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SBL 2013 Annual Meeting: a response to the responses

December 4th, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

I had the opportunity to present a paper at this year’s Annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Baltimore, MD.  Very unfortunately, I was unable to present my paper due to an illness which prevented me from flying.  Fortunately, however, a friend texted me comments from the audience made in response to the presentation.  I wanted to address those comments.  These are not direct quotations:

1. Linguistics and history do not mix. 

This is, indeed, a common view.  And I would agree with this statement, for the most part.  However, I would not say that the bulk of my argument was not based on linguistics.  It was, in a sense, a glorified word study.  I examined the root בהל, first unique to Daniel, then canon-wide.  I did make some arguments based on narrative flow, parallelism, contrast, etc., but I would not say that my argument was a linguistic one.

Rather, I examined the use of בהל in the context of narrative.  While we cannot say that history and linguistics go hand-in-hand with one another, I believe we can all agree that narratives are colored by history, whether that history is actual documented events or historical memory.  All narratives, I argue, are colored in some way or another by historical events and particular cultures.  Moreover, written narrative is necessarily composed of language in general, and in particular, word choice.  So, the writer’s choice to use בהל was intentional, and I believe deliberately lends color to the narrative.  So, while history and linguistics may not precisely fit together, history insofar as it frames narrative is pertinent to the discussion.

Moving from the Aramaic to the Hebrew with such limited scope does not allow for broader nuances.

I would like the responder to clarify what he or she means by “such a limited scope.”  The root בהל occurs 39x throughout the  Torah, Prophets, and Writings.  How many occurrences of a root does it take to constitute a “broader nuance?”  Moreover, I know there was a presenter before me who examined בהל in light of Ugaritic evidence.  I am interested in learning more about his topic and how it affects my own assertions.

I’m not sure if this nuance fits the semantic range of בהל.

I disagree.  My paper did not suggest an entirely new translation for the word; I simply argued that the translations attributed to בהל were not forceful enough (e..g, “terror” rather than “distress” or “alarm”).  Even if the paper did stretch the semantic range of the word, that’s what I was arguing for – I suggested an alternative translation, broadening (slightly) the semantic range.  Of course, everyone is entitled to disagree with my premise, so this statement is a perfectly understandably one. 🙂

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