I had a great time talking with Walter Brueggemann the other day. You can see my interview of him over at Marginalia or you can scroll down through the “Films” menu at the top of this site. Cheers!

I’m trying to rethink the ways in which I teach Old Testament introduction and I came up with an assignment that I hope will interest the students:

The Story of Genesis Through the Sistine Chapel

Using the Vatican’s interactive guide and virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, follow the “Central Stories” which depict Michelangelo’s interpretation of Genesis 1-9. Read Genesis 1-9 for yourself and in a two page, double spaced, essay compare and contrast Michelangelo’s interpretation of Genesis 1-9 with your own reading. Students might find it helpful to consult the class textbook for this assignment as well.

Interactive Guide: http://mv.vatican.va/3_EN/pages/CSN/CSN_Volta_StCentr.html

Virtual Tour: http://www.vatican.va/various/cappelle/sistina_vr/index.html

I aso made a short video that provides a little introduction to the assignment. Sure it’s cheesy and my dog snores in the background but who says education has be so stuffy? As always, let me know what you think.

Whenever a work is translated from one language to another range of meaning, emotional aspects, purposeful ambiguity, and many other things are lost or at least stunted. One of the most prominent casualties of translation is humor–what one culture finds humorous might strike another as offensive or just not funny. Additionally, if a joke depends upon multiple meanings of a word it may fall flat if these meanings are not communicated into the target language. This is exactly what happens as this reporter tries to tell a joke to the Dali Lama (via my great friend, Shane Cass):

In anticipation of the publication of the prayers that I contributed to the forthcoming Reading Akkadian Prayers volume coming out in the SBL Ancient Near East Monographs series I am going to release a series of short videos, each under a minute and a half, that introduce or discuss certain aspects of these prayers.

The first prayer is quite well known both within Assyriology and Old Testament studies, “A Prayer to Any God.”  The prayer was included in ANET under the title, “Prayer to Every God,” but this was a misnomer since the prayer is not directed at every god, but rather, to the particular deity that the petitioner offended.

Here is the video–let me know what you think of it.

Prayer to Any God Intro from Charles Halton on Vimeo.

Here is a pre-publication draft of my translation of the prayer:

1. May the anger of the lord’s heart relent.
2. May the god who I do not know relent.
3. May the goddess who I do not know relent.
4. May whichever god relent.
5. May whichever goddess relent.
6. May the heart of my god relent.
7. May the heart of my goddess relent.
8. May (both) god and goddess relent.
9. May the god who is angry with me relent.
10. May the goddess who is angry with me relent.
Lines 11–16 are poorly preserved.
17. The food that I would find I did not eat by myself.
18. The water that I would find I did not drink by myself.
19. I broke my god’s taboo in ignorance.
20. I crossed my goddess’s bounds in ignorance.
21. O lord, my wrongs are many, great are my sins.
22. O my god, my wrongs are many, great are my sins.
23. O my goddess, my wrongs are many, great are my sins.
24. O whichever god, my wrongs are many, great are my sins.
25. O whichever goddess, my wrongs are many, great are my sins.
26. The wrong which I did, I do not know.
27. The sin which I committed, I do not know.
28. The taboo which I broke, I do not know.
29. The bounds I crossed, I do not know.
30. A lord glowered at me in the rage of his heart.
31. A god has made me confront the anger of his heart.
32. A goddess has become angry with me and has made me sick.
33. Whichever god has caused me to burn.
34. Whichever goddess has set down affliction (upon me).
35. I would constantly seek (for help) but no one would help me.
36. I cried but they (i.e., no one) did not approach me.
37. I would give a lament but no one would hear me.
38. I am distressed; I am alone; I cannot see.
39. I search constantly for my merciful god (and) I utter a petition.
40. I kiss the feet of my goddess, I keep crawling before you.
41. To whichever god, return to me, I implore you (lit., I speak a petition)!
42. To whichever goddess, return to me, I implore you!
43. O lord, return to me, I implore you!
44. O goddess, look at me, I implore you!
45. Whichever god, return to me, I implore you!
46. Whichever goddess, return to me, I implore you!
47. How long, my god,until your…heart…
48. How long, my goddess, until your . . . mood will rest?
49. How long, whichever god, until your . . . anger subsides?
50. How long, whichever goddess, until your estranged heart relents?
51. Humanity is deaf and does not know anything.
52. Humanity—by whatever name—what do they know?
53. Whether (a person) does wrong or good they are ignorant.
54. Lord, do not turn away your servant.
55. They are (lit. he is) lying in swamp water—help them (lit. him)!
56. The sin that I committed turn into good.
57. The wrong (that) I did let the wind carry away.
58. My many sins strip away like a garment.

Rick Steves is a tour guide most known for his travel shows for PBS as well as guides and tours of Europe.  However, he recently filmed a show about Iran that is well worth a view–you can see it for free (with a few commercials) on Hulu.  He tours Persepolis toward the end of the film and there are about 5 minutes of really good footage of the site.  Furthermore, he explores some of the contemporary issues surrounding the relations between Iran and America.

Last week I sent in the proofs for my article, “Allusions to the Stream of Tradition in Neo-Assyrian Oracles” in ANES 46 (2009): 50-61. It should hit the bookshelves in bit and at that time I’ll try to make an electronic offprint available but until then here is the abstract and a teaser trailer. The trailer is only around 30 seconds and it is formatted for play on iPhones.

The purpose of this article is to begin the evaluation of the rhetorical aims and
strategies of the use of allusions within Neo-Assyrian oracles. These allusions are
to some of the most prominent texts within the Mesopotamian literary stream of
tradition: Adapa and the South Wind, Atra-hasis, and the Gilgamesh Epic.
The authors borrowed imagery from these works and fused it with their own
rhetorical purposes. Prophets even used allusions that contained a complex set of
apparently conflicting associations. The use of subtle allusions that often contain
complex associations should cause modern readers to more greatly appreciate the
rhetorical abilities of the Neo-Assyrian prophets.