Keep ’em coming back with the December Biblical Studies Carnival

We're here; we blog about the bible; get used to us.
We’re here; we blog about the Bible; get used to it.

Charles Spurgeon is reported to have said, “If you have to give a carnival to get people to come to church, then you will have to keep giving carnivals to keep them coming back.”

And so we who blog in the fields of academic biblical studies and theology keep giving carnivals.

So let Words on the Word be among the first to wish you and yours a Happy New Year! Let’s welcome the year ahead with a recap of what went on in the so-called biblioblogosphere in December 2012.

Newtown, Connecticut, December 14

On December 14 there was the horrible news of a shooter who killed 26 other people at an elementary school in Newtown, CT, 20 of them young children. Peter Enns shared some thoughts from an unsettled state. Jim West wrote about it quite a bit and excoriated the NRA.

Shannon Hicks/Newtown Bee, via Associated Press

Nick Norelli rightly called the tragedy senseless. Robert Cargill weighed in on “The guns Adam Lanza used….” James Pate wondered whether the shooter had been loved in his life. Julie Clawson of onehandclapping mourns in the darkness on Advent 3. And Brian LePort–after posting his own reflections–provided a roundup of posts on the shooting. Lord, have mercy.

Year-End Lists, Learnings and New Year’s Resolutions

2012 to 2013Scot McKnight lists the “Jesus Creed Books of the Year” here. Near Emmaus has the “Top Ten Books I Read This Year (2012).” Joel “1.21 JiggaWatts of Mark but not Q” Watts offered his books of the year. Nathan Smoyer shared 24 lessons learned in 2012. And here is Phil Long of Reading Acts with the 10 books in biblical studies he found most useful this past year. T.M. Law gives us “Tops for Twelve in Jewish and Christian History,” after “tops” lists on Bible and the HB/OT/LXX. Here is Robert Cornwall’s book list for 2012. Here is Nick Norelli’s book review list spanning this last year. Mark Roberts offers a Psalm and a prayer for the new year. Cliff at Theological Musings posts about books to read in 2013.

Joel lists the top five events in biblioblogging in 2012, while Rod at Political Jesus adds to the list.

While these next two weren’t year-end lists, per se, The Jesus Blog offers recommendations for five books to read on the historical Jesus, while Nijay Gupta suggests “five new interesting books on Jesus and the Gospels.”

NA28 Reviews

na28

The reviews of the new Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament started rolling in. First note: it’s online for free. No apparatus, but the text is all here.

Reviewers in December included: Dan Wallace, Jim West (some nice pictures here, review here), Rick Brannan (here and here). Here is Chris Keith on Jude 5. And BLT (Bible * Literature * Translation) analyzes The Rhetoric of NA28©. Consider BLT’s post a meta-review of sorts.

Hebrew Bible/OT and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Brian Davidson at LXXI uses BibleWorks 9 to do a complex morphological search on a word in Genesis 10:19. A new blog, This Does What Now?, started in December, with a first entry on information structure in Jonah 1. John Cook discusses valency and verb theory in Biblical Hebrew.

The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library puts the DSS “finally at your fingertips.” As here:

8Hev DSS

A note in the about section of the site reads:

With the generous lead support of the Leon Levy Foundation and additional generous support of the Arcadia Fund, the Israel Antiquities Authority and Google joined forces to develop the most advanced imaging and web technologies to bring to the web hundreds of Dead Sea Scrolls images as well as specially developed supporting resources in a user-friendly platform intended for the public, students and scholars alike.

A number of bloggers wrote about this, not a few of whom Jim McGrath links to.

That wasn’t all that went online in December. Evangelical Textual Criticism notes quite a few other manuscripts that are now online. (As proven by the fact that every word of that last phrase is its own hyperlink.) Charles Halton of awilum.com highlights the availability of A. Leo Oppenheim’s Ancient Mesopotamia as a free pdf. Readers of this carnival may also like to take some time with ASOR’s weekly archaeology roundups in December, here, here, and here.

Septuagint

December saw a plethora of posts about παρθένος/עלמה in Isaiah 7:14, and Matthew’s use of that verse. Here is T.M. Law, saying that Greek Isaiah’s use of παρθένος for עלמה is not without precedent in the LXX (“The Greek translator of Isaiah used a perfectly acceptable rendering for עלמה.”). Here’s the Jesus Creed on the virgin birth. Krista Dalton notes, “[T]he author of Matthew is not saying that Isaiah was envisioning the birth of Jesus.” Kevin Brown of Diglotting posts here about it. And, looking at hermeneutics more generally, Brian LePort suggested three paradigms to use in studying the virgin birth.

IsaiahSpeaking of Greek Isaiah… more than 150 of us are reading through Greek Isaiah in a Year. And writing about it, too. Suzanne at BLT covered appetite and desire, synonymous phrases (particularly at issue when comparing Isaiah 2 and Micah 4), and μητροπολις πιστη σιων as “the mother city of Zion.” Bob MacDonald posted on Isaiah 3 and 6. Brian LePort posted notes from Isaiah 1:1-25, 1:26-2:21, 2:22-3:21, and 3:22-5:16.

J.K. Gayle at The WOMBman’s Bible (“An Outsider’s Perspective on the Hebrew Males’ Hellene Book”) posted reflections from Greek Isaiah not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4, not 5, not 6, but 7 times in December. Set aside some time and read them all.

Codex Sinaiticus dropped in price to just under $200 at CBD this month–a facsimile edition, that is. Theophrastus of BLT notes it here. He will later lament (which I, too, lament) that Oxford University Press no longer prints their wonderful Comparative Psalter. And while we’re on those Ψαλμοὶ, did their Greek translator(s) have Aristotle and Greek rhetoric in mind?

Read the Fathers posted a nice introduction to the Septuagint. (Go here for more info about taking part in that reading group.)

New Testament and Greek

Greek spelling: YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG
Greek spelling: YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG

Rod Decker wrote about understanding Greek and how to teach it. (Hint, via Decker: you can’t skip first year Greek.) Daniel Street suggested a Greek Students’ Liberation Movement when it comes to pedagogy.

Anthony Le Donne is taking on the Wikipedia entry on “Historical Jesus” (best biblioblog comment of the month: here). James Tabor asked how December 25 got to be the day we observe Jesus’ birthday (with more thoughts here). Mark Goodacre produced a Christmas NT Pod in which he “explores the differences between the Birth Narratives in Matt. 1-2 and Luke 1-2 and asks how this can be the case if Luke is familiar with Matthew.” The Sacred Page produced a podcast on “the first Christmas.” For a fresh translation of Luke 1:34-38 (with the Greek reproduced beneath the English), see “She spoke yet-Miriam did.” Daniel Street even gave us some Christmas songs in Greek!

Brian Davidson connects the salt verse of Matthew 5:13 to the rest of the beatitudes.

Theological Musings reviewed Charts on the Book of Hebrews, as well as Donald Hagner’s New Testament introduction.

James Tabor points out a common question readers of Paul come to: “Who is a Jew?” (However one answers the question, “Who Said Jews Aren’t Interested in Biblical Theology?” asks Joseph Kelly. And James G. Crossley notes some cautions here.) Readers of Paul also ask (and argue) about the “faith of Christ.” Kait Dugan relates pistis Christou to discipleship. Steven E. Runge’s NT Discourse blog featured an extended note on “exceptional exceptive clauses,” with Galatians 2:16 in view.

Theology

rublev icon

Anglican minister Rach Marszalek calls for nuance in discussions on the Trinity, as well as an appreciation of “the perichoretic beauty” of the Same. Read her “Eternal functional subordination and ontological equality?” here. While we’re on Anglicans, Brian LePort asks whether he needs a Bishop?

Gaudete Theology offers a feminist reading of “the bride of Christ” language. (“The image of the Bride of Christ needn’t be viewed only through the patriarchal perception of woman’s nature as inherently passive, docile, compliant, and receptive.”) Alice C. Linsley at Just Genesis would, I think, agree that the image and office of priest should also not be viewed through a patriarchal lens. She says, “Luther Was Wrong About the Priesthood.”

Rod at Political Jesus reviewed The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America. Larry Hurtado looks at Andrew Chester’s assessment of high Christology scholarship of late.

James Pate encourages inter-religious dialogue even for conservative Christians. He also writes about what Jonathan Edwards has to do with the historical-critical method (engaging this method may have felt inter-religious to Edwards). Jim McGrath engages the question (regarding a book with this title): Do Jews, Christians, and Muslims Worship the Same God?

Remnant of Giants suggests that it’s “time to put away the decaffeinated biblical criticism.”

December brought news of the Queen James Bible. Jim McGrath looks to get beyond it. BLT invites dialogue as to whether or not that Bible’s editors have achieved their aims.

And, finally, may I offer thanks to Amanda at Cheesewearing Theology for this excellent December 2012 theology roundup? She covers yet more territory in theology than I have already covered here. If you’re disappointed that this carnival is about over, spend time reading the posts she collects.

Ευχαριστω/תודה/Thank you

carnival 2

Thanks for coming, and keep coming back! I blog regularly, so feel free to follow/subscribe by going back up to the right sidebar of the blog.

Phil Long at Reading Acts is looking for volunteers for future carnivals. Let’s “keep giving carnivals”! Please check out his post and see what you think.

I don’t necessarily agree with the content of all these posts I’ve linked to, but I do find them worth a click and read. Enjoy, and Happy New Year!

Christian Apologetics winner

We have a winner in the giveaway contest at Words on the Word for Zondervan’s primary source compendium, Christian Apologetics: An Anthology of Primary Sources, edited by Khaldoun A. Sweis and Chad V. Meister.

I have weathered the storm, several flickers of the power on and off, and have selected the winner at random. (Actually, a random number generator is to thank/blame.)

And the winner is… Matthew Hamrick! Congratulations, Matthew, and enjoy the book. Thank you to everyone who participated and spread the word.

I reviewed the book here if you’d like to learn more.

Almost every Monday at Words on the Word (and other days, too) I review new books in the field of biblical studies, original languages, and theology. I also review Bible software. Check or bookmark this link to see all my reviews.

Christian Apologetics: free book giveaway

One good giveaway deserves another.

The other day I noted that Zondervan has just put out a primary source compendium called Christian Apologetics: An Anthology of Primary Sources, edited by Khaldoun A. Sweis and Chad V. Meister.

I have an extra copy to give away (not my review copy). It’s a good resource to have on the shelf, and I know I’ll be turning to it in the future for the work and ministry I do in a college setting.

I reviewed the book here.

I will choose a winner at random. To enter the drawing, simply comment on this blog post with your greetings, thoughts about apologetics, favorite philosopher/theologian, etc. I will accept entries through Monday afternoon, with 3pm EST being the cutoff.

Then if you link to this post on your Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc., come back here to tell me in the comments section that you did, and you’ll receive a second entry. I will announce the winner just before 5pm EST Monday.

Christian Apologetics: a review

I still remember, as a 16-year-old, sitting down at my parents’ computer, hearing the dial tone, and logging on to AOL. I would do this often, not just to check the new technological miracle known as e-mail, but also to go into chat rooms (remember those?) and seek to share my faith with others online.

I made similar efforts at my high school, starting conversations when appropriate and generally just trying to be ready to speak intelligently and compellingly about my Christian faith.

This handbook by Peter Kreeft was a constant reference guide for me. I went on to major in philosophy at a Christian undergraduate school, where I took, among others, classes on the philosophy of religion, St. Augustine, and more. Readings in the Philosophy of Religion became a new resource to which I often turned. I had begun having philosophical and existential questions of my own by that point, ones that I experienced on a profound and at times troubling level.

I’ve always had an interest in the intellectual underpinnings of my Christian faith. And I’ve often been aware that what appear to be intellectual questions or questions of “the head,” are sometimes–when one digs deeper–questions of “the heart,” as well. Since college days, then, I’ve been a bit more cautious than I was as a 16-year-old in an AOL chat room about just how effective “apologetics” can be.

Zondervan has just put out a primary source compendium called Christian Apologetics: An Anthology of Primary Sources, edited by Khaldoun A. Sweis and Chad V. Meister.

There are 54 selections divided into 11 parts, which you can see listed here (PDF) in the table of contents. Christian Apologetics begins with some methodological considerations in part 1, then moves right into various arguments for the existence of God–cosmological, teleological, ontological, moral, the argument from religious experience, and so on. From there the book narrows to more specific topics like the Trinity, the incarnation, miracles, the resurrection, the problem of evil, and more.

Christian Apologetics claims to be “a sampling of some of the best works written by Christian apologists throughout the centuries,” offering “a snapshot of Christian apologetics at its best across the spectrum of time and culture.”

The essays in this volume certainly are some of the best in apologetics. There is Paul at the Areopagus in Acts 17, Aquinas on the cosmological argument for God’s existence, Anselm and Plantinga with the ontological argument for God, Pascal’s wager, Teresa of Avila on experiencing God, Anselm on the incarnation, Swinburne on miracles, John Hick’s “Soul Making Theodicy,” Augustine on free will, and Marilyn McCord Adams on horrendous evil and the goodness of God. Each of these essays is a classic and makes a valuable contribution to the area of apologetics.

The book spans “the spectrum of time” fairly well, with a higher concentration of 20th century writers. Just a couple of the contributors are women, and the overwhelming majority hail from Western contexts–this latter an admission of the book, but a weakness all the same.

A particularly pleasant surprise to me was the inclusion of an an article by R.T. France, in which he makes the case for the historical reliability of the Gospels, which must, he argues, be understood in their proper literary context as “highly selective” records of Jesus’ life with “only a loose chronological framework.” This is not due to deficiency of the Gospels; rather, it is how the Gospel writers intended to write:

The four canonical gospels will not answer all the questions we would like to ask about the founder of Christianity; but, sensitively interpreted, they do give us a rounded portrait of a Jesus who is sufficiently integrated into what we know of first-century Jewish culture to carry historical conviction, but at the same time sufficiently remarkable and distinctive to account for the growth of a new and potentially world-wide religious movement out of his life and teaching.

As I read I appreciated a statement in the book’s general introduction:

But arguments and evidences do not of themselves bring someone into new life in Christ. Here the work of the Holy Spirit is central, and we must be willing to surrender to his leading and his truth and his goodness if we are to truly dwell with the Lord.

I hadn’t yet learned this in the AOL chat rooms, but I’ve long since been convinced of it. So I had hoped to hear more in this book about the role of the Holy Spirit in apologetics. There is a short (one paragraph) treatment by James K. Beilby in chapter 3 that asks, “What is the role of the Holy Spirit in apologetics?” He rightly (in my view) sees it as “not a zero-sum game.” The apologist should be “significantly involved” yet “still hold that the Holy Spirit will determine the effectiveness of our efforts.”

Though the Holy Spirit receives treatment in the section on the Trinity (by Origen, Aquinas, the Creeds, and Thomas V. Morris) and on the Bible (Calvin and canonization), there is never more than Beilby’s paragraph treatment about the role of the Holy Spirit in the project of apologetics. Cogent though Beilby is, I would think “a snapshot of Christian apologetics at its best” should make more mention of something like the Wesleyan view of prevenient grace or even the notion that the Holy Spirit witnesses to a person’s heart before an apologist does. Only the former can enable the latter. Christian Apologetics is not without the exploration of other methodological considerations; I just would have liked to have seen more of this one.

Several other possible areas for improvement in a future edition could be more on faith and reason and how the two interrelate, as well as arguments for the existence of God that take into account and respond to the varous assertions made by the “new atheism” (anemic though it is).

All in all, though, this is a strong work, and I’m happy for it to sit alongside my old college text, Readings in the Philosophy of Religion. Zondervan’s Christian Apologetics is a worthy, if basic, reference guide. I expect it will serve apologists well.

Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy, which I was given for the purposes of review, though without any expectations as to the nature of my review. Find the book at Amazon here (affiliate link) or at Zondervan’s product page for the book.

Praising God through Academic Biblical Studies: Less Hypermodernist Objectivism, More Affect!

Why such an emphasis on wanting to get as close to the “original text” of the Bible as possible? Or, as some scholars call it, the “earliest attainable text”?

Earlier this week I wrote a bit about scholarly editions of the Jewish Scriptures, both the Greek and the Hebrew.

But I began asking myself today, why am I so interested in a rigorous scholarly pursuit of the text of the Bible in Hebrew and Greek?

One reason is that I love to learn. On the Strengthsfinder assessment I came out with “Learner” as my top strength both times I took the test. “Achiever” was not far behind. (See here for the descriptions of the 34 strengths themes in that assessment.) Here’s an excerpt from the description of the “Learner” strength that applies to me:

You love to learn. The subject matter that interests you most will be determined by your other themes and experiences, but whatever the subject, you will always be drawn to the process of learning. The process, more than the content or the result, is especially exciting for you. You are energized by the steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to competence.

All true, except that when it comes especially to my pursuit of biblical studies, the process, the content, and the result are “especially exciting” for me.

Why?

The late Arthur Holmes articulates beautifully:

Christ the Truth becomes the dominant motivation in intellectual inquiry. No dichotomy of sacred and secular tasks can be allowed, and no subject is exempt.

The student will therefore welcome truth and submit to it wherever it is found, out of obedience to Christ. Academic work becomes an opportunity to extend the Lordship of Christ over the mind; thought merges into worship.

“Thought merges into worship.” I love this. And I think this is why–more than just being a “Learner”–I so love to delve into the depths of Scripture, in the most “original” form that I possibly can.

I’m not overly fastidious about Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic–as if God really spoke through those languages and then anything else is just mediated and somehow a dilution of God’s actual words. (Isn’t all language already mediation anyway?) If the word of God is “living and active,” it can be living and active in its faithful translations into other languages.

But one reason I geek out so much about the Septuagint and the Hebrew Bible is that in my study I feel myself getting closer to that amazing time when God gave his word to humanity to be transmitted to future generations: first orally, then in written form. And I love seeing how the translators of the Hebrew Bible wrestled with putting the Hebrew into Greek. I love seeing how the New Testament writers grappled with, contextualized, and recontextualized the Old Testament.

I don’t even mind that at the moment I’m a bit perplexed by how Paul could both praise the law as being from God yet also refer to it as a “the ministry that brought death.”

Why?

Because for me, as of late, my thoughts and my studies of Scripture–even at a scholarly level–have begun to “[merge] into worship.” How can I not praise the God behind these amazing words? Though we may never know what the autograph of any part of Scripture actually said, I believe we can get close.

And somehow the closer I get to the text of the Bible–in a scholarly setting–the closer I feel to God.

Not always, of course–sometimes I’m just confused. (Dash the heads of infants against rocks? And we pray these Psalms in liturgical settings???) But there’s been a real richness for me lately in delving into the Bible in its original languages, comparing variant readings across manuscripts and versions, trying to figure out why one Synoptic Gospel said it this way, why this one said it another way…. Even in seeking to answer those questions, I know that I am seeking more of God and God’s revelation.

This is not a taken-for-granted view of things in the field of biblical studies. Take this, for instance, from Michael V. Fox:

In my view, faith-based study has no place in academic scholarship, whether the object of study is the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or Homer. Faith-based study is a different realm of intellectual activity that can dip into Bible scholarship for its own purposes, but cannot contribute to it.

I haven’t contacted Michael V. Fox to confirm this, but I’d wager that what I’m describing above constitutes some sort of “faith-based study,” or at least, study that is informed by and that enriches faith.

But a bit more context from Fox:

The claim of faith-based Bible study to a place at the academic table takes a toll on the entire field of Bible scholarship. The reader or student of Bible scholarship is likely to suspect (or hope) that the author or teacher is moving toward a predetermined conclusion. Those who choose a faith-based approach should realize that they cannot expect the attention of those who don’t share their postulates. The reverse is not true. Scholars who are personally religious constantly draw on work by scholars who do not share their postulates. One of the great achievements of modern Bible scholarship is that it communicates across religious borders so easily that we usually do not know the beliefs of its practitioners.

I’m okay with trying to set aside a “predetermined conclusion,” though skeptical of that possibility. (Does Fox believe in the modernist project?)

Fox goes on, “The best thing for Bible appreciation is secular, academic, religiously-neutral hermeneutic.”

Sigh.

Taking the Psalms as an example, one cannot appreciate the Psalms who does not pray the Psalms. And wouldn’t good scholarship (religiously motivated or not) call for us to engage the text on the author’s terms? How can one do good scholarship on David, for example, if one is not willing to engage the text in the way that David intended for it to be engaged? If he wrote a Psalm for corporate singing or reciting, is the individual in her or his library carrel who seeks to bracket out faith commitments going to get anywhere near to uncovering the meaning and import of that Psalm until she or he sings it with others?

Fox’s whole article is here.

Parker Palmer has a good rejoinder:

Objectivism—which is a complete myth with respect to how real people have ever known anything real—has great political persuasiveness because it gives us the illusion that we are in charge.

But gospel truth, transformational truth, says that we are not masters but are subject to powers larger than ourselves—and that we are blessed with the chance to be co-creators of something good if we are willing to work in harmony with those larger powers.

If we embrace a gospel way of knowing, we can create a different kind of education and perhaps a different world: a world where all of us are called to embody whatever truth we know; where we gather together with others to check, correct, confirm, and deepen whatever insights we may have; where we understand that, even as we seek truth, truth is seeking us; and where there can be those vital transformations, personal and social, that might take us a step closer to the beloved community.

So when it comes to biblical studies, I say: less hypermodernist objectivism, more affect! Let’s allow our thoughts–as Dr. Holmes suggested–to merge into worship; our studies into praise; our reading into praying.

My quest for the earliest attainable text of the Bible, I am realizing, is driven by scholarly interest and a general drive to learn, yes. But more than that, I want to know God more fully through this academic pursuit. My insatiable desire to master Greek noun declensions, Hebrew verb parsings, and intertextual allusions is in the end a desire to be mastered by the God who stands behind the words of Scripture.

But that kind of a posture doesn’t compromise scholarship, in my view. It makes it richer, deeper, and directed toward its most proper end.

New issue of Journal of Biblical Literature is up

Issue 131.3 of The Journal of Biblical Literature is out. You have to be a Society of Biblical Literature member to access the full contents, but you can see what’s in the new fall 2012 issue here.

From SBL, here is what’s inside the issue.

Judah Comes to Shiloh: Genesis 49:10ba, One More Time
Serge Frolov, 417–422

The Four Moses Death Accounts
Philip Y. Yoo, 423–441

Not Just Any King: Abimelech, the Northern Monarchy, and the Final Form of Judges
Brian P. Irwin, 443–454

The Heart of Yhwh’s Chosen One in 1 Samuel
Benjamin J. M. Johnson, 455–466

Secrets and Lies: Secrecy Notices (Esther 2:10, 20) and Diasporic Identity in the Book of Esther
Martien A. Halvorson-Taylor, 467–485

Psalms Dwelling Together in Unity: The Placement of Psalms 133 and 134 in Two Different Psalms Collections
Ryan M. Armstrong, 487–506

Archer Imagery in Zechariah 9:11–17 in Light of Achaemenid Iconography
Ryan P. Bonfiglio, 507–527

Eyewitnesses as Guarantors of the Accuracy of the Gospel Traditions in the Light of Psychological Research
Robert K. McIver, 529–546

Voluntary Debt Remission and the Parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1–13)
John K. Goodrich 547–566

Paul’s Areopagus Speech of Acts 17:16–34 as Both Critique and Propaganda
Joshua W. Jipp, 567–588

“Be Ye Approved Money Changers!” Reexamining the Social Contexts of the Saying and Its Interpretation
Curtis Hutt, 589–609