Tuesday, December 11, 2007

SBL 2007 (p. 8)

At 5:05 I arrived back at what was supposed to have been Andy's session: "Biblical Lands and Peoples in Archaeology and Text". A very intelligent person placed a note outside the door closest to the podium saying, "Use other door." Yes, there is intelligent life out there after all!

I have to confess that when I walked back into the room (unobtrusively via the back door) & saw that Andy had not shown up, I really lost interest in the rest of the session. I walked in while one man was lecturing, it was either Izaak J. de Hulster or more probably David Ben-Gad Hacohen. The abstracts on SBL don't seem to match what little I recall about his lecture. The most interesting moment was during the Q&A when someone asked why he was following the JEDP system of referring to a particular OT writer, & he explained that it was just a letter, & didn't mean he agreed with JEDP. He told the person who asked the question, "Pick any letter you like!" Very funny!

There's an old saying that if you can't think of anything good to say about somebody, don't say anything. So I'm just going to give the title & abstract of the other lecture by Megan Bishop Moore, & note that she was very well dressed, & in my opinion the most beautiful lady I saw throughout the whole conference series:

"The Archaeology of the Ancient Near East: Israel as a Case Study?"

"At colleges and universities that do not have departments of Near Eastern studies, courses on the archaeology of the ancient Near East are frequently offered by religion departments. Often these courses must fulfill the stipulation, or at least the assumption, that the archaeology of ancient Late Bronze and Iron Age Palestine be a focus in order that the course be relevant to biblical studies. This paper examines the question of how a Near Eastern archaeology course can function as a religion course without sacrificing discussion of ancient Near Eastern peoples, places, eras, and other topics that are of little or no relevance to understanding the background of the Hebrew Bible. Specifically, it examines the possibility of using ancient Israel as a case study for that demonstrates some of the overarching issues archaeology addresses, including cultural change and the role artifacts play in illuminating the symbolic or mental structures in a society."

(Note: I copied/pasted this text directly from SBL's website, so any typos you perceive [if you managed to stay awake while reading the entire paragraph], were not by me. I also double-checked it with the paper booklet handed out at the conference.)

The chairs in the Marriott were extremely uncomfortable--they were obviously designed by a chiropractor to ensure future business. But this minor inconvenience was offset by our room on the 4th floor having a spectacular view of the sunset over the harbor.

As soon as Dr. Moore's Q&A was over at 5:50, I rushed up to Dr. Schneider, & asked her what had happened to Andy. She said he was simply swamped with ASOR business (he's currently their Executive Director until 2011).

What a bummer! Robert Deutsch was the only LMLK VIP I wrote to prior to the conference to confirm his attendance. I simply assumed that Andy would be there, especially because I knew of his ASOR position, & I totally regret not having written to him ahead of time to set up a private meeting. I had no way of contacting him directly while at the show, so the best I could do was go home & send an E-mail hoping to hook up sometime somewhere the following day (which I'll mention in a subsequent blog, but basically, we never met). Dr. Schneider recommended that I check with Ann Killebrew (who I didn't even know was right there, still seated) to get a message to him. It was nice to see her! I explained my situation, & gave her my phone # to pass along to Andy. (As I was writing the message, another gentleman asked her what happened to Andy--he's a very popular guy!) I also thanked her for choosing Jane Cahill to lead off the first chapter of the book she co-edited with Andy on Jerusalem--smart choice!

I then made my way down to the lobby level of the North Tower to see Lester Grabbe lecture. It had been scheduled to begin at 6:00, & was apparently on schedule because he was already speaking when I got there at 6:03. This was a slightly larger room that seated about 70-90 people (just a guess), & another one that had 2 closed doors. But to ease the pain of walking into an in-process session, I spotted an elderly couple approaching also, & decided (out of the kindness of my heart) to hold the door open for them, so that they could bear the brunt of all the stares from everyone inside! Sure enough, it was the door adjacent to the podium where Prof. Grabbe was positioned! And I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that he was 1 foot from the door when we opened it--it was very awkward. The room was almost completely full, except for several seats in the first few rows, where I immediately planted myself (as did the elderly couple) as quietly as possible. (For those of you old enough to remember Johnny Carson hosting The Tonight Show--remember when Frank Sinatra used to drop in unannounced through the curtain right next to his desk, & the crowd broke into enthusiastic applause? It was not like that when we walked into this lecture.)

Grabbe edited & co-authored portions of the 2003 book, "Like a Bird in a Cage: The Invasion of Sennacherib in 701 BCE". You can scroll down on that Amazon page to read a review by me (& compare to Eisenbraun's censored version--they have much better taste; the whole review with extended focus on LMLK material will appear in Lv2). I appreciate his candor in the book, showing a desire to understand the very complicated subjects surrounding LMLK seals.

His lecture on this occasion embraced a completely different subject:

"Daniel: Sage, Seer... and Prophet?"

"In recent scholarly tradition Daniel has been excluded from prophecy, but chs 7-12 have placed among the apocalypses. Support for this position has been found in the placing of Daniel among the Writings but also in the fact that Daniel is never referred to as a 'prophet' in the book. This paper will consider the position of Daniel in the light of recent study of prophecy and apocalyptic."

His same personality showed through on this occasion as he asked & attempted to answer various questions. He provided a very simple handout consisting of 8 comparisons between Jeremiah & Daniel, & then 7 other bullets:

Jeremiah: Called by God (1).
Daniel: Daniel & friends chosen (1).

Jeremiah: Associated with temple & royal court.
Daniel: Associated with king & court.

Jeremiah: Receives messages/revelations from God.
Daniel: (same)

Jeremiah: Opposed/persecuted by priests/nobility.
Daniel: Opposed/persecuted by priests/officials.

Jeremiah: Supported by powerful individuals (38).
Daniel: Supported by king (2, 4, 6).

Jeremiah: Given oracles against various nations (46-51).
Daniel: Given visions of fall of empires (2, 7, 8).

Jeremiah: 70-year prophecy (25, 29).
Daniel: 70 weeks of years prophecy (9).

Jeremiah: Symbolic vision/action with interpretation (13, 18, 24, 32, 35).
Daniel: Symbolic vision with interpretation (2, 5, 7, 8, 9).
  • Both prophecy & apocalyptic present themselves as delivering a divine message to human recipients.

  • Both have the function of addressing the contemporary audience with regard to their current situation & offering hope or advice or perspective.

  • Both presuppose a mythical worldview in which the unseen but very real heavenly world determines what will happen on earth & in the affairs of humans.

  • Both look forward to an ideal age in which earth (& heaven, in some cases) will be transformed & the righteous will live in peace & happiness.

  • Both contain significant paranetic material, warning, advising, & admonishing the reader not only for the present but also for the future.

  • Both prophetic & apocalyptic writings might be the product of a community, but equally they might be produced by a single individual.

  • Both have a large element of pseudepigraphic material.

Up till this last bullet, his material seemed very unbiased & well presented; for example, his first comparison for Jeremiah says simply, "Called by God." Unlike Nili Fox, he didn't feel the need to preface it with a snide remark about how "you & I beings of higher 21st-century intelligence know that God--if such a thing even exists--could not possibly have actually called Jeremiah, & so this is obviously a piece of literature produced by an imaginative writer..."

It's simply too bad that he didn't add the word "probably" between "Both" & "have", but that's OK. Since Prof. Grabbe wasn't using a computer, God had to resort to interrupting the lecture with indoor thunder (enough to make the floor shake, & prompt the person presiding over the lecture to go out & investigate). Now the naturalists among us will say, "Oh, come on, George; it was just the hotel staff carelessly folding up & stacking heavy tables in the adjacent room." Yes, & with 24 hours in a day, & 7 days in a week, it's quite a coincidence that they'd be hard at work this late on a Sunday evening! I'm sure that when the Marriott facilities coordinators negotiated their contract with SBL, they said, "Oh, & some of our professional, courteous maintenance people may be making extremely loud noises in the rooms adjacent to your scholarly lectures, but I'm sure your attendees won't be annoyed; now then, here's our fee, but if you don't want to be disturbed, the price will be triple--which package would you prefer?"

Anyway, another interesting point Grabbe made was that Daniel is actually referred to as a prophet in Qumran & NT literature, which he considered "surprising".

Grabbe also stated, "I think Jeremiah was a real figure," & "I think there may have been a real person named Daniel in the Persian court." He also made a comment about Enoch being "a real ante-deluvian", which was greeted with laughter from the crowd. Sorry, I didn't get that particular joke.

He concluded the lecture by making a point about apocalyptic writing--something like, it should be a sub-division of prophecy, & that scholarly convention in this field has problems. His final punch line was, "It raises some questions about scholarly convention, which in my mind is always a good thing."

Well, I certainly had no problem applauding that!

After the uneventful Q&A, the elderly couple I entered with beat me to Prof. Grabbe (karma for me setting them up during our entrance), & ended up discussing an arrangement for him to give a lecture at their institution. I stood by waiting patiently for about 20 minutes, though it seemed like 20 hours. I could tell Prof. Grabbe kept wanting to end the conversation too, but the couple just went on & on asking the same questions 20 different ways about how to contact him, & how to make payment, how to this, how to that. Oy veh! Enough already! Halfway through, the lady turned to me & said ever so politely, "We just have one more question, I hope you don't mind..."

I imagined myself smiling just as politely & saying in the sweetest possible voice, "No, it's OK; God's just using your annoying questions to punish me; it's quite alright..." To a certain extent I enjoyed the comedy of it all; during most of the time, Prof. Grabbe was packing his bag as overtly as possible to give them a hint, but they didn't get it.

Finally, when they were done, I showed him the book, & asked him to sign it, which he did as quickly as possible, adding the surprising comment, "Wow, you're one of the 2 people who actually bought this thing--that is assuming you didn't borrow it from a library." I would never have guessed that he felt that way about the book. It's actually a nice collection of perspectives on the most important military confrontation in human history, even though I disagree with all of them (not that I take any pleasure in raising questions about scholarly convention).

On the way back to my car (after peaking into the adjacent room to see if the Shekinah/Glory was still there), I stopped to chat with Beth Alpert Nakhai, & tell her how refreshing it was to hear people like her & Jodi Magness. I told her my plight to meet Andy, & also asked about Bill Dever's antiquities collection--I've been meaning to get info on his LMLK handles (she's the one who originally told me about them), & told her I find him intimidating, & wondered if she thought it would be appropriate for me to approach him on the subject if/when I see him (which I never ended up doing at the conference, since our paths never crossed again). In her usual style, she encouraged me, & that gave me sufficient warm-fuzzies for the long drive home.

G.M. Grena

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