Thursday, September 21, 2017

Gnosticism, Kabbalah, and "mother!"

CINEMA: A number of reviewers have concluded that Darren Aronofsky's new and controversial film, mother!, is an allegorical retelling of something like a Gnostic creation myth. (Readers may recall that Aronofsky also was the director of Noah a few years ago.)

I'll give you two reviews of mother!, one with a more or less Gnostic reading and one with a more or less Kabbalistic one. As you will see, they overlap considerably. Both contain spoilers, so read no further if that matters to you. Really, stop now.

The Gnostic reading: Jennifer Lawrence’s New Movie is, Basically, the Bible, Only Freakier. If you’ve paid attention at Sunday school, Darren Aronofsky’s ‘mother!’ will feel mightily familiar, but still completely crazy (Sophie Aroesty, Tablet Magazine).
mother! is a retelling of the bible, from creation in the Torah, through the New Testament, all the way to present day. mother is Mother Earth, the embodied spirit of the actual earth, the house. Him is God. man is Adam, woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) is Eve (and maybe part snake). After you get that, it’s not too hard to piece everything together. When man is throwing up in the toilet, with a bad scar under his shoulder? That’s when God takes Adam’s rib to create Eve. When man and woman destroy Him’s precious crystal? That was Adam and Eve eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. When the funeral guests destroy the sink and waterlog the house? That’s the great flood. And the realizations goes on and on and on, to the creation of the New Testament, the birth and death of Jesus, and Christianity’s followers eating the body and blood of Christ. Literally. All of these moments that at the time feel like, what the hell? later make total sense. “Later” just might be, you know, a couple days later.
It's a nice cosmic synchronicity that the reviewer's name is Sophie.

The Kabbalistic reading: The Heretical Gnosticism Of Darren Aronofsky’s Most Daring Film (Jay Michaelson, The Forward).
... As I subsequently read, Aronofsky intends “mother!” to be a parable touching on radical environmentalism (mother as in Mother Earth, the sentient Gaia being systematically destroyed by humankind) and Jewish and Christian myths of the sacred feminine. So let’s walk through the film on those terms — the results are quite remarkable.

Lawrence’s character – named in the credits as Her – is a blend of the Shechinah, the Virgin Mary, Mother Earth, and the universal “feminine” principle of nurturing, incubating, caring, and giving. (I scarequote ‘feminine’ here because all of these gendered myths can be essentialist and oppressive. Women are not necessarily ‘feminine’ in this sense; nor are men ‘masculine.’ These are categories that are at once symbolically fruitful and politically perilous.)
For my part, I think the movie sounds horrific and I do not intend to see it. But now you have some information and you can decide whether it is for you or not.

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

Still more from Novenson on The Grammar of Messianism

THE ASOR BLOG: The Grammar of Messianism (Matthew V. Novenson).
My title, The Grammar of Messianism, is not a promise of a survey of terrain, but rather a thesis statement with a suppressed verb. That is to say, my goal in this book is not to map exhaustively the rules of ancient messiah discourse (to do so would be painfully tedious, even if it were possible), but to show that the relevant primary texts do amount to such a discourse, that messianism is effectively a grammar. To this end, each chapter of the book takes up a classic problem in the modern study of ancient messianism—for example, the messianic vacuum hypothesis (i.e., that there are certain conspicuous gaps in the history of messianism), the quest for the first messiah, and the Jewish messiah–Christian messiah distinction, among others—and shows how the problem dissolves when viewed from the revisionist angle advocated here. The book thus takes the form of a proof, by means of a series of related studies, that in antiquity the messiah was not an article of faith but a manner of speaking.
For more on the book, see here, here, and here.

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Rosh HaShanah and God's memory

PROF. MARK ZVI BRETTLER: Zichronot: Asking an Omniscient God to Remember (TheTorah.com).
Do we really want God to remember all that we did?
Spoiler: the answer is no.

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Review of Norelli and Cameron, Markion und der biblische Kanon

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Enrico Norelli, Averil Cameron, Markion und der biblische Kanon; Christian literature and Christian History. Hans-Lietzmann-Vorlesungen, 11; 15. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2016. Pp. xiv, 53. ISBN 9783110374056. $28.00 (pb). Reviewed by Joshua Yoder, Bryn Mawr, PA (jyoder4@alumni.nd.edu).
The Hans-Lietzmann-Vorlesungen honor the man who succeeded Adolf von Harnack as Chair of New Testament, Church History and Christian Archaeology at the Humboldt-Universitӓt Berlin (1924) and as editor of the series “Griechische Christliche Schriftsteller” from 1930 until his death in 1942. This volume contains two of these lectures, given in 2009 and 2013 by Enrico Norelli of the University of Geneva and Averil Cameron, emerita of Oxford.

[...]
Past posts on a couple of other recent books on Marcion are here and here and links.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Rosh HaShanah 2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR (ROSH HASHANAH - Jewish New Year 5778) to all those celebrating. The New Year begins tonight at sundown. For biblical and historical background, see the links here.

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Where did the Temple menorah go?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Where Did the Temple Menorah Go? Did it go back to Jerusalem? (Marek Dospěl).
To commemorate this Roman triumph and to honor the victorious general (and later emperor), Titus, Emperor Domitian built an honorific monument—the Arch of Titus, which stands on the main processional street of ancient Rome (Via Sacra) to this day. The relief panels of the Arch of Titus in Rome chronicle the triumphal episodes following the fall of Jerusalem, capturing prominently the triumphal procession. One of the scenes confirms that the Temple Menorah was carried on litters in the parade that took place in the summer of 71 C.E. But what happened to the seven-branched candelabrum after that? The possibilities are explored in detail in the article “Did the Temple Menorah Come Back to Jerusalem?” in the September/October 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, where Fredric Brandfon unravels the Menorah’s intricate story.
The BAR article is behind the subscription wall, but this BHD piece gives some idea of what is in it.

As for the question, PaleoJudaica has been exploring answers for a long time. So far, none of them are particularly convincing. Start here and here and follow the links. And for the Arch of Titus, and for ancient menorahs and representations of menorahs in general, see here and follow the many links.

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DSS in Denver

EXHIBITION: Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition coming to Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Exhibit, which has traversed the world, opens in March (Kieran Nicholson, Denver Post).
The Dead Sea Scrolls, among the oldest known Biblical documents dating back over 2,000 years, and hundreds of artifacts from the Holy Land will be on display at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science early next year.

“The Dead Sea Scrolls” exhibition, which has been presented around the world, opens in Denver on March 16.

[...]
This exhibition has traveled around a lot. I lost track of it after it left Los Angeles in 2015 (see here and here and links). I don't know if it has shown elsewhere since then.

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Review of Rezakhani, ReOrienting the Sasanians

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Rezakhani, ReOrienting the Sasanians: East Iran in Late Antiquity (Simcha Gross).
Khodadad Rezakhani. Reorienting the Sasanians: Eastern Iran in Late Antiquity. Edinburgh University Press, 2017.
Excerpt:
The book is divided into an introduction and nine relatively short and manageable chapters, along with a conclusion and brief epilogue. Rezakhani notes that this region has suffered from the confluence of a few trends. First, the Sasanian Empire has been conceptualized as a Western leaning Empire, mostly invested in Iraq and Khuzistan, less of a reflection of the actual history of the empire than the western-centrism of scholars. Second, as a result of the lack of Sasanian or more local contemporary historical or literary works concerning East Iran, the various barriers to accessing this material and the general disinterest in this area by related fields, most of the studies that have appeared are philologically focused, and do not attempt to provide a larger historical narrative of this region. Rezakhani therefore sets out to fill this desiderata by providing a narrative history of East Iran.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A new Phoenician archive

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: The Phoenician Alphabet in Archaeology. What did the Phoenicians record with their innovative script? (Josephine Quinn). The essay begins with some basics about the Phoenician alphabet, but then goes on to report something more exciting:
Now, however, excavations at the inland city of Idalion on Cyprus by Dr. Maria Hadjicosti of the Department of Antiquities have finally brought to light a large archive of Phoenician texts, preserved because they were written not on perishable materials but on fragments of marble, stone, and pottery. These texts are now being studied in Nicosia by Professor Maria Giulia Amadasi Guzzo of the Sapienza University of Rome and Dr. José Ángel Zamora López of the Spanish National Research Agency, who have published their preliminary findings in Italian in the latest issue of the journal Semitica et Classica.
Read on for more on the contents of the archive. It consists of administrative texts and personal documents. There are no literary texts so far.

This is an exciting discovery, which is new to me. I look forward to hearing more about it.

Cross-file under Phoenician Watch and Epigraphy.

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Anti-Semitic use of the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Anti-Semite Can Cite Talmud for His Purpose. Taken out of context, ancient Rabbinic laws—such as those on capital punishment discussed in this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ study—can attract the attention of those who hate us.

Two comments on the discussion of the death penalty in b. Sanhedrin. First, as I have said repeatedly before, the ancients lived in a world whose casual cruelty and brutality is hard for us to imagine. Second, the Talmud's horrific discussions of the merits of various forms of execution are all theoretical and often purely exegetical. I don't doubt that such executions were common in the larger world, but Jewish courts did not have the authority to impose the death penalty in this period.

The use of the Talmud by anti-Semites has come up from time to time at PaleoJudaica. Often such works also make liberal use of fake Talmudic quotes from non-existent tractates. Some discussion is here and links.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Jenkins, The Crucible of Faith

NEW BOOK FROM BASIC BOOKS: Crucible of Faith: The Ancient Revolution That Made Our Modern Religious World by Philip Jenkins. It is released today.
In The Crucible of Faith, Philip Jenkins argues that much of the Judeo-Christian tradition we know today was born between 250-50 BCE, during a turbulent "Crucible Era." It was during these years that Judaism grappled with Hellenizing forces and produced new religious ideas that reflected and responded to their changing world. By the time of the fall of the Temple in 70 CE, concepts that might once have seemed bizarre became normalized-and thus passed on to Christianity and later Islam. Drawing widely on contemporary sources from outside the canonical Old and New Testaments, Jenkins reveals an era of political violence and social upheaval that ultimately gave birth to entirely new ideas about religion, the afterlife, Creation and the Fall, and the nature of God and Satan.
Professor Jenkins has some comments on it at the Anxious Bench Blog here and here.

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Frustration with the Museum of the Bible and eBay

ROBERTA MAZZA HAD A FRUSTRATING WEEK.

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Monday, September 18, 2017

More on the proposed application of ancient Jewish law to Israeli law

POLITICS AND LAW: ISRAELI PROPOSAL TO MAKE LEGAL JUDGMENTS FROM THE BIBLE STIRS CONTROVERSY. Knesset Constitution Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky's proposal calls for courts to draw on “principles of Hebrew law” in instances that are not covered by existing law (Ben Lynfield, Jerusalem Post).
A two-pronged legislative initiative by Knesset Constitution Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky to make “Hebrew law” a basis for court judgments is under fire from Arab MKs and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which warn that such a move could heighten discrimination against Arabs.

[...]
Related posts are here and here.

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Review of Harris (ed.), Popular Medicine in Graeco-Roman Antiquity: Explorations

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: W. V. Harris (ed.), Popular Medicine in Graeco-Roman Antiquity: Explorations. Columbia studies in the classical tradition, 42. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2016. Pp. xv, 319. ISBN 9789004325586. $138.00. Reviewed by Kai Brodersen, Universität Erfurt​ (kai.brodersen@uni-erfurt.de).
This collection combines a substantial introduction by the editor and twelve essays of varying length and depth by experts in ancient medicine who were invited to a conference in Columbia University in 2014. The book focuses on popular medicine which the editor defines as “those practices aimed at averting or remedying illness that are followed by people who do not claim expertise in learned medicine (Gk. iatrike) and do not surrender their entire physical health to professional physicians (Gk. iatroi).” The book argues that our knowledge about ancient healthcare is “severely unbalanced” as there are “large bodies of evidence that concern elite/learned/rationalistic medicine on the one hand and temple medicine on the other”, while “the evidence about popular medicine ... is scattered, refractory and elusive” (vii). The book aims to redress the balance, and certainly succeeds in making classicists and ancient historians more aware of the evidence, and the models used to interpret it, and thus to further our understanding of classical medicine in a wider sense.
Note in particular, Catherine Hezser: "Representations of the Physician in Jewish Literature from Hellenistic and Roman Times."

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More on the announced return of the Iraqi Jewish archive to Iraq

RESPONSES: 'Jewish documents should be given to Israel, not Iraq.' US government plans to return ancient Jewish documents to Iraq, Israeli forum asks they be transferred to Israel instead (Itamar Tzur, JTA via Arutz Sheva).
Rodriguez was asked how appropriate treatment of the archive will be ensured.

"When the IJA is returned, the State Department will urge the Iraqi government to take the proper steps necessary to preserve the archive, and to make it available to members of the public to enjoy," he said in the statement.

The archive is set to be exhibited at the Jewish Museum of Maryland Oct. 15-Jan. 15. The exhibit page says the items include a Hebrew Bible with commentaries from 1568, a Babylonian Talmud from 1793 and an 1815 version of the Zohar, a Jewish mystical text.

"At this point, we have no new information for you about additional venues," Miriam Kleiman, program director for public affairs at the National Archives, told JTA in an email on Friday.

Groups representing Jews from Iraq decried the return date.

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More on Kurshan, If All the Seas Were Ink

TALMUD WATCH: Bringing ‘Daf Yomi’ to Life. And Vice Versa. In her new memoir ‘If All the Seas Were Ink,’ Ilana Kurshan recounts her time in Israel—one page of Talmud at a time (Beth Kissileff, Tablet Magazine).
If All the Seas Were Ink started as a series of blog posts that Kurshan wrote about her studies, beginning with limericks on the text of the day. Kurshan has always learned by writing poems; in high school, she wrote poetry about math that was published in magazines for math teachers. “Things resonate in an uncanny way, in light of the Gemara,” she told me. For her, the pages of the Talmud “mark milestones in my kids’ lives,” she said. The first birthday of her twin daughters fell at the time she began writing the book, for instance. When one of her twins got teeth before her sister and would bite her repeatedly, Kurshan said, “I was in the midst of the Talmud’s discussion of the shor muad, the ox which is known to have gored at least three times, and which the rabbis of the Talmud invoke to refer to one of four general categories of damages.” This understated sense of humor, comparing a 1-year-old biter with a goring ox, is typical of Kurshan’s oeuvre.
I noted a review of the book here.

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

The afterlife of Deuteronomy's command to read the Torah in public

PROF. AARON DEMSKY: Historical Hakhel Ceremonies and the Origin of Public Torah Reading (TheTorah.com).
Deuteronomy’s mitzvah of publicly reading the Torah on Sukkot every seven years appears in various forms in stories about King Josiah, King Agrippa, and Ezra the Scribe. The latter’s innovative ceremony served as the model for what became synagogue Torah-reading.

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The whereabouts of the libraries of NT textual critics

THE ETC BLOG: Where are they now? New Testament text-critics’ libraries (Peter Gurry). In case you were wondering.

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Hurtado on the crucifixion gem

LARRY HURTADO: Gemstone Crucifixion Image: A Recent Study.
In a recent article, Roy Kotansky provides a fresh analysis of an ancient gemstone that that is regarded as giving one of the earliest visual depictions of the crucified Jesus: Roy Kotansky, “The Magic ‘Crucifixion Gem’ in the British Museum,” Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 57.3 (2017): 631-59 (the article available here). (There is an online image of the gemstone in question here.)

[...]
(Note: the last link is not working, at least at the moment.) Professor Hurtado likes the article, but offers some corrections.

I have posted on the crucifixion gem here and (noting Dr. Kotansky's article) here.

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On reading Josephus in Greek

THE LOGOS ACADEMIC BLOG: How to read Josephus in Greek like a boss (Daniel Stevens). There's lots of good advice in this post.

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Septuagint Studies Supervision (1)

WILLIAM ROSS: SUPERVISORS & PROGRAMS FOR SEPTUAGINT STUDIES – PART I. I am not a specialist in Septuagint studies but, like some on this list, I could (and would be happy to) supervise PhD students on related matters such as textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible.

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Women in 1 Cor 11:2-16

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
Women and Worship in Paul’s Churches: Apostles, Prophets, and Teachers

I have now lost count of the number of times that I have read the work of a scholar on the topic of women in Paul’s churches who tells me that they find it easy or hard to ‘imagine’ a particular scenario in the early church and thus to reconstruct a scenario that seems to the writer to be the most ‘plausible’ based on the evidence before us. I imagine that they are assuming that I too will find these scenarios easy to ‘imagine’ as well, but this is not always the case.

See Also: Women and Worship at Corinth (Cascade Books, 2015).

By Lucy Peppiatt
Principal
Westminster Theological Centre
Past posts dealing with 1 Corinthians 11, coming at the subject from a somewhat different angle, are here and here.

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Hurtado on Kirk on memory and the Historical Jesus

LARRY HURTADO: Review/Critique of Ehrman, Bauckham and Bird on Memory and Jesus.
A newly-published article gives an incisive discussion of recent publications by Bart Ehrman, Richard Bauckham, and Michael Bird on memory, tradition and the historical Jesus: Alan Kirk, “Ehrman, Bauckham and Bird on Memory and the Jesus Tradition,” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 15.1 (2017): 88-114.

[...]
A PaleoJudaica post that involves Richard Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses is here.

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Dabir 04

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: "Issue 04 of DABIR (Digital Archive of Brief notes & Iran Review).Issue 04 of Dabir, an open access on-line journal for Iranian Studies, is out now. Dabir is published by the Jordan Center for Persian Studies."

As usual, there is nothing specific about ancient Judaism in this issue, but there are articles of background interest on matters such as Sogdian, Avestan, and the history of the Achamenid empire.

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Friday, September 15, 2017

ZOA opposes return of Iraqi Jewish Archive to Iraq

THE ZIONIST ORGANIZATION OF AMERICA: ZOA Opposes Tillerson Decision to “Return” Jewish Artifacts to Iraq. The Jewish Press publishes a statement by ZOA president Morton A. Klein.

Background here, with many links going back to the recovery of the archive in 2003.

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Cartagena's Punic festival

PUNIC WATCH: ROMANS AND CARTHAGINIAN, 15 – 24 September 2017 in Cartagena, Spain. The annual Punic festival in Cartagena begins today. Background and past posts on it are here and links. And more recent posts involving Cartagena and its Punic history are here and here.

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Berman on Inconsistency in the Torah

JOSHUA A. BERMAN IS INTERVIEWED by Shmuel Rosner in the Jewish Journal about Dr. Berman's recent book, Inconsistency in the Torah: Ancient Literary Convention and the Limits of Source Criticism (OUP, 2017). There are three posts:

The Inconsistency in the Torah exchange, part 1: How do we make sense of the Torah’s many contradictions?

The Inconsistency in the Torah exchange, part 2: Between biblical criticism and religious belief

The Inconsistency in the Torah exchange, part 3: ‘The Torah is a minefield of culturally dependent literary phenomena’

I recently noted an essay by Dr. Berman about his book here.

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Review of Kurshan, If All the Seas Were Ink

TALMUD WATCH: Memoir Provides Engaging Look at Talmudic Text (Marissa Stern, The Jewish Exponent).
If All the Seas Were Ink

Ilana Kurshan

$26.99, hardcover

St. Martin’s Press

Can you imagine what you’ll be doing seven-and-a- half years from now?

When Ilana Kurshan was coming off of a painful divorce, living in Jerusalem — she’d moved there from New York with her then-husband — a friend suggested she take up daf yomi, a practice in which you read one page of Babylonian Talmud a day.

[...]
PaleoJudaica and its readers have been following Adam Kirsch's column on the Daf Yomi cycle for the last five years.

UPDATE: Bad link fixed and attributions now filled in correctly. Sorry for the glitches.

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Historical Dictionary of the Hebrew Language

AT THE ACADEMY OF THE HEBREW LANGUAGE IN ISRAEL: Epic quest to document 'miracle' of Hebrew language (Mike Smith, AFP/PhysOrg). I noted the project here back in 2012.

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The Decline of Aramaic

ARAMAIC WATCH: Decline of a Lingua Franca (John McWhorter, The Atlantic, rprt. AINA).
If a Middle Eastern man from 2,500 years ago found himself on his home territory in 2015, he would be shocked by the modern innovations, and not just electricity, airplanes, and iPhones. Arabic as an official language in over two dozen countries would also seem as counterintuitive to him as if people had suddenly started keeping aardvarks as pets.

In our time-traveler's era, after all, Arabic was an also-ran tongue spoken by obscure nomads. The probability that he even spoke it would be low. There were countless other languages in the Middle East in his time that he'd be more likely to know. His idea of a "proper" language would have been Aramaic, which ruled what he knew as the world and served, between 600 and 200 B.C., as the lingua franca from Greece and Egypt, across Mesopotamia and Persia, all the way through to India. Yet today the language of Jesus Christ is hardly spoken anywhere, and indeed is likely to be extinct within the next century. Young people learn it ever less. Only about half a million people now speak Aramaic--compared to, for example, the five and a half million people who speak Albanian.

How does a language go from being so big to being on the verge of dying out entirely?

[...]

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On the cessation of miracles and women wearing trousers

PROF. ADMIEL KOSMAN: From Theology to Comedy: The Story of R. Adda bar Ahavah and Matun (TheGemara.com).
A talmudic discussion about why God no longer makes miracles ends with a surprising comedy of errors. What message is the Talmud trying to convey? And how is this story used in a 20th century halakhic responsum about women’s pants?

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Postdoc at HMML

ACADEMIC JOB: Post-Doctoral Fellow in Eastern Christian & Islamic Manuscript Cataloging (posted by David M. Calabro at the Hugoye List).
The Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML) at Saint John's University invites applications for the full-time, benefit-eligible position of Post-Doctoral Fellow in Eastern Christian and Islamic Manuscript Cataloging. This position will provide vital support for HMML's efforts to catalog recently digitized Eastern Christian manuscripts. Under the guidance of the Lead Cataloger of Eastern Christian Manuscripts, the Cataloging Fellow will undertake original cataloging of digital surrogates at HMML as well as revision of existing cataloging.

This is a grant funded position through June 30, 2018.
The manuscripts are in Arabic, Garshuni (Arabic written in Syriac script), and possibly in Syriac. Follow the link for further particulars. There is no specific closing date, but don't dawdle.

For some background on HMML, see this post on an earlier postdoc there.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Review of DesRosiers and Vuong (eds.), Religious Competition in the Greco-Roman World

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Nathaniel DesRosiers, Lily C. Vuong (ed.), Religious Competition in the Greco-Roman World. Writings from the Greco-Roman world Supplement series, 10. Atlanta: SBL Press, 2016. Pp. xviii, 326. ISBN 9781628371369. $44.95 (pb). Reviewed by Allan T. Georgia, Shaker Heights, OH (allan.georgia@gmail.com)
Tracing the role that competition played in the religious cultures of the Greco-Roman world is an enormous task. In a second volume exploring this theme, Nathaniel P. DesRosiers and Lily C. Vuong have collected essays that make important inroads in how religious subjects (of various kinds) competed and were subject to contest in the late ancient Mediterranean world.1 The collection is organized around four broad themes, with short essays introducing each section that tie the essays together. The collection is impressive and wide-ranging, which is appropriate to its purpose. This volume collects essay from a range of religious traditions, times and places under a unifying focus on how these traditions reflect competition—a concept whose commonality belies its highly complex dimensionality.

[...]
Ancient Judaism receives at least a little attention in this volume.

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A legal analysis of the Golb-DSS impersonation case

SECOND CIRCUIT CRIMINAL LAW BLOG: Of Dead Sea Scrolls and Criminal Impersonation (Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP). Some might be interested in this detailed legal analysis of the Raphael Golb identity-theft case and its various appeals. The post concludes:
This decision is worth a read for those interested in a host of different subjects: the AEDPA, the constitutional limits of the New York forgery statute, and the controversy over the authorship of the Dead Sea Scrolls. From a legal perspective, the opinion of the Court may be most cited for its narrowing of the New York criminal forgery statute. As the Court noted, many people have used pseudonyms for legitimate purposes, and the Circuit’s decision makes clear that such use will not be punished with the criminal law. There must be more than intent to deceive; there must be intent to cheat, defraud, or deprive by deception. The absence of such intent in connection with some of the controversial emails at the heart of this appeal led to the reversal of certain counts of conviction.
Background here and many links.

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The backstory of the burials at Ofra

ARCHAEOLOGY, MEET POLITICS: A 2,000-year-old murder leads to an illicit burial in the heart of the West Bank. When archaeologists said 7 women and a youth found in caves were slain by Romans during the Great Revolt, settlers secretly stepped in to illegally pay their last respects (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
It was a secret, illegal burial, planned and carried out by a Jewish Temple Mount activist who decades ago sat in jail for planning to blow up the Dome of the Rock. But the story of the seven women and one youth who were buried in the Jewish settlement of Ofra on February 6, 2017, is even more dramatic.

[...]
Background here and here.

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More on the emblem of the State of Israel

POLITICS AND ICONOGRAPHY: The National Emblem Of Israel (Saul Jay Singer, The Jewish Press). Last year I noted an article that also covered the ancient iconographic background of Israel's national emblem, with particular reference to the Arch of Titus. This article covers much of the same ground, but has an additional observation worth flagging:
Because the ultimate design does not seem to reflect religious practice or belief – no verses from the Torah, no reference to the God of Israel – many argue that the secularists/socialists prevailed over the religious/observant. In fact, however, the national emblem reflects one of the great mystical visions of the Prophet Zechariah, and the graphic combination of the menorah and olive branches has its genesis in Zechariah 4:1-3:
And the angel that spoke with me returned, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep. And he said unto me: “What do you see?” And I said: “I have seen and, behold, a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and its seven lamps thereon; there are seven pipes, yes, seven, to the lamps, which are upon the top thereof, and two olive-trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.”
I don't know if that is right, but it sounds plausible.

For many past PaleoJudaica posts pertaining to the Arch of Titus, as well as to ancient menorahs and representations of menorahs, start here and follow the links.

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Talmud on capital punishment

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: On Capital Punishment. Talmudic rabbis pondered the most fundamental ethical questions—including the value of human life—in debating death sentences by hanging or stoning.
Over the last month, as this column has been on hiatus, Daf Yomi readers have explored some of the most dramatic and challenging material in the Talmud so far. That is because Chapters Four, Five, and Six of Tractate Sanhedrin focus on the most extreme punishment of which any legal system is capable: the death penalty. In setting out the justification, methods, and limits of capital punishment in Jewish law, the Rabbis find themselves facing some of the most fundamental ethical questions. What is a human life worth? What are our responsibilities to one another? Is it ever right to take satisfaction in the death of a fellow human being?
[...]
As Mr. Kirsch notes in the essay, the rabbinic discussions of capital punishment are entirely theoretical. Rabbinic courts did not have the authority to impose the death penalty.

Philologos has a recent essay on the saying "Whoever Saves a Life Saves the World," which I noted here. The phrase "from Israel" may be a secondary addition.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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

The Iraqi Jewish archive is set to go back to Iraq in 2018

STATE DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCEMENT: U.S to Return Jewish Artifacts to Iraq, Despite Protests. The trove includes books, religious texts, photographs and personal documents looted during Saddam Hussein's regime, and then found by U.S. troops in 2003. (JTA via Haaretz).
A trove of Iraqi Jewish artifacts that lawmakers and Jewish groups have lobbied to keep in the U.S. will be returned to Iraq next year, a State Department official said.

A four-year extension to keep the Iraqi Jewish Archive in the U.S. is set to expire in September 2018, as is funding for maintaining and transporting the items. The materials will then be sent back to Iraq, spokesman Pablo Rodriguez said in a statement sent to JTA on Thursday.

Rodriguez said the State Department “is keenly aware of the interest in the status” of the archive.

[...]
As the headline indicates, response to the decision has been mixed, but generally not very positive. I have expressed my own thoughts on the matter here and here and I have nothing to add.

We'll see what actually happens. It isn't over until it's over.

Further background on the story is here with links going back to the recovery of the archive in 2003.

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

The twelfth curse

RABBI UZI WEINGARTEN: “Cursed Is One Who Does Not Uphold the Words of This Torah”? (TheTorah.com).
The anomalous and paradoxical nature of the twelfth curse (Deuteronomy 27:26).
Rabbinic exegetes found the curse difficult, but the Apostle Paul put it to use for his own purposes.

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

Review of Hanan Eshel's collected essays

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Reading the Scrolls and Experiencing Qumran Archaeology with Hanan Eshel (Joshua Matson).
Hanan Eshel, Exploring the Dead Sea Scrolls: Archaeology and Literature of the Qumran Caves, edited by Barnea Selavan and Shani Tzoref. Journal of Ancient Judaism. Supplements, 18. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015.
The long, informative review concludes:
The volume itself is a testament to the legacy of Hanan Eshel in the field of Qumran studies and the history of the Qumran caves. Additionally, this volume serves as a gift from his closest friends and partners in scholarship to the world as a lens through which to view the history of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

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

Monday, September 11, 2017

A refugee camp on Masada?

ARCHAEOLOGY: EXCLUSIVE: New Archaeology Shows ‘Refugee Camp,’ Not Just Rebels, Atop Masada (Ilan Ben Zion, The Forward).
Tour guides leading thousands of visitors to Masada each year follow a similar routine: Where Roman troops breached the walls, they retell Josephus Flavius’s account of how a group of obsessive, fanatical Jewish rebels refused to concede to servitude or slaughter, and committed suicide instead.

For decades, archaeology at the site has been calling the story of the suicide, so central to Israel’s national myth, into question. Now new discoveries may force a revision of the notion that the group atop the fort was much more diverse than the heroic band of brigands celebrated by the cherished story.

“We’re actually excavating a refugee camp,” said Guy Stiebel, the archaeologist leading excavations carried out earlier this year by Tel Aviv University. Masada’s inhabitants during the seven years of the revolt were “a sort of microcosm of Judaea back then,” comprised of refugees from Jerusalem and across Judaea, including priests, members of the enigmatic monastic group from Qumran that wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, and at least one Samaritan.

[...]

Cutting edge archaeological techniques helped glean a more detailed picture of the past that would have been impossible during Yadin’s time. The picture emerging from these new data about Masada’s inhabitants is far more complex than previously assumed.

“It’s not one monolithic group,” Stiebel explained, describing the people living at Masada before its fall “very vibrant community of 50 shades of grey” of Judea.

“We have the opportunity to truly see the people, and this is very rare for an archaeologist,” he said. Among them are women and children, who are too often underrepresented in the archaeological record. Through archaeology, the study of the material culture found on Masada, architecture and a restudying of Josephus, he and his team can even pick out where different groups originated from before coming to Masada.

[...]
It sounds plausible that a range of refugees could have ended up seeking safety at Masada during and after the Great Revolt. The new and interesting thing about the current excavation is the use of sophisticated technology to squeeze vastly more information out of the material remains than was posssible in Yadin's day.

We will have to wait for the peer-review publications to find out exactly what the excavators have learned. It remains to be seen how much the new information will make us reconsider Josephus's account of the fall of Masada. It certainly was not without problems already.

The article also reports that some new Hebrew ostraca have been recovered.

For past posts on the history and archaeology of, and revisionist views on, Masada, start here and here and follow the links.

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

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

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Liv Ingeborg Lied, Hugo Lundhaug (ed.), Snapshots of Evolving Traditions: Jewish and Christian Manuscript Culture, Textual Fluidity, and New Philology. Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur 175. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2017. Pp. xviii, 366. ISBN 9783110344189. $137.99. Reviewed by Pieter W. van der Horst, Utrecht University (pwvdh@xs4all.nl).
The 13 essays in this volume aim to provide “a broad introductory exploration of the applicability of the perspective of New Philology to late-antique Christian and Jewish texts in their manuscript contexts” (vii). In the introductory chapter the editors clarify the idea of ‘New Philology’ by arguing that when scholars of early Christian and Jewish literature acknowledge the fact that our surviving textual witnesses constitute in fact only snapshots of a movie about a developing textual tradition and that such snapshots are not necessarily representative of the entire movie, “it is pertinent to approach the interpretation of these texts from a perspective inspired by New Philology, taking textual fluidity and manuscript culture fully into consideration” (1). This is meant as a corrective to the traditional approach in which manuscripts are used only, or mainly, in the service of the reconstruction of an Urtext and in which variant readings are regarded as ‘deviations’ from it. Manuscripts are rather testimonies to the ‘life’ of a text, and in most modern critical editions of ancient literature the text presented is usually “foreign to the pool of existing manuscripts and the texts presented there” (3). The ‘unruliness’ displayed by actual manuscripts is thus made invisible, much to the detriment of scholarship. Fluidity of the texts should not be regarded as textual ‘corruption’ because ‘living’ texts were altered in the course of transmission to suit new times and needs. By hiding variants in a critical apparatus one also hides the fact that in a manuscript culture texts are constantly in a process of change. “As an alternative way of dealing with medieval manuscript variance New Philology pinpoints the fact that a literary work does not exist independently of its material embodiment, and that this physical form is part of the meaning of the text” (6). A ‘finished’ text is an illusion, for the changes introduced to the text during its transmission are not corruptions but should be studied as important aspects of the life of the text.

[...]
I was pleased to see that the reviewer liked my essay on the Hekhalot literature, the last one in the volume.

Past posts on the book are here and links.

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

Exhausting guide to post-2002 DSS-like fragments

THE LYING PEN OF SCRIBES BLOG: Post-2002 Dead Sea Scrolls-like Fragments Online: A (Really Exhausting) Guide for the Perplexed (Årstein Justnes and Ludvik A. Kjeldsberg). Many PaleoJudaica posts are included.

HT the AWOL Blog. For more on the new Dead Sea Scrolls-like fragments, start here and follow the links.

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

Arch of Titus exhibition at YU

YESHIVA UNIVERSITY: The Arch of Titus – from Jerusalem to Rome, and Back.September 14, 2017 - January 14, 2018. Popper Gallery. Presented in partnership with the Yeshiva University Center for Israel Studies .
The Arch of Titus has undergone many physical changes over the course of its long history. Featured in the exhibition is a life-size carved replica of the existing Spoils of Jerusalem relief panel from the interior passageway of the Arch, based on three-dimensional and polychrome scanning conducted under the direction of Yeshiva University’s Arch of Titus Project in 2012. (The replica and projected reconstruction have been developed and produced by VIZIN: The Institute for the Visualization of History together with Neathawk Designs, of Williamstown, MA.)

Stretching from the Roman era to the present, The Arch of Titus – from Jerusalem to Rome, and Back explores the image and symbolism of the Arch from various vantage points – from emperors and popes to Jews and Christians, who re-interpreted the meaning of the Arch in modern times. Rare artifacts from collections in Italy, Israel and the United States illuminate the monument’s vibrant history, as the Arch itself went from monumentalizing victory to falling into ruination and, eventually, to being restored in the modern era.

An international conference presented in partnership with the Yeshiva University Center for Israel Studies will take place on October 29, 2017.
HT the Bible Places Blog. For more on the research behind this exhibition, see here and links.

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Externally verified persons in the NT

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: New Testament Political Figures: The Evidence. A web-exclusive supplement to Lawrence Mykytiuk's BAR article identifying real New Testament political figures. There are 23 externally verified political figures on this list, to go with Dr. Mykytiuk's 53 epigraphically verified persons in the Hebrew Bible.

You need a paid subscription to read the BAR article, but this supplement is quite thorough.

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

Christian Apocrypha at SBL

APOCRYPHICITY BLOG: Christian Apocrypha at SBL 2017. Tony Burke gives us a preview.

Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch.

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

John the Baptist and Luke-Acts

THE BIBLE PLACES BLOG: Luke & Acts (8): John the Baptist (Michael J. Caba). This continues the series that was formerly called "Historical Reliability of Luke-Acts."

Past PaleoJudaica posts on Machaerus are here and links. For a skeptical response to the claim that the bones of John the Baptist are in Bulgaria, see here.

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

Jechoniah’s uncle

ETC BLOG: Jechoniah’s Uncle and the Text of 2 Chron 36.10 (Peter Gurry). The discussion continues in the comments. I agree with John Meade that "brother," the more difficult reading of the Masoretic Text, is the more original reading.

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

Saturday, September 09, 2017

On the DSS at 70

ANNIVERSARY ARTICLE: How the Dead Sea Scroll Discovery Changed Christianity (Andrew Perrin, Relevant Magazine).
2017 marks the 70th anniversary of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Long story short, in late 1947 a young Bedouin boy tossed a stone into a cave, heard the clink of breaking pottery, and would later scramble in to find the tattered remains of ancient scrolls from the centuries leading up to and after the Common Era. By 1955, 11 caves off the northwest shores of the Dead Sea offered up fragments of nearly a thousand scrolls inscribed with content of ancient Jewish texts and copies of nearly every book of the Old Testament. Seventy years on, we’ve learned a lot about these accidental yet incredible finds. However, in many ways we’re just starting to understand their original contexts and contemporary impact.

[...]

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

Hjelm and Thompson (eds.), History, Archaeology and the Bible Forty Years After “Historicity”

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Ingrid Hjelm, Thomas L. Thompson (ed.), History, Archaeology and the Bible Forty Years After “Historicity.” Changing Perspectives, 6. Copenhagen International Seminar. London; New York: Routledge, 2016. Pp. xvi, 229. ISBN 9781138889514. $140.00. Reviewed by Laura Quick, Princeton University (lquick@princeton.edu).
The editors recall in their introduction the state of the field in biblical criticism prior to the publication of the studies of Thompson and van Seters, tracing some of the key publications from the pre-1970s landscape of biblical archaeology and concluding that these past studies had essentially accepted the historical construct of the biblical narrative in their reconstruction of ancient Israelite “history.” Into this landscape, scholars such as Thompson and van Seters radically reframed the way in which the Bible could be used in confrontation with the archaeological and extra-biblical data. Writing in 1974, Thompson broke with theory that linked the patriarchal narratives to the lived experience of the Bronze Age. Confirming Thompson’s conclusions, in the following year van Seters extended this critique, arguing that these narratives actually reflect a context in the Iron Age, and not the Bronze. Thereafter scholars felt increasingly able to disconnect their historical reconstructions of ancient Israel and Judah’s past from a biblically oriented narrative, turning instead to evidence gleaned from archaeological findings, as well as ancient Near Eastern texts, and the “Copenhagen School” was born. In this volume, a number of scholars map some consequences of this development as well as possible avenues of future research. Some of the highlights of these contributions are detailed below.

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The rabbis made observance of Firstfruits more inclusive

RABBI YOSEIF BLOCH: Bikkurim: How the Rabbis Made a Mitzvah for Male Landowners More Inclusive (TheTorah.com).
Deuteronomy directs male landowners to bring the first fruits and recite a declaration. The Rabbis distinguish between the two parts of this commandment, including everyone in the bringing of the produce and excluding Levites, converts, and women only from the declarations. Eventually, even this exclusion largely falls by the wayside.

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More on the Great Revolt victims buried at Ofra

LEEN RITMEYER: Victims of Great Revolt against the Romans laid to rest in Ofra. Dr. Ritymeyer has a photo and drawings of, and details about, the cave in which they were found.

Background here.

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

Friday, September 08, 2017

Coloring the Arch of Titus

RECONSTRUCTION: Archaeologists Reconstruct How the Arch of Titus Looked – in Full Color. When built, the Arch was not a majestic white stone testimony to Rome crushing the Jews, it was a brightly colored monument aggrandizing Vespasian and his dynasty (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz).
Now Professor Steven Fine of Yeshiva University and his team have "colorized" the Arch of Titus in Rome, based on the discovery that the menorah depicted on the panel showing Roman soldiers parading with treasures looted from the Second Temple in Jerusalem had been painted yellow.

It is absurd to think that the triumphant Romans colored only the menorah, especially as we are realizing they painted everything. The whole Arch was probably a blaze of color that would have complied with the aesthetics of the time, but would make westerners today shudder.

[...]

Their reconstruction is theoretical, but is based on common sense and standard Roman iconography, and also the belief that the Romans had a very limited palette. For instance blue was a tough color to synthesize until the 19th century: "They had to use costly lapis lazuli, which decomposes quickly."

Initially they imagined the Roman soldiers shouldering the Temple spoils walking on green grass, but experts on Roman statuary counseled them to use basalt gray. They could surmise that the trumpets had been colored silver (the historian Josephus says as much) and that the background sky was blue, that leaves were green, and so on.  "Our colors are really bright because it's the day they were painted. We took the tone from the yellow and did it across the board," Fine says.
For past posts on the Arch of Titus, including the discovery of yellow pigment on it in 2012 and the follow-up leading to this reconstruction of the Arch, see here and here and follow the links.

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

Great Revolt casualties buried at last

ARCHAEOLOGY: Victims of Great Revolt brought to rest in Ofra. Remains of Jews who perished in the Great Revolt against the Romans and were discovered in Binyamin secretly buried in Ofra (Arutz Sheva).
The bones of Jews who perished in the Great Revolt by Jews against the Roman Empire, and which were discovered at an archaeological site near the community of Givat Assaf in the Binyamin region, were recently brought to burial secretly in Ofra.

The remains were discovered in 2013 at the archaeological site, which is a Jewish village from the time of the Second Temple. Mikvahs, coins from the time of the Great Revolt and vessels made out of stone were discovered at the site.

[...]
The bones were discovered in a cave, so this seems to be the first time these people were buried.

UPDATE (9 September): More here.

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

The final fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE

JIM WEST: On This Day, in the Year 70 CE, in Jerusalem. Courtesy of Julius Wellhausen. The final defenses in the upper city of Jerusalem fell, probably, on 7 September 70. For more details, see this 2012 Haaretz article: This Day in Jewish History 70 C.E.: The Roman Siege of Jerusalem Ends (David B. Green).

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

The Purple Parchment Eater

MATERIAL (BACTERIAL) CULTURE: Secret Vatican Manuscript's Mysterious Purple Spots Decoded (Stephanie Pappas, Live Science).
But when they took into account how skin scrolls were made, the discovery made sense, Migliore said. The first step after removing the hide from an animal was to bathe the skin in a sea-salt bath to help preserve it, she said. This bath would have killed off most microbes that eat away at flesh — but it also introduced salt-loving and salt-tolerant marine bacteria. These little microbes huddled in the middle layers of the parchment, where the salinity was just right. When the scroll was read and stored at various monasteries throughout its lifetime, changes in temperature and humidity would have allowed the salt-loving bacteria to grow and thrive. Many of these species produce purple pigments, Migliore noted.

Eventually, though, those salt eaters would have seen their supply run out and died off. Their corpses, Migliore said, provided a whole new source of food for the next phase of bacterial colonization. The Gammaproteobacteria moved in and ate not only the dead halophilic bacteria but also the fine collagen matrix of the goatskin parchment. This caused parts of the parchment to flake off, lost forever.

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Thursday, September 07, 2017

Friedman on the Exodus and the Levites

THE ASOR BLOG: The Exodus in Archaeology and Text. Professor Richard Elliott Friedman gives us a preview of his arguments in his new book, The Exodus. Excerpt:
The starting-point, widely recognized, is that there were Western Asiatic people in Egypt. Call them: Asiatics, Semites, Canaanites, Levantine peoples. These aliens were there, for centuries, and they were coming and going all along, just not in millions at a time.

The second step was to identify a group among these as the Levites. They are the ones in Israel with Egyptian names, the ones who foster circumcision, a known practice in Egypt, the ones with connections to Egyptian material culture: a Tabernacle that has parallels with the battle tent of Rameses II, an ark that has parallels with Egyptian barks.
Background here.

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More problems with the new, supposed DSS fragments?

THE LYING PEN OF SCRIBES BLOG: The Museum of the Bible DSS-like Frgs: Written by “the Worn Nibs and Equal Thickness of Strokes Scribal School”? ;- (Årstein Justnes). I take it that Professor Justnes finds this pattern implausible for genuine scroll fragments, although he does not say this directly.

Related posts on the new "DSS-like" fragments are here and links.

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

Deuteronomy on remarrying your ex-wife

DR. EVE LEVAVI FEINSTEIN: Remarrying Your Ex-Wife (TheTorah.com).
Why can’t a man remarry his wife once she has been married to someone else?
A survey of the history of interpretation, with a new explanation. It sounds possible to me.

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

Brady at the University of Kentucky

INTERVIEW: Get to Know Christian Brady, Inaugural Dean of the Lewis Honors College (Tim Tracy, University of Kentucky News). Targumist Chris Brady recently made a move to the University of Kentucky. His work has been mentioned from time to time on PaleoJudaica. (See here and links.) This interview tells us some more about his new job and gives and overview of his academic work.
This semester, the head of one of the most highly regarded honors programs in the country joined the UK family as the inaugural dean of the UK 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.

[...]

What is your academic background? I am particularly interested in how people read and interpret the Bible throughout all ages and in all cultures. My primary area of research is in biblical interpretation, specifically rabbinic interpretation of the Bible within Targumic literature. A “Targum” refers to the Jewish Aramaic rendering of the Hebrew Bible; it is a unique sort of translation. A Targum renders into Aramaic every word of the biblical text in its proper order, but often will add additional material, woven seamlessly into the newly formed text. My particular area of interest is how this additional material transforms the meaning of the biblical text in question.

[...]

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

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Pliny the Elder's skull?

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Pompeii Hero Pliny the Elder May Have Been Found 2,000 Years Later. Pliny the Elder sailed into danger when Vesuvius erupted, and never returned, but a body found a century ago 'covered in jewelry like a cabaret ballerina' may really have been his (Ariel David, Haaretz).
Italian scientists are a few thousand euros and a test tube away from conclusively identifying the body of Pliny the Elder, the Roman polymath, writer and military leader who launched a naval rescue operation to save the people of Pompeii from the deadly eruption of Mt. Vesuvius 2,000 years ago.

If successful, the effort would mark the first positive identification of the remains of a high-ranking figure from ancient Rome, highlighting the work of a man who lost his life while leading history's first large-scale rescue operation, and who also wrote one of the world's earliest encyclopedias.

[...]
This sounds crazy, but it could just work. The body was found at the right place and the man died during the eruption of Vesuvius. The gold jewelry he was wearing is consistent with Pliny's status. And the new technology could identify down where he grew up.

This old PaleoJudaica post summarizes the story of Pliny's last hours, based on the account written by his nephew, Pliny the Younger. I have a link there to the letter itself. And having re-read it, I see a few problems. The nephew says of his uncle:
When daylight came again 2 days after he died, his body was found untouched, unharmed, in the clothing that he had had on. He looked more asleep than dead.
Pliny's body was not buried in ash. It was found untouched. But it sounds as though the mystery body was buried in ash:
In the first years of the 20th century, amid a flurry of digs to uncover Pompeii and other sites preserved by the layers of volcanic ash that covered them, an engineer called Gennaro Matrone uncovered some 70 skeletons near the coast at Stabiae. One of the bodies carried a golden triple necklace chain, golden bracelets and a short sword decorated with ivory and seashells.
I would like to know more about the recovery of these skeletons. Presumably Pliny's body was buried after it was found. Possibly this would have been in a mass grave. There were many dead and they would have to have been interred rapidly to prevent the spread of disease. But I would think that the people who knew him would have kept his jewelry and sword to give back to his family.

So it doesn't initially sound very likely that the mystery body is Pliny's.

This is all speculation, and I don't want to draw any conclusions on the basis of a popular article in a newspaper. But those are some apparent inconsistencies that need to be addressed.

On another note, if you read to the end of the article, you'll see that the guy who said "Fortune favors the bold" got himself killed shortly afterward. That's the bad news. The good news is that his rescue expedition may have saved a couple thousand people who would have died if he had turned back. Do your own cost-benefit analysis, but it's worth remembering the context when you quote that saying.

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

Sunderman memorial volume on the Turfan manuscripts (etc.)

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Iranian, Manichaean and Central Asian Studies in Memoriam Sundermann. Notice of a new book: Einem Team „Turfanforschung“. 2017. Zur lichten Heimat. Studien zu Manichäismus, Iranistik und Zentralasienkunde im Gedenken an Werner Sundermann. (Iranica 25). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag. Despite the title, most of the chapters are in English.

PaleoJudaica has some interest in the Middle Iranian fragments discovered at Turfan, mostly because they included material from the Book of Giants. Matthew Goff has an article on the subject in this book.

Past posts on the fragments of the Book of Giants from Turfan are here and links. And other past posts on Turfan are here and here and links.

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

The Exodus as history?

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
The Exodus: History Recaptured

I believe we can get at what probably took place in Egypt over three millennia ago. That would be a lot. But we have much more. We have evidence that without the historical anchor of the exodus, we would not have had the rise of the idea of monotheism. And without the experience of that returning group from Egypt, we might not have had the ethic of caring for the stranger. Monotheism and loving others as ourselves—two radical developments, major developments, in human consciousness became embodied in the heart of Western religion.

Chapter from: The Exodus (HarperOne, 2017).

By Richard Elliott Friedman
Ann & Jay Davis Professor of Jewish Studies
University of Georgia
September 2017
Professor Friedman appears to be swimming against the tide on this one. But tides do turn ...

The chapter is the first chapter of the book, which sets the stage for what is to come. I don't know what that is. You would have to buy the book to find out.

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The logion of John Wayne the Centurion

THE NT BLOG: "Say it with awe!" The Apocryphal John Wayne . Mark Goodacre tracks down the true story behind a famous New Testament (movie) apocryphon.

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

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Northern refugees in Iron Age Judah?

EPIGRAPHY AND POLITICS: Jerusalem welcomed Jewish refugees 2,700 years ago, new finds show. A trove of clay imprints from official documents indicates that after the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel, refugees fled to the Kingdom of Judah, where they rose in the ranks (, Times of Israel).
Millennia ago, Jerusalem may have opened its doors to thousands of refugees from the north of the country. A new cache of First Temple bullae (sealings) discovered in an excavation at Jerusalem’s City of David shows a mixture of names from the Kingdom of Israel and Judah used on official bureaucratic correspondence dating from after the fall of Israel at the hands of the Assyrians in 720 BCE.

The dozens of clay imprints were used on letters and documents which were bound by string and sealed by wet clay pressed with the sender’s mark or name. The impressive trove was discovered at recent digs uncovering three Late Iron Age buildings frozen in time by the destruction caused by the 586 BCE Babylonian siege. The discovery was made by a team of Israel Antiquity Authority archaeologists led by co-directors Dr. Joe Uziel and Ortal Chalaf.

Among the dozens of bullae is a rare find of an intact sealing, bearing the name “Ahiav ben (son of) Menahem,” referring to two kings of Israel but found in the capital of the Kingdom of Judah, Jerusalem.

[...]
The reasoning here more or less accurately reflects the IAA press release, which you can read here. But I do not find it compelling. They found several names that are found in the Bible only as names of northerners. But I don't think we know enough about the Israelite and Judean onomasticon (range of names) to rule out that southerners also bore them.

It seems likely enough that Judah accepted refugees from Israel after the fall of the Northern Kingdom. These bullae may reflect that, but I don't think we can be sure that they do.

The third paragraph could be phrased more clearly. Two kings of Israel did have these names, sort of, but the person named on the bullae was not one of these kings, or indeed any king.

Backgeound on the upcoming exhibition of these bullae is here.

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Empirical models and inconsistency in the Torah

SOURCE CRITICISM: The Challenge to Diachronic Method From Empirical Models of Ancient Writing.
In looking beyond the Hebrew scriptures to the epigraphic corpus of the ancient Near East, we multiply the data from which to adduce theories of textual development. When biblicists hypothesize theories of textual development, they do so situated in a distinctly modern textual culture and are prone to project anachronistic attitudes and practices upon cultures at a great distance in time and place. Empirical models offer us methodological control as we observe how ancient scribes more closely contemporaneous with the scribes of Israel edited and expanded cherished texts across the centuries.


See Also: Inconsistency in the Torah: Ancient Literary Convention and the Limits of Source Criticism (Oxford University Press, 2017)

Ebook: https://www.amazon.com/Inconsistency-Torah-Literary-Convention-Criticism-ebook/dp/B071G8HM2W/ref=mt_kindle?_encoding=UTF8&me=

By Joshua Berman
Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible
Bar-Ilan University
August 2017
The new book sounds interesting, as do the ideas summarized in the essay. But the use of "empirical models" to study biblical source criticism isn't all that new. The phrase comes from the book Empirical Models for Biblical Criticism, edited by Jeffrey Tigay in 1985. (A reprint by Wipf and Stock is available here). And that book was influenced by Tigay's 1982 monograph, The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic. The 1985 collection really belongs in the bibliography of this essay.

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Barry Holtz on "Rabbi Akiva"

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: In New Book, JTS Professor Traces His ‘Cultural Footprints From The Rabbinic Past.’ Barry Holtz pieces together an “imagined biography” about Rabbi Akiva, the much-admired rabbinic figure (SANDEE BRAWARSKY, Times of Israel).
Holtz has written what he calls an “imagined biography” about the much-admired rabbinic figure born around 50 CE. “Rabbi Akiva: Sage of the Talmud” is a compelling new volume in Yale University Press’ “Jewish Lives” series. While Akiva’s name is mentioned 1,341 times in the Babylonian Talmud, he is a “man without a past.” What exists are stories — literary anecdotes about his life, parallel retellings that are not identical, lessons inferred from his actions, drawn from the Mishnah, Tosefta, the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds and midrashim — all “internal” sources of Judaism. Understanding that these stories can’t be read as factual accounts, Holtz parses them, often in various versions, to tease out the culture, values and religious teachings embedded within. Amidst the challenges, he manages to capture Akiva’s distinctive voice.
For past PaleoJudaica posts on the book, see here and links.

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Deuteronomy and homosexuality

DR. HACHAM ISAAC SAASOON: What Does Deuteronomy Say about Homosexuality? (TheTorah.com).
“Let there be no kadesh among the sons of Israel. You shall not bring the fee of a harlot or the pay of a kelev (dog?) into the house of YHWH” (Deut 23:18-19).
It is not certain that this passage refers to homosexual prostitution. But if it does, Dr. Saassoon draws out some significant implications.

Past PaleoJudaica posts on homosexuality in the Hebrew Bible and ancient Judaism are here and links.

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Monday, September 04, 2017

Exhibition of inscribed bullae in Jerusalem

EPIGRAPHY: New Archaeology Exhibition: Ancient Bureaucracy and Clerks From Israel’s Past. A collection of seals (bullae) from the late First Temple period, discovered in the City of David excavations, shed light on the bureaucracy and officials of ancient Jerusalem (Hana Levi Julian, The Jewish Press). There are a lot of unprovenanced inscribed bullae whose authenticity is doubtful. But it sounds as though all the ones in this exhibition were excavated by archaeologists. In that case, they are genuine.

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When does Deuteronomy let you eat from your neighbor's field?

PROF. SHAYE J.D. COHEN: Permission to Eat from Your Neighbor’s Field? (TheTorah.com).
Parashat Ki Tetze (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19) contains more commandments than any other parashah. According to one mitzvah tabulator,[1] the count is 27 positive mitzvot (“thou shalts”) and 47 prohibitions (“thou shalt nots”). The commandments are simply listed, one after another, with little or no thematic or verbal connection between them.[2] Without contextual clues how to interpret the law, we are left with just the plain text whose meaning is often elusive.

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Professorship in ancient Judaism at UC San Diego

ACADEMIC POST: Associate or Full Professor sought for Endowed Chair in Studies in Ancient Jewish Civilizations at UC/San Diego (The advert is posted by the International Catacomb Society.)
The Department of History (http://history.ucsd.edu) at UC San Diego is pleased to announce a search for the Endowed Chair in Studies in Ancient Jewish Civilizations and concurrent tenured appointment at the full or associate professor level in the Department of History. Scholars whose research focuses on the Second Temple period, the Rabbinic period, and Jewish interactions with the Hellenic world are particularly encouraged to apply. Income derived from the Chair’s endowment will be available for the support of research and related scholarly and teaching activities. The successful candidate will join UC San Diego’s cohort of Endowed Chairs specializing in Greek History and Jewish Studies and will help enhance the department’s gathering strength in the History of the Ancient Mediterranean. The successful candidate for this tenured position must have a Ph.D. in History or a related field at the time of appointment on July 1, 2018.
Follow the link for further particulars. The deadline for first consideration of applications is 1 November 2017.

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August 2017 Biblical Studies Carnival

THE EIS DOXAN BLOG: Biblical Studies Carnival (Jason Gardner).

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

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Orlov, Yahoel and Metatron

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: ANDREI A. ORLOV, Yahoel and Metatron. Aural Apocalypticism and the Origins of Early Jewish Mysticism. 2017. XII, 238 pages. Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 169. 114,00 €, cloth, ISBN 978-3-16-155447-6.
Published in English.
In this work, Andrei A. Orlov examines the apocalyptic profile of the angel Yahoel as the mediator of the divine Name, demonstrating its formative influence not only on rabbinic and Hekhalot beliefs concerning the supreme angel Metatron, but also on the unique aural ideology of early Jewish mystical accounts.

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Numerology of the ages of the patriarchs

IS THAT IN THE BIBLE? Some Curious Numerical Facts about the Ages of the Patriarchs. Paul Davidson makes a thought-provoking case that the Masoretic Text adjusted the length of the patriarchal period in Genesis to make the total a number that had eschatological significance.

I don't know if he's right or not, but assuming he is, it makes me want to ask the next question: Why did they do that?

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The Tower of Babel in LXX Isaiah?

SEPTUAGINT STUDIES BLOG: Inner-Biblical Exegesis between Old Greek Isaiah 9:9 and Genesis 11:3–4? (JOHN MEADE).
The Old Greek (OG) translators are often times (mis)understood to be mechanical in their approach to translating the Hebrew Text (HT), often pictured as giving a plain, or even rigid, word for word rendering of their Hebrew source. Of course this description is closer to the mark when describing Song of Songs or Ecclesiastes or even Numbers etc. But not all translators went about their task in this way. Some of them wove deliberate interpretation or exegesis into their translations (of course all translations are interpretations to a degree so that we should think about translations on a continuum from less to more interpretation). The Isaiah (image: Codex Marchalianus) translator is an example of a more interpretive translator, and I was struck by what appears to be a beautiful example of his technique in 9:9.

[...]

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Parry et al. (eds.), The Prophetic Voice at Qumran

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL: The Prophetic Voice at Qumran. The Leonardo Museum Conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls, 11–12 April 2014. Edited by Donald W. Parry, Brigham Young University; Stephen D. Ricks, Brigham Young University and Andrew C. Skinner, Brigham Young University.
Contrary to the generally held view, the Second Temple Era was not a time of prophetic dormancy, but of genuine activity, though of a different character than that of the pre-exilic age. The conference on The Prophetic Voice at Qumran, held 11–12 April 2014 at the Leonardo Museum in Salt Lake City, provided a venue for lively discussions of many of the issues connected with the question of prophecy and prophetic writings in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Second Temple texts. Three of the scholars—Emanuel Tov, Eugene Ulrich, and James C. VanderKam—were featured as keynote speakers, and an even dozen scholars made presentations at the conference, of which nine are published in the present volume.

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Saturday, September 02, 2017

Dimant, From Enoch to Tobit

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: DEVORAH DIMANT, From Enoch to Tobit. Collected Studies in Ancient Jewish Literature. 2017. XVI, 367 pages. Forschungen zum Alten Testament 114. 139,00 €, cloth, ISBN 978-3-16-154288-6.
Published in English.
The studies by Devorah Dimant collected in this volume survey and analyze Jewish works composed in Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek during the Second Temple period, and discuss their contents, ideas and connections to the Dead Sea Scrolls. Together they offer a broad and fresh perspective of the Jewish literary scene at this period, developed in the land of Israel in the last centuries BCE and the first century CE.
An earlier volume of Professor Dimant's collected studies was noted here a few years ago. And a recent essay by her on Tobit was noted here.

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Biography of James Rendel Harris

NEW BOOK FROM BLOOMSBURY/T&T CLARK:
Daily Discoveries of a Bible Scholar and Manuscript Hunter
By: Alessandro Falcetta


Published: 08-03-2018
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 624
ISBN: 9780567674180
Imprint: Bloomsbury T&T Clark
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
RRP: £130.00
Online price: £117.00
Save £13.00 (10%)

About Daily Discoveries of a Bible Scholar and Manuscript Hunter
This is the first full biography of James Rendel Harris (1852-1941), Bible and patristic scholar, manuscript collector, Quaker theologian, devotional writer, traveler, folklorist, and relief worker. Drawing on published and unpublished sources gathered in the States, Europe, and the Middle East, many of which were previously unknown, Alessandro Falcetta tells the story of Harris's life and works set against the background of the cultural and political life of contemporary Britain. Falcetta traces the development of Harris's career from Cambridge to Birmingham, the story of his seven journeys to the Middle East, and of his many campaigns, from religious freedom to conscientious objection.

The book focuses upon Harris's innovative contributions in the field of textual and literary criticism, on the acquisitions of hundreds of manuscripts from the Middle East, on his discoveries of early Christian works, in particular the Odes of Solomon, on his Quakers beliefs and on his studies in the cult of twins. His enormous output and extensive correspondence reveal an indefatigable genius in close contact with the most famous scholars of his time, from Hort to Harnack, Nestle, the 'Sisters of Sinai', and Frazer.
HT Facebook and Amy Anderson at the ETC Blog.

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Hurtado test-drives the Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek

LARRY HURTADO: The New Brill Greek-English Lexicon Test-driven.
But for serious exegesis, you need also to take account of how a word is used in the larger Greco-Roman environment of the NT. This is especially so for infrequently used words in the NT. And for this now, I judge this Brill lexicon to be the superior choice. I’ve used it now a number of times over the past several months in specific searches, and have been pleased with the results. ..
Past posts on The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek are here and here.

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