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Guest

See this essay for reading the book of Job with this in mind too (add to your bibliography if you haven't already):

Kline, Meredith G. "Trial by Ordeal." Pages 81-93 in Through Christ's Word: A Festschrift for Dr. Philip E. Hughes. Edited by W. Robert Godfrey and Jesse L Boyd, III. Philipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1985.

JohnFH

Thanks, Guest. Whatever you have on this, I would appreciate it if you sent it this way.

anthony loke

philip johnston once presented a paper on ordeal in the psalms at the triennial tyndale conference in UK (2003?).

JohnFH

Thanks, Anthony. I'll try to find out more about that paper.

alan lenzi

Have you found Heimpel's article about the River Ordeal at Hit (RA 90 [1996], 7-18])? Bottero has worked on the issue, but Heimpel's ideas are probably more in line with the ancient reality. I think the River Ordeal in Mesopotamia sounds horrifying. And, if memory serves, apparently accused and accuser both may undergo it to settle a case.

BTW, I'm not sure I am convinced by Foster's idea that S-m-S undergoes the River Ordeal. But it seems reasonable. Given the broken lines at the end of Tablet III, we probably won't be able to clear up the matter until more evidence for Tablet III is found. 50 years after Lambert, there's been no significant additions to Tablet III.

JohnFH

Hi Alan,

Thanks for the tips.

You're just scared of water. Of course, so are a lot of people. Did you look at Leeson's article? I know it covers a different time and place, but it's fascinating.

Nathan MacDonald

Frymer-Kensky's dissertation is an impressive piece of work and, as you observe, widely available, though never published. The attempt to explain Numbers 5 by Leeson sounds rather similar to Brichto's HUCA attempt at a psychological explanation. Brichto, at least, is rather unconvincing.

On the subject of the medieval ordeal, the book by my St Andrew's colleague Robert Bartlett's Trial by Fire and Water (OUP) is very fine. He traces the theological arguments prior to 1215 showing how Numbers 5 was appealed to by supporters of the ordeal. Exegetically the text was ultimately treated as an exception and trial by ordeal rejected because it was a form of testing God. The seriousness with which Numbers 5 was dealt with in the medieval period seems to be absent in the later witching craze. I did a brief survey - far from exhaustive - but didn't find any evidence of appeal to scripture to justify the ordeal for witching.

As I recall the discussion, Frymer-Kensky's work could support the idea of voluntarily subjecting oneself to the ordeal. Where Leeson's argument might struggle would be the cases when two people submitted to the ordeal. As Frymer-Kensky shows this is the dominant form of the ordeal from the Nuzi period onwards. It does not seem likely that a priest could have assisted the innocent in the river ordeal. (Did they secretly provide flotation aids?)

I wonder (as it seems did Frymer-Kensky) whether Num 5 is best described as an ordeal or as a form of judicial oath? Note especially the comparison of Num 5 and the repeated Amen to Deuteronomy 27.

JohnFH

Hi Nathan,

Thanks for chiming in.

LOL flotation aids. For sure it would be ghastly if the chosen place were full of currents. I wouldn't put it past the Assyrians up on the Tigris. I would hope the opposite was the case. If it were, it wouldn't be floating or sinking, just plain drowning. I don't know enough about it to say, and it might be best not to generalize.

I'm inclined to think in terms of three or four concentric circles: the most extensive, a container metaphor in which all of life is perceived as a deity-supervised test/ordeal; the judicial process per se perceived as a trial in all senses (I remember well how that is the case, phenomenologically, in court cases I have witnessed and/or participated in, especially in the trial by inquisition format I remember from Italy); within that concentric circle, the judicial oath as a divine test; overlapping with that lesser encompassed circle, another in which I would put river, hot and cold, and poison ordeals.

Just thinking out loud.

Alan Lenzi

I haven't looked at L.'s article yet. But it sounds interesting. As for the River Ordeal in Mesopotamia, if Heimpel is correct about one of the important locations, Hit, the "water" was a mixture of noxious chemicals created by a bubbling up of petroleum. It may have killed people through ingestion or burned their skin via prolonged exposure. If he's right, the River Ordeal was not a swimming test.

JohnFH

Alan,

That would have been a huge incentive to settle out of court on the part of the accused. It would put the accuser at a huge advantage. Maybe a very un-level playing field was the goal. It would be important to test such a hypothesis across a variety of legal situations.

Leeson deals with medieval stuff, but it makes for a very interesting comparison.

If Hit is taken as paradigmatic, why would anyone except a Harry Houdini voluntarily undergo such a test? What does that do to our understanding of the Ludlul passage?

Alan Lenzi

There's really little to be said about the Ludlul passage until we actually get some context. That line and the lines surrounding it only come from a commentary text that cites Ludlul in order to explain obscure words (there are lots!). However, we are not sure that the commentary has cited adjacent lines. In most cases (where it is citing well-known text), it does not cite adjacent lines. So we're really not sure about the context at all.

By the way, there are a small number of documents that describe people jumping into Id, the Divine River. The reasons vary, I think. It's been a while since I read them.

As for what you said just above, it seems to me that the accused would have as much reason as the accuser to want to avoid the Ordeal. It was nasty for all. Mutually probable destruction might provide a deterrent. Also, if the accused survived, the accuser had everything to lose, literally, besides life. The accused would often receive the accuser's property (again, it memory serves).

JohnFH

I knew that both the accuser and the accused are known in some instances to be called on to undergo the ordeal together. But in the stuff I have handy in my study, it is not clear whether that seems to be the norm, based on documentation in hand.

But I'm sure you're right: where that was the case, MAD (mutually assured destruction) forced the conflict to be handled in more diplomatic ways.

AJM

I believe that Trial by Ordeal is integrated into Bryan Estelle's book on Jonah:
http://www.wtsbooks.com/product-exec/product_id/4112/nm/Salvation+Through+Judgment+and+Mercy:+The+Gospel+According+to+Jonah

Will you post this bibliography for us when you're done? It certainly is a rich topic. Thanks!

JohnFH

I certainly will. I have had many suggestions sent in, online and off, and won't get to it immediately.

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