Religious Studies 015
Prof. Robert Kraft
Notes for Week 5 (11-13 February 2003)
by Paula Castilho and Alex Buznego


Report Topics for 6 March will need to be chosen soon on the *Hebrew Prophets* (same themes as Pentateuch report could be used)
- this is more difficult materials to fit into a historical sequence
- e.g. we don't know where the all of the 12 "minor prophets" were written, and major prophets such as Isaiah probably reflect two or more "authors"

* Christians identify 3 major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel) plus minor prophets and Daniel
* Jewish distinction between "former" (= Christian "historical books") and "latter" prophets (Daniel is not among these prophets)

definition of "prophet" (Hebrew navi/nabi, Greek prophetes)-- wide range of connotations: somebody who speaks for God (proclaims), or speaks beforehand (predicts)

* Prophets often pronounced poetic oracles against enemies (e.g. against Babylon, Egypt)
-much of it may have been oral material or perhaps sometimes created in written form as well; prophets may sometimes function like minstrels who would sing the messages (possibly music was a function of the Levites)

Jeremiah mentions Baruch his secretary who wrote Jeremiah's words down

Poetic material in ancient Israel: uses "parallelism" (repetition) as a marker
- various forms, such a "synonymous" (same idea repeated) and "antithetical" (contrasting ideas) literal meaning of every word not necessarily intended!

Note on Method: Anthropologists can study living control groups, from which we historians can try to draw analogies to unknown (ancient) cultures (assumptions about similarities between groups are challengeable)

Importance of prophets for early Christianity will become apparent later!

Books of Samuel-Kings and Chronicles ("historical books"): archeologists work with the field data to try to find evidence ("an earthquake is an archeologist best friend" because it "freezes" certain moments in history), which then can be compared with the literary record for agreements, disagreements, etc.

Now back to the Pentateuch!
* the Lot Story (Genesis 19)
- two angels of God visiting Lot, nephew of Abraham, to save Lot from destruction of wicked Sodom; crowd wants to rape angels, Lot offers two virgin daughters instead!
- Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot's wife looks back & is turned into a pillar ofsalt, his daughters intoxicate him and become pregnant with his children

- "What is brimstone?"- maybe from volcanic activity near by (Negev area, south of Jerusalem near south end of Dead Sea)?
- But in general, don't ask historical questions before understanding the story/tradition and its functions!
- "Who said, 'Don't look back: God or angels?'"
- "two angels," "two men"
- often in different English versions can find different treatments of ambiguous wording
- important to look for the mindset of the storyteller (and listeners)
- hospitality seems very important (protect visitors, surrender daughters!)
- people's point of view: "Lot is a stranger, now he's telling us what to do?"
- when man is "blinded," couldn't enter door
- meaning: "he was disabled" and couldn't function normally (it's a story!)
- town named "Zoar" after it was swept
- what is the meaning of this name?
- pillar-formations in the desert may look like sculptures of people

- how did Lot, et al., know it was raining fire if they couldn't look back?
- Story of Red Riding Hood; asking too many "historical" questions from material not intended to tell historical "facts"

*Translation notes on sexual terms and stories:

- NIV translation in Sodom story (Hebrew "know them"): "have sex with them" (explicit)

- "Onanism" (see Davis p.88); story was used as a warning against masturbation when his sin was actually coitus interruptus [Onan refuses to have sex with his brother's widow to produce an heir for his deceased brother and "spills he seed on the ground"]; Judah's first son Er dies, so 2nd son Onan is to impregnate Tamar ("levirite marriage custom") but refuses; God strikes Onan dead; Judah's third son Shelah was too young, and not given to Tamar later, so she tricks Judah into getting her pregnant.

- similarly "Sodomy" gets its name from the Sodom (& Gomorrah) story about homosexuality with the men/angels (text calls them "men" -- are angels gendered?); "angel" can also mean messenger.

Other details (and connections) of the story:
- Moabites (comes from Moab, son of Lot and one of his daughters)
- see story of Phinehas (Num 25) "and people began to commit whoredom with daughters of Moab" and to worship Baal; Moses tell them to slay offenders, and 24,000 people are killed by a plague; Phinehas impales a (presumably copulating) couple with a spear; God declares an "eternal covenant" with Phinehas, who is a grandson of Aaron, because he was "zealous for his God")

- cities of refuge & horns of altar: to pursue enemy who seeks safety at the horned altar and slay him there is a violation of ethic/customs (Medieval Times like going to church)

Back to the Pentateuch:
- Jacob story: how children of Israel get into situation where they are in Egypt; Joseph sold by his brothers and they tell his father that he died; in Egypt is falsely accused of adultery with his host's wife, is sent to jail, interprets dreams, Pharaoh makes him second in command (predicted years of famine). Brothers go looking for food, reunite
- after this, there is a gap in the narrative sequence, and the Moses story is introduced ("another Pharaoh arose who did not know Jacob")


Laws in the Pentateuch:
- be careful not to make assumptions based on our own beliefs vs. other cultures, backgrounds - example: polygamy is unacceptable to us, but not for some cultures, including ancient Israel; monogamy vs. adultery bias

* have to try and deal with different traditions/culture [carry over between sexuality & "otherness"/idolatry (temple "prostitution," fertility focus, etc.) important central issue]

- Covenant Law Code (Exod 21-23) historians think that it was one of the oldest Israelite law traditions

(ASV is one of the most literal English versions; others do more to interpret ambiguity, provide idiomatic language)
*Davis missed a problem. Catholics, Jews, and Protestants have different traditions of numbering for the 10 Commandments:
Jews include "I am YHWH God" (Exod 20.2) in 1st command;
Protestants start with Exod 20.3, then 4, 7, 8, 12, 13(a,b,c,d), 14;
Catholics unite 20.3-4 and divide coveting section (Exod 20.14) into two commands;
- numbering is irrelevant, material is the same

Details on Commandments (Exodus 20)
- "Don't take name Yahweh in vain" (fence around law; don't pronounce name!)
- difference in translations: "I am your only God" vs "You shall not worship other gods" (seems to assume that other gods exist);
- no images; "aniconic"; note exception "serpent in wilderness" is approved to deal with problem (bronze snake on a standard, Num 21.9) but it is not a divine idol

* Classical Judaism: "build a fence around the Law"

*Excursus on the Tetragrammaton (YHWH = Jehovah):
In ancient manuscripts, sometimes the name Yahweh been left blank by the first
copyist, and then somebody else fills it in with different letter types, others leave four dots or similarly call attention to its special status
- Dead Sea Scrolls "paleo Hebrew" letters; almost as if it were a different language; one Greek manuscript has "IAO" in Greek (did they pronounce it like that?); magicians picked it up; divine names of power, to make the spell work; e.g. "Yah-o", "Yah-bay", "Yah-veh", etc.; there are many ancient traditions, can't be sure about the earliest practices

- "Keep holy the Sabbath day"
- doesn't specify what counts as "work"
- again, Rabbinic Judaism "builds a fence around the law"
- specified details about how far to walk ("sabbath day's journey")
- as times change, law is adjusted
- ex: can't build a fire, but can do it the day before; can't carry a handkerchief, but can sew it to your sleeve

- "Honor father and mother"
- "Don't kill" - presumably means "don't murder" (must define murder, how about war?)
- "No adultery"
- How do you know what fits into this category? - What is marriage? What is cheating? (certain amount of assumption behind commandments)
- marriage- Was it the same back then? Did sexual relationship = marriage?
- Was it ownership of woman by man? A contract?
- Issues of fidelity- what breaks the law, and what is okay?
- concubinage?, prostitution?
- How does this relate to a polygamist society?
- a lot of the time marriage was established by contract
- children had no choice

- "Woman is your field, plow her as you will" (Quran)
- ambiguous meaning:
- can do things as he does w/ his animals: grow children, nurture relationship, or treat her like cattle?
- Jewish tradition doesn't outlaw polygamy until about 8th century CE.
- Muslim tradition: still legal. Men can have up to 4 wives, but it usually is not practical (should treat them all equally, etc.).

- Capital punishment? Some people (historians) think that it was never enforced as punishment for adultery

- "No stealing" - What constitutes possession?
- "Do not bear false witness to neighbor" - these were tight communities, sowhat if someone is not in your community?
- "Don't covet neighbor's house, wife, etc..."
* The Covenant Code (Exodus 21-23)
- list of ordinances
- one of the core codes that led to others"jubilee" structure (7 years) and "great Jubilee" (49 or 50th year) year of
redemption [debits, everything returns to previous state/restored]; i.e. return land, people not slaves anymore [every 7th year]
- this is important in Dead Sea Scrolls
- there is a "Book of Jubilees" that puts Genesis in order by Jubilee time periods
*Catholic Church today, year 2000 was a Jubilee year

* "awl" (Exod 21.6)- a tool (like an ice-pick) used for piercing - use doorpost

* Cremation in different religions. Hindu yes, so that everything will be scattered and join with all else; traditional Judaism and Christianity, no
- Resurrection problem - person buried, apple tree grows, apples eaten by people, become part of many people, in resurrection, how are pieces gathered?!

* Lex talionis (Latin "law of retaliation") "paying back in kind"; make punishment fit the crime: "eye for an eye"

* Hillel- Jewish sage/leader around time of Jesus
- worked on ways to adjust old beliefs to new circumstances
- many of the laws in Jewish scriptures are seen as impractical and outdated

/end, week 5 notes/