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Yet again on the unique incantation bowl BM 135563.

In a recent issue of this journal. (1) Theodore Kwasman and Christa Muller-Kessler (henceforth KMK) have redirected their attention to a Jewish Aramaic magic bowl that they published in 2000. (2) The bowl text was published independently by J. B. Sega1, (3) and then republished in a third edition by the present author. (4) The author's edition differed from that presented by KMK in both its readings and its interpretation. (5) It sought to propose a reading that required fewer theoretical emendations, (6) and the text was interpreted throughout as an "historiola" containing no allusion to a ritual as KMK had suggested. (7)

In their strongly worded article, they have addressed some of the responses to their original study and in most cases sought to justify their original interpretation. While several scholars are mentioned, the work of the present writer has merited particular attention and criticism; indeed, my name is mentioned no fewer than eighty-five times over the course of the ten pages of the article. The authors have scoured my publications in search of expressions and terminology that they dislike and presented their findings in detail. Many of them are irrelevant to the discussion of the bowl text at hand, and appear in contexts that do not relate to it in any way. The criticisms presented against my work are serious, and the conclusion suggests that it constitutes no less than "a dissolution of established scholarly practice" that threatens to "undermine the foundation not only of a proper and fair discussion but academic work in general" (p. 198).

In recent years, further parallels to the bowl text in question have come to light, and other evidence is forthcoming that may now be adduced to elucidate the meaning of the text. A new edition of BM 135563 is now in preparation by my colleague James Nathan Ford, and the information presented therein renders redundant some of the discussions that have taken place to date. Accordingly, the notes below do not address all of the topics mentioned in KMK's article, but only highlight some of the more problematic ones.

  a. KMK criticize my literary division of the BM text
  presented in Morgenstern 2004, and state:

  the reader is left in a quandary as to why sections F. F',
  and FF" are parallel. If Morgenstern's interpretation of
  the verbal forms is followed, sections F and F' cannot be
  parallel, since section F has asyndetic imperatives and F'
  perfect forms. The parallelism is only maintained when the
  verb forms are read as imperfect in F and F' as in our
  edition. F" is not parallel with F and F' at all. (p. 190)

However, grammatical parallelism is only one type of parallelism. It is apparent from the lengthy citation presented in my note 6 that the parallelism is semantic: all three sections refer to the three processes of eating, drinking, and anointing, and employ the verbs [??] and [??].

  b. KMK take particular offense at my use of "transcribed" to
  describe their rendering in Latin script of the Aramaic
  bowl text (pp. 190ff.). While it is true that in linguistic
  writing a distinction is drawn between "transliteration"
  (letter-for-letter rendering) and "transcription" (phonetic
  or phonological representation in another script), in
  studies of ancient inscriptions both terms are often employed
  in the former sense, for example, of the Amman citadel
  inscription: "The inscription may be transcribed as follows"
  (from the pen of Frank Moore Cross); (8) and of Mandaic
  literature: "It was published, transcribed in Hebrew
  characters with German translation, by M. Lidzbarski in his
  Mundaische Liturgien where it is part of prayer 75" (Jonas
  Greenfield). (9)

  KMK write (p. 191):

  And it should be noted that Morgenstern has not rendered
  our "versions" into Hebrew script but has made an independent
  transliteration of the text.

This is misleading, since in the original article, the statement "I have rendered their versions into the Hebrew script" was presented in a footnote to the heading of a section named "Previous Readings," which indeed presented their transliterations of the text.

  c. KMK state (p. 191):

  Morgenstern consistently uses the term "material" in place
  of "graphic." This usage is naturally, incorrect, since the
  two words are not interchangeable.

They are apparently unaware of the widespread use of the term "material reading" in epigraphic and palaeographic studies, for example, "J. Brian Peckham in a brilliant new study of the Nora Inscription, based on new photographs and reexamination of the stone itself, has established the material reading of the text" (Frank Moore Cross) (10) and "The material reading of a manuscript is a fairly obvious example" (Michael O'Connor) (11)

  d. KMK reject the use of the term "elision," and state
  (p. 191):

  When a phoneme is dropped in final position one speaks
  of "apocope" and not of "elision." The latter indicates
  the dropping of a vowel or syllable in medial position,
  and is not a synonym for apocope.

This is incorrect. Elision refers to the loss of phonemes in any position, and apocope is one form of elision. The formal term for the elision of phonemes in medial position is syncope. For my use of elision compare "Elision of word final /[partial derivative]/" (Geoffrey Khan); (12) and "But, with the elision of word-final nasal stops in the history of the language, present-day nasalized vowel phonemes of Standard French emerged, as seen in minimal pairs such as [bo] beau ('beautiful') and [bo] bon ('good')" (Philip Carr in a standard reference work on phonology). (13)

  e. KMK write (p. 191):

  The terms "pseudo-historical" and "non-historical" are
  incorrectly used. What Morgenstern means in these cases
  is "etymological."

Reference is made to a single page, wherein the term "pseudo-historical" does not appear, so it is unclear how "pseudo-historical" might be replaced with "etymological." Furthermore, etymology relates to the origin and subsequent history of words, whereas the terms "pseudo-historical" and "non-historical" are employed to describe how particular written forms relate to the historical development of the language.

  f. KMK reject the use of "epigraphy" to refer to texts
  written in ink on clay, favoring "palaeography" (p. 191).
  In fact, both terms are commonly employed in the scholarly
  literature, for example, "Torczyner's restoration makes
  this a w, which is excluded epigraphically" (William
  Foxwell Albright), (14) and more recently. "this reading
  in Qeiyafa is a most difficult reading epigraphically"
  (Christopher Rollston). (15)

  g. KMK write (p. 191 n. 17):

  Mandaic tends to
  assimilate prepositions like 1_, b_ to a verb, whereas
  the square script texts do not; therefore we opted for
  a non ligature transliteration.

This statement is inaccurate. The l- and b- prepositions do not assimilate to the verbs in Mandaic. They are affixed to the verbs as enclitics, causing in some circumstances the assimilation of the final consonant of the verbal base to the enclitic. (16) The present author has gathered the evidence that suggests that these prepositions were similarly encliticized in Jewish Babylonian Aramaic. (17)

h. Notes to individual lines of the text.

Line 4: KMK's interpretation of [??] in the sentence [??] as a 3 f.s. pronoun that serves as a copula is unlikely, since in the so-called tripartite sentences we do not find the "copula" pronoun in phrase initial position. (18) Moreover, it is incorrect to write: "Even Morgenstern, to wit, translates [??] as the copula 'am'"! (p. 193). In the main translation it was not rendered at all, while in the commentary it was interpreted as a presentative particle. There is no need to posit a copula, since [??] is a nominal sentence. Contra KMK (p. 193), the spelling [??] for 'heavens' is unusual, and to the best of my knowledge is attested elsewhere only in the new thematically parallel texts that will be discussed in Ford's forthcoming article. The regular form is [??].

  Line 6: KMK write: (p. 194)

  Morgenstern does not treat the verbal form [??] which
  should be emended to [??], since there is no peal stem
  attested for this verb in Aramaic.

In fact, Morgenstern 2004: 214 discussed the form in detail and sought to explain it on phonological grounds: "Segal and MKK both read as a participle, with MKK 'correcting' the reading to [??]. The form in the bowl would appear to reflect haplology or the assimilation of the participle morpheme to the first root letter." An example of the same phenomenon was adduced from a Talmudic manuscript. Since there is no m- "participle morpheme" in pe'al, the form was obviously not being ascribed to this verbal stem.

  Subsequently, KMK (p. 195) cite from an article
  of mine from 2007: (19)

  In 2007, he states in a confused footnote "Muller-Kessler
  and Kwasman slightly misrepresented his position" and then
  goes on to clarify what he meant in his earlier publication:
  "Since the form is repeated three times in this text, while
  [??] is never attested, the suggested correction would not
  appear to be justified. I have emphasized here the words in
  this text, because they touch precisely on a difference of
  approach between Dr. Muller-Kessler and me. I believe that
  each textual witness should be judged according to its own
  language, and in the bowl in question, the demon is clearly
  named [??]" In fact Morgenstern did not write: "in this text"
  in his original publication, but clearly stated that '[??]
  is never attested. Morgenstern in his retort has misquoted
  himself, naturally to his own advantage.

There are several inaccuracies in this reported statement. Firstly, in the footnote in my article in question (n. 58, quoted without a reference by KMK), the comment under discus does not relate to Kwasman, and in spite of the inverted commas, "Muller-Kessler and Kwasman slightly misrepresented his position" is not a direct quotation from that or any other work by the present author. As was clearly stated, the footnote was rather a response to C. Muller-Kessler, Die Zauberschalentexte in der Hilprecht-Sammlung, Jena, und weitere Nippur-Texte anderer Sammlungen (Wiesbaden, 2005), 142, who adduced examples from Mandaic of the demon p'qdy' and called for rejecting my statement "while [??] is never attested" without citing its wider context. Muller-Kessler's objection was misleading, since the original statement "while [??] is never attested" was made in relationship to a specific text (BM 135563), whereas Muller-Kessler's comments relate to the existence of the demon in general, which is not disputed by the present author.

Secondly, it is untrue to state that the words "in this text" were not found in the original article of 2004. The precise wording of the relevant sentence in Morgenstern 2004: 213-14 was "Since the form [??] is repeated three times in this text, while [??] is never attested, the suggested correction would not appear to be justified." In my response, I assumed that Muller-Kessler had not understood that the words "in this text" referred also to [??], and therefore italicized the words and added additional comments in order to explain my view more clearly. The footnote clearly states "I have emphasized here the words in this text" and so there is no misrepresentation. KMK's serious accusations of professional misconduct are without foundation. (20)

  KMK further assert (p. 195):

  In addition, in his original article Morgenstern noted that the
  interchange occurs in loan-words, but is actually unknown in BTA

Although KMK do not explicitly state which interchange is intended, it is apparent from the context that they are referring to the shift of q to g. However, in the original article it was stated: "Interchanges of qof and gimel are less common in Jewish Babylonian Aramaic, though not unknown, particularly in loan-words." (21) In Jewish Babylonian Aramaic, we occasionally find the shift of *q > g, as in 'short'. (22) Examples from the magic bowl corpus have been listed recently by Ford, (23) to which we may add [??] "her body" (JBA 12:8) for [??] regular Tinny (MS 2053/178:8). (24)

Line 7: In my article of 2004, the letters [??] were not interpreted as [??] 'something' as alleged by KMK (2012: 197). As the phonological reconstruction clearly indicated, they were interpreted as midd[partial derivative]- and translated 'from what', d[partial derivative]- here represents an independent relative pronoun which is the subject of the subsequent verb. Since "from that I eat" is not good English, and is also ambiguous in English, wherein "that" functions as a demonstrative pronoun, a relative pronoun, and a subordinating particle, the translation 'what' was chosen. KMK may disagree with my interpretation, but they should not ascribe to me interpretations that were not in my article.

  Line 10: KMK write (p. 197):

  The spelling [??] would be most unusual and cannot be divided up or
  arranged as Morgenstern suggests, since it would have been simplified
  to [??] on account of the weakening of the glottal stop in BTA.

Although such a simplification ([??] 'to your practitioners') is indeed attested in a thematically parallel bowl (Davidovitz 2:8, to be published in Ford, forthcoming), spellings such as [??] 'upon the roof' (b. San. 26a [Yad Harav Herzog]), [??] 'regarding land' (b. BM 66b [Hamburg 1651), and many more similar examples in Talmudic manuscripts prove that the spelling [??] in BM 135563 is neither morphologically problematic nor unusual.

Line 11: KMK reject the interpretation of [??] as a phonetic variant of [??] "let him be injured" and state (p. 198):

  This shift is common in BTA, however, in initial position and it
  cannot be automatically assumed that it is operative in final

However, they do not discuss the firm textual evidence that was adduced in Morgenstern 2005 for the existence of this secondary root in Babylonian Rabbinic sources. (25) The evidence proved that [??] as a byform of [??] is not a theoretical proposal but an actually attested usage. Mr. Yosaif Dubovick, a Rabbinic scholar living in Jerusalem, has now gathered further textual evidence for the root [??] in Talmudic citations found in mediaeval Jewish sources, and this will be presented in the forthcoming article by James Nathan Ford.

  KMK add (p. 198):

  Morgenstern assumes that the verb [??] occurs in Moussaieff 11:18 too,
  although the context is broken [??].

This is entirely incorrect; the context is not broken, and lamed was presented by the bowl's original editor, Shaul Shaked, as a textual emendation, not as a reconstruction for a missing letter. (26) Given the difficulty in distinguishing waw and yod in the scripts employed in many of the Jewish Aramaic bowl texts, Shaked's material reading allowed for the linguistic form [??]. However, reexamination of the original artifact has led me to question whether Shaked's material reading is correct, and it seems more likely that the form is question is to be read [??]. See Fig. 1.


KMK have made serious allegations of professional misconduct and incompetence that go far beyond the normal bounds of academic disagreement over the interpretation of ancient texts. These allegations are based upon biases regarding the use of terminology and, more seriously, claims of misleading citation. As has been shown above. KMK's article itself contains a misleading presentation of the discussion, and undermines the "foundation of a proper and fair discussion." While I regret the polemical style espoused by KMK, I am pleased that the JAOS is a medium in which scholarly exchanges can be furthered.

(1.) C. Muller-Kessler and T. Kwasman. "Once Again on the Unique Incantation Bowl BM 135563," JAOS 132 (2012): 189-98.

(2.) C. Muller-Kessler and T. Kwasman. "A Unique Talmudic Aramaic Incantation Bowl." JAOS 120 (2000): 159-65. C. Muller-Kessler, "Die Zauberschalen des British Museum," Archiv fur Orientforschung 48/49 (2001/2): 129 presents identical readings and the comments there are entirely in line with Muller-Kessler and Kwasman 2000. Accordingly, my previous statement, "The same interpretation is reflected in Muller-Kessler's review of Segal's volume" (Morgenstern 2004: 207 n. 1), which is characterized in KMK 2012, n. 2 as "a complete distortion." is entirely accurate.

(3.) J. B. Segal, Catalogue of the Aramaic and Mandaic incantation Bowls in the British Museum (London, 2000).

(4.) M. Morgenstern, "Notes on a Recently Published Magic Bowl," Aramaic Studies 2 (2004): 207-22, and idem, "Additional Notes to the Aramaic Magic Bowl BM 135563," Aramaic Studies 3 (2005): 203-5.

(5.) Naturally a new edition should build upon the work of its predecessors, but it is inaccurate to describe my work of 2004 as "actually a revised version of our text edition" as KMK (2012: 189) have done.

(6.) KMK's edition proposes eighteen theoretical additions and corrections to a text of twelve lines. Thus the observation that they made "many textual emendations" is an accurate description of their edition.

(7.) It is thus inaccurate to state "[t]he few suggestions made by Morgenstern do not change the general understanding or judgment as to the character of the text" (p. 189). The interpretation proposed was different in many places, in particular with regard to the literary structure of the text. It was demonstrated that Aramaic [??], does not mean 'scatter', hence the text does not contain an allusion to the scattering of flour found in Akkadian apotropaic rituals as KMK had claimed. It is also highly irregular for the editors of the editio princeps of an epigraphic text to determine when a new edition may be produced.

(8.) "Epigraphic Notes on the Amman Citadel Inscription," BASOR 193 (1969): 17.

(9.) "A Mandaic 'Targum' of Psalm 114," in Studies in Aggadah, Targum and Jewish Liturgy in Memory of Joseph Heinemann, ed. J. Petuchowski and E. Fleisher (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1981), 23.

(10.) "An Interpretation of the Nora Stone," BASOR 208 (1972): 13.

(11.) "Discourse Linguistics and the Study of Biblical Hebrew," in Congress Volume: Basel, 2001, Vetus Testamentum Supplements, vol. 92 (2002), 41.

(12.) The Neo-Aramaic Dialect of Barwar (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2008), 120.

(13.) A Glossary of Phonology (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press, 1988), 163.

(14.) "The Oldest Hebrew Letters: The Lachish Ostraca," BASOR 70 (1938): 17.

(15.) "The Khirbet Qeiyafa Ostracon: Methodological Musings and Caveats," Tel Aviv 38 (2011): 76.

(16.) Th. Noldeke, Manddische Grammatik (Halle, 1875), 225ff.

(17.) "Jewish Babylonian Aramaic and Classical Mandaic--Some Points of Contact," Leshonenu 72 (2010): 458-65 (Hebrew). Muller-Kessler appears to be unfamiliar with the precise meaning of the linguistic terms assimilation and dissimilation, since elsewhere she describes the form [??] 'young men' as "a dissimilated spelling of [??]" See C. Muller-Kessler, "More on Puzzling Words and Spellings in Aramaic Incantation Bowls and Related Texts," BSOAS 75 (2012): 6. In the same article, the form [??] for [??] "against me" is described as being an example of "[assimilated variants and calques from translations of other Aramaic dialects."

18. Compare G. Goldenberg, "On Syriac Sentence-Structure," in Arameans. Aramaic and the Aramaic Literary Tradition, ed. Michael Sokoloff (Ramat Gan, 1983), 102-6.

(19.) "On Some Non-Standard Spellings in the Aramaic Magic Bowls and Their Linguistic Significance," Journal of Semitic Studies 52 (2007): 245-77.

(20.) My colleague James Nathan Ford informs that he has found evidence for a demon named in a similar enumeration of demons in a Syriac bowl. The emendation thus becomes even less necessary.

(21.) Morgenstern 2004: 214.

(22.) M. Sokoloff, A Dictionary of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic (Ramat-Gan, 2002), 271.

(23.) J. N. Ford, "A New Parallel to the Jewish Babylonian Aramaic Incantation Bowl IM 76106 (Nippur 11 N 78)," Aramaic Studies 9 (2011): 265.

(24.) M. Morgenstern, "Linguistic Features of the Texts in This Volume," in S. Shaked, J. N. Ford, and S. Bhayro, Aramaic Bowl Spells: Jewish Babylonian Aramaic Bowls, vol. 1 (Leiden, forthcoming).

(25.) Morgenstern 2005 is cited in the article as "Additional Notes" without further bibliographical reference.

(26.) S. Shaked, "The Poetics of Spells. Language and Structure in Aramaic Incantations of Late Antiquity. 1: The Divorce Formula and Its Ramifications," in Mesopotamian Magic, Textual, Historical and interpretative Perspectives, ed. T. Abusch and K. van der Toorn (Groningen: Styx Publications, 1999), 188.


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Author:Morgenstern, Matthew
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Essay
Date:Jan 1, 2013
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