Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year's Eve 2016

AS 2016 COMES TO AN END, PaleoJudaica has tallied up 1822 posts for the year (including this one), considerably more than any previous year since it began back in 2003. I haven't been keeping systematic track of page views in 2016, but their number has gone up considerably and has been above 120K per month for much of the year.

I have a busy semester coming, but I plan to keep posting, to keep the quality high, and to keep up the best pace I can for 2017.

As I said yesterday, I will save my list of top posts of the year for the blogiversary notice in March.

Have a fun and safe New Year's Eve.

Fitzmyer obituary

MEMORIAL: Noted biblical scholar Jesuit Father Fitzmyer dies at age 96 (Catholic News Service/National Catholic Reporter).
PHILADELPHIA Jesuit Father Joseph Fitzmyer, a leading Catholic biblical scholar, died Dec. 24 at Manresa Hall, a Jesuit infirmary in Philadelphia. He was 96.

A funeral Mass was to be celebrated Jan. 5 at St. Matthias Church in Bala Cynwyd, just outside Philadelphia, followed by a burial at the Jesuit Center in Wernersville.

The priest, who was born in Philadelphia in 1920 and was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1951, is well known for his contributions to the Anchor Bible Series and for co-editing "The Jerome Biblical Commentary."

He earned a doctorate in Semitics from Johns Hopkins University in 1956 and a licentiate in sacred Scripture a year later from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.

Fitzmyer was a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and also served as president of the U.S. Catholic Biblical Association.

An expert in the Aramaic language spoken by Christ and by many first-century Jews and Christians, the priest was noted for his work on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gospel of Luke. He did some of the initial work in the 1950s to prepare a concordance to the scrolls and was one of the first Americans to have direct access to the documents.

He was 96! That's what philology does for you. Rest in peace.

Background here.

Authenticity and provenance in 2016

END OF YEAR OVERVIEW: 2016: The year in Authenticity and Provenance (Malcolm Choat, Markers of Authenticity Blog). (HT AJR). A post that summarizes the relevant stories from 2016, many of which will be familiar to PaleoJudaica readers, including the ‘Fragments of an Unbelievable Past? conference; the retaking of Palmyra earlier this year from ISIS and its more recent second fall to ISIS; Ariel Sabar's publication concerning the Gospel of Jesus' Wife; the Jerusalem Papyrus; and the new materials tests on the Jordanian lead codices. One of my recent posts on the last story is linked to.

Brill Research Perspectives in Biblical Interpretation

Brill Research Perspectives in Biblical Interpretation

Editor-in-Chief: Tat-siong Benny Liew, College of the Holy Cross
Need support prior to submitting your manuscript? Make the process of preparing and submitting a manuscript easier with Brill's suite of author services, an online platform that connects academics seeking support for their work with specialized experts who can help.

The Brill Research Perspectives series in Biblical Interpretation will provide a critical yet accessible analysis by an invited scholar of a field of study that has become or is becoming important for interpreting the Bible. This analysis, ranging from 50 to 100 pages, will not only present an up-to-date picture of the field of study in separation from biblical studies, but also how this field of study has been or can be engaged in biblical interpretation. Whether one is seeking to keep up with the rapid pace of development or exploring a field of study for the first time, this journal will be an invaluable resource for anyone who is interested in interdisciplinary biblical interpretation.

Fields of study that the journal will cover includes, but are not limited to, the following:
Anthropological studies
Affect studies
Animal studies
Classical studies
Contextual studies
Cultural studies
Diasporic studies
Ecological studies
Feminist studies
Genocide studies
Global studies
Historical studies
Identity studies
Ideological studies
Legal studies
Linguistic studies
Literary studies
Marxist studies
Masculinity studies
Migration studies
Philosophical studies
Postcolonial studies/Empire critical studies
Postmodern studies
Poststructuralist studies
Psychological/psychoanalytical studies
Queer studies
Racial/Ethnic studies
Reception studies
Religious studies/Critical Studies of Religion
Rhetorical studies
Semiotic studies
Sociological studies
Spatial studies
Theological studies
Translation studies
Visual art studies

Boorer, The Vision of the Priestly Narrative

The Vision of the Priestly Narrative: Its Genre and Hermeneutics of Time
Suzanne Boorer

ISBN 9780884140627
Status Available
Price: $89.95
Binding Paperback
Publication Date October 2016
Pages 636

A fresh look at the Priestly narrative that places less weight on linguistic criteria alone in favor of narrative coherence

Boorer explores the theology of an originally independent Priestly narrative (Pg), extending through Genesis–Numbers, as a whole. In this book she describes the structure of the Priestly narrative, in particular its coherent sequential and parallel patterns. Boorer argues that at every point in the narrative’s sequential and parallel structure, it reshapes past traditions, synthesizing these with contemporary and unique elements into future visions, in a way that is akin to the timelessness of liturgical texts. The book sheds new light on what this material might have sought to accomplish as a whole, and how it might have functioned for, its original audience.


• Solid arguments based on genre and themes, with regard to a once separate Priestly narrative (Pg) that concludes in Numbers 27*
• Thorough discussion of the overall interpretation of the Priestly narrative (Pg), by bringing together consideration of its structure and genre
• Clear illustration of how understanding the genre of the material and its hermeneutics of time is vital for interpreting Pg as a whole
Follow the link for ordering information, etc.

Friday, December 30, 2016

SBL 2016: Hayes's response

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Christine Hayes: A Response to the SBL Forum. Professor Hayes responds to a number of reviews of her book, What’s Divine About Divine Law? For the reviews, which were also posted on AJR, see here and links.

Top 10 ETC posts in 2016

THE ETC BLOG: Top 10 Posts in 2016 (Peter Gurry).
These are the top ten most read posts for the blog in 2016 according to Google Analytics. Not all of these were written in 2016 of course.
As usual, I plan to give a list of top posts for the year in PaleoJudaica's anniversary post, which comes in late March. My habit is to list my favorite posts for the year rather than to base it on any traffic analytics.

Jesus' mother

'TIS THE SEASON: Finding Jesus’s Mother. Over at the Anxious Bench, Philip Jenkins has a look at what the four gospels in the New Testament actually say about Mary the mother of Jesus, and he clears up a little confusion caused by the fact that so many women were named Mary. Excerpt:
Any of those possibilities might be accurate, or perhaps there are other explanations I am simply neglecting. But the point is that the accounts of Mary found in the various traditions do differ very substantially, and those differences demand some thought, and explanation. They also show how vital a role tradition, rather than scripture, plays in shaping Christian belief and doctrine.

Advances in marine archaeology

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: New technologies bring marine archaeology treasures to light. Robotic submarines and ‘internet of underwater things’ to transform hunt for sunken cities and ancient shipwrecks (Ian Sample, The Guardian). This article does not deal directly with the archaeology of ancient Israel specifically, aside from a very important Neolithic site. But the potential applications of the new technologies are very wide, and are worth noting inasmuch as ancient shipwrecks and other stories about marine archaeology are often of interest to PaleoJudaica (e.g., recently, here, here, here, here, and here). Excerpt:
In January, work will start on a new project to transform the search for sunken cities, ancient shipwrecks and other subsea curiosities. Led by Italian researchers, Archeosub will build a new generation of robotic submarines, or autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), for marine archaeologists. “You can find plenty of human settlements not far from the coast,” Allotta said. “In the Mediterranean there will be a lot more Atlit-Yams waiting to be explored and studied.”

The goal of Archeosub is to put sophisticated AUVs in the hands of cash-strapped researchers. That, in part, means turning the costly, heavy technology of the military and oil industries into far cheaper and lighter robots. They must be affordable for archaeological organisations and light enough to launch by hand from a small boat, or even the shore, rather than from a winch on a large research vessel.

Slashing the cost and weight is only the start. The team behind Archeosub has begun to make the AUVs smarter too. When thrown overboard, the submarines can become part of an “internet of underwater things” which brings the power of wifi to the deep. Once hooked up, the AUVs can talk to each other and, for example, work out the most efficient way to survey a site, or find particular objects on the seabed.

"Discarded History" at Cambridge University

EXHIBITION: Cairo Geniza at Cambridge University (Edgar Asher, Ashernet, Intermountain Jewish News).
An exhibition at Cambridge University featuring a fraction of ancient Jewish manuscripts that are part of the unique collection known as the Cairo Geniza will open in April, 2017.

Titled “Discarded History,” the exhibit displays a small percentage of 300,000 manuscripts originally found in the geniza, or storeroom, of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Fustat. Some documents date back over 1,000 years.

For many, many past posts on the Cairo Geniza and its manuscripts, see here, here, here, and links.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Ancient Jerusalem VR tour

THERE'S AN APP FOR THAT: New App Offers Users Virtual Tours Of Ancient Jerusalem (Jewish Business News).
A new VR app has been released in time for the Chanukah holiday. Lithodomos VR‘s tool allows users to see Jerusalem as it once looked back in antiquity when the Temple still stood.

The idea is simple. When tourists visit sites in Jerusalem such as the Western Wall Plaza and the areas around it they see things as they look now, 2,000 years after it was all destroyed by the Romans. Imagine if when looking up at the Temple you could see how it once looked when the Second Temple — as it was fully renovated by Herod — stood in all of its glory. Well now you can with the help of virtual reality goggles.

Sounds interesting, although it's hard to tell how good it is without seeing it.

Restored Second Temple-era road unveiled in Jerusalem

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: City of David unveils latest groundbreaking archeological discovery to mark jubilee year. Regev: UN resolution is ridiculous, cannot undo thousands of years of Jewish history (Daniel K. Eisenbud, Jerusalem Post).
Political, religious and historic luminaries gathered underground at the City of David National Park’s archeological site on Tuesday to unveil a restored 2,000-year-old road leading to the Western Wall, and condemn last week’s UN resolution against settlement construction.

As rain and sleet poured down, Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat stood together several meters under the Givati parking lot in Silwan to light a large silver hanukkia at the end of the ancient road.


The hours-long ceremony, initiated to officially begin united Jerusalem’s 50th jubilee-year celebrations, also featured rare relics, including millennia-old ballista balls, jugs and jewelry, discovered by archeologists who excavated the once well-travelled road during the Second Temple period.

The approximately 50-meter roadway, built near the Herodian Pool of Siloam, where pilgrims once immersed themselves, begins south of the City of David, and ends at the foot of the Western Wall’s Robinson’s Arch.

Cross-file under Politics.

Another Fine interview

MENORAH QUESTIONS: 7 facts about menorahs, the most enduring symbol of the Jewish people. Yeshiva University Professor Steven Fine’s new book illuminates the candelabra’s 3,000-year history — from tabernacle to Titus to today (Renee Ghert-Zand, Times of Israel).
The Times of Israel discussed with Fine various subjects covered in his book, asking seven questions — one for each branch of the menorah.
Earlier PaleoJudaica posts on Professor Fine's new book, The Menorah, and on the history (especially the ancient history) of the menorah are collected here.

Biblical Archaeology 2016 Top Ten

LIST MANIA: Biblical Archaeology’s Top 10 Discoveries of 2016. A glimpse at the important excavation work revealed this year (Gordon Govier, Christianity Today).
Archaeological discoveries announced in 2016 help us better understand the Bible and the biblical world, and affirm the Bible’s details about events and people.

Below are the top findings from the important excavations taking place in the lands of the Bible or that have a biblical connection. (This list is subjective, and based on news reports rather than peer-reviewed articles in scientific publications.)
We're not really at the point of having peer-review publications for 2016 discoveries. Such things take some time. But I give the author credti for being aware of the issue. Perhaps my constant harping on the subject is having some effect. I hope so.

This list overlaps partially with other 2016 lists, but each has its own interests. Again, many of the stories were covered by PaleoJudaica over the last year.

Best 2016 archaeological finds in Israel

ANOTHER LIST: The best archaeological finds in Israel of 2016. Humans have been living and fighting and loving and dying in Israel for hundreds of thousands of years. Here is what we found this year (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz).
Israel is soaked in blood and relics of human history. Primitive humans passed through Israel on their way out of Africa: now we know what they ate. Israel is part of the area where human society formed: 12,000 years later, we have found their homes. Modern civilization arose in these parts, as did the three big monotheistic religions: all left behind gods, death and destruction at which we now gaze in awe. Here are just some of the stories in Israeli archaeology in 2016.

I don't have time to dig up (heh) all the past posts, but many of these stories were also covered by PaleoJudaica over the last year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

CUA receives Ethiopic manuscript collection

ETHIOPIC WATCH: Catholic University Receives Donation of Ethiopian Manuscripts Valued at More Than $1 Million.
The Catholic University of America is now home to one of North America's most important collections of Ethiopian religious manuscripts, thanks to a generous donation from Chicago collectors Gerald and Barbara Weiner. The handmade manuscripts, which originate from Ethiopia and which date back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, include more than 125 Christian manuscripts, 215 Islamic manuscripts, and 350 "magic" scrolls.

With this donation, which is valued at over $1 million, Catholic University is now the holder of the fifth largest collection of Ethiopian Christian manuscripts in the United States and the largest collection of Ethiopian Islamic manuscripts outside of Ethiopia.


Elliott, "Beyond the Bible"

CHRISTIAN APOCRYPHA WATCH: NASSCAL Member Publication: J. K. Elliott Goes “Beyond the Bible” in TLS.

Review of Feeney, Beyond Greek: The Beginnings of Latin Literature

Denis Feeney, Beyond Greek: The Beginnings of Latin Literature. Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Press, 2016. Pp. xii, 377. ISBN 9780674055230. $35.00.

Reviewed by Jackie Elliott, University of Colorado Boulder (


This characteristically elegant and learned book essentially takes what we know about the origins of Roman literature and re-frames it in a larger, comparative context. That larger context illuminates not only how peculiar it is for a literature to have developed at all in the ancient world (either in Greece or at Rome) but especially how peculiar it is that Roman literature, from its origins and successively, presents itself as a continuation and development of Greek literature. (Ovid, Am. 15 and Accius’ Didascalica are Feeney’s opening examples of that representation.) Feeney’s object is “to de-familiarize the terms of comparison and of reference we use in describing the Roman experiment so as to bring the strange developments of the period into perspective” (p. 8). His engaging comparative data and the work he does to breathe life into facts and ideas we have long lived with (e.g. the First Punic War becomes the “Great War” on analogy with the war of 1914-18, explained in n. 2 on pp. 279-80) readily assist him in that aim.

The subject is not of direct interest to PaleoJudaica, but the book does touch on some matters of interest, such as Manetho, Berossus, Carthage, "the Hebrew texts," and Ancient Near Eastern literature. There appears not to be much, if anything, on translations of the Bible into Latin.

SBL 2016 video: Williams on the so-called "Septuagint"


Related post here.

Reconstructing a Cairo Geniza manuscript

GENIZA FRAGMENT OF THE MONTH (DECEMBER 2016): The Long Art: T-S AS 144.331 (Katelyn Mesler).
“Life is short, the art is long.” So begins one of the foundational texts of Greek medicine, the Aphorisms of Hippocrates. The ‘art’ of which Hippocrates wrote was the knowledge and skill to be acquired by physicians, but the sentiment has been expressed in other contexts, not least of which is R. Tarfon’s saying, “The day is short, the work is great” (mAvot 2:15). Faced with hundreds of thousands of textual fragments, far too many still unidentified, researchers of the Cairo Genizah might sometimes feel the same. But the increasing number of catalogs, digitization of fragments, and other electronic sources are helping make the research more productive than ever, even for a newcomer to the field such as myself. And so, I’d like to share with you a story about T-S AS 144.331.

The shelfmark in question is actually a collection of 82 small fragments from numerous different sources, some in Hebrew, some in Arabic, and some with little or no legible text.

This commentary by Maimonides on a Hebrew translation of Hippocrates is not of direct interest to PaleoJudaica (although I do touch on Maimonides from time to time). But the process of the reconstruction of the manuscript from tiny fragments using new technologies is of much wider potential application and interest. It may, for example, prove useful for the Dead Sea Scrolls, of which many thousands of tiny fragments still remain unidentified. Cross-file under Technology Watch.

Past posts noting Cairo Geniza Fragments of the Month in the Cambridge University Library's Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit are here and links.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Biggest 2016 archaeological discoveries

PHOTO ESSAY: The 9 Biggest Archaeology Findings of 2016 (Owen Jarus, Live Science).

PaleoJudaica has noted some of these stories as well. For the Noah's Ark mosaic at the Huqoq Synagogue excavation, see here. For the charred Ein Gedi Leviticus scroll, see here and links. For the excavation of the tomb (of Jesus?) in the Holy Sepulcher (Holy Sepulchre), see here and here and links. For the recently published Dead Sea Scrolls (some of which seem likely to be forgeries), see here (cf. here) and links. For the Jerusalem papyrus (whose genuineness is also in debate), see here and here and links. And note also the very recently announced discovery of inscribed, but as yet unreadable, scroll fragments from the Cave of the Skulls.

Jewish Studies postdoc at Washington University

H-JUDAIC: JOB: Washington University in St. Louis, Jewish, Islamic, and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures: Friedman Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Jewish Studies. Open to any field within Jewish Studies. "Applications will be reviewed beginning February 8, 2017."

deSilva, From Herod to Hadrian


"History of Herod the Great and his kingdom, to 4 BC."

From the division of Herod's kingdom to the Second Jewish Revolt.

HT James McGrath.

Wisdom and Jesus at Christmas

OLD TESTAMENT APOCRYPHA WATCH: Christmas lightning (Brad Roth, The Doxology Project Blog).
The Wisdom of Solomon, an ancient scripture now found in the Protestant Apocrypha, is sometimes read on Christmas Eve. It goes like this:
For while gentle silence enveloped all things, and night in its swift course was now half gone, your all-powerful word leaped from heaven, from the royal throne, into the midst of the land that was doomed, a stern warrior (Wisdom 18:14)
The passage was originally intended as a poetic description of the coming of the angel of death to take the Egyptian firstborn, but it gets retrofitted in Christian tradition to describe the coming of Christ on Christmas. Talk about reinterpretation. I love the action and intensity of the text. The night’s “swift course was now half gone.” The word “leaped from heaven.” The word landed in a doomed land as “a stern warrior.” It gives Christmas Eve a bit of an edge.
I didn't know that, although now that I look at the passage I suppose that it hardly could have been otherwise. By the way, the full references is Wisdom 18:14-15.

Reviving frankincense and myrrh

"A GRASS-ROOTS PROJECT": Revival of Biblical plants. Israeli farmer growing ancient flora like myrrh (RUTH EGLASH). This article was originally published in the Washington Post, but I seem to have missed it. This is a reprint in the Journal Gazette.
KIBBUTZ ALMOG, West Bank – Guy Erlich is a pioneering Israeli farmer, but not in the way you might imagine.

Instead of developing new crops or innovative biotechnology, Erlich is engaged in a grass-roots project: Reviving ancient plants mentioned in the Bible.

Think frankincense and myrrh, plus a few others.

At his farm on Kibbutz Almog, a West Bank settlement a stone’s throw from the Palestinian city of Jericho and a few miles from the Dead Sea, Erlich is growing ancient plants once used to make holy balms, perfumes and natural medicines.

Frankincense and myrrh, along with gold, are forever intertwined with the Christmas story as the gifts the wise men took to the baby Jesus in the city of Bethlehem, just 20 miles from here.

I noted another project to revive frankincense and myrrh here several years ago.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Languages and scripts of the DSS

While the majority of Dead Sea Scrolls were written in Hebrew, the collection also includes many Aramaic and Greek texts, as well as some Arabic texts and a small number of Latin fragments.

A good brief overview. A lot of people don't realize how many Latin and Arabic manuscripts have been discovered in the Judean Desert.

Seen on Facebook.

Kaiser, Studien zu Philo von Alexandrien

Kaiser, Otto

Studien zu Philo von Alexandrien

[Studies on Philo of Alexandria]

Ed. by Witte, Markus
In coop. with Hofmann, Sina
Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 501

99,95 € / $140.00 / £74.99*
eBook (PDF)Publication Date: November 2016ISBN 978-3-11-049265-1

Aims and Scope
The volume presents studies by the Marburg Old Testament scholar Otto Kaiser on the works of the Jewish religious philosopher Philo of Alexandria in the context of intellectual and cultural history. They examine issues of Jewish Biblical exegesis along with Philo’s anthropology and cosmology, his understanding of ritual and prayer, and his ideas about living a virtuous life and overcoming death.
HT Torrey Seland.

Stone, Armenian Apocrypha Relating to Angels and Biblical Heroes

Armenian Apocrypha Relating to Angels and Biblical Heroes
Michael E. Stone

ISBN 9781628371543
Status Available
Price: $55.95
Binding Paperback
Publication Date October 2016
Pages 322

Explore how the vivid and creative Armenian spiritual tradition shaped biblical stories to serve new needs

Michael E. Stone’s latest book includes texts from Armenian manuscripts that are relevant to the development and growth of biblical themes and subjects. Most of these texts have not been published previously. Stone has collected a fascinating corpus of texts about biblical heroes, such as Joseph and Jonah, Nathan the Prophet, and Asaph the Psalmist. In addition, he has included documents illustrating particular points of the biblical story. This work reflects not just on how the Bible was interpreted in medieval times, but also how its stories and details were shaped by and served the needs of the vivid and creative Armenian spiritual tradition.


• Expanded stories from Exodus
• Introductions,translations, and notes
• Insights into the Armenian "Embroidered Bible," through which many biblical incidents were known to Armenian literature, art, and thought
Follow the link for ordering information, etc.

Otero and Morales, The Text of the Hebrew Bible and Its Editions

The Text of the Hebrew Bible and Its Editions
Studies in Celebration of the Fifth Centennial of the Complutensian Polyglot

Andrés Piquer Otero and Pablo Torijano Morales, Universidad Complutense de Madrid

In The Text of the Hebrew Bible and its Editions some of the top world scholars and editors of the Hebrew Bible and its versions present essays on the aims, method, and problems of editing the biblical text(s), taking as a reference the Complutensian Polyglot, first modern edition of the Hebrew text and its versions and whose Fifth Centennial was celebrated in 2014. The main parts of the volume discuss models of editions from the Renaissance and its forerunners to the Digital Age, the challenges offered by the different textual traditions, particular editorial problems of the individual books of the Bible, and the role played by quotations. It thus sets a landmark in the future of biblical editions.

The Coptic Acts of Pilate

ALIN SUCIU: Guest Post: Anthony Alcock – The Sahidic Version of the Acts of Pilate.
Anthony Alcock has prepared an English translation of the Sahidic version of the Acts of Pilate. This text constitutes the source of many apocryphal Passion narratives composed in Coptic. ...
Follow the link for a link to a pdf file of the translation. Cross-file under Coptic Watch and New Testament Apocrypha Watch.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Schiffman on Jerusalem after the Maccabean Revolt

PROFESSOR LAWRENCE H. SCHIFFMAN: JERUSALEM AFTER THE MACCABEAN REVOLT. Professor Schiffman has posted another recent article in Ami Magazine.

Why are Hanukkah and Christmas out of sync?

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: Hanukkah overlaps with Christmas this year. But why all the moving around? (Josh Hafner , USA TODAY).

Christmas (as celebrated in the Western Church) is timed according to the Gregorian calendar, which is a solar calendar. But Hanukkah is timed according to the Jewish religious calendar, which is technically a luni-solar calendar (not a lunar calendar, as the article says - although it does describe the details correctly). This Jewish calendar is based on the lunar cycle, but is periodically corrected with a leap month so that it stays in reasonably close alignment with the solar year. So the two holiday can be quite out of sync in their timing, but they do line up sometimes.

The reason many Orthodox Christian traditions celebrate Christmas on 7 January is that they are still marking it according to the old Julian calendar.

In antiquity the Enochic and Qumran Jews used a purely solar calendar that was rounded off to a 364 day year, which conveniently meant that each religious festival was on the same day of the week each year. But it also meant that their calendar moved out of alignment with the actual solar year by a day and a half each year. Whether and how this was corrected is not perfectly clear.

Past posts on Jewish calendars are here and here and links. Cross-file under 'Tis the Season and ditto (Hanukkah Edition).

Davies on DSS and ancient Judaism

BIBLE ODYSSEY: Dead Sea Scrolls and Early Judaism (Philip R. Davies).
The significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls is to… early Judaism is huge. It’s on two levels. ...

Joseph Fitzmyer, S.J., 1920-2016

SAD NEWS: Remembering Joseph Fitzmyer, S.J. (America Magazine).
Father Joseph Fitzmyer, S.J., died peacefully this morning at Manresa Hall, Merion Station, Pa. He was 96. Father Fitzmyer was a leading Catholic biblical scholar, and we asked several scholars influenced by his life and work to offer their remembrances.

Father Fitzmyer's biblical scholarship was wide-ranging. I am most familiar with his foundational work on the languages of ancient Palestine and the Semitic background of the New Testament. At the Agade list, Jack Sasson also points to his Wikipedia entry, which gives some details on his career and his publications.

Requiescat in Pace.

Christmas 2016

MERRY CHRISTMAS to all those celebrating!

Posts of Christmas past are collected in my 2015 Christmas post and links. Posts relating (sometimes loosely) to Christmas in the last year are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Hanukkah 2016

HAPPY HANUKKAH (CHANUKKAH, CHANUKAH) to all those celebrating! The eight-day festival begins tonight at sundown. That means that this year the first day of Hanukkah will overlap with Christmas. (Cross-file under Cosmic Synchronicity.)

Last year's Hanukkah post is here. It links to past Hanukkah posts with additional historical background. PaleoJudaica has put up many posts on Hanukkah in the last year. See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Stronk, Semiramis’ Legacy

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Semiramis’ Legacy. Notice of a new book: Stronk, Jan p. 2016. Semiramis’ Legacy: The History of Persia According to Diodorus of Sicily (Edinburgh Studies in Ancient Persia). Edinburgh University Press.

I have commented here on the importance of the work of Diodorus for biblical studies, notably as cultural background to the Book of Daniel.

Butts and Gross, The History of the ‘Slave of Christ’

From Jewish Child to Christian Martyr

Edited and Translated by Aaron Michael Butts & Simcha Gross

Publication Status: Forthcoming

Series: Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac: Text and Translation 6
Publication Date: Nov 29,2016
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 269
Languages: English, Syriac
ISBN: 978-1-4632-0573-7

The History of the ‘Slave of Christ’: From Jewish Child to Christian Martyr offers the first critical editions and English translations of the two Syriac recensions of this fascinating text, which narrates the story of a young Jewish child, Asher, who after converting to Christianity and taking the name ʿAḇdā da-Mšiḥā (‘slave of Christ’) is martyred by his father Levi in a scene reminiscent of Abraham’s offering of Isaac in Genesis 22. In a detailed introduction, the authors argue that the text is a fictional story composed during the early Islamic period (ca. 650–850) probably in Shigar (modern Sinjār). Building upon methodology from the study of western Christian and Jewish texts, they further contend that the story’s author constructs an imagined Jew based on the Hebrew Bible, thereby challenging the way that previous scholars have used this text as straightforward evidence for historical interactions between Jews and Christians in Babylonia at this time. This ultimately allows the authors to reevaluate the purpose of the text and to situate it in its Late Antique Babylonian context.
Cross-file under Syriac Watch.

December 25?

'TIS THE SEASON: Why is Christmas on December 25? (Anthony Le Donne, The Jesus Blog).
From the modern historian’s perspective, we must conclude that we haven’t the first clue of Jesus’ birthdate. Rather, December 25 is a theological guess that was not widely commemorated until the 6th century. What I find most interesting, however, is that commemorating the life of Jesus restructured how Christians thought about their annual calendar. Conversely, once a commemorative calendar had been established, these traditions eventually restructured how Christians thought about Jesus.
Cross-file under Asking the Important Questions.

Christmas carols and NT textual criticism

'TIS THE SEASON: Variants affecting carols (P.J. Williams, ETC Blog). Which variant readings in Greek New Testament manuscripts influenced the wording of Christmas Carols in English? There are a few, but watch out also for apocryphal readings in the comments.

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Magi and the OTP

'TIS THE SEASON: The Magi and the Cave of Treasures (Philip Jenkins, The Anxious Bench).
As any Bible reader knows, the infant Jesus was visited by Magi, who brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and a cold coming they had of it. But where did they actually get these gifts from? However arcane and speculative such a question may seem, the resulting curiosity generated a vast body of Christian literature. Although not mentioned in canonical scripture, the resulting tales became an integral part of faith for countless believers.

Past posts on The Cave of Treasures are here and here. You can read an old translation at the second link. As noted, this text has recently been translated for the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project.

Past PaleoJudaica posts on the Magi in history and legend are here and here and links.

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch and New Testament Apocrypha Watch.

Toledot Yeshu

'TIS THE SEASON (POLEMICAL COUNTER-HISTORY EDITION): The Jewish Jesus Story. In the mysterious and controversial ancient Hebrew text ‘Toledot Yeshu,’ a counterlife of the Nazarene ‘bastard, son of a menstruant’ that criticizes Jews as much as Christians (Eli Yassif, Tablet Magazine).
Toledot Yeshu (The Life Story of Jesus) is almost certainly one of the most mysterious and controversial, yet exceedingly popular, books in the history of Hebrew literature. The book lays out for the reader the New Testament stories about the life of Jesus of Nazareth from a Jewish point of view. The Virgin Birth, the divinity and messiahship of Jesus, the betrayal by Judas Iscariot, the sentencing of Jesus before the Sanhedrin, his death, and his resurrection as Son of God are all replaced by a newly shaped narrative, what the late historian Amos Funkenstein termed “counterhistory,” that crudely derides the deepest principles of the Christian faith.

But it is remarkably sympathetic to the figure of Jesus himself.

Past PaleoJudaica posts on Toledot Yeshu (Toledoth Yeshu) are here and here. The latter notes a new edition of the text, published two years ago.

Interview with Steven Fine

MENORAHS GALORE: Everything You Wanted To Know About Menorahs But Were Afraid To Ask (Benjamin Ivry, The Forward).
Hanukkah does not begin until December 24, but the historian Steven Fine has already captured the holiday mood in “The Menorah: From the Bible to Modern Israel.” Among other things, Fine’s book explains the distinction between the seven-branched menorah used in the ancient Temple and the hanukiah, or nine-branched candelabrum lit during Hanukkah. A professor at Yeshiva University, and head of the Arch of Titus Digital Restoration Project, Fine spoke to the Forward’s Benjamin Ivry about menorah history and lore.
Past posts on Professor Fine's new book are here and links. Past posts on ancient menorahs in general are here (cf. here) and many links. Past posts on why the Temple menorah is not in the Vatican are here, here, here, here, and here. I have posted some photos of the Arch of Titus here. Cross-file under 'Tis the Season (Hanukkah Edition).

Fredriksen on Hayes, What’s Divine About Divine Law?

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Paul and the Mosaic Law (Paula Fredriksen). I take it that this too is from the recent SBL session on Professor Hayes's book, although that is not stated explicitly. For the earlier SBL reviews posted at AJR, see here and here. The first of those two post also collects earlier PaleoJudaica posts on the book.

Amihay, Theory and Practice in Essene Law

ARYEH AMIHAY: Theory and Practice in Essene Law ( This file includes the front and back matter and the introduction to his new (2016) OUP book with this title.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Hyrcanus was here

EPIGRAPHY: Hasmonean Period Stone Bowl Engraved with Rare Hebrew Inscription ‘Hyrcanus’ Discovered (JNi.Media).
A stone bowl engraved with a rare Hebrew inscription – “Hyrcanus” – dating to the Hasmonean period was discovered in the archaeological excavations of the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Givʽati Parking Lot at the City of David at the Jerusalem Walls National Park. “Hyrcanus” was a common name of the time, as well as the name of two kings of the Hasmonean dynasty.

According to researchers, “This is one of the earliest examples of the appearance of chalk vessels in Jerusalem. In the past, these vessels were widely used mainly by Jews because they ensured ritual purity (stone vessels never receive tumah).”

("Tumah" means "ritual impurity.")

Postdoc on the ideology of writing in the ancient Mediterranean

Brown University: DOF: Religious Studies
Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Culture and Ideology of Writing in the Ancient Mediterranean
Location: Providence, RI

The Departments of Religious Studies, Classics, and History, and the Programs in Judaic Studies and Early Cultures, invite applications for an International Post-Doctoral Fellowship in the area of the culture and ideology of writing in the ancient Mediterranean. Specialization is open, but preference will be given to candidates who employ the digital humanities in their research; applicants from outside North America are especially encouraged to apply. The fellow’s administrative home will be in the Department of Religious Studies, but applications are invited in any of the fields represented by the sponsoring programs, and the successful candidate is expected to be able to work across disciplines.

Fellows participate in a weekly, multi-disciplinary seminar at the Cogut Humanities Center and teach one course each term. S/he will join a strong intellectual community of scholars from across the university who work on issues involving the role of writing in the pre-modern world.

This is a two year position beginning July 1, 2017, with stipends of $61,500 and $63,907 in their 1st and 2nd years, respectively, plus standard fellows’ benefits and a $2,000 per year research budget. Applicants must have received their Ph.D. within the last five years from an institution other than Brown.

Applicants should submit a CV; letter of interest; and writing sample (of about 20 pages) online through, and arrange for the submission of three letters of recommendation. The Search Committee will begin reviewing applications on February 1, 2017.

For further information, write to either of the Search Committee Chairs, John Bodel ( or Michael Satlow (

Application Instructions
Applicants must have received their Ph.D. from an institution other than Brown within the last five years. The appointment will begin July 1, 2017. Applicant should submit a CV; letter of interest; and writing sample (of about 20 pages) online through, and arrange for the submission of three letters of recommendation. The Search Committee will begin reviewing applications on February 1, 2017.

Schiffman on the Jerusalem papyrus and forgeries

PROFESSOR LAWRENCE H. SCHIFFMAN: JERUSALEM PAYPYRUS “PROVES” JEWISH CONNECTION TO TEMPLE MOUNT. BUT IS IT A FORGERY?. A thoughtful new article by Professor Schiffman in Ami Magazine. Background on the Jerusalem papyrus is here and links.

In that article Professor Schiffman also tells an instructive little tangentially-related anecdote which is worth quoting:
Hearing these accusations reminded me of an experience I had last summer when I was in Yerushalayim. I had gotten an email from a woman who was an investigative reporter for a Canadian French-language news program; she had attached scans of a supposedly antique Jewish magical amulet. The reporter asked me to call her in Beirut. Sitting in my hotel room in Israel, I was soon speaking with her.

She had already been told by another scholar, an expert in Jewish magical texts, that what she had scanned was a forgery. Strangely, the amulet was a mixture of our standard Hebrew script, ksav Ashuri—Assyrian or square script—and ksav Ivri—the old Hebrew script (paleo- Hebrew), which went out of general use in the time of Ezra and Nechemiah, around 450 BCE. Ksav Ivri was only used later for nationalistic reasons on Jewish coins and in the writing of some Biblical manuscripts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Kusim (Samaritans) continue to use the old script for their Torah scrolls and mezuzos today.

The combination of the scripts in one sloppily written, nonsensical text showed clearly that it was forged. The reporter explained that she was actually investigating an influx of forged Judaica currently being marketed as having been smuggled into Beirut from Syria and Iraq, where antiquities thieves have been having a field day. So I was in no way surprised when questions about the authenticity of the Jerusalem papyrus were raised.
Mixed scripts with sloppily-written, nonsensical text are features characteristic of forgeries. That doesn't necessarily mean every text with those features is a forgery, but the combination should make us consider the possibility carefully.

Toledo and Ángel, The Zoroastrian Law to Expel the Demons

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: The Zoroastrian Law to Expel the Demons. Notice of a new book: Andrés Toledo, Miguel Ángel. 2016. The Zoroastrian law to expel the demons: Wīdēwdād 10-15. Critical edition, translation and glossary of the Avestan and Pahlavi texts (Iranica 23). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

Hanukkah and the Maccabean war

'TIS THE SEASON (HANUKKAH EDITION): The Maccabees Were on the Wrong Side of History — So Why Do We Still Celebrate Hanukkah? (Barbara Brotman, The Forward). The author consulted with many scholars about the question. I don't think we can simplify the Maccabean war to either a rebellion against an oppressive outsider or a civil war. The situation was complicated and both were involved.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

New DSS from the Cave of the Skulls

EPIGRAPHY: New Dead Sea Scrolls Fragments Found in Judean Desert. Documents from Iron Age and Roman times surfacing in the black market helped convince archaeologists there was more to be found (Philippe Bohstrom, Haaretz).
New fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been found in the Cave of the Skulls by the Dead Sea in Israel, in a salvage excavation by Israeli authorities. The pieces are small and the writing on them is too faded to make out without advanced analysis. At this stage the archaeologists aren't even sure if they're written in ancient Hebrew, Aramaic or another language.

“The most important thing that can come out of these fragments is if we can connect them with other documents that were looted from the Judean Desert, and that have no known provenance," says Dr. Uri Davidovich of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, among the scientists investigating the caves.


The latest finds, two papyri fragments about two by two centimeters with writing and several fragments without discernible letters, were made during a three-week salvage excavation in the Cave of the Skulls this May and June by a joint expedition of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The excavations were led by Uri Davidovich and Roi Porat of the Hebrew University, together with Amir Ganor and Eitan Klein from the IAA.

Nothing exciting or even particularly interesting here yet, but hopefully this is a harbinger of better things to come as the IAA's new comprehensive survey of the Judean Desert caves proceeds. The article also discusses many other non-epigraphic finds in the Cave of the Skulls. Past posts on the exploration of the Cave of the Skulls last spring and on the IAA's cave-survey initiative in general are collected at the end of this post.

More ancient Jewish coins up for auction

NUMISMATICS: Goldbergs: Extraordinary Collection of Ancient Jewish Coins at Auction January 10 (Coin Week).
One of the most extensive collections of extraordinary high quality ancient Jewish coins, assembled by a Long Island Doctor over two decades, will be auctioned at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on January 10. Included are a remarkable number (45) of extremely rare silver coins picturing the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, minted just 60 years after the Temple had been destroyed in 70 CE. Each of these museum-quality, approximately quarter-dollar-size silver coins pictures the interior of the Temple, including the Ark of the Covenant surrounded by columns, usually with a star above--thought to refer to the Jewish leader Simon Bar Kochba (Simon Son of the Star), who was proclaimed the Messiah by Rabbi Akiva, and whose name, in ancient Hebrew, surrounds the Temple. The other side of the Temple coins features lulav and etrog, along with Hebrew inscriptions like “For the Freedom of Israel.” The auction company estimates that most of the Holy Temple coins will sell for $5,000 USD and up.
There are coins that have the indicated inscriptions, but the pictured coin reads somewhat differently. On it, the side with the Ark and the Temple reads ירושלם, "Jerusalem," and the side with the lulav and etrog reads שבלחר ישראל, "y(ear) 2 of the free(dom) of Israel." I am not a numismatist, but that's what I see.

The auction of the Brody Family Collection also includes some coins from the first revolt, a late Hasmonean menorah coin, other Hasmonean-era coins, and a gold Judea Capta coin.

As always, I hope that any collector who buys the coins will make them available for scholars to study and will perhaps exhibit some of the more interesting and rare ones in a museum.

Ancient menorahs

'TIS THE SEASON (HANUKKAH EDITION): Oldest-known Images of Hanukkah Menorahs: Not What We Know Today. Ancient images of Hanukkah menorahs usually had seven arms, per the divine dictate, but alternatives may have arisen due to bitter mourning, and a rabbinical ban (Miriam Feinberg Vamosh and Ruth Schuster, Haaretz).
The menorah today has nine branches: one for each of the eight days of the Hanukkah miracle, and the central stem holding the shamash. The oldest known depictions of menorahs were different. They usually had six arms plus the central stem, and some rare ones have only four.

There is no consensus on how today's nine-armed candelabrum used in commemorating Hannukkah emerged, especially given the divine directive to make menorahs with seven branches for other purposes entirely, but there are some intriguing ideas.

Hanukkah itself commemorates the purported miracle of one day's oil lasting eight days, at the height of the Maccabean revolution against Greek oppressors in the 2nd century B.C.E. Nowhere do Jewish sources dictate that a menorah be lit in commemoration, but that is the practice nowadays. As for menorahs themselves, one of the earliest-known depictions is from some 200 years later, and it's in Rome.

However, the oldest reference to a menorah is from a much earlier time, a time from which we have no archaeological evidence at all: the wandering of the Jews in the desert.

A long article that surveys the uses and forms of the menorah through late antiquity, with a brief stop in the present.

Many past posts on ancient menorahs are here and here and links.

Greeks on the Temple Mount

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Evidence of Greeks on the Temple Mount (Jennifer Greene, Temple Mount Sifting Project Blog).
It’s all Greek to Me
There are donuts EVERYWHERE and we are getting in the holiday season! As Channukkah approaches, we wanted to share with you one of our important finds relating to the Greeks on the Temple Mount. At the beginning of the project, we found a handle from an amphora that was stamped by an official from the Greek Island of Rhodes. This unique find from our sifting dates to the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes IV and constitutes a direct link to the Greco-Seleucid regime.

Cross-file under 'Tis the Season (Hanukkah Edition). Past posts on the Temple Mount Sifting Project are here and oh so many links. Past posts relating to the Acra/Akra are here and here and links.


CONSERVATION CONTROVERSY: Paved paradise? The secrets of an ancient Jerusalem-area village revealed. Ahead of plans to a luxury neighborhood, architects and archaeologists find a treasure of ancient remains in the onetime Palestinian village of Lifta on Jerusalem's outskirts (Nir Hasson, Haaretz).
The Antiquities Authority has just completed a first-of-its-kind survey in the abandoned village of Lifta, on the western approaches to Jerusalem, ahead of plans to build a neighborhood of private homes on the site.

The survey, a copy of which was obtained by Haaretz, includes an archaeological, historical and geographic study, including measurements and digital reconstruction of each of the village’s structures, and how the entire village looked in various periods. Israel has never reconstructed any former village in this manner.

The study led to new insights regarding Lifta’s history and development, its function and architecture. Artifacts from the Hellenistic period were discovered, as well as subterranean spaces never known about before.

All this may not help conserve the village in face of a plan to build an upscale neighborhood on the site.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Review of Fine, The Menorah

ANOTHER ONE: Book Review: The Menorah, by Dr. Steven Fine (Ari Abrahams, YU Commentator). Excerpt:
The Menorah: From the Bible to Modern Israel by YU’s very own Dr. Steven Fine gives a very rich and detailed history of this majestic religious artifact from the seemingly unfinished description given in p’sukim of the Torah, to the Menorah of the Arch of Titus, emerging as national emblem of the state of Israel and the Jewish people. It was recently published by Harvard University Press in November.

By exploring many artifacts and a vast body of texts, The Menorah, captures the extensive history of the Menorah that was once lit in the Beit Ha’Mikdash and its exile to Rome. Also explored are the intriguing discoveries that a Menorah figure served a lamp that illuminated synagogues for a thousand years after the destruction of the second Beit Ha’Mikdash, and the evolution of the Menorah as a symbol for the return of the Jews to Israel and establishment of the state of Israel after a long and painful exile.
And there's this:
For Steven Fine, The Menorah began as a 12th grade AP Art History Essay in San Diego California, yet it took a career as a historian to cultivate the language skills and understanding of artifacts to complete the work. This book is the life of a scholar. Perhaps the audience for this book is more appropriate for museum-goers than people looking for a page turner to take on their tropical excursion from the New York winter. Yet, any educated and curious person can surely appreciate this book that is filled with plenty of important and intriguing content and stunning pictures.
Good for him. One of my high school projects in San Diego turned into an undergraduate paper at UCLA and then only recently into an actual publication. San Diego seems to be a good place to start these things.

A Maccabean-era coin for Hanukkah

NUMISMATICS: 2,000-year-old coin from Maccabean revolt found in Jerusalem (Yori Yalon, Israel HaYom).
Bronze prutah bears image of King Antiochus IV, who declared death sentence on Jews • Tower of David Museum Director Eilat Lieber: It's exciting to find Antiochus himself thrown down here between the stones and tell him: We're still celebrating Hanukkah.
So there! Cross-file under 'Tis the Season (Hanukkah Edition).

From a Syriac hymn to a modern Christmas carol

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: The Origins of “The Cherry Tree Carol.” How a Christmas carol links the modern Middle East and medieval England (Mary Joan Winn Leith). An English version of a fifth-century Syriac dialogue-hymn came to us via the Crusaders and Mystery Plays, and it survives as a Christmas carol today.

Via John Burger at Aleteia. Cross-file under Syriac Watch and 'Tis the Season.

A manger

'TIS THE SEASON: Away in a Manger (feeding trough!) (HolyLandPhotos' Blog). Just in case you wanted to see what one looks like. But see also the immediately preceding post.

Carlson on the Nativity scene

'TIS THE SEASON: Stephen Carlson on the "Inn" in Luke's Infancy Account (Brice C. Jones). No inn, no innkeeper, and no stable. Oh oh.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Academic posts involving ancient Judaism

H-JUDIAC has a bounty of advertisments for jobs and fellowships in Jewish studies. The ones below all encompass a wider range that just ancient Jewish studies, but the ancient period is included in all of them.

Visiting Fellowships in Jewish Studies – 2017/2018 Academic Year
In an effort to enhance the quality of courses, instruction, and research in Jewish Studies at universities throughout the world, a Visiting Fellowship program has been created by Yad Hanadiv and the Beracha Foundation, together with the National Library of Israel.
For not-tenured or not-yet-tenured scholars.

POSTDOC: Perilman Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Duke Center for Jewish Studies
The Duke Center for Jewish Studies is proud to offer a Post-Doctoral Fellowship that honors the memory of Rabbi Nathan Perilman, who, after serving at Temple Emmanu-El in New York City, joined the Triangle-area Jewish in his retirement. The Fellowship may be used for post-doctoral studies (Ph.D. received within last three years) in any field of Jewish Studies. Preference may be given to candidates whose presence on the Duke campus promises the greatest contribution to faculty, student and regional seminar interaction; for example, those whose research interests correspond to those of faculty and graduate students at Duke, or to those for whom the use of the Duke library and special collections would be most beneficial. Candidates must agree to be in residence at Duke University for the tenure of their fellowship. ...
Research Fellowships in Jewish Studies and the Hebrew Bible at Duke University
Research Fellowships in Jewish Studies and the Hebrew Bible
The Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library and the Center for Jewish Studies are pleased to announce the availability of new fellowships, with awards of $1500, to support scholars, students and independent researchers whose work would benefit from access to the Judaica materials held by the Rubenstein Library, the Duke Divinity School Library and/or Perkins Library.

Who is eligible?

Faculty members, graduate or undergraduate students and independent scholars
All applicants must reside beyond a 100-mile radius of Durham, N.C., and may not be current Duke University students or employees.
The Rabin-Shvidler Joint Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Jewish Studies at Fordham and Columbia
The Rabin-Shvidler Joint Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Jewish Studies at Fordham and Columbia

Fordham University’s Jewish Studies Program and Columbia University’s Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies announce a joint post-doctoral fellowship in Jewish Studies for the 2017-2018 academic year. The fellowship will consist of a stipend of $50,000, with an additional subsidy for travel and relocation. Fellows will be affiliated with both institutions.

This fellowship is open to scholars in all fields of Jewish Studies, preference will be given to scholars who strengthen and/or complement the intellectual interests of the faculty at both institutions.

Requirements are a Ph.D. granted between June 1, 2013, and June 30, 2017, and an excellent command of Hebrew. Fellows will be expected to be in residence between September 1, 2016 and May 31, 2017, teach one undergraduate course per semester, and give one lecture and a faculty seminar during their fellowship period.
JOB: Lecturer in Hebrew at Fordham University
The Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Fordham University announces a lecturer position in Hebrew. Candidates who have experience teaching modern and biblical Hebrew are particularly encouraged to apply. The candidate will direct and develop a new Hebrew program following the same sequence as the other language courses taught in the department. He or she will also teach content courses in the Jewish Studies Program and Modern Language and Literatures. Other responsibilities will include among others: language placement, advising, assessment, tutoring, and event planning. Initial 1-year with the potential for renewal. Rose Hill Campus.
In all cases follow the link for further particulars.

Urim ve-tummim

YONA SABAR: Hebrew Word of the Week: urim ve-tummim “Urim and Thummim.”
Apparently, two objects used by the High Priest (ha-Kohen ha-Gadol) for casting lots, to know “guilty” or “innocent, “yes” or “no” questions (Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8; Ezra 2:63). But also by individuals, as when “Saul inquired of the Lord … either by dreams or by an oracle (Urim) or by prophets” (1 Samuel 28:6).


The nine-branched Hanukkah menorah

'TIS THE SEASON (HANUKKAH EDITION): Why Does the Hanukkah Menorah Have Nine Branches? The more familiar seven-branched menorah has symbolized Judaism since biblical times (Steven Fine, Wall Street Journal).
The menorah—“lamp stand” in Hebrew—has been the pre-eminent symbol of Jews and Judaism for millennia. It is the oldest continuously used religious symbol in Western civilization. Yet at this time of year, many people—Jews and non-Jews alike—find themselves puzzled about it. Why is there a nine-branched menorah for Hanukkah (which begins this year on the evening of Dec. 24) rather than the more familiar seven-branched one, as in the seal of the State of Israel?

Since biblical times, the seven-branched menorah has symbolized Judaism. It first appears in Exodus, as a lighting fixture within the Tabernacle, a sort of portable temple used by the Israelites during their desert wanderings. The menorah is described in Exodus in minute detail, based on a heavenly prototype.

For the answer to the question in the headline, click on the link and read on. But most readers familiar with the story behind the holiday will probably have already figured it out. For Professor Fine's new book on the menorah, see here and links. Some other past posts involving ancient menorahs are collected here.

Carthaginian battles

PUNIC WATCH: Today in History: Dec. 18 (manninglive).
218 BC – Second Punic War: Battle of the Trebia – Hannibal’s Carthaginian forces defeat those of the Roman Republic.
Okay, that was yesterday, but I was busy then and only noticed this morning. For more on the Battle of the Trebia, see here and here.

And on a closely related topic: Hannibal vs. Rome: Why the Battle of Cannae Is One of the Most Important in History (Akhilesh Pillalamarri, The National Interest).
One of the most pivotal battles in Western history, the Battle of Cannae, was fought some 2,200 years ago to the year. The Battle of Cannae occurred on August 2, 216 BCE in southeast Italy between Carthaginian forces led by Hannibal Barca and Roman forces led by Lucius Aemilius Paullus and Gaius Terentius Varro. Both forces also included various allied soldiers. The battle, which ended in a major Roman defeat, is considered to be of great importance because of its tactical lessons for posterity, as well as the fact that it was the closest the Roman state had come to destruction in its history up to that point.

Past posts on the Battle of Cannae are here and links, and here and here.

And occasionally I like to link to a reminder of why PaleoJudaica is interested in ancient Phoenician and Carthaginian (Punic) matters.

Jesus son of ...?

'TIS THE SEASON: Virgin Mary, Career-Killer. Questioning the birth story central to Christianity has been taking down scholars and skeptics for just about 2,016 years (Candida Moss, The Daily Beast).
Of all of the miracles recorded in the New Testament, the virgin birth of Jesus Christ garners the most cynical attention. Upon learning that I teach at the University of Notre Dame, almost every atheist I meet will make a crack about Mary’s sexual history. It’s an interesting phenomenon: People rarely tell me that they think the disciples lied about the Resurrection. But when it comes to the doctrine that Mary conceived the Son of God without having sex , no teaching is as closely protected or as broadly scorned.

The idea that Jesus’ mother was named Mary is uncontroversial in scholarly circles. But whether or not she was a virgin has been questioned since the second century. The pagan writer Celsus, a well-known critic of Christianity, wrote that Jesus’ biological father was a Roman soldier named Pantera. He wasn’t alone in his opinion; writing in the Talmud, rabbinic authors describe Jesus as “Yeshu ben Pantera”—meaning Jesus son of Panther, which was a relatively common name for Roman soldiers. The implication here is that Mary was a collaborator who got knocked up by a hated occupier and decided to concoct a story in which Jesus was the product of a sexless encounter with God.

Interesting article. One point that could have been added is that "Pantera" also looks suspiciously like a mispronunciation of the the Greek word parthenos, "virgin." So the origin of the idea that Jesus' real father was named Pantera could be an (accidental or deliberate) corruption of the phrase "Jesus son of the virgin" in Greek.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

18 December: Arabic Language Day

ARABIC WATCH: Examining the origins of Arabic ahead of Arabic Language Day (Rym Ghazal, The National).
To understand Arabs and their culture, one must first understand their language, but with many conflicting theories about its origins, this is no easy task.

To celebrate a language used by hundreds of millions of people around the world, ­December 18 is the designated UN Arabic Language Day. The day was established by the UN ­ Educational, Scientific and ­Cultural Organisation (Unesco) in 2010 to "celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity as well as to promote equal use of all six of its official working languages throughout the ­organisation."

This date was chosen because it was the day in 1973 when ­Arabic became the sixth official working language of the General ­Assembly of the United Nations and its main commissions – the others being Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.

The article has some information about Arabic linguistics and its place in the development of the Semitic languages, but the part of main interest for PaleoJudaica is on the influence of Nabatean on Arabic script:
"Some say Arabic script originated from Al Hirah (fourth-to-­seventh-century Mesopotamia) in the north, while others say it originated from the south of ­Arabia, from Himyar (110 BC to AD 525)," Al Naboodah. "The origin of Arabic is a highly debated topic, with new discoveries still happening."

A discovery in 2014 by a French-Saudi expedition team hailed "the oldest known inscription in the Arabic alphabet" at a site located near Najran in ­Saudi Arabia. The script, which was found on stelae (stone slabs) that has been preliminarily dated to AD 470, corresponds to a period in which there was a missing link between Nabataean and Arabic writing.

"The first thing that makes this find significant is that it is a mixed text, known as ­Nabataean Arabic, the first stage of ­Arabic writing," says epigrapher Frédéric ­Imbert, a professor at Aix-Marseille ­University.

The Nabataean script was developed from Aramaic writing during the second century BC and continued to be used until around the fourth or fifth century. Nabataean is therefore considered the direct precursor of the Arabic script. Nabataean script is a close ancestor, and the Najran style is the "missing link" between Nabataean and the first "Kufi" inscriptions.

Until this discovery, one of the earliest inscriptions in the ­Arabic language was written in the ­Nabataean alphabet, found in Namara (modern Syria) and dated to AD 328, on display at the Louvre in Paris.
At the beginning of the article there is also a nice photograph of a Nabatean inscription dated to 10 CE. The caption reports: "The stone is on display at The Sharjah Archaeology Museum under the Exhibition: Petra, Desert Wonder until March 16, 2017." The Sharjah Museum is in the UAE.

Some related posts are collected here and links. Cross-file under Nabatean (Nabataean) Watch and Aramaic Watch. There is a lot more on the Nabatean language and script here and links. More on ancient Aramaic in the UAE is here and links.

Punic Death Metal track "The Rise of Hannibal" released

PUNIC WATCH: KATAKLYSM Frontman's EX DEO Project: Listen To New Song 'The Rise Of Hannibal' (
EX DEO, the reactivated Ancient Roman-themed arsenal fronted by KATAKLYSM singer Maurizio Iacono, will release its third album, "The Immortal Wars", on February 24, 2017 via Napalm Records. The cover artwork was created by renowned artist Eliran Kantor, who has previously worked with TESTAMENT, HATEBREED, SOULFLY and KATAKLYSM.

The song "The Rise Of Hannibal", taken from "The Immortal Wars", can be streamed below.

The sound fits the subject matter nicely.

Past posts on the forthcoming album are here and here.

"Canon" comes to Sheffield

JAMES MCGRATH: Canon in the UK.
Thanks to Meredith Warren for introducing students in Sheffield, England to Canon: The Card Game! Here are some photos from the class, which I understand enjoyed the experience immensely – as well as having interesting conversations relevant to the course.

Background here. I look forward to the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha deck.

Aliquot and Bonnet (eds.), Phénicie hellénistique

Julien Aliquot, Corinne Bonnet (ed.), La Phénicie hellénistique: Actes du colloque international de Toulouse (18-20 février 2013). Topoi Supplément, 13. Lyon: Société des Amis de la Bibliothèque Salomon-Reinach, 2015. Pp. 396. ISBN 17640733. €30.00.

Reviewed by Paul Keen, University of Massachusetts Lowell (

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

As noted by Aliquot and Bonnet in the introduction to this volume, scholarship has often been inclined to treat Hellenistic Phoenicia either obliquely as (to borrow Sartre’s phrase from the conclusion, p. 367) a “somewhat banal Hellenistic province” or as a unique example of Hellenization in which Greek culture found a ready footing among Phoenicians participating in the Hellenistic koine while simultaneously retaining their own language and certain cultural and religious habits.1 In recent years, scholarship on the Hellenistic and Roman Levant, as well as the Punic west, has done much to increase the sophistication and breadth of our understanding of continuities and change in terms of cultural and religious identity beyond the binaries encapsulated in the increasingly out-of-favor concept of Hellenization.2 Nonetheless, outside of Bonnet’s Les enfants de Cadmos, published only shortly before this volume, Hellenistic Phoenicia as a region and chronological period in its own right had eluded monograph- length treatment since Grainger’s 1991 survey.3 Here, Aliquot and Bonnet, two of the principal protagonists of scholarly advances in the region, have sought to remedy this gap and to broaden our understanding of the region and period through the publication of fifteen papers and a concluding analysis by Maurice Sartre, each focused on our understanding of, and the evidence for, the shifting political, economic, and cultural dynamics of the period.

Cross-file under Phoenician Watch.

Oldest languages "being used"

WHAT WOULD WE DO WITHOUT LISTS? List Of Oldest Languages In The World. These languages have been there since years and we bet you did not know since how long they were being used. Read to find out more (Syeda Farah Noor, Boldsky).
History speaks volumes, new discoveries or finding out about the missing villages, everything gets interesting when we get to know the facts. Little things like learning about the oldest languages in the world can add on some bit of knowledge.

Here, in this article, we are about to share the list of some of the oldest languages that are being used in the world.

These are the languages that have been followed for decades and there are hardly any changes in the way they are being used in today's generation!
Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration.

The phrase "being used in the world" is pretty vague. Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek are listed, naturally, as ancient languages still being spoken. But liturgical languages appear to count too, since Egyptian (i.e. Coptic) and Latin are included too.

Please ignore whatever is said about any individual language. Scarcely anything said about any language I know about is correct.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Bar Kokhba coin is overstruck "Judea" denarius

NUMISMATICS: NGC Ancients: Rare Overstruck “Judaea Capta” Bar Kokhba Coin Discovered (Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, Coin Week).
From an historical standpoint, this coin tells a tremendous tale. The host denarius of Vespasian was originally issued in 69 or 70 CE as part of the ‘Judaea Capta’ series that celebrated Rome’s victory in the Jewish War of 66 to 70, which culminated in the sack of Jerusalem and the razing of the Holy Temple. That victory had been led by none other than Vespasian and his eldest son Titus, both of whom were destined to be emperors.

Somehow the host denarius made its way to Judaea, perhaps with a soldier or a merchant. But it most likely would not have circulated there as its design would have been offensive to the local population. Eventually, in 133 CE, the coin found its way to the minting facility then being used by the rebel forces of Bar Kokhba. While there it was restruck and transformed into a new currency, the patriotic designs of which trumpeted the cause of the Jewish rebels.

It has long been suggested that the overstriking process was symbolic as a way for the rebels to ‘erase’ a potent symbol of Roman authority by virtue of creating their own emblems. However, in this case, it would have had even greater meaning since it was also a chance to erase a coin type that celebrated an earlier Roman victory in Judaea.
The coin is to be auctioned in January of 2017.

The Scroll of the Hasmoneans

'TIS THE SEASON (HANUKKAH EDITION): A misunderstood holiday with a dark side (Rick Sirvint, Monadnock Ledger-Transcript).
Superficially, Hanukkah is a delightful holiday that coincides with and is influenced by the Christmas season. The second most popular Jewish holiday, it is marked by giving presents, especially to children, lighting of candles, music, joy, eating fried foods, particularly potato pancakes. Many young Jews today marry Christians and, consequently, many households observe both Christmas and Hanukkah.

However, Hanukkah is not a major holiday like Christmas. It is not based on biblical sources, and there are no limitations on work that other Jewish holidays have. It is also a very misunderstood holiday, one with a dark side.

This essay is based on a 1,400-year-old source called the Scroll of the Hasmoneans or the Scroll of Antiochus. It was originally written in Aramaic, which suggests an earlier date for its original composition.

One 10th-century rabbinical source dates its origin to the second century BCE, when events of Hanukkah occurred.

The Scroll of the Hasmoneans is an interesting text that we considered for inclusion in the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project. But we found ourselves unconvinced that it was composed within our target time-frame, i.e., before the rise of Islam in the early seventh century CE. It certainly is not from the second century BCE, and even 1400 years old (i.e., c. 600 CE) sounds generous. If we could be persuaded that it is that old, we would include it in volume 2.

400+ Mar Behnam Monastery manuscripts saved

SYRIAC WATCH, ARAMAIC WATCH, ARABIC WATCH: Hundreds of Historic Texts Hidden in ISIS-Occupied Monastery (Own Jarus, Live Science).
More than 400 texts, dating between the middle ages and modern times, have been saved at the Mar Behnam monastery, a place that the Islamic State group (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh) had occupied for more than two years, until November.

The texts, which were written between the 13th and 20th centuries, were hidden behind a wall that was constructed just a few weeks before ISIS occupied and partly destroyed the Christian monastery, according to Amir Harrak, a professor at the University of Toronto who studied the texts before they were hidden away.

Some of the texts are "beautifully illustrated" by the scribes who copied them, Harrak said. "Each one contains lengthy colophons [notes] written by the scribes, telling historical and social, and religious events of their times — a fact that makes them precious sources," Harrak told Live Science.

The texts are written in a variety of languages, including Syriac (widely used in Iraq in ancient and medieval times), Arabic, Turkish and Neo-Aramaic, said Harrak, who is an expert in Syriac.

Also this photo essay, from the same writer in the same publication:

In Photos: Historic Texts Hidden in Christian Monastery in Iraq

I've known about this for a while, but have been waiting for Owen Jarus to finish his research and publish these articles before I mentioned it. This is truly good news in a place where good news has been scarce lately. As regular readers know, I had given these manuscripts up as almost certainly destroyed. I have never been happier to have been wrong. All commendation and respect to Father Yousif Sakat, whose foresight led to them being hidden (in metal barrels and walled up in a building) before ISIS arrived. Now let's hope that the manuscripts stay safe.

Background on the Mar Behnam Monastery, its occupation by ISIS, and its recent liberation during the Mosul campaign, is here and links. For additional background on the history of the monastery, see this post by Christopher Jones at the Gate of Nineveh Blog from May of 2015: What We’ve Lost: Mar Behnam Monastery.

Lecture series at Florida Atlanta University

BOCA NEWS: FAU Announces Spring 2017 Distinguished Lecture Series.
BOCA RATON, FL ( (Source: FAU) — Florida Atlantic University has announced the schedule for its Spring 2017 Distinguished Lectures Series in the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters. ...
Three of the lectures are of interest to PaleoJudaica readers:
• “The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Origins of Judaism and Christianity” – Thursday, Feb. 2 at 4 p.m. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s and their complete publication in the 1990s have led scholars to reevaluate the history of Judaism and Christianity. This lecture by FAU’s world-renowned biblical scholar Fred Greenspahn, Ph.D., will describe the contents of the more than 900 scrolls that were found in the Judean desert and what we have learned about each of these religions, their relationship to one another, and the creation of the Hebrew Bible.
• “Torah, Tradition and Change: The Ancient Synagogue at Horvat Kur” – Thursday, Feb. 9 at 4 p.m. Byron McCane, Ph.D., professor of history and religion, presents a report and reflection on five seasons of excavation, including the discovery of three artifacts that are now in preparation for the synagogue exhibit at the Israel Museum. The discoveries shed new light on the practice of Jewish religion at the local level in a small village as the Roman Empire came to its end.
• “Globalization in Antiquity: Augustus, Herod, and the Second Temple” – Thursday, Feb. 23 at 4 p.m. A prominent historian has remarked that Augustus didn’t create the Empire, but he did see it coming, so he got out front and led the parade. Herod, another astute reader of the signs of the times, quickly fell in step right behind Augustus. Byron McCane, Ph.D., argues that the Second Temple was a prominent part of Herod’s multi-faceted effort to draw the Jews of Palestine willingly into Roman orbit.

Archaeology top 10, 2016

Top 10 archaeological discoveries of 2016 (Heritage Daily). This is the first I have seen of what will presumably be many such lists, some at better venues. The main item of interest is "3 – Spectacular cargo of ancient shipwreck found in Caesarea," on which I posted here. The one on ancient shoes from Vindolanda (#9) is of some interest too, since the epigraphic discoveries from that British site also have come up (cf. here, here, and here and links) from time to time.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Non-deceptive pseudepigraphy?

THE EUANGELION BLOG: Pseudepigraphy as a Non-Deceptive Fiction (Michael F. Bird). Let me introduce a couple of notes of caution here. First, Salvian's justification of the forged writing as "a completely transparent and therefore non-deceptive fiction" could also be taken as an after-the-fact justification once the forgery was detected. I am not at all sure that we should take this as a good example of pseudepigraphy done in good faith with no intention to deceive.

Second, contrary to the impression given by the quotation from Baum, Salvian does not actually confess to the forgery. He presents his justifications as speculations about what the forger might have been thinking and always refers to the forger in the third person. You can read an old translation of the full text of his Letter 9 here, posted by Roger Pearse. Pearse also has additional comments here on Bart Ehrman's use of the text.

The broader issue, of course, is whether such impersonations were constructed in such a way as to be obviously fictional, in which case there would have been no intent to deceive. It is not at all obvious to me that biblical pseudepigrapha such as the Pastoral Epistles or the Book of Daniel, or other pseudepigrapha such as the books in 1 Enoch, would come under this category. Some of the other Old Testament pseudepigrapha might.

That is not to say that all ancient biblical pseudepigrapha were exactly forgeries intended to deceive. I have explored some of the psychological complexities of this issue in my 2006 SBL paper, especially toward the end: Scripture as Prophetically Revealed Writings. And my 2012 SBL paper also deals with some similar issues: The 94 Books of Ezra and the Angelic Revelations of John Dee.