Monthly Archives: August 2014

Sunday roundup #8: 8.17.14.

As my summer winds into its last month, I am frantically scrambling to finish my language projects: reviewing Greek grammar for the fall, working through Wheelock’s to get ready for intermediate Latin, beginning to translate Hosea for my research assistant job, and now trying to get halfway through Wheeler Thackston’s Qur’anic Arabic grammar in time for my fall (informal) Arabic class.


One of the joys of learning Arabic has been the ease of acquiring vocabulary via Hebrew cognates.  As one Amazon reviewer puts it:

YOU ALREADY KNOW 80% OF KORANIC GRAMMAR, and about 30% of the roots. [link]

So as I go through Thackston, I am noting any Hebrew cognates I come across, using this chart to look up possibilities in BDB.  I hope to post a PDF of the cognates for each chapter so that others can build their Arabic vocabulary rapidly too.  My Hebrew vocabulary is expanding as well.

Anyway, for your reading pleasure:

1.  Gabriel Said Reynolds writes on the danger of using Modern Standard Arabic to read the Qur’an:

As Mun’im Sirry points out in his recent work Scriptural Polemics: The Qurʾan and Other Religions (esp. 66-89), many modern commentators understand Qurʾanic occurrences of dīn to denote “religion,” and indeed translators almost always render dīn “religion” (for Q 3:19 I did not find any cases where it is translated otherwise). This has important consequences, especially with verses such as Q 3:19 and 85, which can be read to mean that Islam is the only acceptable religion. Yet in light of Semitic and non-Semitic cognates (such as Syriac dīnā), Qurʾanic dīn might have—in some instances at least—a more general meaning of “judgment” (hence the phrase yawm al-dīn). In other instances, dīn might mean something closer to religious disposition, rather than religion in the modern sense of a communal system of faith and worship. Accordingly, students of the Qurʾan should be wary of reading dīn, or any Qurʾanic term, through the lens of Modern Standard Arabic.

2.  Seumas Macdonald at Compliant Subversity writes two great posts introducing patristic literature: What is Patristics? and The Patristic Literature.  (Seumas, I am still working on your reader for the Martyrdom of Polycarp!)

3.  The EerdWord blog introduces two very interesting books: James R. Davila’s collection of Old Testament pseudepigrapha, and Michael Graves’ book on scripture in the early Church:

Augustine dealt with differences between the Greek Septuagint and the Hebrew Masoretic Text of the Old Testament — an exegetical challenge if ever there was one — by affirming the divine inspiration of both texts. Just as the Holy Spirit inspired different messages through Isaiah and Jeremiah, he reasoned, so also the Hebrew text and the Greek text of a single passage of Scripture are both inspired by God, even though they say different things. 

4.  I am really enjoying Bill Mounce’s “Nuggets in the Biblical Greek” repostings from the archives on ἀπόλλυμι (‘to destroy’) and μυριάς (‘ten thousand,’ or more colloquially ‘a bijillion’):

Sorry to not be able to give you a cut and dry answer. There is nothing in the word that necessitates apollumi means a permanent and total destruction. I think this was the question I was asked. It certainly can carry that meaning, but it is context (including one’s theological understanding of the ideas conveyed by the word) that make the final decision.

5.  Jacob Cerone ponders the nuance of ἅπτω (‘to touch’) in Mark’s gospel:

What do you think? Does Mark use ἅπτω (to touch) in connection with Jesus’ ministry of healing, or has he departed from his established usage of ἅπτω throughout the Gospel in favor of its broader semantic range?

6.  Last but not least, for those of you with a madness for Greek — starting 2015, a group is reading through Greek Psalms in a year!


Translating the “Dies Irae.”

Working through Wheelock’s grammar is tough.  (I’m at chapter 16!)  Naturally, I decided to liven up my Latin by reading a famous medieval dirge for the dead.  The “Dies Irae” is ascribed to Thomas of Celano, thirteenth-century author of the first hagiography of Francis of Assisi.  Think what you may, I am sure you have heard this hymn before, especially if you saw Amadeus:

Here I’d like to look over the first two stanzas of the hymn and supply some translations.  I have given up trying to keep the meter, rhyme, and meaning intact.  I figure two out of three ain’t bad!

Dies irae, dies illa
solvet saeclum in favilla
teste David cum Sibylla.

Quantus tremor est futurus
quando iudex est venturus
cuncta stricte discussurus!

Notice that each line is in trochaic tetrameter, “Dies irae, dies illa,” with eight beats in each line.  In each stanza, all three lines rhyme: illa / favilla / Sibylla.”  Peter Walsh’s translation in his fantastic Dumbarton Oaks One Hundred Latin Hymns: Ambrose to Aquinas volume is the most literal I have seen:

Day of fury, that sad day
will reduce the world to dust,
as claim David and the Sibyl.

What a trembling there will be
when the judge is to appear
all things harshly to review! (Walsh 347)

As amazing as Wash’s volume is, his translation doesn’t even try to keep the poetic elements of the hymn.  I tried my hand at keeping the rhyme.

The day, that day of fury
When the world will turn to ashes in a hurry
As David and Sibyll told us to worry.

How greatly all will be trembling,
When the judge is assembling,
The world gone to disassembling.

[Alternate translation of the second stanza:]
A great tremor will be scattering,
When the judge with his feet the earth battering,
The world gone to shattering.

Despite my best efforts, some of my wording is just awkward: “As David and Sibyll told us to worry” doesn’t capture the eschatological urgency of the original.  Sometimes the languages provide their own obstacles.  The participles that rhyme so well in Latin translate into static gerunds in English that don’t adequately capture the drama and action.

Two other translators tried to keep the rhyme:

Day of wrath and doom impending,
David’s word with Sibyl’s blending,
Heaven and earth in ashes ending!

Oh, what fear man’s bosom rendeth,
When from heaven the Judge descendeth,
On whose sentence all dependeth.
(William Josiah Irons, 1849 — link)

That day of wrath, that dreadful day,
shall heaven and earth in ashes lay,
as David and the Sybil say.

What horror must invade the mind
when the approaching Judge shall find
and sift the deeds of all mankind! (link)

Irons’ is the loosest, even switching the second and third lines in the first stanza.  I like it more, despite its archaisms. The other one uses very limpid verbs (“lay,” “say”) — not appropriate for eschatology!

Still, there seems to be a certain energy in the original Latin that rhyme-oriented translations don’t capture.  So I worked on keeping the meter instead:

Day of wrath, that day when all burns
World turns ashes, God breaks, smashes,
David, Sibyll witness’d, told us.

Tremor breaks out, how great, how loud,
When the Judge is coming, sitting,
Viewing souls, soon shatters bad ones.

I love the energy of the first stanza.  The second stanza did not come out as well, especially the third line.  (Any suggestions?)  Ironically, to keep the meter of the Latin, I have to use short, one-syllabled Germanic words!

I could only find one translation that preserves both meter and rhyme.  Ambrose Bierce satirically throws meaning out the window:

Day of Satan’s painful duty!
Earth shall vanish, hot and sooty;
So says Virtue, so says Beauty.

Ah! what terror shall be shaping
When the Judge the truth’s undraping!
Cats from every bag escaping!

Thoughts?  Suggestions?  How would you translate it?

The Cosmic Scope of Anglo-Saxon Poetry: Caedmon’s Hymn.

Although the Old English corpus is rich with history, homilies, and saints’ lives, I suspect that most students of the language are most enthusiastic about the poetry: the elegies, the riddles, the rune-poem, the hymns, and Beowulf of course.  I certainly am.  So it was with great joy that I was able to decipher Caedmon’s Hymn:

Nu sculon herigean   heofonrices Weard,
Meotodes meahte   on his modgeðanc,
weorc Wuldorfæder,   swa he wundra gehwæs,
ece Drihten,       or onstealde.
He ærest sceop    eorþan bearnum
heofon to hrofe,  halig Scyppend;
þa middangeard  moncynnes Weard,
ece Drihten,       æfter teode
firum foldan,     Frea ælmihtig.

Now (we) should praise   of the kingdom of heaven  the Warden,
Of the Creator the might,  and his mind-thought (purpose),
the work of the Gloryfather,  just as he of wonders,
eternal Lord, created the beginning (of each).
He first created  for the children of earth
heaven as a roof,  holy Shaper;
then Middle Earth  mankind’s Warden,
eternal Lord,   after created
for men the earth,  Ruler almighty.
(Translation taken from Dennis Baron)

To get a taste of the sound:

Although we have this hymn preserved in several manuscripts, we learn its background only from Bede’s Ecclesiastical History.  He writes that Caedmon was a monk of little musical talent, who would walk away from singing contests in shame.  One day, however, God revealed this hymn to him in a dream, thus beginning Caedmon’s career as a hymn-shaper whose skills came directly from God.  Pope and Fulk date his career between 657-680, but the earliest manuscripts we have of the poem come from the eighth century.

Scholars have written reams about the way this poem uses Anglo-Saxon pagan terminology for gods and kings, applying them to the God of Bede’s Christianity:

  • Wuldorfæder, “father of wonders,” echoes the Norse epithet for Woden, “Father of Armies”
  • heofonrices Weard, “ward of the heavenly kingdom,” echoes the Anglo-Saxon phrase for kings as “guardians of the realm” (Mitchell, A Guide to Old English, 228).  (Note that the rices, “kingdom/realm,” is cognate with the modern German word Reich.)
  • Drihten, “Lord,” also referred to lords such as King Hrothgar in Beowulf (Barney, Word-Hoard, 9)
  • Frea, “lord, king,” is perhaps cognate with the name of the Norse goddess Freya (Barney, Word-Hoard, 53)

My take away from this poem, apart from its mixing of literary-religious cultures, is its technique of appositive variation.  It proliferates titles for God.  It’s very associative.  Take the last two lives, with their contrast of ece Drihten and Frea ælmihtig: “Eternal Lord” and “Ruler Almighty.”  Each epithet for God conjures up another set of associations, mapping the attributes for God onto the attributes of a king or ruler.  Pope and Fulk are right to remark that this hymn is very psalm-like.

The epithets in this poem relate to the power, the transcendence of God the Father.  It’s very cosmic.  God created the universe, He holds it together, He fashioned it like a lord’s hall, like the Heorot hall in Beowulf, with heofon to hrofe (“heaven as a roof”).  In Sunny California, thinking of the universe as a hall does not mean much: what’s wrong with the great outdoors?  But surviving a snowy winter was a big deal.  Anglo-Saxons measured someone’s life by how many winters they had lived.  Being in a hall with a fire meant survival.  The vast universe, mostly inhospitable to human life, is like the killing cold of an English winter.


Cozy, eh?

If anything, this poem reminds me of what we Episcopalians affectionately call the “Star Wars Prayer” in the Book of Common Prayer:

God of all power, Ruler of the Universe, you are worthy of
glory and praise.
Glory to you for ever and ever.

At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of
interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses,
and this fragile earth, our island home.
By your will they were created and have their being.

From the primal elements you brought forth the human race,
and blessed us with memory, reason, and skill. You made us
the rulers of creation. But we turned against you, and betrayed
your trust; and we turned against one another.
Have mercy, Lord, for we are sinners in your sight.

Amen, Caedmon.

On Language Learning: Dabbling in the shallows vs. Diving into the deeps.

In Mary Doria Russell’s theological sci-fi novel The Sparrow, one of the main characters, Jesuit linguist Fr. Emilio Sandos, speaks about a dozen languages fluently.  Artificial intelligence researchers spend months with him trying to figure out how he learns languages so easily: what are his methods? With me as with him, every new language learned brings more thoughts on how to learn languages and more experiences with different types of pedagogy.

This summer, I have been continuing two languages I already have a solid grounding in (Greek and Hebrew) while continuing to comprehend three more that I am still shaky in (Old English, Latin, and Qur’anic Arabic).  For the latter three, my learning has been an exercise in extreme contrasts.

Summer love.

Summer love.

I have been doing Latin for a year now.  However, I have primarily been dabbling in it, reading easy texts (e.g. Vulgate) while relying on Perseus way too much.  I decided this summer to get my act together and work through Wheelock’s, which would give me the solid foundation I needed to actually get the language.  It’s tedious, I love Wheelock’s: its aphoristic exercises, its side notes, its bad jokes, its crystal-clear (so far!) explanations of how the Latin language works.  I feel that I am really getting the skeleton of this language.  My goal is to jump into intermediate Latin this fall.

By contrast, Old English and Arabic have been far more playful.  The Arabic course has been taught with Munther Younes’ The Routledge Introduction to Qur’anic Arabic, which begins with whole surahs and lists vocabulary for students to learn for each one.  The grammar is given in small increments throughout the book.  For me it’s been maddening because I want to grasp the structures of the language, structures I already understand from Hebrew.  (Wheeler Thackston’s Introduction to Quranic and Classical Arabic has been staring at me from the shelf for a few weeks now!)  Likewise, Old English has been a very inductive exercise for me, with a similar level of crazy-making.

A part of me says that I am wasting my time dawdling around in languages without getting the grammar down systematically.  But I suspect that without that year of playing with Latin, I would not be enjoying Wheelock’s as much.  When I learned Hebrew, I did not dive directly into the difficulties of Page Kelley’s Biblical Hebrew: An Introductory Grammar, but first learned highly simplified grammar through Prayerbook Hebrew: The Easy Way.  Getting a panoptic feel for how the language worked made the tough grammar easier to swallow.  With Greek, I dived directly in, and first-year Greek was painful in part because I never got any time to wade at the shallow end before diving twenty feet in.

The conclusion to all of this?  When I start Sanskrit this fall, I will ask the professor if he can explicate some brief prayers or short texts to us before we start the grammar.  For me, it’s useful to have an anchor in how the language works, to play around with a language, before diving straight into the grammar.

Review: A Gentle Introduction to Old English, Murray McGillivray.

When I look back on this summer in 20 years, one of the strongest memories will be the amount of insight I have gained from my Old English study group.  My university does not teach Old English, but a group of five of us — an English faculty, three recent grads hoping to become medievalists, and myself — have been learning this tongue under the tutelage of a husband-and-wife Anglo-Saxonist team.

There is plenty more to say about that — but it will have to wait for another post.

9781551118413We began learning the grammar with Murray McGillivray’s A Gentle Introduction to Old English.  McGillivray’s book is meant to be a primer to get students into the original texts as rapidly as possible.  In twelve brief chapters, he takes students from pronunciation to the meter of Anglo-Saxon verse.  Along the way he includes exercises and brief readings from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Luke’s Gospel, the story of Ohthere, and a riddle.  The back of the book contains extended readings in Luke’s infancy narrative, Abraham and Isaac, the Voyage of Ohthere, and Aelfric’s Colloquy.  The readings have glossaries and notes on tough passages.  McGillivray also has an accompanying website.

I appreciated that he simplified the grammar greatly, making it possible to start in on real texts as soon as possible.  But now that I am starting to read Anglo-Saxon poetry, I find my understanding of the language (particularly thorny issues like strong verbs) lacking.   While he does lead the student into the grammar step-by-step, he primarily wants the student to learn Old English inductively, through reading texts with glossaries.  The chapters do not have vocabulary lists (let alone principal parts of verbs) for the student to learn, and the grammar is not presented as systematically and step-by-step as it is in Wheelock’s Latin.

Is this book useful?

It depends on your goals in learning Old English.  If you want to work with Old English, follow scholarship about the literature, and be able to look up a few words here and there, it is very useful.  But it is not the kind of primer that will build your knowledge of the language deductively.  Nor will it give the finer points of grammar; Bruce Mitchell’s Guide is a necessary supplementary volume for that.  I would have preferred something halfway between the gentleness of McGillivray and the linguistic overload of Mitchell, which is more of a reference grammar.

One of my main frustrations for this book was the readings in the back.  The Bible readings were useful, and Biblical translation is often a good place to start in any language because, well, you know what it’s going to say!  But the Ohthere and the Aelfric readings were very tedious.  The Ohthere reading included a lot of nautical vocabulary that I doubt I will see again — not perhaps the best vocabulary builder.  The Aelfric reading was written as a pedagogical exercise for children — not the most exciting stuff!  I understand McGillivray’s desire to stick to the simpler syntax and smaller vocabulary of prose readings, but he could have included Bede or the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle instead, readings found in Mitchell’s text.

Within the next few days, I will explain what I have gleaned about language learning from my experience with Old English.  Stay tuned!

Review: Heaven on Earth: Art and the Church in Byzantium.

heaven-on-earth-safran-linda-paperback-cover-artByzantine art, while majestic and regal, is often accused of being bland. No creativity, just repetitive images of saints and biblical scenes. After taking a class on the topic, I am still trying to make sense of the deeper aesthetic of Byzantine art. Linda Safran’s edited volume, one of the books of my class, brings together eight major scholars of this art to connect that art with the religion that inspired it.  All of the chapters in this volume were originally talks given in connection with a Smithsonian Institute lecture series in 1991. I decided to finish the volume to see what lay in store for me. Here I’ll focus on the three chapters I enjoyed most.

While sight is invoked most often in the chapters that follow, the other senses augmented the experience of the Byzantine church-goer or pilgrim: the holy books were read aloud, hymns were sung, icons or relics were touched or kissed, scented oils were used for anointing, and the smell of incense exorcised evil spirits and accompanied veneration. From differing but overlapping perspectives, the eight chapters that follow consider how Byzantine religious arts functioned in their settings and in society, and how they responded to and shaped the circumstances of their creation — in short, how art and architecture contributed in significant ways to the experience of the faithful. (8)

Eric D. Perl’s chapter, “…That Man Might Become God: Central Themes in Byzantine Theology,” expanded on the central theme of theosis, or deification, the idea that humanity can become God or Godlike. He explores how theosis expressed itself in the Byzantines’ strongly incarnational Christology, its negative theology of Pseudo-Dionysus’ “divine darkness” and the hesychasm, and the liturgy, where God reveals himself to us through the senses. I was left with a strong sense of the Christian paradox that while God becomes human, allowing for the overwhelming sensuality of Byzantine devotion, God is also beyond all the forms of art, scripture, and liturgy.8112316284_6cd1cf9d93_z

Theology is liturgy in thought, liturgy is theology in action. (53)

In “The Responding Icon,” Anna Kartsonis explicates the multiple meanings of icons for Byzantine Christians. Icons were not just images of holy figures. They were representations of those figures, embodiments of them on earth. Byzantine literature abounds with stories of people being healed after touching icons of Jesus, Mary, and saints. Icons are themselves incarnations of heavenly bodies. I see this as the Byzantine equivalent of the Roman dogma of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist: a way to bring Jesus into concrete contact with the faithful. This kind of presence, which in folk miracles can veer on the superstitious, was one of the fuels in the Iconoclasts’ fire.

The image interrelates the prototypical event (the historical Crucifixion), its numerous representations (visual, verbal, ceremonial), and the faithful, who as beholder, witness, and participant responds to its reenactment and re-creation. In the process, the pictorial representation — the icon — remains both constant and flexible in communicating the interrelation and interaction between the prototype, its representation, and the faithful. (75)

9908301523_f597280560_zLastly, Robert Ousterhout’s chapter, “The Holy Space: Architecture and the Liturgy,” argues that Byzantine architecture was not monotonous repetition, but subtle variations on a theme designed to be decoded by the faithful. Byzantine churches, he points out, were like Byzantine liturgy in that they evoked heaven. Icons and mosaics were placed in the culture in a way too suggest transcendence: saints at the human level, biblical figures up higher, Mary and the angels at the penultimate level, and Christ Pantokrator at the high point of the dome. The Hagia Sophia, that massive and massively atypical example of Byzantine architecture, is an apt example of the evoking of heaven:

The sense of weightlessness, despite the huge mass of the building, led Prokopios to conclude that the great dome was not supported from below but suspended by a golden chain from heaven. … More than anything the architecture of Hagia Sophia was meant to transform the ceremonies it housed, the place them on a level different from common existence, transforming them into more symbolic, heavenly drama. (90-91)

3782041213_6f88dbc46e_zBy way of conclusion, I’ll share a story. I have a friend who attends Gregorian chant mass. Last month I attended at her invitation. Much of the afternoon, I felt bored: why the endless dragging out of syllables, the ceaseless repetition of incantations? Afterwards, she explained to me that the chant is supposed to evoke the angels praising God in heaven, and the chants’ length evokes the eternal bliss of God’s presence. It clicked. Perhaps Byzantine art is the visual equivalent of Gregorian chant: it seems dull at first, but only because it operates on a deeper rhythm than we expect. While Safran’s book does not make those connections — I wish there were a chapter specifically on aesthetics — it does have moments of insight. And as art history, it was solid and enjoyable.

Biblical Studies Blog Carnival — July 2014 Edition!!


I am told July is usually a slow month for biblical blogging.  I have high hopes that this month’s quality will more than make up for quantity.  Thanks to all their bloggers who send me links from their own and others’ blogs.

Old Testament

EerdWord previews one of their newest publications, The Psalms as Christian Lament:

Being “poor” and being in “lament” are linked in the Psalter: in seeking righteousness in the law court as a plaintiff; in crying out for help in danger, oppression, and the threat of death; in need of health and cure in the presence of sickness and disease; and, in the truly penitential psalms, in seeking forgiveness, redemption, and restoration of communion with God. Lament is then both individual and national; and this is especially true in the psalms, for they are often the lament of Israel’s king, who is in corporate solidarity with his people.

Abram K-J expounds on An Interculturally Aware Read of Psalm 46.  (He also has a post on Psalm 23.)

Understanding the value of land to the people singing Psalm 46–it was an essential component of their identity and experience of God’s love for them!–makes the affirmation of trust in this Psalm even more remarkable.

Bob McDonald reflects on 1 Samuel 21 and its setting in music.  (He also has a reflection on Isaiah 44:6-8 as music.)

The story is unexpectedly full of deceit, fear, weakness, and subtlety on the part of David, running for his life into the arms of his enemies, completely alone – in the solitude of solitude, without his lads, his army, his infrastructure (the city), even if it was limited to playing the harp for a mentally disturbed king, and so he too feigns madness and escapes.

Paul Davidson introduces the Twelve (Or So) Tribes of Israel:

The myth of the twelve tribes of Israel is another example of how the Bible in its present form presents an idealized vision of the past based on religious and nationalistic concerns, developed through numeric symbolism, fictional genealogies, and etiological tales.

James Pate reflects on Jeremiah 48:

Is Jeremiah (or whoever wrote Jeremiah 48) a voice for universalism, one who believes that all nations should worship the LORD alone?  Or is Moab expected to worship the God of Israel because Moab was descended from Lot, the nephew of Abraham, and thus Moab is close to the Israelite family?

Diana Stein at ASOR satisfies a curiosity we were too embarrassed to ask: what kind of crazy drug trips did people in the Ancient Near East have?

The theatrical dimension of hallucinogenic rituals also ensured that the experience, which could be fatal or cause great anxiety, was carefully supervised. Whether in the context of the hunt, a social event, a burial rite or a religious ceremony, a guide was present “to bridge the two worlds of consciousness as a means of controlling and neutralizing perceived evil spirits that appear to the drug user during a session, as well as to evoke culturally expected visions”.[ii]

These traditional constraints are lacking in Western society today, which insists on a division between medicine and ritual and is deeply suspicious of the latter. Here, perhaps, is something we could learn from our past.

New Testament

Phil Long has been blogging about Philippians thoroughly throughout July.  Check out his latest, on Philippians 2:19-24:

But this section of the letter is not unrelated to the great theological content of chapter 2:1-11; Paul is offering two additional examples of people who are serving humbly like Jesus (2:5-11) and Paul (2:17). Timothy and Epaphroditus are examples of “having the same mind” as Christ Jesus (2:1).

Brian W. Davidson explains that Disciples are Fit for Feet:

In the post titled “Disciples: Salt for Trampling,” I proposed that “salt of the earth” signifies the way outsiders treat the disciples. Those who follow Jesus have broken ties with the kingdom of earth, they’ve lost their saltiness. They are good for nothing but trampling (καταπατέω) under foot. 

James McGrath responds to a question, “Is the Gospel of John a Jewish Mystical Work?”

The prologue (1:1-18) presents the lens through which the Gospel author wishes Jesus to be viewed, and it shares key concepts with the Jewish mystical philosopher Philo of Alexandria. The Gospel speaks of visions (1:51), which were an important part of mysticism, and emphasizes union with Jesus and ultimately with God through the Spirit. It is possible that Jesus himself is viewed as a mystic, one who speaks with the divine voice because the divine Word/Spirit dwells in him.

Paul Davidson gives an overview of Matthew’s genealogy, stressing its symbolic nature:

That this should be understood symbolically is quite clear. It is not historically plausible for a time span of almost two millennia to consist of only 42 generations — actually 41, since Matthew’s third set of 14 only has 13 names. Theologians who, over the centuries, have treated this genealogy as a factual historical report and striven to account for the discrepancies with Luke’s genealogy have simply missed the forest for the trees.

Bible, Literature, Translation gives us a riff on the Lord’s Prayer, inspired by economic and mimetic theory:

Forgive us our trespasses
So we can let go of that bristling defensive posture,
that tendency towards escalation, that mirror-imaging of sin.
Forgive us our trespasses
To remind us how it feels to be welcomed,
To remind us that we are no better no purer no holier
Than those who trespass against us.

Wayne Coppins shares a bit of his ongoing translation of Jens Schröter’s book on Luke:

“If we evaluate these findings, then it can be said that the presentation of Luke moves within the framework of what was expected from an ancient historian. He possesses knowledge about the areas concerning which he reports; sometimes chronological inaccuracies slip in; and entirely in the sense of Lucian he has shaped his presentation and in this way drawn a picture of the development of Christianity in the first decades.”

Mike Skinner has three reflections on the Sermon on the Plain, Romans 13 and violence, and on Jesus’ parable of a camel going through the eye of a needle:

Jesus’ reply challenges not only our wealth, but our very conception of salvation. To be saved, to be made a member of the church through baptism, means that our lives are no longer our own. We are made vulnerable to one another in a manner such that what is ours can no longer be free of the claims of others. As hard as it may be to believe, Jesus makes clear that salvation entails our being made vulnerable through the loss of our possessions.” [1]

Larry Hurtado examines Paul’s messianic beliefs:

My own contribution was to propose that, instead of thinking of Paul as departing from some notion of a monolithic Jewish messianism, we should regard Paul as espousing a particular variant-form of Jewish messianism.  Jewish messianism of Paul’s time was pluriform, and the Christological faith that Paul adopted and promoted represents one of the several variant-forms.

Apostolic and Patristic Fathers

Jacob Cerone shares a discovery he made in Ignatius’ letter to the Smyraeans:

This poignant little play on words illustrates what Ignatius claims throughout the letter: Jesus’ possession of a physical body and his real sufferings are both the source of our salvation and the hope of our resurrection. Thus, the one who denies that he lived in the flesh has no hope of life but bears about himself his own corpse.


Lee Fields wants to know: would you name your son Lucifer?

The word heōsphoros does not appear in Kittel, because it does not appear in the NT. This word is the Septuagint (LXX) translation of the Hebrew הֵילֵל בֶּן־שָׁחַר (hêlēl ben šaḥar) in Isa 14:12. […] To understand how the KJV reads “Lucifer,” we need to look at the Hebrew, the language in which most of the OT was composed, then the LXX, the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT, and the Vulgate, Jerome’s Latin translation of the Hebrew OT.

Ben Myers explains the joy of teaching primary sources:

For me, the most rewarding part of teaching is introducing my students to primary sources. Each of my classes involves a lecture period plus an hour of small-group tutorials in which the class works its way through a book that I have chosen. In the books that have come down to us from the past, we have access to Christian minds far more energetic and more accommodating than our own. It is a joy to find yourself in the presence of a mind that you cannot fully comprehend. This has always been one of the chief reasons for studying the humanities at all: to learn that the human spirit is larger and more interesting than one’s own poor spirit, or (this is the political benefit of studying the humanities) than the spirit of the age.

Brian Renshaw shares his Vocabulary Flashcards for Greek, Latin, and Hebrew.

Jeremy Bouma reflects on how to read the Bible:

As a teenager I memorized John 1, 3, 5 and 8; 2 Corinthians 1-10; and all of Ephesians and 1-3 John. Then I memorized the questions that accompanied those verses so I could buzz in early, leaving my competitors in the dust. That’s what true Bible quizzing professionals did, after all.

Mike Skinner shares his reflections on earning his M.A. in Theological Studies:

Before my graduate studies, I hoped to work in the academic world far away from the messiness of the church. Now, I’m enslaved to the conviction that Christian academics must be immersed in and useful to the local church. I entered my graduate studies knowing little about church history and caring even less. Who cared about how Origen translated a certain passage when I’ve got the best Hebrew & Greek tools in history available to me and am free of his cultural limitations? However, I now know how important church history is and indeed have found myself with a deep love for the study of patristics.

I’ve really been enjoying Koinonia’s interviews on advice to students. Each interview has a few pithy points.

And to end on a high note of humor, I’ll share Jeff Carter’s biblical limericks: “Quid Pro Quo,” “Won’t That be Neat!,” and “God Doesn’t Like Vegetarians:”

Cain brought an off’ring agrarian
while Abel came with fresh carrion.
God chose Abe’s, of the two,
so I think that it’s true:
God’s biased ‘gainst vegetarians.

That’s all for now, folks!