October 2008

I am no archaeologist. I’m not even a true historian. I’m just a simple seminarian. But the recent findings at Khirbet Qeiyafa are potentially staggering. What an exciting find. For the details see the NY Times article, the official website, and a couple of posts by John Hobbins, here and here. The gist of the find is this: a recently discovered 10th century BCE fortress, which included an ostraca with Hebrew writing on it. The implications of this find are legion but here are a few POTENTIAL implications of this find. (I must say potential because it is still very early in the process and I don’t want to get ahead of myself).

  • If site really is an Israelite fortress, it is evidence of a significant civilization in the 10th century BCE. Thus, the biblical picture of the kingdom of ancient Israel could be more accurate than is sometimes allowed.
  • If the writing on the ostraca found turns out to be Hebrew (and the use of the word ‘to do’ makes that seem likely) then literacy could be have been much more widespread than is often thought.
  • If it is true that no pig bones were found at the site, as CNN reported, then this is evidence of very early practice of kosher laws.

This site has only begun to be excavated and we can only imagine what other treasures this site could produce. John Hobbins has said that this find marks the end of ‘minimalism’ as we know it. I think he’s right and I think that a 10th century Israelite fortress has the potential of being a site that is mentioned in the same breath as Qumran. Yeah, it’s that exciting!

Sidnie White Crawford, Rewriting Scripture in Second Temple Times (Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2008).

Crawford has provided a fascinating introduction and interaction with the genre of Second Temple literature which he terms ‘rewritten scriptural texts’ (12). She defines these texts as ‘a category or group of texts which are characterized by a close adherence to a recognizable and already authoritative bas text (narrative or legal) and a recognizable degree of scribal intervention into that base text for the purpose of exegesis’ (12-13). Often, she argues these texts make the same claim to authority as their base texts. In examining this category of texts, she examines the pentateuchal texts as they exist at Qumran, the 4QReworked Pentateuch texts, Jubilees, the Temple Scroll, the Genesis Apocryphon and the 4QCommentary on Genesis A. She argues that these texts fit within her category of ‘rewritten scriptural texts’ on a sliding scale. 

In examining the pentateuchal texts at Qumran, Crawford points out that that ‘one scribal tradition approached the text . . . [and] . . . if there were perceived imperfections, they should be removed by scribal intervention’ (36-37). This is a harmonizing tendency. Thus, though the Pentateuch was clearly viewed as authoritative at this time, it was (more…)

Our Pastor (I like to refer to him as Reverend John), preached on Ecclesiastes this last week. The gyst of his message was to juxtapose Ecclesiastes and Proverbs and ask which is right? Anyone who holds to the authority of the Bible would be uncomfortable with thinking one book is more right than another, but when you compare Ecclesiastes and Proverbs you are clearly confronted with two different views of life.

For example, Provers says: “Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men” (2:11) and “Pursue Wisdom, Live Wisely, She’ll keep you safe! Don’t be foolish, that leads to death”  (21:16).  Then in Ecclesiastes we see: “Then I thought in my heart, ‘The fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise?’ I said in my heart, ‘This too is meaningless'” (2:15). There are many other examples of discontinuity between Proverbs and Ecclesiastes and our pastor touched on many of them (you can listen to his sermon here).

He concluded that perhaps this is not a case of an either/or but a case of both and. The point is that very often the wisdom of Proverbs is true to life and should dictate our course of action. Then, on the other hand, sometimes life throughs you curves that cannot be easily explained by the proverbial cause and effect mentality. That is when the viewpoint of Ecclesiastes most clearly speaks to us.

As I listened to this sermon, I found myself thinking, (more…)


Lawrence Schiffman, From Text to Tradition: A History of Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism (Ktav Publishing, 1991), 299pp + Glossary.

Lawrence Schiffman has provided a readable and brief treatment of Jewish history, starting from the Biblical period through the Second Temple period and into the Rabbinic period, a span of over 1,000 years. Any history of this scope intended as an introductory level history must be necessarily brief and Schiffman’s book is no exception. This does not, however, keep it from being a useful and informative tool.

The author begins by stating that his method will be ‘historical’ but that his main focus is not ‘to tell the story of people, but rather to tell the story of ideas’ (2). His focus is therefore to trace the development of the Jewish religion from biblical to Rabbinic times against the backdrop of the historical realities in which it developed.

The second chapter contains a brief sketch of the the biblical heritage, summarizing the content and import of the biblical text. This chapter is really to set the scene for the following developments. He then turns to Judaism in the Persian period, which is a period of overlap between biblical Judaism and non-biblical Second Temple Judaism. Though his work is chronologically organized, in this chapter we see Schiffman’s strategy of treating each broad historical section topically. Thus, he begins by (more…)

Well I hope everyone enjoyed the previous joke post about my little brother and his NBC show. My apologies to anyone who took it seriously or felt tricked, I won’t mention any names (cough…Bamba). It wasn’t really meant to trick anybody but to merely have a little good fun at the great pic that my bro-in-law put together. If any of you know Ty and Robb, you know how classic that pic is and how ridiculous the idea of them being in a sitcom is. Well, I’m sure you enjoyed it. That post had over 250 hits in the last two days, which is a lot for this blog. So one more time for your enjoyment the classic pic:

Well it’s official! My brother’s sitcom deal with NBC has finally gone through and they’re getting ready to air the pilot episode Nov. 3! I talked to him today and he was really excited about it. Apparently, the show revolves around two (probably) heterosexual men and their life as aspiring musicians/actors/interpretive dancers. The backbone of the series will be the eccentric and bizarre relationship of Ty and Robb (hence the title: tobb). From what I’ve heard the show is a younger version of a cross between Two and a Half Men and Seinfeld. I don’t know about you, but I’ll be tuning in. 

Addendum: As I hope you are all aware this post is a complete joke. There is no way that any network would put these two guys on TV!

After writing the last post a very interesting power point presentation was brought to my attention (you can download it here). I encourage you to take a look at it, it is very interesting. The study details the decline of American churches by percentage of the overall population. While this is reason for many Christians to rant and rave about how much worse our culture is getting, the researchers of this study state the following conclusions:

American Culture is becoming more:

  • Post-Christian
  • Postmodern
  • Multiethnic

For Many Christians, this causes a Fear Reaction. Instaed of Fear, Rejoice – the world that is coming is very much like the Mediterranean World of the Early Church. We need to model our church’s mission on the early church’s mission to the Gentiles.

Christendom and a Christianized Culture have allowed the Church to talk about Jesus in a second-hand manner. We need to restor the priority of Jesus in our communication, engaging people with the words and actions of Jesus.

To draw such hopeful conclusions from data that supports the reality of the steady decline of American churches is, in my mind, a very mature Christian response to this fact. It seems to me that when Church and Empire or Church and Culture get in bed together it never makes for good, authentic Christianity. Let’s face it, Jesus was never a comfortable figure, he was radical. The early church was radical. Not in the sense of crazy and bizarre, but in the sense of strongly standing up to and against the norm of the day. It is here that the church can do its best work, when it has reason to say Jesus is Lord and the rulers of this world are not! I pray that the church can become that again.

It seems that I have had this conversation several times in the last few months. The question revolves around the observation that things seem to be getting worse in our society. We are facing intense economic downturn. If you look at hollywood you see that what we find morally acceptable is continuing on a downward spiral. Divorce rates are hovering around 50% for Christians and non-Christians. There are many things that we could point to that show that our world is getting worse. There are also many things that we could point to that show that our world is getting better, I don’t need to go into those here.

The point is that, biblically speaking, the world is not getting worse. It is in conflict, but it is not getting worse. Why do I say this? First, Jesus tells a great parable in Matt. 13:24-30. There he speaks of the kingdom of heaven as wheat in a field, but the enemy has sown his own kingdom, these are tares (or weeds). The parable speaks of the two kingdoms growing together. In the end they will be judged, but the tares do not overcome the wheat and the gardener does not rescue the wheat from the tares, they are opposing forces that grow up together to be judged accordingly ‘in the time of the harvest’ (ἐν καιρῷ τοῦ θερισμοῦ). 

Another reason we know that the world is not getting worse is the promise in 1 John 2:17. There the elder (writer of John and the epistles) writes concerning the world, which is a cipher for the ‘this worldly’ forces that oppose God. He says of the world that it and the desires of it are passing away (παράγεται). This world is presently passing away. What does this mean? Like was said earlier in the epistle “the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shinning” (2:8). The present world is being infiltrated by the kingdom of God, by the true light. When the light came into the world (see John 1:1-17) it signaled the end of the ‘this world’ not our physical world but the element of the world that opposes the kingdom of God. 

Therefore, to say that the world is getting worse is to fail to live in the reality that Scripture portrays. Yes we live in a world where the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the enemy grow up mixed with each other. But the world cannot overcome the kingdom of God, because Christ has already overcome the world. While the world may temporarily get worse this is just part of the ebb and flow of the two kingdoms growing together. The ultimate promise is that the world is getting better and will get better. No, not better, perfect.