Monday, October 27, 2008

The sixth letter

For some fun in Sunday school, see this idea for presenting Vav, the sixth letter of the Hebrew alef-bet.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Brass Crescent

My awareness of blogs in other traditions is somewhat limited. But this might be interesting to watch. Also of interest in the inter-religious dialogue is Rachel Barenblatt's course on the Qu'ran which she occasionally blogs on. HT Akram's Razor

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A note on the resurrection

On the very last day of the month of September 2008, Doug Chaplin set the tone for one topic of the month of October with a post on Resurrection from an interview with Rowan Williams.

Since then,

  • John L Drury has posted twice on the subject - N.T.Wright's chapter 4 of Surprised by Hope and then on the political ramifications hoping that
    we may rediscovery the classical theological sense of the term "economy" as God's household, which is revealed by the resurrection to be run according to the logic of generosity, not scarcity.
  • Kevin Edgecomb posted on the Theology of the Oral Torah and gave us such clarifications as:
    • living like animals leads also to death like animalsno resurrection, no eternal life
    • No anomalies will persist past the resurrection, the last judgment, and the world to come… and
    • In the end we all die, and who knows how long the interval until the resurrection.
  • April Deconick wrote of the early Christians and what she calls their polytheism:
    that Jesus was God's great angel who came to earth as a human being and was exalted to the angelic status of the NAME angel at his resurrection.
  • James McGrath, fresh from the publication of his new book, reminds us of Borg's Naive vs Conscious literalism as if we must ignore the known results of modern science.
  • The dutifully naive senior Ker commented on McGrath's thesis. And if his word was insufficient,
  • A Gothic theologian challenged JMcG to an exegetical duel - but it seems the purpose of his book is more about the public abuse of historical criticism.
  • I think our Hallow'een Gothic theologian is more on track of bodily resurrection than a post by Rachel Barenblat, the incomparably named Velveteen Rabbi, a real person, who put Islam and Judaism contra the dualist Christians with her discourse on soul and spirit in the Qur'an -
    Both the Qur'an and the Hebrew Scriptures presume the ultimate resurrection of the body, which means they don't subscribe to the same kind of dualism (body vs. spirit/soul) and concomitant privileging of the "spiritual" which characterizes Greek and Christian thought.
What can we do with all this unrealized eschatology, conflicting theses, and misread passages? Can it be that there is something in resurrection other than imagination, speculation, and voluntary gullibility, not to mention an inadequate anthropology? If there were, how could we tell?

We can read the words of Scripture and try to make intellectual sense of the collage of witnesses as if they were using words in a puzzle and we are meant to sort them out and deliver an answer on our final exam. But surely this is not an appropriate method of understanding. (ed. remember that bit in Deuteronomy: We will do them, then we will understand.) The collage is not the target but the witness that there is a target. The collage is full of the same humanity as our bloggy world. That's why there's a canon. Enough! says the Lord.

And the two testaments witness to the same target. That's where we need to aim our arrows - however much or little we read. Then when the arrows glance off the target and return to us with fearsome speed and accuracy, slaying us and then making us alive again, we will see that though we missed the mark, we have engaged with the possible impossible and the engagement has changed us - even betrothed us. Perhaps that will give us new words so that we too can witness to this named unnameable reality.

Friday, October 17, 2008

John Albert Hall Lectures 2008

Currently attending these under the title "Theology in the Context of Science" though I will miss lecture 4 since I must be in the East.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Some random thoughts

Re the word - it's not what it means that matters, it's what it does in you and what you do in it.

Re the image of "setting a blind man free into the forest and asking him to find his way home" - wrong image - it's more like the one who sees and is at home being released in a forest of the blind.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Non occides

- I wish my mother had had me aborted. Then I would not be alive to know this bloody life.

- I received the knowledge of my own body against my will but still working to my benefit. Through my injury which affected my moving parts, I was able to contribute many inferences to my medical colleagues about damage to the head and its underlying organs. But I resent this lesson. And there are many stillborn to whom even such a small piece of earth is not vouchsafed.

- My words had a touch of bitterness that Tertius understood immediately, remembering both his master's son and his own firstborn who was not.

There can be no response to some things, Beloved. So Tertius my father and Ruth my mother kept their grief over the premature birth and death of their first child. Still they named my sister Prima and me Secundus, but never would they have considered that they would wish no life for their first untimely born child. Gaius too had wished more for his disabled child whose life was cut off with such violence. Eutychus learned from his fall. Some cannot learn till they have come to the lowest place. No one can learn until the Spirit teaches them.

My thoughts crowd in upon me in this time of my deprivation in my old age. I miss Prima. My hearing is no substitute for her presence. We are in the middle of the great Sermon. My eye falls on the last substantial coin. My substantial coin, has been paid. I am out, but I fear still for those who must labour in whatever tragedy and disability they endure. The measures of grace will be substantial, but the pain of unknowing is not to be avoided. I wish I could write more to you on this, Beloved. Perhaps words will come.

τον εσχατον κοδραντην novissimum quadrantem

"And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out till you have paid the very last copper."

"You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Quote of the day - Phil Sumpter

Looking for understanding as I delight in and wrestle with the Reality of the psalms (subjective genitive) - this quote from a comment of Phil Sumpter 2 years ago seems very apt. HT Phil himself in another comment.

The New Testament is more than just the second act of an ongoing story, it’s our ‘library card’ to the OT, in that only through and in Christ we have access to the voice of God and the privilege to count ourselves as its addressee. Jesus constitutes our right to be readers and this has profound hermeneutical implications.
There was a long discussion on 'in Christ' at the Better Bibles Blog. I hope it won't disappear at that address, but it is to be noted that Phil uses the phrase without comment above and shows how it perfectly captures the pouring out of the Spirit on all flesh. Library card is an interesting metaphor for today. It assumes we have learned how to use a library and that we have confidence in our ability to find the funds for the annual renewal!

Friday, October 10, 2008


I have had negative reactions to blogging from a number of parishioners this past week. The younger are less concerned than the older. The older do not want to get over the hurdle of Google id's or the like and they are loath to put their opinion or article on 'the web' and they are afraid of becoming addicted to the writing process.

As for me, I have removed a substantive post for the first time that I remember in many years of writing online. But it was really inconsequential - both the post and my removal of it. I decided I had been dragged into a position on Romans that I do not hold and didn't want to record anything on.

So I will continue blogging - why? I have a story to write, psalms to read and translate, children to teach, and adult Bible study to record maybe - I will try to make it logging and not blathering. And I won't pretend to be a scholar - too much stuff to read, too many citations to prove! (But I will acknowledge my debts when I can.)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Reprieved - Judaism and Hebrew Prayer (3)

With relief I see that Judaism and Hebrew Prayer is largely online here. HT Gregory Leiby.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Judaism and Hebrew Prayer (2)

This is a most difficult book to summarize even in reading the first 10 pages. But Reif reveals that he is very familiar with the scholarship of the last 200 years, with its biases (more on poetry piyyut), conflicts (philological versus form criticism) and omissions (no major study for 75 years). The first 10 pages are thick and complex in their allusions. I know of almost none of the scholars (Only Lawrence Hoffman). Does this mean that such a book is simply too far beyond a layman in the field? Too bad - I am more stubborn that that.

A couple of points he makes on the serious lack in traditional work on the history of Christian liturgy: NT scholars isolated from Jewish scholars, and both from liturgical scholars - so no findings in one area are sufficiently related to those in another. He lays the same criticism against Jewish researchers. He lays down the gauntlet on page 10:

It is often claimed that the earliest Christian liturgy was based on Jewish forms of prayer as preserved in rabbinic tradition; and yet serious questions are now being raised about the basic and relative natures of Jewish and Christian worship that may ultimately lead to a complete reappraisal of this particular sacred cow, and a consequent revision of an important aspect of Jewish and Christian religious history. A good example is Arnold Goldberg's brief but important article in which he argues that rabbinic and synagogal worship is not liturgy in the Christian sense. It is a substitute for the suspended Temple liturgy which 'shows liturgical aspects, but it is ... not a liturgy but rather a worship of the heart.' ... even the most basic facts about the early liturgical relationship between Jews and Christians must be rethought.
Goldberg's critique does not strike a note with me. What is a liturgy if not 'a worship of the heart'? Quite apart from my own ignorance of the available Qumran fragments, and armed only with experience in Sabbath worship and the Christian Eucharist, can I make sense of his challenge? Liturgy - particularly the liturgy of the Eucharist - is a drama depicting the entry of Christ into the Holy place and our approach and entry in him and with him and to him to eat of him at his own table. This is itself a temple liturgy - not a substitute for it. Goldberg's objection falls. Rief's question stands is starkest contrast - how indeed could Christian liturgy evolve from a substitute for a suspended Temple liturgy? It is a radical replacement.

I am not advocating supercessionism with this statement, just the same replacement of the altar that Hebrews advocates. The children of Korah would approve.

[update] and I should add that as a student of Hebrew, the first place to learn Biblical Hebrew is on the Sabbath at the local synagogue. Here, whenever I go, I see the Lord in the praises of his people. As a substitute for the suspended Temple liturgy, it does very well.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Judaism and Hebrew Prayer - Stefan Reif

This book has been in my library - a present from my son-in-law - for some years. I got stuck the first time through - now it is time to take it up again from the beginning, to see what we know or not.

Are the origins of the synagogue to be sought in a reaction to the centralization of worship in Judaism, or in a wider context? When did prayer become central to Jews and how are the conflicts and tensions of the Talmudic period reflected in the history of its liturgy?
These are two questions that professor Reif addresses.

How, in this context, did we learn to pray? Several times in the last two weeks, I have noted posts on the Lord's Prayer. Where does this prayer come from and how do we approach, appropriate, or pray or not such a prayer?

Jeffrey Gibson of Cross-talk particularly intends, if I read him correctly, to question the traditional rationale of the origin of the Lord's Prayer - so in obedience to the call to discipline my reading, I intend to read Reif and post what I find in his inferences about the origins of Hebrew Prayer.

Friday, October 3, 2008


This week I am better prepared for Sunday School - ideas that could last a while: flash cards - answer on the back - and a song from a short psalm.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A (very brief) Reading of the Song of Solomon

Some time ago I did a preliminary diagram on the Song. I haven't read it since! But I have thought the words and quoted them many times. This post arises from a shared post here. Sounds to me from all the host of comments that there is a need to get more out of this book. But you know, the book and the mind won't help. Love is not a matter of logic but a matter of embrace.

What can I say about this marvel to a teacher of so many generations?

The intent of the Song for 'a conservative reading' is not that we are married to the Law - though those who love Torah may hear the words of this Holy of Holies (as R. Akiva called it - see old note here) and know without knowing the knowledge of their Beloved.

But for one who is in Christ, the reading of the Song should confirm that we have died to the Law that we might be married to another, even him who was raised from the dead. If in such a one, we are one Spirit (as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 6) in our mortal bodies (Romans 8), then surely the life that he, the Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, gives, will be real - thought such a taste may expose us to great danger. Let not such a one fall away for fear of real apostasy. (See Hebrews 6:4-5 and note the five positive things that most miss).


Sage Publications October is free

The availability of the last year's worth journals is a nice annual pre-Christmas present by Sage Publications. Here are some I have noted so far that are well worth the read and may result in a diagram or two over the next year. (You will need an id and password - click the register button and go for it. There be treasures here.).

David Shepherd 'Strike his bone and his flesh': Reading Job from the Beginning, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 2008 33: 81-97.

Halvor Moxnes 'Asceticism and Christian Identity in Antiquity: A Dialogue with Foucault and Paul', Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2003 26: 3-29. (This article reads 1 Corinthians 6, a subject recently mentioned in comments on BBB, and there is a response in the same publication.)

George H. Guthrie 'Hebrews' Use of the Old Testament: Recent Trends in Research', Currents in Biblical Research, Apr 2003; vol. 1: pp. 271 - 294.
1000s more.