Saturday, February 04, 2017

Keim, Pirqei deRabbi Eliezer, at Google Books


Pirqei deRabbi Eliezer: Structure, Coherence, Intertextuality

As usual, this is a preview, not the whole book. But it includes substantial excerpts.

The Talmud, Gilgamesh, Eden, and sex

LEHRHAUS: Gilgamesh and the Rabbis: Knowledge and its Price from Uruk to the Beit Midrash (Eli Putterman.
The tale of R. Yohanan and Reish Laqish related in b. Bava Metzia 84a ranks among the most shocking narratives in rabbinic literature, yet also one of the most profoundly moving. Certainly, the story has exerted an unabated fascination upon generations of scholars, who have analyzed the text using a wide variety of theoretical approaches and brought it into dialogue with intertexts within rabbinic literature and without, from Syriac Christian monastic traditions to Les Miserables.[1] In what follows, I will focus on a complex of motifs in the first episode of the story—the initial encounter between R. Yohanan and Reish Laqish in the Jordan River—and trace its multifarious appearances in a wide range of ancient cultures, beginning at the very dawn of world literature.


Crowdsourcing Gilgamesh

CHILDREN'S LITERATURE: Readers get headstart on book about Gilgamesh. Jerusalem author Shirley Graetz turns to crowdsourcing to fund young reader series (Jessica Steinberg, Times of Israel).
Remember the adventures of Gilgamesh, the Akkadian demigod?

Shirley Graetz, the Jerusalem-based writer and creator of the elementary school-age hero, is back with the second book in the series, “Gilgamesh and the Underworld,” and she’s crowdsourcing some financial help, having self-published the successful chapter book the first time.

PaleoJudaica noted her first Gilgamesh book (in Hebrew) here.

ISBL 2017: history of Jewish biblical scholarship in Berlin

H-JUDAIC: CFP: JEWISH BIBLE SCHOLARSHIP IN BERLIN in the 19th and 20th centuries at ISBL, Berlin, Aug. 2017. Proposals due 22 Feb 2017.
We would like to invite submissions of proposals for a themed session devoted to Jewish biblical scholarship in Berlin in the 19th and 20th centuries, which is one of two sessions scheduled for the new unit on The History of Biblical Scholarship in the Late Modern Period, at the International Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature.
Follow the link for further particulars.

Rabbinics and Second Temple Judaism

READING ACTS: Using Rabbinic Literature for the Study of the Second Temple Period. The best advice is probably not to use rabbinic literature for the study of either the New Testament or the Second Temple Period unless you are a specialist in Rabbinics. But people generally are not going to take that advice.

Two comments. First do not use Strack and Billerbeck. See Phil's note in the comments for why. Second, the only way I know of to draw on the Mishnah on its own terms for information on the late Second Temple Period is to restrict the discussion to the sayings that Neusner and his students reconstructed as belonging to the earliest stratum ("before the wars"). This reconstruction is itself open to debate in various ways, but unless you want to specialize in Rabbinics and form your own opinion about the date of each saying in the Mishnah, it's the best cheat sheet we have at present. (This is outside my area of expertise, so if you know of a better one, please alert me to it.)

Relevant basic bibliography:

Neusner, Jacob. Judaism: The Evidence of the Mishnah. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

Sanders, E. P. Jewish Law from Jesus to the Mishnah. SCM, 1990.

Yes, I know that Neusner and Sanders disagreed on a lot of things, but Sanders's overview of Neusner's earliest Mishnah stratum in the book above is helpful.

Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Second Temple Period are noted here and links. I needed to look some things up before I published this post, so I have taken the Reading Acts post out of order.

Finally, for more on teaching the Mishnah to undergraduates, see here.

UPDATE (6 February): Richard Bauckham has e-mailed to remind me of David Instone-Brewer's still-in-progress work on that first stratum of rabbinic sayings: Traditions of the Rabbis in the Era of the New Testament (T-R-E-N-T). And see also here.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Of ritual baths, stone vessels, and purity

THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST TODAY (ASOR BLOG): Jewish Purity Practices in Roman Judea: The Evidence of Archaeology (Yonatan Adler).
Along with mikva’ot, the chalkstone quarries and workshops reflect the surprising extent to which the economy and landscape were dedicated to the concept of purity.

Ugaritica volumes online for free

AWOL: Open Access Monograph Series: Ugaritica. Cross-file under Northwest Semitic Epigraphy.

Postdoc in France on Ancient Judaism

Postdoctoral Fellowship in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity Project PLURITEXT (ANR/DFG)

The Maison des Sciences de l’Homme at the University of Lorraine (Metz) offers 18 months Postdoctoral Fellowship (with the possibility of a six-month extension) attached to the ANR-DFG Project PLURITEXT. The position will run September 1, 2017-february 28, 2019. Applicants must have completed their doctoral dissertations by September 1, 2018 on a topic related to the literature or thought of ancient Judaism and have a good knowledge of ancient Greek and Hebrew.

The successful candidate will receive a fellowhsip of circa 2 050 Euros net per month and will spend the 2017-2019 academic years at the University of Lorraine (Metz). The Postdoc is expected to conduct independent research related to the project PLURITEXT in her/his area of expertise. She/he is also expected to take an active role in the ANR- DFG Project PLURITEXT. She/he will be especially involved in the edition of Hebrew Text of Ben Sira in collaboration with Jan Joosten, Eric Reymond and Jean-Sébastien Rey.

Follow the link for application procedures and more information on the PLURITEXT Project.

Revival of the half-shekel Temple tax

BREAKING ISRAEL NEWS: Half-Shekel Temple Tax Reinstated By Sanhedrin (Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz).
“Everyone who is numbered, from twenty years old and over, shall give the contribution to the Lord. The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel, when you give the contribution to the Lord to make atonement for yourselves.” Exodus 30:15 (The Israel Bible™)

After a 2,000 year moratorium, it is now possible for a Jew anywhere in the world to perform the mitzvah (commandment) of paying the half-shekel, a Biblically-mandated tax incumbent on every Jew to finance the day-to-day operations of the Temple.

There are now two ways to perform this commandment: one method for people who can hand-deliver their offering, and another for those who can’t.

While the Temple was standing, every Jewish man was required to give one half-shekel weight of silver, approximately eight grams of silver (worth about $4 today), as a mandatory tax to support the Temple. Each man was obligated to give the same amount, regardless of his economic condition. The coins, once deposited in the Temple courtyard, were hekdesh (sanctified) and not permitted to be used for any other purpose.

The nation of Israel continued to observe the commandment even after the First Temple was destroyed until the practice was outlawed by Roman Emperor Hadrian in the year 135 CE. Even Jews who lived outside of Israel continued to donate the half-shekel, despite the Roman Senate forbidding the export of gold and silver.

Read on for the specifics of the two new systems. I wonder how this one is going to play out. So far, they are reported to have collected quite a bit of money.

As I have said before: (1) No excavation or construction on the Temple Mount! Not even archaeology, until we have non-invasive and non-destructive technologies to do the work. And (2) My interest here is sociological and historical, not theological (let alone eschatological!), and my citation of this and related stories is not an endorsement of their content. The latter link also has some relevant comments on Breaking Israel News.

This particular initiative was first noted here, but there have been new developments. That post has links to previous posts on the ancient half-shekel tax and see also here.

Of Amorites, truffles, and giants

THE WORLD IS FULL OF HISTORY: Peoples of the Bible: The legend of the Amorites. And why were the biblical peoples so terrified of migrant shepherds that they described them as raw-meat eating, ancestor-abusing giants? ■ Part 1 (Philippe Bohstrom, Haaretz).
Amorites: A people descended from Emer, the fourth son of Canaan, according to the book of Genesis 10:16.

The problem with understanding the Amorites is that they have two wildly different points of reference, an earlier Mesopotamian one and a later biblical one, over a thousand years distant from one another, and which seem to have no connection whatsoever except for the name. Even defining Amorites as a single people may be inaccurate: we cannot be sure they were one, since the Amorites are from a deep, unknown past. But this is what we can say.
One more brief excerpt from a long article:
In the Marriage of Martu, a Sumerian creation legend that took place in the distant past even in biblical times, in which the blushing bride weds an Amorite ("martu" in Sumerian), the stereotype is personified:

The Amorite he is dressed in sheep skins: he lives in tents in wind and rain; He doesn’t offer sacrifices. Armed vagabond in the steppes, he digs up truffles and is restless. He eats raw meat. Lives without a home; And when he dies, he is not buried according to proper rituals."

The Bible also describes the Amorites with dread, in this case, being of immense stature. Og of Bashan, one of their kings, is said to be the last of the giants, who had to be buried in a sarcophagus measuring four by 1.8 meters (Deuteronomy 3:11).
While that is extremely unlikely, who were these Amorites, who frightened the other peoples of the bible so badly?
It's complicated.

That was Part 1. So far, so good. Stay tuned for Part 2. And Part 1 is a premium article, so read it now before it goes behind the paywall.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Review of Becker, Porphyrios, 'Contra Christianos'

Matthias Becker, Porphyrios, 'Contra Christianos'. Neue Sammlung der Fragmente, Testimonien und Dubia mit Einleitung, Übersetzung und Anmerkungen. Texte und Kommentare, Bd 52. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2016. Pp. x, 667. ISBN 9783110440058. $196.00.

Reviewed by Ariane Magny, University of Ottawa (


In this colossal and meticulous work, Matthias Becker offers a new collection of the fragments of Against the Christians by the Neoplatonist philosopher Porphyry of Tyre. C. Chr. has survived only fragments in the works of late antique, Christian scholars. Becker’s is the first fragment collection to be produced by a German scholar since Adolf von Harnack first published his in 1916. Recently, other collections have been produced in English, Spanish, and Italian.1 A French one is currently in progress for Les Belles Lettres (by Sébastien Morlet). This interest in C. Chr. is part of a wider, renewed interest in Porphyry’s work in general,2 and contributes to our understanding of late antique inter-religious debates, for it seeks to reconstruct an anti-Christian treatise that was destroyed on the orders of various Christian emperors.

Porphyry is important for the history of NeoPlatonism and, more indirectly, Gnosticism, but he also is of some interest for ancient Judaism. He was the first to advance arguments for the Book of Daniel being composed during the Maccabean revolt. Porphyry also commented on some Gnostic Old Testament pseudepigrapha, as noted here. And some other PaleoJudaica posts pertaining to Porphyry are here, here, here, and here.

Another review of Gardner, The Origins of Organized Charity in Rabbinic Judaism

H-JUDAIC: Schwartz on Gardner, 'The Origins of Organized Charity in Rabbinic Judaism'.
Author: Gregg Gardner
Reviewer: Joshua Schwartz

Gregg Gardner. The Origins of Organized Charity in Rabbinic Judaism. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016. 251 pp. $99.99 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-107-09543-4.

Reviewed by Joshua Schwartz (Bar-Ilan University)
Published on H-Judaic (January, 2017)
Commissioned by Katja Vehlow

Charity with Dignity
Charity is one of the most important concepts in Judaism. The most famous definition of charity in Jewish thought is that of Maimonides, in his "Eight Levels of Giving" ("Laws about Giving to Poor People," Mishneh Torah, 10:7-14). Ironically, the highest level of charity might not even be considered as charity today. Maimonides suggests "charity" options such as giving an indigent an interest-free loan, forming a partnership with him, or finding a job for a poor person so that he or she will be able to support themselves. The lowest level of charity is giving out of pity, most likely to a beggar, a type of giving that has generated opposition in some circles today.[1] Avoiding the pitfalls and problems of giving to beggars, and finding different, viable charity solutions are core issues of Gardner's study.

Gardner enters a field that has not suffered neglect as of late.[2] Is there a need for another book on Jewish charity? The answer to this question is encapsulated in one sentence: "The study of organized charity in Judaism is inextricably intertwined with the study of material culture" (p. 63). Finally! While this truism is self-evident in the academic circles that the author of this review frequents, unfortunately the study of relevant material culture and its meaning is often ignored in the study of ancient Judaism.[3] While Gardner's study, using material culture, makes a significant contribution to the study of charity in rabbinic Judaism, it also serves as a methodological model for future research not only on this topic in particular, but also on the social history of ancient Jewish life.

Past PaleoJudaica posts on the book are collected here.

Biblical Studies Carnival 131

WESTAR INSTITUTE: Biblical Studies Carnival 131 – January 2017 (Cassandra Farrin). Hopefully this will be corrected soon, but as the post currently stands, the first reference to me should be to Jim West. All other references to "Jim" are to me.

The Judaism and Rome Project

The ERC project "Judaism and Rome"

Welcome to the website for the ERC project "Re-thinking Judaism’s Encounter with the Roman Empire: Rome’s Political and Religious Challenge to Israel and its Impact on Judaism"!

On this website you will find useful resources for studying Roman imperial ideology, or Roman imperial discourses, artefacts and performances, displayed in literary records, epigraphy, numismatics, as well as through monuments, statues and other material artefacts. There is a particular focus on sources connected to the three sub-themes of the project, “Roman Power,” “Roman Law” and “Roman Citizenship”.
You will also find Jewish, Greek, Egyptian and Christian sources documenting the responses of some of the provincials of the Roman empire to the challenge of Roman domination. By "responses," however, we do not intend only the provincial sources that explicitly mention Rome and address issues such as Roman law courts or grants of Roman citizenship. We also take into account the way the Roman imperial context led provincials to formulate their own conceptions of power, law, and citizenship or membership with a given group.
The site is searchable and has many useful resources already posted.

Textual criticism summer school in Salzburg

ON BIBLICAL MANUSCRIPTS AND THEIR USE IN BIBLICAL STUDIES: Summer School in Salzburg, Austria 3-7 July 2017 The Hebrew and Greek Texts of Esther with Professor Kristin De Troyer.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Historical reliability of Luke-Acts, part 2

THE BIBLE PLACES BLOG: uke & Acts: Historical Reliability - 2 (Michael J. Caba).
The first two verses of the third chapter of the Book of Luke contain references to eight individuals in prominent positions at the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist. The text itself is shown below.
This post focuses on Pontius Pilate.

The first post in the series was noted here.

The Arshama Project

The Arshama Project is not new, but since it is a valuable resource for the study of Achaemenid history, we would like to introduce it briefly.
I noted the existence of the Arshama Project in passing here, but this post will take you to a link for the project itself, which involves an archive of Aramaic parchments from Elephantine.

Pasts posts on the Elephantine papyri are here and many links. Cross-file under Aramaic Watch.

The Talmud on walls and neighbors

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: What the Talmud Says About Trump’s Border Wall, Paid For by Mexico. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ when it comes to privacy, good fences may indeed make good neighbors
This week, Daf Yomi readers began a new tractate, Bava Batra, which begins by considering these same questions about walls. Who builds them, who is responsible for them, and what purpose do they serve? ...

So far, matters are entirely straightforward. The difficulty, and the source of legal interest, arises when one partner wants to build a wall and the other partner does not. Can one compel the other to build the wall, or to pay for its construction? The Gemara points out that what is at stake here is whether there is such a thing as a right to privacy. Does one neighbor have the right to be shielded from the observation of the other neighbor? If he does, then he can force the latter to build a wall, even against his will?
Timely, insofar as the subject is walls and neighbors, but not all that informative about the issue in the headline.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Interview with Burke and Landau

EERDWORD BLOG: Eerdmans Author Interviews: Tony Burke & Brent Landau.
Tony Burke and Brent Landau are co-editors of New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, a new compilation of little-known and never-before-published apocryphal Christian texts in English translation.

Learn their goals for the project, why they say studying noncanonical texts is important, and some of their favorite apocryphal literature ...
A video interviews. The More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project gets a shout out.

Background on the book is here, here, here, and links. Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch.

The return of the Diaspora in Second Temple Judaism

READING ACTS: Hope for the Future during the Exile.
The scattering of the Jewish people throughout the world is the foundation for the hope or restoration to the land in the future as the twelve tribes of Israel. The Diaspora will eventually come to an end, the land will be repopulated, Jewish cities will be rebuilt and the people will worship God in Jerusalem.
But to what extent are these hopes a kind of fantasy for people living in distant lands hoping for a restoration of the “good old days”? Or, are these the hopes of Judeans now living in a barren and oppressed land, people who are looking forward to a future liberation? Is this kind of hope a form escapism? Or more troubling, have Christians transformed some of these Jewish hopes for restoration into a hope for heaven?
Also, modern Zionism arises ultimately from these hopes and it belongs in this discussion.

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

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

$900K for Lithodomos

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: $900k Seed Funding For Australian Archaeological Virtual Reality Startup (Jewish Business News).
Melbourne based archaeological virtual reality startup, Lithodomos VR, has successfully closed a $900,000 seed funding round. The company creates archaeologically accurate reconstructions of the ancient world in virtual reality for use in the tourism, education and entertainment industries.

The funds will be use for expanding across Europe and will allow Lithodomos VR to further capitalize on its position in the archaeology virtual reality world.

More on the Lithodomos ancient Jerusalem VR app is here and here. Cross-file under Virtual Reality.

Review of Taylor, Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature

READING ACTS: Book Review: Richard A. Taylor, Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature.
Taylor, Richard A. Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature: An Exegetical Handbook. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Ministry, 2016. 205 pp. Pb; $21.99. Link to Kregel

This new contribution to Kregel’s Handbooks of Old Testament Exegesis has a more narrow focus since apocalyptic literature only appears in parts Daniel and a few other prophetic books. Taylor therefore expands his comments beyond the canon of the Hebrew Bible to include literature from the Second Temple Period usually classified as apocalyptic.


Update on the Brody-Collection coin auction

NUMISMATICS: World coin auctions are at center of New York International Numismatic Convention. Sales near $39 million in last year at Waldorf-Astoria (Jeff Starck, Coin World).
In its final year at the Waldorf-Astoria, the New York International Numismatic Convention in 2017 continued to serve as the center of international numismatics to kick off a new year.

The convention — held for its 45th time — served as the home to auctions garnering nearly $39 million. Leading the way was Heritage Auctions’ sale, totaling $15,658,469. Classical Numismatic Group’s auctions realized $11,292,580.

Totals for the convention’s several other auctions follow:

The New York Sale, which featured the Brody Collection of Jewish coins; ancient and world coins; Russian coins, orders and medals: realized $4,794,169, including an 18 percent buyer’s fee.


The top lot of the auctions was the prototype issue, dated Year 1 (A.D. 66 to 67), silver shekel struck during the Jewish War.

The coin is in Extremely Fine condition and toned, according to CNG. It hammered for $600,000 in the firm’s auction (the buyer’s fee ranges from 19 to 21 percent, depending on bidding and payment method).

This is one of three known examples of a prototype for the shekel of the first year of the Jewish War, beginning May 66 (or a bit later), and it is therefore the first coin type of the renowned Jewish War shekels and half shekels.

Background here. That article did not mention the quite important Year 1 silver shekel, although this earlier one alluded to it.. The sale of one of the two other surviving Year 1 silver silver shekels was noted here in 2012. And for other recently sold silver shekels from the Great Revolt, see here.

New UN chief affirms historicity of Jewish Temple, Palestinian leaders outraged

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: UN chief says Temple Mount was home to Jewish temple, Palestinians demand apology.
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Palestinian officials are demanding an apology from the new United Nations chief after he said it was “completely clear that the Temple that the Romans destroyed in Jerusalem was a Jewish temple.”

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also told Israel Radio in an interview Friday with its New York correspondent that “no one can deny the fact that Jerusalem is holy to three religions today,” including Judaism.

On Sunday, Adnan al-Husseini, the Palestinian Authority’s Jerusalem Affairs minister, told the Chinese news service Xinhua that Guterres “ignored UNESCO’s decision that considered the Al-Aqsa mosque of pure Islamic heritage.” He also said Guterres “violated all legal, diplomatic and humanitarian customs and overstepped his role as secretary general … and must issue an apology to the Palestinian people.”

You just can't make this stuff up. Cross-file under Jewish-Temple denial. Those recent UNESCO resolutions have been noted here, here and here and follow the links. For more on Jewish-Temple denial, start here and follow the links, or run the phrase through the PaleoJudaica search engine in the upper left corner. These two stories from the last couple of years also seem worth flagging.

CFP: Origeniana Duodecima

CONFERENCE: Origeniana Duodecima.
On behalf of the international academic committee and the Center for the Study of Christianity at the Hebrew University (CSC) we are pleased to announce that the next Origeniana will take place at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mount Scopus, on June 25-29, 2017.

The theme of the conference will be:
Origen's Legacy in the Holy Land–A Tale of Three Cities: Jerusalem, Caesarea and Bethlehem
Paper proposals are being accepted up to 28 February 2017. Follow the link for further particulars.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Conference: From Creation to Sinai

RESEARCH GROUP AT THE HEBREW UNIVERSITY: From Creation to Sinai: Jewish, Christian, and Qur'anic Traditions in Interaction. September 1, 2016- July 1, 2017, Organizers: Esther Eshel and Menahem Kister.
The Book of Genesis and the beginning of the Book of Exodus are of utmost importance for many fundamental issues in the study of Judaism, Christianity, and nascent Islam. The traditions related to the narrative passages of these books refer, inter alia, to the Creation of the World, Adam as bearer of God's image, angels and demons, Enoch, Divine election, the covenants with the patriarchs prior to Sinai, the establishment of monotheism, the formation of Israel as a nation, and the Exodus. These themes were highly significant in the formulation of the competing religious worldviews and self-understanding of Second Temple and rabbinic Judaism, early Christianity, Gnosticism, and eventually early Islam. It should be emphasized that the relevant material is not confined to works dedicated expressly to the exegesis of these biblical books; rather, themes of Genesis and the beginning of Exodus are part and parcel of the religious messages of Jewish, Christian and nascent Islamic thought.

Themes and traditions from Genesis and Exodus may be found in a vast array of sources in Antiquity. The Qur'an – unlike medieval Islamic traditions – is one of the latest products of Late Antiquity. While scholarship by and large has tended toward the study of the relevant biblical themes in each religion unto itself, comparative studies transcending the boundaries between the corpora of varying religious traditions are often mutually illuminating. The group’s purpose is not merely to map and compare divergent traditions, but also to elucidate the dynamics of transformation among them, considering the relationships (including polemics and influence) among the religious groups of Antiquity. The anticipated collaboration of scholars from diverse backgrounds in the proposed Research Group will be a rare opportunity for productive synergy.
The conference is on 5-8 March, 2017. Follow the link for further particulars.

Revue des études juives 175, 3-4 (2016)

H-JUDAIC: TOC: Revue des études juives 175, 3-4 (juillet-décembre 2016). A couple of the articles and notes have to do with ancient Judaism.

"18 Remarkable Facts in Jewish History"

SOME ARE FUN, MANY ARE GRIM: 18 Remarkable Facts in Jewish History (Brandon Marlon, Jerusalem Post, One of the People Blog). The first ten have to do with ancient Jewish history. There may be a few legends involved as well. I have not checked them all for accuracy.

One excerpt:
4. Chanukah's Arch-Villain Mourned Jewish Leader – Due to the corruption and hellenizing extremes of his successors Jason and Menelaus, the high priest Honya III fled for safety to a temple in Daphne, near Antioch. He was murdered at Menelaus' instigation by Andronicus, a Seleucid high official, who was soon thereafter put to death for the cold-blooded crime. Remarkably, according to 2 Maccabees (4:37), "King Antiochus was deeply grieved and was so filled with sorrow that he was moved to tears when he recalled the wisdom and self-control that Honya had shown throughout his life."
He also promptly executed Andronicus.

Tobit, part 2

READING ACTS: Tobit: Remembering the Covenant. Past posts in Phil Long's new series on the Second Temple Period are noted here and links. That post is also on the Book of Tobit and it collects some past PaleoJudaica posts on Tobit as well.

Uber meets R. Shimon bar Yochai?

A ZOHARIC SAGE IN MODERN MYSTICISM: Jared Kushner and the White-Haired Mystic Whose Dad ‘Got a Ride’ From a Dead Sage (Josh Nathan-Kazis, The Forward).
Jared Kushner’s family charities have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to a mystical Moroccan rabbi who some followers claim has miraculous powers.

The rabbi, David Chananya Pinto, is little known in the United States but has a coterie of wealthy backers. Two separate Kushner family foundations on whose boards Jared Kushner serves have given over $210,000 in grants to Pinto’s New York City study center.


Stories of the miracles that his father and grandfather worked, and the belief that they can continue to influence daily events, appear to play a major role in Pinto’s religious message. In a May 2016 lecture delivered in Mexico City and available online, Pinto told a story about his father getting picked up on the side of the road in 1968 by the purported author of the Zohar, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who lived roughly 2,000 years ago.

According to Pinto, his father, Rabbi Moshe Ahron Pinto, lived 40 years in prayerful seclusion in his home in Morocco, and then, in 1968, sought the permission of the dead sage bar Yochai to move his family to Israel. Moshe Ahron Pinto traveled to Ashdod, then took a taxi to bar Yochai’s crypt in Meron. He finished praying late at night. A disciple who had accompanied him thought they would be stuck near the crypt until dawn, but as soon as they reached the road, an Israeli-made station wagon, an Autocars Sussita, appeared. The driver took them to a house in a nearby village.

“My father went out [of the car], [the disciple] closed the car, and suddenly there was no car,” Pinto said.

Pinto said his father told the disciple that the driver was bar Yochai, and that if he told anyone of the miracle he would die.

The second-century CE sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Yohai) is the traditional writer of the Zohar, although it was actually written by Moses de León and his circle in the late thirteenth century. Celebrations occur annually at R. Shimon's tomb on Lag B’Omer. And he has sometimes come up at PaleoJudaica in various other contexts (start here and follow the links). This sort of miraculous manifestation of R. Shimon is new to me, but in rabbinic and kabbalistic tradition ancient sages (often Elijah; see, e.g., here and links and here) do show up for all sorts of purposes.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Suciu, The Berlin-Strasbourg Apocryphon

ALIN SUCIU: Hot off the press: The Berlin-Strasbourg Apocryphon. A Coptic Apostolic Memoir.
Alin Suciu, The Berlin-Strasbourg Apocryphon: A Coptic Apostolic Memoir (WUNT, 370; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2017).

I am pleased to announce that my book on the Berlin-Strasbourg Apocryphon has just been published with Mohr Siebeck. The book is available HERE.

You may have also heard of this text as the Gospel of the Savior. It was originally published in 1999 by that title, but Dr. Suciu has argued that it is of the "pseudo-apostolic memoir" genre, rather than the gospel genre, and that it was composed not in the second century, but in the fifth century at the earliest. I have not seen Alin's book, which is a revision of his 2013 doctoral dissertation, but I have read his introduction and translation in Burke and Landau (eds.) New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, volume 1 (Eerdmans, 2013), on which more here, here, and links.

American Numismatic Society lecture series

NUMISMATICS: New “Money Talks” Lecture Series from American Numismatic Society (Coin Week).
The American Numismatic Society (ANS) curators and Fellows are pleased to announce a new lecture series, “Money Talks: Numismatic Conversations”, that begins in January 2017. In this monthly interactive lecture series, meant to introduce topics of general numismatic interest to members and the general public, attendees will have the opportunity to listen to ANS curators and members and learn by handling relevant objects from the collection and library of the American Numismatic Society. Light meals will be served, and Q&A sessions will follow. To ensure these events are as accessible as possible to all, most will take place on Saturdays at the ANS headquarters in New York City. On a few occasions, these “Numismatic Conversations” will take place at other venues.
Yesterday's lecture was on "Medallic Art of the Great War." Upcoming lectures in the next two months are on "The Origins of Money" and "The Beginnings of Islamic Coinage," and a future lecture on "Jewish Ancient Coinage" is promised.

Gidwitz, The Inquisitor’s Tale

CHILDREN'S NOVEL: Jewish children’s books medalists announced (Intermountain Jewish News).
Winners of the annual Sydney Taylor Book Award have been announced by the Association of Jewish Libraries. Named in memory of Sydney Taylor, author of the classic All-of-a-Kind Family series, the award recognizes books for children and teens that exemplify high literary standards while authentically portraying the Jewish experience.

Gold medalists:
This one ties into ancient Judaism:
The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Aly, published by Dutton Children’s Books/Penguin Random House, won the Older Readers category. Part fantasy and part adventure, this is the tale of strangers who become friends while on a quest to save thousands of volumes of Talmud. The beautiful illuminations reflect the medieval flavor of the book.
Sounds like fun. Congratulations to all the medal winners

What is the Shema?

ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN BACKGROUND: Talking to God? Dr. Ben Sommer explains the Shema and other ancient Near Eastern Texts (JOANNE PALMER, Jewish Standard/Times of Israel).
What is the Shema?

Yes, as we are told, it’s the central part of our liturgy, ancient, stirring, anchoring.

But what exactly is it? What does it mean? “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” Clarify, please.

Dr. Benjamin Sommer of Teaneck, a professor of Bible and ancient Semitic languages, will talk about that and other Jewish issues as scholar in residence at Temple Emanu-el of Closter. As always, he speaks as an academically rigorous scholar who is also an observant Conservative Jew, an active member of Congregation Beth Sholom in Teaneck.


His most recent book, “Revelation and Authority: Sinai in Jewish Scripture and Tradition,” “shows that a particularly modern way of understanding the nature of revelation and the authority of Jewish law is far deeper and has more ancient roots than people realize,” he continued. “In the book, I argue that the view of revelation associated with theologians like Abraham Joshua Heschel in fact has predecessors in the Bible itself.

I mentioned his book about a year ago, here, when it was a finalist for the Nahum M. Sarna Memorial Award.

Textual criticism as persuasion

ETC BLOG: Textual Criticism as Rhetoric (Peter Gurry).
To classify textual criticism as a form of rhetoric is a way of highlighting the fact that its arguments depend on persuasion rather than demonstration. Textual critics cannot prove that their choices are correct; the most they can hope to do is lead their readers to believe that those choices are the best available ones.
Scott Adams, call your office.