Saturday, June 17, 2017

Review of Cynthia Baker, "Jew"

JEWISH PHILOSOPHY PLACE BLOG: (Deleuze & Guattari) Jews + Jews + Jews (Cynthia Baker) (Zachary Braiterman). Jews, Judeans, and rhizomes. This approach has some similarities to Jonathan Z. Smith's "polythetic" approach as applied to Judaism, which I have discussed here.

HT AJR Twitter.

Past posts on Cynthia Baker's recent book, Jew, are here and links.

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Additional NT Apocrypha bibliography

AWOL BLOG: Additions to e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha, June 2017 . There are four new entries and another has been expanded. Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch.

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A new biography of Gershom Scholem

PODCAST: ATTEMPTING TO SOLVE THE SCHOLEM ENIGMA (Tel Aviv Review).
Dr. Amir Engel, a lecturer in German language and literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the author of the newly published Gershom Scholem: An Intellectual Biography, analyzes the unique legacy of a leading scholar of Jewish mysticism and one of Israel’s first public intellectuals.
I have noted two other recent books on Scholem here and here and links.

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Visiting the ancient library of Pergamum

THE HOLY LAND PHOTOS' BLOG: Pergamum (Turkey) Library.

Spoiler: the books are all gone.

Nevertheless, most ancient libraries have disappeared without a trance, so it is very worthwhile to have a look at one whose architecture has partially survived. Carl Rasmussen takes us on a tour.

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More Enoch from Takeyasu Sawaki

GAMING NEWS: PS4/PS Vita Exclusive The Lost Child Gets 1080p Screenshots Showing the Return of El Shaddai’s Enoch. The Lost Child pays homage to its predecessor El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron with the return of Enoch and the Nephilim (Giuseppe Nelva, Dual Shockers). This new game is by Takeyasu Sawaki, who produced El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron some years ago. (Background is here and links). The Lost Child includes early purchase bonuses involving the the Enoch of the previous game and the Nephilim. Again, the author makes creative use of the mythology of Enoch, the watchers, and the giants.

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Friday, June 16, 2017

More on Arad 16

UPDATE: 'If there is any wine, send': Soldier's urgent request dating back to 600BC is found inscribed in Hebrew on the back of a pottery shard (Shivali Best, Daily Mail). This Mail article mostly covers the same ground as the many media treatments from yesterday. But I link to it because it includes photographs, more information on the details of the decipherment of the new inscription on the back of Arad 16, and more on the suggested improved readings for the text on the front side.

It gives a translation of the new text on the back:
The English translation of the inscription on the back of the shard says:
'If there is any wine, send {1/2 1/4?}. If there is anything (else) you need, send (=write to me about it). And if there is still <>, gi[ve] them (an amount of) Xar out of it. And Ge'alyahu has taken a bat of sparkling (?) wine.'
I don't have time to go over that text, so I have no comment at present. The article does provide a photo and a drawing of it.

As for the proposed improvements on the front, some of the new readings are rather different from what I saw when I prepared the Arad inscriptions for my epigraphy general exam many years ago. But my transcription then was based on the lesser-quality photo available at the time. Again, I don't have time to go over this in detail now. I note that the Mail\s translation leaves out the name "Hananiah" after "your friend" in line 1. I think this is a transcription error. The name is clearly visible on both the photo and the drawing.

Yes, there is a photo and a drawing, so epigraphers can check on the new readings at their leisure. The discussion will soon move to the peer-review literature, but perhaps blogging epigraphers can have a go in the meantime. (Christopher Rollston, call your office!)

Background here.

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Doudna deconstructs Qumran archaeology

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION: Deconstructing What We’ve Always Been Told About Qumran.
It is misleading to speak of a single “main period of habitation” of a single group or community at Qumran which ended at the time of the First Revolt. Analyses of pottery, language, women, dining, animal bone deposits, and scroll deposits surprisingly converge in suggesting a different picture: the true “main period” of activity at Qumran was mid- and late-first century BCE.

[The following is excerpted from Gregory L. Doudna, “Deconstructing the Continuity of Qumran IB and II with Implications for Stabilizing the Biblical Texts”, in I. Hjelm and T.L. Thompson, eds., Interpretation Beyond Historicity. Changing Perspectives 7, ed. I. Hjelm and T.L. Thompson (New York: Routledge, 2016), 130-154. See full article for bibliography.]

By Gregory Doudna
June 2017
For more on Dr. Doudna's theories, which so far have not found much acceptance among Qumranologists, see here and links.

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Review of Bonnet and Bricault, Quand les dieux voyagent

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Corinne Bonnet, Laurent Bricault, Quand les dieux voyagent: cultes et mythes en mouvement dans l'espace méditerranéen antique. Histoire des religions. Genève: Labor et Fides, 2016. Pp. 314. ISBN 9782830915969. €29.00 (pb). Reviewed by Megan Daniels, University of Puget Sound (megandaniels@trudeaufoundation.net.
In placing side-by-side a series of 12 divine journeys from Mesopotamian Ishtar’s descent to the Netherworld to the role of the Torah in uniting the Jewish diaspora, the authors aim to move beyond the traditional divisions of monotheism and polytheism inherent in the study of ancient religions: “Sont-elles utiles, adéquates, fécondes pour parler des religions de l’Antiquité et en comprendre les logiques?” (p. 11) The question of false dichotomies3 and the obstructions they create when it comes to grasping some of the more fundamental aspects of ancient religions is a worthy one to ask, and is consequently one of the strengths of this work.
The essays deal with the ancient Near East, Phoenicia and Carthage, ancient Judaism, and early Christianity.

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The English composer and the Acts of John

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Alternative Scriptures: Gustav Holst’s Hymn of Jesus (Philip Jenkins).
The result was that almost a century ago, a strictly mainstream, celebrated, English composer produced and staged a work containing evocative Gnostic hymns, and liturgical dance. And all derived from a long-lost alternative scripture – a Gnostic gospel.
The Berlin-Strasbourg Apocryphon (see here) also has a hymnic dance with Jesus and the apostles.

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

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T. Dan

READING ACTS: Testament of Dan. Dan sounds a bit vampiric here, doesn't he?

Earlier posts in Phil Long's blog series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha are noted here and links. In recent posts he has been surveying the Greek Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Was the Shapira scroll a real Dead Sea Scroll?

FORGERY OR THE REAL THING? The Shapira Scroll was an Authentic Dead Sea Scroll — by Shlomo Guil in the Palestine Exploration Quarterly 149 (2017), pp. 6-27.
Abstract

Wilhelm Shapira astonished the European academic world in 1883 by offering for sale fifteen or sixteen leather fragments of an ancient Hebrew scroll containing parts of Deuteronomy, but in a version that deviated from the Masorah. The script of the scroll, known to us today as paleo-Hebrew, is an archaism of the pre-exilic Hebrew script. The sale offer was made to the British Museum and the asking price was one million British pounds. The British museum was willing to consider the offer and appointed Christian David Ginsburg to ascertain the authenticity of the scroll.

Ginsburg analyzed the fragments of the Shapira scroll for almost three weeks but it was Charles Clermont-Ganneau, the renowned French scholar, who publicly announced on 21 August 1883 that the scroll is a forgery. On the following day, Ginsburg wrote to Bond, the director of the British Museum, that the manuscript is in fact a forgery.

This article attempts to demonstrate that the Shapira scroll was an authentic manuscript by presenting circumstantial evidence in favour of the scroll. The evidence focuses upon physical characteristics of the scroll as well as upon paleographic aspects.
This journal requires a paid personal or institutional subscription for you to access the articles. But the author has posted this article at Academia.edu. Also, G. M. Grena has posted a summary and discussion at his LMLK Blog: The 1883 Dead Sea Scroll.

Chanan Tigay published a book on the story of the Shapira scroll last year. For past PaleoJudaica posts noting the book (I have not read it) and discussing the Shapira fragments, start here and follow the links.

Shlomo Guil is an independent researcher in Israel and he has published a number of other articles. I don't know him or know anything else about him. But he has produced an article good enough to pass peer review in a reputable specialist journal. That means that the scholarly discussion of the Shapira scroll as a possibly genuine ancient artifact has now begun. The case is perforce circumstantial, since the Shapira fragments are now lost and presumed (entirely? mostly?) destroyed. But Guil does raise some circumstantial points in favor of the authenticity of the scroll based on material and paleographic factors. I don't doubt that there will be more social media commentary, but the real discussion needs to proceed in the peer-review literature and it will probably take years to reach any consensus. But Shlomo Guil has played by the rules and thrown down the gauntlet. It will be interesting to see the reactions of paleographers and specialists in the material culture of ancient scrolls.

There is some hope (see update) that at least one of the Shapira fragments still survives. It would be worth some effort to try to track it down. Meanwhile, Guil's article reproduces some drawings of the scroll made at the time and I have posted links to these and other images here. That is at least something to work with.

I remain to be convinced that the Shapira scroll was a real ancient document. If you want to read a case made against that idea which was published in 1965, after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, have a look at Oskar K. Rabinowicz, "The Shapira Scroll: A Nineteenth-Century Forgery" Jewish Quartely Review 56 (1965), 1-21. It is available on JSTOR. You may also want to look at the detailed review of the story of the Shapira scroll posted by Michael Press in The Appendix: “The Lying Pen of the Scribes”: A Nineteenth-Century Dead Sea Scroll. He thinks it was a forgery too, but he weighs a lot of evidence pro and con.

Be all that as it may, the case is now reopened and we will see what happens.

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New readings on an Arad ostracon

EPIGRAPHY AND TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Revolutionary technology reveals dazzling ‘hidden’ text on biblical-era shard. Pottery from almost 3,000 years ago found to feature previously unseen rare First Temple Hebrew writing; other finds from same era now also to be reinvestigated (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel). You have to read pretty far into this article before it addresses the obvious question — What does it say? But we do get there eventually:
Ostacon No. 16 is a letter sent to Elyashiv from Hananyahu — the team speculates he was a quartermaster in Beersheba — and discusses the transfer of silver. After the MS imaging experiment, newly discovered inscriptions show that Hananyahu also asked for wine.
I think they mean newly discovered letters — on the back of the ostracon, which appears blank to the naked eye.

The readable inscription on the front of Arad 16 is badly damaged after the first three lines. According to the article, the new multispectral imaging process has also clarified the readings on that side.

More please. Bit by bit, a letter at a time, whatever it takes. Until we're done.

The AWOL Blog has a link to the new PLOS ONE article on which the above story is based.

UPDATE: Incorrect link now fixed!

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Huge mikveh excavated at Machaerus

ARCHAEOLOGY: Archaeologists Find Monumental Mikveh at King Herod's Palace in Jordan. Machaerus, King Herod's fortress in Jordan which was razed by the same Roman legion that destroyed Masada, before which Salome did her dance and John the Baptist was killed (Philippe Bohstrom, Haaretz).
The Machaerus fortress was erected on a prominent hill about 32 kilometers southwest of Madaba. The mikveh ritual bath and immersion pool used for purification were apparently built for the Herod royal family's personal use.

The bath is the biggest of its kind ever found in Jordan. It boasts 12 steeps and a reserve pool containing water to fill the pool when its water ran low.
A long article with lots of background on Machaerus. Past PaleoJudaica posts on Machaerus are here and here.

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T. Zebulon

READING ACTS: Testament of Zebulon.

Earlier posts in Phil Long's blog series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha are noted here and links. In recent posts he has been surveying the Greek Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Unexpected influences on Swartz and Satlow

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Unexpected Influences | Michael Swartz and Michael Satlow. The Blues and Jewish magic, Tolstoy and causality.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Review of Burke and Landau (eds.), New Testament Apocrypha (part 4)

BOOK REVIEW (PART FOUR):
Tony Burke and Brent Landau, New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, volume 1 (Eerdmans, 2016).
Part One is here.
Part Two is here.
Part Three is here.

Final Comments

This volume is a major contribution to more than one field. The texts are well chosen, the translations flow smoothly, the introductions cover the important matters and evaluate the evidence judiciously. The volume is well edited and carefully proofread. One could debate this or that conclusion or interpretation, but the positions taken by the contributors are consistently well and cautiously argued. The one or two errors I noticed were trivial (e.g., on p. 437 at n. e., "cherubim" should read "seraphim"). I can think of very little to criticize. A little more attention to questions of genre in the introductions to the individual works would be welcome. There is no specific section for genre in the outline template, although sometimes one is added. Some contributors cover the issue well, while others could have said more.

Potential readers should keep in mind that this volume is a supplement to earlier collections of New Testament Apocrypha in English, especially those by James and Elliott. The volume includes a few relatively early texts (i.e., from the third century or earlier). These are of interest to specialists in early Christianity. Most of the texts are from the fourth century and later. They are of particular interest to specialists in late-antique and medieval popular Christianity. The volume contains a vast wealth of stories, scriptural exegesis, and informal theology which entertained and informed lay audiences for many centuries. But do be aware that it belongs on the bookshelf next to Elliot’s work, not as a replacement for it.

The volume demonstrates compellingly that the composition and use of New Testament Apocrypha continued into the Middle Ages and beyond, and that some of these works were vastly popular and influential. The Dialogue of the Paralytic with Christ is not the first work a modern reader would turn to for spiritual inspiration. Nevertheless, it survives in many manuscripts and was copied into the twentieth century. The Apocalypse of the Virgin is ubiquitous in the Greek manuscript tradition and it too was copied into the twentieth century. The Tiburtine Sibyl was more influential in the West than the canonical Book of Revelation.

The texts in the volume come in the genres we know from the New Testament, but not exclusively. Several texts are “pseudo-apostolic memoirs,” a genre developed in Coptic-speaking circles in the fifth century. But even the genres we know are developed creatively. The genre of “gospel” is stretched well beyond what counts as a gospel in the New Testament. Some of the “acts” include elements of hagiography, martyrdom, and romance novel. The volume classifies The Tiburtine Sibyl as an apocalypse, but it lacks an angelic interpreter and adopts the poetic canons of pagan Sibylline oracles. The Epistle of Christ from Heaven is an ancient chain letter attributed to Jesus.

These texts also expand the range of what we might think of — at least based on the New Testament — as normal subject matter for scripture. The classic example is The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, whose boy Jesus comes across to a modern reader as frighteningly powerful and impulsive, rather like Anthony Fremont in the Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life.” But the new texts provide additional examples. There is Papias’s debased story of the death of Judas. The Dialogue of the Paralytic with Christ presents an incognito Jesus who mercilessly torments a paralytic to test his faith before he heals him. And then there is that ancient chain letter again.

A number of the texts read like ancient and medieval fanfic about John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter, Cornelius the Centurion, and so on. Several of the texts have women as the main characters: Mary Magdalene; Xanthippie, her sister Polyxena, and her sister’s companion Rebecca; the pagan Sibyl; and, of course, the Virgin Mary.

The high level of textual variation in the manuscripts of many, if not most, of these texts challenges the traditional scholarly understanding of what a text is. The scribes who transmitted these texts seem often to be as concerned with retelling an entertaining or edifying story as copying a fixed text. Canonical works with fixed texts are probably the exception, while the variform texts in this volume are more representative of ancient and medieval literature.

In conclusion, this volume is an excellent supplement to Elliot’s collection of New Testament Apocrypha. It makes many new texts available in translation. It expands the range of what we have thought of as New Testament Apocrypha, mainly by including texts from late antiquity and the Middle Ages. I look forward to the second volume.

I recommend this book highly. Make sure your research library has a copy. It is inexpensive enough (especially through Amazon) that your local public library should be willing to buy one as well. And if you have any interest in the subject of New Testament Apocrypha, then buy a copy for yourself.

UPDATE (15 June): Philip Tite comments here.

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T. Issachar

READING ACTS: Testament of Issachar.

Earlier posts in Phil Long's blog series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha are noted here and links. In recent posts he has been surveying the Greek Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Sahidic Coptic OT online

AWOL BLOG: News from the Coptic Scriptorium: Old Testament corpus release. Cross-file under Coptic Watch.

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The afterlife in Zoroastrianism

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Zoroastrian afterlife beliefs and funerary practices. An article by Almut Hintze in the new (2017) Routledge Companion to Death and Dying. The article is available at Academia.edu.

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Review of Barton and Boyarin, Imagine No Religion

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Carlin A. Barton, Daniel Boyarin, Imagine No Religion. How Modern Abstractions Hide Ancient Realities. New York: Fordham University Press, 2016. Pp. 325. ISBN 9780823271207. $35.00 (pb). Reviewed by Anders Klostergaard Petersen, University of Aarhus (akp@cas.au.dk).
Barton’s and Boyarin’s monograph is related to Brent Nongbri’s Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept (New Haven, Yale UP 2013), a volume that has justifiably attracted considerable attention in disciplines devoted to the study of the ancient Graeco-Roman world. Barton and Boyarin refer in important places to Nongbri who has also provided them with their introductory, orally-transmitted, Edwin Judge contention that one should avoid the term religion in translations of ancient texts. Barton and Boyarin follow this injunction with relentless effort, arguing that any rendering of Greek and Latin terms (notably thrēskeia and religio, but also the related terms deisidaimonia and superstitio) by the word ‘religion’ is an anachronistic distortion. The argument is cogently pursued in Tertullian and Josephus (and some additional authors) held emblematically to illustrate the problem at stake.

[...]
But do the authors overshoot their point by moving from the emic to the etic?

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Talmud on property as gift vs. inheritance (etc.)

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: An Old Jew Is on His Deathbed, and Says to His Son… In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ what’s right—and what’s legal—in matters of inheritance.
Over the past several weeks, Daf Yomi readers have seen how the Talmud regulates the inheritance of property, building on biblical laws to create a more complex and flexible system. According to the Torah, for example, a man is not free to bequeath his property to whomever he wishes. Rather, inheritance follows an established order, going first to his sons, then his daughters, then his brothers, and finally to more distant male relatives. But as we saw earlier in Tractate Bava Batra, later Jewish law created a workaround, allowing the testator to give his property as a gift, rather than bequeath it as an inheritance. A gift is not subject to the same strict rules.

[...]
But it raises certain complexities ...

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Cynthia Baker's "Jew" and the Samaritans

MARGINALIA REVIEW OF BOOKS: Thinking with Samaritans and Cynthia Baker’s Jew. Matthew Chalmers on Cynthia Baker’s Jew. Marginalia's Forum on Cynthia Baker’s Jew is publishing a series of essays on the book. This is the third in the series.
As a scholar researching ancient and modern representations of Samaritans, I should confess that my first interaction with any book about Jewish identities is often to flip to the index and see whether it mentions them. Samaritans, after all, are a Torah-observant group who also trace their identity back to ancient Israel. Baker’s book does not. I suggest that exploring this omission tells us something more about what Baker’s book does, while also helping to articulate some broader ramifications for the study of Jews and beyond.
Mr. Chalmers then applies Professor Baker's methodology to the study of the Samaritans.

For past essays in the series and more information about the forum, see here and links.

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Looting arrests in the Galilee

APPREHENDED: Hiker helps stop antiquities-robbing gang in northern Israel. Caught in action after a foot chase, two out of three thieves taken to Nazareth for investigation (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel). Well done, alert hiker. The apprehension took place near Tzippori/Sepphoris. It sounds as though there has been a lot of nefarious activity in the north lately.

There have been quite a few looting arrests in Israel and the West Bank in 2017. I have noted some, probably not all. See here and links.

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Poetry on the Gospel of Thomas

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Alternative Scriptures: A Bit Of Bible Long Lost. The Greek fragments of the Gospel of Thomas (the one later found complete in a Coptic translation in the Nag Hammadi Library - see here) were published at the end of the nineteenth century.

This gospel became so well know that someone promptly published a poem on it. Not long after that, someone else quoted it in a textbook for school children.

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T. Judah: apocalyptic

READING ACTS: Apocalyptic in the Testament of Judah. This post discusses a messianic passage that could be read plausibly as a Jewish composition.

Earlier posts in Phil Long's blog series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha are noted here and here and links.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Review of Burke and Landau (eds.), New Testament Apocrypha (part 3)

BOOK REVIEW (PART THREE):
Tony Burke and Brent Landau, New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, volume 1 (Eerdmans, 2016).
Part One is here.
Part Two is here.
Part Four is here.

The Remaining Texts

I discuss the remaining texts in the order that they appear in the volume.

Apocryphal Acts and Related Traditions


The Acts of Barnabas (pp. 317-336, ed. Glenn E. Snyder) was composed in Greek by the late fifth century. It survives in two Greek recensions and a Latin translation. It is a collection of stories about the ministry and travels of Barnabas and John Mark, narrated by the latter. It concludes with an account of the martyrdom of Barnabas, after which John Mark and his companions appropriate and bury Barnabas’s remains and then escape to Alexandria.

The Acts of Cornelius the Centurion (pp. 337-361, ed. Tony Burke and Witold Witakowski) was composed in Greek sometime between the fourth and tenth centuries and survives in a long and a short version. This work expands the story of the conversion of the Cornelius of Acts 10-11 and recounts his elevation to sainthood after his death. This chapter translates a Greek manuscript and an Ethiopic translation, both representing the long version.

John and the Robber (pp. 362-370, Rick Brannan) is a story told at the conclusion of a homily by Clement of Alexandria and thus dates to the late second or early third century at latest. Some later authors, including Eusebius, repeat Clement’s account. The story tells of a young protégé of John the Apostle who goes bad and takes up with a group of robbers. John finds it necessary to round him up and bring him to repentance.

The History of Simon Cephas, the Chief of the Apostles (pp. 371-394, ed. F. Stanley Jones) was composed in the second half of the fourth century. It has never before been translated from Syriac into any modern language. Mostly it summarizes material from the canonical Book of Acts and other sources to give an account of the ministry of Peter. It includes his interactions with Simon Magus and a toned-down version of the famous episode in which Christ meets Peter and tells him he has returned to be crucified again because Peter is too weak to accept martyrdom.

The Acts of Timothy (pp. 395-405, ed. Cavan W. Concannon) survive in Greek and Latin manuscripts, but the work seems to have been composed in Greek in the late fourth or (more likely) early fifth century. It is of mixed genre, combining features of acts with features of martyrdoms. It presents Timothy as the bishop of Ephesus until his martyrdom.

The Acts of Titus (pp. 406-415, ed. Richard I. Pervo) survives and was composed in Greek. Its current form seems to date from the early seventh century, but this is probably an abbreviation of a longer life of Titus composed in the late fifth century. Pervo regards this work to be more a “hagiographical biography” than an apocryphal acts. It draws on traditions about Titus in the New Testament and the Acts of Paul. It also traces Titus’ lineage to Minos, King of Crete. Showing unusual sympathy for Jews for an early Christian document, it has an influential relative of Titus protect those in Crete from any consequences arising from the Judean revolt against Rome.

The Life and Conduct of the Holy Women Xanthipple, Polyxena, and Rebecca (pp. 416-452, ed. David L. Eastman) was composed in Greek in the fifth or sixth century. It has features of apocryphal acts and hagiography, but also reads like an unlikely (ancient) romance novel aimed at female monastics and devoted to promoting sexual abstinence. Three very different women undergo various adventures, some of them harrowing, but they survive unscathed and embrace a profoundly ascetic Christianity. The Apostle Paul is a central supporting character and other New Testament figures appear from time to time.

Epistles

The Epistle of Christ from Heaven (pp. 455-463, ed. Calogero A. Miceli) survives in manuscripts in a vast number of languages, but it likely originated in Greek. The first surviving mention of it was by the bishop of Ibiza in the late sixth century. (That’s right: Ibiza!) This remarkable work amounts to a chain letter from Jesus (who has been theologically homogenized with God). It survives in countless variations, the common core of which is to promote observation of Sunday as the Lord’s Day. This volume translates a comparatively early (fifteenth century) Greek manuscript of the epistle.

The Epistle of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite to Timothy concerning the Deaths of the Apostles Peter and Paul (pp. 464-480, ed. David L. Eastman) survives in versions in multiple languages. The lost Greek original was probably composed in the late sixth or early seventh century. Dionysius the Areopagite is mentioned in Acts 17:34 and is best known as the pseudonym of a fifth-sixth-century writer whose philosophical-theological works laid the foundation for subsequent Christian mysticism. This epistle is unrelated. It gives a fictional eyewitness account of the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul.

Apocalypses

The (Latin) Revelation of John about Antichrist (pp. 483-491, ed. Charles D. Wright) survives in two Latin recensions as well as in medieval English and Irish versions. It was composed in Latin, probably in the mid-twelfth century. In it, Christ reveals information to John about the Antichrist and other eschatological matters.

The Apocalypse of the Virgin (pp. 492-509, Charles D. Wright) was composed in Greek between the sixth and ninth centuries, probably earlier rather than later in that range. Hundreds of manuscripts survive with an enormous amount of textual variation. It tells the story of the visit of Mary to various parts of Hell, after which she enlists all the angels and saints to badger God into providing the damned Christian sinners with an annual period of respite from the lake of fire. It was a vastly popular work in Eastern Christianity.

The Tiburtine Sibyl (pp. 510-525, Stephen J. Shoemaker) was composed in Greek in the fourth century. This Greek version is lost, but is preserved substantially in a Latin translation. The surviving Greek text is of an expanded recension produced in the early sixth century. Shoemaker translates the Latin version. The work is an apocalyse set in the mouth of an early pagan Roman prophetess and is a late example of a Jewish and Christian tradition of writing oracles in the names of various Sibyls. We published a translation of the Greek version by Rieuwerd Buitenwerf in MOTP1, pp. 176-188. That translation includes detailed notes on the historical allusions in the work. It is unclear to Shoemaker why we regarded it as an Old Testament pseudepigraphon. (MNTA1, p. 512 n. 9), presumably because the oracles refer to events in the Christian era. But as he also noted (p. 515), the Sibylline literature has traditionally been included among Jewish and Christian apocryphal literature. The pagan Sibyls, like Ahiqar and Zoroaster, were adopted into the biblical tradition as prophets or sages. But they traditionally lived in the Old Testament period and so, at least in the case of the Sibyls and Ahiqar, have been treated as Old Testament pseudepigrapha in past collections. We continued that tradition (cf. MOTP1, xxviii) but have no objection to classing the Tiburtine Sibyl as a New Testament apocryphon as well. It is good to have the complementary translations in both volumes.

The Investiture of Abbaton, the Angel of Death (pp. 526-554, Alin Suciu with Ibrahim Saweros) is another example of the genre pseudo-apostolic memoir. It survives in a single tenth-century Sahidic Coptic manuscript, but it was probably composed in the fifth or sixth century. This work is a book within a book: the (probably pseudonymous) author Timothy of Alexandria describes how he obtained a revelatory book from an old man in Jerusalem and then transcribes the supposed content of the book. It narrates how the angel Muriel was transformed into Abatton (i.e., Abaddon, Hebrew for “destruction”) the Angel of Death. This work may be based on a Muslim source, but it is also possible that the Investiture and parallel Islamic traditions draw on an earlier common source. An Arabic Christian source offers a refutation of the story of Abatton and this chapter translates the relevant passage in an appendix.

In the next post I will give an overall evaluation of MNTA1 and make some general comments about it. Spoiler: I like it.

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Schiffman on the Magdala Stone

PROFESSOR LAWRENCE H. SCHIFFMAN: The Magdala Stone. A reprint of his article in Ami Magazine. The Magdala Stone is a first-century CE artifact that appears to depict the Second Temple in Jerusalem. It is currently on display in the Vatican Menorah Exhibition in Rome.

Professor Schiffman notes in particular, some potential implications of the Stone for the function of the synagogue in the first century.

Background on the Magdala Stone is here and follow the many links.

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T. Judah: women, money, and wars

READING ACTS: Women and Money in the Testament of Judah (Phil Long).

The Book of Jubilees also relates Judah's battles with the Amorites (chap. 34) and with the sons of Esau (chapters 37-38).

A medieval work called Midrash Vaiysa‘u also tells versions of the same two stories and seems to be based on Second Temple era sources in Greek. Martha Himmelfarb has translated Midrash Vaiysa‘u in Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures (ed. Bauckham, Davila, and Panayotov; Eerdmans 2013), 1:143-159.

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Dead Sea Scrolls found in the first millennium?

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Alternative Scriptures: Finding the First Scrolls (Philip Jenkins). A cache of Dead Sea Scrolls seems to have been found around 800 CE. It is possible that someone copied the fragments of the Damascus Document in the Cairo Geniza from one of those scrolls. Professor Jenkins doesn't mention this, but it's also possible that someone copied the Cairo Geniza fragments of Aramaic Levi from material that came from that discovery. We don't know: both suggestions are speculative but plausible.

For more on that discovery as related by the Patriarch Timonty in a Syriac letter, see this essay by John Reeves for my Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Course back in 1997: REFLECTIONS ON JEWISH APOCRYPHAL AND PSEUDEPIGRAPHICAL SURVIVALS IN MEDIEVAL NEAR EASTERN RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS. I also talk about Timothy's letter in an introductory page for my 2005 course on the Dead Sea Scrolls: Introduction to the Scrolls from the Judean Desert. As I note there, the (heretical but vastly learned) church father Origen knew of scrolls discovered "near Jericho" around 200 CE.

Earlier posts in Professor Jenkins's series on "alternative scriptures" are noted here and links.

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Review of "Rabbi Akiva"

BOOK REVIEW: Bringing A Talmudic Sage Back To Life (Burton L. Visotzky, The Forward).
RABBI AKIVA: SAGE OF THE TALMUD
By Barry W. Holtz
Yale University Press, 248 pages, $25
Excerpt:
Enter Barry W. Holtz, Baumritter Professor Of Jewish Education at JTS. In his new portrait of his hero, Rabbi Akiva “the teacher par excellence,” Holtz takes careful account of the scholarship about and challenges to writing rabbinic biography in recent decades. He looks at individual stories about Rabbi Akiva and treats each of them through a literary critical lens. His scholarly acumen is such that he accounts for current historians’ pronouncements on the forces that shaped the late first and second centuries. He treats the often multiple versions of these stories to understand their development and, most important, their religious meaning for readers then and now.
Past posts on the book are here and links.

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

JGRChJ

AWOL BLOG: Open Access Journal: Journal of Greco-Roman Judaism and Christianity (JGRChJ). I thought I had mentioned this journal fairly recently, but the last post I can find on it is from 2006. So it's high time to mention it again. Lots of interesting articles on early Christianity and ancient Judaism.
As the articles included in previous volumes indicate, the scope of this journal remains broad, with articles welcome on many areas of relevance to the journal’s aims. Nevertheless, the approach of the journal is also specific—to publish only the highest quality articles that examine the ways in which the Greco-Roman world was the world of the New Testament and early Judaism. The emphasis in the journal is thus on a range of possible approaches and bodies of material, including historical, linguistic, papyrological, epigraphical and synthetic studies of the kind that are often lacking in other journals. In fact, we encourage contributors to attempt to draw various areas of related knowledge together in their submissions.
UPDATE (12 June): A reader has pointed out that the correct title of the journal is Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism.

Hurtado on the language of history

LARRY HURTADO: How We See Historical Changes. Beware of metaphors that covertly import evolutionary assumptions into the flow of ancient events.

Review of Jones, Philosophy of Mysticism

H-JUDAIC: Miller on Jones, 'Philosophy of Mysticism: Raids on the Ineffable.' Author: Richard H. Jones Reviewer: Michael Miller
Richard H. Jones. Philosophy of Mysticism: Raids on the Ineffable. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2016. 438 pp. $95.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-4384-6119-9; $31.95 (paper), ISBN 978-1-4384-6118-2.
The book is about mysticism and gives some attention to Jewish mysticism. The reviewer thinks it could have given more.

Pregill on Cynthia Baker's "Jew"

MARGINALIA REVIEW OF BOOKS: Between Jew and Muslim. Observations on Cynthia Baker’s Jew from the Perspective of Islamic Studies (Michael Pregill). Marginalia's Forum on Cynthia Baker’s Jew is publishing a series of essays on the book. This is the third published, although it is listed as fourth in the series.

For past essays in the series and more information about the forum, see here and here.

Christian Apocrypha at the 2017 CSBS meeting

APOCRYPHICITY: 2017 CSBS Christian Apocrypha Session Report (Tony Burke). Dr. Burke reports on the papers presented at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies in the last weekend in May.