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Updated step-By-Step Reconstruction of Leviticus Fragments

22nd July 2005

I have updated my Step-by-Step Reconstruction of the New Leviticus Fragments based on my interview with Professor Hanan Eshel (see here for a preliminary report on my interview). The primary change I made was to incorporate the smaller fragment at the top of the first column of my reconstruction of the larger fragment (In our conversation Eshel confirmed that the fragments belonged to the same manuscript, even though the pictures released to the media were not entirely clear).

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News Flash: Original Hebrew Bible did NOT have Vowels!

21st July 2005

In a ground-breaking and controversial article, Israel Today reported today that the “original Hebrew writings, including the ancient Bible scrolls, did not use vowel points or punctuation.” This amazing news will send shock waves through academia as biblical scholars throughout the world will need to adjust their understanding of the history of the biblical text.

OK, so can someone tell me how is this news and why is it in the “Politics” section of Israel Today? Just wondering…

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Publisher for New Septuagint Commentary Series Announced

21st July 2005

Jim West at Biblical Theology blog has already announced this, though I feel it is worth repeating since my doctoral advisor (Albert Pietersma) is one of the chief editors and I may be involved in the commentary on the Greek Psalter.

I first heard about the partnership with SBL unofficially at Pietersma’s annual Bar-B-Que earlier in the summer; here is the official announcement from SBL:

SBL and IOSCS Announce New LXX Commentary Series

The SBL’s Research and Publications Committee recently approved a proposal from the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS) to publish a new series of commentaries on the Septuagint based on the Greek text as articulated in the New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS). The Society of Biblical Literature Commentary on the Septuagint (SBLCS), which will be sponsored and developed by the IOSCS, will differ from other Septuagint commentary series by focusing on the translation at its point of origin. That is, the SBLCS will take the Septuagint seriously as a translation in order to attempt to determine what the translator was doing when he was translating.

To that end, commentaries in the SBLCS will adhere to five guiding principles: the original text as the basis for interpretation; the original meaning of the text as the goal of interpretation; the parent text as the primary context for interpretation; the text itself as the only source for determining a translator’s intent; and the wider Greek-language corpus as the sole basis for identifying normal (and abnormal) Greek constructions. In keeping with these five principles, each SBLCS volume will, in addition to addressing standard introductory issues, offer a detailed commentary on individual pericopes, including a summary of a pericope’s contents, discussion of interpretive questions pertaining to the entire passage, bibliography, a critical edition of the Greek text, a Hebrew text, the NETS translation, and a verse-by-verse commentary on the pericope. (For further details on the contents and structure of the commentaries, see here.)

Responsibility for developing the series contents, making commentary assignments, and editing volumes will lie with the IOSCS through its editorial board (see here), while the SBL publications staff will manage the actual publication tasks. The SBL and IOSCS expect the first volume of SBLCS to appear in 2007, with publication of two volumes per year until the series is complete. For further information about the SBLCS, please contact Albert Pietersma (Joint Editor-in Chief), Benjamin G. Wright III (Joint Editor-in Chief), or Bob Buller (SBL Editorial Director).

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The Transporter is Unattended… Scotty Has Beamed Up

20th July 2005

James Doohan, the Canadian actor better known affectionately as “Scotty” from the original Star Trek series, passed away today at the age of 85. While this doesn’t really relate to biblical studies, many may not know that Doohan was also a linguist. He devised the rather Semitic sounding Vulcan and Klingon language dialogue heard in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

The real reason I am blogging on this is the sad fact that I am a Trekkie. As a kid I had my Mom make me a red engineering Star Trek uniform just like Scotty’s. I had all the models, including a USS Enterprise with working lights. Even now in my office I have a small Enterprise model and if you look in my drawer you will find Vulcan ears and a working ST:TNG communicator pin.

Here are some pictures, including one from last year’s ceremony when Doohan received his “Walk of Fame” Star.


Who is going to keep the Enterprise together now? “Beam me up, Scotty…”

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Egypt Demands Rosetta Stone and Other Artifacts Returned

19th July 2005

The Jerusalem Post and a number of other news sources (see the AP stories here and here) report that Egypt is demanding that the Fitzwilliam Museum in Britain return the Rosetta Stone, the three-foot monument containing an engraving in honour of Pharoah. The engraved text is triligual — hieroglyphics, demotic, and Greek — which helped scholars decipher hieroglyphics. The basalt monument bears an inscription dated to the 9th year (196 BCE) of Ptolemy V Epiphanes (210-180 BCE). In addition, Egypt also demanded the Catholic University of Brussels to return a relief taken from the an excavation in the 1960s. If they do not comply, then Egypt may take action such as cutting off any archaeological work they may be involved in.

This demand is the latest in a series of attempts by Egypt to recover ancient treasures. Other artifacts Egypt is wanting to see returned include the bust of Nefertiti from Berlin’s Egyptian Museum; the Zodiac from the French Louvre; the bust of Hemiunu from the Hildesheim Museum; and the bust of Ankhkhaf from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

I would think that such treasures should be returned to their native lands, with the condition that there are proper facilities and means to preserve them (which is not an issue for Egypt).

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Hebrew Bible Related Reviews from RBL

18th July 2005

As some other blogs have noted, the latest Review of Biblical Literature has been distributed. Reviews of books relating to the Old Testament and other Second Temple topics are listed below. Of particular interest are the reviews of Handbook to a Grammar for Biblical Grammar, which is the companion volume to Seow’s excellent deductive grammar (for a survey of different grammars, see my Introductory Hebrew Grammars page). Also noteworthy are the reviews of the re-issue of Mowinckel’s classic presentation of a cult-functional approach to the psalms, The Psalms in Israel’s Worship — especially since they are by noted psalms scholars.

  • Janet Howe Gaines, Forgiveness in a Wounded World: Jonah’s Dilemma. Review by Thomas Bolin
  • Jennifer S. Green, G. Brooke Lester, and Joseph F. Scrivner, Handbook To A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew: Revised Edition. Reviews by Daniel Bonilla-Rios and John Engle
  • Dirk J. Human and Cas J. A. Vos, eds., Psalms and Liturgy. Review by Dennis Tucker
  • Nathan MacDonald, Deuteronomy and the Meaning of Monotheism. Review by Yairah Amit
  • Sigmund Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel’s Worship. Reviews by William Brown and Erhard Gerstenberger
  • Jacob Neusner, Judaism and the Interpretation of Scripture: Introduction to the Rabbinic Midrash. Review by Rivka Kern-Ulmer
  • Jacob Neusner, Transformations in Ancient Judaism: Textual Evidence for Creative Responses to Crisis. Review by Gabriel Levy

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Noteworthy Commentary on the Psalms Published

15th July 2005

There are a number of excellent commentaries on the book of Psalms. Most of the commentaries published recently, however, have either been limited in scope (almost all being one volume) and/or have targeted a more popular audience. This makes the publication of Hossfeld and Zenger’s commentary on the book of Psalms in the Hermeneia series all the more noteworthy.

Frank-Lothar Hossfeld and Erich Zenger. Psalms 2.
Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Fortress, 2005.
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Hossfeld and Zenger are two of the top scholars working on the psalms in Germany today. Their research is well-known both on the continent and internationally and is characterized by attention to detail and a comprehensive grasp of both primary and secondary literature. Their approach is multifaceted, though they have been leaders in the new emphasis on the redaction and editing of the book of Psalms.

This first volume (covering Psalms 51-100) is a translation of their volume in the Herders theologischer Kommentar zum Alten Testament series (Buy from Amazon.caBuy from, which is a first-rate critical commentary on the Psalms. As such, it is volume 2 of a three-volume work: volume 3 (Psalms 101-150) will be published next, followed by volume 1 (Psalms 1-50), which will include the comprehensive introduction. Their more popular commentaries in Die Neue Echter Bibel series are also worthy of consideration for those who can read German:

Frank-Lothar Hossfeld and Erich Zenger. Die Psalmen I. Psalm 1-50.
Die Neue Echter Bibel. Echter, 1993.
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Frank-Lothar Hossfeld and Erich Zenger. Die Psalmen II. Psalm 51 – 100.
Die Neue Echter Bibel. Echter, 2002.
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Frank-Lothar Hossfeld is Professor of Old Testament at the University of Bonn, Germany. He is the author of Der Dekalog (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1982) and Untersuchungen zu Komposition und Theologie des Ezechielbuches (Echter, 1977). Erich Zenger is Professor of Old Testament at the University of Muenster, Germany. He is the author of numerous works, including To Begin with, God Created (Michael Glazier, 2000), and A God of Vengeance (WJK, 1996).

This commentary is a must-have for all scholars interested in the book of Psalms. Look for my full review in the Journal of Hebrew Scriptures. For a fairly comprehensive survey of commentaries on the book of Psalms, see my Old Testament Commentary Survey: Psalms.

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Hussein and Kovacs: Twins Seperated at Birth?

14th July 2005

In line with my previous post on Kidman and DiCaprio, I came across these pictures of Saddam Hussein and Ernie Kovacs (as Percy Dovetonsils) and thought I would do another “Twins Separated at Birth” feature. So what do you think?

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Bible Video Games – Making the Old Testament Fun!

14th July 2005

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation Online has an article entitled, “Christian Video Games Make Old Testament Fun.” It describes a number of “Christian” video games loosely based on the Bible. For instance, “Victory at Hebron” has you playing a very serious game of cards where you are a member of Caleb’s Elite Guard. In the game, you have been sent to the city of Hebron to rescue some comrades who have been captured by your opponents’ evil hordes.

I’m glad that someone is “making the Old Testament fun,” as I was a bit worried! (Sorry Macintosh users, this game is Windows only)

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Holy Golf Ball Update

12th July 2005

By some nimble surfing I discovered that there are two new “Glory Golf Balls”! The new balls have “those who seek me diligently, find me” and “But, seek first His kingdom” on them in bright red ink. Here are some pictures:

The manufacturer produces these as well as “Holy Socks”! Get yours today…

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