Apr 14, 2014

Jonah: Online Commentary (in progress)

[Updated 6/12/2014: Translation edits included]

During the Spring semester, my Hebrew Grammar II class at BMA Theological Seminary translates Jonah.  The below is an ongoing project where I post photo-texts of Jonah Codex L, as well as diplomatic texts, outlines, notes, translations and links to Hebrew audio.  These materials will be variously located on my blog, Twitter feed & SoundCloud and will even correspond to sermons located on our church website.  This post will serve as the primary source/catalog for all of these materials and will gradually (often daily) expand until all of Jonah is covered serving essentially as an online commentary for my students, church members, or any interested in Jonah, particularly Jonah based on the Hebrew text.

I. Hebrew Audio

II. Codex Leningrandensis

A. Jonah 1
B. Jonah 2
III.  Cod L + Diplomatic Text + English Trans.
A. Jonah 1 
Jonah 1.1,2 Diplomatic Text & Trans.; Jonah 1.3,4 Diplomatic Text & Trans.
Jonah 1.5,6a Diplomatic Text & Trans.; Jonah 1.6b-7 Diplomatic Text & Trans.
Jonah 1.8, 9 Diplomatic Text &Trans.; Jonah 1.10-12a Diplomatic Text & Trans.
Jonah 1.14  Diplomatic Text & Trans.; Jonah 1.15, 16; 2:1a Diplomatic Text & Trans.

B. Jonah 2

Jonah 2.1,2 Diplomatic Text & Trans.

IV. Masoretic Notations & Textual Apparatus
Why study the Masorah?  Follow the preceding link for a word from scholars Page H. Kelley, Daniel S. Mynatt, and Timothy G. Crawford. 
Jonah 1:1,2    Jonah 1:3    Jonah 1:4,5    Jonah 1:6,7
V. Preliminary Translation & Notes
  • Jonah Chapter 1
Chapter 1
(1) And the word of Yahweh came to Jonah ben Amittai saying, (2) “Arise, go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach against it, for their evil has come up before me.” (3) Then Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of Yahweh,[1] and he went down to Joppa[2] and found a ship going to Tarshish and paid its fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of Yahweh.  (4) Then Yahweh cast a great wind upon the sea and there was a great storm on the sea, and the ship-men thought it would break apart. (5) Then the mariners[3] were afraid and each cried to his god[4] and they cast the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them.  But Jonah had gone down into the hold of the ship and lain down and was sound asleep. (6) Then the captain[5] approached him and said to him, “How are you sleeping?  Get up, cry to your God!  Perhaps your God will take notice of us that we will not perish.” (7) Then each man said to his mate, “Come and let us cast lots that we may know on whose account this trouble is upon us.”  And they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.  (8) Then they said to him, “Tell us now! On whose account has this trouble come to us?  What is your occupation and from where have you come?  What is your land and of what people are you?"[6] (9) And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear Yahweh, God of the heavens who made the sea and the dry land.”[7]  (10) Then the men were greatly afraid and they said to him, “What is this you have done?” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of Yahweh, for he told them.  (11) And they said to him, “What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?”—for the sea was was increasingly stormy.  (12) And he said to them, “Lift me up and cast me into the sea, and it will be calm for you; for I indeed know that it is on account of me that this terrible storm is upon you.”  But the men rowed to return to the dry land but they could not, for the sea was turbulent and stormy upon them.  (14) Then they prayed to Yahweh and said, “O Yahweh, please do not let us perish on account of this man’s life, and do not attribute to us the blood of the innocent.  For you, O Yahweh, have done just as you have desired.”  (15) So they lifted up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. (16) Then the men were exceedingly afraid of Yahweh, and they offered a sacrifice to Yahweh, and made vows.”

[1] This is likely a reference to something like Jonah’s attempt to distance himself from the temple at Jerusalem which represented God's presence. 
[2] Though Joppa was slightly north of Jerusalem, this is not an unusual expression for two reasons: 1.) the temple mount was higher in elevation, and 2.) anytime a person left Jerusalem to go to another city, it was customary to describe him as “going down” due to the importance and prominence of the city. 
[3] The Hebrew term is ~yxiL'M;, (malachim), literally meaning “salts” and is an idiom for sailors due to their close association with salt water.
[4] These men who were almost certainly Phoenicians, believed in a variety of localized deities.  In ANE pagan religions, it was believed that the gods had a beginning and evolved out of primordial stuff.  They held that Absolute Divine reality is upstream of the various finite, personal gods.  Fate was held as an impersonal force that defined laws and the inner workings of the gods.  The gods that the sailors prayed to may have been any in their pantheon including: Yam (meaning “Sea,” i.e. the sea god), Dagon (either referring to a fish god or grain god), Baal (the storm god), Shamash (the sun god), etc.
[5] Translated from lbexoh; br:, literally meaning chief sailor.
[6] These questions were most likely intended to identify the particular god that Jonah worshipped by isolating the particular ethnicity, or land with which that god was thought to have been connected.
[7] Jonah responded with an explanation in terms of Hebrew cosmology.  God was not limited to a particular geographic region as were the pagan gods.  Conversely, the God of the Hebrews was Absolute, Unlimited, and was actually the source of the finite created reality, rather than the opposite. 

Apr 3, 2014

Solomonic Authorship of Ecclesiastes

[See note at bottom for comments and link to full interview]

Veritas Domain Q.: You have taught Biblical Hebrew, among other subjects.  Do you see any relationship between Presuppositional apologetics and academic work in the Old Testament?

B. Rickett: 
Apologetics makes use of philosophy as a tool built on logic, employing it to engage in the critical evaluation and scrutiny of truth claims.  In this way, it is appropriately suited to engage in critical analysis of various theories, including but not limited to literary theories/linguistic approaches to the text, as well as the methods and conclusions of such approaches. 

Let’s consider some of Tremper Longman’s work for example.  In His argument against Solomonic authorship of Ecclesiastes in his commentary, he commits several basic errors. 
One that comes to mind combines a grammatical error with a procedural problem.  Working off of the NIV, rather than the Hebrew text, He cites Ecc. 1:12 as an argument against Solomonic authorship.  It states, “I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem” (NIV).  He then argues that the verse identifies a time when Solomon had been alive but not king, basically concluding that since this doesn’t fit with what we know of Solomon it wasn’t really him.

This is a scandalous assertion.  Longman seems not to know that, 1.) Hebrew uses the perfect conjugation to express either simple past or past perfect verbal ideas.  Thus, “I was king” or “I have been king” are equally valid translations that any student of basic Hebrew would know—seriously.  2.) A consultation of other translations should have at least tempered his argument. 3.) In actuality, the statement seems merely to place Qoheleth’s attitude within its historical setting.  This deficiency on the part of Longman suggests either incompetence in the language, or some unargued philosophical bias that prevents honest assessment here.  But there’s more.

Citing 1:16, he argues, “It would be strange to hear Solomon state: I said to myself, ‘Behold, I have magnified and increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has observed a wealth of wisdom and knowledge.’”  Why is this strange—because there was only one king before Solomon?  However, the chronicler in 1 Chronicles 29:25 uses this exact language to make the same case.  He says, “The LORD highly exalted Solomon in the sight of all Israel, and bestowed on him royal majesty which had not been on any king before him in Israel” (1Ch 29:25 [emphasis mine]).  Longman seems to arrive at his conclusion without adequate scholarly reflection on the wording.  Is the phrase an idiom, figure of speech, a common way of taking into consideration powerful men including but not limited to the reigning monarch?  These would be the normal sorts of questions to ask.  These are not addressed though.  When combined with other textual arguments, one can only conclude that Longman simply didn’t read/think carefully about this.  So, failure at this juncture also looks suspicious.  But there’s more. 

Longman argues that Qoheleth is a pseudonym for the one assuming the Solomonic persona, or if applied to Solomon, a “nick-name.”  He writes:
“One must ask what is gained or what possible reason could Solomon have had for adopting a name other than his own in this book?  Is he hiding his identity from someone?  If so, for what possible reason?  Does the nickname add anything to the message of the book? After all, the connection to Solomon is tenuous, and no one has argued that the name contributes to the meaning of the book.  It is much more likely that the nickname Qohelet was adopted by the actual writer to associate himself with Solomon, while retaining his distance from the actual person” (p. 4). 

Apparently, Longman is unaware that Hebrew nouns typically come from verbs, so that the title Qoheleth is most likely derived from some activity for which he was noted.  Since the verb is qahal, the title Qoheleth is connected with some assembling activity, perhaps the assembling of people or proverbs, etc. 

Finally, at least for this interview, it is notable that Longman begins his arguments against Solomonic authorship seemingly by committing the “snob approach” variety of the argumentum ad poplum fallacy.  He states, “Attentive readers of the Bible have felt uneasy about the simple identification of Qohelet with Solomon for a long time” (p. 4).  And, “Even in the light of strong internal and external testimony to the contrary, a small, but vocal group of evangelical scholars still advocate this [Solomonic authorship] view” (p. 3).  He then props this up with poor arguments including the ones above. 

Notice how he is arguing that anyone who fails to recognize the truth of his assertion is not an intellectual (“attentive”), and it would be in the best interest of the reader to listen to himself.  There are additional points in this particular case to argue, but this is not the place for that.  I would just say that Longman’s argumentation against Solomonic authorship is scurrilous.  To answer the question, is apologetics helpful for biblical studies generally and OT specifically, again, yes.  Perhaps if more biblical scholars were trained in apologetics, a lot of the stuff that passes for biblical scholarship would never gain a legitimate hearing.  Instead, junk scholarship is published and passed off as cutting edge and respectable.   

* I would like to express my appreciation to the guys at Veritas Domain for their interest in having me participate in their interview series. The above is from question #7 of that interview published last week.  It has generated a lot of interest on the internet, so I have decided to repost this section.  The full interview can be found here.  2.) This section was also re-posted by Dr. Steve Hays, Professor of Classics at Ohio University at his Triablogue Site.  He has basically argued my main point in the comments section of his blog, where I have also answered a couple of questions.