Meetings 2001 2

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Winter Meeting 2001 (abstracts)

At Devonshire Hall, University of Leeds, 3-5 January, 2001

Professor Michael Goulder (Birmingham): ‘My Servant Jehoiachin’ (Presidential Paper)

Professor John Sawyer (Lancaster): ‘The Prophet of Consolation: Isaiah in the History of Judaism’

Dr Mary Mills (London): ‘Moral Perspectives in Old Testament Narrative’

Dr Eric Christianson (Chester): ‘A Fistful of Shekels: The Problem of Violence in Judges’

Dr Walter Moberly (Durham): ‘Divinity, Deception and Death: The Story of Micaiah ben Imlah’

Professor Lester Grabbe (Hull): ‘The Hebrew Bible and the Social Sciences: Who is Kidding Whom?’

Professor W.G. Lambert (Birmingham): ‘Babylonian Monotheism’

Summer Meeting 2001 (abstracts)

At Chamberlain Hall, University of Birmingham, 16-19 July, 2001

Professor John Emerton (Cambridge), ‘Hagar in the Wilderness’

Dr Adrian Curtis (Manchester), ‘Encounters with El’

Dr Sarah Pearce (Southampton), ‘Law in the Greek Pentateuch’

Dr Jennifer Dines (London), ‘Making Creation Work: LXX Genesis 1 and Beyond’

Dr John Sandys-Wunsch (Mill Bay), ‘The Pentateuch in the 16th Century’

Dr Philip Jenson (Bristol), ‘Holiness and Ethics in Leviticus’

Professor Gordon Wenham (Cheltenham), ‘Violence in the Pentateuch’

Dr Graham Davies (Cambridge), ‘The Final Redaction of the Pentateuch’

Dr Craig Ho (Hong Kong), ‘Joseph and Amnon: Links and Implications’

In memoriam Carol Smith (Oxford), ‘Bertie Wooster’s Scripture Knowledge’

Professor Martin Goodman (Oxford), ‘Attitudes to the Pentateuch in Roman Times’

Professor William Johnstone (Aberdeen), ‘Recounting the Tetrateuch’


Winter Meeting 2001

Professor Michael Goulder (Birmingham)‘Behold my Servant Jehoiachin’ (Presidential Address)

King Jehoiachin’s life resembles that implied of Isaiah’s Servant, so often a term for the king. He grew up as a crown prince in Jerusalem, ‘before Yahweh as a tender plant’. It was not he who broke the vassal-treaty: ‘he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth’. In 597 BCE he was arrested, sentenced and deported: ‘from oppression and judgment he was taken away’. He was almost certainly flogged: ‘he was wounded … by his stripes’. Jeremiah despised him: ‘he was despised and we esteemed him not’. He spent 37 years in a Babylonian prison: ‘cut off from the land of the living … [Nebuchadnezzar] appointed his grave with the wicked’. He was released in 561 by Amel-Marduk, and promoted over other kings: ‘my servant shall be exalted; kings shall shut their mouths because of him’. This news caused amazement in Jerusalem: ‘who has believed that which we have heard?’

Professor John Sawyer (Lancaster): ‘The Prophet of Consolation: Isaiah in the History of Judaism’

Isaiah has always been a favourite text for Jews as well as Christians. Already in Kings and Chronicles Isaiah is more prominent than any of the other Writing Prophets. The same applies to Ben Sira, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament, while in the rabbinic literature Isaiah is frequently compared to Moses and is uniquely the subject of a rich series of legends about his martyrdom. His reputation as the prophet who, more than any other, castigated his people for their stubbornness and disobedience, was familiar in Jewish tradition as well as in Christian polemic (where it had tragic consequences). But in Jewish literature, from Ben Sira on, Isaiah acts predominantly as the prophet of consolation. In the lectionary almost one third of the 54 weekly sabbath readings from the prophets are from Isaiah, including the seven ‘consolation readings’ from chapters 40-­66 read on the sabbaths following the Fast on the Ninth of Ab. Prayers to be said in a house of mourning conclude with three comforting passages from Isaiah too (66:13; 60:19; 25:8). His role in modern Zionism is another illustration where some of Isaiah’s prophecies of peace, security and a return to Zion were understood by people who had lived for centuries under persecution and in exile, to be on the point of fulfilment. The political implications of some Jewish religious radical interpretations (e.g. 41:15, 27; 52:1) need careful analysis, not only by historians, but also by biblical scholars aware of the Wirkungsgeschichte of the texts they handle.

Dr Mary Mills (London): ‘Moral Perspectives in Old Testament Narrative’

The purpose of this paper was to draw on Old Testament stories in order to examine the breadth of moral vision within this collection of texts. The foundational level of this enterprise is the recognition that ‘morality’ is a term with a wide range of meaning. It is not synonymous with an approach to ethical behaviour, which would list ‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts’, and which would seek substantiation for such rules in a surface-level reading of Old Testament material. In this definition, morality is concerned with the order of relationships between cosmos, community and person. The paper fell into four stages. Stage 1 set the scene in terms of moral perspectives and of narrative structures. Stage 2 moved into the first case study, that of the topic of Insiders and Outsiders. This topic is one of the major themes to emerge from Old Testament narratives and can be divided into relations between minority group and host culture on the one hand and relations within family groups on the other. In this paper it was the first of these parts which was explored, with reference to the stories of Daniel, Esther and Joseph. Stage 3 took up the second case study, that of the use of place and space to impart a vision of moral order. This topic was explored in relation to the texts of Genesis 3-­11 and to the book of Job. Stage 4 rounded off the paper by drawing attention to one issue which arises from the case studies undertaken above. This is the centrality of the theme of boundary marking and boundary crossing to the construction of moral meaning within the texts.

Dr Eric Christianson (Chester): ‘A Fistful of Shekels: The Problem of Violence in Judges’

In the book of Judges, violence is a typical means by which Yahweh orchestrates justice. It becomes the end for the good (such as Jephthah’s daughter), the bad (such as enemy Sisera) and the ugly (such as the thoroughly unpleasant Abimelech). Just as Judges asks the question, ‘Who is going to lead Israel?’, it also implicitly questions the value of the means by which Israel shall be led. Likewise, the American Western film genre creates a dialogue about violence: who may use it and when. It is also about access to the land and its governance. These mutual concerns were explored in a developed comparison between the Ehud narrative (Judges 3:12-30) and Western films, particularly those of Clint Eastwood. The paper argued that Judges presents a stylised violence that functions to romanticize and entertain. Ehud becomes an idealistic focus through the allocation of rhetoric to his violent act as well as his establishment as a hero in the form of a witty, tough-talking monolith. The conclusion explored some of the hero-making processes of the Western film genre as well as the way that process has been recently questioned through film, and light was thereby shed on the ideological presentation of violence in the Ehud story.

Dr Walter Moberly (Durham): ‘Divinity, Deception and Death: The Story of Micaiah ben Imlah’

Conventional readings of 1 Kings 22:1-38 usually find Micaiah’s second vision, in which Yahweh commissions a lying spirit to deceive Ahab so that he falls at Ramoth-gilead, to be morally and religiously problematic. This fresh reading of the text suggests that the conventional reading may be a misreading. Five main elements emerge. First, Ahab is self-willed in wanting to capture Ramoth-gilead, and the 400 court prophets, aware of the king’s wishes, self-servingly tell him what he wants to hear. Secondly, although Micaiah’s initial mocking of Ahab provokes a possible greater responsiveness to Micaiah’s warning against going to Ramoth-gilead, Ahab still refuses to listen to Micaiah. Thirdly, Micaiah’s second vision is a renewed warning to Ahab; it functions in a way analogous to Nathan’s parable, an ironic recasting of the situation — the heavenly court is the counterpart to the earthly court — so that its reality may better be realized. Fourthly, Zedekiah’s abusive treatment of Micaiah and Ahab’s cowardly ruse in battle show how close Micaiah came to persuading Ahab. Finally, a heuristic key to the story is an understanding of prophecy as seeking repentance and validated by integrity as set out in the book of Jeremiah.

Professor Lester Grabbe (Hull): ‘The Hebrew Bible and the Social Sciences: Who is Kidding Whom?’

On the one hand this paper welcomed the use of the social sciences to leaven biblical study and open up new possibilities of exploration and understanding. On the other hand, he pointed out the dangers of uncritical use of social-scientific views and of calling sociological what were really theological judgements. He illustrated these observations by four extended examples, from Amos, Nehemiah, the supposed urban/rural opposition, and a review of one of his own books. He concluded with two summary points: (1) social-scientific models are simply theories to be tested against the biblical and other data, not conclusions to be imposed on the sources; and (2) biblical scholars are in the habit of making statements about the text based on theological or ideological bias and calling it sociological analysis.

Professor W.G. Lambert (Birmingham): ‘Babylonian Monotheism?’

Monotheism BC is a sensitive subject to many Old Testament scholars, and they can be satisfied that the claim of H.J. Breasted (and S. Freud) that the religion of the ‘heretical’ Pharaoh Akhenaton was monotheistic is not accepted at face value by most Egyptologists. But a similar claim has been made within Assyriology for Marduk, city god of Babylon. In 1902 Friedrich Delitzsch (son of Franz Delitzsch, the Old Testament commentator), in an important lecture, slipped in the assertion that enlightened Babylonians believed that all the major Babylonian gods were merely aspects of Marduk, and so anticipated biblical monotheism. A furious controversy resulted from this and other assertions, with no agreed conclusions. The basis for the assertion was a Late Babylonian tablet published by T.G. Pinches in the Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute for 1896, which indeed asserts that thirteen gods are to be identified as aspects of Marduk. The tablet has to be considered in the light of the development of Sumero-Babylonian religion generally. The gods were deified aspects of nature as seen and understood, but with human attributes. In Sumer each city was religiously independent, but a system embracing the whole country had been worked out: a hierarchy of gods generally accepted. Towards the end of the third millennium a top committee of gods appeared: An, Enlil and Enki, joined at times by the Mother Goddess. The other gods were worked into a clan system based on three generations, as in a normal human family, with divine servants of lower rank. This system was passed down to the second millennium, but, when Hammurabi made Babylon the political capital of the whole land, the city god of Babylon, Marduk, was promoted from obscurity to be a ‘great god’ (among other great gods). The political supremacy of Babylon continued long after Hammurabi and pressure no doubt built up to promote Marduk further in the pantheon, but only in the time of Nebuchadnezzar I (1126-1104 BC) were circumstances propitious and Marduk was officially declared ‘king of the gods’. This state continued into the first millennium, with the only change that Marduk’s son Nabu (Nebo) then rose to virtual equality with his father. Enlil, who wielded most power from the old committee, had in effect been demoted. The theologians had been equating similar gods for a long time in the Babylonian tradition, since the original city-state system started with a huge total of seemingly different gods. Marduk’s son Nabu, for example, had been equated at one time with Tutu, patron god of the small city Borsippa, close to Babylon, but later Marduk was equated with Tutu. Thus equating gods was an established custom for theologians, and the list published by Pinches is such a thing, but, by equating the major gods of the pantheon with Marduk, it was indeed asserting what can legitimately be called ‘monotheism’. The list is not now complete, but not much is missing, and one must conclude that demons were presumably not included in such listings, nor goddesses, since Marduk was the prime demon chaser, and had a wife Zarpanitum. However, medieval Christianity acknowledged a triune god, angels and the devil, but ‘monotheistic’ is applied to it, so it cannot be withheld from the Late Babylonian list. Confirmation comes from a long hymn of praise to Marduk of which two small fragments were previously known, but recently a large piece has been discovered, and the major male members of the pantheon are called ‘names’ of Marduk, and their attributes have become his. This is clearly an inner-Babylonian development, neither influencing nor influenced by the religion of Israel.

Summer Meeting 2001

Professor John Emerton (Cambridge): ‘Hagar in the Wilderness’

A century after the publication of the first edition of Hermann Gunkel’s commentary on Genesis, this paper considered his understanding of the stories of Hagar in the wilderness in Genesis 16 and 21. Gunkel, like many other scholars, regarded them as variant forms of the same tradition as combined by a redactor from the J and E documents. Gunkel’s interpretation was compared with the more recent discussions of John Van Seters, Ernst Knauf and Irmtraud Fischer, all of whom believe that the author of Genesis 21 was dependent on Genesis 16. The problem of choosing between the two interpretations was discussed, and some weaknesses in the second type of interpretation were noted.

Dr Adrian Curtis (Manchester): ‘Encounters with El’

Studies in the relationship between El, the God(s) of the Fathers, and Yahweh (e.g. those of A. Alt, O. Eissfeldt, F.M. Cross, R. de Vaux) have tended to assume that the Patriarchs revered tribal gods, characterized by their association with a group of people rather than with a locality. These deities were identified with El when contact was made with his cult in ‘Canaan’, and merged into a God of the Fathers who was, in fact, El. Subsequently the God of the Fathers/El was identified with Yahweh. More recently M. Smith has argued that El was the original God of Israel, and that Yahweh and El were identified at an early stage. Smith follows M.H. Pope in noting similarities between the attributes of Yahweh and those of El as revealed in the Ugaritic texts which must have facilitated the identification. J. Day has considered a number of features of El’s influence on the depiction of Yahweh. An almost common feature of such studies has been to locate the process of identification or assimilation in a patriarchal or (so Day) pre-monarchic period of which the patriarchal narratives are a reflection. The fact that there does not seem to have been tension between Yahweh and El such as existed between Yahweh and Baal raises the question whether there is evidence of a conflict between El and Baal which might have been mirrored by, or been part of the same phenomenon as, a conflict between Yahweh and Baal. Even the Ugaritic texts of the so-called Baal Cycle suggest a situation wherein Baal has not usurped El’s authority entirely but may reflect the claims of the worshippers of Baal that their deity was achieving a special status. The Hebrew Bible may reflect a situation wherein later and further south the claims of Yahweh/El were maintained against the protagonists of Baal. Recent approaches to the origins of Israel have placed serious question marks over whether there was a patriarchal period in which to locate the beginnings of a process of assimilation of El to the ancestral deities and eventually to Yahweh, and whether stories such that of Jacob at Bethel are genuine reflections of encounters between incoming ancestors and Canaanite shrines. It may therefore be necessary to consider other possible reasons for the inclusion in the Pentateuch of cult legends associated with ancient sanctuaries. Perhaps they reflect a tension between a wish to show that the whole land was God’s land, permeated with holy places where he had made himself known in times past, and a wish to present Jerusalem as the place where God dwelt. This may have involved conscious archaizing or even the creation of a religious past by those wishing to reclaim the land after the disasters of the exile in Babylon. Their God, worshipped on Mount Zion, was the God who had held sway in the land from time immemorial and who continued to reign supreme despite the threats of Baal (or Bel?), the one who was and always had been king above all gods.

Dr Sarah Pearce (Southampton): ‘Law in the Greek Pentateuch’

In their representations of the high court of Deuteronomy 17:8-13, Greek-writing Jews like Philo or Josephus stress the court’s special character as representing divine authority. This emphasis in the understanding of the law does not appear in non-Greek Jewish sources of the Second Temple Period; however, Greek translation of the Pentateuch, and of Deuteronomy in particular, may represent the beginning of that tradition. Close analysis of the language of Greek Deuteronomy 17:8-13 and its interpretative significance offers extensive evidence that the translator(s) intended to suggest the special relationship between the high court and the divine. Thus, the high court can resolve what is impossible for others: the choice of ἀδυνατέω for niphal pl’ (17:8) reflects the influence of Greek Genesis 18:14 and other passages in the LXX corpus where ἀδυνατέω is associated, negatively, with the power of God. The court transmits what has been set down as law in divine revelation (νομοθετηθής, 17:11; cf. Greek Exodus 24:12). It is the place where the Lord’s name may be called upon (17:8, 10) and a court whose representatives serve in the Lord’s name (17:12). Disobedience to this court is characterised as sacrilege (cf. the use of ἀσεβέω, 17:13). The reader is to understand that the high court is to be obeyed as is the voice of God.

Dr Jennifer Dines (London): ‘Making Creation Work: LXX Genesis 1 and Beyond’

In MT Genesis 1, God puts the heavenly bodies (vv. 14-18) and human beings (vv. 26-28) in charge of the cosmos, with the help of words denoting ‘rule’: ממשלת (v. 16) and משל (v. 18) for the heavenly bodies; רדה (vv. 26, 28) and כבש (v. 28) for humans, the two latter verbs suggesting the activity of kings as warriors. In the LXX, a[rcein renders both משל and רדה, while κατακυριεύω renders כבש. The choice of ἄρχω in both v. 18 and vv. 26, 28 collapses the distance kept in MT between the heavenly and earthly realms, and is part of a ‘chain of command’ established by the use of ἄρχω (‘to begin/rule’) throughout 1:1 (ἐν ἀρχῇ ) to 2:3 (ἤρξατο ). The ambiguity of εἰς ἀρχάς  in v. 16 (‘rule’?, rulers’?, ‘beginning’?), especially when the LXX is read apart from its Hebrew parent text, leads to various interpretations in Jewish and Christian writers. The understanding of ἀρχάς as personal, supernatural beings is increased, in Christian writings, by New Testament passages such as Romans 8:38; Colossians 1:16; and Ephesians 6:12 — which may themselves have been influenced by LXX Genesis 1:16.

Dr John Sandys-Wunsch (Mill Bay, British Columbia): ‘What Did They Know about the Pentateuch in the Renaissance and Baroque Periods?’

Scholars in the period 1500-1650 made considerable progress in their knowledge of biblical and cognate languages as well as of the textual tradition of biblical manuscripts by expanding the inheritance they had from the church fathers and medieval rabbis. They were thorough in their application of critical method to the scriptures and they were honest enough to admit they did not always have the answers they sought. Some were willing to explore radical alternatives such as Masius’ calling into question Moses’ authorship of the present form of the Pentateuch, thereby opening the way for later pentateuchal criticism. The merits of the great scholars of this era were their careful examination of passages, their immense learning, and a willingness to learn from each other. Their limitations were a lack of depth in their evaluation of historical differences within the Pentateuch itself and a misguided acceptance of the antiquity of extra-biblical documents now known to be much later. Nonetheless these men were fully scientific in their approach and deserve to be seen as the forebears of modern biblical studies.

Dr Philip Jenson (Bristol): ‘Holiness and Ethics in Leviticus’

How is holiness related (or not) to ethics in Leviticus? Leviticus 1-­16 normally refers to a restricted holiness that characterizes the priests alone and is a ritual rather than an ethical category. On the other hand, in Leviticus 17-­27 holiness usually has ethical connotations and applies to the whole people. Source critics assign these sections mainly to the Holiness Code (H) and the Priestly writing (P). Knohl and others have recently explained general holiness as a response by H (a later editor than P) to the prophetic critique of the cult. However, others continue to find a relatively unified meaning of holiness in Leviticus. The paper suggested that closer attention to the different contexts in which holiness occurs can clarify how restricted holiness has less direct implications for ethical behaviour than general holiness. Priestly holiness relates to the vertical relationship between God and his people, whereas the distinctive character of Israel is more to be found in their general religious and ethical behaviour.

Professor Gordon Wenham (Cheltenham): ‘Violence in the Pentateuch’

Though the term חמס, ‘violence’ occurs only six times in the Pentateuch, the concept of violence is pervasive: from the murder of Abel to the conquest of Canaan, violence is often focussed on in the text. Twice חמס is said to be the cause of the flood. It is important though to distinguish between the implied author’s attitudes to violence and the actors’ attitudes to violence. Clearly Genesis does not approve of Lamech’s lust for seventy-sevenfold vengeance, but what does the author actually think about the violent tales he relates? This paper eschewed both source-critical analysis and reading the Pentateuch as a unity. Instead it looked at the issue in Genesis, then in Exodus–­Numbers, and finally in Deuteronomy. Genesis 1­2 give a glimpse of the writer’s ideals: a world at harmony with itself, without conflict between humans and animals, vegetarian, and restful. With the fall humans fall out with one another, and constant warfare characterises relations between humans and the animal kingdom (3:15). The spiral of violence continues through chapter 4, culminating in the world being filled with violence (6:11, 13) and the earth being destroyed in a flood. To prevent violence again engulfing the world, God modifies the creation mandates (1:26-31) after the flood (9:1-7). In particular, limited meat eating is allowed and the death penalty is introduced for homicide. This move is characteristic of the Pentateuch: it allows compromises with its ideals to prevent the worst happening. Subsequently the patriarchs are pictured as pursuing peace wherever practical (e.g. Genesis 13, 14, 21, 26). Internal family conflicts are resolved by acts of reconciliation and forgiveness (Genesis 33, 45, 50). In Exodus–­Numbers the goals of long-term peace are again affirmed (e.g. Exodus 23:26; Leviticus 26:5-9; Numbers 23-­24). Conflicts arise as a result of others attacking Israel, and God defending Israel (e.g. in the plagues), or Israel defending itself (e.g. against Amalek, Arad, Sihon and Og). Deuteronomy’s setting on the eve of an invasion of Canaan makes it sound more militant, but it too looks forward to Israel enjoying rest in the land (12:10), peace and prosperity (28:1-14; 33:7-29). Its legislation on war exempts many men from fighting (20:1-8), and insists that negotiations should precede attack on any city. The inhabitants may be slaughtered only if they refuse to surrender (20:10-18). Even Canaanite cities may be allowed to surrender (so Lohfink). But apostate Israelite cities must be put to the sword. This shows that the ban (חרם) is religiously motivated rather than a racial matter: the great danger is of Israel worshipping other gods. Since Deuteronomy 7:1-4 envisages Israelites intermarrying with Canaanites after the ban has been applied to them, the threat of their extermination should probably be understood as rhetorical.

Dr Graham Davies (Cambridge): ‘The Final Redaction of the Pentateuch’

The paper summarised some recent developments in pentateuchal criticism in Germany and Switzerland, and offered an evaluation of them. There was now considerable interest in the contribution, intentions and context of the final redactor (‘Pentateuch redactor’), who had combined the Priestly Work (which was once again increasingly being viewed as a source-document, not a supplement) with the other major components of the Pentateuch. Three different aspects of this redactional work were considered. M. Witte’s study of the combination of parallel versions in the Primeval History (1998) had identified numerous passages deriving from the final redactor, but his attribution of Genesis 6:1-4 and related passages to this layer was found to be unconvincing, as was his view that the ‘J’ Primeval History ended at Genesis 8:22. The arguments of K. Schmid’s study Erzväter und Exodus (1999) for the separate existence of the patriarchal and Exodus traditions until the composition of P (and in effect until the work of the final redactor) were also found to lack substance, and J.C. Gertz’s more detailed study of the Exodus narrative (2000) was no more convincing on this issue. By contrast the suggestion of E. Otto, building on the work of other scholars, that the Holiness Code in Leviticus 17-­26 was a carefully worked out harmonisation by the Pentateuch redactor of the regulations of D, P and other legal collections was welcomed as a very promising development, to which the discovery of related passages elsewhere (e.g. in Exodus 12­13 and in the concluding verses of Deuteronomy) added further significance.

Dr Craig Ho (Hong Kong): ‘Joseph and Amnon: Links and Implications’

The paper built on previously discovered structural and linguistic links between Genesis 39 and 2 Samuel 13 (Blenkinsopp, Alter, etc.) by adding many other such links not yet noted by scholars. Some of the words/locutions in these links are quite unique to the so-called J layer/source of the Pentateuch and the David story in the books of Samuel, especially the so-called Succession History. After discussing twenty stylistic/linguistic links between the two episodes, a conclusion of common authorship was preferred to other possibilities such as coincidence, homogeneous development in literary type and expression, or literary interdependence. The argument to support such a preference is based on the following considerations: (1) Genesis 39 and 2 Samuel 13 are not the only two seduction stories in the Hebrew Bible, but they alone show such intimate literary resemblance. Genesis 34 (J) is another such story and although it shares several motifs with 2 Samuel 13 it does not have as many links with it as does Genesis 39. Thus two stories of similar subject-matter (here seduction) do not always have many links, even when written by the same author. (2) Two versions of the same story by different authors, one being based on the other (e.g. Genesis 17 [P] and 18 [J]), do not necessarily show the kind of literary resemblance found in Genesis 39 and 2 Samuel 13. (3) Other J stories of different subject-matter in Genesis show similar close stylistic links; e.g. between 2:4­3:24 and 4:1-16, and between chapters 18 and 19. The appearance of late locutions in these links and the appearance of some of them in the Yahwistic supplements to non-J stories seem to suggest that someone had added Genesis 39 (together with other J stories) and 2 Samuel 13 (together with the Succession History) to a primitive form of ‘the Law and the Prophets’ as a (late) supplement.

Professor Martin Goodman (Oxford): ‘Attitudes to the Pentateuch in Roman Times’

Jews in late Second Temple and early rabbinic times often asserted their devotion to the laws enshrined in the Pentateuch and their reverence for Torah scrolls as sacred objects is well attested. The paper tackled the question of how far this reverence was translated from nominal obeisance into a careful reading of the biblical text and acceptance of its injunctions. The paper argued that, despite the great attention paid to the Pentateuch by Jews in this period (far more than to other parts of the Bible), some pentateuchal laws were either ignored or even directly and blatantly subverted. Four cases were examined to illustrate the thesis: first, the injunction in Deuteronomy 23:13-14 to carry at all times a spade for use for hygienic purposes, a command taken seriously as still applicable by the Essenes (Josephus, B.J. 2.147-149) but apparently by no-one else in antiquity; second, the institution of the Jubilee in Leviticus 25, described with enthusiasm by Jewish writers in this period but never put into practice (for reasons not articulated in any extant source until Sifra); third, the curious explanation in Mishnah Sotah 9:9 of a decision to end the ritual laid out in Deuteronomy 21:1-9 of cleansing the community from communal guilt for unresolved murders (‘when murderers became many, the rite of breaking the heifer’s neck ceased’); finally, the deliberate abrogation, through the institution by Hillel of the Prosbul, of the requirement in Deuteronomy 15:1-2 that loans be waived in the sabbatical year (Mishnah Shebiit 10:3-4). The paper argued that most Jews in this period were well aware that they added to the written laws the authority of custom (Philo, De Spec. Leg. 4.149-150). The rare exceptions were the Sadducees who, according to Josephus (A.J. 13.297-298), claimed (however implausibly) that ‘only those regulations should be considered valid which were written down’. Only in a diluted sense was Judaism of this period a ‘religion of the book’.

Professor William Johnstone (Aberdeen): ‘Recounting the Tetrateuch’

Deuteronomy’s recounting in distinctive terms, in both its reminiscences and its legislation, of materials treated in Exodus provides the critical tool that enables the recovery of the pre-P ‘D-version’ in Exodus. The application of this model to other parts of the ‘Tetrateuch’ (Numbers and, in somewhat different terms, Genesis) uncovers similar editorial procedures. The close correspondence between the reminiscences in Deuteronomy and the pre-P version not just of Exodus but also of Genesis and Numbers encourages the view that the Tetrateuch should be recounted: Deuteronomy is part of an earlier Tetrateuch that embraced the pre-P materials in Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The Tetrateuch has been expanded into the Pentateuch in the P-edition by the insertion not least of Exodus 34:30–­Numbers 10:28, and by a thoroughgoing re-editing of the D-version.

Ms Carol Smith (Oxford): ‘Bertie Wooster’s Scripture Knowledge’

British author P.G. Wodehouse constantly quotes the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, in his stories, and does so most frequently in the books about Jeeves and Wooster. But the Bible is much more for him than simply a source of useful quotations. There are startling similarities between the way he uses the Bible and some of the approaches currently fashionable in biblical scholarship. It can even be argued that Wodehouse was a postmodernist before the term was even thought of! [Ms Smith’s paper was read in memoriam at the meeting by her colleague Dr Paul Joyce (Oxford).]

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