Saturday, January 14, 2017

Ge'ez classes begin at University of Toronto

ETHIOPIC WATCH: University of Toronto Starts Ge’ez Classes (
January 13, 2017 - The University of Toronto (U of T) has begun Ge’ez classes to enable a new generation of students understand the ancient language and access long-lost trove of knowledge.

This week, Professor Robert Holmstedt of the department of Near and Middle Eastern civilizations welcomed 25 students and members of Ethiopian community in Toronto to the first day of an introductory course on Ge’ez.

With this course, U of T becomes one of the only places in the world where students can learn the fundamentals of Ge’ez, according to a statement on the university’s site.

The program came about through several significant donations, including from The Weeknd, the Ethiopian community and the Faculty of Arts & Science.

Department Chair Professor Tim Harrison has said that he hoped, with continued support, U of T would eventually add more courses and be positioned to launch the first Ethiopian studies program in North America.

Since the subject is so rarely taught, Holmstedt had to invent course materials and revise one of the only Ge’ez textbooks in English, the 40-year-old Introduction to Classical Ethiopic: Ge’ez by Thomas O. Lambdin. Ge’ez is a window into an ancient culture and offers insights into other languages, he said.

“I like giving students access to things that 99.5 percent of the world doesn’t have access to,” he said, adding: “It’s part of advancing our knowledge and the pursuit of truth. This is the very nature of the university. We can’t leave this behind.”

Excellent! Ge'ez (ancient Ethiopic) is of interest for ancient Jewish studies in particular because the text of 1 Enoch is preserved complete only in a Ge'ez translation.

Background here and links.

"All dreams follow the interpretation" - you are warned!

Dr. HAIM WEISS: “All Dreams Follow the Interpretation” – Even for the Rabbis! A New Approach to the Story of Abaye, Rava and the Dream Interpreter Bar Hedya (b. Berakhot 55b-56a) (

Dreams – an involuntary human experience of unclear purpose, and of symbolic and enigmatic elements – presented the rabbis with an interpretive, cultural, and theological crux. Their struggle with this challenge, extending from the Mishnah (c. 200 C.E.) all the way to the late midrashim (eighth-ninth centuries), is reflected in dozens of statements, stories, and theological discussions.

In addition to these asides about dreams, three lengthy passages devoted to dreams have come down to us: y. Ma‘aser Sheni 4; 55b-c; Eichah Rabbah, and part of the ninth chapter of b. Berakhot, known by scholars as “Tractate Dreams,” 1 which will be the focus of this article.
Some past posts on dreams and dream interpretation in the Talmud are here, here, here, here, and here.

Interview with Benyamin Tsedaka

SAMARITAN WATCH: Fox column: Benny is a good Samaritan (Pastor Mark Fox, The Times-News).
“Many people learn history. Very few people learn from it.”

That was one of the statements Benyamim Tsedaka made in our 90-minute meeting for lunch a few weeks ago. Benyamim, who prefers to be called Benny to make it easier for Americans, is a 125th-generation Samaritan who knows his history and is on a mission to help others know it as well, so lessons may be learned and tragedies avoided.

The Samaritans are a tribe of Israelites that once boasted more than a million people in the 5th century, and dropped as low as 141 in 1919. Now there are 800 Samaritans, but that number is growing again. From the ancient tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh and Levi, the Samaritans live in or near Mount Gerizim in Israel, and follow only the first five books of the Old Testament, or, the Pentateuch.

Benny says the Samaritans and Jews are two brothers of the same nation, and he travels throughout the world for two months every year, meeting with world leaders and representing the Samaritan people. When he and I met with JL Williams and Margaret Wooten (the Wootens are Benny’s "adopted family" in Alamance County), he had just come from a meeting with one of the members of President-elect Trump's transition team.

Benny has quite the resumé. He served in the Israeli Air Force in the 1960s. Since 1969, he has served as chief editor of The Samaritan News, and has published 122 books. He is a choir director, the honorary chairman of the Samaritan Basketball Team, and since 2007, he has chaired the Samaritan Medal Committee for Peace and Humanitarian Achievements.

Yes, Mr. Tzedaka is very active I have been in touch with him occasionally over the years and you will find him from time to time in PaleoJudaica's archives - most recently in connection with his (co-authored with Sharon Sullivan) English translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch.

Malachi Martin

PALEOGRAPHY: The strange case of Father Malachi Martin, the Kerry priest who stars in Netflix's new documentary. A new documentary focuses on a Kerry priest who claimed to have carried out exorcisms. Was he the real deal or a fantasist (Darragh McManus, Not an endorsement of this new film, which I have not seen and in which I have no interest, but I note this story because it tells me something interesting that I didn't know. Malachi Martin was a trained specialist in Semitic philology and paleography before he left the priesthood:
Born in Ballylongford in 1921, he became a Jesuit priest, did a doctorate in archaeology and Semitic languages in Belgium's Louvain University, worked on the famous Dead Sea scrolls, participated in archaeological digs in Egypt and served as private secretary to a Vatican cardinal, among many other achievements.
His 1999 obituary in the Independent (UK) gives additional details:
Martin grew up in a large, traditional Catholic family in County Kerry and in 1939 as a young man entered the Jesuit Order. He read for a BA in humanities at University College, Dublin, then spent three years studying philosophy followed by three years teaching in a Jesuit college in Ireland, and four years of theology studies at Milltown Park, Dublin (the college where Jesuits did their theological training). There he was ordained into the priesthood in 1954, taking his final vows as a Jesuit on 2 February 1957.

His talents were soon apparent and he was sent for further studies outside Ireland. He received doctorates from the universities of Louvain and Oxford and from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where he concentrated on knowledge of Jesus as transmitted in Islamic and Jewish sources. As a biblical scholar, Martin's main contribution was the book The Scribal Character of the Dead Sea Scrolls, published in Louvain in 1958.

Marked out as a high-flyer, he became Professor of Palaeontology and Semitic Languages at the prestigious Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and was a theological adviser to Cardinal Augustin Bea, the head of the Vatican's Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity. This brought him into close contact with Pope John XXIII.

Martin's years in Rome coincided with the start of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), which was to transform the Catholic Church in a way that the initially-liberal Martin began to find distressing. Disillusioned by the reforms taking place among the Jesuits, the Church's largest religious order, Martin requested a release from his vows in 1964 and left Rome suddenly that June.
And then, of course, his life took a rather different direction. He is best known as the exorcising priest in the episode on which the 1973 movie The Exorcist is based.

Amusingly, in the quote from the obituary his academic title is given as "Professor of Palaeontology." That should be Professor of Palaeography.

Restorations on the Church of the Nativity

REPAIR WORK UNDERWAY: Bethlehem shrine’s treasures being restored (Josephine McKenna, Religion News Service/Crux reprint).
The Church of the Nativity, built by Roman Emperor Constantine in the fourth century, sits in Bethlehem above what’s believed to be the birthplace of Jesus. Since 2013, Italian experts have been working with the Palestinian government to overcome cultural and religious differences and forge ahead with an ambitious restoration.
As frequently with such things, this is the traditional birthplace of Jesus. In historical terms there is no certainty where or even in what year Jesus was born. But the site has a long tradition of association with his birth:
The church was completed on Constantine’s orders in 339 A.D. but later destroyed during conflict in the sixth century. A new basilica was built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in 565 A.D. and lined with colorful wall mosaics much later, during the 12th century.

“The design of the transept is an example of exceptional craftsmanship, and so too are the mosaics, the columns, the capitals and the architraves,” Piacenti said.

Over the years the structure has suffered from degradation and water infiltration. It was declared a U.N. World Heritage site in 2012 in a bid to save it from further decay and it’s also on the World Heritage endangered list.
But Piacenti said few realize it also withstood invasions, war and natural disasters.

“This church is a fortress that has survived attacks and 15 terrible earthquakes and it is still standing today,” he said.
The restorations have been underway since 2013 and are reportedly about two-thirds complete.

Background on its listing as a UNESCO World Heritage site is here and links.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Secunda on Hanukkah and Zoroastrian Fire Veneration

DR. SHAI SECUNDA: The Development of the Chanukah Oil Miracle in Context of Zoroastrian Fire Veneration. The Ancient Fire that Fueled the Chanukah Story (
In recent years, most scholars have observed that the story concerning the miracle of oil is a late addition to the Chanukah traditions.1 This article suggests a possible Greek precursor to the story, and examines the role that the Iranian religion, Zoroastrianism, played in both these traditions about miraculous fire.
Cross-file under, Belatedly, 'Tis The Season (Hanukkah Edition).

Kemosh and YHWH

THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST TODAY (ASOR): Kemosh, YHWH’s Counterpart and “Abomination” (Collin Cornell).
Sitting in a seminary classroom and translating the famous Mesha Inscription from Moab can create a unique sense of unease and confusion. Here is a god so similar to, well, God; to Yhwh that is, the god of the Hebrew Bible! So who was Kemosh, really?

Cross-file under Chemosh, Epigraphy, and History of Religion. More on the Mesha Inscription (Mesha Stele, Moabite Stone) is here and links.

Goodacre and Still now editors of NIGTC

READING ACTS: Goodacre and Still, New Editors of the New International Greek Text Commentary series.
Here is an exciting announcement from Eerdmans: Mark Goodacre and Todd D. Still are taking over editorship of the New International Greek Text Commentary series. The NIGTC is one on the premier New Testament commentaries published today. ...
Congratulations to both.

Magness lecturing at Baylor on Huqoq mosaics

BAYLOR UNIVERSITY: Biblical Mosaics Discovered in Ancient Israeli Synagogue Will Be Topic of Lecture by Excavation Director Jan. 19.
WACO, Texas (Jan. 12, 2017) — New discoveries of mosaics uncovered in an ancient synagogue in Israel’s Galilee region will be the topic of an upcoming slide-illustrated lecture by Jodi Magness, Ph.D., director of the excavations.

Magness’ presentation, which is free and open to the public, will be given at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19, in Baylor University’s McClinton Auditorium, Room 240, of the Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation, 1621 S. Third St.

Past posts on the new mosaic from Huqoq are collected here. And follow the links there for past posts on the other mosaics from Huqoq.

Herman Charles Hoskier Project

HISTORY OF NEW TESTAMENT TEXTUAL CRITICISM: Project Announcement: Herman Charles Hoskier and the Future of the Bible (Dr. Garrick Allen). This is a project being undertaken in Ireland by Dr. Allen, one of our recent St. Andrews PhDs. He has been mentioned at PaleoJudaica a number of times, including here, here, here, and here.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Review of Stang, Our Divine Double

Charles M. Stang, Our Divine Double. Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Press, 2016. Pp. 309. ISBN 9780674287198. $49.95.

Reviewed by Gregory Shaw, Stonehill College (

Eloquently written and accessible, this book traces in successive chapters the spiritual current of doubling that underlies Platonism, early Christianity, Manichaeism, and Neoplatonism. To read Our Divine Double is to fall under the spell that enthralled the author, who tells us that “the task of this book is to retrieve this tradition of the divine double from the obscurity into which it has fallen” (12). There is a prescriptive edge to Stang’s explorations. He has something at stake and his passion for retrieving the divine element in our human condition is infectious. Not only does this book invite us into the originating impulse of Christianity and other ancient traditions, it allows us to recognize that the divine double still lives among us, in intuitions, dreams and reveries, which belong to a language that has long been forgotten in our contemporary culture. Stang has discovered the syntax that allows us to reflect on such moments and recover a place for them in Western traditions.
I noted the book here when it came out last year. Further to my comments there, you can find some discussion of the divine double (heavenly counterpart) tradition in ancient Judaism in some of the essays by Andrei Orlov collected in From Apocalypticism to Merkabah Mysticisim (JSJSup 114; Leiden: Brill, 2007).

Academic conference presentations

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Make a Good Impression at Academic Conferences (Please!) (Beth Allison Barr). Excerpt:
Most of us, when thinking about how to give a good conference paper, focus on the research, the historical conversation to which we are contributing, the questions we might get asked, and the scholars we might offend in the audience. After sitting through several sessions this past weekend, however, I think perhaps our priorities are skewed. Perhaps we should start paying at least as much attention to how we present our papers as we do to how we research our papers.
Read this before your present another conference paper. There's lots of good advice here.

Way back in 2004 there was a discussion of this issue among (and yes, we still seem to be using this term) bibliobloggers. You can see my advice, with a link to a post by Mark Goodacre, at my post on how to read a scholarly paper.

An ancient underground ritual bath in Jerusalem

MORE ARCHITECTURE: Jerusalem: Behind the Scenes of The Western Wall — A Monumental Ritual Bath (Carl Rasmussen, HolyLandPhotos' Blog).
We recently took the 80 minute guided tour called “Behind the Scenes of The Western Wall.” This tour is run by the same group that operates the much more familiar “The Western Wall Tunnels” tour.

One of the interesting finds that we visited was a large ritual bath from the late Second Temple Period (New Testament era) that is located on the lower eastern slope of the Western Hill—west of the Temple Mount proper.

A related post was noted here yesterday. Nice photos in this one too.

JSP 26.2 (2016)

2 Baruch and the Syriac Codex Ambrosianus (7a1): Studying Old Testament Pseudepigrapha in Their Manuscript Context
Liv Ingeborg Lied
First Published January 10, 2017; pp. 67–107

This article presents three hypotheses that may shed light on the place of 2 Baruch in the Syriac Codex Ambrosianus, the sixth-/seventh-century Old Testament codex that contains the only known complete copy of 2 Baruch. Whereas scholars of 2 Baruch have generally treated this copy in isolation from the rest of the manuscript, using it primarily as a witness to the (hypothetical) early Jewish text, this essay approaches 2 Baruch as an integral part of the codex, exploring codicological elements, the order and organization of books, as well as paratextual features. Inspired by the perspective of New Philology, this article contributes to the ongoing discussions about the origins, transmission and transformation of the so-called Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, claiming the importance of studying them in the manuscript contexts in which they are copied. The article will also be a contribution to the further study of the Codex Ambrosianus and the engagement with 2 Baruch among Syriac Christians.

Reception of the Greek Story of Melchizedek in Syriac Christian Tradition
Sergey Minov
First Published January 10, 2017; pp. 108–143

This article focuses on the history of reception of the Story of Melchizedek, an original Greek composition from Late Antiquity, among Syriac-speaking Christians during the Middle Ages. For the first time the original Syriac text, English translation and discussion of three different witnesses to this apocryphal work in Syriac is provided, namely (1) the abbreviated translation of the Story incorporated into Catena Severi (ninth century), (2) the Pseudo-Athanasian excerpt found in ms. Vatican Syr. 159, and (3) the brief discourse entitled Melchizedek the Priest.

The Lion, the Honey, and the New Timnite Woman: Joseph and Aseneth and the Samson Cycle
Christopher Brenna
First Published January 10, 2017; pp. 144–163

This study presents a solution for the symbol of the honeycomb employed in Joseph and Aseneth, an ancient Hellenistic Jewish novel, by recognizing signals throughout the rest of the narrative that point to an allegorical reading of Samson's encounter with the lion in Judg. 14.5–9. The thesis is that the author of Joseph and Aseneth is providing an allegorical reading of Judg. 14.5–9, where Samson is a type of wayward Israel and the Timnite woman represents foreign domination. The lion and the honey are interpreted as symbols of Samson's subsequent victory over his Philistine foes, and this symbolical movement is applied to Aseneth's transformed identity. Aseneth is a new Timnite woman and Joseph is a new Samson, reconfigured to triumph over her seductive influence. Parallels are drawn between a constructed allegorical reading of the Samson cycle and the encounter of Aseneth with Joseph and later with the heavenly man. The theological themes upon which such a reading relies are discussed.
A personal or institutional subscription is required to access the full articles. CORRECTION: A correspondent in Paris indicates that he is able to access the full articles without either kind of subscription. So perhaps they are free online, at least for some period of time. If you're interested, give it a try and find out.

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

Gribetz on how to teach the Mishnah

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Teaching Students to Read (the Mishnah) ( Sarit Kattan Gribetz).
How do we effectively teach students to read new types of texts that might seem daunting for them at first glance? I have a set of simple suggestions, based on my experiences teaching rabbinic sources in introductory religion courses, that might help those looking for new strategies for incorporating texts and genres unfamiliar and seemingly inaccessible to students into their courses. While the example below focuses on teaching the Mishnah, it could easily be adapted to other sources, especially texts or artifacts that might confound students who encounter them on their own for the first time (e.g. Babylonian omen texts, Greek magical papyri, Justinian’s Digest, documents from the Judean desert, etc.).

There are some really good ideas in this essay and I think I will be adapting some of them in the Mishnah unit of my new Ancient Jewish Literature course this semester. And as the author observes, her overall approach could be adapted for teaching a wide range of ancient literature.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

New director for the Israel Museum

CHANGE: Israel Museum announces new director. Architect Eran Neuman of Tel Aviv University will succeed James Snyder following nine-month search (Jessica Steinberg, Times of Israel).
Eran Neuman was announced Tuesday as the new director of the Israel Museum, following a nine-month search to find a successor to James Snyder.

Snyder, who will end his 20-year tenure as director, will assume the newly created role of international president of the museum, working with the network of International Friends of the Israel Museum, and building relationships with sister institutions and collectors worldwide.

Neuman, an architect and graduate of Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and UCLA, is currently director of the Azrieli School of Architecture at Tel Aviv University.

I noted back in March that James Snyder would be stepping down as director.

A monumental ancient hall in Jerusalem

ARCHITECTURE: A Monumental Herodian (Hasmonean?) Hall in Jerusalem — Behind the Scenes of the Western Wall (Carl Rasmussen, HolyLandPhotos' Blog).
We recently took the 80 minute guided tour called “Behind the Scenes of The Western Wall.” The main reason I signed up for this tour was to revisit a Monumental Hall from the late Second Temple Period (New Testament era).
Nice photos.

"Mastery of the wheels"

JESUS MONOTHEISM BLOG: An little noticed reference to speculation on Adam and the Merkabah in Ben Sira (Crispin Fletcher-Louis).
Ben Sira’s instruction in the “rule” or “mastery” of the wheels must have something to do with a vision of humanity exalted to position equivalent to, or identical with, the position of the human-like Glory of God that Ezekiel saw. That vision, says Ben Sira 50, is available in the liturgy of the temple. It is available, above all, in the ministry of the high priest. In that ministry there is the human-like Glory of God which Ezekiel saw. He is the one who shows us what it means to be given rule over all the works of God’s hands. He is the one who has a “mastery of the wheels of the divine chariot”.

In his own way, Ben Sira was a merkabah mystic, who provided his disciples an interpretation of Ezekiel 1.
Speculative, but interesting.

Seen on Facebook.

Bond on Josephus

BIBLE ODYSSEY: Who was Josephus? (Dr. Helen K. Bond). There are many, many past PaleoJudaica posts on Flavius Josephus. Some recent ones are here, here, here, and here and links.

More on Lithodomos

VIRTUAL REALITY: Walk Through Biblical Jerusalem of 2000 Years Ago With Stunning Clarity (Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, Breaking Israel News).
While many Bible-lovers through the generations have dreamed of walking through Jerusalem of old and witnessing the glory of the working Temple, no one has done it for two thousand years – until now. Using cutting-edge virtual reality (VR) technology, one archaeology scholar has recreated a detailed, historically accurate ancient world which immerses users in the Biblical experience of a lifetime.

As an undergraduate in archaeology, Simon Young wanted to experience first-hand what he was studying in textbooks. He tried constructing models and even attempted to rebuild historical scenes with 3D technology, but something was lacking. When he began his doctoral studies, he discovered Oculus Rift, a newly developed virtual reality (VR) headset. For the first time, Young was able to put himself inside ancient history. Young used the new technology to create archaeologically correct digital reconstructions of ancient cityscapes.

This article focuses on the background of the development of the Lithodomos app. Background here. Related story (different software) here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Roman theatre found at Hippos-Sussita

EXCAVATION: Archaeologists find vast pagan sanctuary outside Roman city in north Israel. Location of pagan cult site outside city walls of Hippos-Sussita suggests the primary purpose of the theater was to worship the gods, not entertain the masses (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz).
Archaeologists excavating the ancient Roman town of Hippos-Sussita in northern Israel have finally found the large theatre they'd been seeking for years. But based on its location outside town, they think the propylaea bathhouse-theater compound they discovered wasn't for entertainment, but for worship.

The ancients didn't have signs saying, "Line up here to adore Augustus." Building the tale of Hippos is like building a detective story, clue by clue, says Dr. Michael Eisenberg of Haifa University, head of the Hippos excavations project.

"First we found the Pan mask, in 2015," he says. "Then we found a monumental gate leading to what we surmised might be a site of worship. This year, in a single compound outside the city walls, we found a bathhouse and a theater."

The latest discoveries in Hippos-Sussita, which is within the Sussita Natural Park run by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, were unveiled Monday at the annual conference of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at Haifa University. At the conference, Eisenberg described the latest discoveries, including two burial grounds also located outside the city proper.

A long, detailed essay on the new discovery and on the site of Hippos-Sussita. It's a premium article, so read it soon before it goes behind the subscription wall.

The discovery of the Pan mask was noted here and of the monumental gate here. And follow the links in those posts for additional background on Hippos-Sussita.

New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, vol. 1

Tony Burke and Brent Landau (eds.), New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, volume 1 (Eerdmans, 2016)

Compilation of little-known and never-before-published apocryphal Christian texts in English translation

This anthology of ancient nonbiblical Christian literature presents introductions to and translations of little-known apocryphal texts from a wide variety of genres, most of which have never before been translated into any modern language.

An introduction to the volume as a whole addresses the most significant features of the included writings and contextualizes them within the contemporary (quickly evolving) study of the Christian Apocrypha. The body of the book comprises thirty texts that have been carefully introduced, annotated, and translated into readable English by eminent scholars. Ranging from the second century to early in the second millennium, these fascinating texts provide a more complete picture of Christian thought and expression than canonical texts alone can offer.
A review copy for PaleoJudaica, kindly sent by the publisher. I am very much looking forward to reading it. Watch for the review here in due course. Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch.

Epic rabbis in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Talmud as Epic. This week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ brings to life rabbinic heroes on their intellectual battlefield: larger-than-life figures worthy of Greek drama.
But when it comes to aggadah, the Talmud’s passages of lore and legend, these one-dimensional names suddenly spring to life. The rabbis, it turns out, were not just law-producing machines; they were also saints and miracle-workers, friends and enemies, politicians and businessmen. Read one way, the Talmud is an epic, in which the rabbis play the role of heroes. But they are heroes of a particular kind: they fight not with swords but words, and the rewards they seek are not kingdoms but holiness and intellectual authority. This elevation of the intellectual and spiritual over the physical constitutes a particularly Jewish vision of heroism, which continues to play a central role in both religious and secular Jewish culture today.
And they were beautiful. Moses was also remembered as beautiful in ancient Jewish traditions (see here and here). The Merkavah mystics also frequently referred to the beauty of God (see, e.g., the passage from the Hekhalot Zutarti quoted here).

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Hurtado on The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek

LARRY HURTADO: A New Greek-English Lexicon.
Serious students of early Christian texts will want to become acquainted with a new Greek-English lexicon: GE: The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2016), edited by Madeleine Goh & Chad Schroeder, under the auspices of the Center for Hellenic Studies. (The publisher’s online catalogue entry here.)

This important new lexicon was noted earlier here, but Professor Hurtado gives additional background and details in his post. Cross-file under Philology.

Nebraska symposium on "Exile and Return in Jewish History"

H-JUDAIC: CFP: "Exile and Return in Jewish History."
The Thirtieth Annual Symposium on Jewish Civilization

“Next Year in Jerusalem: Exile and Return in Jewish History”

Call for Papers: October 29-30, 2017

The Klutznick Chair in Jewish Civilization (Creighton University), the Kripke Center for the Study of Religion and Society (Creighton University), the Harris Center for Judaic Studies (University of Nebraska-Lincoln), and the Schwalb Center for Israel and Jewish Studies (University of Nebraska-Omaha) announce their Thirtieth Annual Symposium, in Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, on Sunday, October 29, and Monday, October 30, 2017. Sessions with take place on the campuses of Creighton, UNL, and UNO and also at the Omaha Jewish Community Center.

The deadline for submission of abstracts is 15 April 2017. Follow the link for further particulars.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Sifre Numbers

THE SBL HANDBOOK OF STYLE BLOG: Sifre Numbers. Along with the stylistic advice, this post gives a nice brief overview of the structure of Sifre Numbers, how it fits into the rabbinic midrashic literature, and some bibliography.

Hirshman, Midrash Kohelet Rabbah 1-6

NEW BOOK FROM THE SCHECHTER INSTITUTE OF JEWISH STUDIES (IN HEBREW): Marc Hirshman, Midrash Kohelet Rabbah 1-6, Critical Edition with Commentary and Introduction. There is no English page for the book yet, but you can read about the Midrash Project here in English.

HT the Talmud Blog on Facebook.

Women in Judaism 13.1 (2016)

H-JUDAIC: TOC: New Issue: Women in Judaism. Ancient Judaism is well represented in this issue.

I noted this open-access online journal recently here.

Dead Sea Scrolls Community

BIBLE ODYSSEY: Dead Sea Scrolls Community (Alex P. Jassen). HT AJR Twitter.

Baumer, The Church of the East

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: The Church of the East. Notice of a new book: Baumer, Christoph. 2016. The Church of the East: An illustrated history of Assyrian Christianity. I.B. Tauris. Cross-file under Aramaic Watch and Syriac Watch.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

On discovering (making?) Mandaic

PHILOLOGASTRY BLOG: Columbusing Classical Mandaic (Charles G. Häberl).
And then you have Rudolf Macuch. The 20th century Slovak philologist was not only painfully aware of his own position with respect to his subject, but he also never lets us forget it. His Handbook of Classical and Modern Mandaic is a landmark of 20th century scholarship, if only because it is sui generis among grammars. Its first 25 pages establish it as a very personal account of a language, situating him within his own scholarly context through a painstakingly detailed critique of the work of his predecessors and contemporaries. At no point does Macuch ever adopt the terrible fiction of a voice from nowhere; instead, he makes certain that his voice is heard on each and every page.

Philologists are basically people who do things with words, and the primary thing that Macuch attempts to do with his Handbook is to document his personal discovery of both Classical and Modern Mandaic. In a very real sense, neither existed prior to 1965 (please bear with me on this) and he wants us to know that he was present at their making. In fact, he outlines the case that he has played a pivotal role in this making.
Cross file under Mandean Watch (Mandaean Watch) and Philology. HT AJR.

Turkish in Syriac script

SYRIAC WATCH: A rose by any other name: When Turkish was written in the Greek, Armenian and even Syrian script. In the Ottoman Empire, Turkish in scripts other than Arabic were commonplace (Michael Erdman,
The final example of allography from the Ottoman Empire is a much less common one, but no less interesting. It is of the newspaper Leshānā d’umthā, Syriac for Voice of the Nation (BL 753.k.35). This bi-weekly was produced in Beirut, Lebanon from 1927 until 1946 and had articles in Syriac, Arabic and Turkish.

Arabic written in Syriac script is a common occurrence throughout the Christian Orient, and is referred to as Garshuni. Turkish written in Syriac characters, however, is far rarer, and represents a unique view into the linguistic, political and cultural identity of Beirut’s Christian communities decades after the end of Ottoman sovereignty.

Unlike Armeno-Turkish, the author of the Ottoman Turkish articles in this periodical adhered to Ottoman orthography as much as possible, even when it did not conform to the spoken language. This indicates that the compiler of the articles was educated in Ottoman Turkish, yet opted to write in Syriac script; a reminder of just how powerful the visual aspects of language were and are in the Middle East.
Follow the link for a photo.

The Syriac script has also been used to write other languages, including - as the article notes - Arabic (Garshuni), but also Georgian (Syro-Georgian).

Murphy and Schedtler (eds.), Apocalypses in Context

Apocalypses in Context: Apocalyptic Currents Through History Paperback – September 1, 2016
by Kelly J. Murphy (Author), Kelly J Murphy (Editor), Justin Jeffcoat Schedtler (Editor)

Apocalyptic scenarios remain prevalent and powerful in popular culture (in television, film, comic books, and popular fiction), in politics (in debates on climate change, environmentalism, Middle East policy, and military planning), and in various religious traditions. Academic interest in apocalypticism is flourishing; indeed, the study of both ancient and contemporary apocalyptic phenomena has long been a focus of attention in scholarly research and a ready way to engage the religious studies classroom. Apocalypses in Context is designed for just such a classroom, bringing together the insights of scholars in various fields and using different methods to discuss the manifestations of apocalyptic enthusiasm in different ages (Part I: Ancient Apocalyptic Literature; Part II: Apocalypticism through the Ages; Part III: Apocalypticism in the Contemporary World). This approach enables the instructor to make connections and students to recognize continuities and contrasts across history. Apocalypses in Context features illustrations, graphs, study questions, and suggestions for further reading after each chapter, as well as recommended media and artwork to support the college classroom.
HT Peter J. Leithart at the First Things Blog.

Gertz et al. (eds.), The Formation of the Pentateuch

The Formation of the Pentateuch
Bridging the Academic Cultures of Europe, Israel, and North America
Ed. by Jan C. Gertz, Bernard M. Levinson, Dalit Rom-Shiloni, and Konrad Schmid

[Die Entstehung des Pentateuch. Ein Brückenschlag zwischen den akademischen Kulturen Europas, Israels und Nordamerikas.]
2016. XI, 1204 pages.
Forschungen zum Alten Testament 111

269,00 €
ISBN 978-3-16-153883-4

Published in English.
The Pentateuch lies at the heart of the Western humanities. Yet despite nearly two centuries of scholarship, its historical origins and its literary history are still a subject of intense discussion. Critical scholarship has isolated multiple layers of tradition, inconsistent laws, and narratives that could only have originated from separate communities within ancient Israel, and were joined together at a relatively late stage by a process of splicing and editing.
Recent developments in academic biblical studies, however, jeopardize the revolutionary progress that has been accomplished over the last two centuries. The past forty years of scholarship have witnessed not simply a proliferation of intellectual models, but the fragmentation of discourse within the three main research centers of Europe, Israel, and North America. Even when they employ the same terminology (redactor, author, source, exegesis), scholars often mean quite different things. Concepts taken for granted by one group of scholars (such as the existence of the Elohist source) are dismissed out of hand by other scholarly communities.
In effect, independent and sometimes competing scholarly discourses have emerged in Europe, Israel, and North America. Each centers on the Pentateuch, each operates with its own set of working assumptions, and each is confident of its own claims. This volume seeks to stimulate international discussion about the Pentateuch in order to help the discipline move toward a set of shared assumptions and a common discourse. With the wide range of perspectives examined, this publication is an invaluable resource for subsequent research.

More on Textual History of the Bible

Textual History of the Bible

Edited by: Armin Lange (General Editor), Emanuel Tov, Matthias Henze, Russell E. Fuller, Hanna Tervanotko and Sidnie White-Crawford

The Textual History of the Bible (THB) is unique in providing, for the first time, all available information regarding the textual history, textual character, translation techniques, manuscripts, and the importance of each textual witness for each book of the Hebrew Bible, including its deutero-canonical scriptures.
In addition, it includes articles on the history of research, the editorial histories of the Hebrew Bible, as well as other aspects of text-critical research and its auxiliary fields, such as papyrology, codicology, and linguistics.

The Textual History of the Bible will consist of:
Volumes 1A, 1B and 1C: The Hebrew Bible (2016/2017)
Volumes 2A and 2B: Deuterocanonical Scriptures (2017)
Volumes 3 A, 3B and 3C: A Companion to Textual Criticism (2019)
Volume 4: Indices, and Manuscript Catalogues (2020)
I noted a press release about the series back in April, but this Brill page gives additional information.