Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Science and the Bible?

"The problem with concordist approaches [a concordist approach intentionally attempts to read an ancient text in modern terms (from p. 104)] is that while they take the text seriously, they give no respect to the human author. The combination of 'scientific truth' and 'divine intention' is fragile, volatile and methodologically questionable.We are fully aware that what we call 'scientific truth' one day may be different the next day. Divine intention must not be held hostage to the ebb and flow of scientific theory. Scientific theory cannot serve as the basis for determining divine intention."—The Lost World of Genesis One, page 105.

<idle musing>
I remember reading in an A.W. Tozer book once where he was saying essentially the same thing. His remark was that if the Bible describes some scientific discovery, why isn't it noticed by anyone until after the discovery. A very valid question.

To try holding the Bible hostage to science is to defeat its very purpose. It was written to point us to God. It is not God; it is only a book. Actually, as I am fond of saying, it is only a block of wood thinly sliced, unless enlivened by the Holy Spirit.
</idle musing>

Monday, June 29, 2009

New 10 day sale

I have been amiss here about announcing Eisenbrauns sales. I wonder if anybody notices...

I just posted a new 10-day sale that those who love the ANE will like. This is the lowest price ever on Letters from Assyrian Scholars to the Kings Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal (not that it is cheap, but it is a good deal!). Here's all the glorious details:

"Born in Heaven, Made on Earth: The Making of the Cult Image in the Ancient Near East"
Edited by Michael B. Dick
Eisenbrauns, 1999. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 1575060248
List Price: $49.50 Your Price: $29.70

"Temple in Society"
Edited by Michael V. Fox
Eisenbrauns, 1988. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 0931464382
List Price: $37.50 Your Price: $18.75

"House Most High: The Temples of Ancient Mesopotamia"
by A. R. George
Mesopotamian Civilizations - MC 5
Eisenbrauns, 1993. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 0931464803
List Price: $45.00 Your Price: $27.00

"The Storm-God in the Ancient Near East"
by Alberto R. W. Green
Biblical and Judaic Studies from the University of California, San Diego - BJSUCSD 8
Eisenbrauns, 2003. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 1575060698
List Price: $49.50 Your Price: $29.70

"Atra-Hasis: The Babylonian Story of the Flood, with the Sumerian Flood Story"
by W. G. Lambert, Alan R. Millard, and M. Civil
Eisenbrauns, 1999. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 1575060396
List Price: $35.00 Your Price: $24.50

"Babylonian Wisdom Literature"
by W. G. Lambert
Eisenbrauns, 1996. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 0931464943
List Price: $75.00 Your Price: $45.00

"Babylonian Oracle Questions"
by W. G. Lambert
Mesopotamian Civilizations - MC 13
Eisenbrauns, 2007. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575061368
List Price: $55.00 Your Price: $38.50

"Mystical and Mythological Explanatory Works of Assyrian and Babylonian Scholars"
by Alasdair Livingstone
Eisenbrauns, 2007. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 1575061333
List Price: $44.50 Your Price: $26.70

"Letters from Assyrian Scholars to the Kings Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal"
by Simo Parpola
Eisenbrauns, 2007. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575061399
List Price: $169.00 Your Price: $118.30

"Ritual in Narrative: The Dynamics of Feasting, Mourning, and Retaliation Rites in the Ugaritic Tale of Aqhat"
by David P. Wright
Eisenbrauns, 2000. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 1575060469
List Price: $45.00 Your Price: $22.50

More on Genesis 1

Viewing Genesis 1 as an account of functional origins of the cosmos as temple does not in any way suggest or imply that God was uninvolved in material origins—it only contends that Genesis 1 is not that story. To the author and audience of Genesis, material origins were simply not a priority. To that audience, however, it would likewise have been unthinkable that God was somehow uninvolved in the material origins of creation."—The Lost World of Genesis One, page 96 (italics original)

<idle musing>
We keep insisting on putting our preconceptions on the biblical text...must be part of the fall. After all, it's all about me!
</idle musing>

Friday, June 26, 2009

The role of the temple

"The role of the temple in the ancient world is not primarily a place for people to gather in worship like modern churches. It is a place for the deity—sacred space. It is his home, but more importantly, his headquarters—the control room. When the deity rests in the temple it means that he is taking command, that he is mounting to his throne to assume his rightful place and his proper role."—The Lost World of Genesis One, page 75.

<idle musing>
And, we are the temples of the living God...radical, isn't it!
</idle musing>

Thursday, June 25, 2009


"An individual named Adam is not the only human being made of the dust of the earth, for as Genesis 3:19 indicates, 'Dust you are and to dust you will return.' This is true of all humans, men and women. It is an archetypal feature that describes us all. It is not a statement of chemical composition nor is it describing a material process by which each and every human being is made. The dust is an archetypal feature and therefore cannot be viewed as a material ingredient. It is indicative of human destiny and mortality, and therefore is a functional comment, not a material one."—The Lost World of Genesis One, page 70

<idle musing>
Without the surrounding context, that statement might sound unsupportable, but the rest of the chapter does support it. Walton is arguing for a functional understanding of creation, not a material one (primarily). He argues that the cosmos is God's temple; more tomorrow...
</idle musing>

Why is it...

I rarely post on current events, but this is an
<idle musing> that came to me today:

I first ran across it in-person while I was an undergraduate in college—which I managed to cram into 8 years, by the way. We were in married student housing, and one of our neighbors had come back to school after working for several years to get a degree in art; he wanted to teach high school. He was an excellent potter and a good artist. He was in his final year, less than 4 months from graduation when he moved out on his wife and young child. He had met a woman at the jean factory where he worked part-time and decided he wanted to move in with her. Because it was a Christian college, he dropped out and threw away those years in school. Last I heard, he was still working at the jean factory.

Later, I ran across it at a place I worked. The sales manager had a female employee that should have been let go, but...well, you know. His (and my) boss told him to "think with his head, not his dick" and fire her. Mind you, at this same time that boss was having an affair with a customer service person—while his wife was pregnant with their third kid.

Since then, I have seen it over and over. Men (and women) throw away everything for a fling. They know it is wrong; that the results won't be worth the moment, but they do it anyway. As that country song puts it: "What part of no don't you understand."

To me, this is proof of our total inability to do any good without the grace of God. Without the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, we know what to do, but we can't. It is only by the transforming, empowering presence of God that anyone can live the Christian life. The latest collapse by a "moral leader" is but further proof of it.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The focus of creation is...

"It has already been mentioned that whereas in the rest of the ancient world creation was set up to serve the gods, a theocentric view, in Genesis, creation is not set up for the benefit of God but for the benefit of humanity—an anthropocentric view. Thus we can say that humanity is the climax of the creation account. Another contrast between Genesis and the rest of the ancient Near East is that in the ancient Near East people are created to serve the gods by supplying their needs. That is, the role of people is to bring all of creation to deity—the focus is from insde creation out to the gods. In Genesis people represent God to the rest of creation. So the focus moves from the divine realm, through people, to the world around them."—The Lost World of Genesis One, page 69

The measure of a manager

I've been reading a good bit of continuous improvement stuff of late. This little gem was in Reflections from the Society for organizational learning.

A true measure of a manager is said to be when he hands over duties to a subordinate. If performance stays on track after the hand off, the manager has done his job correctly. If performance falls, the manager is viewed by everyone as having done a poor job in terms of employee development.

<idle musing>
I remember the first seminar I ever attended on management, over 20 years ago now. After the first break, the presenter asked how many had called to check in on the office over the break. When over half of the people raised their hands, expecting a congratulation for caring, the presenter proceeded to tell us that if we felt the need to check in with our people, we had failed. I've never forgotten that reprimand...

The true measure of your success is not whether things run smoothly while you are present, but whether they run smoothly when you are absent. This is true of just about every part of life, not just work.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


"We must never forget that translation is the most basic act of interpretation. One cannot convey words meaningfully from a source language to a target language without first determining what they think the text means to say."—The Lost World of Genesis One, page 49

<idle musing>
There is an Italian saying, "Traduttore, Traditore!" which translates roughly as the translator is a traitor. There is no direct one-to-one correspondence between languages; there is more a cloud of meaning that overlaps to a greater or lesser degree with the target language.

Communication is hard enough in your native language between two people; it is even more difficult between languages. And, just to make it even better, take away all native speakers. Now, add a few thousand years in, just for good measure! No wonder we have problems with the Hebrew text.
</idle musing>

Monday, June 22, 2009

What constitutes creation?

“Unless people (or gods) are there to benefit from functions, existence is not achieved. Unless something is integrated into a working, ordered system, it does not exist. Consequently, the actual crative act is to assign something its functioning role in the ordered system. That is what brings it into existence. Of course something must have physical properties before it can be given its function, but the critical question is, what stage is defined as 'creation.'

“In the ancient world they were not ignorant of the senses and the level at which objects could be perceived by the senses. They wold have no difficulty understanding the physical nature of objects. The question here concerns not what they perceived but what they gave significance to...our ontology focuses on what we believe to be most significant. In the ancient world, what was most crucial and significant to their understanding of existence was the way that parts of the cosmos functioned, not their material status.”John Walton in —The Lost World of Genesis One, 27-28

<idle musing>
He is arguing in the book that Genesis 1 is not an account of material creation, but of functional creation. We'll see as the book goes on. So far, I find some of his statements need support—which is what his book with us is supposed to do...
</idle musing>

ATLA Day 2

Seems they roll up the streets in downtown St. Louis after 9:00 PM on a weeknight. By the time I got ready to go to dinner, there weren't many choices within walking distance. I ended up just going to the hotel's eatery. I ordered a reuben, asking for extra kraut—triple the kraut actually. Most restaurants just run a few strings of kraut over their reubens, but a reuben needs kraut to be any good. When the waitress brought out the sandwich, she told me she hadn't just asked for extra kraut, but had made the cook put some more on the side. I dissected the sandwich and added the extra kraut. Finally, a reuben with enough kraut on it!

I take back what I said about the food being all sugar on the breaks. The morning break had orange juice, apple juice, V-8™, granola bars, apples, bananas, and oranges. No milk, but better than sugar and grease. I had some more good conversations with people, showing them our wares. As always, people appreciated our reasonable prices in comparison to some publishers.

After the final break and drawing, it was time to tear down, pack up and head home. I had forgotten to bring our portable 2-wheeler, so it was a one box at a time trek to the car. Hauling boxes in 90 degree heat is not my idea of fun.

The drive home was hot, but the sky was beautiful with storm clouds all around. I managed to stay ahead of the storm until Indianapolis, where I turned north. The lightning was lighting up the sky with long fingers and I knew it was just a matter of time before the rain hit. Sure enough, about an hour from home it started raining hard. By then it was dark, too, so 45 MPH was the maximum speed, but I got home safely.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

ATLA-Day one

I just got back from working out; the work-out room was full this morning at 6:00 AM. As some of you know, I judge a hotel by its work-out area. You know if a hotel is good by how they treat the equipment there. I would say it is OK. The equipment is second tier, but it works—except for the heart rate monitor. It kept saying my heart rate was 124; I took a quick check and it was in the 150s, which is normal. I know, 220-53=167 max heart rate times 80% for target range is 130s. Guess what? My maximum heart rate is not normal for my age...

Anyway, as I was saying...the workout room was full at 6:00 this morning, so I didn't get my normal workout. I sure could tell. I couldn't remember the Edzard was the author of Sumerian Grammar, I said Hans Dieter Betz! For those who don't know, Betz is a New Testament scholar, not a Sumerologist. Later I couldn't remember the name of Johnson Speaks to Us—and I was talking to the librarian from Pittsburgh Seminary where he taught. Oops! So, I definitely need a workout to get my brain rolling on conference mornings.

I like the ATLA conference. It is one of my favorites. It used to be my favorite, but since Tim left the break food has become sugar and fat. It used to be fresh fruit, yogurt, milk, granola bars—along with sugary stuff. But the last two years it has only been sugary stuff, although this morning they did have yogurt and bananas, which was nice. Don't get me wrong, they run a super nice conference, I just miss that one aspect. This Minnesota/Wisconsin bred boy needs his half-gallon of milk a day to function right, and all they offered was corn-syrupy sodas...I drank a lot of water :)

OK, enough of the bad stuff! I have had great conversations with people, lots of compliments on our books, probably some new customers. All the stuff that makes a conference worth attending. But, I still miss my milk...I am going out to eat now—I hope there is a place with lots of milk and cheese :)

Here is our display. I think we need to go with a darker banner; the Qumran scroll is just too light for most venues.

Bobby, I know you read this blog, so this is for you. I took a picture of the Hendrickson table. I loaned you the bookstands for the back books, but was short 2. It looks better in person than it does in the picture.

Cheap Grace?

Nice post over at Grace Roots about the affect that understanding grace has on a life. Here's snippet, but please do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.

...not only are we saved by grace, but that God's love and grace is the essence of the Christian life. I've consistently shared that our "work" is to rest and believe, and that that's how God works in and through us. Restful trust. Trustful rest. Waiting, abiding, believing. It's not our job to produce fruit, but as we abide in the Vine, the life of the Vine flows through us naturally and produces God's own fruit. We are invited by God Himself to participate in His divine nature, but the work is His, not ours.

Objections arise, of course. I can't tell you the number of times over the years that I've been accused of and/or warned about preaching licentiousness, lawlessness, "cheap grace," "greasy grace," "sloppy agape," and other such idiotic things. People have told me in various sorts of ways that I'm teaching others to sin and to not be true followers/disciples of Jesus. They've told me that demons can "rest" and "believe," and that I shouldn't use those words without adding something about "responsibility" and "effort" on our part to work the works of God. They've told me I need to "balance" grace with rules, works and principles for Christian living. They've said I'm causing harm to the body of Christ...

Let me tell you something about those who have been gripped by God's love and grace, and who don't have a focus on performance, but on a loving relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. All the objections listed above (and more) are not true of them! Nowhere close. Grace, to them, is not cheap. It's Power. It's Life. It's God's strength in their weakness. If God's Agape is sloppy, it's only because He lavishes it around so wastefully! God's love and grace, to them, is not a license to sin. That's not even what crosses their minds!

<idle musing>
Why is it that people think they can help out God by works? Finney bemoaned the presence of works sanctification in the early 1800's; things haven't gotten any better since then. I am convinced that most people are afraid of the gospel; it is too powerful. We need to chain it in, otherwise it might affect our lives more than we want...What? Let God live in and through me? Too radical!

Instead we settle for imitation when God calls us to participation. Of course, then we wonder why we fall and are joyless and see christianity as a painful life with the hope of heaven at the end. Lord, deliver your church from works!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Thought for a Wednesday as I leave for a conference

From The Chronicle of Higher Education, on University Presses using Twitter:
"The embrace of microbloggery by university presses is mildly disturbing at first, given that Twitter seems like the next step towards a future in which reading a whole footnote will count as a feat of concentration."
<idle musing>
OK, I thought it was funny, anyway...
</idle musing>

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Been a bit quiet here on the blogging front...I'm getting ready for the ATLA conference in St. Louis. I leave tomorrow...

If you are in the St. Louis area and want to be admitted to the book exhibit, I have some free passes. Just leave a comment letting me know, along with your e-mail address, and I will get back to you.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Is this church?

Something to make you think over at The Heresy (gotta love that name!). Here's an excerpt:

In church many things aren’t really what we say they are

· We sit in rows all facing the same direction listening to the same person and we call that community.

· We chit chat about superficial things for 10 minutes with a coffee in our hands and we call that fellowship.

· We listen to messages that most of us promptly forget 10 minutes after leaving the building and we call that discipleship.

· We spend most of our money for people and programs to serve ourselves while telling ourselves we are building God’s Kingdom.

· We feel terribly isolated despite being surrounded by people because we are afraid to be ourselves. We stay so we can be accountable.

<idle musing>
Sadly, he has pegged what many people think of as "church." Looks pretty pale next to the book of Acts, doesn't it? By all means read the rest of the post; he makes a good observation about the "Jesus +" attitude.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Over the weekend, I picked strawberries—50 pounds of them! We like strawberries :)

It took me about 3 hours to pick them, then we had to process them. We make them into freezer jam and use it on our bread and in our home made yogurt. The yogurt is especially good.

Just so you know, 50 pounds of strawberries—after you subtract the amount we ate and turned into mashed strawberries for putting on things this week—makes about 50 pints of jam. If you are interested, and you're probably not, that equals 17 packages of pectin and 30 cups of sugar. It also equals about 5 hours of work for Debbie and me (for a total of 10 person-hours). But, it sure is good! Now all we need to do is limit ourselves to one pint a week and we will have enough until next year—yah, right! Like that will happen...

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Drip envy

We installed drip irrigation in the garden this year. We are sharing the garden with Jim and Shannon, and they generously supplied the parts. Jim and I installed it last Tuesday; the pictures are from Friday. I actually have used it once so far; it has been a quite wet spring. If you click on the pictures you can see the t-tape along the rows. There is an emitter every 8 inches and it is supposed to water a 12 inch diameter area. Seems to...

A close-up of the connection of the t-tape to the feeder

The tomatoes

The beans

The onions and raspberries. To the right you can see the herb garden with the mint

Monday, June 08, 2009

New baby!

Yep, a week early, too. Madelynn Louise joined the world on Friday night at 8:11 CDT.

Cute, isn't she?

You can see more pictures here. Joel's parents are there and Steve has posted several times, see here and here and here

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Language and culture

"When people want to study the Bible seriously, one of he steps they take is to learn the language. As I teach language students, I am still always faced with the challenge of persuading them that they will not succeed simply by learning enough of the language to engage in translation. Truly learning the language requires leaving English behind, entering the world of the text and understanding the language in its Hebrew context without creating English words in their minds. They mus understand the Hebrew as Hebrew text. This is the same with culture. We must make every attempt to set our English categories aside, to leave our cultural ideas behind, and try our best (as limited as the attempt might be) to understand the material in its cultural context without translating it."—John Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One, page 11

<idle musing>
Yes! Language learning that stops at decoding is not language learning; the same is true of culture. We cannot simply bring our presuppositions into our reading of the biblical text; we must accept the biblical text on its own terms, as difficult as that is.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


I love tea—all different kinds of it. Recently, Jim West was discussing a new tea that he had gotten, vanilla jasmine. I especially love jasmine tea, so I asked him if he would bring some to SBL in November. Being the kind soul that he is (and a fellow tea-drinker), he generously sent me a couple of bags—along with a selection of other teas. It arrived yesterday.

This morning, as part of my normal ritual, I made a cup of tea, using the vanilla jasmine. The tea bag had a faint vanilla smell, so I was looking forward to the aroma of the cup of tea. Disappointing! There was no aroma. I wondered if the taste would also be flat... No, there was a nice, faint vanilla flavor to the jasmine. Very nice, just what I would have expected from Jim. He and I have a long standing dispute about how strong a flavor a cup of tea should have. I prefer mine to shout at me; he prefers his "minimalist," as he calls it. But, I must admit that the minimalist flavor fits this tea very nicely. I think I will have another cup...

Monday, June 01, 2009

The "Word of God"

Great post over at Jesus Creed about the Bible. Here's a snippet to whet your appetite:

We err when we make scripture the foundation of our faith.  Our foundation is God alone, the rock on which we stand is God alone - and his work in this world, including the atoning work of Christ. The authority of scripture is a shorthand for the authority of God - revealed by the Spirit. Scripture illuminates God, his nature and his interaction with his creation - it tells his story, and it does so reliably. But it does so in a fashion that may tell important theological truths in mythic form.

<idle musing>
The early church fathers were always careful to make sure that when they said “word of God” you knew they meant Jesus. Earlier in the post the statement is made that John 1:1 doesn't say the word was written down, but that it became flesh! That, my friends, is an important, but oft forgotten, point. Our God is a relational God.
</idle musing>