Category Archives: Biblical Studies Resources

Get Yourself a Commentary on the Entire Bible

Which one?  Well I’m glad you asked.  You can get the PDF edition of the entire series for a shockingly low  $75.  The books are all available by clicking my PayPal Link.  When you send your payment include your email address please and the books will be sent along quite quickly.  It’s a very good series if I do say so.  Aimed at layfolk and general readers, it is the only modern commentary on the entire Bible by a single author.

***

Endorsement

“Seriously, … It is a really great commentary, and I’m enjoying and learning quite a bit from it.” – Ken Leonard.

If You Like Open Access Religious Studies Books…

And you’re on twitter, this will be of interest to you:

Son of God: Divine Sonship in Jewish and Christian Antiquity

In antiquity, “son of god”—meaning a ruler designated by the gods to carry out their will—was a title used by the Roman emperor Augustus and his successors as a way to reinforce their divinely appointed status. But this title was also used by early Christians to speak about Jesus, borrowing the idiom from Israelite and early Jewish discourses on monarchy. This interdisciplinary volume explores what it means to be God’s son(s) in ancient Jewish and early Christian literature.

New from Eisenbrauns and of potential interest to all of you.

The Johannine Monograph Series

Paul Anderson is overseeing the publication of a series of books titled ‘The Johannine Monograph Series‘.  He’s arranged for me to take a look at three of the volumes in the series:

 

Naturally these being classics and well known among scholars and students (or at least they should be) my focus will be on the edition itself as it manifests in these sample volumes.  Are the forewords helpful?  Accurate?  Engaging?  Do they rightly introduce the work at hand?  do they aid in setting the volumes in their historical contexts?

I’ll let you know what I think pretty soon.  More anon.  And many thanks to Paul for inviting their review.

Dualismus, Dämonologie und diabolische Figuren

Published in German.  Dualistic worldviews and demonic or devilish figures make frequent and varied appearances in both early Jewish and early Christian texts. By setting out the background and charting the development of these notions in Second Temple Judaism, this volume explains New Testament traditions within early Jewish contexts, focusing on issues of the origins of evil and its eschatological removal, the role of eschatological opponents and the function of demons. Textually, the Dead Sea Scrolls and other Second Temple texts are highlighted alongside the Jesus tradition. Four concluding contributions reflect the place of demonological ideas in present theological thought and problems of handling them in church practice.

The link above also directs readers to the TOC and a reading sample.  Accordingly, readers here are asked to visit that link in order to get an appreciation for the origin, aim, and contents of the work.

The four divisions of the work follow a chronological sequence of sorts, beginning with the historical and theological problems inherent in any dualistic system.  These two introductory essays are followed by 7 essays related to the subject of dualism in early Judaism (or in ‘ancient’ Judaism).  And these 7 essays are followed in the third major division by 5 essays related to demonic and diabolical figures in early Christianity.

The fourth major division (wrongly numbered as section VI- which means the typesetter simply reversed two Roman numerals) attempts to offer, in 3 essays, a few theological reflections on the topics of dualism and demonology.  Various indices conclude the volume.

The essays all began life as contributions to a conference on the Qumran texts in 2013.  That of Frey is a wonderful summary of the New Testament’s ‘reception’ of dualistic notions.  And Popkes’ a very engaging examination of the exorcist (and Jesus as such).

Beyerle, Tigchelaar, and Heilig offer helpful insights into aspects of dualism in Judaism in general and in the Dead Sea Scrolls in particular.  Becker’s work on the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs and demonology is particularly interesting.  Meanwhile, Dochhorn and Collins focus our attention on Daniel.  In particular, they both offer perspectives on the ‘fall of Satan’, with Collins responding to Dochhorn’s interpretation of Dan 12.  Götte’s work serves as something of a bridge between the second and third divisions and is very well researched and presented.

Evans’ focus on the resurrection of Jesus, Grappe’s discussion of Jesus’ baptism and temptation, Hogeterp’s on the temptation narrative, Joas on Luke, and Balzer on the Apocryphon of John all move us forward in our understanding of these texts and their intricate connections with the communities from which they sprang.

Finally in section 4 (wrongly VI), we are treated to a discussion of Paul Tillich’s demonology (by Rosenau), a discussion of Protestant Dogmatics and demonology by David, and the significance of demonic power in dreams and their interpretation by Schult.

The sum and substance of this volume is the fascinating topic of demons and demonology and the dualism from which a system of thought which includes such beings must originate.  As such it is a wonderful collection of thought provoking papers sure to engage and stimulate even the most skeptical reader.  I recommend it as happily as I recommend ‘Lucifer’ with Tom Ellis on Fox Television.  And that particular series I recommend with great joy.

Indeed, my suspicion is that if another conference is organized which discusses such dark and dank and dreadful demonic creatures, then ‘Lucifer’ as pop-culture representation of the demonic surely must be included.

Until that happens, enjoy this volume.

Will and Greg’s Excellent Adventure… in Septuagint Vocabulary

Will and Greg have a new book coming out this Winter.  Put it on your Christmas list and tell Santa to pick up a copy.  Or you’ll stop believing in him.  That’s right.  Threaten Santa.

A Handbook on the Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith

Hendrickson has sent a review copy of this new work.  Provided I offer my own views on it.  Which I am always willing to do.

This handbook serves as an introduction to the Jewish roots of the Christian Faith. It includes Old Testament background, Second Temple Judaism, the life of Jesus, the New Testament, the early Jewish followers of Jesus, the historical interaction between Judaism and Christianity, and the contemporary period.

It is no longer a novelty to say that Jesus was a Jew. In fact, the term “Jewish roots” has become something of a buzzword in books, articles, and especially on the internet. But what does the Jewishness of Jesus actually mean, and why is it important?

This collection of articles aims to address those questions and serve as a comprehensive yet concise primer on the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. A Handbook on the Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith consists of thirteen chapters, most of which are divided into four or five articles. It is in the “handbook” format, meaning that each article is brief but informative. The thirteen chapters are grouped into four major sections: (1) The Soil, (2) The Roots, (3) The Trunk, and (4) The Branches.

More in due course.

The Newest from Konrad Schmid: A Historical Theology of the Hebrew Bible

Here

In this meticulously researched study, Konrad Schmid offers a historical clarification of the concept of “theology.” He then examines the theologies of the three constituent parts of the Hebrew Bible—the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings— before tracing how these theological concepts developed throughout the history of ancient Israel and early Judaism.

Schmid not only explores the theology of the biblical books in isolation, but he also offers unifying principles and links between the distinct units that make up the Hebrew Bible. By focusing on both the theology of the whole Hebrew Bible as well as its individual pieces, A Historical Theology of the Hebrew Bible provides a comprehensive discussion of theological work within the Hebrew Bible.

The nine chapters and their forty-two sections here presented offer readers a guidebook into the theology of the Hebrew Bible.  As he moves from the question of the discipline of Old Testament Theology itself to the sundry manifestations of that discipline from antiquity through the Reformation to the Enlightenment and the Romantic Period he provides an overview of the discipline suitable for emulation and admiration.  Methodologically, Schmid’s development of his theme is exceptional.  Content-wise, he addresses all the key issues and readers find new light shed on them.

Schmid then considers the discipline of Theology in a Jewish context and from there he turns to Old Testament theology’s encounter with Dialectical theology and up to the present.

Once that is done, and it takes two chapters to do it, Schmid turns his attention, and ours, to a more precise discussion of the ‘Hebrew Bible’ and the ‘Old Testament’ – with all that those terms imply.  From their roots to their transformations.  This means that he must also discuss various methodological approaches to the text of the Bible (whether Hebrew Bible or Old Testament) and their implications for our understanding of the Bible.

In chapter five, then, Schmid is set free to describe the theologians of the HB/OT and in chapter six he reads more particularly in the topics of the Law, Prophets, and Writings and gleans for readers their theologies.

This brings Schmid to something of a reconstructed History of Israel into which are set the theologies and their theologians.

Chapter eight, the most engaging of the whole (for the present reviewer), is a survey of the various themes of Old Testament theology including God’s Acts, Life in the World, The God of History, Political Theology, Law, The Temple, the People of God, the Monarchy, Zion and Sinai, the place of Mankind in the plan of God, and the varieties of Old Testament theologies.

The final chapter is a very helpful discussion of the importance of the Hebrew Bible for Jews and the Old Testament for Christians.

Each section is prefaced by a thorough and up to date bibliography and there are topical pointers, not  in the margins on each page so that readers can very quickly scan in each section and discover the subject most of interest to them as in the German edition, but as paragraph headers.  An index of authors, an index of subjects, and an index of Scriptures bring the volume to a close.

Various portions of the present work have appeared in earlier published form.  These are few, though, and Schmid describes them in the foreword.  In the German edition he also makes mention of his utilization of the 2017 edition of the Zurich Bible for his Biblical texts.  The English edition contains no such note.

The volume at hand is very much worth reading.  In spite of the fact that the German title is more precise than the English.

Not since Gerhard von Rad’s Old Testament Theology has a work been so engaging, useful, and insightful.  It deserves to be, nay, it must be read by all students of the Hebrew Bible.  It is the ideal theological compendium.

NB- For the review of the German edition, see here.

Theologie des Alten Testaments

Konrad Schmid has a new volume- Theologie des Alten Testaments.

Unter den Teildisziplinen der alttestamentlichen Wissenschaft galt die Theologie des Alten Testaments lange als deren vornehmste Aufgabe. Doch in den letzten Jahrzehnten wurde mehr und mehr undeutlich, was eine Theologie des Alten Testaments eigentlich zu leisten habe. Konrad Schmid wendet sich zuerst der historischen Klärung des Theologiebegriffs in Anwendung auf die Bibel zu, diskutiert dann die Vielgestaltigkeit vorliegender Hebräischer Bibeln und Alter Testamente, um dann die theologischen Prägungen der Bücher und Sammlungen des Alten Testaments anhand prominenter Leittexte zu erheben. Weiter schließt der Autor eine Skizze zur Theologiegeschichte des Alten Testaments sowie eine thematisch orientierte und historisch differenzierte Darstellung wichtiger Themen alttestamentlicher Theologie mit ein. Der Band versteht sich gleichzeitig als eine gewisse Synthese der gegenwärtigen Forschung am Alten Testament in theologischer Perspektive.

See the Mohr website for the table of contents and other details.  They will not be unnecessarily repeated here.

The nine chapters and their forty-two sections here presented offer readers a guidebook into the theology of the Hebrew Bible.  As he moves from the question of the discipline of Old Testament Theology itself to the sundry manifestations of that discipline from antiquity through the Reformation to the Enlightenment and the Romantic Period he provides an overview of the discipline suitable for emulation and admiration.  Methodologically, Schmid’s development of his theme is exceptional.  Content-wise, he addresses all the key issues and readers find new light shed on them.

Schmid then considers the discipline of Theology in a Jewish context and from there he turns to Old Testament theology’s encounter with Dialectical theology and up to the present.

Once that is done, and it takes two chapters to do it, Schmid turns his attention, and ours, to a more precise discussion of the ‘Hebrew Bible’ and the ‘Old Testament’ – with all that those terms imply.  From their roots to their transformations.  This means that he must also discuss various methodological approaches to the text of the Bible (whether Hebrew Bible or Old Testament) and their implications for our understanding of the Bible.

In chapter five, then, Schmid is set free to describe the theologians of the HB/OT and in chapter six he reads more particularly in the topics of the Law, Prophets, and Writings and gleans for readers their theologies.

This brings Schmid to something of a reconstructed History of Israel into which are set the theologies and their theologians.

Chapter eight, the most engaging of the whole (for the present reviewer), is a survey of the various themes of Old Testament theology including God’s Acts, Life in the World, The God of History, Political Theology, Law, The Temple, the People of God, the Monarchy, Zion and Sinai, the place of Mankind in the plan of God, and the varieties of Old Testament theologies.

The final chapter is a very helpful discussion of the importance of the Hebrew Bible for Jews and the Old Testament for Christians.

Each section is prefaced by a thorough and up to date bibliography and there are topical pointers in the margins on each page so that readers can very quickly scan in each section and discover the subject most of interest to them.  A brief Scripture index and a fairly short subject/ person index bring the volume to a close.

Various portions of the present work have appeared in earlier published form.  These are few, though, and Schmid describes them in the foreword.  He also makes mention of his utilization of the 2017 edition of the Zurich Bible for his Biblical texts.

The volume at hand is very much worth reading.  And, fortunately, has already been translated into English so that those unskilled in German will nonetheless have the opportunity to access the profound learning contained in these pages.

Not since Gerhard von Rad’s Old Testament Theology has a work been so engaging, useful, and insightful.  It deserves to be, nay, it must be read by all students of the Hebrew Bible.  It is the ideal theological compendium.

NB- For the review of the English Edition, see here.

So You Don’t Need Biblical Scholars, Right?

Guess again, precious:

Via.

A Very Good Post on Two Outstanding Greek Lexica

Both Brill’s new Dictionary of Ancient Greek (GE) and Liddell and Scott Greek–English Lexicon with Revised Supplement (LSJM) are more or less the same size and length. As a publishing decision, this introduces an important set of constraints upon GE’s editors, who must make various judgments, comprises, and decisions in what they choose to prioritize.

For example, any new words added requires the removal of some material elsewhere, like citations or the number of representative Greek examples. Examining the sorts of decisions the editors and translators of GE judged as prudent in their work, then, becomes a valuable exercise for discovering the value of this new Greek dictionary.

I have been studying the Greek word ἰσχύω off and on for the past year. This verb has made a rather interesting case study for comparing the decisions the editors of our Greek dictionaries must make. Let us take a moment to see how Brill’s GE compares to the Logos edition of LSJM, stacked right next to each other.

Give it a read.

My review of the Brill lexicon, from a few years back, is here.  I reviewed the print edition, not the Logos version.

Works of Interest

Make Disciples of All Nations: The Appeal and Authority of Christian Faith in Hellenistic-Roman Times, edited by Loren T. Stuckenbruck, Beth Langstaff and Michael Tilly

Ezra – Nehemiah, by B. Becking

Die Offenbarung des Johannes, by Walter Klaiber

Visit the links to see the details.

The Disciples’ Prayer: The Prayer Jesus Taught in its Historical Setting

In case you haven’t yet become aware of it-

Christians around the world recite the “Lord’s Prayer” daily, but what exactly are they praying for—and what relationship does it have with Jesus’ own context? Jeffrey B. Gibson reviews scholarship that derives the so-called Lord’s Prayer from Jewish synagogal prayers and refutes it. The genre of the prayer, he shows, is petitionary, and understanding its intent requires understanding Jesus’ purpose in calling disciples as witnesses against “this generation.” Jesus did not mean to teach a unique understanding of God; the prayer had its roots in first-century Jewish movements of protest.

In context, Gibson shows (pace Schweitzer, Lohmeyer, Davies, Allison, and a host of other scholars) that the prayer had little to do with “calling down” into the present realities of “the age to come.” Rather, it was meant to protect disciples from the temptations of their age and, thus, to strengthen their countercultural testimony. Gibson’s conclusions offer new insights into the historical Jesus and the movement he sought to establish.

#ICYMI – Thomas Bolin: A Guest Post, Reviewing ‘Ezra and Nehemiah: For the Person in the Pew’

Originally posted August, 2014-
the-person-the-pew-commentary-series

Jim West’s commentary on Ezra-Nehemiah, aimed at “the person in the pew,” faces a rather difficult task. By that I don’t mean the perennial challenge of trying to make biblical texts relevant to modern believers, although that is certainly part of the challenge. West’s commentary is trying to make one of the less well-known and, frankly, less exciting of the biblical books applicable to readers, and it does a fine job at it.

Moving briskly through the text, West pauses to expound essential perplexities and occasionally to provide an informative excursus, e.g., on grieving in the Old Testament, or the origins of the Samaritans. Rather than bogging down the text, these excurses come at appropriate intervals, anticipate a reader’s questions, and offer a wealth of helpful information useful beyond the reading of Ezra-Nehemiah. As far as his exposition of the text, West does a fine job of “cultural equivalence” translation of principles at work in Ezra-Nehemiah.

These are hard books of the Bible: hard to work through, a story of hard times for the returning exiles, and ultimately, books with very hard lessons for those would follow the God of Israel. With the verve and occasional sting that regular readers of his blog will recognize, West concisely points out to that person in the pew just exactly how challenging the Bible remains to modern believers, and that even something as seemingly unrelated to the 21st century as 2500 year-old genealogies and group wall-building activities have something to say to those who will listen.

Thomas M. Bolin ن, Ph.D.
Professor of Religious Studies
St. Norbert College
Hebrew Bible Book Editor Marginalia Review of Books

A Classic From the Vault: Helmut Koester on Hector Avalos

This nifty piece ran a few years back and since it has been a slow news day I thought I would do what others have done and post a ‘classic’. And this one is.  That’s for sure.

BAR Most Loved and Most Reviled

koesterPerhaps I should not be surprised that a scholar who has advocated a Biblical nihilism and has recommended that Biblical studies should be “tasked with eliminating completely the influence of the Bible in the modern world” would launch an attack on the discipline of Biblical archaeology and on a magazine that is Biblical archaeology’s most important outlet.

In the May/June “First Person” column by Professor Hector Avalos, as well as his book from which this column is taken, Professor Avalos criticizes not only the policies of *BAR* and its editor, he also questions the legitimate existence of the entire complex of Jewish and Christian religion in the United States, its Biblical base and its relationship to the academic discipline of Biblical studies, to wit, the Society of Biblical Literature—a formidable task indeed! What would be required for such an endeavor, however, is knowledge of the realities of American religious life and Biblical scholarship in general, as well as of the details of controversial issues in present debates. Unfortunately, Professor Avalos reveals a deep ignorance in both respects.

The reality is that both Judaism and Christianity depend upon the Bible. The Bible is their book of law and morality, their source of inspiration and worship, of consolation in sorrow and of festive celebration. The suggestion that the modern world does not need this book at the same time recommends the complete elimination of these Bible-based religions. This is not only preposterous, but it reveals a complete lack of understanding of what Professor Avalos calls “the modern world.” His “modern world” is a fiction in his mind that has no relationship to reality.

As for *BAR *, Professor Avalos off-handedly characterizes it as a journal that “has served Biblical education well in some cases and badly in others” creates the impression that about half of its content belongs to the latter category. He then proceeds to draw a caricature of some of its articles as if this were the kind of thing to which *BAR* was mostly committed. This is far from the truth.

Most of its articles are well-reasoned and well-documented presentations of good scholarship. To be sure, some are controversial—scholars disagree on interpretations of archaeological as well as literary materials—but that is the normal business of scholarship. Does Professor Avalos, claiming to be a scholar, not know that?

In fact the more controversial articles and opinions have served a very important purpose. The albeit-illegal publication of unpublished material from the Dead Sea Scrolls broke a deadlock that many had unsuccessfully tried to do for many years.

It was during the year of my presidency of the Society of Biblical Literature that the society accepted a free-access policy, which had successfully been applied in the process of the publication of the Nag Hammadi Codices (first: publication of a facsimile; second: publication of a preliminary translation; third: critical editions of all documents). But we were never been able to convince scholars involved in the publication of the scrolls to follow the same procedure. Thanks to *BAR*’s bold move to publish some unpublished texts, the deadlock was finally broken. Professor Avalos recognizes this; but is this part of *BAR*’s scandalous behavior?

Then there is the accusation that *BAR* is biased because it calls Professor Frank Cross a friend of Israel and the late Professor John Strugnell an anti-Semite, both Harvard colleagues of mine. This is not bias; it is a statement of a fact. I have known for decades that John Strugnell believed in Christian supersessionism.

Moreover, *BAR *’s seemingly offensive comments about Elisha Qimron are justified in many ways.  That Hershel Shanks has been found guilty by an Israeli court of violating Qimron’s copyright in the translation does not make him a criminal but rather a saint—if there is something like that in Judaism! Qimron has never revealed that the translation of the controversial Dead Sea Scroll known as MMT  was primarily the work of John Strugnell, who never got due recognition for his work.

Professor Avalos also cites as  *BAR *’s “competitive nature” Hershel Shanks’s criticism of the National Geographic’s publication of the Gospel of Judas.  On the contrary, he should have congratulated *BAR* for this critique! The publication of this document by the National Geographic was a scandal. The scholar entrusted with the translation, Marvin Meyer, violated the free-access statement of the scholarly society [the Society of Biblical Literature], of which he is a member. To his detriment, numerous major mistakes in his translation have now been discovered.

This could have been avoided if Marvin Meyer or whoever would be entrusted with its publication had allowed fellow scholars in the field of Coptic studies to discuss this Coptic text before the appearance of the first English translation. What Hershel Shanks wrote, calling attention to the scandal of National Geographic’s publication of this text, was exactly right and has been confirmed by subsequent scholarly investigations.

I shall refrain from setting the record straight on other examples of Professor Avalos’s caricature of *BAR *. More important is a consideration of the fundamental and important role that *BAR * has been playing in the concert of Bible and archaeology. There was once another popular journal, /Biblical Archaeologist/, founded by my former Harvard colleague and prominent archaeologist G. Ernest Wright. In its first years, *BAR * competed with this journal. The American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), under whose auspices it was published, however, decided to change the name of this publication to /Near Eastern Archaeologist/, since it seemed to the leaders of this society that the name “Biblical” was odious (Professor Avalos evidently agrees with that judgment!). This was done by ASOR after the vast majority of the subscribers rejected such a change of the title. The result was that subscribers interested in the Bible (including me) discontinued their subscription. This makes *BAR * and Hershel Shanks’s Biblical Archaeology Society the only player in the field. Courageously this magazine alone holds up the torch of a scholarly outlet in this important area, although the very name “Biblical” combined with the world of a scholarly discipline—including archaeology—seems to be deplorable for Professor Avalos as well as the leaders of ASOR, who have largely abandoned their responsibility of a publication with an appeal to the general public in this field of study.

It is exactly here that Professor Avalos’s lack of understanding of the realities of Biblical scholarship is most evident. He apparently is unable to see this reality: The relationship of American religious life, Bible and scholarship is a vital and undeniable factor in our society—especially in the United States—however controversial.

Helmut Koester
Former SBL President
Professor Emeritus
Harvard Divinity School
Cambridge, Massachusetts

New Volumes From Mohr

Visit the Mohr website and search for the volumes of interest to you.

Konrad Schmid and 5 Milestones in the History of OT Theology

On the Eerdmans blog.

Konrad Schmid’s A Historical Theology of the Hebrew Bible offers a historical clarification of the concept of “theology.” He then examines the theologies of the three constituent parts of the Hebrew Bible—the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings— before tracing how these theological concepts developed throughout the history of ancient Israel and early Judaism.

Schmid not only explores the theology of the biblical books in isolation, but he also offers unifying principles and links between the distinct units that make up the Hebrew Bible. By focusing on both the theology of the whole Hebrew Bible as well as its individual pieces, A Historical Theology of the Hebrew Bible provides a comprehensive discussion of theological work within the Hebrew Bible.

Gerhard von Rad is one of the five, so you know that Schmid knows what he’s talking about.  Read the post.  Good stuff.

Free Access to Articles in ‘Culture and History of the Ancient Near East’

Culture and History of the Ancient Near East volume 100 published
Free Access to 20 Selected Articles

To celebrate the publication of the 100th volume of Culture and History of the Ancient Near East, we opened up a selection of 20 articles from some of the most popular volumes in the series.

Have a look at the article selection here.

Access to these articles will remain free until July 31st, 2019. We invite you to share this link with your colleagues and others who have interest in topics covered in the series.

25% Discount – Additionally, we are offering 25% discount for a limited time on all copies in the series.
Use discount code 71088 and place your order directly on brill.com.

This discount is valid until July 31st 2019. No additional discounts apply.

Biblical Greek Semantics and Metaphor Theory

One-day workshop in Cambridge
Friday 24 May 2019

The second Cambridge Semantics Workshop on the theme “Biblical Greek Semantics and Metaphor Theory” will be on Friday May 24 2019. Further information here.

While the focus will be on Greek the guest speaker in the afternoon will be Professor Pierre van Hecke (Leuven), whose specialism is Metaphor theory in both Hebrew and Greek.

Registration free (including lunch). To attend, please email Dr James Aitken (jka12@cam.ac.uk) to confirm numbers for catering and handouts by May 17th.

Via BNTS.

One More Time: The Best Free Bible Software

The SOTS President’s Bible (held by Barton)

Students might find this suite of bible study tools very helpful.  It’s from Tyndale house in Cambridge and is called ‘STEP’ – scripture tools for every person.  You can download the contents from http://dev.stepbible.org/downloads.jsp .