Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Waqf workers arrested for assault on archaeologists

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Israel Arrests Temple Mount Officials After Assault on Archaeologists. Waqf officials say Israeli archaeologists tried to remove stones from the complex, violating status quo (Nir Hasson, Haaretz).
Israeli Police arrested four workers of the Waqf, the Islamic trust responsible for managing Muslim sites in Jerusalem's Old City, on suspicion that they were involved in an attack Monday on Antiquities Authority staff on Temple Mount.

Waqf officials allege that the incident happened after Israeli archaeologists tried to remove stones from the Temple Mount complex, which the Palestinians say violates the status quo. Six other Waqf employees were arrested earlier on Monday, four of whom remain in custody.

An Antiquities Authority official told Haaretz on Tuesday that the archaeologists were touring Temple Mount to examine areas under threat of collapse. The official said the incident began after one of the archaeologists picked up a stone that had fallen in order to examine it. He added that there was no intent to remove anything from the complex.

[...]
Another attack on archaeologists by Waqf members was reported back in July and led to formal charges. Background here and here.

Jarick (ed.), SOTS at 100

NEW BOOK FROM BLOOMSBURY T&T CLARK:
SOTS at 100: Centennial Essays of the Society for Old Testament Study

Editor(s): John Jarick

Published: 01-12-2017
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 224
ISBN: 9780567673640
Imprint: Bloomsbury T&T Clark
Series: The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies
Volume: 650
Dimensions: 6 1/8" x 9 1/4"
List price: $114.00
Online price: $102.60
Save $11.40 (10%)

About SOTS at 100: Centennial Essays of the Society for Old Testament Study
This volume presents an important insight into the history of scholarship on the Old Testament over the last 100 years. Presented in collaboration with the Society for Old Testament Study, which celebrates its centenary in 2017, the volume examines the shifting patterns in scholarship on the Old Testament over the last century, from the types of subject studied to the demographic make-up of the scholars working on the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible themselves. The volume has been written by several longstanding members and officers of the society. As such the volume presents a remarkable history of scholarship of Old Testament studies.

Krause, Synagogues in the Works of Flavius Josephus

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
Synagogues in the Works of Flavius Josephus
Rhetoric, Spatiality, and First-Century Jewish Institutions


Andrew R. Krause, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
In Synagogues in the Works of Flavius Josephus, Andrew Krause analyses the place of the synagogue within the cultural and spatial rhetoric of Flavius Josephus. Engaging with both rhetorical critical methods and critical spatial theories, Krause argues that in his later writings Josephus portrays the Jewish institutions as an important aspect of the post-Temple, pan-diasporic Judaism that he creates. Specifically, Josephus consistently treats the synagogue as a supra-local rallying point for the Jews throughout the world, in which the Jewish customs and Law may be practiced and disseminated following the loss of the Temple and the Land. Conversely, in his earliest extant work, Bellum judaicum, Josephus portrays synagogues as local temples in order to condemn the Jewish insurgents who violated them.

Phoenicians in America?

PHOENICIAN WATCH: Theory: Ancient Phoenicians were the first to discover the Americas (TornosNews.gr). When I see headlines like this one, my heart sinks. I figure I'm going to have to endure some more nonsense. But in this case the headline was just clickbait and the article itself is pretty good. It sums up the claims and the evidence that has been advanced in their favor, then reports correctly that the evidence has been found wanting. It concludes:
Most of the modern-day scholars deny the idea that Phoenicians, Canaanites, or Carthaginians discovered the Americas first.

Ronald H. Fritze, an American historian, says that although it was technically possible for those people to reach the Americas, it probably never happened:

“No archaeological evidence has yet been discovered to prove the contentions of Irwin, Gordon, Bailey, Fell and others. Since even the fleeting Norse presence in Vinland left definite archaeological remains at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, it seems logical that the allegedly more extensive Phoenician and Carthaginian presence would have left similar evidence. The absence of such remains is strong circumstantial evidence that the Phoenicians and Carthaginians never reached the Americas.”

Until some concrete evidence appears, this theory will remain only a fantasy.
I would say all modern scholars reject this idea. I know of no remaining exceptions.

I have covered these issues in greater detail here and links. Cross-file under New World Forgery Watch.

Greenberg on Be'eri and the Israel Prize

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
David Be’eri’s Useful Idiots

Every archaeological discovery made in the City of David in the past twenty years can be measured in the dispossession and humiliation it has caused to the Palestinians of Silwan, in its contribution to the settlers’ aim of claiming the Temple Mount, and in its acquiescence in the contempt for scientific archaeology shown by David Be’eri and El’ad.

See Also: Jerusalem’s “What Me Worry” Archaeology

A Future for the Archaeology of Jerusalem

By Raphael Greenberg
Dept. of Archaeology and ANE
Tel Aviv University
March 2017
Background here and here. Cross-file under Politics.

The attribution in the original title to this post was incorrect. Apologies for the error.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Students excavate Second Temple site used by Bar Kokhba rebels

ARCHAEOLOGY: Students unearth a 2000-year-old Jewish settlement (Ynet News).
Boyer High School in Jerusalem will fund most of its youth delegation’s visit to Poland by working at archaeological digs. This week, the school’s students are helping unearth a site discovered in recent months: A rare and impressive array of ritual baths and underground systems used by rebels during the Bar Kokhba Revolt.

Some 240 eleventh-grade students from Jerusalem’s Boyer High School have discovered an original and rewarding way of reducing their travel costs to Poland: Working for an entire week on archeological excavations at Ramat Beit Shemesh, far from their computers and air-conditioned classrooms.

The students are involved in unearthing exciting archeological finds at the site. In recent months, the remains of a Jewish settlement dating to the Second Temple period have been found to include an extensive complex of ritual baths and underground hiding refuges.

The excavations are being carried out with funding provided by the Ministry of Construction and Housing prior to the building of a new residential neighborhood in Ramat Beit Shemesh, in cooperation with the Israel Antiquities Authority and with the participation of pre-army course cadets.

The settlement, whose ancient name is unknown, has so far yielded eight ritual baths, cisterns, and hiding refuges, along with rock-hewn industrial installations. The houses themselves have not survived and their stones were taken to construct buildings in later periods.

[...]

Underneath the dwellings and rock-hewn installations, another surprising discovery was unearthed, dating to the time of the Bar Kokhba Revolt (second century CE)—a winding labyrinth of hiding refuges connected to sophisticated and elaborate complexes. In some of the underground complexes, the rebels breached a cistern to provide those in hiding with access to water. One of the caves also yielded intact ceramic jars and cooking pots that were probably used by the rebels. The finds show that the settlement continued to exist even after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

[...]

The Talmud on happiness and national mourning

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Why Jews Are Forbidden to Be Happy. Talmudic rabbis debate just how much of life should be forsaken as part of the Jewish responsibility to mourn for the past.
Should a Jew ever be completely happy? The question is likely to provoke an indignant “of course.” Why shouldn’t a Jew have as much right to happiness as anyone else? Yet the more you know about the Jewish past, the harder it is to avoid the inheritance of sorrow that is an essential part of Jewishness. We are, after all, a people whose holidays revolve around the threat of annihilation. On Purim, we read about the near genocide of the Persian Jews by Haman; on Passover, we will celebrate the Israelites’ hairsbreadth escape from the Egyptian army at the Red Sea.

And sometimes, of course, there was no escape. ...
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Was Herod great, terrible, or both?

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
Herod the Great, or Herod the Terrible?

By Paul N. Anderson
George Fox University
Newberg, Oregon
March 2017

The fourth episode of CNN’s “Finding Jesus” second season focuses on King Herod, who ruled in Judea from 37-4 BC. In the Gospel of Matthew, Herod is portrayed as a ruthless, self-absorbed king, who slaughtered all the baby boys in Bethlehem—two years old and younger—because he was threatened by the quest of the Magi. If the wise men coming from the East were seeking the newborn “king of the Jews,” might this imply eventual competition for Herod’s throne? Matthew portrays the wise men being led by a dream to return without informing Herod of their findings; hence his being threatened, and thus his ruthless response.

[...]
But what would Josephus say?
So, while the Matthean presentation of Herod is that of a ruthless regent rather than a righteous royal, I’m not sure that Josephus would have disagreed. Perhaps Herod the Great and Herod the Terrible are not as disparate appellatives as one might imagine. And, on that score, Josephus and Matthew might have agreed.
That sounds about right to me. There are many past PaleoJudaica posts on Herod the Great and the excavations at Herodium. Start here (where I also comment on Matthew's account in the context of what we know about Herod from elsewhere) and follow the links.

Review of Reif and Egger-Wenzel (eds.), Ancient Jewish Prayers and Emotions

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Entreaty and Emotion, Theory and Texts: Studies in Second Temple Jewish Prayers (Andrew Krause).
Stefan C. Reif and Renate Egger-Wenzel (eds.), Ancient Jewish Prayers and Emotions: The Emotions Associated with Jewish Prayer in and around the Second Temple Period. Deuterocanonical and Cognate Literature Series 26. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2015.

The study of emotions in literature has seen an understandable boon in recent years. Embodiment in texts stands as an important corrective to the positivistic tendency of exegetes and some historians to assume tacitly that meaning is entirely propositional, whereas the phenomenological study of emotions allows us to delve the depths of the cognitive processes behind the text in new and penetrating ways. Ancient Jewish Prayers and Emotions is the conference proceedings from the meeting of the International Society for the Study of Deuterocanonical and Cognate Literature at the University of Haifa 2–5 February, 2014. As with most collections in this series, the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha hold pride of place, but the Qumran Scrolls receive a considerable amount of consideration. This state of affairs can be instructive, as it places the Scrolls in conversation with other texts in some temporal and cultural proximity, even if the exact relations remain unclear.

[...]
I noted the book recently here. Earlier essays in AJR's current series on the Dead Sea Scrolls (in honor of the 70th anniversary of their discovery) are noted here and links.

Neutal on ancient masculinity

CSCO BLOG: Ancient Masculinity by Dr. Karin Neutal. "In this newest video, Dr. Karin Neutal (University of Oslo) discusses ancient masculinity and circumcision."

Monday, March 27, 2017

Where are the Hazor archives?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Where Are the Royal Archives at Tel Hazor? Searching for cuneiform tablets at Tel Hazor (Marek Dospěl). Where indeed? Yigael Yadin thought he knew, and he was getting set to go find them when he died unexpectedly back in 1984. Then, excavations began again at Hazor in 1990. Amnon Ben-Tor and the late Sharon Zuckerman has been looking since then and have not found the archives, so the answer is not obvious. I noted that they were looking back in 2005 and (when another cuneiform tablet was found there) in 2007. I mentioned the search again in passing in 2010 and again in the same year (cf. here) when the excavation found a couple of new cuneiform fragments.

The BAR article by Shlomit Bechar is behind a subscription wall, but the BHD essay is reasonably informative. If she knows where the archives are, I wish her and the excavation team all good and speedy success in finally finding them. The recovery of the Hazor archives would revolutionize our knowledge of the land of Israel in the second millennium BCE.

Louis Feldman 1926-2017

SAD NEWS FROM H-JUDAIC: Passing of Professor Louis Feldman.
H-Judaic is deeply saddened to learn [from Dr Edward Reichman and Menachem Butler] of the passing of Professor Louis Feldman (1926-2017), the Abraham Wouk Family Professor of Classics and Literature at Yeshiva University, where Prof. Feldman taught for some 60 years. Prof. Feldman was recognized around the world as the "Dean" of Josephus scholars and contributed greatly to our understanding of Jewish life during the Hellenistic era. He published numerous books (see below) and hundreds of articles --243 are listed in RAMBI. He was a "scholar's scholar" -- a model of dedication to craft coupled with modesty and wide-ranging learning. The Encyclopedia Judaica article on Prof. Feldman reads as follows: ...
May his memory be for a blessing.

A Geniza papyrus codex containing piyyutim

GENIZA FRAGMENT OF THE MONTH: T-S 6H9–21, the papyrus codex rebound (Rebecca J. W. Jefferson).
In the course of research into ancient book-binding practices and their relevance to the conservation of the sewn structures preserved in the Jacques Mosseri Genizah Collection, I rediscovered some very interesting negatives in the archives of the Library’s Imaging Services Department. The negatives—long thought lost—show the Taylor-Schechter Collection’s unique papyrus codex, T-S 6H9–21, as it was when it was first discovered, and I hope that they will prove of great interest to codicologists and historians of the early medieval book.

The late Professor Ezra Fleischer identified the fragments as a collection of liturgical poems by the Palestinian payṭan, Joseph b. Nissan of Neve Qiryatayim (a contemporary of Eleazar b. Kallir c. sixth century CE). At some point during the eighth or ninth century CE, a scribe copied Nissan’s poems out on to the papyrus leaves and the leaves were bound into a codex.

[...]
This is another old post, from July 2009. The codex would have been one of the earliest texts in the Cairo Geniza and it is a copy of late-antique liturgical poems.

On composite citations in antiquity

CSCO BLOG: Composite Citations in Antiquity (Dr. Sean Adams and Dr. Seth Ehorn).
Over 20 percent of Paul’s quotations are composite. More than 17 percent of the citations in the Synoptic Gospels are composite. Despite these relatively high percentages, there has been surprisingly little research focused on composite citations in the New Testament. Until now. The fundamental premise of our two volumes, Composite Citations in Antiquity, is that the New Testament authors were embedded within their Graeco-Roman literary environment. Therefore, we set out to study examples of composite citations across a range of texts. The first volume, Graeco-Roman, Jewish, and Early Christian Uses, was released in 2016 and the second, New Testament Uses, is expected for release in early 2018 (but look for it at the 2017 SBL in Boston).

[...]
I noted the publication of volume 1 here.

PhD theses from Macquarie University

AWOL: Open Access Dissertations from Macquarie University Department of Ancient History. The topics of these recent PhD thesis are wide ranging and some of them are relevant to ancient Judaism.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Petersen and van Kooten (eds.), Religio-Philosophical Discourses in the Mediterranean World

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
Religio-Philosophical Discourses in the Mediterranean World
From Plato, through Jesus, to Late Antiquity


Edited by Anders Klostergaard Petersen, Aarhus University and George van Kooten, University of Groningen
This first volume of the new Brill series “Ancient Philosophy & Religion” is a collection of articles by scholars of Classics, Ancient Philosophy, and Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity. The articles are based on papers presented at two colloquia on the interface between Ancient Philosophy and Religion at the universities of Aarhus and Cambridge. They focus extensively on Platonic philosophy and piety and sketch an emerging religio-philosophical discourse in ancient Judaism (both in the Sibylline Oracles and 4 Maccabees). Furthermore, this volume studies Seneca’s religio-philosophical understanding of 'consolation', compares early depictions of Jesus with those of ancient philosophers, and, finally, reconsiders responses of pagan philosophers to Christianity from the second century to Late Antiquity.

Was the Tabernacle upholstered with beaded hides?

DR. RABBI NORMAN SOLOMON: What was the Tachash Covering the Tabernacle? Animal, Vegetable or Mineral? Assyriology and archaeology provide an answer to an ancient question (TheTorah.com). Conclusion:
Beaded hides are, from many points of view, the ideal material with which to cover a Tabernacle; they are aesthetically pleasing, fit for royalty, strong, and resist sun, rain, dust and probably arrows too.

It has taken a couple of thousand years to unravel the mystery, but the answer appears to be that no badgers, seals, dolphins or unicorns were necessary to construct the mishkan. Rather like many of the elements in mishkan account, it was a standard luxury product of the ANE.

4 Maccabees and self-control

READING ACTS: Fourth Maccabees and a Rational Faith.
The “temperate mind” restrains the impulses of the body, what Paul calls “self-control” in Galatians 5:23. That Paul and 4 Maccabees both have a high view of the Law and the virtue of self-control is not necessarily and indication Paul knew the book or vice versa. Likely as not both the author of 4 Maccabees and Paul are drawing on implications of the wisdom literature drawn through the intellectual grid of a first century worldview which includes elements of Stoicism and other Greek philosophical streams.
Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Second Temple Period are noted here and links.

Oriental Institute Open Access Publications

AWOL: The Oriental Institute Open Access Publications. So many links!

Review of Glinert, The Story of Hebrew

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Story of Hebrew’ is a scholarly, engaging history of the language (Jonathan Kirsch, The Jewish Journal).
One of the curiosities in “The Story of Hebrew” by Lewis Glinert (Princeton University Press) is that the author manages to write a history of the Hebrew language without using a single Hebrew letter in the text, although Hebrew appears in the illustrations, including a page from Franz Kafka’s Hebrew notebook. Indeed, Glinert announces at the outset of his richly detailed and wholly fascinating book that it is “not much a book about what Hebrew words mean as about what the Hebrew language has meant to the people who have possessed it.”

[...]

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Mikveh Trail

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: On the Mikveh Trail, follow the rugged path of Jerusalem’s ancient pilgrims. Newly opened park takes you past many of the capital’s 200 ritual baths, used by visitors in the Second Temple era (AVIVA AND SHMUEL BAR-AM, Times of Israel).
Yet the hardships of the long expedition were quickly forgotten as the pilgrims approached Jerusalem. Bursting with excitement, they knew that soon they would be part of the hustle and bustle of the Holy City and able to worship the Lord just as He had commanded.

Of course, when they finally arrived, there was no way they could ascend to the Mount covered in dust and dirt from their travels. Even after bathing in the clear waters of the Shiloah Pool at David’s City, they were not yet ready to sacrifice in the Temple: They would still have to purify their minds and souls in a ritual bath called a mikveh. And that is why, of the 700 ritual baths uncovered so far throughout Israel, 200 are found in Jerusalem and, of these, fully 50 of them are located near the Temple Mount.
Lots of photos and interesting details in this article. Related post here.

The genuineness of the Ivory Pomegranate, mentioned in this article, is debated. The object is an ancient artifact, but the inscription may be a modern addition. Background here and links.

Starr, Classifying the Aramaic Texts from Qumran

NEW BOOK FROM BLOOMSBURY:
Classifying the Aramaic Texts from Qumran
A Statistical Analysis of Linguistic Features


By: John Starr

Published: 15-12-2016
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 376
ISBN: 9780567667823
Imprint: Bloomsbury T&T Clark
Series: The Library of Second Temple Studies
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
RRP: £85.00
Online price: £76.50

About Classifying the Aramaic Texts from Qumran

Analysis of the scroll fragments of the Qumran Aramaic scrolls has been plentiful to date. Their shared characteristics of being written in Aramaic, the common language of the region, not focused on the Qumran Community, and dating from the 3rd century BCE to the 1st century CE have enabled the creation of a shared identity, distinguishing them from other fragments found in the same place at the same time. This classification, however, could yet be too simplistic as here, for the first time, John Starr applies sophisticated statistical analyses to newly available electronic versions of these fragments. In so doing, Starr presents a potential new classification which comprises six different text types which bear distinctive textual features, and thus is able to narrow down the classification both temporally and geographically.

Starr's re-visited classification presents fresh insights into the Aramaic texts at Qumran, with important implications for our understanding of the many strands that made up Judaism in the period leading to the writing of the New Testament.

4 Maccabees and the Fourth Philosophy?

READING ACTS: Fourth Maccabees and the Fourth Philosophy.
It is possible the book of 4 Maccabees represents the “fourth philosophy” mentioned by Josephus as a subgroup of Judaism in competition with the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. It has been thought that this “fourth philosophy” referred to the Zealots, but this has been challenged by Richard Horsley in his work on first century messianic movements.

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

A Geniza magical fragment

GENIZA FRAGMENT OF THE MONTH: ‘Destroy the life of N.N.!’: A magical recipe: T-S AS 162.51. This is an old FOTM, from September 2007. I recently went back through the list and found a number of entries that seem worth mentioning but which I have not mentioned before. I'll be posting them from time to time. This one is a fragmentary magical text in Aramaic/Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic. The Cairo Geniza contains a great many magical texts. These often incorporate traditions that go back to late antiquity, or even, occasionally, the Second Temple period. It is very difficult to be sure how old the contents of this one are, but the themes in it go back to late antiquity.

The Temple vs. the Tabernacle

PROF. NAOMI KOLTUN-FROMM: The Readers Access to the Divine: Solomon’s Temple vs. Israel’s Mishkan (TheTorah.com).
The mishkan account as a polemical response to the Temple narrative.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Nile and the Exodus

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Dissertation Spotlight | Nathalie LaCoste.
Nathalie LaCoste, Waters of the Exodus: Jewish Experiences with Water in Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt (University of Toronto, 2016).

Jewish narratives are products of their physical environments. It is not only the social, cultural, and political contexts that shape biblical narratives, but the natural world in which they inhibit. In this dissertation I explore the role that the physical land of Egypt played in the transmission of the exodus narrative under Ptolemaic and Roman rule. Focusing on the writings by Egyptian Jews—Artapanus, Ezekiel the Tragedian, Wisdom of Solomon, and Philo of Alexandria—this dissertation explores how living in the hydric environment of Egypt, specifically along the Nile river, shaped the exodus story.

[...]

Veale on ancient curses

SARAH VEALE: Ancient Curses. This is the first I have had a good look at this website, although I see that Sarah put it up back in 2014. It has interesting information about a range of curses in antiquity, including biblical curses. There's also a blog, a bibliography page and a page of useful links.

Vance et al., Biblical Aramaic: A Reader & Handbook

HENDRICKSON PUBLISHERS BLOG: A Conversation about Biblical Aramaic: A Reader & Handbook.
If you study Biblical Aramaic and haven’t yet gotten a chance to explore this new handbook, you’re in luck. We sat down with Amy Paulsen-Reed, one of the editors, so she can tell us more about the book and how it was put together.

But first, a bit about the book. Biblical Aramaic: A Reader & Handbook is designed to enable students, pastors, and scholars to read the Aramaic portions of the Bible with understanding and confidence. Created by Donald R. Vance, George Athas, Yael Avrahami, and our very own Jonathan G. Kline (who also developed the questions below), it contains the full text of the Aramaic portions of the Bible, extensive vocabulary and word lists, and an apparatus that contextually glosses and parses 94% of all vocabulary.

[...]
This sounds like a very useful resource to go with a traditional Aramaic grammar.

HT Jim West.

Pagan oracles and Christian scriptures

CSCO BLOG: Scripture and the Oracles of God (Matthew Sharp).
... The first thing to acknowledge when bringing this comparison into the ancient world is that things are not nearly so clean-cut as the comparison suggests. Greek oracles, for instance, were not purely oral phenomena, but were often written down and brought into larger collections such as the Sibylline books at Rome, and other various collections attributed to seers of the legendary past, thus giving them a textual character more akin to a Jewish or Christian Bible.[2] It is also not as if early Christians were without their own prophets who operated alongside their reading of scriptural texts.

What I want to focus on is Parke’s point about function: Is the early Christian use of scripture analogous to the way oracles were used in the wider Mediterranean world?

4 Maccabees

READING ACTS: What is Fourth Maccabees?
4 Maccabees is included in several manuscripts of the LXX, including Vaticanus but was not included in the Vulgate. The book is therefore not a part of the Apocrypha although it is often included in introductions to the Apocrypha. It is also in manuscripts which contain the works of Josephus. This led Eusebius and Jerome to suggest Josephus was the author, but this has been universally rejected by modern scholarship.

[...]
Phil Long is back from Turkey. Past posts in his series on the Second Temple Period are noted here and links.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Review of Hughes, Jacob Neusner

REVIEWS OF THE ENOCH SEMINAR:
Jacob Neusner: An American Jewish Iconoclast
Reviews of the Enoch Seminar 2017.03.04
Aaron W. Hughes, Jacob Neusner: An American Jewish Iconoclast. New York: New York University Press, 2016. ISBN: 978-1-4798-8585-5. Pp. 319. $35.00. Hardcover.

Albert I. Baumgarten
Bar Ilan University
A long, thorough review. Excerpt:
This review will focus on two aspects of Hughes’ account of Neusner’s career, contributions, and place in scholarship: 1. How did Hughes balance his high estimation and praise of Neusner’s distinctive role in American academia with a critical appreciation of the more problematic aspects of Neusner’s life and work, a balance that is crucial for a meaningful biography? How can one be both an admiring and critical biographer? 2. What can one learn from Hughes’ book about the harsh and mutually demeaning relationship between Neusner and Israeli scholars, which was the talk of the discipline on both sides of the Atlantic, and which lasted for decades?

More on Babatha

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
Babatha: The Ancient Jewish Woman About Whom We Know Most

Because of this archive we can say without fear of contradiction that we know more about her than we do about any other Jewish woman in antiquity.

See Also: Babatha's Orchard: The Yadin Papyri and an Ancient Jewish Family Tale Retold (Oxford University Press, 2017).

By Philip F. Esler
Portland Chair in New Testament Studies
Director of the International Centre for Biblical Interpretation
University of Gloucestershire
March 2017
Past posts on Esler's new book are here and here.

Natural Language Processing of Rabbinic Texts

THE TALMUD BLOG: Natural Language Processing of Rabbinic Texts: Contexts, Challenges, Opportunities. The Talmud Blog is happy to continue our series on the interface of Digital Humanities and the study of Rabbinic Literature with a post by Marton Ribary of University of Manchester.
I read Michael Satlow’s enthusiastic report on the Classical Philology Goes Digital Workshop with great pleasure. I am delighted to see how the study of Rabbinic literature moves towards the use of digital tools and especially Natural Language Processing (NLP) methods. Below I shall sketch the background of NLP methods applied to Rabbinic literature and what we can learn from projects concentrating on other classical linguistic data, notably Latin. I shall briefly discuss the enormous obstacles Rabbinic literature poses even compared to Latin, which means that our expectations to achieve meaningful results in standard 3-5 year research projects should be very moderate. Nevertheless, I shall argue that we should dream big and aim for courageous projects accompanied by an outward-looking strategy in order to attract big corporate money.

[...]

President Trump invokes Cyrus the Great

THE WHITE HOUSE has published a statement wishing a happy Persian New Year (Nowruz) to those who are celebrating it: Statement by President Donald J. Trump on Nowruz. Cyrus the Great is mentioned:
Cyrus the Great, a leader of the ancient Persian Empire, famously said that “[f]reedom, dignity, and wealth together constitute the greatest happiness of humanity. If you bequeath all three to your people, their love for you will never die.”
The quotation is from p. 119 of Larry Hedrick's book, Xenophon's Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War, which appears to be a very free paraphrase of Xenophon's Cyropaedia. I have poked around a fair bit in online translations of the original work and I can find nothing like this quotation or even this episode. If you know what passage inspired Hedrick's quote (I assume there's one that did somewhere), please drop me a note and let me know.

Meanwhile, over at The Forward, Sam Kestenbaum has some ideas about what the reference to Cyrus may have meant in the context of the White House statement: Did Trump Just Compare Himself To King Cyrus?

This is far from the first time that Cyrus has been invoked in a political context. I have commented on the rather overblown picture of him as a pioneer of human rights here and links. For other past posts on Cyrus the Great, see here and many links, as well as here and here.

Studia Orientalia

AWOL: Open Access Journal: Studia Orientalia. The subject matter of this journal is wide ranging, but if you poke around a bit, you will find some material on ancient Judaism and related matters.