Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A bit off the beaten track

We were in a Mennonite bookstore a few weeks ago—there are quite a few around here (we're in the middle of Mennonite/Amish country in this part of Indiana)—and I picked up an interesting little book that I'll be excerpting here for a bit. Here's the first snippet:

“Jesus was the center of the early church; all she did, all she taught was rooted in Him. He was her living Truth.

“The practice of the early church, then, was rooted in the practice of Jesus, and central to His practice was the bearing of the cross.

“When Jesus spoke of men becoming His disciples, He spoke without fail of being willing to take up the cross. The impact of this action certainly was no known until after Jesus' death; but when once the reality of the cross was made plain, taking up the cross became the characterizing life-purpose of the believers.—Love and Nonresistance, page 78

<idle musing>
Anabaptists are big on transformation and radical discipleship—see Scot McKnight's post today for a good summary of Anabaptist beliefs.

I've been a pacifist since I became a Christian almost 40 years ago. Before that I was more on the radical side of things. And not at all adverse to the use of force to see my ideas put in place. That was one of the first things God changed in me. But, I have to admit that I never explored the "nonresistance" option as opposed to pacifism. In truth, I didn't know there was a difference—and maybe there isn't. But, this author makes a case for the distinction. And, if that distinction is valid, then I would have to say that I am in the nonresistance crowd, not the pacifist crowd.

I don't buy his "two-kingdoms" model, though. I just don't see the distinction between secular and sacred the way he does. I suspect that is a hang-on from the Germanic Lutheran roots of some Anabaptists. But, if you throw away that, the book is very good—but you will be able to judge a bit more for yourself in the next week or two as I excerpt from it...
</idle musing>

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

In the end...

“This God has subversive tendencies. One may readily discern this point in the divine proclivity throughout Genesis for the secondborn as opposed to the firstborn child. But this image extends further and is much broader in scope. God is a God of inversion, who is not circumscribed by the strictures imposed by the various power brokers of the narrative. The subversive nature of YHWH attested in the Jacob cycle manifests a dogged insistence that YHWH is free to undermine any sense of propriety, decorum, and convention as is deemed fitting to the situation at hand.”—Jacob and the Divine Trickster, page 176

<idle musing>
No doubt YHWH is larger than us and delights to reverse humanity's egotistical impulses. But, I still think John takes it too far...and he disagrees with me, I'm sure! He does, however, offer a healthy corrective to the tendency of some to smooth over the "bumps" in the Bible. After all, Aslan isn't a tame lion.
</idle musing>

Monday, February 27, 2012


“I have sought in this book to advance a descriptive theology of the book of Genesis, outlining not what I wish the text said—in conformity with my own ethical sensibilities and mores—but, rather, what the text communicates and how it does so. Reading the Bible should not be an easy enterprise. Readers of the Bible are invited to participate in the conversation occurring across time within its pages. This conversation should be unsettling at points. It should raise questions. It should prompt self-reflection. It should press us to think 'outside the box,' to reevaluate who we are and who God is.”—Jacob and the Divine Trickster, page 175

<idle musing>
While I disagree with where he ends up in the book, I definitely agree with this sentiment. The Bible should never be a comfortable book! It should cause us to think and review what we claim we believe. And, it should lead us to Jesus and the realization that we are totally dependent on him...
</idle musing>

Friday, February 24, 2012

Let's talk about protein

Saw this from John McChesney-Young on Google +. The author is a nutritionist, so he knows what he's talking about...

As a nutrition professional, I get very frustrated by the protein-centric framework that inevitably comes up when plant-based eating is discussed, particularly because the average American consumes sufficient protein, but nowhere near the daily recommended amounts of fiber and several important minerals, like magnesium. Low intakes of both are associated with higher risks of chronic disease. And, here’s an indisputable fact: No matter how humane, local, pastured, or organic your steak or chicken is, it does not offer fiber or significant levels of magnesium. Vegetarian sources of protein, meanwhile (nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, pseudograins, and vegetables) are good — and in some cases, excellent — sources of both.

<idle musing>
To say nothing about the amount of oil, sugar, and corn syrup ingested...
</idle musing>

Wait a minute!

“...Jacob’s prayer creates for the reader a tension and an expectation: will God answer Jacob’s prayer, and if so, how? At this stage, however, all the reader can do is wait alongside Jacob in the hope that God will in some way hear his prayer and deliver him from the presumed wrath of Esau. As the text continues, the initial tension over whether God intervenes is quickly replaced by a new tension centered on how God sets out to deliver Jacob. This divine assistance comes in a much more foreboding form than Jacob or the reader could anticipate: an encounter with the divine that quickly takes on a terrifyingly violent tenor. What kind of deliverance is this that includes God’s assault on the bearer of the promise?”—Jacob and the Divine Trickster, page 146

<idle musing>
But isn't that exactly what happens to Moses on his way back to Egypt? YHWH meets him to kill him in Exodus 4:24-26?

At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met Mosesa and was about to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it.b “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. So the LORD let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referring to circumcision.) (TNIV)

Ah, he does mention the similarities on page 154, but quickly dismisses them. I think they would bear closer scrutiny, though. In fairness to John, he and I discussed this when I first read it. He feels his parallels are a better fit within the Jacob cycle than taking it to Exodus...
</idle musing>

Amazon strikes again

Yesterday, Amazon decided they weren't making enough money off an independent publisher (IPG), so they cut off all their Kindle books. The response from authors and other publishers has been very positive—I think they did the right thing by not caving to the monster—and Melville House is posting some of those responses to the web here. Definitely worth the read...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Laban's insight

“The theological importance conveyed by Laban’s use of the personal name YHWH is that one should regard Laban’s blessing as coming only from the personal God of Jacob. This point is punctuated all the more if Laban only learns of his blessed position vis-à-vis Jacob through divination of, arguably, Laban’s own personal deities. The god of Laban is not the same God that he calls “YHWH” in 30:27. In 31:19, Rachel steals her father’s household gods, perhaps out of fear that he will learn of Jacob’s escape through divination, and in 31:47, 53, Laban swears in Aramaic by invoking the name of his own personal god. Laban’s deity (or deities) is unable to bestow the same profitable blessing on Laban as has YHWH, the God of Jacob. God’s promise is thus at work here, and the theological impact becomes all the more palpable when the recognition comes for the first time from a foreigner...

“Thus far in the narrative, the promise is still in abeyance, awaiting the future fulfillment that until now has only been partially realized. In Laban, however, the promise finds not only an outlet for blessing but also an individual who potentially could harm the heir to the promise, Jacob, by prolonging his stay with Laban and thus minimizing—or perhaps wholly negating—the possibility for blessing to all nations purposed in 12:3 and 28:14. Laban may thus be trying to arrogate for himself the conduit of his blessing, Jacob, as a guarantee of continued prosperity. Aware of this potentially deceptive tactic, the narrative next moves to display God’s intervention in accord with the promise of presence and protection, as will be discussed below in reference to Gen 31:1–16. The message, stemming from the conditional nature of the ancestral promise discussed in chap. 1—that blessing to the nations is contingent on the nations’ not impeding the sharing of the blessing with other nations—is that Laban has failed to acknowledge that the divine blessing is for Abraham and his family, not exclusively for Laban.”—Jacob and the Divine Trickster, pages 107, 108

<idle musing>
Very interesting observation...
</idle musing>

What makes a good teacher?

From Chronicle of Higher Education:

"The way I look at it is, I've plowed the ground," he says. "Now they're susceptible the next time they see the material. And you'll give them an assignment, and that forces them to look at the material in a new way."

As he sees it, his job is less about being an expert imparting facts and figures, and more about being a salesman convincing students that his material is worth their attention. "The messenger, ironically enough, is more important than the message," he says. "If the messenger is excited and passionate about what they have to say, it leaves a good impression. It stimulates students to see what all this excitement is about."

The things that make a good teacher are difficult—if not impossible—to teach, he thinks. Which is why technology may be so attractive to some teaching reformers. Blogging, Twitter, and other digital tools involve step-by-step processes that can be taught.

<idle musing>
Yep. It's about the teacher-student and student-student interaction—which is why distance education isn't the same as an in-class experience. You can't replicate it—although it is getting better. And also why putting all the lecture notes online can never replace the actual class time.

I always saw my time teaching as a chance to get students excited about the subject. If they got excited, then they would pursue knowing more. Life is exciting! And there are so many neat things to learn about what God has created. If students get a glimpse of that, then they will want to learn. And that is what a teacher needs to convey... Just an
</idle musing>

New 10-day sale

Yep, the new 10-day sale is up. Here's the skinny, from BookNews:

New 10-Day Special: Books by Isaac Kalimi, 20-51% off

We have a new book arriving next week that is edited by Isaac Kalimi. I thought that might be a good opportunity to highlight some other books he has either written or edited; including one appearing in April of this year.

An Ancient Israelite Historian
Studies in the Chronicler, His Time, Place and Writing
by Isaac Kalimi
Studia Semitica Neerlandica - SSN 46
Van Gorcum, 2005. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9789023240716
List Price: $79.50
Your Price: $63.60

This book is now published by Brill; we have some of the Van Gorcum edition left. The Brill printing retails for $140—buying this one saves you 51%! Same edition, better price.

Conditioned by his own time and place, the Chronicler (that is, the author of the book of Chronicles) evaluated the past from his own historical context and its standards. This means that the book of Chronicles primarily represents the views of its author about the past, making it applicable to the time and generation when it was composed, rather than representing the times and generations spoken about, the monarchic period.
The message of the Chronicler was undeniably different from that of the earlier biblical works and was... (more)

Early Jewish Exegesis and Theological Controversy
Studies in Scriptures in the Shadow of Internal and External Controversies
by Isaac Kalimi
Jewish and Christian Heritage Series - JCHS 2
Van Gorcum, 2002. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9789023237136.
List Price: $59.00
Your Price: $47.20

This book also is now published by Brill for $96.00—ours is 49% cheaper!

The book is an important study on aspects of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament theology, the reception of biblical texts in Judaism and Christianity; the Aqedah, and related topics.

The book comprises three main parts: a) the Aqedah and the Temple, b) Biblical Texts in Polemical Contexts, and c) Biblical Theology, Judaism and Christianity. Although each part deals with a specifically defined topic, all are linked by some common themes: all the sections discuss early Jewish exegesis, namely the interpretation of early Scriptures in... (more)

The Books of Chronicles
A Classified Bibliography
by Isaac Kalimi
Simor Bible Bibliographies - SBB
Simor, Ltd., 1990. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9789652420084
List Price: $38.00
Your Price: $30.40

The Reshaping of Ancient Israelite History in Chronicles
by Isaac Kalimi
Eisenbrauns, 2005. Paper. English.
ISBN: 9781575062396
List Price: $49.50
Your Price: $34.65

The Retelling of Chronicles in Jewish Tradition and Literature
A Historical Journey
by Isaac Kalimi
Eisenbrauns, 2009. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575061498
List Price: $59.50
Your Price: $35.70

Jewish Bible Theology
Perspectives and Case Studies
Edited by Isaac Kalimi
Eisenbrauns, Forthcoming, February 28, 2012. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575062310
List Price: $49.50
Your Price: $44.55

New Perspectives on Ezra-Nehemiah
History and Historiography, Text, Literature, and Interpretation
Edited by Isaac Kalimi
Eisenbrauns, Forthcoming, April, 2012. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575062334
List Price: $49.50
Your Price: $44.55

Of course, if you subscribed to BookNews, you could see it in beautiful living color :)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Yesterday we made bread at Eisenbrauns. Robin, one of our customer service reps, is leaving at the end of the week. It is a sad loss for us, but a gain for the county library.

Anyway, she has been bugging me to show her how to make bread for several years now. I figured it was now or never! So, I drove to work yesterday, bringing along our convection oven and enough fixings for two loaves of bread. No, I didn't put it on my bike trailer!

The recipe I used is one that I adapted from The Whole Plants Cookbook. It is simple to make—only takes about 5 minutes of your time. The rest of the time is waiting for it to rise and then bake. So, I made the first loaf and Robin watched and made the second one.

The smell of the bread rising and then baking was wonderful. We need to get an oven here at work! We were eating fresh bread before 9:30. Of course, we let everybody else in the business know—as if the smell hadn't clued them in! I'm not sure some people liked it; it is a whole wheat bread and somewhat heavy. But, I like it and so did Robin, so it was a success.

Here's the recipe:

3 cups whole wheat flour
1½ tsp. yeast
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 ¾ cup water (lukewarm)

Combine dry ingredients. Make well in center. Pour in water. Mix & knead in bowl about 2 minutes (the dough will pull away from the side of the bowl). Place in 9x5 bread pan lined with baking paper. Cover & let rise about 40 minutes. Bake at 400 for 30 minutes.

Notice that there is no added oil, which is why you need the baking paper. You can use a non-stick pan, but the bread's crust is shiny, almost like you varnished it. I also make a rye bread variation...

The unloved

“It is not inconsequential that this narrative unit begins with YHWH’s noticing Leah’s unloved status and responding by opening her womb, while Rachel remains barren. Here one may observe an oddity within Genesis: this scene presents the only time that YHWH shows a preference for the firstborn to the detriment of the secondborn.”—Jacob and the Divine Trickster, page 104

<idle musing>
Very interesting, indeed. YHWH shows favor to the ones that society and those in power ignore—something that Christians especially should know... Of course, that begs the question of why our "christian" structures are built upside down??? It's as if Jesus said that the first shall be even more first and the last shall be stomped on and forced to serve those who are first. What is wrong with that picture?
</idle musing>

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

and the blessing goes to...

“Esau too receives a blessing (vv. 39–40) that is remarkably similar to Jacob’s. Two glaring differences stand out. First, Esau’s blessing reverses the first two lines of Jacob’s blessing, leading many scholars incorrectly to regard it as a curse or anti-blessing. Second, and most importantly, God appears nowhere in the blessing of Esau. Taken in tandem, this second fact is not a denigration of Esau for the future but is simply a concern to show that the ancestral promise will go to Jacob, not Esau.”—Jacob and the Divine Trickster, page 80

<idle musing>
It is all about the ancestral promise. Today's statement makes better use of the evidence than yesterday's condemnation of Esau as unworthy...
</idle musing>

Monday, February 20, 2012


“Esau is the only character in this narrative never to receive a word from God. The narrative unmistakably portrays Esau not only as unfit to carry the promise forward but also as unfit to hear a divine word.”—Jacob and the Divine Trickster, page 72

<idle musing>
Really? John, aren't you reading a bit too much into that?
</idle musing>

UPDATE: Typo on my part for the title of the post; thanks to Claude for pointing it out.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The place of Christ and the Christian

“We are now under Christ in every way. He is our Lord supreme, so that to come into the church is to take up a sacred vow of subjection to His authority. Joining the church is not simply a matter of water on the head or a signature in a register or a raised hand. To join the church of Jesus Christ is to espouse oneself; it is to lay down all our maiden names for that one Name; it is to vow to set all plans and thoughts and affections upon a coming union with Him; it is to pour one's whole soul into the full confession of Christ, the Son of God.

“Jesus is Lord of the church—the exclusive Lord. To flirt after another or to receive contrary advice is to play the harlot. The words of our Lord, therefore, come to us as our highest calling. His Word is the final word, His voice our greatest authority. To be a member of His church is to make His thought our motives, His commands our actions, His values our guiding ethics.

“In Jesus the church finds its mind, its will, and its pleasure. To be otherwise minded is to pervert the sacred trust of intellect. To be contrary willed is to debase the sacred power of choice. The be otherwise fulfilled and delighted is to prostitute the holy capacity of joy. The church, therefore, finds her most profound knowledge when she takes on the mind of Christ. She finds her highest freedom in full submission and obedience to the will of Christ. And she finds her most sacred emotional stirrings in the discovery and adoration of His great heart of love.”—,John Coblentz, Love and Nonresistance: God's Plan for the Church, pages 57-58

<idle musing>
A very nice summary of the place of Christ in the life of a Christian—and the role of the church in the plan of Christ.
</idle musing>

Friday, February 17, 2012


“In reference to humans, the word תם [TM] appears in Gen 6:9 and 17:1 as a descriptor for Noah and Abraham respectively, yet again there is no reason to assume morality to be the operative issue. Interestingly, within the entire Hebrew Bible only Jacob and Job (1:8, 2:3) are described as איׁש תם [TM 'YŠ]. Yet within the Hebrew Bible, the word (תמים) [TMYM] also occurs frequently in Leviticus in reference to an unblemished animal that is worthy of being sacrificed to YHWH. The assumption, then, that this word must elicit moral uprightness is unfounded. The concern is not whether the animal is a moral exemplar but whether it is appropriate for sacrifice to YHWH. Similarly with Noah, Abraham, and Job, the pertinent qualifier seems to be less the character’s moral convictions than describing whether he is sound enough to be pleasing to YHWH. With Jacob, one must remain mindful that the narrative never explicitly censures him for the way he goes about matters. One is enjoined also to recall from chap.1 The discussion of morality in relation to these texts; the relationship historically is, if anything, tenuous. Given the evidence, this description of Jacob likely says something about his status in relationship to God. Something about Jacob makes him worthy and pleasing for YHWH.”—Jacob and the Divine Trickster, pages 69-70

<idle musing>
Interesting thought...are we importing our 21st century presuppositions into the text? Probably. What does that say about who/what is acceptable to God? Interesting to think about...
</idle musing>

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What you see is what you use

“ investigation employs a synthesis of a close literary reading of the biblical text with theological aims. One must discern this meaning from the text that we have, not the text that we reconstruct or the text that we wish we had.”—Jacob and the Divine Trickster, page 35

<idle musing>
I've read far too many books that are built on "the text we wish we had." And, I might add, listened to far too many sermons built on the same missing text...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Transcendence versus immanence

“Insuring God is far removed from the narrative scene during a deception ends up drawing too sharp a dichotomy between the divine and human. God’s transcendence is emphasized at the expense of divine immanence...What ultimately emerges in these characterizations of God in the Jacob cycle are portraits tending toward deism. Distancing God from instances of deception in the interest—implicit or explicit—of addressing one theological problem (divine deception) lays the groundwork for another, equally troubling theological problem: a transcendent God that ultimately does not square with the role and activity of God depicted in the ancestral narratives.”—Jacob and the Divine Trickster, page 7

<idle musing>
New book starting today. No easy answers, are there? God is a messy God in that he gets involved with us on a daily basis. I personally wouldn't trade the immanence of God for a nice, sterile, easily digested theologically pretty god. I need him to much!
</idle musing>

Huh? Can you repeat that one more time?

“If Elohim does not mean ‘a god’ or ‘gods’ but ‘God’ (capitalized) [in Genesis 1], then Elohim is used here [Psalm 82] as a determined noun, although Elohim is morphologically undetermined. The determination of Elohim in Gen 1 is not established by an article. Elohim seems here to be sufficiently determined by itself. Of course, this determination of Elohim is different from the regular kind of determination established by the definite article. Elohim and HaElohim need to be distinguished from one another. Elohim does not mean ‘the god’ (that is: this one out the midst of other gods) but just ‘God’ (capitalized): the one and only God.”—Reconsidering the Concept of Revolutionary Monotheism, page 284

<idle musing>
Confused yet? What he is saying is that the gods in Psalm 82 are in juxtaposition with God. The gods have failed (see this post) and are being fired...
</idle musing>

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Final excerpt of From Fratricide to Forgiveness

“Because of its realism about the human condition, the stories of Genesis are well suited to serve as “metaphors for life.” The characters it portrays are not lofty, saintly types who remain forever separated from the rest of the human race. They are limited, fallible, and imperfect. Genesis is an anthology of moral difficulty. It is a collection of stories in which individuals face limitations of every type and must take extreme measures to prevent the eruption of violence in their midst. Genesis is not an ethical training manual for the morally elite but a survival guide for an imperfect humanity.”—From Fratricide to Forgiveness, page 180

<idle musing>
Isn't that the truth? That's one of the things we need to remember about the Bible; it is an eminently realistic book. It takes people who are just as screwed up as anyone you will find anywhere in the world—and then shows you what God can do. If he can do that with them, then he can take your life and transform it as well. "Bible people" aren't superhuman heroes; they are regular people that allow (or not, in some cases) God to get a hold on them.

That's the final post from From Fratricide to Forgiveness. I hope you've enjoyed it; I know I enjoyed reading it...
</idle musing>

Thought for a valentine's day

Andy Kerr, our webmaster, and I were talking the other day and he made a very memorable statement that I think is true:

Romance novels are to women what porn is to men.

Now, before you attack me, stop and think about it. Both set up impossible constructs. Both hit on a sore spot in many marriages. Both have been responsible for untold numbers of misunderstandings and incorrect expectations in relationships. The difference is that one uses real people and dehumanizes them; the other just sets up imaginary people—but dehumanizes the existing relationships...

And, one is found in Christian bookstores across the land...praise God the other one isn't!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Leave the preconceptions behind

“To understand both anger and ethics in Genesis, interpreters need to lay aside traditional Western assumptions. In the Hebrew Bible, irrationality is not a hallmark of emotion. Anger is not something best left to psychologists for interpretation. One does not need Freud to understand how this emotion works. Rather, anger is a common feature of the fractured world and imperfect humanity that Genesis envisions. It is a permanent mark of the exile from Eden. Anger cannot be avoided. It must be engaged, lest it ruin morality, community, and even life itself. Anger is thus not “merely a feeling.” It is an ethical matter of the first degree.”—From Fratricide to Forgiveness, page 180


I've been very bad of late in linking to others, not that there haven't been good posts, there have. Lots of them. I've just been preoccupied with other things between catching up at work and some stuff at home. But, I'm close to caught up on both, so here's a few of them:
Alan Knox, ever thought provoking, talks about an alternative to sermons that he read about from another blogger:

...he lists six principles that he finds in the New Testament: 1) Multiple participation, 2) Order, 3) Group comprehension, 4) Group discussion, 5) Role, and 6) Group edification.

<idle musing>
Amen! Study after study has shown that sermons (and lectures) are one of the least effective ways of communicating life-changing truths. It is only as people interact with the truth and make it their own that change can happen—and even that is dependent on the power of the Holy Spirit! The problem is that we have reduced Christianity to a set of intellectual propositions to which we give mental assent. We've lost the central truth of Christianity, which is a life transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit living within us.
</idle musing>

And, over at Awilum, Charles Halton has some good thoughts about biblical interpretation:

One of the most foundational elements of an intelligent and thoughtful engagement with biblical texts is calibrating one’s expectations. If one truly desires to try to begin the task of understanding the messages of the biblical authors then he or she must ask the appropriate questions from the text and expect it’s ancient authors to address particular issues in ways that make sense within their circumstances. Furthermore, a thoughtful student of the Bible should have a firm enough grasp of the history of thought to understand where modern expectations, assumptions, and perspectives differ from ancient ones. If we don’t calibrate our expectations then our observations concerning the Bible are likely to be little more than assertions of our own belief structures and opinions and in many areas we will misunderstand the unique messages of biblical texts.

Calibrating expectations is an ongoing task for us all; no one ever does this perfectly and individuals from every ideological position do it badly or not at all.

<idle musing>
As he says, it is an ongoing task. What I understand today is not what I will understand tomorrow. I (hopefully!) grow in knowledge and understanding every day. That doesn't mean that the central truths of the Gospel change, just my understanding of the secondary issues, which are what usually cause us to disagree with one another anyway.
</idle musing>

Alan Knox again, this time about church covenants and elders:

If God brings someone into our lives, we are automatically “among” the flock of God together. We do not – and so cannot – choose who is or who is not in the church with us. God makes that decision. Remember that Paul told the Corinthians that God arranges the members of the body, each one of them, as he chooses. (1 Corinthians 12:18)

Imagine how different the church would be – and how much unity and fellowship we would enjoy – if we actually treated one another as the church of God… that is, if we treated all followers of Jesus Christ that God brings into our lives as “our church”… or, as I prefer to call it, “the church.”

<idle musing>
Yep. What more can I say?
</idle musing>

And, finally, Ted Gossard has some good thoughts on prayer. Go read it!

Added bonus link: Roger Olson has a post you need to read and ponder...

Recipe experiments

We experiment a good bit with various recipes—always have, but even moreso now that we are whole-foods, plant-based—and most of them are one-timers. We make it once, then discard it. I can only think of two times when the results have been inedible: once, about 10 years ago, Debbie and Renee made an anise cookie. It was so bad that not even the birds would eat it! And, about 2 years ago, when I tried to make a rye bread with only rye flour. It was inedible, like a rock. We put it on the compost pile; the raccoons pulled it off and tried to eat it. We found it about 25 yards from the compost pile, uneaten. It was that bad.

Well, this weekend, I tried an oatmeal cracker. It sounded good; there was cinnamon and some sugar in it. So, I whipped it up Saturday night. The dough was pretty plain, so I added a bit more cinnamon. After it came out of the oven, we tried a bit. Seemed pretty bland, but sometimes things taste better once they cool down. Nope. The only saving grace was that we had purchased some freshly ground peanut butter that afternoon. It was edible with peanut butter. Sunday morning, I tried it with peanut butter and pickle and peanut butter and honey. Both were tolerable and we'll eat them, but:

If you are looking for a replacement for cardboard, I think we just found it!

Thought for the day

If anyone is poor among your people in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your people and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward those of your people who are poor and needy in your land.—Deut. 15:7-11 (TNIV)

Friday, February 10, 2012

There are limits

“Anger is presented as a deadly and ominous force that is particularly dangerous within families. Genesis 33 shows readers that the estrangement resulting from anger need not be permanent, although it makes clear that sacrifices are required to find a way beyond past wrongdoings. At the cost of many possessions, intense fear, and great risk to himself and his family, Jacob gains some sense that he has favor in the eyes of his brother. But the reconciliation is short-lived at best. The brothers soon go their separate ways. While there is a moment of forgiveness here, the narrative is painfully realistic about the difficulty, demands, and dangers of attempting to assuage anger. Genesis does not portray anger or forgiveness in simplistic terms. It minimizes neither the force of anger nor the prolonged impact that it can have on human lives. The desire patterned in readers for someone to provide sustenance and protection for family members again comes up short, as individuals’ limitations along with the limitations of the land prevent the possibility of brothers dwelling together.”—From Fratricide to Forgiveness, page 169

<idle musing>
There are physical limitations, such as the ability of the land to sustain a limited number of people. But, we tend to limit God too much in our interpersonal relations. We see through our very limited lenses and then assume that God sees through the same lenses. He doesn't (Praise God for that!). He is the God of the limitless. We need to take the time to listen to what he is saying, and then believe it. Easily said, not as easily done...reconciliation and communication are difficult tasks...
</idle musing>

Thursday, February 09, 2012

The importance of justice

“This usage of šā̄paṭ [in Psalm 82] to center on and define the crimes of the elohim [gods] suggests that the crimes are not simply against the helpless and unfortunate, but against justice in general. In other words, the crimes against the helpless and unfortunate threaten the entire cosmic justice system because they concern matters that are the touchstone, the fundamental requirement for all justice, and this is why they are the crimes mentioned so regularly throughout the ancient Near East when the question of just rulership is discussed.”—Reconsidering the Concept of Revolutionary Monotheism, page 209

<idle musing>
Would that our current fixation on money would be subjected to biblical šā̄paṭ! This sentiment also reminds me of Heschel in The Prophets. The biblical prophets understood that cheating in the marketplace upended the entire universe and would bring about the downfall of Israel...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The power of shame

“Although readers were concerned that Esau’s anger would prevent reconciliation between the brothers, Esau’s anger is not the final problem. In a poignant twist of the narrative, it is fear, shame, and guilt on Jacob’s part that prevent a lasting reunion.”—From Fratricide to Forgiveness, page 168

<idle musing>
That is only too common...we need to realize that "...there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:1-2 TNIV)

It is too easy to walk and live in the lie that we are still sinners instead of saints, justified fully and set free from sinning by the blood of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. I can get excited about who I am in Christ—or depressed by the lies the evil one throws at me telling me that I am still a sinner. Which will you choose today? New, victorious life? Or, depression, defeat, and despair by listening to lies?
</idle musing>

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

A gift turns away wrath

“The Hebrew word מנחה [MNHH](‘gift’) is highly significant, appearing here for the first time since it was used in the narrative of Cain and Abel (32:14[13], 19[18], 21[20], 22[21]; 33:10; see 4:3, 4, 5). Whereas Cain’s and Abel’s gifts to God led eventually to a rage-filled murder, Jacob’s gifts to Esau serve the opposite purpose, preventing fratricide. It is clear that Jacob has robbed Esau of what was rightfully the older brother’s. Now, in an act of significant sacrifice, Jacob offers Esau something akin to reparations. Jacob specifically commands Esau to take his ברכה [BRKH] (‘blessing’, 33:11), the very thing that he stole from Esau in Genesis 27. Jacob shows that he is no longer someone who steals from Esau but someone who gives to Esau. This act of generosity alters Esau’s perception of Jacob and of past wrongdoings, facilitating an alleviation of Esau’s prolonged anger. Esau sees that Jacob has changed.”—From Fratricide to Forgiveness, page 167

Name it! Claim it!

Or, as my cousin says, "Blab it & grab it!" Either way, it is heresy. Roger Olson has a good post about it today. Here's a snippet:

The essence of the movement is this: God promises that if you have positive faith and truly believe AND speak that faith with your mouth in positive affirmations (e.g., “God is my source of healing and prosperity; I am well and rich”) God is obligated to heal you and give you financial blessings beyond your wildest dreams. It isn’t always stated that baldly, but that’s the essence of it–especially as it is HEARD by its many adherents...

...the Word-Faith “prosperity gospel” is little more than New Thought with a Charismatic veneer thrown over it. It is heresy because it makes God into a cosmic slot machine and turns salvation into a self-centered acquisition of physical blessings. It is the perfect example of “culture religion.” The cross plays almost no role in it whatsoever–except that (according to some of its leading preachers) Jesus died spiritually before he died physically (a very gnostic idea) so that he died a mere man abandoned by his divinity. He died a “sin slave to Satan.” He descended into hell to exercise his power of faith to conquer sin, sickness and death and rose from death by the power of that faith. (I heard this all the time from students who transferred to ORU from a leading Word-Faith Bible institute across town.)

<idle musing>
Amen! Good preaching! True Christianity is about death to self—not exultation of self. Anything that exalts self is idolatry before God.
</idle musing>

Friday, February 03, 2012

Between a rock and a hard place

“The narrative [Genesis 34, the rape of Dinah] refuses to speak monologically about the brothers’ response. It gives voice to Jacob’s perspective, who condemns them in both Gen 34:30 and 49:5–7. However, it does not allow this voice to triumph over the brothers, who are given the last word in the narrative (but not the last word in the book). When confronted by their father in 34:30, they ask, 'Should he make a whore out of our sister?' (34:31). Neither the narrator nor Jacob is able to answer this question directly. It lingers for readers to wrestle with, unanswered and perhaps unanswerable. It is wrong to slaughter the innocent, but it is also wrong to pretend that Shechem is guiltless. Amid the limited world that characters in Genesis inhabit, the brothers’ desire for justice (punishing Shechem) ironically leads to injustice (punishing all the other inhabitants of his city as well). Characters inhabit a broken world, where the right course of action with anger is not always apparent or even possible. Genesis does not place a veneer over the difficulties of the moral life or present a world in which moral perfection is still possible. In the cursed land outside Eden, humans often face few possibilities and must deal with anger’s deadly force even when all options are morally troublesome.”—From Fratricide to Forgiveness, page 161

<idle musing>
This brought to mind an old (2006!) post from Bonhoeffer's Ethics:

But even in a given place, responsible action cannot always immediately do what is ultimately right. It has to proceed step-by-step, ask what is possible, and entrust the ultimate step, and thus the ultimate responsibility, to another hand.

“God became human. That is why responsible action has to weigh, judge, and evaluate the matter within the human domain…However, because it was God who became human, responsible action, although conscious of the human character of its decision, must completely surrender to God both the judgment on this action and its consequences.”—Bonhoeffer Ethics, pages 224-225

The Bible is realistic—and includes the supernatural, which is also realistic—despite our Western attempts to exclude it!
</idle musing>

Another giant

I just heard that Frederick Danker of Greek lexicography fame died yesterday. Rod Decker has a nice little tribute and other ones are popping up around the web.

I met him once, about seven years ago at an SBL. I had just started at Eisenbrauns a year or so earlier and he was in the Eisenbrauns booth, perusing books. I told him that I had been using BAGD (the second edition of his lexicon) for many years as a non-professional. He said he was glad that non-professional scholars found it useful, but he convinced me on the spot that I needed to upgrade to the third edition. I'm glad I did.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Grab it, quick!

“If Genesis 13 points to the importance of seeking peace in response to anger when family members are involved, then Genesis 26 points to the importance of seeking peace when outsiders are involved. In both cases, the text suggests that it is better to relinquish land than to foster anger—a particularly bold message given the value and limited nature of fertile land in Palestine. Although YHWH has promised land to the patriarchs, this text does not advocate the seizure or even retention of land through violent means. With the death of Abel lurking in the background, readers see characters who place the highest value on the preservation of life, no matter how limited the options before them. They take anger quite seriously, particularly its potential for great harm. Abram and Isaac respond to this emotion by doing what is right, finding a path that leads to ׁשלום [Shalom](‘peace’, 26:29, 31) even though doing so involves personal sacrifice and hardship.”—From Fratricide to Forgiveness, pages 148-149

<idle musing>
Would that the leaders of nations—and their people (including the U.S.!)—would learn this lesson! Self-denial is a lost value, sadly.
</idle musing>

Sales, sales, and more sales

Actually, only two: the Monthly and the 10-day sale. Check out the monthly sale:

February 2012 Web Sale: Babel und Bibel Series at 68% off.

We've got a new book coming out in the Babel und Bibel series this month. We figured you might want to complete your collection—and who wouldn't at 68% off?
See them all here

And, the 10-day sale:

Mesopotamian Civilizations series 20-50% off

Looking through my records, I realized that the Mesopotamian Civilizations series hasn't been on sale since 2010. Time to fix that oversight!
Enjoy savings of 30-50% on these important titles.
See them all here

How about a graphic or two? Sure, why not!

Proceedings of the 53e Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale


Letters to the King of Mari

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

An alternative

“In Abram, then, readers glimpse a clear alternative to Cain. They encounter someone who, at least on these occasions, responds to anger by doing what is good, serving as a ‘keeper' (שמר) [ShMR] for his nephew Lot. There are, of course, shortcomings to the ways that Abram provides for Lot. Most notably, the two have separated, and they never live together again. What community the “brothers” once had has been lost. Genesis makes clear that, even for a figure like Abram, the limitations of this world often disallow brothers’ living together, no matter how good and pleasing that sort of unity may be.”—From Fratricide to Forgiveness, pages 146-147