Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Restored Edicule reopening

REPAIRS COMPLETED: Jesus' tomb to be reopened in Jerusalem after multi-million dollar restoration. According to Christian belief, Jesus's body was buried at what became the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (AP).

For background on the repairs and restoration of the tomb (of Jesus?) in the Holy Sepulcher (Holy Sepulchre), start here and follow the links.

The Longest Stone in the Temple Mount

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: The Longest Stone in the Temple Mount (Todd Bolen, Bible Places Blog). A recent discovery in plain sight.

On the construction of the Tabernacle

PROF. JONATHAN BEN-DOV: משכן – Tabernacle - The Materiality of a Divine Dwelling (TheTorah.com).
What makes a material suitable for constructing a sacred space, and why, given all of the details and repetitions concerning the mishkan, are none of its manufacturing techniques narrated?
With some interesting ancient Near Eastern background.

Mordecai

YONA SABAR: Hebrew Word of the Week: Purim Edition mordechkay "Mordecai." Slightly belatedly noted here. But with the bonus word boor (scroll down).

New Additions to e-Clavis

AWOL: New Additions to e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha (March 2017). Background on the e-Clavis online bibliography is here and here. Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A visual guide to incantation bowl demons

NEWS YOU CAN USE: A visual guide to the demons that spooked the Jews of Babylon. A new study depicts for the first time what Lilith, the baby­-killing seductress, looked like to those who feared her and why Satan has a tail and horns (Nir Hasson, Haaretz).
Demons are well-known figures in Jewish mysticism. In the Talmud and elsewhere there is a wealth of information about their characters, warnings against them and means to dispel them. In keeping with the Jewish injunction prohibiting the making of statues and masks there are no visual aids to indicate how the demons look. There was a period in history, however, between the rise of Christianity and the Muslim conquest of the Middle East, when Jews (mainly in Babylon) gave demons a shape.

Painstakingly, archaeologist and art historian Dr. Naama Vilozny has copied these images, analyzed their attributes and put together the first visual catalog ever of Jewish demons. Scholars believe the reason Jews in Babylon undertook to draw demons between the 5th and the 7th centuries has to do with a series of relaxations of the strictures, which rabbis gave the Jews as a way of dealing with the challenged posed by the increasing strength of Christianity. Fearing that Jews might prefer the new religion, the rabbis agreed to allow magic that included visual images. The demons Vilozny researched were drawn on “incantation bowls” – simple pottery vessels the insides of which were covered with inscriptions and drawings.

[...]
I suspect the second paragraph above credits the rabbis anachronistically with more cultural authority than they had at the time. Be that as it may, this article gives good coverage of the demonology of the Babylonian Aramaic incantation bowls and it also has some excellent photos of some of the demon images they bear. Information on Dr. Vilozny's dissertation is here:
However, until Vilozny’s doctoral dissertation, no one tried to decode and study the figures that appear on the bowls. In part, this might be because at first glance the figures look like robots. Vilozny copied the demon drawings from 122 bowls and the result is an extraordinary and unique collection of demons, both male and female, that might look like naïve drawings by children but for the people of those times were very palpable creatures. Recently Yad Yitzhak Ben Zvi published the study in the book “Lilith’s Hair and Ashmedai’s Horns.”
For past PaleoJudaica posts on Lilith, start here and follow the many links. A past post involving Sammael is here and one involving Ashmedai is here. The third male demon, Bagdana, is new to PaleoJudaica. Some past posts on the Aramaic incantation bowls are collected here. And for more, run "incantation bowls" through the blog search engine.

The Haaretz article is behind a subscription paywall, but you can get access to it and a limited number of articles every month with a free registration.

The Talmud, property ownership, and the law of the kingdom

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Which Rules? The Law of the Kingdom, or the Law of the Jews? In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, the rabbis debate whether Jews owe anything to gentiles, when it comes to property rights.
In the course of this discussion, the rabbis turn to the issue of what happens when a Jew purchases property from a gentile. Such transactions must have occurred regularly in Babylonia and throughout the diaspora, but their status under Jewish law remains problematic because halakha governs only transactions where both parties are Jewish. When a gentile sells land to a Jew, therefore, there is a moment in the process when the land is technically owned by nobody. “The gentile relinquishes ownership of it from the moment when the money reaches his hand, while the Jew does not acquire it until the deed reaches his hand,” we read in Bava Batra 54b.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Reviews of books by Kaiser and Yli-Karjanmaa on Philo

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW:
Markus Witte (ed.), Otto Kaiser, Studien zu Philo von Alexandrien. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 501. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2016. Pp. vi, 174. ISBN 9783110494570. €99,95.

Sami Yli-Karjanmaa (ed.), Reincarnation in Philo of Alexandria. Studia Philonica Monographs 7. Atlanta: SBL Press, 2015. Pp. 316. ISBN 9780884141211. $42.95.


Reviewed by Maren R. Niehoff, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (maren.niehoff@mail.huji.ac.il)


Witte Table of Contents
Yli-Karjanmaa Preview

These two volumes on Philo of Alexandria, the Jewish philosopher and exegete active in the first century CE, are in many respects opposites of each other. Kaiser offers a collection of articles, partly republished and partly newly written, which complements his recent monograph Philo of Alexandria. Denkender Glaube – Eine Einführung (Göttingen 2015) and marks the end of an exceptionally long and productive career. Yli-Karjanmaa, by contrast, has published his doctoral thesis, which is based on his MA thesis. While Kaiser introduces the reader to Philo by discussing a broad spectrum of topics, Yli-Karjanmaa makes one consistent argument for experts, taking one passage of Philo’s work (Somn. 1.138-9) as his starting point and the hermeneutic lens through which he interprets his whole oeuvre. Moreover, Kaiser celebrates Philo as a Jewish theologian and observant Jew, who was familiar with a wide range of philosophies and texts but always defined his distinct way of addressing the God of Israel. Yli- Karjanmaa, on the other hand, focuses on one kind of philosophy and argues that Philo adopted Plato’s theory of the soul’s reincarnation, with all the implications this has in Plato’s philosophy, even though he does not make all these aspects explicit. Finally, Kaiser easily draws from his vast knowledge of numerous texts and cultures, while Yli-Karjanmaa bases himself on advanced computer searches, which provide him with parallel expressions in other texts. Both authors invite us to explore Philo further and understand his intellectual context.

[...]

Review of Jason, Repentance at Qumran

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: The Evolution and Experience of Repentance at Qumran (Carmen Palmer).
In Mark A. Jason’s revised doctoral dissertation, Repentance at Qumran: The Penitential Framework of Religious Experience in the Dead Sea Scrolls, he argues that for the Qumran community, “repentance was the very basis of the community’s existence,” and that the community exists within one overarching “penitential worldview” (249–250). Beginning with a working definition of repentance as that which entails “the radical turning away from anything which hinders one’s whole-hearted devotion to God and the corresponding turning to God in love and obedience” (as defined by Jacob Milgrom, 8), Jason gradually builds his own definition of repentance at Qumran. He does this by means of a study of various Dead Sea Scrolls, as compared to scriptural and other Second Temple literature.

[...]
Earlier essays in AJR's current series on the Dead Sea Scrolls (in honor of the 70th anniversary of their discovery) are noted here and links.

Emek Shaveh's tunnel petition to be heard by High Court

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: HIGH COURT TO CONSIDER RELIGIOUS STATUS OF WESTERN WALL TUNNEL. The left-wing consortium of archeologists and activists submitted the petition to the High Court in December (Daniel K. Eisenbud, Jerusalem Post).
The High Court of Justice on Wednesday will hear NGO Emek Shaveh’s petition against the Religious Services Ministry over claims regarding the religious sanctity and ongoing excavation of the Old City’s Western Wall tunnel.

The left-wing consortium of archeologists and activists submitted the petition to the High Court in December, noting that the tunnel, which was excavated by the Israel Antiquities Authority, runs under the Old City’s Muslim Quarter.
I noted the filing of the petition here back in December. The current article answers some of the questions I posted there by clarifying the process that Emek Shaveh argues should have been followed.
The petition followed a November 6 notice by the ministry stating that the tunnel is recognized as a sacred site only by Jews, although Emek Shaveh contends that a legally mandated ministerial committee was not assembled to make the determination or approve the excavation.

According to the Antiquities Law, excavating a sacred site in the country first necessitates the assemblage of a ministerial committee for approval. The committee must include the ministers of Culture, Religious Services and Justice.
Cross-file under Archaeology and Politics. Emek Shaveh has also been in the news in another story noted here.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Another Arch of Titus

EXCAVATION: Second Monumental Arch of Titus Celebrating Victory over Jews Found in Rome. Arch unearthed at the entrance of the Circus Maximus was built by Titus' brother Domitian, boasting of how the Romans had done the undoable and 'subdued the Jews' (Ariel David, Haaretz).
It wasn’t enough for the Romans to enslave the Jews, plunder Judea, conquer Jerusalem, destroy the Temple and then erect a massive triumphal arch to commemorate those feats of war for millennia to come: They had to build a second, even larger monument to celebrate their victory.

Archaeologists in Rome have uncovered the remains of a second triumphal arch dedicated to the emperor Titus and his success in putting down the Great Revolt of the Jews in the first century C.E.

[...]
There isn't much left of it. The inscription survives only in a much later transcription:
As much is confirmed by the arch’s dedicatory inscription, which has not survived, but was transcribed into the account of an anonymous ninth-century pilgrim. The text bombastically proclaimed how Titus, “following the advice and direction of his father, subdued the Jewish people and destroyed Jerusalem, something which all other generals, kings and peoples before him had not even attempted or had failed to accomplish.”
Beyond that:
Today, only a few broken fluted columns, the plinths on which the arch stood and fragments of the decorations have been recovered amongst the ruins of the Roman bleachers and a later medieval fortification. We do not know what scenes from the Great Revolt or Titus’ triumph decorated this arch. The only figurative decoration recovered is fragments showing the legs of some combatants, and the face of a Roman soldier.
I have posted photos of the first Arch of Titus here. That one is mentioned in many PaleoJudaica posts, for example, recently, here and here and links.

Byzantine-era coin hoard found near Jerusalem

NUMISMATICS: Hoard of coins from 1,400-year-old Byzantine site tells story of Persian invasion. As Jewish and Sassanid troops marched on Jerusalem in 614 CE, Christian residents of village on main pilgrimage route hid their valuables; now, nine copper coins hidden in a niche have been recovered (Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel).
As a Persian army supported by a horde of Jewish rebels marched on Jerusalem in 614 CE, Christians inhabiting a town on the main route inland to the city hid a hoard of valuables in the hope of returning in more peaceful times.

Fast-forward 1,400 years to the summer of 2016, when Israeli engineers were widening that same highway, running from the Mediterranean past Abu Ghosh west of the capital, and archaeologists were called in to excavate some Byzantine ruins. Beneath the rubble of a building they found a hoard of nine copper coins dating to around 614 CE, when a Persian empire briefly reigned in Jerusalem just before the rise of Islam.

[...]
For the gold hoard found at the base of the Temple Mount in 2013, see here and here.

Review of Stoneman, Xerxes: A Persian Life

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW:
Richard Stoneman, Xerxes: A Persian Life. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2015. Pp. xi, 275. ISBN 9780300180077. $38.00.

Reviewed by Michael Iliakis (miliakis@gmail.com)


Preview

Xerxes I (518 – 465, r. 486 – 465 BCE) was the fourth king of the Achaemenid Persian Empire (ca. 550 – 330 BCE), grandson of its founder, Cyrus the Great (600 – 530, r. 559 – 530 BCE), and son of its most prominent ruler, Darius the Great (550 – 486, r. 522 – 486 BCE). He is best remembered by ancient and modern scholars for his failed attempt to conquer mainland Greece in 480 – 479. In the present volume Richard Stoneman has two aims: to discern the origins of this image of Xerxes and “to recreate something of what it was to be the ruler of the largest empire the world had yet seen”.

Chapter one is devoted to the turbulent events surrounding Darius’ and Xerxes’ accession to the throne and includes information about the education and the investiture of Xerxes, which is relevant for Xerxes’ successors as well.

Chapter two examines the Persian Empire’s territory, economy, cultural and political influence within its borders as well as its court and high officials (with a focus on those of non-Persian descent). This chapter also contains an informative section on Greek and Jewish authors and texts contemporary or near-contemporary to Xerxes that are or can be used as source material for his life and exploits. However, this interposing section disrupts the chapter’s cohesion somewhat and would have served the book better if it had been included in the introduction instead.

[...]
In Biblical Studies, Xerxes is best known as the King Ahasuerus of the legendary story in the Book of Esther. I noted Stoneman's book recently here.

Emek Shaveh objects to Israel Prize for Be'eri

POLITICS: LEFT-WING NGO DENOUNCES ISRAEL PRIZE LAUREATE DAVID BE’ERI (Daniel K. Eisenbud, Jerusalem Post).
Emek Shaveh, a left-wing consortium of archeologists and activists that has repeatedly condemned the “Judaization” of east Jerusalem, criticized the selection of Ir David Foundation chairman David Be’eri as one of this year’s Israel Prize winners.

[...]
I would have been shocked if they hadn't. Gabriel Barkay (Barkai) has a different view:
Not so, said celebrated archeologist Dr. Gabriel Barkay, cofounder and co-director of the Temple Mount Sifting Project, as well as a Jerusalem Prize laureate, who said Emek Shaveh is misguided in its criticism of Be’eri.
Background on this story is here. For background on Elad, follow the links there. Past posts on Emek Shaveh are collected here.

IAA has Easter show

AT BEIT SHEMESH: Finds from the time of Jesus. Israeli artifacts provide clues to Christ's life (Daniel Estrin, AP). Easter is the excuse for this IAA warehouse exhibition for journalists, but it did seem to have some interesting items on display. For the ossuary of the daughter of Caiaphas, see here and here. And for background on the crucified man skeleton, see here and links.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Reviewlet of Closs, The Book of Mary

APOCRYPHICITY: Book Note: The Book of Mary by Michael P. Closs (Tony Burke).
Michael P. Closs. The Book of Mary: A Commentary on the Protevangelium of James. Victoria, BC: Friesen Press, 2016.

This self-published commentary by retired University of Ottawa professor Michael Closs is a welcome tool for study of Prot. Jas., as there are few other commentaries available on the text—indeed, there are few available on any apocryphal texts! ...

Ezekiel and the red heifer purification rite

ETHAN SCHWARTZ: The Red Heifer in Synagogue: Purifying Israel from Sin (TheTorah.com).
Ezekiel 36 uses Priestly “purification” imagery similar to that of the red heifer ritual to describe God’s future reconciliation with Israel, inspiring the rabbis to choose this passage as the haftara for Parashat Parah.
I have some thoughts on Ezekiel and the Zadokite Priesthood here which are perhaps relevant.

Popović et al. (eds.), Jewish Cultural Encounters in the Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern World

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
Jewish Cultural Encounters in the Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern World

Edited by Mladen Popović, University of Groningen, Myles Schoonover, University of Groningen, and Marijn Vandenberghe University of Gent, University of Groningen
The essays in this volume originate from the Third Qumran Institute Symposium held at the University of Groningen, December 2013. Taking the flexible concept of “cultural encounter” as a starting point, the essays in this volume bring together a panoply of approaches to the study of various cultural interactions between the people of ancient Israel, Judea, and Palestine and people from other parts of the ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern world.

In order to study how cultural encounters shaped historical development, literary traditions, religious practice and political systems, the contributors employ a broad spectrum of theoretical positions (e.g., hybridity, métissage, frontier studies, postcolonialism, entangled histories and multilingualism), to interpret a diverse set of literary, documentary, archaeological, epigraphic, numismatic, and iconographic sources.
I noted the symposium when it was upcoming in late 2013.

Waters, Ctesias’ Persica and its Near Eastern Context

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Ctesias’ Persica and its Near Eastern Context. Notice of a new book: Waters, Matt. 2017. Ctesias’ Persica and its Near Eastern context (Wisconsin Studies in Classics). University of Wisconsin Press. Follow the link for a description and ordering information.

Hurtado on Jesus in the Gospels

LARRY HURTADO: Jesus in the Gospels.
In the light of recent discussion about how the Gospels present Jesus, I offer some observations intended to underscore and summarize my own views, and, hopefully, to promote some clear thinking by all.[1] Readers’ alert: This will be a long posting.

[...]
This especially in relation to his recent review of A Man Attested by God, Daniel Kirk's new book on Jesus in the Synoptics.