the ‘iranian influence on judaism’ at bible and interpretation

There is an excellent article by Jason M. Silverman (Trinity College Dublin) entitled “Iranian influence on Judaism” at Bible and Interpretation.

It’s a topic of great interest to me, and I’m assigning it as immediate reading to my Mythology of Otherworldly Journeys class here at the University of Iowa, where we are presently discussing potential Zoroastrian influences on Jewish and Christian conceptions of the afterlife. The article (and forthcoming book) will be great resources for the study of Second Temple Judaism.

At one point, Silverman discusses the problem within Biblical Studies of quantifying one culture’s “influence” upon another, especially when the former culture favors oral means of communication:

It is perhaps not surprising in a field centered on the study of a collection of written texts (the Bible) that researchers sometimes assume that all ideas that appear in that collection come from other texts. This assumption can lead to real interpretative difficulties, but it also ignores the many ways in which humans communicate and share concepts. The realm of spoken communication is very important for Iranian influence on Judaism (as it is for the origins of the Hebrew Bible).

When investigating influence, one needs to take into account the ways ideas travel in a world run primarily through spoken language. The search for quotations and direct borrowings from other texts has dominated past research. The direct use of earlier texts—while important—is not the only nor even the most important way in which ideas could be transmitted between peoples and even authors. More nuanced ways of looking for influence are needed. The key, as noted above, is to look for interpretive changes in texts. Once these are identified, one can ask whether or not said changes relate to the cultural milieu of the time, one of which was the Achaemenid Empire.

And Silverman hits the nail on the head when he argues that influence may take the form of adoption, reinterpretation, or rejection of and apologies against another culture’s religious conception:

It bears repeating that the kinds of influence will vary in different instances. In some cases, Iranian texts may have been borrowed and adapted for new Judaean texts. In other cases, existing Judaean concepts may have been reinterpreted in line with Iranian ideas. In still others, Iranian ideas may have been rejected and argued against, perhaps being inverted as a rhetorical strategy. Further, there remains the possibility that biblical texts became re-interpreted after they were written by Jewish and Christian communities, using ideas ultimately derived from Iran.

Do head over to Bible and Interpretation and read the article.

is there digital life after death?

my friend randy coppinger posed this interesting question:

Scott Brown on Managing Your Digital Remainssure, people of many faiths have made arrangements for their soul after the death of their earthly body. likewise, many folks create a last will or trust to look after their physical remains. but what preparations have we made for the afterlife of our cyber-presence? is there digital life after death, and if so, who controls it?

thankfully, scott brown addressed this very question in a recent article in wired magazine.

Our local, carbon-based “hard drives” may fail, but vestiges of our inimitable selves will remain ambient and accessible long after we log off this mortal coil.

This distributed deathlessness means we’ll all need a little cleanup on Aisle Me. The aspects of life we archive online, be they valuable, heritable, or simply embarrassing, require posthumous management (and, in some cases, eradication) lest our friends and loved ones and executors be embarrassed or inconvenienced by our lingering digital detritus, a trash-strewn wake of left-behind liabilities.

apparently, there are companies who will look after your digital remains after your physical body ceases to be.

it’s the online equivalent of the old mob/spy trick: ‘if you kill me, and i don’t input the secret code every 12 hours, [whatever you’re looking for] gets sent to the cia, etc.’ basically, after you kick the bucket, your failure to respond to email alerts triggers a series of bots, which go to your online accounts, insert your passwords, and process the transfers or deletions of all your online assets and accounts.

At least three companies —, Legacy Locker, and the charmingly named — have arisen to keep customers’ passwords, usernames, final messages, and so on in a virtual safe-deposit box. After you’re gone, these companies carry out last wishes, alert friends, give account access to various designated beneficiaries, and generally parse out and pass on your online assets.

clever. why didn’t i think of this?

now, what would be more clever than a service that deletes your online accounts? i’ll tell you: a process that makes one’s online presence the primary, permanent presence, somewhat like the end of avatar.

here’s how it would work: when you’re about to die, you trigger the transfer. your thoughts and memories in real life get scanned and transferred to your online life (much like second life), and you live eternally in there. who knows, maybe we’ll have that ability someday and we can combat the ‘rise of the machines’ by becoming the machines.

fantasy, i know. perhaps i’ll stick to the less fantastic vision of living forever in a paradise with other, like-minded, disembodied, immortal souls.

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