Thursday, December 22, 2011

Painting: Jesse's Root

I just received from Izaak de Hulster in Germany this amazing Christmas image, which I have not seen before: "Jesse's Root" by S. Köder. Izaak's family is using it on their Christmas cards this year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2011 Holiday Card from the Yale Library!

For the online card, go to

(click photo to enlarge)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Agate with Cuneiform Script Discovered in Malta

The precious stone dedicated to the moon-god Sin traces to the 13th century BCE and the city of Nippur, in Mesopotamia. It was likely looted from the temple of Nippur and brought to Malta by seafaring merchants…



Saturday, December 17, 2011

Prof. Judith McDaniel Retirement Dinner Last Night



Monday, December 12, 2011

The Planned New VTS Chapel

Rendering by the architect, Robert A. M. Stern, as it appears on Dean Ian Markham’s Christmas Card this year:


Thursday, December 08, 2011

My Homily Today on Isaiah 41:13-20

At the Seminary's Noonday service today I delivered a 12-minute homily on Isaiah 41:13-20. I'm posting it here as an mp3 audio-file for any who would like to give it a listen. Just right click on the link, and choose "save as" (click here). The file is about 7 MB, so some patience may be required.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

VTS Football Victory Over General Seminary







Friday, December 02, 2011

“Testaments” in the Bible?



I recently had a neat question about the Christian term “testament.” The question concerned the validity of a position taken by Martin Luther in “Babylonian Captivity,” where Luther says that the word “testament” implies a coming death, that is, that the one making the testament is about to die. He says the OT covenants foreshadow the death of Christ because of this connotation. What would a biblical scholar say about this argument?

My response was along the following lines. This argument of Luther relies on the common meaning of “testament” (in English and Latin) as having to do with a legal-will or last-testament. However, the use of the word “testament” to translate the Hebrew word bĕrīth (which means treaty; agreement sworn by oath) in Christian Latin is rather misleading. The Oxford English Dictionary describes it as a misuse of the word, arising from the fact that Greek διαθήκη, ‘disposition, arrangement,’ was applied both to a covenant (pactum, fœdus) between parties, and to a testament or will (testamentum). The Septuagint consistently rendered the Hebrew bĕrīth with the Greek term διαθήκη allowing for the confusion to arise. The Christian Latin preference for the term “testament” was probably fueled by the use of διαθήκη (in the sense of ‘covenant’) in the account of the Last Supper immediately before Christ’s death, and its consequent association with the notion of a last will or testament. The Bible actually has rather few if any “testaments” in the common sense of the word that Luther is picking up on. More common is a patriarch’s final “blessing” of his progeny when death is imminent (see Deut 33; Gen 27:27-29; 48:15-16; 49:1-28).