Thursday, March 27, 2014

Water from the Rock: Exodus 17:1-7

This morning we had enjoyable discussion at St. Paul’s of the week’s lectionary readings from Exodus 17 and Psalm 95, the people’s testing of God at Rephidim (renamed Massah, “testing,” Exod 17:7).

To “test” God (Exod 17:2) is to reduce God to a co-pilot, a life-assistant who provides and assists on one’s own terms. That’s not the God of this passage. This God is about “testing” God’s people, leading them on a wilderness journey in which they lay aside their control needs and nurture a new spiritual imagination, a new vision of God’s cosmic prerogative.

That’s why in v. 6 God sends Moses 15 miles ahead to Mount Horeb (Sinai), the mountain of God, the archetypal “cosmic mountain.” God will not simply crack open a small, localized gush of water for Israel. No, God will reveal God’s self atop the cosmic mountain, the source of life and the fount of all the great rivers watering the earth. Such an event, on the scale of the Red Sea Parting (v. 5), should be enough to provoke within us an entirely new spiritual imagination.


Above, reconstructed path of the exodus journey, with inset showing the site of Rephidim (Exod 17:1) if located at the Wadi Feiran Oasis north of Mount Serbal.



Above, note the 10 to 20 mile journey that Moses and the elders had to take from Rephidim to the cosmic mountain, Jebel Musa, Mount Horeb/Sinai (indicated by arrows). The “water from the rock” was a 15-mile wide event! The inset shows an image from Mari, 18th cent. BCE, illustrating God’s cosmic mountain as the source of earth’s great rivers.


Above: a before and after illustration. Top image: Mount Sinai/Horeb as a banal, quotidian reality. Bottom image: A vision of Horeb as the archetypal “cosmic mountain,” source of earth’s great rivers.


Above: the inset again illustrates the cosmic mountain archetype. Note how the great rivers of earth flow from the deity, Ea-Enki.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Passing of Dr. Rowan Greer

One of Catherine and my beloved teachers has died, Monday morning, March 17th. Rowan Greer taught Church History, Patristics, and Anglican Studies at Yale Divinity School. We were greatly privileged to have him as the homilist at our wedding in New Hampshire in August 1988. The photo below is from that time. VTS awarded him a much deserved honorary doctorate a few years back, and it was a true joy to spend considerable time with him on that occasion. His passing is a great loss.


Update: The following tribute was posted on the YDS Website (click to enlarge):


Same article, Readability optimized:




Friday, March 14, 2014

Map for Psalm 29

We are reading Psalm 29 in my Hebrew Poetry course, and a web search today revealed no online maps of the course of the thunderstorm in the psalm. That’s a shame, so I’ve made the map below (click to enlarge). Note that “Sirion” in v. 6 of the psalm is the Sidonian (Phoenician) name for Mount Hermon, indicated by the black triangle on the map. It lies at the southern tip of the Anti-Lebanon mountain range. The “Kadesh” of v. 8 is probably Kadesh-on-the-Orontes, located in the upper section of the map.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Imagining Baal

Lecturing last night, I had occasion to talk a little about the god Baal. Here are two sample slides from the lecture (click to enlarge):



Saturday, March 08, 2014

The Minimum Bible

Seminarian Emily Guffey has drawn my attention to the “Minimal Bible,” a series of minimalist, graphic-art posters by Presbyterian minister Joseph Novak. Novak has produced a poster for each of the Bible’s 66 books, each image distilling the biblical book into a single symbolic design. Check out the entire website, by clicking here.On the site, you can purchase a print or card of each poster for a nominal fee.
Here is the poster for the book of Joel, a timely book for the start of the Season of Lent:

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Psalm 51 Illustrated by Earnest Graham


Earnest Graham has produced a powerful graphic illustration of Psalm 51, taking a canonical approach and setting the psalm within the life and story of King, David, within the context of 2 Samuel 12, just after the prophet Nathan has confronted David. The image above (click to enlarge) is just one page out of several devoted to the psalm.