Saturday, December 13, 2014

Dick on Gnosticism

GNOSTICISM WATCH: The 10 best adventure novels from 1965. Joshua Glenn shows why 1965 was a very good year for science fiction, comic books, and spy novels (BoingBoing).
Philip K. Dick’s science fiction adventure The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. Via an odyssey of nested hallucinations, Dick burns the Gnostic idea that the world is the creation not of God, but of an evil, lesser deity, forever into the reader’s mind. The title character is a demiurge who brings to mankind a “negative trinity” of “alienation, blurred reality, and despair.” Probably my favorite PKD novel, after A Scanner Darkly.
More on Philip K. Dick here. And lots more on modern reflections of Gnosticism here and here and links.

Gauthier, Psalms 38 and 145 of the Old Greek Version

Psalms 38 and 145 of the Old Greek Version

Randall X. Gauthier

One of the critical, ongoing discussions in Septuagint Studies today concerns the issue of how texts were understood by their translators, and how those translations are able to provide the modern reader with clues to that original interpretation. In Psalms 38 and 145 of the Old Greek Version, Randall X. Gauthier provides a word by word, sentence by sentence, commentary on Psalms 38 and 145 in the Septuagint (LXX) version, or more accurately, the Old Greek (OG) version. Specifically, this study attempts to understand the semantic meaning of these psalms at the point of their inception, or composition, i.e. as translated literary units derivative of a presumed Semitic Vorlage.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Early Christian literature in Ethiopic

ALIN SUCIU: Panel on Early Christian Literature Preserved in Classical Ethiopic (Ge’ez) (from Timothy B. Sailors). The Panel meets in Warsaw at the 19th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies in August of 2015.
One of the more important sources for the study of early Christian literature are the versions of these writings preserved in Classical Ethiopic (Ge’ez). This panel will provide the opportunity to focus upon the all too often under-appreciated Ge’ez versions of these works of literature originally composed in the first several Christian centuries. These include books that would come to be part of the Christian Bible, writings categorized among the so-called ‘Apostolic Fathers’ or ‘Apologists’ or ‘Church Fathers’ and so-called early Christian ‘Apocrypha’, consisting, for example, of apocalypses, acts of apostles and testaments. Moreover, many of the ancient church orders from this era are importantly preserved in Ge’ez versions, as are other writings of a monastic, didactic or legendary nature.
As is well known, some important Jewish literature from the Second Temple period — 1 Enoch and Jubilees – is also preserved complete only in Ethiopic.

Tolan et al., Jews in Early Christian Law

Jews in Early Christian Law
Byzantium and the Latin West, 6th-11th centuries

J. V. Tolan, N. de Lange, L. Foschia, C. Nemo-Pekelman (eds.)

379 p., 156 x 234 mm, 2014
ISBN: 978-2-503-55052-7
Languages: English, French
The publication is available.
Retail price: EUR 70,00 excl. tax
How to order?

The sixth to eleventh centuries are a crucial formative period for Jewish communities in Byzantium and Latin Europe: this is also a period for which sources are scarce and about which historians have often had to speculate on the basis of scant evidence. The legal sources studied in this volume provide a relative wealth of textual material concerning Jews, and for certain areas and periods are the principal sources. While this makes them particularly valuable, it also makes their interpretation difficult, given the lack of corroborative sources.
The scholars whose work has been brought together in this volume shed light on this key period of the history of Jews and of Jewish-Christian relations, focusing on key sources of the period: Byzantine imperial law, the canons of church councils, papal bulls, royal legislation from the Visigoths or Carolingians, inscriptions, and narrative sources in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. The picture that emerges from these studies is variegated. Some scholars, following Bernhard Blumenkranz, have depicted this period as one of relative tolerance towards Jews and Judaism; others have stressed the intolerance shown at key intervals by ecclesiastical authors, church councils and monarchs.
Yet perhaps more than revealing general tendencies towards "tolerance" or "intolerance", these studies bring to light the ways in which law in medieval societies serves a variety of purposes: from providing a theologically-based rationale for social tolerance, to attempting to regulate and restrict inter-religious contact, to using anti-Jewish rhetoric to assert the authority or legitimacy of one party of the Christian elite over and against another. This volume makes an important contribution not only to the history of medieval Jewish-Christian relations, but also to research on the uses and functions of law in medieval societies.
The interests of this book actually extend back to the fourth century.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bloomsbury books

Constantine Tischendorf
The Life and Work of a 19th Century Bible Hunter

By: Stanley E. Porter

Published: 18-12-2014
Format: Paperback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 200
ISBN: 9780567658029
Imprint: Bloomsbury T&T Clark
Dimensions: 216 x 138 mm
RRP: £16.99
Online price: £11.89
Save £5.10 (30%)

About Constantine Tischendorf

Constantin von Tischendorf was a pioneer. He existed in an age when biblical studies as we know it was being formed, when the quest for forgotten manuscripts and lost treasures was being undertaken with no less zeal and intrigue than it is today. It was Tischendorf who found, and preserved, the oldest extant version of the complete bible that we know of, the so-called Codex Sinaiticus, which he discovered in poor condition at St Catherine's Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai, in 1846.

With the discovery of the Codex Tischendorf, and others, was to take the study of biblical texts further than ever before, through linguistic methods, and attention to the most ancient sources available. In many ways Tischendorf was a father figure of the modern Historical Critical Method.

In this short biography, Stanley E. Porter, himself one of the most respected scholars of the New Testament and Koine Greek currently writing, gives a portrait of Tischendorf's life and work, together with an annotated republication of Tischendorf's influential work on the Gospels.

Published to celebrate Tischendorf's bicentenary, in 2015, this volume will be a must for those seeking to understand how the study of biblical manuscripts began, and to understand the man who discovered the oldest version of the bible as we know it.

The Body in Biblical, Christian and Jewish Texts

Editor(s): Joan E. Taylor

Published: 19-06-2014
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 296
ISBN: 9780567254269
Imprint: Bloomsbury T&T Clark
Series: The Library of Second Temple Studies
Illustrations: 10 illus
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
RRP: £60.00
Online price: £42.00
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About The Body in Biblical, Christian and Jewish Texts

The body is an entity on which religious ideology is printed. Thus it is frequently a subject of interest, anxiety, prescription and regulation in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, as well as in early Christian and Jewish writings. Issues such as the body's age, purity, sickness, ability, gender, sexual actions, marking, clothing, modesty or placement can revolve around what the body is and is not supposed to be or do.

The Body in Biblical, Christian and Jewish Texts comprises a range of inter-disciplinary and creative explorations of the body as it is described and defined in religious literature, with chapters largely written by new scholars with fresh perspectives. This is a subject with wide and important repercussions in diverse cultural contexts today.

The Temple in Text and Tradition
A Festschrift in Honour of Robert Hayward

Editor(s): R. Timothy McLay

Published: 18-12-2014
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 344
ISBN: 9780567062697
Imprint: Bloomsbury T&T Clark
Series: The Library of Second Temple Studies
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
RRP: £75.00
Online price: £52.50
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About The Temple in Text and Tradition

The Second Temple period is an era that marked a virtual explosion in the world of literature, with the creation, redaction, interpretation, and transmission of Jewish texts that represented diverse languages and ideologies. The creation of many of these writings coincided with the growth of the Jewish community beyond the borders of Israel; therefore, among those for whom the Temple played a diminishing role. The transition period from Temple to texts was accompanied by conflicting interpretations about the role of the Temple as well as diverse theological understandings about God and the Jewish people.

Drawing on the expertise of leading specialists in Second Temple Judaism, Temple, Texts, and Traditions explores the rich traditions of the Jewish people as they were expressed and interpreted in their writings in that period, which included writings that later became recognized as Scriptures.
Follow the links for TOCs and ordering information.

Dimant, Collected Studies

Devorah Dimant
History, Ideology and Bible Interpretation in the Dead Sea Scrolls

Collected Studies

In this volume Devorah Dimant assembles twenty-seven thoroughly updated and partly rewritten articles discussing various aspects of the Dead Sea Scrolls that she published over the past three decades. An introductory essay written especially for this volume surveys the present state of research on the Scrolls. Dealing with major themes developed in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the author reflects the rapid expansion and change of perspective that has taken place in research on the collection in recent years following its full publication. Among the topics treated are the nature and contents of the Scrolls collection as a whole, the specific literature of the community that owned this collection, the Aramaic texts and the apocryphal and pseudepigraphic works found therein. Each of these chapters contains an inventory list of the texts under discussion. In the article on the entire Scrolls collection she provides an updated inventory and analysis of all the Dead Sea Scrolls. Besides these general surveys, the volume includes discussions of particular themes such as the history of the community related to the Scrolls, its self-image and particular interpretation of biblical prophecies, and its notion of time. In addition, various previously unknown apocryphal works found among the Scrolls are analyzed, such as Pseudo-Ezekiel (4Q385-4Q386,4Q388), Apocryphon of Jeremiah C (4Q385a-4Q390), Apocryphon of Joshua (4Q522), Pesher on the Periods (4Q180, with a fresh edition), and a new edition and interpretation of the Words of Benjamin (4Q548).

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Odeberg the Nazi sympathizer

REBECCA LESSES: Hugo Odeberg and Nazi Germany.
Hugo Odeberg, professor of theology at the University of Lund in Sweden from 1933-1964, is of interest to those who study early Jewish mysticism because in 1928 he published the first edition and translation into English of a Hekhalot text. This is a text known in several of the manuscripts as Sefer Hekhalot, but which he called 3 Enoch, as if it proceeded in a linear fashion from 1 Enoch and 2 Enoch. His publication of Sefer Hekhalot brought the knowledge of this work into the scholarly world, and it continues to be influential up until today in the study of the Hekhalot literature. (Philip Alexander published another English translation of the work in James Charlesworth's Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, volume 1, published in 1983. He used Odeberg's critical edition as the basis for his translation).

Notwithstanding Odeberg's importance for the history of modern scholarship of the Hekhalot literature, I think we need to take another aspect of his career into consideration when we continue to use his work.

In the 1930s Odeberg became a sympathizer with the Nazis, and he worked together with antisemitic German theologians in the later 1930s and 1940s. This aspect of his career is finally being revealed by current research on the involvement of Swedish scholars and theologians in the Nazi movement. Should this influence our use of Odeberg's work in contemporary research on the Hekhalot literature? I think that at the very least it should be mentioned when we cite his research. Odeberg also wrote on the Gospel of John, and his scholarship is still used also by some researchers.

Disturbing. Read it all.

The DSS and Syriac Christianity

PHILIP JENKINS: Christians in Babylon (The Anxious Bench). Excerpt:
Recently, scholar Joseph Amar examined this Jewish context in an important article published in the Times Literary Supplement (October 3, 2014) under the title “A Shared Voice: When Jews and Christians Drank from the Same Wells.” Because it is paywall-protected, I will summarize its conclusions here.

Amar noted how closely Mesopotamian Christians resembled not just sectarian Judaism in general, but specifically the world of the Essenes and the Dead Sea Scrolls. “Like the Qumran sectarians, they used the word ‘holiness,’ – qadishutha in Aramaic – as the technical term for their practice of celibacy. And like the ‘Men of Holiness’ at Qumran, they took vows that spoke of an impending battle between good and evil. ” A direct link between the community that produced the scrolls and the Christians of Mesopotamia seemed to be the only way to account for such explicit parallels.”
I explore some of these parallels in an exercise in counterfactual history presented at a conference some years ago: "The Odes of Isaiah: A Newly Discovered Syriac Pseudepigraphon - A Thought Experiment." The paper was later published as "Counterfactual History and the Dead Sea Scrolls," (see here for full citation).

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Talmud-related dissertations 2014

THE TALMUD BLOG: Dissertations and Thesis, 2014.

Yardeni, Understanding The Alphabet of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Understanding The Alphabet of the Dead Sea Scrolls
By: Ada Yardeni

The most important discovery of documents written in the “Jewish” script is the discovery of the documents from the Judean desert, known as “the Dead Sea Scrolls”.

From the Foreword by Weston W. Fields*

“Dr. Ada Yardeni stands at the head of her field, and this book is the best ever produced on the topic… The book excels in so many ways… all of which will appeal to professional and lay
readers alike.

“…the book masterfully describes the information it is possible to glean from a careful, even minute, examination of the letters and words of ancient Hebrew and Aramaic documents. …all the knowledge that must be assimilated by anyone who aspires to begin the long journey toward at least a partial expertise in the analysis of ancient Hebrew and Aramaic inscriptions and texts.

“…she has provided a glimpse of the very inner workings of her mind; indeed, that she has divulged to the reader her ‘trade secrets.’

“This book sets a new standard in the field of ancient Hebrew and Aramaic paleography.”

* Weston W. Fields, Ph.D., is Executive Director of The Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation
The web page isn't very clear, but it looks as though this book has a 2012 publication date. I just found out about it, thanks to a mention by Eibert Tigchelaar on Facebook.

Bible as Notepad Conference

I'M OFF TO OSLO, for the Bible as Notepad Conference, noted earlier here. As you can see from the program, I am presenting a paper on “Notes in the Text? The Unique Secondary Readings in MS Leiden Or. 4730’s Text of the Hekhalot Rabbati." The abstract is as follows:
MS Leiden Or. 4730 is a late (16th or 17th century) Italian manuscript that includes the complete text of the Hekhalot Rabbati (Synopse §§81-277), the longest text in the corpus of the Hekhalot literature. It seems to come from a good Vorlage with a high density of original readings, but at some point this text has been extensively altered by a scribe. The manuscript contains hundreds of unique secondary variants, including omissions, replacement of words with synonyms, or other changes in wording. In effect, rather than being annotated with notes in the margins, the text was overwritten with notes in the text itself. These alterations can be detected only through traditional textual criticism, which reveals a pattern of unique secondary readings. From a traditional text-critical perspective they are "clutter" to be dismissed as useless for reconstructing a (more) original text. But from the perspective of New Philology they evidence a peculiar pattern of deliberate scribal alterations, one that has the potential to tell us more about this creative scribe and the scribe's agenda. This paper will catalogue and categorize the unique secondary readings in this manuscript in order to make some sense of what the scribe was doing and why.
As usual, I have preposted some things for while I am away and I will blog as time and internet connections permit, so please keep coming back as normally.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day 2014

IT'S THAT DAY AGAIN: Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day.

The Facebook page is here. Past posts on the day with related links are collected here.

Dead Sea cave robbers reported caught

IAA PRESS RELEASE: In a Dramatic Operation on the Cliffs of the Judean Desert: Antiquities Robbers Caught Red-Handed Trying to Plunder (December 2014). Today (Sunday) an indictment was submitted against the robbers who were apprehended by Israel Antiquities Authority inspectors.
Today (Sunday) an indictment was submitted against the robbers who were apprehended by Israel Antiquities Authority inspectors, with the assistance of the Arad police

This is the first time in 30 years that antiquities robbers have been caught on the desert cliffs

Today (Sunday) an indictment was handed up against antiquities robbers who tried to loot Dead Sea scrolls from the Judean Desert. This comes in the wake of a dramatic capture carried out last weekend by inspectors of the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery of the Israel Antiquities Authority, with the assistance of the Arad Rescue Unit. The apprehension of the robbers was part of a complex operation to locate the Dead Sea scroll robbers, which lasted more than a year.

Early in the morning hours members of the Arad Rescue Unit, which were undergoing routine training at the time, identified suspicious movement in a cave in the northern cliff of Nahal Ze’elim, in the region of the Leopard’s Ascent.

Inspectors of the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery of the Israel Antiquities Authority were called to the scene and they placed the cave under surveillance utilizing observation and photographic equipment. The suspects were observed in the cave carrying out an illicit excavation while using a metal detector and a large amount of excavating equipment.

The suspects dug in an ancient cave which is known in archaeological circles as “The Cave of the Skulls”. They caused tremendous damage in the cave by digging through layers of earth while destroying archaeological strata and historical evidence from the Roman period c. 2,000 years ago and the Chalcolithic period c. 5,000 years ago.

The cave is located in the side of the cliff, 150 meters above the bottom of Nahal Ze’elim and some 70 meters below the top of the cliff. It can only be reached on foot via a narrow goat’s path on top of rock fall, that passes upright bedrock walls and is extremely dangerous.

The suspects – all young men from the village of Seir in the vicinity of Hebron – demonstrated considerable expertise in reaching the cave by climbing and rappelling from the cliff while using special equipment they possessed.

After observing and documenting the suspects in action, the suspects began climbing to the top of the cliff during the evening while carrying on their back ancient finds (such as a 2,000 year old lice comb from the Roman period) and all of the digging equipment that included excavation tools, break-in equipment, two sophisticated metal detectors, lighting equipment and ropes, as well as large amounts of food and water, which indicate their intention to remain in the cave for many days. Inspectors of the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery awaited the suspects at the top of the cliff. Upon arrival the suspects were immediately caught by the Israel Antiquities Authority personnel. They were detained and taken for questioning to the Arad police station where, with the assistance of the Arad police and investigators, they were interrogated for many hours and gave their version of events.

The suspects were arrested and brought for arraignment before a judge in the Be’er Sheva‘ Magistrates Court. Their detention was extended twice and an indictment was handed up today by the Southern District Attorney's Office.

According to Amir Ganor, director of the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery in the Israel Antiquities Authority, "For many years now gangs of antiquities robbers have been operating along the Judean Desert cliffs. The robbers attempt to locate and find Dead Sea scrolls, pieces of ancient texts and unique artifacts that were left in the caves, particularly during the Great Revolt against the Romans in 66–70 CE and the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 132–135 CE, when Jewish fighters fearing the Roman army sought refuge in the desert. These finds are sold for large sums of money in the antiquities markets in Israel and around the world. What makes the Judean Desert so unique is its dry climate that enable the preservation of rare leather, bone, and wooden objects, including the Judean Desert scrolls, pieces of parchment and papyrus, on which various texts were written, among them the Holy Scriptures, books of the Bible, legal contracts and historical stories. Over the years many of the plundered finds reached the antiquities markets in Israel and abroad, but it has been decades since perpetrators were caught red-handed. This is mainly due to the difficultly in detecting and catching them on the wild desert cliffs”.

Following the recovery of some unique artifacts that had been plundered by antiquities robbers in this region, the then director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the late Shuka Dorfman, decided the Judean Desert would receive special treatment, enforcement would be increased and an attempt would be made to identify the caves in which the rare finds were being looted. The task was assigned to the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery which began operating in the Judean Desert both openly and covertly.

One of the main groups of robbers that operated in the Judean Desert in recent years has now been apprehended. The group was found in possession of unique archaeological relics that had been plundered from the cave. The Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery reported that in the coming weeks additional suspects will be investigated who are connected to the theft and destruction of the antiquities sites in the region.

The Israel Antiquities Authority invests a vast amount of resources and effort in order to safeguard and protect the heritage values of the State
HT Joseph Lauer, also lots of coverage by the media. Follow the link for photos of the cave and the comb.

Report on that UNESCO conference

ARUTZ SHEVA: UN Attempt to Save Jewish Sites from ISIS - Too Little Too Late? Urgent conference held to preserve ancient sites in Iraq and Syria - but how serious is UNESCO about protecting Jewish heritage sites? Lyn Julius saw little to be optimistic about. Excerpt:
In one important respect the conference might achieve results: museum chiefs declared they would treat with suspicion any artifacts offered to them from the Middle East, and would conduct "due diligence" checks as far as possible. But private collectors were less likely to be circumspect about the provenance of items. The international art market was a vessel too leaky to render watertight.

It is tempting to conclude that organisations like UNESCO, which were founded on the pillars of intergovernmental law, seem well past their sell-by date in a world where non-state actors ride roughshod over "kaffir" international treaties and conventions. Even before the era of Islamic state, neither Syria nor Iraq were signatories to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the event of armed conflict.

The great and the good gathered on that foggy day in Paris were right: education was the answer. But it would take many generations to instil respect for the Other. Too late for the Jews of Iraq and Syria, at any rate.
Background here.

UPDATE: In an e-mail message Joseph Lauer notes the following:
The Comments section following the article contains the following exchange.

Richard McBee, who has written on Art for The Jewish Press, noted and asked, “The Dura Europos synagogue murals (235 CE), the earliest and most important example of Jewish narrative art, were proudly displayed at the National Museum of Damascus in the heart of Damascus, Syria, currently in the midst of a prolonged civil war. Does anyone know what is being done to safeguard this invaluable Jewish heritage or even if they are still extant?”

Lyn Julius, who wrote the Arutz Sheva article, responded, “I think the murals are safe. Dr Abdulkarim, the General director of Antiquities in Syria, who addressed the conference, said everything under his control was safe.”

We can only hope that is correct and that the murals will always be safe.
Let's hope so. Background on the situation at Dura Europos is here and links.

Bauckham on The Lost Gospel

MARK GOODACRE: Richard Bauckham, Assessing the Lost Gospel: All Seven Parts (The NT Blog). Background here and links.

UPDATE: Philip Jenkins reports his own, perhaps not entirely unrelated discovery over at The Anxious Bench: The Jesus Identity!

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Manichaean hymns

Berliner Turfantexte (BTT 31)
Miscellaneous Hymns
Middle Persian and Parthian Hymns in the Turfan Collection

D. Durkin-Meisterernst (ed.)
464 p., 12 b/w ill., 210 x 297 mm, 2014
ISBN: 978-2-503-54628-5
Languages: English
The publication is available.
Retail price: EUR 80,00 excl. tax

This edition presents a large collection of (unpublished) fragments of Middle Persian and Parthian Manichaean hymns, both in the original language and translated into English.
This is an edition of a large number of fragments of Middle Persian and Parthian Manichaean hymns in the Berlin Turfan Collection. M. Boyce in the register of her 1960 Catalogue of the Iranian Manuscripts in Manichaean script in the German Turfan Collection identified fragments of hymns 'to the Third Messenger' (group 44); 'Parthian hymns written in couplets, unclassified' (group 58) and 'Hymns, unclassified, including poems' (group 81). Though some of these fragments have been published in the meantime and others are very small, this yields more than 250 previously unpublished fragments, many of considerable size. The fragments are presented in diplomatic edition together with a transcription and translation into English. Since most of the hymns are abecedarian they are presented as far as possible in strophic form. An extensive introduction, notes, a complete glossary and facsimiles of joined fragments accompany the edition.
Will interest: Students of Manichaeism; of Central Asian history and cultures; of comparative religion; of Iranian languages and literatures.
Not of direct interest to ancient Judaism, but of tangential interest because Turfan is also the source of important fragments of the Book of Giants. See here and here and links.

A Mass in Old Church Slavonic

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: How Often Do You Hear a Mass in Old Church Slavonic? (Susan Lewis, WRTI). Now's your chance.

For much more on Old Church Slavonic and its importance for Old Testament pseudepigrapha and ancient Judaism, see here and many links.