Monday, May 22, 2017

More on London's Dead Sea Scrolls

EPIGRAPY: HOW TO DECODE AN ANCIENT ROMAN’S HANDWRITING. Roger Tomlin has made a career studying bar bills, curse tablets, and other British relics that were never meant for posterity (Charlotte Higgins, The New Yorker). HT AJR.

This is an interview with the man who deciphered and has now published those wooden tablets inscribed in Latin which were found in London some years ago. The tablets have no direct bearing on ancient Judaism, but I have discussed some indirect points of comparison etc. here. This article confirms that all the London tablets are documentary and administrative rather literary texts. The process of their decipherment is fascinating and pertinent for understanding all sorts of epigraphic discoveries.

The article includes the story of the "decipherment" by Edward Nicholson of an ancient Scottish inscription engraved on lead in Latin.
There the matter rested for ninety years, until Tomlin decided to take another look at Nicholson’s photographs. As he studied them (the original artifact had, alas, disappeared), he found that Nicholson had made one disastrous error: he had read the entire inscription upside down.
Every epigrapher's nightmare.

Review of Bortolani, Magical Hymns from Roman Egypt

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Ljuba Merlina Bortolani, Magical Hymns from Roman Egypt: A Study of Greek and Egyptian Traditions of Divinity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. Pp. xxi, 467. ISBN 9781107108387. $130.00.. Reviewed by Thomas Galoppin, LabEx HASTEC – LEM, Paris.
This interdisciplinary study provides a useful new edition of several of the hymns found in the Greek magical papyri (henceforth PGM), along with an analysis of their content and cultural background. L. M. Bortolani gives an overview of the cultural backgrounds, largely Egyptian and Greek, of 15 hymns edited from the metric sections found within the Greek text of the ritual procedures contained in the PGM.

[...]
Another recent book on the Greek Magical Papyri was noted here.

Sidnie White Crawford on that other Bible

BIBLE ODYSSEY: The "Other" Bible from Qumran (Sidnie White Crawford). Here we hear more about those alternative scriptures, including 1 Enoch, Jubilees, and Ben Sira, but in the context of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

Christian Apocrypha at ISBL 2017

APOCRYPHICITY: Christian Apocrypha at the 2017 SBL International Meeting (Tony Burke). The meeting takes place in Berlin in August.

Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch and Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

DeConick interviewed

APRIL DECONICK: Rorotoko Interview. Professor DeConick is interviewed about her book, The Gnostic New Age. My SBL review of the book is here.

Cohen, For Out of Babylonia Shall Come Torah and the Word of the Lord from Nehar Peqod

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL: For Out of Babylonia Shall Come Torah and the Word of the Lord from Nehar Peqod. The Quest for Babylonian Tannaitic Traditions. Dr. Barak S. Cohen, Bar Ilan University.
In For Out of Babylonia Shall Come Torah and the Word of the Lord from Nehar Peqod, Barak S. Cohen reevaluates the evidence in Tannaitic and Amoraic literature of an independent “Babylonian Mishnah” which originated in the proto-talmudic period. The book focuses on an analysis of the most notable halakhic corpora that have been identified by scholars as originating in the Tannaitic period or at the outset of the amoraic. If indeed such an early corpus did exist, what are its characteristics and what, if any, connection does it have with the parallel Palestinian collections? Was this Babylonian Mishnah created in order to harmonize the Palestinian Mishnah with a corpus of rabbinic teachings already existent in Babylonia?
Was this corpus one of the main contributors to the forced interpretations and resolutions found so frequently in the Bavli?

Kratz et al., Hebräisches und aramäisches Wörterbuch zu den Texten vom Toten Meer, vol. 1

NEW BOOK FROM DE GRUYTER: Hebräisches und aramäisches Wörterbuch zu den Texten vom Toten MeerBand 1: Aleph – Beth. Reinhard Gregor Kratz, Annette Steudel, and Ingo Kottsieper. 2017.
The manuscripts from Qumran and other sites offer unique insight into the Hebrew and Aramaic languages during the period of the Second Temple. For the first time, in the tradition of classical lexicology, this philological dictionary develops a non-Biblical lexicon from these sources (plus the Dead Sea scrolls and Cairo Geniza manuscripts), while also placing it in the context of the history of the Hebraic and Aramaic languages.
This German volume covers words beginning with the first two letters of the (Hebrew and Aramaic) alphabet. That's a good start!

Review of John, Der Galaterbrief im Kontext

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Felix John, Der Galaterbrief im Kontext historischer Lebenswelten im antiken Kleinasien. Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments, 264. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016. Pp. 259. ISBN 9783525540503. €70.00. Reviewed by Søren Lund Sørensen, Freie Universität Berlin.

This book on Paul's Letter to the Galatians in the New Testament is reviewed in BMCR because it contains much of interest to a "classical readership." But the review also indicates that the book has relevance for the study of ancient Judaism.

Hurtado on the "thorny crown"

LARRY HURTADO: The “Thorny Crown.” Was the idea of the "thorny crown" placed on the head of Jesus according to the Gospels meant as a jeering representation an imperial "radiate" (spikey) crown?"

That idea might provide a better explanation of numismatic evidence pointed to in this story. If so, the thorny crown referred to in the Gospels was a satirical reference to the crown some rulers are shown wearing on ancient coins. That doesn't mean that any of the people depicted in those coins were Jesus.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

There was a forgery of the Palestinian Talmud

FAKE TALMUD: The Forged Yerushalmi: A 20th-Century Controversy. Revel’s 80th Anniversary Lecture Series Features Discussion of Famous Talmudic Forgery (Yeshiva University News). The lecture was by "historian Rabbi Boruch Oberlander, head of the Budapest Orthodox Beis Din and a long-time leader in the Hungarian Jewish community."
The discussion revolved around one of the most famous recent forgeries of a sacred Judaic text. In January 1907, Shlomo Yehuda Algazi-Friedländer published in Hungary what he claimed were the long-lost tractates of Seder Kodashim of the Jerusalem Talmud, garnering praise in rabbinic circles for bringing this material to light.
I didn't know about this one. The forgery was detected and within months and thoroughly debunked by 1913, so it doesn't seem to have been very good.

Pachoumi, The Concepts of the Divine in the Greek Magical Papyri

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: ELENI PACHOUMI, The Concepts of the Divine in the Greek Magical Papyri. 2017. XVI, 258 pages. Studies and Texts in Antiquity and Christianity 102. In English.
Eleni Pachoumi looks at the concepts of the divine in the Greek magical papyri by way of a careful and detailed analysis of ritual practices and spells. Her aim is to uncover the underlying religious, philosophical and mystical parallelisms and influences on the Greek magical papyri. The author starts by examining the religious and philosophical concept of the personal daimon and the union of the individual with his personal daimon through the magico-theurgic ritual of systasis. She then goes on to analyze the religious concept of paredros as the divine “assistant” and the various relationships between paredros, the divine and the individual. To round off, she studies the concept of the divine through the manifold religious and philosophical assimilations mainly between Greek, Egyptian, Hellenized gods and divine abstract concepts of Jewish origins.

Kanarakis (ed.), The Legacy of the Greek Language

NEW BOOK: The Legacy of the Greek Language. Dean Kalimniou reviews Professor George Kanarakis' The Legacy of the Greek Language - a must-have book for all Greek Australian households (Neos Kosmos). The book includes chapters on the influence of Greek on Coptic, Slavonic languages, Arabic, Hebrew, etc., but — the reviewer laments — not on Syriac/Aramaic. The book was published by CSU Print in 2017. Neos Kosmos announced its publication last month.

Häberl and McGrath, The Mandaean Book of John

RELIGION PROF: The Mandaean Book of John: Critical Edition, Translation, and Commentary. It is good to hear that this new edition by Charles D. Häberl and James McGrath is coming out with De Gruyter in 2017.

Cross-file under Mandean Watch (Mandaean Watch) and New Book.

Cohen-Matlofsky on the Qumran caves

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION: Qumran and Vicinity: The Caves as a Key to the Enigma (By Claude Cohen-Matlofsky, Institut Universitaire d’Études Juives (IUEJ), Elie Wiesel, Paris. Co-director “Séminaire Qumrân de Paris” Sorbonne-EPHE).

It is clear that there was some connection between the inhabitants of the site of Qumran and the scrolls found in the nearby caves. But the exact connection remains much debated. Most scholars think that the Dead Sea Scrolls were deposited in the caves around the time of the Great Revolt against Rome c. 68 CE. But Dr. Cohen-Matlofsky thinks they were placed in the caves over a period of centuries.

For some more-or-less related PaleoJudaica posts, start here and follow the links.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Old Testament Pseudepigrapha a century and more ago

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Alternative Scriptures: Which Old Testament? Philip Jenkins continues his blog series on the discovery of "alternative scriptures" a century and more ago. This time he focuses on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. He has a good review of literature, with many works by R. H. Charles mentioned. He also notes the important work of M. R. James, on whom more here, here, here, and here.

Interest in alternative scriptures actually goes back much more than a century. Johann Albert Fabricius published the first scholarly edition of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha in 1713, exactly two centuries before Charles published his famous two-volume collection of Old Testament Apocrypha and Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.

The twenty-first century is looking pretty good for alternative scriptures as well. The two-volume edition of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha edited by James Charlesworth in the 1980s was a massive contribution to the field. Then the first volume of texts for the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project (Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, volume 1, Eerdmans, ed. Bauckham, Davila, and Panayotov) was published in 2013, exactly three centuries after the edition of Fabricius and exactly a century after Charles's edition.

And we're not done! Volume 2 is in the works.

Report on the Lead Books Centre's AGM

UPDATE: Scholars begin to unlock mystery of lead books ( Paul Handley and Madeleine Davies, Church Times). This is mostly a rehash of the Church Times article noted a few days ago, but it does include some updates on what went on in the AGM of the Centre, which I excerpt:
A summary statement read out at a press conference on Tuesday, answered in the affirmative [that the lead codices are worthy of further study].

[...]

Dr Barker said on Tuesday that she hoped to find a university home for the work in order to engage young scholars, and also to involve experts from a wider range of fields, including astronomy. She would like to see conferences held in Jerusalem and Jordan, and involve people working in the region.

... Dr Barker showed an example of her interpretative process on Tuesday, arguing that the vocabulary emerging referred to passages in Isaiah and Revelation, and Johannine writings.

Dr Barker said on Tuesday that she believed that the books would result in a “paradigm shift” in the understanding of the Second Temple period, as the Dead Sea Scrolls had done.

“The significance for Christians is that we can no longer think that the founders of the Christian faith were humble fisherman in Galilee,” she said. “They were very learned heirs to the Temple tradition.” She referred to Acts 6.7 (“a large number of priests became obedient to the faith”).

The scholars have made several films of their discoveries, which they showed at a press briefing at St Ethelburga’s, London, on Tuesday, and can soon be viewed on www.leadbookcentre.com.
Those are big claims. They require substantial verification.

Beyond that, I refrain from repeating myself. I stand by my detailed statement a couple months ago: The Jordan Department of Antiquities disavows the lead codices. Follow the links there for many, many past posts. And I added a few other thoughts here.

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.

Trump and the Third Temple?

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH? Jewish Mystics Hope Trump’s Israel Visit Might ‘Raise The Temple.’ (Sam Kestenbaum, The Forward). Third Temple activists are hoping that President Trump will visit the Temple Mount and endorse their project. I agree with the article that neither is likely. He seems to be planning to visit the Western Wall, but that is as far as it will go.

Again and again and again: I oppose all efforts to rebuild the Temple on the Temple Mount. No excavation or construction on the Temple Mount! Not even archaeology, until we have non-invasive and non-destructive technologies to do the work.

Heat or helicopter?

TOO GOOD TO FACT CHECK: Donald Trump cancels visit to ancient Israel fortress because ‘he cannot land his helicopter’ on site. US President's aides reportedly refuse to go up hilltop site with cable car (Chloe Farand, The Independent). This rumor was started by Israel's Channel 2. The other explanation, also based on "reports," was that the cancellation was due to the desert heat.

Background here and links.

Publication of the Azusa Pacific DSS fragments

PRESS RELEASE: Publication of Azusa Pacific Universitys Dead Sea Scrolls to Enhance Biblical Scholarship.
... The highly anticipated official publication of these rare and fragile antiquities will appear as a volume in the prestigious Princeton Theological Seminary Dead Sea Scrolls Project series in 2017.

The publication was prepared in collaboration with an editorial team at Princeton Theological Seminary headed by James H. Charlesworth, Ph.D., George Collord Professor of New Testament. This volume will join other recently published volumes of Dead Sea Scroll fragments in the Schøyen and Museum of the Bible collections.
On the contents of the fragments:
Among the five ancient fragments are portions from the book of Leviticus, the book of Deuteronomy, and the book of Daniel, inscribed at about the time of Christ or within a century earlier. It is possible that the Daniel fragment owned by APU is the world’s oldest existing manuscript of Daniel 5:13-16.

Of the significant findings, „The university’s Deuteronomy 27 fragment features a unique reading in verse 4 that agrees with the Samaritan Torah. This will give scholars new insights into the relationship between Judaism and Samaritanism in antiquity,” said Karen Winslow, Ph.D., professor and chair, biblical and theological studies in the Azusa Pacific Seminary.
Past posts on the Dead Sea Scrolls fragments held by Azusa Pacific University are here and links. The fragments will be on public display next week.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Dirk Smilde Scholarship 2018

OTTC BLOG: Ph.D. and Postdoc Scholarship at the University of Groningen (Drew Longacre). The Dirk Smilde Scholarship 2018 is open for applications.

The advert also announces that Professor George J. Brooke, who recently retired from the University of Manchester, will be at the University of Groningen as the 2018 Dirk Smilde Fellow from January to June 2018. Congratulations to Professor Brooke and to Groningen!

Review of Trzaskoma et al. (eds.) Anthology of Classical Myth

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Stephen M. Trzaskoma, R. Scott Smith, Stephen Brunet (ed.), Anthology of Classical Myth: Primary Sources in Translation. Second edition. Indianapolis; Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 2016. Pp. lvii, 548. ISBN 9781624664977. $22.00 (pb). ISBN 9781624664984. $57.00 (hb). Reviewed by Christina A. Salowey, Hollins University.

Classical texts taken from 52 Greek and Roman sources; appendices on Linear B, inscriptions, and papyri; and a new (in the second edition) appendix of ancient Near Eastern myths. The latter include the Gilgamesh and Atrahasis versions of the Flood story, material from the Enuma Elish, a Hittite myth, and Genesis 1-9. Good stuff.

Review of Novenson, The Grammar of Messianism

THE JESUS CREED BLOG: Loosening the Messiah (Scot McKnight). A review of Matthew Novenson new book, The Grammar of Messianism: An Ancient Jewish Political Idiom and Its Users (OUP 2017). Excerpt:
Second, his approach is to go to the texts and particularize, contextualize, individualize the messianic texts — those that actually mention “messiah” — and so connect each messianic text to its social setting. The result is not a messianic idea that is a synthesis of all the messianic texts, which is more or less what happens many times when people construct a messianic idea, but instead a term — messiah — that has very little meaning apart from the particular context in which it occurs.
Dr. Novenson is Senior Lecturer in New Testament and Christian Origins at the University of Edinburgh (New College). A review of his first book, Christ Among the Messiahs, was noted here. He was also a plenary speaker at the St. Andrews Symposium on Divine Sonship last June.

New director for the Oriental Institute

PRESS RELEASE: Christopher Woods appointed director of the Oriental Institute Professor Woods is a Sumerologist. The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago shows up frequently in PaleoJudaica posts. Professor Woods replaces archaeologist Gil Stein, who has been director since 2002. Congratulations to Professor Woods and to the Oriental Institute.

Gematria meets American politics

PHILOLOGOS: The Gematria of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Fun with Hebrew numbers (Mosaic Magazine). Despite the clickbait title and provocative opening, this is a nice introduction to the ancient art of "gematria." This art is based on the fact that each letter in the Hebrew alphabet also has a numeric value. Gematria involves adding up the total numeric value of all the letters of a word or phrase, finding another word or phrase with the same value, and drawing conclusions about the first in light of the second.

Philologos notes that gematria goes back at least to the Talmud. It may be much older. In the late first century CE, the author of the Book of Revelation was adding up the value of a name and using that as a secret code. This isn't precisely gematria, but it is playing with the same ideas.

Many years ago Philologos had another column on gematria in The Forward, but the link to that one has rotted. Other past PaleoJudaica posts on the subject are here and here.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Review of Ulrich, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Developmental Composition of the Bible

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: The Developmental Composition of the Bible in View of Qumran. A review by David Sigrist of Ulrich, Eugene, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Developmental Composition of the Bible, VTSup 169 (Leiden: Brill, 2015). The biblical scrolls from Qumran show that textual criticism bleeds into redactional criticism and even source criticism. Each is its own discipline, but they are on a continuum. Septuagint studies are relevant for all three as well and complementary to Qumran studies.

This sounds like a fascinating and useful book.

Earlier essays in the AJR series on the Dead Sea Scrolls (in honor of the 70th anniversary of their discovery) are noted here and here and links.

Forum on Cynthia Baker's "Jew"

MARGINALIA REVIEW OF BOOKS: Introduction: Forum on Cynthia Baker, Jew. Shaul Magid and Annette Yoshiko Reed introduce Marginalia’s newest forum. This is in some ways a follow-up to the 2014 forum on the terminology debate over "Jew" vs. "Judean." I noted the latter here and here, and weighed in on that topic myself here.

The current forum promises numerous essays on the book. The first, by Daniel Boyarin, is already published: Yeah Jew!

Cynthia Baker's book Jew was published in 2017 by Rutgers University Press. I only just learned that it is out. But I noted back in 2010 that it was underway.


The monks who saved the O. T. Pseudepigrapha

OLD TESTAMENT PSEUDEPIGRAPHA WATCH: The Christian Monks Who Saved Jewish History (Malka Z. Simkovich, Lehrhaus). HT Mosaic Magazine. This article deals with St. Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai and Mount Athos Monastery in Greece. Scribal monks did indeed save much ancient Jewish literature from oblivion.

That said, the examples given are mostly problematical. It is debatable whether Joseph and Aseneth is a Jewish work. The Greek Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, including the Testament of Levi, draw on some Jewish texts, but are Christian compositions. It is correct, however, that the Testament of Levi manuscript from Mount Athos contains (in Greek translation) some verbatim material that is otherwise only known from Aramaic Levi.

The Testament of Solomon is a Christian composition. The Testament of Adam probably is as well. It is not clear whether the Testament of Job is a Christian or Jewish composition.

There are undoubtedly Jewish texts that survive in Greek and were transmitted only by Christians. These include Greek translations of the Book of Watchers and of the Epistle of Enoch (both from 1 Enoch), the Letter of Aristeas, 3-4 Maccabees, and, as the article does mention, the works of Philo and Josephus. But I'm not sure how many of these, if any, survive in manuscripts specifically from these two monasteries.

My caveats aside, it is always good to see the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha getting some attention. Hopefully a more nuanced understanding will filter out into popular coverage in due course. And, as I said, the main point of this article does stand. For some bibliography on the topic of the provenance of such texts (by me) see the list here.

For much more on St. Catherine's Monastery and its manuscripts, start here and follow the many links. And for more on Mount Athos Monastery (and its cats!), see here.

Josephus, Masada, and archaeology

MASADA REVISIONISM: Did the Jews Kill Themselves at Masada Rather Than Fall Into Roman Hands? The tradition of mass suicide at the ancient desert fortress as described by Josephus has little archaeological support (Elizabeth Sloane, Haaretz). Yes, that's about the size of it.

One of my students did a seminar paper on this topic in that aforementioned (in the preceding post) Ancient Jewish Literature course this semester. The class was persuaded that the archaeological evidence did not support Josephus's account of a mass suicide. His account is incoherent in other ways as well. He claims that it was only the men who were present at Eleazar ben Yair's final speeches, and they are specifically addressed to the men only, yet supposedly a surviving woman gave a full account of them. And it makes no sense that the Romans succeeded in burning down the last defensive wall and then went back to their camp to sleep until morning. Meanwhile the rebels all quietly committed suicide and no Roman watchmen noticed. And so on.

The seminar paper also evaluated Josephus's account of the fall of Gamla in light of archaeology, and came to similarly skeptical conclusions about the its reliability.

I have collected past posts on a variety of topics related to Masada here. Past posts that deal specifically with problems with Josephus's account of its fall are collected here.

On another note, this article alerted me to the fact that President Trump's speech planned for Masada has been canceled "due to the heavy heat." The speech will be given at the Israel Museum instead. More on the trip's itinerary is in this Reuters article: Trump to visit Jewish, Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.

The Talmud on scriptural exegesis

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Taking a ‘Sharp Knife’ to the Talmud. Daf Yomi: Interpreters of ancient Jewish law ‘often give the impression of doing whatever needs to be done to make the Bible mean what they want it to mean.’ The title (for which I imagine Mr. Kirsch is not responsible) is a little off. The issue in the essay is how the Talmudic sages "take a sharp knife" to the scriptures.

Scriptural interpretation in Second Temple Jewish texts and the Talmud sometimes gives the appearance of arbitrary eisegesis. Nevertheless, these exegetes worked with a clear set of rules that made perfect sense to them. They belived that all scripture was revealed by prophetic inspiration. Therefore every word was meaningful and nothing was accidental. And any scriptural passage could potentially be used to interpret an obscurity in any other passage. A favorite way of doing this was to take a difficult word in one passage and interpret it in light of how it is used in another passage (the "catchword" principle.

Some of their conclusions seem ill-founded from our historical-critical perspective today, but they believed that they were being logical and rigorous in their exegesis.

We spent quite a bit of time looking at the exegesis of scripture in my course on Ancient Jewish Literature from 1 Enoch to the Mishnah this semester.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Magdala Stone on display in Rome

VATICAN MENORAH EXHIBITION: Magdala Stone, known as Jewish-Christian ‘crossroads,’ gets its public debut (Sean Savage, JNS.org). The Magdala Stone is an extraordinarily significant, if perhaps sometimes over-interpreted, item of ancient Jewish iconography.

Past PaleoJudaica posts on the Magdala Stone are here, here (with a photo), here, and follow the links. Past posts on the “Menorah: Cult, History and Myth” exhibition by the Vatican and the Jewish Museum of Rome, which opened yesterday, are here and here.

Tunisian PM visits Djerba

DIPLOMACY: Tunisian PM in Djerba for Jewish pilgrimage to Ghriba. Over 2,500 Jews and 12,000 visitors every year (ANSAmed). The Ghriba Synagogue is an ancient synagogue site on the island of Djerba. It is an annual site of Jewish pilgrimage on Lag B'Omer. The visit of the Tunisian Prime Minister is an important political statement, not least in connection with the recent proposal to make the island a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Background here and links.

Bar Kokhba caves opened for Lag B'Omer

TOURISM AND ARCHAEOLOGY: JNF opens ancient caves from era of Bar Kokhba revolt (Dan Lavie,Israel HaYom). The complex of caves used during the Bar Kokhba Revolt at Khirbet Burgin at the Adullam Grove Nature Reserve was opened to the public over the weekend (and beyond?). This seems to have been in honor of Lag B'Omer, although this article doesn't specify this. The Bar Kokhba-era caves at the Adullam Grove Nature Reserve have been known for some time. See the posts from 2004 here and here. The area was also in the news recently for its ancient Jewish pyramid.

An article by Yisrael Katzover in Hamodia seems to think that new caves from the period have just been discovered: Caves Uncovered from Bar Kochva Period. But that doesn't seem to be the understanding of the Israel HaYom article. Such caves have been excavated recently at at Ramat Bet Shemesh. Adullam Park is nearby, but I have not seen reports of any new caves there.

The Lead Books Centre's AGM is in London today

MORE ON THOSE LEAD CODICES: Scholars begin to unlock mystery of Jordanian lead books, and say they are genuine (Paul Handley, Church Times). The main news in this article is that The Centre for the Study of the Jordanian Lead Books is holding its annual general meeting in London today. The article summarizes the current state of the discussion pretty well. Most of the content is already familiar to regular PaleoJudaica readers. As I have noted before, what "genuine" means here is not very clear. The meeting will include films on the codices which will also be posted on the Centre's website.

Films are well and good, but any real advance on the state of the question needs to come from publications in peer-review venues. As I have said before, the evidence I have seen so far makes me think the codices are clumsy modern productions. I published a detailed statement on them a couple of months ago: The Jordan Department of Antiquities disavows the lead codices. At present I have nothing to add. Follow the links there for many past posts on the subject.

As always, I will have a look at what the Lead Books Centre has to say, but I encourage the members to move the discussion into the realm of real scholarly publications.

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.

Will Trump become the first sitting President to visit the Western Wall?

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Trump set to become first sitting US president to visit Western Wall. As candidates, many US politicians stop by the Jerusalem holy site, but once in the White House, they’ve all stayed away (Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel). The official itinerary, however, has not yet been released. But "sources" say that the Western Wall will be included, for whatever that is worth.

While we're on the subject of "sources," a diplomatic tempest over the Western Wall seems now to have been resolved: White House Clarifies Western Wall Position with JewishPress.com (Hana Levi Julian). Whoever told Israeli officials that the Western Wall "is not in your territory" was not giving "the position of this administration."