Poetics of Scribal Culture in Inner-Biblical Oralities of Allusive Redaction-Echoes, and Stuff

My main research focus, when I can get to it, concerns literary allusion in the Bible (also called “inner-biblical interpretation,” or “inner-biblical exegesis”).

Insofar as I have a Big Idea, it mostly involves running around like Chicken Little and yelling that the field of biblical studies isn’t producing a coherent conversation about “inner-biblical allusion” because we quarantine ourselves (as we so often do) from the secular ancillary scholarship (in this case, on the poetics of literary allusion).

What disturbs and intrigues me recently is, I think that there is another scholarly context to which I’ll need to tether my continuing work in biblical allusion. You know it well, and most recently, it looks something like this.

Upside: maybe I get to blow the dust off my Akkadian again. Downside: Hier werden deutsche.

[Poetics of Scribal Culture in Inner-Biblical Oralities of Allusive Redaction-Echoes, and Stuff was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2012/01/16. Except as noted, it is © 2012 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

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Public Evidence and Sectarian Claims in SBL

What does it look like for a person of Jewish or Christian religious faith to—as a matter of method—bracket her sectarian claims about the Bible in her investigation into the content and context of biblical texts? And why is it necessary that she be willing to learn to do so?

As some of you will know, a conversation has been underway about book reviews in biblical studies that appear, as a matter of academic method, to privilege sectarian claims (sometimes along with the reviewed book itself). Alan Lenzi has raised up occasional samples, and one in particular has generated some conversation. Calvin at the Floppy Hat wrote a thoughtful post that garnered some comments.

The readers at Art Boulet’s finitum non capax infiniti, especially, have produced a comment thread especially worthy of attention. It’s not a record-breaker in terms of length or number of participants, but it is clearly drawn and notably free of distracting polemics.

The basic question underlying the discussion—what does it mean for anyone, religious or not, to engage in “academic biblical studies” over against sectarian apologetics—may be of special value to students in higher education who are being asked to make this distinction, or to religious laypeople who wonder how seminary “book learning” differs from confessional “Bible study.” By all means, take a look.

[Public Evidence and Sectarian Claims in SBL was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2010/03/27. Except as noted, it is © 2010 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Context of Scripture: And When I Say, “Context”…

…I mean, context.

(Reading COS in a year, following Charles’ schedule. Join in any time!)

The archival document for the day is a short Ugaritic letter from “The King to Ḥayyaʾil Regarding an Allotment of Logs” (3.45Q). I know! Hold your excitement! Dennis Pardee offers a record-breaking ratio of commentary to text: the latter measuring about 6 square inches, the former a hefty 52 square inches (in reduced font, no less). In the letter, the king scolds his recipient for asking where to get the logs for a certain temple, and informs him where the logs will come from. In the commentary, Pardee finds opportunity to make illustrative inquiry into

  • indicators of genre, both in the language of the text and in such non-textual indicators as horizontal strokes dividing elements of the inscription;
  • the institutions and practices associated with timber production, sale, and distribution in and around Ugarit;
  • how to “follow the money” involved with dispersal of royal funds to or through civil employees and private vendors and distributors, possibly involving alliterative wordplay;
  • and more! Seriously, lots to learn here for the patient.

The other text for the day is the “Prophecies of Neferti” (1:45). Students in Bible will appreciate this one as an example of “prophecy ex eventu,” that is the literary fiction of prophecy formulated “after the fact” (as in the apocalypses of Daniel 7–12, for example, or in 1 Kings 13:1-3). Here, the wise scribe Neferti is said to live during the reign of Snefru (4st Dynasty), predicting a future disastrous period that will eventually be corrected by a restorative, redeeming king “Imeny” (Amenemhet I, 12th Dynasty). The work itself of course derives from the reign of that same Amenemhet I, justifying his usurpation and reforms.

Students of the ancient Egyptian language will know that this 12th Dynasty defines the “Middle Kingdom” period of Egypt, considered a literary high point, the style of which is considered normative in later periods. Reading “The Prophecies of Neferti” alongside of “The Instructions of Amenemhet I” (1.36; a work likely written after his death to defuse his assassination and legitimate his heir’s succession) and “The Tale of Sinuhe” (1.38; a politically charged fantasy story also reflecting Amenemhet I’s death and succession), while attending to the notes, begins to provide a textured depiction of this watershed moment in Egypt’s past.[FOOTNOTE]

Here in “The Prophecies of Neferti,” where it depicts the disastrous period preceding Amenemet’s usurpation of the crown, we learn a lot about what scares the daylights out of right-thinking ancient Egyptians:

  • Asiatics in Egypt
  • failure to observe ritual, including mourning rites
  • violence, and indifference to violence
  • burdensome taxes
  • breaking down of social hierarchies
  • Asiatics in Egypt.

This is why I have to be careful not to fall behind on our reading schedule, and when I do fall behind, to simply pick up where we are instead of trying to read too much at once. The texts are just so, so good on a second reading after I have had time to marinate in the contexts for a spell.

Happy reading!

BACK TO POST The interested reader might start with Ronald J. Leprohon, “Egypt, History of (Dyn. 11–17)” Anchor Bible Dictionary 2:345-348 (Doubleday, 1992).

[Context of Scripture: And When I Say, “Context”… was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2010/03/25. Except as noted, it is © 2010 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

On Not Being a Yutz: Egyptian Religion

Ancient Egyptian religion: not self-explanatory.

While I have not posted on the subject recently, I continue to keep up on reading The Context of Scripture in a year. (Joseph’s got the beat covered, as usual.) Among the Egyptian canonical inscriptions, we have completed those that have a “divine focus” (cosmologies, hymns, prayers, incantations). Over the weeks, I have come to a conclusion:

A couple of years of instruction in Egyptian language notwithstanding, on the subject of ancient Egyptian religion, I am, relatively speaking, a yutz.

Nothing to be ashamed of: my schooling in the contexts of the Hebrew Bible, anchored in the West Semitic, has tended to look eastward to Mesopotamia. But, I feel the need to do some reinforcing reading (rapidly, given my time constraints).

I’ll be working the stacks for resources for a few days. Let me know if there is anything I should especially keep my eyes open for.

[On Not Being a Yutz: Egyptian Religion was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2010/03/16. Except as noted, it is © 2010 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

New Course: The OT in the NT

In Fall 2010, I will be teaching a new course: “The Old Testament in the New Testament.” Students will learn about literary allusion, and examine select examples of allusion to the Hebrew Bible in the Christian New Testament.

As part of assessing the case for specific examples of allusion, students will develop claims about

  • what the OT source text means in its literary and social/historical context, and
  • how this allusion in the NT alluding text functions as a rhetorical trope in its own literary and social/historical context.

I will be allowing students to take the course either for OT credit or for NT credit, shaping their final exegesis papers accordingly.

Besides the usual run of Masters students (mostly M.Div or MTS), the course will also be open to doctoral students, who will have to meet an appropriately higher bar in the course work.

My dissertation—“Daniel Evokes Isaiah: The Rule of the Nations in Apocalyptic Allusion-Narrative”—involved allusion to Isaiah in the book of Daniel, and I have looked forward to the opportunity to teach allusion to my students in Bible.

If you have any interest in literary allusion generally, or in “the OT in the NT,” what would your wish list be for select topics? (I have a handful of my own ideas, of course.) What related issues would you want to see treated?

[New Course: The OT in the NT was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2010/03/12. Except as noted, it is © 2010 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Is it Just Me?

Or do you hear the strains of a modern Qohelet in the weary workplace recollections of a dime-store Cassandra? (Eff-Bomb Alert: grown-up language for grown-ups.)

COS in a Year: Anyone Else In?

I don’t normally make resolutions for the New Year, but Charles’ suggestion to read Context of Scripture (Brill link) in a year…well, that’s like making a resolution to, um, read really fun stuff every day.

Charles’ reading schedule (see PDF link in his post) offers enough variety to keep any one section from becoming deadening, while also providing enough continuity to keep the “C” in COS. Most of the daily readings are short enough that I’ll have time to make the most of the footnotes and, where appropriate, lexical helps.

I am caught up so far. Is anybody else giving it a shot?