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CSBS 2006 – Special Lecture on the Gospel of Judas by Dr. Bart Ehrman

8th June 2006

CSBSLogo.gifMonday evening (29 May 2006) there was a special joint lecture sponsored in part by the CSBS by Bart Ehrman entitled “The Alternative Vision of the Gospel of Judas.�

Ehrman, the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is one scholar who has been able to bridge the gap between the academy and the public. He is the only biblical scholar I know who has appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in connection with his book, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (HarperSanFrancisco, 2005; Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com) (click here to watch a video of his interview).

ehrman.jpgEhrman’s lecture focused on uncovering the significance of the “Gospel of Judas,” the recently uncovered second-century gnostic gospel that has been all the rage in recent months. In a nutshell, the significance of this gospel text, according to Ehrman, is not because it is somehow more authentic than the canonical gospels or because it somehow undermines the very foundations of Christianity. Rather, its real significance is because it is a serious document of real historical significance which gives us a glimpse into gnostic thinking in antiquity. According to Ehrman, the text’s closest ties are with various Sethian forms of Gnosticism, although it has clear alliances with other forms of early Christian thought (Valentinian, Thomasine, Marcionite). He even argued that there appears to be remnants of Jewish apocalyptic theology in the surviving text. He also noted how it has some unique characteristics compared to other gnostic texts, such as the sympathetic portrayal of Judas as the only disciple who really understood Jesus’ work and message (sounds like The Last Temptation of Christ). The lecture was well done, although considering his audience was mainly academics, he could have raised the level of the lecture a bit.

After the lecture I went to a local watering hole with Ehrman and a few others. It was great to meet Ehrman in person and have some more infomal time with him. Among other things, I was very pleased to learn that Ehrman is not a Carolina Hurricanes fan! (Of course, he’s not an Oilers fan either. In fact, he doesn’t get into hockey at all! What a loser :-) )

Here are some works on the Gospel of Judas, including some forthcoming ones by Ehrman and another by Tom Wright.

Here is a very select bibliography of some of Ehrman’s recent works:

Ehrman’s scholarship is typically of a high quality, though he does have an axe to grind with fundamentalist Christianity (growing up as one himself). He also tends to pander to the sensational, though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as he is able to maintain his academic integrity in the process. All of this slants his scholarship somewhat, but his works are worth reading — albeit with a critical eye.


Posted in Academic Associations, CSBS, gnostic, gospel of judas, gospels | 2 Comments »

CSBS 2006 – Curses and Curse Stories in Antiquity

6th June 2006

CSBSLogo.gifMonday morning (29 May 2006) at the CSBS there was a special session entitled “Curses and Curse Stories in Antiquity / Les Malédictions dans l’Antiquité Ancienne.” This special two-year session is headed up by Tony Chartrand-Burke, who teaches Biblical Studies at the Atkinson School of Arts and Letters at York University in Toronto, Ontario. I had the priviledge of getting to know Tony at this year’s CSBS — I actually shared a suite with him and a couple other guys (including Phil Harland, of Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean blog fame). Tony is a great guy and he has done an excellent job with this project. You can view the project website, including an annotated bibliography, here.

Tony Chartrand-Burke started the morning with a methodological probe, “Studying Curses and Curse Stories: Some Musings on Methodology.â€? This introduction to the special session included a summary of the results of an annotated bibliography currently in progress and some discussion on such issues as the forms, functions, and reception of curses and curse stories in antiquity. Tony is a master communicator and wasn’t even phased by the fire alarm going off in the middle of his introduction (I’m not sure the fire marshal would approve of Tony blocking the exits and yelling, “Stop or I will curse you” to all who dared to approach! :-) ). elisha_comic.jpg

One of the highlights of the morning for me (being such a simpleton) was the South-Park-esque comic Tony showed about Elisha calling down a curse on a group of children and a couple bears killing a bunch of them (to view the comic, see here; to read the biblical account, go to 2Kings 2:23-25. Please note that I do not endorse the site on which the comic is found — nor do I endorse the comic, I just thought that it was kind of funny in a twisted sort of way).

The second paper of the morning was “Joshua’s Curse on Jericho: Fulfillment and Partial Reversalâ€? by Daniel Miller (Bishop’s University). Miller began with an excellent discussion of magic and incantations in the ANE, which led into a discussion of the “syntax” of incantations and incantatory curses. He then briefly explored Joshua’s incantatory curse on anybody who would rebuild Jericho in Josh 6:26. This curse is fulfilled in 1 Kgs 16:34, when one Hiel of Bethel rebuilds the city “at the cost of Abiram his firstbornâ€? and “of his youngest son Segub.â€? In a related story in 2 Kgs 2:20-21, the “man of Godâ€? Elisha purifies the Jericho spring (presumably poisoned by Joshua’s curse) with a magical ritual that includes an incantation. Taken together, these three passages constitute a discontinuous “curse storyâ€? of the Deuteronomistic historian (containing not one but two incantations). I thought Miller’s paper was very well done, though one question that it raised in my mind is how can one distinguish incantations with prayers.

Then Christine Mitchell (St. Andrew’s College), who is always entertaining, delivered a paper mysteriously entitled, “Writing / Elijah / Cursing: 2 Chronicles 21:11-20.″ She focused on 2 Chr 21:11-20, where the Chronicler relates the story of Elijah cursing — via a letter — King Jehoram with illness. This curse story is also the only story of Elijah in Chronicles and the only written curse found in the book. Mitchell argued that the figure of Elijah should be read as a type of the implied author “the Chronicler,â€? and the cursing letter and its fulfillment as a parable for the text and reception of Chronicles. Interesting, though I am not sure I bought it!

The next paper, “Curses and Ideology among the Qumran Covenanters� was delivered by Sarianna Metso, religion professor at the University of Toronto. She focused on four texts (1QS 2; 1QM 13; 4QCurses; and 1QBer) and illustrated how they do not just imitate the biblical text, but give expression to specific ideological emphases of the Qumran community, such as their dualistic worldview. A motivational shift from law to wisdom can be detected: whereas curses in the Hebrew Bible have their ideological basis in the conduct-consequence relationship of covenantal discourse, curses in the Essene writings often function as an expression of the dualistic worldview of the Qumran covenanters, stating the (predestined) fate of an individual not belonging in the lot of the sons of light.

Unfortunately, I had to leave before the final paper of the morning, “Divine Violence and Righteous Angerâ€? by Kimberly Stratton (Carleton University). Here is the abstract to her paper: “This paper explores the role violence plays in curses and eschatological imaginings, where violence is anticipated for another group. How does calling down divine/demonic violence/vengeance upon an “otherâ€? serve to alleviate a sense of injustice or suffering? What is the history and relationship between curses and fantasies of eschatological judgment? How was this violence regarded in its ancient context?”

On the whole, I quite enjoyed the session. Kudos to Tony for a well-organized and run session.


Posted in Academic Associations, CSBS | 1 Comment »

CSBS 2006 – The Presidential Address by Dr. William Morrow

5th June 2006

CSBSLogo.gifLate Sunday afternoon (28 May 2006), William Morrow gave his address as outgoing President of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies. Morrow is Associate Professor of Hebrew Scriptures at Queen’s University in Kindston, Ontario. He is author of Scribing the Center: Organization and Redaction in Deuteronomy 14:1 17:13 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 1995; Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com).

wsmorrow.jpgMorrow’s address was entitled, “Violence and Transcendence in the Development of Biblical Religion.” He began by noting the disappearance of individual lament/complaint prayer in the Second Temple period. The laments you do find in the Second Temple period differ from the earlier individual complaint psalms in that they tend to be in a narrative context, they neglect individual suffering, combine individual and communal elements, and have a unique status. According to Morrow, instead of individual lament psalms where the psalmist complains to God (and sees God as the problem in many cases), in the Second Temple period you see the development of prayers against demonic attack. The therapeutic impulse expressed in the earlier laments now shifts to incantations and psalm-like texts that have as their goal to expel demonic attack.

What I found the most interesting about Morrow’s address is his theory as to why these shifts took place. Morrow drew upon Karl Jaspers’s notion of an “Axial Age.� According to Jaspers, around 800 BCE to 200 BCE there was a major paradigm shift in the ancient world that saw significant conceptual changes. The primary conceptual change for the Israelites, according to Morrow, was in their conception of God: instead of an imminent deity who hears and responds to individual complaint prayers (and even assumes the deity has obligations to respond), you have a shift to a more transcendent deity. This compromised any felt intimacy with God and emphasized the need for intermediaries between God and the created world. Like the politics of empire (where the King rules from afar), God is no longer directly accessible to the psalmist.

In my mind this notion of an axial age makes much sense of the biblical material and the developments you see in the Second Temple period. At any rate, I quite enjoyed Morrow’s paper and I am looking forward to when it will be published. In addition, Morrow is just proofing the galley copies of a new book he has written on this notion of violence and transcendence where he develops this notion with far more detail. The new book will hopefully be out in time for SBL. I will make sure to post on it when it does.


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CSBS 2006 – Hebrew Bible Session Report

2nd June 2006

CSBSLogo.gifI just got home today (early in the morning due to flight delays) from the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies annual meeting at York University, Toronto. I was hoping to post some reports from the meetings, but my dorm room at York didn’t have internet access (and no shower curtain — I felt like Jesus walking on water). In the next few days I will post some of my reflections from the meeting.

Sunday morning (Sunday 28 May) the session of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament / Bible Hébraïque/Ancien Testament met. There were a number of interesting papers as well as some good discussion. Here are some highlights.

In the Beginning… of CSBS

The very first paper of the conference was by Robert D. Holmstedt, the recently appointed Assistant Professor of Ancient Hebrew and Northwest Semitic Languages, Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto. He presented an interesting paper on “The Restrictive Syntax of Genesis 1:1.″ Beginning with the observation that while many (most?) scholars have departed from the traditional understanding of בר×?שית as an independent phrase with grammatical reference to “THE beginning,â€? it continues to thrive as reflected by the majority of modern translations. He also noted how advocates of the dependent phrase position (e.g., “when God beganâ€?) struggle with a precise and compelling linguistic analysis (how can a verb function as the absolute of the construct phrase?). In his paper, Holmstedt offered a linguistic argument that both provided a simpler analysis of the grammar of Gen 1:1 and clarified that the traditional understanding of a reference an “absolute beginning” cannot be derived from the Hebrew grammar of the verse. Based on his doctoral research into the relative clause in Biblical Hebrew, Holmstedt argued that the phrase is best understood as an unmarked, restrictive relative clause (a “restrictive” or “limiting” relative clause is one that providesmore information about the head word), and he translated the phrase as, “In the initial period that God created the heavens and the earth.” Thus, the phrase is not referring to an absolute temporal designation (“In THE beginning”), but is referring to the the particular begining from which the rest of the story in Genesis proceeds. Rather, there were potentially multiple בר×?שית periods or stages to God’s creative work. While I have always leaned towards taking the construction as an indefinate adverbial nominal suggesting a relative temporal designation (i.e., “when God began to create…”), I have never been satisfied with the syntax of such a construction. Holmstedt’s analysis provides a way of understanding the phrase that is both syntactically plausible and meshes with other ANE creation stories.

Burning (Ring Of) Fire

Next, Christian A. Eberhart from Lutheran Theological Seminary, Saskatoon, read his paper “The Cult Term ×?ִש×?ֶּה (isheh): Remarks on its Meaning, Importance, and Disappearance.â€? Contrary to the views of such heavyweight biblical scholars such as Jacob Milgrom and Rolf Rendtorff, Eberhart argued persuasively (IMHO) that the Hebrew term ×?ִש×?ֶּה is best understood to include connotations of burning. He suggests that the best translation is, in fact, “fire offering.â€? Building on this broader understanding, he also showed that the term was a key notion of the sacrificial cult in which it can also be used as a comprehensive term for all sacrifices — especially in priestly texts.

The Matrix Revisited

Derek Suderman, a doctoral student at Emmanuel College, Toronto, focused on critical method and the book of Psalms in his paper “The ‘Complementary Hypothesis’ Reconsidered: Exploring Methodological Matrices in Psalms Scholarship.” Suderman wanted to debunk the notion that different critical approaches to the biblical text are complementary stages in the process of exegesis. The three pillars of the “complementary method” that Suderman questions are: (1) different approaches illuminate different aspects of the biblical text; (2) the different methods represent distinct steps in exegesis; and (3) the goal of biblical exegesis is to achieve a synthesis of the different methods. On the whole, I think Suderman was sucessful in showing how the different critcial approaches conceive (indeed, generate) the relationship between the author, editor, original text and setting of individual lament Psalms in such different ways so as to be incompatible. These elements are so inter-connected that changing the meaning or function of one element in the system affects all of the others. And since different biblical criticisms reflect divergent matrices, the “complementary hypothesis” of biblical criticisms is highly questionable. While I agree with Suderman’s main argument, I think that some methods are more complementary than others — especially those which developed in relationship with each other (e.g., form and rhetorical criticism). I tend to be very ecclectic with my method, and while all of the different methods may have some incompatibilities, they all can highlight certain things about the text.

Hosea’s “Flagrant Hussy”

The third paper of the morning was “Fresh Light on Hosea from History, Archaeology and Philologyâ€? by J. Glen Taylor, from Wycliffe College, University of Toronto. Taylor shared a number of insights on Hosea from his work for the Illustrated Bible Background Commentary series (Zondervan, forthcoming 2007). For example, contrary to Freedman and Andersen, he argued that Hosea’s wife was likely a “flagrant hussy” at the time God told him to marry her. Moreover, if one compares 1:2 both to 2:3 [ET 2:1] and to Ancient Near Eastern adoption formulae, it seems likely that God told Hosea also to adopt children previously borne by his new bride (i.e. children other than the three she bears in 1:3–9). One of the neatest points was his understanding of Hosea 14:9 [ET 14:8] as containing a subtle wordplay that mock the goddesses Anat and Asherah. While I think there is something to Taylor’s reading, in the discussion after the paper Holmstedt raised a good point that recent research suggests native Hebrew speakers do not tend to isolate roots and perhaps these sublte wordplays would be lost on them. While that may certainly be the case, the history of interpretation does show that native Hebrew speakers did put significant stock in word plays (And they are just so much fun to point out!).

Samson: From Zero to Hero

Next up was Joyce Rilett Wood, a PhD graduate from the University of Toronto. Her paper, “The Birth of Samson” explored the parallels between the story of Samson (Judges 13-16) and the legends of Heracles. She highlighted a number of well-recognized parallels, such as the role of lions and women in the respective stories. Beyond the these well-recognized parallels, she also argued that the story of Samson’s conception and birth (Judges 13) is parallel to the miraculour conception and birth of Hercules. While I think that Rilett Wood pointed out some significant parallels, she didn’t spend any time explaining the significance of the parallels (or perhaps more importantly, the differences). I was not convinced by her reading suggesting Samson’s mother conceived him through the direct agency of God. If anything, I think that there are far more compelling links between the other births in the Bible and the birth of Samson than the birth of Hercules.

Speech, Prayer, and Rhetoric

Finally, Mark Boda from McMaster Divinity College presented a paper entitled, “Prayer as Rhetoric in the Book of Nehemiah.” Taking the lead from recent literary models for the interpretation of prayer, Boda looked at the role of prayer within the rhetoric of the book of Nehemiah. Based on his rhetorial analysis, Boda argued that the initial prayer in Neh 1:5-11 draws the reader’s attention not only to the piety of the main autobiographical character, a piety that will be showcased throughout the book, but more importantly to the role this character will play in creating conditions which will facilitate similar piety in the community as a whole. While the first six chapters of the book of Nehemiah focus on the main character as an agent of renewal of the city’s infrastructure, the second half shifts this focus onto the main character as an agent of spiritual renewal. The placement of the two longest prayers in the book at Nehemiah 1 and Nehemiah 9 accentuate this rhetorical shift in the book as a whole. I especially liked Boda’s summary of the purpose of speech in ancient narratives (e.g., to advance plot, express author’s ideology, provide an alternative viewpoint, etc.).

All in all, it was a good morning. One thing that sets CSBS meetings apart from a large meeting like the SBL is the intimacy.


Posted in Academic Associations, CSBS | 5 Comments »

Canadian Society of Biblical Studies 2006 Annual Meeting

25th May 2006

CSBSBanner.gif

I leave tomorrow morning for The Canadian Society of Biblical Studies (CSBS) 2006 Annual Meeting in Toronto, Ontario. This year’s meeting is being held at York University and runs for three days (May 28-30).

A glance at the programme reveals many interesting papers related to the Hebrew Bible, including papers in the Ancient Historiography Seminar (For those interested more in New Testament/Christian Origins or the history of interpretation there are many papers that would interest you, so check out the full programme).

Here are some highlights of papers relating to the Hebrew Bible:

Sunday 28 May 2006

8:45-12:00 (ACE 002) Hebrew Bible/Old Testament / Bible Hébraïque/Ancien Testament

  • 8:45-9:15 – “The Restrictive Syntax of Genesis 1.1″ by Robert D. Holmstedt (Universtity of Toronto)
  • 9:15-9:45 – “The Cult Term הֶשּ×?Ö´×? (isheh): Remarks on its Meaning, Importance, and Disappearance” by Christian A. Eberhart (Lutheran Theological Seminary, Saskatoon)
  • 9:45-10:15 – “The ‘Complementary Hypothesis’ Reconsidered: Exploring Methodological Matrices in Psalms Scholarship” by Derek Suderman (Emmanuel College, Toronto)
  • 10:30-11:00 – “Fresh Light on Hosea from History, Archaeology and Philology” by J. Glen Taylor (Wycliffe College, University of Toronto)
  • 11:00-11:30 – “The Birth of Samson” by Joyce Rilett Wood (University of Toronto)
  • 11:30-12:00 – “Prayer as Rhetoric in the Book of Nehemiah” by Mark Boda (McMaster Divinity College, McMaster University)

Monday 29 May 2006

8:45-12:00 (ACE 005) Curses and Curse Stories in Antiquity / Les Malédictions dans l’Antiquité Ancienne

  • 8:45-9:15 – “Studying Curses and Curse Stories: Some Musings on Methodology” by Tony Chartrand-Burke (York University)
  • 9:15-9:45 – “Joshua’s Curse on Jericho: Fulfillment and Partial Reversal” by Daniel Miller (Bishop’s University)
  • 9:45-10:15 – “Writing / Elijah / Cursing: 2 Chronicles 21:11-20″ by Christine Mitchell (St. Andrew’s College)
  • 10:30-11:00 – “Curses and Ideology among the Qumran Covenanters” by Sarianna Metso (University of Toronto)
  • 11:00-11:30 – “Divine Violence and Righteous Anger” by Kimberly Stratton (Carleton University)

13:30-16:15 (ACE 002) Literary Approaches I / Approches littéraires I

  • 13:30-14:00 – “Textually Violating Dinah: Literary Readings and the Construction of the Interpreter” by Todd Penner (Austin College) and Lilian Gyde Gates
  • 14:00-14:30 – “The Golden Calf Story, Constructively and Deconstructively” by Dmitri Slivniak (York University)
  • 14:30-15:00 – “God is Not a Mortal He Should Repent: The Role of Samuel in God’s Rejection of Saul and the Shift to an Unconditional Covenant with David” by J. Richard Middleton (Roberts Wesleyan College)
  • 15:15-15:45 – “Some Advantages of Recycling: Jacob in a Later Environment” by Keith Bodner (Atlantic Baptist University)
  • 15:45-16:15 – “Brecht’s David” by David Jobling (St. Andrew’s College)

19:00-21:00 (Vanier College 135) Special Joint Lecture / La Conférence Conjoint

  • 21:00-23:00 (Vanier College – The Renaissance) – “The Alternative Vision of the Gospel of Judas” by Bart Ehrman (University of North Carolina Chapel Hill)

Tuesday 30 May 2006

8:45-12:00 (ACE 002) Ancient Historiography Seminar / Groupe de Travail sur l’Historiographie Ancienne
Function of Historiography – Hebrew Bible / La Fonctionne de l’Historiographie – Bible Hébraïque

  • 8:45-9:05 – “Is the Book of Kings Deuteronomistic? And is it a History?” by Kurt Noll (Brandon University)
  • 9:15-9:35 – “Uses of the Past: The Stories of David and Solomon as Test Cases” by John Van Seters (Waterloo, ON)
  • 9:45-10:05 – “Sennacherib’s Campaign Against Judah: What Saith the Scriptures?” by Paul Evans (Alliance University College)
  • 10:30-10:50 – “The Chronicler as Elite” by Tim Goltz (McGill University)
  • 11:00-11:20 – “The Function of Historiography: A Synthesis and Response to Kurt Noll, John Van Seters, Paul Evans, and Tim Goltz” by Tyler Williams (Taylor University College)

Ancient Historiography Seminar / Groupe de Travail sur l’Historiographie Ancienne
13:30-16:30 (ACE 002) Function of Historiography – Classics, Intertestamental Literature, and the Gospels / La Fonctionne de l’Historiographie – Les Littératures Classiques et Intertestamentaire, et les Évangiles

  • 13:30-13:50 – “The Gospel of Mark in context of ancient historiography” by Eve-Marie Becker (Oberassistentin Institut für Neues Testament)
  • 14:00-14:20 – “Once Upon a Time: Women as Leaders in Historiography and the Ancient Novel” by Dilys Patterson (Concordia University)
  • 14:30-14:50 -”Ancient Greek Historiography and its Methodology: How Does Luke Relate?” by Sean Adams (McMaster Divinity College)
  • 15:15-15:35 -”When in Rome…: Scripting Gender in Acts” by Todd Penner (Austin College)

13:30-15:30 (ACE 003) Literary Approaches II / Approches littéraires II

  • 13:30-14:00 – “Bug Splats: Squishing Joel’s Verbal Effigy” by James Linville (University of Lethbridge)
  • 14:00-14:30 – “Lament for a Broken Body: The Complaint Psalms and the Fragmented Biblical Subject’ by Fiona Black (MT. Allison University)
  • 14:30-15:00 – “Apocalypse and Apophasis: Paronomasia, Proverbs, and Prolixity in Isaiah 28.19-22″ by Francis Landy (University of Alberta)
  • 15:00-15:30 – “A Divine-Human Cherub: The Primal Figure of Ezekiel 28″ by Daphna Arbel (University of British Columbia)

As with last year, I will provide daily reports on the sessions, so stay tunned.


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CSBS Ancient Historiography Seminar Papers Uploaded

22nd May 2006

I have just uploaded the final papers for this year’s Ancient Historiography Seminar, which meets in a week at the annual meeting of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies (CSBS) at York University in Toronto, Ontario (May 28-30, 2006).

This will be the inaugural year for the Seminar and it looks like it will be a great meeting with a lot of interesting discussion.

The papers are all available in PDF format, though you must be a member of the CSBS to download them. If you are not a member of the CSBS, then you will have to contact the paper’s author for permission and then contact me for the username and password.

As I did last year, I will be summarizing the Hebrew Bible sessions of this year’s conference, so stay tuned!


Posted in Academic Associations, Ancient Historiography Seminar, CSBS, History of Ancient Israel | Comments Off

Ancient Historiography Seminar / Groupe de Travail sur l’Historiographie Ancienne – CSBS Programme (30 May 2006)

17th April 2006

As a member of the Steering Committee of the Ancient Historiography Seminar in the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies, I am pleased to report that the programme for our inaugural sessions is now available. Here is a the schedule for this year’s seminar:

Function of Historiography – Hebrew Bible /
La Fonctionne de l’Historiographie – Bible Hébraïque

Tuesday 30 May 2006 – 8:45-12:00 (ACE 002)

Chair / Président: Tyler Williams (Taylor University College)

8:45-9:05 am – Is the Book of Kings Deuteronomistic? And is it a History?
Kurt Noll (Brandon University)

The consensus among biblical scholars is that Kings is a work of history, probably the final instalment of Martin Noth’s Deuteronomistic History. To date, the best two attempts to defend that genre designation are those of John Van Seters and Baruch Halpern. Van Seters compares the Former Prophets to ANE literature, while Halpern stresses rhetorical structures indicating what Halpern calls “antiquarianism” in the text. However, recent researchers on Kings have raised issues that perhaps require a reassessment of the question about genre. On textual grounds, one can argue that Deuteronomy did not influence the earlier stages of composition and that later stages were no longer concerned with “antiquarianism.” This paper will review the debate between Halpern and Van Seters in light of the more recent research, revisit both the comparative argument and the argument based on rhetorical structures in the text, and offer a possible solution to the question of genre in the book of Kings.

9:05-9:15 am – Discussion

9:15-9:35 am – Uses of the Past: The Stories of David and Solomon as Test Cases
John Van Seters (Waterloo, ON)

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 Discussion

9:45-10:05 am – Sennacherib’s Campaign Against Judah: What Saith the Scriptures?
Paul Evans (Wycliffe College)

This paper won the Founders’ Prize and will be read on Sunday afternoon. It will be summarized at this session.

This paper provides a close reading of the Hezekiah-Sennacherib narrative of 2 Kings 18-19 which, with the aid of a Rhetorical analysis, will: 1) reassess putative sources found in the text (questioning the traditional A and B source delineations); and 2) reveal common misreadings of the biblical text (e.g., that a siege of Jerusalem is referred to and that Sennacherib’s army is said to be defeated outside the walls of Jerusalem). This study will then analyze the implications of these results for the use of this biblical text in historical reconstruction.

10:05-10:15 am – Discussion

10:15-10:30 – Break

10:30-10:50 am – The Chronicler as Elite
Tim Goltz (McGill University)

Noam Chomsky is credited with the observation, “The Internet is an elite organization; most of the population of the world has never even made a phone call.” If the “eliteness” of communities is, in part, measured by their ability to effectively communicate their message, the model of the Internet elite demonstrates a truism of human societies; that the majority of recorded communication is representative of relatively few individuals who tend to wield a disproportionate amount of power. In Western societies which communicate so freely and cheaply, it is sometimes difficult to imagine ancient societies where significant literary agency was limited to so very few people. As a member of the Yehudite elite, the Chronicler was one of those few. Most likely supported by the Jerusalem Temple, he wrote a revisionist account of the history of “Israel” which has been retained as the book(s) of Chronicles. Employing a unique comparative theory from the emerging discipline of elite studies within the humanities, this paper seeks to address the issue of what the term “elite” means in terms of the ancient Yehudite literati. Widely used but rarely dissected, the paper is also an appeal for biblical scholars to more critically engage the implications of term “elite” as applied to socio-historical reconstructions of ancient Israel, and, indeed, to related ANE cultures.

10:50-11:00 – Discussion

11:00-11:20 am – Tyler Williams (Taylor University College)
The Function of Historiography: A Synthesis and Response to Kurt Noll, John Van Seters, Paul Evans, and Tim Goltz

11:20-12:00 am – Discussion

Function of Historiography – Classics, Intertestamental Literature, and the Gospels / La Fonctionne de l’Historiographie – Les Littératures Classiques et Intertestamentaire, et les Évangiles

Tuesday 30 May 2006 – 1:30-14:30 pm (ACE 002)

Chair / Président: Todd Penner (Austin College)

1:30-1:50 pm – Dilys Patterson (Concordia University)
Once Upon a Time: Women as Leaders in Historiography and the Ancient Novel

In antiquity it was rare for a woman to be in a leadership role. Leadership typically meant having authority over men and participating in the male dominated public sphere, which, according to the cultural values of the day, was not the proper place for women. Nevertheless, women do figure sporadically in historiography and are central characters in Jewish novels. The Book of Judith, for instance, not only situates itself in Israel’s past but also demonstrates a solid appreciation of Israel’s history. Both historiography and the ancient novel therefore draw on the past to create meaning. This paper examines the anomalous position of female leadership and the use of this type of leadership to create meaning in three historiographies, The Histories by Herodotus, The Jewish War and Jewish Antiquities by Flavius Josephus, and the Jewish novel, Judith.

1:50-2:00 pm – Discussion

2:00-2:20 pm – Craig A. Evans (Acadia Divinity College)
Gospel Historiography and Biblical Epic

The four New Testament evangelists present the “history of Jesus” in distinctive ways. Their writing strategies place them in the general context of other Jewish writers of late antiquity, such as Josephus who writes an apologetical historical treatise, or Philo the epic poet, Orphica, Ezekiel the Tragedian, or a variety of other Jewish poets who imitated Greek style in their respective efforts to retell various parts of Israel’s sacred story or what we might regard in a certain sense “Biblical Epic.” The New Testament Gospels represent examples of the creative ways that Jews and persons caught up in the story of Israel attempted to retell sacred history in the genres and forms current in their day, including the forms found in Scripture itself. Although the strategies of the respective evangelists vary, their gospels are rooted in and linked to Scripture in important ways and so represent efforts to tell Israel’s story, centered on the figure of Jesus the Messiah.

2:20-2:30 pm – Discussion

2:30-2:50 pm – Sean Adams (McMaster Divinity College)
Ancient Greek Historiography and its Methodology: How Does Luke Relate?

2:50-3:00 pm – Discussion

3:00-3:15 pm – Break

3:15-3:35 pm – Eve-Marie Becker (Oberassistentin Institut für Neues Testament)
The Gospel of Mark in context of ancient historiography

My paper will expound on the approach of my “Habilitationsschrift” which will be published in Tübingen (Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament) in 2006: Das Markus-Evangelium im Rahmen antiker Historiographie. This approach is firstly historical and secondly methodological: ad 1: The Gospel of Mark seems to be the first record of early Christian writing, which has put the story of Jesus in a chronological and narrative order. Which specific historical circumstances have made the narrativization of the Jesus-story necessary? Reasons for that could probably be found in the events of the first Jewish revolt and the destruction of the Second Temple (70 A.D.). Is there any textual evidence within Mark’s Gospel for these historical events? and 2: The way Mark uses traditions and sources can be compared to the techniques of ancient historiographical writers. In this perspective, historiography can be defined as a narrativization of at least partially historical traditions. The discussion about the Gospel’s genre (biographical literature?) is – in that sense – has to be resumed once again.

3:35-3:45 pm – Discussion

3:45-4:30 – Discussion

This looks like an exciting session. I will be updating the Ancient Historiography Seminar Website in the next few days. I will let you know when everything is uploaded.


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Final Thoughts on 2005 Canadian Society of Biblical Studies Meeting

2nd June 2005

This year’s CSBS meeting at the University of Western Ontario was, IMHO, a real success. I thought that the Hebrew Bible sessions were filled with interesting papers (see my previous CSBS posts), the university itself was a great place to visit, and the highpoint for me was (as always) to catch up with friends and colleagues from across North America. A huge advantage of the CSBS over against SBL is its intimacy. I would like to thank all those involved with organizing the conference!

For those interested in some comments on the New Testament sessions, check out Phil Harland’s Overview of Canadian Society of Biblical Studies conference.

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CSBS Tuesday Report

1st June 2005

The Tuesday Hebrew Bible session of the CSBS had a variety of papers loosely focused on the Writings.

The morning started off with an interesting paper by Arthur Walker-Jones from the University of Winnipeg. In his paper, “Myth Criticism of the Psalms,” he used Northrop Frye’s approach to myth to explore the individual laments.

Next was yours truly (Tyler F. Williams). I presented a paper on “The Psalm Superscriptions and the Composition of the Book of Psalms.” Focusing primarily on the Greek translation of the Psalter, I examined the additions and expansions in the LXX and found that the large majority of quantitative changes in the superscripts are the result of inner-Greek tradition history (rather than reflecting a different Hebrew Vorlage). I will post further on this paper in the near future.

The third paper of the morning was by another Edmontonian, Ehud Ben Zvi, from the University of Alberta. He looked at the Chronicler’s account of Amaziah in 2 Chronicles 25, focusing particularly at the claims advanced in the text itself rather than addressing any historical questions. His was a very interesting paper that explored time construction and periodization in the passage as well as many other features.

After a brief break we heard a paper by David Shepherd (currently of Briercrest College, but moving to Dublin to take up the role of principal of Dublin Bible College August 1) entitled, “‘Strike his bone and his flesh’: Reading Job 2 from the Beginning.” David presented a provocative interpretation of Job 2:5 (“his bone and his flesh”) in which he built a strong argument that rather than this statement being self-referential, it refers to Job’s wife. One challenge — among others — with this interpretation is taking נַפש×?וֹ (naphsho; translated as “his life” in the NRSV) in verse 6 as referring to his wife.

The fifth paper of the morning was presented by Derek Suderman of Emmanuel College (Toronto). His paper, “Towards an Improved Description of Biblical Prayer: Form-Critical Approaches to Direct Address in Psalm 55,” focused specifically on the shift in address in the psalm (rather than thematic changes).

The last (but by no means least) paper of this year’s Hebrew Bible sessions was by John Van Seters, now residing in Waterloo, ON. His paper, “The Myth of the ‘Final Form’ of the Biblical Text,” was perhaps the most provocative paper read this year. A preview of his forthcoming Eisenbrauns’ book, The Edited Bible: The Curious History of the “Editor” in Biblical Criticism, Van Seters attempted to dismantle the notion of “editor” in ancient texts as well as the idea that there was ever a “final form” of any biblical text. While Van Seters had a number of good points about some anachronistic concepts that have crept into biblical studies, I have to admit that ultimately I was not persuaded by his paper. To be fair, I’ll have to take a look at his book to get his full argument.

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CSBS Monday Report

30th May 2005

There was another excellent Hebrew Bible session Monday morning. I had the honor of hearing papers from two former students (Ken Ristau and Tim Goltz) who are both in doctoral programs (Ken at Penn State and Tim at McGill). Here are some highlights:

Tim Goltz (a doctoral student at McGill University) presented a paper entitled “Two Rhetorical Methods for Two Historical Audiences: Reading and Hearing Texts in Ancient Israel” in which he provided an excellent survey of rhetorical approaches to the Hebrew Bible. He organized them in two general approaches: rhetoric as the art of composition (aka the “Muilenberg” school with Lundbom, Trible, and Sternberg) and rhetoric as the art of persuasion (Patrick, Scult, and Duke).

Ken Ristau (a doctoral student at Pennsylvania State University) presented a compelling paper on the Chronicler’s Josiah called “Of Prophets and Monarchs: The Death of Josiah in Chronicles.” Ken argued that the presentation of Josiah in Chronicles lacks the typical joy and blessing that one would expect in Chronicles and that his death is presented ironically. Furthermore, while Josiah’s reforms are presented as the consummation of the Davidic promise, his death marks its end. (Perhaps Ken will provide a more detailed summary on his blog?)

There were a couple of rather entertaining papers in the morning that shared a similar intertextual method. Christine Mitchell (St. Andrew’s College, Sask) linked Haggai and Saskatoon in her paper “Temperance, Temples and Colonies: Reading the Book of Haggai in Saskatoon” while James Linville (University of Lethbridge) went down the rabbit hole and explored “Bugs Through the Looking Glass: The Infestation of Meaning in Joel.” Christine’s paper drew some interesting parallels between the founding of Saskatoon as a temperance colony and Persian period Yehud — particularly how they both were “charter groups” supported by outsiders (in Toronto and Persia, respectively).

Rounding out the morning were papers by Robert Culley (McGill University) and R. Glenn Wooden (Acadia Divinity College). Culley’s presentation on the individual laments (“Reading the Complaints of the Individual”) drew from his lifetime of studying the psalms. After discussing his take on genre (which focuses more on Gunkel’s form rather than Sitz im Leben) and traditional language in the psalms, he worked through a number of laments (Psalms 3, 7, 88, and 22). He summed up his paper emphasizing the importance of considering both the generic elements of the psalms (the group) as well as the unique features of any given psalm (the individual). Glen’s paper, “Daniel against the wise-men: the nuanced use of wisdom terms in Daniel 1-2,” argued, among other things, that the term ‏משׂכלים (mskylym) as used in Daniel separates Daniel and his friends from the other wise men.

All in all there were some interesting sessions on Monday.

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