Monday, December 31, 2007

It's New Year's Eve

Here's wishing everyone very best wishes as 2007 comes to an end...

Photo from MSNBC/ Torsten Blackwood / AFP - Getty Images

Friday, December 28, 2007

New Book by our Dean and President, Ian Markham

I'm excited to help spread the word about a new book from our dean on Systematic Theology. I'm sure the faculty will be reading it for our faculty book club. Meanwhile, I'm told it is very accessible, even student-friendly!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Warmest Wishes this Christmas Season!

Here is a Christmas family photo of us with my mom and dad, their three children, grandchildren, and inlaws. It was taken at my sister Lisa's home in Maryland. Catherine, Rebecca, and I are in the upper left:

Cook Family, 2007

And here is our own little family, just the three of us:

Christmas 2007 Photo

Monday, December 24, 2007

Some Flikr Photos for Christmas Eve 2007

New World Record: World's Smallest Bible

To see the complete article from MSNBC, click here. It was created using a particle beam of gallium ions and took about an hour to etch.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Wreath of God (humor)

cartoon emailed in by Chuck Hatfield.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Dr. Lawrence Edmund Toombs, 1919-2007

I got to know Larry Toombs in Israel one hot summer in 1983, on summer-long archaeological dig at Tell el-Hesi. He was a fine, wise, joyful person. The rose-pudding event stands out in my mind, where scores of us passed Larry our rose-pudding desserts, which he alone at the dig seemed to be able to eat and enjoy. To me, he stands out among archaeologists because he was also interested in theology and preaching. In fact, Brevard Childs used to assign an article of his on preaching from the Hebrew Bible.

Below, via ASOR and Dr. Jeff Blakely, is the the obituary that appeared in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record. Carol and the family can be contacted at: Carol Toombs, 121 University Ave. E. #35, Waterloo, ON N2J 4J1 Canada.

Rev. Dr. Lawrence Edmund Toombs, of Waterloo, Ontario, passed away on Friday, December 14, 2007 at the Freeport Health Centre in Kitchener, Ontario. He was 88 years old.

Larry was born on April 1, 1919 in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and though he left it as a young man, "The Island" always held a strong place in his heart. He attended Prince of Wales College in Charlottetown. After graduating with a BA and BSc from Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, he entered graduate studies in Chemistry at the University of Toronto. In 1943 he returned to Charlottetown and served as a meteorologist attached to the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. He received a BD from Pine Hill Divinity Hall in Halifax in 1948 prior to his ordination by the Maritime Conference of the United Church of Canada. He then earned a PhD in Old Testament studies at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. He remained at Drew, joining the faculty of the Theological School and eventually becoming Professor of Old Testament studies. As an ordained minister, he fulfilled pastoral duties at Madison Methodist Church among others.

He returned to his native Canada in 1968 to teach at Union College in Vancouver, before joining the faculty of Religion and Culture at Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) in Waterloo, Ontario in 1969. He was named Professor Emeritus upon his retirement from WLU in 1984.

While at Drew, Larry nurtured an interest in archaeology, which was to become the great passion of his career. After studying the discipline at the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) in Jerusalem and the Institute of Archaeology in London, he practiced and taught archaeology with distinction for 40 years. He participated in Near Eastern excavations at Jericho, Shechem, Tell el-Hesi and Caesarea Maritima, where his colleagues and students knew him as the "master stratigrapher", or "El Hakam" ("the wise one"). The ASOR awarded Larry the P. E. MacAllister Field Archaeology Award in 1998 in recognition of his career as a teacher and his contributions to the field of Palestinian archaeology.

A remarkable teacher, possessed of wisdom, patience and the ability to instruct and entertain at the same time, Larry influenced generations of students in theology, archaeology and Biblical studies. He was awarded the WLU Outstanding Teacher Award of 1980. WLU has established a Bursary in Honours Archaeology and the Larry Toombs Award in his name.

He was predeceased by his parents Edmund and Elizabeth, seven elder brothers and sisters, and stepson John Hicks.

He is survived by his wife of 33 years, Frances Carolyn (nee Wilson), and former wife Carol Ellison (nee West) of Mississauga, mother of his daughter Millicent, his son Edmund and Edmund's wife Alicia. He was a loving stepfather to Angela and her husband Barry Josslin, Christy and her husband Corby Nicol, John's wife Pamela, and Kellie and her husband Terry Bauman. Several grandchildren fondly remember "Tschomis", as do many great-grandchildren.

At Larry's request there will be no visitation or funeral service. Cremation has taken place and a private family memorial service will be held at a later date. As`an expression of sympathy, donations to the Canadian Cancer Society or St. Mary's General Hospital Foundation would be appreciated by the family. Cards are available at the Henry Walser Funeral Home (519-749-8467), to which arrangements have been entrusted.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

"Music of the Bible Revealed"

From Suzanne Haik-Vantoura, LA MUSIQUE DE LA BIBLE REVELEE. Numbers 6:22-27, the "Priestly Blessing. " "Cover" rendition and reprise (with solo, chorus and accompaniment with lyres and harps) by the San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble (SAVAE).

One of the highlights of the recent SBL meetings in San Diego for me was a small-group session discussing with J. Clinton McCann Jr. some of his forthcoming work on the psalms. In that work he very, very briefly mentions the work of Suzanne Haik Vantoura, who claims to have deciphered the accent marks of the Hebrew text, reconstructing them as ancient musical annotations giving us access to the original melodies of biblical poetry.

What do you all think of this slideshow based on Vantoura's work? (She died Oct. 22, 2000; to read a bit about her, click here.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

2007 Episcopal On-Line Advent Calendar

Click to Go to On-Line Advent Calendar

The Episcopal Diocese of Washington is again offering their on-line advent calendar: click here. It features daily meditations, podcasts, giving opportunities, and pieces from the creche exhibit at Washington National Cathedral.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I Wish the Christmas Pagent at Our Church had this much Groove!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tomb of Omri Discovered?

Entrance to Tomb of Omri?

Norma Franklin made an interesting discovery going over the excavation reports on a Samaria dig in the basement of the Harvard Semitic Museum. She describes it in a recent article, "Lost Tombs of the Israelite Kings," BAR 33/4 (July/August 2007), pp. 26-35. She noticed some tombs below the Omri palace among the cisterns of the pre-palace stratum. Above is one of her photos she took upon a subsequent trip to the site, showing an entrance to a tunnel leading back 18 feet to the Tomb A chamber, 16' x 19', built at the same time as the palace. Is this King Omri's tomb? It has been looted, so there is no actual remains of Omri and his grave goods there. Check out the article if you have the chance.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Climate Change Cartoon

From Dave Walker's Cartoons (click here):

Support This Site: Send a Holiday Gift Certificate!

Friday, December 14, 2007

New Bible Brief: Daniel by Stephen Cook

Our VTS Bible Brief site is growing: We've just added my new Bible Brief on the book of Daniel. To check it out, click here (or download the PDF directly by right-clicking here).

Enjoy! Comments Welcome, of course.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Now in Print: My Review of Sweeny on Prophetic and Apocalyptic Literature

Now In Print
Just received in the mail, hot off the press, my copy of the latest issue of the Hebrew Studies journal. It contains my review of Marvin Sweeney's fine collection of essays on the prophetic and apocalyptic literature: Review of Form and Intertextuality in Prophetic and Apocalyptic Literature, by Marvin A. Sweeney, Hebrew Studies 48 (2007) 370–373.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

On US Seminaries and the Biblical Languages

Recently my Inbox was filled with a series of posts by NAPHNet members discussing schools that offer Hebrew for only one semester, and what might be possible under such a constraint. Most of the participants in the discussion realized that real ancient language learning was impossible in only a single semester. As part of the discussion, John Hobbins referenced some posts he has done on his blog, "Ancient Hebrew Poetry." One of his posts in particular is of interest, entitled "What's Wrong With Seminaries?" (click here). Take a look if you get a chance. Here are some brief excerpts:

"Overwhelmed by many other claims on time and mind, students end up with a merely cursory and superficial preparation in the literature that is supposed to be compass, mirror, and anchor of the ministry they will carry out. "

"I went to seminary in Italy and Germany, so my experience tells me there is another way: exams before graduation include a grecone and a ebraicone. That is, you have to walk into a room filled with your professors and translate and comment on a passage on sight from anywhere within a subset of the NT (about half) and a subset of the OT (about 60 chapters, if I remember correctly)."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

An Exegesis of Desire

Poetry by Kim Becker

Former VTS seminarian Kimberly L. Becker has published a new poem, entitled, "An Exegesis of Desire." To access it, click here. The inspiration of Genesis 22, the Near Sacrifice of Isaac, is clear. Comments welcome. Thanks so much Kim, for sharing this with us!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Two New Bible Briefs

Over the weekend, we added two additional Bible Briefs to our new project: "The Gospel of John," by Bishop Frederick H. Borsch, and "The Book of Micah," by Prof. Stephen L. Cook. Click here to go to the download site. Enjoy!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Bible Briefs

Bible Briefs

I'm excited to announce a new venture launched by the seminary in cooperation with Forward Movement Publications. We are going to begin making available a series of short booklets, or "briefs," introducing each book of the Scriptures. We're still at the beginning stages, and many booklets remain to be written, but to see how we have started, click here!

Here is Dean Markham's announcement made in his dean's commentary post this morning:

Virginia Theological Seminary is a school that loves the Bible. We are committed to the serious study of the Bible, which includes the learning of the Biblical languages. We recognize the centrality of the Bible as an authority in the life of the Church. Given all this, our gift to our alumni and friends (indeed the entire VTS community) is an opportunity to study the Bible. You will find this morning on our website ‘Bible Briefs’. The goal is to provide a short introduction to the different books in the Bible – an introduction you can download, print out and use for individual or group study. Perhaps as the Lectionary turns to a new book of the Bible, you might print out the relevant pamphlet and read that prior to attending a service; perhaps in your own Bible study, you might read an appropriate pamphlet to prepare you for a particular book of the Bible. VTS is deeply committed to biblical literacy. This is a small contribution to increasing that literacy.As we enjoy this Advent season and prepare for the moment when we celebrate the birth of the Eternal Word among us, so we recognize that we learn of the Eternal Word through the pages of Scriptures. Here is a tool that helps us all understand the text of Scripture. The Very Rev Ian Markham, Dean and President

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Religion Compass, Vol. 1, Issue 6

Religion Compass
About a month and a half ago, I mentioned that my article, "Funerary Practices and Afterlife Expectations in Ancient Israel" had been published on-line in Religion Compass (Blackwell Synergy). I noted that you could access the article at Religion Compass by clicking here. I also mentioned that when the November "issue" of the journal came online with a table of contents that I would post the link, so, true to my word, here it is: simply click here to access Religion Compass, November 2007, Vol. 1, Issue 6, Pages 587-800. Thanks!

Here, again, is the article's official abstract:

Ancient Israel was thoroughly familiar with existence beyond death. Individual personalities survived the death of the body, most Israelites believed, albeit in a considerably weakened and vulnerable state. The ensnaring tentacles of Sheol constantly threatened the living-dead, but the fortunate among them were able to use the power of kinship bonds to keep Sheol’s threats at bay. The traditional ties of lineage and kin-bonding, according to biblical Yahwism, were an actual way for the living-dead to pull themselves back from death’s devouring suction. Ancient Israel’s funerary practices and afterlife expectations are greatly illumined by recent archaeological studies and by a new comparative model that draws on data gleaned from African ethnography.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Encore Post: Without Hanukkah, No Christianity!

Happy Hanukkah, Everybody! Here is a "best-of-blog" post from this month last year:

In 2006, Newsweek online had a great Hanukkah meditation by Rabbi Marc Gellman, celebrating the Maccabees without apology.

One thing I liked about the piece is Gellman's stress that without the Maccabees, Christianity would never have happened. That's right: We Christians owe this little Jewish family of antiquity a very great deal. Without the Maccabees we would have no Hebrew Bible / Old Testament, and without the Old Testament, there could be no Christianity. In this image, they are first meeting as a family to commit to resisting Antiochus and the Selucids:

Here is a short excerpt from Gellman's piece:

Now imagine if this one man, Mattathias, and his one family, the Macabees, had just gone out and bought togas and said to hell with Judaism. Imagine. If he had done nothing to save Judaism. Then, 167 years later, the baby born in the manger might not have been Jewish. He might not have come to fulfill any biblical prophecies because nobody would have remembered the Hebrew Bible or the prophets or the line of King David. Jesus would have had to fulfill the prophecies of Plato—and Plato had no prophecies. No Judaism would have meant no Christianity.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Several of My Recent Students Offer An Advent 2007 Podcast Series


VTS Press Release:

Alexandria, VA – Several Alumni of the Virginia Theological Seminary have launched Devo-to-Go for Advent, a collection of podcasts written and presented by clergy and lay people from throughout the country for the season preceding Christmas.

Contributors to this collection of digital meditations include co-creators the Rev. Lonnie Lacy (VTS ’06) and the Rev. Casey Shobe (‘06), the Rev. J. James Derkits (’06), the Rev. Susan Fawcett (’06), the Rev. Allison Liles (’06), the Rev. Eric Liles (’07), the Rev. Ryan Kuratko (’06), the Rev. Lauren Kuratko (’05), the Rev. Allen Pruitt (’07), and the Rev. Melody Shobe (’06). Devo-to-Go is available at

Devo-to-Go, a co-production of Cathedral Young Adults at Christ Church Cathedral in Houston, Texas and Episcopal Campus Ministry at Georgia Southern University, is a series of digital meditations meant to help Christians move along their own spiritual journey toward the Light, to help people listen for how God might be speaking to them today.

“With the emergence of new technologies like iPods and other portable media players,” said the Rev. Lonnie Lacy (’06), assistant rector of Trinity Church in Statesboro, Georgia, “people are now more connected to the digital world than ever before. At the same time, they're increasingly isolated from God and one another. Devo-to-Go is our attempt to bridge the gap - to stage a meeting between the advent of personalized media and the Advent of the Christ who comes to make us one.”

Launched last Advent with great success, Devo-to-Go was followed by a Lenten series that gained a surprisingly large international following. Continued Lacy, “We think that such committed listenership points to a basic hunger on the part of many people for daily connection with God that is thoughtful, accessible, and relevant to their everyday lives.”

On January 23, 2008, Lacy and the Rev. Matthew Moretz will be leading a three-day continuing education conference at Virginia Seminary entitled Small Churches on the Web: Effective Evangelism in the Age of the Internet. The course will introduce participants to some basic principles of web page design, and to the many web technologies that are accessible to congregations, even those with limited resources. For more information about this course or to register, visit

Virginia Theological Seminary is the largest of the 11 accredited seminaries of the Episcopal Church and was founded in 1823. Committed to a theology which is orthodox and open, Virginia Seminary prepares men and women for service in the Church worldwide, both as ordained and lay ministers, and offers a number of professional degree programs and diplomas. The Seminary currently represents more than 40 different dioceses and 9 different countries.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Grimmy Cartoon Sent In By Chuck H.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Biblical Calligraphy: The Psalms

Debra Band is coming to VTS this Wednesday for a presentation at the Forum Hour on her new book on the Psalms and on the project of biblical calligraphy in general. This will be of special interest to all Hebrew students and former Hebrew students, all OT/HB folks, and art-interested people in general. Be There (The Small Dining Room)!
Debra Band’s work in Hebrew illuminated manuscripts draws upon her love of both the manuscript arts and of Jewish tradition and learning. She holds a BA Honours in History from Concordia University in Montreal and an MS in Political Science from MIT, and turned full attention to Hebrew manuscript arts in 1987. She studied Hebrew calligraphy with Gwenyth Welch in Berkeley, and is otherwise self-taught in the manuscript arts. Descended from an eminent rabbinic family, married into a family of scholars of modern Hebrew literature, her extensive studies of Jewish texts and research into medieval European and middle Eastern painting and manuscripts inform her work. Her illuminated manuscript, The Song of Songs: the Honeybee in the Garden was published by the Jewish Publication Society in 2005, and the original artwork has toured museums and galleries across the United States, The recently completed I Will Wake the Dawn: Illuminated Psalms, was published by the Jewish Publication Society in September 2007; the 82 original paintings will be displayed at the Dadian Gallery at the Wesley Theological Seminary in DC from late January through early March 2008. Presently engaged in illuminations of the pilgrimage poems of Judah Halevi (collaborating with Raymond S. Scheindlin of the Jewish Theological Seminary), she plans several other projects illuminating biblical text and other Jewish poetry. Extensive information about her work is available at Debra has lived throughout the United States and Canada, and after many years in California and New Mexico, presently resides in the Washington, DC area along with her husband and sons.