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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Sunday, May 20, 2018

The vision of Ezekiel

EZEKIEL CHAPTER ONE, the Merkavah vision of Ezekiel, is the haftarah (reading from the prophets) for the first day of Shavuot (which started yesterday at sundown). This chapter is the foundation for both Jewish and Christian mysticism and its traditions have also been influential on Islamic mysticism. For some comment on the influence of the passage on Jewish tradition, see Why Read Ezekiel on Shavuot? Tradition connects the prophet's vision to the revelation at Sinai by Michael Fishbane at My Jewish Learning.

In Christian mysticism, Ezekiel's vision was to a large degree mediated through the work of Pseudo-Dionysius the Aeropagite, a late-antique Neoplatonist philosopher and mystic. For more on those traditions, see the Wikipedia article on Christian angelology.

And for more on Ezekiel's Merkavah vision, see here and here and links.

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Judges in Pseudo-Philo

READING ACTS: The Book of Judges in Pseudo-Philo (LAB) (Phil Long). Phil's opening post on this book was noted here. His series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha continues.

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Why does the Torah come in five books?

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: Why Is the Torah Divided into Five Books? (Dr. Elaine Goodfriend, TheTorah.com).
The division of the Torah into five books is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible, yet this division may be ancient and inherent. Already in Second Temple times, Philo speaks of it, and by the early first millenium C.E., the Torah became known by the Greek name, Pentateuch, literally, “five scrolls.” Is this division due to practical, thematic, or symbolic considerations?
Fun fact: the first recorded person to use the term "Pentateuch" for the Torah of Moses was a Gnostic Christian. He said that Moses only wrote part of it.

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Archaeology and Virtual Reality

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Virtual Reality in Archaeology. Visualizing antiquity through modern lenses (Abby VanderHart). Past posts on Lithodomos and similar technologies are here and links. And here's an older post on the prospect of such technologies — a prospect that today is partially realized.

Cross-file under Technology Watch.

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Saturday, May 19, 2018

Shavuot 2018

THE FESTIVAL OF SHAVUOT (Weeks, Pentecost) begins tonight at sundown. (For real this time!) Best wishes to all those celebrating. Last year's post gave links with biblical background.

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Mobile sifting update

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Archaeologist for a day: Find Temple Mount treasures — at a school near you. The Temple Mount Sifting Project takes its show on the road with a pilot program in which it uses dirt to connect students to the past and future of the Jerusalem holy site (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
Petah Tivka high school pupils got their hands dirty on Wednesday and Thursday this week when the Temple Mount Sifting Project’s new mobile unit paid a visit.

The Yeshurun High School’s hands-on experience was the second of the pilot project’s pit stops in an effort to “bring the mountain to Muhammad.” Previously, elementary school pupils in Tekoa also had the opportunity to sift for treasure during a special session with the Temple Mount Sifting Project’s staff using wet-sifting apparatus.

Students are given a presentation by an archaeologist on the history of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount in particular, and are then trained on how to search to artifacts among the dirt. Using water, they “wet-sift” batches of dirt, and sort out the various rocks, pottery and other debris.

So far the pupils in Petah Tikva have found huge amounts of pottery, mosaic tiles, glass and metal. Luckier students have discovered a Crusader coin, a 1st century CE coin, a partial 3rd century CE oil lamp, an iron hook, a leg of an unidentified, potentially First Temple period cultic clay object, all of which will be cleaned and analyzed at the Sifting Project’s Jerusalem lab.

[...]
I noted the new mobile sifting project here. This article gives details about how it's going.

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Philo at Oxyrhynchus

NEWS YOU CAN USE: The Oxyrhynchus Codex of Philo of Alexandria (Brent Nongbri, Variant Readings). And don't forget to read his follow-up post on the archaeology of the Philo codex: Excavating the Oxyrhynchus Philo Codex.

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Krul, The Revival of the Anu Cult ...

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
The Revival of the Anu Cult and the Nocturnal Fire Ceremony at Late Babylonian Uruk

Series:
Culture and History of the Ancient Near East, Volume: 95

Author: Julia Krul

In The Revival of the Anu Cult and the Nocturnal Fire Ceremony at Late Babylonian Uruk, Julia Krul offers a comprehensive study of the rise of the sky god Anu as patron deity of Uruk in the Late Babylonian period (ca. 480-100 B.C.). She reconstructs the historical development of the Anu cult, its underlying theology, and its daily rites of worship, with a particular focus on the yearly nocturnal fire ceremony at the Anu temple, the Bīt Rēš.

Providing the first in-depth analysis of the ceremony, Julia Krul convincingly identifies it as a seasonal renewal festival with an important exorcistic component, but also as a reinforcement of local hierarchical relationships and the elite status of the Anu priesthood.

Publication Date: 26 April 2018
ISBN: 978-90-04-36493-6
As I've said before, I like to keep track of developments in the study of late ancient Babylonia, because of its background interest for Judaism of the Second Temple Period.

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Friday, May 18, 2018

Archaeology, Jerusalem, and the Jewish people

DISCOVERIES: ARCHEOLOGY IS CHANGING THE (SUR)FACE OF JERUSALEM. Archaeology provides the most powerful proof of the authenticity of Jewish history and the connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel, and particularly, Jerusalem (Moshe Dann, Jerusalem Post). This article has a clearly-stated agenda, and the interpretation of some of the discoveries is controversial. But it gives a nice summary of some important recent and longstanding archaeological findings associated with Jerusalem.

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Hygoye 21.1 (2018)

A NEW ISSUE: Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies 21.1 (2018). It's always good to see another issue of this excellent open-access journal. It is associated with the Beth Mardutho Syriac Institute and the Hugoye e-mail list. For more on both of those, see here. Cross-file under Syriac Watch.

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The Canaanite alphabet in Egyptian?

THE HISTORY OF THE ALPHABET? Earliest Version of Our Alphabet Possibly Discovered (Owen Jarus, Live Science).
The earliest example of our alphabet — a possible mnemonic phrase that helped someone remember "ABCD" — has been discovered on a 3,400-year-old inscribed piece of limestone from ancient Egypt, a scholar believes.

Three of the words start with the ancient equivalent of B, C and D, creating what may be a mnemonic phrase.

Thomas Schneider, a professor of Egyptology and Near Eastern Studies at the University of British Columbia, reported the discovery in a paper published recently in the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. This discovery "would be the first historical attestation of 'our' alphabet sequence," he told Live Science in an email.

[...]
This is a different — and more credible — story than the one a couple of years ago about an Egyptian inscription containing Semitic words. Thomas Schneider also figured in that one, but as a skeptic.

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Mobile sifting

THE TEMPLE MOUNT SIFTING PROJECT BLOG: Restarting the Sifting!!
Hello everyone, we have some HUGE news to share with you. The Temple Mount Sifting Project is renewing its activity outside the lab! For the first time in the history of archaeological research in Israel –the site will be coming to you. We will be bringing the antiquities-rich soil that was illegally removed from the Temple Mount in the late 90s to various communities and institutions throughout Israel. Students and volunteers will be able to sift through this material and take part in the important work of recovering the ancient artifacts within. A sifting activity was undertaken yesterday in the Yeshurun School in Petach Tikva – but this is just the beginning! We’ve already started taking requests from other communities throughout Israel.
Follow the link for details. The post also has a bonus section with discoveries in honor of Jerusalem Day.

For many, many past posts on the Temple Mount Sifting Project, start here and follow the links. They are still looking for funding!

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Geniza Fragments 75

GENIZA FRAGMENTS, the Newsletter of the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit, Cambridge University Library has published its April 2018 Issue. Some topics are a new novel about the Cairo Geniza, the Bible scribe Samuel ben Jacob, and a Festschrift for Geoffrey Khan (congratulations!).

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Correction! Shavuot starts on Saturday evening.

SORRY ABOUT THAT. Please ignore the deleted post. It was meant for Saturday. I pushed the wrong button somewhere.

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

A horse-racing curse in an Aramaic amulet

ARAMAIC WATCH: Ancient Jewish gambler’s chariot race curse found in decoded 5th Century scroll. A nailed-shut amulet uncovered in Turkey in the 1930s, written in Jewish Aramaic and newly translated, pleads for help from Balaam's ass at the track (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
When a typical nailed-shut 5th century curse scroll was uncovered by the University of Princeton in a 1930s excavation under the hippodrome in the city of Antioch (now in Turkey), the team of archaeologists didn’t realize what a unique find they had in hand.

It would take almost another 90 years to discover that the amulet, made of thin lead, is the only known example of a curse written by Jews against a chariot horse racing competitor.

In the curse, written in a Jewish dialect of Aramaic in Hebrew lettering, the gambler beseeches God and his panoply of angels to thwart the competing horse and cause him to “drown in the mud,” said Tel Aviv University doctoral student Rivka Elitzur-Leiman, who recently deciphered the miniature 8.8 x 2.1 cm lead tablet.

[...]
I am currently working on a new English translation of the late-antique Hebrew magical tractate Sefer HaRazim ("The Book of the Mysteries"). It includes a magical rite for making race horses swift. But I agree that (as far as I know) this new Aramaic amulet is the only surviving ancient Jewish cursing rite that involves horse racing.

This discovery is also covered in an article in Haaretz by Ruth Schuster: Ancient Scroll Shows Jews Tried to Hex Chariot Races in Turkey 1,500 Years Ago. Ancient Greeks and Romans were notorious for their elaborate curses but a metal tablet with a hex in Aramaic is the first evidence that the Jews indulged too, Israeli researchers say.

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Pseudo-Philo's LAB

READING ACTS: Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum (LAB) (Phil Long). A good quick overview of this book.

This is the first text covered in Phil's new OT Pseudepigrapha series for summer, 2018.

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Festscrift for Leonard Greenspoon

FORTHCOMING BOOK FROM PURDUE UNIVERSITY PRESS:
Found in Translation: Essays on Jewish Biblical Translation in Honor of Leonard J. Greenspoon (Hardback)

James W. Barker (Editor) Anthony LeDonne Editor) Joel N. Lohr Editor)
format: Hardback
publisher: Purdue University Press
pub. date: 07/15/2018
page count: 317pp
subject(s): Language Arts & Disciplines, Jewish Studies, Global Languages and Literatures
language: English
dimensions: 6.00" x 9.00"
ISBN 10: 155753781X
ISBN 13: 9781557537812
status: Awaiting Publication

Book Description
Found in Translation is at once a themed volume on the translation of ancient Jewish texts and a Festschrift for Leonard J. Greenspoon, the Philip M. and Ethel Klutznick Professor in Jewish Civilization and professor of classical and near Eastern studies and of theology at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. Greenspoon has made significant contributions to the study of Jewish biblical translations, particularly the ancient translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, known as the Septuagint. This volume comprises an internationally renowned group of scholars presenting a wide range of original essays on Bible translation, the influence of culture on biblical translation, Bible translations’ reciprocal influence on culture, and the translation of various Jewish texts and collections, especially the Septuagint. Volume editors have painstakingly planned Found in Translation to have the broadest scope of any current work on Jewish biblical translation to reflect Greenspoon’s broad impact on the field throughout an august career.
Congratulations to Professor Greenspoon!

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Back to the OT Pseudepigrapha

READING ACTS: Summer Series: (Even More) Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Regular readers will be familiar with Phil Long's series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, which he ran in the summers of 2016 and 2017. He's back to it now for the coming summer.

He promises to continue with the Charlesworth edition, covering biblical expansions and sapiential and poetic texts. He hopes to move on to Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures vol. 1 (ed. Bauckham, Davila, and Panayotov; Eerdmans, 2013) (a.k.a. MOTP1).

Phil's opening post above includes a very useful index of his past pseudepigrapha posts.

I look forward to this new installment of the series.

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On the Sogdian language and its decipherment

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: The discovery and decipherment of Sogdian. Sogdian is a Middle Iranian language. It has come up on PaleoJudaica occasionally because it sometimes preserves translations of material important for ancient Jewish studies, notably fragments of The Book of Giants. Sogdian was first identified and translated from manuscripts excavated in Turfan in (modern day) China. Other past posts involving the Sogdian language and the discoveries at Turfan are here and links, and here and here, and here and links.

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The Pool of Siloam

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY has a couple of recent essays on the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, famous as the site of one of Jesus' healing miracles according to the Gospel of John. It is also associated with Hezekiah's Tunnel, the original location of the important Siloam Inscription from the reign of Hezekiah.

The Siloam Pool: Where Jesus Healed the Blind Man. A sacred Christian site identified by archaeologists.

Where Is the Original Siloam Pool from the Bible? Hunting for the Biblical Pool of Siloam from Hezekiah’s time.

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AJS Review 42.1 (2018)

A NEW ISSUE OF AJS REVIEW IS OUT (Volume 42 - Issue 1 - April 2018). It has, intera alia, some articles and lots of book reviews of interest for ancient Judaism. It's a paid subscription site, but even if you're not a subscriber you can read the TOC and the abstracts at the link.

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