One of my summer reads that I just finished is a new book that takes a lighter — and somewhat irreverent and certainly risqué — look at the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament:
The Uncensored Bible: The Bawdy and Naughty Bits of the Good Book by John Kaltner, Steven L. McKenzie, and Joel Kilpatrick (HarperCollins, 2008; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com).
Written by two biblical scholars and one satirist (I’ll let you decide who’s who!), this book is an entertaining examination of some provocative and downright outrageous interpretations of passages in the Holy Bible. The subtitle is a bit misleading in that the authors are only interested in certain “bawdy and naughty bits” of the Old Testament.
In order to make the cut (which they humorously refer to as the “Zevit Standard” since their first example was proposed by noted biblical scholar Ziony Zevit) the interpretation has to be (1) innovative and outrageous, (2) a new take on a familiar Bible passage, (3) plausible, and (4) proposed by a bona-fide biblical scholar. So what you don’t find in the book are all of the “bawdy and naughty” passages of the Bible which are clear and don’t require strange interpretations (like, for instance, the virtually pornographic/obscene descriptions of the Egyptians in Ezekiel 16:26 and 23:20 or the erotic physical descriptions in the Song of Songs. Of course, many of these “bawdy and naughty bits” are obscured by the prudish nature of modern English translations — but that’s another post!).
Some of the more outrageous interpretations from The Uncensored Bible include the following [SPOILER ALERT: skip this section if you want to be shocked when you read it for yourself]:
The “rib/bone” which God makes the woman in Gen 2:21-22 was Adam’s penis bone
The admonition to “casting your bread upon the waters” in Ecclesiastes 11:1 is a reference to ancient beer making (this suggestion comes from an article by fellow blogger Michael Homan)
Ehud escaped after killing Eglon unnoticed by the Moabites by literally going down the poop chute in Judges 3:23 (not the “porch” or “vestibule” as most modern translations render misdaron)
Isaac may have been “taking a whiz” in the field when Rebekah first saw him, according to Genesis 24:63.
The “ish” (man/angel/God) in Genesis … touched Jacob’s, er… “johnson” during the wrestling match in Genesis 38? (and this was apparently some supernatural tit for tat since when Jacob was born, he was not clutching Esau’s heel, but his wiener!)
The punishment for a wife grabbing another man’s genitals when he is fighting with her husband is not cutting off her hand (Deut 25:11-12), but giving her a Brazilian bikini wax!
[END SPOILER ALERT: Read on from here] Most of these interpretations I have encountered before, though not all of them. And while some of them are plausible and even convincing, others are a bit whacked out. The authors themselves do not agree with all of the interpretations they present; they consider some convincing while they (rightfully) reject others. There were a number of passages/interpretations that I expected to find in the book but didn’t (perhaps they are worth a blog post or two, or even a recurring series). In their conclusion the authors leave open the possibility of a sequel or two.
In case you are concerned, the authors did not write this book to bash the Bible or biblical scholarship. They are biblical scholars who “love the Bible” (p. xiii) and hope to increase their readers’ “appreciation for the richness and diversity of the Bible’s contents” (p. xiv). While this book will not be for everyone, I personally laud Kaltner and McKenzie for writing it (I wish I would have beat them to it). The value I see in a book such as this (besides its value as an entertaining read) is that it presents the Bible in a more down to earth and real way than many Sunday sermons. I think sometimes we Christians have an unrealistic (and unhelpful) view of the Bible. Pastors and teachers try to mine these ancient texts for modern-day role models or parenting tips, and I am not sure that is what the purpose of the good book is! Check out this quote from the Uncensored Bible:
Many people try to follow the Bible’s teachings so they can have a happy home. But the truth is, there aren’t many happy homes depicted in the Bible. The real inheritors of the Bible example are families who have experienced divorce, deception, adultery, and incest or have a murderer or rapist in the family. The Good Book is simply loaded with bad kin. And it’s a virtual handbook for how not to raise children. Most of us are better off doing as the Bible says, not as it shows (p. 153).
Amen and Amen! As I say to my students, one of the first steps to interpreting the Bible is to recognize that it comes from a world very different from ours. And this book helps us recognize that in a rather off-the-wall and quirky way.
In sum, I give this book two thumbs way up. If you have a slightly off-kilter sense of humor, then I highly recommend it (And if you don’t, then buy it for someone who does!)
(And, by the way, I hope the authors get their guest spot on the Daily Show; see p. xv).
Stephen Cook over at Biblische Ausbildung has posted on “books that provide ‘accessible interpretation’ of the psalms.” He notes four books in particular, two commentaries and two introductions by two authors:
McCann, J. Clinton. Psalms. New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 4: 1 & 2 Maccabees, Job, Psalms. Abingdon, 1996. Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com
Mays, James Luther. Preaching and Teaching the Psalms. W/JK, 2006. Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com
McCann, J. Clinton. A Theological Introduction to the Book of Psalms. Abingdon, 1993. Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com
These recommendations are excellent. McCann’s works are definitely accessible and chock full of valuable insights on the psalms that takes into consideration the latest of scholarly approaches to the psalms. Mays is a veteran psalms scholar and always has insightful comments and interpretations. The only criticism I have of Mays’s commentary is that it is too brief.
That being said, I would like to add a number of a number of other works to Steve’s recommendations. In regards to accessible commentaries on the book of Psalms from a Christian perspective I would include the following:
Broyles, Craig C. Psalms. New International Biblical Commentary: Old Testament. Hendrickson, 1999. Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com
Davidson, Robert. The Vitality of Worship: A Commentary on the Book of Psalms. Eerdmans, 1998. Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com
Goldingay, John. Psalms, Volume 1: 1-41 . Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms. Baker Academic, 2006. Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com
Wilson, Gerald H. Psalms Volume 1. The NIV Application Commentary. Zondervan, 2002. Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com
In terms of a one volume commentary on the psalms that is historically and theologically sensitive, I really like Davidson. I would also recommend Broyles. I have been nothing but impressed with Goldingay’s commentary. It is accessible, yet scholarly; theologically deep, yet practical. I highly recommend his first volume and look forward to the others. The commentary by the late Gerald Wilson is also an excellent commentary that is both accessible and theologically rich.
In terms of introductions to the book of Psalms, I would also recommend the following:
W. H. Bellinger. Psalms: Reading and Studying the Book of Praises. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1990. Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com
Nancy L. Declaisse-Walford. Introduction To The Psalms: A Song From Ancient Israel. Chalice Press, 2004. Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com
Denise Dombkowski Hopkins. Journey through the Psalms. Chalice Press, 2002. Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com
Bellinger’s work is an excellent (and brief) introduction to the book of Psalms that focuses on form-critical interpretation, while Declaisse-Walford’s is another good introduction that covers all the bases of psalm interpretation, especially the more recent interest in the shape and shaping of the book of Psalms.
Hopkins’s work is perhaps the most accessible of any that have been mentioned by either Stephen or myself. It is a Brueggemann-esque introduction that is personally engaging and spiritually sensitive. The book is filled with numerous illustrations of visual art, poetry, and personal stories, as well as many practical group exercises.
Though Woman Wisdom has often been viewed as a positive figure for feminism, I will show that the picture is much grimmer. The article has two parts. First, I will demonstrate that the personification of wisdom reinscribes the typical ideology of the time along gender, social class, and racial lines. The eroticization of wisdom as female actually excludes the woman from the search for truth and knowledge because it assumes its adherents are male. Woman Wisdom is shown to be upper class, while Folly is poor. And Woman Wisdom is shown to be xenophobic in her preference for Jewish boys. Second, wisdom/folly, the dominant dichotomy of these chapters, will be shown to deconstruct, showing how both Woman Wisdom and Folly are inextricably connected and partake of each other’s identity. The boundary between the two begins to blur.
This study offers a comprehensive treatment of the subject of â€œword playâ€? in the book of Qoheleth. After discussing the problematic nature of the term â€œword play,â€? and explaining my preference for the word â€œpunning,â€? I examine six different types of punning found in Qoheleth. The first, focuses on alliteration, or the repeated use of consonants. The second section collects examples of assonance, or the repeated use of vowel patterns. The third section focuses on illustrations of polysemy; cases in which words bear more than one meaning in a single context. The fourth section, which is related to polysemy, details cases of antanaclasis. Antanaclasis occurs when a word is used multiple times, but with different meanings. In the fifth section, I provide examples of allusive punning, i.e., the use of words or forms that imply by way of similarity of sound another word that does not occur in the text. The sixth section is devoted to instances of numerical punning. After providing the data for each of these devices, I offer some general observations on punning in Qoheleth.
According to TB Yoma 21b, the urim and the thummim and the spirit of prophecy were among the things missing from the Second Temple. According to Ezra 2:61-63 (Neh.7:63-65), they were missing from the time of the return. Josephus suggests, however, that the urim and thummim stopped shining, that is they ceased to function, only around 104 BCE, about the time of John Hyrcanusâ€™ death. According to Josephus, then, second temple high priests consulted urim and thummim. To decide between these two claims, we examine second temple texts dated to the period before Hyrcanusâ€™ death. These texts confirm Josephus and suggest that the contemporary high priest may have used urim and thummim as an oracular device.
I haven’t been posting the regular updates to the Review of Biblical Literature lately, but I certainly wanted to note the one that was just came today because it has a review of blogger Tim Bulkeley‘s Amos: Hypertext Bible Commentary by fellow Edmontonian Ehud Ben Zvi.
The review is quite positive, though Ehud does note some way that the commentary could be improved. Here is his conclusion:
We all owe a debt of gratitude to Tim Bulkeley for all his work in this important project. I see this Amos commentary as a version 1.0 that will, I hope, lead to further and better versions in which many of the problems mentioned here will be solved. I am aware that even this version represents an improvement over previous versions (notice, e.g., the wise removal of the term â€œpostmodernâ€? from the title of the series; cf. http://bible.gen.nz/), and I confidently hope that this process will continue and even accelerate.
On related note, I just received my copy of the new edition of Paul JoÃ¼on and Takamitsu Muraoka, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew (Revised English edition; 1 vol.; Subsidia Biblica 27; Pontifical Institute, 2006; Buy from Eisenbrauns.com).
There are a number of things that I quite like about this volume, not least of which is its binding. I find it far easier to prop open on my desk than the previous two-volume edition. I haven’t had much time to actually compare the content with the previous editions, though I like the fact that Muraoka’s additions are integrated with JoÃ¼on’s original text, the notes are cleaned up, and there is a great bibliography included. I wish they would have updated some of the charts in the volume, however.
A couple new books on the Dead Sea Scrolls came to my attention recently and appear to be quite interesting.
Weston W. Fields The Dead Sea Scrolls — A Short History
(Brill, 2006; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com)
Edna Ullmann-Margalit Out of the Cave: A Philosophical Inquiry into the Dead Sea Scrolls Research
(Harvard University Press, 2006; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com)
Fields’s brief work provides a sketch of the history of the Dead Sea Scrolls for a popular audience. Ullmann-Margali’s book, on the other hand, isn’t about the scrolls per se, but rather is about scrolls research. She examines the debates surrounding the scrolls, in particular the Qumran-Essene hypothesis.
In the past when I taught the introductory hermeneutics course at Taylor, I used W. Randolph Tate‘s Biblical Interpretation: An Integrated Approach (Revised Edition; Hendrickson, 1997; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com).
I found that its engaging, easy to read style — as well as its review sections and study questions — made it an ideal textbook for undergraduate students. I especially appreciated Tate’s theoretical basis and how he organized the book into three major sections: world behind, within, and in front of the text (although I structure my class a bit differently, starting by getting students to recognize their own presuppositions). I am planning on using Tate again this upcoming fall when I take over teaching the introductory course in hermeneutics and method (unless, of course, someone alerts me to a more suitable textbook).
I was pleased to see that Tate has produced a companion handbook to his text:
Interpreting the Bible: A Handbook of Terms and Methods
Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com
One of the constant problems in entering any new academic discipline is learning the jargon and technical language that people within that discipline use — and biblical studies is no different. This work is a guide to the key terms and theories used in biblical interpretation. From a quick flip through I found the Handbook to be quite exhaustive, particularly in regards to the more theoretical side of biblical interpretation. Thus, if you ever wanted to know the difference between Langue and Parole, or what ideological overcoding entails, or transactive criticism is, then this book is for you.
That being said, its focus is more on terms relating to biblical interpretation, not biblical studies in general. Thus, while it covers much the same territory as Soulen‘s Handbook of Biblical Criticism (3rd ed.; Westminster John Knox Press, 2001; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com), it includes far more discussion of more recent interpretive terms and methods. On the other hand, there are some discussions which I would like to see expanded a bit (see “lament”) and others included (e.g., terminus ad quem and terminus a quo, palistrophe, etc.).
All in all, this work appears to be a very useful resource for students and scholars alike. Next time I am trying to figure out what the heck polypoton is, I know where to look!
I just received my copy of Adele Reinhartz’s new book, Jesus of Hollywood (Oxford University Press, 2007; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). I have always been a fan of Reinhartz’s scholarship on the Bible and film, and it looks like this book will not disappoint. (Her other book on the Bible and film, Scripture on the Silver Screen [WJK, 2003; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com] is also worthy of perusal.)
This book has five major sections. The first section, “The Genre: Jesus Movies as Biopics” includes an introduction where Reinhartz orients the reader to the nature of biographical films and Jesus films in particular, deals with some methodological issues, and offers a brief survey of Jesus movies. She distinguishes between traditional Jesus films that portray significant portions of the life of Jesus, peplum or “sword and sandal” movies in which Jesus appears briefly within the story line of another character, and “Passion play” films that cover events surrounding the production of and actual clips from a Passion play. Her survey is not exhaustive, though she covers the most significant films between the Passion Play at Oberammergau in 1889 and Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004/2005; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). One Jesus film absent from her survey was Denis Potter’s Wednesday Play: Son of Man (UK 1969), though this may be due to the fact that it was produced for television. Understandably, recently released films such as The Nativity Story (Castle-Hughes, 2006; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) and The Color of the Cross (La Marre, 2006; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) were also absent.
The first section ends with a chapter dealing with the thorny issue of the relationship of Jesus films — and the gospels they are ostensibly based on — to history. Here Reinhartz’s background as a biblical scholar comes to the fore. While many filmmakers have claimed to present the “reel” Jesus in their films, i.e., a Jesus who is faithful to both the Scriptures and history, Reinhartz questions these claims. She deals deftly with the complicated question of the relationship of the gospels to history and how screenwriters have negotiated between the divergent portrayals of Jesus in the four gospels., focusing on the iconoclastic films Jesus of Montreal (Arcand, 1989; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) and The Last Temptation of Christ (Scorsese, 1988; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). Her conclusion that more recent fare such as The Gospel of John (Savile, 2003; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) and The Passion of the Christ mark a “return to the reverential norms of the biopic genre” (p. 40) in contrast to the more provocative films of the 1980s, is correct up to a point, though The Color of the Cross demonstrates that there is still much controversy to be raised by the Jesus film genre.
The rest of the volume looks at the film portrayal of the primary characters in Jesus films: Jesus of Nazareth, Mary, Joseph, God, Mary Magalene, Judas, Satan, the Pharisees, Caiaphas, and Pilate. Each of these characters are the focus of a chapter in which Reinhartz shifts between the presentation of various aspects of their characters in the gospels and their portrayal in the movies. It is in these chapters that Reinhartz offers some close analysis of the biblical text and a wide variety of Jesus films.
The book closes with an afterword where she sums up her study of “Jesus of Hollywood” with the honest assessment that “it is unlikely that the Evangelists would recognize their own particular Jesus in any of the films we have discussed” (p. 252). Furthermore, while there are many similarities between the Jesus of the silver screen and the Jesus of Scripture, “the biopic Jesus is fundamentally different from his historical and scriptural counterparts” (p. 253). The “reel” Jesus is, according to Reinhartz, the Jesus transformed by “two thousand years of art, theology and interpretation, into Jesus of Hollywood” (p. 254). This Jesus is ultimately the product of a combination of history, theology, contemporary concerns, and — let us not forget — the entertainment industry.
All in all, this is an excellent study of the Jesus of Hollywood. I highly recommend it.
Sorry for the self-indulgence, but this is way too cool. I just noticed from Kevin Wilson’s Blue Cord blog that I have been “blurbed” on the back cover of a new edition of Mary Douglas‘s In the Wilderness: The Doctrine of Defilement in the Book of Numbers (Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series, 158; Oxford University Press, 2001; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com).
As far as I am aware, this is my first blurb.
Here is a close-up of the quote:
The blurb is from a review I did of the first edition of the book in the Toronto Journal of Theology back in 1994. I imagine it would be fine to reprint the review here, but I should check with the journal first.
Welcome to the Third Annual Ralphies — Second Annual Codex Edition. Following the example of Ed Cook (see his posts on music, film and books), traditionally a number of other bloggers follow suit and offer their own “Ralphies.” This year Mark Goodacre and Chris Brady has thus far compiled (or at least started to) some of their favorite music, books, and films of 2006.
What follows is my own list. While I have tried to honour Ed’s template, I find it difficult to narrow lists like these down to one top pick, so I have includes some runner-ups.
Best SONG of the year: Hmmm.. this is a tough one. I, like Ed, quite like Gnarls Barkley‘s Moby-esque song “Crazy” (From St. Elsewhere; Watch on YouTube; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com), though I’m not sure it is quite “Song of the Year” material. The same goes for the new U2 song (with Greenday), “The Saints Are Coming” (From U218 Singles; Watch on YouTube; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com), as well as The Killers song “When You Were Young” (From Sam’s Town; Watch on YouTube; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com).
While this may surprise some, my best song for 2006 is KT Tunstall‘s “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” (From Eye to the Telescope; Watch on YouTube; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). This is a very catchy song, though what makes me pick it as my best of 2006 is my respect for her musical abilities. Make sure to watch the live version.
The best Canadian song of the year is the Barenaked Ladies, “Easy” (From Barenaked Ladies Are Me; Watch on YouTube; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com).
Best CD of the year: While all of the songs noted above are on good albums, I would probably have to vote for The Killers, Sam’s Town as my best of 2006 (Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) since there are a number of excellent songs on the CD.
Best MUSIC VIDEOof the year: I really like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers video for “Dani California” (From Stadium Arcadium; Watch on YouTube; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). Watching it is a flashback through all the rock and roll fads from the 50′s to today — and the song isn’t half bad as well!
Best MOVIE of the year: This is always tough one for me. Like Ed, there are many movies I enjoyed (e.g., Nacho Libre,Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, X-Men: The Last Stand, Mission Impossible III, Flags of Our Fathers, and even Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby was worth watching just for the â€œDear Lord Baby Jesusâ€? scene!), but they’re not really “Film of the Year” material.
In terms of movies released in 2006, my vote for best movie of 2006 would be The Departed (Martin Scorsese; IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). This is a great gangster film and all of the actors had great performances, especially Jack Nicholson. Second runner up would be Casino Royale (Martin Campbell; IMDB), which did for Bond what Batman Begins did for the Batman franchise last year.
Honourable mention goes to Thank You for Not Smoking (Jason Reitman, 2005 [I watched it in 2006]; IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). In addition, I found Blood of My Brother: A Story of Death in Iraq (Andrew Berends, 2005 [I watched it in 2006]; IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) to be quite interesting for its portrayal of life in Iraq.
Instead of any of those movies, I’m picking Hoodwinked! (Cory and Todd Edwards; IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) as my favourite kid’s movie of 2006. I found this deconstruction of Little Red Riding Hood quite amusing. While some have slammed its animation as cheap, I kind of like the minimalist CGI animation — after all, it is supposed to look like a cartoon isn’t it?!
Worst MOVIE of the year: This is an easy one for me this year. I mistakenly rented Black Dahlia (Ulli Lommel; IMDB) thinking it was Brian De Palma’s The Black Dahlia(IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). Never before have I appreciated the significance of a definite article! Lommel’s film was a B-film at its worst. Calling it a “B-film” is an insult to other B-Films! This straight -to-DVD movie truly was one of the most vile, disgusting films I have ever (partially) viewed. I didn’t finish watching it and was quite appreciative when the video store let me exchange it for a different video free of charge.
Best TV SHOW of the Year: Since we are talking about the entire year, I have to include 24 (Fox) as one of the best shows on television. I am looking forward to January 14, 2007 when this year’s season begins. That being said, top honours goes to Battlestar Galactica (SciFi). I love science fiction and I find this new series quite well-written.
Best NONFICTION BOOK of the year: This is a tough one since I have read quite a few non-fiction books this year. My top pick is by fellow Canadian, William S. Morrow. His book, Protest Against God: The Eclipse of a Biblical Tradition (Hebrew Bible Monographs 4; Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2006; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) is a fascinating study of why the biblical tradition of lament or protest against God was suppressed and marginalized.
While I can’t say that I have read it cover-to-cover, the top biblical commentary in 2006 is Ralph Klein’s commentary, 1 Chronicles (Hermeneia; Fortress, 2006; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). This is a superb commentary on this often neglected biblical book.
If I look outside my primary areas of research, then I would pick U2 by U2 (HarperEntertainment, 2006; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) as one of the best of 2006.
Best FICTION BOOK of the year: I haven’t read a tonne of fiction this year, but I would say that Anne Rice’s Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt: A Novel (Knopf, 2005 [I read it in 2006]; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) was one of my favourites (see my post on it here). I also read a number of novels by Dean Koontz, which I found to be guilty pleasures.
Well, that’s about all I can muster right now, so I’ll see you at next year’s Ralphies!