Saturday, January 04, 2014

BAS on Tekhelet

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Scholar’s Study: The Great Tekhelet Debate.

Background here and links.

A bibliography for New Philology

LIV INGEBORG LIED: A New Philology reading list. Looks useful. I have an essay on "Translating the Hekhalot Literature: Insights from New Philology" going into the mentioned forthcoming volume Snapshots of Evolving Traditions: Jewish and Christian Manuscript Culture, Textual Fluidity, and New Philology, which she and Hugo Lundhaug are editing.

Talmud-Era Jewish Community at Elad?

ARUTZ SHEVA: Talmud-Era Jewish Community at Elad? Archaeologists are confident the findings point to a Jewish population, probably 1,600 years ago.

HT Joseph I. Lauer.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Online resources for biblical studies, Egyptology, etc.

FREE BOOKS ONLINE, many of which are directly or indirectly relevant for ancient Judaism:

First, an excellent website by Mischa Hooker at Loyola University, Chicago: BIBLE, JUDAISM, CHRISTIANITY via Google Book Search. Most of the books are quite old, but some remain very useful. And there are some (generally, I think, incomplete) recent books listed as well, including my 2005 monograph, The Provenance of the Pseudepigrapha. HT the Agade list.

Second, Egyptology Books and Articles in PDF online. Included are quite a few of the older Oxyrhynchus papyri volumes, some other papyri resources, and some Coptic texts. HT Paula Tutty on Facebook.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Jerusalem inscription deciphered - again

THAT 10TH CENTURY BCE HEBREW INSCRIPTION FROM JERUSALEM is back in the news, with a new proposal from Gershon Galil for its decipherment: Inscription on jar from time of King Solomon may refer to cheap wine. Biblical scholar Gershon Galil proposes an interpretation for the oldest inscription ever discovered in Jerusalem. (Nir Hasson, Haaretz). Excerpt:
But in a recent article in the journal “New Studies on Jerusalem,” Prof. Gershon Galil, of the Bible Department at the University of Haifa, proposed a new interpretation. Galil suggested that the letters were early Hebrew and identified the key word as "yayin", meaning wine.

Of all the region’s languages, Galil noted, only southern Hebrew wrote the word yayin with two instances of the letter yod, rather than one.

According to Galil’s interpretation, the inscription describes the wine that was in the jar bearing the inscription. The first letter is a final mem, which could be the end of the word "esrim" (twenty) or "shloshim" (thirty,) referring to either the twentieth or thirtieth year of Solomon’s reign. Next comes the word "yayin" (wine) followed by the word "halak", and then the letter mem, the first letter of the wine’s place of origin.

"Halak" is an oenological term from the Northern Syrian language of Ugarit. It referred to the lowest of three types of wine – “good wine,” “no good wine” and lowly "halak". Galil speculated that the poor-quality wine was drunk by the king's conscript labor force working on various building projects.
That is the core of the argument. The proposal looks possible to me, but pretty speculative given how much reconstruction is involved. The speculations about connections with Solomon and his kingdom are just that, speculations. I think it's probable enough that there was an Israelite king in the tenth century named Solomon who had a pretty impressive kingdom, but this inscription doesn't mention any of that and any such connection is entirely inferential. When they dig up a 10th century Hebrew inscription in Jerusalem that actually mentions King Solomon, then we can talk directly about epigraphic support for a Solomonic kingdom.

The story is also covered in less detail by Marissa Newman in the Times of Israel:
Decoded: Jerusalem’s oldest Hebrew engraving refers to lousy wine.
Researcher says ancient inscription describes low quality of jug’s contents, served to King Solomon’s laborers and soldiers.

HT reader David Schottenfels, who alerted me to the story in the Hebrew press a few days ago. I noted the discovery of the inscription back in July here. Earlier attempts at decipherment, including another from Prof. Galil, are noted here.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Speakers of Aramaic in the Middle East

ARAMAIC WATCH: At the beginning of the year, spare a thought for the speakers of Aramaic in the Middle East and their plight:

Disciples of St John the Baptist under attack. One of the Middle East's oldest religious communities is on the verge of disappearing amid Iraq violence (Karlos Zurutuza, Al-Jazeerah)
Baghdad, Iraq - As on every Sunday, Mandaeans gather by the west bank of the Tigris River, dressed in plain white clothes. All of them wear wooden clogs and some boast long, white beards. Were it not for the barbed wire around them and the fumes from Baghdad's Dora refinery on the opposite bank of the river, it could be a scene from 2,000 years ago. In fact, many say it is a miracle that the Mandaean community is still alive in Baghdad in 2013.

More on the Mandaeans (Mandeans) here, here, here, here, here, and links.

Will Middle East’s Aramaic language survive? (Dina al-Shibeeb, Alarabiya News)
The survival of Aramaic, once the Middle East’s lingua franca, is in jeopardy amid regional turmoil.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has listed it as an endangered language in Iraq, Iran and Syria.

Some relevant recent posts regarding the revival of Aramaic and Aramaic in the Middle East and Turkey are here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Cross-file under Syriac Watch and Ma'loula (Maaloula, Malula).

It's 2014 ...

HAPPY NEW YEAR to all PaleoJudaica readers! Wishing you a happy and prosperous 2014, one which includes lots of ancient Judaism.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Brannan's tweets on MOTP1 collected

STILL AT IT: As noted a few weeks ago, Rick Brannan is tweeting his way through Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, Volume 1, text by text. He collects all of these tweets to date on his blog here, with one more posted since: "Apocryphon of Ezekiel: Lots of folks through history attribute Bibleish Ezekiely-type stuff to Ezekiel. Here it is, collected." This puts him a little over halfway through the volume in pages and also in texts - the latter if he puts up individual posts for the texts translated by Helen Spurling in the last chapter, "Hebrew Visions of Hell and Paradise."

The fall of the Temple priesthood in the Talmud

LAST WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: In the Talmud, the Fall of a Priestly Upper Class Is Just Deserts. Biblical examples of righteousness and wickedness show that in Judaism, goodness remains possible and divine.
This anecdote suggests, though obliquely, what an enormous upheaval the destruction of the Temple must have created in Judean society. The priestly hierarchy was large and well-established, constituting the upper class of the nation; now they were suddenly rendered useless, like aristocratic émigrés during the French Revolution. There is even a hint of satisfaction in Yishmael’s words. The Talmud makes no secret of the fact that the priests’ ostentation and hunger for prestige sometimes made them unpopular. The fall of the House of Avtinas must have looked to some people like their just deserts.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Sartorial news from ancient Israel

HAARETZ has a couple of recent articles on clothing and its coloring in ancient Israel. First: Pink wool to ponchos: What people in ancient Israel really wore. The man in the dusty street wore a tunic and sandals. The rich could dress so splendidly that they risked being struck down by divine anger (Miriam Feinberg Vamosh).
The wealthy could afford to expand the repertoire of colors in their closet from the earthy tones of the original sheep and goat coats to a rainbow of raiment.

The most costly dye was purple manufactured from the murex snail. But imitation purple for clothing could come from the hyacinth flower, for example. Textiles discovered at Masada included cream, pink and purple, and other colors mentioned in Roman sources include gold, walnut and yellow, all of which came from plants. Scarlet dye came from an insect, the kermes vermilio.

“Costly garments” (Ezekiel 16:10) are mentioned in the Bible – Queen Esther had one (Esther 5:1), and so did Tamar, Amnon’s ill-fated sister (2 Sam. 13:18). The noblewoman mother of the Canaanite general Sisera wore colorful embroidered garments (Judg. 5:30). A wedding dress, according to Psalm 45:13–14, was "embroidered with gold.”
The article is chronologically eclectic, combining information from the Bible, Josephus, the Mishnah, etc., with archaeological evidence from Masada and Qumran. And speaking of that dye from the murex snail ...

Second: Rare find || Fragment containing ancient 'tekhelet' dye discovered near Dead Sea. The precious blue dye, derived from snail glands, was used in ancient times to color the tassels of the four-cornered garment worn by men; this is only the third time such fabric has been found (Judy Maltz).
Announcing the discovery, Dr. Na'ama Sukenik, a curator at the Israel Antiquities Authority, said the tiny piece of fabric had been discovered in the 1950s in a cave at Wadi Murba’at, where Jewish fighters hid during the Bar Kokhba revolt in the second century. As part of her doctoral dissertation at Bar Ilan University, Sukenik recently tested the color found in the fabric and was able to determine that it was derived from the Murex trunchular, a mollusk widely believed to be the marine animal known as the khilazon in the Talmud -- the source of the rare blue dye.
More on the ancient tekhelet dye here and links. Also, lots more on ancient bling (mentioned in the first article) here and links and (sort of) here.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Comptroller's Report leaked?

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: That classified 2010 Israeli State Comptroller's Report on the Waqf's unauthorized excavations on the Temple Mount has reportedly been leaked to The Jewish Voice, which has published the Hebrew original and also an English translation. So far the Israeli Government has declined to comment on its authenticity. The Jerusalem Post summarizes the summary in Classified comptroller report on Temple Mount slams government for failing to protect area from Wakf.

Background here and links.

Dreams, visions, Aramaic, DSS

ANDREW PERRIN: The Dynamics of Dream-Vision Discourse in the Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls (ASOR Blog).
In my McMaster University doctoral dissertation, “The Dynamics of Dream-Vision Discourse in the Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls,” I explore the form and function of revelatory dream-vision accounts that are interspersed throughout approximately twenty of these texts.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Selwood, The Sword of Moses, and the Templars

DOMINIC SELWOOD: Forget The Da Vinci Code: this is the real mystery of the Knights Templar (The Telegraph). Excerpt:
We simply do not know the answers. But the chapel at Montsaunès is proof, in its own enigmatic way that the religious life of the Templars was not as straightforward as we have perhaps come to believe. As Umberto Eco’s lunatics, and a growing swathe of more ordinary people, prepare to mark the anniversary of Jacques de Molay’s death, there will be discussions about individual freedom and the abuse of power, about political show trials and miscarriages of justice, and about Europe’s transition from theocracy to autocracy. But there will also be time to think again about what knowledge went up in flames with Jacques de Molay, and to the grave with the other knights.

The little-known chapel at Montsaunès reminds us that there is much we still do not know about the Templars, who increasingly baffle us the more we discover about them.

Dominic Selwood's new thriller The Sword of Moses features the Templars, Montsaunès and a number of the themes discussed in this article.
(HT Dorothy Lobel King.)

My reviews of The Da Vinci Code novel and film are here and here. My visit to Rosslyn Chapel is described here. The Sword of Moses is also the title of a late-antique magical treatise in Hebrew and Aramaic. It has recently been translated into English by Yuval Harari and his translation is also forthcoming in volume 2 of the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project.

HB/OT postdoc at Uppsala

STEPHEN C. CARLSON: Uppsala Post-Doc in Hebrew Bible. Knowledge of Swedish is desirable. The application deadline is 15 January.