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Archive for February, 2009

Reminder to Nominate Posts for March’s Biblical Studies Carnival

27th February 2009

This is just a friendly reminder to submit some of your favourite posts of the month of February to the next Biblical Studies Carnival that will be hosted by Darrell Pursiful over at Dr. Platypus.

In order to save Darrell considerable work, please nominate some posts today (and tomorrow, the next day, and the day after that…) It’s really easy. You have two options:

  1. Send the following information to the following email address: biblical_studies_carnival AT hotmail.com. If you’re not sure whether a post qualifies, send it anyway and the I will decide whether to include it.
    • The title and permalink URL of the blog post you wish to nominate and the author’s name or pseudonym.
    • A short (two or three sentence) summary of the blog post.
    • The title and URL of the blog on which it appears (please note if it is a group blog).
    • Include “Biblical Studies Carnival [number]” in the subject line of your email
    • Your own name and email address.
  2. Use the submission form provided by Blog Carnival. (This is probably the easier option if you only have one nomination.) Just select “biblical studies carnival” and fill in the rest of the information noted above.

For more information, please see the Biblical Studies Carnival Homepage.


Posted in Biblical Studies Carnival | Comments Off

New and Forthcoming Commentaries on Genesis

27th February 2009

I have been perusing a couple new commentaries on the book of Genesis and decided to update my commentary listing.  I am aware of four recently published commentaries on Genesis:

  • Bill T. Arnold. Genesis (New Cambridge Bible Commentary; Cambridge University Press, 2009). This is a popular series based on the NRSV aimed at pastors and laypeople, but useful for scholars and teachers as well. Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com
  • C. John Collins. Genesis 1-4. A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary (P&R Publishing, 2006). Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com
  • James McKeown, Genesis (The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary; Eerdmans, 2008). Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com
  • John H. Sailhamer. Genesis (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Revised Edition, vol. 1; Zondervan, 2008). Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com

These four recent commentaries all have different things to offer the careful reader. Arnold‘s volume is an excellent study of the book of Genesis that engages its ancient context (in the commentary proper and in “Closer Look” sections) as well as its modern significance (primarily through “Bridging the Horizons” sections).  This is the most academic of the four volumes, and also the most concise (he packs a lot of information in). McKeown‘s commentary is another excellent study of the book of Genesis which also tries to address both the “horizon” of the text and our modern “horizon” (that’s Gadamer speak for ancient and modern context). While Arnold embeds his discussion of theological relevance of a passage throughout the commentary, McKeown primarily offers his at the end of the commentary in an almost 200-page section on the theological message of Genesis and its theological significance for today.  The next two offerings are more conservative in nature, although while Sailhammer is fairly conservative, that has never hampered his creative and detailed engagement with the biblical text (see his Genesis Unbound: A Proactive New Look at the Creation Account Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). And he doesn’t disapoint with his treatment of Genesis. Perhaps the biggest weakness in Sailhammer’s commentary is due to the limitations of a multi-volume series. Collins‘s conservative commentary on the first four chapters of Genesis is good, though I found it somewhat predictable (to be honest I was a bit disappointed).

If I had to recommend only one of these recent releases, it would be a toss up between Arnold and McKeown, and I would probably end up recommending Arnold.

Here is a listing of other forthcoming commentaries on the book of Genesis:

  • David Baker. Apollos Old Testament Commentary (Apollos/InterVarsity Press). A semi-popular series based on the author’s own translation of the Hebrew text. This volume is several years down the road.
  • Erhard Blum. Historical Commentary on the Old Testament (Peeters). The title of this series is a bit misleading if you are expecting a history of interpretation. The series is more of a historical-critical commentary aimed at scholars and ministers.
  • Richard Clifford. Hermeneia (Fortress). This is one of the premier critical commentaries available in English (and it’s beautifully typeset). If Clifford’s volume on The Creation Accounts in the Ancient Near East and in the Bible (Catholic Biblical Association, 1994; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) is any indication, this should be a very good critical commentary. It is a few years from publication.
  • Blackwell Bible Commentaries (Blackwell). This series looks more at the reception history of the book under study. As such it is of primary interest to scholars and teachers. This one was assigned to Danna Fewell and Gary Phillips, but they have since dropped out and I don’t think the commentary has been reassigned yet (at least there is no indication on the Blackwell site)
  • Duane Garrett. Kregel Expository Commentary on the Old Testament (Kregel; note the title of the series is still tentative). This is a conservative evangelical series geared for pastors and laypeople. Garrett is author of Rethinking Genesis, The Sources and Authorship of the First Book of the Pentateuch (Baker Book, 1991; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com), which I reviewed a number of years back. The commentary is at least two years from completion.
  • Ronald S. Hendel. Anchor Bible (2 volumes, Doubleday). The new volumes in this series are excellent critical commentaries. The first volume on Genesis 1-11 was projected to be available in 2008 but it is behind schedule.
  • Theodore Hiebert. Abingdon Old Testament Commentary (Abingdon). A popular series aimed at pastors and laypeople.
  • Kathleen M. O’Connor. Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Smyth & Helwys). This is a unique series aimed at pastors and laypeople that includes insightful sidebars, fine art visuals, and a CD-Rom containing all the text and images of the volume in a searchable format.
  • Russell R. Reno. Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible (Brazos/Baker). A series designed to serve the church; appropriate for pastors, teachers, and laypeople. This volume was projected to be released in late 2008, but is behind schedule.

If anyone knows of other recently published Genesis commentaries or others in preparation, please let me know.


Posted in Bible, Commentary Survey, Genesis, Old Testament | 4 Comments »

My Oscar Picks

22nd February 2009

I won’t be able to watch the Oscars tonight (not that I usually do watch them) since I will be at a friend’s 50th birthday party, but I am interested to see who the winners will be. While the Academy Awards are very political, they do sometimes recognize the best films and the best actors. I haven’t seen all of the films nominated, but I have seen enough to have my own opinions. Without further ado, here is my list of who I think should win (not who will win).

Best Motion Picture of the Year

  • Slumdog Millionaire (2008; dir. Danny Boyle). This is my clear winner. While also enjoyed The Reader and thought the others were good, Slumdog Millionaire was by far the best in my books. I find that it is also quite thought provoking in regards to destiny both from Hindu perspectives on karma and Muslin ideas of determinism and freedom. “It is written.”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

  • Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler (2008). I am not sure Rourke will win, but I thought his portrayal was brilliant. I wouldn’t be surprised if Frank Langella wins for Frost/Nixon (2008).

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

  • Kate Winslet for The Reader (2008). Winslet inhabited the role and I really hope she wins, though Angelina Jolie was surprisingly good for Changeling (2008). That being said, Meryl Streep may win for Doubt (2008).

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight (2008). I thought Ledger did an amazing performance as the Joker and deserves to be recognized. I was surprised to see Robert Downey Jr. get nominated for Tropic Thunder (2008), primarily because comedies usually get short shrift at the Oscars. Downey’s portrayal was hilarious, however.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

  • I am not sure who should win this one, though Marisa Tomei did a great job in The Wrestler (2008).

Best Achievement in Directing

  • Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire (2008).  I think Boyle is a great director and it would  be great if he won his first Oscar for this amazing film.

Best Achievement in Cinematography

  • Anthony Dod Mantle for Slumdog Millionaire (2008). A beutiful film.

So those are my picks. What are yours?


Posted in Film | Comments Off

Friday Fun: The Tithe Rap

20th February 2009

I found this video lame and funny at the same time:

I actually will be preaching on stewardship in the next month; perhaps I should show this video. Of course, the problem I have with the video is that I don’t think that Christians are technically called to” tithe.” The NT never mentions the tithe as an expectation, but instead Jesus calls us to sacrificial giving (see Matthew 5:42; 6:2-3; etc.) and Paul instructs us that “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7; see also 1Cor 16:1-3; Eph 4:28).  This may be 1% for some people and 75% for others.  Perhaps 10% is a good place to start of an intermediate goal, but once you’ve given the 10% it isn’t that you are off the hook for the rest!

It is also crucial that you think about where you give. Obviously if you are part of a local church, you should be supporting its ministry with your gifts (both abilities and finances), but there are also many other great causes which need support. And watch out for charlatans!

(HT Cliff Kvidahl)


Posted in Biblical Teaching, Humour | Comments Off

U2 Conference Postponed (Yipee!)

20th February 2009

Back in November I announced an academic conference focused on the music and message of the Irish rock band, U2.  As it turns out, the conference, “U2: The Hype and the Feedback,” which was supposed to be held in NYC on 13-15 May 2009, has been postponed.The primary reason for the postponement is economic; the university hosting the conference pulled the plug due to projected participant numbers.  You can read the full explanation here.

From my perspective this is good news; I couldn’t justify attending the conference considering the questions surrounding my employment situation. But if they re-schedule the conference in a less-expensive location, then I may be able to attend, and perhaps even finagle my way back onto the “U2, Faith, and Justice” panel discussion I was invited to take part in. I only hope that people didn’t already purchase flights for the conference… that could get costly.


Posted in Conferences, News, Popular Culture, U2 | Comments Off

An Update on My Life

20th February 2009

I would like to thank all of the people who have expressed concern over the closure of the university college where I teach. There has been no miracle bailout by  Bill Gates, so Taylor University College is still slated to close its doors June 30, 2009, after which I will be out of work.  The mood at Taylor is a bit odd. On the one hand the semester is moving along as usual with students eager to learn (or at least some students!). On the other hand, students are also preoccupied with decisions about where to finish their studies, and faculty and staff morale is rather low – especially as everyone is scrambling to secure employment for July 1.  Some faculty have already found positions, others have a number of good prospects, while a number are considering employment outside academia (whether by choice or circumstance).

My situation has changed somewhat. There is a possibility that I may have a theology teaching position here in Edmonton at another university college. I’m trying not to get too excited about the possibility, since there are a number of things that need to come together for the position to work out.  I am still working on my resume and keeping an eye out for other forms of employment, but I am hopeful that I may have the privilege to continue teaching biblical and theological studies in Edmonton.

I do want to thank everyone for the support. I have been amazed at home many shows of support I have received in this situation from so many quarters. I would ask for those who pray to keep praying, especially for faculty and staff who are still looking for new employment.


Posted in News, Personal, Teaching | 4 Comments »

What Does Harmonizing Genesis 1 and 2 Really Accomplish?

18th February 2009

I am teaching an undergraduate course on the book of Genesis this semester and have been reflecting on how to best read the creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2. Many of my students have been brought up to read them literalistically as depictions of what actually happened some 6,000 years ago. While I don’t want to get into the question of how these accounts are best understood today in this post, what I do want to question is the tendency to read these accounts in such a way that harmonizes (or at least tries to) the apparent differences between the two accounts, rather than respecting the integrity of each as different yet complementary accounts of creation.

There are many differences in vocabulary, style, and theology that distinguish the two accounts. What I want to focus on is more basic: the order of the creation of the animals in relation to the human(s), as well as the order of the creation (or “building”) of the woman in relation to the human.

In Genesis 1 the living creatures in the sea and the birds of the air are created on day five, while the “living creatures” (נפש חיה) of the land are created on the sixth day. Only after the creation of the myriad of animals is humanity created in Genesis 1:26-27. In the first creation account the creation of humanity is the pinnacle of all of the creative acts of God:

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”  So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Gen 1:26-27).

While much ink has been spilled on the interpretation of these two verses, I only want to point out that according to verse 27, humanity was created “male and female” at this time. The clear and straightforward way of reading this is that Elohim created humans (plural) on day six, after the various types of animals. (This, by the way, accords well with many of the ancient Near Eastern accounts where the gods create a plurality of humans at a time, not just one or a pair; see my posts on ANE Creation accounts).

When we come to Genesis 2 we see a drastically different picture. In Genesis 2:7, “ha’adam” is formed from the dust of the earth by Yahweh Elohim first. Then Yahweh Elohim plants a garden and then puts the human in the garden. Then after a brief description of the garden (2:10-14), the action picks up again with Yahweh Elohim forming the land animals and birds (referred to as נפש חיה “living creatures” in 2:19) and brought them to the human to be named. It’s only after a suitable companion wasn’t found among the animals that Yahweh Elohim “builds” (בנה) the woman out of the side of the human.

One way some ideologically motivated translations attempt to reconcile the differences between the accounts is to translate some of the vayyiqtol verbs in chapter two as pluperfect (i.e., as describing an action  completed before another past action). Look for example at how the NIV translates this passage:

The LORD God formed [vayyiqtol] the man from the dust of the ground and breathed [vayyiqtol] into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became [vayyiqtol] a living being.

Now the LORD God had planted [vayyiqtol] a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put [vayyiqtol] the man he had formed. And the LORD God made [vayyiqtol] all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters.…

The LORD God took [vayyiqtol] the man and put him [vayyiqtol] in the Garden of Eden to work it  and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded [vayyiqtol] the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

The LORD God said [vayyiqtol], “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Now the LORD God had formed [vayyiqtol] out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought [vayyiqtol] them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave [vayyiqtol] names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall [vayyiqtol] into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping [vayyiqtol], he took [vayyiqtol] one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made [vayyiqtol] a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought [vayyiqtol] her to the man.

The problem with this translation involves the two pluperfects (which I bolded and italicized) found in the NIV translation.  In both of those cases the translators of the NIV ignored the normal use of the vayyiqtol verb form (which is to narrate a sequence of events) and render them as pluperfects (“had planted” and “had formed”). I assume their motivation was to harmonize the account with Genesis 1 where the plants and animals were created before the humans. But from a syntactical point of view to translate the verb forms as pluperfects is very problematic. Virtually all grammars agree that it is very rare for the vayyiqtol verb form to have pluperfect value (see Jouon-Muraoka 118d, BHRG 21.2; but WO’C 33.2.3 and others do note a pluperfect sense is possible in certain circumstances, although it is rare), and there is nothing in this passage that supports a pluperfect sense. If anything, the sense of the passage requires a normal sequential meaning of the verb forms since the animals were formed (2:19) in direct response to Yahweh Elohim’s declaration that “it is not good for the human to be alone” (2:18).

Of course, perhaps the more basic question is that how can Elohim create humans male and female by divine fiat (as in Gen 1:27) and also form the human from the dust of the ground and then build a woman from the side of a human (as in Genesis 2), and say these two accounts are referring to the same events? What, if anything, is recorded as happening in 1:27, 2:7, 2:18, 2:22?

I recognize that hamonizing these accounts has a long history. I also recognize and agree with the need to read these accounts in tandem as part of the canonical book of Genesis, no matter what their independent histories may have been. That being said, I don’t think we should blur the distinctions between the accounts and engage in hermeneutical gymnastics in order to harmonize their details. Instead, we should revel in their theological depth and the different ways they teach the unique place and significance of humanity — male and female — in God’s creation.


Posted in Bible, Biblical Teaching, Creation, Genesis, Old Testament | 4 Comments »

Anticipating U2′s No Line on the Horizon

17th February 2009

Artwork for the cover is by Japanese artist and photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto

As a U2 fan, I am looking forward to the release of U2′s new album, No Line on the Horizon. While the album is slated for release in North American on 3 March 2009, the first single from the album, “Get on your boots,” has been available since mid-January. I’m not sure what I think about “Get on your boots.” I like it, though I don’t think it will be one of my U2 favourties. The song is a fun romp with Bono taking a break from his political activism (“I don’t want to talk about wars between nations”) and calling us to live in the joy of the moment together (“”here’s where we gotta be / love and community / laughter is eternity /if joy is real”).

The official (and somewhat surreal) music video for “Get On Your Boots” can be viewed on YouTube:

The first full review of the album was just published over at Neil McCormick’s Telegraph.co.uk blog. McCormick comes right out and give us his assessment:

It is a great record, and greatness is what rock and roll and the world needs right now. From the grittily urgent yet ethereal title track all the way to the philosophically ruminative, spacey coda of ‘Cedars Of Lebanon’ it conjures an extraordinary journey through sound and ideas, a search for soul in a brutal, confusing world, all bound together in narcotic melody and space age pop songs.

What I found most interesting about McCormick’s review is his statement that “To me, it is probably the album ‘Zooropa’ was supposed to be, building on the sonic architecture of classic U2 and taking it into the pop stratosphere.” It seems like what we’re going to be treated to is another example of U2 departing from the easy route and giving us something that is a bit experimental yet retaining enough of the core sound that everyone expects from U2. As someone who loves pretty much all of U2′s albums, including the more experimental albums Zooropa and Pop, I know what I’ll be buying the morning of March 3rd!

I encourage you to read McCormick’s full review (btw, McCormick is a childhood friend of Bono and U2 and author of Killing Bono: I Was Bono’s Doppelganger [Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com] and contributor to U2 By U2 [Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com]).

The album, No Line on the Horizon, is being released in a number of different packages:


Posted in Music Videos, Popular Culture, U2 | Comments Off

Reasons to Study the Septuagint (in Honour of International Septuagint Day)

8th February 2009

“The Sept-tu-a-what?” is what I hear from many of my students when I first mention the Septuagint in my introductory lecture on the text and transmission of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.  By mid-term, however (or should I say by the midterm, i.e., the midterm exam), virtually all of my students are able to tell me that the Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible begun around the third century BCE for the Pentateuch and completed sometime in the second or first century BCE for the rest of the books. Keen students should be able to further tell me that the title “Septuagint” comes from the Latin Septuaginta, which means “70” (thus the abbreviation LXX), and relates to the legendary origins of the translation by 70 Jewish elders from Israel (my “A” students may even relate how some versions of the legend report 72 elders were involved in the translation).

You may be wondering why I am bothering to relate something of my experience of teaching about the LXX. Just in case it didn’t come pre-marked in your calendar, February 8 is International Septuagint Day. This is a day established by the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS) to promote Septuagint studies throughout the world.

In honour of International Septuagint Day, I thought I would provide some of the top reasons why we should study the Septuagint today:

  • The Septuagint preserves a number of Jewish-Greek writings from the pre-Christian era not contained in the Hebrew Bible (known in Christian circles as the Apocrypha or the Deuterocanonical works)
  • As such, study of the LXX can provide a glimpse into the thought and theology of diaspora Jews before the common era.
  • For the majority of the books of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, the LXX provides us the earliest witness to the biblical text (earlier than most of Hebrew witnesses found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example) and is indispensable for textual criticism.
  • The LXX provides a unique glimpse into the literary and textual development for some books of the Old Testament (e.g., Jeremiah, Esther, Daniel), as well as the sometimes fuzzy border between literary development and textual transmission.
  • Insofar that all translations are interpretations, the LXX provides one of the earliest commentaries on the Hebrew Bible.
  • The LXX gives us a glimpse of the shape of the OT canon before the common era (at least for Greek-speaking Judaism in the diaspora, perhaps not for Palestinian Jews).
  • The LXX functioned as the Bible of most of the early Greek-speaking Christians (and continues to function as such for the Greek Orthodox Church).
  • In connection with the previous point, the LXX often served as a theological lexicon for the writers of the NT, and as such it provides a fruitful avenue of research into the background of many of the theological terms and concepts in the NT.
  • The LXX was the preferred Scriptures for many of the early church fathers and is essential for understanding early theological discussions.
  • It’s a great conversation starter at parties (Attractive Woman/Man: “Read any good books lately?” Budding LXX student: “Why yes, I was just reading the Septuagint today!” Attractive Woman/Man: “The Sept-tu-a-what?” Budding LXX student: “Let me buy your a drink and tell you more…”)

I imagine more reasons could be thought of to read and study the Septuagint, but the above list is a good start. If you are interested to learn more about the Septuagint, I encourage you to work through my “Resources Relating to the LXX” pages, though I will mention three essential resources:

  • A New English Translation of the Septuagint (Alberta Pietersma and Benjamin G. Wright, eds.; Oxford University Press, 2007). This is the best English translation available of the LXX and a great place to begin your study of the Septuagint. Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com
  • Karen H. Jobes and Moisés Silva, Invitation to the Septuagint (Baker Academic, 2000). This is probably the best introduction for beginning students. It aims to familiarize readers with the history and current state of Septuagintal scholarship as well as the use of the LXX in textual criticism and biblical studies. For a more detailed description, see my review in the Catholic Biblical Quarterly 64 (2002) 138-140. Buy from Amazon.caBuy from Amazon.com
  • Septuaginta (Alfred Rahlfs, ed.; Editio altera/Revised and corrected edition by Robert Hanhart; German Bible Society, 2006). This is the popular edition of the Septuagint — and the only affordable version with the complete Greek text. Buy from Amazon.caBuy from Amazon.com

I challenge you to think of some creative ways to celebrate International Septuagint Day today!


Posted in Holidays, IOSCS, Septuagint | 17 Comments »

Codex Sinaiticus Conference

7th February 2009

As many of my readers may or may not know, there will be a special Codex Sinaiticus Conference at the British Library, London, on 6-7 July 2009.

The Codex Sinaiticus Project, an international initiative to reunite the entire manuscript in digital form and make it accessible to a global audience for the first time (see www.codexsinaiticus.org), will host a conference devoted to this seminal fourth-century Bible.

To celebrate the Project’s achievements, on 6-7 July 2009, the British Library is hosting an academic conference on topics relating to Codex Sinaiticus. A number of leading experts have been approached to give presentations on the history, text, conservation, paleography and codicology, among other topics, of Codex Sinaiticus. Selected conference papers will be edited and published as a collection of articles.

The list of confirmed speakers is quite impressive:

  • Christfried Böttrich
  • Christopher Clarkson
  • Eldon J. Epp
  • Harry Y. Gamble
  • Dirk Jongkind
  • René Larsen
  • David Parker
  • Albert Pietersma
  • Emanuel Tov
  • David Trobisch
  • Klaus Wachtel

As you can see, my advisor, Al Pietersma, is among the speakers.

It looks as if it will be a great conference.

If you want to read more about Codex Sinaiticus, check out my profile of the manuscript which was part of my Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible series.


Posted in Announcements, Conferences, Septuagint, Sinaiticus, Text Criticism | 1 Comment »