Journal of Jewish Studies 71/2 (2020)
This article focuses on the social and professional contexts of the producers of Jewish Aramaic incantation bowls. Based on the vast amount of legal terminology deployed in the bowls, as well as a reference to bowl writers as ‘writers of books’ in bowl AMB6, I argue that bowl scribes were part of a professional guild of scribes (soferim) that engaged in a variety of forms of Jewish writing. Furthermore, I suggest that the scribal context of the practitioners of the magic bowls was different from the professional context of the contemporaneous corpus of Jewish metal amulets. Identifying the unique Sitz im Leben of the bowls reveals that for Jews in Sasanian Babylonia the line between magic, law and religion was not rigid, and perhaps non-existent. Further work on the context of ancient Jewish magic may therefore lead to new perceptions of ancient Jewish society.
Sonja Noll, "In pursuit of a hapax: divergent interpretations of the root s-k-t," 255-268
A shift occurred in the lexicographical tradition of the hapax legomenon הַסְכֵּת (Deut. 27:9) between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. The hiphil imperative had previously been understood to mean ‘listen’ or ‘pay attention’, a tradition reflected in the Targumim, Peshitta, Vulgate, Aquila and early dictionaries. With the introduction of Arabic cognate evidence into Hebrew dictionaries in the seventeenth century, however, the meaning ‘be silent’, from the Arabic cognate سكت, began to appear in entries for this root. Dictionaries also began to include the translation σιώπα, ‘be silent’, from the Greek Septuagint, and eventually the gloss ‘be silent’ replaced ‘listen’ in bilingual biblical Hebrew dictionaries. The difference in meaning is minor, but this case study serves to illustrate the striking influence of cognate scholarship on the development of biblical Hebrew dictionaries.
Reuven Friedman, "A tale of two baraitot: the Western Galilee borders of the rabbis in archaeology and texts," 269-296
The purported border of Jewish settlement in the Western Galilee is identified in two separate tannaitic texts, each referring to the ̔Akko–Akhziv road. One text cites this road as the western border of Jewish settlement, while the other cites the same road as the eastern border. The border of Jewish settlement is also described in another rabbinic text, also discovered in the Reḥov synagogue excavations. This text is inconsistent with the texts referring to the ̔Akko–Akhziv road. Archaeologists give priority to the Reḥov inscription and dismiss the contradictory texts as a scribal error. Talmudic scholars validate the authenticity of the apparently contradictory texts using critical textual analysis, but leave the apparent contradictions unresolved. This article uses archaeological evidence in conjunction with a critical review of the texts to resolve the apparent contradiction, proving that the rabbinic texts authenticated by Talmudic scholars are consistent with the Reḥov inscription.