Encyclopedia of Hebrew terms for tools

What a great resource, and free online instead of expensive dead trees from Brill :)

The כלי Database: Utensils in the Hebrew Bible from Het Oudtestamentisch Werkgezelschap (the Dutch and Flemish society of Old Testament scholars) looks really excellent a great source of information on all those awkward terms that refer to various sorts of tool or implement. Unfortunately the first term I looked up מִזְרָק from Am 6:6 does not appear to have been entered yet :( but the list is already impressively long.

The format is a series of PDF files, which allows the appearance to be controlled, but makes usage somewhat less easy and reuse much less easy compared to XML and CSS, but it will have made production easier :) It is sad that there are few or no illustrations. At a time when images are getting easier to find and permission to use more likely to be freely given. However, entries have a section pointing readers to illustrations in reference works in their library.

In short this seems a really useful tool, and one we can be grateful they are publishing in such an open fashion. It also offers an interesting set of compromises between traditional forms and the new medium. It will be fascinating to see over coming decades how many and which such compromises continue to be made, representing what is culturally important about print. For example in this case the physical layout of print with page and line breaks was deemed significant.

HT: Jim West

Responding to Jim (or at least continuing a conversation :)

our house was burgled, another reason for slow posting here recently :)

A couple of days ago Jim West posted Why Tim Bulkeley and the Rest are So Hell Bent on Defending Rob Bell’s Hell-Lessness1

I had a dreadful week last week. Among other things we were burgled and Barbara’s mum’s jewelery was taken, her main remaining physical reminder of her mum. So I could not continue the conversation quickly.

But now I am doing a couple of podcasts that between them provide (I hope) the positive counterbalance to my post here OK, till now I’ve held my peace, and avoided discussing that Bell fella and universalism. But… which basically only told you what I affirm that I do NOT know. The two podcasts affirm what I think I DO know. Jim won’t like the first ;) but perhaps the second may cause him to rethink…

The first podcast is up already Universalism, or Not? Part One: Jonah the next should appear tomorrow (if all goes well).

  1. BTW Jim, when I refer to your posts I provide a link, please could you do the kindness of the same kindness to your readers? []

Not Only a Father: 1. Talking Pictures: a. Introduction

Lion by Leszek.Leszczynski

The central task of theology, talking about God and discussing the nature of true talk about God, is difficult. How can one express the ineffable? One cannot hold the infinite within human language. Theologians and Pastors have used a number of approaches to their impossible task.

One approach, the Via Negativa, proceeds by saying what God is not, which can only ever be part of an answer, because God is obviously more than not-something. This argument says that since human language fails, let us not have pictures of God based on what humans are like. Much classical theology did this, stripping away what is inadequate before true talk of God can begin. The method that interests us here, by contrast, is analogy. An analogy says that the thing we do not understand is like something we do understand. In theology it takes things in creation as pictures that illustrate aspects of the creator. The Bible and our worship songs are full of such picture language. 

As well as lords and masters, lions, lambs and rocks, father is a popular picture; Jesus used this picture often. It also answers deep needs within the human psyche. Most of us comfortably call on our father, though the words do have problems. A human father may wound his son or daughter’s capacity to use this language. He may have abused, been absent for work, or separated from the child’s mother. The idea of authoritarian fathers, which lingers in our culture, also limits ways people can relate to God. Some fathers are distant in manner and yet stern in disciplining their children. These fathers present a poor picture of God’s tender and intimate love.
If father is part of normal human experience, understanding the meaning of “mother” is an even more universal for humans. Yet few of us are familiar and comfortable with talk of God as our heavenly mother. We are so unfamiliar with the motherly language for God in the Bible or the writings of early theologians, that we often explain it away or deny it. Fifty years ago, Christians rarely talked of God as mother. The great CS Lewis assumed the very idea was shocking, and the mere thought sufficient to demonstrate that women could not be priests (as Anglicans name their pastors), since they could not “represent” a God whose name was “father”.1

Contemporary Christians tend to fall into one of two categories on this question.
The liberal feminist may promote a notion of the “Great Mother, or speak of “Gaia,” a kind of modern Mother Earth. Evangelicals who believe that “father” alone is the biblical usage, deny all possibility of mother language, though of course people vary within these groups. One variety of liberal seeks to avoid the question, while remaining egalitarian and politically correct, by avoiding sexist language. Like the grammar checker in Microsoft Word, they reject all gender specific terms. Going further than the grammar checker, they even exclude father and mother. However, when people pray using this “PC” thinking, the prayers lack warmth and may not sound convincing, for example, God, Godself, is the creator and sustainer of all life. In my view, God does not create such lifeless prayers! 

Some evangelicals note small signs of God being motherly or feminine while seeing both God and Christ as male. This leaves us with a male God, but a somewhat feminized male! I do not find the view satisfying. Others, rightly, preferring to risk the human end of the equation, occasionally hint timidly that God may be like a mother to us as well as our Heavenly Father.
  1. C.S. Lewis (ed. Walter Hooper) Undeceptions London: Bles, 1971, 193 (article first published in 1948). []

OK, till now I’ve held my peace, and avoided discussing that Bell fella and universalism. But…

The Triumph of Death c. 1562 by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. "The painting shows aspects of everyday European life in the mid-sixteenth century."

Jim West’s post and even more his commenters have driven me to it. They are all so confident. Each of them know the Almighty’s mind so clearly and fully. For some of them it is simple, even [insert name of your most hated murderous and cruelly heartless dictator] must be saved, because God is too nice to condemn them, let alone send them to a pit of eternal fire. For the others it is equally simple, if someone has not expressed faith in Christ (and here there are some slight differences, so except those who have not “heard” the gospel, others somehow make no exceptions) they are condemned to hell.

But I wonder, Scripture (at least if read with an eye even a little attuned to the colourful ways of human speech) is less than clear on the subject, yet they all – on both sides – know.

As for me, unlike my Calvinist friend with whom I discussed these issues in college chapel last year, I believe in the sovereignty of God, so that God is not bound by any simple rule that humans express. And I trust the Almighty to do a better job of peopling and managing the afterlife than I or any of the commenters could.

Yes, it would be comforting to think of some people (Sen. Gen. Than Shwe springs to mind though he’d hardly be alone) “burning in the fires of hell” but if God, who in Christ hung out to die for you and for me, can arrange to save his poor twisted creature, who am I, or who are you, to object!

Passive students or active learning

One video in particular from Michael Wesch’s Visions Of Students Today 2011 project caught my eye. He asked students to make short videos of education from their perspective, and offer them as an open source resource.

This video caught my attention because it highlights the dangers of leaving students passive and the power of active learning:


For more on Michael see these previous posts:

Why do we still teach?

Image by jonathan.d.becker

Brooke at Anuma in VOST2011: The Visions of Students Today asks:

What do students in Higher Education see today? What do they “see” in the sense of, “What are their visions?” And, what do they literally see from the place in which they are expected to learn?

He’s pointing to a new project by Michael Wesch, professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University. The call for submissions asked students to make short (preferably < 2 minutes) videos of education from their perspective, and offer them as an open source resource. The videos are often fascinating (at least for a teacher ;) and sometimes compelling, just think of the talent and effort being expressed here!

Brooke also wrote:

In the professorial circles in which I run, I am probably among those more likely to identify with the students of VOST2011: besides being a “distance pedagogies guy” (in progress), I am after all a Gen-Xer, and until a subject matter grabbed me in my Masters work, felt continually disenchanted with and alienated from the structures of education, while still identifying strongly with other students as a peer group.

Well, it may not surprise you to know that although well past being Gen-X those experiences rign true for me, as do many of the students’ visions. Perhaps they do for others… so, in this over-mediated world where information tends to be free, why do we still teach, instead of facilitating learning?

See these earlier posts among many others for my thoughts:

The Bible’s Buried Secrets: Did God have a wife?

Image from a pot found at Kuntillet Ajrud above the inscription mentioning "Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah" (from Wikipedia)

I’ve not been posting much here recently because I’m horribly busy, but also because I’ve been podcasting like mad around topics related to the BBC program The Bible’s Buried Secrets well actually we don’t get to see quality programming like that down here, so it was more in response to ideas raised by the Daily Mail puff piece “Why the BBC’s new face of religion believes God had a WIFE

If you are interested inWhy do you read? Or: Was God married? and Are you an idolater? (Not – Was God married? Part Two) I claim Yahweh definitely had a wife indeed the evidence comes mainly from little-read parts of the Old Testament. In this morning’s podcast Was God married? Part two: the death of the goddess I try to begin answering the question left open at the end of Stavrakopoulou Mail piece:

I can’t help but wonder what the world would be like had the goddess remained.

Tomorrow’s podcast promises more on Yahweh as female :) But more about that tomorrow ;)

Reformation rhetoric lives!

Photo by youngthousands

Gavin at Otagosh, always a stimulating read, has a fine piece, Taking a Punt on Rob Bell, on the Rob Bell fuss. As he notes few people round here will even recognise the name, let alone the fuss, but certain more northerly American bibliobloggers certainly seemed to have twisted undergarments over the book before its publication.

Gavin’s rhetoric is nicely Reformation is style and (almost) scatology, while his rhetoric is positively Anabaptist. I love it :) With defenders like this that Bell character must have something going for him!

Of course someday the book will appear, then all the bloggers will go quiet, except Hobbins who will have read it and sixteen more learned tomes and three medieval Jewish authorities before the ink is dry. Meanwhile Jim West ought to love Gavin’s post, ir’s almost Zwinglian in tone, though since it’s Anabaptist in sentiment he also may foam at the mouth ;) I can’t wait… let’s have photos please Jim!

Canapés au bout danois

Photo and original idea from MacSween

Here’s a simple, fairly quick, impressive finger food that foodies will love, and will convert (most) Black Pudding skeptics.1


  • Slices of precut grainy bread (about one per person)
  • Black Pudding
  • Tomatoes (small ones you’ll need 3-4 slices for each slice of bread)
  • Blue cheese
  • Walnut pieces (not too small, but not whole halves)


Take a few slices of grainy bread2 wipe with garlic3 spray with cooking oil4 sprinkle with salt and toast5

While the toast is popping from the toaster slice your black pudding into enough thin rounds. Fry them, having ensured the fry pan is hot, so a water droplet dances, before spraying the pan with oil.

Meanwhile cut small tomatoes into slices.6

Cut small lumps of blue cheese, Kaimai Creamy Blue is ideal, a softer blue works better than the Stilton sort.

Cut the toasts into rounds by pressing the cutter7 firmly. Assemble by placing one slice of Black Pudding, one of tomato on each round, and top off with a piece of walnut pressed into the blue cheese.

Voila Canapés au bout danois!

And more people converted into Black Pudding fans ;) BTW the left over bits of toast can be warmed in the morning in the pan as you fry more Black Pudding, and with any left over bits of tomato, and some blue cheese makes a fine breakfast, Breakfast au Bouts Danois8

  1. “bout danois” which would mean something like a Danish end or a Danish leftover but to most non-Francophones just sounds posh and mysterious is a pun on Boudin Noir = Black Pudding. []
  2. You will get about 3-4 canapés per slice if you use an eggcup as your cutter. Four slices made  enough for a starter for four hungry people, and leftovers for breakfast for one :) []
  3. I dipped a teaspoon in crushed garlic let the lumps drip off and wiped that over one face of a slice. []
  4. For you do surely have a plastic spray dispenser like they sell for misting flowers etc. for $5 filled with Soya Oil, or some such, don’t you? If you don’t you should, aside from spraying stuff to get a very light misting of oil it lets you fry with less fat! []
  5. Yes, they will go in the electric toaster, no worries. []
  6. If your tomatoes are too big do NOT despair, just cut the slices in half later. []
  7. Or egg cup ;) []
  8. No, do NOT add walnuts this time, that would be greedy, what are you a pig? []

Clear and Simple Tweet-Act Theory

If you’ve ever been put off or confused by the complex language of Speech-Act Theory (think “perlocutionary” and “illocutionary”) John Dyer simplifies it beautifully and then raises questions about Twitter (for the twits) and Facebook (for those who today will change their faces).

I won’t give you the permissable short extract, since those often keep you here, and my goal is to send you to his post: This Lent: What is the Perlocutionary Effect of Your Twitter Feed?

So, there’s noting doing here, you might as well click the link :)