Digital Dead Sea Scrolls Available Online

A fragment of Isaiah from Cave 1, Qumran

In a giant upgrade to The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, the Israel Antiquities Authority is making 10,000 multispectral images available to all via the web.

The entire site has better searching, browsing and indexing. You can search by keywords, or browse by language, location (including cave-by-cave), or content.

The scrolls are being specially photographed using a state-of-the-art system developed by NASA, and the results are eye-popping. The multispectral imaging captures 12 wavelengths (7 visible, 5 invisible), revealing depths of detail in both text and material that would otherwise be unseen by the naked eye. This allows us to peel away layers and recover lost or obscured text. Infrared photos from the 1950s are also included.

The site is very responsive, with fast load times and the ability to zoom in close for each image.

The IAA intends to place every scroll and fragment on the internet. I remember when simply looking at a photograph of a scroll was considered an illicit activity, so this is big news.

Ancient Jerusalem’s Economy Powered by Animal Sacrifice

The Journal of Archaeological Science had published a study of animal remains uncovered around the Temple complex in Jerusalem, suggesting that animals raised and traded for temple sacrifice drove a large portion of Jerusalem economy:

An analysis of bones found in an ancient dump in the city dating back 2,000 years revealed that animals sacrificed at the temple came from far and wide.

“The study shows that there is a major interprovincial market that enables the transfer of vast numbers of animals that are used for sacrifice and feasting in Jerusalem during that time period,” said study co-author Gideon Hartman, a researcher at the University of Connecticut.

The finding, published in the September issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science, confirms visions of the temple depicted in historical Jewish texts and suggests the economic heart of the city was its slaughtering operation. 

At the time, Jerusalem was a bustling metropolis without any natural economic resources, as it was landlocked and far from most major trade routes.

According to the Talmud, a Jewish religious text, the city’s economic heart was the Holy Temple, the only place where Israelites could sacrifice animals as offerings to God. Parts of the animal that weren’t sacrificed as a burnt offering were often left for people to feast on.

Some passages in the text depict priests wading up to their knees in blood, and others describe 1.2 million animals being slaughtered on one day. And the ancient Jewish historian Flavius Josephus also describes an enormous slaughtering operation.

But historians wondered whether these descriptions were hyperbole or fact.

City dump

A few years ago, archaeologists unearthed a massive dump on the outskirts of the old walled city of Jerusalem. Dating revealed the dump was used between the start of King Herod’s reign in 37 B.C. and the Great Revolt in A.D. 66. [See Images of the Massive Bone Dump ]

Whereas most city dumps contain animal bones, this one contained an unusually large proportion of them for an agricultural society, Hartman said.

“Meat was not eaten on a daily basis. It was something that was kept for special events,” Hartman told LiveScience.

What’s more, most of the animals were young, suggesting they were raised for sacrifice.

Read more.

Hopeful Signs? UPDATE #2: Not a Hoax

The optimist in me says “yes.” The cynic says, “public relations ploy.” I try paying more attention to the optimist.

In any case, it’s welcome. From the President of Iran:

It’s worthwhile remembering that the Iranian people (particularly the young) tend to have positive feelings towards America, by and large. (They tend to despise the English, however.) Maybe if we stopped with the Middle East meddling and they throttled back on the crazy and the Jew-hating and the terror-exportation, some kind of peace could be achieved. I’ll take this message as a sign of hope.

UPDATE: Reader “Dale” sent this link saying it looks like a hoax:

Not only were the blessings not a diplomatic signal, they weren’t even really blessings from Rouhani himself, according to Iran’s official Fars News Agency.

Mohammad Reza Sadeq, an adviser to Rouhani, said the Iranian president doesn’t even have a Twitter account (although he kept referring to it as “tweeter”), let alone that he was behind the eyebrow-raising tweet purportedly from the leader of a country that wishes for Israel’s destruction.

UPDATE #2: Joanne McPortland tells me “Christiane Amanpour claims she just interviewed him. No hoax.”

St. Augustine and the Jews

This is a post from way back at the beginning of this blog, but it’s one of the better things I’ve published here and it wasn’t seen by too many people at the time. Since today is the feast day of St. Augustine, I decided to rerun it. 

The pilleus cornutus was a pointed hat medieval Jewish men had to wear when travelling outside their ghettos.

The paper was the product of a course in St. Augustine, and discusses a challenging subject: Augustine’s doctrine of Jewish witness. What follows delves deeply into difficult waters, exploring early Christian-Jewish relations and anti-Jewish polemic. The way a 4th century Christian spoke of the Jews is not the way the Church speaks of them today. Augustine’s characterization of the Jews, their beliefs, and their practices is insulting, but it springs not from any real encounter with practicing Jews, but from his interpretation of their religious practices as understood through Scripture. Nonetheless, he also has a grudging admiration for them, and respects the way his Jewish contemporaries remain true to the Law.

As I say in my apologia, it’s hard to read much of the  material that follows from our perspective in the 21st century, but it’s important to recall how radically progressive were Augustine’s views on Judaism. They even earned him a sharp rebuke from St. Jerome, which Augustine batted away with his usual skill. His position is that the Jews are under a divine order of physical protection, and that not only must they be protected, but they must be allowed to worship as Jews. As we will see, his reason for this view is demeaning for Jews, but it also informed centuries of theology and countless orders of protection for Jews living in Christian lands. When Jews were persecuted at the hands of Christians, it was in direct defiance of this doctrine, and when they were protected, it was because of its influence.

For more on the subject, see Augustine and the Jews: A Christian Defense of Jews and Judaism and Augustine’s own City of God. I don’t agree with everything in Augustine and the Jews, but it’s a good and readily available overview, if a tad padded.

Unwilling Witnesses: St. Augustine and the Witness Doctrine

St. Augustine’s writing on Judaism was remarkably nuanced, deepening over the course of 30 years as his thoughts on scripture developed. His most lasting contribution to the topic was his “doctrine of Jewish witness,” often simply called “the witness doctrine,” which viewed the Jews not solely as “Christ-killers” to be condemned, but as a vital ingredient in the spread of Christianity. The doctrine came to be accepted by the Church, and informed subsequent order of protection by the Church for the lives of Jewish people.

In his sermon on Psalm 58, Chapter 18 of De Civitate Dei, Chapter 12 (and others) inContra Faustum Manicheum, and other works, he develops his theory that the Jews had a continuing role to play in salvation history, and that this role was to form a living testimony to the truth of Christian claims. Scattered throughout the Diaspora, they brought their own sacred texts with them. These texts (the Old Testament) carried the prophecies of Christ, and since they were borne by a people who were notoriously hostile to Christians, they had even greater veracity. A Christian could point to a Jewish text and say, “See, even our enemies attest to the prophecies.”

Contra Iudaeos: An Apologia

From our position in the 21st century, it is important to distinguish between the modern, genocidal experience of anti-Semitism and the contra Iudaeos tradition of the early Church. Anti-Semitism is hatred of Jews as Jews, and is rooted in racism. The contra Iudaeos tradition is a dispute with Judaism as a religion in same way the Church Fathers disputed pagans, Manicheans, Donatists, and other heretics. That the early Christian anti-Jewish polemic did the intellectual spadework for later persecution of the Jews is undeniable, but at its heart the first centuries of Jewish-Christian relations were based on intellectual and theological dispute among people who sprang from the same religious soil. It was not a product of blind racial hatred. Indeed, it could not have been, since the Jewishness of Jesus and his apostles was understood by all the Church fathers.

Nonetheless, much of the language, and many of the ideas, in this essay are almost impossible to read in their original context. The shadow of centuries of anti-Semitism, culminating in the Shoah and the annihilationist rhetoric coming from the Middle East, falls heavily upon these early religious disputes among people who shared a common wellspring of faith.

Yet it is also a remarkably rewarding topic, for Augustine redirected the idea of Jewish-Christian relations away from violent persecutions by finding in the scripture the command from God to “slay them not” (Psalm 58), allowing Jews to observe the law undisturbed by persecution. With that said, it’s difficult for a modern reader to see the doctrine as anything less than dehumanizing, reducing the Jews to little more than God’s pawns for furthering Christianity. “Witnesses” they may well be, but if so, then they are unwilling witnesses. 

The Initial Elements of the Witness Tradition

Augustine’s doctrine of Jewish witness developed in stages, beginning with Contra Faustum in 397, which lays out four elements that form the foundation of the doctrine.[1] We will look at each of these in turn, and then explore how the evolution of Augustine’s understanding of Biblical exegesis deepened the doctrine with two further points.

Jews and the Mark of Cain

By the time of Augustine, the pairing of Abel with Jesus and Cain with the Jews was already common in patristic tradition.[2] In Genesis 4:1-16, Cain slays his brother, and is exiled as a punishment. This is more than Cain can bear, and he cries out to God, not for forgiveness, but to save his life from the foes he will encounter in the world. Thus, his exile comes with protection: the mark of Cain, which prevents people from slaying him.

Augustine reads the mark of Cain, in Contra Faustum, as a direct analogy to the status of the Jews in the world, for “no one can fail to see that in every land where the Jews are scattered they mourn for the loss of their kingdom, and are in terrified subjection to the immensely superior number of Christians.”[3] In this typology, both “Cain and the Jews are fratricides.”[4] Their exile is punishment for their crime, as is the fear of harm, which for the Jews is a fear losing their distinctive religious practices.

The subjugation of the Jews bothers them more than their loss of divine favor, says Augustine, because they are carnally minded, and not spiritually minded. This will be an important distinction not only for the witness doctrine, but also in the development of Augustine’s understanding of the literal and allegorical interpretations of scripture.

The mind of Cain (and, by extension, the Jews) is

carnal; for he thinks little of being hid from the face of God, that is, of being under the anger of God, were it not that he may be found and slain. … To be carnally minded is death; but he, in ignorance of this, mourns for the loss of his earthly possession, and is in terror of bodily death. But what does God reply? “Not so,” He says; “but whosoever shall kill Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” That is, It is not as you say, not by bodily death shall the ungodly race of carnal Jews perish. For whoever destroys them in this way shall suffer sevenfold vengeance, that is, shall bring upon himself the sevenfold penalty under which the Jews lie for the crucifixion of Christ. So to the end of the seven days of time, the continued preservation of the Jews will be proof to believing Christians of the subjection merited by those who, in the pride of their kingdom, put the Lord to death.[5]

Although this appears to be a clear example of the blood libel that held the Jews collectively guilty for the murder of God, we shall see that Augustine’s position is not nearly that simple. Indeed, in the very next passage in Contra Faustum, he expresses his admiration for the tenacity of the Jews and their fidelity (wrong-headed, as he sees it) to the law:

It is a most notable fact, that all the nations subjugated by Rome adopted the heathenish ceremonies of the Roman worship; while the Jewish nation, whether under Pagan or Christian monarchs, has never lost the sign of their law, by which they are distinguished from all other nations and peoples. No emperor or monarch who finds under his government the people with this mark kills them, that is, makes them cease to be Jews, and as Jews to be separate in their observances, and unlike the rest of the world. [6]

This survival of the Jews, and their continued ability to practice their faith in the Diaspora, is proof that they are under a divine order of protection, and thus bear the mark of Cain. It is a “divine safeguard … whereby God signals to the rest of humanity his continuing connection to and protection of the Jewish religion and thus his continuing desire that the Jews always exist as a people.”[7]

Augustine places Jews in a different category from pagans and heretics. Whereas pagans receive their religion from demons and heretics from their own hubris, Jews and Catholics derive their religion from the One God.[8] Augustine makes this plainly clear in Contra Faustum: “But if we divide all who have a religion into those who worship one God and those who worship many gods, the Manichaeans must be classed along with the Pagans, and we along with the Jews.”[9]

The Jews as Ham, Son of Noah

In Genesis 9:18-27, Ham sees the nakedness of his father, Noah, and is cursed to be a “servant of servants” to his brothers, Shem and Japheth. In Augustine’s interpretation, Shem and Japheth represent the gentile world, while Ham represents the Jews who reject Christ.

Noah is interpreted as a symbol of Christ, “drunk with the wine of the vineyard he planted” and with the “mortality of [his flesh] uncovered.”[10] Shem and Japheth, who cover their naked father without looking at him, are “those who are called, both Jews and Greeks” (1 Cor 1:23).

Moreover, the two sons, the eldest and the youngest, carrying the garment backwards, are a figure of the two peoples, and the sacrament of the past and completed passions of the Lord. They do not see the nakedness of their father, because they do not consent to Christ’s death; and yet they honor it with a covering, as knowing whence they were born.[11]

The Jewish people are Ham, the middle son between Shem and Japheth, because “they neither held the first place with the apostles, nor believed subsequently with the Gentiles.”[12] Ham is condemned to be a servant to his brothers. The Jews saw their father’s nakedness, “that is, he is those Jews who consent to Jesus’ death.”[13]Their “curse” is that they still live under the Law. Their “servitude” is that they must carry the scripture for their brothers, the gentiles.


At this point in Contra Faustum, Augustine introduces the idea of the Jews as thescriniaria (writing desk) of the Christians.  They bear “the law and the prophets as testimony to the tenets of the church, so that we honor through the sacrament what it announces through the letter.”[14] As scriniaria, they preserve the texts of scripture, carry them around the world as they spread throughout the Diaspora, and proclaim the very prophecies at the heart of Christianity.

The Jews are thus identified with their books secundem carnem. Early Christians had to build a familiarity with the Old Testament, and even with the Hebrew language, in order to refute the Manichaeans. This was particularly important in the dispute with Manichaeans, who found the carnality of Jewish worship as the surest indication of its falsity. Thus, Augustine and other Christians were placed in the challenging position of defending the truth of the scripture by way of defending the Jews.

This calls us back to an earlier passage in Contra Faustum, in which the author remarks that

“it is a great confirmation of our faith that such important testimony is borne by enemies. The believing Gentiles cannot suppose these testimonies to Christ to be recent forgeries; for they find them in books held sacred for so many ages by those who crucified Christ, and still regarded with the highest veneration by those who every day blaspheme Christ.”[15]

The Scripture itself tells of how Christ is to be born, preach, work miracles, suffer for the sins of humanity, die at the hands of his enemies, rise again, and initiate a new age. If the Old Testament prophecies had been the creation of Christians, Augustine argues, critics of Christianity would be right in doubting their authenticity. Instead, the

“preacher expounds the text of the blasphemer. In this way the Most High God orders the blindness of the ungodly for the profit of the saint … The unbelief of the Jews has been made of signal benefit to us; so that those who do not receive in their heart for their own good these truths, carry, in their hands for our benefit the writings in which these truths are contained.”[16]

This formula is compressed even further in De Civitate Dei, where Augustine writes about how the Jews were “utterly rooted out from their kingdom, where aliens had already ruled over them, and were dispersed through the lands (so that indeed there is no place where they are not), and are thus by their own Scriptures a testimony to us that we have not forged the prophecies about Christ.” [17]

Doubt of the Jews Foretold

This brings us to the fourth element of the witness doctrine, which is that the scripture itself testifies that the Jews would reject Jesus, “for this blindness is itself foretold. They testify to the truth by their not understanding it. By not understanding the books which predict that they would not understand, they prove these books to be true.”[18]

Augustine uses various analogies throughout his writing to illustrate these points. The Jews are like the people who help build Noah’s ark, but perished because they did not believe. [19] They are like librarians[20] who care for the books of their masters without learning the truth that is within them. They are like “milestones along the route,”[21] which guide the way but remain insensible.[22]

This issue of blindness is a difficult one for Augustine, for it appears to imply that God is unjust. How can God require belief for salvation and then deliberately harden the hearts of his people? Augustine finds his answers in Romans 11:25: “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters. For blindness has come upon a part of Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has entered, and so all Israel will be saved.” Blindness is only reserved for a select few, who would not have been saved anyway. Paul continues: “As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake” (Rom 11:28). In other words, Christ needed enemies to put him to death, and Christians needed their “witnesses” to help spread the Gospel.

But at the same time, Paul says this: “But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers” (Rom 11:28). In other words, the Jews remain beloved by God, but he has another purpose for them as witnesses to his divine love and mercy, as well as his justice. Augustine makes this point in De Civitate Dei when he notes that “humanity is divided between those in whom the power of merciful grace is demonstrated, and those in whom is shown the might of just retribution… If all had remained condemned . . . then God’s merciful grace would not have been seen . . . and if all had been transferred from darkness to light, then the truth of God’s vengeance would not have been made evident.”[23]

Later Developments in the Witness Doctrine

The preceding ideas remained the core of the witness doctrine at first, but over the next 15 years, Augustine’s series of sermons on the Psalms gave him an opportunity to explore the relationship of Judaism to Christianity even further. It is here that we find the last points in the witness doctrine first mentioned in the Sermon on Psalm 58, and developed further in Chapter 18 of De Civitate Dei.

“Slay Them Not”

The key text in this later development of the witness doctrine is Psalm 59: “Slay them not, lest at any time they forget your law; scatter them in your might” (Ps 59:11). Although we must assume that this Psalm was known to Augustine when he was writing Contra Faustum, he had not yet realized that God was speaking to Church with a direct order for how to treat the Jews that lived among them.

There are two parts to this statement. The first and most striking, of course, is “Slay them not.” If, with Augustine, we read “them” as applying to the Jews, then this is nothing less than an order of physical protection for the Jews no matter where they shall be found in Christendom. This is in spite of the fact that the “Jews are enemies.”[24] Why allow them to survive under an order of protection? The mark of Cain makes this protection mandatory and, in fact, inevitable. The Jews as a people simply cannot be eradicated due to the mark.

Psalm 59 adds the idea of preserving the Jewish nation, so that it “might remain, and by it remaining the number of Christians might increase. Throughout all nations they remain certainly, and Jews they are, nor have they ceased to be what they were: that is, this nation has not so yielded to Roman institutions, as to have lost the form of Jews; but has been subjected to the Romans so as that it still retains its own laws; which are the laws of God.” [25]

This is vital to understanding the importance of both the witness doctrine and Augustine the exegete. The laws are not empty of meaning or the work of a demiurge: they are the laws of God. “They hold the law, hold the Prophets;” he writes, “read all things, sing all things.”[26] What they proclaim is good, because it is from God. The law and prophets are eternally relevant, even through “the light of the Prophets therein they [the Jews] see not, which is Christ Jesus.”[27]

Compliance with the Law

This brings us to the final and most striking element of the witness doctrine. The Jews are to be kept alive and protected for all the reasons we have seen: they are under the mark of Cain, they are a scriniaria which carries the holy texts of the Christians, their continued blindness fulfills Biblical prophesy, and their existence helps spread Christianity.

The second part of “slay them not,” however, refers to the law itself: “lest at any time they forget your law.” Forgetting the law of God is death. It is the death we suffer from sin in the absence of God’s guidance. Augustine links the command to “slay them not” with a new interpretation of the mark of Cain: that of the law. The practice of Judaism itself, the way in which the Jews observe the law, is a mark which sets them apart wherever they go.

As Augustine writes, “This is the mark which the Jews have: they hold fast by the remnant of their law, they are circumcised, they keep Sabbaths, they sacrifice the Passover; they eat unleavened bread.”[28] They are, he continues, “necessary to believing nations … that He may show to us among our enemies His mercy.”[29]

But there was much more to the continuing observation of the law than merely showing the mercy of God. Augustine found their fortitude in the face of persecution admirable. Their willingness to continue following the letter of the law, even while they remained ignorant of its spirit, was something to be commended. In his letter to Paulinus (414) he writes of how, even after being conquered, they

would not participate in the pagan rites of the victorious people but persisted in the old law, so that within [the Jews] there would be witness of the Scriptures throughout the world, wherever the church would be established.[30]

This goes to the heart of the command to “slay them not,” speaking not only to physical protection, but to the protection of Jews as Jews. Otherwise, they would “forget your law,” for if they had assimilated into the culture — pagan or Christian — they would cease to have been Jews, and the role God had marked out for them would have ended. “Having been forced to observe the rites and ceremonies of the gentiles, they would not retain their own religious identity at all.”[31]

In De Civitate Dei, he links this role of the Jews as witnesses to Romans 11:11: “So I ask, have they [the Jews] stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.”[32] He interprets this as further proof that the Jews are not merely preserved from the mercy of God, but as ongoing witnesses to the truth of Christian claims. An important part of this process was already prophesied in Psalm 59, with the words “scatter them,” because “if they had only been in their own land with that testimony of the Scriptures, and not everywhere, certainly the Church which is everywhere could not have had them as witnesses among all nations to the prophecies which were sent before concerning Christ.”[33]


According to Augustine, this is part of God’s inscrutable justice: to make the Jews deaf and blind, for a time, so that the Gospel could spread.[34] “God’s hardening of Israel was strategic, not punitive. And it was only temporary. As history rushes to its conclusion, and as the ‘full number’ of Gentiles comes to Christ, God will cease hardening ‘part of Israel. . . . And so all Israel will be saved’ (Romans 11:26). In the end, God has mercy on all (Romans 11:32).”[35]

There is dense layering of typology in all of this, out of which Augustine builds his unique image of the Jews. They are Cain the wanderer and fratricide, marked by their distinctly Jewish appearance and praxis and known for the “murder” of their brother, Jesus. Their “slavery” to the church comes from Noah’s curse of Ham, thus condemning them to “witness” to Christian truth by carrying the books that underlie the Gospel. The books themselves are the scripture, which are fulfilled in Christ and which they read without understanding.

Augustine saw the Law as good because it pointed forward to, and was fulfilled in, Christ. Although the law cannot make you good, it was ordained by God and thus is not “bad.” It was, he wrote in a testy exchange with St. Jerome, “divinely appointed as suitable both to the time and to the people.”[36] This time included the time of Christ and the apostles. Jesus was not just born a man. He was born and lived as a Jew under the Law, subject to circumcision and observant of the practices of Judaism.

Augustine’s innovation here is to see “history as vital to revelation” and “flesh as vital to spirit.”[37] Judaism secundum carnem is important because without the carnal aspect, the incarnation of Christ loses meaning. It was in the context of an explicitly carnal culture that God came, first to fulfill that carnality, and then to transcend it. Although this carnality, as represented in the practice of the Law, is no longer binding, says Augustine, and the Jews are misguided in holding to it, they are nonetheless performing a vital service to Christianity in providing ongoing witness to its truth, as well as to the love and justice of God.


Brown, Peter. Augustine of Hippo: A Biography. Berkley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2000.

Cohen, Jeremy. Living Letters of the Law: Ideas of the Jew in Medieval Christianity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

Fredriksen, Paula. Augustine and the Jews: A Christian Defense of Jews and Judaism. New Haven: Yale, 2010.

Fredriksen, Paula. “Excaecati Occulta Justitia Dei: Augustine on Jews and Judaism.”Journal of Early Christian Studies 3:3, 299-324.

Signer, Michael. “Jews and Judaism.” Augustine Through the Ages. Edited by Allan D. Fitzgerald. Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Eerdman’s, 1999.

St. Augustine. City of God. Translated by Henry Bettenson. New York: Penguin, 1972.

St. Augustine, Contra Faustum. At New Advent,

St. Augustine. Essential Sermons. Translated by Edmund Hill. New York: New City Press, 2007.

St. Augustine. Exposition on the Book of Psalms. New Advent. (

[1] Jeremy Cohen, Living Letters of the Law: Ideas of the Jew in Medieval Christianity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 41.

[2] For example, Irenaeus in Against Heresies: “Wherefore did the Lord also declare: ‘Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye are like whited sepulchres. For the sepulchre appears beautiful outside, but within it is full of dead men’s bones, and all uncleanness; even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of wickedness and hypocrisy.’ For while they were thought to offer correctly so far as outward appearance went, they had in themselves jealousy like to Cain; therefore they slew the Just One, slighting the counsel of the Word, as did also Cain. For [God] said to him, ‘Be at rest;’ but he did not assent. Now what else is it to ‘be at rest’ than to forego purposed violence?” By contrast, Irenaeus sees the offering of Abel as a prefiguration of the Eucharist.

[3] St. Augustine, Contra Faustum, 12.12,

[4] Paula Fredriksen, Augustine and the Jews: A Christian Defense of Jews and Judaism (New Haven: Yale, 2010), 318.

[5] Contra Faustum, ibid.

[6] Ibid, 12.13.

[7] Fredriksen, 274.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Contra Faustum, 20.10.

[10] Ibid, 12.23.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Fredriksen, 319.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Contra Faustum, 16.21.

[16] Ibid.

[17] St. Augustine, City of God 18.46, trans. Henry Bettenson (New York: Penguin, 1972), 848.

[18] Ibid.

[19] St. Augustine, Sermon 373 4.4, cited in Cohen, Living Letters of the Law, 35.

[20] St. Augustine, Sermon 5 5, cited in Cohen, Living Letters of the Law, 35.

[21] St. Augustine, Sermon 199 1.2, cited in Cohen, Living Letters of the Law, 35.

[22] Cohen, 36.

[23] City of God 21.12, 989.

[24] St. Augustine, Sermon on Psalm 59. (

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] St. Augustine, Epistula 149.9.

[31] Ibid.

[32] City of God, 18.46, 848.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Paula Fredriksen, “Excaecati Occulta Justitia Dei: Augustine on Jews and Judaism,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 3:3: (1995), 299.

[35] Fredriksen, Augustine and the Jews, 281.

[36] St. Augustine, Letter 82.12. (

[37] Fredriksen, 316.

Conviction Upheld in Dead Sea Scrolls Identity Theft

In yesterday’s news about the final stop for the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, I mentioned some of the controversy surrounding scroll scholarship. One of the more bizarre sideshows in the world of the DSS is The Sorry Saga of the Golbs.

Raphael Golb is the son of scroll scholar Norman Golb, a man who has managed to master a great deal of knowledge about the DSS, and then come to all the wrong conclusions.  In an effort to discredit his father’s critics, Golb fils impersonated several academics, sending out emails in order to damage their reputations.

This morning, courtesy of Robert Cargill’s XKV8R  blog, I see that 29 of Raphael Golb’s 30 convictions have been upheld. Here’s the court’s summary:

Defendant is the son of an expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Defendant set up email accounts in which he pretended to be other scholars who disagreed with defendant’s father’s opinion on the origin of the Scrolls. Among other things, defendant sent emails in which one of his father’s rivals purportedly admitted to acts of plagiarism.

Defendant’s principal defense was that these emails were only intended to be satiric hoaxes or pranks. However, as it has been observed in the context of trademark law, “[a] parody must convey two simultaneous – and contradictory – messages: that it is the original, but also that it is not the original and is instead a parody” (Cliffs Notes, Inc. v Bantam Doubleday Dell Pub. Group, Inc., 886 F2d 490, 494 [2d Cir 1989]). Here, the evidence clearly established that defendant never intended any kind of parody. Instead, he only intended to convey the first message to the readers of the emails, that is, that the purported authors were the actual authors. It was equally clear that defendant intended that the recipients’ reliance on this deception would cause harm to the purported authors and benefits to defendant or his father.

Dr. Cargill has done the digging, so I’ll let him fill in the details, but you really should go to his site if only to gaze at the impressive table of crimes committed by a man trying to destroy respected scholars like Lawrence Schiffman. Even the revered Frank Moore Cross got dragged into this mess.

The theory of Golb pere–that Qumran was a fort without connection to the scroll caves, and that the caves were a repository for scrolls of many sects out of Jerusalem–is an interesting but long-discredited footnote in the story of Qumran and the scrolls. The unpleasant part is the vehemence with which both Golbs have attempted to advance that theory.

One of their boosters (and I’m not completely sure it wasn’t one of Raphael Golb’s sock puppets) has haunted my comboxes and posted criticism of some of my writing on a HuffPo community blog. I’ve only ever written about the scrolls here or in the National Catholic Register, which means I’m a complete nobody in the world of Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship and opinion. Anyone taking efforts to swat me down is more than a little obsessed.

In any case, Golb will appeal, and his case will continue to wind its way through the legal system before his convictions are finally upheld. I wish I could say I feel sorry for either father or son, but they’ve been a uniquely nasty pair in their attempts to discredit anyone who disagrees with them.

Dead Sea Scrolls Heading to Boston Next

I wrote about the Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times exhibit when it visited Philadelphia last year. The scrolls still fascinate because they’re a kind of missing link between the closing of the Old Testament and the opening of the New, giving us a picture of some elements of Judaism as it was at the dawn of Christianity. They all still generate incredible amounts of controversy.

The exhibit left Philadelphia and is now at the Cincinnati Museum Center, where it will stay until April 15. It will make its final US stop in the Museum of Science in Boston, beginning May 19.

Because the final stop is at the Museum of Science, the exhibit is being tailored a bit to focus on science in the scrolls. Here’s what the Brandeis Hoot has to say:

 “The museum had some role in choosing which Dead Sea Scrolls would actually be available for the public to see. I and some others advised the museum concerning that,” Brettler said.

The exhibit will feature 20 scrolls and fragments of scrolls total, as well as many artifacts from ancient Israel. “One of the areas we pushed, especially since they’re a museum of science, and I know which scrolls have more scientific material in them, I pushed them in that direction, so the exhibit would fit with museum’s goal,” he said.

“There are astronomical texts, or texts that deal with astronomy among the scrolls,” one of which will be featured in the exhibit. “So that’s science in antiquity,” said Brettler. The exhibit will also highlight the science of the scrolls itself—the technology of archaeological preservation has made huge advances since the scrolls were initially discovered in 1947.
“Especially because the exhibit is at the Museum of Science, one of the things that interests us a lot concerns science in the scrolls and science being used to preserve or decipher the scrolls,” Benjamin Federlin ’14, undergraduate representative to the committee said.

“Some of the mapping technology that has been developed by NASA in the jet-propulsion laboratory is being used for reading the scrolls, because sometimes you literally need to connect dots, you need to figure out what is a shadow, what is part of the writing, what is an ancient stain,” Brettler explained. “Some techniques that have been developed for mapping the earth from outer space end up being very useful in terms of the Dead Sea Scrolls.”

Science has made archaeology much better able to understand its findings, says Brettler. “Thirty years ago, people could have said, ‘Oh, this is a bowl that may have contained such-and-such.’ Now there are various techniques that can be used that we can really understand what these ancient containers contained. Scientific analysis of pottery makes archaeologists able to understand more about diets and changes in diet.”

“[The Scrolls] a great example of the leaps that have been made, and we have some faculty who could actually talk about that,” Federlin said.

Read more.

Wine in the Old Testament

Bread was the ordinary food of the people, but wine was for celebration. It was a symbol of joy. It was considered so important in the ritual life of the Jews that people had the responsibility to provide wine for the poor during the feasts if the poor could not provide it for themselves.

Egyptian wine press and storehouse

The grape harvest was a festive time (Is 16:10) that includes feasting, singing , and dancing (Jeremiah 48:33, Judges 21:20–21). Wine was produced by gathering grapes into large vat, which would have been carved from stone, or made of wood or clay. This vat (called a “gat”) was connected to a lower cistern (a “bor”) via a pipe.

Grapes were pressed in the gat, with the juice passing through a pipe, strained using linen to remove husks and other unwanted bits, and ending up in the bor. It was stored in large receptacles of wood or pottery, sealed with pitch.

Wine had to stand for 40 days before it was usable as a drink offering. Once it had settled, it would be decanted into jars or skins (Matt 9:17). As with all wine, there were varieties by region, with red preferred to white, as well as blends. Some added water and balsam to old wine, sacred incense, honey and pepper, and different spices. There were myriad variations, levels of quality, and special wines for special occasions. The Jewish Encyclopedia identifies a number of them:

“Yayin” was the ordinary matured, fermented wine, “tirosh” was a new wine, and “shekar” was an old, powerful wine (“strong drink”). The red wine was the better and stronger (Ps 75:9, Prov 23:31). Perhaps the wine of Helbon (Ezek 27:18) and the wine of Lebanon (Hos. 14:77) were white wines. The vines of Hebron were noted for their large clusters of grapes (Num. 13:23). Samaria was the center of vineyards (Jeremiah 31: 5; Micah 1:6), and the Ephraimites were heavy wine-drinkers (Is 28:1). There were also “yayin ha-reḳaḥ” (spiced wine; Song 8:2), “ashishah” (hardened sirup of grapes), “shemarim (wine-dregs), and “ḥomeẓ yayin” (vinegar). Some wines were mixed with poisonous substances (“yayin tar’elah”; Ps 60:5). The “wine of the condemned” (“yen ‘anushim”) is wine paid as a forfeit (Amos 2:8), and “wine of violence” (Prov 4:17) is wine obtained by illegal means.

Merchant with wineskin

“The Lord gives us wine to make our heart glad,” the Psalms tell us. (Ps 104:15) Wine was a gift from God (Deut. 7:13, Ps. 104:15) and at the end of time, it would be provided in great abundance. (Jer. 31:12; Joel 3:18, Amos 9:13-14) That theme of abundance is key: bread meant life, but wine meant something extra added on to life. There was an element of luxury about it. It meant abundance, and was used in both feasting and mourning to celebrate good times (Eccles. 10:19) and to dull the pain of bad times (Prov 31:6).

Amos 9:13-14 provides vivid imagery of the importance of wine to the Jews:

13 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD,
“when the plowman shall overtake the reaper
and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed;
the mountains shall drip sweet wine,
and all the hills shall flow with it.
14 I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel,
and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine…”

God’s promise of wine would have been a symbol of salvation to the Jews. It was against this background that Jesus made wine the source of his first miracle John, and then placed it, along with bread, at the center of the Eucharistic celebration.

For the references to wine in the Old Testament, click here.

For other posts in this series, click here.


Ancient wine press

All photos from Verbum Bible Software.

Talmud and Tech


How do we respond to changes in technology that call into question how we understand and practice our faith? Perhaps the example of the rabbinic sages can offer a clue.

Daf Yomi is the practice of reading a page of the Babylonian Talmud every day in seven and half year cycles. (There are 2,711 pages.) With everyone reading the same page each day, people can discuss and learn the text in groups, something like Bible study or the breviary for Christians.

The Talmud is rich with debates over interpretations of the law and how best to observe it, and offer a mind-boggling array of questions answered with more questions and multiple answers to each problem. The debate, rather than the answer, was the heart of the process. Christians expecting Thomistic binary questions with set answers will come away sorely disappointed by the open-ended nature of most discussions.

The current cycle of daf yomi began in 2005, and is now on Tractate Shabbos. This week focuses on sections about shabbat observance in the light of new (for the time) technologies introduced to Jews by their encounter with the Romans.

Strict observance requires abstaining from any kind of labor on shabbat, which, for modern orthodox, means a prohibition on driving cars and operating elevators. Thus, many heavily Jewish areas (and all new construction in Israel) contain a shabbat elevator that runs automatically all day, saving Jews from the potential shabbat violation of pushing an elevator button.

Obviously, strict shabbat observance is not our concern as as Christians, but understanding how the Jews responded to new tech provides a fascinating window into how our “fathers in the faith” coped with new developments in the light of the law.

Adam Kirsch of The Tablet (not to be confused with dissenting UK Catholic newspaper of the same name) has a great column about the issues raised in these daf yomi readings. His main point is that understanding of the law had to develop along with technology. Here’s Kirsch on a debate found in this week’s daf yomi readings:

Much of the Talmudic discussion was focused on a kind of oven called a kirah, and dealt with the question of whether it was permissible to take advantage of a kirah’s heat on Shabbat—a matter on which several rabbis gave conflicting rulings. In Shabbat 38b, however, we learn that—just like today, with inventions like the Shabbat elevator—the prohibition on one kind of technology gave rise to clever work-arounds. If it is forbidden to cook an egg on Shabbat, the Mishnah asks, is it all right to place an egg next to a hot kettle in order to roast it slightly? What about leaving cloths in the sun to get hot and then using that heat to fry an egg, or burying the egg in hot sand?

All these methods take advantage of the distinction the rabbis draw between cooking with fire, which is prohibited on Shabbat, and cooking using the heat of the sun, which is permitted. Even so, the Mishnah rules that these techniques are prohibited, and the Gemara supplies the reasons. Cooking with a hot cloth might lead observers to think that one had used fire to heat the cloth and thus encourage them to violate the Sabbath. (This kind of reasoning, where an action is judged by its potential to mislead, is common in Talmudic discussions.) Cooking with hot sand, Rabbah similarly argues, might lead an onlooker to think that one is cooking with hot ash from a fire.

He continues with a discussion of the debate about using the aqueduct (very new tech for Jews of the 1st century). Some cold water pipes (build by Tiberias) ran through a hot spring, thus heating the water for their bath. However, other people heated their water with fire, and then lied about it by saying the water came from the canal pipe. The rabbis attempted to ban bathing in any warm water on shabbat, but the regulation couldn’t be sustained. Here’s the relevant passage from the Talmud (emphasis added):

What does the expression “transgressing” mean? As R. Simeon b. Pazi in the name of R. Joshua b. Levi, quoting bar Qapara, said: In former times the people were accustomed to bathe (on the Sabbath) in water that was warmed on Friday. The bath-keepers then began to warm the water on the Sabbath, and to tell the people that it had been warmed on Friday. Hereupon they prohibited bathing in warm water, but still they placed no restriction upon taking a sweating (in the bath-room). The people then would come and bathe, but pretend to merely take a sweating. Then sweating was also prohibited, but washing in the hot spring water of Tiberias was still allowed. The people, however, would come and wash themselves in water that was warmed by the fire and say that they washed in the hot spring water. Subsequently warm water was prohibited for bathing altogether, but bathing in cold water was allowed. Seeing that people could not stand the last prohibition, it was therefore revoked, and bathing in the hot spring water of Tiberias was allowed. The prohibition of the sweating bath, however, remained. The rabbis taught: One may warm himself by a hearth-fire and afterwards rinse himself with cold water, but not bathe first in cold water and then warm himself by a hearth-fire, because he warms the water that is on him.

 Kirsch makes an interesting observation (emphasis added):

The change came about, a Baraita explains, because “sinners proliferated.” But one might also say that this was an example of popular sovereignty in action. The rabbis function as judges and legislators for the Jewish people, but when a particular edict is rejected by the whole body of the people, their veto must stand. Is this so different from Conservative Jews insisting on driving to synagogue on Shabbat—another case when “sinners” proliferated so much that the sin became a new norm?

There’s an echo in that last line of our own struggles with artificial contraception, but unlike the Hebrew sages, the magistarium opted to resist what essentially would have been a heckler’s veto.

Obviously, the fundamental issues of life itself, marriage, sex, and God’s plan is a quite a bit more central to the human condition than using a hot spring to heat your bath water. But the two issues spring from a common issue: how does the faith understand itself in the light of new technology?

I accept the wisdom and logic of the prohibition on artificial contraception without being particularly enamored of the decision. I also accept that this reaction reflects my own limitations, not any flaws in Humanae Vitae. It’s a settled issue. As technology progress, however, similar conundrums will present themselves, and as we examine them and their solutions in the light of natural law and scripture, it may be wise to keep the example of the rabbis in mind.

Kirsch’s piece concludes with an interesting observation about the distinction between the holiness expected of a rabbinical elite, and the holiness expected of the average Jew. It’s great stuff, so read it all, but he wonders (as did the sages) if there is a hierarchy of piety, with an elite expected to keep the law perfectly, but the common man expected to keep it merely to the best of his ability.

Christians would reject this hierarchy of piety. Didn’t Jesus tell us to be “perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect”?

Jesus was quite aware that such a thing was not possible for people under the yoke of original sin, but he urged perfection on us nonetheless. Fallible humans will compromise their values quickly enough if they have a sense that compromise is allowed. By urging us to keep our eyes on the ideal–and knowing full well that sin will cause us to fall short of those ideals–he expressed a father’s confidence in the ability of his children to achieve greatness. As C.S. Lewis said,  “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”

Frank Moore Cross, Requiescat in Pace

It’s impossible to have even a cursory knowledge of the Dead Sea Scrolls without encountering Frank Moore Cross, who died last Wednesday at age 91 from complications from pneumonia. His work on Semitic languages and Canaanite myth informs a great deal of what we know about the development of Hebrew writing.

Cross retired from a long and distinguished career in 1992, but his influence never faded, and he remained an active figure in the ongoing study of epigraphy and the DSS. He was a young professor in 1953, when he was assigned responsibility for texts from Cave 4. Some of those texts remained unpublished for 40 years, drawing Cross into the controversy about the secretive nature of the original DSS team. That controversy reached a head in the early 1990s, when photographic reproductions of the scrolls were published, breaking the academic monopoly on the remaining texts.

The fruits of his work, however, were crucial to understanding the texts. In 1961, Cross published “The Development of the Jewish Scripts” based on his research, and was able to separate scrolls and fragments into three periods base don their script. This was a key development in the study of the scrolls, and although the details have been finessed over the years, Cross’s work is central to our understanding of Hebrew writing.

From the NY Times obituary:

“When you walked into his classes, you felt you were on the frontier of knowledge in the field,” said Peter Machinist, who studied under Dr. Cross as an undergraduate at Harvard and now holds the endowed professorship there that Dr. Cross had held until his retirement in 1992. “Whatever happened in the field would come to him first, before it got published, because people wanted to know what he thought.”

“The more light we can shed on crucial moments in the history of our religious community — or on the birth of Western culture, to speak more broadly — the better,” Dr. Cross said of the scrolls in the interview. “The longer and more precise our memory is, the more civilized we are.”

Dr. Cross studied culture, religion and politics of the period in which the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, was written and revised, and he traced the ways different nations and cultures had translated its early texts. He also traced the evolution of ancient script and developed expertise in dating documents by the slightest shifts in writing style.

“That we know that a particular scroll comes from 100 B.C. and not 50 A.D. is almost entirely due to the study of the scripts and their development that he worked out,” Mr. Machinist said. “That may seem like a trivial point, but if you don’t have a sense of when these texts are dated, you have no sense of their historical importance.”

Hershel Shanks, publisher of Biblical Archaeology Review, remembers his friend here, and the Harvard Crimson provides some additional comments.

I’m working from memory, but unless I’m mistaken, Dr. Cross was a practicing Christian, despite being perceived as a revisionist scholar in some quarters. It’s important to remember that tracing the roots and textual development of the Hebrew scriptures does not strip it of its sacred and inspired character. I disagree with some of his conclusions (such as the idea that we need to study OT texts through the discipline of history rather than theology: I don’t see why it has to be either/or), but there’s no question that his work deepened our knowledge of the intertestamental period, and thus provided a vital window into the soil in which Christianity would take root.