Larry Schiffman Public Zoom Lecture on the Scrolls

Joe Lauer writes

Dr. Jim Davila noted the following ZOOM online Lecture “Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls” to be given by Prof. Lawrence H. Schiffman, Thursday, July 16, 2020, 11:00 AM-12:15 PM EDT. Registration is required (see below). See “Schiffman lecture on the DSS” at

Prof. Schiffman’s website has the following at


Thursday July 16, 2020
11:00 AM until 12:15 PM

This Zoom program will focus on how the texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls shed light on the history of Judaism and early Christianity. Registration required. An email with Zoom login details will be sent prior to the start of the program. Hosted by the Peninsula Public Library. The Peninsula Public Library’s site for the lecture is at where one can send e-mail notices of it to others. Its calendar of events is at where there is a link for registration. The registration form is at

Peter van der Veen on the Latest Discovery in Jerusalem

I just looked again at the newest archaeological find from Jerusalem, from the Givati Car Park excavation in the City of David. Two days ago it was announced that a bulla with a seated figure on a throne and additional standards of deities as well as a seal made of pottery were found and that these may date to the early Persian period Jewish returnees (after 539 BC).

While this is possible, a close look at the bulla reveals that it could also be an Neo-Assyrian or more likely Neo-Babylonian seal impression. Also Eilat Mazar found seal impressions at the City of David with imprints of Neo-Babylonian seals. So this bulla could also be Neo-Babylonian and may have belonged to a soldier of official stationed on the ruins of the city after 587 BC. If you turn the pottery seal – that is the other find – around (something I did a few hour ago when I way playing with the image), I suddenly saw a gazelle on the right and possibly a very schematic standing figure with a staff or scepter on the left.

This may be coincidence but it would make good sense. It is difficult to say from which period this seal is or of it is actually an incised image on a jar. Just wanted to share this.

Peter van der Veen


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Its the ‘Pandemic / Societal Apocalypse / Is June Finally Over? / Ugh What a Miserable Month’ Edition of the Biblical Studies Carnival

Welcome to the ‘Pandemic Pandemonium’ Biblioblog Carnival

Put your mask on and come on in.  There’s plenty to see and you won’t have to touch anyone or even come within 6 feet of someone else.  And the only thing you’ll be infected with is joy.  Unlike last month’s Carnival where you were infected with niceness.  Indeed, you can’t visit that carnival without leaving it a nicer person.

That’s about to change.  😉  Prepare to be en-joy-ed.

Hebrew Bible/ LXX

Larry Schiffman has a great essay about the ‘Washington Pentateuch‘ and the Museum of the Bible that you’ll not want to miss.

Robert Gnuse has a very interesting sounding book coming out, an excerpt of which can be read at the Bible and Interpretation site- Greek Literature and the Primary History.

The First Gaster Bible makes an appearance on the British Library Blog.  If you aren’t familiar with it-

Named after its distinguished last owner Dr Moses Gaster (1856–1939), the spiritual leader of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation in London, the manuscript was most probably created in Egypt. The colophon – a statement at the end of a manuscript giving details about its production – is missing, and so, nothing is known about the original commission. Its estimated date and place of production have thus been determined by comparing it with extant Hebrew Bibles copied around about the 10 th century in Egypt and the Middle East.

Konrad Schimd and a panel of experts discuss the creation of the Bible in this fantastic 90 minute video.

News of a Festschrift for Diana Edelman hit social media in June. The Hunt for Ancient Israel: Essays in Honour of Diana V. Edelman.  You can find all the details of this fascinating sounding book here.

The British Association for Jewish Studies will hold an online conference in July.  The details and the papers to be presented are available here.

Brent Niedergall pitted HALOT against DCH and offers his rationale for preferring one to another.

Michael Langlois was interviewed by Figaro Magazine about bible hunting.  Don’t worry, though, it’s not with guns.

Peter Enns has a friend (shocking, I know) named Jared Byas who Pete lets write on his blogg.  So who better to tell us how to read the bible with respect?  He begins

I don’t know about you but I grew up with this nagging thought in the back of my mind when I read my Bible: am I doing it right?

Gary Yates is interviewed on a podd cast about his new book on stuff from the Old Testament and whether or not it’s for real.  You’ll enjoy it if you enjoy things.

There’s a VERY interesting post on the Golden Calf that is simply must reading.  It’s one of the most engaging posts of the month.

James Crossley has a very engaging post on The Bible and Trump.  Give it a read.

New Testament

One of this generation’s greatest scholars died on June 26; James D.G. Dunn.  Jimmy to those who knew him.  Many mourn for the loss.  He was a wonderful scholar and one of the nicest people you could ever run into at any Conference.  He was a genuinely decent man.  May he rest in peace.   There were a number of remembrances, but those by Loren Stuckenbruck and James Ernest stand out as the best of them.

Mark Goodacre’s podcast on 1 June featured a discussion of historical Jesus criteria.   I didn’t get to listen because I was otherwise occupied but I’m sure it solved every problem, as podcasts often do.  Give it a listen.  It’s poddy.  And it won’t give you a disease.

Was Jesus born in Bethlehem?  Gary Greenberg talks about the question.

Christoph Heilig is working on a Greek grammar and he’s seeking your help.

A self described layman (he doesn’t include his name anywhere on his commentary page so I don’t know who he is) discusses a bit of Matthew 5 (on divorce).  But he quotes academics.  So is it really the observations of a layman or the compilation of scholar’s insights?  You decide.  I only include it because I was asked to by a third party.  And I’m nice that way.

Mike Bird reflected on Jesus and parables.  Give it a look if you missed it earlier.

Gary Greenberg is doing a series making a case for a ‘proto-gospel’.

Ben Witherington 3rd teaches the entire history of ancient Greece in a mere 18 minutes.  You’re welcome.

Christian Brady has some thoughts on the Fatherhood of God as it’s portrayed in the Bible.  Worth your time.

According to Mike Bird, NT Wright knows what the New Testament has to say about women preachers.  Enjoy.

Mike Aubrey has some 12th Anniversary reflections over at his blog, Koine Greek.  Give it a look.  And good luck to Mike and his wife as they begin a new, and valuable work.

Christoph Heilig (who probably knows more about the intricacies of Koine Greek better than anyone on the planet) has a post on Greek verbs you’ll want to read.

The BNTS meeting this year is fully online.  So if you’ve always wanted to go, this is your chance to sit in.

Bishop Yu (Hong Kong) offers a withering response to NT Wright’s article on Christianity and the Coronavirus.  Withering.  You may have missed it, but you should definitely read it.

There’s a neat little treatment of Jesus’ hyperbole that you should read over here.  It’s by one John Squires.  He’s Australian, but he isn’t Mike Bird or Ben Myers!  (The only two other Australians).

A letter from Abbott to Gardner-Smith made an appearance on Mark Goodacre’s blog.  He remarks I was recently noodling around for some biographical information on Percival Gardner-Smith who is well known in the field of NT studies.  Life in the fast lane noodling!

Into textual criticism?  Enjoy the esoterical aspects of it such that you crave more discussion of ‘the initial text’?  Well this post is right up your alley!  You’ll be transported to geeknerd paradise upon the reading of it.  And if papyrology is your groove, you’ll love this.

What were the early Christians like?  A citation from Pliny and a few photos address that question.  They don’t answer it, though.  You’ll have to read a bit more to get the full answer.

Crossley took on Ehrenkrook in an epic smackdown on the ‘American Bible’.  There’s something in the discussion for everyone: maiming, yelling, violence, dogs, a kitten, a baby goat, and much, much more!  Tune in!!!

Nijay Gupta gave a lecture on the household codes in the New Testament (what we old timers call the Haustafeln).  You can view it (it’s a video) here.  He was also on a podcast.  Talking about Jude and James and how they are in the Bible too!!!!   Nah, I’m kidding.  He was talking about….  Paul…

Phil Long is blogging through Revelation.  He’s made it to the war on the dragon bit.  Tune in and scroll through to catch up.


DNA an interest of yours?  The DSS?   The DNA of the DSS?  Well here’s something for your very particular niche interests.   Speaking of the DSS- there’s a nifty interview about the latest scrolls news with the inestimable George Brooke.  He’s fantastic.

Also Scrolls related- a conference on the discovery of fragments.  It took place mid-June but you can catch up anyway.

Bible and Interpretation had a neat essay on Moab.  If you missed it, be sure to give it a read.  Candida Moss has a good piece on the story of the discovery of cannabis at an ancient religious site.  Very much worth a read.

The Museum of the Bible is back in the news.  See why.

BASOR is getting a new team of editors effective 1 January, 2021.  Four new folk will replace Eric Cline and Chris Rollston.

Chuck Jones mentions an open access excavation volume– from Tall Zira’a.  The results of the excavations at Tall Zira’a (2003–2011) and of the surveys will be published in english on this site.

Jim Davila has the story of an ancient winery discovered in the Jezreel.  With followup info.

A little something was found in Sepphoris.  That’s the story.   And that’s pretty much the whole story.  No photos.  No details.  Just the barest fact.   Ah journalism….

The story of the Palestine Exploration Fund is told in a new book, excerpts of which are available now on the Bible and Interpretation site.  Take a look.


Bob reviewed Gupta.  I don’t know who Bob is or what he does (his blog doesn’t include any CV or the like), but he reviewed Gupta, so there you have it.

Will Ross writes- Tuukka Kauhanen and Hanna Vanonen have edited The Legacy of Soisalon-Soininen: Towards a Syntax of Septuagint Greek in the DSI series with V&R.    Get a copy for yourself and your spouse!

If Food Taboos in the Hebrew Bible are of interest to you, this open access book is something you may want to look into.

Larry Hurtado’s ‘Texts and Artefacts’ is reviewed here.  And I’m still gutted that he’s gone.  Too many wonderful people are gone and the horrible ones just stay around forever.

Mike Bird has a very useful post which describes forthcoming biblical studies books by Black scholars.  It is right and good to amplify these important voices.  Give it a read.  And more importantly, read the books of Scholars of Color.

Jodi Magness’s excellent ‘Masada: From Jewish Revolt to Modern Myth‘ has been reviewed by Karen Stern, here.

Bob MacDonald shares some of the things he’s been reading whilst in lockdown.  Some of it’s good, some of it’s bad, and some of it’s poetry…   Ick.  Poetry.  To each his own I guess.  If I were desperate enough to read English poetry (as opposed to Hebrew) I’d plead for the world to end.

Hey, guess what, there was a book about Paul published in June!  WOW!  Nice!  Paul!  You never hear about Paul anymore, what with all the books on Hebrews and James and Jude that get published these days.  Anyway, this book about Paul (the guy we seldom hear about anymore) gets a nice review over on The Sacred Page.  Give it a read if you haven’t yet.

Carmen Joy Imes does a wonderful job reviewing Stewards of Eden.  Give it a well deserved read.

Jim Gordon runs through his lockdown reading.  At least he’s keeping himself out of trouble…

If you haven’t had your fill of thinking about misery, there’s a new book sure to help satisfy your thirst.  Tornado God.  It’s what we old timers used to call a ‘theodicy’.

Andy Judd reviewed ‘Jewish Literature: An Anthology‘ on Mike Bird’s blog.  He calls it ‘a delightful and useful window into second temple Judaism’.

There’s a book coming out about sexual violence against men in the Bible.  If this is of interest to you, so will be the interview with the author.  One Chris Greenough.

I reviewed a book introducing inscriptions.  Here.  Enjoy!  And one on Revelation in a fantastic new series that far surpasses any recent New Testament Commentary comprised of several contributors.

Like mercy?  Then you may like this book and the interview with its author.

Faith & Culture presents an interview with Fr. Daniel P. Moloney, Ph.D., chaplain at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of Mercy: What Every Catholic Should Know (Augustine Institute & Ignatius Press, 2020).

Phil Long reviewed Sidnie White Crawford’s new book on Scribes and Scrolls at Qumran.  I’m glad to see Phil making good use of his time.

There’s a review of a book about comic books something something something and Batman, I think, over here at Pop Culture and Theology.  I admit to not knowing anything about comic books.  I don’t recall ever reading one. Ever.  But I do like the Avenger movies, if that counts.

The Spirit of Christian Teaching is a book soon to appear that Patristics scholars and students may wish to learn more about.

Michael Austin has a book coming out titled ‘God and Guns in America’.  He’s put together a little YouTube video that you might find enjoyable and informative.

T&T Clark have something called an ‘ecological‘ commentary on Hebrews.   Up next I hear there’s to be a zoological commentary on Hebrews.  Followed by a whole series of various -logical topics.  I’m most looking forward to the Interpretive Dance Commentary on Hebrews slated to come out in a few years.

David Instone-Brewer’s ‘Bible Contexts’ is being posted chapter by chapter.  This week chapter 19 appeared.  Give it, and the whole, a look.

Tweets You May Have Missed

@AnguloGP7 — New Testament scholar friends, I’m no expert on the NT but I will be teaching an Intro NT class for the first time with @joshchristvevo. I would like to include readings on NT related to race, gender, & power written by women and scholars of color. Any suggestions where to begin?

@AnummaBrooke — Hebrew Bible scholars, what critical issues and methods would you be sure to include in a doctoral/PhD survey seminar on HB/OT History? (I’ll need to overhaul Fall 2020 anyway in light of available resources, so I’m rethinking the whole thing.) Please RT.

@ChristophHeilig — I’ll give you a 200$ book for free (well, make it OA) and you look at my index – sounds fair? 😉 I’d be grateful if you flagged up everything that might seem fishy to you (such as chapters/verses that don’t exist in the work in question)

@eu_are — #EuARe2020 Digital Book Fair📢 all members are welcome to visit @degruyter_lib virtual booth 👉 and if you want to discuss a future project you can get in touch here 👉

@CSNTM — #textcritictuesday The German philologist Karl Lachmann (1793–1851) is recognized as the first scholar to depart decisively from the Textus Receptus with his edition. His aim was to reproduce, not the original text, but the text current in the East at the end of the 4th century.

If you aren’t following @CSNTM, you ought to.

@bormann_lukas — Rudolf #Bultmann besuchte im WS 1905/06 bei Paul Natorp eine 4 stündige Logikvorlesung. In B.s Nachlass findet sich ein Foto von der Aufbahrung N.s. Bultmanns Wissenschaftsverständnis war von #Neukantianismus geprägt.

If you don’t follow Prof. Bormann you’re really missing out. He has the best tweets. Always SO interesting.

@tryBibLing — Never believe a ‘new method’ will make language learning ‘easier’ or ‘faster’. There are no shortcuts. Language learning is challenging work. Discipline — not talent — is your greatest asset.

@ccsahner — Appalling: Report documents severe damage to Syrian heritage and museums @AJENews

@Plong42 — From Brill Open Source: Roald Dijkstra, editor, The Early Reception and Appropriation of the Apostle Peter (60-800 CE) –

@FSSLatin — As I make tweaks to my Roman Women course for next year, I’m wondering if anyone can help me out with some bibliography for women in Egypt, Carthage and the Kingdom of Kush. Thanks in advance for any sources you can offer!

@ImmanentFrame — NEW | Susannah Heschel (@dartmouth) contributes to our forum on “Pandemic, religion, and public life,” by looking at the Jewish ritual of shvartze chasene, the “pandemic of nightmares accompanying Covid-19,” and the epidemic of racial terror in the US.

@chriskeith7 — Due to unforeseen circumstances, Monday’s CSSSB 2020 Online Discussion Series featuring @LorenStuckenbru is canceled. That gives us an extra couple weeks to advertise our July 6 event with @adele_reinhartz: “Are the Jews Cast Out of the Covenant in the Gospel of John?” Join us!

And the best tweet of all?

@ymiller419 — Prof. John Collins: “Specialization is the boon and the bane of Second Temple Studies.” He calls for a need to “broaden out” or risk becoming a “rabbit hole.” #originsofevil2020


It’s no exaggeration to say that June began with the US more divided than ever and with a pandemic raging and rioting, burning, and looting taking place thanks to the murder by police of yet another in a long line of Black men.  Unsurprisingly many took the opportunity to offer some thoughts on it all.  Scot McKnight among them, asking ‘how shall we respond’.  So did Steve Wiggins.  So did the SBL Executive Board.  So did Phoenix Seminary.  So did the Society for Old Testament Study.  So did Randy *Blackadder* Blacketer.  So did Aaron Koller.  So did Alen Bevere. So did Peter Enns. So did a group of Black Deans and Presidents of theological faculties.  Logos Bible Software did.  Christian Brady did.  And his is the best of the lot.  Even Liberty University Alum have had enough of the terrible racism of Jerry Falwell Jr.  They’ve put together a petition to rid the campus of Falwell.  The school is in dire straits because of Falwell Jr’s racism.

Steve Wiggins wondered what it all would mean for the Fall (Autumn) and university and college education.

Hey, should Christians get tattoos?  Michael Berra has some thoughts on the topic in his podcast.  Be sure to follow Michael’s blog too.  He’s a good kid, doing his PhD on Brunner, so naturally he’s very bright.

The ETC blog has a post on profanity.  I guess they were spending a lot of time watching cable tv or something.  Or maybe an AAR conference video.  Anyway, if you’re prone to use bad words then you should read this if you missed it.

In another vein, if you’re looking for a job teaching Early Christianity and Historical Theology, this may interest you.

Allen Bevere wondered if Bible translations can be trusted and then he enlists Bill Mounce to answer the question.  Speaking of Bible translations, a grad of Bob Jones University (so I think you already know where this is headed) has some thoughts about bible translations used in church settings and he’s not at all happy about the growing number of them.  He pines for the wondrous days of the KJV in every hand and every pew.

Awful news in the middle of the month that Jan Joosten had been arrested and sentenced to prison to a year in prison for possession of child pornography roiled social media.  He provides his own statement on the matter here.  Taylor Lord had some thoughtsRon Hendel and Jean-Sebastien Rey had some important input on how we could best respond.

Mike Bird shares some wisdom. Dead Sea Discoveries issued a statement, as did the IOSCS, as did SOTS and the SBL.  Along the same lines there were plenty of posts on social media asking whether or not Joosten and others convicted of crimes should or should not be cited.  Here’s one guy’s answer.  And here’s another.

The most thorough reaction came from the Shiloh Project at The University of Sheffield.  It is definitely worth reading.

Most others kept their thoughts to twitter (where all social justice warfare goes to die) and within just a few days the subject had withered on the social media vine and died.  As all things on social media do.  There’s a moment of outrage followed by a flurry of condemnation followed by silence until the next issue grabs attention.  Let’s hope this time people take a bit more time to consider how they can make the world a better place than usually happens after such revelations.




Phil Long (the ringmaster of the blogging world) wrote

Here are the upcoming hosts. No hosts for October 2020 (Due November 1) and after. I am willing to take a later month if someone wants August. July 2020 (Due August 1) – Bob MacDonald  @drmacdonald

August 2020 (Due September 1) – Phillip Long, Reading Acts @plong42

September 2020 (Due October 1) – Brent Niedergall’s blog.  @BrentNiedergall

Are you new to blogging? Are you a lapsed biblioblogger? James McGrath has some encouraging words for you.

Would you like to see your posts included in a future carnival? Start by writing a quality academic post, perhaps a book review. Then send the link to the upcoming host. It is entirely their decision to include your post in their carnival, but you can at least nominate yourself for inclusion. Sometimes you have to toot your own horn.

If you have questions about what writing a carnival involves, contact me via email, or twitter DM @plong42. I would be happy to answer any questions.

Do one.  Especially if you’re one of those precious souls who never likes anything anyone else does.  Prove your skill!

The Museum of the Bible Is Trying to Make Things Right

Whether or not it will succeed remains to be seen.

Museum executives have embarked on a campaign to comply with basic due diligence in authenticating the institution’s holdings. The stricter policies, mandated by U.S. federal authorities, include going through the museum’s entire 40,000-piece collection and returning potentially looted goods to their countries of origin. But some antiquities experts question why it has taken so long.


“There’s no question to me that the museum is trying to be extremely careful in what they’re buying now. They’re buying only the best and then making sure that the provenance is squeaky-clean,” Sharon Liberman Mintz, curator of Jewish art at the Jewish Theological Seminary library, told The Washington Post. “They don’t want to repeat any of the mistakes that they made in the past.”

It’s a long essay but certainly it’s worth a look.

Posted in Archaeology | Comments Off on The Museum of the Bible Is Trying to Make Things Right

Two New Films on The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

With thanks to Joan Taylor for pointing this out on the twitter-

With travel restrictions still enforced, this year visitors may not be able to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. However, two new films on the church and its history — released in April to coincide with the Easter holiday — are the next best thing. A documentary short titled “Holy Fire” is available for online streaming, and the feature-length film “The Church” was broadcast for the holiday on TV channels in a variety of countries. The creators of both films anticipate they will screen at film festivals once the pandemic is over.

Posted in Archaeology | Comments Off on Two New Films on The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Studying the New Testament through Inscriptions: An Introduction

Studying the New Testament through Inscriptions is an intuitive introduction to inscriptions from the Greco-Roman world. Inscriptions can help contextualize certain events associated with the New Testament in a way that many widely circulated literary texts do not. This book both introduces inscriptions and demonstrates sound methodological use of them in the study of the New Testament. Through five case studies, it highlights the largely unrecognized ability of inscriptions to shed light on early Christian history, practice, and the leadership structure of early Christian churches, as well as to solve certain New Testament exegetical impasses.

The book is comprised of six chapters and a series of bibliographic appendices-

  1. Engraved for All Time: An Introduction to Inscriptions
  2. Jesus, the Royal Lord: Inscriptions and Local Customs
  3. “Devour” or “Go Ahead with” the Lord’s Banquet? Inscriptions and Philology
  4. Imperial Loyalty Oaths, Caesar’s Decrees, and Early Christianity in Thessalonica: Contextualizing Inscriptions
  5. Benefactresses, Deaconesses, and Overseers in the Philippian Church: Inscriptions and Their Insights into the Religious Lives of Women in the Roman World
  6. Calculating Numbers with Wisdom: Inscriptions and Exegetical Impasses

By way of opening-

This book is an attempt to introduce mainly Greek but also Latin and Semitic inscriptions from the Hellenistic and Roman periods to graduate students, seminarians, and pastors for the purpose of using these sources to interpret the documents of the NT and to reconstruct the history of early Christianity.

Readers of the present volume will probably be driven to compare its contents and structure to the earlier work of Deissmann’s ‘Light from the Ancient East’.  The present author recognizes that fact and engages in a bit of project justification, writing

Deissmann provides little background information about inscriptions, directing the reader to a German introduction to inscriptions published in 1906. And, entries on inscriptions in Bible and NT dictionaries and encyclopedias, by their nature, are cursory and undetailed.  Therefore, this book’s first goal is to introduce inscriptions by making them accessible to the seminarian, graduate student, and pastor. In the process, I tackle what inscriptions are, why they were set up, how they were made, how they are classified, who could read them, how they are dated, and how to use collections of inscriptions (or corpora), which can seem complicated for the novice.

And then he concludes that he has striven to-

… treat inscriptions as archaeological artifacts so that they can illuminate the text of the NT and the history of early Christianity.

Further on, while discussing the usefulness of inscriptional material for interpreting difficult New Testament passages-

When we compare the data above with our earliest evidence from the NT, Paul’s letters, there are striking similarities between the use of lord in inscriptions from the southern Levant and in Paul’s letters.

To begin chapter three, the most interesting of the chapters in my estimation, our author observes-

One of the most important contributions that inscriptions (and papyri) made to the study of the NT in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was helping to establish the relationship between NT Greek and the common or Koine Greek of the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

He then launches into a very well done treatment of προλαμβανω in 1 Cor 11:21: Scholarly Proposals.  In this portion of the work the author justifies both its existence and its importance as a furtherance of Deissmann’s earlier, larger, more influential work.  As he himself remarks at the end of the chapter, and he is correct in so doing,

… this chapter has demonstrated the ability of inscriptions to adjudicate philological discussions.

The book as a whole shows how very valuable the ancient inscriptions are for the interpretation of the New Testament.  Along with extensive primary source inclusion, there are lovely photographs of important inscriptions which the author has himself taken.  The appendices provide further resources, both print and online.  And there are indices of modern authors, subjects, and ancient sources so that readers can locate particular materials with ease.

The book may just have 246 pages in total, whilst Deissmann’s work weighs in at over 450 pages; this book’s size does not diminish its value and usefulness.  Students of the Greek New Testament will learn much from its erudition and information.

That’s why I heartily recommend it.  But don’t forget Deissmann.  There is much to learn from his work as well.  Indeed, sometimes the old and the new work best when they work together.  Excluding the old because it’s old or esteeming the new just because of its novelty is neither wise nor scholarly.

Cannabis and Frankincense at the Judahite Shrine of Arad

A fascinating essay has just been published in Tel Aviv, Vol 47, No.1. of that title.

ABSTRACT: Two limestone monoliths, interpreted as altars, were found in the Judahite shrine at Tel Arad. Unidentified dark material preserved on their upper surfaces was submitted for organic residue analysis at two unrelated laboratories that used similar established extraction methods. On the smaller altar, residues of cannabinoids such as Δ9 -teterahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN) were detected, along with an assortment of terpenes and terpenoids, suggesting that cannabis inflorescences had been burnt on it. Organic residues attributed to animal dung were also found, suggesting that the cannabis resin had been mixed with dung to enable mild heating. The larger altar contained an assemblage of indicative triterpenes such as boswellic acid and norursatriene, which derives from frankincense. The additional presence of animal fat―in related compounds such as testosterone, and rostene and cholesterol―suggests that resin was mixed with it to facilitate evaporation. These well-preserved residues shed new light on the use of 8th century Arad altars and on incense offerings in Judah during the Iron Age.

If such things interest you, track down the essay and give it a read.

Posted in Archaeology | Comments Off on Cannabis and Frankincense at the Judahite Shrine of Arad

The Latest Issue of the Israel Exploration Journal

Israel Exploration Journal (70/1 [2020])
edited by S. Ahituv, Z. Weiss and Aren Maeir

has just appeared.  Here are the contents of a very interesting and rich issue:

  • 1 ITZHAQ SHAI and CHRIS MCKINNY: Canaanite Votive Offerings and Their Significance within Their Context at Tel Burna
  • 18 SARA LEVAVI-EILAT: Discarded Women: A New Theory on the Use of Late Bronze Age Plaque Figurines of the Southern Levant
  • 36 MITKA R. GOLUB: In the Name of the Father: Patronyms in Iron Age II Hebrew Epigraphy
  • 49 NOAM ARNON, DAVID BEN-SHLOMO and HANS MOMMSEN: Iron Age Pottery from the Cave of the Patriarchs at Hebron
  • 64 SEAN DUGAW, ODED LIPSCHITS and GUY D. STIEBEL: A New Typology of Arrowheads from the Late Iron Age and Persian Period and Its Historical Implications
  • 90 SHLOMIT WEKSLER-BDOLAH and LEAH DI SEGNI: A Latin Epitaph of a Soldier from Magen’s Excavations in Damascus Gate and the Burial Grounds of Jerusalem between 70 and 130 CE
  • 99 RONNY REICH and YUVAL BARUCH: A Note on the Date of the Stone Collapse at the Western Wall of the Temple Mount
  • 106 OREN TAL and MICHAL PIASETZKY-DAVID: Inscribed Spindle Whorls from a Byzantine Burial Cave at Yavne-Yam, Israel
  • 114 REVIEWS
  • 126 BOOKS RECEIVED — 2019

For the contents and abstracts, go to:  for Aren Maeir.

Posted in Archaeology | Comments Off on The Latest Issue of the Israel Exploration Journal

Hobby Lobby’s Gilgamesh Tablet Must be Returned to Iraq

U.S. federal prosecutors are seeking the return to Iraq of a roughly 3,500-year-old clay tablet purchased by the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts store chain for display in the Washington, D.C.-based Museum of the Bible. The cuneiform tablet is described as “stolen Iraqi property” in a civil complaint filed Monday.

The complaint details part of the journey of this fragment of the oldest known creation tale — from a palace library in ancient Mesopotamia to its present location in a Department of Homeland Security warehouse in Queens, New York.

It alleges that a major international auction house, unnamed in the complaint, obscured the provenance of the tablet, known as the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, when it sold the tablet to Hobby Lobby in 2014.

Agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations seized the tablet last year from the Museum of the Bible, which, it said, cooperated with the investigation. Hobby Lobby’s owners are the founders of the Museum of the Bible.

Read the rest of the report.

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News From Persepolis: A Guest Post By Soheil Delshad

In recent weeks three interviews and reports have been broadcasted by Iranian news agencies regarding Middle Persian inscriptions found at Naqsh-e Rostam and documentation of cuneiform inscriptions and tablets at the Persepolis site and museum.

Since news agencies can not provide researchers and specialists with accurate information, it is necessary to add more information regarding such news.

1-Middle Persian (Pahlavi) inscriptions have been found above Naqsh-e Rostam on the Hussein Kuh height -and not at the Naqsh-e Rostam site itself, which includes royal tombs of Achaemenid kings, the tower structure of Ka’be-ye Zartosht and Sassanian reliefs and inscriptions.

2-These Middle Persian inscriptions are mostly non-official and funerary inscriptions, not royal or monumental inscriptions.

3-These inscriptions have not been found during excavations; they were found/discovered during the regular exploration of Hussein Kuh by PPRF (Parsa-Pasargadae Research Foundation) staff. These newly found inscriptions are carved on cliffs and rocks.

4-The initial goal of the staff of PPRF is to document these inscriptions. After proper documentation of the Middle Persian inscriptions, their respected texts will be analyzed and published by the research staff of PPRF in cooperation with other specialists of Middle Persian epigraphy.

5-There are several unpublished inscribed fragments from the Achaemenid period deposited at the archive of the Persepolis museum, which will be well-documented and catalogued by Iranian experts with the consultation of prominent international researchers in the field of cuneiform studies.

Soheil Delshad
PhD Student at the Institute of Iranian Studies, Free University of Berlin

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A New Essay on Herodium in the ‘Journal of Ancient Judaism’ by Jodi Magness

Herod the Great’s Self-Representation Through His Tomb at Herodium

Abstract–  In 2007, the late Ehud Netzer announced the discovery of the mausoleum of Herod the Great at Herodium. This paper considers Herod’s self-representation through his tomb at Herodium, which consists of a mausoleum on the side of a massive artificial tumulus that was planned by Herod as his final resting place and everlasting memorial. Comparisons with the lost Mausoleum of Alexander in Alexandria, the Philippeion at Olympia, and the Mausoleum of Augustus at Rome indicate that Herod intended Herodium to serve as a royal, dynastic monument and victory memorial situating him within a line of heroic and deified kings, while the site’s location overlooking Bethlehem visually asserted Herod’s claims to have fulfilled the expectations associated with a Davidic messiah.

Journal of Ancient Judaism Volume 10, issue 3, December 2019, pp. 258-287

#ICYMI – An Interview With Philip Davies of the Palestine Exploration Fund

Prof. Davies was gracious and generous and granted an interview about his work with the PEF

What exactly is the PEF, and when was it founded?

The Palestine Exploration Fund was set up 150 years ago ‘for the purpose of investigation the Archaeology, Geography, Geology and Natural History of the Holy Land’. The word ‘Fund’ appropriately designated its primary activity of raising money by subscription and donation in order to finance this ambitious undertaking.

After a meeting on May 12th 1865 in the Jerusalem Chamber, Westminster, London, chaired by the Archbishop of York, the Fund, with the patronage of Queen Victoria, held its first meeting on June 22nd. Here the Archbishop declared three principles: whatever done must be on scientific principles; the Society should abstain from controversy; and it should not be started, nor conducted, as a religious society.

The meeting resolved further ‘that the exploration of Jerusalem and many other places in the Holy Land by means of excavations would probably throw much light upon the Archaeology of the Jewish people’. Accordingly, although there was obviously a focus of interest on biblical antiquity, the meeting called for a systematic survey, including the collection of plants and minerals, of the ‘Holy Land’, and recommended that ‘facts requisite for a systematic history be noted by competent observers on the spot’. So geography, geology and ecology were also part of its remit. In addition, it was noted ‘that the Biblical scholar may yet receive assistance in illustrating the sacred text from careful observers of the manners and habits of the people of the Holy Land’. This last comment reflects a view that might be criticized as an aspect of colonial mentality and ‘orientalism’—that life in nineteenth century Palestine very closely resembled that in the biblical period. But it was born, I think, less of an imperialist mindset and more from a mixture of naivety, curiosity and enthusiasm. Nor was it totally untrue in every respect, although many of those sent out on the Fund’s behalf to carry out research quickly came to realize that it was far from being entirely the case.

Among those who have explored Palestine under the Fund’s patronage are Charles Wilson, Charles Warren, Claude Conder, Horatio Kitchener, Gottlieb Schumacher, William Flinders Petrie, Frederick Bliss, Robert Macalister, Leonard Woolley, T.E. Lawrence, John Garstang, John Crowfoot, Kathleen Kenyon and Olga Tufnell.

What is its mission?

We still maintain the original aims of the Fund: to promote knowledge and understanding of every aspect of the land of Palestine at all periods, though archaeology, ethnology, anthropology, geology and any scientific means. In keeping with the founding principle of non-controversy, too, we continue to disclaim any political or religious ideology, though our membership obviously embraces a wide range of interests. The Fund initially published a Quarterly Statement of its activities, which became the Palestine Exploration Quarterly, and this we continue to produce, along with the PEF Annuals and other books. We have accumulated a great deal of material from our activities—written records, an extensive repertoire of pictures and photographs, and some artifacts—and these need curating, preservation, editing and digitizing. We also maintain a large library, to which our members and visitors have access. In addition, we provide grants for research and, in conjunction with the British Museum, we organize monthly lectures. We also lend materials to exhibitions and hope to continue to be able to organize touring exhibitions of our own.

How did you become involved with the organization?

Like many scholars, I have long known of, and used, the Fund’s facilities, and when I was asked whether I would like to join the Committee, I had little hesitation in agreeing because I have been so often to Palestine and developed a great affection for it, and a concern for its past, present and future. Having been elected as the Chair of the Committee I shall, I hope, remain actively involved with it for five more years. Biblical scholars have always contributed to the work of the PEF but our interest in the entire history and culture of Palestine means that a very wide range of people and of expertise is represented at every level. This makes us a bit different from societies interested mainly in biblical antiquity.

How might others become involved?

First of all, by joining: there are no restrictions on membership; the subscription is modest and includes the PEQ. There is still a wealth of material in our possession that requires analysis and we are keen to encourage new members to participate in our ongoing work to make the material more accessible through publication and digitization. We are also in the process of increasing our international profile by establishing a North American presence, which, under current plans, will be centred in Chicago. Although a lot of information is already accessible on our website (, we are also planning to provide a members’ area which will afford restricted access to further materials, including videocasts of our lectures.

What do you see as the most important aspect of its work?

Different people will give different answers, because we cover so much ground and from so many different angles. But we would all accept that Palestine’s history and culture are nowadays strongly contested and subject to a great deal of popular misunderstanding. Much of its heritage is disappearing, and the PEF is an important, neutral promoter of all aspects of that heritage. As a biblical scholar, I naturally have a professional interest in just one small part of that history, though I was trained also as a student of Islam and I have an interest in Palestine especially as a place in which both imperial powers (from Egypt to Britain) as well as major religions, have settled, fought and sometimes come to some accommodation. As a bridge between three continents, it is also in its own right a very special part of our planet. I think the PEF’s dedication to the whole of its history (and prehistory) makes us special.

How does the PEF refrain from the trap of the politicization of archaeology?

Politicians always seek to control our understanding of the past, and the PEF’s own efforts were from the outset subject to attempts at political influence, especially in the years before the war of 1914-18. It is also, I think, well known that archaeology in modern Israel is part of a national effort not only to neutrally explore the past but to promote knowledge of Jewish connections with it. We are often approached from many sides by those interested in what we regard as political agendas, and we take care not to be seen to lend support to these aims. We encourage scholars and non-scholars of all persuasions to make full use of our resources but also to share our own aims and principles.

What are the perils involved in even using the name ‘Palestine’ in the organization’s title?

We have always used Palestine as a geographical designation, including Israel, part of Jordan and some of Syria, and it has been used continuously for the region for 2000 years. There really is no sound reason to abandon this usage. I am aware that ‘Land of Israel’ is the Jewish name for Palestine, and there is of course an Israel Exploration Society that covers the same geographical area as the PEF and publishes a corresponding Journal. But ‘Israel’ belongs to only a part of Palestine’s history and geography, and the same would be true of any territory occupied by a State of Palestine.

What are the future aims and goals of the PEF?

We need, most of all, to continue the digitizing of our collections, and with that our use of social media and digital communication, in order to offer members from outside the UK the tangible benefits they should enjoy of having access to news and material online as well as visiting our offices when in London. So in the last few years we have created in addition to a Facebook page, our own blog and Twitter feed, and we plan to create a members’ area on our website through which they can freely access some of our archives and download podcasts of our monthly lectures at the British Museum.

How can those interested in archaeology in the Levant help the PEF achieve its goals?

First of all by helping to finance our work. This can be through becoming members, but we are also most grateful for any other contributions in the form of bequests or endowments or donations of books to our library. We are a charity and while our income matches our expenditure there is much more we would love to be able to do to display our collections more fully and to develop them further. Second, by contributing to our publications, and participating in our online activity. For those living in London or nearby, we also have work to offer to volunteers. The Fund was not established as a learned society, and its membership is by no means dominated by scholars. We want to attract anyone with a genuine interest in any aspect of the land of Palestine.

Thank you, Philip!

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E-note. Cesnola Mummy Cloth: A Guest Post By Robert S. Merrillees

E-note. Cesnola Mummy Cloth

” Confinement “, and I mean lock-down here in France, has given me the leisure to trawl through various websites on the Internet, and one has produced a gem that rivals the splendid Titbit in Agade on the examination of the mummy of the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramesses II in France. On Abebooks James Cummins Bookseller, ABAA (New York, NY, U.S.A.) has advertised for sale at $2500 the following: ” 4 x 2 inches. Mummy Cloth with early Metropolitan Museum of Art Provenance. Inscription on envelope, “Mummy cloth of Juono firte – an Egyptian lady who lived during 20th dynasty (1200 or 1300 B.C.) found at Thebes – unwrapped at Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Dr Prime, January 8th 1887. ( Cloth given to me by Miss di Cesnola )”. In 1886 the Metropolitan Museum of Art, under the direction of its first director Luigi Palma di Cesnola, made its first purchase of Egyptian works of art, a purchase which is memorable because it was the beginning of the relationship between the Museum and M. Gaston Maspero, the Director General of Antiquities in Egypt. Most likely, Mr. Cesnola’s wife who was a member of the institution was there for the unwrapping of a new acquisition done by the first vice president of the museum Dr. William C. Prime. Dr. Prime was also on the committee on objects of art in 1887, and with his insistence Princeton university established a department of art history in which he was chair. A fascinating piece of Egyptian burial practice with a provenance of the established direction of the Metropolitan Museum of Art during one of the most important acquisition periods of the museum. The Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Vol. 5-6, p. 204 Torn strip of undyed plain weave linen mummy wrap. Well worn from original use. Fragile. In envelope. Bookseller Inventory # 304259 “‘.

Luigi Palma di Cesnola, whom we specialists in Cypriote archaeology love to hate, did some good things amongst the wicked, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, of which he was the first Director from 1879 to 1904, might not have turned into the prestigious institution it’s become without his can-do energy and egotism. However the Cypriote antiquities which were his main claim to fame and with which he swamped the new gallery space did not go down as well as he might have wished with the public in New York who were overwhelmed by the quantity and underwhelmed by the quality, even if they were impressed by Cesnola’s enterprise and one-upmanship (1). Even he realised that to justify its existence and support the Museum would need to expand its collections in all directions, and the one area sure to engender a favourable reaction and enduring attraction was ancient Egypt, but how to do it financially?

According to Winifred E. Howe, the funds for this purpose were raised by the sale of what were described as duplicates from the Cesnola collection of Cypriote antiquities (2). Leaving aside the patent expediency and impropriety of disposing of ancient artefacts as though they were all mass produced, the purchase by Leland Stanford, industrialist and politician from California, of 5000 of these objects was said to have enabled Cesnola to acquire in May 1886 through the good offices of Gaston Maspero, Director of the Museum in Boulaq in Cairo, what were considered to be duplicates from their own collection of Egyptian antiquities ! These consisted of 29 items from the intact tomb of Sennedjem which Maspero himself had opened in February 1886 at Deir el-Medina, ancient Thebes, dating to the 19th Dynasty or 13th century B.C (3). Amongst the pieces brought to New York was the coffin of Iyneferty, wife of Sennedjem, whose mummy, after unwrapping, was transferred in 1933 to the Peabody Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts (4).

There is, however, some confusion about this acquisition as the Metropolitan Museum of Art Website attributes the source of the purchase of the sarcophagus of Lineferty to ” funds from various donors “, and only the coffin ( accession no. 86.1.5a,b ) and mummy board ( accession no. 86.1.5c ) are inventoried, not the mummy itself, unless it is one of no. 86.1.5a or b. I cannot find her mentioned on the Website of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University or by chance the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University, nor is she the ” unwrapped Egyptian mummy, female, with fragments of linen wrapping ” who was included in the exhibition ” Echoes of Egypt ” at the Peabody Museum of Natural History in 2013 – 2014 and said to have come from the Barnum Museum. It appears that the body of Lineferty has been repatriated to Egypt, there once more to join her husband, Sennedjem, this time in new Grand Egyptian Museum at Giza (5).

Now we know the identity of the mysterious ” Juono firte “, a piece of whose mummy cloth is on sale in New York. It was quite clearly souvenired during the unwrapping in the Metropolitan Museum of Art on 8 January 1887. Luigi Palma di Cesnola was surely present but the Miss di Cesnola does not sound like his wife, Mary Isabell di Cesnola ( née Reid ), but more like one of his daughters, of whom he had three. According to Ancient Origins, ” A ‘mummy unwrapping party’ was a social event most commonly associated with the elites of Victorian England. As its name suggests, these parties involved the unwrapping of Egyptian mummies in front of an audience. Such parties were highly popular amongst the Victorian elite, and therefore were huge successes, as it blended three elements that the Victorians found irresistible – Egypt, science, and the macabre ” (6). America was no stranger to this strange entertainment and New York was obviously following the trend.

Ancient Egypt has entered the mainstream of Western consciousness. Its Pharaonic civilisation which lasted three thousand years developed a supernatural formula that transcends all other belief systems through its embodiment, literally and metaphorically, of the eternal. Have in your sight, or better still hold in your hand a little bit of Egypt’s past, especially connected with the dead, and you instinctively feel closer to immortality. Just as ancient Greece which appeals to our sense of beauty and literacy, and Rome, which we admire for its language and efficiency, were captivated by ancient Egypt, so we find ourselves drawn to the same civilisation by its symbolism. Think the pyramids, obelisk and sphinx, not to mention the mummy. We may not and should not pardon Maurice Bucaille and Miss di Cesnola their misdeeds but we can at least understand and sympathise with their motivation.

Robert S. Merrillees


1 Ann-Marie Knoblauch, ” The Mainstream Media and the ‘ Shocking Bad Art ‘ from Cyprus ” in Near Eastern Archaeology 82.2, 2019, pp. 67 – 74.
2 A History of the Metropolitan Museum of Art ( New York, 1913 ), pp. 212 – 213.
3 Bertha Porter and Rosalind L.B. Moss, Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs, and Paintings I. The Theban Necropolis Part 1. Private Tombs. 2nd ed. (Oxford, 1960), pp. 1-4.
4 William C. Hayes, The Scepter of Egypt. A Background for the Study of the Egyptian Antiquities in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Part II. The Hyksos Period and the New Kingdom ( 1675 – 1080 B.C. ) ( Cambridge, Mass., 1959 ), pp. 414 – 416.
6 – accessed on 27.03.2020.

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‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ at the Museum of the Bible are all forgeries

Here’s the story.

I’ll say it again for the hard of hearing in the back.  If it doesn’t come from an official dig and have a clear provenance, DO NOT USE IT AS SOURCE MATERIAL.

In a report spanning more than 200 pages, a team of researchers led by art fraud investigator Colette Loll found that while the pieces are probably made of ancient leather, they were inked in modern times and modified to resemble real Dead Sea Scrolls. “These fragments were manipulated with the intent to deceive,” Loll says.

The new findings don’t cast doubt on the 100,000 real Dead Sea Scroll fragments, most of which lie in the Shrine of the Book, part of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. However, the report’s findings raise grave questions about the “post-2002” Dead Sea Scroll fragments, a group of some 70 snippets of biblical text that entered the antiquities market in the 2000s. Even before the new report, some scholars believed that most to all of the post-2002 fragments were modern fakes.


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