“Israel did not ‘believe’ in dragons anymore than their neighbors did. When Israel says God defeated the dragon, they use this myth in two ways. Most of the time, as in Psalm 74; Isaiah 27:1, where the dragon is named Leviathan just as in the Canaanite myth; and Isaiah 51:9, they are saying, ‘Whatever you Canaanites mean when you say ‘Our god defeated the dragon’–it’s true of our God, not yours. Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is the one who defeated the dragon, whatever that means.’” – Robert Miller II
- @StudyofChrist’s video on the identity of Immanuel in Isaiah 7 is superb. He analyzes the text, draws from commentaries, and shows that at least in the context of Isaiah the reference is to a child born in the 8th century BCE and not Jesus. The video is longer than usual but it is well worth the twenty minutes it would take to watch it.
- Back in October of 2018 Robert Miller II wrote a short piece for ANE Today on “Dragons in the Bible and Beyond.” He notes that dragon myths typically involve a conflict between the dragon and a storm deity. In the Baal Cycle the Litan is the creature Baal defeats, a beast who is depicted as a “fleeing serpent” (cf. Isaiah 27:1). Considering how often dragons appear in some form or fashion in prophetic literature, this is an excellent introductory article. Miller has also written a book on the topic entitled The Dragon, the Mountain, and the Nations: An Old Testament Myth, Its Origins, and Its Afterlives.
- New Testament scholar Michael Bird has a brief review of Donald Hagner’s latest book How New is the New Testament: First Century Judaism and the Emergence of Christianity. I have benefited from Hagner’s commentary on the Gospel of Matthew and will hopefully get my hands on this volume in the near future. Bird notes that this volume is based on lectures Hagner gave in the Philippines and that in their written form the author suggests that Christianity is not something other than Judaism but is rather “the fulfillment of Judaism.” Perhaps, but I would be interested in seeing how my Jewish friends might view such a position.
- Phil Long over at Reading Acts posted a short piece on whether Saul’s encounter with Jesus in Acts 9 constitutes a call or a conversion. He writes, “Using modern Christian categories like “conversion” and “call” to describe Paul’s experience is a mistake. Paul’s experience in Acts 9 is quite unique in salvation history.” He also notes that while some have tried to place Paul’s theology within the spectrum of Judaism, this misses the radical nature of some of Paul’s teachings.
- A couple of years ago Pete Enns wrote a brief post over on his website on how the biblical genealogies were not intended to convey “history” but rather something else. He writes, “The biblical writers were not ‘historians’ writing ‘accounts’ of the past. They were storytellers accessing past tradition to say something about their present. That includes genealogies.” Amen.
Featured image: Wikimedia Commons.
“The death of the messiah [in Mark’s Gospel], at the hour of the cross, is the advent of the υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, who has come with great power and glory (13:26).”
– Danny Yencich
- On 11.25.18 Twitter users @Shann_Q0 and @paulogia0 had a discussion with pop-apologist SJ Thomason covering a wide-range of topics including Gospel authorship, the historicity of the Resurrection, the growth of Christianity, and more. I think both Shannon and Paul did a pretty good job of sticking to the facts and resting their laurels on a lot of New Testament scholarship. Thomason, on the other hand, offers the same pat answers that the pop-apologists she reads give. Also, Thomason seems to be easily distracted and I’ve noticed this in other YouTube conversations, her Twitter posts, and even in her blog posts. In any event, I really appreciate the work that Shannon and Paul put into the conversation with Thomason. They both come across as very genuine, humble, and knowledgeable people. Not bad for a couple of heathens!
- Twitter user and blogger @apetivist wrote a blog post entitled “The Problem of Evil or Suffering by Apetivist.” It isn’t intended to be a thorough discussion of the problem of evil but it does raise some interesting points. For example, often Christians employ a free will defense in a bid to rescue God’s omnibenevolence. But as Apetevist points out, many of those same Christians believe that in the future eschaton all sin and evil will be purged from the world. If that’s the case, why couldn’t God keep and maintain such a world now? Therefore, God’s omnibenevolence is questionable.
- Over on his YouTube channel @StudyofChrist is working through the genealogy of Luke’s Gospel, addressing specific errors within the text. I was able to work through three: “All the alleged Errors in Luke’s Genealogy,” “Why is there an extra Cainan in Luke’s Genealogy? part 1,” and “Why is there an extra Cainan in Luke’s Genealogy? part 2.“ As he is wont to do, @StudyofChrist goes deep into both biblical texts, ancient manuscripts, and extrabiblical sources. His is fascinating work. Like and subscribe to his work if you haven’t already!
- Self-professed Bible “nerd” Daniel Kirk did an interview with Pete Enns and Jared Byas on their The Bible For Normal People podcast discussing my favorite book of the Bible: the Gospel of Mark. There’s plenty of neat tidbits about the social circumstances in which the Gospel was written and how the narrative structure works within it.
- Danny Yencich, a PhD student in New Testament and Christian Origins at the University of Denver, wrote a piece last year in the Stone-Cambell Journal entitled “Sowing the Passion at Olivet: Mark 13-15 in a Narrative Frame.” The gist of the piece is that Mark 13, traditionally seen as an entirely apocalyptic passage, may in fact be foreshadowing the events that take place in the Passion narrative. This view isn’t unique to Yencich but he does succinctly put together the evidence for such a view and it is one that I find intriguing. While undoubtedly the Olive Discourse is apocalyptic in nature, a fact that Yencich essentially concedes, there are particular words and phrases that evoke the Passion narrative that follows. These include the use of the verb paradidōmi (13:9), the idea of “eschatological darkness” (13:24), and more.
Featured image: Wikimedia Commons.
Here’s the Weekly Roundup!
- I’ve really enjoyed @StudyofChrist‘s series on the Matthean genealogy. I’m slowly getting caught up on his videos and recently watched “More Complicated Issues“ which covers issues surrounding the father of Zerubbabel (Matthew 1:12) as well as where in the world Abiud (Matthew 1:13) came from. Many of the names in the genealogy are unattested which leaves you scratching your head wondering where Matthew got the names. A great video!
- Biblical scholar Steven Dimattei wrote a post over at his website Contradictions in the Bible on theTension Between Genesis 10 and Genesis 11. The former is a Priestly document showing how the various nations originated following the Flood. The latter is a Yahwist version of the same origin story but told in a narrative form and differs with the Priestly genealogy.
- I have also enjoyed @theclosetatheist and her blog The Closet Atheist. Not too long ago she wrote a piece entitled “An Atheist’s Evolution” where she talks about how she now feels free to move on from the fundamental issues related to atheism to other topics she’d like to explore. I think this is an important stage in the deconversion process but it seems that it is not one everyone goes through. Reading her journey has been very satisfying and I find myself rooting for her and her fiance!
- New Testament scholar Michael Kok wrote an article in 2015 entitled “Critical Questions for the Early High Christology Club” which seeks to “resist the tendency to treat the textual representations of Christian beliefs and praxis in the New Testament and other Christian literature as univocal.” This is something that is often resisted among apologists who like to paint early Christianity as essentially monolithic, but a cursory reading of the New Testament reveals that this cannot possibly be true. The Markan Jesus, for example, doesn’t seem to become the Son of God until his baptism. In fact, he was baptized by John whose baptism was for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Was Jesus a sinner? In any event, the Markan Christology is not nearly as high as the Johannine Christology or even the Pauline.
- On biblical scholar Pete Enn’s The Bible For Normal People podcast is an interview with Mark Smith, an expert in the Hebrew Bible. In this recent episode Smith discusses the history and origin of Yahweh, bringing out the parallels between Yahweh and El as well as Yahweh and Baal. It is an absolutely fascinating interview!
Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons.
Old Testament scholar Pete Enns recently did a podcast episode on his The Bible for Normal People where he discussed the curious book of Ecclesiastes. Enns doesn’t shy away from the rather bleak outlook on life that Ecclesiastes seems to present. Life is absurd so far as Qoheleth is concerned and whatever God throws your way you just have to deal with. You can’t change a thing!
If you’ve never read the book of Ecclesiastes, give it a go. It might take you thirty minutes to get through and it is a fascinating look on life from the perspective of an ancient Jew. And listen to Enns’ episode on the book of Ecclesiastes to hear some of his insights.
Note: Enns is a Christian and so don’t be surprised that he discusses the book of Ecclesiastes as it relates to Christian belief.