Reminder to Biblioblogging Top 50 and the Lower 50s Alike

Posted on by Brooke

Remember that the 51st Biblical Studies Carnival will be hosted here. During this month February, while you are reading blog posts anywhere on biblical studies, nominate your favorites to the Carnival so I can include them (on linked page, scroll down to “Submitting Entries”).

February 3rd was Blogroll Amnesty Day, in which bloggers “link down” to smaller blogs instead of “up” to the A-list blogs. In the spirit of Blogroll Amnesty Day:

  1. You Big Dogs in biblioblogging—you know who you are—could keep an eye toward reading and linking to the Littler Dogs where you may.

  2. You Little Dogs in biblioblogging: remember that when anybody nominates posts during February, I will find opportunity to link to the nominator’s own content before the Carnival. It’s not like car keys under your seat, but you don’t pay taxes and insurance on my humble linky love, either.

Eighteen nominating days left: vote early, and vote often.

[Reminder to Biblioblogging Top 50 and the Lower 50s Alike was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2010/02/10. Except as noted, it is © 2010 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

This Week in Context of Scripture

Posted on by Brooke

[Reminder: support Blogroll Amnesty and the Biblical Studies Carnival by nominating posts this month.]

As you may know, Charles Halton had published a reading schedule for Hallo and Younger’s The Context of Scripture (three volumes; Leiden: Brill, 2003). This week, we have been into Hittite archival documents. Two things have my attention: the scribal “postscripts” in the letters from the king to one Kaššu (a provincial leader dealing with local harassment; 3:13-29), and the letters between the royalty of Hatti, Egypt, and Babylon (the superpowers of the day; 3:30-31).

A charming feature of the king’s letters to his subordinate Kaššu is the “postscripts” that the king’s scribe writes to his counterparts serving out in the provincial center, whom he calls his “dear brother[s].” The king’s scribe reassures the provincial scribes about the well-being of their families, so we can see that the provincial scribe has left his family in the monarch’s city (Hattusa?). I wonder if this was common practice, and if it reflects a relative danger or discomfort in the provincial center. In the last of the letters to Kaššu, the scribe writes his postscript, not to another scribe, but to the three military men for whose ears the king has written the body of the letter. Since one regular scribal assignment was to accompany campaigns (see, e.g., 3.2, the Egyptian “craft of the scribe” letter), a picture of profession-crossing cameradarie begins to suggest itself.

The letters between royalty (3:30-31) offer an accessible illustration of the “parity” relationship as I describe it to my students when they learn “covenant.” In 3:30, the queen of Egypt repeatedly calls her counterpart in Hatti “my sister,” acknowledges inquiries concerning her health and well-being, and offers such “greeting-gifts” as, here, twelve linen garments and a gold necklace.

It’s never too late to begin reading COS in a year: just pick up where we are, and follow through to the same point next year. The pace is generally easy, and the rewards steady. Thanks again, Charles!

Blogroll Amnesty and the Next Biblical Studies Carnival

Posted on by Brooke

It must be kismet. Today is Blogroll Amnesty Day, and what is more, I find that Duane informs me that I am hosting next month’s Biblical Studies Carnival: in other words, this be the month in which I collect nominations for said Carnival.

So, in the spirit of Blogroll Amnesty Day, in which Wee Little Blogs get the attention they deserve—and, might as well face it, all biblical studies blogs are Wee Little Blogs scurrying ant-like on the smooth, concave, mobian surface of teh intertubes—I will reward nominators throughout the month of February by providing links to their own content.

That’s right: send me a nomination for the upcoming Carnival, and I will go to your site, find something link-worthy, and link to it in a post here. Literally scores of eyeballs will be drawn to your site (or, as you like to think of it, The Hardest Working Site in Blog Business).

Bonus offer: for those who nominate posts more than once during the month, I will do my best to find legitimate cause to festoon my link with high-value search term context words like “Tea Party,” “Lady Gaga,” “iPad,” and “DADT.”

Run and see the current Carnival at Duane’s, and also go see the instructions for nominating posts.

Blogroll Amnesty means linking to the smaller blogs. Send me anything at all you find Carnival-worthy, but let’s keep a special eye on the little folk. Have fun, and keep ’em coming.

[Addendum: you big ol’ biblioblogs can support Blogroll Amnesty Day and the Biblical Studies Carnival even further simply by linking to this post: Thanks!]

"The Story" (Zondervan): Reading the Bible?

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As a kind of resolution for 2010, our rector has decided that we’ll be reading the Bible this year (I pause here for jokes about the Episcopal Church and knowing nods; better now? okay). The initial vehicle will be a ten-week reading group, working through The Story: Read the Bible as One Seamless Story from Beginning to End (revised edition; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008). Amazon/Publisher

I should say right away that, on balance, I am excited that we’re pushing Bible and finding ways to encourage familiarity with it. This church happens to have racked up some pretty staggering accomplishments in outreach, in community service, in local and international charity, and (less quantitatively but not less noticeably) in growing a community marked by a joyous mutual love. A more solid biblical foundation can only strengthen the kind of theological thinking that already drives the congregation.

Now for the gripes.

The Story starts with the TNIV as a base text. Put positively: at least it’s not a paraphrastic, expansionistic re-telling of the biblical text tending toward commentary (like at least one prominent translation I could name). Put negatively: I didn’t have any use for the NIV, and the TNIV doesn’t do anything to change that assessment. I believe strongly in the educational value of underscoring, rather than denying, tensions among the biblical texts. Harmonizing translations interfere with that project of teaching and learning, so I normally avoid them except for illustrations of the problems I associate with the harmonizing project. Overall, then: could be worse.

In terms of “Seamless Story from Beginning to End”: obviously the editors have had to decide on a timeline. Decisions made here are predictable: early patriarchs and exodus; Isa 40–66 as predictive prophecy; Solomon as pious but ultimately satyric author of Proverbs (but not, apparently, Ecclesiastes. Hey, where the heck is Ecclesiastes? Holy mo…where’s Job!? I guess there’s no room for the “dissenting wisdom” in The Story). And so on.

Where The Story skips or summarizes parts of the Bible, their stated plan is to put such summaries in italics, so that this editorial material can be distinguished from the biblical text itself. A couple of observations:

  • That transitional material can run to heavy-handedness (for Noah’s generation, life had become “one big party”? How do you get that from the biblical text’s description of “wickedness” and an inclination toward “evil”?).

  • The book inserts plenty of non-biblical commentary that is not set into italics. For example, this piece, that follows Gen 15:16 (“it was credited to him as righteousness”):

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

Similarly, after Gen 22:
Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a matter of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

The perspicacious reader will observe that Paul of Tarsus has been set amok here, and that a brand of Pauline hermeneutic is shamelessly passing itself off as Hebrew Bible.

All this said: our rector is fully aware of the strengths and shortcomings of any attempt to abridge and narrativize the Bible, and she has invited the congregation up front to argue, wrestle, denounce, and question (which I’ve no doubt they will do). So, on balance, again, it’s a project that I can totally get behind and get excited about.

Anybody out there already have experience with The Story? Any stories about The Story?

RBL Review of Bibb's Ritual Words and Narrative Worlds in the Book of Leviticus

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Bryan Bibb’s book, Ritual Words and Narrative Worlds in the Book of Leviticus (T & T Clark, 2008), is reviewed on the Review of Biblical Literature website. Find the link to the PDF review on the book’s RBL page.

Bryan’s work is as “intriguing” and “appealing” as the reviewer claims, working further into the ways Leviticus “ritualizes narrative” and “narrativizes ritual.” The reviewer rightly recommends the work.

In the obligatory paragraph of constructive criticism, I would argue that the reviewer is not as clear as Bibb is himself concerning his claims about the role of “gaps” in Leviticus’s narrativized ritual. For Bibb, there is a kind of positive feedback loop (my words, not his) between “gaps” in ritual instructions and “gaps” in narrative. No instructions are so clearly articulated as to cover all aspects of relevant practice, and these “gaps” give rise to narrative explications (whether written or practiced) that seek to establish clarity but which themselves inevitably have their own “gaps.” These gap-ridden narratives in turn call for added instruction, and so on. The story of Nadab and Abihu (Lev 10:1-3), with its relevant instructional material (e.g., Lev 6:12-13; 16:1-2, 12-13) offers a poignant example of the risks involved in a life lived practicing ritual in the “gaps.”

Read the review, and if you have (or could have) any interest in Leviticus or the ways that narrative and ritual instruction may intersect, read Bibb’s book.

A General-Public Biblical Studies Site?

Posted on by Brooke

Why yes, and they would like to know what you, the public, would like from such a site.

This is from the Society of Biblical Literature, our big ol’ professional conference. The site will be called, “The World of the Bible: Exploring people, places, and passages.”

As they put it:

This website will provide information about the Bible from academic perspectives, and will not reflect any one religious viewpoint.

Fill out their survey, won’t you? Let’s raise the signal-to-noise ratio in our public discourse about the Bible.

Hat tip to Akma.

Feed the Beast: Biblical Studies Carnival

Posted on by Brooke

Bragging rights for feeding the beast: get ’em here! Nominate anybody’s post(s) to Duane, come back here, and tell us in the comments that you fed the beast.

Each month, a volunteer blogger hosts the Biblical Studies Carnival: she posts an entry that links to the best posts in academic biblical studies from the previous month. “Best” is determined simply: whatever posts readers nominate to the host, subject to the host’s vetting.

The carnivals themselves are a hill of fun.

It is not unheard of for good carnivals to die, because they run short of volunteer hosts, especially when readers are slow to nominate posts and the hosts have to chase around choosing posts on their own. There has been some talk about how to ease the burden for Biblical Studies Carnival hosts.

So: I have dedicated this post to bragging rights for nominators. Go find a post in biblical studies from January—something you thought good enough to bookmark, or to link to on your own blog or on Facebook, or that sparked some other kind of activity in your life—go find that post and nominate it for the January Carnival.

Then come back here and post a comment. Do not tell us what you nominated, but simply tell us with pride: “I fed the beast!”

"When God Began to Create…": Nouns Bound to Verbs

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In order to post on this, I have to break an informal but firm rule I have kept for myself: not to blog on Genesis 1–3. I have no wish to attract any debate or controversy about the truth/historicity/inerrancy of the story/myth/history/polemic/whatever of Gen 1. That said, my Hebrew students are at a point now where they can make sense of the Bible’s very first phrase, so let me have this, please.

As for my Hebrew students: sit up and pay attention. You won’t know the Akkadian, but you can still follow the argument: just give the Hebrew special attention. I am throwing in the Akkadian for my enjoyment, and because I am up to my neck in some texts at the moment.

The text in view is Genesis 1:1:

בראשית ברא אלהים

Traditionally, “In the beginning, God created…” But, more recently, “In the beginning, when God created…” Or even, “When God began to create…” Students naturally want to see a definite article in the first form: BA-rēšīt ("in THE beginning"). They are told (if they are told anything) that the form is in construct, and therefore unable to take a definite article. The obvious question is, “To what is it in construct? It precedes, not a noun, but a perfect verb.”

In Hebrew relative clauses, one permissible construction is a construct noun followed by a finite verb: קרית חנה דוד “The-district-of David encamped,” that is “The district where David encamped” (Isa 29:1). Similarly, for Akkadian relative clauses, one permissible construction is a bound (“construct”) form followed by a finite verb (with -u of subordination): bīt ēpušu “the house-of I-built,” that is “the house (which) I built.” (Note that, in both Hebrew and Akkadian, we will more often see the relative particle in such a clause: Hebrew אשר, Akkadian ša.)

This construction is often used with verbs of time. So in Hebrew: ביום הציל יהוה “In-the-day-of YHWH delivered,” or “In the day when YHWH delivered” (2 Sam 22:1). That the noun of time is in construct is more clearly shown in examples with distinct bound forms: בליל שדד ער “in-the-night-of Ar was devastated,” or “in the night when Ar was devastated” (Isa 15:1). In Akkadian: UD-um É.GAL KUG.BABBAR i-r-i-[šu], or Ūm ekallum kaspam irrišu: “The-day-of the-palace receives silver,” or “The day when the palace receives silver.” (CT 8 36a, cited in Huehnergard exercise 19.G.2.)

An excellent parallel to our text is found in Hosea 1:2: תחלת דבר יהוה “The-beginning-of YHWH spoke,” that is “When YHWH first spoke” or even “When YHWH began to speak.”

By now, it is clear that these constructions are parallel to that of Genesis 1:1. Looking at it again, we can translate:

“In-the-beginning-of God created,” that is, “In the beginning, when God created,” or even “When God began to create.” In other words, the Bible begins with a subordinate clause, preceding the main clause. Where, then, would you say that the first main clause in the Bible begins?

COS in a Year: Anyone Else In?

Posted on by Brooke

I don’t normally make resolutions for the New Year, but Charles’ suggestion to read Context of Scripture (Brill link) in a year…well, that’s like making a resolution to, um, read really fun stuff every day.

Charles’ reading schedule (see PDF link in his post) offers enough variety to keep any one section from becoming deadening, while also providing enough continuity to keep the “C” in COS. Most of the daily readings are short enough that I’ll have time to make the most of the footnotes and, where appropriate, lexical helps.

I am caught up so far. Is anybody else giving it a shot?

RSS Survivor

Posted on by Brooke

With 478 blogfeeds waiting to be read, I had to pull the trigger on them all at once. So, if you’ve blogged in the last 7–10 days or so, I’m afraid I’ve missed it. Sorry, friends, it’s just that kind of semester.

But, while glancing at headlines, I did see one item that I simply must keep up on: Peter’s series on definiteness in biblical Hebrew (links are to main page and to first post in series, respectively).

Yeah, I know this means something’s wrong with me. Yesterday’s news. :^)

The Catskills Bible: Misdirection and Humor

Posted on by Brooke

It’s a basic building block of comedy: you lead the hearer in one direction, then suddenly “go the other way.” “I don’t know what I’d do without you, baby…but I’d rather!” (drummer does a rimshot here)

Reading the story of David and Bathsheba last evening, I found myself dwelling on what looks to me like a similar bit of humor on the part of the narrator. (It’s likely that this has been picked up in the commentaries, but I haven’t looked into them yet. I mean, you folks are right here.)

David has impregnated Bathsheba the wife of Uriah, and David is trying to trick Uriah into having sex with Bathsheba so that Uriah will think the child his own. However, Uriah keep piously avoids going home to his wife, remaining celibate in the company of, and in solidarity with, his active military unit. David’s final ploy is to invite Uriah to his room and get him good and drunk (2 Sam 11:13, my translation):

“David summoned him, and he ate before him and drank, and he made him drunk, and he went out in the evening to lie in his bed with…the servants of his lord! To his own house he did not go.”

The sentence begins to convince the reader that David has succeeded: Uriah, besotted, goes out into the evening to lie in his bed. But then the penny drops: it’s not his wife’s bed, but his billet with his unit. David is foiled again.

I am reminded (and I don’t recall who to credit here) of that bit in Genesis 19:19-20, where the men of the town have threatened Lot with rape for protecting his visitors:

“And they pressed hard against the man Lot, and they approached to ‘break the door,’ and the men reached out their hands and brought Lot to themselves…home! And shut the door.”

Besides the apparent wordplay for male-on-male rape (“break the door”), the reader is persuaded to think that “the men” grabbing Lot are the men of the town, until the sentence ends and we find that it is the visiting men who have grabbed him, to pull him to safety.

My question to you, O readers: is this a motif that comes under discussion in a general way? Are comparisons made to other biblical texts, or do you know of any? My interest is in narrative or poetic sentences that seem to mislead the reader for a time, only to set right the misdirection at the end.

Podcast Ideas in Hebrew Bible

Posted on by Brooke

Not very long ago, Chris Heard canvassed his readers for suggestions about short podcasts on topics in Hebrew Bible: you can see the results for yourself. Mark Goodacre’s NT Pod continues to be well-received (and no surprise).

I have a lecture series in progress, geared toward my introductory students and designed to accompany a traditional course in Hebrew Bible. Each lecture is a podcast episode comprising a pair of 25–30-minute halves. The podcasts are slide-enhanced, and in *.m4a format, playable by iTunes, iPod, or QuickTime, and with some help from Blackboard can be viewed on a web browser as well. In their current revision, I consider them as still in “beta,” and I don’t plan to publish them to public directories until I’ve done some clean-up on them.

I would like, though, to plan a different kind of series, more after the pattern being laid down by Mark and Chris: 5–12-minute episodes, audio only, on manageable critical issues in biblical studies. I wouldn’t begin until Spring 2010, but I would like to begin thinking of ideas. Chris got good results on his query, so I am asking the same: what topics would you like to see addressed in such a format? Some ideas I already like are:

  • What are Old Testament Pseudepigrapha?

  • What is Apocalyptic?

  • Emergence of Israel in the Land, in four parts: chronology, rapid conquest model, gradual infiltration model, revolt model

  • DtrH and Redaction Criticism

  • Walls of Jericho

  • Finkelstein’s “Low Chronology”

  • “Satan” in the OT

  • YHWH, El, and Baal

  • YHWH and “his Asherah”

  • Who is Job’s “redeemer”?

  • What is the Exile?

  • ?

The audience would be about the same as that (apparently) envisioned by Mark: the intellectually curious layperson or the scholar outside of his own fields of expertise.

What would you like to see in a series of short podcasts in the academic study of the Hebrew Bible?

The Bible’s Night Sky

Posted on by Brooke

I was lamenting this morning that, with a crushing teaching load this term, I am not reading enough Hebrew Bible or other ancient lit. For me, things get stale—rapidly—if I’m not reading primary texts. From where is my help to come? From an unexpected quarter, as it turns out: The Night Sky.

The Night Sky (hat tip to Americablog) is a brief tutorial on locating three major constellations: Orion, the Big Dipper, and Cassiopeia (and with them, Betelgeuse and Polaris). After working through the tutorial (city boy, no night sky), I did what any Bible scholar would have done: I said, “Where’s that part in Job and such where we hear about Orion?”

Turns out that the word translated in the NRSV “Orion” (כסיל: Job 9:9; 38:31; Amos 5:8) is elsewhere translated “fool, dullard” (Psa 92:6 and tons of places in Proverbs, e.g.). It is the immediate literary context that suggests the difference in translation: in Job 9:9, for example, we get “Pleides and _”; in Job 38:31, “chains of Pleides, or cords of _.” In Psa 92:6, by contrast, it’s “The stupid man doesn’t know, the _ doesn’t understand.” In Isa 13:10 the word is plural, and context suggests “constellations.”

So how did I, a space nut (city sky notwithstanding) and lay-science-dork who works in Bible professionally, never get around to doing an investigation into the Bible’s night sky? What a כסיל! No time this morning to do more than blog briefly on it, but it is nice to have a list of biblical texts that I can investigate in the few odd corners of time allowed me by this term’s teaching schedule. Thank you, Night Sky.

Biblical Studies Carnival XLVI is Up

Posted on by Brooke

Clear some time this weekend for some reading, kiddoes: the latest Biblical Studies Carnival has been posted by Daniel and Tonya.

For those readers who are unacquainted with the concept: a monthly “carnival” includes links to a great many blog posts in biblical studies, all written during the last month.

Posts are nominated for the carnival by readers. Carnivals are hosted by volunteers. Carnivals are cool. Like it says in the Bible, “Come and see.”

You can find links to previous Biblical Studies Carnivals over at the Carnival’s home page.

RBoC: T-Minus 21 Hours Edition

Posted on by Brooke

This time tomorrow, I will have finished with my first Hebrew session of the year, and be worshiping in chapel under the handicap of anticipating our first session of the large introductory Old Testament course.

On my mind today are the following:

  • It’s my wife’s birthday. Why do academics marry people with early September birthdays? Sometimes we just can’t help ourselves, and besides, I wasn’t an academic when we married, or when she was born, for that matter.

  • The Blackboard Help Desk never returns calls. [Later: that was pretty snarky. In fact, once they realized that our classes have started NOW, they have been very much on the case.]

  • I want to post on the “women in biblioblogging” kerfluffle about as badly as I don’t want to post on it. (No link: either you’re up on it or you don’t need to know.) Preliminary observations: 1) Among the non-Bible academic blogs, women appear to me to constitute a pretty solid majority (for a self-selected and anecdotal glimpse, see my second blogroll). 2) With others, I point out that the soi-disant “bibliobloggers” are a skewed sample of Bible scholars: aside from being mostly male, they are mostly grad students, and (I am not dying to try to defend this or even define it too closely) largely somewhat conservative in background or readership. 3) Biblical studies as a culture tends to lag at least a few decades behind its ancillary disciplines (literary criticism, archaeology, history, culture studies, you name it, and yes-it’s-true-that-other-fields-can-be-slow-to-hear-what-we’re-doing-too). 4) Jobs are hard enough to find and keep, and more so for women than for men, and so far “bibliobogging” isn’t exactly up there in the requirements for tenure. I don’t wish at this time to try to tie these points together into a coherent set of claims, except perhaps to say, “It’s pretty early in the day yet, folks, yet not too early for attention to collegiality and justice.” More to follow, maybe.

  • Pre-recording slide-enhanced podcast lectures takes, on average, four times longer than simply delivering the lecture in class. And that’s just for beta-version, not-ready-for-prime-time product.

  • Fall ball? Why did we think that we had time for our son to be involved in fall baseball?

  • I have a presentation to prepare for the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature (weekend before Thanksgiving, New Orleans LA).

  • I cannot wait to get back into some more substantial posts. Be patient, please, neighbors.