SBL 2008 Day 4
The last morning (Tuesday) involved a lot of running around for me. There were interesting papers in Pentateuch and Assyria and the Bible. Luckily, both were on the same floor, and my lovely wife could watch my laptop in the Pentateuch room while I went to hear about Gilgamesh.
In the Pentateuch section, Kevin A. Wilson (Wartburg College) presented on “The Demotion of the Levites in P and H .” Wilson had previously given a paper posing the correct order of the priestly material as Priestly Tradition, Ezekiel and the Holiness School corpora. He uses it here, but his main methodology is uses more standard source-critical tools. PT strata of the rebellion of Korah in Num 16-18 do not portray him as a Levite. Ezekiel 44 makes use of this PT material when he rails against Levite and sets about their demotion and expulsion from the cult. The HS then writes this Ezekiel material into Num 16-18, but turns the demotion of the Levites into a promotion – they serve as a buffer between the people and the sanctuary. Makes sense, but questions of whether Ezekiel 44 is authored by the prophet haunt me. Perhaps I need to reread Kevin’s earlier arguments based on linguistic evidence to see if this answers my concerns. (He had to catch a plane before the session was over.)
I then ran down the hall and hit Karen Sonik’s (University of Pennsylvania) paper “Breaking Bread with Huwawa: What Gilgamesh Should Have Done” in the Assyria and the Bible section. This paper was wonderful. Sonik compares the Sumerian tale of Bilgames and Huwawa and Lugalbanda. The two tales have very different outcomes largely because of the differing reaction of their heroic protagonists to the monsters of order they encounter. In light of Enlil’s angry comments at the end of the Bilgames story, Bilgames acted poorly – not at all on the model of his heroic father.
I ran back to the Pentateuch section in time to hear Mark Leuchter (Temple University colleague) present on “The Occasions of Redaction in Deuteronomy.” Leuchter sees Deut 31:9-12 points to the ritual occasion for the proclamation of the text of Deuteronomy as well as a mechanism to highlight Levite led learning and dissemination of their literary creation. The (levitical) authors of Deuteronomy designed the book to be revised and updated as needed. But, the placement of Deuteronomy in the Pentateuch placed it in a stricter redactional paradigm similar to that posited by Karel van der Toorn.
(BTW: Mark wants everyone to know that his article “‘The Prophets’ and ‘The Levites’ in Josiah’s Covenant Ceremony” will be published in first ZAW of 2009.)