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Archive for August, 2005

Jesus Junk and Christian Kitsch, 3.2 – Special Edition: Scripture Poker Chips

31st August 2005

I heard about these from a friend who frequents Christian retailing shows, but couldn’t find them anywhere on the internet. But who says perseverance doesn’t pay off! Next time you ante up, why not witness at the same time? That’s right, what we have here are some Scripture Poker Chips called “Faith Chips.”

A press release from assistnews, notes that these chips are meant to be “an ultra cool mini tract to hand out… designed to persuade nonbelievers against gambling with their eternal souls, but could also be used to help a believing gambler kick the gambling habit.”

Take a gamble and purchase some today from I know next time I play Texas Hold’em I will be doing more than winning!

Posted in Humour, Jesus Junk & Christian Kitsch | Comments Off

Jesus Junk and Christian Kitsch, 3.1 – Special Edition: Talking Bible Dolls

31st August 2005

I just came accross a press release for Talking Bible Dolls.

Yes, that’s right, now you can buy a Talking Moses, Talking Jesus, or a Talking Esther doll!

When you push their felt hearts they recite different verses. Jesus knows a number of verses from the prophets, psalms, and gospels, while Moses recites the Ten Commandments. I couldn’t discover what Esther said, though I bet it wasn’t “let the ten sons of Haman be hanged on the gallows” (Esther 9:13).

I was a bit surprised, however, that despite the popularity of ancient Aramaic and Hebrew since the release of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, these dolls speak modern English. Another shocker is that the Talking Moses doll is not Jewish! He appears to be Protestant — at least that is what I would think from his recitation of the Ten Commandments (see my previous blog entry on the Ten Commandments here if you don’t know what I am referring to).

I can’t be too hard on these dolls, they are kind of cute. You can purchase them from

Now if only we could have a Talking Job’s Wife Doll that tells you to curse God and die!

Posted in Humour, Jesus Junk & Christian Kitsch | Comments Off

The Da Vinci Code Once Again

30th August 2005

The Scotsman has a pretty good article on the Da Vinci Code by Brian Hancock entitled, “Cracking the Code isn’t so hard to do.”

On a related note, one of the public lectures I am organizing this fall at Taylor University College is on the Da Vinci Code:

Responding to The Da Vinci Code:
Mary Magdalene in History and Canon

Dr. Jo-Ann Badley
Newman Theological College
Thursday 13 October 2005
Taylor University College

The Da Vinci Code has been on the best-seller list for months because it is a fascinating book. Brown bases his plot on the neglect of Mary Magdalene in the church. How much fact is there in the fascinating? Jo-Ann Badley will review Brown’s book as she explores Mary Magdalene’s role in scripture and the early church.

If you are in the Edmonton area consider yourself invited. If not, the lecture will be made available on my Public Lecture section of my website.

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Hebrew Bible Related Reviews from RBL (30 August 2005)

30th August 2005

There are a number of reviews in this week’s Review of Biblical Literature that will interest Hebrew Bible specialists. Note the two positive reviews of Campbell’s FOTL commentary on 2 Samuel (one in French), while Romer gives the Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible a mixed review. I should also note that Auld’s work on Amos is a reprint of his 1986 Guide. For those interested in translation issues, there is also a review of Poythress and Grudem’s theologically conservative opposition to the TNIV.

Special note should be made of Jodi Magness’ massive (and decisive) 15 page review of Hirschfeld’s Qumran in Context. She concludes: “Hirschfeld’s interpretation and other alternative interpretations of Qumran are contradicted by the physical connection between the scroll caves and the settlement and by the presence of numerous features that are unparalleled at other sites. These features… “—are physical expressions of this community’s halakah, which involved maintaining the highest possible level of ritual purity. This accounts for the absence of these features at other sites. Rarely does archaeology so clearly reflect a system of religious beliefs and practices.” I encourage you to read her full review.

  • Rainer Albertz, Geschichte und Theologie: Studien zur Exegese des Alten Testaments und zur Religionsgeschichte Israels. Review by Manfred Oeming
  • A. Graeme Auld, Amos (T and T Clark Study Guides; previously Sheffield Guides). Review by Nahum Roesel
  • Antony Campbell, 2 Samuel(Forms of the Old Testament Literature, 8). Reviews by A Graeme Auld and Jacques Vermeylen (in French)

There is also some relevant Second Temple and Rabbinic works reviewed, as well as some broader works related to biblical studies.

  • Yizhar Hirschfeld, Qumran in Context: Reassessing the Archaeological Evidence. Review by Jodi Magness
  • Johannes Tromp, The Life of Adam and Eve in Greek: A Critical Edition. Review by Devorah Dimant
  • Amram Tropper, Wisdom, Politics, and Historiography: Tractate Avot in the Context of the Graeco-Roman Near East. Review by Daryl Jefferies
  • Philip Davies, ed., Yours Faithfully: Virtual Letters from the Bible. Review by Alice Bach
  • James D. G. Dunn and John Rogerson, eds., Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Review by Thomas Romer
  • Vern S. Poythress and Wayne A. Grudem, The TNIV and the Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy. Review by Joseph Matos

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Geneva Bible up for Sale

28th August 2005

The Waynesboro Record has a story on a Geneva Bible that an anonymous donor has given to Trinity United Church of Christ in Waynesboro, PA. The only condition — that the church sell or otherwise dispose of the Bible before the end of this calendar year, with proceeds going to the general operating fund of the church.

One legend about the Geneva Bible is that it was the only Bible brought over on the Mayflower by the Puritans. This legend, however, is unlikely, especially considering John Alden’s KJV is on display at Pilgrim Hall in Plymouth, MS (ABD).

I think it would be great if someone buys the Bible and donates it to a museum or a religious college or seminary.

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28th August 2005

I came accross this headline on Google this morning:


I just want to say that I’m so honoured that a seminary has launched a class just on me! Hey, wait a minute, that’s what my students meant when they said they need a course to figure out what I was saying! Hmmm… not good.

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Spong’s Errors in the Name of God

28th August 2005

The Globe and Mail has published a review of John Shelby Spong’s latest book, The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible’s Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love (HarperSanFrancisco, 2005). The review, entitled “Errors in the Name of God,” is quite positive about the book (to say the least), though it should be noted that the review was by a “lapsed Catholic neo-Taoist sensualist” (huh?). I have note read the book, but from what I can glean from the review it looks like it will be just as controversial — and as misinformed — as Spong’s other works. Here are some excerpts from the review:

Error in the name of God


If John Shelby Spong knows fear, he never shows it. Foaming evangelical detractors depict him as a sly Mephistophelean backslider, alleging bad faith and wicked tricks — omission, distortion — but he holds firm. Spong, the bestselling author of Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism and an intellectually ferocious retired Episcopal bishop (of Newark, N.J.), celebrates expansion and diversity within the church, rejecting prejudice, murder and punitive stupidity in the name of God.

His latest book is simply spectacular. A scholarly expose of the Bible’s fatal ideological and factual errors, The Sins of Scripture not only challenges injustices excused by fundamentalists as the “mysterious” ways of God, but presents the blueprint for a far more accurate and honest Christianity.

“I believe now that these insights would have come to me even sooner had I not been what the Bible seems to regard as a privileged person,” he writes. “I do not refer to my social or economic status, which was modest to say the least, but to the fact that I was white, male, heterosexual and Christian. The Bible affirmed, or so I was taught, the value in each of these privileged designations.”

The philosophically primitive rigidity of dead white males aside, how is it possible for the Bible to be considered the “Word of God” when it consists of 66 books (more if you count the Apocrypha) written over the course of more than 1,000 years? Spong asks: “Can such a claim stand even the barest scrutiny?” At a loss as to how God can be saddled with the motivations of authors warped by the “tribal and sexist prejudices of that ancient time,” he is left no choice but to enter the ring swinging.

The errors in translation and interpretation revealed by Spong call for a complete restructuring of the Christian faith. Matthew, whom he accuses of manipulation by tearing stories from their Hebrew context, “bases his virgin birth story, for example, on Isaiah 7:14. Yet he translates that text to read that a virgin shall conceive (see Matt. 1:23) when the text in Isaiah not only does not use the word ‘virgin’ but says that a young woman is with child.” This pregnant “virgin” promptly became “the ideal woman against which all women were to be measured. . . . Since it is quite impossible in the normal course of events for a woman to be both a virgin and a mother, every other woman was immediately, by definition, assumed to be less than the ideal.”

With a trial lawyer’s acuity, Spong follows the evolution of the “virgin” myth throughout history. Mary first became a virgin mother in the ninth decade, when Matthew, and then Luke, promoted the grotesquely tabloid concept. Entering the creeds in the third and fourth centuries, it became the “chief bulwark in the battles that engaged the church in later centuries as that body sought to define the divinity of Jesus.”

In short, the Western Catholic tradition could not glorify a woman unless she had been both desexed and dehumanized — that is, debased.

Spong’s primary — and most devastating — charge is that Christian evangelists have made an idol of the Bible itself, worshipping the Word of God above God. “Religion has so often been the source of the cruellest evil,” he elaborates. “Its darkest and most brutal side becomes visible at the moment when the adherents of any religious system identify their understanding of God with God.” It’s an infinitely elegant distinction, and one with serious repercussions. “[W]hen one is ‘born again,’ one is newly a child. It represents a second return to a state of chronic dependency. Perhaps what we specifically need is not to be ‘born again,’ but to grow up and become mature adults.”

The Sins of Scripture should not only be read by all those who consider themselves Christians, but also by those whose lives have been deformed or lessened by the word of anti-Semites, homophobes and misogynists masquerading as mouthpieces of God.

From this review it appears that Spong is primarily taking potshots at texts and issues that are rather complex (e.g., the use of the LXX instead of the MT in Matthew’s virgin birth narrative). Since I haven’t read it, I should refrain from further comment. At the very least it would be good to see some serious reviews of this book, rather than the popular and very un-critical review that the Globe and Mail published.

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Palindromes, Ecclesiastes, and Weird Al

27th August 2005

As it turned out, Loren Rosson III at the busybody had posted some of his thoughts on Palindromes (the movie, not the trope) here and most recently here. In his original post Loren linked to Ebert’s collection of excerpts from other reviews. I found these to be quite reassuring — evidently I was not alone in my reactions to the film! (See my original post here).

I did a bit more searching and found that Peter Chattaway had also blogged on the movie here and here. Peter thought that the film was a bit tilted towards the pro-choice side of things, though I’m not so sure. I found this series of dialogue quite damming to the pro-choice side:

  • Mom: But really, be reasonable, the baby has got to go. What happens if it turns out deformed, if it’s missing a leg, or an arm, or a nose, or an eye? Or if it is brain-damaged or mentally retarded. Children of very young mothers often turn out that way… and then what? And ten you’re stuck, your life is ruined forever, you end up on food stamps alone.
  • Aviva: But it’s my baby!
  • Mom: But it’s not a baby, not yet, really, it’s just… it’s like it’s just a tumour.
  • Aviva: I’m keeping it.
  • Mom: No you’re not!
  • Aviva: Yes I am.
  • Mom: You have the baby you find another home!
  • Aviva: You can’t take my baby away from me!
  • Mom: It’s too late, I’ve already made the appointment.

This next conversation — really more of a monologue since Aviva doesn’t say anything but nonchalantly eats her sandwich– is even more chilling, IMHO:

  • Mom: When you were just a little girl, around three or four, I was pregnant. And at first I was all happy and excited. A new friend for you I thought, a little baby brother. I used to think I’d call him “Henry” after my grandfather Heinric who never cared about money. But then our father and I had a long talk and I begun to realize that there were other things to think about. Your father was out of work, my paintings weren’t selling (I was blocked), I started smoking again, there were bills, a mortgage, a lawsuit. If I’d had another child I wouldn’t have been able to give you all that I had. The time we spend together, just you and me, and the little things your father and I pick up for you. The N’Sync tickets, Gap account,… Ben and Jerry’s. We couldn’t have afforded it. It would have been too much of a strain and we all would have been miserable.

In the context of the movie you realize Aviva doesn’t have any choice (it’s her parent’s choice), and it’s the Christian family who does accept into their family the “deformed” and “brain damaged.” Of course, like I said, no one comes out unscathed. The Christian family is also played so over the top that it’s ridiculous (and the father is complicit in the killing of an abortionist).

Loren also suggests a connection with the book of Ecclesiastes. I think it would be quite interesting to flesh out this connection — especially considering that Norbert Lohfink argues that Qohelet borrowed heavily from Greek thought and structured his book as a palindrome! (See his Qoheleth: A Continental Commentary [Fortress, 2003; or]). The deterministic view expressed in the film fits well with Ecclesiastes, as does the frequent juxtaposition of opposing viewpoints with no easy resolution. Finally, Qohelet’s overarching assessment that everything is hebel — absurd, meaningless — conforms well with the film.

Take, for instance, this piece dialogue near the end of the film between Aviva and her cousin Mark Wiener, who has been accused (unjustly?) of child molestation:

  • Mark: People always end up the way they started out. No one ever changes. They think they do, but they don’t…. There’s no freewill. I mean I have no choice but to choose as I choose, to do as I do, to live as I live. Ultimately we’re all just robots programmed arbitrarily by nature’s genetic code.
  • Aviva: Isn’t there any hope?
  • Mark: For what? We hope or despair because of how we’ve been programmed. Genes and randomness — that’s all there is and none of it matters…
  • Aviva: What if you’re wrong? What if there’s a God?
  • Mark: Then that makes me feel better.

It sounds like Mark has been reading Ecclesiastes! Of course one of the keys to interpreting Ecclesiastes is to read right up until the end:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments for that is the whole duty of everyone. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil (Eccl 12:13-14).

For those interested in exploring the connection between Ecclesiastes and popular film, I encourage you to pick up Robert K. Johnston’s Useless Beauty: Ecclesiastes through the Lens of Contemporary Film (Baker, 2004; Buy from or

At any rate, as you can probably tell, this movie gives you much to think about, and for that reason alone it is worth watching — but be warned, even though this movie has no profanity or nudity, it is nonetheless not for the faint of heart or easily offended.

A little known palindrome fact: the comedy singer “Weird Al” Yankovic produced a song entirely of rhyming palindromes on his 2003 album Poodle Hat, called “Bob.”

Posted in Ecclesiastes, News | 1 Comment »

Disney Biblical Cartoons

26th August 2005

Peter Chataway at FilmChat has a post on Disney cartoons based on the Bible, as well as news about upcoming DVD relseases that include some of these cartoons.

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Palindromes and Abortion

26th August 2005

Last night my film distributor/critic friend and I watched Todd Solondz‘s film Palindromes (2004). This film provides a biting social commentary on the abortion debate in the U.S. One of the blurbs on the DVD case describes the film as “corrosively funny.” It definitely is corrosive and at times it’s funny; my primary thought while watching the film was one of surprise — surprise at the shots Solondz took at both sides of the abortion debate (among other things). This film is not subtle, many scenes hit you like a two-by-four.

This film tells the story of a young woman named Aviva (note the palindrome), who grows up in a middle-class Jewish home with nice liberal parents (played well by Ellen Barkin and Richard Masur). Aviva wants nothing from life but a baby — a boyfriend or husband is not necessary. This desire leads her to her first sexual experience as a thirteen-year-old. She gets pregnant but then has an abortion at the behest of her parents (she has a hysterectomy due to complications with the abortion, though she is never told that she can’t have children). Aviva then runs away, still determined to get pregnant one way or another. Instead, she has a surreal journey from the suburbs of New Jersey, through Ohio to the plains of Kansas and back. To let you know what happens on her journey would reveal too much of the plot — suffice it to say that things come full circle (again a palindrome) though you are not sure if anything has really changed.

The film is clever (e.g., the palindrome structure, as well as the fact that Aviva’s character is played by a number of different actresses), philosophical, and will force you to reflect on your view about abortion. It may offend some on both sides of the debate, though as piece of social criticism it is worth viewing (it was released in the US without a rating, while the Canadian Home Video Rating is 14A). The film had a very limited screening, but the DVD will be released this fall.

Resources: Official website | TH!NKFilm (Canadian distributor) | Wellspring Media (U.S. distributor) | IMDb

Posted in Faith & Film, Film | 2 Comments »