I’ve made some minor corrections, some additions, and done a little other editing on the bitpn.pdf file, which contains all examples of usage of the Bīt-PN(GN) phrase in Assyrian royal inscriptions from 1114-727 BC. I’m awaiting a copy of the Fuchs book of Sargon’s inscriptions still, but will add those when it arrives. I similarly await a copy of Hélène Sader’s Les états araméens de Syrie depuis leur fondation jusqu’à leur
transformation en provinces assyriennes
, which sounds perfectly apposite. That and a handful more of articles will be enough to slap together a nice little article on the subject.

One thing I have done to the file is remove those exemplars which were completely reconstructed and are therefore not true exemplars. It serves only pedantry to include them in this case. Because of this and the additions of a few missed exemplars in the versions of the file resulting from my initial rush, the line numbers have changed for the examples. You should download the latest version at the link above.

Call me Ishmael

The below is a message, the last I sent, in reply to a nameless someone posted on an unspecified email list, which I have since left. The names have been changed, with reference to a seemingly appropriate nautical theme, to protect the not-so-innocent. Those who saw the original exchange will know the participants and context. I find it appropriate, for the record, to post it here, as after nearly a day it has not appeared on that list. I will not have anyone think that I did not reply, implying that I am somehow in agreement with the codswallop to which I was responding. My most recent responses are in italics. Here it is:

Dear [Captain Ahab],
You wrote, cryptically, in response to something I wrote:
>>No, iI lay out a bait, and you snapped.

So, you think I am someone who needs to be caught at something? That’s very interesting, but hardly germane.

>> The present discussion mostly on [list B] on the
>> birth of Jesus is a good example of this. Quoting
>> Barr for the 117 time, it is simply not worth wasting
>> time here.
> Good example of what, of nonsense? This is really a
> bogus discussion.

You wrote that, not me. And yes, that one is a “bogus discussion.” I’ve no interest in it and deleted all of it.

I did, however, write this:
>> Many people in all our countries said roughly the
>> same thing regarding Hitler’s rhetoric up until 1939:
>> “It is simply not worth wasting time here.” That was
>> smart. Words are actually important, not only in that
>> they express an individual’s thoughts, but that they
>> might have an effect on the thoughts of others as you
>> must certainly know from your many years of instruction.
>> And if you’re not willing to use your words properly in
>> defense of your own perspective, that perspective deserves
>> to be forgotten. Not speaking to them, and then
>> complaining that they don’t listen to you is not an
>> admirable practice, as it leads to no interaction
>> whatsoever, precisely the place you’re finding yourself.

Which you (and [Pip]) misunderstood, and you wrote this:
> What are you suggesting? I hope not what you wrote.
> Because then the tone will be a total different. Linking
> up with the Albright’s students’ students — 3rd
> generation is never nice — accusing minimalists of
> anti-zionism (not a great deal here in Europe these days),
> anti western culture (and that from an American! Rensburg),
> anti-semitism (and here we meet in court). I think you
> should start to think before you write.

I thought and wrote quite well. Is it my complex sentences? Something in my syntax? I see no reason or even possibility for misunderstanding. I wrote nothing which either you or [Pip] accuse me of. My point, as WRITTEN, is that ignoring to correct the rhetoric of an opponent, especially when one finds such rhetoric (or the opponent, for that matter) below contempt, can have consequences in that such unrefuted rhetoric will lead to its more widespread acceptance. And THAT can lead to consequences outside of the realm of words. If you, Professor, don’t want your field taken over by the very people to whom you refuse to respond, then you will be effaced from that field entirely due to your refusal to apply your ability to correct a situation that you see as wrong. It will be precisely through your lack of attempting to correct them that will lead to your work being ignored. I trust this is explicit enough an exegesis of my text.

(And although it is entirely irrelevant except to your misconstrual of my point, my family includes members who fought on both sides of both world wars, and suffered from the atheist Bolsheviks/Soviets for many, many years after both of them.)

>>> It is fun to discuss why conservative minds are so
>>> busy in defending every corner of the Bible, to study
>>> the mental set-up of such people, because that is a
>>> study of the religious mind.
>> So rather than analyze the text you analyze what you
>> think is the mind behind the author of the text? And
>> this passes for biblical studies in your Centre?
> Gedt to the point and don’t rabble.

My point is precisely this entirely inappropriate language. Dismissing my questions as “<b>abble” is a perfect example of what I object to.

>> Such would properly belong in an anthropology or
>> sociology or psychology department, or in some program
>> combining the three. Regardless, there is no proper
>> psychoanalysis that can be performed on a text. That’s
>> blatant quackery.
> Oh you will be surprised, I promise when the next
> generation is taking over.

Oh, I entirely doubt it. The trends are rather prosaically obvious.

>> Probably the largest problem that you display,
>> [Captain Ahab], is in lumping everyone who doesn’t agree
>> with you, or at least those who lean toward a more
>> “maximalist” position, into the “evangelical” camp.
> Can you be more or less evangelical, say 99%, say 69 %
> or ??? If you start sliding down the razorb lade of critical
> scholarship, why do you stop in the middle?

Certainly. How about 0%? You consistently equate “evangelical” with “conservative” with “maximalist” apparently based on a thirty year old study by Barr. I have on various other occasions on this list pointed out that the contemporary equation of these terms as synonyms is mistaken. It is a simple matter of semiotics. Those who are signified by these labels are not always the same people. Certainly there are maximalist conservative evangelicals, including some on this list. There are also conservative maximalists, perhaps the pairing that best applies to me. There also exist, no doubt, conservative minimalists and evangelical minimalists, and all the other combinations. But one does not connote or require the other.

I do not write to you or to this list with any rancour. I don’t see what your problem with me is, nor why you seem to find it appropriate to label me, in particular, as something which I am not. It is something that I would never consider doing to you or to anyone else. To each his own, I suppose.

New biblicalia email list

To shamelessly extend my brand and further advance my plans for world domination:

Designed to work in rather free interaction with this biblicalia blog, I have finally, belatedly, created the biblicalia email list, which you may join here. To join this moderated email list, you’ll need to set up a Yahoo! account here, if you don’t have one already. (It may take a day or two for me to work out the kinks, so please bear with me initially.)

If you’re enjoying this blog’s presentation of materials, please consider this my personal invitation to you to join the email list. I don’t intend to double-post (i.e., post my blog entries to the list and vice versa) but would like the email list to provide a more comfortable and less awkward format for commenting on posts at biblicalia and at other blogs. It is especially, however, intended for folks to bring up and discuss new issues and topics perhaps not touched on by any blogs.

The biblicalia list answers a certain need. One of the most immediate and apparent benefits of this email list is that it is also intended as somewhat of a port of safe haven for those who some call, perhaps for lack of a better term, maximalists, a term which has become somewhat of a dirty word in some circles and on some mailing lists. The focus of the biblicalia list is intended to be academic, with a distinct and explicit favor for the maximalist positions, as we believe these to be better representative of reality than the minimalist positions. However, faith-based and traditional input will decidedly not be derided. All are welcome. If people are interested in learning more about various subjects related to the Bible, no matter how well-schooled they may be, or even if they’re not academically trained at all, then this will be a good place for all of us to discuss things and learn more together.

Hopefully the biblicalia list will be fun, helpful, illuminating, and instructive for everyone all around.

Nimrud Treasures

There’s a stunning set of photos of the Nimrud treasures on the Iraq Museum website. In the left column, under Exhibitions, click The Secret of Nimrud. The first seven sections (347 photos!) cover the opening of the flooded bank vault in which these and other treasures (including the gold helmet of Meskalamdug, and the headdress of one of the “female attendants,” and at least one of the gold bull’s head harp decorations, all found in Ur) were hidden, and which are shown being unpacked from sodden crates. Sections 8 and 9 show the items cleaned and on display in the museum. All should be thankful for the beautiful photography of Noreen Feeney, especially in her extreme closeups, showing us in unprecedented detail the extraordinary Nimrud finds, especially. Wow!

St. Ephrem the Syrian on Psalm 1

Psalm 1: Beatitudes

Blessed is he who has in the Lord become completely free of all earthly things in this troublesome life, and who has loved the one good and merciful God.

Blessed is he who has become a doer of good works and, like a fruitful field, brings forth a great abundance of the fruits of life in the Lord.

Blessed is he who stands at prayer in service to God and, like the heavenly angels, at all times has pure thoughts and does not allow the evil one to approach him, that he may not enslave his soul and lead it away from God the Savior.

Blessed is he who loves sanctity (purity) like light, and has not defiled his body before the Lord with the shameful acts of the evil one.

Blessed is he who always retains in himself remembrance of God, for such a person on earth is like a heavenly angel, constantly celebrating the Lord with fear and love.

Blessed is he who loves repentance, which saves all sinners, and does not delight in sin, that he might not appear ungrateful before God our Savior.

Blessed is he who, like a courageous warrior defending heavenly treasures, preserves his soul and body without reproach in the Lord.

Blessed is he who, like the heavenly angels, has pure thoughts, and who with his lips sings praises to the One who has authority over all that breathes.

Blessed is he who has become like unto the seraphim and the cherubim and is never slothful in spiritual service, who ceaselessly glorifies the Lord.


I’ve changed the settings here at biblicalia so that anyone, even those folks without a Blogger account, might leave messages. Have at it!

Further on Bīt-PN usage

I’ve updated my notes file with information from the inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser III. I’ve also altered the format, hopefully making it easier for reading. And though I will continue to collect evidence and present analyses here soon, and most likely eventually publish the final result, I thought a preliminary summary was in order.

The evidence is conclusive. The Assyrians, drawing upon a wider Aramean form of usage (which on occasion even displays in GNs bearing an Aramaic emphatic suffix) believed that the vast majority of the Bīt-PN territories were both named after individuals, former rulers of those territories, and that the current rulers were considered direct descendants of the eponymous ruler. A very strong possibility for the source of the Assyrian belief that each of these territories was still ruled by the same dynasty is the unusual dynastic situation in Assyrian history: one dynasty from beginning to end. It is thus possible that the default assumption on the part of the Assyrian scribes is that other kingdoms were also single, long-lasting dynasties. Unfortunately, there are no Assyrian scribes around to ask! The evidence is clear, however, whatever the reason. The Assyrians believed that the various rulers were descended from those rulers for whom the territories were named in Aramean, and thus Assyrian practice. There is also a definite relationship seen between the territory ruled and the dynastic association. One ruler (Ahunu of Bīt-Adini) loses his dynastic association in the inscriptions at the point that he abandons his territory. Thus, this naming convention needs to be understood in a more complex light. It bears an unusual, intertwined connotation in reference to both territory and dynasty.

Regarding the BYTDWD of the Tel Dan inscription, we happen to know of a DWD/DWYD/David from other ancient near eastern sources, mostly in the various biblical texts, and also in Moabite (the Mesha stela) and perhaps Egyptian (a potential toponymic reference in Shishak’s list) inscriptions. Thus, a ruler named DWD in the Palestinian area is known of through various sources external to the multiple sources which are the biblical books themselves.

If we are to apply the Assyrian/Aramean usage to the BYTDWD found in the Tel Dan stele, this would connote that DWD/David was a former ruler of the territory so named, was considered to be a dynastic founder, and that either a direct descendant of this person ruled that territory, or someone who was thought to be a direct descendant ruled. The usage itself connotes that the ruler was a direct descendant.

With that in mind, we have to understand why it appears that, in our current understanding of the Tel Dan stele, only Judah is referred to as the House of David. In biblical usage, the reason is clearly that the dynasty of David was ruling there. In the Aramaic usage, as in the Assyrian, this was also the assumption in the usage of the term. The tie between the territory name and the belief in a continued dynastic rulership were intertwined in the Aramean/Assyrian usage. Thus, the connotation is both that the “son of David” rules in the “House of David” and also the “House of David” is called such because David and the “son of David” rule/d there. This usage is the standard form in the Assyrian.

We see the unusual belief of a single dynasty for other kingdoms, and the importance in Assyrian eyes of a connection to the dynasty and territory name, in the case of Assyrian reference to Israel. It is, as is well-known, usually referred to as Bīt-Humri. An item of interest is the reference to Iaua son of Humri, Jehu son of Omri. From the biblical texts (2 Kings 9-10), we learn that Jehu was actually responsible for ending the dynasty of Omri, by killing the kings of both Israel and Judah (the deaths of whom appear to be referred to in the Tel Dan stela). Yet, because Jehu/Iaua was a local dynast ruling within his traditional territory, that of Bīt-Humri, the House of Omri, he was still considered “son of Omri,” however incorrectly. Later, when much of the territory of Bīt-Humri was taken by Tiglath-Pileser III and annexed to Assyria, the rulers are no longer referred to as “son of Omri.” The reason seems to be that the local integrity of rulership was compromised both in matters of lost territory and in the loss of legitimacy by the rulers of the northern kingdom in their rebellion, as in the case of Ahunu of Bīt-Adini. Or it could simply be a matter of the Assyrians finally having learned that the dynasty of Omri was long over, and thus everyone ruling Bīt-Humri at that point might have been considered the “son of a nobody.” The patronymics for the last two rulers were not recorded, unfortunately.

Questions? Comments?