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Kispum Funerary Rites from Neo-Hittite Sam’al to Boston

Posted by NT Wrong on November 20, 2008

This 8th-century-BC stone slab was recently discovered on the Anatolian-Syrian border by archaeologists, at Zincirli, the site of the ancient city of Sam’al. Written on the slab, in a Northwest Semitic language and Phoenician script, is a declaration ‘by the deceased’ that his soul resides in the slab, and that he should be fed in a ‘feast’ (ḥgg), along with Hadad and Shamash.

“The inscription reads in part: “I, Kuttamuwa, servant of Panamuwa, am the one who oversaw the production of this stele for myself while still living. I placed it in an eternal chamber(?) and established a feast at this chamber(?): a bull for [the storm-god] Hadad, … a ram for [the sun-god] Shamash, … and a ram for my soul that is in this stele. …” It was written in a script derived from the Phoenician alphabet and in a local West Semitic dialect similar to Aramaic and Hebrew. It is of keen interest to linguists as well as biblical scholars and religious historians because it comes from a kingdom contemporary with ancient Israel that shared a similar language and cultural features.”

This is fascinating — an institution of a kispum-like funerary ritual involving those two Levantine deities most associated with caring for the dead, Baal (Hadad) and Shamash/Shapash. Provision is made for both the deceased and the gods to be ritually fed together! Sam’al is a little further to the north of Ugarit, from which we get similar kispum-like funerary rituals such as those narrated in texts such as KTU 1.20-22, 1.161. For a biblical marzeaḥ, see Jer 16.5-8. The eighth-century dating establishes temporal continuity with the Cisjordan area, and some degree of continuity in funerary rites from Ugarit (1200 BC).

It is reported that Kuttamuwa is not himself a royal figure, but seems instead to be a royal official. Yet, he is pictured with seat and footstool and with a king’s hat. Is this Kulamuwa, the successor of Panamuwa? Or was he a separate figure, perhaps a priest? A similar kispum-like ritual is described in KAI 214 (‘The Hadad Inscription’), where the descendant of Panamuwa is instructed to provide food and drink for Panamuwa, along with El, Hadad, Shamash and Rakib-El.

But for those of us in Boston, there’s more, care of Dennis Pardee:

“Schloen will present the Kuttamuwa stele to a scholarly audience at the meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research on Nov. 22 in Boston, the major annual conference for Middle Eastern archaeology. Dennis Pardee, Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization at the University of Chicago, will present his translation of the stele’s 13-line inscription the following day at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, also in Boston, in a session on “Paleographical Studies in the Near East.”

I don’t think there is anything remarkable in the description of feeding Kuttamuwa’s “soul” — which is the focus of the News reports. It doesn’t even mean that Kuttamuwa is ‘disembodied’ — he may come for the food in another form from the underworld (perhaps as a bird).

Posted in Archaeology, Death, Neo-Hittite, Prophets, Ugaritic | 1 Comment »

Successful Predictive Prophecy in Daniel – Its Role in Reinforcing Authority and Theological Viewpoint

Posted by NT Wrong on November 20, 2008

In a recent post entitled ‘Dating Sacred Texts on the Basis of Fulfilled Prophecy’, Mark Goodacre discusses “the literary function of successful prophecy in the narrative in which it appears.”

Referring to Jesus’ prediction that the Jerusalem Temple would be destroyed, Mark explains that — irrespective of the historicity or otherwise of any such prediction by Jesus — “the prediction only gains traction because the reader is saying, ‘Hey, yes! I know what that’s about!'” That is, when recorded by a Christian sometime after AD 70 in the Gospel of Mark, the recording of the ‘prediction’ serves to bolster the authority of his work as a whole, and enhances the prestige of his subject, Jesus.

“Successful predictions play a major role in the narrative, reinforcing the authority of the one making the prediction and confirming the accuracy of the text’s theological view.”
– Mark Goodacre, ‘Dating the Crucial Sources in Early Christianity’, 2008 SBL Paper

Mark goes on to give the example of Jeremiah’s prophecies of woe and restoration. I’ll continue the ongoing parallel-making with the Book of Daniel, by mentioning Daniel’s reinterpretation of Jeremiah in Daniel 9.

In Daniel 9, Daniel reinterprets Jeremiah’s prophecy that the exile would last only 70 years (Jer 25.11-13; 29.10) by reinterpreting the ’70 years’ of exile as 70 ‘sevens’ of years — or 490 years. Now, Daniel’s prophetic interpretation is set during the Babylonian exile, under the reign of a fictional ‘Darius the Mede’. But it is in fact written in ca. 165 BC.

By reinterpreting Jeremiah’s prophecy as referring to an extended exilic period of 490 years, I strongly suspect Daniel was attempting to heighten the significance of the Maccabean and Hasidim revolution against Antiochus IV Epiphanes. For, according to Daniel’s own calculations, the 490 years just happened to end in 164 BC.

How so? First, I’ll take the prophetic word that went out as Jeremiah’s word of restoration, perhaps referring to Jer 30-31, which is recorded right after his 70-week prophecy. There are a number of other possible interpretations, but the context of Dan 9, which centres on the interpretation of Jeremiah’s prophecy, is the most relevant context for understanding a “word” (davar) that went out. Jeremiah is presented as being active immediately before and during 587/6 BC (the fall of Jerusalem). Therefore, some 49 years (seven sevens: Dan 9.25) expire with the arrival of the Cyrus the messiah. The author of Daniel calculated a further 62 sevens of years (434 years) from Cyrus (539 BC) to Antiochus (170 BC). Yes — there were only 369 years according to our more knowledgeable calculations, but broadly contemporary historians such as Josephus and Demetrius overestimated the number of years by similar amounts (Josephus estimated 33-42 years, Demetrius 73 years, so Daniel 9 falls within this range of calculations). When you add a final week onto 170 BC, you reach 164 BC — and the End of the Age.

But the reason that makes this understanding of Daniel’s reasoning so plausible, is that Daniel 9 is proclaiming the time of “everlasting righteousness” to his readers. He’s wanting to entice them, to seduce them with promises of future glory during their time of tribulation. So what does he give them? He gives them a reinterpretation of Jeremiah’s prophecy that will come true in their immediate future!

Daniel was using exact numbers, rather than merely symbolic associations of the numbers. Sure, the fact that his calculations ended up with the perfection of 70 x 7 was not accidental — when he arrived at this reinterpretation, the symbolic meaning of the 490-year period would have been apparent to him. It may even have encouraged him to make the ‘answer’ equal to 490 years — after all, the start-date is a little fuzzy, the multiplication by seven and extension of the ‘exile’ is entirely tendentious, and there was plenty more room for manipulation. But along with its role in reinforcing the authority of Daniel 9’s message, there are other reasons to conclude that Daniel 9 was using exact calculations:

    – If you subtract Jeremiah’s 70-year period from Cyrus’s ascent (539 BC), you get back to 609 BC. This is probably the author’s calculation of the third year of Jehoiakim (he’s only out by a year at most). So, the author’s attempt at an exact calculation of Jeremiah’s 70 years creates Daniel’s date for the beginning of the exile (Dan 1.1). This early date is otherwise unattested as a date for exile (597 and 586 are the correct dates), and appears to be Daniel’s own invention. He invented it due to his interest in reinterpreting Jeremiah.

    – The first ‘week’ of sevens from Jeremiah’s prophecy of restoration, at the sack of Jerusalem in 586 BC, to Cyrus in 539 BC, is exactly calculated as 49 years. Well, Daniel calculated it as exactly 49 years.

    – The authors of Daniel had a keen interest in wisdom, calendrical, and astronomical matters (Dan 12.3). They also display a reliance on Enochic literature, which itself has a keen interest in such matters (1 Enoch 72-82). Hence, the detailed, albeit fanciful, calculations.

So, by calculating the arrival of the eschaton from a creative reinterpretation of Jeremiah’s prophecy, and calculating it as coming to pass just seven years after Antiochus’ coming to power in 170 BC (164 BC), the authors of Daniel ensured authority and respect for their own writings and predictions.

The larger lesson: the method of Dispensationalists is far closer to what’s going on in the production of Daniel than that of modern biblical scholars.

Posted in Gospels, Prophets | 2 Comments »

Scholarly dating of Daniel to After the ‘Prophecies’ were ‘Fulfilled’

Posted by NT Wrong on November 12, 2008

Most scholars of the Book of Daniel conclude that so-called ‘prophecies’ were only produced ‘after the fact’ or ex eventu. This is a position reached by first examining the historical, theological and literary nature of the Book of Daniel. In other words, it is a conclusion, not an assumption.

This conclusion often annoys those who place a lot of stock in ‘fulfilled biblical prophecy’ as a proof of the ‘inspiration’ of the Bible. So, you often see them accuse the scholar of basing their conclusion — not on the facts, as is the case — but on some ‘bias’ against prophecy itself. For instance, see this recent comment by Christian fundamentalist, Bob Burns, on a publicly accessible discussion group:

“The practice of late-dating the books of the Bible can be seen as a position of faith on the part of those scholars who do so, though they will never admit it.”
Bob Burns

Not surprisingly, Bob Burns fails to actually cite any scholars who he thinks carry out such an approach. So it seems that Bob’s accusation of bias is nothing more than.. his own bias.

But let’s do what Bob didn’t do, and actually examine the method of perhaps the major living critical scholar on the Book of Daniel today, John J. Collins. John Collins makes it explicit that the method he follows is precisely the opposite of that described in Bob’s empty and unsupported accusation. Collins’ finding that the Book of Daniel is to be dated to ca. 165 BC is the result of his prior research. It is not an assumption before research begins. That is, the finding that the Book of Daniel’s prophecies were written ‘after the fact’ is the conclusion from Collins’ examination of the Book of Daniel’s historical, theological, literary evidence, along with its failed (and therefore future) prophecies in Dan 11.40-45. The conclusion that Daniel’s prophecies were written after the fact is not an a priori claim, but one that results from a prior, careful examination of the Book itself.

Collins summarizes his method here — which contradicts Bob Burns’ baseless claim:

“The issue is not whether a divinely inspired prophet could have foretold the events which took place under Antiochus Epiphanes 400 years before. The question is whether this possibility carries any probability: is it the most satisfactory way to explain what we find in Daniel? Modern critical scholarship has held that it is not.”
– John J. Collins, Daniel, First Maccabees, Second Maccabee, with an Excursus on the Apocalyptic Genre (Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1981): 11-12

So when we leave aside these unfounded accusations, and look at the actual method of a scholar of the Book of Daniel, we find that the dating of Daniel to the time after the so-called ‘prophecies’ were ‘fulfilled’ is not based on any bias against prophecy, but is argued methodologically from evidence to conclusion.

I doubt that any Daniel scholar argues from any simple a priori bias against predictive prophecy. The basis for dating Daniel would almost always include arguments from Daniel’s historical, lingustic and theological context, and/or arguments from the study of comparative prophecy. These empirical foundations for dating Daniel — whether considered correct or not — should not be misrepresented as a priori presupposition.

Posted in Fundamentalism, Prophets | 21 Comments »

Cunny Punning in Hosea 2

Posted by NT Wrong on November 2, 2008

Over the last couple of weeks I have had an opportunity to read quite a few biblioblogs which were new to me. One such biblioblog is the translation-orientated blog, He Is Sufficient by ElShaddai Edwards. Not too long ago, ElShaddai posted on Hebrew punning in a post entitled Cunning punning in Genesis 3. His post discussed the pun between ‘arum (“cunning”; “wise”) and ‘arummim (“naked”) in Genesis 2-3. This was followed up by a post by Mike Sangrey from Better Bibles, entitled Should Translations Run with Puns? Along with further posts by ElShaddai concerning a pun in Susanna and a pun in John 15.2-3, J. K. Gayle of Aristotle’s Feminist Subject followed up with four posts on puns.

The discussion reminded me of a possible pun in Hosea 2, and its translation by Alice Keefe. The passage is Hosea 2.11-12 [English: 2.9-10]:

לכן אשוב ולקחתי

    דגני בעתו
    ותירושי במועדו


    צמרי ופשׁתי
    לכסות את־ערותה׃

ועתה אגלה

    לעיני מאהביה

ואישׁ לא־יצילנה מידי׃

“Therefore I will return and take back

    my grain in its day
    and my wine in its season;

and I will snatch away

    my wool and my flax
    (which were) to cover her pudenda;

and today I will uncover

    her xxxx
    in the eyes of her lovers.

No man shall snatch her from my hand.”

The word ערותה (“her pudenda”) is formed from the same root as the word for “naked” in Genesis 2-3, which was discussed by ElShaddai. The term frequently connotes shame, as it does in both Genesis 2-3 and Hosea 2. So, I have translated it using the slightly archaic term “pudenda”, which in both meaning and etymology also connotes shame. In Hosea 2.11-12, the loss of covering for the woman’s pudenda is paralleled by the “uncovering” of נבלתה. This hapax which I represented by “her xxxx” in the initial translation above is often translated “her shame”, based on the root נבל (“fool”) — as in, eg, the Commentaries by Andersen and Freedman, McComiskey and Macintosh.

But in Woman’s Body and the Social Body in Hosea (2001), Alice Keefe suggests the following translation:

“Now I will uncover her shameful cunt before the eyes of her lovers, and no one will rescue her.” (p. 127, cf. p. 215; cf. Wolff, p. 37).

Keefe relies on an Akkadian cognate, baštu/baltu, meaning “genitalia” for translation of נבלתה. Yet whether נבלתה means “her cunt” or “her shame”, the reference is the same: she is being exposed naked for the abjective gaze of other men. For Keefe, this offensive situation, in which Yahweh offers the woman up to be raped, justifies her own “deliberately offensive translation of the term”. And it may well be the case that the principle of ‘the end justifies the means’ is the only foundation for such a translation — for the נבל root is attested elsewhere in cases of abusive sexual conduct in the rape of Dinah (Gen 34.7), the Levite’s concubine (Judg 19.23, 24; 20.6, 10), and the rape of Tamar (2 Sam 13.12).

However, it’s still an odd form of the נבל root in Hos 2.12 — just like the odd form of “naked” in Gen 2.25. If the odd form of Gen 2.25 is drawing attention to the pun which follows in Gen 3.1, might this also be the same for Hos 2.12?

If this is indeed the case — while the word נבלתה might not be based on the בלת root (“cunt”), and should not be translated as “cunt” — by forming a word from the root נבל in such an odd way it might still be alluding to the term for ‘”cunt”.

There’s a good example in Shakespeare. While he doesn’t explicitly use the offensive term “cunt”, the Bard slips it in a few times, in the form of a pun. Here’s an example from Hamlet which makes a very similar pun to what I think might be happening in Hosea:

    Lady, shall I lie in your lap? (Lying down at OPHELIA’s feet)

    No, my lord.

    I mean, my head upon your lap?

    Ay, my lord.

    Do you think I meant country matters?

    I think nothing, my lord.

    That’s a fair thought to lie between maids’ legs.

Hamlet’s reply, “Do you think I meant country matters?” is an indirect way in which to express the carnal connotations of lying between Ophelia’s legs. It makes much more sense understood also as a rather naughty pun on what lies between Ophelia’s legs: “Do you think I meant country matters?” And Hamlet (positioned here at Ophelia’s legs) subsequently continues his naughty puerile banter, making the existence of a pun fairly certain.

Likewise, I suggest that, in Hos 2.11-12, while the root נבל (“fool”) provides the literal meaning of the word, the root בלת (“cunt”) provides Hosea’s pun. This is, after all, a bawdy piece of performance art from Hosea, playing on popular patriarchal conceptions in order to raise a warning about Yahweh’s own patriarchal jealousy.

What’s left is how to translate this passage, in order to retain the original cunt-pun. I suggest this:

I will snatch away my wool and my flax which were to cover her pudenda, and today I will expose her pussyfooting in the eyes of her lovers.

Posted in Pentateuch, Prophets, Pun | 8 Comments »

1 Enoch is in the Bible even Today

Posted by NT Wrong on October 20, 2008

1 Enoch is a part of the canon of scripture in both Judaism and Christianity today. That is, 1 Enoch is a part of the Bible for both Jews and Christians.

It is recognised in both the smaller and broader canons of the Christian Ethiopian Church.

It is considered canonical by Falasha Jews.

Some groups within Judaism and Christianity do not consider it biblical, however. These groups include Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist Jews, Karaites, Samaritans, Roman Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Assyrian Christians. By contrast, the citations of 1 Enoch before AD 200 in Christian documents all refer to the Enochian books as scripture.

Posted in Prophets | Comments Off on 1 Enoch is in the Bible even Today

New Reviews in the Review of Biblical Literature – July 13, 2008

Posted by NT Wrong on July 14, 2008

What’s sexy in the latest Review of Biblical Literature?

Douglas R. Edwards and C. Thomas McCollough, editors, The Archaeology of Difference: Gender, Ethnicity, Class and the “Other” in Antiquity: Studies in Honor of Eric M. Meyers (2007)

The second of two Festschriften for Eric Meyers, following Religion and Society in Ancient Palestine. The first third of the collection covers the neolithic to Persian periods, while the second two-thirds covers the Hellenistic to Byzantine periods. How’s that for coverage? Amongst the 32 articles is “Ethnicity and the Archaeological Record: The Case for Early Israel” (William Dever), and in a different vein, something on linguistic variation by Raymond Person.

Avraham Faust, Israel’s Ethnogenesis: Settlement, Interaction, Expansion and Resistance (2007)

His theory on the ethnogenesis of Israel involves (1) settlement in the highlands versus Canaanites and Egyptians, primarily involving nomadic Shashu, (2) sharpening of ethnic identity through conflict with Philistines. Sounds familiar? Yes – it’s another Bible-paraphrase.

Jon L. Berquist, editor, Approaching Yehud: New Approaches to the Study of the Persian Period (2007)

The essays in this volume include a mixture of historiographic and literary approaches to the Persian period, now firmly established as the most productive period for the writing of texts which appear in the Hebrew Bible. Melody Knowles writes about pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Greek evidence; Richard Bautch writes about intertextuality; Donald Polaski examines inscriptions as sites of power; David Janzen examines Ezra 9-10 and mixed marriage; Christine Mitchell develops a Bakhtinian examination of the genre of historiography, with comparison to Greek historiography; Brent Strawn compares Isa 60 and the Apadana Relief from Persepolis; Jean-Pierre Ruiz makes a postcolonial reading of Ezekiel; John Kessler examines the golah in relation to demographic studies and Zech 1-8; Herbert Marbury examines Proverbs 7 in relation to Persian control; Jennifer Koosed reads Ecclesiastes via Derrida and Lacan; Jon Berquist introduces post-colonial considerations to the study of the function of the Psalms in the Second Temple period.

Posted in Archaeology, Books, Criticism, Historical Books, Historiography, Prophets | 3 Comments »

New Reviews in The Review of Biblical Literature – June 12, 2008

Posted by NT Wrong on June 13, 2008

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

Andreas Wagner, editor, Primäre und sekundäre Religion als Kategorie der Religionsgeschichte des Alten Testaments

There are 20 articles in what the reviewer calls an “unusually well coordinated collection of essays”. The authors examine whether the categories of “Primary and secondary religion” developed by T. Sundermeier and J. Assmann can be usefully used to describe the change in Jewish religion occuring in the post-exilic period. Contributors and respondents include Sigrun Welke-Holtmann, Pierre Bordreuil, Bernhard Lang, Marttii Nissinen, Paolo Xella, Walter Berkert (on Greek religion) and Gerd Thiessen (on Christianity). There are replies by Sundermeier and Assmann themselves.

Jim W. Adams, The Performative Nature and Function of Isaiah 40-55 (2006)

Speech-Act theory applied to Deutero-Isaiah – a revision of the author’s doctoral thesis. According to the review, it provides a good introduction to Speech-Act theory, including JL Austin and JR Searle.

David T. Runia and Gregory E. Sterling, editors, The Studia Philonica Annual: Studies in Hellenistic Judaism: Volume XIX, 2007 (2007)

The latest Studia Philonica Annual takes a special look at the Dead Sea Scrolls (and Philo, naturally), with an intro by the ubiquitous J. J. Collins, and articles by both the usual suspects and the unusual suspects: García Martínez, Stuckenbruck, Hindy Najman, Katell Berthelot, and Joan E. Taylor.

Posted in Books, Criticism, Dead Sea Scrolls, Early Jewish literature, Historical Books, Historiography, Prophets | 2 Comments »

New Reviews in The Review of Biblical Literature – June 5, 2008

Posted by NT Wrong on June 5, 2008

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

Carleen R. Mandolfo, Daughter Zion Talks Back to the Prophets: A Dialogic Theology of the Book of Lamentations (2007)

Uses Buber, Bakhtin, feminist, postcolonial theories to address Lamentations. Who says Theory is dead? The blurb says that the book “offers a new theological reading of the book of Lamentations by putting the female voice of chapters 1–2 into dialogue with the divine voice of prophetic texts in which God represents the people Israel as his wife and indicts them/her for being unfaithful to him. In Lamentations 1–2 we hear the “wife” talk back, and from her words we get an entirely different picture of the conflict showcased through this marriage metaphor.”

Rivka Ulmer and Lieve M. Teugels, editors,
Midrash and Context: Proceedings of the 2004 and 2005 SBL Consultation on Midrash

You get seven papers for your bucks here, by Jason Kalmon, Matthew Kraus, Joshua L. Moss, Annette Yoshika Reed, Elke Tönges, W. David Nelson, Rivka Ulmer. A number of the papers draw comparisons between Rabbinic and Patristic exegesis. There’s one on orality and one on magic.

Klaus-Peter Adam, Saul und David in der judäischen Geschichtsschreibung: Studien zu 1 Samuel 16-2 Samuel 5 (2007)

The author thinks that the traditions in Samuel were not written before the seventh century, and continued to be written and developed until the Hellenistic era. The reviewer, Walter Dietrich, is dismayed at such a verdict. Dietrich thinks it must be some of that postmodernist gobbledegook. According to Dietrich, Adam must have missed “the obvious possibility that the figure of Saul is anchored in the genuine northern Israelite tradition”. Adam shows how events in Samuel were written so as to anticipate the traditions in the book of Kings. It’s all a bit speculative for Dietrich’s taste. Adam’s literary analysis is rather lost on a reviewer who probably would have preferred to see endless divisions of individual verses into speculative stages of redaction and even more speculative historical reconstructions based on those speculative stages of redaction. Adam’s book looks most worthwhile.

Ellens, J. Harold, editor,
The Destructive Power of Religion: Violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

J. Harold Ellens and friends (including Jack Miles and Walter Wink) provide a series of pieces dealing with the violence in the Bible and other Abrahamic religions.

Leo G. Perdue, Wisdom Literature: A Theological History (2007)

Leo Perdue presents an overview of the history of wisdom as a theological category by examining texts from the Hebrew Bible.

Posted in Biblical interpretation, Books, Historical Books, Historiography, Justice, Prophets, Writings | Comments Off on New Reviews in The Review of Biblical Literature – June 5, 2008