Monday, May 16, 2011

Support Your Friendly Neighborhood Archaeologist

MarHaban, ya 'ASdiqaa' wa-'Aqaarib (Hello, Friends and Family),

It's official. I am basking in the profound sense of relief that comes from from having completed my second year of graduate school, finished teaching my first graduate-level course (Elementary Arabic), and gotten all my stuff out of the dorm and transported to its summer resting places (you friends with basements, and you know who you are, I love you!).

This semester I got to translate and do textual criticism for several largish chunks of the Old Testament in my Pentateuch and Historical Books course with Dr. Younger; I explored the fascinating intersection of Egypt and the Bible in a course aptly named "Egypt and the Bible" (one of Dr. Hoffmeier's passions and particular specialties); I delved into the doctrines of Christ, man, sin and salvation in Systematic Theology II with Dr. Sung; and I facilitated the initiation of four brave souls to the Arabic language, getting a ringside seat to watch their consistent hard work take them from virtually no exposure to the language to their final exam last Friday, in which they had to analyze a BBC Arabic news story and a passage from an Arabic translation of Mark chapter 1. What an exciting process!

With all papers turned it, exams taken, and boxes schlepped, I can finally turn my attention to this summer. Here is the itinerary, in its current stages of planning:

1. June: study Palestinian/Jordanian Arabic at the Kelsey Arabic Program in Amman, Jordan. I hope to begin to get my colloquial Arabic up to the level of my written language, and to use that added facility to the benefit of my future students.

2. July 3-8: A whirlwind trip to London and Cambridge with my advisor, Dr. Hoffmeier, to attend the Tyndale Fellowship Old Testament conference in Cambridge and meet Prof. Kenneth Kitchen, one of the greatest living ancient Near Eastern/Old Testament scholars.

3. July 10-22: it's back to the Middle East, and two weeks at Tell es-Safi (biblical Gath, southwest of Jerusalem), where I dug last summer. I look forward to catching up with friends from last year, and seeing what Area F has to tell us this season. Something written, no doubt! The first Philistine bilingual inscription? An ostracon that says "King David drooled here"? (See 1 Sam 21:13!) Please, O Lord? :)

4. July 25-29: Spend a week "sifting God's dirt" at the Temple Mount Sifting Project, which has already produced some amazing finds. It's any biblical archaeologist's dream (including yours truly) to get their hands on the archaeologically rich soil from this site. Once again, I'm pulling for anything that says Lam-Melech Shlomo/David ("Belonging to King Solomon/David")!

5. August 2-25: After sifting his dirt, spend three weeks learning how to speak God's language at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Modern Hebrew Ulpan (intensive language school). I look forward to seeing how getting the language "inside me" a little more will affect and hopefully deepen my study of and appreciation for the Hebrew Bible. And three weeks in Jerusalem can never come amiss!

All this is most exciting, I think you'll agree. Today I sat down to find out, as Jane Austen would say, "how much I am beforehand with the world." I discovered that I am rather "behindhand" with the world, that is to say I am in need of about $1500 of additional funding to carry out the itinerary as I have presented it above. I have been praying hard about how to organize my summer, and if it seems to be the Lord's will to close certain doors, then I will of course truncate my trip and come home early.

However, if the work I am doing excites you as much as it does me, I would ask you to consider prayerfully supporting "your friendly local archaeologist/biblical scholar in training" on my worldwide rounds this summer. There is no amount that is too small to make a difference in this endeavor. Although your donation will not be tax-deductible, you can be sure that it will support a several-pronged cause: 1) equipping me to pursue excellence in the comparative linguistic study of the Hebrew Bible; 2) the recovery of valuable archaeological finds from both biblical Gath and the Temple Mount (both of these projects are extraordinarily rich, and produce game-changing results nearly every year; and there is, of course, always a chance that this season will bring a particularly spectacular find); and 3) promoting the study of Arabic in this country, especially among seminary students and Old Testament scholars (which I have begin to see as part of my mission in life!). I hope and pray that God will use all the work in which I am engaged to further his kingdom and the spread of the Gospel.

If you feel led to contribute to my trip fund, I would be deeply grateful. You can even use the following convenient PayPal button:

This season I want to make a particular effort to keep everyone abreast of my activities through this portal, Josh's Dig. So stay tuned for more news and reports from the field!

Salaam/Shalom to all!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I Am the Very Model of a Biblical Philologist

It’s been a great while since I posted a blog entry. (I’ve noticed this is probably the most popular way of beginning a blog entry, so I’m leaning on convention.) I would like to post a photo essay about my trip to Israel last summer and my first archaeological dig. But until I have the leisure to make that happen, I am posting the following.

I love this semester. I love everything I am learning, and everything I am doing. I wake up full of excitement about the satisfying work God has put before me, and I have to force myself to go to bed because I can’t get enough of it.

There’s a lot going on... taking classes, teaching, writing, working with Gemma to try to further the fortunes of our musical. But if I could convey the feel of the upbeat, grateful mood I am in lately, I believe it would be encapsulated in the following parody.

My rendition of this number is here:

"I Am the Very Model of a Biblical Philologist" on YouTube. Buy the single on iTunes soon!

This recording is just about as pure an expression of silly, bubbly joy as I know how to produce.

I Am the Very Model of a Biblical Philologist
lyrics by Joshua Tyra
with deference due to William S. Gilbert

(PROFESSOR PHILOMATHES revealed at his desk surrounded by mountains of books)


I am the very model of a biblical philologist.
I’m quite the Semitician and a passing Hittitologist.
My articles are free from all grammatical iniquity.
I rank Semitic cognates in their order of propinquity.

I am very well acquainted, too, with matters exegetical.
I side with all the orthodox, and censure the heretical.
In print, I wrinkle brows of any liberal who wrinkles mine,
(bothered for a rhyme)
Wrinkles mine, wrinkles mine... got it!
And counter all the theses of that vigilante Finkelstein!

Then I can give a lecture on the logic of Leviticus
And tell you every symbol in the apparatus criticus.
In short, in matters lexical, semantic, and homologous,
I am the very model of a biblical philologist!

I know my St. Jerome and all his Vulgate Prolegomena.
I’ve memorized, in order, all the known hapax legomena!
Then I can tell the age of every patriarch in Genesis
And tell the daghesh fortés from the shureqs and the lenéses.

I dream in Aramaic and interpret it in Syriac.
I’ve posited that Esau was a possible porphyriac.
Then I can parse at sight a polal, hithpolal or hishtaphel
(bothered for a rhyme)
Hishtaphel, hishtaphel... oh, that’s a hard one... got it!
And topple any argument it happens that I wish to fell!

Then I can date a sample of Arabian calligraphy
And tell you what the scribe was wearing, based on the epigraphy!
In short, in matters lexical, semantic, and homologous,
I am the very model of a biblical philologist!

Then I can write a shopping list in classical Sumerian,
And tell you whether peoples were nomadic or agrarian.
I know the Jewish festivals, Purimic and Kippurian.
I mumble in Mandaic, I can hum a little Hurrian.

Then I can sing the alphabet in Hieroglyphic Luwian,
And catalogue the animals, both pre- and postdiluvian.
Then I can tell a surplice from a chasuble or maniple.
(bothered for a rhyme)
Maniple, maniple... got it!
And reconstruct the library of ancient Assurbanipal.

I wrote my dissertation in a flowery Akkadian
And proved the Philistines were almost certainly Canadian.
In short, in matters lexical, semantic, and homologous,
I am the very model of a biblical philologist!