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Archive for July, 2007

Does Jesus Make You Laugh?

29th July 2007

This video is worth watching.

It appears that there is a documentary (mockumentary?) in production that takes on Christian excesses in the USA. Looks like a no-brainer!

(HT John McLaughlin)

Posted in Humour, Jesus Junk & Christian Kitsch, Popular Culture | 4 Comments »

On Vacation…

24th July 2007

You may have guessed it by my lack of blogging, but I will be taking a bit of a break for some holidays in the mountains.

While I am away, feel free to check out some of the “Best of Codex” or browse the archives.


Posted in Personal | 2 Comments »

Sex and Language?

17th July 2007

For the connection between Biblical Hebrew and Greek and the joy of sex, see here.

I can’t say my experiences learning biblical languages were anywhere near as bad (I do recall being very intimidated when I sat down the first day of Ugaritic class and the professor handed me a text and said “read”!)

While the rant post is quite funny, it does raise the question of how to teach biblical languages in such a way that your students don’t “off” themselves (or at least don’t write a blog post about the horrible experience some years later).

(HT Ancient Hebrew Poetry)

Posted in Greek, Hebrew, Teaching & Learning | Comments Off

Biblical Studies Carnival Update and Reminder

17th July 2007

I wanted to thank everyone who volunteered to host a future Biblical Studies Carnival. I now have hosts scheduled into the new year. Here is a list of upcoming hosts:

As you can see from the list, I put myself in to do a “Best of 2007″ post in the new year (I quite liked writing that up last January).  Also, Claude Mariottini will be hosting the next Biblical Studies Carnival at his eponymous blog in the first week of August 2007.  I encourage you to submit a post today! This can be one of your own posts or you can nominate a post written by someone else — don’t forget that the post needs to fit into the general category of academic biblical studies and cognate areas and needs to have been written sometime in June 2007.

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 | 2 Comments »

Raising the Language Bar for Seminary Studies

16th July 2007

John Hobbins, in a couple of posts over at the ever-insightful Ancient Hebrew Poetry blog, has rightly lamented the state of language training in North American seminaries. The sad reality is that even those seminarians who take biblical languages end up not using them — obviously with some exceptions — and if you don’t use it, you loose it. There are probably many different reasons for this state of affairs. Most seminaries appear to have lower academic standards than in the past and minimal language training. There is also a fear of language learning among seminarians. I don’t know how many times I have heard students worrying about taking Greek or Hebrew. Perhaps the biggest problem is that many consider it irrelevant — and if you look at what is considered acceptable preaching in many churches today then a psychology degree is probably more relevant than any language training! (A friend’s dad commented the other day about a local pastor that “he a good preacher, but he doesn’t know his Bible”!?!).

And while I agree with John about the need for more language training, I would add that seminaries need to train women and men to not only exegete the Bible, but also to exegete our culture and think theologically about both.

It appears that this problem isn’t just limited to Christianity. In a more recent post, John has this excellent quote from Ismar Schorsch (then President of Jewish Theological Seminary of America) that highlights that the lack of intellectual rigour in North American religious life:

Faith once moved us to study our heritage deeply, while truth asked of us that we do it critically, in light of all that we know. Willful ignorance was never an acceptable recourse. The interaction set us apart as the vital center of modern Judaism.

Schorsch’s full speech may be found here.

Posted in Teaching & Learning | 5 Comments »

On a Simpsons Kick

11th July 2007

tylersimpsonsavatarbhs.jpgSo, as you may guess from my last post, I’ve been on a Simpsons kick the last little bit. I’ve been eating Frosted KrustyO’s for breakfast the last couple days. The other night I enjoyed a cold can of Buzz cola. Even though I’m not a huge fan of comic books, I enjoyed reading the “special original issue” of Radioactive Man.

I even made my own Simpsons avatar of myself — I think it turned out OK, though the options just couldn’t capture all of my unique features! (AKMA’s avatar turned out a bit closer to home, I think).

On July 27 I will probably be at the cinema viewing The Simpsons Movie. As with any movie that is hyped too much, I such hope I am not left saying D’oh!

UPDATE: One of my soon to be former students made some changes to my avatar… I imagine many of my students would like the adjusted one better. What do you think?


Posted in Popular Culture, The Simpsons | 4 Comments »

The Simpsons and Religion

9th July 2007

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last twenty years, you are familiar with television’s favourite animated family, “The Simpsons.” The satirical parody of middle class America family life follows the lives of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie Simpson — and lampoons pretty much everything you may hold dear in the process.

simpsonsmovie.jpgThe show had its start as a regular feature on Fox’s “The Tracey Ullman Showin 1987. When the show was cancelled, “The Simpsons” was developed into its own series, airing its first episode on December 17, 1989. Since then the series has completed eighteen seasons and will commence its nineteenth (and last) season in the fall.

But the big news about the world’s favourite yellow family is that they are hitting the big screen in a couple weeks. That’s right, The Simpsons Movie (David Silverman; IMDb) opens in Canada on 27 July 2007 — and I’ll be there with my Homer slippers on.

simpsons_bible_stories.jpgWhile in its first few seasons the show raised the ire of a number of conservative Christians who saw the Simpsons’s family as bad role models (among other things), many (including myself) recognize that “The Simpsons” is actually one of the most religious shows on television. Religion and spirituality are frequently satirized in the show, whether it’s Reverend Lovejoy’s deathly boring sermons (many episodes), Homer’s personally created do-it-yourself religion of Homerism (“Homer the Heretic,” 9F01), Lisa’s rejection of commodified Christianity and turn to Buddhism (“She of Little Faith,” DABF02), or the hilarious retelling of favourite OT stories in “Simpsons Bible Stories” (AABF14) and the Simpson-style nativity story in “Simpsons Christmas Stories” (HABF01). While other religions are spoofed, cultural Christianity — whether Catholic, Mainline, or Evangelical — receive the most attention. On the one hand Ned Flanders and family are an over-the-top caricature of conservative evangelical Christianity, but on the other hand they are the most moral characters in the show. Ned is a nerd, yes; but he is a nerd with moral integrity.

“The Simpsons” has received a fare amount of attention from cultural critics and other academics. In terms of its long-standing portrayal and parody of institutional religion and popular culture, I can’t think of any television show that comes close to its incisive critique (although some come close). Besides the many “official” publications related to the series, there are also a number of analyses of “The Simpsons” available. Here are some of my favourites:

  • John Alberti, editor, Leaving Springfield: The Simpsons and the Possibility of Oppositional Culture (Contemporary Film and Television Series; Wayne State University Press, 2003; Buy from or This is an interesting examination of how “The Simpsons” is both a corporate-manufactured show as well as a parody of very consumer capitalism that makes it wildly successful.
  • Alan Brown with Chris Logan, editors, The Psychology of The Simpsons: D’oh! (Psychology of Popular Culture series; Benbella Books, 2006; Buy from or I have not had a chance to examine this book in depth, though many of the chapters appear to deal with topics that touch on religion.
  • Jonathan Gray, Watching With The Simpsons: Television, Parody, And Intertextuality (Routledge, 2006; Buy from or I haven’t had a chance to peruse this volume yet, though the focus on intertextuality piques my interest.
  • Matt Groening, Bart Simpson’s Guide to Life: A Wee Handbook for the Perplexed (Harper, 1993; Buy from or This is a fun little book that epitomizes Bart’s twisted worldview.
  • William Irwin, Mark T. Conard, and Aeon J. Skoble, editors, The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D’oh! of Homer (Popular Culture and Philosophy 2; Open Court, 2001; Buy from or While this work does not examine the religious life of the Simpsons, many of its chapters deal with religious and ethical matters. The chapter on allusion is a great discussion of the intertextual nature of the show.
  • Steven Keslowitz, The Simpsons And Society: An Analysis Of Our Favorite Family And Its Influence In Contemporary Society (Hats Off Books, 2003; Buy from or and Steven Keslowitz, The World According to The Simpsons (Sourcebooks, 2006; Buy from or I was a bit disappointed with Keslowitz’s first book (The Simpsons and Society) — far too superficial — though from all indications his second work appears to be more promising (although it appears it may just be an expanded edition of his first work… I don’t have access to my copy of The Simpsons and Society right now, so I can’t confirm).
  • Mark I. Pinsky, The Gospel According to the Simpsons, Bigger and Possibly Even Better! Edition (Westminster John Knox, 2007; Buy from or This is an entertaining look at faith in The Simpsons by religion journalist Mark Pinsky. While his theological reflection and cultural analysis are at times superficial, this is still a valuable examination of faith and spirituality in the series.
  • Chris Turner, Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Defined a Generation (Random House, 2004; Da Capo Press, New edition, 2005; Buy from or This is perhaps my favourite book about The Simpsons. It is comprehensive in its cultural analysis, including a section on religion and faith.

Well, I have written enough… time to go to Kwik-E-Mart for a squishee and play a game of chess with my The Simpsons chess set. (I only wish I lived in Coquitlam, BC so I could go to a real Kwik-E-Mart! D’oh!)

Posted in Popular Culture, The Simpsons | 3 Comments »

Nominations Open: Most Fruitful Examples of Biblical Interpretation

6th July 2007

Inspired by Ben Meyer’s “Worst theological invention” and “worst liturgical invention” posts, I thought I would open nominations for the “Most Fruitful Examples of Biblical Interpretation.” By this I mean particular examples of interpretation/exegesis that illuminate a biblical passage in a significant way. More specifically, I am looking for examples of particular critical methodologies applied to specific texts, whether the texts are classic difficult texts or texts that are (too) familiar.

Perhaps some examples would help clarify what I am looking for.

  • Mary Douglas’s Anthropological Approach to Purity in Leviticus. In contrast to the traditional interpretations that either see the purity laws in Leviticus as arbitrary, connected with pagan worship, or examples of ancient medicine, Douglas’s anthropological approach understands them as having to do with wholeness and normality and are based on the Priestley worldview.
  • Honour and Shame for Reading the Bible. While this one is admittedly broad, the value of social-scientific understandings of honour and shame for the ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean world are difficult to underestimate.
  • The Comparative Method for understanding the Plagues. Sarna’s (and others) view how the plagues against the Egyptians may be understood as polemics against Egyptian religion.

These are just some simple examples, not necessarily the best nor the most compelling.

What examples can you think of?

Posted in Bible, Criticism, Hermeneutics | 8 Comments »

Canucks and Creation

4th July 2007

A recent poll suggests that 60% of Canadians believe that God was somehow involved in creating humankind, whether directly or indirectly. According to the Canadian Press-Decima Research survey, Canadians fall into three groups:

  • 34% believe in some sort of evolutionary creationism (or theistic evolution) where humans developed over millions of years under a process superintended by God
  • 26% hold to a young earth creation view that God distinctly created humans within the last 10,000 years
  • 29% hold to an atheistic evolution in which evolution occurred with no help from God

The poll was conducted in the third week of June 2007.

Here is an excerpt from the Toronto Star article about the poll:

“These results reflect an essential Canadian tendency,� said pollster Bruce Anderson. “We are pretty secular, but pretty hesitant to embrace atheism.�

The belief that God had a direct or indirect role in creation was widespread among the 1,000 respondents questioned between June 21 and 24. A majority of those polled held this view in every region of the country, in rural and urban areas, and regardless of education.

And there were a few surprises: Conservatives were more likely than Liberals to say that God had no part in the process, and Alberta, regarded as the birthplace of social conservatism, had one of the lowest levels of beliefs for strict creationism at 22 per cent.

But in this controversial area, the devil is in the breakdown of the numbers.

For instance, while Liberal party voters were more likely than Conservatives to credit God with some contribution to creation, Conservative voters were less likely to write God out altogether. Only 22 per cent of Tory respondents said God had no role, as opposed to 31 per cent of Liberals.

Liberal respondents were far more likely to be what could be termed “soft evolutionists� or “soft creationists,� with 41 per cent saying God guided the process of human development, as opposed to 34 per cent of Conservatives seeing creation in those terms.

Regionally, Quebec respondents were by far the most likely to say God’s role in creation was a delusion, with 40 per cent saying the evolutionary process had no interference from an intelligent designer.

British Columbia respondents were the next sub-group who could be termed strict evolutionists, with 31 per cent saying God was not involved. Least likely to hold this view were respondents in the Prairie provinces — 21 per cent.

The findings suggest the least educated were most likely to be creationists, as were respondents living in rural Canada.

Among respondents without a high-school diploma, 37 per cent said they believed God alone created humans less than 10,000 years ago, whereas only 15 per cent of university-educated respondents were strict creationists.

Rural respondents also had a plurality who believed in strict creationism at 34 per cent, whereas only 22 per cent of urban dwellers said they believed God alone created humans.

Anderson said the findings suggest Canadians lack consensus on creation, but also don’t view the issue as polarizing.

“It’s more as though for many, these feelings are unresolved,� he said. “We believe in a higher being, we know what we don’t know, are comfortable not knowing, and choose not to press our views upon one another.�

That is not the case in the United States, where similar polls have suggested Americans are more polarized on the subject. In a recent U.S. poll, 45 per cent said God created humans, and 40 per cent said evolution was God guided. Only 15 per cent said God played no part in creation.

These results accord well with the informal polls I conduct when I teach my Genesis course as well as with my own general impression based on anecdotal evidence.

What do you think?

Posted in Canadiana, Creation, Genesis, News | 3 Comments »

Canada Day Special: Top Ten Canadian Biblical Scholars

1st July 2007

Happy Canada Day!

For unaware readers, Canada Day is the celebration of the anniversary of the formation of the union of the British North America provinces in a federation under the name of “Canada” on July 1st. This year marks Canada’s 140th birthday. Happy birthday to us!

In honour of Canada Day, I thought I would list the top ten Canadian Biblical Scholars. To qualify for the list, the scholars must be Canadian citizens who spent a significant amount of their academic career in Canada. Beyond this basic requirement, these individuals were/are leading scholars in their disciplines as demonstrated by their teaching, research, and writing, as well as their contribution to the field of biblical studies in Canada. As you can see from the names below, this list is more historical in nature.

So, for what it is worth, here’s my list (in alphabetical order):

  • Francis (Frank) W. Beare. Beare was professor of New Testament at Trinity College, Toronto, and author of a number of books in New Testament studies, and contributed to the Interpreter’s Bible and the Interpreters’ Dictionary of the Bible. He served as president of CSBS in 1941-42 as well as the SBL in 1969. The CSBS has an annual prize named for Dr. Beare for an outstanding book in the areas of Christian Origins, Post-Biblical Judaism and/or Graeco-Roman Religions.
  • G. B. Caird. Beginning his career as Professor of NT at McGill (he finished it at Oxford), Caird was known for his many studies of the gospel of Luke and the book of Revelation as well as his monograph The Language and Imagery of the Bible. He served as president of the CSBS in 1957-58.
  • Peter C. Craigie. A specialist in Hebrew Bible as well as Ugaritic, Craigie was Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Calgary, where he later became Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Associate Vice-President (Academic), and, in 1985, Vice-President (Academic) just before his untimely death from injuries sustained in an automobile accident in 1985. His publications included commentaries on Deuteronomy, Ezekiel, and the Minor Prophets, as well as a popular book on War in the Hebrew Bible. Craigie was also committed to bridge the gap between academia and the church. His term as president of the CSBS was cut short by his death. The CSBS holds a bi-yearly lecture in Craigie’s honour.
  • R.A.F. MacKenzie. Professor of Old Testament at Regis College in Toronto for 14 years, MacKenzie distinguished himself as one of the leading English-speaking Catholic scholars in Canada. Author of many book and articles in biblical studies, I personally found his work on biblical case law quite fascinating.
  • J. F. McCurdy. The “father” of biblical studies in Canada, McCurdy headed up the Department of Orientals at University College, Toronto.
  • Theophile Jame Meek. Professor at University College, Toronto, and author of many books and articles, including his influential Hebrew Origins. Probably best known as the translator of the Mesopotamian law codes in J.B. Pritchard’s ANET.
  • R. B. Y. Scott. Scott was a prolific scholar, an editor and contributor to the Interpreter’s Bible, a contributor to the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, and author of two commentaries (Proverbs and Ecclesiastes) in the Anchor Bible series, among numerous other articles and books. His teaching career began in Vancouver, but spent the bulk of his academic career at McGill and Princeton. He was a founding member of the CSBS, its first secretary-treasurer, and served as president of the CSBS in 1971-71. He also was president of the SBL in 1960. The CSBS has an annual prize named for Dr. Scott for an outstanding book in the area of Hebrew Bible or the ancient Near East.
  • John William Wevers. A preeminent Septuagint scholar, Wevers also wrote in the area of Hebrew Bible. He spent his academic career at the Department of Near Eastern Studies at the University of Toronto. His work on the LXX Pentateuch in the Göttingen Septuagint series as well as his accompanying Notes on… series will serve generations of students and scholars alike.
  • Ronald J. Williams. Professor at the University of Toronto, Prof. Williams authored many books, including the still valuable Hebrew Syntax: An Outline. He was president of the CSBS in 1952-53.
  • _____________. Who would you complete the list with?

As you can see, I left the final slot open… who would you think deserves mention in this list? Also, can you think of any female scholars who deserve mention on this list?

If I was going to make a list of the senior Canadian biblical scholars who are still contributing to the field then the list would be quite different — and a bit more difficult since there are many world class Canadian scholars in biblical studies today. I imagine such a list would include the likes of Robert Culley, Paul Dion, Gordon Fee, David Jobling, John Kloppenborg, Al Pietersma, E.J. Revell, Eileen Schuller, John Van Seters, Bruce Waltke, among others.

Any other nominations?

Posted in Canada Day, Canadiana, Holidays, Scholars | 17 Comments »