That paper was finally delivered today to a someone puzzled, occasionally tittering and possibly titillated audience, if I may say so with shameless self-promotion. However, there were two highlights in the discussion that followed.

The first came from a fellow presenter, who passed me a note regarding Hosea 4:12, which reads: ‘a diviner’s rod speaks to them’. Is it a reference to a penis?

The second was the concluding question of the session, directed at me by none other than the biblical historian Lester Grabbe, there with his stick. A little earlier I had been expounding on Ezekiel 2-3, in which the prophet eats a phallic scroll covered in words and writing, held out by a mysterious hand, a scroll which was unexpectedly sweet to the taste. I argued that this text may well be read as a reference to auto-fellatio (full section here), backed up by an image of the moment of creation from Heliopolis in which the god sucks himself off.

Now Lester is a really nice bloke, 60-something and an interesting scholar, if somewhat traditional in that strange English way. Lester began by referring to a Monty Python skit in which a man in a raincoat turns up and takes a bit of this and bit of that (I haven’t seen the skit, I must admit) according to his fantasy. Aren’t you, Lester asked, doing a similar thing, picking up bits and pieces and constructing something that is not there (prophetic pen(ise)s and auto-fellatio). In other words, he went on, when Ezekiel 2-3 refers to a hand holding a scroll, might it not be just a hand and not a euphemism for a penis? For as Freud once said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

So I replied: in other words, you are accusing me of a little too much eisegesis?

You put the words right in my mouth, said Lester.

That is, I must admit, not an image – of Lester and me – one would like to entertain for too long as one drifts off to sleep.