Sunday, May 27, 2018

Some "Oxyrhynchus papyri" are not from Oxyrhynchus

VARIANT READINGS: The Oxyrhynchus Papyri of Dubious Provenance and Editorial Choice (Brent Nongbri). Excerpt:
But, to bring it back to my original point: If there are such unpublished pieces, the majority of which probably have certain Oxyrhynchite provenance, why are editors choosing to publish pieces of dubious provenance in The Oxyrhynchus Papyri series? I’m genuinely curious.
It's a good question. The questions about the no-longer-first-century Mark fragment just published in the series are helping to draw attention to it.

Dr. Nongbri has been posting a lot lately on the Oxyrhynchus papyri, so go have a look at his blog.

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Moss and Baden on the no-longer-first-century Mark fragment

CANDIDA MOSS AND JOEL BADEN: Was One of World’s Oldest Bible Passages Found in a Garbage Dump? On Thursday, the Oxford-based Oxyrhynchus Society announced the discovery of a second-century piece of the Gospel of Mark from a dig in an Egyptian garbage dump (The Daily Beast).
Yesterday, the Egyptian Exploration Society, the nonprofit organization that acts as curators of the Oxford-based Oxyrhynchus Society, announced a new discovery: a late second- or early third-century CE fragment of the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark, just published in The Oxyrhynchus Papryi Volume 83 (2018), edited by distinguished Oxford academics Daniela Colomo and Dirk Obbink. In what must be the archetypical example of the expression “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” this pile of ancient refuse has produced one of the oldest fragments of the oldest Gospel story (Mark is believed by scholars to be the earliest Gospel.) This makes it a substantial and significant discovery for those interested in the history of Christianity, the evidence of the dating of the books of the Bible, and the history of book-making. But it also comes with a substantial mystery surrounding its origins, its dating, and its potential connection to the ubiquitous Green family, the owners of Hobby Lobby and the founders of the Museum of the Bible.
This story is labyrinthine but worth trying to follow. As usual, Professors Moss and Baden lay out the evidence as clearly as possible.

Background on this early (but not first-century) Mark fragment is here and links.

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On Queen Helena of Adiabene

DR. MALKA SIMKOVICH: Queen Helena of Adiabene and Her Sons in Midrash and History (TheTorah.com).
Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews, tells the story of Queen Helena of Adiabene and her sons Kings Izates II and Monobazus II, and how they converted to Judaism in the mid-first century C.E. Rabbinic literature preserves several anecdotes about this family. However, the rabbis knew little about them, and grappled with their insider/outsider status.
Regular PaleoJudaica readers are well acquainted with the intriguing figure of Queen Helena of Adiabene. This essay collects and evaluates the accounts and legends about her.

For past posts on Queen Helena and Adiabene, start here and follow the links.

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On the History of the Rechabites

READING ACTS: History of the Rechabites. Another installment in Phil Long's current summer series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Past posts in the series were noted here and links.

I have argued for a long time that the History of the Rechabites (which is embedded in the Story of Zosimus) is a Christian composition. For specific, see my 2003 conference papers: "Is the Story of Zosimus Really a Jewish Composition?" and "The Rechabites in Patristic and Parabiblical Literature." Phil mentions Chris Knights, who also wrote on this work. He and I corresponded on the subject here and here, also in 2003. Several years ago Dr. Knights published an article revising his position in agreement with mine.

Another project on this text was noted here.

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Saturday, May 26, 2018

"First-Century Mark" is not first century

THAT FRAGMENT OF THE GOSPEL OF MARK that was rumored to date to the first century has now been published in a volume of Oxyrhynchus papyri. The editors date it to the late second or early third century. That's still pretty early for a New Testament manuscript, but first century it is not. The story of the fragment is complicated. For details see the two recent posts at the Evangelical Textual Criticism Blog:

“First-Century Mark,” Published at Last? [Updated] (Elijah Hixson)

Dan Wallace responds on (formerly) ‘First-century Mark’ (Peter Gurry)

I noted the announcement of the existence of this Mark manuscript here. I was skeptical of the first-century date then and I remained skeptical all along. (See here and follow the links back.) Looks like I was right. Again.

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Esler on taking 1 Enoch seriously

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
Taking 1 Enoch Seriously

In the light of these conclusions, the Enochic scribes emerge not as temple scribes (indeed, there are clear signs of tension and conflict in the text between them and the temple establishment), but as scribes who played their part in the wider social and political ambit of Judea. We can imagine them as active across the whole range of commercial and legal work that Judean scribes undertook for private clients, as well as perhaps drafting documents for the Seleucid and then Hasmonean and even Roman administrations of Judea.

See Also: God's Court and Courtiers in the Book of the Watchers: Re-Interpreting Heaven in 1 Enoch 1–36 (Cascade Books, 2017).

By Philip F. Esler
The University of Gloucestershire
Cheltenham, UK
(pesler@glos.ac.uk)
Cheltenham, UK
May 2018
I noted the publication of Professor Esler's new book here. On the subject of the term "Jew" vs. Ioudaios, on which we disagree, see here and here.

This essay gives some rich cultural background to the Ethiopic version of the book of 1 Enoch (the only complete surviving version). It is well worth a read.

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On Jannes and Jambres

READING ACTS: Jannes and Jambres. Another installment in Phil Long's current summer series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Past posts in the series were noted here and links.

There are new fragments of Jannes and Jambres in an Ethiopic translation and also in Greek. And there is a new manuscript in Coptic with material related to the story of Jannes and Jambres. We hope to have translations of all these in volume 2 of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures (MOTP2).

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A recycled Phoenician ship

PHOENICIAN WATCH: 'Phoenician Ship' made of plastic bottles sails from Byblos to Beirut Port (Lebanese National News Agency).
In his word marking the event, [Mayor of Jbeil Wissam] Zaarour described the initiative as "an environmental symbol because the boat is made of 50,000 plastic bottles aimed at raising awareness about the dangers of this type of waste, in addition to its cultural symbolism by embodying the Phoenician vessels that were used for trade and export of Lebanese Cedar wood through the Jbeil coast."
Regular readers will be reminded of two other reconstructed Phoenician ships, the Good Ship Phoenicia and the Good Ship Ma’agan Michael II. And there was brief mention of a third one here. But this one has its own special charm.

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Friday, May 25, 2018

Stern on ancient Jewish graffiti

ATLAS OBSCURA: The Wit and Wisdom of Ancient Jewish Graffiti. Researchers in the field have uncovered related messages ranging from “Lasius is a pervert” to “Good luck in your resurrection” (Eve Kahn).
Carving the letters and images “required time, diligence, steadfastness, and a degree of pain tolerance,” Karen B. Stern, an assistant professor at Brooklyn College, observes in her new book, Writing on the Wall: Graffiti and the Forgotten Jews of Antiquity. As the graffiti artists hammered away at doorways, pillars or cliffs, she writes, “powders and fragments would cover one’s face and fill one’s lungs with dust; hardened dirt, rock, and plaster could push back and split fingernails; and carving implements, including metal nails, blades, and stones, surely drew blood when the lighting faded or surfaces grew unwieldy.”
A brief review of Dr. Stern's new book.

PaleoJudaica has been following Dr. Stern's work for some time. For past posts, see here and links. This is the first I've heard of her new book. The full reference is Karen B. Stern, Writing on the Wall. Graffiti and the Forgotten Jews of Antiquity (Princeton University Press, 2018). The publisher's description:
Few direct clues exist to the everyday lives and beliefs of ordinary Jews in antiquity. Prevailing perspectives on ancient Jewish life have been shaped largely by the voices of intellectual and social elites, preserved in the writings of Philo and Josephus and the rabbinic texts of the Mishnah and Talmud. Commissioned art, architecture, and formal inscriptions displayed on tombs and synagogues equally reflect the sensibilities of their influential patrons. The perspectives and sentiments of nonelite Jews, by contrast, have mostly disappeared from the historical record. Focusing on these forgotten Jews of antiquity, Writing on the Wall takes an unprecedented look at the vernacular inscriptions and drawings they left behind and sheds new light on the richness of their quotidian lives.

Just like their neighbors throughout the eastern and southern Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, Arabia, and Egypt, ancient Jews scribbled and drew graffiti everyplace--in and around markets, hippodromes, theaters, pagan temples, open cliffs, sanctuaries, and even inside burial caves and synagogues. Karen Stern reveals what these markings tell us about the men and women who made them, people whose lives, beliefs, and behaviors eluded commemoration in grand literary and architectural works. Making compelling analogies with modern graffiti practices, she documents the overlooked connections between Jews and their neighbors, showing how popular Jewish practices of prayer, mortuary commemoration, commerce, and civic engagement regularly crossed ethnic and religious boundaries.

Illustrated throughout with examples of ancient graffiti, Writing on the Wall provides a tantalizingly intimate glimpse into the cultural worlds of forgotten populations living at the crossroads of Judaism, Christianity, paganism, and earliest Islam.

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The two rabbis and the disrespectful donkey

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: The Uppity Donkey and the Distraught Rabbi: Critical Animal Studies and the Talmud (Beth Berkowitz).
This story about two rabbis and their donkeys opens a number of lines of inquiry for late antiquity. What were the everyday interactions of human beings with animals and how did those interactions shape both human and animal lives? What mediating roles did animals play in human politics? What were the mechanisms by which people tried to control animals and how did they justify those mechanisms? Finally, and in my view most intriguingly, how were late ancients onto themselves when it came to animals? In other words, what insights did late ancient people have into the problems and paradoxes of their relationship to other species?
This is the latest essay in the AJR Animal Forum.

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Habakkuk 3 and ANE myth

FOR SHAVUOT: Habakkuk’s Mythological Depiction of YHWH (Prof. Marvin A. Sweeney, TheTorah.com).
Habakkuk 3 is framed as a lament, in which the psalmist asks God to save him and his people from danger. The core of the psalm is a divine theophany, in which YHWH is described as coming from afar to battle his enemies in classic ANE mythological fashion.
When I was a doctoral student, a few of us read early biblical Hebrew poetry with Frank Moore Cross for a semester, including Habakkuk 3. On the basis of the grammar and content, Cross regarded it to be an early poem reused in the book of Habakkuk. That seemed convincing to me at the time.

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On The Ladder of Jacob

READING ACTS: The Ladder of Jacob. Another installment in Phil Long's current summer series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Past posts in the series were noted here and here and links.

The Ladder of Jacob survives complete only in Old Church Slavonic. But the prayer of Jacob from The Ladder of Jacob also survives in Hebrew from the Cairo Geniza. The Hebrew may be the original or it may be translated from a Greek original

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

New DSS coming to the Denver exhibition

ROTATION: 10 MORE DEAD SEA SCROLLS ARE COMING TO DENVER (Cara Chancellor, 303 Magazine).
In March, The Dead Sea Scrolls came to The Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Named one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century, these manuscripts were written between 150 B.C. and 70 A.D., making parts of the collection more than 2,000 years old. They are some of the oldest remaining documents of written human history and now 10 more are coming to Denver. The 10 new scrolls will be here in early June to replace those currently on display and like the first round, the second will feature one scroll never before seen by the public.

[...]
Follow the link for the full list of new scrolls. They arrive on 11 June.

Background on the Denver Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition is here and links.

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How many kinds of giants?

REMNANT OF GIANTS: Matthew Goff on the Three Successive Generations of Giants (Deane Galbraith).

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Moses and the Torah in Nehemiah 9

FOR SHAVUOT: Nehemiah 9: The First Historical Survey in the Bible to Mention Sinai and Torah (Professor Hava Shalom-Guy, TheTorah.com).
The revelation at Sinai emerged as central to Israel’s story in the Persian period. No biblical text outside the Torah mentions it until its unique inclusion in the historical prologue of the Levites’ prayer in Nehemiah 9:13-14. A later scribe redacted the Sinai verses to further include a reference to the Torah of Moses.

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Cyril and Methodius Day 2018 (again!)

SLAVONIC PHILOLOGY: Day of Slavic Writing and Culture (Ukrinform).
Every year on May 24, all Slavic countries commemorate Saints Cyril and Methodius, as well as the Day of Slavic Writing and Culture. In Ukraine, the holiday was established in accordance with a presidential decree of September 17, 2004, on the day of commemoration of Equal-to-the-Apostles Cyril and Methodius – representatives of the Enlightenment, who played a prominent role in the development and formation of Slavic writing and culture, patrons of Europe.

[...]
The work of Saints Cyril and Methodius is actually celebrated on three different days in different Slavic countries: 14 February, 24 May (today), and 5 July. More on that here. That post also has links with more information on Cyril and Methodius, their alphabet, and Slavonic Old Testament pseudepigrapha (i.e., why PaleoJudaica is interested). Also, in that post I neglected to include the Ukraine among today's celebrants. I have corrected that omission with the first link above.

Happy celebration to all those celebrating.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Left-handers in the Bible

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Left-Handed People in the Bible. Is there a genetic link to Benjamite lefties?
The Hebrew Bible mentions left-handed people on three occasions: the story of Ehud’s assassination of the Moabite king (Judges 3:12–30), the 700 Benjamites who could use the sling with deadly accuracy (Judges 20:16) and the two-dozen ambidextrous warriors who came to support David in Hebron (1 Chronicles 12:2). All of these stories of left-handed people in the Bible appear in military contexts, and, curiously, all involve members of the tribe of Benjamin.

[...]
As usual, this essay is an (interesting) summary of a BAR article that is behind the subscription wall: Boyd Seevers and Joanna Klein, Biblical Views: “Left-Handed Sons of Right-Handers,” from 2013.

In Ferniehirst Castle in Scotland there is a left-handed (i.e., upwards counter-clockwise) spiral staircase. The story is that in the early 1500s Sir Andrew Kerr had it built because he himself was left-handed and he trained his follows to swordfight left-handed. The layout of the staircase made it easier for them to defend the castle entrance from above. I have found mixed views on whether it would have made an attack from below harder or easier for right-handers.

There is also mixed evidence on whether left-handedness ran in the Kerr Clan. It doesn't seem to today.

I have seen the staircase myself, but I don't know how much else of the story is true. For some commentary and links, see here.

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Ghosts of Roman coin minting

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Greenland ice cores track Roman lead pollution in year-by-year detail. Studying the ice cores may help reconstruct fluctuations in the ancient economy (Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica).
Lead pollution could provide a proxy for the general state of the Roman economy, but historians would need a detailed record of changes in pollution levels from year to year. That was found 2,500 miles away in the ice sheets of Northern Greenland. Paleoclimatologist Joe McConnell of the Desert Research Institute and his colleagues turned to a 423-meter-long ice core taken by the Northern Greenland Ice Core Project.

The core records nearly 2,000 years of annual ice buildup, from 1100 BCE to 800 CE. Each layer records slightly less than a year’s worth of accumulated ice, which traps other material, like lead from mines and foundries in Europe. McConnell and his colleagues say they’ve dated the layers with an uncertainty of just one or two years, making it easy to compare lead pollution with historical events.
The Punic Wars provide one example of this correlation:
McConnell and his colleagues saw a characteristic pattern around wars throughout Roman history. When conflict came to a mining region, as it did during the three Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage, it disrupted life and work in the region. That shows up as a year or two of slightly cleaner ice in Greenland, since Europe was producing less lead pollution.

At the outbreak of the first Punic War in 264 BCE, for instance, the amount of lead in the Greenland ice layers dropped abruptly. But production ramped up again closer to the final years of the war, as Carthage minted more silver coins to pay its mercenary forces.
Cross-file under Punic Watch and Numismatics (Sort Of).

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Talmud manuscripts

TALMUD WATCH: Surviving Manuscripts of the Talmud: An Overview (Dr. Menachem Katz, TheGemara.com).
What we know about the surviving manuscripts, and how they contribute to Talmud study
HT AJR. For more on the long oral transmission of the Babylonian Talmud, see here. For more on the Hachi Garsinan Talmud project, see here and here.

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The Kingdom of Aksum

HISTORY: The Kingdom of Aksum – Africa’s lost Empire. The Aksumite Empire was an ancient kingdom that existed in Ethiopia from 100 CE to 940 CE. Centred on the city of Axum in Ethiopia, the nation grew from the proto-Aksumite Iron Age period around 400 BCE to its height around the 1st century CE (Heritage Daily).

This is a nice capsule history of the Ethiopian Kingdom of Aksum (Axum). For past PaleoJudaica posts involving Aksum, start here and follow the links. In particular, this post and this one give background on why Aksum is of interest for ancient Judaism.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Ammon, Moab and Edom

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Who Were the Ammonites, Moabites and Edomites in the Bible? Ancient Israel’s neighbors east of the Jordan (Megan Sauter).
The kingdoms of Ammon, Moab and Edom fought with the Israelites and the Judahites over territory. The Bible presents things from the Israelites’ and Judahites’ point of view, and archaeological discoveries help show us the other side. By looking at what these ancient peoples wrote and left behind, we are able to better understand their perspective. We now have a fuller picture of their kings, gods and daily life.
This essay is a taster for a 2016 BAR article by Joel S. Burnett: “Ammon, Moab and Edom: Gods and Kingdoms East of the Jordan.” You need a paid subscription to read the full article, but the BHD essay gives a nice brief overview of the topic.

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On the Lives of the Prophets

READING ACTS: The Lives of the Prophets. Another installment in Phil Long's current summer series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.

I don't doubt that the Lives of the Prophets contains some Jewish traditions. But there's a good case that the best context for it is the world of late-antique Byzantine Christianity. See David Satran, Biblical Prophets in Byzantine Palestine. Reassessing the Lives of the Prophets (SVTP 11; Brill, 1994).

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Moses and Zoroaster as authors

DR. YISHAI KEIL: How the Concept of Mosaic Authorship Developed (TheTorah.com).
In the Persian period, the Torah, which is made up of various law collections, was ascribed to Moses as revealed by YHWH. A parallel development was taking place in Achaemenid Persia that sheds light on this process: The sacred texts called the Avesta, that contain the law​​ (dāta) and tradition (daēnā) of Zoroastrianism​, were being collectively ascribed to Zarathustra (Zoroaster) as revealed by Ahuramazdā.

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Satlow on the field of Judaism in late antiquity

MICHAEL SATLOW: Jews and Judaism in Late Antiquity: Taking Stock. Professor Satlow has been a major figure in the field for a long time and he is well placed to give us an overview of its development over the last generation.

HT AJR.

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Very busy

I AM GOING TO BE VERY BUSY FOR THE NEXT COUPLE OF WEEKS. Nevertheless, I expect to blog daily, at pretty much the usual volume. Sometimes it may be later in the day.

Do keep visiting as usual. There is plenty of good blogginess coming!

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

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Sifting Project has found some cool coins

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: 5 rare Jewish coins discovered by Temple Mount project. Coins, minted by autonomous Jewish province of the First Persian Empire in late 4th century BC, attested to existence of commercial, administrative life in and around Second Temple and Temple Mount; 'These were the first coins ever minted by Jews,' says project's co-director, adding pilgrims would convert their tithes into these coins. (Itzchak Tessler, Ynet News).

The "Project" is, of course, the Temple Mount Sifting Project, on which more here and oh so many links.

This article has lots of background on the YHD coins, including that they apparently have been used as partial inspiration for the design of the new Israeli shekel. Cross-file under Numismatics.

The Temple Mount Sifting Project is still looking for funding!

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Was the Priestly writer anti-Temple?

DR HACHAM ISAAC S. D. SASSOON:The Tabernacle: A Post-Exilic Polemic Against Rebuilding the Temple (TheTorah.com).
The Priestly Torah discusses the Tabernacle at extraordinary length, emphasizing its portability. Nothing in P ever says this structure was meant to be temporary. P’s Tabernacle was not foreshadowing the Temple, but was a polemic against Haggai and Zechariah’s agitation to build the Second Temple.
Surprisingly, P never tells the Israelites to build a Temple when they reach the Promised Land.

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4 Baruch

READING ACTS: What is Fourth Baruch? Another in Phil Long's current summer series of blog posts on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.

For past posts in this series over the last couple of years, see here and links.

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The royal wedding had a Coptic connection

COPTIC WATCH: Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London gives prayer at UK's royal wedding. Anba Angaelos is the first Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, having served as General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom since 1999 (Ahram Online). Sadly, the prayer was not in Coptic.

But never mind. Congratulations and all best wishes to the newlywed royal couple.

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