Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hey, another copper scroll!

ARASH ZEINI: A note on the Schøyen copper scroll. This is a bibliographic note that leads to an article by Étienne de la Vaissière. The scroll itself is a Buddhist donation inscription written in Sanskrit and "Brahmī."

For the Qumran Copper Scroll (and facsimiles of it), see here and links. Inscriptions on metal are rare, but not unknown in the ancient world. Other examples are the gold cuneiform tablet and the gold tablets in Phoenician and Etruscan. A legendary example is mentioned in the Treatise of the Vessels. And the fake metal codices are an infamous and now thoroughly debunked fake example, but some genuine ancient lead inscriptions are noted here, here, and links.

Mind-boggling family law in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Talmud’s Difficulty Is What Makes the Talmud ‘Talmudic’—And Unlike the Law. Daf Yomi: In rabbinic Judaism, study is not merely a pragmatic enterprise, but a religious act in itself
Complex as this situation might appear, it is child’s play compared to some of the truly mind-bending hypotheticals that the rabbis raised in this week’s reading. We have often seen in the Talmud that the rabbis devote just as much attention to extremely unlikely possibilities as to real-world scenarios. This is, indeed, one of the things that make the Talmud “Talmudic” in the pejorative sense. Why, the impatient reader might wonder, spend so much time analyzing situations that surely would never arise in real life? Yet it is crucial to remember that, in rabbinic Judaism, the study of the law is not merely a pragmatic enterprise, like going to law school today. The study of Torah is a religious act in itself. The law forms a complete and perfect logical system, and all of its ramifications are equally valuable parts of that system. In American law, one sometimes hears the maxim “hard cases make bad law”: The more unusual and complex the case, the less suitable it is to serve as a precedent. The rabbis believe just the opposite: The law is never more fascinating to them than when it is difficult.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Very small very old coins

INCLUDING THE "WIDOW'S MITE": Small Change: The Tiniest Ancient Coins (Mike Markowitz, CoinWeek).
In the local coinage of first century Judea, the smallest denomination was a bronze coin called a lepton in Greek and a half prutah in Hebrew.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hadrian inscription in Jerusalem

NEWS FLASH: WATCH: 2,000-year-old inscription dedicated to Roman emperor unveiled in Jerusalem. Israel Antiquities Authority: This is among the most important Latin inscriptions ever discovered in Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Post).
A rare fragment of a stone engraved with an official Latin inscription dedicated to the Roman emperor Hadrian, discovered in the capital in July by the Antiquities Authority, was unveiled at Rockefeller Museum in east Jerusalem Tuesday morning.

[...]

The inscriptions [sic], consisting of six lines of Latin text engraved on hard limestone, was read and translated by Avner Ecker and Hannah Cotton of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The English translation of the inscription is as follows: “To the Imperator Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Augustus, son of the deified Traianus Parthicus, grandson of the deified Nerva, high priest, invested with tribunician power for the 14th time, consul for the third time, father of the country (dedicated by) the 10th legion Fretensis Antoniniana.”

Ecker, a Ph.D candidate, said the inscription was dedicated by Legio X Fretensis to the emperor Hadrian in the year 129/130 CE.

“The fragment of the inscription revealed by the IAA archaeologists is none other than the right half of a complete inscription, the other part of which was discovered nearby in the late nineteenth century, and was published by the pre-eminent French archaeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau,” he said.

[...]

Sphinx excavated

ARCHAEOLOGY: Giant Sphinx from 'Ten Commandments' Film Unearthed
(Laura Geggel, LiveScience).
Hidden for more than 90 years beneath the rolling sand dunes of Guadalupe, California, an enormous, plaster sphinx from the 1923 blockbuster movie "The Ten Commandments" has been rediscovered and is now above ground.

[...]

Aramaic in Israel and on The Simpsons

MODERN ARAMAIC WATCH: First Arameam Gets Registered in Israel (Arutz Sheva). Background here and links.

And on a far less serious note: The Simpsons Halloween Special: Homer and Co Haunted? Where to Watch 'Treehouse of Horror' Online (Ruchinka Upadhyaya, International Business Times; my bold-font emphasis).
The animated comedy's 25th annual Halloween instalment, contains a segment that parodies The Others, in which the Simpsons are haunted by another ghostly family living in the house. These ghosts turn out to be none other than their crudely drawn former selves. The Simpsons, originally surfaced in 1987 as a series of animated shorts on [Tracey] Ullman's sketch comedy show.

And the second segment shows Bart and Lisa being transported to a demon-filled alternate universe after Bart reads a set of Aramaic symbols he finds on the underside of his desk.
I hate it when that happens.

The Journal of the Jesus Movement in its Jewish Setting

NEW JOURNAL: The Journal of the Jesus Movement in its Jewish Setting.
Introducing,
the Journal of the Jesus Movement in its Jewish Setting (JJMJS) -
FREELY AVAILABLE ONLINE FROM OCTOBER 20!


JJMJS is a new interdisciplinary peer-reviewed online journal, published in cooperation with Eisenbrauns.


A rich variety of Jewish and Christian traditions and identities mutually shaped one another in the centuries-long course of Roman Late Antiquity. A no less rich variety of scholarly approaches – from the history of Christian Origins to that of the late empire, from archaeology to Dead Sea Scrolls, from Rabbinics to Patristics – has in recent years converged upon this period, the better to understand its religious and social dynamics. JJMJS seeks to facilitate and to encourage such scholarly investigations across disciplinary boundaries, and to make the results of cutting-edge research available to a worldwide audience.

JJMJS is free of charge with complete open access. The journal is published in cooperation with Eisenbrauns and will be available in hard copy, which can be ordered from Eisenbrauns.

SBL blogger events

IN SAN DIEGO NEXT MONTH: Bibliobloggers’ Gatherings at SBL/AAR (James McGrath). Planning is in progress. I'm not sure what else I have going on that Saturday evening, but I may see you there. Fortress also has a bloggers' roundtable on the Monday. Follow the link for both.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Cross logion on Hebrew

HARVARD MAGAZINE publishes an interesting inquiry from an alumnus:
Thomas Burrows hopes, after a half-century of searching, that someone can provide him with the source of the following assertion, delivered by Professor Frank Moore Cross during an elementary Hebrew course: “It was a saying of the ancient rabbis that you may as well learn Hebrew now because you will need it in the world to come.”
I was around Cross quite a bit for five years in the 1980s and I never heard him mention this particular saying. I do know that there is a Jewish tradition or saying that Hebrew is the language of heaven, but I don't have a specific reference. It does seem to be implied in the Talmud in b. Shabbat 12a, which advises making intercession for a sick person in Hebrew, because angels don't know Aramaic.

Baal sanctuary?

EXCAVATION: Ancient Cult Complex Discovered in Israel (Owen Jarus, Livescience).
A massive cult complex, dating back about 3,300 years, has been discovered at the site of Tel Burna in Israel.

While archaeologists have not fully excavated the cult complex, they can tell it was quite large, as the courtyard alone was 52 by 52 feet (16 by 16 meters). Inside the complex, researchers discovered three connected cups, fragments of facemasks, massive jars that are almost as big as a person and burnt animal bones that may indicate sacrificial rituals.

The archaeologists said they aren't sure who was worshipped at the complex, though Baal, the Canaanite storm god, is a possibility. "The letters of Ugarit [an ancient site in modern-day Syria] suggest that of the Canaanite pantheon, Baal, the Canaanite storm god, would have been the most likely candidate," Itzhaq Shai, a professor at Ariel University who is directing a research project at Tel Burna, told Live Science in an email.

[...]
The goddess Anat is also in the running. This is an exciting discovery and I hope it does turn out to be a major sanctuary. But I'll believe it's a Baal sanctuary when they find an inscription that says "House of Baal" or the like. Or better yet, another copy of the Ugaritic Baal epic.

Bejewelled watchers

JACK COLLINS: Addendum - to his excellent review of the Noah movie, noted here. So there's precedent after all for the idea of watchers made of stone.

More on Noah here and links.

Gathercole on the Gospels

BRITISH NEW TESTAMENT CONFERENCE 2014 PLENARY LECTURE: Simon Gathercole on the canonical and non-canonical Gospels. Summarized by Steve Walton. I was there too and I thought it was an impressive lecture.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Some Brill books

NEW BOOKS FROM BRILL:
The Divine Courtroom in Comparative Perspective

Edited by Ari Mermelstein and Shalom E. Holtz, Yeshiva University

Contributors to The Divine Courtroom in Comparative Perspective treat one of the most pervasive religious metaphors, that of the divine courtroom, in both its historical and thematic senses. In order to shed light on the various manifestations of the divine courtroom, this volume consists of essays by scholars of the ancient Near East, Hebrew Bible, Second Temple Judaism, early Christianity, Talmud, Islam, medieval Judaism, and classical Greek literature. Contributions to the volume primarily center upon three related facets of the divine courtroom: the role of the divine courtroom in the earthly legal system; the divine courtroom as the site of historical justice; and the divine courtroom as the venue in which God is called to answer for his own unjust acts.


Eating in Isaiah
Approaching the Role of Food and Drink in Isaiah's Structure and Message


Andrew T. Abernethy, Wheaton College

In Eating in Isaiah Andrew Abernethy employs a sequential-synchronic approach to explore the role of eating in the structure and message of the book of Isaiah. By focusing on 'scaffolding' chapters (Isaiah 1; 36–37; 55; 65-66), avenues open for exploring how eating operates within the major sections of Isaiah and how the motif enhances the book's coherence. Furthermore, occurrences of eating in Isaiah create networks of association that grant perspective on significant topics in the book's message, such as Zion, YHWH’s kingship, and YHWH's servants. Amidst growing scholarly interest in food and drink within biblical literature, Eating in Isaiah demonstrates how eating can operate at a literary level within a prophetic book.


The Lawsuit Motif in John’s Gospel from New Perspectives
Jesus Christ, Crucified Criminal and Emperor of the World


Per Jarle Bekken, University of Nordland, Bodø

The study sheds fresh light on aspects of the lawsuit motif in John from the background of Diaspora-Jewish and Greco-Roman data and perspectives. – John’s narrative of the attempts on Jesus for such crimes as breaking the Sabbath, blasphemy, and seduction are illuminated from Philo’s perspectives on vigilante execution. – Furthermore, John’s narrative of the official Jewish and Roman forensic procedures against Jesus can also be situated within the framework of the Greco-Roman administration exemplified by the legal papyri from the Roman Egypt. – Philo’s expectation of an eschatological emperor, who shall rule over many nations, provides a cultural context for the way John’s gospel re-inscribed Jesus as the true “Emperor” of all the nations.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

On the Punic Wars

PUNIC WATCH: A number of articles relating to the Punic Wars have been piling up in my inbox. Here they are:

First, a series of brief, vivid, popular articles on the Punic Wars by Travis Simpson in the Courier News.

The First Punic War
History time, folks.

I like Hannibal, son of Hamilcar Barca. If I hadn’t told you previously that he was a historical figure, you wouldn’t have believed me. His story has the makings of a fantasy novel, or perhaps and episode or three of Game of Thrones.

It’s got...blood oaths, vengeance, monsters and a lot of bloodshed.

Hannibal was from Carthage, a city on the Mediterranean, and his story is the story of the Punic Wars and the fall and eventual destruction of Carthage.

[...]
The Second Punic War
Imagine you are a roman soldier. You’ve been equipped with a spear, armor and a sword. Across the battlefield is a creature you’ve likely never seen in your life. It’s lumbers over you, a gray fleshed giant.

As the sounds of battle surround you, the creature centers on your phalanx — on you and your fiends. You look at your weapons. Just what will bring this thing down? You watch as is stomps and crashes its way over the men in front of you. Many dropped their weapons and ran.
Sort of like the battle of Minas Tirith.

Second Punic Wars, continued
Hannibal spent his entire life with a seething hatred of the empire across the Mediterranean. He was bred to cross the Alps, to cause an uprising and to spark fear in the heart of Rome.

On the other side, you have Publius Scipio. Scipio’s father (of the same name) discovered Hannibal’s army as it crossed the Alps and was able to warn Rome of the incoming apocalypse. He was gravely wounded in the Battle of Ticinus and was only saved by the bravery of his son.

Almost 16 years later, Scipio (the son) meets Hannibal head on in the Battle of Zama with almost two decades of mutual hatred, murder and destruction between the two empires.

These two men have known nothing else.
Cool story about their meeting after Hannibal's defeat. Part four, on the Third Punic War, is still forthcoming.

Second, a snippet on the latest regarding Halle Berry's Hannibal miniseries (not to be confused with Vin Diesel's Hannibal movie trilogy project): CBS orders new seasons of Halle Berry's 'Extant' and 'Under the Dome' (Mark Dawidziak, The Plain Dealer).
Berry has another big-budget television project in the works. She is the executive producer behind the miniseries "Hannibal" being developed for the History Channel. It will tell the story of one of the greatest generals in antiquity, Hannibal Barca, and his arch-rival, Scipio Africanus, who went head-to-head in the Second Punic War.
More on this miniseries and on Hannibal himself is here and links.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friedman, Studies in the Language and Terminology of Talmudic Literature

NEW BOOK FROM THE ACADEMY OF THE HEBREW LANGUAGE: Shamma Friedman, Studies in the Language and Terminology of Talmudic Literature. In Hebrew!

John Dee's library

COMING EXHIBITION: Scholar, courtier, magician: the lost library of John Dee.
January – July 2016

A major exhibition revealing the fascinating life, times and lost library of Queen Elizabeth I’s most famous ‘conjurer’.

John Dee (1527–1609) is one of the most intriguing characters of 16th century England. A member of the Elizabethan court, he is infamous for his attempts to make contact with other-worldly spirits and his study and practice of alchemy. He was also a mathematician and scholar of navigation, a founding fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, a university lecturer on rhetoric, and an astrologer.

Dee’s library was one of the most famous collections of books and manuscripts of its time, as renowned for its contents as for the fact it was pillaged and dispersed while Dee was travelling in Europe during the 1580s.

Today the Royal College of Physicians library contains more than 100 books previously belonging to Dee: the largest known collection of Dee books surviving in one location. They were acquired as part of the library of the Marquis of Dorchester, presented to the physicians in the 1680s. It is not clear how these 100-plus volumes came to be owned by Dorchester, but there is evidence that many of them were stolen from Dee by a certain Nicholas Saunder.

The Dee collection contains some of the most dramatic and beautiful books in the RCP library, including mathematical, astronomical and alchemical texts. Many of the books are heavily and elaborately annotated by Dee himself.

Our 2016 exhibition will be the first time the books of Elizabethan England’s most famous ‘conjurer’ will have been displayed in public.
HT Liv Ingeborg Lied on Facebook. And Aron Sterk added that a few books from Dee's library are at Chetham's Library in Manchester: 101 Treasures of Chetham's - Material associated with John Dee (1527-1608).

For my own work on John Dee's angelic seances in relation to ancient Jewish visionary traditions, see here and links. Related posts here, here, here, and links.

Conference on gynaecological knowledge in late antiquity

H-JUDAIC: Conf: Female Bodies and Female Practitioners in the Medical Traditions of the Late Antique Mediterranean World. Berlin, 27.-29.10.2014.
Outline

The conference aims at discussing the emergence and transmission of gynaecological knowledge from different angles in ancient medical theory and practice. Beside the medical approach, we will consider cultural practices and socio-religious norms that enable and constrain the production and application of gynaecological know-how (e.g. certain taboos on examining or touching the female body, etc.). The role and function of female specialists (e.g. healers, midwives or wet-nurses) as objects and subjects within ancient medical discourses will also be elaborated in further detail.

The combination of topics from various disciplines will provide ample possibilities for a comparative exploration of this field. The multi-perspective approach will help to sharpen our understanding of similarities and differences between Talmudic knowledge on this topic and the medical traditions in Ancient Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Graeco-Roman, Persian, Byzantine, and Syriac cultures.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

TC 18-19

TC: A JOURNAL OF BIBLICAL TEXTUAL CRITICISM has published a couple of new volumes since I last mentioned it:

Volume 18 (2013)

Volume 19 (2014)

Thanks to AWOL for the reminder.

ANE Monographs from the SBL

FOR YOU, SPECIAL DEAL: Free downloadable Ancient Near East Monographs from the Society of Biblical Literature.

The latest on Ezra-Nehemiah and Ugaritic

TWO FROM THE ASOR BLOG:

What’s New with Ezra-Nehemiah (Thomas M. Bolin)

The Current State of Ugaritic studies (Gregorio del Olmo Lete)

Very useful bibliographic surveys of recent developments in these areas. The ASOR Blog requires free registration to access the essays.