Monday, February 20, 2017

Elyonim veTachtonim

DATABASE: Elyonim veTachtonim. Electronic inventory of angels, demons and ghosts in the early rabbinic literature. The current version covers the Babylonian Talmud.

"Elyonim veTachtonim" means "the most high ones and the lower ones," with implied reference to the denizens of the heavenly realm and the realm of the underworld.

Himmelfarb, Jewish Messiahs in a Christian Empire

NEW BOOK FROM HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS:
Jewish Messiahs in a Christian Empire
A History of the Book of Zerubbabel


Martha Himmelfarb


Product Details
HARDCOVER
$39.95 • £31.95 • €36.00
ISBN 9780674057623
Publication: February 2017
x Text
232 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
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About This Book

The seventh-century CE Hebrew work Sefer Zerubbabel (Book of Zerubbabel), composed during the period of conflict between Persia and the Byzantine Empire for control over Palestine, is the first full-fledged messianic narrative in Jewish literature. Martha Himmelfarb offers a comprehensive analysis of this rich but understudied text, illuminating its distinctive literary features and the complex milieu from which it arose.

Sefer Zerubbabel presents itself as an angelic revelation of the end of times to Zerubbabel, a biblical leader of the sixth century BCE, and relates a tale of two messiahs who, as Himmelfarb shows, play a major role in later Jewish narratives. The first messiah, a descendant of Joseph, dies in battle at the hands of Armilos, the son of Satan who embodies the Byzantine Empire. He is followed by a messiah descended from David modeled on the suffering servant of Isaiah, who brings him back to life and triumphs over Armilos. The mother of the Davidic messiah also figures in the work as a warrior.

Himmelfarb places Sefer Zerubbabel in the dual context of earlier Jewish eschatology and Byzantine Christianity. The role of the messiah’s mother, for example, reflects the Byzantine notion of the Virgin Mary as the protector of Constantinople. On the other hand, Sefer Zerubbabel shares traditions about the messiahs with rabbinic literature. But while the rabbis are ambivalent about these traditions, Sefer Zerubbabel embraces them with enthusiasm.
Sefer Zerubbabel was translated into English by John C. Reeves in Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, volume 1 (ed. Bauckham, Davila, and Panayotov; Eerdmans, 2013), pp. 448-466.

van Bekkum et al., Playing with Leviathan

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
Playing with Leviathan: Interpretation and Reception of Monsters from the Biblical World

Edited by Koert van Bekkum, Kampen Theological University, Jaap Dekker, Apeldoorn Theological University, Henk van de Kamp, minister of Apeldoorn Reformed Church (liberated), Eric Peels, Apeldoorn Theological University.

Since ancient times Leviathan and other monsters from the biblical world symbolize the life-threatening powers in nature and history. They represent the dark aspects of human nature and political entities and reveal the supernatural dimensions of evil. Ancient texts and pictures regarding these monsters reflect an environment of polytheism and religious pluralism. Remarkably, however, the biblical writings and post-biblical traditions use these venerated symbols in portraying God as being sovereign over the entire universe, a theme that is also prominent in the reception of these texts in subsequent contexts.
This volume explores this tension and elucidates the theological and cultural meaning of ‘Leviathan’ by studying its ancient Near Eastern background and its attestation in biblical texts, early and rabbinic Judaism, Christian theology, Early Modern art, and film.

Goring bull or goring ox?

DR. ELAINE GOODFRIEND: The Law of the Goring Ox:
Is It Neutered?
(TheTorah.com).
The word שור in Hebrew can refer to an ox or a bull, but which animal is the protagonist of the celebrated law of שור נגח, “the goring bovine”?
The word itself is ambiguous. So is the context.

Coin smuggling arrest

APPREHENDED: Border officials thwart attempt to smuggle dozens of ancient coins into Israel. Coins span period of 1,400 years from the first century B.C. to the Mamluk period in the 13th century A.D. (i24 News).
Israeli customs officials announced on Sunday that they had foiled an attempt smuggle dozens of ancient coins into Israel through the Allenby border crossing on the Jordan-West Bank border.

[...]

Deputy Head Archaeological Officer Benny Har-Even said that the discovery prevented the "theft of history."

"During the discovery we seized 53 ancient coins representing a cross section of 1,400 years of regional history, from the Early Roman period from the first century B.C. to the Mamluk period in the 13th century A.D.," Har-Even said.

[...]

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Aries 17.1 (2017)

HETERODOXOLOGY BLOG: Esotericism and Cognitive Science: Aries special issue published (vol. 17:1) (Egil Asprem). Notable in this issue is the article by April DeConick:
Soul Flights Cognitive Ratcheting and the Problem of Comparison

Abstract
Narratives of soul flights are common in ancient Mediterranean literature, sharing many similarities such as the movement of the soul along a vertical path that is associated with life and death. But they also display significant differences such as peculiar accounts of cosmic realms, idiosyncratic reasons for soul flights, and wild diversity of associated rituals. Historical critical studies of soul flights have been unable to address successfully this problem of comparison, which remains unable to explain structures that are engineered consistently in cultural productions. Cognitive explanations are more helpful in this regard. Yet current cognitive explanations struggle to account for the differences. How can both the similarities and the differences be accounted for within the same parameters of the operations of human cognition? This paper presents a model called cognitive ratcheting to address this problem. It is a theoretical formulation of the natural mental process through which concepts take shape and are innovated when they are mentally mapped onto spatial orientations, then ratcheted up with intuitive cognition, and finally elaborated into many cultural variations by reflective thought. This process acknowledges that, at the same time a concept is diversified through reflective elaboration and ratcheted up within different cultural contexts, it retains deep structures, especially with regard to spatial orientations, intuitive processes, and reflective recursion.

Furstenberg, The Languages of Talmudic Discourse

NEW BOOK IN HEBREW FROM MAGNES PRESS:
The Languages of Talmudic Discourse

A Philosophical Study of the Evolution of Amoraic Halakha


By Ariel Furstenberg

Purchase options: Price Site price
Printed book $ 22.00 $ 19.80
Online book & Download $ 16.50

Publisher: The Hebrew University Magnes Press
In collaboration with: The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute Publications
Categories: Jewish Studies, Philosophy, Talmud
Publish date: January 2017
Language: Hebrew
Danacode: 45-171057
ISBN: 978-965-7755-34-1
Cover: Paperback
Pages: 272
Weight: 500 gr.

A groundbreaking work, this book brings together philosophy of science and language, conceptual dynamics and the Babylonian Talmud. The work asks: what philosophy of natural language lies at the basis of the Halakhic dynamic in the Amoraic discourse of the Talmud? Calling upon two post-Wittgenstein philosophies, the book undertakes a search for a philosophical account of the discursive culture that appears in the Talmud. It unearths the normative infrastructure that lies at its core. Thus, this study articulates what can be termed the Talmudic philosophy of language. On the other hand, it reveals the limits and weaknesses of central philosophical frameworks in coping with a profound traditional discourse like the Talmud, in which the past has a deep and integral role in the present, while at the same time, the present has its own natural and creative dynamic.

Schiffman on the the new Qumran cave

PROF. LAWRENCE H. SCHIFFMAN: EXCITEMENT AS ADDITIONAL QUMRAN CAVE IS DISCOVERED. THE FASCINATING SAGA OF THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS CONTINUES. A reprint of his article in Ami Magazine.

Background on "Qumran Cave 12" is here. It is possible that the cave once contained Dead Sea Scrolls, but some skepticism seems to be warranted.

The Psalms of Solomon

READING ACTS: Psalms of Solomon and the Hasmoneans.
The writers of the Psalms of Solomon do not see the descendants of the Hasmoneans as the fulfillment of the prophetic hope for a good, righteous shepherd king in the tradition of David. Their protest is against the current regime (whatever the date) is in the tradition of prophetic condemnations of Manasseh in the Hebrew Bible.
A couple of books on the Psalms of Solomon have been noted here and here

Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Second Temple Period are noted here and links.

Falk lecturing on DSS at Baylor

BAYLOR UNIVERSITY: Penn State Professor To Present “The Myth of the Dead Sea Scrolls” Lecture (Kelsey Dehnel).
WACO, Texas (Feb. 17, 2017) – Daniel Falk, Ph.D., professor of classics and ancient Mediterranean studies and the Chaiken Family Chair in Jewish Studies at Penn State University, will lecture on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at Baylor University.

The lecture, hosted by the Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR), entitled “The Myth of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” will start with reviewing popular conceptions of the Dead Sea Scrolls and move to consider what was important to the communities who wrote and cherished these scrolls.

[...]
If you're in the area, don't miss it.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Ancient Nubia

THE WORLD IS FULL OF HISTORY: Ancient Nubia: A Brief History (Owen Jarus, Live Science). Ancient Nubia's history has a famous overlap with Second Temple Jewish history (or legend) in the Book of Acts in the story of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch to a Jesus follower. (More on that here.) This is not mentioned in the current article, but note this:
In ancient times, some of their rulers were woman (sic: read "women") who were sometimes referred to in ancient texts as "Candaces" or "Kandakes." Archaeologists have found carved images of them revealing that they sometimes liked to be depicted overweight.
The story in Acts (8:26) tells us that the eunuch was "a minister of Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians." This refers to the Nubian kingdom of Kush, and "Candace" seems to have been the title of their queens rather than a personal name.

Of Canaanites, coins, and palm trees

NUMISMATICS: PALM READING (Oliver Hoover, Pocket Change Blog).

No, not that kind of palm reading. This Pocket Change post is on how the Canaanites came to be known as "Phoenicians" and where the term "Punic" comes from, illustrated with coins from Tyre, Sidon, etc.

The palm motif also appears on ancient Jewish coins and other iconography. Some examples of the latter are here, here, and here.

Cross file under Phoenician Watch and Punic Watch.

Black metal watchers

MUSIC: Saille Posts New Song "Benei ha'Elohim" (xFiruath, MetalUnderground.com).
Belgian Black metal band Saille just released the lyric video for new track "Benei ha'Elohim." The song is taken from forthcoming album "Gnosis," which will be released on March 17th via Code666. ...
The lyrics are well informed about the watchers myth. And the music goes well with the story.

As I've noted before, death and black metal bands often take a well-informed interest in ancient historical and esoteric traditions. For relevant past posts, see here and here and links.

Spolsky, The Languages of Diaspora and Return

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL
The Languages of Diaspora and Return

by Bernard Spolsky (Bar-Ilan University).

Until quite recently, the term Diaspora (usually with the capital) meant the dispersion of the Jews in many parts of the world. Now, it is recognized that many other groups have built communities distant from their homeland, such as Overseas Chinese, South Asians, Romani, Armenians, Syrian and Palestinian Arabs. To explore the effect of exile of language repertoires, the article traces the sociolinguistic development of the many Jewish Diasporas, starting with the community exiled to Babylon, and following through exiles in Muslim and Christian countries in the Middle Ages and later. It presents the changes that occurred linguistically after Jews were granted full citizenship. It then goes into details about the phenomenon and problem of the Jewish return to the homeland, the revitalization and revernacularization of the Hebrew that had been a sacred and literary language, and the rediasporization that accounts for the cases of maintenance of Diaspora varieties.

Henkelman and Redard (eds.), Persian Religion in the Achaemenid Period

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Persian Religion in the Achaemenid Period. Notice of a new book: Henkelman, Wouter & Céline Redard (eds.). 2017. Persian religion in the Achaemenid period (Classica et Orientalia 16). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

Friday, February 17, 2017

More on the Sefaria online Talmud

TALMUD WATCH: Talmud & Commentaries (Louis Finkelman, Detroit Jewish News).
Sefaria, a website founded in 2013 that aims to put the seemingly infinite Jewish canon online for free, has published an acclaimed translation of the Talmud in English. The translation, which includes explanatory notes in relatively plain language, was started by scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz in 1965 and is considered by many to be the best in its class.

The Steinsaltz edition of the Talmud has been in print for decades in modern Hebrew, with an English translation coming out more recently, and parts of it already exist on the internet. But this is the first time it is being put online in its entirety for free.

“Ninety percent of the world’s Jews speak Hebrew and English,” said Daniel Septimus, Sefaria’s executive director. “The Talmud is in Aramaic. It will now be online in Hebrew and English. From an accessibility point of view, it’s a game changer.”

Sefaria rolled out 22 tractates of the Steinsaltz English edition last week and will be publishing the entire Hebrew translation over the course of 2017. The rest of the English edition, which is not yet finished, will be published online as it is completed. The translation’s publication was made possible by a multimillion-dollar deal with the Steinsaltz edition’s publishers, Milta and Koren Publishers Jerusalem, and financed by the William Davidson Foundation, a family charity based in Metro Detroit.

The edition will be known as the William Davidson Talmud.

Besides its edition being free, Sefaria’s founders say its version of the Steinsaltz Talmud is better than competitors’ because it is untethered to the Talmud’s classic printed form. Since the mid-15th century, the Talmud has been published with unpunctuated text in a column in the middle of the page, its commentaries wrapping around it.
A long, informative article. Background here.

The Karaite community in California

KARAITE WATCH: A Karaite prayer: Little-known Jewish community builds center to tell its story (David A.M. Wilensky, J.).
B’nai Israel is the only Karaite synagogue in North America, serving the diaspora’s largest Karaite community — about 800 members live within driving distance of the synagogue.

Karaite Jews differ from Rabbanite Jews (as Karaites call the majority of Jews who follow rabbinic tradition) in that they reject oral law — the Talmud and rabbinic authority — relying instead on the literal text of the Bible. The two communities coexisted until the 10th century, when foundational Jewish (Rabbanite) leader and thinker Saadia Gaon denounced Karaites as apostates and sought to exclude them from the Jewish community. Relationships between these two Jewish communities have varied across time and place, but that initial antagonism has long colored the relationship.

In the Bay Area, where few Rabbanite Jews are aware of Karaite Judaism, that relationship is cordial, though not always close on an institutional level. But on a personal level, many Karaite Jews are involved with the wider Bay Area Jewish community. Many have had bar and bat mitzvahs in Rabbanite synagogues
The article has lots of information on Karaites, their modern history, and their current institutions and practices. And one excerpt on the new cultural center:
To ensure that future, the congregation has embarked on a relatively small construction project that will have a large and visible impact on their community: They are renovating their existing 3,500-square-foot prefab building and creating a 1,000-square-foot Karaite Jewish Cultural Center, attached to the synagogue, which will serve as a combination education program, museum and social center.

There is a Karaite Heritage Center in Israel, but this will be the only similar institution in the diaspora.

For a community this small, a lot is riding on the project. “If this current generation of Karaite Jews in the United States fails, it’ll be very difficult to kick-start the movement in any organized fashion,” said Shawn Lichaa, a pillar of the local Karaite community.
Worth reading if full if you have any interest in the Karaites.

Past PaleoJudaica posts on the Karaites are here (with more on the Karaite community in Daly City) and links (cf. here).

McDonald, The Formation of the Biblical Canon: 2 Volumes

NEW BOOK FROM BLOOMSBURY:
The Formation of the Biblical Canon: 2 Volumes
By: Lee Martin McDonald

Published: 26-01-2017
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
ISBN: 9780567669339
Imprint: Bloomsbury T&T Clark
RRP: £250.00
Online price: £225.00
Save £25.00 (10%)


About The Formation of the Biblical Canon: 2 Volumes

Lee Martin McDonald provides a magisterial overview of the development of the biblical canon -- the emergence of the list of individual texts that constitutes the Christian bible. In these two volumes -- in sum more than double the length of his previous works on this subject -- McDonald presents his most in-depth overview to date. McDonald shows students and researchers how the list of texts that constitute 'the bible' was once far more fluid than it is today and guides readers through the minefield of different texts, different versions, and the different lists of texts considered 'canonical' that abounded in antiquity. Questions of the origin and transmission of texts are introduced as well as consideration of innovations in the presentation of texts, collections of documents, archaeological finds and Church councils.

In the first volume McDonald reexamines issues of canon formation once considered settled, and sets the range of texts that make up the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament) in their broader context. Each individual text is discussed, as are the cultural, political and historical situations surrounding them. The second volume considers the New Testament, and the range of so-called 'apocryphal' gospels that were written in early centuries, and used by many Christian groups before the canon was closed. Comprehensive appendices showing various canon lists for both Old and New Testaments and for the bible as as a whole are also included.
Follow the link for the TOC and ordering information.

Report on Bethsaida, 2016 season

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
The Consortium for the Bethsaida Excavation Project:
Report on the 2016 Excavation Season


By Rami Arav, Carl Savage, Kate Raphael, Nicolae Roddy, Vanessa Workman, Kenneth M. Bensimon
University of Nebraska, Omaha
Bethsaida Excavation
February 2017

More on 1 Maccabees and the Hasmoneans

READING ACTS: First Maccabees as Pro-Hasmonean Propaganda. On this subject, see also this post.

Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Second Temple Period are noted here and links.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Roman-era gate at Beit She’arim

WHAT'S IN A NAME? Archaeologists shocked to find ancient gateway at ‘House of Gates.’ Excavation at Beit She’arim in northern Israel unearths fortifications of Roman-era Jewish town where the Mishna was written (Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel).
With a name like Beit She’arim, Hebrew for “House of Gates,” it seems obvious that the UNESCO world heritage site would have ancient portals. Still, archaeologists from the University of Haifa were surprised to stumble across a massive gateway during recent excavations at the site in northern Israel.

Half of an impressive northeast-facing gate built of limestone blocks, with postholes for doors and locks, abutting a circular tower, along a road leading into the ancient town, turned up during a dig in the fall of 2016, the school announced Wednesday.

[...]

The gate turned up in the even tinier town of Beit Zaid, a moshav founded by Jewish pioneer Alexander Zaid, who discovered Beit She’arim right next door. Tali Zaid, his granddaughter and one of the 74 people who live in the community, happened upon some ancient-looking stones in her yard a few years ago during renovations on her home.


[Archaeologist Adi] Erlich got approval from the Israel Antiquities Authority to dig up the yard this past fall, and uncovered the gate during excavations from September to November.

Though the gate hasn’t yet been dated, the University of Haifa team was certain it was associated with the Roman period.

Erlich was astonished by the discovery.

“Most of the settlements in the Roman period aren’t fortified, and certainly not a relatively small Jewish town that wasn’t even considered an official Roman town. There were isolated fortified Jewish towns in the north, like Yodfat, but even those towns that were large and central didn’t include a large and impressive gate like this,” she said.

[...]
Some past posts on Beit She'arim (Beit Shearim) are here and links (cf. here and here).

The Talmud on public schools

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Talmud to Betsy DeVos: Yes, We Need Public Schools. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ rabbinical thinking on the relationship of public goods and private obligations explains the advantages of universal education accessible to all.
Maybe it’s because I have politics on the brain—and who doesn’t, these days?—but this week’s Daf Yomi reading seemed almost designed to address the big political and social questions that Americans have been debating lately. The fight over the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as education secretary, for instance, raised the issue of public schools: Are they a crucial democratic institution or, as DeVos and her allies believe, a bureaucratic monopoly that should be undermined by privatization and vouchers?

For a Jewish answer, you could turn to Bava Batra 21a, where the Talmud praises the memory of a man called Yehoshua ben Gamla, one of the last High Priests before the destruction of the Temple. He is “remembered for the good,” Rav says, because he created a system of public schools in the Land of Israel. In this way, he preserved the existence of Judaism itself: “If not for him the Torah would have been forgotten from the Jewish people.” Before Yehoshua ben Gamla’s time, the Gemara explains, Torah was taught at home, father to son, in accordance with Deuteronomy 11:19: “And you shall teach them to your sons.”

[...]
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

The Maccabean Revolt (2)

READING ACTS: Factors Leading to the Maccabean Revolt (Part 2). "For the writer of 1 Maccabees, violence was indeed the answer." Yep.

Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Second Temple Period are noted here and links.

Ge'ez class takes off at University of Toronto

ETHIOPIC WATCH: U of T students flock to ancient language Ge'ez course, funded in part by The Weeknd. Deciphering ancient languages can help us learn about a country's ancient past – even if you don't know how to pronounce the words (David Silverberg, Now Toronto).
How does someone teach a language when we have no idea what it might actually sound like?

That's one of the questions for U of T's Robert Holmsted, who's teaching the university's course on the liturgical Ethiopian language Ge'ez.

In its first semester at U of T, his class has five undergraduates and five graduate students enrolled, and several more students auditing the class. They all realize that deciphering ancient languages can help us learn about a country's ancient past.

[...]
Ge'ez has a liturgical tradition, so it's an overstatement to say that we have no idea what it sounded like. But, yes, we have no direct evidence for its exact pronunciation in antiquity and we have to resort to reconstruction. The same is true for Hebrew and Aramaic.

Ten students in an introductory class on an obscure ancient language is quite a good number. Congratulations to Professor Holsted and best wishes to the new UT Ethiopic program for more successes.

Background here and links.

Restoration of ancient mikvaot at Temple Mount

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH, VIDEO EDITION: Watch: Second Temple mikvehs restored near Temple Mount. Kevin Bermeister joined the Jerusalem 5800 project to restore the mikvehs south of the Temple Mount. Watch a virtual tour of the site (Eliran Baruch, Arutz Sheva).
Bermeister has now partnered with the Jerusalem 5800 project to restore the numerous mikvehs (ritual baths) situated south of the Temple Mount in area known as the Ofel since biblical times and located between the City of David and the Mount.

The project revealed new archaeological layers just tens of meters from Temple Mount.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Murex shells from the Temple Mount

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: The Temple Mount Sifting Project has found a murex trunculus: a rock snail shell.
What makes the murex trunculus so special is that they are connected with the ancient process of making tehelet, the blue dye we know from the Bible that was used in priestly garments and the Israelites’ tzit tzit (fringes). This snail family was also used to make the purple dye known in the Bible as argaman.

[...]

So what was this murex shell doing on the Temple Mount? Any time we find a shell, we know that it was used by humans because Jerusalem is too far from the sea for sea creatures (and their shells) to dwell there. This means that shells were brought to Jerusalem for a purpose. We have discovered over 20 of these murex trunculus shells in the sifting, and it leads us to wonder why. Is it possible that there was a workshop for dye production on the Temple Mount? Perhaps these shells were used to create the dye for fabrics used in the Temple. Maybe it was produced on site for purity reasons.

Unfortunately, we can’t date these shells until we have evidence that would link them to another, datable, artifact such as something else used in cloth or dye production. With more funding, we might be able to carbon date them, but each test costs about $400 and in order to reach statistical significance, we would need to test samples from 20 shells. Regardless, there is a lot of research yet to be completed on this, but these shells certainly raise a lot of really interesting questions.
For much more on the tekhelet dye, made from the murex shells and used for bluish purple coloring, start here and follow the links. The dye was used in ancient Israel on priestly vestments and on fringes on regular people's clothing. More on the Temple Mount Sifting Project is here and many links.

Diodorus Siculus and ANE history

THE ASOR BLOG: Diodorus of Sicily’s Library and the Ancient Near East (Jan P. Stronk).
Diodorus of Sicily, a Greek, was born as a member of an obviously well-to-do family in Agyrium on Sicily c. 90 BCE. He spent some years in Egypt (from about 60 BCE) and then travelled to Rome, where he more or less settled and started to write his Bibliotheca Historica (Historical Library), a work in forty books (= chapters), which took him some thirty years. Regrettably, part of this work was lost: only books one to five and eleven to twenty survive (nearly) completely, the rest does so in a fragmentary state. The last complete copy of the work is said to have been destroyed in 1453 CE, when the Ottoman army took Constantinople, but before that time, parts of Diodorus’ work already had found their way into many other ancient and Byzantine sources.

So much for the backgrounds of the work. But what makes this work so valuable, not merely for me but for many ancient historians? The answer is hidden in the work’s title: in the end, it effectively is a library. To compose his work, Diodorus based himself upon the work of previous writers, some mentioned by name, more by indication (altogether at least some 144 authors can be traced). Following this method, Diodorus preserved fragments of many works now partially or even completely lost while he described the history of the East, of Greece, Sicily, Carthage, Rome, the vicissitudes of Alexander the Great and the Diadochs’ Empires. Equally important is that Diodorus’ work is our sole written witness for certain periods and/or occurrences, a reason why we should not underestimate the meaning of the Bibliotheca.
I fully agree with this assessment and am delighted to hear of Dr. Stronk's work on Diodorus's Bibliotheca. Some recent PaleoJudaica posts on Diodorus and the importance of his work for the history of Second Temple Judaism are here, here, and here.

The Maccabean Revolt (1)

READING ACTS: Factors Leading to the Maccabean Revolt (Part 1). A recent PaleoJudaica post involving the same events is here.

Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Second Temple Period are noted here and links.

Longacre on the DSS and the textual development of the Pentateuch

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Reflections on the Textual Development of the Pentateuch in Light of Documented Evidence (Drew Longacre).
Many have discussed the significant editorial differences evident in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the pluriformity of the texts of the Hebrew Scriptures in the Second Temple period is now common knowledge. The differentiated state of the tradition already in the third century BCE (compare, for example, the “pre-Samaritan” 4QExodus-Leviticus and the Septuagint) suggests that many of the major differences between pentateuchal witnesses were created already in the fourth century or even earlier. Yet, these documented editorial changes still reflect typologically late developments on a much more restricted scale than those typically suggested by source and redaction critics. These latter stages of the development of the text of the Pentateuch are—and will probably always remain—undocumented hypotheses. Nevertheless, it is clear that the Dead Sea Scrolls provide a limited window into the patterns of text production that can be expected in the Persian period, and literary critics cannot afford to ignore these lessons.
The first essay in AJR's current series on the Dead Sea Scrolls (in honor of the 70th anniversary of their discovery) was noted here.

More ISIS damage to Palmyra

PALMYRA WATCH: Russian video shows fresh IS damage in Palmyra (AP). The drone footage shows additional damage to the ancient architecture of the site, possibly with more to come.

Background here and links.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

VanderKam on Qumran "Cave 12"

UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME: New Dead Sea Scroll cave reports may be ‘premature,’ scholar says. Professor Emeritus James VanderKam issues some salutary cautions concerning the recent reports of a 12th Qumran scrolls cave (which contained no actual scrolls):
“In 1952, after the earliest scrolls finds, archaeologists made a survey of hundreds of caves and openings in the general vicinity of Khirbet Qumran,” VanderKam says. “Some 230 of them contained nothing of interest, but 26 housed pottery like that found in the first scrolls cave. The most recent find appears to be another one like those explored in 1952, although it does seem to have more direct evidence that scrolls were at one time lodged in the cave.”

VanderKam notes that the discovery is intriguing, but says more needs to be determined from the archaeologists’ findings.

“As with any archaeological discovery, it is great to have the new information. It is also of considerable interest that the cave is in the Qumran area,” he says. “However, given the fact that other caves in the district, besides the 11 that held the Dead Sea Scrolls, contained pottery of the same sort as Qumran Cave 1, it seems a bit premature to call it Qumran Cave 12. The people of the scrolls apparently used a fairly extensive area around Khirbet Qumran, so it is not surprising if there would be evidence of their presence in additional nearby caves.”

“I look forward to learning more details about the finds in the cave, such as the dates of the various items discovered. And, if scrolls were once stored in the jars and have been removed, I really hope they can be located and made available for study.”
Yes, to all of this.

That last point merits some unpacking. The largest hoard of Dead Sea Scrolls were found in Cave 4. They were just heaped in the cave, not kept in jars, so they were very poorly preserved. If there were scrolls in jars in this new cave ("Cave 12") and looters found them, where are they now? And what condition were the jars in? Were they intact? That could imply the survival of well-preserved scrolls, comparable to the scrolls of Cave 1. Some of the Cave 1 scrolls survived almost complete inside intact jars.

Then again, Professor VanderKam is right to retain some skepticism that any scrolls were ever in "Cave 12."

Watch this space. Background here and here.

Targum Neofiti Manuscript Online

AWOL: Targum Neofiti Manuscript Online. This was first posted at AWOL in 2014, but I seem to have missed it then. I'm keeping better track these days.

1 Maccabees and messianism

READING ACTS: Is There a Messiah in 1 Maccabees?
If the writer of 1 Maccabees positioned Judas as David-revisited, it would be unlikely that he would look forward to a future messiah. The book represents a staus quo sort of Judaism, and is “opposed to the Pharisees, the apocalypticists, and the many sectarians in Judea itself” (Fischer, “Maccabees,” 4:442). There is no “return of Judas” theme in 1 Maccabees. His successor Jonathan is enthroned as a king in purple and gold (10:59-66) and as high priest (10:18-21). The writer makes it quite clear that the “yoke of the gentiles was removed” under the leadership of Jonathan (13:41). 1 Maccabees might be described as having a completely realized eschatology because hope for an eschatological age are entirely fulfilled in the Hasmoneans.

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That sounds pretty plausible to me. We tend to think of Second Temple Jewish eschatology as involving apocalyptic cataclysms and final judgments, and often it did. But the idea of an earthly paradise in an independent Jewish state goes back to the biblical prophets and remained a possible scenario.

Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Second Temple Period are noted here and links.

Lied and Lundhaug (eds.), Snapshots of Evolving Traditions

IN THE MAIL:
Liv Ingeborg Lied and Hugo Lundhaug (Eds.), Snapshots of Evolving Traditions: Jewish and Christian Manuscript Culture, Textual Fluidity, and New Philology (De Gruyter, 2017)
My article, "Translating the Hekhalot Literature: Insights from New Philology," is on pp. 333-346.

The book was noted as forthcoming here, here, and here.

CFP: Traditions of Eastern Late Antiquity #AARSBL17

JAMES MCGRATH: Traditions of Eastern Late Antiquity #AARSBL17 Call for Papers. One or more of the sessions will be co-sponsored with the SBL Digital Humanities and Pseudepigrapha program units.