“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.
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“I propose the final edition of Genesis is the result of a similar process by an editor of the Holiness school of pre-exilic Israel, who combined and organized these various materials into a continuous and meaningful whole.” – Bill T. Arnold
- Over on her blog @thclosetatheist has posted her review of Lee Strobel’s book The Case for a Creator. It is a rather scathing indictment of Strobel’s tendency to parade as a skeptic despite going all-in for theism. She refers to Strobel’s creating “the illusion of skepticism” and how often his toughest objections to those he interviews are nothing more than things like “Amazing, tell me more,” etc. She also points out that Strobel doesn’t interview top scholars or scientists in their respective fields but those who have some degree of popularity in the world of evangelicalism. This is Strobel’s habit and one seen clearly even in his latest book The Case for Miracles. (I mean, he interviews J. Warner Wallace, for crying out loud!)
- @StudyofChrist, whose ability to produce excellent content on YouTube sickens me, discusses some more ways in which many have sought to reconcile the Matthean and Lukan genealogies of Jesus, including the notion that Joseph was adopted by Heli, the possibility of Leviarite marriage being a factor, and the problems with Julius Africanus’ take. Finally, @StudyofChrist concludes that the best approach is to “embrace the differences” between the two genealogies and recognize that there are theological motives in play. I second that motion!
- Rachel Martin at NPR recently conducted an interview with Robert Alter on his magnum opus, his translation of the entire Tanakh. I’ve read Alter’s The Five Books of Moses and it was insightful, readable, and beautiful. I’ve also read significant portions of his translation of Job and loved what I read there as well. So as soon as I move I plan on getting his translation of the Hebrew Bible.
- Phil Long, whose work I highlighted last week on Acts, has a short post on “The Times of Refreshing” found in Acts 3:20. He notes that the phrase is a “Second Temple Period way of describing the eschatological kingdom” and brings up a variety of texts – biblical and extrabiblical – that point to the age of the eschatological reign of God in the world.
- Over a decade ago biblical scholar Bill Arnold wrote about his view of the composition of the book of Genesis in his 2009 commentary on it. A shortened summary of his take entitled “Reflections on the Composition of Genesis” demonstrates that Arnold is in general agreement with the findings of the Documentary Hypothesis that the text of Genesis is made up of three sources: J (Yahwist), E (Elohist), and P (Priestly). He compares the creation of Genesis to the creation of the Synoptic Gospels wherein both written and oral sources were brought together to form a coherent whole.
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“The dude really needs to sit down and read something beyond McDowell, because at the moment his knowledge of scholarly consensus and methodology (and the evidence at hand) is enormously dime store apologist level.”
– Chris Hansen on J Warner Wallace
- Over at his website Biblical Historical Context, blogger and Twitter user @bibhistctxt has a post up on whether the author the epistle of Jude used the apocryphal 1 Enoch in places like Jude 1:14-15. Virtually every biblical scholar except the ultra-conservatives (i.e. John MacArthur) agree that in the background of the text of Jude is 1 Enoch and @bibhistctxt shows why.
- Last week I tweeted out my appreciation for a video from @StudyofChrist that appeared on his YouTube channel on whether the Lukan genealogy of Jesus is about Mary’s line, a claim made frequently by pop-apologists to reconcile the Matthean and Lukan genealogies. But I wanted to include it in a Weekly Roundup also so here it is! It was great and as I related in a comment on the video, this is one I plan on keeping in my back pocket for any future discussions with pop-apologists using the argument.
- Chris Hansen () has begun a series briefly taking pop-apologist J Warner Wallace to task for his shoddy work in Cold-Case Christianity. In his first post, Hansen goes over some of Wallace’s outlandish material, including his suggestion that unbelieving scholars place the writing of the canonical Gospels in the second century. In the second post, Hansen deals with Wallace’s intrusion of his experience as a cold-case detective into investigating the nature of the Gospel accounts. These posts are relatively short and do a good job of nailing Wallace to the wall for his “terrabad” work.
- Bill Mounce asks the question everyone is asking – Why do translators use the singular “net” in Mark 1:16 when the word is plural in 1:17? I must confess, that is puzzling. My translation of 1:16 reads, “And walking along the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting nets in the Sea, for they were fishers.” As Mounce explains, there is no direct object that follows “casting” and so it is implied by the context. But considering the context includes 1:17 where the word for “net” is plural, it is strange that translations don’t insert a plural “net” in 1:16.
- In a paper that appeared two weeks ago in the Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Hans Moscicke discusses the exorcism of the demoniac of Gerasa from Mark 5:1-20 and its relationship to the scapegoat traditions of the Second Temple period. Interestingly, and somewhat related to @bibhisttcxt’s post on the relationship of Jude and 1 Enoch, the pericope in Mark seems to have borrowed imagery from the book of 1 Enoch as well, specifically the so-called Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 1-36) and Moscicke discusses this and the relevant scholarship on the subject.
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“What is at stake in that sad progression from Paul to anti-Paul? Why is it of importance that — at least with regard to slavery — radical Christian liberty is being changed back into normal Roman slavery. It means this: Jewish Christianity is becoming Roman Christianity.”
– John Dominic Crossan
- One of my favorite bloggers, @bibhistctxt, has written another piece in his series on Israelite origins entitled “Israelite Origins: Egyptian Domination of Canaan.” As he shows, Canaan was under Egyptian domination during the periods wherein the Israelites purportedly fled Egypt for the Promised Land. Yet there is no mention of this and related issues in the narratives we find in the book of Joshua. This is problematic for those who believe in an Exodus as described in some narrative texts of the Hebrew Bible.
- Tavis Bohlinger wrote a piece over on the Logos website on why Paul mentions his “large” hand writing in the epistle to the Galatians. Bohlinger interviewed Steve Reece, a professor Classical Languages at Saint Olaf College, on the background of this comment from Paul. Reece’s proposal is that the ending of the epistle is Paul taking over for his secretary, creating a noticeable difference in handwriting, i.e. Paul’s wrote with larger letters than his secretary did. This also may have served to show that Paul really was associated with the letter and his handwriting was proof. Reece also goes over other manuscripts from antiquity where we see this kind of phenomena.
- @StudyofChrist recently uploaded a video comparing the Matthean and Lukan genealogies, stressing that these are theological and not historical in nature and therefore do not need to be harmonized. He even quotes from Richard Dawkins!
- Last week over at The Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta posted a video of exorcist Bob Larson casting out a demon from an atheist. What Larson didn’t know is that the atheist was a plant, someone acting like they were demon-possessed to show just how ridiculous Larson’s work truly is. Larson posted the video to his YouTube channel as proof his ministry works. You can’t make this stuff up!
- Almost a decade ago New Testament scholar John Dominic Crossan wrote a piece for the Huffington Post on “The Search for the Historical Paul: Which Letters Did He Really Write?” There are seven letters which are widely regarded as authentic but others which aren’t. But why? Crossan argues that they exhibit “counter-Pauline and anti-Pauline” tendencies. In effect, “Paul is being deradicalized, sanitized, and Romanized” in those letters. Crossan is frequently the center of controversy and this piece was no exception. But it is a very good read on one scholar’s take on the Deutero-Pauline and Pastoral epistles.
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“I think we have to allow that John’s Gospel differs from the Synoptic Gospels in this fundamental respect: it is not an attempt to remember the historical Jesus; it is an attempt to restate the significance of the historical Jesus from a later theological vantage point, shaped in particular by a bitter controversy with the Jews.”
– Andrew Perriman.
- While cooking dinner the other night I was able to get caught up on @StudyofChrist’s series on the Lukan genealogy. In three videos he covered the issue of Arni and Admin (Luke 3:33), the problem of patriarchal names (i.e. Simeon, Judah, Joseph; 3:29-30), and the identification of Neri and Rhesa (3:27). I love the fact that @StudyofChrist is more than willing to buck the scholarly trend if he finds their arguments lacking. This tells me he is thinking through what he’s talking about rather than just parroting what he’s read. Follow him on Twitter and subscribe to his channel!
- Over at The Daily Beast, biblical scholar Candida Moss has written a short piece asking the question, “Did Christian Historians Exaggerate Persecution by the Romans?” In it she examines the claim by Eusebius that Christians were sent to mine in Phaeno, a city in the southern Levant, and that while there many were killed for their faith. Recent archaeological evidence done by anthropologist Megan Perry suggests that this probably wasn’t the case. In all likelihood, this is yet another example of Christians exaggerating the ways in which Rome persecuted the faithful.
- I don’t post to it at all and I really should because the Biblical Studies Carnival is a fantastic monthly resource that offers links to a variety of material from many different biblical scholars covering topics related to the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and more. The November 2018 Carnival was put together by Bob MacDonald, a software engineer with a passion for biblical studies, particularly the Hebrew scriptures. There are some really great links in MacDonald’s Carnival but two stood out to me: Andrew Perriman’s “Why did the Jews accuse Jesus of making himself equal to God?” and a new translation of the books of 1-2 Samuel by William Whitt (which you can download as a PDF).
- In searching for free resources related to biblical studies for my iPad I came across some that are pretty darn useful. One of them is an app called “Greek Kit” that can create a list of all the Greek words – nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc. – that appear in a section of the Greek New Testament and give you a complete run down of each with their meaning. And if you’d rather not have all the words, you can select by type (i.e. 1st declension nouns or contract verbs or particles) and by frequency (ranging from all words to those that appear only two times). Some features of the app are locked and are only available by purchase but this basic feature is helpful because you can take the list of words and then select “Review” and it will go through each word in a slideshow. Beginning students of New Testament Greek can benefit from this tool as would seasoned veterans.
- (Print-Only): The December 2018 issue of American History featured a fantastic article on George Washington entitled “Don’t Print the Legend” by Peter Henriques of George Mason University. We are all familiar with the myths that have developed around Washington: the chopping down of the cherry tree, the prayer at Valley Forge, and so on. But these are myths about Washington that have no basis in solid evidence.For example, the story of a young Washington chopping down the cherry tree and fessing up to his inquiring father was first told by Parson Mason Locke Weems in his sixth edition of The Life of Washington. Evangelical historian Peter Lillback, in a bid to rescue the story from the claims of skeptical historians, wrote in his biography of Washington entitled Sacred Fire that a German-made vase which appeared at some point during the American Revolution showed Washington as a young boy holding a hatchet next to a tree with the initials “GW” nearby. However, Henriques followed up and found the vase and it doesn’t say “GW” but “CW.” And the individual painted on the vase is a man, not a boy, and the tree isn’t even a cherry tree! Henriques writes, “In short, this container has absolutely nothing to do with George Washington.”As a side note, I met Lillback in 2010 or 2011 when he was at a Presbytery meeting in Mississippi for the Presbyterian domination wherein I served as a youth pastor. His book on Washington was on sale at the meeting but I never had any desire to pick it up. By that time I had long been disabused of my David Barton informed beliefs about the Founding Fathers. If memory serves, he gave a brief talk at the meeting but I wasn’t all that impressed.
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“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.
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The Weekly Roundup, ladies and gents!
- Bernard Lamborelle posted a response to @MiraScriptura’s “Bernard Lamborelle vs. Mirror Reading” entitled “Facing cognitive dissonance.” The humility exhibited in Lamborelle’s piece is exemplary and it is refreshing to see two people with opposing views respond to one another’s work without resorting to name-calling or strawmen. I would love to see these two in a discussion on Google Hangouts or in a podcast. It would be very fruitful.
- I’m still getting caught up on @StudyofChrist’s fantastic series covering the two genealogies of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Just recently I watched parts 1 and 2 of “Why Luke has 77 generations in his genealogy.” I especially enjoyed part 2 since he went into the textual variants in the Lukan genealogy and how that influenced the way ancient interpreters understood its import (i.e. Iraneus’ 72 generation schema). Really great stuff from one of my favorite YouTubers.
- The husband and wife Assyriology duo of Digital Hammurabi have some pretty great videos over at their YouTube channel. Recently Josh has started a series covering biblical Hebrew that is pretty darn good! You can check out the first in that series, covering the Hebrew alphabet, here.
- Over at Hendrickson Publishers Blog there is an interview with the editors of the forthcoming Septuaginta: A Reader’s Edition. I spend a considerable amount of time in my Greek New Testament but very little in the LXX. And since I love “Reader’s Editions” of the ancient texts, I am hoping to add this to my library for future reading and reference. Having some knowledge and appreciation of the LXX helps us understand how the NT writers interpreted the Old Testament and why so often it looks different from the Hebrew text we find in BHS.
- Last week DM Spence posted a rebuttal to SJ Thomason’s piece claiming that the Trinity could be found in the Old Testament via the items found in the Tabernacle. (I offered my own response to Thomason here.) Spence eviscerates Thomason, revealing her faulty reasoning and poor exegetical skills. Another sign that the would-be apologist needs to do some fundamental reading before she puts her fingers to the keyboard.
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