Monday, December 29, 2014

“Dry Bones” in Israel-Palestine

I’m grading projects from my fall-term Prophecy course (OTS 645) this week, and there’s a very unique one by Fares Naoum, a senior seminarian from the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who is fluent in both modern Arabic and Hebrew. His art project (a large diorama / 3D-scene) is a homiletic exposition of Ezekiel 37, which applies the biblical text to the contemporary Israeli Palestinian conflict. I’ve created three views of the project to post here: (1) a 3D “Seene” photo; (2) a RotaryView 360 “introverted capture”; and (3) a short YouTube video. Each view provides a different entrée:

Below is the You-Spin capture: And here is the 2-minute video "fly-through": Fares' thesis is that the miracle of Ezek 37:14 can be applied to God’s power to comfort and offer hope to the enslaved and powerless in the Holy Land today. He writes that "People in the Holy Land--Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Christians, and Muslims--live in the valley of the dry bones everyday in their lives, because of the ongoing fighting and conflict between the people (Israelis-Palestinians) that has been ongoing for over 100 years." He recommends the YouTube video embedded below, which provides a fairly objective overview of the conflict's origins and history. The artistic diorama places all sides down in the valley of dry bones. Also down there, in the valley, is the huge Israeli-built wall of separation, which has so traumatized the Palestinians. Both sides have a strong, deep connection to the Holy Land and both suffer in the Valley. The diorama can be viewed from behind (use the RotaryView 360), from which angle there is no hope visible. Two roads appear to lead the two sides farther and farther away from each other. Viewed from the front, however, Fares offers trees with verses from Ezekiel on mountain slopes leading up from the valley. He places the church in a central position in the scene, and urges it to play a role in fostering ascent from the dry-bones status quo. He writes, "The Church should take action... The whole Church of Christ must fulfill God's mission, to achieve peace and reconciliation. Each and every one of us is a child of God, a peacemaker." Comments welcome.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

“I Am the Very Model of a Biblical Philologist”

I Am the Very Model of a Biblical Philologist

Friday, December 12, 2014

“Miriam and Moses” by Phillip Ratner

My Hebrew Class had an awesome visit to the Ratner Museum yesterday. One sculpture that particularly stood out for me this time is this scene of Miriam and Moses from Numbers 12, where Miriam is struck with leprous skin disease. The exact moment depicted appears to be that of Num 12:13.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

“Bad News About My Vocation" by Ron Koertge


Bad News About My Vocation

by Ron Koertge

I remember how the upper crust in my hometown
pronounced it—care-a-mel. Which is correct, I guess,
but to everybody else it was carmel.

Which led to the misconception about the order
of Carmelites.

I imagined they served God by heating sugar
to about 170 C, then adding milk and butter
and vanilla essence while they listened
to the radio.

I thought I could do that. I could wear the white
shirt and pants. I knew I couldn’t be good
but I might be a good candy maker.

So imagine my chagrin when I learned about
the vows of poverty and toil enjoined
by these particular friars.

I also crossed off my list the Marshmellowites
and the Applepieites, two other orders I
was thinking of joining.

“Bad News About My Vocation" by Ron Koertge, from The Ogre’s Wife. © Red Hen Press, 2013.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

“Moses,” by Jaime Leonard

My student and advisee seminarian Jaime Leonard gifted me this beautiful artwork of Moses that she created. Wow! Thank You Jaime! (Click to enlarge.)


Thursday, December 04, 2014

The “Dirty Bride” of God in Ezekiel 16

Among the excellent talks I heard in San Diego was Daniel Bodi’s discussion of the Ištar “carnival” festival on the prophet Ezekiel and on his outlandish depiction of Jerusalem as God’s wife in Ezek 16. Bodi noted how Hibbert has pointed out that the Ištar festival was celebrated as late as the Hellenistic times. One text (BRM I, 99:37-39) mentions several members of Ištar's cultic personnel, such as the kurgarrû, the assinnu, and the singers who are paid six šeqels of silver for the first day of the procession. This text is important for Ezekiel studies as it confirms the presence of the Ištar “carnival” festival at the time of the Judean golâ in Babylon. In this brief blog-post I want to explore something that goes well beyond Bodi’s talk, namely a startling synchronicity between Ezek 16 and a key image in the much, much later art of Peter Bruegel (click the image below to enlarge).


In Vienna this summer, I enjoyed seeing up close works of the 16th century Netherlands artist Peter Bruegel the elder. The artist's famous painting of the battle of Carnival and Lent (above) contains a scene better displayed in his woodcut "The Dirty Bride" or the "Marriage of Mopsus and Nisa." In the engraving, the coarse, bedraggled bride being led from a shabby nuptial tent is Nisa, while the prancing groom who leads her out is Mopsus.

Amazing: Ezekiel’s depiction of God’s “Dirty Bride” at the start of Ezekiel 16 is immediately in the spirit of Carnival, at least as it came to expression much later in the 16th century CE. 3 Thus says the Lord GOD to Jerusalem: Your origin and your birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite, and your mother a Hittite. 4 As for your birth, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in cloths. 5 No eye pitied you, to do any of these things for you out of compassion for you; but you were thrown out in the open field, for you were abhorred on the day you were born.


The problematic content of Ezekiel 16 appears in a totally different light when one reads the text as an experience of “Carnival.” At Carnival, for a moment, people felt a world turned upside down. In the print of the Dirty Bride immediately above (engraved by Pieter van der Heyden and published by Hieronymus Cock in 1570) a Latin inscription was added below the image that translates "Mopsus marries Nisa, what may not we lovers hope for"—i.e., anything can happen. Is this not one key message of Ezek 16: The past is horrific but the future can see a new creation. What may not God’s people, God’s lovers, hope for? Much more scholarly work is needed focused on reading texts such as Ezek 16 and Ezek 23 as “Carnival.” For some initial notes and brainstorming, click here.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Bono on his personal spirituality…

U2 frontman Bono talks about faith and life…

U2 has been in the news a lot lately---yesterday, Bill Clinton among others appeared at a World Aids Day Concert at his request in his absence. He is recovering in Ireland from a bike accident in Central Park last month, which left Bono with multiple injuries, including a facial fracture involving his left eye socket, a fractured left shoulder blade, and a fractured left elbow.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Seminarian Art: The Prophet Micah

VTS Seminarian Bryan Spoon (Class of 2015) created this beautiful wooden icon of the prophet Micah as a gift for me. (Click to enlarge.) Pretty cool, no?