Reinhard Achenbach offers a collection of studies on the redactional composition of the Pentateuch, the history of institutions, on concepts of international law, and the rights of foreigners in the scribal tradition of Judah during the Second Temple Period in the Persian Empire (539–333 B.C.E.). He examines the changes in theological ideas, priestly institutions, sacral rules, and purity law in the tension between the pursuit for religious autonomy in the community and Jewish monotheism’s claim of universal significance.
The book of Ezra is a remarkable testament to a nation’s ability to survive and develop a distinctive identity under imperial rule. But Ezra is far more than a simple chronicle; it constitutes a new biblical model for political, religious, and social order in the Persian Empire.
In this new volume, Tamara Cohn Eskenazi illustrates how the book of Ezra envisions the radical transformation that followed reconstruction after the fall of Jerusalem and Judah. The extensive introduction highlights the book’s innovations, including its textualization of the tradition, as well as the unprecedented role of the people as chief protagonists. The translation and commentary incorporate evidence from ancient and contemporaneous primary sources from Egypt, Babylonia, Greece, and Persia, along with new archaeological studies of Judah. With great care and detail, Eskenazi demonstrates how the book of Ezra creates a blueprint for survival after destruction, shaping a new kind of society and forging a new communal identity.
Vicente Dobroruka explores Iranian influence on Second Temple Judaism, providing a new explanation of Persian culture and history in the context of biblical accounts by focusing on the spread of Zoroastrian ideas in the period c.300 BCE–200 CE.
Dobroruka begins his investigation with an overview of the problems posed by a dualistic worldview-he examines the Indo-European origins of Zarathushtra and his ideas, explores the long-term implications for the notion of free-will, and clarifies the lightness/darkness paradigm that originated in Persia. Following this, Dobroruka discusses a variety of concepts that illustrate this influence, such as the role of matter and the material world, aspects of dualism and the cosmic struggle, the perspectives on the rewards for the just and the opposing punishments for the wicked, the idea of an ‘Anointed One’, shamanistic visionary experience, the resurrection, and the concepts of Sheol and Paradise.
The Edict of Cyrus, both opening Ezra-Nehemiah (Ezra 1:1-4) and closing Chronicles (2 Chron. 36:22-23), serves a different role in each book. In Ezra–Nehemiah, it is a command resulting in a restoration event that has failed, whereas in Chronicles it is a command anticipating a successful future restoration event. In the context of canon, these different uses of the edict are theologically significant, especially in formulating ideas of hope for the future in Chronicles.
While Chronicles is aware that a historical restoration transpired sometime in the past (1 Chron. 3:19-24; 9:2-44), it shares the sentiment of Ezra–Nehemiah, that the return was something of a failure. Through compositional analysis, Gilhooley argues that the edict closing Chronicles portrays the true, or rather, complete restoration not as a past event to be reflected upon but rather one to be anticipated sometime in the future—at a time when Israel was expected to see the establishment of a new glorified temple, political independence, release from servitude, and the blessings of new creation and of new cultic order.
Reading Chronicles as the last book of the Old Testament in accordance with various Jewish witnesses, we find that the edict is transformed into a programmatic conclusion to the canon. Accordingly, the eschatological return to Zion and reconstruction of the temple appear to be dominating concerns of the canonical editors. These verses that bring to an end both Chronicles and the Old Testament as a whole may also be read in dialogue with canon-conscious structural markers elsewhere and, therefore, could be formative in constructing a canonical theology.
In the last two decades, increasing numbers of texts have been suggested as coming from or edited during the Persian period, but these discussions do not always reflect extensively on the assumptions used in making these claims or the implications on a broader scale. Earlier generations of scholars found it sufficient to categorize material in the biblical books simply as “late” or “postexilic” without adequately trying to determine when, by whom, and why the material was incorporated into the text at a fixed point in the Persian period. By grappling with these questions, the essays in this volume evince a greater degree of precision vis-a-vis dating and historical context. The authors introduce the designations early Persian, middle Persian, and late Persian in their textual analysis, and collectively they take significant steps toward developing criteria for locating a biblical text within the Persian period.
Today we are accustomed to thinking of the Bible as a single entity, i.e. as ‘the Bible’, a well-defined corpus containing a set number of books. In late antiquity and in the Middle Ages, however, the situation was much more fluid. This fluidity showed itself not only in the fact that parts of the Bible would often circulate independently, but also in that Bible texts were often known in vernacular languages both in direct translations, but also in interlinear glosses and poetic paraphrases. It is in this context that the Unified Gospel is to be seen. Unifications of the gospel texts are often called Diatessaron (through the four), and, although this name has not been used for the Persian text presented in this book, it can still be seen as belonging to the Diatessaron tradition.
The Unified Gospel presented here was compiled in Persian by a certain Armenian who calls himself Yahyā Ibn Ayvaz-e Tabrīzī-ye Armanī. The actual time of the compilation cannot be determined from the existing manuscripts. The main manuscript for this edition is kept in the National Library and Archives of Iran. It was finalized on 9 Rajab 1111 A.H. (corresponding to 31 Dec. 1699) by a scribe named Khusraw, son of Bahrām. Other manuscripts, which are introduced in detail in the Persian introduction, have also been taken into account in this edition. In addition to the actual Gospel texts, there are numerous exegetical comments by the compiler, which are of great value for a deeper understanding of how the text was interpreted in former times. The language also shows certain archaic features, both in the vocabulary and the syntax, which indicate that the original work most likely dates to pre-Safavid times.
It is not entirely clear for whom this Unified Gospel in Persian was produced. The compiler finds that the people of his time had turned away from God and instead sought worldly affairs, spending their time reading stories and poems full of deceit and darkness instead of reading the Gospel. The Gospel was not available to them in Persian, a language of which they had better knowledge than the languages into which the Gospels had already been translated. This was the reason why the compiler/translator undertook the work which resulted in the present manuscript, which is particularly valuable due to the large number of comments to the Bible text added by the compiler.
Despite the many advances that have taken place in our understanding of the Hebrew Bible’s Old Iranian terminology, the donor terms of several words have remained elusive. Among them is Biblical Aramaic אֲדַרְגָּזַר (Dan. 3:2–3). Proposed Old Iranian etymologies for this word suffer from various phonological and semantic difficulties, rendering them unlikely. This paper proposes that Biblical Aramaic אֲדַרְגָּזַר is best derived from *ādrangāžara- ‘announcer of financial obligation’, a compound of *ādranga- ‘financial obligation’ and *āžara- ‘announcer’. A derivation from Old Iranian *ādrangāžara- adequately explains the form of Biblical Aramaic אֲדַרְגָּזַר. Furthermore, this etymology also suits the context well in that אֲדַרְגָּזַר occurs just prior to גְּדָבַר ‘treasurer’ and therefore falls logically within the progression from political administration to finances to law evident in the lists of Nebuchadnezzar’s officials (Dan. 3:2–3).
This volume is the third and final part of a trilogy devoted to Titus of Bostra’s Against the Manichaeans. The first part, the critical edition of the remains of the Greek text and of the complete Syriac version as well as of the excerpts from the Sacra Parallela attributed to John Damascene, appeared in 2013 as volume 82 in the Series Graeca of the Corpus Christianorum. The second part, a French synoptic translation of the Greek and the Syriac, was published in 2015 as volume 21 in the Corpus Christianorum in Translation series. The main objective of the present inventory is to make available to specialists and all those interested the rich Biblical and Manichaean documentation used by Titus of Bostra in his refutation. With the exception of the Contra Faustum of Augustine, Titus of Bostra’s Against the Manichaeans is indisputably the most extensive Christian refutation of Manichaeism. Titus’ work is also a goldmine of information on the Manichaean doctrine and a valuable source for the history of the text of the Old and New Testament in Greek and Syriac. The fact that the manuscript of the Syriac version is not only very ancient but also precisely dated (to November 411) adds to its value as a witness of the Syriac biblical text.
Pehlivanian, Meliné, Christoph Rauch & Ronny Vollandt (eds.). 2016. Orientalische Bibelhandschriften aus der Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – PK. Eine illustrierte Geschichte. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag.
The volume presents an illustrated history of the Oriental Bible Manuscripts from the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. It includes discriptions of the manuscripts which are among the oldest and most fascinating items in the Oriental Collection of the State Library of Berlin. The overwhelming majority of the manuscripts presented here come from the very cradle of the Abrahamic religions. The texts range across more than 1,500 years of Christian and Jewish history in the Near and Middle East and Africa, from Late Antiquity to the 19th century.
They are written documents which have, not least, also left
traces in the Islamic tradition. Another concern of the volume is to allow readers insights into the extremely extensive and varied collection of Oriental manuscripts in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, whose outstanding treasures are in many cases only known to specialists in the field. The biblical texts, written on leather, parchment, papyrus, and paper bear witness not only to the complexity of the religious and theological traditions, but also impressively document the diversity of materials to be found in the Oriental manuscript culture, and not least the artistic achievements of the “Peoples of the Book”.
Some most related chapters of this book regarding the Iranian Studies are:
Dennis Halft OP: “The ‘Book of Books’ in Persian” (pp. 150-154)
Dennis Halft OP: “A Persian Gospel Manuscript and the London Polyglot” (pp. 155-157.)
Desmond Durkin-Meisterernst: “A Middle Persian Pahlavi Psalter-Fragment in the Berlin Turfan Collection” (pp. 114-116).
Simone-Christiane Raschmann: “Christian Texts from Central Asia in the Berlin Turfan Collection” (pp. 105-113).
Friederike Weis: “Illustrated Persian Tales of the Prophets (Qis.as. al-anbiyāʾ) (pp. 163-172).
The 22 essays in this new and comprehensive study explore how notions of covenant, especially the Sinaitic covenant, flourished during the Neo-Babylonian, Persian, and early Hellenistic periods. Following the upheaval of the Davidic monarchy, the temple’s destruction, the disenfranchisement of the Jerusalem priesthood, the deportation of Judeans to other lands, the struggles of Judeans who remained in the land, and the limited returns of some Judean groups from exile, the covenant motif proved to be an increasingly influential symbol in Judean intellectual life. The contributors to this volume, drawn from many different countries including Canada, Germany, Israel, South Africa, Switzerland, and the United States, document how Judean writers working within historiographic, Levitical, prophetic, priestly, and sapiential circles creatively reworked older notions of covenant to invent a new way of understanding this idea. These writers examine how new conceptions of the covenant made between YHWH and Israel at Mt. Sinai play a significant role in the process of early Jewish identity formation. Others focus on how transformations in the Abrahamic, Davidic, and Priestly covenants responded to cultural changes within Judean society, both in the homeland and in the diaspora. Cumulatively, the studies of biblical writings, from Genesis to Chronicles, demonstrate how Jewish literature in this period developed a striking diversity of ideas related to covenantal themes.