Meetings 2006


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Winter Meeting, January 2006 (abstracts)

Winter Meeting, 4th-6th January 2005, at the Manor House, University of Birmingham under the presidency of Professor Robert Hayward.

Professor Robert Hayward (Durham): Presidential Address: Targum, Biblia Hebraica Quinta, and Jewish Biblical Interpretation (presidential paper)

Dr Jeremy Corley (Durham): Biblical Allusion and the Characterization of Judith

Dr Sarah Pearce (Southampton): Philo and the Greek Bible: Egyptian Atheism and Nile Veneration

Mr Renato Lings (Birmingham): The Fusion of ‘Knowing’ and ‘Rape’: A Critical Reflection on Judges 19

Dr Helen Leneman (Rome): Music as Midrash: The Love Duets of Ruth and Boaz

Dr Walter Moberly (Durham): The Mark of Cain — Revealed at Last?

Dr Willem Smelik (London): Adam in Eden: Notes on the Complexity of Scriptural Interpretation in the Talmud

Professor Nicolas Wyatt (Edinburgh): Og and his Ilk

Dr Stuart Weeks (Durham): The Limits of Form Criticism

Dr Robert Murray (London): How Was Jerome So Convinced that Rachel Died in Springtime?

Summer Meeting 2006 (abstracts)

Mr Edward Ball (Nottingham): ‘Seeing’ and ‘Believing’ in Habakkuk 2:4

Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou (Exeter): Bones, Burials and Boundaries in the Hebrew Bible

Dr John Job (Chesterfield): Does the Ghost of Zerubbabel Haunt the Pages of Jeremiah

Professor Karl William Weyde (Oslo): Characteristics of Prophecy in the Second Temple Period

Dr Tomas Frydrych (Falkirk): The Legislative Function of Narrative in the Pentateuch: A Case Study

Dr Edmée Kingsmill (Oxford): ‘Flee, My Beloved, and Be Like a Gazelle or a Young Hart’ (Canticles 8:14)

Professor Doron Mendels (Jerusalem): Did People in the Hellenistic Period and Beyond Believe in Their Pasts?

Dr David Shepherd (Belfast): ‘Strike His Bone and His Flesh’: Reading Job 2 from the Beginning

Dr Jennifer Dines (Cambridge): Greek Daniel’s Debt to Isaiah — but which Isaiah?

Professor Joseph Blenkinsopp (Notre Dame): The Sealed Book of Isaiah 29:11-12

The meeting included the symposium: Where Are Hebrew Bible Studies Today and Where Are They Going?

Dr Katharine Dell (Cambridge)

Dr Hugh Pyper (Sheffield)

Dr Adrian Curtis (Manchester)

Abstracts

Winter Meeting, January 2006

Professor Robert Hayward (Durham): Presidential Address: Targum, Biblia Hebraica Quinta, and Jewish Biblical Interpretation (presidential address)

Recent publication of the first fascicle of Biblia Hebraica Quinta containing the Megilloth allows a preliminary assessment of the editors’ engagement with the Targumim. In general, these editors show familiarity not only with the most recent critical editions of Targum texts, but also with the latest advances in research into Targumic genre, translation techniques, and exegetical comprehension of the Hebrew text they seek to expound. Consequently, the critical apparatus in BHQ Megilloth is replete with references to Targum, which massively outnumber such references in earlier critical editions of the Hebrew Bible. While some of the editors’ evaluations of Targumic readings in individual verses might be challenged (for example, descriptions of methods of dealing with divine titles as ‘indeterminate’ renderings of the Hebrew), decisions to include so much Targumic material may generally be justified. In particular, the apparatus of BHQ allows the student immediate access to points where Targumic material appears to agree with Hebrew readings extant in Qumran biblical manuscripts, which agreement can be of crucial significance not only for text-critical purposes; and the juxtaposition of Targumic translations with those of other versions, not at all easily obtainable from earlier editions of the Hebrew Bible, permits a relatively straightforward reconstruction of Jewish exegesis of the passages in question. Given the nature of the Megilloth, the editorial decision to include a measure of traditional Jewish interpretation of the books may prove far-sighted and imaginative.

Dr Jeremy Corley (Durham): Biblical Allusion and the Characterization of Judith

Although the book of Judith is a Hellenistic-Jewish novella rather than a Greek tragedy, Aristotle’s theory of characterization can usefully be applied to shed light on the portrayal of Judith’s character. Much of the characterization in the book of Judith is achieved through allusion to biblical models. Judith herself resembles heroic female figures from Israel’s history (Miriam, Jael, Deborah, Esther). She also exhibits similarities to male Israelite leaders (Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel). After discussion of the characterization, the paper considered whether the book was written to glorify Queen Alexandra Salome, who reigned 76-67 BCE in Jerusalem.

Dr Sarah Pearce (Southampton): Philo and the Greek Bible: Egyptian Atheism and Nile Veneration

The works of Philo of Alexandria have great potential as an entry into the world of first-century Alexandria and its religious life. Because of the nature of the very fragmentary documentation and buried archaeology for this period in Alexandria’s history, it is remarkably rare to have — as we have in Philo — an insider witness to that world. This paper focused on Philo’s construction of the veneration of the Nile and activity which, like Egyptian animal worship, Philo associates with the unprecedented title of ‘the Egyptian atheism’ (ἡ Αἰγυπτιακή ἀθεότης). Perhaps because what he says about the Nile is found mainly in one of his most neglected works (De Vita Mosis), there seems to have been little discussion of Philo’s attitude to the veneration of the Nile. Compared with what we know of earlier traditions about Nile veneration, however, Philo’s view looks very original — in both a Graeco-Roman and a Jewish context. Taking his starting point from passages in the Greek Pentateuch (the birth of Moses, the first plague, and the half-Egyptian blasphemer), Philo evaluates Nile veneration as the expression of materialist atheism, marking a clear boundary between the practices of Judaism and practices opposed to it.

Mr Renato Lings (Birmingham): The Fusion of ‘Knowing’ and ‘Rape’: A Critical Reflection on Judges 19

From the outset Judges 19 has been a text of terror. In biblical times it served as a scathing attack on Saul and his tribe Benjamin. Post-biblical interpreters have used it against gay men, and in recent decades it has been reread by feminist scholars. This paper addressed a major linguistic problem in the pericope 19:22-25. The role of the Hebrew verb ידע ‘to know’ is under-researched. According to the current consensus, ידע is to be taken in a sexual sense. Two other verbs in the same passage clearly describe sexual violence: ענה ‘to oppress, humiliate’ (19:24) and עלל ‘to abuse, make sport of’ (19:25). This raises a major question: does ידע lose the connotation of ‘knowing’ in a context of sexual violence? Put differently, is it justified to make ‘knowing’ interchangeable with ‘rape’? The paper examined the approaches taken to ידע by thirty-two contemporary English Bible versions. Only one-third retains the notion of ‘knowing’ in their renderings while two-thirds opt for sexual terminology. Within the latter group more than half turns ידע into an active carrier of violence in 19:25, and five do so in 19:22. The brutality of the context seems to have impacted upon the translators. They have lost sight of the fundamentally non-violent nature of ידע in the Qal Conjugation. The Hebrew verbal paradigm admits intensification of ידע, cf. וידע in 8:16 (Hiphil, possibly ‘taught’). However, transforming a peaceful verb operating in the simple Qal Conjugation into an agent of violence is difficult to justify from a linguistic perspective.

Dr Helen Leneman (Rome): Music as Midrash: The Love Duets of Ruth and Boaz

The extensive amount of dialogue in the scroll of Ruth makes it very adaptable to dramatic and musical treatment. The librettist and composer may use several approaches to a biblical text: altering particular passages; juxtaposing several different biblical passages; using non-biblical texts as commentary on the biblical text; specifically highlighting individual words or phrases by various musical techniques. All of these approaches are seen in Ruth oratorios and operas. Investigation of a dozen musical works based on the scroll of Ruth reveals that each librettist reflected his own preconceptions and agenda by omitting, expanding, or altering scenes found in the scroll. Some librettos foreground the Ruth–Boaz relationship; others, the Ruth–Naomi friendship. The composers reinforced these choices with a range of musical techniques. The thesis was presented that music can be considered midrash because it retells the story in a different language. Music has the power not only to read between the lines of a text and fill in the gaps, but to create an inner world of the heart and mind. While librettos fill in various gaps from the original story, the music continually, but wordlessly, fills in the gaps of how people are feeling and reacting. One significant alteration found in many musical settings of the scroll of Ruth is the addition of a love interest between Ruth and Boaz, represented by a love duet. The paper described this gap-filling midrash in the librettos and music of several works, illustrated with short musical excerpts.

Dr Walter Moberly (Durham): The Mark of Cain — Revealed at Last?

Most interpreters of Genesis 4:15 assume that the text does not specify the nature of Cain’s mark, so that one must make intelligent guesses. The thesis of this paper was that the mark is specified within the biblical text, and is the words of the LORD addressed to Cain: ‘Whoever kills Cain will suffer sevenfold vengeance’. There are three prime reasons for this. First, the preposition depicting the relation of the mark to Cain is not ‘al, which would be the idiom for a bodily mark (cf. Deuteronomy 6:8, Ezekiel 9:4), but le, which implies that the mark is non-corporeal, ‘for’ Cain. Secondly, the LORD, though addressing Cain, says ‘whoever kills Cain…’ rather than ‘whoever kills you…’, which implies that the LORD is using words that will be spoken about Cain by others. Thirdly, the idiom kol-horeg is an idiom naturally implying a plurality of agents (cf. kol-makkeh-nephesh, Numbers 35:15, 30); if a plurality of killings of Cain is envisaged, then Cain here represents a group of whom he is the eponymous ancestor. This group’s fearsome reputation is specified by the LORD to be that which protects them. It is suggested that the LORD speaks thus because Cain embodies over-reaction (the preferential treatment of Abel receives killing, killing receives multiple killing). His situation can be seen in the light of Genesis 4:7 to be consumed by sin and resentment, an archetypal degradation of human life. Contemporary appropriation of the LORD’s mark/sign to Cain might best think in terms of its intensification by Lamech (Genesis 4:24) and its inversion by Jesus (Matthew 18:22).

Dr Willem Smelik (London): Adam in Eden: Notes on the Complexity of Scriptural Interpretation in the Talmud

In tractate Sanhedrin of the Babylonian Talmud we find four traditions attributed to Rav Yehudah in the name of Rav, about the First Adam. These four traditions follow loosely in the wake of an extensive discussion of Adam’s creation in Sanhedrin, triggered by the claim in Misnah Sanhedrin that man was created alone. Whilst they are introduced by a mnemonic marker, it is not at all obvious what these four traditions are doing here, and why they are here instead of somewhere else. They prompt the questions whether they belong together at some level and how they fit in with the Bavli’s deployment of scriptural interpretation. The importance of foreknowledge for the rabbinic act of interpretation emerges from the brief way in which the interpreted text is quoted; a word is enough to the wise. Without chapter and verse numbers, a reference was not easy to find. Written texts were not always around. Scrolls had to be rolled forth and back, hence did not lend themselves easily to explain Scripture by Scripture; anyone wanting to participate in the debate would need a memorised version of the Torah. Ready knowledge of any biblical verse is only a first requirement to follow the intricacies of the discussion; any scholar would also need a thorough knowledge of traditional exegesis on the one hand, and of halakhic concepts and terminology on the other hand. Sages quoted from a vast array of traditions, and selected those parts which proved useful for their arguments. In many instances, the relevant part of the reference is not even quoted, but must be supplemented to make sense of the argument. The Talmud is not, by default, a commentary of the Bible, taking its cue from biblical verses; rather, it follows its own logic which determines the selection of quotations. The Torah, then, would circulate, and so would its interpretation, and interpretative traditions and motifs lent themselves to be reused in new discursive contexts. An example of such reapplication of traditions may well be found in Sanhedrin 38b, where we find four traditions about the First Adam attributed to Rav Yehudah in the name of Rav. These short passages demonstrate how richly layered and allusive the interpretation of Scripture in the Talmud can be. In many quotations, what has not been said is at least as important as what has been stated explicitly. And even where verses are stated explicitly, their interpretation is brief to the point of being esoterical. But the series of interpretations in Sanhedrin 38b were not a cardboard box of indexes turned upside down on the face of the page. Here we have a midrash in four parts, commenting upon the creation of humanity in the light of m. San. 4.5, and humanity’s solitary creation in particular. It carefully explores humanity’s creation in the image and likeness of God, touching upon sensitive issues, all along retaining the universalistic implications of the First Adam.

Professor Nicolas Wyatt (Edinburgh): Og and his Ilk

The biblical Og, king of Bashan, is an elusive legendary figure, repre¬senting the past swept aside as Israel enters into its allotted territories. Talmudic sources tell us that he was a survivor of the flood. The additional information we have about him, that he was ‘the last survivor of the Rephaim, who reigned in Ashtarot and Edrei’, points us to the Ugaritic texts, which speak of the god Rapiu ‘reigning in Athtarat and ruling in Edrei’, suggesting that Og and Rapiu are to be seen as one original person. The latter serves as the eponym of the Rapiuma, a community of divinized dead kings involved in the Ugaritian royal cultus. They are known collectively as ‘the assembly of Ditanu’. Following clues which lead in two directions, to the Ditanu or Didanu who appears in the Assyrian and Babylonian royal genealogies, and to Greek tradition, where the flood-hero Ogygos, a reflex of Og, was a king of the Titans and founder of Thebes, we can reconstruct a hypothetical biography of Og. Now seemingly reduced somewhat dismissively to human and royal status in the Bible, he appears rather to have been originally of divine status, one of the primordial gods, indeed the embodiment of the primaeval cosmic ocean. Thus the war against him appears to have been a version of the Chaoskampf tradition.

Dr Stuart Weeks (Durham): The Limits of Form Criticism

Increasingly, form criticism is being called on to serve as an interpretative, literary-critical tool, rather than as the essentially diachronic, historical method which it was originally designed to be. It is true that many of the presuppositions which informed early form criticism have been brought into question, especially with regard to assumptions about the relationship between oral and written materials. The approach has also faced practical difficulties, both in terms of faulty application and, more fundamentally, in dealing with the transfer of forms to secondary contexts. As an approach to historical questions, however, there is a theoretical legitimacy in the form-critical emphasis on extracting and delineating ‘basic forms’, even if it offers informed speculation more often than secure data. When transferred to the literary-critical sphere, however, this approach aligns form criticism with classic, Aristotelian assumptions, the serious limitations of which have long been recognised by literary theorists. The re-application of form criticism in this way involves a confusion of aims and categories which does few favours either to form criticism or to any serious study of genre and convention in the biblical texts.

Dr Robert Murray (London): How Was Jerome So Convinced that Rachel Died in Springtime?

The account of Rachel’s death in Genesis 35:16-20 and Jacob’s reminiscence in Genesis 48:7 both use the word כברת followed by ארץ. The only other instance is in 2 Kings 5:19. Both parsing and meaning of כברת are ancient ‘cruces’. The contexts in Genesis and 2 Kings suggest that it is a spatial term, implicitly a short distance. Rashi affirms this, and probably all subsequent exegetes and translators agree. Yet before him, the Peshitta alone has a spatial term, the Syriac form of ‘parasang’; the LXX translator simply floundered. A temporal interpretation of כברת, specifically evoking spring, is first urged by Jerome. In Hebraicae Quaestiones in Genesim he argues for ‘a choice time’ (as if related to בחר), and explains this as ‘springtime’; in his version of Genesis he gives this both times. He cites no rabbinical authority for this, but could have found it in Palestinian targums and in tannaitic readings cited in Genesis Rabba. The fragment targums, Targum Neofiti and Targum Pseudo-Jonathan all have, in the place of כברת, either אישון or אשון, which refer to a special time, like καιρός. A Genizah fragment inserts (perhaps by metathesis?) בוכרה, ‘first fruits’, and this seems to lead the way to the dicta in Genesis Rabba alluding to Song of Songs 2:11 and the spring barley harvest (with a hint of Naomi and Ruth?). The paper was followed by a poetic expansion of Jacob’s words, inspired by the hauntingly emotive power of the ‘springtime’ theme.

Summer Meeting 2006

Mr Edward Ball (Nottingham): ‘Seeing’ and ‘Believing’ in Habakkuk 2:4

After some initial comments on the critical and interpretive questions raised by the book, and the nature of the ‘difficulty’ they express for reading and responding to Habakkuk as a (scriptural) text, especially in the setting of academic biblical studies, the textual problems of 2:4 (especially v. 4a) were considered, and the thematic and syntactical links of vv. 4 and 5 noted. A new proposal for the textual reconstruction of v. 4a and consequently for the interpretation of the whole line was then offered. The significance of this understanding was examined, first in its immediate context alongside vv. 1-3, where particular attention was given to the nature of this passage, to the sense of the divine command in v. 2, and to the ‘identification’ of the ‘vision’ spoken of, before considering briefly the wider context within the book. After some brief observations on the interpretation of v. 4b, an outline, exploratory theological reflection on the verse, in the light of the suggested reconstruction and its larger context, was tentatively proposed.

Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou (Exeter): Bones, Burials and Boundaries in the Hebrew Bible

Archaeological and anthropological studies suggest that within traditional societies graves or other mortuary symbols might serve to mark the boundary of a given place or to signal ownership of a territory. As such, the marking and maintaining of boundaries is often closely associated with ancestor veneration. This paper explored the ways in which traces of this traditional form of marking boundaries are reflected in the Hebrew Bible. It was argued that some of the ritual and ideological dimensions of this practice are particularly prominent in three key traditions: Jacob and Laban’s territorial agreement (Genesis 31:43-54), in which symbols and practices associated with cults of the dead serve to signal the division and possession of land; Josiah’s burning of bones at Bethel (2 Kings 23:15-20), in which the ancestral pedigree and protection of the hated Bethel cult is wiped out; and Abraham’s purchase of the burial ground at Machpelah (Genesis 23:1-20), in which Israelite distinction and separation from the Hittites and their territory is artfully articulated.

Dr John Job (Chesterfield): Does the Ghost of Zerubbabel Haunt the Pages of Jeremiah?

After stating by way of introduction a conviction that there really was a historical figure called Jeremiah, although the book contains much important later redaction, the suggestion was made on the basis of Jeremiah 22:24-30 that this passage bears evidence of (a) an early stage of development which manifests a hostile attitude to the monarchy; (b) a second stage, which could reflect enthusiasm for restoration of the monarchy at the time of Zerubbabel; (c) a third stage, when this revision was vehemently rebutted; and (d) in the light of Jeremiah 33:24-26, a final swing of the pendulum, not even represented in the Septuagint, again evincing strong hopes of restoration for the Davidic line.

Professor Karl William Weyde (Oslo): Characteristics of Prophecy in the Second Temple Period

Continuity between post-exilic and pre-exilic prophecy occurs in words and visions as a medium of divine communication. Connecting themes are, e.g., Yahweh’s presence in the Temple, Jerusalem as the centre of pilgrimage of all nations, and messianic hopes expressed for a descendant of David (Zerubbabel). Ethical demands, too, are in several respects similar to those of the pre-exilic prophets. There are changes, however, in post-exilic prophecy: messengers are presented as interpreters of words and visions, and messianic expectations are connected to the high priest Joshua whereas Zerubbabel fades. The priest becomes Yahweh’s messenger (Malachi 2:7). The increasing importance of the priests appears also in Malachi 1:1, where the term ‘my messenger’ probably refers to a cultic figure interpreting traditions. This view can be substantiated by the occurrence of משא in Malachi 1:1 and Zechariah 9:1; 12:1, since, in Chronicles, the term is applied to different kinds of spiritual activities carried out by priests and Levites, including teaching and exposition of the law. Prophecy changed, but did not decline. The change is probably due to the termination of kingship, and to an increasing literary activity, and also to the fact that words of the pre-exilic prophets were confirmed by the Exile and became reliable guides for the future. Thus, prophecy in the Second Temple period took on more the nature of exegesis of earlier authoritative words. However, prophecy in the old sense did not completely disappear; Chronicles relates ad hoc prophetic utterances by figures who were affected by the spirit (רוח) of Yahweh/God.

Dr Tomas Frydrych (Falkirk): The Legislative Function of Narrative in the Pentateuch: A Case Study

Law gains its significance from the way in which a community makes use of it, and this significance can depart far from that suggested by the semantic meaning of the legislative utterance — the significance of law does not reside in what the law says, but in what the community says about the law, the narrative context it creates around it. The command to observe the Sabbath in the two biblical accounts of the Decalogue, while virtually identical in wording, gains radically different significance by its juxtaposition with the creation narrative on the one hand, and the story of deliverance from Egypt on the other; in one, the law becomes a primary eternal principle for humans to submit themselves to, in the other a divine gift in the midst of Israel’s history, a secondary response to existing human need — it is impossible to speak meaningfully of the Sabbath, and by implication of any law, without reference to a narrative context. Narrative contexts are, however, arbitrary, and law can, therefore, only function by a conventional association with a specific narrative context. This raises serious questions about any attempt to reconstruct the significance of the biblical legal system which does not pay attention to the narrative that the legal material is embedded in.

Dr Edmée Kingsmill (Oxford): ‘Flee, My Beloved, and Be Like a Gazelle or a Young Hart’ (Canticles 8:14)

At Canticles 2:9 the female states: ‘My beloved is like a gazelle or a young hart’. At 2:17 she exhorts him: ‘Be like a gazelle or a young hart’. And at 8:14 she commands him: ‘Flee, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or a young hart’. This final verse has baffled commentators from earliest times. But if, as this commentator thinks, the Song is the apex of the wisdom literature, and is charged with messianic expectation; and if the clue to these animals lies in the four references in Deuteronomy which pair them and allow them for food (12:15, 22; 14:4-5; 15:22), then the female may here be the heavenly Sophia sending the Beloved into the world to be its food. That a Messiah is born in Beth Lechem, laid in a manger, and in due course claims ‘whoever eats me will live because of me’ (John 6:57; cf. the claim Wisdom makes at Sirach 24:21) is not understood to demonstrate the poet’s prescience but is seen as the realization of his understanding of Wisdom as food. Both the male and the female in the Song are thus seen to represent Wisdom: the female as earthly and heavenly Wisdom, the male as sent forth to be Wisdom incarnate.

Professor Doron Mendels (Jerusalem): Did People in the Hellenistic Period and Beyond Believe in Their Pasts?

The paper had four themes: the relationship of societies, groups and individuals to their past; an attempt to classify modes of use of antiquity in Antiquity; the junctures at which people use the past in Antiquity; and the agents that transmitted antiquity in Antiquity. The conclusion was that in the Hellenistic period and beyond, we find various kinds of strategies concerning the use of the past that operate alongside each other. If we examine attitudes towards the past in groups within a society at a particular moment, we will get a disharmonious and chaotic picture. Certain groups considered the mythological past (this includes the Old Testament) as holy and yet altered it, or parts of it, according to new cultural, political and social circumstances. Others that manipulated the past actually destroyed much of it and did not leave it in its original for posterity. Therefore one can speak of destructive currents concerning the attitude of societies in the Hellenistic period and beyond towards the past as we in modern times understand historiography and other agents that preserve an accurate picture of our pasts. Societies, groups and individuals were imbued with fragments of their past, but did not respect their histories in their totality. The picture drawn here accords with the analysis in Mendels’ Memory book, namely that societies in the Hellenistic world live with memories and inscribed traditions, fragmented, comprehensive, collective and individual, false and true, embodied through temples, art and literary output as well as in bureaucracies and regimes. (A full version of this paper was published in Peter Schaefer [ed.], Antiquity in Antiquity [Tübingen: Mohr/Paul Siebeck, 2007].)

Dr David Shepherd (Belfast): ‘Strike His Bone and His Flesh’: Reading Job 2 from the Beginning

Following the destruction of Job’s children and possessions in Job 1, traditional readings of chapter 2 understand the Satan to be demanding that Job himself be struck down as a test of his disinterested piety. Instead, this study builds on earlier observations of the importance of Genesis for the writer of Job by arguing that the Satan’s language in Job 2, and in particular his use of the expression ‘his bone and his flesh’, invites us to read this passage from ‘the beginning’ (Genesis 1–3). When we do, the Satan is seen to be demanding the elimination of Job’s wife and, with her, any possible perpetuation of Job’s life in the shape of new progeny. While such a reading makes better sense of particular obscurities in Job 2, it also complicates traditional characterizations of Job’s wife by suggesting that she was not merely the Satan’s tool (so Augustine, John Calvin and others) but also his target.

Dr Jennifer Dines (Cambridge): Greek Daniel’s Debt to Isaiah — but which Isaiah?

Hebrew-Aramaic Daniel contains many reminiscences of other texts, including Isaiah. When the Septuagint translation of Daniel was made, did the translator recognize the Isaian allusions? How might we be able to tell, in places where the translation matches the source-text (approximating to the Masoretic Text)? One clue might be provided if the wording is close to that of LXX Isaiah, a version which I.L. Seeligmann claimed was known to the translator of LXX Daniel. This claim was tested by looking at several passages where striking similarities are found between LXX Daniel and LXX Isaiah. The direction of influence was discussed, since the dating of both texts is uncertain, but it was concluded that LXX Daniel does indeed draw occasionally on LXX Isaiah. In some places, the translator has created new echoes not found in the Masoretic Text. Sometimes it is difficult to tell whether the translator is aware of an allusion, and sometimes he seems to have drawn on other passages of scripture rather than Isaiah. The situation is complex, but it looks as if the translator drew on the whole Isaian corpus and knew it in Greek as well as Hebrew. The answer to ‘Which Isaiah?’ could be ‘all three’ and ‘both’.

Professor Joseph Blenkinsopp (Notre Dame): The Sealed Book of Isaiah 29:11-12

The cryptic saying in Isaiah 29:11-12 about a sealed book which two categories of readers are invited to read is ostensibly a prose comment on the immediately preceding passage that condemns public indifference to prophetic preaching (29:9-10). It also refers back to the sealed prophetic testimony and teaching of Isaiah 8:16, but now interpreted as referring to the book of Isaiah, but the book of Isaiah read in the light of the prophetic-apocalyptic perspective in evidence elsewhere in the book. It therefore illustrates the shift from oral to written prophecy and from prophetic eschatology to the apocalyptic eschatology of the book of Daniel. In Daniel and other apocalyptic writings from the late Second Temple period, including the Qumran sectarian texts (e.g. 4QMysteries) and early Christianity (e.g. Revelation 22:10), the Isaianic sealed book serves as a fundamental symbol for the revelation of supernatural mysteries, analogous to the idea of revelation as the decryption of a coded message. In these writings, the interim period during which the book remains sealed is the time of the hiddenness or anger of God, a time therefore of spiritual disorientation and blindness. The two categories of readers refer respectively, on this reading, to those who do not share the eschatological consciousness which alone renders the book of Isaiah intelligible, and those deaf to any kind of prophetic discourse. Neither has the key to crack the code, and so for both the offer falls on deaf ears.

The meeting included a symposium:
Where Are Hebrew Bible Studies Today and Where Are They Going?

Dr Katharine Dell (Cambridge)
presented a short introduction to the subject. She based her discussion around four changes charted by G.E. Wright in an article in 1960 (‘Old Testament Scholarship in Prospect’, JAAR 28), notably the rise of new philosophical systems which go on to have a profound influence on interpretation, the call to expose the assumptions underlying the quest for objective Old Testament scholarship, the rise of archaeology and our knowledge of the ancient Near East, and the application of ever-fresh methods. Forty-six years on from the publication of this article she asked whether this blueprint for the future still has merit and found that it did. In this context she aired issues such as the influence of post-modernism in its celebration of diversity and plurality upon Old Testament interpretation and the corresponding dangers of relativism, the tension between the quest for ‘history’ (and related secular and anti-historical approaches) and the pursuit of theological ‘truth’, the use of archaeology and the ancient Near East in the modern context, the trend towards specialization and yet the value of interdisciplinary approaches, the value in older methods despite the objective/subjective debate, and the importance of imparting the fruits of scholarship to faith communities. Continuing lively debate was seen to fuel fresh possibilities for the future of our discipline.

Dr Hugh Pyper (Sheffield)
based his thoughts on the future of biblical studies on two recent conference sessions. One was a session at the International Meeting of SBL in Edinburgh on ‘The End of Biblical Studies’ where the argument had been put forward that the alienness of the Bible and its implication in violence and oppression meant that it should be discarded. On the contrary, Pyper argued, in the current political climate it is precisely the issue of how to deal with the alien and disturbing in our common culture that most needs to be addressed; the simplistic response of rejecting what we find alien is profoundly dangerous. At the same conference, Jacques Berlinerblau had pointed out that, although this may be a poor time for biblical studies, it is a great time for the Bible: outside Theology and Biblical Studies departments, the cultural influence of the Bible is more important than ever and a wide range of scholars are waking up to this; there is a great future for study of the Bible, but it is happening in other disciplines and in new forums. The challenge is to embrace this while maintaining the disciplinary rigour that traditional biblical studies can bring. The second session had been at a conference on teaching theology and religious studies. Pyper pointed out how Old Testament studies in particular have historically been pushed to the margins in the curricula of both theology and religious studies, but he argued that Old Testament studies belonged at the centre of both. The same texts have validly been read either with theological questions in mind or by applying the disciplines of religious studies, thus forming a unique resource for demonstrating the distinctiveness but also the interdependence of the two approaches. Interdisciplinarity, which is a much-vaunted but often rather meaningless slogan in contemporary academia, is actually practised in Old Testament studies and this is something the discipline should have the confidence to assert and to model for other disciplines. All in all, there is an exciting future for the student of the Bible; the question is whether those who teach in academic biblical studies can have the confidence and flexibility to respond to these possibilities.

Dr Adrian Curtis (Manchester)
offered anecdotal evidence that there is great interest in, but actual ignorance of, the Old Testament in faith communities and educational establishments. Teachers and preachers have not, apparently, been meeting that need, so there must be potential for those who teach the teachers and preachers to communicate an enthusiasm for the subject which can be passed on. The shape of many degree programmes means limited time for the Bible and biblical languages. However, the increasing stress on integration and looking for links across areas taught within Theology and Religion programmes provides an opportunity for demonstrating the range of approaches and methods which make up Old Testament study. The fact that languages do not loom so large may actually be encouraging students to take them! Taught Master’s programmes may increasingly provide the tools for research. The advancing of the discipline through cutting-edge research is vital. But so is the provision of the much maligned ‘popular’ work which helps to foster interest and enthusiasm. SOTS has a vital role in holding together the interests of those who must have an eye to the next Research Assessment Exercise and those who must have an eye to nurturing the next generation of biblical enthusiasts.

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