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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Biblioblog Carnival April 2016


Greetings and Salutations! Welcome to the Biblioblog Carnival roundup for April 2016 - a collection of blog posts, videos, podcasts and tweets relevant to the broad field of biblical studies posted last month. These may not have been the BEST of ALL possible blog posts, videos, podcasts and tweets, but they are ones that caught my eye and captured my interest. I've hosted the biblioblog in the past, and now as then, I've utilized a more-is-more, throw the spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks kind of approach. Jim West at Zwinglius Redivivus will, no doubt, be much more selective in his own version of the Carnival.



Sweaty Old Testamenty Stuff

*Marlowe at Carpe Scriptura spent some time reconsidering Amos’s “Rhetoric of Entrapment."

It seems as though God’s voice – the lion’s roar – may be a much more central theme in the book than I had initially thought. The cutting of the lines of communication comes up again and again as both Israel and God do it. It is this cutting of contact that warrants Israel’s punishment, and it is also the punishment itself. Amos’s role as intercessor in Amos 7 becomes so much more important, because it is through the prophets that Israel might “seek the Lord and live. As we move through the book, we find that God’s voice is linked to sin, punishment, and even salvation.
You might as well be writing feminist interpretations of an Ikea assembly manual if you’re going to publish astrophysical papers on the Psalms.

*Dr. Bruce Wells at the ASOR blog spoke about Sex Crimes in the Hebrew Bible.



*Christopher Rollston posted the first of a series of articles on gender-based violence in the bible:  Jacob’s Daughter Dinah.

… although in the recent past (e.g., just a few decades ago) violence against women was not the subject of international attention or concern, it has now “come to be recognized as a legitimate human rights issue and as a significant threat to women’s health and well-being.” The fact that there is now much more focus on gender-based violence is such a good thing, so right, so important. Of course, the witness of Scripture (and this is one of the reasons for recounting Dinah’s story here) is that gender-based violence is a very old problem.

*Deane at Remnant of Giants shared a post about literacy rates in ancient Judah: Judah’s Military Correspondence From ca. 600 BCE: Evidence of Widespread Literacy but not Evidence of the Bible 

The strength of the article lies in its identification of the extent of literacy in far-flung reaches of Judea, among various ranking members of the military and military administration. It would be not too rash to say that, given the literacy levels in the military establishment, we would expect that scribal literacy would be competent to produce more literary works of the forms which we find in the Hebrew Bible/Tanach. Indeed, the Tell Deir ‘Alla plaster inscription, written in a Hebrew dialect and located bang in the middle of Israelite territory during the period of its hegemony in the region, dates some two centuries before this. So scribes would be capable of the literary forms found in the Hebrew Bible. This doesn’t really tell us about the general literacy in the wider population, as the article implies it does. But more important is the question of literacy among the elites, which the article provides reasonable evidence for.

*And, if you'll forgive me, one of my own Biblical Limericks: That's Certainly Coitus Interrupted

Apocryphal, Pseudographical, Intertestamental and other Weirdo Type Stuff


*James Hamrick at The Ancient Bookshelf  has a reading/vocabulary guide for Ethiopic Jubilees available for you to download. Ethiopic Jubilees Reading Guide: The Creation, Part 1 

*Presidential Candidate Donald Trump told us his favorite bible verse.

*Ancient-Reformed Worship spoke to Hughes Oliphant about the Odes of Solomon

The Odes cast a spell. Something beautiful is happening here. It has a literary integrity I think that’s very important. The Odes are very unusual in the different imagery that they come up with. But that imagery is used again and again. One place where the Odes seem to have mined this imagery is the Book of Psalms. And Rendel Harris, the great scholar who really brought the Odes to the attention of the modern world, refers to these Odes as Psalm pendants. It’s as though the congregation might have sung a particular Psalm, and then, the Odes would’ve been sung as a response to it. And so many of the Odes when one reads through them one realizes that the imagery of Psalm 45 is being used or Psalm 63 is being used. And that’s one of the beautiful things about these Odes is that they’re so close to scripture.

*The Biblical Review reviewed the Testament of Moses 

Although the Testament of Moses is cut off half-way through the manuscript, it is nonetheless helpful in reconstructing ideologies and worldviews from the Levant in the 1st century C.E., and even earlier if we assume the text had previous written and oral traditions preceding it’s composition. The testament claims to be “the prophecy which was made by Moses in the book of Deuteronomy”; however, while it takes up a similar tone, the testament incorporates material relevant to the Maccabean Period, indicative of the late date of the text.


Based on the previous information, it is evident that we should read the Testament of Moses as its own piece of literary work, self-sustaining and independent. What we will consider today is Moses’ role as a divinator in the Testament of Moses.

*I'm sorry. I can't help myself. It's compulsive- Biblical Limericks: The Nothingness of  a Man

New Intestines


*James McGrath is trying to find a balance between naive credulity and extreme skepticism with respect to the Gospels and other early Christian sources in description of Jesus’ death in Philippians 2: 6 – 11. Philippians 2 and the Historical Jesus

It is striking to turn in light of this to Philippians 2:6-11. If Paul is there quoting a hymn, then this might be our earliest source of information about the death of Jesus, as well as about how Christians understood it. In that passage, Jesus’ death is nothing else but the culmination of his obedience, leading to his exaltation.

*Richard Beck at Experimental Theology wrote about the tragedy in violence- Put Away the Sword: Tragedy and Eschatology 

That's what upsets me about crowds cheering and thrilling to calls to bomb ISIS, so-called "Christians" who are viewing violence triumphalistically rather than tragically. Because Jesus said "put your sword away" Christians can never cheer violence. We must only grieve it.

*Scott McKnight at Jesus Creed  wrote about the Messianic Divine Secret of Jesus in the gospel of Mark.

...if Jesus silenced confession of him as Messiah how much more would have silenced for strategical reasons any suggestions of his deity. I find the logic solid, if not compelling.

*Phil Long at Reading Acts has been working his way though the Apocalypse of John  – Heavenly Throne Rooms in Apocalyptic Literature 

Revelation 4-5 is built first on the foundation of the Hebrew Bible. There are several texts which describe God as enthroned, such as Isaiah 6 and Ezekiel 1-2. In both of these passages the prophet sees a vision of God enthroned in heaven surrounded by otherworldly angelic creatures (seraphim in Isaiah, cherubim in Ezekiel). In both cases the prophet is stunned by the vision and eventually commissioned to a prophetic office. In Revelation 4 there is a central throne, angelic beings, but John is not a prophet as much as an observer of the impending judgment contained in the scroll given to the Lamb to open.

*Dustin R. Smith at The Dustin Martyr Blog attended the “Did Jesus Exist” debate between Craig Evans and Richard Carrier: 

I had the privilege of attending last night’s debate on “Did Jesus Exist?” between two well-versed debaters – Dr. Craig Evans and Dr. Richard Carrier. When I learned of this debate, I wanted to take advantage of listening to Carrier, who is probably the world’s foremost mythicist scholar. In other words, I felt that this debate would expose me to the best arguments scholars could put forth suggesting Jesus was simply made up in history. Now I took plenty of apologetic classes in my undergraduate and graduate studies to become convinced of the overwhelming evidence regarding Jesus’ existence, but I could not pass up the chance to listen to Richard Carrier live. So I piled up my car with a few of my bright students and we took off to witness the debate. Here are some of my observations of last night’s event:

*Pete Enns thinks that Paul was just “winging it.” 

I know that might not seem very reverent, especially since Romans is often thought of as the primo example of Paul at his difficult yet nevertheless logically consistent best, where he once and for all lays out the basics of the gospel for all to hear and for all time. Not that Romans is a jumbled mess—may it never be (see what I did there?)—but to me Romans reads more like Paul is in creative-problem-solving mode for Roman Christians facing a pressing problem (how Jews and Gentiles make up one people of God) than Paul sitting in his study writing a theological treatise intended for wider publication.

*Biblical Studies Online shared two lectures from David Noel Freedman: “Jesus as a Disciple”  (April 23, 1993)  a
nd “The Role of Human Beings in the Bible” (April 20, 1993) 



*Ronald V. Huggins  refuted the idea that Judas didn’t actually exist: Did Judas Exist? A Friendly Critique of Dennis R. MacDonald's Easter Time Blog  

*I need help. I know it: Biblical Limericks: The Four Horsemen

Gnostical

*James McGrath at Exploring our Matrix  appeared on the online talk show: Talk Gnosis to speak about the historical Jesus and mythicism. 




*Jesus Facepalmed -Part 2 of James McGrath’s Conversation with Talk Gnosis at Gnostic Wisdom-

Is there a vast international conspiracy to convince you that Jesus was a real person? Well, not really. It’s a game of probabilities. Scholars say that, given the evidence we have, it’s more likely than not that there was an actual dude named Jesus walking around in the desert 2000 years ago. Of course, you are free to draw your own conclusions, and a belief in Gnosticism certainly does not need to include a belief in a historical Jesus.

Ecclesial Churchy Stuff

*Alexandria at Women in Theology wrote about masculine vs feminine church in Between the Binary: Is “Effeminacy”Really an Issue in Evangelical Church Culture?

Too often, Christian writers and commentators assume (or do not question) an equivalency between femininity and the female; therefore, the mere presence of female bodies within a church’s congregation is believed to engender an effeminate style of Christianity. Evangelicalism’s enduring phobia of “liberal” feminism is largely to blame, and has made its members ignorant of even the most innocuous principles of basic gender theory: namely, that there is a distinction between biological sex and gender identity, that humans are responsible for creating culturally contingent gender roles (not God), and that both men and women hardly ever conform completely to their prescribed roles.


*Pope Francis released an apostolic exhortation entitled Amoris Laetitia, Latin for “The Joy of Love.” You can read the whole 256 page document here.

If you are heterosexual, married, divorced, and remarried with an understanding parish priest, you have reason to be hopeful that your “irregular situation” can be fixed. If you use most forms of effective birth control, have an abortion, or are a sexually active LGBTIQ Catholic, you might as well read Dante and/or seek another denomination if you expect to be treated with equality, dignity, and respect. ... The “Joy Love Club” is members-only.

*Members of a recent Vatican council have called for Pope Francis to reject the “Just War” theory and to issue and encyclical on nonviolence 

Too often the 'just war theory' has been used to endorse rather than prevent or limit war," they continue. "Suggesting that a 'just war' is possible also undermines the moral imperative to develop tools and capacities for nonviolent transformation of conflict…We need a new framework that is consistent with Gospel nonviolence," say the participants, noting that Francis and his four predecessors have all spoken out against war often. "We propose that the Catholic Church develop and consider shifting to a Just Peace approach based on Gospel nonviolence.


Of course, even if Christians did engage in contextualization—expressing their message and worship in the language or forms of the local people—that in no way implies doctrinal compromise. Christians around the world have sought to redeem the local culture for Christ while purging it of practices antithetical to biblical norms. After all, Christians speak of "Good Friday," but they are in no way honoring the worship of the Norse/Germanic queen of the gods Freya by doing so.


But, in fact, in the case of Easter the evidence suggests otherwise: that neither the commemoration of Christ's death and resurrection nor its name are derived from paganism.

*Joel Watts at Unsettled Christianity wrote about the time that Lucifer split the church by refusing grace.



Philosofical, Theologicalic Things

*The good folks at Jesus Jazz and Buddhism think that Everything We See is Past  and they have diagrams and videos about Process Theology, Alfred Whitehead and light cones. 



*Joseph P. Laycock at The Conversation  looked at Why So Many Americans Think They’re #Blessed

Today, America seems divided between those who engage with some version of the prosperity gospel and those who smugly dismiss it as fraudulent and puerile. While there are a number of problems with the gospel, it’s important to look at why this strand of religious thinking evolved in the first place, and why it persists.


I believe salvation is not from hell but to good works (Eph. 2.8-10). Salvation is not a momentary conversion, but a process of ontological importance. It is found in the Creed, but never defined. However, Protestantism usually sees it in terms of avoidance of hell. You’ll here mentioned “we deserved hell” and “we aren’t worthy.” Yet, Scripture never declares these things as well as the Reformers did. For Scripture, and Orthodoxy (and Wesleyanism), Salvation begins with the love of God, ending in the positive, rather than the negative.

Archaeologicists

*James Tabor at the Tabor Blog explored the deepening mystery of The Abba Cave, Crucifixion Nails, and the Last Hasmonean King.

It was assumed back in the 1970s that these bones were buried and no longer available for analysis–but it turns out this is not the case. What is even more intriguing, the victim was arguably none other than Matitiyahu Antigonus–the last of the Hashmonean kings–who was both beheaded and crucified by Marc Anthony. in 37 BCE. And even more significant, Greg Doudna has persuasively argued that this Antigonus is none other than the famed “Teacher of Righteousness” in the Dead Sea Scrolls,

*Archaeology News Network - Reported that construction workers in Gaza have discovered ancient ruins that archaeologists say may be part of a Byzantine church dating from around 1,500 years ago, The findings include segments of marble pillars with ornate Corinthian capitals, one nearly three meters (yards) long, and a 90 cm (35 inch) foundation stone bearing a Greek symbol for Christ. Fifteen pieces have been uncovered, with excavations continuing.


According to Dina Avshalom-Gorni, the project’s chief archaeologist on behalf of the IAA, “the incense shovel that was found is one of ten others that are known in the country from the Second Temple period. From early research in the world it was thought that the incense shovel was only used for ritual purposes, to care for the embers and incense that were burnt in ritual ceremonies. Over the years, after incense shovels were discovered in a non-cultic context, it appears they were also used as tools for daily tasks. The incense shovel and jug found in our excavation were exposed lying next to each other on the floor in one of the rooms, at the late Second Temple period storehouses that is located adjacent to the dock of the large Jewish settlement, on the shore of Sea of ​​Galilee. These implements might have been saved in the storeroom as heirlooms by a Jewish family living at Migdal, or they may have been used for daily work as well.”



Edumacational


Given that I have sat on both sides of the interview table–as both candidate looking for a post, and as President or Academic Dean looking to fill a post–I thought I might offer a few reflections on the interview process.  In particular, I want to help candidates know what we are really looking for in a potential professor. I say “really” because I think candidates often misunderstand what we are looking for. And, due to that misunderstanding, sometimes candidates are simply heading down an unhelpful path in the interview process.And when I say “we” I am thinking particularly of those leaders in the world of evangelical seminaries.  Those in university settings, or those who are not evangelical, are unlikely to offer the same advice.

*Larry Hurdato explains Scrolls and the Early Codex 



*Biblical Studies Online shared an interview with ProfessorStavrakopoulou (University of Exeter) who explains why a lot of what’s in the Bible isn’t real, but why she loves it anyway.




Movie Reviews, Book Reports, and Musical Events

*Neil Carter (no relation, so far as I know) at Godless in Dixie  wrote about the Evangelical Christian desire – need- to be persecuted and the film God's Not Dead 2 - Persecute Me, Please: God’s Not Dead 2 and the Evangelical Lust for Victimhood

It’s like they’re ripping off the plot of Miracle on 34th Street. Only this time, it’s set in Arkansas at the state capitol. And instead of trying to establish whether or not Santa Claus is real, now they are trying to determine if Jesus was real. Because that would totally happen in real life in a court of law. And it’s totally relevant to the case at hand.

*James McGrath rather likes Daniel Kirk’s New Book – A Man Attested By God 

This may be the most important book in Christology to appear in recent years. Written in an era when it has become increasingly popular to insist that Jesus is already depicted as a pre-existent figure in the Synoptic Gospels, one who is absorbed into the “divine identity,” Daniel Kirk makes a persuasive case for viewing the depiction of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, and Luke as one of idealized humanity. Unlike many other proposals, this category, and this volume in which it is proposed, does good justice to the evidence, and is likely to stand the test of time.

*Ben Witherington at the Bible and Culture reviewed Richard Hay’s new book: “Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels.”

And even when the NT writers were transforming the OT text in creative ways, for example as Paul does in Gal. 4, these improvisations presuppose a stable text to which one can return again and again, and use in a variety of ways. I would use the analogy of say John Coltrane’s famous version of the Sound of Music song ‘My Favorite Things’. ‘Trane was not trying to faithfully ‘exegete’ that song, he was rather using it as a taking off point for a creative improvisation, but at the same time he was well aware of what playing the tune straight amounted to and sounded like, and he presupposed that his audience did as well (they could look at a copy of the original sheet music or put on the recording of the Sound of Music), so they could appreciate where he was, so to speak, playing outside the lines on the staff paper. I think, in other words, that figural interpretation was only one of the tools in the hermeneutical toolbox of the Gospel writers, and it was not one they always used, certainly not to the exclusion of other ways of using the OT.

*James McGrath also shared A Service of Sacred Music and Rock Prayers 

I am not trying to make the case that no music is sacred. On the contrary, I am more inclined to make the opposite case and argue that all music is sacred. Music takes vibrations in the physical world and combines them in ways that we perceive as beautiful. And so music by definition points towards transcendence, towards the fact that there is more to life that what one perspective can do justice to. And since music is a pointer towards God, it makes sense to use music – any music – as an opportunity to talk about one’s faith and the things that are important to us.

*
Knockin' on Heaven's Door: Bob Dylan and the Gospel - An evening of Gospel and music following the Jewish carpenter who renounced his father's name to sing the blues out on Highway 61.





Ruben Zimmermann’s Puzzling the Parables of Jesus: Methods and Interpretations is a very fine work. One value of the book is that it consciously seeks to bring together current German and American research on the parables. Another important feature is that Zimmermann applies recent research on historiography and memory to the interpretation of the parables. This post will highlight a third contribution of the book, namely Zimmermann’s perceptive discussion of the genre of parable and his convincing suggestion that there are, in fact, parables in John.


In Memoriam 

*Activist Priest and Vietnam Protester Daniel Berrigan Dies at 94

“Dan was one of the great Catholics of our time, a champion of social justice and a tireless promoter of peace…His influence on the peace movement, particularly during the Vietnam War, cannot be overstated, but his aim was not simply peace in Indochina, but peace everywhere.” Berrigan was one of seven Catholic priests who used napalm to burn draft cards in 1968 in protest against the Vietnam War, according to the National Catholic Reporter. As a result, he was sentenced to three years in prison.



*Poet and Prophet 

A literary giant in his own right, Berrigan was best known for his dramatic acts of civil disobedience against the Vietnam War and nuclear weapons. He burned draft files with homemade napalm and later hammered on nuclear weapons to enact the Isaiah prophecy to “beat swords into plowshares.” His actions challenged Americans and Catholics to reexamine their relationship with the state and reject militarism. He constantly asked himself and others: What does the Gospel demand of us?



Future Carnivals

The next several carnivals will be hosted by:

May 2016 (June 1) – Brian Renshaw, @renshaw330
June 2016 (July 1) – Kris Lyle at Old School Script, @KristopherLyle

After that there's nothing - unless you act now. Phil Long at Reading Acts, who organizes these events, would love for you to volunteer as host for upcoming biblioblog carnivals. Contact him  PLEASE! (via Twitter @plong42 ) if you're interested.
















Saturday, April 30, 2016

Knockin' on Heaven's Door - The Gospel and Bob Dylan

Last night our little church held a musical event, a program of gospel and gospel music, of Jesus and Bob Dylan. Below you'll find my "liner notes" and a couple short video recordings of the evening.












Friday, April 29, 2016

Mystery Mathematics and Alphabetical Incantations


The school-bell rings and the kids, hooligans and malcontents every one, dash madly for class, ready to study Mystery Mathematics and Alphabetical Incantations.  


The Asymmetrical lines on her face were drawn there in morbid ink
by merciful artists working in the dark, and
clearly, this was an act of vengeance, a radical plot to
destroy America, to burn bridges, and smear feces on all the beautiful things, on
everything we love about our magnificent
farmland. 

Good God, but the world is in ruins;
hazard and hell on earth

I photographed the whole thing-
junkyard disasters, flooded shopping malls and
killers in the rearview mirror. We are
lost in caverns deep beneath the earth,
mesmerized by transient odors, by
nomadic priests and wandering rabbis.

Our ontological debates are moderated by morons,
proctored by monied interests and
quislings sellout out their neighbors for a
romanticized dream of a greater America, by
slum lords evicting the world without mercy.

Those who cannot remember their lines will be held
underwater until the sand can be counted and the sound extinguished.
Vespasian traveled under extinguished stars to a shoreless Elysium while
xeroxed copies of battered maps and travel guides are passed around by those
young enough to know better, but too old to care.

Zip it up. Send me home; we’re done here.


"Do Right to Me" Doesn't Get it Right


Bob Dylan has always incorporated various parts of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures into his music. Sometimes he’s done this well, and other times not so well. Dylan, that "inconsistent son of God” hasn’t always understood his source material.

On December 16, 178 in Miami, Florida Dylan premiered a song that would soon be recorded at the Muscle Shoals studio in Alabama for his Slow Train Coming album: “Do Right to Me, Baby (Do Unto Others)" (Heylin). Ostensibly the song is based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:12 :

“So, always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the Law and the Prophets.” (NJB)

The verses of “Do Right to Me, Baby” are basically a list of things that Dylan doesn’t want to do to other people because he doesn’t want them done to him:

Don’t wanna judge nobody, don’t wanna be judged
Don’t wanna touch nobody, don’t wanna be touched
Don’t wanna hurt nobody, don’t wanna be hurt
Don’t wanna treat nobody like they was dirt

Don't wanna shoot nobody, don't want to be shot
Don't wanna buy nobody, don't want to be bought
Don't wanna bury nobody, don't want to be buried
Don't wanna marry nobody if they're already married

Don’t wanna burn nobody, don’t wanna be burned
Don’t wanna learn from nobody what I gotta unlearn
Don’t wanna cheat nobody, don’t wanna be cheated
Don’t wanna defeat nobody if they already been defeated


But this isn’t what Jesus said. Though it’s certainly not bad advice at all, Jesus didn’t say –Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want them to do to you. What he said went further than a negative prescription. He said: Treat others the way that you would want them to treat you. Do for/to them what you would want them to do for/to you.

This, however, is a relatively minor quibble. I could almost let it pass.  But the real problem, the glaring error is in the repeated chorus of Dylan’s song:

But if you do right to me, baby
I’ll do right to you, too
Ya got to do unto others
Like you’d have them, like you’d have them, do unto you

It’s that word “If” and the implied “then” that follows. “If” you do right to me, “then” I will do right to you… This is not Jesus’ golden rule. The golden rule is not a conditional statement. The golden rule is not a transactional exchange. Note that word “always” in Jesus’ instruction.  We’re to do right to each other, baby, always – not only when they do right to us.


Heylin, Clinton. Still on the Road: the Songs of Bob Dylan Vol. 2 1974 – 2008. London: Constable & Robinson Ltd. 2010. Print.







Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Biblical Limericks: An Interpolated Angel


When the angel comes the water’s stirred;
first one in gets all his ailments cured -
but closer inspection
of this gospel section
shows it’s an interpolated word.

John 5:4

or read the same verse in Haiku form...
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