Saturday, September 26, 2009

Moving Day...

The time has come to move Random Colin over to Wordpress.  I've been thinking about it for awhile, and after looking Wordpress over it seems of offer all of the features that Blogger has plus a few, and I like the dashboard layout better too.  So off I go.  Posts and comments have all been moved over, and some new stuff has already been posted on the new blog.  I'm still working on moving the blog list, but I'll get it done in the next couple of days I'm sure.  I do hope that people will take the time to adjust their blogrolls and RSS feeds and links accordingly.  So here's the new address:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Bible isn't a bible...

A while ago Julia O'Brien had a post where she noted that in our culture we use the word "Bible" to refer to instruction manuals of all kinds.  She suggested that as long as we keep labeling the Bible as such people will think of it as an instruction manual and avoid it as literature.  She's right of course, but there's an even bigger problem for those of us who are Christians.  The bigger problem is that people will think of the Bible as an instruction manual and ignore it as Scripture.  No, the two things are not the same.

The Bible is a collection of a wide variety of literature which was written over a very long period of history (hundreds of years).  The primary unifying qualities of the Bible are that it all has to do with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that over the course of time these books came to be thought of as revelatory literature by the broad community of faith.  That is to say, the Bible is about God and it was "chosen" (not in the sense of one time conscious decision, but in the sense of a long and organic progression) by the Church.  The consequence of this is that the Bible has many witnesses that often stand in deep tension with one another.  There is tension between the prophets and the Torah, between the prophets and the lament literature, between the Apocalyptic literature and the Gospels, and between the letters of Paul and the catholic letters.  There is tension all over.  The Bible does not have one, single, easily summarized, unitary message.  It is not an instruction book.  Your Bible is not a bible.

I have heard it said that all biblical passages fall into two categories.  They are all either 1) promises, or 2) instructions.  Wrong.  Are there promises in the Bible?  Sure.  Are there instructions in the Bible?  Sure.  But there is a whole lot more as well.  There is poetry that describes pain.  There are narratives that tell tales of conflict and confusion, and of triumph and joy.  There are longing love letters.  There are instances of purest hate.  In the Bible you will find a wide variety of literary genres, a wide variety of themes, a wide variety of people, a wide variety of really almost everything.  That shouldn't be scary, but for some reason this scares evangelicals.  It scares us so much that we aren't allowed to critique the Bible, we aren't allowed to ask it difficult questions.  We accept it all dogmatically because we think it's all dogmatic, but it isn't.  There is room to question and challenge the Bible.  Do you know how I know this?  Because the Bible questions and challenges itself.  Ezekiel questions the Torah.  Lamentations questions Deuteronomy and the great deuteronomistic history.  Jesus questions the Law, even as he says that he does not set aside even one jot of it.

The great power and theological depth of the Scripture is found within these points of tension, and again within the tension between our lives today and the various parts of this ancient collection of books.  The Bible is like a stringed instrument in this respect.  It only works because of great tension.  Stop trying to take the tension out of the Bible.  If you take away the tension, smoothing over and dumbing down and making everyingthing instructions and promises, all you get is a poorly tuned instrument and really bad music.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hmmmm, Perhaps Jim West is Right about Wikipedia....

My friend Beth tipped me off to this Wiki entry for L. Gregory Jones (Dean of Duke Divinity School).  Written perhaps by his eldest son?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Enoch and Daniel...

I've been plugging away at a second draft of my recent CSBS paper "(Re)Visionary History: Historiography and Religious Identity in the Animal Apocalypse," trying to get some extra research done so I can polish it up for publication in the volume of essays that are being published from the historiography seminar.  In the course of this process I got a good tip to check out one of Michael Knibb's essays called "The Exile in the Literature of the Intertestamental Period" (pp.191-212 in Knibb's Essays on the Book of Enoch and Other Early Jewish Texts and Traditions).  It's a great essay, but Knibb makes a move that's pretty common for Enoch scholars who analyze the AA that I've always thought was unnecessary and difficult to defend.  He says on  p. 194:

"The use of animals to represent human beings was probably directly influenced by the symbolism of Dan 7 and 8, although the fact that Jacob and his descendants are depicted specifically as sheep no doubt reflects the idea, widespread in the Old Testament, that Israel is the sheep of God's pasture."

Both of these statements are problematic, though the first much more so than the second.  I won't give my full rebuttal here (I've got a full appendix on the subject in my MA thesis), but the parallels between the AA and Dan 7 and 8 are almost non-existent in my opinion.  I'd go so far as to say that they are little more than parallels in genre (though the author of the AA probably knew Dan 7-12).  The specific content as well as the rhetorical drive of the AA and Daniel are totally different, and the use of animal imagery is also completely different.  Note that animals never represent specific people in Dan 7, and in Dan 8 none of the specific people represented is a Jew.  Moreover the animals of Dan 7 are all composite monsters (i.e. creatures with bits from lots of different animals), and not at all reminiscent of the animals found the AA.  The same could be said for the animals of Dan 8 which, though they are not composite monsters, are decidedly fantastical as they roam over the whole world.  Again, not particularly reminiscent of the AA.

The second bit, that the use of sheep is connected to the common imagery of God's people as sheep in the OT isn't wrong so far as it goes.  Certainly the sheep/shepherd image permeates the OT and is particularly important in later prophetic works (Zech, Ezek).  But the assumption that this is the primary reason that the author of the AA selected sheep and rams as the image to represent the people of Israel ignores completely the fact that all of the antediluvian fathers and the eschatological people are not represented as sheep but as bulls.  This suggests to me that, though there may be a tangential connection to the sheep/shepherd metaphor in the AA, some other factor is driving the selection of animal imagery in the AA generally.

What is that other factor?  Simply put, the AA is all about clean/unclean divisions.  Who is clean (i.e. elect) and who is unclean (i.e. non-elect) is possibly the single most important idea in the AA and is used as the criteria for the selection of all of the animal imagery in the allegory.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Oooo, Gots me an Endorsement...And On Officialization...

Bryan Bibb over on gave me a very kind plug.  Thanks Bryan!  And of course my readers should make a point of visiting Bryan's blog as well.  And not just Bible nerds.  Bryan's also a techie, and he's got stuff about Macs and iPods and such as often as anything else, and I know I've got Mac nerds who lurk here.  So go check out Hevel, worth your time for sure.

He also makes a kind comment, saying that I'm a good member of the biblioblogging community.  I do try to make the rounds on the blogs I enjoy, and I comment when I feel like it.  I know how much I like to interact through comments with my readers (all three of you), and I'm also obscenely outspoken (in the sense of quantity, not content), so that bit is easy.  This does make me think again about the idea of defining the biblioblogosphere.  It's a topic that's been making the rounds partly due to the latest discussion of sexism that April kicked off, and partly due to Jim's announcement that there will now be an official biblioblogging session at SBL and an official relationship between SBL and...well and what?  John Hobbins and Chris Heard have raised some concerns on this front already, Chris most vehemently.  I'm not so against the idea of a biblioblogger/SBL connection as Chris, but I agree with all of his points.  The reason I'm not against the relationship is because the biblioblogosphere is going to keep on being what it is, regardless of official connections.  It isn't a definable entity, no matter what anybody says.  It's made up of bloggers and commentators and lurkers, not just bloggers alone.  I also doubt very sincerely that it's one definable community or blogosphere, but is instead probably a bunch of different communities that overlap here and there.  I know that I hardly ever read a ton of the blogs on the Top 50 list.  I don't even have all of the top 10 on my blogroll.  It's not because I have a problem with those blogs, it's just because they don't pique my interest.  I'm guessing that's how most bibliobloggers work.  So what is it that is being officially affiliated with SBL?

I'm not really upset by this, and it's entirely possible that it will be a very good development.  Mark Goodacre is certainly right that there's no harm in trying it (and I'm very happy with Jim's steering committee).  So I'm not vehemently opposed to the association like Chris appears to be.  And though I don't think anybody should try to define the biblioblogosphere "officially", I don't care about the issue all that much because such attempts at definition are doomed to failure.  That just ain't how the internet works.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

A New BH Resource...

HT to John Hobbins for pointing out Matthew Anstey's Hebrew Portal.  It looks to still be in production, but the bibliography alone is worth the visit.  Just getting through the whole bibliography (not the books mind you, just the list) is a daunting's that long.  I'm adding it to my bookmarks for sure, and so should you.*

*Unless you don't read or study Hebrew, in which case, nevermind.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Updated blogroll...

I've added a bunch of new blogs to the blogroll today, mostly as a result of the recent discussion among a number of bibliobloggers regarding women and biblioblogging. Thanks to April and Pat for pointing several of them out. I'd already been visiting some (especially Boulders to Bits, which is a favorite that just never got added for some reason), but others were brand new to me and a couple of them even deal with Hebrew linguistics and discourse analysis, and so are particularly welcome. I freely admit that I cherry picked the blogs that talk about stuff I'm interested in, cause that's how my blogroll rolls (hehe, get it? get it?).

An aside regarding the conversation about sexism in the biblioblogosphere. Though I think that the conversation has gotten a little nasty on both sides at times, Judy reminds us men that we just don't have as much invested in this issue as women do. That may seem obscenely obvious, but it's something that I know I often forget. That said it's not too surprising that some of the women who blog about academic biblical studies are a little pissed. But why are some of the men?

As an aside to the aside. April writes, "I have to say that it is striking how immediately aggressive and sexualized some of the male reaction to my gender blogging has been, and how the humor used (including the cartoons and some of my colleagues reactions to those cartoons and circulation of them) turned women like me into either bitches, madams, or dominatrixes." First of all, I agree that a lot of the vehement reaction from some bloggers was striking and aggressive (and not in a good way). Second, with regard to the cartoons, I assume she's referring to these cartoons posted by Jim Linville. The reason I mention these specifically is because I linked to them and noted they were funny in my previous post and I wanted to clarify. I don't think they are funny because they portray women as bitches or madams. I took them ironically, as attacks on men who think of women as "bitchy" when they behave in a way that would get a man the label "aggressive." In other words I saw them as ironic feminist digs at a sexist culture.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Theology v. Religious Studies...

There was a recent round of discussion among some of the bibliobloggers regarding the old distinction between theology and religious studies.  Seems it was sparked to a large degree by Kurt Noll's "The Ethics of Being a Theologian."  I could go on about what I think, or give you all the links to all of the various conversations, but I'm lazy and don't want to do either, so I'll just skip to the end.  Tyler Williams' response was the one I agreed with the most, and also has the single funniest response of the day by Dr. Jim Linville (who also wins a prize for his post regarding women and biblioblogging).

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Why John Hobbins and Alan Lenzi are Awesome...

Speaking of blogs I really like, I just read a great comment response over on John Hobbins' Ancient Hebrew Poetry. The post itself is, of course, excellent and stimulating as usual, but his extended response to one of his commentators is just brilliant. Reading it was, for me, one of those moments when you find somebody else articulating perfectly thoughts you've been mulling over for a while but just couldn't quite spit out. I have this experience regularly on John's blog. Though, I should also note, he remains mistaken in his belief that Hebrew has a tense-based verbal system ;).

Update: Not surprisingly John's response led to an extended discussion regarding the nature and respective merits of deism/theism and agnosticism between John and a reader (and scholar) named Alan Lenzi. On the substance of the discussion I tend to come down on John's side (not very surprising), but I appreciated Alan's point of view and the way that he expressed himself. Very often discussions like this are filled with invective and varying levels of unkindness. John and Alan, however, manage to have a discussion in which they disagree strongly without (to be blunt) behaving like jackasses. This is rare and refreshing. I wonder if the reason for their ability to converse civilly on such an incindiary subject is a product of both intellectual humility and intellectual rigor. I think that it is.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


I have a pretty extensive blogroll off on my sidebar there, and it represents a lot of the blogs that I frequent, but there are a few brilliant blogs out there that for whatever reason I haven't gotten around to including.  I mostly get to those blogs only irregularly and via other people's blogrolls (especially Jon's and Jim's).  But I've been thinking that those blogs deserve the very, very little bit of press that I can give them in the hopes that others will find them as entertaining and challenging as I do.  So, here's where I lurk (I comment every once in a while, but mostly I lurk), check them out and enjoy:

First up is the thoughts of forrestsaurus.  I don't think I know Forrest herself, but I'm pretty sure I know her in-laws.  In any case she is an absolutely wonderful poet and photographer.  I strongly recommend you go surf around and check out her work.

Next are two blogs that belong to a couple of Jon's old profs from Briercrest, Scatterings and Theommentary.  Fun, eclectic musings on life and theology and academia.

One of the best biblioblogs out there (again inexplicably absent from my blogroll) is Scotteriology, Scott Bailey's blog.  He is very smart, outrageously funny, and used to be an NHL goalie.  Especially good are his hermeneutics videos.

Another biblioblog I hit once in a while is Clayboy.  A fun read from an Anglican minister in the UK.

Finally there's Matt Wilkinson's sinnersbleeders.  A delightfully eclectic blend of indie film and music, with some cultural criticism thrown in for good measure.  If you're looking for new music and new films you've never heard of but should watch, sinnersbleeders is a good place to find them.

There you are, a little PR plug for some blogs you should all try.  Happy surfing.