SBL International Auckland – Day 1
Posted by NT Wrong on July 7, 2008
Day one at the SBL International Congress produced some good papers. Here’s a few:
Jon Berquist gave a paper called ‘Identities and Empire: Historiographic Questions for the Deuteronomistic History in the Persian Period’. He made a comment about the tendency of scholars to interpret the DH ideology as future-oriented, imposing a remnant theology on the text. But such interpretations are based more on the Christian wish to identify with a messianic remnant community than with the text itself, which is more interested in present questions of identity and government.
Mark Brett (‘Identity as Commentary and Metacommentary’) emphasised the point that, while aspects of “nationalism” and “identity” are applicable to the ancient world, there are also some fundamental differences in the ways moderns and ancients view the world. He noted his upcoming book, ‘Decolonising God’, which will probably discuss this issue.
James Hoffmeier looked at 1 Samuel 17.54 (where David takes Goliath’s head to Jerusalem, then under Jebusite control, and puts Goliath’s armour in “his tent”). He interpreted the possessive in “his tent” as though the antecedent were Goliath. He then compared the desecration of the Philistine hero’s head with several late BA and early IA ancient Near Eastern accounts of people cutting off heads and carrying out other types of body desecration on defeated enemies, and displaying them sometimes at their god’s temple. It seemed that he was treating this story as though it were historical, which seems odd for a story about a giant. What’s more, almost everybody in history has desecrated their enemies’ bodies, so I very much doubt you can limit the parallels to the Bronze Age, unless you’ve already made up your mind only to select examples from this period.
David Gunn read excerpts from his favourite book from his childhood, the rip-snorting story, ‘Maori and Settler’ from the 1880s. (I don’t think David Gunn read it in the 1880s; that was just when it was published.) The children’s book alludes to Samson, and then seems to attribute a lot of Samson-like qualities to the novel’s hero, Mr Atherton. And those damn natives seem to take on the “treacherous” vixen Delilah role.
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