Saturday, July 26, 2008

Jesus at the Movies: Weeks 2-3

The last two sessions of the weekly series "Jesus at the Movies" have seen steadily larger crowds, for which I am certainly thankful (but for which I am in no way responsible). For those of you unable to attend but still thirsting for cinematic and scholarly knowledge, here are the notes from the sessions (in which we discussed Denys Arcand's Jesus of Montreal and Nicholas Ray's King of Kings, respectively):

Jesus at the Movies: Week 2 (Jesus of Montreal)

Jesus at the Movies: Week 3 (King of Kings)

New from Fortress: The Social History of Ancient Israel

A recent announcement from Fortress:

The Social History of Ancient Israel: An Introduction

Rainer Kessler
Translated by Linda M. Maloney

How Israel lived—from the beginnings to the Hellenistic Age

Histories of ancient Israel have usually focused attention on major figures in powerful positions: kings, prophets, and patriarchs. Kessler asks about the larger social patterns that shaped the everyday life of ordinary people, from the emergence of Israel in the hills of Canaan, to the Jewish populations of Greek city-states in the Hellenistic age.

The introductory section includes discussion of social history as discipline and as method, event history and the "long haul," the representation of social history, and the history of research. Two other sections explore the methods of the social history of Israel and the epochs of Israel's social history, including discussions of environment as living space, Israel's emergence as a kinship-based society, exile and its consequences, and more. Includes a time line, glossary of terms, maps and illustrations.

Format: Paperback 284 pages 6 x 9 inches
Item No: 9780800662820
Price: $29.00

Order your copy today!

Five More Days of Used Book Sale at Dove

Through July 31, all of Dove's extensive collection of used books are 20% off. Just place the phrase "20% off" in the comments field of your order.

The complete catalog of used titles may be viewed here. Happy hunting!

Stephen Colbert on the Lambeth Conference

Courtesy of my father: the subtly clever (and patently hilarious) Stephen Colbert brings a lighter perspective to the controversy surrounding the current incarnation of the Anglican Communion's decennial Lambeth Conference. Take a look...

Friday, July 25, 2008

BAR Highlights: 7/25/08

And even more archaeological news from Biblical Archaeology Review. I was particularly drawn to the first article, as my father and I were just discussing ancient synagogues this evening!

Beyond the Exodus: Jewish Synagogues in Ancient Egypt
July 24, 2008
When dealing with the relationship between Israelite and Egyptian history, most accounts concentrate on the arrival of the Israelites in Egypt and their dramatic exit out of it. But what archaeological evidence do we have of the lives of ancient Jews in Egypt? A recent article in the Jerusalem Post addresses this very question in light of two important but little-discussed archaeological sites.

Two ancient synagogues have been identified in Egypt within the last century. The first is an enigmatic story of a site lost, found, and then lost again. The second is a site whose existence has been hinted at to scholars since 1893, but which has only been confirmed within the last decade. Both are believed to have existed in the last half of the first millennium B.C. and offer an extremely rare glimpse into the Jewish communities in ancient Egypt.

In 1906, the famous British scholar Sir William Flinders Petrie announced to the academic community that he had located the site of the legendary Temple of Onias, which is mentioned in both the Talmud and by the first-century A.D. Jewish historian Josephus. According to historical texts, the temple of Onias would have been founded around 170 B.C. and was destroyed by the Romans in 73 A.D. Petrie claimed to have found the temple site on a mound that was attached to the city of Ramses III. He even created a model of the temple according to descriptions of the “towered fortress” described by Josephus, which was reportedly displayed at the University College in London. However, the shifting sands of time and desert alike have conspired to lose both the model and the site itself, neither of which have been relocated by modern scholars.

The second synagogue proved to take a bit longer to locate but less problematic for today’s scholars to document. Ancient papyri written in Aramaic first discovered at the end of the 19th century refer to an ancient Jewish community that lived for over 100 years on the island of Elephantine. The documents were discovered on Elephantine, an island that lies along the southern boundary of ancient Egypt, as well as at Aswan, the coastal town that lies just opposite Elephantine. As more and more papyri came to light, scholars throughout the 20th century were able to sketch a portrait of a community of ancient Jewish mercenaries that guarded the southern boundary of Egypt from the island of Elephantine, on which they built both their military base and their religious community—complete with synagogue.

Read the Jerusalem Post report on the Jewish temples in Egypt.

The Rorschach Test: What Was Qumran?

July 23, 2008
In the wake of an academic conference to mark the 60th anniversary of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, an extensive article in the Jerusalem Report revisits the question of the identity of Qumran, the settlement near where many of the Scrolls were found. Was it an Essene settlement, inhabited by celibate ascetics, a forerunner of monasteries? Can it be called the first kibbutz, as some have labeled it? The article reviews the many functions that have been attributed to site in addition to its being an Essene desert outpost: a fort, a trading post, a pottery factory. It also discusses extensively whether Qumran in ancient times was indeed home to celibate males and if the cemetery just outside the site contained the remains of women. There is also extensive discussion of the recently found text known as “Gabriel’s Vision,” which has been called “a Dead Sea Scroll in stone.” The article interviews Israel Knohl, a professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who argues that “Gabriel’s Vision” contains a pre-Christian idea of a suffering, dying and resurrected messiah. Read the Jerusalem Report article on Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

You can also read about “Gabriel’s Vision” and study a transcription and translation of the text; you’ll also get a preview of an upcoming article in BAR by Israel Knohl that lays out his views on this intriguing tablet.

Two New Dead Sea Scrolls Fragments Published
July 22, 2008
James Charlesworth, a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, has unveiled two previously unknown Biblical fragments on the Web site of the Institute for Judaism and Christian Origins. Both are said to have come from Cave 4 at Qumran, which has been called the mother lode of Scroll manuscripts. Charlesworth believes the first fragment belongs to the Samaritan Pentateuch, which would make it a rarity among the Scrolls. The text contains sections of Deuteronomy 27:4-6, which commands the Israelites to build an altar after they enter the Promised Land; the traditional text of the Hebrew Bible says the altar should be on Mount Ebal but this fragment orders it to be built on Mount Gerizim (the Samaritans considered Mount Gerizim to be holy and worshiped in a temple there rather than the one in Jerusalem).

The second fragment contains portions of Nehemiah 3:14-15 and is important because no passages from that Biblical book had been previously known from Qumran, though portions of Ezra had been found there (Ezra and Nehemiah are thought to have been originally a single work).

These fragments are also of interest because of the work of Bruce and Ken Zuckerman, two academics who specialize in photographic techniques to bring out letters not visible to the naked eye. You can see the dramatic difference their work makes on the fragments at: and

Ancient Sailing on Modern Seas
July 21, 2008
Visitors to coastal destinations in Western Europe next spring could see more than picturesque towns and those famous Mediterranean beaches. In fact, many tourists may well wonder if the wine they had the night before was perhaps a bit too strong as they see an ancient Phoenician ship sailing by, complete with an ancient Phoenician crew. If you happen to be one of these tourists, you needn't worry—you will simply be seeing the realization of Fadi Maalouf’s dream. The founder of the Lebanese non-profit organization Peace Missions is undertaking a unique voyage with the intention of highlighting Lebanon’s contribution to civilization.

In the spring of 2009, Maalouf intends to sail a carefully replicated Phoenician ship, which will be approximately 13m long and 4m wide, to seven European countries. Like the Phoenician ships of the ancient world, Maalouf’s Europa—named for the Phoenician princess kidnapped by the Zeus in Greek mythology—will have a horse’s head at the prow and a whale’s tale at the stern, and of course the “all-seeing eye” affixed to the prow in order to ward off ill-fortune. She will also boast a crew of 17 Lebanese volunteers, who will have to promise to live, work and dress like ancient Phoenicians during the 6-8 month voyage, even when they stop on land. In addition to being skilled sailors, Maalouf’s team will also have to be good actors. Each one will assume the identity of an ancient Phoenician historical figure, and will be responsible for representing that figure to people that they encounter during their voyage.

Read about the ancient Phoenician sailing ship in The Malta Independent.

RBL Highlights: 7/25/08

Even more highlights from the Review of Biblical Literature. D. A. Carson's apparently negative review of Rescuing the Bible has already generated a substantial bit of biblioblog buzz; Mike Bird, James Crossley, Andy Naselli have posted initial reactions and responses. Even the eminent N. T. Wrong has taken time away from his episcopal duties to add his voice to the fray.

Roland Boer
Rescuing the Bible
Reviewed by D. A. Carson

April D. DeConick
The Thirteenth Apostle: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says
Reviewed by Stephan Witetschek

John H. Elliott
1 Peter: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary
Reviewed by Pheme Perkins

Jane DeRose Evans
The Coins and the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine Economy of Palestine
Reviewed by Mark R. Fairchild

Albert V. Garcilazo
The Corinthian Dissenters and the Stoics
Reviewed by Stephan Joubert

Suzanne Watts Henderson
Christology and Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark
Reviewed by W. R. Telford

Helen Leneman
The Performed Bible: The Story of Ruth in Opera and Oratorio
Reviewed by Elisabeth Birnbaum

Paul L. Maier, trans.
Eusebius: The Church History
Reviewed by Sabrina Inowlocki

Pheme Perkins
Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels
Reviewed by Peter J. Judge

Wayne G. Rollins and D. Andrew Kille, eds.
Psychological Insight into the Bible: Texts and Readings
Reviewed by E. H. Scheffler

Deborah W. Rooke, ed.
A Question of Sex? Gender and Difference in the Hebrew Bible and Beyond
Reviewed by Athalya Brenner

Phillip Sigal
The Halakhah of Jesus of Nazareth according to the Gospel of Matthew
Reviewed by Roland Deines
Reviewed by Dorothy Jean Weaver

Jan G. van der Watt
An Introduction to the Johannine Gospel and Letters
Reviewed by Tom Thatcher

Monday, July 21, 2008

RBL Highlights: 7/21/08

A few highlights from the most recent Review of Biblical Literature:

Kevin L. Anderson
"But God Raised Him from the Dead": The Theology of Jesus' Resurrection in Luke-Acts
Reviewed by Lidija Novakovic

Adela Yarbro Collins
Mark: A Commentary
Reviewed by Edwin Broadhead

Johanna Dorman
The Blemished Body: Deformity and Disability in the Qumran Scrolls
Reviewed by T. M. Lemos

Douglas R. Edwards and C. Thomas McCollough, eds.
The Archaeology of Difference: Gender, Ethnicity, Class and the "Other" in Antiquity: Studies in Honor of Eric M. Meyers
Reviewed by Aren M. Maeir

Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert and Martin S. Jaffee, eds.
The Cambridge Companion to the Talmud and Rabbinic Literature
Reviewed by Joshua Schwartz

Mary Gerhart and Fabian E. Udoh, eds.
The Christianity Reader
Reviewed by Mark Reasoner

Rowan A. Greer and Margaret M. Mitchell
The "Belly-Myther" of Endor: Interpretations of 1 Kingdoms 28 in the Early Church
Reviewed by D. Jeffrey Bingham

André Munzinger
Discerning the Spirits: Theological and Ethical Hermeneutics in Paul
Reviewed by Lee S. Bond
Reviewed by Victor Paul Furnish

Stephen W. Need
Paul Today: Challenging Readings of Acts and the Epistles
Reviewed by Steve Walton

Barclay M. Newman, ed.
The UBS Greek New Testament: A Reader's Edition
Reviewed by Steven R. Johnson

Bridget Gilfillan Upton
Hearing Mark's Endings: Listening to Ancient Popular Texts through Speech Act Theory
Reviewed by W. R. Telford

Jan G. van der Watt
An Introduction to the Johannine Gospel and Letters
Reviewed by D. A. Carson

BAR Highlights: 7/21/08

Recent archaeological news from Biblical Archaeology Review:

Caught in the Culture Wars
July 20, 2008
It started innocently enough: In 1991, Wellesley College classics professor Mary Lefkowitz was asked to review Martin Bernal’s Black Athena, which argued that classical Greek civilization basically stole its ideas from Egypt. This viewpoint, Lefkowitz quickly found out, was a beloved pillar of Afrocentrism, never mind that some of its assertions were flat-out wrong: Aristotle, for example, could not have come to his theories by way of the books in the Alexandria Library because he died long before the Library came into existence. Even worse, Lefkowitz became embroiled in a bitter battle with a colleague at Wellesley, who accused her of racism. Her culture war battles are now over, but Lefkowitz has released a memoir of those days. Read the Times (of London) Literary Supplement review of History Lesson.

Rare Maritime Artifact Discovered by Lifeguard
July 19, 2008
While diving off the coast of Palmahim Beach in Israel, lifeguard David Shalom made an unusual find. Rather than the usual colorful fish or shells that most divers expect to see, Shalom discovered something significantly rarer: a 2500-year-old white marble disc used by ancient mariners to ward off evil. One of only four such artifacts in the world today, the disc was very common in the maritime world of the ancient Mediterranean. Painted in the form of an eye, they were affixed to the prows of ships to warn of danger and act as a sort of nautical good luck charm. Shalom was diving in Yavne-Yam, a known antiquities site. Upon making the startling discovery, he turned the precious artifact over to the Israel Antiquities Authority. Kobi Sharvit, the director of the Marine Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority, commented that not only was this type of disc popular in the ancient Mediterranean world, it is still used today on boats in places such as Portugal, Malta, Greece and in the Far East.

The International Herald Tribune reports on the disc to ward off evil.

Putting It All on the (On)Line
July 18, 2008
The University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology plans to make its one million artifacts available through the Internet.

Don’t Ask Us
July 17, 2008
The World Archaeological Congress concluded its recent meeting by calling on archaeologists not to provide any assistance to the military in planning possible attacks against Iran.

Jericho Felled by TB?
July 16, 2008
Researchers studying bones excavated in the 1950s at the Biblical city have found many inhabitants had TB, suggesting Jericho succumbed to more than tumbling walls. The researchers hope studying the ancient bones will help them fight TB today.

Is That Covered By Insurance?
July 15, 2008
Papyrus scrolls buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and discovered in a villa 200 years ago are undergoing MRI examinations at a hospital in Washington State.

The Modest Venus
July 14, 2008
A well-preserved statue discovered in Macedonia shows the nude goddess of love attempting to demurely cover her herself.

Is “Cultural Property” a Crock?
July 13, 2008
A columnist for the Times of London thinks the recent demands by some countries for the return of ancient artifacts are driven by “narrow nationalism and a political agenda, an attempt to lend historical credibility to modern states that did not exist when the objects were created.”

She Sells Looted Sea Shells by the Sea Shore
July 12, 2008
A newly enacted law in Greece opening up the country’s coastline to sea divers may have a baleful unintended consequence: widespread looting of underwater remains and artifacts.

Iraqi Sites Better than Feared
July 11, 2008
An international team of archaeologists recently visited eight important ancient sites in southern Iraq and found that there had been no looting at them since 2003.

Elaborate Etruscan Tomb Discovered

July 10, 2008
Road construction in Perugia has unearthed an Etruscan family tomb in excellent condition, containing seven funerary urns, a pillar, two benches and parts of a bronze bed. Etruscan civilization flourished in Italy in the middle of the first millennium B.C.

Pompeii Threatened Again
July 9, 2008
The Italian government is appointing a special commissioner to administer the spectacular ancient site, which is in a chaotic state and which has seen a big drop in visitors.