Thursday, April 19, 2018

Top finds of Israeli archaeology

HAPPY 70TH INDEPENDENCE DAY TO ISRAEL! ToI asks the experts: What are the most important finds of Israeli archaeology? From Dead Sea Scrolls to space-age tech, the dramatic history of the ever-developing field is indelibly entwined with that of the nation itself (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
Sukenik retrieved the other scrolls and fragments held by a Bethlehem antiquities dealer. After careful study, he held a press conference to share his initial findings in the Jewish Agency building in the middle of war-torn Jerusalem. A lengthy 1955 New Yorker article paints a picture of daily shelling of New Jerusalem neighborhoods, “between three and five every afternoon” — exactly the time and location of the press event.

“To attend it required some nerve. An American correspondent fainted in the street on the way, and had to be carried in by his colleagues. The reporters were flabbergasted when Sukenik, who seemed quite unperturbed by the flashing and banging about him, announced the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls,” writes journalist Edmund Wilson.

As Sukenik described his discovery, “a shell burst. The reporters had at first been rather peevish at having been asked to risk their skins for old manuscripts, but they ended by being impressed by the scholar’s overmastering enthusiasm.”
This article is not another top-ten list. It is much more nuanced and sophisticated. You should read it all.

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On Sennacherib's siege of Jerusalem

THE WORLD IS FULL OF HISTORY: How Mice May Have Saved Jerusalem 2,700 Years Ago From the Terrifying Assyrians. The entire region quailed before King Sennacherib, known for horribly torturing rebel monarchs, but he didn't kill King Hezekiah. Inquiring minds have been asking why ever since (Philippe Bohstrom, Haaretz).
At the end of the day, all accounts – the Assyrians, the Bible, and Herodotus, interpreted events. They didn't invent them.

Something unexpected happened to the Assyrian army, which the people of the ancient Near East attributed to divine meddling.

The ancient kings had to keep their subjects and gods happy and propaganda was the most effective way to distort history and cover up failure. Sennacherib's failure to conquer Jerusalem was embarrassing and was over-compensated by grand reliefs on palace walls and extravagant claims of plunder. The fact that one of the main instigators of the Assyrian rebellion, Hezekiah, remained on the throne, albeit denuded of his wealth and women, may say it all.
This is a good article and is well worth reading. It's in their premium section, but you can still read it with a free registration with Haaretz.

As for the siege of Jerusalem, something remarkable happened there. I don't know what. The best story is the one in which the Angel of the Lord struck down the Assyrian army. Do what you will with it.

Past posts on Sennacherib's siege of Jerusalem are here and here and follow the links.

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Ramos, Torah, Temple, and Transaction

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Dissertation Spotlight | Alex Ramos.
Ramos, Alex. Torah, Temple, and Transaction: Jewish Religious Institutions and Economic Behavior in Early Roman Galilee. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 2017.

My dissertation examines the regional economy of Galilee in the Early Roman period. It re-evaluates models and assumptions traditionally used to assess economic transactions and socioeconomic conditions in this region and time. Drawing on insights from scholars in Religious Studies who have demonstrated the artificiality of modern distinctions between religious, political, and economic spheres, I consider the ways that political and religious institutions and frameworks could have shaped the boundaries and incentives of economic behavior among Jews in Early Roman Galilee. Most crucially, I examine the vital role that religious rules and norms—namely the Torah commandments that govern cult practice at the Jerusalem Temple, pilgrimage for the festivals, and assorted aspects of agricultural production and consumption—could play in defining the parameters of economic necessities, structuring incentives for economic behavior, and defining a “bounded” economic rationality for Galilean Jews. By highlighting the role of religion in shaping the traditionally compartmentalized sphere of economy, this study indicates the value of integrating analysis of religion and economy not only for Early Roman Galilee, but also for ancient Mediterranean history and for Religious Studies more broadly.

[...]

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John Collins elected to the Academy of Arts and Sciences

KUDOS: Three Yale faculty elected members of American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Yale News). Among the three:
John J. Collins, the Holmes Professor of Old Testament Criticism and Interpretation
Collins has published many books and articles on the subjects of apocalypticism, wisdom, Hellenistic Judaism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. His class at the Yale Divinity School “What Are Biblical Values?” is a favorite of Divinity Schools students.
Congratulations to Professor Collins and to all of this year's inductees into the Academy.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Aqedah in a new Coptic magical papyrus

COPTIC WATCH: Ancient Egyptian Incantations Tell of Biblical Human Sacrifice (Owen Jarus, Live Science).
Scientists have deciphered what they describe as a 1,500-year-old 'magical papyrus' that was discovered near the pyramid of the Pharaoh Senwosret I.

The text dates to a time when Christianity was widely practiced in Egypt.The unnamed person(s) who wrote the incantations in Coptic, an Egyptian language that uses the Greek alphabet, invoked God many times.

[...]
The text seems to have an unusual, but not unprecedented, take on the Aqedah:
Several times in the papyrus God is called "the one who presides over the Mountain of the Murderer" a phrase that likely refers to a story in the Book of Genesis in which God told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah, wrote Michael Zellmann-Rohrer, a researcher in the department of classics at Oxford University, who described the magical papyrus in the journal Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde.

The Book of Genesis says that God stopped Abraham before he actually sacrificed his son. However in this papyrus the story is described in such a way that it sounds as if the sacrifice wasn't stopped wrote Zellmann-Rohrer noting that other texts from the ancient world also claim that the sacrifice was completed. "The tradition of a literal sacrifice seems in fact to have been rather widespread," Zellmann-Rohrer wrote.
For more on the tradition that Isaac was actually sacrificed, notably covered in Shalom Spiegel's book The Last Trial, see here and here.

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Monetizing King Hezekiah's Book of Healings

OLD TESTAMENT PSEUDEPIGRAPHA WATCH: Ancient Hebrew Medicine of Judean Desert Heals Body, Soul (Maayan Hoffman, Breaking Israel News).
Ancient Hebrew medicine was practiced in the Land of Israel at least until the second century BCE, explained Amir Kitron, a Doctor of Chemistry who has learned to combine the herbs of the Judean Desert to create natural and effective skin care products.

Kitron said ancient Hebrew medicine involved combining powerful herbs into creams, oils and ointments for topical use and healing.

“In the Bible, you see many things being topically applied,” said Kitron, who company, Herbs of Kedem leverages such techniques. “The Tanakh is our inspiration.”
What, you ask, has this to do with the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha? Read on:
Jewish tradition teaches about a “Book of Remedies, which contained the accumulated healing wisdom of the Jewish People. King Hezekiah hid this book because the cures were too effective. The medieval commentator Rashi explains that when a person became sick, he would follow what was written in the book and be healed, and as a result people’s hearts were not humbled before Heaven because of illness.
According to the Mishnah (Pesahim 4:10), King Hezekiah suppressed this book. I have mentioned it before here and here. I doubt that story, but it may have served as an catchy back-narrative for an actual book of remedies circulating in the time of the Mishnah.

This is not an endorsement of the modern remedies discussed in this article. Their merit is for you to decide. You should not look for medical advice from philologists.

Cross-file under Lost Books.

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J. Harold Ellens (1932-2018)

SAD NEWS: I received word earlier this week that Dr. J. Harold Ellens passed away on 14 April. Hal had a lifelong career as a practicing psychotherapist. He also maintained an active involvement in theology and biblical studies. In 2009, he completed a PhD in Second Temple Judaism with Gabriele Boccaccini at the University of Michigan. He was a charter member of the Enoch Seminar and he contributed much to the field. He will be missed by many. His Wikipedia entry is here and his personal website is here.

Resquiescat in pace.

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Free articles from Dead Sea Discoveries (2)

FOR YOU, SPECIAL DEAL (CONT'D): Free articles from Dead Sea Discoveries
To celebrate the 25th Volume of Dead Sea Discoveries, 25 articles from the past 25 Volumes will be available for free downloading during 2018.
The following 5 articles are now freely accessible until 15 June:
This is the second round of celebratory free articles. The first round (which is no longer available) was noted here. The current listing of free articles is as follows:
• Residential Caves At Qumran, Magen Broshi and Hanan Eshel
(Volume 6, Number 3)
• Angels at Sinai: Exegesis, Theology and Interpretive Authority,
Hindy Najman (Volume 7, Number 3)
• Pliny on Essenes, Pliny on Jews, Robert A. Kraft
(Volume 8, Number 3)
• Scholars, Soldiers, Craftsmen, Elites?: Analysis of French Collection of Human Remains from Qumran, Susan Guise Sheridan (Volume 9, Number 2)
• From Literature to Scripture: Reflections on the Growth of a Text's Authoritativeness, Eugene Ulrich (Volume 10, Number 1)
Follow the first link above to access them.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Talmud on social hierarchy

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: When a King Sins. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, the surprising origins of power’s responsibility to the governed. Plus: How the Kingdom of Judea became the Religion of Judaism.
The Talmud was the product of a Jewish society strongly concerned with hierarchy and deference. That has been clear in many ways throughout the Daf Yomi cycle, but never more so than last week, when we finished the brief Tractate Horayot. Horayot means “decisions,” and the tractate begins by discussing how a court can atone for making an incorrect ruling. In its last pages, however, the tractate turns to the subject of protocol: in Jewish society, who outranks whom? And what happens when Sages, who are notoriously proud and touchy, get into a contest over who is the most learned? At the same time, as often happens, the end of the tractate serves as a kind of grab-bag of moral sayings and aggadah on various subjects.

[...]
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Probation, not jail, for Golb

THE RAPHAEL GOLB CASE: Case of Dead Sea Scrolls, online aliases ends with probation (AP). In the end, Mr. Golb was sentenced to three years of probation (already served) rather than two months in jail.

Background on this long, strange, sad case is here with many links.

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Excavating the United Monarchy by naked mole rat?

ARCHAEOLOGY: Did King David's United Monarchy Exist? Naked Mole Rats Uncover Monumental Evidence Surveying by mole rat burrowing in studying Tel ‘Eton in the Hebron hills, sways the debate toward the existence of a major United Monarchy in the Davidic and Solomonic eras, archaeologist claims (Nir Hasson, Haaretz).
Did King David even exist, let alone his fabled son, the wise King Solomon? And if they existed, did they rule over a powerful, united Jewish kingdom with its capital in Jerusalem? The truth is that to this day, no categorical proof of either the kings or the great kingdom has ever been found, leaving aside one suggestive engraving that some believe says "House of David". Also, the interpretation of archaeological findings from their purported era, the 10th century B.C.E. has been controversial, to put it politely.

Now the discovery of a second monumental building confidently dated to the Davidic period has been announced, in a Canaanite town that apparently had allied with a powerful Judahite kingdom. The discovery was made with the help of naked mole rats, little burrowing rodents endemic to the region.

Skeptics claim that no fortifications, public works or signs of statehood have been found in the region of Judah from the Davidic era. Now, claim Bar-Ilan University archaeologists excavating a monumental structure at Tel ‘Eton, near the Hebron hills in the central Israeli lowlands – they have.

They believe that structures dated to later times, may have actually originated earlier. The Bar-Ilan team argues that they found evidence of that very thing, with the help of a system they developed – mapping by mole rat.

[...]
The naked mole rats dig their deep burrows and archaeologists sift the resulting dirt mounds.

Faunal-assisted archaeology seems to be a thing nowadays. We have also recently seen excavation by porcupine and important archaeological inferences from gerbil bones and pigeon poop.

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

Finds on the Sanhedrin Trail

ARCHAEOLOGY: New Interactive ‘Sanhedrin Trail’ Yields Ancient Oil Lamp Adorned with Menorah (JNi.Media).
Students who participated in preparing a new archaeological hiking trail discovered a 1,400-year-old oil lamp bearing the symbol of a menorah. The discovery was just one of many side-benefits of the unique interactive trail that thousands of young people have been preparing and excavating.

The Sanhedrin Trail—offered by the Israel Antiquities Authority on the occasion of Israel’s 70th Independence Day—will be accompanied by a unique web application that will serve as a readily accessible “independent guide” in the spectacular landscapes of the Galilee, and will offer a different sort of hiking experience.

[...]
The finds also include a gold coin of Suleiman the Magnificent.

Background on the Sanhedrin Trail is here.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Was Pharaoh's heart hardened?

PHILOLOGOS: Has the English Translation of "Pharaoh's Heart Was Hardened" Been Wrong All Along? Figuring out the right way to characterize Pharaoh’s heart (Mosaic Magazine). Philologos explores an interesting suggestion that I don't recall seeing before. Published during Passover, but I only just found it.

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Final (?) appeal on the Golb-DSS impersonation case

THE RAPHAEL GOLB CASE: Strange case of online impersonation in Dead Sea Scrolls feud set to end. Ten years ago, Raphael Golb created fake online accounts to go after the detractors of his scholar father; courts have spent the years since trying to figure out what he did wrong (AP). The court is supposed to decide the latest on this case today. That's supposed to end it. We'll see.

Background on this strange, sad case is here and many links.

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Research positions on Coptic magic at Würzburg

NETWORK FOR THE STUDY OF ESOTERICISM IN ANTIQUITY: TWO POSITIONS IN COPTIC MAGIC AT WÜRZBURG.
These positions will be part of a new in-depth project studying “magical” texts from Late Antique and early Islamic Egypt written in Coptic, and will involve the creation of a database of published and unpublished texts, the edition and re-edition of original manuscripts, and the production of research situating them within their historical, social and intellectual context. The appointed applicants will work with the team co-ordinator (Dr. Korshi Dosoo).
Follow the link for details and application information. The deadline is 31 May 2018. Cross-file under Coptic Watch.

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Materializing Ancient Judaism

BELATEDLY: UM Frankel Center Event: Materializing Ancient Judaism Symposium. This conference took place on 9-10 April at the University of Michigan. You can see the program of papers here.

I thought I posted a notice of it some time ago, but it appears that I did not. So you have it now. I trust it went well and that we can look forward to a publication in due course.

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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Schiffman on Shusan

PROFESSOR LAWRENCE H. SCHIFFMAN: SEEKING SHUSHAN. This post has a reprint of his recent article in Ami Magazine. The Persian city of Shushan (Susa) is the scene of a number of events in Second Temple Jewish biblical literature.

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Dever on the Biblical minimalism-maximalism debate

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Biblical Minimalism and Maximalism in Scholarship. The legacy of BAR’s founding editor, Hershel Shanks.
In his latest BAR article, [archaeologist William] Dever took on the task of summarizing the Biblical minimalism-maximalism debate, which originated in Europe in the early 1990s. One more time, Dever introduces the general public to the crucial arguments about what Biblical scholars or archaeologists would consider a fact or a construct; what may have been an early historical reality or later myth; how the so-called low chronology (now mostly abandoned) moved all the archaeological evidence from the tenth to the ninth century B.C.E. stripping thus the figures of Saul, David, and Solomon of any historicity. Dever even hints that archaeological digs at Khirbet Qeiyafa and Tel Rehov have since provided a solid evidence for advanced culture and centralized government as early as the tenth century, the time of the Biblical King David.
As usual, the full article, "For King and Country: Chronology and Minimalism," is behind the subscription wall. But this essay gives you a taste of it and some related links.

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Luke-Acts and the Great Isaiah Scroll

THE BIBLE PLACES BLOG: Luke & Acts (9): Book of Isaiah (Michael J. Caba). The connection is tenuous, but this post includes some good links on 1QIsaa.

Past PaleoJudaica posts involving the Great Isaiah Scroll are here, here, and here and links.

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More from Hicks-Keaton on Joseph and Aseneth

NEW ARTICLE IN THE JOURNAL FOR THE STUDY OF JUDAISM: Jill Hicks-Keaton, Aseneth between Judaism and Christianity: Reframing the Debate. (JSJ 49 [2018]: 1-34).
Abstract
The question of whether Joseph and Aseneth is “Jewish or Christian?” is the central frame in which the provenance of this tale has traditionally been sought. Yet, such a formulation assumes that “Judaism” and “Christianity” were distinct entities without overlap, when it is now widely acknowledged that they were not easily separable in antiquity for quite some time. I suggest that the question of whether Joseph and Aseneth is Jewish or gentile is more profitable for contextualizing Aseneth’s tale. This article offers fresh evidence for historicizing its origins in Judaism of Greco-Roman Egypt. Placing the narrative’s concerns for boundary-regulation alongside the discursive projects of other ancient writers (both Jewish and gentile Christian) who engaged the story of Joseph suggests that the author of Joseph and Aseneth was likely a participant in a Hellenistic Jewish interpretive tradition in Egypt that used Joseph’s tale as a platform for marking and maintaining boundaries.
This article is an adaptation of the first chapter of her new monograph, Arguing with Aseneth, which I noted here. The article is probably behind a subscription wall. I have access to it through my institution.

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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Interview with Geoffrey Khan

INTERACTION OF TRADITIONS BLOG: Interview with Dr Geoffrey Khan (Srecko Koralija).
I am very pleased to publish an interview with Dr Geoffrey Khan, an expert in the field of Semitic studies, and the Regius Professor of Hebrew at the University of Cambridge.

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Review of Marciak, Sophene, Gordyene, and Adiabene

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Michal Marciak, Sophene, Gordyene, and Adiabene: Three 'Regna Minora' of Northern Mesopotamia between East and West. Impact of empire, 26. Leiden: Brill, 2017. Pp. xv, 581. ISBN 9789004350700. $184.00. Reviewed by David Woods, University College Cork (d.woods@ucc.ie).
This book is a result of research funded by the National Science Centre in Poland and conducted at the University of Rzeszów from 2012 to 2015. It does exactly what the title suggests, discussing the geography and history of the three neighbouring regions of Sophene, Gordyene, and Adiabene in northern Mesopotamia during the period from about 200 BC to about AD 600. There is no single, overarching argument, and the result is essentially a reference work for anyone interested in the development of these regions. Many of the chapters have already been published in a variety of academic journals during the period from 2011 to 2016. However, the journals were sometimes relatively obscure, and it is good to have revised versions of the original papers drawn together to form a larger, coherent whole. The author draws upon a wide range of literary sources in a number of languages, primarily in Greek, Latin, Syriac, and Armenian. He also draws upon a wide range of material sources and the latest archaeological data. The result is an indispensable tool for anyone interested in the geography and history of northern Mesopotamia.

[...]
The material on Adibene (modern day Erbil) will be of particular interest to PaleoJudaica readers. The ruler of the kingdom of Adiabene, Queen Helena, converted to Judaism in the first century CE. Background here and links.

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

Soar over Masada

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: Soar Over a Legendary Fortress in the Judean Desert. This remote palace complex of Masada looks as dramatic as the stories behind it (Abby Sewell). Nice video and a good summary essay to go with it.

For some relevant PaleoJudaica posts on Masada, see here and links. For another flyover video of Masada, see here.

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

PBS documentary on Hannibal

PUNIC WATCH: How (and Where) Did Hannibal Cross the Alps? Experts Finally Have Answers (Mindy Weisberger, Live Science).
For over 2,000 years, historians have argued over the route used by the Carthaginian general Hannibal to guide his army — 30,000 soldiers, 37 elephants and 15,000 horses — over the Alps and into Italy in just 16 days, conducting a military ambush against the Romans that was unprecedented in the history of warfare.

Such an achievement required careful planning and strategizing, but with little physical evidence of the journey available today and few recorded details of the crossing, uncertainty remains about how it was accomplished.

However, in "Secrets of the Dead: Hannibal in the Alps," a new documentary airing on PBS tonight (April 10), a team of experts takes a fresh look at Hannibal’s incredible trip across treacherous mountain terrain. Together, they re-create his long-lost route and reveal the latest discoveries about his historic accomplishment — and depict the famous elephants that played a critical part in his victory against the Romans.

[...]
For more on the coprological evidence for Hannibal's route, see here. There are many past PaleoJudaica posts on Hannibal and his campaign in the Second Punic War. For some of them see that post, plus here, here, here, here, and here, and follow the links

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Friday, April 13, 2018

Adele Reinhartz is breaking up with John

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Reflections on My Journey with John | A Retrospective from Adele Reinhartz.
I am grateful to the editors of Ancient Jew Review for the opportunity to reflect on my long engagement with the Gospel of John. The invitation comes at an appropriate moment: I have just submitted a book manuscript on John, called Cast Out of the Covenant: Jews and Anti-Judaism in the Gospel of John, which will be published by Lexington/Fortress Press later this year.[1] This book concludes what is very likely my last major project on the Fourth Gospel. While I already have made commitments to several conference papers and articles on John, I do not plan another sustained book-length study. In effect, having long had a conflicted relationship with the “Beloved Disciple,”[2] – since my doctoral research in the late 1970s -- it is time to break up. For this reason, it seems like the right time to reflect on my relationship with the “other man” in my life (as my husband refers to “John”).

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Ryan on Jesus and early synagogues

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
Jesus and Early Synagogues

When we situate Jesus’ ministry within what we know of early synagogues and their functions, we can infer that Jesus’ teaching and proclamation would have been open to discussion and debate for the assembly to decide whether to accept or reject it, just like any other proposition put forward in a public synagogue. We must remember that public synagogues represented the town, and that the decisions made in local synagogue assemblies were thus made for the town as a whole. If Jesus could persuade the local assemblies to accept his teaching and proclamation of the outbreak of the Kingdom of God, and to repent in light of it (Mark 1:14-15), it would have been tantamount to the corporate acceptance of the proclamation by that town.

See Also: The Role of the Synagogue in the Aims of Jesus (Fortress Press, 2017).

By Jordan J. Ryan
Assistant Professor of New Testament
University of Dubuque Theological Seminary
April 2018
Cross-file under New Book.

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Review of Worthington, Ptolemy I

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Ian Worthington, Ptolemy I: King and Pharaoh of Egypt. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. Pp. xiv, 253. ISBN 9780190202330. $35.00. Reviewed by Charlotte Van Regenmortel, University of Leicester (cvr1@le.ac.uk).
Of all Alexander's successors, Ptolemy is perhaps the one most worthy of a biography. Having been born into a relatively humble family, he rose to become one of Alexander's bodyguards, and eventually Pharaoh of Egypt. His life, furthermore, falls within a timespan that incorporates the early Hellenistic world's major developments. From the rise of Philip of Macedon and the campaigns of Alexander to the solidification of the Hellenistic monarchies, Ptolemy was there. With this book, Ian Worthington, an expert on the period, provides the first biography of Ptolemy I since W. M. Ellis's Ptolemy of Egypt (1994). Although the influence of Ptolemy, who is known as patron of the arts, economic innovator, and sophisticated administrator, cannot be downplayed, a full-length biography proves to be a difficult enterprise. The nature of the source material, from which Ptolemy is largely absent until the death of Alexander, is problematic when the aim is a singular focus on Ptolemy, as can be seen from this book.
Some knowledge of the Diadochoi (the "Successors" to Alexander the Great), especially Ptolemy I and Seleucus I, is important as background for Second Temple Judaism. Both are mentioned, although not named, in the Book of Daniel.

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"Holocaust" or Shoah?

BELATEDLY FOR YOM HASHOAH: The Slaughter of Six Million Jews: A Holocaust or a Shoah? (Prof. Zev Garber, TheTorah.com).
What do the terms “holocaust” and “shoah” mean, and what do they reveal about how we view the respective roles of God and the Nazis in the Jewish genocide?
Yom HaShoah/Holocaust Remembrance Day was on the 11th-12 of this month this year (27 Nisan). Another post on the question of whether "Holocaust" is an appropriate term for the slaughter of millions of Jews by the Nazis is here. Professor Garber's essay is the most thorough discussion of the issue that I can recall reading.

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