Tag Archives: Judaism

David Remembered: Kingship and National Identity in Ancient Israel

Joe Blenkinsopp has written a volume sure to elicit all manner of discussion (as all his books do) and the genuinely kind folk at Eerdmans have sent along a review copy.

blenkinsIn this follow-up study to Judaism, The First Phase, Joseph Blenkinsopp traces the development of traditions about David in the collective memory of the people of Israel and the first Christians, from the extinction of the Davidic dynasty in the sixth century B.C.E. to the early common era.  David Remembered is neither a biography of David nor an exegetical study of the biblical narrative about David. Rather, it focuses on the memory of David as a powerful factor in the formation of social identity, in political activity (especially in reaction to imperial rule), and in projections of the future viewed as the restoration of a never-forgotten past.

My review can be read here.

Purim: Jewish ‘Halloween’?

On FB Ha’aretz opines

The commandment to get intoxicated on Purim and the tradition of fancy dress have led many Jews to treat the holiday as a “Jewish Halloween”, while glossing over its real relevance. Purim, says Joel Braunold, appears boorish from the outside but is actually a festival of great philosophical significance about how Judaism views spirituality.  http://htz.li/Wj7JVL

There’s a commandment to get intoxicated?  I don’t recall that one.  Nor the one that tells dudes to kiss dudes either.  But clearly I’m not Jewish.


A New Blog (To Me) Worth Following

By Preston Sprinkle who describes himself thusly (in part)

I’ve written a few things on Paul, Early Judaism, and Hell.

I don’t know why but the combination of Paul, early Judaism, and Hell made me chuckle.  But then I do have an odd sense of humor… so there’s that.  Anywho- Preston has penned a right interesting piece on House Churches worth looking at.

Early Judaism: A Comprehensive Overview

earlyAnita Eerdmans has sent for review this fascinating looking collection:

Culled from The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism, a monumental, groundbreaking reference work published in late 2010, Early Judaism: A Comprehensive Overview contains fifteen first-rate essays from a diverse group of internationally renowned scholars. This volume provides the most comprehensive and authoritative overview available of Judaism in the Hellenistic and early Roman periods.

John Barton (one of my favorite people and a top notch first rate scholar) likes the Dictionary, writing

“I do not think there is now a better guide to Early Judaism than the Eerdmans Dictionary,” he writes, adding that the book, “opens a door into a fascinating and complex world of ideas, texts, and practices.”

So if these essays are drawn from that volume, they surely must be brilliant.  Very much looking forward to reading it (and it’s on the list of things to keep me busy and out of trouble.  Idle hands, etc.).  When completed, my review will be posted here.

Demons in the Scrolls

An essay by Mladen Popovic is up on Academia.edu which may be of interest to folk who follow Scrolls scholarship-

Anthropology, Pneumatology, and Demonology in Early Judaism: The Two Spirits Treatise (1QS III, 13–IV, 26) and Other Texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls.  

From the 2010 conference, to be published in ‘And God Breathed into Man the Breath of Life’ – Dust of the Ground and Breath of Life (Gen 2.7): The Development of a Dualistic Anthropology in Early Judaism and Christianity, and Their Umwelts (ed. J.T.A.G.M. van Ruiten and G.H. van Kooten; Themes in Biblical Narrative; Leiden: Brill, forthcoming.) at http://rug.academia.edu/MladenPopovic

Crossley and Myles on Malina and Contradictions

New in Bible and Interpretation, this:

malinaIn a recent collection of essays, New Testament scholar Bruce Malina curiously lumps all Israelis together as “non-Semitic, central European people of Turkic origin,” an unusual view which might lead to questions about, for instance, Arab Israelis, Israelis of North African background, and, of course, conventional understandings of Jewish Israelis. As it would turn out, this appears to be the tip of the iceberg of Malina’s unusual explanations of terms such as ‘Jew,’ ‘Israeli’ and ‘Semite.’ The examples collated below provide some further depth to what we already know of Malina’s personal political views on Jews, Judaism, and the Israel/Palestine conflict, and potentially reveal a deeper (contradictory) ideological framework that undergirds his influential scholarship.

James has presented his understanding of Malina’s work before; most recently in his book on neoliberalism.  This followup essay illustrates further and undergirds more firmly, at least for me, what Crossley stated there.

Maccabean-ism-ianity is Alive and Well Today

Just like their forebears, these modern day ‘if they don’t see things our way they aren’t real Jews’ Maccabeans reject everyone but themselves:

maccabees-The Tzohar organization of rabbis on Wednesday distanced itself from remarks made by one of its leaders, Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, who called on Israel to recognize non-Orthodox streams of Judaism, including Reform conversions. Tzohar released a statement saying it “opposes any official recognition of Reform Judaism by the State of Israel, in terms of conversions or its general way.” The organization added: “It should be noted that the topic was addressed in an internal discussion in the yeshiva, and does not necessarily reflect Cherlow’s views or interpretation of halakha.” Cherlow, a prominent Zionist Orthodox rabbi and the head of Petah Tikva’s hesder yeshiva (which combines religious study with army service ), has said it is necessary to “re-examine” the framework of rabbinical law so that the Jewish communities abroad will be able to absorb more Jews who are not religiously observant.”

The only difference between the ancient Maccabeans and these is that these haven’t killed anyone yet in order to force their views upon society.   Maccabean-ism-ianity is indeed alive and well.

The Hannukah Ham…. Thanks, Wal-Mart…

386082_306453759384084_708799484_nvia Robert Cargill on the FB

[NB- Jews don’t eat pork, just so you know].

A Brilliant App for Students of The Hebrew Bible, Mishna, and Talmud

Athalya Brenner writes that this app is

… a free resource program. It’s free for iphone/ipad via the […] App store. It includes bible, Aramaic translations, medieval Jewish commentators, Midrash collection, and much more. Beauty is, you can set it up to have Aramaic and medieval such as Rashi etc. as intralinear, in color. No critical editions but pretty good. Name is ובלכתך בדרך, “on your way”, and it’s great as resource and for teaching. And have I mentioned, totally free?

It’s brilliant and you can view it and read about its features here. I’m downloading it right this minute.

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So, Why Exactly DID Christianity Split off From Judaism?

Lawrence Schiffman discusses the subject in an essay here.

The split between Judaism and Christianity did not come about simply or quickly. It was a complex process which took some one hundred years, starting from the crucifixion, and which had different causes and effects depending on whether it is looked at from the point of view of Judaism or Christianity. Further, the question of legal status as seen through Roman eyes also had some relationship to the issue.

And then the rest (from a publication of 1991 which is nevertheless still interesting).

More on Eruv and Sectarianism: Schiffman’s Continuing Series

The latest installment is here.

The Zadokite Fragments (Damascus Document) 11:7-9 preserves the following prohibition:  No one shall carry (anything) from the house to the outside, or from the outside into (the) house. And if he is in the sukkah, let him not carry (anything) out from it or bring (anything) into it.  (cf. 4Q270 6 v 13-14 and 4Q271  5 i 3-5 for the same text.) We should note at the outset that this text, originally known from the Cairo genizah manuscript, is also preserved in two manuscripts found at Qumran. The first clause of this law is the prohibition of carrying from the private into the public domain or vice versa. From the wording, it is clear that this law constitutes a rephrasing of Jer. 17:21 and 22.  M. Shabbat 1:1 seems to be similarly based.   

Etc.  Go give it a read.  It’s really intriguing stuff.


Philip Alexander, FBA, Emeritus Professor of Post-Biblical Jewish Literature, University of Manchester, lectured on the Messianic Idea in Judaism, 16-19 April 2012, in Manchester, UK. You can go here and you can see videos of the lectures. There are four of them. Here’s the series abstract:

Messianism is integral to the theology of Judaism, and is one of the big ideas that Judaism has bequeathed to the world, influencing, as it has, profoundly, Christianity and, to a lesser degree, Islam. Much has been written on the subject, but much, I would argue, remains to be said. In this series of lectures I will attempt to draw together more than twenty years of thinking and writing on Jewish Messianism to present a systematic account of my ideas. I will offer a critical overview of previous scholarly work, discuss the problems of defining Messianism (a surprisingly tricky task), trace the history of Messianism within Judaism from earliest times to the present, and then offer a series of probes into three particular versions of the Messianic Idea – Messianism as a historical-political process, Messianism as a drama in the spiritual realm, and “neutralized” Messianism – all based on close reading of primary sources. I will then propose a descriptive, analytical grid which will attempt to capture comprehensively the structure and key motifs of Jewish Messianism, onto which any specific form of the phenomenon can be mapped, and its distinctive character, as opposed to other forms of Messianism, ascertained. I will conclude by offering, as a historian of Judaism, some reflections on the implications of my analysis for the future of Jewish theology and for Jewish-Christian dialogue.

Many thanks to James Aitken for pointing this out.

Remembering David Flusser

In one of those odd historical flukes, David Flusser (a remarkable scholar) was born on 15 September, 1917, and died 15 September, 2000.  Flusser was that rarest of academics- a Jewish scholar of the New Testament.  Given his background and training, his insights into New Testament literature are grandly eye-opening.  You can take a look at just a few of his major works here.

He even has a Facebook fan page.  You should go now and read something by him.

Haredi Judaism’s Strange Obsession With Women’s Clothing…

Arie Hasit writes

Oppressing Jewish women does not make the Western Wall holy.

And asks-

When did Judaism become so obsessed with what women wear? A few weeks ago, I was leading a group of American teenagers to the Kotel on one of their last days in Jerusalem. We had been there many times before as a group, and the students understood the place and the expectations for dress and behavior.

Nevertheless, one of the young women decided that she simply did not like being told what to wear, and so decided not to approach the wall. While remaining in the back of the plaza, a modesty guard officer walked up to her and instructed her to put on a skirt. When the student refused, the female guard tried to physically force the skirt on her. Just a week later, I read about another issue of women’s garb at the Kotel. A friend of mine had been arrested for the second time for the crime of wearing a tallit, a prayer shawl, “like a man,” along with three others. Once again, women were accosted because their dress was deemed inappropriate for the Kotel.

These two incidents have forced me to wonder when Judaism became so obsessed with what women wear. Have the values of respect for humanity and all of creation been replaced with a sick desire to control women, or have those been the true Jewish values all along?

I certainly believe that the answer to the question is no. I hope most adherents of Judaism do too. I think they do.  Arie has much more to say and it’s all worth reading.

Michael Cook on the Jewish Jesus

New at Bible and Interpretation

Two basic methods by Jewish scholars to impress Jesus’ “Jewishness” upon lay Christians and Jews are problematic because they do not remedy a major asymmetry: while Christians may well be receptive to learning about Jesus the Jew, many Jews remain relatively unenthused, even recoiling from such a prospect. A far more effective method, coined a “Gospel Dynamics” approach, plays to Jews’ love of cerebral challenge and results not only in neutralizing Jews’ avoidance strategies but transforms the Gospels into a favorite subject for Jewish exploration!

Give it a look.

The Cologne Toilet Inscription…

Who knew

Archaeologists in Cologne, Germany have uncovered a fascinating 13th-century Hebrew inscription on a lintel stone in the basement of a home near the city’s ancient synagogue. The Hebrew inscription reads “This is the window through which the feces are to be taken out.”

The inscription was discovered in December 2011 on the lintel above a walled-up window in the cellar of Lyvermann House, which was built in about 1266 and belonged to a wealthy Jewish family that lived right near the synagogue. Behind the wall was a cesspool, six meters deep.

According to Prof. David Assaf of Tel Aviv University’s Jewish History Department, “Such a serious-amusing inscription has never been found anyw here, not before and not since.”

Anyway, given the inscription, I’m thinking it would be a GREAT header image – and meaningful – for several of the biblioblogs!  With one small change-  instead of reading This is the window through which the feces are to be taken out, it should read This is the window through which the feces are to be seen!

Chris, Joel?  Adopt it today??

They Are Without Excuse: The Desecrators of Jewish Graves

Fifty-seven graves were desecrated in a Jewish cemetery in the central Hungarian city of Kaposvar overnight into Sunday by vandals, reported the MTI news agency.  Kaspovar Mayor Karoly Szita said he was “upset and disgusted.”  City officials said they hope to help police in capturing those responsible as soon as possible. The local Jewish community has said the act was motivated by racism.  Mónika Lamperth an MP of the Hungarian Socialist Party deplored the vandalism and expressed the hope that the culprits be caught soon.

Those who did these vile things are beyond reprehensible and horrifyingly evil.  May God grant that they be captured and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Circumcision in Germany

They’ve been having a bit of a row in Germany about circumcision.  The government has recently said it’s a no no.  Or more precisely, a crime!  Naturally, Muslims and Jews are more than a little disgruntled.  Ref.ch has the details:

Jüdische und islamische Verbände kritisierten die Entscheidung am 27. Juni als unzulässigen Eingriff in die Religionsfreiheit, schreibt der epd. Die Verbände forderten den Bundestag auf, für Rechtssicherheit zu sorgen. Auch die beiden großen Kirchen sähen das Urteil kritisch. Ein religionspolitischer Sprecher der FDP betont laut epd, das Urteil schaffe mehr Rechtsunsicherheit als Rechtssicherheit.

Vertreter Muslimischer Verbände sprachen von einem «massiven Eingriff in die Religionsfreiheit». Die dadurch entfachte Diskussion werfe die Integration der Muslime zurück.

Der FDP-Politiker und Jurist Ruppert betonte, die Beschneidung gehöre zum religiösen Selbstbestimmungsrecht. Er kritisiert den Eingriff des Urteils in die Religionsfreiheit und das elterliche Erziehungsrecht ein.

Staatsrechtler bezeichneten das Urteil als «rechtlich, kriminalpolitisch und religionspolitisch verfehlt». Kriminalpolitisch sei es unsinnig, ausgerechnet den Arzt zu kriminalisieren, zitiert der epd den Leiter des Kirchenrechtlichen Instituts der Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland. Bedenken wurden auch wegen medizinischem Pfusch geäussert, zu dem es durch die Abdrängung der religiösen Beschneidung in die Illegalität kommen könnte.

So is circumcision a matter of choice for the child or is it the choice of the parent’s religion?

Judean Ethnic Identity in the First Century CE

Philip Esler has a grand essay on the subject of ethnic identity over on Bible and Interpretation.

The key issue is to get right the identity of the people referred to in our sources as Ioudaioi (in Greek) or Judaei (in Latin). Rather than seeing them as “Jews” who were adherents of the religion “Judaism,” they are, in my view, best viewed as the members of an ethnic group originating in Judea most appropriately called “Judeans.” Even scholars who have now begun to drop words like “ethnic” or “national” into discussion of people they continue to refer to as “Jews” rarely appreciate the implications of this step.


A Quick Question for Simcha Jacobovici and his Cohort

James Tabor remarked in the Washington Post yesterday

“Legally, we could dig a tunnel and excavate, but you would have 100,000 Haredim burning tires.”

Quick question: how long would it have taken you to call any of those of us disagreeing with the conclusions you and your film and book draw about the ‘Jesus Discovery’ anti-semitic had we said something like that?

One of your assistants has called me anti-semitic in a whole flurry of emails without reason or foundation. So I ask again, how long will it take you to call Tabor anti-semitic? Or do you really think Haredim wander in giant herds and riot by burning tires whenever a tomb is opened?

Or, to say it more directly: who’s really anti-semitic here? Someone who supports the rights of the Palestinians to their own land or someone who insults an entire segment of Judaism?