When we think of Israel’s prophets we often envision the great men of old who spoke on behalf of Yahweh. Yet often overlooked are the women in the Hebrew Bible designated prophetesses. Dr. Claude Mariottini has begun a series looking at the prophetess Huldah (2 Kings 22), first surveying female prophets as a whole in the Hebrew Bible (See here). Overall, Dr. Mariottini provides a good introduction, though I have reservations about various conclusions (eg. Isaiah’s wife as one of disciples). Though the Hebrew Bible largely presents the prophets as male, students would do well to remember the brave and faithful women that served served Israel as agents of Yahweh.
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As any student can attest, research can be a difficult but rewarding venture. My research generally follows a common pattern: after my own exegetical work, I begin the task of gathering “conversation partners” (ie. sources). This step can often be daunting for those new to a particular field or even new to the research process itself. Questions like “what if I leave out some authoritative source?” or “has my topic been exhaustively covered in some old monograph somewhere?” can often plague the minds of a careful researcher. For this reason it is good to have some “go-to” resources handy.
One such resource for me is the IBR (Institute of Biblical Research) bibliography series. The purpose of these works is to compile and evaluate works in a particular field of biblical studies (Pentateuch, Jesus, Old Testament Introduction, New Testament Theology, ect.) in an easily accessible format for the student or researcher.
I have greatly benefitted particularly from the volume on Prophecy and Apocalyptic, compiled by D. Brent Sandy and Daniel M. O’Hare. This book is a wealth of information on the background, literary features, and interpretive issues in prophetic/apocalyptic literature.
The bibliography is divided into two sections (Prophecy and Apocalyptic), with each section further arranged by resources on: 1) Information and Orientation; 2) Definition and Identification; 3) Conception and Communication; 4) Composition and Compilation (Prophetic section only); and 5) Transmission and Interpretation. Each segment contains lists of important works, summarized by the authors with the major contribution of the work identified.
One additional benefit for most students will be the emphasis on literature in English. While many significant works on prophecy have originated in German and French, the authors focus on books published , or at least translated, into English. For those who have not brushed on their research languages, this feature can save time while simultaneously sparing you the guilt of omitting works that appear important but are not accessible. We all know that Google Translate can only take you so far.
Of course, as with any work of this nature, the book can be outdated before it was even released. Since its publication in 2007, more research has been done in each area addressed by the volume. Regardless, the resources included in this bibliography provide a good starting point for a researcher. Gaining a handle of the standard works on a particular topic is always a good starting place. There is no doubt that, in some cases, this work can save students and researchers alike a significant amount of time performing complex database searches and shelf browsing. As I once read in a review of another monograph, “if this resource is not on your shelf, it is in the wrong place.”
If you missed it, a preliminary SBL program book is now available on their website (see here). Though I have only taken a glance at the units, two sessions look particularly interesting: 1) A Book of the Twelve session looking at “The historical context of the writings of the Twelve Prophets.” And 2) A session on the theology of the Hebrew Scriptures asking, “what is biblical theology?” I’ll be sure to post more updates as they become available.
(HT: Daniel McClellan)
Back in March, I mentioned Duane Garrett’s volume in the Baylor Handbook on the Hebrew Bible series on the text of Amos (see here). The current edition of the Review of Biblical Literature has a review on another monograph in the same series on the text of Malachi (see here). The review is generally positive, noting some of the negative aspects that I alluded to in my post. This looks like it will be another good resource, particularly for beginning Hebrew students.
Timothy Michael Law’s When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible is scheduled to be released by Oxford University Press on July 19th and this blog will be the coordinating hub for a book blog tour. I am excited about this book. Law has described it as a “…narrative history of the Septuagint’s origins and influence in early Jewish but especially Christian history,” which means it “does not attempt to be another introductory textbook…but narrates the story in an original way.” Since the Greek Bible proved to be very influential for incipit Christianity this study should be attractive to readers of this blog.
Tentatively, this is the schedule for the tour, i.e., what chapters will be reviewed, by whom, and when:
BRIAN LePORT (Friday, July 19th)
Introducing the blog tour
JOEL WATTS (Sunday, July 21st, http://unsettledchristianity.com/)
1 Why this Book?
2 When the…
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To what degree the Book of the Twelve should be read as a unity is a question I have wrestled with for some time. On the one hand, I hear compelling arguments made by Paul House, James Nogalski, and Barry Jones, while on the hand, lingering questions disallow my full reception of this view. While re-reading a chapter in Forming Prophetic Literature: Essays on Isaiah and the Twelve in Honor of John D.W. Watts by Ehud ben Zvi, I found myself in the struggle for understanding once again.
One strand of evidence that is usual championed for the supposed unity of the Twelve is Sirach 49:10 which reads, “And may he cause the bones of the twelve prophets to flourish from their place, for they comforted Jacob and rescued them by assured hope” (translation mine). As I have thought about this text, the weight that has been hoisted upon as evidence for unity has diminished in my own mind in recent months. For, the mention of the twelve prophets together hardly necessitates a unified reading of their books as is so often intimated. Equally valid could be the understanding of the prophet’s ministries during a critical point in Israel’s history. Furthermore, the task that the prophets are commended for is that of comforting Israel. This effort need not demand their unity.
This, among other sources, that are typically used as evidence for unity have recently fallen somewhat on rocky soil in my own research. Though I remain open to compositional and canonical considerations, I can now see the danger of assuming the unity of the Twelve at the outset of one’s reading. I think ben Zvi says it well:
If a researcher adopts a strategy of interpretation based on a reading of the ‘Book of the Twelve’ as a coherent, unified, literary text, then it is likely that she or he will find or emphasize meanings and properties in the text that are different from those brought to the forefront by those who study each book as a separate unit.
Certainly this is a discussion that will continue for some time, and I hope to hear both side of the conversation. While writing this post I discovered another monograph that seeks to foster such a conversation (see here).
 Ehud ben Zvi, “Twelve Prophetic Books or ‘The Twelve’: A Few Preliminary Consideration” in Forming Prophetic Literature: Essays on Isaiah and the Twelve in Honor of John D.W. Watts (ed. James W. Watts and Paul R. House; JSOTSup 235; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1996), 127-8.
Phil Long at Reading Acts has hosted the latest Biblical Studies Carnival. He has included lots of good articles in the realm of biblical studies, including a number of helpful book reviews. I recommend checking it out.
The legitimacy of rhetorical analyses of the New Testament has been an area of lively debate in scholarly circles. For anyone who was not at IBR this last year, the tension in the room during the dialogue between Stan Porter and Ben Witherington III was a bit uncomfortable to say the least. The question is, “should the text of the New Testament be studied as texts that would first have been preached?”
While New Testament scholars have greater difficulty coming to a consensus on this question, those who study prophetic literature can enjoy much more common ground. For, before the prophets’ messages were recorded, they were proclaimed to Israel and Judah. And as any good preacher knows, the power of a well managed illustration can hardly be underestimated.
In a previous post, I mentioned a paper I am presenting to a Prophetic Literature seminar on the rhetorical function of the remnant motif. Though I have since shifted the emphasis of my paper to a literary approach, I remain intrigued by the rhetorical usage of the motif, especially as it appears in negative contexts against both Israel/Judah and the nations. One instance that i found particularly stimulating was in the book of Zephaniah
In chapter 1, Zephaniah details the judgment of Yahweh “against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (v. 4a). Judgment is warranted for patterns of idolatry and syncretism, which had apparently seeped even into the king’s household (v. 8). In describing the objects of Yahweh’s judgment, Zephaniah says “And I will cut off from this place the remnant of Baal” (v. 4c). The phrase “remnant of Baal” has posed difficulty for many scholars, as it appears at first enigmatic.
Yet, the remnant here, paralleling the idolatrous priest in the following clause (v. 4d), evidences its intrinsically negative character. Furthermore, when set in conjunction with the other wicked groups mentioned in verses 4-6, the remnant appears to refer to more than the idols themselves, identifying, rather, a group of people.
The reason for the appropriation of “the remnant of Baal” in reference to a group, presumably of Judahites, may at first appear enigmatic, but when assessed on a rhetorical level, the motif provides insight into the situation in Judah. Marvin Sweeney notes that there exists a “tendency of biblical traditions to employ the language of the Canaanite cult to polemicize against YHWHistic practices that were not considered to be legitimate.”
Hence, what Zephaniah describes is a band of syncretistic priests acting not as the religious leaders of the holy remnant of Judah, but rather as the remnant of Baal. Such an image would certainly provoke the attention of his original audience.
In my view, Zephaniah’s ministry coincided with the Josianic reforms of. 622 BC, and was indeed influential in its success. Thus, the announcement of judgment by Zephaniah, accords with Josiah’s purging of syncretism during the early stages of restoration. The proclamation of Zephaniah during this time functioned to undergird and validate the king’s program of reform. And the remnant motif was a potent rhetorical device to motivate the people to reject lawlessness and embrace a posture of covenant fidelity. Zephaniah was indeed an able preacher.
 Marvin A. Sweeney, Zephaniah: A Commentary, Hermeneia (Minneapolis; Fortress, 2003), 68.
One of the great mysteries of this fallen world is the paradox of faithful believers who experiences the ravages of sickness, while many in rebellion against God live in seeming prosperity. Yet, though a strange phenomenon, this tension is nothing new to the people of God, for texts such as Psalm 73 wrestle with this very issue.
Engulfed in the weariness of hardship, the psalmist questions whether he has sought obedience in vain (vs. 13). For, faithfulness to God’s law hardly produced the life of ease enjoyed by the wicked, who, though they set their mouths against heaven (vs. 9), are free from pangs until death. The contrast between the two, at first, appears to render godliness as a fool’s errand, as it does not stay the suffering of this life. But upon entry into the presence of Yahweh, a clear perspective is elucidated.
Though the wicked appear to prosper, their end is ruin (vs. 18-20), but those beloved by Yahweh are comforted by his sustaining presence. The language employed by the psalmist depicts the intimacy and joy found in his walk with his God. He concludes the Psalm by reiterating the blessing of dwelling near to God his refuge, telling of his glorious works (vs 28).
Just yesterday, New Testament scholar Rod Decker posted a personal note regarding an update in his battle with cancer. It appears that a recent diagnosis has shown the cancer to be more widespread and aggressive than originally had been anticipated. Yet rather than despair, his response to the news is encouraging, as he states,
Should God see fit to spare me at any point in the process, either through medical intervention or supernaturally, I shall be grateful and know that my work here was not yet finished. If, on the other hand, you should hear in the years ahead that God has seen fit in his sovereign providence to take me home, then you will know that what he gave me to do here was finished.
Such a perspective should serve as a reminder for Christians enduring a season of suffering that God has purposed good for those he has called to himself.
Yet the question remains: why does God allow those used in the advance of the gospel to fall to sickness or tragedy? Though we may not fully know the sovereign purpose of God in this life, we can take heart that the big picture is nothing less than glorious.
Continue to pray for Rod Decker as he presses on in life and ministry in this time of hardship. You can read the rest of his post here.
In case you missed it, there has been a good bit of hype over the last several months around the launch of the Marginalia Review of Books site. The team of accomplished scholars created this site as an avenue for quality, open-source, book reviews. Below is an excerpt from their about page. Time will tell how profitable this resource will prove to be, but so far looks impressive.
The Marginalia Review of Books (ISSN 2325-8357) is an international review of academic literature from a range of disciplines along the nexus of history, theology, and religion. We publish reviews on the final Tuesday of every month, and a variety of contributions to intellectual culture – including essays, interviews, and op-eds – throughout the month. MROB aims to enhance the quality of the academic book review, to explore the creative possibilities of the web, and to help authors make their work more easily discoverable than in some traditional journals. We hope to see the academic review in historical, theological, and religious studies move closer to the standard of The Times Literary Supplement or the The New York Review of Books. As a purely digital publication, we have been inspired by The Los Angeles Review of Books.