James Spinti brings the good news that Carta has dropped the prices on some great-looking new books.Â These prices are much more reasonable than those previously announced, so hopefully more people will benefit from these volumes.
This morning’s Wall Street Journal features an editorial piece by Hershel Shanks in which he accuses the Israeli government of allowing the custodians of the Temple Mount to dig a destructive trench that has no archaeological oversight. Here is a selection:
Within the last few days, a trench two-feet deep — starting from the northern end of the platform where Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock sits — has begun working its way toward the southern end of the Temple Mount. The work is being done without any regard for the archaeological information or treasures that may lie below. Destruction is particularly great in places where bedrock is no deeper than the trench. Some of the digging is being done with mechanical equipment, instead of by hand as a professional archaeological excavation would be conducted.
I don’t know who are worse: the Muslim religious authorities digging up Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, or the Israeli authorities who are allowing it to happen.
That the Waqf, the Muslim religious trust that serves as custodian of the site, should wish to install new electric and telephone lines is understandable — provided that the necessary trench is first dug as a professional archaeological excavation. That is the required procedure everywhere in Israel before work can be undertaken at sites with archaeological significance. At the Temple Mount, even more care is required. This is the holiest site in the world to Jews, where the deeply religious fear to tread lest they step on the Holy of Holies: Solomon’s Temple and the Second Temple built by Herod the Great once stood on this site. The site is sacred to Muslims as well: Known in Arabic as the Haram al-Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary, it is presently graced with the magnificent Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The Waqf is not acting illegally. According to one report, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has quietly granted permission for this destructive dig (otherwise the excavation would be a clear violation of Israeli law). The Israel Antiquities Authority, when queried about the matter, replied: “No comment.” So the dig is proceeding without interference from Israeli authorities. Perhaps their attitude is a product of fear; otherwise, it is inexplicable. Significant remains — pottery, tesserae from ancient mosaics, tiles and even architectural fragments — have already been observed in the soil from the excavated part of the trench.
According to Shanks, this is not the first time something like this has happened:
The Waqf has a long history of ignoring Israel’s antiquities laws, and Israel has a long history of ignoring these violations. As early as 1970, the Waqf excavated a pit without supervision that exposed a 16-foot-long, six-foot-thick wall that scholars believe may well be the eastern wall of the Herodian Temple complex. An inspector from the antiquities department saw it and composed a handwritten report (still unpublished) before the wall was dismantled, destroyed and covered up.
Presiding over a lawsuit against Israel’s government and the Waqf to prevent such depredations, Israel’s Supreme Court found in 1993 that the Waqf had violated Israel’s antiquities laws on 35 occasions, many involving irreversible destruction of important archaeological remains. The court declined to enter an injunction, however, expressing its confidence that in the future Israeli authorities would correct their past errors. This confidence has proved unfounded.
In 1999, to accommodate a major expansion of an underground mosque into what is known popularly as Solomon’s Stables in the southeastern part of the Temple Mount, the Waqf dug an enormous stairway down to the mosque. Hundreds of truckloads of archaeologically rich dirt were dug with mechanical equipment and then dumped into the adjacent Kidron Valley. When archaeology student Zachi Zweig began to explore the mounds of dirt for antiquities, he was arrested at the behest of the Israel Antiquities Authority — for excavating without a permit.
For over two years Prof. Gabriel Barkay of Bar Ilan University (together with Mr. Zweig) has been engaged in a major sifting operation of this dirt, after he obtained a permit from the Antiquities Authority. Finds have included thousands of artifacts from all periods going back more than 3,000 years. They include a seal impression of a probable brother of someone mentioned in the Bible, Babylonian arrowheads dating to the destruction of Jerusalem in the 6th century B.C. (as well as other arrowheads from battles on the Temple Mount), thousands of coins (many dating to the Great Revolt against Rome), beautiful jewelry and even an ancient Egyptian scarab.
I find it unimaginable how anyone could think of digging around the Temple Mount without archaeological controls. If the Waqf is in fact doing this, the Israeli government needs to put a stop to it and make sure that all excavation work is done in a manner that preserves archaeological data.
What do you think about this? Have you heard of this happening before?
James Spinti from Eisenbrauns emailed me today giving the heads up on a couple new volumes slated to come out this next year. They look really great:
This title is written by Mordechai Cogen who is a very good scholar. Here’s the summary:
This volume presents a comprehensive collection of the royal inscriptions from Assyria and Babylonia that treat the Land of Israel and the People of Israel. Covering a period of just over three hundred years during the first half of the 1st millennium BCE, these texts tell the story of the military encounters – both victories and defeats – between the Mesopotamian empires and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Many of the texts relate to events described in the Hebrew Bible, while others provide information about affairs that were unknown until their discovery in the modern times. All the texts have been newly translated from the original cuneiform documents and are accompanied by a consecutive commentary and select bibliography.
The next book is basically an English translation of Shmuel Ahituv’s, Handbook of Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions that is written in Modern Hebrew. This is my favorite volume of Semitic Inscriptions that deal with the Bible because Ahituv includes a photo and/or a handcopy of the text, transliterations both pointed and unpointed, and studies–all under the same binding! This is a really handy volume and now it will be available in English. The only downside is the price, $150. However, if you can read Modern Hebrew you can already purchase the volume for $49. Want to learn Hebrew now? This volume can help (and at $54 you can learn Modern Hebrew and get Ahituv’s volume and still have money left over to buy more books!):
Finally, I’ve saved the best until last. I think the The Sacred Bridge atlas is a great resource. It is very detailed and includes a lot of texts. However, I think it would completely overpower undergraduate students so I am really glad that Carta is coming out with an abridged and more accessible volume, Carta’s New Century Handbook and Atlas of the Bible. This would make a great companion textbook for an undergrad/seminary class on the history of Israel in the biblical period.
LinkedIn is a very popular website for people in the business community, but scholars should also take advantage of the service that it provides.Â This site is a way for you to build relationships with friends, colleagues, or others who share common interests.Â You might think that relationship building is a bit exploitive, but that is only if you view it with a negative attitude.Â For relationship building to work best, your relationships must be mutually beneficial.Â This is not about using others nefariously, but building a circle of friends and colleagues that you trust and who will help you when you need them and that you in turn will help them when they need you.
LinkedIn can help you with this.Â Want to find someone who can read over your next conference presentation to help you with your interpretation of inscriptions from Hatra?Â Trying to find a publisher for your great new book idea?Â If more scholars were using LinkedIn, it would be no problem.Â As it stands, I think I’m one of the only ones in the system.Â So, if you feel like joining me, check out my profile and link to me.
A Google search landed me on a discussion thread that talked about a personality test which labels you as a particular dead landguage (Google does give some odd results sometimes). The descriptions of the languages are quite tongue in cheek, although some days it feels like their portrayal of Akkadian seems accurate:
Akkadian, a blend of the incomprehensible symbols of the Sumerians with the unwritable sounds of the early Semitic peoples. However, the writing just doesn’t suit the words and doesn’t represent everything needed, so you end up a schizoid mess. Invented in Babylon, you’re probably to blame for that tower story. However, crazy as you are, you’re much loved and appreciated, and remain actively in use by records keepers long after schools have switched to other languages.
Click here to take the test for yourself. I scored a Linear A:
Not much to say, really. You’re Linear A, the first alphabet ever written by the proto-Greeks – at least, as far as survives. Unfortunately, you made a bad career move and ended up being used by accountants and fish mongers, rather than to record epics. However, you did manage all your SEC filings on time.
If you are a biblical scholar and you have an interest in prophecy I would recommend that you integrate a survey of Neo-Assyrian and Mari prophecy with your study of the biblical text. Studying biblical prophecy in its ancient cultural setting can yield fruitful results and will give you a fuller picture of ancient prophecy. While there is no shortage on secondary material relating to biblical prophecy and even ancient Near Eastern prophecy in general, there are few works that thoughtfully study Mesopotamian prophecy and integrate these results into biblical studies. For the most part you will have to do this on your own, but let me help you get started (I am giving a presentation on the allusions to the stream of tradition in Neo-Assyrian prophecy at the conferences in San Diego so stop by if you’re in town).
First, here are several general observations about Mesopotamian prophecy (some of these might be highly controversial–I have spoken with several scholars who work in ANE prophecy and they disagree with a couple things on this list, but I think I can prove these points from the data):
- Neo-Assyrian prophets1 were professionals that were employed by the temple. I also think that many of these prophets were literate and went through at least a portion of scribal training.
- Dramatic prophecy, such as in Ezekiel, is not particular to the Bible. A prophet at Mari ate a raw lamb in front of the town elders in order to drive home the point of his prophecy.
- Mari prophets felt free to give blistering criticisms to the king.
- Prophecy at Mari was a combination of spontaneous activity by laypersons, impetrated by rituals involving laypersons, and given by professionals.
- Prophecies at Mari were often not taken at face value. They had to undergo further divinitatory testing in order to authenticate and/or determine the proper response to the prophecies.
- Prophecies were written down and sent in letters (as in Mari) and individual oracles were compiled together upon large tablets apparently for archival or training purposes (as in Nineveh).
- Scribes did not write down the prophecies word-for-word, but gave summaries. However, when prophets quoted from familiar texts or proverbs, these quotations were precisely copied.
Here are some books that will help you dive deeper into ancient Near Eastern prophecy. This list purposefully focuses upon primary sources because I believe that the most fruitful study that you can do is investigate the primary sources and make your own conclusions concerning these texts. Furthermore, I have not been very satisfied with the secondary literature on this topic.
If you buy one book on this subject, this is the one. It is a very handy volume designed for biblical scholars. This volume includes an introduction to each period discussed, relevant texts in transliteration and English translation, commentary and notes on each texts, and a very good bibliography.
This is the best one-volume work that treats Neo-Assyrian prophecy. It includes an introduction to the corpus and Neo-Assyrian prophecy (you should critically study this intro, it does contain speculative conclusions), transliterations and English translations, Akkadian dictionary and index, and photographs of the tablets. (The paper volume of this work is already out of print, so if you want this, you’d better go ahead and get the cloth copy while you still can.)
This is a great study of the references to prophecy in Neo-Assyrian non-prophetic texts. These texts provide great insight and a different perspective to prophecy. It reveals inter-cultural dynamics that you won’t discover in other ways. For instance, it seems that ancient scholars such as astrologers looked down on oracular prophets because their prophecy lacked a tradition that controlled inductive interpretation (professional rivalry also played a part as well). (Right now Eisenbrauns has a used copy for $39, if I were you I’d snatch this up.)
These resources should give you a good start. Do you have any resources that you would recommend?
- I am using “prophets” in a gender-neutral manner. Both males and females participated in prophecy during all periods in Mesopotamia and in the Hebrew Bible. [back]
Academics is not merely about reading, teaching, and writing–it’s also about brand building. Want to get your new book idea distributed by a top-flight publishing house? Want to be asked to participate in the invitation-only conference? How about writing a major article for a prominent dictionary or encyclopedia? Ever dream of editing a journal? Want to recieve an endowed chair? You get the picture. In order to do anything of these things you need to be bright, dependable, and have good ideas. You also need to be a one-person brand.
In the academic world we call it reputation, but in the business community it is called brand equity. In short, it is the percieved value of you and your ideas. How much are these names worth? Tov, Cross, von Soden, Neusner, van Seters, Rendtdorff, Lambert, Jacobsen… While these are names they are also brands. They are worth endowed chairs, editorial positions, lectureships, prizes, and book deals.
How do you build your own personal academic brand? There are many ways including the most commonly known–publishing. While publishing is certainly nice, there are other ways as well:
- Speaking at conferences or meetings
- Organizing conferences or meetings
- Moderating sessions
- Building a network
- Outstanding teaching
- Providing valuable information for other scholars (think of how many emails you recieve from Jack Sasson)
- Editing the writings of other scholars
- Editing journals, festschriften, or books
For inspiration on building your academic brand, check out the case stories of how various business leaders built their brand. Who knows, you could be the next Milgrom.
Do you have any ideas on academic brand building?
You know a fad has peaked when the publishers start pumping out the kitsch. I’d like to call the peak of literary approaches to the Bible at 1:46pm, July 2, 2007–that’s the minute that I opened up my mailbox and found some promo material for “The Literary Study Bible.” Sure the general public will probably eat it up (and I do think helping the general public notice the literary features of the Bible is a good thing), but my scholar-friends, it’s time that we start looking for the next new trend. Studying the Bible from a literary perspective is now as passÃ© as integrating anthropological approaches to biblical dietary laws.
I looked through the material which consists of two pages of laudatory review quotations sandwiching the intro to Genesis and the text and comments on Genesis 1-3. There are some things that I would specifically quibble with in the intro and comments, but most striking of all was the fact that the comments were so incredibly vague. Motifs are identified (I disagree with much of the nomenclature used–is Genesis really an anthology of hero stories? Some characters might be considered as heroes but we certainly need a much more nuanced and thoughtful designation than this. Was a guy who pawned off his wife to a local warlord just to save his own skin a hero? Hmmmm, this calls for more discussion than this new “Study Bible” provides.) but only in the most general, sweeping terms. The motifs–at least in the small section of the materials that I received–were not compared to other uses within the Bible or in extra-biblical literature.
Furthermore, the literary discussions mainly concern issues at the canonical or philophical level. There were zero discussions of sentence-level much less word-level literary features. There is certainly a ton of literary stuff happening in Genesis 1-2 but this study Bible hardly covered any of it.
Also, I think these authors may have confused themes with motifs. They identify some “motifs” in Genesis as “sinfulness of the human race and individuals,” “human experience,” and “characters, characters, characters.” I would prefer to label these as themes (By the way, are the extraordinarily general themes of “characters” or “human experience” really helpful? About 90% of all stories contain these “motifs.”) and reserve motif as describing more specific elements that are common to multiple stories within a cultural repertory but are independent of characters and the specific storylines.
As a study Bible, I would have expected more than just a general intro before each book and some “tips” on how to read each chapter. In many places the notes seem more like philosophical explorations rather than comments that are tied to the actual features of the texts under discussion. The intention of helping people understand the literary aspects of the Bible great, but I wish the volume had fuller discussions of specific literary features.
What do you think? Have you seen this volume? Do you think we need a new study Bible? Do you think we need a literary study Bible?
The new Biblical Studies Carnival is now up. Many thanks to Stephen Cook for hosting a great carnival.