Tag Archives: Old Testament

Luther Confesses His Ignorance of Hebrew: January, 1522

Luther Bible, 1534

In a letter to Nicolas von Amsdorf Luther writes

… I shall translate the Bible, although I have here shouldered a burden beyond my power. Now I realize what it means to translate, and why no one has previously undertaken it who would disclose his name.

Of course I will not be able to touch the Old Testament all by myself and without the co-operation of all of you.

Therefore if it could somehow be arranged that I could have a secret room with any one of you, I would soon come and with your help would translate the whole book from the beginning, so that it would be a worthy translation for Christians to read. For I hope we will give a better translation to our Germany than the Latins have.

It is a great and worthy undertaking on which we all should work, since it is a public matter and should be dedicated to the common good.*

Worth noting is the fact that when Zwingli and the Zurichers translated the Bible, Zwingli was chiefly in charge of the Hebrew Bible.  The entire Zurich Bible appeared in 1531.  Luther’s, in 1534.   Poor Luther, he couldn’t read Jeremiah (or the rest) without help… like a little child led by the hand.

*Luther’s Works, vol. 48: Letters I, p. 363.

On Gerhard von Rad’s Birth Anniversary

Those who are wise learn from their forebears- even if what they learn is to leave them to the side.  Von Rad, however, can never be left aside.  He stands – even now – as the greatest Everest to grace the theological landscape.  And today is the anniversary of his birth.

Gerhard von Rad was a prominent German Old Testament scholar whose work brought back focus to the Old Testament. He was educated at the University of Erlangen and at the University of Tübingen and later received honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Lund, Wales, Leipzig and Glasgow. He also taught at the University of Jena, University of Gottingen, Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg. The Encyclopedia of World Biography notes him as having “developed the ‘tradition history’ approach to the Old Testament that has dominated the study of the Bible for the last 40 years.” His dissertation was on “Das Gottesvolk im Deuteronomium” (The People of God in Deuteronomy).

“The historical events of his lifetime, including the two World Wars, left their mark on him, and it was not least his detestation for the nazis’s treatment of the Jews, which called his interest for OT forth, and he became a member of the academic world in stead of the clergy. Two fields of research are in a special way connected to his name. He was one of the founders of the traditio-historical method. Being one of A. Alt’s doctoral students, history and the development of traditions always played an important part in his research. The historical credo (Deut 26) and its importance for the making of the Hexateuch has made a great impact on the scholarly world. The other field is OT theology, in which he stressed the theology in the transmission of the biblical traditions, in Vol. I the historical tradition and in Vol II the prophetic tradition. His way of doing Theologie was quite different from the traditional German Old Testament Theology.”

“Von Rad’s views were highly controversial, evoking considerable heat. Many of his theories have not stood the test of time, but it would be difficult to find another person who has contributed so much to the understanding of the Old Testament. It may be that in truth he wrote a history of Israelite religion rather than an Old Testament theology, but he insisted that the Hebrew Bible be understood in the context of the religious life of ancient Israel. That is surely a correct insight.”

Lest we forget…

Happy 74th Birthday, John Barton!

Professor Barton is of course quite well known to students of the Old Testament.  He’s a delightful man and a generous soul who is brilliant and insightful.  I first met him in 2008 at the University of Chester when I joined SOTS.  Here are some photos of John there along with a page from the President’s Bible (SOTS Presidents sign a copy of the Hebrew Bible when they assume the office and have done for a very long time).

I want to wish John a very, very happy birthday in this quite public way.  He deserves the acclaim.

Jan Joosten on the Septuagint

Jan has uploaded a paper titled Septuagint and Samareitikon.

It’s 16 pages of intelligent discourse which commences:

s200_jan.joostenIt is generally held that the Septuagint translators were Jews. Indeed, how could it be otherwise? Who else, in the early Hellenistic period, had the linguistic and exegetical knowledge necessary to translate the old Hebrew Scriptures into Greek? It must be so. And yet, the religious identity of the translators merits renewed scrutiny. They were Jews, but what kind of Jews? Judaism of the Second Temple period was notoriously diverse, accommodating many different tendencies and theologies. Egyptian Judaism differed in many respects from Judaism in the Metropolis. On this too there is wide agreement.

So here is a question that has rarely been asked in recent times: which Metropolis?3 When the original Septuagint, the Pentateuch, was translated into Greek, during the first half of the third century BCE, the schism between “Jews” and “Samaritans” was probably still waiting to happen.4 This raises the possibility that among the group who produced the Septuagint there were “Jews” who looked to Mount Gerizim—and perhaps paid their Temple tax there—rather than Jerusalem as their spiritual center. As I will argue, this possibility needs to be taken seriously. I will approach this question in a roundabout way, taking my point of departure in a rather obscure corner of textual history and criticism.

Great stuff, immensely thought provoking which students of the subject should ponder seriously.

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.

‘The Bible’ Miniseries is More Miniseries Than Bible

So suggests Paul Harvey in a pointed essay which notes, among other things,

When last we checked in on The Bible, I had noted that the series was, to me, off-key, not quite appropriate for any of the possible audiences, save for one: those who appreciate cheesy shows on television. The critics have mostly panned the show; biblical scholars have picked apart its inability to capture the complexity and strangeness of the biblical stories and its hopeless whitening of the biblical world; and conservative viewers (on the show’s Facebook page, among other places) have complained about liberties taken with the text.

But there must be a lot of cheeseheads, because the show continues to bring in very strong ratings. The second episode was down, somewhat, from the first (from over 14 million viewers for the first to over ten million for the second), but it still led the ratings for that evening and was the 11th rated show for the week. (I should add here that the series Hatfields and McCoys actually did much better, for what that’s worth).

Cheeseheads… now that’s fun. Here’s more-

… in thinking through the Old Testament section, the parallels between The Bible and The Lord of the Rings grew unmistakably clear. Here, David is Frodo, a sprightly lad who bests Ent-like opposition with his sling; and Daniel, another Hobbit-ish young man who invokes faith in order to continue the quest. Various white-haired prophets serve as Gandalf, and the countless stormtroopers on the side of the enemies of our heroes, with their carts and battering rams constantly battering at the imperiled gates of our heroes. The portentuous music, rapid-cut pacing, and nearly nonstop action sequences also resemble the parallel epic tale as told in the recent movie. So does the exclusion of women, who in this miniseries are mostly there as villains (Hagar, Bathsheba, and of course the infamous Delilah) or as virginal princesses awaiting their turn to be given to the hero. At least Lord of the Rings had some female heroes. The Bible does, of course, but The Bible, miniseries, does not.

Read the whole. And if you REALLY want to know what the Bible is about, read it. Forget the miniseries, because it’s just misleading you.  Read it, and don’t bother with a reality tv show producer’s take on it.


9783290178062Konrad Schmid has a volume coming out in April which will- doubtless- be of interest to many: Gibt es Theologie im Alten Testament? Zum Theologiebegriff in der alttestamentlichen Wissenschaft.

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.

9783290174286And also coming – but in June – is this – Einleitung in das Alte Testament: Die Bücher der Hebräischen Bibel und die alttestamentlichen Schriften der katholischen, protestantischen und orthodoxen Kirchen, hg. von Jean-Daniel Macchi, Thomas Römer, Christophe Nihan.

Diese Einleitung bespricht neben Aufbau und Inhalt der Bücher des Alten Testaments auch ihre zentralen Themen, den geschichtlichen Hintergrund und die Verfasserfrage. Besonders behandelt werden zudem die Forschungsgeschichte und die aktuelle Diskussion um den Pentateuch und das sogenannte deuteronomistische Geschichtswerk. Neu hinzugekommen in der 2. Auflage des französischen Originals sind ein ausführlicher Abriss über die Geschichte Israels und Judas sowie das Kapitel «Das Alte Testament der Ostkirchen». Die Beiträge stammen von ausgewiesenen Spezialisten des Alten Testaments: Philippe Abadie, Olivier Artus, Alain Bühlmann, Simon Butticaz, Philippe Guillaume, David Hamidovic, Innocent Himbaza, Ernst Axel Knauf, Michael Langlois, Corinne Lanoir, Thierry Legrand, Jean-Daniel Macchi, Christophe Nihan, Dany Nocquet, Albert de Pury, Thomas Römer, Martin Rose, Adrian Schenker, Konrad Schmid, Arnaud Sérandour, Christoph Uehlinger, Jacques Vermeylen.

Your Early Morning Septuagint

gottingen-septuagintJeremiah 1:5 Πρὸ τοῦ με πλάσαι σε ἐν κοιλίᾳ ἐπίσταμαί σε καὶ πρὸ τοῦ σε ἐξελθεῖν ἐκ μήτρας ἡγίακά σε, προφήτην εἰς ἔθνη τέθεικά σε. 6 καὶ εἶπα Ὁ Ὢν δέσποτα κύριε, ἰδοὺ οὐκ ἐπίσταμαι λαλεῖν, ὅτι νεώτερος ἐγώ εἰμι. 7 καὶ εἶπε κύριος πρός με Μὴ λέγε ὅτι Νεώτερος ἐγώ εἰμι, ὅτι πρὸς πάντας, οὓς ἐὰν ἐξαποστείλω σε, πορεύσῃ, καὶ κατὰ πάντα, ὅσα ἐὰν ἐντείλωμαί σοι λαλήσεις· 8 μὴ φοβηθῇς ἀπὸ προσώπου αὐτῶν, ὅτι μετὰ σοῦ ἐγώ εἰμι τοῦ ἐξαιρεῖσθαί σε, λέγει κύριος.*

*Ziegler, J. (2006). Vol. XV: Jeremias, Baruch, Threni, Epistula Jeremiae. Vetus Testamentum Graecum. Auctoritate Academiae Scientiarum Gottingensis editum. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King

9780825421099This volume arrived for review courtesy the nice folk at Kregel.  Here’s the publisher’s blurb-

Few books have sought to exhaustively trace the theme of Messiah through all of Scripture, but this book does so with the expert analysis of three leading evangelical scholars. For the Bible student and pastor, Jesus the Messiah presents a comprehensive picture of both scriptural and cultural expectations surrounding the Messiah, from an examination of the Old Testament promises to their unique and perfect fulfillment in Jesus’ life.

My review appears here.

I Picked This Up In Cambridge, And It’s An Absolute Gem

Among the books I picked up to review for the SOTS annual booklist is this one, which I’ve since had a chance to make my way through:


It’s just what’s needed in Old Testament studies: an examination of the theologies of the OT, and not some artificial ‘Theology’ which harmonizes and flattens everything so as to drown out the texts individual voices.  It’s a gem.  Its author is to be applauded for both his analysis and his style.

International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament: Munich, 2013

From the IOSOT homepage

iosot-logo_xlAs president of the International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament (IOSOT), I am very pleased to invite you to the 21st congress of our organization, which will take place at Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich, 4-9 August 2013.

With lots of information there.  Check into it.

The Book of Judges: The New International Commentary on the Old Testament

judgesToday this new, very new, fresh off the presses volume in the NICOT series came in the mail for review thanks to the good folk at Eerdmans.

Webb concentrates throughout on what the biblical text itself throws into prominence, giving space to background issues only when they cast significant light on the foreground. For those who want more, the footnotes and bibliography provide helpful guidance. The end result is a welcome resource for interpreting one of the most challenging books in the Old Testament.

Challenging indeed.  I can’t wait to see what his does with the story of the Levite who hacks his consort into pieces and sends her to the tribes of Israel.

Read Judges and Misogyny, a blog post by Webb about the book.

My review will be posted here.

On The Anniversary of Otto Kaiser’s Birth

https://zwingliusredivivus.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/otto_kaiser.jpg?w=116&h=150The Old Testament scholar Otto Kaiser was born on November 30th, 1924.   A Bultmannian, Kaiser’s many volumes are articulate and insightful.  His most important work, in my estimation, is Der Gott des Alten Testaments. Theologie des Alten Testaments in 3 vols.

He’s a fine exegete and his commentaries are some of the best.

He was celebrated on his 80th birthday in 2004, and rightly so.

I Confess- That’s A Really Interesting Question

Seldom are the times, you’ll know, that I make reference to an essay in BAR- but this one asks a question that I confess has always been of interest to me: Where were the Old Testament Kings buried?

Doesn’t it strike anyone else as odd that we don’t have any ‘king’s tombs’? Why is that?

Archaeologist Jeff Zorn believes these two quarried-out tunnels in the City of David may have once held the remains of the earliest Old Testament kings of ancient Jerusalem.

Nearly a century ago, French archaeologist Raymond Weill excavated what he identified to be tombs in Jerusalem’s City of David—perhaps the royal necropolis of the earliest Old Testament kings. Some scholars have since disputed this claim, but a new examination of the evidence by archaeologist Jeff Zorn suggests that Weill might well have been right.

Although King David’s tomb has been erroneously identified with a location on Jerusalem’s Mt. Zion since the days of the Jewish historian Josephus (first century C.E.), earlier Biblical references make it clear that David and many other Old Testament kings were buried near the southern end of the City of David in ancient Jerusalem. But where exactly? Jeff Zorn believes we may already know.

He may be right.  Who knows.  I’d sure like to.  Especially since we know where lots of Egypt’s monarchs were buried.  Why – then – no Judean or Israelite ones?  It’s a strange mystery to me.  Seriously strange.

Another Request for Logos Help

I hope this is something that has a simple solution.  Let’s say that I’m reading Exodus and I want the Hebrew text to be synchronized as I scroll through it with the Latin text and the LXX.  Is that possible?  Or must I, as I now do, manually scroll through each window?

Further- I presume that if I can do this for the Old Testament I can also do it with the new, aligning the GNT with the Vulgate and some or other English version or German or whatever.  Right?

The Hebrew Prophets and Their Social World, 2nd ed.

Baker have just published the second edition of a very useful volume which many of us have used with great benefit in the past.
1. Historical Geography
2. Defining and Describing the Prophet
3. Premonarchic Prophetic Activity
4. Early Monarchic Prophets
5. Elijah and Elisha
6. Major and Minor Prophets
7. The Book of Amos
8. The Book of Hosea
9. The Book of Isaiah
10. The Book of Micah
11. Prophetic Voices of the Late Seventh Century
12. The Book of Jeremiah
13. The Book of Ezekiel
14. Postexilic Prophecy
15. The Hellenistic Period and the Book of Daniel
16. Final Thoughts
I’ve got an e-copy of the text (courtesy the good folk at Baker) and once I’ve made my way through it I’ll post my scintillating review here.

Beale’s Behemoth: The Impending Review

I”ve been working on the review of G.K. Beale’s marvelous ‘A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New‘ for the nice folk at Baker Academic.  it’s coming along nicely but it’s an extremely large, extremely dense (in the sense of being fully packed on every page with intensely demanding material) so it’s taking a bit of time (as one would imagine it should).

I hope to have it done in the next couple of weeks.  Stay tuned.  Till then, feel free to take a look at these earlier posts concerning Prof. Beale.

Paolo Merlo’s Book- La religione dell’antico Israele

Thanks to Paolo for mentioning that his book (published in 2009) is available for download in PDF, in its entirety, here.

The opening two paragraphs will whet your appetite-

La stesura di un libro sull’antica religione di Israele e Giuda si imbatteimmediatamente in alcune difficoltà riguardanti soprattutto la precisadefinizione dell’oggetto di studio e la valutazione delle fonti che si in-tendono impiegare durante l’elaborazione del volume.

Tali difficoltà derivano essenzialmente dalla secolare consuetudinedi voler far coincidere la religione di Israele con la religione biblica, at-tribuendo ai racconti biblici un preciso valore di testimonianza in me-rito al vissuto religioso degli antichi Ebrei. Oggigiorno però le cose so-no cambiate, sia perché molto diversa è divenuta la comprensione sto-rica dei racconti biblici, sia perché si è compreso che lo studio dell’an-tica religione di Israele e Giuda non può limitarsi alle credenze religio-se, ma deve necessariamente cercare di ricostruire il fenomeno storico-religioso di Israele e di Giuda in tutto il suo complesso vissuto religio-so. In questa prospettiva storico-religiosa, la Bibbia diviene solamenteuna delle fonti a nostra disposizione da porre necessariamente in dialo-go con molte altre.

Students of the Old Testament and ancient Israel will surely want to avail themselves of this resource.

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:

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

Job Opening: Old Testament

From Viv Rowett, the exceptionally gifted SOTS MEMSEC-

Old Testament Studies
Position Announcement

Regent University’s School of Divinity invites applications and nominations for a tenure-track faculty appointment at the rank of assistant or associate professor. The appointment involves responsibility for teaching and research in some aspect of Old Testament studies (preferably Pentateuch). Interest in and aptitude for teaching biblical languages and hermeneutics are also desirable. Most of the instructional responsibilities will be at the MA and MDiv levels, with opportunities to teach at the PhD level.  A PhD and an aptitude to become proficient in multiple forms of instructional delivery are required. University or seminary level teaching experience in a relevant field is desirable. In addition to teaching and professional research, the position entails advising students and participating in committee work. The successful candidate must also demonstrate an understanding of and respect for the Renewal (Charismatic) perspective in Christianity. Ministerial credentials are preferred.

Applicants should send a letter of interest, transcripts, curriculum vita, and a brief statement on their Christian experience and philosophy of education in relation to ministry. In addition, letters of support from three referees should be sent to the postal address. NOTE: Letters of support should come directly from the referees, not from the applicant. 

Old Testament Search Committee
c/o Sara Frazier
Office of the Dean
School of Divinity
Regent University
1000 Regent University Drive
Virginia Beach, VA 23464