Thursday, December 29, 2016

Thirteen, the magic number?

Although the text does not state explicitly that the transformation from statue to divine being was a gradual process, the fact that the priest performed 13 mouth-washings and mouth-openings suggests that this was the case. If one mouth-washing and mouth-opening would have been sufficient, then why perform 12 additional mouth-washings and mouth-openings? Furthermore, note the exclamation in Incantation Tablet 4 in which the image is addressed directly, “He (Ea) has brought your divinity to completion!” (i-lu-ut-ka ú- ak-lil in ibid., 162–63, 184 line 18ab), suggesting that all 13 mouth washings and openings were necessary.—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, page 56 n.79

<idle musing>
Give the poor image a break! After all, it's a long way from being a tree in the forest to becoming a god!

OK, that sounds like something Isaiah or Habakkuk might say : )
</idle musing>

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

It's alive!

The rituals outlining these procedures and the accompanying incantations are known collectively by the Babylonian titles mīs pî (“washing of the mouth”) and pīt pî (“opening of the mouth”). The mīs pî, as noted earlier, was primarily a ritual intended to purify the recipient in preparation for cultic activity. As Walker and Dick conclude, “the ‘washing of the mouth’ was essentially a purification rite which prepared the object/person for contact with the divine. It washed away impurities.” The mīs pî was performed not only on divine statues but also on the king and his royal insignia, royal statues, priests, individual humans, and various animals and sacred objects. By contrast, the mouth-opening rite (pīt pî) was apparently reserved for inanimate objects, including figurines and larger divine images, a leather bag, cult symbols, and royal jewels. It was thought to consecrate, activate, and/or enliven the object in preparation for cultic use. When applied to a divine statue, the Opening of the Mouth was thought to animate the statue’s sensory organs and limbs, enabling it to consume offerings, smell incense, and move freely. Once the mouth washing and opening were complete, the statue was considered a fully functioning, living manifestation of the divine.—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, page 44

<idle musing>
Remember, the ancients were fully aware that it wasn't the deity—it was just a manifestation of the deity. But at the same time, it was the deity. Confusing? Maybe. But because in a very real sense it was the deity, Isaiah and the other prophets could have a good time making fun of the whole process.

At the risk of incurring the wrath of the few people who actually read this blog, I could say we can compare it to the treatment that is given to the U.S. flag. It isn't the country, but it represents in a very real way the U.S. That's why people get so upset when people burn it out of protest. They are symbolically burning the country. Or, why the flag is never supposed to touch the ground, or you stand and salute the flag, or say the Pledge of Allegiance, or any one of a number of other "silly" rules about handling the flag.

Side question? Is the flag an idol?

You figure it out, but I would suggest it is...just as nationalism is an idol. Yes, especially "American exceptionalism."
</idle musing>

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

But you got it all wrong!

It is clear in Genesis 3 that in eating the forbidden fruit and becoming like ʿelōhîm the man and the woman had transgressed a very significant boundary between the human and divine spheres. In the Mesopotamian pît pî and the Egyptian wpt-r, however, the opening of the eyes, which signified the image’s (re-)birth and the transformation of the image into a living manifestation of an ʿel (Akkadian ilu), was precisely the goal. Although there is a notable difference between the opening of the eyes in Gen 2:5–3:24, which signified the acquisition of illicit wisdom, and the opening of the eyes in the mīs pî pīt pî and wpt-r, which indicated the image’s vitality, it does seem that the Eden author is playing with the idea of the “opening of the eyes” as a means to life. In his story, however, the outcome is reversed. The man and the woman, who were created and animated prior to the opening of their eyes, now faced banishment, exile, decay, and eventual death.—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, page 42

<idle musing>
They already were alive and animated—before they ate the fruit! They had no need of it, unlike the images of the gods, who were inanimate until the opening of their eyes when the spirit of the deity entered them, thus animating them. By trying to add to what God had already done, they reversed the process. Sound familiar? We're still doing the same thing...
</idle musing>

Monday, December 26, 2016

The collapse

A dialogue between the serpent and the woman ensues (Gen 3:1b–5), and the subtle and deceptive serpent convinces the woman to taste the forbidden fruit. The following climactic moment of disobedience is conveyed with shocking brevity. What took 20 verses to describe (Gen 2:5–24) is now dismantled in less than a single verse (Gen 3:6b) by the actions recorded in four, short converted yiqtol verbs: wattiqaḥ (she took), wattōʾkal (she ate), wattittēn (she gave), and wayyōʾkal (he ate).—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, page 39
<idle musing>
I never thought of it that way before. . .pretty depressing how quickly we can destroy what God has built.

Speaking of which, if you aren't a believer in climate change, then explain to me the weather here. We had a thunderstorm last night! And it's raining right now. Well, it just turned to freezing rain as I'm writing this. And two weeks ago it was -18ºF. This is crazy!

Cue the reading from Psalms today:
God is our refuge and strength,
a help always near in times of great trouble.
That’s why we won’t be afraid when the world falls apart,
when the mountains crumble into the center of the sea,
when its waters roar and rage,
when the mountains shake because of its surging waves. Selah (Ps 46:1–3CEB)

That's reassuring, this last week of 2016, a year that has seen more than its share of international disasters—many/most of them man-made. May the new year bring shalom in it's fullest (Hebrew) sense. Of course, I realize that can only be God who brings it; it's a metaphorical saying, the new year can't bring anything by itself.
</idle musing>

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas

The Word became flesh
and made his home among us.
We have seen his glory,
glory like that of a father’s only son,
full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 CEB)

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Thought for a Christmas Eve day

I read yesterday that Russia announced it would reenter the nuclear arms race, and the president-elect of the U.S. responded in kind. By coincidence(??), my reading in the Psalms today contained this Psalm, which I've modified slightly to make it more 21st century. . .
16 Kings [President-elects] aren’t saved by the strength of their [country's] armies;
    warriors [President-elects] aren’t rescued by how much power [wealth] they have.
17 A [nuclear] war[head] horse is a bad bet for victory;
    it can’t save despite its great strength [destructive power].
18 But look here: the Lord’s [YHWH] eyes watch all who honor him,
    all who wait for his faithful love [ḥesed],
19     to deliver their lives from death
    and keep them alive during a famine.

20 We put our hope in the Lord [YHWH].
    He is our help and our shield.
21 Our heart rejoices in God
    because we trust his holy name [and his holy name is YHWH, of which Jesus is the incarnation!].
22 Lord [YHWH], let your faithful love [ḥesed] surround us
    because we wait for you. (Ps 33:16–22 CEB)

If you can find access to the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed. Laird Harris et al. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), read the article on ḥesed (I think they transliterate it chesed). It's included in the base package of both Accordance and BibleWorks (I couldn't find it in Logos, but it might be there). It's a healthy corrective to the older view that ḥesed just means "covenant loyalty" and nothing more. It means a whole lot more! It's the love that drives God to pursue his wayward people—even before they are his people! It's the love that drives God to become human in the incarnation. Or, as Michael Card put it so well, "he would rather die than live without us." That's what ḥesed is all about. "Loving kindness," "mercy," those are good starts, but it's much bigger than all those words.

So, all that to say, Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2016

In the image of, but not identical

Genesis 2 does not define humans as a “living statue of the deity” in the same way that a divine statue became the god once its mouth was washed and opened. Rather, humanity was, in some way, created in the image of God but was distinct from God himself.—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, page 17

<idle musing>
An important distinction! And especially apropos this time of the year, with the incarnation.
</idle musing>

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The North Shore

It sure is rough living up here...I'm listening to Handel's Messiah, working via VPN, and this is the view out my window right now.

Life's tough, isn't it? : ) Merry Christmas!

Echoes in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

Although there are no obvious references to the Washing of the Mouth or the Opening of the Mouth in the Hebrew Bible, several prophetic texts reflect an awareness that the manipulation of an individual’s sensory organs was thought to activate the individual in some way. Hurowitz, building on the work of Weinfeld and others, has argued that the purification of Isaiah’s lips in Isaiah 6 is best understood against the background of Mesopotamian ceremonies for the purification of the mouth, including the mīs pî. According to H.-P. Müller, the cleansing of the mouths of the prophets Jeremiah (1:9) and Ezekiel (2:8–3:3) should also be understood in this light. Finally, J. Kutsko has suggested that the re-creation of corporate Israel in Ezekiel 36–37 “develops an argument that parodies the Mesopotamian pattern of re-creation of cult images prior to their repatriation.” Specifically, he claims that the animation of Israel by the rûaḥ of God in Ezek 37:9–10 recalls the animation of divine statues in the Mesopotamian mouth-washing and mouth-opening ceremonies. “Ezekiel is intentionally contrasting creating humans with imagery involving divine statues,” he states, and further, “Ezekiel 37 is consciously drawing this analogy with idols and thereby sharply signaling the distinction in the creation of the people of Israel.” Kutsko observes further that the re-creation of corporate Israel in Ezekiel 36–37 also reflects and develops the story of human creation in Genesis 2.—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, page 15

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Flip it on its head!

In the Opening of the Mouth ritual, the statue’s sensory organs are animated, enabling it to see, hear, smell, speak, breath, and move about as a living being. The opening of the eyes is even named specifically in the Babylon version, and the fact that the image is placed facing the sunrise in the Nineveh version suggests a similar emphasis on the animation of the eyes. By claiming [in Isa 44:18] that the “idol” makers’ eyes have been shut and they are therefore blind, and that their minds are dumb and they are, consequently, without understanding, the prophet applies the activation of the sensory organs of the divine image to the craftsmen themselves, only in reverse. The idol-makers, as Pss 115:8 and 135:18 predict, have become like their idols— having eyes but unable to see.—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, pages 9–10 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>

I love the irony of Isaiah's portrayal. To me it seems obvious that he knew of the mis pî ritual and was lampooning it—the original Babylon Bee : )
</idle musing>

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Psalm for today

Psalm 10Common English Bible (CEB)

Psalm 10[a]

10 Why do you stand so far away, Lord,
    hiding yourself in troubling times?
Meanwhile, the wicked are proudly
    in hot pursuit of those who suffer.
Let them get caught
    in the very same schemes they’ve thought up!
The wicked brag about their body’s[b] cravings;
    the greedy reject the Lord, cursing.
At the peak of their wrath,
    the wicked don’t seek God:
    There’s no God—
    that’s what they are always thinking.
Their ways are always twisted.
        Your rules are too lofty for them.
    They snort at all their foes.
    They think to themselves,
        We’ll never stumble.
        We’ll never encounter any resistance.
Their mouths are filled
        with curses, dishonesty, violence.
    Under their tongues lie
        troublemaking and wrongdoing.
They wait in a place perfect for ambush;[c]
    from their hiding places
    they kill innocent people;
    their eyes spot those who are helpless.
They lie in ambush
    in secret places,
    like a lion in its lair.
They lie in ambush
    so they can seize those who suffer!
They seize the poor, all right,
    dragging them off in their nets.
10 Their helpless victims are crushed;
    they collapse, falling prey to the strength of the wicked.
11 The wicked think to themselves:
    God has forgotten.
    God has hidden his face.
    God never sees anything!
12 Get up, Lord!
    Get your fist ready, God!
    Don’t forget the ones who suffer!
13 Why do the wicked reject God?
    Why do they think to themselves
        that you won’t find out?
14 But you do see!
    You do see troublemaking and grief,
    and you do something about it!
The helpless leave it all to you.
    You are the orphan’s helper.
15 Break the arms of those
    who are wicked and evil.
Seek out their wickedness
    until there’s no more to find.
16 The Lord rules forever and always!
    The nations will vanish from his land.
17 Lord, you listen to the desires of those who suffer.
    You steady their hearts;
you listen closely to them,
18     to establish justice
        for the orphan and the oppressed,
    so that people of the land
        will never again be terrified.


  1. Psalm 10:1 Pss 9 and 10 contain part of an acrostic poem and might originally be one poem in Heb.
  2. Psalm 10:3 Or soul’s
  3. Psalm 10:8 Heb uncertain

Tselem and demut

The fact that this tôlədôt notice [Gen 5:1–3, of the birth of Seth] echoes the language of Gen 1:26–27 suggests that the description of Seth functions, at least in part, as an interpretive key to understanding the creation of male and female bəṣelem ʾelōhîm. That is, the author of Gen 1:1–2:3 may have chosen ṣelem and dəmût not only because these terms have royal and cultic overtones but because they also convey a filial relationship. [footnote: If this is correct, it would not be surprising that the relationship between the two ṣəlāmîm, male (zākār) and female (nəqēbāh), would also be defined in familial terms. In Gen 2:23, the woman is described as the man’s “bone (ʿeṣem) and flesh (bāśār).” That is, having been created from Adam’s very body, Eve is his biological kin. Thus, both Genesis 1 and 2 would define the two primary human relationships, namely, the divine-human relationship and the relationship of husband and wife, in kinship terms. In Genesis 1, humans are introduced as members of God’s royal family, and this presentation implies that humans and God are, on some level, “kin.”]—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, page 3

<idle musing>
Think about the ramifications of that for a bit. If, as she implies, humans are in some way kin to God, then God being our kinsman redeemer (גואל gw'l) takes on a whole new meaning, doesn't it. And murder is no longer just killing someone. It is, in some sense, an attack on God's family—whether the person is a Christian or not!

Lots to think about here...and this is only on page 3!
</idle musing>

Monday, December 19, 2016

New book started

Gen 2:5–3:24 seems to describe the creation of the first man in terms reminiscent of the creation of a divine image in the mīs pî pīt pî and the wpt-r rituals. There are parallels among them in content, overall progression, and, to some extent, purpose, suggesting that, despite the absence of the terms ṣelem and dəmût, Gen 2:5–3:24 implicitly presents the idea that the first man was, on some level, an “image of God.”—The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden, page 2

<idle musing>
Now that's an intriguing way to start the book, isn't it? For those of you who don't know, the mīs pî pīt pî and wpt-r rituals were ANE and Egyptian (in that order) rituals that gave life to the images (idols) and made them active/living representations of the respective gods. Mind you, that's oversimplification, as the Egyptian one was also used to reanimate the mummy as well. But all of that will (hopefully) become more clear as we move through the book.

By the way, it's on sale right now at Eisenbrauns until the end of the month at 30% off:


The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden
The Creation of Humankind in Genesis 2:5-3:24 in Light of the mis pi pit pi and wpt-r Rituals of Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt
Siphrut: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures 15
by Catherine McDowell
Eisenbrauns, 2015
Pp. ix + 246, English
Cloth, 6 x 9 inches
ISBN: 9781575063485
List Price: $47.50
Your Price: $33.25

Friday, December 16, 2016

Let's spin a yarn or two

All explanations work with data from the biblical tradition itself or with cultural-historical analogies from the ancient Near East and, more recently, from Greece. Unfortunately, they disregard the idiosyncrasies of the biblical tradition that do not fit the historical and institutional context. The crucial question, therefore, is: In what circles and institutions did the transition from the prophecy common in the ancient Near East and known from Israel and Judah to biblical prophecy take place? To answer this question, one probably has to spin the same amount of historical fantasy that we find in the common hypotheses of the writing prophet and his “pupils,” or the curriculum of the scribal school, or the diverse interest groups of Israelite society—about which we know virtually nothing.—The Prophets of Israel, page 151

<idle musing>
Refreshingly honest, isn't it?

That's the final excerpt from this book. As I've said many times, he is more skeptical than I about the percentage of original content in the prophetic books. But he is clearly correct that some form of editorial work was going on. The chapter on the Qumran tradition of annotation was excellent, and provides a useful analogy to what might have been going on. That chapter alone was worth the price of the book. (That's metaphorical; because I work for Eisenbrauns, I didn't have to purchase it!)

Next up, The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden. Here's all the scoop on it:

The "Image of God" in the Garden of Eden
The Creation of Humankind in Genesis 2:5-3:24 in Light of the mis pi pit pi and wpt-r Rituals of Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt
Siphrut: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures 15
by Catherine McDowell
Eisenbrauns, 2015
Pp. ix + 246, English
Cloth, 6 x 9 inches
ISBN: 9781575063485
List Price: $47.50
Your Price: $33.25
</idle musing>

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A conundrum

So, who were the tradents of the biblical prophetic tradition, and what was their historical setting? As far as we can see from the sources in the ancient Near East, the recording of prophetic oracles usually took place in close proximity to the royal court or the temple—that is, offcial institutions—and was carried out by professional scribes. We can assume that the same was true for Israel and Judah. Nevertheless, this may not have been the case for the prophetic books of the Bible, which are mostly opposed to these institutions.—The Prophets of Israel, pages 150–51

<idle musing>
"Houston, we have a problem." Interesting, isn't it? Where do we go from here, then? Good question, which is why we have a billion theories—two or three for each scholar who's worked on it for the last 500 years of so : )

Seriously, we know it has to be trained and educated scribes. Typically, those exist in the temple or royal court; those are the only institutions that can afford to support the infrastructure necessary to provide the education necessary to learn to read and write. But the prophetic books are highly critical of these very structures...a conundrum!

The traditional answer has been that the prophetic books were recognized as inspired by YHWH and therefore preserved—even though they were highly critical of the very institutions preserving them. But, that begs the question, doesn't it?

So in the end, we don't really know...that's not very satisfying intellectually, is it? Maybe faith is the missing factor, then.

Just an
</idle musing>

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A significant nuance

The unconditional prophecies of judgment are the starting point of the tradition in the prophetic books and are presupposed by the later prophecies of salvation as well as by the prophetic narratives. True, the notion that a deity desires doom and brings it about has parallels in the world of the ancient Near East. Here, too, the disaster suffered by a community can be understood as the result of the wrath of the gods. Interestingly enough, in the ancient Near Eastern texts, such an explanation only happens after the occurrence of the disaster. Its purpose is either to placate the gods and ask them to remove the misery or to anticipate better times and the overcoming of disaster. The biblical books differ here. Doom and salvation always appear in the announcement of the prophet and are yet to come.—The Prophets of Israel, page 149

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


It is evident, however, that the biblical books follow their own path as far as content and form is concerned. Unlike the ancient Near Eastern parallels, the prophetic books of the Bible develop into a literary genre of their own that was handed down over the centuries and constantly re-worked at a literary level. As to their content, they differ from both their ancient Near Eastern parallels and their own historical Israelite-Judean roots.—The Prophets of Israel, page 148

<idle musing>
As I've said before, he's a good bit more skeptical than I am about the amount of material in the prophetic books that goes back to the original prophet. But aside from that, his observation is correct.
</idle musing>

Monday, December 12, 2016

Confusion of terminology

What biblical scholarship calls “pre-classical” corresponds on a phenomenological level to the “classical” prophecy of the ancient Near East, while the “classical” prophecy of the Hebrew Bible seems to be the exception to the rule in the ancient Near East. Clearly, we have to reckon with a complex development.—The Prophets of Israel, page 146

Friday, December 09, 2016

Whence the prophetic books?

Prophets and prophetesses of the ancient Near East enjoyed confidential communion with the gods and transmitted their messages. These messages were handed down orally or were written down either individually (in letters, inscriptions, or on other materials) or in small collections (Neo-Assyrian prophetic tablets) such that we know them only by archaeological chance. As far as we can see, neither the prophets of the ancient Near East nor their Judean counter-parts known from the Lachish letters wrote books.

Against this background, the prophetic books of the Bible and even more the collection of prophetic books pose a conundrum. Scholarship has not yet been successful in determining and explaining the genre of the prophetic book. The prophetic book unites oracles addressing specific situations, prophecy masquerading as the words of the prophet but written down at a later stage and composed with the prophetic book in view, as well as narratives about the prophets. The prophetic book, then, presents itself as an entity of lasting significance and validity. However, when all is said and done, we still do not know what we have in front of us when we look at the prophetic books. We do not know what the purpose of the books was, who read them, and how they were used. Above all, we do not know who is responsible for their composition: the prophet himself, his “pupils,” or some other anonymous tradents or scribes.—The Prophets of Israel, page 145

<idle musing>
In the finest tradition of German scholarship, he's a good bit more skeptical about the percentage of the original prophet in the books attributed to them. But nonetheless, his point is well taken. What is it that we have in the prophetic books?

It's unique, and one thing scholar's hate is being unable to explain something : )

I'm satisfied with saying it is God's message to a specific time and place with ramifications for all people in all places at all times. But it sure is fun speculating about all that other stuff, isn't it?
</idle musing>

Thursday, December 08, 2016

The lone prophet

If we are to understand the recent trend in the history of scholarship to concentrate on the prophetic literature, we must first keep in sight the point from which it departed. This point of departure is the fixation on the person of the prophet in both the ecclesial and the scholarly understanding of the prophets of the Hebrew Bible. This approach was dominant into the twenty-first century and in some cases continues even today. This fixation has a long prehistory and finds its beginnings in the biblical tradition itself. Poetic self-reflection, prophetic miracles or sign-acts, and narratives about the prophets draw attention to the person of the prophet as mediator of God’s word. Here, the prophet is usually portrayed as a lone voice in the wilderness, disowned by the world, despairing of God and his mission. At the same time, the headings of the prophetic books ensure a historicization that places individual prophets at certain phases in the history of Israel and Judah.—The Prophets of Israel, page 112

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Prophetic Literature or Prophet?

It is not unusual to find the expression “paradigm shift” in recent overviews of research on the Hebrew Bible. This is also the case in an overview of research on the prophets of the Hebrew Bible by Martti Nissinen (2009), who primarily describes the English-speaking discussion in considerable detail. Uwe Becker (2004), who also considers German-speaking research, is slightly more careful and speaks of the “rediscovery of the prophetic books.” More or less the same is meant in each case: the prophet as an individual has been left behind and attention is given instead to the prophetic literature in the Hebrew Bible. This trend within research can be observed beginning in the 1970s and has resulted in the rediscovery of old observations and the formation of new questions.—The Prophets of Israel, page 110

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

An ancient magisterium?

The interpretation of the biblical text appears in any case to be directed or stimulated by exegetical problems arising from the received biblical text itself. These problems are solved by reference to contemporary history, which is the situation of the Qumran community, in accordance with the hermeneutical rule of the “Teacher of Righteousness” that determines to which time and to whom the predictions of the biblical prophets relate.—The Prophets of Israel, page 104

<idle musing>
Of course, we all have our own "magisterium." We just don't often acknowledge it, do we? We always are interpreting things from our own context. Usually we don't even realize it, it's that subconscious. I just finished a book entitled Thinking, Fast and Slow (watch for excerpts soon) that discusses the role of the subconscious in our day-to-day functioning.

The fully rational human is an illusion. To realize we can never step fully outside ourselves is what Postmodernism is supposed to have taught us—despite what other side effects it might have had : ) The problem is we didn't learn it. I guess that's one more reason we need the "hound of heaven," the Holy Spirit, to break through our subconscious walls and show us who we are and what we can be in Christ. Now there's a phrase that is loaded with meaning, "in Christ."
</idle musing>

Friday, December 02, 2016

Still asking the same questions 2000 years later

We find the pesharim taken up with the same questions that concern modern scholarship. Who is the second-person singular feminine, the second-person singular masculine, the third-person singular masculine, or the third-person plural masculine in Nahum 1? Or, where is the “bloody city” in Nah 3:1, given that it is also spoken about in Isa 1 and Hab 2:12 and there identified with Jerusalem or an Israelite city? Or, where is the ruined Nineveh, when we are told in the Book of Jonah that Nineveh converted to the true God and escaped destruction? Or, where is the “No-Amon” that Nineveh took sides with and is associated with idol worship in Jer 46 and Ezek 30? These and other questions result from a close reading of the biblical text, especially if we consider the text not only in relation to the book (as we normally do) but interpret it verse-by-verse, cross-referencing it with biblical writings and other texts (as is common in Jewish exegesis).—The Prophets of Israel, pages 102-3

Thursday, December 01, 2016

The more things change...

Those who live in the biblical history and locate their own time in it will regard the books of the biblical prophets as scripture that directly concerns them and their own time. As we have already seen, this is how the hermeneutical rules of the “Teacher of Righteousness” understood things in the pesher on the Book of Habakkuk. Thus, it would be strange if the interpretations in the pesharim had no substantial relationship to their biblical original whatsoever, apart from catchwords and other technical interpretive links. This question emerges especially in our example from the pesher on Nahum, where the external enemies of the seventh century B.C.E., Nineveh and No-Amon, are understood in relation to the Israelite powers, Ephraim and Manasseh, that correspond to the community’s contemporary enemies within Israel and Judah in the first century B.C.E.—The Prophets of Israel, page 101

<idle musing>
Of course, we could apply the same logic to some (most?) interpretations of scripture in the 21st century, couldn't we? And that's why a Christocentric hermeneutic is so important! If the Bible is all about Jesus (and as a Christian, I believe it is), then we should make Jesus the center of our hermeneutic.

Of course, how that plays out in our hermeneutics is the rub, isn't it? Which Jesus do we use as the model? The incarnate, cruciform one in the Gospels, Acts, and most of the Epistles? Or the triumphant, conquering king of Revelation? Of course, I would argue that the conquering king is really the lamb, slain from the foundation of the world. But, others take the triumphant messiah as their starting point and reinterpret all the servant/cruciform stuff through the militaristic lens. And so, in some ways, we are back to square one, aren't we?

This is really about one's presuppositions, not about scripture at all. But it influences—actually, it controls—our interpretation of scripture. If I start with the presupposition that the U.S. is God's chosen vessel (and a holy one, too), then I will interpret scripture much differently than if I start with the presupposition that, yes, God uses the U.S. in the world, but it is not God's chosen nation—unless you want to say that it is chosen in the same way that God chose Assyria—and then judged her when she overstepped her bounds (see Habakkuk).

Just another
</idle musing>