Friday, May 25, 2018

The two rabbis and the disrespectful donkey

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: The Uppity Donkey and the Distraught Rabbi: Critical Animal Studies and the Talmud (Beth Berkowitz).
This story about two rabbis and their donkeys opens a number of lines of inquiry for late antiquity. What were the everyday interactions of human beings with animals and how did those interactions shape both human and animal lives? What mediating roles did animals play in human politics? What were the mechanisms by which people tried to control animals and how did they justify those mechanisms? Finally, and in my view most intriguingly, how were late ancients onto themselves when it came to animals? In other words, what insights did late ancient people have into the problems and paradoxes of their relationship to other species?
This is the latest essay in the AJR Animal Forum.

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Habakkuk 3 and ANE myth

FOR SHAVUOT: Habakkuk’s Mythological Depiction of YHWH (Prof. Marvin A. Sweeney, TheTorah.com).
Habakkuk 3 is framed as a lament, in which the psalmist asks God to save him and his people from danger. The core of the psalm is a divine theophany, in which YHWH is described as coming from afar to battle his enemies in classic ANE mythological fashion.
When I was a doctoral student, a few of us read early biblical Hebrew poetry with Frank Moore Cross for a semester, including Habakkuk 3. On the basis of the grammar and content, Cross regarded it to be an early poem reused in the book of Habakkuk. That seemed convincing to me at the time.

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On The Ladder of Jacob

READING ACTS: The Ladder of Jacob. Another installment in Phil Long's current summer series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Past posts in the series were noted here and here and links.

The Ladder of Jacob survives complete only in Old Church Slavonic. But the prayer of Jacob from The Ladder of Jacob also survives in Hebrew from the Cairo Geniza. The Hebrew may be the original or it may be translated from a Greek original

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

New DSS coming to the Denver exhibition

ROTATION: 10 MORE DEAD SEA SCROLLS ARE COMING TO DENVER (Cara Chancellor, 303 Magazine).
In March, The Dead Sea Scrolls came to The Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Named one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century, these manuscripts were written between 150 B.C. and 70 A.D., making parts of the collection more than 2,000 years old. They are some of the oldest remaining documents of written human history and now 10 more are coming to Denver. The 10 new scrolls will be here in early June to replace those currently on display and like the first round, the second will feature one scroll never before seen by the public.

[...]
Follow the link for the full list of new scrolls. They arrive on 11 June.

Background on the Denver Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition is here and links.

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How many kinds of giants?

REMNANT OF GIANTS: Matthew Goff on the Three Successive Generations of Giants (Deane Galbraith).

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Moses and the Torah in Nehemiah 9

FOR SHAVUOT: Nehemiah 9: The First Historical Survey in the Bible to Mention Sinai and Torah (Professor Hava Shalom-Guy, TheTorah.com).
The revelation at Sinai emerged as central to Israel’s story in the Persian period. No biblical text outside the Torah mentions it until its unique inclusion in the historical prologue of the Levites’ prayer in Nehemiah 9:13-14. A later scribe redacted the Sinai verses to further include a reference to the Torah of Moses.

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Cyril and Methodius Day 2018 (again!)

SLAVONIC PHILOLOGY: Day of Slavic Writing and Culture (Ukrinform).
Every year on May 24, all Slavic countries commemorate Saints Cyril and Methodius, as well as the Day of Slavic Writing and Culture. In Ukraine, the holiday was established in accordance with a presidential decree of September 17, 2004, on the day of commemoration of Equal-to-the-Apostles Cyril and Methodius – representatives of the Enlightenment, who played a prominent role in the development and formation of Slavic writing and culture, patrons of Europe.

[...]
The work of Saints Cyril and Methodius is actually celebrated on three different days in different Slavic countries: 14 February, 24 May (today), and 5 July. More on that here. That post also has links with more information on Cyril and Methodius, their alphabet, and Slavonic Old Testament pseudepigrapha (i.e., why PaleoJudaica is interested). Also, in that post I neglected to include the Ukraine among today's celebrants. I have corrected that omission with the first link above.

Happy celebration to all those celebrating.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Left-handers in the Bible

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Left-Handed People in the Bible. Is there a genetic link to Benjamite lefties?
The Hebrew Bible mentions left-handed people on three occasions: the story of Ehud’s assassination of the Moabite king (Judges 3:12–30), the 700 Benjamites who could use the sling with deadly accuracy (Judges 20:16) and the two-dozen ambidextrous warriors who came to support David in Hebron (1 Chronicles 12:2). All of these stories of left-handed people in the Bible appear in military contexts, and, curiously, all involve members of the tribe of Benjamin.

[...]
As usual, this essay is an (interesting) summary of a BAR article that is behind the subscription wall: Boyd Seevers and Joanna Klein, Biblical Views: “Left-Handed Sons of Right-Handers,” from 2013.

In Ferniehirst Castle in Scotland there is a left-handed (i.e., upwards counter-clockwise) spiral staircase. The story is that in the early 1500s Sir Andrew Kerr had it built because he himself was left-handed and he trained his follows to swordfight left-handed. The layout of the staircase made it easier for them to defend the castle entrance from above. I have found mixed views on whether it would have made an attack from below harder or easier for right-handers.

There is also mixed evidence on whether left-handedness ran in the Kerr Clan. It doesn't seem to today.

I have seen the staircase myself, but I don't know how much else of the story is true. For some commentary and links, see here.

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Ghosts of Roman coin minting

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Greenland ice cores track Roman lead pollution in year-by-year detail. Studying the ice cores may help reconstruct fluctuations in the ancient economy (Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica).
Lead pollution could provide a proxy for the general state of the Roman economy, but historians would need a detailed record of changes in pollution levels from year to year. That was found 2,500 miles away in the ice sheets of Northern Greenland. Paleoclimatologist Joe McConnell of the Desert Research Institute and his colleagues turned to a 423-meter-long ice core taken by the Northern Greenland Ice Core Project.

The core records nearly 2,000 years of annual ice buildup, from 1100 BCE to 800 CE. Each layer records slightly less than a year’s worth of accumulated ice, which traps other material, like lead from mines and foundries in Europe. McConnell and his colleagues say they’ve dated the layers with an uncertainty of just one or two years, making it easy to compare lead pollution with historical events.
The Punic Wars provide one example of this correlation:
McConnell and his colleagues saw a characteristic pattern around wars throughout Roman history. When conflict came to a mining region, as it did during the three Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage, it disrupted life and work in the region. That shows up as a year or two of slightly cleaner ice in Greenland, since Europe was producing less lead pollution.

At the outbreak of the first Punic War in 264 BCE, for instance, the amount of lead in the Greenland ice layers dropped abruptly. But production ramped up again closer to the final years of the war, as Carthage minted more silver coins to pay its mercenary forces.
Cross-file under Punic Watch and Numismatics (Sort Of).

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Talmud manuscripts

TALMUD WATCH: Surviving Manuscripts of the Talmud: An Overview (Dr. Menachem Katz, TheGemara.com).
What we know about the surviving manuscripts, and how they contribute to Talmud study
HT AJR. For more on the long oral transmission of the Babylonian Talmud, see here. For more on the Hachi Garsinan Talmud project, see here and here.

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The Kingdom of Aksum

HISTORY: The Kingdom of Aksum – Africa’s lost Empire. The Aksumite Empire was an ancient kingdom that existed in Ethiopia from 100 CE to 940 CE. Centred on the city of Axum in Ethiopia, the nation grew from the proto-Aksumite Iron Age period around 400 BCE to its height around the 1st century CE (Heritage Daily).

This is a nice capsule history of the Ethiopian Kingdom of Aksum (Axum). For past PaleoJudaica posts involving Aksum, start here and follow the links. In particular, this post and this one give background on why Aksum is of interest for ancient Judaism.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Ammon, Moab and Edom

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Who Were the Ammonites, Moabites and Edomites in the Bible? Ancient Israel’s neighbors east of the Jordan (Megan Sauter).
The kingdoms of Ammon, Moab and Edom fought with the Israelites and the Judahites over territory. The Bible presents things from the Israelites’ and Judahites’ point of view, and archaeological discoveries help show us the other side. By looking at what these ancient peoples wrote and left behind, we are able to better understand their perspective. We now have a fuller picture of their kings, gods and daily life.
This essay is a taster for a 2016 BAR article by Joel S. Burnett: “Ammon, Moab and Edom: Gods and Kingdoms East of the Jordan.” You need a paid subscription to read the full article, but the BHD essay gives a nice brief overview of the topic.

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On the Lives of the Prophets

READING ACTS: The Lives of the Prophets. Another installment in Phil Long's current summer series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.

I don't doubt that the Lives of the Prophets contains some Jewish traditions. But there's a good case that the best context for it is the world of late-antique Byzantine Christianity. See David Satran, Biblical Prophets in Byzantine Palestine. Reassessing the Lives of the Prophets (SVTP 11; Brill, 1994).

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Moses and Zoroaster as authors

DR. YISHAI KEIL: How the Concept of Mosaic Authorship Developed (TheTorah.com).
In the Persian period, the Torah, which is made up of various law collections, was ascribed to Moses as revealed by YHWH. A parallel development was taking place in Achaemenid Persia that sheds light on this process: The sacred texts called the Avesta, that contain the law​​ (dāta) and tradition (daēnā) of Zoroastrianism​, were being collectively ascribed to Zarathustra (Zoroaster) as revealed by Ahuramazdā.

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Satlow on the field of Judaism in late antiquity

MICHAEL SATLOW: Jews and Judaism in Late Antiquity: Taking Stock. Professor Satlow has been a major figure in the field for a long time and he is well placed to give us an overview of its development over the last generation.

HT AJR.

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Very busy

I AM GOING TO BE VERY BUSY FOR THE NEXT COUPLE OF WEEKS. Nevertheless, I expect to blog daily, at pretty much the usual volume. Sometimes it may be later in the day.

Do keep visiting as usual. There is plenty of good blogginess coming!

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Sifting Project has found some cool coins

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: 5 rare Jewish coins discovered by Temple Mount project. Coins, minted by autonomous Jewish province of the First Persian Empire in late 4th century BC, attested to existence of commercial, administrative life in and around Second Temple and Temple Mount; 'These were the first coins ever minted by Jews,' says project's co-director, adding pilgrims would convert their tithes into these coins. (Itzchak Tessler, Ynet News).

The "Project" is, of course, the Temple Mount Sifting Project, on which more here and oh so many links.

This article has lots of background on the YHD coins, including that they apparently have been used as partial inspiration for the design of the new Israeli shekel. Cross-file under Numismatics.

The Temple Mount Sifting Project is still looking for funding!

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Was the Priestly writer anti-Temple?

DR HACHAM ISAAC S. D. SASSOON:The Tabernacle: A Post-Exilic Polemic Against Rebuilding the Temple (TheTorah.com).
The Priestly Torah discusses the Tabernacle at extraordinary length, emphasizing its portability. Nothing in P ever says this structure was meant to be temporary. P’s Tabernacle was not foreshadowing the Temple, but was a polemic against Haggai and Zechariah’s agitation to build the Second Temple.
Surprisingly, P never tells the Israelites to build a Temple when they reach the Promised Land.

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4 Baruch

READING ACTS: What is Fourth Baruch? Another in Phil Long's current summer series of blog posts on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.

For past posts in this series over the last couple of years, see here and links.

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The royal wedding had a Coptic connection

COPTIC WATCH: Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London gives prayer at UK's royal wedding. Anba Angaelos is the first Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, having served as General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom since 1999 (Ahram Online). Sadly, the prayer was not in Coptic.

But never mind. Congratulations and all best wishes to the newlywed royal couple.

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Sunday, May 20, 2018

The vision of Ezekiel

EZEKIEL CHAPTER ONE, the Merkavah vision of Ezekiel, is the haftarah (reading from the prophets) for the first day of Shavuot (which started yesterday at sundown). This chapter is the foundation for both Jewish and Christian mysticism and its traditions have also been influential on Islamic mysticism. For some comment on the influence of the passage on Jewish tradition, see Why Read Ezekiel on Shavuot? Tradition connects the prophet's vision to the revelation at Sinai by Michael Fishbane at My Jewish Learning.

In Christian mysticism, Ezekiel's vision was to a large degree mediated through the work of Pseudo-Dionysius the Aeropagite, a late-antique Neoplatonist philosopher and mystic. For more on those traditions, see the Wikipedia article on Christian angelology.

And for more on Ezekiel's Merkavah vision, see here and here and links.

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Judges in Pseudo-Philo

READING ACTS: The Book of Judges in Pseudo-Philo (LAB) (Phil Long). Phil's opening post on this book was noted here. His series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha continues.

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Why does the Torah come in five books?

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: Why Is the Torah Divided into Five Books? (Dr. Elaine Goodfriend, TheTorah.com).
The division of the Torah into five books is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible, yet this division may be ancient and inherent. Already in Second Temple times, Philo speaks of it, and by the early first millenium C.E., the Torah became known by the Greek name, Pentateuch, literally, “five scrolls.” Is this division due to practical, thematic, or symbolic considerations?
Fun fact: the first recorded person to use the term "Pentateuch" for the Torah of Moses was a Gnostic Christian. He said that Moses only wrote part of it.

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Archaeology and Virtual Reality

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Virtual Reality in Archaeology. Visualizing antiquity through modern lenses (Abby VanderHart). Past posts on Lithodomos and similar technologies are here and links. And here's an older post on the prospect of such technologies — a prospect that today is partially realized.

Cross-file under Technology Watch.

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Saturday, May 19, 2018

Shavuot 2018

THE FESTIVAL OF SHAVUOT (Weeks, Pentecost) begins tonight at sundown. (For real this time!) Best wishes to all those celebrating. Last year's post gave links with biblical background.

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Mobile sifting update

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Archaeologist for a day: Find Temple Mount treasures — at a school near you. The Temple Mount Sifting Project takes its show on the road with a pilot program in which it uses dirt to connect students to the past and future of the Jerusalem holy site (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
Petah Tivka high school pupils got their hands dirty on Wednesday and Thursday this week when the Temple Mount Sifting Project’s new mobile unit paid a visit.

The Yeshurun High School’s hands-on experience was the second of the pilot project’s pit stops in an effort to “bring the mountain to Muhammad.” Previously, elementary school pupils in Tekoa also had the opportunity to sift for treasure during a special session with the Temple Mount Sifting Project’s staff using wet-sifting apparatus.

Students are given a presentation by an archaeologist on the history of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount in particular, and are then trained on how to search to artifacts among the dirt. Using water, they “wet-sift” batches of dirt, and sort out the various rocks, pottery and other debris.

So far the pupils in Petah Tikva have found huge amounts of pottery, mosaic tiles, glass and metal. Luckier students have discovered a Crusader coin, a 1st century CE coin, a partial 3rd century CE oil lamp, an iron hook, a leg of an unidentified, potentially First Temple period cultic clay object, all of which will be cleaned and analyzed at the Sifting Project’s Jerusalem lab.

[...]
I noted the new mobile sifting project here. This article gives details about how it's going.

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Philo at Oxyrhynchus

NEWS YOU CAN USE: The Oxyrhynchus Codex of Philo of Alexandria (Brent Nongbri, Variant Readings). And don't forget to read his follow-up post on the archaeology of the Philo codex: Excavating the Oxyrhynchus Philo Codex.

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Krul, The Revival of the Anu Cult ...

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
The Revival of the Anu Cult and the Nocturnal Fire Ceremony at Late Babylonian Uruk

Series:
Culture and History of the Ancient Near East, Volume: 95

Author: Julia Krul

In The Revival of the Anu Cult and the Nocturnal Fire Ceremony at Late Babylonian Uruk, Julia Krul offers a comprehensive study of the rise of the sky god Anu as patron deity of Uruk in the Late Babylonian period (ca. 480-100 B.C.). She reconstructs the historical development of the Anu cult, its underlying theology, and its daily rites of worship, with a particular focus on the yearly nocturnal fire ceremony at the Anu temple, the Bīt Rēš.

Providing the first in-depth analysis of the ceremony, Julia Krul convincingly identifies it as a seasonal renewal festival with an important exorcistic component, but also as a reinforcement of local hierarchical relationships and the elite status of the Anu priesthood.

Publication Date: 26 April 2018
ISBN: 978-90-04-36493-6
As I've said before, I like to keep track of developments in the study of late ancient Babylonia, because of its background interest for Judaism of the Second Temple Period.

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