This Week in Context of Scripture

[Reminder: support Blogroll Amnesty and the Biblical Studies Carnival by nominating posts this month.]

As you may know, Charles Halton had published a reading schedule for Hallo and Younger’s The Context of Scripture (three volumes; Leiden: Brill, 2003). This week, we have been into Hittite archival documents. Two things have my attention: the scribal “postscripts” in the letters from the king to one Kaššu (a provincial leader dealing with local harassment; 3:13-29), and the letters between the royalty of Hatti, Egypt, and Babylon (the superpowers of the day; 3:30-31).

A charming feature of the king’s letters to his subordinate Kaššu is the “postscripts” that the king’s scribe writes to his counterparts serving out in the provincial center, whom he calls his “dear brother[s].” The king’s scribe reassures the provincial scribes about the well-being of their families, so we can see that the provincial scribe has left his family in the monarch’s city (Hattusa?). I wonder if this was common practice, and if it reflects a relative danger or discomfort in the provincial center. In the last of the letters to Kaššu, the scribe writes his postscript, not to another scribe, but to the three military men for whose ears the king has written the body of the letter. Since one regular scribal assignment was to accompany campaigns (see, e.g., 3.2, the Egyptian “craft of the scribe” letter), a picture of profession-crossing cameradarie begins to suggest itself.

The letters between royalty (3:30-31) offer an accessible illustration of the “parity” relationship as I describe it to my students when they learn “covenant.” In 3:30, the queen of Egypt repeatedly calls her counterpart in Hatti “my sister,” acknowledges inquiries concerning her health and well-being, and offers such “greeting-gifts” as, here, twelve linen garments and a gold necklace.

It’s never too late to begin reading COS in a year: just pick up where we are, and follow through to the same point next year. The pace is generally easy, and the rewards steady. Thanks again, Charles!

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4 Responses

  1. If you haven’t read it, I recommend Trevor Bryce, _Letters of the great kings of the ancient Near East: the royal correspondence of the late Bronze Age_, Routledge, 2003. It is very readable and gives a good feel for the complex international relations in the Amarna age.

  2. […] on February 5, 2010 Do make sure and drop by Annuma and check out Brook Lester’s take on This Week in Context of Scripture. We conclude this week a series of Hittite archival letters sent from “his Manjesty” to […]

  3. […] כל־האדם, Joseph has continued to read The Context of Scripture. Here at Anumma, I have tried to do my part. We’re reading CoS in a year at the January 1st invitation of Charles Halton at […]

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