Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A new Phoenician archive

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: The Phoenician Alphabet in Archaeology. What did the Phoenicians record with their innovative script? (Josephine Quinn). The essay begins with some basics about the Phoenician alphabet, but then goes on to report something more exciting:
Now, however, excavations at the inland city of Idalion on Cyprus by Dr. Maria Hadjicosti of the Department of Antiquities have finally brought to light a large archive of Phoenician texts, preserved because they were written not on perishable materials but on fragments of marble, stone, and pottery. These texts are now being studied in Nicosia by Professor Maria Giulia Amadasi Guzzo of the Sapienza University of Rome and Dr. José Ángel Zamora López of the Spanish National Research Agency, who have published their preliminary findings in Italian in the latest issue of the journal Semitica et Classica.
Read on for more on the contents of the archive. It consists of administrative texts and personal documents. There are no literary texts so far.

This is an exciting discovery, which is new to me. I look forward to hearing more about it.

Cross-file under Phoenician Watch and Epigraphy.

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Anti-Semitic use of the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Anti-Semite Can Cite Talmud for His Purpose. Taken out of context, ancient Rabbinic laws—such as those on capital punishment discussed in this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ study—can attract the attention of those who hate us.

Two comments on the discussion of the death penalty in b. Sanhedrin. First, as I have said repeatedly before, the ancients lived in a world whose casual cruelty and brutality is hard for us to imagine. Second, the Talmud's horrific discussions of the merits of various forms of execution are all theoretical and often purely exegetical. I don't doubt that such executions were common in the larger world, but Jewish courts did not have the authority to impose the death penalty in this period.

The use of the Talmud by anti-Semites has come up from time to time at PaleoJudaica. Often such works also make liberal use of fake Talmudic quotes from non-existent tractates. Some discussion is here and links.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Jenkins, The Crucible of Faith

NEW BOOK FROM BASIC BOOKS: Crucible of Faith: The Ancient Revolution That Made Our Modern Religious World by Philip Jenkins. It is released today.
In The Crucible of Faith, Philip Jenkins argues that much of the Judeo-Christian tradition we know today was born between 250-50 BCE, during a turbulent "Crucible Era." It was during these years that Judaism grappled with Hellenizing forces and produced new religious ideas that reflected and responded to their changing world. By the time of the fall of the Temple in 70 CE, concepts that might once have seemed bizarre became normalized-and thus passed on to Christianity and later Islam. Drawing widely on contemporary sources from outside the canonical Old and New Testaments, Jenkins reveals an era of political violence and social upheaval that ultimately gave birth to entirely new ideas about religion, the afterlife, Creation and the Fall, and the nature of God and Satan.
Professor Jenkins has some comments on it at the Anxious Bench Blog here and here.

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Frustration with the Museum of the Bible and eBay

ROBERTA MAZZA HAD A FRUSTRATING WEEK.

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Monday, September 18, 2017

More on the proposed application of ancient Jewish law to Israeli law

POLITICS AND LAW: ISRAELI PROPOSAL TO MAKE LEGAL JUDGMENTS FROM THE BIBLE STIRS CONTROVERSY. Knesset Constitution Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky's proposal calls for courts to draw on “principles of Hebrew law” in instances that are not covered by existing law (Ben Lynfield, Jerusalem Post).
A two-pronged legislative initiative by Knesset Constitution Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky to make “Hebrew law” a basis for court judgments is under fire from Arab MKs and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which warn that such a move could heighten discrimination against Arabs.

[...]
Related posts are here and here.

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Review of Harris (ed.), Popular Medicine in Graeco-Roman Antiquity: Explorations

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: W. V. Harris (ed.), Popular Medicine in Graeco-Roman Antiquity: Explorations. Columbia studies in the classical tradition, 42. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2016. Pp. xv, 319. ISBN 9789004325586. $138.00. Reviewed by Kai Brodersen, Universität Erfurt​ (kai.brodersen@uni-erfurt.de).
This collection combines a substantial introduction by the editor and twelve essays of varying length and depth by experts in ancient medicine who were invited to a conference in Columbia University in 2014. The book focuses on popular medicine which the editor defines as “those practices aimed at averting or remedying illness that are followed by people who do not claim expertise in learned medicine (Gk. iatrike) and do not surrender their entire physical health to professional physicians (Gk. iatroi).” The book argues that our knowledge about ancient healthcare is “severely unbalanced” as there are “large bodies of evidence that concern elite/learned/rationalistic medicine on the one hand and temple medicine on the other”, while “the evidence about popular medicine ... is scattered, refractory and elusive” (vii). The book aims to redress the balance, and certainly succeeds in making classicists and ancient historians more aware of the evidence, and the models used to interpret it, and thus to further our understanding of classical medicine in a wider sense.
Note in particular, Catherine Hezser: "Representations of the Physician in Jewish Literature from Hellenistic and Roman Times."

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More on the announced return of the Iraqi Jewish archive to Iraq

RESPONSES: 'Jewish documents should be given to Israel, not Iraq.' US government plans to return ancient Jewish documents to Iraq, Israeli forum asks they be transferred to Israel instead (Itamar Tzur, JTA via Arutz Sheva).
Rodriguez was asked how appropriate treatment of the archive will be ensured.

"When the IJA is returned, the State Department will urge the Iraqi government to take the proper steps necessary to preserve the archive, and to make it available to members of the public to enjoy," he said in the statement.

The archive is set to be exhibited at the Jewish Museum of Maryland Oct. 15-Jan. 15. The exhibit page says the items include a Hebrew Bible with commentaries from 1568, a Babylonian Talmud from 1793 and an 1815 version of the Zohar, a Jewish mystical text.

"At this point, we have no new information for you about additional venues," Miriam Kleiman, program director for public affairs at the National Archives, told JTA in an email on Friday.

Groups representing Jews from Iraq decried the return date.

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More on Kurshan, If All the Seas Were Ink

TALMUD WATCH: Bringing ‘Daf Yomi’ to Life. And Vice Versa. In her new memoir ‘If All the Seas Were Ink,’ Ilana Kurshan recounts her time in Israel—one page of Talmud at a time (Beth Kissileff, Tablet Magazine).
If All the Seas Were Ink started as a series of blog posts that Kurshan wrote about her studies, beginning with limericks on the text of the day. Kurshan has always learned by writing poems; in high school, she wrote poetry about math that was published in magazines for math teachers. “Things resonate in an uncanny way, in light of the Gemara,” she told me. For her, the pages of the Talmud “mark milestones in my kids’ lives,” she said. The first birthday of her twin daughters fell at the time she began writing the book, for instance. When one of her twins got teeth before her sister and would bite her repeatedly, Kurshan said, “I was in the midst of the Talmud’s discussion of the shor muad, the ox which is known to have gored at least three times, and which the rabbis of the Talmud invoke to refer to one of four general categories of damages.” This understated sense of humor, comparing a 1-year-old biter with a goring ox, is typical of Kurshan’s oeuvre.
I noted a review of the book here.

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

The afterlife of Deuteronomy's command to read the Torah in public

PROF. AARON DEMSKY: Historical Hakhel Ceremonies and the Origin of Public Torah Reading (TheTorah.com).
Deuteronomy’s mitzvah of publicly reading the Torah on Sukkot every seven years appears in various forms in stories about King Josiah, King Agrippa, and Ezra the Scribe. The latter’s innovative ceremony served as the model for what became synagogue Torah-reading.

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The whereabouts of the libraries of NT textual critics

THE ETC BLOG: Where are they now? New Testament text-critics’ libraries (Peter Gurry). In case you were wondering.

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Hurtado on the crucifixion gem

LARRY HURTADO: Gemstone Crucifixion Image: A Recent Study.
In a recent article, Roy Kotansky provides a fresh analysis of an ancient gemstone that that is regarded as giving one of the earliest visual depictions of the crucified Jesus: Roy Kotansky, “The Magic ‘Crucifixion Gem’ in the British Museum,” Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 57.3 (2017): 631-59 (the article available here). (There is an online image of the gemstone in question here.)

[...]
(Note: the last link is not working, at least at the moment.) Professor Hurtado likes the article, but offers some corrections.

I have posted on the crucifixion gem here and (noting Dr. Kotansky's article) here.

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On reading Josephus in Greek

THE LOGOS ACADEMIC BLOG: How to read Josephus in Greek like a boss (Daniel Stevens). There's lots of good advice in this post.

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Septuagint Studies Supervision (1)

WILLIAM ROSS: SUPERVISORS & PROGRAMS FOR SEPTUAGINT STUDIES – PART I. I am not a specialist in Septuagint studies but, like some on this list, I could (and would be happy to) supervise PhD students on related matters such as textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible.

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Women in 1 Cor 11:2-16

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
Women and Worship in Paul’s Churches: Apostles, Prophets, and Teachers

I have now lost count of the number of times that I have read the work of a scholar on the topic of women in Paul’s churches who tells me that they find it easy or hard to ‘imagine’ a particular scenario in the early church and thus to reconstruct a scenario that seems to the writer to be the most ‘plausible’ based on the evidence before us. I imagine that they are assuming that I too will find these scenarios easy to ‘imagine’ as well, but this is not always the case.

See Also: Women and Worship at Corinth (Cascade Books, 2015).

By Lucy Peppiatt
Principal
Westminster Theological Centre
Past posts dealing with 1 Corinthians 11, coming at the subject from a somewhat different angle, are here and here.

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Hurtado on Kirk on memory and the Historical Jesus

LARRY HURTADO: Review/Critique of Ehrman, Bauckham and Bird on Memory and Jesus.
A newly-published article gives an incisive discussion of recent publications by Bart Ehrman, Richard Bauckham, and Michael Bird on memory, tradition and the historical Jesus: Alan Kirk, “Ehrman, Bauckham and Bird on Memory and the Jesus Tradition,” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 15.1 (2017): 88-114.

[...]
A PaleoJudaica post that involves Richard Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses is here.

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Dabir 04

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: "Issue 04 of DABIR (Digital Archive of Brief notes & Iran Review).Issue 04 of Dabir, an open access on-line journal for Iranian Studies, is out now. Dabir is published by the Jordan Center for Persian Studies."

As usual, there is nothing specific about ancient Judaism in this issue, but there are articles of background interest on matters such as Sogdian, Avestan, and the history of the Achamenid empire.

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Friday, September 15, 2017

ZOA opposes return of Iraqi Jewish Archive to Iraq

THE ZIONIST ORGANIZATION OF AMERICA: ZOA Opposes Tillerson Decision to “Return” Jewish Artifacts to Iraq. The Jewish Press publishes a statement by ZOA president Morton A. Klein.

Background here, with many links going back to the recovery of the archive in 2003.

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Cartagena's Punic festival

PUNIC WATCH: ROMANS AND CARTHAGINIAN, 15 – 24 September 2017 in Cartagena, Spain. The annual Punic festival in Cartagena begins today. Background and past posts on it are here and links. And more recent posts involving Cartagena and its Punic history are here and here.

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Berman on Inconsistency in the Torah

JOSHUA A. BERMAN IS INTERVIEWED by Shmuel Rosner in the Jewish Journal about Dr. Berman's recent book, Inconsistency in the Torah: Ancient Literary Convention and the Limits of Source Criticism (OUP, 2017). There are three posts:

The Inconsistency in the Torah exchange, part 1: How do we make sense of the Torah’s many contradictions?

The Inconsistency in the Torah exchange, part 2: Between biblical criticism and religious belief

The Inconsistency in the Torah exchange, part 3: ‘The Torah is a minefield of culturally dependent literary phenomena’

I recently noted an essay by Dr. Berman about his book here.

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Review of Kurshan, If All the Seas Were Ink

TALMUD WATCH: Memoir Provides Engaging Look at Talmudic Text (Marissa Stern, The Jewish Exponent).
If All the Seas Were Ink

Ilana Kurshan

$26.99, hardcover

St. Martin’s Press

Can you imagine what you’ll be doing seven-and-a- half years from now?

When Ilana Kurshan was coming off of a painful divorce, living in Jerusalem — she’d moved there from New York with her then-husband — a friend suggested she take up daf yomi, a practice in which you read one page of Babylonian Talmud a day.

[...]
PaleoJudaica and its readers have been following Adam Kirsch's column on the Daf Yomi cycle for the last five years.

UPDATE: Bad link fixed and attributions now filled in correctly. Sorry for the glitches.

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Historical Dictionary of the Hebrew Language

AT THE ACADEMY OF THE HEBREW LANGUAGE IN ISRAEL: Epic quest to document 'miracle' of Hebrew language (Mike Smith, AFP/PhysOrg). I noted the project here back in 2012.

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The Decline of Aramaic

ARAMAIC WATCH: Decline of a Lingua Franca (John McWhorter, The Atlantic, rprt. AINA).
If a Middle Eastern man from 2,500 years ago found himself on his home territory in 2015, he would be shocked by the modern innovations, and not just electricity, airplanes, and iPhones. Arabic as an official language in over two dozen countries would also seem as counterintuitive to him as if people had suddenly started keeping aardvarks as pets.

In our time-traveler's era, after all, Arabic was an also-ran tongue spoken by obscure nomads. The probability that he even spoke it would be low. There were countless other languages in the Middle East in his time that he'd be more likely to know. His idea of a "proper" language would have been Aramaic, which ruled what he knew as the world and served, between 600 and 200 B.C., as the lingua franca from Greece and Egypt, across Mesopotamia and Persia, all the way through to India. Yet today the language of Jesus Christ is hardly spoken anywhere, and indeed is likely to be extinct within the next century. Young people learn it ever less. Only about half a million people now speak Aramaic--compared to, for example, the five and a half million people who speak Albanian.

How does a language go from being so big to being on the verge of dying out entirely?

[...]

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On the cessation of miracles and women wearing trousers

PROF. ADMIEL KOSMAN: From Theology to Comedy: The Story of R. Adda bar Ahavah and Matun (TheGemara.com).
A talmudic discussion about why God no longer makes miracles ends with a surprising comedy of errors. What message is the Talmud trying to convey? And how is this story used in a 20th century halakhic responsum about women’s pants?

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Postdoc at HMML

ACADEMIC JOB: Post-Doctoral Fellow in Eastern Christian & Islamic Manuscript Cataloging (posted by David M. Calabro at the Hugoye List).
The Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML) at Saint John's University invites applications for the full-time, benefit-eligible position of Post-Doctoral Fellow in Eastern Christian and Islamic Manuscript Cataloging. This position will provide vital support for HMML's efforts to catalog recently digitized Eastern Christian manuscripts. Under the guidance of the Lead Cataloger of Eastern Christian Manuscripts, the Cataloging Fellow will undertake original cataloging of digital surrogates at HMML as well as revision of existing cataloging.

This is a grant funded position through June 30, 2018.
The manuscripts are in Arabic, Garshuni (Arabic written in Syriac script), and possibly in Syriac. Follow the link for further particulars. There is no specific closing date, but don't dawdle.

For some background on HMML, see this post on an earlier postdoc there.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Review of DesRosiers and Vuong (eds.), Religious Competition in the Greco-Roman World

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Nathaniel DesRosiers, Lily C. Vuong (ed.), Religious Competition in the Greco-Roman World. Writings from the Greco-Roman world Supplement series, 10. Atlanta: SBL Press, 2016. Pp. xviii, 326. ISBN 9781628371369. $44.95 (pb). Reviewed by Allan T. Georgia, Shaker Heights, OH (allan.georgia@gmail.com)
Tracing the role that competition played in the religious cultures of the Greco-Roman world is an enormous task. In a second volume exploring this theme, Nathaniel P. DesRosiers and Lily C. Vuong have collected essays that make important inroads in how religious subjects (of various kinds) competed and were subject to contest in the late ancient Mediterranean world.1 The collection is organized around four broad themes, with short essays introducing each section that tie the essays together. The collection is impressive and wide-ranging, which is appropriate to its purpose. This volume collects essay from a range of religious traditions, times and places under a unifying focus on how these traditions reflect competition—a concept whose commonality belies its highly complex dimensionality.

[...]
Ancient Judaism receives at least a little attention in this volume.

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A legal analysis of the Golb-DSS impersonation case

SECOND CIRCUIT CRIMINAL LAW BLOG: Of Dead Sea Scrolls and Criminal Impersonation (Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP). Some might be interested in this detailed legal analysis of the Raphael Golb identity-theft case and its various appeals. The post concludes:
This decision is worth a read for those interested in a host of different subjects: the AEDPA, the constitutional limits of the New York forgery statute, and the controversy over the authorship of the Dead Sea Scrolls. From a legal perspective, the opinion of the Court may be most cited for its narrowing of the New York criminal forgery statute. As the Court noted, many people have used pseudonyms for legitimate purposes, and the Circuit’s decision makes clear that such use will not be punished with the criminal law. There must be more than intent to deceive; there must be intent to cheat, defraud, or deprive by deception. The absence of such intent in connection with some of the controversial emails at the heart of this appeal led to the reversal of certain counts of conviction.
Background here and many links.

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The backstory of the burials at Ofra

ARCHAEOLOGY, MEET POLITICS: A 2,000-year-old murder leads to an illicit burial in the heart of the West Bank. When archaeologists said 7 women and a youth found in caves were slain by Romans during the Great Revolt, settlers secretly stepped in to illegally pay their last respects (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
It was a secret, illegal burial, planned and carried out by a Jewish Temple Mount activist who decades ago sat in jail for planning to blow up the Dome of the Rock. But the story of the seven women and one youth who were buried in the Jewish settlement of Ofra on February 6, 2017, is even more dramatic.

[...]
Background here and here.

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More on the emblem of the State of Israel

POLITICS AND ICONOGRAPHY: The National Emblem Of Israel (Saul Jay Singer, The Jewish Press). Last year I noted an article that also covered the ancient iconographic background of Israel's national emblem, with particular reference to the Arch of Titus. This article covers much of the same ground, but has an additional observation worth flagging:
Because the ultimate design does not seem to reflect religious practice or belief – no verses from the Torah, no reference to the God of Israel – many argue that the secularists/socialists prevailed over the religious/observant. In fact, however, the national emblem reflects one of the great mystical visions of the Prophet Zechariah, and the graphic combination of the menorah and olive branches has its genesis in Zechariah 4:1-3:
And the angel that spoke with me returned, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep. And he said unto me: “What do you see?” And I said: “I have seen and, behold, a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and its seven lamps thereon; there are seven pipes, yes, seven, to the lamps, which are upon the top thereof, and two olive-trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.”
I don't know if that is right, but it sounds plausible.

For many past PaleoJudaica posts pertaining to the Arch of Titus, as well as to ancient menorahs and representations of menorahs, start here and follow the links.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.