Music Wrestling with Religion: Hopsin (Explicit Language)

Lately, I’ve been interested how music reflects upon religion and religious topics. So, I plan on sporadically posting the music of some artists who have wrestled with this issue through their own music. Regarding the explicit language, I am not interest in censoring how people deal with the question and issue of religion.

Ill Mind of Hopsin 7 (Explicit):

On Prophecy in the Ancient World

third_mari

Source: Wikipedia

More often than not, understandings of prophecy arise from hearing about or reading the Hebrew Bible. Books like Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, and Isaiah shapes and form these understandings. In this blog post, I will briefly examine one example of prophecy which occurred before all else in the Hebrew Bible. By looking at this text, I hope to demonstrate, through non-biblical material, a function of prophecy in the ancient world. The letter which I will write about was written around the 18th century BCE (c. 1800 BCE) [1].

In this letter, Inibsina is communicating with her brother who she calls Kakkabi (Zimri-Lin) [2]. Within the letter, we first read the following: “Previously, Selebum the Assinu gave a prophecy to me… Now, one female Qammatum of Dagan of Terqa came to me.” Here, Inibsina is telling Kakkabi that she previously received a prophecy. Now, she received another prophecy from a religious priestess. What did this priestess prophecy, then?

“The alliances of the men of Esnunna (a city in the ancient world) are deceptive. And, under the straw, the water will go; and toward the net, of which it can be said I will bind, I will gather it. His city I will destroy, and his stuff, which from ancient times was not defiled, I will defile.”

What is going on here? For the sake of this post, there are two main things which should be addressed: what is the message and who is the speaker?

In this prophecy which was first reported to Inibsina, the message is fairly straightforward: current allies of Kakkabi are deceptive and will not remains faithful to the alliance. As a result, the god Dagan of Terqa will destroy the city of those in the alliance who are deceptive [3]. In other words, the god recognizes the unfaithfulness of some members in the alliance. So, he will destroy them. As for the speaker, it is Dagan of Terqa speaking through the Qammatum priestess.

What does this mean, though, for how we think about religion, politics, and society in the ancient world? As this text demonstrates, the gods are understood to be directly involved in politics and social relation. Consequently, religion is directly involved with politics and social relations. Viewing it the other way, politics is directly involved with religion. Either way we look at this letter, it is evident that the people living in 18th century BCE Mari did not make a large distinction, if any, between politics and religion. They were intrinsically intertwined, if not the same.

Likewise, prophecy was intrinsically intertwined into politics. Although popular modern notions of prophecy tend to distinguish it from politics, this ancient letter demonstrates that it was, during this period, understood as part of the political atmosphere. This notion of prophecy for both religious and political ends is important because it may inform how we understand prophecy within the Hebrew Bible. Though I do not advocate that all prophecy in the Hebrew Bible is politically driven, it is worth keeping this reality in mind as we read through prophetic literature in the Hebrew Bible [4].

[1] ARM 10 80. Translation is my own.

[2] Martti Nissinen, Prophets and Prophecy in the Ancient Near East, Atlanta: SBL Press, p. 28 n. b. For simplicity, Kakkabi is best understood as a nickname for Zimri-Lin.

[3] My attempt is not a careful and close reading. I simply want to present the gist of the text.

[4] Ancient Israelite prophecy is, in fact, a unique phenomenon.

Bibliography:

Charpin, Dominique (Paris), “Mari”, in: Brill’s New Pauly, Antiquity volumes edited by: Hubert Cancik and , Helmuth Schneider. Consulted online on 23 April 2017 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1574-9347_bnp_e723510&gt;

Nissinen, Martti, Prophets and Prophecy in the Ancient Near East, Atlanta: SBL Press,

A Translation of Psalm 93

In this translation of Psalm 93, my goal is not to present a ‘literal’ translation. Rather, my goal is to demonstrate the historical context and understanding of this ancient Judean Psalm through the translation itself. Furthermore, this is primarily an attempt to provide clarity for myself in my understanding and interpretation of this Psalm. That said, some of it may be unclear. I still hope it is enjoyable.

1a. Yahweh is King!
1b. In majestic attire he is clothed,
1c. He is clothed, namely Yahweh, in mighty attire.
1d. He himself is girded [for war].

1e. Moreover, he established the world
1f. It will not be shaken (or it is immovable).

2a. Your throne was established from a time of old
2b. From eternity you are.

3a. The rivers looked up to Yahweh,
3b. The rivers raised their thunders (in the sense of a loud war cry)
3c. The rivers will grow their crashing! (in the sense of more war cries.

4a. Great than the thunders of the sea,
4b. And more majestic than the breakers of the sea,
4c. Is Yahweh, mighty in the high place.

5a. They have greatly confirmed your throne (or testimonies)
5b. Your temple is befitting for the holy ones (or holiness)

5c. Yahweh is for all days!

Although it may be difficult to detect, this Psalm contains much mythical imagery. For example. the idea of a deity girding himself in might is a common idea throughout the ancient Near East. So, Yahweh is not just putting on an idea of might; rather, Yahweh is putting on a physical thing, namely might as armour.

In 1e-f, we see that Yahweh established the world! He established the world in such a way that no other deity is able to come shake it. Importantly, the notion of establishing the world is directly related the kingship. So, when Yahweh establishes the world so that it is immovable, he is also establishing his rule over the world.

Verses 2a-b confirm this. Here, though, somebody is speaking directly to YHWH. Due to this Psalm’s affinities with language from older West Semitic compositions, some have dated this text as far back as the 10th century BCE (cf. Shenkel, 1965). This means the Psalms may have actually been used for worship in the ancient world. Here, then, the people using this Psalm may have been involved. Responding to Yahweh’s status as a divine warrior and establishment of the world, they speak directly to him. They do this by acknowledging the antiquity of Yahweh.

In 3a-c, the myth of the defeat of the sea is told. Throughout ancient myth, the waters are often times the antagonist. We see the same thing in this Psalm. The Psalm begins by recounting the account: the waters looked towards Yahweh, and they raised their thunder! Now, they will make more thunder with their crashing. The question of noise is important because throughout ancient myth, deities often turn against those who make noise. We see this in Enuma Elish and Atrahasis. So, here the waters are the antagonist because they will become louder by crashing more.

In 4a-c, Yahweh is said to be great than all the mighty and majesty of the seas. In light of the idea of noise as a form of rebellion, 4a-c shows that this rebellion of nothing for Yahweh. After all, Yahweh is mightier than the seas. His high place, namely his temple, is so far above the rebellious waters that they pose no threat to him, for he is mightier than them.

Like 2a-b, we see more speech directed towards Yahweh in 5a-b. Here, they first comment that Yahweh’s majesty over and above the waters confirms his status as divine ruler. Regarding the choice of throne as opposed to testimonies, this is a complicated argument which I will not lay out here. If you are interested let me know. Following, the speaker(s) comment that Yahweh’s temple is befitting for the holy ones, or holiness. Again, this is a complicated issue. Even so, the point is that Yahweh’s temple represents the strength of the divine warrior.

Finally, 5c concludes with a declarative statement. It is like putting the cherry on top of the McFlurry.

What Do I Think About the Hebrew Bible?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

14th century CE copy of the Bible (Source: Wikipedia)

Previously, I posted about how we can think about the historical reliability of the Hebrew Bible. As I continue this series, I plan to continue exploring this question. Although it may not seem important, one of the most important things we can do first is ask ourselves a question: what do I think of the Hebrew Bible? Preconceived notions of the Hebrew Bible will often times guide how we read and understand the Hebrew Bible. Interestingly, this can happen across the spectrum. In order to demonstrate this, I will offer thoughts from both sides of the spectrum. I know these are not representative of everybody. I use these generalizations in order to make the point that we have to think about what we think of the Hebrew Bible, regardless of where we stand.

On the far right, we have conservative groups. These groups may be Christian or Jewish. Often times, when more conservative readers approach the Hebrew Bible, there is a preconceived notion that the text of the Hebrew Bible is holy in some manner. Being holy, it will speak the truth. Therefore, what we see in the bible is probably historically accurate.

Naturally, this view is not necessarily wrong. As I pointed out previously, some parts of the Hebrew Bible may be historically reliable. Other parts of it may not be historically reliable. So, in one sense, it is good that conservative groups automatically assume the historical reliability of the Hebrew Bible. Many part of I and II Kings, for example, are historically reliable.

However, this view is also problematic. Think about, for example, Genesis 1:1-2:4. Many would argue that this text reflects and records the history of how God created the universe. When we look the Hebrew Bible’s historical context, though, it becomes apparent that there are many versions of how deities created the world and established kingship. Historically, these texts were never meant to present a material history of exactly how the deity created; rather, they were meant to demonstrate that the deity was a legitimate ruler. In other words, the goals was not to write history.

Therefore, it is problematic to see Genesis 1:1-2:4 as a historical account of how God created the world. I make this claim  based on the historical context of Genesis 1:1-2:4.

On the other side of the spectrum, though, we have people who are strongly opposed to religion. And the Hebrew Bible is a religious book. Therefore, we should be extremely skeptical about it [1]. In reading the Hebrew Bible, they may be substantially more skeptic about accepting anything in it as historically reliable. This approach, of course, is valuable. Like I posted previously, some part of the Hebrew Bible are absolutely not historical. Genesis 1:1-2:4, for example, is myth. It is not history.

However, some part of the Hebrew Bible are historically reliable. So, viewing the Hebrew Bible entirely skeptically is problematic. Consider, for example, II Kings 18-19. In this passage, we see an account of Sennacherib attacking Jerusalem. What is more, we also have written documentation by Assyrians during that period which reference this attack upon Jerusalem. Although both texts differ in how they understand the event, they nonetheless point to the same event. Therefore, we should be cautious to quickly dismiss the historical reliability of the Hebrew Bible.

In either case, whether conservative or liberal and strongly opposed to religion, we must recognize that we often read our own preconceived notions and ideas into the Hebrew Bible. These notions may sometimes be valuable, such as skepticism of the historical reality of Genesis 1:1-2:4. Or, on the other side, acceptance of the historical reality of Kings. In either case, the reader needs to be critical not just of the text; rather, the reader needs to be critical of where they come from.

By asking ourselves, “What are my preconceived ideas about the Hebrew Bible,” we are able to approach it critically. We are able to ask questions which we normally wouldn’t ask. Only by doing this are we able to think about the historical reliability of the Hebrew Bible [2].

[1] Please let me know if this is totally inaccurate. This was not my background. So, it is more difficult for me to explain.

[2] This is a constant process. No matter how long one has been reading the Hebrew Bible or studying the ancient Near East, we must constantly ask ourselves what our own preconceived notions are.

Is the Hebrew Bible a Historically Reliable Text?

The following is a draft which I am developing for Ancient History Encyclopedia. Although I will be writing on ancient Israelite and Judean religion, the historical reliability of the Hebrew Bible is problematic for many, scholars and non-scholars alike. In particular, the historical reliability of the Hebrew Bible’s portrayal of ancient Israelite religion is problematic. Thus, I wrote this piece to undergird my presentation of ancient Israelite and Judean Religion. As I proceed, I will add more layers to the issue. My goal, though, is to make the information comprehensible. 

The historicity of the Hebrew Bible is a complex issue. In order to decide whether or not it is historically reliable, we must pay close attention to the text, archaeology, and other literature from the ancient Near East. After analyzing the Hebrew Bible alongside other ancient Near Eastern literature and archaeology, we can make an informed decision as to whether or not we should utilize the Hebrew Bible for understanding the history in the regions throughout the Levant (the Levant is the area encompassing modern day Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria).

800px-targum

Source: Wikipedia

In seeking to understand the historical reliability of the Hebrew Bible, though, we must take three factors into consideration. First, we must consider that the Hebrew Bible was not originally written and composed as a single document; rather, it is an anthology of ancient writings. The ancient writing were written by many authors, over a long period of time. Thus, any attempt to answer the question must consider the varying degrees of historically reliability of texts within the anthology. Some texts may be historically reliable. Some texts may not be historically reliable.

Second, we must consider the length of time over which the Hebrew Bible was developed. As Sara Mandell notes, the history of the Hebrew Bible is “a historically late, redacted composite that presents the diverse religious and historical perspectives of its several layers of editors.”[i] In simpler words, the Hebrew Bible consists of texts which were edited by many people. By the time of the earliest, fully compiled version of the Hebrew Bible (c. 300 BCE), the text had been developed and edited for nearly 600 years. Because it was developed over such a long period of time, it contains traditions and ideas which reflect the culture of the 10th century BCE. Yet, it also contains traditions and ideas which reflect the culture of the 3rd century BCE. So, when we think about whether or not the Hebrew Bible is historically reliable, it is essential that we recognize that it was written and edited over a long period of time and in many different historical contexts, not just one.

Third, the Hebrew Bible is not just history. Within the Hebrew Bible, there are many different genres of texts. For example, the Psalms contains liturgical hymns used in temple contexts, lamentations, personal prayers, and many other genres of literature. Additionally, texts like 1 and 2 Kings are historiography, historiography being an attempt to tell history through a particular worldview. In the case of 1 and 2 Kings, the author(s) viewed the history through a theological lens. In addressing the historically reliability of the Hebrew Bible, then, we must think about the genre of text. Would one read Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) like it is a poem? Absolutely not. Darwin’s book is about scientific observations. It does not fall within the genre of poetry. Likewise, we should be aware of the genre of text we read within the Hebrew Bible. By doing so, it can help us to understand how relevant the particular text in terms of its historical reliability.

To summarize, the historical reliability of the Hebrew Bible is not a simple question to answer. We must take into consideration archaeology, other ancient literature, and the complicated nature of the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew Bible is, after all, (1) an anthology of many texts and traditions from the ancient Levant. (2) These texts were developed over a period of nearly 600 years! 600 years ago from 2017, the USA did not exist, France was not established as a country, and the events which inspired some of Shakespeare’s plays were still taking place. In other words, a lot can happen in 600 years, both in Europe and the ancient Levant. Within the anthology of texts composed over a long period of time, namely the Hebrew Bible, (3) things were written in many different genres. By being aware of different genres, we can think about how we should read the text. Should we read Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games as a story? Or should we read it as a history like Edward Gibbon’s History of the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire? These are pertinent questions and considerations when thinking about whether or not a text within the Hebrew Bible is historically reliable.

 

[i] Sara Mandell, “Israelite Religion”, in Encyclopedia of Judaism, vol. II.

“Israelite Religion” by Sara Mandell

The following are some brief notes on Sara Mandell’s entry titled “Israelite Religion” in the Encyclopedia of Judaism.

  • “The Israelite religion presented in the Hebrew Scriptures has little substantial relationship to the historical reality” (1194).
    • Narratives constructed reflect a post-Exile theological and ideological bias.
  • No “Israel” before 13th century BCE, the most accepted date for emergence of historical Israelites (1194).
  • Early Israelite were not monotheistic (1195).
    • WOrshipped Yahweh, Asherah, etc.
  • Prophets in the Hebrew Bible reflect a sect of religion in ancient Israel; they are not representative and did not necessarily have a large following (1191).
  • “The history and religion of Israel are not one and the smae. Nor are they what is represented in the Hebrew Scriptures, particularly in the Primary History, a historically late, redacted composite that presents the diverse religious and hisotrical perspectives of its several layers of editors.” (1198).

For myself, this is a good general overview: Koch, Klaus, “Baal/Baalat”, in: Religion Past and Present. Consulted online on 10 April 2017 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1877-5888_rpp_SIM_01382&gt;

 

Notes on “Phoenicians”

The following are my notes on the following article:

Niemeyer, Hans Georg (Hamburg), Röllig, Wolfgang (Tübingen), Eder, Walter (Berlin), Müller, Walter W. (Marburg/Lahn) and Müller, Hans-Peter (Münster), “Phoenicians, Poeni”, in: Brill’s New Pauly, Antiquity volumes edited by: Hubert Cancik and , Helmuth Schneider. Consulted online on 10 April 2017 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1574-9347_bnp_e922990&gt;

If you aren’t interested in reading the notes, directly below here is two paragraphs responding this article and other things.

In terms of being part of a West-Semitic context, the P. fit very well. Thus, some would claim that ancient Israel should be understood within a P. context. This approach, however, seems to draw too much on the people who descended from the P., namely the Punic ethnicity. Based on what I read in this article, the lack of archaeological support, the HB, and the inimical way in which people reported on P. culture and history, it seems that P. was an equal contender with ancient Israelian-Judean ethnicity (ethnicities?). Just like Judah was able to survive the pressure of empires more than their Northern counterparts, so Sidon was able to survive the pressure of empires more than their counterpart, namely Tyre.

In other words, the historical developments within this shaky history of P. is nothing particularly grands, just as ancient Israelian-Judean historical developments is not particularly grand. Each ethnic group was situated in a politically and religious challenging context. They each dealt with the issue in distinct ways.

I. Names and concept, sources

  • Name and idea of Phoenicians formed in Greek world
  • Referring to political/ethnic identity from LBA.
  • For Greek traders, P. was a functional designation.
  • Latin name Poeni.
    • Roman creation based in Carthage.
  • Scanty literary sources; mainly transmitted by neighbouring people.
    • P. and Punic cultures were often portrayed as inimical, and thus they distorted thier stories.
  • Archaeology contributes little to the cultural profile of P.

II.  Geography and Topography

  • Mother country defined by concrete territory, though we don’t know exact locations.
    • Included Arward, Byblus, Sidon, Tyrus.
  • Historically and geographically situated near Ugarit in the N., Samaria and Jerusalem in the S.
  • P. sought to “acquire the raw materials pressingly needed for domestic industry and crafts and for their prosperous… trading in the eastern Mediterranean”.
  • Strategic in placing settlements.
  • Large finds of exported luxury good outside of P. cities and settlements.
    • earl Iron Age saw elite position and access to raw materials; copper in Cyprus, gold in Thasos, and many other mining regions.
  • P. was not an original “resident” of ancient Mediterranean, but they were present.

III. History

  • P. is defined by representative city states because there is no comon history.
    • Josephus ref. a Hellenistic historian who wrote a P. history.
    • Philo of Byblus wrote a P. History.
    • In HB, only P. cities are mentioned, but no state of larger tribal unit.
    • Though, shared cultural things.
  • Forced to expand into Cyprus and Crete by 10th century BCE, also Malta, Sicily, Sardinia, Spain, and N. Africa.
  • Political ties with Anatolia and Syria.
    • Sidon joined anti-Assyrian coalition, only to be “deported and decapitated by Asarhaddon (681-669) in 676 BCE.
  • Collapse of N. Syria political world let Byblus come to political forefront c. 1200 BCE.
  • c. 969-936, treaty with Sidonian leader Hiram I and Solomon, 1 Kings 5:26.
  • Tyre became a key player in warlike disputes c. 810-727.
    • Hiram II (739-732) participated in a revolt at Damascus.
    • Sidon retained indepndence.
    • 663 – it was besieged by Assurbanipal and surrendered.
      • Province was likely incorporated into Assyrian system.
  • Post-Assyrian fall, P. cities try to regain independence.
    • cf. Zeph 1,4
    • Egypt, and Babylon, prevented this.
    • According to Josephus, Tyre “was besieged for 13 years (Jos. Ap. 1,143).
  • Under Persian rule, Sidon again sought to regain independence after being incorporated into the Persian Empire.
    • Rose against Artaxerxes III Ochus, but surrendered.
    • Sidon received Alexander the Great in 333; Tyre tried to resist for 7 months, but failed.
  • Post  64 BCE, under Romans, P. cities lost political power.

B. Punic

  • The article has much on it; however, this is outside of what my area of focus is. I’d like to read it eventually, but not now.

IV. Archaeology and Cultural History, the P.

  • early period only attests “smallish sanctuaries of the sacral architecture in cities”
    • Astarte/Tinnit, Sarepta (8th century BCE).
    • Punic temple of Kerkounana (4th/3rd century BCE).
    • Temple of Melqart built by Hiram I, in Tyre
      • Only from literary reports.
    • Other temples from the Persian and Hellenistic periods.
  • P. architecture in early time is decorative, with cascade of leaves.
  • Sculpture.
    • god worshiped with aniconic cult images
    • 8th-6th century large sculptures from P. cities based on Egyptian models.
  • Well-known for luxury crafts.
  • P. in Mediterranean was a uniqe phenomenon.
    • location, social groups, transportation, etc. all contributed to its formation.
    • Along with other city states on Levant coast. P. was in-line with ANE Bronze Age.

 

Briefly, facial masks likely have a religious significance. They are monuments since at least the 9th/8th centuries BCE in P. May have held cultic and apotropaic function because they are found at graves and sanctuaries.

Niemeyer, Hans Georg (Hamburg) and Blume, Horst-Dieter (Münster), “Masks”, in: Brill’s New Pauly, Antiquity volumes edited by: Hubert Cancik and , Helmuth Schneider. Consulted online on 10 April 2017 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1574-9347_bnp_e725730&gt;