Saturday, October 23, 2010

Oxford Handbook of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Forthcoming from Oxford University Press - The Oxford Handbook of the Dead Sea Scrolls edited by Timothy Lim and John Collins. With a Dec 2010 publishing date, it should come out just in time for a late Christmas present for myself. I've been looking forward to this volume since first hearing about it from one of the contributors a couple of years ago. I'm impressed by the wide variety of perspectives represented by the 30 contributors. Most of the chapters address issues of Dead Sea Scrolls research that have long interested me such as the origins of the movement, the fascination with a solar calendar, and shared exegetical trajectories pointing toward rabbinic and early Christian literature.

The purpose behind the volume is described as follows.
It seeks to probe the main disputed issues in the study of the Scrolls. Lively debate continues over the archaeology and history of the site, the nature and identity of the sect, and its relation to the broader world of Second Temple Judaism and to later Jewish and Christian tradition. It is the Handbook's intention here to reflect on diverse opinions and viewpoints, highlight the points of disagreement, and point to promising directions for future research.
The Full Table of Contents can be found on OUP's website.

Now, where to find $150.00 for one book?

HT: Agade

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dilettante Access to the Dead Sea Scrolls

In a move that has DSS dilettantes everywhere bursting with excitement, the Israel Antiquities Authority has announced a partnership with Google to bring their archive of DSS fragments online in high resolution images.

The contents and origin of the DSS have been the source of decades of speculation for conspiracy theorists (and scholars) who just really really really wanted to know what the Scrolls said. Despite the fact that virtually everything has finally been officially published, a few dedicated crackpots continue to comb through the contents for clues to support their crazy theories linking Christianity to the DSS sect.

Now those crazy crackpots can go ahead and learn ancient Hebrew and decipher the scrolls for themselves once the collection is put online for everyone to see. It is indeed a great day for dilettante Qumran specialists.

But seriously, this is part of a larger effort by the IAA to preserve the scrolls which are becoming increasingly difficult to read due to decades of handling, light exposure, and poor preservation techniques. Transparency of the contents and free access are side benefits of the greater goal - making such high quality images that the image can take the place of the original for scholarly access. Well done, IAA. Keep up the good work!
"This is the ultimate image of the scroll you can get get," explained IAA project manager Pnina Shor, as she showed reporters an example of the imaging. "It presents an authentic copy of the scroll, that once online, there is no need to expose the scrolls anymore."
"We have succeeded in recruiting the best minds and technological means to preserve this unrivalled cultural heritage treasure, which belongs to all of us, so that the public, with a click of the mouse, will be able to access history in its fullest glamour," [IAA General Director Shuka] Dorfman said. (Via CNN)
HT: Agade mailing list w/ link to ABC News.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Contest! Find the Most Boring Book Title Ever!

Yes, academic tomes are prone to dry and boring titles, and, true, those titles are well-suited for the dense and rigorous academic arguments aimed at their target audience of libraries and 3 other scholars worldwide. But why does it have to be that way? I appreciate the value of study in the humanities but will anyone else if our standard product has titles like The Exchange of Goods and Services in Pre-Sargonic Lagash? Sounds like a real page-turner, doesn't it? I bet they'll just fly off the shelves once Eisenbrauns gets them in stock.

So, the rules of my contest are simple. Find a book (it has to be a real book) with a title that is even more dry and boring than the example above.  Leave a comment with the title and publisher or a link where I can verify it's a real book. The winner will be determined by a panel of judges (yet to be named) and will receive a copy of whatever book in my library has the worst, most boring title . . . unless I can think of something more exciting . . . or if I can find a sponsor . . . a $50.00 gift certificate from Eisenbrauns!! (Thanks to Eisenbrauns for sponsoring!)

My widely read friends in the biblioblogosphere must be bursting with ideas at this point, but just in case, I'll tag Scott, Jim, Nick, TC, Joel, Mark, James, Mark, Doug, Chris, John, Chris, John, Jim, and Brooke and encourage them to participate (or at least pass on the news of this exciting boring title contest).

Now, to track down a better prize . . .

Update to Contest Rules:
1. Enter as many titles as you like.
2. Entries not biblical studies or ancient history related will be tolerated.
3. Entries must be received by 10:00 AM CDT on Saturday, 10/16 to receive consideration.
4. Comments are moderated on this blog. If your entry does not appear immediately, do not repost.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Daniel in Ezekiel 14: Part 2

Back in August I presented the options for identifying the “Daniel” named in Ezekiel 14. Was it the biblical Daniel or another Canaanite legendary literary figure known as Danel or Dan’ilu? My money at the time was on the literary reference to the Canaanite Dan’ilu because of the different spelling in Ezekiel and the Canaanite setting in Ezek 28. The issue, however, was more complicated than that and the evidence doesn’t allow for an easy answer.

I’ve spent more time researching the arguments and evidence for and against the possibility that Ezekiel’s Daniel is Dan’ilu. While not without its own problems, I recommend Dan Wallace’s article that summarizes and critiques an article against the identification with Dan’ilu (Dressler) and an article for the connection to Dan’ilu (Day). To examine this issue, I read Dressler, Day, Wallace, and the relevant section from Daniel Block’s commentary. I also have commentaries by Zimmerli, Greenberg, and Allen on Ezekiel. For the most part, those commentaries only give a bare sketch of the evidence for why Dan’ilu is likely the referent and move on. Dressler gives his arguments for why Ezekiel is not referring to Dan’ilu, and Day explains why he thinks the opposite. No one argues in favor of an identification with biblical Daniel. They refute the arguments for Dan’ilu and assume the case is, therefore, intact for the only other option – biblical Daniel. At the end of the last post, I placed the burden of proof on those who would have us accept that Ezekiel had biblical Daniel in mind.
What they fail to realize is that all of their arguments calling the connection to Dan’ilu into question do not automatically provide support for a connection to biblical Daniel. Even if the identification of Dan’ilu is incorrect, the connection to Daniel the prophet is not thereby proven.
After further review of the evidence, I will concede that some of the objections to an identification of Dan’ilu with Ezekiel’s Daniel are valid. First, even Day, who argues in favor of Dan’ilu, concedes that spelling does not decide the issue. That was one of my two strands of evidence in part 1. Curiously, they do not directly address my second piece of evidence – the Canaanite context of Ezekiel 28. Dressler has some largely irrelevant nonsense about Dan’ilu not being a king per se, but he sidesteps the argument about Tyre and Ezek 28:3 (1979, 157).

The strongest argument against an identification of Dan’ilu as Ezekiel’s Daniel is that an appeal to a non-Israelite, non-Yahweh worshipper seems odd on Ezekiel’s lips in light of his emphasis on Israel’s great sin as idolatry. Would Ezekiel have promoted the righteousness of an idol worshipper when he goes out of his way to stress Israel’s unfaithfulness to Yahweh is the root cause of their exile? Block notes that even though Noah and Job were non-Israelite, they still worshipped Yahweh and Ezekiel’s audience would have been expected to know that (1997, 448). Day’s attempt to salvage this point by asserting Dan’ilu is an El worshipper, not a Baal worshipper, and the OT equates El with Yahweh is a stretch because he still has to admit that “Baal and other deities also figure in the Aqhat text” (1980, 177-8).

The strongest argument against equating Ezekiel’s Daniel with biblical Daniel is the chronological one. Assuming the historicity of the character and the events of the biblical book of Daniel (for sake of argument), the earliest stories of Daniel’s exile and experiences in Nebuchadnezzar’s court date to approximately 605 BCE. The typical terminus ad quem for the composition of Ezekiel’s oracles is around 570 BCE. Is it conceivable that Daniel’s reputation grew that quickly to be a relevant reference for Ezekiel’s audience? Rather than address the point, Block exclaims that it would be “inconceivable that Ezekiel’s audience would not have been familiar with him” (1997, 449). Dressler simply asserts that thirty-six years would have been “enough time to establish the fame of the Daniel of the Babylonian gôlāh” (1979, 158).

Neither option – Canaanite Dan’ilu or biblical Daniel – fits well: choosing one or the other leaves questions unanswered. Why would Ezekiel appeal to a polytheistic worshipper of Canaanite deities as an ideal righteous figure? Would a reference to a contemporary Jewish sage in Nebuchadnezzar’s court have made sense to Ezekiel’s audience? The problem is determining which side bears the burden of proof. Dressler argues throughout as if the burden rests with those who would reject biblical Daniel as the referent stating, “So far, no compelling arguments have been found which necessitate the rejection of the Biblical Daniel” (1979, 158). He frames his argument around four reasons that “have been advanced for denying that the Daniel of Ezekiel xiv and xxviii is to be identified with the Biblical Daniel” (155).

Wallace also places the burden on those who argue in favor of Dan’ilu. After refuting their arguments, he concludes that “Ezekiel’s Daniel is Daniel’s Daniel and that on this strand of evidence at least the sixth century date of Daniel still remains intact.” Wallace’s interest in the issue comes from supporting the date of the Book of Daniel. Apart from the biblical book of Daniel (setting aside the references in Ezekiel), the Jewish sage Daniel does not appear in Jewish literature until the mid 2nd century BCE. Some use that as circumstantial evidence that the book of Daniel is a product of the 2nd century BCE. Wallace believes he is supporting a 6th century BCE date for the book of Daniel by finding reference in Ezekiel to biblical Daniel.

So who bears the burden of proof? Can we assume an identification with biblical Daniel unless another viable candidate is found? There is no positive evidence that biblical Daniel is in view here. The Jewish sage Daniel would fit Ezekiel’s ideal of righteousness, but the chronological argument is difficult to dismiss. What we know of Dan’ilu from the Aqhat text makes him an odd choice for a paragon of virtue in the biblical sense, but the reference in Ezekiel 28 makes more sense with a Canaanite character and the other two in the list (Noah and Job) from Ezekiel 14 are ancient “heroes.” (Some have argued Ezek 28 is a reference to Dan’ilu while Ezekiel 14 is biblical Daniel.)

Either Daniel in Ezekiel is an otherwise unknown figure, or we know too little of Dan’ilu to understand the connection, or biblical Daniel’s reputation for righteousness was widely known in his day. I have to say I’m better informed about the issue than I was back in August, but I don’t have the answer.

Allen, Leslie C. Ezekiel 1-19. Word Biblical Commentary 28, 1994; Block, Daniel. The Book of Ezekiel, Chapters 1-24. Eerdmans, 1997; Day, John. “The Daniel of Ugarit and Ezekiel and the Hero of the Book of Daniel.” Vetus Testamentum 30:2 (1980), 174-184; Dressler, Harold H. P. “The Identification of the Ugaritic Dnil with the Daniel of Ezekiel” Vetus Testamentum 29:2 (1979), 152-16; Greenberg, Moshe. Ezekiel 1-20. Anchor Yale Bible 22, 1983; Wallace, Daniel B. “Who is Ezekiel’s Daniel” (accessed 10-10-10); Zimmerli, Walther. Ezekiel 1. Fortess Press, 1979.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Have You Subscribed to Bible Study Magazine?

The Nov/Dec issue of Bible Study Magazine is now available! Subscribe by Nov. 30 to get it. You won't regret it. I've received two issues so far, and I have to say it's the best new magazine I've seen in a long time. It's well designed, insightful about the Bible, and fun to read. And I'm not just saying that because I have articles published in the next 3 issues (starting with Nov/Dec). Here are two excerpts from my articles published in the current issue.
Hebrew Word Study
God is God, Right?
The names of God are a special case.
English translations represent God’s names in different ways—and they’re not always consistent. Sometimes the same English word is used for different Hebrew names. For example, “Lord God” can point to either Yahweh Elohim or Adonay Yahweh. Most English translations subtly represent the difference by putting the divine name Yahweh in small capitals—LORD God or Lord GOD. Using the reverse interlinear, we can find the underlying Hebrew and trace God’s name like any other.
When we do so in Genesis, we learn that God is known by His interactions with people—the God who sees (Gen 16:13), Yahweh who provides (Gen 22:14). God is often identified in Genesis by His association with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (e.g., Gen 24:12). With each generation, He renewed His covenant and identified Himself as the same God of Israel’s ancestors. This association is how the nation of Israel related to God.
Cutting Edge
The Story You’re about to Read is True:
Anyone who thinks reading the Bible is boring has never read the story of Joseph (Gen 37–50). Filled with action, suspense, irony and intrigue, this narrative is biblical storytelling at its best. Some would say that such literary artistry smacks of fiction.1 Others consider it fictional since there is no archaeological evidence that Joseph ever existed, let alone ruled Egypt at Pharaoh’s right hand. So how does ancient history and archaeology help us understand the story of Joseph? And does the evidence point to fiction or the basis of a true story?
 Some like to use history and archaeology to prove or disprove the accuracy of the Bible. My studies in ancient history started out along those lines—seeking proof of the existence of Joseph to defend the accuracy of the Bible. Along the way, I learned that my quest for direct confirmation of the stories of Genesis was in vain, but history and archaeology consistently illuminated a plausible historical core at the center of the story. While we may never find “Joseph was here” scratched on the wall in an ancient Egyptian back alley, the Joseph story is packed with historical details that can be verified.