Category Archives: Old Testament

Ways of Reading Genesis 1 (CTP class)

The inspired penman in this history [Genesis] … [wrote] for the Jews first and, calculating his narratives for the infant state of the church, describes things by their outward sensible appearances, and leaves us, by further discoveries of the divine light, to be led into the understanding of the mysteries couched under them. – John Wesley, Notes on the Bible, Genesis 2.8

The Creation
The Creation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To my regular throng of readers, this post may not be for you so much as it is for the class I am leading. This CTP class (critical-theological-practical) focuses on Scripture and how to read it on different levels. We have just started, laying some groundwork first on how to read Scripture (for this class). This post, and maybe more like it, will help to facilitate discussion and provide background to the current chapter or passage under discussion.

The next up is the first creation story as found in Genesis 1–2.4a. At no point should you read this entire passage and be done discussing it within an hour. Why? Because not only do have to decide if this is poetry, myth, literature, history, or science (or a mixture of some or all these modern categories) but then you need to talk about how it sets within the Exilic context. Maybe the sun, moon, and stars are really just luminary bodies and not Babylonian gods. Then you have to talk about what it means when God said “it is good.” Then you get to the Genesis 1.26-27 and so on.

But, to start this we have to really look at the ways of reading the first creation story. I have four posts/articles to share from others. I don’t agree with some of the things in them, but that’s not the point of the class. The point of the class is to help people read Scripture contextually, theologically, and for themselves.

These posts don’t have to be read, but I post them here in case you want to read them:

Some other posts, from your’s truly:

If you are in Charleston, WV at 7am on Thursdays, look us up.

SBL 2014 Interviews

SBL 2014 was great and I had the opportunity to interview three scholars for MAP.

Dr. Yael Avrahami is the author of the award-winning book Senses of Scripture: Sensory Perception in the Hebrew Bible. In our discussion, she addresses why the 5 senses alone don’t hold up in the epistemologies of the Hebrew Bible. Yael is also one of the creators of Hendrickson’s new Reader’s Hebrew Bible.

Dr. Bob Bascom is a Hebrew Bible scholar and Bible translator. Bob is a friend who has taught me a lot about life and love. Literally. He’s a cognitive linguist who can tell you about love in the brain and what kind of love it is. And he does here in the interview.

Dr. Chip Hardy has recently completed his PhD at the University of Chicago on the diachronic development of biblical Hebrew prepositions. In our discussion, he lays out the basic principles of grammaticalization theory.



7 Common Misconceptions About the Hebrew Bible (from @OUPAcademic)

The modern concept of history, judged by whether or not it gets the facts right, is by and large a modern conception. In the past, all peoples told stories set in the past for a variety of reasons, e.g. to entertain, to enlighten, but rarely to recreate what actually happened. Archaeologists have uncovered many cases where the biblical account disagrees with the archaeological account, or with what we might know from other ancient Near Eastern texts.

via 7 Common Misconceptions About the Hebrew Bible | OUPblog.

Next week, I will be posting excerpts and a review of the Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition. Just advance warning — you should get this bible.

Conrad Hyers on the Narrative Form of Genesis 1

Chaos (cosmogony)
Chaos (cosmogony) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is something few people get, or accept. It is also why I don’t buy Young Earth Creationism and yet still maintain a high view of Scripture. The language of Genesis 1 (different in order and style from Genesis 2) cannot be removed out of the ancient context.

A basic mistake through much of the history of interpreting Genesis 1 is the failure to identify the type of literature and linguistic usage it represents. This has often led, in turn, to various attempts at bringing Genesis into harmony with the latest scientific theory or the latest scientific theory into harmony with Genesis. Such efforts might be valuable, and indeed essential, if it could first be demonstrated (rather than assumed) that the Genesis materials belonged to the same class of literature and linguistic usage as modern scientific discourse.

A careful examination of the 6-day account of creation, however, reveals that there is a serious category-mistake involved in these kinds of comparisons. The type of narrative form with which Genesis 1 is presented is not natural history but a cosmogony. It is like other ancient cosmogonies in the sense that its basic structure is that of movement from chaos to cosmos. Its logic, therefore, is not geological or biological but cosmological. On the other hand it is radically unlike other ancient cosmogonies in that it is a monotheistic cosmogony; indeed it is using the cosmogonic form to deny and dismiss all polytheistic cosmogonies and their attendant worship of the gods and goddesses of nature. In both form and content, then, Genesis I reveals that its basic purposes are religious and theological, not scientific or historical.

via The Narrative Form of Genesis 1: Hyers.

This is why any debate on interpretations of Genesis 1 must begin and end with an examination of the passage, including context, language, and canonical parallels.

This originally appeared in the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation 36.4 (1984) 208-15.

Review, @degruyter_TRS “The Rewritten Scrolls from Qumran: Texts, Translation, and Commentary”

 The Dead Sea Scrolls, as a mystical object the majority of Jewish and Christian believers still ignore, is relatively new. As an object of study, newer still. Yet, in recent years scholars have paid more attention to the content of the scrolls more than the scrolls themselves. We have come to understand a lot about these lost desert communities, isolationists who had retreated to wait for the end of their world. While many scholars focus on the more well-known works, there is still room yet to explore the richness of works largely ignored. Such is case with Ariel Feldman (Ph.D, University of Haifa) who has turned his attention the rewritten Joshua Scrolls (4Q378, 4Q379, 4Q522, 4Q123, 5Q9, Mas 1039-211).

There is not merely a propositional monograph supported with eruditic footnotes. Rather, Feldman presents us a unique type of scholarship, so that while he examines the scrolls for their connectivity, he likewise gives us a solid commentary on the fragments therein. This book of 9 chapters is divided into several parts. First, Feldman gives us an introduction to the history of these particular scrolls. In the first chapter, Feldman makes the argument (as he reminds us in the final chapter) that Joshua is the most rewritten book among the Minor Prophets. He then gives details about the scrolls themselves. Following this are several chapters dedicated to succinct literary and contextual commentary on the various scrolls and fragments. Following this are two concluding chapters arguing for various positions on composition and vorlage. His conclusions, because he has invested such a great amount of work in the preceding chapters, are almost unquestionable at this stage of scholarship.

I will briefly focus on the commentary section. For this, I will use his chapter on 4Q378 (the second chapter of the book), for no other reason than the material provides for an allusion in my New Testament studies. We are introduced to the manuscript itself, giving us the sequence of fragments. Following this is the author’s summary of the contents. For this scroll, we are introduced to one relatively free of narrative but filled with discourses. The author gives us an approximate span of the canon where the fragment would appear. The central portion of each chapter is the text and commentary. The text, of course, is given in the original language. The commentary covers the text, different readings, and includes the author’s comments. I am reminded most of the Hermeneia series. After this, there is a detailed discussion of the contents of the fragment, calling attention to (in this case) Joshua and Moses and Joshua’s succession. Finally, Feldman gives us a list of biblical allusions and discusses provenance.

In total, this is a highly detailed and much needed contribution to these scrolls. If all such Dead Sea Scroll fragments were treated in such a manner, scholarship in this area would find itself near completion. I am most impressed with the attention to detail of the text and the sharp focus of the commentary. Feldman does not get bogged down into outlying issues but remains focused on the fragments and their suspected place as rewritten Scripture. Anyone studying this area, as well as the New Testament or Second Temple Judaism must find this book a necessity.