Articles By tim

An intelligent designer


I’ve commented before (on Facebook if not here) on how beautiful the “ordinary” North Island scenery on the road (whichever route we take) from Auckland to home1 is. We frequently try to explain to overseas visitors that NZ’s most spectacular scenery is mainly in the South Island. Yet the everyday beauty of the drive blows me away, every time.

As daybreak arrived this morning this was the view off to my left from the Matamata straights:


The spectacular beauty of the sunrise was swiftly followed by the ordinary beauty of the fresh rounded NZ hills and paddocks (that Colin McCahon’s paintings teach us to appreciate). My response to such sights, for me, confirms my inability to believe that the world I inhabit is due to mere laws and random (or quasi-random) variability. I am forced to postulate an intelligent designer.2

Why can’t I believe in chance? Well aside from complexity and “fit” (which can, I guess, be explained away if you really want to explain them away) it seems to me that such random (or quasi-random) explanations do away with free will. And I simply cannot understand life, the Universe, and everything without positing that alongside all the powerful conditioning and predisposing my choices are indeed “mine”. Neither militant Atheists nor ardent Predestinarian Theists can convince me otherwise.

And now, after that spitritual interlude (provoked, like too many of my most profound spiritual interludes today, by driving a long way alone)3 back to normal life.

  1. In the hills between Tauranga and Rotorua, near Otanewainuku. []
  2. NB I do not mean the daft Six-Day-Creationist sort of designer, but that there is intelligence and in some sense personhood behind the beauty, as well as the terror, of the world. []
  3. I think the experience of driving alone for an hour or three provokes such experiences because as well as being alone one has little to focus on, except the mechanics of driving, and so the mind is freer than usual to freewheel, perhaps one of the few times it is really free. I must get out more, and go for more walks in the bush! []

Revelation and Donald Trump


Recently my Facebook feed has repeatedly presented me with cartoon pictures that echo the apocalyptic imagery of Revelation, and apply that thinking to the rise and rise of Donald Trump on the US political scene. It is interesting how in even such a determinedly “secular” culture as NZ this biblical imagery still has power beyond the church.

However, some of the best sense I have read recently about Trump and Christians comes from Paul Windsor. In trump – again?! my Kiwi-American-Indian ex-boss neatly explains much of what most needs to be said about reading Revelation in the West, and about the unrecognised and so unacknowledged syncretism that continually trips us up. His scalpel is directed in this post at US Christians, but the message is for all. We build our belief systems, and so our lives, not only on the solid rock of the gospel but also on the shifting sand of the cultures we inhabit (and that possess us).

Do read his post.

Introversion, Shyness and/or Performance Anxiety


Over the years I have posted a few times about introversion. Every now and again someone tries to explain the the Extroverted how much and how deeply Western society is biased against Introverts. The older I have become the more aware of this bias I have become, though the experience of living and working cross culturally highlighted it. The cultures of the Congo (I think all, but certainly many of them) are biased the other way. For example, as with the culture of the ancient Hebrews, thinking before one speaks is seen as a sign of wisdom!

So I read with interest an article on Mind Shift, Strategies to Ensure Introverted Students Feel Valued at School, it has some sensible advice, as well as the standard assumption that Extroversion is normal and Introversion an abnormality. (We Introverts are used to such prejudice, and many will fail even to spot it!) But, the article made two assumptions that I would question.

Firstly, claims that introversion and shyness are different things. With shyness as she defines it being close to “modesty” in it’s meaning: “It’s a kind of self-consciousness and not wanting people to look at you and feeling easily embarrassed or easily shamed.” Beyond the assertion that Extroverts can also be shy, which is really interesting, a quick look on Google Scholar reveals little research that provides evidence, but quite a few claims for the theory.

I have earlier posted in Performers and audiences about my personal personality theory. In what is often lumped together as Introversion/Extroversion, I’d distinguish two distinct (perhaps even orthogonal) scales: I/E which speaks of factors like whether one is energised or exhausted by people contact, whether one speaks first or thinks  before speaking; and performance/modesty which would speak of whether one enjoys an audience, or wearing clothing in bright colours or that in some other way distinguishes the wearer from  the crowd. In many ways, as naming one of the poles “modesty” suggests this is similar to the shyness claim.

The two claims are clearly closely related, but I think are distinguishable in that the “shy” theory seems to make the other factor very close to anxiety, reading the material one could almost substitute anxious Extrovert for shy Extrovert. On the other hand the “performer” theory only relates to anxiety of a very particular sort, performance anxiety. A modest Extrovert would not be anxious about other things, only about performing, I know modest Extroverts, they are not anxious people, they just do not like being the centre of attention. I also know shy introverted Performers (like myself) who are not anxious (except about having to talk to strangers without a role to play), enjoy being the centre of attention, but hate meeting strangers (except when they have a role to perform).

Dealing with the distance student’s email deluge


We are all1 deluged with more email than we can easily deal with (at least when we are busy with ‘real life’). This problem becomes much more accute for ‘distance students’. As well as the usual special offers not to miss, uncle Tom’s funny cats, reminders of unpaid bills and the rest, they suddenly face a slew of messages from courses they are enrolled in. Some of these are messages from the teacher and may contain vital, or at least (we hope) useful information. Many will probably be generated automatically by ‘the system’ sending copies of ‘forum posts’.2

Usually these forums are of two quite different sorts. Some are assessed and gain the student marks, others encourage wider sharing of ideas and questions of the sort onsite students exchange over refreshments (hence ACOM calls them ‘Student Lounges’).

Different classes will have the email notification system set up in diferent ways. Usually students can “unsubscribe” from emails, though often they are set to get them as the default option. There are basically three approaches you can take to these post notification emails.

  • Turn them off, and go look at the forums at times that suit you. This suits organised timetabled people. Those of us who are less organised risk missing vital posts this way.
  • Switch them to “digest” mode, that way each forum just sends one email every 24 hours. Great if your main problem is simply too many emails confusing you, but it could result in a long and confusing ‘digest’ – a case of the cure being (perhaps) as bad as the disease.
  • Leave them on but triage your mail box. I dealt with how to do this in a separate post, but basically it means either yourself, or by using “rules”, deciding which to leave in your inbox and which to move to a holding pen (or even delete).
Don’t do as I do.

Don’t do as I do, but find your own best approach! However, here is what works for me. During my regular email triage sessions I either from the subject line, or more often after a quick glance at the contents, decide if one needs action now. If so I go to the forum and respond. Otherwise I delete them, but expect to take another glance (in context of the student they were responding to) when I make a (daily? every couple of days?) visit to the forums to see what’s new.


  1. Well, probably only ‘almost all’, but from conversations I think ‘all’ is only a small hyperbole. []
  2. ‘Forums’ are sometimes known by other names but are ‘places’ where students can leave messages and respond to the messages others have left. []

Email triage

Swedish army 2nd Lt. Per Bursell checks the blood pressure of an Afghan elder complaining of chest pains during a medical civil action project in the Mazar-e Sharif region of Afghanistan Nov. 27, 2006. The Cooperative Medical Assistance team of Bagram, Afghan National Army Medic Platoon, the Romanian Medical Detachment, Norwegian and Swedish army medics are providing the medical care. (U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Bertha A. Flores) (Released)

It’s a war zone

When a service is overworked (like a hospital in a war zone) incoming tasks (patients) need to be prioritised. That way the most urgent get dealt with first, and the less urgent are left till there is time.

For many people today our email inboxes are like a war zone!

Broadly there are two contrasting approaches to email triage. One seeks to attain and maintain a ‘zero inbox’, the other relies on the huge storage capacity available today (and the relatively small size of most email messages – except auntie Jane’s laugh out loud videos)1 together with much better search facilities available in most email clients, and seeks simply to manage the flow.

Zero inbox

I have never managed ‘zero inbox’ [If anyone does this and can suggest a good place for advice I will add a link here.] so below I’ll explain ‘managed chaos’. I will use Gmail as my example but much the same principles work in Outlook and other systems.

Managed chaos

When emails are first seen

NB: I turn off, or ignore, the notification that tells me “you have 3 new messages” – if I am not reading emails just now it is a distraction, when I am doing email it is redundant.2

Every now and then (the timing varies depending on what I am doing, but at least twice a day – morning and evening) I open the email client and look at the messages. First I look at the sender’s name and the ‘subject’. This allows me to delete quite a lot without reading them, and occasionally mark gratuitous rubbish as ‘spam’. (I try to follow the ‘unsubscribe’ link at the bottom of most circular emails if I once signed up but no longer want them, marking them as spam may be counter productive and the difference in time is small.)

I then open the rest one at a time:

  • Some I need to read and act on.  If possible I do it now, if not I mark them as ‘unread’ as a signal to me that they need action.
  • Some I can glance at, notice what matters and then delete.
  • Some need to be kept, but require no action. You can flick these into useful folders depending on their topic and relevance. I used to, but no longer bother as a quick search (and as Gmail indexes as I go searching is very quick) finds the ones I need when I need them.

I have not written about ‘rules’ here as I hardly use them, they are a powerful way to manage the flood, but seem to me hard work! I have also turned off the Gmail ‘feature’ that sorts circular emails into a seperate box, that too is a complication I do not need! (See here for how it is meant to work – reversing the how to turn it on instructions turn it off : )

Taking a second look

At the end of the day, or when you need a break from other work, look back over the emails you have not dealt with and deal with them. They will now be marked as ‘read’ and can be left unless one day you need them.

Job done, emails tamed (at least 90% of the time ; )

  1. Which you either delete or if her sense of humour matches yours keep and enjoy. I usually delete them sight unseen! Along with e-cards and other rubbish. []
  2. I can see them for myself thanks! []

Aniconic Stories and Reading the Bible

By Kelly Sikkema on Flickr

Back since before we produced PodBible 1 I have been concerned with falling rates of Bible reading among Christians in the Western World.

Among the churches I have most contact with, NZ Baptist and occasionally other Charismatic and/or Evangelical churches, there has also been a slow but marked decline in the public reading of Scripture. Often now I can attend a 90-120 minute service of which less than 1% is spent reading the Bible, and it is never normally over 10% (including the sermon, where sometimes only a collection of small fragments is actually read and not merely referenced).

Yet, it is precisely in these churches, where our faith and practice are founded and built on Scripture.

That’s the first point: We read Scripture less, yet we claim it is the basis for our faith – we have a problem!

Now something that seems, at first brush, unrelated. I record (among other things) readings of children’s stories. Recently different people, referencing different ages of child, have mentioned that the Beatrix Potter stories are preferred over Winnie-the-Pooh. The reason given is that Potter’s are illustrated and so the child has a video to watch, while Pooh is just audio. This makes a priori sense since children get to see so much video today, and recent children’s books are usually illustrated with copious colour images, where a generation ago only a few line drawings often sufficed.

For me, this recognition was confirmed by the experience of reading Paddington Bear to my grandson. At 5 and a bit, he is a good reader, enjoys reading and also loves having stories read to him. He had watched several episodes of a video version of Paddington (not true video but like my Beatrix Potter produced zooming and panning over simple colour images). He was “getting”  the humour and chuckling away. So, later that day I got out the copy of a Paddington omnibus edition we used to read to our children. I was only a couple of pages into the first story, when he complained: “Where are the pictures?” I showed him the few line drawings, and he chose another book to have read.

The rising generations2 are simply less able to enjoy aniconic stories.

We have a second problem to compound the first: We are becoming less interested in, and even less able to ‘read’ aniconic stories.

There have been attempts to address this. As well as the ‘biblical’ blockbusters, which attempt to ‘retell’ the Bible stories as engaging cinema, people have produced visual Bibles (or at least episodes or whole books from the Bible). Some are extremely expensive and use the full range of the actor’s and videographer’s crafts (notable among these are the Jesus Film 3 and the project known as The Visual Bible).4 Distant Shores Open Bible Stories has gone the opposite route and used a crowd-sourced open and free approach.

There is however a significant issue with such visualisations, the biblical text is inherently aniconic, not only is the text itself consistently unimaged (at least for the first many centuries of its transmission) but beyond that we have very few indeed pictures of its characters from their own lifetimes. Most of those are foreigners on the periphery of the story, none of the major characters was5 imaged in from life.

If the ‘visual Bible’ approach is fraught with theological and practical difficulties, are there other approaches to cope with these issues?
Even if small children are more resistant to stories without pictures, most become capable of attending to such stories, and many learn to love them. Reading the Bible aloud in church is more, and not less, vital than it was in less visual times.

Children seem more able to concentrate in the absence of images when other stimuli are reduced (e.g. listening to stories through earphones on car journeys or to an adult reading in a darkened room). Perhaps, in church, we could dim the lights for the reading of Scripture!

This post is very much an exploratory musing, so (if you have the attention span to have read this far ;) do please contribute to my thinking by voicing concerns, ideas, hopes, … in the comments!

  1. The idea for PodBible was stimulated by a desire to help a generation who read little, but listened to MP3s a lot, to “read” the Bible. []
  2. Remember this process did not begin with ubiquitous video on phones, but broadcast video on TV, or even earlier with film, photography and printing advances making images cheaper and very much more widespread, already a century ago before my father’s birth! []
  3. Not quite a visual Bible, but closely based on Luke’s gospel. []
  4. Which perhaps in ways not unrelated to the amounts of money involved has been mired in controversy and strife. []
  5. So far as we know. []

The Anointed Son


When I was a child, well not a child exactly but when I had enjoyed less than half the lifespan I now look back on, I thought as a child, and I dreamed of being a systematic theologian. But (through a series of ‘accidents’) God called me to be a teacher of the Bible, and I am delighted with that calling. In this video fragment Myk Habets (talking about his book The Anointed Son1 reminds me why systematic theology matters. There is a horrible moment when Myk is in full flood, and the director interrupts2 but hang in there because the next question is a ripper!

Watch it here, and buy the book!


  1. A mere few dollars for users of Amazon Kindle, is there an ePub version? []
  2. And I could happly have strangled her, well not really but metaphorically? You bet! []

What SBL (apparently) doesn’t “get”


I have been forwarded a copy of the email the Society for Biblical Literature sent to its members about moving the Review of Biblical Literature into its members-only space.1 I will comment on that email here, trying to point out why I see this as a significant and retrograde move.

But first some background. I have been an SBL member since the early 80s, I retained membership for a few years after I retired from Carey thanks to the generosity of SBL who allowed me to pay as a Student Member. I recently allowed that membership to lapse, though if the new means-tested membership fees had been announced at that time I would probably have renewed. I have attended a number of International (since 1986) and annual meetings of the Society (since the mid-90s), usually giving papers. I stopped attending after retiring from Carey because of the cost of airfares. (I never used the official expensive hotels). I greatly value the Society for its role as the largest and often the most innovative scholarly society in the discipline of biblical studies.

The email opens “In order to solidify RBL’s status as a valuable resource produced primarily by SBL members for SBL members, we will be moving RBL behind the SBL member login.” The heart of this sentence is largely true. RBL is “a valuable resource produced primarily by SBL members for SBL members”. However, the key word is the adverb. Since RBL moved to free open publication on the web it has not been  used exclusively by SBL members. Biblical scholars in majority world contexts, who cannot afford to attend the Society’s meetings, or even perhaps membership in the society, used the resource. Students, at least the good clever sensible students we all love to teach, used it. (How better to evaluate, and get a feel for, a new area of study than to read a few reviews of key texts?)

Such users are now banned and access is only for those willing and able to pay for SBL membership. 2

Apparently the reason for the move is to increase funding for RBL. “Our hope is that, after this period,3 these individuals will join the SBL at least at the public membership level, if not full membership. In addition to significant investment from SBL, the increased financial support thus provided will help fund a number of highly desired upgrades to and expansions of the RBL architecture.

I doubt those students I mentioned, or indeed many of the majority world scholars will follow this perhaps wise hope. I wonder if SBL is measuring the flood of new memberships? A question on the application form would be informative!

Yet my core objection is not that the move will probably fail to achieve its stated objective, but rather what such a move says about the Society which makes it. What shall it profit a scholarly society if it gain the whole Google, but lose its soul?4 If “scholarly information exchange” continues to be privatised with ownership increasingly divided between big international publishing companies5 and scholarly societies then those societies that get in on that act will have lost their raison d’être and may as well shut up shop. If learning is privatised they become mere secret societies for rich-world bible scholars (with a few charity cases on the margins).

Meanwhile biblical scholarship in the two-thirds world will become more and more indebted to the Fundamentalists or dilettantes :(

  1. I have not seen any explanation for the new closed status of RBL on the RBL’s website, though I did not hunt for it when I was refused entry. []
  2. In other news the membership fee has been scaled according to reduced income and is only US$45 for those earning $10,000-25,000. This reduction does allow more majority world scholars to join the society and is a welcome move.  []
  3. Of continued access for individuals who subscribed to the RBL email newsletter but are not SBL members. []
  4. If, in the interests of literary allusion, my non-religious readers will permit this word, if not just read “spirit”. []
  5. I note the recently announced closure of Sheffield Phoenix Press []

Proof reading your work

(C) With Associates cc

Listening to your work

The first step in proofing your work is to check it for sense and flow. While one can try to do this by looking at the text, it is much better done by listening. Listening to a computer interpret what you have written is especially revealing. (The computer has little or no understanding but follows rules of grammar and intonation that have been programmed in, it is thus good at showing up clumsy sentences.)

As well as clumsy sentences, listening to your work can help us spot where we have failed to make the ideas flow. By listening you may spot jumps in logic that you missed while focussing on looking at the words.

Many commercial word processors, like Microsoft Word, have the capacity to read text aloud (MS Word on PC instructions). The open source word processors use an add-in to do this. Read Text can be downloaded and installed from this link. The add-in adds a small icon to your menu bars, I needed to move this so that it did not occupy a whole line to itself, or the description linked above tells how to use it.

It helps to follow along with your eyes as the computer reads, what you should spot (and probably correct) are places where the computer has not made sense of what you wrote (reword it, add or revise punctuation, etc. till it works) or places where you spot jumps or repetitions (again edit to correct the problem).

Spell and grammar checkers

Most students know about spelling checkers, some foolishly don’t use them to check their spelling, or ignore their warnings. Don’t! Poor spelling may not be important to you, but it will signal loudly to your markers that you are careless.

Grammar checkers can also be really useful. Even the basic grammar checker in Libre Office often shows me silly mistakes that students could have avoided in essays I am marking. A better grammar checker, like the one in commercial word processors, or the free Grammarly, will do an even better job.1 Correcting your errors will also improve your writing, meaning you have less errors to correct next time.

The last step

For the final step, you will need a friend or family member who can write good English. (Perhaps you can offer some service in return, or cook some treat as a thank-you : ) The ideal person will be  able (and if you encourage them enough) willing to be a tough audience. You want them to say things like: “What did you mean to say here?” or “I’m sorry I don’t understand this!” or “This does not seem to follow from that…” Much better such comments come from a friend than the marker!

  1. There is a subscription “pro” version of Grammarly which catches far more mistakes and corrects more complex errors. It is too expensive for me to try, but then I have spent decades learning to correct my own grammar. []

Biblical Studies Carnival CXX


Here is this month’s1  Biblical Studies Carnival (the 120th of its ilk, two of the previous carnivals were hosted at Sansblogue: Carnival LXXIX September 2012; Carnival XXII September 2007)2 I am calling this special anniversary edition the Never Mind the Quality Look at All the Footnotes Edition.3

Nostalgia (prompted by the number 120) for the “good old days”, when Biblical Studies blogs were few in number, yet discussion was lively, usually prompts me to bemoan the death of discussion in blogging, and the rise of the blog as a self-promotional tool, yet this month there were some encouraging signs of life. For example James McGrath published a list of links to discussion of Mark’s Christology which included posts by Daniel Kirk, Michael Bird, a substantial response by Dustin Martyr,4 his own denial of Mike’s proposal, and what was not really a link to the Ehrman-Bird “event” (which I fondly imagine to be polite talk for a knock down academic cage fight).5

In response to my request for nominations of posts by non-White/Anglophone/American/Males the best I received was Bob MacD’s suggestion of a post on Die Evangelischen TheologenAmos, Micah, and Isaiah – A word much needed again today“.6

Scott McKnight posted links to material from non-male and (mainly) non-American scholars in his The Biblical Scholar from the Throw-out Box.

The world the flesh and the devil

rbl The issue of the month was (perhaps) that RBL is moving behind a paywall. Since RBL has been a striking (often wonderful, occasionally frustrating – especially when stronger editing was needed, perhaps refusing some reviews) pioneering example of open scholarship, this move causes some raised eyebrows (listed in the order they seem to have appeared, or at least that I noticed them):

Two things seem worth noting here about this excitement, one is the presence of non-Western and non-Anglophone voices raised in protest (perhaps those with well-paying posts in Western academia do not feel the need of such open scholarship as sharply as the rest of the world), and the other is that as far as I can see the whole thing was over within a few days. We (the people of Biblical Blogaria)8 seem not to care too much when another example of the privatisation of scholarship is conducted, in our name, by a “scholarly society” many of us belong to, all for reasons of “business model”.

The issue had a particular poignancy for me as I heard the news within days of hearing that The Book of the Twelve and the New Form Criticism, had appeared in Ancient Near East Monographs as an open access publication by SBL with my chapter “The Book of Amos as ‘Prophetic Fiction’: Describing the Genre of a Written Work that Reinvigorates Older Oral Speech Forms” better grab your PDF copy now while it remains free and at large!9

Still the dream of a free open review site is not dead, Reviews of Biblical and Early Christian Studies is still free, still open, and still publishing.

Meanwhile the quiet overlooking of women in the biblical studies scholarly scene was the subject of Liv Lied (Religion – Mansucripts – Media Culture) post Who is reviewed at the SBL Annual Meeting?abraham-lincoln-716182_640

Although the Biblical Studies Carnival is10 a global phenomenon we cannot let the politics of the Imperial power pass without comment but perhaps Sarah Rollens (Marginalia Review Blog) piece on Donald Trump’s “love” of the Bible and his popularity among US evangelicals Donald Trump’s Bible may be sufficient mention.

Questions around homosexuality and biblical attitudes have been important again especially as US Anglicans were given a rap over the knuckles by the global primates meeting. One of the more interesting “takes” on these events came in a new to me blog by Esau D. McCauley Blaming the Africans: Cultural Imperialism and the Meeting of the Primates (HT ξἐνος)

Drew Longacre warns us against getting sucked into the whirlpool of genealogies and chronologies in Genealogies, Chronologies, and Calendars… Oh, My!

Serial posting

Loren Rosson alias TheBusybody showed that series posting is not dead with a trilogy of posts on Holy War covering the concept in the three best known monotheistic religions:

  1. Holy War in Islam: Historical Origins
  2. Holy War in Judaism: The Fall and Rise of a Controversial Idea
  3. Holy War in Christianity: The Birth and Death of a Paradox

He also posted “John Meier is the George Martin of biblical studies” commenting on another long-running series: A Marginal Jew, Volume 5: Probing the Authenticity of the Parables.

While David Gowler offered a four-part series on Tolstoy’s 1885 short story, “Where Love Is, God Is”, and its use of the parable of the sheep and the goats:

Ben Witherington Ill11 has a series on Childs’ attempts to understand Isaiah as Christian Scripture:

Why! I think BWIII is trying to beat my record of (so far) 30 posts in my Humour in the Bible series at 5 minute Bible (Book 30 was Amos ; )

Richard Beck has a series on Barclay’s book Paul & the Gift (which is clearly, see below twice, biblical studies book of the month for January):

Phillip J. Long at Reading Acts has been writing a lengthy series on Jewish Christian Literature starting on 18th by Introducing Jewish Christian Literature and arriving after four other posts at Hebrews and the Shame of Suffering by 27th.

Though not at all itself a serial post Jonathan Robinson (gleefully?) points to as a Scholarly Bunfight Brewing Over Peter which has perhaps the makings of some serial posting?

Real (virtual) resources

It has also been a fine month for those digitisers who tirelessly work to make intellectual property more widely available with Rob Bradshaw announcing (on Facebook)12 that Theology on the Web now hosts over 32,000 theological books and articles – free for educational use! The equally completely industrious and totally not defatigable Jim West had earlier noted the announcement that the John Richard Allison Library has now made available their entire rare Puritan collection to be read online for free. Many of the works were digitized from J. I. Packer’s private library.

On the subject of intellectual heritage, the antiquities trade (insofar as it deals in objects that were not uncovered in a reputable dig or provenanced in some other reputable way) seems to encourage an increasing destruction of human intellectual heritage. However, if one journalist’s investigations are right the Islamic terrorists are not (as yet) profiting significantly from their destructive activities.

Steven Anderson has a post like a Bible Dictionary entry on The Urim and the Thummim which could be handy to point to when students want more…

Archaeology is not (perhaps) as daft as people think

Just when it seems there are only three sorts of Archaeology, the money-makers (who have the TV serial and the book contract in place even if they have nothing but puff and nonsense to sell), the summer holiday archaeologists13 ones who descend on the Near East14 with hordes of students and other hopefuls in toe to do the digging and hopefully discover a text that mentions one of David’s descendants, and the ones who write those fascinating studies of surveys of ancient rubbish tips which give us our most likely glimpse into real life in ancient times. When along comes someone who tells us that studying cosmic rays inside an Egyptian pyramid will reveal interesting truths long hidden, only (this time) they are apparently gen-u-ine scientists, with real cosmic ray guns/sensors…

Jim Davila pointed to J Fletcher’s Where are the Temple treasures? A post that must be kosher, after all Jim knows all about the Jewish tree new year.15


Marginalia presented an interview by Joseph Ryan Kelly of Roland Boer about Boer’s book The Sacred Economy of Ancient Israel (Westminster John Knox, 2015). First Impressions #68: Roland Boer on the Sacred Economy of Ancient Israel.

The interview with John M. G. Barclay on Paul and the Gift in the Eerdmans Author Interview Series on YouTube. Jackson Wu (see below) offers a reflection on this book from an honour-shame perspective.

Nijay Gupta pointed to Matt Bates and Matt Lynch’s podcast OnScript with Josh Jipp interviewed about his book, Christ is King: Paul’s Royal Ideology.

fight-club-movie-poster-1020270798If you have ever wondered “What have the Book of Genesis and the movie Fight Club got to do with GDP?” The BBC16 Analysis program presented Tomas Sedlacek: The Economics of Good and Evil providing an answer.

At 5 minute Bible I have been trespassing into the NT, with another in a series of brief17 introductions to Bible books, this time Mark’s Gospel. Perhaps the series could be useful to students you know/teach. Comments and critique by NT scholars would be especially welcomed.

I came across William Arnal’s talk “Just how ‘Christian’ were the first Christians?” with reference to the Gospels of Thomas and Mark through Deane’s mention of it at Biblical Studies Online (a useful compendium of such material). Others he has noted this month include: Helen Bond on Simon of Cyrene and a longer note on Joel Kaminsky on whether the Book of Job sweeps away a mechanistic concept of divine retribution and Adela Yarbro Collins on Scripture and Women in Revelation.

James McGrath posted about an interesting looking podcast interview he has done, sadly the ‘cast is only a freebie to suck you in to a never ending whirl of Gnostic wisdom, or a one off payment of the price of a paperback codex for just more of James’ own wisdom.18

Calls for Papers

Those who have read this far deserve a reward, and nothing19 rewards a scholar more than the opportunity to inspire/mildly interest/bore colleagues with a “publication”, and conference papers inevitably20 become publications. Here are the calls for papers I am aware of from January 2016 (if you know of more please tell me and I will add a mention):21

Going all apocalyptic on us

vampirehunterJames Tabor finds interesting thoughts in Albert Schweitzer and a Thoroughly Apocalyptic Jesus (and Paul), while Jim West wanted us to take “a field trip to Megiddo, the site of the last battle between the forces of heaven and the forces of evil“, as well as taking a trip himself to Hong Kong and posting the usual 99,000 snippets grave and gay.22 Hector Avalos (Debunking Christianity) in Patterns of poor research – A Critique of Patterns of Evidence:Exodus takes the work of US Televangelists more seriously than most sensible people can stand.

Steve Wiggins has to get a mention so that I can say he blogs at Sects and Violence in the Ancient World, among several possible candidates my eye fell What you pay for, a post about Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, surely demonstrating that the said Jesus was the inspiration for America’s favourite president (before the present incumbent).

Image from Deane's last post (this month) in the series Mythical Documents from the Ancient World.

Image from Deane’s last post (this month) in the series Mythical Documents from the Ancient World.

Having promised to stop posting about the Nephilim,23 Deane Galbraith turned to cyphers and imaginary ancient texts in With Or Without Q: From MwQH to M+≈QH?

A made up photo that accompanied the discussion of a made up document.

A made up photo that accompanied the discussion of a made up document.

Yes, it seems an imaginary ancient text really has replaced imaginary giants in Deane’s affections, breaking news L/M with Q: A Post-Farrer and Post-Two Documents Approach to Synoptic Composition. The imaginary lost document is however so much fun see Luke knew Matthew, But still Q (L/MwQ): A Post-Farrer and Post-Two Documents Approach to Synoptic Composition and the attached photos, that we can confidently expect that Q has finally disposed of the giants!24

Also concerned with Angels and demons, watchers and giants Jim Davila wonders how Lesli White (a scholarly editor for can miss considering the Enochic traditions in her treatment of angels and demons.26

Preaching the Bible

The carnival is not about Bible preaching, but since almost everyone comes to Biblical Studies27 because of their faith and the belief that the Bible (whether Jewish or Christian) is in some sense authoritative Scripture it seems fair and right to point to examples of blogs concerned with preaching from these texts.

Paul Windsor (Art of Unpacking) is more concerned with teaching the art of preaching in the Majority World. Jackson Wu offers more directly biblical reflection geared at helping us see the deep roots of the Bible in an honour-shame view of the world, quite different from contemporary Western views, his comments The Meaning of God’s Grace on Barclay’s book is an example this month. For a non-Westerner’s view of Western religion and Bible reading Vinoth Ramachandra’s blog is always worth reading, though often less than comforting as he efficiently but usually kindly exposes the hypocrisy Western Christians often fail to recognise.

Other posts that caught my fancy28

Ryan Thomas at Religion and Literature of Ancient Palestine has a Review of Thomas Römer, The Invention of God (2015) both Römer‘s theses and Thomas’ critiques are really interesting. For me Römer’s conclusions are a reminder of how much historical reconstruction in our discipline depends on our evaluation of particular (aspects of) biblical texts as historical sources, and therefore why I tend towards agnosticism29 about history in this sense. (Ryan posts rarely, and seems to be using his blog almost like, an earlier post had 80 footnotes.30

Manuel Rojas was all caught up in Fee’s approach to the translation of ἁρπάζω in his “Las agendas teológicas: viendo pajas en ojos ajenos


Bob MacDonald has been puzzling about the use of ‘elohim sometimes with and sometimes without the sign of definiteness (ha’elohim). Sometimes the difference seems significant (e.g. where ha’elohim suggests the form is the singular ‘elohim whom Israel worships), but on other occasions choice of form seems less directed. Is anyone able to provide some input on this simple aspect of ‘elohim?

Larry Hurtado posted a reprise of his discussion of Christians and codexes in Christians and the Codex: Encore!31 he makes some really good sharp points, some of which cause me to reevaluate some things I have written in the past. However, I am unconvinced by his conclusion. What do you think? Did early Christians prefer the codex in order to mark themselves as different?


PS: This post is not early! It is set to go live at midnight in the early hours of 1st Feb 2016, to all you people in more backward parts of the planet, just catch up will you!

PPS: Bizarrely, I have been listed during most of January as among the “top 4%” of researchers on, I am not sure why this is, but am relying on you all clicking this link to check whether that is true and so, either boosting my bogus statistic further, or better still finding something I have written that interests you, after all, interesting people are why we do this job ;)

PPPS: If you searched for your name and missed yourself please look again manually as I probably either forgot to name you or spelt your name wrongly32 or perhaps I really did leave you out :(33

And finally, back to the future

The next few carnivals will be:

But Phil Long is looking for volunteers for the rest of the year (after May) and would delight in YOU stepping up, it’s quite a bit of work, but a good excuse to investigate biblical blogging more widely than usual, and grauanteed to give your blog a boost of visitors, and greater Google mojo, what greater reward could you ask?

  1. I say this month’s carnival because I am publishing it at either 0:00 on the 1st of February (though I believe 0:01 is the traditional timing) so that it is also published at 12:00 on the 31st January, since this later date is the 12th blogiversary of Sansblogue, a nice way to celebrate an auspicious occasion! Anyone who is suspicious may consult the first post here, the last post has yet to sound ;) []
  2. 120 seemed too high a number to me, so I looked back at the list of carnivals past, some are now mere ghosts, existing only in the Wayback Machine, others like my two previous efforts still exist at the same URL, some no doubt have moved… but since the first carnival was held in 2005 and 2006 (the idea was slow to get off the ground till Tyler Williams put his shoulder to the wheels) it seems correct, but then Sansblogue’s twelfth birthday occurred this month! []
  3. In loving memory of all those American and Germanic monographs we have known and loved, except for the bit where we have to find endnotes at the back of each separate chapter. At least here there are convenient hyperlinks :) []
  4. Great name! []
  5. Taking place at somewhere called NOBTS. []
  6. Whilst I tend to agree with the author’s assessment of the contemporary relevance of these prophets, W. Travis McMaken looks suspiciously like yet another White American Male Protestant, so the post is clearly disqualified! []
  7. Footnote added post scriptum: I confess I had not noticed that this is Caroline T. Schroeder’s blog, until she pointed it out, my excuse is that early monasticism has never been a major theme of my work. []
  8. Who are after all despite the “digital revolution” still predominantly White Western non-Woman – is that why they call it the WWW? []
  9. Since informs me that this month I am among the top 5% globally clearly such open scholarship does have some benefits! []
  10. In theory, if not in fact. See my moans about the lack of non-White-American-Male nominations as evidence. []
  11. Is his surname really “Ill”, and if so what made his ancestor sick? []
  12. Am I allowed to mention Facebook here in the BS Blog Carnival? []
  13. Though usually not at this time of year, only coming out in the American summer, not the real one over and after New Year. []
  14. Who is it near? And for whom is it east? []
  15. Joel Hoffman also offers explanations in So What, Exactly, is Tu Bishvat? []
  16. That embattled bastion of British Imperialism and the dream of honest fair reporting. []
  17. About 300 seconds. Duh! The name says it all, pace Juliet. []
  18. Seriously, the $1/podcast approach is an interestimng experiment in crowd funding the production of such resources! []
  19. Well nothing much in the realm of professional activity anyway! []
  20. After months of hard work on Facebook and other timewasters and a few tough days of actual research and writing. []
  21. This promise is exclusive to this category, any normal (or abnormal) posts outside this category have already been cast into outer darkness. Sorry I missed you, but make sure to announce your genius to the organiser of future carnivals. []
  22. Or to remove the allusion to Karl Barth, depravity and biblical studies. []
  23. In the process linking all sorts of strange, if not wonderful, things. []
  24. PS all the rude remarks about Q above are entirely my own fault, and none of the authors cited, nor even Mark Goodarce who is otherwise, sadly, absent from this carnival, should blamed for my scepticism or Philistine response to NT scholars imaginative creations. []
  25. I say she is a “scholarly editor” because her article links to such scholarly material as “This Article Is About To Get Banned From The Internet!”, “‘Fat Hormone’ Stops Women From Losing Weight”, and “Weird Trick To Make Women Obsess Over You”. Links removed to protect the gullible. In view of the obviously high quality of Beliefnet I can quite understand Jim’s horror at their editor’s ignorance of basic biblical studies. []
  26. Clearly a topic where fools rush in where Others fear to tread! []
  27. Wherever their path has since led them. []
  28. Well, what else could I call it? []
  29. Note the VERY small “a”. []
  30. This post only had 31. His are of the proper referencing sort, not whimsical ones like these. Still I have 32 [ed: insert pic of thumb to nose here please.] []
  31. Based on his earlier: The Codex and Early Christians: Clarification & Corrections. []
  32. People do that to me all the time, the worst was a letter to my father addressed to Mr Balcony, this was in the age before spell-checkers. []
  33. If I did it intends no reflection on the quality or readability of your work, just the fact that you are not really into self promotion and did not send me a nomination. []