Meetings 2009


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Winter Meeting 2009 (abstracts)

Professor Lester Grabbe (Hull): The Case of the Corrupting Consensus (Presidential Address)

Professor Mark Geller (London): Divination in Ancient Palestine: The View from Babylonia

Professor Kristin De Troyer (St Andrews): David’s Affair with Bathsheba: Text-Critical Remarks

Dr James West (Petros): Tangled Web: The Internet, the Old Testament, and You

Three responses were made to Dr West’s paper: Dr Margaret Barker (Borrowash),  Dr Philip Jenson (Cambridge), Dr James Aitken (Cambridge)

Dr Helen Leneman (Gilly): Saul’s Tragedy Re-Told through Drama and Music

Dr Diana Edelman (Sheffield): From Prophets to Prophetic Texts: Fixing the Divine Word

Professor Heather McKay (Ormskirk): How False Scenarios Can Be Used to Manipulate Biblical Characters

Professor Philip Alexander (Manchester): Was the Ninth of Ab Observed before 70 ce? Reflections on the Concept of Continuing Exile in the Second Temple Period

Professor Judith Hadley (Villanova): What Inscriptions Can (and Can’t) Tell Us about the Hebrew Bible: The Newly Discovered Bullae of Gedalyahu ben Pashhur and Yehukal ben Shelemyahu

Summer Meeting 2009 (abstracts)

(SOTS/OTW Joint Meeting)

Professor John Bartlett (Dublin): Mercator in the Wilderness: Numbers 33

Professor Bob Becking (Utrecht): David between History and Ideology

Dr Meindert Dijkstra (Utrecht): The Origins of Israel between History and Ideology

Dr Harm van Grol (Tilburg): Visions of the Chasidim and History

Professor Axel Knauf (Bern): The End of History

Dr Marinus Koster (Bathmen): The Old Testament as a Diachronic Corpus

Professor Andrew Mayes (Dublin): Pharaoh Shishak’s Invasion of Palestine and the Exodus from Egypt

Dr Jill Middlemas (Aarhus): The Additions to the Book of Esther: What They Offer to Those in Search of History

Professor Nadav Na’aman (Tel Aviv): Does Archaeology Really Deserve the Status of a ‘High Court’ in Biblical Historical Research?

Professor Ed Noort (Groningen): The Historiography of the Settlement

Professor Klaas Spronk (Kampen): The Book of Judges and History

Professor Keith Whitelam (Sheffield): Resisting the Past: Ancient Israel in Western Memory

Abstracts

Winter Meeting 2009

Professor Lester Grabbe (Hull): The Case of the Corrupting Consensus (Presidential Address)

Consensus is a wonderful thing — cannot we all just agree? But not in scholarship. A consensus can be useful, since we cannot always be starting from first principles, but there is a danger that a consensus becomes an excuse to regard a matter as resolved and not subject to further debate. Also, those who may have helped establish a consensus have a vested interest in maintaining it. The basis of good scholarship is a healthy sense of scepticism; unfortunately, this can easily become a means of stifling new ideas, especially the more radical ones. If we look at the field over the past century, we see a great deal of change. This can come about only when we are willing to challenge the consensus. A consensus is only a theory that quite a number of people are willing to tolerate — for a variety of reasons, some rational and some not always so rational. Look at the number of once strongly supported theories that have now been abandoned in recent times (e.g., the ‘substantial historicity’ of the patriarchal narratives). We should never be afraid to attack a consensus if there is evidence against it, and we should never use consensus as a pretext for rejecting a new argument.

Professor Mark Geller (London): Divination in Ancient Palestine: The View from Babylonia

A small number of divination texts from the Cairo Geniza and Qumran Cave 4 in Aramaic deal with astrological and physiognomic omens, and these texts can be shown to have earlier prototypes in Akkadian. These texts all have certain common features. The astrological omens have a familiar (‘if … when’) format, and the omen apodoses all provide predictions affecting the entire nation or land, such as famine, impending warfare, or the death of the king. The Aramaic and Akkadian physiognomic omens also show marked similarities in form and content. These texts represent complex systems of divination requiring experts to interpret the results. The supposition is that Akkadian ‘scientific’ texts were translated into Aramaic and ended up in a library in ancient Palestine, for use by the ruler, who was the only person to whom the omens were relevant and who would have access to the necessary expertise to interpret the texts. The most likely period for Akkadian texts of this kind to appear in Judea would be after Seleucid control of the region, from 200 bce, or possibly during Hasmonean rule after 160 bce, which fits the paleography of the Qumran manuscripts.

Professor Kristin De Troyer (St Andrews): David’s Affair with Bathsheba: Text-Critical Remarks

With 2 Samuel 11:1, the first kaige section in the Greek books of 1–2 Samuel and 1–2 Kings starts. This first kaige section more or less coincides with the Succession Narrative. In other words, for the Succession Narrative, no Old Greek text exists. The Old Greek text, however, can be reconstructed from under the Kaige and the Antiochian texts. The reconstruction of the Old Greek text might throw some different light on the development of the Hebrew text of 2 Samuel 11:1–2 Kings 2:11, and more specifically on the development of the Succession Narrative and the Deuteronomistic literature. As 4QSama does not align with the Masoretic text of 2 Samuel, especially in the kaige sections, but instead seems to be closer to the Antiochian text, the reconstruction of the relationship between all the witnesses is complex. A first study of the Bathsheba pericope demonstrates that there might be a different perspective on Bathsheba and her role in the establishment of Solomon as king and her position next to him. In other words, the Masoretic text might be an attempt at pitching differently, even downplaying the role of Bathsheba. These exegetical differences must be tested by further investigation of the translation technique of all versions, including Josephus and Vetus Latina, and further study of each Vorlage.

Dr James West (Petros): Tangled Web: The Internet, the Old Testament, and You

This paper attempted to address the three parts of its title by discussing, in order, the massive growth of the internet as a source of information for both students and scholars; how some materials on the internet use and abuse the Old Testament; and how scholars such as those who belong to SOTS should — and in the presenter’s estimation are obligated to — construct an online presence in order both to counteract the massive misinformation online and to offer proper materials for surfers and seekers. Specifically, the presentation strove to encourage scholars to participate in the dissemination of useable and accurate information by means of this extraordinarily important medium. There are countless sites on the internet which discuss, in whole or in part, the Old Testament, and the presentation gave examples of the good, the bad, and the ugly. The presenter encouraged scholars to construct personal websites, to participate in one of the discussion lists related to the field of Old Testament studies, and/or to establish a web presence via the booming blog methodology. Weblogs, like personal websites, are free to establish and easy to organize and maintain, and they can be a profound tool for the dissemination of information. It might also be appropriate for SOTS to establish a ‘Computer Committee’ to look at the promotion of the Society’s involvement in the dissemination of knowledge on the world-wide web.

Three responses were made to Dr West’s paper:

Dr Margaret Barker (Borrowash) raised the question of how to identify reliable information. Having heard the President’s paper on the need to think outside the consensus, what was the difference between such thinking and unreliable information? She expressed anxiety that the internet with its information of varying quality could soon bring about a ‘learning crunch’ comparable to the credit crunch precipitated by untested forms of financial management. There could soon be a need to ‘recapitalise’ our seats of learning with real learning. She also noted the conflict of interest between making information freely available online and keeping publishers in business, and the need for publishers to use better quality paper if books were to be the permanent repository for knowledge.

Dr Philip Jenson (Cambridge) noted that the internet emphasizes the immediate and the visual, whereas the majority of scholars still work in an oral and written tradition. A positive appreciation of the Old Testament is made all the harder in our post-Christian society by a general attitude of scepticism, scorn and suspicion. Good internet sites may help in countering this, but they will not achieve a profound reorientation. This is more likely to take place through contact with those who impart not just skills and knowledge, but also a deep personal appreciation of the significance of the text for the present as well as the past. The internet is becoming an impressive resource for communicating this significance in a visual and lively way. This, after all, is the intent of much of the Old Testament itself through its rhetoric, poetry and imagery.

Dr James Aitken (Cambridge) commented on the positive aspects to which the internet could be applied. Wikipedia could be utilized for teaching students how to read critically, and setting exercises to improve the content allowed the students to embed their learning from classes and to improve Wikipedia at the same time. Attention was drawn to the possible collaborative nature of the internet, acting both as a portal for connecting researchers around the world (as the Biblical Lexicography website now does) and as an environment in which scholars may contribute to projects from wherever they are based (using wiki software, for instance).

Dr Helen Leneman (Gilly): Saul’s Tragedy Re-Told through Drama and Music

A new opera by Italian composer Flavio Testi based on Andre Gide’s play Saül premiered at the Macerata Festival in 2007. This paper discussed the libretto and music, including analysis of a live performance in Rome in 2008. Musical excerpts and Powerpoint slides of the production were included. Gide’s Saül was written in 1898, but premiered as a play only in 1922. It confronts the issue of homosexuality which some commentators consider subliminal in the David narratives, by suggesting Saul’s attraction to David along with a very suggestive relation between David and Jonathan. Saul’s ‘demons’ in the biblical narrative are never explained, and Gide fills the gap by depicting Saul as an older man tormented by his attraction to a much younger one. Gide’s play is seldom performed and little known. The fate of the opera remains to be seen. Testi’s musical idiom is completely personal and original. The production of this opera left no doubt in the audience’s mind of both Saul’s and Jonathan’s strong sexual attraction to David. This provocative gap-filling will surely lead to a fresh reading of the original story, through a new and different lens.

Dr Diana Edelman (Sheffield): From Prophets to Prophetic Texts: Fixing the Divine Word

Why were prophetic books only produced in Judah/Yehud when prophecy and the consultation of the divine were widespread practices in the ancient Near East? Similar to the Pentateuch, the prophetic literature allows the assertion that the divine will for the qahal yisra’el has already been revealed in the past to the ancestors, eliminating the need for additional, ongoing revelation. Behind this development is an implicit rejection of formerly legitimate means of determining the divine will that had been commonplace as well as the cultic personnel who executed them. It is suggested that the biblical nabi’ is an artificial, literary construct representing an amalgam of a number of formerly functioning omen priests, divinatory personnel and ecstatics in the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, many of whom correspond to a range of cultic personnel who operated in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Prophetic books are literary projects containing the same scheme of punishment at the hands of foreign oppressors for not worshipping Yahweh correctly found in ‘Deuteronomistic’ narratives. Their authors apparently selected archived predictions concerning the fall of Jerusalem and Samaria and oracles against enemies made by a range of cultic specialists and in most cases set them in a framework typical of laments or psalms: a threat and the overcoming of the threat, or threat, defeat and forgiveness/restoration. In the late Persian or more likely the Hellenistic period, the prophetic collections were understood by some to be literal guides of what should have happened. The author of Ezra 1–6 has used every canonical prediction concerning the rebuilding of the temple as a source for his account of who restored the temple, and when.

Professor Heather McKay (Ormskirk): How False Scenarios Can Be Used to Manipulate Biblical Characters

Several biblical narratives depict the outmanoeuvring of a powerful character by one who is much less powerful: Rebekah tricked Isaac to dispossess Esau and favour Jacob, daughter-in-law Tamar exacted justice from Judah and the Wise Woman of Tekoa (acting as Joab’s agent and pretending to beg for her own son’s life) gained forgiveness for Absalom. Males too operated such deceptions, most notably Amnon against his half-sister Tamar. The manipulation of the ‘victim’ occurs via the distracting drives of human appetites, whether of sexual desire, hunger, or ‘honour’, however conceived. Using approaches encompassing Relevance Theory (Wilson & Sperber 2004), Information Manipulation Theory (McCornack 1992, et al.) and Social Manipulation Theory (Peterson 2004), and relying on the earlier work of Beeman (1986) and Goffman (1965, 1974, 1977), this paper analysed just how the false scenarios superbly created by the manipulators produce the misperceptions and responses that they wanted to create in the subsequent actions of their ‘victims’. Each ‘victim’ was lulled by their senses, of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste, along with their expectations of truthfulness and basic loyalty to commonly held values from their interlocutors into ‘seeing’ an unthreatening situation when they were, in fact, most at risk of manipulation.

Professor Philip Alexander (Manchester): Was the Ninth of Ab Observed before 70 ce? Reflections on the Concept of Continuing Exile in the Second Temple Period

The paper traced the theme of mourning for Zion in the post-exilic period and used it to illuminate a variety of rejectionist attitudes towards the Second Temple. There is clear evidence that some groups, despite the rebuilding of the Temple, continued to mourn for the destruction of 586, and to regard a valid restoration as never having occurred. These groups regarded Israel as still in exile, presence in the Land on its own not being sufficient to satisfy the covenantal promises to Israel in the deuteronomic tradition. One such group appears to have been the Dead Sea Sect, and it is in this context that we should place both the copies of canonical Lamentations and the new lamentation texts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Psalms of Solomon (probably rightly seen as Pharisaic) also evince the rejectionist line. The Hasmonean party, on the other hand, clearly tried to promote their revolution and their rededication of the Temple as a genuine restoration and as finally bringing the exile to an end. The paper ended by drawing analogies to different attitudes within the present-day Jewish community to the State of Israel.

Professor Judith Hadley (Villanova): What Inscriptions Can (and Can’t) Tell Us about the Hebrew Bible: The Newly Discovered Bullae of Gedalyahu ben Pashhur and Yehukal ben Shelemyahu

In July of 2005 a bulla (clay seal impression) was discovered in the City of David excavations, bearing the name Yehukal son of Shelemyahu son of Shobi. Three years later, in July 2008, and in the same vicinity, another bulla was discovered, bearing the name Gedalyahu son of Pashhur. Both of these bullae date to the end of the 7th or beginning of the 6th century bce. In addition, both of these names are found in Jeremiah 38:1-6, as two officials of the city who call for Jeremiah’s death because he is encouraging the city to surrender to the Babylonians. This paper first discussed these two bullae, as well as a third one found 25 years previously in the City of David, bearing the name Gemaryahu son of Shaphan, a name which also occurs in Jeremiah 36. The excellent state of preservation of all three of these bullae leaves little doubt that the readings are correct. Then followed a brief discussion of the relevant passages in Jeremiah, together with an analysis of the title ‘official of the city’, which is found on seal impressions. That these three bullae were discovered in a controlled archaeological excavation is of immense importance, since numerous unprovenanced finds from biblical periods especially have been proven to be forgeries (including the bulla of Berekyahu son of Neriyahu the scribe). Finally, the paper turned to a discussion of possible and proposed relationships between the people who bore these names and the book of Jeremiah, and concluded that, at the very least, the author of Jeremiah was using names which were known historically at the time in which the story was set.

Summer Meeting 2009

(SOTS/OTW Joint Meeting)

Professor John Bartlett (Dublin): Mercator in the Wilderness: Numbers 33

This paper (illustrated) explored the sixteenth-century exegesis of the Exodus-Wilderness story as revealed by the work of the cartographers of the period. Particular attention was paid to the scholarly work of Jacob Ziegler and Gerhard Mercator, together with maps from Lucas Cranach the Elder, Coverdale’s Bible, and Wolfgang Wissenburg. The paper marked their contribution to biblical and cartographical scholarship in the Reformation period of the sixteenth century.

Professor Bob Becking (Utrecht): David between History and Ideology

Already within the Hebrew Bible images of David can be found that are shaped by tradition. The focal question of this paper was: Can we get beyond these images and reach the ‘real David’? In seeking to answer that question, circumstantial evidence was investigated from landscape, archaeology, epigraphy, and climatology before the biblical traditions were monitored.

Dr Meindert Dijkstra (Utrecht): The Origins of Israel between History and Ideology

The Old Testament contains a variety of stories about the origins of Israel in Egypt and Canaan. Such ancient biblical stories are not simply convertable into modern history. How do we reconstruct Israelite origins between ancient Near Eastern history and culture and Old Testament visions of the past? This contribution attempted a somewhat simplified but practical approach to the problem: Egyptian presence in Canaan seen as the negative of Israelite and Judean political emergence. The emergence of independent ‘early states’ in the region of the southern Levant only became possible after the gradual withdrawal of Egypt’s military and administrative rule from the 11th century BCEonward, and perhaps even later.

Dr Harm van Grol (Tilburg): Visions of the Chasidim and History

This paper discussed the well-known description of the Chasidim in 1 Maccabees 2:42 (‘then a group of Hasideans joined them, mighty warriors, each of them zealously devoted to the law’), its historical trustworthiness and its relation to later Psalm collections (Psalms 138–145 and 146–150), possibly texts of the Chasidim themselves, focusing on the militant character of this movement.

Professor Axel Knauf (Bern): The End of History

The ‘end of history’, as repeatedly and speciously proclaimed, is basically a biblical concept — a concept derived from biblical literature. Only stories can have an end. If ‘history’ is perceived as a non-idiosyncratic perception of the past, history will end with time (or the death of the last perceiver). The use of history in biblical studies has, however, entered a critical phase. Some applications of history to the Bible, prominent in the last two centuries, might no longer be feasible; others will have to be continued out of sheer necessity.

Dr Marinus Koster (Bathmen): The Old Testament as a Diachronic Corpus

Not only does the Old Testament as a whole, but also most of its constituent parts, testify to a historical development of sometimes considerable length, which is reflected in the history and literature of Israel’s neighbours. This being embedded in the historical reality of its Umwelt (instead of being a Fremdkörper), contributes effectively to its living and ‘true’ character.

Professor Andrew Mayes (Dublin): Pharaoh Shishak’s Invasion of Palestine and the Exodus from Egypt

The invasion of Palestine by Pharaoh Shishak is recorded both in 1 Kings 14 and on a wall beside the Bubastite Portal of the temple at Karnak. Each account has been used in different ways in the reconstruction of the event, the Egyptian record being variously taken as purely conventional or as preserving a historical account. The focus of this paper was on the significance of the event within the wider historical context of the foundation of the northern state of Israel with its ‘charter myth’, the exodus from Egypt.

Dr Jill Middlemas (Aarhus): The Additions to the Book of Esther: What They Offer to Those in Search of History

The two Greek versions of the Esther scroll (the Alpha Text and the Septuagint Text) invite historical readings exactly because they convey historical similitude within material not found in the Hebrew version of the story. Yet it remains difficult, nevertheless, to determine the exact socio-historical setting and provenance that gave rise to the Greek versions and their differences (see, for example, the conflicting conclusions reached in recent discussions by Linda Day [1995], Karen Jobes [1996], and Charles Dorothy [1997]). This paper included an analysis of the ways the Greek versions of the Esther story contribute to historical and other questions. The writers and editors of these scrolls were interested in defining history according to a biblical norm and present three views of history: (1) the God of the Jews acts in history; (2) the story of Esther, Mordecai and the Persian Jews aligns with, and even parallels in some cases, the traditions of ancient Israel; and (3) the past is presented as an ongoing event contemporaneous with the recipients of the story. What the evidence of the Greek texts of Esther contributes to a discussion about the search for the history of ancient (better, biblical) Israel is that writers and editors in antiquity seem to have had different types of historical questions at the forefront of their minds than those often applied by biblical critics in the modern and postmodern period. An understanding of how writers in a biblical mode approached the reconstruction of events illuminates a more fluid definition of history than just the search for whether or not events happened in the past as recounted. Indeed, the way the Greek versions of the Esther scroll deal with history draws attention to the need for the critical awareness, indeed analysis, of a biblical traditional norm written as history (however factual) in mind. This is a principal of analysis that might be applied fruitfully to analyses of biblical literature more generally.

Professor Nadav Na’aman (Tel Aviv): Does Archaeology Really Deserve the Status of a ‘High Court’ in Biblical Historical Research?

From the earliest days of its modern research, archaeology has played an important role in biblical-historical studies. Recently its impact has increased dramatically, due to the progress made in the field of archaeology and the development of a sharply critical approach to the Bible as a historical source. Some scholars have gone so far as to place archaeology in the position of a ‘high court’ in all biblical-historical controversies. But does archaeology really deserve this elevated status? To consider this important issue, the paper examined a series of test-cases in which there is disagreement between the historical documents and the results of archaeological research. The sites examined were Jerusalem (in the Late Bronze Age, the Iron Age and the Persian period), Gibeah (Tell el-Ful) and Bethel. In the light of this comparison, it was pointed out that in multi-strata highland sites in periods of urban culture decline (such times as the ‘United Monarchy’ and the Babylonian and Persian periods), the results of the archaeological excavations should be treated with great caution. Only the skilful use of the documents and the archaeological findings can lead to a balanced evaluation of the ancient reality.

Professor Ed Noort (Groningen): The Historiography of the Settlement

For decades three lines of thinking with some variation dominated the field of settlement/conquest studies (Alt, Albright, Mendenhall). Only in recent times have they disappeared from students’ textbooks. The theme of this paper was not the settlement itself, but the historiography. Concerning the language of violence used in the narratives and their theoretical framework, scholars favoured a connection with Neo-Assyrian royal ideology. In the debates on newer Pentateuch theories and the rethinking of the Deuteronomistic History, the narratives of the conquest are linked to models of re-entering the country after the Babylonian Exile. Focusing on some case studies, these theories were tested.

Professor Klaas Spronk (Kampen): The Book of Judges and History

This paper explored two particular questions. Firstly: What do we really know about the historical background of the stories told in the book of Judges and of the one telling these stories? And secondly: How can we distinguish fact and fiction in the biblical texts and in the scholarly literature about these texts?

Professor Keith Whitelam (Sheffield): Resisting the Past: Ancient Israel in Western Memory

Why have particular images of ancient Israel become so ingrained in Western popular and political imagination that they appear so natural as to be self-evident? Why has recent research on the history of ancient Israel and Palestine found it so difficult to disturb these images? The paper explored some of the deep-seated images that are part of western collective memory, their resistance to analysis, and the assumptions that underpin dominant memories of the past within biblical studies.

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