Friday, August 29, 2008

First Ever Academic Conference on U2

Click Here

This just in from The Rev. Beth Maynard, expert on U2 and Theology, an author of the Get Up Off Your Knees sermon collection on U2:

[I want to] make sure you've heard about the first ever-academic conference on U2, being held in May 2009 in NYC. I'm on the planning committee and hope we'll get lots of interesting presentations; the various plenary speakers are promising.

Go here for initial info (more coming in the fall):

The call for papers deadline is Nov. 1.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

MAR-SBL CALL for PAPERS, Spring 2008-2009

2009 SBL Mid-Atlantic Regional Meeting
March 26-27, 2009
Radisson Hotel at Cross Keys
5100 Falls Road
Baltimore, Maryland 21210
Phone: 410-532-6900; Fax: 410-532-2403

Dear Colleague,

On behalf of the MAR-SBL Regional Executive Committee, it is our pleasure cordially to invite you to submit proposals for the 2009 SBL Mid-Atlantic Regional Meeting on March 26-27, 2009, at the Radisson Hotel at Cross Keys—two miles from Baltimore’s Penn Station, six miles north of downtown Baltimore, and eighteen miles from Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI). We are excited to announce that Dr. Sharon Ringe, Professor of New Testament at Wesley Theological Seminary will serve as our plenary speaker this year.

Please consider offering a paper proposal in any area of Biblical Studies. For those interested, there is an overall MAR-AAR/SBL theme this year of "Religious Studies & Sustainability: Conversations and Crossroads." Paper proposals could address issues such as religious understandings of nature and the natural world, religion and ecological crisis/sustainability, religion and technological development, the intersection of religion and science, and other subtopics related to the theme. Proposals related to this theme are especially welcome.

You are also welcome and encouraged to propose new sessions, panels, and other types of innovative program blocks. For example, consider organizing a panel of your doctoral students or seminary students in connection with a current seminar you are teaching. Or, consider offering a workshop on teaching innovations, educational technology, or the interface between biblical studies and world events, the media, or the pulpit, etc. Also, if you are interested in volunteering this year as a section-head or in another needed capacity, please let us know by contacting our new regional coordinator, Dr. Jeremy Schipper at

Please see the proposal/abstract instructions and guidelines printed below. Paper proposals are due Friday, December 5, 2008, but we encourage you to submit yours now. Presenters are required to pre-register for the conference to appear in the program book.

The Radisson Cross Keys offers online hotel room registration at Hotel reservations can be made online. The Radisson will provide a "Promotional Code" on their website for conference attendees which will ensure that you receive our discounted room rate.

Alternatively, you may call Radisson at (888) 201-1718 to reserve rooms. Please indicate that you are attending our conference so that you can receive the conference rate. Discounted hotel rooms ($125) will be held until March 2, 2009. Since the normal room rate is $149 and only 40 discounted rooms have been reserved, we strongly encourage you to reserve rooms early.

There are currently plans to provide a shuttle to the Radisson from Penn Station and BWI Airport. Details will follow in the months before the conference.

As has become our custom, MAR-SBL will again confer the Howard Clark Kee Award of $100 for the best student paper by an SBL student from the region. We will also participate in the SBL Regional Scholars Program, sponsored by the society-wide conference of Regional Coordinators. To support this program, our region's nominee for this honor will receive a $100 prize upfront, in addition to whatever awards and recognition she or he may receive in the society-wide program. To qualify for the SBL Regional Scholars Program scholars should be at least ABD and no more than four years past the receipt of their Ph.D. Women and underrepresented minorities are encouraged to apply. Those interested in either of these prizes should submit their full paper to Dr. Jeremy Schipper by December 5, 2008 and clearly indicate (1) for which prize or prizes they would like to be considered and (2) their exact student status (Kee Award) and/or exact status between ABD and four years past Ph.D. (Regional Scholars Program).

All the Best,
Jeremy Schipper,
SBL Regional Coordinator, Mid-Atlantic Region

1. All proposals should be e-mailed to Dr. Jeremy Schipperno later than Friday, December 5, 2008 at You may submit up to two proposals.
2. Paper Proposals/Abstracts are usually about 150-250 words long (250 word limit, please) and must include full name, title, institution (or location), email address, and, as available, your phone number, cell number, and mailing address.
3. The proposal should state the paper's topic and purpose and give some indication as to how the argument will proceed. Provide enough context to show that you are aware of the basic literature in the field and summarize the argument of your presentation.
4. Proposals for an entire Panel or Session should include abstracts (150 words) and contact information for each individual participant.
5. If you have not already presented a paper before a learned society at some time in the past, you must send your entire paper to be presented (12 double-spaced pages maximum) by December 5, 2008. Attach a C.V. or include in your cover letter any other information that may help us weigh your submission.
6. Abstracts for accepted papers will be posted online.

Normally, your final paper to be presented should be about 10 double-spaced single-sided pages, and certainly should not exceed 12 double-spaced pages. This will allow a few minutes at the end of your paper for questions and discussion. Please do not exceed this limit.
Also, we sincerely regret that we cannot supply any audio-visual equipment due to prohibitive rental costs so please plan accordingly.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Notes on VTS Faculty Publications

Now in Print!Yesterday's VTS "Dean's Commentary" blog contained a helpful summary of recent faculty writing and publication. I learned some things about what my colleagues were up to that I did not know:

The end of the summer for most academics remains Labor Day when schools and teaching responsibilities begin in full swing. At one time many seminary professors left the heat and humidity of Alexandria and went to cooler places for the summer, combining vacation, reading, research and writing. Now few have “places” where they “escape” for the summer. Many of our faculty members are more likely to teach some in the summer D.Min. and MACE programs or in August term. Summer, though, is still primary time for the 3 “Rs” of reading, (w)riting, and research. Some of the fruits of reading, research, and writing from the faculty from the last year or several years has come “to market.” In practical theology Joyce Mercer, Professor of Practical Theology, has just had published Girltalk Godtalk: Why Faith Matters to Teenage Girls—and Their Parents (Jossey-Bass); and David Gortner—who just arrived in August to begin as the Director of the D.Min. Program and Professor of Congregational Leadership and Evangelism—has also just had published Transforming Evangelism (Church Publishing) as part of a series on the Episcopal Church in the 21st century. More broadly regarding the challenges confronting the Anglican Communion, Ian Markham, Dean and President, and Barney Hawkins, the Associate Dean and Director of the Center for Anglican Communion Studies and Institutional Advancement, have together published an essay published in the periodical Modern Believing.In the area of music and liturgy, Bill Roberts, Associate Professor of Church Music, has published psalm settings for psalms 27, 97, 99, 100, and 126 in Psalm Settings for the Church Year: Revised Common Lectionary (Augsburg/Fortress), which includes a CD-ROM with congregational parts. Stephen Cook, Professor of Old Testament, published a major commentary for preaching: "The Season of Epiphany" in New Proclamation Year B, 2008–2009, Advent through Holy Week, by B. K. Peterson, S. L. Cook, V. Bridgeman Davis, and D. J. Schlafer (ed. David B. Lott; Minneapolis: Fortress) 77–144. He also wrote an exegetical commentary on psalm 50:1-6 for 440–45 in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B, Vol. 1 (ed. Barbara Brown Taylor and David L. Bartlett; Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox). From his continuing work on the reception of Christian scripture in China—John Yieh, Associate Professor of Old Testament, has published in Reading Christian Scripture in China, ed. Chloe Starr (T & T Clark) a chapter on “Enquiry into Its History of Reception.” During his sabbatical leave this last year, Professor Yieh has continued his research in Hong Kong, China, and at the British Museum in London. There have been some other faculty publications this summer and surely some of which I am not yet aware. There are also increasing electronic publications by the faculty, such as the commentaries found on our webpage under the Center for Anglican Communion Studies and the Institute for Christian Formation and Leadership. The development of resources—books, hymns, musical settings, articles, essays, commentaries, curriculum, the list goes on—is critical to the ongoing life of the church and central to our mission as a theological seminary. The end of summer holds the promise that new students always bring. The end of the summer also means the end of open-ended time and a new balancing of responsibilities in order to attend to the 3 “Rs” of reading, writing, and research. Moving to Labor Day—and actually faculty meetings before then—has a certain bittersweetnessness. ---Dr. Timothy F. Sedgwick Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Prague Bible (1489) Online

Why not pay a visit to the magnificent Prague Bible (1489) on-line.
HT: Ancient Hebrew Poetry Blog

Click to Visit Site

Click here to visit the site. In order to explore around the volume, be sure to expand the table of contents to the left by clicking on "Torah." This Bible is an illuminated manuscript on parchment completed in Prague on 28 Av 5249 (July 26, 1489), measuring 24 x 18 cm. (9 1/2 x 7 in); 922 pages, bound in 3 volumes. Each page has 2 columns of Bible text, flanked by Rashi's commentary. There are 84 illuminated pages, with illuminated incipit panels, and 3 engraved and handcolored title pages inserted in the 18th century. The text is in square Ashkenazic script, vocalized and with cantillation marks. Rashi's commentary is in cursive Ashkenazic script. Colophon at the end of the third volume in form of poem of thanks.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Aleppo Codex

Click Here to Visit the Site

Described as the most splendid, old, and accurate manuscript of the Hebrew Bible, the Aleppo Codex is now largely available on-line, presented for the first time in full color photographs that you can zoom on and examine in detail. Click here to enjoy!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Twenty Percent of Doctors and Health Workers Say God Can Reverse Hopeless Cases

The AP and MSNBC are reporting on a survey to appear in Archives of Surgery that shows surprising numbers of people believe that God may trump a doctor's terminal prognosis (click here). According to the survey, 57% of adults believe that said God's intervention could save a family member even if physicians declared treatment would be futile. Perhaps more surprising, nearly 20 percent of doctors and other medical workers said God could reverse a hopeless outcome.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Seal of Gadalyahu

Seal of Gadalyahu

Pictured above is the bulla, or seal impression, bearing the name of Gedalyahu ben Pashur that was recently found in Jerusalem (click here). Gadalyahu was a minister of King Zedekiah, and is mentioned in Jeremiah 38:1-4. The bulla was found by Eilat Mazar's dig at the City of David site, just meters away from the locale where three years ago a separate seal impression of another of Zedekia's ministers, Yehukual ben Shelemyahu, which was unearthed.

Update: for extensive discussion, click here.

Summer Break Not Over Yet...

Alas, only a few more weeks of summer till the Fall term begins. To help keep summer alive, here is a recent photo we took on a hike up Crotched Mountain in New Hampshire. This little butterfly accompanied us for a good stretch of our hike:

Butterfly on Crotched Mt.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Humor: What Your Pew Says About You

From Dave Walker's (click here):

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Bible's Buried Secrets

HT: Exploring our Matrix

YouTube has this trailer of a NOVA series this coming fall on "The Bible's Buried Secrets." I post the clip here since it has some great footage and animations, including a close look at the Merenptah Stela (interesting that Avi Faust's book, which I posted on yesterday, relies on this stela for strong evidence). Apparently the series buys into some current inaccurate scholarly views, such as an origin of Israel out of the Canaanites (contrast Faust's evidence in the book in yesterday's post). We probably shouldn't judge the series until we see it, however...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

No more 'Yahweh' in songs, prayers Vatican rules

Update: there is now some great discussion of this post over on the Awilum blog (click here).

The Catholic News service is reporting that the Vatican has now decided to longer have the divine name Yahweh used in songs and prayers at Roman Catholic Masses (click here). The reasoning seems based on the relatively late tradition that the name was too holy to be pronounced, and the fact that the name was replaced with "Lord" in the early Greek and Latin translations used by the church. Comments welcome...

Faust on Israel's Ethnogenesis

I found Faust's archaeological writings very helpful in writing my Social Roots of Biblical Yahwism. Now, Kenton Sparks has a review of Faust's new work in the RBL that is well worth reading (click here for the pdf file). Sparks remarks on Faust's "strong rhetoric against the Canaanite origins theory and his corresponding advocacy for Israel’s seminomadic origins. He [Faust] advocates the latter position because (among other things) the earliest settlements were oval shaped (as we would expect from pastoralists), the faunal evidence reflects sheep and goat husbandry (again, as we would expect from pastoral nomads), the prominence of pastoralist language in the Bible (e.g., “tent”), and the biblical emphasis placed on the seniority of the Reuben tribe, which was both pastoral and from the east, in Transjordan." According to Sparks, Faust makes a major contribution in associating Israel's ethnogenesis with a process of differentiation over against the Philistines: "Given that cultural conflict breeds symbols of cultural difference, Faust theorizes that circumcision, abstention from pork, and pottery styles became expressions of, and indicia for, Israel’s unique identity during its intense conflict with the Philistines."

Ten Commandments Humor

Monday, August 11, 2008

August Term Kick-Off

Today's VTS Press Release:

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA – Virginia Theological Seminary kicked off its August term today welcoming 57 incoming students from 32 domestic dioceses and five countries including Tanzania, Myanmar, France, Jamaica, and Haiti. The day began with a celebration of the Holy Eucharist in the Seminary Chapel and a sermon delivered by the Very Rev. Ian Markham, the Seminary’s dean and president, who focused his remarks on passages from the Song of Solomon (2:10-13) and the Gospel of Luke (12:32-37). “In the love song of the Song of Solomon,” said Markham, “We hear the call of love inviting us to a different place; and in the Gospel, we find Jesus exhorting his disciples to move beyond fear, beyond possessions and things, and to ‘be dressed for action.’” Markham continued, “This Seminary has a job to do in the time that you are with us; our goal is discipleship.” The Dean then focused on instructions for discipleship embedded in the Gospel reading, namely the selling of one’s possessions in order to avoid distraction and the call to be “dressed for action.” “We need to be alert, attentive, and ready to serve,” said the Dean. “We need to make spending time with God the absolute priority. We need to allow God to structure our priorities and enable us to live as God has called us to be and we need to seize every opportunity to be transformed by God’s grace. Why? Because the God of love has called and we have responded.”

The August Term for new students consists of three weeks of orientation that include classes in biblical languages and oral interpretation of scripture, which help students develop the routine and disciplines of worship, study, prayer, and fellowship. Seventy-two percent of the entering students this year are working toward the Master of Divinity degree (MDiv), while the remaining 28% are working toward a Master in Theological Studies (MTS), a Master of Arts in Christian Education (MACE), a Master of Arts in Christian Education/Youth Ministry (MACEYM), or are enrolled in the Anglican Studies program.

The August Term also marks the beginning of the Institute for Christian Formation and Leadership’s Evening School of Theology which offers quality theological education at low cost to lay people of all denominations. Fall courses include The Gospel of John led by the Rev. Dr. John Yieh, associate professor of New Testament at VTS; More Mystery than Manners, Reading Flannery O’Conner, led by the Rev. Dr. Barney Hawkins, executive director for the Seminary’s Center for Anglican Communion Studies and Professor of Theology and Practice; and The Call to Discipleship, taught by Dr. Kathleen Henderson Staudt, VTS adjunct faculty member. Click here for more information on these courses.

Founded in 1823, Virginia Theological Seminary is the largest of the 11 accredited seminaries of the Episcopal Church. 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. Currently, the Seminary represents more than 42 different dioceses and 5 different countries, for service in the Church.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Post 3 from the 2008 CBA Meetings

It's Tuesday morning, the last morning of the conference. This morning I'll be part of a discussion of Ellen White's paper in the Divinity in Israel seminar, and we get to hear Anathea Portier-Young's talk on Daniel and language. There was concern among the attendees last evening about a rift between the CBA and the conference of Catholic Bishops over the CBA continuing to receive a bit of the royalties from sales of the NAB translation, which of course the CBA itself produced! Then at 8pm there was a very good general session by Ronald D. Witherup, just voted "superior general" of the Sulpician Provincial House. He joked this position was much better than being an "inferior particular." The talk was entitled, "Raymond Brown and the Question of Catholic Exegesis." Of the several discussions of what might constitute Catholic exegesis at this conference, this one was the least "political" and most hermeneutical and theoretical, so well worth hearing. Ray Brown of course was a giant, who I got to know a little bit when I was on the faculty at UTS. Hearing the talk, I did wonder about this commitment to "historical-critical exegesis properly applied." Is the historical-criticism really able to be "baptized" (my term) so easily and safely?? I guess Brown thought so.

I received this lovely email about my talk from Prof. Jenny Knust, a NT scholar now teaching at Boston University, and it is so nice that I told her I would post it here:

Hi Stephen,

I think the thing I loved the most about your talk was the generosity and openness at its core, which was reflected so beautifully in your reading of the RS's theology.

Listening to your account of this theology, I was struck by how similar it is to something I've been thinking about lately, after re-reading Levinas and Judith Butler's book Precarious Life. Of course, Butler in particular would not acknowledge that she is a theologian, but I think she is. And she has a theology similar to the RS's as you described it. One should behave ethically not because of the law or because it is one's duty but because one has recognized that vulnerability and mortality are the most important truths of the human condition. We are all vulnerable, we are all finite, we are all fragile and no amount of hoarding, violence, law or control will change this. Nice. I thought I didn't like theologies stressing the distance and complete otherness of God, but I guess I'm changing my mind.

One other thing: If the material I study can lend anything to what you are doing, I would say that it is not important that Ezra and Nehemiah don't quote 2 Isaiah or acknowledge him/them in anyway. As I see it, there are preliminary questions that have to be asked: How did ancient people quote? How did they acknowledge their sources? Was it important to acknowledge one's contemporary conversation partners? The NT authors were all writing around the same period of time and they hardly ever directly acknowledge one another (which creates a huge problem for scholars now--Did John know Mark? Did Luke-Acts know Paul? etc. etc.). We may be trained to cite one another in footnotes, but ancients were not.

Thanks so much for a great paper!

Monday, August 04, 2008

2008 CBA Meeting at Fordham University, Post 2

I'm having a very full day here at Fordham University at the 71st International Meeting of the Catholic Biblical Association. Let me post a few highlights.

Last night at the general session we heard Bishop Emil Wcela speak on "What's Catholic about a Catholic Translation of the Bible?" A very good question for any denomination to ask about its biblical scholarship; and the bishop spoke in very polite but quite open and easily deciphered language. Somewhat to everyone's surprise and dissappointment, a lot of the talk was about the difficulties the officials in Rome raised on the US desire to have inclusive language. All this ado about "he, He, he"? "Si, si, si," is the reply in Italian. It was also interesting to hear how the officials at the Vatican are now pushing strongly for wooden/literal translation of the Bible, rather than dynamic equivalence translation.

After a good night's sleep, I went back to the Continuing Seminar on Divinity in Ancient Israel. This morning we discussed Paul Niskanen's paper on the biblical metaphor of YHWH's Marriage to Israel. Lot's of interesting discussion, some of it pressing Paul on being more specific about how ancient marriage differs from modern, Western concepts of marriage. One point that I made that several agreed with is that it is too simple to say that Hosea came up with the metaphor fresh in the 8th century. Antecedents in the E source already depict Israel as an adulterous wife at Exod 32:20, where Moses has Israel participate in the ordeal/trial reserved for adulteresses. In response to more than one question, Paul rightly stressed the inherent limits of metaphor for expressing lived realities. He also rightly notes that the tenor often bleeds into the metaphorical language. For example, in Ezek 22:20-21, we have God as an angry smith, heating metal in "the fire of my wrath." Of course, the smith is not the one angry with the metal for having impurities. The element of anger is from the tenor---God is angry with Judah.

Next, from 11am to 12 noon, I gave my talk in the plenary session---here called a simultaneous session, because there is an OT plenary and a NT plenary held simultaneously. I've got many wonderful comments. Lots of great people in attendance, including Gary Anderson, Mark Smith, John Levenson, William Morrow and many many others. It was a real honor to have been invited to give the talk, and I am so glad people found it so stimulating. Did I mention the title: "The Isaiah School, The Pentateuch's Aaronide Source, and Their Shared Theology of Reverence."

Next up at 4pm is the Business Meeting... More later...

Sunday, August 03, 2008

At the 2008 International Catholic Biblical Association Meeting

I'm here at Fordham University in the Bronx at the 71st international CBA meeting. A wonderful meeting so far, and I've seen lots of friends. Thunderstorms over New York yesterday caused the airports to shut down, so I along with many others were delayed in arriving. Many of the rooms were freezing with the air conditioning, but that seems to be the only glitch and all is going well. The presidential address by Jerome Neyrey last evening argued that very often the translation "give thanks" in the NT Greek does not capture the social reality and that much is lost in translation. In Greek culture, praise was rendered in return for gifts, which is much different than our current private, interior idea of "thanks." This morning we discussed work on Genesis 1 by Mark Smith in one of the several continuing seminars. Among the debated topics: was light actually created? Mark argured probably not, for among other things, light is a pre-extant reality of God, who appears in glory and light. His position shifted a bit in the course of discussion, in which I argued that God's light is merely analogous to physical, created light (cf. Zech 14:6-7). Mark's present thinking: Perhaps creation involved a process in which conditions were created in our human world where we now experience something analogous to God's pre-existing light...