"Good Morning, Eager Young Minds"

Posted on by Brooke Lester

Another year, another OOTLE: The Open Old Testament Learning Event, now in year three for 2017!

Welcome to our new learners! Through public writing and public interaction, we will build together the understandings awaiting us concerning the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, its literature and historical contexts, and its study.

Our first week of activities will open up Monday morning. See you there!

OOTLE16: Academic Biblical Studies for Everyone

Posted on by Brooke Lester

It's just about time for OOTLE16, The Open Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) Learning Event 2016. What is the Hebrew Bible? Who wrote its texts, and when, and why? What can it mean when read by different readers?

The core learners in OOTLE16 are students at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary taking the course for credit. But, anyone may participate, as much or as little as you like.

The course runs 13 weeks, in four (4) units after an introductory week (February 2-8):

The Writings (think Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes): Is the world a sense-making orderly place where people mostly get what they deserve, or a senseless mess where everyone just gets what they get? And where is the Complaint Department? February 9-29.

The Latter Prophets (think books with names: Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.): No, they're not actually all the same. For example, only one of them hides his underwear by the river. And only one goes naked for three years. What's bugging these guys, anyway? March 1-21.

The Former Prophets (think Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings): From the sweeping entry of Israelites into the land (are we supposed to care about the dead Canaanites, or what?), to God sweeping the Israelites out of the land (welcome to Babylon!). Kings and prophets. A lot like Game of Thrones. March 22-April 18.

The Pentateuch (think Genesis, Exodus, and laws and stuff): Where the story begins, and where most of your dinner-table arguments with extended family come from. April 19-May 9.

Interested? Go to our course site, and find information on getting started with your own blog and Twitter account.

#JobvGod: Job versus God, the Twitter Game

Posted on by Brooke Lester

It's Job versus God, in an epic battle of justice and power. Who's right? Who wins? What the heck is with those friends, anyway?

This is a multi-player Twitter game, inspired by Twitter vs. Zombies. It can be adjusted to last for days (as in these instructions) or for only a few hours. It ends when time is up, or (tragically) if everybody playing finds themselves on #TeamFriends. Job vs. God was developed for the Open Old Testament Learning Event 2015 (OOTLE15).


All game tweets must include the hashtag #JobvGod.

Players announce their entry into the game by tweeting "I'm in!" (or similar) with the hashtag #JobvGod.

During game play, any player can attack any other player with a #JobAttack, paraphrasing Job's legal case against God and citing their biblical source accurately by chapter and verse. (For example, "42:6". Be sure to cite Job's speeches, not just any part of the book of Job.) Use at-mentions to select your victim.

The victim must issue a counterattack within six (6) hours. To counterattack, Reply to your attacker with a #GodAttack, paraphrasing God's argument against Job and citing your biblical source accurately. (Be sure to cite God's speeches, not just any part of the book of Job.)

If you find yourself attacked with more than one #JobAttack at once, you may counterattack them simultaneously by at-mentioning both attackers in your #GodAttack.

If a player is #JobAttack-ed, and fails to counter with a #GodAttack within six (6) hours, then she is penalized by joining #TeamFriends. She cannot issue any attacks or counterattacks while she is on #TeamFriends. To get out of #TeamFriends, she must tweet three (3) tweets paraphrasing the arguments of Job's three friends, including the hashtag #TeamFriends. (Be sure to cite the friends' speeches, not just any part of the book of Job.) She is then out of the penalty box, and free to #JobAttack other players again.

Nightfall: From 10pm-6am Central Time, the clock stops. So, if a player is attacked at 8pm, she has until 10am to counterattack.

These rules imagine the game going on for a few days, working around people's work schedules. If you want to play a shorter game, make sure all players are available and have the book of Job handy. Shorten the required counterattack time from six hours to five minutes.


Job Attack: @anummabrooke tweets "Bring case to judge against God, & God is the judge! Fix is in! 9:15 @charheeg #JobAttack #JobvGod"

God Attack: @charheeg Replies "@anummabrooke Where were u when I gave birth to hail from my womb? 38:29 #GodAttack #JobvGod"

Team Friends: @charheeg, finding that over six hours have passed since @anummabrooke's Job Attack, tweets three tweets similar to this: "Can u provide any evidence of the righteous perishing? I haven't seen it. 4:7 #TeamFriends #JobvGod"


Suggest improvements in the comments. For example, in Twitter vs. Zombies, you can defend another player with a "swipe." Should something that be a feature in this game? How would it work?

Why Learn "Old Testament Studies"?

Posted on by Brooke Lester

You probably know how to listen. But do you know how to listen well?[^1]

  • Do you know how to be willing to not understand, instead of rushing to premature closure by putting the speaker into your comfortable boxes?
  • Do you know how to practice empathy, avoiding a rush to judgment and putting yourself in another's shoes, imagining circumstances and decisions that seem unthinkable or preposterous to you?
  • Do you know how to be vulnerable, entertaining the possibility that you may be the one who undergoes real change as a result of the encounter?

What is your conversation partner's history? Her language? Her culture? (What are your own?)

Now. You probably know how to read. But do you know how to read well?

They wrote over the course of a thousand years. They wrote in their walled cities, their open villages, their schools, their homes, and lands far from all of these. They wrote in support of the state, and counter to it, and in its ruins. They wrote for one another and against one another, to silence each other and to preserve each other. They told their stories, inscribed their laws, cried their supplications, sang their songs, listed their lists, raged their rage.

If you like to read, you can read them. If you like to understand, if you like to better hear the voices of the past, then you will want to learn how to read well.

  • Historical study
  • Literary study
  • Cultural study

Come and learn the tools by which we listen well to the voices of the Hebrew Bible.

(This post is in response to the prompt, "What is the real 'Why' of your course?" asked in Unit 1 of Connected Courses: Active Co-Learning in Higher Ed.)

[^1]: This list represents my recollection of that offered by Dr. Pam Holliman, professor of Pastoral Care, in a presentation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.

Interliterary Allusion as Figure: a Core Bibliography

Posted on by Brooke Lester

This is a "starter" set on interliterary allusion, defined as a figure akin to metaphor generated between two texts by the design of the alluding text. A good idea is to start with Ben-Porat, then work through the remaining set chronologically. There is much else out there on allusion, but I would say that this core bibliography serves as excellent preparation even to works that precede Ben-Porat.

Ben-Porat, Ziva. "The Poetics of Literary Allusion." PTL: A Journal for Descriptive Poetics and Theory of Literature 1 (1976):105-128.

Conte, Gian Biagio, and Charles Segal. The Rhetoric of Imitation: Genre and Poetic Memory in Virgil and Other Latin Poets Cornell Studies in Classical Philology; V. 44. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986 [original 1974].

Garner, Richard. From Homer to Tragedy: The Art of Allusion in Greek Poetry. London; New York: Routledge, 1990.

Johnson, Anthony L. "Allusion in Poetry." PTL: A Journal for Descriptive Poetics and Theory of Literature 1 (1976):579-587.

Kronfeld, Chana. "Allusion: An Israeli Perspective." Prooftexts 5 (1985):137-163.

Perri, Carmela. "On Alluding." Poetics 7 (1978):289-307.

Sommer, Benjamin D. A Prophet Reads Scripture: Allusion in Isaiah 40-66. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1998.

[Interliterary Allusion as Figure: a Core Bibliography was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2012/11/19. Except as noted, it is © 2012 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

God as Mother and "Not Only a Father" in Bible and Tradition

Posted on by Brooke Lester

Tim Bulkeley of Sansblogue has written a book called Not Only a Father: "Talk of God as Mother in the Bible and Christian Tradition."

Go ahead and read it: the book is freely available in its entirety online.

What is more, the book is participatory:

In each chapter and section there are small blue speech bubbles to the right of every paragraph. Click on them to see what others have said or to comment or ask questions yourself.

Want to talk with others about feminine language for God in the Bible and in the history of Christian thought? Invite them to read with you. Did I mention that's free and online? Open access, baby.

[God as Mother and "Not Only a Father" was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2012/10/05. Except as noted, it is © 2012 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Making Better Ancient-Language Reading Exams

Posted on by Brooke

Some modern-language "reading exams" reflect a sound pedagogy that 1) reflects communicative learning of the target language, 2) offers clarity of expectations for assessment. I would love to see graduate reading exams in Hebrew and Greek achieve that same pedagogical footing, incorporating an extemporaneous oral component and rubrics made available to the learner.

The "reading exam" is well known to many graduate students. Because introductory and intermediate foreign-langauge courses vary from school to school, most Ph.D. programs will ask applicants to take a reading exam to show their proficiency in a given "research language" (often German, French, Italian). In some cases, a program might ask for a similar examination for an ancient ("dead") language: in my field, for example, Hellenistic Greek or Biblical Hebrew.

Reading exams tend to vary with the idiosyncracies of the examining instructor. A departmental guideline might offer expectations or options regarding format: our own offers the student a choice of having two "unseen" texts to translate, or else having to answer comprehension questions (posed in English) on both an "unseen" text and a set of short "seen" texts. Beyond the formatting guidelines, though, expectations are usually pretty opaque. How long will it be? Will the content be related to the learner's field of study? What kinds of errors are important? Is it better to turn in an incomplete exam that is error-free in what it accomplishes, or is it better to finish with some parts left really rough? "Only the Shadow knows."

Some modern language reading exams reflect an expectation that the student has really learned to communicate extemporaneously in the target language, for example by an oral component with "Q and A" conducted in that language. To my knowledge, exams in Hebrew and Greek never include this, because so very few seminaries or divinity schools teach biblical languages using communicative-language/second-language-acquisitions methods. (The overwhelmingly common model is to teach the elementary linguistics of the target language; believe it or not, in many courses, the target material is not even read out loud by the learner.)

Here's what I would like to see in ancient language reading exams:

  1. Extemporaneous, oral component: This could be small or large. At minimum, the exam itself could be simple translation, but preceded by a "social" exchange in the target language (welcoming the student, pleasantries, getting settled). At most, the entire exam could be a discussion, in the target language, of readings that have been accomplished ahead of time by the student. I might like to see an exam that splits the difference:
    • a brief social exchange in the target language;
    • simple translation of a reading not seen before by the learner;
    • a handful of comprehension questions, in the target language, concerning a reading that the learner has pre-read.
  2. Rubrics for assessment: The truth is, not every mistake counts equally in assessment, and (depending on the assessor) some mistakes won't count at all. For example, an assessor might not detract from the student's score if she appears to transform a passive form into an active form while preserving the correct meaning. These matters should be agreed upon within a department, and made available to the student in a rubric.
  3. Word count expectations: In a timed exam, how many words/minute can the student expect to be asked to translate? This needn't be the same for all languages and all programs, but again should be made clear in the rubric. From the very few examples I have been able to put my hand to, I think that 4+ words/minute (250/hour) is reasonable for modern research languages; for ancient languages (Latin, Hebrew, Greek) I would like to think that the same expectation is within reach, while about half that (2-3 words/minute) is usual.

The first item could only be used, of course, with a learner whose instruction has prepared her for it. The second and third items, however, should be incorporated into every program's guidelines for foreign-language reading exams.

What is your experience with "reading exams"? Does your experience with them give you grounds to critically assess my observations or suggestions?

[Making Better Ancient-Language Reading Exams was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2012/08/22. Except as noted, it is © 2012 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Akma on Uncritical Criticism

Posted on by Brooke

Akma has resumed his blog series, "How to Do Exegesis," with a post describing an example of "critical scholarship" sneaking in uncritical or fallacious moves (like poisoning the well, or ad hominem, or the non sequitur).

Yesterday I applauded the SBL's new "blurb" concerning its standards for "critical" content and argument in presentations offered at its annual meetings. I remarked that a hallmark of critical scholarship is its availability to critique regarding the truth of its premises and the soundness of its arguments. Akma's post is an excellent lesson in what that kind of critique can look like in action.

Go enjoy!

[Akma on Uncritical Criticism was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2012/04/13. Except as noted, it is © 2012 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

"Farewell to SBL" Revisited: Biblical Studies, Religious Faith, and the New "Blurb"

Posted on by Brooke

We've just emerged from that exciting time of year when scholars in biblical and religious studies await word on whether their presentation proposals have been accepted by the sessions of the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Academy of Religion.

Those in the SBL whose proposals are accepted will have found this blurb included in the congratulatory emails that they receive:

Please note that, by submitting a paper proposal or accepting a role in any affiliate organization or program unit session at the Annual or International Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, you agree to participate in an open academic discussion guided by a common standard of scholarly discourse that engages your subject through critical inquiry and investigation.

It hardly looks like something to get excited about, unless you see it as one stage in a current unfolding controversy in the field and in the SBL. If you do, then you will know why one scholar of my acquaintance refers to it as "the Hendel clause."


Ron Hendel, in the July/Aug 2010 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, wrote an opinion piece "Farewell to SBL: Faith and Reason in Biblical Studies." There, he criticized the SBL for blurring the distinction between critical (or "secular") biblical study and faith-based biblical study. Examples included the publishing in RBL of book reviews that adopt a non-neutral stance on confessional or denominational reading of the Bible, and having sessions at the SBL Annual Meeting that turn out to presuppose a confessional stance or that proselytize.

The SBL's formal response to Hendel's BAR article refuted the more bombastic and inferential elements of Hendel's opinion piece, without directly addressing the basic question raised: What is the role, in the SBL, of claims whose arguments grant methodological privilege to sectarian dogma or private revelation?

[Update: I do find an email sent to SBL meembers by John Kutsko, as executive director of SBL, in August 2010, in which the substance of Hendel's concerns are addressed more directly. I should add that there, John writes that an SBL initiative to redraft program unit guidelines regarding critical inquiry preceded Hendel's piece.]

Hendel went on to write a follow-up rebutting the SBL's response along with a responsive piece by James Crossley and its comment thread. The matter was well discussed in the blogosphere (search for "Farewell to SBL" in your favorite search engine for more results). Naturally, the affair drew out the sadly predictable proportion of commenters insisting (irrelevantly) that people of faith can do biblical studies too! (a claim not disputed by Hendel and not germane to his opinion piece).

The SBL "blurb"

Against this background, I judge that the new SBL "blurb" cuts through the noise gets things exactly right: Hendel's piece was not about atheism, or about cutting people of faith out of biblical studies. It is not about what people are or are not at all (people of faith, or evangelical, or atheist, or anything). It is about what people do or do not in their scholarship.

Critical Biblical Scholarship: If your argument consists entirely of publicly available evidence and an explicit line of reasoning, subject to critique if found to be logically unsound (for example, depending on premises not demonstrable or on logical fallacies), then what you are doing is open and critical—sometimes called "secular"—biblical scholarship. This is scholarship to which all persons may contribute, regardless of their faith commitments.

Confessional Biblical Theology: If your argument grants methodological place to sectarian dogma or private revelation, then what you are doing is some form of confessional biblical theology. This can be an excellent theological discipline, and in many forms presupposes, and rigorously participates in, the results of critical biblical scholarship. It can be "critical" according to its standards and within the rules of its own game. Nonetheless, this is "in-house" scholarship, conducted in a closed circle of those who assent to the dogma or revelation presupposed in the argument.

Let's look at that SBL "blurb" again, in this light:

Please note that, by submitting a paper proposal or accepting a role in any affiliate organization or program unit session at the Annual or International Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, you agree to participate in an open academic discussion guided by a common standard of scholarly discourse that engages your subject through critical inquiry and investigation. (emphases mine)

The substance of Hendel's criticism is, as far as I can see, addressed. At the same time, this excludes nobody in terms of who they are or what they believe. It does restrict SBL sessions to a particular set of activities: open discussion (not limited to a closed circle) guided by a common standard of discourse (not a standard shaped by private confessional claims), involving critical inquiry (nobody's claims are "off limits," by special pleading of privately-held commitments, to evidentiary and logical testing).

What are your own thoughts on the new SBL "blurb"? Does it address the problems described by Hendel? Does it create new problems? What ancillary issues, if any, continue to haunt the background?

["Farewell to SBL" Revisited: Biblical Studies, Faith, and the New "Blurb" was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 20121/04/12. Except as noted, it is © 2012 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Literary Allusion in the Bible (Book of Daniel): SBL/AAR 2012

Posted on by Brooke

One of my two proposals to SBL/AAR 2012 has been accepted, with the other still unreported. "SBL/AAR" is the annual meeting of two societies, the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Academy of Religion.

I will be presenting in the Book of Daniel consultation on "Allusion to Isaiah in Daniel 7-12, in Light of 35 Years of Allusion Criticism." The pitch is to look at the methodological disarray that characterizes the study of literary allusion in the Bible, and demonstrate how a commitment to greater clarity yields better readings and opportunity for more productive exchanges between scholars.

I see that Chris Jones has reawakened the Twitter hashtag #SBLAAR for reporting acceptances. What will you be doing in Chicago this November at SBL/AAR? And is anyone else still waiting for word on any of your proposals?

The Exegetical Thesis as (Digital) Storytelling

Posted on by Brooke

The "exegesis project" is a The Big Project for masters students in a biblical studies course. Usually, it's a paper, of course. This term, I hope to encourage students in my "Book of Daniel" to consider doing the project in the form of "Digital Storytelling." I realize that this calls for a two-part explanation:

  1. What makes exegesis "storytelling"?

  2. What makes exegesis "digital"?

I am going to take these one at a time. Today, we will stick with the first. In beginning to learn exegesis, one of the big hurdles for students is that they are asked to bracket their spiritual autobiography long enough to attend to the biblical text's own historical context. That being so, what can I mean when I ask them to accomplish their exegesis as "storytelling"? I'll break it down:

What makes it "exegetical"?

  • The body of the work asks questions about the meaning of the biblical text for its author, and for the community to whom the author appears to have written, in that author's own social and historical context.

  • The work's arguments rely on publicly available evidence and explicit lines of reasoning. They do not depend upon private revelation, confessional dogma, implicit lines of reasoning, or logical fallacies.

What makes it "a thesis"?

  • The work is organized around the defense of a single claim, or thesis. A thesis is NOT, then, an opinion, a narrative, an “exploration,” or a review. A thesis should be defensible, relevant, and manageable. By “defensible,” I mean that it is a proposition that can be established by publicly-available evidence (not private revelation or confessional dogma) and an explicit line of reasoning. By “relevant,” I mean that the thesis forces your reader to re-evaluate the biblical text; the thesis "makes a difference" to how the biblical text is read. By “manageable,” I mean that the thesis can be argued comprehensively within the constraints of the assignment; it is not too big an idea for the word count, and also not so small that the paper falls significantly short or has to be “padded up.”

What makes it "storytelling"?

  • Even when presenting data (as in a lecture, or a thesis paper), there is a "narrative" of sorts: you lead the reader from a starting place, through a terrain known only to you, to a destination. A good presenter "knows her narrative": you could take away her slides or her paper, and she can still guide you through the "narrative" of her subject matter or thesis (Ask a student about a recently-completed paper; if they can do this, it's probably a good paper.)

  • We commonly ask our students to "book-end" their thesis with an introduction and a theological/hermeneutical conclusion. The project should begin with a statement of the student's interest in the biblical passage. It should end with her own assessment of the passage's theological claims as determined by exegesis. (Are those claims moral? coherent with other biblical passages? intelligible to today's reading communities?). This conclusion should also include claims about how the text might, or might not, lend itself to preaching and teaching in particular, well-defined communities of hearers. This is to say, the thesis project is a "round trip," beginning and ending with the student's own pressing theological and hermeneutical concerns.

So…What makes it "digital," if it is?

Stay tuned. In a follow-up post, I will look at the phenomenon of "Digital Storytelling" in the digital humanities, and how it might serve as a platform for "exegesis as storytelling." In the meantime, what do you think of this way of putting things? Does "storytelling" offer a useful lens, or muddy the waters?

[The Exegetical Thesis as (Digital) Storytelling was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2012/01/30. Except as noted, it is © 2012 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

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

Posted on by Brooke

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 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.]

Just Leave the Mandrakes on the Dresser

Posted on by Brooke

How is it that the explicitness of Leah’s language in Genesis 30:16 has not jumped out at me before? Speaking to Jacob:

‏ותאמר אלי תבוא כי שכר שכרתיך בדודאי בני
“And she said, ‘Come to me, for I have totally hired you out with my son’s mandrakes.’”

Jacob seems okay with being pimped out to Leah by Rachel. In the words of the immortal Twain, “Let us close the curtain of charity over the rest of the scene.” (Except to add, I wonder if “God remembering Rachel” a few verses later has to do with the mandrakes she cajjed off of Leah?)

[Just Leave the Mandrakes on the Dresser was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2011/01/24. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Reading the Hebrew Bible—Aloud—over Two Years

Posted on by Brooke

As Charles and Daniel had made known, the Miqra Group plans to read the Hebrew Bible over a two-year period. So, you‘ll find me blogging and commenting over there as well as here.

My own “twist” on the reading program is to read the entire[note] Hebrew Bible aloud in two years. Despite years of teaching, and despite my continuing efforts to shape my teaching of biblical languages into an immersive mode, my reading fluency is not yet of a quality to satisfy my harshest critic (me). At some point, maybe I will add the Greek New Testament into the mix.

Anybody want to read the Bible aloud?

BACK TO POST And by “entire,” I mean, “except when grading, administrative emergencies, or urgent opportunities for professional development intervene.” Let she who is not a junior instructor cast the first stone.

[Reading the Hebrew Bible—Aloud—over Two Years was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2011/01/18. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Stop Making the Blogosphere So Damned Interesting, Jim Getz

Posted on by Brooke

Grades are due Monday evening, and I am still crawling along.

As if I don't have enough distractions, a riveting conversation on Pentateuch criticism broke out at Jim Getz's place. The trigger was David Carr’s RBL review of Joel Baden’s J, E, and the Redaction of the Pentateuch. When the RBL newsletter had come out, some friends and I emailed one another about the tone of the review (as junior scholars, our reaction amounted to “There but for the grace of God…”).

The comments thread to Jim’s post is striking for the attendance of actual players and other luminaries. Bloggers tend to be more junior than senior, and the place of senior scholars in the blogosphere has sometimes been isolated, rarely-updated news-release outlets, not closely in conversation with other Bible-centric blogging. At Jim’s post, the comments thread became the kind of discourse, with the kind of participation, that I think we’d all like to see more of.

Which really ticks me off this week, because as I have said, I don’t have time for that kind of thing right now. :^) Back to papers.

Links for SBL10 Workshop Presentation

Posted on by Brooke

“‘To Those Far and Near’: the Case for Community at a Distance.”

The Background:

A Community of Scholarship, Emory’s Candler School of Theology.

Episode CXXVIII of the Endless Thread, Pharyngula.

Losers of Friday Night on Their Computers, Twitter search. [link fixed]

SBL Annual Conference 2010 (#sbl10), Twitter search. [link fixed]

Intro to OT Online Group Paper (concluding summary), Wetpaint.

Dissecting Community: Example from Sociology:

Community, Infed (Informal Education).

The Project:

Bible and Teaching Blogs via feeds, NetVibes.

Collaborative Wiki on the Hendel Affair, Wetpaint.

[Links for SBL10 Workshop Presentation was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2010/11/22. Except as noted, it is © 2010 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

"Good Morning, Eager Young Minds."

Posted on by Brooke

This is the first day of the new term. My classes this time around are:

  • “Introduction to the Old Testament”: yes, we are reading backwards again. We’ll also continue with viewing lectures as pre-recorded downloads outside of class. New this term is the Wikipedia assignment, in which students will make a series of course-related edits to relevant Wikipedia articles. Also new is a plan to prepare for in-class discussion with threaded, asynchronous, online discussion between sessions.

  • “Elementary Hebrew 1”: as in recent years, we’ll be starting with about ten hours of oral/aural exercises, using no texts of any kind. I’ve got a small surprise planned for today, if I can manage to walk to a store between classes.

  • “The Old Testament in the New Testament”: a new seminar, beginning in tee minus 150 minutes. The meat and potatoes of the course will be student presentations, with each student presenting a “method” article on some aspect of literary allusion as well as a “content” article on NT allusions to the OT. Something new: all presentations will be offered from a standing position and must have some A/V (multimedia) component. The idea is to raise the energy level up from “somnambulant rap session” to…I don’t know, something where blood continues to flow to brains.

And, yes, each of these meets today! The seminar meets once each week, the Intro course twice, and Hebrew thrice, so Tuesday is the big day of the week this term.

How about you (both profs and students): what’s on the menu for Fall 2010? What’s new, and what’s old?

["Good Morning, Eager Young Minds." was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2010/09/07. Except as noted, it is © 2010 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Ask a Biblical Scholar Anything

Posted on by Brooke

This is an idea about which I could not be more enthused (hat tip to Pharyngula).[1] Ten biologists collaborate together to answer any questions that a layperson might pose them. The front page provides some relevant caveats; for example, if the question is quite basic, they might gently point a reader to the standard textbooks, rather than be roped into doing someone’s homework for them.

I especially like that the site builds a searchable growing repository of questions already answered. This should be a helpful resource, not only for inquirers, but for the team members to consult when dealing with new questions.

The idea of a similar, “Ask a Biblical Scholar Anything," site has seized my imagination. In my experience, answering questions about the Bible and biblical studies for genuinely curious laypeople is a delight. Part of that delight comes from my sense that only a few people have a resource in their lives to field such questions; when I make new acquaintances, they often have a short list of questions about the Bible that they've waited to unload, or that they've bounced off of others without receiving satisfying responses.

Some desiderata that come to mind are:

  • As with AaBA, there would need to be a fairly large team: at least eight, I think. The good news is, I suspect recruiting new team members wouldn’t be all that hard, such that the team could grow (or shrink) according to traffic. The idea is that nobody should have to spend more time on it than they want to, with a very low minimum expected commitment.

  • Team members should have terminal degrees in biblical studies, or else be candidates in a terminal degree program.

  • The team members would have to have a shared understanding that “biblical studies” is a non-confessional literary and historical enterprise, relying for its claims on the shared public evidence of the biblical texts and such extra-biblical evidence as variant manuscripts, ancient Near Eastern texts, material remains, and so on (rather than on private revelation and confessional dogma). Theologically, it’s about the theology in the texts rather than one’s theology of the Bible. This understanding would need to be communicated on the front page of the site.

  • There would have to be a standard rubric for recognizing and dealing with poor-faith inquiries coming out of the culture wars. This would, at the same time, have to allow for good-faith inquiries coming from those whose frame of reference has been distorted by the culture wars. (In English: What about spamming inquiries from folks like Answers in Genesis? What about well-meaning inquiries from folks whose minds have already been addled by AiG?)

I’m not in any hurry on this—believe me!—and it is the very beginning of the school year, with all its busy-ness. Still, if anyone who meets the second criterion above would be interested, let me know, and we can begin to look into it. If enough scholars were interested that the work load were low, it could be a real service.

BACK TO POST By the way, P.Z. has been having a hell of a time. He won’t be grateful for your prayers, but if you’re in a position to give to Red Cross, donate blood, or otherwise render service to heart patients, he’d be pleased.

[Ask a Biblical Scholar Anything was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2010/08/26. Except as noted, it is © 2010 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Pronouncing Sumerograms as Sumerograms?

Posted on by Brooke

Lots of times, we who read and copy Akkadian texts pronounce the sumerograms instead of normalizing them into Akkadian. It’s convenient, when in teaching or learning, or when dictating. Is it logical to suppose that the ancient scribes also did so?

Explanation about sumerograms in Akkadian, for the non-specialists out there:

Akkadian is the language of Assyrian and Babylonian texts, during more or less the 2nd and 1st millennia B.C.E. The writing system for Akkadian was borrowed from a completely different language, Sumerian. Consequently, while most of the signs used to spell Akkadian represent syllables (not single sounds, as with an alphabet), the scribes would often represent an entire Akkadian word by using the Sumerian sign that had represented that word in Sumerian. So, a phrase spelled entirely with syllabic Akkadian characters like this (from Code of Hammurapi §102):

šum-ma tam-ka-ru-um a-na ša-ma-al-le-em ka-as-pa-am a-na ta-ad-mi-iq-tim it-ta-di-in-ma…

This represents the spoken phrase, šumma tamkarum ana šamallêm kaspam ana tadmiqtim ittaddin-ma… (“If a trader has given silver to a trading agent as an advance…”). But, in practice, such a phrase would employ many sumerograms along with the syllabic signs: here, DAM.GAR3 for tamkarum, ŠAMAN2.LA2 for šamallêm, and KUG.BABBAR for kaspam. As a result, the actual spelling turns out to be:

šum-ma DAM.GAR3 a-na ŠAMAN2.LA2 KUG.BABBAR a-na ta-ad-mi-iq-tim it-ta-di-in-ma…

The point of all this is that, in reading the text, you pronounce the Akkadian words, not the sumerograms that represent them. So, šumma tamkarum ana šamallêm kaspam anaetc. But, when we scholars are talking about the text, asking how it is written, we might pronounce the sumerograms as sumerograms, so our hearer understands what’s happening on the tablet: "shumma dam gar-three ana shaman-two-la-two kug babbar ana…etc."

Does that make sense? There is reading what the text says, when you pronounce the sumerograms as the Akkadian words they represent; then there is talking about how the text says it, where you pronounce the sumerograms as sumerograms.

Getting on with things:

My question concerns whether some texts suggest that ancient scribes—at least sometimes, presumably among themselves—pronounced sumerograms as sumerograms, rather than as the Akkadian words they represent.

Take a text I came across in Lesson Eighteen in Huehnergard’s grammar.[1] Line four of the tablet contains the sumerogram AD.TA.NI, when expected is AD.A.NI (AD represents “father,” and A.NI represents “his/her”). So why is the sign TA used instead of A? Physically, the signs are not remotely alike and could not be confused one for the other. Well, in Akkadian, the dental consonants are not always carefully distinguished: so, the sumerogram AD also can represent, not only the sound /ad/, but also /at/ or /aṭ/. I would—hesitantly—wonder if the spelling AD.TA.NI reflect a rapid pronunciation of the sumerograms: /at-ta-ni/ for /at-a-ni/.

This had been in the back of my mind since I came across it recently, when lo! and behold, I find this note to the 75th Amarna letter: [2] “Very hesitantly, it is proposed that KU.TI.TI is a syllabic writing for GU2.(UN).DI6.DI6, ābilāt bilti, lit. ‘bearers of tribute.’”

If Moran is “hesitant,” then I’m hesitant enough to stand behind him even more hesitantly. But, again, why shouldn’t the ancient scribes have found it convenient, as we do, to pronounce the sumerograms from time to time, especially in the context of teaching, learning, dictating, and taking dictation?

Does anybody know of more data on this? Are the Assyriologists all taking this kind of thing for granted, such that it’s no big deal? Anyone?

BACK TO POST The text is the adoption of a slave, from Vorderasiatische Schriftdenkmäler der Königlichen Museen zu Berlin; vol. 7,8.
BACK TO POST William L. Moran, The Amarna Letters; Baltimore: University of John Hopkins Press, 1992), page 146, EA 75 n. 7.

[Pronouncing Sumerograms as Sumerograms? was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2010/08/24. Except as noted, it is © 2010 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Little Help: The Old Testament in the New Testament

Posted on by Brooke

Do you have any favorite resources concerning allusion to the Hebrew Bible in the New Testament? It could be books, essays, or articles.

I’m thinking of things like Richard Hays’ Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (Yale, 1989) or J. Ross Wagner’s Heralds of the Good News: Isaiah and Paul ‘in Concert’ in the Letter to the Romans (Brill, 2002), or Thomas R. Hatina’s In Search of a Context: The Function of Scripture in Mark’s Narrative (Sheffield, 2002).

Do you have any favorites about the OT in the NT? And if so, what makes them good?