The Original Description of Jeremiah’s “Confessions”?

jeremiah

Jeremiah (not Tim Bulkeley)

Tim Bulkeley wrote a post today asking when the passages in Jeremiah 11:18–12.6, 15:10–21, 17:14–18, 18:18–23, and 20:7–18 were first referred to as “confessions”. When were these passages, and not a wider section of the book of Jeremiah or the book as a whole, first referred to as the “confessions” of Jeremiah?

I think  the description of these passages  as “confessions” is Wellhausen’s gift to us. In Israelitische und Jüdische Geschichte, he refers to various passages which, in his Romantic assessment, disclose Jeremiah’s heartfelt and profound personal religiosity (a much disputed interpretation today).

Sein Buch enthält nicht bloß seine Reden und Weissagungen, sondern mitunter auch Konfessionen über seine Leiden und Anfechtungen
(“His [Jeremiah’s] book contains not only his speeches and prophecies, but sometimes confessions about his sufferings and temptations”).

– Wellhausen, Israelitische und Jüdische Geschichte, p. 149
(I refer here to the 1904 edition, which I accessed at this site: https://archive.org/details/israelitischeun02wellgoog).

I assume that Wellhausen must have had at least Jeremiah 11:18–12.6, 15:10–21, 17:14–18, 18:18–23, and 20:7–18 in mind. And in his recent monograph, Die Konfessionen Jeremias: eine redaktionsgeschichtliche Studie, Hannes Bezzel believes this is where the terminology began (p. 1):

In ihnen, denen er den Namen, Konfessionen verlieh, unter dem sie seitdem firmieren, sei Jeremia zur höchsten Form persönlicher Religiosität durchgebrochen und habe “das tiefste Wesen der Frommigkeit“.
(“In them [the passages in Jer 11-20], which he [Wellhausen] gave the name “confessions” and under which they have operated ever since, Jeremiah had broken through to ‘the highest form of personal religiosity and the profoundest essence of piety'”; the quote within the quote is also from p. 149 of Wellhausen).

But does anybody have an alternative opinion about who started to call these select passages the “confessions” of Jeremiah?

And how does Wellhausen’s one-off mention of “confessions” in his Israelitische und Jüdische Geschichte become established as the main term for the analysis of Jeremiah 11:18–12.6, 15:10–21, 17:14–18, 18:18–23, and 20:7–18 in particular?

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Malcolm Gladwell’s TED Talk on David and Goliath

gladwell-ted

Malcolm Gladwell delivered a TED Talk in 2013 on the subject of the biblical narrative of David versus Goliath (1 Samuel 17): “The unheard story of David and Goliath”. This is also the subject of a chapter in his 2013 book, Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants.

After providing a vivid description of the David and Goliath story, Malcolm Gladwell states:

“Everything I thought I knew about that story turned out to be wrong.”

What in particular does Gladwell claim to discover about the David and Goliath story?

1. David wasn’t the underdog. Given the accuracy and power of the slingshot, David’s weaponry was far superior to the heavily armed and armoured Goliath. As Gladwell says, Goliath – weighed down by his armour – was a “sitting duck”.

2. Goliath had a disability. Gladwell takes note of (a) Goliath’s need for an attendant to guide him out to the battleground; (b) Goliath’s slowness; (c) Goliath’s comment that David came to him with sticks, plural (when David only held the one ‘stick’, his slingshot); and (d) his gigantic stature. Gladwell argues that all are these factors are explained if Goliath had acromegaly, a type of giantism that is caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland, and which sometimes impairs vision.

Now Gladwell is plausibly right about the first point. A skilled wielder of the slingshot would, contrary to appearances, have had the advantage over an armoured man carrying sword and javelin.

But acromegaly? Gladwell does mention that this has been a ‘speculation’ by various writers. But how much of a speculation? In fact, the factors he lists do not provide a very good case at all. It was quite normal for a heroic warrior to have an attendant – as shield-bearer. Further, the story’s description of Goliath’s slowness is part of an extended contrast in the narrative between David and Goliath, involving David’s lack of armour, youth, and faith versus the giant’s heavy armour, experience, and impiety. The story makes a similar contrast when it describes David’s “sticks” in contradistinction to Goliath’s more conventional metal weapons.

Lastly, the diagnosis of acromegaly is little more than wild guessing.

1. At 6 3/4-feet tall, Goliath was only about 1 1/2 feet taller than your average Philistine man of the time. While Goliath would certainly have been one of the tallest Philistines, it is not at all clear that his stature would have involved any medical abnormality;

2. The details of the story are historically dubious. For example, in 2 Samuel 21, it is “Elhanan” who kills Goliath of Gath, not David. The story may not originally have even been about David. So when modern analysts attempt to draw inferences from the story as though it were realistic history, they do so on very shaky grounds;

3. The story in 1 Samuel 17 emphasizes theological reasons for David’s victory (David has faith in his god Yahweh, while Goliath mocks this god). To treat such a story as good data for a modern medical diagnosis is, therefore, very misguided.

So while the narrative in 1 Samuel 17 might suggest that David was a cunning chap when he brought a slingshot into a one-on-one fight, there are no good grounds to conclude that the narrative presents Goliath as anything but a mighty foe.

See also: Diagnosing Goliath: Gigantism, Acromegaly, Pituitary Tumours, etc

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Frauke Uhlenbruch: Nephilim as Cyborgs

cyborg

In her recent publication, The Nowhere Bible: Utopia, Dystopia, Science Fiction (DeGruyter, March 2015), Frauke Uhlenbruch treats the Nephilim of Numbers 13:32-33 as cyborgs.

Employing Donna Haraway’s definition of “cyborg”, Uhlenbruch interprets each of the the Nephilim as “a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction” (“A Cyborg Manifesto”, p. 149). For Uhlenbruch, the Nephilim are boundary-crossers, defying monist categorization. Unlike the twelve spies, whose ancestors are given as the twelve sons of Jacob/Israel, the Nephilim do not derive from the utopian unity which originates in the Garden of Eden and which may be traced through to the Patriarchs. In Genesis 6:4, the Nephilim are instead described as hybrid descendants of human women and the sons of the gods.

nowhere-bible“They are partial gods, partial humans, there has been intimacy with human women, and through this breach of boundaries, they are definite symbols of perversity” (p. 178).

But in the biblical story, partial identities and “contradictory standpoints” are not to be permitted. “In the ideal world-to-be that Numbers 13 proposes, the boundary-crosser will be eliminated… Their presence is clearly not desired in the biblical Promised Land, at least not by the Israelites” (p. 179).

And indeed, in the book of Joshua, the Anakim – said to be the descendants of the Nephilim in Num 13:33 – are finally driven out by Caleb (Josh 14-15). Or was that Joshua (Josh 11:21-22)?

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Filed under Ancient Jewish texts, Biblical Giants, Genesis 6.1-4, Nephilim, Numbers 13-14, sons of God

Religious Literacy at Sheffield

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The Vice Chancellor of the University of Sheffield Sir Keith Burnett is to take part in a SIIBS panel discussion with Bishop of Sheffield Steven Croft.

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Charlotte, My Little Princess

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charlotte2

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Illustrating The Benefits of Pentateuchal Literary Criticism: The David and Goliath Story

goliath-ii

Since the beginning of modern biblical studies, there have been various theories about how the Pentateuch came to be composed from earlier sources or layers of tradition. The method for reconstructing these earlier sources or layers is known as literary criticism. Literary criticism seeks explanations for the various signs of disunity in the text, such as contradictions, inconsistencies, two versions of various stories (e.g. the story of Abraham’s wife Sarah in Egypt), redundancies, and other such features which readers have noticed in the biblical text. Literary criticism’s explanation is that these problems are a result of the development of the text from earlier sources or traditions.

How did these developments take place? The current biblical text might have been added to by supplements over time, or by editors making minor adjustments here and there, or perhaps an author combined multiple sources at one point in time. For about 100 years, one theory dominated literary criticism of the Pentateuch, and that was the Documentary Hypothesis. Under the Documentary Hypothesis, it was posited that the Pentateuch was primarily a combination of “Priestly” and “pre-Priestly” written sources (or “documents”). The Priestly sources are denoted by the siglum “P”, and the pre-Priestly sources by a variety of terms, the Yahwist “J” (after the German “Jahwist”), Elohist “E”, and various pre-J sources. In addition, a deuteronomic author “D” was responsible, primarily, for the book of Deuteronomy. Proponents of the Documentary Hypothesis concluded that Priestly and pre-Priestly sources could be traced throughout the books of Genesis-Deuteronomy.

Over recent decades, however, the Documentary Hypothesis has been criticised on various grounds. For example, the traditions identified as Priestly in Genesis and parts of Exodus seem to have a different character from those identified as Priestly in Leviticus and again from those in Numbers. The so-called Priestly traditions in Numbers generally seem to be a later development, dependent on those in Genesis-Leviticus. Also, there does not seem to be any Priestly source that continues to the final chapters of Deuteronomy. And therefore, there are no longer good grounds for viewing the so-called Priestly source as a continuous source stretching throughout the Pentateuch. It has become very difficult to identify continuous written sources, or documents, behind the Pentateuch. Pentateuchal scholars have suggested, instead, that the process by which the Pentateuch was composed may have involved sources or traditions that did not span the whole Pentateuch. The process seems to have involved more fragmentary sources or traditions, and there is more importance given to the role of the author or authors (or “redactors”) who were responsible for bringing the five books of the Pentateuch together.

However, none of this undermines literary criticism’s identification of disunity in the text. Just because it has become difficult to show how the whole Pentateuch came together does not mean that literary criticism has nothing to contribute to individual passages within the Pentateuch. We need to distinguish the big project of Pentateuchal criticism, the macro-level in which the whole Pentateuch was composed, from the micro-level in which we can identify the joining of sources and traditions.

The classic example demonstrating how literary criticism works is the story of Noah’s Ark. Genesis 6-9 provides a reasonably clear example of the joining of two sources (identified as J and P under the Documentary Hypothesis). But I want to suggest that we should start somewhere else entirely: with the story of David and Goliath, outside the Pentateuch, in 1 Samuel 16-18!

The story of David and Goliath, in contrast with the story of Noah’s Ark, has survived in two quite different manuscript traditions, one much shorter than the other. The shorter manuscript tradition is represented by the Greek Septuagint (LXX). The LXX provides us with actual empirical evidence for one of the sources in the longer story of David and Goliath. The longer story is found in modern English versions of the Bible, and is based on the Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT). Therefore, by comparing the LXX and MT, we can see how the MT has combined two earlier sources. The MT has combined the LXX source and (at least) one other source.

What do we gain when we compare the two sources within the story of David and Goliath? There are many inconsistencies and contradictions in the longer story of David and Goliath (the one in your English version of the Bible). But all of these inconsistencies and contradictions are explained as the combination of the two earlier sources – one of which still exists in the LXX!

One of the best discussions of the two sources within the story of David and Goliath is by Emanuel Tov. Please have a read of his article, “The David and Goliath Saga: How a Biblical editor combined two versions”, first published in Bible Review 2:04, Winter 1986.

Tov – David and Goliath

Once we see that the Bible combines earlier sources, we can make sense of the inconsistencies in the story of David and Goliath.

For example, the LXX has King Saul taking David into his service and making him his armour-bearer. Goliath – standing at an impressive 6′ 9″ – would challenge Israel in the hearing of Saul and David (1 Samuel 16.1 – 17.11). But the other source in the longer MT has David suddenly switch to being a young shepherd boy. David arrives at the battle scene only after Goliath’s challenge, and in order to bring his older brothers some food (1 Sam. 17.12-31).

In the LXX, David, as Saul’s armour bearer, recounts how he used to kill lions and bears with his bare hands, back in the days when he was a shepherd boy. David then volunteers to confront Goliath, and kill him with his slingshot (1 Sam. 17.32-49). But in the longer MT, David, is still a young shepherd boy. David defeats Goliath without any sword in his hand. In this MT, the dead Goliath grows to a superhuman 10-feet tall (1 Sam. 17.50; cf. MT 17.4)

In the LXX, David takes the giant’s sword in his hand and chops off Goliath’s head, taking the head to Jerusalem – ignoring any Jebusites currently in residency there (1 Sam. 17.51-54). In the additional sections in MT, Saul does not recognise the boy, because he hadn’t been in his service as his armour bearer. David returns from battle for a second time, this time as a shepherd boy. David has the head of Goliath in his hand, which for some reason is no longer in Jerusalem (maybe the Jebusites gave it back?) Saul asks “who the hell are you?”, as though he had never seen him before, and David introduces himself to Saul as though the man and boy had never met (1 Sam. 17.55-58).

The two different versions of the David and Goliath story provide empirical evidence of what literary criticism has argued about the development of the Pentateuch. 1 Samuel 16-18 is, then, a good place to start in explaining what Pentateuchal literary criticism seeks to achieve.

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Filed under 1 Samuel 17, Ancient Jewish texts, Biblical Giants, Goliath

Archie Wright on The Origin of Evil Spirits in Early Jewish Literature

Archie T. Wright has an article up on Bible & Interpretation for April 2015 entitled “The Origin of Evil Spirits in Early Jewish Literature“.

Archie T. Wright

Archie T. Wright

In the article, Archie Wright explains the link made between giants and evil spirits/demons in the Book of Watchers (1 Enoch 1-36):

the Fallen Watcher Angels in 1 Enoch have sexual relations with human women and produce what are described as giant offspring. These offspring begin to literally eat the humans out of house and home. Once they have eaten all the food that humans produce, they turn on the humans and begin to devour them; it is then that the call goes up to heaven for God to deliver humanity from the giants. These giants are considered a hybrid offspring, they are part human and also part heavenly being (angel); although the percentage of division (e.g. 50/50) between the two is unclear. The result of the call to heaven by the oppressed humans brings about the destruction of the physical giants by the Archangels Raphael, Michael, Sariel, and Gabriel. The death of the ‘giants’ is brought about by the Flood event in Genesis, which, at the same time, cleanses the earth of the blood shed by the giants and also eliminates corrupt humanity. However, the hybrid spirits of the physical giants survive the flood and are identified in 1 Enoch, and other early Jewish texts, as evil spirits (or demons). The fathers of the giants, the Watcher angels, are locked in a deep pit identified as Tartarus and are bound there with chains and covered with rocks, thus the image you see in the movie “Noah” of the giant beings who seem to be assisting Noah in various aspects of the Flood episode. The Watchers will be held there until the Day of Judgment – there is no notion in 1 Enoch that the evil spirits are fallen angels, rather the spirits of the giant offspring become the evil spirits or demons of the age.

The article coincides with the revised edition of Archie Wright’s book, The Origin of Evil Spirits: The Reception of Genesis 6:1-4 in Early Jewish Literature (Fortress Press, 1 April 2015). The original edition was a fine read on the subject, so I am sure the revised edition will be very good too.

archie-wright-evil-spirits

h/t: Jim Davila
 

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Filed under 1 Enoch, Biblical Giants' relatives, Demons, Genesis 6.1-4