Category Archives: Book Review

The Rephaim: Sons of the Gods

In The Rephaim: Sons of the Gods, Jonathan Yogev provides a new theory regarding the mysterious characters, known as “Rephaim,” in Biblical and ancient Near Eastern literature. The Rephaim are associated with concepts such as death and the afterlife, divinity, healing, giants and monarchy among others. They appear in Ugaritic, Phoenician and Biblical texts, yet it is difficult to pinpoint their exact function and meaning. This study offers a different perspective, along with full texts, detailed epigraphic analysis and commentary for all of the texts that mention the Rephaim, in order to determine their specific importance in societies of the ancient Levant.

It came out a couple of years ago but I don’t recall hearing about it until today.  The publisher has sent along a review copy.  More anon.

The Book of Ruth

“Do not urge me to abandon you, to turn back from following after you. For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you lodge, I will lodge. Your people are my people, and your God is my God.”

In this pivotal verse, Ruth’s self-sacrificial declaration of loyalty to her mother-in-law Naomi forms the relationship at the heart of the book of Ruth. Peter H. W. Lau’s new translation and commentary explores the human and divine love at the center of the narrative as well as the book’s relevance to Christian theology.

In the latest entry in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament, Lau upholds the series’ standard of quality. The Book of Ruth includes detailed notes on the translation and pays careful attention to the original Hebrew and the book’s historical context, all the while remaining focused on Ruth’s relevance to Christian readers today. An indispensable resource for pastors, scholars, students, and all readers of Scripture, Lau’s commentary is the perfect companion to one of the most beloved books of the Old Testament.

Table of Contents

Structure and Message
Authorship and Date
The Hebrew Text
Theological Messages
Ruth and the New Testament
Text and Commentary
Act 1: Death and Emptiness (1:1–22)
Act 2: Seeking Short-Term Security (2:1–23)
Act 3: Seeking Permanent Security (3:1–18)
Act 4: Redemption and Fullness (4:1–22)

A review copy has arrived today.  More anon.

Daily Devotions with Herman Bavinck: Believing and Growing in Christian Faith

Don McKim has written a volume that you’ll be interested in reading.

Herman Bavinck (1854–1921) was a significant Reformed theologian whose importance continues to this day. In eighty-four brief devotional readings accompanied by Scripture, Donald McKim explores Bavinck’s thought in order to deepen readers’ understanding and faith.

The purpose and aim of this book is to help Christians grow in their faith.  It may seem a simple notion, but in our world there are fewer things more important that Christians becoming more Christian.  Indeed, I would suggest that the highest and holiest of all authorial tasks is to grow Christians, make disciples, and help believers believe and act.

Don remarks, regarding his aim here, that

I hope to explain what the theologian meant and combine this with comments about the importance of these thoughts for our Christian living today. I hope in this way to provide accessible devotional readings that can nourish the minds and the hearts of those who read them.

Does he achieve this aim?  Gloriously.  Allow me to illustrate:

  • Each devotion is headed by a relevant to the topic passage of Scripture
  • Then follows an ‘interactive’ explanation where Prof McKim provides readers with a ‘guided’ discussion of a point of Bavinck’s theology.  That is, Bavinck is cited, but the discussion surrounding those citations belongs to McKim.

Take, for example, part of devotional 4- ‘Certainty Flows from Faith‘:

Christian faith brings our conviction that God has acted in Jesus Christ to forgive our sin and give us eternal life. This is a certainty at the very core of our beings as Christian people. Bavinck said this faith is “a restoration of the right relationship between God and man, the return of the trust” a child places in its parent. “Certainty is included by its very nature” in human expressions of faith—even more so in faith that believes in Jesus Christ as God’s Son, our Savior. In faith, we believe the gospel promises of who Jesus is and what he has done to bring salvation. Faith also brings the certainty that by God’s grace, “we too share in these promises.”

I have placed in bold font the lines cited from Bavinck (the bold font is not present in the book) only to illustrate the fact that Bavinck’s theology serves as the springboard and platform from which McKim offers a fuller, richer, more substantial theological and devotional series of thoughts, knitting into a coherent whole the theology of Bavinck.

The section continues

This means, wrote Bavinck, that faith “does not attain certainty regarding itself through logical reasoning nor through constantly examining itself and reflecting on its own nature. . . . But certainty flows to us immediately and directly out of faith itself. Certainty is an essential characteristic of faith; it is inseparable from it and belongs to its nature.”

And then McKim opines

What a blessed joy! Our certainty in faith is not generated by us—by our thinking or our efforts. Instead, faith flows from  the promises of God, the gospel, which poses no conditions but only proclaims that everything has been accomplished. . . . All we have to do,” continued Bavinck, is “enter into that accomplished work and rest in it for eternity.

When materials like these are made available in an easy to read and glitteringly brilliant style of writing such that any and every Christian can benefit from them, you know that you have in hand an important tome.  And more than that, a genuinely useful one.

To be sure, Don is a friend and we have written two books together and are working on our third, so readers may imagine that I am being overly generous.  But, for better or worse, I don’t have the genetic material necessary to allow me to say something positive about a book, whether it be by friend or foe, unless it be true.  Friendship and enmity never befoul objectivity when it comes to my reaction to published works.  If this were a horrible book, I would say so.

But this is not a horrible book.  On the contrary, it is, as noted previously, an important and useful book.  You ought to read it.  The consequence will be personal Christian growth.  And although I probably don’t know you, I’m fairly confident in saying that you probably need to grow in faith.

Don’s book will help you do just that.

Tolle, lege!

Reading the Reformations: Theologies, Cultures and Beliefs in an Age of Change

In the last thirty years, understandings of the European reformations have been transformed. A generation of scholars has demonstrated how radically wide-ranging these movements were. Across family life, politics, material culture and philosophy, the reformations are now at the very heart of our understanding not just of early modern Europe, but of religion and identity in general.

This volume collects recent work from past and present members of the European Reformation Research Group, exploring key fronts in contemporary Reformation Studies, achieving a broad view of how historiography has developed in recent decades – and where it seems set to go next.

I confess at the outset to being a little nonplussed by the virtual lack of attention given to Zwingli in the present volume.  He receives but two mentions, one on page 40 and the other on page 309.  Meanwhile Luther and Calvin are mentioned numerous times.  Indeed, Richard Baxter receives more notice than Zwingli.  Bucer is mentioned once, and Bullinger and Beza not at all.

How can one read the reformations without mentioning a number of the chief Reformers?  Especially when the book itself promises to treat ‘all sides’ of the Reformation?

Similarly, the reformations were, today by common consent, a set of processes and not a singular event: English and European, short and long, elite and popular. Chapters in this volume reflect on all sides of these – and other – coins…

If only…

The first mention of Zwingli was, of course, in reference to his disagreement with Luther about the Supper:

One of the most fiercely contested aspects of sacramental theology was the real presence. Underpinned by the doctrine of transubstantiation, Catholics taught that Christ was physically present in the bread and wine. Luther agreed that Christ was physically present, but denied transubstantiation, arguing that Christ could simultaneously occupy his place in heaven and be physically present in the elements. Zwingli opposed a literal understanding of the Real Presence, arguing that Christ’s presence was symbolic because He could not be in heaven and in the Eucharist concurrently. Calvin preferred to steer a middle path between Zwingli and Luther, agreeing that Christ’s physical body is in heaven; but this did not assume His absence from the Eucharistic elements, and Calvin instead concluded that there was a ‘spiritual real presence’ that comes about through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Believe it or not, Zwingli talked about more than just the Supper.  I know it’s hard to see that when he’s only ever discussed in the context of his debate with Luther, but he had much wider concerns.

One lives in hope, though, that Zwingli will be taken seriously on his second and last appearance in the present volume.  Alas, hopes are meant to be dashed.  The second mention, in connection with the Long Reformation’s understanding of Scripture has a bit to say about Luther and then remarks

Zwingli was vituperative on the same point.

The source cited for this remark made in passing is a secondary source, not even going back to Zwingli’s works themselves.  It’s bad enough that Zwingli is virtually ignored in a volume about the Reformation; but he isn’t even cited in his own words.

Still, do I hate this book?  No, I actually liked it very much (aside from the intense annoyance at Zwingli being dismissed and treated dismissively).  Especially enjoyable were these essays:

  • Divine Kingship, Royal Supremacy, and Romans 13 (1526– 36), Steven M. Foster
  • Surviving a Public Obsession: Reading the Female Body in Post- Reformation Legislation and Medicine, Heather Cowan
  • Two Ways to Read the Bible in the (Very) Long Reformation, Alec Ryrie
  • Afterword: The European Reformation Research Group Looking Forward, Elizabeth Tingle

These four contributions dull the edge of rage at Zwingli’s dismissal.  They dull it.  But they don’t remove it.

When people write volumes or edit collections of essays whose subject is the Reformation, or Reformations (more properly) it is absolutely necessary to include in such works the Reformers.  And not just Luther.

Hebrew between Jews and Christians

Though typically associated more with Judaism than Christianity, the status and sacrality of Hebrew has nonetheless been engaged by both religious cultures in often strikingly similar ways. The language has furthermore played an important, if vexed, role in relations between the two. Hebrew between Jews and Christians closely examines this frequently overlooked aspect of Judaism and Christianity’s common heritage and mutual competition.

Visit this link for the contents.

A review copy arrived today.

The Dismembered Bible: Cutting and Pasting Scripture in Antiquity

It is often presumed that biblical redaction was invariably done using conventional scribal methods, meaning that when editors sought to modify or compile existing texts, they would do so in the process of rewriting them upon new scrolls. There is, however, substantial evidence pointing to an alternative scenario: Various sections of the Hebrew Bible appear to have been created through a process of material redaction. In some cases, ancient editors simply appended new sheets to existing scrolls. Other times, they literally cut and pasted their sources, carving out patches of text from multiple manuscripts and then gluing them together like a collage. Idan Dershowitz shows how this surprising technique left behind telltale traces in the biblical text – especially when the editors made mistakes – allowing us to reconstruct their modus operandi. Material evidence from the ancient Near East and elsewhere further supports his hypothesis.

Reviewed this one for the SOTS Book List.  It will suffice here, I think, to say that this book is imaginative and brilliant and if the Hebrew Bible is an interest of yours, you should read it.  It is finely written (to understate the facts) and lushly illustrated.

Go now and get a copy on interlibrary loan or from your University library.

An Accidental Archaeologist: A Personal Memoir

An Accidental Archaeologist: A Personal Memoir, by Eric M. Meyers.

This personal and professional memoir recounts the author’s formative years and the family influences that propelled him forward. The experience of anti-Semitism in grammar school and college played a major role. The centrality of music and family were especially influential. His partnership with Carol Meyers allowed him to have a successful career in academic archaeology and in teaching at Duke University. Other endeavors, however, kept him grounded and focused on everyday matters: singing, golf, social activism, teaching, and writing. But it was teaching most of all that imbued his life with special meaning as both student and teacher confronted the riches of the past in a search for a better future.

What a lovely book.  About a lovely man.  Who tells a lovely story.  Both about himself and about his wife and family.

Most autobiographies are self aggrandizing ‘look at me, I’m super famous, admire me!’ nonsense.  Especially when written (or rather ghost written) by 20 year old pop stars who have neither lived life nor experienced actual sorrow.

Eric’s autobiography is everything a tome of the genre should be.  It’s a story that engages and grips and enthralls and informs and reflects on a life well lived.  It begins with childhood and moves into the two major phases of his life: without his wife Carol, and with her.  The final segment may be for many the most interesting, as here Eric discusses the meat of life: his life’s chief matters of importance, like music, and his calling as an academic, and his health issues, and the people of Israel.

Eric tells stories about digs and students and times and places and all the sum and substance of a fascinating life.  And yet he tells the story as one who is not boasting (though by rights he could- an esteemed archaeologist who has contributed massively to the field and who has taught generations of young students the importance of proper archaeological methods and conclusions), but rather as one who has enjoyed, yes, loved and still loves life and wishes to share that joy with others.

This is a joyful book.  A book founded in joy and a book which provokes joy, and gratitude.

I’ve met Eric a number of times at various conferences and I’ve made way to Durham a few times to hear him lecture on various matters at ‘day conferences’ and the like.  He is an authentic man.  A decent man.  A good man.  An astonishingly brilliant man.

For those who know him far better than I, they know those things about him far more deeply than I do.  And for those who have not had the genuine pleasure of knowing him ‘in real life’, this book is the next best thing.

I loved this lovely book.  I am persuaded that you will as well.

But, lest you think me too subject to ‘hero worship’ here, let me say that I do have one criticism of the volume:  it isn’t long enough.  I like big books.  This one isn’t big enough.  I want more of it, and from it.

I hope, therefore, that when Eric updates his biography 40 years from now (please, Lord, let it be so), it will be like those massive 19th century 5 volume German studies.

Until then, go read this book.

The Septuagint of Jeremiah

Miika Tucker comprises a translation technical study of the Septuagint version of Jeremiah for the purpose of characterizing the translation. The conclusions draw from different types of changes that occur between chapters 1–28 (Jer a’) and 29–52 (Jer b’). Certain differences between the two reflect the revisional characteristics of the kaige tradition, which suggests that they were produced by a reviser who was invested in a revisionary tradition similar to kaige. Other differences constitute a change toward more natural Greek expression, which is the opposite of what one would expect from a revision since Greek idiom usually does not correspond to the formal characteristics of Hebrew. Such differences are to be understood to reflect a change toward more intuitive use of the Greek language by the first translator. Changes toward less formal equivalence of the Hebrew and the growth of the Hebrew text after the initial translation combined to form conducive conditions for revision.

This brilliant volume is a meticulous and scholarly tour-de-force. Commencing with a review of the history of research concerning the text of Jeremiah (both the Hebrew and Greek versions) and then delineating the methodological approach utilized in the volume (broadly called ‘translation technique analysis’).

Then the volume gets into the meat and bone of the technicalities involved in the issue.  Here all manner of grammatical features are mined thoroughly for the information they provide regarding translators and their use of particular words and phrases.  Greek syntax and Hebrew verbs and nouns are taken into account.

The next part is, to me, the most interesting: ‘Competence and Disposition of the Translator’.  Here how translators handled texts they did not fully understand is the center of attention.  Illustrations of competence and rather free renderings are also looked into.

A few more matters (the TOC is at the link above) are discussed and then the volume concludes with a bibliography of primary sources and secondary literature.

Our author justifies the existence of his work in the following succinct way-

A translation technical study has the potential to account for the different factors within Jer LXX in a way that previous studies on the character of the translation have been unable to do.  Earlier research … relies on a minimal analysis of the syntactical and semantic contexts in which the Hebrew words and their Greek equivalents occur.  A closer look at these contexts by means of a translation technical analysis allows a more precise determination of the character of the translation and its place in the history of the Septuagint.

He could not be more correct.  The volume which contains this technical analysis accomplishes what it sets out to do, brilliantly.  Two translators’ hands are found and their two works differ from one another; the first is more intuitive in his use of the Greek language.  The second, not.

But instead of telling you more, I’ll simply urge you to read the volume to see how and why our author arrives at the conclusions which he does.  Very convincingly I might add.  Very, very convincingly.

Jeremiah is the best of all the books of the Hebrew Bible.  The LXX of Jeremiah is the most complex translation (in terms of technical questions and historical issues) of any book of the Old Testament.  And Tucker’s analysis is the clearest and most profoundly insightful of that complicated thing called LXX Jeremiah that I have yet seen.

Students of the text of Jeremiah should be required to read it.

#ICYMI Last Year- The January Carnival of the Biblical Studies Carnivals: The Most Glorious Carnival from 2022 So Far

It’s Carnival time!  Enjoy the midway and all the rides, the funhouse, the bizarre and strange attractions, the food, and of course, the animals!  Stay around for a while.  it will take some time to make your way through all the attractions.  But it will be worth it.  Not because all the posts linked are good, but because they range across the whole spectrum of biblioblogging, from the good, to the bad, to the ugly.  And you get to decide which you like!  Because, freedom!

And, to the many who sent links (a portion of which are included below), thank you!  This was, I think, the first Carnival I’ve run that has included so many links from so many different people.

The Funhouse (Hebrew Bible/ OT/ LXX)

Ken Schenk has a little video where he presents Genesis 1.  Or talks about Genesis 1.  Youtube, you say?  If I’m going to include podcasts (those godless examples of what used to be called ‘radio shows’) then yup, Youtube will make it in too.  #Bam.

Robin Parry is doing a series on ‘Creation’.  He posted the third installment in early January.  Find the earlier ones on his page.

The inestimably brilliant John Barton has a response to the question, ‘What is Scripture?‘  If you don’t read any of the other links in this Carnival, read that one.  And then read the rest of them.  Or most of them.  Some of them are rubbish but you won’t know which till you read them.

The good folk at the University of Goettingen have put together the ‘Ugarit-Portal‘.  You definitely need to take a look.

Brian Davidson briefly suggests that the imprecatory Psalms can be seen as prayers in the context of personal struggles.  I’m not my own enemy, so I prefer to pray them against the wicked people out there.  Amen.

Gary Greenberg was all about Exodus in January:

  • Part 3: Why Can’t We Date the Exodus? Part 3: The Problem of Solomon’s Chronology – Bible, Myth, and History (
  • Part 4: Why Can’t We Date the Exodus? Part 4: The 430-Year Sojourn – Bible, Myth, and History (
  • Part 5: Why Can’t We Date the Exodus? Part 5: The 400 years of slavery – Bible, Myth, and History (

He had a couple of posts before January but I can’t link to those for obvious reasons. You can find them over at his place.

Joel Baden lectured on Exodus.  The first session happened on January 10th.  Each Monday in January had another session.  If you missed it, you missed a treat, but you can watch the videos.  Here’s the firstHere’s the secondHere’s the third. You can track down the rest at the Yale Divinity School Youtube channel.

Bart Ehrman discusses the partitions of the book of Isaiah.  I’m one of the ‘Isaiah, Deutero-Isaiah, and Trito-Isaiah’ sort.  Gimme three Isaiahs!

The Hawarden ‘Old Testament in the New Testament’ Conference is still on track to be held in person this year.  The Conference organizer, Susan Docherty, has a reminder that the interested register as they can.

Speaking of ‘The Old in the New’, Stephen Carlson tweets

@sccarlson- Old-in-the-New folks, after you’ve gone through and done all this detailed work distinguishing between quotation and allusion, then what? What’s the point of this classification?

I suppose the answer is ‘what’s the point of Gospel source criticism? What’s the point of any textual investigation aside from textual criticism?’ Because, it seems to me, some things are just interesting in and of themselves. Not everything has to be done for some grand utilitarian purpose, does it? No. Some things should be done just for the sake of doing them.  Did John quote Isaiah or just allude to him?  That’s worth looking into even if you can’t sell it on Ebay.

Brent Niedergall reviewed a book on the Psalms.

The ‘dry bones’ passage from Ezekiel has evidently provoked a dance.  Who knew.

Claude Marriottini has a new book on the Violence of God.  He talks a little bit about the topic here.  Claude is a good scholar and a reliable teacher.  Give him a read.

150 Men at Nehemiah’s Table? The Role of the Governor’s Meals in the Achaemenid Provincial Economy It’s an essay.  By Liz Fried.  She’s fantastic.  Go read it.

I- yours truly- blogged the sessions of the SOTS Winter Meeting.  You can drop in on them here.  Others tweeted parts of it.  Chiefly you can follow the papers as delivered from the tweets of Nathan MacDonald.

Rabbi Ruttenberg provided an interpretation of the ‘hardening of Pharaoh’s heart’.  It’s quite enjoyable.

Interested in Job’s family?  Who isn’t.  So here you go:

La famille de Job dans les différents livres de Job. Le texte hébreu, la Septante et le Testament de Job en comparaison, in: ThZ 77, 2021 [published 2022], 290-307, by Walter Buehrer.  You’re welcome.

What the….  But why?  Why?  Why??????????

For the latest Hebrew Bible info virtually daily, join Jack Sasson’s Agade List.  To request subscription send a plain text email to and ask to be added to the List, mentioning your preferred email address.

The Food Court (New Testament)

Interested in Matthew 2?  This may either satisfy that interest or cure you of it altogether, forever.  It’s a post by Ken Schenck.

Jim Tabor has a new post up about the Roman world of Jesus.  It’s a post worth your time.  Unlike that book about Jesus you picked up at Barnes and Noble written by the latest fad mega-churcher.

Do you love old manuscripts? Do you love Greek? Do you love? If you do, then you’ll love this:

@CSNTM– #ManuscriptMonday New year, old manuscript! Papyrus 52, held at The John Rylands Library in Manchester, is a fragment of the Gospel of John dated by many to the 2nd or 3rd cent. This tiny artifact has received much attention and investigation by scholars.

Do you also like manuscripts touted as a big deal that turn out to be total garbage like the ‘first century Mark’ fragment?  Well good.  Here’s Elijah Hixson on the farce of first century Mark.

Did you miss SBL in November?  Are you sad that you couldn’t sit in on a paper about the Apocryphal Acts?  Cheer up.  Tony has put the paper online.  So you can read it yourself.  Or, if you want to re-enact the live experience, just ask your spouse to read it to you while you doomscroll twitter just like you would if you had attended SBL!

Just when you thought the ’empire’ trope had suffered the fate of ‘form criticism’ it rears its head once again!  That’s the great thing about biblical studies fads, they live on, somewhere, forever.  Like covid-19…..  After slogging through the pop-ups festooning the page you’ll be able to read Philip Jenkins’ nostalgic piece.

Jay the anonymous software engineer shared some thoughts on Mt 27:1-2.  It’s brief, and carries on some of the usual tropes that are historically questionable. Cf. Barrett ad loc.

Are you curious about the interpretation of 1 Tim 2:12?  Would you like to read an exceptional bit of exegesis?  Then you’re in luck.  Margaret Mowczko has it.

Do you like the Carpocratians?  Are you also a fan of Morton Smith?  well Mike Kok is about to make your day with his essay Morton Smith and the Carpocratians.  Mike is a Canadian, but don’t hold that against him.  Do you like mysticism and initiation into Hellenistic mysteries?  Well once again, you’re in luck, because James Tabor has a post for you.

Pete Enns group blog has a new contributor, Jennifer Bashaw, and she’s posted her first post on Peter’s group blog and it’s about why Paul’s letters aren’t enough if you want to understand ‘salvation’.  Amen.

Matthew and Luke have different genealogical listings.  Alex Krause takes a look.

Andrew Perriman drafts Jesus as a participant in the climate crisis debate.  Jesus is drafted for every cause.  He’s drafted more than the lead car at every NASCAR race.  I wonder how many of these drafts he turns up his nose at.  I wonder how often in heaven he’s like ‘For pete’s sake, leave me out of this!’.  Quite a lot I imagine.

The Good Samaritan and the prophet Oded… Do they have elements in common?  Probably not I suspect, but the anonymous blogger who posted the thing might have other thoughts.  You may enjoy the post if you 1) like anonymous posts; and 2) like literary intertwinings even if they are imaginary.

Mike Bird on Romans 8 and the assurance of God’s love in hard times.  Job would like a word.

Jesuscreed has a bit of a discussion about the Pharisees.  His springboard is A-J Levine’s new book on that subject.  Scot is pro-Pharisees.  Enjoy his post.

Tyndale House had a seminar on the ending of Mark.  If you missed it, it’s on the YouTube.  And there’s a very useful resource page for Mark 16 if you want to investigate things further.

Scot McKnight has a post on the Pharisees.  But you’ll have to pay up.  It’s for ‘paying subscribers’ only.  Conversely, you could just buy A-J Levine and Joseph Sievers’ book and get a lot more bang for your buck.

The Animal Exhibition (Archaeological Stuff)

Have they found the birthplace of Mary Magdalene?  No.  But no doesn’t sell papers or drive tourists to visit sites in hopes of touching some holy relic or standing in some spot where some biblical personage may have stepped.  Which reminds me, the relic quest is as alive and well, under the guise of ‘science’ as it ever was in the 16th century when Erasmus derided all the fraud and mocked the relic hunters by pointing out that if all the fragments of the cross on display in Europe were collected the wood would be more than is found in all the forests of Bavaria.  Anyway, as always, Candida does a super job explaining the situation.  She’s tremendous.  Read anything she writes.

Bob Cargill interviewed Shua Kisilevitz, the director of the Tel Moza excavation.  It’s a text piece and a video that you’ll want to take a look at.  And be sure to check out the website’s News page.  It lists archaeological stories chronologically and is pretty thorough.

There was a Dead Sea Scrolls conference this Summer sponsored by NYU and they posted it on Jan 5 for all the folk who missed it.  So it was blogged.  Here.

A lecture by Tel Aviv University archaeologist Yuval Gadot on Iron Age and Persian Era Jerusalem is slated for Feb 17 at noon EST.   Sign up.

And, speaking of signing up, Candida Moss tweeted

Birmingham Biblical Studies Seminar @PTRBirmingham is delighted to welcome @catebosh from @UCLA to discuss “Aramaic and Empire” in Bilingual Inscriptions. Come learn about archeology, language, and identity! Register here.

Clay Sealings from the Temple Mount and Their Use in the Temple and Royal Treasuries.”  Enjoy.

Just how much can the most famous of the Dead Sea Scrolls prove?  Isn’t that a good question?  It’s asked here.  By someone named Anthony Ferguson.

Avraham Faust has three new articles out this month. Some online. Track them down. He’s such an exceptional scholar.

  1. Faust, A, and Safrai, Z., in press, Toward a Quantitative History of Ancient Israel: Burials as a Test Case, Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 65 (published online).
  2. Faust, A., and Sapir, Y., 2021, Building 101 at Tel ‘Eton, the Low Chronology, and the Perils of a Bias-Perpetuating Methodology: A Response and a Proposal for the Study of All the Phases in the History of Buildings, Palestine Exploration Quarterly 153: 304-334.
  3. Faust, A., 2021, Cyprus and the Land of Israel: The Mediterranean as a Bridge and the Diverse Consequences of Cultural Contact, in J. Charlesworth and J.G.R. Pruszinski (eds.), Cyprus Within the Biblical World: Borders Not Barriers, London: T&T Clark, pp. 26-40.

Israel Finkelstein uploaded a boatload of papers to his page in January.  Yes, literally, a boatload.  And, just in case you didn’t know, he also has a YouTube channel.  It too has a boatload of material.  Yes, a literal boat load.

Finally, Todd Bolen does a weekly roundup of archaeology related stuff.  It’s a very worthwhile post each week, though mildly annotated.

The Strange and Bizarre (Books and Reviews)

Jennifer Neyhart blogs about books of all sorts, including biblical studies and theology.  If you aren’t familiar with her blog, give it a visit.  She’s super.

Adele Reinhartz wonderful Bible and Cinema is out in a new second edition.  I mention it because it’s something you should know.

Nijay Gupta recommends a concise dictionary of New Testament theology stuff.  Brian Davidson recommended some Accordance commentaries.

Taming The Beast: A Reception History of Behemoth and LeviathanReviewed here.  It’s a MUST read volume.

Some hearty soul purportedly read the two volumes of the new Cambridge Greek Lexicon and wrote a review!  NOTE- said review will only be available freely till the end of February, so read it whilst you can.  The reviewer seems fixated on sexual terms and the entries for race and ethnicity.  I guess it takes all kinds, doesn’t it…

Kara Slade’s new book is reviewed here.  Kara is a delight, and it sounds like her new book is as well.  I don’t have the time to read it right now though….  Maybe soon….

Paul Davidson, amateur Bible enthusiast, reviews The Dismembered Bible.  It sounds like a fun book.

Liz Fried’s new commentary on Nehemiah was reviewed here.  The commentary features a very unique additional online ‘tool’.  You’ll have to read the review to find out what it is.

Mike Bird reviews a commentary on Jonah and calls it ‘splendid’.  Aussies and their fancy words.

Rick Brannan has a book out (or it will be momentarily) titled ‘Fragments of Christianity‘.  It may be of interest to you.  Or it may not.  I don’t know.  I can’t read your mind.

Understanding the Jewish Roots of Christianity is reviewed here by someone who’s name I can’t find on their ‘about me’ page.  I guess that’s ok.  Maybe he or she just doesn’t like fame.

Mike Bird kicked off January with a list of books he is going to read in 2022.  Not once, though, did he say ‘God willing’!!!!  Gasp.  Astonishing behavior from someone who is surely familiar with James’ clear dictum- ἐὰν ὁ κύριος θελήσῃ καὶ ζήσομεν καὶ ποιήσομεν τοῦτο ἢ ἐκεῖνο. (Jas. 4:15)

I reviewed a new little book titled ‘The Rewards of Learning Greek and Hebrew‘.  You’ll enjoy it and the book.

Will’s book is out.  Get it.  Your kids don’t need to eat.  Or skip the rent:

Sandra Jacobs posted her review of Sovereign Authority and the Elaboration of Law in the Bible and the Ancient Near East on her page.  Give it a read. you say?  Yup.  Because if I’m going to include podcasts and youtube stuff I’m going to include Academia.  Because, frankly, blogging manifests itself in many formats these days.

Not, strictly speaking, a book review, but related thereto I think-

@candidamoss — Birmingham Biblical Studies Seminar @PTRBirmingham : @FordhamNYC professor Sarit Kattan Gribetz will discuss her award winning @PrincetonUPress book “Time and Difference in Rabbinic Judaism” on Wed Feb 2 at 8am PST/11am EST/4pm GMT. Register here.

Rob Bradshaw has posted an oldie but a goodie: Studies in Matthew by BW Bacon.  Lot’s of you are fans of Bacon, or so you say.  So surely this will be of interest.

Phil Long (the Carnival Ringmaster) reviewed a book on Israel’s Wisdom Traditions.  Why do we need another book on Wisdom when we have von Rad and RBY Scott?  Phil writes

McLaughlin’s Introduction is an excellent introduction to the biblical wisdom books with a few added features to distinguish itself from other introductions. Including Sirach and Wisdom of Solomon extend the introduction into the Second Temple period and his chapter on the continuation of these traditions beyond the First Testament is helpful, even if too brief.

Brent N. interviewed the author of some book or other about some New Testament related thing.  Part one of the interview is here. Part two, here.  The title of the book is New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity.  New documents ya say?  How relevant could they be if they’re new?  Anyway- there ya go.  He also reviewed another NT themed book.  It’s some sort of student’s guide.  I didn’t really read the review or the book.  But you can if you want to.

Carl broke his decades long blog silence and posted on books he’s read in the last year.  See you next January, Carl….

William Ross reviewed A New Hebrew Reader for the Psalms.  William makes this horrifying confession at the outset of his review: It’s been a while since I did a book review, but I want to make sure to highlight a great new resource that is likely to interest my readers. Hendrickson Publishers has just produced A Hebrew Reader for the Psalms: 40 Beloved Texts, compiled and edited by Pete Myers and Jonathan G. Kline.  Shameful.  The failure to review, not the review itself.

The Midway (All the Miscellaneous Stuff)

Phil Long did a super job with the December Carnival (appearing 1 January).  Phil is a really great guy. A perfect way to start the New Year.

Jim Eisenbraun is blogging!  Welcome to biblioblogdom, Jim!

Elijah Drake’s tale of attending a megachurch made me sick.  What a fraud of a ‘church’.  Ιησους….

Sometimes text critics have a reputation for being boring.  And, truth told, they usually are.  And sometimes they themselves get so bored with what they do that they wander cemeteries looking for graves…  Or at least the graves of other text critics.  If you’re ever stuck next to a text critic at a party, flee.  You’ll be overcome with boredom if you don’t.  You’ve been warned.

The EABS has issued it’s call for papers for its next meeting.  The deadline for submissions is February.  Here’s the info page.

There’s something called the ‘secular’ web and someone called John McDonald who seems to be a very nice person.  He mentioned this site.  Frankly I prefer John’s sort to the ‘Molechgelicals’.

Newman U. is hosting a conference titled Language and Religion.  If you’re in the area you ought to arrange to go.  It’s in June, so covid will be over by then. Or at least the obsession with it will be.

Todd Brewer has a nice brief bit on Barth and Billy Graham.  Give it a look.  And if interested consult Barth in Conversation, vol 1, pp 124-125, 158, 160, 227; Barth in Conversation, vol 2, pp 96-97.

People are bizarrely still trying to define the Trinity.  It’s like watching mice run through a maze that has no exit.  And Tertullian’s mocking of philosophy is justified once more.  So it’s fun for that reason alone.  As you listen to the podcast, just keep repeated in your mind ‘Philosophers are the patriarchs of heretics’ and it will be super enjoyable.

If you’re a scholar of Syriac, or just beginning your studies, this conference may be your thing.  The deadline is Jan 31 but I bet if you send yours in in the next few days it will make the cut.  The Department of Theological Studies at Fordham University and Dorushe invite proposals for the Eighth Dorushe Graduate Student Conference on Syriac Studies, to be held at Fordham University (NYC) on June 9-10, 2022. The deadline for abstracts is January 31, 2022.

2022 is the 500th Anniversary of the publication of Luther’s famous ‘Septembertestament’.  The folk at are celebrating and they invite you to do the same:

Dieses Jahr feiern wir 500 Jahre Lutherbibel.  Im @Bibelmuseum zeigen wir ab Mai die Ausstellung <das man deutsch mit ihnen redet> 500 Jahre Lutherbibel. Das Zitat stammt aus Luthers <Sendbrieff vom Dolmetzschen> von 1530. Luther erklärt hier, wie die Bibel zu übersetzen sei, nämlich, <man muss die mutter ibm hause/die kinder auff der gassen/den gemeinen mann auff dem marckt drumb fragen/vnn den selbigen auff das maul sehen/wie sie reden/vnd darnach dolmetzschen/so verstehen sie es den/vn mercken/das man Deutsch mi jn redet.>

Join in!

Sadly news came in January that the text critic Robert Hull Jr. died.  May he rest in peace.  Also, sadly, January 26th the Old Testament scholar John Endres, SJ passed from this life.  He was an amazing mind.

Brent posted his least popular posts of 2021…. I would do that but all of my posts are popular. Amen. Better luck in 2022 Brent…


Visit Phil’s master list of past and present carnivals.  Phil also lists the upcoming carnivals:

  • 192 February 2023 (Due March 1) – Bobby Howell, The Library Musings @SirRobertHowell
  • 193 March 2022 (Due April 1) – Amateur Exegete, @amateurexegete
  • 194 April 2022 (Due May 1) –
  • 195 May 2022 (Due June 1) – Bob MacDonald at Dust @drmacdonald

Ethik im Neuen Testament

Erstmals seit mehreren Jahrzehnten liegt mit diesem Buch wieder eine Gesamtdarstellung neutestamentlicher Ethik im deutschsprachigen Raum vor. Das Werk von Matthias Konradt zeichnet sich dadurch aus, dass es die Analyse der im Neuen Testament dargebotenen ethischen Perspektiven nicht nur mit dem Aufweis ihrer theologischen Begründungszusammenhänge verbindet, sondern auch ihrer Einbettung in die antiken ethischen Traditionen und sozialen Konstellationen nachgeht und sie damit zugleich in ihrem antiken Kontext profiliert. Mit der Vielzahl der untersuchten Texte – von Paulus und den Deuteropaulinen über die Evangelien bis hin zum Hebräer-, Jakobus-, 1. Petrusbrief und zur Johannesoffenbarung – wird der große Reichtum neutestamentlicher Ethik herausgearbeitet und als Grundlage für heutiges Nachdenken über christliches Handeln erschlossen.

When we think about the topic of Ethics and the New Testament we normally think about the ethics of either the people who lived in the era of the NT or its author’s ethical ideas.  That is, ethics are seen from afar, as if they were a topic which can or should be studied from the point of view of an objective, neutral scientific observer who is him or herself untouched or unaffected by the subject under consideration.

That, however, is hardly the case.  For Christians, the New Testament is a formative collection of texts (whether they abide by it or not, it exists as such).  And for people who are not Christians, the New Testament’s ethical norms have infiltrated Western culture to its core (even if many wish to abolish those norms in our own day).

When, then, Prof Konradt puts pen to paper to write a volume whose concern is the ethics found within the pages of the New Testament, it behooves one and all to perk up and pay attention.

While the TOC can be viewed at the link above, it’s worth noting here that the volume begins with a couple of methodological and historical overviews before launching into a very cogent examination of the ethics of Paul as the living out of the salvation of God by the power of the Spirit.  K. treats Paul’s understanding of, among other things, love, sexuality, marriage, slavery, the law, and other such things.

The deutero-paulines are then mined for their ethical teaching (or perhaps, their ethical ideals).  Here a very sage and very engaging treatment of that (to some) troublesome passage which states that ‘if they do not work, let them not eat’ can be found in an appendix to the chapter.

Next, R. looks into the gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke (and Acts), and John (the johannine corpus) all get their turn in the spotlight.  The kindly ghost of Ernst Kasemann can be seen hovering over the next chapter where K. examines the Letter to the Hebrews and its ethics for the wandering people of God.  James, 1 Peter, and Revelation are then all subjected to chapter long treatments.  Each chapter concludes with a bibliography.

The last chapter of the book summarizes the whole and reminds readers that when we think about the ‘ethics of the New Testament’ we are not thinking about a monolith but rather we are thinking, or should be thinking about a variety of ethical understandings, all rooted in their particular authors’ grasps of the God who acts in Christ.

And yes, questions concerning modern Christians are also addressed in such a way that readers are armed with well argued and sensible approaches to the ‘burning’ issues of the day.  So, for instance, a treatment of the issue of homosexuality is found on pp. 151-156.  Poverty, marriage, women, church, freedom, hatred, enmity, reward, wealth, prostitution, and many other such topics are all brought into the full light of day and viewed there through the lens of Christian faith.  And yes indeed, there is a subject index making the finding of these discussions simple.

Not since Willi Marxsen’s ‘New Testament Foundations for Christian Ethics’ has a finer volume been produced on the subject.  This is the volume that supplants all the rest on the topic.  I will even go so far as to say that no one thinking or working on the question of ethics can or should bypass this book.  And if they do, they cannot be seen as truly serious concerning the subject.

Die Theologie Calvins im Rahmen der europäischen Reformation

Der Versuch einer Gesamtdarstellung des theologischen Werkes Calvins ist seit der ersten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts nicht mehr unternommen worden. Das Jubeljahr 2009 hat eine Fülle ausgezeichneter Einzel- studien und Sammelwerke besonders auf dem Gebiet der biographischen und historischen, zum Teil auch der systematischen Forschung hervorgebracht. Doch die Interessen der älteren Forschung ließen sich damit nicht befriedigen.

Damals fragte man: Gibt es eine “Mitte”, eine Art Gravitationszentrum seiner Theologie, vergleichbar der Rechtfertigungslehre im Luthertum, um das sich die Themen und Perspektiven seiner Theologie gruppieren ließen? Von der Abendmahlslehre lässt sich das nicht sagen. Auch die Suche nach einem “Central-dogma” (Alexander Schweizer), einer Art “Materialprinzip”, hat sich als ein Irrweg erwiesen. Der Schluss liegt nahe, dass schon die Frage nach einem solchen einheitstiftenden Prinzip oder Schlüssel falsch gestellt sein könnte, sich jedenfalls nicht mit der Angabe eines inhaltlichen Elementes oder Problems seiner Theologie beantworten lässt. An dieser Erwartung jedenfalls sollte man Calvin nicht länger messen. Auf sehr viel sichererem Boden steht man, wenn man sich, auch systematisch fragend, an die von ihm selbst aus seinen exegetischen Arbeiten hervorgegangenen Gliederungsgesichtspunkte der Institutio hält. Da ist zweimal pointiert von der Erkenntnis Gottes (aus der Natur und aus der Schrift) die Rede, sodann von der subjektiven Aneignung dieser Erkenntnisse im christlichen Leben und schließlich, gleichsam als Konvergenzpunkt des Ganzen, von der schriftgemäßen Verfassung der Kirche, die der Ort der Bewährung jener Erkenntnisse sein sollte.

Von diesem Zielpunkt aus und auf ihn bezogen steht das Erkenntnisproblem – konkret:die möglichst genaue Textinterpretation – im Zentrum der vorliegenden Arbeit. Dabei meint Erkenntnis nicht das theoretische Verhalten des modernen Zuschauers, sondern setzt dessen Einbezogensein, sein “Mitspielen”, also seine verantwortliche Teilnahme an der Schöpfung, an dem Prozess der Versöhnung und am Weg der Kirche voraus. Denn die biblische Voraussetzung, dass er, der Mensch, es in jeder Lebenslage mit dem lebendigen Gott zu tun hat und von ihm auf den Weg gesetzt wird, ist der eigentliche Lebensnerv des calvinischen Unterrichts.

This is one of the easiest books to review that I’ve ever reviewed.  Not because it is an ‘easy’ book.  Indeed, it is very thought provoking.  Rather, it is easy to review because all I need to say is that it is a volume you should read if Calvin or Calvin’s theology are of interest to you.

If you wonder what Calvin thought about baptism, there’s a section.  Predestination?  There’s a section.  Do you wonder what Calvin taught about the Supper?  Well you’re in luck, because there’s a section.

The volume consists of section by section explanations of every single important theological topic as addressed by Calvin in his voluminous writings.  Christian Link does a fantastic job of summarizing and clarifying Calvin’s theology.  Link provides to readers what I will call a handbook on Calvin’s theology.  Calvin’s own voice is heard, though, through Link’s extraordinary ‘exposition’ of the great Reformer’s theology.

Additionally, in the final (8th) segment of the book, Link examines Calvinism’s outworking in Europe and North America along with the political aspects of his theology, the economic aspects, and the cultural aspects.

The volume naturally also includes a list of abbreviations, a bibliography, an index of persons, and a subject index.

As I said at the beginning, this was an easy book to review:  It’s superb.  What Henry David Thoreau said of excellent books can be said of this book truly-

“A truly good book is something as natural, and as unexpectedly and unaccountably fair and perfect, as a wild flower discovered on the prairies of the West or in the jungles of the East.”

Among the great wide landscape of books on Calvin, this is a fair and perfect one.

Habakuk: Biblischer Kommentar Altes Testament

From the pen of the fantastic scholar Jörg Jeremias.

Das weithin unbekannte Buch Habakuk ist ein ungewöhnliches Prophetenbuch. Es enthält nur wenige Beispiele öffentlicher Verkündigung – besonders in den Weheworten –, vor allem aber Gebete mit harten Anklagen gegen Gott. Der Prophet empfindet Gottes Handeln in der Geschichte als widersinnig. Es steht für ihn im Widerspruch zu Gottes Wesen, wie es im Bekenntnis überliefert ist. Aber Gottes Antwort auf seine Gebete und vor allem die großartige Vision einer Theophanie führen Habakuk zu einem vertrauensvollen Warten auf Gottes Heil, das ihm nun gewiss ist. Damit wird der Prophet zum Vorbild für seine Leser. Jörg Jeremias versucht in seiner Kommentierung, die Intention des Propheten von der literarischen Gestaltung seines Buches zu unterscheiden und beide theologisch zu würdigen.

Of the making of commentaries there is no end.  Nor should there ever be.  New insights and new approaches along with ancient interpretations which continue to be both accurate and helpful are drawn together in a different way every time by those who bless us with exposition of Scripture.

To be sure, there is a standard ‘format’ for academic commentaries.  There’s an introduction wherein things like the history of research, the genre of the text, the historical situation of the text, the author of the text, the context of the text within Scripture, and the textual history of the biblical book are examined.  As they are here.

Then there normally follows an exposition of the text wherein a bibliography of the pericope under consideration is provided, the text is freshly translated (as here), text-critical points are made, the form of the pericope is discussed, and the text is itself explained (more fully by some, more scantily by others).  In the case of the present commentary, the exposition is quite extensive or full.

At the ‘Leseprobe’ tab you can read a bit of the volume.  There’s where you’ll find the full table of contents, the preface, and a sample of the commentary’s introduction.

What, then, makes this commentary worth having?  First, Jeremias’ translation.  It is vivid and lively and crisp.  A brief example:  Hab 1:1-

  • Dies ist die Last, die der Prophet Habakuk geschaut hat. (LUT)
  • Der Ausspruch, den Habakuk, der Prophet, geschaut hat. (ZUR)
  • Ausspruch, den der Prophet Habakuk in einer Vision hörte. (EIN)

And then Jeremias-

  • Der Ausspruch, den der Prophet Habakuk geschaut hat.

It’s a subtle difference from the Zurich Bible and yet it is crisper, sharper, more intense than the Zurich Bible or the other German editions cited above.  That is the case throughout.  I.e., Jeremias is, again, simply more vivid than other renderings.

What else makes this commentary different?  Well to be frank, it is the most up to date in terms of its provision of secondary literature.  Being published in 2022, the bibliographies are the most current.  That, as you’ll well know, is incredibly important to biblical scholars.

And third, the chief advantage of this commentary is the clarity of expression Jeremias exhibits.  He is a good explainer.

Finally, there are a handful of illustrations in the commentary which nicely illuminate the text.  The German font used in the book is quite lovely and the Hebrew font is even lovelier.

On the whole, in terms of contents and presentation, this is a superb volume. Qoheleth was correct when he opined that there is no end to the production of books.  In this case, though, that is not at all something to be lamented.  Rather, we should all be grateful both for the author’s determined scholarship and the publisher’s wholehearted willingness to give us something good, profitable, and genuinely pleasant to read.

If you read German and you are interested in the Hebrew Bible in general or more particularly if you often cast your gaze at the little book of Habakkuk, then you will want to take this book in hand and consume it.

Jch bin das brot des läbens

Die Froschauer-Bibel von 1531 stellt ein besonderes Zeitdokument der schweizerisch-deutschen Sprache zur Reformationszeit dar. Das ungewohnte Schriftbild macht diese Zürcher Bibel in der originalen Ausgabe jedoch schwer lesbar. Niklaus Ulrich hat sie deshalb in langjähriger Arbeit vollständig transkribiert. Im Rahmen des 500-Jahre-Jubiläums gibt nun die Kirchgemeinde Grossmünster in Zürich unter der Projektleitung von Martin Rüsch das Neue Testament und die Psalmen in dieser transkribierten Fassung heraus. Zum ersten Mal sind damit durch Zwingli aus dem Urtext ins Deutsche übertragene Texte als normale Buchausgabe erhältlich. Um der einstigen, schweizerdeutsch anmutenden Sprache besser folgen zu können, ist der Text von 2007 synoptisch daneben gesetzt. Somit liegt zum Amtsantritt Zwinglis am Grossmünster vor 500 Jahren ein reformations-, kultur- und sprachgeschichtliches Schlüsseldokument jener Zeit vor.

The Old Testament side of things is reviewed here.

I feel like I should just repeat what I said there.  I have the same notions regarding the present volume as I do that one and as of this moment, they sit side by side in places of honor on my most used most referenced shelf of books.

The volume is comprised of the New Testament (in the order with which we are all most familiar) along with the Psalms.  The original introduction to the 1531 edition is also included.  Also included are some of the woodcuts that adorned the original edition:

Honestly, have you ever seen anything more beautiful? It’s the Bible.  It’s the product of the gathered scholars of the Prophezei in Zurich, published in 1531 along with the modern Zurich Bible.  It’s two editions, indeed, two of the best editions of the New Testament yet published.  And they’re bound together under one cover.  It’s a 16th century bible and a 21st century bible in one volume.

If you love the Bible, you will doubly love this volume.  Get it.  Read it.  Enjoy it!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a book to hug.  And read some more.  And enjoy.

The Scribe in the Biblical World: A Bridge Between Scripts, Languages and Cultures

This book offers a fresh look at the status of the scribe in society, his training, practices, and work in the biblical world.

What was the scribe’s role in these societies? Were there rival scribal schools? What was their role in daily life? How many scripts and languages did they grasp? Did they master political and religious rhetoric? Did they travel or share foreign traditions, cultures, and beliefs? Were scribes redactors, or simply copyists? What was their influence on the redaction of the Bible? How did they relate to the political and religious powers of their day? Did they possess any authority themselves?

These are the questions that were tackled during an international conference held at the University of Strasbourg on June 17–19, 2019. The conference served as the basis for this publication, which includes fifteen articles covering a wide geographical and chronological range, from Late Bronze Age royal scribes to refugees in Masada at the end of the Second Temple period.

The Table of Contents is available here.  The conference volume contains 15 essays by as many scholars all with the singular aim of exploring ancient scribal practices.  The timeframe extends from the Late Bronze Age to the inhabitants of Masada under siege by Rome.

Essayists are among the best known and competent scholars including Tov, Lemaire, Eshel, Langlois, and Mandel.  Topics include scribal practices at Masada, in Aramaic texts, Judean glyphic texts, and tax bullae among many others.

This is an outstanding collection, which, as the editors put it, strives to address the crucial question:

…what is the role of the individual scribe in the writing process?

In view of that aim, Tov, for example, shows quite convincingly that scribes of biblical texts followed practices and procedures completely similar to the practices of scribes of ‘secular’ texts.  This fact, he opines, deserves further study.  Indeed it does!  The implications of this notion are far-reaching in biblical scholarship.

Each of the essays likewise provokes the need for further study in its particular sub-specialty.  All of the essays include a thorough bibliography so that the interested scholar/ researcher can find a ‘launch pad’ for study.

Some of the essays are fairly straightforward (and by that I mean general readership friendly) whilst others are particularly technical and require a very good grasp of Hebrew along with a good grasp of the field of study.  Michael Langlois’ study of theonyms in paleo-hebrew and other alternate scripts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls falls into the latter category.  Langlois examines the scripts of 31 fragments and provides a very in depth analysis of  the meaning of his findings.  It includes a number of graphs which readers will find helpful as illustrative materials.

There is much to be learned here.  And much to think about.  And a great deal of work moving forward needs to be done to flesh out the discoveries which these essays proffer.

The editors of the volume, along with the contributors, deserve a round of applause for their help in guiding all of us to a better and fuller understanding of the practices of those unnamed ancient souls who did the grand work of copying and writing the works which all of us value so highly that we have invested our lives in getting to know the artifacts which those scribes left behind.

Read it, won’t you.

The Greek Life of Adam and Eve

For the first time, Jack Levison offers the English-speaking world a comprehensive commentary on the Greek Life of Adam and Eve, an epic of pain, death, and hope. An exhaustive introduction clarifies issues of literary character, manuscripts and versions, and provenance; the commentary itself provides rich discussions of the Greek text, illuminated by Jewish scripture and ancient Greek and Hebrew literature. Fresh translation and bibliography.

This is an exceedingly long, meticulous, fact filled and material-loaded book.  It isn’t excessively long, though. Its 1235 pages plus prefatory materials contain neither too much information nor too little.  Like Goldilocks’ porridge, it is just right, neither too hot (long) nor too cold (short).

It begins with a long acknowledgements section, which you should read.  Like all such segments of scholarly books, it thanks various people and institutions; but it does more than that: it includes biographical details of the author and the processes and places and events which played a part in the production of the volume.  Over 20 years in the making, it is a ‘life’s work’ kind of thing.

Then the introduction to The Greek Life of Adam and Eve, like all commentary introductions, instructs readers in the critical issues of study of the material.  Genre, manuscripts, the origin of the text, and normally (as here) a fresh translation.  This segment of the book is long as well.  Indeed, the introduction is itself the length of a small book, 172 pages long to be exact.

The commentary proper contains exposition in true commentary fashion of each chapter of the GLAE.  There is an excursus at the commencement and then the individual chapters are investigated.

The volume contains, and this is no exaggeration, everything there is to know about the GLAE.  The text, textual notes, grammatical notes, commentary proper, the text translated, and all the features you might expect of the commentary genre.

Below are samples of one of the sections so that you get a better sense of how the volume works:

One of the best features, in my estimation, is the provision of parallel readings from the various recensions.  And perhaps one of the most important.

A glance alone is sufficient to show the careful detail which Levison provides in his examination of the text.

The Life of Adam and Eve may not be regular fare for Christians these days.  But it is a genuinely fascinating ancient text and no one has done a better job of bringing it to a modern readership than Prof Levison.  He has done a masterful job of commentary-ing.  And even if the pseudepigraphal texts aren’t your ‘thing’, commentaries probably are.  And here at hand is how a technical commentary should be written.

Now if we could just get commentaries on the biblical books as thorough and well written as this one the world of biblical scholarship would move forward.  All commentaries written for scholars should be over 1000 pages.

Songs of Resistance: Challenging Caesar and Empire

Songs of Resistance: Challenging Caesar and Empire examines New Testament hymns in light of their historical and cultural contexts. Such a reading yields new insights. Rather than finding theological truths alone, one also discovers lyrics that contest and defy Rome’s “great tradition.” The early Christ followers sang songs that opposed the empire’s worldview and offered an alternative vision for society. These songs were a first-century equivalent of modern-day protest songs. But instead of marching and singing in the streets, believers gathered in private spaces where they lifted their voices to Jesus and retold the story of his execution as an enemy of the state and how God raised him from the dead to rule over the universe. As they sang, believers were emboldened to remain faithful to Christ and withstand the temptation to comply with the sociopolitical agenda of the empire.

If one accepts Streett’s thesis that the New Testament makes use of early hymns and hymnal forms then one will find his argument persuasive and intriguing and engaging.  The reader who sees hymns in texts like the Magnificat, and the Prologue of John, and the Christ ‘Hymn’ in Philippians 2 may well also see hymnal forms in Col 1:15-20, 1 Tim 3:16, and other fragmentary places.  One may well see hymnal forms in the book of Revelation if one is so inclined.

Furthermore, if one sees early Christian practice as involving ‘protest’ against Rome (whatever that would look like), then the notion of the combination of protest songs and Christian worship will be appealing.

I must confess, when I saw the book I was skeptical.  Hymns may well have been sung in the early Church, but what do we really know of them other than the fact that they were part of the worship experience?  Protests against Rome may well have existed too, but what can we know of them other than that any opposition to Rome generally ended in a lot of shed blood (with no victories gained by the protestors).  Rome knew how to put down troublemakers.  So the idea that Christians gathered to sing protests against Rome seems far fetched, even if those songs were only vaguely political and more anti-imperial structure than anti-Rome itself.  Indeed, Christians were more than willing to die for their faith rather than rise up and oppose Rome and insist on their ‘rights’.  And they certainly did not view this world as their home.  They were pilgrims in a strange land, headed home.  Not here in this world to engage in political maneuverings.

Alongside these reservations there’s the nagging notion that seeing hymns where there are none is akin to seeing inclusios across every page of the New Testament.  The ‘I see an inclusio here’ mob sees them where there are none.  Is that what the ‘I see hymns here’ folk are doing?  How do we know that Ph 2 is a hymn?  Because someone once upon a time saw a hymn and everyone since has simply repeated the claim while no one (to my real satisfaction) has proven it ‘hymnic’?  But that seems a poor reason to claim a hymn doesn’t it?  Just because someone else says it’s there?  That’s insufficient cause, in my view.

Enter Streett’s tome.  Does he persuade me to abandon my skepticism?  My ‘there’s not a hymn there pal, it’s just there in your mind because you want it to be there’ starting point?  Can he?

He almost does.  Almost.

His argument is excellent.  His exegesis is superb.  Taken on the premises with which he operates, his volume is in itself persuasive.  The problem is that one has to accept the notion of widespread inclusion of hymns in the New Testament.  I don’t.  I can’t.  The evidence simply does not exist for it.  It is too piecemeal, too bedeviled by the speculative for my liking.  Where one sees a hymn, another sees a prose description.  Where one editor of the biblical text sets the text itself in poetic ‘format’ another editor leaves it in prose.  How can this impasse be overcome?

I hope Alan will write another book wherein he goes into greater detail as to the evidence of hymns included in ancient texts. He does a pretty good job of it in chapters one and two.  But it’s not enough.

We all know the early Christians sang.  We just don’t know what.  Or how.  To find hymnody in passages in the New Testament we need more material showing what early Christians sang, and how.  As it stands, the circular argument that ‘the early Christians sang, and here’s a passage that looks like a hymn to me, so now we know what early Christians sang’ just doesn’t work.

I like the idea of the book.  I like the notion that Christians were miffed at Rome and in their worship sang little subtle songs airing their grievances against Roman power and the system.  ‘Stick it to the man’.  I’m just not sure it’s there yet.

Maybe I’ll reread the book in a few weeks after its marinated in my mind.  Maybe then I’ll be persuaded.

In any event, persuaded or not, I highly recommend this little work.  It’s, as I said above, really tremendously good.  It’s well written.  It’s thought-full.  It may persuade you.

The End of the Year Biblioblogger Extravaganza: Collecting the Best Posts of 2022

You read that right, friends.  This Carnival isn’t just the best biblioblogging posts for the month of December.  It’s the best of the entire YEAR!

The best of the footballers… He’s not in the Carnival, but he would be if this were the best of the footballers, 2022.

Usually, posts are divided into major groupings.  But this Carnival the best posts in all categories from 2022 will be found below, by month!

Every year there are dozens of ‘the best of the year’ lists.  And this one is no different.  Well it is a little bit, because it actually IS the best of the best.

So friends, pull up a chair, relax, sit back, and enjoy the very best material (with extensive annotation and commentary from your beloved Carnival host, me) from your biblioblogging friends month by month for 2022.


The best post of January was, by far- Taking Stock of the “First-Century Mark” Saga: What can we learn from the overzealous excitement about the earliest known copy of our earliest Gospel? By Elijah Hixson. Honestly friends, if you missed this post you missed a real gem. It is exceptionally conceived and brilliantly executed.

The Second best post of January was this little review of a very fine book titled Family and Identity in the Book of Judges. Super book. Super review!  There are some really excellent women scholars and there need to be more of them.

Sadly our SOTS colleague and friend John Sawyer died at the start of the year.  You may not be as familiar with him as you are other Hebrew Bible scholars but believe me, he was a giant in the field.


The very happy news was shared in February that the Tyndale Bulletin is now completely freely available!  Who shared it?  I did.  You’re welcome!

And in February A-J Levine discussed her book at a symposium held in Rome.  You can watch it here if you missed it then:


Chris Rollston took the claims of a ‘Mount Ebal Curse Inscription‘ to the woodshed and beat it silly,  It was the best archaeological post in March and it was in all likelihood the best Archaeological post of the year.  Though I don’t know that for sure since I haven’t seen or read every post on the topic this year and unlike those weirdos who do ‘best of’ lists without even so much as a blush of shame, I don’t make untrue claims.

That said, it was in March that I recalled the greatest of the Biblioblog carnivals, by Deane Galbraith.  22 years ago.  Gosh, that’s a long time.  Anyway, this end of year glance back would be profoundly incomplete if it didn’t urge readers, as I did in March, to take a look at Deane’s Carnival.  Seriously.

Sad news from March: the goodly and delightful Joseph Blenkinsopp died that month.  He was a wit and a genius.  A fixture at SBL, CBA, and SOTS.  😦   Norman Gottwald also died that month.


Sam Perry and friend had their book on Christian Nationalism reviewed and, believe me, if you haven’t read it yet, your ought to.  It is an important topic for biblical scholars and theologians and church historians.  And even though Perry is just a sociologist, with not always the best understanding of, or grasp on, matters theological, his analysis, from a social-sciences perspective, is pretty good.  If you keep in mind that Perry isn’t a theologian or biblical scholar his book will not annoy (if only he had stayed completely in his lane).

Joan Taylor is an absolute genius.  If you missed her discussion on Mary Magdalene in April you missed a treasure.  And you can correct your evil neglect right now:


James McGrath wins the prize for the best post in May (sure, it was from May, 2019, but let’s be honest, most of the time newer isn’t better, is it).  James is, if you aren’t familiar with him, the nerd’s nerd.  He loves everything Sci-Fi and he loves biblical studies and he loves Classical music and he is as sharp as a tack.  And, again, though the post is older, it is still very much worthy of inclusion in this End of the Year Carnival.  And if you don’t like it, do a Carnival yourself!  Otherwise the sage remark of Kierkegaard applies:  ‘Critics are like eunuchs.  They know what should be done, but they can’t manage to do it themselves’.

And if you missed this lecture, now’s your chance to watch it.  It is a brilliant discussion of what archaeology has to tell us about the part women played in earliest Christianity:


Not to seem inappropriately boastful, but in June I passed along word of the final book Philip Davies published (in 2018) – for those who had not seen it yet (because apparently more people read stupid novels and sci fi garbage than substantive biblical studies books… Pillocks).  Anywho, I pass along word of it once more, here at the end of the year, because it deserves a wide(r) readership.  If you haven’t read it in 2022, read it in 2023.

And though it appeared first in June of 2021, this post on bullies in academia deserves another read.  Especially by those who have to endure the attacks of the flying monkeys sent out by the behind-the-scenes manipulators whose lives are empty and minds are full of schemes and plans to undermine and undo anyone who dares disagree with them.

Somewhat along the same lines of academic bullying is the topic of anti-expertise.  Both bullies and dilettantes have as their aim the overriding of expertise, for their own particular reasons.  If you missed Nina Burleigh’s brilliant discussion concerning the forsaking of expertise, watch it now:

June is the 6th month.  It’s a good time to look back just as January provides the same opportunity.  The year is half done, and so is our End of the Year Extravaganza of Biblioblogging delightfulness.


Posted in July, the best of the lot for that searing month was this gem on ‘The Myth of the ‘Ignorant’ Fishermen’.  It takes a look at the widely held belief that the disciples of Jesus were just backwater rednecks who probably didn’t know how to read, or think, and just were happy to ‘know Jesus’ so they didn’t need ‘to know no doctrine’ (just like certain Christians today who don’t need doctrine, they just need Jesus).  If you missed it, now’s your chance.

And now for something completely different- for conference attendees who have a ‘question’ (that isn’t a question at all now is it, precious…)

The good Christian Brady tweeted that gem in July.  Worth sharing for sure.

Chris Rollston, always worth reading, posted a rebuttal of claims made by Gershon Galil about the so called ‘Jerusalem Stone’.  Chris is THE go to guy for epigraphy.


Linear A decipherment and a recent debate were the events provoking this post from August.  Linear A huh.  Fun.  Where else will you find posts about long abandoned languages if not in the most beloved of all the biblioblog carnivals?  Nowhere.  You’re welcome.

There were two books published in Open Access in August.  Both Aramaic text sourcebooks.  The first, A Handbook of the Aramaic Scrolls from the Qumran Caves, and the second, Aramaic Daniel.  In case you missed them.

Who doesn’t love free books?


Because it’s important to remember such things when you’re an academic:

Chris Rollston, again, wins the prize for best archaeological post by urging us to tap the breaks back in August about the much ballyhooed ‘Ishmael Papyrus’.  Don’t recall the ‘big news’?  Alas, that’s because so many claims turn out to be nonsense that it’s hard to keep them all straight.  You don’t need to remember the fragment and the absurd claims made of it to enjoy Rollston’s ripping of it.

September was the 10th anniversary (I know, right?!?!?!?) of the publication in HTR of Karen King’s false claim that a new ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’ was probative for biblical studies.  Ariel Sabar showed, in his excellent book on the subject, that the artifact was a fraud and the entire process of its publication was riddled with wrongs.  Here he provides a super thread on the twitter on the anniversary.

Do you like wet bread?  Probably not.  Anyway, you’ll like this post by Brent Niedergall about wet bread in Qoheleth.  Wet bread… it’s gross isn’t it.


Nick Posegay posted one of the most interesting threads to appear on twitter in 2022, on the Cairo Genizah.  Don’t miss it again.  It’s really terrific.

The second award winning post from the month of October is – Uncovering the Dead, Dethroning the King: Divine Embodiment in 1 Samuel 28:14.

1 Samuel 28:14 describes the appearance of the ghost of Samuel, who, upon King Saul’s request, was raised by a medium. We identify four key elements of the ghost’s visage, all of which relate to the living Samuel or King Saul, or their relationship, and all critique King Saul and foreshadow the loss of the kingship and his demise. 

We were all saddened to learn of the death of Gordon Fee in October.  😦  So did John Meier.  😦 😦   I had chatted with John about historical Jesus stuff at CBA many times.  His ‘Marginal Jew’ will now, it seems, remain forever unfinished.  😦

It’s grippingly good.  Those two offerings are the best of the month, and may even be the best of the year.  But I’ll let you decide that for yourselves.


A super lecture was offered by A-J Levine on the interesting topic of Life After Death:

If you didn’t watch it in November, take a few minutes and watch it now.

Incredibly useful and exceedingly worthy of your good attention is the new site – Biblia Hebraica transcripta.

Sad news of the death of E.P. Sanders circulated among the guild.  Google will pull up numerous obituaries.  Also passing from this life in November was the amazing linguist and Hebrew Bible scholar Ernst Jenni.  He was, and will forever remain, an extraordinarily important contributor to the field of biblical studies.

… das ist das ganze Alte Testament transkribiert, mit Satzeinteilungen versehen, morphologisch, morphosyntaktisch und syntaktisch analysiert, sodann mit Funktionen für Dokumentation, Kommentierung, Suche, Analyse und Visualisierung bereichert.


Eric Meyers published his long awaited autobiography this month.  Eric is a fascinating person and an excellent scholar/ archaeologist.  In fact, I think I can say this without fear of contradiction, he is the greatest American archaeologist of all time (so far) and teamed up with his wife Carol they are the greatest American archaeologists ever!  I’m sure his memoir will be incredibly interesting.

Also archaeologically themed, this incredibly important public statement by many of the leading archaeologists in Israel regarding the constant flow of un-examined, non-peer reviewed ‘discovery’ announcements was posted by Aren Maeir (with a follow up here).  It is ESSENTIAL reading and may well be the most important (long term) blogpost of the year.  It is time for archaeological discoveries to be subjected to peer review before being published.  There’s just too much garbage out there claiming to be ‘earth shattering’ that turns out to be pure trash (see the ‘Tomb of Jesus’ Midwife‘ rubbish from December for a relevant example).

One of the most, if not the most, interesting biblical studies related posts of the month was the zoom lecture on Money in Judea: From the Bronze Age to Bar Kochba.  You’ll be able to view it on the facebook page linked here.  If you missed it, that is.

The best mention of a new book was made by Nijay Gupta whose fantastic book will come out in early 2023.  Seriously friends.  Seriously.  His book is fantastic.  If you don’t read any other book in 2023, read his.  (And when ours on Martin Bucer comes out read it too).  Ok, read two books in 2023.  (I’m pretty sure you’ll need to read more than that, but you have to start somewhere).

James Spinti doesn’t burden readers with long posts as though he were writing a book and each chapter is its own post.  Thankfully (since long posts are annoying and silly).  Instead he gives short but very thoughtful snippets of insight.  And he did so again in December.  Enjoy.

Mike Aubrey has a bibliography of conditionals in Greek.  You can check it out, conditionally.  The condition being your willingness to do it.  If you’re a Greek language nerd, you’ll want to.  If you’re still eating playdough and / or glue, though, you probably won’t care to.

December was the month during which the sad news that David Clines died arrived in our inboxes.  He was fondly remembered by many and a Symposium honoring his life and work has been scheduled for April.  He will be missed.

And the best series of the year was posted by Michael Kok titled Mark Was not a Pauline Gospel.  It’s tremendous.  Take a little time and give it a read through.


Thanks for stopping by.  And consider putting together a Carnival yourself.  As Phil Long notes

Contact me via email, or DM on twitter (plong42) to discuss hosting a Biblical Studies carnival. If you are a new BiblioBlogger, this is a good way to get your blog some recognition. And, to quote Jim West, ”if you do one, it makes it unlikely that I will!”

Amen.  Now

Reading Certainty

Exegesis and Epistemology on the Threshold of Modernity. Essays Honoring the Scholarship of Susan E. Schreiner.

Edited by Ralph Keen and some other people.

Reading Certainty offers incisive historical analysis of the foundational questions of the Christian tradition: how are we to read scripture, and how can we know we are saved? This collection of essays honors the work and thought Susan E. Schreiner by exploring the import of these questions across a wide range of time periods.

With contributions from renowned scholars and from Schreiner’s students from her more than three decades of teaching, each of the contributions highlights the nexus of certainty, perception, authority, and exegesis that has defined her scholarly work. Intellectual historians, early modernists, and scholars of Christianity will all appreciate this testament to Schreiner’s influence.

Contributors include: Vincent Evener, Bruce Gordon, Ralph Keen, Mark Lambert, Kevin J. Madigan, Richard A. Muller, Willemien Otten, Daniel Owings, Elizabeth Palmer, Karen Park, Barbara Pitkin, Ronald K. Rittgers, William Schweiker, Jonathan Strom, and Matthew Vanderpoel.

Go buy this book.  Why? well because it’s well written and well edited.  But also because it celebrates a scholar who richly deserves celebration.

From her early work in the history of exegesis to the magnum opus on the search for certainty in early modernity, Susan Schreiner has worked closely to appreciate the complexity and difficulty of the search for sure understanding during the Reformation era. With clarity and honesty Schreiner has drawn the attention of her readers and students to the causes of uncertainty and reasons for doubt: the inscrutability of God’s ways during the Plague, the elusiveness of clarity and sufficiency in scripture, and the persistence of doubt regarding the matter weighing most heavily on her subjects’ minds, personal salvation

Like the honoree of the volume, its contributors show readers how history really works: it’s messy and unclear and uncertain and very often told from perspectives so biased or one sided that the actual actualness of the past is hardly at all recoverable.

So, for instance, Bruce Gordon’s contribution on Jerome’s Vulgate and the Reformation, a revision of a plenary lecture given at “The Bible in the Reformation” conference at Baylor University in October 2017, makes it abundantly clear that

The Latin Bible, known from the sixteenth century as the Vulgate, remains the forgotten text of the Protestant Reformation. Yet, in many respects, it formed an essential part of the foundation of an emerging biblical culture.

The things, you see, that we have forgotten, or never known, or never learned, are often the most important aspects of an era.  After all, how many students hear from their Professors that the Vulgate played a significant role among the very theologians who cried ‘Ad Fontes’ most loudly?  Readers here are so informed.

Or how many students have imagined that Melanchthon’s work as a philosopher or theologian or linguist or educator could easily be compartmentalized when Ralph Keen happens to know better and who in his essay writes constructively and informatively, concluding

Melanchthon’s work has been compartmentalized in ways that have obscured its unity and his place as a religious thinker in the Reformation era. Due to arguably anachronistic divisions of theological disciplines, Melanchthon’s “humanism,” his “ethics,” and his “theology” have been investigated in relative isolation, separated by boundaries that Melanchthon himself would most likely not have recognized as legitimate.

Or how many who know a bit about the Marburg Colloquy limit the event to a mere debate about metaphysics (is Jesus REALLY present or not) and fail to recognize that there was in fact a lot more going on at that little gathering?  Daniel Owings attempts to correct that skewered viewpoint-

Without minimizing the role that metaphysics played in this debate, I submit that such an explanation obscures, more than it reveals, what was actually at stake for both Luther and Zwingli in their rival conceptions of the sacrament. The aim of this essay will thus be to document the manner in which the Eucharistic debates among Protestants were driven on all sides by a fear of idolatry understood not—or at least, not merely—as the use of material elements in worship, but as the fallen mind’s creation of a false god meant to replace the true.

In short, these essays and the others in the work do us all the great service of expanding our horizons on issues and matters with which far too many of us imagine that our grasp and understanding of the scope of the issues at hand are fairly complete.

They are not.  Oh my no, they most certainly are not.

The table of contents can be viewed at the link above, as well as access to the front matter and other such things.

This is a great book.  A thinkers book.  A book for thinkers.  A book that provokes thinking.  Read it, and think!

Jorge Luis Borges once remarked “A book is more than a verbal structure or series of verbal structures; it is the dialogue it establishes with its reader and the intonation it imposes upon his voice and the changing and durable images it leaves in his memory. A book is not an isolated being: it is a relationship, an axis of innumerable relationships.”

This book is a book of that sort.

Tolle, lege!

Makers of the Modern Theological Mind: Emil Brunner

9781619707368oWhen I was but a lowly undergrad at Carson-Newman College (now University) I took a class on Systematic theology taught by Paul Brewer.  Our textbook was Hanson and Hanson’s Theology but among the supplemental texts we could choose from was Emil Brunner’s ‘Man in Revolt’ and ‘Divine Imperative’.  I was hooked.  Since then (back in the early 80’s) I’ve gotten hold of everything I could written by Brunner and not once been disappointed or annoyed by either his form or content.  He was, in my view, the greatest 20th century theologian of them all.  He was a clearer thinker than Barth and a better Churchman too.

The finest introduction to Brunner’s thought was written less than a decade after his death, in 1972, by Bob Patterson, for the series then published by Fortress called ‘Makers of the Modern Theological Mind’.  It was, and remains, the best volume on Brunner’s thinking yet written.  It was a tragedy that Fortress allowed the series to lapse out of print and it is a spectacular joy that Hendrickson brought it back and starting with the volume on Brunner itself, with Bultmann following next (which really is the best procedure).

If you’ve never read Patterson’s work, do so.  In the volume at hand he carefully charts the major outlines of Brunner’s theology, beginning with the need for theological prolegomenon and proceeding through treatments of his doctrines of revelation, God, man, Christ, the church, faith, and eternal hope.  Readers familiar with Brunner’s justifiably famous 3 volume Church Dogmatics will recognize immediately the outline of that work reflected in Patterson’s analysis.  But Patterson doesn’t simply cite those books; he draws, at first hand, from all Brunner’s oeuvre.

There is no finer overview of Brunner’s thought in English.  Nothing even comes close.  Thank you, Hendrickson, for bringing it back for a new generation of theologians and theological students.

Hellenism, Early Judaism, and Early Christianity

Papers collected in this volume try to illuminate various aspects of philosophical theology dealt with by different Jewish and early Christian authors and texts (e.g. the Acts of the Apostles, Philo, Origen, Gregory of Nazianzus), rooted in and influenced by the Hellenistic religious, cultural, and philosophical context, and they also focus on the literary and cultural traditions of Hellenized Judaism and its reception (e.g. Sibylline Oracles, Prayer of Manasseh), including material culture (“Elephant Mosaic Panel” from Huqoq synagogue).

By studying the Hellenistic influences on early Christianity, both in response to and in reaction against early Hellenized Judaism, the volume intends not only to better understand Christianity, as a religious and historical phenomenon with a profound impact on the development of European civilization, but also to better comprehend Hellenism and its consequences which have often been relegated to the realm of political history.

As is frequently the case these days this volume collects and offers papers presented at an international conference of the theme of the work.  Speaking for myself, I love conference volumes.  As I’ve said before, they allow all of us to ‘sit in’ on the many conferences we have neither the time nor the funding to attend.

The contents can be seen here and a few of the opening pages are also available for download.  It’s a pity that the Preface isn’t available because it does a very good job of describing the purpose of the volume and of outlining its contents in some detail.  Such materials really aid potential purchasers or library recommenders in deciding whether or not the work in hand belongs in one’s collection.

Then again, there’s also something to be said for the thrill of discovery.  Put differently, there’s a good reason to explore the contents of a work for oneself rather than being told what the essays are attempting to do.  Coming to essays without preconceptions concerning their aims and methods allows readers to form their own opinions, unpersuaded by the editors of a work (who clearly have a reason to see the best in them).

Also very important to the present reviewer is the opportunity of hearing the views of people who do not come from Germany/ Switzerland, England, or the United States.  That ‘axis’ (whether or not it’s evil I’ll leave to others to decide) has for a very long time dominated in biblical studies.  And the perspectives of others have not been as widely heard.  And that’s a shame.  People outside the ancient powers in biblical studies deserve attention.  Here are gathered the works of folk from the Czech Republic, Sweden, Argentina, Poland, and but one from England.  The Czech Republic is the most represented.

These scholars not only have important things to say.  They say them.  These essays were, for me, the most ‘gripping’:

  • Greek Heritage Reinterpreted by Jews and Christians, Petr Pokorný
  • Resurrection in the Intertext: Pagan Sources in Paul’s Areopagus Speech (Acts 17:22–31), Jan M. Kozlowski [one of the most fascinating essays I’ve read in a good while].
  • The Elephant Mosaic Panel in the Huqoq Synagogue: A Reappraisal of the Maccabean Interpretation, David Cielontko

Each in their own way widen perspectives and inform readers of unwaveringly important details.  The other essays are good, but not exactly areas of personal interest.  Still, they were enjoyable as they introduced me to particulars with which I was not previously familiar.

Each essay includes a bibliography and indices bring the volume to a close.

While the title of the book may lead potential readers to assume that the subject matter is quite broad, the fact is the essays herein are quite specific.  There is no grand overview of the interrelationships of Hellenism, Judaism, and Christianity.  Instead, particulars of their interrelatedness are investigated.  It’s not the forest in focus here, it’s the individual trees.  And in some instances it’s the individual branches and the individual leaves.

As a consequence of both its aims and its quality, I feel very good about urging scholars of early Judaism and early Christianity to read it.  If you are looking for a volume that allows the voices of unfamiliar (with a couple of exceptions) scholars to be heard, this is the volume you seek.

E.M. Forster once remarked

“I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little further down our particular path than we have yet gone ourselves.”

This book takes you a little bit further down the path than you have probably gone yourself. Read it, and enjoy the discoveries it holds for you thanks to your willingness to give it your time and attention.