Meetings 1998 1

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Winter Meeting 1998 (abstracts)

At St Catharine’s College, Cambridge from Monday to Wednesday, 5-7 January 1998.

Special theme: Temple and Worship

Mrs Margaret Barker (Borrowash): The Veil of the Temple (Presidential Paper)

Dr Walter Houston (Manchester): Tragedy in the Courts of the Lord: The death of Nadab and Abihu in Literary Perspective (Short Paper)

Dr John Elwolde (Sheffield): Distinguishing linguistic from exegetical: The case of Numbers in MT and DSS (Short Paper)

Dr Robert Hayward (Durham): The Chant of the Seraphim and the Service of the Second Temple

Mr H. J. Mayled-Porter (Chief Examiner for Religious Studies, O.C.E.A.C.): The future of the Old Testament in the sixth form

Dr Robert Murray (London): Images of the Temple

Dr William Horbury (Cambridge): The Biblical Background of the Eighteen Benedictions

Summer Meeting 1998 (abstracts)

At Florence Boot Hall, University of Nottingham, from Monday to Thursday, 20-23 July 1998.

Special theme: Apocalyptic

Dr Nick Wyatt (Edinburgh): The mythic mind

Revd David Lane (Mirfield): Compulsive Acquisition: Robert Curzon and his manuscripts

Dr Katrina Larkin (London): The two ways (Lev. 26) and the eschatology of the Pentateuch

Dr George Bebawi (Nottingham and Cairo): Temple Symbolism in Coptic Texts

Revd David Hinson (Bedfordshire): God the Good Teacher (Short Paper)

Dr Kristin de Troyer (Leuven): No Temple? No God? The absence of God in the book of Esther (Short paper)

Revd Dr Ernest Lucas (Bristol): Daniel and Jewish Apocalyptic

Dr David Clark (Woking): Discourse-Driven Exegesis: Zechariah 11: 4-17

Professor Chris Rowland (Oxford): Blake and Apocalyptic

Dr Ed Ball (Nottingham): The Interpretation of Nahum


Winter Meeting 1998

Presidential Address: Mrs M. Barker (Borrowash). ‘The Veil of the Temple’:

The veil of the temple separated the xhpb from the jlhi, and is the key to understanding the temple symbolism in apocalyptic texts. It separated eternity from the visible, material world. When the high priest entered the xhpb he entered eternity and was able to know all history, past and future. The correspondence between creation and the pattern of the tabernacle/temple shows that the xhpb represented Day One. Those who entered learned the secrets of creation. This accounts for the characteristic subject matter of the apocalypses: the throne, overviews of history and the secrets of the creation. All this was high priestly knowledge originating in the first temple. Consideration of style and vocabulary shows that these ideas underlie Isaiah 40 and also Plato’s Timaeus. The interpretations found in Philo can no longer be considered Platonising distortions but rather reflect the original understanding of the temple.

Dr Walter Houston (Manchester): ‘Tragedy in the Courts of the Lord: the Death of Nadab and Abihu in Literary Perspective’:

This argued that Aaron should be seen as the tragic hero of the story in Leviticus 10. He is affected not merely by the death of his sons, but also by its shameful circumstances, and the disgrace is emphasized by Moses’ conduct. He should be seen, however, within the Pentateuchal narrative, as being ultimately to blame for his own tragedy, owing to his countenancing idolatry among the people. The paper concluded by pointing out that the theme of the father being disgraced by his sons is very widespread in the narrative of the Hebrew Bible, and suggesting a possible motivation in the socio-cultural milieu for the popularity of such a theme.

Dr John Elwolde (Sheffield): ‘Distinguishing the Linguistic and the Exegetical: The Case of Numbers in the Bible and the Damascus Document’:

This paper briefly examined Num. 21:18a=CD 6:3-4; Num. 30:17=CD 7:8-9/19:5; Num. 16:2=CD 2:11; Num. 18:2=CD 4:2-4; Gen. 49:10=4Q252 5:2; Ezek. 44:15=CD 3:21-4:1, arguing that divergences from the biblical text at Qumran are often better understood as the result of purely linguistic processes rather than of exegetically-motivated change. Hebrew forms discussed include //gv (‘lawgiver’, not ‘staff’), `hLd (‘ruler’, not ‘sceptre’); µdhyhx/(‘ones called by name’), µ[ i,jn (join with’, of proselytes, not Levites).

Dr Robert Hayward (Durham): ‘The Chant of the Seraphim and the Service of the Second Temple’:

Despite repeated claims that the words of the seraphim reported in Isaiah’s vision (Isa. 6:1-4) were used liturgically in the Temple, no direct evidence of such use survives. The paper examined options of this chant current in Second Temple times as expressed in surviving forms of the Hebrew text and in exegesis preserved in the ancient versions. From the point of view of the Second Temple exegete, the MT could be interpreted as either confining the seraphim’s words to heaven alone, or as suggesting the propriety of their being sung on earth; the 1QIsa MS may also indicate speculation about the manner in which the chant was uttered, a concern also betrayed by the LXX rendering. The latter sought to emphasise the earthly temple as the site of Isaiah’s vision, while retaining its heavenly dimension: this is in tune with LXX of Exod. 25:8-9, where the earthly Temple is to be constructed according to a heavenly paradeigma so that God may be seen among Israel. The Book of Jubilees insists that Israel shares privileges with the highest angels, including angels of sanctification who chant God’s praises. Targum of Isa. 6:1-4 relates the words of the seraphim to proclamation of God’s holiness in heaven and on earth; and coincidence of its exegesis in points of fine detail with LXX suggests also its antiquity. All these sources lead us to believe that the chant was appropriate for liturgical use in the Temple. Their failure to state that it was so used, however, is striking, and may be largely explained by two divergent contemporary appraisals of the Second Temple. Some writings view it as lacking in sanctity (e.g. 1 Enoch 89:73ff., Tobit 14:5; Test. Moses 4:8; b.Yoma 21b), and would be unlikely to refer to the Sanctus if it had been used liturgically. Other writings, accepting the Temple’s sanctity, may have wished to avoid vulgar discussion of holy chants altogether.

Dr Robert Murray (London): ‘Images of the Temple’:

This illustrated talk was given with free commentary. Attempts to picture the Temple and its furniture are extant only from after the destruction of Herod’s temple; probably the whole area was empty till the Muslim structures arose. Pictorial efforts have focused variously on the Mosaic Tent as described in Exodus, on Solomon’s Temple as in Kings and Chronicles, on Ezekiel’s vision or on Herod’s Temple as described by Philo and Josephus; sometimes elements of Tent and Temple are fused, and eventually the latter could be pictured in terms of the Dome of the Rock or of church architecture. (1) The earliest extant pictures are frescoes in the Dura synagogue (before 250 CE: tent, ark, idealized temple). (2) More systematic are the illustrations to Cosmas’ Christian Topography (c. 548), in the Sinai MS (11th century), representing Cosmas’ cosmic theories and how the Tent corresponded to the structure of the cosmos. (3) Mosaic pavements of Palestinian synagogues (4th-6th centuries) show a stable tradition of representing the Tent and its furniture, with relation to cosmic order, especially in Beth Alpha. (4) Abundant Jewish MS illustrations (13th-15th centuries) mainly picture the sacred furniture, often set in a framed pattern which may have already served the Cosmas artist. (5) Reasoned reconstructions based on dimensions in the Bible and Josephus began in the 16th Century and became increasingly grandiose, ingenious and incredible. (6) Finally some Christian images were reviewed, mainly variations dependent on temple traditions (Rev. 11 and 21-22) and treatments of the Temple as type of the Church. In Constantinople a claim to surpass the splendour of the Temple inspired the architects first of St Polyeuktos (long destroyed but for fragments) and then of Hagia Sophia, as is proved by ground dimensions, decorative motifs and texts.

Dr William Horbury (Cambridge): ‘The Biblical Background of the Eighteen Benedictions’:

The central petitionary section of the Eighteen Benedictions (Benedictions 4-14) is a mosaic of biblical quotations and allusions; but against what broader biblical background can it best be understood? In the period of the Mishnah the prayer was clearly fluid, as would also have been true of contemporary Christian prayer; but thematically and structurally it was also clearly close to the forms later attested in Jewish prayer texts. Probably it took shape in the Second-Temple period, as has long been thought: the petitions of the series 10-14 find correspondence in 2 Macc. 1:25-30 and, more fully, in Ecclus. 36:1-17; themes of the series 4-7 occur in the Qumran Words of the Luminaries: and the expansion of Ecclus. 51 attested in the Cairo Genizah Hebrew fragments has points of contact with 7, 10 and 14. The petitionary section can be envisaged as two clusters of petitions connected with redemption but also appropriate to recurrent needs (as with the prayers for forgiveness and a fruitful land); it is significant that 7 and 10 are particularly close to the mottoes ‘liberty’ and ‘redemption’ found on the coinage of the Judaean revolts against Rome. The importance of prophetic background material (including Isa.1:26-8, Ezek. 36:24-7) is noted in the Talmud (Meg. 17b) by later commentators; but it seems that the underlying theme is one widely attested in the Second-Temple period, recollection of the exodus and hope for a new exodus. Thus 7 ‘Look upon our afflictions’ probably recalls not only Ps.119:153-4, but also Exod.3:7 ‘I have surely seen’.

An informal talk was also given by Mr H. J. Mayled-Porter (Chief Examiner for Religious Studies, O.C.E.A.C.) on the topic of ‘The future of the Old Testament in the sixth form’ in which he outlined changes to the A-level syllabus and how they affected the teaching and examining of the Old Testament. He called for members to consider writing textbooks for A-level courses.

Summer Meeting 1998

Dr Nick Wyatt (Edinburgh): ‘The Mythic Mind’:

It was argued that many biblical scholars (and particularly those specializing in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible studies) continue to deny the presence of myth in Israelite literature. Even when it is conceded that mythical elements do survive, pains are taken to demonstrate their ‘foreign’ origin. This paper challenges this reluctant view, attempting to break down the impasse by applying the analyses of M. Donald and S. Guthrie, and proposing that myth is a mental disposition rather than a literary genre, a universal meaning-giving strategy. Far from being incompatible with history, it has played a significant part in the shaping of history as explanatory narrative, a trait evident even in modern scientific historiography. Three strands of mythic tradition are noted as determining the structure of a wide range of biblical material in different literary genres, the Chaoskampf, the theogony cum royal birth and the deposition myth (whose origins lie in enthronement rites). While myth is generally concerned with the past and its remembering, its use in apocalyptic literature also indicates its importance in the conceptualization of the future.

Dr David Lane (Mirfield): ‘Compulsive Acquisition: Robert Curzon and his manuscripts’:

Robert Curzon (1810-1873) was described as the most charming of travelling companions and the most attractive of book collectors. Distantly related to the Curzon of India, he was heir to a Sussex estate which he enjoyed as proprietor for only three years, but which was to have been the Abbotsford of the south. His enthusiasm for collecting began in undergraduate days under the influence of a friend, Walter Sneyd (of Keele), whose friendship lasted a lifetime. A directed dilettante, biblical, classical and romantic drives led him to chase manuscripts and volumes in Italy, Egypt, Greece, Albania and Turkey. Encouraged by such collectors as Sir William Phillips (possibly the nastiest man in the book-trade) and travellers such as William Bankes and Lord Prudhoe, he made much of the opportunities for travel afforded by the weakness of the Ottoman Empire and its growing relation with the west. His collection of manuscripts was aimed at a study of writing rather than of contents, and after his death was first deposited in and then given to the British Museum. His two best known works, Visits to Monasteries in the Levant, London 1849 and Armenia: A Year in Erzeroom, and on the frontiers of Russia, Turkey, and Persia, London 1854 over ten years after the journeys they describe and are based as much on re-perusal of letters written to Sneyd and to his mother as direct recollection. This gives them both a youthful immediacy and a pondered reflectiveness evidenced in sharpness of observation and enjoyment of story-telling. Vilification of Curzon as collector is found in his lifetime and at present: J. J. Norwich’s term is “the Elgin of Athonite libraries”. This is to leave out of consideration changes in cultural attitudes and historical circumstance, developments of science and technique, precise definitions of value, and malice. The western manuscripts of his collection are now Add. Mss. 39583-39671 (cf Catalogue of Additions to the Manuscripts 1916, 1920, London 1933 pp 54-143); the Oriental as Or. Mss. 8729-8855. These last are divided among the different oriental holdings, and their locations are usefully noted by Dr Vrej Nersissian of the British Library in his catalaogue for an exhibition “Robert Curzon and the Levant” in the King’s Library, 30 May to 25 October 1992. Curzon’s own annotated and amplified Catalogue of Materials for Writing, London 1849 is in the British Library. The most useful recent writings on Curzon are Ian H. C. Fraser, The Heir of Parham: Robert Curzon 14th Baron Zouche, London 1986 and A. N. L. Munby, Connoisseurs and Mediaeval Miniatures 1750-1850, Oxford 1972, pp 82-119. The base for these is the collection of letters from Curzon to Sneyd (Sneyd Archive) and to his parents (Parham Papers), the former most excellently dealt with as a work of cataloguing and a thesis by Dr Fraser while Archivist at Keele University. Related literature includes Sarah Searight, The British in the Middle East, London 1969. A. H. Smith, “Lord Elgin and his collection:, Journal of Hellenic Studies 36 1916, pp 163-372.

Dr Katrina Larkin (London): ‘The two ways (Lev. 26) and the eschatology of the Pentateuch’:

The question was raised, can Leviticus 26 qualify as eschatology, if that is defined as the study of the last things, and in particular of what will ultimately hold true? The paper applied three criteria as suggested by Y. Hoffmann: it should contain miraculous or supernatural elements; it should take a universal overview; and it should take a future perspective. The results were mixed, but further criteria which apply particularly to priestly eschatology were suggested and examined: the passage should contain priestly interests (in this case the themes pertaining to the Day of the Lord); and it should deploy numerology. Leviticus 26 was compared in these respects with the eschatological (and priestly) Zechariah 14 and found to be significantly similar. A trajectory was tentatively suggested passing from Leviticus to Zechariah and on to Qumran (11QBer. and 4Q285). The dating of Leviticus 26 and its prominence within the structure of the Pentateuch were then briefly considered. It was suggested that probably the chapter was written down relatively late, even though the material it contains may have much older antecedents. It would then follow that the chapter was actually written with some eschatological intention, and that the two ways it sets before the reader are at the heart of Pentateuchal eschatology.

Dr George Bebawi (Nottingham and Cairo):’Temple Symbolism in Coptic Texts’:

This paper dealt with three main issues: first, the importance of the temple in the teaching, life and death of Jesus; second, the importance of the temple in Jewish life in the first century and third, the symbolic understanding of the temple in Christian literature, especially patristic writings and the Coptic Liturgy.

Dr David Hinson (Bedfordshire): ‘God the Good Teacher’:

It was argued that the image of God as a teacher is a good metaphor to help ordinary people to understand the nature of God as He is revealed in the Old Testament. Four principles of education were used to illustrate how God can be seen in this light. Use of current knowledge and experience (Abraham, Job and Isaiah), recognition of varied ability among the learners (Moses and Aaron; David and Solomon; Elijah and Elisha) and logical progression of ideas (Justice before Mercy; Unity of God before Trinity), and creation of learning situations (life in Palestine and life in Exile).

Dr Kristin de Troyer (Leuven): ‘No Temple? No God? The absence of God in the book of Esther’:

It was argued that the Hebrew text of Esther 4.14 “relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter” can be read as referring to God or not. The context does not help the reader in deciding upon its theological character. The Greek Septuagint text offers a strict translation of the Hebrew text. An analysis of the Greek words, as well as their context reveal however that the Septuagint of Esther is also a theological interpretation of the Hebrew text. God is present in the LXX of Esther (and in the Alpha-text, the Targumim and in the Bible acording to Josephus). As the LXX is a translation of the MT of Esther one could suggest that the Hebrew text too should be read as referring to God. The Peshitto, the Vulgate and the Vetus Latina of Esther support however a reading in which God is absent.

Revd Dr Ernest Lucas (Bristol): ‘Daniel and Jewish Apocalyptic’:

It was argued that the consensus view that the visionary chapters of Daniel originated among Palestinian Jews at the time of the Antiochene persecution fails to explain satisfactorily the tensions between the visions and the stories. The stories commend a ‘lifestyle for Diaspora’, showing faithful Jews quite successfully engaged in the service of pagan kings. They have some contact with the situation during the persecution, but are not fully adapted to it. Daniel of the Diaspora was not a major figure like Moses or Enoch. Attempts to identify him with the Dan’el of Ezekiel and some Ugaritic texts are not convincing. So why were the stories added to the visions? The animal imagery of Dan. 7 and 8 may be rooted in Hos. 13:7 and 8, but this does not explain the use of Mischwesen, nor does the thesis of ‘the kosher mentality’. There is evidence of a Babylonian provenance for these chapters in the imagery of the use of the phrase ‘the four winds of heaven’ in connection with the monsters and the raging sea, in similarities between the ominous Mischwesen and the hybrid creatures seen in Babylonian birth omens, and in the Akkadian idiom birit narim as an explanation for the problematic phrases in Dan. 8:2,16. In style, some phraseology, and the use of a ‘secrecy colophon’ the prophecy of Dan. 11 seems to be influenced by the ‘Akkadian Prophecies’. These are related to omen literature. This evidence suggests that the visions, like the stories, of Daniel originated among Jews of the Eastern Diaspora who were acquainted with Babylonian ‘mantic wisdom’. Dan. 11:33-35 does not require that ‘the wise’ who authored the book were Judean Jews. At most it implies that a group of them may have taken the book there at the time of the Antiochene persecution. S. Cook’s study of ‘millenial’ movements’ shows how a group with an appropriate world-view can become millenial in its outlook and programme under the influence of an appropriate catalyst and the re-interpretation of some of its traditions. Dan. 2 evidences the appropriate world view. The Antiochene persecution, through the ‘cognitive dissonance’ it produced for faithful Jews who had hoped for success in the service of pagan rulers, provided the catalyst. Dan. 7 and 9:24-27 show traditions being re-interpreted. Therefore Dan. 7-12 can be seen as originating in the same group of Diaspora Jews that preserved chapters 1-6.

Dr David Clark (Woking), ‘Discourse-driven Exegesis: Zechariah 11:4-17’:

The paper opened with a discussion of the importance of presuppositions in exegesis, then noted some of the presuppositions that seem to underlie the work of commentators on this passage, especially the one that in the first shepherd role played by the prophet, the shepherd is a good one. One presupposition that seems to be absent from, or at best unstated in the work of many commentators is the linguistic presupposition that a text must be approached as something that was coherent to whoever put it into the form in which we encounter it. This is the normal presupposition with which readers approach any piece of writing, and it takes extreme circumstances to force them to abandon it. After a brief outline of the structure of the pericope, the main part of the paper examined the passage in detail on the basis of the linguistic approach advocated. A translation of the pericope was put forward which incorporated all the exegetical decisions recommended, and which recognised a higher degree of internal cohesion in the Hebrew than is usually seen. No conjectural emendations of the consonantal text were proposed. One conclusion from the study is that both times the prophet takes the role of a shepherd, it is a bad shepherd. On the internal evidence of the pericope, the focus of political interest appears to be domestic rather than international, a focus which may support a date in the Persian rather than the Greek period. At any rate, an understanding of the passage that does not write into it conclusions considered desirable for reasons other than linguistic provides a sound basis for discussions about the historical context of the pericope.

Professor Christopher Rowland (Oxford): ‘Blake and Apocalytic’:

In an illustrated lecture which juxtaposed William Blake’s illustrations of Job with R. Vaughan Williams ‘Job: A Masque for Dancing’ the apocalyptic hermeneutics of Blake’s work were explored. It was pointed out that Blake considered himself as a prophet not a commentator on apocalyptic texts. As in the Apocalypse images and language become the vehicle for a new prophetic word. Blake’s agenda throughout the ‘Job’ illustrations is to challenge the monarchical transcendent god of church and state and to stress the visionary element in religion. In his interpretation of the book of Job, Job becomes a type of ‘Lutheran Paul’ who is overwhelmed, and converted, by an apocalypse. While Blake’s concerns are always intruding, the emphasis on Job’s repentance and the role of apocalypse exploits ‘what is not too explicit’ in the text and draws out features which may be neglected (a particular example is the weight attached to visions and the Elihu cycle). Blake’s repeated description of the enthroned God justifies an attempt to place Blake’s work within an ongoing Christian interpretation of the merkabah, parallel to that in Judaism. Blake stood on the threshold of modernity. He was ambivalent towards the Bible, particularly when it became a book of rules rather than gateway for the imagination. While he could defend Tom Paine against the orthodox, his hermeneutics look back in some respects to ancient Jewish and Christian methods. He differed from S. T. Coleridge who did embrace elements of the emerging historical hermeneutics of J. G. Eichhorn. Blake always gave priority to the spirit rather than the letter. As a resource for imagination Scripture provided a gateway and is to be read ‘spiritually’ rather than literally (though Blake was utterly opposed to allegorical interpretation which he thought inhibited the potential for meaning in the text).

Mr Ed Ball (Nottingham), ‘The Interpretation of Nahum’:

This paper began with a brief consideration of medieval interpretation of Nahum, both verbal and visual, as a way of sensitising ourselves to the theoretical foundations of our own interpretative practice and arguing for the legitimacy of a plurality of responses to the question of the nature and goals of the modern interpreter’s work. This was underlined by a characterisation of ‘historical criticism’ which agreed with much recent discussion that this has no uniquely authoritative status as defining the true nature of biblical interpretation. The discussion was illustrated by examples of historical-critical readings of Nahum, and went on to suggest that the difficulties in here relating ‘text’ to ‘history’ (both of them slippery concepts) are greater than have often been thought. A greater openness to variety in interpretative theory and practive makes it possible to plead for the propriety of a distinctively Christian theological approach to the text – alongside, and entering into conversation with, other approaches – even, or especially, in the context of the university department and the learned society. It was suggested that a crucial aspect of such an approach will lie in the capacity of such a text to foster criticism of the powerful on behalf of the oppressed.

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