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Sunday, November 19, 2006
 

Best paper so far at SBL award ::

For me, and any such judgement is bound to be gloriously subjective, though in this case supported (according to the clapometer) by the others in the room, the best paper so far at SBL has to be Sara Milstein's "Recapturing the Prophet: Identifying Amos' Call Narrative in 3:2-8".


Sara argued neatly and succinctly that the prey in Amos 3:3-8 is not (as is usually assumed) Israel, but Amos. The change of voice and form between 3:1-2 and 3-8 suggests that we not be too quick to identify the "two who walk together" as YHWH and Israel... None of the traps and disasters in 3-8 tells of the death of the prey, yet elsewhere Amos is not reluctant to proclaim Israel's death! The language of capture (4b & 5b) and fear (6a & 8a) serves suggest that the prophet is YHWH's prey (as Jeremiah will be in Jer 20:7ff. though the seduced Jeremiah is a human prey, while Amos the herdsman is an animal in a trap).

I haven't the space, or the memory to summarise Sara's agruments properly, sufficient for now to say that she neatly supported her claims till the conventional reading of the passage seemed forced and her reading natural. I am totally convinced by her reading, except for the name "call narrative", if Amos 3:3-8 describes or argues for Amos' call, and Sara convinced me it does, it is not a "narrative". But then as Sara points out, we name the genre after the versions in Isaiah and Jeremiah (perhaps including Ezekiel), yet Amos can (perhaps - I have doubts over the dating of the material in the book) claim "prior art". Maybe the genre already (if we include Ezekiel) quite diverse is not prophetic call narrative but something like "justification of a prophet's call".

The paper that followed Roger Nam's "Grain, Wine and Oil in the Northern Prophets:The Socio-economic Background of an Agricultural Metaphor" was also a prime example of stimulating work. Roger moved confidently from a summary recasting of the archaeological data to a comparative linguistic examination of the terms concerned. Another paper I must follow up... And perhaps more grist for a new edition of Amos ;-)

[In the interests of full disclosure of interest, I must confess that Sara cited my 1999 paper and it is always gratifying when ones work comes back to haunt one. On that, I'll wait till I read her paper at more leisure, to decide if I am convinced by her there too, or if I still stand by Bulkeley 1999!]

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