Tuesday, March 30, 2021

2500-year-old Torah from Turkey... Again...

So, apparently they found another 2500-year-old Torah in Turkey... :) Is it too much to ask our Turkish fraudster friends at least to copy-paste a real Torah text from the internet!?!? Surely that's not asking too much?

HT Jack Sasson

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Digital Palaeography and Hebrew/Aramaic Scribal Culture Conference Program and Registration

Digital Palaeography and Hebrew/Aramaic Scribal Culture



The 2021 International Online Groningen Symposium

6–8 April 2021

13:00–20:00 Central European Summer Time (UTC+2)


Hosted by the

Qumran Institute (University of Groningen)

Bernoulli Institute (University of Groningen)




To register, please email Drew Longacre at d.g.longacre@rug.nl.

A Zoom invitation will be sent to presenters and registered attendees on 5 April.


Tuesday, 6 April


13:00 CET       Jouke de Vries (President of the University of Groningen)



                        Mladen Popović (University of Groningen)




Session 1 — The Hands that Wrote the Bible: Digital Palaeography

Chair: Eibert Tigchelaar


13:15         Mladen Popović (University of Groningen)

Digital Palaeography for Identifying the Unknown Scribes and Dating the Undated Manuscripts from the Dead Sea Scrolls


13:45         Maruf Dhali (University of Groningen)

Artificial Intelligence and Pattern Recognition Techniques in Analyzing the Dead Sea Scrolls


14:15         Gemma Hayes (University of Groningen)

    Digital Palaeography and the Scribes of the Dead Sea Scrolls 


14:45         Drew Longacre (University of Groningen)

Data Mining for Writer Identification: The Test Case of the Dead Sea Psalm Scrolls


15:15         Discussion



15:30–16:15    Break



Session 2 —  The Hands that Wrote the Bible: Radiocarbon Dating

Chair: Mladen Popović


16:15         Kaare Rasmussen (University of Southern Denmark)

The 14C Dating in the ERC project “The Hands that Wrote the Bible”: Chemical Aspects and the Cleaning of the Samples


16:45         Hans van der Plicht (University of Groningen)

The 14C Dating in the ERC project “The Hands that Wrote the Bible”: Physical Aspects and the Measurement of the 14C Content


17:15         Discussion



17:30–18:15    Break



Session 3 —  Hebrew/Aramaic Palaeography

Chair: Drew Longacre


18:15         Michael Langlois (University of Strasbourg)

Deciphering Ancient Hebrew and Aramaic Inscriptions in a Digital World: Potential and Limitations


18:45         James Moore (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin)

Toward a Systematic Description of the Imperial Aramaic Script and its Meaning for Dating and Writer Identification




19:15         Bronson Brown-deVost (University of Göttingen)

Scripta Qumranica Electronica


19:30         Daniel Stoekl ben Ezra (École Pratique des Hautes Études)



19:45         Sarah Yardney and Miller Prosser (University of Chicago)



20:00   Conclusion


Wednesday, 7 April


13:00 CET       Welcome



Session 4 —  Digital Palaeography

Chair: Maruf Dhali


13:15         Lambert Schomaker (University of Groningen)



13:45         Peter Stokes (École Pratique des Hautes Études)

When is a Scribe Not a Scribe? Some Reflections on Writer Identification


14:15         Nachum Dershowitz (Tel Aviv University)

    Computational Paleography


14:45         Discussion



15:00–15:45    Break



Session 5 —  Digital Palaeography

Chair: Lambert Schomaker


15:45         Shira Faigenbaum-Golovin (Tel Aviv University)

Algorithmic Handwriting Analysis of Iron Age Documents and its Implications to the Composition of Biblical Texts


16:15         Hussein Mohammed (Universität Hamburg)

Pattern-Recognition Approaches for Handwriting-Style Analysis


16:45         Eythan Levy (Tel Aviv University) and Frédéric Pluquet (Haute École Louvain en Hainaut [HELHa] - Tournai and Ecole Supérieure d'Informatique [ESI] - Brussels)

New Developments in the Scrypt Software for Old Hebrew Epigraphy


17:15         Discussion



17:30–18:15    Break




Session 6 —  Hebrew/Aramaic Palaeography

Chair: Gemma Hayes


18:15         Judith Olszowy-Schlanger (University of Oxford)

Hebrew Palaeography Album: A New Online Tool to Study Medieval Hebrew Manuscripts


18:45         Elvira Martín-Contreras (Spanish National Research Council)

Distinguishing Scribal Hands in the Masora of the Medieval Hebrew Bible Manuscripts




19:15         Joe Uziel (Israel Antiquities Authority)

IAA projects


19:30         Isabelle Marthot-Santaniello (University of Basel)



19:45         James Moore (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin)



20:00   Conclusion



Thursday, 8 April


13:00 CET       Welcome



Session 7 —  Hebrew/Aramaic Palaeography and Textual Communities

Chair: Mladen Popović


13:15         Eibert Tigchelaar (KU Leuven)

Scribal Culture, Palaeography, and the Scrolls


13:45         Ayhan Aksu (University of Groningen)

Leaving No Scroll Unturned: Opisthographs and Scribal Culture of the Dead Sea Scrolls 


14:15         Hanneke van der Schoor (KU Leuven)

Assessing Palaeographic Variation in Informal Manuscripts: The Scribe(s) of the Testament of Qahat and Visions of Amrame


14:45         Discussion



15:00–15:45    Break



Session 8 —  Hebrew/Aramaic Palaeography

Chair: Ayhan Aksu


15:45         Nadia Vidro (University College London)

Calendars from the Cairo Genizah as a Dating Tool for Palaeography


16:15         Estara J Arrant (University of Cambridge)

From Scholastic to Scribal: A Developmental Analysis of “Unprofessional” Square Hebrew Script from Cairo Genizah Bible Fragments


16:45         Elihu Shannon (Sofer STaM)

Why My Script is Different from My Teacher's


17:15         Discussion



17:30–18:15    Break




Session 9 —  Final Discussion Panels

Chairs: Drew Longacre and Maruf Dhali


18:15         Digital Palaeography Panel Discussion


18:45         Hebrew/Aramaic Palaeography and Scribal Culture Panel Discussion


19:15         Final Open Discussion

20:00   Conclusion


Monday, March 22, 2021

New 8ḤevXII gr Fragments and Radiocarbon Dating

There have been several news reports that the new Greek fragments of 8ḤevXII gr were radiocarbon dated to the 2nd century CE, which has raised concerns online. I confirmed with Joe Uziel of the IAA that the new fragments were in fact NOT subjected to radiocarbon dating, so we remain dependent upon the same arguments from paleography and archeological context for the date of the scroll.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Klawans on the Shapira Deuteronomy Fragments

Jonathan Klawans has an interesting contribution on the Shapira Deuteronomy fragments concerning suspiciously Christian-sounding readings, which augments the suspicious epigraphic evidence.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

New Dead Sea Scroll Fragments

Haaretz, the New York Times, and the AP (among others) report on some new Greek Minor Prophets fragments from the Nahal Ḥever Cave of Horrors, including a few nice images. Presumably these are from the same scroll as the famous Kaige Greek Minor Prophets scroll.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Friedeman, A Scripture Index to Rabbinic Literature

Caleb T. Friedeman has just published what looks to be a very useful reference work:  Scripture Index to Rabbinic Literature.

Publisher's product description:

 A Scripture Index to Rabbinic Literature is a comprehensive Scrip­ture index that catalogs approximately 90,000 references to the Bible found in classical rabbinic literature. This literature compris­es two categories: (1) Talmudic literature (i.e., the Mishnah and related works) and (2) midrashic literature (i.e., biblical commentary).

Each rabbinic reference includes a hard citation following SBL Hand­book of Style, the page number where the reference can be found in a standard English edition, and an indication of whether the biblical reference is a direct citation, allusion, or editorial reference. This incredibly handy reference work is the first of its kind and is a welcome addition to Hendrickson’s well-crafted line of reference books.

Key points and features:

  • A comprehensive Scripture index to classical rabbinic literature in English
  • Includes references to the Mishnah, the Tosefta, the Jerusalem Tal­mud, and the Babylonian Talmud, as well as the Mekilta, Midrash Rabbah, Pirqe Rabbi Eliezer, and many more
  • Approximately 90,000 references include a hard citation, a page number in a standard English edition, and an indication of wheth­er the biblical reference is a direct citation, allusion, or editorial reference
  • Saves researchers large amounts of time and energy by bringing together a vast amount of data that was previously located across many disparate resources.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Dershowitz on the Shapira Deuteronomy

The New York Times has a piece highlighting a recent article and book by Idan Dershowitz arguing again for the authenticity of the Shapira Deuteronomy fragments. Looking briefly through the article and book, his argument is that 1) Shapira's private papers suggest he did not forge it; 2) paleographic and material arguments against its authenticity are not definitive; and 3) its text seems to reflect a an early precursor to the canonical form of Deuteronomy. While Dershowitz brings important information to the discussion, I doubt he will be able to convince many.

Dershowitz seems particularly enamored with the literary-critical arguments, suggesting that no forger at the time could have anticipated the ways the scroll corresponds to modern literary-critical reconstructions. Without going through his full argument, I must say that I am considerably less enamored with these types of literary-critical arguments in general. They tend to be very subjective and debatable, hardly to be considered solid evidentiary grounds. I have seen enough unwarranted suggestions that Dead Sea Scrolls were the sources for biblical texts to be quite skeptical in this regard. For instance, the lack of legal material can at least as easily be explained based on the interests of a 19th-century Christian target audience as an earlier form of the book.

So ultimately, I would stress that the epigraphic evidence must take precedence when it comes to questions of authenticity. As Christopher Rollston emphasizes, we don't have the material artifacts that would be necessary to conduct standard tests for authenticity, but the epigraphic evidence seems strongly against its authenticity. Dershowitz argues that we can't do a paleographic analysis based on inaccurate drawings, but we do have a number of independent visual records that all seem to point in the same general direction. With even a superficial glance: 1) script doesn't look typologically right for what we would expect from an authentic script from the period; 2) there's not a hint of evidence for a brush, which would probably have been used for ink writing; 3) it is the extremely sloppy work of an unskilled and/or careless writer (just look at the line arrangement, even if you don't trust the drawings of particular letter forms); 4) the column dimensions and proportions seem all wrong for what I would expect from a literary scroll; 5) would such a text even be written on ruled animal skin at that time, and why don't the lines respect the ruling? I haven't worked through all the details, but everything about it looks fishy to me, and I know others who have looked at it more closely suggest the same.