Review of the Logos edition of Douglas Mangum et al., Genesis 1–11 (Lexham Bible Guide, Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012).


LexhamCoverThe series of which this “volume” is a part has an ambitious but mixed goal:

The series is designed to be a research tool. Each guide presents a wide range of interpretive issues raised by Bible scholars. These resources meet the needs of those studying the Bible in academic settings, but the broad scope of coverage also makes them useful for preaching preparation. 1

In fact, limitations of referencing (almost?) only works available in the Logos system limits it’s usefulness for scholarship, and so the work is in some ways better suited to the practical needs of a pastor or other seriously minded Bible reader.

Integration of the text with the Logos library system is of course a great strength of such this type of electronic publication, but there are times when the implementation of this integration serves Logos’ commercial ends better than it serves the user. For example when I read: “Mathews uses the analogy of a stained glass window to describe the literary complexity of Gen 1–11…” The name “Matthews” is, as one would expect in an electronic text, a hyperlink. If the user already owns the cited work by Mathews in Logos format, then I assume2 they are taken to the reference. If one does not own the work in Logos format one is offered the chance to buy it. However, if one does not already own the Logos edition, the link to the Logos sales site does inform the user what work is being referred to, enabling a search on a local library catalogue, Worldcat or Google Books.

There is however a welcome but odd inconsistency, when the references are to further reading suggestions offered as bullet points rather than inline citations, they do give at least the title of the work, without need to access the website.3

Hypertext links also provide convenient popup explanations of technical terms, enhancing further the educative possibilities of the text, and making it accessible to a wider range of “lay” readers. They also enable jump navigation within the text, and this is enhanced by a preview popup showing the beginning of the text of the section to which the link leads.

The work offers a neat clear and concise overview of (almost always, but not exclusively, Evangelical) scholarship on the issues and passages treated. This is a superb resource to begin studying a passage or topic, Mangum et al. Offer clear concise summaries of important issues that will be really useful to any pastor or amateur biblical scholar. They are also potentially really useful to students and their teachers, though this usefulness would be enhanced by referencing that included some mention of work not published in Logos format..

Within the limits of works published in Logos format (I have yet to find any reference to other work) these summaries and the suggested readings are very useful. The restriction of the references to the Logosworld generates the restriction noted above to predominantly only Evangelical scholarship, and very predominantly American scholars4 This parochialism is sad!

A byproduct of this limitation is scholarship that is also very predominantly male and white. Since women and non-Caucasian scholars are more likely to have significant work in journals and less likely to have breached the portals of book length works with publishers who make their list available in Logos format.

On the other hand, the fact that such a useful compendium can be offered despite this restriction of horizon to Logosworld is a tribute to the extent (if not always variety) of that world today. Logos is not yet a universal biblical studies library, but it is far closer than one might have expected only a few years ago.

A student today will need to seriously consider whether to accept the limitations of horizon imposed by the choice of Logos as their exclusive supplier, wholeheartedly making Logos their library system, or on the other hand if financial constraints or a desire to be open to a wider world of scholarship will severely limit the usefulness of a work such as this. I wonder how long it is before Logos offers a subscription service modeled on Amazon’s “Prime”?5

Without such a service, or without the financial resources to pay to own an extensive private Logos library, users are given a glimpse of the world of American Evangelical scholarship, but taking a closer look is made difficult by the exclusively in house referencing.

In short this work highlights the huge usefulness and potential of the Logos system (for those rich enough, and selfish enough, to be willing to spend enough on a library devoted to their private use). It also highlights the exclusive nature of this system by making the use of external resources (in an institutional or public library, or on Google books, for example) more difficult even than it would be in an obsolescent print codex.

  1. Douglas Mangum et al., Genesis 1–11 (, Lexham Bible GuideBellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012). []
  2. I have yet to find a reference to a work that I spotted as being included in my Gold collection, or among the other works and texts I have bought. So I could not check this assumption. []
  3. A one step rather than a two step process. []
  4. The JPS series, and the out of copyright ICC commentaries, along with some classic works like Gunkel and Westermann provide welcome exceptions. []
  5. If such a service were cheap enough it could provide mean someone could use the Lexham guide to the full without being restricted to only purchasing biblical studies works in Logos format. []

Striking News from Egypt: or the Silence of the Pundits

The news from Egypt (indeed all the “Middle East”) over recent months has varied between being silence (most of the time) and shock-horror (when some new tragedy/atrocity manages to break through Western media’s apathy about the rest of the world. 

Vinoth Ramachandra again does us all a service by posting material written by one of his Egyptian contacts he titles it The Other Egypt. It begins:

When more than 85 Churches and institutions were viciously attacked and burned (a profound blow of disgrace and humiliation in this culture of ‘honour’), the non-retaliation of Christians was both unexpected and unprecedented.

If you haven’t heard about this please read his post! In fact do yourself a favour subscribe to his blog, or visit it regularly. It is constantly sensible and provocative a difficult balance given the topics he covers.

Grateful Undead on the Titanic

Gavin (at Otagosh) has a post puffing, 95 year old, Lloyd Geering’s new book From the Big Bang to God. I have not read Geering’s writing, I’m an OT scholar and John Robinson was the theological thinker frightening the horses when I was young (at least in the UK). But Gavin’s post and especially one of the comments got me thinking about why such extreme forms of theology the ones that are a whisker away from Atheology don’t work for me.

It’s all to do with worldview. In the film “Titanic” there’s a nice scene that sums up some popular1  worldviews . Jack a hobo won his ticket (3rd class) in a poker game, but is invited to dinner in first class2 and in course of conversation tells how he won his ticket.

One rich buffer responds, in suitably plummy accent: “I think life’s a game of chance.” This, it’s all about luck, worldview is remarkably convenient for the comfortable, for there is nothing you can do about luck except enjoy it. And if life, the universe, and everything are just luck then there are no inconvenient moral rules – do as you like as long as it “works for you”.

Another RB trumps that: “Real men make their own luck!” This view of life is even better for the comfortable, it means that somehow I deserve my privilege.

In contrast to the Lucky Bastards and the Bootstrappers3 Jack’s worldview is simple and works. “I think life’s a gift.”

That’s how I experience it. What the Bible and traditional theologians, often call “grace”. I get what I don’t deserve. Now this worldview both requires, demands forcefully even, moral thinking, because gifts make relationships and relationships impose obligations.  But if life is a gift, then who is the ‘giver’? Because ‘gift’ differs from ‘luck’ only in the ‘giver’.

Thankfulness is at the heart of my faith, I try to make it a heart of my living, and it is why (despite everything else) and all the powerful Atheist arguments and all that (some) Christians can do to discredit ‘him’ I am a Theist, I believe in God – the giver of life.

So I guess for me theology starts with the ‘Spirit’ (the giver of life), and moves via the ‘Father’ the Creator to recognising Jesus as their expression in creaturely form.

  1. As we’ll see at least in the modern Western world and elsewhere among the rich and powerful. []
  2. Because he saved Kate Winslet from suicide. []
  3. I call them that because they apparently believe they have elevated themselves by tugging their own bootstraps. []

A worthwhile Lent?

Vinoth Ramachandra does it again. In Food for Thought he points up several matters of real significance, and suggests if “Lent” is to be a real and worthwhile fast (cf. Isaiah 58: 6-7) rather than e.g. giving up coffee it would be better to spend time researching the coffee trade…

Amen, amen, amen!

Now that would make a sensible exercise in penitence and justice, or if coffee is too overdone, choose another aspect of his list… doing it as a group would be even better…

Lamenting in/with Sri Lanka

Two friends have recently spoken well of the recent pastoral letter from Dhiloraj Canagasabey, the Anglican Bishop of Colombo. Both in different ways, and for different reasons call it prophetic.

After succinctly and clearly explaining what “the rule of law” means:

The rule of law means that we as a nation are governed by a system of laws to which the lawmakers themselves are subject. This is a way of ensuring that power is not concentrated in the hands of one person (or group of persons) and exercised arbitrarily…

He explains in briefly and in unemotional language why Christians have a special call to speak out when as currently in Sri Lanka this safeguard is threatened. But far from merely asking for political action or protest he moves to call the churches first to self-examination and lament. The process he proposed began yesterday, and continues today with meetings in the cathedral and other churches. Which will extend into:

a series of Bible studies, reflections and discussions during Lent. Which is traditionally a period of self-examination and penitence, to reflect on what it means to live as a faithful disciple-community of Jesus in the context of our nation today.

One of my friends wrote:

We are so grateful for a leader who seems to be finally speaking out to the church along biblical lines. Thought you might be interested to see what he says (I’ve attached a copy of the letter in case you haven’t seen it already). I believe this is an important first step in mobilising the church to do one of the most important things that we are meant to do – intercede. Some churches from other denominations have also decided to adopt the concept. 

We should join her in prayer that this will happen, and that the process will be filled with the blessing of the presence of the Holy Spirit working powerfully among Sri Lankan Christians during this critical time.

Paul Windsor (ex-principal of Carey now working with Langham Preaching) adds the more specific prayer:

that the preachers being trained through Langham will develop a prophetic edge that will speak up and speak out on matters of injustice.

The full text of the letter is included in the Anglican Communion News Service report here.

SBL Podcasts

Podcasting logoi from

There is an interesting (if somewhat restricted) discussion on the SBL’s Facebook page about the possibility of podcasting (some) sessions from the annual meeting.

The suggestion is simple. Record sessions (unless the speaker asks not to be recorded). Make the recordings available on the web.

The advantages are clear. Much wider access to this forum of scholarly conversation. Currently many of us are either geographically rich (i.e. we are so far from Chicago that tickets and time to get there are difficult) or economically poor (we simply cannot afford to attend) that we miss out on this means of keeping up with current and emerging thinking in our areas.

SBL has a fine history of making efforts to widen the circle, scholarships for attending the meetings for emerging and distant scholars are a good (if expensive) example. SBL is also developing a reputation for using technology to make access wider (think of e-publications and RBL online), even sponsoring open access scholarship. Podcasting (even some of) the Annual and International Meetings would be a huge step in this direction that would cost little. (A few MP3 players and a few days of work.)

The argument so far advanced as a possible objection, that some scholars might not wish their presentation to receive this wider audience is easily covered by making participation optional. The other objection, that people who might otherwise attend would decide to stay at home misses the point, that social interaction (not to mention book exhibits ;) is a big part of the reason people attend. I’d be surprised if numbers attending dropped significantly as a result of podcasting, and this year numbers are so high they have had to arrange extra hotels :)

You lost me at…

John Douglas posted this video on Facebook. I’d seen the research before, I’ve even commented on similar work (Giving up on Church)

This time it struck me again forcefully how often “Christians” major on the minors. Blow up things of little importance, but forget the vital stuff. Many of us prattle on about how gay marriage is wrong, but we fail to put real effort into supporting the couples who marry in church, so they can stick together becoming one flesh across the years. Some of us even mount campaigns aimed at persuading people into believing that the world was started in 4004BC, rather than spending the money and energy on helping people celebrate the wondrous creation and so its wonderful creator. We preach and sing interminably about how God is nice and loves us, but fail to address the big questions. Which usually begin with “why”.

To be fair one of the reasons I like South City is because from time to time we have a service where people are invited to drop big questions in the box, and the next week those questions are addressed. Last time examples were:

Sometimes when people pray someone is healed, sometimes they are not, why?

Is it wrong for Christians to spend dollars  on expensive holidays and trips?  Are there scriptures to teach us how to use our
God provided Money? Other than being good stewards, helping the poor and widows orphans tithing etc.

Being an extra in a story Jesus told

Photo by redjar

In response to my post Fairtrade: Coffee, Chocolate & Bananas Heather commented:

…it will do nothing to convince the group that I most often encounter: those who don’t believe that what they do could possibly change ‘the system’. That’s the main point I find myself trying to argue with people.

Oh, you silly people! I’ve always tried to change the world, but, since I was three I’ve recognised that usually I have little success. I have a blog, it’s quite popular, I regularly write posts trying to change the world. However, there are nearly 600,000 websites that are visited more often than my blog. Realistically I stand little chance of saving the world :(

Happily I don’t have to. That post is already taken. What I do have to do is to try to change my little corner of the world. If I persuade five of you to change your buying just habits on just one of these three  products: Coffee, Chocolate and Cocoa, or Bananas then at least one family’s life will be changed for the better. If two of you five persuade five others, we have a snowball, and snowballs do change the world…

But, for the moment forget about snowballs, because Jesus told a story that featured a couple of possible world-changers:

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead.  31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  (Luke 10:30-32)

Priests are always trying to make the world a better place, and preaching to change the world is a Levite’s job…

Fairtrade: Coffee, Chocolate & Bananas

Photo by anthony_p_c

Some of you, I hope many, do not need to read this post. Sadly those who flick past will probably be mainly those who DO need to read it :(

When I posted a recipe for some nice Chocolate Muffins (which are actually a sort of moist and juicy cross between muffins and brownies, but that’s another story) on Repentant Carnivores Heather commented suggesting that I should have recommended that people use FairTrade chocolate and cocoa. To my reply that “I just assumed that people would (at least try to) use Fair Trade” she wrote: “Wow! You must move in very different Christian circles from me! I know relatively few Christians who think that such buying decisions have anything to do with their faith (even Christians who are very aware of and concerned about the Majority World)

Fair trade is a Christian issue:

God hates rapaciously greedy oppressors. The prophets and the Old Testament laws had loads to say about the evils of injustice and how God cannot tolerate people who oppress their neighbours. Jesus had some interesting things to say about who our neighbours  might be. Put these together and if our buying in the market (or even supermarket) is done at a price that does not allow the producers to live a decent life we are acting in a manner that God abhors. Whether or not there is any truth in claims that: “God hates fags” it is abundantly clear that God does hate rapaciously greedy oppressors.

The world trade system is rapaciously greedy: Unless it is moderated by consumer choice or government legislation the world trade system in which we operate is rapaciously greedy. (In this post we will ignore legislation, that’s someone else’s business.) Take coffee,  a high proportion of coffee is grown by small farmers,1 they get usually a tiny proportion of the price that the big coffee companies charge for the end product2 these prices hardly cover the cost of production.3 Buying “normally traded” coffee therefore is oppressive and unjust.

For Chocolate and Cocoa the issue is different, there much comes from large plantations, whose owners (Western companies or local elites) make good money, but pay a pittance to their workers, or even if many stories from reputable sources including the US State Department are to be believed use child slaves imported for the work from neighbouring countries. Buying “normal” chocolate products is therefore oppressive and cruel.

For bananas there is a third problem, here most production is from large estates, the monoculture practices of these companies require the use of dangerous chemicals, the companies have often bribed government officials and legislators to ensure that they can continue to expose their workers to these chemicals (and so not lose their commercial edge). Buying “normal” bananas thus endangers the health of the people who worked to grow your banana.

You CAN now (at least in NZ) often find FairTrade coffee at the supermarket – there is no excuse to buy anything else.

You CAN now (at least in NZ) often find cafes that sell FairTrade coffee – there is no excuse to go anywhere else.

FairTrade chocolate and cocoa are less easy to find, a few supermarkets stock them, but often you have to go to a TradeAid shop, or buy online: NZ, or search Google.

Some supermarkets stock fairly traded bananas.

If your supermarket does not stock these products do some Social Media Activism, “social media” is a hot notion among marketers, supermarkets want you to “friend” them on Facebook. Do so. And then post on their wall asking them to stock Fair Trade products. If enough people post on Pak n’ Save’s FB page, they will stock Fair Trade… it’s up to you!

  1. 70% from properties of less than 10Ha. []
  2. Typically less than 10%. []
  3. In 2010 the price was around US$2/pound  according to the International Coffee Organisation. []