But not before an epic rap battle between Santa Claus and Moses:
Author Archives: Tyrone Slothrop
There’s a relatively new academic journal on the block called Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel, which may be of interest to readers. It is published by Mohr Siebeck and its editors are Gary N. Knoppers, Oded Lipschits, Carol A. Newsom, and Konrad Schmid.
The December 2012 issue features an article by John Day tackling that old problem: just what on earth (or beyond it) is Genesis 6:1-4 talking about?
John Day, “The Sons of God and Daughters of Men and the Giants: Disputed Points in the Interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4.” HeBAI 1 no. 4 (Dec 2012): 427–47.
This essay offers a comprehensive analysis of the many problems of interpretation in Gen 6:1-4. Although the Nephilim were the offspring of the sons of God and daughters of men in the underlying myth, contrary to a widely held view this is no longer the case in Gen 6:1-4, where they are already in existence at the time of the sexual liaisons. Even though 1 Enoch preserves the original notion of the origin of the Nephilim, the more elaborate story there is in general a later midrash on Gen 6:1-4, contrary to some recent suggestions. Genesis 6:1-4 is not based on Mesopotamian or Greek mythology but contains an Israelite myth utilizing and transforming Canaanite concepts. Not only do the heavenly sons of God derive ultimately from the Canaanite “sons of El,“ but the name of the Canaanite giant Nephilim (literally “fallen ones”) is a retrospective term comparable to that of the giant Rephaim, a word originally used of the dead (Ugaritic rp’um), implying the giants have passed away. Contrary to some, v. 3 is an original part of the text; it indicates that the humans’ descendants were in danger of becoming immortal as a result of the infusion of the divine spirit from the marriages. ידון in this verse derives from a Hebrew verb, דנן ”to be strong.”
While not everybody will agree with his conclusions, he provides a good recent treatment of the critical issues in this controversial passage.
And as a special treat, here is Nick Cave performing at Coachella. The version of Stagger Lee at 28:00 is particularly inspired. Stagger Lee even has a show-down with the Devil.
Rev. Dr. James E. Harding (Dunedin School) has recently published a book which redefines the question of the relationship status – homosexual or otherwise – between David and Jonathan.
The book is The Love of David and Jonathan: Ideology, Text, Reception (Sheffield: Equinox, Dec 2012). And it usually looks like this:
So it came as something of a surprise, when Google Books listed The Love of David and Jonathan with this cover:
Let’s take a closer look at that book cover:
Looks like a bit of a balls-up!
In Flavius Philostratus, Heroikos 8.18, a character known as “the Phoenician” is told about the gigantic bones of various ancient heroes and demi-gods which had been found in various places.
After listening to the list, the Phoenician says that he didn’t formerly believe in such stories about Greek heroes and demi-gods, but does now on the basis of the ‘great bones” which have been discovered. And it gives rise to this great line:
ἐγω δε μεγαλα [ὀστα] μεν ἠγνοουν, ἀνοητως δε ἠπιστουν
“I was ignorant of such great bones, and out of ignorance I disbelieved.”
Adrienne Mayor argues in The First Fossil Hunters that the great bones which were found, and which were attributed to Greek heroes and demi-gods, were typically the remains of mastodons and whales.
However, none of these opinions of so-called modern science should pose any sort of problem for the true believer in giant heroes and demi-gods. As a believer in giant heroes and demi-gods, I don’t have the luxury of dispensing with things just because our culture thinks we should. Culture isn’t the final arbiter of truth. Revelation is. Sure, Adrienne Mayor may believe, based on the presuppositions of her materialist-naturalist worldview, that the giant bones of heroes and demi-gods are just “mastodons” and “whales”. But has anybody seen one of these so-called “mastodons”? No – so it equally depends on FAITH. We have different perspectives PRECISELY because I see life through the lens of faith in giant heroes and demi-gods and she does not. It is for this reason that our views on several issues differ…I simply recognize that, at the end of the day, we approach problems and issues from differing starting points.
Itzick Shai has made available his 2011 article, האם התקיים מנהג המילה בפלשת בתקופת הברזל ["Was Circumcision practiced in Philistia in the Iron Age II?"] (Eretz-Israel 30: 413-18), on Academia.org.
In it, Shai responds to Avraham Faust’s contention, in Israel’s Ethnogenesis (2006: 147-48), that Philistine non-circumcision was confined to Iron Age I. Faust notes David’s description of Goliath as an “uncircumcised Philistine” in 1 Sam 17:26, 36, in which the term “uncircumcised” is intended as an insult. Faust claims that this type of insult is only seen in texts referring to Iron Age I.
But Shai discusses two biblical texts which suggest that Faust’s conclusion is incorrect, and also discusses the finding of erect penis pottery at Philistine Ashkelon and Gath which appear to reflect uncircumcised penises. Shai points out the absence, in Jeremiah 9:24-25, of the Philistines from the list of circumcised peoples in that passage. Also, in Ezekiel 32:29-32, the Philistines are not among the nations who are punished by being made to lie down in the netherworld with “the uncircumcised”.
For these, and other reasons, Shai concludes that Philistine non-circumcision continued to be a distinct ethnic marker (or more to the point, a lack of a mark) well into Iron Age II.
So David’s insult of “uncircumcised Philistine” could well be nothing more than a literary embellishment in the composition of 1 Samuel 17. That is, it probably does not imply any historical memory of Goliath’s turtleneck.
First there was a dwarf!
Now there are Giants!!
Michael Krasny interviewed Robert Alter on his KQED public radio programme, Forum, on 3 April 2013. Alter is professor of Hebrew and comparative literature at UC Berkeley. The main subject of the interview was Alter’s latest instalment of his ongoing translation of the Hebrew Bible, Ancient Israel: The Former Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings: A Translation with Commentary (New York: W.W. Norton, 2013).
You can listen to the interview on KQED’s YouTube channel:
Looking at Alter’s translation of Joshua 14:15, I see that he has rendered ענקים ( ’anaqim) as “giants”:
And the name of Hebron formerly was Kiriath-Arba – he was the biggest person among the giants.
Alter comments, “The narrative context makes clear that the Hebrew ‘anaqim is not in this instance a gentilic (‘Anakites’) but means ‘giants,’ the adversaries of daunting proportions before whom the ten fearful spies felt themselves to be like grasshoppers.”
Possibly. And yet, the closest intertextual relationship concerning Josh. 14:5-16 is not with Num. 13 (which includes the comparison between the Israelites and the sons of Anak involving an analogy to grasshoppers). The closest relationship is instead with Deut. 1:19-46, in particular to Deut. 1:28 and 1:36. These verses alone, without any direct parallel in Num. 13, account for phrases like, “my brothers … caused my heart to faint”, “the land on which my foot went”, the inheritance “and to your sons”, “Anakim” (as distinct from “sons of Anak”).
And in Deut. 1:28; 2:10-12, 20-23; 3:13b, the Anakim are indeed described as entire peoples who occupy the land of Palestine and neighbouring countries.
So rather than “the biggest person among the giants”, I’d opt for “greatest man among the Anakites/Anakim”. They may be giants as well, if you read it in light of Deut. 1-3, but you would not in fact know that from the immediate context of Joshua 14-15.
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, Magi from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”
In two videos of a talk delivered at UC Irvine on 29 November 2012, Bruce Lincoln examines the evidence for the identification of the Magi, a term strangely bifurcated between somewhat positive and very negative meanings.
“From Ritual Practice to Esoteric Knowledge: The Problem of the Magi”