Skip to content

SBL Day 3

November 20, 2007

Monday, Nov 19th wound up being my final day of SBL this year, due to scheduling conflicts. As such, I tried to pack as much into the day as possible. However, the vagrancies of paper times and the long distances worked against this to some extent, allowing me only to attend two sections. Sitting at Vegas international, awaiting a transfer flight back to Philly, here’s my summary of day three:

  • S19-4 Assyriology and the Bible: This session focussed on the life and work of Tikva Frymer-Kensky. It included papers by her daughter, Meira Kensky, as well as distinguished scholars in Assyriology, biblical studies, and Northwest Semitics. Ilona Zsolnay in particular gave an excellent paper on whether mythological constructions of gender mirror human constructions of gender. Her paper was nuanced by a firm grasp on gender theory and a wide knowledge of goddesses in the ancient world. This is not to say that Joann Scurlocks, Steve Wiggins or others were not also amazing papers, but hearing Ilona’s paper seemed like a way forward. (“Liminal” count: two incorrect usages.)
  • s19-86 Ugaritic Studies and Northwest Epigraphy Section: The session was longer than the title, with yours truly coming as the last of eight presenters over a period of four hours. While I tend not to provide too detailed a summary of these sessions, I’ll make an exception for this one. (“Limina” count: one incorrect usage.)
    • Anson Rainey spoke on redefining Hebrew. He holds that it is in fact not a Canaanite language. I’m sure his paper is or will be in print soon, but his arguments seemed unconvincing and based on older understandings of linguistic typology.
    • Robert Holmstedt read a detailed paper on the relative clause in Northwest Semitic inscriptions. Holding that we should stop using the term “relative pronoun” for many first millennium languages since the particle is in flux — moving from being a true pronoun with inflexion, to what Fred Bush long termed a “gap word”.
    • David Tsumura’s paper on CAT 1.23:64 was a detailed epigraphic discussion of a difficult line. While I’ll need to check Bruce Zuckerman’s photos, David’s presentation convinced me that the reading found in KTU and CAT is wrong and needs to be corrected.
    • Grace Jeongyeon Park gave a paper on a variety of elements in CAT 1.23. However, none of her points or readings really hold up to linguistic of philological scrutiny.
    • Kelly Murphy spoke on Anat in the Baal Cycle in connection to women’s roles in Ugaritic society. Her paper might have seemed better if I had not heard Ilona in the previous section. Kelly’s paper failed to differentiate between sex and gender or allow the possibility that Anat’s incongruity with normal gender roles at Ugarit might be a function of her perception as a masculine female. I kept expecting Kelly to move beyond the man/woman impass and begin talking of lost conceptions of gender in the ancient world. Sadly this never came.
    • Wayne Pitard presented a paper based on his work (with Mark Smith) on tablets three and four of the Baal Cycle. Wayne’s paper focussed on the center (both conceptually and literally) of the Baal Cycle being concerns for succession. In many ways, this paper built on his paper last year on the role of royal etiquette in these tablets. His argument will soon be available in the second installment of Smith’s Baal Cycle.
    • Katie Heffelfinger spoke on the use of metaphors in the verso of CAT 1.101 — a hymn to Baal. Her paper was generally a straightforward, historical-critical work but would have been enhanced if she had brought in some the iconography of stormgods from the Late Bronze Age Levant and wider environs. Often during her paper the imagery of the text brought to mind specific images such as the depiction of the Weather God at Yazılıkaya (see images here) or the massive footprints leading to the temple at Ain Dar. Such images would have strengthened her discussion. It’s always a shame when folks are so textual that they forget that most of the ancient world was not.
    • Finally, I spoke on the analogical function of the Hurrian gods and the bed of Pidrayu in CAT 1.132. As the last presenter, the room was rather sparse. However, I did get some good feedback which will help me in organizing this material in my dissertation. I hope by next SBL to present one of the more central issues in the dissertation, but that is all I’ll say on this matter at this time.
  • After all the day’s festivities, a few of us from Brandeis went out for dinner. It was nice to hear how everyone is doing; and during the course of the night we managed to find of our number both a middle name and a title for her soon-to-be-published dissertation. I have some very bright colleagues and I hope that my own career mirrors the good fortune and serious scholarship that I’m seeing of those a few years down the road from myself.

Well, my plane has yet to begin boarding, but I will close this post by correctly using the word liminal.

Being ABD and not looking for a job at the SBL is strange. Being between course work and the three stripes places one in a liminal state where one is neither part of the student-member crowd nor the professorial guild. While I hope this liminal state ends soon, with my rite of passage to a doctor of philosophy complete. It is interesting to be in this position and able to view both the consumer (students) and the product (professors) from the outside. Money really is what runs the academy regardless of what we (either students or professors) would tell ourselves. I can only hope that the more honesty all in the academy have concerning this inevitable situation, the sooner we can move beyond it and get back to learning from each other.

To all my fellow bibliobloggers, I hope to see you next year in Boston.

  1. November 21, 2007 12:15 am

    In several different venues (a paragraph in The Sacred Bridge, a Biblical Archaeology Review article and a very recent Israel Exploration Journal paper [57, 2007, 41-64] and come to mind), Rainey has been broaching this subject. I find it intriguing but like you, I have my own doubts. In my view, Hebrew is quite a bit different in important ways from the Canaanite glosses in Amarna letters and Phoenician. But are these differences diagnostic? Rainey’s view of the “conquest” strongly interacts with his understanding of this whole issue.


  1. A Different Angle on the Hebrew Question « Ketuvim: the Writings of James R. Getz Jr.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: