AAR/SBL Annual Meeting Program
November 17-20, 2001
Denver, CO

Method and Theory in the Study of Ancient Space

(N.B.: Members' discussions of the papers are posted on this site.  Access is limited to members only)
Access to Discussion


Jon L. Berquist, Chalice Press

[Please note:  Papers will not be read or summarized at the meeting but will be posted on this website (guildzone.org) during the next weeks and months.  They should be read by all seminar members and others who plan on attending the session.   Online discussions among seminar members will commence not later than September 1. The session at the Annual Meeting will focus on issues of method and theory raised in the papers and online discussions. For further information please contact Jon L. Berquist  or James W. Flanagan,  co-chairs.]


Geography and History in Herodotus and in Ezra-Nehemiah
Thomas B. Dozeman, United Theological Seminary

For full text Dozeman's paper(click here)
The study of geography plays an important role in the development of historiography during the Persian period. The Histories of Herodotus provides illustration. Klaus von Fritz argued that Herodotus progressed from a geographer and ethnographer to a historian. Herodotus frequently employs an anthropocentric interpretation of realistic geography to advance the geopolitical theme of enmity between the East and the West. And, as result, an interpretation of the Histories requires a spatial methodology, attuned to Herodotus' thematic and ideological use of territorial space. The historiography of Herodotus provides a point of departure for interpreting a similar use of geography in Ezra-Nehemiah. A spatial interpretation of the territory of Abar Naharah, "Beyond the River," will demonstrate its ideological use in Ezra-Nehemiah to idealize Persian law and to advance an interpretation of Yahwism based on law.

The Trialectics of Biblical Studies
James W. Flanagan, Case Western Reserve University

For full text Flanagan's paper (first draft)  (click here)
Biblical studies emphasized history in its approach.  Social world studies added society.  Neither addressed spatiality.  According to theoretical work primarily in human geography and urban planning, we know that human experience comprises a trialectic: historicality, sociality, and spatiality (to paraphrase Edward W. Soja).  This paper applies Soja's trialectic to selected biblical materials.

A Narrative-based Theory of Human Place-Relations
Wesley A. Kort, Duke University

For full text Kort's paper (click here)
There will be four parts to this paper. In the first part, I shall describe the present situation regarding the formulation of a theory of human place-relations, especially what factors militate against an adequacy in such a theory. In the second part, I shall talk about the relation of narrative discourse to an adequate theory of human place-relations. In the third part, I shall adumbrate what I take to be an adequate theory of place-relations, one derived from a study of modern fiction. And in the fourth part, I shall argue that the common binary of sacred and profane place is untenable unless it arises from a viable, narrative-based theory of human place-relations.

Embodied Typology: Modeling the Mosaic Tabernacle
Burke O. Long, Bowdoin College

For full text Long's paper (click here)
Adopting a thirdspace critical perspective proposed by Edward Soja, I analyze full size models of the Mosaic wilderness tabernacle, constructed spaces of dramatic enactment where biblical scholarship, archaeology, hermeneutics, and popular tourist culture intersect in layers of simulacra.

This paper concentrates on one particularly rich example, The New Holy Land Park in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. With its various exhibits of Christian nostalgia, the park as a whole lends itself to a Soja-like geographical reading. The tabernacle, an "authentic" structure based on careful biblical exegesis, enables a fantasy of biblical "realia" which is but representation embodied in a biblical text that doesn't quite add up. The costumed and dramatic renderings of tabernacle service, especially in the cinematic version, offer materialized fantasy, attempts at engendered religious experience (Christ awareness), as well as embodied typological exegesis that descends from an ancient intellectual tradition of inner biblical hermeneutics. Such a simulation might be viewed, among other things, as a material and spatial analogue to the intellectualized notion of something claimed to be experiential: incarnation, that is, of Christ/Word/Flesh.

Spatiality and Marginal Social Groups in Ancient Palestine
Paula M. McNutt, Canisius College

For full text McNutt's paper (click here)
Concepts of space have been recognized in recent studies as human constructs that are socially produced, and thus vary from society to society. As human constructs, they function as cultural subtexts, i.e., presuppositions that influence other perceptions, experiences, and descriptions of reality in a given society.

Peoples in the biblical world held concepts of space quite different from those held in modern Western societies. For example, tribal peoples such as those portrayed in the biblical traditions do not establish identity by referring to territoriality. Rather, their identity rests more in group membership. Thus, they are not concerned so much with physical space, but with "space" derived from relationships that affect their status within society and is shared with particular social groups.  Even when territorial terminology is used, this derives more from the relationship between people and the space they live in than from any abstract mapping of land and boundaries.  Space, then, is constructed more through material practices that relate to "lived space" such as hunting, gathering, pasturing, farming, smithing, and the like.

For spatial theorist Edward Soja, spatiality is an essential aspect of human life and descriptions of the world. Soja identifies three modes of spatial thinking: perceived space, conceived space, and lived space. My interest in this paper is in applying some of the above observations about spatiality and Soja's three modes of spatial thinking to marginal social groups in ancient Palestine, particularly the Kenites, Midianites, and Rechabites. The concept of marginality itself is spatial, and the marginality of such groups tends to be expressed both in ways that exhibit a number of dimensions of spatiality, particularly in their roles and statuses, their relatedness to the larger social world, and the kinds of physical "space" that are associated with them.

Transcending the Boundaries: Expanding the Limits
Keith W. Whitelam, University of Sheffield

For full text Whitelan's  paper (click here)
The paper will explore the fetish for the definition of boundaries that has dogged the study of Palestine's ancient past, particularly for the Iron Age. It will explore the ways in which the ideology of the nation-state and its concern with "natural frontiers" and ethnic exclusivity has shaped understanding of ancient boundaries. To draw a boundary around anything is to define, analyze, and reconstruct it. The implications of this concern with the definition of boundaries suggests the need for a complete reappraisal of maps and mapping in biblical studies.

Discussion among Seminar Members (120 minutes)

Recess (10 minutes)

Business Meeting (20 minutes)

Jon L.  Berquist, Chalice Press, Presiding