Friday, July 11, 2014

Crouch, The Making of Israel

The Making of Israel
Cultural Diversity in the Southern Levant and the Formation of Ethnic Identity in Deuteronomy

C.L. Crouch, University of Nottingham

In The Making of Israel C.L. Crouch presents the southern Levant during the seventh century BCE as a major period for the formation of Israelite ethnic identity, challenging scholarship which dates biblical texts with identity concerns to the exilic and post-exilic periods as well as scholarship which limits pre-exilic identity concerns to Josianic nationalism. The argument analyses the archaeological material from the southern Levant during Iron Age II, then draws on anthropological research to argue for an ethnic response to the economic, political and cultural change of this period. The volume concludes with an investigation into identity issues in Deuteronomy, highlighting centralisation and exclusive Yahwism as part of the deuteronomic formulation of Israelite ethnic identity.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Albertz and Wöhrle (eds.), Between Cooperation and Hostility

Between Cooperation and Hostility
Multiple Identities in Ancient Judaism and the Interaction with Foreign Powers

Ed. Rainer Albertz and Jakob Wöhrle.

1. Auflage 2013
280 Seiten mit 16 Abb. gebunden
ISBN 978-3-525-55051-9
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht

Journal of Ancient Judaism. Supplements - Band 011
89,99 €

The question of why the cooperation of Jews with the Persian and Ptolemaic empires achieved some success and why it failed with regard to the Seleucids and the Romans, even turning into military hostility against them, has not been sufficiently answered. The present volume intends to show, from the perspectives of Hebrew Bible, Judaic, and Ancient History Studies, that the contrasting Jewish attitudes towards foreign powers were not only dependent on specific political circumstances. They were also interrelated with the emergence of multiple early Jewish identities, which all found a basis in the Torah, the prophets, or the psalms.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Wolter et al., The Quest for the Real Jesus

The Quest for the Real Jesus
Radboud Prestige Lectures by Prof. Dr. Michael Wolter

Edited by Jan van der Watt, Radboud University Nijmegen

The Radboud Prestige Lectures in New Testament 2010 were presented by Prof. Michael Wolter (University of Bonn). His prestige lecture was entitled: ‘Which is the real Jesus?’. In this lecture he challenged many of the current views within the historical Jesus research by critically evaluating the approaches in various categories. Afterwards this lecture was presented to a variety of scholars from different disciplines who approach the problem from their particular perspectives, thus bringing a rich texture of insights, apart from engaging critically with Wolter’s views. Thus one can appreciate the role the quest for the historical Jesus plays within a wider framework. This resulted in interesting articles that not only deal with historical, but also with philosophical and hermeneutical issues.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Fort William

I'M OFF TO THE HIGHLANDS to spend a few days in Fort William and its environs. I don't plan to do much blogging, but I have pre-posted things for the days that I am away, so do keep coming back as usual. Have a good week!

Bons et al. (eds.), The Reception of Septuagint Words in Jewish-Hellenistic and Christian Literature

The Reception of Septuagint Words in Jewish-Hellenistic and Christian Literature

Ed. by Eberhard Bons, Ralph Brucker and Jan Joosten

The projected Historical and Theological Lexicon of the Septuagint will offer historical studies of Septuagint words, retracing their usage from early Greek authors, over koine Greek and the Septuagint translation itself, into Jewish-Hellenistic and early Christian literature. The latter two of these phases were the object of a workshop held in Bühl (Germany) on January 21 and 22, 2011. The reception of the Septuagint in Greek-speaking Judaism and Christianity raises many questions touching the lexicon, such as: How do Jewish or Christian authors writing in Greek handle the difference existing for some words between the "biblical" usage created in the Septuagint and the usual meaning in Greek? To what extent is it possible to affirm that New Testament authors borrowed their religious terminology from the Septuagint? Which words of the Septuagint continue in later writings with their specific meaning, and which ones go out of use? Is it possible to observe further semantic developments in the use of "biblical" words by Jewish or Christian authors writing in Greek?
These and similar questions are of concern not only to the narrow fields of lexical semantics and philology. More often than not, they have important historical and theological implications. With help from some of the best specialists of Jewish-Hellenistic and early Christian texts, an effort will be made in this book to develop an adequate approach to the problems outlined. Papers will combine the analysis of selected words and word groups with considerations of method.
Follow the link for TOC and ordering information.

Monday, July 07, 2014

ISBL 2014

THIS YEAR'S INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY OF BIBLICAL LITERATURE MEETING began yesterday in Vienna. I have other plans this week, but best wishes to all those attending. If Facebook is any indication, they are having a good time.

Reif and the Cairo Geniza

PROFESSOR STEFAN REIF: 'Indiana Jones' of the Cairo Genizah. As many as 200,000 Jewish manuscripts, some more than 1,000 years old, comprise the most important Jewish treasure of the century. Prof. Stefan Reif of the University of Cambridge, who exposed Cairo Genizah and its discoveries to the world, tells Ynet about the revolution it created in the perception of Judaism. (Ynet News, Tali Farkash). This is a long article that covers a lot of ground. Here are a couple of excerpts, but read it all.
Until his retirement, Prof. Reif was responsible for the huge archive, which is considered one of the most important archives in the world and includes as many as 200,000 rare Jewish manuscripts, some of them more than 1,000 years old.

Reif, who is considered one of the leading researchers in his field, has authored countless studies and many books. One of them, "Judaism and Hebrew Prayer," was also translated into Hebrew.

"It wasn't negligence," he says diplomatically about the seven decades in which the Cairo Genizah was abandoned. "They started to document and preserve, but a small part of it.

"When I was appointed to head the department, I didn't have any staff, budget, research or categorization means. I remember telling the university management, 'We need an organized research plan,' and they said, 'That's exactly what we brought you here for."

Prof. Reif dedicated 40 years of his life to the collection which is seen, and rightfully so, as his life's work. So far, researchers have managed to document and preserve 70% to 80% of the writings, but even today it's still possible that there are additional discoveries waiting to be made – ancient writings which the team of researchers has yet to study and categorize.

Talking to Ynet, Prof. Reif reveals the decision to start a new research department at the University of Haifa under his leadership, which will allow Israeli students to study more about the far-reaching implications of the Cairo Genizah findings, and explains why that collection of writings is responsible for the revolution in the way we perceive Judaism today.


"There is not a single field in which the genizah has not created a revolution. The Bible and the Hebrew, for example, today we are familiar with a certain kind of punctuation in Hebrew. In the past there were other types of punctuations which disappeared, and through the letters they are suddenly revealed again. Today we have the possibility of restoring them through the letters kept in the genizah.

"Another example, which is as important, is the Jerusalem Talmud. Usually when people talk about the Talmud, they mean the Babylonian Talmud. The Jerusalem Talmud is perceived as difficult and incomprehensible, and people didn't know how to interpret it. Today we have complete writings about the Jerusalem Talmud which were written in the same periods, and we can understand a lot from them about what used to be inaccessible.

"These are just two direct implications on the two most important books in the Jewish world, but of course it doesn't end there. ..."
Congratulations to Professor Reif on the honorary degree and the new post at Haifa University. An SBL Forum article by him on the Geniza is noted here.

My own work on the Hekhalot literature and the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Aramaic Levi) has been much enriched by Cairo Geniza manuscripts. And over the years I have put up many, many PaleoJudaica posts on the Cairo Geniza. I don't have time to sort through them all, but you can find lots of them here, here, here, here, and here, and follow the links.

As I said in that last post, the Cairo Geniza is the philologist's gift that keeps on giving.

Khazars, Samaritans, Jews, and genetics

A COUPLE OF RECENT LINES OF RESEARCH have a bearing on the supposed relationship between Jews and the Khazars (and the Samaritans come in too). First, in The Forward there is an article on historical research by Prof. Shaul Stampfer of the Hebrew University: Why Ashkenazi Jews Are Not Descended From Khazars — and What It Means. Mass Conversion Claim Cast Doubt on Mideast Origins (Ofer Aderet). Excerpt:
Stampfer, an expert in Jewish history, analyzed material from various fields, but found no reliable source for the claim that the Khazars – a multiethnic kingdom that included Iranians, Turks, Slavs and Circassians – converted to Judaism. “There never was a conversion by the Khazar king or the Khazar elite,” he said. “The conversion of the Khazars is a myth with no factual basis.”

As a historian, he said he was surprised to discover how hard it is “to prove that something didn’t happen. Until now, most of my research has been aimed at discovering or clarifying what did happen in the past … It’s a much more difficult challenge to prove that something didn’t happen than to prove it did.”

That’s because the proof is based primarily on the absence of evidence rather than its presence – like the fact that an event as unprecedented as an entire kingdom’s conversion to Judaism merited no mention in contemporaneous sources.

“The silence of so many sources about the Khazars’ Judaism is very suspicious,” Stampfer said. “The Byzantines, the geonim [Jewish religious leaders of the sixth to eleventh centuries], the sages of Egypt – none of them have a word about the Jewish Khazars.”
The claim that Ashkenazi Jews descend from converted Khazars received wide attention after the publication of Shlomo Sands's controversial book The Invention of the Jewish People in 2008, which argued for this conclusion. For reviews etc. see here and follow the links.

Second, Prof. Steven Weitzman e-mails to alert PaleoJudaica to some relevant biological research:
May I call your attention to the following just published special volume of the journal Human Biology, which contains some very new genetics research of potential interest to your audience (including research bearing on the Samaritans, on the Khazar theory of Jewish origins, and other pertinent topics).

The scientists involved, including colleagues at Stanford, are considered leading population geneticists and their publication reflects research only possible in the last 5-10 years (though there may be more they can learn from the relevant historiography). The volume represents an attempt to bridge between Jewish Studies and genetics, and the experience has taught me that the two fields still have much to learn from the other.
Here's the TOC of the issue:
Table of Contents

Introduction: From Generation to Generation: The Genetics of Jewish Populations

Noah A. Rosenberg and Steven P. Weitzman


Genetics and the History of the Samaritans: Y-Chromosomal Microsatellites and Genetic Affinity between Samaritans and Cohanim

Peter J. Oefner, Georg Hölzl, Peidong Shen, Isaac Shpirer, Dov Gefel, Tal Lavi, Eilon Woolf, Jona- than Cohen, Cengiz Cinnioglu, Peter A. Underhill, Noah A. Rosenberg, Jochen Hochrein, Julie M. Granka, Jossi Hillel, and Marcus W. Feldman

No Evidence from Genome-wide Data of a Khazar Origin for the Ashkenazi Jews

Doron M. Behar, Mait Metspalu, Yael Baran, Naama M. Kopelman, Bayazit Yunusbayev, Ariella Gladstein, Shay Tzur, Hovhannes Sahakyan, Ardeshir Bahmanimehr, Levon Yepiskoposyan, Kris- tiina Tambets, Elza K. Khusnutdinova, Alena Kushniarevich, Oleg Balanovsky, Elena Balanovsky, Lejla Kovacevic, Damir Marjanovic, Evelin Mihailov, Anastasia Kouvatsi, Costas Triantaphyllidis, Roy J. King, Ornella Semino, Antonio Torroni, Michael F. Hammer, Ene Metspalu, Karl Skorecki, Saharon Rosset, Eran Halperin, Richard Villems, and Noah A. Rosenberg


Jewish Genetic Origins in the Context of Past Historical and Anthropological Inquiries

John M. Efron

Who Are the Jews? New Formulations of an Age-Old Question

Susan Martha Kahn

Letter to the Editor

Genetics and the Archaeology of Ancient Israel

Aaron J. Brody and Roy J. King
Some of Professor Weitzman's other work has also been mentioned in posts here and here.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Reviews of the Enoch Seminar latest

Ryan Korstange reviews Daniel Boyarin, The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ

Amy-Jill Levine reviews Isaac W. Oliver, Torah Praxis after 70 CE: Reading Matthew and Luke-Acts as Jewish Texts

Eric R. Montgomery reviews Devorah Dimant, The Dead Sea Scrolls in Scholarly Perspective: A History of Research

Gavin McDowell reviews Finn Damgaard, Recasting Moses: The Memory of Moses in Biographical and Autobiographical Narratives in Ancient Judaism and 4th-Century Christianity