Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Remembering Nahum Sarna (1923 – 2005)

HIS YAHRZEIT WAS 16 SIVAN (10 JUNE): Nahum M. Sarna (TheTorah.com).
A Biography by Prof. Marc Zvi Brettler and Eulogy (delivered at the funeral) by Prof. Lawrence Schiffman.
I noted his passing in 2005 here, here, here, and here.

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Digital language database job

RELIGION PROF: Digital Humanist Wanted. James McGrath shares a job announcement. If you are good at digital language research, Greek, Syriac, and Arabic, and if you also want to live in Vienna, this could be the job for you.

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T. Job: executive summary

READING ACTS: The Testament of Job. A chapter-by-chapter summary.

For past posts in Phil Long's blog series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, see here and links. He has been posting on Testaments recently. Yesterday's post was the first on the Testament of Job. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Latest on Emek Shaveh's tunnel petition

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: LEFT-WING NGO PETITIONS HIGH COURT TO HALT WESTERN WALL TUNNEL EXCAVATIONS. ‘According to law, a ministerial committee must convene and decide whether to approve the archaeological excavations carried out in the tunnel,’ says Emek Shaveh (Daniel K. Eisenbud, Jerusalem Post). I have been following Emek Shaveh's litigation about the Western Wall tunnel excavation for some time. The details are technical and I'm not sure I follow all of them.

Background to the story is here and links.

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Reactions to suspension of Western Wall plan

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Some critics of Western Wall plan still unhappy after freeze. Archaeologist says expansion of pluralistic prayer site may still harm antiquities; feminist religious activist who opposed agreement finds little joy in reversal (Melanie Lidman, Times of Israel).
The government decision to suspend a plan creating a pluralistic prayer space at the Western Wall brought little satisfaction to two non-Orthodox groups that opposed the original proposal: archaeologists and religious activists who had sought greater gains than the compromise afforded.

On Sunday, the government suspended a plan it had previously approved for a pluralistic prayer area, following calls by Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox coalition allies to scrap the deal. The plan would have seen the establishment of a properly prepared pavilion for pluralistic prayer — as opposed to current temporary arrangements — under joint oversight involving representatives of all major streams of Judaism.

The government has said despite the deals being canceled, it will continue to expand the prayer space at Robinson’s Arch south of the main Western Wall plaza, leading to continued concerns over archaeological damage to antiquities there.

[...]
I have been following this controversy for some time, with particular attention to the concerns of archaeologists. Background here and links.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Review of Maltominiand Slattery (eds.), Oxyrhynchus Papyri, Volume LXXXII

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: N. Gonis, F. Maltomini, W. B. Henry, S. Slattery, The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, Volume LXXXII [Nos. 5290 - 5319]. Edited with Translations and Notes. Graeco-Roman memoirs, 103. London: Egypt Exploration Society, 2016. Pp. xii, 176; 12 p. of plates. ISBN 9780856982309. £85.00. Reviewed by Michael Zellmann-Rohrer, Oxford (michael.zellmann-rohrer@classics.ox.ac.uk).

This new volume includes fragments of Classical works, some new Greek fragments of Jannes and Jambres, a fragment of Philo, some new Greek magical papyri, and more.

Another new manuscript of Jannes and Jambres was noted here. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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The Testament of Job

READING ACTS: What is the “Testament of Job”? (Phil Long). I cannot rule out that the Testament of Job is a first-century Jewish work, but I do not assume that it is. It makes good sense as a late-antique Christian work. That is the first social context in which we find it.

The Testament of Job was composed in Greek. A fragmentary fourth-century Coptic manuscript is our earliest witness to it. We have published a translation by Gesa Schenke ("The Testament of Job: Coptic Fragments") in Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures (Ed. Bauckham, Davila, and Panayotov; Eerdmans, 2013), pp. 160-175. So you should buy this book.

For Phil Long's blog series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha start here and follow the links. He is currently working through the Testaments and he just finished the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz z'l'

SAD NEWS: Artscroll Founder Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz Dead at 73 (David Israel, The Jewish Press).
Rabbi Zlotowitz et al’s most ambitious endeavor was the publication of the Schottenstein English Edition of the Talmud. This monumental, 73-volume work was published one tractate at a time, and completed in 2005 after fifteen years of painstaking labor. The worldwide impact of the Schottenstein Talmud has been unprecedented, offering thousands of Jews access to the Talmud.
May his memory be for a blessing.

For more on the ArtScroll/Schottenstein Talmud, start here and follow the links.

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More Assyrian land woes in Turkey

ASSYRIAN (MODERN SYRIAC) WATCH: Turkey Seizes Assyrian Monastery Property (Ygar Gültekin, http://www.agos.com.tr via AINA).
After Mardin became a Metropolitan Municipality, its villages were officially turned into neighbourhoods as per the law and attached to the provincial administration. Following the legislative amendment introduced in late 2012, the Governorate of Mardin established a liquidation committee. The Liquidation Committee started to redistribute in the city, the property of institutions whose legal entity had expired. The transfer and liquidation procedures are still ongoing.

In 2016, the Transfer, Liquidation and Redistribution Committee of Mardin Governorate transferred to primarily the Treasury as well as other relevant public institutions numerous churches, monasteries, cemeteries and other assets of the Syriac community in the districts of Mardin. The Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation appealed to the decision yet the liquidation committee rejected their appeal last May. The churches, monasteries and cemeteries whose ownerships were given to the Treasury were then transferred to the Diyanet.

Inquiries of the Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation revealed that dozens of churches and monasteries had been transferred to the Treasury first and then allocated to the Diyanet. And the cemeteries have been transferred to the Metropolitan Municipality of Mardin. The maintenance of some of the churches and monasteries are currently being provided by the Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation and they are opened to worship on certain days. Similarly, the cemeteries are still actively used by the Syriac community who visits them and performs burial procedures. The Syriacs have appealed to the Court for the cancellation of the decision.

[...]
Oh dear. I had thought that the complications regarding the lands associated with the Mar Gabriel Monastery (whose claim on them reportedly goes back many centuries) had all been resolved. I guess there is more to be sorted out.

The Turkish Government will want to take a close look at this one. They will want to ensure that everything proceeds transparently and according to the law and natural justice. The world, including the ECHR, is watching.

Background on this story is here and many links.

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Monday, June 26, 2017

The SBL Handbook of Style on MOTP

NEWS YOU CAN USE: Citing Text Collections 4: MOTP. The SBL Handbook of Style Blog tells you how to cite Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, volume one (ed. Bauckham, Davila, and Panayotov; Eerdmans 2013). Their abbreviation is different from the one we use in the volume. We'll have to sort that out in volume two.

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Trolls threaten a Classics professor

THIS IS APPALLING: UI prof's post on ancient statues, white supremacists elicits death threats. PaleoJudaica has mentioned Professor Sarah Bond's work from time to time. I am sorry to hear that this has happened to her.

Idiot trolls who threaten people are a growing plague on the internet. They come from all sides and they obstruct discussion of important topics. Everyone should condemn, shun, despise, and ridicule them.

Seidman on Cynthia Baker’s "Jew"

MARGINALIA REVIEW OF BOOKS:
Jewish Identity as a Psychic Wound?
Naomi Seidman on Cynthia Baker’s Jew
. This is the fifth essay in Marginalia's Forum on Cynthia Baker’s book Jew.

This essay doesn't have anything particular to do with ancient Judaism, but I note it for the sake of completeness. For past essays in the series and more information about the forum, see here and links.

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T. Benjamin: Being good.

READING ACTS: Testament of Benjamin.

For Phil Long's blog series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha start here and follow the links. His current series on the Greek Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs has come to Benjamin, who is number twelve. Now Phil is off to Zambia for a pastors' Bible conference. But his series on the OTP Testaments will continue while he is away.

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Menorah engravings at Hierapolis

HOLY LAND PHOTOS' BLOG: Jewish Presence at Hierapolis (Menorahs) Carl Rasmussen has photos of ancient menorah engravings on tombs in Hieropolis (cf. Colossians 4:12-13).

For past PaleoJudaica posts on ancient menorahs and representations of menorahs, see here, here, and here and follow the many links.

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Holtz, Die Nichtigkeit des Menschen und die Übermacht Gottes

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: GUDRUN HOLTZ, Die Nichtigkeit des Menschen und die Übermacht Gottes Studien zur Gottes- und Selbsterkenntnis bei Paulus, Philo und in der Stoa. [Human Nothingness and the Supremacy of God. Studies on Divine and Self Knowledge in Paul, Philo and the Stoa.]. 2017. XIV, 471 pages. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 377.
Published in German.
Regard for the self has recently been rediscovered as one of the central themes of Hellenistic philosophy. Taking the Jewish theologian Philo of Alexandria and the Apostle Paul as her main examples, Gudrun Holtz shows how theological anthropology was developed in contrast to contemporary philosophical conceptions of the self, particularly to the Stoa. The common core of the theological-anthropological conception of both authors can be captured in the phrase “not of people, but of God”. The Pauline doctrine of justification proves itself to be a reification of this shared essence. Other than has been repeatedly assumed lately, the

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Tolan et al. (eds.), Religious Minorities in Christian, Jewish and Muslim Law

NEW BOOK FROM BREPOLS: Religious Minorities in Christian, Jewish and Muslim Law (5th - 15th centuries). J. V. Tolan, C. Nemo-Pekelman, N. Berend, Y. Masset (eds.).
The fruit of a sustained and close collaboration between historians, linguists and jurists working on the Christian, Muslim and Jewish societies of the Middle Ages, this book explores the theme of religious coexistence (and the problems it poses) from a resolutely comparative perspective. The authors concentrate on a key aspect of this coexistence: the legal status attributed to Jews and Muslims in Christendom and to dhimmīs in Islamic lands. What are the similarities and differences, from the point of view of the law, between the indigenous religious minority and the foreigner? What specific treatments and procedures in the courtroom were reserved for plaintiffs, defendants or witnesses belonging to religious minorities? What role did the law play in the segregation of religious groups? In limiting, combating, or on the contrary justifying violence against them? Through these questions, and through the innovative comparative method applied to them, this book offers a fresh new synthesis to these questions and a spur to new research.
I can't find anything in the TOC that deals with anything as early as the fifth century. The title does say that, though, so I assume such matters come up somewhere.

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A fourth review of Glinert, The Story of Hebrew

BOOK REVIEW: The story of Hebrew. A look at Lewis Glinert’s wonderful new book (CURT LEVIANT, The Jewish Standard).
Every page of “The Story of Hebrew” is packed with information about the language, from its beginnings through post-1948 Israel. In addition to this longitudinal approach, Lewis Glinert, a professor of Hebrew and linguistics at Dartmouth, also approaches his subject laterally, focusing on various lands where Jewish or Hebrew life and culture thrived, including early Palestine, Babylonia, North Africa, Spain, Europe, Russia, the United States, and Israel.

[...]
Earlier reviews of the book have been noted here and links.

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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Hurtado on Keck on the NT as a "field of study"

LARRY HURTADO: Is the New Testament a Field of Study?. Professor Hurtado discusses an article with that title by Leander Keck, published in 1981. Read the whole post, but here are two excerpts:
Referring to “the Mandaean fever of the 20s and a severe case of Qumranitis in the 50s,” Keck observes that “repeatedly our agenda probably elevated to major significance for the New Testament certain texts which might not have been nearly as influential on the early Christians as we have made them.” (p, 32).
Yes.
In short, for theological purposes the NT is (and should be) a “privileged” body of texts. But for historical purposes we should both take account of the breadth and diversity of early Christian literature and also the dynamics that from a remarkably early point gave to certain texts a special status and authority among at least many (most?) early Christian circles.
Yes.

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Stacey on Qumran

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION: A Brief Response to the Reviews of Qumran Revisited by Magness (RQ 104, 2014: 638-646) and Mizzi (DSD 22, 2015: 220) (David Stacey). This essay deals with technical details of the archaeology of the site of Qumran and those interested in such matters should have a look. I don't think I knew that there was an ancient dam at Qumran.

A couple of other recent Bible and Intepretation essays have also dealt with the archaeology of Qumran. See here and here and note the discussions in the comments.

There are many past PaleoJudaica posts on the archaeology of Qumran and various controversies surrounding it. Many were collected here. And to that list from 2014, add the posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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Biblical Sidon

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Biblical Sidon—Jezebel’s Hometown. Who were the Sidonians? As usual, the BAR article (“Sidon—Canaan’s Firstborn,” by Claude Doumet-Serhal) is only available via a paid subscription. But the BHD essay gives you an overview.

Some of the past PaleoJudaica posts pertaining to ancient Sidon are here, here, and here. Some past posts on Jezebel are here, here, here, here, and here. Cross-file under Phoenician Watch.

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The Nash Papyrus in the news

DIGITIZATION: See An Ancient Ten Commandments Fragment Digitized By Cambridge Digital Library (Jake Romm, The Forward). That fragment is, of course, the Nash Papyrus, on which more here and links. It's from Egypt and was recovered in 1902. It is as old as some of the older Dead Sea Scrolls, the first of which were discovered only in 1947. (Philip Jenkins, call your office!)

This is not a new story: I noted the digization of the Nash Papyrus for the Cambridge Digital Library back in 2012. But it's nice to see it getting some more attention.

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Interview with Robert Kraft

WILLIAM ROSS: LXX SCHOLAR INTERVIEW: DR. ROBERT KRAFT (Septuaginta &C. Blog).
This interview highlights one of the senior figures in the field, Dr. Robert Kraft, who is Berg Professor of Religious Studies Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania (see also Academia.edu). Aside from his work in Septuagint scholarship, Dr. Kraft is well known for his focus on the Apostolic Fathers. He also played a crucial role in creating the earliest digital tools for the study of biblical texts, and was a key player in developing Computer Assisted Tools for Septuagint Studies (CATSS), which is now available in BibleWorks and other software programs.
Read it all.

I talked a bit about Bob Kraft's pioneering contribution to computer-assisted biblical studies research in my 2010 SBL paper: What Just Happened. The rise of "biblioblogging" in the first decade of the twenty-first century.

I have noted some past interviews of LXX scholars by William Ross here and links.

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Ancient "industrial zone" in the Galilee

ARCHAEOLOGY: Ancient industrial site discovered in Galilee. Students and experts from the Israel Antiquities Authority discover ancient agricultural installations carved into bedrock that appear to have been used to store locally-produced products (Itay Blumenthal, Ynetnews).
"As we expanded the excavation with the students, we found more and more installations, and it would appear that these are not for private use, but rather a real industrial zone, from the Middle Bronze Age (1,800 BCE) or from the Roman-Byzantine period (5th-2nd centuries CE)," said Yoav Zur, the IAA director of the excavation.
HT Joseph Lauer.

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T. Joseph: So ethical.

READING ACTS: Testament of Joseph. Like many of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, the Greek Testament of Joseph is full of ethical concerns. But, again like the other Testaments, this one is quite oblivious to the ritual law. This seems like a problem if we want to regard them as Jewish works.

Granted, the setting is the Patriarchal period and this was before the Torah of Moses was revealed. That could be why ritual law is ignored. But the Book of Jubilees covers the Patriarchal period and is still full of interest in the ritual law. And the Testament of Zebulon even anachronistically mentions the Law of Moses (3:4). So I am not entirely satisfied with that explanation.

It is clear that some of the Testaments drew on Jewish sources in Hebrew and Aramaic, but I don't know whether all of them are based on such sources. If so, a lot of those sources are lost. Some may be Christian compositions written to fill in the gaps to make of full set of twelve testaments.

I have noted earlier posts in Phil Long's blog series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha here and links. His current series is on the Greek Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Joseph is number eleven. One more to go. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Theosophy and ancient apocryphal scriptures

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Alternative Scriptures: Theosophy and the Esoteric Tradition (Philip Jenkins). The nineteenth-century Theosophists knew about the Essenes and the Gnostics and had access to Coptic Gnostic texts. All this long before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Nag Hammadi Library.

I have noted earlier posts in Professor Jenkins's series on "alternative scriptures" here and links.

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Exhibition of Roman emperor's coins at Israel Museum

NUMISMATICS: Coins of the Realm: Heads (And Tails) of the Roman Empire on Display at Israel Museum. Roman emperors shown as they really looked – while their slogans could be taken from today’s headlines (Nir Hasson, Haaretz).
This coin [of the idiosyncratic Emperor Elagabalus] now be viewed in a new exhibit at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, starting on Thursday. ”Faces of Power: Coins from the Victor Adda Collection” displays 75 gold coins of Roman emperors and their wives never shown to the public before. The collection of gold coins was donated to the Israel Museum by Johanna Adda Cohen, an 89-year-old resident of Rome. Her father, Victor Adda, was a Jewish businessman originally from Egypt and he collected the coins in the first half of the 20th century. When the family moved to Italy from Egypt, they smuggled the coins out in the pockets of relatives and friends.

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T. Asher: Don't be evil.

READING ACTS: Testament of Asher. This Testament is particularly interested in the "two ways" ethical framework.

Earlier posts in Phil Long's blog series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha are noted here and links. He has been posting recently on the Greek Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Asher is number ten. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Burrus on Jewish sarcophagi

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Dissertation Spotlight | Sean P. Burrus.
Sean P. Burrus, Remembering the Righteous: Sarcophagus Sculpture and Jewish Identities in the Roman World (Duke University, 2017).

... In Remembering the Righteous: Sarcophagus Sculpture and Jewish Identities in the Roman World, I examined two groups of sarcophagi from the Jewish communities of Beth She'arim and Rome and explored how the different provincial and cosmopolitan contexts of each influenced the choices and tastes of Jewish patrons. ...

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Looking at potsherds in archaeological digs

EPIGRAPHY AND ARCHAEOLOGY: Discovery of hidden text prompts new approach to biblical digs in Israel (Adam Abrams/JNS.org).
The recent discovery of a previously invisible inscription on the back of an ancient pottery shard, that was on display at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum for over 50 years, has prompted Tel Aviv University researchers to consider what other hidden inscriptions may have been discarded during archaeological digs, before the availability of high-tech imaging.
This as a result of the story about the newly-recovered text on Arad Ostracon 16 which I noted here and here. Here's what they're thinking of doing about it:
As a result of the new discovery, researchers will approach how they handle pottery shards found during archaeological digs differently.

“Maybe they should just image everything,” [Tel Aviv University applied mathematician Arie] Shaus said. “Using low-cost equipment like the camera used in this discovery would allow each excavation to buy or construct one… or at least create a filtering system whereby only samples of pottery, which could have been used for writing, are saved and scanned. Maybe we have lost more inscriptions than we have found, but didn’t figure it out until now. It’s tragic, but we are also optimistic, because now we have the technology to do this.”
Bring it on!

A more primitive method for identifying inscribed ostraca is to dip each one in water. That is sometimes supposed to make otherwise unnoticeable writing stand out. When I worked at excavations in Israel in the 1980s as a lowly staff member, I dipped approximately a zillion potsherds. I never found any writing. This new technology sounds more promising.

Cross-file under Technology Watch.

UPDATE: Title and link now added. Sorry about that!

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Graduation 2017

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE CLASS OF 2017!

This week is full of graduation ceremonies at the University of St Andrews. Many PhD students in the School of Divinity graduated. Well done!

So did many undergraduates. Among them are a number of Semitic philologists whom I have taught over the last several years. Here are some of them with me at the Divinity garden party yesterday.


Congratulations to (L to R) Sarah, Allison, Shelby, and Barbora. They are heading off now to do various things, but some will continue with Semitics. In the autumn Sarah begins a Master's degree in Biblical Studies at Kings College London and Barbora begins a PhD in Comparative Semitics at the University of Chicago. It has been great to work with all of them and I wish them the best in their future endeavors.

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Bible Cat revisited

REMNANT OF GIANTS: Biblical Cats Again. With reference to my post On cat domestication yesterday, Deane Galbraith reminds us that he once argued that the lilith-creature in Isaian 34:14 could be a cat. I see that I noted that post back in December of 2015. I usually check my own archive for related posts, but I guess I forgot this time.

Deane doesn't refer to any secondary literature, so I assume this is his otherwise unpublished idea. But he makes a plausible circumstantial case that lilit (לילית) in Isaiah could refer to some type of cat.

That said, it is a creature that dwells in ruins, which would apply more naturally to a wild cat then a domesticated cat — especially in antiquity when there was no archaeological tourism. Okay, I cannot rule out that Lilith in Isaiah was a cat. But I need more evidence before I'm willing to backtrack on my statement yesterday that the Hebrew Bible never mentions domesticated cats.

Past PaleoJudaica posts on Lilith are here and many links.


Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Inheritance, terumah, and the transgendered in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: How a Cucumber Decides Whether a Son Inherits Over a Donkey. With surprising analogous thinking, ancient Talmudic sages tackled very modern questions—by accident or foresight, depending on how liberal your views—of transgender rights, the rights of unborn fetuses, women’s rights, and wealth distribution.
This week, in chapter nine of Tractate Bava Batra, we saw an example of how the laws of teruma ["heave offering"] can serve the rabbis to elucidate a very different area of halachah. Chapter Nine continues the discussion of the laws of inheritance, addressing the status of bequests promised to a child born posthumously. The Mishna in Bava Batra 140b imagines a situation in which a dying man who is an expectant father bequeaths money to his unborn child, saying, “If my wife gives birth to a male, the offspring shall receive a gift of 100 dinars,” or “If my wife gives birth to a female the offspring shall receive 200 dinars.” The law is that these are binding bequests, and once the children are born they receive the designated amount from the estate.

This is clear enough, but the rabbis identify two possible ambiguities. What if the wife gives birth to twins, a boy and a girl? In this case, both children are given the promised sum, 100 dinars for the boy and 200 for the girl. And what if the child is born neither male nor female? What if it is a tumtum, the legal term for a person whose sex organs are concealed and is thus of indeterminate gender?
He does come back to the terumah part and it does involve cucumbers.

There's more on the tumtum here.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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T. Gad

READING ACTS: Testament of Gad.

I have noted previous posts in Phil Long's blog series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha here and links. The series has recently focused on the Greek Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

On cat domestication

ARCHAEOLOGY MAGAZINE: DNA Study Reveals Tale of Cat Domestication.
Most house cats alive today descend from cats that can be traced back to Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.
I think it is interesting that Israel is on the list. Here's a fun fact for you. Although the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament do mention dogs from time to time, generally disparagingly, they never once mention domestic cats. Sure, there are references to lions and other big cats, but not domesticated ones. The word "cat" never even appears.

Cats are mentioned in the Old Testament Apocrypha in the Letter of Jeremiah 22.

Offhand, I can't think of any references to domesticated cats in any Old Testament Pseudepigrapha or New Testament Apocrypha. But I don't have comprehensive concordances for these and there may be references that I don't remember. If you find any, drop me a note.

UPDATE (21 June): A cat in Isaiah? Maybe.

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The Forging Antiquity Project

EVANGELICAL TEXTUAL CRITICISM BLOG: Forging Antiquity Website and Blog (Tommy Wasserman). With information on the Macquarie University/Heidelberg University project. I have already noted the Markers of Authenticity Blog back at the end of 2016.

Also, the post has full details about some SBL sessions in November which deal with the problems of forgeries and unprovenanced artifacts.

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T. Naphtali

READING ACTS: Testament of Naphtali (Phil Long). As I have mentioned before, there is a medieval Hebrew version of the Greek Testament of Naphtali which perhaps shares a Jewish Second-Temple-era source with the Greek text.

In the second volume of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures (MOTP2) we hope to gather all the ancient and medieval Hebrew material that is possibly related to the Greek Testament of Naphtali.

Earlier posts in Phil Long's blog series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha are noted here and links. His recent posts have been on the Greek Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Melville's Gnostic apocryphon?

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Alternative Scriptures: Melville’s “Lost Gnostic Poem.” (Philip Jenkins). Melville's poem wasn't lost. He gave it that title.

Were the Albigenses descended from the ancient Gnostics? Who knows? Some people thought so and Melville hints at the idea in his poem.

Earlier posts in Professor Jenkins's series on "alternative scriptures" are noted here and links.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

"Persepolis Administrative Archives"

BIBLIOGRAPHICA IRANICA: Persepolis Administrative Archives. Notice of a new article in the Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2017. Looks like a useful overview and bibliography.

For past posts on the Persepolis Fortification Archive and its its complex and contentious political history start here and here and follow the links. It is not directly relevant to ancient Judaism, but it provides us with background information on scribal practice and Aramaic in Iran in the Persian Period.

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News on Rabbi Steinsaltz's recovery

UPDATE: RABBI STEINSALTZ LAUNCHES NEW ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF TORAH (Jeremy Sharon, Jerusalem Post). The new translation of the Torah is noteworthy, but so is this:
Steinsaltz himself did not travel to the event since he is still recovering from a severe stroke he suffered in December 2016, although he has partially returned to work of late, and has begun authoring new articles.

The rabbi is perhaps best known for his monumental translation and elucidation of the Talmud, but has also authored more than 60 books on Jewish thought, life and mysticism and is an Israel Prize laureate.
Continued good wishes for his recovery.

For background on Rabbi Steinsaltz and his work, especially his Hebrew and English translations of the Talmud, aee here and links.

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Translation of the Dialogue of Simon and Theophilus

ALIN SUCIU: Guest Post: Anthony Alcock – Disputation between Simon a Jew and Theophilus a Christian. A translation of the Latin text with a very brief introduction. Roger Pearse notes the post and gives additional background information.

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Chiesa, Filologia storica della Bibbia ebraica

EVANGELICAL TEXTUAL CRITICISM BLOG: Chiesa’s Historical Philology of the Hebrew Bible (Peter Gurry). It's good to know about these things. I hope there will be an English translation someday.

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Review of Coşkun and McAuley (eds.), Seleukid Royal Women

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Altay Coşkun, Alex McAuley (ed.), Seleukid Royal Women: Creation, Representation and Distortion of Hellenistic Queenship in the Seleukid Empire. Historia Einzelschriften, 240. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2016. Pp. 322. ISBN 9783515112956. €62.00. Reviewed by Branko F. van Oppen de Ruiter, Allard Pierson Museum, University of Amsterdam (b.f.vanoppen@uva.nl).
This collection brings together a selection of papers on Seleucid queenship delivered at the fourth “Seleucid Study Day” workshop held at McGill University, Montreal, on February 20-23, 2013. Apart from a preface, prologue and introduction, the volume’s twelve chapters are divided into three parts: (1.) the first generation of queens, i.e., Apame and Stratonice I; (2.) the representation of royal women, i.e., Laodice I, Cleopatra Tryphaena, and female portraiture; and (3.) queenship on the periphery of the empire. In all, sixteen authors (eight of whom are from Canada) have contributed to the publication, which additionally comes with a substantial bibliography (31 pp.), three indices (13 pp.) and four genealogies.
The Book of Daniel has a lot of interest in the Diadochoi (the generals that succeeded Alexander the Great) and their royal lines. Two of the women who feature in the book under review, Laodice I and Berenice II, were involved in the events of Daniel 11:6-9. Like the other people in that chapter, they are not named.

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Menē Inc. weighed in the balance?

ARAMAIC WATCH: (Digital Journal).
TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - June 15, 2017) - Goldmoney Inc. (TSX:XAU) ("Goldmoney"), a precious metal financial service and technology company, today announced its investment in Menē Inc. ("Menē"), a newly formed direct-to-consumer fine jewelry venture. Menē will manufacture and retail timeless 24 karat gold jewelry online through an innovative first-to-market user experience and transparent pricing model.

[...]
Naturally the Aramaic word caught my eye. The press release goes on to explain the name:
Menē - The Name

Menē ("meh-ney") is an ancient Aramaic word with a deep meaning that links jewelry, gold, money, and savings. A "Menē", reflecting 567 grams of pure gold, is the first written word for "money" as codified in the Code of Hammurabi approximately 4,000 years ago. For much of written history, humans exchanged value by pricing goods and services in units of "menē", which provided a predefined measurement of gold. Those units were often ultimately settled as pure 24 karat jewelry that could be readily exchanged. This ancient tradition, though often misunderstood by economists, is alive and well in the East where pure gold jewelry powers a savings economy in which jewelry is bought, sold, exchanged, and borrowed against as an asset that maintains its purchasing power.
Yes it is an old word for a unit of weight and the information about the Code of Hammurapi is interesting. But to modern people the word is best know from the biblical phrase "Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin" in the story of the writing on the wall in Daniel 5. It was the text of the writing and its (somewhat esoteric) interpretation was "You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting." The "you" was the kingdom of Babylon, which fell to the Persians that night. (See here especially, but also here and here.)

Now Menē Inc. sounds like a nice company and I wish them well. But I wonder if they fully thought through the implications of their name. Given what even minimally biblically literate people will hear in their heads when they encounter it, it is not what I would have chosen for my brand.

But that's just me. I hope I'm wrong and that Menē is successful.

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DeConick on Czachesz, Cognitive Science and the New Testament

THE FORBIDDEN GOSPELS BLOG: Book Note: Cognitive Science and the New Testament (István Czachesz). April DeConick reviews an important new textbook. The application of cognitive psychology to the study of the ancient past is a relatively new approach. It has contributed much to our understanding already and it shows great promise.

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Phoenician textual criticism

PHOENICIAN WATCH (SORT OF): Phoenix: A New Hotbed of Textual Criticism (Peter Gurry, Evangelical Textual Criticism Blog). And that is a good thing. Congratulations to Peter and his colleagues at Phoenix Seminary.

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Omarkhali, The Yezidi Religious Textual Tradition

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Yezidi Religious Textual Tradition. Notice of a new book: Omarkhali, Khanna. 2017. The Yezidi Religious Textual Tradition: From Oral to Written. Categories, Transmission, Scripturalisation and Canonisation of the Yezidi Oral Religious Texts with Samples of Oral and Written Religious Texts and with Audio and Video Samples on CD-ROM. (Studies in Oriental Religions 72). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

Cross-file under Yazidi Watch. Earlier work on the Yazidis by Khanna Omarkhali has been noted here. For past PaleoJudaica posts on the Yazidis, their Gnosticism-themed religion, and their tragic fate in the hands of ISIS, start here and follow the many links.

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Review of Cynthia Baker, "Jew"

JEWISH PHILOSOPHY PLACE BLOG: (Deleuze & Guattari) Jews + Jews + Jews (Cynthia Baker) (Zachary Braiterman). Jews, Judeans, and rhizomes. This approach has some similarities to Jonathan Z. Smith's "polythetic" approach as applied to Judaism, which I have discussed here.

HT AJR Twitter.

Past posts on Cynthia Baker's recent book, Jew, are here and links.

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Additional NT Apocrypha bibliography

AWOL BLOG: Additions to e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha, June 2017 . There are four new entries and another has been expanded. Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch.

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A new biography of Gershom Scholem

PODCAST: ATTEMPTING TO SOLVE THE SCHOLEM ENIGMA (Tel Aviv Review).
Dr. Amir Engel, a lecturer in German language and literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the author of the newly published Gershom Scholem: An Intellectual Biography, analyzes the unique legacy of a leading scholar of Jewish mysticism and one of Israel’s first public intellectuals.
I have noted two other recent books on Scholem here and here and links.

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Visiting the ancient library of Pergamum

THE HOLY LAND PHOTOS' BLOG: Pergamum (Turkey) Library.

Spoiler: the books are all gone.

Nevertheless, most ancient libraries have disappeared without a trance, so it is very worthwhile to have a look at one whose architecture has partially survived. Carl Rasmussen takes us on a tour.

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More Enoch from Takeyasu Sawaki

GAMING NEWS: PS4/PS Vita Exclusive The Lost Child Gets 1080p Screenshots Showing the Return of El Shaddai’s Enoch. The Lost Child pays homage to its predecessor El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron with the return of Enoch and the Nephilim (Giuseppe Nelva, Dual Shockers). This new game is by Takeyasu Sawaki, who produced El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron some years ago. (Background is here and links). The Lost Child includes early purchase bonuses involving the the Enoch of the previous game and the Nephilim. Again, the author makes creative use of the mythology of Enoch, the watchers, and the giants.

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Friday, June 16, 2017

More on Arad 16

UPDATE: 'If there is any wine, send': Soldier's urgent request dating back to 600BC is found inscribed in Hebrew on the back of a pottery shard (Shivali Best, Daily Mail). This Mail article mostly covers the same ground as the many media treatments from yesterday. But I link to it because it includes photographs, more information on the details of the decipherment of the new inscription on the back of Arad 16, and more on the suggested improved readings for the text on the front side.

It gives a translation of the new text on the back:
The English translation of the inscription on the back of the shard says:
'If there is any wine, send {1/2 1/4?}. If there is anything (else) you need, send (=write to me about it). And if there is still <>, gi[ve] them (an amount of) Xar out of it. And Ge'alyahu has taken a bat of sparkling (?) wine.'
I don't have time to go over that text, so I have no comment at present. The article does provide a photo and a drawing of it.

As for the proposed improvements on the front, some of the new readings are rather different from what I saw when I prepared the Arad inscriptions for my epigraphy general exam many years ago. But my transcription then was based on the lesser-quality photo available at the time. Again, I don't have time to go over this in detail now. I note that the Mail\s translation leaves out the name "Hananiah" after "your friend" in line 1. I think this is a transcription error. The name is clearly visible on both the photo and the drawing.

Yes, there is a photo and a drawing, so epigraphers can check on the new readings at their leisure. The discussion will soon move to the peer-review literature, but perhaps blogging epigraphers can have a go in the meantime. (Christopher Rollston, call your office!)

Background here.

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Doudna deconstructs Qumran archaeology

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION: Deconstructing What We’ve Always Been Told About Qumran.
It is misleading to speak of a single “main period of habitation” of a single group or community at Qumran which ended at the time of the First Revolt. Analyses of pottery, language, women, dining, animal bone deposits, and scroll deposits surprisingly converge in suggesting a different picture: the true “main period” of activity at Qumran was mid- and late-first century BCE.

[The following is excerpted from Gregory L. Doudna, “Deconstructing the Continuity of Qumran IB and II with Implications for Stabilizing the Biblical Texts”, in I. Hjelm and T.L. Thompson, eds., Interpretation Beyond Historicity. Changing Perspectives 7, ed. I. Hjelm and T.L. Thompson (New York: Routledge, 2016), 130-154. See full article for bibliography.]

By Gregory Doudna
June 2017
For more on Dr. Doudna's theories, which so far have not found much acceptance among Qumranologists, see here and links.

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Review of Bonnet and Bricault, Quand les dieux voyagent

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Corinne Bonnet, Laurent Bricault, Quand les dieux voyagent: cultes et mythes en mouvement dans l'espace méditerranéen antique. Histoire des religions. Genève: Labor et Fides, 2016. Pp. 314. ISBN 9782830915969. €29.00 (pb). Reviewed by Megan Daniels, University of Puget Sound (megandaniels@trudeaufoundation.net.
In placing side-by-side a series of 12 divine journeys from Mesopotamian Ishtar’s descent to the Netherworld to the role of the Torah in uniting the Jewish diaspora, the authors aim to move beyond the traditional divisions of monotheism and polytheism inherent in the study of ancient religions: “Sont-elles utiles, adéquates, fécondes pour parler des religions de l’Antiquité et en comprendre les logiques?” (p. 11) The question of false dichotomies3 and the obstructions they create when it comes to grasping some of the more fundamental aspects of ancient religions is a worthy one to ask, and is consequently one of the strengths of this work.
The essays deal with the ancient Near East, Phoenicia and Carthage, ancient Judaism, and early Christianity.

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The English composer and the Acts of John

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Alternative Scriptures: Gustav Holst’s Hymn of Jesus (Philip Jenkins).
The result was that almost a century ago, a strictly mainstream, celebrated, English composer produced and staged a work containing evocative Gnostic hymns, and liturgical dance. And all derived from a long-lost alternative scripture – a Gnostic gospel.
The Berlin-Strasbourg Apocryphon (see here) also has a hymnic dance with Jesus and the apostles.

Earlier posts in Professor Jenkins's series on "alternative scriptures" are noted here and here and links. Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch.

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T. Dan

READING ACTS: Testament of Dan. Dan sounds a bit vampiric here, doesn't he?

Earlier posts in Phil Long's blog series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha are noted here and links. In recent posts he has been surveying the Greek Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Was the Shapira scroll a real Dead Sea Scroll?

FORGERY OR THE REAL THING? The Shapira Scroll was an Authentic Dead Sea Scroll — by Shlomo Guil in the Palestine Exploration Quarterly 149 (2017), pp. 6-27.
Abstract

Wilhelm Shapira astonished the European academic world in 1883 by offering for sale fifteen or sixteen leather fragments of an ancient Hebrew scroll containing parts of Deuteronomy, but in a version that deviated from the Masorah. The script of the scroll, known to us today as paleo-Hebrew, is an archaism of the pre-exilic Hebrew script. The sale offer was made to the British Museum and the asking price was one million British pounds. The British museum was willing to consider the offer and appointed Christian David Ginsburg to ascertain the authenticity of the scroll.

Ginsburg analyzed the fragments of the Shapira scroll for almost three weeks but it was Charles Clermont-Ganneau, the renowned French scholar, who publicly announced on 21 August 1883 that the scroll is a forgery. On the following day, Ginsburg wrote to Bond, the director of the British Museum, that the manuscript is in fact a forgery.

This article attempts to demonstrate that the Shapira scroll was an authentic manuscript by presenting circumstantial evidence in favour of the scroll. The evidence focuses upon physical characteristics of the scroll as well as upon paleographic aspects.
This journal requires a paid personal or institutional subscription for you to access the articles. But the author has posted this article at Academia.edu. Also, G. M. Grena has posted a summary and discussion at his LMLK Blog: The 1883 Dead Sea Scroll.

Chanan Tigay published a book on the story of the Shapira scroll last year. For past PaleoJudaica posts noting the book (I have not read it) and discussing the Shapira fragments, start here and follow the links.

Shlomo Guil is an independent researcher in Israel and he has published a number of other articles. I don't know him or know anything else about him. But he has produced an article good enough to pass peer review in a reputable specialist journal. That means that the scholarly discussion of the Shapira scroll as a possibly genuine ancient artifact has now begun. The case is perforce circumstantial, since the Shapira fragments are now lost and presumed (entirely? mostly?) destroyed. But Guil does raise some circumstantial points in favor of the authenticity of the scroll based on material and paleographic factors. I don't doubt that there will be more social media commentary, but the real discussion needs to proceed in the peer-review literature and it will probably take years to reach any consensus. But Shlomo Guil has played by the rules and thrown down the gauntlet. It will be interesting to see the reactions of paleographers and specialists in the material culture of ancient scrolls.

There is some hope (see update) that at least one of the Shapira fragments still survives. It would be worth some effort to try to track it down. Meanwhile, Guil's article reproduces some drawings of the scroll made at the time and I have posted links to these and other images here. That is at least something to work with.

I remain to be convinced that the Shapira scroll was a real ancient document. If you want to read a case made against that idea which was published in 1965, after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, have a look at Oskar K. Rabinowicz, "The Shapira Scroll: A Nineteenth-Century Forgery" Jewish Quartely Review 56 (1965), 1-21. It is available on JSTOR. You may also want to look at the detailed review of the story of the Shapira scroll posted by Michael Press in The Appendix: “The Lying Pen of the Scribes”: A Nineteenth-Century Dead Sea Scroll. He thinks it was a forgery too, but he weighs a lot of evidence pro and con.

Be all that as it may, the case is now reopened and we will see what happens.

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New readings on an Arad ostracon

EPIGRAPHY AND TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Revolutionary technology reveals dazzling ‘hidden’ text on biblical-era shard. Pottery from almost 3,000 years ago found to feature previously unseen rare First Temple Hebrew writing; other finds from same era now also to be reinvestigated (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel). You have to read pretty far into this article before it addresses the obvious question — What does it say? But we do get there eventually:
Ostacon No. 16 is a letter sent to Elyashiv from Hananyahu — the team speculates he was a quartermaster in Beersheba — and discusses the transfer of silver. After the MS imaging experiment, newly discovered inscriptions show that Hananyahu also asked for wine.
I think they mean newly discovered letters — on the back of the ostracon, which appears blank to the naked eye.

The readable inscription on the front of Arad 16 is badly damaged after the first three lines. According to the article, the new multispectral imaging process has also clarified the readings on that side.

More please. Bit by bit, a letter at a time, whatever it takes. Until we're done.

The AWOL Blog has a link to the new PLOS ONE article on which the above story is based.

UPDATE: Incorrect link now fixed!

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Huge mikveh excavated at Machaerus

ARCHAEOLOGY: Archaeologists Find Monumental Mikveh at King Herod's Palace in Jordan. Machaerus, King Herod's fortress in Jordan which was razed by the same Roman legion that destroyed Masada, before which Salome did her dance and John the Baptist was killed (Philippe Bohstrom, Haaretz).
The Machaerus fortress was erected on a prominent hill about 32 kilometers southwest of Madaba. The mikveh ritual bath and immersion pool used for purification were apparently built for the Herod royal family's personal use.

The bath is the biggest of its kind ever found in Jordan. It boasts 12 steeps and a reserve pool containing water to fill the pool when its water ran low.
A long article with lots of background on Machaerus. Past PaleoJudaica posts on Machaerus are here and here.

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T. Zebulon

READING ACTS: Testament of Zebulon.

Earlier posts in Phil Long's blog series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha are noted here and links. In recent posts he has been surveying the Greek Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Unexpected influences on Swartz and Satlow

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Unexpected Influences | Michael Swartz and Michael Satlow. The Blues and Jewish magic, Tolstoy and causality.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Review of Burke and Landau (eds.), New Testament Apocrypha (part 4)

BOOK REVIEW (PART FOUR):
Tony Burke and Brent Landau, New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, volume 1 (Eerdmans, 2016).
Part One is here.
Part Two is here.
Part Three is here.

Final Comments

This volume is a major contribution to more than one field. The texts are well chosen, the translations flow smoothly, the introductions cover the important matters and evaluate the evidence judiciously. The volume is well edited and carefully proofread. One could debate this or that conclusion or interpretation, but the positions taken by the contributors are consistently well and cautiously argued. The one or two errors I noticed were trivial (e.g., on p. 437 at n. e., "cherubim" should read "seraphim"). I can think of very little to criticize. A little more attention to questions of genre in the introductions to the individual works would be welcome. There is no specific section for genre in the outline template, although sometimes one is added. Some contributors cover the issue well, while others could have said more.

Potential readers should keep in mind that this volume is a supplement to earlier collections of New Testament Apocrypha in English, especially those by James and Elliott. The volume includes a few relatively early texts (i.e., from the third century or earlier). These are of interest to specialists in early Christianity. Most of the texts are from the fourth century and later. They are of particular interest to specialists in late-antique and medieval popular Christianity. The volume contains a vast wealth of stories, scriptural exegesis, and informal theology which entertained and informed lay audiences for many centuries. But do be aware that it belongs on the bookshelf next to Elliot’s work, not as a replacement for it.

The volume demonstrates compellingly that the composition and use of New Testament Apocrypha continued into the Middle Ages and beyond, and that some of these works were vastly popular and influential. The Dialogue of the Paralytic with Christ is not the first work a modern reader would turn to for spiritual inspiration. Nevertheless, it survives in many manuscripts and was copied into the twentieth century. The Apocalypse of the Virgin is ubiquitous in the Greek manuscript tradition and it too was copied into the twentieth century. The Tiburtine Sibyl was more influential in the West than the canonical Book of Revelation.

The texts in the volume come in the genres we know from the New Testament, but not exclusively. Several texts are “pseudo-apostolic memoirs,” a genre developed in Coptic-speaking circles in the fifth century. But even the genres we know are developed creatively. The genre of “gospel” is stretched well beyond what counts as a gospel in the New Testament. Some of the “acts” include elements of hagiography, martyrdom, and romance novel. The volume classifies The Tiburtine Sibyl as an apocalypse, but it lacks an angelic interpreter and adopts the poetic canons of pagan Sibylline oracles. The Epistle of Christ from Heaven is an ancient chain letter attributed to Jesus.

These texts also expand the range of what we might think of — at least based on the New Testament — as normal subject matter for scripture. The classic example is The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, whose boy Jesus comes across to a modern reader as frighteningly powerful and impulsive, rather like Anthony Fremont in the Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life.” But the new texts provide additional examples. There is Papias’s debased story of the death of Judas. The Dialogue of the Paralytic with Christ presents an incognito Jesus who mercilessly torments a paralytic to test his faith before he heals him. And then there is that ancient chain letter again.

A number of the texts read like ancient and medieval fanfic about John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter, Cornelius the Centurion, and so on. Several of the texts have women as the main characters: Mary Magdalene; Xanthippie, her sister Polyxena, and her sister’s companion Rebecca; the pagan Sibyl; and, of course, the Virgin Mary.

The high level of textual variation in the manuscripts of many, if not most, of these texts challenges the traditional scholarly understanding of what a text is. The scribes who transmitted these texts seem often to be as concerned with retelling an entertaining or edifying story as copying a fixed text. Canonical works with fixed texts are probably the exception, while the variform texts in this volume are more representative of ancient and medieval literature.

In conclusion, this volume is an excellent supplement to Elliot’s collection of New Testament Apocrypha. It makes many new texts available in translation. It expands the range of what we have thought of as New Testament Apocrypha, mainly by including texts from late antiquity and the Middle Ages. I look forward to the second volume.

I recommend this book highly. Make sure your research library has a copy. It is inexpensive enough (especially through Amazon) that your local public library should be willing to buy one as well. And if you have any interest in the subject of New Testament Apocrypha, then buy a copy for yourself.

UPDATE (15 June): Philip Tite comments here.

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T. Issachar

READING ACTS: Testament of Issachar.

Earlier posts in Phil Long's blog series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha are noted here and links. In recent posts he has been surveying the Greek Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Sahidic Coptic OT online

AWOL BLOG: News from the Coptic Scriptorium: Old Testament corpus release. Cross-file under Coptic Watch.

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The afterlife in Zoroastrianism

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Zoroastrian afterlife beliefs and funerary practices. An article by Almut Hintze in the new (2017) Routledge Companion to Death and Dying. The article is available at Academia.edu.

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Review of Barton and Boyarin, Imagine No Religion

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Carlin A. Barton, Daniel Boyarin, Imagine No Religion. How Modern Abstractions Hide Ancient Realities. New York: Fordham University Press, 2016. Pp. 325. ISBN 9780823271207. $35.00 (pb). Reviewed by Anders Klostergaard Petersen, University of Aarhus (akp@cas.au.dk).
Barton’s and Boyarin’s monograph is related to Brent Nongbri’s Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept (New Haven, Yale UP 2013), a volume that has justifiably attracted considerable attention in disciplines devoted to the study of the ancient Graeco-Roman world. Barton and Boyarin refer in important places to Nongbri who has also provided them with their introductory, orally-transmitted, Edwin Judge contention that one should avoid the term religion in translations of ancient texts. Barton and Boyarin follow this injunction with relentless effort, arguing that any rendering of Greek and Latin terms (notably thrēskeia and religio, but also the related terms deisidaimonia and superstitio) by the word ‘religion’ is an anachronistic distortion. The argument is cogently pursued in Tertullian and Josephus (and some additional authors) held emblematically to illustrate the problem at stake.

[...]
But do the authors overshoot their point by moving from the emic to the etic?

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Talmud on property as gift vs. inheritance (etc.)

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: An Old Jew Is on His Deathbed, and Says to His Son… In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ what’s right—and what’s legal—in matters of inheritance.
Over the past several weeks, Daf Yomi readers have seen how the Talmud regulates the inheritance of property, building on biblical laws to create a more complex and flexible system. According to the Torah, for example, a man is not free to bequeath his property to whomever he wishes. Rather, inheritance follows an established order, going first to his sons, then his daughters, then his brothers, and finally to more distant male relatives. But as we saw earlier in Tractate Bava Batra, later Jewish law created a workaround, allowing the testator to give his property as a gift, rather than bequeath it as an inheritance. A gift is not subject to the same strict rules.

[...]
But it raises certain complexities ...

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Cynthia Baker's "Jew" and the Samaritans

MARGINALIA REVIEW OF BOOKS: Thinking with Samaritans and Cynthia Baker’s Jew. Matthew Chalmers on Cynthia Baker’s Jew. Marginalia's Forum on Cynthia Baker’s Jew is publishing a series of essays on the book. This is the third in the series.
As a scholar researching ancient and modern representations of Samaritans, I should confess that my first interaction with any book about Jewish identities is often to flip to the index and see whether it mentions them. Samaritans, after all, are a Torah-observant group who also trace their identity back to ancient Israel. Baker’s book does not. I suggest that exploring this omission tells us something more about what Baker’s book does, while also helping to articulate some broader ramifications for the study of Jews and beyond.
Mr. Chalmers then applies Professor Baker's methodology to the study of the Samaritans.

For past essays in the series and more information about the forum, see here and links.

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Looting arrests in the Galilee

APPREHENDED: Hiker helps stop antiquities-robbing gang in northern Israel. Caught in action after a foot chase, two out of three thieves taken to Nazareth for investigation (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel). Well done, alert hiker. The apprehension took place near Tzippori/Sepphoris. It sounds as though there has been a lot of nefarious activity in the north lately.

There have been quite a few looting arrests in Israel and the West Bank in 2017. I have noted some, probably not all. See here and links.

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Poetry on the Gospel of Thomas

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Alternative Scriptures: A Bit Of Bible Long Lost. The Greek fragments of the Gospel of Thomas (the one later found complete in a Coptic translation in the Nag Hammadi Library - see here) were published at the end of the nineteenth century.

This gospel became so well know that someone promptly published a poem on it. Not long after that, someone else quoted it in a textbook for school children.

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T. Judah: apocalyptic

READING ACTS: Apocalyptic in the Testament of Judah. This post discusses a messianic passage that could be read plausibly as a Jewish composition.

Earlier posts in Phil Long's blog series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha are noted here and here and links.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Review of Burke and Landau (eds.), New Testament Apocrypha (part 3)

BOOK REVIEW (PART THREE):
Tony Burke and Brent Landau, New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, volume 1 (Eerdmans, 2016).
Part One is here.
Part Two is here.
Part Four is here.

The Remaining Texts

I discuss the remaining texts in the order that they appear in the volume.

Apocryphal Acts and Related Traditions


The Acts of Barnabas (pp. 317-336, ed. Glenn E. Snyder) was composed in Greek by the late fifth century. It survives in two Greek recensions and a Latin translation. It is a collection of stories about the ministry and travels of Barnabas and John Mark, narrated by the latter. It concludes with an account of the martyrdom of Barnabas, after which John Mark and his companions appropriate and bury Barnabas’s remains and then escape to Alexandria.

The Acts of Cornelius the Centurion (pp. 337-361, ed. Tony Burke and Witold Witakowski) was composed in Greek sometime between the fourth and tenth centuries and survives in a long and a short version. This work expands the story of the conversion of the Cornelius of Acts 10-11 and recounts his elevation to sainthood after his death. This chapter translates a Greek manuscript and an Ethiopic translation, both representing the long version.

John and the Robber (pp. 362-370, Rick Brannan) is a story told at the conclusion of a homily by Clement of Alexandria and thus dates to the late second or early third century at latest. Some later authors, including Eusebius, repeat Clement’s account. The story tells of a young protégé of John the Apostle who goes bad and takes up with a group of robbers. John finds it necessary to round him up and bring him to repentance.

The History of Simon Cephas, the Chief of the Apostles (pp. 371-394, ed. F. Stanley Jones) was composed in the second half of the fourth century. It has never before been translated from Syriac into any modern language. Mostly it summarizes material from the canonical Book of Acts and other sources to give an account of the ministry of Peter. It includes his interactions with Simon Magus and a toned-down version of the famous episode in which Christ meets Peter and tells him he has returned to be crucified again because Peter is too weak to accept martyrdom.

The Acts of Timothy (pp. 395-405, ed. Cavan W. Concannon) survive in Greek and Latin manuscripts, but the work seems to have been composed in Greek in the late fourth or (more likely) early fifth century. It is of mixed genre, combining features of acts with features of martyrdoms. It presents Timothy as the bishop of Ephesus until his martyrdom.

The Acts of Titus (pp. 406-415, ed. Richard I. Pervo) survives and was composed in Greek. Its current form seems to date from the early seventh century, but this is probably an abbreviation of a longer life of Titus composed in the late fifth century. Pervo regards this work to be more a “hagiographical biography” than an apocryphal acts. It draws on traditions about Titus in the New Testament and the Acts of Paul. It also traces Titus’ lineage to Minos, King of Crete. Showing unusual sympathy for Jews for an early Christian document, it has an influential relative of Titus protect those in Crete from any consequences arising from the Judean revolt against Rome.

The Life and Conduct of the Holy Women Xanthipple, Polyxena, and Rebecca (pp. 416-452, ed. David L. Eastman) was composed in Greek in the fifth or sixth century. It has features of apocryphal acts and hagiography, but also reads like an unlikely (ancient) romance novel aimed at female monastics and devoted to promoting sexual abstinence. Three very different women undergo various adventures, some of them harrowing, but they survive unscathed and embrace a profoundly ascetic Christianity. The Apostle Paul is a central supporting character and other New Testament figures appear from time to time.

Epistles

The Epistle of Christ from Heaven (pp. 455-463, ed. Calogero A. Miceli) survives in manuscripts in a vast number of languages, but it likely originated in Greek. The first surviving mention of it was by the bishop of Ibiza in the late sixth century. (That’s right: Ibiza!) This remarkable work amounts to a chain letter from Jesus (who has been theologically homogenized with God). It survives in countless variations, the common core of which is to promote observation of Sunday as the Lord’s Day. This volume translates a comparatively early (fifteenth century) Greek manuscript of the epistle.

The Epistle of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite to Timothy concerning the Deaths of the Apostles Peter and Paul (pp. 464-480, ed. David L. Eastman) survives in versions in multiple languages. The lost Greek original was probably composed in the late sixth or early seventh century. Dionysius the Areopagite is mentioned in Acts 17:34 and is best known as the pseudonym of a fifth-sixth-century writer whose philosophical-theological works laid the foundation for subsequent Christian mysticism. This epistle is unrelated. It gives a fictional eyewitness account of the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul.

Apocalypses

The (Latin) Revelation of John about Antichrist (pp. 483-491, ed. Charles D. Wright) survives in two Latin recensions as well as in medieval English and Irish versions. It was composed in Latin, probably in the mid-twelfth century. In it, Christ reveals information to John about the Antichrist and other eschatological matters.

The Apocalypse of the Virgin (pp. 492-509, Charles D. Wright) was composed in Greek between the sixth and ninth centuries, probably earlier rather than later in that range. Hundreds of manuscripts survive with an enormous amount of textual variation. It tells the story of the visit of Mary to various parts of Hell, after which she enlists all the angels and saints to badger God into providing the damned Christian sinners with an annual period of respite from the lake of fire. It was a vastly popular work in Eastern Christianity.

The Tiburtine Sibyl (pp. 510-525, Stephen J. Shoemaker) was composed in Greek in the fourth century. This Greek version is lost, but is preserved substantially in a Latin translation. The surviving Greek text is of an expanded recension produced in the early sixth century. Shoemaker translates the Latin version. The work is an apocalyse set in the mouth of an early pagan Roman prophetess and is a late example of a Jewish and Christian tradition of writing oracles in the names of various Sibyls. We published a translation of the Greek version by Rieuwerd Buitenwerf in MOTP1, pp. 176-188. That translation includes detailed notes on the historical allusions in the work. It is unclear to Shoemaker why we regarded it as an Old Testament pseudepigraphon. (MNTA1, p. 512 n. 9), presumably because the oracles refer to events in the Christian era. But as he also noted (p. 515), the Sibylline literature has traditionally been included among Jewish and Christian apocryphal literature. The pagan Sibyls, like Ahiqar and Zoroaster, were adopted into the biblical tradition as prophets or sages. But they traditionally lived in the Old Testament period and so, at least in the case of the Sibyls and Ahiqar, have been treated as Old Testament pseudepigrapha in past collections. We continued that tradition (cf. MOTP1, xxviii) but have no objection to classing the Tiburtine Sibyl as a New Testament apocryphon as well. It is good to have the complementary translations in both volumes.

The Investiture of Abbaton, the Angel of Death (pp. 526-554, Alin Suciu with Ibrahim Saweros) is another example of the genre pseudo-apostolic memoir. It survives in a single tenth-century Sahidic Coptic manuscript, but it was probably composed in the fifth or sixth century. This work is a book within a book: the (probably pseudonymous) author Timothy of Alexandria describes how he obtained a revelatory book from an old man in Jerusalem and then transcribes the supposed content of the book. It narrates how the angel Muriel was transformed into Abatton (i.e., Abaddon, Hebrew for “destruction”) the Angel of Death. This work may be based on a Muslim source, but it is also possible that the Investiture and parallel Islamic traditions draw on an earlier common source. An Arabic Christian source offers a refutation of the story of Abatton and this chapter translates the relevant passage in an appendix.

In the next post I will give an overall evaluation of MNTA1 and make some general comments about it. Spoiler: I like it.

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Schiffman on the Magdala Stone

PROFESSOR LAWRENCE H. SCHIFFMAN: The Magdala Stone. A reprint of his article in Ami Magazine. The Magdala Stone is a first-century CE artifact that appears to depict the Second Temple in Jerusalem. It is currently on display in the Vatican Menorah Exhibition in Rome.

Professor Schiffman notes in particular, some potential implications of the Stone for the function of the synagogue in the first century.

Background on the Magdala Stone is here and follow the many links.

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T. Judah: women, money, and wars

READING ACTS: Women and Money in the Testament of Judah (Phil Long).

The Book of Jubilees also relates Judah's battles with the Amorites (chap. 34) and with the sons of Esau (chapters 37-38).

A medieval work called Midrash Vaiysa‘u also tells versions of the same two stories and seems to be based on Second Temple era sources in Greek. Martha Himmelfarb has translated Midrash Vaiysa‘u in Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures (ed. Bauckham, Davila, and Panayotov; Eerdmans 2013), 1:143-159.

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Dead Sea Scrolls found in the first millennium?

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Alternative Scriptures: Finding the First Scrolls (Philip Jenkins). A cache of Dead Sea Scrolls seems to have been found around 800 CE. It is possible that someone copied the fragments of the Damascus Document in the Cairo Geniza from one of those scrolls. Professor Jenkins doesn't mention this, but it's also possible that someone copied the Cairo Geniza fragments of Aramaic Levi from material that came from that discovery. We don't know: both suggestions are speculative but plausible.

For more on that discovery as related by the Patriarch Timonty in a Syriac letter, see this essay by John Reeves for my Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Course back in 1997: REFLECTIONS ON JEWISH APOCRYPHAL AND PSEUDEPIGRAPHICAL SURVIVALS IN MEDIEVAL NEAR EASTERN RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS. I also talk about Timothy's letter in an introductory page for my 2005 course on the Dead Sea Scrolls: Introduction to the Scrolls from the Judean Desert. As I note there, the (heretical but vastly learned) church father Origen knew of scrolls discovered "near Jericho" around 200 CE.

Earlier posts in Professor Jenkins's series on "alternative scriptures" are noted here and links.

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