Quote of the Day

“While the mute creation downward bend
Their sight, and to their earthly mother tend,
Man looks aloft, and with erected eyes,
Beholds his own hereditary skies.” –  Ovid

Israeli Priorities

In a newly launched Facebook page, Israeli fans of U.S. pop megastar Madonna are pleading Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold off any such plans to strike Iran until the Queen of Pop’s planned show in Tel Aviv on May 29.  The group, simply and directly enough, is named: “Bibi don’t start a war with Iran until after Madonna’s show on May 29.”

How about not at all then….  good grief.  People…  they just aren’t right.

‘Confessions of a Methodological Skeptic’ in Bible and Interpretation

It starts

The historical-critical methods of biblical study developed out of a growing sense that the biblical text was the product of a lengthy, gradual process of composition and transmission and, therefore, these methods assume such a process of composition. I share many of the assumptions behind the historical-critical methods—for example, the tremendous textual diversity of the Book of Samuel strongly suggests that Samuel (or any one individual) did not write it and that the process of composition included a variety of individuals drawing from a variety of sources. In that sense, I am a strong advocate for source and redaction criticism.

There’s more and he’s right on the money.

The Roman Empire Ran on Camel Power…

English: Dromedary camel in outback Australia,...

In a forthcoming report in the Journal of Archaeological Science, Belgian archeologists Fabienne Pigière and Denis Henrotay, report on the discovery of the bones of a Roman-era dromedary camel in Arlon, Belgium. And they inventory 22 sites in Northern Europe that have turned up camel bones from the Roman era.  “”Antique literature and iconographical sources inform us about the uses of camels in the Roman Empire. The animals were bred as beasts of burden, both for military and trade purposes,” begins the report.

Now that’s genuinely interesting.  This should give the Classicists something to discuss.  Read the rest.

Dan Wallace Has More to Say About the ‘Earliest Fragment of Mark’, But Adds Nothing New

It was dated by one of the world’s leading paleographers. He said he was ‘certain’ that it was from the first century. If this is true, it would be the oldest fragment of the New Testament known to exist. Up until now, no one has discovered any first-century manuscripts of the New Testament. The oldest manuscript of the New Testament has been P52, a small fragment from John’s Gospel, dated to the first half of the second century. It was discovered in 1934.

Not only this, but the first-century fragment is from Mark’s Gospel. Before the discovery of this fragment, the oldest manuscript that had Mark in it was P45, from the early third century (c. AD 200–250). This new fragment would predate that by 100 to 150 years.

Still no name for this world class paleographer and no new information, even though the date of the post is – well – today.  The rest of the post is along the lines of ‘even if we did find something new it wouldn’t change what we already know’ apologetics.

It’s a shame, really.  Why not post a photo of the manuscript?  Why not allow others to examine it?  Why not name the paleographer so he could be asked what his views were and how he reached them?  And why not address the issue of provenance?  And most importantly, why no engagement with the questions that have been widely raised- particularly those of Hurtado?

I remain skeptical that this manuscript is anything significant if its even authentic.

It’s That Time: The SBL Annual Meeting ‘Call For Papers’

Call for Papers

Call for Papers Open: 2/8/2012
Call for Papers Closed: 3/1/2012

The SBL needs your papers. We’ve got to have something to do when the exhibit hall is closed and the receptions haven’t begun! Get yours in (and it may keep the genuinely awful ones out!!!).

[Via Joel the Watts on twittering]

Bad News for the Meth Addicts, Good News for the Rest of Us

Mexican troops have made a historic seizure of 15 tons of pure methamphetamine in the western state of Jalisco, an amount equivalent to half of all meth seizures worldwide in 2009.  The sheer scale of the bust announced late Wednesday in the western state of Jalisco drew expressions of amazement from meth experts. The haul could have supplied 13 million doses worth over $4 billion on U.S. streets.  “This could potentially put a huge dent in the supply chain in the U.S,” said U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Rusty Payne. “When we’re taking this much out of the supply chain, it’s a huge deal.”

Read the rest.  They have photos too.  If only meth could be eradicated- so many lives could be spared, so many families freed from the slavery of deathly meth.

Stupid Things Bible Students Say…

From ‘Bible Students Say’ on twitter-

“Pharaohs sidekick Haman isn’t mentioned until the Book of Esther in the Koran” (Are you kidding me???).

See, this is exactly why we need theologians in the church.  No one raised around good theology could write such ignorance in College!

Where Marc Sees Cause to Lament, I See Reason to Rejoice

Marc is dismayed at the lack of job opportunities for persons holding a PhD in theology.  Might I turn his frown upside down?  For where he sees cause to lament, I see reason to rejoice.

Zwingli's Statue at the Wasserkirche

Simply put- the Church (in all its flavors and manifestations) needs MORE theologians occupying pulpits.  For too long gifted persons skilled in theological method have fled the church for teaching positions.  This has left the church, in many places, bereft of theological guidance and left to the mercy of the ignorant, untrained, pseudo-pastors called to fill pulpits that ought to be filled by trained theologians filled with the Spirit and gifted with insight into the practical and applicable meaning of Holy Writ.

The GREATEST theologians of the Church have always been Pastors or persons who were in pulpits every week.  Luther- a great pulpiteer.  Calvin- a brilliant Churchman.  Zwingli- the greatest Pastor the Reformation produced.  And Bullinger… what that man accomplished for Europe, and the world, still isn’t fully known.  Barth began his work in the ministry and should, by all rights, have stayed there where he still could have produced what he produced and still ministered in a ministry that matters.  And of course Brunner, who also began his career as a Parish Vicar and who never, not for a day, lost sight of the fact that theology is the Church’s business and the Church MUST have theologians.

Marc is upset and I get that.  But I’m not.  I hope a paltry job market for trained theologians drives them to the pulpits where they belong.

Had theologians remained in pulpits the gross ignorance most churches endure could have been avoided and the Rick Warren’s and Joel Osteen’s and Todd Bentley’s of the world and all their deceptive ilk would be out of work (in terms of the Church), hustling their wares on some used car lot or insurance office where they- by rights- belong.

To be sure the Academy needs theologians- but only so many as it takes to train theologians.  The proper home of theology is the Church, after all.  The Church needs theologians.  Desperately.

Taylor and Francis – Social Media Week and A Contest

From the folk at Taylor and Francis

Social Media Week Competition – February 13th – 17th 2012

In celebration of Social Media Week, Taylor & Francis are running a week long competition where one lucky entrant will be the proud new owner of an Ipad 2 and some tailored free content to your subject area of choice.  Each day this week, you will have a choice of 2 questions, both of which will give you the same answer: a letter. By the end of the week, entrants will have a 5 letter word that you need to send to us in an email. The winner will be picked at random and notified next week.

How to enter:

Each day visit this page, for the next choice of questions.  Once you have all 5 letters on Friday; email the winning word, your name and the T&F Social Media page which directed you to the competition to:socialmedia.competition@tandf.co.uk   Need advice? Feel free to contact us on the above email address!

Good Riddance to Bad Policy

‘No Child Left Behind’ is perhaps the worst, most ill-conceived, and counter-productive policy ever enacted by the Department of Education.  It has hampered the educational process and caused far more harm than good.

Thankfully the Obama Administration recognizes the ludicrousness of the policy and today will grant waivers to 10 States which have requested them so that they can opt out of the absurdity.

The Associated Press has learned that President Barack Obama on Thursday will free 10 states from the strict requirements of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law.  The move gives long-sought leeway to states that promise to improve how they prepare and evaluate students.  A White House official says the states are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Teaching for the test, which is all that ‘no child left behind’ is about, is extraordinarily short sighted.  No one who actually teaches in a classroom setting thinks it a sensible program.  Teaching to the lowest common denominator leaves behind the majority of students who easily grow disinterested with plowing the same field as the kids who either don’t care or who aren’t skilled at learning yet.   Good riddance to bad policy.

A Shocking Hasidic Story

ABC News tells a fascinating and repulsive story about a little girl forced to marry a total stranger- and her escape from Jewish Fundamentalism-

At only 17, Deborah Feldman was unprepared for her arranged marriage to her orthodox Jewish husband Eli, a man she had only met for 30 minutes.  Like other young brides in the Hasidic tradition of Brooklyn, N.Y., she was whisked away to the “marriage teacher” and told about the “holy place inside each woman.”  “I hear her describe a hallway with walls, leading to a little door, which opens to the womb, the ‘mekor,’ she calls it, ‘the source’,” writes Feldman. “I can’t imagine where an entire system like that could be positioned.”

Feldman, who had never even been allowed to look down there, had no idea she had a vagina and says she suddenly made the “shocking discovery” that she was designed for sex.  Now 25, Feldman has written a powerful memoir — “Unorthodox: the Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots” — about her escape in 2006 from the cloistered and misogynistic world of New York’s Satmar Jews.

Wow.  I guess I live too sheltered a life.  I wasn’t aware that this sort of anti-woman medieval practice was going on here in America in the 21st century!  It sounds exactly like the practices of Muslims in Afghanistan under the Taliban.

Society for Reformation Studies Annual Meeting

Radicals, Dissenters & Non-Conformists in the Reformation

The 19th Annual Conference of the Society for Reformation Studies
Westminster College, Cambridge April 11-13, 2012

Keynote Speakers: Prof. Gerald Hobbs (Vancouver), Dr Sarah Mortimer (Oxford) and Prof. Bernard Roussel (Sorbonne)

The Judaeo-Christian tradition has consistently lauded its prophets over its priests and kings, and has often equated sanctity with stubborn refusal to conform.  Little wonder that the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw a proliferation of dissent.  Indeed, the Protestant Reformation itself can be regarded as the most successful act of religious disobedience in Christian history.  Like all revolutions, however, the Reformation soon established its own norms and authorities, which were challenged equally swiftly in their turn by those eager to reform the Reformation. Reformation and radicalism are therefore inextricably linked, and an appropriate theme for our 19th annual conference.

We invite papers (25 minutes maximum) addressing different aspects of this rich and varied theme.  What common features does Reformation radicalism evince? Can patterns of dissent be detected across temporal and geographical boundaries?  What biblical hermeneutic, view of church history, or social vision motivated individual radicals?  Was the contribution of women radicals as great as is sometimes supposed?  How did magisterial reformers reconcile their attitude to radicals with their own status as radicals in the eyes of Catholics?

These and many other questions are raised by the theme of Radicals, Dissenters and Non-Conformists in the Reformation.

Leading us in the consideration of these issues will be Gerald Hobbs (Vancouver) who will speak on “Resistance to the Reformed Quest for Conformity in Biblical Interpretation,” Sarah Mortimer (Oxford), who will consider “Socininianism: radical heterodoxy and conservative politics?” and Bernard Roussel (Sorbonne), who will discuss “Reformation at the risk of ‘non-conformity’, France 1557-1572”.

As always, papers which reflect the current work of participants, regardless of their relevance to the theme, are very welcome.

Contact: For information on submitting a paper proposal and/or attending the conference please email Dr Aaron Clay Denlinger (a.c.denlinger@abdn.ac.uk) or Dr Charlotte Methuen (charlotte.methuen@glasgow.ac.uk).

Booking form: (currently in pdf only) can be downloaded here.


He Killed Two People Because they Defriended His Daughter on Facebook!

That’s insanity.

 Authorities say a father who was upset after a Tennessee couple deleted his adult daughter as a friend on Facebook has been charged with killing the couple.

Johnson County Sheriff Mike Reece said Wednesday the victims had complained to police that Marvin’s Potter’s daughter was harassing them after they deleted her as a friend on the social networking site.

Potter has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in last week’s slayings of Billy Payne Jr. and his girlfriend, Billie Jean Hayworth. Their baby was found unharmed in Hayworth’s arms.

That’s so insane.  People killed for defriending????  Crazy.  That’s the only word that fits.

The Church is Like an Orchestra…

English: Dublin Philharmonic Orchestra in perf...

The Church is like an orchestra performing on the stage.  The First Violinist (the Pastor) sets the tone by playing the first notes and getting the whole assembly in tune.  The Conductor (Christ) chooses the score, sets the orchestra in motion, determines the timing, and brings the concert to a close.  The members of the orchestra (church folk) each have their own part to play.

Some instruments (members) bear the heaviest burden by having to play during the entire piece.  Others simply play from time to time, adding their musical voices to the whole adding fullness and beauty.  Still others only have a single note or measure to play before their contribution ends.

Every now and then someone plays a sour note and the listening audience winces.  Even if the culprit isn’t instantly known, everyone knows that something has gone amiss.

But when each instrumentalist knows his part, and plays it to their best- something fantastic is produced and everyone is blessed- both players and hearers.

The Church is like an orchestra.