Daily Archives: 9 Jun 2015

The University Where You Can get a Degree in Vampire Studies… Where Else but Britain…

And they say higher ed is dying… clearly they haven’t bothered to examine the absolutely worthless courses kids are spending their parent’s money on…  morons.

Academia and pop culture have made for strange bedfellows for decades now. The University of Washington offers a comparative history class on the work of rapper Tupac Shakur, Syracuse University made headlines for its course analyzing Lil’ Kim’s lyrics, and the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer became academic fodder almost the second it left the airwaves. If all that wasn’t enough, you can go to Liverpool Hope University in the U.K. and earn a master’s degree in Beatles Studies.

Now, the Brits have taken the pop-culture graduate degree idea and run with it: This fall, the University of Hertfordshire will offer what may be the world’s first master’s degree in Vampire Studies. There are no actual course offerings yet, but the description promises careful readings of literary vampire narratives like Bram Stoker’s Dracula and J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla (which got a rather prominent name-check on True Blood last season). Of course, if you want to literally study Edward Cullen, you’re in luck—Twilight is also on the list of course readings, along with works from Darwin, Marx, and Freud. (What? You thought this would be a breeze? It is grad school, after all.)

Morons.  [HT Dan Gulotta or something like that].

The 2015 BNTC Registration Deadline Approaches


As you all know, the British New Testament Conference 2015 takes place in Edinburgh this year 3rd-5th September. To book, there is a link from our website http://www.bnts.org.uk/ or for the direct link: http://www.epay.ed.ac.uk/browse/extra_info.asp?compid=1&modid=2&catid=3&prodid=1860

To take advantage of the early registration fee of £210 residential/£140 non-residential you must book before 1st July. At which point the fee increases to £230/£160. While I take the deadline for the reduced rate to be 11.59pm on the 30th June, there is ample material in the New Testament to warn against cutting it that fine!

To book you need to create an account (which is a very simple process), before going on to book your place. Please make sure you choose the correct option. You also choose your seminar group at the booking stage.

To avoid the annual twitter controversy, the official hashtag is #bntc2015

Look forward to seeing you in Edinburgh.

Dr Paul Middleton
(Secretary, The British New Testament Society)

Old Testament/ Hebrew Bible – III/1 – From Modernism to Post-Modernism (The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries)

978-3-525-54024-4The present contribution to the furtherance of our understanding of the Hebrew Bible’s reception history (previous segments of this multipart review of this multivolume behemoth are arranged here) opens with an intriguing chapter on history and historicism.  That theme is then expanded upon in the sections which follow until readers arrive at chapter Seven which describes The ‘New World’ of North America and Canada – and the Globalization of Critical Biblical Scholarship. It is here that scholarship outside of a mainly European context enters the discussion (which is itself an amazing and at one level disturbing fact).

Biblical scholarship as practiced in North America and Europe continues, then, to be the core discussion point until chapter Twelve. That chapter, The ‘History of Israel’: Its Emergence as an Independent Discipline turns away from regional considerations and involves readers in debates and discussions about various topics related to Old Testament scholarship.

The highlight of the volume commences in chapter 16 though- titled “Albert Eichhorn and Hermann Gunkel: The Emergence of a History of Religion School”, by Erhard S. Gerstenberger, Marburg which is then followed by “In the Wake of Wellhausen: The Growth of a Literary-critical School and Its Varied Influence” by Rudolf Smend.

All of the major historians, exegetes, and theologians practicing Old Testament studies are described and their contributions are explored.  Whether Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Conservative, Liberal, or any of the other subgroups.  This encyclopedic volume situated as it is towards the end of this encyclopedic multivolume work opens readers to an ever clearer comprehension of the way the Hebrew Bible has been interpreted.  And the last chapter is something of a ‘tease’ for the last volume.  It’s titled “Modernity’s Canonical Crisis: Historiography and Theology in Collision”.

The contents of the book are themselves intriguing enough to attract readers and the bibliographic headings provided at the commencement of each chapter are a library within themselves;  but a more helpful thing than mere description by an admittedly biased (because immensely impressed) reviewer  may be to excerpt portions so that interested persons can get a better ‘feeling’ for the work here proffered.  To that end, note the following texts:


Prior to the nineteenth century, it was axiomatic that the prophets were later than, and were the teaching successors of, Moses. This view was based upon a combination of the canonical portrayal itself (e. g., Joshua as Moses’ successor), the statement of Deut 18:15 concerning the raising up of prophets, infrequent references within the prophetic material to a succession (Jer 15: 1), the idea of prophets in schools or guilds (e. g., Elijah and Elisha; the ‘sons of the prophets’; Isaiah and his disciples), and the New Testament’s subsequent perspective. But foremost was the basic notion of Israel’s religious foundation at Sinai with Moses at its centre. Who could the prophets be if not the successors of Moses, dependent upon his written legacy? (p. 561).

And then, in another chapter discussing a different aspect of the Old Testament’s reception:

Toward the close of the eighteenth century, J. S. Semler (1725–1791) strongly insisted that the biblical canon had a history. It did not drop fully formed from heaven, nor had Israel or the Church possessed complete agreement from the beginning about what its contents or arrangement should be. The traditional view of the Old Testament canon attributed its existence to the work of Ezra and the men of the Great Assembly. As the sixteenth century Jewish scholar Elias Levita (1469–1549) had summarized: “In Ezra’s time the 24 books of the OT were not yet united in a single volume; Ezra and his associates united them together, and divided them into three parts, the Law, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa”.1 Yet, as Semler and others began to argue, some of the books of the Old Testament appeared to date from a time after the era of Ezra. Moreover, there were apparently later disagreements by various Jewish groups over the contents of the canon. So did it not make more sense to view such disagreements as existing prior to the point at which the canon had been fixed? Just when had the canon really been closed? The response of nineteenth-century scholars to such questions was increasingly to treat the biblical canon as the eventual consequence of a lengthier process of literary development and communal deliberation (pp. 656-657).


Today history is mostly conceived and pursued within biblical scholarship without any recourse or relation to revelation at all, which begs the old question anew and even more urgently: if the biblical canon is fully contingent, a mere accident of history, what unity can it possibly have and what convincing rationale can be given for its limits? In purely historical terms, how can one restrict one’s inquiry to only these books, and how can one perceive anything in them other than irreducible diversity? (pp. 658-659).

And so on, throughout.  No more thorough treatment of the way the Old Testament has been received, understood, interpreted, applied, abused, appealed to, and misrepresented  has yet been produced anywhere by anyone.  This exceptional volume, and indeed, this entire exceptional series, is something without which scholars of the Hebrew Bible cannot do.

The final portion’s review will be forthcoming soon.

A Poll: Should I Resume the Monthly Avignonian Biblioblogger Carnival

Death Camps Then and Now: An Observation

hoess_big_auschwitz_victimsThe 20th century had its death camps and most of the time they are referred to in the sources as ‘Concentration Camps’ – horrid places where millions and millions were killed by those who thought themselves their betters pretended to be gods.

clinicThe 21st century also has its death camps and most of the time they are referred to in the sources as ‘abortion clinics’ – horrid places where millions and millions were killed by those who thought themselves their betters pretended to be gods.

The murderers at these camps may imagine that the Judge of All the Earth hasn’t noticed but in that they would be exceedingly wrong.


If Christians were as devoted to their jobs as they are to their Lord Jesus the Christ, King of Heaven and Earth, they wouldn’t be entrusted by their employers to work the graveyard shift at a self service gas station.

“Casual Christianity” : An Observation

There’s never been any such thing as casual Christianity. You either are a disciple or you aren’t. Saying you can be casually Christian is the exact same thing as saying you’re just partly pregnant.

Though, to be fair, there are deluded and deranged people who think they’re just partially pregnant… but delusion isn’t truth.

This is What Happens When Rupert Murdoch Buys an Erstwhile Christian Publisher


Tis a stupid question.  Humanity is fallen.  It’s not a matter of whether or not the Church is ‘complicit’ (what the *&() does that mean anyway?) in the fact of mankind’s fallenness.  The destruction of the imago dei through rebellion and sin is simply the way things are.  Period.  No question.  No debate.

[NB- I know, I know, someone is going to say that the essay isn’t about that at all, etc. etc. blah blah blah.  The tweet itself is the absurdity].

Which Is Harder: Building or Destroying?

When I was a kid, I guess around 12, we had an old lawnmower.  It worked, but I thought I could make it work better.  So one afternoon I disassembled it.  It was easy.  I stripped down every part that would come off.  I was left with a pile of materials that I had no idea what to do with.  And boy, did I get in trouble when dad got home.  ‘Put it back together!’  But I couldn’t.

In similar terms- explaining the bible is hard work.  But tearing it apart is easy.  Ergo- postmodernism.  Ergo- the willingness of so many academics to deconstruct the biblical text and then happily leave it in a pile and tell others ‘there you go.  I’ve taken it apart, now you put it back together’.

It’s easy to destroy stuff.  Making sense of stuff… that’s another thing altogether.  Anyone can destroy.  Precious few can assemble.

Do You Know This Guy?


If you do, enter to win!

Learning By Doing: An Observation

_44643433_bible226They say if you want to learn something, teach it.  I say, if you really want to learn something about the Bible, write a commentary.

Joe Zias’ Trial in a Nutshell: Simcha’s Attempt to Keep Neutral Reporters Out

PRI has the report

La Vera Storia di Dio

lomAntonio Lombatti– has sent along a review copy and I’m super keen to dive in.

“Questo libro è su Dio. Con la maiuscola. Non racconterò storie divertenti o episodi edificanti, vi racconterò la verità, tutta la verità, nient’altro che la verità. Sulla Bibbia, ovviamente. Ma anche sulla storia degli israeliti e sulla nascita della Chiesa cristiana. Mostrerò la Parola di Dio così come non l’avete mai vista. E parlerò di scoperte archeologiche incredibili, di cui ignoravate totalmente l’esistenza. Ne sono sicuro.Vi proporrò brani della Bibbia che non pensavate nemmeno esistessero. Vi stimolerò a leggerla tutta. O, perlomeno, buone parti di essa.

signedNon vi servono le decine e decine di commentari che sono stati scritti in questi secoli. Dovete controllare da soli. Con i vostri occhi. E il vostro cervello. Della sconosciuta storia di Dio, vi illustrerò alcune della maggiori scoperte dell’Archeologia Biblica che vi aiuteranno a comprendere meglio passaggi oscuri delle Sacre Scritture. E a collocare questa antica divinità nel suo contesto storico e culturale.

Vi porterò indietro nel tempo di almeno cinquemila anni. In Mesopotamia. Toccherete con mano gli dèi di egizi, accadi, babilonesi ed assiri. Rivivrete i culti delle popolazioni semitiche che hanno preceduto gli israeliti. Sarete intimoriti nel conoscere il potere delle divinità di fenici e cananei. Percorrerete tutta la Palestina storica, terra dei filistei. E resterete esterrefatti. Bene, ora mettetevi comodi. Il viaggio sta per iniziare”.

ANTONIO LOMBATTI, è professore di Archeologia Biblica all’Università Popolare di Parma. È un autore prolifico avendo scritto dieci libri e numerosi articoli, che hanno trattato questioni controverse come la Sindone di Torino, i Templari, il Santo Graal e i manoscritti di Qumran.

Quote of the Day

“In the Barthian world, you can believe whatever you want as long as you call it ‘hope’. This also keeps you from having to do any real theological or exegetical work.” – W.F.

This Will Brighten Your Day: Johanna and Aretha

It’s awesome- especially since I know a little church kid just like this.

Karl Barth: Universalist Comedian


It’s as Clear as the Nose on Your Neighbor’s Face…

When someone tells you to disregard your duty to God what your response should be, must be.

‘Go and take up position in the Temple, and tell the people all about this new Life.’ They did as they were told; they went into the Temple at dawn and began to preach. When the high priest arrived, he and his supporters convened the Sanhedrin — this was the full Senate of Israel — and sent to the gaol for them to be brought.  But when the officials arrived at the prison they found they were not inside, so they went back and reported,

‘We found the gaol securely locked and the warders on duty at the gates, but when we unlocked the door we found no one inside.’ When the captain of the Temple and the chief priests heard this news they wondered what could be happening. Then a man arrived with fresh news. ‘Look!’ he said, ‘the men you imprisoned are in the Temple. They are standing there preaching to the people.’  The captain went with his men and fetched them — though not by force, for they were afraid that the people might stone them.

When they had brought them in to face the Sanhedrin, the high priest demanded an explanation. ‘We gave you a strong warning’, he said, ‘not to preach in this name, and what have you done? You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and seem determined to fix the guilt for this man’s death on us.’ In reply Peter and the apostles said, ‘Obedience to God comes before obedience to men. (Acts 5:20-29)

Fail in this regard, and no matter how good a Christian you think yourself, you have utterly failed.