Thursday, November 27, 2014


HAPPY AMERICAN THANKSGIVING to all those celebrating!

Hollander on Josephus

WILLIAM DEN HOLLANDER: Josephus Reconsidered (The ASOR Blog). There's been a lot of useful reconsidering of Josephus in recent years. This post summarizes the argument in Dr. Hollander's book, Josephus, the Emperors, and the City of Rome (Brill, 2014), noted earlier here and (review) here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Collins, Scriptures and Sectarianism

John J. Collins
Scriptures and Sectarianism

Essays on the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls include many texts that were produced by a sectarian movement (and also many that were not). The movement had its origin in disputes about the interpretation of the Scriptures, especially the Torah, not in disputes about the priesthood as had earlier been assumed. The definitive break with the rest of Judean society should be dated to the first century BCE rather than to the second. While the Scrolls include few texts that are explicitly historical, they remain a valuable resource for historical reconstruction. John J. Collins illustrates how the worldview of the sect involved a heightened sense of involvement in the heavenly, angelic world, and the hope for an afterlife in communion with the angels. While the ideology of the sect known from the Scrolls is very different from that of early Christianity, the two movements drew on common traditions, especially those found in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Follow the link for TOC and ordering information.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Brill books on ancient Judaism

Creation, Covenant, and the Beginnings of Judaism
Reconceiving Historical Time in the Second Temple Period

Ari Mermelstein, Yeshiva University

This study examines the relationship between time and history in Second Temple literature. Numerous sources from that period express a belief that Jewish history began with an act of covenant formation and proceeded in linear fashion until the exile, an unprecedented event which severed the present from the past. The authors of Ben Sira, Jubilees, the Animal Apocalypse, and 4 Ezra responded to this theological challenge by claiming instead that Jewish history began at creation. Between creation and redemption, history unfolds as a series of static, repeating patterns that simultaneously account for the disappointments of the Second Temple period and confirm the eternal nature of the covenant. As iterations of timeless, cyclical patterns, the difficult post-exilic present and the glorious redemption of the future emerge as familiar, unremarkable, and inevitable historical developments.

Zodiac Calendars in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Their Reception
Ancient Astronomy and Astrology in Early Judaism

Helen R. Jacobus, University College London

The ancient mathematical basis of the Aramaic calendars in the Dead Sea Scrolls is analysed in this investigation. Helen R. Jacobus re-examines an Aramaic zodiac calendar with a thunder divination text (4Q318) and the calendar from the Aramaic Astronomical Book (4Q208 - 4Q209), all from Qumran. Jacobus demonstrates that 4Q318 is an ancestor of the Jewish calendar today and that it helps us to understand 4Q208 - 4Q209. She argues that these calendars were taught in antiquity as angelic knowledge described in 1 Enoch and the Book of Jubilees. The study also encompasses Babylonian, Hellenistic, Byzantine astronomy and astrology, and classical and Jewish writings. Finally, a medieval Hebrew zodiac calendar related to 4Q318 with an astrological text is published here for the first time.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Review of Relics

AMUSING: 'Relics' sees the present as the past, set in the future (Graydon Royce, Star Tribune).
It is the year 2314 and we are ushered through exhibits that purport to show what life was like back in 2014. Something called “The Great Wipe” had destroyed all life on Earth and these future historians are proving to this audience that there was once an advanced culture.

So, a skeleton fossil reveals the ear buds still hooked up to an ancient device we know as the iPod. A hooded sweatshirt, it was assumed, was worn with the hood in front, a “trough top” that can be filled with popcorn (now, that’s actually not a bad idea).

Dumpsters in the 21st century are interpreted as personal cisterns as three actors do a riff reminiscent of Beckett’s “Endgame.” And the car brush/scraper so essential this time of year was understood by these researchers as a scrubbing utensil for humans. An actor demonstrates how “ancient peoples” used what we know as cake frosting as hand and body cream.

If “Relics” has any lasting impact, it will be to provoke a smile next time you walk through an exhibit like “The Dead Sea Scrolls” or “Tutankhamun.” Just how do we really know that the ancient Egyptians used cosmetics made of clay?
It's good for ancient historians and archaeologists to be reminded of this sort of thing from time to time.

Burt, The Courtier and the Governor

Sean Burt
The Courtier and the Governor

Transformations of Genre in the Nehemiah Memoir

1. Edition 2014
230 pages
ISBN 978-3-525-55076-2
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht

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The Nehemiah Memoir, the narrative of the royal cupbearer sent to rebuild Jerusalem, is central to Ezra-Nehemiah’s account of Persian Judah. Yet its emphasis on one individual’s efforts makes it a text that ill-fits the book’s story of a communal restoration. Sean Burt analyzes the nature of this curious text through the lens of genre criticism and identifies the impact of its use of genres on its early reception in Ezra-Nehemiah. Drawing upon contemporary theorists of literary genre, within the field of biblical studies and beyond, he builds an understanding of genre capable of addressing both its flexibility and its necessarily historical horizon. Burt argues that the Nehemiah Memoir makes use of two ancient genres: the novelistic court tale (e.g. Esther, Ahiqar, and others) and the “official memorial,” or “biographical” genre used across the ancient Near East by kings and other governmental officials for individual commemoration. This study contends that the narrative subtly shifts genres as it unfolds, from court tale to memorial. Nehemiah the courtier becomes Nehemiah the governor. While these genres reveal an affinity to one another, they also highlight a central contradiction in the narrative’s portrait of Nehemiah. Nehemiah is, like the people of Jerusalem, beholden to the whims of a foreign ruler, but he also simultaneously represents Persia’s power over Jerusalem. Burt concludes that the Nehemiah Memoir’s combination of these two ultimately incommensurate genres can account for how the writers of Ezra-Nehemiah modified and corrected Nehemiah’s problematic story to integrate it into Ezra-Nehemiah’s vision of a holistic restoration enacted by a unified people.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Mesopotamian Anti-witchcraft Rituals

NEWS YOU CAN USE: Corpus of Mesopotamian Anti-witchcraft Rituals (AWOL).

Hurvits et al., A Concise Lexicon of Late Biblical Hebrew

A Concise Lexicon of Late Biblical Hebrew
Linguistic Innovations in the Writings of the Second Temple Period

Avi Hurvitz in collaboration with Leeor Gottlieb, Aaron Hornkohl, and Emmanuel Mastéy

The Hebrew language may be divided into the Biblical, Mishnaic, Medieval, and Modern ‎periods. Biblical Hebrew has its own distinct linguistic profile, exhibiting a diversity of styles ‎and linguistic traditions extending over some one thousand years as well as tangible diachronic ‎developments that may serve as chronological milestones in tracing the linguistic history of ‎Biblical Hebrew. Unlike standard dictionaries, whose scope and extent are dictated by the contents of the ‎Biblical concordance, this lexicon includes only 80 lexical entries, chosen specifically for a ‎diachronic investigation of Late Biblical Hebrew. Selected primarily to illustrate the fifth-century ‘watershed’ separating Classical from ‎post-Classical Biblical Hebrew, emphasis is placed on ‘linguistic contrasts’ illuminated by a rich collection ‎of examples contrasting Classical Biblical Hebrew with Late Biblical Hebrew, Biblical Hebrew with Rabbinic Hebrew, and Hebrew with Aramaic.‎