Archive for December, 2009
Greetings from southern California. Corrie and I are spending the week visiting relatives. Today we visited the world-famous Coronado Hotel right on the Pacific Ocean. For a Jersey boy, it’s a treat to see the sunset over the ocean instead of sunrise.
Now that I’ve finished my master’s degree and submitted about half of my doctoral applications, I have some time to relax and read for pleasure―and to blog a little. This is really the first time in a while that I haven’t had homework hanging over my head, all Damoclean-like. I took a winterim last year as well as a summer independent study (that turned into a summer-fall independent study!), so I’ve been going pretty much non-stop since I started at PBU last September.
My reading list is incredibly long, but with only three days per week of work at this point, I hope to take a considerable bite out of that list rather quickly. Right now I’m working on Hays’s The Moral Vision of the New Testament, Levitt’s SuperFreakonomics, and Richards’s Money, Greed and God. I also have quite a few more technical econ articles I’m excited about.
I’m also spending a lot more time just reading Hebrew and Greek rapidly. This morning I spent an hour-and-a-half doing my daily office from the BCP, because I decided to read all the biblical texts in Hebrew and Greek–one Psalm, and one passage each from the prophets, Revelation and the Gospels. It’s very rich and rewarding to read the original texts devotionally; I hope I’m getting better at seeing past the niphals and pluperfects in order to experience Christ in the texts. Tom Wright says that someone advised him early in his academic career to have one Bible for scholarly study and one Bible for devotional readings―and that, thankfully, he didn’t listen to this advice.
I’m hoping to pick up my German studies again in the New Year―my Austrian buddy has moved to MD but is willing to tutor me via Skype. I also want to get down with some Ugaritic; would anyone like to recommend a textbook?
I also have some time for research projects I’ve been meaning to finish. I did some work last year on Jewish self-identity and the matrilineal principle, and I need to revise my acrostics project based on some new reading I’ve done.
Hey, if I can accomplish half of this stuff in the spring, I’ll be a happy clam. What’s on TV?
Gary Schnittjer shared this in class on Tuesday, and I found it very interesting:
“It seems to me that the regulative idea that we heirs of the Enlightenment, we Socratists, most frequently use to criticize the conduct of various conversational partners is that of ‘needing education in order to outgrow their primitive fear, hatreds, and superstitions’ … It is a concept which I, like most Americans who teach humanities or social science in colleges and universities, invoke when we try to arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic, religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own … The fundamentalist parents of our fundamentalist students think that the entire ‘American liberal establishment’ is engaged in a conspiracy. The parents have a point. Their point is that we liberal teachers no more feel in a symmetrical communication situation when we talk with bigots than do kindergarten teachers talking with their students … When we American college teachers encounter religious fundamentalists, we do not consider the possibility of reformulating our own practices of justification so as to give more weight to the authority of the Christian scriptures. Instead, we do our best to convince these students of the benefits of secularization. We assign first-person accounts of growing up homosexual to our homophobic students for the same reasons that German schoolteachers in the postwar period assigned The Diary of Anne Frank… You have to be educated in order to be … a participant in our conversation … So we are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable. We are not so inclusivist as to tolerate intolerance such as yours … I don’t see anything herrschaftsfrei [domination free] about my handling of my fundamentalist students. Rather, I think those students are lucky to find themselves under the benevolent Herrschaft [domination] of people like me, and to have escaped the grip of their frightening, vicious, dangerous parents … I am just as provincial and contextualist as the Nazi teachers who made their students read Der Stürmer; the only difference is that I serve a better cause.”
– ‘Universality and Truth,’ in Robert B. Brandom (ed.), Rorty and his Critics (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), pp. 21-2.
I submitted my last paper at 10pm last night for the semester. I will be graduated Saturday with my master’s degree in Biblical Studies from Philadelphia Biblical University. Woohoo!
Being done is a real high. I didn’t have such an exciting experience when I completed my bachelor’s a few years back. I finished classes in May needing 6 science credits to graduate. I was planning to take a CLEP test in the summer, and then two community college classes in the fall if I couldn’t pass. So, I "graduated" on a Tuesday afternoon in July when I got the test results in the mail–sort of anticlimactic. I got my diploma in August. By the time I walked in May 2007, I had already been out of school and in the workforce for a year, I was getting married, etc. I had already moved on. I never had that emotional experience of pressing until the end, getting grades one by one, and walking in commencement ceremony all in one week.
But it’s done.
My wife is great–she has supported me emotionally and financially through these five graduate semesters–my sugar mamma. Thank you, Corrie–I love you!
Soli Deo Gloria.
I’ve been wrestling recently with the Protestant problem of the Septuagint. My tradition has considered the Masoretic Text and its 24 canonical books to be the Old Testament. The perception is that the LXX is a helpful translation of the Hebrew, but the Hebrew is the real thing. Yet the MT is medieval, and we know that it deviates in many places from the Vorlage of the old LXX. The text of Jeremiah is a prime example of this; we have found at Qumran both the proto-MT and the Hebrew basis for the LXX of Jeremiah, and it appears fairly certain that the LXX was the earlier version. The Qumran community evidently revered both versions to some degree.
This preference of the MT over the LXX is a relatively recent phenomenon, stemming from a Reformation desire to move away from the Vulgate. Jerome himself learned Biblical Hebrew and demonstrated that it was preferable in many instances over the LXX. (If you want a fascinating read, check out Jerome’s Hebrew Questions on Genesis, which is a running commentary and explanation of Jerome’s work comparing the Hebrew text of his day, the (proto-)Targumic material to which he had access, and the LXXs. It’s a shame that he was only able to do Genesis. This window into the Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic versions of the Bible in the 5th century is small but immensely helpful.)
I was recently re-reading Martin Hengel’s excellent book, The Septuagint As Christian Scripture: Its Prehistory and the Problem of Its Canon. He closes the book (pp. 126-27) with this quote from Harmut Gese:
"A Christian theologian may never approve of the masoretic [sic] canon. The continuity with the New Testament is in significant measure broken here. It seems to me that, among the effects of humanism on the Reformation, the most fateful was that the reduced pharisaic [sic] canon and the masoretic textual tradition which was appealed to as a ‘humanistic’ source were confused with one another and the apocrypha [sic] were set aside. With the thesis of the essential unity of the Old and New Testaments, of the one biblical tradition, the precarious question of the Christian interpretation of the Old Testament was settled….The New Testament brought the formation of Old Testament tradition to an end, a final conclusion. The formation of biblical tradition is thus, as a whole, concluded and thus, for the first time, in a deeper sense, canonical." ("Erwägungen zur Einheit der biblischen Theologie," in Vom Sinai zum Zion, Munich, 1990; pp. 16-17.)
I suppose my struggle is this: my tradition has taught me to try to be as faithful to the "original text" as possible, but it seems like such a thing is nearly impossible to pin down in the OT. (The texts of the NT are a different matter.) The textual and canonical history of the OT is quite fluid and choppy. In theory I would like to accept the LXX as Scripture. The main advantage, as Gese has noted, is continuity with the NT and the Church Fathers. But there are several theological and practical obstacles to my acceptance of the LXX.
1. The Septuagint has its own complicated textual history, as Hengel and others have outlined. The term "The Septuagint" implies that there is one, but there are really several Septuagints and many different witnesses to each. The unity and consistency of the MT, even if it came later, is at least emotionally appealing.
2. So, how do I teach the Apocrypha if I accept the LXX as Scripture? Is it fully authoritative in the church, or deutero-canonical? What does that even mean? I’m not a strict "inerrantist" when it comes to historical details in the Bible, but what of books like Judith and Tobit that appear to be complete fabrication? Reading the Apocrypha as Scripture would be a new hermeneutical challenge.
3. My church will not accept the Apocrypha. Could I be ordained in a tradition that does not esteem the Apocrypha as Scripture and yet teach it as Scripture?
4. I think there is much insight to be gained from a Hebrew canonical reading of the OT, particularly in the Writings. I also like the nuance and subtlety of MT Esther more than the theologized, pietized LXX version.
5. What does a Christian who accepts the LXX do with the Hebrew Bible? I love Hebrew and Aramaic, and I would hate to see Christians abandon the study of the Bible in these languages. Anyone who has read the Bible in Hebrew appreciates the beauty and complexity of these texts in their original languages. Even those who use the LXX acknowledge that it is Hebraicized Greek that is largely lacking in literary style.
So, what do I as an evangelical Protestant, broadly in the Reformed tradition, who likes the LXX? I know I’m not the only Protestant asking this question. I would appreciate your comments and suggestions.