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Archive for June, 2006

New Book: The Dead Sea Scrolls: What Have We Learned?

7th June 2006

DSS_WhatLearned.jpgI am quite excited about this new book on the Dead Sea Scrolls:

The Dead Sea Scrolls: What Have We Learned?, Eileen M. Schuller (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2006; Buy from | Buy from

Dr. Eileen Schuller is Professor of Religious Studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. She is a long-time member and former President of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies and one of the leaders in translating, editing, and publishing the Dead Sea Scrolls. She has published a number of excellent works and was an associate editor of The Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Oxford University Press, 2000; Buy from | Buy from Most importantly, Schuller is a careful, balanced, scholar.

The blurb from the publisher has this to say about the work:

Beginning with the question, What have we learned from the Dead Sea Scrolls after 50 years of study, this book does not intend to present brand new discoveries, but rather presents a discovery made 50 years ago that everyone has heard at least something about already, and so takes the reader through the past 50 years decade by decade, highlighting key evenets and accomplishments in scrolls scholarship. The core chapters concentrate on a specific area where the scrolls have made a distinctive contribution in how we think about key questions in the development of early Judaism and early Christianity. In each chapter a few specific passages are discussed, so that the reader can become familiar with the actual text of the scrolls themselves.

The only thing I don’t get about the blurb is that it talks about the discovery made 50 years ago; the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947 — doesn’t that make it almost 60 years ago?

Here is the table of contents for the book:

  1. Fifty Years Plus: A Survey Decade-by-Decade
  2. What Have We Learned About Scripture?
  3. What Have We Learned About Prayer and Worship?
  4. What Have We Learned About Women?
  5. Looking to the Future

This would be an excellent companion to one of the standard introductions to the Dead Sea Scrolls (See my “Annotated Guide to the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls” for more resources).

Oh, yeah, did I happen to mention that Eileen Schuller was my examiner for my doctoral comprehensive on the Dead Sea Scrolls and is on my dissertation committee?

Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, Reviews & Notices | Comments Off

Dilettantes, Interpretation, and Scholarship

6th June 2006

There has been an interesting blog discussion surrounding the qualifications of an interpreter of the Bible. Jim West started the ball rolling with his post in response to this “news” story about “bible scholars” predicting a nuclear attack. Jim’s basic point is that nutballs shouldn’t be allowed to interpret the biblical text. I don’t really disagree with Jim on this point, though you can’t really prevent anyone from reading the Bible. And someone who is a careful reader can get the point of much of the Bible — even without formal theological education or a degree.

Then Peter over at Adverseria posted on “Dilettantes and the Bible” and takes to task those who interpret outside the community of faith. Once again, I get the gist of his point and I agree with it to a certain degree, though he picks on “most scholars” as “dilettantes” since they interpret outside the community of faith. Here I disagree on a number of points. First, and perhaps I am being picky, but no biblical scholar — even those who never darken the doors of a church — would qualify as a “dilettante” (here I am assuming a biblical scholar is someone who has serious academic qualifications and devotes his or her time to studying the Bible). According to, a dilettante is “an amateur or dabbler; especially, one who follows an art or a branch of knowledge sporadically, superficially.” That one may not be a member of a community of faith does not qualify one as a dilettante, IMHO. Second, I would daresay that “most” biblical scholars are part of a community of faith; perhaps they are not part of your community or perhaps they are using a method of interpretation that is not directly relevant to your community of faith, but that doesn’t mean they do not belong. Third, I am not sure that Christian history would support Peter’s claim that the church is the best context for interpretation. Finally, I totally disagree with him when he asserts that “we [=those faithful interpreters] should not even enter into debate with them [= scholars outside the community of faith] on questions of interpretation.” This sort of exclusivism does no good. We should humbly listen to all interpreters and sift the good from the bad.

Jim West picked up the ball again with his “Further Observations on Dilettantism and Biblical Interpretation” where he lists his qualifications for the “ideal” interpreter (college degree in reigion/Bible/theology, Jewish or Christian, and community of faith). I guess if we are talking “ideals” I can’t disagree too much, though what is totally lacking in Jim’s qualifications are some things that I would think are essential: humility, grace, perserverance, sensitivity, etc. I am also not convinced that formal training is necessary, though if we are talking “ideals” then I am willing to let it stand.

Finally, James Crossley over at Earliest Christian History put in his two cents with his post, “Who is best at biblical interpretation?” I tend to think James is spot-on in his comments. The Bible is a public document and everyone has the right to read and interpret it. In terms of who is the best interpreter, I would daresay no one is! We all have our faults, our blindspots, our weaknesses. We need each other — whether within or outside of the community of faith — to keep our interpretations honest and plausible. I’m not saying that all interpretations are valid or even that all are fruitful; only that all (OK, to be honest, “most”) interpretations are worth considering.

Anyhow, I didn’t mean to ramble on…

UPDATE: Chris Heard has some excellent thoughts at Higgaion on this debate.

Posted in Bible, Criticism, Hermeneutics | 8 Comments »

CSBS 2006 – Curses and Curse Stories in Antiquity

6th June 2006

CSBSLogo.gifMonday morning (29 May 2006) at the CSBS there was a special session entitled “Curses and Curse Stories in Antiquity / Les Malédictions dans l’Antiquité Ancienne.” This special two-year session is headed up by Tony Chartrand-Burke, who teaches Biblical Studies at the Atkinson School of Arts and Letters at York University in Toronto, Ontario. I had the priviledge of getting to know Tony at this year’s CSBS — I actually shared a suite with him and a couple other guys (including Phil Harland, of Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean blog fame). Tony is a great guy and he has done an excellent job with this project. You can view the project website, including an annotated bibliography, here.

Tony Chartrand-Burke started the morning with a methodological probe, “Studying Curses and Curse Stories: Some Musings on Methodology.â€? This introduction to the special session included a summary of the results of an annotated bibliography currently in progress and some discussion on such issues as the forms, functions, and reception of curses and curse stories in antiquity. Tony is a master communicator and wasn’t even phased by the fire alarm going off in the middle of his introduction (I’m not sure the fire marshal would approve of Tony blocking the exits and yelling, “Stop or I will curse you” to all who dared to approach! :-) ). elisha_comic.jpg

One of the highlights of the morning for me (being such a simpleton) was the South-Park-esque comic Tony showed about Elisha calling down a curse on a group of children and a couple bears killing a bunch of them (to view the comic, see here; to read the biblical account, go to 2Kings 2:23-25. Please note that I do not endorse the site on which the comic is found — nor do I endorse the comic, I just thought that it was kind of funny in a twisted sort of way).

The second paper of the morning was “Joshua’s Curse on Jericho: Fulfillment and Partial Reversalâ€? by Daniel Miller (Bishop’s University). Miller began with an excellent discussion of magic and incantations in the ANE, which led into a discussion of the “syntax” of incantations and incantatory curses. He then briefly explored Joshua’s incantatory curse on anybody who would rebuild Jericho in Josh 6:26. This curse is fulfilled in 1 Kgs 16:34, when one Hiel of Bethel rebuilds the city “at the cost of Abiram his firstbornâ€? and “of his youngest son Segub.â€? In a related story in 2 Kgs 2:20-21, the “man of Godâ€? Elisha purifies the Jericho spring (presumably poisoned by Joshua’s curse) with a magical ritual that includes an incantation. Taken together, these three passages constitute a discontinuous “curse storyâ€? of the Deuteronomistic historian (containing not one but two incantations). I thought Miller’s paper was very well done, though one question that it raised in my mind is how can one distinguish incantations with prayers.

Then Christine Mitchell (St. Andrew’s College), who is always entertaining, delivered a paper mysteriously entitled, “Writing / Elijah / Cursing: 2 Chronicles 21:11-20.″ She focused on 2 Chr 21:11-20, where the Chronicler relates the story of Elijah cursing — via a letter — King Jehoram with illness. This curse story is also the only story of Elijah in Chronicles and the only written curse found in the book. Mitchell argued that the figure of Elijah should be read as a type of the implied author “the Chronicler,â€? and the cursing letter and its fulfillment as a parable for the text and reception of Chronicles. Interesting, though I am not sure I bought it!

The next paper, “Curses and Ideology among the Qumran Covenanters� was delivered by Sarianna Metso, religion professor at the University of Toronto. She focused on four texts (1QS 2; 1QM 13; 4QCurses; and 1QBer) and illustrated how they do not just imitate the biblical text, but give expression to specific ideological emphases of the Qumran community, such as their dualistic worldview. A motivational shift from law to wisdom can be detected: whereas curses in the Hebrew Bible have their ideological basis in the conduct-consequence relationship of covenantal discourse, curses in the Essene writings often function as an expression of the dualistic worldview of the Qumran covenanters, stating the (predestined) fate of an individual not belonging in the lot of the sons of light.

Unfortunately, I had to leave before the final paper of the morning, “Divine Violence and Righteous Angerâ€? by Kimberly Stratton (Carleton University). Here is the abstract to her paper: “This paper explores the role violence plays in curses and eschatological imaginings, where violence is anticipated for another group. How does calling down divine/demonic violence/vengeance upon an “otherâ€? serve to alleviate a sense of injustice or suffering? What is the history and relationship between curses and fantasies of eschatological judgment? How was this violence regarded in its ancient context?”

On the whole, I quite enjoyed the session. Kudos to Tony for a well-organized and run session.

Posted in Academic Associations, CSBS | 1 Comment »

Another New LXX Book: The Legend of the Septuagint

6th June 2006

Legend_Septuagint.jpgThere is a new book on the Septuagint that focuses on the legends surrounding its origins (the Letter of Aristeas), as well as its reception history:

The Legend of the Septuagint: From Classical Antiquity to Today, Abraham Wasserstein and David J. Wasserstein (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006; Buy from | Buy from

Here is the blurb from the Cambridge site:

The Septuagint is the most influential of the Greek versions of the Torah. The exact circumstances of its creation are uncertain, but different versions of a legend about the translation have existed since antiquity. Begun with the Letter of Aristeas, the legend describes how Ptolemy Philadelphus (285 247 BCE) commissioned 72 Jewish scribes to translate the sacred Hebrew scriptures for his library in Alexandria. The Letter and subsequent variations on the story recount how the scribes, working independently, produced word-for-word, identical Greek versions. The story has been adapted and changed for many reasons: to tell a story, to explain historical events, and – most frequently – to lend authority to the Greek text for the institutions that used it. This book offers the first account of all of these versions over the last two millennia, providing a history of the uses and abuses of the legend in various cultures around the Mediterranean.

Here is the table of contents for the volume. As you can see, it covers an impressive amount of material.

  1. The Letter of Aristeas
  2. The Hellenistic Jewish tradition
  3. The Rabbis and the Greek Bible
  4. The Ptolemaic changes
  5. The church fathers and the translation of the Septuagint
  6. Among the Christians in the Orient
  7. The Muslims and the Septuagint
  8. Yosippon and the story of the seventy
  9. Karaites, Samaritans and Rabbanite Jews in the Middle Ages
  10. The Septuagint in the Renaissance and the modern world

It looks quite interesting; I just may have to order it. (via the b-greek list).

Posted in Reviews & Notices, Septuagint | Comments Off

The Significance of June 6, 2006 (6, 6, 06)

6th June 2006

The publicity office of a B-grade Hollywood remake of a mediocre film, The Omen, is hyping the fact that today is the sixth day of the sixth month in the year two thousand and six (= 666). And that is all it is: hype. As Ed Cook points out over at Ralph the Sacred River, today’s date is not significant — at least not because of any satanic connections (Contrary to Ed, I tend to think that the real number is 616).

At any rate, the significance of today is not any silly satanic movie-tie-in. Rather, June 6 is significant as it is the anniversary of D-Day. Enough said.

Posted in Holidays, News | 1 Comment »

Nooooo…… Roloson’s Out of the Playoffs

5th June 2006

I can’t believe it. I am in shock. Not only did the Oilers lose after having a commanding 3-0 lead tonight (I was envisioning a grand blog post with neat graphics and everything!), they lost their starting goaltender, Dwayne Roloson. And the winning goal… augh! I sure hope Ty Conklin can suck it up and mentally get over the stupid thing he did behind the net tonight, since he will likely be the starting goalie for the rest of the series.

All is not lost… really… the Oilers can still win. Really… :-(

Posted in Hockey, News | 2 Comments »

Take the Old Testament Challenge

5th June 2006

If this Pastor doesn’t make you want to read the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, then I don’t know what will!

Take the Old Testament Challenge today!


Posted in Humour, Old Testament | 1 Comment »

CSBS 2006 – The Presidential Address by Dr. William Morrow

5th June 2006

CSBSLogo.gifLate Sunday afternoon (28 May 2006), William Morrow gave his address as outgoing President of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies. Morrow is Associate Professor of Hebrew Scriptures at Queen’s University in Kindston, Ontario. He is author of Scribing the Center: Organization and Redaction in Deuteronomy 14:1 17:13 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 1995; Buy from | Buy from

wsmorrow.jpgMorrow’s address was entitled, “Violence and Transcendence in the Development of Biblical Religion.” He began by noting the disappearance of individual lament/complaint prayer in the Second Temple period. The laments you do find in the Second Temple period differ from the earlier individual complaint psalms in that they tend to be in a narrative context, they neglect individual suffering, combine individual and communal elements, and have a unique status. According to Morrow, instead of individual lament psalms where the psalmist complains to God (and sees God as the problem in many cases), in the Second Temple period you see the development of prayers against demonic attack. The therapeutic impulse expressed in the earlier laments now shifts to incantations and psalm-like texts that have as their goal to expel demonic attack.

What I found the most interesting about Morrow’s address is his theory as to why these shifts took place. Morrow drew upon Karl Jaspers’s notion of an “Axial Age.� According to Jaspers, around 800 BCE to 200 BCE there was a major paradigm shift in the ancient world that saw significant conceptual changes. The primary conceptual change for the Israelites, according to Morrow, was in their conception of God: instead of an imminent deity who hears and responds to individual complaint prayers (and even assumes the deity has obligations to respond), you have a shift to a more transcendent deity. This compromised any felt intimacy with God and emphasized the need for intermediaries between God and the created world. Like the politics of empire (where the King rules from afar), God is no longer directly accessible to the psalmist.

In my mind this notion of an axial age makes much sense of the biblical material and the developments you see in the Second Temple period. At any rate, I quite enjoyed Morrow’s paper and I am looking forward to when it will be published. In addition, Morrow is just proofing the galley copies of a new book he has written on this notion of violence and transcendence where he develops this notion with far more detail. The new book will hopefully be out in time for SBL. I will make sure to post on it when it does.

Posted in Academic Associations, CSBS | Comments Off

The Real Old Testament?!

2nd June 2006

In my web waderings, I came across a film called The Real Old Testament produced and directed by Curtis and Paul Hannum. From the trailer available on the website, this film looks like a somewhat/very irreverant (so be warned) — yet funny — retelling of select stories from the book of Genesis in a way that reminds me of the sitcom The Office (it is based on the style of MTV’s “Real World” series, which I haven’t seen). It was only shown at a few film festivals, has no rating from what I can tell, but has an IMDb entry. Cool.

Posted in Bible & Film, Film, Humour | Comments Off

New Septuagint Volume

2nd June 2006

Septuagint_Research.jpgWhen I was in Toronto for CSBS, I went to the annual Pietersma picnic and caught up with the likes of Claude Cox, Tony Michael, Cameron Boyd-Taylor, Paul McLean, Wade White, and, of course, Al Pietersma. We talked briefly about a recent volume on the Septuagint in which Pietersma, Boyd-Taylor, and White contributed:

Septuagint Research: Issues And Challenges in the Study of the Greek Jewish Scriptures, Wolfgang Kraus and R. Glenn Wooden, eds. (Septuagint and Cognate Studies Series 53; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2006; Buy from | Buy from

Here is the table of contents for the volume. As you can see, it covers a fair range of topics.


  • “Concerning the LXX as Translation and/or Interpretation Contemporary ‘Septuagint’ Research: Issues and Challenges in the Study of the Greek Jewish Scriptures” by Wolfgang Kraus and R. Glenn Wooden
  • “In a Mirror, Dimly- Reading the Septuagint as a Document of Its Times” by Cameron Boyd-Taylor
  • “Exegesis in the Septuagint: Possibilities and Limits (The Psalter as a Case in Point)” by Albert Pietersma
  • “Translation as Scripture: The Septuagint in Aristeas and Philo” by Benjamin G. Wright III
  • “Contemporary Translations of the Septuagint: Problems and Perspectives ” by Wolfgang Kraus

Issues Concerning Individual LXX Books

  • “The Hermeneutics of Translation in the Septuagint of Genesis” by Robert J. V. Hiebert
  • “Reconstructing the OG of Joshua” by Kristin de Troyer
  • “Interlinearity in 2 Esdras: A Test Case” by R. Glenn Wooden
  • “A Devil in the Making: Isomorphism and Exegesis in OG Job 1:8b” by Wade Albert White
  • “The Jewish and the Christian Greek Versions of Amos” by Aaron Schart
  • LXX/OG Zechariah 1-6 and the Portrayal of Joshua Centuries after the Restoration of the Temple” by Patricia Ahearne-Kroll

Comprehensive Issues and Problems Concerning Several LXX Books

  • “Messianism in the Septuagint” by Heinz-Josef Fabry
  • “Idol Worship in Bel and the Dragon and Other Jewish Literature from the Second Temple Period” by Claudia Bergmann
  • “From ‘Old Greek’ to the Recensions: Who and What Caused the Change of the Hebrew Reference Text of the Septuagint?” by Siegfried Kreuzer
  • “Towards a Theology of the Septuagint” by Martin Roesel

Reception History of the LXX in Early Judaism and Christianity

  • “The Letters of Paul as Witnesses to and for the Septuagint Text” by Florian Wilk
  • “Flourishing Bones — The Minor Prophets in the New Testament” by Helmut Utzschneider
  • “Abandonment and Suffering” by Stephen Ahearne-Kroll
  • “The Septuagint Textual Tradition in 1 Peter” by Karen H. Jobes
  • “The Epistle to the Hebrews and the Septuagint” by Martin Karrer
  • “Observations on the Wirkungsgeschichte of the Septuagint Psalms in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity” by Ralph Brucker
  • “Textual Variants as a Result of Enculturation: The Banishment of the Demon in Tobit” by Beate Ego

UPDATE: I just noticed the Evangelical Text Criticism blog has a notice of this work as well (without the table of contents, but with a blurb).

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