Thursday, November 20, 2014

Anxious conference papers

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Why a Conference Paper is Usually Just a Conference Paper. Some timely advice from Dr. Beth Allison Barr. While we're on the subject, there are a couple of old PaleoJudaica posts on presenting conference papers here and here.

SBL 2014

I'M OFF TO SAN DIEGO for the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature.

This year I am responding to two reviews of my 2013 book Hekhalot Literature in Translation: Major Texts of Merkavah Mysticism (Brill), on which much background here and links. Here is the information on the part of the session which deals with my book:
Mysticism, Esotericism, and Gnosticism in Antiquity
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
: 500 (Level 5 (Cobalt)) - Hilton Bayfront (HB)

Theme: Early Judaism
Featuring reviews of James Davila, Hekhalot Literature in Translation: Major Texts of Merkavah Mysticism (Brill, 2013).

M. David Litwa, University of Virginia, Presiding
Ra'anan Boustan, University of California-Los Angeles
Review of James Davila, Hekhalot Literature in Translation (20 min)
Rebecca Lesses, Ithaca College
Review of James Davila, Hekhalot Literature in Translation (20 min)
James Davila, University of St. Andrews, Respondent (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)
I am staying in San Diego for Thanksgiving with friends after the conference. I will be very busy in the next ten days or so, but I will blog as much as I can, and I have also preposted lots of things. So do keep coming back as usual.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Saving Iraqi manuscripts

RESCUE OPERATION: Unique Christian Manuscripts Safeguarded in Kurdistan (Sharmila Devi, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, reposted by AINA).
Arbel, Iraq -- Thousands of ancient Christian manuscripts are being kept safe at an undisclosed location in Kurdistan after being spirited out of Qaraqosh in the Nineveh plain in August, just hours before the town was seized by Islamic State fighters.

Father Nageeb Michaeel, a Dominican priest who master-minded the operation to salvage the unique collection, did not want to say where the collection was being held for fear of attack by ISIS sympathisers. But he allowed Rudaw to see it.

The collection is being kept in an air-conditioned room and it includes manuscripts and documents dating from the 13th century. They represent a sizeable part of Iraq's cultural heritage, he said.

The article does not specify the language(s) of the manuscripts, but my guess is that they are in Syriac and Arabic. Who knows what treasures are hidden in them?

Recent related posts, mostly with less in the way of good news, are (especially) here, and also here, here, and here, with many links.

Levirate marriage - it's even more complicated

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Brother’s Wife. Unless He Dies. Then—Well, Here’s the Thing… In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ questions of obligation in matters of levirate marriage, and how values change with time.
In my last column, I discussed the rabbis’ edict that converting to Judaism in order to marry a Jew is forbidden. The principle behind the rabbis’ thinking was that, if you are going to take up the considerable responsibility of following Jewish law and sharing the Jewish fate, you must do so only out of a desire to serve God and not to obtain any personal benefit—even one as altruistic as marrying someone you love. In this week’s Daf Yomi reading, this same principle was invoked in a different context, when the rabbis considered the possible motives that might lead a man to contract a levirate marriage with his yevama, his deceased brother’s wife.

More on levirate marriage here. Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

More on the Shmita

ART: Israel’s Shmitta Year: From The Perspective of Artists (Eva L. Weiss, The Jewish Week).
The works are meant to evoke artists’ conceptions of what is fallow and the freedom implicit in letting go, according to curator Dr. Anat Chen, director of Emunah College’s art program. This Hebrew year, 5775, marks the observance of the ancient agricultural sabbatical in the Land of Israel. The College chose an artistic take on the cyclical event, in contrast to the more commonly heard debates on the loopholes of Jewish law or calls for environmentalism and social justice.
Background on the Shmita (sabbatical year in Israel) is here.

The story of the GJW

JOEL BADEN AND CANDIDA MOSS: The Curious Case of Jesus’s Wife. Lab tests have suggested that a papyrus scrap mentioning Jesus's wife is authentic. Why do most scholars believe it's fake? (The Atlantic). An excellent, thoughtful account of the whole affair from its beginning to the present. Yours truly is quoted, along with many other bibliobloggers who contributed to the debate. The article concludes:
Indeed, in the scholarly world of ancient history and ancient texts, little is truly unimaginable—because so little, in the end, is truly known. Despite the piles of evidence suggesting that the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife is a forgery, there remains the possibility, however slim, that it is authentic. So the question becomes this: How much historical reconstruction are scholars willing to stake on such narrow grounds? Or, alternatively: Even if the fragment were proved beyond a doubt to be authentic, could one small piece of papyrus really be so important as to fundamentally change our understanding of the past? The problem with reconstructing the distant past is that with so little evidence available, the discovery of even the tiniest pieces can lead to outsize ramifications. It’s a situation ripe for abuse. The more sensationally these sorts of discoveries are reported, the more such abuse we can expect.
Incidentally, quite a few specialists now think that the Secret Gospel of Mark may be an authentic ancient text (see, e.g., here, here, and links), even though not so many years ago the case for it being a forgery seemed just about closed. So you never know.

Background on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife is here, with links going back to the announcement of its discovery.

Burke on translating Syriac Joseph and Aseneth

TONY BURKE: Translating Joseph and Aseneth: My Role in Jacobovici and Wilson’s “Lost Gospel.”

Background here.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Bible as Notepad Conference

IN DECEMBER IN OSLO: Bible as Notepad: Bible as Notepad is a conference that gathers an international and interdisciplinary group of scholars to study notes, comments, and scribbling, in biblical and related manuscripts.
Whereas the Bible is among the world’s most studied books, most scholars are primarily occupied with its textual contents, and most editors of biblical texts concentrate on the text found within manuscripts’ columns. However, annotations are found in manuscripts cross-culturally and the notes may sometimes shed new light on the development of text traditions and historical engagement with biblical manuscripts. These other categories of writing on manuscript folios and the cultural practices that produced them have not received the attention they deserve. Hence, the Bible as Notepad conference will address annotations in different manuscript and language traditions, the various relationships between text in the column and notes in the margins, and the roles and functions of annotated manuscripts as cultural artifacts, exploring – empirically and theoretically - the various practices that produced them.
As you will see from the conference program at the link, I will be there and will be presenting a paper on an unusual manuscript of the Hekhalot Rabbati.

The Shmita

THIS IS THE SABBATICAL YEAR IN ISRAEL: Israeli farmers observe biblical sabbatical - with a wink and a nudge (Daniel Estrin, AP). Briefly, in order to keep farming so the country can eat, most of the farmers have sold their farms (short term) to a guy named George. Really. Alternatively, hydroponics can be involved.

The relevant biblical precept for the sabbatical year is found in Leviticus 25:1-7.

Golem terrorizes Portland

GOLEM WATCH: 'Grimm" Season 4 Episode 4 Spoilers: Jewish Golem Made of Clay Terrorizes Portland [WATCH] (Selena Hill, Latin Post).
In the upcoming episode of "Grimm," which is entitled "Dyin' on a Prayer," an ancient evil monster made up of clay will terrorize Portland. In addition, there will be hope for Adalind to escape her present situation if she can learn to her trust strangers, reports Carter Matt.

In a preview clip, Nick and Hank take a trip to a Jewish temple where a young Rabbi tells them about the Jewish folklore of a 16th century golem made from clay. Although its remains were supposed to be stored away in the attic of synagogue, they were reported missing in 1984 by a documentary film crew. As a result, the Rabbi shows the detectives an empty jar that was supposed to store the remains.
In the photo I see rather too much influence from The Walking Dead, especially in the golem on the right.

For many more golem posts, see here and links.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Anxious revolutionary years

PHILIP JENKINS has two posts up at the Anxious Bench on the second and third centuries BCE as revolutionary years for ancient Judaism:

Revolutionary Years 1
In the third and second centuries BC, the Jewish world changed very rapidly, and we see the development of many themes and debates that would shape both Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism – the Last Judgment and eschatology, angels and demons, afterlife and apocalypse. In that process, one very short period of thirty or so years demands our attention, as the centerpiece of a wide-ranging spiritual revolution.

Revolutionary Years 2
In a very short period in the second century BC – mainly between 170 and 140 – Jewish thought and religion changed swiftly and fundamentally, creating a world that is familiar to later historians from Early Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism. I have already described some of the scriptures that emerge from this world, but let me here explore some of the religious themes that now rose to central significance.


Multilingualism Conference

JUDAIC STUDIES AT YALE UNIVERSITY: Multilingualism Conference.
Over the past 20 years there has been a great deal of new work done on multi-lingualism, on material findings, and on the interaction between text and image in antiquity. These findings have had significant implications for the way we think about dynamic interactions between and within cultures in antiquity. The planned conference will explore new research on the transfer of culture in antiquity with respect to language, image, daily practice, religious ritual, and material culture.
Follow the link for the schedule (7-9 December).

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sanders on the aporia of the Torah

SETH SANDERS: The Early History of Scriptural Unreason.
Here is where we can grasp Hebrew literature’s original aporia, in the gap between the Torah and its readers that made it sometimes seem so problematic and irrational. How did the Torah first become a puzzle to its early tradents, a problem to be solved?
Asking the important questions.

On Berlin and Brettler, The Jewish Study Bible, 2nd edition

INTERVIEW: Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler on the Hebrew Bible (OUP Blog).
Winner of the 2004 National Jewish Book Award for Scholarship, The Jewish Study Bible is a landmark, one-volume resource tailored especially for the needs of students of the Hebrew Bible. We sat down with co-editors Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler to talk about the revisions in the Second Edition of The Jewish Study Bible, and the Biblical Studies field as a whole.