Monday, 29 June 2009

I'm off to SBL Rome

Blogging will cease for the next two weeks as I try and make the most of the Society of Biblical Literature's international meeting in Rome. I wrestled with the question of whether it would be worth going or not. On the one hand, listening to lectures is not something I particularly enjoy (I'm told it's ADHD ... Give me a book any day!), on the other hand, I may well meet some important dialogue partners and make connections for the future (I plan to get this doctorate finished by July 2010). The thing that sold me on the idea is a paper by Phil J. Botha of the University of Pretoria. Check out the abstract and you will see that a Psalm 24 junky couldn't wish for more:
Answers Disguised as Questions: Rhetoric and Reasoning in Psalm 24

Psalm 24 seems to be a post-exilic composition comprising of mostly pre-exilic material: a hymnic introduction (vv.1-2), a so-called entrance Torah (vv.3-5), and a liturgical piece once used at the temple gates (vv.7-10) to which a post-exilic identification of the true Israel was added (v.6). One aspect of its exegesis which has possibly been neglected thus far concerns the rhetorical techniques it employs and the argumentative objectives its composer(s) and editors pursued. The questions used in two of its four distinct sections possibly had a different function in their contexts of origin, but the exegete of the Psalter is confronted with the effect and impact of these questions (as well as other tropes employed) in the present composition and literary setting of the psalm. In this paper, the stichometric and poetic structure of Ps 24 is analysed and the possible argumentative objective of the choice of poetic stratagems is discussed.

How interesting is that!

The second paper that I will have to visit is this one:

Ida Zatelli, University of Florence

The ritual and popular practice of the pilgrimage is widespread in various cultures and religions. In the present work the Biblical links of the rite are examined especially from a linguistic approach. The use of the verb gur, "to wander", "to roam” and that of the noun ger, "wanderer", "foreigner” or even “refugee”, prevalent in the epic narratives of ancient Israel (cfr. for ex. Gen 47,9) convey to the Jewish population the awareness of being “errant”, “itinerant”. Another key word is hag, “feast”, which in many cases involves rites of circumambulation. It is applied to the three principal Jewish celebrations: Sukkot, Pesah, Shavuot; particularly interesting is the analysis of the festival of Sukkot. A specific attention is dedicated to the frequent use of the verb 'ala, "to ascend" (the noun 'aliyya comes to mean "ascent" in post-biblical Hebrew). One ascends to the sacred mountains, to the sanctuaries, and finally 'ala becomes the technical verb that indicates the ascent to the Temple in Jerusalem or to Zion. This verb and yasa, "to exit" appear in Exodus where they describe the journey from Egypt to Canaan and in some post-exilic texts 'ala also refers to the return of the people of Israel. In conclusion, a detailed analysis is devoted to the expression lir'ot (et) pne yhwh , "to see the face of the Lord". (cfr. for ex. Is 1,12), which shows clearly the ultimate aim of the ascension to the Temple, very frequently not appropriately rendered in translation. The analysis of the above mentioned terminology allows us to define the origin of the rite of 'aliyya leregel, "pilgrimage" in post-biblical texts and to throw light on a very popular and widespread ritual in those religions that are based on the Bible.

Unfortunately, the timing of the various papers is not ideal. From my perspective, all of the most interesting subjects are on the first day at take place at the same time, which means I will have to miss a bunch. The two papers above back on to each other, meaning I will have to rush from one room to the other in order to make it on time, missing another interesting paper on the reception history of Psalm 1 (though luckily Gillingham is coming to Bonn soon, where I believe she will be repeating the paper). Oh well, one of my favourite activities is reading in cafés with a cigar and decent cappuccino, and where can one do that better than in Rome (really, the cappuccino there is in a class of its own)?

Ingrid (my wife) will be flying out on the Saturday, so we'll be spending another week in the city doing the regular tourist stuff (though I intend to thoroughly explore the Jewish quarter, probably the most interesting thing Rome has to offer).

Anyway, I wish who ever is reading this a enjoyable and erholsamer (restorative) summer break. :)


anthony said...

go for the sbl conference. always a good time to catch up on what others are writing. i'm missing this one but my NT colleague, Dr Lim Kar Yong ( is going and presenting a NT paper on Paul and his sufferings.

was going to ask if OT papers were presented in hard copies, whether i can get a scan of some of them. am also trying to finish my thesis and have the viva in may 2010. one possible examiner might be sue gillingham (as suggested by my college)! she's good at psalms (but mine thesis is on Dt Isa).

Phil Sumpter said...

Hi Anthony,

it should be good. I'm just a tad disappointed with the way the papers are laid out: all the relevant ones are at the same time!

If you go to the website you have an overview of all the papers plus their abstracts. If one is particularly interesting, I'm sure you could contact the person by e-mail and ask for a pdf.

Sue Gillingham is one of the papers I will have to miss due to a clash! Luckily, she's coming to Bonn later this year and I believe she is holding the same paper.

Best of luck with the viva! said...

Ten Warnings to Theobloggers

1. pride. blogs are about self-promotion. what else could be more obvious?

2. quickness. no serious theology is or could be done at the speed of a blog. what happens on blogs are spouts of self expression, not drawn out intercourse.

3. waste of time. classic theological texts and important contemporary works are waiting to be read, not journal reporter theology written in 5 min. and never proof read by scholars.

4. ghetto entertainment. this is an actual form of ghettoisation. young minds get caught up in a circle of blogs which they like, ones which promote their ideology or theology. theoblogging has the opposite effect of what it intends to do. rather than opening discussion, it closes it down into ghettos. rather than being exposed to diverse new constructive ideas theobloggers are ghettoised into subprofessional circles of pseudotheologians.

5. dying grandparents. theobloggers spend less time with people and more time with machines.

6. gnostic non corporeality. blog theology is a gnostic turn like so many in contemporary culture. one no longer needs other humans and their smelly presence, one can interact and think that they are learning through a digital medium. second life, theology style. walk around all day with your ipod, then go home to your blog.

7. individualism. blogs are inherently individualistic. they promote individualism and demand it.

8. anticommunity, antifamily and antichurch. blogs replace and fight against families, bodily communities and churches as communities of discussion.

9. attention deficit disorder. blogs encourage attention deficit disorder symptoms.

10. antisocial extended online time. blogs encourage long hours on the internet. this is unnatural, a waste of energy, and most of all antisocial.

summary: if you must theoblog, then don’t do it too often.

Phil Sumpter said...

Whoever you are, I find these comments arrogant and out of touch with my own experience. They pretty much embody the evils you are inveighing against.

Good that you care about issues such as quality theology and community, though.