N.T.WRONG

Official Blog of the Bishop of Durham

Archive for the ‘Ancient Languages’ Category

New York Times on Hazon Gabriel – Resurrected Messiah Before Jesus

Posted by NT Wrong on July 6, 2008

The New York Times has picked up on the Hazon Gabriel (“Vision of Gabriel”) tablet, and in particular the interpretation being offered by Israel Knohl in “By Three Days, Live”: Messiahs, Resurrection, and Ascent to Heaven in Hazon Gabriel.” The Journal of Religion 88 (Apr 2008):147–158).

“A three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew that scholars believe dates from the decades just before the birth of Jesus is causing a quiet stir in biblical and archaeological circles, especially because it may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days.

If such a messianic description really is there, it will contribute to a developing re-evaluation of both popular and scholarly views of Jesus, since it suggests that the story of his death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time.”
New York Times

The writer of the article is quite aware that the interpretation of the tablet as concerning a messiah who would resurrect after three days is still some way from being affirmed. In particular, the gaps in the text require readers of the tablet to reconstruct the missing words, as discussed in my previous post. Moreover, because of the broken and uncertain context, it is uncertain who is saying “live!” to who, even if “live” can be properly restored in the gaps. So, even in the long term, the measured conclusion may be that we just cannot tell what the tablet originally said. Time will tell.

Still, if the tablet does talk about an anointed one (messiah) who will rise from the dead, it is very significant for our interpretation of beliefs in Jesus in the first century AD. The tablet is dated before Jesus’ birth, in the late 1st century BC.

“Daniel Boyarin, a professor of Talmudic culture at the University of California at Berkeley, said that the stone was part of a growing body of evidence suggesting that Jesus could be best understood through a close reading of the Jewish history of his day.

“Some Christians will find it shocking — a challenge to the uniqueness of their theology — while others will be comforted by the idea of it being a traditional part of Judaism,” [Dr]. Boyarin said.”
New York Times

“”This should shake our basic view of Christianity,” [Israel Knohl] said as he sat in his office of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem where he is a senior fellow in addition to being the Yehezkel Kaufman Professor of Biblical Studies at Hebrew University. “Resurrection after three days becomes a motif developed before Jesus, which runs contrary to nearly all scholarship. What happens in the New Testament was adopted by Jesus and his followers based on an earlier messiah story.”
New York Times

Although, the idea of an anointed king who serves at the side of the High God and returns from the dead after three days is one that can be traced back at least to 1200 BC in Syria-Palestine.

Future developments are afoot:

“A conference marking 60 years since the discovery of the scrolls will begin on Sunday at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, where the stone, and the debate over whether it speaks of a resurrected messiah, as one iconoclastic scholar believes, also will be discussed.”
New York Times

“There is now a spate of scholarly articles on the stone, with several due to be published in the coming months.”
New York Times

“A chemical examination by Yuval Goren, a professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University who specializes in the verification of ancient artifacts, has been submitted to a peer-review journal. He declined to give details of his analysis until publication, but he said that he knew of no reason to doubt the stone’s authenticity.”
New York Times

Posted in Eschatology, Gospels, Hazon Gabriel, Hebrew & Semitics | Comments Off on New York Times on Hazon Gabriel – Resurrected Messiah Before Jesus

Create Your Own aNE Fonts

Posted by NT Wrong on June 13, 2008

Do you get annoyed when your ancient Near Eastern font set doesn’t look much like the ancient Near Eastern script that it should emulate? Here’s the solution: make your own! And here’s a quick-and-easy free online tool with which to do so: Fontstruct.

In April, an online font clearinghouse called FontShop quietly uploaded a program that, the company wrote, was meant to be “purely entertaining—something to kickstart creativity.” FontStruct, a browser tool that lets anyone create an original font, was so popular that the site’s servers crashed within days of the official launch.
– Jason Fagone – ‘YouType: The strange allure of making your own fonts’

I’ve registered with Fontstruct, and began to construct (or ‘fontstruct’ …) a font I call ‘Ilimilku’. I’m just playing at the moment, but I may get more scientific later. The software is all quite intuitive and straightforward. You can either click and drag to draw lines for the characters within a grid, or select pre-designed boxes to include the shapes within your font design. You associate each character you create with characters in the standard English keyboard character-set. At any stage, you can download your work as a TrueType font. If you wish, you can also make your font publicly available to other users under a Creative Commons license.

Now, here’s an example of the type of advantage I mentioned above. If you try to explain that an Ain in a certain Ugaritic text couldn’t possibly be a thanna or a qopa, the best way to do this would be to use realistic Ugaritic fonts for the three characters in your sentence. But, with the Logos Ugaritic font set, thanna and qopa actually do look the same in respect of one of the cuneiform wedges. Annoying, huh? But, with my Ilimilku Font (Beta version 1.0), which is based on KTU 1.21-22, I can make the distinction quite clear:

Of course, I also get full rights to use my own font in my work. Splendid! Yet, to do it well, you have to take some time. But if you were going to make a close study of the epigraphy and palaeography, then why not make a font-set of the representative average characters at the same time?

 

Posted in Hebrew & Semitics | Comments Off on Create Your Own aNE Fonts

A pre-Jewish prediction of a Saviour who will die and be raised again on the third day

Posted by NT Wrong on May 16, 2008

Israel Knohl has recently claimed a pre-Christian prophecy of the resurrection of the Messiah from the dead after three days, based on his interpretation of a recently discovered text (Hazon Gabriel – The Vision of Gabriel). The interpretation rests on a significantly reconstructed text, so is still somewhat speculative. But if Knohl is correct, and his reconstruction is certainly at least worth suggesting, then the text would be important evidence of one of the trajectories of development in messianic thought in early Judaism.

However, the idea that it takes the messiah three days to come back to the world of the living employs a very familiar mytheme. The idea that the dead take three days to return to the world of the living is a familiar one. The time period of three days is often given as the distance between the netherworld and earth.

A very relevant example is in the Ugaritic Rephaim Texts (KTU 1.20-22) from ca. 1200 BC. It is very relevant, because the Ugaritian and biblical traditions share a broadly common geographical locale, many common beliefs and traditions, and a broadly similar language (although are separated by some 500+ years). The traditions about the Rephaim (Saviours) are included in the biblical books with very similar accompanying mythological themes (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah).

KTU 1.20 ii 5-7a says:

… which in English is (as Wyatt translates):

“They journeyed a day and a second. After su[nrise on the third] the Saviours arrived at the threshing-floors, the di[vinities at] the plantations.”

The picture here, although from another fragmentary and uncertain text, is of the 3-day journey from the netherworld to Ugarit by the long-deceased heroes (-kings) who were the deified heroic ancestors of Ugarit. In some sense, they appear to have blessed Ugarit at the the cultic feast here on earth by their presence.

Note that the dead return after sunrise on the third day. Now read Mark 16.2.

Given the Messiah’s/Michael’s function as defeater of death, it is unsurprising that this mytheme should recur in respect of a Messianic resurrection account from the first century BC. Note the mythic concatenation of themes of sea-monster–heart of the earth–three nights—Son of Man in Matthew 12.40. Sounds to me like it was based on an apocalyptic-mythic prophecy which employed these mythic themes.

Posted in Eschatology, Gospels, Hazon Gabriel, Hebrew & Semitics, Jesus & Christ, Ugaritic | Comments Off on A pre-Jewish prediction of a Saviour who will die and be raised again on the third day

Christ son of Joseph (First Century BC)

Posted by NT Wrong on May 4, 2008

The recently discovered first century BC apocalyptic inscription, Hazon Gabriel (The Vision of Gabriel) makes mention of a Messiah/Christ who is a son of Joseph. This reference is in addition to mention of the Messiah son of Joseph in 1 Enoch 90, 4QTestimonia, the Talmud, and Sefer Zerubbabel.

Israel Knohl comments in ““By Three Days, Live”: Messiahs, Resurrection, and Ascent to Heaven in Hazon Gabriel.The Journal of Religion 88 (Apr 2008):147–158, 150:

“Line 80 of the text begins with the words  לשלשת ימין (by three days), after which the editors read the letter het followed by three undecipherable letters and then the words  (I Gabriel). In my opinion, the word that the editors read only partially is completely legible and can clearly be read as האיה  The context implies that the angel Gabriel addresses someone and tells him: “by three days, האיה– live/be resurrected!”

Knohl continues, commenting on a passage in Hazon Gabriel where the blood of the slain is transformed into a chariot that ascends to heaven:

“Thus, Hazon Gabriel attests that the character of “Ephraim” as the “Messiah son of Joseph” was already known in the late first century BCE. From it we also learn of the contemporaneous fashioning of a belief in resurrection “after three days” and in the ascent to heaven of some people who were slaughtered. These conclusions are of decisive importance for understanding the messianic consciousness of “Jesus son of Joseph,” who was born around the time when this text was composed.”

After reconstructing part of the text, Knohl concludes that the one who was commanded to resurrect after three days was the “Prince of Princes”, a figure identifiable from Daniel 8 as either God, Michael or an earthly ruler.

A lot hangs on a reconstruction with some odd spelling on this one.

Knohl’s case is not at all in the O’Callaghan school of fragment reconstruction, but it is hardly watertight. He’s made a stimulating opening case, though.

Also: see this post.

Posted in Eschatology, Gospels, Hazon Gabriel, Hebrew & Semitics, Jesus & Christ | 2 Comments »

New Reviews in The Review of Biblical Literature – 30 April 2008

Posted by NT Wrong on April 30, 2008

There’s some interesting reviews in the latest Review of Biblical Literature:

Alice Hunt, Missing Priests: The Zadokites in Tradition and History

As well as being the latest word on the Zadokites, apparently chapter three provides “a lucid discussion of historiography”.

“Hunt discusses the theories pertaining to the history of ancient Israel, with special focus on the dichotomy between the so-called ‘minimalists’ and ‘maximalists’ and on the various social-scientific approaches to history … ”

William M. Schniedewind and Joel H. Hunt, A Primer on Ugaritic Language, Culture, and Literature

The first of its kind: an student’s introductory text to Ugaritic. A “good first step” for learning Ugaritic.

Also, for more advanced steps, the reviewer, Robert D. Holmstedt, recommends:
– Sivan, A Grammar of the Ugaritic Language (1997)
– Tropper, Ugaritische Grammatik (2000)
– Bordreuil/Pardee, Manuel d’Ougaritique (2004)

 

 

Adriane B. Leveen, Memory and Tradition in the Book of Numbers

The reviewer says this provides a good summary of the literature on memory and tradition, in the Halbwachs and Assmann sense. Sounds damn trendy.

 

 

 

Posted in Books, Hebrew & Semitics, Historical Books, Historiography, Pentateuch | Comments Off on New Reviews in The Review of Biblical Literature – 30 April 2008

A Syrian travel diary: The last Aramaic Speakers

Posted by NT Wrong on April 25, 2008

Michael Gebicki’s travel diary in today’s The Australian covers an area in Syria where some of the last speakers of Aramaic live. His lavish descriptions make me want to go there, in order to experience it all first hand! 

“Sequestered in these stony hills in the Qualamoun Mountains, a pocket of Aramaic speakers remains, a link with the ancient world of the Old Testament. If Jesus Christ were alive today, he could have held a conversation with this woman.”
Back to the Beginning

And, as a special bonus, here’s a first century mp3 recording–believed to be Jesus Christ himself! Can you work out what he says?

Jesus recorded LIVE (in Aramaic)

 

Posted in Hebrew & Semitics | Comments Off on A Syrian travel diary: The last Aramaic Speakers