Category Archives: Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception

EBR 14

With three articles freely available for your reading pleasure.

The Newest Volume of the ‘Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception’ Is Out

Details, and three free entries, available here.

A Webinar About the Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception

Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception Online
Thursday, February 23, 12pm CST

De Gruyter and SCELC have partnered to offer a shared purchase model for the Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception Online and SCELC will be hosting a webinar for interested libraries to learn more about the resource and the offer. The offer is a one-time outright purchase model conferring ownership of the 30 volume set (13 are complete as of 2016) on each individual purchasing library with no ongoing fees. Orders will accumulate until the shared purchase price is reached, and then a new shared purchase will begin. Order forms are due by May 15, 2017, but purchases will be made on a first come-first served basis. All ATLA libraries are eligible to participate in this shared purchase.

Please see the SCELC offer page for more detail:

On the day of the webinar, you can join here and use your computer for audio or call in from a phone.

United States: +1 (224) 501-3216
Canada: +1 (647) 497-9391
Access Code: 940-059-309

The Newest Number of the Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception is Out

Volume 9 has appeared.  It’s the best one yet (though the last one will be the awesomest because it will have Zwingli).  Until then, though, read volume 9 (especially the stuff about ‘Free Will’).


Rudolf Bultmann in the Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception

bultmann18Now and again I like to mention the- as I’ve elsewhere described it- indispensable EBR.  Here’s another example of the justification of that claim, from Otto Merk’s entry on Bultmann (from volume 4)-

There is a surprising continuity in Bultmann’s thought even beyond the period of “dialectic theology.” This is demonstrated by the fact that the basic pattern of his theology is already present in his 1930 article on Paul and is then fully developed in his later writings. Bultmann implicitly situates his historical-critical methodology within a broader hermeneutical and theological framework. Reconstruction and interpretation are integrated. Exegesis no doubt takes precedence, but reflecting on it in a systematic and theoretical way proves fruitful for interaction with philosophy and maintains the encyclopedic unity of theology (Bultmann 1984c). Notably, Bultmann and M. Heidegger, independent of one another, thought along similar lines. Heidegger taught in Marburg from 1923–28. The intellectual exchange during this time was enriching for both sides and gave more depth to Bultmann’s hermeneutics, but did not radically change his consistant way of thinking. Though primarily following the results of the “Religionsgeschichtliche Schule” in all matters concerning early Judaism, there is also consistency in Bultmann’s steady disapproval of any form of antisemitism.

The essay contains much more that is equally useful.  The Encyclopedia is such a valuable resource.

Even Calvin is in EBR…

And the essayist is none less than the inestimable Herman Selderhuis-

Jean Cauvin (1509–1564), as his name originally was, was born in Noyon (Picardy, France). He can be regarded as the founder of Reformed spirituality. Although his father first destined him for a career in the church, he allowed him to study law after coming into some conflict with the church. Calvin studied in various places, including Paris, Orleans, and Bourges. His studies in law would later serve him well in organizing the church in Geneva. As far as theology is concerned, he was self-taught. Little is known about his conversion in 1533–34, partly because Calvin himself did not speak about it much. Forced to flee France due to the persecution of Protestants, he ended up in Geneva in 1536.Calvin became a preacher and eventually a pastor in this city, which had recently joined the Reformation. Calvin was forced to leave Geneva when a dispute arose between him and the city council concerning the independence of the church. From 1538 to 1541, he served as preacher of the French-speaking refugee congregation of Strasbourg. In January 1539, he received the additional task of lecturing on the NT; as a result, he was able to publish his commentary on Romans in that same year. When the city council of Geneva urgently pleaded with him to return to Geneva, Calvin did so. He continued to preach, teach, and pastor there until his death. During this time, the city was flooded with refugees, especially from France. While in Geneva, Calvin engaged in several theological debates with, among others, Sebastian Castellio (about the canonicity of the Song of Songs) and Jerome Bolsec (about predestination). When Michael Servetus was arrested in 1553 because of his attacks against the doctrine of the Trinity and condemned to be burned at the stake in accordance with the imperial right, Calvin tried in vain to bring Servetus to repentance.

In his work, Calvin continually kept the entire European church situation in mind, and, especially in his letter-writing, he tried to attain unity among all those who confessed Christ. Calvin participated in discussions about worship between representatives of the Reformed and Catholic camps, maintaining an ecumenical attitude. Calvin also sought unity with Lutherans and Anabaptists, although he did not avoid polemics with these groups either. Calvin did achieve unity with Heinrich Bullinger, Zwingli’s successor, with whom he drew up the Consensus Tigurinus in 1549.

Etc.  I told you it was a treasure trove.  It truly is about both the Bible and its Reception.

There Was Certainly Nothing Like This in RGG

There’s something in EBR for everyone.  Even if not everything in it is for everyone.


There’s loads of other stuff too in volume 9-


Of Gaza we read

Gaza (MT ʿAzzâ; LXX Γάζα; Arab. Ghazza) is the southern most major urban center on the Levantine coast, on the main road that crosses the northern Sinai towards Egypt. As such, the city’s strategic importance has had a critical influence on its long history (Gichon: 282–86). The ancient site of Tell Ḥarube, about 3 km east of the Mediterranean coast and 8 km north of the Wadi Ghazza (biblical and modern Hebrew Naḥal Besor), has been occupied almost continuously since the Middle Bronze Age and is now situated near the center of the modern city. Due to this fact the tell itself has been excavated only sporadically, by William J. Phythian-Adams in 1922 on behalf of the Palestine Exploration Fund and more recently (1996–2000) by Joanne Clarke, Louise Steel, and Moain Sadeq as part of the Gaza Research Project. This project, while limited in scope, has helped correlate finds at Gaza with those at nearby sites such as Tell el-ʿAjjul, Deir el-Balaḥ, Tell ʿAli Muntar and al-Moghraqa. Additional excavations at sites outside the city were conducted in the 1990s by French-Palestinian expeditions (de Miroschedji/Sadeq; Humbert/Sadeq ; Humbert/Abu Hassuneh). Excavations carried out by Asher Ovadiah on the coast in the 1960s and 70s uncovered remains from the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods, while structures from the Crusader and Mameluke periods, such as the Great Mosque, are still standing in the city today. However, most of our information about Gaza’s long history is derived from written sources.

It’s just an amazing Encyclopedia.

Another Look at the Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception

The ninth volume of EBR has been published (as noted a day or so ago).  I thought it might be worthwhile to grab an extract from it to demonstrate, or illustrate, the meticulous care taken in the preparation of articles and the extraordinarily high level of scholarship involved.

So here’s a snippet from the entry ‘Galatians, Epistle to the’* –

I New Testament

James D. G. Dunn

The letter to the Galatians has provided more controversy than the rest of the Pauline correspondence. This is not because there has been dispute as to its author; it is one of the three NT letters least controversial as to content and authorship. It was written by the Christian missionary Paul, in part as a way of asserting his apostleship in relation tochurches he founded in the Roman province of Galatia.

1. The Recipients

The problems begin with the identity of theGalatians.” The name derives from the Gallic tribes (the Gauls or Celts) who migrated into Asia Minor and settled in its heartland in the 3rd century BCE. But the Roman province of Galatia stretched further south, embracing towns such as Antioch and Iconium. So, when Paul identified the recipients of his letter as “the churches of Galatia” (Gal 1:2) and rebuked them as “foolish Galatians” (3:1), was he addressing only the descendants of the Gauls (northern Galatia) or was he echoing the disdain felt towards the northern Celts in addressing those who lived in the south of the province?

Correlation with Luke’s account in the Acts of the Apostles helps only a little. Acts 16:6 seems to imply that Derbe and Lystra (16:1), prominent in Paul’s “first missionary journey” (14:6–21), were distinct from Phrygia and Galatia. But the reference excludes even more emphatically a more northerly route, to north Galatia, “which lay some 200 kilometers… north-east of any natural route between Lystra and the region of Mysia” (Mitchell: 2:3, n. 8). So although German scholarship in particular has been strongly in favor of a north-Galatian destination for the letter, unknown churches founded by Paul during his “second missionary journey” (Acts 16:1–10; e.g., Kümmel: 296–98),the more probable conclusion is that Paul wrote the letter to the churches he established in the southern part of the Roman province of Galatia during his first missionary journey, with Barnabas (Acts 13–14; see further Dunn 2009: 416–94).

Etc.  The article is divided into these segments (and the highlighted part is reflective of the search terms I used):


What RGG 3 was to the last generation of biblical scholarship, EBR is to this and the next.  Yes, it’s that significant.

*Galatians, Epistle to the. In Encyclopedia of the Bible Online. 2014. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter. Retrieved 23 Jul. 2014, from

Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception- Volume 9

ebrFrom the editor-

EBR Volume 9 is now out online. The print version is currently being produced and will be available in August!

And, yes, in case your wondering, that’s the volume where my contribution can be found (on ‘Free will’).

What Did Ancient Near Easterners Believe About Life After Death? Another Example from the EBR

DeGruyter’s Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception contains massive amounts of useful material- especially for those wishing to see the biblical texts within their much wider context.  So, for instance, when we ask ourselves what ancient near easterners believed about life after death we not only learn what Israel believed- but what their neighbors also held to be true as well as what early Judaism and early Christianity and Islam believed along with how the theme has been addressed in art and literature:


Each of the ‘buttons’ above expands to reveal a quite thorough description.  Accordingly, were I to wish to investigate the Egyptian viewpoint I would be informed that-

Egypt from early on was rather unique in regard to its conceptualization of the afterlife, at least initially for the king or pharaoh and then later, for other elite sectors of society. As part of ancient Egypt’s cyclical view of the cosmos and, therefore, of human existence, death was conceived of as a transitional stage that led to a better world. As such, this view of the afterlife provided a counter-balance to the natural fear of death. Survival beyond death could be facilitated by the perpetuation of any one of several manifestations of existence whether physical or non-physical. These included the corporeal body, the heart, the ka (or life force) and the ba (or manifest power). Yet, such perpetuation could only take place if and when the connections between these various manifestations, which had been severed by death, were re-established after death. The decay of the body had to be delayed as long as possible – hence mummification – since it would function once again as the abode of the ka and the ba following the reanimating ritual known as the Opening of the Mouth that was performed on the mummy just prior to burial and the initiation of the perpetual ritual offerings in the mortuary cult.

The ka constituted the life force that had to be perpetuated through food and drink offered to the dead, which was administered by the priesthood or through the seed passed on from father to son. The ba came to signify the ability of the dead to move freely between the human and divine realms. Should the connection between the corpse and the ka be successfully re-established by means of the Opening of the Mouth ritual and the maintenance of the offerings in the mortuary cult, the dead was transformed into an ankh (divine-like status) to which the ba could return periodically. The weighing of the heart in early Egyptian traditions constituted a type of judgment on the basis of maʾat or the principle of order, right and truth, wherein the righteous could anticipate arriving in the field of reeds, an agro-cultural paradise of sorts, while the wicked would be punished and even undergo a second death or total extinction that might also involve such torment as decapitation and burning.

On the whole, in the volumes so far produced, there is very little with which to find fault.  If anything, the series, as it presently exists, is spectacular.  However, it will adorn the libraries of very few private citizens given it’s fairly high cost.  Indeed, it is doubtless designed for inclusion in research libraries, where it most certainly should find a place.

All of us wish that books could be produced less expensively and if this Encyclopedia were less substantive and involved fewer people and it tried to do less than it does in terms of providing important information, it could be.  But given the fact that 1) individuals will most likely not be buying it; and 2) it involves the hard work of an awful lot of people who deserve recompense for their labors; and 3) it will be useful for many years to come- the cost should not and in fairness cannot be very low.

This isn’t a handbook designed for a single user/owner.  It is a research tool akin to a costly microscope or an expensive piece of machinery in a factory.

To say it a bit differently- you won’t be buying this encyclopedia- but you owe it to yourself and your students and to many students to come for many years, to urge your institution to acquire it.  There just simply isn’t anything comparable to it in scope, depth, scholarship, or significance.  There isn’t anything even close.

Aaron Burke is Not Impressed

As he concludes his review of the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Archaeology– 2 vols.

In sum, these volumes are an expensive addition to any library, adding too little to existing resources to justify the expense. The scope of the project has simply been too limited to permit the work to replace prior works, as Oxford University Press would wish us to believe. These volumes are therefore most useful within the framework of the project, but with the attendant challenges referenced here as well as the added expense of acquiring the remainder of the volumes in the series. For a new encyclopedia, the entries are neither sufficiently creative nor sufficiently broad in scope to justify acquisitions by libraries, personal or public, bloated as these libraries are with general reference works and faced with ever diminishing budgets. Between its recent proliferation of handbooks and encyclopedias, it seems that Oxford University Press has made one last great effort to fleece library budgets before publishing goes entirely electronic.

He thoroughly explains why he has come to this conclusion.  With thanks to Jacob Wright for mentioning it on the twitter.

As an aside, Aaron may be more favorably disposed to the Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception– which does in fact advance our knowledge quite considerably.

The Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception: Snakes and Serpents

ebrWith all the recent news about the Pentecostal Reverend killed when he refused medical attention after ‘handling snakes’ I thought it might be interesting to see what the Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception had in terms of a discussion of snakes and/or serpents.

I quickly discovered that the ‘S’ volume(s) is(are) not yet available.  Undeterred, I decided to search the volumes available and found that snakes and serpents are mentioned in a number of the available books but not yet (of course) as the chief subject of the articles in question.  So, for instance, there are 61 entries mentioning snakes and 81 mentioning serpents:



There are ample materials herein for a study of snakes in the Bible- so when the ‘S’ volumes appear they should include even more snake stuff- and hopefully even how they’ve been handled…

At any rate, when all volumes are available the series will be even more incredibly useful than now and it is already immensely useful.

The Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception: ‘Chariot’

I’ve discussed the form and general content of the Encyclopedia previously so for the current installment of the series of reviews of this remarkable resource I’d like to focus on one particular entry- ‘Chariot’, by Mark Leuchter.

Mark writes

Chariotry held an important position in the royal cultures of the ancient Near East. In comparison to its predecessor, the ox-drawn war wagon utilized by the Sumerians of the 3rd millennium BCE, the chariot emerging in the early second millennium possessed remarkable speed, was lighter in weight, and thus could be drawn by horses for quicker and more effective strikes against the enemy. First surfacing as larger vehicles from which spears were cast, later models utilized newer technologies and were regularly paired with archers using the composite bow, a far more effective combination leading to great precision in defending infantry divisions and reinforcing siege efforts against fortified cities.

That’s his introductory paragraph and it seems perfectly sensible.  And in fact, it is.  The paragraphs which follow explain the historical development of this weapon and L. concludes thusly

In the end, the Bible’s depiction of chariotry as an unqualifiedly positive characteristic is reserved for YHWH and his divine agents. Deutero-Isaiah plays upon the idea of YHWH as the master of all chariotry, responsible for bringing about and doing away with earthly chariots and riders (Isa 43:16–17), and the Elijah-Elisha traditions portray Elijah being lifted into heaven by a divine chariot (2 Kgs 2:11–12). But the most elaborate and arresting chariot image is certainly that of Ezekiel’s inaugural vision, where the prophet sees YHWH seated upon his divine throne-chariot and riding into heaven (Ezek 1:4–28), leaving behind a temple that would ultimately be demolished by the armies of Babylon. Intriguingly, in this most majestic depiction of a chariot, the word “chariot” is never used to describe the awesome vehicle upon which YHWH rides. Ezekiel suggests that human institutions and icons such as chariots may reflect divine power and majesty, but the divine can never be restricted by cognitive or cultural symbols. The Divine Warrior and his chariot speak to an experience and reality of which human history and understanding is only a tiny subset.

And that is exactly what one would expect to find in any encyclopedia.  Sensible historical reconstruction without garnish.  What makes the EBR so amazing is that this is in fact merely the first section of three.  The remaining two are Samuel Vollenweider’s Greco-Roman Antiquity and New Testament, and Annelies Kuyt’s Judaism.  Each again offering sensible historical reconstruction and each providing readers with an up to date bibliography.  For instance, following Kuyt’s entry this bibliography is supplied:

  • Halperin, D. J., The Merkabah in Rabbinic Literature (New Haven, Conn. 1980).
  • Schäfer, P., The Origins of Jewish Mysticism (Tübingen 2009).

In future installments of the series we’ll take a look at essays which dive into the appearance of biblical concepts in art and secular literature. For now, I’d simply wish to reassert my previous claims concerning the invaluable nature of this resource. It is the most thorough, most up to date, most expansive biblical encyclopedia ever yet produced (to this point).

More on the Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception: Searching

The electronic edition of the Encyclopedia is exceedingly easy to search and search results are simple to navigate.  First, one need simply log in and then type in the term which is of interest.


For this review segment I chose ‘Asherah’.


Quite usefully, as one types in the search term the drop down menu appears and various options are listed.  Merely choose the one most appropriate to your research interests and enter.


Once the choice is made further options are listed which include specific entries.  Also quite helpful is the fact that the author of the essay is included and the option to save materials for future reading is also offered.  Having chosen the particular essay, one can then either read it in its entirety online or read each segment in pdf as a download.  These pdf’s are the exact same as the print edition.


The pdf is immensely useful if one is working away from the computer or wishes to print it out to have on the train or at the office or if internet access is not available and a printed copy is the best option.  The pdf of this particular segment is below (but greatly reduced so that it fits in a screen shot.  It is, of course, full size when downloaded).


In terms of content, the slightly less than two page entry describing Asherah in the Hebrew Bible is accurately written and the concept clearly described.  The value of the Encyclopedia, though, is that articles extend beyond the biblical text, allowing readers to see more fully how such concepts were understood elsewhere in time and place.

More later on this exceedingly useful resource.

The Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception

20140130-131325.jpgebrVia the good people at DeGruyter I’ve received, in print editions, volumes one and two of the Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception.  Even more, I’ve been granted access to the online edition of all the volumes presently available.  This is a massive project, still ongoing, with contributions by virtually everyone in the field of Biblical Studies.  Consequently, it will take a number of review posts to cover adequately the series as it presently exists.  In short, I’m presently undertaking a review series.  This is merely the introductory entry in that series.  All of them will be tagged ‘Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception’.

The series is edited by Allison, Jr., Dale C. / Helmer, Christine / Seow, Choon-Leong / Spieckermann, Hermann / Walfish, Barry Dov / Ziolkowski, Eric.  And those are simply the chief editors- there are numerous others.  Additionally, there are a very large number of contributors.

The EBR is described thusly:

The projected thirty-volume Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception (EBR) is intended to serve as a comprehensive guide to the current state of knowledge on the background, origins, and development of the canonical texts of the Bible as they were accepted in Judaism and Christianity. Unprecedented in breadth and scope, this encyclopedia also documents the history of the Bible’s interpretation and reception across the centuries, not only in Judaism and Christianity, but also in literature, visual art, music, film, and dance, as well as in Islam and other religious traditions and new religious movements.

I’d like, then, to offer a sense of the work by means of a couple of screen shots:

First, the opening screen-


First, note that at the top is a pdf and a reading view.  Clicking PDF results in the entire article being downloaded to your machine.  Reading view is self explanatory.  The articles are all segmented and clicking the + simply expands the section one wishes to read.  In the print view, of course, the entire section is on the page.  No clicking necessary.

The segments are carefully written by carefully chosen contributors.  Clicking on ‘IV Literature and Music’, one finds, in part,


The article continues, and is followed, as are all the segments, by a bibliography.

As this review series continues I will have more to say about both the print edition and the electronic edition.  Focus will center on the substance of the articles, as the form has been described above.  For the moment, it is sufficient to note that the online edition is easy to use and very easy to navigate.  What one seeks, one finds (as is fitting, I suppose, for an Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception!).

More anon.  And, by the way, if readers are curious about particular entries, I’m happy to remark upon them at your request.