Daily Archives: 17 Jun 2015

They Say Confession is Good for the Soul…

So here’s a confession:

My least favorite thing about most biblical scholars is their ability to be utterly aloof from the world around them.  Unseeing and unconcerned.

A Prayer

Tuba mirum spargens sonum
per sepulcra regionum,
coget omnes ante thronum.

Mors stupebit et natura,
cum resurget creatura,
judicanti responsura.
Liber scriptus proferetur,
in quo totum continetur,
unde mundus judicetur.

Judex ergo cum sedebit,
quidquid latet, apparebit,
nil inultum remanebit.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?
quem patronum rogaturus,
cum vix justus sit securus?*

*Mozart’s Requiem in C Major

Come, Lord Jesus: Another Mass Shooting, At a Church, In Charleston

Before this ever happens again.

The Charleston Police Department is looking for a suspect following a shooting at the Emmanuel AME church in downtown Charleston Wednesday night.  CPD officials describe the suspect as a white male, 21 years old, slender/small build, grey sweat shirt, blue jeans and clean shaven.

Police say the shooting happened on 110 Calhoun Street around 9 p.m.  A helicopter is assisting law enforcement on the scene. A big police presence was seen at the Bethel AME Church on Calhoun Street. The FBI and the Chaplain service are on the scene.

Other news sources say 8 have died.  Come, Lord Jesus.

How many of us, as we attend worship wherever and whenever, imagine in our darkest moments that sun gun toting murderer will pick that day and that time and that place to vent his demonic cruelty?

Come, Lord Jesus.

We will remember in prayer our brothers and sisters in Christ at Emanuel AME Church.

Worst Idea Ever or Worst Idea of All Time?

This is wrong for so many reasons:


NEIN, Mr Gonzalez

  • Pastors who run for office abandon their calling to represent God in society and become the servants of the State.
  • Such a decision, were it to be made, is the antithesis of the ministry of the pastoral office.
  • Pastors are called to speak God’s Word, not the government’s nor the electorate’s.
  • In sum, Pastors, like their predecessors the prophets of old, are foes of the State, stand opposite it, and call it to faithfulness to God almighty.  Being a member of the legislature makes that opposition impossible for then the Pastor opposes himself or herself.
  • Accordingly, Pastors serving in elected offices at the behest of the population at large and accountable to them have turned their backs on God and the truth that they are accountable to Him and Him alone.
  • No one can serve two masters.  Pastors cannot serve the State and the Father.  They will hate, at the end of the day, one or the other.

Calvin the High Strung

death-of-calvinHe was, as Wolfgang Musculus called him, “a bow always strung.” In one way he seemed to take heed to his health. Colladon says that “he was for many years with a single meal a day and never [took] anything between two meals . . .” His reasons were that the weakness of his stomach and his migraines could only be controlled, he had found by experiment, by continual abstinence.

But on the other hand, he was apparently careless of his health and worked night and day with scarcely a break.

You can hear the drivenness in this letter to Falais in 1546: “Apart from the sermons and the lectures, there is a month gone by in which I have scarce done anything, in such wise I am almost ashamed to live thus useless”. A mere 20 sermons and 12 lectures in that month!

To get a clearer picture of his iron constancy, add to this work schedule the “continuous ill health” he endured. He wrote to his physicians in 1564, when he was 53 years old, and described his colic and spitting of blood and ague and gout and the “excruciating sufferings” of his hemorrhoids. But worst of all seemed to be the kidney stones that had to pass unrelieved by any sedative.

[They] gave me exquisite pain. … At length, not without the most painful strainings, I ejected a calculus which in some degree mitigated my sufferings, but such was its size that it lacerated the urinary canal and a copious discharge of blood followed. This hemorrhage could only be arrested by an injection of milk through a syringe.*

Well how’s that for bedtime reading then…. You’re welcome, ya lightweight whiny pot.

*John Calvin: The Man and His Preaching, by John Piper

In Praise of Poverty

erasmusWith the Pope talking about the poor so much lately a lot of people are praising poverty- so I thought this proverbial snippet useful-

It is all very well to look at the bright side of things, but it is very difficult to think either poets or anyone else quite believe all they say, when they sing very loudly in praise of poverty. – Erasmus

The GOP Oligarchic Final Four Bracketology

From the twitter-


Here Kitty, Kitty

via the book of face

via the book of face

Zwingli Was a Busy Guy

As he explains to his friend Rhenanus in a letter written on 17 June, 1520.  Give it a look through.

Switzerland’s Nestle Company Is Harvesting Water Without Regard for Anything But Profit

It’s time we all boycott Nestle.  I won’t be purchasing anything they sell until they completely overhaul their corporate practices.  We all know what they are doing in California.  But they are doing worse in other parts of the world, as this report from Swiss Television makes crystal clear:


Sometimes People Say…

“You should never mention Hebrew or Greek in a Bible Study or Sermon.”  I’ve always thought that was a stupid thing to say. When I need to show the difference between a Greek or Hebrew word and English in bible study or sermon, I say ‘the original says’ and I’m not sorry I do it.

I get the sense that the people who object to it are either ignorant of how Hebrew and Greek can oftentimes differ from an English translation or they don’t know Hebrew or Greek and feel emasculated when they’re mentioned.  Refusing to point out, furthermore, the differences that are important is to me more than a little dishonest.

I don’t like dishonest preaching or teaching and if someone says something that has no basis in fact for it, it annoys me.  If the originals differ from the English renderings, as far as I’m concerned you are duty bound to say so.

And I don’t care who likes it out there in ‘you shouldn’t mention biblical languages’ land.

Biblical Words and Their Meaning: An Introduction to Lexical Semantics in the NIDNTTE

Great review.

Biblical and Early Christian Studies


2015.06.15 | Moisés Silva, ed. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis. 5 vols.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014.

Review article by Christoph Heilig, University of Zurich.Many thanks to Zondervan for providing a review copy.

1. A Complex History

From a German perspective, the publication of the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (5 vols.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014) is undoubtedly an interesting event. After all, this five volume work, edited by Moisés Silva, is called the “second edition” of the dictionary formerly known as New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (ed. Colin Brown; 4 vols.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975-1978), which is in turn based on the German Theologisches Begriffslexikon zum Neuen Testament (ed. Lothar Coenen, Erich Beyreuther, and Hans Bietenhard; Wuppertal: Brockhaus, 1967-1971).

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Coming Out Christian in the Roman World: How the Followers of Jesus Made a Place in Caesar’s Empire

9781620403174Dom Mattos, the great Overlord of all things Bloomsbury/ T&T Clark has sent along a review copy of this not massive volume by Doug Boin.

The back cover endorsements include one by Candida Moss- and she calls it ‘thought-provoking’.

First of all, I think it’s fair to offer a criticism of the title.  ‘Coming out’ has become, in modern usage, primarily, a reference to persons who reveal themselves to be homosexual to their family, friends, co-workers, etc.  Persons choosing to read this book may be a bit surprised, then, to discover that the book is not at all, even remotely, about self-defining as gay Christian in the Roman world.  The Subtitle of the volume reveals the truth of the title: How the Followers of Jesus Made a Place in Caesar’s Empire.

The title, accordingly, is a tad ‘click-bait’- ish and too much so for my liking.  Using the phrase ‘coming out’ will surely draw attention to the book.  But it doesn’t really do much for one’s predisposition when coming to it.  Certainly, many will applaud the bravery of those early Christians who ‘came out’ at least as the title seems to indicate.  But it will be offputting to many others who will see it as yet another attempt to manicure history so as to make it more acceptable to our day.  The title will attract readers, in other words, but it will also lose readers.  Or, is Boin trying to do something else?  We will return to that question at the end.

Surely, then, a more suitable could have been come up with.  “Being Christian in the Roman World: How the Followers of Jesus Made A Place in Caesar’s Empire” comes immediately to mind and it is with that title in my own mind that I now arrive at my opinion of the volume.

In his Preface Boin tells the story of his growing interest in early Christianity and how he came to write the present volume.  Chapter one sets the stage with a discussion of pre-Christian Roman religion as especially made manifest in the Sybyls.  Chapter two discusses the birth of Christianity post-Jesus and early Paul.  The third chapter leads readers to a fuller understanding of the spread of early Christianity.  The fourth changes focus just a bit and centers its attention on Judaism during the rise of Christianity with special focus on Alexandria.  The fifth too discusses the other religions popular in the Roman world at the beginning of Christianity- particularly Egyptian and Greek mystery religions.  Chapter six brings the focus back to the spread of Christianity, a truly minority religion which before 312 comprised a paltry 10 percent of the empire’s population, meaning that ninety percent of the empire’s citizens were anything but Christian.  And then came Constantine the foul (my term, not Boin’s).

Chapter seven ends with these sentences, worthy of repeating:

… Jesus’s followers were now being bombarded with the idea that their Greek, Roman, and Jewish neighbors were people who had been cut off from God.  This fiery conversation, which had been brewing inside the group throughout the fourth century, was about to spill over into the Roman world – with horrific side effects for everyone else (p. 128).

Of all the chapters in the volume, the seventh is, in this reviewer’s opinion, the best and most enlightening.  Historical materials are treated with equanimity and fairness and no one gets a free pass simply because of who they are or what they may have done.

The eighth chapter portrays the victorious (post Constantinian empowered) Christians in terms that may echo modern descriptions of the Taliban in their willingness to destroy images and artifacts which represented other religions.  The ascendancy of Christianity thanks to Constantine the foul (my term, not Boin’s) unleashed an amazing series of violent acts.  And Boin doesn’t shrink from describing them in vivid detail.  But one can’t help but get the feeling that Boin is a bit biased in his preference for the oppressed (i.e., the non-Christians).

Many people sitting in the Colosseum and cheering on a wild animal hunt in A.D. 484 no doubt thought about the world in more measured terms- for them, a change in government didn’t portend the end of the world- but even after so many intervening centuries, it’s been hard to hear their voices over the roar of lions (p. 144).

And at the end of the ‘final thoughts’, after describing the election of Pope Francis and the scene in Rome where Cardinals clothed in red were everywhere:

Some people looking up that night … saw … the blood of all the martyrs of early Christian history. Others just saw red. … I don’t just see the red of the martyrs. I see a group waving a flag of many colors (p. 150).

With that final sentence we return full circle to the title and we come to the subtext which Boin’s work seems to be proffering: the early church fought, for no reason, the pagan and unbeliever in the same way that the church today seems to fight the Christian’s hidden in the closet as gay persons. And while many see the fight as a worthy undertaking, Boin sees it differently: as an opportunity to right the wrongs of the past by ensuring that today’s church doesn’t combat those who are its neighbors, and friends.

Or perhaps the subtleties observed by me are totally absent from Boin’s conciousness. Nonetheless, the clues are there for ‘those who have an eye to see and an ear to hear’.

Whether or not Boin is trying to ‘preach a secret message’ to his readers by beginning and ending his volume with a ‘gay inclusio’ by means of the title and final sentence, the book at hand is fantastically well written.  It is also fantastically well illustrated with gorgeous color plates and ample maps to let the readers see what’s being described.

I recommend this book to students of the New Testament, early Church History, and the Church in Modern Culture.  One day it will be seen as a contribution to reception history as well.  But not today.


I confess- I’m getting a kick out of the Same sex marriage / transgender / Pro Bruce Jenner advocates screeching against #RachelDolezal on the twitter. #SweetIrony.

Zwingli’s Life In A Film

This is super fun-

Vor einem Jahr war es eine Idee, nun wird sie umgesetzt: Das Leben von Zwingli in Zürich kommt Ende 2018 als Spielfilm in die Kinos. Produziert wird der millionenteure Film von den Machern von «Verdingbub» und «Der Goalie bin ig».

Illustration: Daniel Lienhard/Flyer Reformierte Kirche Kanton Zürich

Illustration: Daniel Lienhard/Flyer Reformierte Kirche Kanton Zürich

Im Februar 2014 wandte sich der Beauftrage der Zürcher Landeskirche für das Reformationsjubiläum, Martin Breitenfeldt, an die Öffentlichkeit. Sein Aufruf: Das Reformationsjubiläum mit seinem Zürcher Protagonisten Huldrych Zwingli biete sich regelrecht für einen Kinofilm an. Gesucht seien deshalb Filmschaffende, welche diesen Stoff auf die Leinwand bringen möchten.

Rund ein Jahr später vermeldet Breitenfeldt: Der Film zu Zwingli kommt. Allerdings war er von Angeboten aus der Filmindustrie zunächst nicht überrannt worden, wie er sagt. Und auch die zu Beginn von ihm initiierten Kontakte mit Filmproduktionsfirmen in der Schweiz waren im Sand verlaufen: «Die dachten sich wohl alle, dass sie im Auftrag der Kirche einen frommen Missionsfilm drehen sollen.»

Read the whole essay. Hopefully the film will at least be available for purchase on DVD so we can watch it here.

Already Too Much is Being Claimed for the Eshba’al Pot from Qeiyafa

Which is why it’s nice to see Peter van der Veen write on ANE-2

Frauke Gröndahl already argued in her „Personennamen der Texte aus Ugarit“ (1967) the name already occurs as isi-baal at Ugarit during the Late Bronze Age („man (or my man) is Baal“). Several explanations have been offered, some taking the element „esh“ or „ish“ as verbal, most prominently so with the connotation „to exist/live“. Several parallels from the ancient onomasticon can be offered for the latter.

In other words, the pot with the name scratched on it is nothing special.