Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Belial

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

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

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The Talmud on oaths about quantity and substance

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

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Paul and utopian cosmopolitanism

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

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Jewish DNA analysis

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

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

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Again, Kurshan, If All the Seas Were Ink

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

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Job in BH, Rabbinics, Aramaic, etc.

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

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

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Carthaginian coins in Croatia

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Mysterious Hebrew fragment from Oxyrhynchus

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

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

HT AJR.

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New Aramaic inscription from Iran

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

Cross-file under Aramaic Watch.

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Medical School Phoenician?

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

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

The photo is of the Kilamuwa Inscription.

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Who will review the peer reviewers?

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

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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Phoenician DNA

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

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A search tool for documentary papyri

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

[...]
Sounds very useful.

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The DSS during the Six Day War

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

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Brooke Inaugural Lecture at Groningen

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

Noted earlier here.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Gerbil bones and Byzantine Agriculture in the Negev

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

[...]
Good to know.

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Mosaic reviews the Museum of the BIble

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

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

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LXX Summer School in Salzburg

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

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DId the Phoenicians even exist?

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

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Harari on early Jewish magic

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

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

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Jerusalem's ancient garbage

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

Past PaleoJudaica posts on this excavation are here and here.

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Update on MNTA2

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

More on the Sinai Palimpsests Project etc.

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

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

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

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

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Review of books by Goodman and Schama

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

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

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Moss on the Jerusalem "City Governor" bulla

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

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Womanist readings of the Hebrew Bible

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

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


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

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

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