Category Archives: Hebrew Bible

Seals of Jeremiah’s Captors Discovered

By Joseph Manning

An archaeological review that I follow recently announced the discovery of two clay seals. I was excited to see this, because these seals, found in Jerusalem, relate directly to my essay on Jeremiah 36. These seals bring to life the many scribes and ministers at King Zedekiah’s court from the book of Jeremiah and remind us that the text of Jeremiah is not divorced from the real world and society in which it was written.

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Filed under Bible, Biblical Archaeology, Classics, Hebrew Bible

The Scroll Must Go On: Jeremiah 36

By Joseph Manning

The following paper won an essay contest in 2008 — the Bernard Kaufman, Jr. Judaic Studies Award. The paper was written in an undergraduate course at Tulane University called “Hebrew Bible” taught by Dr. Galen Marquis where students read the Hebrew Bible for its literary worth, not as a religious document, and the text was subjected to literary criticism. This paper is the product of a critical literary examination of chapter 36 of the book of Jeremiah:

Michelangelo’s Jeremiah from the Sistine Chapel. The brooding figure is thick, heavy, and dark as he agonizes over the destruction of Jerusalem.

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Filed under Bible, Biblical Archaeology, Classics, Hebrew Bible

Making Sense of Samson

By Joseph Manning

Probably one of the most bizarre stories in the Hebrew Bible is the story of Samson. The story of Samson is generally confused. The narrative is sketchy and full of riddles and often makes allusions the author seems to expect the reader to be able to connect but are meaningless to modern readers. It becomes much more clearer when viewed through the lens of ancient near-eastern mythology. Samson (שמשון) is related to ‘shamash’ (שמש) or “sun,” while his infamous wife’s name, Delilah (דלילה), is related to ‘lilah’ (לילה), the Hebrew word for “night.”  He is a solar mythic hero related to Gilgamesh, the hero of the Babylonian myth, and Hercules, the Greek mythic hero. (Indeed, Gilgamesh’s patron deity is the sun-god Shamash).

A statue of Samson in Ashdod depicting his toppling the pillars of the temple to Dagon in his dying moments.

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Filed under Ancient Egyptian, Biblical Archaeology, Classics, Hebrew Bible, Linguistics

Refusal to Eat: Witches in Homer and the Hebrew Bible

By Joseph Manning

“[T]wo universal constants about witch beliefs cut across cultures: witches represent people’s deepest fears about themselves and society, and they represent a reversal of all that is considered normal behavior in a particular society.” James L. Brain, An Anthropological Perspective on the Witchcraze, “Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion: An Anthropological Study of the Supernatural,” 265 (eds. P. Moro, J. Myers, & A. Lehmann, 7th ed. 2008).

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Filed under Classics, Hebrew Bible