Monday, February 16, 2009

Humor: An Unpublished Valentine from Ugarit

Well, the winners have been announced in Eisenbrauns' 2009 Valentine's Day Contest. Do check this out, by clicking here. First place goes to James R. Getz, Jr. of Brandeis University for his "An Unpublished Poetic Tablet from Ugarit":

To read the complete article by the author, click here (PDF download).

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Egyptian Plagues Animated (G-dCast)

In this new movie, we see the Plagues and the encounters with Pharaoh (Exodus 5-13, especially Parshat Bo, Exodus/Shemot 10:1--13:16) through the perspective of Moses's brother Aaron. In addition to a neat retelling of the story, we get an interesting contemporary "midrash" on the command of God to "come" (בא) to Pharaoh (Exodus 10:1), which is a somewhat striking alternative (to English ears) to the expected command to "go." (Most all modern translations render בא here as "go.") The suggestion is that from the Hebrew perspective, God is already present at Pharaoh's palace and even in the core of Pharaoh's being. With God having this power and presence, Aaron and Moses can have confidence despite their fear...

Parshat Bo from

More Torah cartoons at

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Giving a Keynote Series at the Shrinemont Retreat Center this Summer

I've been invited to be the morning speaker at the 57th Annual Family Conference at the Diocese of Virginia's beautiful Retreat Center at Shrinemont, in the heart of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. Everyone is invited. Click here to view the brochure (a pdf file).

Click Me for the full PDF file

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New Update from Khartoum

Renk Theological College, Sudan
Susan's husband Roger has emailed this update: I talked with Susan and Lauren about 8:30 this morning. Susan got a good night’s sleep and had a welcome shower! She has eaten some yogurt (sealed package) and some sort of British muffins (?) – anyway very healthy food, apparently. She sounded good.

The Sudan is 8 hours ahead of us, which means that their business day ends just as ours is starting. Lauren Stanley and I are working with our travel insurance company (very helpful so far) to arrange flights home for Susan. Apparently Lauren can’t arrange any of this until tomorrow morning -- about midnight our time, since it is now about 6 PM in Khartoum. So I’ll expect to send you another message tomorrow morning.

Also, Ellen Davis reports: “Even the Greek show will go on, with all Susan’s materials. So she gets to teach in Renk after all, even if at second hand.”
Thanks for your continuing prayers!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Update on the Teaching Program in Renk, Sudan

My friend Susan Sullivan, VTS graduate and an adjunct instructor in Hebrew here at VTS, traveled to the Sudan recently to teach in the Diocese of Renk. She has taken ill and was taken by Lauren Stanley, another friend, VTS grad, and missionary in the Sudan, to the hospital in Khartoum several hours away. She is under good care, but will be sent back to the USA as soon as Wednesday. Please pray for Susan and her husband, Roger, who hopes to meet Susan in London on her way back home.

Isaiah 40:21-22!

A neat email appeared in my inbox over the weekend. My friends the Rev. Earnest Graham and the Rev. Shirley Smith Graham sent along this amazing translation in both word and art of Isaiah 40:21-22, which was part of the RCL Lectionary reading for this Sunday, February 8th, the fifth Sunday after the Epiphany (Year B). I emailed them a plea to post the image here, and they quickly and graciously sent the jpeg below (click to enlarge). You can also see the image on Earnest's blog (click here). Thank you Earnest and Shirley! Comments welcome.

Click Me!

Friday, February 06, 2009

From Biblical Verse to Bible Map

Many times it is nice to have a quick way to visualize locations mentioned in a biblical text. I have had a chance to experiment a little with this task based on BibleWorks-8, which is now up and running on my computers. I would be interested if readers find these approaches to quick-visualization of sites helpful, and if they have alternative suggestions. (Obviously for serious research, a serious hardcover Atlas needs to be consulted. Most often, I find myself pulling off the shelf either the Harper Atlas of the Bible or The Sacred Bridge. I also recently purchased the IVP Atlas of Bible History for comparison purposes.)

The new "Ermie" function of the BW-8 program points one to a site known as Note that the site is directly accessible through the Web; you do not have to go through Ermie. At the site you select any book and chapter from simple drop down menus, and then click on any hyperlinked site name in the biblical text that appears. The site is quickly identified on the map and a bubble appears to give some basic information. Caution must be exercised, since the information appears based on the 1913 "International Standard Encyclopedia." Here is what appears when you click on "Beth-jeshimoth" in Joshua 12:3 (click the image to enlarge):

Click Me!

If you have BibleWorks 7 or 8 running, it is more direct to right click on any place name in the text and select "Lookup in BibleWorks Maps" in the menu that appears. Upon doing that, a blank map appears with a "Find Place" window in front of it. You have to select your site from the list that appears in that "Find" window. When you do, this is what you'll see (again, the example is "Beth-jeshimoth" in Joshua 12:3 (click the image to enlarge; I've circled the site in yellowish pen):

Click Me!

I should add that I have several other map-programs loaded on my hard drive, but they require a bit more time to load and manipulate. I'm thinking in particular of the Logos Bible Atlas (which software appears badly in need of update) and Richard Cleave's Holy Land Satellite Atlas, which I find most engaging for use in my lecturing. Again, any suggestions, comments, etc. about map resources are most welcome.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Theological Bible Commentary

I recently corrected final page proofs for my part of Westminster John Knox's new one-volume Theological Bible Commentary, edited by Gail R. O'Day and David L. Petersen (click here for details). This book has been in the works for quite some time, and I'm ecstatic to hear that it should be extant and available within three months time.

Click Me!

Here is the book's description from the publisher: This is the first one-volume commentary to emphasize theological questions: What does each biblical book say about God? How does the book describe God and portray Gods actions? Who is God in these biblical books?

Contributors include: O. Wesley Allen Jr., Samuel E. Balentine, Craig Bartholomew, Nancy R. Bowen, Brad R. Braxton, Michael Joseph Brown, William P. Brown, Allan Dwight Callahan, L. Juliana Claassens, Stephen L. Cook, Katharine Dell, Joanna Dewey, Frank H. Gorman Jr., Patrick Gray, Theodore Hiebert, E. Elizabeth Johnson, Luke Timothy Johnson, Melody D. Knowles, Stephen J. Kraftchick, Deborah Krause, Tod Linafelt, Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, Carleen Mandolfo, Gregory Mobley, Carol A. Newsom, Julia M. OBrien, Gail R. ODay, Dennis T. Olson, David L. Petersen, Sandra Hack Polaski, David Rensberger, Stanley P. Saunders, Carolyn J. Sharp, Matthew L. Skinner, Daniel L. Smith-Christopher, Ken Stone, Brent A. Strawn, Patricia K. Tull, James Buchanan Wallace, Sze-kar Wan, and Harold C. Washington.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

"Mrs. Beamish" (humor)


Monday, February 02, 2009

"Hashmal" in the Imagination of Anselm Kiefer

At the Boston SBL meetings, one of the most intriguing presentations I heard was a talk by Sally Norris of Oxford University entitled, "The Imaginative Effects of Ezekiel's Merkavah Vision: A Day in the Life of Hashmal" (SBL25-26). You will remember that in the book of Ezekiel when the prophet witnesses God's theophanic appearance, at the heart of the manifestation he sees "Hashmal" (חשׁמל). Peering into the dangerous, awful presence of God, he observes: "a great cloud with brightness around it and fire flashing forth continually, and in the middle of the fire, something like חשׁמל (NRS: 'gleaming amber'; NIV, NASB: 'glowing metal')" (Ezek 1:4; see also 1:27; 8:2).

Norris presented several interesting views of Hashmal from the reception history of the book of Ezekiel, but what caught my attention was her suggestion that Hashmal could be imagined and visualized in the modern art of Anselm Kiefer, in the collection entitled The Heavenly Palaces: Merkabah (1990; see the product-link below).

Below is a section of Plate 6 of the work. The figure of the woman here may represent the Shekkinah as a feminine mystical presence, as the power of cosmic creation and catastrophe. Is her "scream" that of ecstasy or horror or both? The stream of white preternatural substance released from her mouth may allow us to visualize Hashmal as a spewing field of transcendence. Comments on any of this are most welcome!

Anselm Kiefer, _The Heavenly Palaces: Merkabah_, plate 6