Ancient Historiography Seminar – CSBS Program (28 May 2007)

As a member of the Steering Committee of the Ancient Historiography Seminar / Groupe de Travail sur l’Historiographie Ancienne in the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies, I am pleased to report that the program for this year’s sessions is now available.

Here is a the schedule for this year’s seminar; as you can see, it’s a pretty impressive line-up.

Saskatoon 2007

Identity Formation and Ethnicity

Monday 28 May 2007 – 8:45 am – 12:00 (THORV 205A)

Chair / Président: Patricia Kirkpatrick (McGill University)

8:45-9:05 am – Israel and the Nomads of Ancient Palestine
Kent Sparks (Eastern University)

ksparks [at] eastern [dot] edu

Two views of Israel’s ethnogenesis now predominate among scholars. One holds that early Israel originated in the city-state society of Canaan, the other that its core identity was provided by nomadic and semi-nomadic pastoralists. In this paper I will explore the ancient Israelite portrait of the nomadic groups in Palestine, seeking to understand how Israel construed its historical and ethnic relationship with those peoples. The implications of this portrait for the debate about Israel’s ethnogenesis will then be considered.

9:05–9:15 – Questions

9:15-9:35 am – The Construction of Text and Ethnicity in Judges 5
Mark Smith (New York University)

mss11 [at] nyu [dot] edu

For the accounts of the reigns of David and Solomon scholars have suggested various layers in the books of Samuel and Kings, some regarded as near-contemporary pieces of historiography and have proposed various functions for the stories: propagandistic, apologetic, antimonarchic, etcetera. In this study I will look at some of these proposals in the light of comparative models and make some suggestions of my own.

9:35-9:45 – Questions
9:45-10:15 – Discussion
10:15 – 10:30 Break

10:30 – 10:50 – David the Mercenary
John Van Seters (Waterloo, ON)

john [dot] vanseters [at] sympatico [dot] ca

At the heart of Dtr’s conception of Israelite identity is the Davidic monarchy, with its divine election of the “house of David� and Jerusalem, wedded to the exodus/Horeb tradition of the covenant people. The crisis of the Babylonian destruction of monarchy and temple did not destroy this mode of identity but gave rise to a future messianic hope of a restored Davidic rule. Against this conception of David’s election and idealization is set another presentation of David’s rise to power as a mercenary leader employed by the Philistine king of Gath. As such, David used this role of mercenary to gain a power base in Judah and eventual control of the whole of Israel. David is also presented as maintaining his power as king entirely on the foundation of mercenaries, primarily foreigners. Since this portrayal is a complete anachronistic fiction, it must represent a deliberate ideological polemic against the Davidic monarchy and any form of identity that is based upon a messianic hope of monarchic restoration.

10:50 – 11:00 – Questions

11:00 – 11:20 – Identity and Empire, Reality and Hope in the Chronicler’s Perspective
Mark Boda (McMaster)

mjboda [at] mcmaster [dot] ca

It has often been noted that one of the purposes which energizes the Chronicler’s work is the reformulation of the identity of the Yehudite community in its new imperial context. Past proposals have focused, for example, on the importance of key past traditions (recapitulative historiography), incorporation of new traditions (priestly and levitical services), and delineation of the limits of the restoration community (all Israel). This paper will highlight evidence in the genealogical introduction and the narrative conclusion to the book of Chronicles that the Chronicler is revisioning identity for the community in Yehud. For the Chronicler, Judah became an imperial province with Josiah’s death as the state lost its independence and authority was transferred by Yahweh to imperial figures. Necho, Nebuchadnezzar, and Cyrus all act and/or speak as God’s representatives and it is this that provides ideological justification for Yehud’s identity as a province within an empire. However, this does not mean that these imperial figures will always speak or act for Yahweh or that provincial status is Yehud’s final destiny. The Chronicler’s presentation of Hezekiah highlights an emperor, Sennacherib, who meets his demise when challenging Yahweh and his Davidic king. In addition, the fate of the final four Davidic vassals as well as the shape of the conclusion to the Davidic genealogy in 1 Chronicles 3 suggest that the Chronicler’s vision of the community’s identity contains hope for kingdom’s reestablishment. The Chronicler’s presentation of genealogy and story constructs an identity that emphasizes present reality without extinguishing future hope.

11:20 – 11:30 – Questions
11:30 – 12:00 – Discussion

Identity Formation and Ethnicity (Session 2)

Monday 28 May 2007 – 1:30 pm – 5:00 pm (THORV 205A)

Chair / Président: Lissa Wray Beal (Providence Theological Seminary)

1:30 – 1:50 – Are There Any Bridges Out There? How Wide Was the Conceptual Gap Between the ‘Deuteronomistic Historical Collection’ and Chronicles?
Ehud Ben Zvi (University of Alberta)

ehud.ben.zvi [at] ualberta [dot] ca

There cannot be any doubt that Chronicles and the books included in the so-called ‘Deuteronomistic History’ (Dtr) construe the past differently. At least one of the main intentions of Chronicles was to reflect and shape a different and, in my opinion, complementary image of the past for literati who were aware of the ‘classical’ version in books such as Samuel and Kings. But how wide was the conceptual gap behind these two historiographies? Against the background of a traditional tendency in research to highlight the differences between the two corpora, this paper shows a substantial number of similarities in worldview and basic concepts between some voices within the so-called Dtr and Chronicles. It further suggests that Chronicles picks up and develops these existing voices and accordingly sets itself and actually stands in partial continuity—as well as partial discontinuity—with the so-called Dtr. The paper concludes with a discussion of the significance of these observations with respect to social settings of the final compositional form of the books in Dtr and Chronicles in the Persian period.

1:50 – 2:00 – Questions

2:00 – 2:20 – A Comparative Study of the Exilic Gap in Ancient Israelite, Messenian, and Zionist Collective Memory
Katherine Stott (University of Alberta)

katiestott [at] optushome [dot] com [dot] au

I propose to examine the commonly noted gap in biblical historiography that marks the exile. An attempt will be made to explain the absence of narrative pertaining to this period by comparing the biblical concept of exile to the treatment of exile within ancient Messenian and Zionist thought. While these communities, like the Israelites, remember a time spent living in a state of exile outside the homeland, and acknowledge this period as a distinct phase within their history, the experience of exile is similarly marginalized in their social memory. By comparing and contrasting the construction of exile in Israelite, Messenian, and Zionist memory, insight will be gained into the possible reasons for the “exilic gap� in the biblical literature. Various factors will be explored including the possibility that the gap is a case of “structural amnesia� reflecting cultural trauma brought about by the exile; however, it will be argued that the most likely reason has to do with matters of group identity.

2:20 – 2:30 – Questions

2:30 – 2:50 – Textual Identities in the Books of Chronicles: The Case of Jehoram’s History
Louis Jonker (Stellenbosch University)

lcj [at] sun [dot] ac [dot] za

In recent years an increasing number of publications have discussed the issue of identity formation in Persian period Yehud in general, and in the Book of Chronicles in particular. As Berquist (2006) has indicated in his distinction of five different modes of scholarship on this issue, scholars, however, proceed with different and diverging assumptions about “identity.� Further, the complexity of the matter is often neglected when scholars work with a too limited definition of “identity.� In this paper I will pursue two aims: Firstly, I will explore the potential of “textual identities� (which is used in social psychology) as a description of the identity formation processes witnessed in the Books of Chronicles. Secondly, I will analyze the Jehoram narrative in Chronicles (2 Chron 21:2 – 22:1a)—in synoptic comparison to the Vorlage in 2 Kings 8—in order to test the hypothesis that “textual identities� could help us achieve a more adequate understanding of the dynamics of identity formation in the Book of Chronicles.

2:50 – 3:00 – Questions
3:00 – 3:15 – Break

3:15 – 3:35 – Characters in Stone: The Behistun Inscription and Yehudite Identity
James Bowick (McMaster Divinity College)

In 522 BCE, Darius ascended the Persian throne and shortly thereafter, he recorded the story of how he became king and solidified his reign in the trilingual Behistun inscription, which he also had translated and distributed throughout the empire. While much work has been done in comparing the history it records with Greek sources to understand what transpired, little work has been done on the literary and narratival characteristics of the inscription, as it is widely held that it is devoid of such artistic properties. However, a close reading shows that the text is artfully crafted, using several distinctive techniques to develop its theme. This paper will review how the Old Persian text of the Behistun inscription uses literary features to create an ascension myth, known throughout the empire. Stock phrases such as “Ahuramazda bore me aid,â€? different episodes described using almost identical language, the geographical breadth of the rebellions and the short time in which they are all dealt with, have a cumulative effect on the reader and suggest a quasi-miraculous element to the ascension. While the literary features of the text are quite different from those of the Hebrew Bible, the themes of the ascension myth would have been familiar to the Yehudite community. This paper will compare the historiography of the Behistun inscription with the historiography of the Yehudite community, contrasting Darius’s self description with how he is viewed in Hebrew literature, and how the Yehudite relationship to Darius affected their identity as a community.

3:35 – 3:45 – Questions

3:45 – 4:05 – Community Identities in the Rescript of Artaxerxes: The Mandate(s) of Ezra in Jerusalem, Judah, and the Province Beyond the River
Gary Knoppers (The Pennsylvania State University)

gxk7 [at] psu [dot] edu

The edict of Artaxerxes, the “king of kings,� (Ezra 7:11-26) pertaining to “Ezra the scribe-priest� has been the subject of intensive study during recent decades. The focus of this paper will not be on the rescript as a whole, since two recent monographs (Pakkala, Grätz) have devoted considerable attention to the form, structure, and compositional history of this curious and complicated passage. My paper will address the emperor’s charge to Ezra in the broader context of “the Province Beyond the River� (7:25-26). Is this mandate, despite appearances to the contrary, merely an amplification of the earlier charge given to Ezra in “Judah and Jerusalem� (7:14)? Is the mandate given to Ezra in 7:25-26 a utopian recollection of the glories of the united monarchy or something more closely connected to late Persian and Hellenistic times? Moreover, what are the relationships among the communities mentioned in the letter: the people of Israel, Judah, Jerusalem, and the people in the Province Beyond the River?

4:05 – 4:15 – Questions
4:15 – 4:45 – Discussion

4:45 – 5:00 – Open Planning Session for Vancouver 2008

The Ancient Historiography Seminar / Groupe de Travail sur l’Historiographie Ancienne is a professional, academic working group of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies / Société canadienne des Études bibliques (CSBS/SCÉB). For more information, please see our website.

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