Monday, October 20, 2014

Positions at the University of Helsinki

The University of Helsinki is opening another round of applications for doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers. The Centre of Excellence is a fantastic research environment, and the University is very accommodating to international researchers, so I highly recommend applying.

1-3 Doctoral Students

1-2 Postdoctoral Researchers

Friday, July 11, 2014

Robotic Torah Scribe

Robots have now been put to use to copy out the Torah by hand...ish... The Berlin Jewish Museum now features a robot programmed to copy out an entire Torah scroll. It should be able to complete a scroll in about 3 months, rather than the approximately 1 year of a human scribe. Unfortunately, it doesn't meet the rabbi's requirements for use in synagogues. See here for more details.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Hebrew Bible: A Critical Edition (HBCE)

The Society of Biblical Literature announced today their intent to publish a new critical edition of the Hebrew Bible. This new edition will be called The Hebrew Bible: A Critical Edition (HBCE). It is the same project as the Oxford Hebrew Bible project, still edited by Ron Hendel, but will now be published by SBL instead of Oxford. The first volume on Proverbs is due to be out by the end of the year. Here is the SBL announcement:

The Society of Biblical Literature is pleased to announce its publishing commitment to a major text-critical project: The Hebrew Bible: A Critical Edition (HBCE), under the general editorship of Ronald Hendel.

The HBCE will be an eclectic edition of the Hebrew Bible, featuring a critical text with extensive text-critical introductions and commentaries. The project anticipates twenty-one volumes, with an international team of volume authors.

The first volume—Michael V. Fox, Proverbs: An Eclectic Edition with Introduction and Textual Commentary—will publish in the second half of 2014.

The most distinctive feature of the HBCE project is its method of producing critical texts. HBCE constructs an eclectic text, drawing together readings from many manuscripts and, where warranted, conjectural readings. In other cases, such as Jeremiah, entirely variant texts of books are set side by side. While a common approach for critical editions of other ancient books, such as the New Testament and the Greek and Latin classics, this is not the norm for textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible.

In this respect, the approach and scope of this project is a first of its kind for the Hebrew Bible, since our other modern text-critical editions are diplomatic, representing a primary manuscript, in each case, the Masoretic tradition.

The project is bold and innovative. It will stimulate vigorous conversation and critique. It will enliven the guild’s attention to text-critical methods, history of transmission, and translation. It is an exercise that will broaden discussion and open up new insights into the history of the Hebrew Bible.

SBL is delighted to publish the HBCE, to work with Ron and the team of outstanding scholars, and to foster biblical scholarship through discovery and debate.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) Junior Research Fellowship at the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research (AIAR)

I can now confirm some exciting news! I have been awarded an Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) Junior Research Fellowship at the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research (AIAR). My family and I will be spending 4.5 months in Jerusalem, from the middle of January 2015 to the end of May. Special thanks are due to the Educational and Cultural Affairs division of the U.S. Department of State and the University of Helsinki for their generous support for this fellowship! Thanks also to Charlotte Hempel and Eibert Tigchelaar for their insightful comments on the proposal and support for the project!

During my time in Israel, I will be working on the material reconstruction of the scrolls from the Judean Desert containing the text of Exodus. For my dissertation, I have been working primarily on textual reconstructions of these scrolls, which I intend to refine and supplement with particular reference to the physical appearance of the preserved fragments and what this tells us about their original physical placement in the manuscript when it was still whole.

I include a couple of brief excerpts from my proposal to provide a little more context for the project:
  • Textual scholars are naturally interested in texts preserved on ancient manuscripts for their value in explicitly attesting to the antiquity of preserved readings. Less attention is often paid to the full material context in which those preserved texts were transmitted. To many non-specialists material reconstructions of manuscripts may seem tedious and the results too speculative to yield reliable results. Even specialists are often hindered by constraints of time, skill sets, and access to the necessary fragments. Consequently, many studies fail to pursue the material reconstruction of manuscripts to the fullest extent warranted by the evidence and miss important clues about the manuscripts. This is particularly true of the “biblical” scrolls from the Judean Desert, since the reconstruction of such scrolls is often thought to be of relatively minor importance. Since the content and order of the work are already known, what would be the benefit of reconstructing the scrolls beyond what is obviously attested on the preserved fragments?
  • I would argue, in contrast, that material reconstruction of “biblical” scrolls has much to offer to the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible. Material reconstruction can sometimes provide specific information about the size, construction, contents, and order of manuscripts, as well as setting the general context in which preserved readings should be evaluated. It allows us to draw as much information from a given manuscript as the evidence permits, with minimal imposition of information presupposed on the basis of outside sources. In other words, material reconstruction is a necessary tool for letting the scrolls speak for themselves in our studies of texts and textual histories...
  • These material reconstructions have great potential to add important information about four aspects of the scrolls, which are underdeveloped in many DJD editions.
    1.      Physical features and scribal practices. Material reconstruction can tell us much about the material construction of the scroll.
    2.      Scroll contents. Material reconstructions can tell us whether a scroll likely contained excerpted text, a single work, or multiple works.
    3.      Large pluses/minuses. Material reconstructions can tell us whether a scroll had or lacked significant amounts of text, such as “pre-Samaritan” expansions and others.
    4.      Passage sequence. Material reconstructions can provide independent evidence for the order of passages in a scroll without necessarily presupposing sequences known from other witnesses. This is particularly significant in a book like Exodus, where various witnesses are known to differ in sequence.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

4th Annual University of Birmingham Postgraduate Researcher Day Conference Call for Papers

The University of Birmingham just released a call for papers for the 4th Annual University of Birmingham Postgraduate Researcher Day Conference here. The conference will take place on 2 July 2014 at the University of Birmingham. The conference theme "Becoming a Sacred Text" sounds very interesting to me, and I'm sure there will be an exciting lineup of papers. James Crossley and Timothy Michael Law will be delivering keynote presentations, and postgraduate students from across the UK (and further afield) are invited to propose papers by 15 April. The University of Birmingham over the past few years has established itself as a hub of intervarsity postgraduate networking, and it would be a great opportunity for postgraduate researchers to share their research, receive peer feedback, and meet future colleagues.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Lugano Research Seminar on the History of the Caves of Qumran

I just returned from Lugano, Switzerland from a Research Seminar on the History of the Caves of Qumran on 20-21 February. The conference was well-attended, and was heavily dominated by discussions of the archaeology and interrelationships between the caves and the settlement of Qumran, which was very helpful for those more text-focused like me. Two text highlights are worthy of note.

1) Yonatan Adler announced the discovery of 9 (possibly 10) previously unknown tefillin slips found inside of unopened tefillin cases from Qumran. The slips have not yet been opened and read, but they promise to be very interesting.

2) Torleif Elgvin flattened out three leather fragments from the Schøyen collection he had considered to be uninscribed to find two fragmentary lines matching the known text of 4Q252 (Commentary on Genesis A). He suggested that this may be a second copy of this commentary.

We eagerly anticipate the full publication of these exciting discoveries!