Well, the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, as well as the International Organization of Septuagint and Cognate Studies, is over. New Orleans was great. The French Quarter has a lot of character; Bourbon Street was a bit more seedy than I remembered. I had a chance to see some of the rest of New Orleans as well. It seems that it either hasn’t quite recovered from Katrina or (more likely) it has been hit hard by the economic downturn — or a combination of both (at least the Saints are doing well!).
The conference was good. It seems a bit more manageable without AAR (first time I can recall having enough space in the conference rooms), though there are some sessions which I miss not having the opportunity to attend. I heard some good papers in the Chronicles/Ezra-Nehemiah, Septuagint, and Psalms sections, among others. I also had a nice time at a dinner organized by fellow blogger John Hobbins. The dinner featured a local chef who was superb (I now can say I like collard greens; I had them before in Arizona and thought they were awful, but now I know it was just the way they were prepared). Michael Fox was the special guest at the dinner; after a great introduction by Ray Van Leeuwen, he chatted about the second volume of his AB commentary on Proverbs (which will be the leading commentary on Proverbs for quite a while). I also met up with other bloggers at the function organized by Jim West. It was great to put some faces to the names.
The book displays were also in fine form. I spent far too much money on too few books (the prices were right, but the fact is books are just getting more and more expensive). I’ll have to post about some of my purchases at a later date.
Now to get back into lecture prep and grading mode… bah!
As a follow up to my last post, I wanted to put a plug in for a recently published book that also explores the difficult issue of the violent portrayal of God in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament — a book which I am using as one of the texts for one of the courses I am teaching next semester:
Disturbing Divine Behavior:
Troubling Old Testament Images of God
by Eric A. Seibert
Fortress Press, 2009
Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com
In this work Seibert examines the disturbing narrative portrayals of God in the Hebrew Bible and explores some ways in which we may (as Christians) read these narratives in a responsible and faithful manner today. I am not necessarily convinced by Seibert’s solution to the problem, but he does a great job focusing the issue and helping us understand the function of biblical narrative and its relation to history. I only wish that he would have expanded his coverage to at least include the negative images of God found in the prophetic literature. Moreover, I really wish he expanded his work to cover the entire Christian Bible (Old and New Testaments), so the issue isn’t even framed as an “Angry God of the Old Testament versus the Loving God of the New Testament” debate.
Another book that deals with the same problem by focusing on the book of Joshua and the conquest/Canaanite genocide is Walter Brueggemann‘s recently published, Divine Presence Amid Violence: Contextualizing the Book of Joshua (Cascade, 2009; Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com).
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!
In my sad post lamenting the fact that Edmonton was not among the first North American cities for the U2360° Tour, I begged Bono and the Edge (sorry Larry and Adam, but I didn’t think you had the pull) to reconsider and make Edmonton one of the stops, and I am pleased to announce that they listened to me and U2 is coming to Edmonton 23 June 2010!
Presales start tomorrow and I can buy my tickets Wednesday at 10:00 am. Tickets are available to the public 2 November 2009.
If last night’s Rose Bowl show was any indication, it is going to be a great night on 23 June 2010! I can’t wait!
We’re in the second half of the month and every responsible biblioblogger should be nominating posts for Biblical Studies Carnival XLVII, which will be held over at Kevin Scull’s Paul of Tarsus blog. It will highlight posts relating to academic biblical studies for the month of October and should be posted in the first week of November 2009.
It’s a huge job to host the monthly Carnival (just ask any mortal who has hosted it before), and it makes it a lot easier if you nominate posts. Part of me wants to do what many carnivals do (e.g., the Christian Carnival) and only note posts that were actually nominated. Then the job of hosting would actually be reasonable and no one could complain about the host not mentioning their post, since you would be responsible to self-nominate. Enough of my rant…
Help Kevin out and nominate some posts today! To nominate posts you have two options:
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.
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.
Claude Mariottini caught me in an inadvertent historical “error” (or is it an error? it is accurate according to the MT) when he noticed my reference to King Saul’s “two year” reign in my post, “Saul: The King Who Should Have Never Been.” I hadn’t meant to make a point out of how long his reign actually was historically; while some scholars would agree with the MT and maintain that Saul’s reign was only two years, most would suggest there is a textual error in the MT. My concern in the post, however, was not how long the historical Saul may or may not have reigned, but rather, I was making a point about the anti-Saul polemic in Samuel and especially in Chronicles.
That being said, I find Saul’s problematic regnal formula in 1Samuel 13:1 intriguing. A quick look at the Hebrew text of this verse will quickly highlight the problems with this verse:
Literally translated the text would read: “Saul was son of __ years when he began to reign, and he reigned two years over Israel.” There are two issues with this verse.
The most obvious problem with this verse is that there is no number associated with Saul’s age when he took the throne. The Hebrew convention to say someone is twenty-five years, for example, is to say literally, “he was son of twenty and five years.” This is more than likely a textual problem.
The second issue is both grammatical and historical in nature. Historically, most scholars consider two years to be too short for Saul’s reign if you need to fit all the events narrated in 1Samuel. Grammatically, the syntax of the regnal formula is usually an cardinal in absolute state followed by the absolute noun “years”; in this verse you have a cardinal in construct form followed by an absolute noun (e.g., in 2Samuel 2:10 Ishbaal’s two-year reign is found with the expected form: וּשְׁתַּיִם שָׁנִים מָלָךְ). This departure from the standard formula may suggest a textual issue where some numbers dropped out.
When we look to other textual witnesses, there is little help. Codex Vaticanus omits the verse, while some of the Lucianic Greek manuscripts put Saul’s age at thirty, but they reproduce the two year duration of his reign. The Aramaic Targums translate the verse creatively as “Saul was like a one year old with no sins when he became king; then he reigned two years over Israel.” Josephus puts Saul reign as twenty years long in Ant. 10.143, but as forty years in Ant. 6.378 (The latter agrees with Acts 13:21). And modern scholars have suggested a bunch of different numbers (For a good discussion trying to figure out how long Saul’s reign actually was, I encourage you to check out Claude’s post, Rereading 1 Samuel 13:1; Chris Heard over at Higgaion also has a related post dealing with the length of Saul’s reign on the Accordance timeline).
All of the apparent textual issues aside, I still wonder if the MT text may be purposeful — it would certainly fit in with the anti-Saul polemic found in the Deuteronomistic History, Chronicles, and other parts of the Hebrew Bible (e.g., Esther). I recall a course I was in at the University of Toronto with Dr. Stanley D. Walters on 1 and 2 Samuel and I believe he suggested that the reading of the MT was intentional. This is also the perspective of Hertzberg in his commentary on Samuel in the OTL series. He suggests in regards to the awkward syntax of the MT’s two year reign that
the number is given because it was the later view that Saul was actually ‘king’ for only quite a short time (cf. also on 15.1). In fact, the number 40, which is geven both in Josephus and in Acts 13.21 as the length of Saul’s reign, may originally have stood here; as has been said, it would have been replaced by the figure two on dogmatic-historical grounds” (I & II Samuel: A Commentary, p. 103; emphasis mine).
Thus, while historically Saul’s reign was perhaps over a decade or two, in reality, from a theological perspective, his reign was only two years since Yahweh removed the crown from him and “turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse” (1Chron 10:14). And the MT reflects precisely this theological reading.
The call for papers for the 2010 sessions of the Ancient Historiography Seminar of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies has been released. The theme for 2010 is “The Book of Chronicles and Early Second Temple Historiography.”
The last quarter-century has seen a remarkable resurgence in scholarship on the book of Chronicles. The Ancient Historiography Seminar of the CSBS invites papers evaluating the state of Chronicles research, including papers exploring the text, context, or subtext of the Chronicler’s work and Yehudite Historiography in the late Persian/Early Hellenistic Period. While the focus of the session will be on Chronicles, papers on other examples of early Second Temple historiography, especially as they contribute to our understanding of the Chronicler, are welcome.
To be considered for our program, please submit a 250 word abstract to the seminar chair, Tyler Williams (tyler [dot] williams [at] kingsu [dot] ca) byDecember 1, 2009.
The seminar will meet as part of the annual meeting of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies, held at Concordia University, Montréal, PQ, May 29-31, 2010.
The Ancient Historiography Seminar / Groupe de Travail sur l’Historiographie Ancienne is a professional, academic working group of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies / Société canadienne des Études bibliques (CSBS/SCÉB). Last year’s schedule and papers may be found here, while the papers from the 2006, 2007, and 2008 meetings may be found here.
20th Century Fox has announced that they will be remaking The Ten Commandments in the style of “300“! I am not sure of what to make of this. “300″ was a visually stunning — if not ultra violent — film, but I can’t imagine what they would do to the story of the Exodus from Egypt to make it work. Here is a snippet from the announcement in Variety:
For his first significant film project acquisition, Peter Chernin is taking on a project of Biblical proportions.
20th Century Fox has made a preemptive acquisition of a pitch to tell the story of Moses in “300″ style. The tale will start with his near death as an infant to his adoption into the Egyptian royal family, his defiance of the Pharoah and deliverance of the Hebrews from enslavement.
Chernin will produce with Dylan Clark, who recently moved over from Universal to become president of Chernin’s Fox-based film company.
The script will be written by Adam Cooper and Bill Collage, who make this their followup to a high-level deal they made to reinvent Herman Melville”s “Moby Dick,” with a graphic novel feel, for director Timur Bekmambetov and producer Scott Stuber at Universal. That script is in, the extensive pre-visualization work is done. It could be Bekmambetov’s next film, if “Wanted 2″ doesn’t come together first.
The Moses story will be told using the same green screen strategy as “300,” so it will feel more like that pic or “Braveheart” than “The Ten Commandments,” the 1956 Cecil B. DeMille film.
The popular mythical and magical elements inherent in the Book of Exodus will be there–including the plagues visited upon Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea–but the Cooper & Collage version will also include new elements of Moses’ life that the writers culled from Rabbinical Midrash and other historical sources.
I can just imagine it… Moses shouting out, “THIS is YAHWEH!” or perhaps “THIS is COMMANDMENT!”
So I haven’t heard anything from visitor number 500,000 from Oakville Ontario, so now the free book will go to visitor number 499,999 who hearkens from Boulder, Colorado and visited early in the morning last Saturday 3 October. If that person doesn’t come forward, then I will try number 500,001, who visited from Tel Aviv, Israel who visited from a link from the Arabic wikipedia.
If any of these don’t work, then I will have to draw a name from a hat of blogs that linked to this post!
This blog has now reached over 500,000 readers and is (kind of) going strong. I imagine that I would have hit 500,000 a lot sooner if I somehow managed to avoid the blogging lulls over the years. I’m hoping I am back on track with some regular blogging, though only time will tell!
I would like to thank my readers — especially those who continued to look for signs of life when there was none! I hope that my blog posts, as well as my larger codex website is a useful resource for all who are interested in studying the Bible and other matters of faith — such as tattoos!
Number 500,000 Who Are You?
As I mentioned in a previous post, to celebrate my 500,000th reader, I decided to give away a book. The lucky winner visited this website Saturday 3 October at 8:29 am from Oakville, Ontario, Canada. (If this person doesn’t identify themselves, then the runner-ups are from Israel and the United States)
If you are this person from Oakville, all you have to do is email me (codex [at] biblical-studies [dot] ca) and confirm that it was actually you who was number 500,000 by telling me your operating system and what web browser you viewed this site with. If I don’t get anyone claiming the prize then I will post the next closest, etc., until there is a winner.