Thursday, June 22, 2017

Exhibition of Roman emperor's coins at Israel Museum

NUMISMATICS: Coins of the Realm: Heads (And Tails) of the Roman Empire on Display at Israel Museum. Roman emperors shown as they really looked – while their slogans could be taken from today’s headlines (Nir Hasson, Haaretz).
This coin [of the idiosyncratic Emperor Elagabalus] now be viewed in a new exhibit at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, starting on Thursday. ”Faces of Power: Coins from the Victor Adda Collection” displays 75 gold coins of Roman emperors and their wives never shown to the public before. The collection of gold coins was donated to the Israel Museum by Johanna Adda Cohen, an 89-year-old resident of Rome. Her father, Victor Adda, was a Jewish businessman originally from Egypt and he collected the coins in the first half of the 20th century. When the family moved to Italy from Egypt, they smuggled the coins out in the pockets of relatives and friends.

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T. Asher: Don't be evil.

READING ACTS: Testament of Asher. This Testament is particularly interested in the "two ways" ethical framework.

Earlier posts in Phil Long's blog series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha are noted here and links. He has been posting recently on the Greek Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Asher is number ten. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Burrus on Jewish sarcophagi

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Dissertation Spotlight | Sean P. Burrus.
Sean P. Burrus, Remembering the Righteous: Sarcophagus Sculpture and Jewish Identities in the Roman World (Duke University, 2017).

... In Remembering the Righteous: Sarcophagus Sculpture and Jewish Identities in the Roman World, I examined two groups of sarcophagi from the Jewish communities of Beth She'arim and Rome and explored how the different provincial and cosmopolitan contexts of each influenced the choices and tastes of Jewish patrons. ...

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Looking at potsherds in archaeological digs

EPIGRAPHY AND ARCHAEOLOGY: (Adam Abrams/JNS.org).
The recent discovery of a previously invisible inscription on the back of an ancient pottery shard, that was on display at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum for over 50 years, has prompted Tel Aviv University researchers to consider what other hidden inscriptions may have been discarded during archaeological digs, before the availability of high-tech imaging.
This as a result of the story about the newly-recovered text on Arad Ostracon 16 which I noted here and here. Here's what they're thinking of doing about it:
As a result of the new discovery, researchers will approach how they handle pottery shards found during archaeological digs differently.

“Maybe they should just image everything,” [Tel Aviv University applied mathematician Arie] Shaus said. “Using low-cost equipment like the camera used in this discovery would allow each excavation to buy or construct one… or at least create a filtering system whereby only samples of pottery, which could have been used for writing, are saved and scanned. Maybe we have lost more inscriptions than we have found, but didn’t figure it out until now. It’s tragic, but we are also optimistic, because now we have the technology to do this.”
Bring it on!

A more primitive method for identifying inscribed ostraca is to dip each one in water. That is supposed to sometimes makes otherwise unnoticeable writing stand out. When I worked at excavations in Israel in the 1980s as a lowly staff member, I dipped approximately a zillion potsherds. I never found any writing. This new technology sounds more promising.

Cross-file under Technology Watch.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Graduation 2017

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE CLASS OF 2017!

This week is full of graduation ceremonies at the University of St Andrews. Many PhD students in the School of Divinity graduated. Well done!

So did many undergraduates. Among them are a number of Semitic philologists whom I have taught over the last several years. Here are some of them with me at the Divinity garden party yesterday.


Congratulations to (L to R) Sarah, Allison, Shelby, and Barbora. They are heading off now to do various things, but some will continue with Semitics. In the autumn Sarah begins a Master's degree in Biblical Studies at Kings College London and Barbora begins a PhD in Comparative Semitics at the University of Chicago. It has been great to work with all of them and I wish them the best in their future endeavors.

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Bible Cat revisited

REMNANT OF GIANTS: Biblical Cats Again. With reference to my post On cat domestication yesterday, Deane Galbraith reminds us that he once argued that the lilith-creature in Isaian 34:14 could be a cat. I see that I noted that post back in December of 2015. I usually check my own archive for related posts, but I guess I forgot this time.

Deane doesn't refer to any secondary literature, so I assume this is his otherwise unpublished idea. But he makes a plausible circumstantial case that lilit (לילית) in Isaiah could refer to some type of cat.

That said, it is a creature that dwells in ruins, which would apply more naturally to a wild cat then a domesticated cat — especially in antiquity when there was no archaeological tourism. Okay, I cannot rule out that Lilith in Isaiah was a cat. But I need more evidence before I'm willing to backtrack on my statement yesterday that the Hebrew Bible never mentions domesticated cats.

Past PaleoJudaica posts on Lilith are here and many links.


Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Inheritance, terumah, and the transgendered in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: How a Cucumber Decides Whether a Son Inherits Over a Donkey. With surprising analogous thinking, ancient Talmudic sages tackled very modern questions—by accident or foresight, depending on how liberal your views—of transgender rights, the rights of unborn fetuses, women’s rights, and wealth distribution.
This week, in chapter nine of Tractate Bava Batra, we saw an example of how the laws of teruma ["heave offering"] can serve the rabbis to elucidate a very different area of halachah. Chapter Nine continues the discussion of the laws of inheritance, addressing the status of bequests promised to a child born posthumously. The Mishna in Bava Batra 140b imagines a situation in which a dying man who is an expectant father bequeaths money to his unborn child, saying, “If my wife gives birth to a male, the offspring shall receive a gift of 100 dinars,” or “If my wife gives birth to a female the offspring shall receive 200 dinars.” The law is that these are binding bequests, and once the children are born they receive the designated amount from the estate.

This is clear enough, but the rabbis identify two possible ambiguities. What if the wife gives birth to twins, a boy and a girl? In this case, both children are given the promised sum, 100 dinars for the boy and 200 for the girl. And what if the child is born neither male nor female? What if it is a tumtum, the legal term for a person whose sex organs are concealed and is thus of indeterminate gender?
He does come back to the terumah part and it does involve cucumbers.

There's more on the tumtum here.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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T. Gad

READING ACTS: Testament of Gad.

I have noted previous posts in Phil Long's blog series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha here and links. The series has recently focused on the Greek Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

On cat domestication

ARCHAEOLOGY MAGAZINE: DNA Study Reveals Tale of Cat Domestication.
Most house cats alive today descend from cats that can be traced back to Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.
I think it is interesting that Israel is on the list. Here's a fun fact for you. Although the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament do mention dogs from time to time, generally disparagingly, they never once mention domestic cats. Sure, there are references to lions and other big cats, but not domesticated ones. The word "cat" never even appears.

Cats are mentioned in the Old Testament Apocrypha in the Letter of Jeremiah 22.

Offhand, I can't think of any references to domesticated cats in any Old Testament Pseudepigrapha or New Testament Apocrypha. But I don't have comprehensive concordances for these and there may be references that I don't remember. If you find any, drop me a note.

UPDATE (21 June): A cat in Isaiah? Maybe.

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The Forging Antiquity Project

EVANGELICAL TEXTUAL CRITICISM BLOG: Forging Antiquity Website and Blog (Tommy Wasserman). With information on the Macquarie University/Heidelberg University project. I have already noted the Markers of Authenticity Blog back at the end of 2016.

Also, the post has full details about some SBL sessions in November which deal with the problems of forgeries and unprovenanced artifacts.

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T. Naphtali

READING ACTS: Testament of Naphtali (Phil Long). As I have mentioned before, there is a medieval Hebrew version of the Greek Testament of Naphtali which perhaps shares a Jewish Second-Temple-era source with the Greek text.

In the second volume of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures (MOTP2) we hope to gather all the ancient and medieval Hebrew material that is possibly related to the Greek Testament of Naphtali.

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

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Melville's Gnostic apocryphon?

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Alternative Scriptures: Melville’s “Lost Gnostic Poem.” (Philip Jenkins). Melville's poem wasn't lost. He gave it that title.

Were the Albigenses descended from the ancient Gnostics? Who knows? Some people thought so and Melville hints at the idea in his poem.

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

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Monday, June 19, 2017

"Persepolis Administrative Archives"

BIBLIOGRAPHICA IRANICA: Persepolis Administrative Archives. Notice of a new article in the Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2017. Looks like a useful overview and bibliography.

For past posts on the Persepolis Fortification Archive and its its complex and contentious political history start here and here and follow the links. It is not directly relevant to ancient Judaism, but it provides us with background information on scribal practice and Aramaic in Iran in the Persian Period.

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News on Rabbi Steinsaltz's recovery

UPDATE: RABBI STEINSALTZ LAUNCHES NEW ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF TORAH (Jeremy Sharon, Jerusalem Post). The new translation of the Torah is noteworthy, but so is this:
Steinsaltz himself did not travel to the event since he is still recovering from a severe stroke he suffered in December 2016, although he has partially returned to work of late, and has begun authoring new articles.

The rabbi is perhaps best known for his monumental translation and elucidation of the Talmud, but has also authored more than 60 books on Jewish thought, life and mysticism and is an Israel Prize laureate.
Continued good wishes for his recovery.

For background on Rabbi Steinsaltz and his work, especially his Hebrew and English translations of the Talmud, aee here and links.

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Translation of the Dialogue of Simon and Theophilus

ALIN SUCIU: Guest Post: Anthony Alcock – Disputation between Simon a Jew and Theophilus a Christian. A translation of the Latin text with a very brief introduction. Roger Pearse notes the post and gives additional background information.

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Chiesa, Filologia storica della Bibbia ebraica

EVANGELICAL TEXTUAL CRITICISM BLOG: Chiesa’s Historical Philology of the Hebrew Bible (Peter Gurry). It's good to know about these things. I hope there will be an English translation someday.

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Review of Coşkun and McAuley (eds.), Seleukid Royal Women

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Altay Coşkun, Alex McAuley (ed.), Seleukid Royal Women: Creation, Representation and Distortion of Hellenistic Queenship in the Seleukid Empire. Historia Einzelschriften, 240. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2016. Pp. 322. ISBN 9783515112956. €62.00. Reviewed by Branko F. van Oppen de Ruiter, Allard Pierson Museum, University of Amsterdam (b.f.vanoppen@uva.nl).
This collection brings together a selection of papers on Seleucid queenship delivered at the fourth “Seleucid Study Day” workshop held at McGill University, Montreal, on February 20-23, 2013. Apart from a preface, prologue and introduction, the volume’s twelve chapters are divided into three parts: (1.) the first generation of queens, i.e., Apame and Stratonice I; (2.) the representation of royal women, i.e., Laodice I, Cleopatra Tryphaena, and female portraiture; and (3.) queenship on the periphery of the empire. In all, sixteen authors (eight of whom are from Canada) have contributed to the publication, which additionally comes with a substantial bibliography (31 pp.), three indices (13 pp.) and four genealogies.
The Book of Daniel has a lot of interest in the Diadochoi (the generals that succeeded Alexander the Great) and their royal lines. Two of the women who feature in the book under review, Laodice I and Berenice II, were involved in the events of Daniel 11:6-9. Like the other people in that chapter, they are not named.

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Menē Inc. weighed in the balance?

ARAMAIC WATCH: (Digital Journal).
TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - June 15, 2017) - Goldmoney Inc. (TSX:XAU) ("Goldmoney"), a precious metal financial service and technology company, today announced its investment in Menē Inc. ("Menē"), a newly formed direct-to-consumer fine jewelry venture. Menē will manufacture and retail timeless 24 karat gold jewelry online through an innovative first-to-market user experience and transparent pricing model.

[...]
Naturally the Aramaic word caught my eye. The press release goes on to explain the name:
Menē - The Name

Menē ("meh-ney") is an ancient Aramaic word with a deep meaning that links jewelry, gold, money, and savings. A "Menē", reflecting 567 grams of pure gold, is the first written word for "money" as codified in the Code of Hammurabi approximately 4,000 years ago. For much of written history, humans exchanged value by pricing goods and services in units of "menē", which provided a predefined measurement of gold. Those units were often ultimately settled as pure 24 karat jewelry that could be readily exchanged. This ancient tradition, though often misunderstood by economists, is alive and well in the East where pure gold jewelry powers a savings economy in which jewelry is bought, sold, exchanged, and borrowed against as an asset that maintains its purchasing power.
Yes it is an old word for a unit of weight and the information about the Code of Hammurapi is interesting. But to modern people the word is best know from the biblical phrase "Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin" in the story of the writing on the wall in Daniel 5. It was the text of the writing and its (somewhat esoteric) interpretation was "You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting." The "you" was the kingdom of Babylon, which fell to the Persians that night. (See here especially, but also here and here.)

Now Menē Inc. sounds like a nice company and I wish them well. But I wonder if they fully thought through the implications of their name. Given what even minimally biblically literate people will hear in their heads when they encounter it, it is not what I would have chosen for my brand.

But that's just me. I hope I'm wrong and that Menē is successful.

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DeConick on Czachesz, Cognitive Science and the New Testament

THE FORBIDDEN GOSPELS BLOG: Book Note: Cognitive Science and the New Testament (István Czachesz). April DeConick reviews an important new textbook. The application of cognitive psychology to the study of the ancient past is a relatively new approach. It has contributed much to our understanding already and it shows great promise.

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Phoenician textual criticism

PHOENICIAN WATCH (SORT OF): Phoenix: A New Hotbed of Textual Criticism (Peter Gurry, Evangelical Textual Criticism Blog). And that is a good thing. Congratulations to Peter and his colleagues at Phoenix Seminary.

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Omarkhali, The Yezidi Religious Textual Tradition

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Yezidi Religious Textual Tradition. Notice of a new book: Omarkhali, Khanna. 2017. The Yezidi Religious Textual Tradition: From Oral to Written. Categories, Transmission, Scripturalisation and Canonisation of the Yezidi Oral Religious Texts with Samples of Oral and Written Religious Texts and with Audio and Video Samples on CD-ROM. (Studies in Oriental Religions 72). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

Cross-file under Yazidi Watch. Earlier work on the Yazidis by Khanna Omarkhali has been noted here. For past PaleoJudaica posts on the Yazidis, their Gnosticism-themed religion, and their tragic fate in the hands of ISIS, start here and follow the many links.

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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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