Prof. dr. Scott B. Noegel
University of Washington, Seattle (United States)
Literary Craft and Performative Power in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
In this presentation, I shall call into question what is meant by literary devices in the Hebrew Bible by examining Israelite literary craft in the light of comparative evidence from Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Ugarit. In particular, I shall contextualize the functions of Israelite literary devices by integrating the cosmological underpinnings that inform ancient Near Eastern views concerning the illocutionary power of words and script and by considering the social context for the production of literary texts. Such a context, I contend, permits us to see such devices not merely as embellishments of style and rhetoric, but as performative devices of perceived power.
Scott B. Noegel is Professor of Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies and Chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization at the University of Washington in Seattle. He received his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1995. Prof. Noegel’s publications include eight books and more than sixty articles on a variety of ancient Near Eastern topics. His two most recent books are Nocturnal Ciphers: The Allusive Language of Dreams in the Ancient Near East (American Oriental Society, 2007) and Solomon’s Vineyard: Literary and Linguistic Studies in the Song of Songs (Society of Biblical Literature, 2009), co-authored with Gary Rendsburg. He currently is completing a monograph entitled “Word Play” in Ancient Near Eastern Texts. This book surveys the phenomenon as found in Akkadian, Egyptian, Ugaritic, Hebrew, and Aramaic texts, and provides a comprehensive taxonomy for devices often labeled as “word play.” In addition, the monograph explores definitions of “word play” by exploring ancient conceptions of words, the various functions that such devices serve, and the generative role of scripts (consonantal, syllabic, and pictographic). Also discussed in the book are issues of terminology, genre, audience, grammaticality, interpretation, and methodology.
Prof. dr. Robert Gordon
University of Cambridge (United Kingdom)
A Battle of Wits and Words: The Absalom Rebellion
The books of Samuel contain some of the most striking prose in the Old Testament-Hebrew Bible, and some of this in what was once with greater confidence called ‘The Succession Narrative’. This paper will focus on the contest between Ahithophel and Hushai in 2 Samuel 16-17 as the centrepiece in this literary masterpiece, in which are deployed narrative skills worthy of the story of the resolution, of the field of battle, of the issue between King David and his renegade son.
Robert Gordon began his university teaching career in Glasgow in 1969, subsequently moving to Cambridge in 1979. His earliest publications were on the ancient versions, including Targum Prophets (PhD 1974). His student guide to the books of Samuel appeared in 1984 and his commentary on Samuel in 1986. More recent research and writing have tended to focus on Genesis and on the OT/HB in its near eastern context, especially in relation to prophecy. His main retirement project will be the writing of a commentary on Amos for the ICC series. His Antwerp paper represents a return to former, and favoured, pastures.
Dr. Wilfred G. E. Watson
University of Newcastle (United Kingdom)
The Language and Poetry of the Song of Songs: Work in Progress.
Almost every year, it seems, at least one commentary or monograph on the Song of Songs is published. Some of these works focus exclusively on language, for example, the philological analysis by P. van Stoop-Paridon (2005). Others are more concerned with literary aspects, such as Patrick Hunt’s Poetry in the Song of Songs. A Literary Analysis (2008) and Stefan Fischer’s Das Hohelied Salomos zwischen Poesie und Erzählung (2010). Here, both aspects will be discussed: language and poetry. With its rare and difficult vocabulary, the Song of Songs presents philological problems, many of which can be resolved in the light of comparative Semitics or can be identified as loanwords. These will be considered in some detail. The book also uses a series of poetic devices and techniques, some of which will be described here, including parallelism of various kinds, word-pairs, wordplay, ellipsis and enjambment. Some attention will also be given to verse patterns. In addition, the Song of Songs did not emerge in isolation and to some extent its ancient Near Eastern background will be explored here.
After publishing Classical Hebrew Poetry (1984), based on his doctoral thesis in Aberdeen, Scotland (1973), Dr. Watson continued writing on ancient Semitic poetry. These papers were collected in Traditional Techniques (1994). In 1993, he was asked to contribute a commentary on the Song of Songs for the series Historical Commentaries on the Old Testament. This led to series of publications on literary aspects of that book. With Johannes de Moor he edited Verse in Ancient Near Eastern Prose (1993) which tackled the problem of differentiating prose from poetry. He has also contributed entries on poetry to the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics, edited by Geoffrey Khan.
His other main interest is comparative Semitics, with a focus on Ugaritic, and he is a member of the International Association for Comparative Semitics. In 2007, his Lexical Studies in Ugaritic (Barcelona) was published. With Nicolas Wyatt he edited the Handbook of Ugaritic Studies (1999).
He has lectured in Trinity College, Dublin and in the University of Newcastle. In 1989 he was appointed Visiting Professor in the University of Barcelona to work on a dictionary of Ugaritic and again in 1999 to edit and translate the Diccionario de la lengua ugarítica (by G. del Olmo Lete and J. Sanmartín), published as Dictionary of the Ugaritic Language in the Alphabetic Tradition in 2003.
Prof. dr. Ellen Van Wolde
Radboud University of Nijmegen (The Netherlands)
Bridging the Gap between Linguistics and Literary Studies of Ancient Biblical and Jewish texts.
A proposal exemplified by a study of Genesis 9: 9-17
Literary studies of ancient Biblical and Jewish texts mainly concentrate on stylistic and poetic features or on textual and narratological structures. Conversely, linguistics focuses mainly on words and grammar, hardly ever crossing the border of the sentence. The proposal presented in this paper is to use the cognitive linguistic concept of valence structure to explain the contextualization of word meaning in literary texts in more detail. According to this view the internal structure of a word is made up of various components which determine the vast range of potential combinations with other words. Each word has a valence or a disposition to combine with other words in that they can share meaning components. It is only by virtue of having certain substructures in common that two component expressions can be integrated to form a coherent literary expression. A study of the composite meaning structure of Gen. 9:12-17 with a central position for the word qĕšĕt commonly understood as ‘rainbow’ will illustrate this proposal.
Ellen J. van Wolde (PhD 1989, Nijmegen) was appointed Full Professor Exegesis Old Testament in 1992 at the University of Tilburg. Since 2009 she has been Full Professor at the Radboud University Nijmegen. She was elected Member of the Netherlands Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2005 and Member of the Holland Royal Society of Sciences and Humanities in 2006. Since 2010 she has been a Member of the Board of the Netherlands Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences. Recent publications include ‘Semantics and the Semantics of ארב: a Rejoinder to the Arguments Advanced by B. Becking and M. Korpel’ (together with R. Rezetko), The Journal of Hebrew Scriptures (2011, vol. 11); Reframing Biblical Studies:When Language and Text Meet Culture, Cognition, and Context (Eisenbrauns, 2009); and ‘Why the Verb ‘bara’ Does Not Mean ‘To Create’ in Genesis 1-2.4a. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 34.1 (2009), 1-21.