Here are some interesting blogs that would be worth your time to check out. Biblicalia is a brand-spanking new blog right out of Berkeley (how I am envious of Kevin Edgecomb the editor of Biblicalia for being able to live in my all time favorite U.S. city–Cincinnati isn’t bad, but it ain’t no Bay Area). Biblicalia deals with all kinds of stuff relating to biblical studies and how my heart was warmed when Assyriology was mentioned in the list of subject areas.
For those who want to keep up their biblical Hebrew skills–check out Daily Hebrew. If the name isn’t enough for you, this blog provides you with daily biblical Hebrew readings with syntax and vocab helps.
The New York Times has a review of Harold Bloom’s new book, Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine.
From the review (I haven’t read the book and don’t really care to), it seems that Bloom is popularizing scholarship that is tired, worn-out, factually faulty, and passe. One of the more-than-half-a-century-out-of-date methodologies that he operates under stems from the documentary hypothesis. In a nutshell, this methodology tries to identify different sources within the biblical text that write from different and often conflicting ideologies. Passages are then (thousands of years later) unravelled (sometimes verse by verse or even phrase by phrase) into the various sources. Then, a theology is constructed from the hypothetical texts of the different ideological sources (although, quite circularly the passages are identified based on their presumed ideology).
Many biblical scholars still operate under this or a modified version of this methodology, but it’s a relic of the 19th century that is on life support and is flatlining. Instead of rushing physicians to its side to try to resuciate it (in the case of those who try to tweak the methodology or those like Bloom who insist on still popularizing it), it’s time to pull the plug. Let’s be honest–if my mom and dad wrote me a joint email I couldn’t decipher who wrote what unless they put their names to each section. So what makes us think that modern, western, mostly white males, can decode layers of authorship from semitic peoples who lived thousands of years ago in cultures completely different that ours? Let’s dispense with the hubris and come to grips with reality.
What do you think?
True biblical scholarship should be completely objective (if you believe the text that’s a strike against you and if you live the text in the context of an active religious community that’s two strikes against you), focus on source identification, contain as many citations of the most up-to-date critical scholarship as possible, and not make any observations that one could use to enrich their personal life, right? Wrong says Leon Kass in The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis.
Public teachers of the book, I then thought and still think, should be either biblical scholars or knowledgeable and religiously observant keepers of tradition–preferably both–and I was neither. But adhering to these strictures led to a difficulty. As I soon learned, biblical scholars, preoccupied with determining the sources of the text or comparing it with the writings of other traditions, now rarely read and teach the Bible in a wisdom-seeking spirit. And the traditional readers of the text often read too narrowly, resolving textual difficulties in the most pious direction. After a while, I persuaded myself that I would do my students no harm if I convened a not-for-credit course on Genesis in which we would read philosophically, solely for meaning and understanding in search of wisdom (xii).
This quote is a breath of fresh air. I could not count the times I have heard of Old Testament classes that spend the first third of the course addressing source critical issues, then the next third deals with modern interpretive philosophies, and then the rest of the semester is spent looking at passages and trying to decide where P starts and E ends. Amazingly, the message of the text is not seriously dealt with and even more sadly, personal growth and wisdom are not considered worthy goals of the course.
Kass’ approach of seeking the text in order to find wisdom should be applied to all biblical classes. If we are not seeking wisdom, what are we seeking? To be able to identify hypothetical sources? Even if we could do this, what good does it yield–how are our lives different because of this? True scholarship enriches people. It impacts them, it leaves them changed for the better for the rest of their life. If we aren’t leading people to wisdom and instead just filling their heads with little bits of trivia (verse x is an insertion from source y which then leads to source w which was composed in…) we are failing in the scholarly calling of helping people flourish and reach their dreams. We need more of Kass in biblical studies and less useless trivia. Let the text speak so that we may gain wisdom.
For the americans who read this site, Happy Thanksgiving! And for the very substantial number of you from all over the world, from Jordan to Japan, may you have a blessed day!
Purdue librarian Lawrence Mykytiuk has developed a system for testing whether ancient inscriptions refer to a specific biblical character. For an article about this “system” click here. For Mykytiuk’s book click that explains the “system” in detail click here. The Purdue article referes to three elements of Mykytiuk’s system (I haven’t read the book and don’t plan to, the Cliffs’ notes version is all I need on this one):
Whether the data included in the inscription is reliable;
What the “nationality” and the time frame of the inscription are and what Biblical person might be involved;
How strong the match is with the biblical person.
For a purportedly “objective” system, there is an awful lot of subjectivity here. All of this seems to try to quantify that “feeling in your gut” as to whether or not an inscription refers to the specific biblical person. I think in most cases it will be pretty obvious if an inscription refers to a specific person. And for the less than obvious cases it is probably better to err on the side of caution and say that the inscription might refer to the biblical person than to try to quantify and calculate a series of assumptions, guesses, and hunches.
N. J. C. Kouwenberg considers the difficult feature of Akkadian, the Gt-stem, in his article entitled “Reflections on the Gt-Stem in Akkadian” that appears in vol. 95 (2005) of the Zeitschrift fÃ¼r Assyriologie und Vorderasiatische ArchÃ¤ologie (77-103).
Kouwenberg argues that the separative meaning does not exist and the durative/intensive meaning was a later development unrelated to the original meaning of the t-infix (98). He states that the t-infix is a marker of detransitivity (98).
His arguments are interesting, but I had a problem with his tone. In several occasions Kouwenberg comes across as arrogant and disrespectful–neither of these qualities has any place in academics or life for that matter. For instance, “Nevertheless, all books published after the appearance of the Grundriss slavishly copy von Soden’s list of functions…(78).” Yes, unreflective repetition of previous work is very common, but should we really slap people in the face by calling their actions “slavish?”
Another example, “This may seem a quite arduous undertaking, but if we look at the verb forms in question with an unbiased eye, the separative function of the Gt-stem turns out to be based upon a very shaky foundation indeed…(79).” So, Kouwenberg, I guess everyone before you is completely biased, but thankfully, you are not.
We really don’t need pejorative comments or hubris in research. This article would be much better without it.
Here is an interesting article on teaching Hebrew on the Society of Biblical Literature’s site: The Hebrew Teacher: Guru, Drill Instuctor, or Role Model? by Charles David Isbell. It’s worth checking out.
He makes a couple interesting points that I agree with: Hebrew should be taught by the best teachers on staff–not dumped on junior faculty, every class and student is unique-teach like it and craft a unique educational experience for them, and motivating students is key. He also has “10 Commandments” for both students and teachers of Hebrew.
My presentation went very well. I had a good showing of people come to hear it and had many encouraging comments afterward. I also ran out of copies of the paper and will shortly email the essay to those who gave me their email address–thanks for your interest.
Here is an interesting post on another blog, the religionnewsblog, concerning the “Goliath inscription.” After talking with Stephen Kaufman at Hebrew Union College, it seems that the inscription might not yeild a reading of “Goliath” at all. We’ll see what comes of it, but word to the wise. Don’t always believe the initial reports of archeological findings. They are often revised, re-revised, refuted, etc.
I just heard a paper presented by Ardel B. Caneday in which he proposed a linkage between the maximum amount of lashes and not muzzling the ox in Deuteronomy 25. It was a really great presentation and I think he is really onto something. He thoughtfully and creatively presented his ideas.
I am going to spend a bit getting things in order for my presentation coming up this afternoon. More to follow…