Thursday, August 21, 2014

Brill books

The Targums in the Light of Traditions of the Second Temple Period

Edited by Thierry Legrand and Jan Joosten both of University of Strasbourg

Although the Jewish Targums were written down only from the second century CE onward, and need to be studied against their Late Antique background, the issue of their connection to earlier sources and traditions is an important one. Do the existing Targums link up with an oral translation of Scripture and, if so, how far does it go back? Do the Targums transmit traditional exegetical material in a distinct form? What is the relation between the Targums and "parabiblical" literature of the Second Temple period (including the New Testament)?

In the present volume, these and other questions are studied and debated by an international group of scholars including some of the best specialists of Targumic literature in all its diversity, as well as specialists of various Second Temple writings.

A Vocabulary of Desire
The Song of Songs in the Early Synagogue

Laura S. Lieber, Duke University

In A Vocabulary of Desire, Laura Lieber offers a nuanced, multifaceted and highly original study of how the Song of Songs was understood and deployed by Jewish liturgical poets in Late Antiquity (ca. 4th-7th centuries CE). Through her examination of poems which embellish and even rewrite the Song of Songs, Lieber brings the creative spirit-liturgical, intellectual, and exegetical-of these poems vividly to the fore. All who are interested in the early interpretation of the Song of Songs, the ancient synagogue, early Jewish and Christian hymnography, and Judaism in Late Antiquity will find this volume both enriching and accessible.

The volume consists of two interrelated halves. In the first section, four introductory essays establish the broad cultural context in which these poems emerged; in the second, each chapter consists of an analytical essay structured around a single, complete poetic cycle, presented in new Hebrew editions with annotated original English translations.
More on Jan Joosten is here. Another book by Laura S. Lieber is noted here.

Review of Stein, Textual Mirrors

MARGINALIA: “Beneficent Incision”: Midrash and the Contemporary Critical Moment – By Adam Zachary Newton. Adam Zachary Newton on Dina Stein’s Textual Mirrors: Reflexivity, Midrash, and the Rabbinic Self. I hope the book is not as jargon laden as the review. Excerpt:
And what of an analysis that seeks dialogical partners drawn from a wholly different language game than the one practiced by the exegetes and compositors of the midrashic canon? Such partners would be not only rhetorically Other but also — and this is essential — institutionally so. Either the interpretive hazard increases or its practitioners become the agents, and we the beneficiaries, of a beneficent incision that may result in a text refreshed and rejuvenated. One of the great pleasures, then, of Dina Stein’s Textual Mirrors: Reflexivity, Midrash, and the Rabbinic Self is the imaginative and refracted light it casts upon the waking alertness, power, and fecundity of the midrashic enterprise tout court.
The book was noted earlier here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Neo-Aramaicists speak out

(MODERN) ARAMAIC WATCH: Letter by Neo-Aramaicists regarding Iraq situation (George Kiraz, the Hugoye list).

Background here and links.

More on the Hebrew Bible: A Critical Edition

RONALD HENDEL: A New Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible (Bible and Interpretation). Excerpt:
The HBCE ["The Hebrew Bible: A Critical Edition”] text will not reproduce a single manuscript (as is the case with the other critical editions, BHQ and HUBP), but will approximate the manuscript that was the latest common ancestor of all the extant manuscripts. This “earliest inferable text” is called the archetype. This is not identical to the original text (however one defines this elusive term), but is the earliest recoverable text of a particular book. To be more precise, the HBCE critical text will approximate the corrected archetype, since the archetype will have some scribal errors that can be remedied.
Background here.

Another soferet

TORAH DOCTOR: Maintaining an ancient tradition, female scribe repairs Jewish academy Torah (Jeff Kunerth, Orlando Sentinel).
The Torah used at the Jewish Academy of Orlando is marked with water spots, smudges, discolorations and rips.

"It's not just a book. It's a sacred text," said Alan Rusonik, head of the academy in Maitland. "To have a Torah in disrepair just doesn't seem right."

That's why Rusonik summoned Rachel Salston, a 24-year-old rabbinical student from Los Angeles.

Salston is one of an estimated 50 female Jewish scribes in the world. Her teacher, Jen Taylor Friedman, was the first woman to write a complete Torah scroll in 2007.

Females scribes, or soferets, are a rare breed because they must be conservative Jews who follow the strict laws of Judaism but also belong to an egalitarian congregation that believes in the equality of women and men. And they must have the interest, patience and talent for painstaking, meticulous work.

There's video too. For much more on female scribes from antiquity to the present, see here and links. Jen Taylor Friedman has also been mentioned here. Unfortunately, the main link has rotted, but there is still some information there about her, including a photo of her creation, Tefillin Barbie.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Call for Papers: 2015 York Christian Apocrypha Symposium

Call for Papers: 2015 York Christian Apocrypha Symposium


York University Christian Apocrypha Symposium Series 2015

“Fakes, Forgeries, and Fictions” Writing Ancient and Modern Christian Apocrypha

September 24-26, 2015
Follow the link for details.

Marginalia forum on Jew vs. Judean

MARGINALIA TWEETS: Jew and Judean: Have scholars erased the Jews from antiquity? A Forum coming to MRB August 26. Looking forward to it.

Background here.

The Temple menorah in the news

ROGUE CLASSICISM: Stephen Fine and YU Students Tracking the Temple Menorah.

Background on the story is here. More on the Arch of Titus is here and links. And more on the Vatican not having any of the Temple treasures is here and links.

More on that Greek tomb

DOROTHY LOBEL KING: Hold Your [& Alexander's] Horses .... Apparently this late fourth century BCE tomb at Amphipolis is call the Lion's Tomb, for reasons made obvious at the post. And no, she doesn't know yet who was buried there.

Background here.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Eerdword Blog Post again

EERDWORD BLOG POST COUNTDOWN: EerdWord Greatest Hits 2014: James R. Davila on Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.
It’s summer vacation time for your friendly neighborhood blog editor — so to mark the occasion, we’re spending this week counting down the most popular posts published here on EerdWord over the last twelve months.

Today we reveal our #3 post of the year (as determined by unique pageviews), which was penned by James R. Davila last October.
Noted originally here. I'm glad to see it getting some more attention. Their number 1 post of the year is revealed here.

Review of Stacey and Doudna, Qumran Revisited

BRYN MAWR CLASSICAL REVIEW: David Stacey, Gregory Doudna, Qumran Revisited: A Reassessment of the Archaeology of the Site and its Texts. BAR international series, 2520. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2013. Pp. 150. ISBN 9781407311388. £29.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Hagith Sivan (

The review concludes:
Stacey’s, Doudna’s and Avni’s analyses constitute a salubrious reminder that looking at Qumran in isolation, in terms of either the settlement or the texts, can lead to conclusions laced with imaginative reconstruction. Addressing important questions about the connection between the excavated settlement, its extensive cemetery and the cave archives, these contributions demonstrate that texts, even a large number of them, do not necessarily speak for themselves, especially when found in caves. Nor do they invariably shed light on a settlement in the vicinity, in spite of the alleged existence of a scriptorium in it. Cemeteries, although large and carefully aligned, likewise do not necessarily seal a single interpretation of stones and scripts. I suspect, however, that no reassessment is likely to usher in scholarly consensus nor to put an end to scholarly output that is well matched with the industry invested in the scrolls themselves.
Background on the work of Doudna and Stacey on Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls is collected here and links.


TECHNOLOGY WATCH: New to the Archaeologist’s Tool Kit: The Drone ( William Neuman and Ralph Blumenthal, NYT).
Archaeologists around the world, who have long relied on the classic tools of their profession, like the trowel and the plumb bob, are now turning to the modern technology of drones to defend and explore endangered sites. And perhaps nowhere is the shift happening as swiftly as in Peru, where Dr. [Luis Jaime] Castillo [Butters, Peru’s vice minister of cultural heritage] has created a drone air force to map, monitor and safeguard his country’s ancient treasures.
The article is mostly about Peru, but the following also comes up in passing:
In the Middle East, researchers have employed them to guard against looting.

“Aerial survey at the site is allowing for the identification of new looting pits and determinations of whether any of the looters’ holes had been revisited,” said Morag Kersel, an archaeologist from DePaul University in Chicago who is part of a team using drones in Jordan and Israel.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Moazami, Wrestling with the Demons of the Pahlavi Widēwdād

Wrestling with the Demons of the Pahlavi Widēwdād
Transcription, Translation, and Commentary

Mahnaz Moazami, Columbia University

The Pahlavi Widēwdād (Vidēvdād), The Law (Serving to Keep) Demons Away, a fifth-century Middle Persian commentary on the Avestan Vidēvdād, describes rules and regulations that serve to prevent pollution caused by dead matter, menstrual discharges, and other agents. It recognizes the perpetual presence of the demons, the forces of the Evil Spirit –forces that should be fought through law-abiding conduct. In spite of its formidable textual problems, the commentary provides an invaluable quarry for the rules of the Zoroastrian community through its citation of regulations for the conduct of its members. Many topics are covered, from jurisprudence to penalties, procedures for dealing with pollution, purification, and arrangements for funerals. Viewed together, they provide the reader with an exquisite interlace of a community’s concerns.
Looks like something of interest for comparison with demonology and impurity in late antique Judaism, and perhaps even (with all the necessary caveats about using the late Pahlavi material) with such traditions in Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity.

Collins, Jesus, the Sabbath and the Jewish Debate

Jesus, the Sabbath and the Jewish Debate
Healing on the Sabbath in the 1st and 2nd Centuries CE

By: Nina L. Collins

Media of Jesus, the Sabbath and the Jewish Debate
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Published: 25-09-2014
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 504
ISBN: 9780567385871
Imprint: Bloomsbury T&T Clark
Series: The Library of New Testament Studies
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
RRP: £80.00
Online price: £72.00
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About Jesus, the Sabbath and the Jewish Debate

The claim that Jesus was criticised by the Pharisees for performing cures on the Sabbath has been repeated emphatically for almost 2,000 years. But a careful, unprejudiced evaluation of the gospels - the only source of this accusation - shows that the historical Jesus was never criticised by historical Pharisees for performing Sabbath cures. In fact, Jesus and the Pharisees were in complete agreement that cures on the Sabbath should always be performed. It is moreover evident that the Sabbath healing events in the gospels have preserved a significant part of the history of the Jewish debate. This debate sought to resolve the apparent conflict between the demands of Jewish law, and the performance of deeds of healing and/or saving life. This contention, from its Maccabean origins through to the end of the second century CE, is the subject of this book. It is a story that has escaped the attention of historians partly because it relies on the evidence of both the early post-biblical Jewish texts and the Christian gospel texts.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Review of Law, When God Spoke Greek

Timothy Michael Law, When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. Pp. ix, 216. ISBN 9780199781720. $24.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Christian Schäfer​, Septuaginta-Unternehmen der Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen​ (


Durch konsequenteres Einhalten des eigenen (die Innovation dieses Buches ausmachenden) Anspruchs, Fachsprache zu vermeiden und Fachinhalte in ihrer Komplexität und ihrem Umfang auf ein zielgruppenorientiertes Maß zu begrenzen, hätte „When God Spoke Greek“ – ebenso wie durch Vermeidung inhaltlicher Wiederholungen13 – sicherlich noch einmal deutlich an Stringenz und Lesefreundlichkeit gewonnen. Trotzdem ist Law dafür zu danken, dass er sich hier der nicht zu unterschätzenden Aufgabe der didaktischen Reduktion einer derart hochkomplexen Materie auf ein allgemeinverständliches Niveau erstmalig angenommen hat, um so auf populäre Weise die historische Relevanz eines der – an seiner Wirkungsgeschichte gemessen – bedeutendsten Werke der Antike14 evident zu machen.
More on the book here, here, and here.

Brody, Mishna and Tosefta Studies

Mishna and Tosefta Studies

By Robert Brody

Publisher: The Hebrew University Magnes Press
Talmud, Jewish Studies
Publish date: August 2014
Language: English

Danacode: 45-132011
ISBN: 9789654937672
Cover: paperback
Pages: 190
Weight: 400 gr.

This book breaks new ground in several areas of Talmudic philology, especially with regard to the central work of classical rabbinic literature, the Mishnah, and its companion volume the Tosefta. The first section, devoted to the textual criticism of the Mishnah, exposes a number of widespread fallacies with regard to the so-called "Palestinian" and "Babylonian" manuscripts of this work. The second section, the largest and most innovative of the book, seeks to place the textual criticism of the Tosefta on a firm foundation on the basis of a detailed analysis which upends the scholarly consensus in this area. The third section contributes to the ongoing debate concerning the relationship between Mishnah and Tosefta, emphasizing the multifaceted nature of this relationship which varies substantially from one passage to another. Finally, the afterword makes an impassioned plea for editors of classical rabbinic texts to abandon the antiquated notions of legitimate editorial practice which still prevail in the field in favor of approaches which have long been accepted in other disciplines.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Replacing the Head of the IAA

DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF THE ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY: Appointment of Israel's new antiquities chief embroiled in politics. Archeologists decry culture minister's handling of replacement of chief who recently died. (Nir Hasson, Haaretz). Excerpt:
The short list of candidates reportedly includes MK Yisrael Hasson (Kadima), former minister Effie Eitam, head of the National Heritage Program in the Prime Minister’s Office Reuven Pinsky, Deputy IAA director general Dr. Uzi Dahari and Jerusalem District Archaeologist Dr. Yuval Baruch.

Eitam, who heads an oil company set to drill in the Golan, denied his candidacy. Hasson said he was asked to contend and did not object.

After [Shuka] Dorfman’s death it transpired there was no legal procedure for appointing a successor. Culture Minister Limor Livnat, whose ministry is in charge of the authority, last week issued new regulations stipulating she is the one to decide on the new antiquities director-general.

The Israel Antiquities council, however, wants to have more influence in the process and is demanding that the committee appointed to select the new director-general consist of at least one archaeologist and three council members. The council also insists that the new director has an advanced academic degree, preferably in archaeology or Land of Israel studies.
So politics are involved. Imagine that. But how is it that there is no legal procedure for finding the replacement? This isn't the first time it's happened.

Background here.

Late fourth-century BCE tomb in Greece

THE BBC: Greek tomb at Amphipolis is 'important discovery'.
Archaeologists unearthing a burial site at Amphipolis in northern Greece have made an "extremely important find", says Greek PM Antonis Samaras.

Experts believe the tomb belonged to an important figure dating back to the last quarter of the Fourth Century BC.

A large mound complex has been unearthed at the Kasta hill site in the past two years.

Lead archaeologist Katerina Peristeri said it certainly dated from after the death of Alexander the Great.

This story has been around for a while, but seems to have a new lease on life due to the recent attention from the Greek Prime Minister. This article seems to hint that the tomb might be that of one of Alexander's generals, the Diadochoi or of his wife, Roxana or his son Alexander IV (who was born after his father's death). But Dorothy Lobel King is not ready to exclude it being the (never used) tomb of Alexander himself. David Meadows also has comments.

Middle East: Aramaic speakers and Yazidis

PERSECUTION OF RELIGIOUS MINORITIES: Is the Islamic State Exterminating the Language of Jesus? We may be watching the deliberate destruction of Aramaic, unfolding in real time. (Ross Perlin, Foreign Policy).
Beyond the urgent humanitarian crisis lies a cultural and linguistic emergency of historic proportions. The extinction of a language in its homeland is rarely a natural process, but almost always reflects the pressures, persecutions, and discriminations endured by its speakers. Linguist Ken Hale famously compared the destruction of a language to "dropping a bomb on the Louvre" -- whole patterns of thought, ways of being, and entire systems of knowledge are among what is lost. If the last Aramaic speaker finally passes away two generations from now, the language will not have died of natural causes.
Background on the situation in Iraq is here and here and links. Background on Maaloula (Ma'aloula, Malula) is here and links. Background on Ariel Sabar's My Father's Paradise is here and links. And more on Geoffrey Khan's Aramaic database is here. Cross-file under "Aramaic Watch."

Then there are the Yazidis. They are not Aramaic speakers, but their religion has interesting and yet-to-be-clarified parallels with ancient Gnosticism. From the Times of Israel: Eight Questions About the Yazidis. Members of the Kurdish religious sect are under siege in Iraq. Who are they? What do they believe? And what is to be done? (Liel Leibovitz). Background here and links.