By: Anthony J. Frendo
The Maltese archipelago lies practically at the centre of the Mediterranean, roughly midway between the eastern and the western Mediterranean Sea, and between the island of Sicily to its north and Libya to its south. Given this unusual location – between the Near East and Classical worlds and at the epicenter of the Punic world – one would expect Near Eastern archaeology to be a long-standing academic discipline. This is not the case, at least not yet.
Some of the current status of the field in fact stems from my own experiences in high school. When I was in high school on Malta, I remember being enthusiastic about the vibrant power of the Scripture that we had to study for our religious classes. I was completely awed by the literary aspects of the Bible which I saw as indivisible from the message it aimed to communicate. At that time, little did I know the tremendous role which literary analysis would play in contemporary Biblical Studies. I was then told that to study the Bible properly it would be appropriate to first read Near Eastern Studies with an emphasis on Semitic languages (Classical Hebrew holding the pride of place). And I also wanted a grasp of the New Testament. All this meant learning Greek and Biblical Aramaic. (more…)