Are the Ten Commandments redundant? Nine of them actually appear, sometimes more than once, in other places in the first five books of the Bible. So why were these ten commandments grouped to become the Ten Commandments? In “What Makes the Ten Commandments Different?” Moshe Weinfeld shows that the Ten Commandments define the conditions that must be met for membership in the community of the faithful, and he highlights several interesting aspects of their structure.
Born in Poland, Weinfeld received his undergraduate and graduate education at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where he has served as a professor since 1973. His specialty is Hebrew Bible. He has also served as visiting professor at Brandeis University and at the University of California. His books include Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomy School (Clarendon Press, 1972) and The Qumran Sect: Its Organization in the Light of Hellenistic Guilds and Associations (Novum Testamentum et Orbis Antiquus, 1986). A member of BR’s Editorial Advisory Board, Weinfeld debuts in BR with his article in this issue.
How would you have conveyed lofty biblical ideas to a sixth-century A.D. audience? Books would have been out of the question, the audience being nearly all illiterate (you can imagine how a scholarly paper would have fared!). Preaching would have been effective, to be sure, as would have been the visual arts—sculpture, mosaics, paintings, works in glass. If you were Romanos the Melodist, however, you would have had the inspiration to combine intricate epic poetry with music to create a fascinating hybrid known as kontakia. Quoting at length from several notable examples, R. J. Schork examines this unique art form and introduces us to its most brilliant practitioner in “Sung Sermons—Melodies, morals and biblical interpretations in Byzantium.” Schork also contributes a sidebar on how a sung sermon works.
Schork is a professor of classics at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. He received his Ph.D. in 1957 at Oxford, where he was also a Fulbright Scholar. Schork founded and directed the Classical Heritage Program, which introduced high school students in Washington, DC and Minneapolis to classics and archaeology, and he has served as a lecturer in four Smithsonian Institution Study Voyages. Schork has published widely on literary issues from the Roman period to modern times, with a strong interest in Byzantine topics and the writings of James Joyce.
Readers will recall Lawrence H. Schiffman’s recent article on the question of who produced the Dead Sea Scrolls (“The Significance of the Scrolls,” BR 06:05). Basing himself on a prepublication examination of an important scroll known as MMT, Schiffman argued that the document reflected Sadducean origins. The Sadducees were one of several Jewish groups that thrived in the centuries just before and after the turn of the era. Schiffman rejected the commonly accepted hypothesis of Essene origins. This month, James C. VanderKam, in “The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Essenes or Sadducees?” takes issue with Schiffman’s viewpoint, arguing in favor of the Essene hypothesis. VanderKam arrays evidence from MMT itself, ancient historical writings and the sometimes arcane debates of the Talmud to bolster his case.
VanderKam is professor of religion at North Carolina State University and chairs the Ancient Manuscripts Committee of the American Schools of Oriental Research. In his extensive publications he has concentrated on the apocryphal and eschatological books of the inter-testamental period. VanderKam is currently completing the editing of the Jubilees manuscript found in Cave 4 at Qumran, having taken over the task from J. T. Milik, an original member of the Dead Sea Scrolls publication team. Last fall VanderKam spoke at the Smithsonian Institution’s seminar, “The Dead Sea Scrolls After Forty Years,“ moderated by BR editor Hershel Shanks. Tapes and transcripts of the seminar are available from the Biblical Archaeology Society.
A place of punishment, a city dump and a burial ground defined and defended the Old City of Jerusalem—in a manner of speaking. These were the principal functions that came to be associated with the three valleys that border the Old City—the Hinnom, the Tyropoeon and the Kidron respectively. In the latest installment of our Bible Lands department, “Exploring the 003Valleys of Jerusalem,” Philip J. King looks at the geography, history and biblical associations of these valleys.
Archaeologist and professor of biblical studies at Boston College, King has to his credit a string of presidencies of distinguished scholarly organizations. Most recently the president of the Society of Biblical Literature (1988), King has also presided over the American Schools of Oriental Research (1976–1982) and the Catholic Biblical Association of America (1981). He is a member of BR’s editorial advisory board. His most recent book is Amos, Hosea, Micah—An Archaeological Commentary (Westminster, 1988). He is nearing completion of Jeremiah: An Archaeological Companion, which will be published in 1992 by Westminster/John Knox Press. King’s most recent BR article, “The Great Eighth Century,” BR 05:04, won the Fellner Award for the best BR article of 1989.
In today’s intellectual climate, It may not be entirely rhetorical to ask, as Richard Elliott Friedman does, “Is Everybody a Bible Expert?” Friedman points out that many people today seem to believe that Bible studies is largely a matter of opinion based on few secure conclusions, a view that reflects massive public ignorance of Bible scholarship. Friedman points to the huge popular success of the recently published The Book of J (reviewed in Bible Books, BR 07:01) as evidence of this appalling cultural literacy. Characterizing the book as a travesty of scholarship featuring a “translation’ that 15 really only a twisted paraphrase and an interpretation full of errors, Friedman hopes that its readers will at least be stimulated to explore the Bible itself and the interpretations of real experts, who cite evidence for their statements.
Since 1987, Friedman has served as professor of Hebrew and comparative literature at the University of California, San Diego. Friedman’s popular Who Wrote the Bible? was selected by the Book-of-the Month Club, the Reader’s Subscription Book Club and the Quality Paperback Book Club; it has been published in six foreign editions. Friedman is also the author of The Exile and Biblical Narrative (Scholars press, 1981). He is now at work on Introduction to the Hebrew Bible for Doubleday’s or Bible series. Friedman’s previous article for BR was “Deception for Deception,” BR 02:01.
Are the Ten Commandments redundant? Nine of them actually appear, sometimes more than once, in other places in the first five books of the Bible. So why were these ten commandments grouped to become the Ten Commandments? In “What Makes the Ten Commandments Different?” Moshe Weinfeld shows that the Ten Commandments define the conditions that must be met for membership in the community of the faithful, and he highlights several interesting aspects of their structure. Born in Poland, Weinfeld received his undergraduate and graduate education at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where he has served as a professor since 1973. […]