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Edmonton SBL Hebrew Scriptures Satellite Fall Seminar

23rd November 2006

As the coordinator of the Edmonton SBL Hebrew Scriptures Satellite, I would like to announce our fall seminar:

“The Prospects and Potentials of a Narratological Approach to the Pentateuch Targums�

Simon Adnams Lasair
University of Manchester

Response by Dr. Francis Landy
Professor, Department of History and Classics and Program of Religious Studies, University of Alberta

Thursday 30 November 2006 – 7:30 pm
Senate Chamber, Old Arts Building (Arts 326), University of Alberta.


This paper presents some of the initial findings of the author’s PhD thesis A Narratological Approach to the Pentateuch Targums, and shows what relevance this work has to the field of Targum Studies. The argument presented herein states that narratology can help to clarify many important differences between the targums and the Hebrew Bible, which in turn will allow scholars to address questions concerning how the targums might have functioned in various social and historical contexts. Several examples are given describing various narratological differences manifested between the targums and the Hebrew Bible. The discussion then turns to some methodological issues that are raised by this work and suggests how an engagement with these issues can help to further the work of targum scholars. Through this overview it is hoped that this paper will demonstrate how narratology can be used by scholars to further their understandings of targums and targumic literature.


Simon Adnams Lasair received his B.A. in Judaic and Christian Studies from Providence College, Otterburne, MB in 2001. In 2002 he was granted the degree of M.A. with distinction in Jewish Studies from the University of Manchester, Manchester, UK. The title of his M.A. dissertation was “A Methodological Enquiry into the Problem of the Provenance of Targum Onqelos.� Mr. Adnams is currently a third year PhD student at the University of Manchester, working on his dissertation, “A Narratological Approach to the Pentateuch Targums� supervised by Prof. Alexander Samely.

If you are in the Edmonton area, please feel free to join us.

Posted in Aramaic Targums, Emergent, SBL | Comments Off

Musings on A Generous Orthodoxy

16th November 2006

mclaren_go.jpgI recognize that this “theological” post is a bit off-topic for my blog (it has nothing to do with potties or Hebrew tattoos! :-) ), but I figured I could branch out every once and a while!

My small group has just started working through Brian D. McLaren‘s A Generous Orthodoxy (Zondervan, 2004; Buy from | Buy from and we are all quite enjoying it. I have read most of it before, but will be working through it in a bit more detail with the group. I find McLaren an engaging and thoughtful read. He certainly is provocative and pushes the envelop in much of what he writes — something which I quite frankly find refreshing.

I recognize that McLaren has received quite a bit of flack for his views and that many consider the “emergent” movement suspect (for a kind response to critics of McLaren, see Scot McKnight’s post here). I am sympathetic to many of the themes and impluses expressed by McLaren and other authors associated with the emergent movement (if you can really call it a “movement”). I imagine much of my sympathy was fostered in the many theology courses I took with Stan Grenz at Regent College/Carey Theological Seminary. It was from Stan’s book Renewing the Center (Baker Academic, 2000; Buy from | Buy from that McLaren was first introduced to the term “generous orthodoxy” (Stan in turn got the language from Hans Frei). That being said, there are some aspects of McLaren’s work that as a biblical scholar/theologian I have some issues with (as McLaren himself anticipates!).

At any rate, if I feel so inclined I may post some musings on A Generous Orthodoxy in the upcoming months as we work through the book. So stay tuned (or if this isn’t your cup of tea, then I imagine there will be plenty of other posts for you to read!).

Posted in Emergent, Generous Orthodoxy, Personal, Theology | 1 Comment »

Going Potty in Ancient Gath?! (GPAT 3.3)

2nd August 2006

The season at Tell es-Safi (ancient Gath) has almost come to a close. We have been able to follow the progress of the dig through their excellent blog here. On their July 31st update, they had an interesting discussion of Area F. What caught my eye was the object which they identified as a stone weight — I prefer to see it as an ancient potty!

This is the fourth in a series of semi-serious posts on “Going Potty in the Ancient World.� My other posts include:

All posts in this series may be viewed here.

While the identification of the object as a stone weight is possible, I’m not sure how they missed the clear indications that this object is indeed a toilet. The toilet paper and the fallen sign are clear giveaways to this amateur archaeologist!


This is exciting news… perhaps this is even the toilet that Goliath used before being killed by David! We have already found Goliath’s cereal bowl, and now this! All I can say is “Wow!” :-)

(I sure hope Prof. Aren M. Maeir has a sense of humour!)

Posted in Ancient Potties, Archaeology, Emergent, Humour, Series, Tell es-Safi | 3 Comments »

Blog of the Month

1st May 2006

Considering my recent blogging record for the month of April, I feel somewhat ashamed to note that I have been named “Blog of the Month” for the month of May by

Many thanks to Jim West and Brandon Wason for this honour!

Posted in Blog News, Emergent | 1 Comment »

Giveaways Galore!

26th March 2006

In a previous post (One Year Blogiversary & 40,000th Visitor Contests), I highlighted some contests I am holding as my 40th birthday, 40,000 visitor, and one year blogiversary are all fast approaching (one week from today I will be 40! Wow!).

While my visitors per day average has gone up, I’m not sure if I will make 40,000 by April 1st. While I have received quite a few entries to my “Tell-a-Friend about Codex” contest, the more the merrier! Here are the rules about how to enter:

  • Email a friend about Codex: Biblical Studies Blogspot – whether about the blog in general or about a particular post that you liked — and tell them to visit. The email should say something about my blog (â€?It’s the greatist thing since sliced breadâ€?) and include the url to the blog ( Here’s the catch: you need to CC me the email at “contest[at]biblical-studies[dot]ca.â€? The cc’d email will constitute your entry. (Remember to CC me or I won’t know you entered.)
  • Then after 12 noon on my 40th birthday (April 1, 2006, MST), I’ll pick an email completely at random from the cc’d emails sent to the above address and, presto, that individual will be the lucky winner. (Don’t worry, these emails will only be used to pick and contact a winner of this contest. I promise.)

So get those emails going! And remember to tell them to visit us here at Codex! Feel free to email as many friends/enemies as you want or have — multiple entries are more than welcome! (BTW: email lists will only count as one person!)

In addition, a post on your blog with a trackback or a link back to this entry or this blog will also constitute one entry. All you need to do is email me at at “contest[at]biblical-studies[dot]ca� and let me know about the post.

In addition, the 40,000th visitor to my blog will also win!

Gee… I sure am generous in my old age! :-)

Posted in Emergent | Comments Off

Blogger Move Over… biblicalia Converts to WordPress

26th February 2006

Kevin Edgecomb over at biblicalia has made the move from Blogger to WordPress, a move that I just made earlier this week. So you will have to update your feed to his site if you use a RSS reader.

I am quite happy with WordPress so far. I’m still playing around with settings and adjusting the look of my blog (how do you like the new “Codex” header?), as well as checking out some useful plugins.

I highly recommend checking out WordPress if you are not satisfied with your current blogging program.

Posted in Emergent | 1 Comment »

U2 – The Clear Highlight of the Grammy Awards

8th February 2006

Despite the fact that tonight’s Grammy Awards were too long, too glitzy, too excessive, and too self-absorbed (come on — it’s only music!), I was pleased to see Irish rock band U2 clean up with a total of five awards.

Their latest album, How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (Buy from or won for Album of the Year and Best Rock Album; “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” won Song of the Year and Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal; and “City of Blinding Lights” was named Best Rock Song. (Steve Lillywhite also picked up the Grammy for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical, in part for his work on How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb) U2 is Grammy’s most honored band.

In many ways U2 came full circle with How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Like virtually all of U2′s albums, I love every song on this CD. I also think that it is among U2′s most explicitly spiritual albums. According to various interviews, the “bomb” in the name of the album refers to his father, Bob, and that the songs are mostly about Bono’s efforts to deal with his dad’s death to cancer in 2001. The award winning song “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” is a moving tribute to Bono’s father. In his acceptance speech tonight, Bono remarked, “People say this is an odd title for an album… I was talking about my father Bob. He was the atomic bomb in question and set off a chain reaction in me. I want to thank my father for giving me the voice and a bit of attitude to use it.” My own father died from cancer almost five years ago and I have found the song (and other U2 songs, such as “Walk On”) quite meaningful as I have dealt with my dad’s death.

U2′s previous Grammy Awards are as follows:

  • 2002: Record of the Year (“Walk On”), Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal (“Stuck In a Moment”), Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal (“Elevation”), and Best Rock Album (All That You Can’t Leave Behind)
  • 2001: “Beautiful Day” wins Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal
  • 1995: Best Music Video, Long Form – “Zoo TV Live From Sydney”
  • 1994: Best Alternative Album – Zooropa
  • 1992: Best Rock Group Performance – Achtung Baby
  • 1989: Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group – “Desire”; Best Video Performance, Short Form – “Where the Streets Have No Name”
  • 1988: Album of the Year – The Joshua Tree; Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group – “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”

Posted in Emergent, Popular Culture, U2 | Comments Off

Biblical Studies Software News & Notes

7th February 2006

While I have been busy with the Biblical Studies Carnival and teaching various courses, there has been a number developments in the area of biblical studies software that are noteworthy:

  • BibleWorks 7.0. The long-awaited upgrade to BibleWorks was announced near the end of January and is now shipping. The new version sports an improved user-interface and Unicode support, among other things. Check out the list of features here and view a video introduction here. BibleWorks is a robust original-language Bible research program for Windows. Buy from
  • Accordance Blog. Accordance Bible Software — arguably the best biblical studies software on the face of the earth (at least for the Macintosh) — has been assimilated into the blogosphere. The blog — found here — will keep all of us up-to-date on the latest features and releases and will also profile different aspects of Accordance, such as the new Bible Atlas 2.0 release featured here.
  • SBL Hebrew Font upgrade to version 1.12. If you are running Windows XP (and MacOS X), then your best bet for right-to-left Hebrew is to use the new SBL Hebrew font with the SIL Hebrew Keyboard. While this release came out near the end of last year, I neglected to announce it. You can download it here. (In addition, FireFox users may want to download a patch to FireFox that corrects some fixes with right-to-left languages. It may be downloaded here).

Posted in Emergent | Comments Off

Hebrew Bible Related Reviews from RBL (30 January 2006)

31st January 2006

Like clockwork, the latest Review of Biblical Literature has appeared and there are a few reviews of books in the area of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and cognate disciplines — though pickings are a bit sparse this week. I would recommend the work on John Allegro — he was truly an interesting character in the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the biography by his daughter is a facinating read. Magic mushrooms anyone?

Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

  • Carasik, Michael (ed. and trans.), The Commentators’ Bible: The JPS Miqra’OT Gedolot: Exodus. Reviewed by Adele Berlin
  • Kiuchi, Nobuyoshi, A Study of HÌ£Ä?tÌ£Ä?’ and HÌ£atÌ£tÌ£Ä?’t in Leviticus 4-5. Reviewed by Reinhard Achenbach
  • Matthews, Victor H. and James C. Moyer, The Old Testament: Text and Context. Reviewed by Phillip Camp

Second Temple Studies

Posted in Emergent, RBL | Comments Off

Old Testament/First Testament/Hebrew Bible/Tanak: What’s in a Name? Quite a Bit Actually!

31st January 2006

Labels don’t really matter that much, do they? A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet — or so they say. A little while ago there was a discussion on the biblical studies email list about different names for the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible/Tanak. This discussion highlighted the significance that each of the different monikers has as well as potential problems with pretty much all of the terms. When it comes right down to it, it does make a difference what label you do use since each of the names relate to a particular community of faith and audience. That being said, I don’t think there is anything wrong with employing the various labels at different times depending on your intended audience.

From the get go, it should be noted that all of the different terms are, in fact, external labels. The collection of books that make up the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible/Tanak do not have any self-referential label. The closest you get to a self-referential title are the references to parts of the canon by the terms such as “Torah,” the “Torah of Moses” (Ezra 3:2; 7:6; Neh 8:1), the “Torah of the LORD” (Ezra 7:10), or the “book/scroll of Moses” (2Chron 25:4; 35:12; Neh 13:1).

Once you get outside the books of the Hebrew Bible you find references to “the law of the Most High,” “the wisdom of all of the ancients,” and “prophecies” in Sirach 38:34-39:1. Similarly, in the Greek translation of Sirach (completed around 132 BCE), you find reference to the Law, Prophets, and the “other books” — the last phrase being a disputed reference to the third division of the Hebrew Bible. A similar (disputed) reference to the tripartite Hebrew canon are found in 4QMMT, while there are a few reference to a bipartite canon in other DSS such as the Community Rule (1QS) and the Damascus Document (CD).

Within the Christian New Testament the books of the OT are referred to variously as “the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 7:12; 22:40; Luke 16:16; Acts 13:15; Rom 3:21) or “Moses and the Prophets” (Luke 16:29, 31; 24:44) or the like. One of the most common ways the NT refers to the books of the OT is by the generic term “scripture” (Gk. γÏ?αφὴ; usually in the plural, “scriptures”). So for instance, in 2 Timothy 3:16 the books of the OT are referred to as “Scripture” that is “God breathed” (Gk. θεόπνευστος).

The point of this survey is to illustrate that there was no uniform way that Jewish or later Christian communities referred to the collection of books that make up the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible prior to the second century CE.

The traditional Christian label is the Old Testament. This label for the books otherwise known as the Hebrew Bible or Tanak (note that in some traditions it also includes additional apocryphal/deuterocaonical books) is probably the most common label used overall. Its first known usage appears near the end of the second century CE. Melito of Sardis reportedly went to Palestine and “learned accurately the books of the Old Testament/Covenant” (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 4.26.14). Irenaeus also employed the term, though it is only after him that you find undisputed uses the labels “Old Testament” and “New Testament” for the two collections of books in early Christian writings (e.g., Clement, Tertullian, Hippolytus, etc.).

Since this term arose within a Christian context, it isn’t surprising that it is tied to a Christian understanding of these books being only one part of the two part Christian Bible: The Old and New Testaments. Historically, however, there is some difference of opinion within Christian circles what books actually make up the “Old Testament.” The early history of the debate over certain books is quite complex. It ended up that the Protestant tradition limited the term to refer to the books of the Hebrew Bible, while other Christian traditions, e.g., Catholic and Orthodox, include the books commonly referred to as apocryphal or deuterocanonical.

One of the main objections for using this term in biblical scholarship is that it clearly presupposes a Christian understanding of the Bible, which not everyone in biblical studies (obviously) shares. But even within Christian circles, this label is considered misleading by some since it may be interpreted as unnecessarily devaluing one section of the Christian Bible by calling it “old” or by implying that the “new” testament supersedes the “old” testament (the different understandings of the relationships between the testaments is beyond the scope of this post). This dissatisfaction spawned the use of the terms First and Second Testament. These terms are an attempt to recognize the two parts of the Christian Bible without some of the negative baggage associated with “Old” and “New Testament.” I believe this term was coined by James Sanders and has been adopted by the Biblical Theology Bulliten and a growing number of Christian scholars. Even John Goldingay employs it throughout his recent book Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Gospel (IVP, 2003; he only uses the term after the first chapter).

The label Hebrew Bible originates within the Jewish community and is gaining ground in academic biblical studies. It is considered less ideologically loaded than OT, though it has its share of problems. Perhaps the most obvious problem is that it is imprecise, since some of the books are actually written in or contain Aramaic portions. It still conveys religious overtones by including the term “Bible,” while Christians may object because it obscures the connection between the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament. It also doesn’t take into consideration traditions that hold to the expanded Christian canon including the apocryphal books.

Another popular Jewish term for the Old Testament is the Tanak. This term is an acronym for the three major divisions of the Hebrew Bible: Torah, Nebe’im, and Ketubim — TaNaK (תורה נבי×?×™×? וכתובי×? in Hebrew). This is perhaps one of the most common terms used within the Jewish community. Since the label is tied to the contents and order of the Jewish Hebrew Bible, it has the same, if not more, limitations as the term Hebrew Bible. Of course, this traditional Jewish division and ordering of the books appears to be quite old and even reflected in some of the NT passages noted above (also see Matt 23:35).

Other terms have been suggested, but none have really gained widespread usage. Perhaps the traditional labels, albeit problematic, are the best we have. As long as they are used with charity and understanding, I don’t see much of a problem. I have never been offended by any of my Jewish friends referring to the Old Testament as the Hebrew Bible or the Tanak, nor do I think they have been offended when I or other Christians refer to the Old Testament. I probably use the awkward “Old Testament/Hebrew Bible” the most, and reserve “Old Testament” when engaging specifically Christian theological topics and concerns. And I’m still not sure what I think of “First and Second Testament.”

What label(s) do you use and why?

Posted in Emergent | 1 Comment »