Meetings 2005


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Winter Meeting 2005 (abstracts)

at the Manor House, University of Birmingham under the presidency of Professor Grahame Auld

Professor Graeme Auld (Edinburgh): Voices from the Past (Presidential Address)
This lecture is available for download here with all pictures (Voices: beware, large file of c. 4MB), or without them (Voices, text only).

Dr Yvonne Sherwood (Glasgow): Reading Backwards: Early and Medieval Christian Amplifications of Sarah’s ‘Voice’

Dr Craig Ho (Hong Kong): The Book of Genesis in the Holiness Code

Dr Kieran Heskin (Leeds): Qoheleth’s God

Revd Roger Tomes (Manchester): ‘Scripture its own Commentator': A History and Evaluation of Cross-Reference Bibles

Dr Timothy Lim (Edinburgh): The Book of Ruth and its Literary Voice

Professor Philip Davies (Sheffield): What Is ‘Minimalism’ and Why Do So Many People Dislike It?

Professor Thomas Römer (Lausanne): Israel’s Sojourn in the Wilderness and the Construction of the Book of Numbers

Dr Martin O’Kane (Lampeter): Visualizing The Man of Sorrows: Artistic Understandings of Isaiah 53

Summer Meeting 2005 (abstracts)

at Pollock Halls of Residence, University of Edinburgh

Professor Bernard Jackson (Manchester): Human Law and Divine Justice in the Methodological Maze of the Mishpatim, Or: Why Is God Interested in Goring Oxen?

Professor Hans Barstad (Oslo): Has a Paradigm Shift Taken Place in Old Testament Studies?

Dr David Reimer (Edinburgh): The Quality of Mercy: Law and Forgiveness in the Hebrew Bible

Professor Kirsten Nielsen (Aarhus): Metaphors and Biblical Theology

Dr Charlotte Hempel (Birmingham): Maskil(im) and Rabbim: From Daniel to Qumran

Published as: ‘Maskil(im) and Rabbim: From Daniel to Qumran’, in C. Hempel and J. M. Lieu (eds),
Biblical Traditions in Transmission: Essays in Honour of Michael A. Knibb (JSJSup 111; Brill: Leiden), 2006, 133-56.

Dr Diana Lipton (Cambridge): Bezalel in Babylon? Anti-Priestly Polemics in Isaiah 40-55

Ms Kristin Joachimson (Tromsø): Steck’s Five Stories of the Servant in Isaiah 53, and Beyond

Professor Terje Stordalen (Oslo): Dialogue and Dialogism in the Book of Job

Dr Elie Assis (Bar-Ilan): The Unity of Lamentations

Dr Anne Gardner (Melbourne): Decoding Daniel: The Four Beasts of Daniel 7 with the Second Beast in Close Focus

Dr Edgar Conrad (Brisbane): Looking into Vision: See-sawing in Prophetic Books

Abstracts

Winter Meeting 2005

Professor Graeme Auld (Edinburgh): Voices from the Past (Presidential Address)

This address excerpted from some of the near 800 letters and cards sent to Professor Norman Porteous by colleagues and friends over some 80 years, now in New College in the care of Edinburgh University Library. Ten of the correspondents quoted had been or would be Presidents of SOTS: Archibald Kennedy, Adam Welch, David Winton Thomas, Alfred Guillaume, Aubrey Johnson, Godfrey Driver, Christopher North, John Mauchline, Gwynne Henton Davies, and James Barr. Rather fuller attention was paid to six of Porteous’s large circle of overseas colleagues: Otto Eissfeldt, Albrecht Alt, Martin Noth, Gerhard von Rad, Walther Eichrodt, and Rudolf Bultmann. He had met several of these at the International Congress of Old Testament Scholars in Göttingen in 1935. The lecture was illustrated by a few portraits and facsimiles of some of the correspondence.

Full lecture with all pictures (Voices: beware, large file of c. 4MB), or without them (Voices text).

Dr Yvonne Sherwood (Glasgow): Reading Backwards: Early and Medieval Christian Amplifications of Sarah’s ‘Voice’

Contrary to prevailing stereotypes, pre-modern interpretation can sometimes be freer than its contemporary counterparts in ethical critique of biblical texts. An inviolable frame, in which God and the text incontrovertibly are, leaves pre-critical interpreters paradoxically freer to adopt a more vulnerable and experimental mode of writing within the frame. Responding to scripture as writing, and using all the resources of writing in order to do so, ancient Jewish and Christian interpretation teaches us that Abraham’s sacrifice is neither straightforwardly fulfilled nor straightforwardly negated. Rather, Genesis 22 affirms that Abraham would have sacrificed, and sets up an indelible act of testimony in the conditional or subjunctive tense. This in turn, opens up the possibility of scripting a counter-subjunctive, which ‘happens’ only as surely (or un-surely) as the sacrifice ‘happens’. Critique can be ‘expressed’, as it were safely, by exploring what Sarah would have done or said. By looking at examples from ancient Syriac interpretation and medieval morality plays, the paper explored how much was once risked in the hypothetical speeches of Sarah. Because the sacrifice has not yet turned potentially anthropocentric, and so tragic, ancient Christian Sarahs ‘say’ much more than in modern interpretation to date.

Dr Craig Ho (Hong Kong): The Book of Genesis in the Holiness Code

In the so-called Holiness Code, the laws prior to Leviticus 19 and after Leviticus 20 are thematically arranged, while those in Leviticus 19–20 (with the exception of the laws dealing with illicit sexual incidents reported in Genesis which are grouped together in Leviticus 20:1–21) show repetition and are not related to each other. On the one hand, this paper affirmed Calum Carmichael’s proposal that the laws in Leviticus 19–20 are responses to narratives in the Hebrew Bible, but on the other hand, it disagreed with his view on where the lawgiver got his inspiration — mainly from the Jacob story and the Joseph story in Genesis, sometimes from Judges and Samuel­Kings. Where one can agree with his explanations for the link between a law and a proposed narrative, a similar if not more appropriate narrative can sometimes be found earlier on in Genesis. The alternative hypothesis put forward in this paper is that the legislator of Leviticus 19–20 responded to the book of Genesis and formulated pertinent laws as he read from Genesis 1 more or less chapter by chapter until the end of the book. For example, the Sabbath commandment is mentioned twice (Leviticus 19:3, 30) because the world is created ‘twice’ — once in Genesis 1 and then in the flood story (Genesis 6–9). Between them are laws that can be linked to narratives between the two ‘creation’ stories. Thus, the laws against stealing and lying (Leviticus 19:11) are responses to the stealing of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden and Cain’s lie to Yahweh when asked about the whereabouts of his brother. The law that forbids partiality in judgment (Leviticus 19:15) is a response to Yahweh’s (problematic) protection of Cain upon his complaint about the harshness of the judgment he received. The last law in Leviticus 20:27 on the death penalty for mediums and wizards is directed to Joseph the diviner (Genesis 44:5, 15).

Dr Kieran Heskin (Leeds): Qoheleth’s God

Part one dealt with God’s activity, which—more than his attributes—is the subject of Qoheleth’s attention. This activity is mainly depicted as endogenous, arbitrary, incomprehensible and unchangeable. Even in the few instances where it is depicted as reactive, it is not depicted as warm, protective, or loving. The emphasis placed on endogenous divine activity inevitably highlights God’s sovereignty and superiority to man and leads to a cold depiction of God. The various limitations that God has placed on the human condition further contribute to the cold theological atmosphere of the book. Part two regarded the book of Ecclesiastes as marking a stage of development rather than a break with Old Testament thought. It is rooted in the tradition that produced Job and Proverbs. It also seems to have been greatly influenced by the first chapters of Genesis. Part three saw Qoheleth not only as a critical thinker but also as a man of faith, who appreciated both aspects of God’s dealings with his creatures: the endogenous aspect and the reactive aspect. He depicts them side by side without making any effort to reconcile the difference between them or to resolve the problem of determination and free will.

Revd Roger Tomes (Manchester): ‘Scripture its own Commentator': A History and Evaluation of Cross-Reference Bibles

In 2003 Oxford University Press published a cross-reference edition of the NRSV. The paper traced the history of cross-reference Bibles in English from the invention of printing and the first vernacular translations, through the various Oxford and Cambridge editions of the King James Bible, to the 1898 edition of the Revised Version, with glances at the work of independent compilers such as John Canne, John Brown of Haddington and the Bagster Comprehensive Bible. It investigated the motivations of the various compilers and the kind of references they supply. The new Oxford edition of the NRSV was compared with its main present-day competitors: the editions with the references originally compiled for the Harper / Eyre & Spottiswoode Study Bible, and the NIV cross-reference edition / NIV Study Bible. Some reservations about the value of cross-reference Bibles were considered, particularly the charge that they perpetuate an understanding of the Bible as prophecy and fulfilment.

Dr Timothy Lim (Edinburgh): The Book of Ruth and its Literary Voice

By a study of the speeches in the book of Ruth, this paper further explored the intriguing line of research on the literary voice of the book. It began by examining Richard Bauckham’s gynocentric hermeneutics, Mary Lefkowitz’s gendering of classical literature, and Athalya Brenner and Fokkelein van Dijk-Hemmes’ theory of the F (feminine/female) and M (masculine/male) voice in the Hebrew Bible. Arguing for a more precise definition of ‘voice’ as speech in Ruth, the paper then showed that the focus of the narrative is primarily determined by dialogue between Naomi, Ruth and Boaz, as well as the minor figures of Orpah, the women of Bethlehem, all the people of the gate and the elders, the anonymous redeemer, the male harvesters (but not the female gleaners), and the young male overseer. The conclusion drawn was that the voice of the book of Ruth, as far as gender is concerned, is balanced between female and male.

Professor Philip Davies (Sheffield): What Is ‘Minimalism’ and Why Do So Many People Dislike It?

‘Minimalism’ is widely presented as a radical approach, and has been subjected to often quite vicious attack. The paper argued that although there was no ‘minimalist’ or ‘revisionist’ school, a number of scholars shared the same ideas because these ideas were a logical extension of many trends in biblical scholarship generally. ‘Minimalism’ was largely created by fundamentalist-conservative groups and by those wedded to biblical archaeology who are alarmed at the threat it poses to their hold on popular understanding of the Bible and wish to try and distance these views from ‘mainstream’ biblical criticism. The extreme language in which the discussion is often couched should remind biblical scholars of the sharpness of the threat that it faces from external constituencies, aided by an alarming ignorance on the part of the public about what it is that we do and why; and should also warn us not to flinch from the implications of our own work. We should understand how far ‘minimalism’ is, far from being a radical assault on traditional practice, a mainstream position that is securely embedded in the long history of the discipline, and, whether or not in the end its conclusions are accepted, forms an intrinsic component of current discussion about the origin and nature of the biblical literature.

Professor Thomas Römer (Lausanne): Israel’s Sojourn in the Wilderness and the Construction of the Book of Numbers

The present debate on the Yahwist and the link between the Patriarchs and Exodus reveals that it is very difficult to maintain the idea of a pre-priestly document which would have constituted a Proto-Pentateuch of a sort. The debate on the extension of the original Priestly document allows the postulation that the original had its conclusion at Sinai (Exodus 40 or Leviticus 9). The consequence is therefore that neither the so-called Yahwist nor the original Priestly document contains a narrative strand that comprises the whole Pentateuch. This paper suggested that, at the beginning of the process which led to the formation of the Torah, there was a priestly ‘Tritoteuch’, which covered the narrative from the creation of the world to the installation of Israel’s worship, and the book of Deuteronomy, related to the Former Prophets. This means that the book of Numbers was created during the Persian period in order to integrate the latest texts of the Torah. The few wilderness narratives in the book of Exodus were originally positive accounts, revealing the same ideology as the allusions to the wilderness in Hosea and Jeremiah. This view is also represented by the priestly document. Post-priestly redactors transformed these positive accounts in Exodus 15-17 into stories of complaint. The invention of a ‘cycle of rebellion’ in the book of Numbers presupposed this transformation and radicalized the negative view of Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness. This was shown through an analysis of Numbers 11 and 12. Numbers 11 reveals the concerns of post-exilic charismatic prophecy; Moses is presented in a somewhat ambiguous way; and prophecy can exist without his mediation. Numbers 12 presents Moses as the incomparable mediator between Yahweh and Israel to whom the priestly as well as the prophetic functions are clearly subordinated. The author of Numbers 12 tries to correct ideas expressed in Numbers 11, in responding directly to the main assertions of the foregoing chapter. Despite their ideological differences, all texts in Numbers 11-20 agree on the idea that Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness was a time of ongoing rebellion. In this sense Mary Douglas is certainly right to claim that the book of ‘Numbers complements the other books [of the Pentateuch] by presenting a coherent mythic background for Judah’s political situation after the exile’.

Dr Martin O’Kane (Lampeter): Visualizing The Man of Sorrows: Artistic Understandings of Isaiah 53

The paper offered an appreciation of the Servant Song of Isaiah 53 through its visual imagery. Its starting point was the analysis of the poem by David Clines (I, He, We, and They [JSOT Supplement 1], 1976), who argued that the poem is essentially about modes of seeing the servant. The perspective of Hans-Georg Gadamer - the merging of the horizons of author, text and reader - applied to the relationship between painting and viewer (Truth and Method, 1973) facilitates a range of interpretations as to the role and mission of the servant; in this paper, a particular aspect of Gadamer’s hermeneutical aesthetic was highlighted, namely his notion that each visual instance of a (biblical) subject matter provides a coming forth (Darstellung), an epiphany, in the life of the viewer. Thus each instance of Isaiah 53 offers a distinctive and original interpretation of the poem and extends the nature of the subject matter itself. Three paintings were used to illustrate the argument: The Man of Sorrows by Andrea Mantegna (figurative), Still Life with Open Bible by Vincent van Gogh (non-figurative) and The Tale is Told that Shall Be Told by Patrick Hall (abstract). The horizons of the artists together with their distinctive interpretations of Isaiah 53 help illumine the mindset of the author of the poem and underline the important role of the viewer in intepreting and appropriating it.

Summer Meeting 2005

Professor Bernard Jackson (Manchester): Human Law and Divine Justice in the Methodological Maze of the Mishpatim, Or: Why Is God Interested in Goring Oxen?

The history of the Mishpatim of Exodus 21:1-22:16 is often seen as a movement from secular to covenantal law. But what evidence is there of an original secular legal system in ancient Israel? This paper argued that the metaphor of divine justice served as a means to remedy some of the institutional weaknesses of secular law. In this context, we may distinguish different forms of divine justice: direct, institutional, charismatic and delegated. Charismatic divine justice (guiding the intuitions of royally appointed judges) appears to have been the earliest form, followed by institutional divine justice, whereby religious officials consulted the deity through specialised means such as the oracle, leading finally to delegated divine justice (through the revelation of covenantal law), the form in which the divine metaphor finally returned to its human source and remedied its institutional weaknesses. A similar model may be used to explain the growth of jurisdiction. Finally, some examples were considered of the impact of the transition from customary ‘Wisdom-Laws’ to covenantal law on the meaning attributed to the content of the laws: why did God become interested in goring oxen?

Professor Hans Barstad (Oslo): Has a Paradigm Shift Taken Place in Old Testament Studies?

Major changes in the humanities during the last third of the 20th century led to a shift from ‘historicism’ to ‘textuality’, as well as to completely new and different views of the role of the reader when it comes to creating meanings in texts. Other, related important developments followed the raised hermeneutical awareness in the wake of the publications of philosophers like Gadamer and RicÏur. It has been claimed, following Kuhn, that biblical studies have undergone major changes during recent decades. However, it represents a major over-simplification to claim that biblical studies have gone through any radical changes. The truth is rather that the ways and methods of biblical scholarship have changed very little, and that much of what is going on in the field must be characterized as fundamentally rooted in historicist categories and mentalities of the 18th and 19th centuries. It will be a major task for the future to replace Gunkel’s genres with new ways of relating text-internal reality to text-external reality. In addition to familiarity with classical Hebrew, genre knowledge represents the most important asset to present-day students of the Hebrew Bible who want to change the field in accordance with recent developments in academia.

Dr David Reimer (Edinburgh): The Quality of Mercy: Law and Forgiveness in the Hebrew Bible

Law and forgiveness are usually considered to be incompatible, so in what ways does it make sense to talk about biblical law in relation to forgiveness, or forgiveness in terms of biblical law? The strategy taken in this paper was to look for cues in current legal theory, much as literary theory has been suggestive for readings of biblical narrative or poetry. Three strands were developed. First, the seminal work of Jeffrie G. Murphy and Jean Hampton (Forgiveness and Mercy [Cambridge University Press, 1988]) was described. Their association of forgiveness with foreswearing resentment points towards such elements in biblical law (e.g. the lex talionis, or aiding an enemy, in Exodus 23:3-4). The second strand attends to punishment theory, since punishment is often thought to preclude forgiveness. Here, biblical evidence remains difficult to square with forgiveness, in spite of nuancing capital punishment formulae. The observation that punishment pertains to perpetrators, while forgiveness belongs to victims, points to a third strand. ‘Restorative justice’, especially as developed by Howard Zehr (Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and Justice [Herald Press, 1990]), takes a victim orientation and places resolution of crimes in a personal or community context. Among other texts, Exodus 21:18-19, the law concerning men who quarrel, was read with such a legal framework in mind. While the task of relating forgiveness to biblical law remains problematic, attempts to make such a connection in modern legal theory suggest that the project is not futile, and that the ‘restorative justice’ framework in particular holds promise for further thought.

Professor Kirsten Nielsen (Aarhus): Metaphors and Biblical Theology

Studies in personal and non-personal metaphors have provided the background for the presenter’s interest in Biblical Theology. This paper dealt with two non-personal metaphors: Yahweh as a lion and Yahweh as a rock. Both metaphors were analyzed in their literary context, where it is clear that Yahweh is described not only as a lion but also as a shepherd and as a pasture for Israel; and not only as a rock that Israel can rely on but also as a rock that gives birth (cf. Mother Earth). The point of origin was therefore the images of God in the Bible, with emphasis on the plural (images), but it was also noted that images have a history: they can be reapplied with the possibility of new meaning, since an image does not contain an a priori fixed meaning. Biblical Theology, in the presenter’s view, therefore consists of studies in central Old Testament metaphors and their reuse in the New Testament. The following definition of Biblical Theology was put forward: ‘Biblical Theology is a construction that is based on the premise that together the Old and New Testaments constitute a unity in the use of the Christian Church.’

Dr Charlotte Hempel (Birmingham): Maskil(im) and Rabbim: From Daniel to Qumran

This paper addressed the much-discussed issue of the relationship of the book of Daniel to the Dead Sea Scrolls. The standard textbook account of the relationship of the Maskilim in Daniel 11-12 and the Qumran community runs as follows: the Maskil appears as a key community functionary in the sectarian scrolls and the community itself which he leads has adopted the designation ha-rabbimrepresenting an institutionalization of the terminology we find in Daniel. The paper argued that the evidence is more complex than often portrayed, and offered a fresh assessment of the Maskiltraditions in the Community Rule that takes into account the complex literary history of this text. This individual appears in a number of different contexts, some universalistic, others with rudimentary communal requirements, and a third group of texts that are quite developed and employ Yahadterminology. In addition the Maskil is found in headings throughout the Community Rule manuscripts and must have been an authority figure both in a number of early traditions and at the point of the Endredaktion of the manuscripts. The closest points of contact between these traditions and the Danielic Maskilim are found somewhere along this line of development, probably near but not at the beginning.

Dr Diana Lipton (Cambridge): Bezalel in Babylon? Anti-Priestly Polemics in Isaiah 40-55

Religious practitioners are notoriously preoccupied with the details of their own religion, yet uninterested in the internal dynamics of others. An apparent Hebrew Bible exception is the author of Deutero-Isaiah’s anti-idol polemics (40:18-20; 41:6-7; 44:9-20; 46:1-7), who seems to engage in detail with Babylonian religion. This paper suggested that Deutero-Isaiah’s primary target was not Babylonian idol-makers, but Israel’s priestly cult. Moshe Weinfeld (Tarbiz, 1968) noticed polemical allusions in Deutero-Isaiah to Priestly texts in Genesis. The present paper identified a second set, concentrated in and around Deutero-Isaiah’s idol texts and alluding to the tabernacle narratives (Exodus 25-31 and 35-40). Given the difficulty of determining that allusions are real and intentional, eight guidelines were offered - six semantic and two theoretical - and the examples were organised accordingly. It was suggested that Deutero-Isaiah’s criticisms of idolatry function as veiled polemics against the Priestly worldview, whose material focus was incompatible with his notion of transcendence. A particular concern was the prediction of future events. For Deutero-Isaiah, divine intentions are revealed not through signs in the external world or human representations of it, but through the historical experiences of a personified Israel. The paper tried to show that he emphasises this contrast by reshaping Exodus patterns in the light of mis pî, the Babylonian mouth-washing/opening ritual for ‘enlivening’ idols (see, e.g., Isaiah 41:17-20). Deutero-Isaiah’s God, then, is not quite beyond compare. Counter-intuitive as it may seem, God is like a Babylonian idol-maker with a difference: Israel is his living idol.

Ms Kristin Joachimson (Tromsø): Steck’s Five Stories of the Servant in Isaiah 53, and Beyond

Since the arrival of Bernhard Duhm’s Servant Song thesis in 1892, that thesis has had a paradigmatic status for more than a century. Gottesknecht has become a technical term, Ebed-Jahwe-Lieder a genre, Stellvertretung an established theological concept, and ‘Servant Song Research’ a particular discipline within Old Testament scholarship. The present paper made use of Odil Hannes Steck’s reading. Steck outlines an inner-Isaianic reception of the ‘songs’ in five levels dated from the time of Second Isaiah to the Ptolemaic period (that is, from 539 to 270 BCE). In the original version, he identifies the servant mentioned outside the ‘Servant Songs’ collectively as Israel, whereas the servant within the ‘Servant Songs’ is identified individually as the prophet. On the remaining four redactional levels, the servant of Isaiah 53 is collectively identified as Zion, as those who have returned from exile, as those who remained at home in Judah, and as the true Israel (which includes other peoples). After a presentation of Steck’s reading of Isaiah, the paper discussed features of reading related to historicisation, theologisation, and textualisation, as well as the increased attention brought to different forces at work in the text and in the reading of it, where a variety of possible focuses has come to the fore. Finally, a narrative reading of Isaiah 53 was offered, with a focus on the literary trope of personification.

Professor Terje Stordalen (Oslo): Dialogue and Dialogism in the Book of Job

Recent scholarship has applied elements of Mikhail Bakhtin’s criticism and philosophy to reading the book of Job. This paper attempted to identify specific elements of Dostoevsky’s poetics (as described by Bakhtin) to Job. First, it was briefly argued that there are several prima facie similarities between Dostoevsky and Job. Secondly, three elements in Bakhtin’s poetics are more fully described in the book of Job: (1) a non-hierarchical representation of characters (ideas) and their voices; (2) the nature of voices in Job, and the way of interrelating them; (3) a non-narrative dimension of the book. In the course of this argument it was claimed that the voice of tradition is perhaps the most conspicuous ‘other’ to which characters in Job make their ‘sideward glance’ (Bakhtin). The paper also claimed that certain characters (in particular Job) represent several mutually incommensurable voices (ideas). It also argued that the author devised certain overarching dialogical topics, on which every character in the book speaks (including the narrator, Hassatan and Mrs Job).

Dr Elie Assis (Bar-Ilan): The Unity of Lamentations

The book of Lamentations includes five poems that lament the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple in 587 BCE. Each of the five poems is clearly defined by the acrostic form that governs it. This paper discussed the unity of the book, making a necessary distinction between unity of authorship and literary unity. Differences in content, historical background, style and metre indicate multiple authorship to some scholars, while for others similarities between the poems in vocabulary, themes, structures and Jeremianic characteristics prove single authorship. This paper suggested that the differences between the laments cannot prove multiple authorship, because a single author may choose to adopt various styles. Similarly, uniform characteristics cannot prove single authorship because conventional styles may be adopted by various composers. While the question of unity of authorship is not crucial for an understanding of the book, the question of the literary unity of the book is a precondition for its comprehension. Is the book a collection of poems that deal with one topic, or are the poems a single literary unit? Is each of the poems a self-contained and complete composition or one component of a larger literary unit? The second option is established if it can be demonstrated that the poems are placed in a pre-planned order. Scholars have discovered that the poems are organized in a concentric structure: the first poem corresponds to the fifth, the second corresponds to the fourth, and the third is the pivot of a formation. Scholars who have adopted this pattern tend to believe that it is the work of the editor of the book. This paper sought to establish that every pair of poems is tied by means of exclusive themes, motifs, and vocabulary. These interconnections indicate that the book is not a collection of poems but an integral literary piece.

Dr Anne Gardner (Melbourne): Decoding Daniel: The Four Beasts of Daniel 7 with the Second Beast in Close Focus

A number of aspects of Daniel 7:5 have proved puzzling to scholars, and these cannot be resolved until the source of Daniel’s imagery of the four beasts is discovered. Further, conservative and critical scholars assign the second beast a different identity: Media and Persia in the former case and Media in the latter. While not sharing the presumptions of conservative scholars, this paper recognised that their claim that the second beast should be identified with Media and Persia is logical, for these two powers are identified as one composite beast in Daniel 8:20. Previous theories regarding the source of Daniel’s vision include the Enuma Elish or related texts; Canaanite mythology; Egyptian, Greek and Iranian mythology; astrology; treaty curses; Mesopotamian birth omens; the Assyrian ‘Vision of the Netherworld’ and ancient Near Eastern iconography. These were rejected as a primary source because none of them accounts for the descriptions of all four beasts. The Bible as a source has been suggested before but generally either in a perfunctory way (i.e. where an individual biblical verse is reminiscent of a particular detail in Daniel) or in terms of one individual text as the background to the vision of Daniel 7 (e.g. Psalm 89). Neither of these approaches explains the choice of beasts or the detailed descriptions of them. John Day’s suggestion that Hosea 13:7-8 lies behind the choice of beasts was accepted, although it does not account for their individual features. A close examination of the second beast illustrated that the Bible is indeed the source of the vision in Daniel 7. Isaiah 13:5, which predicts the downfall of Babylon, was the author’s starting point. Key phrases in that text led to other biblical texts which are alluded to in Daniel 7:5 and account for the detailed description of the bear, identified as both Media and Persia, and its activities. This, is turn, indicates the need to review the identities of the third and fourth beasts.

Dr Edgar Conrad (Brisbane): Looking into Vision: See-sawing in Prophetic Books

This paper took another look at vision in the Latter Prophets, arguing that the paucity of vocabulary of English words for ‘seeing’ tends to obscure the richer Hebrew vocabulary for ‘vision’ in the Old Testament. The different ways of seeing in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos and Zechariah, which have all been understood as ‘vision,’ tend to singularize a more plural set of realities of experiencing the alien world constructed by the community who produced the Hebrew prophetic scrolls. To dismiss the ‘vision of Isaiah’ as information of a late redactor is to ignore significant information for the reader of that scroll. To understand the ‘visions of God’ only as something Ezekiel sees is to overlook that Ezekiel is seeing what God is seeing. To interpret the visions of Jeremiah and Amos as typical of the prophets is to take no notice of the extraordinary claims they make about what they have seen. A central key for comprehending these different ways of seeing is the temple, which is an important feature for gaining perspective on what Zechariah sees at night.

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