the target of the most cross-references from the rest of that corpus and the most influential, enjoyed the widest circulation among Jews in the Middle Ages and after. The second, by contrast, is the most obscure. It is never referred to elsewhere by its author and is the only work for which Ibn Ezra’s authorship must be substantiated. Reshit Ḥokhmah and Mishpeṭei ha-Mazzalot were written in order to explain concepts common to the various branches of astrology that Ibn Ezra addressed elsewhere and to elucidate the worldview that underlies astrology. These two treatises are the richest and most varied with regard to the astrological information they present. Reshit Ḥokhmah and Mishpeṭei ha-Mazzalot also exemplify the close collaboration between astronomy and astrology in medieval science and are the two components of Ibn Ezra’s astrological corpus with the most extensive, comprehensive, and significant astronomical content.

Septuagint studies prize 2017

COMPETITION: The John William Wevers Prize in Septuagint Studies (IOSCS). The competition is for advanced postgraduates and junior scholars. The deadline for submission of a paper is 15 August. Follow the link for further particulars and a list of past recipients.

Verhoogt, Discarded, Discovered, Collected

BRICE C. JONES: Book Notice: Discarded, Discovered, Collected: The University of Michigan Papyrus Collection. By Arthur Verhoogt. Forthcoming with University of Michigan Press in the autumn of 2017.

Blenkinsopp, Essays on Judaism in the Pre-Hellenistic Period

NEW BOOK FROM DE GRUYTER: Blenkinsopp, Joseph. Essays on Judaism in the Pre-Hellenistic Period. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 495. March 2017.
Aims and Scope
The essays deal with developments during the period from the liquidation of the Judean state to the conquests of Alexander the Great. This was a critical time in the Near East and the Mediterranean world in general. It marked the end of the great Semitic empires until the rise of Islam in the seventh century A.D.,decisive changes in religion, with appeal to a creator-deity in Deutero-Isaiah, Babylonian Marduk cult, and Zoroastrianism.For the survivors of the Babylonian conquest in a post-collapse society the issue of continuity, with different groups claiming continuity with the past and possession of the traditions, there developed a situation favourable to the emergence of sects. The most pressing question, however, was what to do faced with the overwhelming power of empire, first Babylonian, then Persian. Finally, with the extinction of the native dynasty and the entire apparatus of a nation-state, the temple became the focus and emblem of group identity.

Hellenistic Babylonia

AWOL: Hellenistic Babylonia: Texts, Images and Names. Of no little potential interest for background on ancient Judaism. There was a vibrant Jewish community in Babylon in this period, about which we know very little.

More on ancient Babylonian texts and scribes from the time of the Babylonian Exile and from the Second Temple Period is here and here.