“A boat against the current.” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s phrase aptly applies to Frank Moore Cross, the recently retired Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages at Harvard University. In an age of ever increasing academic specialization, Cross remains a resolute generalist. Many a scholar would be content to master just one of Cross’s numerous fields of expertise: biblical history, the decipherment and dating of ancient texts, history of religion, the development of the biblical canon, ancient languages and cultures, the development of the alphabet, the Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology on both land and sea, historical geography—the list could go on. Shortly before his retirement, Cross met with BR editor Hershel Shanks for a wide-ranging interview. The result was so rich that it will constitute three articles. In the first installment of “Frank Moore Cross—An Interview,” the focus of the conversation is Israelite origins, especially Cross’s contention that the earliest members of what was later to become Israel lived in the the land of Midian after having fled Egypt—not in the Sinai peninsula as is popularly supposed. Cross describes how this ancient memory of Midianite roots embedded itself into two of the strands that make up the Pentateuch—preserved in a positive light in one strand and in a negative one in the other. Cross also explains how contradictory viewpoints can be incorporated within the biblical tradition. Parts Two and Three of the interview—to appear in our October and December issues—will focus on Israelite religion and on the development of the alphabet.
Cross serves on BR’s Editorial Advisory Board and is the author, among numerous books and articles, of The Ancient Library at Qumran and Modern Biblical Studies (Baker Book House, rev. ed. 1980) and Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (Harvard Univ. Press, 1973).
The Copper Scroll is the stuff of romance. Made of extremely thin copper sheet rather than the usual leather or papyrus, written in a script and language unlike any found in the other Dead Sea Scrolls and filled with information guaranteed to excite the most jaded tabloid reader, the Copper Scroll seems like something from the pages of The Arabian Nights. The scroll gives the quantities and hiding places of a vast treasure, thought by some scholars to be imaginary and by others to be real, perhaps even from the Temple treasury. Finding the treasure is difficult, however, because many of the landmarks are, unknown and because seven groups of two or three Greek letters still puzzle scholars; readers may try their hand at them in this issue. P. Kyle McCarter, Jr. leads an armchair treasure hunt in “The Mysterious Copper Scroll—Clues to Hidden Temple Treasure?”
McCarter is the William Foxwell Albright Professor of Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of BR’s sister magazine, Biblical Archaeology Review. A popular speaker at Biblical Archaeology Society seminars, McCarter’s many publications include commentaries on 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel in the Anchor Bible series, published by Doubleday. He is currently preparing for publication a new edition and translation of the Copper Scroll using state-of-the-art photographs prepared by Bruce Zuckerman whose work is explained in the sidebar entitled “Photographing the Copper Scroll.”.
What lessons can be learned about how to survive in exile from a magic fish and a murderous demon? Quite a bit, says Amy-Jill Levine in “Tobit: Teaching Jews How to Live in the Diaspora.” The Book of Tobit is contained in the Apocrypha, a group of books found in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bibles, but not in the Hebrew or Protestant canon. On one level an exciting adventure of a young man’s leaving home guided by the angel Raphael in disguise, Tobit contains guidelines for how to maintain Jewish identity while in the hostile environment of the Babylonian exile.
Levine, who teaches at Swarthmore College, is the editor of “Women Like This:” New Perspectives on Jewish Women in the Greco-Roman World (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1991). Outside academia, Levine enjoys her two children, ballroom dancing and old movies.
Believe it or not, circumcision is not necessarily forever. At times—especially during the first century A.D., when Greek culture dominated much of the ancient world—005circumcision was scorned and became a handicap for those Jews who wished to participate fully in a civic life that included such customs as public bathing and nude sports. Some Hellenized Jews resorted to an operation described by Robert G. Hall in “Epispasm—Circumcision in Reverse.” The willingness of some first-century Jews to reverse circumcision exemplifies the diversity of views that contributed to the early Church’s debate on whether circumcision should be required of Gentile converts to Christianity.
Hall first researched epispasm in connection with his studies on Pseudepigraphic writings. His paper “Epispasm and the Dating of Ancient Jewish Writings” (Journal for the Study of Pseudepigrapha, 1988) was one of the first modern articles on the subject. An assistant professor of religion at Hampden-Sydney College in Hampden-Sydney, Virginia, Hall teaches biblical studies and the history of Christianity. He is the author of Revealed Histories: Techniques for Ancient Jewish and Christian Historiography (Sheffield, 1991).
“A boat against the current.” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s phrase aptly applies to Frank Moore Cross, the recently retired Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages at Harvard University. In an age of ever increasing academic specialization, Cross remains a resolute generalist. Many a scholar would be content to master just one of Cross’s numerous fields of expertise: biblical history, the decipherment and dating of ancient texts, history of religion, the development of the biblical canon, ancient languages and cultures, the development of the alphabet, the Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology on both land and sea, historical geography—the list could […]