Friday, October 30, 2009

The world, the flesh, and the devil

“...many Christians today believe that their constant, ongoing struggle is with the sinful nature and, more precisely, their sinful nature. It’s not much of a stretch to go from (1) I have a sinful nature to (2) I am a sinner by nature to (3) The most natural thing for me to do is sin. Then we wrongly conclude that who we are (our nature) at the very core is sinful, when in fact the Scriptures teach just the opposite. We are now partakers of God’s divine nature (2 Peter 1:4)!”—The Naked Gospel, page 111

“When we walk after the flesh, we’re not being ourselves. If we rely on intellect, strength, or physical appearance to gain purpose and fulfillment, we’re walking after the flesh. But again, this is no indication of our nature. In fact, depending on the flesh goes against our nature.

“We’re designed for dependency on Christ. Walking after the Spirit is our destiny. We’ll never be content with walking after the flesh or fashioning an identity outside of Christ. We can do it, but it won’t fulfill.

“Living a life of dependency on the Spirit is really nothing more than being ourselves. We were built for it from the ground up. After all, we are now God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). We’re designed for walking in the attitudes and actions that God has already prepared for us.

“For a Christian, because of your new identity in Christ, being yourself and expressing Christ are one and the same. God has arranged it so that our new self and our union with his Spirit cause us to want what he wants. God has the market cornered on true fulfillment. And he has installed within us an intense and never-ending desire to find fulfillment through expressing his life. ”—The Naked Gospel, page 115

<idle musing>
So, what do you think? I'm not getting much feedback on these excerpts. Do you think the author is off the wall? Or, is he correct? Or...
</idle musing>

New sale

I posted a new sale yesterday. Here's the BookNews version:

For the next 10 days, Eisenbrauns is offering 20-40% off on selected Excavations and Surveys in Israel and Hadashot Arkheologiyot titles.

To go directly to the weekly sale, click on this link:

Pretty tame...I like the Twitter one better:

Savings that will drive an archaeologist wild! 20-40% off Excavations/Surveys in Israel & Hadashot Arkheologiyot:

What do you think?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Death and resurrection

“...we fail to acknowledge that the gospel isn’t centrally about behavior modification. At its core, the true message is about dying and miraculously being resurrected into a new person.

“Sure, life in Christ has implications for behavior. But we can’t afford to miss the death and life issues because we’re obsessed with the effects rather than the cause. Describing the core of the message, Paul writes the following:
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:3–4)”—The Naked Gospel, page 106

“This miraculous exchange [of the new birth] is not figurative or symbolic but literal and actual. The spiritual part of every Christian has literally and actually been crucified, buried, and raised with Christ. The fact that this occurs spiritually (and not physically) doesn’t make it any less real.

“So what happens to the old self that was in Adam? Once a person is in Christ, the old self is entirely obliterated.”—The Naked Gospel, page 108

“Many have held to the idea that the old self is only positionally dead or is progressively dying over time. But the same epistles that claim Jesus solved our behavior problem by dying on the cross and taking our sins away also state that Jesus solved our identity problem by giving us a new heart, a new spirit, and God’s Spirit. We accept forgiveness as actual, Jesus’ own death as actual, heaven as actual, and Jesus’ return as actual. We don’t have the right to relegate the death of our old self to the realm of the positional or the progressive.”—The Naked Gospel, page 109

<idle musing>
The italics are all his.

I'm currently reading Inhabiting the Cruciform God. His basic thesis is that justification and sanctification are co-crucifixion with Christ, and the resulting co-resurrection. Good stuff—and it should have an affect on how we live, but that is not the core issue. The core issue is that we are new creations in Christ!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Are we righteous, or aren't we?

"In a heartbeat, Christians buy the idea that the world is full of sinners. Once enlightened by the Scriptures, we also agree that we’re born in a sinful condition. Perhaps because spiritual death is a lowly state, we easily agree that the world is fallen. But when it comes to believing that we’re 100 percent righteous by rebirth, we stutter and stammer over our words. In short, we believers consent to “birth determines identity” for the world but not for our own selves.”—The Naked Gospel, page 98

“Sometimes we see ourselves as sinners in the loving arms of a God who is pretending not to see us as we really are. In our minds, maybe God is wearing a pair of “Jesus glasses” that hides our true state from his vision. We find it difficult to grasp the idea that God calls us righteous because we actually are righteous. It feels more humble to believe that we’re filthy worms awaiting a future change into beautiful butterflies.

“Jesus stated it best. He said that our righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees in order to enter the kingdom (Matthew 5:20). So if we Christians don’t claim to possess perfect righteousness, we’re lowering God’s standard. We’re watering down the gospel. We insinuate that Jesus can unite himself with sin. And we insult the perfection of God.

“Only perfection will do. This is precisely why God had to make us perfectly righteous in our human spirits through our own death, burial, and resurrection. With its apparent humility, this filthy worm theology appeals to the flesh. But God certainly doesn’t condone our wallowing in a poor self-image. The risen Christ doesn’t join himself to filthy worms. The Holy Spirit doesn’t dwell in dirty sinners. Christ only unites himself with those who are like him in spirit. The Holy Spirit doesn’t reside in someone who remains even 1 percent flawed by sin. But we’ve been perfectly cleansed. And we’ve been made perfectly righteous at our core through spiritual surgery. This is the only way we can enjoy even a moment of relationship with Jesus Christ.”—The Naked Gospel, pages 105-106

<idle musing>
So, what is it? Will you listen what scripture says?
</idle musing>

New book

This just showed up on my desk yesterday, compliments of Bobby at Hendrickson:
Analytical Lexicon to the Septuagint, Expanded Edition with Word Definitions from Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint

Analytical Lexicon to the Septuagint, Expanded Edition with Word Definitions from Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint

by J. Lust, et al.
Hendrickson Publishers, Forthcoming January 2010
600 pages, English and Greek
ISBN: 9781565635166
List Price: $44.95
Your Price: $35.96

I know that it says January, 2010, but I suspect it will be available before that. I looked it over, and it looks good. The definitions (actually glosses) are taken from Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint, so if you don't like LEH, you won't like it.

The print is small, but crisp; it's just that my eyes aren't as good as they used to be :) The lexical forms of the word are printed in bold, making it easy to spot them on the page. If you don't have an electronic LXX, this book can be a real boon when you are stuck on a form. And—those of you that know my personal feelings about electronic versions won't be surprised by this statement—I would recommend that you use this instead of an electronic parser; you learn so much more when you peruse the pages of a lexicon, even an analytical one.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Grace and effort

Grace is the system that the Holy Spirit uses to counsel and teach us on a daily basis. Grace is in place, whether or not we’ve sinned recently. We worry that an absence of law will result in a lifestyle that is out of control. This concern is natural. But it contradicts what the Scriptures say about the effects of grace. Grace isn’t just a treatment for sin; it’s actually the cure for sin!

“...The secret is that grace deactivates our pride. Removing the law from our lives means our self-effort is no longer prodded to control behavior. The law excites human effort. It encourages us to depend on resources outside of Christ. But unconditional acceptance deactivates human effort and allows the Holy Spirit to be all that he wants to be through us.

“Our greatest fear is that we’ll be out of control. But we were never made to be in control. Self-control has always been a natural attribute of the Holy Spirit. The reason he lives within us is to produce the self-control that we’re afraid we’ll lack under grace.”—The Naked Gospel, page 91

<idle musing>
Amen! Good preaching!
</idle musing>

Those crazy cats

Our cats found a mouse nest on Sunday, or at least that's the best explanation for the number of mice they were playing with. You know how cats play with their food when they catch it. Well, two of the kittens were playing with one, taking turns. Another, older kitten came up and took it from them, grabbing it with her mouth.

We figured she would take it away from the others and then play with it. Nope, she's a proper lady, she is. She waltzes up the steps of the porch, walks over to the food dish and drops it in. Then, as a proper lady would do, she proceeded to eat it out of the dish! I wish I could have taken a picture of it...

Monday, October 26, 2009


We have been making our own bread for years—before I even met Debbie, actually. But, while the kids were at home we only made it once in a while. Once they left, I don't think we've bought more than 2 loaves of bread in 5 years. Anyway, digression over.

Saturday, I was making rye bread and reached for what I thought was caraway seed to add. It turned out to be celery seed! Four teaspoons worth into the flour. Yikes! I realized my mistake before adding the liquids, so not all was lost. I lost about a 1/4 cup of rye flour along with the seed, but couldn't get all the celery seed out.

After the bread baked, I took a slice (while it was still hot, of course!) tasted like celery seed. Debbie took a slice, but her's didn't. Neither did my next slice, until the last bite. Seems where ever the celery seed was, it permeated that bite. There must be a lesson there...

The "Christian" Law

“As you read this, you may be thinking, “Well, that’s not my problem. I have never struggled with whether or not I am under the law. I’ve always known better.” That may be true, but that was true for me too! I would never have said that I needed to adhere to the Jewish law — far from it. It wasn’t the law of Moses that was holding me hostage; it was my own modern-day form of law that I was trying to live out.

'Having raised my antennae toward the Christian world around me, I intercepted the subtle message that there are requirements to remain in God’s favor. This collection of “Thou shalts” — read your Bible, share your faith, participate in a lot of “church” — was a measuring stick by which I determined my worth and stand- ing. These criteria served as a concrete way of determining whether or not I was in right relationship with God.

“I had already accepted the work of Christ as the means to heaven. But it was my approach to daily living that was beating me up. Law as an everyday operating system was doing its work.”—The Naked Gospel, page 81

<idle musing>
Ah yes, the hidden law that is taught to most young believers...
</idle musing>

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Fall

“Adam and Eve didn’t eat from a “tree of evil.” They ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Herein we see an important distinction. They weren’t pursuing sin as we normally think of it. They were pursuing a form of godliness. They made an attempt to be like God. The serpent successfully lured them, and the bait was godlikeness. Even today, this is seen as a worthy goal...

“The original sin was not Adam and Eve’s thumbing their noses at the goodness of God. Instead, it was their wanting to author their own system of right and wrong so they could make sure they did right and avoided wrong. Today, we can be deceived by the same offer. We may find ourselves pursuing the knowledge of good instead of listening to our heartfelt yearning for an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.”—The Naked Gospel, pages 70, 71

“While some view Christianity as a behavior improvement program, the Eden story reveals that a desire for behavior improvement was the cause of spiritual death. Lack of moral laws isn’t our problem. A plethora of socially and morally acceptable behavior improvement programs abound across world religions and even in many nonreligious movements. We could benefit from many of them if our primary need was merely a code of ethics to guide life choices.

“Radically, the Bible teaches that humanity’s main problem is not what we’re doing. Instead, it’s our lack of life as we do it.”—The Naked Gospel, page 72

<idle musing>
It sure looks spiritual! It sure sounds spiritual! But, it results in death because it is done from death. Death gives birth to death. It is only the new life in Christ that can give birth to life.
</idle musing>

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What of the Old Testament, then?

“I have made the argument that the law has no bearing on the life of the believer. But the Old Testament is a treasure that shouldn’t be disregarded. In the Old Testament, we find out how the universe came into existence. We read of the fall of the human race. We learn why there’s so much evil in the world. We experience the history of God’s interactions with his people. We see his faithfulness despite their faithlessness. We see God’s prophets at work and God’s mercy on display. We learn about what God calls wisdom and how it differs from humans’ sense of the same. We discover early indications of the coming Messiah, and we understand more fully how Jesus fulfilled prophecy.

“The Old Testament offers us something we can’t get from the New. It provides a thorough background in how God initiated a relationship with humankind and how we did whatever we could to ruin this relationship...

“To disregard the Old Testament is like covering up a huge portion of a portrait God has been painting for thousands of years... ”—The Naked Gospel, pages 68, 69

<idle musing>
Unfortunately, for a long time the church ignored the Old Testament. This is still true in many places. But, the equally sad thing is that in too many areas, the old covenant has been taught as if it were the new.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Let's clean house

“But how do we live upright lives if we don’t use the Ten Commandments as our guide? After hearing that believers have no need for the law, this is a natural question. The short answer is this: The Holy Spirit comes to live inside of us when we believe, and he is enough! The fruit that comes from the Holy Spirit within us is enough. And “against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:23).

“The New Testament teaches that those who are led by the Spirit are not under the law. The law is a poor substitute for the counsel of the Holy Spirit. We may think that placing ourselves under the Ten Commandments is a good way to clean house. But law-directed living has the opposite effect. The only sensible choice is to allow Christ to be himself through us. This is God’s way of impacting our lives and placing his life on display.

“Some say, “I don’t live under the law of Moses. I know I’m free from those commandments. Instead, I live by ‘Christian principles.’ ” This is a fine-sounding variation on what is still a law-based approach. And it’s an obstacle to enjoying the dependency-based life. We know that living a “good life” by moral standards is an obstacle to understanding salvation. But choosing “morality” can even prevent a Christian from depending solely on Christ. For Christians, a hidden hindrance to the grace life is a “great” life.”—The Naked Gospel, pages 57-58

<idle musing>
We were made for fellowship with God. But, we don't want to submit to the terms. For some reason, we thing the terms are harsh when in actuality the terms are easy—too easy. So, instead we create our own way to obtain fellowship and that way is always via rules and regulations. How blind!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Last night on our walk, we saw several meteors, about one every 3-4 minutes; most of them were just west of Orion. Being the inquisitive guy that I am, I searched today to see if there was a meteor shower predicted. Sure enough, I found out that the Orionids are supposed to happen in October. Only problem is, they are supposed to happen tonight!

So, if you are the late-night kind of person—and live where you can actually see the sky—take a look-see outside tonight toward the east, just west of Orion. If we saw some last night, tonight should be very nice, indeed!


“The obstacle to experiencing victory over temptation is the way in which we’ve gone about the battle. When we arm ourselves with the law, we set ourselves up for failure every time.

“We may call it self-discipline or accountability — or plug in some other inventive term. But when it’s anything but dependency on Christ within us, it’ll inevitably put the wheels of human effort in motion. Perspective is everything in our battle against sin.”—The Naked Gospel, page 56

<idle musing>
Human effort will always fail. It is only the power of the Holy Spirit within us that will ever give us success. And, if it is the power of the Holy Spirit, then it is God himself. And, if it is God himself, then how can we fail to be victorious? If we expect to fall, we are saying that sin is more powerful than God.

Is that what you believe? That there is a power that is stronger than God? But if you believe that we have to sin, then that is essentially what you are saying. If it is Christ in us, then it is possible to live without sin. If we do sin (not when), it is because we chose not to appropriate the available power in the Holy Spirit.
</idle musing>

Monday, October 19, 2009

The role of Law

“It’s preposterous for Christians to adopt portions of the law of Moses as our guide for living. We’re presuming that God grades on a curve. But the law is completely incompatible with our attempt to “do our best.” Law is a pass-or-fail system.

“And one strike means you’re out.”—The Naked Gospel, pages 52

“In the United States, some Christians fight for the Ten Commandments to be posted on our public buildings. We say that we don’t want our society to lose its Christian roots.

“But Christianity was never rooted in the law, not even in the Ten Commandments.

“The commandments aren’t intended to supervise Christians. They don’t curb sinful desires. In fact, the law causes more sinning”—The Naked Gospel, page 53

<idle musing>
The various attempts to “return” to some utopian past by posting the Ten Commandments has always struck me as misguided. The idea that somehow knowing them will keep you from doing the forbidden things is one of the main reasons.

I know from my own life that if something is forbidden, it is somehow more desirable. Mark Twain talked about that in Tom Sawyer; when Tom was a member of a youth organization that forbid swearing, he wanted nothing more than to swear. He finally quit, but then the desire to swear disappeared.
</idle musing>

Friday, October 16, 2009


“Looking for love and encouragement? You’ll never find them in the law. This is why the strictest legalist you know can fabricate an appearance of morality. But legalism will never produce love. Living under a law mentality is like being a slave to a most demanding taskmaster. There’s always more to do. And you’ll never do enough to please him.”—The Naked Gospel, pages 50-51

<idle musing>
This is so true. There is no way that an attitude of love can co-exist with a legalistic mindset. The legalist is always measuring, weighing—and always finding you (and themselves) coming up short. The only escape is the perfect redemption in Christ and allowing him to live through us.
</idle musing>

SBL in October!

Yep, you read it right: Eisenbrauns is offering in-booth pricing on titles now through the end of October. If you subscribed to BookNews you already saw this:

BookNews from Eisenbrauns

Eisenbrauns has two great deals going on right now and running through the end of October. One is for folks who are planning to attend ASOR, ETS, or SBL in New Orleans this year; the other is for those of you who can't make it. The odd thing's the same deal: ASOR/SBL/ETS in October!

No need to pay New Orleans's sales tax, no waiting in line, no worrying about availability or having to elbow your way through colleagues to be sure that you get that book you dearly wanted, plus no shipping costs (for domestic orders over $99.00). Browse our virtual booth and get ASOR/SBL/ETS in-booth pricing, but only until October 31.

OK, enough said! Here's the link to the books:

The fine print:
1. This sale includes forthcoming Eisenbrauns titles! We will hold any order that includes a book that will be published between now and November 1 until November 1, so that your order can all be shipped together. (Of course, your credit card will never be charged until the books are invoiced and shipped.)

2. The prices on this sale are in-booth prices; these prices are the very best that will be available on these books! Prices will not be lower either in-booth or after the meetings. Order form prices will be 10% higher than in-booth prices on Eisenbrauns titles.

3. We think we've included every book that will be in the booth, plus some extras!

4. No returns will be permitted on this sale.

5. Sale absolutely ends October 31; NO late orders will be accepted.

Of course, we still hope that you will come by booths 704-708 in New Orleans, at the SBL, or by the tables at ASOR and ETS, to say "hi," and chat a bit; but we hope that making this sale available now will make your time at the meetings in New Orleans easier and more enjoyable!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Intimacy with God

“What if we could enjoy so great an intimacy with God that it would seem he was nearly beneath our skin? What if we could just go through life being ourselves and somehow express Christ along the way? And what if all of this could come at no expense of our own? It would mean the religion thing could end. It would mean we wouldn’t have to analyze ourselves and measure our spirituality.

“There is an Old way that forever leads to disappointment, no matter how much “holy” effort is exerted. There is also a New way that comes free of charge and changes everything. And yet there is also a third option — a hybrid of Old and New that you find in many churches today.

“This book is intended to reveal the futility of the Old and the ecstasy of the New. Most important, we’ll talk about how to escape the misery of today’s hybrid religiosity and enjoy the purity of the New. The New is what God intended all along for the dedicated but miserable people throughout history.

“And the New is what God intends for you. “—The Naked Gospel, page 36

<idle musing>
Living in the new covenant, not the old, is enjoying the rest that Hebrews talks about. It is all by the power of God, not our own effort, not our own righteousness; it is all the power of God through the Holy Spirit
</idle musing>

What do e-readers do to the brain?

Interesting post on the New York Time's Opinion page. Five experts give their's two of them:

To a great extent, the computer’s usefulness for serious reading depends on the user’s strength of character. Distractions abound on most people’s computer screens. The reading speed reported in academic studies does not include delays induced by clicking away from the text to see the new email that just arrived or check out what’s new on your favorite blog. In one study, workers switched tasks about every three minutes and took over 23 minutes on average to return to a task. Frequent task switching costs time and interferes with the concentration needed to think deeply about what you read.

and, a little later, from a different expert:

My own research shows that people are continually distracted when working with digital information. They switch simple activities an average of every three minutes (e.g. reading email or IM) and switch projects about every 10 and a half minutes. It’s just not possible to engage in deep thought about a topic when we’re switching so rapidly.

<idle musing>
Ain't that the truth! I have multiple desktops on my machine; it's the only way I can stay focused. I bury stuff I'm not using, but need to keep open, on other screens than the one I am working on. Even, what was I about to do? Oh, yeah...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


“Committed? You bet. But committed to what? Although I’d stand up on the subway and preach to the entire train car, I was still empty inside. Despite my willingness to go door-to-door witnessing in my own neighborhood, I really had no life of fulfillment to offer. Whether I was preaching on a train, in neighborhoods, or even in the local jail, there was always an underlying anxiety.”—The Naked Gospel, page 20

<idle musing>
Yep, that's the christian way; convert others so they can be as miserable as you are! In fact, on page 23, he says, “If I were vulnerable enough to be honest during the times
I was evangelizing, I would’ve made the following pitch: “Would you like to become a Chris tian and be miserable like me?”
</idle musing>

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Bible Among the Myths Review

The Bible Among Other Myths

The Bible Among Other Myths
Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature?

by John N. Oswalt
Zondervan Publishing Company, 2009
192 pages, English
ISBN: 9780310285090
List Price: $17.99
Your Price: $16.19

I had the privilege of studying under John Oswalt back in the early 1980's, just before he became president of Asbury College. Among the courses he offered was “Myth and History.” The class was influential in my intellectual development, therefore when I heard that he was putting the course into book form I was quite excited to see how it had morphed and grown over the years.

But, before I get into the book itself, let me tell you about his classes. As was common at Asbury (and probably other seminaries), most classes started with prayer. But, Oswalt's were different; most professors offered the perfunctory prayer and went on with class. Not Oswalt. He would say, “let's pray.” Then there would be a shorter or longer period of silence. During that silence, you could feel the Spirit of God come into the classroom in a tangible way. A peace would descend, then Oswalt would pray. The prayer wasn't anything spectacular or different; what was different was waiting for the presence of God.

The other thing that Oswalt stressed in his teaching was that the ramifications of any of his (or other teachers/scholars) teaching would be seen in his students. This viewpoint caused him to be extremely careful about what he said. I suspect it also has kept him more conservative than he would have been otherwise. He always had an eye to what the students would take from his classes and how it would be interpreted in their lives.

That being said, what about the book? Well, I am of two minds about it. One of the endorsements on the back says that “This book will be extremely helpful for both undergraduate and graduate students...” I disagree. I would say it is aimed more for the lay/undergraduate audience, with the exception of 2 chapters, where the lay audience would probably get lost.

Why do I say this? For two reasons. First, there is no bibliography. There are footnotes, but no comprehensive bibliography is included. I know Oswalt must have one; he handed one out when I had the class. One of the things I was looking forward to was seeing what was new in the field. Second, the references cited in the footnotes are quite old. The foundation of his viewpoint is based on Collingwood's definition of history in the 1940's and Child's definition of myth in the 1960's. Don't misunderstand this; I am not one who thinks that newer is better. Rather, I would like to have seen an interaction with what is going on in the field right now. If the field is moribund and nothing new has happened, then that should be noted. But, I don't think that this is the case.

Oswalt's entire thesis hangs on the distinction between transcendence and continuity. He claims that the biblical worldview is unique in this respect. It is true, and shouldn't bother anyone, that the Bible contains many elements that are common to the ancient Near East, says Oswalt. What else would one expect? What is unique is the way they are put together. The other cultures are based on a view that the divine is contiguous with the material (continuity). Consequently, the divine can be controlled via the material, hence ritual and magic. The biblical text, and he is careful to make sure you understand that we are dealing with the text as we have it, has none of that. Not only that, but the text continually condemns any attempts to manipulate the deity.

Oswalt realizes that this is not a popular view right now. Most would say that while Israel might be somewhat unique, it can be explained on the basis of the commonalities, not the differences, with the surrounding culture. He asks why the change in views from those in the middle part of the twentieth century. Have there been any dramatic new finds to justify such a change in views? No. The changes are in intellectual viewpoint.

History writing is based on evaluating the data we have and trying to make sense of them within the constraints of cause and effect. Divine intervention, which is very common in any ancient text, is not considered a valid cause. Of course, this means that the historian is forced to do violence to the explanations given by historians such as Livy and Herodotus, who are full of references to the gods. The situation is even worse in the biblical text! While Livy and Herodotus have a backdrop of gods, they can be utilized without too much damage. Not so the Bible. Because of this, the writers of modern histories of biblical times have to make decisions. Oswalt examines the twentieth century to show how the reigning paradigm has changed, and what that has meant for how the biblical data are interpreted.

Oswalt asks us to examine the biblical texts aside without ruling out divine intervention a priori. His claim is that there is no way to explain the uniqueness of the biblical viewpoint in the ancient world apart from divine revelation. All cultures reason from the visible to the invisible. Aside from the Bible, all cultures have a viewpoint of continuity and rely on ritual and magic to control their world.

Not only that, but even the Israelites continually fall back into attempts to control and manipulate. Of course, we need look no further than ourselves to see it happening in today's world. How many “deals with God” have you done in your life? Oswalt closes the way he began, by pointing out that the option of a transcendent God who cannot be controlled or manipulated, but must be trusted and believed in, is too difficult for most people. The view that allows humanity to control the results and outcomes of life is far more comfortable. It was in the ancient world; it is now.

As I mentioned above, I am of two minds about the book. I agree with his thesis. I agree with the conclusions for trusting God. I just wish he had given more space to proving them. The book can be used profitably by undergraduates, possibly by first-year seminary students, and interested laypeople. I really think that without extensive expansion, it doesn't offer an adequate rebuttal to the prevailing academic paradigm.

<idle musing>
I say that sadly, as I think the reigning paradigm is radically wrong; I would be classified as a “maximalist” by most. The reason I would be a “maximalist” is that I have seen and experienced God breaking in on my life and the lives of others. Once you have experienced that, the stories in the Bible are not so hard to believe. If you read the archaeological reports and the biblical text with a “hermeneutic of sympathy” rather than a “hermeneutic of suspicion,” you can see that it is possible for the text to be correct.

Don't misunderstand what I just wrote! I am not saying that archaeology “proves” the Bible! I don't think that archaeology can “prove” anything. Archaeology can be used to interpret what we see, and what we see depends on our theological paradigm. If you have a paradigm of non-divine intervention, you will come to a radically different conclusion than one that allows divine intervention.

One view is not more scholarly than the other! To believe in a God who can—and does—intervene in human affairs is not naïve and unlearned; it is taking the given data and analyzing them just as carefully as possible. As Sherlock Holmes used to say, if you look at the data and you have dismissed every other possibility, the remaining one must be true—however illogical it seems! Up until the last 300 years or so, the view that deity, or deities, were involved in daily lives of people was normal. That it isn't now is an aberration. Even people who claim not to be religious believe in angels and good luck and superstitions. What they say they believe and what they act out are two radically different things! In the end, they would do well to heed the call of Socrates—through Plato—to “know yourself” and realize that “the unexamined life is not worth living.”`
</idle musing>

Update: FTC disclaimer: I received this book from Emily at Zondervan to review (thanks, Emily). No money changed hands, no approval of the review, etc., etc., etc. ad infinitum (how's that for Latin?).

Monday, October 12, 2009

The end of the matter is...

“In the end...transcendence is too painful. To embrace it is to give up control of the universe. It is to admit that the only thing I can do to get in line with whatever is in control and to 'get on its good side' is to surrender in trust, belief, and obedience. It is to confess that I cannot with my own intelligence ferret out the meaning and significance of life. It is to admit the other side of what Gunton called an 'inescapable' choice: that 'God...provides the reason why things are as they are' [Gunton, The Triune Creator, 36]. It is to refuse the serpent's suggestion that I can not only become like God, I can actually become God. This is a frightening place to live, and the other understanding is much more comfortable.”—The Bible Among Other Myths, page 191

<idle musing>
But, I want to be God! I deserve to be God! Everyone and everything should serve me! I am the center of the universe! Why doesn't everyone realize it and start worshiping me and doing what I want them to?

We recently returned from seeing our grandchildren. They are wonderful kids, and we love them dearly, but they don't have to be very old before they start thinking that way! They think the world revolves around them. It doesn't—usually! But, we are the same; we just have more sophisticated and veiled ways of saying it...

But, guess what? The world doesn't revolve around you and me anymore that it revolves around them. It revolves around God, who has made himself known in Jesus Christ. In the end, that is a much more comforting thought; I would hate to live in a world where I was God!
</idle musing>

Fun new books

This time of year is exciting if you like new books—at least in my areas of interest :) The annual SBL convention is rapidly approaching and every publisher is rushing to get their books into press in time. Eisenbrauns is no exception. This year we have a few books that are very dear to my philological heart; I highlighted them in today's BookNews, below, but I am especially enamored with the first two—the Ugaritic and the Syriac :)

BookNews from Eisenbrauns

This is a busy time of year for us here at Eisenbrauns. SBL is
looming large, and we are feverishly trying to get everything done.
This is also the time when people start e-mailing or calling and
asking what new titles will be at SBL. For the last two years, I
have dedicated a BookNews edition to answering just that question.

Below are the titles that are now in press and will be available
for your to purchase at SBL. I have also included the titles that
won't make it, but will be in proof format; be sure to look them
over and place your order for them.

To see cover graphics and read more information about the new
titles listed below, please follow this link:

"A Manual of Ugaritic"
by Pierre Bordreuil and Dennis Pardee
Linguistic Studies in Ancient West Semitic - LSAWS 3
Eisenbrauns, Forthcoming November 2009. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575061535
List Price: $69.50 Your Price: $62.55

"A Syriac Lexicon: A Translation from the Latin, Correction,
Expansion, and Update of C. Brockelmann's Lexicon Syriacum"
by Michael Sokoloff
Eisenbrauns, Forthcoming, November, 2009. Cloth. English & Syriac.
ISBN: 9781575061808
List Price: $149.50 Your Price: $134.55

"Law from the Tigris to the Tiber: The Writings of Raymond Westbrook"
by Raymond Westbrook
Edited by Bruce Wells and F. Rachel Magdalene
Eisenbrauns, Forthcoming November 2009. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575061771
List Price: $119.50 Your Price: $83.65

"Translation Technique and Theological Exegesis:
Collected Essays on the Septuagint Version"
by Staffan Olofsson
Coniectanea Biblica Old Testament Series - CBOTS 57
Eisenbrauns, Forthcoming October 2009. Paper. English.
ISBN: 9781575068077
List Price: $39.95 Your Price: $35.96

"The Retelling of Chronicles in Jewish Tradition and Literature:
A Historical Journey"
by Isaac Kalimi
Eisenbrauns, Forthcoming, November 2009. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575061498
List Price: $59.50 Your Price: $53.55

>These will be available in proof form. Be sure to look them over
and place your pre-order for them:
"Phonology and Morphology of Biblical Hebrew: An Introduction"
by Joshua Blau
Linguistic Studies in Ancient West Semitic - LSAWS 2
Eisenbrauns, Forthcoming December 2009. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 1575061295
List Price: $59.50 Your Price: $53.55

"Aramaic in Postbiblical Judaism and Early Christianity: Papers
from the 2004 National Endowment for the Humanities Summer
Seminar at Duke University"
Edited by Eric M. Meyers and Paul V. M. Flesher
Duke Judaic Studies - DJS 3
Eisenbrauns, Forthcoming March 2010. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575061788
List Price: $49.50 Your Price: $44.55

"Phoenicia: Episodes and Anecdotes from the Ancient Mediterranean"
by J. Brian Peckham
Eisenbrauns, Forthcoming April, 2010. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575061818
List Price: $49.50 Your Price: $44.55

"Genesis and the Moses Story"
by Konrad Schmid
Siphrut: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures 3
Eisenbrauns, Forthcoming Winter 2009. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575061528
List Price: $64.50 Your Price: $58.05

"Reframing Biblical Studies: When Language and Text
Meet Culture, Cognition, and Context"
by Ellen J. Van Wolde
Eisenbrauns, Forthcoming December 2009. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 978157506185
List Price: $39.50 Your Price: $35.55

Friday, October 09, 2009

But its not that unique, really, is it?

“I have called the Bible's [world]view transcendence and the other one continuity. In the first, the divine is other than the cosmos; in the second, the divine is inseparable from the cosmos. This difference is so significant that even today there are only three religions that believe in true transcendence: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—and all of them have derived that conviction from one source only: the Bible.”—The Bible Among Other Myths, page 185

<idle musing>
Then again, it must be unique...
</idle musing>

The FTC guidelines

OK, this is burning up the blogosphere—and my e-mailbox—so let me say it: Yes, I am a bookseller. Yes, I get free books on a regular basis. No, I don't receive any other pay from those publishers, except an occasional lunch, if I can finagle it :)

No, I am not obligated to review the books I receive. Booksellers have been receiving free books from publishers for a l-o-n-g time now. How else do we know what is in them? I do on occasion review some of the books I receive. As of today, the only book I received with the direct request to review was the one I am excerpting now, The Bible Among Other Myths. The other ones that I review are because I like books (I know that was a surprise to all of you!).

For those of you (probably most of you) who don't know what I'm talking about, here's the link to the FTC bulletin. Caution, it is a PDF.

Now, back to our irregularly scheduled postings...

Thursday, October 08, 2009

New weekly sale at Eisenbrauns

Here's the skinny, direct from BookNews:
BookNews from Eisenbrauns

Looking back over my records, I noticed that I haven't run a
sale on Museum Tusculanum books since June 2006. This sale
remedies that, offering you savings from 20-40%.

As always, all sales on this web sale are final; no returns
will be permitted. Offer is good only on orders placed at through October 18, 2009.

To go directly to the weekly sale, click on this link:
"The Carlsberg Papyri 3: A Miscellany of Demotic Texts and Studies"
Edited by Paul John Frandsen and Kim Ryholt
Carsten Niebuhr Institute of Ancient Near Eastern Studies - CNIANES 22
Museum Tusculanum Press, 2000. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 8772895470
List Price: $108.00 Your Price: $75.60

"Studies in Zoroastrian Family Law: A Comparative Analysis"
by Bodil Hjerrild
Carsten Niebuhr Institute of Ancient Near Eastern Studies - CNIANES 28
Museum Tusculanum Press, 2003. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 8772898070
List Price: $80.00 Your Price: $56.00

"Grundriss des Laufes der Sterne"
by Alexandra von Lieven
Carsten Niebuhr Institute of Ancient Near Eastern Studies - CNIANES 31
Museum Tusculanum Press, 2008. Cloth. German.
ISBN: 8763504065
List Price: $155.00 Your Price: $124.00

"Le recit de ma vie"
by Mohamed Ghabdouane
Edited by Karl-G. Prasse
Carsten Niebuhr Institute of Ancient Near Eastern Studies - CNIANES 21
Museum Tusculanum Press, 1997. Cloth. French.
ISBN: 8772894172
List Price: $54.00 Your Price: $37.80

"The Pre-Islamic Coinage of Eastern Arabia"
by D. T. Potts
Carsten Niebuhr Institute of Ancient Near Eastern Studies - CNIANES 14
Museum Tusculanum Press, 1991. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 8772891564
List Price: $61.00 Your Price: $48.80

"Lexique Touareg-Francais"
by Karl-G. Prasse and Mohamed Ghabdouane
Carsten Niebuhr Institute of Ancient Near Eastern Studies - CNIANES 24
Museum Tusculanum Press, 1998. Cloth. French.
ISBN: 8772894709
List Price: $64.00 Your Price: $51.20

"The Carlsberg Papyri 4: The Story of Petese Son of Petetum and
Seventy other Good and Bad Stories"
Edited by Kim Ryholt
Carsten Niebuhr Institute of Ancient Near Eastern Studies - CNIANES 23
Museum Tusculanum Press, 1999. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 8772895276
List Price: $59.00 Your Price: $47.20

"Acts of the Seventh International Conference of Demotic Studies:
Copenhagen, 23-27 August 1999"
Edited by Kim Ryholt
Carsten Niebuhr Institute of Ancient Near Eastern Studies - CNIANES 27
Museum Tusculanum Press, 2002. Cloth. English, German, and French.
ISBN: 8772896485
List Price: $117.00 Your Price: $70.20

"The Petese Stories II"
by Kim Ryholt
Carsten Niebuhr Institute of Ancient Near Eastern Studies - CNIANES 29
Museum Tusculanum Press, 2005. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 8763504049
List Price: $91.00 Your Price: $72.80

"Aus der Buchhaltung des Weinmagazins im Edfu-Tempel:
Der demotische P. Carlsberg 409"
by Maren Schentuleit
Carlsberg Papyri - CP 32
Museum Tusculanum Press, 2006. Cloth. German.
ISBN: 8763503441
List Price: $229.00 Your Price: $160.30

But where did it come from?

“If genius is the key, then there is no reason for Israel to have made these unique discoveries [of a transcendent God]. Pride of place would have to go to the Sumerians or the Old Kingdom Egyptians. Here were the real cognitive and cultural geniuses of the ancient Near East. Their discoveries shaped the thinking, commerce, politics, and science of the whole region for almost three thousand years. In fact, we still today use the Sumerians' sexagesimal mathematics when we divide a circle into 360 degrees. Yet when it came to their perception of ultimate reality, these profound thinkers came out where they started. If the given is this world and if any outside interpretation of that given in rejected, the final conclusions are all going to be the same—namely, those detailed in the earlier chapters.

“So if the Hebrews came out with different—radically different—conclusions about the nature of reality and the nature of human experience, they did so because they started somewhere different from everybody else. They, of course, tell us what that point was. It was in direct revelation from the transcendent One himself. Unlike the Greeks, who were willing to accept the accolades of being the world's greatest thinkers, the Israelites tell us that they were religiously retarded. Far from claiming to be unusually sensitive to religious truth, they tell us again and again that they were stubborn and stiff-necked, a people afflicted with severe spiritual myopia.”—The Bible Among Other Myths, page 148

<idle musing>
But, if you aren't willing to accept that a god can break into human history, what can you do? You end up running in circles; creating all sorts of interesting theories and ideas. They might make for good reading, and even spawn a new school of thought, but in the end they will fail. Without allowing for divine participation, they are all like dogs running on three legs.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


“Like their pagan neighbors, the Israelites were constantly trying to fit the divine into a box of their own making so that the divine could be understood and controlled. Clearly, they forgot what their own doctrine of creation taught them: God is the infinite Creator, who cannot be boxed in. Unlike the gods, who are the recurring system and thus are incapable of doing anything new, Yahweh is outside this system, its Maker, and he rejoices to do things that have never happened before. Will he be consistent? Absolutely! Will he be predictable on our terms? Never!...

“It is often said, 'The winners write history.' But that is exactly what Yahweh would not allow to happen. He told them what their history meant, and it was usually quite different from what the rich and powerful would like to have had said about it and about themselves. In the end, the idea that the God of these little Canaanite principalities called Israel and Judah was in fact using the mightiest powers of the world to discipline and refine his people was the last thing that anyone would have expected to emerge from Israel's historical experience. For in the end, Israel's history is tragedy compounded by tragedy.”—The Bible Among Other Myths, pages 135-136

<idle musing>
Not a whole lot has changed in the last 2000+ years, has it? We still try to fit God into our box. We still want to control him. We still want to be the ones who write the story...
</idle musing>

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

More on magic

“...since we are discontinuous with God, we cannot participate in his life or receive his blessings through magical means. Any attempt to do so is met in the Bible with the bitterest of denunciations. Magic is a denial both of transcendence and of personhood, an attempt to mechanically manipulate another for one's own benefit while bypassing any meaningful relationship with that other.

“Interestingly, magic is not denounced, as in the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century West, because it does not work. Whether it works or not, and often enough it does, is beside the point. The Bible denounces it because it is ra`—an attempt to use the world in ways it was never intended to be used.” —The Bible Among Other Myths, pages 132-133

<idle musing>
Interesting insight, isn't it? Whether magic works or not is irrelevant; it is an attempt to manipulate. That is not just true of magic; one thing that immediately comes to mind is pornography. That is clearly an attempt to “mechanically manipulate another for one's own benefit” and certainly bypassing “any meaningful relationship.”

Of course, another thing that fits that category all too well is advertising. Advertising certainly isn't interested in a meaningful relationship with anything other than you wallet! And it definitely is manipulative...just an
</idle musing>

Monday, October 05, 2009

Why not magic?

“Yet another example of these boundaries between God and creation is found in the prohibition of the use of all magic. Sorcery of every kind is forbidden, and the Israelites may not attempt to manipulate God in any kind of ritualistic way. Nowhere is this clearer than in the prophets with their insistence that the rituals in and of themselves accomplish nothing. It is only as the rituals express genuine repentance, exhibiting itself in the nonmanipulative behavior of righteousness and justice, that the ritual gives any pleasure to God at all The attempt to lay hold of divine power to accomplish our purposes and to supply our own needs is represented as disgusting to God. He is not a part of this system and cannot be manipulated through it.

“But if that is the case, how are the Israelites to get their needs supplied? Theyare to do so by surrendering themselves and their need to God in trust and faith (Ps. 51:16-17). They are to do so through personal communication, that is, prayer. This is, of course, a rather frightening alternative. As we said above, it is to put oneself at the mercy of the gods. But unlike the fickle gods, who sometimes bless their human worshipers to aggrandize themselves, the biblical God is faithful, keeping his word no matter what the cost. he longs to bless his people if they will only surrender their own attempts to get what they want without commitment, and trust him. But the price of self-surrender is a high one, and we often find the Israelites slipping back into the attempts to manipulate God through magic.

“This prohibition of magic calls our attention to a feature of the Israelite understanding of God that has been implicit in much that we have already observed. This is that Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel, is absolute. There is nothing and no one beyond him. There is no raw power, no 'meta-divine' outside of him that can be appealed to through magic to force our will on him whether he likes it or not. Thus the Old Testament teaches us that the Absolute is a personal Spirit who is the source of all things—not because they emanate from him, but because of his creative will. He cannot be manipulated through creation, but he intends to bless all those who will surrender their attempts to perform such manipulation”—The Bible Among Other Myths, pages 75-76

<idle musing>
Not a whole lot has changed, has it? We still try to manipulate God; nothing is more scary than being out of control and depending on someone else. We want to be in control, always have. Didn't work in Genesis 3, doesn't work now...
</idle musing>


Over the weekend, I picked and processed some apples. The abandoned orchard where I usually pick apples didn't have any left; I should have picked them before going on vacation. Oh well, instead I went to Kercher's Orchard in Goshen. I usually buy our apples there during the winter; we prefer buying apples from the orchard instead of the store.

I wanted to pick 2 bushels; one of Jonathan and one of Cortland. I picked up my 4 empty 1/2 bushels and went out to the orchard to pick. I have never seen the apples as thick on the branches! I picked 2 bushels in about 15 minutes. I think I stood in line to pay for them longer than it took to pick them :)

Well, that was the easy part. Yesterday, I canned applesauce—15 quarts worth. Tonight I will continue to can applesauce—probably another 8-10 quarts. Then we will cut up about 1/2 bushel of Jonathans and dry them. Meantime, we have lots of apples to eat :)

New sales at Eisenbrauns

How about a new monthly sale? Here it is, direct from BookNews:

As the leaves begin to turn and the mornings get colder here in
Indiana, it seems like a sale on Israel Archeological Authority
titles is appropriate. Think hot and dusty--and savings of 20-40%.
Quantities are limited, so hurry.

As always, all sales on this web sale are final; no returns will be
permitted. Offer good only on orders placed at
through October 30, 2009.

To easily access all the sale items, please visit:
"Atiqot 45: Early Bronze Age Site at Ashkelon, Afridar"
Edited by Zvi Gal
Atiqot 45
Israel Antiquities Authority, 2004. Paper. English.
ISBN: 9654061589
List Price: $36.00 Your Price: $21.60

"Atiqot 52 (2006): Studies in the Persian and Hellenistic Periods"
Edited by Zvi Gal
Atiqot 52
Israel Antiquities Authority, 2006. Paper. English and Hebrew.
ISBN: 9654061902
List Price: $20.00 Your Price: $16.00

"Maresha Excavations Final Report I: Subterranean Complexes 21, 44, 70"
by A. Kloner
Israel Antiquities Authority Reports - IAAR 17
Israel Antiquities Authority, 2003. Paper. English.
ISBN: 9654061503
List Price: $28.00 Your Price: $22.40

"Gamla I: The Pottery of 2nd Temple Period"
by Andrea M. Berlin
Israel Antiquities Authority Reports - IAAR 29
Israel Antiquities Authority, 2006. Paper. English.
ISBN: 9654061910
List Price: $28.00 Your Price: $22.40

"Tel Mor: The Moshe Dothan Excavations 1959-60"
Edited by Tristan J. Barako
Israel Antiquities Authority Reports - IAAR 32
Israel Antiquities Authority, 2007. Paper. English.
ISBN: 9789654062022
List Price: $28.00 Your Price: $22.40

"Bet She'an I: NYSA-Scythopolis: The Caesareum and the Odeum"
by Gabriel Mazor and Arlan Jajjar
Israel Antiquities Authority Reports - IAAR 33
Israel Antiquities Authority, 2008. Paper. English.
ISBN: 9789654062015
List Price: $28.00 Your Price: $22.40

"Necropolis of Bet Guvrin - Eleutheropolis"
by G. Avni, U. Dahari, and A. Kloner
Israel Antiquities Authority Reports - IAAR 36
Israel Antiquities Authority, 2008. Paper. English.
List Price: $37.00 Your Price: $29.60

"Panes - Volume 1: The Roman to Early Islamic Periods.
Excavations in Areas A, B, E, F, G and H"
by V. Tzaferis and S. Israeli
Israel Antiquities Authority Reports - IAAR 37
Israel Antiquities Authority, 2008. Paper. English.
List Price: $37.00 Your Price: $29.60

"Eretz Zafon: Studies in Galilean Archaeology"
Edited by Zvi Gal
Israel Antiquities Authority, 2002. Paper. English and Hebrew.
ISBN: 9654061457
List Price: $45.00 Your Price: $36.00

"Flights into Biblical Archaeology"
by Duby Tal, Moni Haramati, and Shimon Gibson
Israel Antiquities Authority, 2007. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9789659028344
List Price: $62.00 Your Price: $49.60

Maybe you prefer the 10-day sale? OK:

Freshly back from tramping in the Minnesota woods and canoeing
the waters, I came up with a sampling of Eisenbrauns titles for
you to choose from. Enjoy 30-50% off on these titles.

As always, all sales on this web sale are final; no returns
will be permitted. Offer is good only on orders placed at through October 7, 2009.

To go directly to the weekly sale, click on this link:
"David and Zion: Biblical Studies in Honor of J. J. M. Roberts"
Edited by Bernard F. Batto and Kathryn Roberts
Eisenbrauns, 2004. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 1575060922
List Price: $55.00 Your Price: $27.50

"Study of the Ancient Near East in the Twenty-First Century:
The William Foxwell Albright Centennial Conference"
Edited by Jerrold S. Cooper and Glenn M. Schwartz
Eisenbrauns, 1996. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 093146496X
List Price: $59.50 Your Price: $29.75

"A Handbook on Isaiah"
by Jan de Waard
Textual Criticism and the Translator - TCT 1
Eisenbrauns, 1997. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 157506023X
List Price: $39.50 Your Price: $19.75

"Scripture in Context II: More Essays on the Comparative Method"
Edited by William W. Hallo, James C. Moyer, and Leo G. Perdue
Eisenbrauns, 1983. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 0931464145
List Price: $42.50 Your Price: $21.25

"Jeremiah: A Study in Ancient Hebrew Rhetoric"
by Jack R. Lundbom
Eisenbrauns, 1997. Paper. English.
ISBN: 1575060167
List Price: $22.95 Your Price: $16.07

"Patterns of Destiny: Narrative Structures of
Foundation and Doom in the Hebrew Bible"
by Diane M. Sharon
Eisenbrauns, 2002. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 1575060523
List Price: $42.50 Your Price: $21.25

"The Reconstructed Chronology of the Divided Kingdom"
by M. Christine Tetley
Eisenbrauns, 2004. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 1575060728
List Price: $49.50 Your Price: $24.75

"In Search of History: Historiography in the Ancient
World and the Origins of Biblical History"
by John Van Seters
Eisenbrauns, 1997. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 1575060132
List Price: $47.50 Your Price: $23.75

"The Wilderness of Zin"
by C. Leonard Woolley and T. E. Lawrence
Eisenbrauns, 2003. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 1575060779
List Price: $49.50 Your Price: $24.75

"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

Friday, October 02, 2009


..the word hesed, a word not attested outside Hebrew, comes to be used as the descriptor par excellence of God in the Old Testament. The word speaks of a completely undeserved kindness and generosity done by a person who is in a position of power. This was the Israelites' experience of God. He revealed himself to them when they were not looking for him, and he kept his covenant with them long after their persistent breaking of it had destroyed any reason for his continued keeping of it. Ultimately they came to understand that God's holiness, that which in common ancient Near Eastern terms separated a god from a human, was most to be seen in his character. Unlike humans, this deity was notfickle, undependable, self-serving, and grasping. Instead he was faithful, true, upright, and generous—always. So the typical description of him, found throughout the Old Testament, is that he is patient, slow to get angry, merciful, kind, and true. He is just in that he does not suspend cause and effect for his favorites, But he does limit those effects to three or four generations, whereas he extends the effects of obedience to thousands of generations.—The Bible Among Other Myths, page 71

<idle musing>
Hesed has got to be the most wonderful word in the Hebrew language! Pull out TDOT some day and read the article. Then, go find a copy of TWOT by Harris, Archer, and Waltke and read their article. Both of them together give you a good idea of the meaning of the word.
</idle musing>

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The significance of omens

“The past is only significant insofar as it shows us continuities that will repeat themselves. Thus, omens are of great importance. At some time in the past the shape of the entrails of a sacrificial animal coincided with some significant event. If that shape should present itself again, we may expect the same events to happen again. Thus the past will repeat itself and it is helpful to have information on hand to plan for that repetition.”—The Bible Among Other Myths, page 61

<idle musing>
If you have studied the ancient world much at all, you know how important omens were. If the omens weren't favorable, the army wouldn't move. Armies could be across from each other for days, waiting for the omens to be favorable—insanity by today's standards!

There are catalogs of omens, “if this then this will happen.” That is also why they watched the stars so carefully—remember the stars were divine, so they had an affect on your life (modern astrology depends on this same idea). There were tablets that listed “good days” called ume tabuti in Akkadian (sorry no diacritics).

As an aside, did you know that the Greek word for “left” actually means “well-omened”? The Greeks believed that bad omens came from the left, so they wouldn't mention the left, but instead they called it the well-omened side—no sense in invoking bad luck! Oh, and the Fates were called the “well-omened ones.”
</idle musing>


We just had our first frost last night, two weeks early, too. I just couldn't bring myself to wear mittens this morning on my bike ride to work, but I sure wished I had 5 minutes into the ride.

We'll see how much of the garden escaped. I hope that the cherry tomatoes did; I want to take a cutting from it and raise them indoors all winter—or at least try it :)

This is actually one of my favorite times of the year. I love the crisp morning rides to work with the leaves turning and the fog rising off the lake, the warm afternoons with the smell of leaves in the air. The smell of wood-burning stoves...ahhh