Heresy Revealed: The Capstone Paper

This spring semester i had the hilarious and deeply satisfying experience of writing heresy—Budge-Nuzzard fanfic in biblical Hebrew—for seminary credit. It was an immensely engaging and creative endeavor, and i took no end of pleasure in offhandedly mentioning “my heresy” in my advanced Hebrew exegesis class and citing Thaddeus Glapp in the biography of my capstone paper. It’s crazy to think that i was permitted to get away with this nonsense. Classical Hebrew spec-fic? Inventing words in a dead language? Graduate-level Budge-Nuzzard scholarship? Weench midrash? Gosh. i am the luckiest nerd alive.

Those of you who’ve somehow stumbled through a wormhole and into this website may already have fallen victim to The Yaunsi Heresy. If you haven’t, you’re about to. The attachment that follows contains the complete text of that heresy—with commentary, on both my work and the Budge-Nuzzard. (It isn’t all heresy. The first half of the paper teases an entire semester’s study on Hebrew narrative style and literary devices.)

Enough piffle and blather! With very great thanks to Deirdre Brouer, Hélène Dallaire, Thaddeus Glapp, and A.S. Peterson, i present to you:

Narrative Criticism in the Hebrew Bible: Capstone report


The Yaunsi Heresy is a new work of fiction in classical Hebrew based on A.S. Peterson’s lobidious tale of the Budge-Nuzzard. It will be published in serial. Click “Yaunsi Heresy” above to read from the beginning—or to hear the story read to you.:-)

Yaunsi 18: Hello

וַיּאׁמֶר יָעוּנְסִי בְּלִבּוֹ אֲבָל זֶה הַבֻּד־נֻזָּרָד : וַיִּקְשֹׁר לָגֶשֶׁת לָאִשָּׁה כִּי אִוָּה אִתָּהּ לְדַבֵּר : וַיּאׁמֶר אֶל־הָאִשָּׁה שָׁלוֹם וַתַּרְאֵהוּ וְהִנֵּה עֵינֵיהָ יָפָה : וַתּאׁמֶר לוֹ שָׁלוֹם : ס

Yaunsi said in his heart, “Surely this is the Budge-Nuzzard!” And he conspired to draw near to the woman, for he desired her to speak. He said to the woman, “Hello.” She looked at him, and behold, her eyes were beautiful. She said to him, “Hello.”


The Yaunsi Heresy is a new work of fiction in classical Hebrew based on A.S. Peterson’s lobidious tale of the Budge-Nuzzard. It will be published in serial. Click “Yaunsi Heresy” above to read from the beginning.

Yaunsi 17: Arrival

וַיְהִי כְּבוֹא יָעוּנְסִי בְּעִיר הָאִישׁ וַיֵּשֶׁב בִּבְאֵר כִּי יָמֵצ : וַיָּרֶם אֶת־עֵינָיו וַיָּרְא בַּבְּאֵר אִשָּׁה וְהִנֵּה הִיא יְפַת־תֹאַר וִיפַת מַרְאֶה : וַתֹּמֶר אֶל־הָאִישׁ שֹׁאֵב אֵת־הַמִַּים לֵאמֹר מַה תַּחְשֹׁב כִּי הָאִישׁ הַנּוֹדַע־לִי קָנָה־לוֹ נֶכֶד־רֶשַׁע : וַיּאמֶׁר הַשֹׁאֵב שָׁמַיִם טוֹבִים : פ

When Yaunsi had come to the city of the man, he sat at a well, for he was thirsty. He lifted up his eyes and saw at the well a woman, and behold, she was beautiful of form and beautiful of appearance.

She said to the man drawing water, “What do you think? The man known to me has gotten himself a wicked progeny!” The drawer said, “Good heavens!”


The Yaunsi Heresy is a new work of fiction in classical Hebrew based on A.S. Peterson’s lobidious tale of the Budge-Nuzzard. It will be published in serial. Click “Yaunsi Heresy” above to read from the beginning.

Yaunsi 16: Hanging around

וַיֵּשֶׁב יָעוּנְסִי מְסַחֲרוֹתָיו שְׁבוּעַ אֶחַד יָמִים וְהָאִישׁ לֹא יָצַא מִבֵּיתוֹ : וַיִּתְמַהְמַהּ יָעוּנְסִי שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים וַיִּתְמַהְמַהּ שְׁנֵי יָמִים וַיִּתְמַהְמַהּ יוֹם אֶהַד גַּם וְאַז לֹא־יוּכַל לְהִתְמַהְמֵהַּ עוֹד : וַיֵּצֵא : פ

Yaunsi dwelt in his mercantile for one week of days, but the Man did not go out from his house. Yaunsi hung around three days, then he hung around two days, then he hung around one day more, and then he could hang around no longer. He set out.


The Yaunsi Heresy is a new work of fiction in classical Hebrew based on A.S. Peterson’s lobidious tale of the Budge-Nuzzard. It will be published in serial. Click “Yaunsi Heresy” above to read from the beginning.

Yaunsi 15: Gloating

וַיִּצְחַק בְּצֵאתוֹ : וַיּאׂמֶר הוּא תַּם וִיםִי כְּסִיל כְּסִיל לָרִיב בְּפָן כָמוֹנִי : וַיָּבֹא אֶל־מְסַחֲרוֹתָיו וַיְחַךְ לִרְאוֹת מַה־יֵּעָשֶׂה : ס

He laughed when he had gone out. Then he said, “It is done! Foolish Weem! Foolish to contend with a Pan such as i!” Then he went to his mercantile and waited to see what would happen.


The Yaunsi Heresy is a new work of fiction in classical Hebrew based on A.S. Peterson’s lobidious tale of the Budge-Nuzzard. It will be published in serial. Click “Yaunsi Heresy” above to read from the beginning.

Yaunsi 14: Verily!

וַיָּסֶר יָעוּנְסִי אֶת־שִׁנּוֹ מֵאִישׁ מִוִּים־תִי : וַיָּסֶר אֶת־כֹסֵה־רֹאשׁוֹ וְתַחְתָּיו רְבוּעַ־בָּד : וַיְמַלֵּט אֶת־הָרֶגֶל מִפִּיהוּ וְהוֹבִישׁ אֹתוֹ : וַיּאׂמֶר יָעוּנְסִי לָאִישׁ אֲבָל וְאֶל־עֲנָן־חֹשֶׁךְ וַיָּפָס וַיָּסָר : פ

Yaunsi removed his teeth from the Man from Vim-Ti. He removed his head-covering, and under it was a square of linen. He let slip the foot from his mouth and dried it. Then Yaunsi said to the man, “Verily!” and in a cloud of darkness he vanished and departed.


The Yaunsi Heresy is a new work of fiction in classical Hebrew based on A.S. Peterson’s lobidious tale of the Budge-Nuzzard. It will be published in serial. Click “Yaunsi Heresy” above to read from the beginning.

Yaunsi 13: Good heavens!

וַיְהִי בְּרֶחֶם־הַשָּׁחַר וְשֶׁן־יָעוּנְסִי עוֹדָהּ בִּבְשָׂרוֹ וַיֶּחֶרַד הָאִישׁ וַיִּלָּפֵת וְהִנֵּה יָעוּנְסִי עֹרְקָיו : וַיִּזְעַק הָאִישׁ לֵאמֹר שָׁמַיִם טוֹבִים : וַיִּתְרָאוּ הַשְּׁנֵיהֶם וְשֶׁן־יָעוּנְסִי בִּבְשַׂר הָאִישׁ : ס

In the womb of the dawn, while Yaunsi’s teeth were still in his flesh, the Man was startled awake and twisted himself up, and behold—Yaunsi was gnawing him! The Man cried out, saying, “Good heavens!” They looked at one another, the two of them—and Yaunsi’s teeth were in the man’s flesh.


The Yaunsi Heresy is a new work of fiction in classical Hebrew based on A.S. Peterson’s lobidious tale of the Budge-Nuzzard. It will be published in serial. Click “Yaunsi Heresy” above to read from the beginning.

Midrash

Hebrew narrative is full of gaps. It’s part of the literary art. Did Uriah know about David and Bathsheba? With whom did Jacob wrestle? How exactly was Abishai part of Joab’s plot to kill Abner? These gaps excite our imaginations and draw us into the text by means of curiosity and suspense, but they also leave us with niggling interpretive questions. The medieval expositors who engaged in midrash sought (“midrash” comes from the word “to seek”) to fill in those gaps by making connections, seizing on clues as small as stray consonants, drawing in folklore and mysticism, explaining background, imagining.

Here’s an example. In 1 Samuel 28, Saul (who had previously cast all the mediums out of Israel) has been rejected as king and has given up seeking G-d, and now wants advice from the man of G-d who anointed him. This is Samuel, but Samuel is dead, and the only way to consult him is to consult a medium. When he finds a medium and convinces her that no harm will come to her if she conjures a ghost in direct defiance of the king’s (i.e. his own) order, she consents. But as soon as the spirit rises out of the earth, she panics—“You are Saul!” Well, what on earth about the spirit gave her the identity of the flesh-and-bone man standing in her tent? The midrash on this passage explains it thusly: A spirit conjured from the dead will rise feet first, head down, except in the presence of the king. Then, out of respect, the spirit rises head first, feet down. Samuel must have done so, and the sight of him rising, upright, told her everything: This was Saul, the king.

Is that actually how she knew? We can’t be certain, although a possible misspelling in the Masoretic Text, corrected in the Septuagint, might support this theory. Either way, when faced with the question of why the woman, seeing Samuel, suddenly recognized Saul, the midrash expositors devised an explanation which harmonized with the received text, slipping cleverly into the gap the narrator left behind.1

Now, what i am doing with the Yaunsi Heresy i have often called fanfiction. Up till last week all i was doing, aside from switching main and secondary characters, was retelling the story, sometimes as directly as translation would allow. But there is a gap, a rather large gap, in the Budge-Nuzzard. It is a cunning gap, a subversive gap, one that invites wrestling, and i seek now to fill it. For the last year i have been drawing together threads from the Budge-Nuzzard itself—no folklore, no mysticism, but only from my source material—to put forth an interpretation which i believe to be consistent with the story’s own evidence. What has been fanfiction or even simple retelling is now becoming midrash.2

If you have not yet read the Budge-Nuzzard, do start now.


 The midrash on 1 Samuel 28 does not end here, and it is fascinating to read. For an introductory study, see my paper The Witch of Endor: Toward a Literary Treatment, written last spring.

The name of a Hebrew book is taken from the first major word of the book’s text. For example, the first word in Leviticus is Vayikra—“He called.” Rabbah—“great”—is the term given to the expansion of the text via midrash. The midrash on Leviticus is therefore Vayikra Rabbah, and my midrash on the Budge-Nuzzard is properly named Nolad Rabbah, as the first word of that story in Hebrew is Nolad (“It was born”).

Yaunsi 12: The gnawing

וַיָּבֹא בַּלָט יָעוּנְסִי אֶל־הָאישׁ וַיְגַל מַרְגְּלֹתָיו וַיַּעֲרֹק : וְשִׁנּוֹ בִּבְשַׂר רַגְלוֹ הַתַּחְתּוֹן וְרִמָּה בְּשִׁנּוֹ וְרוּחוֹ בָּרִמָּה : וַתָּבֹא הָרִמָּה אֶל־הָאִישׁ מִוִּים־תִי וַתְקַנֵּן בְּרַגְלוֹ הַתַּחְתוֹן וַתְּרִימֵהוּ : ס

Yaunsi went secretly to the man and uncovered the place of his feet and gnawed. And his teeth were in the flesh of his lower foot, and a worm was in his teeth, and his spirit was in the worm. The worm went into the man from Weem-Ti and nustled in his lower foot, and it exalted him.


The Yaunsi Heresy is a midrash on A.S. Peterson’s lobidious tale of the Budge-Nuzzard. It will be published in serial. Click “Yaunsi Heresy” above to read from the beginning.

Yaunsi 11: He opened

וַיִּפְתַח אֶת־הַפֵּתַח יָעוּנְסִי
וַיִִּפְתַח בְּלַט וַיָּבאׁ הַחֶדֶר
וַיִּפְתַח יָעוּנְסִי וַיַּרְא הָאִישׁ
וַיִּפְעַר פִּיהוּ וַיִּצְחַק

 

הִנֵּה יוֹשֵׁן הָאִישׁ מִוִּים־תִי
יוֹשֵׁן וְלֹא־יוֹדֵעַ וְלֹא־שֹׁמֵר

He opened the door, Yaunsi;
He opened in secret and entered the room.
He opened, Yaunsi, and saw the man—
He opened wide his mouth, and he laughed.

Behold, he sleeps, the Man from Vim-Ti;
He sleeps; and he does not know, and he does not guard.


The Yaunsi Heresy is a new work of fiction in classical Hebrew based on A.S. Peterson’s lobidious tale of the Budge-Nuzzard. It will be published in serial. Click “Yaunsi Heresy” above to read from the beginning.

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