Context, Silence, and Academics

From about 8:30 AM to at least 6:00 PM, I spend my days in Swift Hall at the University of Chicago. More often than not, there is noise. Regardless of where I go, there is noise. It is never ending, constant noise. My mind filters out the noise and keeps working. When people leave the halls and classrooms, though, there is silence. The context which held the noise is now void of sound. The only sound is me walking through the halls.

Today, as I walked through silent halls, I heard the walls speak (metaphorically, of course). What I mean is that I focused on the small things. I noticed the cracks in the walls. I noticed the little holes in door frame. I observed each and every dent and scratch on the floor. In essence, I paid attention to my context. The only reason I could do so what because of the silence which covered Swift Hall.

Now, besides giving me spiritual clarity on the reality of life and importance of our world, this experience gave me clarity on why I study Hebrew Bible and Near Eastern literature. The Hebrew Bible, like anything else in this world which can be seen, cries to be seen, heard, and understood. It, just like the Mahabharata, a Trader Joe’s sign, and and a tree on the sidewalk, wants to be seen. As people, it is up to us to stop and listen. It is up to us to see what makes the content and shapes the world. How does each individual crack, hole in the wall, smear of dirt, and door handle shape how we see the world?

Everything cries out in a harmonious voice. And, like any good choir, you can’t easily tell how the voices and sounds are working together. In regard the Hebrew Bible and other ancient literature, this is what I want to find. I want to pay attention to how the letters work together to communicate something to people. What are they trying to say and why are they trying to say?

Anyway, this has been a non-conventional post. I hope you, as I do, pay attention to the world around you. At bottom, I think that academics should pursue this. We don’t do “academic study” of texts. We should yearn to listen to every way in which the text or object speaks to us. We should yearn to hear how it works in harmony with other texts or objects to shape the reality that we see.

Psalm 100: Comments and Translation (Part II)

I’ve already posted about Psalm 100 two times (here and here). Here, then, I will just reflect on a feature of Psalm 100. Though I won’t show the cards in my hand, I will say that it is relevant to some work I am doing with another Psalm. These observations will be more technical than usual.

In Psalm 100, we see a large cluster of imperative forms. Of these imperative forms, a prepositional lamed marks the indirect object in vss. 1, 2 and 4. Notably, these imperatives which only have indirect objects do not have direct objects. This is because the verbs are intransitive.

I need to look at every occurrence of the following structure: Impv. + Lamed with indirect object + Subject

“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 <;


Iconography of Deities and Demons in the ANE

I just came across a resource which may be valuable for people who don’t have access to libraries. It is an iconographic dictionary of deities and demons in the ancient Near East. Currently, 136 articles are available for free. These articles are excellent because they recognize commonalities between deities; however, they also recognize what makes the deities distinct.

Forthcoming Book Alert: Prophecy in the Ancient Near East and Hebrew Bible

Although it will not be published for quite a while, I am looking forward to a forthcoming publication from de Gruyter: Prophecy in the Ancient Near East and the Hebrew Bible by Martti Nissinen. For those who are not aware, Martti Nissinen is well known for his work with Near Eastern literature and prophecy. One of his books was, in fact, one of the first academic books which I ever read. So, he is very much the reason why I do what I do today.

Just Another Day Learning Akkadian

This is a snippet from my translation of an Akkadian marriage contract.

“If Bashtum has said to Rimum, her husband, “You are not my husband,” they will throw Bashtum into the river.” – Marriage contract written in Akkadian
If Rimum does the same, he only pays silver. This is institutionalized sexism in its truest form.

New Book by Ilan Peled

Although it won’t be released for a few months, I am excited to read Ilan Peled’s Masculinities and Third Gender: The Origins and Nature of an Institutionalized Gender Otherness in the Ancient Near East. It will be published by Ugarit-Verlag. After reviewing Goddesses in Context, I look forward to how Peled will contribute to our understanding of gender and sexuality in the ancient Near East.

Admitted into School

I just realized that I never formally announced some good news via my blog. I was admitted into the University of Chicago Divinity School to complete my MA! Although won’t be posting nearly as many reviews from new publications, I plan on writing about each book I read for the coursework in order to ensure that I fully grasp the content.

Thank your readership that has encouraged me to continue working diligently!

Philosophy before the Greeks

I am hope to eventually read Van de Mieroop’s forthcoming book titled Philosophy before the Greeks: The Pursuit of Truth in Ancient Babylonia. It looks extraordinary. Here is little summary from the Princeton University Press website:

There is a growing recognition that philosophy isn’t unique to the West, that it didn’t begin only with the classical Greeks, and that Greek philosophy was influenced by Near Eastern traditions. Yet even today there is a widespread assumption that what came before the Greeks was “before philosophy.” In Philosophy before the Greeks, Marc Van De Mieroop, an acclaimed historian of the ancient Near East, presents a groundbreaking argument that, for three millennia before the Greeks, one Near Eastern people had a rich and sophisticated tradition of philosophy fully worthy of the name.

In the first century BC, the Greek historian Diodorus of Sicily praised the Babylonians for their devotion to philosophy. Showing the justice of Diodorus’s comment, this is the first book to argue that there were Babylonian philosophers and that they studied knowledge systematically using a coherent system of logic rooted in the practices of cuneiform script. Van De Mieroop uncovers Babylonian approaches to knowledge in three areas: the study of language, which in its analysis of the written word formed the basis of all logic; the art of divination, which interpreted communications between gods and humans; and the rules of law, which confirmed that royal justice was founded on truth.

The result is an innovative intellectual history of the ancient Near Eastern world during the many centuries in which Babylonian philosophers inspired scholars throughout the region—until the first millennium BC, when the breakdown of this cosmopolitan system enabled others, including the Greeks, to develop alternative methods of philosophical reasoning. (Source)



John H. Dobson and Hebrew

“Hebrew is in some ways very different from European languages. Do not try to confine it within the prison of English grammatical terms, or it may laugh and run away from you.” – John H. Dobson in Learn Biblical Hebrew, 2nd Edition, pg. 39.

The picture of little Hebrew letters running away from prison with English grammar guards is now stuck in my mind.