Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Zinner on the Jordanian lead codices

SAMUEL ZINNER: The Jordanian Lead Books, David Elkington's Sensationalism and Plagiarism: A Statement ( This is a statement from one of the scholars on the evaluation panel of the Centre for the Study of the Jordanian Lead Books. I have referred cautiously positively to his draft work on the codices here and here. This statement appears to clarify much, including the mixture of apparent nonsense and apparently serious content which has appeared in recent media treatments, as well as the current state of play concerning the codices themselves. Obviously, I can neither confirm nor dismiss any accusations made in it about any specific person. I link and quote for information and you can make up your own minds.

One brief excerpt:
The scholarly assessment of the artefacts contents should be left to trained experts, whose private, tentative findings should not be quoted in public without permission or be taken out of their original contexts. However, the scholarly investigation of the artefacts is hampered by the fact that Elkington denies access to his full set of photographs to any scholar critical of him and his sensationalistic views. As I remarked above, if the only images I had seen of the lead books were the ones circulating on the internet, I'd ignore the story. If Elkington wants more experts to be interested in the artefacts, then he should release all of the images in his possession and see what happens.
Anyone interested in the story of the metal codices should sit down and read the whole essay.

For my part, I remain unconvinced that any of the metal codices are ancient artifacts and I remain to be persuaded that any are not modern forgeries. There are many indications in what I have seen that they are not ancient productions and I have not found the arguments advanced for their antiquity, even on the Lead Books Centre website, to be at all convincing. But it is true that I have not seen everything. If there is compelling evidence that some of them are ancient artifacts, I look forward to seeing it in a peer-review publication. The materials tests may or may not be conclusive or important. As I have been saying, if they are relevant to the issue, the lab reports should be made public.

Meanwhile, I commend Dr. Zinner for giving us his insider's perspective on the current situation and the current state of the question. If you are interested in following the story, it would be wise not to take anything published by the media too seriously and to look to the Jordanian Lead Books Centre website and its members for information on what is going on. And I, of course, will do my best to keep you up to date at PaleoJudaica.

HT Basil Lourié on Facebook. Background here and many, many links. Cross-file under Fake Metal Codices Watch. I acknowledge that various elements of the current discussion may point to some of the codices being something other than fake, but I remain to be convinced. And in any case, I continue to include this cross-file rubric so that all my posts on the subject can be accessed together.

Conference on 70th anniversary of the discovery of the DSS

CALL FOR PAPERS: The Dead Sea Scrolls Seventy Years Later. Manuscripts, Traditions, Interpretations, and Their Biblical Context. John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland, October 25, 2017 – October 26, 2017. Follow the link for details. Abstracts of proposed papers must be submitted by 15 July 2017.

Seen on Facebook.

The Societas Magica Newsletter

AWOL: Open Access Journal: The Societas Magica Newsletter. First posted at AWOL and noted by PaleoJudaica five years ago. But many more articles have come out since then and it is worth noting again.

Romans 14

READING ACTS: Who are the Weak and Strong in Romans 14? Were the "weak" gentiles or Jews, or was Paul being intentionally ambiguous?

Some past posts in Phil Long's series on Paul's letter to the Romans are noted here and links.

The "real" Saint Nicholas?

'TIS THE SEASON: The REAL Saint Nicholas! December 6 (HolyLandPhotos' Blog). "Real" is perhaps a stretch. He still sounds pretty legendary, although he did live at the time indicated. Apparently, we even still have his body. Background here and here.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Review of Boehm and Holcomb (eds.), Jerusalem 1000-1400

BOOK REVIEW: 400 Years of Jerusalem Culture (RUBY NAMDAR, New York Times).
JERUSALEM: 1000-1400
Every People Under Heaven

Edited by Barbara Drake Boehm and Melanie Holcomb
Illustrated. 352 pp. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. $75.
The book under review deals with a era later than PaleoJudaica's normal period of interest, but the interest of that later era in earlier Jewish history is interesting in itself.
The Metropolitan Museum’s much discussed new exhibition, “Jerusalem, 1000-1400: Every People Under Heaven,” as well as a beautiful catalog now offered to the public, does not necessarily emphasize the above-mentioned conflict. But it does celebrate the aesthetic richness that ensued from it by presenting the viewer with some of the most magnificent and meaningful artifacts. It is the city’s story told through its material culture. Years of intensive curatorial efforts have yielded a large number of rare objects, some of which have never before been allowed to be taken out of their showcases, much less be shipped overseas and displayed abroad. Among the most exciting are a rare collection of gold coins dated back to the 11th century; the marvelously intricate gold filigree jewelry, made in the Islamic tradition; large jewel-encrusted crosses and relic-boxes, made in the European tradition; and European-Jewish jewelry depicting the long lost temple destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. Of special interest are the rare manuscripts that seem to receive special attention in the exhibition and the catalog: Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Arabic, Latin and Persian texts, often lavishly ornamented, gilded and painted with vivid colorful images of the holy city. These books were the prized possession of aristocratic Jewish, Muslim and Christian families who used them as a way to show off their wealth and power at the same time as their piety and devotion.

Original destination of Paul's first journey

BIBLE PLACES BLOG: Was Paul Heading for Alexandria? (Todd Bolen).
At last month’s meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, Mark Wilson suggested in a lunch gathering sponsored by Tuktu Tours that Paul’s original destination on his first journey was not Galatia but Alexandria. This talk was based on an article that he co-authored with Thomas W. Davis that is available at the website of Pharos Journal of Theology. I thought that a brief sketch of their argument might be of interest to readers here.


CSART inauguration

ARAMAIC WATCH: Monk Brings Ancient Religious Texts To Abilene (TREVOR WYATT, Abeline Public Radio).
Abilene Christian University celebrated the inauguration of the Center for the Study of Ancient Religions Texts, or CSART on Thursday. The center strives to inspire students and help them conduct research alongside established scholars. On Thursday, manuscripts that were written as long as 1700 years ago were featured.


Father Justin, a Librarian in the Monastery of St. Catharine at Mount Sinai, Egypt, was the guest speaker at the inauguration.

“There are three objects from the Museum of the Bible, in Oklahoma,” Father Justin said. “There’s a very, very beautiful, illuminated Byzantine Psalter.” “There’s a leaf written on papyrus of the Psalms, and then there is a bifolio from a manuscript that’s called Codex Climaci Rescritpus [Sic]. This was the bible written in Christian Palestinian Aramaic that was later erased and the same leaves were used for the Syrian translation of St. John’s ladder of divine descent.”

More on the Center for the Study of Ancient Religious Texts is here. For more on (correct spelling) Codex Climaci Rescriptus, see here, here and links. And more on St. Catherine's Monastery and its recent difficulties is here, here, and here and links.

Yazidis awarded Sakharov Prize

YAZIDI WATCH: Yazidi Freedom of Thought Honored (Rene Wadlow, Media for Freedom).
The Yearly Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought awarded by the European Parliament has been given on 27 October 2016 to Nadia Mourad Bassi Taka and to Lamiya Aji Bachar both Iraqi Yazidi. Both had been taken captive by the Islamic State (ISIS) forces in August 2014 and then sold into sexual slavery and forced marriage. Both were recently able to escape from bondage and went to Germany as refugees. Both have become spokespersons for the Yazidi, especially those Yazidi women who are still being held in sexual slavery. The United Nations has appointed Nadia Taka as Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. ...

Background on the Yazidis, their Gnosticism-themed religion, and their tragic fate in the hands of ISIS, is here with many links. And an earlier post involving Nadia Mourad Bassi Taka is here.

The "Zoo Rabbi"

ZOOLOGY: The 'Zoo Rabbi' makes a good impression (Shayndel Plotkin, Sun Sentinel).
Leviathan soup anyone? Well, not quite, but exotic cuisines including quail, dovetail soup and chocolate-covered locusts were just a few items on the menu this past month at the Biblical Zoo in Israel.

As far as Rabbi Natan Slifkin a.k.a. the "Zoo Rabbi" can attest, it was delicious! Serving exotic Kosher animals is only part of the experience you will have with Rabbi Slifkin and the staff at the Biblical Museum of Natural History, located in Beit Shemesh, Israel. You also will learn about the many uncommon or more obscure aspects to The Bible and its personalities. As Slifkin spoke of his one- million-year-old fossil or the Talmud's theory of a "mud mouse," it felt as if I was reading a "Ripley's Believe it or Not" or Harry Potter novel. He imparted his enthusiasm for the off-the-beaten-track types of excursions and explorations written about in his research-based books and lectures.

Another article on the Biblical Museum of Natural History was noted earlier this year here. And for more on Dr. Slifkin, follow the links there.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Pirqé Rabbi Eliezer Electronic Text Editing Project

H-JUDAIC: Internet Resource: New Link for the PIRQÉ RABBI ELIEZER ELECTRONIC TEXT EDITING PROJECT. PaleoJudaica noted the project at its old address many years ago.

DSS conference in Paris

MICHAEL LANGLOIS: The Dead Sea Scrolls’ Revelations on the Origins of Christianity, December 7, 2016 in Paris. That's the day after tomorrow.

Vetus Latina Workshop in Wuppertal, Germany

ETC BLOG: Vetus Latina Workshop, 15-16 December, Wuppertal (Peter Williams).

Jewish-Christian Studies Position

GREENVILLE COLLEGE: Assistant/Associate Professor of Theology in Jewish-Christian Studies. The job seeks someone with a "Ph.D. in Theology or Biblical Studies with an emphasis in Early Judaism or Jewish Studies," but also a specific faith commitment in the Wesleyan tradition.

Palmyra loot seized in Geneva

PALMYRA WATCH: Swiss seize artifacts looted from Syria’s Palmyra. Items, also from Yemen and Libya, arrive via Qatar; they’ll be displayed in Geneva until they can be returned (AFP).

Many more posts on Palmyra, its history, the ancient Aramaic dialect spoken there (Palmyrene), and the city's tragic recent fate in the hands of ISIS are here, here, and here (cf. here) and follow the links.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

R. Akiva's pesher call-to-arms against Rome?

DR. MEIR BEN-SHAHAR: Rabbi Akiva’s Laugh: The Hidden Call for the Bar Kokhba Revolt. A New Reading of the Midrash of R. Akiva and the Fox on the Temple Mount (
Abstract: In recent years, a growing consensus has emerged that the Bar Kokhba revolt should be connected to Rome’s establishment of the city of Aelia Capitolina on the ruins of Jerusalem. A new interpretation of Rabbi Akiva’s famous consolation upon seeing a fox emerge from the Holy of Holies (Sifre Deuteronomy 43) suggests that this homily can actually be read as a call to arms against Rome.

Punic pomegranates?

PUNIC WATCH: In season: Pomegranates, the fruit of myths (Jeff Cox, The Press Democrat). This article deals in part with the historical use of the pomegranate and it mentions some interesting details. No ancient references are given and I have not verified the details, but I quote a paragraph here for whatever it is worth.
The Phoenicians established colonies around the Mediterranean, including at Carthage in North Africa. The Romans called Carthage Punis — a word derived from Phoenicia — hence “the Punic Wars.” They called the pomegranate mala punica, or “Carthaginian apple.” And punica became the name of the genus to which the pomegranate belongs. The gem we call garnet comes from “granate” in the word pomegranate, and is the color of the juicy seed sacs.
Another recent post on the ancient background of the pomegranate is here.

Education in ancient Galilee

THE CRITICAL REALISM IN THE NEW TESTAMENT BLOG: Educated Galileans? (Jonathan Bernier).
I've decided to pause my blog through Robinson's Redating the New Testament, in large part because I left my copy at my on-campus office yesterday and do not feel like going in the first snow of the season to retrieve it. Instead, I'm going to comment upon something I've been thinking about as of late, namely the scholarly supposition that persons such as Peter and James could not have been formally educated persons because they hailed from the Galilee. This has real consequences for thinking about such things as the authorship, and thus derivatively the date, of the works attributed to them. There is a significant difficulty with this argument, which rests almost entirely upon a fundamentalist interpretation of NT passages which state that there was a bias against their intellectual capacities because they came from the Galilee. That difficulty is that we have evidence, albeit largely indirect, that there was access to education, and moreover to Greek-style education, in the Galilee.

HT James McGrath on Facebook. Also, I have not been following Jonathan Bernier's series on Robinson's book, but you may want to have a look at it as well.

Spanish coin replicas

NUMISMATICS: Spain: Popular “Numismatic Treasures” Coin Series Launches Seventh Set (Michael Alexander, Coin Update). For only one hundred Euros you can own a gold reproduction of a Carthaginian Hemidracma from Ebusus. Or, if your means are more modest, ten Euros will buy you a silver reproduction of a Phoenician Drachma from Gadir.

Cross-file under Punic Watch, Phoenician Watch, and For You, Special Deal!

What watered the ground in Genesis 2:6?

RELIGION AND LITERATURE OF ANCIENT PALESTINE BLOG: Chaoskampf, the Garden of Eden, and the Mountains of Lebanon (Ryan Stephen Thomas).
I have a new paper up on the Garden of Eden that explores its mythological background in Canaanite-Israelite mythological tradition. Among other things, I argue that the mysterious ʾēd that comes up to water the ground in Gen 2:6 is correctly translated “flood” and that the motif hearkens back to an ancient Canaanite myth in which El created the world through defeating the primordial Sea monster. This discovery then leads me to reconstruct how the biblical Garden of Eden story has evolved over time, with particular emphasis on the identity of YHWH-Elohim and the original mountain location of Eden in Canaan. I show how at an earlier stage in the narrative the divine protagonist was likely El rather than YHWH-Elohim and that the site of Eden has been adapted from Mount Lebanon to a non-defined place somewhere on the eastern horizon.
A long technical essay that will mostly be of interest to specialists.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Review of Chapman and Rodgers (eds.), A Companion to Josephus

Honora Howell Chapman, Zuleika Rodgers (ed.), A Companion to Josephus. Blackwell companions to the ancient world. Malden, MA; Oxford; Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2016. Pp. xvi, 466. ISBN 9781444335330. $195.00.

Reviewed by Matthew Kraus, University of Cincinnati (


The publication of this “first introductory companion, or scholarly guide” (p.1) to Josephus marks the seismic change in Josephan scholarship over recent decades. In addition to the Brill Josephus Project, whose translations and detailed commentaries on the Josephan corpus are already replacing the Loeb editions for serious scholars, innovative approaches to traditional topics and new areas of research now permeate the Josephan landscape.1 No longer reduced to being the cherry-picked companion to the Jewish and Christian experience of the Greek and Roman worlds, he properly merits his own handbook considering him an author in his own right. The volume, ably edited by Honora Chapman and Zuleika Rodgers, draws on an international team of Josephan experts, including several contributors to the Brill translation and commentary. It updates the current status of research and provides a foundation for future advancements.


Jewish Social Studies 22.1

H-JUDAIC: TOC: Jewish Social Studies 22.1. One of the articles deals with Talmudic material.

DSS forgeries in Accordance?

ETC BLOG: Dead Sea Scroll Forgeries in Your Favorite Bible Software? (Peter Gurry). It seems the answer is yes, although they are very few and it is not clear exactly how many. Also, note the importance of peer-review publication for the discussion.

Review of "Golem" in Berlin

EXHIBITION: (R)EVOLUTION IN BERLIN: GOLEM Ushers in the Shadow Dialectic (Lisa Paul Streitfeld, Huffington Post Blog).
GOLEM opened on 23 September 2016 at the Jewish Museum Berlin. Curated by the German American female duo, Martina Lüdicke (German) and Emily D. Bilski (American), the breakthrough exhibition ushers in an essential new dialectic of the Shadow simultaneously into academia and the international art world in 2016.

The golem can look back on a long career, in Judiasm and far beyond. Its story begins in the Hebrew Bible and continues, in constantly new transformations, into the present day. The ancient human dream of creating artificial beings connects with today’s world: genetic technology and artificial intelligence, computers and robots. All these endeavours to create a kind of golem.
—Peter Schäfer, Director of the Jewish Museum Berlin
Dr. Streitfeld sums up:
GOLEM is the authentic irony of our current epoch: the Monster that breaks down the wall between ego and the uncertain realm of dark energy has the sheer force to explode boundaries between the art world and the academy while pointing towards the human transcendence that comes with surrender into the 96 percent unseen universe.
Background on the exhibition is here. Follow the link at that post for earlier PaleoJudaica posts on past and present manifestations of the Golem legend.

Vandalism in Sebastia

THIS IS SAD. AND OUTRAGEOUS. Biblical Jewish fortress vandalized once again. Fortress built in 800 BCE vandalized in Sebastia National Park, a Jewish and Christian heritage site; culprits smashed a 2,000-year-old marble pillar buttressing the palace in the ancient capital of Israel (Assaf Kamar, Ynet News).
A marble pillar belonging to the 2,000-years-old Herodium palace was smashed in the Sebastia National Park in the capital of ancient Samaria.

The incident is the second time vandalism has occurred within three months at the archeological site against antiquities directly connected with Israeli heritage.

I think I remember hearing something about the earlier vandalism incident, but I don't seem to have blogged about it. A couple of past posts on Sebastia are here and here.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Hendel on the rainbow

RON HENDEL: The Rainbow in Ancient Context. What does it mean for the rainbow to be a sign of God’s covenant with life on earth, and how does this compare with other concepts of the rainbow in the ancient world? ( Excerpt:
The rainbow is a sign of many things. It is a visual sign of the covenant between God and all living creatures, a glittering and mysterious bridge between sky and earth. It is a sign of peace, reconciliation, and the eternity of moral law. We remember these things – even if not altogether consciously – when the rain lets up and the sun shines through the clouds, creating the momentary wonder of the rainbow. Although we know that the rainbow is a natural effect of light after the rain, it is also a sign of biblical memory in our lives and perceptions.
A good discussion of the ancient context of the rainbow in the biblical Flood story, but I was hoping that Ezekiel 1:28 would be brought in as well.

More on the Jordan lead codices

MORE TESTS: Is this the first written mention of Jesus? 2,000-year-old lead tablets found in a remote cave ARE genuine, claim researchers (Libby Plummer, Daily Mail).
• The lead pages, bound like a ring binder, were first discovered in 2008
• The tablets suggest that Christ was not starting his own religion, but restoring a thousand-year-old tradition from the time of King David
• They also suggest the God he worshipped was both male and female
• New testing said to confirm their age, say authors who have been campaigning since 2009 for the tablets to be recognised and protected
This article presents some extravagant claims about the contents of the lead codices and their importance for Christianity, Judaism, and even Islam. We've heard some of this before and some of it is new. Much of it sounds fanciful. This is a good time to remind ourselves that in the five and a half years since their existence was first announced, not a single peer-review publication on them has been published. Any scholarly discussion of them has yet to begin. Now if someone wishes to defend some of the claims in this article by publishing the evidence in a peer-review publication, I and others will be happy to have a look and evaluate the evidence presented and the arguments for the claims. Unless that actually happens some day, I have no interest in re-engaging with the revival of those claims in the media.

That said, one passage in the article does merit some comment:
Now tests conducted by Professor Roger Webb and Professor Chris Jeynes at the University of Surrey's Nodus Laboratory at the Ion Beam Centre, confirm that the tablet is compatible with a comparative sample of ancient Roman lead unearthed from an excavation site in Dorset.

The experts said that the codex they tested 'does not show the radioactivity arising from polonium that is typically seen in modern lead samples, indicating that the lead of the codex was smelted over one hundred years ago'.

They went onto explain how the testing suggests that the artefacts are indeed 2,000 years old.

'While there may be variations in decay and corrosion that depend upon the environmental conditions in which the objects were stored or hidden, there is a strong underlying theme of decay from within the metal,' said the researchers in a press statement.

'It is oxidising and breaking down at atomic level to revert to its natural state.

'This is not witnessed in lead objects that are several centuries old and is not possible to produce by artificial acceleration (e.g. through heating).

'This provides very strong evidence that the objects are of great age, consistent with the studies of the text and designs that suggest an age of around 2000 years'.

The codex was leant to the Elkingtons by the Department of Antiquities in Amman for testing.

Further crystallisation analysis indicates that the codex is likely to be between 1800-2000 years old.
As presented here, this information does sound interesting. The researchers say that the the lead of the codex they studied had to have been smelted over one hundred years ago and that the internal corrosion indicates that the object is more than several centuries old, perhaps considerably more. It is also claimed in the article (not in a quotation from the researchers) that "crystallization analysis" shows it to be "likely" that the codex is between 1800-2000 years old.

To place the claims about the tests in context, I note that the web page of the Centre for the Study of the Jordanian Lead Books has some new posts at its About page that give some further information about the codices and about the tests that have been undertaken on them. Most of the information on the tests is in 2. What are the Jordan lead Books?, although some is in 6. Epigraphy of the Jordan lead Books.

In summary, these indicate that most of the tests on the codices are "consistent with" the lead being ancient (i.e., in the vicinity of 2000 years old). One test gave "inconclusive" results, whatever that means. And one dated the lead to "the earlier part of the High Medieval Period" (apparently the 1100s-1200s CE) and another did find polonium in a codex, suggesting a "nuclear-age dating" of it. This, however, we are told, may apply only to the patina rather than the lead core and is regarded by the testers as inconclusive.

In other words, the situation is rather more complicated than as presented in the Mail article. The tests have produced a range of inconsistent results, although reportedly trending toward the lead being ancient — which we already knew — and perhaps indicating that the manufactured objects are old. Exactly how old is unclear. The inconsistent results so far show well enough that materials testing doesn't necessarily give us conclusive results. The details matter and the full details of all the materials tests on the codices need to be released so that we can see what exactly they show, with what level of confidence they show it, and what range of possible interpretations arises from the evidence they provide.

As I have pointed out before, we have already been here with materials testing of a supposedly ancient artifact (the Gospel of Jesus' Wife), which turned out to be a now-uncontested forgery. At the moment we have a media report and some summaries on a website. The people who have commissioned the tests need to release complete, unedited scans of all the lab test reports. (There seem to be quite a few tests.) The results need to be evaluated by outside experts and digested for their implications in peer-review publications.

Long-term PaleoJudaica readers may recall that when this story broke in March of 2011, the Israel Antiquities Authority had already examined some of the codices and concluded that they were unremarkable forgeries. And the IAA was not impressed by the Oxford tests that indicated that some of the lead was ancient. Ancient lead is easy to obtain. I would be very interested in hearing what the IAA had to say about the lab reports for the new tests. Release them and let's find out.

Cross-file under Fake Metal Codices Watch. I acknowledge that it is possible that some of the current test results may point to some of them being something other than fake, but I remain to be convinced. And in any case, I continue to include this cross-file rubric so that all my posts on the subject can be accessed together.

Background here and many links.

At the Religion Prof Blog, James McGrath has also commented on the story: The Fake Jordan Lead Codices.

Zoroastrian and Jewish apocalyptic literature

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Iranian and Jewish Apocalyptics. Notice of a new article by Domenico Agostini in JAOS, now available at

Review of Fine, The Menorah

BOOK REVIEW A History of the Menorah (MARJORIE INGALL, New York Times).
From the Bible to Modern Israel

By Steven Fine
Illustrated. 279 pp. Harvard University Press. $29.95.

This richly illustrated academic study begins with an image straight out of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” ...
The review tries irritatingly to sound hip, but the book sounds very good.

Review of Lavan and Mulryan (eds.), Field Methods and Post-Excavation Techniques in Late Antique Archaeology

Luke Lavan, Michael Mulryan (ed.), Field Methods and Post-Excavation Techniques in Late Antique Archaeology. Late antique archaeology, 9. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2015. Pp. xiv, 687. ISBN 9789004277021. €75.00.

Reviewed by Louise Blanke, Wolfson College, Oxford (

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

The study of late antiquity has been transformed by new insights gained from field projects. To evaluate the historical significance of this new material, we need to discuss the methodologies that resulted in its procurement. This is a common topic in other archaeological disciplines, but one that has largely been omitted from the late antique debate – this volume sets out to redress this issue. The volume was inspired by two conferences held at King’s College London in 2008 and 2009. It contains eighteen contributions that are organised according to seven themes.

Of chief interest to PaleoJudaica:
II: ‘The regional development of field methods’. The book’s second theme aims to critically evaluate the long-term development of country-specific archaeological strategies. Magyar (123-156) provides an overview of late antique archaeology in Hungary, while Taxel (157-188) discusses the development of field techniques in Israel from the British Mandate to the present. Both papers provide important insights into the interplay between politics and archaeology. After WWII, Hungary’s inclusion in the Soviet Union resulted in the centralised regulation of archaeology. A countrywide standardisation of field methods was introduced and innovative techniques were encouraged, but limited access to Western scholarship combined with Soviet political control meant that social theoretical models were not applied. Magyar voices a strong critique relevant not only to present-day Hungary: the study of late antiquity is compartmentalised between different branches of university studies, and excavations are managed by local museums, working according to their own methodologies and recording systems, allowing only few opportunities for comparison. Taxel summarises methodological trends in Israel, focussing on technological advances as well as problems in past approaches at specific sites such as Oboda and Sobata, which were overly restored for tourism in the 1950s and 60s and almost ruined for further archaeological interpretation. Taxel only briefly mentions the focus on the biblical past, which has characterised much archaeology in Israel. It would have been within the scope of this book to include a critical evaluation of the consequences of this particular research aim on the treatment of post-biblical material.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Ehrhardt Lecture

I'M AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER TODAY, giving a lecture in the Ehrhardt Seminar at the Centre for Biblical Studies. The title is "Roles of Angels in 1 Enoch and the Hekhalot Literature." It is a somewhat revised and adapted version of a paper that I presented at the 2015 Enoch Seminar in Gazzada, Italy. You can read an excerpt from the Enoch Seminar version here.

Sheffield workshop on religious experience

JAMES MCGRATH: Call for applications: Workshop on “Religious Experience at the Intersection of Body and Cognition” (University of Sheffield, April 28-29, 2017). This workshop is associated with the Embodied Religion research theme at Sheffield, on which more here.

List of archaeological discoveries in Israel since 2004

THE JEWISH VIRTUAL LIBRARY: Archaeology in Israel: List of Discoveries (2004 - Present). Soon we will be seeing lists of archaeological discoveries for 2016. The JVL gets us started early this year with a list starting with 2016 and going back to 2004. Of course, 2016 is not over yet, so let's hope more exciting items will be added in the next month.

Hoarding Ma’aser Sheni?

AMIT GVARYAHU: Hoarding Consecrated “Second Tithe” Coins (
Evidence suggests that hoarding second tithe money held special, religious significance among late antique Jews. How did this curious religious observance develop? What might it have meant to the Jews who practiced it?
An interesting case of the possible convergence of ancient textual and archaeological evidence.

Grypeou on ancient accounts of necromancy

EMMANOUELA GRYPEOU: Necromancy in Jewish and Christian Accounts from Mesopotamia and beyond. Paper presented at the Conference: The Talmud and Christianity: Rabbinic Judaism after Constantine 27-28 June, Cambridge, UK ( A draft paper that has lots of interesting information about rabbinic and early Christian (especially Syriac Christian) references to the subject.