Tuesday, October 13, 2015

When did ancient "Re-Judaization" begin?

LARRY HURTADO: “Re-Hebraization/Judaization” Among Roman-Era Jews.
In short, the analysis in the CPJ suggests strongly that an increasing expression of Jewish ethnic and religious particularly began much earlier than Collar proposes. Even the increased emphasis on Torah and observing its commandments that she highlights in later Roman Jewish inscriptions is surely reflected already in developments such as the emergence of the Pharisees, a party particularly concerned to promote observance of Torah among Jews.

Vows, Palmyra, Queen Helena, and the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: When Making a Vow, Consider Where You Stand. Because a corpse is always a source of ritual impurity, and because on a geological timescale corpses are everywhere under our feet, aren’t all religious Jews impure?
The ancient Roman city of Palmyra made headlines this summer, for the first time in 1,500 years, for a tragic reason. Motivated by religious zeal against paganism, ISIS destroyed some of the best-preserved structures from the ancient world, including the Temple of Bel—the Mesopotamian god known in the Hebrew Bible as Baal. (Indeed, some of the Hebrew prophets might have applauded the destruction, given their hatred of Baal-worship.) But Palmyra was not only a pagan city; it was also home to a substantial Jewish community, as this week’s Daf Yomi reading testified.

Yes, further to this post, Palmyra (Tadmor) is mentioned in the Talmud and elsewhere in the rabbinic literature. A reader has sent in additional references, but I've been busy and I will get to them as soon as I can. Background on Palmyra and its recent devastation by ISIS is here and many links. Cross-file under Palmyra Watch.

In Nazir 19b, this question is raised in connection with another woman, Queen Helena of Adiabene, also in modern Syria. Helene once vowed, “If my son will return from war safely, I will be a nazirite for seven years.” He did, and as we have seen earlier in the Tractate, such conditional vows are effective; so she obeyed the nazirite prohibitions for seven years. But even though Helena avoided corpses for all that time, she was living in ritual impurity anyway, since her whole country was tamei. When she subsequently visited the Land of Israel, then, Beit Hillel ruled that she had to perform her naziriteship all over again, since only now was she truly pure. As a result, she had to be a nazirite for seven more years, for a total of 14. Nazirites outside the Land of Israel are, in a sense, only pretending, or doing a trial run for the real thing.
More on Queen Helena of Adiabene and rabbinic legends about her is here. My caution concerning rabbinic stories about her applies to the one above too. And follow the links for some related historical and archaeological issues.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Elad wins a court case

POLITICS: Settler Group Wins Right to Run Jerusalem Archaeology Park After Appeal. Court rules against state, allows Elad to operate site adjacent to West Wall (Nir Hasson, Haaretz).
The right-wing City of David Foundation, better known as Elad, will be allowed to operate the Jerusalem Archaeological Park adjacent to the Western Wall, after the Jerusalem District Court on Monday overturned a lower court ruling that had voided the agreement enabling it to do so.

The court accepted Elad’s appeal of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruling in its entirety, reinstating the agreement the NGO had signed with the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter to manage the park and the adjacent Davidson Center, both major tourist attractions located south of the Western Wall plaza.

Elad manages the City of David National Park, just outside the Old City, and is also involved in settling Jews in the adjacent, predominantly Arab village of Silwan. The City of David National Park is connected to the Jerusalem Archaeological Park via a Second Temple-era drainage tunnel whose excavation was completed in 2012.

There have been so many of these cases about this area recently that, to be honest, I'm not sure if I have noted this particular one before or not. See the posts here, here, here, and links, and work it out for yourself, if you can.

Magadala Stone replica

IN PENNSYLVANIA: Magdala Stone replica to be displayed at two Delco churches (Patti Mengers, Delaware County Daily Times)
St. Mary Magdalen Church in Upper Providence this week will become the temporary home of what some believe could be the replica of an artifact from the residence of the parish namesake — a follower of Jesus Christ who lived nearly 2,000 years ago in Israel.

The Magdala Stone, unearthed six years ago in an ancient synagogue along the Sea of Galilee while excavation was under way for a retreat facility, is considered by some to be one of the most significant archeological finds of the last 50 years.

More on the Magdala Stone and the Magdala excavation is here and links.

Monday, October 12, 2015

More on that NYT article

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: The blowback continues over last week's New York Times article whose original form indulged in explicit support for Jewish-Temple denial. And I have some new information to break as well below. My original post on the story is here.

Some of what has come out since yesterday:

NY Times Angers Historians, Archaeologists Over Article Questioning Jewish Link to Temple Mount (Sharona Schwartz, The Blaze). Archaeologist Gabriel Barkay adds his voice:
“It was based on ignorance, simple ignorance; you cannot ignore all the literary evidence” of the existence of Jewish temples on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount site, Prof. Gabriel Barkay, codirector of the Temple Mount Sifting Project, told TheBlaze by phone Sunday.
I think "ignorance" is generous. It is clear that the writer had the correct information available and presented the story the way he did nonetheless.

New York Times Amends Article Questioning Jewish Temples’ Existence on Temple Mount (JTA)

Jerusalem Through the Lens of the New York Times (Yarden Frankl, HonestReporting.com)

Also, the Irish Times has reprinted the NYT article, but it has reprinted the original, uncorrected version. The third paragraph appears as follows:
The question, which many books and scholarly treatises have never definitively answered, is whether the 37-acre site, home to Islam’s sacred Dome of the Rock shrine and al-Aqsa Mosque, was also the precise location of two ancient Jewish temples, one built on the remains of the other, and both long since gone.
(My bold emphasis.) And just in case readers miss the point, the IT has added its own very unhelpful subtitle to the article: "Did Temple Mount really contain King Solomon’s temple? No one really knows." I have a screen shot, in case any of this is changed. The damage of the New York Times article continues to propagate.

Then one Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss adds his take: Hectored by Zionist wannabe archaeologists, ‘NYT’ recasts article on Jewish temples. Yep, "wannabe archaeologists" like Leen Ritmeyer, Jodi Magness, and Gabriel Barkay. Oh, and mere experts in Second Temple Judaism like Michael Satlow and myself. In his essay Mr. Weiss makes the following very interesting observation: "But the crazy part– as many of Gladstone’s Zionist critics are also pointing out on twitter– is that the original question is the only one the article really deals with." He had earlier indicated that this original questions was "whether the temples were on the Temple Mount" (his emphasis).

He cites the quotations from Matthew J. Adams, Rivka Gonen, Wendy Pullan, and Jane Cahill and says, "Gladstone then cites several other authorities, questioning whether the temples were even on the site." He then adds:
Too bad the Times didn’t stick to its guns on the question. The appearance that it folded under pressure is confirmed by the fact that Gladstone tweeted his changes out to his assailants, Liebovitz and Goldberg. They are just performing a traditional Zionist role, in the tradition of Yigael Yadin and Moshe Dayan– archaeologists.

I have no idea where the temples stood; the issue is why the NYT would raise a question, presumably based on reporting, and then withdraw it under pressure from Zionists who hector you as a “truther.” And if it was really wrong, why not take down the whole article?
He has no idea where the temples stood, yet on the basis of his lack of knowledge of the whole subject he is sure the Times succumbed to political pressure. It doesn't seem to occur to him that the Times might have made the alteration because the article did not correctly reflect what specialists in the area actually think.

I do not know why the New York Times did not take down the article. They might have been wise to do so, because the problems with it just keep getting worse. Keep reading.

I cite Mr. Weiss not because his uninformed opinion counts for anything, but because it illustrates the harm the article has done. Note that he cites the quotations from Matthew J. Adams to demonstrate that the article cites experts "questioning whether the temples were even on the site."

With that as context, I can report that I received the following e-mail from Dr. Matthew J. Adams, Director of the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem. (In my earlier post I referred to him as "Mr.," following the usage of the NYT article. I give his correct title here.) I reproduce his communication with his permission:
Dear Jim,

I saw your blog post from yesterday concerning the NYT article. Thanks for your good detective work!

Indeed, my comments had been separated from their context and redistributed into the NYT article according the author's intentions, not mine.

The academically complex question to which I referred was concerning the "First Temple" and the sources related to it. My first comment following "It's an academically complex question" was:

"First, it's pretty clear that the temple built (or restored) by Herod stood on the Haram/Temple Mount. Archaeological and Textual sources make this fairly certain."

I then proceeded to discuss the complexities of the source material for the "First Temple".

Thanks again for the hard work on this!
So, I was correct in my inference in my original post. Indeed, Dr. Adams's comments were reordered out of context in the New York Times article contrary to his intentions. He was not saying that it was an academically complex question whether Jewish temples ever stood on the Temple Mount. He was saying that the source material for the First Temple is an academically complex issue, a correct point that I also made in considerable detail in my earlier posts, especially the one on the evidence for the First Temple.

This is turning into a real embarrassment to the New York Times. I don't think the story is quite over yet, so watch this space.

The NPAPH-project

PHOTOGRAPHS: Welcome to the NPAPH-project!
The Non-Professional Archaeological Photographs-project has the aim to preserve non-professional documentation of archaeological campaigns – prior to the 1980s – to the future and make it accessible to the public via digital archives. Furthermore, the project pleads for an international collaboration between archaeological institutions in order to connect these digital archives and bring them under the attention of the public by the use of this website.

There's a page for Khirbet Qumran (Grollenberg). Via Charlotte Hempel (via Joan Taylor) on the IOQS Facebook page.

A Columbus biography in a polyglot Psalter

NOTED FOR COLUMBUS DAY: ‘Catholics in the New World: A Selection of 16th-18th Century Texts’ and ‘Religious Liberty and the Founding of America’ Reviews (JULIA M. KLEIN, WSJ). Published on 21 September, but I've been saving it for today.
As this city prepares for Pope Francis’ Sept. 26-27 visit, the conversation has focused on security cordons, ticketing snafus, travel nightmares and commercial paralysis. But on a less apocalyptic note, the visit also is spurring museums to exhibit treasures appealing to religious tourists. Two modest displays illuminate the Western Hemisphere’s checkered history of evangelism and tolerance. “Catholics in the New World: A Selection of 16th-18th Century Texts” at the Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia includes the oldest surviving book printed in the New World (the 1543/44 “Doctrina Breve,” from Mexico City) and the first book printed in South America (the 1584 “Doctrina Christiana” from Lima, Peru).

An even earlier Old World text—a 1516 Genoese book of psalms in Hebrew, Greek, Arabic, Aramaic and Latin—features the first biography of Christopher Columbus. It seems both quirky and fitting that it appears as a commentary to Psalm 19’s verse, “their words reach to the ends of the world.”

Past posts on Columbus and various PaleoJudaic matters are here and links.

Mroczek, The Literary Imagination in Jewish Antiquity

The Literary Imagination in Jewish Antiquity

Eva Mroczek


The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls revealed a world of early Jewish writing larger than the Bible, from multiple versions of biblical texts to "revealed" books not found in our canon. Despite this diversity, the way we read Second Temple Jewish literature remains constrained by two anachronistic categories: a theological one, "Bible," and a bibliographic one, "book." The Literary Imagination in Jewish Antiquity suggests ways of thinking about how Jews understood their own literature before these categories had emerged.

Using familiar sources such as the Psalms, Ben Sira, and Jubilees, Mroczek tells an unfamiliar story about sacred writing not bound in a Bible. In many texts, we see an awareness of a vast tradition of divine writing found in multiple locations only partially revealed in available scribal collections. Ancient heroes like David are not simply imagined as scriptural authors, but multi-dimensional characters who come to be known as great writers and honored as founders of growing textual traditions. Scribes recognize the divine origin of texts like the Enoch literature and other writings revealed to ancient patriarchs, which present themselves not as derivative of material we now call biblical, but prior to it. Sacred writing stretches back to the dawn of time, yet new discoveries are always around the corner.

While listening to the way ancient writers describe their own literature-their own metaphors and narratives about writing-this book also argues for greater suppleness in our own scholarly imagination, no longer bound by modern canonical and bibliographic assumptions.
Shipping in April 2016.

From tablet to tablet

OUP BLOG: Words from books (Edwin Battistella).
October is an important month for book festivals—in Boston, Austin, Madison, Baton Rouge, and of course Frankfurt, Germany, which hosts the world’s oldest book festival. In honor of these book festivals, I want to delve a bit into the way that the language of books expanded the English vocabulary.

The earliest books were not books per se, but inscriptions on stone or wood. The term stele, for an upright stone, wooden slab, or clay, is still a very specialized term. Soon, however, clay, wooden tablets, and papyrus scrolls made writing more portable. Fast forward to today, when tablets now refer to computers and we scroll on our computer screens, tablets, and phones. The meaning of both words has been extended to follow changes in reading technology.

A nice, quick overview of the development of writing from antiquity to the present.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The NYT and Jewish-Temple denial

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Historical Certainty Proves Elusive at Jerusalem’s Holiest Place (RICK GLADSTONE, New York Times). I wrote a long post about this article on Friday. Then I reread the Times article and realized the problems with it were even more extensive than I had first thought and that more needed to be said. I had to get some other work done, so I set this post aside until I had more time, which is now.

Meanwhile the article's bogus historical assertions have been called out by many. A selection:

There Was a Temple on the Temple Mount (Michael Satlow)

The so-called “elusive” location of the Temple in Jerusalem (Leen Ritmeyer)

New York Times Gives Credence to Muslim Claims of No Jewish Temples Ever on Temple Mount (The Algemeiner)

The Temple, the Times and the BDS Supporter (Alex Safian, CAMERA)

The Times Declares History is Bunk (JONATHAN S. TOBIN, Commentary Magazine)

The blowback has been so great that the Times has had to revise the article a little and post the following:
Correction: October 9, 2015
An earlier version of this article misstated the question that many books and scholarly treatises have never definitively answered concerning the two ancient Jewish temples. The question is where precisely on the 37-acre Temple Mount site the temples had once stood, not whether the temples had ever existed there.
I'm glad they posted the correction, but that doesn't let them off the hook for irresponsible journalism. The two questions are not hard to mix up: one is a real question and the other is made-up Palestinian propaganda. They should have known better.

The references above point to errors in the article, but problems remain that require further discussion and nuancing, so I have rewritten the earlier draft of this post to take into account new developments and make such points as I think remain to be made. The article originally began:
Within Jerusalem’s holiest site, known as the Temple Mount to Jews and the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims, lies an explosive historical question that cuts to the essence of competing claims to what may be the world’s most contested piece of real estate.

The question, which many books and scholarly treatises have never definitively answered, is whether the 37-acre site, home to Islam’s sacred Dome of the Rock shrine and Al Aqsa Mosque, was also the precise location of two ancient Jewish temples, one built on the remains of the other, and both long since gone.
(My bold emphasis.) The second paragraph has been rewritten as follows:
The question, which many books and scholarly treatises have never definitively answered, is where on the 37-acre site, home to Islam’s sacred Dome of the Rock shrine and Al Aqsa Mosque, was the precise location of two ancient Jewish temples, one built on the remains of the other, and both long since gone.
(My bold emphasis.) I have no problem with the second paragraph as it now stands. The third paragraph, which remains unchanged, is a different matter:
Those temples are integral to Jewish religious history and to Israel’s disputed assertions of sovereignty over all of Jerusalem. Many Palestinians, suspicious of Israel’s intentions for the site, have increasingly expressed doubt that the temples ever existed — at least in that location. Many Israelis regard such a challenge as false and inflammatory denialism.
Excuse me? "Many Israelis?" There is no historical debate whether Jewish temples stood on "the site," meaning somewhere on the Temple Mount. PaleoJudaica has endless posts on Jewish-Temple denial, which originates in Palestinian propaganda, is widely circulated in the Arab world, and is sometimes facilitated by the Western media. Start here and follow the links or, for more, run the terms "Jewish temple denial" through PaleoJudaica's search engine. It is disappointing to see the Times speaking so imprecisely, as though some Israelis and everybody else thought it was fine.

The fourth paragraph raises further concerns:
“This is a very politically loaded subject,” said Matthew J. Adams, Dorot director of the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem. “It’s also an academically complex question.”
What's that? The director of the Albright Institute says that whether there were Jewish temples on the Temple Mount is "an academically complex question?" Not so fast. Scroll down well into the article and we read this:
“The sources for the first temple are solely biblical, and no substantial archaeological remains have been verified,” said Wendy Pullan, senior lecturer in the history and philosophy of architecture at the University of Cambridge, in the book “The Struggle for Jerusalem’s Holy Places.”

Mr. Adams said, “We just don’t have enough primary source data, textual or archaeological, to say where it was with any confidence.”
If you put Mr. Adams's two quotes together in this context, they say something rather different: that where the First Temple stood on the Temple Mount is an academically complex question and we don't have enough primary data to answer it confidently. Was he really talking about the question of there being ancient Jewish temples at all on the Temple Mount or was he talking about the location of one or both of the earlier temples? I don't have access to the full transcript, but reading the two quotations together in this context makes sense for what the director of the Albright Institute would likely have actually said. If so, the placement of the first quote in its current context in the article gives an incorrect impression of what he was saying.

CAMERA objects to Dr. Pullan's comments on the grounds of her political connections. These don't interest me one way or another, although the Times could have noted them in the interest of full disclosure. My concern is about the historical accuracy of her statement, which should be considered alongside the following two excerpts (the next three quoted paragraphs below), a little later in the article:
Jane Cahill, an expert on Jerusalem’s early history who was a senior staff archaeologist for Hebrew University’s City of David Archaeological Project, said “nobody knows exactly” where the temples once stood, although “pretty powerful circumstantial evidence” suggests they were on the site.

“Because there have been no organized excavations there, and not likely to be, circumstantial evidence is probably all we’re going to have,” she said.
Again, I would like to see Ms. Cahill's full quotation. I suspect she was saying that no one knows exactly where the temples stood on the Temple Mount, which is correct. As framed now, her statement could be taken to imply that there might have been Jewish temples somewhere or other, but not necessarily on the Temple Mount, which is a bizarre thought. The temples were somewhere else in the vicinity of Jerusalem but through some mixup everyone forgot about that and (understandably) got the erroneous idea that they stood on that big platform? I don't think so.
Archaeologists agree that far more information is known that corroborates the existence of the second temple at the site than the first.
That is true. It is almost correct that the only evidence for the First Temple is references in the Hebrew Bible, although I want to nuance that a bit, and it is true that there is no "substantial archaeological" (i.e. architectual) evidence so far for the First Temple. But there is good reason why there shouldn't be. A decade ago I collected the evidence for the existence of the Second and Herodian Temples and the existence of the First Temple, where I dealt with the questions in considerable detail.

But to recap briefly here: starting from first principles, other ancient Near Eastern peoples had their own national temples and it would be very notable anomaly if the late-Iron Age Judeans didn't. There is a clear, persistent, and consistent memory that there was such a temple and it stood on that site, and that's why the Second Temple was built there. And there is supporting epigraphic etc. evidence in addition, although the readings are sometimes unclear and one could interpret the Arad inscription in other (less convincing) ways.

I am aware of no peer-review publication that argues that there was no Iron Age Judean temple somewhere on the Temple Mount. Where exactly on the Temple Mount and when exactly in the Iron Age II it was built are more complicated problems on which there is debate.

Skipping a bit more:
Further corroboration of the temple’s existence is in the New Testament, based on its account of anger at Paul by Jews who accused him of having violated the trespass restriction: “He has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place,” reads a passage from Acts 21:28.
The New Testament has many references to the Herodian Temple. See my post linked to above on the Herodian and Second Temple for some, not all, of them.

Finally, I note, as have others, that the Times mentions the Waqf administration of the Temple Mount, but fails to mention its destructive illicit excavations there and the efforts of the Temple Mount Sifting Project to recover what data can be recovered from the discarded rubble. See recently here and here and just keep following those links back.

Let us be clear: the New York Times published an article making seriously erroneous assertions about the scholarly state of the question regarding the evidence for Judean/Jewish temples on the Temple Mount. It was called out on them and published a retraction, although questions remain about the content that was left unchanged. The inspiration for the now-corrected historical mischaracterization was Palestinian propaganda about the Temple Mount. And the Times published the article just at a time when disputes over the Temple Mount are particulary intense in the region. I give them some credit for the correction, but the article was still exceedingly unhelpful. Many people will have read it and will never see the correction. The New York Times has not covered itself with glory on this one.

UPDATE: I have just received an e-mail from Joseph I. Lauer indicating that Jodi Magness, one of the specialists quoted in the article, has written to the Times protesting and correcting the misrepresentation of scholarship in this article. Her letter will be published by the Times. Watch this space.

The Greek Bible in Spanish

THE SPANISH TRANSLATION OF THE SEPTUAGINT IS COMPLETE WITH THIS VOLUME: La Biblia griega - Septuaginta, IV. Libros proféticos. Natalio Fernández (dir.), María Victoria Spottorno (Ediciones Sígueme). HT Jay C. Treat at the IOCS Facebook page.

Jesus' wife — the novel

IN PROGRESS: Sue Monk Kidd Writing Novel on 'Jesus' Wife, Ana' (MICHAEL GRYBOSKI, The Christian Post)
Best-selling novelist Sue Monk Kidd is working on a book that will take place during the first century, and is expected to feature a married Jesus of Nazareth.

The author of such notable novels as The Secret Life of Bees and The Invention of Wings is working on a story whose narrator will be the wife of the Messiah.

"Monk has given the book the working title Ana, the Wife of Jesus. A release date hasn't been set," reported The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The CP article also places the announcement of recent stories (Dan Brown, Gospel of Jesus' Wife) pertaining to "Jesus' wife." She is very famous, considering that there is no historical evidence that she ever existed.

The DSS in Finnish

A NEW TRANSLATION OF THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS — IN FINNISH: Raija Sollamo & Mika S. Pajunen (toim.): Kuolleenmeren kadonnut kansa. HT Hanna Tervanotko at the IOQS Facebook page.

Syriac news

SYRIAC WATCH: Syriac Summer School (James McGrath, Exploring Our Matrix). The content of the post is broader than the title indicates. Some of the links have already been noted here, but many not. And this point is also well worth repeating: "If you are a grad student looking to set yourself apart, or a scholar looking to branch out into something new, diving into Syriac will be well worth your while."

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Lyon, Qumran Interpretation of the Genesis Flood

Qumran Interpretation of the Genesis Flood
BY Jeremy D. Lyon


The Dead Sea Scrolls have opened up for modern readers the ancient world of Jewish interpretation of the Bible during the Second Temple period. Among these scrolls are several manuscripts dating to the first century BC, the oldest surviving texts dealing with interpretation of the Genesis Flood. A literary analysis of the four primary Qumran Flood texts (1QapGen, 4Q252, 4Q370, and 4Q422) reveals how ancient Jews interpreted and employed the Genesis Flood narrative. These texts contain commentary, paraphrase, and admonition, among other things, addressing issues such as the cause, chronology, and purpose of the Flood. In addition, these fragmentary treasures reveal such ancient understandings of the Flood as a reversal and renewal of creation, a restoration of Eden and anticipation of the Promised Land, and an archetype of eschatological judgment.

That menorah mosaic at Horvat Kur

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Magnificent Menorah Mosaic Found in Galilee (Megan Sauter).

Background on the excavation at Horvat Kur and the recent discovery of the menorah mosaic is here and here and links. More on ancient depictions of menorahs is here and here and links

Aviam on that "unique mikveh"

JIM WEST: A Critical Respond to: “A Unique Miqveh in Upper Galilee” (by Eldad Keynan) – A Guest Post by Mordechai Aviam. The critiqued essay was published in Bible and Interpretation and was noted here. This area is outside my expertise and I note the debate for information, without taking sides.

Published and unpublished homilies of Jacob of Serugh

SYRIAC WATCH: Four unpublished homilies of Jacob of Serugh, with a 19th-cent. image of the Golden Horn (Adam McCollum, hmmlorientalia blog).

Anxious prophecy

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Prophecy Without End? Philip Jenkins takes up the question of why, if prophecy ended with the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, were there so many prophets running around in first century Palestine?

Friday, October 09, 2015

Destroying a manuscript to save manuscripts?

LET'S NOT MAKE A HABIT OF THIS: Destroying a Manuscript to Test Multispectral Imaging (Peter J. Gurry, ETC). I get why they did this and I assume they did it responsibly, but overall let's stick to non-destructive and non-invasive scanning technologies.

Recent somewhat relevant posts are here and here and links.

The International Qur'anic Studies Association

A NEW ACADEMIC SOCIETY: The International Qur'anic Studies Association. John F. Kutsko, Executive Director of the Society of Biblical Literature has e-mailed the following:
In 2012, SBL received a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation for a consultation to explore the formation of a learned society for scholars of the Qur’an. In May 2014, the International Qur’anic Studies Association (IQSA) incorporated as a wholly independent organization, with a governance structure and programming to support a scholarly guild and its members. Following incorporation, IQSA filed for 501(c)(3) status as a tax-exempt, non-profit organization.

I am delighted to inform you that on 30 September 2015, your colleagues in Qur’anic studies received approval from the IRS. Our congratulations go to all involved in IQSA: Emran El-Badawi (executive director, University of Houston), Gabriel Said Reynolds (chair, University of Notre Dame), the IQSA board, and IQSA’s members.

Please visit IQSA’s website— iqsaweb.org —to learn more about its programs and services. Join IQSA members at their meeting, which affiliates with SBL at the Annual Meeting.

Please help support and encourage their mission to foster Qur’anic scholarship.
I am delighted to see this important development and am happy to add my congratulations. The academic study of the Qur'an has been around for a long time, but it is taking on new strides and there is much work to be done. I look forward to following the work and progress of IQSA.

Some related posts here and here and links.

Lieu on Marcion

Marcion and the Idea of Heresy

Is not the task of the historian to judge whether certain views were or were not ‘heretical’; instead the ‘heretic’ has been defined as such by the styles of argument and ways of structuring truth adopted by those whose position ultimately came to dominate.

See Also: Marcion and the Making of a Heretic: God and Scripture in the Second Century (Cambridge University Press, 2015).

By Judith Lieu
Lady Margaret’s Professor of Divinity
Faculty of Divinity
October 2015
Marcion will also be the subject of an SBL session next month, as noted in this unfortunately titled ETC post: Marcion Smackdown in Atlanta (SBL) (Tommy Wasserman). And Larry Hurtado discusses Marcionism briefly in his latest blog post in the context of early Christian diversity.

I noted a couple of recent related publications here and here.

Patmore, The Transmission of Targum Jonathan in the West

The Transmission of Targum Jonathan in the West: A Study of Italian and Ashkenazi Manuscripts of the Targum to Samuel (Journal of Semitic Studies Supplement)
Paperback – 15 Oct 2015
by Hector Patmore (Author)

Targum Jonathan is one of our most important sources for understanding how Jews read, interpreted, and used the Hebrew Bible in Late Antiquity and in subsequent generations: it is cited widely in rabbinic literature and by medieval commentators (Rashi, Kimhi, etc.) and continued to play a role in synagogue liturgy and study. Through a detailed study of the extant medieval manuscripts of Targum Samuel that were produced in and around Italy, France, Germany, and England, this book explains how and why the text of Targum Jonathan changed over time. It explores the relationship of these manuscripts to the ancient translations of the Hebrew Bible (e.g. Septuagint, Vulgate, Peshitta) and to Hebrew manuscripts containing variant readings of the biblical text; it examines their unique exegetical variants, including the complex system of marginal notes in the famous Codex Reuchlinianus No. 3, and analyses the longer versions of the Targum found in liturgies and those designated Tosefta Targums, which incorporate a wealth of additional haggadic material. This volume will be of interest to anyone engaged in text criticism of the Hebrew Bible, the study of Jewish exegesis, liturgy, and manuscript production, or the development and use of Aramaic.

Review of Briant, Darius in the Shadow of Alexander

Pierre Briant, Darius in the Shadow of Alexander (translated by Jane Marie Todd; first published in French 2003). Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Press, 2015. Pp. xvii, 579. ISBN 9780674493094. $39.95.

Reviewed by Jennifer Finn, Marquette University (Jennifer.Finn@marquette.edu)


To scholars of ancient studies, Pierre Briant will be undoubtedly be a recognizable name. His Histoire de l'empire perse: De Cyrus à Alexandre (translated into English in 2002) broke ground in historical studies as an exemplum for an egalitarian incorporation of Classical and Near Eastern source material, and its methods were at the forefront of a profusion of novel interpretations of cultural interaction in the ancient Mediterranean.1 Promised in this initial study was an evaluation of the source material related to Darius III, the much-beleaguered opponent of Alexander the Great. Briant delivered, with the publication of Darius dans l’ombre d’Alexandre in 2003. This edition, now translated into English, is unmodified, excluding the addition of a new preface. Briant maintains that the last sentence of the introduction to the first edition should be unchanged: the objective remains “to explain why Darius, along with so many others, is condemned to haunt the realm of historical oblivion” (x).

Not about ancient Judaism, but provides some rich material on the international historical and political context of Second Temple Judaism.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Review of Magness, Archaeology of the Holy Land

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note: Magness, Archaeology of the Holy Land (Brian Leport). I noted the book here back in 2012 when it was published.

Anxious Zechariah

PHILIP JENKINS has been posting lots of interesting things in recent months over at The Anxious Bench and I have fallen far behind in noting them. I'm going to try to keep better track and also, over time, to catch up with some of his past posts. For starters, I note his recent series on the Book of Zechariah:

Placing Zechariah

Zechariah's Apocalypse

Zechariah and Revelation

Zechariah’s Angels

Archaeology at Cartagena

PUNIC WATCH: Archaeologists unearth more of the history of Cartagena. Cartagena may have been a large Roman weapons factory (Murcia Today).
It sometimes seems that Cartagena has so much history that it’s hard to know what to do with it all, and more prime examples of the wealth of archaeological heritage in the city are currently being unearthed in the Plaza de la Merced.

The second dig in the Plaza de la Merced is only in its early stages, but already the Decumanus Maximus (the main east-to-west street) has been located and a possible monument to nymphs has been found. Below the nymphaeum are the remains of a Punic home, whose destruction is thought to date from the time of the Roman conquest of the city by Scipio Africanus in 209 BC.

The Spanish town of Cartagena does a commendable job of extracting the full tourism potential from its Punic heritage. They celebrate a Punic festival every year in September.

The birthday of the world

SEDER OLAM RABBA: This Day in Jewish History, 3761 BCE The World Is Created, According to the Hebrew Calendar and an Obscure Sage. Basing himself on no source but the bible, Rabbi Yose ben Halafta, who lived in the 2nd century CE, sat down and did the math (David B. Green, Haaretz).
October 7, 3761 B.C.E., is the date on which the world was created – according to the Hebrew calendar that governs the passage of time among the Jewish people.

The calculation of the year is fairly simple to understand; how the precise day and month were arrived at is a little more complicated.


It is generally accepted that the sage Rabbi Yose ben Halafta is one who made the calculation. He was a tanna, a sage of the Mishnaic period, who lived in Sepphoris, a town in the Galilee, in the 2nd century C.E.

Yose ben Halafta was one of the principal students of Rabbi Akiva, the most revered rabbinical figure of his time. Rabbi Yose was in turn the teacher of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi, who would become the chief editor of the Mishnah, one of whose most frequently cited rabbis is Ben Halafta. He is commonly accepted as the author of the book Seder Olam (“Order of the World,” sometimes called Seder Olam Rabba, the “Great Order of the World,” to distinguish it from a later work with the same name), a history that attempts to give dates to all of the people and events mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, and up to Rabbi Yose’s time, which coincided with the Bar-Kochba Revolt of 132 C.E.

For Rabbi Yose, the only relevant source is the Bible. He does not attempt to reconcile it with any other chronology, but rather, to make sense of and quantify the chronology as it presented in Scripture.

The ascribed authorship of the tractate is traditional and should, as usual with these things, be taken with a grain of salt. Whatever its original date of composition, Seder Olam Rabba seems to have undergone a long process of editing. Its chronology is a bit dodgy in places: it makes the period of Persian domination between the building of the Second Temple (520 BCE) and Alexander the Great (c. 333 BCE) only 34 years.

The other Queen Helena

THE JERUSALEM POST: The Queen who Built a Palace in Jerusalem (ELAINE ROSE GLICKMAN, The Streets of Jerusalem Blog).
Actually, there are two Queen Helenas. One was an empress and the mother of Constantine the Great, who in the fourth century visited the Holy Land and – according to legend – located the tunic of Jesus, pinpointed the site of his resurrection, and even found the nails used in his crucifixion. When my family rented an apartment on Heleni Hamalka last summer, I assumed that was the Helena for whom the street was named. I didn’t realize until later that there was another Queen Helena, and I am sorry not to have fully appreciated her legacy while I was in Jerusalem.

Well, at least you’ll know better next time you are in town! And the Heleni Hamalka memorialized in Morasha is definitely worth knowing. An early-first century queen of Adiabene (a district in ancient Assyria with its capital in present-day Iraq), Helena became acquainted with Judaism through Jewish merchants who visited her country and – according to legend – hired a tutor in order to learn everything she could. Around the year 30 C.E., she turned her back on the dominant Ashurite religion and – along with her younger son Izates – formally converted to Judaism.
Queen Helena of Adiabene was a real historical person, but that doesn't necessarily mean that all the stories told about her in the rabbinic literature are historical. More on her is here and links.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Witte, Texte und Kontexte des Sirachbuchs

Texte und Kontexte des Sirachbuchs
Gesammelte Studien zu Ben Sira und zur frühjüdischen Weisheit

[Texts and Contexts of the Wisdom of Sirach. Collected Studies on Ben Sira und Early Jewish Wisdom Literature. Published in German.]

In the essays of this volume, Markus Witte focuses on text-critical and literary-historical problems of the book of Ben Sira, portrays its different theologies and determines its position in the context of the early Jewish wisdom.

Religious appropriation of Cyrus the Great

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Religious Appropriation of National Symbols in Iran: Searching for Cyrus the Great. An article by Menahem Merhavy published this year in Iranian Studies 48.

Background on Cyrus the Great is here and here and many links, in some of which I comment on anachronistic efforts by Iranians and others to present Cyrus as a tolerant, modern-minded, founder of human rights.

An hydraulic gardening system in Petra

NABATEAN WATCH: Meet 3 Erie women archaeologists (Marissa Orbanek. GoEirie.com). All three are doing interesting work, but I want to focus on that of Professor Leigh-Ann Bedal, who is excavating Nabatean (Nabataean) material in Petra, Jordan.
Bedal, an associate professor of anthropology at Penn State Behrend, directed an excavation of an ancient desert garden and pool complex that appeared in a documentary feature on PBS this past year. The program, "Petra: Lost City of Stone," uses computer reconstructions and hydraulic studies to explore the elaborate water systems in the capital city of ancient Nabatea, located in modern Jordan. The program is part of a three-episode series, "Building Wonders," produced by Nova. Other episodes explore the Roman Colosseum and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

"When I started this in 1997, I had no idea what I was getting myself into," Bedal said. "I had been digging in Petra for a few years and wanted to discover more history that would add to the Temple. But when I started digging, we uncovered so many features in just that one field season and realized that this wasn't a market place of the temple, but rather, it was a pool and a garden."

Bedal discovered evidence of an elaborate hydraulic system and a large garden terrace -- the only known example of a Nabatean garden.
Background on the Nabateans and Petra is here and many links.

Schiffman on Ir David

LAWRENCE SCHIFFMAN: Rediscovering Ir David. New Finds Revealed in an Ancient City.
The exciting results of archaeological excavations of ancient Yerushalayim have been coming to light steadily since the reunification of the city during the 1967 Six Day War. More recently, the area of Ir David, the City of David, to the south of Har Habayis (Temple Mount), has been yielding amazing discoveries.
A popular article published in Ami Magazine.

Reinhartz on JBL

THE EDITOR SPEAKS: The Journal of Biblical Literature and the Critical Investigation of the Bible (Adele Reinhartz). A fascinating history of JBL with reflections on its past and present roles.

HT Ancient Jew Review Twitter.