Forthcoming (and Some Previous) Events, Articles, and Books*

I have been adding things to this list over the last month or two. As such, some events may have already happened and some articles may be old news at this point. Moreover, I include some articles and books not because they are new but because they are classics that I want to read. Enjoy!


Everything from The BRANE Collective; follow them! (Link)

“Where Are the Books of Job’s Daughters? Mapping the Shadow of Libraries of Antiquity” by Eva Mroczek; in Zoomland, of course, on November 18, 7 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. (Link)

“The Story of Sacrifice: New Directions in the Study of the Priestly Source,” a panel discussion of Liane Feldman’s book called, well, The Story of Sacrifice: Ritual and Narrative in the Priestly Source; November 13, 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. (EST) (Link)

Misc Links and Articles

“The Book of Jonah and the Theme of Exile” by Marian Kelsey (Link)

“Ancient Muses and Student Poets: Storytelling in Verse” by Erin Galgay Walsh (Link)

“What are ᵓElilim?” by Mark Hamilton (Link)

Mark Hamilton explores the word ᵓĕlîlîm.

“The Conflict between Adonijah and Solomon in Light of Succession Practices Near and Far” by Andrew Knapp (Link)

“La Lingua Americana: Voice and Representation in Academic Publishing” by Ella Maria Diaz (Link)

“Rahab: Between Faith and Works” by Jacob Wright (Link)

Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence by the US Senate (Link)

Andrea Seri’s review of Ea’s Duplicity in the Gilgamesh Flood Story by Martin Worthington (Link)

“Discerning False Prophecy: The Story of Ahab and the Lying Spirit” by James A. Diamond (Link)

“Steve A. Wiggins (Oxford University Press): The Editors behind the Great Books in New Testament Studies” by Nijay Gupta (Link)

“Thinking Materially: Making Ostraca in the Classroom” by Patrick Angiolillo (Link)

“The Fascination, Challenges, and Joys of Being a Historian of Ancient Israelite Religion” by Theodore Lewis (Link)

Review of Inventing the Novel: Bakhtin and Petronius Face to Face by Robert Bracht Branham, written by Thomás Fernández (Link)

“Looters Destroy 2000-Year-Old Sudan Archaeological Side in Search for Gold” by The New Arab Staff and Agencies (Link)

“New Sept Volume on Leviticus: An Interview with Mark Awabdy” by William Ross (Link)

“No more office hours! We need student hours” by an individual on Twitter (Link)

An Educator’s Handbook for Teaching about the Ancient World (vol. 1), edited by Pınar Durgun (Link)

“Some Reflections on Ariel Sabar’s Veritas” by Tony Burke (Link)

Beit Mikra – Volume 65 (2020), No. 1 (Link)

“Aural Epistemology: Hearing and Listening in the Text of the Qur’an” by Lauren E. Osborne (Link)

“Feminist Historiography and Uses of the Past” by Blossom Stefaniw (Link)

Twitter Thread by Seth Sanders (Link)

“Epidemics in Mesopotamia” by Annie Attia (Link)

“Michel Foucault – The Dynamics of Power ” by James Bishop (Link)

“Mishnah, Midrash, and How to Read Tannaitic Literature” by Ishay Rosen-Zvi (Link)

“Introduction to the Masorah: The Masorah of the Leningrad Codex in the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS) Edition” by Daniel Mynatt (Link)

“Imagining History without Heroes and Villains” by Russell P. Johnson (Link)

Vasileios Liotsakis’s review of Narratology: Classics in Theory by Genevieve Liveley (Link)

“The Idea and Study of Sacrifice in Ancient Israel” by Liana Feldman, an article oriented toward undergraduates, if I recall the Twitter post correctly (Link)

Metatron, a new journal from the group Renewed Philology (Link)


The Synagogue in Ancient Palestine: Current Issues and Emerging Trends edited by Rick Bonnie et al.

The Amarna Letters: Transliterations, Translations, and Glossary of the International and Vassal Correspondence from Tell el-Amarna by Jacob Lauinger and Tyler Yoder (Link)

After the Harvest: Storage Practices and Food Processing in Bronze Age Mesopotamia edited by Noemi Borrelli and Guilia Scazzosi (Link)

Painting the Mediterranean Phoenician: On Canaanite-Phoenician Trade-nets by Dalit Regev (Link)

The Ancient South Arabian Royal Edicts from the Southern Gate of Timna and the Gabal Labah by Giovanni Mazzini (Link)

Building between the Two Rivers: An Introduction to the Building Archaeology of Ancient Mesopotamia by Stefano Anastasio and Piero Gilento (Link)

Identity in Persian Egypt: The Fate of the Yehudite Community of Elaphantine by Bob Becking (Link)

Reading Other Peoples’ Texts: Social Identity and the Reception of Authoritative Tradition edited by Ken S. Brown, Alison L. Joseph, and Brennan Breed (Link)

The Oxford History of the Ancient Near East: From the Beginnings to Old Kingdom Egypt and the Dynasty of Akkad (Vol.1), edited by Karen Radner, Nadine Moeller, and D. T. Potts (Link)

Ezekiel, Law, and Judahite Identity: A Case for Identity in Ezekiel 1–33 by Joel B. Kemp (Link)

Semitic, Biblical and Jewish Studies: In Honor of Richard C. Steiner, edited by Aron J. Koller, Mordechai Z. Cohen, and Adina Moshavi (Link)

Tales of Royalty: Notions of Kingship in Visual and Textual Narration in the Ancient Near East, edited by Elisabeth Wagner-Durand and Julia Linke (Link)

Essays on Babylonian and Biblical Literature and Religion by Tzvi Abusch (Link)

On My Right Michael, On My Left Gabriel: Angels in Ancient Jewish Culture by Mika Ahuvia (Link)

Contextualizing Jewish Temples, edited by Tova Ganzel and Shalom E. Holtz (Link)

Hebräisch: Biblisch-Hebräische Unterrichtsgrammatik by Michael Pietsch and Martin Rösel (Link)

God’s Law and Order: The Politics of Punishment in Evangelical America by Aaron Griffith (Link)

The Jewish Annotated Bibliography edited by Jonathan Klawans and Lawrence M. Wills (Link)

Three Skeptics and the Bible: La Peyrère, Hobbes, Spinoza, and the Reception of Modern Biblical Criticism by Jeffrey Morrow (Link) [Mainly included for my own interests]

The “God of Israel” in History and Tradition by Michael J. Stahl (Link)

Roundup of Forthcoming (and Recently Released) Books

The last few months have been pretty busy. As such, I haven’t had much opportunity to write for The Biblical Review. One of the unforeseen consequences is that I haven’t been tracking forthcoming and recently released books. In this post, then, I offer a list of various volumes. For each volume, I include the subject matter along with why I am interested in the book. (Please forgive any typographical errors.)

Authoritative Writings in Early Judaism and Early Christianity: Their Origin, Collection, and Meaning, edited by Tobias Nicklas and Jens Schröter. (Link)

“The articles in this collection start with the assumption that the authorization of writings had already begun in Israel and Judaism before the emergence of Christianity and was continued in the first centuries CE by Judaism and Christianity in their respective ways. They deal with a broad range of sources, such as writings which came to be part of the Hebrew Bible, literature from Qumran, the Septuagint, or early Jewish apocalypses. At the same time they deal, for example, with structures of authorization related to New Testament writings, examine the role of authoritative texts in so-called Gnostic schools, and discuss the authority of late antique apocryphal literature.”

Although I am not particularly interested in the New Testament, I am always interested in the notion of authoritative writings and how texts became authoritative.

Un YHWH venant du Sud? by Fabian Pfitzmann. (Link)

Though I have not dealt with much scholar about Yahweh from the south, I interested in perusing this book, as it may contain some helpful summaries about the current state of scholarship on this subject.

Sovereign Authority and the Elaboration of Law in the Bible and the Ancient Near East, by Dylan Johnson. (Link)

“Five Pentateuchal texts (Lev 24:10–23; Num 9:6–14; Num 15:32–36; Num 27:1–11; Num 36:1–12) offer unique visions of the elaboration of law in Israel’s formative past. In response to individual legal cases, Yahweh enacts impersonal and general statutes reminiscent of biblical and ancient Near Eastern law collections. From the perspective of comparative law, Dylan R. Johnson proposes a new understanding of these texts as biblical rescripts: a legislative technique that enabled sovereigns to enact general laws on the basis of particular legal cases. Typological parallels drawn from cuneiform and Roman law illustrate the complex ideology informing the content and the form of these five cases. The author explores how latent conceptions of law, justice, and legislative sovereignty shaped these texts, and how the Priestly vision of law interacted with and transformed earlier legal traditions.”

Like some of the other books, I’m not interested in reading this; however, I am interested in reading some thorough book reviews and getting a sense of Johnson’s contributions and arguments.

The Pillars of the First Temple (1 Kgs 7,15–22): A Study from Ancient Near Eastern, Biblical, Archaeological, and Iconographic Perspectives, by Daniel Prokop. (Link)

“The columns referred to as Jachin and Boaz are certainly one of the most controversial features of the First Temple of Jerusalem. In this volume, Daniel Prokop examines the appearance and the meaning of the twin pillars by approaching them from different perspectives. He investigates the epigraphic evidence from Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Syria-Palestine, defines the relationship between the six different descriptions in the Hebrew Bible, and compares the most important textual witnesses of 1 Kgs 7,15–22, which will provide insight into the narrative development and transmission history of the texts. Studying iconographic data, the author explores a unique way to achieve a better understanding of the material, dimensions, names, location, and decoration of the pillars.”

Dealing with epigraphic and iconographic data in any study can be fruitful, illuminating ambiguous passages in the Hebrew Bible. As such, I am interested not just in how Prokop uses such data but also how he analyzes each data point independent of 1 Kings 7:5–22.

Researching Metaphor in the Ancient Near East, edited by Marta Pallavidini and Ludovico Portuese. (Link)

“This volume edited by Marta Pallavidini and Ludovico Portuese aims to research metaphor from different perspectives by considering its presence in ancient Near Eastern written documents. The contributions focus on several ancient Near Eastern cultures and encompass more than two millennia as well as examine various topics, from Sumerian literature, to Hittite written sources, to Neo-Assyrian art to the Biblical world.”

Simply put, metaphors are important to understand and analyze, as most language is metaphor. As such, the chronological and geographical span of this volume may be extraordinarily helpful for thinking about metaphor.

Writing World History in Late Ming China and the Perception of Maritime Asia, by Elke Papelitzky. (Link)

“This book by Elke Papelitzky studies each of the seven author’s knowledge and perception of the world and focuses especially on the countries connected with China at the maritime border: Siam, Malacca, and Portugal, combining a close textual and paratextual analysis with a biographical study to understand why the authors wrote the texts the way they did. This is the first comprehensive introduction to these texts contributing to an understanding of late Ming historiography as well as the perception of foreign countries by late Ming scholars.”

Although I am not particularly interested int he details of late Ming scholars, I am interested in some of the broader historiographical patterns that Papelitzky identifies, as they may prove to be interesting comparisons to Near Eastern and biblical texts.

The Crimean Karaim Bible, edited by Henryk Jankowski et al. (Link)

“The Bible was the most important canonical book of the Karaites, but only short fragments or individual books have been published. The present two-volume publication is a critical edition of approximately a half of Crimean Karaim Bible. Volume I contains the transcription of sixteen biblical books, the Pentateuch, i.e., Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy; the Five Scrolls, i.e., the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes; as well as six books of the Writings, i.e., the Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. Volume II contains the English translation of all biblical books provided in volume I. The transcription is based on the most complete manuscript from Cambridge and a few other manuscripts, including the earliest ones. Therefore, this is the first publication that makes large portions of the Bible accessible to the reader. Although the oldest known datable manuscripts go back to the seventeenth century, the language of Karaim translation is more archaic. This edition is an important source for the study of Middle Karaim and Middle Turkic languages. The edited text is provided with numerous comments and the introduction traces the history of research. All this is important for the study on the Crimean Karaim Bible since Ebenezer Henderson’s seminal study of 1828.”

These volume consists of what is seemingly an understudied portion of Jewish history as well as biblical manuscripts. As a whole, using this volume as a reference may yield some important divergences between it and other manuscripts.

Writing and Rewriting History in Ancient Israel and Near Eastern Cultures, edited by Isaac Kalimi. (Link)

“Most of the papers collected in this volume were delivered at the conference held in June 2018, Mainz. They discuss recent developments in the analysis of history and historiography in ancient Israel and its surrounding cultures. The scholars compare the compositional and editorial approaches evident in biblical and post-biblical writings with those shown in other ancient literature, while concentrating on a specific theme.”

On issues of historiography, especially when it is related to religious studies issues, I suspect this volume may offer a helpful over of a multitude of debates and discourse about the Hebrew Bible, such as the relationship between Ezekiel 16 and Gilgamesh, the Queen of Heaven, and broader methodological discussion about historiography and the bible.

Building in Assyria: A Philological Perspective, by Johanna Tudea. (Link)

“Johanna Tudeau offers with this book a sketch of the practice and ideology of building in Assyria based on textual evidence. The study focuses on the Assyrian royal inscriptions and state archives, two of the most comprehensive textual corpora available on the topic. The temporal and spatial framework is necessarily broad, from the rise to the fall of Assyria, from one end of the empire to the other. This stands in contrast with a targeted terminological approach: architectural keywords structure the chapters and these follow the stages of the building process. The findings come together in a chapter devoted to the modern significance of ancient realities, where grounds for the investigation and interpretation of space are proposed to serve philologists and archaeologists alike, hopefully facilitating the exchange between disciplines.”

This volume looks interesting for two reasons. First, considering the intensity of debates about the Hebrew Bible, history, material culture, and archaeology, the book may serve as a guide book for folks engaged in biblical studies. Second, with portions Ezekiel, Numbers, and Leviticus spend so much time describing physical structures, in will be interesting to Tudea’s conclusions about building in Assyria based on textual evidence.

Between Temple and TombThe Demotic Ritual Texts of Bodl. MS. Egypt. a. 3(P), by Mark Smith. (Link)

“The ritual texts edited in this volume offer an excellent opportunity to explore these and related issues. Most of them are known to have been employed both for the benefit of the god Osiris and for ordinary deceased people, in certain cases, during one and the same period of Egypt’s history. This is one of their most interesting and striking features. They stand at the interface between temple cult and cult of the dead and allow us to trace the transmission of beliefs and practices from one sphere to the other.”

From my experience, folks frequently ignore Demotic texts. That said, ritual text about death rituals, the Osirian temple cult, private funerary cults, and their fluidity sounds interesting and fun. Plus, there is quite a bit of work in biblical studies on material culture, death, and the Hebrew Bible. As such, this volume may have some interesting nuggets of information.

Legal Documents in Ancient Societies: Accounts and Bookkeeping in the Ancient World, by Andrea Jördens and Uri Yiftach. (Link)

“The volume is dedicated to an early and seemingly ubiquitous type of text, which often followed certain classification criteria and which, for the sake of easier clarity, was gladly subjected to a specially developed layout. In addition to the discussions of individual artefacts or artefact groups as well as literary texts, there are considerations of ancient and modern terminology, the choice of writing media used for this purpose, the bodies entrusted with data collection, the purposes pursued with it, the further processing and archiving of the collected data as well as their organisation at the various levels of administration.”

This volume contains a wide range of content. With so little evidence for Israelite/Judean scribal and bookkeeping practices, it could serve as an interesting point of comparison with biblical texts. Likewise, it just looks interesting.

Yahweh before IsraelGlimpses of History in a Divine Name, by Daniel Fleming. (Link)

While the book has no description yet, the content sounds intriguing, at least based on the title.

Divine Aggression in Psalms and Inscriptions: Vengeful Gods and Loyal Kings, by Collin Cornell. (Link)

“The aggression of the biblical God named Yhwh is notorious. Students of theology, the Bible, and the Ancient Near East know that the Hebrew Bible describes Yhwh acting destructively against his client country, Israel, and against its kings. But is Yhwh uniquely vengeful, or was he just one among other, similarly ferocious patron gods? To answer this question, Collin Cornell compares royal biblical psalms with memorial inscriptions. He finds that the Bible shares deep theological and literary commonalities with comparable texts from Israel’s ancient neighbours. The centrepiece of both traditions is the intense mutual loyalty of gods and kings. In the event that the king’s monument and legacy comes to harm, gods avenge their individual royal protégé. In the face of political inexpedience, kings honour their individual divine benefactor.”

I am particularly interested in seeing how Cornell draws together memorial inscriptions and biblical psalms, especially in light of recent research on funerary inscriptions.

The Fundamentals of Hebrew Accents: Divisions and Exegetical Roles beyond Syntax, by Sung Jin Park. (Link)

“This book is designed to serve as a textbook for intermediate Hebrew students and above. Sung Jin Park presents the fundamental features of the Tiberian Hebrew accents, focusing on their divisions and exegetical roles. Providing innovative methods for diagramming biblical texts, the volume explores the two major rules (hierarchy and dichotomy) of disjunctive accents. Students will also attain biblical insights from the exegetical application of the biblical texts that Hebrew syntax alone does not provide. Park’s volume shows how the new perspectives on Hebrew accents enhance our understanding of biblical texts.”

As Tiberian Hebrew accents weren’t discussed extensively in my training, I am interested, generally, in what Sung Jin Park will bring to the table.

Genres of Rewriting in Second Temple Judaism: Scribal Composition and Transmission, by Molly M. Zahn. (Link)

d“In this book, Molly Zahn investigates how early Jewish scribes rewrote their authoritative traditions in the course of transmitting them, from minor edits in the course of copying to whole new compositions based on prior works. Scholars have detected evidence for rewriting in a wide variety of textual contexts, but Zahn’s is the first book to map manuscripts and translations of biblical books, so-called ‘parabiblical’ compositions, and the sectarian literature from Qumran in relation to one another. She introduces a new, adaptable set of terms for talking about rewriting, using the idea of genre as a tool to compare and contrast different cases. Although rewriting has generally been understood as a vehicle for biblical interpretation, Zahn moves beyond that framework to demonstrate that rewriting was a pervasive textual strategy in the Second Temple period. Her book contributes to a powerful new model of early Jewish textuality, illuminating the rich and diverse culture out of which both rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity eventually emerged.”

Simply put, I am interested in seeing what Zahn offers, especially in light books like Eva Mroczek’s The Literary Imagination in Jewish Antiqutiy, which, while I haven’t had the opportunity, I look forward to reading.

The Egyptian Priests of the Graeco-Roman Period: An Analysis of the Basis of the Egyptian and Graeco-Roman Literary and Paraliterary Sources, by Marina Escolano-Poveda. (Link)

“Marina Escolano-Poveda offers for the first time a detailed analysis of the most relevant Egyptian priestly characters from Egyptian and Graeco-Roman literary and paraliterary sources. The examination of these sources contrasts the self-presentation of Egyptian priests in texts created and circulated within the temple environment with images presented by outside sources, providing a solid base to analyze how these figures were seen in their historical milieu. In the second part of the book, the results of the previous analysis are contrasted with a series of widely-used models employed to understand the historical and intellectual context of Egyptian religion and the Egyptian priesthood in the Graeco-Roman period, questioning the usefulness and applicability of such models.”

I am interested in this book for two reasons. First, I would like to understand better Egyptian religion of the 1st millennium. Second, I am generally interested in priestly construction during this period on account of Judeans, or whatever we want to call them, living in Egypt.

Judging Faith, Punish Sin: Inquisitions and Consistories in the Early Modern World, edited by Charles H. Parker and Gretchen Starr-LeBeau. (Link)

“Rooted in local archives and addressing specific themes, the essays survey the state of scholarship and chart directions for future inquiry and, taken as a whole, demonstrate the unique convergence of penitential practice, legal innovation, church authority, and state power, and how these forces transformed Christianity.”

While outside the boundaries of Judaism and Hebrew Bible proper, I have been interested in the notion of so-called sin as of late. So, I am interested in see what this volume contributes in terms of construction of sin/social transgression in the early modern world.

Demons, Angels, and Writing in Ancient Judaism, by Annette Yoshiko Reed. (Link)

I wont’ even include the description here because I have heard nothing but good things about Reed’s work. I look forward to reading it!

God’s Law and Order: The Politics of Punishment in Evangelical America, by Aaron Griffith. (Link)

“America incarcerates on a massive scale. Despite recent reforms, the United States locks up large numbers of people—disproportionately poor and nonwhite—for long periods and offers little opportunity for restoration. Aaron Griffith reveals a key component in the origins of American mass incarceration: evangelical Christianity.”

To criticize and reflect on our interpretations of sin in the Hebrew Bible, it is necessary to recognize the history of how the US Christianity, namely, evangelical Christianity, constructed, fought for, and established norms for social transgressions.

The Origins of the Bible in Early Modern Political Thought: Revelation and the Boundaries of Scripture, by Travis DeCook. (Link)

“Travis DeCook explores the theological and political innovations found in early modern accounts of the Bible’s origins. In the charged climate produced by the Reformation and humanist historicism, writers grappled with the tension between the Bible’s divine and human aspects, and they produced innovative narratives regarding the agencies and processes through which the Bible came into existence and was transmitted. DeCook investigates how these accounts of Scripture’s production were taken up beyond the expected boundaries of biblical study, and were redeployed as the theological basis for wide-reaching arguments about the proper ordering of human life.”

The Reformation, the Bible’s divine origins, and humanity? This sounds great to me. It also contributes (likely) to understand early discourse about biblical authority that shaped the field of biblical studies. Perhaps. We’ll have to see.

Reconstructing the Temple: The Royal Rhetoric of Temple Renovation in the Ancient Near East and Israel, by Andrew R. Davis. (Link)

Though this book has been out for a while, I remain interested in reading it.

A History of Death in the Hebrew Bible, by Matthew Suriano. (Link)

Like the previous book, this has been out for a while. Perhaps I will finally be able to read it in the next few months!

The Emergence of Sin: Cosmic Tyrant in Romans, by Matthew Croasmun. (Link)

With my current interest in sin, this volume looks particularly interesting, especially as the description says that sin is “an emergent feature of a vast human network of transgression.” I have no idea what to expect. Also, it is a few years old. Even so, I am interested.

Philo of Alexandria: On the Contemplative Life; Introduction, Translation and Commentary, by Joan E. Taylor and David M. Hay. (Link)

It’s always good to familiarize myself with classics, especially when they include new commentary and an updated bibliography.

Isaiah, Septuagint Commentary Series, by Ken Penner. (Link)

This commentary, introduction, and translation may be helpful for me when I write my review of Roberts’s commentary on First Isaiah.

Three Hundred Years of Death: The Egyptian Funerary Industry in the Ptolematic Empire, by Maria Cannata. (Link)

“Maria Cannata provides a detailed survey of the organisation of the necropolises and the funerary workers, as well as their role in the practical aspects of the mummification, funeral, burial, and mortuary cult of the deceased, in Ptolemaic Egypt (332-30 BC). The author gathers together and synthesises hundreds of the original textual sources, as well as the relevant archaeological sources, on the organisation of the funerary industry and its practitioners, revealing important regional and chronological variations overlooked in studies focusing on a limited geographical area, a shorter timeframe, or a smaller group of documents.”

As I already noted, death and funerals is a hot topic these days. This may yield some interesting nuggets of information.

The Meaning of Color in Ancient Mesopotamia, by Shiyanthi Thavapalan. (Link)

“Shiyanthi Thavapalan offers the first in-depth study of the words and expressions for colors in the Akkadian language (c. 2500-500 BCE). By combining philological analysis with the technical investigation of materials, she debunks the misconception that people in Mesopotamia had a limited sense of color and positions the development of Akkadian color language as a corollary of the history of materials and techniques in the ancient Near East.”

Colors are important in biblical texts, such as Leviticus, Exodus, and Isaiah 1. So, some insight on color would be nice.

The Expression of Emotions in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, edited by Shih-Wei Hsu and Jaume Llop Raduà. (Link)

The content in this book could be useful for comparison with biblical and Jewish texts.

Review: “A Wayside Shrine in Northern Moab” edited by P.M. Michèle Daviau and Margreet L. Steiner

OxbowP.M. Michèle Daviau and Margreet L. Steiner. Eds. A Wayside Shrine in Northern Moab: Excavations in Wadi ath-Thamad. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

Excavations at Wadi ath-Thamad Site WT-13 began in 1996 south of al-Rumayl. This volume presents the findings and analysis of material from the site, significant for its cultic nature. In what follows, I will first describe the site in totality through a summary of each contribution. Subsequently, I will note significant findings and conclusions. Finally, I will explore how the data in this volume contributes to more specific conversations in biblical and religious studies.

P.M. Michèle Daviau provides a broad overview of WT-13—especially concerning its cultic character—and describes the technical aspects of excavation history, stratigraphy, and documentary and recording methods (Chapter One). Because religious ritual is central to interpreting WT-13, Daviau subsequently lays out previous studies on cult behavior in the region and draws from Renfrew’s criteria for identifying ritual behavior with material correlates in order to broadly characterize WT-13 as a site of religious activity, parallel to other sites throughout the Levant (Chapter Two). Next, Daviau describes the site’s stratigraphy, finds, and architecture in order to provide an overview of the site’s history. Stratum IIIB (Late Iron I to Early Iron II) suggests “that rituals related to funerary customs were carried out by the local in habitants” (29). Subsequently, Stratum IIIA indicates that layers of fill “above the cooking installations effectively decommissioned the ritual site” (31), a practice common in Palestine and the Transjordan during the Bronze Age. While food preparation rituals ceased, the subsequent stratum points to a major cultural change, as it features “a wide variety of votive offerings and iconographic representation” (36). Stratum II (Iron II) consisted of three stages: building up the soil layers, constructing a wall forming a temenos, using it as a cultic site, and eventually remodeling the shrine. Materials show clear Phoenician, Assyrian, and local influence, meaning Stratum II should be dated between the 8th and 7th centuries BCE. Finally, Stratum I (Post-Iron Age, Nabataean–Early Roman) indicates small use during the period; however, Stratum II shows the clearest evidence of activity (Chapter Three).

In Part Two, specific data sets are analyzed: images of gods and worshipers, various small finds, pottery analyzed from the perspective of Central Jordanian tradition, tripod cups and specialized vessels, the provenance of statues, figurines, and pottery, faunal bone collection, shells and fossil invertebrates, sea urchin fossils, beads, and Nabataean and Roman objects. Part Three considers landscape archaeology and how WT-13 may have functioned as sacred landscape in the central Jordan.

A few conclusions and observations by contributions to the volume are notable. First, data provides insight into social aspects of Iron Age II Moab. For example, WT-13 pottery analysis indicates “that household pottery of both the early and late repertoires of WT-13 was locally made and stood firmly in the pottery tradition of Central Jordan” (177, 202). At the same time, though, weight stones at WT-13 are notably like those at Lachish and Tel Jezreel. These conclusions possibly speak to the socioeconomic situation: although there is not clear trade in terms of pottery, using the same type of weight stones indicates that they engaged in similar trading partners that required a degree of consistency between cities in the area. This correlates well with Master’s construction of the southern Levantine economy: “a system of tiered markets radiated out from the ports of the Mediterranean across political boundaries to reach the smallest hamlets on the desert fringe. The impetus for the market was generated by non-local goods which were an integral part of daily life” (2014, 89). In the same paper, he also notes that many objects, such as stone, fish shell, wood or metals, were imported in exchange for agricultural products (87). Returning to WT-13, the finds may fit this pattern: objects perceived as “exotic” or “Other” were traded and used in cult ritual; however, pottery was unique to Central Jordan because they did not trade it as frequently with nearby regions. Considering that WT-13 and al-Rumayl were on an important trade road, though, this is not too much of a surprise.

In terms of religious rituals, two observations are notable. First, though scholars previously posited that fossil sea urchins as votive objects, WT-13 is “the first direct indication of their occurrence in a votive context in Jordan” (221). As such, it is essential to reconstructing cult rituals in the Central Jordan and, more broadly, their diversity throughout the Levant. Second, Daviau places Stratum III of WT-13 into the broader context of rituals in the Levant, connecting the site the patterns of ritual meals, funerary meals, and decommissioning of cult site (274). Interestingly, while it may be explained as simple cultural change, the shift from site of ritual meals (Stratum III) to a temenos for ritual behavior with anthropomorphic figures (Stratum II) makes me wonder if there is any link between Stratum III and II. That is, did Stratum II arise because of the precedent of Stratum III, a sort of outgrowth of previous rituals practices, or did Stratum II arise without any regard for Stratum III, meaning no clear relationship between ritual meals and cult temenos ritual practices? Though I can’t answer here, it would be interesting to consider, as it would clarify patterns of religious development in the Levant.

Also interesting is that the site was “abandoned or destroyed in the late 7th–early 6th century, indicative of significant cultural change throughout the southern Levant” (77). As is commonly known, Samaria was destroyed around the same time period. Thus, the abandonment of the site in this time period is notable because it corresponds well with a period of regional unrest and conflict throughout the region.

Finally, Daviau mention that “the case of the deep perforated cup is challenging because there are no parallels… pointing to their function. This dilemma can be seen in the assemblages from Kuntillet ‘Ajrud, a site with religious iconography but not one perforated cup” (179; italics added for emphasis). In his recent volume, Schniedewind (2019) argues against approaching Kuntillet ‘Ajrud as a cultic site but rather as a military outpost or trading post. Thus, the relationship between iconography and Kuntillet ‘Ajrud is a poor example to juxtapose with WT-13.

In conclusion, A Wayside Shrine in Moab is a splendid volume for both the archaeology of the Levant broadly construed and for religion in the Levant. As an all too often understudied region, the volume is a welcome addition. Moreover, with a large range of data—data also available online—scholars will undoubtedly engage it and link it with other finds throughout the region.



Master, Daniel M. 2014. “Economy and Exchange in the Iron Age Kingdoms of the Southern Levant.” BASOR 372: 81–97.

Schniedewind, William. 2019. The Finger of the Scribe: How Scribes Learned to Write the Bible. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Course Project for Students

Ken Brown posted this on Facebook. I am posting it mainly so that I can considering using this model in the future.

…I asked them take a biblical text of their choice and transform it into a new genre, medium or perspective, and then write a short reflection on how the change in form affects what details can or must be included, and how this affects meaning.

I was amazed at the creativity of their work, from original songs about Genesis 1 and the Flood, to poetry retelling the binding of Isaac from his perspective and the 10 Plagues from the Egyptians’ perspectives, to paintings, faux stained glass, comics, 3D models, news reports, and one absolutely astounding charcoal drawing of Cain killing Abel. Then we got to talk in detail about how form shapes and constrains meaning and why it is essential to pay close attention to genre and context when reading biblical literature. This is my new favorite assignment.

Super Brief Notes on New Historicism

The following is a few quotes and notes from Practicing New Historicism by Catherine Gallagher and Stephen Greenblatt (1997)

New historicism “is to imagine that the writers we love did not spring up from nowhere and that their achievements must draw upon a whole life-world and that this life-world has undoubtedly left other traces of itself” (13).

I like this comment.

“Out of the vast array of textual traces in a culture, the identification of units suitable for analysis is problematized. If every trace of a culture is part of a massive text, how can one identify the boundaries of these units?” (14)

Their comment is remarkably similar to many of the criticisms raised against Kristeva’s formulation of intertextuality. Such critiques note that it is difficult to establish boundaries when employing an intertextual method.


Philosophical Friday: Thomas Aquinas and Metaphor

Thomas Aquinas was a philosopher and theologian from a family of Italian nobles. During his life (1225-1274), he wrote more than sixty books. Among his most well-known works is Summa Theologica. Within the book, he deals with issues of biblical interpretation, among other things. In the Ninth and Tenth articles, he deals with two issues important in modern literary discourse: metaphor and whether or not words in the Christian biblical tradition can have several senses.

Concerning the first, he lays a framework for how he understands the relationship between materials and text, a text he perceives as being the Holy Writ. Within this framework, “spiritual truths are fittingly taught under the likeness of material things” [1] in order that all people may grasp and understand the text. As such, poetry (text) and materials are in relation via metaphorical expression. This metaphorical connection between poetry and materials can take two forms: (a) a generic form for men to simply please humans or (b) a sacred form which leverages metaphor for divine truths. Moreover, the metaphorical connection between text and material is sometimes obscure within “Holy Writ” in order to allow people to exercise their minds and prevent the impious from ridiculing the text.

Concerning the Tenth Article, he sees multiple layers of sense: the allegorical (the Hebrew Bible signifying relation to New Testament literature); the moral sense (things done by or signifying Jesus); anagogical sense (related to eternal glory); literal sense (the intention of the author, namely God). Of these, the last sense is central. The literal sense, for Aquinas, contains multiple senses because he perceive God as the author.

From these points, I find a few features notable.

First, Aquinas approaches the text with the assumption that “God” is the quintessential author. God being a transcendent deity who is all-powerful, perception of God as the author influences how Aquinas approaches and defines the types of metaphor. His second understanding of metaphor, sacred metaphor which communicates divine truths, echoes the concerns expressed by authors like Longinus. The notion of “sacred metaphor” is similar, though not equivalent to, the sublime. As a result, within Aquinas’ writing, the Bible receives a special status in comparison with other books, wherein he essentially employs circular reasoning: the Bible is sublime because God wrote it; and God wrote the bible so it is sublime.

Second, Aquinas claims that texts don’t always make sense because God wants to train minds and prevent ridicule. He is much like other writers that I have discussed: this is his way of dealing with texts which are lacking cogency and coherency. Though such things are always lacking to a certain degree, human minds naturally and instinctively attempt to fix the ruptures in the flow of a text.

[1] The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 191.

Philosophical Friday: Longinus and Sublimity

Longinus was a Hellenistic Jew, or at least an author familiar with Jewish culture, from the 1st century CE. He is most well known for his work On Sublimity. In this work, he argues that the best literature is sublime. Though difficult to identify in literature, he identifies five sources of sublimity: great thoughts, strong and inspired emotion, certain kinds of figures, noble diction, and dignified and elevated word-arrangement. Each of these points, he suggests, is a place where the audience of literature can come into contact with the sublime.

What, though, is the sublime? He comments: “When a man of a sense and literary experience hears something many times over, and it fails to dispose his mind to greatness or to leave him with more to reflect upon than was contained in the mere words, but comes instead to seem valueless on repeated inspection, this is not true sublimity; it endures only for the moment of hearing. Real sublimity contains much food for reflection, is difficult or rather impossible to resist, and makes a strong and ineffaceable impression on the memory” [1]. As Jacqueline Vayntrub carefully describes in her volume Beyond Orality, this very notion of literature and poetry becomes a keys in describing and organizing biblical poetry during the modern period.

It is worth noting the underlying philosophical and theoretical principles which inform, support, and frame Longinus’ understanding of the sublime. His notion of the sublime is based on a broad generalization about humans, namely that humans have “in our minds from the start an irresistible desire for anything which is great and, in relation to ourselves, supernatural” [2].  He proceeds by describing how people admire the large rivers, not the little streams. Likewise, people feel awe before volcanoes, not candles.

In pointing to this, I wish to make one observation: the way we describe the quality of literature and engage with it is often informed by the way we describe the quality of nature and engage with it. This is certainly the case with Longinus. Underlying his notion of sublimity is an assumption about how humans relate to nature.

[1] The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 148.

[2] The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 161.

Philosophical Friday: Horace and Poetics

Horace is most well known for his Ars Poetica (Art of Poetry). He lived during the 1st century BCE and, unlike Plato, see more value in poetry than Plato. Here, I will briefly lay out a few observations of Horace’s Ars Poetica which stood out to me.

First, Horace’s understanding of genre is much more theoretical and developed than Aristotle and Plato. Recall that Aristotle and Plato had relatively rigid understandings of genre. Though not commenting explicitly on genre, Horace’s comments on speech and expression can be applied to genre as well: “Many terms shall grow back which now have fallen away, and those now held in esteem shall fall, if our poetic practices so approves. Such is the criterion by which judgement, rules and standards for speech expression are to be discovered” [1]. Expressed another way, Horace at least recognizes that genre conventions change over time, often the result of critical reflections.

Second, one way modern scholars have approached genre is by thinking of genre as a simulated speech situation [2]. Horace supports this notion inasmuch as he recognizes that the speaker portrayed in a text should be understood in light of his/her social circumstances: “If a speaker’s words are not constant with his fortunes, the people (both horse and foot) will burst out laughing! It will make a lot of difference whether a god is speaking or a hero; a mature old man or one still in flower of youth; a strong-minded dame or a busy nurse, a far-travelled merchant or a cultivator of a green farm, a Colchian or Assyiran, or someone reared at Thebes or Argos” [3].

In other words, the audience has certain assumptions of a speaker. As such, the speaker and speech must align with each other so that the social circumstances of the speaker fit with the speech itself. When these do not align, the audience laughs! At base, then, the speaker of a situation impacts how the audience interprets and understands the speech. This is akin to genre: the genre designation of a text impacts how the audience interprets and understands the speech.

Third, and finally, Horace’s understanding of genres is based on an evolutionary model, akin to Aristotle. Here, he offers a historiography of the origins of Greek genres: “They say the unknown genre of the tragic muse was discovered by Thespis, who wheeled his poems about on wagons for men to sing and act, their faces well stained with lees. After him, as inventor of the mask and the noble robe, Aeschylus laid out a stage with modest sized beams, producing plays which resounded grandly and strode on the buskin” [4].

His observations are important on a few fronts. First, he views genres in the same vein as Aristotle, slowly developing over time and becoming more and more refined. This notion is still present in modern discourse about genre, especially with the appearance of the modern novel. Second, though no surprise, Horace’s historiography of genres is directed related to materiality and social situation. As such, it suggests that any understanding of genre or genre development must also be conscious of materiality and social situation.

[1] The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 135.

[2] Simeon Chavel, “Knowledge of the Lord in the Hebrew Bible,” in KNOW Vol. 2, No. 1 (2018), 48-49.

[3] The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 136.

[4] The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 139.

Review: “Paradigm Change in Pentateuchal Research” edited by Matthias Armgardt

Paradigm changeMatthias Armgardt, Benjamin Kilchör, and Markus Zehnder (eds.). Paradigm Change in Pentateuchal Research. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für altorientalische und biblische Rechtsgeschichte. Vol. 22. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2019. Pp. XXIV + 366.

Since the revolutionary work of Julius Wellhausen, itself a relatively old and complex paradigm, his paradigm has become problematic on many fronts. Within this volume, a diverse set of scholars attempt to “analyze the roots of the problems in the exegesis of the Torah” and “to offer alternatives for looking at its texts” (VIII). Each section of the volume deals with Pentateuchal studies from different perspectives: introduction and methodology, legal history, Torah and prophets, and dating issues. In what follows, I will provide a brief summary of each contribution and indicate the relative success of each contribution’s aim. When necessary, I will more closely engage particular points within contributions. Towards the end, I will state the collective quality of the volume.

Georg Fischer, after noting positive and negative developments in Pentateuchal research, suggests a new paradigm for Pentateuchal research should be developed, one which is more attentive to the Pentateuch as a unified document. Importantly, many of his criticisms are well-pointed and valid – scholars following in the footsteps of Wellhausen should consider his criticism; however, the ‘new paradigm’ he suggests is unclear and underdeveloped. Drawing analogy for his ‘new paradigm,’ he looks towards visual arts, music, and architecture in order to argue that the Pentateuch as a text is “primarily a single entity” (17), noting that the Latin root textus indicates a mesh or netting, several threads and fabrics woven together. This framework, though, is nothing new. Rather, it can be connected to a wide variety of literary and critical theorists, such as Kristeva, Laurent Jenny, and others. Moreover, drawing analogy between text and music is nothing new within literary studies. As such, Fischer’s approach seems, for the most part, outdated and undeveloped. What his contribution indicates to me, though, is that Pentateuchal scholars must be more conversant and engaged with literary and critical theory.

Suggesting that Neo-Documentarian and redaction paradigms are insufficient for sound readings of the Pentateuch, Richard Averbeck argues that analogues from ethnographic studies are more helpful for understanding the compositional history of texts like Gen 12-50. Though his approach to the Pentateuch is intriguing, namely drawing from ethnographic materials for a framework, this approach has a serious methodological flaw. He claims not to be putting a Western framework of literary culture onto the Hebrew Bible; instead he suggests responsibly using ethnographic cultural analogues to “help us better understand the real world and oral background of what we find in the patriarchal narrative” (32). The issue of Genesis’ historical value aside, he ironically does precisely what he attempts to not to: he frames his discussion in terms of the Great Divide between orality and literacy (cf. Vayntrub 2019). Put another way, his method still applies a Western framework.

Joshua Berman highlights what he sees as nine methodological flaws in source criticism, an article shortened from his book Inconsistency in the Torah: Ancient Literary Convention and the Limits of Source Criticism (OUP, 2017). As such, one is better off finding and reading reviews of that volume as opposed to a shortened version of a lengthier chapter.

Koert van Bekkum examines Exodus 3 and 6, as well as scholarship around the texts concerning Yahweh’s name. van Bekkum also provides methodological reflections. Even so, this contribution is unclear and underdeveloped.

Matthias Armgardt attempts to show how scholars should have more critical methods. As such, he points to how texts in the Torah are more similar to and fit better within the 2nd millennium. On account of his discussing EST and Deut 28 without reference to the debates and discussion between Berman and Stackert/Levinson, mention of Maul’s essential volume on comparative studies, consideration of David Wright’s volume, and generally unsound approach on the Hebrew Bible as reflective of social economic needs, his discussion and reflection is, as a whole, unimpressive.

Guido Pfeifer reports on paradigms changes within legal history and ancient Near Eastern history as a counterpoint to the Pentateuch, considering especially the function of law in ancient Mesopotamia and its relation to other genres. It isn’t clear what Pfeifer argues for or how his contribution is helpful for developing a new paradigm.

Benjamin Kilchör analyzes the Wellhausen notion that D dates to the 7th century and P dates to the 6th/5th century. Through his analysis, he attempts to show how Wellhausen doesn’t deals with the issue of P drawing from D. In this way, the framework assumed by many about dating P and D is problematized by Kilchör. Some of his claims, though, are questionable. He claims that Deut 12 draws from Lev 17; however, his presentation of the relationship between the texts and their ideologies assumes too much about how texts relate to each other and how they are re-used. His arguments, even so, are worth addressing and considering.

Markus Zehnder examines Lev 26 and Deut 28 in order to describe their relationship. His analysis is particularly thorough. In his view, the lexical and phraseological connections are rare, meaning that there is not literary dependency. Connections to other biblical texts, though, indicate that Lev 26 and Deut 28 pre-date the NA milieu, being pre-exilic. Though many arguments and comment on text relations can and should be clarified and more precise, this contribution is nonetheless thoughtful, thorough, and valuable.

Eckart Otto attempts to identify the placement and function of Deuteronomy. He argues that the end of Deuteronomy is closely connected to the emerging canon and points to salvation. His approach to a new paradigm is interesting, namely shifting focus to the role of the Pentateuch, and its compositional history, as part of the Hebrew Bible’s serialization process. This approach is well worth consideration.

Kenneth Bergland argues that Jer 34 is a sophisticated blend of Lev 25and Deut 15, thereby complicating and challenging “Wellhausen’s romantic idea of the originality of the prophets” (191). A more systematic approach for identifying and describing the relationship between texts would strengthen the contribution and bolster the arguments. Moreover, to my surprise, he did not engage with Stackert’s conversation about the issue of prophecy with regard to Wellhausen. Nonetheless, Bergland’s ideas are worth at least addressing when dealing with issues of Lev 25, Deut 15, Jer 34, and the relationship between the legal and the prophetic.

Examining the King’s Law in Deut 17, Carsten Vang argues that the text does not have a prophetic background and is not related to Solomon’s abundance; rather, it reflects a pre-monarchic background. Though I am in agreement with the initial claim that Deut 17 is not related to anti-cooperation themes present in prophetic texts, the way in which and degree to which he correlates Deut 17 with a “pre-monarchic” period is uncritical and a poor use of literary texts.

Hendrik Koorevaar’s contribution claims to be addressing issues of paradigm change for the Pentateuch. It is so generic and broad, though, that it is unclear what the purpose of the contribution is. After all, it simply paints broad brush strokes about text’s relationships without details or critical analysis.

Lina Peterson presents some conclusions from her forthcoming dissertation. Frankly, one would be better off reading her dissertation because her presentation of the conclusion lacks any analysis, only commenting on the method and conclusions.

Jan Retsö describes the literary depiction of the mishkan and paroket and compares it with the paroket-canopy in Near Eastern literature and archaeology. In connecting the paroket with a Levantine sanctuary type, he suggests that P’s sanctuary is independent from the 1st temple in Jerusalem. As such, he suggests that P should be dated to the pre-6th century. An interesting article, and worth considering for ancient Mediterranean cult practices, the data that he draws from may be dated well into the Persian, Roman, and Hellenistic periods. As such, it is disingenuous to date P to a pre-6th century period on the basis of the Holiness code being oriented against the hammanim, the sanctuary which he claims is equivalent to the paroket-canopy. Moreover, his dating is dependent on how he dates the Holiness Code, indicating a degree of circular thinking. Overall, though he presents some interesting data points for comparison and analysis, his analysis should be more thorough.

John S. Bergsma points to the Northern bias of the Pentateuch in order to show how the Pentateuch, in being predominately a Northern document, “shows no unambiguous evidence of an awareness of the controversy between these groups at all” (297), namely Judeans and Samarians. Overall, this contribution is worth further consideration. More specifically, fined tuned analysis through philology and close literary reading would substantially strengthen his argument. Moreover, though he still functions within a framework of North vs. South, his conclusions suggest that more productive analysis requires moving away from this polemic framework and towards a new paradigm.  

Examining what she calls the economic assumptions of Deuteronomy, Sandra Richter suggests that the most likely social situation of Deuteronomy is the Iron I and IIA transition period. She draws primarily from archaeological excavations to sustain he theory. Though an interesting suggestion, the method is problematic from the outset. She speaks primarily about economic assumptions. In reality, the world of a text is a literary construction. As such, her claim that Deut constructs a utopian imagination as being unlikely fails to acknowledge a basic function of literature: world construction.

Finally, Pekka Pitkänen attempts to show at least a plausible social context for Priestly materials and Deut without recourse to a Wellhausen approach. On account of the many assumptions and conjectural statements, his conclusions are nothing more than what he claims: a set of possible, tough not well argued, ideas about the text’s social context.

Overall, this volume is mediocre. Though some contributions offer intriguing avenues for future research, the majority of contributions are either (a) methodologically problematic, (b) seriously underdeveloped, or (c) generally unclear. The most notable contributions are by Eckart Otto and John S. Bergsma. As a volume, it fails to provides substantial contributions which will leads to a new paradigm for Pentateuchal studies. Therefore, I do not recommend this volume for individuals or libraries.