Before pooping out from exhaustion, I visited and explored a string of blogs each of which, in the month of October, had something of interest for connoisseurs of the Bible and all others who want to know more about the ways in which the Bible is used and abused today. I report on the salacious details in this post.
The format of this carnival is simple. I link to representative posts from a wide selection of blogs. The purpose: to introduce a bunch of bloggers to each other who will come, hopefully, to see for themselves what nastiness and spite or fulsome praise I inflict upon a post of theirs, or that of a fellow. I ask questions. I desire answers. Polite bloggers will link to this carnival and comment as they see fit.
Tis the season of Halloween. Is there a better blog to start with than Kim Paffenroth’s Gospel of the Living Dead? What’s a Bible scholar doing at Zombie Fests and World Horror Conventions? How is it that somebody with a MTS from Harvard Divinity School and a PhD in Bible and theology from Notre Dame is writing titles like Dying to Live to rave reviews at Fear Zone? Kim has some explaining to do. He would help us if he situated his work within the stream of horror that stretches from Ezekiel 38-39 to the Apocalypse of St. John, Dante, Kafka, and Charles Williams. Perhaps he already has, but his blog lacks an adequate index or introduction of terms (what is this History is Dead thing, anyway?).
Tim Glass at A Word on the Word passes on a list of the “Top Ten Bible Verses Used On-line.” They are the usual suspects, and represent the prism through which many evangelicals force all of Scripture. Tim just finished blogging the story of his journey out of evangelicalism into Catholicism. If Tim had to list the top ten verses one needs to know to understand what Scripture teaches, what would they be?
There are a number of bloggers who read biblical texts in full awareness of the first historical contexts in which they were read but who are also interested in pursuing interpretation that does a measure of justice to the reception the texts received in later tradition. The same bloggers also seem interested in the Bible as a source of insight in the contemporary scene.
The approach is sometimes referred to as canonical exegesis in the sense that Brevard Childs conceived of it. Actually, a seismic shift seems underway that goes far beyond the provocation of a single scholar. It is evident from the structure of conferences like this one in the Twin Cities and this one in Rome that it is becoming commonplace to study scripture as one component in a larger religious tradition and from the point of view of its history of reception. I refer the reader to Phil Sumpter’s blog, and to his recent posts on the canonical approach. Stephen on his blog has been going toe-to-toe with Phil, in comments and posting of his own.
A number of excellent bloggers have acknowledged their indebtedness to Childs. A short list: Daniel Driver (three posts just in October, but be sure to read this and browse through this), Kevin Wilson (here), Stephen Cook (here), and Frank Logue (here); a commenter extraordinaire, John Poirier (see Phil’s blog), also deserves mention. But I’m not happy. This crew seems unaware of the groundbreaking work Michael Fishbane has done in the field of canonical exegesis. More on that in a follow-up post.
The best Bible bloggers out there, I think, are those who write in such a way as to attract comments and generate discussion among the kind of people one meets in a MacDonald’s restaurant, the bowling alley, or at an Ayn Rand get-together. The author of Bible study by a student notes the following: “I write mostly about biblical subjects. I receive many comments from those who do not believe in the God of the Bible, or any God. I really like those comments, even when they say I have the brain of a grapefruit, because they make you think and rethink what you have said.” Scholarly bloggers might learn a thing or two by visiting and interacting with bloggers like “a student.” Conversely, bloggers like “a student” might benefit from interacting with scholarly bloggers. The potential of blogdom to become a place of cross-fertilization across different social registers is enormous.
I’ve been mapping Bible blogdom. See the post
following this one. I pigeon-hole bloggers as follows: laypeople; students;
clergy; Bible translators; scholars who are not professors; professors. Reality
can often be mapped by a Venn diagram (but not the Trinity; that’s my
contribution to Nick Norelli’s call
for a blogathon on that topic). The reality of biblioblogdom is no exception. The
categories Bible bloggers belong to overlap and diagram out in interesting
My mapping is woefully incomplete, but I knew if I looked hard enough, I would find a 16 year old Bible blogger. She is Karen Kovaka, and her blog is named Rhetorical Response. She has a series on literary analysis, including a post entitled The Bible as Literature. She knows her way around literature and theology. I hope she blogs more on the Bible.
The discussions in any venue I enjoy most involve people who come from very different places but who show an interest in learning from one another. A Venn diagram gone interactive, if you will. The discussion around “Literary Translation” was a bit like that. Insightful laypeople like Iyov and Kevin Edgecomb, professors like Rich Rhodes and Carl Conrad, clergy like Doug Chaplin, Bible translators like Wayne Leman, Peter Kirk, and Lingamish, and students like J. K. Gayle all joined the discussion and made signal contributions. For a roundup, go here, here, here, and here. The discussion intersected with the wild and wooly Psalm 68 blogathon, which Tim Bulkeley chronicled last month, and with a series of posts on Psalm 51 (here, here, and here) sparked by comments by Wayne Leman. Thanks to Suzanne McCarthy and Bob MacDonald, the Psalm 68 blogabout is not over yet.
Have you noticed? Online discourse is becoming an accepted form of academic discourse. Note this item on the website of the Society of Biblical Literature. Voices to the contrary notwithstanding - Jim West’s post serves fair warning to those who blog and seem not to know that we live in this kind of world – blogging has become a plus, not a liability, for an upcoming scholar. Note this comment by Iyov. If you can stand the heat, blogging is a great kitchen from which a scholar, aspiring or otherwise, may test out, refine, and serve on a golden platter his or her ideas.
But let me add a nasty comment. Too many bloggers use sloppy (I should do that more often; look at all the comments that resulted), ungrammatical prose (the content makes up for it), and spell atrociously, even in the title (but the misspelling fits the subject matter discussed). Not a good idea if you want a college or university to hire you in the future! On every board that does a first hire or reviews tenure, there sits at least one extremely anal individual who will make you pay for stuff like that. My proposal: that comments to posts of the following format become standard practice: PC (Please correct): [x should read y]. ETC (Erase this comment).
Scholar-bloggers fall into two categories. Those that keep a blogroll and interact with a community of other bloggers, and those that don’t. Those that don’t abuse the genre. Here is a list of the worst offenders: [omitted by a thoughtful editor].
I’m not saying that to blog one must read everything in the blogosphere on a given topic. That’s not even possible. But one should fake it a little bit, as one does when writing an article for a peer-reviewed journal. It’s easy to do. Go to Danny Zacharias’s site and use his search engines. Or just google away. All kinds of stuff will show up in an instant. A sliver of it is probably relevant to the post you are writing. Link to the pieces that suit your purpose.
There is nothing wrong with keeping a blog to cultivate a fan base and sell your books and those of your friends. But it’s possible to do that and interact with others who blog on topics that interest you.
Great conversations went on the past month among bloggers and commenters. An example: a back-and-forth on Rudolf Bultmann which began with a remark by Sean Winter within a wide-ranging and brilliant post, and ended with a duel between Jim West and Michael Bird in which Jim conceded (for now: I imagine it’s not Jim’s last word). Michael now owes Jim lunch, but hey, what are friends for?
Stephen Cook treats us to a delightful song by Adam Thomas about the joys and struggles of learning Hebrew. Yours truly, Randall Buth, and Carl Conrad commented on the question of how best to learn ancient Hebrew and ancient Greek.
Michael Pitkowsky notes the terminological debate around Jews, Judeans, and Judaism in Greco-Roman antiquity. But he’s too kind or too smart to take sides. Phil Harland knows where he stands. Loren Rosson weighs in here and here. In my view, Ellliot, Esler, Mason, Harland, and Rosson are guilty of simplistic either-or reasoning. I’m with Amy Jill Levine, and bloggers April DeConick (here and here) and Doug Chaplin (here). When Torry Seland, who knows Esler’s work well, starts referring to Philo the Judean, maybe it’ll be time to revisit the question.
As is often necessary in terminological debates, it is important to disentangle various threads that tend to be confused. Four things can be, but are not necessarily are, bound up in the use of gentilics in Greek of the relevant period: geographical provenance, language, ethnicity, and religion. “Inhabitants of Judea” and “Judeans” in Acts 2:9, 11 clearly refer to different sets of people: they overlap but cannot be equated. That being the case, “Judeans,” which in English has, inevitably, a geographical ring to it, must be translated by “Jews” in Acts 2:11. I am happy to be corrected, but I don’t see how those who wish to reserve the terms of “Judaism” and the “Jews” for coreligionists of a later period can get around this. It also nonsensical, in English, to refer to someone as both a Parthian and a Judean (once again, see Acts 2:9, 11). A “Parthian Jew” is correct diction.
Matt Dabbs talks about the distribution of imperatives in Ephesians: “Many people have pointed out the fact that the book of Ephesians has 41 imperatives (commands) in Greek. Only 1 is found in the first three chapters and 40 are found in the last three chapters. Before Paul gives guidelines for living the Christian life (chapters 4-6) he loads them up on truths about what God has done for us through Christ (chapters 1-3).”
Slow down, Matt. Ephesians begins with a berakhah (blessing) of a kind that must have been recurrent in early Christian worship (1:3-14). It continues with thanksgiving (1:15-23), confessional affirmation (2:1-22), autobiographical recollection (3:1-13), and prayer (3:14-20) before moving on to parenesis (imperative-filled instruction: 4:1-6:17). Doxology, thanksgiving, recollection, and prayer are all essential pre-texts to parenesis.
What happens when people read a lot of blogs and comment on interesting posts? They start their own blog, of course. Scott Gray is off to a fine start with a lectionary beyond belief. The good people at textweek.com have not yet figured out how to link to Bible blogdom’s relevant resources in a suitable way. But when that happens – it’s only a matter of time – people who write interesting things about specific passages are going to see the number of hits they receive climb precipitously.
Most publishing house and publication blogs I’ve seen are tame and predictable. Not so these two: Theolog (Christian Century) and Addenda & Errata (IVP). That’s because Jason Byassee, Amy Frykholm, and Dan Reid among others are spunky, outside-the-box writers. I hope they start linking to discussions in Bible blogdom. I certainly plan to begin linking to them.
David over at World Perspectives with New Objectives has this to say in a post tagged under Bible: “Truly, I find this Christian emphasis on Hell, fire and brimstone to bear little fruit. It only brings fear and faith based on fear. I fail to understand why some believers in the Christos Word of God cannot seem to get out of the ‘Hell Pit.’” The web is full of people like David who are articulate and ready to engage in honest dialogue. That would make for an interesting series of posts: a Bible blogathon on hell and heaven and resurrection. But it’s people like David I would want to be part of the discussion.
But let us put all of this religious crud behind us for a moment, and talk about: politics! James Bradford Pate is not politically correct and it shows. But I think he is insightful and has thought through a lot of things.
What happens if you are just starting to learn about a religious tradition which is not your own, and you blog about it? Well, you might get stomped on by someone who cares deeply about that tradition. Jason, I think, comes out of this experience a better man. I hope Iyov keeps speaking his mind, and showing us that he – an orthodox Jew - knows more about things like Luther’s views on private reading of the Bible than most Christians do.
Let me change the subject slightly. The online neighborhood is full of pea-shooters. I like the sport myself. The part where I bean someone else, that is.
The number of people blogging on the Bible is skyrocketing. I introduce Ros Clarke here (note comment stream); Stephen (aka Q) here; Phil Sumpter here, and Bibbiablog by PIB and PUG alumni here. Lingamish has a series on young stars of the blogosphere. I was planning to introduce some of them myself, but he beat me to it. Check it out.
James McGrath has a fine
post about biblical archeology with both Lara Croft and Indiana Jones in
the title. It doesn’t get much better than that! His purpose: to point out the
sterling work of Eric Cline. He links to an article
by Cline in which Cline says it’s high time trained archaeologists and biblical
scholars fight back against biblical archaeology falsely so-called. Duane
Smith and many others have taken note of Cline’s article.
The most thorough blogger as far as necrologies go: the inimitable Stefan (go here and here). Moule, Metzger, Webber, Kline, Brown, Pelikan, Tollinchi, and Childs are all dispatched. If you know half as much about these people as Esteban does, that makes you more learned than the rest of us.
I’ve gone on long enough, haven’t I? For those whose Sitzfleisch (flesh for sitting: the ability to sit in one place for hours on end) allows it, a “Biblical Studies Carnival XXIII: What I Left out the First Time” follows.
UPDATE: For important threads I fail to mention above, see Mark Goodacre’s comments here.
SECOND UPDATE: For further detailed metablogging
in the realm of Bible blogdom, check out Peter Nathan’s remarkable blog.
He tracks a number of topics and conversations I overlooked.