Tag Archives: Sunday roundup

Recommended Reading, 1.26.16.

Because of my intensive intersession course — which I will blog about soon! — and getting the flu, I fell way behind on my blog reading. Here are some of the posts that captivated my attention the most from the last few weeks.

Not to be too self-promotional, but you should totally check out a post I wrote for a friend’s apologetics site on the connection between apologetics and interfaith dialogue:

Nabeel Qureshi, Christian Apologist – and Bridge Between Christians and Muslims?

Because both religions emphasize sharing their faith, a true bridge between Christians and Muslims would also be a bridge between dialogue and apologetics. This bridge would have to be built on the twin pillars of shared similarities and respectfully acknowledged differences. In my experience, interfaith dialogue emphasizes similarities, and often lacks the courage to discuss differences.  Similarities are important, for love can emerge from an understanding of our common humanity. But at its worst, the result of exploring only commonalities is a bland Kumbaya feeling. On the other hand, too often I have read works of apologetics that only discuss differences. These apologists fail to recognize the common ground of love and compassion across religions and cultures, and that do not seem to be written from places of love and friendship for their religious rivals.

(Thanks to CAA for publishing my post!)

“There is No Rejoicing Without Wine”: Jesus’ First Miracle at Words on the Word

And did you catch this nice touch from John: these jars, where the chemical miracle happened, were ones “used… for ceremonial washing.” There’s nothing wrong with religious ritual, per se—I quite like it myself. But these jars for ritual cleansing—Jesus turned them into party favors. That’s kind of like co-opting the baptismal font for a punch bowl.

Religion Snapshots: Methodological Atheism vs. Methodological Agnosticism at Religion Bulletin

This short debate about methodology in the study of religion intrigued me. I come upon this issue in my studies, i.e., when people ask why early Christianity took off. One answer: because Jesus resurrected. Another question: is there such a thing as genuine prophecy, in the sense of seeing into the future? Both cannot be ruled out, but they are outside the bounds of what methodological atheism and agnosticism would allow. The question of how human we are willing to make our sacred texts is an ongoing one for me.

The Problems with Post-Modern Interpretation of the Bible at Bible and Culture

A Biblical text without its original historical, rhetorical, social, literary, archaeological texts becomes a pretext for whatever you want it to mean, and this is not a good thing, it’s a bad thing. Nor is the meaning of a text merely ‘a matter of my opinion’ vs. yours. Why not? Because there is an actual meaning in those Biblical texts which can only be discerned with a combination of careful exegesis attending to the various original contexts and prayerful reflection with the guidance of God’s Spirit.


Really interesting article, reminds me of some of the stuff we read in my Gender in Early Christianity course. One thing — she misses the fact that some of these early female saints were “transgender saints,” i.e. their asceticism was so harsh that they lost all physical traces of femininity, an apt symbol for their psychological denial of femininity. Not sure we can call these women feminist Christian icons.

Levine and Meier on the Parables of Jesus: Two Very Important (and Very Different) New Books at The Jesus Blog


My friend, author and preeminent American Orthodox apologist Frederica Matthewes-Green, considers the remembrance of death as one of the most helpful disciplines in living a healthy Christian life. She told me, “If you spend your life seeking entertainment and food, trying to keep your mind occupied and amused, you find yourself weary and depressed. Life can come to seem meaningless.” There is a better way than these desperate efforts to delay, deflect, and control our mortal fate. It is to accept it, to ponder and embrace it, and witness a paradoxical result: “Keeping in the back of your mind an awareness of the fact that you will die one day leads to a life lived deliberately, with forethought and gratitude, a life that is worthy and complete.”

Think the Muslim world needs to “reform?” Think again by Connor Wood

Fundamentalism – the inflexible adherence to literal, text-based religious teachings, whether Biblical creationism or Shariah law – often results from reform movements, rather than being banished by them. One reason for this is that religious reformations, by stripping away supposedly outdated or extraneous traditions and rituals in favor of a “return to basics,” can end up pushing their host religions towards a rigid, text-based literalism. Sounds like just what the world needs, right?

The secular front in the US by John Fea

Not sure I agree with him, but thought-provoking.

Yet, despite the demographic power of evangelicals, they are largely marginalised from the media and education. The writer Jay Nordlinger might be correct when he says that ‘all conservatives are bilingual – we have to be. (We speak liberal and conservative.) But liberals tend to be monolingual – they don’t need to speak our languages, or to know much about us at all.’ Indeed, if you are a secular progressive or liberal secularist, it is possible to live in a society that comports to your world view. If you are an evangelical Christian, it is not that easy.

Jesus for Muslims – A Sermon by Rev. Dr. Rebecca Irelan at Patheos

I really enjoyed reading this homily — preached in my own city, no less! Irelan went in really deep and definitely did her homework when it came to Islam and thinking through how Christians can relate to Muslims.

Sunday Roundup #39: 11.1.14.

Given that it’s been over two months since the last Sunday roundup, I figured it was time.  Enjoy.

Brian W. Davidson explains Runge’s Discourse Commentaries.

Those outside of academia tend to lose interest in commentaries that spend too much time surveying scholarly debates. There is a time and place for every sort of commentary, even those that focus more on secondary literature than the text. But Runge’s commentaries are different in ways that pastors and students will appreciate. They are clearly written, relevantly illustrated, and while they are informed by scholarly discussion, Runge only mentions contemporary debates when doing so will help the reader contextualize his comments on the flow of the text.

Gary Alley interviews Randall Buth about communicative Koine:

Things changed when I went to Israel and learned to speak Hebrew fluently. In the process, I noticed that my reading of biblical Hebrew changed. It is difficult to fully explain this by analogy or words, but I will give a brief attempt. Basically, Hebrew changed from being very fast, instantaneous crossword puzzles to a real language, to reading a language for content from within the language. I was young, early 20’s, and naively assumed that the field would gradually move in this direction over the coming decades. I could not imagine a program ignoring the benefits involved, nor had I ever met anyone who had gone through this process up to a fluent level that regretted the time spent or did not see it as qualitatively improving one’s reading and access to the text.

Buth’s interview makes me want to try some of his self-study audio materials.  One more thing for the post-graduation list…

Kris at Old School Script uses discourse analysis to show that the word order of New Testament sentences is both important and ignored in translation.

Though you probably knew before reading this post that it’s not what you say but how you say it that matters, now you should have a better understanding of how this principle can get fleshed out in Greek—even when the exact same words are repeated.

I really liked this post by about Tavis Bohlinger about reading the Bible in English.

So in the course of the conversation, almost abruptly, he [doctoral advisor] looked me in the eyes and said, “Have you read the New Testament in Greek, yet?”

I gulped. And then said, “All but Luke and Acts, and I’m halfway through Luke.”

He replied, “Well, since you are a New Testament scholar, you know…”

Last but not least, I enjoyed Philip Long’s series on the parables, concluded here.


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!


Sunday roundup #7: 6.15.14

Finals and the Patristics Blog Carnival have consumed my life for the last few weeks, so this is a bit overdue.  For those on the academic treadmill — I hope your summer will be fruitful and relaxing.

1.  David Bertaina writes on dialogues in the Qur’an:

My hope is that more scholars of Qur’anic studies may be interested in exploring the possible role of question-and-answer material in the Qur’an’s development. As a starting point, I would suggest that this process did not consist of direct borrowing or influence from Syriac texts. Nor is it appropriate to reduce Qur’anic material to Syriac or Christian Arabic debates or a mixture of interreligious conversations. Rather, the Qur’an is an active agent that witnessed question-and-answer events, suggesting its familiarity and comfort with Late Antique question-and-answer styles, both in oral and written form. Given that bilingual Arabic-speaking Jews and Christians were familiar with this material, we should not be surprised to witness the Qur’an employ its own arguments in a similar vein.

2.  Abram K-J reviews a linguistic guide to Jude.

3.  Ben Irwin worries about the plethora of specialized Bible versions — with a later update on the Duck Dynasty Bible.

I’d been working for an evangelical publisher for almost five years. I loved my job. I loved publishing Bibles — and I published a lot of them. Study Bibles. Youth Bibles. Audio Bibles. We had a Bible for everyone…or at least we aspired to.

We wanted more people to read the Bible. And for a time, I thought publishing more Bibles was the best way to make that happen.

But standing in that synagogue — hearing about the role scripture played in the lives of those who had gathered there — I started to question that assumption.

4.  J.K. Gayle at BLT asks what language Jesus spoke:

What was the language of Jesus in the LXX? According to his Greek-language translator, it was Ἑβραϊστί (or “hebraisti”). Well, that raises lots of questions, doesn’t it? Who is Jesus in the Septuagint? Who is his translator? And most importantly — given“The Latest Jesus-Speak” — what is “”hebraisti”? Is it Aramaic? Is it Hebrew?

5.  J.K. Gayle also looks at bad binaries in translating and interpreting Mark:

The cliché here seems to be that the human Jesus gets angry, that flying off the handle in indignation is not something God would do. Humans are emotional this way. Gods are more dispassionate.

6.  NPR asks how Mormons can learn languages so fast:

The training center is widely recognized as one of the best language-instruction institutes in the world, though that’s not the only thing that’s taught. In a matter of weeks, these enthusiastic young students will be speaking foreign languages fluently enough to spread the gospel.

7.  And, although it’s totally not relevant to this blog, I have been enjoying Dan Fincke’s posts on “How to Criticize Religion”: here, here, here, and here.

Sunday roundup #6: 5.25.14.

I’ve found another use for this weekly habit: making sure I stay on top of my links!  It also ensures that no matter how busy I get with school, I never neglect this blog entirely.

1.  I really enjoyed Abram K-J’s thoughts on “Preaching in an Age of Distraction.”  His words apply not just to preaching, but to any type of deep thinking:

An underlying theme of the book is that the ones who follow after distractions (whether preacher or congregation, or both) are “expressing the longing of a restless heart.” Kalas writes, “[W]hat gets our attention gets us.” The challenge is that not all distractions are harmful, per se; some stimulate creativity and pull us out of ruts. How to discern the difference?

2.  Brian W. Davidson recommends some summer reading:

3.  Russell Beatty applies his Greek to an exegetical problem in 1 John 3:7-10:

The difficultly of the passage can be explained by the aspect of Greek verbs or participles in the present tense.  Although it may be strange in English, I’ve added “continually” to the main present tense verbs.  That should shed some light on the passage.  Present tense verbs carry a continual aspect.  For verse 9 in particular, some modern translations will say something like: “Everyone who has been born from God doesn’t keep on sinning”, or “doesn’t continue to sin…” “…because his seed keeps on remaining in him, and he is not able to sin, because he/she has been born from God.”

4.  Scribalishness opines on “El Shaddai and the Gender of God”:

That El Shaddai means “The God of Breasts” or “The Breasted God” is supported by (1) its etymology—it derives from the Hebrew for breast (as discussed above) and (2) its usage in the Hebrew Bible. Virtually every use of El Shaddai occurs in a fertility context. What this means is that when the biblical writers wanted to emphasize that God is a God of fertility (and how better to envision such a God than as a God with breasts?) they used the name El Shaddai (or, in Ruth,Shaddai).

Have a great week, folks!


Sunday roundup #5: 5.18.14.

This has been a quiet week in the ancient languages blogosphere.  I only have one link!

I am headed into the final weeks of the quarter now.  So I am more focused on writing papers than on writing blog posts.  But this summer will bring two new developments.  First, I have gathered a reading group for Old English learning, including one of my university’s Anglo-Saxonists.  I hope to read such great poems as “The Wanderer,” “Seafarer,” “The Dream of the Rood,” and of course, Beowulf!  I am also curious how the Bible was translated into Old English.

Also this summer I have been hired as a research assistant for Catherine Murphy’s work to reconstruct 4QXII, a Qumran scroll containing the minor prophets.  In graduate school she worked on that text for the Discoveries in the Judean Desert series, but at the time there were many small fragments which were left unidentified due to publication deadlines.  This summer, I’ll be helping her identify those fragments and digitally reconstruct the scroll.  That should give me something to write about here!

Best of all, I discovered Lectionary Greek, a blog which seeks to find nuggets in the Greek of the lectionary every week.  The most recent post is on Acts 17:16-31.

Sunday roundup #4: 5.13.14.

Two days late, but it’s here!

I apologize for my lack of writing lately.  School has gotten to the crazy point.  This summer I am already excited to have the time to dive deep into texts.

1.  Polyglossic, On Fascinating Vs. Dull Languages:

A competent linguist might produce a solid, detailed grammar of Language X, while a less competent colleague might produce a slim and superficial grammar of neighboring Language Y; based on this work, outside observers might conclude that the first linguist was lucky to have found something as complex and interesting as Language X, while Language Y “is a rather simple and dull language.”  The truth, he argues, “is that X and Y are equally complex and interesting, if analysed in the right way.”  The problem lies in the skill of the analyst, not in the inherent qualities of either language.

I really like this idea, though I will point out that part of what makes a language fascinating for me – an ancient language anyway – is what doors it opens.  Sanskrit, Greek, and Hebrew open up some of the greatest literature ever written.  I don’t know of the same quality and quantity of writing in ancient Aramaic.

2.  Geoffrey Steadman is coming out with yet another commentary – this time on Sophocles’ Antigone:

Starting on Monday, May 26, which is Memorial Day in the United States,  I will be releasing the commentary for Sophocles’ Antigone once a week in 7-page installments (15 lines of Greek per page, with vocabulary and notes below on the same page). Eventually the installments will be stitched together into a single book. My hope is that intermediate and advanced readers will consider reading Antigone to hone their skills and develop reading habits outside of school.

3.  Pagan Steven Posch ponders the meaning of the biblical injunction to “not suffer a witch to live”:

The second was the verb, the “suffer to live” part. In Hebrew, a notoriously compact language, the entire phrase is a terse three words: Mkhashefá lo tkhayé (mem-khaf-shin-fe-he lamed-alef tav-het-yod-he). Lo is “no, not.” The root of the verb, which is second person masculine singular, is the root meaning “to live”, but in the “causative” conjugation. So the literal meaning is: “Do not cause a mkhashefa to live.” What the rabbis couldn’t decide (both opinions, typically, are preserved in the Talmud) was whether this meant that you should kill her outright or just not help her make a living, i.e. don’t patronize her. 

4.  The chapter five review of When God Spoke Greek is up — once school is out I am determined to read it!

I highly recommend this chapter. It is a valuable summary of some of the key differences between the Hebrew and Greek texts. But I would also recommend readers consider some of the studies of the translation technique of the Septuagint translators and the discussion of Septuagint variants and pseudo-variants in the works of Emanuel Tov (e.g., The Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint). These sources will contribute to further understanding of the number and type of differences between the Hebrew and Greek that could be attributed to the translator, and this understanding will result in greater ability to evaluate the evidence concerning diverse early Hebrew text forms.  

Sunday roundup #3: 5.4.14.

1.  Check out the links in the first-ever ancient languages blog carnival!

2.  Zwinglius Redivivus’ April Biblio-Blog Carnival.

3.  Polyglossic has a review of British linguist David Crystal’s book Language Death.

4.  BLT examines the word “baptism” and its roots in Plato.  Apparently Plato used it to refer to getting drunk (among other things).

Sunday Roundup #2: 4.27.14.

Last week I began what I hope to make a weekly practice of finding my favorite blog posts of the week – related to ancient languages and culture, of course.

1. The International Qur’anic Studies Association blog had a review of a new Qur’an translation. This one apparently dialogues with both traditional Islamic scholarship and Western higher criticism:

He is interested not only in the scholarly theories and methods surrounding the interpretation of the Qur’an but also in its relationship to pre-Qur’anic texts. Droge is evidently knowledgeable of and comfortable with the texts of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, as well as the interacting discourses of the Qur’an with them. Moreover, he demonstrates great awareness and familiarity with other earlier translations of the Qur’an by Muslims (Pickthall, Yusuf Ali, and Abdel Haleem) and non-Muslims (Bell and Arberry) (xxii, xxvi).

2. I enjoyed Jacob Cerone’s blogging through a conference he attended on the textual criticism of the “Pericope Adulterae,” the story of the woman taken in adultery. I particularly enjoyed his two final posts. His summary of each speaker was a good reminder of the difficulties of applying textual criticism to homiletics and preaching. As he puts it,

We do not try to excise that passage in order to get back to what the original author of the book wrote. Instead, it is accepted as a part of the final form–whatever that form might be–of the text. In that vein, I don’t think that John wrote the PA. I do think that it was artfully crafted, inserted into the Gospel, received, affirmed, preached, and taught within the church. I am not resolved on this position. This is simply me thinking out loud, and I am open to persuasion.

3. I have been enjoying (and wanting to get around to translating!) medievalist Nathaniel Campbell’s posts exploring the Latin hymns of Hildegard von Bingen. This week’s installment is just the latest.

O virga mediatrix,
sancta viscera tua
mortem superaverunt
et venter tuus omnes creaturas
illuminavit in pulcro flore
de suavissima integritate
clausi pudoris tui orto.

O branch and mediatrix,
your sacred flesh
has conquered death,
your womb the world illumined,
all creatures in the bloom of beauty
sprung from that exquisite purity
of your enclosèd modesty.

4. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but Rodney Decker has posted a draft of his work on the Greek verb.

5. Last but not least, I should mention that registration for Michael Heiser’s online courses in biblical languages is open! Heiser is a scholar of Hebrew Bible and Semitic Linguistics and works for Logos. That Ugaritic course looks tempting…

Sunday roundup #1: 4.20.14.

As we said in church this morning: “Alleluia!  Christ is risen indeed!”

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look* into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew,* ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:1-18)

As a way to note articles and blog posts I find interesting, I’m trying to start a weekly habit of rounding up my favorite posts of the week.  Here goes.

1.  Patristics Carnival XXXIV: After a few years, the carnival has been resurrected – what better day than Easter?

2. Reading the Odyssey in Greek: The Repetition of Sound:

Presented here is one side of Odysseus: his warmongering tendency to use cleverness and cunning tricks–”ways”–to bring destruction upon others. However, this poem will emphasize not his exploits in war but his wanderings, for the word planchthe, at the front of the line, takes precedence over his time as a war hero.

3.  NT Exegesis’ Impromptu Readers of Greek readings for Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

4.  The Magical Powers of Hebrew (And Greek, I Guess):

So I’ll admit, when I first decided to study the biblical languages I thought I was going to be entering into a magical world where the Hebrew and Greek languages were going to make things come alive in new ways I’d only imagined before.

When I first heard that there were no such things as original manuscripts, this was my first of many future mental stutters. But it made sense, so I moved on. Then, when I realized Biblical Hebrew and Koine Greek were just another language obscured with boring rules of grammar and syntax, my original enchantment began to wear off.

Also, a few older posts that I stumbled across in cleaning out my email:

On Being Wrong, Bold, and Humble as a Bible Scholar – of course, this advice applies to any kind of scholar!

Chagall and Jewish-Christian Dialogue – in my other life I am really passionate about interfaith dialogue, so I liked this post.

Martin Luther on the value of learning Hebrew and Greek.

A Short Note on God’s First Greek Words | Words on the Word.

A Short Note on God’s First Greek Puns: Earth, Birth-Word, Woman, Know | BLT.