Meetings 1997 1

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Winter Meeting 1997 (abstracts)

At University House, Birmingham, Monday to Wednesday, 6-8 January 1997

Dr Rex Mason (Oxford): H. Wheeler Robinson Revisited (Presidential Paper)

Dr Pauline Hodgetts, (Birmingham): In Search of the Judges: Of historica1 craft and crafted history (Short Paper)

Professor William Johnstone (Aberdeen): I Chronicles 21: What did David do wrong? (Short Paper)

Revd Richard J. Coggins (Lymington), Do we still need ‘Deutero-Isaiah?

Dr Gerard J. Norton (Birmingham): Biblia Hebraica Quinta: What, why, and for whom?

Dr John Day (Oxford): Yahweh and the sun

Professor R Norman Whybray (Ely): Psalm 119 – Profile of a Psalmist

Summer Meeting 1997 (abstracts)

Joint OTW/SOTS Meeting, at Wadham College, Oxford:

Tuesday to Friday, 22-25 July 1997

Special theme: Exegesis within literary traditions of Israel and the ancient Near East

Professor Klaas Smelik (Brussels): The Representation of King Ahaz and King Hezekiah in the Books of Kings and Chronicles

Dr David Reimer (Oxford): Political prophets? Prophetic politics?

Dr Harm van Groll (Utrecht): The Use of Scripture and the Theological Choices in Ezra 9:6-9

Dr Marjo Korpel (Utrecht): Exegesis within the work of Llilimilku of Ugarit

Professor Michael Fishbane (Chicago): ‘The Hebrew Bible and Tradition: Reflections and Reconsiderations

Dr Janet Tollington (Cambridge): The Book of Judges: The result of post-exilic exegesis

Professor Jan Joosten (Strasbourg): Exegesis within the Septuagint of Hosea

Professor John Barton (Oxford): What is a Book?: Modern Exegesis and the Literary Conventions of Ancient Israel


Winter Meeting 1997

Presidential Address: Dr Rex A. Mason (Oxford) ‘H. Wheeler Robinson Revisited’.

The paper re-examined H. Wheeler Robinson’s life and personality in the light of the most recent material available before turning to the major strands of his work. These were rooted in his graduate research work in the field of ‘Hebrew Psychology’, and the development of his thinking through his works was traced in the light of the sociological and anthropological works which inspired him and criticisms which have been made of his work since his death. It was argued that the most significant aspect of his work was not in the concept of ‘Corporate Personality’ (important as that was) but in the concept of the ‘invasion’ of human psyche by the divine Spirit, a concept which also originated in animism but which was developed to much greater religious depth in Hebrew thought. Subsequent criticism which has shown the invalidity of much of the sociological and anthropological source material for these ideas had to be maintained but it was argued that H. Wheeler Robinson actually drew his major concepts from a study of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures themselves and used his comparative material from the ancient Near East mainly as illustration, rather than source, for his ideas. Much in these remains significant. Indeed, the paper concluded that in many ways H. Wheeler Robinson anticipated subsequent developments in the thought of Old Testament scholarship, especially those which were critical of the Biblical Theology movement, a movement which he would have rejected. Much of his work therefore remains and he must be counted a major scholar who influenced many other scholars, to a great extent directed the course of Old Testament studies after his time and offered an understanding of religious experience which still has force in these ‘post-modern’ days.

Dr Pauline Hodgetts, (Birmingham): ‘In Search of the Judges: Of historical craft and crafted history’:

For over a century there has been widespread agreement that the Book of Judges offers a showcase for viewing the historical craft of biblical writers. The text is widely perceived as a multi-layered text with an historical kernel of tribal tradition. Once this source material has been detected, it has often been used as the basis for reconstruction of a ‘judges period’. This view persists despite much current scepticism regarding ‘ancient Israel’, the illuminating work of literary critics, and the tendency towards a radically later dating of texts. It was argued in this paper that the evidence for early source material can be seriously challenged on archaeological and literary grounds. It was suggested that the interconnecting tapestry of the judge stories derived solely from the hand of one writer who produced a well-crafted work for the specific purpose of creating a crafted ‘period of the judges’. For a redactor to supply such interconnections, the level of redaction would be such that any pre-existing source material would practically have been entirely re-written. It thus becomes increasingly likely (and more simple) to say that the hand of the ‘redactor’ is actually the hand of the author. The paper concluded that the Book of Judges does not offer a showcase for the historian’s craft, but in fact may provide a crafted ‘history’ of a judges period.

Professor William Johnstone (Aberdeen): ‘I Chronicles 21: what did David do wrong?’ :

From Joab’s reply in I Chron. 21 three objections to the census might be inferred: it can not , it need not, and it ought not to be held. The latter objection may contain three theological principles: the LORD can save by few or by many; to know the number is to replace trust by knowledge; Israel is by divine promise uncountable. However, such objections are undercut by I Chron. 27, where a census is in fact held. The key term for resolving the paradox is b/t, as expounded in II Chron. 23:16-24:14 (cf. Exod. 30:11-16): when the people are mustered for military service, an indemnity must be laid up as a reminder before the LORD as a rite of prophylactic atonement (cf. II Chron. 25:5-10). The point of a census is not to check Israel’s military capability but to verify that Israel pays all that is due to God (cf. the figure of Che/a/onaniah in I Chron. 15:22; I Chron. 26:29 and II Chron. 31:12f.). By means of I Chron. 21, which describes David’s climactic failure in the realm of the holy, the Chronicler binds the reign of David, and the ensuing rule of the House of David, into his overall schema of guilt and atonement in his presentation of Israel’s life.

Revd Richard J. Coggins (Lymington): ‘Do we still need Deutero-Isaiah?’:

The term ‘Deutero-Isaiah’ is used in two senses: to describe a body of oracles, Isaiah 40-55; and to speak of an anonymous prophet, who allegedly lived among the Judahite exiles in Babylon in the 540s B.C.E. The paper argued that changes in historical understanding meant that neither of these usages continued to be appropriate. To describe a body of oracles as ‘Deutero-Isaiah’ implies that there is a ‘Proto’-Isaiah to which a new collection is added. But recent study of Isaiah 1-39 has shown how unlikely it is that there was a substantial collecion already complete to provide such a basis. Further, the redactional processes underlying Isaiah 40-55 are more complex than scholarship has traditionally allowed for; and the complex cross-currents within the book of Isaiah warn us against taking Isaiah 40-55 as a distinct unit. Historically, too, it seems unlikely that the situation allegedly producing an anonymous prophet ‘Deutero-Isaiah’ was as it has been portrayed. Would the Babylonians have allowed a substantial group of exiled Judahites to remain together, with one of their number preaching sedition against the government? Indeed the whole notion of a Babylonian background for these chapters is much less secure than has commonly been supposed. The references to Babylon and its gods are no more characteristic than are such references in Jeremiah 50-51, which are never supposed to have a Babylonian setting. The references to Cyrus in Isaiah 44-45 need not imply that he was a contemporary; rather he was an idealised figure, honoured as the one who had allowed the Jerusalem temple to be rebuilt. The usual ‘historical’ reconstruction of the sixth century owes more to ideology than has been recognised.

Dr Gerard J. Norton (Birmingham): ‘Biblia Hebraica Quinta: what, why, and for whom?’:

The lecturer presented the new edition of Biblia Hebraica currently being prepared by an international committee as a project of the United Bible Societies. The publishers (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart) intend it to replace the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and its incomplete project for publication of Masorah. Biblia Hebraica Quinta will be a one-volume edition of the text, with the Masorah Magna and Parva as found in the manuscript B19a of Leningrad with a critical apparatus. This will be accompanied by a one-volume commentary which will provide information and discussion beyond that contained in the apparatus of the text volume, as well as a translation of the Masorah where appropriate. Each fascicle will also be issued separately, bound with the relevant text-critical commentary. The first fascicle is due in 1998. While presenting a diplomatic edition of the Leningrad manuscript, the editors will not try to reconstruct an ‘original text’ in the apparatus but will present the available evidence (direct and indirect) for variant Hebrew texts. In this way it presents a change in editorial approach that results from reflection on the history of the transmission of the text. The speaker addressed particularly the edition of the Psalms, and showed with reference to Psalm 4:5-9 how the approach of Biblia Hebraica Quinta will differ from that of B.H.S. The stichography of the Psalter in the Leningrad manuscript, although it distinguishes the book from non-poetic texts, seems to have been devised by the scribe of that manuscript and to be related to the page divisions of the manuscript. The most obvious differences in the Psalter of the new edition when compared with that of B.H.S will lie in the stichography which will follow the accentuation of the Leningrad manuscript, and in the virtual elimination of the text changes proposed on metrical grounds, whether implicitly or explicitly.

Dr John Day (Oxford): ‘Yahweh and the Sun’:

It is clear that the sun was worshipped in ancient Israel. This is to be understood as Canaanite, not Assyrian, in derivation. First, all the non-astral deities removed by Josiah in II Kings 23 are clearly Canaanite (Baal, Asherah, Molech), so this is most naturally the case with the sun and other astral deities too. Secondly, a striking number of Palestinian theophoric place names allude to the sun, implying a Canaanite sun cult, e.g. several places called Beth-shemesh. Thirdly, a Taanach cult stand and a Hazor horse figurine with disk-like symbol, both dating from the 10th century B.C., attest the sun cult in Israel long before any possible Assyrian influence. A considerable number of scholars in recent years (e.g. H. -P. Stähli, H. Niehr, O. Keel, C. Uehlinger, E. Lipinski and J. G. Taylor) have revived the older view that Yahweh was equated with the sun, and Mark Smith similarly sees a strong solar influence on Yahwistic imagery. Among the arguments sometimes employed are: (1) The East-West orientation of Solomon’s temple; but not only solar temples had this orientation. (2) I Kings 8:12 (cf. LXX 8:53) has been held to imply the equation of Yahweh and the sun, but it is probable that they are rather contrasted. (3) II Kings 23:5, 11 and Ezek. 8:16 attest sun worship in Yahweh’s temple. However, this in no way demands Yahweh’s equation with the sun any more than with any of the other deities alluded to in II Kings 23 or Ezek. 8. Rather, the sun was probably seen as part of the host of heaven and therefore as subordinate to Yahweh. (4) Psalm 84:12 (E.T. 11), ‘Yahweh is a sun (dvd)) and shield’, had been appealed to. But better parallelism is obtained if we render dvd as ‘battlement’ or the like, as in Isaiah 54:12. (5) It is claimed that the use of the verbs gxf and [th (hiphil) ‘shine’ in connection with Yahweh implies a solar understanding. The hip-hil of [th is used in Deut. 33:2 and Psalm 50:2, but the allusions are more naturally to the lightning in view of the clear Sinai theophany contexts (cf. Exod. 19:16; Psalm 50:3, etc.). The use of gxf in Isaiah presupposes that Yahweh will replace the sun. J. G. Taylor, in particular, has brought many other arguments to support the equation of Yahweh and the sun, but they are all weak. Noteworthy is the fact that no theophoric personal names such as Yehoshemesh or Shemeshiah are ever attested. In the final part of the lecture the background of Psalms 19 and 104 in sun hymns was discussed (the latter being influenced by Akhenaten’s famous Aton hymn) and the solar connections of Samson and Enoch were analysed.

Professor R. Norman Whybray (Ely): ‘Psalm 119 – Profile of a Psalmist’:

This paper on Psalm 119 was a study of the spirituality of the psalmist together with some remarks on the psalm’s structure. Although the psalmist represented himself as a lone voice, and frequently referred to ‘enemies’ who persecuted him and sought his life, he also spoke of others who ‘sought the Lord with their whole heart’; that is, although the psalm is a prayer addressed wholly to God, he regarded himself as the leader or spokesman of a group of devout individuals whose piety it was his purpose to encourage. The psalm thus appears to reflect a situation in which, as in some other O.T. texts such as parts of Isaiah 56-66, there were two opposing religious parties in the nation each of which claimed to represent the true faith and each denounced the other as wicked and apostate. The psalmist’s own faith was grounded in the torah, which for him was the consequence of a personal dialogue with God through prayer. The psalm possesses a greater sequence of thought than is often recognized; and some sections are well integrated formally, though the psalmist has now entirely succeeded in his ambitious employment of an unusually demanding form.

Summer Meeting 1997

Professor Ed Noort (Groningen), ‘The Traditions of Ebal and Gerizim: Theological Positions in theBook of Joshua’:

The stable and firm location of Ebal and Gerizim, so well known in the world of geographical facts is not that settled at all. The most famous witness to this instability is the Byzantine mosaic map of Madaba Here we find two locations for Ebal and Gerizim. The first is the ‘normal’ one, the other in the neighbourhood of Jericho. The last one is the opinion of Eusebius and Jerome. An overview of the texts of Deut. 27:2-3 in relation to 27:4-8 with the insertion of 5-7 and Deut. 11:29f. shows that the late texts of the Hebrew Bible indeed knew a location near Jericho. This can be a help for the problems we have with Josh. 8:30-35, because Josh 8:30-35 does not fit the present geographical, chronological or narrative context. The same ‘Vorlage’ Josh. 8:30-35 used, we find in the Samaritan Pentateuch Exod. 20:17a. From here it can be demonstrated that the reading ‘Ebal’ belongs to the original M.T. text of Josh. 8. That the location of Ebal and Gerizim in the neighbourhood of Jericho represents an old tradition can now be demonstrated from 4QJosh.a. Here the last part of Josh. 8:30-35 is situated before Josh. 5, directly after crossing the Jordan. A comparison with Flavius Josephus shows that Josephus locates the reading of the Torah at the end of Josh. 12 (contra Ulrich, the editor of 4QJosh.a.). Therefore we have good reasons to interpreted Josh. 8:30-35 in trhe context of the first steps in the Promised Land. Here the nomistic Deuteronomists told that the Torah was always present in Israel from the very beginning. The paper gave some theological conclusion about the relation between Land and Torah.

Dr David Reimer (Oxford): ‘Political prophets? Prophetic politics?’:

The Hebrew prophets have often been spoken of in political terms. In spite of the obvious political dimension to prophecy its political nature remains difficult to define. The question may be asked, does theology determine politics or do politics determine theology? Often the two are seen as exclusive: the prophets acted at divine behest, regardless of their circumstances; or they are seen to be advisors on domestic and foreign affairs, and keen observers of the political landscape. However, closer examination of the prophets suggests that theology and politics live in symbiotic relationship and mutually exert influence on the other. Four approaches to the question of prophetic politics sketch the range of options scholars have employed. Adam Welch stressed prophetic knowledge of divine will at one end of the spectrum, while at the other, Burke O. Long attempted to describe prophetic activity in wholly political terms. Between these two stand Walter Brueggemann and Oliver O’Donovan each of whom attempt to combine theology and politics in different ways. Readings of several key texts from Jeremiah demonstrate the way in which theology and politics come together in one prophetic tradition (20:1-6; 21:1-10 // 37:1-10; 46:2, 13, (26); 41-44; 26:20-24; 29:1-14; 37:14; 40:1-6; 45 // 51:59-64). In these texts, the prophet is seen to hold an ambiguous attitude towards Babylon and Egypt, as well as towards any possible future for the Judeans themselves. These ambiguities are the product of the prophet’s commitment to Yhwh in combination with a stark political realism. This study points towards (a) the political sovereignty of Yhwh, (b) the way in which prophetic allegiance transcends the state level, (c) the pivotal role played by theological interpretations of political circumstances, and (d) the necessity of both differentiating yet holding together theology and politics in analysis of the Hebrew prophets.

Dr Harm W. M. van Grol (Utrecht): ‘Exegesis of the Exile: Exegesis of Scripture? Ezra 9:6-9’:

The lecturer took exegesis as application. In his paper he studied two cases of possible, applicative allusions in Ezra 9:6-9: (1) Are the signs of mercy in Ezra 9:8-9 represented as the fulfilment of ‘Isaianic’ promises? (2) Is Ezra 9:6 a realization of the call to shame in Ezekiel 36:32? In his lecture he concentrated on the second issue. Ezra 9:6-15 is a prayer but also a sermon, and this sermon is highly exegetical. Ezra cites the law (11-12) and applies it to his community (10 and 13-14). Is there any interaction with other texts in the first part of his prayer too? The thesis was: Ezra 9:6 alludes to Ezekiel 36:32. It is an application of Ezekiel’s text; an exhortation and answer; a call to confession. The argument was based on the use of the verbs for shame: d,p and cjln Corroboration was found in the fact that Ezra 9:9 and Ezekiel 36 both use the word .pxg, ‘ruins’, and – more important – in the use the ‘law text’ in Ezra 9:11 makes of the same chapter of Ezekiel (the collocation of ibn to .p[, and yv`))))).

Dr Marjo Korpel (Utrecht): ‘Exegesis in the Work of Ilimilku of Ugarit’:

It cannot be doubted that Ilimilku was not simply the scribe of the three major Ugaritic religious texts (Legend of Keret, Baal myth, Legend of Aqhat), but their author, in the sense of a fairly creative editor of traditions he found interesting enough to rewrite in his own way and for his own purposes. No ‘canonical’ versions of the texts existed before Ilimilku started to write his own version, only templates may have been at his disposal. His work reflects the political and religious situation of his time to such an extent that his writing may be characterized as actualizing exegesis of existing traditions. His emphasis on the dominating role of goddesses and women, up to their eligibility to royal succession, seems to point to a dangerously thin line of male succession in the Ugaritic dynasty. It is likely that Ilimilku wrote his works in the order Kirtu-Ba`lu-Aqhatu. Between the first and the last he gradually accepted Ba`lu’s primacy in the national pantheon of Ugarit. In this way Ilimilku became an exegete of his own work. For the study of the Old Testament the unique example of one editing author responsible for three substantial works of outstanding literary quality is highly instructive. It means that repetitions and omissions, slight deviations in wording, grammatical frictions and even ostensibly different theological outlooks do not always point to different authors or editors.

Professor Michael Fishbane (Chicago): ‘The Hebrew Bible and Tradition: Reflections and Reconsiderations’:

This lecture concerned features of tradition and tradition-making in the Hebrew Bible. Fishbane opened with various methodological considerations, and advanced the notion of using changing traditions as indicators of ideas and values that lie beneath the textual surface and alongside it. Examples of inner-biblical exegesis were chosen that continued Fishbane’s earlier work but developed in several directions. Among the cases presented for consideration were 1. the variations in the law of sabbatical release in Exod. 23 and Num. 25, in which types of expansion witness to ongoing reflections on and applications of the law; 2. a discussion of the rules of refuge after accidental homicide, found in Num. 35 and Deut. 4, in terms of their historical and ideological inter-relationship, with especial attention to observing how the incorporation of priestly terminology into the older rule changes it religiously and ideologically; and 3. a consideration of rules bearing on strangers (Isa. 58), with especial emphasis on rhetorical expansions. The paper concluded with reflections on the contexts and rituals of study and tradition-making in ancient Israel, with a close examination of Neh. 8 to demonstrate the point. Finally, examples from Psalm 119 were introduced in order to show how the development of Torah study in the post-exilic period affected piety and spirituality.

Dr Janet Tollington (Cambridge): ‘The Book of Judges: The Result of Post-Exilic Exegesis?’:

The paper argues that the core of the Book of Judges, Judg. 2:6-16:31, was shaped as part of a continuous Deuteronomistic History. The prologue, Judg. 1:1-2:5, and the epilogue, Judg. 17-21, were added when the core was extracted from this narrative context. The paper asked when the book had been shaped, the purpose of its production, and from where the material in the prologue and epilogue originated. The prologue draws on material in Joshua and on developed exodus and covenant traditions. It was shaped to demonstrate the faithfulness and purity of Judah and to stress the degeneracy of Israel resulting from the corrupting presence of Canaanites, whom they were unable to drive out. It was argued that it had been compiled specifically as the prologue to Judges. The epilogue consists of two sections, Judg. 17-18 and Judg. 19-21, each subject to a long process of redaction. The latter section had early origins being based on material which promoted the Davidic dynasty in contrast to the northern kingdom’s ideals of a charismatic monarchy. It was shaped to conform to the stories about Abimelech, Jephthah and Samson in the core of Judges and had been transmitted with that material. When the Deuteronomistic History was produced these pro-monarchic stories were set aside as incompatible with the history’s theological emphasis. The paper argued that the first section of the epilogue was transmitted originally in the northern kingdom and then in Judah by communities opposed to the cult at Dan. This was illegitimate from the outset due to the apostasy of Ephraim and subsequently Ephraims’s corruption became a threat to the purity of Judah. The material also supported Josiah’s policy of establishing Levites in a secondary, non-priestly role in the Jerusalem temple. It was argued that the epilogue was produced in a post-exilic community seeking the restoration of the Davidic monarchy. Such hopes are found in the Book of Haggai focused on Zerubbabel during the years 522-517 B.C.E. Haggai also advocates a return to a pure cult as exemplified in the Solomonic temple and stresses the role of the priests. The paper concluded that taken together the three parts of Judges express a similar theology advocating a restored Davidic monarchy and a pure Yahwistic cult, while graphically portraying the chaos which would resul t from any other form of society. Judges most probably results from a process of post-exilic exegesis and was proclaimed alongside and in support of the prophecies of Haggai.

Professor Jan Joosten (Strasbourg): ‘Exegesis in the Septuagint Version of Hosea’:

Resisting the temptation to seize upon seemingly theologically motivated variants, this paper makes an effort to describe the exegesis found in the Septuagint version of Hosea as it arises out of the translational process. Three steps are distinguished in this process. First, the Hebrew source text had to be deciphered and the individual words identified. The numerous misreadings (confusion of similar letters, errors of vocalisation, wrong division of words) are not to be interpreted as evidence of a deliberate strategy of interpretation; they merely show that the translator was not acquainted with a reading tradition of the Hebrew Book of Hosea. The translator’s knowledge of Hebrew was not adequate to the difficulty of his source text; many words are wrongly identified, while others seem to have been completely unknown. The second step was for the translator to make sense of the single words in the context in which he found them. One observes, on the one hand, that words are usually translated in function of the context. There is a search for the mot juste in Greek. Some words’ meanings are apparently guessed from the context, sometimes with interesting results. On the other hand, the translator also shows faithfulness to the single words as he understands them, even where they do not seem to fit the context. In some particularly difficult passages the notion of context disappears entirely: the Hebrew is translated word for word into Greek, resulting in a text which may have been as obscure to the translator as it is to us. Beyond the questions of context, the translator at times diverges from his source because he judged that, at least in translation, the distance between meaning and reference was too great. Thus he adds a word where he perceives an ellipsis; he decodes some cases of metonymy and metaphor; he makes an occasional change for theological reasons; and he shows some awareness of the intertextual reference of some of Hosea’s verses. The coherence of the translational approach as described here is not to be sought on the level of content. Rather it is the formal aspect of the translation that reveals something of the theology of its author. His extreme faithfulness to the Hebrew, even where the text was not clear to him, shows that to the translator his source was inspired. This may also explain the fact that shocking passages – of which the Book of Hosea contains several – are with confidence translated as they were understood. The hermeneutics evinced by LXX Hosea can therefore be formulated like this: to trust the inspired text.

Professor John Barton (Oxford): ‘What is a Book?:

Modern Exegesis and the Literary Conventions of Ancient Israel’: The modern idea of a book is of a literary work that exists independently of its various written or printed forms, and is characterized by closure and consistency. In ancient Israel xtc was a much vaguer concept, and did not necessarily have these implications. Both ‘historical-critical’ and ‘literary’ approaches to the biblical text tend to presuppose that a true book would have these features: historical critics note that they are often lacking and conclude that Old Testament books are therefore composite or fragmentary; literary critics argue that they are there if one looks in the right place. This paper suggests that both schools of thought may be mistaken, in that ancient readers did not have our expectations of closure and consistency anyway. Examining the Old Testament and Apocryphal books that are imiations of earlier works can help us to see what people’s expectations actually were.

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