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Sessions & Papers (2006-2008)

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

Vancouver 2008

Economy and Society in Ancient Israelite Historiography

Tuesday June 3, 2008

Chair / Président: Kimberly Stratton (Carleton University)

13:00-13:40 - Whodunit? Scholarly Theories, Biblical Sources, and the Disappearance of Zerubbabel icon

Gary Knoppers (The Pennsylvania State University)

The fate of the early Persian period Judean governor Zerubbabel (r. ca. 522—? BCE) has been called “one of the greatest historical mysteries in the Hebrew Bible.” Was Zerubbabel demoted, recalled, or executed by his Achaemenid superiors, who may have intervened to quell Judean unrest? Did he fall prey to an inner-Judean coup d’état or was he deposed by a priestly party during a difficult power struggle? Scholars seem to have proposed every possible (ill) fate and yet all of these theories may presuppose more tumultuous circumstances than historical, economic, religious, and social considerations warrant. Is it possible that Zerubbabel died a peaceful or, at least, natural death? If so, why is there no mention of his later life or destiny? My paper explores the issue of Zerubbabel’s mysterious disappearance with two sets of considerations in mind. First, I would like to revisit the economic, historical, and social conditions in early postexilic Judah set within a larger imperial (Achaemenid) context. These conditions, as John Kessler has recently reminded us, are critical to ascertaining the diversity of hopes and aspirations that Judeans may have harbored in the late sixth century. Second, I would like to focus upon the possible interests (literary, ideological, historical) of the authors/editors of the books of Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, Haggai, and Zechariah. Discussion of these diverse interests may shed light on why the biblical sources are silent about the circumstances leading up to Zerubbabel’s demise.

13:40-14:20 - Israel’s Deuteronomic Motivation to Care for the Poor icon

Carmen Palmer (Emmanuel College)

This paper argues that the laws concerning poverty in the book of Deuteronomy are an important, and unique, example of passages from Scripture (particularly in comparison with other Pentateuchal books such as Exodus and Leviticus) that contain elements of heightened justice concerning relief from poverty. By means of the presumed influence of the final Deuteronomic editing of the book from the historical occurrence of the Babylonian exile, I argue that Israel, for the Deuteronomic writer, was understood as a plural identity. Within this identity, all members of the community must be able to participate in the first commandment of the Decalogue, to worship no other than “the LORD your God” (Deut 5:6). It is this commandment that indirectly motivates the care for the poor, as I will show that poverty acts as an inhibitor to this proper worship. Exploring this motivation will move through observing Deuteronomy’s special use of blessings and curses in the covenantal relationship with God, discerning how these blessings and curses promote an emphasized view to community (as opposed to independent) living, discovering the real concerns of poverty in that time-frame of 8th to 6th centuries BCE, and finally observing how alleviating poverty and bringing people to equal status enabled worship of the one God.

14:20-14:35 Break

14:35-15:15 - The Temple in Kings and Chronicles icon

Paul Evans (Ambrose University College)

This paper explores the different attitudes toward the Jerusalem temple in the Deuteronomistic History (=DH) and the book of Chronicles. By examining accounts in the DH that describe a Judean monarch appropriating temple treasures in times of military duress, this study will show that, contrary to the assertions of other studies (e.g., Mullen, Cogan), the Deuteronomist does not view these actions negatively. However, in the book of Chronicles such actions are viewed negatively. This can be seen in the Chronicler’s explicit statements condemning such actions (2 Chr 28:20), negative characterization of the offending monarch (2 Chr 16:1-12; contrary to the monarch’s characterization in the DH), or omission of these actions in order to characterize a monarch positively (2 Chr 32:1-8). This study will then explore possible reasons for these differing attitudes towards the sanctity of the temple. While the temple played a central role in economic dynamics in both monarchic Judah and post-monarchic Yehud, in the former the temple also functioned to legitimate the monarchy—a function necessarily changed in the post-monarchic situation. It is probable that the different role of the temple in the monarch-less postexilic community accounts for the Chronicler’s divergent attitude towards a monarch’s dispensation in regards to its function as a sort of “national bank” (Meyers).

15:15-15:45 - Discussion of Papers

15:45-16:00 - Future Planning Discussion

Saskatoon 2007

Identity Formation and Ethnicity

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

Chair / Président: Patricia Kirkpatrick (McGill University)

8:45-9:05 am - Israel and the Nomads of Ancient Palestine
Kent Sparks (Eastern University)
ksparks [at] eastern [dot] edu

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

9:05–9:15 - Questions

9:15-9:35 am - The Construction of Text and Ethnicity in Judges 5
Mark Smith (New York University)
mss11 [at] nyu [dot] edu

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

9:35-9:45 - Questions

9:45-10:15 - Discussion

10:15 – 10:30 Break

10:30 – 10:50 - David the Mercenary
John Van Seters (Waterloo, ON)
john [dot] vanseters [at] sympatico [dot] ca

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

10:50 – 11:00 - Questions

11:00 – 11:20 - Identity and Empire, Reality and Hope in the Chronicler’s Perspective
Mark Boda (McMaster)
mjboda [at] mcmaster [dot] ca

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

11:20 – 11:30 - Questions

11:30 – 12:00 - Discussion

Identity Formation and Ethnicity (Session 2)

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

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

1:30 – 1:50 - Are There Any Bridges Out There? How Wide Was the Conceptual Gap Between the ‘Deuteronomistic Historical Collection’ and Chronicles?
Ehud Ben Zvi (University of Alberta)
ehud.ben.zvi [at] ualberta [dot] ca

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

1:50 – 2:00 - Questions

2:00 – 2:20 - A Comparative Study of the Exilic Gap in Ancient Israelite, Messenian, and Zionist Collective Memory
Katherine Stott (University of Alberta)
katiestott [at] optushome [dot] com [dot] au

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

2:20 – 2:30 - Questions

2:30 – 2:50 - Textual Identities in the Books of Chronicles: The Case of Jehoram’s History
Louis Jonker (Stellenbosch University)
lcj [at] sun [dot] ac [dot] za

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

2:50 – 3:00 - Questions

3:00 – 3:15 - Break

3:15 – 3:35 - Characters in Stone: The Behistun Inscription and Yehudite Identity
James Bowick (McMaster Divinity College)
james [at] bowick [dot] com

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

3:35 – 3:45 - Questions

3:45 – 4:05 - Identity, Ethnicity, and Inter-Dependency: The Judean Communities of Babylon and Jerusalem in the Story of Ezra
Gary Knoppers (The Pennsylvania State University)
gxk7 [at] psu [dot] edu

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

4:05 – 4:15 - Questions

4:15 – 4:45 - Discussion

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

York 2006

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)
nollk [at] brandonu [dot] ca

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

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 (Alliance-Nazarene University College)
psevans [at] hotmail [dot] com

This paper won the CSBS 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)
timgoltz [at] gmail [dot] com

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

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 - The Gospel of Mark in Context of Ancient Historiography
Eve-Marie Becker (Oberassistentin Institut für Neues Testament)
Eve-Marie [dot] Becker [at] theologie [dot] uni-erlangen [dot] de

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?) – in that sense – has to be resumed once again.

1:50-2:00 pm - Discussion

2:00-2:20 pm - Once Upon a Time: Women as Leaders in Historiography and the Ancient Novel
Dilys Patterson (Concordia University)
dpatters [at] alcor [dot] concordia [dot] ca

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.

2:20-2:30 pm - Discussion

2:30-2:50 pm - Ancient Greek Historiography and its Methodology: How Does Luke Relate?
Sean Adams (McMaster Divinity College)
adams [dot] sean [at] gmail [dot] com

Speeches played an important role within the ancient world, not only within the political sphere, but in all aspects of life. It is not surprising, therefore, that inhabit a prominent position with ancient works of history. It is generally understood that speeches provided insight into a character and were essential determinates of decisions. Indeed, it appears that speeches form a key section in a history and that the words of a character are equally as important for understanding a person as the deeds that were done by him. It is important to understand the nature of the speeches and the record of historical data within the ancient world. Unlike today’s culture where everything is precisely recorded, a political speech could only become known after its original utterance through the use of a stenographer or if it was committed to memory, and only if the memory and report of that speech were accurate. Consequently, without intentionality, it would have been difficult for historians to retrieve accurate information, especially if a significant amount of time had elapsed. In this paper, I will evaluate the methods of acquiring and reporting factual information by ancient historians. In doing so, I hope to determine their disposition towards the need for reporting of actual occurrences and utterances. Once this has been determined, this perspective will be compared with Luke and his strategy in writing his gospel.

Sean will also be discussing his paper "Luke’s Preface and its Relationship to Greek Historiography"

2:50-3:00 pm - Discussion

3:00-3:15 pm - Break

3:15-3:35 pm - When in Rome…: Scripting Gender in Acts.
Todd Penner (Austin College)
tpenner [at] austincollege [dot] edu

In his groundbreaking History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault moves to center views of sexuality within the confines and constraints of a discursively constructed understanding of human culture—one that fully appreciates the intersection of rhetoric and power. Similarly, in our attempt to think about gender in Acts we are especially interested in how this text thinks with gender—how gender is intertwined with the wider range of discourses that intersect to make up the tapestry of early Christian culture. The broader configuration that we explore here involves more specifically the intersection of gender, religion, colonial/territorial expansion and the appropriation and redeployment of a particular historical and cultural past. It is our contention, moreover, that to appreciate fully the discourses related to sexuality and gender in early Christianity an examination is necessary regarding the ways in which our texts can be calibrated with wider discursive threads apparent elsewhere in the ancient Mediterranean world

3:35-4:30 - Discussion