Saturday, January 21, 2006

ARAMAIC AND HEBREW RESOURCES ONLINE: Over at Deinde, Danny Zacharias has posts here and here drawing attention to some good Hebrew and Aramaic resources online. These include the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon, which I've mentioned here before; the 1910 edition of Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar (downloadable in small PDF-file chunks); Jastrow's postbiblical Hebrew and Aramaic dictionary (Volume 1 here and Volume 2 here, downloadable in seven large PDF files); some Hebrew and Aramaic resources from Ken Penner, also in PDF format; and Peter Williams's Outline of Aramaic Grammar. The last is in a Word file with unnamed fonts. These don't work for me; maybe they are Unicode, which, alas are incompatible with Mac Word.

I'm teaching biblical Aramaic next semester and some of these resources will be helpful. If I get my act together, maybe I'll put some of my course materials online too.

UPDATE: Regarding that font, reader Tommy Wasserman e-mails to tell me that it's SPTiberian, which is indeed Mac compatible. My mistake; I forgot that I hadn't installed that font on my home machine. Sorry about that.

UPDATE (22 January): Christian Brady informs me that the 2004 version of Word for the Mac does handle Unicode. I've been neglecting the upgrade because I mean to invest in some new hardware soon, but this is good news.
INK AND BLOOD: Reader Ferrell Jenkins has visited this exhibition in St. Petersburg, Florida, and has posted a detailed account of it on his website.

UPDATE: Joe Weaks comments at the Macintosh Biblioblog. He saw the exhibition when it was in Dallas.

Friday, January 20, 2006

BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA: Phil Harland continues his series on the historical background of the Satan myth with posts on ancient Near Eastern background (including the sea dragon); material from the Hebrew Bible and ancient Israel; and the fallen angels in 1 Enoch.
THE JOURNAL FOR THE STUDY OF THE PSEUDEPIGRAPHA has a new issue out (vol. 15.1, January 2006). Here's the table of contents:
William K. Gilders
Blood and Covenant: Interpretive Elaboration on Genesis 9.4-6 in the Book of Jubilees
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 2006 15: 83-118.

Lorenzo DiTommaso
Pseudepigrapha Notes I: 1. Lunationes Danielis; 2. Biblical Figures outside the Bible
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 2006 15: 119-144.

Matthias Henze
Book Review: The Destruction of Jerusalem and the Idea of Redemption in the Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 2006 15: 145-148.

Dale C. Allison, Jr
Book Review: Abraham Meets Death: Narrative Honor in the Testament of Abraham
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 2006 15: 148-150.

Lorenzo DiTommaso
Book Review: A Scripture Index to Charlesworth's: The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, With a Contribution by James H. Charlesworth
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 2006 15: 150.

Angela Standhartinger
Book Review: Joseph und Aseneth
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 2006 15: 151-155.

Eileen Schuller
Book Review: Pseudepigraphic Perspectives: The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 2006 15: 155-157.

You can access abstracts of the articles for free, but the full texts of articles and reviews are available only with a paid personal or institutional subscription.
YALE UNIVERSITY has a number of visiting professors and lecturers in Jewish studies this year. The Jewish Ledger profiles them (Moshe Bar-Asher, Elitzur Bar-Asher, Renée Levine Melammed, and Uri Melammed) and their work and classes. Hebrew, Aramaic, Judeo-Arabic, etc. are well represented. I'm especially impressed with Elitzur Bar-Asher's Aramaic course:
I’m teaching a class at Yale entitled Aramaic Survey. In the course, we are covering 3000 years of Aramaic. We begin with the royal inscriptions, and then text from the Achaeamenid period (including Biblical Aramaic). We study Nabataean and Palmyrene Aramaic in the first semester, and in the second semester we will read texts from Qumaran, Syriac, Babylonian Aramaic (the language of the Babylonaian Talmud), Palestinian Aramaic (the language of the Palestinian Talmud) n and we’ll end with dialects of Aramaic which are still spoken. Covering 3000 years of a language give the opportunity to deal with many questions of Historical linguistics and to trace the development of some interesting linguistic features.

Good stuff.
NO REHABILITATION OF JUDAS AFTER ALL: The Zenit News Agency denies the claims made in the Times of London:
On Jan. 12 an article in the Times newspaper of London claimed that Monsignor Brandmüller is leading a campaign from the Vatican to convince believers of Judas' goodness.

The Times also stated that some biblical scholars believe that the negative view of Judas has been influenced by anti-Semitic texts.

But in statements to ZENIT, Monsignor Brandmüller clarified that "this news has no foundation."

"Reading the Times I discovered that a campaign exists to rehabilitate Judas and that I am the leader," the Vatican official said. "I have not talked with the Times. I can't imagine where this idea came from.

"In regard to the manuscript, it must be emphasized that the apocryphal gospels belong in the main to a special literary genre, a sort of religious novel that cannot be considered as a documentary source for the historical figure of Judas."

Monsignor Brandmüller continued: "We await the critical edition, which will certainly be interesting from the point of view of the history of ancient literature, but it is impossible to express judgments in advance."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

LIFE JUST GOT MORE DIFFICULT for online plagiarists. Horace Jeffery Hodges has the info over at Gypsy Scholar.

Note also the updates to my earlier post that linked to Jeffery's "42" post.
THE INK AND BLOOD EXHIBIT at the Florida International Museum is profiled in some detail in the St. Petersburg Times:
A war of words

Centuries of struggle to control the Bible's content are beautifully detailed in an exhibit at the Florida International Museum.

By LENNIE BENNETT, Times art critic

ST. PETERSBURG - In the beginning was the Word.

And nothing was ever simple again.

That's the message of "Ink and Blood," an engrossing exhibition at the Florida International Museum tracing the evolution of the modern Bible, a document stained with martyrs' blood and scholars' pens through centuries of strife and struggle to control its content.

Almost 100 religious manuscripts and objects dating from the seventh century B.C. to the 18th century are on display, none a facsimile. Doubters and believers alike will find the beauty of the rare books and individual pages, or leaves, and the fragility of the ancient scroll fragments powerful transmitters of human aspiration. And the polyglot of languages, we learn, indicates fierce territorial motivations rather than appeals for multiculturalism.


Regarding the Dead Sea Scrolls it says:
The discovery of a cache of religious writings in caves in Qumran, on the northeast shore of the Dead Sea, between 1947 and 1956 turned biblical scholarship on its head. The papers, mostly tiny fragments, became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls and were the oldest known examples of what today is called the Written Torah by Jews and the Old Testament by Christians. Before they were found, the oldest known Scriptures were ninth-century A.D. translations. Tiny pieces of the scrolls are under glass here, scraps of paper printed with indecipherable lettering. They look like nothing, yet reaching out across 3,000 years is the hand that wrote: "From the ends of the earth have we heard songs, (even) glory to the righteous" from Isaiah, translated for us on a label.

In other words, these particular fragments look like burnt cornflakes. If you want to see Dead Sea Scrolls, you may as well skip this exhibit. But some of the other manuscripts in it do sound worth a look.
BRUCE CHILTON'S Mary Magdalene: A Biography is reviewed in the Christian Science Monitor. Excerpt:
In short, if, as Chilton believes, "Jesus' true genius lay in the transparency of his visionary experience," then Mary Magdalene is indeed "one of the prime catalysts and shaping forces of Christianity." For Mary represented the vision unrent by political correctness - Roman family values - or gnostic aversion to the flesh.
A fresh glimpse at ancient ‘technology’
New Science Central exhibit explores what life was like 3,000 years ago

By Nicole Lee (Fort Wayne News Sentinel, IN)

Learning about a world that existed 3,000 years ago can be child’s play, say organizers at Science Central, who recently unveiled a new interactive exhibit that uses science and history to discuss technology used in ancient Israel.

“Bible Times Tech,” a 2,500-square-foot traveling exhibit, pairs items found in most homes today with early technology. For example, information on the composition of dyes used as eye shadow by men and women in ancient times sits next to perfume and makeup that can be purchased today at local retail stores.

Astarte, a small figurine believed by the ancient Semites to aid in fertility, is paired with a Clearblue Easy pregnancy test. The board game Tjau is called the precursor to today’s backgammon and Parcheesi.


The article also has a brief interview with Jim VanderKam about the Bible.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

WHAT DO ELISHA and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy have in common? See Chris Weimer's comment to this Gypsy Scholar post to find out.

Cross file under "Cosmic Synchronicities."

UPDATE (19 January): Chris e-mails:
I saw you had mentioned my note on the number 42 and Elisha. There's more - Judges reports 42000 "sibboleth" sayers slain, 42 of Ahab's descendents slain, and 42 plays a role in the Apocalypse of John. I wish I could find the article I was looking for. If I do, I'll let you know. All I remember is that the article had an allusion to "Hitchhiker's" in the title, something along the lines of "Life, the Universe"... Have you heard of the article?

No, I haven't, but perhaps one of PaleoJudaica's resourceful readers has.
UPDATE: This isn't it, but reader Colin Toffelmire notes a related article:
Laura Joffe “The Answer to the Meaning of Life, the Universe and the Elohistic Psalter” JSOT 27 (2002): 223-235.

UPDATE: Chris e-mails to thank Colin and writes:
Ah, yes, that was the article that I had in mind. If I may quote the relevant portions to you.

"It is therefore my suggestion that the Elohistic editing was motivated by the desire to link the names of God with the number 42—to alter them according to the number 42, possibly by reducing the instances of the divine name Yahweh in these Psalms to 42.4 The motivation for the redaction would have been magical or theurgic."

"In the Hebrew Bible, 42 is a number of disaster and ill-omen. 42,000 Ephraimites are slain for not being able to say 'shibboleth' in Judg. 12.6. In 2 Kgs 10.14, the 42 relatives of Ahaziah are killed by Jehu. The Chronicles parallel of this incident is instructive. While the Chronicler does not specify how many relatives were killed (2 Chron. 22.8), he does alter the age at which Ahaziah came to the throne from 22 years (2 Kgs 8.26) to 42 (2 Chron. 22.2)."

"Particularly relevant to my case is 2 Kgs 2.24. Here Elisha curses in the name of Yahweh the children who had been taunting him (ויקללם בשם יהוה). Two bears then come out of the wood and kill 42 of them. Note the artificial (providential?) nature of the number in this incident—rather than having 42 children taunt Elisha, 42 of a larger group are slain by bears who, presumably, can count. This instance incorporates the three elements which are central to my case: cursing, the name of Yahweh, and the number 42."

"Turning to the New Testament, Rev. 11.2 gives the period of rampage to be 42 months (or put differently, 1260 days in Rev. 11.3; 12.6). In Revelation 13, a beast with blasphemous names on its head (v. 1) spends a period of 42 months (v. 5) blaspheming against God and his name (v. 6). Thus while 42 clearly has a larger, diabolical tradition, we have in Rev. 13.1-5 a restatement of the triad: blaspheming, the name of God, and the number 42.

The number 42 resurfaces in Jewish tradition in the form of a 42-lettered name of God, which is well-attested from the Talmud to the present day."

Hmmm ... I'm still not sure what the ultimate question is.
Colette Sirat, Hebrew Manuscripts of the Middle Ages

David Noy (ed.), Jewish Inscriptions of Western Europe Volume 1, Italy (excluding the City of Rome), Spain and Gaul

David Noy (ed.), Jewish Inscriptions of Western Europe: Volume 2, The City of Rome

Keith Sidwell, Reading Medieval Latin

Kenneth Seeskin (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Maimonides

Peter Adamson and Richard C. Taylor (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy
Study offers solutions for J'lem holy sites
By ETGAR LEFKOVITS (Jerusalem Post)

Israel and the Palestinians should allow the international community to supervise Jerusalem's Temple Mount and the city's other holy sites, a study carried out by a liberal Jerusalem think tank and released Tuesday said.

"The strong connection of members of all monotheistic religions to the city on the one hand, and the lack of trust between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on the other justifies some international intervention in overseeing the area, especially from the security
standpoint and with regard to preserving the holy sites," the study by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies states.


However, some of the response has not been enthusiastic:
The study, which was widely criticized by Israeli politicians on both the right and left, notes that both sides may in fact perceive international sovereignty on the Temple Mount as a desecration and try to fight such a plan.

Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski called the proposal an "irresponsible political and populist plan" which has been rehashed during an election campaign.

He said that it was simply unacceptable that the most holy site in Judaism would fall under international control.

Ynet News has more on the proposal here and more on the negative reaction within Israel here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A DOZEN DANGEROUS IDEAS IN BIBLICAL STUDIES: Loren Rosson lists them and comments on each over at The Busybody.
THERE'S AN M. R. JAMES ONLINE NEWS PAGE that amounts to a blog on James. And there's also a twice-yearly The Ghosts & Scholars M.R. James Newsletter posted on the same page. I found the site through a referral back to this blog.
MORE ON JUDAS: It appears that the move to rehabilitate Judas goes back at least a decade. Reader Maurice A. O'Sullivan alerts me to this review and collection of review-excerpts of William Klassen, Judas: Betrayer or Friend of Jesus?
"Ariel Sharon's disease caused with ancient Kaballistic curse"

With "Kabbalah" misspelled. Sigh.

The article isn't very good but, to be fair, it's not as bad as the headline implies.
LOST BOOKS WATCH: Chris Weimer has revived this theme and given us his top 10 list of lost works he'd like to see recovered. For my rather longer list (and links to many other lists) see here and here. And could Chris's "lost Jewish book of healings" be this one?

Monday, January 16, 2006

DR. ALEXANDER PANAYOTOV has just arrived in St. Andrews to take up his post as Leverhulme Research Fellow for the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project. Welcome, Alex, and thanks once again to the Leverhulme Trust for their support! Project contributors should be hearing more from us soon.
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva
Department of Bible, Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies
Is pleased to invite you to a one day conference on
Marking the appearance of
The Book of Ezekiel in the Miqra Le-Yisrael Commentary Series
By Professor Rimon Kasher
Which will take place on Tuesday, 2 Shevat, 5766 (31 January, 2006)
In Conference Hall A, Hayim Kreitman Building, Marcus Family Campus


9:30-10:00 Reception
10:00-12:30 Morning Session Prof. Victor Hurowitz, Chairman

Greetings Professor Avishai Henik, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Awarding of Takeji Otsuki Fund scholarship to outstanding student

10:15-10:45 Mr. Shawn Selig Aster, Ben-Gurion University
The Glory of the Lord (Kevod YHWH) in the Book of Ezekiel and its Mesopotamian Background

10:45-11:15 Dr. Dalit Rom-Shiloni, Hebrew University and Hebrew Union
Shall you inherit the Land? Ezekiel as the Shaper of Exclusivist Ideology in the Early 6th Century BCE

11:15-11:30 Intermission

11:30-12:00 Dr. Baruch Schwartz, Hebrew University
Ezekiel and the Priestly Source Further Connections

12:00-12:30 Mr. Nebo Shimeon Vankin
The Book of Ezekiel and its Relationship to the Deuteronomic Legislation

12:30-14:00 Lunch Break

14:00-16:15 Afternoon Session, Dr. David Glatt-Gilead, Chairman

14:00-14:30 Prof. Mayer Gruber, Ben-Gurion University
The Language of the Book of Ezekiel in Light of Akkadian

14:30-15:00 Prof. (emeritus) Jacob Milgrom, University of California,
The Unique Features of Ezekiels Temple From whence?

15:00-15:15 Intermission

15:15-15:45 Prof. Rimon Kasher, Bar-Ilan University
Ezekiel and Apocalypticism in Current Research

15:45-16:18 Prof. (Emeritus) Menahem Haran, Hebrew University
The Last Word

(From Victor Avigdor Hurowitz on the ANE List.)
HERE'S A REPORT on November's SBL conference in Philadelphia, published (apparently accidentally in two versions with editor's comments in between) in the local newspaper of Aberdeen South Dakota. The Old Testament pseudepigrapha and other early Jewish writings get good coverage:
One major approach is to study the biblical writings within the larger context of ancient Jewish and Christian literature. Many ancient Jewish and Christian writings were not accepted into the Bible, but still shed light on the beliefs and practices of various ancient communities, and on the biblical writings themselves.

Several groups study the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient Jewish writings like 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra, the Psalms of Solomon, or the Ascension of Isaiah. Early Christian writings studied include the Acts of Peter, the Gospel of Mary, and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. Several papers were devoted to the writings of two figures roughly contemporary with Jesus: the Jewish historian Josephus and the Jewish philosopher and biblical commentator Philo.

Many groups are focused on the relationship between Judaism and Christianity during the first few centuries of Christianity. I presented a paper on a fourth-century document that records a debate between Jews and Christians on whether certain Old Testament scriptures are prophecies of Jesus or refer to other historical events.

The author is Martin Albl, who teaches religious studies at Presentation College.
Welcome to Florida's biblical theme park

Neva Chonin (San Francisco Chronicle)

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Karl Marx once famously stated that religion was the opiate of the masses. Karl never saw a theme park. And Karl probably never, in his wildest lumpen dreams, imagined a religious theme park.

Let us trace the genesis of Karl's worst nightmare. In the beginning, there was Disney World. Disney World begat Universal Studios. Christians looked upon these theme parks and saw that they were good. And so it was, in the year of our Lord 2001, that Universal Studios begat the Holy Land Experience, a Christian theme park built in the middle of an Orlando, Fla., wasteland described by park founder Marvin Rosenthal as being "full of snakes."

Maybe the reptiles were just lining up to audition for the Eden Serpent Chorale. Four years in the making, the Holy Land Experience is an exercise in simulacrum run wild. The 15-acre, $16 million park, which opened Monday, re- creates Palestine during the biblical era: Visitors pay their $17 admission fee, obtain Holy Land passports and pass through a life-size Jerusalem Gate. They are welcomed by caftan-wearing actors bleating on rams' horns. Moving along, they encounter Roman soldiers guarding the entrance to Herod's Temple, where they listen to songs about Rome's persecution of Christians.


I hope the Program Committee doesn't decide to hold the 2011 Society of Biblical Literature meeting there.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

THEY'RE BAAACK! The Bible and Interpretation news website has gone live again with the following essay:
The Reaction to the Bible in Paganism

Although pagan authors were aware of the LXX before the advent of Christianity, apparently the Christian apologists’ use of LXX texts to buttress their faith made the pagans look deeply into the LXX. They attacked LXX texts as part of their larger project of undermining Christianity. The pagans faded away, but some of their criticisms experienced a resurgence in modern biblical scholarship. Some of the questions they raised (e.g., monotheism and Christology) continue to play a role in Christianity’s dialogue with other world religions.

By John Granger Cook
LaGrange College, LaGrange, Georgia

It's good to see the site active again.
EDINBURGH SBL PAPER: I just got the good news that my paper proposal has been accepted by the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha Section of the upcoming International Society of Biblical Literature meeting in Edinburgh in July. Here's the abstract:
James R. Davila, University of St. Andrews, U.K.

The More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha project at the University of St. Andrews ( has assembled an international team of scholars to translate a new collection of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. The corpus of texts, which generally can be dated to c. 600 C.E. or earlier, includes more than sixty complete or nearly complete works and numerous fragments. These documents are not covered in the Charlesworth volumes, apart from a few for which we have important new manuscript evidence. The corpus includes pagan works, Jewish pseudepigrapha transmitted by Jews, Jewish pseudepigrapha transmitted by Christians, and pseudepigrapha composed by Christians.

This paper surveys and comments on the twenty or so texts that can be assigned to Jewish authorship with virtual certainty. Most of them survive in Hebrew or Aramaic and were transmitted in Jewish circles, but a collection of sermons is preserved only in Armenian. They include apocalyses of Elijah and Zerubbabel; a visionary text ascribed to Ezekiel; a prophecy attributed to Gad the Seer; magical treatises; a sapiential work; ancient Jewish sermons on biblical figures; a Hebrew prayer paralleled in the Slavonic Ladder of Jacob; a poetic text about David and Goliath; narratives about the giants, Noah, the patriarchs, the Maccabean revolt, and related midrashic material; and a text that claims to tell how and where the treasures of Solomon's Temple were hidden at the time of its destruction. Specialists will be familiar with some of these texts, but few will have studied all of them. By collecting translations of these documents with introductions, we aim to raise their profile among both scholars and nonspecialists.