Thursday, May 31, 2007

Memorial Service for Dr. James F. Ross

A memorial service for Dr. James F. Ross, professor emeritus of Old Testament, will be held here at the Virginia Theological Seminary Chapel on Friday, June 15, at 1:00 p.m., followed by interment of ashes in the seminary cemetery and a reception in Scott Lounge. For directions and a printable map of the campus, you may visit this site:
As many of you have heard, Jim died on Monday following complications from heart surgery.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A New Book on Hosea 11:1-11

I've just been reading a review (click here) of a new book-length study of Hosea 11:1-11 by Joy Philip Kakkanattu. One topic in particular caught my eye. A while back in this blog (click here) we were debating Hos 11:4 and the two very different ways that it may be translated. Specifically, we were questioning whether the metaphor in the second part of the verse has to do with animal husbandry (vocalization of ‛l as “yoke”) or whether it instead relates to parental care (vocalization as “infant”). According to the review, "Kakkanattu goes for the second option." He "summarizes Hos 11:1–4 as a presentation of the exodus and the wilderness experience “'as a unilateral act of love in favour of Israel'” (63).

This is only one topic and conclusion out of many in the book, of course. Take a quick look at the review if you get a chance, as it seems to present a good overview of the monograph.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Catalog of Free On-Line Books in Biblical Studies

Neat Link Bob Buller and Danny Zacharias have a catalog-in-progress of the many books from the history of biblical studies and cognate disciplines that are now freely available on line from sites such as Google-Books. To access their web-page, which is an ongoing project, click here. I was amazed to see that the huge list includes well-known works by such names as S. R. Driver, J. G. Eichhorn, W. Robertson Smith, W. Gesenius, and even W. Vatke! Check it out when you get a chance.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Note from Rebekah Ross

This is very sad news indeed. Dr. Jim Ross's daughter Rebekah Ross has just sent word that Jim died today in the hospital in Baltimore:
Thank you all for your prayers. My father, James F. Ross, passed away today. Two weeks ago he had open heart surgery to replace an extremely compromised heart valve. He was in good spirits and optimistic about the surgery, but unfortunately he simply wasn't strong enough to make it through. I do not yet know the date of his memorial service. If you want information about this, you may email me at He is survived by his wife, Joyce Gillard, and his three children, Deborah, Steve, and Rebekah (me).
My colleagues Dr. Bob Prichard and Dr. Marge McNaughton-Ayers were able to visit Jim on Friday. Jim was an esteemed and beloved professor of Old Testament here at the seminary, and I hope to post more information about him in the near future. ---SLC

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pentecost Sunday at Our Church

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Prayers Requested for Dr. James F. Ross

I recently learned that Old Testament / Hebrew Bible Prof. Jim Ross, emeritus here at VTS, is in intensive cardiac care in the hospital in Baltimore. Jim underwent a heart-valve replacement under rather high-risk circumstances, and is currently not recovering well. Please keep him and his family in your prayers. I shall post additional information as it becomes available.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Good-Bye Dinner for Dean Horne

Well, we had our day-long, year-end faculty meeting yesterday, the last faculty meeting to presided over by our beloved dean and friend, Martha Horne. At 6:30 last evening, Catherine and I went to the annual dinner at the deanery to bid Martha good-bye as she transitions out of her official duties. Ian Markham will be in the dean's office at the beginning of August. The faculty presented Martha with three different sorts of gifts. She surprised us, in turn, with gifts for each of us of her own. Each of us received a silver-plated mint-julip cup with an ingraving of Aspinwall Hall and a personal note to us from the Dean.

The Very Reverend Martha Horne

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The African Concept of "Chira" and Ezekiel's "Sour Grapes" Proverb

HIV/Aids in Africa
I still have a backlog of posts from the student presentations in my seminars this spring semester. One of the more interesting presentations was by Samuel Sudhe on parallels between the thinking behind the "sour grapes" proverb in Ezekiel and the thinking behind the African concept of "chira."

Chira, in Luo religion and thought, is the idea of sin-consequences. It maintains that wicked acts can both tear apart community and manifest themselves in natural catastrophes, such as droughts and famines. With chira, children can suffer when it is the parents who have sinned. As Samuel pointed out, Ezekiel's audience was claiming their sufferings in exile were due to something like chira. They tried to avoid responsibility by using their own version of chira as a sort of alibi. The parents ate the "sour grapes" but it was the children's teeth that were "set on edge."

Samuel noted that the Luo people have sometimes used chira as an alibi in a parallel way to Ezekiel's audience. He states, "For a long time the Luo people denied the existence of the devastating effects of HIV/Aids. The symptoms of HIV/Aids were confused with the wasting away of chira." It seems that you do not have to take responsibility for Aids and take steps to stop its spread, if you can fully account for it as the chira-effect of other people's sins. Chira, like Ezekiel's "sour grapes" proverb, can be used to unfortunate effect as a way for people to avoid standing up to the plate as responsible moral agents.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Maimonides and the Resurrection of the Dead

I mentioned in a post back on May 7th that I've been reading Jon Levenson's new book on Resurrection. I'm writing a review of it for RBL, and I'll post a note when it becomes available (probably later this summer). One of the strong points that Levenson makes early on is that, contrary to commonplace belief, the doctrine of resurrection is central and deep in classical Judaism. One interesting example concerns how Maimonides was compelled to reverse himself on his statements on resurrection in the 12th century c.e.

Originally Maimonides had promulgated the idea that the resurrection was not something material and corporeal, but a matter of the intellect alone. It really will occur, he argued, but will entail disembodied existence with God. Great controversy erupted in response to the idea, based on Talmudic Judaism's clear presentation of a bodily resurrection, and Maimonides was forced to write a response to his critics in which he admitted there would be a bodily resurrection. He did not give in all the way, however. He wrote that the physical resurrection would be a transient thing, after which people will again die and then be able to enjoy an ethereal existence in the World to Come! Levenson's evaluation of all this is extremely well stated: "This is not only a drastic departure from the traditional rabbinic doctrine, as Maimonides' critics incessantly noted. It is also a contrived and uneconomical scenario that gives the appearance of being devised simply to free its inventor of the suspicion of heresy" (pp. 19-20).

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

MSNBC: "Evangelicals at Crossroads"

An interesting article on MSNBC this morning, on US evangelical Christians being rather divided at the moment (click here).

Here is a brief excerpt:

John C. Green, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, said four factors combine to make this a time of flux on the religious right.
There is no single leader who stands astride the movement as Falwell once did. Nor has a 2008 presidential contender emerged to galvanize the ranks. A generation gap is emerging between younger and older evangelicals on subjects such as homosexuality. And a sometimes bitter debate is pitting evangelicals who want to keep their political activity tightly focused on a few issues, such as abortion and same-sex marriage, against those who want to embrace a broader agenda, including climate change and global poverty.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Reading the Bible in Africa

Neat Link A fellow episcopal-seminary professor, Dr. Grant LeMarquand has an extensive (155 page) bibliography of the Bible in Africa posted on the Web. It appears up to date through the end of the 1990s (actually, there are 6 entries from 2000 and 3 from 2001). The bibliography is definitely worth a look (click here).

LeMarquand has done some interesting work on Sudanese "readings" of the Bible, which naturally is of special interest to us here at VTS. Among texts of the Hebrew Bible of special interest to Christians in Sudan are Psalm 68:31 and Zephaniah 3:9-10. The Sudanese often see the former text to be an announcement of the blossoming of Christian faith that Sudan has now been seeing. The psalm declares that though Egypt and Cush (read Sudan) were formerly hostile to God's people, they will certainly turn to God.

Like Psalm 68, Zephaniah 3:9-10 speaks of new worshippers turning to God from "beyond the rivers of Cush." Sudan is the land of the "two Niles," so a reference to "rivers [plural] of Cush" really hits home to the Sudanese. That the African people are called "dispersed ones" here also hits home hard in light of the huge refugee crises in Sudan. In modern times, millions of Sudanese people have been displaced both within Sudan and externally to surrounding countries.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Just Pray Like Mommy (Humor)

I can't seem to get this joke out of my head: Father asked his little boy to say the blessing over the food at a dinner party at their home. The look on the little boy's face told Dad that he needed a little encouragement. "Just pray like Mommy," Dad said. "Okay," responded his son. "Oh God, Oh God," the boy quoted, "What on earth was I thinking when I invited all these people to dinner..."


Saturday, May 19, 2007

My Former Student Elected Bishop

Sean W. Rowe, VTS class of 2000, was just elected today on the first ballot to be the next bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania. This will make him, when fully confirmed, the youngest bishop in the Episcopal Church. He is 32 years old.

Welcome New VTS Alumni (Class of 2007)

Dr. A. K. Grieb Wins the 2007 Suzanne Thomas Research Prize

My good colleague, Dr. A. Katherine Grieb has been named the recipient of this year's SUZANNE THOMAS FACULTY RESEARCH AWARD. In the photo above, she is pictured with my friend and VTS Trustee Will Thomas, donor of the award.

Here is the start of the press release:

Alexandria, VA – On May 15, 2007 at Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS), the Suzanne F. Thomas Faculty Research Award was bestowed upon the Rev. Dr. A. Katherine Grieb, associate professor of New Testament. Dr. Grieb has taught New Testament at Virginia Theological Seminary since 1994. Previously, she taught for two years at Bangor Theological Seminary in Maine.

The VTS Suzanne F. Thomas Faculty Research Award was established in July of 2005 in honor of Suzanne F. Thomas of Aylett, Virginia and her strong commitment to excellence in education and the mission of the Episcopal Church.

For more details, click here.

Friday, May 18, 2007

SBL Annual Meeting Registration and Housing Open

Registration and Housing for the 2007 SBL Annual Meeting in San Diego is now officially open. Join in on the scholarly excitement in beautiful, vibrant San Diego. Don’t wait, register today!

Registration and Housing is available online now. Remember to log in using your membership ID before starting the process.

More Photos from the VTS Commencement

The Virginia Seminary class of 2007 poses for their group photo (as seen from a third floor window near my office):

2007 class photo

But immediately, it's time to assemble for the ceremonies:

Thursday, May 17, 2007

VTS Graduation 2007

Virginia Theological Seminary celebrated its 184th Commencement Ceremony this morning. Here are a few photos:

Hensley Family

Above is a shot with my student Joe Hensley and his family. Joe was awarded the Ford Chair, a gift of Susan Ford to a member of the graduating class who has exhibited a strong commitment to the community life and mission of the Seminary.

Elizabeth Felicetti

This next shot (above) is with my student Elizabeth Felicetti, who was awarded this year's Tachau Memorial Biblical Languages Prize, given in recognition of academic excellence and proficiency in the study of the Biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek.

Bingham Powell

And this last shot is with my student Bingham Powell, who did an honors thesis with me this semester on the book of Jonah. At commencement, Bingham won the St. George’s College Prize for study at St. George’s College in Jerusalem.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Dr. Ian Markham New Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary

A Seminary Press Release just sent out reads as follows:

Alexandria, VA – The Board of Trustees of the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia (VTS) announced today that Dr. Ian Markham, dean of Hartford Seminary and professor of Theology and Ethics, has accepted the invitation to become the fourteenth Dean and President of Virginia Seminary. Dr. Markham will succeed the Very Reverend Martha J. Horne, who is retiring after serving with distinction as Dean and President of the Seminary over the past thirteen years.

“The Board of Trustees and the Seminary community are enthusiastic about the appointment of Dr. Markham, and eagerly anticipate his arrival on campus in August 2007,” said David Charlton, chair of the Seminary’s Nominating Committee. “He was elected by a unanimous vote of the Board of Trustees after a thorough search and consideration of a large number of candidates by the Nominating Committee.”

Dr Markham and his wife Lesley spent three days in late April visiting the Seminary campus. During the visit, Dr. Markham met with trustees, faculty, students, staff, alumni, and clergy from the Washington, DC area. Said Charlton, “The Nominating Committee received an enthusiastic response from the community as a result of that visit. After three weeks of considering responses from the Seminary family on campus and throughout the country, the Committee unanimously nominated Dr. Markham to the Board of Trustees for election as the new Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary.”

Dr. Markham has been Dean of Hartford Seminary and Professor of Theology and Ethics since August of 2001. He also served as Director of the Doctor of Ministry program at Hartford Seminary from 2001 to 2005, and directed the seminary’s accreditation self-study process from 2002 to 2003. Prior to serving as Dean of Hartford Seminary he was Foundation Dean and Liverpool Professor of Theology and Public Life at Liverpool Hope University in Liverpool, England, from 1998 to 2001, where he served as a member of the senior management team and strategic planning committee; Liverpool Professor of Theology and Public Life at Liverpool Hope University from 1996 to December 1998; and Lecturer and sub Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Exeter in England from 1989 to August of 1996.

As a theologian and an ethicist, Dr. Markham has taught courses at the graduate level in Christian theology and religious diversity, constructive theology, historical theology, worship, and spirituality. He is the author of numerous publications, including Do Morals Matter: A Guide to Contemporary Religious Ethics (Blackwell, 2007), A Theology of Engagement (Blackwell, 2003), Truth and the Reality of God (T & T Clark, 1998), and Plurality and Christian Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 1994). He has edited and contributed to many collections of essays, such as Globalization, Ethics and Islam (Ashgate, 2005) and September 11: Religious Perspectives on the Causes and Consequences (Oneworld, 2002). He is a candidate for holy orders in the Diocese of Connecticut and will be ordained to the diaconate on June 9, 2007.

Dr. Markham holds a Ph.D. in Christian Ethics from the University of Exeter, an M. Litt. in Philosophy and Ethics from the University of Cambridge, and a Bachelor of Divinity in Theology from the University of London. He and his wife Lesley have one son, Luke. A more complete summary of Dr. Markham’s background, experiences and numerous publications can be found on the Virginia Seminary website at

Dr. Markham will assume his duties as dean and president of Virginia Seminary in August of 2007. “It will be an honor and privilege to serve as Dean of Virginia Seminary, which has served the Gospel and the Church with distinction for so many years,” said Dr. Markham upon being informed of his selection.

“The success of our search for a new Dean and President is due to the dedication and contributions of members of the Nominating Committee, and many individuals within and beyond the Seminary community,” said the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee, bishop of the Diocese of Virginia and chairman of the board of trustees at VTS. “On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the Nominating Committee, we thank you for your prayers during this period of discernment and for your continued support of our beloved Seminary’s ministry to the church and its witness to the world.”

Virginia Theological Seminary is the largest of the 11 accredited seminaries of the Episcopal Church and was founded in 1823. The school 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.

Dr. Steve Wiggins now at Gorgias Press

My friend Dr. Steve Wiggins, a fellow scholar of Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East just emailed to say he has a new position at Gorgias Press in Piscataway, NJ. Check out their website some time when you have a couple of moments: Gorgias-Press. Congratulations, Steve!
Gorgias started in 2001 and began with Syriac publishing mostly. They are now expanding into related areas (including Bible and Ugaritic, etc.) and are always looking for quality submissions from qualified scholars.

Visa Breakthrough for Sudan Trip

Renk Theological College, Sudan
Update: Lauren Stanley just emailed to say that Visas to Sudan have been secured for the entire group going to Renk early this summer to continue our program teaching the biblical languages. Apparently the visas are already affixed in the passports! This is really good news, as securing visas is often one of the most nerve-racking parts of sending a team over to Renk College. Thanks be to God that Lauren has accomplished this!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

EBR: Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception

Today is the due-date for faculty to return library books, so I've been pulling out my little post-it notes from about 25 books that I'm returning. Some of them were books I used to write an entry on apocalypticism for a new reference work coming out from De Gruyter, The Encylopedia of the Bible and Its Reception.

One of my post-it notes had some of my thoughts on some Jewish midrash on Daniel 2:22, which states that "the light" (Aramaic: Nehira') dwells with God. The Jewish sages who wrote and later reflected on the midrash (Seder Olam 30; Bereishis Rabbah 1:6) were attracted to the special (kethib) spelling of "light" here, and took it as a hidden clue (remez) that the verse may actually refer to the Messiah!

Of course, this is pure midrash (homiletical playfulness), but it does point to a key facet of apocalypticism that I mentioned in a recent post (on the Neon Bible). Apocalypticism is about illumination. The advent of the Messiah will shed powerful "light" on God's purposes and processes in dealing with the world. Apocalyptic literature shows us a messianic vision of the world were events, disasters, and blessings finally make sense and add up, instead of appearing haphazard as they often do from the perspective of the mundane.

Monday, May 14, 2007

"Trespasses" (poetry by Kimberly Becker, VTS 2000)

A very good former student of mine, Kimberly Becker (VTS 2000) just sent me some links to some of her recent poetry. Thanks Kim, I enjoyed all three poems! Her poem "Trespasses" is about the emotions surrounding a boy's trespassing and lighting a field on fire. To read the poem, click here.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Earth's Water Crisis

Mollegen Speakers

Thanks to the hard work of Susan Shillinglaw, VTS now has available free streaming video of each of the speakers at the recent Mollegen forum on Earth's Water Crisis. To access the videos, click here. Then select the video that you would like to watch from the list on the left. The speakers (shown in the photo above) were Fred Pearce, Peter Kreitler, Frank Griswold, and my former student, Martha Franks.

British author Fred Pearce spoke on the topic of his recent best-seller, When the Rivers Run Dry. He pointed to several factors precipitating the crisis, including global climate change, huge demands on the world’s rivers, with humans taking up to four times more water from them than we did a generation ago, and irrigated farming which utilizes “two-thirds of all the water abstracted from our rivers and underground reserves” to produce “high-yield” super crops of rice and wheat.

To read the full text of Pearce's remarks, click here (PDF file). To see summaries of the other talks and find links to their full texts, click here.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Video: Prayer-Answer-er (Humor)


Friday, May 11, 2007

The Neon Bible

Neon Bible

One of the final student-presentations in my Ezekiel class included playing a pop song I had not heard before, a song called "The Neon Bible" by the Montreal alternative band, Arcade Fire.

The song depicts the world as a dystopia, where everyone follows a "Neon Bible." The class had quite a good discussion of what the song might mean. I've copied the lyrics below. What do you think?

Does the Neon Bible represent the Scriptures when they are misinterpreted? Some in the class, rather, saw it as a symbol of our modern shallow and hedonistic culture, where self-absorption is the rule and fast food reigns. Instead of God, we worship that which is close, immediate, and manageable--the golden calf. I note that the blog "Heartache with Hard Work" (click here) writes, "Neon Bible. Holiness is corrupted, transcendence is made material, and all that which we ought to value is burned on the altar of our own sanctity. In that context, this song is the true rebirth, the resurrection of our own beliefs and desires."

In this dystopia, what is wrong is said to be right. You cannot see clearly, because hope and pain look the same. The culture is poisonous, so "don't lick your fingers when you turn the page" of the Neon Bible.

One major thing that strikes me in the lyrics is the theme of light. The Neon Bible gives off poor, dim light, so that you can't tell hope from pain. The golden calf gives off a "light," but it is laughable. In contrast, the song itself, in its dystopian and apocalyptic quality, tries to shed some real light on contemporary western culture. So too, biblical apocalypticism, such as that in the book of Ezekiel that the course studied this semester, the focus is on revelation---shedding Heaven's light on our world. The texts in Ezekiel, like this song, do not show us mundane, empirical reality, but reality from God's point of view, our world the way that God sees it.

Here are the Lyrics to the "Neon Bible":
A vial of hope and a vial of pain
In the light they both looked the same
Poured them out on into the world
On every boy and every girl

It's in the Neon Bible, the Neon Bible
Not much chance for survival
If the Neon Bible is right

Take the poison of your age
Don't lick your fingers when you turn the page
What I know is what you know is right
In the city it's the only light
It's the Neon Bible, the Neon Bible
Not much chance for survival
If the Neon Bible is right

Oh God! Well look at you now!
Oh! You lost it, but you don't know how!
In the light of a golden calf
Oh God! I had to laugh!

Take the poison of your age
Don't lick your fingers when you turn the page
It was wrong but you said it was right
In the future I will read at night

It's the Neon Bible, the Neon Bible
Not much chance for survival
If the Neon Bible is true

To hear a sample clip from the song, click here ( Or, if you have iTunes running, click here.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

King Herod's Sarcophagus

The SBL Forum at the SBL-Site is posting breaking developments in the story of the announced discovery of King Herod's tomb. Click here. Below is a picture of the remains of King Herod's sarcophagus from the site:

Not much left of it, eh? According to the Forum article, "The sarcophagus had apparently been deliberately broken into hundreds of pieces, probably during the first Jewish revolt against the Romans."
N.B. Dr. Kevin Wilson has several helpful posts on the significance of this find. For his most recent post, click here.

Best Translation: First Look at Poll Results

Well, here are the results so far of our poll (in conjunction with the MAR-SBL site) on the "best" Bible translation:

bible-poll results

The NRSV is out in front, but there are strong showings by the ESV see below), the NASB, and Fox's Schocken translation. The latter two are rather "wooden" renderings of the Hebrew MT, and folks (like me) may prefer them for how the present a rather clear window on the Hebrew. What do you think?

I want to note that there has been some fascinating discussion of Bible translations and translation theory on Dr. Kevin Wilson's BlueCord blog. Of particular interest to me has been the discussion of the nature and merits of the ESV, which is a new translation for me that I am still trying to understand (click here).

Stephen L. Cook said: On May 8th, 2007 at 10:01 am

Kevin, This is really interesting. I was under the impression that the ESV would be close to translations such as the NJPS and the NASB in that it would base itself first and foremost on the Hebrew MT text. From the above, I gather that it basis itself on a reconstructed eclectic text (mix of LXX, DSS, etc.), much as the NRSV does. Can you (or any of your readers) confirm this? —Stephen Cook

Kevin A. Wilson said: On May 8th, 2007 at 10:31 am

According to the preface to the ESV, it is based primarily on the MT. In some cases, they did resort to other textual witnesses, and these are indicates in footnotes. I haven’t studied the ESV enough to know how often they used these other versions.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Retirement Dinner of VTS Dean and President, Martha Horne

Horne Retirement Dinner

Catherine and I were privileged to participate in farewell events for our Virginia Seminary Dean and President, Martha Horne on Sunday. There was a large service in the auditorium, an outdoor reception in the grove under a big tent, and a lovely dinner with steak and crab cakes. Several speakers including the presiding bishop and primate spoke. Martha Horne and her husband Don have been part of the VTS seminary community for twenty one years. She has always been incredibly supportive of me, and I am very, very grateful for all she has done for me and my family.

Photo courtesy of Susan Shillinglaw. Thanks, Susan!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Hebrew University Team Says They've Found Herod's Tomb

The story is being reported in Haaretz and on MSNBC (click here). The discovery was recently made at Herodium, where King Herod (d. 4 bce) had a hilltop fort and palace complex (click here). The tomb was found by archaeologist Ehud Netzer, a Hebrew University professor who has been working at Herodium since 1972. It is located in a previously unexplored area between the two palaces Herod built on the site. Below is an artist's reconstruction of the site (click to enlarge):

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Vulnerable God

I have posted on the question of whether God suffers before (click here). The topic came up in Hebrew class recently, and my student Phoebe R., who has been reading J. Moltmann for another class, gave me this neat quote from his Jesus Christ for Today's World.

...If God were in every respect incapable of suffering, he would also be incapable of love. He would at most be able to love himself, but not anything other than himself. But if he is capable of loving something other than himself, then he opens himself for the suffering which love for the other brings him, while still remaining master of the pain which is the consequence of his love. God does not suffer out of deficiency of being, like created beings. But he does suffer from his love, which is the overflowing superabundance of his being. And in this sense he can suffer. (pp. 44-45).

Also of interest, Jon Levenson in his new book on Resurrection in the Hebrew Bible calls our attention to Israel's "widowhood" in Isaiah 54:4. At least in Israel's perception, her husband God has died and left her a widow for her long period of Babylonian exile. Levenson writes, The image of YHWH's disappearing in a metaphorical death, only to return in matrimonial faithfulness, bears some analogy to an important Canaanite cycle of poems.... This is not, to be sure, simply an Israelite version of the story of the god altogether defeated by Mot (Death)...But neither is it a story of a god whose presence and power are always fully activated and fully available, as if the suffering and death of the innocent that his own disappearance reflects were unreal. Israel's God is, in other words, a God who is vulnerable... (Levenson, Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel, 153-54).

Sunday, May 06, 2007

This Is Your Brain After Grading

A blogging professor has recently posted on the effects of grading on the brain.

Click here to see the post, which got a chuckle out of me. Be sure to read the comments too..

Here is an excerpt of what she posted:

Has anyone ever done a study of the effect of grading on brain function? That is, has anyone does a study in which someone has their head wired to various devices while they grade, and then the images of brain function from the start of grading to the end of grading are compared to see what brain sectors are damaged? Is the damage temporary or permanent? ...


Why Not Sea Monsters?

Seth, a graduating seminarian here, and his family gave our daughter Rebecca a neat music CD, Why Not Sea Monsters, featuring Justin Roberts and Liam Davis. It's fun and light songs inspired by the Hebrew Scriptures. Rebecca and her parents really like the album, and the first song, "Why Not a Spark?," features Leviathan, which was the topic of my preceding posting.

To hear a sample from this song from the CD-baby site, click here. I can't find the album on Amazon or I-Tunes, but it available at the CD-Baby site (click here).

Here are the lyrics:
On the first day
God said, why all this dark
God said why not a spark
God said why not a shark
---wait that's later!

On the second day
God said, why not a sky
Why are these waters so high
Why not a big pizza pie
---wait that's later!

On the third day
God said, why not a treat
Something tasty to eat
Like brocolli, carrots, and beets

And lots of love, light, love, light, love, light, love
Let there be deep blue oceans and the stars way up above
And love, love, love

On the fourth day
God said, where are the stars
Where's mercury, venus, and mars
where's all those old rusty cars
---wait that's later!

On the fifth day
God said, why not sea monsters
Why not starfish and lobsters
why not airplanes over waters
---wait that's later!

On the sixth day
Why not a vision of us
someone to reflect all this stuff
All the sparks and the seas and the birds and the trees

On the seventh day
God said, why not a nap

Saturday, May 05, 2007


Leviathan is certainly one of the most fascinating and awesome monsters of biblical and ancient Near Eastern studies. He is mentioned in Bible in such places as Isaiah 27:1; Psalm 74:14 (with multiple heads as in Ugaritic!; see the image below, and others in Pritchard, Pictures, 670, 671, 691); Ps 104:26; Job 3:8; 41. And Leviathan is alluded to elsewhere in Bible as well, such as at Gen 1:21.


New on YouTube: "Father Matthew Presents: Leviathan." What do you think?

Friday, May 04, 2007

El Shadday: Mountains and Breasts...

El Shadday

Tim over at SansBlogue has a fascinating post on the divine name אֵל שַׁדַּי, El Shaddai. You should check out the comments including Tim's responses. He argues that although etymologically speaking, the name is not connected to the similar-sounding Hebrew word "breast" that at least in a few passages, a word-play on "breasts" is present. To see the post, click here.
The BDB lexicon actually has the אֵל שַׁדַּי entry under the "breast" main-heading. However, BDB does list several possible meanings for the name, including the possible tie to the Akkadian term "mountain." I agree with the newer HAL lexicon that this is probably the correct etymology. El Shaddai means "the One of the [Cosmic] Mountain." El (God) is the one who dwells atop the world on the mythopoetic mountain that joins heaven and earth (cf., e.g., Ezekiel 28:14, "the Holy Mountain of God").

Thursday, May 03, 2007

New Blog Poll: Best Bible Translation

Click to Vote!Okay, I've created a new blog poll, which I'll again do in partnership with the MAR-SBL site. It's inspired by my last post on the most popular Bible translations. Please vote for the translation you think is the most responsible. Click Here to vote!

I realize this is complicated. Some translations are truer to the text's diachronic dimension, others are truer to a literal rendering of the MT, and still others are better at communicating the thrust of the text in the most understanable modern idiom. If in doubt, just vote for the version you would take with you to teach with if you were late to class and could only take one Bible.

Most Popular Bible Translation?

Well, as long as we are doing this, here is the voting on the best translation of the Bible in English. Of course, Dr. Jim West in the comments to yesterday's post is quite right: popularity may have little to do with real merit, but this ranking does say something about what translations some people in cyberspace are using. (If you are unfamiliar with the ESV translation, as I was, you can access it here.) What do you think of these rankings?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A New Ranking of Bible Blogs

Click here to go to the site. I'm a little disappointed that Biblische Ausbildung is so far down the list (currently # 71)! If you have a second, could you cast a vote for this blog?! Thanks!

All We Like Sheep... (humor)

Today's Far Side Cartoon:

"Wait! Wait! Listen to me!...

We don't have to be just sheep!"


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Biblical Studies Carnival 17

Blog Carnival
Don't miss Biblical Studies Carnival XVII, now up and available on Dr. Chris Heard's blog, Higgaion (click here). Chris has done a great job summarizing posts related to academic biblical studies in the month of April 2007. Thanks for your mentions of this blog, Chris!

Dean Michael Battle Leaving Virginia Theological Seminary

Dr. Michael Battle, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, has accepted a call to be Provost and Canon Theologian at the Cathedral Center of the Diocese of Los Angeles. In his new position, Dr. Battle will work with the Right Reverend Jon Bruno, Bishop of Los Angeles (and VTS class of 1977) to oversee a variety of multi-cultural ministries in one of the most diverse dioceses in the Episcopal Church. VTS has developed a strong relationship with the Diocese of Los Angeles under the leadership of Bishop Bruno, and we look forward to continued partnerships with Los Angeles and with Michael Battle in his new work.

Dean Horne, in an email to the seminary community made the following comments: During his time here at VTS, Dr. Battle has made significant contributions to the work of our racial-ethnic diversity initiative. His commitment to reconciliation has been a hallmark of his teaching and preaching in this community and in the many congregations, dioceses, and countries he has visited. Dr. Battle’s work on national and international committees and consultations has helped to strengthen our ties with other dioceses and provinces of the Anglican Communion. We shall miss having Michael, Raquel, Sage, Bliss, and Zion Battle as members of our seminary community.

Dr. Battle will begin his new work in Los Angeles in July.