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Archive for the 'Leviticus' Category

Dame Mary Douglas (1921-2007) and Purity in Leviticus

24th May 2007

Upon hearing the sad news of the death of Dame Mary Douglas last week, I was thinking of writing up a short post on her significant contribution to the study of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible — in particular her ground breaking understanding of the purity laws in the book of Leviticus. As it turns out John Hobbins has beaten me to it over at Ancient Hebrew Poetry.

You may read his thoughtful post here.

Posted in Bible, Leviticus, Old Testament | 2 Comments »

Leviticus Scroll Image Comparison Before and After Removal

11th May 2007

The missing image referred to in my previous post was linked to in the Hebrew version of the same article.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of the scroll before (right) and after (left) the part was cut out:


It appears a fairly large portion of the fragment was removed: 1 cm wide at the top and about 2 cm long. Note that no letters were removed. If this image is authentic, then the amount removed was larger than the “two small parts, one-half centimeter each” that Amir Ganor, director of the unit for the prevention of theft in the Antiquities Authority, reported.

Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, Hanan Eshel, Leviticus, Leviticus Scroll, Scholars | Comments Off

Leviticus Scroll Fragments in the News Again

11th May 2007

The Leviticus scroll discovered (or should I say recovered) by Israeli Archaeologist Hanan Eshel is back in the news. According to an article in Ha’aretz, Eshel is claiming that the Israeli Antiquities Authority is performing unnecessarily obtrusive tests on the fragments in order to determine their authenticity.

Here is the news item, “Archaeologist: Antiquities Authority destroying Leviticus scroll,” by Yair Sheleg:

Professor Hanan Eshel, the archaeologist who two years ago uncovered scroll fragments of the Book of Leviticus, says the Israel Antiquities Authority, which now has the finds, has cut out large chunks of the scroll on the pretext that its dating needed to be examined.

This was not a necessary procedure, says Eshel, since “experts say it was possible to test the dating without an intrusive examination and in the worst case scenario by cutting a tiny, peripheral portion of the scroll.”

Relying on internal sources in the Antiquities Authority, Eshel says “there had even been plans to cut letters from the scroll but the employees that were asked to do so refused.”

Eshel ties the behavior of the Authority to a dispute that emerged between him and officials there and “their desire to prove that the scroll is a forgery.”

Amir Ganor, director of the unit for the prevention of theft in the Antiquities Authority, said in response that “in order to carry out the examination we could not avoid making certain cuts in the scroll itself. This is acceptable in every examination of this sort. We cut only two small parts, one-half centimeter each, from the end of the scroll. At no stage was there any thought of cutting letters, only to scrape off some ink in order to examine it. The minute it became clear to us that we could not have unequivocal results from such an examination, we did not do it.”

However, the photographs published here [where? there was no link or no pictures!] suggest the scroll cuts are significantly more extensive than what Ganor acknowledges and encompass nearly all the part of the scroll that has no writing on it.

Ganor said examinations of the scroll have undermined Eshel’s claim that the finding is authentic.

“I can not give any details because the topic is part of an ongoing investigation of this matter, but the examinations show that different portions of the scroll were written in different periods, which is a blow to the claim that the scroll is homogeneous.”

Eshel, on the other hand, is eager to offer more information on the subject. He says: “The information that I have is that the examination that was carried out at the Weizmann Institute did indeed show that the two portions that were sent for examination belong to different periods – one about 2,000 years ago, and the other about 1,200 years ago. On the other hand, another examination carried out at Oxford [University] attributed both to a period 2,000 years ago.”

Eshel says the Weizmann test results were flawed because of “the use of cleaning and preservation materials. I am not an expert on such exams, but the experts told me that such treatment may certainly result in a flawed examination. In any case, the writing on both segments clearly belongs to the Second Temple period and definitely does not conform to the Mameluk period, which is what the Weizmann Institute examination points to. Moreover, during the search in the cave where we found the scroll, we uncovered other archaeological finds for the period of the Bar-Kokhba revolt, proving the dating.”

I had covered the discovery of the Leviticus scrolls quite extensively a couple years back, so I have an interest in this story. You can see all of my previous posts here, including a step-by-step reconstructions of the fragments. Here is a picture of the fragments shortly after they were recovered:

I would think that if tests could be done on the manuscript without destroying large parts of it, then the IAA would do so.

I wish the news article contained the image that showed how much of the manuscript was cut.

(HT Dr. Claude Mariottini)

Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, Hanan Eshel, Leviticus, Leviticus Scroll | 1 Comment »

BAR Article on Hanan Eshel

28th July 2006

Dead Sea Scrolls scholar Hanan Eshel is back in the news — well kind of. There is an online article about Hanan Eshel on the Biblical Archaeology Society Webstie that deals with some of the controversy surrounding his purchase of some fragments of a Leviticus Scroll.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

At the behest of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), a leading Dead Sea Scroll scholar was arrested last year for purchasing four Dead Sea Scroll fragments from Bedouin who claimed to have found them in the Judean Desert. Hanan Eshel of Bar-Ilan University in Israel promptly published the fragments (of the Biblical book of Leviticus) and donated them to the state (the purchase funds had been provided by his university).In an ad in the leading Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, 59 prominent scholars from around the world protested his arrest, calling the IAA’s action a “vengeful” act. The ad had no effect, however. The case is still under investigation by the police.

Bar-Ilan president Moshe Kaveh called the IAA action a “scandal.” The university stands “fully behind” Eshel.

So why was Hanan Eshel arrested?

Many believe that Eshel is, in the IAA’s view, on the wrong side of an issue that has divided the profession: Should unprovenanced materials, which are often looted, be studied and published by scholars?

One clear consequence of Hanan Eshel’s arrest: No new Dead Sea Scroll fragments will turn up in Israel again, thanks to the IAA. The looters, the smugglers, the underground dealers know that they cannot now find a buyer among or through Israeli scholars. Like Eshel, anyone who makes a purchase will be arrested. Much easier and safer simply to spirit any scrolls out of the country.

Although not widely known, numerous Dead Sea Scroll fragments are in private collections all over the world. The Eshels detect a “trend among collectors and antiquity dealers (perhaps due to economic factors) to share privately held fragments with the scholarly world.” In the opinion of the Eshels, “Qumran scholars should be encouraged to make an effort to publish these fragments, which provide a more complete picture of the Qumran corpus.”

Encouraging the publication of unprovenanced finds—that may well be Hanan Eshel’s real crime.

While I am against looting (what scholar would not be against it?), I tend to side with Eshel and the author of this article on this issue. I think it is far better to publish these finds even if we can’t be sure of their provenance. In addition, (as the full article notes) sometimes by studying these artefacts their provenance can be determined with some certainty.

I have posted quite a bit on the Leviticus Scroll fragments and their discovery, including a step-by-step reconstruction of the scroll and an interview with Hanan Eshel. All of my posts on this subject may be found here. In addition, I have brought together my posts and pictures of the fragments — including some new hi-resolution pictures –at my Resources Relating to the Dead Sea Scrolls pages.

(HT to Jim West)

Posted in Archaeology, Dead Sea Scrolls, Hanan Eshel, Leviticus, Leviticus Scroll, Manuscript, News | Comments Off

English Abstract of Eshel’s Article on Leviticus Fragments

15th December 2005

In a previous post I mentioned the publication of an article by Hanan Eshel on the recently recovered Leviticus scroll fragments in volume three of Meghillot: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Here is the published English abstract of Eshel’s article:

Fragments of a Biblical Scroll from the Judean Desert

Hanan Eshel, Yosi Barschi, and Roi Porat
In August 2004 Bedouin discovered a number of small biblical fragments — at least four — in a cave in the Judean desert. These fragments, which measured 3.5 cm2, contained verses from Leviticus 23-24. The uncleaned fragments were photographed, first by Roi Porat and Hanan Eshel, and later by Roi Parat and Yosi Baruchi. Recently, these fragments were purchased by the Jeselsohn Epigraphic Center for Jewish History, Bar-Ilan University, and presented to the Israel Antiquities Authority. They were discovered in a small cave an the southern slope, east of the big waterfall (N.T. 1826/09708).

These fragments should be identified as additional fragments of a biblical scroll from the time of the Bar Kokhba revolt. The text of the verses found in the fragments is identical to the MT, with one exception: the word בסכות appears in fragments b and c (Col 1, line 4) with a waw, whereas in the MT (Lev. 23:42) it is written defectively. The ability to complete the lines according to the MT is further evidence of these fragments’ affinity to the MT. Based as they are on partial data and on photographs made under very poor field conditions and before the fragments had been cleaned, our conclusions remain preliminary.

The table of contents and English abstracts of all three volumes are available online at, while the table of contents of all issues (in Modern Hebrew) may be found at Thanks to Devorah Dimant (the journal’s general editor) for the heads up via the Megillot email list.

Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, Hanan Eshel, Leviticus, Leviticus Scroll, News | Comments Off

Publication of Hanan Eshel’s Reconstruction of Leviticus Fragments

12th December 2005

A quick note to mention that Hanan Eshel’s article on the Leviticus Fragments has been published in the third volume of Meghillot: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Here is the full bibliographic information:

Hanan Eshel, “שרידי מגילת מקר×? חדשה ממדבר יהודה.” Pages 259-260 in מגילות- מחקרי×? במגילות מדבר יהודה ×’ [Meghillot: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls 3]; Moshe Bar-Asher and Devorah Dimant, eds. Jerusalem: Haifa University and Bialik Institute, 2005.

I haven’t had a chance to look at the article yet; so stay tuned for a summary at a later date. Thanks to Shai Heijmans for the heads up.

Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, Hanan Eshel, Leviticus, Leviticus Scroll, News | 1 Comment »

Eshel Arrest Looming?

8th December 2005

According to a news report from Haaretz (via Biblical Theology), the Israeli police have provided evidence to the Israeli State Prosecutor’s Office to indict archaeologist Professor Hanan Eshel on three criminal counts: bringing an antiquity into Israel illegally, trafficking in stolen property, and not reporting the discovery of an antiquity as required by law.

Hanan’s problems started when he recovered of some fragments of a Leviticus scroll (dated to the Bar Kokhba period) from some Bedouin earlier last summer (see here for more on the scroll; and see here, here and here for coverage into the subsequent investigation into his involvement the purchase).

This recent news is just the tip of the iceberg for the deteriorating relationship between the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) and prominant archaeologists in Israel, as can be seen from this excerpt:

Controversy regarding the investigation of how a fragment of scroll from the Bar Kokhba period came into Eshel’s possession — which he eventually turned over to the Israel Antiquities Authority — has led to an unprecedented flap between Bar Ilan and the IAA over the past few days.The heads of all university archaeology departments have been summoned to an urgent meeting today with IAA director Shuka Dorfman, following Bar Ilan’s decision to postpone indefinitely its upcoming annual archaeological conference in protest against the IAA’s police complaint against Eshel. Dorfman wants to ask another university to host the prestigious conference, at which several IAA archaeologists were scheduled to speak.

There are “problematic aspects in the behavior of both sides,” Professor Itzhak Gilad, head of the archaeology department at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev who was on the roster of speakers, told Haaretz yesterday.

“Dorfman cannot be allowed to treat a senior scholar who did everything he could to save a rare antiquity as if he were a common criminal,” sources at Bar Ilan told Haaretz. “There is no reason to cooperate with the IAA in holding scientific conferences when at the same time the IAA is attacking our scholar, who has done nothing wrong,” the sources added.


Eshel claims that Porat informed the IAA of the discovery, but the latter did not seek to obtain it. Eshel says that when he returned from the U.S, he met again with the dealer, and noticed the fragment had deteriorated severely. He purchased it for a few thousand shekels, financed by the research institute at Bar Ilan where he is employed, and that he then transferred the document to a laboratory in an effort to preserve it.

In February 2005, Eshel transferred the fragment to the IAA without remuneration. The IAA claims that Eshel should have reported the find to them within 15 days and immediately turn it over to them. Bar Ilan has declared its unqualified support for Eshel in the matter.

Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, Hanan Eshel, Leviticus, Leviticus Scroll, News | Comments Off

The Protest against Dr. Hanan Eshel’s Treatment Continues

7th December 2005

Haaretz has reported that Bar-Ilan University — the university where Dr. Hanan Eshel teaches — has indefinitely postponed its annual archaeology conference as a protest against a police complaint lodged by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) against Eshel. This continues the saga of the Leviticus Scrolls that Eshel recovered from bedouin early last summer (for more on the scrolls and their discovery see here).

Here are some excerpts from the Haaretz article:

The IAA submitted the complaint after Eshel allegedly failed to turn over a rare artifact in his possession. According to the IAA, an indictment is to be issued shortly against the archaeologist.

The Archaeological Council, Israel’s senior professional body of archaeologists, which advises the IAA, objected to the authority’s move. It said disciplinary procedures might have been opened against Eshel before a police complaint was lodged. Dozens of archaeologists signed a petition recently condemning the IAA action.

The rector of Bar-Ilan University, Prof. Yosef Yeshurun, announced the postponement of the conference, which focuses on new research in the study of Jerusalem and is considered the most prominent scientific conference in the field. The IAA, many of whose staff were to have lectured at the conference, said it was shocked at Bar-Ilan’s decision. “The IAA views gravely any attempt to interfere in its considerations and to influence procedures that are being implemented in accordance with the law,” an IAA spokeswoman said.

Bar-Ilan called its move “delicate and minimal” in light of “the harm the IAA has done to academe in Israel by treating a senior scholar like a common criminal.”

Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, Hanan Eshel, Leviticus, Leviticus Scroll, News | Comments Off

Minor Clarification regarding Hanan Eshel

2nd December 2005

I have covered much of the news surrounding Hanan Eshel’s recovery of some scroll fragments of the book of Leviticus (see here) as well as the subsequent investigation into his involvement the purchase (see here and here).

I wanted to clarify that no charges were ever laid against Hanan Eshel, although some news reports suggested otherwise. The reason why Hanan was not able to make it to SBL had nothing to do with the controversy. Hanan had his passport back and a visa was arranged for SBL, though there were some irregularities with his passport and he was advised against traveling.

Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, Hanan Eshel, Leviticus, Leviticus Scroll, News | Comments Off

Petition/Advertisement regarding the Treatment of Prof. Hanan Eshel

22nd November 2005

As many of my readers would be aware, I have tried to cover the events surrounding Prof. Hanan Eshel’s recovery of some ancient scroll fragments of the book of Leviticus (for more on the Leviticus fragments see my coverage here).

Eshel’s actions (purchasing the fragments from the bedouin, among other things) led to an investigation by the Israel Antiquities Authority, inlcuding the detention of Hanan Eshel (see my post on the investigation here). After the investigation he was released with all charges dropped.

From the very beginning of this issue — and especially after my interview with Hanan Eshel — I have supported his actions in this matter. Obviously the ideal situation would be to discover ancient artefacts in controlled archaeological digs, this doesn’t always happen. What is most important is that through his actions Hanan was able to preserve the scroll fragments.

As a protest to the way Hanan was treated, a number of scholars placed an advertisement in the Hebrew news paper Haaretz on Friday 18 November 2005. A scan of the Hebrew ad is available here. Below is an English translation of the ad, courtesy of Robert Deutsch via the ANE email list.

The subject:
The proceedings of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) (i.e. Shuka Dorfman) regarding Prof. Eshel’s Affair

We, archaeologists, historians and researchers in other fields of Humanities, wish to express our protest regarding the actions taken by the IAA against Prof. Eshel. Hanan Eshel and his student, Roy Porat, purchased a scroll fragment from a Bedouin and handed it over to IAA. About this fact there is no dispute. Therefore, blaming the teacher and his student of (illegal) trade with antiquities, is absurd. The police months lasting investigation, search in Eshel’s house, confiscating his passport, delivering misleading statements to the press, and sending TV crews in order to record him leaving the police headquarter – is intolerant. We are convinced that Eshel rescued the scroll fragment, which could otherwise be lost. His treatment as an average criminal is a vengeful act, not wise, unfair, and an unparalleled public institution attitude toward a scientist.

Joseph Aviram – Israel Exploration Society, Jerusalem
Prof. Edna Ulman-Margalit – The Center for Rationalism, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Shmuel Ahituv – Bible, Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheba (Emeritus)
Prof. David Ussishkin, Archaeology, Tel Aviv University (Emeritus)
Prof. Eliezer Oren – Archaeology, Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheba (Emeritus)
Dr. Eithan Ayalon, Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv
Prof. Miriam Rosen-Ayalon, – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem (Emeritus)
Prof. Israel Ephal – History of the Jewish People, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Albert Baumgarten – History of the Jewish People, Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan
Prof. Albert Baumgarten – History of the Jewish People, Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan
Dr. Adrian Boaz – Archaeology’ University of Haifa
Prof. Anna Balfour-Cohen – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Jehoshua Ben-Arie – Geography, Hebrew University, Jerusalem (Emeritus)
Prof. Amnon Ben-Tor, – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem (Emeritus)
Dr. Dafna Ben-Tor, – Archaeology, Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Prof. Dan Barag, – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Na’ama Brosh – Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Magen Broshi – The Shrine of the Book, Israel Museum, Jerusalem (Pensioner)
Prof. Menahem Brinker – Philosophy, Hebrew literature, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Bezalel Bar-Kokhba – History of the Jewish People, Tel aviv University
Prof. Moshe Bernstein – Bible, Yeshiva University, New York
Hillel Geva – Israel Exploration Society, Jerusalem
Prof. Ram Gophna, Archaeology, Tel Aviv University (Emeritus)
Haim Gitler, Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Prof. Johanan Gluker, Classic Studies, Tel Aviv University
Prof. Trude Dothan, – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem (Emeritus)
Michal Dayagi-Mendels, Archaeology, Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Prof. Shimon Dar – History of the Jewish People, Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan
Dr. Ruth Ha-Cohen-Pinchover, Musicology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Beth Halperin – Theology, Vassar College, USA (Emeritus)
Malka Hershcowitz – Hebrew Union College, Jerusalem
Uzza Zevulun – Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv (Pensioner)
Dr. Ester Hazon – Orion Center, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Yael Israeli – Archaeology, Israel Museum, Jerusalem (Pensioner)
Prof. Moshe Kochavi – Archaeology, Tel Aviv University (Emeritus)
Prof. Israel Levin, – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Aren Maeir – History of the Jewish People, Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan
David Mevorach – Archaeology, Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Prof. Judy Magness – Archaeology, North Carolina University, USA
Prof. Amihai Mazar – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Pinchas Mendel – Hebrew literature, University of Haifa
Dr. Zeev Meshel – Archaeology, Tel Aviv University (Emeritus)
Prof. Nadav Naaman – History of the Jewish People, Tel Aviv University
Prof. Michael Stone – Theology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Daniel Sivan – Hebrew Language, Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheba
Prof. Zeev Safrai – History of the Jewish People, Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan
Prof. Israel Finkelstein – Archaeology, Tel Aviv University
Dr. Irit Ziffer – Archaeology, Tel Aviv University
Prof. Elisha Kimron – Hebrew Language, Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheba
Prof. Frank More Cross- Semitic Languages, Harward University, USA (Emeritus)
Dr. Silvia Rosenberg – Archaeology, Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Prof. Abraham Ronen – Archaeology, University of Haifa
Prof. Alexander Rofe – Bible, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Ronny Reich – Archaeology, University of Haifa
Prof. Elhanan Reiner – History of the Jewish People, Tel Aviv University
Guy Stibel – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Daniel Scwartz – History of the Jewish People, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Laurence Shifman – Hebrew and Judaism, University of New York
Dr. Ilan Sharon – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, Leviticus, Leviticus Scroll, News | Comments Off