Category Archives: Research

Uuden kirjapodcastin aiheena Septuaginta: kuuntele keskustelu

Tuoreen suomenkielisen Septuagintaa monipuolisesti käsittelevän teoksen, Sisälle Septuagintaan (Suomen eksegeettisen seuran julkaisuja 116), toimittajat vierailivat uudessa kirjapodcastissa keskustelemassa maailman ensimmäisestä raamatunkäännöksestä. Keskustelun voi kuunnella täältä ja sen kuvaus on seuraavanlainen:

Septuagintan eli Vanhan testamentin kreikankielisen käännöksen tutkimus Helsingin yliopistossa on maailmankuulua. Miksi ja miten pyhät kirjoitukset käännettiin? Kuinka Septuagintaa ja sen kääntäjiä tutkitaan? Entä mikä merkitys teksteillä oli varhaisille kristityille ja Uuden testamentin kirjoittajille? Haastattelussa hiljattain ilmestyneen perusteoksen “Sisälle Septuagintaan” toimittajat emeritaprofessori Anneli Aejmelaeus, tutkijatohtori Katja Kujanpää sekä yliopisto-opettaja, tohtorikoulutettava Miika Tucker.

Eksegeettinen kirjapodcast esittelee mielenkiintoista ja ajankohtaista raamatuntutkimuksen ja sen lähialojen kirjallisuutta. Toimittajat: TT Nina Nikki ja TM Antti Vanhoja.”

Vanhojan kirjapodcastissa on vieraillut myös muita huippuyksikön tutkijoita ja käsitelty useita ajankohtaisia eksegeettisiä aiheita. Tutustu podcastiin tarkemmin täältä.

Video: Miten Raamatun muutoksia tutkitaan?

Miten Raamatusta tuli Raamattu? Miten Raamatun muutoksia voi tutkia tieteellisesti? Miten varhaiset tekstien tulkitsijat ratkaisivat luomiskertomusten ristiriitaisuuksia?

Huippuyksiköt “Pyhät tekstit ja traditiot muutoksessa” ja “Muinaisen lähi-idän imperiumit” ovat tuottaneet yhdessä neliosaisen videosarjan, jossa esitellään ajankohtaista muinaisen maailman tutkimusta. Sarjan ensimmäisessä osassa Helsingin yliopiston Vanhan testamentin eksegetiikan professori Martti Nissinen ja tutkijatohtori Jessi Orpana kertovat tutkimustyöstään.

Videosarjan kolme muuta osaa julkaistaan kevään 2019 aikana. Aiheet vaihtelevat historian tutkimuksen lähtökohdista muinaiseen maahanmuuttoon ja sukupuolentutkimuksen soveltamiseen muinaisen maailman ymmärtämiseksi. Haastatteluja julkaistaan sekä suomeksi että englanniksi ja molemmissa tapauksissa YouTubesta on saatavilla tekstitykset toisella kielellä.

Compendium, anthology, canon: between reliable representation and shaping cultural memory

By Izaak J. de Hulster

For biblical scholars ‘canon’ is usually a matter of literature. However, within a larger cultural context one can speak of a ‘Western canon’ and the highlights of ‘Western’ (a term I won’t problematize here) culture. One can ponder on the possibility of having a canon of children’s literature (e.g., in English) or presenting the most important events and persons of a country’s history as a canon. But if a canon only shows the highlights, to what extent is it representative? Similarly, museum collections or catalogues with replicas tend towards presenting a specific kind of canon.

One can observe that the word ‘canon’ is in use for anthologies, compiled with the aim of reflecting and shaping cultural memory. This implies that one could distinguish three forms or steps:

  1. A compendium as a reliable representation of a certain corpus of literature or artefacts; a compendium represents, exemplifies, and gives an over-all impression.
  2. An anthology choses to represent, in the sense of electing and highlighting items within a corpus.
  3. A canon goes beyond election and tends towards exclusion by virtue of what is not represented. Combined with an approach to cultural memory, it shapes the image of a corpus or people’s view of history.

What should be included in a canon? Furthermore, what should be included in a canon of the most important events in a country’s history: should one include its success and victories, but also its suffering and even its collective guilt?

A commemorative envelope (figure 1) was issued in celebration of the German success following the British ‘Merchandise Marks Act’ (issued 125 years ago in 2012) with the slogan ‘vom Makel zum Qualitätssiegel’. This Act caused that products marked with ‘made in Germany’ were not branded (in the sense of stigmatized as inferior; cf. Makel) but the brand ‘made in Germany’ grew into a seal of quality. The envelope presents several products but only those that are socially acceptable. Thus, military products, for which German was famous too, are left out. This, however, could be justified by pointing out that before World War II we don’t know about German weapons bought by the British.

Figure 1: Gedenkbrief (commemorative envelope), issued by the German post (‘Deutsche Post’) in 2012 to commemorate the British ‘Merchandise Marks Act’ of 1887. Source: photo by author (commemorative envelope in the author’s private collection).

Further examples may also be found in philately: in honour of 60 years UNESCO, Romania issued a stamp with two figurines from the Hamangia culture (figure 2). How representative are these two figurines of Cernavoda, one of over fifteen sites with remains of the Hamangia culture? Furthermore, to what extent is a complete though non-specific female figurine representative? What about a unique piece like ‘The Thinker’? Exceptional items find a place in the canon by default, but aesthetics also seem to play a role in what is chosen for canonization, as seen here in stamps.

This example approaches what I recently called ‘a gynemorphic bias’;[1] coroplastics (figurine studies) often focus on figurines with female (anthropomorphic) forms to the neglect of others, such as animals. Beyond that, when selecting items, complete objects are often favoured. They may well represent past production but fragments are often much closer to actual archaeological experiences in the field.

Figure 2: stamp issued by the Romanian post (‘Poșta Română’) on the occasion of 60 years UNESCO in 2005. Source: https://www.romfilatelia.ro/wp-content/uploads/2005/11/timbruUNESCO.jpg (accessed 27 August 2018; stamp also in the author’s private collection)

To continue in this line of thought, we may consider the case of the fake seal that inspired the minters to use David’s harp for the half-shekel coin.[2] Even though the seal was a fake, David’s harp was already part of cultural memory (or memories), of one or even several cultural canons.[3] Although even David’s historical ‘proportions’ are debated, the motif of David’s harp was reinforced by the allegedly historical confirmation provided by the seal. Thus, while the harp on the half-shekel coin may be an apt expression of cultural memory, the harp’s shape, as copied from a doubtful source, also presents as a warning against ideology, taken-for-granted motifs, and too-easily-accepted historical evidence.

Israeli coin with the value of half a shekel; source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f2/Israel_Half_New_Sheqel_1985_Edge%2C_Obverse_%26_Reverse.jpg (28 August 2018)

 

In sum and at the close, beyond distinguishing between compendium and anthology, this blog post fosters awareness concerning the choices made when compiling an anthology or working as a minter, illustrator, or author. These respective agents should be aware of the responsibility inherent in their choices, and in their interaction with canons, particularly in light of how they contribute to and in a way pilot cultural memories.11

Bibliography

[1] Izaak J. de Hulster, Figurines in Achaemenid Period Yehud: Jerusalem’s History of Religion and Coroplastics in the Monotheism Debate, Orientalische Religionen in der Antike 26 (Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2017), esp. 72–78.

[2] For this example, I thank Meindert Dijkstra, Palestina en Israël: Een verzwegen geschiedenis (Utrecht: Boekencentrum, 2018), p.21.

[3] Present in many different contexts, such as church art – e.g., Rittmarshausen, Germany), see: https://d2r0d2z5r2gp3t.cloudfront.net/page_assets/images/24604/1395176608.lightbox-d6dbf484e87c5ed486894144fdde88b6.jpg (left of the pulpit; accessed 10 September 2018).

The Rhetorical Functions of Scriptural Quotations in Romans: Paul’s Argumentation by Quotations

By Katja Kujanpää.

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.

More information of the book can be found here: https://brill.com/abstract/title/39089

 

Workshop: “Global and Local Cultures in the Roman East” (Helsinki, 28-30 Nov 2018)

Workshop:  Global and Local Cultures in the Roman East: From Domination to Interaction

Faculty of Theology, University of Helsinki, 28–30 November 2018

The workshop is organized by the Globalization, Urbanization and Urban Religion in the Eastern Mediterranean in the Roman and Early Islamic period workshop series, funded by The Joint Committee for Nordic research councils in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NOS-HS) and by the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions, Faculty of Theology, University of Helsinki.

The workshop is the first in a series of three workshops organized jointly by the University of Helsinki (Raimo Hakola, Rick Bonnie), Aarhus University (Rubina Raja) and the University of Bergen (Simon Malmberg, Eivind Heldas Seeland).

The program of the workshop can be found using the following link: https://blogs.helsinki.fi/sacredtexts/files/2018/10/Helsinki-workshop_schedules-29102018.pdf.

The workshop is free and open to all. However, we would like participants to register using the following form before November 15: https://elomake.helsinki.fi/lomakkeet/93066/lomake.html

For further information about this workshop, please email raimo.hakola@helsinki.fi and/or rick.bonnie@helsinki.fi.

 

 

The Final Excavation Season at the Horvat Kur synagogue

By Raimo Hakola  

A team representing the University of Helsinki and the CSTT has participated in what the excavation team believes to be the final season of digging at the Horvat Kur synagogue. The Kinneret Regional Project, a joint expedition of the University of Helsinki, Leiden University, Bern University and Florida Atlantic University, finished the excavations of the Byzantine-era synagogue that was first found in 2010. During this year’s excavations, led by Jürgen Zangenberg, Raimo Hakola, Stefan Münger and Byron McCane, the team tried to find traces of the earliest phase of the building, which was apparently constructed for the first time in the second half of the fourth century.

Earlier excavation seasons have revealed the detailed layout of a so-called broadhouse synagogue that was built at the site around 450 CE and later renovated at least once in the late sixth or early seventh century, before it went out of use in the seventh century. The team thought to be finishing the excavations of this synagogue already in 2015, when a mosaic floor predating the excavated synagogue was found. The mosaic contained a menorah, seven branched candle holder and the name of a synagogue benefactor (for an earlier report on the excavation of this mosaic, click here). The finding of the mosaic came as a surprise, because it soon became clear that the mosaic did not belong to the excavated broadhouse synagogue, but was from an unknown building predating it. During subsequent excavations, our team has tried to find more traces of this early building in order to understand better its layout and function.

Students at work during the excavations. Photo by Raimo Hakola.

During this year’s campaign, carried out in June and July 2018, the team focused on excavations below the floor level of the broadhouse synagogue. The team was able to expose, among other things, a terrace wall running from north to south. Our initial interpretation is that this wall served as a foundation wall for the eastern wall of the mosaic synagogue. The preliminary analysis of the pottery suggests that the wall was constructed in 350-400 CE, which corroborates with the dating of the so-called “mosaic synagogue” based on a coin found in the bedding of the mosaic. The team now has enough evidence to postulate that the synagogue with the mosaic floor was built in the second half of the fourth century. After the destruction of this building in the early fourth century, a new and larger broadhouse synagogue was built on the site of the earlier building and this new building remained in use for over 200 years.

Excavations beneath the floor of the later synagogue. Photo by Raimo Hakola.

Raimo Hakola, one of the co-directors of the Horvat Kur excavations, led the Helsinki excavation team in 2018. Helena Wahala took care of find registration and prof. Ismo Dunderberg and theology student Yoon-Hee Choi participated in the excavations as volunteers. The Kinneret Regional Project now focuses on the analysis of the finds and findings and continues the preparation of the final excavation report. Raimo Hakola, Rick Bonnie and Ulla Tervahauta will contribute to the forthcoming publication. The Horvat Kur excavations are a part of the research program of CSTT. These excavations clarify the changes that took place in Jewish society after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 CE when synagogues became important local centers and assumed some of the roles that the temple earlier had. CSTT has been an important sponsor of the excavations that have been carried out in co-operation with the Finnish Institute in the Middle East.

Welcome to Helsinki! A List of CSTT Contributions to the EABS/ISBL Meeting

In only two weeks, hundreds of biblical scholars will gather in Helsinki to attend the combined meetings of the European Association of Biblical Studies (EABS) and the International meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), which takes place from 31 July to 3 August.

As the meetings are held in our hometown, we hope to showcase to you all the diverse and wide range of research the CSTT is currently engaged in. To make your conference experience easier, we have brought together all contributions by our research centre to this year’s EABS/ISBL meeting.

The contributions are grouped under four headings corresponding to the different research teams in our centre. The list includes contributions from our full and associate members. You can find the abstracts of the papers and more information on the sessions by using the excellent online program book.

We warmly welcome you all to lovely Helsinki!


TEAM 1. Society and Religion in the Ancient Near East

July 30 – 16:00–17:30
CSTT-director Martti Nissinen: Presiding in panel discussion “What I Would Like to See Happening in Biblical Studies,” in Opening Session

Aug 1 – 14:00 – 17:00
Martti Nissinen: Presiding, in themed-session “Timo Veijola’s Contribution to Biblical Studies,” in Editorial Techniques in the Hebrew Bible in light of Empirical Evidence (EABS)

Aug 2 – 14:00–17:30
Martti Nissinen: “Why Prophets Are (Not) Shamans,” in themed-session “Shamanism in the Bible and Cognate Literature” in Anthropology and the Bible (EABS)

July 31 – 9:00–11:00
Izaak J. de Hulster: “Hermeneutical Reflections on a Recently Excavated Cylinder Seal Fragment from Abel-beth-maacah,” in Iconography and Biblical Studies (EABS)

July 31 – 14:00–17:00
Izaak J. de Hulster: Presiding, in Iconography and Biblical Studies (EABS)

Aug 2 – 9:00–11:00
Izaak J. de Hulster: “Predecessors of Hilma Granqvist: Women Exploring the Land(s) of the Bible before 1920,” in themed-session “Holy Land Explorers: In Recognition of Hilma Granqvist” inHistory of Biblical Scholarship in the Late Modern Period

Aug 2 – 14:00–17:30
Jason Silverman: “Imperium as Context for Defining “Elite”: Persians and Yahwistic Socio-economic Structure,” in themed-session “Elite Cultures and Achaemenid Koine” inJudaeans in the Persian Empire (EABS)

Aug 2 – 9:00–11:00
Kirsi Valkama: “Aapeli Saarisalo and Biblical Archaeology” in themed-session “Holy Land Explorers: In Recognition of Hilma Granqvist” inHistory of Biblical Scholarship in the Late Modern Period

Aug 2 – 14:00–17:30
Kirsi Valkama and Rick Bonnie: Presiding, in Archaeology and the Biblical World

Aug 1 – 14:00–17:30
Joanna Töyräänvuori: “The Ambiguity and Liminality of the Mediterranean Sea in Ancient Semitic Mythology,” in Ugarit and the Bible: Life and Death (EABS)

Aug 2 – 14:00–17:30
Gina Konstantopoulos: Presiding, in Dispelling Demons: Interpretations of Evil and Exorcism in Ancient Near Eastern, Jewish and Biblical Contexts (EABS)

July 31 – 14:00–17:30
ShanaZaia: “‘My Brothers Were Plotting Evil’: Family Violence in the Ancient Near East,” in Families and Children in the Ancient World

July 31 – 14:00–17:30
Sebastian Fink: “Visual Poetry in Sumerian Lamentations: A Diachronic View,” inDiachronic Poetology of the Hebrew Bible and Related Ancient Near Eastern and Ancient Jewish Literature (EABS)

Aug 1 – 14:00–17:30
Sebastian Fink: “Entering and Leaving This World: Birth and Death in Mesopotamia,” inUgarit and the Bible: Life and Death (EABS)

Aug 3 – 9:00–10:30
Andres Nõmmik: “A Consideration of the City-States of the Late Bronze Age Southern Levant,” in Ancient Near East

Aug 1 – 14:00–17:30
Patrik Jansson: “Prophesying and Twisting: Exploring the Metaphorical Description of Prophesying Women in the Greek Text of Ezekiel 13:17–23,”in Metaphor in the Bible (EABS)

Aug 1 – 14:00–17:30
Lauri Laine: “What God Should Not Be, but Still Somehow Is? Cognitive Perspectives on ‘Theological Incorrectness’,” inWhat a God is Not – the Early History of Negative Theology (EABS)

Aug 2 – 14:00–15:30
Helen Dixon(Wofford College): “Sign, Performance, Possession, Home: What Are Non-royal Phoenician Mortuary Stelae Doing?” in themed-session “Texts in Space” in Ancient Near East


TEAM 2. Text and Authority

Aug 2 – 14:00–17:30
Team 2 leader Anneli Aejmelaeus: “Re-linking 1 Sam 3 and 4,” inSeptuagint of Historical Books (EABS)

Aug 1 – 9:00–11:00
Tuukka Kauhanen: Presiding, in themed-session “Septuagint Syntax” in Septuagint Studies

Aug 2 – 14:00–17:30
Tuukka Kauhanen: “Editing the Septuagint of 2 Samuel,”in Septuagint of Historical Books (EABS)

July 31 – 16:00–17:30
Katja Kujanpää: “Job or Isaiah? What Does Paul Quote in Rom 11:35?” in themed-session “Textual History”, in Septuagint Studies

Aug 2 – 16:00–17:30
Jessi Orpana: Presiding, in themed-session “History, Kingship and the Economy” in Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Aug 2 – 14:00–17:30
Paavo Huotari: “Characteristics of the Lucianic Reviser in 2 Samuel,” in Septuagint of Historical Books (EABS)

July 31 – 16:00–17:30
Miika Tucker:“Continuity and Change: A Historical Perspective on the Assessment of Septuagint Jeremiah as a Textual Witness,”in themed-session “Textual History” in Septuagint Studies


TEAM 3. Literary Criticism in the Light of Documented Evidence

Aug 1 – 9:00–11:00
Team 3 leader Juha Pakkala: Presiding, in themed-session “Evoking Coherence in Redactional Processes of Fortschreibung and in Re-writing Biblical Texts” in Developing Exegetical Methods (EABS)

Aug 1 – 9:00–11:00
Mika Pajunen: “The Functions of Extensive Psalms and Prayers in Narrative Contexts,”in themed-session “Evoking Coherence in Redactional Processes of Fortschreibung and in Re-writing Biblical Texts” inDeveloping Exegetical Methods (EABS)

Aug 2 – 9:00–11:00
Ville Mäkipelto: Presiding, in themed-session “Translation Technique and Revisions” in Septuagint of Historical Books (EABS)

Aug 2 – 9:00–11:00
Ville Mäkipelto: Presiding, in themed-session “Joshua 8 – Literary Development in Light of Text, Literary, and Redaction Critical Perspectives” in Editorial Techniques in the Hebrew Bible in light of Empirical Evidence (EABS)

Aug 2 – 9:00 – 11:30
Timo Tekoniemi: Presiding, in themed-session “Editorial Techniques in the Hebrew Bible” in Editorial Techniques in the Hebrew Bible in Light of Empirical Evidence (EABS)

Aug 2 – 14:00 – 17:30
Timo Tekoniemi: Presiding, in themed-session “Textual Criticism” in Septuagint of Historical Books (EABS)

Aug 1 – 14:00–17:00
Reinhard Müller(Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster): “Timo Veijola’s Commentary on Deuteronomy,” in themed-session: “Timo Veijola’s Contribution to Biblical Studies” in Editorial Techniques in the Hebrew Bible in light of Empirical Evidence (EABS)

Aug 2 – 14:00–17:00
Reinhard Müller (Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster):“Eckart Otto’s Models of ‘Urdeuteronomium’ and Deuteronomistic Deuteronomy,” in themed-session: “Eckart Otto’s Commentary on Deuteronomy” in Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Law

July 31 – 14:00–17:30
Urmas Nõmmik: “Changes in Form and Genre: Five Research Questions,” inDiachronic Poetology of the Hebrew Bible and Related Ancient Near Eastern and Ancient Jewish Literature (EABS)

Aug 1 – 9:00–11:00
Anssi Voitila(University of Eastern Finland): “Usage-Based Translation Syntax of the Septuagint,”in themed-session “Septuagint Syntax” in Septuagint Studies

Aug 3 – 9:00–10:30
Anssi Voitila (University of Eastern Finland): Presiding, in themed-session “Interpretation” in Septuagint Studies


TEAM 4. Society and Religion in Late Second Temple Judaism

July 30 – 16:00–17:30
Team 4 leader Jutta Jokiranta: Member in panel discussion “What I Would Like to See Happening in Biblical Studies,” in Opening Session

July 31 – 14:00–17:30
Matthew Goff (Florida State University) and Jutta Jokiranta:“Survey Results on Ethics and Policies Regarding Unprovenanced Materials” in themed-session “Ethics and Policies Regarding Unprovenanced Materials” inQumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Aug 1 – 9:00–11:00
Jutta Jokiranta: Presiding, in themed-session “Ritual and Qumran” in Ritual in the Biblical World

Aug 2 – 14:00–17:30
Raimo Hakola:“The Ancient Synagogue at Horvat Kur, Galilee: Excavations 2010-2018,” in Archaeology and the Biblical World

July 30 – 16:00–17:30
Rick Bonnie: Member in panel discussion “What I Would Like to See Happening in Biblical Studies,” in Opening Session

July 31 – 14:00–17:30
Rick Bonnie: ”Researching Cultural Objects and Manuscripts in a Small Country: The Finnish Experience of Raising Awareness of Provenance, Legality, and Responsible Stewardship,” in themed-session “Ethics and Policies Regarding Unprovenanced Materials” in Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Aug 1 – 9:00–10:30
Elisa Uusimäki: Presiding, in themed-session “Gendered Virtue?” in Virtue In Biblical Literature (EABS)

Aug 1 – 16:00–17:30
Charlotte Hempel (University of Birmingham) and Elisa Uusimäki: Presiding, Early Career Development Workshop

Aug 2 – 9:00–11:00
Elisa Uusimäki: “Is There ‘Virtue’ in Semitic texts? An Analysis of the Testament of Qahat,” in themed-session “Is there Virtue in Semitic texts?” in Virtue In Biblical Literature (EABS)

Aug 2 – 14:00–17:30
Elisa Uusimäki: Presiding, in themed-session “Portraying Virtue” inVirtue In Biblical Literature (EABS)

Aug 3 – 9:00–11:00
Elisa Uusimäki: Presiding, in themed-session “Open Session” in Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Aug 1 – 14:00–17:30
Katri Antin:“Intellectual Illumination as a Visionary Experience,” in themed-session “Visions and aspects of Spatial Theory – Focus OT” in Vision and Envisionment in the Bible and its World (EABS)

Aug 3 – 9:00–11:00
Katri Antin:“Implicit Exegesis as a Mean of Transmitting Divine Knowledge in the Thanksgiving Psalms,”in themed-session “Open Session” in Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Aug 1 – 16:00–17:30
Hanna Tervanotko: Member in panel discussion “Teaching Gender and the Bible,” in Status of Women in the Profession

Aug 2 – 14:00–17:30
Hanna Tervanotko: “Reading 1 Samuel 28 and Odyssey 11 through the Lens of Shamanism,” in themed-session “Shamanism in the Bible and Cognate Literature” inAnthropology and the Bible (EABS)

Aug 1 – 14:00–15:30
Sami Yli-Karjanmaa: “Philo’s Reincarnational Anthropology: A Comparison with Clement,” in themed-session “Philo of Alexandria” in Judaica

Aug 3 – 9:00–11:15
Hanna Vanonen: “Apocalyptic Vision or Ritual Instructions? The Qumran War Texts as Apocalyptic Literature,” in themed-session “Apocalyptic Literature: Second Temple Judaism” in Apocalyptic Literature

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).

”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.