Jan 26, 2013

Latest Issue of Review of Biblical Literature

The latest issue of Review of Biblical Literature is out. Reviews can be accessed by clicking the links below.

Michael Avioz
"I Sat Alone": Jeremiah among the Prophets
Reviewed by Wilhelm Wessels

Steed Vernyl Davidson
Empire and Exile: Postcolonial Readings of the Book of Jeremiah
Reviewed by Bob Becking

Joëlle Ferry
Isaïe: "Comme les mots d'un livre scellé."
Reviewed by Wilson de Angelo Cunha

Andrés García Serrano
The Presentation in the Temple: The Narrative Function of Lk 2:22-39 in Luke-Acts
Reviewed by Sean Adams

Jean-Daniel Macchi, Christophe Nihan, Thomas Römer, and Jan Rückl, eds.
Les recueils prophétiques de la Bible: Origines, milieux, et contexte proche-oriental
Reviewed by James M. Bos

Shalom M. Paul
Isaiah 40-66: Translation and Commentary
Reviewed by Roy E. Gane

Deborah W. Rooke
Handel's Israelite Oratorio Libretti: Sacred Drama and Biblical Exegesis
Reviewed by Helen Leneman

Allen Verhey and Joseph S. Harvard
Reviewed by Earl Kellett

Duane F. Watson and Terrance Callan
First and Second Peter
Reviewed by Travis B. Williams

Robb Andrew Young
Hezekiah in History and Tradition
Reviewed by Ibolya Balla


Jan 25, 2013

Picture Taking Tips for the Holy Land: Part 3

This is the third and final installment of my series on picture taking tips for taking pictures in the Holy Land.

7. Have your camera ready and not tucked in your backpack. This includes even your time on the bus. You have probably paid quite a bit for the trip and quite a bit for the camera, so don’t pack your camera away just because you think that there might not be anything of interest. I have missed a number of shots simply because I either was not paying sufficient attention or I did not have my camera ready. While I am on the topic, keep in mind that taking a decent shot out of a moving bus window is a bit of a challenge. You might have to contend with glare off of the glass, dirty windows, and the difficulty of trying to capture a still object while moving. So it might be worth learning about shutter speed and even practicing at home (in the car) in order to improve one’s chances of a better shot.

8. Don’t forget to think small. Holy Land trips are basically large-scale affairs. You are taking pictures of buildings, ruins, bodies of waters, mountains and valleys, etc. But sometimes thinking small and getting up close can make for an interesting picture. For example, many take pictures of the Western Wall in general of men and women praying at the Wall. But you might be able to get an interesting shot by focusing on an individual prayer stuffed into one of the wall cracks.

9. Take more rather than fewer pictures. As I noted previously, digital photography is relatively inexpensive. You might pay quite a bit for your camera, but after that the costs of actually taking pictures is minimal. I don’t know if there is a name for this rule, but the more pictures you take, the better chance you have of taking a really nice picture. The worst picture that you ever take is the picture that you never take. Bad photos can always be deleted later, but in many cases you won’t be able to go back to take more. So fire away.

10. Download and review your photos each night on a computer (if you bring one). Not only will this free up memory on you camera but this will also help you see what you did right and how you can do better the next day. Back in the film days this was not possible, but today we have near immediate feedback to learn from our mistakes.

I would add two more tips that are not directly related to how to take photos, but might be of some help nonetheless.

11. Consider what you will do if your camera breaks on the trip. Unfortunately, it happens all too often. Cameras get dropped, left behind, and sometimes even stolen. I usually take two cameras. I take my best camera and then a more basic camera.

12. If you’re traveling with a spouse, consider sharing duties. It is difficult to be both the note-taker and the photographer. Perhaps one can manage the camera and the other can write down the explanations.

It is my hope that you have found something of value in these suggestions. Feel free to leave your tips in the comments.

Jan 24, 2013

Picture Taking Tips for the Holy Land: Part 2

Yesterday I introduced a three part series offering tips on taking pictures in the Holy Land. Here are the next three tips.

4. Decide why you are taking pictures. I know that this may be basic, but my pictures are primarily for me. I take pictures of what I am interested in, namely, photos tied to the Bible and archaeology. Most travelers do not have as much interest in these as I do. That’s fine. I am not nearly as interested in camel pictures that others seem to covet. I also take pictures to use in my teaching ministry. So I try to take pictures that I think will be helpful in the classroom. Such shots are not usually the postcard-like shots. But if you know that you are going to give a presentation of your trip to your church when you get back, then you might have to take some basic shots so that you can show something other than 50 shots of the ruins at ancient Jericho. In any case, it is helpful for you to decide what kinds of pictures you want to bring back before you go.

5. Study what others have done. Before you go, look through the pictures in the myriad of books and guides on the Holy Land. Look at the pictures you see these books and decide what you might want to take and where by comparing the photos you like with your itinerary. You can even start making a list. For example, you might decide that you want a picture looking through the picturesque window at the Dominus Flevit Church. Another helpful resource is Todd Bolen’s Pictorial Library of Bible Lands. Todd has chosen some of the best pictures of practically all, if not all, the sites that most travelers will ever see. This Pictorial Library has helped me (see here).

6. Ask the tour guide for suggestions. Many tour guides have earned a certificate in “Been there. Done that” and, therefore, have a wealth of knowledge about what might make for the best pictures. All the tour guides that I have known have been quite willing to help out with some basic photography advice. While I don’t think you ought to bombard your guide with picture-taking questions at every stop, don’t be afraid to tap into this valuable resource. In fact, after asking a few times, they might start offering advice even before you ask or sometimes squeeze in an otherwise unplanned photo stop. Before leaving the subject of tour guides, make sure that you practice good tourist etiquette. Try to resist taking photos while the guide is talking. Listen to the guide so you know what you’re looking at. Guides get weary of having a distracted photographer ask them a question about something they just explained. 


Jan 23, 2013

Picture Taking Tips for the Holy Land: Part 1

Sometime back a reader commented on this blog that it might be helpful for me to offer some suggestions for taking pictures in the Holy Land. I will try and honor that request now but with the following caveats. First, I am not a professional photographer. I took photography in high school and have dabbled in it over the years. Second, I am not offering equipment advice other than buy or borrow the best camera you can and familiarize yourself with it before you go. That being said, I offer the following twelve suggestions (in three posts).

1. Take pictures of signage. On my first trip to Israel I took my trusty 35mm SLR and 28 rolls of film. But even with that many rolls, the number of shots was still limited and I still had to pay for developing, which was often quite expensive. So taking pictures of street signs, entrance signs, explanatory signs, and the like was a bit of a luxury then. But today, almost everyone uses digital cameras with practically no limits on the number of pictures you can take (memory cards seem to be getting cheaper and cheaper). The value of taking pictures of signs is threefold. First, it helps you to remember where you were and what you were looking at or doing. Most Holy Land tours, especially for first-timers, can be a bit of a whirlwind. You think that you will be able to remember all the details, but after a while your memories will start to blend together. Taking a picture of signage is like making a visual diary. Second, some signs are just interesting. For example, many visitors like to take photos of the entrance to Capernaum or the inside of the door of the tomb at the Garden Tomb. Third, signs can provide surprisingly rich and interesting insights into the culture. For example, you can take pictures of Shabbat elevator signs, minefield warning signs, and signs written in Hebrew and Arabic that just look cool even if you can’t read them.

2. Look behind you as well as ahead of you. Guided tours are almost always focused on what lies in front. While you have to keep up with your group, try to occasionally turn around to see whether the view behind you might make for a good photo. Sometimes when you’re walking uphill (which seems like always), a picture looking downhill will provide an interesting perspective. Pictures taken from one end of a street might look quite a bit different from the other end. Also if it is early in the morning or early in the evening, then the location of the sun might provide a different lighting perspective if you turn around.

3. Don’t be afraid of having people in the pictures. I know that you didn’t travel all that way to take a picture of someone’s fashion-challenged uncle. But the fact is, at the more popular sites it will be very hard to get a shot completely devoid of people. Furthermore, you can also spend so much time waiting to get a clear shot that you don’t have enough time to see the rest of the site. On the plus side, people can sometimes bring life to what otherwise might be a dull picture. People also add scale. That is, people in your photos will remind you (and show those who will suffer through your 3000 pictures when you get back home) of the relative size of the subject of your picture. Also you will appreciate later that you took pictures of people in your group (if you are traveling with one). I have made friends on every trip I have been on, and it’s always nice to have these friends captured for posterity.

Jan 22, 2013

Painting and Preaching

David Murray draws an insightful and helpful analogy between painting and preaching here.

Jan 21, 2013

Robert Mounce on the Seven Spirits in Revelation 1:4-5

Robert Mounce, filling in for his son Bill, has an interesting discussion on the seven spirits in Revelation 1:4-5 here. Unlike a number of interpreters, He sees the seven spirits as “part of a heavenly entourage that has a special ministry in connection with the Lamb.” I still understand the seven spirits as a reference to the Holy Spirit but I do not see Isaiah 11:2 as the background. I agree with Mounce's criticism of that identification. Rather, I see Zechariah 4 as a more likely background. I also agree with Mounce's caution that from an interpretive standpoint, "it is wise to begin with what is said rather than with the theological structure we are building" although I am not sure that this necessarily applies to those who identify the seven spirits with the Holy Spirit in Revelation 1:4-5. 

Jan 20, 2013

Schreiner Interview

See this interview with Thomas Schreiner related to his forthcoming biblical theology of the Bible, The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments