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Three Introductions to Psalms on Poetry, Translation, and Music by Joel Bril (Berlin 1791). A Bilingual Edition, translated with Commentary and an Introduction
This annotated bilingual edition presents to readers for the first time a key Hebrew book of Jewish Enlightenment. Printed in Berlin in 1791, Joel Bril’s Hebrew introductions to Psalms constitute the earliest interpretation of Moses Mendelssohn’s language philosophy, translation theory, and aesthetics. In his introductions, Mendelssohn emerges as a critic of Maimonides who located eternal felicity not in union with the Active Intellect but in the aesthetic experience of the divine through sacred poetry. Bril’s theoretical insights, the broad range of his myriad textual sources, and his linguistic innovations make the Book of the Songs of Israel a touchstone of modern Hebrew literary theory and Jewish thought.

Abstract

This article draws upon the discipline of linguistics in order to propose refinements to understandings of coherence as typically employed in much biblical interpretation. After arguing in favor of inductive, linguistic definitions of coherence and distinguishing it from cohesion, it examines several examples of biblical interpretation in which conventional understandings of, and criteria for, coherence are employed. Key differences between these two understandings of coherence are then mapped onto prominent trends in analysis of text formation and interpretation in an effort to identify ways that biblical scholars can refine and sharpen their textual analyses through more careful use of coherence.

In: Vetus Testamentum
Proceedings of the Sixteenth International Symposium of the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literature, Cosponsored by the University of Vienna, New York University, the Israel Antiquities Authority, and the Israel Museum
The Sixteenth Orion Symposium celebrated seventy years of Dead Sea Scrolls research under the theme, “Clear a path in the wilderness!” (Isaiah 40:3). Papers use the wilderness rubric to address the self-identification of the Qumran group; dimensions of religious experience reflected in the Dead Sea writings; biblical interpretation as shaper and conveyor of that experience; the significance of the Qumran texts for critical biblical scholarship; points of contact with the early Jesus movement; and new developments in understanding the archaeology of the Qumran caves. The volume both honors past insights and charts new paths for the future of Qumran studies.
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Since the publication of the Septuagint in the 3rd century BCE, scholars have attempted to describe the types of stones that populate the biblical text. Modern academic scholars rely on ancient translations despite the contradictions and historical implausibility which manifests. Abandoning the ancient translations, this study synthesizes comparative linguistics with the archeogemological corpus. By ascertaining valid cognates, the Hebrew stone names may be equated with names in ancient languages which correspond with known species of stones. This allows us to confirm the identities of the stones mentioned in the biblical text and place them into historical context.
Prayer in the Ancient World is the resource on prayer in the ancient Near East and Mediterranean. With over 350 entries it showcases a robust selection of the range of different types of prayers attested from Mesopotamia, Egypt, Anatolia, the Levant, early Judaism and Christianity, Greece, Rome, Arabia, and Iran, enhanced by critical commentary.

The Prayer in the Ancient World will also be available online.

Preview of the 'Prayer in the Ancient World’, 2022
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Abstract

The text of the Hebrew Bible is divided into sections, which are marked by Petuhot and Setumot. The Mishna prescribed their correct identification to the scribes (2nd century AD). Some medieval manuscripts also exhibit a third structural sign, the Sedura. Its form is described in detail in the Ashkenazi “Machsor Vitry,” but its function is not defined. This note proves that, contrary to popular belief, the sedura also occurs in oriental manuscripts, and I propose that it functions as a kind of “placeholder” in cases of uncertain transmission of the Petuhot or Setumot because its form allows the reciter to read it as Petuha or Setuma or to ignore it. Therefore I call for the correct identification of the Sedura in the Hebrew editions of the Bible which reproduce the text of the Codex Leningradensis.

Open Access
In: Vetus Testamentum

Abstract

The king’s condition in Dan 4 has invited significant discussion. Proposed interpretations of the king’s condition in Dan 4 include various medical diagnoses, imagery from the underworld, primitive uncivilized behavior, or imagery associated with divine displeasure and affliction. The current study argues, however, that the key to interpreting these images should be found in the passage’s connection to one of the most prominent rituals of royal legitimation in ancient Mesopotamia, the akītu-festival. The akītu-festival celebrated the divine legitimation of the king through a ritual of 1) the king’s loss of royal status before it is returned; 2) a decree of destiny; and 3) a dramatic exit and re-entry into the city as a symbol of exit and re-entry into the ordered world. It is within the narrative arc of this festival that the animalian imagery of Dan 4 finds its most compelling explanation.

In: Vetus Testamentum
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Abstract

The hapax legomenon סֹחֶרֶת (sōḥereth) has eluded identification. Comparison with Ancient Egyptian ṯḥnt “faience, blue chalcedony” is phonologically plausible. “Faience” does indeed match the material evidence of the Susan palace.

In: Vetus Testamentum

Abstract

At first glance, it seems that the cupbearer’s dream (Gen 40) does not require a special symbolic interpretation. Aside from the three branches symbolizing three days, Joseph interpreted the dream literally: the cupbearer will be restored to his esteemed position and serve wine to the king. Nonetheless, this article raises the possibility that there is a symbolic meaning in the vine’s blossoming (40:10), which Joseph interpreted with the words: “Pharaoh will lift up your head” (40:13). According to this suggestion, the cupbearer’s dream and the baker’s dream should be explained in similar ways: both dreams are symbolic dreams in which the official is represented by the produce he is responsible for.

Open Access
In: Vetus Testamentum
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Abstract

In recent years three bilingual Hebrew-Judaeo-Arabic Torah manuscript fragments have been tentatively identified as the work of the scribe Samuel b. Jacob (best-known for his production of the so-called Leningrad Codex): CUL T-S Ar.1a.2+; RNL EVR II A 640; Oxf. MS heb. f. 108/3. These identifications were made on the basis of script similarity alone. This study, premised on the work of the great Hebrew codicologist Malachi Beit-Arié, demonstrates that all three of these manuscripts have been mis-identified. Thereby, the study affirms Beit-Arié’s claim that, at least in the case of early Eastern Hebrew Bible codices, scribal identifications should not be made on the basis of script alone, but on a raft of textual and paratextual scribal features that remain demonstrably stable across a given scribe’s oeuvre.

Open Access
In: Vetus Testamentum