Saturday, August 23, 2014

Upson-Saia et al. (eds.), Dressing Judeans and Christians in Antiquity

Dressing Judeans and Christians in Antiquity

Edited by Kristi Upson-Saia, Occidental College, USA, Carly Daniel-Hughes, Concordia University, Canada and Alicia J. Batten, Conrad Grebel University College, Canada

The past two decades have witnessed a proliferation of scholarship on dress in the ancient world. These recent studies have established the extent to which Greece and Rome were vestimentary cultures, and they have demonstrated the critical role dress played in communicating individuals’ identities, status, and authority. Despite this emerging interest in ancient dress, little work has been done to understand religious aspects and uses of dress. This volume aims to fill this gap by examining a diverse range of religious sources, including literature, art, performance, coinage, economic markets, and memories. Employing theoretical frames from a range of disciplines, contributors to the volume demonstrate how dress developed as a topos within Judean and Christian rhetoric, symbolism, and performance from the first century BCE to the fifth century CE. Specifically, they demonstrate how religious meanings were entangled with other social logics, revealing the many layers of meaning attached to ancient dress, as well as the extent to which dress was implicated in numerous domains of ancient religious life.

Stratton and Kalleres (eds.), Daughters of Hecate

FORTHCOMING BOOK: Kimberly B. Stratton and Dayna S. Kalleres (eds.), Daughters of Hecate: Women and Magic in the Ancient World (OUP, November 2014).
Daughters of Hecate unites for the first time research on the problem of gender and magic in three ancient Mediterranean societies: early Judaism, Christianity, and Graeco-Roman culture. The book illuminates the gendering of ancient magic by approaching the topic from three distinct disciplinary perspectives: literary stereotyping, the social application of magic discourse, and material culture.

The authors probe the foundations of, processes, and motivations behind gendered stereotypes, beginning with Western culture's earliest associations of women and magic in the Bible and Homer's Odyssey. Daughters of Hecate provides a nuanced exploration of the topic while avoiding reductive approaches. In fact, the essays in this volume uncover complexities and counter-discourses that challenge, rather than reaffirm, many gendered stereotypes taken for granted and reified by most modern scholarship.

By combining critical theoretical methods with research into literary and material evidence, Daughters of Hecate interrogates a false association that has persisted from antiquity, to early modern witch hunts, to the present day.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Farming and grave marking in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Are Jews Meant To Be Farmers, Workers, or Thinkers? So much of the Talmud is about working the land, and the rules that govern labor, profit, and loss. Excerpt:
One of the things Jews were doing instead of cultivating the land was studying the Talmud. Famously, in Pirkei Avot, Rabbi Yaakov says: “One who walks along a road and studies and interrupts his studying to say, ‘How beautiful is this tree!’ ‘How beautiful is this ploughed field!’—the Torah considers it as if he had forfeited his life.” The pious Jew should be thinking about the Law, not the earth; about holiness, not nature. Yet the irony is that so much of the Talmud is about nothing but the land and working the land. The rules about planting and harvesting in the land of Israel are laid out in great detail. What effect did it have on generations of Jews, I often wonder, to read about the farming practices of the rabbis, many of whom were landowners themselves? Did a Jew studying in a yeshiva in Golden Age Spain, or in 19th-century Vilna, find his imagination excited by these details, dreaming of a life on the land that would be possible once the Messiah came? Or did it all seem abstract and a little tedious, like reading about the tax laws of a country you’d never inhabit?
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Review of Bar-Asher Siegal, Introduction to the Grammar of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic

THE TALMUD BLOG: ‘Introduction to the Grammar of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic’- A Review
Elitzur Bar-Asher Siegal, Introduction to the Grammar of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic, (Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2013) – Reviewed by Aaron Koller.
Bar-Asher Siegal’s book relies on original research in the manuscripts of the Bavli and original grammatical analysis by a scholar who moves effortlessly between Semitic philology and linguistics. This is as good as an “introduction to Jewish Babylonian Aramaic” can be, and it is difficult to imagine anyone producing a better grammar of this type until there are qualitative advances in the field of JBA.
By which he means an eclectic critical edition of the Bavli. Hasten the day!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Brill books

The Targums in the Light of Traditions of the Second Temple Period

Edited by Thierry Legrand and Jan Joosten both of University of Strasbourg

Although the Jewish Targums were written down only from the second century CE onward, and need to be studied against their Late Antique background, the issue of their connection to earlier sources and traditions is an important one. Do the existing Targums link up with an oral translation of Scripture and, if so, how far does it go back? Do the Targums transmit traditional exegetical material in a distinct form? What is the relation between the Targums and "parabiblical" literature of the Second Temple period (including the New Testament)?

In the present volume, these and other questions are studied and debated by an international group of scholars including some of the best specialists of Targumic literature in all its diversity, as well as specialists of various Second Temple writings.

A Vocabulary of Desire
The Song of Songs in the Early Synagogue

Laura S. Lieber, Duke University

In A Vocabulary of Desire, Laura Lieber offers a nuanced, multifaceted and highly original study of how the Song of Songs was understood and deployed by Jewish liturgical poets in Late Antiquity (ca. 4th-7th centuries CE). Through her examination of poems which embellish and even rewrite the Song of Songs, Lieber brings the creative spirit-liturgical, intellectual, and exegetical-of these poems vividly to the fore. All who are interested in the early interpretation of the Song of Songs, the ancient synagogue, early Jewish and Christian hymnography, and Judaism in Late Antiquity will find this volume both enriching and accessible.

The volume consists of two interrelated halves. In the first section, four introductory essays establish the broad cultural context in which these poems emerged; in the second, each chapter consists of an analytical essay structured around a single, complete poetic cycle, presented in new Hebrew editions with annotated original English translations.
More on Jan Joosten is here. Another book by Laura S. Lieber is noted here.

Review of Stein, Textual Mirrors

MARGINALIA: “Beneficent Incision”: Midrash and the Contemporary Critical Moment – By Adam Zachary Newton. Adam Zachary Newton on Dina Stein’s Textual Mirrors: Reflexivity, Midrash, and the Rabbinic Self. I hope the book is not as jargon laden as the review. Excerpt:
And what of an analysis that seeks dialogical partners drawn from a wholly different language game than the one practiced by the exegetes and compositors of the midrashic canon? Such partners would be not only rhetorically Other but also — and this is essential — institutionally so. Either the interpretive hazard increases or its practitioners become the agents, and we the beneficiaries, of a beneficent incision that may result in a text refreshed and rejuvenated. One of the great pleasures, then, of Dina Stein’s Textual Mirrors: Reflexivity, Midrash, and the Rabbinic Self is the imaginative and refracted light it casts upon the waking alertness, power, and fecundity of the midrashic enterprise tout court.
The book was noted earlier here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Neo-Aramaicists speak out

(MODERN) ARAMAIC WATCH: Letter by Neo-Aramaicists regarding Iraq situation (George Kiraz, the Hugoye list).

Background here and links.

More on the Hebrew Bible: A Critical Edition

RONALD HENDEL: A New Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible (Bible and Interpretation). Excerpt:
The HBCE ["The Hebrew Bible: A Critical Edition”] text will not reproduce a single manuscript (as is the case with the other critical editions, BHQ and HUBP), but will approximate the manuscript that was the latest common ancestor of all the extant manuscripts. This “earliest inferable text” is called the archetype. This is not identical to the original text (however one defines this elusive term), but is the earliest recoverable text of a particular book. To be more precise, the HBCE critical text will approximate the corrected archetype, since the archetype will have some scribal errors that can be remedied.
Background here.

Another soferet

TORAH DOCTOR: Maintaining an ancient tradition, female scribe repairs Jewish academy Torah (Jeff Kunerth, Orlando Sentinel).
The Torah used at the Jewish Academy of Orlando is marked with water spots, smudges, discolorations and rips.

"It's not just a book. It's a sacred text," said Alan Rusonik, head of the academy in Maitland. "To have a Torah in disrepair just doesn't seem right."

That's why Rusonik summoned Rachel Salston, a 24-year-old rabbinical student from Los Angeles.

Salston is one of an estimated 50 female Jewish scribes in the world. Her teacher, Jen Taylor Friedman, was the first woman to write a complete Torah scroll in 2007.

Females scribes, or soferets, are a rare breed because they must be conservative Jews who follow the strict laws of Judaism but also belong to an egalitarian congregation that believes in the equality of women and men. And they must have the interest, patience and talent for painstaking, meticulous work.

There's video too. For much more on female scribes from antiquity to the present, see here and links. Jen Taylor Friedman has also been mentioned here. Unfortunately, the main link has rotted, but there is still some information there about her, including a photo of her creation, Tefillin Barbie.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Call for Papers: 2015 York Christian Apocrypha Symposium

Call for Papers: 2015 York Christian Apocrypha Symposium


York University Christian Apocrypha Symposium Series 2015

“Fakes, Forgeries, and Fictions” Writing Ancient and Modern Christian Apocrypha

September 24-26, 2015
Follow the link for details.

Marginalia forum on Jew vs. Judean

MARGINALIA TWEETS: Jew and Judean: Have scholars erased the Jews from antiquity? A Forum coming to MRB August 26. Looking forward to it.

Background here.

The Temple menorah in the news

ROGUE CLASSICISM: Stephen Fine and YU Students Tracking the Temple Menorah.

Background on the story is here. More on the Arch of Titus is here and links. And more on the Vatican not having any of the Temple treasures is here and links.

More on that Greek tomb

DOROTHY LOBEL KING: Hold Your [& Alexander's] Horses .... Apparently this late fourth century BCE tomb at Amphipolis is call the Lion's Tomb, for reasons made obvious at the post. And no, she doesn't know yet who was buried there.

Background here.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Eerdword Blog Post again

EERDWORD BLOG POST COUNTDOWN: EerdWord Greatest Hits 2014: James R. Davila on Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.
It’s summer vacation time for your friendly neighborhood blog editor — so to mark the occasion, we’re spending this week counting down the most popular posts published here on EerdWord over the last twelve months.

Today we reveal our #3 post of the year (as determined by unique pageviews), which was penned by James R. Davila last October.
Noted originally here. I'm glad to see it getting some more attention. Their number 1 post of the year is revealed here.

Review of Stacey and Doudna, Qumran Revisited

BRYN MAWR CLASSICAL REVIEW: David Stacey, Gregory Doudna, Qumran Revisited: A Reassessment of the Archaeology of the Site and its Texts. BAR international series, 2520. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2013. Pp. 150. ISBN 9781407311388. £29.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Hagith Sivan (

The review concludes:
Stacey’s, Doudna’s and Avni’s analyses constitute a salubrious reminder that looking at Qumran in isolation, in terms of either the settlement or the texts, can lead to conclusions laced with imaginative reconstruction. Addressing important questions about the connection between the excavated settlement, its extensive cemetery and the cave archives, these contributions demonstrate that texts, even a large number of them, do not necessarily speak for themselves, especially when found in caves. Nor do they invariably shed light on a settlement in the vicinity, in spite of the alleged existence of a scriptorium in it. Cemeteries, although large and carefully aligned, likewise do not necessarily seal a single interpretation of stones and scripts. I suspect, however, that no reassessment is likely to usher in scholarly consensus nor to put an end to scholarly output that is well matched with the industry invested in the scrolls themselves.
Background on the work of Doudna and Stacey on Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls is collected here and links.


TECHNOLOGY WATCH: New to the Archaeologist’s Tool Kit: The Drone ( William Neuman and Ralph Blumenthal, NYT).
Archaeologists around the world, who have long relied on the classic tools of their profession, like the trowel and the plumb bob, are now turning to the modern technology of drones to defend and explore endangered sites. And perhaps nowhere is the shift happening as swiftly as in Peru, where Dr. [Luis Jaime] Castillo [Butters, Peru’s vice minister of cultural heritage] has created a drone air force to map, monitor and safeguard his country’s ancient treasures.
The article is mostly about Peru, but the following also comes up in passing:
In the Middle East, researchers have employed them to guard against looting.

“Aerial survey at the site is allowing for the identification of new looting pits and determinations of whether any of the looters’ holes had been revisited,” said Morag Kersel, an archaeologist from DePaul University in Chicago who is part of a team using drones in Jordan and Israel.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Moazami, Wrestling with the Demons of the Pahlavi Widēwdād

Wrestling with the Demons of the Pahlavi Widēwdād
Transcription, Translation, and Commentary

Mahnaz Moazami, Columbia University

The Pahlavi Widēwdād (Vidēvdād), The Law (Serving to Keep) Demons Away, a fifth-century Middle Persian commentary on the Avestan Vidēvdād, describes rules and regulations that serve to prevent pollution caused by dead matter, menstrual discharges, and other agents. It recognizes the perpetual presence of the demons, the forces of the Evil Spirit –forces that should be fought through law-abiding conduct. In spite of its formidable textual problems, the commentary provides an invaluable quarry for the rules of the Zoroastrian community through its citation of regulations for the conduct of its members. Many topics are covered, from jurisprudence to penalties, procedures for dealing with pollution, purification, and arrangements for funerals. Viewed together, they provide the reader with an exquisite interlace of a community’s concerns.
Looks like something of interest for comparison with demonology and impurity in late antique Judaism, and perhaps even (with all the necessary caveats about using the late Pahlavi material) with such traditions in Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity.

Collins, Jesus, the Sabbath and the Jewish Debate

Jesus, the Sabbath and the Jewish Debate
Healing on the Sabbath in the 1st and 2nd Centuries CE

By: Nina L. Collins

Media of Jesus, the Sabbath and the Jewish Debate
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Published: 25-09-2014
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 504
ISBN: 9780567385871
Imprint: Bloomsbury T&T Clark
Series: The Library of New Testament Studies
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
RRP: £80.00
Online price: £72.00
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About Jesus, the Sabbath and the Jewish Debate

The claim that Jesus was criticised by the Pharisees for performing cures on the Sabbath has been repeated emphatically for almost 2,000 years. But a careful, unprejudiced evaluation of the gospels - the only source of this accusation - shows that the historical Jesus was never criticised by historical Pharisees for performing Sabbath cures. In fact, Jesus and the Pharisees were in complete agreement that cures on the Sabbath should always be performed. It is moreover evident that the Sabbath healing events in the gospels have preserved a significant part of the history of the Jewish debate. This debate sought to resolve the apparent conflict between the demands of Jewish law, and the performance of deeds of healing and/or saving life. This contention, from its Maccabean origins through to the end of the second century CE, is the subject of this book. It is a story that has escaped the attention of historians partly because it relies on the evidence of both the early post-biblical Jewish texts and the Christian gospel texts.