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Archive for October, 2006

King David’s Spa Treatment

10th October 2006

Just imagine King David, after a hard day cutting off Philistine foreskins, heads down his private tunnel to his spa for the full treatment: a nice aromatherapy massage, sauna, and steam bath. What better way is there for a king of a small chiefdom to recharge & rejuvenate?

Well, that’s scenario that came to mind when I read the title of Ofer Petersburg’s ynet news article: “Has King David’s spa been uncovered?” The subtitle is perhaps a bit more revealing: “Jerusalem digs reveal a tunnel possibly leading to the king’s pool” (italics mine). The “possibly” is the key here; basically they found a tunnel. They don’t know where it heads, nor do they know when to date it. Talk about spin in journalism!

Chris Heard trashes comments on this piece as well. (HT

Posted in Archaeology, City of David, King David, News | Comments Off

SBL Forum: Teaching, Text Criticism, and Texts

9th October 2006

The latest SBL Forum is online and has a number of interesting articles. Stephen Carlson (of hypotyposeis fame) has a preview of his coming SBL presentation on “Archaic Mark” (MS 2427), while Stefan C. Reif introduces some newly discovered Genizah texts. Another announcement in this month’s forum is that the online journal TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism is now an official SBL publication.

What especially caught my eye in this month’s forum was an article by fellow Canadian and friend Tim McLay. Tim wrote a piece entitled “The Goal of Teaching Biblical and Religious Studies in the Context of an Undergraduate Education.” In this article Tim first deals with the goal of an undergraduate education, which he argues is first and foremost “to learn to think critically and to articulate one’s ideas better in oral and written form.” His second and related claim is that “the content of teaching is irrelevant.” While I have a knee-jerk reaction to Tim’s second claim, in the context of his article I can appreciate his point — especially when you think of it in light of his rhetorical question: “How often are we concerned to finish our lecture rather than entertain a question?” While I am not terribly content driven (witness the fact that I used to have a hard time getting out of the Pentateuch in my OT Literature class!), I do feel that a certain amount of content is necessary for the introductory courses. Nevertheless, Tim’s point is well taken as a reminder to be flexible in the classroom.

Perhaps my more substantial objection is to his first point. Isn’t a liberal arts education more than just critical thinking? Don’t get me wrong — the development of critical thinking skills is a crucial component of a liberal arts education — I just think that a liberal arts education should be so much more. What do you think?

Posted in SBL, SBL Forum, Teaching & Learning | 1 Comment »

Thanksgiving Psalms for Thanksgiving

8th October 2006

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Yes, up here in Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day this weekend (technically tomorrow). So I have already had some turkey with my in-laws and tomorrow we go to my brother’s house.

I’ve been teaching a Psalms class this semester and just this last week we were looking at Thanksgiving Psalms. Thanksgiving psalms are closely related to hymns (some scholars such as Westermann don’t make a big distinction between thanksgiving psalms and hymns). The difference is one of focus: while hymns offer more generic praise to God, thanksgiving psalms focus on praising God for deliverance from a particular distress. Significantly, the Hebrew word for “give thanks” (תודה) cannot be limited to the meaning of the English word “to thank.” The word has the wider connotation of “acknowledge,â€? “confess,â€? and “proclaim.â€? It is often used in parallel with verbs meaning “praiseâ€? (e.g., תהלה in Pss 100:4; 69:30[31]), or “recountâ€? (ספר in Ps 26:7). It is also the term used for a “thank offeringâ€? in Pss 50:14, 23; 56:12[13]; and 107:27. There is not a single instance in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible where the phrase “to thank” is used between people. Instead, the verb “to blessâ€? (ברך) is used (e.g., Deut 24:13; 2 Sam 14:22; Job 31:20; Neh 11:2).

It is more than likely that the community songs of thanksgiving were used in the major festivals at the temple. The individual songs of thanksgiving, on the other hand, were composed for recitation at the temple as an expression of a person’s praise to God for deliverance from a concrete distress, such as illness. Since the word usually translated “thanksgiving” is the same word used for “thank offering” (e.g., Pss 50:14, 23; Jonah 2:9), it seems clear that these psalms were intended to be used in a cultic setting. On such an occasion the individual, in the presence of the worshiping congregation, testified personally to God’s saving deeds to the accompaniment of a ritual act (e.g., Jer 33:11). Or the psalmist would go with family and friends to the temple (or some smaller gathering, if you follow the likes of Gerstenberger) where the individual would give thanks to God. Then he would invite those gathered to listen to his story about how God had answered his prayer. Sometimes the psalmist would also give some advice on the basis of his experience and then they would all share the meat from the sacrifice.

This scenario (called “Sitz im Leben” by scholars such as myself) can teach us something about being thankful. What I find particularly significant is the communal nature of thanksgiving. It wasn’t something that was kept private. In contrast, it was shared with friends and family. So this Thanksgiving weekend as you gather with family and friends, give thanks together. And if you are not celebrating Thanksgiving Day this weekend, I hope that you too will find something to be thankful for in your life.

Psalm 30

A Psalm. A Song at the dedication of the temple. Of David. 1 I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up,
and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
3 O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.
4 Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment;
his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
6 As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.�
7 By your favor, O Lord,
you had established me as a strong mountain;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.
8 To you, O Lord, I cried,
and to the Lord I made supplication:
9 “What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the Pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me!
O Lord, be my helper!�
11 You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

Posted in Holidays, Psalms, Thanksgiving | 3 Comments »

New U2 “Best Of” Album Coming

5th October 2006

According to, U2 will be releasing a “Best Of” album this November 21st. Proceeds from the album will go to Music Rising, a campaign created by U2 guitarist the Edge that aims to raise money to replace musical instruments lost in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The album will include 16 of U2′s favourites as well as two new songs — one track recorded with Green Day’s Billy Joe.

Posted in News, Popular Culture, U2 | 5 Comments »

The Return of the Gods to Western Culture

3rd October 2006

passionate_intellect_sm.jpgLast week Taylor University College hosted Dr. Jens Zimmermann from Trinity Western University as our speaker for our annual Faith & Culture Conference. The theme of this year’s conference was “Incarnational Humanism and the Christian University.” Most of the lectures touched on some aspect of what it means to be a student at a Christian university — many of his thoughts on this subject may be found in his just-published book (with Norman Klassen), The Passionate Intellect: Incarnational Humanism and the Future of University Education (Baker Academic, 2006; Buy from | Buy from I would highly recommend this book for students and professors — and not only those at Christian liberal arts universities.

The Thursday night public lecture was on the topic of religion and culture after secularism. In his lecture, entitled “Return of the gods? Faith and Intellectual Culture after Secularism,” Dr. Zimmermann tried to map out some of the concerns about culture currently shared by Christian and non-Christian thinkers and was a parade example of how Christians should think about culture.

In a nutshell, his lecture explored the demise of secularism and the resurgence of spirituality in Western culture. This resurgence is not uniform, nor is it in many cases associated with institutional religion. Rather, it is diverse and frequently appears under the label “spiritualityâ€? in a — sometimes deliberate — attempt to distinguish them from traditional, institutionalized religions. The question that Dr. Zimmerman raised is “What are we to make of this cultural development? More specifically he tackled the basic question of what the supposed exhaustion of secularism and the seemingly related return of religion into the public sphere, even into the very ivory towers of academia, actually means. In the first part of his presentation he described several causes for the demise of secularism and the resurgence of religion. He then tried to formulate a response from a religious, i.e., a broadly Christian perspective; this response is more a reflection on what is at stake in this current cultural development than it is a solution to the tensions we currently experience.

If this summary has piqued your interest, you may download and listen to the lecture for free. Just check out the Taylor Public Lecture Series on Religion & Culture web page here.

Posted in Popular Culture, Public Lectures and Events, Teaching & Learning | 1 Comment »

Biblical Studies Carnival X is online at Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean

1st October 2006

I am happy to announce that Biblical Studies Carnival X is online at Phil Harland‘s Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean. Phil has done a great job summarizing posts related to academic biblical studies (as well as some other stuff) — his ability to write up such an engaging Carnival surely must be a sign of his nerdiness.

Biblical Studies Carnival XI will be hosted by Michael Pahl over at The Stuff of Earth in the first week of November 2006. Look for a call for submissions on his blog sometime in the middle of the month.

As you are reading posts around the blogosphere this month, make sure to nominate appropriate posts for the next Carnival. You can submit/nominate posts via the submission form at or you may email them to biblical_studies_carnival AT hotmail DOT com.

For more information, consult the Biblical Studies Carnival Homepage.

Posted in Biblical Studies Carnival | Comments Off