SBL 2007 (p. 9)

Of all 8 trips down & back, I encountered the most traffic Monday morning, causing a loss of 15 minutes, but which turned out to be inconsequential. All things considered, downtown traffic in San Diego never became a big deal.

My first session on this final day of the conferences was in a very large room of the Grand Hyatt, “Function of Apocryphal & Pseudepigraphal Writings in Early Judaism & Early Christianity (through 3rd to 4th centuries CE)”, scheduled to begin at 9:00am. My goal was to meet James Charlesworth, ask him to autograph his landmark “Old Testament Pseudepigrapha” (both volumes), & also ask about his LMLK handle(s).

I thought I had a good idea what he looked like from a recent BAR magazine photo in archeological attire, so I arrived around 15 minutes early & began scanning the crowd exiting a banquet next door that had just concluded. No one recognizable in attendance … they all had suits on!

Around 8:55, Hershel Shanks arrived. I asked if he were planning to attend the Pseudepigrapha session with James Charlesworth, & he nodded. I pointed him in the right direction (I was standing near an intersection where I could keep one eye on people entering the lecture room, & another one on the long hallway approaching it), & noted that I was going to stay where I was so I could meet Dr. Charlesworth when he arrived. I watched as Mr. Shanks proceeded on & greeted a guy at the door who wasn’t wearing a name tag. I had seen him outside, & though he had vaguely resembled the general description of Dr. Charlesworth in my mind, I couldn’t be certain, & had decided not to risk approaching him. Sure enough, as I discovered once the lecture began, it was him.

In hindsight, I’m surprised Mr. Shanks didn’t say, “Hey Jim, there’s a guy waiting over there to meet you“, or “Hey [George], here he is!” I guess he was either protecting him, or didn’t care, or has a very short memory…

So there went my chances of getting to meet him. He had also spoken each of the 2 days previous, but Saturday morning I had decided to go to the museums, & Sunday evening I wasn’t carrying his books because I had Andy’s. I consoled myself by concentrating on the honor of at least being able to attend a lecture by him, & one related to the Pseudepigrapha (as his Sat. & Sun. papers were on subjects of little interest to me–DSS influence on Matthew & John):

The Book of the People from the People of the Book

The scriptures did not descend from heaven in a complete form, but took shape due to expansion, addition, and final editing. The People of the Book were involved in shaping the book by a process that was long and extended from before the Babylonian Exile until past the first century. The focus of this report is column seven of the Pesher Habakkuk. By looking at this column we see a scribal school at work, correcting a commentary. It is also possible that scripture was changed to clarify the meaning of the lemma cited.

He discussed its “many scribal errors“, showing how numerous consonants are “confused” in part due to the words not being separated, & also the lack of vowels. At one point I scribbled a note that Mike Welch would love to be here–he loves this kind of stuff, & is also a Charlesworth fan. Later, he talked about the “Wow connective” (I get a kick out of hearing people pronounce the consonants of the U & T Hebrew letters differently–yesterday Nili Fox said “-awv“, & today he said “-ow“–that’s about as different as they get). He asked, “Why would this scribe omit the Wow?

Though I wasn’t able to write fast enough to catch his exact wording, I’ll paraphrase the answer thus: They not only copied the text, they felt empowered to interpret it as they went along for the purpose of sharing newly revealed meaning to the “people of the book“. It was transmitted by people who revered it, but the interpretation belonged to the Holy Spirit.

(Note again that he, like Grabbe the previous night, only more so, did not feel it necessary to remind everyone that there’s no such thing as a Holy Spirit.)

He concluded in dramatic fashion listing 8 types of “people of the book“:

  1. The shepherds who selected the sheep
  2. The priests who scraped its skin
  3. The scribes who scribed the horizontal & vertical guidelines
  4. The craftsmen who sewed the skins together
  5. The [craftsmen?] who made the lampblack & adhesives for ink
  6. The handiwork of a gifted scribe who imagined what Habakkuk “should” have written
  7. Another scribe who corrected the mistakes & haplography
  8. Yet another scribe who restored the words that weren’t copied

For additional/better information on this entire session, please direct your attention to Kevin Edgecomb’s terrific blog (Part 1, Part 2, & Part 3; compare the scholarly content of his report against mine for proof of the damage too many donuts, ketchup-soaked french-fries, & “I Love Lucy” reruns can do to one’s brain over the years; in the words of Beth Alpert Nakhai, I feel like such a moron!).

This morning, like the other conference days, I had to make some tough choices. In the hope of getting to meet Dr. Charlesworth, I had passed up 2 interesting archeological lectures in a concurrent session, “Biblical Lands and Peoples in Archaeology and Text”:

Feasting Fit for a King: The Role of Feasting in the Development of the Israelite Monarchy” by Nathan MacDonald

(Speaking of fried yummies…)

Although food is often viewed as a conservative element in society, it can also have a role in social change as recent work on feasting has sought to demonstrate. In this paper textual and archaeological data for the development of Israel from a segmentary society to a monarchy is re-examined. Whilst early proponents of the use of social-scientific methods made significant gains in their analysis of early Israelite society, their work had numerous gaps. One of these was the use of agricultural surpluses and how these were controlled and invested to drive forwards technological and social change. Recent anthropological and archaeological work on feasting allows this lacuna to be filled, whilst also highlighting the role food and feasting plays in the Old Testament literature that describes the early Israelite experience.

The Extent and Intensity of Sennacherib’s Campaign to Judah” by Avraham Faust

A detailed examination of data from dozens of excavated sites, urban and rural alike, reveals that most parts of Judah prospered in the 7th century BCE. Systematic investigation of the data conducted both on the site level and on a regional basis allows us to identify patterns of continuity, prosperity and decline during the transition from the 8th to the 7th century BCE. In this paper the identified patterns will be presented, and possible explanations for them will be suggested. These patterns will then be compared and contrasted with information from the various textual sources (both the biblical and the Assyrian sources) on Sennacherib’s campaign to Judah in 701, in order to gain a better understanding of the campaign and its impact on the kingdom of Judah.

Public denouncement to the SBL organizer(s) who scheduled this session to overlap with Charlesworth’s Pseudepigrapha one: I hate you!

After Dr. Charlesworth’s lecture, I had to choose between John Hobbins–another blogger I admire much, & another entry in this archeology session (which Ann Killebrew was presiding over):

The Mesha Inscription and Iron Age II Water Systems: A Revised Proposal” by Jonathan Kaplan

The Mesha Inscription details the construction of water systems at both Baal-Meon and Dibon (lines 9, 23-25). Mesha speaks of having made an ’šwh? in these two towns. The nature of this water system remains ambiguous in the text except for its distinction from private household cisterns (br; lines 24-25). In 1969 Y. Yadin identified the ’šwh? with the monumental water systems of the type present at Megiddo, Hazor, Gezer, and Gibeon. Recently, P. King and L. E. Stager have argued against Yadin’s suggestion and instead have correlated ’šwh? with the type of well-planned reservoirs present at Arad, Beth-Shemesh, Tel Sheva, and Kadesh Barnea. In this paper, I will first reexamine the meaning of ’šwh? and related hydrological terms in the Mesha Inscription and then explore the arguments made by Yadin and King and Stager against the backdrop of Iron Age II water systems in Israel and Judah. I will argue that King and Stager’s correlation of the ’šwh? with the southern group of water systems is highly probable and is further buttressed by evidence from the Copper Scroll (3Q15). I will also propose, building on linguistic observations made by J. A. Emerton and S. Ahituv, that the northern group of water systems may be correlated with the term mkrtt in line 25 of the Mesha Inscription.

I ended up choosing the former. His session was “National Association of Professors of Hebrew”–the last place on Earth you’d expect to find me! It was in the Marriott, & when I arrived at 10:07 & saw that it was one of the mini-rooms, I thought to myself as I stood in front of its (only) door, “This has got to be the most outrageous thing I’ve ever done in my life–I can’t believe I’m doing this…“, & I opened the door…

Sure enough, it was one of my worst fears personified–except for the scholarly gentleman was speaking, it was deafeningly quiet, several of the dozen-or-so attendees stared at me, & no empty seats in the back! I spotted one in the middle, so I quickly sat in it, & hoped they’d get over my interruption quickly, which I’m sure they did. From there on for the next 18 minutes, things went well, & though I soon discovered it was not Pastor Hobbins speaking, but David Stein (of Redondo Beach!!!), whom I had never heard of before. His paper turned out to be quite interesting (at least the latter half which I heard):

The Grammar of Social Gender in Biblical Hebew [sic]”

Most scholars of the Hebrew Bible accept that its grammatically masculine language at times functions in a gender-neutral or gender-inclusive manner. The same is said for ‘male’ personal nouns such as ’ish: in some situations they refer to women as well as to men. This paper attempts to fill an apparent void in scholarship by systematically addressing the following question: To what extent do the Bible’s masculine language and ‘male’ personal nouns allow for the possibility that women are in view? This paper’s approach is philological (inductive), taking the biblical corpus as a whole and distilling the rules of its linguistic system according to a plain-sense reading of the text. The investigation, which focuses on what the biblical text seems to expect of its readers, arises out of research undertaken in the author’s role as revising editor of ‘The Contemporary Torah: A Gender-Sensitive Adaptation of the JPS Translation’ (Jewish Publication Society, 2006). After considering relevant observations in the standard grammars, the paper looks at the import of apparent maleness of three linguistic types: second-person singular address; third-person singular references; and so-called male nouns such as ’ish. It finds that such language does not specify social gender unless the the [sic] address or reference is either definite-particular or indefinite-specific. Often — perhaps most of the time — grammatically masculine language and so-called male nouns neither confirm nor deny social gender.

The most interesting point I captured from him was that “man” in Old English was a gender-neutral term, & it was perfectly normal in those days to say, “She’s a really fine man!

At first I thought that he was finishing up, but as time went on, I realized that either their agenda had changed, or he was greatly exceeding his allotted time. I had estimated Pastor Hobbins to speak from 10:10-10:45, & figured I’d be able to hear the first half before needing to head south for the CC; but alas, he didn’t finish till 10:24. Now I had another tough decision: Should I stay to hear Pastor Hobbins’ opening remarks–maybe 3 or 4 minutes at the most, & then exit; or should I exit before he began so as to not disrupt his presentation??

How Well Do You Know Biblical Hebrew? Reflections on the Pedagogy of Menahem Mansoor

As his students will attest, Menahem Mansoor was a master teacher of biblical Hebrew. Key features of his method will be provided in outline, with personal memories thrown in for good measure. A strategy for recovering the strengths of Mansoor’s method is set forth. A survey of online resources by which that might be done will be provided.

I chose the latter as a way of atoning for my earlier intrusion (assuming that this elite group of Hebrew professors would understand the concept of atonement). According to his report on his blog, I probably would’ve enjoyed his presentation because of the humor he interjected into it, but it would’ve been too rude to leave right after he had told an opening joke. Then again, from his description, I might have been so entertained as to lose track of time & forget the next stop on my agenda!

G.M. Grena

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4 Responses to “SBL 2007 (p. 9)”

  1. Kevin P. Edgecomb Says:

    Thanks, George! I appreciate the compliments. It’s always good to hear what other people remember. I’m going to record them next year.

    I’m sorry I missed you. If you remember the people there, I was the guy with the light green shirt with a shaved head and a blue bandana. I was talking with Ken Penner, Lee McDonald and Jim Charlesworth up front just before the talking started. I then sat down on the right side, a few rows back, sniffling occasionally (or rather frequently: I had a brutal cold, as did many others). Where were you?

    Go to the same consultation next year in Boston! I’m sure he’d be happy to sign your OTP!

  2. G.M. Grena Says:

    I don’t remember the shaved head & bandana, but I do remember the group of 3 or 4 of you up front chatting before it began–I was scrutinizing the guy who turned out to be Dr. Charlesworth. Funny, even now I don’t remember exactly what he was wearing!

    I sat in the aisle seat in the last row (i.e., the booth in the back in the corner in the dark, for Flip Wilson fans) wearing a very bright red necktie containing the alphabet in cuneiform, paleo, & block intertwined like DNA (nobody noticed). Until Dr. Charlesworth was introduced, I held out the hope that he would enter through that door. I would not have interrupted him then, but still wanted to keep an eye on all the name tags as people entered.

    And take comfort that I definitely don’t remember anyone sniffling, but do remember a loud crash of glasses from the hotel staff as they were cleaning up from the banquet next door.

    I’d love to return to the conferences every year now, but it’s a low priority for me financially. In addition to your recordings, it would be nice if ASOR & SBL recorded all of them & made MP3s available for download for a nominal fee–I mentioned this in an earlier blog, because it’s what some music artists are doing for their concerts now–it puts bootleggers out of business, helps generate funds & publicity, & most importantly, helps preserve what actually transpires at these sessions, rather than History having to rely on faulty memories like mine!

  3. Kevin P. Edgecomb Says:

    I think I would have remembered that tie! Well, I’m sorry to have missed you. If you do manage to make it up to the SF Bay Area sometime, let me know. We can meet up that way. I don’t often go to So Cal anymore, with no family down there any more. I’ll see you soon enough!

  4. G.M. Grena Says:

    I’m hoping to return to the Bade Institute at the Pacific School of Religion sometime, but have no idea yet when … 2011 SBL conference is a good candidate!

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