What has Tbilisi to Do with Helsinki?

By Jutta Jokiranta.

Georgia (Tbilisi) and Finland (Helsinki) have a lot in common, we discovered when CSTT members spent a successful week in Tbilisi Javakhishvili University. People in both countries speak a strange language, their number is around 5 million, and both countries have gained independence a hundred years ago (Finland in 1917, Georgia for a short period in 1918).

Tbilis as seen from the hill of the Mtatsminda Pantheon (picture by Ville Mäkipelto).

CSTT is about “cross-fertilization,” making scholars from different fields and areas of expertise to communicate and learn from each other. This was a specific purpose of the Tbilisi meeting, “Texts, Traditions and Transmission: Global and Local Transitions in the Late Second Temple Period,” 21‒25 May 2018, organized by CSTT Teams 2 and 4, in cooperation with local hosts in Tbilisi, especially Anna Kharanauli, Natia Mirotadze, and their students.

The aim of the symposium was to find points in common in the study of the history of the Second Temple period—the scribal milieu—and the study of scribal revisions of scriptural texts and traditions.

Picture by Ville Mäkipelto

Did we find points in contact? To give an example, special interest was on the so-called kaige-recension, in which the translators at the turn of the era brought the original text of the Septuagint into closer conformity with the Hebrew proto-Masoretic text. Anneli Aejmelaeus explored its origins and suggested tracing it to Greek speaking synagogues in Palestine. Rick Bonnie gave an overview of early synagogue finds in Palestine and showed how their architecture could be characterized by restricted access and private visibility; these buildings were used by only part of the village population. Raimo Hakola reassessed the evidence for the assumed village scribes in Galilee behind the Q-document that Matthew and Luke used, and identified a more likely home place for them in the Judean setting.

Keynotes from outside CSTT were Catherine Hezser and Mladen Popović. Hezser challenged us to think in more precise terms about scribes who were craftsmen and sages who were learned writers of literary texts. Popović presented a model of “book publishing” in the ancient world and compared the Dead Sea Scrolls scribes to Roman literati and reading communities.

The 9th/10th century three-nave basilica in Uplistsikhe (picture by Ville Mäkipelto).

The meeting organization was exceptional as CSTT members prepared to the meeting in a brainstorming session already in the spring. This was worthwhile as communication took place “behind the scenes” outside the meeting too. The organizers, Raimo Hakola, Paavo Huotari, and Jessi Orpana are now planning a publication on the basis of the meeting.   

Georgian scholars have long-standing contacts with Helsinki Septuagint scholars. We also learned from rich Georgian manuscript collections and their research. Inscriptions have been found in Iberia—as the former kingdom in Eastern Georgia was called—in five different languages, Persian, Greek, Aramaic, Hebrew, and Latin.

CSTT director Martti Nissinen exploring the caves of the ancient rock town Uplistsikhe (picture by Ville Mäkipelto).

Two excursion days at several archaeological sites and churches were a true climax for the week. In the end, a visit to the National Museum of Georgia as well as our exquisite evening meal experiences proved that Finland and Georgia are not quite the same: in Georgia, archaeological finds start from early hominids onwards—and fruit and wine do grow better in Georgia.

Exploring a local archaeological site (picture by Ville Mäkipelto).
Enjoying the amazing Georgian food culture (picture by Ville Mäkipelto).

Kenen pääkaupunki Jerusalem on? Tutkijat avaavat kaupungin historiaa, osa II

Kirjoittanut Paavo Huotari

Tämä haastattelu on jatkoa 15.1. julkaistulle haastattelulle “Kenen pääkaupunki Jerusalem on? Huippuyksikön tutkijat avaavat kaupungin historiaa” (Juha Pakkala & Kirsi Valkama), jossa keskityttiin Jerusalemiin Vanhan testamentin ja juutalaisuuden näkökulmasta. Tämä haastattelu tarkastelee kaupungin merkitystä varhaisten kristittyjen ja muslimien näkökulmasta. Viime aikoina esimerkiksi Pyhän Haudan kirkko on ollut esillä mediassa (HS 25.2.).

Keisarillista politiikkaa vai hengellisten totuuksien etsintää?

Helsingin yliopiston yliopistutkijan ja Uuden testamentin eksegetiikan dosentin Raimo Hakolan mukaan kristittyjen kiinnostus pyhään maahan kehittyi vähitellen. Miksi Jerusalem kiinnostaa kristittyjä? “Evankeliumien kuvaukset Jeesuksen viimeisistä päivistä sijoittuvat Jerusalemiin. Kun Jeesuksen pikaisen paluun odotus vähentyi, kiinnostus näihin pyhiin paikkoihin päinvastoin lisääntyi. Taustalla oli usko, että pyhissä paikoissa hengelliset totuudet avautuvat”, Hakola kertoo pyhiinvaelluksen motiiveista.

Jerusalem ei merkitse kristityille ainoastaan Jeesuksen viimeisten päivien muistelua. Hakolan mukaan myös Jeesuksen julistuksessa korostui silloin tällöin Jumalan valtakunnan konkreettinen tuleminen. Jotkut kristityt odottivat tuhatvuotista valtakuntaa, joka laskeutuu Jerusalemiin. ”Tämä näkyy esimerkiksi Justinos Marttyyrin (n. 114–165) kirjoituksissa. Varhaisille kristityille Jerusalem ja siellä olevat rauniot osoittivat myös, että Jeesuksen evankeliumeissa esittämät ennustukset olivat toteutuneet. Pyhiinvaelluskultti saikin pian juutalaisvastaisia piirteitä. Kristityt tulkitsivat tyhjän temppelivuoren ja temppelin rauniot Jumalan rangaistuksena juutalaisille, jotka surmasivat Jeesuksen. Kirkkojen lisääntyminen Jerusalemissa nähtiin taas osoituksena Jumalan suosiosta kristittyjä kohtaan. Itse asiassa joissain kristillisissä lähteissä todetaan, ettei temppelivuorelle saa rakentaa mitään”, Hakola avaa Jerusalemin merkitystä varhaisille kristityille.

”Kun Jeesuksen pikaisen paluun odotus vähentyi, kiinnostus näihin pyhiin paikkoihin päinvastoin lisääntyi”

Mutta miten pyhiinvaelluskultti oli mahdollista ei-kristillisessä Jerusalemissa? “Toisen vuosisadan jälkipuoliskolta on säilynyt vain muutamia kristittyjen miesten matkakertomuksia Jerusalemiin. Laajempi pyhiinvaelluskultti oli mahdollista vasta 300-luvulla, kun keisari Konstantinus (n. 273–337) antoi kristityille oikeuden vapaaseen uskonnonharjoitukseen. Kristityt saivat takaisin takavarikoidun omaisuuden. Uusia kirkkoja rakennettiin Palestiinaan, niihin pakkoihin missä Jeesus oli vieraillut kristillisen perimätiedon mukaan. Kristittyjen suosiminen oli seurausta Konstantinuksen omista poliittisista pyrkimyksistä”, Hakola tarkentaa.

Konstantinuksen rakennuttama Pyhän haudan kirkko (kuva: Pixabay)

Pyhiinvaelluskultin vaikutus on tuntunut Palestiinan alueella. Jerusalemin lisäksi pyhiinvaellusta esiintyi myös Galilean seudulla, minne Jeesuksen toiminta keskittyi evankeliumien mukaan. Arkeologisen aineiston perusteella Galilean taloudellinen tilanne oli hyvä 400 ja 500-luvuilla. Hakolan mukaan tämä saattoi olla osittain seurausta vakiintuneesta ja laajasta pyhiinvaelluskultista, sillä useat pyhiinvaeltajat edustivat yhteiskunnan varakasta eliittiä.

Jerusalemin tärkeimmäksi pyhiinvaelluskohteeksi nousi Konstantinuksen rakennuttama Pyhän haudan kirkko. Viimeaikaisten restaurointitöiden yhteydessä on nykyisen kirkon alta löytynyt viitteitä 300-luvulla rakennetusta kirkosta. Kristittyjen lähteiden mukaan kirkko rakennettiin Hadrianuksen 100-luvulla rakentaman Venuksen temppelin paikalle.  Hadrianuksen ajateltiin rakentaneen temppelin tarkoituksellisesti Jeesuksen tyhjän haudan paikalle ja näin pyrkineen turmelemaan kristittyjen jo olemassa olevia pyhiä paikkoja. ”Ajatus Jeesuksen kuolin- ja hautapaikan sijainnista Venuksen temppelin alla on mahdollisesti syntynyt vasta Konstantinuksen rakennusprojektin yhteydessä. Temppelin korvaaminen kirkolla oli todennäköisesti osa Konstantinuksen politiikkaa yhdistää valtio ja uskonto. Toisaalta tyhjä hauta on keskeinen osa varhaiskristillistä ajattelua. Jeesuksen kuolinpaikan konkreettinen osoittaminen oli tärkeää”, Hakola pohtii.

Jerusalemin ja muiden Jeesuksen elämään liittyvien paikkojen merkitys kristillisenä pyhiinvaelluskohteena näkyy yhä tänä päivänä. 1960-luvulta lähtien erityisesti fransiskaanien sääntökuntaan kuuluneet arkeologit ovat pyrkineet osoittamaan näitä paikkoja koskevan tradition luotettavuuden ja katkeamattoman ketjun ensimmäisiin kristittyihin asti. Hakolan mukaan tällainen johtopäätös perustuu usein löytöjen yksipuoliseen tulkintaan ja aikaiseen ajoitukseen. ”On usein mahdotonta sanoa tarkasti, missä jotkut evankeliumeissa kerrotut tapahtumat ovat tapahtuneet, jo siitä syystä, että Jeesuksen aikaiset kadut ovat usein monta metriä nykyisten katujen alla. Esimerkiksi nykyisen Via Dolorosan reitti vakiintui 1700-luvulla, vaikka varhaisimmat maininnat Jeesuksen kärsimystietä seuraavista kulkueista ovatkin jo 300-luvun lopulta”, Hakola sanoo.

Profeetta Muhammadin yöllinen matka kaukaiseen moskeijaan

Helsingin yliopiston tutkijatohtori ja tutkijakollegiumin jäsen Ilkka Lindstedt on varhaisen islamin asiantuntija. Jerusalemia pidetään perinteisesti islamin kolmanneksen pyhimpänä paikkana, miksi? ”Koraanin 17. Suura kertoo palvelijasta, jonka Jumala johdattaa jostain rukouspaikasta kaukaiseen moskeijaan (jae 17:1). Mahdollisesti jo Muhammadin aikaan mutta ainakin myöhemmin tämä palvelija on tulkittu profeetta Muhammadiksi (n. 570–632), joka teki yöllisen matkan Mekasta Jerusalemiin, ja sieltä taas taivaaseen. Taivaassa Muhammad olisi nähnyt entisiä profeettoja, kuten Aabrahamin. Hän myös neuvotteli Mooseksen välityksellä Jumalan kanssa päivittäisestä rukousten määrästä, jota muslimilta edellytetään. Yksi Jerusalemin moskeijoista on myöhemmin saanut nimensä tämän tekstin mukaan ”al-masjid al-aqsā ” eli kaukaisin moskeija,” Lindstedt kertoo.

Vaikka Koraani ei mainitse Jerusalemia nimeltä, Jerusalem oli pyhä kaupunki muslimeille jo islamin syntyaikoina. Varhainen islam on syntynyt pitkälti kristinuskon ja juutalaisuuden pohjalta. Arabian niemimaalla on mahdollisesti liikkunut juutalais-kristillisiä ryhmiä, ebionien jälkeläisiä, jotka noudattivat tiukasti Jumalan lakia, Tooraa. He ovat saattaneet vaikuttaa uuteen uskontoon ja sen myönteiseen suhtautumiseen lakia kohtaan. ”Koska Jerusalem oli tärkeä kaupunki juutalaisille ja kristityille, sitä sen oli oltava myös varhaisille muslimeille. Juutalaisuutta ja Islamia yhdistää erityisesti monoteismi, yksijumaluus. Koraani kuvaa Aabrahamia eräänlaisena proto-monoteistina ja idolatrian vastustajana, joka ei ollut juutalainen tai kristitty. Erityisesti profeetta Aabrahamin perintö yhdistetään Muhammadiin”, Lindstedt avaa uskontojen välisiä yhteyksiä.

Muhammadin elämänkertakirjallisuus kertoo, että muslimit olisivat rukoilleet alussa Jerusalemia kohti. Rukoussuunta kuitenkin kääntyi Mekkaa kohti, kun Muhammad pettyi juutalaisiin, jotka eivät tunnustaneet häntä Raamatun profeettana. ”Tämän elämänkertakirjallisuuden historiallisuus on epävarmaa. Toisaalta Koraanin 2. suura antaa myös viitteitä siitä, että muslimien rukoussuunta olisi vaihtunut”, Lindstedt pohtii.

Muhammadin pettymyksestä tai rukoussuunnan kääntymisestä huolimatta Jerusalem säilyi muslimien pyhänä kaupunkina. Kun Muhammad kuoli vuonna 632, uusi uskonnollis-poliittinen liike oli valloittanut suuren osan Arabian niemimaata. Tämän jälkeen alkoivat arabivalloitukset. Varhaiset muslimit valloittivat alueita muun muassa Lähi-idästä ja sitä myötä myös Jerusalemin pitkän piirityksen päätteeksi vuonna 637. Valloituksen jälkeen muslimit antoivat juutalaisten palata Jerusalemiin. Lindstedtin mukaan juutalaisissa aikalaisteksteissä arabivalloitukset nähdään hyvässä valossa, koska kristittyjä rangaistaan juutalaisten vainoamisesta.

”Kaiken kaikkiaan Jerusalemin merkitys muuttuu sitä mukaan mikä on ajankohtainen tilanne, niin rauhassa kuin sodassa”

Valloitusta seuranneiden tapahtumien historiallisuudesta ollaan epävarmoja. Myöhemmän historiankirjoituksen mukaan kalifi, muslimien hallitsija Umar (v. 634–644), olisi saapunut paikalle, mikä korostaa Jerusalemin tärkeyttä. ”Kertomuksen mukaan patriarkka Sophronius olisi luovuttanut Jerusalemin avaimet muslimeille. Sophronius myös esittelee kaupunkia Umarille. Kun Umar huomaa, että temppelivuorella ei ole temppeliä, hän määrää moskeijan rakennettavaksi sinne. Umar vierailee myös Pyhän haudan kirkolla, missä Sophronius kehottaa häntä rukoilemaan. Umar olisi kuitenkin kieltäytynyt rukouksesta, koska hän ei halunnut antaa mielikuvaa, että muslimit olisivat tulleet ryöstämään kristittyjen pyhiä paikkoja”, Lindstedt kuvaa myöhäisten lähteiden sisältöä.

Abd al-Malikin rakennuttama Kalliomoskeija (kuva: Unsplash).

600-luvun loppupuolella muslimien keskuudessa oli paljon sisäistä hajaannusta ja useita kalifeja. Ibn al-Zubair (v. 683–692) hallitsi Arabian niemimaata ja Mekkaa. Kilpaileva kalifi Abd al-Malik (v. 685–705) hallitsi puolestaan osia suur-Syyriasta ja Jerusalemia. Koska Mekka oli jo tuolloin keskeinen muslimien pyhiinvaelluskaupunki, useat muslimit pitivät juuri Ibn al-Zubairia oikeana hallitsijana. ”Kalliomoskeijan rakentaminen (v. 688–692) Jerusalemiin saattoi olla Abd al-Malikin pyrkimys muuttaa tätä asetelmaa. Kalliomoskeijan arkkitehtuuri viittaa siihen, että se rakennettiin alun perin pyhiinvaelluskohteeksi, ei rukouspaikaksi. Moskeijan keskellä on kivi, jossa Aabraham uskottiin olleen uhraamassa poikaansa tai mistä Muhammad nousi taivaaseen – tai molempia. Ibn al-Zubair kuitenkin kuolee vuonna 692, samana vuonna, kun Kalliomoskeija valmistuu. Kun Abd al-Malik onnistui valloittamaan Mekan, hänen uskonnollinen reforminsa Jerusalemia varten käy tarpeettomaksi”, Lindstedt pohtii kaupungin roolia muslimien välienselvittelyssä.

Umaijadi-dynastian (v. 661–750) aikana kalifaatin pääkaupunki oli Damaskoksessa, lähellä Jerusalemia. Vuonna 750 valta islamilaisessa kalifaatissa vaihtuu abbasidi-dynastialle (v. 750–1258). Samalla myös kalifaatin pääkaupunki siirtyi Bagdadiin. ”Toisaalta vaikka Jerusalemin poliittinen merkitys vähenee vuoden 750 jälkeen, sen apokalyptinen merkitys säilyy. Arabiankielisessä apokalyptisessä kirjallisuudessa useat lopun ajan tapahtumat sijoitetaan Jerusalemiin. Jeesus kuvataan esimerkiksi taistelemassa muslimien rinnalla, kun hän palaa Jerusalemiin. Kaupunkiin liittyvissä taisteluissa Jeesus lyö anti-Kristuksen (arab. al-dajjal) ja luovuttaa vallan toiselle lopun aikojen hahmolle, Mahdille, joka on profeetta Muhammadin jälkeläinen. Kaiken kaikkiaan Jerusalemin merkitys muuttuu sitä mukaan mikä on ajankohtainen tilanne, niin rauhassa kuin sodassa”, Lindstedt tiivistää Jerusalemin merkityksen islamilaisessa maailmassa.

”David shot first!” Seeking parallels between the editing of Star Wars and the Hebrew Bible

By Timo Tekoniemi.

What do Han Solo and King Solomon have in common? How about the many deleted scenes of the first Star Wars film A New Hope, and Yahweh’s consort Asherah? Certainly no association can be made between George Lucas and the genesis of the ancient sectarian Qumran community?

Despite over two millennia separating these characters and texts, these phenomena are indeed linked to one another. Not only has it been often noted that Star Wars fandom resembles in many respects a religion of its own, but both the Hebrew Bible and modern films are shaped and revised by editors, who are also bound to use similar editorial techniques. Like the ancient scribes, professional film editors have omissions, transpositions, harmonizations, and even theological/ideological corrections in their toolbox. In this light, one immediately recognizes the similarities between the many omissions made to the very first preliminary cut of A New Hope (“The Lost Cut”), which was deemed as a failure and in need of radical re-editing, and the likely omission of the Israelite goddess Asherah from the Hebrew Bible. Both of these radical and vast omissions were made necessary in their respective new contexts, whether a need for a watchable movie or a new theological paradigm where Yahweh was understood as the sole god of the Israelites.

The editorial interventions of scribes and editors were/are not always this drastic, however, but, more often than not, rather small and slight – but far from inconsequential. For example, when we note that in the Septuagint edition of 1 Kings 11:1 King Solomon seems to become less sinful, being simply a “lover of women” instead of “lover of foreign women” (thus breaking against Deut 7:1–4, where intermarrying with foreigners is prohibited), we are likely dealing with a slight ideological enhancement of the picture of the pious king Solomon. This impression is corroborated by a similar “pious correction” later made by George Lucas to his re-edited Special Edition (1997) of A New Hope. Despite being the only one to shoot in the original version of the film, in the now infamous scene of the Special Edition one of the heroes, Han Solo, seems to shoot in self-defence only after the bounty hunter Greedo, who is after the reward on his head. This change mitigates the blame of Han’s cold-blooded murder – and, in fact, renders Han a victim of Greedo’s aggression!

Depiction by Giovanni Battista Venanzi of King Solomon being led astray into idolatry in his old age by his wives, 1668. Source.

Despite its minor scale, this alteration made by Lucas has incited widespread opposition in the fan community, as it considerably changes the depiction of Han Solo, and has therefore larger ideological repercussions to the whole saga. Thus, when the fans maintain to this day that “Han shot first”, they are in fact defending both their right to claim authority to maintain their view of the old canon (where Han still shoots first) and the earlier, untampered textual edition, the original trilogy. There is an ongoing battle between the different Star Wars canons, which forms a very close parallel to the current scholarly dispute concerning the canonicity of different books and editions of the biblical books. It is likely that observations of this ongoing modern “battle of canons” could also help biblical scholars to better understand how the ancient communities (and their leaders) may have understood and contested the different ideas of textual canon(s) of their time.

Like the Qumran community, which seems to have severed its ties with the Jerusalem priesthood after some theological disagreements, also parts of the fan community have gone as far as completely denouncing George Lucas as the “high priest” of the saga. To them, Lucas no more has any authority in matters concerning Star Wars. Many of these fans have taken matters in their own hands in the form of fan-editing, i.e. editing the movies themselves to better conform to their own canonical picture of the saga, which is mainly based on the original trilogy. In the process these fan-editors have created a fluid and massive textual plurality of different versions and editions of the loved Star Wars movies (to date at least 137 fan edits!). Somewhat paradoxically, however, the fan-editors see themselves not as rebellious renegades, but, on the contrary, as the keepers of the flame for “the original Star Wars,” now seemingly desecrated and abandoned by Lucas. This massive interpretive textual plurality resembles in many ways that found in the caves of Qumran.

It has become clear that there are multiple parallels between the Star Wars saga, its editing, and its reception by the fan community, on one hand, and the editing of the Hebrew Bible, on the other. Viewpoints taken from Film Studies are therefore not only valid when assessing the editorial techniques reflected by the Hebrew Bible, but might, with further research, prove to be an invaluable parallel and aid to text- and literary critics alike, enhancing our understanding of the textual evolution of the Hebrew Bible. Since the Star Wars franchise is also currently in a textually active situation, with new instalments being filmed at the very moment (the next film, focused on young Han Solo, will be published in May), the saga is an excellent example of a constantly evolving literary work.

Portion of the Temple Scroll, labeled 11Q19, found at Qumran. Source.

Texts were and are thus rewritten exactly because of – not in spite of – their importance to the community. Even radical editing of a text is, at least to a certain degree, always a means to preserve an earlier text that is perceived as somehow important. An immutable text becomes, in a way, dead, and in danger of being simply forgotten; or, in the words of George Lucas, “films never get finished, they get abandoned.”

Timo Tekoniemi’s article “Editorial In(ter)ventions: Comparing the Editorial Processes of the Hebrew Bible and the Star Wars Saga,” was published in the Journal of Religion & Film 22/1 (2018): 1–30. It can be downloaded either at the journal’s home page or his academia.edu page.

Antiquarianism for Fun and Profit: Financing Your (God’s) Home in Ancient Mesopotamia

By Shana Zaia.

Buying a house or apartment, paying a mortgage, maintaining your home: these are common concerns of property-owners in the modern world and most people turn to banks to finance their real estate ventures. But what if you’re an ancient Mesopotamian priest with the god’s house—that is, a temple—to run? Here, the funding agency is not your bank but rather your king, and you’ll need to make quite a persuasive case to get his attention.

Temples in ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) were not only religious spaces: they controlled property and slaves, acted in legal cases, and stored money and precious goods in their inner sanctums. Even with these riches, upkeep was expensive and required additional resources as temples needed renovations and particular accessories for the performance of routine rituals, especially for larger festivals such as for the New Year. So, the king was in charge of reconstruction projects and he and other elites often made donations to the main temples, which also benefitted from royal exemptions from taxation and from other means of support such as receiving spoils of the king’s military campaigns.

A stele from Babylonia showing King Ashurbanipal (687-c. 627 BCE) performing the “basket bearing” ritual to mark the start of temple construction. British Museum 90865.

But not all temples were so lucky when it came to royal patronage; wealth was generally concentrated in the major temples, the ones that were most important to royal ideology. Peripheral and provincial temples were not necessarily as financially stable and may have struggled with maintaining the building, keeping the rituals running, and paying the officials and staff. A temple in this situation was best served by trying to attract the attention of the king so that he would support their cult. So how did local priests try to convince the king to grant them privileges and financial assistance? The answer was by invoking ancient history—or something like it.

Stele from Babylon showing a ziggurat and the temple at its top. Source.

For example, the priests of the Sippar temple of the sun god, Šamaš, got quite creative. At some point, probably the Neo-Babylonian period (626-539 BCE), the priests approached the king with an impressive inscription, the Cruciform Monument, that was written in an antique form of Akkadian and explained privileges and funds granted to their temple by the third millennium king Maništušu. The monument claims that the temple received land, renovations, provisions for the priestesses and temple, mandated labor from 38 cities, and gifts for Šamaš and his consort Aya. This was an effective strategy—kings paid careful attention to the deeds of ancient predecessors, especially construction projects and granting privileges, often to outdo them and receive divine favor. Thus, the appeal for the king to follow in Maništušu’s footprints was strong.

Cruciform Monument, British Museum 91022. Source.

There was, of course, one tiny detail that king, who was probably illiterate, wasn’t aware of—the monument was not ancient at all! The Sippar priests created the text themselves, imitating the ancient script and language of Old Akkadian to convince the king to provide support. They didn’t quite get the Old Akkadian right and perhaps went a bit too far in ending the text with “this is no lie, it is the truth.” It is unknown whether the king saw through their ruse or if the priests were successful, but the fact that this monument exists shows the importance of texts and ancient theological ideals. This is not our only example of “pious frauds,” which usually had to do with temple privileges in a similar way as this case, so it’s clear that this was not an isolated incident.

Later, in Seleucid period Uruk (312-63 BCE), the local elites took an even more elaborate approach to promote their temples. Uruk had a long history of being the main cult center in southern Mesopotamia as the home of Ištar (called Inanna in earlier periods) and Anu (earlier, An). But, the city was overshadowed by the rise of Babylon and its city god Marduk in the Old Babylonian period (c. 2000-1600 BCE). When Babylon’s status later declined, Uruk’s literate elites took the power vacuum as an opportunity for a religious reform that would put Uruk back on the cultic map.

Marduk of Babylon depicted on a Babylonian cylinder seal. Source.
Map of Mesopotamia, including the Babylonian cities of Sippar, Uruk, Babylon, and Nippur. Source.

Even though Uruk had become marginal, Ištar remained one of the most popular deities throughout Mesopotamia’s history, especially in royal ideology. But the reform did not promote Uruk’s Ištar cult—no, strangely enough, the Urukean elites revived the cult of Anu, the god of the heavens, who did not have the same popularity despite historically being the highest god in the pantheon. The exact timeline is not clear, but by the Seleucid period, Anu’s dominance in Uruk was indisputable and rising. Local archives show how the scribes promoted Anu from a local god to a universal god through ancient texts that recognized him as the head of the pantheon, sometimes reinterpreting the texts to prove their theological ideals.

Example of an Akkadian text that exalts Anu found in Seleucid period Uruk (312-63 BCE). Full edition.

Why did the Urukeans revive a long-defunct cult instead of capitalizing on their powerful and popular local goddess? Like the Šamaš priests in Sippar, the answer lies in strategic antiquarianism and the tendency in ancient Mesopotamia to repackage theological innovations as a return to ancient traditions. Anu’s status as the traditional head of the pantheon meant that his relative unimportance in living cult mattered less than the fact that he outranked all other gods. Most importantly, he outranked Marduk of Babylon and even Enlil of Nippur, another rival cult city in Babylonia. A governor of Uruk even created an ancient past for the (new) temple complex built for Anu by claiming that it was actually built by a legendary sage who was said to have lived before the Great Flood.

Reconstruction of the Bīt Reš, the Seleucid period temple complex of Anu and his consort Antu (image by Staatliche Museen zu Berlin/Deutsches Archäologisches Institut). Source.

Unfortunately, we don’t know how these reforms played out regionally or to what extent non-literate classes knew about them. We are left to wonder if the Urukeans managed to draw the king’s attention to their ancient and powerful (if somewhat neglected) god Anu and thereby to channel imperial wealth and resources into their city.

Šamši-Adad V of Assyria (c. 815 BCE) shown facing the symbols of the gods. The horned crown representing Anu is the highest in the sequence (British Museum 118892). Source.

As we can see, the stakes for temples to attract royal patronage were quite high and temple staff could resort to some rather drastic measures. Luckily, this was probably not the norm, as many temples were important enough in royal ideology that they were supported by the king with no further prompting. Generally this was because the temples’ resident gods were considered supporters or protectors of the king in his political and military endeavors and so the king patronizing their temples would inspire these gods to continue showing favor to him. Still, these gods and their associated temples were subject to changing beliefs and many temples, especially smaller ones, likely quietly faded into obscurity and neglect. But, thanks to a few cases such as the ones above, we can see how some temples fought back against their increasing marginalization by invoking an ancient—if fictitious—past in which their gods and temples were high priority for an esteemed royal ancestor

Written by Shana Zaia.

Further Reading

P.-A. Beaulieu, “Antiquarian Theology in Seleucid Uruk,” Acta Sumerologica Japonica, vol. 14 (1992): 47-75.

A. Berlejung. 2009. “Innovation als Restauration in Uruk und Jehud. Überlegungen zu Transformationsprozessen in vorderorientalischen Gesellschaften” in Reformen im Alten Orient und der Antike. Programme, Darstellungen und Deutungen, ed. E. – J. Waschke. Mohr Siebeck.

N. Na’aman. “The ‘Discovered book’ and the Legitimation of Josiah’s Reform.” Journal of Biblical Literature 130: 1 (2011): 47-62.

Raamatuntutkijat radiossa pääsiäisen alla

Pääsiäisen tienoilla Yle tarjoili radioaalloillaan noin kahden tunnin verran eksegetiikkaa eli tieteellistä raamatuntutkimusta. Haastateltavien joukossa olivat huippuyksikömme tutkijat Martti Nissinen ja Kirsi Valkama. Ohjelmat voi kuunnella verkossa jälkeenpäin.

Perttu Häkkisen ohjelman jaksossa “Raamattu ja Magia” haastateltiin Kirsi Valkamaa ja Nina Nikkiä heidän toimittamansa kirjan aihepiireistä. “Onko Raamatussa magiaa? Oliko Jeesus maagi? Mikä on magian ja uskonnon ero? Onko uskonnon ja magian käsitteellinen erottelu silmänlumetta?” Jakson voit kuunnella täältä.

Ylen Tiedeykkösessä Ville Talola keskittyi Vanhan ja Uuden testamentin kriittisen tutkimuksen peruskysymyksiin Martti Nissisen ja Matti Myllykosken kanssa. “Kristityt tutkivat Raamattua Jumalan sanana, mutta tiedeyhteisöä Raamatussa kiinnostaa tekstien synty, niiden kuvaama maailma, myytit ja historiallinen aines. Miten Raamatusta tuli Raamattu, mitä Raamatussa on ja ovatko siinä esiintyvät henkilöt kuten Mooses tai Jeesus oikeasti historian hahmoja?” Jakson voit kuunnella täältä.

Cel­eb­rat­ing the In­ter­na­tional Wo­men’s Day 2018 with a Wiki­pe­dia edit-a-thon

Text by Katri Rostedt.

On the 8th of March, International Women’s Day, the Centres of Excellence ANEE and CSTT co-organized a Wikipedia edit-a-thon with the theme “Women and the Ancient Near East”. The aim was to improve both the Wikipedia pages on female scholars of the ancient Near East and on women in the ancient sources. The event took place in a casual but inspiring atmosphere, and the Wikimedia volunteers provided some editing training for the ones not so familiar with Wikipedia content creating. The event gathered 15 participants, who created in total 4 new Wikipedia articles, edited 9 existing ones, and added 2540 words to Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is a web-based encyclopedia that is based on the openly editable content. The Wikipedia project is supported by Wikimedia Foundation that owns the Wikipedia.org –domain, and e.g. exercises outreach and controls the servers. The Foundation does not edit the Wikipedia content, though, but the volunteers (that is, anyone with internet access and a Wikipedia username) are taking care of producing and editing texts. Updating and correcting the information on Wikipedia is an easy and effective way to spread rightful knowledge; Wikipedia is a heavily trusted tool among the greater public, pupils, reporters and students.

This is the second time the Wikipedia edit-a-thon event relating to especially women and ancient near east has been organized in Finland, and a similar event was also held at the AAR/SBL annual meeting in Boston in 2017. One of the active persons behind these previous events is ANEE Team 3 vice-leader and CSTT member, Rick Bonnie, who finds these events very effective endeavors for advancing the knowledge both on Wikipedia and the gender gap: “Research has shown that ca. 90 percent of Wikipedia editors are male. This has a profound impact upon what content is being created and updated on Wikipedia. Hence, it is important that we as researchers try to make sure that the content of Wikipedia is not gender biased.”

The event was made successful with the editing training help of Wikimedia Finland volunteers, Heikki Kastemaa and Tia Kangaspunta. Heikki Kastemaa, Chair of Wikimedia Finland, hopes to narrow the gap between reading Wikipedia and actually editing its content:”Editing Wikipedia is easy, you just need a profile in order to do that. You can edit while you read.”

The researchers of ANEE and CSTT urge everyone to organize similar events for their communities. We are also happy to give you some tips, if needed!

Further reads

Article on Wikipedia about gender gap

For more information to get started with Wikipedia editing, look the introduction

Text originally published at the ANEE website.

Visiting lecture by Mark S. Smith: “The Three Bodies of God”

In recent years scholars and non-scholars alike have become interested in biblical references to the body of God. Smith sketches out a typology of three types of divine bodies based on different scales, locations, and settings in the religion of ancient Israel: (1) a natural “human” body; (2) a super-sized “liturgical” body; and (3) a “cosmic” or “mystical” body.

Mark S. Smith is the Helena Professor of Old Testament Language and Exegesis at Princeton Theological Seminary. He specializes in Israelite religion and the Hebrew Bible, as well as the literature and religion of Late Bronze Age Ugarit. He has obtained master’s degrees from Catholic University of America, Harvard University, and Yale University, and PhD at Yale. He has also served as the Skirball Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at New York University, and also taught at Yale and Saint Joseph’s University. A Roman Catholic layman, Smith also served as a visiting professor at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.

The event will be on Wednesday 21.3 at 18:00 in the House of Science and Letters, hall 104 (Kirkkokatu 6, Helsinki).

The lecture will be held in English and is organized by the Finnish Institute in the Middle East. Welcome!

Link to the Facebook event

CSTT Annual Meeting 2018 on “Authority and Change” at Lammi

The CSTT 2018 Annual Meeting took place 8.-11. February at the Lammi Biological Station. The special theme Authority and Change was approached from different angles by the keynote speakers Joanna Töyräänvuori, Shana Zaia, Christoph Levin, and George Brooke. We also heard two interesting panels dealing with the definition of authority and the usage of edited texts in reconstructing history.

Most of the hands-on work took place in smaller workshops, bringing the CSTT teams together in different combinations. This way of working produced exciting new ideas and opportunities for collaboration between scholars dealing with different kinds of source materials.

The following pictures hopefully illuminate some of the exciting and fruitful moments in the snowy Lammi.

CSTT group photo with the beautiful Finnish winter milieu (photo by Lauri Laine).

The presentation by Tuukka Kauhanen, dealing with different levels of history that can be gleaned through edited texts (photo by Lauri Laine).
Participants at the CSTT Annual Meeting 2018 (photo by Lauri Laine).
One of the smaller workshops: teams 2 and 3 discussing text-critical cases (photo by Ville Mäkipelto).
The happy panel “What is Authority” with Jutta Jokiranta, Anneli Aejmelaeus, Martti Nissinen, Francis Borchardt, and Jason Silverman (photo by Ville Mäkipelto).
The concluding panel with the CSTT scientific advisory board members Kristin De Troyer and George Brooke, as well as Christoph Levin and our leader Martti Nissinen (photo by Lauri Laine).
Last moments (photo by Lauri Laine).

Wikipedia edit-a-thon: “Women and the Ancient Near East”

The Centres of Excellence ANEE and CSTT will organise a Wikipedia edit-a-thon, open to all researchers at the Faculties of Theology and Arts (University of Helsinki), on the theme of “Women and the Ancient Near East,” in honor of International Women’s Day (March 8). The event will be held Thursday, March 8 in the Faculty of Theology, 5th floor faculty hall (Vuorikatu 3), 2pm – 6pm. We will provide training for everyone to edit Wikipedia at the event with help of Wikimedia Finland volunteers.

The new volume “Women’s Writing of Ancient Mesopotamia“, co-edited by the ANEE leader Saana Svärd, may inspire wonderful new Wikipedia articles.

This is the second time the event has been organized in Finland, and a similar event was also held at the AAR & SBL annual meeting in Boston 2017. Research has shown that ca. 90 percent of Wikipedia editors are male. This has a profound impact upon what content is being created and updated on this influential encyclopedia. As Wikipedia is the most used encyclopedia and is often the first place that high school pupils, university students, and laypeople look for information, addressing this gender imbalance is of high importance.

Together, on March 8, we plan to improve both the Wikipedia pages on female scholars of the ancient Near East and on women in the ancient sources (Hebrew Bible included), in a social and casual atmosphere. The CSTT and ANEE will provide an assortment of snacks and celebratory drinks.

You are very welcome to join us! Please register (for free) here, so we can keep an accurate headcount: https://goo.gl/forms/NkSAicCuJGrj17qc2

Conference “Conceptualizing the Divine in the Levant” (Helsinki, 21-23 March)

Deities in Aram, Israel, and Phoenicia: an Iron Age perspective on conceptualizing the divine in the Levant

(21–23 March 2018 in Helsinki)

The shift from Late Bronze Age to Iron Age in the Levant is usually characterized by the collapse of ‘empires’ and the rise of (so-called) ‘national states’ or ‘territorial kingdoms’. These political changes had their repercussions on how identities were negotiated and how ‘the divine’ (realm) was conceptualized and deities understood. The Iron Age Levantine kingdoms comprise ‘Aram’, ‘Phoenicia’ (or broader: Sea Peoples), and as a third ‘Israel’ (and Judah) is singled out here (among the kingdoms around the Jordan). These territorial kingdoms had their own ‘national deities’ – partly in continuity with the Bronze Age city states. For instance as heirs to Bronze Age Syrian religion Phoenicians and Aramaeans carried on prophecy, the ancestor cult for the king, and the prime position of the weather god (cf. M. Hutter, Religionen in der Umwelt des Alten Testaments I: Babylonier, Syrer, Perser, 1996: 177–178). Next to different forms of reception (incl. reinterpretation), the new historical context also demonstrates change. Contemporary cultural contacts, fostered by economics (trade) and politics (treaties and war), raised questions of cultural ‘translatability’ of deities (cf. M.S. Smith, God in Translation,
2010) and also resulted in ‘ligatures’ (a merger of deities, sometimes marked by hyphenated names, such as ‘Baal-Seth’) and ‘transnational’ veneration (e.g., Melqart). These conceptualizations of the divine found expression in names, religious practice (cult, ritual), texts (e.g., myths, prophecies) and material artefacts (both in monumental and miniature art). Continue reading Conference “Conceptualizing the Divine in the Levant” (Helsinki, 21-23 March)

The Academy of Finland's Centre of Excellence, Faculty of Theology, University of Helsinki