Like clockwork, the latest Review of Biblical Literature has appeared and there are a few reviews of books in the area of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and cognate disciplines — though pickings are a bit sparse this week. I would recommend the work on John Allegro — he was truly an interesting character in the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the biography by his daughter is a facinating read. Magic mushrooms anyone?
Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
Carasik, Michael (ed. and trans.), The Commentators’ Bible: The JPS Miqra’OT Gedolot: Exodus. Reviewed by Adele Berlin
Kiuchi, Nobuyoshi, A Study of HÌ£Ä?tÌ£Ä?â€™ and HÌ£atÌ£tÌ£Ä?â€™t in Leviticus 4-5. Reviewed by Reinhard Achenbach
Matthews, Victor H. and James C. Moyer, The Old Testament: Text and Context. Reviewed by Phillip Camp
Labels don’t really matter that much, do they? A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet — or so they say. A little while ago there was a discussion on the biblical studies email list about different names for the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible/Tanak. This discussion highlighted the significance that each of the different monikers has as well as potential problems with pretty much all of the terms. When it comes right down to it, it does make a difference what label you do use since each of the names relate to a particular community of faith and audience. That being said, I don’t think there is anything wrong with employing the various labels at different times depending on your intended audience.
From the get go, it should be noted that all of the different terms are, in fact, external labels. The collection of books that make up the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible/Tanak do not have any self-referential label. The closest you get to a self-referential title are the references to parts of the canon by the terms such as “Torah,” the “Torah of Moses” (Ezra 3:2; 7:6; Neh 8:1), the “Torah of the LORD” (Ezra 7:10), or the “book/scroll of Moses” (2Chron 25:4; 35:12; Neh 13:1).
Once you get outside the books of the Hebrew Bible you find references to “the law of the Most High,” “the wisdom of all of the ancients,” and “prophecies” in Sirach 38:34-39:1. Similarly, in the Greek translation of Sirach (completed around 132 BCE), you find reference to the Law, Prophets, and the “other books” — the last phrase being a disputed reference to the third division of the Hebrew Bible. A similar (disputed) reference to the tripartite Hebrew canon are found in 4QMMT, while there are a few reference to a bipartite canon in other DSS such as the Community Rule (1QS) and the Damascus Document (CD).
Within the Christian New Testament the books of the OT are referred to variously as “the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 7:12; 22:40; Luke 16:16; Acts 13:15; Rom 3:21) or “Moses and the Prophets” (Luke 16:29, 31; 24:44) or the like. One of the most common ways the NT refers to the books of the OT is by the generic term “scripture” (Gk. Î³Ï?Î±Ï†á½´; usually in the plural, “scriptures”). So for instance, in 2 Timothy 3:16 the books of the OT are referred to as “Scripture” that is “God breathed” (Gk. Î¸ÎµÏŒÏ€Î½ÎµÏ…ÏƒÏ„Î¿Ï‚).
The point of this survey is to illustrate that there was no uniform way that Jewish or later Christian communities referred to the collection of books that make up the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible prior to the second century CE.
The traditional Christian label is the Old Testament. This label for the books otherwise known as the Hebrew Bible or Tanak (note that in some traditions it also includes additional apocryphal/deuterocaonical books) is probably the most common label used overall. Its first known usage appears near the end of the second century CE. Melito of Sardis reportedly went to Palestine and “learned accurately the books of the Old Testament/Covenant” (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 4.26.14). Irenaeus also employed the term, though it is only after him that you find undisputed uses the labels “Old Testament” and “New Testament” for the two collections of books in early Christian writings (e.g., Clement, Tertullian, Hippolytus, etc.).
Since this term arose within a Christian context, it isn’t surprising that it is tied to a Christian understanding of these books being only one part of the two part Christian Bible: The Old and New Testaments. Historically, however, there is some difference of opinion within Christian circles what books actually make up the “Old Testament.” The early history of the debate over certain books is quite complex. It ended up that the Protestant tradition limited the term to refer to the books of the Hebrew Bible, while other Christian traditions, e.g., Catholic and Orthodox, include the books commonly referred to as apocryphal or deuterocanonical.
One of the main objections for using this term in biblical scholarship is that it clearly presupposes a Christian understanding of the Bible, which not everyone in biblical studies (obviously) shares. But even within Christian circles, this label is considered misleading by some since it may be interpreted as unnecessarily devaluing one section of the Christian Bible by calling it “old” or by implying that the “new” testament supersedes the “old” testament (the different understandings of the relationships between the testaments is beyond the scope of this post). This dissatisfaction spawned the use of the terms First and Second Testament. These terms are an attempt to recognize the two parts of the Christian Bible without some of the negative baggage associated with “Old” and “New Testament.” I believe this term was coined by James Sanders and has been adopted by the Biblical Theology Bulliten and a growing number of Christian scholars. Even John Goldingay employs it throughout his recent book Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Gospel (IVP, 2003; he only uses the term after the first chapter).
The label Hebrew Bible originates within the Jewish community and is gaining ground in academic biblical studies. It is considered less ideologically loaded than OT, though it has its share of problems. Perhaps the most obvious problem is that it is imprecise, since some of the books are actually written in or contain Aramaic portions. It still conveys religious overtones by including the term “Bible,” while Christians may object because it obscures the connection between the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament. It also doesn’t take into consideration traditions that hold to the expanded Christian canon including the apocryphal books.
Another popular Jewish term for the Old Testament is the Tanak. This term is an acronym for the three major divisions of the Hebrew Bible: Torah, Nebe’im, and Ketubim — TaNaK (×ª×•×¨×” × ×‘×™×?×™×? ×•×›×ª×•×‘×™×? in Hebrew). This is perhaps one of the most common terms used within the Jewish community. Since the label is tied to the contents and order of the Jewish Hebrew Bible, it has the same, if not more, limitations as the term Hebrew Bible. Of course, this traditional Jewish division and ordering of the books appears to be quite old and even reflected in some of the NT passages noted above (also see Matt 23:35).
Other terms have been suggested, but none have really gained widespread usage. Perhaps the traditional labels, albeit problematic, are the best we have. As long as they are used with charity and understanding, I don’t see much of a problem. I have never been offended by any of my Jewish friends referring to the Old Testament as the Hebrew Bible or the Tanak, nor do I think they have been offended when I or other Christians refer to the Old Testament. I probably use the awkward “Old Testament/Hebrew Bible” the most, and reserve “Old Testament” when engaging specifically Christian theological topics and concerns. And I’m still not sure what I think of “First and Second Testament.”
There are some interesting books in the field of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament recently profiled in the Review of Biblical Literature. Some books and reviews that I took special note of include fellow Canadian Mark Boda’s review of Kalimi’s recent work on Chronicles as well as the two reviews of Miller’s Chieftains of the Highland Clans. While both reviews of Miller’s work highlight similar weaknesses and are both ultimately unconvinced of his thesis, they both underscore the wealth of archeological data contained in the study. Finally, I would be remiss not to note Joseph Cathey’s review of Kawashima’s work on biblical narrative.
This is a call for submissions and nominations for the second Biblical Studies Carnival, a monthly carnival showcasing the best of weblog posts in the area of academic biblical studies. I will be hosting the next Carnival here at Codex on February 1, 2006.
While I will be giving preference to blog posts published in the month of January 2006, since the last Biblical Studies Carnival was in April 2005 (hosted by Ebla Logs), I will allow posts since that time (consider these the best posts of 2005).
Please feel free to advertise this call for submissions as you see fit.
The Goal of the Carnival
The goal of the Biblical Studies Carnival is to showcase the best of weblog posts in the area of academic biblical studies. By “academic biblical studies” we mean:
Academic: Posts must represent an academic approach to the discipline of biblical studies rather than, for instance, a devotional approach. This does not mean that posts have to be written by an academic, PhD, or professor — amateurs are more than welcome! Nor does it mean that posts must take a historical critical approach — methodological variety is also encouraged.
Biblical Studies: Broadly focused on discipline of biblical studies and cognate disciplines, including Ancient Near East, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Christian Origins/New Testament, Intertestamental/Second Temple literature (e.g., LXX, Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, Josephus, etc.), Patristics, Biblical Criticisms and Hermeneutics, Biblical Studies and popular culture, among other things.
A blog “carnival” is a blog post where a host blogger links to and sums up the best blog articles in a given subject area in specific period of time. The host typically rotates among a number of different bloggers ensuring diversity and different perspectives in the subject area. Some carnival hots will group entries following different themes, while others go through the entries in order of submission (the former is preferred, though not required).
Contributors and Contributions
Biblical Studies as a discipline has a long and distinguished history. We hope that each carnival will represent something of this variegated history by showcasing a wide range of blogs and topics so that there will always be something for everyone.
As noted above, the Biblical Studies Carnival is not just for academics and specialists and entries certainly do not have to be hard-core scholarship (Hebrew and Greek are not required!). Posts should, however, take a credible academic approach to the subject matter and should not be partisan or polemical. The goal is inclusivity and credibility.
While there should be a fair degree of latitude in what is considered an appropriate post, entries should go beyond posts that consist only of web links or of quotes from other sources with little or no discussion or evaluation. Polemics and overly argumentative posts will not be accepted.
All submissions will be vetted by the host, whose decision is final.
Individuals may nominate multiple suggestions or may nominate their own writing. Please refrain from submitting more than one post by any individual author for each Carnival, with the exception of multipart posts on the same topic.
The posts should have been published recently, certainly within the previous month, and preferably since the date of the last Biblical Studies Carnival.
To submit a blog post for inclusion to the Biblical Studies Carnival you may do one of the following:
Send the following information to the following email address: biblical_studies_carnival AT hotmail.com. If youâ€™re not sure whether a post qualifies, send it anyway and the host will decide whether to include it.
The title and permalink URL of the blog post you wish to nominate and the authorâ€™s name or pseudonym.
A short (two or three sentence) summary of the blog post.
The title and URL of the blog on which it appears (please note if it is a group blog).
Include “Biblical Studies Carnival [number]” in the subject line of your email
Your own name and email address.
Use the submission form provided by Blog Carnival. (This is probably the easier option if you only have one nomination.) Just make sure “biblical studies carnival” is selected and fill in the rest of the information noted above.
Hosting the Carnival
If youâ€™re an established blogger who knows your way around the biblical studies related blogs (dare I say, “biblioblog”), you may volunteer to host a future Biblical Studies Carnival. Email the coordinator either at biblical_studies_carnival AT hotmail.com or at the email noted in the footer.
Please note that the Carnival coordinator has absolute discretion in approving, assigning and scheduling Carnival hosts. Hosting requires some work, but it also highlights your ow blog in the process. The goal is to rotate the Carnivals among a variety of different people.
The only additional requirement is to ensure that full contact details for the next host are included in your Carnival and to send the coordinator an email immediately after posting the Carnival so that this page can be kept up to date.
I have been fighting a bug or something this week — aches, no energy, and a developing cough. To top it all off, Friday when I left work to ride my mountain bike home I discovered someone had ripped it off! Talk about irritating! And I just had the front tire studded to give me more traction on the icy roads up here in Edmonton.
In addition, the Sin-O-Mints are also quite clever, as are the Forbidden Fruits sour apple flavour candies:
In the doll department, you can purchase plush dolls of many different thinkers such as Bach, Beethoven, Che Guevara, Darwin, Einstein, Freud, Galileo, Marx, Nietzsche, Shakespeare, and Socrates. On the religious side of things they have Buddha, Gandhi, and of course, Jesus — complete with a “WWID” bracelet:
One of the most “kitschy” items they have (which someone’s grandma may in fact want!) is the Last Supper Pillow with a wind-up music box that plays “Hey Jude” by the Beatles! I really think a more appropriate song would be something like Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus.”
They also have a variety of finger puppets and puppet sets, tee shirts, coffee mugs, among other things!
Check it out — and feel free to buy me whatever you think I may want! Seriously…
No, I don’t think the rapture has happened (and even if it did, I imagine Jim West would be down here with me!). No, maximalists haven’t kidnapped Jim (right, Joe?). What has happened is that Jim West has pulled the plug on his Biblical Theology Blog.
Do not dismay, however, Jim has started up a new blog connected to the church he pastors: First Baptist Church of Petros weblog. Here is what Jim says in regard to his decision to shut down Biblical Theology and start up the new blog (I quote his post pretty much in full):
… Readers of various weblogs will know that most recently I redacted the Biblical Theology blog. That blog, it seemed to me, had run its course and it was time for a re-evaluation of its purpose, and my own efforts in the use of this important web communication tool.
So today I laid the Biblical Theology weblog to rest. It’s time had come. Though enjoyable, and I believe useful to many, I thought it important to refocus. It has been my very strong feeling since my College days that people in the pew are in need of serious, disciplined, concise, and well researched biblical and theological information. Hence, with the new year comes a new direction in my own efforts in the blogosphere. The former blog focused on Biblical Theology for the academic community — and this blog will focus on biblical and theological studies for the Church itself — the community of faith.
I hope that those who valued the previous incarnation will also enjoy visiting here. Many things will remain the same. Many things will change. Stay tuned!
I am exceedingly hopeful that amidst the sea of biblical and theological mis-information presently online this page and the companion Biblical Studies Resources pages will be an island of what the author of Timothy had in mind when he described Pastor’s as those who “rightly divide the word of truth”.
Jim’s Biblical Theology blog was informative and insightful (and controversial at times!). I wish Jim all the best on his new blog and as you can see, I have updated my blogroll to reflect the change. I for one will be a regular reader of the First Baptist Church of Petros weblog. (Otherwise, how will I know about significant days in the life of Zwingli?)