Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Postdocs and PhD positions at Helsinki

The two Centres of Excellence are seeking enthusiastic candidates for several fixed-term positions of


The university and postdoctoral researcher positions are for periods ranging from one to three years. The period of the doctoral student positions may range from one to four years.
One of those Centres is The CoE in Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions (CSTT), which has a blog here. They do a lot of interesting work in ancient Judaism and related areas. Dr. Drew Longacre is currently a postdoctoral researcher there. His Old Testament Textual Criticism Blog and the CSTT Blog are familiar to regular readers of PaleoJudaica.

4 Ezra 13:1-58

READING ACTS: Ezra’s Sixth Vision – 4 Ezra 13:1-58 (The Man from the Sea). The earlier posts in the series on 4 Ezra have been noted here and links.

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

DeConick, The Gnostic New Age

RICE UNIVERSITY PRESS RELEASE: New book by Rice's DeConick explores the emergence and revolutionizing role of gnosticism.
Gnosticism is a countercultural spirituality that forever changed the practice of Christianity. This is the premise of a new book by April DeConick, the Isla Carroll and Percy E. Turner Professor of Biblical Studies and chair of the Department of Religion at Rice University.

"The Gnostic New Age: How a Countercultural Spirituality Revolutionized Religion From Antiquity to Today," published by Columbia University Press, will hit bookstores in September. The 392-page book has already been selected to receive a subvention award from the Figure Foundation, which very selectively supports publications, mainly in philosophy and religion.

I shall be reviewing this book in the Mysticism, Esotericism, and Gnosticism in Antiquity Group in November at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in San Antonio. I'm looking forward to reading my copy when it arrives.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The denarius

NUMISMATICS: Silver denarius was centerpiece of Rome’s currency for centuries. Most famous ancient coin is silver ‘Eid Mar’ denarius (Jeff Starck, Coin World).
Just as the Greeks had a signature silver coin, the Roman denarius (plural: denarii) was the centerpiece of the Roman currency system.

The small silver coin was first minted about 211 B.C. during the Second Punic War, and became the most common coin produced for circulation, remaining useful long after memories of the war had faded.


Early denarii feature the head of Roma, patroness of the city, on the obverse. The reverse features the Dioscuri, known individually as Castor and Pollux, the twin sons of Zeus and Leda. These young gods became widely popular as protectors in a moment of crisis, and a temple was built in their honor.

As the decades passed, designs for the denomination made way for the political realities of a world where the moneyers (those who struck the coins) and later the rulers themselves, highlighted their own achievements, relationships, or both.

The denarius is probably best known from this story in the New Testament:
13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Hero′di-ans, to entrap him in his talk. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? 15 Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a coin,[a] and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed at him.

a. Mark 12:15 Greek a denarius

(Mark 12:13-17 RSV)
And cross-file under Punic Watch.

Glenny, "The Septuagint and Biblical Theology"

THEMELIOS 41.2: The Septuagint and Biblical Theology (W. Edward Glenny).

This article addresses the question: How does the LXX relate to the Christian Old Testament, and more specifically, what role does the LXX play in Christian biblical theology? The first part of the article is a brief overview of five different approaches to the role of the LXX in a whole-Bible biblical theology. The five approaches are: (1) LXX Priority and Canon, (2) LXX Priority, Hebrew Canon, (3) Hebrew Priority and Canon, LXX Bridge, (4) Hebrew and Greek Are Sanctified by the Spirit, and finally (5) Hebrew Priority and Canon, LXX Commentary. Building on the different perspectives surveyed in this study, it is suggested that that the importance and function of the LXX in Christian biblical theology is at least fourfold: (1) The LXX can function as the source of Christian biblical theology; (2) The LXX is valuable for biblical theology in its role as a commentary on the biblical text; (3) The LXX is a bridge or link between the Christian OT and NT; and (4) The LXX complements the Hebrew Scriptures.

4 Ezra 11:1-12:51

READING ACTS: Ezra’s Fifth Vision – 4 Ezra 11:1-12:51 (The Eagle Vision). The earlier posts in the series on 4 Ezra have been noted here and links. So far there is not a post on Ezra's fourth vision, the woman and Jerusalem.

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

The Living Torah Museum

EXHIBITION: Talmud for Taxidermy. At the Torah Animal World, one Brooklyn Rabbi Brings Stuffed History to Strange Life (Jamie Manelis, Observer.com).
I was surrounded. Seven lions encircled us, mouths ajar with eternal hunger. It was me, a photographer and a rabbi. Sounds like the beginning of a bizarre, hacky joke or the kind of anxiety-ridden dream you tell your therapist about (maybe you should have just had that bat mitzvah?) or possibly even a premise for a very strange and specific horror film. Regardless, it’s the kind of scene you would never imagine happening in your real life, especially in Brooklyn.

This is Torah Animal World.

“Don’t be afraid. How about holding a baby lion?” Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch, founder and curator of Torah Animal World, attempts to comfort me with the stuffed baby lion, his face frozen in ferocious spirit. “Kids come in here, and they are in love because you feel like you’re walking into a lion’s den.”

That’s only the beginning of the fascinating journey through Rabbi Deutsch’s treasure chest of taxidermy delights and ancient artifacts of time forgotten. Torah Animal World is a subset of the Living Torah Museum (voted Best Museum of New York by the Village Voice) offers peculiar insight on an otherwise conventional history. Located in Borough Park, Brooklyn, Rabbi Deutsch has reconstructed his ideal museum with a collection of antiquities (both secular and not) and taxidermy animals, which he’s been collecting for over 23 years. “This was a lifelong dream,” Deutsch admits with a gleaming smile. He poses next to a smug ostrich whose plastered smirk survives even death. “I felt that if we could create something like this it would outlast my lifetime.

I posted on Torah Animal World and the Living Torah Museum back in 2010. But this new article is a good excuse to mention it again.

CFP: How the Bible Came into Being

THE DUNELM ROAD BLOG: How the Bible Came into Being. HBU Spring Theology Conference. A conference on 2-4 March 2017 at Houston Baptist University. Follow the link for details and the call for papers.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Review of Ryan and Shamir (eds.), Bigger than Ben-Hur

Barbara Ryan, Milette Shamir (ed.), Bigger than Ben-Hur: The Book, its Adaptations, and their Audiences. Television and popular culture. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2016. Pp. xviii, 269. ISBN 9780815634034. $34.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Ruth Scodel, The University of Michigan (rscodel@umich.edu)

Timely. Background on the new Ben-Hur movie is here and links. Those links will lead to discussions of the book and previous film adaptations etc.

4 Ezra 6:35-9:25

READING ACTS: Ezra’s Third Vision – 4 Ezra 6:35-9:25. The earlier posts in the series on 4 Ezra have been noted here and links.

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

New translation of Sifre Devarim

Sifre Devarim

Marty Jaffee

A new translation of the 4th-century rabbinic oral commentaries on Deuteronomy

This new translation of the tannaitic midrash Sifre Devarim by Professor Emeritus Marty Jaffee of the University of Washington emphasizes the oral performative dimension of the text.
More details:
Book Description

Professor Marty Jaffee’s new translation of the tannaitic midrash, Sifre Devarim, a 4th-century compilation of rabbinic oral commentaries on Deuteronomy, uniquely captures the spoken dimension of the original text.

Previous translators were rightly concerned with the accurate negotiation of meaning between rabbinic Hebrew and modern English, but neglected the text’s social matrix in an oral-performative milieu. This new translation brings a fresh and often poetic perspective to the work.
And this:
Project made possible through a Digital Media Fellowship at the
University of Washington Stroum Center for Jewish Studies
HT the Talmud Blog on Facebook.

New Series: Texts and Versions of the Hebrew Bible

NEWS YOU CAN USE: New Series: Texts and Versions of the Hebrew Bible (Peter Gurry, ETC Blog).

Review of Compton, Psalm 110 and the Logic of Hebrews

2016.08.16 | Jared Compton. Psalm 110 and the Logic of Hebrews. London: T&T Clark, 2015.
Review by Madison N. Pierce, Durham University.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Review of Fisher (ed.), Arabs and Empires before Islam

Greg Fisher (ed.), Arabs and Empires before Islam. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Pp. xxvii, 580. ISBN 9780199654529. $225.00.

Reviewed by Hamish Cameron, Bates College (hcameron@bates.edu)

Arabs and Empires before Islam seeks to illuminate the pre-Islamic Arabs and their relationship to the empires and kingdoms which surrounded them. The chapters, each of which has been written by an ensemble of scholars, examine a variety of mostly written evidence from multiple traditions, most originating in geographically, politically and chronologically adjacent contexts. Archaeological evidence plays a part in this volume, as do writings by pre-islamic Arab authors themselves.

This chapter in particular caught my eye:
Chapter 7 (Provincia Arabia: Nabataea, the Emergence of Arabic as a Written Language, and Graeco-Arabia) addresses the life of the Roman province of Arabia from its annexation to its loss. In the first section (Petra and Ḥegrā between the Roman annexation and the coming of Islam), Zbigniew T. Fiema and Laïla Nehmé survey the Roman annexation of the region. They explore the administration, urbanization, and economic development of the province as well as the relationships between the Roman province and peripheral Arab groups and the impact of Christianity on the region. This section is based mostly on archaeological evidence. The second section, “The Emergence of Arabic as a Written Language”, examines the textual evidence for the province. Michael C. A. MacDonald begins by discussing how cultural norms around language use and writing may have affected the development of written Arabic. He then proceeds through a close philological commentary of inscriptions in the Nabatean script that illustrate the relationship between Arabic and Aramaic in the region. The section includes a sub-section by Laïla Nehmé on ‘transitional’ Nabataeo-Arabic texts and ends with a discussion of the Greco-Arabica, a loose corpus of Arabic words transliterated into the Greek script that allows access to otherwise unknown aspects of pronunciation and meaning.
Cross-file under Nabatean (Nabataean) Watch. Some posts thematically related to the book are collected here and here.

Predatory publishers

BEWARE: Beall’s List: Potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers (AWOL).
Anyone wishing to publisher with an open access publisher should choose a publisher carefully. One way to do this is to review Jeffrey Beall's list of predatory publishers ...

Scotland and the Bar Kokhba Revolt

ARCHAEOLOGY: Burnswark's bloody Roman history becomes clearer (Willie Johnston, BBC Scotland).
There's growing evidence that a landmark flat-topped hill in Dumfriesshire was the site of the first major battle of the Roman invasion of Scotland.

Archaeologists have been trying for 300 years to assess the role of Burnswark in the Roman occupation.

New excavations suggest the truth is more bloody than had been thought up to now.


Lead archaeologist Andrew Nicholson believes it was the first assault in the Roman invasion of Scotland around 140 AD.

"What this probably is, is the start of the Antonine push from Hadrian's Wall, conquering all of southern Scotland," he said.

"After the emperor Hadrian has died the new emperor Antoninus Pius needs a victory as the incoming emperor.

"Southern Scotland is beyond the wall, beyond the borders, it is barbarian and Burnswark and the rest of Annandale and everywhere south of the Forth-Clyde line is its intended target."

Now this in itself is an exciting archaeological development. But what, you ask, does it have to do with the Bar Kokhba Revolt, the Jewish revolt against Rome in 132-135 CE? This:
More evidence is the known presence of a general Lollius Urbicus brought here from the Middle East to do the emperor's dirty work.

John Reid of the Roman Heritage group the Trimontium Trust says Urbicus had "previous".

"He made his name in the Jewish war which had taken place in Israel in the previous four years where they had literally gone through the whole of Judea taking hill forts one after the other," he said.

"He was given the job of taking Scotland, we know that from Roman literary sources.

"So he was here and this is where they blood their troops."
More on Urbicus is here.

4 Ezra 5:21-6:34

READING ACTS: Ezra’s Second Vision – 4 Ezra 5:21-6:34. The earlier posts in the series on 4 Ezra have been noted here and link.

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

More on that Philistine cemetery in Ashkelon

INTERVIEW: One on One with…Adam Aja, museum curator and senior staff member of Ashkelon dig (Wayne E. Rivet, The Bridgton News).
Adam Aja knows what it is like to find a needle in a haystack, sort of.

Working several summers in Israel as an Assistant Director of Field Operations at Ashkelon, the former Bridgton resident made a startling find at the end of one dig period.

Through the help of a co-worker using an excavator, Aja uncovered a Philistine cemetery, the first major burial site discovered in the area, ever. Further excavation over the next year resulted in unearthing 200 fully-articulated skeletons laid out in burial positions, as well as some weapons.

In an i24 television interview, Adam talked about the moment of discovery. The crew was approached by a surveyor, who had found some human remains. He wondered why no one had continued work there.

The story of the discovery and an interview with Aja about the Ashkelon excavation follow.
“It was a crazy two days,” he added. “We just kept finding body after body.”
Background here and links.

Friday, August 26, 2016

PhD thesis by Noah Bickart

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Dissertation Spotlight | Noah Bickart.
This project investigates the meaning and usage of a particular set of linguistically related Talmudic terms in order to show how and in what cultural context the Talmud began to take shape in the emerging scholastic centers of rabbinic learning in late Sassanian Babylonia.
Sounds interesting, but I kept wondering what the title of the dissertation is.

Bauckham Festschrift

In the Fullness of Time: Essays on Christology, Creation,and Eschatology in Honor of Richard Bauckham (ed. Daniel Gurtner, Grant Macaskill, Jonathan Pennington; Eerdmans, 2016).

Over the course of his distinguished career Richard Bauckham has made pioneering contributions to diverse areas of scholarship ranging from ethics and contemporary issues to hermeneutical problems and theology, often drawing together disciplines and fields of research all too commonly kept separate from one another. In this volume some of the most eminent figures in modern biblical and theological scholarship present essays honoring Bauckham. Addressing a variety of subjects related to Christology, creation, and eschatology, the contributors develop elements of Bauckham's biblical and theological work further, present fresh research of their own to complement his work, and raise critical questions.
My essay, "The Book of Revelation and the Hekhalot Literature," is published on pp. 215-28. You can read an earlier version of it here (with this). Congratulations to Richard Bauckham for a well-deserved honor.

Results of inscription survey

THE BIBLE PLACES BLOG: Favorite Ancient Inscription Results Todd Bolen gives the main results of the survey noted here. I did think about the Mesha Stele (Todd's favorite), but in the end I voted for the Balaam inscription from Tel Deir 'Alla. Todd quotes my reasoning in the post.

A couple of past posts involving the Balaam inscription are here and here. A recent English translation is by Edward M. Cook in Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, volume 1 (ed. Bauckham, Davila, and Panayotov; Eerdmans, 2013), pp. 236-43.

By the way, the seal of Baruch the scribe is widely regarded to be a forgery. (See here and here and links.)

4 Ezra 3:1-5:20

READING ACTS: Ezra’s First Vision – 4 Ezra 3:1-5:20. The first post in the series on 4 Ezra (2 Esdras) was noted here.

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

Early Judaism and Christianity job at McMaster University

H-JUDAIC: JOB: McMaster University, Assistant Professor, Early Judaism and Early Christianity. Follow the link for further particulars. The committee will begin reviewing applications on 15 October and plans to interview at the AAR/SBL annual meeting in November.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

On crossing the Jordan

NEWS YOU CAN USE: Seven Fascinating Facts about Crossing the Jordan River (Todd Bolen, Bible Places Blog.
I had the opportunity to read a pre-publication draft of an article that David Z. Moster has written on crossing the Jordan River in antiquity. I found it a fascinating study, and I asked him if I could share some of his excellent research with you, and he kindly agreed.

Introducing 4 Ezra (2 Esdras)

READING ACTS: A Christian Introduction to 4 Ezra. We move to a new text in Phil Long's pseudepigrapha series. In this post he deals with the larger Ezra document that includes the Jewish text 4 Ezra and the Christian texts 5 Ezra and 6 Ezra. The three are found together in the Latin translation, which as a whole is generally known as 2 Esdras.

Past PaleoJudaica posts on the ancient Ezra literature (these three books and more!) are collected here [transposed links - here and first in next sentence - now fixed.]. And subsequent past posts on 4 Ezra are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. A post on 6 Ezra is here. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.


YONA SABAR: Hebrew word of the week: Nasi’/President.

An little footnote to this word. The second-century head of the failed second revolt against Rome, Shimon Bar Kokhba (Bar Kosiba) was also addressed by his followers with the title Nasi’, "prince" or (anachronistically) "president." In 1960, when archaeologist Yigael Yadin announced the discovery of the Bar Kokhba letters, he made the announcement in the residence of the President of Israel and in the hearing of the President. Yadin showed a slide of of one of the letters and said (in Hebrew), "Your Excellency, I am honored to be able to tell you that we have discovered fifteen despatches written or dictated by the last President of ancient Israel, 1800 years ago."*

*Yadin, Bar-Kokhba: The Rediscovery of the Legendary Hero of the Second Jewish Revolt Against Rome (New York: Random House, 1971), untitled opening statement.

Cue the Holy Hand Grenade jokes

A RELIC: Crusader-era grenade dug out of central Israel home. Family shows metal artifacts retrieved from sea by late father, including knife-head some 3,500 years old (Sue Surkes, Times of Israel).
The early grenade would have been filled with Greek fire, sealed and hurled at an enemy, a weapon common in Israel from the 11th to 14th centuries CE.

It was used during the Crusader, Ayyubid and Mamluk periods, according to the IAA.

The Bogomils of Bosnia

POST-ANTIQUITY GNOSTICISM: The Bogomils of Bosnia: Forgotten gnostics (AYŞE BETÜL KAYAHAN, Daily Sabah).
Bogomilism was a Gnostic dualistic sect, whose religious doctrines borrowed from the belief system of the Paulicians and the Manichaeans. Bogomilism is thought to originate from the teachings of a village priest named Bogomil who lived in Macedonia, whose name means "friend of God" or "beloved of God." The priest Bogomil would criticize the wealthy priests and nobles, calling them the servants of the devil. He would refer to the Gospel while preaching about the differences in life style between Jesus Christ and wealthy priests. Poor people living in the Byzantine-controlled Macedonia and Thracian regions followed Bogomil teachings, and later organized under the rule of Peter I of Bulgaria as a reactionary group opposing oppression from political and clerical authorities. Although the Bogomils flourished in Bulgaria, their teachings expanded to areas in the Byzantine Empire, Serbia, Bosnia, Italy and France.
For more on the Bogomils, and why PaleoJudaica is interested in them, see here and links.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A brief history of ancient Israel

NEWS YOU CAN USE: Ancient Israel: A Brief History (Owen Jarus, LiveScience). A nice little survey of the history of Israel up to the Bar Kokhba revolt, with attention to relevant inscriptions and archaeology.

The Apocalypse of Zephaniah

READING ACTS: What is the Apocalypse of Zephaniah?
Since the book refers to both Daniel 3 and the apocryphal Susanna, implying a date no earlier than 100 B.C. The author was a Jew living in a Greek speaking Diaspora community. The book appears to have been used in the Coptic Apocalypse of Paul, found in Upper Egypt. E. A. Budge includes this in his Miscellaneous Texts in the Dialect of Upper Egypt (London 1915) but carefully distinguishes this Apocalypse of Paul from the Nag Hammadi text of the same name. There is nothing uniquely Christian in the text, despite the fact Christians preserved the text.
Regarding the provenance: this is a book written in a Christian language, transmitted in a Christian manuscript tradition, used in Christian circles, and showing no distinctively Jewish features. What is the evidence that it is a Jewish text? I'm willing to be convinced, but I'd like to see some arguments. There being "nothing uniquely Christian" is not an argument. The text is written in the name of an Old Testament character and a Christian writer might well have left out obviously Christian ideas to avoid anachronism. Start with the cultural context of the manuscripts you actually have and work backwards to other origins only as required by positive evidence.

I've dealt with these issues at length in my book The Provenance of the Pseudepigrapha: Jewish, Christian, or Other? (Brill, 2005) and more briefly in an article in the Expository Times 117 (2005), pp. 53-57: The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha as Background to the New Testament. Or, for free, in my British New Testament Conference paper back in 2002: Jewish Pseudepigrapha and Christian Apocrypha: How Can We Tell Them Apart.

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

Your favorite inscription?

THE BIBLE PLACES BLOG: Reader Survey: Favorite Ancient Inscription. Todd Bolen brings us another survey. I have voted. I'll tell you which inscription I picked after he closes the survey and posts on the results.

Hurtado on early Jewish opposition to Jesus-devotion

LARRY HURTADO: Early Jewish Opposition to Jesus-Devotion?. He summarizes the evidence (from lateral readings of New Testament texts), based on his 1999 article with the same title.

Bitner, Paul's Political Strategy in 1 Corinthians 1-4

Bradley J. Bitner, Paul's Political Strategy in 1 Corinthians 1-4: Constitution and Covenant. Society for New Testament Studies monograph series, 163. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Pp. 358. ISBN 9781107088481. $99.99.

Reviewed by Timothy Luckritz Marquis, Moravian Theological Seminary (tluckritzmarquis@moravian.edu)


Amidst a number of fields pooling their resources to examine early Christianity and the interaction of law and life, Bradley Bitner’s important book shows how Paul evoked the ways laws were constitutively embodied in Corinth’s physical space in order to renovate understandings of community and authority. Bitner argues that 1 Corinthians draws on language of colonial politeiai and juxtaposes with it God’s new constitution or “covenant.” Colonial constitutions not only lay beneath a city’s conceptual understanding and functioning but also physically dominated urban centers as monumental inscriptions. The provisions of a politeia similarly grounded practices of monumental thanksgiving for patronage, practices that functioned as reconstitutions of communal bonds. Against this background, Paul’s language of testimonial in 1 Cor 1:4-9 recycles such language to portray Christ as a patron whose benefits were testified to by Paul’s preaching and are to be confirmed in the eschatological future. Further, Paul’s intricate depiction of the community as a building or “temple” and himself as a “wise architect” (1 Cor 3:5-4:5) reconfigures his audience’s understanding of status and authority, grounded again in constitutional provisions for public building. As such, Paul addresses factionalism by imaginatively constructing a new community using the language of constitution and its monumental expressions. Throughout the book, Bitner judiciously and with agility traverses among literary, epigraphical, and archaeological evidence to create a space in which to understand anew how Paul’s communities creatively inhabited their civic space.