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The Myth of Religious Violence

10th May 2011

Those in Edmonton this Friday May 13th will want to take in the 2011 deGroot Memorial Lecture with Dr. William Cavanaugh. He will be speaking on The Myth of Religious Violence. The lunch and lecture runs 12:00-2:30 pm and is at the King’s University College.

The cost is $25.00 for lunch and the lecture.

See you there!

Posted in Announcements, Conferences, Theology | Comments Off

Who’s Mark and What’s His Secret?

1st March 2011

A couple of my buddies over at York University who study the appendix to the Bible (I think it’s called the New Testament :-) ) also study some obscure stuff relating to the appendix (called the “Christian Apocrypha”). At any rate, they (I guess I can name them: Tony Burke and Phil Harland) are hosting a conference on the Secret Gospel of Mark at the end of April, 2011 at York University.

The conference, Ancient Gospel or Modern Forgery? The Secret Gospel of Mark in Debate, is the first of the York University Christian Apocrypha Symposium Series. More details may be found here.

If you are wondering what the “Secret Gospel of Mark” is, here is an excerpt from the conference website:

In 1958, American Biblical scholar Morton Smith made an astounding discovery in the Mar Saba monastery in Jerusalem. Copied into the back of a 17th century book was a lost letter by Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150-215 CE) containing excerpts from a longer version of the Gospel of Mark. This Secret Gospel of Mark, as it became known, is now one of the most debated texts of the Christian Apocrypha. More than fifty years after its discovery, there is still no consensus on the issues of its authenticity. Was the letter truly written by Clement of Alexandria? Or by a medieval or even modern forger? Was the forger Morton Smith himself? The debate has heated up in recent years with the publication of Stephen Carlson’s The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith’s Invention of Secret Mark (Waco, TX: Baylor, 2005) and several criticisms of Carlson’s work by other scholars. Unfortunately, there has been no effective venue for these scholars to share their views on the text and arrive closer to a resolution of the issue of its authenticity. It is hoped that some progress can be made by bringing these scholars together to present their latest work on the gospel to each other, to an audience of interested scholars, to a curious public, and ultimately to an even wider audience with the publication of the papers and summaries of the discussion that arises from their gathering.

(Stephen Carlson, author of The Gospel Hoax,  blogs over at hypotyposeis, often on Secret Mark)

I encourage you to check the conference out!


Posted in Announcements, Christian Apocrypha, Conferences, gospels | 2 Comments »

My Ways Are Not Your Ways: The Violent Portrayal of God in the Hebrew Bible

6th November 2009

There was a fascinating conference sponsored by the University of Notre Dame Center for Philosophy of Religion at the beginning of September. The title of the conference was, “My Ways Are Not Your Ways: The Character of the God of the Hebrew Bible.”

The conference examined the troubling portrayals of God in the Hebrew Bible — something which I am very interested in since that will be the focus of one of my courses I am teaching next semester. Here is the write up for the conference:

Adherents of the Abrahamic religious traditions contend that human beings are made in the image of God and that modeling the character of God in one’s life represents the pinnacle of human flourishing and moral perfection. Defenders of this tradition commonly point to passages in the canonical texts of the Jewish and Christian faiths that portray God as loving, merciful, patient, etc. in support of such a position. Since the seventeenth century, however, numerous critics of these Abrahamic traditions have argued that God, especially in the Hebrew Bible, is often portrayed as anything but a moral role model. On the one hand, historical narratives in these texts describe God apparently committing, ordering, or commending genocide, slavery, and rape among other moral atrocities. On the other hand, a number of commands purportedly issued by God seem to commend bigotry, misogyny, and homophobia. In recent days, similar criticisms of the Abrahamic traditions have been raised by philosophers (Daniel Dennett), scientists (Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris), social commentators (Christopher Hitchens), and others.

Are these apparent commendations and commands of the Hebrew Bible consistent with the claim that the Abrahamic God is perfectly good and loving? Those defending this tradition have two avenues of response open to them. The first response would be to argue that the aforementioned troubling narratives or commands should simply be rejected. Those taking this approach would have to explain how they think such passages could be rejected without placing in peril the Abrahamic religions, which have traditionally claimed that the Hebrew Bible is, represents, or contains the inspired word of God. The second response would offer explanations aiming to show that the apparently untoward consequences can be avoided without rejecting the narratives or commands. Those taking this approach must explain either why the untoward consequences do not follow, or why they are not, in the end untoward.

However, while defenders of this tradition have both routes available to them, few of these defenders seem to have taken the challenge to heart. Despite these recent, forthright criticisms, only a handful of theologians or philosophers in these traditions have sought to respond to the criticisms.

The present conference aims to remedy this deficiency, taking as its focus the charge that the Abrahamic tradition should be rejected because of its foundation in the Hebrew Bible, which portrays God as immoral and vicious. The presenters and commentators include philosophers—both theistic and nontheistic—as well as Biblical scholars.

The conference had an impressive list of speakers, including Christopher Seitz, Nicholas Wolterstorff, James L. Crenshaw, among others. And if you were not able to attend the conference (as I), we can still enjoy the papers and interaction via the web!

Here is the program with links to the videos:

Thursday, September 10, 2009:

Friday, September 11, 2009:

Saturday, September 12, 2009:

I encourage you to check out the papers!

Posted in Biblical Teaching, Conferences, Old Testament, Theodicy, Theology | 3 Comments »

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

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, 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 »

Concept of Exile in Ancient Israel & its Contexts Workshop

27th March 2008

The University of Alberta and Ludwig-Maximilians Universität, Munich, are hosting a workshop on the Concept of “Exile” in Ancient Israel. The workshop will primarily focus on (but not exclusively) prophetic literature, including the social and historical setting against which it evolved and in a way that is informed by comparative ancient materials. The workshop is being held at the University of Alberta from April 7 through 11, 2008.

This workshop brings together scholars from the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich (LMU) and the University of Alberta, along with colleagues from other European and Canadian universities. This workshop is part of a newly founded cooperation between LMU and the UofA and is conceived as the first of two workshops. The second is planned for Munich (2009).

The list of participating scholars is impressive and includes the likes of Christoph Levin (LMU), Reinhard Müller (LMU), Hermann-Josef Stipp (LMU), Jan Christian Gertz (Heidelberg), Martti Nissinen (Helsinki), Hindy Najman (Toronto), James Linville (Lethbridge), as well as University of Alberta professors Francis Landy, Selina Stewart, Willi Braun, and Ehud Ben Zvi.

For more information, check out the workshop webpage here.

If you are in the Edmonton area, please consider yourself invited.

Posted in Academic Associations, Announcements, Conferences, History of Ancient Israel | 3 Comments »

God’s Word in Human Words with Dr. Kenton Sparks

25th September 2007

fccimage.jpgTomorrow evening I will be picking up Dr. Kenton Sparks at the airport. He is the speaker for Taylor University College’s “Faith & Culture Conference” which runs Thursday and Friday of this week. The title of this year’s conference is “God’s Word in Human Words: The Prospects and Perils of Believing Criticism.”

Here is a rundown of the different sessions:

  • Session 1: “To Err is Human: A Biblical View of Epistemology” (Thursday 27 September; 11:30 am)
    Evangelical Christians often believe that error is a bad thing, but the biblical view of things is otherwise. Scripture teaches that human error is an inevitable and natural part of normal, healthy living. This observation has profound implications for our epistemology and theology.
  • Session 2: God’s Word in Human Words: The Problem and Promise of Modern Biblical Criticism? (Thursday 27 September; 1:15 pm)
    Modern biblical scholars have highlighted features in Scripture that seem incommensurate with the Bible’s divine origins. However, when we understand these features as an affirmation of our humanity and as an expression of theological orthodoxy, we shall find they are wholly suited to a high view of Scripture’s inspiration and authority.
  • Session 3: God’s Astronomy: Accommodation, Inspiration, and the Bible? (Thursday 27 September; 7:30 pm)
    Does the Bible get the science right? And if not, what does this mean for Scripture’s authority and inspiration? The Church has long had the theological resources to deal with the apparent difficulty created by conflicts between the Bible and science. Evangelicals have largely forgotten these resources, which we shall try to recover.
  • Session 4: The Path of Wisdom: The Church and Biblical Criticism? (Friday 28 September; 11:10 am )
    The biblical critics are right about many things, but this does not mean that we can carelessly bring their insights into church pulpits and Sunday School classrooms. “True facts,” when misunderstood, become false and potentially destructive facts. How can the Church wisely assimilate the insights of biblical criticism without being destroyed by them?

I am looking forward to these sessions as his talks will be dealing with a number of crucial topics for those of us who consider ourselves “evangelical” biblical scholars. It seems to me that evangelical biblical scholars get a raw deal from both sides of the spectrum. On the one side, scholars such as N.P. Lemche argue (somewhat recklessly) that the label “evangelical biblical scholar” is an oxymoron. You can’t be both an evangelical and a scholar at the same time — at least not a real scholar. Then, on the other side, the more conservative elements of evangelicalism question the evangelicalism of those biblical scholars who don’t hold to the traditional party line on questions such as the authorship of the Pentateuch, the unity of Isaiah, historicity of Jonah, among other questions. While I believe the situation is much better now than in the past (due in large part to the fact that evangelical scholarship has improved immensely in the last 40 years or so), Mark Noll’s comment that “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind” remains valid in many quarters of evangelicalism.

sparks_kent_07.jpgWhat Kent will be drawing our attention to the human side of Scripture. And he is well-equipped to do such a task. He holds the PhD from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where he specialized in the study of the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East (his adviser was John Van Seters). His publications include numerous articles on the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, as well as four books:

  • God’s Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship (Baker Academic, forthcoming March 2008; pre-order from or
  • Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible: A Guide to the Background Literature (Hendrickson, 2005; buy from or
  • Ethnicity and Identity in Ancient Israel: Prolegomena to the Study of Ethnic Sentiments and their Expression in the Hebrew Bible (Eisenbrauns, 1998; buy from or
  • The Pentateuch: An Annotated Bibliography (IBR Bibliographies, no. 1; Baker Academic, 2002; buy from or

sparks_ancient_texts.jpgKent’s Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible is one of the best and most recent guides to all of the background literature to the Old Testament. It includes an introduction to comparative study of ANE texts and ANE archives and libraries, as well as a discussion of all of the relevant texts organized by genre. Original publication data and other useful bibliography is included for each ancient text — I highly recommend it. At present, Kent is preparing a book-length treatment of Israelite origins for Oxford University Press.

In addition to his academic credentials, Sparks is also an ordained Baptist Pastor, who served in that pastoral role for seven years before moving to Eastern University in St. Davids, PA, where he is presently a Professor of Biblical Studies. Sparks is also a recipient of the Lindback Foundation Award for Excellence in Teaching.

If you are in the Edmonton area, you are welcome to attend the sessions — especially the Thursday evening public lecture. Recordings of the talks will be made available on-line, so stay tuned.

Posted in Bible, Conferences, Criticism, Faith & Scholarship | 5 Comments »

Research in Religious Studies Conference Call for Papers

9th November 2006

This announcement will be of interest to all Albertan students studying religious studies, biblical studies, and theology. This is an annual student conference put on by the Religious Studies department at the University of Lethbridge. Note that this year the regional AAR/SBL meetings are being held at immediately following the student conference at the University of Lethbridge. I am hoping to bring a number of students with me to the conference this year and perhaps stay for the regional SBL meeting — I encourage you to do as well!

Call For Papers

5th Annual

Thursday, May 3 – Friday, May 4, 2007
University of Lethbridge
Lethbridge, Alberta

The conference is an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate level students to present papers on the history, belief, practices, cultural contexts, and artistic or literary expressions of any religious tradition. Papers from every discipline within the academic fields of the humanities and social sciences are welcome.

It is open to students from any educational institute at any point in their educational career. Although we encourage PhD students to attend, we are particularly seeking papers by undergraduate and masters level students.

Paper Sessions: Papers will typically be given a maximum of 30 mins (20 mins for the presentation and 10 mins for questions). Papers will be organized according to basic topic areas (e.g. Hinduism, Biblical Studies, Mythology, etc.). Diverse topic areas will be scheduled into an open paper session.

Panels include a series of related papers and a single question period at the end, or responses by other contributors. You may propose a panel discussion, especially if you know other interested folk with a paper on a relevant topic (great for final year seminar courses). Contact Dr. J. R. Linville at the address below if you would like to help organize a special panel.

Poster Session: Whether you are presenting a paper or not, bring a poster highlighting your BA Honors paper, MA research (completed or planned), or other research project, and see if you can get some feedback. Posters will be prominently displayed and time will be scheduled to discuss the advertised projects with the folks who are willing to share ideas with those who are interested, curious, or just plain mystified.

Click here to propose a paper (deadline: March 23, 2007)

We will do our best to accept all deserving papers, but there is a limit to the number of papers we can accept. All proposals will be adjudicated by March 31, 2007. Late submissions will only be considered if schedule allows.

Presenters must pay the required registration fee to attend the conference.

Dr. James R. Linville

Also, the Religious Studies Department at the University of Lethbridge also has a blog where you can get updates and more information.

Posted in Academic Associations, Announcements, Conferences | 1 Comment »