[b-hebrew] Relevance Theory & Hebrew Semantics

MarianneLuban at aol.com MarianneLuban at aol.com
Mon Aug 16 16:45:15 EDT 2004

In a message dated 8/16/2004 10:16:49 AM Pacific Daylight Time, 
peterkirk at qaya.org writes:

> To come back to b-hebrew, part of the problem with the Golden Calf story 
> is a lack of agreement about the correct context of this story. David 
> Rohl would find its context among people who have just left 13th dynasty 
> Egypt. Others would put it later in Egyptian history, up to the 19th 
> dynasty. George Somsel suggests a context in the divided kingdom era. No 
> doubt there are others who would make the context post-exilic or even 
> Hellenistic. Maybe more than one of these is true e.g. an original story 
> from the Middle Bronze Age has been retold by Iron Age redactors. How do 
> we proceed? We cannot safely argue, as we can when looking at the New 
> Testament, from the context to the interpretation. Rather we are forced 
> to find an interpretation and then see what context we can fit it into. 
> Or we can hypothesise a context and see if we can come up with a 
> plausible interpretation in that context. The problem is that our 
> knowledge of the language and of the contexts in different eras is 
> rarely sufficient for us to be able to rule anything out. So I guess the 
> best we can say might be something like "If the Golden Calf story is set 
> in such-and-such a period, the calf was probably made in such-and-such a 
> way".

I don't think it matters so much.  Things were very slow to change in AE.  
What is meant by "Golden Calf"?  It would have been a representation of the Apis 
bull, a manifestation of the god, Ptah (chief deity of Memphis), a great 
northern city.  It could have taken one of three forms:  A wooden animal, gilded; 
a wooden animal, covered with sheet gold--or an object of gold.  It wouldn't 
have had to be large--as golden statues of the gods were normally not.  The 
Egyptians used the following method for casting such objects:  (taken from 
"Ancient Egyptian Jewelry" by Carol Andrews)

"When the metal had been reduced to a molten mass it was transferred in its 
crucible from the fire to a waiting mold...the object to be cast was first  
modeled in wax and this matrix was covered with a thick mud casing.  When it had 
dried it was pierced, the wax was heated until it melted and was allowed to 
run off so that it left a closed mold into which the molten metal could be 
poured.  If the piece was to have a core to save precious metal, a more common 
practice with large-scale metalwork than with jewelry, the wax matrix was modeled 
around a mud or plaster core.  This was held in place when the wax was melted 
by pins, which passed through the outer casing of the mold.  Since the mold 
had to be broken open to extract the casing, the lost-wax process did not allow 
mass-production.  If the metal was produced in a sheet form, it was worked 
further by beating over a flat stone or wooden block with a hand-held rounded 
stone hammer.  This activity, depicted in nearly every tomb of Old and Middle 
Kingdom date which contains scenes of metalworking. (The lost-wax method of 
casting saw its most characteristic employment during the New Kingdom--which lasted 
for centuries.)

David Rohl not withstanding, the type of ark described in the Torah made by 
Bezalel et al, conforms exactly to the type of portable shrine seen during the 
New Kingdom, (beginning with the 18th Dynasty) in which effigies of the gods 
were transported.  The "horns" described altars, etc. were the cavetto cornice 
used on just about every sacred structure during this period.

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