Meetings 2015 1

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Hans Barstad (Edinburgh), “The Bible in the University: SOTS and the Academy” (Presidential Address)

Anja Klein (Edinburgh) “Praying Biblical History: The Phenomenon of History in the Psalms”

Christopher Thomson (Cambridge) “Was the Exile a Payment of Debt? The Supposed רצה II in Lev 26 and Isa 40:2”

Kris Sonek (Melbourne) “The Abrahamic Traditions of Judaism and Christianity in Late Antiquity: A Window into the Past”

George Nicol (Fife) “The Bible as a Document of the Church”

Nathan Macdonald (Cambridge) “Priestly Families and the Hasmonean Revolt ”

Alexander Rofé (Jerusalem) “Sectarian Corrections in Biblical Manuscripts: Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, Zealots”

Judith Hadley (Villanova) “False Reading, False Reporting, and Just Plain False: Some Problems with Hebrew Inscriptions”

Lester Grabbe (Hull) “Why the Exodus Could Not Have Been in the 15th Century BCE (if There Was an Exodus)”

Kristin de Troyer (St Andrews) “The Textual History of the Book of Joshua”

Koert van Bekkum (Kampen), “Geography in Numbers 33-34 and Recent Pentateuchal Theory”

William Johnstone (Aberdeen), “The Influence of the Decalogue on the Shape of Exodus”

Pieter van der Lugt (Dokkum), “The People of Israel as a Worshipping Community and the Design of the Song of the Sea (Ex. 15:1-18)”

Anselm Hagedorn (Berlin), “The Biblical Laws of Asylum between Mediterraneanism and Postcolonial Critique”

Bob Becking (Utrecht), “Covenant, Agreement and Law: the Social Code underlying the Book of Nehemiah”

Jacques van Ruiten (Groningen), “Interpreting Torah: Strategies for Producing, Circulating, and Validating Authoritative Scriptures in Early Judaism”

Willem Smelik (London), “The Rabbinic Use of Languages”

Hedy Hung (Aberdeen), “The Kingship Motif in Isaiah 61:1-3”

Samuel Balentine (Richmond) “’I am God and not a Human Being’, The Divine Dilemma in Hosea”

Klaas Spronk (Amsterdam), “Teamwork in the Study of the Old Testament: 75 Years of Oudtestamentisch Werkgezelschap and 15 Joint Meetings”

Jaap Dekker (Apeldoorn) “The Concept of Torah in the Book of Isaiah”

Graeme Auld (Edinburgh) “Did the Assyrian Envoy Know the Venite?”

Michaël van der Meer (Amsterdam), “The Greek Translation of the Pentateuch in the Light of Contemporary Hellenistic Philosophy”

Deborah Rooke (Oxford), “Leviticus from a Gendered Perspective”


Winter Meeting 2015

Hans Barstad (Edinburgh), “The Bible in the University: SOTS and the Academy“ (Presidential Address)

This paper began by noting that according to folklore, and also in parts of academia, the future of Old Testament Studies, the very core activity of SOTS is not at all promising. However, such negative “rumours” are simply not true. As part of the humanities in general, knowledge of classical Hebrew will always remain important. In reality, the patient is alive and kicking, and not at all in need of blood transfusion. Or, with Mark Twain, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Scholarly activity in SOTS ranges from frontline international scholarship to high quality national research. Members publish abundantly in international peer reviewed journals and monograph series. Both nationally and internationally, society members serve on numerous editorial boards, as well as on doctoral and search committees. The society enjoys outstanding respect among peer societies abroad. Quite a few members of the Society are elected members of national academies like the British Academy and The Royal Society of Edinburgh, or similar institutions abroad. Last, but not least, with around five hundred scholarly active members, SOTS has now also achieved “critical mass.” However, when we look upon the marvellous academic resources that do exist within SOTS, the word “underused” also springs to mind. In my view, it is important that all members consider possible ways of improving SOTS in order to make this excellent organization even more visible to the public. The governing body should look into this issue and suggest priorities. In my view, among several possible projects, SOTS should prioritize a Bible translation project. There are many reasons why SOTS should look more closely into translating the Bible into English. Since there is a huge market, it is quite unproblematic to find publishers. Similar projects in other countries are successfully brought to an end with far less impressive resources than those of SOTS. It is realistic to think of the SOTS Bible Translation Project in terms of a twelve year scheme, subdivided into four, three year periods (2016–2018; 2019–2021; 1922–2024, and 2025–2027). An independent, international committee should evaluate all aspects of the activity after each three year period.

Anja Klein (Edinburgh) “Praying Biblical History: The Phenomenon of History in the Psalms”

The paper noted that a number of texts in the Hebrew Bible are characterised by their interpretation of Biblical History (Exod 15; Ps 78; 105; 106; 114; 135; 136). The question is how Biblical History was reformulated in these so-called “Historical Psalms” and how this poetic re-reading can be explained. It can be demonstrated that the Historical Psalms are to be aligned in a literary historical development that starts with the Song of the Sea in Exod 15, which figures as the literary birthplace of the fusion of hymn and history. Here, the literary development bears witness to how Biblical History was transformed into a prayer. It is then carried into the Book of Psalms, where the Historical Psalms continue the reception with different emphases. This dynamic exegetical process can be described as Biblical Judaism’s search for identity, in which the people assure themselves of their history with their God. The literary genre of prayer texts evokes a cultic context and allows for the individual to appropriate and consummate their collective identity.

Christopher Thomson (Cambridge) “Was the Exile a Payment of Debt? The Supposed rṣh II in Lev 26 and Isa 40:2”

This paper observed that the verb rṣh is commonly supposed to mean “pay a debt” in a few passages, namely Lev 26:34, 41, 43; Isa 40:2; and 2 Chr 36:21. The majority of scholars follow Siegmund Fraenkel in seeing in these passages a distinct root rṣh II meaning “pay,” unconnected with the more common rṣh I meaning “accept, be pleased with.” Although some scholars have questioned whether the distinction is necessary, none has rebutted the supposed evidence in its favour from Middle Hebrew, Jewish Aramaic, Akkadian, and Old South Arabian. This paper argued that this supposed evidence does not in fact point to a distinct rṣh II. It also critiqued Gary Anderson’s argument that the single verb rṣh can mean “pay” in the qal stem, and showed that the relevant texts are intelligible on the basis that rṣh has its usual meaning “accept, be pleased with.” In Lev 26:41, 43 and Isa 40:2 rṣh ʿāwōn refers to the people’s reception and acceptance of punishment. Whereas Gillis Gerleman defended a similar position on the basis that the verb can have a neutral sense, it more likely denotes a positive reception, with literary factors, in particular irony and allusion, explaining its unusual use in connection with punishment in these texts. This has implications for the conceptualisation of sin in the Hebrew Bible. Rather than representing sin as a debt to be paid off by sinners, these passages conform to the more common pattern noted recently by Joseph Lam (who sees them as exceptions), namely that God is the one who repays sin through punishment.

Kris Sonek (Melbourne) “The Abrahamic Traditions of Judaism and Christianity in Late Antiquity: A Window into the Past”

This paper noted that Jewish rabbis did not merely elaborate on the biblical material. They developed, or even rewrote, the story of Abraham in response to the cultural and theological challenges of the time. The post-biblical and re-invented Abraham fights against idolatry, practices the whole written and oral Torah, and learns that astrology is pointless. Christian interpreters are familiar with this rewriting of the patriarch’s biography, but their interpretation is governed by a different set of theological concerns. Both groups develop their own theology, and, more often than not, exchange heavy blows. There are many Jewish and Christian texts which illustrate that mutual process, and Gen 15:5 is an excellent case in point. The reception history of this verse by ancient interpreters not only discloses a complex cultural world, where Jewish rabbis and patristic theologians are in dispute with each other, it also helps us understand the impact of scriptural interpretation on the subsequent development of Western civilisation. This paper examined Jewish and Christian commentaries written between 200 and 500 AD. In particular, it examined the Abrahamic traditions in both Talmudim, in Genesis Rabbah, and in the works of the most representative theologians of the Alexandrian and Antiochian schools of biblical exegesis to show that the interpretation of the image of the stars in Late Antiquity indirectly influenced the development of science and technology in the Middle Ages.

George Nicol (Fife) “The Bible as a Document of the Church – A Personal View”

Following some general remarks on recent significant trends in biblical studies, this paper noted that these will exacerbate the gulf between church and academy respecting biblical interpretation. A brief introduction to the official documents of the Church of Scotland showed that they provide little indication of how the Bible should be interpreted as a document of the Church. In view of the ideological nature of many of the biblical texts an argument against too ready a recourse to theological interpretation was outlined and the paper concluded with the suggestion that priority should be given to biblical studies in the context of the general theological degree that is aimed towards preparation for ministry and that an integrated approach that brings biblical studies into a closer dialogue with the other theological disciplines is desirable.

Nathan Macdonald (Cambridge) “Priestly Families and the Maccabean Revolt”

This paper suggested that the long-standing theory that there was a conflict between Oniads and Tobiads finds no foothold in our oldest sources, 1 and 2 Maccabees. The idea originates with Josephus and we may question whether this genuinely represents the dynamics of the second century BCE. There are reasons for doubt. First, questions have long been raised about the historicity of the Tobiad romance, with its folkloric elements attracting particular suspicion. Second, the connection between the Tobiads and the Maccabean revolt seems to be the result of Josephus attempting to integrate the sources at his disposal in Antiquities 13–14. In particular, Josephus identifies the Tobiads of the Romance with the ‘renegades’ of 1 Macc 1:11. This tendentious equation is probably the result of Josephus superimposing his own experience during the Judean War of internal factional strife, often along family lines.

Alexander Rofé (Jerusalem) “Sectarian Corrections in Biblical Manuscripts: Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, Zealots”

This paper observed that sectarian corrections in the texts of the Hebrew Bible constitute a significant segment in the field of theologically motivated textual interventions. Pharisaic corrections, noted long ago, are found in the MT of Proverbs 14:32; Psalms 49:12 and Qohelet 3:21 (vocalization). To these the presenter added the example of the MT reading of Qohelet 5:5. A Sadducean addition is extant in 1 Samuel 7:6 LXX which relates to the sectarian quarrel in the Jerusalem temple concerning the water libation in the Succoth festival. Scholars have pointed out Essene textual reworkings in Isaiah 53:11 (LXX and Qumran MSS); 8:11 (Qumran MS) and 9:14 (all textual witnesses). A pre-Zealot textual correction was carried out in Hebrew texts of the Pentateuch: melek was substituted by nasi’, prince (cf. LXX and the Damascus Document, CD 5:12). This reflects an anti-monarchic attitude in the name of the kingship of the Lord. All in all, sectarian interventions in the Biblical texts are few in number, which attests to an attitude of respect vis-à-vis the Biblical texts already by Hasmonean times.

Judith Hadley (Villanova) “False Reading, False Reporting, and Just Plain False: Some Problems with Hebrew Inscriptions”

This paper discussed some problems often encountered when dealing with Hebrew Inscriptions: namely problems with the readings of the inscriptions themselves, problems with the reporting and publication of the inscriptions, and the ever increasing problem of forged inscriptions. First were the Ketef Hinnom amulets: two silver scrolls discovered in 1979 which, when deciphered, were found to contain a version of the Priestly Benediction, also found in the Bible in Numbers 6:24-26. This discovery was intimately known to the presenter, as she herself found the larger of the two amulets under discussion. The case of the amulets bears on all aspects of the paper, since the story of the discovery of the amulets has been told in various forms over the years, and there are inaccuracies concerning the reporting in print of the discovery and the reading of the amulets. In addition, the authenticity of the scrolls has been questioned, because they seem “too good to be true”, but their discovery in a sealed archaeological context by the presenter has put that question to rest. Also discussed was the Siloam Inscription, especially the presence of smoothed, blank panels above and below the inscription, and its connection to other smoothed, blank panels in the tunnel. Turning to the category of forgeries, bullae (clay seal impressions) and seals were presented, together with statistics concerning unprovenanced finds of this sort, and a comparison of these with stamped jar handles. This was followed by a presentation of the unprovenanced Jerusalem pomegranate and the James ossuary. The paper concluded with a discussion of the Temple Mount Sifting Project, directed by Dr Gabriel Barkay, which is sifting through material that had been illicitly removed from the area beneath the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Lester Grabbe (Hull) “Why the Exodus Could Not Have Been in the 15th Century BCE (if There Was an Exodus)”

The paper began by noting that the traditional dating of the exodus, based on ‘Bible chronology’, was the 15th century BCE. It was Albright who changed it to the 13th century, and this has remained the conventional scholarly dating. However, several scholars are still willing to maintain the 15th century. By surveying the history of the Egyptian New Kingdom, with a special focus on the Amarna texts, this paper showed that the Pharaoh was firmly in control of the Palestinian region from 1500 to 1200. (It makes no presumption as to what form or even whether an exodus took place.) The only exception was possibly a few years after the death of Akhenaton, but this was in the 14th century. The 15th century was dominated by Thutmose III, who ruled much of that century and made a number of military expeditions into Syro-Palestine. When we come to the Amarna letters, we find a situation that ill fits the settlement of Israel in the land of Canaan. No one can read the Amarna letters carefully and reconcile them with the situation described in Joshua and Judges. The 15th century seems to be ruled out for an exodus or settlement anything like that described in the Bible, when we look at the history of the New Kingdom and its control of Canaan. But, then, so is the 13th century!

Kristin de Troyer (St Andrews) “The Textual History of the Book of Joshua”

In this paper, it was argued that the minuses, pluses and variants found in OG and MT of the Book of Joshua are in some cases due to the different Hebrew Vorlage from which the OG of the Book of Joshua was translated. As an example the case of 8:13 was discussed. First, an analysis of the translation technique was offered. It was demonstrated that the OG is a faithful rendering of the Hebrew text and that the solution for the minus of 8:13 needs to be found in the Vorlage of the text, rather than sought in the intervention of the translator. Next, the witness of 4QJosha and Josephus was studied—both pointing to the absence of 8:13 in their Vorlagen. It was then argued that the omission of 8:13 in the OG was actually a plus in the MT, with the literary critical analysis supporting this view. Finally, with the help of the early Jewish reviser, Theodotion, it was argued that the Vorlage of the OG became the MT before Theodotion started with his revision, as the latter had added 8:13 to his OG in order to align the OG with the then current MT text.

Summer Meeting 2015

Koert van Bekkum (Kampen) “Geography in Numbers 33-34 and Recent Pentateuchal Theory”

It was noted in this paper that both earlier and recent discussions of the composition, genre and historical background of the itinerary in Numbers 33:1-49 and of the description of the Promised Land in Numbers 34:1-12 have highlighted the pre-exilic nature of these texts and it was considered what challenge this poses to recent theories of the formation of the Pentateuch. On one hand, it is still difficult to detect the specific sources behind the itinerary list of Numbers 33. On the other hand much information is available with regard to the tradition history of the geographical concept that is used in Numbers 34:1-12, Josh 13:2-6, Judg 3:3 and Ezek 47:15-20. In addition, this pre-exilic material turns out to be remarkably well integrated into Numbers 26-36 as a whole. These observations pose serious problems for several literary-critical criteria and for the suggestion that the chapters belong to a post-priestly compositional layer. They suggest that different, less deductive alternatives, including exploring the possibility of a tradition regarding an earlier blending of D- and P-like vocabulary and style, need to be found.

William Johnstone (Aberdenn) “‘The Influence of the Decalogue on the Shape of Exodus”

This paper argues that Deuteronomy 5’s reminiscences attest that its “Horeb” Decalogue was once present in Exodus 20 (cf. the repeated cross-reference “as YHWH your God commanded you”). A number of considerations confirm the presence of the Horeb Decalogue in the original version of Exodus: the narrative surrounding its revelation in Exodus matches that in Deuteronomy; Deut 5:31 confirms the role of the Book of the Covenant (B, Exod 20:22–23:33) as exposition of the Horeb Decalogue and as code for the covenant in Exod 24:3-8; twice over, the reaffirmation of the covenant in Exod 34:5-26 uses the figure of speech of “merismus” to confirm that the terms of the covenant are unchanged. The first merism (34:5-16) begins with citing Word I in the Horeb version and ends with a free play on the conclusion of B in Exod 23:20-33; the second (34:17-26) also begins with citing Word I in the Horeb Decalogue and ends with a parallel version of B’s concluding legal stipulations in Exod 23:14-19. P’s “Sinai” edition of the Decalogue that now stands in Exodus 20 affirms that the Decalogue may indeed function as a formative influence on the shape of Exodus provided it is interpreted in cosmic terms, as in its most radical change: the motive for observing Sabbath.

Pieter van der Lugt (Dokkum) “The People of Israel as a Worshipping Community and the Design of the Song of the Sea (Ex.15:1-18)”

This paper suggests that, from a thematic point of view, the ‘Song of the Sea’ has a linearly alternating design, an undulating movement: explicit praises of God alternate with portrayals of the fate of the enemies. This design coincides with a pattern of linearly alternating verbal recurrences. The staircase parallelism which highlights the opening lines of the second, third and fourth cantos (vv. 6, 11a-b and 16c-d) neatly fits this pattern. The design is also supported by a strict regularity in terms of cantos and strophes. There are three 6-line cantos, which divide into two 3-line strophes each; these cantos are concluded by a ‘half-long’ canto of 3 lines of poetry: vv. 1-2.3-5|6-8.9-10|11-13.14-16b|16c-18 > > 3.3|3.3|3.3|3 lines of poetry > a.b|a’.b’|a’’.b’’|a’’’. The linearly alternating correspondences demonstrate that the apex of the ‘Song of the Sea’ is to be found in the concluding Canto IV (vv. 16c-18): God guides his people to their inheritance and his holy abode. The poet who composed the hymn envisaged the Reed Sea event in the context of its ultimate goal, the praise of God as King of the world by his people in the temple of Jerusalem (after the exile). The outcome of this investigation differs from the results of other (more or less recent) studies on several points, including its undermining of the view of Maribeth Howell (1989) and many others that, in terms of subject matter, the ‘Song of the Sea’ consists of two unbalanced stanzas, ‘clearly indicated by a change of event’: vv. 1-12 (about the destruction of the Egyptians at the sea) and 13-18 (about the wilderness wanderings an the conquest).

Anselm Hagedorn (Berlin) “The Biblical Laws of Asylum between Mediterraneanism and Postcolonial Critique”

The paper compared some biblical laws of asylum (Ex 21:12-17; Deut 19:1-13) with inscriptions from the Greek world (Gortyn/Crete and Oropus). Noting the similarities and differences it was argued that the Hebrew Bible and ancient Greece both share the institution of asylum, making the Bible part of the Mediterranean world. The shape of the institution, however, differs – as is expected in a similar geographical region. The perspective of the paper was then broadened in asking whether the ancient evidence may have any relevance for our world today. Despite the dangers of such applications, the paper considered it possible to list three aspects of the ancient laws that might help to shape the debate about asylum in the 21st century: 1. The biblical innovation that every case of asylum needs a verified legal and procedural basis. 2. The extensive literary development of the laws of asylum in the Bible points to the fact that every regulation regarding asylum is in need of revision and innovation. 3. Asylum has to remain an individual right that is independent from status, person and gender and this would require the integration of the Greek element.

Bob Becking (Utrecht) “Covenant, Agreement and Law: the Social Code underlying the Book of Nehemiah“

This paper scrutinized the concept of the social code in the Book of Nehemiah. It observed that the prayer in Neh. 1 stresses the basic intention towards God’s commandments. Neh. 5 argues for the appropriation of the concept of ‘remission’ in a period of economic decline caused by drought. The presentation of the law in Neh. 8 urges the reinstatement of the Feast of Booths. In Neh. 13 the new community is marked by specific regulations on exogamous marriages and the celebration of the Shabbat. The Book of Nehemiah cannot play a role in the discussion of the formation of the Pentateuch, since Nehemiah offers not a reflection on the whole of the Torah, but presents the Gebot der Stunde for the new community in and around Jerusalem.

Jacques van Ruiten (Groningen) “Interpreting Torah: Strategies for Producing, Circulating, and Validating Authoritative Scriptures in Early Judaism”

This paper argued that in antiquity, especially in early Jewish literature exemplified by the book of Jubilees, displaying your knowledge was an important strategy for sustaining Jewish society. An imitation of texts from the past was valued even more highly than individual originality and innovation. However, when looking at strategies of copying and rewriting, one often discovers important steps of innovation veiled in a traditional form. The book of Jubilees presupposes material that can be found in the scriptural text, presents it mostly in the same sequential order, and includes in its composition nearly all the relevant pericopes. At the same it changes and innovates by rewriting the material (e.g., harmonisations), adding other material (e.g., Enochic traditions; halakic material), and by putting knowledge into a new framework (chronology). Although Jubilees acknowledges the Torah as an authoritative body of knowledge, it seems to claim the same, or even a greater authority for its own revelation than for that of the Torah. This display of knowledge by means of absorbing earlier authoritative texts is a means of sustaining society. It gives authority to a new text, and at the same time appropriates an ancient tradition by means of production, validation, and circulation.

Willem Smelik (London) “The Rabbinic Use of Languages”

This paper observed that the question of how much Hebrew was spoken by the Jewish population of Roman Palestine in the first few centuries CE in the context of contemporary multilingualism continues to be debated. Unfortunately, our understanding of the Jewish vernaculars at this crucial time and place still tends to remain stuck in models of diglossia or similar classifications of the attested languages on the one hand and in a single-minded view of the Jewish theory of language in view of the Holy Tongue on the other hand. It noted that the attested existence of multiple dialects of any of the three main languages involved—Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew—and the diverse ways in which the Aramaic and Hebrew languages relate to one another in the extant literature and documents have so far been incompletely developed and understood. The paper then concerned itself with the linguistic reality of the knowledge transfer of rabbinic culture as evident in the Talmud Yerushalmi, with particular attention to code-switching and the unfolding functional differentiation of the languages in writing. The results of the paper shed new light on the characteristics of the vernaculars in the early rabbinic period, the textual unity of bilingual communication, the non-diachronic aspects of code-switching, and the rabbinic perception of languages.

Hedy Hung (Aberdeen) “The Kingship Motif in Isaiah 61:1-3”

This paper observed that Isa 61:1-3 is generally taken to be a prophecy about the ideal servant, or the prophet claiming to be the servant, who works for the restoration of post-exilic Jerusalem. It suggested that two reasons account for this interpretation: one, the passage inherits the servant motif from the Servant Songs in Deutero-Isaiah; two, the fact that Israel has come under Persia’s shadow makes restoration to Davidic kingship seem impossible. It was argued that it was not likely that this text is limited to the reading of an ideal servant nor that history has dictated the thoughts and expressions of the Isaianic writing communities. It was further suggested that Isa 61:1-3 has a kingship motif and that this motif is seen to be intricately related to the servant motif in the Servant Songs by comparing the literary features of 61:1-3 with those of the Servant Songs as well as those of ch. 11. The paper explored the continuity and the transformation of the kingship and the servant motifs in different contexts and how the eschatologically important category of myth functions in this text.

Samuel Balentine (Richmond) “‘I am God and not a Human Being’; The Divine Dilemma in Hosea”

This paper relocated Tertullian’s question, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” by focusing on Hos 11:9: What does Hosea have to do with Homer (or Hesiod)? If Hos 11:9 is the answer is to some sort of divine dilemma – “I am God [or `a god,’ ‘el] and not a human,” that is, “I am this kind of god but not that kind of god ” – then what were the presenting metatheistic and metaethical questions that shaped the world of the text? The exploration comprised three parts: 1) generic concepts of divinity (“El-ness”) in Mesopotamia, the Levant, and Greece in the eighth to sixth centuries, especially connections between Hosea’s El-God and Homer’s Zeus-god; 2) transcultural distinctions between divine and human portfolios, especially descriptions of divine judgment exercised by Zeus and YHWH/El; and 3) the interface between divine moralizing and moralizing about the divine. The paper concluded by suggesting that Hosea provides his readers with an education in divine moralizing (“How can I give you up, Ephraim,” 11:8) while he himself is at the same time moralizing about the divine. Hosea’s YHWH-God can transcend even divine limitations, a sort of self-transcendence in which divine compassion exceeds divine anger. YHWH is both more than human-like and more than God-like. In Hosea’s world we might say that YHWH is more El than any other El but also more YHWH than any other YHWH. How does one describe a God who is able to transcend divinity without forsaking divinity? The paper suggested that in a pre-Socratic world, where the formal conceptualization of philosophy (love of learning) is as yet unarticulated, Hosea’s author is already doing pre-moral, philosophical work.

Klaas Spronk (Amsterdam), “Teamwork in the Study of the Old Testament: 75 years of Oudtestamentisch Werkgezelschap and 15 Joint Meetings”

This paper began by noting that in 2014 the OTW celebrated its 75th anniversary. On the occasion of previous anniversaries, De Boer had remarked that it was disappointing that the many meetings of the society hardly ever resulted in joint undertakings in their field of research. Later also Vriezen and Van der Woude pointed to the need for the theological faculties to cooperate and put more effort into teamwork. De Boer and Van der Woude’s own initiating of projects on the Peshitta and the Dead Sea Scrolls were offered as good examples of such teamwork. It was noted that various projects in which OT scholars participate have since been initiated in the Netherlands and Belgium, including those launched by, amongst others, Talstra, De Moor, Hoftijzer, Lust, and Ter Haar Romeny. Special mention was also made of The Dictionary of Deities and Demons edited by Becking, Van der Toorn, and Van der Horst (1995, rev. ed in 1999) and the project ‘ כלי†– Utensils’ organized by De Moor on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the OTW. The fact that the latter project is still under way (the results are published on the website of the OTW) also shows the complications of teamwork. It was noted that it was in that the OTW and SOTS decided to start their joint meetings, which was facilitated by the very good contacts between De Boer and a number of his British colleagues. The first meeting was held in the Netherlands, at Woudschoten. Since then there has been a meeting every three years, alternately in the Low Countries and in Britain. While teamwork is still the exception to the rule in our field, it was suggested that if we want biblical studies to survive this has to change.

Jaap Dekker (Apeldoorn) “The Concept of Torah in the Book of Isaiah”

This paper noted the scholarly difference of opinion regarding whether Torah in the book of Isaiah should be understood as referring to the Mosaic Torah or in a more general sense be seen as indicative of prophetic instruction. It was argued that in the first part of Isaiah תורה refers to prophetic instruction as a general reference to the concept of justice and righteousness. In the second part it substantively refers to the realizing of the Lord’s salvific righteousness. This latter concept is already indicated in the programmatic vision of Isa. 2:1-4. Nothing indicates that a Torah-revision afterwards has altered this understanding of תורה or consequently the overall message of the book. While the paper did not argue that the final form of the book requires that all references to תורה be seen as referring to Mosaic Torah, it was suggested that, from a wider canonical perspective the closure of the segment of the נבאים in Mal. 3:22 makes clear that in the end, both the Law and the Prophets are to be read in accordance with each other. Thus whenever Christian theology interprets prophecy as ‘diametrically opposed to the legal context of the Pentateuch’, it was suggested (with Sweeney) that this reads against the grain of the present canonical form of the Hebrew Bible.

Graeme Auld (Edinburgh), “Did the Assyrian envoy know the Venite?“

The paper began by noting that there is no conflict between the Chronicler’s report of Hezekiah’s reform and that offered by the Assyrian envoy. But in Kings, altars were not included in the narrator’s list of four destructions practised by Hezekiah, while the envoy makes a feature of altars being removed and ‘this’ altar being chosen. The possibility of the envoy’s independence from the narrator raises the question of his credibility. The narrator in Isaiah offers no reform report, and in the shorter Greek text (Isa 36:7-8) none is provided even by the envoy. The Greek rendering of the envoy’s advice (‘mix with my master’) marks him as a figure of fun; and this may also be intended by ‘prostrate before this/one altar’ of the majority tradition, for prostration before an altar is neither commended nor reported anywhere else in HB. The corrections in both Kings and Chronicles to the report of Solomon standing to pray may be correlated with the emphasis on prostration before Yahweh in Book IV of the Psalms, and especially the Venite.

Michaël van der Meer (Amsterdam), “The Greek Translation of the Pentateuch in the Light of Contemporary Hellenistic Philosophy“

In response to contemporary discussion in Septuagint studies concerning the possible influence of philosophical (often: Platonic) influence upon the Greek translators of the Hebrew scriptural books, this paper argued that the Greek version of Genesis may reflect the influence of Greek philosophy, but only in an indirect way. It suggested that a number of unusual Greek renderings in the creation stories can be seen as deliberate attempts to avoid hedonistic concepts known from Epicureanism and its Cyrenaic predecessors. These expressions concern the translation of Hebrew gan-Eden with Greek paradeisos tes truphes instead of kepos tes hedones in order to avoid associations with the garden of Epicurus, the avoidance of the concept hedone and epithumia in Gen 18:12 (Hebrew ednah) and Gen 3:16 and 4:7 (Hebrew teshuqah) as well as the idea of an empty (Greek kenos) universe (Gen 1:2 tohu).

Deborah Rooke (Oxford), “Leviticus from a Gendered Perspective“

In this paper it was observed that in both the making and the maintaining of cult and priesthood in Leviticus, there is a clear masculine gender-bias. In Exodus, the cult itself is instigated by a male (Moses) at the behest of the divine male (YHWH), and those who bring most of the raw materials and transform them into cultic apparatus are males. The regulations for the cult personnel in both Exodus and Leviticus designate a particular group of males (sons of Aaron) as priests and thus as holy, able to operate in a space that is nearer the divine presence than is permissable for non-holy males and any female. The priests’ rites of initiation are carried out by a male (Moses), and their entitlement to cultic privilege depends on their male blood-line. In this overwhelmingly androcentric conception, women bring some of the raw materials for the cultic apparatus, and are required for reproductive purposes to maintain the priestly line. But they are excluded from the arena of the holy, and any holiness that they appear to have as a result of either their birth from or marriage to a priest disappears when their connection or proximity to the priest ends or is superseded. Indeed, far from being holy, women can threaten priestly holiness, specifically by virtue of their sexuality; this is evidenced by the restrictions on priests’ marriage partners, the severe condemnation of a priest’s daughter who becomes a prostitute, and the ban on priests mourning their wives and married sisters alone of all their close relatives. Priests who fail to observe these restrictions risk profaning themselves and/or their offspring, thereby losing their priestly status. At the same time, the cult as presented in Exodus and Leviticus could not exist or continue without women. Under these circumstances, the paper concludes that the nature of cultic holiness in this material is clear: it is constructed, performative, and provisional, like the notions of gender that underlie it.

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