Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Daf Yomi: starting tractate Sanhedrin

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Reading Torah Against the Grain. Daf Yomi: Do Talmudic rabbis seek justification for givens by retrofitting biblical text to their needs? The case of the Sanhedrin courts.
The new tractate we began this week, Tractate Sanhedrin, focuses on the role of judges and courts in Jewish law. Fittingly, it is named after the body that held supreme judicial power in the Land of Israel during the Second Temple period and beyond. The Great Sanhedrin was a body of 71 judges sitting in Jerusalem; it appointed various Lesser Sanhedrins, made up of 23 judges, to hear cases in the towns and provinces of Judea. The Great Sanhedrin survived the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE and continued to meet in other locations until the fourth century CE.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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The Menorah exhibition and the history of Roman Jewry

VATICAN MENORAH EXHIBITION:St. Peter’s Menorah. How the Vatican warmed to Jews over the last century (Fredric Brandfon, Tablet Magazine). This article uses the current Menorah exhibition in Rome as a launching point for surveying the history of Jews in Rome since the end of the Great Revolt in CE 70. Excerpt:
Those papal processions were in turn modeled after the ancient Roman triumphs, such as the one memorialized in the Arch of Titus. In fact, upon the election of each new pope, the pontiff would march triumphantly through Rome, reiterating the Roman tradition of a triumphal procession that is depicted in the Arch. Homage was paid to the pope by a Jewish delegation carrying a Torah scroll. They would present the scroll to the pontiff, probably at the Arch. The new pope would ceremonially accept the Torah, but, at the same time, volubly reject the Jewish interpretation of it. He would then either throw the Torah to the ground or pass it unceremoniously to an underling.

The Arch would serve doubly to remind Roman Jews of their subservient status; first, as a people humbled by the Romans, and second, as a subordinated community under papal hegemony. When, in the 16th century, Jews were no longer required to present the new pope with the Torah, they instead had to lavishly decorate the pope’s processional route, including bedecking the Arch of Titus with tapestries and banners. Not surprisingly, these humiliations gave rise to a well-known Roman Jewish custom: Jews prohibited themselves from walking beneath the Arch of Titus.

That custom remained in place until Dec. 2, 1947, three days after the United Nations decision to partition Palestine and allow a Jewish state. On that day, Roman Jews and Jews from across Europe awaiting transport to Palestine gathered at the Arch. Led by Rome’s chief rabbi, David Prato, they again placed a banner on the Arch. But this time it was a blue-and-white Jewish banner with two dates: the date of the Roman destruction of the Second Temple and the date of the UN decision to partition Palestine. After the singing of Hatikvah, the assembled crowd deliberately broke with tradition and marched through the Arch from west to east toward Jerusalem, in the opposite direction of the Jews who had come to Rome as slaves of Titus in 70 CE.
For past PaleoJudaica posts on the Vatican Menorah exhibition, start here and follow the links. For past posts on ancient menorahs and representations of menorahs, start here and follow the links.

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Oy va-avoy!

YONA SABAR: Hebrew Word of the Week: oy va-avoy "oh dear; woe, alas" אוי ואבוי. An onomatopoetic expression formed from the combination of two biblical Hebrew words of lamentation.

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What is Tisha B’Av?

COMING NEXT WEEK: What is Tisha B’Av? It is one of the saddest days in the Jewish calendar, but why - and how - do we mark it? (Daniel Sugarman, The Jewish Chronicle).
Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av, is a fast day, commonly known as the saddest day in the Jewish calendar.

It commemorates the destruction of both the First and Second Jewish Temples in Jerusalem, the first by the Babylonians, circa 587 BCE, and the second by the Romans in 70 CE. However, the fast has also become associated with other tragedies which have taken place over the course of Jewish history.

[...]
A good introduction to this multifaceted fast day.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

The Shikhin excavation 2017

ARCHAEOLOGY: SAMFORD EXCAVATION IN ISRAEL SHEDS LIGHT ON ANCIENT LAMP WORKSHOP (The Alabama Baptist). I have been following reports on the excavation at Shikhin for the last several years. This article has some information on the discoveries this year.
[Excavation director James Riley] Strange, [ associate director Mordechai] Aviam and a team of students and volunteers have worked on the site for six seasons. Their recent excavations in May and June uncovered part of the house and workshop of an oil lamp maker.

Although the house was typically simple — with packed earthen floors and, probably, mud plaster on the walls — it held a unique surprise. In an area thought to have been a courtyard, the team discovered a special kiln for firing oil lamps and other small vessels, with two complete, identical oil lamps and a small bowl still inside.

Many kilns from various periods have been discovered in Israel — all of them used to fire jugs, storage jars, cooking pots and other large vessels.

These usually measure more than 16 feet in diameter. The kiln in the Shikhin potter’s house, the first of its kind found in Israel, measures less than three feet in diameter, with a central pillar made of stone and brick that supported an upper floor.
There is also a little information on a coin find.

Past posts on the Shikhin excavation are here, here, here, here, and here.

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Commemorating Jonah's (traditional) Tomb in Iraq

THREE YEARS: ISIS Destroyed Jonah’s Tomb, but Not Its Message. Iraqis of Armenian, Arab, Assyrian, and Jewish descent recall what the shrine symbolized on the third anniversary of its destruction. (SARA FARHAN, ATOOR LAWANDOW, AND SIGAL SAMUEL, The Atlantic).
But the tomb was much more than a tourist destination; it was a constant, potent symbol. Overlooking the city, it reminded all Maslawis of the interconnectedness of Iraq’s diverse religious populations. It was the antithesis of sectarianism. As such, ISIS’s decision to blow it up read as an attempt to erase the shared history of the many religious populations that Mosul housed, and to erase the very notion that such populations can share anything at all. But now that Mosul has been liberated from ISIS, we—three Iraqis from different religious backgrounds—hope all our communities will have a hand in rebuilding the city and its holy sites.
I noted the destruction of the (traditional) Tomb of Jonah just after it happened here. For other past posts on the Tomb of Jonah, go here and follow the links. Past posts on the (traditional) Tomb of Nahum are here and links. And for past posts on the Yazidis, start here and follow the links.

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Jerusalem survey results

THE BIBLE PLACES BLOG: Survey Results: Favorite Site in Jerusalem (Todd Bolen). I noted the survey here last week.

I was the one who voted for the Shrine of the Book. But I thought carefully about Hezekiah's Tunnel, which got the most votes. I also thought carefully about the Dome of the Rock, which apparently didn't get any votes.

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T. Solomon: Solomon's women, plus some more demons

READING ACTS: Testament of Solomon: Several Biblical Expansions (Phil Long). Dr. Long's past posts on the Testament of Solomon were noted here.

For past posts in his ongoing series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, follow the links in the latter post. Lately he has been writing about the Testamentary literature. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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A panel discussion on Hannibal's failure

PUNIC WATCH: Why did Hannibal ultimately fail? A history of the Punic Wars. Tommy Graham interviews an expert panel in a Talking History podcast. I don't have time to listen to it right now, but I thought I would draw it to your attention.

For many past PaleoJudaica posts on Hannibal and the Punic Wars, start here and follow the links.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Charity in the Rabbinic literature

PROF. GREGG E. GARDNER: How Tzedakah Became Charity (TheGemara.com).
“Tzedakah” in the sense of communal charity, civic benefaction, and an individual form of giving came into being during the tannaitic period, with the help of the Greeks and a little-known king named Munbaz.
Munbaz was a real king: Monobazus, the son of Queen Helena of Adiabene. The Kingdom of Adiabene was located at the site of Erbil in modern Iraq. Helena and her family converted to Judaism in the first century CE. The story about Munbaz in the Tosefta is presumably legendary, but it is instructive in some ways nonetheless.

For past posts on Erbil and the House of Adiabene, see here and links.

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Tamruqim

YONA SABAR: Hebrew Word of the Week: tamruqim "cosmetics, perfumes, ointments" תמרוקים. Used in the Bible of Esther's cosmetics.

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Ancient lemons and citrons

CITRUS: Sour Note: In Ancient Rome, Lemons Were Only for the Rich (Laura Geggel, Live Science). The title may seem unpromising, but this article does have an angle of interest for ancient Judaism. The citron has been important as part of the celebration of the festival of Sukkoth since antiquity. The article has images of a late-antique synagogue mosaic and some ancient Jewish coins which feature citrons.

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Seizure of Aramean land in Turkey still unresolved

ASSYRIAN (MODERN SYRIAC) WATCH: Legal Limbo of Turkey's Assyrian Christian Properties Still Unresolved (Barbara G. Baker,WorldWatch Monitor via AINA).
In less than two weeks, the Mardin Governorate had stepped back from its decision to give the Christian properties over to control of the Muslim directorate. Calling together representatives of the three Syriac foundations whose properties had been confiscated, the governorate cancelled the transfer on 3 July; but that left the disputed properties back again under treasury control.

The Mardin Governorate's original court order transferring the Syriac deeds to the Religious Affairs Directorate was dated 12 August 2014. The Syriac church had not been informed of this judicial action taken nearly three years ago.

The 3 July cancellation order specified that a legal amendment was required "for the problem's exact solution". The Syriac community agreed, with the Syriac foundation chairmen sending a formal petition that same day, requesting Ankara to take a second step: transfer the ownership of all the church property deeds currently held by the treasury over to their respective Syriac foundations.

To date, the Syriac community has received no response to their petition from Turkey's central government.

Unless Ankara agrees to return the seized properties to official church ownership and amends the law, the Syriac community is left with only one alternative: file 100 or more separate court cases to gain back their centuries-old properties, a very expensive and lengthy option that would take years to complete.

"They can give them back to us, or not; it's up to them!" one Syriac leader who wished to withhold his name told World Watch Monitor. "It's out of our hands. We can't do anything unless they reveal the realities!"

"But always," he sighed, "they are coming to us with a club! You have taken them away from us. Now are you going to give them back? Or do you just want us to leave?"
The actions of the Turkish Government could be taken to look that way. Whatever the full merits of the case, and I cannot myself claim to have complete information, the world is watching. It needs to be resolved.

This article has detailed background on the story. For additional background, see here and links.

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Balaam and the Book of Revelation

DR. RABBI JOSHUA GARROWAY: Balaam the Seducer of Jews and an Early Christian Polemic (TheTorah.com).
Ancient Jewish interpreters imagined Balaam as the prototypical Gentile seducer. This trope was used by John of Patmos, the author of the book of Revelation and himself a Jew, to polemicize against his rivals among the early Christians.

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Misinterpreted giant skeletons

REMNANT OF GIANTS: Ancient misinterpretation of large bones as mythological giants. Deane Galbraith notes a new article in Historical Biology. He also offers some corrections.

As an aside, Josephus also reports that skeletons of giant were known in his day.

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Review of Hunt, "Hannibal"

BOOK REVIEW: 'Hannibal' relates the famous general's story with wonderful energy. Archeologist and historian Patrick Hunt distills his survey of literature about the Second Punic War into a brightly dramatic story that covers virtually every anecdote connected with Hannibal. (Steve Donoghue, CSM).
We'll never be any closer to the actual truth of it than Livy and Polybius let us get, so the approach Patrick Hunt uses in his book – taking each working cog of the Hannibal story in its turn and a shining bright light of inquiry on it, bringing everything together so readers can have it all before them – is probably the wisest. And those readers can then go back to Livy on their own time.
I noted the book recently here. Follow the links there (cf. here) for many past posts on Hannibal and the Punic Wars.

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Heiser, The Unseen Realm

FRANK VIOLA: Interview with Michael Heiser: The Unseen Realm. This is a long interview with Dr. Heiser about his recent book, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (Lexham Press, 2015). Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and ancient Mesopotamian traditions figure prominently in the book and the interview.

PaleoJudaica has occassionally mentioned Dr. Heiser and his blog, Paleobabble.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Friday, July 21, 2017

What is a waqf?

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Amid Temple Mount tumult, the who, what and why of its Waqf rulers. Jordan lost control of Jerusalem in 1967, but is now at the heart of a crisis that threatens to plunge the city into violence (Dov Lieber, Times of Israel). The Waqf has come up frequently in PaleoJudaica posts about the Temple Mount. Readers may find this article interesting. It explains what a waqf is, gives the background of the one that administers the Temple Mount, and explains what the arrangement has been. The recent terrorist attack just outside the site has thrown the longstanding status quo into turmoil.

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Biblical kings and gigantic wine bottles

PHILOLOGOS: Why Are Extremely Large Wine Bottles Named after Biblical Kings? The convoluted story of jeroboams, rehoboams, methuselahs, and more (Mosaic Magazine).
Ours is not a Bible-reading age. Ask the average American what the names Jeroboam, Rehoboam, Nebuchadnezzar, and Shalmaneser have in common and he is more likely to guess that all belong to rock bands than that they belong to biblical kings. And even though ours is a wine-drinking age, how many of those who know the right answer would know that there is a second answer, too: namely, that these same names also denote different sizes of wine bottles?

[...]
This makes me think of the song The Mesopotamians by They Might Be Giants. Also, for some reason it really pleases me that the largest bottle of wine (30 liters!) is called a "melchizedek."

Be all that as it may, Philologos proposes a very plausible answer to the question in the headline.

Cross-file under Asking the Important Questions.

P.S. Yes, I know that Methuselah was an antediluvian patriarch, not a king, and that Melchior is a postbiblical name for one of Matthew's magi, who are unnamed in the Bible and who aren't called kings. Don't be such a nerd.

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A papyrologist weighs in on the Hobby Lobby settlement etc.

THE FACES AND VOICES BLOG: The Green collection and the Museum of the Bible: 443,000 square meters of mess. Papyrologist Robert Mazza shares her expert opinion on the Hobby Lobby case and its implications for the Green Collection and the Museum of the Bible. And in a more recent post she follows up the story with some related news: Green papyri: Egypt steps in.

Dr. Mazza is Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Manchester and is currently a Research Fellow at the Rylands Library.

Background on the recent Hobby Lobby settlement with the U.S. Justice Department is here and here. And follow the relevant links for many past posts on the Museum of the Bible and the Green Collection.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Mandeans in Australia

MANDEAN (MANDAEAN) WATCH: Meet the Mandaeans: Australian followers of John the Baptist celebrate new year (Siobhan Hegarty, ABC News).
Baptism, or masbuta, is the key ritual of this gnostic faith. Unlike Christians, Mandaeans may be baptised hundreds, even thousands of times over the course their life.

This week marked Kahshuzahly, or Mandaean New Year's Eve, and Mandaeans around the world flocked to flowing rivers for a special ceremony.

Anwar Hasan, the 13-year-old daughter of a local priest, was one of the 100 or so Mandaeans who went to the banks of the Nepean River.

Baptisms, she said, are an opportunity to cleanse and refresh one's life and soul.
Their Mandean liturgical language is Mandaic, an ancient Aramaic dialect. Like other religious minorities in Iraq, the Mandeans have suffered much persecution since the Iraq War.

For more on this week's Mandean new-year celebrations, see here. And for many past posts on the Mandeans, follow the links that start there.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Survey: your favorite site in Jerusalem

THE BIBLE PLACES BLOG: Reader Survey: Favorite Site in Jerusalem (Todd Bolen). I have submitted my response. You are welcome to go and do likewise. I found it difficult to narrow it down from my top three. I'll let you know when the results are in.

I hope Todd is right about those ancient archives. We have been waiting for them a long time. Some of us became so impatient that we went and collected one ourselves.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Young on two books by Paul (etc.) and the Law

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Description, Redescription, and Textual Practices: Thiessen’s and Kaden’s Critical Interventions (Stephen Young).
Description and Redescription – the classic interrelated activities that animate critical scholarship on religion. This roundtable affords the chance to examine two books that push the descriptive and redescriptive envelopes in their sectors of biblical studies. Matthew Thiessen’s Paul and the Gentile Problem rigorously describes Paul’s discourses about the Jewish law and Gentiles, while David Kaden’s Matthew, Paul, and the Anthropology of Law innovatively redescribes Paul and Matthew’s discourses about the Jewish law with theoretical resources from Jonathan Z. Smith, Michel Foucault, and the anthropology of law. ...
I quote just one observation that I found particularly thought provoking:
It is one thing for us modern scholars to persuade ourselves about what is going on in Paul’s letters by investigating how he (as a literate intellectual) may have accessed his ancestral writings and how his interpretive activity may have significantly shaped his writings to Gentiles. In this case, our experiments with excavating possible textual allusions and Paul’s potential transmission and transformation of “traditions” may be crucial. But it is another thing to presume that Paul’s persuasiveness to his (largely illiterate) ancient consumers necessarily turned on their ability to recognize these finely-grained, textual-interpretive steps that we modern scholars devote journal articles and academic monographs to elucidating.[5] Thiessen could more precisely combine his exhaustive comparative readings with an exploration of Paul’s persuasiveness through a sensitivity to practices themselves; practices associated with sacred writings in the Greco-Roman Mediterranean.
Yes, Paul was an educated member of the elite. What made his message persuasive to so many uneducated, lower-status people? I doubt that it was his sophisticated scriptural exegesis.

This is another instalment in AJR's series from the SBL 2016 Pauline Epistles Review Panel. I noted earlier essays in the series here and links.

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Testament of Solomon: so many demons!

READING ACTS has two posts on the Testament of Solomon.

What is the Testament of Solomon?
Testament of Solomon: A Catalog of Demons

The Testament of Solomon is a late-antique Christian work that knows material from the New Testament, but which also is familiar with Jewish traditions. My PhD student Bankole Davies-Brown explored this matter in detail in his unpublished doctoral dissertation: “The Jewish Background of the Testament of Solomon” (University of St. Andrews, 2004).

Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha have been noted here and links. His recent posts have been on the Testamentary literature. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Betulah

YONA SABAR: Hebrew Word of the Week: betulah "virgin; virgo" בתולה.

This essay does not mention the matter of Isaiah 7:14 and it its use in Matthew 1:23, but it is indirectly relevant. The word used in Isaiah 7:14 means a "young woman" (who may or may not be a virgin). The word betulah is not used. The Septuagint mistranslates that word into Greek as parthenos, which does mean "virgin." Matthew's exegesis depends on the meaning of the Greek word. See here, here and here for more.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hurtado on representing the views of others

LARRY HURTADO: On Representing the Views of Others.
The following exhortation about representing the views of others is primarily directed to students and younger scholars. One of the aims I’ve striven for over the 40+ years of my scholarly work has been to represent the views of other scholars fairly, and especially those views with which I take issue.

[...]
There are some very useful observations in this post.

It is human nature that when we have strong views on a matter and we encounter disagreement — including thoughtful and well-reasoned disagreement — we tend to lapse into cognitive dissonance and create a caricature of the opposing view in our minds. This is the origin of the "straw-man argument," but the effect can be more subtle. This happens to everyone and it is very difficult to avoid.

One of the main purposes of blind peer-review is to ferret out and correct misunderstandings that arise from cognitive dissonance. It is an imperfect tool, but is one of the best ones we have. Professor Hurtado offers some other tools that he has found useful.

Let me add one of my own, which I got from the philosopher of science and epistemologist Karl Popper. When I set out to respond to a position with which I disagree, first I look for ways to make the case for that position stronger. Can weak arguments be reformulated more clearly and compellingly? Can I find any evidence that my opponent has missed which offers additional support to the case I want to refute? I try to make sure that I am responding not just to my opponent's case as presented, but to the strongest possible case I can formulate for my opponent's position. I find that this approach helps me process positions with which I disagree more receptively and with better comprehension. Try it. I think you will find it works.

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Hayes on two books on Paul (etc.) and the Law

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: How Faith Effects the Incorporation of the Gentile (Christine Hayes).
What a pleasure to read two such fascinating books – Matthew Thiessen’s Paul and the Gentile Problem and David Kaden’s Matthew, Paul, and the Anthropology of Law – whose intersections, differences and complementarities promise to enrich and reform the scholarly conversation on Paul and the Law. I’d like to structure my remarks around these features – the books’ intersections, their one primary point of difference and the way in which this difference might in fact be crucial to a full understanding of Paul.

[...]
AJR continues its series from the SBL 2016 Pauline Epistles Review Panel with this essay. I noted an earlier essay in the series here.

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T. Moses: so many Moses pseudepigrapha!

READING ACTS has two posts on the Latin Moses fragment that is generally known by the title "The Testament of Moses."

What is the “Testament of Moses”?
Testament of Moses

Richard Bauckham has argued convincingly that there were at least two Moses pseudepigrapha circulating in antiquity: the Testament of Moses and the Assumption of Moses. He thinks that the (more) original Greek version of the Latin fragment was the Testament of Moses, which is quoted in Jude 9. I have argued that the Latin fragment could be a separate work from either the Testament of Moses or the Assumption of Moses.

I agree that the internal evidence indicates that the Latin fragment is a first-century Jewish work. I do not see any convincing evidence that the now mostly-lost Greek version was a translation of a Hebrew original.

See my The Provenance of the Pseudepigrapha (Brill, 2005), pp. 149-154, for details.

Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha are noted here and links. For some time he has been working though the Testamentary literature. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Kotel

YONA SABAR: Hebrew Word of the Week: Kotel "(The Western) Wall" כתל. There are many words for "wall" in Hebrew.

I am behind on these Hebrew Word of the Week columns. I will try to catch up this week.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Talmud on lending and borrowing

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Follow the Money. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ tough-minded and practical wisdom on financial transactions from the ancient rabbis.
Monetary law, on the other hand, is largely secular, devised by the rabbis themselves based on principles of fairness and convenience. Perhaps it is precisely because they leave God out of the equation that such laws are especially good at teaching wisdom.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Review of Sterling (ed.), Studies in Philo in Honor of David Runia

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Gregory E. Sterling (ed.), Studies in Philo in Honor of David Runia. Studia Philonica Annual: Studies in Hellenistic Judaism, volume XXVII (2016). Atlanta: SBL Press, 2016. Pp. x, 465. ISBN 9780884141815. $61.95. Reviewed by Ilaria Ramelli, Catholic University; Angelicum; Princeton (iramelli@princeton.edu).
The essays that compose this very interesting Festschrift, opened by a fine painting portraying the honorand, are grouped into five main sections: an introduction by Gregory E. Sterling (3-46), containing an overview of the career and impressive bibliography of David Runia, a section on the text of Philo’s works (49-108), a rich section on Philo’s relation to Hellenistic philosophy (111-68), another on Philo’s links with the world of Rome (171-226), one on Philo’s exegesis of the Pentateuch (229-348), and a two-paper section on Philo and early Christianity (351-92). Since it is impossible to discuss all contributions here, given the word limit, I shall focus on some that I found especially interesting and close to my research areas. However, all the essays are of consistently high quality.

[...]
I noted the publication of this book here. It is actually volume XXVIII of the Studia Philonica Annual, not volume XXVII.

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T. Jacob: another death-ascent

READING ACTS: Testament of Jacob. This text looks like another late-antique monastic work.

I am pretty sure there is a recent monograph on the Testament of Isaac and the Testament of Jacob, but I can't find it. Can any readers help?

Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha are noted here and links. Recently he has been going through the Testamentary literature. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Sabaean Mandaean new year

MANDEAN (MANDAEAN) WATCH: Sabian Mandaeans Perform New Year Rituals in Iran. On the anniversary of the Mandaean New Year, the Sabians in southwestern Iran performed their baptism rite by immersing themselves in Karun River. A photo essay. The rite took place yesterday (Monday).

For review: the Mandeans (Mandaeans) are a Middle Eastern Gnostic religious group coming from an Aramaic-speaking background and with an Aramaic liturgy. They believe that John the Baptist was their founder. Their movement can be traced back to late antiquity and perhaps even to the early centuries CE. The term Sabian (Sabean, Sabaean) is often applied to them, but I am not sure of its exact import.

Most past PaleoJudaica posts on the Sabean Mandeans deal with those in Iraq, whose lot after the war has been very difficult. Background here and links.

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Of flying, burning serpents

DR. RICHARD LEDERMAN: What is the Biblical Flying Serpent? (TheTorah.com).
A number of biblical and non-biblical texts describe encounters with flying venomous snakes in the Sinai and Arabian deserts. Egyptian iconography may help clarify what is being pictured.
One has to wonder what, if any, connection there is between the flying, burning (seraphim) serpents and the biblical angels called seraphim in Isaiah 6. Note 4 of this essay may hint that a discussion of this question is forthcoming.

A related essay by the same author was noted here.

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Arrest for smuggling of Alexander-era coins

APPREHENDED: Palestinian caught trying to smuggle rare, ancient coins from Gaza. Security forces arrest merchant crossing to Israel carrying 2,300-year-old coins from era of Alexander the Great (Times of Israel).
The coins were allegedly smuggled from Egypt into the Gaza Strip and were en route to Israel for sale.

The coins show Herakles (known later to the Romans as Hercules) on their face, and a seated Zeus, who was the head god of the ancient Greeks, on the reverse side. Zeus is holding a scepter and eagle.
Follow the link for photos.

I have noted other recent looting arrests in Israel and on the West Bank here and links. Cross-file under Numismatics.

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T. Isaac: Like father like son

READING ACTS: Testament of Isaac. It is a pretty big stretch to try to find a Jewish core work in the Testament of Isaac, although this is, of course, possible. It reads naturally as a Coptic Christian composition with monastic interests. It is based in part on the Testament of Abraham. Like that document, it includes a pre-mortem ascent of the patriarch to heaven.

Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha are noted here and many links. Recently he has been posting on Testamentary literature. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Greek Orthodox Church sells Roman amphitheatre in Caesarea

ANCIENT ARCHITECTURE: Ancient Roman Amphitheater in Caesarea sold by Greek Orthodox church to mystery foreign buyer. Justice ministry calls meeting over surprise sale of 700 dunams of land belonging to Patriarchate in ancient port city, TV report says (Times of Israel). Well, that's a surprise. If I recall correctly, I have seen the Caesarea amphitheatre. But I have never blogged about it.

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Hellholm and Sänger (eds.), The Eucharist – Its Origins and Contexts

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: The Eucharist – Its Origins and Contexts. Sacred Meal, Communal Meal, Table Fellowship in Late Antiquity, Early Judaism, and Early Christianity. Volume I-III. Ed. by David Hellholm and Dieter Sänger. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 376. 289,00 € cloth ISBN 978-3-16-153918-3.
Published in English.
These three volumes are the results of two conferences on the Christian eucharist and its context in the traditions of sacred and communal meals; the first conference was held at the University of Kiel, the second at the University of Agder's Study Center at Metochi (Lesbos). Scholars from all around the world form an international, interdisciplinary and interdenominational collaboration from various fields including History of Religion, Classics, Old and New Testament, Judaism, Patristics, Archeology, and History of Art. Volume I deals with Old Testament, Early Jewish, and New Testament traditions, volume II with Patristic traditions and Iconography, and volume III approaches Near Eastern and Graeco-Roman traditions, as well as Archeology. Images, illustrations and indexes complete the volume.
The broad scope covered by these studies invites readers not only to a clearer interpretation of the origin of the Eucharist and its development in the early church, but also enables them to reach a better understanding of the religious and cultural background of sacred and communal meals in general in ancient societies.
Follow the link for the TOC and ordering information.

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Where should Chronicles go in the Bible?

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: Where Should the Books of Chronicles be Placed? (John Meade, ETC Blog). This actually is an important question, about which there is debate in the scholarly literature.

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Saar, Jewish Love Magic

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL: Jewish Love Magic: From Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages.
Ortal-Paz Saar, Utrecht University
.
Jewish Love Magic: From Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages is the first monograph dedicated to the supernatural methods employed by Jews in order to generate love, grace or hate. Examining hundreds of manuscripts, often unpublished, Ortal-Paz Saar skillfully illuminates a major aspect of the Jewish magical tradition.

The book explores rituals, spells and important motifs of Jewish love magic, repeatedly comparing them to the Graeco-Roman and Christian traditions. In addition to recipes and amulets in Hebrew, Aramaic and Judaeo-Arabic, primarily originating in the Cairo Genizah, also rabbinic sources and responsa are analysed, resulting in a comprehensive and fascinating picture.

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More on tagging the Talmud

THE TALMUD BLOG: It Functions, and that’s (almost) All: Another Look at “Tagging the Talmud”.
Itay Marienberg-Milikowsky is currently a visiting scholar at the Interdisciplinary Center for Narratology, Universität Hamburg, where he conducts his post-doc research entitled “The Rise of Narrativity in Talmudic Literature: Computational Perspectives.” This is our third post in an ongoing series on Digital Humanities and Rabbinic Literature.
This will be of considerable interest to the growing band of digital humanists.

The two past posts in the series were noted here and here.

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

SOTS Book List 2017

IN THE MAIL:
John Jarrick (ed.) with Holly Thompson, Society for Old Testament Study Book List 2017 (= JSOT 41.5) (London: Sage, 2017).
For the first time I can recall, the Book List has not been made available to subscriber on the Sage website by the time the hard copies have gone out. But you should be able to access it eventually here. It might even be there by the time you read this.

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More from Novenson on The Grammar of Messianism

THE CSCO BLOG: The Grammar of Messianism, PT. 2. The conclusion of the two-part video series on Dr. Matthew Novenson's new book with the same title.

Part one was noted here with a link to a review of the book.

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Four new Jewish books

BOOK REVIEWLETS: Four new Jewish books are tour guides to old ones (Howard Freedman, Jewish News of Northern California).

Past posts on Holtz, Rabbi Akiva: Sage of the Talmud are here and links. Another review of Kirsch, The People and the Books is noted here. Joseph Skibell’s Six Memos from the Last Millennium: A Novelist Reads the Talmud is new to me. So is Yeshiva University's Books of the People: Revisiting Classic Works of Jewish Thought. The last one deals only with books from the last thousand years and thus is outside PaleoJudaica's main period of interest.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Review of Goldsworthy, Pax Romana

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Adrian Goldsworthy, Pax Romana: War, Peace, and Conquest in the Roman World. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2016. Pp. ix, 513; 16 p. of plates. ISBN 9780300178821. $32.50. Reviewed by Michael J. Taylor, University of California, Berkeley (mjtaylor@berkeley.edu).

As one would expect, ancient Judaism and the Jewish revolts against Rome receive attention in this book.
Many of the issues discussed are familiar case studies in Roman provincial administration: Cicero’s governorship in Cilicia, Pliny’s letters from Bithynia, Judea as presented in both the New Testament as well as Josephus, the Roman diaspora in the provinces, etc. Several provincial rebellions challenged the Roman peace, ranging from Arminius’ ambush at the Teutoburger Wald/Kalkriese, a unique case of a rebellion that led to a permanent loss of territorial control, to a slew of failed rebellions: Tacfarinas in North Africa, Boudicca in Britain, and the three great Jewish rebellions. Goldsworthy raises an important point: by the High Empire, schismatic rebellion had all but ceased. Even the Jews, the religiously inspired arch-rebels of the Roman world, who had previously carved their own kingdom out of the flailing Seleucid Empire, did not revolt again after the failure of the Bar Kochba rising. The end of schismatic revolt is all the more puzzling given that such actions would have been more than feasible during the chaotic Third Century Crisis. But all subsequent rebels posed as pretenders rather than schismatics (including Postumus in Gaul and Zenobia as regent for her son), aspiring to rule the whole empire rather than separate themselves permanently from it.

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Friday, July 14, 2017

On lost books quoted in the Bible

PROF. ED GREENSTEIN: What was the Book of the Wars of the Lord? (TheTorah.com).
And what can we learn by comparing it to another ancient book mentioned in the Bible, Sefer HaYashar (The Book of the Upright)?
I wrote about lost books quoted in the Hebrew Bible, including these two, in my article "Quotations from Lost Books in the Hebrew Bible: A New Translation and Introduction" in Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, volume one (ed. Bauckham, Davila, and Panayotov; Eerdmans, 2013), pp. 673-698.

For past PaleoJudaica posts on lost ancient books in general, start here and follow the links. For other posts on lost books quoted in the Hebrew Bible, see here, here, and here, and follow the links.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Rasmussen on Emperor-cult architecture at Herculaneum

THE HOLY LAND PHOTOS' BLOG: Emperor Worship at Herculaneum (Carl Rasmussen).
As Christianity spread into the Roman World, one of the major, growing, cults that it faced was the worship of the ascended, deified, Roman Emperors—and eventually the worship of living Emperors. It is well–known that this practice forms part of the background for the book of Revelation and also for many additional passages found in the New Testament.

So, where did all this take place? To my knowledge, there is only one almost completely preserved structure known where this occurred. It is called the Sacellum (chapel/temple) of the Augustales (priests in charge of Emperor Worship) that was excavated at Herculaneum—near Pompeii. In this and the following post, I will share some images of this very unique structure.
There are many past PaleoJudaica posts on the site of Herculaneaum, which was destroyed and buried at the same time as Pompeii by the eruption of Vesuvius. (Start here and follow the links.)

But most of those posts have to do with the carbonized library of scrolls uncovered at Herculaneum and efforts to decipher them. It's nice now and then to have a post on the architecture of the site. Emperor worship was, of course, a touchy subject for both Jews and early Christians in the Roman Empire.

A thematically related post is here. And some of this post on the 2016 Divine Sonship Symposium at St. Andrews is relevant.

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T. Abraham: heavenly journey

READING ACTS: Abraham’s Heavenly Journey – Testament of Abraham 10- 14. Phil Long is back with more in his series on the Testamentary literature.

Past posts in his series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha are noted here and links. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Review of Weitzman, The Origin of the Jews

BOOK REVIEW: No easy answers in the search for Jewish origins (Jonathan Kirsch, Jewish Journal).
... Of all the issues that perplex the Jewish people and the wider world, none is so troubling is the primal one — what, after all, links us to the people, the land and the faith of distant antiquity as described in the Bible?

An answer is proposed in “The Origin of the Jews: The Quest for Roots in a Rootless Age” by Steven Weitzman (Princeton University Press), the Abraham M. Ellis Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pennsylvania. He has studied and mastered the scholarship of Jewish origins, and he seeks to explain exactly what “connects all Jews into a single people, religion, or community; the very beginning of their collective story.”
Some past posts on Professor Weitzman's research are here, here, here, here, here and links. His work on genetic studies is particularly relevant to this book.

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Nabatean remains at Hawara

NABATEAN (NABATAEAN) WATCH: Canadian scholars explore ancient Nabataean site of Hawara (Saeb Rawashdeh, The Jordan Times). One scholar, John P. Oleson.
of the University of Victoria, is working on the local rock-cut tombs. The other, M. Barbara Reeves of Victoria University, is studying the petrogylphs and inscriptions.
The incentive for that study was the discovery of a detailed petroglyph that Reeves subsequently interpreted as showing a Roman officer carrying out a religious ceremony at a location on one of Humayma’s sandstone ridges.

“I returned in 2014 to survey the ridge associated with the petroglyph, along with some sites on the adjacent landmasses,” Reeves said.

“During that survey, more than 150 petroglyphs, 20 inscriptions [Greek, Nabataean and Thamudic], 2 betyl niches and numerous recent Arabic inscriptions were documented in association with 15 human activity areas.

“The petroglyphs were carved into vertical and horizontal faces and on both natural and human-modified surfaces, showing wild and domesticated animals, hunting scenes, armed humans standing and riding, human worshippers, human footprints, gods, and symbols,” she said.
I noted an article on the site of Hawara recently here. Hawara is the ancient name of the city. The modern name of the site in Jordan is Humayma (or Humeima). It is not to be confused with the Hawara (Huwara) on the West Bank (see here and here).

The Nabateans spoke Arabic but wrote in a dialect of Aramaic. Media stories about them usually involve Petra, so it's nice to be getting information about a different site. For many past posts on the Nabateans (Nabataeans) and their language, start here and follow the links or search the PaleoJudaica archive.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Grossberg, Heresy and the Formation of the Rabbinic Community

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: DAVID M. GROSSBERG Heresy and the Formation of the Rabbinic Community. 2017. X, 277 pages. Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 168. Published in English. 129,00 €, cloth, ISBN 978-3-16-155147-5.
Between the first and sixth centuries C.E., a group of sages that scholars refer to as the rabbinic community systematized their ideas about Judaism in works such as the Mishnah and the Talmud. David M. Grossberg offers a new approach to thinking about this community's formation. Rather than seeking an occasion of origin, he examines the gradual development of the idea of an authorized rabbinic collective. The classical rabbinic texts imagine a diverse setting of Sadducees, Pharisees, sinners, and sectarians interacting in complex and changing ways with pious sages, teachers, and judges. Yet this representation aligns only vaguely with the social reality in which these ancient sages actually lived and operated. The author contends that these texts' primary aim was not to describe real rabbinic opponents but to create and enforce boundaries between piety and impiety and between legitimate and illegitimate teachings. In this way, the emerging rabbinic movement set standards of inclusion and exclusion in the community of righteous Israel and established the bounds of the community aspiring to lead them, the rabbinic community itself.

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Nehushtan the bronze serpent

DR. RICHARD LEDERMAN: Nehushtan, the Copper Serpent: Its Origins and Fate (TheTorah.com).
The Torah describes Moses building a copper serpent to heal the Israelites. According to Kings, Hezekiah destroys it because it was being worshiped. Archaeology and history clarify the religious and political meaning of this image.
A past PaleoJudaica post touching on Philo's use of the bronze serpent story is here.

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Shablul

YONA SABAR: Hebrew Word of the Week: shablul "snail; the symbol @" שבלול.. Professor Sabar does not note this, but the word appears in the Talmud (with the meaning "snail," not "@") but not in the Bible.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Talmud on the art (and problem) of forgery

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Art of Forgery. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, the rabbis attempt to imagine every possible way to alter a legal document, and a coinciding method to thwart each of them.
At 176 folio pages, Tractate Bava Batra is the longest in the Babylonian Talmud; in the Daf Yomi cycle, it takes six months to complete. Over the last two weeks, Daf Yomi readers began the 10th and final chapter of the tractate, in which the rabbis take up a very practical question: How is a valid legal document prepared? Throughout Bava Batra, we have learned about many kinds of transactions that involve written documents, including promissory notes, deeds of sale, deeds of gift, and wills. In modern society, such transactions usually leave a long documentary trail, because they involve lawyers, registrars, and probate courts. In Talmudic-era society, however, the physical possession of a signed piece of paper was the standard way to prove a claim of ownership or a debt. Such documents would ordinarily be written by professional scribes, who knew the legal formulas involved. But how should a document be composed to assure its authenticity and minimize the opportunity for forgery?

[...]
There is a lot of indirect information about the material culture of ancient documents in this passage.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Brady moves to the University of Kentucky

CONGRATULATIONS TO CHRISTIAN BRADY: First Lewis Honors Dean Named (Jay Blanton, University of Kentucky Campus News).
LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 10, 2017) – University of Kentucky Provost Tim Tracy announced today that the former head of one of the most highly regarded honors programs in the country will be the first dean of the Lewis Honors College.

Christian Brady for 10 years — from 2006 to 2016 — served as dean of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State University. Previously, he directed the honors program at Tulane University. At Penn State, Schreyer — under Brady’s leadership — raised more than $80 million to enhance honors education, developed a renowned leadership academy, and tripled applications to the college while also increasing selectivity.

[...]
Chris Brady is a longstanding blogger at the Targuman Blog. His work on the Aramaic Targumim, especially the Targum of Ruth, is well known to PaleoJudaica readers. Start here and follow the links.

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More looting arrests in the West Bank

APPREHENDED: Antiquities thieves nabbed with artifacts from Byzantine-era church. Civil administration says it has opened an investigation after columns from West Bank structure seized from robbers (Times of Israel).
Israeli authorities arrested two antiquities thieves in the West Bank who were attempting to make off with artifacts dating back to the Byzantine era, the IDF’s Civil Administration said on Monday.

A spokesperson for the Defense Ministry agency — which oversees Israeli civilian activity in the West Bank — said that the two Palestinian suspects were arrested between the West Bank city of Bethlehem and the settlement of Tekoa with three columns from a nearby Byzantine church inscribed with pseudo-Greek text in the back of their work truck.

[...]
Smugglers stole columns from a church? Good grief!

Other recent looting arrests in Israel and the West Bank have been noted here and links.

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The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Canon Deck

RELIGION PROF: New Canon Deck Available: Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (James McGrath).
A while back, Jim Davila asked whether the card game included certain extracanonical Jewish texts, and I told him that if he gave me a list, I could make a deck with whatever works he wishes. Some of the ones he mentioned were already in the Old Testament/Jewish Bible deck, and so he substituted a few others.

[...]
The new deck is now available. Follow the link for ordering information.

Background here and here.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Squitieri, Stone Vessels in the Near East during the Iron Age and the Persian Period

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Stone Vessels in the Near East during the Iron Age and the Persian Period. Notice of a new book: Squitieri, Andrea. 2017. Stone Vessels in the Near East during the Iron Age and the Persian Period. (Archaeopress Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology 2). Oxford: Archaeopress.

Stone vessels were important for Jews in the late Second Temple period, because such vessels did not transmit ritual impurity. This is not my expertise, but the ones I have heard of date to the Hasmonean and Roman periods, so that may be why Judean stoen vessels are not mentioned in the description of this book. Still, it would provide useful background on the production of such objects.

For some background on stone vessels in the Roman world and ancient Judaism, see here and here and links.

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JQS 24.2 (2017)

THE JEWISH STUDIES QUARTERLY has a new issue out (Volume 24, Number 2, 2017). One of the articles involves ancient Judaism:
Meir Ben Shahar, "A Future and a Hope" in Babylonia: Three Sayings of Rav as a Diasporan Manifesto; pp. 101-121(21)

Abstract:
The Jewish Diaspora is often viewed as the paradigm of exile, which implies longing for a place from which a people has been forcibly expelled. This article interprets three sayings by Rav in the Babylonian Talmud as reflecting an alternative ideology, in which living outside the Holy Land is not seen as regrettable or shameful, for God is revealed through the Jewish people's observance of the Torah and the commandments everywhere. Although the relevant sugya in BT Ta'anit 29a–b opens with catastrophe – the destruction of the Temple – Rav's three sayings here exude optimism, implying that a good life is attainable wherever Jews reside. Every moment of Torah study is the realization of the "future and hope" promised by the prophet Jeremiah.

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Lawrence, Jethro and the Jews

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL: Jethro and the Jews. Jewish Biblical Interpretation and the Question of Identity. Beatrice J.W. Lawrence, Seattle University.
In Jethro and the Jews, Beatrice J. W. Lawrence examines rabbinic texts that address the biblical character of Jethro, a Midianite priest, Moses’ advisor and father-in-law, and the creator of the system of Jewish jurisprudence. Lawrence explores biblical interpretations in Midrash, Targum and Talmud, revealing a spectrum of responses to the presence of a man who straddles the line between insider and outsider. Ranging from character assassination to valorization of Jethro as a convert, these interpretive strategies reveal him to be a locus of anxiety for the rabbis concerning conversion, community boundaries, intermarriage, and non-Jews.

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Candida Moss

CONGRATULATIONS TO PROFESSOR CANDIDA MOSS, who has joined the faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Birmingham as Edward Cadbury Professor of Theology.

Her essays, often co-written with Joel Baden, at the Daily Beast and elsewhere have helped keep PaleoJudaica readers informed about many news stories involving biblical studies and related matters, most recently here.

She describes her research specialties as follows:
My work primarily focuses on ideas about martyrdom, death, suffering, and afterlife in the New Testament and literature of Early Christianity. I have additional interests in disability theory and theology, religion and public life, the Bible and education, and cultural heritage.

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Golem sculptures, sort of

GOLEM WATCH: The golem in a London garden. Sculptor David Breuer-Weil 's huge sculptures are on show in London this summer.
How fitting that sculptor David Breuer-Weil’s Philosopher — a mammoth bronze head assembled from smashed-up and reconstituted plaster — should be made following his discovery that he is a direct descendant of philosopher Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the celebrated Maharal of Prague.

“You can imagine my surprise when I learned in a recently published book that the Maharal was my great-grandfather 14 generations down,” he tells me. “It puts a different emphasis on making figurative sculptures if you are related to the Maharal who, according to legend, made the ‘Golem of Prague’.”

[...]

In spite of a very busy schedule, he is committed to his daily study of the Talmud, which he says is filled with “the most tremendous imagery” of every aspect of life. He credits the Talmud with fuelling his creativity, resulting in paintings with “multiple layers of meaning and complex imagery”.

Breuer-Weil’s art constitutes “ways of philosophising about life in a visual way”. In recent years, this has culminated in a series of monumental sculptures, themed around the human body, be it through the creation of feet, a head, or the body in its entirety. Although all are colossal in size, their fragility and vulnerability is rendered through texture and context.
The sculptures apparently are not intended to depict golems, but some of them could certainly could pass for golems.

For earlier PaleoJudaica posts on past and present manifestations of the Golem legend, start here and follow the many links.

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Report on Brussels Coptic conference

ALIN SUCIU: Guest Post: Julien Delhez – A Successful Conference for French-Speaking Coptologists. The report includes summaries on many papers covering many topics. These include Sheoute's unfortunate anti-Jewish writings, the use of apocryphal traditions about Jesus in Coptic magical texts, a new edition of the Coptic version of the Apocalypse of Paul, a touching graffito by a man who lost his cat, and much more.

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If you like OT Pseudepigrapha, please help! (bumped)

DEAR READERS,

Many of you have heard of the book I co-edited with Richard Bauckham and Alexander Panayotov:
Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, Volume 1 (Eerdmans, 2013).
If any of you have used the book for your research, teaching, or other creative projects, I would be grateful if you would give me a little information about how you used it.

Many of you have told me over the years that you have found my blogging at PaleoJudaica valuable. This is your chance to give me something back.


I have enabled comments on this post, so you can reply below.

Here's what I need:

1. If any academic colleague has cited the book in any publication, whether published or in press, would you please tell me what part of the book you cited and give me the full reference for your publication? I am interested both in scholarly and popular publications.

2. If any reader has used the book in teaching at any level — postgraduate, undergraduate, adult education, high school, etc. — would you please let me know what course or class you have used it in, the level of the class, and which specific part of the book you used? Any comments on how useful you found the material and how your students responded to it would be welcome as well.

3. If any reader has drawn on the book for a creative project other than academic research or teaching, would you please tell me about it? Has it influenced any literary work you have written, any artistic work you have produced, any theatrical production, any television or cinematic production, any musical production, etc.? I also would be grateful to know of any publications, exhibitions, performances, screenings, etc. which have resulted.

4. If have any friends who you know have used the book in any of the three ways above, please alert them to this post and encourage them to contact me.

Why do I want to know all this?

I am currently collecting information on the influence of this book in the years since it has been published. This is partly for an article on the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project that I am writing. It is for the 50th anniversary of the SBL's Pseudepigrapha Section which comes in 2019. (But the article is due in 2017.)

Some of the information is also for a file I'm keeping on "impact," which involves the influence of academic research on people's lives. The British Government likes us to keep track of impact.

I will use the information for the two purposes given above.

In due course I will also give a general summary of what I learn in a PaleoJudaica post.

Many thanks for your help, which is very valuable to me. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Sunday, July 09, 2017

More on the Leningrad Codex scribe

PALEOGRAPHY: Author of 10th-century Hebrew biblical text is identified (Madeleine Buckley, USA Today).
The ancient text, known to scholars as Codex L17, contains only Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings and 2 Kings. Researcher Kim Phillips wrote in an article the Tyndale Bulletin that he determined that the author was the scribe Samuel ben Jacob, or “Samuel, son of Jacob,” and that it was written around the year 975.

Samuel ben Jacob also wrote The Leningrad Codex, the earliest known complete copy of the Hebrew Bible, completed in the year 1008 and the basis for many modern biblical translations.
This story reached the blogosphere late last week. I noted it here. But it's good to see the mainstream media taking some notice.

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Hannibal's trail of poop?

PUNIC WATCH: How (and Where) Did Hannibal Cross the Alps? He pulled off one of the greatest military feats ever. Now new scientific evidence points to Hannibal’s legendary route to Rome (Franz Lidz, The Smithsonian).
A relative newcomer to the debate, [microbiologist Chris] Allen insists that until now no hard material evidence has been presented that would indicate the most likely path. “Nada, zero, zip, zilch,” he says. “Everything has been guesswork based on readings of the classical texts.” He believes that he and his team of collaborators—led by Canadian geomorphologist Bill Mahaney—recently unearthed the first compelling clues, thanks to a massive patty of ancientmanure.

Embedded 16 inches deep in a bog on the French side of the Traversette is a thin layer of churned-up, compacted scat that suggests a large footfall by thousands of mammals at some point in the past. “If Hannibal had hauled his traveling circus over the pass, he would have stopped at the mire to water and feed the beasts,” reasons Allen. “And if that many horses, mules and, for that matter, elephants did graze there, they would have left behind a MAD.” That’s the acronym for what microbiologists delicately term a “mass animal deposition.”

By examining sediment from two cores and a trench—mostly soil matted with decomposed plant fiber—Allen and his crew have identified genetic materials that contain high concentrations of DNA fragments from Clostridia, bacteria that typically make up only 2 or 3 percent of peat microbes, but more than 70 percent of those found in the gut of horses. The bed of excrement also contained unusual levels of bile acids and fatty compounds found in the digestive tracts of horses and ruminants. Allen is most excited about having isolated parasite eggs—associated with gut tapeworms—preserved in the site like tiny genetic time capsules.
Allen's theory that this is the trail left by Hannibal's army during his crossing of the Alps in the Second Punic War. But it is controversial. I have already noted the theory here, but this Smithsonian article is a very detailed treatment of it and is worth reading.

For past PaleoJudaica post on Hannibal and the Punic wars, start here and follow the many links.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Tesher

YONA SABAR: Hebrew Word of the Week: tesher "tip (to a waiter, driver, etc.); gratuity" תשר. The first attested use of (a form of) the word involves Saul preparing a tip for the prophet Samuel for divining the fate of some lost donkeys.

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The rivers of Israel

GEOGRAPHY: In Photos: The Rivers of Israel (Brandon Marlon, Jewish Breaking News). A nice photo essay for a Sunday morning.

The Bible mentions many, but not all, of these rivers. Fun fact: According to 1 Enoch 13, Enoch had his Merkavah vision at the waters of Dan:
And I went off and sat down at the waters of Dan, in the land of Dan, to the south of the west of Hermon: I read their petition till I fell 8 asleep. And behold a dream came to me, and visions fell down upon me, and I saw visions of chastisement, and a voice came bidding (me) I to tell it to the sons of heaven, and reprimand them.

(Charles translation)
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Saturday, July 08, 2017

Review of two books on Paul (etc.) and the Law

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Two Approaches to Pauline Discourse (J. Albert Harrill).
2016 SBL Pauline Epistles Panel Book Review Session

Matthew, Paul, and the Anthropology of Law, by David A. Kaden

Paul and the Gentile Problem, by Matthew Thiessen
The essay opens:
We have an opportunity to discuss two new Paul books in tandem. So, departing from common practice of our SBL Program Unit on the Pauline Epistles, which examines each book separately, I propose taking them as a pairing. It would be fruitful to have both books and their authors––who are together for the first time on one stage––engage one another. While both authors tackle the same problem of “Paul and the Law” and both authors frame the issue as a question of discourse, each goes in a different direction to find a solution––one global and the other local. These books offer an instructive contrast in opposing methodologies.

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Is the Talmud's Herod based on a Persian story?

DR. JEFFREY L. RUBENSTEIN: Herod’s Renovation of the Temple – Uncovering the Talmud’s Persian Influences (TheGemara.com).
In “Herod’s Renovation of the Temple – The Talmudic Version”, I explored the Bavli’s account of how the first century BCE king, Herod, rose to power, violently solidified his rule, and rebuilt the Temple. I demonstrated how the rabbis thematized issues of sight and blindness in their telling of the tale in order to explain how a wicked king ended up building the holy Temple. In this piece, I look at the Persian sources of the story, which provide a further layer of understanding.
I noted Dr. Rubenstein's earlier essay, on Herod's renovation of the Temple, here.

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Another manuscript by the scribe who wrote the Leningrad Codex

ETC BLOG: Sister of Leningrad Codex Discovered! (Peter Williams). This is a roundabout way of saying:
Congratulations to Kim Phillips, Tyndale House Research Associate, for discovering a manuscript of the Former Prophets by Samuel ben Jacob the scribe of the Leningrad Codex. This should make a significant difference to our understanding of the main manuscript used for the study of the Hebrew Bible today.
This sounds important for Masoretic studies and, in a considerably more indirect way, textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible. Follow the link for more.

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More on Aramean land seizure in Turkey

ASSYRIAN (MODERN SYRIAC) WATCH: Turkish authorities confiscate 50 properties from one of world's oldest Christian communities which fears it is being driven into extinction (Rory Tingle, Daily Mail). This is confusing. As I noted yesterday, according Hurriyet Daily News this decision has been canceled. Specifically:
On July 3, the liquidation committee said the allocation decision was cancelled but the properties were still registered with the Treasury.

Officials noted that the use of the monasteries and churches would continue “as it stands,” adding that a legal amendment would be needed for the cancellation of the registration decision.
I don't know why the Mail article does not mention that development. But whether or not the story is up to date, it is now on the Mail's radar. And if the story is covered by the Daily Mail, you can be sure the world is watching.

I look forward to the speedy and full resolution of this situation in Turkey.

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Friday, July 07, 2017

Still more mosaics from the Huqoq synagogue

THE SITE THAT KEEPS ON GIVING - MOSAICS: Excavations by UNC-Chapel Hill archaeologist continue to yield stunning mosaics in ancient Galilean synagogue. Seventh season of Huqoq excavations brings to light the richest, most diverse collection of mosaics ever discovered in an ancient synagogue (UNC press release).
(Chapel Hill, N.C.— July 6, 2017) – A team of specialists and students led by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor Jodi Magness has uncovered additional mosaic scenes in the Late Roman synagogue at Huqoq, an ancient Jewish village in Israel’s Lower Galilee. The new finds provide insight about daily life in the fifth century C.E. and expand the rich repertoire of mosaics already discovered decorating the floors of the building.

[...]
On the newly found mosaics:
A medallion in the center of the uppermost (northern) panel depicts the Greco-Roman sun god Helios in a quadriga (four-horse chariot) surrounded by personifications of the months and the signs of the zodiac, contained within a square frame with personifications of the four seasons in the corners.

The second panel shows the biblical story of Jonah and the whale with a twist: Jonah’s legs are shown dangling from the mouth of a large fish, which is being swallowed by a larger fish, and the larger fish is being swallowed by an even larger fish. This is the first time the story of Jonah has been discovered decorating the mosaic floor of an ancient synagogue in Israel.

The third (southernmost) panel contains a detailed scene of men at work constructing a stone tower, apparently the Tower of Babel.

“The Huqoq mosaics are unusually rich and diverse,” said Magness. “In addition, they display variations on biblical stories which must represent oral traditions (midrashim) that circulated among the local Jewish population.”
There is a photo showing one of the workmen in the third panel. This photo appears with another in this tweet.

For previous PaleoJudaica posts on the finds at the Huqoq excavation — especially the mosaics, start here and follow the many links.

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Implications of the Hobby Lobby case

ANALYSIS: Hobby Lobby’s Black-Market Buys Did Real Damage (Candida Moss and Joel Baden, NYT). Moss and Baden discuss the settlement of Hobby Lobby with the U.S. Department of Justice over improper acquisition of antiquities. The settlement was announced earlier this week.
Although we can now point to a large number of items in the collection that were illicitly acquired, there remain thousands and thousands more about which we can say nothing: not because their provenance is clean, but because it is unknown. Though scholars have been pleading for years with the Greens and the Museum of the Bible to provide all of the information for all of their artifacts, there has been no transparency whatsoever.

If the Museum of the Bible truly wants to distance itself from the illicit antiquities dealings of Hobby Lobby, it should make available to the public the full provenance of every item it displays, and of all those that are not visible to the public. If there are more artifacts that were purchased from the black market, they should be forfeited or repatriated—voluntarily.
As the essay indicates, this story brings up difficult wider issues regarding the acquiring and use of unprovenanced artifacts that may have come from the black market. Background here and links.

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The Talmud on Herod the Great

DR. JEFFREY L. RUBENSTEIN: Herod’s Renovation of the Temple – The Talmudic Version (TheGemara.com).
In their discussion of King Herod’s reconstruction of the Second Temple, talmudic storytellers emphasize themes of sight, blindness, and illegitimate rule. They also make a surprising suggestion about who really should get credit for this renovation.
The Talmud has a long, very legendary, and rather creepy, account of the reign of Herod. I have commented on part of it in an earlier post here. This post may be relevant too, although it cites a different Talmudic passage that seems to cover the same ground.

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Update on Aramean land seizure in Turkey

ASSYRIAN (MODERN SYRIAC) WATCH: Decision to allocate Syriac churches, monasteries to Turkish religious directory cancelled (Hurriyet Daily News).
The governor’s office in the southeastern province of Mardin has cancelled its decision dating back to 2014 to allocate churches and monasteries belonging to Syriac Christians to the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), Doğan News Agency reported on July 5.

In its decision on July 3, the Mardin Governor’s Office’s Liquidation Committee said a legal amendment was necessary “for the problem’s exact solution” and until the legal amendment went into force, “the current situation was intact.”

The Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation’s head Kuryakos Ergün, who was present at the committee’s meeting on July 3, confirmed to Doğan News Agency that it had made the cancellation decision.

However, he also said the case was still unsolved for them until ownership of the properties is transferred to the foundation, and vowed that the foundation’s legal fight would continue until then.

[...]
This sounds like constructive progress. But the problems are not yet fully resolved. It never hurts to mention that the world is watching. We will continue to watch the situation closely.

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Thursday, July 06, 2017

Hobby Lobby settles case with Justice Department

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: United States Files Civil Action To Forfeit Thousands Of Ancient Iraqi Artifacts Imported By Hobby Lobby. Cuneiform Tablets Were Falsely Labeled as Product “Samples” and Shipped to Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., and Two Corporate Affiliates.
Earlier today, the United States filed a civil complaint to forfeit thousands of cuneiform tablets and clay bullae. As alleged in the complaint, these ancient clay artifacts originated in the area of modern-day Iraq and were smuggled into the United States through the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel, contrary to federal law. Packages containing the artifacts were shipped to Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (“Hobby Lobby”), a nationwide arts-and-crafts retailer based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and two of Hobby Lobby’s corporate affiliates. The shipping labels on these packages falsely described cuneiform tablets as tile “samples.”

The government also filed a stipulation of settlement with Hobby Lobby, in which Hobby Lobby consented to the forfeiture of the artifacts in the complaint, approximately 144 cylinder seals and an additional sum of $3 million, resolving the civil action. Hobby Lobby further agreed to adopt internal policies and procedures governing its importation and purchase of cultural property, provide appropriate training to its personnel, hire qualified outside customs counsel and customs brokers, and submit quarterly reports to the government on any cultural property acquisitions for the next eighteen months.

[...]
The languages is a little convoluted, but this seems to be saying that the Department of Justice has filed the civil action and Hobby Lobby has settled with them by agreeing to forfeit all of the cuneiform tablets and clay bullae, plus about about 144 cylinder seals, plus pay $3 million in fines. It also agreed to implement various procedures to keep such problems from happening again.

Altogether there are about 5500 artifacts, among which are 1000 clay bullae (seal impressions) from Israel. No word on whether any of the bullae bore inscriptions. The two pictured bear designs, but I see no writing.

There is lots of media coverage. See, for example, this Reuters article by Dan Whitcomb: Hobby Lobby to Forfeit Ancient Iraqi Artifacts in Settlement With DOJ.
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Arts and crafts retailer Hobby Lobby has agreed to forfeit thousands of illegally smuggled ancient Middle Eastern artifacts obtained from antiquities dealers for a Bible museum headed by its president, the company and U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

The forfeiture will include some 5,500 artifacts purchased by Hobby Lobby Inc that originated from the region of modern-day Iraq and were shipped under false labels, as well as an additional $3 million to settle the civil charges, the Department of Justice said in a statement.

[...]
The article also has a response from Hobby Lobby.

This looks pretty bad.

I noted a report in 2015 that a federal investigation of these matters was underway. Now it has been resolved. The story turned out to be worse than indicated in the earlier report. It referred to hundreds of tablets and didn't mention any bullae.

The Green family, who founded Hobby Lobby, also own the Green Collection of antiquities. The Museum of the Bible is also a Green family project. For past posts on both, start here and follow the links.

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