I have been meaning to post about some helpful resources: a COS/ANET index (incredibly this was left out of the COS volumes) and an index for the Anchor (Yale) Bible Dictionary including author/translator and title–both of these indexes were compiled by Kevin Edgecomb. Also, if you are teaching or learning from Alan Ross’s Hebrew grammar, Phillip Marshall has some very helpful answer keys and extra drill sheets and stuff (amazingly, the publisher does not provide answer keys to this grammar).
Forbes has an article entitled “Bureaucrat U” which has a great opening paragraph (the remainder of the article disappoints a bit):
College tuition increased by 6.6% a year over the past decade, a rate that is approximately 2.4 times that of inflation. One big cause: the bloating of university bureaucracies. Between 1997 and 2007 the administrative and support staffs at colleges expanded by 4.7% a year, double the rate of enrollment growth. The burgeoning army of college bureaucrats defends this extraordinary growth as necessary to provide consumer-oriented students with an expanded breadth of noninstructional services. Yet this obfuscates the underlying mission of colleges to produce and disseminate knowledge. It is time for higher education to go on a diet.
The subtitle is “Pay the teachers, not the administrators” and that is something that I agree with. I think that administrators should get fair compensation but people don’t need to get filthy rich while in academics and believe it or not this is actually happening for around 10% of college and university employees in administrative positions (see the article for details). Furthermore, enough with the executive vice presidents for toe-nail clipping safety–the mission of higher education is EDUCATION. Let’s use our resources to further the mission not the ancillary stuff. In my mind there is one major exception to this–the fundraising department. This administrative unit is actually worth the money that is put toward it.
John Hobbins wants the top 5 books/scholars that have influenced my view of biblical studies. Since it’s John I’m happy to oblige. Probably most formative for me have been the primary sources: MT, LXX, Greek & NW Semitic writings and inscriptions, Ugaritic, Mesopotamian works…however, here are some of the secondary works that have influenced me the most:
- E.P. Sanders, N.T. Wright, and Richard B. Hays (I haven’t read Dunn) While I am not a NP(s)P devotee, in my view these guys have brought a lot of valuable stuff to the discussion. I don’t think that Sanders has the picture totally right in Paul and Palestinian Judaism, but I think he has correctly felt the pulse of many streams of ancient Judaism with his focus on grace and covenant instead of a works-based system. From my reading of rabbinic literature at HUC, this seems to fit but there was probably a good amount of diversity as well as a gap between “official” religion and “popular” religion if we want to use those terms. Furthermore, I think he has shown that you can’t properly understand an ancient document without understanding the cultural milieu in which it was born (but we should have known that anyway). Wright has great stuff on exodus and exile as well as a very good treatment of apocalyptic literature. Hays opened my eyes to the complexity and breathtakingly beautiful biblical intertextuality particularly in Paul.
- Jeffrey Tigay brought an “empirical” approach to many of the questions within biblical studies particularly with his books: The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic, You Shall Have No Other Gods, and the edited bookEmpirical Models for Biblical Criticism. Ben Foster’s work on the role of an author within Akkadian works has been formative in my understanding of ancient authorship as well, “On authorship in Akkadian literature” Annali dell’Istituto Orientale di Napoli51 (1991), 17-32.
- Israel Yeivin’s Introduction to the Tiberian Masorah and David Weisberg’s lectures showed me that there was a good deal of diversity even within the Masoretic Tradition. Furthermore, the masoretes themselves studied and valued this diversity.
- Herbert Brichto’s works including The Names of God and Toward a Grammar of Biblical Poetics heightened my sense of authorial rhetorical aims and also taught me that we should not always think that ancient peoples interpreted their cosmologies literalistically–did the Mesopotamians really believe that Tiamat was cut into two pieces to form the earth? I doubt it. David Aaron’s Etched in Stone and his Judges class further developed my appreciation of rhetorical structure, Structuralism, New Criticism, emplotment and other issues of historiography.
- Finally, Jon Levenson in The Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament and Historical Criticism among other things made a persuasive case to me that ancient Near Eastern and biblical studies would practically be dead if it were not for religious communities that honored the Old Testament. Also, Ranald MacAulay and Jerram Barrs in Being Human: The Nature of Spiritual Experience explained how the Bible presents a picture of true humanity–its vision is a community of fully human people not a people that retreats from the world into a “spiritual” state of being (this fits in nicely with Wright’s presentation of new creation and life after life after death).
Tomorrow morning I’m heading out for what I hope will be my last collation trip to the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. They have a collection of Sumerian texts that I’m working on and I need to check a few readings. The curator and collection manager have been extremely gracious and helpful–I am very appreciative for museums like the Carnegie and for the wonderful people who run them.
If you are in the area they have a special exhibit on the horse which includes some ANE material. I haven’t seen it yet but Dr. Sandra Olsen, the lead curator, described it to me and it sounds fascinating and well worth a visit.
Robert Eglund’s article in CDLJ entitled “The Smell of the Cage” is now available for free download. (This article is numbered 2009:4 but there is presently no 2009:3 so presumably there should be another free article to come shortly.) This article examines personal names in Late Uruk “slave lists.” Here is a selection from one of the concluding paragraphs:
We might suspect that as in later periods, and as the designations SAG+MA and ERIMa, as well as seeming prisoner scenes on many Late Uruk seals might tend to support, the chattel slaves were above all taken from foreign populations, their names thus in some non-Babylonian language. But frankly, it would surprise me if the Uruk overlords did not rename their foreign slaves with terms comprehensible to the local population, much as did the buyers of African slaves shipped to the Americas, since it is difficult to imagine that those engaged in the exchange and exploitation of humans, of whole families judged as little better than local livestock, would have made an effort to retain their native names. I can offer only indirect evidence that this may have been true. Contracts of the sale of chattel slaves in the Ur III period followed a standard format that included the name of sold persons in the form “one (slave type), PN his/her name, his/her price n shekels of silver …”
The New Acropolis Museum is set to open this weekend in Greece and the NY Times has a piece describing the building and the impetus behind its construction. The article has a few quotes from current and former Greek cultural officials, here are some selections purposely put side-by-side:
“We didn’t build this for the sake of the British,” Mr. Samaras [minister of culture] said in an interview, adding at once, “but look around: does this not negate the argument that Athens has no place good enough to house the Parthenon Marbles?”
[The museum] displays what remains in Greece of the original Parthenon sculptures and frieze, alongside plaster casts of the works in London. The contrast between the glaring whiteness of the copies and the ancient, honey-colored marbles makes for a powerful, and calculated, statement.
“We wanted it this way,” said Dimitris Pandermalis, the museum’s director. “Who will fail to notice that a torso is here and a head in England?”
There are certainly many reasons why Greece would want to build this museum, but trying to get the Elgin Marbles back is likely chief among them.
[Note: this post includes quotations from translations of ancient texts which contain explicit language--save your hate mail--it is for a legitimate scholarly purpose.]
During my studies within the field of classics it was quite routine for translators to liberally sprinkle expletives throughout their renderings of ancient Greek works and no one batted an eye when this was done. Every “four-letter” word was used and, depending upon the particular text, they could be used often. This was done because the translators fully believed that using these expletives was the way to faithfully render the texts they were reading–that is, these were coarse words within the ancient Greek register.
However, within biblical and ancient Near Eastern studies expletives are hardly ever used within translations but surely these words existed within these cultures.
There are several places in the Bible where various translations/translators have noted “coarse” language. For instance, the NET Bible says that the words that Saul used to describe his son in 1 Sam 20:30 were “very coarse and emotionally charged words.” In the note to this verse the NET Bible offers this translation: “You stupid son of a bitch!” while HALOT (796) gives the gloss: “bastard of a wayward woman.”
The famous New Testament example of a possible expletive appears in Philippians 3:8 which BDAG translates as “It’s all crap” and the NET Bible folks have an entire write up about it which they conclude that the word “stand[s] somewhere between ‘crap’ and ‘sh** [sic].’”
The only example of a translated expletive that I have seen in Mesopotamian writings appears in Martti Nissinen’s translation of a Mari letter in which a prophet complains: “I live amidst an abundance of shit and piss, eating reed of timinum” (p. 29). The word in question here is zû(m) which CDA translates as “excrement” and AHw gives the glosses “Kot, Exkremente; Schmutz.”
So, this leads us to three questions: How does one accurately determine which words within ancient literature are expletives? Once you have identified an expletive, how do you determine it’s strength within the target language? If there are expletives in the Bible, how should they be translated?
This morning’s WSJ contains an article entitled: “What Helps New Ph.D.s Land Jobs in Academia? A Passport.” With most American schools suffering from various levels of financial distress schools are canceling faculty searches and putting into place hiring freezes. So, where is a new PhD graduate to look for a job? Apparently in Asia or the Middle East. Some of the schools featured in the article are located in China, Qatar, and Kurdistan. However, the drawbacks are: networking with US colleagues is difficult, access to library material is questionable, and there is a certain stigma that goes along with these positions (what, you weren’t able to hack it in the US market so you went to a low-level war zone in Iraq for a job?).
Certainly there are positive aspects to a position at these schools, but I’m hoping that the economy will rebound (for many reasons) so that I don’t have to teach in a flak jacket…
So, you want to rake in the cash and you also want to be in higher education? Yes, it is possible. Just make sure that you run a medical school or a dermatology lab. If you like the central office then either shoot for being chancellor or better yet CFO. These positions could net you as much as $5,000,000 per year. It would take about two long careers for most theology/humanities professors to earn this kind of cash. Thank goodness there is more to life than money.
The Italians have given the world a tremendous gift by putting together the Virtual Museum of Iraq. It is a fantastic site with a wealth of information. You can learn about the history of ancient Iraq through historical summaries, timelines, as well as pictures and descriptions of artifacts. It covers the pre-historic through Islamic periods and is very worth a visit.