Nov 19, 2018

Names in the Book of Ruth

When I teach Ruth, I often note the significance and role that the names of the characters play in the narrative. While I obviously think that such an approach is valid, one needs to exercise a bit of caution as noted by James Schipper below.
Regarding the names of characters and geographic locations in the narrative, critical commentaries, including the present one, often provide information about possible etymologies of these names based on cognates in Hebrew or related Semitic languages. Nevertheless, there is no hard evidence that Ruth’s author was aware of the etymological origins or significance of the names that she or he used, especially if the etymology reflects an Ugaritic cognate and the author lived during the early Persian period, as I tentatively argue. For example, even if one were to explain the origins of Bethlehem as “house pf Laḥmu [a Canaanite deity]” on the basis of Ugaritic cognates known to contemporary scholars, one does know whether Ruth’s author was familiar with this cognate or other possible Ugaritic cognates that I discuss throughout the NOTES. One can be certain, however, that the author of Ruth knew the Hebrew words bêt (“house of”) and leḥem (“food”) since forms of these words occur throughout the book. One could translate Bethlehem as “house of food” (bêt leḥem) on the basis of popular rather than historical etymology. This creates a play on words in that there is a famine in the house of food (1:1; consult comments on 1:1–7a).
James L. Schipper, Ruth: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, Anchor Bible 24c (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2016), 7.

Nov 18, 2018

The Latest Issue of the Review of Biblical Literature

The latest issue of Review of Biblical Literature is out. Reviews can be accessed by clicking the links below but unfortunately you must be a SBL member.

John Robert Barker, Disputed Temple: A Rhetorical Analysis of the Book of Haggai
Reviewed by John Kessler

Laura Copier and Caroline Vander Stichele, eds., Close Encounters between Bible and Film: An Interdisciplinary Engagement
Reviewed by Brandon R. Grafius

Sara Japhet and Barry Dov Walfish, The Way of Lovers: The Oxford Anonymous Commentary on the Song of Songs (Bodleian Library, MS Opp. 625); An Edition of the Hebrew Text, with English Translation and Introduction
Reviewed by Tamara Cohn Eskenazi

Francisco Lozada Jr., Toward a Latino/a Biblical Interpretation
Reviewed by Jacqueline M. Hidalgo

Marvin Lloyd Miller, Ehud Ben Zvi, and Gary N. Knoppers, eds., The Economy of Ancient Judah in Its Historical Context
Reviewed by Yigal Levin

Larry A. Mitchel, A Student’s Vocabulary for Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic: Frequency Lists with Definitions, Pronunciation Guide, and Index
Reviewed by Paul Overland

David Paul Moessner, Luke the Historian of Israel’s Legacy, Theologian of Israel’s ‘Christ’: A New Reading of the ‘Gospel Acts’ of Luke
Reviewed by Greg Carey

Rudolf Smend, Kritiker und Exegeten: Porträtskizzen zu vier Jahrhunderten alttestamentlicher Wissenschaft
Reviewed by James Alfred Loader

Tommy Wasserman and Peter J. Gurry, A New Approach to Textual Criticism: An Introduction to the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method
Reviewed by Jeff Cate

Susan J. Wendel and David M. Miller, eds., Torah Ethics and Early Christian Identity
Reviewed by Joel Stephen Williams

Nov 17, 2018

Is Today Jesus' Birthday?

Clement of Alexandria (ca. AD 150-215), "speculated that Christ was born on this day, November 17, 3 BC." You can read more about it here.

Nov 16, 2018

Old Testament Holiness in Ancient Near Eastern Context

Some additional thoughts from John Walton's recent Old Testament Theology.
"In the ancient Near East, gods were rarely designated as holy. They were considered pure or clean, but there is no term comparable in semantic range to the Hebrew term (qādôš). The closest concept we find in Akkadian is the concept of dingir. This is a determinative noun used to designate the gods, the temples, objects associated with the gods (i. e., included in the divine realm), stars, etc. It is not an indication of a quality but an indication of identity. In Akkadian literature it is very rare for a person’s name to be categorized by use of a dingir (occasional kings), and never is a whole people group so designated (as Israel is designated as holy)."
John H. Walton, Old Testament Theology for Christians: From Ancient Context to Enduring Belief (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2017), 50.

Nov 15, 2018

The Primary Theme of the Old Testament

I have been working through John Walton's recent Old Testament Theology. Here is what Walton has to say about the main theme of the OT.
"I propose that the primary theme that progresses throughout the Old Testament and indeed throughout the Bible, is the establishment of God’s presence among his people (“I will put my dwelling place among you,” e.g., Lev 26:11) with the explicit of being in relationship with them/us (“I will . . . be your God, and you will be my people,” e.g., Ex 6:7; Lev 26:12; Jer 11:4; Ezek 36:28). I do not consider this to be the “center” of Old Testament theology, but it is an overarching theme, arguably the most dominant and persuasive of themes, the trajectory along which the program of God moves. It is the covenant which gives formal articulation to the stages of the relationship between God and his people; it is the promise of God that he will make such a relationship possible; it is the Torah that governs how people may live in the presence of God and sustain relationship with him; and it is the kingdom of God that expresses his role in the cosmos and in which we participate as we live out our relationship with him."
John H. Walton, Old Testament Theology for Christians: From Ancient Context to Enduring Belief (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2017), 26.

Nov 14, 2018

Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry

The fall 2018 issue of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary's Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry is available online for free here.

Nov 13, 2018

Three Functions of the Genealogies in Genesis

According to Bill Arnold, “the genealogies of Genesis have three functions. First, by means of a process known as “divergence,” each paragraph of ancient Israel is the father of other children who are not part of the Israelite ancestry and who become the ancestors of other people groups in the ancient world. Through such a process of differentiation, Genesis explains how Israel related to the other populations of the ancient world. Second, Israel’s lineage itself is traced through a straight line from Adam to Jacob in a process known as “invergence,” in which only one son continues the Israelite ancestry. This lineal descent gives way to twelve subunits in a single generation with the children of Jacob (Gen. 29:31–30:24, counting Dinah, the birth of Benjamin is recorded in 35:16–21), and from that point forward a third process, known as “segmentation,” becomes primary. With the children of Jacob, the genealogies of Genesis focus on the branches of the ancestral family, all considered within the covenant blessing of Israel’s ancestry. Thus, the book traces through this system of genealogies a line of descent for all humanity through twenty-five generations from Adam to the children of Jacob, creating a literary framework or skeleton for the entire book."

Bill T. Arnold, “The Genesis Narratives,” in Ancient Israel’s History: An Introduction to Issues and Sources, Bill T. Arnold and Richard S. Hess, eds. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2014), 32-33.

Nov 12, 2018

Robert Lowth and Poetry in the Prophets

I knew of Robert Lowth's contributions to the understanding of Hebrew poetry and parallelism. But I did not realize that he was one of the first (if not the first) to suggest that much of the prophetic books were poetic. For example, according to Jack Lundbom, "Lowth estimated about half of Jeremiah—at the beginning and the end—was poetry" (Jack R. Lundbom,  Writing Jeremiah: The Prophet and the Book [Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2013], 119).

Nov 11, 2018

Responding to People Who Don't Like You

Joel Rainey has some pretty good advice here. In a nutshell he suggests that one should recognize, pray, learn, lead and love them but do read the entire post.

Nov 10, 2018

The Latest Issue of the Review of Biblical Literature

The latest issue of Review of Biblical Literature is out. Reviews can be accessed by clicking the links below but unfortunately you must be a SBL member.

Cornelis Bennema, Mimesis in the Johannine Literature: A Study in Johannine Ethics
Reviewed by Michael R. Whitenton

Mordechai Z. Cohen and Adele Berlin, eds., Interpreting Scriptures in Judaism, Christianity and Islam: Overlapping Inquiries
Reviewed by Abdulla Galadari

James D. G. Dunn, Neither Jew Nor Greek: A Contested Identity
Reviewed by Maria Karyakina

Matthias Ederer and Barbara Schmitz, eds., Exodus: Interpretation durch Rezeption
Reviewed by Joachim J. Krause

Rouven Genz, Jesaja 53 als theologische Mitte der Apostelgeschichte: Studien zu ihrer Christologie und Ekklesiologie im Anschluss an Apg 8,26–40
Reviewed by Loveday Alexander

Michael J. Gorman, Apostle of the Crucified Lord: A Theological Introduction to Paul and His Letters
Reviewed by Christopher T. Holmes

Robert C. Gregg, Shared Stories, Rival Tellings: Early Encounters of Jews, Christians, and Muslims
Reviewed by Gordon D. Newby

Peter John Parsons and N. Gonis, eds., The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, Volume LXXXIII
Reviewed by Larry W. Hurtado

Luc Pialoux, L’épître aux Philippiens: L’evangile du don et de l’amitié
Reviewed by Isaac Blois

Gary S. Selby, Not with Wisdom of Words: Nonrational Persuasion in the New Testament
Reviewed by Alexander E. Stewart

F. Scott Spencer, ed., Mixed Feelings and Vexed Passions: Exploring Emotions in Biblical Literature
Reviewed by Thomas H. Olbricht

Alexander Toepel, Das Protevangelium des Jakobus: Ein Beitrag zur neueren Diskussion um Herkunft, Auslegung und theologische Einordnung 

Reviewed by Jonathon Lookadoo