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Archive for June, 2006

Biblical Studies Carnival VII Reminder

14th June 2006

This is just a friendly reminder that the next Biblical Studies Carnival will be hosted in the first week of July by Chip Hardy at Daily Hebrew. Chip will post a call for submissions on his blog soon. But you don’t have to wait until then! Start nominating blog entries right now!

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

Shiloh Nouvel Jolie Pitt: What’s in a Name?

13th June 2006

shiloh_JP.jpgI recognize by internet standards this is old news, but I have to ask what sort of name is “Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt“? Talk about a mouthful — they’re giving the name “Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz” a run for the money! (see Isaiah 8:1). Many newspapers reported that the first name of the new daughter of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie means “Messiah,” while others are a bit more nuanced and report that the name means “something like ‘his gift’ or ‘the peaceful one’ and refers to the Messiah.” While these different proposals each have some merit, when it comes right down to it, the etymology and meaning of the name Shiloh remain obscure.

The name Shiloh, written variously in Biblcial Hebrew as ש×?ִלֹה , ש×?ִילֹו, ש×?ִלֹו, is derived from a Hebrew name for a town in the hill country of Ephraim. There are many traditions surrounding the place called Shiloh. It was one of the main northern shrines in ancient Israel and was also associated with the Aaronite priesthood of Phinehas.

The name is masculine in form and — depending on the spelling — may be derived from the root verb shalah (ש×?לה) or shalev(ש×?לו), “have rest, be at ease.” The other two meanings that the newspapers suggest are tied to different interpretations of the use of the word in Genesis 49:10, which is considered by some to be one of the most difficult verses in the book of Genesis. Compare the following translations:

לֹ×?־יָסוּר ש×?ֵבֶט מִיהוּדָה וּמחֹקֵק מִבֵּין רַגְלָיו עַד כִּי־יָבֹ×? ש×?ִילֹה וְלֹו יִקְּהַת עַמִּי×?

The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be (KJV).

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and the obedience of the peoples is his (NRSV).

The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his (NIV).

The problem with the Masoretic Hebrew text of his verse (as represented by the KJV) is that it is not clear what precisely “when Shiloh comes” is referring to. If it refers to a time when a Judaean ruler controls Shiloh, this would have been under the Judaean Davidic monarchy, though Shiloh plays no significant role at that time or later. The other two translations are based on emendations of the text involving dividing the words differently. The alternative found in the NRSV, “until tribute comes to him,” redivides and repoints the consonants as: יֻבָ×? ש×?Ö·×™ לה , . This connects the word with the Hebrew shay (ש×?×™ ), “gift, tribute.” The third option takes the initial shin as a relative: ש×?Ö¶ לּה , “to whom it belongs” = until the owner of the scepter (i.e., the messiah) comes.

When it comes right down to it, depending on how you understand this passage, it may create some associations between the name Shiloh and a coming Messiah, or it may refer to a gift or somekind, or it may refer to the place Shiloh — but it is unlikely that it refers to all three. The meaning of the name is best taken as “the peaceful one” or the like and doesn’t necessarily have any messianic connotations.

So the moral of the story is, if you are a rich celebrity and want to give your child a foreign name, make sure to do your research! Of course, if they just picked the name because they liked the sound of it, then that’s their perrogative. If they picked the name because of its meaning, then they would likely be disappointed in realizing that it may not mean what they think.

Posted in Hebrew Names, News, Popular Culture | 6 Comments »

Forthcoming Hebrew Language Resources

10th June 2006

There are a number of resources for learning Biblical Hebrew about to be published. Whlie I have not had the chance to look at any of these works, the first two books certainly fill a need for students of intermediate Hebrew — especially if they want to work on their own.

Chisholm-IntHebrew.jpgA Workbook for Intermediate Hebrew
Robert B. Chisholm
Kregel, August 2006.

Buy from | Buy from

Designed to engage the Hebrew text and reinforce patterns and principles of Hebrew grammar and syntax, this resource expertly guides intermediate Hebrew students. Answers to all questions are provided, and both a useful parsing guide and glossary are also included.

Practioc-GradedReader.jpgGraded Reader of Biblical Hebrew: A Guide to Reading the Hebrew Bible
Miles V. Van Pelt, Gary D. Pratico
Zondervan, August 2006.

Buy from | Buy from

Designed for the student who has completed a year of elementary Hebrew, or the pastor or scholar whose language skills have diminished due to lack of use. A structured introduction to the reading of biblical Hebrew texts. Through these readings, you will be able to review basic Hebrew grammar, become familiar with issues of intermediate grammar, and gain confidence in handling the Hebrew text. The readings chosen for inclusion, which are arranged generally in order of increasing difficulty, span the whole of the Old Testament and represent some of the most important Old Testament texts from the standpoint of biblical history, theology, and exegesis. The many notes that accompany the text include information on grammar, exegetically significant constructions, vocabulary words, idioms, bibliographic information, and more. Parsing exercises are included with each reading, and there is room to write your own English translation.

Fuller-Hebrew.jpgInvitation to Biblical Hebrew: A Beginning Grammar
Russell T. Fuller and Kyoungwon Choi
Kregel, August 2006.

Buy from | Buy from

A tested approach to learning biblical Hebrew in an ideal package for the first-year Hebrew student. This clear, accurate, and pedagogically sound textbook emphasizes the basics: Hebrew phonology (sounds) and morphology (forms). This grammar does not use jargon or technical language, but uses terms easily understood and remembered so biblical Hebrew can be used with regularity and authority.

For more grammars and other language resources, see my Biblical Hebrew Resources page.

Posted in Hebrew, Reviews & Notices | Comments Off

Thanks, Jim West!

9th June 2006

Jim West held a contest of his own today, and guess what? I actually won something. I don’t win things very often, so I am pleased as punch! (OK, what does that mean, “pleased as punch”? How can a liquid be pleased?).

At any rate, I happened to be Jim’s 170,000th visitor at his site, and because of that I get a free book — to be more accurate, I get free “books.” Jim, who will now be known to me as “Jim the Generous” will be posting me the Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls edited by Lawrence H. Schiffman and James C. VanderKam (Oxford, 2000; Buy from | Buy from With 450 articles by an international team of scholars, this two volume work offers the most comprehensive critical synthesis of current knowledge about the Dead Sea Scrolls — and their historical, archaeological, linguistic, and religious contexts. Written in non-technical language this reference work provides authoritative answers and information for all readers. This is a pretty expensive set — at least up here in the Canadian hinterlands. All I can say is, “Sweet!”

Thanks, Jim!

Posted in Blog News, Dead Sea Scrolls, News, Personal | 7 Comments »

Go Up Baldy: The Curse of Baldness

9th June 2006

Claude Mariottini, in a post on the “Old Testament and Baldness” linked to an article from the Mail & Guardian by Nicholas Lezard on The Horror of Going Bald. As one who at forty years still has a thick, lush, head of hair, such articles don’t concern me. The article did make reference, however, to one of my favourite(?) disturbing(!) Bible stories: the story in 2Kings 2:23-25 where Elisha calls a curse down on some children who are taunting his baldness. Here is the quote from the news article:

Baldness is a curse that demands all the fortitude at one’s disposal. It is a curse not only because it looks as though something biblical has happened to your head — it is also the way it is seen as comical, both as a fact, and as an occasion for comical reaction. The Moabites, reckless high-livers who made too many incursions into Israeli territory in the Old Testament, were afflicted, according to Jeremiah, by baldness. At one point Elisha is mocked by children (“There came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald headâ€?). Later God sends a couple of she-bears from the woods and they tear 42 of the Moabites to pieces.

What I thought was odd, was the reference to the mauled children as “Moabites.” Now, perhaps I am wrong, but the context is pretty clear that the children were from Bethel, an Israelite town. While Bethel may have shifted in political ownership between the tribe of Benjamin and Ephraim, it was never Moabite. Here is the biblical passage in question:

23 He [Elisha] went up from there to Bethel; and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go away, baldhead! Go away, baldhead!� 24 When he turned around and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys. (NRSV)

So the 42 “small boys” mauled by the bears were fellow Israelites. The biggest question surrounding this passage is “what do we make of it?” There are a number of disturbing passages in the Hebrew Bible. Many of them are horrifying illustrations of human depravity (e.g., Judges 19), which don’t necessarily reflect poorly on the deity of the Bible. But in this passage, it is God who is the implied agent behind the bears’ actions. Elisha curses the young boys “in the name of Yahweh” and then the bears go about their business.

The problematic nature of this passage has led to much exegetical gymnastics by commentators trying to make this passage less morally offensive. Many suppose the boys taunted Elisha at the instigation of their parents and that the who event was to be a prophetic warning to the inhabitants of Bethel. Others suggest the “young boys” were teenage ruffians, though the Hebrew makes this unlikely (while נער “lad” “boy” by itself may suggest adolecents, it is qualified by קטן “small,” which suggest they were on the younger end of things). Still others suggest that by taunting him to lit. “go up” they are wishing for his death (or at least his departure from this earth, perhaps similar to Elijah’s). Most of the explanations focus on the idea that when the boys taunted the prophet of Yahweh, it was tantamount to taunting God himself, and that their mauling is somehow justified. Obviously the adage, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” doesn’t apply to prophets! (This to me is the real problem with this passage, no matter how bad these boys were, their judgement sure seems to me to be out of proportion).

Any moral justification aside, God using animals to bring about his judgement is found elsewhere in Kings (1 Kgs 13:20–24 and 20:35–36). This is also akin to other extreme judgements in connection with the violation of the sacred (e.g., the touching of the Ark of the Covenant in 2Sam 6). Perhaps there is something in the many explanations offered about this passage. While this may be the case, I tend to think this is just one of those passages that reveal the dark side of the God of the Bible and it is better to let stand, rather than offer poor explanations to make it more morally palatable.

What do you think?

P.S. The South-Park-esque comic about this passage I mentioned in a previous post may be found here (be warned; the comic is twisted).

Posted in 2Kings, Theodicy | 12 Comments »

Revised Septuaginta Soon to be Published

9th June 2006

Wieland Willker on the Text Criticism list has alerted us to a revised edition of Rahlfs Septuagina to be published later this summer by the German Bible Society. The revision was done by Robert Hanhart and includes over a thousand minor corrrections and supplements to Rahlfs’ edition.

Rahlfs-Hanhart_LXX.jpgHere is the information from the German Bible Society:

Septuaginta (Das Alte Testament Griechisch)
Edited by Alfred Rahlfs
Editio altera (= 2., durchgesehene und verbesserte Auflage),
Edited by Robert Hanhart
12 x 18.4 cm
LXXIV + 2127 pages
ISBN 3438051192
€ 46.00

In an article published by Robert Hanhart last year (“Rechenschaftsbericht zur editio altera der Handausgabe der Septuaginta von Alfred Rahlfs” Vetus Testamentum 55 [2005] 450-60), it was made clear that this would only be a minor revision that will leave Rahlfs’ base text substantially intact.

This new “Rahlfs-Hanhart” edition will be out in July 2006.

Posted in Reviews & Notices, Septuagint, Text Criticism | Comments Off

David Beckham’s Manly Tattoo

9th June 2006

With the 2006 FIFA World Cup starting today, I figured I should post something related to football (i.e., soccer for those of us in North America). Then I thought, why not profile the Hebrew tattoo on England’s celebrity skipper, David Beckham? I have posted on David Beckham’s Hebrew tattoo before, though I didn’t have a picture of it until recently (An individual from Germany who wanted some advice on a Hebrew tattoo sent it to me). As with many of the tattoos profiled in my previous post on incorrect Hebrew tattoos, David Beckham’s tattoo just doesn’t make sense. Here is a picture of the tattoo:


The words on the tattoo are taken from the Song of Songs 6:3 which reads as follows:

×?Ö²× Ö´×™ לְדֹּודִי וְדֹּודִי לִי הָרֹעֶה בַּש×?ֹּוש×?Ö·× Ö¼Ö´×™×?
“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine, he pastures his flock among the lilies” (Song 6:3)

While this is a very nice verse from the Song of Songs, it really isn’t appropriate for a man to have tattooed on his body! First, the word דֹּוד “beloved” in Biblical Hebrew is a term of endearment for a man, not a woman. It also can be used in the Bible to refer to your father’s brother (i.e., uncle), which is the primary meaning in modern Hebrew. It is not unisex like the English term “lover.” Second, the masculine reference is underscored with the last phrase of the tattoo: “he pastures his flock among the lilies.” The Qal participle “pasture” is masculine and clearly refers to a man. Some even argue that the image here is of a man kissing the tender part of his lover’s body. Thus, Beckham’s tattoo is totally inappropriate if he meant it to refer to his wife. And if he meant it to refer to his uncle, then it’s just sick! When it comes right down to it, this passage is really only appropriate for a woman to say to her male lover. It would have to be modified signifcantly to make it appropriate for a man to say to his female lover.

The moral of this story is, if you are a celebrity sports star with a lot of money and are thinking about getting a Hebrew tattoo, make sure you get it checked out by someone who knows what they are doing!

In fact, as a public service to all rich celebrities, I would be more than willing to advise them on their tattoos, or on anything related to the Hebrew Bible! That reminds me, do you want some more tutoring, Nicole?

Posted in Sports, Tattoos | 5 Comments »

CSBS 2006 – Special Lecture on the Gospel of Judas by Dr. Bart Ehrman

8th June 2006

CSBSLogo.gifMonday evening (29 May 2006) there was a special joint lecture sponsored in part by the CSBS by Bart Ehrman entitled “The Alternative Vision of the Gospel of Judas.�

Ehrman, the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is one scholar who has been able to bridge the gap between the academy and the public. He is the only biblical scholar I know who has appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in connection with his book, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (HarperSanFrancisco, 2005; Buy from | Buy from (click here to watch a video of his interview).

ehrman.jpgEhrman’s lecture focused on uncovering the significance of the “Gospel of Judas,” the recently uncovered second-century gnostic gospel that has been all the rage in recent months. In a nutshell, the significance of this gospel text, according to Ehrman, is not because it is somehow more authentic than the canonical gospels or because it somehow undermines the very foundations of Christianity. Rather, its real significance is because it is a serious document of real historical significance which gives us a glimpse into gnostic thinking in antiquity. According to Ehrman, the text’s closest ties are with various Sethian forms of Gnosticism, although it has clear alliances with other forms of early Christian thought (Valentinian, Thomasine, Marcionite). He even argued that there appears to be remnants of Jewish apocalyptic theology in the surviving text. He also noted how it has some unique characteristics compared to other gnostic texts, such as the sympathetic portrayal of Judas as the only disciple who really understood Jesus’ work and message (sounds like The Last Temptation of Christ). The lecture was well done, although considering his audience was mainly academics, he could have raised the level of the lecture a bit.

After the lecture I went to a local watering hole with Ehrman and a few others. It was great to meet Ehrman in person and have some more infomal time with him. Among other things, I was very pleased to learn that Ehrman is not a Carolina Hurricanes fan! (Of course, he’s not an Oilers fan either. In fact, he doesn’t get into hockey at all! What a loser :-) )

Here are some works on the Gospel of Judas, including some forthcoming ones by Ehrman and another by Tom Wright.

Here is a very select bibliography of some of Ehrman’s recent works:

Ehrman’s scholarship is typically of a high quality, though he does have an axe to grind with fundamentalist Christianity (growing up as one himself). He also tends to pander to the sensational, though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as he is able to maintain his academic integrity in the process. All of this slants his scholarship somewhat, but his works are worth reading — albeit with a critical eye.

Posted in Academic Associations, CSBS, gnostic, gospel of judas, gospels | 2 Comments »

Host Change for Biblical Studies Carnival VII

7th June 2006

There has been a host change for the next Biblical Studies Carnival. Joe Cathey figured that taking part in an archaeological dig is a good enough excuse to jam for the July Carnival. Actually the conflict didn’t register with Joe — I think we both put two and two together at the same time: Joe in Israel in hot sun on a dig, Joe scheduled to do July BSC VII, How is Joe going to do Carnival?

No worries, in order to accomodate Joe yet again (this time because his wife is going to have a baby in September — as if that is a good excuse :-) ), I have arranged a trade: Chip Hardy over at Daily Hebrew is going to do the July Carnival, and Joe is going to do the December one.

So, the next Biblical Studies Carnival will be hosted in the first week of July by Chip Hardy at Daily Hebrew. Chip will post a call for submissions on his blog sometime in the next couple weeks.

But you don’t have to wait until then! Start nominating blog entries right now! 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

The (Odd) Language of Sports

7th June 2006

I have always thought that the terms used in some sports just don’t make sense. Not that these semantic oddities have kept me awake at night or anything. I just don’t get how the lingo developed. Here are some examples:

  • The 2006 FIFA World Cup is almost upon us. Calling the game “football” makes eminent sense since the game is played by individuals kicking the ball with their foot: foot + ball = football. Why, then, in North America do we call it soccer when no one gets “socked”? (Perhaps we should call female boxing “soccer”? Get is? “sock – her” … haha). (For the history of football, including how the term “soccer” was coined, see here)
  • Why do we call Canadian and American football, football? Whlie kicking the ball is part of the game, it isn’t a big part of the game. I’m not sure of a better name, but I don’t see why we don’t change our name so that we can call soccer football like the rest of the planet. (I know that Canadian and American Football developed from rugby and football/soccer, but why someone change the name so that we wouldn’t get confused? And BTW, did you know that Canadian/American football was first developed in Canada?)
  • Sticking with Canadian and American football for a moment, why do we call a touchdown a touchdown when no one touches down the ball? Why not call a try in rugby a touchdown since it described exactly what happens when you score (for those of you who do not understand rugby, a points are scored when a player physically touches down the ball in the opponent’s end zone). Perhaps something like “run through” would be more appropriate for Canadian and American football?
  • Football (= soccer) players, basketball players, and babies all dribble — is there a connection? (Perhaps only during salary negotiations)
  • In regard to hockey (Of course, I should probably clarify that I am referring to “ice” hockey for my international readers!), why is it called hockey? See here for some conjecture as to the word’s etymology. Why is a puck called a puck? Why did Roloson get hurt? Can the Oilers win with their backup goalie? Will Lord Stanley return home to Edmonton? Sorry… I lost my train of thought!

Well, I should get back to some real work. Go Oilers Go!

Posted in Humour, Sports | 1 Comment »