Friday, March 22, 2019

My Time at Central States SBL- Part 2: Research Highlights

Check out Part 1- Key Takeaways. I spent the past weekend at the Society of Biblical Literature, Central States meeting, hosted at Eden Theological Seminary. Here I got to listen to new research papers by various Professors, Graduate Students and other Bible Scholars. Papers presented here were all in the writing stage, so they were not at the peer-review or public stage. Alongside paper reading there was direct dialogue surrounding the research papers that were read. There was many papers that were presented at the conference. I spent most of my time in the Old Testament session, but was also present for several New Testament papers. Both sessions were going on at the same time so there were many sessions I did not get to observe.
Research Highlights (Note I do not necessarily endorse the research below, these are just the papers that stuck out to me)

 The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest
The renowned John Walton was there and was the keynote speaker. In his presentation (which summarized his book The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest which is a detailed treatise of the issue), Dr. Walton explained how the Israelites were not commanded to destroy or “utterly blot out” the Canaanites, rather to drive them out. God did not make a command of genocide as is often stated, but Israel was to remove the land of its Canaanite identity by expelling the Canaanites. Inevitably, armed conflict and slaughter did occur when the Canaanites refused to leave the land. In the view of the ancients, they all recognized that land was gift from divine beings. As we know from the Bible, Israel failed to obey and did not fully drive them out. Instead, the Canaanites assimilated into the culture and turned many away from Yahweh into idolatry.
 Let He Who is Without Sin Cast The First Stone: Jesus and the Law of Moses in the Pericope Adulterae-
This was a paper presented by some people affiliated with the LCMS seminary (I am not sure if they are faculty or students), which is here in the St. Louis area. The “Pericope Adulterae” is the literary unit of the “woman caught in adultery”. It is debated whether or not this section of Scripture is original part of the Gospel of John, because many early manuscripts do not contain it. The presenters suggested that the pericope fit well into John and reinforced the theological themes of the surrounding narrative context. They made it very clear they were not suggesting it was original to John, but it was added in later as commentary. Regardless of its originality (which is unlikely) this does not impact the Bible’s inspiration. Regardless if the event happened or not, the teachings of the passage are aligned with the rest of Scripture’s picture of Jesus.

Suffering Servant or Substitute King? Reevaluating the Imagery of the Suffering of the Servant in Isaiah’s Servant Songs
This paper was actually presented by a recent undergraduate student at Indiana Wesleyan University. This paper was based off the groundwork of John Walton, who was actually present for the reading of the paper- this gave a unique opportunity for the author receive feedback directly from the scholar, whom his work was based on. The author of the paper further explored the idea that the Suffering Servant of Isaiah may actually be using the image of a “Substitute King”. A substitute king was someone who would die in place of the real King who deserved to die. This parallel, if accurate, would have been clearly understood by the original readers. Of interest was critique from some of the scholars in the room that it is not appropriate to identity him as Jesus. It is not that Jesus did not fulfill the prophecy, but in the original context, the hearers would have not known of Jesus as a specific messianic figure. The passage may have been talking about a particular figure at the time, that Jesus later embodied in his own suffering as a servant and a king.
 The Third Commandment as a Prophetic Call 
This paper was written by a graduate student as Asbury Seminary. The general interpretation he suggested of the Third Commandment (don’t use Yahweh’s name in vain) extends far beyond using God’s name as a curse, but it is a general call to obedience. That is to say, if someone “bears” the name of God, by claiming to be his follower (i.e a Christian or in those times a Yahwist) and does obey God the name has been used vainly. This is very similar to what Henry and I have articulated in our video broadcast about God’s name. While the researcher did not say this directly, this could be also be extended literally to people with theophoric names or even cities.

 Two Sermons: A presentation of the thematic relationship between the Temple Sermon of Jeremiah 7 and the Baptism Pericope of Matthew 3:7-10 
This research paper drew upon the work of earlier ideas of parallels between The Book of Jeremiah and the Gospel of Matthew. This paper specifically recognized literary parallels between Jeremiah 7 and the Baptism narrative of Matthew. The author related how John the Baptist’ baptism was similar to many aspects of Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry. There were many other papers I heard, these are the ones that particularly stuck out to me.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

My Time at Central States SBL- Part 1: Key Takeaways

This past weekend I attended and volunteered at the Society of Biblical Literature Central States Meeting- an academic meeting of Bible scholars in the Central US to present and dialogue about their research. I volunteered for my New Testament professor and advisor who coordinates the meeting.
Essentially, professors and graduate students read their in-progress research papers. Then other scholars participate in Q&A about the research which helps the researcher improve their paper before publication. Additionally there were several meals and a keynote speech that gave more opportunity for scholars to discuss and fellowship. I mostly observed, but it was very interesting to hear some of the dialogue going on. I will note the conference was not just for Evangelical Christians. The meeting was open to all bible scholars part of the Society of Biblical Literature. This means there was a diversity of people there- from Charismatics, Methodists, Lutherans and Baptists to Liberals, Atheists and more. Here I will talk about some of my takeaways from the conference. Read part 2 to learn about some of the research highlights:
Key Takeaways:

  • This was my first academic conference I have ever attended and I actually enjoyed the conference more than I had expected. Hopefully, I can return next year. I mostly sat in on Old Testament sessions, but listened to some of the New Testament as well. 
  •  Many of the research papers were very interesting. Some had new ideas I had never heard before and others reiterated concepts in a new fashion. What was even more interesting than the papers themselves was the Q&A surrounding the research. That is where certain points of papers were praised, elaborated upon, critiqued and challenged. 
  •  John Walton, a very prominent Old Testament scholar on ancient near eastern backgrounds was the keynote speaker. It was very interesting to get to see him in person and hear direct discussion with him regarding his ideas. Some of his ideas regarding Creation, Adam and Eve and the Flood are very controversial among other Evangelicals (he is one himself). It was very intriguing to hear some of the debate discussed in person. I do not have a nuanced enough understanding of some of the issues to have a direct opinion on them.
  •  I was amazed of the cooperation between conservatives and liberals, believers and non-believers and every other group. This was a great reminder that one can be highly intellectual and reasoned, but still be very faith-centered. Even those who do not believe in God’s work still take a great interest in the fabric of his word. Just by hearing much of the research, you may not be able to tell if it was coming from a believer or non-believer. The research seems to be relatively the same, but the point of contention is how does someone respond/ what does someone do their ideas on the Bible is what can make a life changing difference
  • Research is intended for academia. Unfortunately, scholarly content doesn’t always make its way down to the Church. The Church at large is not as engaged with Scripture as it should be. We must not forget that we owe scholars of the Bible for many of our ideas/interpretation and we must continue to rely on them. Pray for God to raise up people who love him and his Word to contribute to biblical scholasticism. 
  •  Research can be very practical- it's all about what's done with the ideas. While research is the origin of the researcher, really it is uncovering what God has already placed, hence “re-search”; searching for what is already there again. If we leave all the deep study of the Bible to scholars, however, we will personally miss out on the opportunity of God’s blessing through the Word. We have to be able to study it ourselves, because it is God’s wonderful tool that allows us to live obediently, without lacking (2 Tim 3:16-17). You can be a Christian and not read the Word, attend Church or Pray, but you will miss out on the real blessing and fulfillment in life that God is abundantly offering.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Word for Word: Episode 40

וְאֵ֖ת הַכֹּוכָבִֽים

And the stars

Though the moon was a "lesser" light, even in its smallest manifestion it greatly outshined the stars ( כּוֹכָב kocab ). The word probably is derived from the verb כָּוָה (kavah, to burn, but originally to to prick or penetrate), though it may be related to כַּבּוֹן, kabon, from an unused root meaning to heap up.

Though these points of light meant very little by themselves, their relative positions formed patterns in the sky, which made navigation at night possible. Certain patterns followed the apparent path of the moon and marked the seasons much like the moon marked the months.

Word for Word: Episode 39

הַמָּאֹ֤ור הַקָּטֹן֙ לְמֶמְשֶׁ֣לֶת הַלַּ֔יְלָה

The Lesser Light to rule the night

Though the moon is a lesser (Hebrew: קָטָן qatan; small, insignificant) light even when full, it has a significant role in its own domain. 

Regardless of its phase, the daily influence of the moon bends the surface of the earth, especially the less dense seas. The gentle pull of its gravity  offers assurance that God is still in control of the darkened world.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Word for Word: Episode 38

הַמָּאֹ֤ור הַגָּדֹל֙ לְמֶמְשֶׁ֣לֶת הַיֹּ֔ום

The Great Light to rule the day

Though God did not name the lights, He designated a dominion in which each would be prominent. The light in the sky that defined the day would be much more magnificent than its partner of the night. In fact, the sun is over 400 thousand times brighter than its reflection off a full moon.

It is no wonder,then, that the sun is the ruler (Hebrew: מֶמְשָׁלָה memshalah; realm) of the day. The night is a subject kingdom, far less than anything in the daylight.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Word for Word: Episode 37

שְׁנֵ֥י הַמְּאֹרֹ֖ת הַגְּדֹלִ֑ים

Two Great Lights

Though light was revealed on day one of creation, it was not until the fourth day that "lights" (מְּאֹרֹ֖ת moroth) were placed, or appointed, to light the earth. Though translated the same, the word here is to אוֹר a candle or mirror is to the flame that lights the room. A lamp does no good unless it is lit.

The lights are great (Hebrew: גָּדוֹל gadôl; large), that is a lot bigger and brighter than anything else in the sky, and would be a major influence to the people, plants and creatures of the planet.

It is significant that these lights are not named. God had no intention of honoring the tools he used in maintaining his creation. In His law He would condemn the worship of any created thing.