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Archive for June, 2006

Last Chance to Submit for Biblical Studies Carnival VII

30th June 2006

The next Biblical Studies Carnival will be hosted sometime in the next few days by Chip Hardy at Daily Hebrew.

If you have written a good post in the area of academic biblical studies or if you have read such a post on someone else’s blog in the month of June, then submit it to the Carnival! To make this Carnival thingy work, we all need to be submitting at least one article each month — so get to it!

Submissions for blog entries posted in the month of June should be emailed to biblical_studies_carnival AT hotmail DOT com, or entered via the submission form at

For more information on the Carnival, consult the Biblical Studies Carnival Homepage.

Posted in Biblical Studies Carnival | Comments Off

Big Thanks to Jim West

30th June 2006

Ency_DSS.jpgI am sitting on the couch in my family room browsing through my new two-volume Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Lawrence H. Schiffman and James C. VanderKam, eds.; Oxford, 2000; Buy from | Buy from compliments of Jim West (see here for how I won the set). From the condition the package was in when I picked it up today, it appears Canada Post was practicing their corner kicks with it! Thankfully, the volumes were not damaged.

This is an excellent reference work with over 450 original articles by 100 distinguished scholars from diverse traditions (and I was happy to see many Canadians in the contributor list). Looking through the list of contributors is a virtual who’s who of scrolls scholars, including blogger Jim Davila. It has entries from Aaron to Zoroastrianism and is the most comprehensive critical synthesis of current knowledge about the Dead Sea scrolls, and their historical, archaeological, linguistic and religious contexts. It has an awesome index as well as a provisional list of scrolls, among other things. Most of the articles are written in non-technical language and as such can be recommended to all readers. I recommend it to all — especially if Jim will send it to you! :-)

My only beef is the title; why is Oxford University Press publishing an “Encyclopedia” rather than an “Encyclopaedia“?

Thanks again, Jim!

Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls | 1 Comment »

Will the Real King David Stand Up!

29th June 2006

The most recent volume of the Catholic Biblical Quarterly has an interesting article by David Bosworth entitled, “Evaluating King David: Old Problems and Recent Scholarship” (CBQ 68 [2006] 191-210). Bosworth examines a number of recent academic biographies of the biblical figure of David and argues that these recent portrayals say more about the modern authors and their methods than the ancient monarch. The monographs that he engages are:

I think that Bosworth makes a number of valid points. Halpern and McKenzie both present a picture of David as a villain by reading between the lines of the text and favouring a propagandistic interpretation. With this approach David becomes a murderous usurper. Steussy’s approach is a bit more balanced, according to Bosworth. Unlike Halpern and McKenzie, she has no interest in uncovering the “real” David, but instead explores the portraits of David throughout the Scriptures — including the book of Psalms. The edited work by Desrousseaux and Vermeylen includes essays that — like Halpern and McKenzie — take a propagandistic reading, while Dietrich’s sophisticated reading is more akin to that of Steussy.

I personally find elements of a propagandistic reading plausible, but I appreciate Bosworth’s point that leaders are often accused of more crimes than they actually commit! Moreover, Bosworth points out the problems with equating apology with indictment and indictment with history — politics of any age are never so simple!

After evaluating modern critics, Bosworth investigates David among his ancient contemporaries. As it turns out, David’s biblical portrait, while similar to ANE royal account, is more complex. As Bosworth concludes, “the text is not as simple as ‘royal propaganda.’ It shows an awareness of the problems involved in evaluating great figures who succeed in establishing positive institutions at the expense of usurping prior institutions” (p. 209).

All in all, Bosworth’s article is worth taking a gander at — as are the books noted above. Of course, when all is said and done, perhaps the “Biblical David” is the only David we can ever recover.

Posted in 1Samuel, Criticism, Historiography, History of Ancient Israel, King David | Comments Off

Animals in Heaven?!

29th June 2006

Animals_in_heaven.jpgJimmy Kimmel Live had a funny segment tonight on whether or not animals will be in heaven. The segment featured my favourite television prophecy gurus, Dr. Jack and Rexella Van Impe. Those of you who are wondering if Lassie, Garfield, and other animals will be with you in heaven will be relieved to know that “Dr.” Van Impe believes that they will — they have even produced a video on the subject.

The proof text appealed to for the notion that animals will be with us in heaven is Isaiah 11:6-8. The question I have is what happens if you have had a whole bunch of pets during your life? I’m not sure if I want all of my cats and dogs back, let alone all of the rabbits I had (and I imagine that the rabbits I sold to the butcher would be a bit peeved with me! Talk about an ackward reunion!). Just think the size of fish tank people would need if they get all their fish back!

What about pets in hell? (Kimmel’s segment on “Animals in Hell” was even funnier!)

So what do you think?

Posted in Humour, Theology | 1 Comment »

Septuagint Institute Website

28th June 2006

The Septuagint Institute at Trinity Western University and ACTS Seminary has a new website. It has information about the Institute as well as announcements about upcoming events. Check it out.

Posted in Septuagint | Comments Off

The God Who Wasn’t There?

21st June 2006

GodNotThere.jpgThe other day I watched the straight to DVD documentary by Brian Flemming, The God Who Wasn’t There (Buy from | Buy from The promotional blurb promised that what Bowling for Columbine did to the gun culture and Super Size Me did to the fast food industry, this film will do to religion. This is what the official website says about the film:

In this provocative, critically acclaimed documentary, you will discover:

  • The early founders of Christianity seem wholly unaware of the idea of a human Jesus
  • The Jesus of the Gospels bears a striking resemblance to other ancient heroes and the figureheads of pagan savior cults
  • Contemporary Christians are largely ignorant of the origins of their religion
  • Fundamentalism is as strong today as it ever has been, with an alarming 44% of Americans believing Jesus will return to earth in their lifetimes
  • And God simply isn’t there

Dazzling motion graphics and a sweeping soundtrack propel this uncompromising and taboo-shattering documentary that Newsweek says “irreverently lays out the case that Jesus Christ never existed.”

While I am not going to bother to provide a thorough review, I figured I’d offer up a couple impressions. First, I was underwhelmed. My faith remained intact after viewing. In fact, I thought that I could do a better job raising questions about the Christian faith and the biblical accounts of Jesus contained in the gospels. It is clear that Brian Flemming was a very, very, very conservative Christian (I daresay a fundamentalist) who really seemed to react to his upbringing rather than seriously consider some of the historical problems scholars throughout the centuries have had with the biblical witness. Second, despite its facile and sometimes silly interpretation of the gospel accounts, the documentary was pretty well done. It looked professional and had its entertaining moments. I enjoyed the use of clips from Jesus films throughout, especially the characterization of Jesus Christ Superstar, The Last Temptation of Christ, and The Passion of the Christ as “the singing Jesus, the horny Jesus, and the bloody Jesus.”

If you see it at your local video store you may want to rent it, otherwise I wouldn’t bother with it.

Posted in Faith & Film, Film, Popular Culture | 1 Comment »

Big Sigh…

20th June 2006

Last night there was a collective sigh as the Oilers lost to the Hurricances. The score I predicted (3-1) was right — but for the wrong team. Well, it was very disappointing, though Oilers fans can be proud of their team for making it so far. And the Hurricanes played well and perhaps it will be good for hockey to have a market like Carolina win… I guess.

Well, I guess I should do something today… sigh…

Posted in Hockey, News, Personal | 2 Comments »

Stanley Cup Game Seven – Go Oilers Go!

19th June 2006

Game seven of the Stanley Cup playoffs starts in half an hour. For the record, I predict an Edmonton 3-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. The momentum is certainly with the Oilers after the last two wins, and even though Carolina has the home rink advantage tonight, I believe the Oilers will be hoisting Lord Stanley by 9:00pm tonight!

If you’re not an Edmontonian, it is probably hard to appreciate the loyalty and support the fans have in Edmonton for the Oilers (though I imagine it parallels the fan loyalty that surrounds the FIFA World Cup).

I grew up during the first Edmonton hockey dynasty and its great to be watching these games with my kids. Right now we are watching the pre-game show — all decked out with Oiler tattoos, shirts, and flags, of course!

Go Oilers Go!

Posted in Hockey, Personal, Sports | 2 Comments »

Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible – An Introduction (TCHB 1)

19th June 2006

I fancy myself a wee bit of a textual critic, though through my studies with the likes of Bruce Waltke, E.J. Revel, Stan Walters, Al Pietersma, among others, I perhaps more than anything else recognize the hard work and commitment necessary to do textual criticism properly. Knowing something about how to do textual criticism is one thing, having the mastery in the requisite languages as well as a thorough understanding of the textual witnesses, including their predilections and tendencies, is a daunting task. That being said, I figured I would do a few posts on the textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible, including some discussion of method and manuscripts, some examples, and available resources to aid the student in doing some text criticism. These posts will be based on my research, some of my class lectures as well as an article I wrote with Bruce Waltke a number of years back.

Defining Textual Criticism

This first post will highlight the need for textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible. But before I get to that, I should perhaps define “textual criticism.” Textual criticism is the name given to the critical study of ancient manuscripts and versions of texts, usually for the purpose of restoring the original text (or the best/most reliable reading of a text), or as we will discuss later on, restoring the original edition of the ancient text. (I should note that some critics are not very optimistic about being able to restore the “original” texts or editions and are happy to just study the different manuscripts to see how texts changed over time and reflect their socio-linguistic contexts). Its technique involves an investigation of the textual witnesses to the Hebrew Bible, their histories, and evaluating variants in light of known scribal practices.

The Need for Textual Criticism

First and foremost, textual criticism is necessary because there are no error-free manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible. All the textual witnesses to the Hebrew Bible are the results of a long process of transmission. The text has been copied and re-copied by scribes of varying capabilities and ideologies through many centuries. No matter how good a scribe may have been, errors inevitably crept into his or her work. Even critical editions of the Hebrew Bible such as Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS), contain printing errors. While some of these errors reflect errors in the medieval manuscripts on which they are based, others were introduced with printing.

A second reason why textual criticism is necessary is the realization that the further back we go the greater the textual differences we will find between manuscripts. Variants in the medieval Hebrew manuscripts (dated ca. 1000 to 1500 CE) as collated by the likes of Kennicott and de Rossi are small in comparison to those found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), which are more than a millennium older. In fact, the further back we go in the textual lineage the greater the textual differences we find between manuscripts.

Finally, in addition to these inevitable accidental errors there are intentional “errors” found in the texts. Scribes occasionally changed the text for linguistic and exegetical reasons, and, rarely, for theological reasons. I will talk about these sorts of “errors” or intentional changes in a future post.

All this means that if we are at all concerned about establishing an “original text” or an “original edition” of a textual tradition or at least concerned about weeding through and identifying some of the more obvious errors in whatever text we want to use (e.g., the Leningrad Codex), then we will need to do some textual criticism (or rely on the textual criticism of others). We will need to identify and sort through the variants and make some decisions on which reading is better. Even if you have no theological or ideological reasons for wanting to identify the “original text,” it is pretty much a practical necessity if you are going to do any translation or exposition as you will have to decide what text you are translating or expounding.

Implications and Conclusions

The simple fact that there are no error-free manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible troubles some people — typically those from more conservative backgrounds who hold a very high view of Scripture. But there is no getting around this reality. We have no pristine, error-free, originals of the Hebrew Bible (or the NT for that matter). That being said, one should not over-emphasize the significance of the differences between the manuscripts we do have.

First, a quick count of the textual variants in BHS shows that on average for every ten words there is a textual note — and many of these can be discounted. That leaves about 90% of the text with no variants. Because of the nature of textual criticism, however, the focus is on the relatively few variants, not on the many uncontested readings, and so it is easy to lose our sense of proportion.

Second, most of the textual variants are relatively insignificant. Most text critical work is boring because the differences are inconsequential (Al Pietersma has a saying about text critical work that reflects the tedious nature of the enterprise: bean by bean). Many variants are easily identified and corrected. A slip in the transcriptional process is normally subject to human correction. In the same way we correct errors in reading any book or manuscript, we can correct biblical texts. Even the great variety of text types attested in the DSS underscore their genetic relationships. Shemaryahu Talmon notes:

The scope of variation within all these textual traditions is relatively restricted. Major divergences which intrinsically affect the sense are extremely rare. A collation of variants extant, based on the synoptic study of the material available, either by a comparison of parallel passages within one Version, or of the major Versions with each other, results in the conclusion that the ancient authors, compilers, tradents and scribes enjoyed what may be termed a controlled freedom of textual variation (“Textual Study of the Bible — A New Outlook,” Qumran and the History of the Biblical Text [Harvard University Press, 1975] 326).

For those Christians who may be troubled by the textual variety surrounding the Hebrew Bible, all I will say is don’t worry! The same kind of variants and plurality we find in the DSS today, were around during the time of Jesus and the apostles — and they did not hesitate to rely on the authority of Scripture. Their citations agree with the varying text types found we find in the DSS. The record of Stephen’s speech before the Sanhedrin in Acts 7 employs a pre-Samaritan text, while the NT often quotes from the Septuagint textual tradition.

While the textual reality of the Hebrew Bible is not a hindrance to maintaining a high view of Scripture, it may have some implications to how we understand and formulate our view of Scripture, but I will leave those discussions for a later time. (In this regard you may want to check out Chris Heard’s post “What’s Wrong with Inerrancy.“)

Posted in Old Testament, Series, Text Criticism, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible | 8 Comments »

Rugby, Hockey, and Father’s Day — What A Day!

18th June 2006

RugbyCanada.jpgI know that technically tomorrow is Father’s Day, but I had a great Saturday. This afternoon I went with my son to part of the Churchill Cup Rugby Finals. We watched the New Zealand MÄ?ori trounce Scotland 52-17 in an entertaining game to win the Churchill Cup. In the consolation final, Team Canada played an excellent game against the USA Eagles and beat them 33-18. I was impressed with the Canadian team; the forwards played a solid game and the backs broke through a number of times. It bodes well for Canada for the 2007 World Cup of Rugby.

Edmonton_Oilers1.gifThen my family and I went to a friend’s place to watch the Edmonton Oilers‘ game in HD on his projection TV. The game was amazing! The Oilers truly dominated the game and tied the series. I think that Carolina is thoroughly demoralized after loosing the last two game. Hopefully the Oilers will play the same way Monday as they did tonight and bring Lord Stanley back to Edmonton!

Go Oilers Go!

Posted in Hockey, Holidays, Rugby | 2 Comments »