Monday, April 27, 2009


I leave for Israel tomorrow morning at 3 a.m.! For the first two weeks (April 28-May 10) I will be co-hosting a Study Tour of 30+ Briercrest students, faculty, alumni, parents and friends.
The tour will be guided by Yoni Gerrish at the Jerusalem Cornerstone Foundation. My co-host, Don Taylor, agreed to leave me behind in Jerusalem for another week at the tail end of the tour. I'm really looking forward to reliving some old memories and absorbing what Jerusalem has to offer at a more leisurely pace. My one regret is that t. will not be able to join me this time around.
On the advice of a friend, we decided to require students who are taking the tour as a course to work through the Regional Study Guide, Regional Study Maps, and the book, Regions on the Run (James M. Monson, 2006), all produced by Biblical Backgrounds. I completed (most of) the assignment over the weekend. It is a time-consuming process, but extremely effective. I learned a ton, and am much better prepared for the trip than I would otherwise have been. Highly recommended!
I promise to post some pictures when I get back. In the mean time, these photos from our year in Israel back in 2000-2001 will have to do.

Update (6 March 2010): Here are some links to my unfinished blog series on the 2009 Israel Tour:

Israel Trip 1 (April 28-29) - Climate Change
Israel Trip 2a (April 30) - Caesarea
Israel Trip 2b (April 30) - Views from Mt. Carmel
Israel Trip 2c (April 30) - Megiddo
Israel Trip 2d (April 30) - Sepphoris (Zippori)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Mosaic Legislation on Prophets in [Josephus's] Antiquities 4.218

I am happy to report that my paper proposal for this November's SBL Josephus Group session on "Josephus, Moses and Torah" has been accepted. The paper, which builds on research I presented at CSBS last May (1, 2, 3, 4), is (or will be!) an attempt to puzzle out Josephus's understanding of the "Prophet like Moses" described in Deuteronomy 18. Here is the abstract:
In his summary of the Mosaic constitution (A.J. 4.196-302), Josephus omits Deuteronomy's legislation about prophets, but inserts an enigmatic reference to a “prophet” in his paraphrase of Deut 17:8-13. The “prophet” who, according to A.J. 4.218, participates in the Jerusalem high court along with the high priest and gerousia, has been variously regarded as another term for the high priest, or as representing the scribes or the Pharisees. This paper builds on Sarah Pearce’s argument that the “prophet” is to be understood in the first place as Joshua, and that the passage presents this system of government as an ideal. A review of the use of “prophet” (προφήτης) in Josephus demonstrates that the historian consistently distinguished prophets such as Joshua from priests and kings; it also suggests that Josephus understood Deuteronomy 18 as a prediction of a succession of prophets, and, finally, that he intended A.J. 4.218 as a summary of Deuteronomy 18:15-22 as well as 17:8-13.
I worry that my title and abstract will confirm my friend and colleague's impression that conferences like SBL are "so . . . deadly . . . boring,"* but I am excited about the topic and glad for the opportunity to present it at a session dedicated to Josephus.

*His reasons are sound. I simply want to claim an exemption.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Graham Greene on Love, Hate, and Piety

I decided I had better read Graham Greene's great novel, The Power and the Glory (1940; Penguin Classics reprint 2003), because my colleague, Sean Davidson, gets so excited working through it with his first year English students. Now I see why. Here are a few highlights . . .

On love:
'Oh,' the priest said, 'that's another thing altogether - God is love. I don't say the heart doesn't feel a taste of it, but what a taste. The smallest glass of love mixed with a pint pot of ditch-water. We wouldn't recognize that love. It might even look like hate. It would be enough to scare us - God's love. It set fire to a bush in the desert, didn't it, and smashed open graves and set the dead walking in the dark. Oh, a man like me would run a mile to get away if he felt that love around' (199-200).
On hate:
He couldn't see her in the darkness, but there were plenty of faces he could remember from the old days which fitted the voice. When you visualized a man or woman carefully, you could always begin to feel pity - that was a quality God's image carried with it. When you saw the lines at the corners of the eyes, the shape of the mouth, how the hair grew, it was impossible to hate. Hate was just a failure of imagination (131).
On piety:
He had always been worried by the fate of pious women. As much as politicians, they fed on illusion. He was frightened for them: they came to death so often in a state of invincible complacency, full of uncharity. It was one's duty, if one could, to rob them of their sentimental notions of what was good . . . (127).
One of the novel's main emphases, it seems to me, is the depravity of common piety.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Taking Stock

It has been a long semester. My dream of reading Calvin's Institutes in a year gave way in February, just before the end of Book I. Now that classes are over, I have another 1000-1500 pages of essays to mark, as well as 160 or so final exams. (Thankfully, my faculty assistant is helping me out with the latter.) On the bright side, I am almost finished C.K. Barrett's great ICC commentary on Acts, I have kept my New Year's resolution (even taking a pass on the library book sale), and in just over a week I will be on my way to Israel with the Briercrest Israel Study Tour. The marking--well, it can wait until I return if necessary.

Oh, and it looks like we may be in the market for a new garage. A gust of wind ripped off part of our metal garage roof yesterday afternoon. It also burst open our garage walls:

One piece of aluminum got stuck in a tree in our back yard, two more landed several hundred feet away in the field behind our house. Here is the view from our fence (note the red circle):
A close up:

Monday, April 13, 2009

Helmut Thielicke on the Church and the (Christian) Academy

"[T]he church has the prior right to question us, even if it does not and cannot understand the details of our work; for we are pursuing our theological study in its very midst as surely as we are members of that church. Therefore these questions, even if they lack in detail some of the definite theological concerns that we entertain, may be highly relevant and constitute a fire through which we must always march. Ultimately these questions always have in mind our Christian life behind our theological reflections. They are therefore questions about our soundness in the faith. The church is our pastor." - Helmut Thielicke, A Little Exercise for Young Theologians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962), 25-26.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The struggle is the blood of the proof

I will rise from my bed with a question again
As I work to inherit the restless wind
The view from my window is cold and obscene
I want to touch what my eyes haven't seen

But they have packaged our virtue in cellulose dreams
And sold us the remnants 'til our pockets are clean
'Til our hopes fall 'round our feet
Like the dust of dead leaves
And we end up looking like what we believe

We are soot-covered urchins running wild and unshod
We will always be remembered as the orphans of God
They will dig up these ruins and make flutes of our bones
And blow a hymn to the memory of the orphans of God

Like bees in a bottle we are flying at fate
Beating our wings against the walls of this place
Unaware that the struggle is the blood of the proof
In choosing to believe the unbelievable truth

But they have captured our siblings and rendered them mute
They've disputed our lineage and poisoned our roots
We have bought from the brokers who have broken their oaths
And we're out on the streets with a lump in our throats

We are soot-covered urchins running wild and unshod
We will always be remembered as the orphans of God
They will dig up these ruins
And make flutes of our bones
And blow a hymn to the memory of the orphans of God

- Mark Heard, "Orphans of God," from Satellite Sky

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Counterfeit Money

Heard the old canard about how people learn to detect counterfeits by studying the real thing (the point being that Christians should stay away from secular things and study only the truth of Scripture)? It's a myth.

Tim Challies and Mark D. Mathewson explain.