Primary Text Lab II: Hammurabi

Curated by Andrew A. N. Deloucas

with Pamela Barmash, Sophus Helle,
M. Willis Monroe, Moudhy Al-Rashid,
and Seth L. Sanders

Friday, May 7th, 2021
8:00 am PST / 10 am CST / 11 am EST / 4 pm GMT / 5 pm CEST

Please register here

a link to the text to be discussed will be included in your registration confirmation email

The Primary Text Lab series, directed by Julia Lindenlaub, brings together a panel of scholars to examine closely a single text from different perspectives, in an open conversation on any aspect of its interpretation.

The text in question for this event is known by a few names: Codex Hammurabi, Hammurabi’s Stele, the Laws of Hammurabi. Regardless of what we wish to call it, this object is often equated with the socio-political reality of Old Babylonian Mesopotamia. First carved out of diorite stone and presented to Shamash in the 18th century BCE, it was taken as booty by the Elamite king Šutruk-Nahhunte in the 12th century BCE and excavated by the French government 31 centuries later; it remains today in the Louvre. Even though Hammurabi’s Stele is one of the longest known singular texts from the ancient Near East, its context is typically relegated to the world of law. But this is not the only reason for its existence.

Come join us on May 7 to hear from a panel of international scholars with an array of expertise about the luscious realities that are overlooked when we leave texts to be defined by singular genres. We will be examining the object’s prologue and epilogue – the bookends of this collection of legal decisions – in order to tease out Hammurabi’s world at large: its gods, identity, intertextuality, schooling, and aesthetics.

Andrew Alberto Nicolas Deloucas, curator of this text lab, is an Assyriologist focused on the first two thousand years of cuneiform cultures (~3500-1500 BCE). His primary focus is on socio-political history of the early Old Babylonian Period (~2000-1750 BCE), especially on interaction of polity and cult. He is a coordinator of the Graduate Symposium in Ancient Near Eastern Studies as well as Harvard University’s Methodologies in Egyptology and Mesopotamian Studies. Outside of research, he teaches undergraduates about the wild beauty of studying history and language.

Discussants

Pamela Barmash does research on biblical and ancient Near Eastern law and has published monographs on homicide (Homicide in the Biblical World, 2005) and on the Laws of Hammurabi (The Laws of Hammurabi: At the Confluence of Royal and Scribal Traditions, 2020). She also works on history and memory and has edited volumes on the Exodus in the Jewish experience and on how the change of empires affected ancient Israel. She also writes rabbinic responsa on contemporary issues in Jewish communities.

Sophus Helle is a writer, translator, and cultural historian, with a great passion for Babylonian poetry in general and Gilgamesh in particular—his translation of Gilgamesh is coming out in the Fall, and he is very excited. He is spending the spring lockdown working on a book about Enheduana, the first known author. His other interests include the emerging field of world philology (what if we thought of philology not a series of siloed subdisciplines, but as a global and trans-millennial endeavor?), the genre of epics, narrative, gender, affect, reception, and much more besides.

M. Willis Monroe is managing editor of a database of Religious History and teaches courses on the Ancient Near East in Classical, Near Eastern, and Religious Studies departments.  His research focuses on the history of religion and science in Mesopotamia.  With a particular concentration on astronomical and astrological texts from cuneiform sources, his work highlights the role of textual format and layout in constructing scholarly knowledge.

Moudhy Al-Rashid is a postdoctoral researcher in the history of science and medicine. She has written for academic journals and public outlets, including History Today, on diverse topics in the history of the ancient Middle East. She serves on the management committee of Nahrein, a project in sustainability and cultural heritage in Iraq and neighbouring countries, and on the council of the British Institute for the Study of Iraq.

Seth L. Sanders is a philologist studying the alchemy of language, religion, and politics in the ancient Near East. He is (co-)editor of Margins of Writing, Origins of Cultures (2006); Cuneiform in Canaan (2006); Ancient Jewish Sciences and the History of Knowledge in Second Temple Literatures (2014); and How to Build a Sacred Text in the Ancient Near East (JANER) (2016), and author of The Invention of Hebrew (2009) and From Adapa to Enoch: Scribal Culture and Religious Vision in Judea and Babylon (2017). He is working on a book on ancient West Semitic linguistic genres and religious practice.

Have a primary text you’d like to discuss? Propose a Primary Text Lab! Proposals from scholars at all stages, including graduate students, are warmly welcome. See the Event Toolkit to get started!

New PhD Showcase: Esther Brownsmith, “Inconspicuous Consumption: Conceptual Metaphors of Women as Food,” with Athalya Brenner-Idan, Steed Davidson, and Meredith Warren

Date TBA! Please stay tuned

Discussants

Athalya Brenner-Idan is the author of many books on the Hebrew Bible and feminist biblical criticism, including The Israelite Woman: Social Role and Literary Type in Biblical Narrative (1985, 2014), and I Am: Biblical Women Tell Their Own Stories (2004). She is a former president of the SBL and the editor (with Gale Yee) of the Text @ Contexts series.

Steed Davidson is interested in how empire shapes the Hebrew Bible and its reading. He is the author of Empire and Exile: Postcolonial Readings of Selected Texts of the Book of Jeremiah (2013), the forthcoming Prophetic Otherness: Constructions of Otherness in Prophetic Literature (2021), and other works on prophetic and historical texts through the lens of postcolonial and other critical theories.

Meredith J.C. Warren researches how food and taste function in ancient texts. She is the author of Food and Transformation in Ancient Mediterranean Literature (2019), which analyzes “hierophagy,” transformational other-wordly eating, and My Flesh Is Meat Indeed: A Nonsacramental Reading of John 6:51–58 (2015), which examines Jesus’ commandment to consume his flesh and blood alongside fictional accounts of human sacrifice.

New PhD Showcase: Nathan Shedd, “The Beheading of John the Baptist: Memory, Violence, and Reception,” with Kelly J. Murphy, Rafael Rodriguez, and Sarah Rollens

de Grebber, Pieter Fransz.; Herodias Mutilating the Severed Head of Saint John the Baptist Held by Salome; Wellcome Library; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/herodias-mutilating-the-severed-head-of-saint-john-the-baptist-held-by-salome-125941

February 25, 4:00 – 5:30 pm EST/9:00 pm UK time

Register here

This PhD Showcase continues the series’ aim of sharing the doctoral research of recent PhD graduates. The event features Dr. Nathan Shedd’s work the beheading of John the Baptist in the gospels and their early reception history. The conversation will focus on the memory of violence in early Christianity and the communicative impact of John’s severed head. Nathan’s presentation will discuss Mark 6:16-29 and Herod Antipas’ masculinity in context of John’s beheading. Registered participants will receive a handout the day before the event.

Discussants

Kelly J. Murphy is a scholar of the Hebrew Bible and its reception, with a particular interest in gender and economics. She is the author of Rewriting Masculinity: Gideon, Men, and Might (2019) and is currently working on a book on how the Bible has been used in discourses about poverty over time, and a new project on the trope of severed heads in the Bible and its reception.

Rafael Rodriguez is the author of several books on the New Testament and social memory, including of Structuring Early Christian Memory: Jesus in Tradition, Performance, and Text (2010), Oral Tradition and the New Testament: A Guide for the Perplexed (2014), The So-Called Jew in Paul’s Letter to the Romans (2016), and Jesus Darkly: Remembering Jesus with the New Testament (2018).

Sarah E. Rollens researches Christian origins and social theory, with a focus on Q and the Synoptic Gospels. She is the author of Framing Social Criticism in the Jesus Movement: The Ideological Project in the Sayings Gospel Q (2014), and is currently working on a study of violent imagery in early Christian texts.

Who’s Reading Who?

This two-part conversation on “reading” and interpreting authoritative texts asks the question, “Who’s Reading Who?”—that is, who is doing the “reading” of authoritative texts and whose readings are prioritized?

FEATURING a draw for a 200£ book credit from Bloomsbury open to graduate students and adjunct instructors! Come to both parts and enter your name twice for a chance to win!


The first session will focus on interpretive authority and authorities. From constitutional originalism to historical criticism of the Bible, certain modes of reading and interpreting texts are deemed “objective” or “neutral.” Speakers will analyze these modes of reading and interpretation, drawing attention to their pitfalls and the ways in which they elide or silence other ways of approaching authoritative texts.

The second session will look at forms of “reading” that critique dominant forms of interpretation. How do scholars engage with authoritative texts in order to critique and provide alternatives to dominant, so-called objective forms of reading? What are some available community-based practices of textual interpretation, and what does ethical “reading” look like in these communities of accountability? What can practices like chanting or singing tell us about how different people approach authoritative texts?

Part 1: Authority and Authorities

Chance Bonar

Shaily Patel

CJ Schmidt

Jason A. Staples

Stephen L. Young

January 28, 2021, 3:00–4:30 pm EST

Registration: https://virginiatech.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_eWRKLeBYTF-9ze1yvHnT3A

Part 2: Interpretation and Ethics

Ericka Dunbar

Charlotte Eubanks

Lynn R. Huber

Lauren E. Osborne

M Adryael Tong

February 5, 2021, 3:00–4:30 pm EST

Registration: https://virginiatech.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ckS4hIaiSh2AxkOw375zgw

Primary Text Lab I: Apocryphon of James

The BRANE Collective is thrilled to launch a new series, the Primary Text Laboratory, with an inaugural event on Apocryphon of James! This series brings together a panel of scholars to examine closely a single text from different perspectives, in an open conversation on any aspect of its interpretation. Our aim is to share infrequently studied texts with a wider audience and to provide a space for interested researchers to chat about the texts they love!

Have a primary text you’d like to discuss? Propose a Primary Text Lab! Proposals from scholars at all stages, including graduate students, are warmly welcome. The BRANE Collective can help facilitate, including connecting with scholars you’d like to invite. See the Event Toolkit to get started!

For this first event in the series, we have a panel of scholars with diverse approaches on Apocryphon of James. This fascinating text is not so well known as some of its Nag Hammadi peers, but it offers a distinct opportunity to discuss topics such as reception of Jesus tradition, genre designations of texts about Jesus, and early portrayals of the apostles. Come join us for an exciting discussion and learn more about this text’s contribution to our understanding of early Christian literature.

Wednesday, March 31
2:00 – 3:30pm Eastern time (US)/7:00-8:30pm UK time

Please register here

A link to the text will be sent with your registration confirmation.

Discussants:

Karen L King, Kimberly Bauser McBrien, Sarah Parkhouse,
Elizabeth Schrader, Kristine Toft Rosland

Karen L. King is trained in comparative religions and historical studies and is the author of books and articles on the diversity of ancient Christianity, women and gender studies, and religion and violence. Her particular passion is studying recently discovered literature from Egypt, including the Gospel of Mary, the Apocalypse of James, the Gospel of Philip, and the Secret Revelation of John.

Kim Bauser McBrien is interested in the New Testament and early Christianity, with a focus on the role of memory in the preservation and production of tradition in the canonical gospels and extra-canonical literature of the first three centuries. Her work specialises in Apocryphon of James, including themes of social memory and pseudepigraphy. She also has published on biblical studies pedagogy in the undergraduate classroom.

Sarah Parkhouse researches early Christianity, and has particular interests in the second century, diversity within religious thought and practices, and how locality shapes and is shaped by religion. She has written a book and articles on ‘dialogue gospels’ and has just started a project on Coptic literature and artefacts within the Egyptian landscape.

Kristine Toft Rosland works on the Nag Hammadi Codices and Egyptian monastic material from the fourth and fifth centuries. She specialises in the Apocryphon of John, its textual variants, and its Christology. Her methodological interests also include fan fiction, and she has published on its application to the relationship between Apocryphon of John and Genesis.

Elizabeth Schrader’s research interests include textual criticism, the New Testament Gospels, the Nag Hammadi corpus, Mary Magdalene, and feminist theology. Her article “Was Martha of Bethany Added to the Fourth Gospel in the Second Century?” was published in the Harvard Theological Review. Her work has been featured by both the Daily Beast and Religion News Service.

New PhD Showcase: Julia Lindenlaub, “The Beloved Disciple as Interpreter and Author of Scripture in the Gospel of John,” with Chris Keith, Anne Kreps, and Hugo Méndez

image shows an illuminated 16th century Ethiopian codex open to the Gospel of John. John the Evangelist is depicted in the process of writing John 1.


Thursday, Dec. 17, 9:00 am PST/12 noon EST/5:00 pm UK
Please register here

A handout that will introduce participants to Dr. Lindenlaub’s dissertation will be sent out to all registrants before the meeting.

This event will be live captioned by a professional CART provider.

Discussants:

Chris Keith is the author of many books on early Christian text production, literacy, and book culture, including The Gospel as Manuscript: An Early History of the Jesus Tradaition as Material Artifact (Oxford University Press, 2020), Jesus against the Scribal Elite: The Origins of the Conflict (Baker Academic, 2014), Jesus’ Literacy: Scribal Culture and the Teacher from Galilee (T&T Clark, 2011), and The Pericope Adulterae, the Gospel of John, and the Literacy of Jesus (Brill, 2009).

Anne Kreps researches early Jewish and Christian scriptural practices, with a particular interest in Valentinian and Gnostic Christianities.  Her forthcoming monograph, The Crucified Book, examines early Christian theories of sacred writing, centering often-neglected non-canonical material. She is also interested in New Religious Movements, particularly those who look to the Essenes of antiquity to shape group identity. 

Hugo Méndez is interested in Johannine literature, ritual uses of biblical texts, and early Christian martyr cults. His forthcoming book is entitled Inventing Stephen: The Early Cult of the Protomartyr in Late Ancient Jerusalem, and he is now working on a new book that challenges the ways scholars have used biblical texts to reconstruct Christianity in the first and second centuries, with a focus on rethinking the so-called “Johannine community.”

“Low Tolerance” Happy Hour

image shows an assortment of beers and liquors, a coffee cup with Yiddish insults, and two bags of junk food.

Register here for BRANE’s Low Tolerance Happy Hour, Dec. 5, 1pm Pacific/4pm EST/9pm UK! Join the cutting edge of scholarship, mixology, and indigestion! Let’s share our unwise conference drink or food choices. As always, inclusive of gender, of alcohol and/or caffeine tolerance, and of ten-dollar hapax legomena.

SBL/AAR Virtual Coffee Line

Got FOMO? Missing casual chatting, planning, debriefing, beaming, or kvetching at the conference, whether or not you’re registered this year? Invite your friends to stand in the virtual coffee line with you, or drop by to see if anyone’s already there. We’ll announce a few set times, but feel free to register once and line up whenever you want!

New PhD Showcase: Dan McClellan, “Deity and Divine Agency in the Hebrew Bible: Cognitive Perspectives”

The BRANE Collective is proud to open our new PhD showcase series with a spotlight on Daniel O. McClellan’s 2020 dissertation, “Deity and Divine Agency in the Hebrew Bible: Cognitive Perspectives.”

Dan will discuss his new research with Debra Scoggins Ballentine, Mark McEntire, Brian Rainey, and Jen Singletary. Join us!


Thursday, Oct. 22 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm EST
please register here for the link and pre-circulated material

Discussants:

Debra Scoggins Ballentine focuses on ancient Israelite and Judean history, religion, and literature, viewing literary and material data as social artifacts that reflect engagement with their contemporary contexts. She is the author of The Conflict Myth and the Biblical Tradition (2015), which analyzes how ancient authors adapted traditional mythic themes of divine combat to further specific political and theological ideologies.

Mark McEntire‘s research interests span the entire Hebrew Bible, engaging concepts from death and violence, through urban life, to the reception of biblical themes in popular music. Two of his recent books, Portraits of a Mature God (2013), and An Apocryphal God: Beyond Divine Maturity (2015), trace the narrative development of the divine character in the Hebrew Bible and beyond.

Brian Rainey is interested in the comparative study of the Hebrew Bible and ancient Near East, including anthropological, sociological and cognitive theories of “ethnicity” and their usefulness for the study of ancient societies; Assyriology; biblical mythology and Christian theology; and the development of “monotheism” in the ancient world. He is the author of Religion, Ethnicity, and Xenophobia in the Bible: A Theoretical, Exegetical and Theological Survey.

Jen Singletary researches the languages, religions, and cultures of the ancient Near East (including Israel and the Hebrew Bible), especially scholarly rivalry and collaboration in the ancient Near East in the second and first millennia BCE, as well as concepts of deity in a comparative perspective. Her forthcoming book is entitled Objects of Their Trust: Manufactured Objects, Divine Qualities, and Attributes as Deities in the Ancient Near East.

Revelation Before the Bible, Part II: “What is Scripture? An Introduction to Biblical Assemblages,” feat. David Lambert in conversation with John Barton, and Laura Carlson Hasler, and Chontel Syfox

Moderated by James Nati

Tuesday, Oct. 20, 11:30 PDT/ 2:30 EST/ 7:30 PM UK

Please register here for the link

A precirculated paper will follow for all registered participants

Recent scholarship has emphasized the fluidity of canonical boundaries in the late Second Temple period, how “authoritative scriptures” at the time could include more than just biblical texts. But such accounts still presume the existence of a very specific sort of “scriptural” relationship to texts—whether non-biblical or biblical—in particular, an often dubiously attested authority structure and instructional setting. These developments raise a fundamental question: What is Scripture? Is the idea of Scripture a natural, inevitable component of human religious experience? Do people relate to sacred texts according to regular, defined patterns?

In this workshop, David Lambert will address these questions based on a chapter, “What is Scripture? An Introduction to Biblical Assemblages,” from a forthcoming book project, in conversation with John Barton, Laura Carlson Hasler, and Chontel Syfox.

David Lambert is the author of How Repentance Became Biblical: Judaism, Christianity, and the Interpretation of Scripture. His work aims to identify tendencies present in the history of biblical interpretation in order to elucidate “untimely” aspects of the Hebrew Bible itself. He is currently working on a book project, “Is Bible Scripture? Reassembling the Biblical in Ancient Judaism and Beyond.”

John Barton‘s research interests have included the prophets, of the Hebrew Bible, the biblical canon, biblical interpretation, Old Testament theology, as well as biblical ethics. He is the author of many books, including Oracles of God: Perceptions of Ancient Prophecy in Israel after the Exile, What is the Bible?, Ethics in Ancient Israel, and most recently, A History of the Bible: The Story of the World’s Most Influential Book.

Laura Carlson Hasler‘s research focuses on the relationship among texts, monumental spaces, and cultural power in Jewish antiquity. She is particularly interested in how Hellenistic Jews used texts to adopt and adapt symbols of empire to facilitate recovery. She is the author of Archival Historiography in Jewish Antiquity, which argues that the form of Second Temple Jewish texts like Ezra-Nehemiah and the Greek editions of Esther are read best as archives.

Chontel Syfox’s research focuses on the reception and interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Second Temple Jewish literature, with an emphasis on using gender-nuanced interpretative methods to better understand the developing literary character of these texts and the world behind them. Her forthcoming monograph (under contract with Brill) explores the construction of gender in the Book of Jubilees’ depiction of the biblical matriarchs.