11/27 @ 5:30 pm: Stefan Schorch visits

Dear colleagues,

Please join us on Monday, Nov. 27th at 5:30 pm (Swift 208) for a talk by Prof. Stefan Schorch (Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenburg – personal website) on “Written and Oral Transmission of the Samaritan Torah, and the Challenges of a Critical Edition”:

The Samaritan Pentateuch differs from the Masoretic text of the Torah in multiple and multifarious textual details. Although many of these differences seem to originate in the textual and dialectal diversity prevailing in 4th-2nd century BCE Palestine, their earliest attestation in Samaritan manuscripts and in the Samaritan oral reading of the Torah is mostly much younger (the earliest dated manuscripts of SP come from the 12th century, the earliest recordings of Samaritan Hebrew dates to the late 19th century). Moreover, the peculiarities of Samaritan manuscript culture and the Samaritan Hebrew dialect influenced the written and oral transmission of the Samaritan Torah, and the analysis and assessment of the Samaritan Pentateuch therefore require close attention to these characteristic contexts. Proceeding from an introduction into the Samaritan Torah, Samaritan manuscript culture, and Samaritan Hebrew, the presentation will demonstrate, with the help of samples from a forthcoming critical edition, how these challenges can be be resolved in order to make the Samaritan Torah accessible and to create a reliable basis for its further research.
Refreshments will be served. Please RSVP to jjcross@uchicago.edu if you plan on attending. We look forward to seeing you there!

Conference session paper titles & abstracts

We hope you can join us on Wednesday, November 15th (4:30 pm, Swift Commons) for our practice SBL session. This year, we will hear papers on innovative approaches to the Dead Sea Scrolls, Second Isaiah, and the Song of Songs. Please see the following talk titles and descriptions:

Dr. Sarah Yardney, “Assessing Current Methods for Reconstructing Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls: A Quantitative Approach”:

Scholars reconstructing biblical Dead Sea Scrolls generally rely on one of two methods for estimating available space and testing options for reconstruction: a widely used older method, which uses character count; and a newer method, proposed by Edward Herbert, which calculates the average width of each character in a particular scribal hand and uses those averages. This paper will argue that although Herbert’s method is a modest improvement over the older approach, both fail to consistently predict how long a line of text will be with accuracy. Thus in many cases, neither method for estimating available space in a scroll is precise enough to allow scholars to assess potential reconstructions with confidence. This argument relies on a quantitative comparison between computer-aided measurements of photographed scrolls and estimates of line lengths produced by the two current scholarly methods.

Marshall Cunningham, “Isaiah 40:1–2: Divine Commissioning and a “Return” to Jerusalem”:

The plural imperatives that open Deutero-Isaiah’s speech to his Babylonian community in 40.1–2 have long challenged interpreters. Whom is the deity addressing through the prophet’s speech? Because ch. 40 constitutes the beginning of a new composition, Isa 40–48 (following Haran), the apparent lack of a clear addressee presents an interpretive crux for how the work as a whole should be understood. Both the translators of the LXX and the Targumin were troubled by this absence and so interpolated explicit addressees–priests and prophets, respectively–to remedy the problem. Against the standard interpretation, which problematically takes the members of the divine council as the addressees of these imperatives, I present a new reading that argues that the deity is in fact addressing the members of Deutero-Isaiah’s Babylonian community. Verses 1–2 serve to commission this community, identified throughout the composition as Jacob/Israel, to the role of royal herald, charged with announcing Yahweh’s victory over Babylon and his triumphant return to his capital city. This interpretation makes better sense of these verses’ immediate literary context–a royal procession from Babylonia to Judah–and the greater composition of which it is a part, as well as the prophet’s historical context. The new evidence from Al–Ya?udu suggests communities of displaced Judeans could find themselves quickly adapting to their new Babylonian surroundings. Members of these communities owned property and slaves, participated in local commerce with Judeans and non-Judeans alike, and conformed to Babylonian custom in social practices like marriage. This degree of economic, political, and social embeddedness helps to explain Deutero-Isaiah’s strong rhetorical efforts to persuade his audience to leave their homes in Babylonia throughout the composition. The commissioning in 40.1–2 therefore functions as an extraordinary motivator for an embedded audience; the deity tasks his people–addressed as ‘ammî in v. 1aß–not only with returning to Jerusalem; he also charges them to announce the good news of Yahweh’s victory and return to the fallen city.

Kelli Gardner, “Flowing with Milk and Honey: Body as Landscape in the Song of Songs”:

Throughout the Pentateuch, the land of Canaan, promised to Abraham’s descendants, is described as a “land flowing with milk and honey.” Despite the frequency of its use and the centrality of its referent, commentators have paid relatively little attention to this recurrent phrase, often dismissing it as merely a clichéd or hyperbolic metaphor. As a result, there has been very little consideration of this characterization’s metaphorical meaning and associations. In this paper, I will suggest that this ubiquitous characterization of the promised land is a metaphor that understands the land in terms of a fertile female body, a regular emitter of liquids throughout her childbearing years. While this fluidic physiological reality of the female body is depicted throughout the Hebrew Bible, it is in the poetic text of the Song of Songs that the details and delights of the female body are explicitly associated with milk and honey and repeatedly described as flowing and fragrant. Through a close examination of the metaphorical descriptions of the female body in the Song of Songs as liquid landscape (Song 4:12-16; 5:2-5) and fragrant foodscape (Song 4:10-11; 5:1; 7:3), this presentation will argue that the woman in the Song of Songs, who is herself figured as flowing with milk and honey, exemplifies and augments the metaphorical logic at work in the pentateuchal association between fertile female bodies and productive landscapes.


Thursday, 11/16: Prof. Tova Ganzel visits

On Thursday, November 15th, at 4:30 pm (Swift Common Room), we are pleased to welcome Prof. Tova Ganzel (Bar-Ilan) who will present her paper entitled “‘The Rabbis Sought to Withdraw the Book of Ezekiel’: Rabbinic Responses to the Challenges Posed by the Book of Ezekiel”:

An examination of references to the book of Ezekiel in rabbinic literature reveals a complex attitude toward this work. On the one hand, this book is quoted in almost all the tractates of the BT; on the other hand, three sources call for its withdrawal from circulation, both because of contradictions with the Pentateuch (especially in chapters 40-48) and the dangers of its mystical chapters. We will discuss the methods, mainly exegetical, employed by the rabbis to avoid its withdrawal from circulation and Ezekiel’s status as a prophet, priest, and lawmaker in rabbinic eyes.

Please see the attached document which Prof. Ganzel kindly provided which includes the sources she will be using for her talk: ganzel The Rabbis Sought to Withdraw the Book of Ezekiel handout 27-10-2er5xib

Refreshments will be served.