Saturday, March 11, 2017

Purim 2017

HAPPY PURIM to all those celebrating! The festival begins tonight at sundown.

Some recent posts on Purim are here, here, here, here, and here. Last year's Purim post is here and it leads to previous posts on the subject.

The Jordan Department of Antiquities disavows the lead codices

FAKE METAL CODICES WATCH: Antiquities agency chief says Jordan Codices fake. Jamhawi accuses British researcher of disseminating false information (Jordan Times).
AMMAN — The Department of Antiquities (DoA) on Thursday announced that the lead codices it seized with the help of security authorities around seven years ago have not been proven to be authentic so far, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

DoA Director General Monther Jamhawi said that a national team of researchers and specialists scanned the area of the alleged cave where the codices were allegedly found but did not find any relevance between the codices and the cave, particularly as no cavities in the cave’s walls were found.

The department described the findings of British scientist David Elkington as baseless, stressing that the cave was not found and the pictures he has have nothing to do with the cave that was visited, which indicates that his insistence on the originality of the codices is groundless and not credible.
This is the first time I recall seeing any comment from the Jordan Department of Antiquities on what they found when they explored the cave where the lead codices were supposed to have been found. According to this report they found no connection with the codices and they do not consider a case to have been made for their authenticity. The article continues:
Jamhawi said that modern technology can be used to create confusion since it can use old materials and draw on it to make almost unrecognisable fake antiquities.

Thus, the DoA said all the talk in Elkington's recent lectures on the issue is not accurate or objective, Jamhawi said, noting that the scientist’s visit to Jordan and addressing the issue without permission is "a clear violation" of regulations.

The DoA chief called for taking information from authorities, noting that the DoA would inform the public of solid data about their national heritage as long as they were proven authentic.
So, according to this article, Mr. Elkington's current visit to Jordan is unwelcome to the Department of Antiquities. Mr. Elkington continues to make claims such as the following:
"The Jordan Codices are the earliest Christian documents ever discovered, dating back to the time when Jesus Christ was still alive in 30AD; whereas the Dead Sea Scrolls date back to 75AD," according to a video published on the "Jordan Heritage" Facebook page and shared by Elkington's official page "Jordan Codices".
This is a good opportunity to sum up my current views concerning the Jordanian lead codices. The following are my own opinions. I speak here as an internationally respected specialist in ancient Judaism and related matters who has worked for many years with ancient texts, ancient manuscripts, and ancient inscriptions, and who has edited and published some of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

First, all the photographs and descriptions I have seen of the codices so far point in the same direction. The codices look like clumsy modern attempts to create ancient-looking objects. Here, briefly, are some of the main reasons. Both the lead and copper codices quote a nonsensically out-of-context line from a second-century-CE tomb inscription that has been in a Jordanian museum since the twentieth century. And the codices make considerable use of motifs that were clearly lifted from ancient coins whose dates range over a period of centuries. The natural conclusion is that these codices are modern forgeries, because a clumsy modern forger would have found museum inscriptions and ancient coins as ready sources to use (ineptly). But an ancient person would have had many other resources for crafting artifacts. And imagine the many ancient stone epitaphs in the region that perished in the desert winds, while against all odds the one quoted so oddly in the codices survived, badly abraded but still readable. Were we really that lucky, or did someone copy from it in the museum?

(I acknowledge, though, that these codices could just conceivably be modern productions without being intentionally deceptive forgeries.)

Second, the materials tests that have been done on the codices — including the latest round of tests done at the University of Surrey in 2016 — are interesting and potentially could point to there being more to the codices than first meets the eye. But all we have are second-hand reports about the tests. No lab reports have been released. The information that has been made public is far from compelling. The tests on the lead have produced results consistent with it being ancient (mostly), but also medieval and modern. All three. That is unhelpful.

I am not an expert in this area, but that is why I want the lab reports to be released. I want to see what uninvolved experts (metallurgists) say about them. As things stand now, I can only say that the materials tests are inconclusive.

Third, for some years the scholars at the Centre for the Study of the Jordanian Lead Books have been studying such information as they have on the codices, which seems to be considerable. They all seem to agree that there is more to the codices than being modern forgeries. That said, there doesn't seem to be any great agreement as to what the "more" consists of. Some of the codices may be ancient or medieval productions, or even modern Kabbalistic ritual art. Or something.

I know some of the people on the evaluation panel very well and I respect their opinions. If they think there is more to the story, I am certainly prepared to look at their case and to rethink my position accordingly. If there is important unpublished information, I want it to be made public. Dr. Samuel Zinner is reportedly working on a monograph on the codices and I look forward to reading it when it is available. But for now I am going to believe my own lying eyes, which tell me the objects I am acquainted with so far are clumsy modern productions.

Fourth, there is the matter of Mr. David Elkington, who has been involved in the story from early on. Mr. Elkington freely acknowledges that he does not have specialist training in areas relevant to the scholarly evaluation of the codices. He presents himself as one giving an overview of the work of specialists. Fine. But what are we to make of his historical claims about the codices in his current lecture tour in Jordan (see the quote above etc.)? They certainly sound fanciful (cf. here), and they do not come across as well informed. Case in point: notice that the Dead Sea Scrolls were all written before 75 C.E., and many of them were produced generations before the time of Jesus. That's quite an error.

And whose scholarly work is he presenting an overview of? The Lead Books Centre has disavowed (scroll down) any connection with him. Now Jordan's Department of Antiquities is reported to have done the same. Unless Mr. Elkington can produce specialists who support his claims, it is very difficult to take them seriously.

At present, no one is much interested in the codices. It is true that Mr. Elkington has mustered a blip of attention in Jordan, but the statement of the Jordan Department of Antiquities is likely to put an end to that pretty quickly. The evidence that is currently available is unconvincing, as per my first point above. And the metals tests do not do much to change that, as per my second point.

As things stand, I fear that Mr. Elkington is doomed to fade into irrelevance, while the specialists at the Lead Book Centre do the best they can with what they have. But it need not be that way. There is a mystery story here and he still has a role to play in it. If he wishes to make a real contribution to the study of the Jordan lead codices, the most constructive thing he can do is make public his full, and apparently substantial, archive of photographs of them. This can be done easily and inexpensively by posting them online under something like a creative commons license. He seems to have backers who believe in the codices and I am sure they would be happy to cover whatever small expense was involved.

There is a limit to how much Mr. Elkington can present himself as representing research on the codices and he is, in my opinion, rapidly reaching that limit. I am sure he does not want to be forgotten or, worse, only remembered as someone who had crucial information but held it back. Especially when he could be remembered otherwise, as the one who provided specialists with evidence that at least advanced the inquiry and perhaps even provided the solution.

It is not in his power to be a specialist, but this is in his power. This is how he can step into a widely respected role in the story. And if he has a story of his own to tell about his own experiences, people will be more likely to listen.

Likewise, his supporters and his financial backers would benefit from a full release of all the photographs, because they want to see the mystery solved too.

Anyway, that is my opinion. The photographs, of course, are his, and he is entirely free to do what he wants with them. But I hope he gives the matter some careful thought.

As always, watch this space. For past PaleoJudaica posts on the Jordanian metal codices, start here (cf. here) and follow the links. The first post on the subject was here, just a bit over six years ago.

Review of Sommer, Revelation and Authority

MARGINALIA REVIEW OF BOOKS: Bible as Scripture, Bible as Artifact. Hindy Najman on Benjamin Sommer’s Revelation and Authority.
Benjamin Sommer has written one of the most important books as a biblicist and as a scholar of Jewish studies. He has written from a place of theology, religion, and Jewish thought. As his inspiration he has focused on figures such as Franz Rosenzweig and Abraham Joshua Heschel. His account of revelation is deeply engaged with rabbinic and later post-biblical Jewish thinkers such as Moses Maimonides, Moses Mendelssohn, and Emmanuel Levinas. His conversation partners are Jewish theologians and yet his disciplinary heroes are located in the world of academic biblical studies—these include scholars such as S. R. Driver, Moshe Weinfeld, Moshe Greenberg, and Sommer’s own doctoral adviser and teacher, Michael Fishbane.
Past PaleoJudaic posts on the book are here and here.

Esther in the Septuagint

PURIM IS ALMOST HERE: The Three Faces of Esther. How the story of Purim is told in Christian scripture, and how Martin Luther became Esther’s enemy (Matthew Abelson, Tablet Magazine). As the headline indicates, this article is about a range of things pertaining to the Book of Esther. But I want to focus on the comments on the Septuagint version:
One popular misconception is that Jews and Christians share one set of books—what Christians call the Old Testament and Jews call the Tanakh—but not a second set, the New Testament. However, the presence in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Old Testament of books such as Judith and Tobit—which are not in the Tanakh—and the appearance of different versions of other books, such as Esther, challenges the popular conception of a one-to-one ratio between one half of Christian scripture and all of Jewish scripture.

In the case of Esther, the differences in the versions that Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians include in their canon are quite telling. Perhaps the most famous feature of the Book of Esther for Jews is the absence of God. In the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox versions, however, God is present in the narrative.

When Jews living in Alexandria composed the Septuagint, they chose to rewrite the Book of Esther in Greek. While the version they composed is largely based on the Hebrew version, it is not a translation. In addition, the Septuagint’s version has several key additions: prayer and God. In the Septuagint’s version of the Book of Esther, the heroine prays to God after sending word to Mordecai that he should declare a three-day fast. “On the third day, when she had finished praying, she took off her suppliant’s mourning attire and dressed herself in her full splendor. Radiant as she then appeared, she invoked God, who watches over all people and saves them.” Additionally, this version states that just before she approaches King Ahasuerus, Esther feels faint with fear, but “God changed the king’s heart,” and in his kindness, Ahasuerus invites Esther to come before him. God does not appear as the Great Intervener, as he does in Exodus, but the mere mentioning of Esther’s prayer to God and God’s changing of Ahasuerus’ heart fundamentally alter the nature of the Book of Esther.

The Tanakh’s Book of Esther is unique in large part because prayer and God are not part of the narrative. In fact, along with The Song of Songs, Esther is the only other book in which God is not mentioned. For this reason, Esther has come to represent the dimension of Judaism that emphasizes human initiative, not total dependence on God. By inserting prayer and God into the narrative, the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Old Testaments removed this aspect of Esther’s uniqueness. The book is flattened into accord with the overwhelming message of Scripture—both Hebrew and Christian—of human dependence upon God.

Revisiting the Question of Jewish Origins

The conference, on March 20-21 at Brown University, is entitled Revisiting the Question of Jewish Origin. It will bring together scholars of ancient
texts, archaeology, genetics and other fields to rethink the question of how the Jews originated.
For some background on the topic of the conference, see here and links.

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Talmud and big data

THE TALMUD BLOG: Digital Humanities and Rabbinic Literature. The Talmud Blog is happy to be hosting a series on the interface of Digital Humanities and the study of Rabbinic Literature. Our first post comes from Prof. Michael Satlow, of Brown University.
In the United States and Israel (and I suspect Europe as well), the traditional practice of “rabbinics” in secular universities, like classical philology, is in a precarious position. It is increasingly important for the survival of the field to make our texts relevant to larger academic concerns. Big data and distant reading are not the only possible approaches to making rabbinic literature more relevant, but they are receiving increased attention (and funding) and offer a largely unexplored set of new research possibilities.
It's good to see the Talmud Blog active again, and with a new series no less.

Review of Barrett, Fantham, and Yardley (eds.). The Emperor Nero

Anthony A. Barrett, Elaine Fantham, John C. Yardley (ed.), The Emperor Nero: A Guide to the Ancient Sources. Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2016. Pp. xxvii, 300. ISBN 9780691156514. $35.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Lauren Ginsberg, University of Cincinnati (


This sourcebook is a superb addition to current interest in Nero, not least because its authors form an all-star team for any study of Neronian Rome. Their goal is simple: “to illuminate incidents of Nero’s life and rule that are either historically significant or just inherently interesting” (p. vii). They also aim throughout to help readers get a sense for how radically sources can differ and how the tradition came to be; thus, where possible, they include at least two sources on each event/topic. Unusual are the heavy footnotes that occur throughout, but these are a treasure trove of further information (selected highlights below). The book includes a preface and introduction followed by ten thematic chapters. Each chapter includes an introduction (ranging from a paragraph to five pages) and excerpts from Tacitus, Suetonius, and Dio. This is important to note at the start: while the volume’s subtitle might suggest a wider variety of sources, the book is really a guide to the historiography of Nero; other literary texts serve more as complements than objects of inquiry, often left unannotated or relegated to the end of a chapter.1 For example, the only excerpts from Seneca (Clem. 1.1-5) appear at the end of Chapter 2 without much help guidance for interpreting this complex work of political philosophy; so too excerpts from the Octavia do not orient readers to its status as a play and its difficulties. Documentary and material sources, however, are more successfully integrated throughout.

Nero has many intersections with first-century Judaism and Christianity, not least the use of the Nero Redivivus myth in the Book of Revelation. Chapter 4 of the book under review draws on the work of Josephus.

The Avesta in French

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: A New French Translation of the Avesta. Notice of a new book: Lecoq, Pierre. 2017. Les livres de l’Avesta. Les textes sacrés des zoroastriens. Cerf.

A Genoa Polyglot Psalter is up for auction

FOR SALE: Unread copy of 16th-century multilingual Psalms, loathed by Columbus’s son, up for auction (Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel.
Ferdinand Columbus, the famed explorer’s bastard son, had a serious beef with the first multilingual edition of the Book of Psalms, a pristine copy of which goes up for auction in New York next week.

The Polyglot Psalter was printed in Genoa a decade after his father’s death, in 1516, but its two-page footnote on the life of Christopher Columbus on a verse in Psalms 19 mentioning “the ends of the earth” rubbed him the wrong way.

The Polyglot Psalter was the second book ever printed in Arabic, which appeared alongside the original Hebrew and Aramaic, Latin and Greek translations of the text. ...
This psalter (or at least one from the same printing) was mentioned in this post back in 2015. As always, I encourage whoever buys it to keep it available for specialists to study. That can only increase its value.

For past PaleoJudaica posts on Columbus, see here and links.

Putin and Netanyahu debate ancient history

THE WORLD IS FULL OF HISTORY: Putin to Netanyahu: Don’t judge Iran by 5th century BC, we live in a different world (RT). Actually, the story in Esther is a novelistic legend rather than history, but a lot of what people think of as history is like that.

Cross-file under Purim is Coming.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

More on the proposed institute for application of Jewish Law in Israel

POLITICS AND LAW: Proposal for applying Jewish Law in legal decisions approved.. A bill for implementing Jewish Civil Law in modern Israeli jurisprudence approved in preliminary reading (Yoel Domb, Arutz Sheva).
The Knesset approved in a preliminary reading the proposal submitted by MK Nissan Slomiansky(Jewish Home) and other Knesset members to establish in conjunction with the Justice Ministry and the Lawyers Bureau an institute for application of Jewish Law. The proposed institute and its administration would be under the auspices of the Justice Minister.

The explanatory preface to the law stated that: "It is suggested that a national institute be established to "translate" the literature of Jewish Law into modern Hebrew understood by all. The main need is to translate the literature in Jewish Law which deals with civil law. The institute should be established in conjunction with the Lawyers Bureau and the Justice Ministry."

Not surprisingly, the bill has not been received without controversy. I noted the story of the bill last year when it was first drawn up. Now it seems it has passed the first reading in the Knesset. I'm not sure what happens next, except that further approval is required for the bill to be enacted and the institute actually to be founded.

The (traditional) tomb of Esther and Mordechai

PURIM IS COMING: 2,500 Years Later, Tombs of Esther and Mordechai Still Standing in Iran (Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, Breaking Israel News).
The burial site of Purim heroes Mordechai and Esther stands proudly in the heart of Iran, proclaiming the Jews’ Biblical victory from within their most prominent modern enemy. This contradiction, based on an extraordinary part of the Bible, symbolizes the peculiar reality of the largest and most ancient Middle Eastern Jewish community outside of the Holy Land.

As usual with these things, we can take the attribution of specific tomb sites of biblical characters with a grain of salt. All the more so with the Book of Esther, which specialist believe with good reason to be an ancient novel rather than an account of historical persons and events. But the traditions themselves are worth keeping track of.

Past PaleoJudaica posts on the (traditional) tomb of Esther and Mordechai in Iran are here, here, here, and here.

Update on the GJW

MARK GOODACRE: Gospel of Jesus' Wife Updates. Yes, perhaps surprisingly, there are new things to note. But the bottom line remains that Gospel of Jesus' Wife is a forgery.

Background here with many, many links.

Bonobos, magical poetry, and the Talmud

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Unexpected Influences | Beth Berkowitz and Ishay Rosen-Zvi.
“As an occasional series, Unexpected Influences asks scholars to reflect upon one book outside their respective fields that influenced their scholarship.”

Usurper Ahasuerus and pimply Vashti

PURIM IS COMING: Ahasuerus and Vashti: The Story Megillat Esther Does Not Tell You (Dr. Malka Z. Simkovich, Dr. Rabbi Zev Farber, Rabbi David Steinberg,
How the rabbis came to imagine Ahasuerus as a usurper who halted the rebuilding of the Temple and his wife Vashti as a wicked and grotesque Babylonian princess, who lived as a libertine and persecuted Jews.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Ancient road in Beit Shemesh

A 2,000 Year Old Road was Exposed in Bet Shemesh

In an archaeological excavation that was carried out prior to the installation of a water pipeline at the initiative of the Mei Shemesh Company

A wide and impressive 2,000 year old road dating to the Roman period, in an extraordinary state of preservation, was revealed last February in archaeological excavations of the Israel Antiquities Authority near Highway 375. The excavation was conducted prior to laying a water pipeline to Jerusalem, at the initiative of, the Bet Shemesh water corporation "Mei Shemesh". Students from "Ulpanat Amit Noga" in Ramat Bet Shemesh volunteered to participate in the dig.
According to Irina Zilberbod, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The road that we discovered, which 2,000 years ago passed along a route similar to Highway 375 today, was up to 6 meters wide, continued for a distance of approximately 1.5 kilometers, and was apparently meant to link the Roman settlement that existed in the vicinity of Beit Natif with the main highway known as the “Emperor’s Road”. That road was in fact a main artery that connected the large settlements of Eleutheropolis (Bet Guvrin) and Jerusalem. The construction of the Emperor’s Road is thought to have taken place at the time of Emperor Hadrian’s visit to the country, circa 130 CE, or slightly thereafter, during the suppression of the Bar Kokhba revolt in 132-135 CE”. The presence of a milestone (a stone marking distances) bearing the name of the emperor Hadrian which was discovered in the past close to the road reinforces this hypothesis.
Coins were discovered between the pavement stones: a coin from Year 2 of the Great Revolt (67 CE), a coin from the Umayyad period, a coin of the prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate, dating to 29 CE and a coin of Agrippa I from 41 CE that was minted in Jerusalem.
Up until 2,000 years ago most of the roads in the country were actually improvised trails. However during the Roman period, as a result of military and other campaigns, the national and international road network started to be developed in an unprecedented manner. The Roman government was well aware of the importance of the roads for the proper running of the empire. From the main roads, such as the “Emperor’s Road”, there were secondary routes that led to the settlements where all of the agricultural products were grown. The grain, oil and wine, which constituted the main dietary basis at the time, where transported along the secondary routes from the surroundings villages and then by way of the main roads to the large markets in Israel and even abroad.
According to Amit Shadman, the Israel Antiquities Authority district archaeologist for Judah, “The ancient road passed close to the Israel National Trail and we believe that it will spark interest among the hikers. The Israel Antiquities Authority and Mei Shemesh Corporation have agreed that the road will be conserved in situ, for the public’s benefit”.

Esler, Babatha's Orchard

Philip F. Esler, Babatha's Orchard: The Yadin Papyri and an Ancient Jewish Family Tale Retold (OUP 2017)

Babatha's Orchard tells a story that has gone untold for nearly two thousand years. It is a story that would have perished with the last person familiar with its details--the Jewish woman Babatha, daughter of Shim'on ben Menahem. Babatha was probably killed or enslaved by Roman soldiers at the end of Shim'on ben Kosiba's revolt in 135 CE, when they captured a cave in a wadi running into the western shores of the Dead Sea in which she and other Jewish fugitives had been sheltering. In 1961, a team of archaeologists discovered a cache of possessions that Babatha had carefully hidden before her life or freedom was probably taken by the Romans. Among them were thirty-five legal documents dated from 94 CE to 132 CE, written on papyrus in Aramaic and Greek, relating to Babatha and her family, and the leather pouch in which they had been kept.

In this work, Philip F. Esler examines the first four documents of the archive in chronological order--Papyri Yadin 1-4, the first from 94 CE and the second, third and fourth from 99 CE, and all drafted in Nabatean Aramaic. Although from the land and time of the Bible, they reveal a tale of domestic life. It is the story of how, around December 99 CE, Shim'on, Babatha's father (but probably before she was born), unexpectedly came to acquire an irrigated date-palm orchard in his village of Maoza, on the southern shore of the Dead Sea, in the kingdom of Nabatea. Esler undertakes a close reading of P. Yadin 1-4, with occasional reference to wider contextual issues from the Dead Sea region and other parts of the ancient Mediterranean world.
Kindly sent in by the author, who is now also known as Gloucestershire's very own Indiana Jones. Yep. Gloucestershire has one too.

I noted the book earlier here.

Origen on the devil and textual criticism

ETC BLOG: Origen on Textual Criticism and Biblical Authority (Peter Gurry). Blaming textual corruptions on the devil is a new one to me. But I suppose someone had to think of it, and it might as well have been Origen.

3 Maccabees 3-6

READING ACTS: The Incident with the Elephants – 3 Maccabees 3-6.

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

Esther, Saul, and the tribe of Benjamin

PURIM IS COMING: Megillat Esther: Reversing the Legacy of King Saul (Prof. Marc Zvi Brettler,
One of the main themes in Megillat Esther is the death of Haman, the descendent of Agag, last king of Amalek, at the hands of Mordecai and Esther, Benjaminites from the family of King Saul. Is this just a coincidence?
An interesting reading of Esther based in the rabbinic literature. The Apostle Paul also makes a cameo appearance.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Review of the Abegg Festschrift

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: War, Violence, and Peace in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Mike DeVries).
Kipp Davis, Kyung S. Baek, Peter W. Flint, and Dorothy M. Peters (eds.). The War Scroll, Violence, War and Peace in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Related Literature: Essays in Honour of Martin G. Abegg on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday. Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah 115. Leiden: Brill, 2015.

Over a decade in the planning and publication, this volume is a collection of essays offered by colleagues, friends, and former students of Martin Abegg in honor of his 65th birthday.
What is particularly impressive about this volume is the depth of analysis and treatment it achieves. First, the collection of essays dealing specifically with the War Scroll comprise a truly unique treatment on the topic, as there are very few volumes in recent years which deal specifically with the War Scroll. Each essay represents a substantive and nuanced presentation on a manuscript which, in my opinion, is ripe for fresh engagement. Second, the volume brings together in one location a wide-ranging collection of essays on violence, war, and peace in the ideological landscape of the late Second Temple period. It is here that this volume is an indispensable work for those interested in how and why these issues take textual and ideological shape within the late Second Temple period, both within Qumran and without.
Earlier essays in AJR's current series on the Dead Sea Scrolls (in honor of the 70th anniversary of their discovery) are noted here and links.

The Talmud on land-ownership disputes without proof

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Daf Yomi: ‘Whoever Is Stronger Prevails.’ Talmudic rabbis solve territorial disputes by giving the spoils to the victor.
The principle in such cases [when neither party can produce proof of ownership], the Gemara explains, was established in an analogous dispute over the ownership of a boat. In that case, the rule was that the court takes no action at all: “We do not seize property in a case where ownership is uncertain, and where it was seized, we do not release it.” Then how does the dispute get resolved? The Talmud answers with an ambiguous formula: “Whoever is stronger prevails.” In other words, the parties fight it out, and whoever manages to seize the property keeps it. This is a troubling saying, because it seems to represent an abdication of the whole responsibility of the judges. If the stronger party prevails, then might makes right, and there is no reason to have laws or judges in the first place.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

A Day-Symposium on Manichaean Studies in Cambridge

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Mani in Cambridge: A Day-Symposium on Manichaean Studies | Ancient India & Iran Trust. The symposium takes place on 25 March.

Cross-file under Manichean (Manichaean) Watch.

3 Maccabees 2

READING ACTS: Have Mercy on the Downcast – 3 Maccabees 2.
There is very little in these events which is historical. The writer has combined elements of the abominations of Antiochus IV with Pompey’s entry into the Temple in 63 B.C. The writer created a biblical prayer and placed in the mouth of the last of the great High Priests, Simon. Although it is impossible to connect these events to any one actual event, the writer tells his generation that God will act as he has done in the past to deal with the current empire, Rome.
Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Second Temple Period are noted here and links.

Looting arrests at a Bar Kokhba-era site

APPREHENDED: ANTIQUITIES THEFT FROM SECOND TEMPLE PERIOD PREVENTED IN CENTRAL ISRAEL. Security guards at Erez Crossing prevent smuggling of rare relics (Daniel K. Eisenbud, Jerusalem Post).
Three Arab men who attempted to loot gold coins from the archeological site of the Second Temple period’s bloody Bar Kokhba Revolt have been arrested by investigators from the Israel Antiquities Authority Robbery Prevention Unit.

Uzi Rothstein, an inspector from the unit, said he spotted one of the suspects during a routine afternoon patrol last Monday at the 2,000-year-old site, which is called Beit Shana and is located between Modi’in and Kibbutz Sha’alvim.

There weren't any gold coins to loot, but the suspects are still in trouble. Technically the Bar Kokhba revolt took place a couple of generations after the end of the Second Temple period.

The article also notes this:
In a separate incident on Sunday at the Gaza border’s Erez Crossing, security forces prevented a Palestinian man attempting to enter Israel from smuggling in several antiquities from Egypt, including a signet ring from the Bronze Age, ancient coins from the Hasmonean period and an ancient statue.
There is a photo of the seized objects.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Review of Ezekiel (Antioch Bible)

THE ETC BLOG: Lund on Ezekiel in the Antioch Bible (Peshitta) ( Peter Gurry).
In RBL, Jerome Lund reviews Gillian Greenberg and Donald M. Walter, trans. Ezekiel according to the Syriac Peshitta Version with English Translation (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias, 2015).

Carrying poles on Israelite and Egyptian boxes

DR. RAANAN EICHLER: The Poles of the Ark and Tutankhamun’s Chest (
The description of what is to be done with the ark’s carrying poles (בַּדִּים) seems to differ between Exodus ch. 25 and Numbers 4. Medieval Jewish commentators offered many different solutions to this contradiction, but the best answer lies in what we learn from the construction of ancient Egyptian portable chests.

An apostate in 3 Maccabees

READING ACTS: Apostasy in Third Maccabees.
By giving up ancestral practices which set him apart as a Jew, Dositheos has made himself a stranger and an outsider both to Israel and to God. His estrangement is demonstrated by preserving the life of Philopater, who will defile the Temple and outlaw ancestral traditions (3 Macc 3:2).
Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Second Temple Period are noted here and links.

Kratz, Prophetenstudien


Kleine Schriften II

[On Prophets and Prophecy. Selected Essays II. Student Edition.]
2011; unrevised student edition 2017. X, 420 pages.
Forschungen zum Alten Testament 74

49,00 €
ISBN 978-3-16-154496-5

Published in German.
In this collection of essays, six of which are original contributions, Reinhard Gregor Kratz provides an overview of prophecy and prophets in the Ancient Near East, the Old Testament and in the Dead Sea scrolls (Qumran) as well as articles especially on the books of Isaiah, Hosea and Amos.
This isn't a new book, and I'm not sure what "unrevised student edition" means, unless it just means a paperback edition. But I haven't noted the book before and this is a good opportunity to do so.

Some details of the new damage to Palmyra

PALMYRA WATCH: ISIS jihadists damage Roman monument in Palmyra. ISIS jihadists have severely damaged a major Roman monument ancient Syrian city, says antiquities official (Ben Ariel, Arutz Sheva).
Antiquities official Wael Hafyan told Reuters he had seen serious damage to the Tetrapylon, a square stone platform with matching structures of four columns positioned at each corner. Only four of the 16 columns were still standing.

"The terrorists detonated it... the damage is extensive," he told the news agency. However, he said some of the fallen columns were not destroyed and could be restored using modern conservation techniques.

There was also harm, but less serious, to the facade of a Roman theater, where the damage was to a part that was restored, not original, he said.
Background here with many, many links.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

The Always-Yet-Never-Here Apocalypse

THE ASOR BLOG: The Generative Power of The Always-Yet-Never-Here Apocalypse (Kelly J. Murphy and Justin Jeffcoat Schedtler).
The idea that the apocalypse is both always-and-never-here led us to write Apocalypses in Context: Apocalyptic Currents Through History (Fortress Press, 2016). As scholars who both teach and write on ancient apocalyptic texts and their manifestations throughout history, we wanted to explore a series of questions: What, if anything, connects ancient texts such as Daniel or Revelation to current political crises? To ecological concerns? To popular television shows, movies, and video games? How does the apocalypse stay the same, and how does it change? Our goal was to illustrate that apocalypses come in all shapes and sizes, including both the contemporary understanding of apocalypse as the end-of-the-world and the ancient notion of apocalypse as an unveiling of the world around us. Apocalypses are everywhere, from our art, climate debates, philosophies, politics, and beyond.
I noted the book when it came out last year.

ANE PhD dissertations from the University of Chicago.

AWOL: Dissertations in Ancient Near Eastern Studies Approved by the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, The University of Chicago. The dissertations are available for download as PDF files. They are on a wide range of topics, including Syriac and Biblical Hebrew.

van den Berg et al. (eds.). In Search of Truth

In Search of Truth. Augustine, Manichaeism and other Gnosticism
Studies for Johannes van Oort at Sixty

Edited by Jacob van den Berg, Annemaré Kotzé, Tobias Nicklas and Madeleine Scopello
This volume in honour of Johannes van Oort, formerly University of Utrecht, presently Professor of Patristics and Gnosticism at the Universities of Nijmegen and Pretoria, and past-President of the International Association of Manichaean Studies (IAMS), brings together a rich variety of studies on Augustine, Manichaeism, and other Gnostic currents, thus reflecting the honorand’s research interests. The unique collection is divided into four sections: I. Studies in Augustine: Confessions, Sermons, Letters & De Haeresibus; Augustine on Grace & Pluralism; Augustinian ‘Gnosis’; II. Studies in Manichaeism: Origins & Myth; Doctrines & Cult; Diffusion & Art; III. Studies in Manichaeism and Augustine: Doctrines; Polemics & Debates with Manichaean Contemporaries; IV. Studies in ‘Other Gnosticism’: Gnosticism and ‘Apocryphal’ Texts; Sources of (Ps.) Hippolytus’ Refutatio; the Gospel of Judas; Modern Yesidi Gnosticism. The 35 studies are preceded by an overview of Prof. van Oort’s scholarly activities and publications

Rezakhani, ReOrienting the Sasanians

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: ReOrienting the Sasanians. Notice of a new book: Rezakhani, Khodadad. 2017. ReOrienting the Sasanians: East Iran in late antiquity (Edinburgh Studies in Ancient Persia). Edinburgh University Press. Follow the link for details.

Birdsong, The Last King(s) of Judah


The Last King(s) of Judah
Zedekiah and Sedekias in the Hebrew and Old Greek Versions of Jeremiah 37(44):1–40(47):6

[Die letzten Könige von Juda. Zedekia und Sedekias in der hebräischen und altgriechischen Fassung von Jeremia 37(44):1–40(47):6.]
2017. XVII, 255 pages.
Forschungen zum Alten Testament 2. Reihe 89

84,00 €
sewn paper
ISBN 978-3-16-153888-9

Published in English.
Zedekiah ben Josiah was the last king of Judah, and under his leadership, in 586 BCE, Jerusalem was destroyed. Interestingly, the Hebrew and Old Greek versions of Jeremiah present very different portrayals of Zedekiah, prompting a variety of literary and historical-critical questions. In this study, Shelley L. Birdsong uses a multi-critical approach to highlight the two unique characterizations of Zedekiah and address their relationship text- and form-critically. She argues that the Greek text depicts Zedekiah as a manipulative and mysterious Machiavellian prince, whereas the Hebrew presents him as a hesitant and kind king who metaphorically mirrors the fall of his capital. Following this literary comparison, the author employs several scholarly methods to substantiate the claim that the Hebrew text is a later edited text. Overall, she demonstrates the importance of doing character studies in Septuagint scholarship and using multiple methods to create a more comprehensive picture of biblical characters.