The Weekly Roundup – 12.21.18

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to my readers. I’ll see you in 2019!

  • On December 31st I will have completed reading the Old Testament, New Testament, and Apocrypha in the NRSV. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve read through the Bible cover-to-cover but I can now say I’ve read through the entire NRSV! In 2019 I plan to read through the Torah and with it the study notes in the HarperCollins Study Bible. To that end, I created a plan which you can download and use if you want to read through the first five books of the Hebrew Bible too. It ends up being about half a chapter per day, a very manageable amount. Or if you want to read through the whole Bible in a year, here’s the plan I used in 2018.
  • Over at his blog The Dishonesty of Apologetics, Twitter user and blogger @Elishabenabuya has written a post on the so-called messianic prophecy found in Micah 5:2. What he shows in his blog is that the words of Micah weren’t referring to Bethlehem but to one whose lineage could be traced to Bethlehem. So then the Gospel of Matthew’s use of it as a prooftext for the messianic birthplace of Jesus is nothing more than a misreading of the text, at least as far as the MT goes. The LXX of Micah 5:2 is similar to what we find in Matthew 2:6 but even then it has its differences.
  • I am in my Greek New Testament regularly but I’m always on the lookout for reading aids and good resources to keep my knowledge of Koine Greek alive and well. One resource I found recently is the Daily Dose of Greek app which goes through a verse of the New Testament in just a couple of minutes. The app features the work of Rob Plummer, a professor New Testament at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has gone through many verses but most crucial to me is his series on Mark’s Gospel which I plan on going through in 2019.
  • Six years ago Matthew Ferguson, a PhD student in Classics at UC Irvine, posted a piece onto his blog that briefly explains why the oft-cited claim that the New Testament has a mountain of manuscripts supporting its authenticity is not all that impressive. As he shows, it has to do with context, a word that creates a sense of horror in a pop-apologist.
  • Scott Noegel, professor of Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle, wrote a short piece for the website Bible Odyssey on Pharaoh. When we read biblical texts we frequently see that the Egyptian king is often unnamed (i.e. in Genesis and Exodus). Since these texts were written long after the events they describe, the biblical authors may not have known the Pharaoh’s name and therefore could not supply it. And as Noegel points out, it is also apparent that in Genesis and Exodus the authors were less interested in precise historical detail than they were in “casting [Pharaoh] as a literary type,” particularly in his godlike role in Egyptian politics and religion. He thus functions as “the antithesis to Israelite religion and the quintessential enemy of Israel.” Noegel’s is a short but excellent summary of Pharoah.

Featured image: Wikimedia Commons.

Michael Coogan: The Land Before “Israel”

Michael D. Coogan, The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures (OUP, 2014), 13.

For most if its history, the Promised Land was not called Israel. Prior to the emergence of a political entity that called itself Israel in the late second millennium BCE, this region formed part of what its frequent overlords, the Egyptians, called Canaan. That is how the Bible itself uses the term: The “land of Canaan” is the usual designation for the territory promised to Abraham, and it is used almost exclusively in narratives about the period before ancient Israel came into existence. Modern scholars often use the term “Canaanite” in a broader sense to designate the culture shared by the ancient inhabitants of modern Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, and western Syria. Sometimes in the Bible, Canaan is more precisely defined, as in Genesis 15.19-21: “The land of the Kennites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” This lists at least some of the traditional pre-Israelite inhabitants of the land and makes it clear that the land had a history before the emergence of Israel.

Bernard Lamborelle’s Thoughts on Scholars’ Review of ‘The Covenant’

Last month I posted a link to Bernard Lamborelle’s grilling by two Assyriologists and an Egyptologist. As I said in that post, while they did not find his thesis compelling Lamborelle did a good job of fielding the questions and taking their constructive criticism well. And just recently he has posted a response to some of the objections raised in that peer review session that I think are pretty interesting. He concludes,

If anything can be said about this exercise, it is that no decisive conclusion can be drawn at this time. Excellent questions were raised that show my work remains fragile and that the amount of energy required to fact check it goes beyond what can be expected from a casual reading and discussion.

I view the fact that everyone saluted the amount of research and effort and that no decisive rebuttal was provided as something extremely positive. It encourages me to seek additional feedback and perspectives. More scholars need to look into it before it can be properly validated or refuted.

Once again, I want to thank Dr. Bryson, Dr. Bowen and Megan for taking the time to read my work, to reflect on it and to share their invaluable feedback on it. If I somehow misrepresented their thoughts or was biased in the way I reported their overall appreciation of my work, please let me know. I will be happy to make the necessary corrections.

This is what I call being careful about your claims. Lamborelle was willing to put his work to the test, recognized some flaws, and was very grateful to those experts that disagreed with him. He knows he has more work to do and he plans on working on it. He is a testament to what true scholarship should look like.

I am currently reading his book The Covenant and plan on reviewing it piece-by-piece here on the blog. So far I’ve enjoyed it though I have questions that I’ll explore as I blog.

Check out the rest of his post on peer review here.

Featured image: By Attributed to Colin Nouailher – Marie-Lan Nguyen (2009); cropped by Beyond My Ken (talk) 18:01, 10 November 2010 (UTC), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12016136

Testing ‘The Covenant’ – Bernard Lamborelle Faces the Experts

Last week on The Non Sequitur Show, Bernard Lamborelle appeared to discuss his book The Covenant: On the Origin of the Abrahamic Faith by Means of Deification. I have not had an opportunity to read the book and so cannot offer a synopsis but here is what Amazon has to say about it:

This historical essay takes readers back to the Bronze Age, some 3,500 years ago, at a time when men of power were viewed as living gods. Using sociology, anthropology and etymology, it asks pertinent questions and dissects the biblical Covenant to explore an innovative and thought provoking interpretation that exposes this story like never before.

What if the Covenant had been made with an overlord in order to pacify the Valley of Siddim, an important trade corridor between Egypt and Mesopotamia? What if this overlord’s memory had been celebrated and elevated to the rank of deity by Abraham’s descendants? And what if this “deity”, initially worshipped as a local god, would eventually become known as Yahweh?

  • This book is original because it alleges that the Abrahamic Covenant had an earthly, rather than divine origin. This eventuality has never seriously been investigated, despite the fact that ancient Canaanites (Israelites) are known for practicing the cult of the ancestors and for worshiping a pagan deity called Baal Berith (“Lord of Covenant”).
  • This book is significant because it rests on a wealth of textual, archeological, chronological and dendrochronological evidence. The hypothesis it develops is surprisingly coherent and complete. In addition to offering a synthesis of past dialectics, it solves the biblical chronologies and provides fresh answers to many puzzling questions.
  • This book is timely because it demythifies one of the key tenets of the monotheistic religions. By offering a scientific and historical perspective on the origin of the Abrahamic faith that is psychologically far more plausible than that offered by tradition, it could prove an effective tool to defuse fundamentalism and radicalization.

The interview on The Non-Sequitur Show featured three experts in ancient history: Dr. Joshua Bowen (Assyriologist), his wife Megan Lewis (Assyriologist), and Dr. Maggie Bryson (Egyptologist). Each of them were impressive in the depths of their questions as well as their seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of their respective fields. I also appreciated Bowen’s measured responses and careful approach.

Lamborelle’s work seems to rest on the assumption that Abraham was a historical figure and that is an assumption I do not share. But I have to say that Lamborelle did a pretty good job of fielding questions from the experts and taking criticism well. Though the experts did not find his hypothesis convincing, they made it clear that writing such a book is the kind of thing that sets the stage for further research and might result in new discoveries.

I am hoping to get a copy of Lamborelle’s work soon and giving it a go. And you should have a look at the discussion in the video below.