Showing posts from 2013

Reviews of Reza Aslan's Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

For those interested in what some biblical scholars are saying about Reza Aslan's book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. A selection of reviews and blog comments are located below. I highly recommend Robert Gundry's razor-sharp review, but you can't go wrong with Le Donne, Hurtado, Evans, and Carey either.

Robert Gundry's review of Zealot in Books and Culture "Jesus as a Jewish Jihadist":

Anthony Le Donne at Jesus Blog:

Larry Hurtado:

Craig Evans at Christianity Today:

Greg Carey at the Huffington Post:…

Jesus Blog

I can tell from postings of mine over the last few months or the lack of posts that it has been a busy semester.

I just added a link under Blog List to the Jesus Blog run by Anthony Le Donne and Chris Keith. There are posting some interesting things about historical Jesus research. You can find them here:

SSHRC Storyteller Initiative

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada is sponsoring a student presentation initiative of what makes the humanities and social sciences great. Students can make a three minute video or other social media presentation and compete Canada-wide for 25 finalist spots. More information below:

SSHRC launches student contest to promote liberal arts research 
 The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) has launched a contest that challenges PSE (post-secondary) students to show Canadians how liberal arts research is “affecting our lives, our world and our future prosperity.” SSHRC is accepting submissions from November 1 to January 15 in the form of a 3-minute pitch via podcast, op-ed, video, or infographic. The top 25 finalists will receive registration and accommodation at SSHRC’s Congress 2014 conference in May, at which they will promote their project and participate in a research communications workshop. 5 jury-chosen presenters will then be covered…

Wycliffe Centre for Scripture and Theology Fall Colloquium 2013 - Reading Paul

Wycliffe Centre for Scripture and Theology Fall Colloquium 2013 announced.

It is a geat line-up on "Reading Paul: Exegetical Method and Interpretation after the 'New Perspectives.'"

Reading Paul: Exegetical Method and Interpretation After the "New Perspectives" Presentations by
Dr. Ian W. Scott(Tyndale)
"Overview of the 'New Perspectives'"
Author of Paul's Way of Knowing: Story, Experience, and Spirit. Baker, 2008.

Dr. Douglas Harink(King's College)
"Prolegomena to an Imagined Project: Systematic Theology as a Commentary on Romans"
Author of 1 & 2 Peter. Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible. Brazos, 2009; Paul among the Postliberals: Pauline Theology beyond Christendom and Modernity. Brazos, 2003.

Dr. Stephen Westerholm(McMaster Univeristy)

Community, Vocation, Virtue, and Classic Education as Benefits of Religious Higher Education

Dr. Thomas Albert Howard of Gordon College in Wenham, Mass recently wrote a article for Inside Higher Ed entitled "The Promise of Religious Colleges." Howard argues that the current challenges facing higher education actually offer religious institutions of higher education "a propitious opportunity."

The positives as he states them are, first, that religious institutions are still about the personal, about the interaction between faculty and students not just in the classroom but also, and almost more importantly, outside the classroom. The discussion of things that matter and the mentoring that occurs at these institutions is something that cannot be offered in the same way or at all at larger universities.

Second, codes of conduct still exist are religious institutions and need not seem antiquated.

Third, these universities and colleges focus on vocation and calling and not career. The religious institutions challenge students to shape their lives and futures a…

Visualized Bible: Cross-references Imaged

Recently the Guardian Data Blog brought together a number of data images of the Bible in a post entitled "Holy Infographics: the Bible Visualised." The above image is the first of those images. I think that the image itself is actually quite beautiful in the rainbow like arcing of color, especially when the high resolution image is viewed (find that here). The image is attributed to Christoph Römhild and Chris Harrison. And the following description of the image is given:

"This is about how the bible speaks to itself - or the textual cross-references within it. The bar graph that runs along the bottom represents all of the chapters in the Bible. Books alternate between white and light gray and the length of each bar denotes the number of verses in the chapter. Each of the 63,779 cross references found in the Bible is depicted by a single arc - the color corresponds to the distance between the two chapters, creating a rainbow-like effect."

This appears to be …

GK Chesterton on Distraction and Multi-tasking

In his short essay "On the Prison of Jazz" published in Selected Essays (Collins, 1939), G.K. Chesterton makes some comments entirely relevant to multi-tasking and distraction. His primary topic is the inability to hold a conversation in a restaurant while there is live music, namely jazz: "But talking to people who are listening to something else which is not the talk is a sort of complex or nexus of futility." Considering he lived in a non-digital age, his comments on distraction and doing two things at once are strikingly and even more worthy of consideration.

"For, though we talk lightly of doing this or that to distract the mind, it remains really as well as verbally true that to be distracted it to be distraught. The original Latin word does not mean relaxation; it means being torn asunder as by wild horses. The original Greek word, which corresponds to it, is used in the text which says that Judas burst asunder in the midst. To think of one thing at a …

The Bible Miniseries 3: Weakest Moments and the Most Powerful One

Previously, I have commented on the  "10 hour" miniseries on "The Bible" with regard to its portrayal of angels and its portrayal of certain characters such as John the Baptist. I would like to conclude my three part series by addressing what to me were two of the weakest moments of "The Bible" from a biblical and theological perspective. To be fair I will finish with a few comments on what I think is the most powerful scene of the 10 hours. (Comments on this scene have already been made by Rachel McMillan.)

The first of the two weak moments I want to mention is the calling of Peter. This scene has problems for me because there is a cheesiness to it, while it is also a bit off both biblically and theologically. This account of the calling of Peter comes from Luke 5 and not from Matthew or Mark or John. In Luke's account, Peter, James, and John become disciples after Jesus gets into Simon Peter's boat and asks Peter to take him out into the lake …

The Bible Miniseries 2: Interpretation through Characters and Juxtapositions

Continuing with some thoughts and reflections on the "10 hour" miniseries on The Bible, I want to follow up my comments on the portrayal of angels with some comments on certain characters and the depictions of them.

The first I would like to mention is that of John the Baptist. John the Baptist is an extremely important figure in the Gospels. All four Gospels present John as the forerunner of Jesus the Messiah. He is the one who prepares the way, fulfilling prophecies from Malachi 3 and Isaiah 40. Although Luke says that John and Jesus are related, none of the other three Gospels indicate any special relationship between John and Jesus apart from John's baptism of Jesus.

"The Bible" portrays John as the sort of eccentric holy man or prophet that he most likely was. John the Baptist led a renewal movement for the forgiveness of sins out in the wilderness in the provocative location of Israel's entry into the promised land (Joshua 3). What I found compelling…

The Bible Miniseries: Angels

Not long ago now, I watched the "10 hour" miniseries on The Bible. Thankfully I didn't have to sit through the almost three hours of commercials to do so. And once you figure in all of the repetitive "previously on 'The Bible'" bits, it may only be 6+ hours.

Regardless of its length, The Bible was an ambitious project that was well received, and it will probably continue to be well received. However, any project of this size and breadth will have its positive and negative aspects. Thankfully, the miniseries was more positive than negative. They made some interesting choices on what to film, and stories were woven together in thought provoking ways that brought about fresh interpretation. Yet there were other instances where the scene or script fell flat in dramatically disappointing ways.

One aspect that I was most impressed with was the portrayal of the angels. I have done some research on angels in Second Temple Judaism, and the portrayal of angels i…

Robert H. Gundry on "Learning for Spirituality"

Here is a brief excerpt from Robert H. Gundry's essay "Learning for Spirituality" which is in his new book Extracurriculars: Teaching Christianly Outside Class. It was originally an address given in chapel at Westmont College where Gundry is Professor Emeritus and Scholar-in-Residence.

" not to work Christianity into your business. It's not to work spirituality into your learning. You should, of course. You should make your learning an act of worship by putting a Christian perspective on the literature you study, on the art, on the psychology, on the sociology, the political science--on whatever you study. Sometimes it'll be easy to do, sometimes hard to do. How do you put a Christian perspective on math? I don't know. Maybe our math teachers can tell us. But this morning isn't about putting learning into spirituality, about infusing our learning with spirituality. It's the other way around. It's about putting learning into s…

The Liberal Arts in Washington State

James McGrath just tweeted a link to this article by Michael Zimmerman at the Huffington Post. It is a great piece on the value of the liberal arts, and it highlights how employers actually want exactly what liberal arts grads have to offer. The exerpt from the winner of the student essay...superb! This is why I teach undergraduates at a liberal arts institution. This is why I believe the liberal arts is the best education on offer.

Anyone for a Canadian Consortium for the Liberal Arts? I am all for it.

Mark Sargent on the Value of the Christian Liberal Arts

Mark Sargent has been provost at Westmont College now for over a year. The following is a long excerpt on the value of Christian Liberal Arts Education from an article in the Westmont Magazine entitled "A Few Words from Mark Sargent" (Winter 2012). They are great words and reminders about what the liberal arts is and how important this sort of education has been and will continue to be.

The Value of Christian Liberal Arts Education
During my college years I often made long bicycle trips with friends along the California coast. For cyclists, few stretches of the road are more demanding than the Big Sur coastline, where the mountains press against the sea. For 70 miles the highway clings to precipitous cliffs, mixing sharp climbs and rapid descents. That stage of the journey requires full concentration on the thin white line along the road’s edge as you weave through the fallen shale and pine branches and avoid nervous drivers.Yet every now and then, after a long ascen…

Translating the Bible and First Nations Languages

I sat in on Ruth Heeg's paper at the Native American Institute of Indigenous Theological Studies Symposium 2013 Friday afternoon. The paper was quite interesting, especially for someone who teaches Greek and challenges students to think about translation. Some sitting near me were less than enthused about the discussion of transitive and intransitive verbs and abstract nouns in Greek, English, and Algonquian languages. At some level, (μεν) I agree with them, but (δε) on the other hand, all of these grammatical details are important for translation, especially when it involves translating a text that means a lot to many people.

In her paper, Heeg focused on the translation of Greek abstract nouns in First Nations languages, particularly Algonquian languages such as James Bay Cree, Ojibwe, and Plains Cree, in New Testament doxologies. One passage she used as an example was Rev 4:11: “Worthy art thou, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power, for thou didst create all…

David F. Wells on Why Go to Seminary

Here is the link to David F. Wells' piece on why those interested in ministry should go to seminary. As a elder theologian statesman, he provides an excellent historical and theological argument for going to seminary.

I meet many students who are content with a BA in Biblical Studies and Theology or Religious Studies who are ready to start serving in a church, but Wells' thoughts may be worth considering, even if you do take a break from school for a year or two before going to seminary. Wells challenges us to reflect on what it means to pastor and be a pastor. It is deeper than we often think.

Wycliffe Centre for Scripture and Theology 2013-2014 Line Up

At the 2013 Spring Colloquium, Ephraim Radner announced the tentative line up for the 2013-14 Wycliffe Centre for Scripture and Theology Colloquia.

Friday, October 18, 2013: The New Perspective on Paul: An Assessment

Spring 2014 (Date TBD): Book of Ecclesiastes

The presenters for these colloquia are not yet set, but if the organizers are able get half of the people that they named as possible presenters, the sessions should be excellent.

Wycliffe Centre for Scripture and Theology

The Wycliffe Centre for Scripture and Theology spring colloquium was Friday on the topic of "Proverbs 8 and the Christian Theological Reading of the Scripture." Four papers were given by Michael Kolarcik of Regis College, Christopher Seitz of Wycliffe, Donald Collett of Trinity School for Ministry in Mass, and Ephraim Radner of Wycliffe.

Theological interpretation is the main focus of these colloquia and it is the sort of look at these texts (Prov 8 specifically) that make a historical-critical biblical studies person (like myself) slightly squeamish at moments. However, much of the time these discussions provide a challenge to think theologically about the text and a reminder to consider or an introduction to the history of interpretation about the text. In that vein, Kolarcik offered a more comfortable and persuasive (to me) contextual setting for understanding wisdom in Proverbs 8 within the larger context of Prov 1-9 (and more helpfully Wisdom of Solomon 6-10 and Sirach…

Pre-SBL Conference on Brown, Dodd, and the Gospel of John

An excellent Pre-SBL conference is being jointly hosted by St. Mary's Seminary and University and the John, Jesus, and History Group. The headline speakers will be James Dunn and Alan Culpepper who have been outstanding contributors to Johannine scholarship. Other noteworthies include John Ashton, Jan van der Watt, Craig Koester, and Catrin Williams. The conference is subtitled "Engaging the Legacies of C.H. Dodd and R.E. Brown." Looks to be a highlight of SBL even before SBL begins.

Details below:

Wycliffe Centre for Scripture and Theology 2013 Spring Colloquium

The 2013 spring colloquium will be on the topic of Proverbs 8 in the trinitarian debates between Athanasius and the Arians: "Proverbs 8 and Christian Theological Interpretation of Scripture". 

The date is Friday, May 17. More information can be found here.