Rewriting and Interpreting the Hebrew Bible: The Biblical Patriarchs in the Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls

New from de Gruyter

9783110290554The present volume is one of the first to concentrate on a specific theme of biblical interpretation in the Dead Sea Scrolls, namely the book of Genesis. In particular the volume is concerned with the links displayed by the Qumranic biblical interpetation to the inner-biblical interpretation and the final shaping of the Hebrew scriptures. Moshe Bar-Asher studies cases of such inner biblical interpretative comments; Michael Segal deals with the Garden of Eden story in the scrolls and other contemporary Jewish sources; Reinhard Kratz analizes the story of the Flood as preamble for the lives of the Patriarchs in the Hebrew Bible; Devorah Dimant examines this theme in the Qumran scrolls; Roman Viehlhauer explores the story of Sodom and Gomorrah; George Brooke and Atar Livneh discuss aspects of Jacob’s career; Harald Samuel review the career of Levi; Liora Goldman examines the Aramaic work the Visions of Amram; Lawrence Schiffman and Aharon Shemesh discuss halakhic aspects of stories about the Patriarchs; Moshe Bernstein provides an overview of the references to the Patriarchs in the Qumran scrolls.

They’ve sent along a review copy.  Here’s my take on it:

The editors describe this collection as a …

… volume [which] contributes to the understanding of the early exegesis of the book of Genesis and the patriarchal tradition, and the prehistory of this tradition within the Hebrew Bible (p. v).

Accordingly, it is a contribution to the ongoing discussion of interbiblical interpretation.  This volume is …

… based on the lectures given in an international symposium held in Göttingen, May 2-4, 2011 as part of the German-Israeli cooperative project “The Interpretation of the Book of Genesis in the Dead Sea Scrolls” (p. v).

Interested persons can see the entire table of contents here.  The essays are, by and large, engaging and instructive.  Especially interesting to the present reviewer are the first, Moses Bar-Asher’s “The Bible Interpreting Itself” and Roman Vielhauer’s “Sodom and Gomorrah: From the Bible to Qumran”.  Also noteworthy is Harold Samuel’s “Levi, the Levites, and the Law” and Lawrence Schiffman’s “The Patriarchs and Halakhah in the Dead Sea Scrolls”.

To be sure, the others, again, are quite interesting but those four caught my interests because their subjects interest me immensely. Other readers will undoubtedly be drawn to other works in the book.  In what remains I’d like to highlight one of them:  Roman Vielhauer’s “Sodom and Gomorrah: From the Bible to Qumran”.  In this fine exposition V. discusses in plentiful detail 4Q172 first and includes both text and translation along with ample discussion of that text.  He next describes previous evaluations of the text primarily that of Trine Hasseelbalch.  He disagrees, though, with H’s conclusions and offers his own take on the text:

Thus, with regard to 4Q172 it can only be construed that the tradition of Sodom and Gomorrah was indeed adopted.  Exactly how it was understood remains obfuscated by the fragmentary nature of the text (p. 152).

V. moves next to consider in the same careful articulate manner mention of Sodom and Gomorrah in 4QCommentary on Genesis A and Sodom and Gomorrah in 4QEschatological Commentary B.  This is followed by Vielhauer’s investigation of Sodom and Gomorrah in 4QPesher on the Periods.   He concludes his contribution to the collection with a discussion of Sodom and Gomorrah from the Bible to Qumran.  His sage conclusion?

… the authors of the Qumran texts … display a certain consistency with the interpretation history of inner-biblical reception processes, which are responsible for the final character of the Sodom and Gomorrah tradition (p. 163).

The essay includes, as do they all, an up to date bibliography.  In the present case that bibliography extends 6 pages.

This volume, then, is an excellent example of scholarly meticulousness.  The essays do not simply bring us up to date on the issues they cover, they move us forward.  In our discipline, forward movement is the rarest of creatures.  This, consequently, is a rare and worthwhile work.  I recommend it to students of the Scrolls and scholars interested in inner-biblical exegesis / reception historical questions.

An Interview With Konrad Schmid

In light of the appearance of Konrad Schmid’s new book, I sent along a series of questions and he was kind enough to subject himself to an interview.  Here’s our exchange:

JW– Thank you, Professor Schmid, for your time and your willingness to sit down (so to speak) for this interview. Professor, please introduce yourself, if you would, to our readers.

KS– I am Swiss Bible scholar, working mostly on the Pentateuch and the Prophets, but I have a wide range of scholarly interests, pertaining to different methodologies and approaches to the Bible and also to interdisciplinary projects.

JW– You have published widely in the field of Old Testament/ Hebrew Bible. Which term do you prefer to use, and why?

large_konrad.schmidKS– I don’t have an overall preference for either term. The term Old Testament denotes something different than Hebrew Bible, both regarding the number and the ordering of the books. I try to use whichever term fits best in a given context.

JW– Your forthcoming volume, “Gibt es Theologie im Alten Testament? Zum Theologiebegriff in der alttestamentlichen Wissenschaft”, has just appeared. It’s about 150 pages in length so it seems that it is intended to be either a quite specific answer to the question posed in the title, or a quite general overview of the topic. Would you mind describing its contents?

KS– The study is more of an essay than a comprehensive monograph. It basically consists of two parts, the first one deals with the history of the term “theology” in biblical studies and tries to describe why some people think it is a useful term, and others don’t. The second part is a brief sketch on how one might reconstruct the genesis of what might be called theology within the Hebrew Bible, i.e. the emergence of reflective texts that try to interpret and evaluate given traditions.

JW– the publisher says this of the volume: Seit 2000 Jahren dient das Alte Testament in Judentum und Christentum als Gegenstand theologischer Erörterungen und Befragungen. Doch gibt es so etwas wie Theologie bereits im Alten Testament selbst? Lässt sich die Entstehung der alttestamentlichen Literatur auch unter dem Aspekt fortschreitender theologischer Reflexion beschreiben? Eine Antwort auf diese Fragen hängt davon ab, wie man die Kategorie «Theologie» bestimmt. Konrad Schmid zeichnet dazu die historische Entwicklung des Theologiebegriffs in der Bibelwissenschaft nach und beschreibt Texteigenheiten im Alten Testament, die für die Frage «Gibt es Theologie im Alten Testament?» von Bedeutung sind. Would you agree with that description? Is the book primarily for a Christian audience?

KS– Yes, I agree with it. I wrote it myself. The book is actually intended for an interested audience within and outside of Christianity. Its basic intent is to regain the category “theology” as a common term in biblical scholarship. I try to develop a usage of the term that is basically historical and descriptive. For me, the question of a “theology of the Hebrew Bible” is a scholarly enterprise as accessible to everyone and as open to discussion by everyone as is the reconstruction of the “philosophy of Plato.”

JW– In earlier theologies there was much talk of a ‘center’ of the Old Testament. I’m thinking here primarily of Eichrodt who saw covenant as the ‘theme’ of the Hebrew Bible. Do you think there is such a unifying center, or do we have to do with ‘theologies’ instead of ‘theology’?

KS– I think there are a number of implicit theologies in the Hebrew Bible that can be found on different levels. There is a theology of the Jacob cycle, a theology of the book of Genesis, a theology of the Priestly Code, a theology of the Pentateuch, and so on. Nonetheless, it is also possible to inquire about a theology of the whole Hebrew Bible. However, this too needs to be put in the plural: the different arrangements of the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament in different codices, for instance, show that the compiler of these codices intended to stress different aspects in their Bibles: The Old Testament in the Codex Sinaiticus, for example, ends with the book of Job, which seems to serve as a bridge to the New Testament by means of its topic of the suffering righteous one. The Codex Vaticanus, by contrast, ends the Old Testament with the book of Daniel, stressing instead the theme of the Son of Man, who is to be expected to set up his reign.

JW– How does this project fit into your larger body of work.

KS– It might be considered as a theoretical introduction to the reconstruction of ancient Israel’s intellectual history as documented in the Hebrew Bible, as I tried to elaborate it in my “The Old Testament: A Literary History” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2012).

JW– Do you have plans to present some of your materials at the upcoming SBL in Baltimore?

KS– No, maybe at a later occasion.

JW– Are you presently working on another book, and if so, might I ask what it’s about?

KS– Together with three colleagues, I am attempting to work out a comprehensive presentation of the history of ancient Israel’s literature.

JW– Are there plans to make your newest volume “Gibt es Theologie im Alten Testament? Zum Theologiebegriff in der alttestamentlichen Wissenschaft” available in English?

KS– Yes, a translation into English is on its way, although it will take some time to finish it.

JW– Again, thank you for your time, and I’m very much looking forward to reading your book and – hopefully – seeing you in Baltimore.

Social Identity and Sectarianism in the Qumran Movement

A newly published volume on the sectarians of Qumran has appeared (with thanks to Eibert Tigchelaar for pointing it out) –

27292‘Identity’ and ‘sectarianism’, two crucial and frequently used concepts in Qumran studies, are here problematized, appraised, and redefined. Two social-scientific theories inform the investigation of the serakhim (rule documents) and pesharim (commentaries). The sociology of sectarianism is presented in retrospect in order to identify appropriate methodological tools for speaking about sectarianism in the ancient context, and for comparing sectarian stances in theserakhim. Furthermore, a social-psychological perspective into identity is introduced for the first time for appreciating the dynamic and context-dependent nature of a person’s social identity. The final chapter takes a fresh approach to the study of the pesharim, arguing for the need to read each Pesher as a whole. It analyses the prototypical ‘teacher’ and brings forward new interpretations of this captivating and cloudy figure.

Glorious.  Take note, Qumran-ian-ite-ists.

Francesca S. on the Birth of Jesus

She’s such a skeptic…

On BBC Radio 5 – Hebrew expert: “Virgin birth a mistranslation”. DURATION: 05:48

Nicky Campbell questions Francesca Stavrakopoulou, Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Religion at the University of Exeter, about the truth behind the three wise men, shepherds and Herod.

But she does a good job and nothing she says is revolutionary, shocking, or even new.  Basic stuff here.  Though, when it comes to Matthew’s skill with Hebrew, she’s a tad off target (as TM Law has just shown).

P. Kyle McCarter’s Letter In Support of Chris Rollston

From his personal web-page

Public Letter re: Chris Rollston


Emmanuel Christian Seminary wants to fire Chris Rollston.  This is not news.  It’s already known to readers of this list and other public and semi-public forums.  Still, it seems to me to be a matter of such gravity, and now urgency, that I should call attention to it yet again.  My hope is that colleagues who share my concern will find time to send messages expressing their points of view to relevant addresses at Emmanuel — but more on that below.  First let me describe the situation more precisely and then explain why it’s especially important to me.

To be precise, administrators and others at Emmanuel Christian Seminary have been working hard since at least September to sever the contractual relationship between their institution and Christopher A. Rollston, The Toyozo W. Nakarai Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Studies.  They want to revoke his tenure, and remove the protections it gives to his academic freedom; they want to terminate his teaching privileges, and prevent him from sharing his knowledge and ideas with Emmanuel students; and they want to discontinue his salary, and require him to find another way to support his family.  The reasons these members of the Emmanuel leadership have decided to take such drastic action are complex.  I think I understand most or all of the issues,  but I’m not directly involved, my information is second hand, and I don’t think it would be useful or fair to Emmanuel or to Chris for me to give a detailed account of my understanding of the things that have been said and done.  What is clear, though, is that the Emmanuel officials who want Chris Rollston ousted have serious religious objections to the things he says about the Bible and to the way he teaches it.

Before commenting further on the last point, let me be candid about my own interest in this case.  I place the highest possible value on intellectual freedom, and I hope I would respond strongly to any situation where I thought I saw it being threatened or abused.  Here, though, I also have a clear personal interest and no wish to conceal it.  First, I consider Chris a close friend, and I hope he thinks of me the same way.  Second, I hold him in high esteem as a colleague who is doing increasingly important work in scholarly areas of special interest to me.  Surpassing even these things in influencing my perspective on Chris’s current predicament, though, is the fact that he was my student, my Doktorsohn.  These days, in light of what he has achieved as a scholar, I feel very good about how well I taught him Hebrew paleography, but I worry that I fell short of my responsibility to counsel him about how small-minded and mean-spirited the Academy can be at its worst.  I’m saddened and outraged by what I see happening at Emmanuel, and when I think of the ordeal Chris is going through, I’m agonized and enraged.  So I can’t represent myself as only a principled senior academic who is affronted when he sees an institution misbehaving — with me this is much more personal than that.

Now, returning to the earlier point, I’ve suggested that Emmanuel officials object to Chris’s views on the Bible.  To be more clear, Chris’s thinking seems to be regarded as too progressive for some who are in decision-making positions at Emmanuel.  This seems strange to me.  The foundations of Chris’s biblical training were acquired at Emmanuel itself (then called Emmanuel School of Religion) when he was a master’s student there working under fine Old Testament scholars like Robert Evans (now at General Theological Seminary in New York).  After receiving his M.A.R. from Emmanuel, Chris came to Johns Hopkins as a Near Eastern Studies doctoral student.  We found him already well prepared in historical-critical scholarship and entirely comfortable with its application to the Hebrew Bible.  Perhaps some will suspect that while Chris was doing his Ph.D. work we introduced ideas into his thinking that would be objectionable to Emmanuel, but that suspicion seems contradicted by the fact that as soon as Chris finished his work with us, Emmanuel hired him as a member of its Bible faculty.  That was more than a decade ago, and Chris’s biblical scholarship must have been deemed acceptable to Emmanuel when they hired him then.  In fact, it seems safe to say that it was still fully acceptable at least as recently as the spring of 2006, because that was when Emmanuel promoted Chris to the rank of Professor and awarded him tenure.  
In the years since Chris’s promotion and tenure his academic reputation has burgeoned nationally and internationally, most especially in the field of Northwest Semitic epigraphy, in which his voice is rapidly becoming one of the most respected in the world.  This seems to me especially relevant to the concerns of Emmanuel, since it indicates that a principal part of Chris’s work has to do with examining, interpreting and evaluating ancient inscriptions, perhaps especially ancient Hebrew inscriptions.  To put it somewhat melodramatically, Chris is a scholar who brings to life the voices of the people of the biblical world, and his findings are an embarrassment to any scholar or layperson who might express skepticism about the historical reality of the ancient community.  So if someone told me that Chris had become a hero of religious conservatives, I might not have been surprised, but to hear the opposite, that conservatives find his work abhorrent, is astonishing.  It makes me wonder if there is some great misunderstanding hidden in all the ugliness that has erupted at Emmanuel.

I fear, though, that there is no misunderstanding, and that there are those at Emmanuel who have both the power and the will to persist in their persecution of Chris Rollston.  If this is true, then Chris has no choice but to take the steps necessary to protect himself from charges and action that he believes to be incorrect, unjust and improper.  What can the rest of us do?  First, I think, we can be vigilant about the process of Chris’s case to be sure that it’s conducted according to the long and widely accepted academic principles that apply to cases of proposed dismissal for cause.  For example, if it is true, as we have all heard, that the catalyst for these events was the disapproval by some members of the Emmanuel community of a Huffington Post blog entry posted by Chris last August, we must understand (and if necessary remind Emmanuel) that this is a matter that cannot be taken into consideration in the deliberation of Chris’s case unless Emmanuel chooses to disregard the generally accepted recommendations and guidelines of such groups as the American Association of University Professors, in which such matters are explicitly excluded from dismissal for cause cases.  In other words, we must keep in sight the long-held opinion of AAUP and others that stipulates that Chris’s contract with Emmanuel cannot deny him rights possessed by every other American citizen.  This is only one example, but I think it illustrates the need for those of us who are Chris’s friends and colleagues (likely including his scholarly adversaries who nevertheless are concerned about the infringement of academic freedom) to pay attention to the events as they transpire and collectively insist on a fair process.  In this regard it’s reassuring to know that an officer of AAUP has already written a letter of concern to Emmanuel’s president expressing the hope that all of AAUP’s widely accepted procedural standards will be followed in Chris Rollston’s case.  Emmanuel Christian Seminary does have a written policy on academic freedom of its own, and it uses language adopted directly from AAUP documents, so that I think there’s reason to hope that AAUP’s concern will not be quickly set aside.  I also find it encouraging to know that Emmanuel Christian Seminary is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), and I expect that these two bodies will take an active interest in Chris’s case in order to satisfy themselves that their accreditation requirements and guidelines that apply issues with which the case is concerned are being conscientiously followed.

I’ve written this public letter because I’ve watched the treatment of Chris Rollston by Emmanuel Christian Seminary closely, and what I’ve seen so far has me deeply troubled both professionally and personally, as I’ve explained.  My sense is that events are now beginning to move rapidly, so that declarations of concern at this point will be very timely.  I’ve expressed the hope that we will be vigilant and attentive to the process, and I believe that it might help if we directly notify the institution of our general concern and our intention to play a watchdog role.  We can do this by contacting the chief academic officers of the Seminary.  The President is Michael Sweeney ( and the Academic Dean is Jack Holland (  Even brief messages to President Sweeney and Dean Holland will demonstrate the sincerity of our interest.  Those of you (and there are many) who have knowledge of specific issues and events (things I’ve deliberately omitted from this letter for reasons already explained) may wish to address those things at some length, but (to repeat) short messages will help too.  Many of you will have already written, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t write again.  You might also consider writing to Emmanuel’s accrediting boards, mentioned above.  The representative at SACS is Steven Sheeley (, and the representative at ATS is Tisa Lewis ( Some of you, moreover, may have special knowledge that could be particularly useful.  If, for example, you have worked in any capacity with either of Emmanuel’s accrediting boards (SACS or ATS, see above), you may know a more direct way to call their attention to this issue — I feel confident they will want to investigate, but I don’t know if they are yet involved.  If by chance any of you knows one or more trustees of Emmanuel Christian Seminary, you might be able to play a particularly valuable role.  As I said above, considering the inevitably positivistic character of Chris’s epigraphic work, it’s surprising to me that he hasn’t found support within even the conservative spectrum of Emmanuel’s constituencies, and I wonder if all the trustees have been told the whole story.

In sum, all of us who hold academic positions, whether in secular or religious or confessional institutions, have a stake in what’s happening in Johnson City, Tennessee.  Many of you don’t know Chris personally, but even some of you who don’t know him personally have already taken bold positions on his behalf, and you have and deserve the special respect of us all.  For those of us who do know Chris, who know the quality and integrity of his work, and who know the quality and integrity of the man, we can’t help but ask ourselves:  Is this a man whose job performance is such that he should be threatened with dismissal for cause?  This man?  Chris Rollston?  The notion is so absurd that it stops all thought processes, leaving only confusion.  How did things get to this point?

Respectfully yours,
P. Kyle McCarter
William Foxwell Albright Professor of Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies
The Johns Hopkins University

Akkadian Commentaries and Hebrew Exegesis

New in Dead Sea Discoveries– Akkadian Commentaries from Ancient Mesopotamia and Their Relation to Early Hebrew Exegesis, by Uri Gabbay.

Commentaries from ancient Mesopotamia, written in cuneiform script and in the Akkadian language, are known from the eighth century B.C.E. up to the last centuries B.C.E. The article investigates the authority of the texts about which commentaries are known, often considered canonical and divine, vis-à-vis the authority of the commentaries themselves, considered oral tradition transmitted by scholars. This is comparable to the authority of the biblical texts that serve as the base for early Jewish interpretations, and to the authority of the commentaries containing these interpretations, both in Qumran and in early Rabbinic literature. The article also surveys and analyzes various hermeneutical terms and techniques found in ancient Mesopotamian commentaries in relation to early Jewish commentaries. In addition, the article discusses the pesharim from Qumran in their divinatory context, in light of omen interpretations from Mesopotamia which use the noun pišru.

Sounds fun.

Oh Lord, Please, No… Not Another ‘Bible’ Series from the ‘History Channel…

In Spring next year, History Channel will be airing a new ten-part series entitled The Bible.  It dramatizes key narratives from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, and it is executive produced by Mark Burnett (The VoiceSurvivorThe Apprentice) and Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel).  It is produced by Lightworkers Media.  There are short Wikipedia and IMDB entries which will no doubt get expanded as the air date approaches.


We’ve had scholars and theologians help. We’re not pretending to be biblical experts. We brought experts in once the scripts were created to take a look at the scripts to make sure we were accurate and true to the Bible, but obviously we’re making a movie, and so we breathed creative expansion into that.”

All this via Mark Goodacre who was consulted for the project.  And though I trust Mark, I don’t trust Hollywood (or as I call it, Hollow-wood) which is just as likely to leave good scholarship on the cutting room floor as it is to include absolute nonsensical rubbish.  So, I’ll be skeptical till given reason not to be.    Why?  Because for every Goodacre on the project we have to wonder how many Jacobovicis there are.  It is the History Channel after all.  Their track record on such projects has been profoundly abysmal.

In my estimation, Bible Films are guilty (of misrepresentation) till proven innocent.  I can’t help it.  I’ve been burned too many times by them.

The Politics of Pessimism in Ecclesiastes: A Social-Science Perspective

I’ve read this for review in the Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament (so no review will appear here, sorry) and wish simply to say – well done Mark Sneed!

Scholars attempt to resolve the problem of the book of Ecclesiastes’ heterodox character in one of two ways, either explaining away the book’s disturbing qualities or radicalizing and championing it as a precursor of modern existentialism. This volume offers an interpretation of Ecclesiastes that both acknowledges the unorthodox nature of Qoheleth’s words and accounts for its acceptance among the canonical books of the Hebrew Bible. It argues that, instead of being the most secular and modern of biblical books, Ecclesiastes is perhaps one of the most religious and primitive. Bringing a Weberian approach to Ecclesiastes, it represents a paradigm of the application of a social-science methodology.

Sneed’s approach is novel and constructive and really quite eye-opening; shedding light on Ecclesiastes from a new angle and so a productive one.   You can see the TOC and read the Introduction here.

Hebrew Webinar

Join a webinar on the Hebrew Bible as a language tutor!

The webinar will present a new free and open tool for persuasive Hebrew language learning. We are still prototyping the new tool and testing it in teaching, but it will be ready for dissemination for classes in the Autumn of 2013. We will share results from the classroom on how the Hebrew Bible can tutor your students and how you can facilitate their learning.

Time:The poll favors TUESDAY September 18 at 5-6 p.m. CET!

Organizers: Presenter: The presentation in the webinar will be given by Associate Professor Nicolai Winther-Nielsen, Aalborg University & Fjellhaug International University College Denmark who is the workpackage leader and learning designer for PLOTLearner. Co-participant: The programmer of PLOTLearner, IT Consultant Claus Tøndering, will answer technical questions. How to participate: If you register on Doodle, you will get information on how to participate.

We hope you will help us improve the learner experience by sharing your own ideas on language learning, online teaching and digital exams in our webinar. Also, as we produce open educational resources for lifelong learning in the European Union, we are very interested in input on how our learning technology might be adapted by Hebrew teachers and learners in Europe. At the same time, however, the technology is tested and adapted to theological education in Madagascar, so another important issue is how our technology can be best distributed to the Majority World where free and open, high-quality resources should be in high demand.

Please help us spread this information to Hebrew teachers and humanities scholars working with e-Learning and learning design as well as computational and applied linguistics!

See the webinar flier here for more information and how to take part.

For further information contact Nicolai Winther-Nielsen –

Coming Soon: The Festschrift for Douglas A. Knight

From Continuum

This volume makes a positive intervention into maximalist/minimalist debates about Israelite historiography by pointing to the events that happened during the Persian and Hellenistic periods.  During this historical epoch, traditions about Israel and Judah’s founding became fixed as markers of ethnic identity, and much of the canonical Hebrew Bible came into its present form.  Concentrating on these events, a clearer historical picture emerges.

The entire volume is set within the context of Doug Knight’s contributions, which have encouraged a rigorous social-scientific and tradition-historical approach to the Hebrew Bible and ancient Israel in general.  Many scholars have pursued how the social scientific method, first used to analyze early monarchic Israel, can shape the understanding of these later historical periods.  Knight’s methods, teachings, writings, and scholarly interventions have pointed the contributors of this volume to fresh considerations of the Persian and Hellenistic periods.  The concluding essay will examine the future directions in which such sociological and historical investigation can go forward.  

Amazon has it for $81.  Eisenbrauns doesn’t list it.

A Noteworthy Day

Today marks the birth anniversary of that brilliant, gutsy, pugilistic, and uncompromising scholar of the Hebrew Bible, Niels Peter Lemche.

Surely you know his work.  Surely you must.  And if you don’t, well now, you must familiarize yourself!  Off with you then- go buy and read one of his many informative and provocative publications.

And until you do, here are some slides of my friend and his environment:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

(Photos are copyright me, and may not be reused or duplicated in any way)

It’s The August Biblioblog Carnival! The ‘Look, There’s a List of Biblioblog Twitterers’ Edition

Naturally what that means is that posts from August are herein featured and perforce so too are some of those who twitter.*

I hope I’ve not missed any of the best of the best but I may have so I recommend that you skip on over to this Twitter list of bibliobloggers and you can follow them in real time as they post their golden nuggets of wisdom and insight.  [And if you’re a self declared biblioblogger and twitter-er and wish to be on the list, drop me a note][NB- Inclusion on the list isn’t a personal endorsement by yours truly.  Some of those on the list are just purveyors of rubbish nonsense but you might like them (if you have a sadly twisted sense of truth and falsehood or enjoy the self promoters)].

Hebrew Bible

You may not be familiar with Chuck Grantham but he does ‘notes’ on biblical texts which folk ought to drop in on.  In August his set on Judges is nicely written.

John Gentry showed that Sirach prophesied modern America’s gluttony and described how to avoid that particular sin…  🙂

Tim Bulkeley investigated a bit of Jeremiah (the best prophet of them all and way, way more interesting than Paul or Peter or James or Matthew or Mark or Luke…).  Tim also has a new book out you might want to take a look at titled ‘Not Only a Father‘.  It is…

… a new kind of book. (Though paperback copies of Not Only a Father are available.) A book you discuss with others, and with the author, as you read. It is available as a print edition (conventional “book”).  You can if you wish read a paper copy and then write comments or ask questions here :).  In each chapter and section there are small blue speech bubbles to the right of every paragraph. Click on them to see what others have said or to comment or ask questions yourself. If you have friends reading this book you can use the “Comments by user” link in the top menu to see what they have contributed to the discussion.

James Tabor discussed the recent attempts of a Jewish scholar to ‘correct’ the biblical text.  An essay worth reading, and considering.

The current edition of the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament appeared, with a number of interesting contributions, blogged here.  Reading journals is a great way to keep up with the current thinking on various subjects.  Every scholar and interested lay-person should be an avid journal reader (and book-reviewer, I should also add).

Julian Freeman offers Christians some guidelines for reading Old Testament narratives.  I don’t think our Jewish friends will find them very useful, but relatively conservative Christians may well do.  Although I have to say, if taken too seriously his suggestions may tend to eisegesis; so maybe these are really ways of reading the Old Testament that should probably be used only with the utmost care.

Dave Jenkins gives the theodicy question a go.  A long go.  A very long go.  Very, very lonnnggggggggg…..  But you should set aside a couple of days to read it.

Christian Brady took a look at the two fellows who went down to Moab-land and found themselves some foreign type wives and what God did to them for their Wanderlust…  Nice work, young Mr. Dr. Prof. Brady.

Jose Ayrton de Silva recommends some things that Erhard Gerstenberger has published.  Gerstenberger is fantastic and anytime anyone points folk to his work, I’m thrilled to pass it along.

Giant Remnants have a look at the upcoming film about Noah.  It’s a gigantic(ly) interesting (for the most part) post.

Otherwise, the Hebrew Bible people were pretty quiet.  They must be taking a Summer Sabbatical.  שבת-שלום  to them.

New Testament

Craig Benno did a little ‘review-let’ of Witherington’s commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians.  He seemed to like it.  Evidently in it Witherington suggests that Saul changed his name to Paul because “Saulos has connotations of how a prostitute walks”.  Such a reading really makes no sense at all and seems to have first come into the mind of Leary and seen the light of day in an essay in New Testament Studies.  I prefer Lumby’s sane explanation (and, yes, that does imply that Leary’s isn’t) –

At this point we first meet the name by which the great Apostle is best known throughout the Christian Church, and many reasons have been given why he assumed this name, and why at this time. Some have thought that the name was adopted from the proconsul’s, his first convert of distinction, but this is utterly alien to all we know of the character of St Paul, with his sole glory in the cross of Christ. Far more likely is he to have been attracted to it, if it were not his before, by the meaning of the Latin word (paullus = little, see Ter. And. 1. 5. 31; Adelph. 5. 4. 22), and its fitness to be the name of him who called himself the least of the Apostles. But perhaps he did only what other Jews were in the habit of doing when they went into foreign lands, and chose him a name of some significance (for the Jews were fond of names with a meaning) among those with whom he was about to mix. Dean Howson (Life and Letters of St Paul, I. p. 164) compares Joses—Jason; Hillel—lulus, and probably the similarity of sound did often guide the choice of such a name, and it may have been so with the Apostle’s selection.  J.R. Lumby, The Acts of the Apostles. Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges (241–242). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Furthermore, if you want to read a real commentary on 1 Corinthians, I highly recommend this one.  (Oh don’t look so surprised, you knew I was going to work him in somehow).  Another great commentary is Gordon Fee’s.  Coincidentally, Joel Green likes Fee’s volume a lot as well, as he mentions in an interview he gave on the Logos blog.

The always precious Carl Sweatman wrestled with Wrede.  You may not know this but Wrede was a German so he could easily take any pasty skinned Brit coming his way or even easier, an ex-pat American turned pasty skinned Brit.  It’s a fine post, truly.

Mike Kok, the Canadian Carl Sweatman (if you have ever met Mike you know what I mean) is taken with the Gospel of Mark and he posted in August this interesting piece on that little book.  He’ll give you something to cogitate.  (And yes, that’s the little fellow.  We invited him to have lunch in Sheffield a couple of years ago when I was passing through for SOTS).

Anthony LeDonne announced a Conference on the Historical Jesus.  Sure, he did it here, but honestly where else is he going to do it where it will be seen?  Joel’s Blog?  Bahahahahahaha….  But seriously it looks like a great opportunity so if you’re in Ohio you might want to show up.

Andrew Fulford has some interesting things to say – in dialogue with Winter – about 1 Cor 7.  It’s here.

Brian Davidson has news of a new Greek Grammar coming soon.  He seems to be very excited about it.  I like Robertson’s huge 1100+ page monster but kids these days don’t have attention spans sufficient to grapple with that one.  Kids these days….

Also in the ‘things Greek’ category, Dan Wallace had an interesting snippet on the proper pronunciation of Koine.  You know, the old ‘Erasmian’ pronunciation v. some other silly system thing that seems to make the rounds every decade or so.  His remarks about Blass are especially noteworthy.  Wallace also makes the sad, sad announcement that codex 1799 has died.  Or rather, has suffered demise.  Demisement?  Demising?  It’s shuffled off this mortal coil.

The good folk at Oxford have initiated a new project to get those mountains of Oxyranchus Papyri transcribed and translated.  And they are asking for your help.  You can discover the details here.

The vaguely familiar Nijay Gupta (whom I always, in my mind, call Sanjay but not Sanjia) wrote a fine, albeit brief, review of a book about some guy named Paul.  Ugh.  With Chris Tilling’s book on Paul appearing this month it’s just all more Paul than any of us should have to endure.  More John, less Paul!

Dom Mattos ran a contest (and if you RUSH right over you still might have a chance to enter) on the T&T Clark blog.  I’ll let you find out for yourself what it’s about.  Just a hint:  think Jesus, and his milieu.

Luke Wisley (not to be confused with Ron Weasley) posted a short notice on a roundtable discussion of Michael Licona’s book on the resurrection of Jesus.  I’ve added a link to the blogroll to Luke’s page- he’s moving to Edinburgh to study.  We’re expecting big things from him.

Cliff Kvidahl posts ever so briefly on the forthcoming edition of the Greek New Testament called NA28 and its adoption of a reading in Jude which Cliff is overjoyed with (over, about).  It does indeed look like a fantastic revision.  And it even has its own website.

Johnson Thomaskutty has an intriguing post on Paul and women (featuring Dom Crossan). If you missed it (and face it, you probably did), give it a read.  You may well have not read James McGrath’s post on the scanner as mark of the beast lunacy  (and that suggestion has been around as long as scanners have been around) but you should.  Just don’t trip over the popup ads which festoon Patheos.  And after you read it, be sure to run your virus scanning software because popups are evil and are probably themselves the mark of the beast.

James Crossley made an indecent proposal.  Vintage James.  It’s just got to be read.  And yes, it has to do with Biblical Studies.

Larry Schiffman addressed the always intriguing question of ‘who is a Jew’.  And speaking of Larry…

Dead Sea Scrolls

In August Lawrence Schiffman took up the blogging pen and the twitter quill and commenced to join the happy family of biblioblogging twitterers.  He’s – it goes without saying – worth reading.  He also posted a document on the whole Raphael Golb fiasco which you can, and must, read here.

Jim Tabor (who recently seems to have come to the conclusion that regular blogging is something worth doing- because he’s been doing it a lot) took a look at a phrase in the Scrolls also alluded to by, he asserts, Jesus as, he asserts, recorded by Q.  It’s a quite interesting thought.  He may be on to something.

Geza Vermes appeared on BBC Radio with Paul McCarthy, as we learn here.

And ASOR announced that in September on the ASOR blog the focus will be the Dead Sea Scrolls and Qumran.  Jodi Magness and James Charlesworth are contributing, along with Stephen Pfann.  It will be worth checking out.


There was yet another round of ‘the Lead Codices’ from Jordan need a fresh view’ led by Margaret Barker (whose various idiosyncratic views stand to gain support if the codices are legitimate).  But Jim Davila expressed himself rather forcefully on the subject to the contrary.

In Israel an archaeologist discussed what she believes to be the discovery of the oldest matches yet uncovered.  It’s a really interesting story and it proves that sometimes things aren’t what we first imagine them to be.  And a young guy who dug this Summer shares his experience on the ASOR blog.  See, digging in dirt isn’t just for 3 year olds!

Bob Cargill shared a video with the gang- it’s an impromptu lecture at Azekah on lmlk seals.  Alas, poor lmlk, we knew him well…  Oh, and Bob also posted a cooler video– of his little boy taking those important first steps.    He’s a smart little guy and adorable too.  He gets all that from his mom.

David ‘The Canuck’ Meadows had a great post titled ‘The iPad in Archaeology‘.  Who knew that Goliath didn’t just have a big bowl and spoon, but an iPad too!  (At least, I think that’s what the post is about.  You’ll have to read it for yourself).

Antonio Lombatti says, concerning Bethsaida- Bethsaida, la città di Andrea e Filippo citata diverse volte nel Nuovo Testamento e promossa a polis da Erode Filippo I nel 30 d.C., è al centro di numerosi scavi. E si cercano sempre fondi per finanziare la costosa campagna archeologica.  I like Antonio and his work.  I call him, when I’m sitting in the living room and watching ‘Mythbusters’, “Antonio the Mythbuster Lombatti”.  #Fact.

Aren Maeir announced the good news about the City of David excavation report.  I sure wish they’d find a seal with a great inscription about David at an undisturbed layer in an untouched square.  Seriously.  He also announced the dates for the 2013 Gath excavation season.

Miscellaneous Stuff

Phil Long is now the master host of the Biblioblog Carnival and he kicked off his reign as Lord and Grand Potentate on 1 August with this really brilliant contribution.

James Crossley offered a conference announcement at Leeds.  Ah, Reception History, you’re all the rage.   There’s another conference announcement that was made in August (for something happening 1-2 September, so there’s not much time for you to fly to Australia for it) by the Mustache that looks like a giant ferret.

Brian LePort discussed Jack Levison’s book on the Holy Spirit.  Who doesn’t love a good discussion of the Holy Spirit (except the pentebabbleists who would rather babble and blather about their only interests- pseudo-healings and pseudo-languages).

Mark Goodacre looked upwards, and sideways, in order to discover how blogs, or more particularly, biblioblogs, interact these days.  These dark, dark, dark dreadful days of darkness and, I might add, nightfall.  How we all pine for the grand old days when there were only 10 biblioblogs and none of them were authored by those pesky ‘feel good’ women folk or the angry atheists or the rabble rousing trouble-making political activists.  Darn-it I’ve digressed.  Mark’s post is thoughtful and forward looking and it deserves your attention.  As does everything Mark writes.  Except, of course, for his dismissal of Q.  THAT’S just the crazy talk of a man who spends too much time watching cricket!

Dave Jenkins takes a brief look at the history of the church and the process of the canonization of the biblical books.  It’s pretty good, though a bit too fawning of the Church Fathers.  (The Fathers, except for Jerome, what a wretched lot of weirdos).

On the ‘mythicist’ front Joel Watts takes someone named Dick Carrier to the woodshed for his (apparent) dreadful inability to comprehend basic ideas concerning texts.  The ever-growing discussion of the mythicists and their bad thinking will, I think, be finally put to rest when Maurice Casey publishes his book on the subject.  I hope so anyway.  Mythicists are as tiresome as the peddlers of the ‘Lead Codices’.

Speaking of the bizarre, Rod Thomas’s post on some comic book (and his ability to wrest something worth discussing from the most banal rubbish) is ‘interesting’ reading.  Why, you ask, do I mention it if I think little of it?  Because, tiny pilgrim, I understand that what doesn’t interest me may – for some godless reason – interest others.

And when it comes to the really bizarre- we have the angry atheists.  Christian Brady, always a delight and a half to read, offers some observations on the atheist on atheist violence taking place these days.  The fetid angry atheists; they’re devouring themselves.  I can’t really say it saddens me (but that’s a strictly editorial comment).

Chris Tilling gives readers a chance to take a quiz; because, heaven knows, students don’t take enough quizzes and Profs don’t have enough of quizzing either.  Still, it’s a fun quiz because it includes Bultmann- the greatest New Testament exegete of all time bar none.

Sadly, Marvin Meyer passed away in August.  First mention came here.  Shockingly, the Telegraph posted an obituary that was gross plagiarism!  Mark Goodacre has all the sordid details.  We also lost Carlo Martini, a very, very fine biblical scholar and a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church.  He will be missed by progressive Catholics and biblical scholars alike.

But on the up side, August 20th was the anniversary of the birth of the greatest New Testament scholar of all time, Rudolf Karl Bultmann.  And that’s the way life is.  We celebrate birth’s and we lament deaths.  Even in the realm of biblical scholarship (and even if the media doesn’t ever notice, given, as it is, to it’s fawning over pseudo-celebrity).

Your friend and mine Eric Cline celebrates his birthday today- September 1.  ‘Great Archaeology’ has a little bio….  (see here for the backstory to this little tiny snippet of mockery… you’ll see what I mean- for this is the picture of Eric that that silly site posted.  I reduplicate it here in case they have by now changed it.  Which they should have done!).  Anyway, happiest of Birthday’s, Eric!

Finally it grieves my tender, gentle spirit to note the passing of Maire Byrne’s blog.  It died on August 19, 2011.   Mit Brennenden Sorge

But it gives me cause to rejoice that Michael Pahl (all the old timer bloggers know him) is back to blogging.  Yeah.

Gentle souls and wandering pilgrims, fleeting swallows and rampaging ravens- I hope your visit has been a delight.  Now off with you.


*Naturally all who feel slighted or offended, or who are hurt in any way whatsoever either because they were included or ignored or because some of the descriptions above are ‘colorful’, need simply file a complaint with the BBC’s Standards division for a full refund of their purchase price.

A New Volume on Prophecy in the Ancient Near East

I’m more than happy to mention this new volume by the bright Jonathan Stökl, University College London

Since the 1990s there has been an emphasis on the study of ancient Israelite prophecy in its ancient Near East context. Prophecy in the Ancient Near East is the first book-length study that compares prophecy in the ancient Near East by focusing on texts from Mari, the Neo-Assyrian State Archives, and the Hebrew Bible. The author analyzes prophecy in each culture independently before comparisons are made. This method demonstrates how prophecy is a part of the wider system of divination, but also shows where scholarship has unduly imported concepts found in one corpus to the other two. This method, for example, calls into question the supposed link between music and prophecy from the Hebrew Bible to the ancient Near East. This work provides an up-to-date analysis of ancient Near Eastern, including Israelite and Judean, prophecy to scholars and students alike.

Doubtless it will be quite the read.

An Additional Observation on the Imprecatory Psalms

A friend pointed out that most Christians are uncomfortable praying imprecatory prayers in spite of the fact that the Hebrew Bible is loaded with them.  I respond:

It may be that most Christians are uncomfortable with them but in their more honest moments they might even admit to having the same feelings.  At least the Psalmists were honest and that’s how I take the imprecatory prayers- a demonstration of an honest relationship to God wherein the Pray-er isn’t afraid, or too pious, to tell God what he or she is really thinking.  I admire that.  Especially given the sugary sweet syrupy spirituality (or better, pseud0-spiritualism) foisted on the public by the likes of the Emergents and their cousins the ‘Seeker-Sensitives’.

Give me an honest pray-er and an honest prayer over pseudo-piety any day.

Betrayal of The Humanities: The University During the Third Reich

That’s the title of a Symposium being held April 15-16, 2012 and led by Bernard Levinson up in Minnesota. The ‘about’ section of the website notes

Israel's Department Store in Berlin on April 1...

The university is traditionally seen as a safeguard of the values of Western civilization. It stands as a beacon for such fundamental principles as critical thought, free inquiry and ethical research. Yet, history tells us that this was not always so. Under National Socialism in Germany (1933-1945), the universities and the academic disciplines themselves became in many cases all-too-eager accomplices in the perpetration of Nazi ideology. Not only did the normal administrative structure of the university become corrupted, but learning itself betrayed its own mission as prestigious disciplines propagated Nazi racial science and beliefs.

In order to investigate the process whereby critical thought was replaced by blind obedience, the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies will host a symposium to examine the moral role of the university in today’s society. The symposium, co-organized by Bernard Levinson, Berman Family Chair in Jewish Studies and Hebrew Bible, and Bruno Chaouat, director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, will explore the mutation of academic ideals under National Socialism, when the German university system promoted Nazi ideology and helped the state eliminate its diverse community. Thirteen scholars from across the U.S. and abroad will examine core academic disciplines, including anthropology, philosophy, classics, Assyriology, theology, law, and music.

The Third Reich’s relation to the University will serve as a case study to understand the role of the transmission of knowledge in Western civilization and the importance of free inquiry to sustain democratic societies. Although a Nazi-like ideology may never resurface in the West, it remains critical to understand what kind of ideologies could today or tomorrow stifle an ethical quest for the truth and human striving for intellectual and artistic accomplishment.

If you’re around the Twin Cities you should definitely make plans to attend. It’s a fascinating period of Church History and it looks like it’s going to be a grand conference.  Go to the conference page for the schedule, speakers, etc.

James Aitken and A Distinguished Panel, on ‘the Torah’

James will be a panelist tomorrow (Sunday) on an Irish Radio talk show

This Sunday Patrick and a panel of historians and theologians will be looking at the history of the Torah and the beginnings of the Hebrew Bible. Who wrote the Torah and when? Maybe more importantly, why was it written? Join us this Sunday as we try to answer these questions.

I hope they post the audio!  James is a brilliant scholar, just top notch.  I’m sure what he has to say will be exceedingly worth hearing.

The Journal for the Evangelical Study of the Old Testament (JESOT)

In case you may be interested-

JESOT is a new peer-reviewed journal devoted to the evangelical study of the Old Testament. The journal will be freely available for view and download at this site when it is finished. If you are interested in contributing to this project, see the submissionspage. Learn more about the scope of the journal and the editorial staff and board here.

Go ahead.

Congratulations, Dr Pfoh

Our brilliant colleague and friend Emanuel Pfoh received his doctorate last week and I wanted to congratulate him, publicly, for it.  Well done!

Manu is one of the co-moderators of the Biblical Studies list (which you should join, by the way) and a long time contributor.  He’s written an excessively important volume titled The Emergence of Israel in Ancient Palestine, and he’s one of those rare all around good guys you scarcely meet anymore.

Again, congratulations!

Fat Eglon

James Aitken uploaded as essay today you’ll enjoy: Fat Eglon, in G. Khan & D. Lipton (eds), Studies on the Text and Versions of the Hebrew Bible in honour of Robert Gordon (VTS 149; Leiden: Brill, 2012), 141-54.

I confess to being unusually interested in this particular story from Judges. It’s just fascinating and the twists and turns drive knifelike into the gut of curiosity. Plus, the telling in Hebrew is funny as all get out!

Many thanks to Jim for uploading it.