The ancient Near East provides us with very early textual evidence of human migration. In his new book Judeans in Babylonia, Tero Alstola studies Judean deportees in Babylonia in the sixth and fifth centuries BCE. Using cuneiform texts as his sources, he explores the life deportees and their descendants in Babylonia over several generations, focusing on the questions of socioeconomic status, culture, and integration into Babylonian society. Continue reading Did They Weep? A New Book on Judeans in Babylonia→
Miten Raamatussa kuvaillaan sukupuolia ja sukupuolielämää? Suomen eksegeettisen seuran uutuuskirja Sukupuoli Raamatun maailmassa tarjoilee aiheesta monipuolisen artikkelikokoelman. Kirja sisältää myös useita huippuyksikön tutkijoiden kirjoittamia artikkeleita. Kirjan esittely kuuluu:
“Mitä Raamatussa sanotaan sukupuolista ja sukupuolielämästä, miehistä ja naisista? Miten erilaiset käsitykset sukupuolesta ilmenevät paitsi Raamatussa myös muissa aikalaislähteissä? Entä mitä näistä muinaisista lähteistä voidaan sanoa sukupuolentutkimuksen valossa? Sukupuoli Raamatun maailmassa esittelee raamatuntutkimuksen ja sukupuolentutkimuksen leikkauspintoja suomalaiselle yleisölle.
Kirja on ensimmäinen suomenkielinen Raamattua ja sukupuolentutkimusta käsittelevä yleisteos. Se soveltuu sekä aihepiiriin perehdyttäväksi oppikirjaksi että muille aiheesta kiinnostuneille.
Moniääninen teos havainnollistaa sukupuolentutkimuksen rakentumista Raamatun ajan maailmassa erilaisia metodologisia tulokulmia hyödyntäen. Lähestymistavat ulottuvat arkeologiasta tekstintutkimukseen ja eletyn uskonnon viitekehyksestä queer-teoriaan. Raamatun tekstien ohella kirjassa tarkastellaan Qumranin tekstejä, hellenistijuutalaista ja varhaiskristillistä kirjallisuutta ja myöhäisantiikin maailmaa.”
Kirjan toinen toimittaja Elisa Uusimäki, huippuyksikön tiimin 4 jäsen, vieraili Susanna Asikaisen kanssa Vanhojan ja Nikin kirjapodcastissa puhumassa kirjasta ja sen käsittelemistä teemoista. Podcastin voit kuunnella täältä.
Why are there so many scriptural quotations in Romans? What functions do they perform in Paul’s argumentation? Does Paul quote accurately according to a wording known to him or does he adapt the wording himself? How does the function of a quotation in Romans relate to the original literary context of the quoted words? In her new book, Katja Kujanpää (Th.D.), a postdoctoral researcher of the CSTT, seeks answers to these questions.
Numerous studies try to describe how Paul read Jewish scriptures. This book focuses on how he uses them. It views Romans as a letter composed to persuade its audience: quotations help Paul to articulate his views, to anchor them in scriptures, to increase the credibility of his argumentation, and to underline his authority as a scriptural interpreter. The book combines modern quotation studies, rhetorical perspectives and careful text-critical analysis of the 51 quotations in Romans.
The book shows that Paul actively tries to guide his audience to interpret the scriptural quotations as he wished them to interpreted. Rather than inviting his audience to an intertextual journey, that is, to listen to scriptures themselves and to reach their own interpretations, Paul actively tries to control the message that quotations have in his argumentation. The book highlights his various strategies in accomplishing this.
The question concerning the accuracy of Paul’s quotations is important, since deliberate modifications may reflect Paul’s intention and reveal what he wishes to communicate with the quotation. As the Introduction of the book shows, knowledge of the Septuagint studies and of the textual plurality of the first century CE are crucial for this question.
Combining rhetorical matters with close textual study results in a more comprehensive picture of quotations in Romans than has been previously seen. Thus, the book opens new perspectives on Paul’s argumentation, rhetoric and theological agenda.
Miten pyhät tekstit ja perinteet ovat historian saatossa muuttuneet? Huippuyksikömme tutkijoiden kirjoittama uutuskirja valottaa tutkimuksen uusimpia näkökulmia aiheeseen. Martti Nissisen ja Leena Vähäkylän toimittama Kiveen hakattu? Pyhät tekstit ja perinteet muutoksessa (Gaudeamus, 2018) julkaistaan virallisesti Helsingin Kirjamessuilla torstaina 25.10. klo. 15:30.
Uutuuskirja kuuluu Suomen Akatemian Tutkitusti-sarjaan. Alla on kirjan kuvausteksti kustantajan verkkosivuilta:
“Tulipalo tuhoaa kaupungin, kivenhakkaajan taltta lipsahtaa, käsikirjoituksen jäljentäjä tekee kynttilänsä valossa kirjoitusvirheen, paperi rasahtaa rikki terävän mustekynän alla.
Pyhät tekstit eivät ole ajan hampaalta ja inhimillisiltä erheiltä suojattuja sen paremmin kuin maallisetkaan hengentuotteet, vaikka Raamattuun ja vanhoihin traditioihin usein liitetään ajatus juuri muuttumattomuudesta.
Tekstit ja perinteet elävät jatkuvasti, toisinaan myös tietoisen valinnan seurauksena: esimerkiksi Paavali siteeraa Vanhan testamentin tekstejä omaan retoriikkaansa sopivasti, ei välttämättä sanatarkasti. Tekstien muutoksiin ovat vaikuttaneet myös kulttuuriset ja yhteiskunnalliset muutokset, esimerkiksi väestönsiirrot, kaupunkien tuhoutumiset sekä erilaisten kulttuuriperinteiden kohtaamiset ja sulautumiset.
Kiveen hakattu? raottaa pyhien tekstien historiaa ja teksteihin tehtyjä perusteltuja ja dokumentoituja muutoksia vieden samalla pohjaa fundamentalismilta. Esimerkiksi Raamatun muuttumattomuus on illuusio: vanhat käsikirjoitukset ovat aina olleet erilaisia sekä kokoonpanoltaan että sisällöltään. Muinaiset tekstit ovat suodattuneet meidän aikaamme lukuisten kirjureiden ja kääntäjien kätten kautta.”
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!
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.
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.
Uusimmassa Yliopisto-lehdessä julkaistiin laaja juttu, jossa käydään läpi Lähi-idän historiaa, perintöä ja nykytilaa. Juttua varten on haastateltu “Pyhät tekstit ja traditiot muutoksessa” -huippuyksikön johtajaa Martti Nissistä sekä tiimi 1:sen jäsentä Saana Svärdiä. Artikkelissa on esillä myös Svärdin johtama uusi huippuyksikkö Muinaisen Lähi-idän imperiumit. Lisäksi Helsingin yliopiston seemiläisten kielten ja kulttuurien professori Hannu Juusola on jutussa mukana.
Martti Nissinen, the director of CSTT, has just published his newest book on prophecy, which has been the main topic of his research for three decades.
Ancient Prophecy is a comprehensive treatment of the ancient prophetic phenomenon as it comes to us through biblical, Near Eastern, and Greek sources. Once a distinctly biblical concept, prophecy is today acknowledged as yet another form of divination and a phenomenon that can be found all over the ancient Eastern Mediterranean. Even Greek oracle, traditionally discussed separately from biblical and Mesopotamian prophecy, is essentially part of the same picture.
The book argues for a common category of ancient Eastern Mediterranean prophecy, even though the fragmentary and secondary nature of the sources allows only a restricted view to it. The ways prophetic divination manifests itself in ancient sources depend not only on the socio-religious position of the prophets, but also on the genre and purpose of the sources. Nissinen shows that, even though the view of the ancient prophetic landscape is restricted by the fragmentary and secondary nature of the sources, it is possible to reconstruct essential features of prophetic divination
The first part lays the theoretical foundation of the book, defining prophecy as a non-technical, or inspired, form of divination, in which the prophet acts as an intermediary of divine knowledge. It is argued that that prophecy as much a scholarly construct as a historical phenomenon documented in Near Eastern, biblical, as well as Greek textual sources. The knowledge of the historical phenomenon depends essentially on the genre and purpose of the source material which, however, is very fragmentary and, due to its secondary nature, does not yield a full and balanced picture of ancient prophecy. This chapter also discusses the purpose of comparative studies, arguing that they are necessary, not primarily to reveal the influence of one source on the other, but to identify a common category of ancient Eastern Mediterranean prophecy.
Part Two constitutes a comprehensive and up-to-date overview of the available sources of the prophetic phenomenon in the ancient Eastern Mediterranean. The Near Eastern texts are presented according to textual genres: lexical lists and omen texts, legal and administrative texts, ritual texts, letters, written oracles, and literary prophecy. Most of these texts are written in Akkadian, but they also include some West Semitic, one Luwian and one Egyptian text. The Greek sources are discussed in two parts: first, the epigraphic sources such as the lead tablets from Dodona and the inscriptions from Didyma and Claros, and second, the literary sources containing narratives on consultations of the oracles at Delphi, Didyma, and Claros. Prophecy in the Hebrew Bible is presented as literature which is rooted in the prophetic phenomenon but which no longer directly documents the activity of prophets in ancient Israel and Judah.
The third part of the book consists of four comparative essays on central topics and a concluding essay. The first essay concerns prophecy and ecstasy, arguing that an altered state of consciousness was seen as a prerequisite of the prophetic performance. The second essay collects evidence of temples as venues of the prophetic performance, prophets among the temple personnel and as advocates (sometimes even critics) of temple worship. The third essay highlights the significance of prophecy for political decision-making from the point of view of royal ideology and communication between prophets and tulers, not forgetting the critical potential of prophecy. The fourth essay demonsrates that prophecy was a gendered phenomenon, but the prophetic role was not generally gender-specific, which is remarkable in the patriarchal cultures within which prophecy functioned. The concluding essay draws together the views to be seen through the “keyholes” provided by the sources, identifying the common category of prophecy in the ancient Eastern Mediterranean cultural sphere.
My new book Figurines in Achaemenid Period Yehud attests that figurines were commonly found in post-587/586 Jerusalem. This evidence challenges common assumptions about the rise of monotheism and requires a reconsideration of classifying figurines as idols.
It seems self-evident that monotheists do not use idols. Monotheists believe in one godhead and ‘idols’ is a pejorative term for images wrongly perceived as gods – or maybe intermediaries. If the ‘idols’ are indeed rather seen as intermediaries, however, the question can gain new weight: does monotheism exclude other ‘heavenly beings’?
A strict view on (scriptural) monotheism sticks to the self-evidence of one godhead and no other heavenly beings. This approach is exemplified by Ephraim Stern’s view on the rise of Jewish monotheism. For Stern, the evidence for the establishment of monotheism in Jerusalem (and Yehud, the province of which Jerusalem was part) was his observation that no figurines (commonly interpreted as divine figures) were found in excavations related to periods post-dating the fall of Jerusalem in 587/586. Likewise, finds of terracotta figurines were taken as residual material and attributed to the time of the monarchy (so, pre-587/586). Even the figurines found during the excellent excavation under the direction of Yigal Shiloh in the so-called ‘City of David’ in layers interpreted as post-fall were attributed to earlier times. Although this earlier dating may represent the context for the production of all our known types of figurines, this should not exclude the possibility that there were figurines in post 587/586 Jerusalem.
This conscious exclusion is one of the premises of what I coin as the ‘no figurines → monotheism’ paradigm. In Stern’s version of this paradigm, after the fall of Jerusalem the inhabitants were taken into exile and the country was left empty; later they returned as a reborn nation of pious monotheistic Yahwists.
Figurines in Achaemenid period Yehud provides a detailed study of the terracotta figurines from Yigal Shiloh’s excavation in the ‘City of David’ (especially their contexts in Stratum 9), providing ample evidence for the presence of figurines in post-587/586 Jerusalem (both stratigraphical and typological, i.e. based on where these figurines were found and on how their appearance shows characteristics that connects them with other Achaemenid period ceramics). I further uncover the paradigm’s premises in history, the history of religion, theology, and biblical studies, and particularly reflect on coroplastics (figurine studies).
Having established that there were figurines in post-587/586 Jerusalem makes us return to the question: did monotheists use idols? Addressing the various fields mentioned in relation to the ‘no figurines → monotheism’ paradigm, there are a number of solutions.
First of all, the denial of figurines as evidence for a purported en masse conversion to monotheism can be unmasked as an identity making (and identity marking) ‘myth of the reborn nation’. Second, those who interpret figurines in the shape of a woman (gynemorphic) as a goddess should give account for the horse-and-riders, pieces of furniture, and the many animal figurines, by which the gynemorphic ones are outnumbered. Furthermore, figurines might not have presented idols or there may have been other reasons explaining why and how terracotta figurines could have been combined with the ideas about the one godhead during the rise of Jewish monotheism, possibly, even as vehicles (intermediaries) of the One’s blessings.
Saana Svärd, member of CSTT Team 1, has just published her newest book, an anthology of the earliest woman writers, together with Charles Halton.
“Women’s Writing of Ancient Mesopotamia presents fresh and engaging translations of works that were composed or edited by female scribes and elite women of the ancient Near East. These texts provide insight into the social status, struggles, and achievements of women during the earliest periods of recorded human history (c.2300–540 BCE). In three introductory chapters and a concluding chapter, Charles Halton and Saana Svärd provide an overview of the civilization of ancient Mesopotamia and examine gender by analyzing these different kinds of texts. The translations cover a range of genres, including hymns, poems, prayers, letters, inscriptions, and oracles. Each text is accompanied by a short introduction that situates the composition within its ancient environment and explores what it reveals about the lives of women within the ancient world. This anthology will serve as an essential reference book for scholars and students of ancient history, gender studies, and world literature.”
You can find more information about the book here.
If you are yet not familiar with the new Centre of Excellence “Ancient Near Eastern Empires”, led by Svärd, please visit their excellent website here.
From June to August 2017, we have hosted on our website a forum discussion on various aspects related to “gender”. The papers by Saana Svärd and Hanna Tervanotko, Rick Bonnie, Francis Borchardt, and Anneli Aejmelaeus that were posted on our website were originally presented during the last Annual Meeting in May 2018 in Tvärminne, Finland. Continue reading “CSTT and Gender” e-booklet→
The Academy of Finland's Centre of Excellence, Faculty of Theology, University of Helsinki