Thursday, February 28, 2008

Please Nominate Postings: Biblical Studies Carnival 27

Blog Carnival 27
The upcoming Carnival of Bible Blogs will be hosted shortly on Blue Cord, Dr. Kevin Wilson's blog. Please given Kevin any and all nominations, by clicking here.

Any posts on the study of the Bible caught your eye in the blogosphere this month? Let Kevin know what looks good, so he can include it in the carnival. Please spread the word! Thanks! ---SLC

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Samaritans' Pronunciation of Genesis 1:1

My Introductory Hebrew class was reading Genesis 1 today, and we wrestled with the old, fun problem of whether the story begins with "in the beginning" or "when God began to..." or (most likely) "in the beginning, when..." The BHS textual apparatus makes an interesting reference to appendix II of Paul Kahle's 1959 book on text and translation, The Cairo Geniza. This appendix gives a transliteration recorded at Nablus in 1917 by Hellmut Ritter and Arthur Schaade of how the Samaritan community was pronouncing chuncks of Genesis and Exodus. BHS understands their pronounciation of the first word of Gen 1:1 to lend support to reading "In the beginning." Below is a scan of part of p. 318 (click to enlarge). You can see that overall there are quite a few differences between Samaritan pronunciation and both standard Jewish and scientific/academic pronounciation of biblical Hebrew:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My New Publication

I was pleased to see available on Amazon as a pre-order the volume of New Proclamation with my section on all the lectionary texts for this coming Epiphany Season, 2009. The volume is due out this June 1st. Please check out the new volume (click here), or better yet, pre-order it (only $16.50).

Here is the front cover of the book, including the names of the four authors (click the image to go to the Amazon Information):

Click Me!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Grading (humor)

I'm grading madly to meet a deadline Tuesday for Jan-term grades to be turned in to the VTS registrar. Thus, I thought this grading cartoon from might be appropriate:


Friday, February 15, 2008

Register Now!

Here is a copy of the email I just sent out to the MAR region of the SBL:

Dear Colleagues,
Please visit our regional SBL WebSite where conference program-information and on-line registration are now posted. We sure hope that you will join us for our meetings near the end of March! Check back at the site from time to time for updates, such as exact room locations for each of the sessions. We shall be adding finishing touches to our schedule in coming days.
See you in New Brunswick!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

2008 Ancient Near Eastern Valentine Contest Winners

The above creative pesudo-Egyptian love poem comes from the minds of Sophie Harvey and Olivier Holmey, undergrads in Egyptology at Oxford. They took first place in Eisenbrauns' Valentine's Day contest. Here a few lines from the poem:

I taste your lips and they are like a soft breeze.

I smell your perfume.

You are a goddess to me.

I was blind but with you I see.

I will take away your clothes

Because we wish to make love.

Be sure to read the rest of the poem, and view the other entries, at the Eisenbrauns site (click here).

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

MAR-SBL 2008 Update: Conference Schedule with Time Blocks

We now have placed the MAR-SBL sessions into time blocks. To check out the updated schedule (a PDF file), click here. You can also access the schedule through our regional website at

We should be assigning sessions to rooms in the very near future. Stay tuned..

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Reader's Hebrew Bible (RHB)

I've received word via email from Prof. Philip Brown that Zondervan will be releasing A Reader’s Hebrew Bible in May 2008. Here is a sample half-page from Amos 1 (click to enlarge):

To see much more of a preview (i.e., the introduction, as well as sections of Genesis, Amos, and Ezra), download the sample PDF file by clicking here.

The basic idea of the volume is to allow students to read Hebrew Bible regularly by footnoting the English meanings of the less common words. The specific features of the volume are as follows:

· Text: Westminster’s electronic edition of the Leningrad Codex (4.4) with full cantillation and vowel pointing.

· Footnotes: All Hebrew lemmas (excluding proper nouns, which appear to be indicated via a different color font) occurring less than 100x are footnoted. Aramaic: 25x or less.

· Glosses: Glosses are the context-specific glosses offered by HALOT and BDB, supplemented at times by Holladay, Clines’ Dictionary of Classical Hebrew, vols. 1-5, or other sources.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Torah: A Women's Commentary

My teaching assistant and friend, Elizabeth (aka Robin) has given me the gift of Tamara C. Eskenazi and Andrea L. Weiss, eds., The Torah: A Women's Commentary (New York: URJ Press and Women of Reform Judaism, 2008). Thank You Elizabeth!

A project of the Women of Reform Judaism, this commentary has been 15 years in the making. Elizabeth has been waiting a long time for its appearance! She describes it not so much as a "feminist" commentary but as a commentary filled with fresh and distinctive ideas and scholarship of women. The work includes close interpretation and contemporary reflections on the text. In the "central commentary" pages for each Torah portion, we get the Hebrew text in the upper right of the page and English translation in the upper left. The lower half of a typical page contains introductions and running commentary on the plain sense organized by verses. The translation (with some modifications) is from the URJ volume edited by W. Gunther Plaut, The Torah: A Modern Commentary. There are five elements for each Torah portion: Beyond the "Central Commentary" there is a short essay called "Another View"; a section discussing classic rabbinic teachings called "Post-biblical Interpretations"; a section "Contemporary Reflection" that deals with application; and a section of poetry and other creative responses termed "Voices." Elizabeth is particular excited about the inclusion of the "Voices" section among the others.

I look forward to using this book in my teaching and research. If any readers have impressions or reactions to this new volume, please leave a comment.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Why the Mother's Tent?

Below is an artist's rendering of Rebecca and Isaac's first meeting:

Isaac first meets Rebecca

I received another query by email this week: At the end of Genesis Ch. 24, what is significant about Isaac taking Rebekah into his mother's tent? Does this have to do with his grieving process, did the husbands and wives have different tents, and since Sarah's was already set up, Rebekah could just take over Sarah's tent? Why wouldn't Isaac take Rebekah into his own tent?

Not a bad question. The idea may be that the circle of life has swung round to joy and promise---with love of Rebekah now Isaac’s focus rather than sorrow for his mother. Interestingly the Song of Songs (3:4; 8:5) also speaks of new love blossoming in the mother's tent, and here too the idea may be life swinging around in a harmonious cycle. I admit the image feels odd for us in the modern western world, and I wonder if there are any modern cross-cultural parallels available to help here.

Also, Rebekah is now the new matriarch, the new bearer of God’s promise of fruitfulness (cf. Isa 54:2 and the ref. to the tent). This may be another symbolic meaning of her being brought into Sarah's tent.

Just two ideas… Do other thoughts strike the readers of this blog?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ash Wednesday 2008

Bishop Peter James Lee of the Diocese of Virginia led the Quiet Day meditations today at the seminary. For at least the last dozen years, he has not done this, so it was something new. The second talk at 3pm was the best of the two in my view, with quite a bit of humor in his comparison of the ritual of Ash Wednesday and the US political ritual of Super Tuesday. The advantage of the church's ritual, he argued, was that we take human sin and fallenness seriously. Without such seriousness about our need for repentance, one lacks serious abiding power. He recalled the process by which the current Book of Common prayer came to take sin as seriously as it does in the Baptismal renunciations (see scan above from BCP p. 302). Early trial drafts in the 1970s had one simple renunciations of evil (with a lower-case "e"). Then the full impact of Vietnam began to sink in, and the three strong renunciations that we currently have evolved. It was a good talk.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Did Solomon Have Three Older Full-Brothers?

A modern image of David, Bathsheba (Bath-shua), and Solomon:

David, Bathsheba (Bath-shua), and Solomon

I was emailed the following interesting question today: "In 2 Samuel [12:24] it says that David comforted Bathsheba. Then he went to her and she conceived Solomon. But in 1 Chronicles 3 [v. 5] it lists four sons for Bathsheba and David, but Solomon is listed fourth and last. Was he a youngest son?"

I am not sure I have a definitive answer. The Jewish scholar David Rothstein suggests that in 1 Chr 3:5 Solomon appears as a fourth son born to David in Jerusalem, and as a fourth son of Bathsheba, as a literary trope glorifying Solomon. He writes, “The ‘three-four’ number scheme, where the fourth item is climatic (as in Judah, the fourth son of Jacob), is common in the Bible.” If the Chronicles presentation of the four names is supposed to reflect actual birth order, the glorification of Solomon would be even stronger: "Despite having three older brothers, he alone was chosen to be king."

What do readers think of this interpretation? Have you heard of other readings??