Saturday, July 13, 2013

"Cat" and the Ur-language?

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: What are the different names for "cat" in different languages? (Rebecca Lesses)

Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Arabic, and Assyrian are involved. Not to mention that putative Ur-language. Giveaway

FOR YOU, SPECIAL DEAL: Giveaway. Steve Caruso is giving away some cool pewter ישוע pendants (if you're into that sort of thing) in exchange for your writing something witty and worthwhile about Aramaic. Follow the link for details.

Friday, July 12, 2013

ISBL aftermath

YOU'RE WELCOME. Biblical conference boosts local economy by £1.7m.

Schrodinger's hametz?

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Math Lessons and Quantum Physics in Studies of Rabbinic Stringency and Leniency: Daf Yomi: For generations, Talmudic training has meant exercising the mind in logical thinking, not just learning laws.
The comparison of the Talmud with quantum physics may sound far-fetched, but the truth is that this whole stretch of Tractate Pesachim could be put directly into a math textbook. It is a reminder that Talmudic training, for many generations of Jewish students, was a way of training the mind in logical thinking as well as learning a body of laws.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Slavonic pseudepigrapha and medieval Gnosticism?

PHILIP JENKINS: Dan Brown, Eat Your Heart Out (Real Clear Religion). It's nice to see the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha gettting some wider attention. That said, I remain to be convinced that any of the Slavonic pseudepigrapha listed in the article go back to the Second Temple period. The best case can be made for 2 Enoch (on which see here) although, as the article hints, if there is an early Jewish core, it probably has been developed subsequently in ways we don't understand well. A lot of people seem to think that the Apocalypse of Abraham is early and Jewish, and it may be, but we should be cautious about assuming that its long and convoluted transmission has delivered it to us in pristine condition. But whatever their origin, some of these texts are pretty old, and the suggestion that some of the ideas in them contributed to medieval revivals of Gnosticism is worth exploring.

Philip has more on the subject in his blog post THE SLAVONIC SCRIPTURES. I have lots of posts on Slavonic pseudepigrapha and related matters as well. Start here and work your way back.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Rollston on the new Jerusalem inscription

CHRISTOPHER ROLLSTON: The Decipherment of the New ‘Incised Jerusalem Pithos’.

He says the script is of the 11th century BCE, not the tenth (and therefore it is older than the time of David and Solomon). He also reads the letters slightly differently than in that Hebrew University press release (or the IEJ article), with the result that the inscription refers to a "pot" or a "cauldron." Well, that does make sense.

Background here.

UPDATE (12 July): James McGrath has collected blog discussions of the text at: Fragments Discovered in Israel, among them Gershon Galil's rather different reconstruction (also here). I agree with George Athas that the latter involves an unsatisfying amount of reconstruction.

In the same post, James notes the now well publicized discovery of a fragment of an Egyptian sphinx at Hazor. It is really outside the interests of PaleoJudaica, but you can read more about it there if you want to.

Conference reports

THIS SUMMER IS FULL OF CONFERENCES, not least, and most recently, the International Society of Biblical Literature meeting here in St. Andrews, which finished up as I was composing this post. As I just mentioned, it was highly successful: with 850 delegates it was large for an ISBL meeting and it was also, as far as I can ascertain, the largest conference ever held in St. Andrews. Congratulations to Professor Kristin De Troyer, who organized everything flawlessly, to Dr Beth Tracy, who with Kristin omnipresently oversaw everything, and to the many postgraduate assistants and other University staff who helped make it happen. The ISBL this year was one of the events tied to the celebrations of the six-hundredth anniversary of the founding of the University of St. Andrews. The upcoming British New Testament Conference is as well.

I haven't yet encountered any blog reports on the ISBL, but I'm sure they will be coming. Meanwhile, here are some reports on other recent conferences.

Egil Asprem has some posts on the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE) Conference in Gothenburg, Sweden: Getting ready for ESSWE4: interdisciplinary panels, international networking, magickal musick – and the transhuman apocalypse, The biggest esotericism conference yet – ESSWE4 and the schizophrenic life of academics, and ESSWE4 round-up – reviews and impressions from across the esosphere. The last post links to other blog reactions to the conference.

Larry Hurtado on the Peter Conference: Edinburgh 2013.

James McGrath on the The ARAM conference on the Mandaeans in Oxford: Conference Papers (ARAM Conference on the Mandaeans, Morning Session, 8 July 2013); A New Dictionary of Mandaic; Proceedings from Previous ARAM Conferences on the Mandaeans; Mandaean Banquet; Female Figures in Mandaean Religious Art; Comparison and Collation of Mandaean Texts; Pihta and Polemic in the Mandaean Canonical Prayerbook; and The End of the 2013 ARAM Conference on the Mandaeans.

If you have published a blog report on a conference relevant to PaleoJudaica and you would like me to consider linking to it, do drop me a note.

Pesah and weasels

LAST WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Talmud’s Abstractions Live in Concrete Examples About Candles and Weasels:Daf Yomi: In textual analysis, the rabbis found biblical bases for customs and rituals that lacked them.

When I lecture on the Mishnah to my students (very few of whom are Jewish) one of the key points I try to convey is that the debates in the Mishnah are among people who agreed on almost everything. The things the rabbis discuss are thus frequently not what we might have expected. The example I use is the tractate Pesahim, from the title of which we would expect a discussion of the basic rules for Passover: the date, the biblical background, the prohibition of hametz (leaven), the foods eaten and how they are prepared, etc. But the rabbis and their readers already knew and agreed on all that, so they turned to the points of detail on which they disagreed. Then I read aloud m. Pesahim 1.1-2, which opens the tractate with a discussion of how many rows of a wine vault need to be searched for hametz and whether one needs to worry about whether a weasel has dragged hametz into the house. Somehow the weasel really gets my point across.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links. I'm now catching up on blogging after a distracting, but very successful, week of ISBL. I'll get to this week's column as soon as I can.

Turfan Fragments set to music

HIEROI LOGOI: Morton Feldman’s “Turfan Fragments”.

The Turfan fragments are best known to PaleoJudaica readers as one of the sources for the Book of Giants.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Near Temple Mount: Tenth century BCE "Canaanite" (or something) inscription excavated

Inscription From the Time of Kings David & Solomon
Found Near Southern Wall of Temple Mount
in Hebrew University Excavations

This jar fragment bearing an inscription in the Canaanite language was unearthed near Jerusalem’s Temple Mount by Hebrew University archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar. Dated to the tenth century BCE, it is the earliest alphabetical written text ever uncovered in the city. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Eilat Mazar; photographed by Noga Cohen-Aloro.)

Jerusalem, July 10, 2013 — Working near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Hebrew University of Jerusalem archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar has unearthed the earliest alphabetical written text ever uncovered in the city.

The inscription is engraved on a large pithos, a neckless ceramic jar found with six others at the Ophel excavation site. According to Dr. Mazar, the inscription, in the Canaanite language, is the only one of its kind discovered in Jerusalem and an important addition to the city’s history.

Dated to the tenth century BCE, the artifact predates by two hundred and fifty years the earliest known Hebrew inscription from Jerusalem, which is from the period of King Hezekiah at the end of the eighth century BCE.

A third-generation archaeologist working at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology, Dr. Mazar directs archaeological excavations on the summit of the City of David and at the southern wall of the Temple Mount.

The discovery will be announced in a paper by Dr. Mazar, Prof. Shmuel Ahituv of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and Dr. David Ben-Shlomo of the Hebrew University, following their extensive research on the artifact. Prof. Ahituv studied the inscription and Dr. Ben-Shlomo studied the composition of the ceramic materials. The paper, "An Inscribed Pithos From the Ophel," appears in the Israel Exploration Journal 63/1 (2013).

Hebrew University of Jerusalem archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar displays a jar fragment unearthed near Jerusalem’s Temple Mount bearing an inscription in the Canaanite language. Dated to the tenth century BCE, it is the earliest alphabetical written text ever uncovered in the city. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Eilat Mazar; photographed by Oria Tadmor.)

The inscription was engraved near the edge of the jar before it was fired, and only a fragment of it has been found, along with fragments of six large jars of the same type. The fragments were used to stabilize the earth fill under the second floor of the building they were discovered in, which dates to the Early Iron IIA period (10th century BCE). An analysis of the jars’ clay composition indicates that they are all of a similar make, and probably originate in the central hill country near Jerusalem.

According to Prof. Ahituv, the inscription is not complete and probably wound around the jar’s shoulder, while the remaining portion is just the end of the inscription and one letter from the beginning. The inscription is engraved in a proto-Canaanite / early Canaanite script of the eleventh-to-tenth centuries BCE, which pre-dates the Israelite rule and the prevalence of Hebrew script.

Reading from left to right, the text contains a combination of letters approximately 2.5 cm tall, which translate to m, q, p, h, n, (possibly) l, and n. Since this combination of letters has no meaning in known west-Semitic languages, the inscription's meaning is unknown.

The archaeologists suspect the inscription specifies the jar’s contents or the name of its owner. Because the inscription is not in Hebrew, it is likely to have been written by one of the non-Israeli residents of Jerusalem, perhaps Jebusites, who were part of the city population in the time of Kings David and Solomon.

Excavations at the site are conducted in collaboration with the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and the East Jerusalem Development Company. The site is in the national park surrounding the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, near the southern wall of the Temple Mount compound. The Israel Antiquities Authority maintains the excavation site as a national park open to the public.

The excavations are made possible through a generous donation by Daniel Mintz and Meredith Berkman of New York. Participants in the dig include Israeli students and workers, along with students or alumni of Herbert W. Armstrong College sent to Jerusalem from Edmond, Oklahoma to participate in the excavation.

For more information:

Dov Smith
Hebrew University Foreign Press Liaison
02-5882844 / 054-8820860 (+ 972-54-8820860)
It would have been nice if it had read lmlk šlmh, but I'll take it anyway.

Cross-file under "Temple Mount Watch."

UPDATE: George Athas has some preliminary thoughts: A New Ceramic Inscription from Jerusalem (10th century BC?)

UPDATE (12 July): More here.

Review of Isaac and Shahar (eds.), Judaea-Palaestina, Babylon and Rome: Jews in Antiquity

IN THE TALMUD BLOG: Rabbinic Spiritual Capital: A Review of ‘Judaea-Palaestina, Babylon and Rome: Jews in Antiquity’.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Coptic Nicaean gnomes

ALIN SUCIU: Guest Post: Alistair C. Stewart – The “Gnomes” of the Council of Nicaea. Not to be confused with the Elves of the Council of Elrond.

(Very sorry. Just couldn't resist. Looks like an interesting text.)

Law interview

T. MICHAEL LAW is interviewed by Peter Enns about his new book When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible: Here’s Something about the Bible of the First Christians I Bet Many of You Didn’t Know (you’re welcome).

Monday, July 08, 2013

BNTC 2013 - last day of special deal!

REGISTRATION FOR THE 2013 MEETING OF THE BRITISH NEW TESTAMENT CONFERENCE in St. Andrews (29-31 August) is still open and you can book online here.

Early-bird registration closes today. After that the price goes up substantially, so why not register now? Even if you are here in St. Andrews and distracted by ISBL, don't let this opportunity slip by. For you, special deal!

Alter interview

ROBERT ALTER is interviewed in the Jewish Ledger about his translation of the Hebrew Bible: Conversation with… Dr. Robert Alter. Excerpt:
Every great work of literature – and there’s much great writing in the biblical Hebrew – has a mastery of means in its own language. It’s not only the kind of perfect word choice and subtle shifts from one level of the language to another, but also the rhythms, the lengths of words, etc. When you’re translating, you can’t possibly get all of those, while all the different features come together in perfect harmony in the original language. In most cases, you decide what’s less important and you sacrifice something: maybe you don’t focus on the order of the words in order to achieve some other effect of the original that’s important; maybe I can get the rhythm of the language but not quite the English equivalents that have the exact same resonance as the original.
Too true.

Background here with many links.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

"Complete list of biblioblogs"

HERE IS A "COMPLETE LIST OF BIBLIOBLOGS" as of June 2013. Members of the top 50 and the top 20 (PaleoJudaica is in the latter) are also indicated. The total is 184, with 329 "related," for a grand total of 513.

ISBL 2013 is here.

THE 2013 INTERNATIONAL MEETING OF THE SOCIETY OF BIBLICAL LITERATURE begins today, here at the University of St. Andrews.

Note also that the program book for the 2013 SBL meeting in Baltimore in November is now available here.

Between ISBL and the MOTP page proofs I shall be very busy in the coming week and blogging will not be a high priority. But I have pre-posted something for each of the next several days and I will add what I can as time permits, so do keep coming back as usual.