2018 Annual Meeting

2018 OTBANE Conference Theme: "Cultic Law in the Old Testament and the Ancient Near East."

  • Richard E. Averbeck

    (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)

    Mesopotamian Cult: Sumerian and Akkadian

    Abstract: Cultic law and practices in ancient Mesopotamia are known from archaeology (prehistoric and historic periods), iconography, and especially Sumerian (non-Semitic) and Akkadian (Semitic) cuneiform written sources from the third through the first millennium BC. There are precursors, of course, but the discussion often begins with the Uruk Vase dating to ca. 3000 BC, (around the time of the origin of writing), and the various scholarly interpretations of it. This leads naturally to the importance of temple building; the various deities; the cultic fashioning, enlivening, and maintenance of the statues of deities; the temple cult and cultic functionaries; the relationship between the temple, political leaders, and the local community; family religion; funerary practices; and so on. Geographically and chronologically, of course, there are major differences between life, religion, and cult in the southeastern Tigris and Euphrates alluvium in the third millennium (ancient Sumer), and the northwestern regions of the second and first millennia (Babylonia in the south and Assyria in the north). We need to compare and contrast the cult and religion of these regions and time periods. Mesopotamian religion is not all of one piece. Nevertheless, there are some long- lasting continuities amid the diversity.

  • James K. Hoffmeier

    (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)

    Priests and Priesthood According to the Laws (?), Traditions and Practices of Ancient Egypt

    Abstract: Herodotus characterized the ancient Egyptians of the Persian period when he visited the Nile valley as highly religious, describing them as “beyond measure religious, more than any other nation ... Their religious observances are, (one may say) innumerable” (Herodotus II, 37). He further explains that “priests perform what seem like thousands on thousands of rituals.” This paper will explore some of the traditions and practices associated with priests. While sources to study priestly matters exist for all periods of Egyptian history, the New Kingdom (ca. 1550-1100 B.C.) will be the primary focus of the present study, especially because of the informative tomb biographies of priests from this period. One such report is found in the tomb of Bakenkhons, a cleric during the reign of Ramesses II, whose career is traced from his first position as an entry level priest followed by how he climbed the ladder of success for the next 43 years until he was elevated to be the high priest or 1st priest of Amun, i.e. the Pontiff! The different types of priests and their function will be reviewed, followed by some comparative treatment between the roles, duties and preoccupation with cultic purity will be compared to biblical laws applied to priests and Levites.

  • Robert Marineau

    (The University of Chicago)

    The Cultic Law of the Hittites? Religious Sources, Practices, and their Impetus

    Abstract: Within the field of Hittitology in recent years, there has been renewed focus on texts relating to the Hittite cult, particularly as part of the 21 year (2016-2036) research project, Das Corpus der hethitischen Festrituale. But in addition to the Festival texts, since 2000 there have many new book-length studies and articles of the Hittite Ritual texts. Hittitologists have concluded that the religious texts were practical, reflecting the religious “practices” and “traditions” of the Hittites. The topic of this invited session is therefore difficult to apply to Hittite religion in that the performance of the cult in Anatolia was not perceived of as following the “law” per se. Indeed, it is clear that the cultic procedural texts from Anatolia themselves do not contain indications of their obligatory nature. This reality does not mean the question of “cultic law” is not interesting for Hittitologists. Rather, it requires a look at a different set of sources. This paper will argue that motivations for following through and supporting the wide variety of cultic procedures can be found in sometimes clear and in sometimes veiled ways in other text genres. This situation in the Hittite texts potentially sheds light on the variegated nature of Old Testament cultic ritual and also draws attention to the question of genre classification as “law” in reference to cultic passages in the Pentateuch and what exactly is meant by it.

  • Jim Greenberg

    (Denver Seminary)

    Priestly Cultic Law (Lev 1-16): The History of Interpretation in light of the Comparative Method

    Abstract: Two questions have guided the quest to interpret priestly cultic law: What does sacrifice achieve, and how is it accomplished? The first question has been easier to address, at least at a high-level, than the second. Many sacrifices include preconditions the offerer must meet, if, for example, the offerer committed an unintentional sin, or contracted a bodily impurity, and end with result statements expressed on behalf of the offerer, such as forgiveness, and making clean. As a result, with some confidence, scholars conclude that sacrifice fixes a problem between the offerer and YHWH. However, determining how and why sacrifice fixes this problem is elusive. In order to answer this question, scholars have engaged in two, often overlapping, lines of research. One line of study seeks to identify the symbolic meaning of the sanctuary and sacrificial elements, and the other, attempts to discover the etymology of the Hebrew verb kipper, which usually follows the priest’s application of blood and flesh on the sancta. Unfortunately, a lack of information complicates both lines of research. Biblical Hebrew does not provide a straightforward etymology of the verb kipper leading scholars to investigate cognate dialects. However, this type of comparative study is fraught with exegetical minefields. Specifically, it is unclear how ancient cultures interacted with each other, and thus, whether or not cognate roots share a common etymology. The pursuit of the symbolic meaning of sacrificial elements is equally elusive. Ritual texts do not clearly explain how sacrificial elements bring about a desired change. Furthermore, the symbolic meaning of ritual actions and elements may vastly differ for the participant and ritual specialists, and change or lose their meaning over time as rituals become fossilized. This paper investigates the history of interpretation of priestly cultic law in light of the comparative method, proposes a new text-immanent interpretative approach, and provides a recommendation for how to compare priestly cultic law to other ancient Near Eastern ritual texts.