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Archive for April, 2005

Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew

27th April 2005

Peter Chataway, on his FilmChat blog, recently announced a special Vancouver viewing of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew, along with a short entitled, Seeking Locations in Palestine for “The Gospel According to St. Matthew.” This short looks quite fascinating. It doesn’t appear that it is available in DVD yet (the 2003 Water Bearer DVD release of The Gospel According to St. Matthew doesn’t include it, nor does the more recent 2004 BCI Eclipse edition).

I recently viewed The Gospel According to St. Matthew again with a friend. I am quite taken by Pasolini’s work — I see why many critics consider it one of the best Jesus films ever made. Pasolini’s stark interpretation of Matthew provides quite the contrast to Hollywood’s grand biblical epics. The bleak landscape of southern Italy and the casting are both brilliant. Most of the extras are Italian peasants and the lead roles are played by non-actors. Pasolini’s Jesus, played by Enrique Irazoqui, challenges our culturally-manufactured, stereotypical blue-eyed blond Jesus.

There are many other things I like about this film. Pasolini’s use of camera angles is captivating. The viewer seems to see Jesus from the perspective of a disciple, always following Jesus or looking at him from a distance (as when Jesus is before the Sanhedrin and Pilate). From what I could observe, Jesus almost never looks directly into the camera. He is always looking slightly off-centre, with one or two notable exceptions. The first such shot (see the picture above) is when Jesus turns and looks straight into the camera and says “if any man come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 8:24). This is a powerful shot.

Even the way Pasolini presented the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is fascinating. Jesus doesn’t say the sermon in one setting, but gives parts of the sermon in various contexts — the scenes shift between day and night, between inside and outside shots, Jesus with and without a scarf, etc. In my mind (and perhaps only in my mind!) this suggests that Pasolini wanted to present the sermon as more of a compendium of Jesus’ teachings, not a long sermon that took place at one time. And the “blessed are the cheese makers” line is brilliant! Oh, so sorry, that’s Monty Python.

To make a long blog entry short: I highly recommend Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew. And if you live in the Vancouver, B.C., area, make sure to see it on the big screen! (I am quite envious)

The film is available in both DVD (Buy from | Buy from and VHS format (Buy from | Buy from

Posted in Jesus Films, Pasolini | Comments Off

RBL Latest: Introduction to the Prophets

26th April 2005

The latest Review of Biblical Literature came this morning. I was initially excited to see Hutton’s Fortress Introduction to the Prophets listed, as I have never found a satisfactory textbook for my undergraduate Prophets course. But, alas, after reading the reviews by Camp and Polanski, it doesn’t look like this book will do the trick either. I can’t believe that an introduction to the prophets (especially as part of a major publisher’s new series) would ever be published that doesn’t even talk about Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Daniel, among others! (OK, Daniel I could understand if they were either omitting it because it is not among the prophets in the Hebrew Bible or if they considered it more of a midrash)

I also don’t understand why such a book would be published that doesn’t include notes. I personally don’t think that books should ever be published without at least having endnotes. Especially for a book that may be adopted as a textbook. We try to teach our students about proper documentation and citing your sources, etc., but then are expected to use a textbook that doesn’t? I would think that for a potential textbook you should include footnotes/endnotes if even only to guide the student to further discussions.

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Old Testament Commentary Survey Completed!

23rd April 2005

My Old Testament Commentary Survey is now complete. I finished the minor prophets section and uploaded it. So now all of the books of the Protestant Old Testament/Hebrew Bible are included.

Updating this resource has given me new appreciation of the sheer number of good commentaries available in the English language. Even with some 435 commentaries listed, my survey is by no means exhaustive. I believe I have all of the critical commentaries published since the 1960s as well as a few older ones. As far as commentaries for pastors and lay people, I have quite a selection (especially of those with an evangelical orientation), though I recognize that there were a number of series that I didn’t cover exhaustively (or in a few cases at all). I still want to expand my evaluations and include the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books, but I think I will take a bit of a break from it!

If you notice any glaring omissions, please let me know!

Posted in Blog News, Commentary Survey | Comments Off

Da Vinci Code Wins Best Book at British Book Awards

21st April 2005

Helenann Hartley noted on her blog that the Da Vinci Code won best book at the British Book Awards. On the one hand, as a novel I found Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code a fun and engaging read, but I wouldn’t think it is the sort of book that should win a such an award! (I assume they have some literary standards for winners??)

On a more positive note, the Da Vinci Code has raised the profile of issues surrounding the development of the NT canon and the feminine divine in popular culture, which I think us academics should capitalize on by organizing public lectures, writing popular articles and books, etc., to deal with these and related topics. (I am hoping to organize a public lecture at Taylor University College in conjunction with the movie release, or perhaps sooner).

In my mind, anything that can raise the public consciousness of these important issues is OK in my books. The only negative thing (that I recall) about the book that comes to mind is its portrayal of the Catholic Church as this secretive oppressive organization. But that’s all the more reason to have good academic responses to such claims in the book!

And of course, we have to remember — it’s only a novel! (But soon to be a movie, then it will have to be reckoned with!).

Posted in Da Vinci Code, News, Popular Culture | Comments Off

Athens Revisted…

20th April 2005

In regards to the previous post “Between Athens and Jerusalem: Thoughts on Critical Commitment” I made reference to the idea of “critical commitment.” As a faculty we read V. James Mannoia’s book Christian Liberal Arts: An Education that Goes Beyond. One of the main arguments Mannoia makes is that you want to engender critical commitment in your students, not dogmatism nor cynicism. In order to produce this critical commitment you need to introduce just enough dissonance (not too much or they will retreat). This is the toughest part: introducing just the right amount of dissonance so that they will grow and not wither. Mannoia’s work also takes into consideration the different stages students will be at and how you need to treat them diferently. The bibliographic data for this work is:

Mannoia, V. James. Christian Liberal Arts: An Education That Goes Beyond. Rowman & Littlefield, 2000.
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I would highly recommend for any educator in faith-based schools.

Posted in Teaching & Learning | Comments Off

4QSama Delayed

20th April 2005

In a previous post I mentioned the much anticipated publication of DJD 17, Qumran Cave 4.XII: 1-2 Samuel. It appears that its publication has been delayed once again. The Oxford University Press US website has a new date of 20 June 2005. This leads me to wonder if it was actually released 7 April in the UK and Europe! Can anyone confirm this for me? Has anyone actually seen this volume?

Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls | Comments Off

Between Athens and Jerusalem: Thoughts on Critical Commitment

19th April 2005

Thanks to the heads up on Michael Pahl’s blog, I took a look at the latest SBL Forum and read C. Drew Smith’s post, "’Between Athens and Jerusalem’: Reading Liberal Books at Church-Based Universities." As a professor at a faith-based university, I can sympathize with Smith’s experiences. I too believe that in a liberal arts education students should read and engage a broad spectrum of scholarship — both "liberal" and evangelical (As an aside, I really do not like expressing this in the form of a dichotomy, as it is not in reality two distinct sides. Every author writes from her or his own ideological perspective and we are want to discern that when we engage them in our studies or in our classrooms). What our goal is critical commitment, not indoctrination. As Smith notes:

Would we not, as Christian liberal arts institutions, want to rise above the increasingly entrenched dichotomy between conservative and liberal, offering opportunities to hear various voices speak? And in doing so, should we not be humble enough to admit that there are positive contributions made by those who think differently from us, even when such difference is vast? And if we can come to this point, have we not reached the true goal of education, which is to consider all the evidence and to draw thoughtful and critical conclusions from that evidence? This to me is the essence of learning in a liberal arts tradition.

While I haven’t had much protest from students in regards to textbooks, I have had to talk to local pastors who have had concerns. This has prompted me to put disclaimers in my syllabi indicating that these books are to be read critically, etc. (I’ve been wondering whether or not I should put such a disclaimer on my Old Testament Commentary Survey so that well-intentioned readers don’t think that when I say so-and-so’s commentary is the best of the bunch, I endorse it’s theological or ideological perspective as well — which I may or may not). I don’t really like having to put the disclaimers in (as I feel they are just stating the obvious), but if it helps first year students, parents, and local pastors understand a bit about what goes on in the classroom, then so be it.

On the flipside, I feel that the education students receive at a faith-based university may actually be more of a true liberal arts education than a non-faith based university. At a faith-based university we look at all perspectives — including faith-based scholarship, which I imagine is often neglected at "secular" institutions (again the dichotomy!). At any rate, I encourage you to take a look at the SBL Forum, and Smith’s post in particular.

Posted in Faith & Scholarship, Teaching & Learning | Comments Off

Reprint of Seeligmann’s LXX Isaiah Monograph

19th April 2005

This week’s Review of Biblical Literature includes a review of Isac Seeligmann’s masterful The Septuagint Version of Isaiah. This reprint of his 1948 work includes an introduction by Septuagint scholar Robert Hahnhart as well as two additional essays by Seeligmann. Seeligmann’s work on LXX Isaiah is a great resource and having it reprinted (with corrections) will make it more accessible to scholars and teachers. The full bibliographic data is as follows:

Seeligmann, Isac Leo.
The Septuagint Version of Isaiah and Cognate Studies.
Edited by Robert Hahnhart and Hermann Spieckermann. Forschungen Zum Alten Testament 40. Mohr Siebeck, 2004.
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I highly recomend this work for all biblical scholars interested in the LXX version of Isaiah.

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Old Testament Commentary Survey Updates

16th April 2005

I have begun updating my Old Testament Commentary Survey. So far I have given it a new look and completed updating the Pentateuch, Wisdom & Psalms, and Historical Books sections. Please take a look at my new format and let me know what you think.

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Some Pop Culture Thoughts: Is There Redemption for “Sin City”?

15th April 2005

I went to see the film “Sin City” with a friend this week. The film moved at a brisk pace and was visually stunning. While I was expecting a film noir, it was a lot darker than I expected. The movie was loosely based on the graphic novels of Frank Miller, which are set in the fictional town of [Ba]sin City. There are a number of storylines in the film. [Spoiler Alert]

One storyline follows a really, really, bad guy named Marv (played impressively by Mickey Rourke) who trawls the darkest areas of town searching for the person who killed his “one true love,” Goldie. While perhaps his cause is noble (even though he only “knew” her for one evening!), his means of vengeance is anything but. The main storyline revolves around Bruce Willis’s character, Detective Hartigan. The film opens with Hartigan saving a young girl from a violent pedophile, who he injures in the process. While I don’t want to give away the movie, Hartigan is set up, but doesn’t say anything to protect the young girl and consequently goes to prison. Near the end of the movie the Hartigan character is released and ends up giving his own life to save the girl once again (now a young woman played by Jessica Alba). While much of the film is violence for the sake of violence, the idea of sacrificing oneself to save another obviously brings us images of Christ. I don’t know if I would go as far to say that Hartigan is a Christ figure in “Sin City” — especially since it is not even clear if he is successful. Moreover, the film totally buys into what Stone calls the “myth of redemptive violence,” which is in direct contrast to the way of Jesus. Not sure I would recommend the film; it is certainly not for the faint of heart. Also, Lord of the Ring fans beware: You will never look upon sweet little Frodo the same!

Posted in Film, Popular Culture | Comments Off