Thursday, January 24, 2008

MAR-SBL Registration Now On-Line

Click Me!
On-line registration is now up and running for our upcoming MAR-SBL conference, March 27-28. To go to our registration page, click here. While there, you can also get the information needed to reserve your room at the conference hotel.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Continued Prayers Requested for Kenya

As readers of this blog may know, we have several international students from East Africa, and particularly from Kenya, studying here at VTS. I have several of them in my own classes---these students have a much greater appreciation for the Hebrew Scriptures than many (not all!) US seminarians. This request for continued prayers just in from our Dean of Community Life:

As you may know, the current government in Kenya has given “the shoot to kill” order if demonstrators gather. As a result demonstrators as well as innocent bystanders have been shot, beaten and killed. The unrest persists and often explodes into violence in a very short span of time. Please continue to pray for the people of Kenya and especially for Mary Tororeiy, Daniel Mwiti Munene and Peter Kanyi who all have loved ones in Kenya.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mid-Atlantic SBL Meeting: Draft Session List and Draft Abstracts List Now OnLine


We have been working hard on adjudicating proposals and organizing sessions for the upcoming regional MAR-SBL conference to take place near the end of March. Over the long weekend, I was able to update our regional website: Please visit the site to get the details on the conference, and please mark your calendars to attend.

To check out our draft of SBL sessions (with participant names, institutions, and paper titles), click here (PDF file).

To check our our draft of an abstract booklet, click here (PDF file).

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Pulpit (Humor)

From Dave Walker's CartoonChurch (click here):


Friday, January 18, 2008

Bernhard W. Anderson 1916- 2007

Dr. Bernhard W. Anderson
Yet another major Old Testament scholar has died, Bernhard Word Anderson. The SBL site has posted his obitutary (click here). It begins,

"Dr. Bernhard Word Anderson, Professor Emeritus of Old Testament Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, passed away peacefully on December 26, 2007, at age 91. A noted educator, author, and biblical scholar, Dr. Anderson is perhaps best known for his textbook, Understanding the Old Testament, which set records in sales for a book in that field and is read in translation around the world..."

I got to know Anderson in the very late 1980s when he was a visiting professor at Yale, living in the married student dorms. I took his course on the Primoridal History, Genesis 1-11 at that time, and quite enjoyed it. It was a small seminar, with lots of great discussion. Anderson had a manuscript of a Hermeneia volume he was writing on Genesis 1-11, and would make marginal notes in it as we students brought up this or that point or counter-argument.

The other major interaction I had with him was at the SBL in Boston in 1999, when he was one of two major respondents to a paper I gave. He rather liked the critique of post-modernism that I included, and we had some good correspondence after the meetings about how he could include some of my thoughts in some writing he was doing. I also remember that my notes on Karl Rahner in the paper really stimulated him, and sent him back to Rahner and some "tough going" reading.

I never met Barney's first wife, Joyce, but my wife Catherine and I did enjoy some fun interaction with Barney and Monique. Catherine has just been reminding me of a "double date" that we went on with them down to the old theater near the old Yale Co-op. Having heard great reviews, we bought tickets for a film called "The Unbearable Lightness of Being." It was a great film, but ended up being R or NC-17 rated! Catherine claims that although Barney and Monique were fine with it, that I was rather embarrased and red-faced to have brought the renowned biblical theologian to such a steamy movie!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Virginia Seminary Waives Tuition for All Black Students

I am very pleased that VTS has taken a giant step forward in helping to cultivate African-American leadership in the church. We are now offering full-tuition scholarships to each and every one of our black students from the U.S.

Here are the Dean's remarks from todays Dean's Commentary:

Thursday, January 17, 2008
The future of the Episcopal Church depends on realizing the full range of talents within our tradition. We want great men and women from many different places to be raised up to leadership roles. With our deep historic connection with the Bishop Payne Divinity School (which was founded in 1878 and merged with Virginia Theological Seminary in 1953), we are required to cultivate black Episcopal leadership within the church.

So today I am pleased to announce that the Board of Trustees has created the Bishop Payne Scholarship Fund, which will provide full tuition for any full or part-time black student who is an Episcopalian studying for the MDiv, MTS, MACE, Anglican Studies, or Full-time Special Student programs.

My prayer today is that dioceses will encourage vocations from the African American community so that the future leadership of our church will draw on the rich resources of all God’s people. And I hope that in a small way this Scholarship Fund will enable some of those individuals to enjoy the quality theological education that VTS provides. ---The Very Rev Ian MarkhamDean and President.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Dr. R. Lansing Hicks, 1921 - 2008

The YDS Website put up the following notice about Dr. Hicks today (click here), which I'll quote in full:

R. Lansing Hicks, professor emeritus of Old Testament, dies at 86

R. Lansing Hicks, professor emeritus of Old Testament and former associate dean of academic affairs at Yale Divinity School, died Monday, Jan. 14, 2008, in Hamden, CT after a long illness. Hicks joined the faculty of YDS in 1971, following the affiliation between YDS and Berkeley Divinity School, and retired in 1990. He had been appointed to the BDS faculty in 1958.

An Episcopal priest with roots in the South, Hicks will be remembered as a teacher who cared deeply about his students both in and out of class; prepared meticulously for classroom sessions; and approached the subject matter with a thoroughness that added a strong sense of gravitas to his work. His primary focus was on teaching rather than on writing books – over the course of his career his publications were mostly in the realm of encyclopedia articles, journal articles and book reviews – and he was known widely as a person of particularly high personal and academic integrity.

That sense of integrity was apparent early in Hicks’s career when, as a young scholar in 1952, he was among a group of faculty at the University of the South in Swanee, TN, who resigned their positions to protest the school’s reluctance to desegregate. Hicks and the others had written a widely publicized letter calling the school’s position “untenable in the light of Christian ethics and of the teaching of the Anglican Communion.”

“He always reflected the graciousness of his southern roots, but at the same time his fine ethical and moral sense made him a shining example of religious opposition to segregation in the South of the 1950's,” said Robert Wilson, associate dean of academic affairs at YDS and a longtime Old Testament colleague of Hicks. “His influence at Berkeley and at Yale was both wide and deep, and he is fondly remembered by all those with whom he came in contact.”

Joseph Britton, dean of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, said, “Lansing was one of the real heroes of Berkeley Divinity School. His courageous decision to walk out of the University of the South over the issue of racial segregation always endeared him to our students, who looked to him not only as a learned teacher of the scriptures but as a real role model as well.”

Wilson and others vividly remember Hicks’s unflagging commitment to people and to the church.

“Lansing Hicks was unfailingly concerned about his students and about the church he was preparing them to serve,” said Wilson. “As a teacher he was thorough and comprehensive; as an administrator he was open and fair; as a scholar he was both meticulous and creative; and as a colleague he was congenial and kind.”

Victoria Hoffer, lecturer in Old Testament at YDS, recalled, “Lansing Hicks was my advisor, teacher, and friend. From my first days at Yale Divinity School, through my Ph.D. and beyond, he welcomed my questions and interests. He gave me encouragement every step of the way.

“He supported me in times of personal difficulty. How I admired this modest, elegant, completely genuine man, who gave of himself so generously and with such kindness. Many precious memories flood me when I think of Lansing. The most special, perhaps, was his delight in describing how he met, and then courted and married his beloved Helen. A true scholar and a dear friend is gone. I will miss him very much.”

As a biblical scholar, Hicks’s interests lay primarily in the area of the Christian use of the Old Testament in its relation to the New Testament. In 1968, he delivered The Winslow Lectures at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, published in monograph form as Forms of Christ in the Old Testament: The Problem of The Christological Unity of the Bible. He also published articles in the Anglican Theological Review, the Journal of Bible and Religion, The Oxford Annotated Bible, and The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible.

At times, Hicks was the only member of the YDS faculty with enough archeological field experience to teach an Old Testament archeology course. During summer 1976 he was visiting archeologist for excavations at Tell Dan, and in summer 1966 he was field supervisor in the excavations at et-Tell. In May 1962 he worked on excavations at Tell er-Rumeith.

Hicks earned a B.A. in 1942 from Wake Forest University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, then a B.D. from the School of Theology at the University of the South in 1945. He did post-graduate study in 1948-49 at the University of Basel and earned his Th.D. in 1954 from Union Theological Seminary in New York. He was awarded an honorary D.D. in 1990 by Virginia Theological Seminary.

Born Sept. 20, 1921 in Raleigh, NC, Hicks was ordained in the Episcopal Church in 1945. He served Grace Episcopal Church in Weldon, NC and the Church of the Epiphany in New York City before joining the University of the South in 1949.

Services will be held at Trinity Church on the New Haven Green this Saturday, January 19, at 11:00 a.m. Plans are also under way for a memorial service at the Divinity School at a later date. He is survived by his wife, Helen, and three children: Katherine, Peter and Robert.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Passing of Prof. R. Lansing Hicks

With sadness I report the death of one of my teachers of Hebrew and Old Testament, Yale's R. Lansing Hicks. Lansing died this morning [late yesterday, the 14th] in Connecticut. Our prayers have been with his dear wife Helen and his whole family since yesterday when we learned that he was gravely ill. The following photo shows Lansing with me at my graduation from YDS with the M.Div. degree in 1987:

Lansing recently reminded me of our mutual connections with both Union Seminary in New York and with VTS here in Alexandria. He earned his Th.D. from UTS in 1954 and he served on the VTS faculty from 1953-1954 and again during a sabbatical in 1986. VTS awarded him the D.D. in 1990.

My colleague in our History Department, Dr. Bob Prichard, has emailed me the following background: Lansing Hicks was one of the members of the Faculty of the School of Theology at the University of the South who resigned in 1953 because of that institution's trustees' decision not to desegregate. Virginia Seminary provided him a short-term home for a year while he searched for a longer term position. He moved the following year to Berkeley Divinity School. When Berkeley merged with Yale Divinity School in 1971, Berkeley faculty were given something like a 5 year period in which to earn tenure. Hicks would be the only member of the former Berkeley faculty to earn that tenure.

Here is an historical photo of the Berkeley Divinity School faculty in 1958-59:

Monday, January 14, 2008

Neat Link: New WebSpace for our VTS/Duke Sudan Program

Neat Link

A new WebSpace is now up and running on the Duke University site introducing our joint VTS/Duke program sending visiting teachers to Renk, Sudan to teach the biblical languages and other needed subjects. Check out the site by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Another Painting for Epiphany Season

My colleague, Prof. Rich Jones, preached in chapel today illustrating his words with reference to a painting here in the National Gallery of Art, Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi, "The Adoration of the Magi," c. 1440/1460. Rich said it was one of the favorite paintings of Murray Newman, one of the OT professors who taught here at VTS in the preceding generation. It turns out, I have blogged on this painting once before (click here). What Rich emphasized (and I did not mention this detail in that previous post) is the long, splendid procession that follows in the wake of the three Magi/kings, symbolizing all the races of humankind, waiting to pay homage to the new-born Christ.

During Epiphany season, we should find ourselves here, within this winding procession, which snakes around through Bethlehem's arching gate and off into the distance in the paintings upper right.

The image calls to mind Epiphany texts such as Isa 60:3, "Nations will come to your light"; Isa 60:11, "With their kings led in procession"; Isa 60:14, "The children of those who afflicted you will come bowing to you."

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Epiphany, by Giotto, ca. 1320

Tomorrow is Epiphany Sunday, hence this post. The painting is at the Met in New York City. For a nice brief description, click here.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Our Students from Kenya Report Difficult Times Back Home

This just in last evening from VTS student, Robin G:

I spoke with two of our classmates over dinner tonight and want to draw your attention to what is a very scary situation in Kenya. As you are most likely aware, violence has spread through much of the country following a disputed election. Tomorrow (dawning in just a few hours in Kenya) there is a major rally being planned and there are fears that the violence will escalate dramatically. Many of Daniel's relatives live where the rally is planned. Mary's husband is unable to leave the house. Throughout Kenya, household food and supplies are running low and the people are unable to leave to get more as roads are blocked. Two members of Mary's husband's church have been killed in the violence and her parents are unable to sleep in their house at night. Mary and Daniel informed me that the violence is affecting areas where Peter Kanyi's family lives and also where Nicholas Sichangi and Samuel Sudhe, two members of last year's graduating class, live. This is a difficult time for all of our students from Kenya, especially as they are seperated from those they care about the most; please join me in lifting up Mary, Daniel, Peter, Sudhe and Sichangi and their families in prayer.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Reports from Renk, Sudan

Hans Arneson and Mary Schmitt of Duke have arrived at Renk Theological College in Sudan, and have begun teaching January Hebrew and Greek. The reports have been coming in from the field (mostly via Angela Teigland Arneson), and the news is good (despite the report of a shooting of a US person in Khartoum, which appears to have been an isolated incident that should not affect our program directly). Let me copy some of the recent reports here in rough chronological order:

A) From Angela: ...Good news! I just received a brief phone call from Hans and Mary. They arrived safely in Khartoum and were met by Father Joseph at the airport. Hans said that the travel went as planned despite a stop in Beirut. They will begin their journey to Renk at some point tomorrow morning (or in their case -- later this morning) and I expect I will hear from them via email or phone once they arrive at their final destination.

B) From Angela: ...I received a call from Hans at about 6am this morning and thought I would share a few updates. He and Mary have arrived at Renk and are settling in. They are staying in Father Joseph's living quarters and, according to Hans, being fed very well and enjoying the beautiful weather!

Their journey from Khartoum to Renk took about 6 hours and included 1 flat tire - but they arrived safely and in good spirits. Teaching will begin in the next day or so and Hans said they are both looking forward to it.

C) From Ellen Davis: I phoned today, and they both had a very good first day of class... Fr. Abraham...kept saying, “May we read one more verse (of Jonah)?” Hans had only 6 students, so some have not returned from the holiday, but he said 3 of the 6 are very impressive. So we have lots to rejoice about. They have not experienced any difficulty connected with the shooting in Khartoum, but there is some talk that it was following a party of heavy drinking. I told them to stay away from all such parties.

List of All Teachers in Our Renk, Sudan Visiting Teachers Program

Here is a list of the visiting teachers who have traveled to Renk, Sudan beginning in June 2004, along with their institutions. For those of you unfamiliar with this program of ours, click here and/or here to learn more.


June 2004
Ellen Davis (Duke; Isaiah)
Richard Jones (VTS; Sudanese Church History/Hermeneutics)

January 2005 - Hebrew
Anna Brawley (St. James Cathedral, Chicago)
Megan McMurtry (Duke)

July 2005 - Hebrew
Rosemary Beale (VTS)
Amanda Mbuvi (Duke)
Andrew Mbuvi (Duke/Shaw)

January 2006 - Hebrew
Chadwick Eggleston (Duke)
Shirley Smith Graham (VTS/Christ Church, Alexandria)
Mandy McMichaels (Duke)

July 2006 - Hebrew
Megan McMurtry (Duke/Vanderbilt)
Elizabeth Felicetti (VTS)

August 2006 – Anglican Studies
Jo Bailey Wells (Duke)

January 2007 - Manna and Mercy
(no language teachers traveled from US; security risk)
Rev. Alan Storey (Methodist Church of Southern Africa)

July 2007 – Greek and Hebrew
Deborah Knott (Duke)
Phoebe Roaf (VTS)

July/August 2007
Ellen Davis (Duke; Worship in Exodus and Leviticus)
Andrew Rowell (Duke; Letter to the Hebrews, Greek)
Peter Morris, M.D. (Duke; Public Health/clinic)

January 2008 – Greek and Hebrew
Hans Arneson (Duke)
Mary Schmitt (Duke)