“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.
“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.
Featured image: Wikimedia Commons.
“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.
Featured image: Wikimedia Commons.
Here’s the Weekly Roundup! (Note: there will be no Roundup next Friday.)
- Over at bibleinterp.com there is an excerpt from John: Interpreted by Early Christian and Medieval Commentators (Eerdmans, 2018) entitled “The Spiritual Gospel: The Gospel of John in the Early Church.” In this excerpt Bryan Stewart discusses the way early Christian writers viewed and used the fourth Gospel, often drawing parallels between it and various Old Testament texts.
- Over at The Secular Outpost Bradley Bowen has posted an index to his lengthy series rebutting Peter Kreeft’s chapter on God in Handbook of Apologetics. I have not read the entire series but from what I have read it seems very thorough. Those interested in philosophy of religion may want to take a look.
- I am slowly getting caught up on @StudyofChrist’s series on the genealogy of Matthew. And I need to hurry because he has moved on to the Lukan genealogy! I recently watched four videos: “Time Variation” parts 1 and 2 and “Why Does Matthew Include Women in His Genealogy” parts 1 and 2. The two on women in the Matthean genealogy are very interesting and @StudyofChrist shows that he has really done his homework. If you aren’t subscribed to his channel, do it already!
- Over at his blog Twitter user, YouTuber, and blogger D.M. Spence has an absolutely devastating critique of a blog post by pop-apologist SJ Thomason had written on why she thinks the angel of Yahweh is the pre-incarnate Jesus. Spence’s rebuttal is simply titled “Jesus is NOT the Angel of the LORD.” I had toyed around with the idea of writing a rebuttal to Thomason’s post but I don’t need to as Spence has written exactly what I what have written and more and he did it far better than I could have. Not that Thomason cares; she is still stuck in her echo chamber.
- Last December Clint Heacock put a nice little post covering the topic of inerrancy entitled “Deconstructing Biblical Inerrancy.” Heacock traces its origins to the heresy trial of Charles Briggs, the nineteenth century Union Seminary professor whose love for “higher criticism” got him into some real trouble with the confessional crowd. It is an interesting post, one that asks some very serious questions about just how tenable inerrancy is.
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.
Here are a few good articles, blog posts, and podcasts I’ve been enjoying this week.
- Twitter user and blogger @bibhistctxt continues his series on ancient Israelite origins with “Israelite Origins: putting away childish things.” In this post, he shows that the various towns that were purportedly destroyed by the invading Israelite armies led by Joshua were not done in by those armies.
- Nicholas Pelham’s piece in Lapham’s Quarterly entitled “A New Ark: What the marsh Arabs can teach us about Noah’s flood“ has some really interesting details on how a large boat designed to survive a regional flood would have needed to be constructed. And some “old-timers” recall a time when flood waters were so great that sometimes ended up floating on the water for a month before ending up on dry land. Amazing!
- One of my favorite podcasts as of late has been New Testament Review, the work of two PhD candidates in New Testament at Duke University – Laura Robinson and Ian Mills. The duo review such classic works as Richard Burridge’s What Are the Gospels?, William Wrede’s The Messianic Secret, and more. It is a really great podcast and one I recommend if you are interested in the New Testament and the last century or so of scholarship on it.
- Over on his YouTube channel, @StudyofChrist has been going through the genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew and I was recently able to watch his episode on the curse of Jeconiah and how that plays into the Matthean genealogy. It is a complicated issue but the solution he proposes is interesting.
Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons.
Yesterday I posted a link to the first of two videos from @StudyofChrist concerning the names Aram, Asaph, and Amos in the Matthean genealogy and the problems they pose. Today I am posting the second video in which @StudyofChrist deals with the problems of Asaph/Asa and Amos/Amon (see Matthew 1:7-8, 10).
To begin with, @StudyofChrist points out that our oldest and best manuscripts have the names Asaph and Amos whereas later manuscripts have Asa/Amon (i.e. Byzantine/Majority text types). It is obvious why later manuscripts would have the corrected reading since scribes had a tendency to correct what they perceived to be mistakes. But did Matthew make a mistake or was this an intentional move? Was it theologically motivated?
One of the things that I have hard time wrapping my head around is the notion that Asaph and Amos necessarily refer to a psalmist and a prophet. Why should we suppose that Matthew intended for us to think of those two? Is it because they are famous in biblical texts? Is Matthew name-dropping? Or did Matthew just mess up? @StudyofChrist quotes one New Testament scholar who seems to think that Matthew’s use of Asaph instead of Asa because of Jesus’ words in Matthew 13:35 where he cites from Psalm 78:2 which is a psalm of Asaph. But this is just strange to me. For Matthew it is David who is far more important than anyone else and Asaph served under David. I am skeptical that Matthew would change Asa to Asaph just so a few thousand words later he could quote from a Psalm of Asaph. The same is true of Matthew’s quoting of Amos in Matthew 10:29. Adding Asaph and Amos to the genealogy doesn’t really add anything of substance to the Gospel as a whole. This explanation seems very contrived. Maybe Matthew just messed up.
While I disagree with @StudyofChrist’s view I can still appreciate where he is coming from. Who knew that digging this deep into a couple of names in a genealogy hardly anyone reads could be so fascinating?
Make sure you subscribe to @StudyofChrist’s YouTube channel!