By MORTON I. TEICHER
By Desmond Seward
Da Capo Press
Among all the tragedies that stain the pages of Jewish history, the cataclysmic events of the first century are an especially dark epic. We owe much of our knowledge of what befell the Jews in this terrible time to Josephus who used his role as a participant-observer to write his book, The Jewish War. His contemporary account of what happened is biased on his identification with the Romans as is masterfully described in this gripping biography.
Scholars have debated the accuracy of Josephus's observations and the issue of whether or not he was a traitor. Desmond Seward, a Cambridge graduate, is a British historian who has written many books, including biographies of numerous historical figures. He has carefully examined the evidence and he offers this narrative for general readers as an introduction to the life and times of Josephus.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
A NEW BIOGRAPHY OF FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS is reviewed in the Jerusalem Post:
PHOENICIAN WATCH: Sex, lies, and audiotapes - and Phoenician tombs?
Berlusconi in Phoenician tomb flapHowever, according to Monsters and Critics, the Premier's lawyer denies the claims:
Premier asked to explain alleged finds at Sardinian villa
(ANSA) - Rome, July 24 - Premier Silvio Berlusconi must come clean about whether he is 'hiding' 30 ancient Phoenician tombs at his Sardinian villa, a former culture minister said Friday, adding to calls from archaeologists and opposition politicians. The possible existence of the tombs came to light in audio tapes published by left-leaning weekly Espresso this week alleged to be of conversations between Berlusconi and an escort girl, Patrizia D'Addario, who claims she was paid to attend parties at his home in Rome.
In one of the conversations posted Thursday, the male speaker alleged to be the premier appears to be showing D'Addario photos of his Sardinian residence, Villa Certosa, and points out where the 30 tombs, dating to 300 BC, were found.
The Italian media has reported that the Sardinian authorities are unaware of the archaeological find on the premier's private property, which by law must be reported to the authorities to inspect and decided whether to excavate.
The National Association of Archaeologists said that if the discovery was confirmed it would be ''incredibly important'' for the study of settlements on the island by the Phonecians, an ancient maritime trading people who formed a massive commercial empire throughout the Mediterranean from their bases along the coast of modern-day Lebanon, Syria and Israel.
''Experts have been debating for years about whether the ancient city of Olbia was founded by Greeks or Phoenicians,'' said association president Giuseppina Manca di Mores.
''If the discovery of new Phoenician material is confirmed, it would represent a new detail for the story of the island and would open new channels of research,'' she said.
Berlusconi's lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, has disputed the veracity of the series of tapes that began appearing on left-leaning magazine L'Espresso's site on Monday.
On Friday he slammed what he said were the latest 'unverified reports.'
'Berlusconi would have never spoken of the discovery of 30 Phoenician tombs in his park, because nothing of the sort exists or has been found in the area of Villa Certosa,' Ghedini was quoted as saying by the ANSA news agency.
According to Ghedini, the grounds surrounding Villa Certosa - where Berlusconi often hosts foreign dignitaries - have been inspected by Italian judicial officials in the past.
'Any additional controls can be carried out at any time,' Ghedini told ANSA.
Friday, July 24, 2009
HERODIUM AND HEROD'S (POSSIBLE) TOMB are the subject of a long Smithsonian article:
Finding King Herod's TombBut not everyone is convinced. Read it all.
After a 35-year search, an Israeli archaeologist is certain he has solved the mystery of the biblical figure’s final resting place
* By Barbara Kreiger
* Smithsonian magazine, July 2009
Shielding my eyes from the glare of the morning sun, I look toward the horizon and the small mountain that is my destination: Herodium, site of the fortified palace of King Herod the Great. I'm about seven miles south of Jerusalem, not far from the birthplace of the biblical prophet Amos, who declared: "Let justice stream forth like water." Herod's reign over Judea from 37 to 4 B.C. is not remembered for justice but for its indiscriminate cruelty. His most notorious act was the murder of all male infants in Bethlehem to prevent the fulfillment of a prophecy heralding the birth of the Messiah. There is no record of the decree other than the Gospel of Matthew, and biblical scholars debate whether it actually took place, but the story is in keeping with a man who arranged the murders of, among others, three of his own sons and a beloved wife.
Long an object of scholarly as well as popular fascination, Herodium, also called Herodion, was first positively identified in 1838 by the American scholar Edward Robinson, who had a knack for locating biblical landmarks. After scaling the mountain and comparing his observations with those of the first century Jewish-Roman historian Flavius Josephus, Robinson concluded that "all these particulars...leave scarcely a doubt, that this was Herodium, where the [Judean] tyrant sought his last repose." Robinson's observation was confirmed later that century by Conrad Schick, the famous German architect and archaeologist who conducted extensive surveys of Jerusalem and its nearby sites.
But where precisely was the king entombed? At the summit of Herodium? At the base? Inside the mountain itself? Josephus didn't say. By the late 1800s, Herod's tomb had become one of biblical archaeology's most sought-after prizes. And for more than a century archaeologists scoured the site. Finally, in 2007, Ehud Netzer of Hebrew University announced that after 35 years of archaeological work he had found Herod's resting place. The news made headlines worldwide—"A New Discovery May Solve the Mystery of the Bible's Bloodiest Tyrant," trumpeted the London Daily Mail.
"In terms of size, quality of decoration and prominence of its position, it's hard to reach any other conclusion," says Jodi Magness, an archaeologist in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who has excavated at other sites where Herod oversaw construction projects. Ken Holum, a University of Maryland archaeologist and historian who served as a curator for the traveling Smithsonian exhibition "King Herod's Dream," cautions that "it is always wise to be less than certain when there is no identifying inscription or other explicit identification." But he says he personally believes Netzer has indeed discovered Herod's tomb.
CANADA and the Dead Sea Scrolls:
Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition gives long-awaited nod to Canada’s contribution, says scholarBackground here and keep following the links back.
Hamilton - A leading scholar of the Dead Sea Scrolls says the hugely popular exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum is helping to foster an appreciation of Canada’s role in the saga of one of the greatest archeological finds in modern times.
Eileen Schuller, professor of Religious Studies at McMaster University, has researched Canada’s involvement and says that from the moment the Scrolls were discovered Canadians have provided money and expertise toward the acquisition and eventual publication of the Scrolls, earning Canada an international reputation in Scrolls study.
Schuller herself has, since 1980, worked on and catalogued a series of thanksgiving prayers and psalmic texts from Cave 4 as well as published the reconstruction of the Hodayot scroll from Cave 1. An author of numerous academic papers on the Scrolls, Schuller is part of the ROM’s lecture series being held in conjunction with the exhibit. She has written extensively on women in the Scrolls and published a more popular series of lectures, The Dead Sea Scrolls: What Have We Learned (2002). Her colleague at McMaster University, Daniel Machiela is publishing a new edition of the Genesis Apocryphon this Fall. Their research has made McMaster a centre for Scrolls study.
MORE ON THE PALESTINIAN PROTESTS of the ROM Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition:
Palestinians ask Canada to seize Dead Sea ScrollsThe argument is summarized as follows:
Blake Lambert, Foreign Correspondent (The National)
* Last Updated: July 23. 2009 11:31PM UAE / July 23. 2009 7:31PM GMT
TORONTO // A new exhibit featuring the Dead Sea Scrolls at Canada’s largest museum has ignited Palestinian claims of cultural theft.
The problem for Palestinian Authority officials, who contacted ROM executives in April, is that the exhibition contains artefacts illegally acquired by Israel when it annexed East Jerusalem in the 1967 war.The ROM's response:
The PA’s archaeological department said it was important for Canadian institutions to be responsible and act in accordance with their country’s obligations.
“I’m not saying those scrolls are not Jewish and Christian in nature,” said Issam al Ahmed, the executive director of Palestine House, an educational and cultural organisation in the Toronto area. “But they were discovered prior to the Israeli occupation and they were exhibited in the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem in Palestine.”
After the 1967 war, the Israelis moved the scrolls to the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, a Montreal-based advocacy group, argues that ROM’s partnership with the Israeli body violates Canada’s obligations under the conventions of Unesco, the UN body that helps to conserve mankind’s heritage, regarding the protection of cultural property.
According to its interpretation, Canada cannot import cultural property from an occupied territory and must, if possible, take that property into custody and return it to the competent authorities at the end of hostilities.
Notwithstanding the claims of theft, the ROM said it “remained satisfied that the exhibition is lawful”.Background here.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY also has a Geniza Project, to which Mike Fieschko has alerted me in an e-mail. There's also a recent blog post on Princeton's IT's Academic blog, which links to a podcast of a recent lecture by Professor Mark Cohen and Ben Johnston from the Princeton Humanities Resource Center, with an accompanying pdf document. (I mentioned the project briefly in 2003, but did not give much detail.)
From the project website:
From the project website:
Initiated in the mid-1980s, the Computer Geniza Project of the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University seeks to extend the methodologies available to Hebrew, Judaeo-Arabic, and Arabic scholars working with the documents found in the Geniza chamber of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo in the late 19th century.
The project is dedicated to transcribing documents from film copies, photocopies, draft texts typed by S. D. Goitein, and printed editions to computer files, creating a full text retrieval text-base of transcribed documents, developing new tools such as dictionaries, semantic categories and morphological aids to further the study of Geniza texts.
Finally, the project is committed to disseminating its materials as widely as possible to the international community of scholars with an interest in the life of the medieval Middle East, as well as to all with an interest in Judaica. Ultimately, we hope to provide links to digitized images of manususcripts in our corpus, as libraries pursue the imaging of their collections..
It is our hope that by making materials from this very esoteric field widely available that new insights can be gained into the interaction of the peoples of the Middle East in past time. Funding has come from Princeton University and from the Friedberg Genizah Project.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
THE FRIEDBERG GENIZAH PROJECT has a session devoted to it in an upcoming conference in Jerusalem. Nachum Dershowitz e-mails:
Genizah Research Enters the Computer EraBackground here.
On Wednesday, August 5, 2009, 17:30 - 19:30, at the upcoming Fifteenth World Congress of Jewish Studies, there will be a session devoted to "The Friedberg Genizah Project: Objectives and Accomplishments". The congress takes place at the Hebrew University, on Mt. Scopus in Jerusalem.
Director of the Friedberg Genizah Project (FGP), Menahem Ben-Sasson, Professor of History and President of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, will lead off the session.
Yaacov Choueka, Chief Computerization Scientist of FGP and Professor Emeritus at Bar-Ilan University, will speak on "The Computerization of the Genizah World and its Impact on Genizah Research: A Vision and its Implementation". Several exciting developments will be described (see below).
Haggai Ben-Shammai, Professor of Arabic at Hebrew University, will speak on “Judaeo-Arabic Bible Exegesis: Preliminary Mapping”.
Discovered in 1896 in the attic of a synagogue in the old quarter of Cairo, the Genizah is a large collection of discarded codices, scrolls, and documents. These were written mainly in the 10th to 15th centuries, and mainly in Hebrew and Arabic (usually in Hebrew characters). The documents and fragments are now dispersed in over fifty libraries and collections around the world.
The philanthropically-funded Friedberg Genizah Project is in the midst of a multi-year process of digitally photographing (in full color, at 600dpi) most of the extant manuscripts. The entire collections of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, the Alliance Israelite Universelle in Paris, the recently rediscovered collection in Geneva, and many other collections from Strasbourg, Vienna, Budapest, and elsewhere have already been digitized. They comprise about 90,000 images (recto and verso of each fragment).
All the images are being made available to researchers online at www.genizah.org. That site provides a very convenient web interface, with zoomable images, bibliographic and catalogue data, transcriptions and translations, search facilities, and discussion forums.
In his talk, Choueka will announce three recent achievements of the project:
1. A few months ago, FGP signed an agreement with Cambridge University Library, for a joint three-year project, funded by FGP, during the course of which Cambridge will digitize their entire Genizah collection. This will result in some 400,000 additional images, to be delivered at the rate of 10,000 per month (starting soon), in what is probably one of the largest ever digitization efforts attempted in the world of manuscripts.
2. FGP has begun applying computerized image processing to the digital photographs. This effort -- directed by Dr. Roni Shweka and realized by Rotem Littman -- includes separating the document from its background, segmenting the image into written areas and blank space, straightening the image, and automatically inferring the dimensions of the fragment, the written area, and the individual lines.
3. Because of the unique circumstances of the Cairo Genizah, the leaves of most of the original documents were recovered unbound and are to be found today dispersed among different libraries. Over the past century, scholars have expended a great deal of time and effort on identifying such pages and rejoining them. Despite the few thousands of such joins that have been found by researchers, very much more remains to be done. In this regard, FGP has embarked on an ambitious project -- in collaboration with Professor Nachum Dershowitz and Dr. Lior Wolf of Tel Aviv University and their students -- to use modern machine-learning techniques in a bold computer-aided effort to identify new joins. A highlight of the talk will be a sampling of the hundreds of new joins discovered by the computer in this fashion, based solely on image similarity, including several joins of noteworthy interest.
Studying Ugarit? Start commuting between schoolsThis sounds like a very unwieldy program, but better than no program at all. At least there's some funding for student travel expenses.
By Ofri Ilani (Haaretz)
Israel currently has a great many professors of law and business administration, but very few professors of Egyptology. The few students who want to learn about hieroglyphics or the history of Pharaonic Egypt are often forced to make do with the single lecturer, at most, who specializes in this field at each university.
Because of the lack of students and faculty positions, Egyptology, Assyriology, classics and African studies are on the verge of disappearing from the world of academia here.
This week, the nation's universities announced a new initiative aimed at enabling "unpopular" fields of study to continue to exist in an era of budget cuts: four joint programs in which students will take classes from lecturers at several different universities.
Thus an Egyptology student would spend one semester, or one day a week, at Tel Aviv university, and the next he would go to Haifa University or the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The four programs are in ancient Near East languages and culture, Africa studies, Latin in the Middle Ages, and Jewish culture in the ancient world.
MARTIN ABEGG has lectured at the ROM Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition:
Published: Tuesday, July 21, 2009
TWU Dead Sea Scrolls expert lectures at the ROM in Toronto.
Langley's own Dead Sea Scrolls expert spoke in Toronto this week, on a topic very dear to his heart. Dr. Martin Abegg, the Ben Zion Wacholder professor of Dead Sea Scroll Studies at Trinity Western University (TWU), gave a public lecture at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto Thursday.
Abegg's lecture titled, The Stories of the Toronto Dead Sea Scrolls, provided listeners a "behind the scenes glimpse at the past intrigue surrounding the scrolls and what these texts tell us about the ancients that wrote, collected, copied and studied them.
A HEBREW ACADEMY is opening in Poland (AFP):
WARSAW — Roman Catholic Franciscan friars are to open Poland's first privately-run Hebrew academy in October with the approval of the country's chief rabbi and a Polish cardinal, its rector said Tuesday.This is a promising development. And I hope they find some manuscripts of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha in those archives and libraries. (I think "Syrian" above should be "Syriac.")
"We've started recruiting and there's a lot of interest. We're thinking of accepting 45 students for a start," academy rector Father Maksymin Tandek told AFP.
"During my studies in Israel, I discovered its rich and beautiful history. Jews lived in Poland for a thousand years. My dream is to preserve the wealth and beauty of their society here," he said.
The three-year-long programme at the academy located in Torun, north-east Poland, will focus on Hebrew literature, linguistics, Israeli history, Poland's Jews, and modern, rabbinical and biblical Hebrew as well as Syrian and Aramaic.
"Polish archives and libraries contain a large number of documents with an an enormous wealth of Jewish thought, but now no one is examining them. We need specialists to catalogue them and make them public," Tandek said.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
PAULA FREDRICKSEN is interviewed by BU Today:
In her latest book, Augustine and the Jews: A Christian Defense of Jews and Judaism, Fredriksen returns to her first love by exploring the historical, social, and cultural developments that gave rise to Christian anti-Judaism. The surprise, she says, isn’t just that Augustine espoused the Jews’ rights to their own religion — it’s that different faiths frequently borrowed from one another throughout the early Roman Empire. “In antiquity, all monotheists are polytheists,” she says. “It’s just that they each have heaven structured a certain way.”
Fredriksen spoke with BU Today about what Augustine’s writing reveals about cultural clashes and belief systems, then and now.
MORE ON THE ROM DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBITION:
First, a related exhibit of specially commissioned art inspired by the Scrolls:
First, a related exhibit of specially commissioned art inspired by the Scrolls:
The Power of Words (Then and Now) at the ROMSecond, more on the Canadian Jewish response to the Palestinian protests and boycott of the DSS exhibition
(Naomi Carniol, Torontoist)
In the basement of the Royal Ontario Museum, the crowds marvel at the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls. They peer at the tiny Hebrew words, which form excerpts from the Bible and the Psalms. Upstairs on the museum’s third floor, an art installation explores the power of the word in a modern context.
The Koffler Gallery and the Institute for Contemporary Culture commissioned New York–based artist Joshua Neustein to create work inspired by the Dead Sea Scrolls. In response, Neustein unveiled Margins, an installation that meditates on the importance of the written word and the yet-to-be-written word.
Jews match boycotts with emails and spendingBackground here. Background on the exhibition here.
Sales of kosher wine and Dead Sea Scrolls tickets soar after blasting message to community
Jul 20, 2009 04:30 AM
FAITH AND ETHICS REPORTER (Toronto Star)
A liquor store sells out of Israeli kosher wine. The Royal Ontario Museum sees a sudden surge in online ticket sales to its Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit.
Not the outcome one would expect from two recent boycotts meant to protest Israel's handling of the Palestine situation, but that's what happened – thanks to the power of the Internet and a change in course by the Jewish community.
Rather than react to the boycotts with counter-arguments and more rhetoric, the United Jewish Appeal and other groups such as the Jewish Defense League have begun responding to boycotts by urging supporters to buy more of whatever is being boycotted.
"The community feels really empowered by it," says Sally Szuster, a spokeswoman for the UJA Federation of Toronto.
Monday, July 20, 2009
MEDIEVAL PSALTERS are on display at the Getty Museum:
Getty displays medieval manuscripts focusing on King David
The collection of medieval illuminated Psalters and religious texts, on display at the museum through Aug. 16, illustrates the Hebrew king's struggle with good and evil.
By Martha Groves (Los Angeles Times)
July 20, 2009
The story of David, the shepherd boy who slew the Philistine Goliath, became the divinely chosen king of the Israelites and seduced Bathsheba, would be compelling in any era.
But for medieval Christians, the poet, harpist and warrior assumed immense importance as an exemplar of piety and penitence, an Everyman on whom they could model their own commitment to God.
So large loomed his legend that throughout the Middle Ages David was credited with being the author of the 150 Psalms, the deeply affecting "songs of praise" initially composed in Hebrew, that were incorporated into the Hebrew Bible and later the Christian Bible.
The Psalms played a vital role in medieval devotion from about 500 to the 1500s, and David's image appears in lavishly illustrated Psalters, volumes containing the Book of Psalms, and choir books of the period. Many of these manuscripts, painted in brilliant hues and decorated with gold leaf, are on view through Aug. 16 in the Getty Museum's North Pavilion.
In an era of e-books, it is impressive to see the enduring beauty of the 21 manuscripts and leaves, or individual pages, displayed in "Temptation and Salvation: The Psalms of King David." All of the examples -- some large, some tiny -- were drawn from the Getty's own collection of the illustrated texts, inaugurated in 1983 with the purchase of 144 manuscripts owned by German chocolate magnate Peter Ludwig and his wife, Irene.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
ANOTHER TOURIST returns some nicked antiquities:
UPDATE (20 July): Arutz Sheva also has an article on this incident, with reference to the earlier one involving a 46 pound stone. I don't see any new information except the following:
Sorry, here's your mosaic backThis seems to have been a (careless) misunderstanding rather than a deliberate misappropriation.
By Fadi Eyadat (Haaretz)
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority recently received an unusual package in the mail from the United States - nine small bags full of white mosaic stones.
In an accompanying letter, Gail Weeks of Florida wrote that she had been touring Caesarea National Park with her husband when she picked up the mosaic tiles. Only later did they notice in their pamphlet that taking antiquities is forbidden.
Weeks also wrote that she thought there might be more stones in the sand, and asked that they tell her if anything was found.
UPDATE (20 July): Arutz Sheva also has an article on this incident, with reference to the earlier one involving a 46 pound stone. I don't see any new information except the following:
In both cases, officials of the two agencies said, there would be no action taken against the individuals who took the items, because they were ultimately returned, and the culprits apologized.
HEROD'S TOMB AT HERODIUM (if that's what it is) is covered in a sort of travel article in Arutz Sheva:
Herodium: Judean Palace where Herod Lived and DiedThese Arutz Sheva travel pieces tend to be a little careless. I don't remember all the details of this tomb story but I did spot the following. The article says:
by Shalom Pollack
(IsraelNN.com) The location of Herod’s tomb remained a mystery until an innovative archaeologist set his sites on an overlooked side of the Judean fortress palace of Herodium. After a 35 year search, Professor Ehud Netzer felt he was able to announce to the world that he finally found what he was looking for – the royal tomb of King Herod the Great (73 BCE – 4 CE). The tyrannical leader who murdered Jewish sages and even his own family members was secretly referred by them as Herod the Wicked.
Although he knew that he was hated for his tyranny, Herod nonetheless made his wish on his deathbed: “Gather all the rabbis to the adjacent room. Announce that when I die, the rabbis will also be killed. Thus, the day that I die will not be a happy one. In fact, all will pray for my health” This last order was not executed, but such was the man’s evil intentions to the very end.This story is from Josephus (Antiquities 17.6.5) and it actually refers to "all the principal men of the entire Jewish nation," not the rabbis:
He commanded that all the principal men of the entire Jewish nation, wheresoever they lived, should be called to him. Accordingly, they were a great number that came, because the whole nation was called, and all men heard of this call, and death was the penalty of such as should despise the epistles that were sent to call them. And now the king was in a wild rage against them all, the innocent as well as those that had afforded ground for accusations; and when they were come, he ordered them to be all shut up in the hyppodrome, (9) and sent for his sister Salome, and her husband Alexas, and spake thus to them: "I shall die in a little time, so great are my pains; which death ought to be cheerfully borne, and to be welcomed by all men; but what principally troubles me is this, that I shall die without being lamented, and without such mourning as men usually expect at a king's death. For that he was not unacquainted with the temper of the Jews, that his death would be a thing very desirable, and exceedingly acceptable to them, because during his lifetime they were ready to revolt from him, and to abuse the donations he had dedicated to God that it therefore was their business to resolve to afford him some alleviation of his great sorrows on this occasion; for that if they do not refuse him their consent in what he desires, he shall have a great mourning at his funeral, and such as never had any king before him; for then the whole nation would mourn from their very soul, which otherwise would be done in sport and mockery only. He desired therefore, that as soon as they see he hath given up the ghost, they shall place soldiers round the hippodrome, while they do not know that he is dead; and that they shall not declare his death to the multitude till this is done, but that they shall give orders to have those that are in custody shot with their darts; and that this slaughter of them all will cause that he shall not miss to rejoice on a double account; that as he is dying, they will make him secure that his will shall be executed in what he charges them to do; and that he shall have the honor of a memorable mourning at his funeral.Background here.
AN OBITUARY FOR MARTIN HENGEL in Christianity Today:
The Champion Who Debunked Bultmann
Martin Hengel, giant of New Testament scholarship, established the basis for historical confidence in the early Christian documents.
Anyone who passed away between Michael Jackson’s June 25 death and his July 7 memorial service was bound to go unsung. But one scholar whose passing should have been more widely noted was Martin Hengel, who specialized in the intersections between rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity. He was Emeritus Professor of New Testament and Early Judaism at the University of Tübingen. After battling cancer, he died in Tübingen, Germany, on July 2 at the age of 82.
Yesterday when I heard the news of Hengel’s passing from Whitworth College’s Jim Edwards, I e-mailed several evangelical New Testament scholars for their comments.