Monday, November 20, 2017

Timna and the United Monarchy?

ARCHAEOLOGY: Did David and Solomon's United Monarchy Exist? Vast Ancient Mining Operation May Hold Answers. Archaeology has provided precious little evidence for the biblical account of a powerful Judaic kingdom 3,000 years ago, but the sheer extent of copper mining in Timna, when Egypt was in a state of collapse, is otherwise hard to explain (Philippe Bohstrom, Haaretz).
The biblical narrative may have gone overboard on extolling the virtues of the two kings, but a preponderance of evidence indicates that some kind of powerful polity did rule from Jerusalem. One of the best arguments is the massive copper production during the 10th century B.C.E., at Timna, three hundred kilometers south of Jerusalem.

Mountains of slag

There, in the dry desert, Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef of Tel Aviv University has spent 14 years excavating copper mining and smelting sites of Jordan and Israel, dating to the 10th century B.C.E. The mines in the Aravah valley are in the very territory the Bible says David won from the Edomites, who then became subject to Israel (2 Samuel 8:13-14).
This article is especially interested in the "minimalist-maximalist" debate about whether and to what degree the Hebrew Bible tells us any useful historical information about the so-called United Monarchy. I am more interested in the article's detailed coverage of the Timna Valley excavation. Lots of organic material from the 10th century BCE has been excavated there. This leads me to hope that someday the excavators may recover scroll fragments there from the same period. It's a long shot, but we'll see.

Background on the many fascinating discoveries in the Timna Valley excavation is here and follow the links.

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Greek fragments found of Coptic "First Apocalypse of James"

BRICE C. JONES: First Greek Fragments of a Nag Hammadi Text Discovered among Oxyrhynchus Papyri!.
Very exciting news came out of a session at the 2017 annual Society of Biblical Literature conference in Boston: Geoff Smith and Brent Landau announced their discovery of the first known Greek fragments of the First Apocalypse of James, a Coptic text known from a Nag Hammadi codex (Codex V) and the famous Codex Tchacos. This early Christian text consists of a dialogue between Jesus and James the brother of Jesus. Scholars have argued that this Coptic text was probably translated from Greek, but until now, no Greek witnesses have been known to exist.

[...]
Very exciting indeed. Bit by bit, a letter at a time, whatever it takes. Until we're done.

Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch.

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Review of Hasselhoff and Strothmann (eds.), "Religio licita?"

BRYN MARY CLASSICAL REVIEW: Görge K. Hasselhoff, Meret Strothmann (ed.), "Religio licita?": Rom und die Juden. Studia Judaica, 84. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2017. Pp. viii, 230. ISBN 9783110406559. $126.00. Reviewed by Arco den Heijer, Theological University Kampen (ajdenheijer@tukampen.nl).
The introductory chapter situates the book within a number of scholarly debates: the debate on Jewish or Judean identity within the Mediterranean world (is it primarily ethnic or primarily religious, or does it evolve from the one into the other?), the debate on the legal status of the Judeans within the Roman empire and the question how conflictual the relationship between Judeans and other inhabitants of the Roman empire was on a social level. Scholars generally acknowledge the relatively large degree of freedom accorded in a number of decrees to Judeans to live according to their ancestral customs,1 but disagree about the extent to which they could actually participate in Greco-Roman society without getting involved in various kinds of cultural conflict.2

This volume contributes to these debates by collecting a number of essays by leading scholars in the field. The strengths of the book are its detailed attention to the ancient sources and its wide chronological and geographical scope, ranging from the speeches of Cicero to the Judean community of Cologne in the fourth century. However, the book as a whole fails to move forward on the debates mentioned above, both because a number of the contributors have already presented their views in more detail in earlier publications and because the book lacks a concluding chapter that could bring the various contributions together to answer the questions posed in the introduction. Still, the quality of the individual papers is generally high in its argumentative strength and adequate use of the evidence. I cannot discuss all papers in detail, but will highlight some of them.

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Fan Fiction and Ancient Scribal Cultures?

RELIGION PROF BLOG: Fan Fiction and Ancient Scribal Cultures #CFP (James McGrath). The comparison seems anachronistic to me, but it will be very interesting to see what this special issue of Transformative Works and Cultures produces.

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

New analysis of Qumran skeletons

OSTEOLOGY: Skeletons could provide clues to who wrote or protected the Dead Sea Scrolls. Few women or children have been found at Qumran burial site, suggesting similarities to Byzantine monastery cemeteries (Bruce Bower, Science News).
Analyses of 33 newly excavated skeletons of people buried at the West Bank site, Qumran, supports a view that the community consisted of a religious sect of celibate men. Anthropologist Yossi Nagar of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem presented the findings November 16 at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research. Preliminary radiocarbon dating of one of the Qumran bones indicates that the interred bodies are around 2,200 years old — close to the same age as the ancient texts, which are estimated to have been written between around 150 B.C. and A.D. 70.

Plus, reexamination of 53 previously unearthed human skeletons from Qumran’s cemetery, now housed in France, found that six of seven individuals formerly tagged as women were actually men, Nagar said. A small number of children have also been excavated at Qumran.

[...]
The skeletons excavated at Qumran have been controversial for quite some time, mainly because analysis of them is so difficult. These latest results are interesting and could be important for our understanding of the site of Qumran and even for our understanding of the origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls — if the results are upheld in peer-review publication. Cross-file under Technology Watch.

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Judaism and the Museum of the Bible

MUSEUM REVIEW: JUDAISM IS THE STAR AT A BIBLE MUSEUM BUILT BY HOBBY LOBBY. $500 million Bible musuem opened on National Mall park in Washington D.C. (JTA/Jerusalem Post).
The museum celebrates Jews and Judaism as the noble, beloved and even feared antecedents to Christianity, and argues that its best modern expression is in the State of Israel. And it makes the case that the Bible is not merely to be studied but to be believed.

Speaking at the dedication Friday, Steven Green, the president of Hobby Lobby and the museum’s chairman of the board, said museumgoers should come away realizing that the Bible “has had a positive impact on their lives in so many different ways and when they leave they will be inspired to open it.”

It especially celebrates the Bible’s Jewish origins, notably those made manifest in modern Israel. The dedication included a rabbi, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, the Israeli minister of tourism and the director of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

At times, the event seemed like a pro-Israel gala. Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador, celebrated the museum as a signifier of the Jewish claim to Jerusalem. The Bible nurtured Jews through 2,000 years of exile until they were able to “rebuild the original DC — David’s Capital,” he said.
This review is basically positive, but not without criticisms.

Background on the Museum of the Bible, Hobby Lobby, and the Green Collection, is here and follow the many links.

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Dubious DSS fragments in the Museum of the Bible

THIS IS A PROBLEM: Forgeries May Hide in Museum of the Bible's Dead Sea Scrolls. With the museum’s support, scholars are racing to understand the disputed Biblical texts (Michael Greshko, National Geographic).
Widely respected Biblical scholar David Trobisch now directs the collection—and the Museum of the Bible has supported the very work on the Dead Sea Scrolls which has uncovered evidence of forgery.

“Anybody who thinks that in a gigantic museum that there’s going to be no item [with disputed authenticity], it’s like believing that there’s no amoeba in your water,” says New York University Biblical scholar Lawrence Schiffman, who consulted the museum on its presentation of the Dead Sea Scrolls. “The museum did everything they’re supposed to do.”
Regular readers of PaleoJudaica will be familiar with most of what is covered in this article. But the article assembles the information conveniently in one place.

Background on those dubious Dead Sea Scrolls fragments is here and links. Background on the Museum of the Bible, Hobby Lobby, and the Green Collection, is here and many links.

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

More on the Good Ship Ma’agan Michael II

REPLICA UPDATE: Sailing a 2,400-year-old Ship That Sank Off Israel's Coast. Over many centuries, hundreds of ships sank along what is now the coast of Israel. Report from a cruise on a replica of the oldest found so far (Moshe Gilad, Haaretz).
Sunk on its maiden voyage

The ancient ship was discovered in 1985. It lay 70 meters from the shore, its bow pointing landward, at a depth of about two meters, under a layer of sand of similar thickness. Dr. Elisha Linder, a marine archaeologist from the University of Haifa, was in charge of researching the unique find. The quantity of wood used in the ship’s construction, and its quality, together with the precise dating, reflected the ship’s importance. Its one-armed anchor was the first of its type to be found whole. It took a full 15 years for the vessel to be lifted out of the water, dismantled, preserved and reassembled. It’s now a fine exhibit in the Hecht Museum at the University of Haifa. The findings on display, which constitute about a third of the original ship, were the foundation for the construction of the replica.

In the past three years, Prof. Yaacov Kahanov of Haifa University’s Department of Maritime Civilizations, a world expert in the study of ancient ships, led the initiative to build the replica. The resulting full-scale ship, constructed using methods that were in use in the Mediterranean around 400 BCE, is faithful to the original. Kahanov passed away just before the work was completed.
(Stop and read this premium article now, before it goes behind the subscription wall.)

The excavators think the ship was likely crewed by Greeks rather than Phoenicians. Background to the story is here and here.

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Lieu (ed.), Manichaeism East and West

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Manichaeism East and West. Notice of a new book: Lieu, Samuel N. C. (ed.). 2017. Manichaeism east and west (Corpus Fontium Manichaeorum. Analecta Manichaica 1). Turnhout: Brepols.

Follow the link for the TOC. The Book of Giants figures in a couple of the articles. For many past PaleoJudaica posts involving the Book of Giants, see here, here, here, and links.

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Hurtado on Psalm 110

LARRY HURTADO: Early Christian Use of “Messianic” Psalms. With focus on a surprising fact about Psalm 110:1.

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

Surrogacy in an Assyrian prenup

MODERN THEMES, ANCIENT SOLUTIONS: 4,000-year-old prenup pushes for surrogacy in case of infertility. Cuneiform tablet calls for a contractual sex slave to be freed after a son's birth -- and would have prevented the bitter rivalry between biblical Hagar and Sarah. I'm not sure how much relevance this text really has for the legends about Sarah and Hagar in the Bible. But it is of considerable historical interest in itself.

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Fossum, The Name of God & the Angel of the Lord

REISSUED IN PAPERBACK BY BAYLOR UNIVERSITY PRESS:
Title: Name of God & the Angel of the Lord
Sub-title: Samaritan & Jewish Concepts of Intermediation & the Origin of Gnosticism

Series: (Library of Early Christology Series)
By (author): Jarl E. Fossum
ISBN10-13: 1481307932 : 9781481307932
Format: Paperback
Size: 230x155mm
Pages: 391
Weight: .650 Kg.
Published: Baylor University Press (US) - August 2017
List Price: 38.50 Pounds Sterling
Availability: In Stock Qty Available: 8
Subjects: History of religion : Church history : New Testaments : Biblical studies & exegesis : Christian theology

The relationship among Judaism, Gnosticism, and Christianity perpetually eludes easy description. While it is clear that by the second and third centuries of the Common Era these three religious groups worked hard to distinguish themselves from each other, it is also true that the three religious traditions share common religious perspectives. Jarl Fossum examines this common heritage by proposing that the emergence of an anticosmic gnostic demiurge was not simply Gnosticism's critique of the Jewish God or a metaphysical anti-semitism. The figure of the gnostic demiurge arose from Judaism itself. Fossum demonstrates that the first gnostic versions of the demiurge constituted a subordinated dualism. Fossum then turns to Judaism, in particular Samaritanism's portrayal of a principal angel. In distinction from non-Samaritan Jewish examples -- where the Angel of the Lord bears the Divine Name but is not a demiurge, or examples where the Divine Name is said to be the instrument of creation but is not an angel or personal being -- Fossum discovers a figure who bore God's name, was distinct from God, and was God's instrument for creation. Only in Samaritan texts is God's vice-regent personalised, angelic, demiurgic, and the bearer of God's name. In the end the book reveals that not all gnostic speculation was anti-Jewish and, indeed, emerging gnostic and Christian traditions borrowed as much from Judaism as they criticised and rejected.
Another in Baylor's new Library of Early Christology reprint series, on which more here and links.

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Friday, November 17, 2017

The Museum of the Bible opens today

SOME MEDIA ATTENTION FOR TODAY'S OPENING OF THE MUSEUM OF THE BIBLE:

Museum of the Bible: A First Look. On the high-tech, new museum and the agenda of the family behind it (Christine Rosen, Weekly Standard)
Thus the Museum of the Bible, opening on November 17 not far from the National Mall in Washington, D.C., appears at a critical time. How do you engage the citizens of an increasingly secular country, whose founding was nevertheless indelibly marked by principles found in this book, with its history? How do you create a space that acknowledges the cultural primacy of the Bible while also respecting the heterodox religious past and present of the United States? How can an institution talk about one of the world’s most controversial texts without itself becoming a flashpoint for controversy?

The short answer: It can’t.
Washington’s Bible museum won’t touch political hot potatoes. Funded by evangelical Christian Steve Green, the controversial Hobby Lobby head, institution claims 'non-sectarian' mission (MAGGY DONALDSON, AFP/Times of Israel).

Read the actual Dead Sea scrolls, see the Nile turn to blood and visit Jesus World: Billionaire's $500m Bible Museum opens in DC after he was caught buying stolen artefacts from Iraq (Rory Tingle, Daily Mail).

There are other articles, but I think these give a reasonably rounded picture. And they have some good photos and videos.

For much past PaleoJudaica coverage of the Museum of the Bible, and also of Hobby Lobby and the Green Collection, start here and follow the many links.

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

CFP: IOTS 2018

CALL FOR PAPERS: 9th International Meeting, International Organization for Targum Studies (IOTS) July 9-11, 2018, University College London.

There is special interest in proposals that deal with one of the following two thematic focuses:
The Aramaic dialects within their Late Antique environment;
The development of the Targums within their wider interpretative milieu.

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Postdoc at Princeton

H-JUDAIC: JOB: Princeton University, Program in Judaic Studies, Postdoctoral Research Associate.

A renewable one-year post "to pursue research on any aspect of Judaic Studies" and to do some teaching at Princeton. The application deadline for full consideration is 15 December 2017.

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Aristophil auction plan

300 AUCTIONS OVER SIX YEARS: Multi-million-pound collection of manuscripts from the scandal-hit Aristophil to be auctioned in Paris. A huge collection of manuscripts from investment scheme Aristophil will finally be resold in Paris after a two-year wait (Laura Chesters, Antiques Trade Gazette).
Included in the sales are treasures such as the will of Louis XVI, the original 39ft-long manuscript of the Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom, fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls and a 15th-century translation in French of Alexander the Great’s biography by Quintus Curtius.
I've been following this story since 2015, because of the report that there are fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the collection. I have not been able to find any specific information on these. The story of how we got here is complicated and involves an alleged "Ponzi scheme." I have gone over it in more detail here. Follow the links there for past coverage.

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

An advance tour of the Museum of the Bible

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Museum of the Bible: Part Museum, Part Holy Land Experience. Bible museum opens in Washington, DC (Robin Ngo). The museum opens tomorrow. It sounds as though they have been taking the various criticisms on board and responding. Excerpt:
In a way, the Museum of the Bible will open as a work in progress: while all of its exhibition spaces and interactive rooms will be ready for visitors, museum leaders give the impression that the museum’s approach to displaying artifacts—especially problematic ones—is subject to change. This does not detract from the spectacular experience the visitor is bound to have—especially the nearly overwhelming experience of the grand entrance and the appreciation of the efforts of faithful scholars who over the centuries tirelessly produced the Biblical manuscripts in the History of the Bible exhibition. But the Museum of the Bible has also inadvertently yanked the debate over the ownership of history and the dark underbelly of the antiquities black market into the public realm, which will hopefully inspire visitors to pause and reflect on how “Biblical” artifacts are properly acquired, researched, and displayed.
Background on the Museum of the Bible, Hobby Lobby, and the Green Collection is here and many links.

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

On scholars and those dubious DSS fragments

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
Soli Deo Gloria?
The Scholars, the Market, and the Dubious
Post-2002 Dead Sea Scrolls-like Fragments

Meanwhile, however, since the early 1990s, researchers in fields like archaeology and heritage studies have expressed growing concern about the role of academics as facilitators of illicit trading in ancient texts and objects from countries suffering from extensive looting and unlawful removal of prehistoric material. Despite this widespread awareness, reflected in a growing number of laws, regulations and international policies to prevent looting, smuggling and illegal trade in cultural objects, many scholars in the field of biblical studies continue to receive unprovenanced material with enthusiasm.

By Årstein Justnes
Professor, Department of Religion
University of Agder, Norway
Leader of the Lying Pen of Scribes Project

Josephine Munch Rasmussen
Ph.D., lecturer
University of Oslo
November 2017
Background on those dubious Dead Sea Scrolls fragments is here, here, here, and links.

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Interview with Ben Wright

WILLIAM ROSS: LXX SCHOLAR INTERVIEW – DR. BEN WRIGHT (Septuaginta &C. Blog).

I have noted some past interviews of LXX scholars by William Ross here and links.

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

A late-antique synagogue in the Galilee

THE HOLY LAND PHOTOS' BLOG: Baram — The Synagogue (Carl Rasmussen).
Almost all travelers to Israel will visit the justly famous synagogue at Capernaum on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee—and some will even visit the one at nearby Chorazin. However, the best preserved of the “Galilean Type” synagogues is the one located at the not-too-frequently visited site of Baram. It is located in Upper Galilee, about 1.2 mi. [2 km.] south of the Israeli Lebanese border.
Nice photos, as usual. An earlier PaleoJudaica post on the Baram Synagogue is here. Sorry about the bad link

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Review of Kemezis (ed.), Urban Dreams and Realities in Antiquity

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | Urban Dreams and Realities in Antiquity: Remains and Representations of the Ancient City (Jordan Conley).
Adam M. Kemezis, ed. Urban Dreams and Realities in Antiquity: Remains and Representations of the Ancient City. Leiden: Brill, 2015.
Jerusalem, both New and otherwise, receives its due.

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Provenance and the Museum of the Bible

BUT IT'S OPENING SOON: The Provenance Problem. Why a cloud hangs over the new Museum of the Bible (Tom Bartlett, Chronicle of Higher Education). As the article explains, there is an authenticity problem too.

Background on the Museum of the Bible, Hobby Lobby, and the Green Collection is here and many links.

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

Review of the Tyndale House NT

BRICE C. JONES: A Review of The Greek New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge.

I noted the volume recently here.

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Rebecca's father?

DR. RABBI ZEV FARBER AND RABBI DANIEL M. ZUCKER D.D: Rebekah Ran to her “Mother’s Household”: Where Was her Father? (TheTorah.com).
Betuel, Rebekah’s father, mysteriously appears and disappears in the negotiations over Rebekah’s marriage.
It seems that many solutions to the problem have been proposed. Redaction criticism has, not surprisingly, gotten involved too.

Not mentioned in this essay, but Aramaic Levi 62 seems to solve the problem by assuming that Laban had a son who was named Bethuel after his grandfather.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Talmud and false witnesses

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: On Bearing False Witness. Talmudic rabbis debate what’s to be done with the liars who help hide crimes—and who to believe in such cases—in this week’s ‘Daf Yomi.’
But what about other kinds of punishments, which are not capable of being so symmetrically applied? Tractate Makkot begins by inquiring about a case in which witnesses falsely testify that a priest is ineligible for the priesthood because he is the son of a divorced woman. If their lie is exposed, does that mean that the witnesses should be declared ineligible for the priesthood? This is what a plain reading of the biblical verse might suggest, but in practice, this would make no sense—what if the witnesses were Israelites, not Kohanim, and therefore ineligible for the priesthood to begin with? To ensure that such conspiring witnesses don’t get off scot-free, the Mishna imposes a punishment of 40 lashes.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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The Museum of the Bible is opening soon

OPENING THIS FRIDAY: In the Capitol’s shadow, massive Museum of the Bible readies for opening (Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service). Lots of good background information in this one.

For many other past posts on the Museum of the Bible, Hobby Lobby, and the Green Collection, start here and follow the links.

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

What to make of Rebecca?

DR. MALKA Z. SIMCOVICH: Rebecca’s Character (TheTorah.com).
Rebecca, informed by God of her sons’ destinies, thwarts her husband’s effort to bless Esau. The Torah thus portrays an assertive Rebecca in contrast to a weak and uninformed Isaac. Early Jewish interpreters took conflicting approaches to this unusual depiction of a patriarchal couple.

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The Gospel of Judas was for sale?

THE FACES AND VOICES BLOG: The Gospel of Judas on Sale? (Roberta Mazza). Not now, some years ago. Another interesting story in Moss and Baden, Bible Nation, on which more here and links.

Background on the Gospel of Judas is here with many links.

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