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Sessions & Papers

Fredericton 2011 | Montréal 2010 | Ottawa 2009 | Vancouver 2008 | Saskatoon 2007 | York 2006

Fredericton, NB, 2011

The 2011 Ancient Historiography Seminar will meet on Sunday 30 May 2010 as part of the annual meeting of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies at the University of New Brunswick & St. Thomas University, Fredericton, NB, May 29-Tuesday May 31, 2011. Please note that presenters will only be summarizing their papers. Please read the papers before the seminar.


History, Historiography, and the Hebrew Bible: Method (Session 1)

Monday 30 May 2011, 8:45-11:45 AM (George Martin Hall 207)

Chair / Président: Tyler F. Williams (The King's University College, Edmonton)


8:45-9:15 - Old Testament Historiography: A New Perspective on Methodological Approachpdf

Suk Yee (Anna) Lee (McMaster Divinity College)
annalee1013 [at] yahoo [dot] com [dot] hk

The discipline of OT historiography has been subject to severe critiques in the last three decades. Skepticism takes the form of a progressive loss of confidence in the historical value of the biblical narratives. In recent years, a new “high tide” in the discussion appears, in which the debates between the conservatives and the minimalists have drifted into bad-tempered arguments with heated atmosphere. The disagreement is mainly due to the methods of approach each camp use and their presuppositions about the nature of the biblical evidence and to the relative value of extra-biblical sources. This work offers a new perspective on the study of OT historiography. At the outset, the current state of OT historiography will be depicted and three major historiographical methods will be examined in order to propose a better way of doing OT historiography. The three approaches to be evaluated are: (1) biblical text approach; (2) archaeological approach; and (3) sociological approach. Finally, a new perspective with two horizons will be sketched: (1) Historiography as a literary genre; and (2) Historiography as a witness to faith. This paper argues that the genre of ancient Hebrew historiography aims at narrating the past as a witness to faith, thus the reconstruction of the biblical Israel should not focus on their historical reality but rather on their perspective of life. The interpreters, instead of searching for the historical facts alone, should begin with the question of how and why later communities shaped the past in the service of their own present.

9:15-9:45 - The Zeruiah Brothers within the Saga of King Davidpdf

John Van Seters (Waterloo, ON)
john.vanseters [at] sympatico [dot] ca

In the biblical Saga of King David, the three Zeruiah brothers, Joab, Abishai and Asahel, are Ammonites, the grandsons of a notorious Ammonite ruler, and they become mercenary commanders under a renegade, David of Bethlehem. After the Death of Saul, in his battle with the Philistines, these Zeruiah brothers lead David’s forces in a civil war against the Israelites and Saul’s successor until David ultimately gains the throne of both Israel and Judah. After the loss of the youngest brother, Asahel, in the earlier civil war, the two older brothers lead David’s troops throughout his reign in both foreign wars and local insurrections against David’s rule. In the end, however, they find themselves on the wrong side of the struggle between David’s sons for succession to the throne and a new mercenary leader murders Joab and takes his place as supreme commander under the new ruler Solomon. The question raised by this brief outline of the sordid role of the Zeruiah brothers in David’s court is whether this reflects a historical source of the actual reign of David, as so many scholars have advocated, or is a purely fictional portrayal of the institution of monarchy in the late Persian period for quite ideological reasons. This paper will attempt to address this question and offer reasons for the latter alternative. 


9:45-10:15 -  Narrativity in Joshua 5-12 and Historical Discourse in Ancient Judahpdf

Ian Douglas Wilson (University of Alberta)
iandougwilson [at] gmail [dot] com

Mario Liverani pointed out some years ago that the thought patterns and deep narrative structures of a historiographical document tell us something about the people who composed and read the document, who made the document an integral part of their intellectual repertoire. In this paper I will explore Joshua 5-12* as a source on the intellectual milieu of ancient Judah. Following the work of Richard Nelson, Thomas Römer, and others, I read these narratives as a source on monarchic period discourses, during the reign of Josiah. The conquest accounts, even from the perspective of seventh-century Judean readers, depict events from the distant past. As narratives that became an essential aspect of Judah’s identity, they offer us a window into the historical consciousness of Judean readers, how Judeans thought about history. For this type of exploration, Hayden White’s work on narrative forms and narrativity proves to be particularly helpful. Every narrative, he argues, carries with it a particular discursive content, embedded in the modes by which the story is told. Thus, in an attempt to uncover some of this discursive content, I will analyze the narrativity of Joshua 5-12*, its emplotment, argumentation, and ideological outlook. John Van Seters and others have argued that the Joshua narrative has strong literary parallels with Neo-Assyrian conquest accounts. In order to provide a comparative perspective, therefore, I will also briefly analyze Neo-Assyrian narratives, focusing primarily on the annals of Sennacherib.

10:15-10:30 Break

10:30-11:00 - History in the Eye of the Beholder: Assessing Allegations of Racism in Modern Historical Reconstructions of Ancient Israel.pdf

Paul Evans (McMaster Divinity College)
pevans [at] mcmaster [dot] ca

In her recent article “The Rescue of Jerualem from the Assyrians in 701 B.C.E. by the Cushites” (Pages 247-60 in Raising up a Faithful Exegete: Essays in Honor of Richard D. Nelson; Edited by K. L. Noll and Brooks Schramm; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2010), Alice Bellis has argued that due to racial prejudices historians and biblical interpreters have failed to acknowledge the role of Africans in the deliverance of Jerusalem from the Assyrian threat under Sennacherib in 701 BCE. This paper will critically examine the evidence for her conclusions and also consider how racial and political bias affect biblical scholarship and particularly reconstructions of ancient Israel’s history.

11:00-11:30 - A World in Which Things Are Not As They Should Be: Women and Domestic Space in Judgespdf

Luke Javed Sommers (McGill University)
javed.sommers [at] mail [dot] mcgill [dot] ca

One of the roles the book of Judges serves within the Deuteronomistic History is to reinforce the Deuteronomistic ideology. Most scholars agree that while the ideology of the Deuteronomists evolved over the period (roughly late 7th-early 5th centuries B.C.E.) in which they worked, it remained relatively consistent at its core. In terms of politics and theology, this ideology promoted strong central government and exclusive Yahweh worship. The book of Judges in its final form communicates the Deuteronomistic ideology by depicting the fabricated era of the judges, a period of foreign oppression and societal degradation that result from idolatry and lack of political leadership. Part of this depiction is the portrayal of women and domestic space, especially the stories of Judges 4; 11; 16; and 19. In these stories domestic space is transformed from the expected ancient Near Eastern role of a safe and hospitable space, to a threatening and hostile environment. Furthermore, the social expectations of women are also severely challenged. In Judges 4 and 16, women are aggressive and manipulative, operating within their domestic space to break the limitations their society set for them. In Judges 11 and 19, nameless female characters are wronged in shocking and appalling ways; these women experience domestic space not as the setting for victory, but rather for victimization in physically terrifying circumstances. Through these portrayals of women in domestic space, Judges 4, 11, 16, and 19 emphasize that pre-monarchic Israel was "a world in which things are not as they should be."

11:30-11:45 Discussion


History, Historiography, and the Hebrew Bible: The Book of Chronicles (Session 2)

Monday 30 May 2011, 1:30-3:30 PM (George Martin Hall 207)

Chair / Président: Tyler F. Williams (The King's University College, Edmonton)


1:30-2:00 PM - Simeon and The Social Network: Plot and Genealogy in 1 Chronicles 4

Keith Bodner (Crandall University)
Keith.Bodner [at] crandallu [dot] ca

One of the most discussed movies of the past year has been The Social Network, a film that purports to explain the backstory behind the explosive popularity of the social networking Facebook website. Based on the book The Accidental Billionaires, the screenplay is co-written by Aaron Sorkin (of The West Wing fame) and while the film explores the darker side and ironic loneliness of the wired age, it also points to the contemporary need for identity and community. Taking my cue from several issues raised in the film and ancillary debates, in this presentation I would like to explore the genealogy of Simeon in 1 Chronicles 4. The paper begins with a some general review on the study of genealogies in recent days, and then turns to presentation of Simeon within the matrix of 1 Chronicles 1-9. I will conclude with an evaluation of the place of Simeon’s genealogy in the larger plot of the Chronicler’s work, and how literary analysis can factor in to a reading of the book.

2:00-2:30 PM - The Cohesiveness of 2 Chronicles 33:1-36:23 as a Literary Unit Concluding the Chronicler’s Historypdf

Shannon Baines (McMaster Divinity College)
shannon.baines [at] sympatico [dot] ca

This study will demonstrate that 2 Chr 33:1-36:23, the accounts of Manasseh to the edict of Cyrus, should be interpreted as a cohesive literary unit which serves as the concluding chapter to the Chronicler’s history of Judah. The Chronicler developed the cohesiveness of this unit through: (1) the establishment of Hezekiah’s reign as a climax in the Chronicler’s history, creating a clear boundary for the beginning of this concluding unit; (2) the omission of the queen mothers’ names; (3) the repetition of the theme of exile; and (4) the theme of sin, judgment, and restoration as an inclusio to the unit. In addition, some brief proposals will be provided about how this literary unit may be functioning within the Chronicler’s history.

2:30 - 3:00 PM - Reading Chronicles and Reshaping the Memory of Manassehpdf

Ehud Ben Zvi (University of Alberta)
ehud [dot] benzvi [at] ualberta [dot] ca

Manasseh was a significant site of memory for the primary readership of the book of Chronicles. This paper will explore certain ways in which Chronicles contributed to the shaping of this site of memory among the literati of the late Persian/early Hellenistic period and the light that this process of re-shaping may shed on the social mindscape of, at least, this literati.

3:00-3:30 PM - Discussion


Montréal 2010

The 2010 Ancient Historiography Seminar met on Sunday 30 May 2010 as part of the annual meeting of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies held at Concordia University, Montréal, PQ, May 29-31, 2010.


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

Tyler F. Williams (The King’s University College, Edmonton)
tyler.williams [at] kingsu [dot] ca

The last quarter-century has seen a remarkable resurgence in scholarship on the book of Chronicles. Much of this research has focused on the nature of the Book of Chronicles in the light of early Second Temple Historiography. This paper will evaluate the state of Chronicles research, with a particular focus on contributions from members of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies.

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 Chroniclespdf

Peter Sabo (University of Alberta)
peter_sabo [at] hotmail [dot] com

If one assumes, as most do, that the Chronicler was aware of the book of Samuel (or some version of it), then it is only natural to ask why he chose to omit almost all the chapters of Samuel that deal with Saul. Gary Knoppers notes that the question can be asked in a different manner: Given that Chronicles focuses exclusively on the Davidic monarchy centred in Jerusalem, why offer any attention to Saul at all? Indeed, a survey of the major interpretive options on the issue thus far is evidence that it is the question(s) and presupposition(s) of the scholar which dictate what answer is provided. Scholarship should not make the same mistake as Saul and conjure up a ghost who tells us only what we already know. The present study presupposes that texts inform the reader, not of the period(s) about which they are written about, but primarily of the period(s) in which they were written. There is both a Saul Polemic and an anti-Saul Polemic present in the text of Chronicles; these features work in tension and in tandem with one another, as both would directly relate to the present experience of readers in the community of Achaemenid Yehud. 


9:45-10:15 -  Peering through the Cloud of Incense: Davidic Dynasty and Community in the Chronicler’s Perspectivepdf

Mark J. Boda (McMaster Divinity College)
mjboda [at] mcmaster [dot] ca

The purpose of this paper is to describe the multi-dimensional nature of the debate over the future of David and his dynasty in Chronicles and then to propose a both-and rather than an either-or solution.  The goal is not to convert various proposals to a lowest common denominator, nor to create a dialectal synthesis, nor to create hermeneutical skepticism and discourage any resolution.  Rather it is to argue that the various viewpoints noted throughout the recent history of interpreting Chronicles are valid and have revealed important aspects of the Chroniclers’ intention which reflect the worldview of the interpretive community represented by the books of Chronicles.

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.pdf

Louis Jonker (Stellenbosch University)
lcj [at] [dot] za

1 Chronicles 21 has been scrutinized by biblical scholars for many reasons – one of which is the addition of verse 6 in the census narrative, indicating that Joab did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering. There is still no consensus among scholars on why the Chronicler mentioned these exclusions. Particularly, the exclusion of Benjamin generates different theories: some relate it to the fact that the ark was in Jerusalem; others to the fact that the tabernacle was in Gibeon; and still others to the fact that Joab was actually accused of not completing the counting of the people. In my paper I will investigate how this addition of the Chronicler relates to another piece of Sondergut at the end of that chapter (21:28-22:1) in which the place of temple-building is aetiologically related to the threshing floor of Ornan, the Jebusite. The interrelationship of Jebus, Jerusalem and Benjamin will be evaluated against the socio-political backdrop of the late Persian period – particularly from the perspective of the province Yehud. Recent work on the tribe of Benjamin (such as, for example, the essay by Philip Davies, "The trouble with Benjamin" [2007]) will be taken into account in this investigation.

11:00-11:30 - The Rise and Fall of King Solomon: Deuteronomistic versus Chronistic History

Isaac Kalimi (East Carolina University)
kalimi22 [at] gmail [dot] com

Overall, Solomon is represented as a more earthly and human figure in the book of Kings.  Solomon and his kingdom have a climax, but also failures and downfall.  He was granted wisdom and wealth by the Lord.  However, the wisdom and the wealth did not remain for him at the end of his life.  Strikingly, Solomon had many political marriages to foreign women and became an apostate.  In fact these also add to his earthy description.  The portrait of Solomon in Chronicles, however, is more idealistic than any other king in ancient Israel.  He has been chosen by the Lord to be a king and Temple builder.  He kept completely his father’s testament in both parts: building the Temple and keeping Torah commandments.  Solomon was granted wisdom and wealth by God and these remained so all his lifetime.  He never acted inappropriately in or out of his kingdom and also never transgressed.  Solomon did not cause to the split of the united kingdom of Israel and the fall of the empire. The difference provides a clear perspective into the literary, theological, and pedagogical goals of the Deuteronomistic and Chronistic historians.

11:30-12:00 Divine Retribution in Herodotus and the Chroniclerpdf

John Wright (Point Loma Nazarene University)
JohnWright [at] pointloma [dot] edu

The Chronicler's historiography was written in the time of the great flowering of Hellenistic historiography.  While recent scholarship by Gary Knoppers has established ties to the Greek genealogists, this paper will seek to pursue commonalities and differences between the Greek and Judean historiography by examining descriptions of divine retribution in Chronicles and Herodotus.  Both insist that certain actions will receive retribution from God (the gods)even while explaining these actions in strictly human terms; while Herodotus has a notion of the capriciousness of the gods and the fates, the moral/theological retribution is more consistent within Chronicles.

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 Chroniclespdf

Gary N. Knoppers (The Pennsylvania State University)
gxk7 [at] psu [dot] edu

In my essay, I would like to comment on the prophetic phenomenon in Chronicles with a special view to the distribution of prophets throughout the course of the monarchy. My paper will argue the presentation of Chronicles has been profoundly influenced by the tradition reflected in Deut 18:15-22 dealing with the prophetic office. The influence is fourfold: 1) prophecy as a largely independent institution ordained by Yhwh; 2) what prophecy is; 3) what prophecy is not; and 4) a succession of prophets actualizing the promise that Yhwh would raise up prophets like Moses to follow him. To be sure, Chronicles neither directly quotes the officeholder legislation of Deuteronomy nor speaks directly of a prophetic succession. I shall argue, however, that the work assumes the fundamental aspects of the Deuteronomic presentation and presents Israelite history as repeatedly instantiating the fulfillment of the divine pledge. Beginning with a sketch of the prophetic office and prophetic succession in Deuteronomy, my essay will discuss Chronistic prophecy and its indebtedness to the  portrayal in Deuteronomy. Given the diversity of prophets and prophetic figures appearing in Chronicles, it will be important to pay some attention to the different titles given to prophetic figures and the distinction between regular prophets, individuals whose occupation it is to prophesy, and non-professional prophets, pro tem figures from other walks of life who are led to prophesy in a particular setting. Having distinguished between regular prophets and temporary prophets, I shall explore how the prophetic succession operates within different periods of the monarchy.

14:00-14:30 - Capital Punishment: The Configuration of Ahaziah's Last Hours in 2 Chronicles 22pdf

Keith Bodner (Atlantic Baptist University)
Keith.Bodner [at]

Even though his royal tenure lasts but a single year, the ill-fated career of Ahaziah receives considerable attention in both the Deuteronomistic History (2 Kings 8-9) and the Chronicler's narrative (2 Chr 22). Yet numerous commentators have observed a series of substantial variations in the portraits of Ahaziah in these two accounts, especially with respect to his royal execution at the hands of Jehu son of Nimshi. For instance, a century ago in their ICC volume, Curtis and Madsen remarked that Ahaziah's death in Chronicles is a "totally different representation" from the version recounted in 2 Kings 9. This position has been affirmed by a host of subsequent scholars, to the point that R. B. Dillard referred to the two versions of Ahaziah's demise as presenting "formidable difficulties," and posing "one of the most difficult historical problems in the OT." In this paper I compare the relevant texts of Kings and Chronicles and proffer a new position: rather than a historical problem, this text provides an ideal point of entry for appreciating the literary world of the Chronicler. While the biblical narratives do recognize the use of omens manipulated by specialist ephod-wearing priests for the purpose of predicting the outcome of an impending battle, Dtr seems to denigrate the use of divination and give to the prophet the function of predicting future events. This has to do, not only with warnings about the consequences of disobedience to the divine will, but also concerning the more long-term destiny of royal dynasties and the fate of the nations of Israel and Judah. This is reflected in the so-called “theology of the Dtr history,” as spelled out by von Rad, as well as in certain reactions to Dtr in later additions to the history (e.g. the David Saga). The paper will take up a number of examples to illustrate these features. What I hope will become clear are the great differences in the understanding of prophecy as prediction within biblical historiography.

14:30-15:00 - To Besiege or Not to Besiege:  The Chronicler’s Presentation of the Invasion of Sennacheribpdf

Paul Evans (McMaster University)
pevans [at] mcmaster [dot] ca

This paper will undertake a close reading of 2 Chronicles 32 to determine what events are narrated by the Chronicler and to examine his method in reworking 2 Kings 18-19. Contrary to his Vorlage, in 2 Chronicles 32 Sennacherib does not conquer Judah’s fortified cities (2 Chr 32:1), and no Assyrian army accompanies the Assyrian messengers (2 Chr 32:9). Furthermore, there is no siege of Jerusalem.  Though 2 Chr 32:10 appears to refer explicitly to a siege, there is some debate whether to translate “the siege” (e.g., Selman, Japhet) or “the fortress” (e.g., Williamson, Meyers) “of Jerusalem.” This study argues for the translation “siege of Jerusalem” but since the statement is only found in the mouth of the Assyrian emissary and contradicts the narrator’s direct statements, his statement is unreliable.  The Chronicler clearly downplays the Assyrian threat, however, in doing so he was following the lead of his Vorlage.  References in 2 Kgs 19:8-9 to Sennacherib’s abandonment of the fortified cities of Lachish and Libnah may have suggested to the Chronicler they were not conquered.  The “heavy force” of 2 Kgs 18:17 may have been understood by the Chronicler as a small military force (cf. 2 Kgs 6:14) accompanying the Assyrian messengers which subsequently left with them (2 Kgs 19:8).  Finally, the lack of a “siege of Jerusalem” followed the lead of his Vorlage which does not narrate such a siege.  What is more, the prophetic word of Isaiah (2 Kings 19:32) denied the possibility of such a siege making the choice to have Sennacherib ‘not besiege’ immutable.

  15:00-15:15 Break

 15:15-15:45 -  Implicit and Explicit Rhetoric in 2 Chronicles 35-36pdf

Mark Leuchter (Temple University Department of Religion)
mleuchte [at] temple [dot] edu

As most commentators have noted, the closing chapters of Chronicles diverge significantly from the alleged source material in the book of Kings, presenting historical events, characterizing individual personalities, and alluding to liturgical and legal traditions without parallel in the Hebrew Bible.  Though some scholars have concluded that this speaks to a diversity of oral and now-lost literary sources, the present study will suggest that the Chronicler has here deployed a careful rhetorical strategy regarding the multiplicity of authoritative but conflicting literary and ideological traditions he inherited.  The Chronicler engages in this enterprise at a critical moment in his narrative to make a point regarding the place of these religious traditions in his own socio-political climate.

15:45-16:15 - Towards  a  Sense  of  Balance:  Remembering  the  Catastrophe  of  Monarchic  Judah/(Ideological)   Israel  and  Exile  through  Reading  Chronicles  in  late  Yehudpdf

Ehud Ben Zvi (University of Alberta)
ehud [dot] benzvi [at] ualberta [dot] ca

This paper examines the concept of Exile in Chronicles.  It explores the ways in which Exile in Chronicles resembles and deviates from the manner it is construed in prophetic literature and other historiographical works that existed in Judah during the late Persian/early Hellenistic period. In particular, the paper draws attention to the different challenge that the calamity of 586 BCE represented within the ideology of the Book of Chronicles and to the impact that the concept of Exile reflected and evoked by Chronicles had on reconfigurations of memories of the past and to some extent, hopes for the future within the relevant community of literati.

16:15-16:45 - Ideological Convergences in Trito-Isaiah and Chroniclespdf

Sonya Kostamo (University of Alberta)
sonya [dot] kostamo [at] mytwu [dot] ca

The composition of Isaiah 56-66, or so-called “Trito-Isaiah,” may be dated to the late-Persian/Early Hellenistic Period making this portion of the book of Isaiah relevant to the study of Chronicles.  While Isaiah 56-66 lacks any explicit mention of historical events, the communal lament in Isa 63:7-64:11[12] may offer insight into another post-exilic interpretation of Israel’s past. This paper will examine the perspectives on the past found in Isa 63:7-64:11[12] with special attention given to figures elevated in the lament, namely Moses and Abraham.  Finally, the paper will briefly compare the results of the analysis with references to the same figures in Chronicles to see if there is any overlap in the historiographical discourse evidenced in these two texts.

16:45-17:15 - Hearing Darius in Ezra: A Bakhtinian Analysis of the Voice of Darius in Ezra 6.pdf

James Bowick (McMaster Divinity College)
james [at] bowick [dot] com

There is no doubt that Ezra-Nehemiah is basically a pro-Persian book, and that Cyrus and Darius are shown playing very positive roles. The letter of Darius in Ezra 6, echoing the early edict of Cyrus, is pivotal in bringing completion to the rebuilding of the temple after the exile. This study will examine how this letter functions within the book using the Bakhtinian concepts of chronotope and double voicing.  Ezra makes excellent use of the intersection between narrative and chronological time at the nexus of Ezra 5-6 to nuance the character of Darius that arises from a straight reading of the chapter. Arrangement of the materials in a manner that is at odds with the chronology creates a dialogue that is trans-generational.  This, combined with careful double voicing of the letter itself, nuances our hearing of the letter.  While Darius is given special status among the Persian kings, the writer also takes care to limit his authority and role.  First, Darius’ graces to the Yehudites are not borne of his own intention, but are subservient to the will of Cyrus. Further, the writer takes great pains constantly to trace the impetus to rebuild, and to complete the temple not back to Darius, but to Yahweh himself, mediated not directly through the king, but through prophetic agents.  In the end, it is not Darius who, as king, initiates and rebuilds the temple, nor is it Cyrus.  The true king of Israel is Yahweh.

 17:15-17:45 - Reflections on the Book of Chronicles and Early Second Temple Historiography

Christine Mitchell (St. Andrew’s College)
christine [dot] mitchell [at] usask [dot] ca


Ottawa 2009

The 2009 Ancient Historiography Seminar met during the annual meeting of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, May 24-26, 2009.

Prophets and Prophecy in Ancient Israelite Historiography (Session I)

Monday 25 May 2009 - 8:45-12:00 (SA 406)

Chair / Président: Patricia Kirkpatrick (McGill University)

8:45-9:05 am - Neither Prophets nor History Writing in the Nebi’im pdf
Kurt Noll (Brandon University)
nollk [at] brandonu [dot] ca

Deuteronomy 18:22 defines genuine prophecy as the ability to foretell events without contingency. The story of Micaiah ben Imlah (1 Kings 22) attacks that definition with a deliciously deceptive tale in which prophets who tell lies are genuine and a prophet who tells the truth is not. In this story, the king of Israel is not defeated by his own hubris. He is defeated by an ingeniously deceptive god who chooses a false prophet to speak a true message that is articulated in such a way that the king is compelled to reject it as false. As such, this story is another example illustrating that the Former Prophets do not constitute a Deuteronomistic History. Rather, these scrolls testify to an ongoing literary debate among ancient scribes who were dissatisfied with the religion advocated by the book of Deuteronomy. The implications of this are profound. The biblical Former Prophets are not best described as history writing and the treatment of prophets within this narrative literature has nothing to do with real flesh-and-blood prophets. These tales are literary conceits, artificial constructions understood by the ancient reader to represent theological debates in dialogue with Deuteronomy, not reports of historical events under the guidance of a god who revealed his intentions to prophetic servants.

9:05-9:15 am - Discussion

9:15-9:35 am - Prophecy as Prediction in Biblical Historiographypdf
John Van Seters (Waterloo, ON)
john [dot] vanseters [at] sympatico [dot] ca

There is great diversity in the roles that prophecy plays within the biblical historical narratives, but the present paper will focus on the role of prediction of future events by prophets within the Dtr corpus and its later literary supplements. Such a role of prediction may be viewed in comparison with the element of prediction in Near Eastern literature, primarily in the form of omens and divination; and in Greek histories, such as Herodotus, in his use of oracles, mantics and wise counselors to anticipate future events. While the biblical narratives do recognize the use of omens manipulated by specialist ephod-wearing priests for the purpose of predicting the outcome of an impending battle, Dtr seems to denigrate the use of divination and give to the prophet the function of predicting future events. This has to do, not only with warnings about the consequences of disobedience to the divine will, but also concerning the more long-term destiny of royal dynasties and the fate of the nations of Israel and Judah. This is reflected in the so-called “theology of the Dtr history,” as spelled out by von Rad, as well as in certain reactions to Dtr in later additions to the history (e.g. the David Saga). The paper will take up a number of examples to illustrate these features. What I hope will become clear are the great differences in the understanding of prophecy as prediction within biblical historiography.

9:35-9:45 Discussion

9:45-10:05 am - Recycling Heaven's Words: Prophets, Angels and Priests in the Historiography of Judgespdf
Mark J. Boda (McMaster Divinity College)
mjboda [at] mcmaster [dot] ca

It is often noted that the dominant historiographic structure in the book of Judges is that of a five stage cycle of events which include: sin, punishment, crying out, salvation, quiet (e.g., Amit 36-37; cf. Greenspahn 1986: 388). Others have suggested a four part cycle (Trompf 1979: 219-20) by excluding the element “quiet” or a six part cycle (Mayes 1983: 61-62; cf. Gunn 1987: 104-105) by including the element of the raising up of the deliverer (cf. O’Connell 1996: 26n18). The present paper investigates the role of prophets and other divine intermediaries within the historiographic structure of the book of Judges, revealing that a word from the deity is as consistent as other elements in this historiographic structure. A close look at the similarities and differences between the various instances of this element within the book highlights a key theme in the book and suggests the role of the book within a broader Deuteronomic History/Former Prophets.

10:05-10:15 am - Discussion

10:15-10:30 - Break

10:30-10:50 am - A Bad News Bearer: The Dramatic Fulfillment of a Prophetic Word about the Dissolution of a Priestly Line pdf
Keith Bodner (Atlantic Baptist University)
Keith.Bodner [at]

Even a brief glance at Thomas Römer’s recent book on the Deuteronomistic History is sufficient for noticing the great artistry of the overall story that stretches from Joshua to Kings. Part of the allure of this history—as a legion of commentators have observed—is the extraordinary cast of characters that populate the Former Prophets. One such under-rated (yet intriguing) character is Jonathan son of Abiathar, and I am proposing this character for the subject of my paper. In the two prominent episodes in which he appears, this member of the Elide line is used in a larger discussion about succession, which is ironic, since he himself is banished into obscurity by the succession of a rival house. Through the character of Jonathan the reader is confronted with both literary issues of composition, and thematic issues at the heart of the narrative.

10:50-11:00 - Discussion

11:00-11:20 am - Ahijah and Jeroboam: Template for Prophetic Activity in the Book of Kings pdf
Lissa M. Wray Beal (Providence Theological Seminary)
lissa.wray.beal [at]

The kingship of Jeroboam I, so crucial to the remainder of the Book of Kings, is bounded and punctuated by prophetic interactions. In those interactions, the fate of successive Israelite kings is found. Ahijah, in 1 Kgs. 11 proffers the word of hope for an enduring house, and in 1 Kgs. 14 delivers the fatal word of judgment against that house. In 1 Kgs. 13 the man of God from Judah delivers the dramatic word against the altar, and is then himself caught up in another prophetic interaction as commentary upon the first. This paper explores the three prophetic interactions, noting the similar means and motifs by which the prophetic word comes to Jeroboam, and the comparability of those means and motifs to other prophetic words at similar junctures in successive kingships. In this, the Jeroboam narrative provides a template for prophetic activity throughout the Books of Kings. This paper also explores how some of the prophetic interactions in Jeroboam’s reign are fulfilled within his reign, while others remain open. Both the fulfilled and unfulfilled words in Jeroboam’s reign provide narratological threads to connect this narrative to the remaining history of the kings of Israel and Judah. Further, each works together to provide a commentary upon the certainty of YHWH’s prophetic word.

11:20-11:30 am - Discussion

11:30-12:00 General Discussion


Prophets and Prophecy in Ancient Israelite Historiography (Session II)

Monday 25 May 2009 - 1:30-5:30 pm (SA 406)

Chair / Président: Tyler F. Williams (The King's University College)

1:30-1:50 pm - Prophecy Influencing History: Dialogism in the Chronicler’s Ahaz Narrative pdf
Paul Evans (Ambrose University College)
pevans [at] ambrose [dot] edu

The Chronicler's account of the reign of Ahaz of Judah (2 Chronicles 28) has invariably been read in comparison with the account in 2 Kings 16 (his putative Vorlage). Though the Chronicler follows the general outline of 2 Kings 16 there are numerous differences between the accounts (including the insertion of an encounter between Israelites and a prophet) which interpreters have explained in various ways. Interestingly, 2 Chronicles 32:32 references the “vision of Isaiah” (which is the editorial incipit and natural title of the canonical book) as a source employed by the Chronicler, inviting the interpreter to view Chronicles in dialogue with the book of Isaiah. Following this lead, this study will examine the relationship between 2 Kings 16, Isaiah 7 and 2 Chronicles 28, drawing on Bakthin’s ideas of dialogism. While in the context of the Syro-Ephraimite threat, Isaiah 7 emphasized the need for Ahaz to trust in Yahweh (Isa 7:9) and clearly predicts that Assyria will trouble Ahaz severely (Isa 7:17), in 2 Kings 16 Ahaz’s trust in/appeal to Assyria appears to successfully end the Syro-Ephramite threat as Assyria comes to his aid. The potential for conflict between these texts is obvious. As well, the insertion of a new prophetic story into the Ahaz narrative may be influenced by the prophetic encounter between Isaiah and Ahaz in Isaiah 7. This study suggests that the texts of Isaiah and 2 Kings are positions that are answered by Chronicles.

1:50-2:00 pm - Discussion

2:00-2:20 pm - The Reconstruction of Jerusalem in Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi:
Finding History in Prophecy pdf
Ken Ristau (Penn State)
ken.ristau [at]

Haggai and Zechariah are identified in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14 as prophets at the time of the reconstruction of the temple to Yahweh in Jerusalem. This, and the date formulations that appear in their writings, have given scholars confidence that their books are among the earliest of the Persian period and provide contemporary reflections on the situation in Jerusalem. Among the biblical texts, this sets them apart; few texts in the Bible are accepted today as contemporary to the events they describe. Yet, using these texts to reconstruct our understanding of the period is complicated by their prophetic genre. My paper will examine this problem through a careful historical reading of the texts.

2:20-2:30 pm - Discussion

2:30-2:50 pm - The "Exilic Prophecy" of Daniel 7: Does It Reflect Late Pre-Maccabean or
Early Hellenistic Historiography? pdf
Ralph J. Korner (McMaster University)
kornerrj [at]

The prophetic vision in Daniel 7 of four Beasts that are judged by the "Ancient of Days" is set within the context of an exilic timeframe (King Belshazzar of Babylon). But what is its historiographical context? The usual answer is the late pre-Maccabean period just prior to the desecration of the Temple (167 BCE) by Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Others, though, shift the creation of ch. 7 to an early Hellenistic timeframe. This matches the compositional date of Daniel 2–6, with which it has linguistic and literary ties. But this shift in compositional history also impacts the classification of Daniel 7 as apocalyptic literature; this implication is not sufficiently addressed in previous scholarship. I will investigate this intersection of historiography and genre in ch. 7, and suggest how the historical context of late 4th cent. BCE Yehud may have influenced, and been influenced by, the cosmic ideology of Daniel 7

2:50-3:00 pm - Discussion

3:00-3:15 pm - Break

3:15-3:35 pm - Once again, the Motif of the "Empty Land": Reflections on the Intersection of History, Ideology and Community in Sixth-Century BCE Literature. pdf
John Kessler (Tyndale Seminary)
jkessler [at]

This paper will present a summary of the socio-demographic situation in Yehud in the mid- to late-sixth-century (BCE) in Yehud, then survey the way in which this situations is variously portrayed and explained in some of the literature of the period. The paper will conclude with an examination of the way in which the complex, mutual interaction between historical reality and ideological concerns shapes historical representation within the biblical text.

3:35-3:45 - Discussion

3:45-4:05 pm - Deus ex Machina: The Role of the Prophetic Voice in Ezra 5:1. pdf
Lisbeth S. Fried (University of Michigan)
lizfried [at]

I have suggested in a previous article (Fried 2008) that the authors of Ezra-Nehemiah attempted to describe a restoration community that instantiated Ezekiel’s programmatic ideals. A major component of those ideals was a belief that the prophets caused the downfall of Judah and that they must never again enter the land of Judah (Ezek. 13:9). It is likely to comply with Ezekiel’s ideology that prophets are noticeably absent from the lists of returnees in Ezra 2=Nehemiah 7. In spite of this, the prophesying of Haggai and Zechariah is portrayed in Ezra as instrumental in ending the stoppage of work on the temple and in permitting it to continue until the temple is completed (Ezra 5:1, 2 and 6:14). I suggest that after creating the drama of the forced cessation of work on the temple, the author had no way to get it started again. He used the prophesying of Haggai and Zechariah as a type of deus ex machina to unravel his plot and so complete the work on the temple. This use of the prophets expresses the author’s very practical, but mundane, conviction that sometimes they can inspire the people for good.

4:05-4:15 - Discussion

4:15-4:35 pm - (Re)Visionary History: Historical Reconstruction and Religious Identity
in the Animal Apocalypse pdf
Colin M. Toffelmire (McMaster Divinity School)
toffelcm [at]

The Animal Apocalypse of 1 Enoch 85-90 offers a unique example of ancient historiography in the guise of a prophetic vision of the history of the people of Israel in which the players are represented by animals. The structure of the allegory is controlled by the primary image of clean v. unclean. All of the animals representing the people of God are clean animals, and all of the animals representing the surrounding nations are unclean animals. Also of vital importance for the rhetoric of the Animal Apocalypse are the roles of the primeval patriarch Enoch. By assuming the mantle of Enoch the pseudonymous author is able to offer his comments regarding Israelite history and identity both as an authoritative prophet living in the ancient past and also as a perfect priest able to enter the heavenly Temple (cf. 1 En 14-15). Through a close literary examination, I argue that this controlling metaphor of clean v. unclean is used by the author of the Animal Apocalypse, in concert with the dual prophetic/priestly role of Enoch, to retell Israelite history, thereby establishing both a religious history and identity for Jews living in Seleucid era Yehud. History thus becomes a frame in which the author sets his message of religious and militant resistance.

4:35-4:45 - Discussion

4:45-5:00 - Open Planning Session for Montréal 2010