We’ve all heard of hiring and pay freezes and the like at higher education institutions around the country. That’s bad enough but recent news indicates it might start getting much worse. Yale has announced “involuntary layoffs” for around 300 of its employees. Wow, even their endowment probably worth somewhere around 15-ish billion (it was down to about 17 billion at the end of June last year) isn’t able to prevent this. If it’s happening at Yale, it’s happening everywhere…
Here is a recent review of mine. Have you read the book? What do you think about it?
The Templeless Age: An Introduction to the History, Literature, and Theology of the “Exile.” By Jill Middlemas. Louisville: WJK, 2007, x + 174 pp., $24.95 paper.
Jill Middlemas (Dechow) is Associate Professor of the faculty of theology at Aarhus Universitet in Denmark. This book stems from a series of lectures she gave at Oxford which in turn incorporated some of her dissertation work at the same institution.
The goal of this book is two-fold: 1) to provide an up-to-date introduction to the historical, literary, and theological insights of the “exilic period” and 2) to reframe the designation of the age after the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC.
With respect to the first purpose of this book Middlemas provides an overview of the history of the “templeless age” which she delineates as 587-515 BC. This section includes a thoughtful discussion regarding the use of the biblical documents in historical reconstructions of this period. Middlemas advocates a cautious integration of the history in the Bible since it provides “information about the way the biblical writers conceived of and understood their past” (10).
After the historical overview Middlemas summarizes literary and theological features of the biblical documents that are associated with this period. The identification of these texts generally accords with the standard conventions of critical biblical studies: Lamentations, various Psalms, Deuteronomistic History, Jeremiah (A, B, C), Ezekiel 1-39 & 40-48, Isaiah (1, 2, 3), Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, and the Holiness Code.
The second aim of this book is perhaps its most valuable contribution. Middlemas gives five reasons for her call to redesignate the “exile” as the “templeless age”: 1) there were three separate Judean exiles, 2) some people chose to flee, 3) “exilic” represents only the Babylonian perspective while there were diverse communities, 4) the “exilic” perspective uncritically adopts the “myth of the empty land,” and 5) the “exile” falsely represents a period with a clear beginning and end (3-5).
For the most part, Middlemas provides careful and judicious treatments throughout this volume. However, there are a few occasions in which she could have sharpened her presentation. For instance, in the section concerning Deutero-Isaiah she says, “Up until the collapse of Jerusalem, Yahweh was considered the supreme among many gods (monolatry rather than monotheism)” (106). Even though this is an introductory text that by necessity simplifies complicated topics, statements such as this are not helpful. To be sure, there were probably many within ancient Israel, Judah, and beyond that were in fact monolatrous, but the landscape is far more complicated than Middlemas’ statement implies. There are many scholars that believe monotheism was alive and well before the fall of Jerusalem. Not only did the infamous Akhenaten religious reformation take place in the Late Bronze age, but monotheism may even have been a feature of certain segments of Neo-Assyrian religion. On this topic Simo Parpola remarks, “On the surface, then, Assyrian religion, with its multitude of gods worshiped under different names, appears to us as polytheistic; on a deeper level, however, it was monotheistic, all the diverse deities being conceived of as powers, aspects, qualities, or attributes of Aššur, who is often simply referred to as ‘(the) God’” (Assyrian Prophecies, xxi; this position is no doubt controversial with many scholars such as Jerrold Cooper (JAOS 125/3, pp. 430-444) rejecting Parpola’s view while others such as David Weisberg (personal conversation) are much more favorable). Even if the Akhenaten reforms and aspects of Neo-Assyrian religion were not full-blown monotheism, they are strong tendencies in this direction. Therefore, we should not reject out of hand the notion that certain pre-exilic citizens of ancient Israel and Judah could display monotheistic beliefs.
The Templeless Age issues a clear and persuasive call to redesignate the “exilic period” as the “templeless age.” Middlemas corrects deeply ingrained misperceptions of the variegated landscape of this time. Furthermore, she provides an accessible point of entry for undergraduate students to the standard viewpoints of contemporary scholarship regarding the literary and theological features of the “templeless” biblical material.
The Templeless Age
An Introduction to the History, Literature, and Theology of the Exile
by Jill Middlemas
Westminster / John Knox Press, 2007
176 pages, English
Paper, 6 x 9
List Price: $24.95
Your Price: $22.46
Eisenbrauns has a fantastic weekend deal on the following SAA volume:
Court Poetry and Literary Miscellanea
State Archives of Assyria – SAA 3
by Alasdair Livingstone
University of Helsinki Press, 1989
xxxvii + 183 pages + 16 plates, English
List Price: $54.24
Your Price: $21.70
No translation, no matter how good it is, can make these texts familiar or immediately understandable to a modern non-technical reader. One is bound to admit the existence of a cultural barrier which can be – even partially – removed only through a more thorough acquaintance of texts themselves or related documents from the same period…
A literal translation – which would only add linguistic anomalies to the difficulties of the reader – is therefore excluded. On the other hand, an easily readable free translation would not be a much better alternative. A free translation is bound to be to a large extent an interpretation (and as such a subjective one), and modernization which is necessary for readability might mislead an innocent reader, if too widely applied. My translation hopes to be a sort of compromise between these two extremities: sufficiently accurate and illustrative, but not too literal to make the texts unreadable and not too much of an interpretation to make them non-Assyrian.
–Simo Parpola, Letters from Assyrian Scholars, xviii.
Sounds like the NRSV translation committee motto: “As literal as possible, as free as necessary…”
Letters from Assyrian Scholars to the Kings Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal
EIS – Eisenbrauns
by Simo Parpola
2 volumes; xxii + 341, xxxiv + 542 pages, English
Cloth, 8.5 x 11 inches
List Price: $169.00
Your Price: $152.10
I just finished a very fascinating article by Ozaki Tohru, “Divine Statues in the Ur III Kingdom and their ‘KA DU8-HA’ Ceremony,” in the Sigrist Festschrift. In this article Tohru presents texts that record donations of food products to the statues of gods. These lists also include the phrase: KA DU8-HA which means “to open the mouth.” These lists have been studied before, but Tohru then goes on to relate this ritual of consecrating and “vivifying” the statue with modern Buddhist practices in Japan.
This article is extremely helpful and a good contribution to the field, but amazingly he did not make any connection of the KA DU8-HA ritual with the mis pi ritual in Akkadian literature (see Born in Heaven, Made on Earth for more info). This omission is quite shocking given the fact that the Sumerian KA DU8-HA and Akkadian mis pi mean the same thing “to open the mouth.” Furthermore, to relate the KA DU8-HA ritual to modern Japanese practice but not to Neo-Assyrian texts is curious (I certainly appreciate anthropological comparisons–there are also similar comparisons included in the Born in Heaven volume). However, maybe he thought that there was no need to highlight this connection since the mis pi ritual is commonly known among Assyriologists?
I’ve recently uploaded my updated CV. It includes a few more reviews I’ve done and such. Two more articles should be included shortly once I have firm confirmation that they are going to be published (I have had a few editors tell me that they are publishing reviews but the reviews didn’t ever see the light of day even after the editors confirmed they were accepted after I followed up with them). One of the articles is on divine testing in Isa 7 in relation to confirmation procedures for ANE oracles and the other article presents a new breed of sheep that I found in the Ur III texts that I am publishing–”highlander sheep.”
I just stumbled upon an audio lecture that Tonia Sharlach gave to the Women’s Studies in Religion Program at Harvard University entitled: “Women in the Religion of Iraq in the Twenty-first Century BC.”
I’ve been waiting for this to come out for some time. Here is the link to the publisher’s page and here is a rundown of the articles:
Philippe Quenet, Un sceau-cylindre inédit de Tell Khuera (Syrie du Nord) et sa place au sein de la glyptique géométrique du Bronze ancien en Mésopotamie
Jacob L. Dahl et Laurent F. Hebenstreit, Ur III texts in a private collection in Paris
Pierre Amiet, Elam et trans-Elam. À propos de sceaux-cylindres de la collection du Dr. Serge Rabenou
Andrew R. George, The civilizing of Ea-Enkidu : an unusual tablet of the Babylonian Gilgameš epic
Alice Mouton, Anatomie animale : le festin carné des dieux d’après les textes hittites III. le traitement des viandes
Abduillah Fadhil et Markus Hilgert, Zur identifikation des lexikalischen kompendiums 2R 50 + (K 2035a + K 4337)
Pierre Villard, L’(an)dur?ru à l’époque néo-assyrienne
Michael Jursa, Die Söhne Kudurrus und die Herkunft der neubabylonischen Dynastie
Jean-Louis Huot, Chroniques bibliographiques 9. Les fouilles à tell brak
Dominique Charpin, Chroniques bibliographiques 10. Économie, société et institutions paléo-babylonienne : nouvelles sources, nouvelles approches
…I was wrong. It appears that one of the primary stimulants of the Reformation is making a comeback.
Let’s say you’ve done some things that you shouldn’t have…even, dare we say, you sinned. Not to worry, just shake down those couch covers and gather up your spare coins and head to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and get a plenary indulgence. Irony of ironies (at least to a Protestant) is that the indulgences are connected to the festivities of the year of St. Paul.
I hear Martin Luther rolling over in his grave.
Artifacts from an expedition led by the Texas A&M University Nautical Archaeology department are on display at the Met. I had the privledge of taking a class from George Bass as well as Shelley Wachsmann while I was a student at Texas A&M.
Here is the first part of a piece from the Texas A&M newspaper:
Texas A&M University’s Institute of Nautical Archaeology was awarded the distinction of having artifacts on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
According to Associate Professor of Anthropology Cemal Pulak, the artifacts are dated circa 1300 B.C. and are some of the oldest known artifacts discovered from a seafaring vessel.
Pulak and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Nautical Archaeology George Bass began recovering the artifacts from a sunken sea vessel off the coast of Turkey in 1983.