Tuesday, August 30, 2016

It sure is different!

For the most part the speeches take the form of prose prayer, even in the exceptional case linked to ritual—the story of David and the census (1 Chr 21:17; cf. 2 Sam 24:17). Instead, intercessors appeal to pathos, logos, and occasionally ethos to persuade YHWH that his plans would subvert his own interests, be inconsistent with his nature or his promise to the patriarchs, or cost him the people whom he loves. The emphasis on divine injustice in many of these speeches stands in sharp contrast to Texts 1-4. The final chapter demonstrates how the biblical presentation of apotropaic intercession reflects a very different understanding of divine-human relations than we see in Texts 1-4.—Forestalling Doom page 147

<idle musing>
That sure is different from the other ANE stuff, isn't it? YHWH isn't a god to be controlled by ritual or magic.

And what was true then is just as true now. You can't "claim the promise" and demand that God has to fulfill your (usually selfish) wish—see James 4:3, "You ask and don’t have because you ask with evil intentions, to waste it on your own cravings." (CEB)
</idle musing>

Friday, August 26, 2016

But it doesn't always work

Muršili’s plague prayers attest to Hittite beliefs that the gods need not respond positively to every ritual. These prayers recount the king’s fruitless efforts to appease the gods who had brought years of plague to his country, including his multiple acts of compensation and other deeds in accord with oracular instructions. The tone is one of protest but reveals no skepticism. Rather, the king’s prayers indicate his continued efforts to end the plague by appealing to the gods.—Forestalling Doom page 144

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Close enough for horseshoes...and rituals

Many persuasive analogies are intended to transfer an attribute from one entity to another using the supernatural means of similarity. Here, the same entity—the dog—inhabits both the source and target domains. The ordinary canine ability to ward off strangers is transformed within the blended space of the ritual (see Section 1.6.2) into the supernatural ability to ward off the sinister sign. This transformation is an extension of a natural ability. By presenting the dog’s new role as an extension of its ordinary behavior as watchdog, the speaker makes the role seem easy and natural.—Forestalling Doom page 133

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

It's where it came from that counts

The supernatural rites rather than a special supernatural quality of the human agents (ritual practitioners) give the namburbis’ causative speech its most significant supernatural empowerment. The rites were understood to have supernatural power because they were given by the gods. To be effective, the oral rites had to be uttered by the correct, institutionally empowered individual in the correct setting, but they did not require that this individual be a supernatural agent. Although, as Sørensen writes, ritual leaders can have their own links to the sacred domain empowering them with supernatural agency, the primary reason the āšipu could utter supernaturally effective language was that the gods were understood to have provided it.—Forestalling Doom page 91–92

<idle musing>
And again, I am reminded of the practice among some of "quoting scripture" as a magic remedy...we're still basically pagan at heart, aren't we?
</idle musing>

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Speaking of ANE backgrounds...

The previous post spoke of the ancient Near Eastern backgrounds to the prosperity gospel—tongue firmly in cheek, of course. But, there is a serious resource that just became available today: The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. The notes in the Old Testament are based on the Zondervan monster 5-volume Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary on the Old Testament and the New Testament is from the IVP equivalent.

I was given a copy of the Bible to review, but don't have time to write up a full-blown one right now. I will say this, though: It is a well-done condensation of the bigger versions.

<Rabbit trail>
Generally, I'm not a fan of study Bibles for the simple reason that people equate the inspiration of the scriptural text with the notes.

Don't believe me? Actual experience...I was in a Bible study one time and they were debating what the text meant. One person (a pastor!) asked someone, "What does your Bible say?" and the person read the notes, not the text. The pastor responding by reading the notes in his study Bible! Ouch! No disclaimer that these were simply notes. The assumption was that they had authority because they were on the same page as the sacred text.
</Rabbit trail>

OK, with that note aside, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this Bible to anyone as a reference. (I don't recommend it as your reading Bible—but as you probably guessed, I wouldn't recommend any study Bible as your reading Bible.) In fact, I've already added it to the bibliography of the seminar I teach for YWAM on the ANE backgrounds to the OT. So, two thumbs up to Zondervan for a good resource (and thanks to Emily Varner for the promo copy)!

Name it and claim it, Akkadian style

This process did not depend on the āšipu’s possessing a pre-existing or essential connection to the divine realm, but rather the āšipu’s authorized participation in the blended space of the ritual.

One piece of evidence that a supernatural connection empowering causative speech lies with the speech itself is the attention given to precise performance. Instructions are quite specific: certain oral rites are to be repeated three or seven times and accompanied by particular acts or gestures. As Sørensen argues, this emphasis on precision indicates that at least a degree of supernatural power (or as he puts it, “magical agency”) inheres in the speech itself. The speech is being used as a “sort of material object” required for ritual efficacy, rather than (merely) as communication. Stereotypy and special prosodic features such as alliteration provide further evidence for the use of speech as a tool.—Forestalling Doom page 89

<idle musing>
Do it just right and things will happen just right. Sounds oddly reminiscent of some people's view of scripture and prayer...

I think it is safe to say it is a sub-Christian view of God.
</idle musing>

Monday, August 22, 2016

Flattery will get you...

Not only the fact of praise, but the content of the praise is significant. Any selection of specific attributes over others uses the technique of choice. In order to put the deity into a beneficent mood, the chosen epithets presumably praise attributes that Šamaš was believed to value. In addition, attributes were selected to guide the god toward the desired action. Citing such qualities plays on the deity’s presumed desire to continue garnering praise by manifesting the lauded qualities all the more (the reason that praise is so widely used in behavior modification today) .—Forestalling Doom page 66

<idle musing>
In other words, flattery will get you everywhere!
</idle musing>

Friday, August 19, 2016

It's real

[Stefan] Maul (Zukunftsbewãltigung : Eine Untersuchung altorientalischen Denkens anhand der babylonisch-assyrischen Lõserituale [Namrubi])argues that the animals, plants, or circumstances in the omens do more than signify disaster; they also play an active role in triggering it. In his view, the signifying entity infects its target with impurity—understood as a semi-physical substance—from the moment the sign is perceived. Here this entity is called a “harbinger,” a term that connotes an agent.—Forestalling Doom page 55

<idle musing>
In other words, they thought you could get the spiritual to attach to the physical and thereby control it. And this is the world that the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible inhabits. Think about that...
</idle musing>