Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ghost Abstract 2: Sanders, "Placing Scribal Culture in History: Deuteronomy and Late Iron-Age Text Production"

Seth L. Sanders
Associate Professor of Religion
Trinity College

Deuteronomy's use of Near Eastern treaty elements has become central to a new debate about the formation of the text. This paper points out anachronistic assumptions about Mesopotamian and Judahite scribal techniques shared by both sides of the debate, arguing that a more careful use of contemporary evidence may stimulate new models and solutions. The placement of treaty-curses with striking late Iron-Age cuneiform parallels at different compositional layers of Deuteronomy has made the question of the status of Dtr 13 and 28 important to any historical account of Deuteronomy’s formation. The crux is the debate about whether they are a) deliberate and subversive reuse of the Vassal Treaty of Esarhaddon, as Otto and now Levinson argue (or deliberate but not subversive, as Stackert argues) or b) unconscious uses of a common ANE or West Semitic treaty-curse tradition with no direct connection to VTE, as Morrow and now Crouch argue.

But a historical comparison of Mesopotamian scribal text-building techniques with parallel evidence attested in Judahite literature suggests that neither subversion nor independence are likely explanations.

 The first-millennium cuneiform analog to canonization is serialization--the collection of culturally central texts of one genre into standardized, numbered series. VTE was never a canonical text—it was neither serialized nor standardized for scribal training. Instead, it was monumentalized. As the new evidence from Taynat shows, it was presented as a pragmatic ritual artifact independent of any textual collection. By contrast the Judahite analog was narrativization--the collection of culturally central texts of different genres into extended prose narratives, including the Deuteronomic history and the Priestly work (and perhaps E and the Covenant Code), each with embedded law collections and covenants. By contrast with Mesopotamian serialization (and the modern scholarly expectation of verbatim textual quotation) relevant inner-biblical strategies of narrativization do not typically work through the direct incorporation of prior texts but more fluidly, through allusion and complex citation.

Considering the empirical evidence for these three very different late Iron Age scribal text-building strategies gives us a more historical basis for interpreting the relationship between Dtr 13 and 28 with VTE. On the one hand the different Iron Age scribal text-building strategies explain why certain patterns expected by Morrow et al. failed to materialize. And on the other hand the expectations of extended verbatim duplication shared by Otto et al. are based on assumptions that the ancient scribal evidence tend to refute: treaty-curses were never treated as canonical, serialized textual material, but monumentalized in cuneiform and their elements narrativized in Judah.

S25-124 Israelite Religion in Its West Asian Environment
Monday, Nov 25
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Room: 329 - Convention Center

Ghost Abstract 1: Schott, “Byzantine Textuality and the New Testament: Commentary and Catenae”

Jeremy Schott

This paper explores the ongoing tradition of biblical exegesis in the Byzantine world after the eclipse of the biblical commentary as a literary form in late-antiquity and the Middle Byzantine period (roughly 7th-11th centuries CE).  Focusing on several manuscripts of the Pauline epistles, I reflect on how New Testament texts were experienced as part of a web of intertextuality among late-antique and Middle Byzantine intellectuals.
Catenae and the New Testament texts to which they are linked have traditionally been studied in isolation, with New Testament text critics working out the stemmata of New Testament texts and Patristics scholars plumbing catenae for fragments of lost commentaries of the Fathers.  In the Middle Byzantine period, however, commentary and base-text were frequently transmitted and read together.  Indeed, the pages of Middle Byzantine manuscripts were often designed so as to facilitate the inclusion (even proliferation) of catenae and other marginalia. Byzantine codices of the New Testament brought together previously distinct genres and forms (e.g. commentary, base-text, cross-referencing, kephalaia) in a complex literary technology.  Middle Byzantine manuscripts and their catenae thus offer an excellent source for exploring several key dimensions of Byzantine textuality, from theories of authorship and authority to theories of meaning.  

S23-112 Book History and Biblical Literatures
Friday, Nov 23
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: 349 - Convention Center

A Guide to SBL Ghost Panels

This year's official SBL program and convenient "app" are not an entirely reliable guide to what is happening at the conference.

You may have noticed a few odd-looking panels on the program: two and a half hour sessions with only two speakers, spaces mentioning 'discussion' with nothing to be discussed...This is due to some combination of new rules preventing participants who do not register far enough in advance from being listed with administator error.

For those interested in subjects from early Jewish and Christian literature and book history, religious experience at Qumran, and the light shed by Iron Age scribal culture on Deuteronomy, I submit the following guide:

S23-112 Book History and Biblical Literatures
Friday, Nov 23
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: 349 - Convention Center
Theme: Bodies of Scripture: Book History, Materiality, and Scriptural Corpora

Benjamin Wright, Lehigh University, Presiding

Eva Mroczek, Indiana University
"Materiality and the Study of Early Jewish Textual Collections" - 35 min.

Jeremy Schott, Indiana University
“Byzantine Textuality and the New Testament: Commentary and Catenae” - 35 min.

Seth Perry, University of Washington
"Biblical Variety and Biblical Facility in Early America" - 35 min.

Discussion - 35 min.

(Schott not listed in official program; see next post for ghost abstract!)

S24-139 Religious Experience in Early Judaism and Early Christianity
Sunday, Nov 24
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Potomac 6 - Sheraton Inner Harbor
Theme: Review of Angela Harkins, Reading with an "I" to the Heavens: Looking at the Qumran Hodayot through the Lens of Visionary Traditions (DeGruyter, 2012)

Rodney Werline, Barton College, Presiding
Steven Weitzman, Stanford University, Panelist -25 min.
Carol Newsom, Emory University, Panelist -25 min.
Seth Sanders, Trinity College, Panelist -25 min.
Dan Merkur, University of Toronto, Panelist -25 min.
Angela Kim Harkins, Fairfield University, Respondent -20 min.
Discussion -30 min.

(Sanders not listed)

S25-124 Israelite Religion in Its West Asian Environment
Monday, Nov 25
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Room: 329 - Convention Center
Theme: Religion, Politics & Society

Simeon Chavel, University of Chicago, Presiding

Nathaniel Levtow, University of Montana "The Cultic Contexts of Monumental Inscriptions in Ancient West Asia" -20 min.

Seth Sanders, Trinity College "Placing Scribal Culture in History: Deuteronomy and Late Iron-Age Text Production" -20 min.

C.L. Crouch, University of Nottingham "Deuteronomy’s Identity Issues in Anthropological and Archaeological Perspective" -20 min.

Joel S. Burnett, Baylor University Iron Age "Deir ‘Alla: Gods, Kingdoms, and Worship at the Boundaries" -20 min

Karel van der Toorn, Universiteit van Amsterdam "The Jewish Pantheon at Elephantine" -20 min

(Sanders not listed; see next post for ghost abstract!)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Philosophy and Its Enemies

In a review in the New York Times today we find the Jurisprudence professor Robert George’s conclusions about religion:

‘Religion, he reasons, should be thought of as “conscientious truth-seeking regarding the ultimate sources of meaning and value” and, therefore, “a crucial dimension of human well-being and fulfillment.”’

George presents religion as a form of philosophy, not a revealed certainty: something that asks and discovers rather than just knows and then tells us. What kind of truths can this inquisitive religion discover about “the ultimate sources of meaning and value”? Are they actual discoveries or just confirmations of the happy old truths it already knows? Conscientious truth-seeking is ready to let the consequences be damned: a conscientious person accepts the strongest arguments whether or not they make the person happy, an important point whether or not it confirms their prejudices, and admits when things are not yet clear.

On marriage, George relies on “philosophical ideas” that, according to the sympathetic reviewer, “predate the modern concept of sexual identity.” What are George’s premodern “philosophical” ideas? That
marriage unites husband and wife across all levels of being, physical, emotional and spiritual. Male and female complementarity allows them to unite “organically” as “a single procreative principle.” Note the word “principle”: whether they actually procreate or not, men and women are engaging in “one flesh unity.”

But the principle that we were intended to procreate and become one flesh comes not from any kind of “inquiry” but anonymous stories, so traditional that they have no known author. In Genesis 1, God creates men and women together, last of all animal life, and endows them with the procreative principle: "He blessed them, saying: 'bear fruit and become many!'" They begin together, at the pinnacle of creation. In Genesis 2, on the other hand, a pointedly single man is created, first of all animal life, and the Lord begins creating animals, one by one, to find one that will be a suitable partner for the man. Frustrated, the Lord aenesthetizes the man and performs surgery on him, cloning a new being out of his body:

And the man said, “This is the right one, bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh! I will call her woman because she was taken from man!”

This is why a man leaves his father and his mother and joins to his wife and they become one flesh together.

The narrator never tells us how he knows what knows with this perfect certainty: that man was in fact created first, not last, of all living things. He makes no mention of why he differs with Genesis 1: that men and women join together in fleshly embrace not because God declared in words that they do so, but rather that the Lord surgically built one out of the other.

These two stories may be true or something else, they may be good for us or something more. What they are not is truth-seeking inquiry, and anyone who wishes to present them as that may be trying slyly to replace it with something else. Such people are not philosophy’s friends.