Saturday, March 22, 2014

New JSTOR journals online

AWOL: New Ancient World Content in JSTOR. Including The Hebrew College Annual.

Boccacinni and Zurawski (eds.), Interpreting 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch

NEW BOOK FROM BLOOMSBURY: Interpreting 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch. International Studies (Editor(s): Gabriele Boccaccini, Jason M. Zurawski).
In this volume Gabriele Boccaccini and Jason M. Zurawski collect together essays from leading international scholars on the books of 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch. The literature of the Second Temple Period has become increasingly studied in recent years as scholars have begun to recognize the importance of these texts for a developed understanding of Rabbinic and Christian origins.

Through close readings of the texts themselves, examining the books in comparison with other Jewish apocalyptic literature and early Christian materials, and reading the texts in light of their social and historical settings, the fifteen papers collected herein significantly advance the current scholarly conversation on these defining Jewish apocalypses written at the end of the first century CE, and they shed light on the everlasting legacy of apocalyptic ideas in both Christianity and Judaism.
Follow the link for TOC and ordering information. These essays are short papers from the 2011 Enoch Seminar. Another volume of essays from that Seminar is noted here.

Friday, March 21, 2014

LXX podcasts

TIMOTHY MICHAEL LAW is doing a series of podcasts on the Septuagint. Access and subscription information is at the following: The Septuagint Sessions #2 – Shoddy Greek? On the Language of the Septuagint I.

Interesting articles

PETER M. HEAD: Some interesting articles. Text-critical and related articles pertaining to the New Testament, 1 Enoch, and an Hebreo-Greek Pentateuch.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Story of the Jews comes to America

TELEVISION: Simon Schama's The Story of the Jews is showing on PBS in the USA beginning next week. Adam Kirsch has a review in Tablet: Simon Schama Moderates a Moderate History of Moderate Jews ‘The Story of the Jews’ is the most important TV documentary about Jewish history since Abba Eban’s famous ‘Heritage’ series. Excerpt:
The difficulties begin with what might seem like the simplest question of all: Where does the story of the Jews start? The answer is much more elusive than it might appear. Do you begin with Abraham, the father of the chosen people and the first recipient of God’s covenant? Or with Moses, the lawgiver, who first instituted the religion and practices of Judaism? Or with Saul and David, who gave the Jews political existence in the form of the Kingdom of Israel? Any one of these potential starting points implies a whole interpretation of what Jews and Judaism really are. The question is complicated by the fact that none of these people can be confidently said to have existed at all: They are mythic figures, not historical actors. Yet how can you begin to tell the story of the Jews without them?
Schama's answer is to begin with the Judean exiles at Elephantine Island in Egypt in the fifth century BCE and their Deuteronomically unauthorized temple. Of course.
Not least important, for Schama’s purposes, is the fact that the Jews of Elephantine did something that the Bible absolutely and repeatedly forbids: They built their own Temple, far from Jerusalem, where they offered up sacrifices to God. Thus we have, in this historically rather unimportant Jewish outpost, a potent combination of symbols and significances. Judaism, Elephantine tells us, has always been just as much at home in Diaspora as in Zion; it has been an affair of ordinary people, as well as of sages and martyrs; it has resisted religious authority and invented many modes of worshipping God. It has even, for long stretches anyway, enjoyed harmonious and mutually enriching relations with its gentile neighbors. The Elephantine papyri are, for Schama, a life-giving anti-Bible, not “the epic of the treaty-covenant with Israel” but “the quotidian record of the lives of the expat Judeans and Israelites with whom we can keep company as naturally … as if we were living in their neighborhood.”
The series is also coming out in book form and I noted a review of volume 1 here. Links there deal with the BBC documentary and the Elephantine papyri.

The latest on the Noah movie

CINEMA: Noah Comes To The Big Screen With Help From A Dallas Rabbi (Jonathan Mark, The Jewish Week). Some enlightening background to the movie:
Around two years ago, Rabbi [Geoffrey] Dennis, 54, who leads a Reform synagogue in the Dallas suburbs and teaches Jewish studies at the University of North Texas, received a call from Ari Handel, the executive producer of such films as “Pi,” “Black Swan” and “The Wrestler.” Handel was, along with director Darren Aronofsky, co-writing and producing “Noah,” the film coming to theaters next week. As a Manhattan Beach seventh grader, young Aronofsky wrote a poem about Noah, “The rain continued through the night and the cries of screaming men filled the air.”

Now, Paramount was giving him $130 million to tell the story, with Russell Crowe and Emma Watson (and Aronofsky was giving his seventh-grade teacher a walk-on in the movie). Aronofsky has admitted that “Noah” was being written by “two not very religious Jewish guys,” so Handel was calling Rabbi Dennis, author of the “Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism” (Llewellyn Publications), and a 2007 National Book Award finalist, to give a Jewish sense of the story.
I've not yet seen the movie yet, of course, but early indications are that the Noah mythology used in it is nothing if not eclectic. That make sense if Rabbi Dennis was their consultant. I noted a review of his Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism a few years ago and on that basis put it in the "use with caution" category. There's not much point in carping about the historical accuracy of a movie about Noah's Flood, but it interesting to get a sense of where the traditions used in this version of the story came from. Rabbi Dennis adds:
If you want to see Aronofsky’s original vision, says Rabbi Dennis, “You need to see his French comic book of Noah [available on Amazon]. It’s a storyboard for a movie.” There is a reference, said the rabbi, to six-winged angels in Isaiah. The film refers to the Tzohar, the gemstone given by an angel to Adam, and used by Noah for illumination in the ark. Watchers (thought to be the Fallen Angels), is found in the apocryphal Book of Enoch, written by Noah’s great-grandfather.

Rabbi Dennis adds, “In the Dead Sea Scrolls, there’s a version of a book called the Book of Giants. In each one of these books there is more elaborate narrative about who the Fallen Angels were, what they did, and how they corrupted the earth. It’s so dualistic that it became problematic for the rabbis. Judaism developed a theology of angels in which angels have no free will. If angels have no free will, angels can’t rebel.”

In related news, Egyptian Islamists are proactively calling for the movie to be banned: Egyptian Islamists say no to ‘Noah’. But the call for a ban is getting some pushback from the (coolly named) Creativity Front: "Noah" triggers a storm in Egypt: The Creativity Front rains down their Al Azhar-opposing opinion.

There has also been proactive Christian criticism of the film, which is noted in the first article linked to above.

Additional PaleoJudaica posts on Noah, the movie, are here and links.

UPDATE: More on Christian objections to the movie (HT Akma Adam on Facebook): Russell Crowe film ‘Noah’ edited to appease Christians upset by ‘historical inaccuracies’ (Scott Kaufman, The Raw Story).
According to The Wrap, Paramount Pictures has edited Darren Aronofsky’s Noah — which stars Russell Crowe in the titular role — in order to avoid offending Christian viewers.

Aronofsky allegedly told an associate that he was “not happy” when he learned that Paramount had appended a disclaimer to both the film and promotional materials for it.

At the request of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), Paramount added a disclaimer which reads, in part, that “[t]he film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.”

NRB board member Phil Cooke told The Wrap that the disclaimer was necessary because the film is “historically inaccurate.” It is, Cooke said, “more of an inspired movie than an exact retelling.”

Historically inaccurate. You don't say?

UPDATE: St. Andrews PhD student Raymond Morehouse puts this latter controversy into context. Somewhat related anecdote at the end of this post.

Heavenly Lights exhibition

ART: Lights of heaven: Jerusalem artist Yoram Raanan exhibits at the Heichal Shlomo Museum of Jewish Art.

Aramaic bedtime story

LITERATURE: The Very Hungry Caterpillar has been translated into Aramaic.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Exhibition on ancient commemmoration of the dead

AT THE ORIENTAL INSTITUTE MUSEUM: Exhibit at UChicago to Show How Ancient Cultures Commemorated the Dead. "In Remembrance of Me" at Oriental Institute opens April 8. Excerpt from the press release:
The exhibit, “In Remembrance of Me: Feasting with the Dead in the Ancient Middle East,” opens to the public April 8. The show is built around two themes: the regular offering of food and drink to nourish the dead in the afterlife, and the use of two- or three-dimensional effigies of the dead, often made of stone, to preserve their memory and provide a means of interaction between the living and the dead.

The Oriental Institute’s Neubauer Expedition to Zincirli, Turkey in 2008, during which an inscribed funerary monument was discovered, inspired the exhibit. The monument, which dates to about 735 B.C, is carved with an image of a man named Katumuwa seated before a table heaped with offerings and with a lengthy inscription in Aramaic—a language widely used in the ancient Middle East. The text proved to be the longest-known memorial inscription of its type.

Until the discovery of the stela, scholars did not know about the practice of enacting annual sacrifices for the soul of the deceased. The discovery also revealed that the people of Zincirli, located in the ancient Syro-Hittite region of southeastern Turkey, believed Katumuwa’s spirit resided in the monument.

“The text gave us a whole new understanding of the ancient belief system in eastern Turkey and northern Syria. Although Katumuwa knew that the realm of the dead could be a cruel and lonely place, the rituals he describes that his family would enact on his behalf would give him a happy afterlife,” said exhibit curator Virginia R. Herrmann, PhD’11. Herrmann, now a visiting professor at Dartmouth College, was part of the team that discovered the stela and co-curated “In Remembrance of Me.”

Before the discovery of the stela, it was not understood that, in eastern Turkey and northern Syria, such banquet scenes depicted on other monuments were special pleas to the viewer to make annual offerings of animal sacrifices and grapes or wine. Those offerings were directed not only to the deceased, but also to local gods. The biblical commandment to “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long” (Exodus 20:12), is rooted in the tradition expressed by the Katumuwa text.

The text also revealed that the rituals took place not just at the grave or in the home, but in a private mortuary chapel next door to a temple—exactly the setting where the Katumuwa stela was discovered. The stela itself is in the Gaziantep Museum in eastern Turkey, but a precise facsimile of its front has been produced for the exhibit.
The exhibit also features a video produced by video artist Travis Saul, MFA’12, in collaboration with Herrmann and her colleague and exhibit co-curator, Oriental Institute Associate Professor David Schloen. It provides background on the site of Zincirli, the discovery of the stela, a recreation of the rituals enacted to commemorate the soul of Katumuwa, and a recitation of the text in Aramaic and English.
Earlier PaleoJudaica posts on the Katumuwa (Kuttumuwa) inscription are here, here, and here and links. Cross-file under "Aramaic Watch."

New archaeology library and archive in Jerusalem

UNDER CONSTRUCTION: Antiquities Authority to build in Jerusalem largest archeology library in Mideast. Library, to be called The Mandel National Library for the Archeology of Israel, is to house nearly 150,000 volumes. (Daniel K. Eisenbud, Jerusalem Post).
The Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday that it would construct the Middle East’s largest archeological library in Jerusalem.

The library, to be called The Mandel National Library for the Archeology of Israel, is to house nearly 150,000 volumes, including 500 rare books and over 1,000 periodicals, the authority said.

The adjacent Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel National Archeological Archives is to contain the authority’s archive as well as maps, permits, plans and publications of excavations from the British Mandate period through today, serving researchers and the public.

The AP (here in The Guardian) also has the story: Israel to build national centre for ancient artefacts. Centre will showcase Israel's rich collection of 2m artefacts including world's largest collection of Dead Sea scrolls.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Restoration of the Temple in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Talmud Is a Training Manual for Jews Preparing for the Next Holy Era. For a hundred generations Jews lived in anticipation of redemption, a historical tension that continues to define Judaism. Excerpt:
This way of thinking only makes sense if you believe, as Yochanan did, that “soon the Temple will be rebuilt”—and not just soon, but suddenly, without preparation. In other words, the Third Temple is not going to be a massive, long-term construction project, like the First Temple that Solomon built, and the Second Temple that Ezra and Nehemiah built. It is going to spring up or descend from heaven all at once, intact—and in that moment, Jews will suddenly have to go back to obeying a whole host of laws that currently seem obsolete. For this reason, Jews have to remain in training, ready to resume Temple life when the need arises; and the Talmud, one might say, is their training manual.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Library of Judeo-Arabic Literature

EXCITING NEW PROJECT: Announcing METI’s new Library of Judeo-Arabic Literature (Morgan Davis).
On behalf of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, I am pleased to announce the addition of an important new series to our Middle Eastern Texts Initiative (METI). The series, to be called the Library of Judeo-Arabic Literature (LJAL), will publish works written by Jewish authors living within the Islamic world of the Middle Ages. At the invitation of James T. Robinson, a professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School, and David Sklare, of the Ben-Zvi Institute in Jerusalem, an international team of scholars have come together to edit, translate, and publish these texts in the same dual-language format as other METI publications like the Islamic Translation Series and Eastern Christian Texts. The bilingual format makes primary texts and expert translations simultaneously available to experts, students, and general readers alike. Texts will be selected from across the entire range of genres represented in Judeo-Arabic literature, including philosophy, theology, Biblical interpretation, history, and many other genres.
Follow the link for more information. I have a number of the Arabic/English volumes from the Islamic Translations Series on my bookshelves and have even read some of them to help maintain my Arabic. They are excellent, and I very much look forward to this new series.

Schiffman on the Rabbis and early Christianity

ANOTHER BLOG SERIES BY LAWRENCE H. SCHIFFMAN: The Halakhic Response of the Rabbis to the Rise of Christianity (5 posts).
The Jewish-Christian schism in Late Antiquity has been studied from numerous points of view. This paper will approach these events by investigating the manner in which halakhic issues (questions of Jewish law) motivated the approach of the early Rabbis to the rise of the new faith, and the manner in which Rabbinic legal enactments expressed that approach as well. The eventual conclusion of the Rabbis and the Jewish community that Christianity was a separate religion and that Christians were not Jews, was intimately bound up with the Jewish laws and traditions governing personal status in the Jewish community, both for Jews by birth and proselytes. These laws, as known today, were already in full effect by the rise of Christianity. ...

Veale video


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Enochic radio?


Interview with Helene Wecker (The Golem and the Jinni)

MARGINALIA: The Golem and the Jinni: A Conversation with Helene Wecker. Phillip Sherman talks with Helene Wecker about incorporating Jewish and Muslim traditions into her debut novel, The Golem and the Jinni.
It was like I was telling these old stories I’d heard a million times, and they sort of lay there on the page. I was complaining about it to a friend in the workshop, who knew what I liked to read, and asked me why I wasn’t doing something fantastical instead of this straight-up realist fiction. And instantly, it was like this side door opened that I hadn’t seen before but had always been there. I thought, what if, instead of the Jewish girl and Arab-American boy who’d been the two characters who threaded through the stories, I swapped in a female golem and a male jinni?
For reviews of The Golem and the Jinni, as well as much more on golems, go here and just keep following the links back.