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The Androgynous Adam: Sex and Sexuality in the Garden

Sunday 13 February 2011

Claude Mariottini, over at his eponymous blog, drew our attention to a couple recent books on the Bible and Sex, Michael Coogan’s God and Sex: What the Bible Really Says (New York: The Hachette Book Group, 2010; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com) and Jennifer Wright Knust’s Unprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2011; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com). I have not had a chance to examine either book, so I’m not going to say anything about them. I did, however, want to comment on Mariottini’s quick dismissal of Knust’s notion that the first human was androgynous and only later sexually differentiated. He notes:

Her premise is that the story of creation of the first human person in Genesis 1 was a case of androgyny, that is, that the first person was both male and female and had the genitals of both sexes. Then, in the creation story of Genesis 2, the sexes were separated and this separation created sexual desire in human beings. This desire drives man and woman to have sex so that they can become one again.

This view that God’s original plan for his creation was that a human person would have two sexes in one body is the creation of a fertile mind that finds no support in the Bible. Knust bases her view on ancient Jewish interpreters who were trying to explain why there are two creation stories in Genesis.

Knust’s interpretation is so radical that she reinterprets what the Bible says in order to present a modern view of sex and sexuality that is a complete departure from what the Bible has to say and teach.

The notion that the original human was androgynous (or something similar) isn’t a new idea, nor perhaps is it so radical. Rashi, a 10th century Jewish interpreter, suggested the first human was male on one side and female on the other and that God had simply divided the creature in half (compare the similar idea of Aristophanes, brought to Mariottini’s attention by David Reimer). Perhaps the most well know biblical scholar to champion a similar notion recently is Phyllis Trible, who presented this idea in her masterful, God and Rhetoric of Sexuality (Fortress, 1986; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com). Using rhetorical analysis and a close reading of the text, Trible argues that God created the first human without gender, “the adam” [human] was formed from “the adamah” [humus]. Rather than a man, “the adam” was an “earth creature”  (as an aside, there is a great play on words in the biblical text: “Yahweh Elohim formed the earthling from the earth” or “the human from the humus”).  Not until the woman is built from the side of the earth creature does the original human being acquire gender. Now Trible’s interpretation has some basis in the biblical text. Despite most modern translations, the use of “adam” in Genesis 2 is not a personal name. The biblical text does not have “Adam”, but rather “the adam” (‏האדם), i.e., the human, or the like. And it is only in Gen 2:23 (after the building of the woman) that text text refers to humanity as “male” and “female” (‏אישׁ and ‏אשׁה).

Now, that being said, I don’t agree with Trible’s interpretation. It’s just that I don’t feel like I can dismiss it out of hand. The biggest problem with her interpretation is that throughout the entire narrative, “the human” is referred to as “the-adam” (‏האדם), Even after the creation of the woman in 2:23, the creature is still referred to as “the-adam.” It is only later that the human male is unambiguously referred to as “Adam” (i.e., as a proper name; without the definite article). So I guess I don’t really disagree with Mariottini’s ultimate conclusion, though I’m not sure I would be too dogmatic. When it comes right down to it, I’m not sure we should press the biblical text too much in this regard. The point of the narrative is not to comment on the original sexuality of the human, but rather to celebrate the creation of the woman as a suitable counterpart for the man.Richardson, Flame of Yahweh

While we are talking about the Bible and sex, I should note another fairly recent publication on sex and the Bible:  Richard M. Davidson‘s Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the Old Testament (Hendrickson, 2007; Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com).  This almost 850 page volume is the most extensive discussions of sexuality in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible available. Compared to  Coogan and Knust, this work is quite conservative, though it will probably remain unchallenged for a while in terms of comprehensiveness.  (In case you are wondering, the title of the volume is derived from Davidson’s somewhat unique understanding of Song of Songs 8:6).

You should check it out.


Posted in Bible, Creation, Genesis, History of Interpretation | Comments Off | Top

Job as the “Poster Boy” for Retribution Theology

Sunday 13 February 2011

“Once upon a time there was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job” is the way I would translate the opening of the biblical book of Job. “There was a man…” (‏אישׁ היה) is a parabolic beginning to the story about someone called “Job” (iyyov; ‏איוב‎). The name is of unclear etymology (although definitely not an Israelite name) and the place is similarly obscure (could be an area south of Israel around Edom [Jer 25:20; Lam 4:21] or perhaps associated with the Arameans [Gen 10:23; 22:21]).

The opening description serves to conjure up notions of antiquity and mystery about this ancient sage. Interestingly, Ezekiel 14:14, 20; 28:3 mention Job alongside two other ancient heroes: Danel (‏דנאל‎) and Noah. These references are to ancient non-Israelite heroes whose righteousness was legendary (note that the reference to “Daniel” is not to the biblical Daniel (‏דניאל‎); he would have been a child at the time of Ezekiel. Rather, the reference is to Danel, a legendary hero who we learn about from Ugaritic myths. E.g., the Aqhat Legend [CTA 17, COS 1.103] talks of a hero called Dani’ilu/Danel [dnil] who is childless, and because of his own righteousness is given a son, Aqhat, by the gods).

No matter how one takes the opening of the book, what is highlighted from the very beginning is Job’s integrity. He is described as “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (1:1b). This hyperbolic fourfold description underscores Job’s superlative righteousness:

  • “blameless” (‏תם‎). Used particularly in wisdom lit. as integrity or perfection
  • “upright” (‏ישר‎). Lit. “straight”, often modifies “way”; used fig. for correct human conduct
  • “fears Elohim” and
  • “turns from evil” (see Prov 3:7, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear Yahweh, and turn away from evil”)

This fourfold description is suggestive as four is frequently used in the Bible to indicate completeness (cf. the fourfold destruction of all that Job has later in the chapter).  Job’s superlative righteousness is also indicated by the fact that God has clearly blessed him:

There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and very many servants; so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east (Job 1:2-3).

The numbers symbolic significance, suggesting completeness and perfection:

  • Seven sons and three girls (= ten)
  • Seven thousand sheep and three thousand camels (= ten thousand)
  • Five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys (= one thousand)

The opening ends with the note that Job is “the greatest of all the people of the east.” And in biblical parlance, the east was know for its sages — and he’s the best there was!

Job Poster

The point of this introduction is to present the biblical character of Job from the very beginning as the ancient Near Eastern sage par excellence. He is the best there was and perhaps best there ever will be. He is even better than Noah who is only provided a threefold description by the biblical narrator (Gen 6:9). if anyone should be blessed and allowed to prosper, it is Job. And as such, Job is the perfect set-up for the story of Job. He is the ideal test case. He is, as I like to call him, the “Poster boy for Retribution Theology” (see my poster image above). If God blesses (in this lifetime) those who are faithful to him (as many ancient Israelites believed — and way too many people still continue to believe today), and if suffering is the result of God’s judgment on sin, then Job should be blessed. And when evil comes upon Job, it must have been because he did something wrong (as Job’s friends suggest). It is this notion of retribution theology that the book of Job dismantles.


Posted in Job, Wisdom | 6 Comments » | Top

Adam’s Premature Ejection

Friday 11 February 2011

One of the challenges we face with interpreting some biblical stories is the problem of familiarity. We don’t really read the text carefully because we already know what it means. This is the case for many of us when we come to the stories of the man and the woman in Genesis 2-3.  It’s interesting to try to read it again for the first time.

The account of the forming of the man and the building of the woman and their subsequent eating of the fruit and expulsion from the garden in Genesis 2-3 brings many additional challenges to the interpreter. One such crux interpretum in the significance of the tree of “the knowledge of good and evil” עץ הדעת טוב ורע (Gen 2:9). This particular tree is only found here in the entire Bible. While it is difficult to understand, it is clearly a key phrase in the narrative, occurring four times (Gen 2:9, 17; 3:5, 22).

Most take “good and evil” as a merism, a figure of speech where the whole is expressed by contrasting parts. Thus, “good and evil” means a whole range of knowledge, not two isolated things. Some, such as Karl Barth, take the phrase to refer to omniscience:

To know good and evil, to be able to distinguish and therefore judge between what ought to be and ought not to be, between Yea and No, between salvation and perdition, between life and death, is to be like God, to be oneself the Creator and Lord of the creature. (Barth CD III/1 258)

It is much more likely that it doesn’t refer to all knowledge in general, i.e., omniscience (especially considering that after eating of the tree, the first couple doesn’t appear to be omniscient!), but knowledge related to “good and evil.”

Significantly, the expression “good and evil” (טוב ורע) is used elsewhere in the Bible of the human ability to be discriminating, something that is lacking in children (Deut 1:39; Isa 7:15-16), the elderly (2Sam 19:35), and the inexperienced (1Kings 3:9). This discerning and discriminating wisdom is a faculty normally experienced in the “prime of life”; it is a mark of maturity in a person.

The fact that the knowledge of good and evil is actually something good to have when one is an adult, may suggest that the man and the woman are presented in the garden as innocent preadolescent children. Think about it: they are naked and not ashamed (2:25), which is a child-like trait (this is not a recent idea, some early church fathers also suggested this). So the prohibition related to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (2:15-16) may be more an issue of timing and obedience, rather than there being something inherently wrong with eating of it. “When the time was right, the first couple would be able to eat from it” (Walton, 205). In eating the fruit they prematurely mature, they gain autonomy and sexual awareness. “God has prohibited the tree because autonomy and sexuality should come only at the end of an appropriate process” (Walton, Genesis, 216).

The narrative also seems to suggest that the first couple’s stay in the garden was meant to be temporary. The state of the earth at the beginning of the account was desolate and “there was no human (אדם) to work/serve/cultivate (עבד) the ground (אדמה).” This may suggest that the goal of the human was outside of Eden.

The fact that God, rather than the human creature, planted the garden suggests that the garden was not intended to be the dwelling place of humans. After all, the garden of Eden is the garden of God. Humans were created to till the ground and in this manner bring life to the sterile desert. This is their destiny, and the earth outside the garden will be their dwelling. But just as children must remain in the house of their parents until they reach maturity so also the human creature is placed temporarily in the garden of God (Ronald Simkins, Creator & Creation, p. 180).

So perhaps we don’t know these opening chapters as Genesis as well as we think we might. The man and the woman getting kicked out of the garden was perhaps more an issue of “premature ejection” rather than than something entirely unforeseen.


Posted in Bible, Creation, Genesis | 2 Comments » | Top

How Not to Preach from Genesis 1

Saturday 18 December 2010

Robert Cargil has an excellent discussion and critique of Mark Driscoll’s exegesis of Genesis 1, especially Driscoll’s appeal to Targum Neofiti to show some Jews before the time of Christ held Trinitarian views.

Here is Robert’s intro:

Apparently, as a part of an indoctrination informative series of mini-sermons on ‘What Christians Should Believe,’ pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle attempted to expound on Targum Neofiti. In particular, he attempted to use Neofiti as part of an apologetic defense for evidence of the Christian concept of the Trinity in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.

And his conclusion:

Unfortunately, in the end, Driscoll’s so-called mis-“reading” of Targum Neofiti is a mere fabrication – a complete misreading of the text, which he uses as evidence for something that isn’t there (evidence of the Trinity in the OT). It’s almost as egregious of a fabricated defense of the Trinity as the Johannine Comma, in which a medieval publisher (Erasmus) intentionally inserted text (under pressure from others) in 1 John 5:7-8 in an attempt to provide some explicit Biblical evidence for the Trinity (because there was/is none).

And that is how not to use the targums. How do you mislead your congregation into believing something that you believe, but that the Bible doesn’t mention? You just make something up.

As I said before, “I shake my head.”

Do watch the video and read Robert’s blog post deconstructing it.

Now I don’t think that Driscoll just “made it up”; he was misinformed and got into stuff he knew nothing about. Pastors should stick to what they know. They shouldn’t try to use Hebrew or Greek if they don’t know it (or don’t remember it). They shouldn’t appeal to ancient Jewish translations or text if they can’t read them.  Or, perhaps, they should have paid attention in Seminary and actually learned some of this stuff in the first place.  Or at least they should have learned some basic hermeneutics and learned how to think critically and theologically about the biblical text.

Methinks I will have to use this in my Genesis class next semester. Thank you Dr. Cargil!


Posted in Aramaic Targums, Bible, Genesis, Hebrew, Hermeneutics, Old Testament | 4 Comments » | Top

Merry Kitschmas – Meat Nativities

Friday 17 December 2010

I haven’t posted anything on kitsch lately (that’s the understatement of the year!), but when I saw these tasty nativity scenes I just had to post them. Perhaps they were inspired by Lady Gaga’s meat dress. Who knows?!

This one looks tasty:

Sausage Nativity

This one, on the other hand, would need a lot of mustard:

Bologna Nativity

(HT pharyngula)


Posted in Christmas, Jesus Junk & Christian Kitsch, Nativity Story | Comments Off | Top

Call for Papers: History, Historiography, and the Hebrew Bible

Monday 8 November 2010

Call for Papers for Fredericton 2011:  History, Historiography, and the Hebrew Bible

The Ancient Historiography Seminar of the CSBS invites papers evaluating the state of historiographic research on the Hebrew Bible, including papers exploring the nature, function, and aesthetics of biblical historiography. Such studies may focus on, but are not limited to, the so-called Deuteronomistic History or the Chronicler’s History. As this is the last year of the Ancient Historiography Seminar, papers of a more summative nature evaluating the past contributions of the Seminar are also welcome.

To be considered for our program, please submit a 250 word abstract to the seminar chair, Tyler Williams (tyler [dot] williams [at] kingsu.ca) by December 15, 2010.

The seminar meets as part of the annual meeting of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies, held Sunday May 29-Tuesday May 31 at University of New Brunswick & St. Thomas University, Fredericton, NB, as part of the Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities (further information at http://www.fedcan.ca).

If you have any questions concerning this year’s program, please contact the seminar chair, Tyler Williams (tyler [dot] williams [at] kingsu [dot] ca).

Previous years’ schedule and papers may be found at the Seminar website.

Posted in Academic Associations, Ancient Historiography Seminar, CSBS | Comments Off | Top

R.I.P. John William Wevers

Thursday 29 July 2010

World class Septuagintal scholar John William Wevers passed away last week. Here is a notice that was sent to the members of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies:

On July 23, Professor Emeritus John William Wevers, of the University of Toronto, passed away at the age of 91. Prof. Wevers was struck by a cerebral hemorrhage in the Toronto nursing home where he had lived since July 2008. A memorial service will be held in Toronto on Sept. 11.

During his long tenure at the University of Toronto, Prof. Wevers had brought the Department of Near Eastern Studies (now merged into the Dept. of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations) to unprecedented complement and quality; he himself became an undisputed master of Septuagint Studies during the last decades of the 20th century, having produced the critical edition of the whole Greek Pentateuch for the Göttingen Septuaginta Unternehmen, and added further text-critical studies, translations, and commentaries to each of the five main volumes of this edition. Prof. Wevers’s knowledge and contribution extended to several other languages; he had, in particular, made significant contributions to Classical Hebrew scholarship, as well as vigorously promoting its study at the University of Toronto.

He was one of the few scholars I know who had the mastery of the languages and texts necessary to do true textual criticism.

May his name be a blessing for future generations. R.I.P.


Posted in CSBS, IOSCS, Scholars, Septuagint, Text Criticism | 1 Comment » | Top

A Form-Critical Classification of the Psalms according to Hermann Gunkel

Sunday 23 May 2010

In honour of Gunkel’s birthday…

hermann_gunkel.jpg

“Genre research in Psalms is nonnegotiable, not something one can execute or ignore according to preference.  Rather it is the foundational work with which there can be no certainty in the remainder.
It is the firm ground from which everything else must ascend.”
- Hermann Gunkel

Perhaps no scholar has influenced the modern study of the book of Psalms as much as Hermann Gunkel. His pioneering form-critical work on the psalms sought to provide a new and meaningful context in which to interpret individual psalms — not by looking at their historical background or their literary context within the Psalter (which he didn’t see as significant), but by bringing together psalms of the same genre (Gattung) from throughout the Psalter. Even though Psalms scholarship has refined and critiqued his approach and have moved on to different approaches, Gunkel’s form-critical legacy remains firmly entrenched in modern scholarship and is the default starting point for most studies of the Psalter.

The Genres of the Psalms

According to Gunkel, for psalms to be considered as part of the same genre (Gattung) three conditions had to be met:

  1. the psalms had to have a similar setting in life (Sitz im Leben), basis in worship, a common cultic setting, or at least originally derive from one;
  2. they had to be characterized by common thoughts, feelings, and moods; and
  3. they required a shared diction, style, and structure — a language related to form (Formensprache). This feature provides the signals of the particular genre.

Working with these criteria, Gunkel isolated a number of different genres or types of psalms. In his earlier work he highlighted four primary types of psalms (hymns, community laments, individual thanksgiving psalms, and individual laments), with various subcategories, as well as several mixed forms. In his later work, completed by Joachim Begrich, he identified six major types (hymns, enthronement psalms, communal complaints, royal psalms, individual complaints, and individual thanksgiving psalms) and a number of smaller genres and mixed types. I have tended to follow the later classification, with modifications as noted. Also note that some psalms are found in more than one category. This is especially the case with sub-genres since Gunkel wasn’t consistent in how he dealt with them.

For this summary I have relied primarily on these two works:

  • Hermann Gunkel (completed by Joachim Begrich), Introduction to Psalms: The Genres of the Religious Lyric of Israel (Mercer University Press, 1998; translation of Einleitung in die Psalmen: die Gattungen der religiösen Lyrik Israels [Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1985, 1933]; Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com).
  • Hermann Gunkel, The Psalms: A Form-Critical Introduction (Fortress Press, 1967; translation of his article in Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart [2nd ed; J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1930]; Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com)

I have also included this summary as a PDF document below (it is a handout I put together for my Psalms class). Feel free to download it and use it as long as you keep the ascription in the first footnote. (While I have double checked the references, please let me know if you find any errors or omissions.)

I. Hymns

A. Hymns in General

Psalms 8; 19; 29; 33; 65; 67; 68; 96; 98; 100; 103; 104; 105; 111; 113; 114; 117; 135; 136; 139; 145-150.

Form

  1. Introduction: A call to praise, sing, and rejoice to Yahweh in some form.
  2. Body: The reasons why Yahweh should be praised (often introduced by כי, , “for”).
    1. His qualities and attributes.
    2. His regular or repeated actions, including his works in creation and conservation of cosmos and his works in history, especially for Israel.
  3. Conclusion: renewed summons to praise.

Sitz im Leben
Hymns were sung as part of worship on diverse occasions, including sacred festivals as well at other times, perhaps by a choir or an individual singer.

B. Songs of Zion

Psalms 46; 48; 76; 84; 87; 122.

These psalms tend to lack a proper introduction. They praise Yahweh by praising Jerusalem, addressing the holy place, and calling down blessings upon it. They were sung at particular occasions that celebrated Jerusalem’s majesty and future eschatological significance.

C. Psalms of Yahweh’s Enthronement

Psalms 47; 93; 96:10-13; 97; 99.

Form

  1. Often begin with the words יהוה מלך, “Yahweh has become king.”
  2. Contain many calls to rejoice.
  3. Have brief references to Yahweh’s deeds, depicted as just now taking place.
  4. Give descriptions of what his reign will mean to Israel and the world.
  5. Present the idea that a new world kingdom is coming.

Sitz im Leben
These psalms were used as part of Israel’s worship, likely including an enthronement festival in which Yahweh is glorified as king. These psalms were given a prophetic, eschatological, reinterpretation in their final stages.

II. Lament/Complaint Psalms

A. Communal Complaint Psalms

Psalms 44; (58); (60); 74; 79; 80; 83; (106); (125).

Form

  1. Calling upon Yahweh by name (usually in the vocative)
  2. Lamenting complaints over the misfortune; almost always political in nature.
  3. Supplications and petitions to Yahweh to transform the misfortunes.
  4. Thoughts aimed to excite confidence in the suppliant or to move Yahweh to action, such as his honour or the sake of his name.
  5. Often end with a certainty of hearing.

Sitz im Leben
The setting of these psalms are days of national fasting and/or complaint festivals brought on by various national calamities, such as war, exile, pestilence, drought, famine, and plagues.

B. Individual Complaint Psalms

1) Individual Laments in General

Psalms 3; 5; 6; 7; 13; 17; 22; 25; 26; 27:7-14; 28; 31; 35; 38; 39; 42-43; 54-57; 59; 61; 63; 64; 69; 70; 71; 86; 88; 102; 109; 120; 130; 140; 141; 142; 143.

Form
Laments will typically include the following element, though not necessarily in the same order:

  1. Summons to Yahweh.
  2. Complaint/Lament proper, often preceded by a description of the prayer.
  3. Considerations inducing Yahweh to intervene, whether by challenging Yahweh’s honour, exciting his anger by citing the enemies’ words, or by the nature of the complaint itself.
  4. Petition/Entreaty. This is the most significant part of the complaint psalm. May be of a general nature or may be quite specific (confessional petitions, petitions of innocence, etc.).
  5. Conviction of being heard (present only in some Psalms) and/or a vow.

Sitz im Leben
The setting in life is difficult to determine due to the formulaic character of the language in laments. Originally derives from the worship service and then later were used as spiritual songs of the individual. These psalms were occasioned by apparently life-threatening situations rather than everyday life; such situations may include illness, misfortune, persecution from enemies — though one needs to be careful about taking the images too literally.

2) Psalms Protesting Innocence
Psalms 5; 7; 17; 26. These psalms have an accentuated assurance of innocence, and even in some cases a qualified self-curse.

3) Psalms of Confession
Psalms 51; 130 (Psalms expressing national penitence include Psalms 78; 81; 106; cf. also Ezra 9:9-15; Neh 9:9-38; Dan 9:4-19). These psalms are characterized by a painful awareness of having sinned against Yahweh and deserving punishment. In this light they ask forgiveness and appeal for God’s grace.

4) Psalms of Cursing and Vengeance
Psalm 109, among others. These psalms strive for retaliation against enemies.

5) Psalms of Trust
Psalms 4; 11; 16; 23; 27:1-6; 62; 131 (Psalm 125 is a national song of trust). These psalms reformulate the lament psalms and shift their focus to an expression of trust and confidence, so much so that often the complaint, petition, and certainty of hearing are displaced. They often speak of Yahweh in the third person.

III. Royal Psalms

Psalms 2; 18; 20; 21; 45; 72; 101; 110; 132; 144:1-11; cf. 89:47-52.

Form
Formally Royal psalms are of different types, though in all cases they are “concerned entirely with kings.” Some of their distinguishing elements include:

  1. Praises of the king.
  2. Affirmations of Yahweh’s favour to the king.
  3. Prayers for the king (or his own prayer) and royal oracles.
  4. Portrayals of the king’s righteousness and piety.

Sitz im Leben
These psalms were performed at some sort of court festivity, where they were performed in the presence of the king and his dignitaries. Specific occasions may be enthronement/accession festivals and anniversaries, victory over an enemy, healing from an illness, among others.

IV. Thanksgiving Psalms

A. Thanksgivings of the Individual

Psalms 18; 30; 32; 34; 40:2-12; 41; 66:1-7; 92; (100); (107); 116; 118; 138.

Form

  1. An expanded Introduction, declaring the intention to thank God.
  2. Narration of the trouble, usually to the guests of the celebration. The psalmist usually recounts:
    1. his trouble (thus they are akin to Laments)
    2. his calling upon God
    3. his deliverance
  3. Acknowledgment/proclamation of Yahweh’s deliverance; usually directed towards others.
  4. In many cases, the psalm ends with an Announcement of the thank-offering.

Sitz im Leben
Since the word usually translated “thanksgiving” is the same word used for “thank offering” (תודה; todah; e.g., Ps 50:14, 23; Jonah 2:9), it is clear that these psalms were intended to be used in a cultic setting. It is thought that the individual, in the presence of the worshiping congregation (e.g., 22:22; 26:12), would testify personally to God’s saving deeds, accompanied with a ritual act and meal. Eventually, these psalms freed themselves from the actual sacrifice.

B. Thanksgivings of the Community

Psalms 66:8-12; 67; 124; 129.

These psalms are parallel in form to the individual thanksgiving psalms. The life setting for these psalms was likely a cultic celebration at the temple in remembrance of God’s help and intervention.

V. Wisdom Psalms

Psalms 1; 37; 49; 73; 91; 112; 127; 128; 133.

While there are wisdom elements found in psalms of a variety of genres, there are psalms which exhibit a concentration of wisdom themes to be considered a distinct type. As such, these psalms do not exhibit a single formal pattern, but share a number of characteristics, including:

  1. Psalmist speaks of his words as wisdom, instruction, etc.
  2. He describes the “fear of Yahweh.”
  3. He addresses his hearers as “sons.”
  4. He warns, teaches, and uses figures, question and answer techniques, beatitudes, descriptions of Yahweh’s ways.

VI. Smaller Genres and Mixed Types

A. Pilgrimage Psalms
Only one complete example remains, Psalm 122. These psalms were used at the beginning of a pilgrimage as well as once the pilgrim had reached his or her destination.

B. Psalms Using Ancient Stories (Legends) of Israel
Psalms 78; 105; 106. These psalms are subsumed under other literary types (e.g., Ps 105 is a hymn), but may be grouped together because they share a number of common characteristics:

  1. The Narration of Yahweh’s deeds and/or the sins of Israel (of Heilsgeschichte)
  2. The Exhortation (as in Deuteronomy)

C. Psalm Liturgies
Psalms 15; 20; 24; 14/53; 66; 81; 82; 85; 95; 107; 115; 118; 121; 126; 132; 134. These psalms are characterized by their antiphonal structure, particularly suited for corporate worship.

D. Miscellaneous
Psalms 36; 50; 52; 75; 82; 108.

E. Mixed Psalms
Psalms 9-10; 12; 77; 90; 94; 119; 123; 137.

Conclusions

As I mentioned above, Gunkel’s classification is just a starting point. Much has changed since Gunkel did his seminal studies of the Psalms, though few studies have the Psalms have had as lasting of influence. Perhaps in future posts I will highlight some of the changes and trends since Gunkel.

Here is the handout in PDF form:

Please feel free to use it as you see fit — just remember to keep the ascription in the first footnote (And please let me know if you find any errors or omissions).

Also available in Portuguese:


Posted in Bible, Criticism, Form criticism, Hermann Gunkel, Psalms | 3 Comments » | Top

2010 Ancient Historiography Seminar: Chronicles and Early Second Temple Historiography

Thursday 6 May 2010

As chair of the CSBS Ancient Historiography Seminar / Groupe de Travail sur l’Historiographie Ancienne, I am pleased to present the schedule for this year’s meeting.

The theme for the 2010 Ancient Historiography Seminar is “The Book of Chronicles and Early Second Temple Historiography.” We have an impressive collection of presenters this year, including Mark Boda, Louis Jonker, Isaac Kalimi, Gary Knoppers, John Wright, Ehud Ben Zvi, among others.

The schedule is as follows:

The Book of Chronicles and Early Second Temple Historiography (Session 1)
Sunday 30 May 2010 – 8:45-12:00 (CL 215)
Chair / Président: Patricia Kirkpatrick (McGill University)

  • 8:45-9:15 – “Chronicles and Early Second Temple Historiography: State of the Question” by Tyler F. Williams (The King’s University College, Edmonton)
  • 9:15-9:45 – “To be, or not to be (King Saul), that is the question: Conjuring up the old problem of the Saul Narrative in Chronicles” by Peter Sabo (University of Alberta)
  • 9:45-10:15 – “Peering through the Cloud of Incense: Davidic Dynasty and Community in the Chronicler’s Perspective” by Mark J. Boda (McMaster Divinity College)

10:15-10:30 Break

  • 10:30-11:00 – “Of Jebus, Jerusalem and Benjamin: The Chronicler’s Sondergut in 1 Chronicles 21 against the background of the late Persian Era in Yehud” by Louis Jonker (Stellenbosch University)
  • 11:00-11:30 – “The Rise and Fall of King Solomon: Deuteronomistic versus Chronistic History” by Isaac Kalimi (East Carolina University)
  • 11:30-12:00 – “Divine Retribution in Herodotus and the Chronicler” by John Wright (Point Loma Nazarene University)

12:00-13:30 Lunch Break

The Book of Chronicles and Early Second Temple Historiography (Session 2)

Sunday 30 May 2010 – 13:30-17:45 (CL 215)
Chair / Président: Tyler F. Williams (The King’s University College)

  • 13:30-14:00 – “‘Yhwh will raise up for you a prophet like me’: Prophecy and Prophetic Succession in Chronicles” by Gary N. Knoppers (The Pennsylvania State University)
  • 14:00-14:30 – “Capital Punishment: The Configuration of Ahaziah’s Last Hours in 2 Chronicles 22” by Keith Bodner (Atlantic Baptist University)
  • 14:30-15:00 – “To Besiege or Not to Besiege: The Chronicler’s Presentation of the Invasion of Sennacherib” by Paul Evans (McMaster Divinity School)

15:00-15:15 Break

  • 15:15-15:45 – “Implicit and Explicit Rhetoric in 2 Chronicles 35-36” by Mark Leuchter (Temple University Department of Religion)
  • 15:45-16:15 – “Exile in Chronicles” by Ehud Ben Zvi (University of Alberta)
  • 16:15-16:45 – “Historiography in Lament: A Case Study of Isaiah 63:7-64:11[12]” by Sonya Kostamo (University of Alberta)
  • 16:45-17:15 – “Hearing Darius in Ezra: A Bakhtinian Analysis of the Voice of Darius in Ezra 6” by James Bowick (McMaster Divinity College)
  • 17:15-17:45 – “Reflections on the Book of Chronicles and Early Second Temple Historiography” by Christine Mitchell (St. Andrew’s College)

The full schedule, including abstracts and download links for the papers, for this year’s session may be found at the seminar website.  The Ancient Historiography Seminar meets as part of the annual meeting of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies, held at Concordia University, Montréal, PQ, May 29-31, 2010.


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The Future of Biblical Studies Carnivals

Wednesday 2 December 2009

Doug Chaplin has uploaded Biblical Studies Carnival XLVIII over at Clayboy. He did a great job with the Carnival once again. In a follow-up post today he raises some good question about the future of the Biblical Studies Carnivals. His concerns are nothing new; I have raised them a number of times before. The basic problem is that monthly Carnivals are just too onerous for the typical blogger to do.

Doug presents a three directions the Carnival could go:

  1. No change (I see this as problematic)
  2. Rely on Biblical Studies Carnival submissions (either via the BSC submission page or email), rather than the hosts being responsible to troll the blogosphere for the contents of the Carnival.
  3. Have the host do a theme post with people commenting.

In addition, Mike Kok commented about the possibility of dividing the carnival (a New Testament and a Hebrew Bible one, for instance).

In my mind, the second option is the only real live option. The first option is not viable. The Carnivals are too much work and too big (if you look back through my regular call for hosts, you will see I have regularly noted this). A Carnival is supposed to be a collection of links with commentary on a common topic (in this case biblical studies). When you start getting more than a hundred links, it is just too big. One month is also quite a long period in the blogosphere, so perhaps more frequent Carnivals?

The third option is, well, problematic because such a post is not a Carnival. I’m not saying that it is not a good idea; it is just not what a carnival is.  Mike’s idea of splitting the Carnival is a possibility, although I am not interested in too much specialization. I personally am far more interested in integration and having the various sub-disciplines within biblical studies talk to each other.

My proposal is thus:

  • Have Biblical Studies Carnivals twice a month. This will cut down on the workload and make the Carnivals more relevant and useful.
  • Keep the focus on academic biblical studies. The host is the editor and one of his/her jobs is to keep the Carnival on track; if something is submitted that is not deemed on target, then it gets ignored.
  • Focus primarily on nominated submissions. It is not possible for a typical blogger to be apprised of everything that is going on in connection with biblical studies on the blogosphere. Few if any of us keep on top of all of the people that blog in the area of biblical studies. This will also mean that there is no reason for someone to feel put out because his or her post was not mentioned. We all will have to do a better job submitting links to the Carnival; but I am sure once we get used to the idea it will work well (because there is an unwritten expectation that the host will gather links, most people do not submit posts regularly — I know because I take care of the email account!).

What do you think? Eventually we could move to weekly Carnivals, but twice a month seems like a better plan for now.

If this seems like a good idea, then let’s go for it. Since I am the host of the next Carnival, I will rely solely on nominated links. Since I am the coordinator of the Biblical Studies Carnivals I will only pick hosts that agree to this new procedure (having someone host who doesn’t rely only on submissions would be subversive since it wouldn’t help train people to submit their own posts or those they like).

Let me know what you think!


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