Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Shavuot 2017

THE FESTIVAL OF SHAVUOT (Weeks, Pentecost) begins tonight at sundown. Best wishes to all those celebrating. Some biblical background is noted here (cf. here).

The Apocalypse of Adam

READING ACTS: Apocalypse of Adam. Again, a pretty good summary of the text. It is a Gnostic text of the demiurgic-myth variety, with a lot of Christian, Jewish, and pagan ideas mixed in.

My reading of the section on the thirteen kingdoms is different from Phil Long's reading.

The illuminator of knowledge is Jesus, who at his third coming performed miracles and his flesh was punished by the powers and their god. The angels and the generations of the powers erred concerning him. They asked where the errors came from. The listing of the various contradictory views of the thirteen kingdoms (of Ham and Japeth) follow immediately after this question and it appears to be answering the question by listing the error of each kingdom. The correct answer is then given by "the generation without a king over it."

"Holy baptism," looks like a Christian phrase. I know of no Jewish text that used it. The various hints about virgin birth are also likely based on the Christian belief about Jesus. The writer was implying that the thirteen kingdoms had distorted bits of correct knowledge about the "illuminator." And "Yesseus Mazareus" who is the "[Living?] Water" looks like a word play on "Jesus of Nazareth."

That's how it looks to me. I blog, you decide.

These points come from notes I made many years ago in the margins of MacRae's translation of the Apocalypse of Adam in Robinsons The Nag Hammadi Library. I probably got the ideas from somewhere else, but I don't remember where.

For past posts in Phi's recently revived series on the OTP, see here and here and links.

Yadin's Temple Scroll edition on sale

FOR YOU, SPECIAL DEAL: Emanuel Tov forwards the following e-mail from the Israel Exploration Society (israelexplorationsociety@gmail.com):
Subject: THE TEMPLE SCROLL--FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY! Yadin's 3-volume(+supplement) editio princeps is being offered at an unprecedented discount to scholars and students

Dear Friends,

I am writing you concerning our publication: The Temple Scroll, a boxed set consisting of three hard-cover volumes with a soft-cover volume of supplementary plates. Attached is a description from our catalog entry. You are certainly well familiar with this set.

We are in the process of reducing our warehouse stock and would like to know if you are interested in obtaining a quantity of these sets or have any other ideas about organizations that might be interested in acquiring copies. We have a considerable number of sets in stock in both English and Hebrew editions. We can offer you sets at a considerable discount: NIS 200 (or $50) per set (not including shipping--please inquire concerning shipping rates).

This offer will be available for a limited time only. We accept payment with all major credit cards.


Hillel Geva

The Temple Scroll is the longest scroll found at Qumran and one of the most important Dead Sea documents. It contains religious laws, most of which concern the Temple, its purity regulations, its festivals and the sacrifices and sacred food eaten there. Some of the laws differ from those found in other Jewish sources of the Second Temple period.

THE TEMPLE SCROLL, Y. Yadin [editio princeps in three volumes with supplement] (1984)
32 x 25 cm., hard cover, boxed
Price: $240 ($180 to IES members)
Vol. I: Introduction (408 pp.)
Vol. II: Text and Commentary (468 pp.)
Vol. III: Plates and Text (220 pp.)
Supplement: Supplementary Plates

Israel Exploration Society
POB 7041
9107001 Jerusalem
Tel.: 972-2-6257991
Fax: 972-2-6247772
Web: israelexplorationsociety.huji.ac.il


YONA SABAR: Hebrew Word of the Week: sheva‘ "seven, oath." As often, timely. This time, given the holiday that starts this evening.

Anti-Semitism in the Roman era

THE PUBLIC MEDIEVALIST BLOG: Anti-Semitism Is Older Than You Think ("Dr DarkAge"). Despite the name of this blog, this post is about evidence for anti-Semitism in the ancient Roman era, including references from Apion (via Josephus), Cicero, and Tacitus. HT Mosiac Magazine.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Landfill archaeology in Jerusalem

MATERIAL CULTURE: JERUSALEM DIG SHEDS LIGHT ON 2,000-YEAR-OLD EATING HABITS OF LOCAL JEWS. Sheep and goats were the order of the day, pork and shellfish nowhere to be found, and pigeons were bred for sacrifices on Temple Mount (Daniel K. Eisenbud, Jerusalem Post). Not surprisingly, the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the first century C.E. followed the kosher dietary laws.

The archaeology of garbage often gives us social information beyond what we find in ancient architecture, artifacts, and texts. Garbage also be a rich source of small artifacts such as coins and jewelry. And once in a great while, it even produces a trove manuscripts (e.g., Oxyrhynchus).

Some additional PaleoJudaica posts on the archaeology of ancient garbage are here, here, here, and here.

Professor Charlotte Hempel

CONGRATULATIONS TO CHARLOTTE HEMPEL, who recently gave her Professorial inaugural address at the University of Birmingham. The title was "The Dead Sea Scrolls: Isolationism, Elites, and Austerity."

You can watch the lecture on YouTube:

The rediscovery of Hebrew Ben Sira

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Alternative Scriptures: Finding Sirach (Philip Jenkins). The story of the rediscovery of substantial portions of the original Hebrew of Sirach (Ben Sira, Ecclesiasticus) in the Cairo Geniza at the end of the nineteenth century. Additional fragments from the late Second Temple period were found at Qumran and Masada. The essay includes this little thought experiment in counterfactual history:
This is an evocative tale in its own right, and it has often been retold. But for present purposes, the central point is that within the past century, we have established the fact that Sirach was definitely read and venerated in Hebrew in the Second Temple era, and indeed into early Christian times. Although the Qumran sect did not have strict guidelines as to what might be considered approved scriptures, Sirach probably did enjoy canonical or near-canonical status in the last couple of centuries BC.

If the Hebrew text had survived the Middle Ages, and had been known to West Europeans, I wonder how they could have avoided including the work fully in the approved canonical Bible? It was a near run thing.
Some past PaleoJudaica posts on the Hebrew text of Ben Sira are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Past posts on the Cairo Geniza are here with endless links. And other past posts in Professor Jenkins's "alternative scriptures" series are noted here and links. Cross-file under Old Testament Apocrypha.

Lautenschlaeger Awards 2017 at Heidelberg

LARRY HURTADO: Young Scholars of Promise. Congratulations to all ten young scholars who are recipients of a Lautenschlaeger Award this year. One of them is my St. Andrews colleague T. J. Lang.

Amorous angels and veiled women

CANDIDA MOSS: Leering Angels, Sexy Hair & Feminism: Why Women Wear Veils Why did the Vatican require Melania and Ivanka Trump to cover their heads? It may have started with amorous angels (The Daily Beast). I am astonished that I have never posted on the likely relationship between the Enochic watchers myth and Paul's instruction that women should wear veils "because of the angels" in 1 Corinthians 11:10.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sela, Abraham Ibn Ezra’s Introductions to Astrology

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL: Abraham Ibn Ezra’s Introductions to Astrology. A Parallel Hebrew-English Critical Edition of the Book of the Beginning of Wisdom and the Book of the Judgments of the Zodiacal Signs. Abraham Ibn Ezra’s Astrological Writings, Volume 5. Edited, translated and annotated by Shlomo Sela, Bar Ilan University.
The present volume offers a critical edition of the Hebrew texts, accompanied by English translation and commentary of Reshit Ḥokhmah (Beginning of Wisdom) and Mishpeṭei ha-Mazzalot (Judgments of the Zodiacal Signs) by Abraham Ibn Ezra (ca. 1089–ca. 1161). The first, the summa and by far the longest of his astrological works, the target of the most cross-references from the rest of that corpus and the most influential, enjoyed the widest circulation among Jews in the Middle Ages and after. The second, by contrast, is the most obscure. It is never referred to elsewhere by its author and is the only work for which Ibn Ezra’s authorship must be substantiated. Reshit Ḥokhmah and Mishpeṭei ha-Mazzalot were written in order to explain concepts common to the various branches of astrology that Ibn Ezra addressed elsewhere and to elucidate the worldview that underlies astrology. These two treatises are the richest and most varied with regard to the astrological information they present. Reshit Ḥokhmah and Mishpeṭei ha-Mazzalot also exemplify the close collaboration between astronomy and astrology in medieval science and are the two components of Ibn Ezra’s astrological corpus with the most extensive, comprehensive, and significant astronomical content.

Septuagint studies prize 2017

COMPETITION: The John William Wevers Prize in Septuagint Studies (IOSCS). The competition is for advanced postgraduates and junior scholars. The deadline for submission of a paper is 15 August. Follow the link for further particulars and a list of past recipients.

Verhoogt, Discarded, Discovered, Collected

BRICE C. JONES: Book Notice: Discarded, Discovered, Collected: The University of Michigan Papyrus Collection. By Arthur Verhoogt. Forthcoming with University of Michigan Press in the autumn of 2017.

Blenkinsopp, Essays on Judaism in the Pre-Hellenistic Period

NEW BOOK FROM DE GRUYTER: Blenkinsopp, Joseph. Essays on Judaism in the Pre-Hellenistic Period. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 495. March 2017.
Aims and Scope
The essays deal with developments during the period from the liquidation of the Judean state to the conquests of Alexander the Great. This was a critical time in the Near East and the Mediterranean world in general. It marked the end of the great Semitic empires until the rise of Islam in the seventh century A.D.,decisive changes in religion, with appeal to a creator-deity in Deutero-Isaiah, Babylonian Marduk cult, and Zoroastrianism.For the survivors of the Babylonian conquest in a post-collapse society the issue of continuity, with different groups claiming continuity with the past and possession of the traditions, there developed a situation favourable to the emergence of sects. The most pressing question, however, was what to do faced with the overwhelming power of empire, first Babylonian, then Persian. Finally, with the extinction of the native dynasty and the entire apparatus of a nation-state, the temple became the focus and emblem of group identity.

Hellenistic Babylonia

AWOL: Hellenistic Babylonia: Texts, Images and Names. Of no little potential interest for background on ancient Judaism. There was a vibrant Jewish community in Babylon in this period, about which we know very little.

More on ancient Babylonian texts and scribes from the time of the Babylonian Exile and from the Second Temple Period is here and here.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Review of Budin (ed.), Women in Antiquity

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Stephanie Lynn Budin, Jean MacIntosh Turfa (ed.), Women in Antiquity: Real Women across the Ancient World. Rewriting antiquity. London; New York: Routledge, 2016. Pp. xxxvi, 1074. ISBN 9781138808362. $240.00. . Reviewed by Judith Lynn Sebesta, University of South Dakota. Many, many articles on women in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Carthage, Israel, etc.

Auroras and comets in Syriac

SYRIAC WATCH: Mining Ancient Texts Reveals Clues to Space Weather of Yore. Low-latitude sightings of colorful hues in the sky likely to have been auroras indicate powerful geomagnetic storms buffeted Earth when some old chronicles were written, researchers report (Tim Hornyak, Eos).
... Japanese researchers recently identified what may be the earliest known, datable sketch of an aurora and say it can shed light on solar activity more than 1000 years ago.

The crude marginalia were found in the Zūqnīn Chronicle, a history of events from Creation to the late 8th century that is preserved in the Vatican Apostolic Library. Composed in 775 and 776 CE, the manuscript is written in a dialect of Aramaic and attributed to a monk dubbed Joshua the Stylite, who lived in the monastery of Zūqnīn in what is now eastern Turkey. The manuscript yielded a total of 10 drawings of heavenly phenomena, including a sketch of horizontal bands from 771/772 CE. ...
The article says that the Zūqnīn Chronicle (which is written in Syriac) also mentions a comet (Halley's?). And that there are references to auroras in Babylonian cuneiform literature.

For another, later, Syriac reference to a comet, see here.

Mapping ancient Syriac lives and literature

SYRIAC WATCH: As Turmoil Displaces Middle Eastern Christians, Scholars Work to Preserve Syriac Culture (Mitch Teich, NPR News in Milwaukee). An excellent audio interview about Syriac literature with Dan Schwartz, Jeanne-Nicole Mellon Saint-Laurent, and Nathan Gibson. They were attending Mapping Ancient Lives & Social Networks: A Digital Workshop at Marquette University last week.

The Apocalypse of Abraham

READING ACTS: Apocalypse of Abraham. This is a good summary of this mysterious text. One important point not mentioned is that our only sources for it are medieval and later manuscripts in Slavonic. There does seem to be a respectable case, though, that it is a relatively early and Jewish composition. But Slavonic material is outside my expertise.

Incidentally, it is possible that Richard Bauckham has located a reference to the Apocalypse of Abraham by a late-antique, Latin-writing author. See his "The Inquiry of Abraham" in Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, volume 1 (ed. Bauckham, Davila, and Panayotov; Eerdmans, 2013), pp. 59-63.

Presumably, the Apocalypse of Abraham was originally written in Greek and was translated into Slavonic. But none of the Greek text survives.

Israel Numismatic Report

ASOR BLOG: Israel Numismatic Report: Important Finds, Altruistic Reporting, and the Law (David Hendin).
Readers of Israeli newspapers and archaeology blogs for the last few years have seen a notable uptick in the number of coin finds reported by “good Samaritans” (both Israelis and tourists) and turned into the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), as well as some newsworthy numismatic finds at licensed excavations.

This led The Ancient Near East Today to ask me to look into the finds and their importance, as well as other numismatic discoveries in or related to Israel. I recently returned from Israel, where I talked with numismatic scholars, officials of the Israel Antiquities Authority, licensed antiquity dealers, and collectors. Here is my report.

PaleoJudaica frequently notes articles on ancient coins and their importance for our understanding of ancient Judaism etc. This article collects information about recent coin discoveries in Israel. It also reviews the laws and procedures for buying ancient coins there and exporting them. Cross-file under Numismatics.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Nehemiah's wall again

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Nehemiah—The Man Behind the Wall (Dorothy Willette). This essay was first published some time ago and has just been republished. The republication says the original came out in 2012, but I had a link to it (now rotted) back in 2009. In any case, there's been interest (cf. here) in Nehemiah and his wall recently, so here it is again.

Ten years ago there were reports that remains of Nehemiah's wall have been discovered. But this was disputed. See the posts here, here, here, and here.

NT Apocrypha a century and more ago

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Alternative Scriptures: Beyond the New Testament (Philip Jenkins).
From the 1890s onward, such sources inspired academic debate about Gnosticism and other heresies, as scholars argued whether Gnosticism was an offshoot of Christianity or of Judaism, or an entirely independent religion. Or was it indeed a vestige of the authentic message of earliest Christianity, suppressed by the sinister machinations of the later Great Church?
Something like this conversation continues in 2017.
So for a curious lay person a century ago, what resources were available for the apocryphal and pseudepigraphic works that guided this Quest for the Alternative Jesus? Just from the English-language tradition, let me offer a partial list (I exclude scholarly editions in original languages):
It's a long list.

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

3 Baruch

READING ACTS: The Greek Apocalypse of Baruch (3 Baruch). A nice summary of the book and overview of the critical issues. For past posts in Phil Long's recently revived series on the OTP, see here and links.

"Law as Religion, Religion as Law" conference

H-JUDAIC: Conference on "Law as Religion, Religion as Law." On 5-7 June at the Institute for Research in Jewish Law at the Hebrew University. The papers include lots of ancient Judaism.

Veyne, Palmyra: An Irreplaceable Treasure

PALMYRA WATCH: Two reviews of a new book on Palmyra have been published in the last couple of days. The book is:
Palmyra: An Irreplaceable Treasure. By Paul Veyne; translated from the French by Teresa Lavender Fagan (University of Chicago Press; 128 pages; $22.50)
PETER LEWIS ‘Palmyra: An Irreplaceable Treasure,’ by Paul Veyne (San Francisco Chronicle).
But Palmyra has seen far worse than anything today’s militants have dished out, which, in essence, was a sad sacking of ruins. Roman Emperor Aurelian conquered Palmyra in 273, and after meticulous looting, razed the place. Those were years that Palmyra was a unique and gloried trading cosmopolis. It was the meeting ground of caravans from Rome and Greece and those from far Cathay and India, explains Paul Veyne in “Palmyra,” where he brightly “sketches a portrait of the past splendor of Palmyra,” in a story tightly bound with affection.
JONATHAN MIRSKY: The lovely ruins of Palmyra were destroyed out of spite. Isis’s horrendous spree there in 2015 was entirely to show contempt for a site revered by the West, says Paul Veyne (The Spectator).
In an icy fury, Paul Veyne, a French expert on Palmyra, has dedicated this comprehensive, passionate, but concise book to the memory of the murdered Syrian scholar [Khaled al-Asaad]. In it he relates thousands of years of Palmyra’s history, describing those who lived there and pausing only briefly to underline what monsters Isis were to smash the site.
For past PaleoJudaica posts on Palmyra, its history, the ancient Aramaic dialect spoken there (Palmyrene), and the city's tragic reversals of fortune, for now trending for the better, start here and follow the many, many links.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The archaeology of the fall of Jerusalem

FOR JERUSALEM DAY (YESTERDAY): Watch: Evidence of battle of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. On the occasion of the jubilee celebrations for J'lem's reunification, researchers are unveiling evidence of the last battle of Jerusalem (Arutz Sheva).
On the occasion of Jerusalem Day and the jubilee celebrations commemorating the reunification of the city, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Nature and Parks Authority are unveiling evidence from 2,000 year ago of the battle of Jerusalem on the eve of the destruction of the Second Temple, at the City of David in the Jerusalem Walls National Park.

With video. And the article has many details.

Canaanite Israelis?

REMNANT OF GIANTS BLOG: Canaanite Reconstructionism (Deane Galbraith). It seems there are Israeli neopagans who worship the Canaanite gods. I was not aware of that, although I did know that Canaanite religious traditions were being used in the performing arts in Israel.

Review of Stroumsa, The Scriptural Universe of Ancient Christianity

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | The Scriptural Universe of Ancient Christianity (Daniel Picus).
Stroumsa, Guy. The Scriptural Universe of Ancient Christianity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016.

The sheer volume of material contained in this slim volume is staggering. Guy Stroumsa leaps between Jewish, Christian, Manichaean, and other sources with ease, quoting texts in various languages. Initially trained as a scholar of Gnosticism, in this book Stroumsa reveals his current interest in the history of religion as both a contemporary phenomenon and a shifting paradigm within the ancient world itself. Not only has our own modern view of religion shifted dramatically, but ancient Jews and Christians, Stroumsa suggests, underwent a dramatic shift in their own understanding of their relation to the divine. ...
It sounds as though there is quite a lot in the book that is relevant to the study of ancient Judaism.

Back to the Old Testament pseudepigrapha

READING ACTS: Summer Series: (More) Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Phil Long is back from Israel and is set to return to his blog series on the Old Testament pseudepigrapha. He helpfully includes a list, with links, of all the previous posts in the series. I believe that PaleoJudaica has linked to all of them, sometimes with comments, as they came up.

Phil uses the phrase "(More) Old Testament Pseudepigrapha," but I'm not sure whether that means he will also be covering texts from Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, volume 1. The photo shows the book on his bookshelf with the Charlesworth volumes, so maybe. We'll see.

Past posts in Phil's OTP series have been noted here and links. But during the 2016-17 academic year he also covered a number of OTP in his series on Second Temple Judaism: Jubilees (here and links), the Psalms of Solomon (here), 3 Maccabees (here and links), and 4 Maccabees (here and links).

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

Adin Steinsaltz receives Jerusalem medal

CONGRATULATIONS TO RABBI STEINSALTZ: Rabbi Adin Even-Israel (Steinsaltz) Honored With Jerusalem Award. Mayor pays a visit to the renowned rabbi, who continues to recover from a recent stroke (Chabad.org). The Jerusalem Post also has an article on the award: RECOVERING STEINSALTZ MADE 'YAKIR YERUSHALAYIM' DURING VISIT BY MAYOR.

I noted the report of his stroke back in December and I have been watching for news about his condition ever since. I am pleased to hear that he is recovering and that he was well enough to receive guests.

Rabbi Steinsaltz has been mentioned often in PaleoJudaica, mostly regarding his Hebrew and English translations of the Talmud. For more on that, follow the links in the preceding paragraph

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Conference on Temple Mount at Providence College

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Marking the Sacred: ​The Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem (Providence College, June 5-7, 2017) (International Catacomb Society).
An international conference bringing together experts on the history and archaeology of Jerusalem's Temple Mount/Haram, sacred to Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions. Exhibition of photographs from the École Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jérusalem and contemporary artist, Assaf Evron.
Follow the link for the conference program. Looks like an impressive lineup.

Second-Temple-era pilgrimage pools in Jerusalem

ANCIENT ARCHITECTURE: Study: Jerusalem reservoirs used by pilgrims 2,000 years ago (Yori Yalon, Israel HaYom).
Gigantic ancient pools found in Old City -- more than in any other Mediterranean city -- provided water for masses making pilgrimage to the Temple, expert says • University of Haifa, Harvard University launched soon-to-be-published study.
The study is to be published in the Palestine Exploration Quarterly.

Temple Mount Sifting Project finds Six-Day-War artifacts

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: New Six Day War artifacts hint at a battle on the Temple Mount. Bullets, shell casings discovered in rubble and examined by the Temple Mount Sifting Project raise questions about fight for Judaism’s holiest site during the 1967 war (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
Among the half a million artifacts discovered during the sifting are dozens of articles — among them machine gun magazines, bullets, Jordanian coins, and uniform badges, which, the project claims, “may be related to the IDF’s arrival at the Temple Mount during the Six Day War.”

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount Sifting Project is presenting a temporary display of some of the findings connected to the Six Day War, ancient ammunition, as well as some of the reconstructed floor patterns from Herod’s Temple courts, in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter’s central square (near the Moriah jewelry store).
Past PaleoJudaica posts about the Temple Mount Sifting Project are here, here, here, and here, and follow the many, many links. They have made a lot of announcements lately, not least because they are trying to secure funding to continue.

Past posts on the floor tiles mentioned in the excerpt above are here and here and links. Usually I link to the Project's news about ancient artifacts, but the current announcement is timely.

No director yet for Israel Museum

STILL CHANGING: Trump brings spotlight to Israel Museum mired in hunt for leader. For more than a year, institution unable to fill shoes of longtime director James Snyder, who oversaw ‘a huge revolution.’ I noted the announcement of the appointment of Eran Neuman as director back in January, but he departed after only three months and the position has not yet been filled.

You can read the full text of President Trump's address yesterday at the Israel Museum here. It includes condolences to the people of Manchester regarding Monday's vile terrorist attack.

Methuselah is twelve

MASADA DATE PALM UPDATE: KETURA, ISRAEL: Judean Date Palm Methuselah. This tree was extinct for a thousand years before sprouting again from a 2,000-year-old seed (Atlas Obscura).
One soon sprouted into a sapling. Twelve years later, it is more than 10 feet tall. A male of its species, it was nicknamed Methuselah after the longest-lived person in the Bible. It is the oldest known germination of a seed in the world.

At first, the leaves were plagued with white blotches, suggesting insufficient nutrients, but eventually the plant thrived. It first flowered in 2011 and it produces pollen, which enables it to reproduce with modern date palms, as it did in 2015. It is predicted it will generate fruit by 2022.
I hope so.

Background here and here and links. I noted the story originally, back in 2005, here.