Category Archives: Biblical Studies Resources

The Latest Issue of ‘Textus’

The 2019 Volume of Textus – A Journal on Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible – is available online. The complete issue contains the following articles, and can be found here:

Table of Contents

  • Was Samuel Meant to Be a Nazirite? The First Chapter of Samuel and the Paradigm Shift in Textual Study of the Hebrew Bible, Anneli Aejmelaeus
  • The Second Church Slavonic Translation of 1–4 Kingdoms: A Witness to the Proto-Lucianic Text, Alessandro Maria Bruni
  • The Literary Development of MT 1 Kings 8:1–11 in Light of the Septuagint, Julian C. Chike
  • “Darius Son of Ahasuerus, King of the Persians”: Textuality and Chronology in Jacob of Edessa’s Book of Daniel, Bradley J. Marsh Jr.
  • Criteria for Determining the Common Basis of the Greek Versions of Daniel, Daniel Olariu
  • Haggai and Zechariah in Greek Psalm Superscriptions, Michael Shepherd
  • On the Use of Greek Translations in Dating the Shift from Targum Proto-Jonathan to Targum Yerushalmi in Ezekiel, Richard C. Steiner
  • The Use of Glossaries by the Translators of the Septuagint, Sarah Yardney
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Posted by on 24 Aug 2019 in Bible, Biblical Studies Resources


The Impact of Jesus in First-Century Palestine: Textual and Archaeological Evidence for Long-standing Discontent

Although the archaeological evidence indicates a prosperous and thriving Galilee in the early first century CE, the Gospel texts suggest a society under stress, where the rich were flourishing at the expense of the poor. In this multi-disciplinary study, Rosemary Margaret Luff contributes to current debates concerning the pressures on early first-century Palestinian Jews, particularly with reference to socio-economic and religious issues. She examines Jesus within his Jewish environment in order to understand why he rose to prominence when he did, and what motivated him to persevere with his mission. Luff’s study includes six carefully-constructed essays that examine Early Christian texts against the wider background of late Second Temple Judaic literature, together with the material evidence of Galilee and Judea (Jerusalem). Synthesizing a wide range of archaeological and textual data for the first time, she offers new insights into the depth of social discontent and its role in the rise of Christianity.

More, including the TOC, here.

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Posted by on 22 Aug 2019 in Biblical Studies Resources, Books


The STEP Bible is Now Available for the iPhone

Just search for ‘Step bible’. It’s the second result.  You can download the desktop version here or use the online version here.  It is the best free bible software available.  I require it for my Biblical studies classes.


Judges 19, A Guest Post by Peter J. Williams of Tyndale House, Cambridge

The following originally appeared as a series of tweets that Peter posted and I was so taken by his presentation that I asked him to post it here as a guest post. He has generously agreed. Enjoy!

The Bible’s most gory story

Judges 19 contains the disturbing account of the rape and dissection of the Levite’s concubine. The whole episode covers Judges 19–21 and teaches us a lot about male violence against women.

The story is set during the time of the judges, when there’s little government. The first and last verses of the episode remind us that there was no king (Judges 19:1; 21:25), which has already become a motif in the book (17:6; 18:1).

Judges is arguably the Bible’s goriest book. Yes, other Bible books relate more deaths, but Judges, with Adoni-bezek’s thumbs and big toes cut off, Eglon’s belly stabbed, Sisera’s temple pierced, Abimelech’s skull crushed, Samson’s eyes gouged out, and the concubine dissected depicts more explicit body damage than the whole rest of the narrative sections of the Bible put together. This section is thus the final bloody climax of the Bible’s goriest book.

It’s probably no coincidence that the Bible, which relentlessly depicts human wrong, records both small government (judges) and big government (kings) as unravelling in tragedies of male sexual violence followed by civil war. Thus neither decentralised nor centralised government, nor even a great (God-given!) constitution, can restrain human evil. The Bible portrays the failure of these things so that we know that God has to come into the world personally to sort things out.

Our account begins in 19:1 with a Levite taking a concubine. This is strange, because a concubine is a second tier wife, but this man doesn’t seem to have a first tier wife. In other words, he’s in an abusive relationship towards her from the start.

Note also that she’s from Bethlehem, just like David, and like Jesus. In this story it’s no coincidence that the main victim comes from Bethlehem, the town of king David and that the main bad guys come from Gibeah, the town of king Saul. In fact, both the final stories in the Book of Judges (chapters 17–18 and 19–21) contain a Levite, Ephraim, and the town Bethlehem. If, as in some orderings of the Bible (e.g. typical Greek, Latin, and English), you put Ruth after Judges you have three stories about Bethlehem in a row.

Next, the concubine is unfaithful to her man (19:2), but this doesn’t seem to consist in her going off with someone else so much as her going home to Bethlehem. She’s there for four months during which the Levite seems to do nothing about her (cf. another four month wait in 20:47). Eventually the Levite goes to Bethlehem to find her.

What’s so striking to me is how warmly the Levite’s father-in-law receives him (19:3). They eat and drink together and her father repeatedly delays his departure: the men have a camaraderie which the Levite doesn’t share with his concubine. Later on we see a bond between the Levite and another male host which overrides their concern for the women.

After days of delay and more merriment with his father-in-law the Levite sets off with his concubine and male servant, but too late in the day for safe travel.

As it gets dark, the servant advises that they go to a Canaanite city (19:11), which resonates with when later Saul’s servant advises him to go to Ramah (1 Samuel 9:6). The Levite here wants to press on to an Israelite city like Gibeah or Ramah. So they get to Gibeah (belonging to the tribe of Benjamin) after dark, but no one welcomes them in.

Just then, an old man from out of town, from the tribe of Ephraim, arrives back from the field and welcomes them in. We like him. He seems an ideal host, and offers all the food and supplies they could want. They’re having a great time together (19:22).

But then suddenly the men of the city start banging on the door. Though the Hebrew for ‘men’ could grammatically be generic for ‘people’, I think it’s right here to take it as exclusively male. Careful readers will have already noticed many echoes of the Sodom narrative of Genesis 19 in Judges 19. In both, the locals don’t offer hospitality; there’s mention of the city square (Genesis 19:2; Judges 19:15); someone from out of town hosts. Even the phrase ‘he pressed (פצר) upon him’ (Judges 19:8) is rare enough to remind us of how the men of Sodom pressed (פצר) Lot (Genesis 19:9).

But now the echoes become unmistakable as the men of this city demand that the Levite be brought out that they might ‘know’ him. One might be tempted to read ‘know’ (19:22) innocently: they want to get to know the stranger in their midst. But the context and subsequent horror don’t allow us to dwell on this possibility for long. The men of this Israelite city are wanting the man to be brought out for sex with them just as the men of the most proverbially wicked non-Israelite city (Sodom) had wanted sex with Lot’s guests.

But parallels run deeper. The host in both goes out to say, ‘My brothers, please do not do [this] bad’ (Genesis 19:7; Judges 19:23). Lot offers his virgin daughters to protect his male guests (by the way, we know that Genesis thinks that’s a bad idea because after he’d offered them for non-consensual sex, later in the passage as his comeuppance Lot himself ends up having non-consensual sex with these same daughters.). Here the old man (whom we were just beginning to like) verbally offers his virgin daughter and the concubine up to the mob. Worse than Lot, he invites them to humble (=rape) them and ‘do what is good in your eyes’ (19:24)—a phrase which echoes the motif of this part of Judges: people doing what’s right in their own eyes.

Extraordinarily we hear him say ‘but to this man do not do this foolish thing’. So things have come to a point where a father thinks his solidarity to his male guest trumps his parental care for his daughter.  The Levite grabs hold of his concubine and thrusts her out.

Sparing us details, the narrator tells us ‘they knew her and abused her all night until morning. And when the day began to break they let her go’ (19:25). What horrors she must have undergone!

Another reason her torments are not recorded is that they are not known. Other than the perpetrators, most or all of whom are dead by the end of the episode, the victim was the only witness. She bore the pain utterly alone.

It goes on. ‘Then the woman came as the day was dawning and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, till it was light’ (19:26). She collapses while her ‘master’ (doesn’t that title say a lot about the asymmetry of the relationship?) is safe inside.

The narrator shocks us with the callousness and pathos of the next verse: ‘When her master arose in the morning [presumably after a good night’s sleep], and opened the doors of the house [which she’d been shut out from] and went out to go on his way [business as usual]… there was his concubine, fallen at the door of the house with her hands on the threshold’ (19:27).

The position of her hands—so close and yet so far—shows exactly where the narrator’s sympathies lie, in the personal tragedy of this poor woman.

But the juxtaposed callousness of the Levite shocks further: ‘And he said to her “Get up, and let’s go”, but there was no answer.’ And he put her on the donkey and the man arose and went to his place. And he came to his house and took a knife and took hold of his concubine and cut her up into twelve pieces and send her [sic] into all the territory of Israel’ (19:28-29).

People are shocked and respond to a call to arms.

But we have to observe the heartlessness of this Levite who thrust out his concubine to predators, expected her simply to resume travel in the morning, and then finally dismembered her body. We also notice that death through misnamed ‘rough sex’ is not new.

It is unusual (relative to biblical narrative generally) that the story never relates the concubine’s death. We don’t know when she died because the heartless Levite never checked. I hope it was before he cut her up.  Was she put on the donkey half-dead like the man in Jesus’s story of the Good Samaritan—a better host than the Ephraimite host in this story? There’s also a Levite in that parable, but he doesn’t act well either.

The Levite tells her to ‘arise’ qumi (קוּמִי) linguistically like talitha qum (variant qumi) said by Jesus in Mark 5:41, but quite unlike Jesus’s saying in almost every other way.

Moving through the rest of the story rather more quickly: in chapter 20 civil war breaks out. 11 tribes fight against the one tribe of Benjamin, the tribe from which the aggressors of Gibeah came. But even if we consider the 11 tribes to be the ‘good’ side, they’re not really good because they’re following the Levite’s false report of what happened (20:5), which focusses on the mortal threat of the locals against the Levite, though it’s not clear he was ever in such danger. His report also conveniently omits his role in putting the concubine outside for the rabble. So one tenth of Israel’s 400,000 strong force is lost and almost all the tribe of Benjamin. The whole narrative is deeply reminiscent of Israel’s attack on Ai. In other words, an Israelite city has become as bad as a Canaanite one.

In the end, all of Benjamin are killed except for 600 men. Note thus that the Benjaminite men were the problem, but more women were wiped out!

Now the Israelites have another problem. They’ve made a foolish vow (as Benjaminite Saul does later). This vow was not to allow their daughters to marry men from Benjamin. The solution they now find to this problem is to destroy all of Jabesh Gilead, except 400 virgins because Jabesh Gilead hadn’t responded to the call for war. This creates a strong bond between the small tribe of Benjamin and Jabesh Gilead so that Saul is quick to come to their aid in 1 Samuel 11, after Saul cuts up oxen and sends the pieces by envoy (1 Samuel 11:7). The parallels and contrasts with the concubine’s fate are hard to miss.

Still 200 wives short, the Israelites decide that if Benjaminites ambush and abduct 200 dancing girls in Shiloh that’s alright.

That’s how the book ends. People seem to think that the solution to the problem of male violence was to abduct more women. It looks like they’ve learned nothing. The last line of the book runs like this:  ‘In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.’ (21:25)   When we reflect on the story as a whole, we see that it’s a story without heroes, but with a clear victim. No character is named. This can actually aid us in connecting with the characters, which could be any one of us.

The Bible is not tone deaf to the problem of male violence against women. It’s actually a theme to which it repeatedly returns. The picture of the woman’s hands on the threshold is meant to haunt us.

The woman from Bethlehem was the involuntary victim, a substitute for others. Later the Bible tells of someone from Bethlehem who willingly gave up his life as a substitute to protect others from death. This story resonates with the big Bible theme that human evil runs deep and that’s exactly why we need someone willing to die for us.

Peter J. Williams, August 2019

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Posted by on 21 Aug 2019 in Bible, Biblical Studies Resources


Le livre d’Esther: Une exégèse en images

Via the author, who graciously provided a review copy of his new book-

Ouvrage d’histoire de la Perse achéménide, d’exégèse biblique et d’histoire de l’art religieux permettant de mieux comprendre les sens profane, politique et religieux du Livre d’Esther.

Reception history is the cutting edge of biblical scholarship.  And this volume sits on the very edge of that cutting edge.

English readers shouldn’t be fearful of the French title of the volume.  There is a helpful English summary for such persons.  And since the bulk of the book’s 700 pages is images depicting scenes from the book of Esther, any absence of skill in reading French is negligible.

In other words, English readers can benefit from the book almost as much as readers of French.  The author writes

This book is a journey in Jewish, Christian and Islamic works of art illustrating the Bible story. The two versions, the Masoretic, the Hebrew version retained by the Judaic and Reformed canon, as well as the Greek one admitted by the Catholic, Orthodox and Eastern Christian churches are quoted . Christian exegesis and the flourishing two millenia old rabbinic comments and Jewish legends illuminate the meanings of so many representations of the Book of Esther.

The author’s English is a bit shaky in places (but it’s better than any sentence I might hazard writing in French, so I am not criticizing his efforts in any respect).  For instance

Exegesis chapter discuss the origins of the text, its various versions, its reception by the monotheist religions. Old Mesopotamia and Persia history research demonstrate that, if the biblical scripture is a fiction by a Jew of the diaspora living in Persia some time later after the Hebrew people were liberated by Cyrus. The story is not the history but is full of historic references to historic events and persons. In this book we reveal who was the historic personage who inspired Haman. We explain why Mordekaï is named from Mardouk and Esther from Ishtar.

Etc.  It becomes immediately apparent that the author could have benefited from having a native English speaker go through the English summary.  Indeed

More than 700 art works are eBook hypertext (url) linkedto let reader wathch them full page as well as all consult references.

has much in it that needs to be cleaned up.  Nevertheless, English readers will get the gist.  And the purpose of the volume is illustration rather than discourse though, naturally, an ability to read French will make the work more useful than simply following the links to the images.

What follows is a description of the methodology utilized in the work and this is followed by a discussion of the book of Esther by means of exegetical snippets and hyperlinks to works of art illustrating the passage under consideration.

Perhaps the best way to describe this book is as an art exhibition catalog.  As readers ‘walk through’ the book of Esther a guide explains to them the artistic representations of Esther’s various scenes.

As such, it really is quite an interesting work.  It has weaknesses; i.e., the exposition isn’t always ‘critical’ (in the historical-critical sense) but the fact that the author has gone through the laborious process of assembling art connected to text is praiseworthy.

This is a volume worth using.



A New Essay by Konrad Schmid

Religiöse, “heilige” Texte waren in der Antike weit verbreitet. Aber warum lesen wir bis heute die Bibel? Konrad Schmid und Jens Schröter erklären, wie aus alten Erzählungen, Liedern, Weisheitssprüchen und Gesetzen, aus Briefen an frühchristliche Gemeinden und den Erzählungen über Jesus in einem langen Prozess heilige Schriften von Juden und Christen hervorgingen, die heute überall auf der Welt verbreitet sind. Mit diesem Buch liegt nach Jahrzehnten erstmals wieder ein Überblick über die Entstehung der Bibel auf dem neuesten Forschungsstand vor. Die Forschung der letzten Jahrzehnte hat viele gängige Annahmen über die Geschichte Israels und die Entstehung der Bibel revidiert. Ereignisse wie der Auszug aus Ägypten oder der Tempelbau unter König Salomo gelten nicht länger als historisch. Damit verschärft sich die Frage, wie die großen Geschichten des Alten Testaments entstanden sind und wann sie Teil “heiliger Schriften” wurden. Auch gängige Annahmen über die Sammlung der Evangelien oder frühe Apostelbriefe stehen neu auf dem Prüfstand. Das vorliegende Buch beschreibt auf dem aktuellen Forschungsstand den langen Weg von frühen Erzählungen des alten Israel über Schlüsseltexte des jüdischen Monotheismus und des frühen Christentums bis hin zu heiligen Büchern der Weltreligionen Judentum und Christentum. Wer wissen will, wie es zu einem solchen überlieferungsgeschichtlichen Wunder kommen konnte, sollte diese Biographie des berühmtesten Buches der Welt lesen.

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Posted by on 21 Aug 2019 in Biblical Studies Resources


Social Memory among the Literati of Yehud

Ehud Ben Zvi has been at the forefront of exploring how the study of social memory contributes to our understanding of the intellectual worldof the literati of the early Second Temple period and their textual repertoire. Many of his studies on the matter and several new relevant works are here collected together providing a very useful resource for furthering research and teaching in this area.The essays included here address, inter alia, prophets as sites of memory, kings as sites memory, Jerusalem as a site of memory, a mnemonic system shaped by two interacting ‘national’ histories, matters of identity and othering as framed and explored via memories, mnemonic metanarratives making sense of the past and serving various didactic purposes and their problems, memories of past and futures events shared by the literati, issues of gender constructions and memory, memories understood by the group as ‘counterfactual’ and their importance, and, in multiple ways, how and why shared memories served as a (safe) playground for exploring multiple, central ideological issues within the group and of generative grammars governing systemic preferences and dis-preferences for particular memories.


Reminder: You Need a Commentary That Helps Make Sense of the Bible

the-person-the-pew-commentary-seriesThe ‘Person in the Pew’ commentary series is the only series of Commentaries in modern history written by a single person on the entire Bible and aimed at layfolk .  Everyone needs a commentary on the Bible that they can understand and that answers their questions about the meaning of the text.  So I wrote one.

If you or someone you know wants to get a copy of the entire 42 volume collection in PDF format, you can do so from yours truly for the exceptionally reasonable price of  $75 by clicking my PayPal Link.  Leave your email in your paypal payment note so I can send it to you right away.

Should you only wish one volume, email me and we can arrange it.


I got the commentaries Memorial Day weekend and started with Genesis 1:1. This week I started the Book of Joshua. Never have I ever read the books of the Bible with such understanding. It has opened the scriptures in a way I’ve never before experienced. Lois told me about the commentaries ages ago. I wish I had gotten them sooner. Thank you Dr. Jim West for making them available.  – Judy Byrge

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Posted by on 20 Aug 2019 in Bible, Biblical Studies Resources, Books, Commentary



Um das 6. Jahrhundert v.Chr. traten in verschiedenen Kulturräumen der Welt unabhängig voneinander Philosophen und Propheten auf, die das bisherige mythische Denken überwanden: Konfuzius und Laotse in China, Buddha in Indien, Zarathustra in Persien, die Propheten des Alten Israel und die vorsokratischen Philosophen in Griechenland. Diese Zeit wurde von Karl Jaspers «Achsenzeit» genannt. Jan Assmann beschreibt, wie Historiker und Philosophen seit der Aufklärung die erstaunliche Gleichzeitigkeit der Achsenzeit-Kulturen erklärt und in der Achsenzeit die geistigen Grundlagen der Moderne gesucht haben. Die Annahme einer Achsenzeit der Weltgeschichte wurde so zu einem Gründungsmythos der Moderne. Sie hält einer historischen Überprüfung zwar nicht stand, wie das Buch anschaulich zeigt, aber an das damit verbundene Bestreben, eine eurozentrische Sicht auf die Geschichte zu überwinden, können wir bis heute anknüpfen.

A review copy has arrived.  More on this prize winning volume in due course.

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Posted by on 20 Aug 2019 in Biblical Studies Resources, Book Review, Book Review Pending, Books


How Old is the Hebrew Bible?

The age of the Hebrew Bible is a topic that has sparked controversy and debate in recent years. The scarcity of clear evidence allows for the possibility of many views, though these are often clouded by theological and political biases. This impressive, broad-ranging book synthesizes recent linguistic, textual, and historical research to clarify the history of biblical literature, from its oldest texts and literary layers to its youngest. In clear, concise language, the authors provide a comprehensive overview that cuts across scholarly specialties to create a new standard for the historical study of the Bible. This much-needed work paves the path forward to dating the Hebrew Bible and understanding crucial aspects of its historical and contemporary significance.

Ronald Hendel is the Norma and Sam Dabby Professor of Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and general editor of The Hebrew Bible: A Critical Edition.Jan Joosten is Regius Professor of Hebrew at the University of Oxford and editor-in-chief of Vetus Testamentum.

My review will appear in SJOT in a future issue.  For now I will simply summarize my findings.

First, this volume is both interesting and provocative.  Second, the examples offered which the authors opine support their thesis that the Hebrew language’s development can be traced within the Hebrew Bible are intriguing even if relatively sparse (given the data set (the entire HB)) that they have to work with.  More evidence will need to be found.  If their examples are the full extent of their evidence, then their thesis is very tenuous.  And third, their aim to

… reinscribe historical research on the Hebrew language where it belongs: at the heart of biblical studies…

is both noble and necessary.  Research on the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages do indeed belong at the heart of biblical studies.  Woe betide poor students in theology and biblical studies institutions where that is not the case.

If this little book (it’s just 125 pages plus a couple of appendices and indices) can persuade people to study Hebrew, then it is a glorious achievement, even if it proves unable to demonstrate that the development of Hebrew can be traced in the pages of the Hebrew Bible.

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Posted by on 20 Aug 2019 in Biblical Studies Resources, Book Review, Books


Septuaginta. Band 11,2 Ecclesiastes

Die Herausgabe der großen kritischen Edition des ältesten erreichbaren Septuaginta-Textes ist Ziel des 1908 gegründeten Septuaginta-Unternehmens der Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. Anspruch und Aufgabe einer solchen Edition ist die auf möglichste Vollständigkeit angelegte Erfassung und transmissionsgeschichtliche Auswertung der handschriftlichen überlieferung, angefangen mit den griechischen vorchristlichen Papyri (3./2. Jh. v.Chr.) bis hin zu den Minuskelhandschriften des 16. Jh. n.Chr., sodann der lateinischen, koptischen, syrischen, äthiopischen und armenischen Tochterübersetzungen, ferner der Septuaginta-Zitate bei den griechischen und lateinischen Kirchenschriftstellern unter Einschluss der sog. Catenenüberlieferung und schließlich aller Druckausgaben der Septuaginta vom 16. bis zum 20. Jh. Erstmals erscheint mit Peter Gentrys Arbeit eine vollständige kritische Edition des Buches »Ecclesiastes«. Der vorliegende Band XI bildet den 2. Band der Gesamtreihe »Septuaginta« und setzt so die Göttinger Editio critica maior fort.

The chief concern for those potentially interested in the acquisition of new editions of biblical texts is ‘how is it different from or an improvement upon earlier editions already in my possession?’ This is especially important to those working with a limited budget or who are trying to make the wisest choices for their personal purchases.

And that is the question that many will wish answered concerning this new edition of Ecclesiastes in the extraordinary Göttingen Septuagint. How is it an improvement upon the edition already at hand in Rahlfs/ Hanhart or BHQ?

The answer to this very basic and yet very central question is fairly simple: yes, it is an improvement on Rahlfs and yes it does offer differences substantial enough to justify its acquisition even for those in possession of BHQ (for those interested in the textual history of Ecclesiastes and working in textual criticism in particular).

The numerous differences between the text of Rahlfs and Göttingen which will be detailed by the author in a separate volume (according to Will Ross). There is, unfortunately, no list provided of such differences in the Introduction to Gentry’s edition herein reviewed. This is something of a shame, as users of the volume are now forced to wait for the list of variations or hunt them down and discover them for themselves.

In the above cited interview the editor also remarks

The Greek Translation has only a dozen places where it differs from MT, and most of these are not serious issues. The differences between MT and LXX were exaggerated by the editor of the BHQ volume on Ecclesiastes.

Curious about this, I posed the question to Adrian Schenker, the Editor in Chief of BHQ, and he replied that the editor of Ecclesiastes for BHQ was not inclined to exaggerations.

To be sure, editors will often see things differently.  Yet there is no evidence within the edition of BHQ itself that its findings have been exaggerated.

A fairly brisk comparison of Rahlfs and Gentry yields the following samplings:


  • Rahlfs- Ῥήματα Ἐκκλησιαστοῦ υἱοῦ Δαυιδ βασιλέως Ισραηλ ἐν Ιερουσαλημ.
  • Gentry- Ῥήματα Ἐκκλησιαστοῦ υἱοῦ Δαυὶδ βασιλέως Ἰσραὴλ ἐν Ἰερουσαλήμ.


  • Rahlfs- Εἶπον ἐγὼ ἐν καρδίᾳ μου Δεῦρο δὴ πειράσω σε ἐν εὐφροσύνῃ, καὶ ἰδὲ ἐν ἀγαθῷ, καὶ ἰδοὺ καί γε τοῦτο ματαιότης.
  • Gentry- Εἶπον ἐγὼ ἐν καρδίᾳ μου Δεῦρο δὴ πειράσω σε ἐν εὐφροσύνῃ, καὶ ἰδὲ ἐν ἀγαθῷ· καὶ ἰδοὺ καί γε τοῦτο ματαιότης.


  • Rahlfs- Οὐκ ἔστιν ἀγαθὸν ἐν ἀνθρώπῳ, ὃ φάγεται καὶ πίεται καὶ δείξει τῇ ψυχῇ αὐτοῦ, ἀγαθὸν ἐν μόχθῳ αὐτοῦ.
  • Gentry- Οὐκ ἔστιν ἀγαθὸν ἐν ἀνθρώπῳ· ὃ φάγεται καὶ πίεται, καὶ δείξει τῇ ψυχῇ αὐτοῦ ἀγαθὸν ἐν μόχθῳ αὐτοῦ.


  • Rahlfs- Καὶ περισσὸν ὅτι ἐγένετο Ἐκκλησιαστὴς σοφός, ἔτι ἐδίδαξεν γνῶσιν σὺν τὸν λαόν, καὶ οὖς ἐξιχνιάσεται κόσμιον παραβολῶν.
  • Gentry- Καὶ περισσὸν ὅτι ἐγένετο Ἐκκλησιαστὴς σοφός, ἔτι ἐδίδαξεν γνῶσιν σὺν τὸν ἄνθρωπον, καὶ οὖς ἐξιχνιάσεται κόσμιον παραβολῶν.

Our third sampling (2:24a) and our fourth (12:9) show slight differences between Rahlfs and Gentry.  Text critics wanting to know the reason for these differences will find amazingly full textual notes and here we arrive at the chief difference between these two editions:  the incredibly thorough textual material brought to bear in witness to the readings provided in the Göttingen Septuagint when compared to the scant and slight materials of the critical apparatus of Rahlfs is astonishing.

The volume’s introduction comprises half of its entire contents and the text of Ecclesiastes barely occupies a fifth of the page whereas the textual notes and other materials take up 4’5ths of each page.

This is a remarkable work which students of Ecclesiastes will absolutely find indispensable (and I do not use that word lightly or carelessly).  Textual critics will make use of it for centuries to come (and I do not say that lightly either).  And finally, students of the Greek text of the Old Testament will need to consult if if they intend to do any serious work on the text of Ecclesiastes.

Gentry may be wrong about the viewpoint of the editor of the BHQ volume on Ecclesiastes, and he may be forgiven for holding off his list of variations between Rahlfs and his own work, but he is to be congratulated for producing an amazingly meticulous text critical masterpiece.

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Posted by on 17 Aug 2019 in Biblical Studies Resources, Book Review, LXX, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht


New Essays By Avraham Faust

Faust, 2019, ‘The Inhabitants of Philistia’: On the identity of the Iron I settlers in the periphery of the Philistine Heartland, Palestine Exploration Quarterly 151: 105-133.

Faust, A., 2019, A Social Archaeology of the Kingdom of Judah, in A. Yasur-Landau, E. Cline and Y. Rowan (eds.), The Social Archaeology of the Levant: From Prehistory to the Present, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 337-353.

Faust, A., 2018, Social Stratification in the Iron Age Levant, in J.S. Greer, J.W. Hilber, and J.H. Walton (eds.), Behind the Scenes of the Old Testament: Cultural, Social and Historical Contexts of Ancient Israel, Baker Academic, pp. 482-491.

As always, well worth a read.

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Posted by on 13 Aug 2019 in Archaeology, Biblical Studies Resources


The Presentation of the Thomas L. Thompson Festschrift in Warsaw

From the editors of the Festschrift, this news:

Dear Colleagues,

As You know we wanted to present the pre-print version of the TLT Volume to Tom during current EABS meeting in Warsaw. We have managed to include all recently made corrections on the proofs file into the manuscript. The pre-print was printed and bounded into the book-like form.

After one of the sessions at the EABS meeting today, we presented the volume in public, read the names of the contributors, and afterwards read the title only at the end. Tom was shocked! So, we managed not only to have the volume done, but also to keep secret for two years. Still the indexes are missing. The publisher scheduled (real) book for November. In the attachment you will find the photo taken few hours ago at the meeting.

In the name of our editorial team (Emanuel and myself) I would like to thank you very much for your contribution. We have – all together – done something good, and Tom deserves it.

Best regards


Order a copy for yourself here.

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Posted by on 12 Aug 2019 in Biblical Studies Resources, Book of the Week, Books


The Trial and Crucifixion of Jesus: Texts and Commentary

This may be of interest to folk:

The significance of Jesus’ death is apparent from the space that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John devote to the Passion narrative, from the emphasis of many speeches in the book of Acts, and from the missionary preaching and the theology of the apostle Paul. Exegetical discussions of Jesus’ trial and death have employed biblical (Old Testament) and extrabiblical texts in order to understand the events during the Passover of AD 30 that led to Jesus’ execution by crucifixion. The purpose of this book is to publish the primary texts that have been cited in the scholarly literature as relevant for understanding Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. The texts in the first part deal with Jesus’ trial and interrogation before the Sanhedrin, and the texts in the second part concern Jesus’ trial before Pilate. The texts in part three represent crucifixion as a method of execution in antiquity. For each document, the authors provide the original text (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, or Latin), a translation, and commentary. The commentary describes the literary context and the purpose of each document in context before details are clarified, along with observations on the contribution of these texts to understanding Jesus’ trial and crucifixion.

Hendrickson has sent along a review copy.  More later.

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Posted by on 12 Aug 2019 in Biblical Studies Resources, Book Review, Book Review Pending, Books, Hendrickson


Biblical Narratives, Archaeology and Historicity: Essays In Honour of Thomas L. Thompson

A Festschrift for a more than deserving friend:

This volume collects essays from an international body of leading scholars in Old Testament studies, focused upon the key concepts of the question of historicity of biblical stories, the archaeology of Israel/Palestine during the Bronze and Iron Ages, and the nature of biblical narratives and related literature.

As a celebration of the extensive body of Thomas L. Thompson’s work, these essays enable a threefold perspective on biblical narratives. Beginning with ‘method’, the contributors discuss archaeology, cultural memory, epistemology, and sociology of knowledge, before moving to ‘history, historiography and archaeology’ and close analysis of the Qumran Writings, Josephus and biblical rewritings. Finally the argument turn to the narratives themselves, exploring topics including the possibility of invented myth, the genre of Judges and the depiction of Moses in the Qu’ran. Presenting an interdisciplinary analysis of the historical issues concerning ancient Israel/Palestine, this volume creates an updated body of reference to fifty years’ worth of scholarship.

And the contents are fantastic:


1. The City of David as a Palimpsest, Margreet Steiner
2. Living in the Past? Keeping Up-To-Date in Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Raz Kletter
3. What People Want to Believe: Or Fighting Against Cultural Memory, Niels Peter Lemche
4. The Need for a Comprehensive Sociology of Knowledge of Biblical and Archaeological Studies of the Southern Levant, Emanuel Pfoh


5. The Abraham and Esau-Jacob Stories in the Context of the Maccabean Period, Lukasz Niesiolowski-Spanò
6. Tell Balata (Shechem): An Archaeological and Historical Reassessment, Hamdan Taha and Gerrit van der Kooij
7. ‘Solomon’ (Shalmaneser III) and the Emergence of Judah as an Independent Kingdom, Russell Gmirkin
8. On the Pre-Exilic Gap between Israel and Judah, Étienne Nodet
9. Perceptions of Israel’s Past in Qumran Writings: Between Myth and Historiography, Jesper Høgenhaven
10. Is Josephus’s John the Baptist Passage a Chronologically Dislocated Story of the Death of Hyrcanus II?, Greg Doudna
11. Thompson’s Jesus: Staring Down the Wishing Well, Jim West
12. The Qur’an as Biblical Rewriting, Mogens Müller


13. The Food of Life and the Food of Death in Texts from the Old Testament and the Ancient Near East, Ingrid Hjelm
14. A Gate in Gaza: An Essay on the Reception of Tall Tales, Jack M. Sasson
15. Deborah’s Topical Song: Remarks on the Gattung of Judges 5, Bob Becking
16. How Jerusalem’s Temple Was Aligned to Moses’ Tabernacle: About the Historical Power of an Invented Myth, Rainer Albertz
17. Can the Book of Nehemiah Be Used as an Historical Source, and If So, of What? Lisbeth S. Fried
18. Chronicles’ Reshaping of Memories of Ancestors Populating Genesis, Ehud Ben Zvi
19. The Book of Proverbs and Hesiod’s Works and Days, Philippe Wajdenbaum
20. The Villain ‘Samaritan’: The Samiri as the Other Moses in Qur’anic Exegesis, Joshua Sabih

That list of contributors is a veritable who’s who of scholars of exceptional reputation and it’s wonderful to see all those who are closest to Thomas taking part.


The Latest Issue of Evangelische Theologie (EvTh)

You can see the contents here, along with ordering information.

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Posted by on 12 Aug 2019 in Biblical Studies Resources, Theology



This may be it if you are looking for a commentary on the Prophet Nahum

Das kleine Buch Nahum hat bis heute keine gute Presse, weil es gemeinhin unter die Zukunftsworte der biblischen Propheten gegen fremde Völker eingeordnet wird. Im Gegensatz dazu sind die Worte Nahums gegen die Hauptstadt des damaligen Weltreichs der Assyrer gerichtet, unter dessen Herrschaft die Einwohner Judas stöhnten, und daher von prinzipiell anderer Qualität. Zudem sind die Worte Nahums überliefert worden, weil sie sich mit dem Fall Ninives 612 v. Chr. schon erfüllt hatten. Als bestätigtes Gotteswort haben sie Jahrhunderte später Menschen, die unter Unterdrückung litten, als Stütze ihrer Hoffnung auf die Wende der Not gedient. Gewichtiger noch ist, dass die jüngeren Verfasser des Buches aus der zurückliegenden Prophetie Nahums grundsätzliche Aussagen über Gott gewonnen haben.

Jeremias arbeitet die Verwurzelung der Botschaft Nahums in der Tradition der frühen Propheten des Alten Testaments heraus und besticht dabei durch die Genauigkeit der Begründung exegetischer Entscheidungen im Gespräch mit anderen Ansichten. Zudem – so Jeremias – ist statt von mehreren literarischen Schichten im Buch nur von zweien auszugehen.

Jeremias introduces the Book of Nahum in 6 sections:

  1. The State of Research
  2. The Book
  3. The Era
  4. The Message
  5. The Book as Part of the Book of the Twelve
  6. The Text and its Witnesses

Then commences the commentary proper, which follows the outline of Nahum.  To wit:

  1. Superscript
  2. A Programmatic Hymn
  3. The End of Belial
  4. The Fall of Nineveh
  5. The Whore Nineveh
  6. The Unstoppable Judgment

Each textual unit is freshly translated and copious textual notes are provided.  And then the exegesis continues in the normal historical/ critical way.  There are also, as one would expect, plenty of bibliographic materials and supporting data to bolster Jeremias’ exposition and to include his work in the greater conversation taking place in biblical scholarship.

Included as well are illustrations along the way which pictorially represent historical evidence.  And finally, in terms of resources mustered, the author includes a couple of relevant excurses.

Now, for the benefit of the readers of this review and potential users of this commentary, a few examples of the contents:

On Nahum 3:1-7

In dem allen zeigt sich, dass der Prophet Nahum eine bemerkenswert andersartige Vorstellung als Jesaja vom Verhältnis der Weltmacht Assyrien zu Gott hat. Jesaja sah in Assyrien zunächst ein Werkzeug JHWHs, mit dem er sein schuldiges Volk strafen wollte, und warf ihm erst danach vor, eigene, widergöttliche Pläne zu verfolgen, mit dem Ziel, sich die Völker dauerhaft zu unterwerfen. Für Nahum dagegen ist Assyriens Weltmachtpolitik von allem Anfang an gegen Gott gerichtet und »Betrug« an Gott. Assyriens Macht stammt nicht von Gott, sondern es hat sich diese Macht zu Unrecht angemaßt mit unlauteren, ja gegen Gott gerichteten Mitteln (»Zauberei«).

Readers of this volume will discover that it follows the normal outline of commentaries in the historical-critical ‘tradition’ but to assume that the contents merely repeat old and well known facts would be a terrible mistake.  There is much that is new here in the sense of new insights and interpretations based not on speculation (which is so rife in the guild these days) but on well reasoned substantively demonstrated facts.  As, frankly, one would expect of Professor Jeremias.

I enjoyed reading this volume as much as I did reading his Old Testament Theology.  I love smart writers and smart writing.  I think you will agree that this work is both as well.

Tolle, lege!

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Posted by on 5 Aug 2019 in Bible, Biblical Studies Resources, Book Review, Books


Scripture in Its Historical Contexts

Mohr has sent review copies of these two volumes.  More on them in due course.

Veröffentlicht auf Englisch: Vol 1- Diese wichtige Sammlung von Aufsätzen von James A. Sanders enthält seine bedeutsamsten Arbeiten zum Text und Kanon der hebräischen Bibel, zusammen mit bahnbrechenden Studien zu den Schriftrollen von Qumran. Er ist einer der führenden Forscher zur Entstehung des Kanons, der Geschichte seiner Deutung und Textkritik, und spezialisiert auf die Schriftrollen vom Toten Meer und der Verwendung des Alten Testaments im Neuen. Diese Studien dokumentieren die Vielfalt der Texttraditionen sowie ihre Verschiedenheit und den ungeklärten Zustand der Sammlung heiliger Literatur, die in der späten Zeit des Zweiten Tempels als maßgeblich oder kanonisch galt. Damit legten sie den Grundstein für die heutige Forschungsdebatte.

Vol 2- James A. Sanders ist ein Pionier in der Forschung zur Entstehung des Kanons, der Geschichte seiner Interpretation, Textkritik und Exegese im Kontext, speziell der Schriftrollen vom Toten Meer und der Verwendung des Alten Testaments im Neuen. Viele seiner Untersuchungen, die in diesem Band versammelt sind, werden als wegweisend angesehen und waren äußerst einflussreich.

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Posted by on 5 Aug 2019 in Biblical Studies Resources, Book Review, Book Review Pending, Books, Mohr


Anthropologie des Alten Testaments: Grundfragen – Kontexte – Themenfelder

Seit der klassischen Darstellung H.W. Wolffs von 1973 gibt es keinen Gesamtentwurf einer alttestamentlichen Anthropologie mehr. Diese Lücke versucht Bernd Janowski mit seinem Lehr- und Studienbuch zu schließen, das sich von Wolffs Lehrbuch nicht nur durch einen anderen Ansatz, sondern auch durch die Berücksichtigung der altorientalischen Religionsgeschichte und der neueren Kulturwissenschaft unterscheidet. Die vorliegende Darstellung, in deren Zentrum die anthropologische Grundfrage »Was ist der Mensch?« (Psalm 8,5) und ihre spezifisch biblischen, auf die Leiblichkeit, Gerechtigkeit und Endlichkeit bezogenen Antworten stehen, gliedert sich in sieben Abschnitte:


  • I. Was ist der Mensch? Einführung (Grundfragen alttestamentlicher Anthropologie)
  • II. Von der Wiege bis zur Bahre. Phasen des Lebens (Biographische Aspekte, Genderfragen)
  • III. Mit Leib und ,Seele’. Elemente des Personbegriffs (Leib- und Sozialsphäre)
  • IV. Vom tätigen Leben. Formen des sozialen Handelns (Arbeit, Wirtschaft, Kommunikation)
  • V. Räume und Zeiten. Aspekte der Welterfahrung (Ordnung des Raums, Rhythmus der Zeit)
  • VI. Bilder vom Menschen. Anthropologien des ATs (Urgeschichte, Priesterliche Texte, Königsideologie, Prophetie, Psalmen, Weisheit)
  • VII. Der ganze Mensch. Resümee (Grundzüge alttestamentlicher Anthropologie).

Ein umfangreicher Anhang veranschaulicht darüber hinaus das Eigenprofil der Anthropologie des Alten Testaments im Vergleich zu den Anthropologien seiner Umwelt anhand ausgewählter Texte und Bilder von Mesopotamien bis zum Antiken Judentum.

Janowski’s 2019 volume features the investigation of questions which have arisen in recent years about the Old Testament’s view of what it means to be a human being.  In particular, and of particular interest to many, will be section 3 of the Second Division, which deals with Gender and sexuality.  Everything from the creation of woman, an excursus on ‘helpmeet’, a very important treatment of eroticism and sexuality, marriage and family, and the place genealogical thinking has in Old Testament texts are brought into focus.

The present work is an encyclopedic treatment of the issue which begins with asking the central question, ‘what is man?’ and through such issues as birth, naming, death, gender and gender roles, marriage, children, body and soul, society, work and play, law and culture, law and righteousness, community, holiness, sacred and secular spaces, the rhythm of life and time, and feasts and celebrations.  And all of that in the first 5 chapters.

In chapter six begins even more specific treatments of the image of man in the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings.  And in chapter seven the whole is summarized and ends with the same question with which it begins: what is man?  Each small section also includes its own bibliography.  The chapters are rich in scriptural citations and helpful exegesis.

A series of appendices drawing materials from ancient societies around Israel showing similarities and differences between Ancient Israel and its neighbors is followed by a list of abbreviation and citations, various bibliographies, a listing of illustrations, and a source and subject index (each).

A book like this comes along once in a generation.  Its predecessor, by H.W. Wolff, appeared in 1973.  It was a justifiably well renowned volume and exceedingly well regarded and served for many decades the important task of helping readers of the Bible understand how ‘man’ was viewed in the Old Testament.  This book is better, more thorough, and will serve many, many generations of biblical scholars and students.

It is, without doubt, the best book I have read on an Old Testament subject this year.  I cannot recommend it more highly.

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Posted by on 3 Aug 2019 in Biblical Studies Resources, Book Review, Books, Mohr


Christians in Caesar’s Household: The Emperors’ Slaves in the Makings of Christianity

In this volume, Michael Flexsenhar III advances the argument that imperial slaves and freedpersons in the Roman Empire were essential to early Christians’ self-conception as a distinct people in the Mediterranean and played a multifaceted role in the making of early Christianity.

Scholarship in early Christianity has for centuries viewed Roman emperors’ slaves and freedmen as responsible for ushering Christianity onto the world stage, traditionally using Paul’s allusion to “the saints from Caesar’s household” in Philippians 4:22 as a core literary lens. Merging textual and material evidence with diaspora and memory studies, Flexsenhar expands on this narrative to explore new and more nuanced representations of this group, showing how the long-accepted stories of Christian slaves and freepersons in Caesar’s household should not be taken at face value but should instead be understood within the context of Christian myth- and meaning-making. Flexsenhar analyzes textual and material evidence from the first to the sixth century, spanning Roman Asia, the Aegean rim, Gaul, and the coast of North Africa as well as the imperial capital itself. As a result, this book shows how stories of the emperor’s slaves were integral to key developments in the spread of Christianity, generating origin myths in Rome and establishing a shared history and geography there, differentiating and negotiating assimilation with other groups, and expressing commemorative language, ritual acts, and a material culture.

With its thoughtful critical readings of literary and material sources and its fresh analysis of the lived experiences of imperial slaves and freedpersons, Christians in Caesar’s Household is indispensable reading for scholars of early Christianity, the origins of religion, and the Roman Empire.

The thesis of this volume is fairly simple: slaves played a pivotal role in early Christianity.  To make his case the author sets the stage in the introduction, discussing such matters as the history of research into the issue of slavery in early Christianity and related matters.  He also offers a fairly in depth description of the chapters to follow, setting out the argument of the whole.

Chapter one (see the link above for the full table of contents, which needn’t be repeated here) offers the author’s first bit of evidence in support of his thesis: Philippians 4:22.  He examines in thorough detail the world into which this verse fits and provides tables, charts, and a map to help illustrate is viewpoint.  His takeaway is this:

Christians seized on the idea that Paul had made converts from among Caesar’s household in Rome.  The idea became a foundational narrative that not only shaped early Christianity through the second and third centuries but helped launch a tradition that would endure for millennia.

It strikes me as a bit of an exaggeration to say that converted slaves from the Emperor’s household were somehow made into a foundational narrative for Christianity.  Slaves converted, but so did others.  In sum, the ‘how so?’ question which looms over the thesis remains.

Chapter two moves readers into the issue of martyrdoms of Peter and Paul as described in noncanonical texts.  Here the central theme is the notion that the stories of those martyrdoms somehow connect the Apostles to the Imperial household and that this connection is somehow meaningful for the later Christian tradition.  While it may be possible that Paul’s imperial connections served an apologetic purpose, it remains the case that the still remaining ‘how so?’ question posed of the thesis of the volume remains unanswered.

Chapter three moves further forward into Christian history and examines later apologetic and polemic regarding Caesar’s household.  As well, chapter four moves even further forward.  Here readers discover (or are reintroduced to) the ways in which Christian piety and martyrdom demonstrate (tenuous) connections with the Imperial family.

Chapters 5 and 6 offer the same, this time with a focus on the evidence for Imperial freed men and the remnants of Christians connected to the Imperial family discovered in the catacombs.

Finally arriving at the conclusion, readers hear the summary of the argument for the claimed impact of Imperial slaves on early Christianity:

With ‘Caesar’s household’ in their cultural repository, Christians could reinvent themselves as a people who from the very beginning were destined, like Paul once said, to inherit the world (Rom 4:13).

How so?  What an odd argument this turns out to be.  Are we supposed to believe that the early Church made a big deal of the inclusion of slaves from the Imperial residence simply so as to be able to claim that they would inherit the earth?  All they needed for that was Jesus’s remark from the Sermon on the Mount!  The participation of slaves in the Church neither added to nor took away from that theological notion.

Flexhensar’s book is a very good examination of the early church.  It is loaded with important and interesting details.  But it is wrongheaded in that it doesn’t achieve its aim or goal of showing the importance of the connection between Roman slaves and Christian tradition.  Christian tradition would have developed with a notion that the meek would inherit the earth had there never been so much as a single slave join the movement, much less a single slave from Caesar’s house.

This would, in my view, be better as a book if it were simply a discussion of early Christianity in general and not an attempt to prove that early Christians somehow saw the slaves of the Imperial house who belonged to their number as their claim to fame in terms of ‘inheriting the earth’.

My advice, in sum, is that you read this book for the details it contains, but not for the argument it makes.

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Posted by on 3 Aug 2019 in Biblical Studies Resources, Book Review, Books