Posted 3 weeks ago

On a recent trip to Spain my wife and I visited one of the oldest and most interesting synagogues in Europe, not to mention Cordoba’s fantastic archaeological museum.  The image at the top is the dedication plaque from the Cordoba synagogue, which will be celebrating its 700th anniversary next year.  The other images are of Jewish gravestones from the 12th and 13th c. CE.  Note the attempt to desecrate the gravestone of Rabbi Amicos, which is purported to have occurred in the decades after 1492. 

Speaking of 1492, it was more than a little bit surprising to come across a massive educational installation about the festivals of Judaism in the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos (i.e., one of Isobel and Ferdinand’s primary palaces and home to one of the major tribunals of the Spanish Inquisition).  Although the installation was meant to be positive, and was very respectful towards Judaism, it left me feeling a little bit bewildered.  When my wife asked what was wrong, I said:  ?Como se dice irony en Espanol?

Posted 2 months ago
Posted 3 months ago

Amy-Jill Levine participating in a Skype session with the students of the 2014 Spiritual Life Institute (SLI).  

This week has easily been one of the most interesting and enjoyable experiences that I have had since I took over as the director of the SLI.  I am incredibly grateful to my colleagues, Dr. Agnes Choi and Dr. Tom Hatina, for their tireless efforts this week and their willingness to participate in this program.  A special “thank you” also goes out to Reza Aslan, Richard Bauckham and Amy-Jill Levine for taking the time to dialogue with our students and to share their wisdom with us!  

Posted 4 months ago

Saint Martin's University - Spirital Life Institute

This is going to be a great program!  Please come out and support us.

Posted 7 months ago

Paper on Ancient Libraries - Society of Biblical Literature

Happy to report that my paper proposal on ancient libraries has been accepted for this year’s SBL meeting.  Have to do a bit tweaking to get the paper in shape, but I am very much looking forward to this opportunity!  Here is a description of the section that I will be presenting in:


Description: This consultation investigates how insights from Book History illuminate scriptural literatures. We marshal scholars of Hebrew Bible/ANE, Judaism, Christianity, Nag Hammadi, Syriac studies, and modernity in a theoretical and historical conversation about the culturally contingent concepts of text, authorship, readership, publication, and materiality. 

Call for papers: The Book History and Biblical Literatures Consultation will hold one open session and one invited session in 2014 on the theme of “Canons, Collections, Corpora: The Library as a Scholarly Category.” We invite proposals that investigate how the concept of the “library” informs both the way we analyze ancient practices of textual collection and the way we define and limit our own scholarly corpora. How can the study of libraries—as social institutions that physically preserve, organize, and make available textual material, and as conceptual ways of defining collections or canons—help us rethink the development, transmission, collection, unity or disunity, and reception of biblical and related literatures? Studies of specific libraries (or library-like entities) in antiquity and their relationship with the development of textual corpora are welcome. We welcome submissions that address the session theme and focus on any of the historical periods (from antiquity-present), geographic regions, and traditions studied by members of AAR and SBL. Examples of topics might be: What useful comparative insights could we draw from cuneiform libraries of the neo-Assyrian or Seleucid periods? Can the elements of the Pentateuch be understood in light of a Judahite or Persian “library”? In what way is the Qumran or Nag Hammadi collection a “library”? How does the study of Alexandrian scholarship and Graeco-Roman libraries shed light on the production and reception of biblical literatures? What do Syriac and Byzantine libraries contribute to our understanding of concepts of scripture and canon? How did the development of royal and, later, national libraries and associated manuscript collections shape the study of biblical literatures? Proposals that use theoretical and comparative approaches to shed light on philological and historical questions are particularly welcome. We envision a series of 20-minute papers with a respondent.

Posted 7 months ago

Enjoying the spring break!

Posted 9 months ago

Villa de Papyri in … Malibu?

Ericka and I were in LA last week to celebrate her birthday and ring in the new year.  As a part of our trip we visited the Getty Villa in Malibu. Built in the early 1970’s, the Getty Villa is a recreation of the Villa de Papyri in Herculaneum, which was buried in ash and mud by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 CE.

Main Courtyard and Peristyle - Getty Villa, Malibu

We had a fantastic time touring the grounds and watching the sun set over the Pacific.  Although the exhibition does not include any information or artifacts from the library of Herculaneum, there is a wide assortment of Greek and Roman statuary, pottery and metal work on display.

 Statue of a Muse - c. 200 CE - Getty Villa, Malibu

Visiting the villa puts the manuscript finds from Herculaneum into context and gives you a sense of how wealthy and privileged the owners of the original villa were (Getty was no slouch either!).  There is also something compelling about seeing the layout of the building with your own eyes and comparing that image to the maps of the manuscript finds from Herculaneum that is incredibly helpful.  Having the opportunity to see some priceless works of art from the Greco-Roman world doesn’t hurt either!

Mosaic of Boxers - c. 175 CE - Getty Villa, Malibu

There were, of course, many objects on display that shed light on the literacy of the times, (i.e., inscriptions on sarcophagi, statues, pottery, coins, etc.), but there were precious few objects that specifically shed light on the writing and book culture of the ancient world.  One of the few that did was a relief of the age-old tug of war between myth and science:

Philosophers Plate - c. 550 CE (possibly later) - Getty Villa, Malibu

In the relief above, an Egyptian version of Hermes, (on the right), argues for the merits of myth while his scientifically minded opponent, Ptolemaios, takes notes in a diptych (i.e., a two paneled notebook coated in beeswax).  Between the two disputants is a globe and behind Ptolemaios is a woman with a scroll in her hand named Skepsis.  Hermes and the mysterious bearded figure at the top of the plate are also holding scrolls, although it is unclear who the latter is meant to represent.  Might this be an artistic representation of the scholars of the Museum, the Library of Alexandria’s famous community of literati, or is it simply a generic image of scholarly debate and intellectual inquiry from the ancient world?  However we interpret it, the representation of scrolls, a diptych, a stylus, and an intellectual debate, not to mention the writing on the plate itself, serve to illuminate the book culture and literacy of the world being depicted as well as the world of the artisan who created the plate and those who owned it.

Posted 10 months ago

Mladen Popovic giving the inaugural lecture at the Qumran Symposium in Groningen (December 10, 2013). The title of his talk was “From Babel to Bible: Cultural Encounters of a Third Kind.” And although his talk was in Dutch, we were provided with a Google translator version of his text, which made things interesting.

People use the phrase “gentleman and a scholar” far too often, but in Mladen’s case it is absolutely true. Looking forward to another exciting day of papers and discussions tomorrow!

Posted 10 months ago

De Dode Zee Rollen

The Qumran symposium opened earlier today with a visit to the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Drents museum in Assen.  The exhibit was well-designed, accessible to the general public and it included some things that I have never seen before, which is always a treat.  In addition to a wonderful assortment of pottery, coins and fabrics, the museum had five scrolls on display: 11Q Paleo-Leviticus, 4QSd,  4Q Pesher-Isaiah, 4Q Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, and 4Q Messianic Apocalypse.


Photo of the so-called “Roma” storage jar - Qumran Cave 7

After visiting the exhibit, the symposium’s attendees assembled in a lecture hall at the museum to listen to two presentations.  In the first paper, entitled “Taming Egypt: The Impact of Persian Imperial Ideology and Politics on the Biblical Exodus Account,” Konrad Schmid convincingly argued that the “P” source in Exodus was most likely authored during the early Persian period.  Shortly afterwards Bob Becking gave an engaging presentation entitled “Exchange, Replacement, or Acceptance? Two Examples of Lending Deities among Ethnic Groups in Elephantine,” in which he explored the practice of invoking/referencing Babylonian gods (Bel and Nabu) by Jews and other ethnic communities in southern Egypt.  


A meta moment with Mladen

All in all, this was a wonderful way to start the week.  The exhibit was world-class and the presentations were engaging and thoughtful.  If today’s papers are anything to go by, the rest of the symposium should be enlightening and informative.

Posted 10 months ago

Dr. Jones …

On Friday I leave for Holland to attend the third annual Qumran Symposium at Groningen University.  The timing of this trip is a little bit challenging (i.e., smack dab in the middle of finals week), but the chance to attend this meeting and see my good friend, Mladen Popovic, was simply too good to pass up.  More important than this, however, is the fact that Mladen and I will have a chance to discuss our new, top-secret project.  

Although my upcoming meeting with Mladen looks like this in my brain: 

It will actually look like this:

"Geeks!  Why does it always have to be geeks?"

In any case, stay tuned for photos from the symposium, comments about the papers and a report from the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit in Assen.  

Here are the relevant links for those who are interested: