The next question that I must answer in my academic pursuits is why would a Christian get their PhD in the Old Testament? Wouldn’t you rather learn about Jesus? Isn’t Paul more edifying and instructive? Well the answers to those questions may be yes, for some. But I have always found the Old Testament (I do not say Hebrew Bible because I am thinking of both the MT and LXX, as I will be studying both) to be fascinating, edifying and immensely instructive. I have also found the OT incredibly difficult. Many of the most difficult issues in the Bible, especially those that repulse non-Christians, come from the OT. For this reason I feel the need to truly understand this greater half of the Christian Bible. 

 

The OT also has the uncanny ability to be inexhaustible (I do not mean that the NT does not, but the OT does in a different way, as we will see presently). As a boy, my Mom tried all the tricks to get me to read my Bible. The most successful ‘trick’ was to point me to all the warfare and violent passages of the OT. I remember vividly reading about Ehud the left-handed judge  and David’s mighty men. Nothing sounded more un-Biblical to me than these passages of testosterone filled heroism and unmitigated gore. They were fascinating to me as adventure stories on a very basic level and they got me asking questions about God and his dealings with people. I am now, however, going to study one of those stories (David and Goliath) on the most detailed level, a PhD dissertation, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that that text will not disappoint me on any level. My point is this, the OT narratives have the incredible ability of distilling their main messages to the most basic level where they are understandable to simple readers (not that there are not some significantly R-rated parts of the Bible that children should not read, there are), but on the other hand the OT was written with such literary sophistication and depth of meaning that a short passage can sustain a great deal of study and illumine a whole array of meaning. This is part of what draws me to the OT.

 

I am, however, a Christian and the NT is immensely important to me. I will always read the NT and I will always be a student of it. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that many of us Christians read our Bibles in the wrong direction…back to front. I have heard it said numerous times that it is only in light of the NT that the OT can be understood. This seems fundamentally backwards to me. I am more of the opinion that only in light of the OT can the NT be understood! Try reading the Return of the King without having previously read the Fellowship of the Ring and the Two Towers. You have no idea what this great climax is about. I feel the same way about the NT. Now, that does not mean that knowing where the story ends (NT) does not illuminate more precisely what has gone before. Any good novel reveals new information on a multiple readings because you know where the story is going. But that doesn’t mean that you should read the end first. So in my desire to understand the NT I find it necessary to start with the OT. 

 

Furthermore, I have a suspicion that the OT is significantly under-appreciated within Christian circles. Aside from Psalms and Proverbs I don’t think the OT is widely read. I think this is incredibly unfortunate. Let me give you one anecdotal example of why this is so. When my dad told his friend Tony Campolo, that his son would be pursuing a PhD in the Old Testament, he said this: “That’s great. We need people to read the OT. You can know Jesus from the NT but YOU DON’T KNOW GOD, unless you read the OT!” I think he may have been intentionally overstating the issue, but I think he’s got a point. Thus, I will be studying the OT, as the greater half of the Christian Bible.

Christopher R. Seitz, Prophecy and Hermeneutics: Toward a New Introduction to the Prophets (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 253pp. + Indeces.

Since I won this book at the last NW ETS meeting I had been looking forward to reading it. As the descendant of Brevard Childs (academically speaking) Christopher Seitz has done amazing work in the area of canonical biblical interpretation. In this work especially, he takes Childs concept of canon and applies in a pan-biblical manner. So that it is not only important to look at the final form of each individual text, but it also important to look at the final form of the biblical canon as a whole.

Seitz divides his study into two parts. The first part, titled: The Overreach of History — Figuring the Prophets Out, is really an interaction with the concept/genre of an introduction to prophetic literature. What Seitz is arguing here is that the high view of the biblical prophetic works, as a genre has contributed to them being given “a kind of distinctiveness or sharp profile for themselves in respect of biblical theology, biblical history, and literary and canonical integration, which makes it difficult to relate them to one another or to understand them as an associated movement” (56). Thus, they have seemingly been figured out of the biblical picture and become a witness in and of themselves. He reviews the history of such books as ‘introductions to biblical prophecy’ and finds that (more…)

LXX’s view of God’s Repentance

1 Sam. 15:11, 29, 35

Text

1Sam. 15:11 παρακέκλημαι ὅτι ἐβασίλευσα τὸν Σαουλ εἰς βασιλέα ὅτι ἀπέστρεψεν ἀπὸ ὄπισθέν μου καὶ τοὺς λόγους μου οὐκ ἐτήρησεν καὶ ἠθύμησεν Σαμουηλ καὶ ἐβόησεν πρὸς κύριον ὅλην τὴν νύκτα 

1Sam. 15:29 καὶ διαιρεθήσεται Ισραηλ εἰς δύο καὶ οὐκ ἀποστρέψει οὐδὲ μετανοήσει ὅτι οὐχ ὡς ἄνθρωπός ἐστιν τοῦ μετανοῆσαι αὐτός 

1Sam. 15:35 καὶ οὐ προσέθετο Σαμουηλ ἔτι ἰδεῖν τὸν Σαουλ ἕως ἡμέρας θανάτου αὐτοῦ ὅτι ἐπένθει Σαμουηλ ἐπὶ Σαουλ καὶ κύριος μετεμελήθη ὅτι ἐβασίλευσεν τὸν Σαουλ ἐπὶ Ισραηλ 

Translation

15:11 ‘I have comforted myself since I crowned Saul as King, because he has turned from away from behind me and my words he has not kept. And Samuel was disheartened and cried out to the Lord all night.’

15:29 ‘And Israel will be divided into two and he will not turn back nor repent because He is not like a man in that he does not repent.

15:35 ‘and Samuel did not add again to see Saul until the day of his death because Samuel mourned Saul and the Lord regretted that he had made Saul King over Israel.’

Translational Issues (more…)

Ronald J. Williams, Williams’ Hebrew Syntax, Third Edition Revised and Expanded by John C. Beckman (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007), xvi + 211pp. + Appendices.

Having already been forced to buy the second edition of Williams’ Hebrew Syntax in my undergraduate studies I was of course reticent to fork out the money for the third edition. My professor, thankfully, was insistent that this version was well worth owning. So, despite my wallet’s protestations I purchased this third edition expanded by John C. Beckman.

In my opinion, Beckman has taken, what was already an excellent resource and made it into an invaluable resource. I have always found Williams’ presentation of Hebrew Syntax to be succinct ant helpful in its categorizations, especially for such a brief treatment. Beckman, however, has taken this resource to the next level of usefulness. I will briefly lay out how this third edition has improved on the first then make some final comments on the work as a whole.

The first noticable change in this third edition is (more…)

 

Last Sunday, our pastor preached on this passage (among others). As I was scrambling to keep up in my Readers Hebrew Bible, I realized that the translation that he read was not even close to what I had in my Hebrew Bible. He read something like this: ‘Wealth obtained by fraud dwindles, but the one who gathers by labor increases it’ (NASB). A look at several different translations show the struggle to understand this verse:

NRSV – Wealth hastily gotten will dwindle, but those who gather little by little will increase it. 

NET – Wealth gained quickly will dwindle away, but the one who gathers it little by little37 will become rich.

NIV – Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.

ESV – Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.

NASB – Wealth obtained by fraud dwindles, but the one who gathers by labor increases it.

JPS – Wealth may dwindle to less than nothing, but he who gathers little by little increases it.

The Hebrew, however reads: הון מהבל ימעט וקבץ על־יד ירבה. Translated as literally as possible this reads: (more…)

Septuagintal Saturdays have become an occasional affair, and I think I”m going to have to make my peace with that. However, when I get around to doing them I find them very educational and fun. This one was no exception.

Gog or Agag? Num. 24:7

Text:

Num. 24:7 ἐξελεύσεται ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τοῦ σπέρματος αὐτοῦ καὶ κυριεύσει ἐθνῶν πολλῶν καὶ ὑψωθήσεται ἢ Γωγ βασιλεία αὐτοῦ καὶ αὐξηθήσεται ἡ βασιλεία αὐτοῦ 

MT/LXX Comparison

MT LXX
יזל־מים מדליו ἐξελεύσεται ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τοῦ σπέρματος αὐτοῦ
וזרעו במים רבים κυριεύσει ἐθνῶν πολλῶν
וירם מאגג מלכו καὶ ὑψωθήσεται ἢ Γωγ βασιλεία αὐτοῦ
נשׂא מלכתו καὶ αὐξηθήσεται ἡ βασιλεία αὐτοῦ 

Translation: 

“A man will come forth from his seed 

and he will rule many nations 

and his kingdom will be lifted up above Gog, 

and his kingdom will be increased.”

(more…)

Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., The Messiah in the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), 235 + Appendices and Indices. 

In preparation for my ‘Messiah in the Old Testament’ class this summer I read Kaiser’s take on the subject. Having read Fitzmyer’s work, I found this one to be an entirely different take. Kaiser is only concerned with the biblical texts themselves, paying little attention to how they have interpreted historically (though he does touch on this at points).

Kaiser organizes his book diachronically based on a very conservative dating of texts. Thus, after an introduction, he looks at 1) messianic passages in the Pentateuch, 2) before an during the monarchy, 3) in the psalms, 4) in the ninth and eighth century prophets, 5) in Isaiah, 6) in seventh and sixth century prophets, and 7) in the post-exilic prophets.

Kaiser begins by citing what he believes is the usual definition of the term ‘messianic,’ namely, “everything in the OT that refers to the hope of a glorious future” (15). He is aware that this is problematic since many passages that speak of a glorious future speak of the Lord’s actions rather than the Messiah’s but he also claims that there are significant overlap between the actions of the Lord and the actions of His Messiah. 

From the start, as Kaiser surveys the various texts, he sees Messiah in almost every passage traditionally thought of as messianic. He argues that the ‘edenic promise’ is a messianic promise, even though he is aware it is only the beginning of a progressive revelation of the messianic message. Throughout his book he tends to make arguments (some very good, some less so) for Messiah in all the traditional passages. 

One major weakness of Kaiser’s book is that it reads like an insiders discussion amongst evangelicals. He interacts most often with James Smith, What the Bible teaches about the Promised Messiah; Charles Briggs, Messianic Prophecy; the commentaries of Keil and Delitzsch, and Kaiser’s own previous works. Almost no mention is made of classic texts such as Mowinckel’s. 

Despite that drawback, Kaiser’s work, though written at a semi-popular level is also capable of making fairly detailed arguments. For example, he argues that Jeremiah 23:5-6 should be understood as “the LORD our righteousness” (as opposed to “the LORD is righteousness”) based on the accent marks of the Masoretic Text (and not just the atnac or zaqef…)

It took me a while to get into this book but in the end I enjoyed it. If you are looking for a good defense of a conservative reading of messianic prophecies than this a good choice. If Fitzmyer is overly minimalistic in his views, Kaiser may be overly maximalistic. Hopefully, somewhere between them is a good view of the messianic passages of Scripture. It would be a great exercise to compare the arguments of Kaiser and Fitzmyer of some specific passages but that is fodder for another post, or series of posts.

ANE Thought John H. Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 334 pp. + Appendix.

This book was my introduction to Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) thought. As such, I do not have a great depth of knowledge of this subject, but I do have the unique opportunity to review this book as the audience it was intended for. As an introduction to the conceptual world of the Old Testament, I am the target audience.

As an introduction, this book functioned very well. There is a great amount of information in this book but not in such a way that a lay reader cannot keep up. The main thrust of this book is to paint a picture of the worldview of the ANE. It is not primarily about the Old Testament, though the author, through a series of ‘call outs,’ does interact with the similarities and differences between the worldview of the ANE and the worldview of ancient Israel. Furthermore, as an introduction to worldview, this book is not a history of the ANE. It is arranged topically, rather than chronologically or geographically, though within topics the author does differentiate between different areas.

Walton divides this book into 5 parts: 1) and introduction to Comparative Studies, 2) Literature of the ANE, 3) Religion, 4) Cosmos, and 5) People.

The first part introduces the discipline of comparative studies and what we could seek to gain from it. The main reason for doing comparative studies is (more…)

Apparently I’m stuck in key texts in Genesis. This is partly because Genesis is good narrative material and partly because I still have John Wevers’ Notes on the Greek Text of Genesis checked out from the library. This text jumped out at me because I’m reading Waltke’s Old Testament Theology. I had not heard the interpretation he takes on the Tower of Babel before, and it stood out to me. When I was reading the greek text of that story it dawned on me that Waltke’s interpretation is not possible there as it is in the MT (see comment below). Anyway, happy Septuagint Saturdays.

 

The Building of the Tower

Text:

Gen. 11:1 καὶ ἦν πᾶσα ἡ γῆ χεῖλος ἕν καὶ φωνὴ μία πᾶσιν 

Gen. 11:2 καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ κινῆσαι αὐτοὺς ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν εὗρον πεδίον ἐν γῇ Σεννααρ καὶ κατῴκησαν ἐκεῖ 

Gen. 11:3 καὶ εἶπεν ἄνθρωπος τῷ πλησίον δεῦτε πλινθεύσωμεν πλίνθους καὶ ὀπτήσωμεν αὐτὰς πυρί καὶ ἐγένετο αὐτοῖς ἡ πλίνθος εἰς λίθον καὶ ἄσφαλτος ἦν αὐτοῖς ὁ πηλός 

Gen. 11:4 καὶ εἶπαν δεῦτε οἰκοδομήσωμεν ἑαυτοῖς πόλιν καὶ πύργον οὗ ἡ κεφαλὴ ἔσται ἕως τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ ποιήσωμεν ἑαυτοῖς ὄνομα πρὸ τοῦ διασπαρῆναι ἐπὶ προσώπου πάσης τῆς γῆς 

 

Translation:

1) And all the earth was one tongue and one speech [was] for all.

2) And it happened as they moved from the east, they found a plain in the land of Sennaar and they settled there.

3) And a man said the neighbor, “Come, let us make bricks and roast them in fire and the brick became unto stone and bitumen became for them clay.

4) And they said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city and a tower, the head of which will be unto the heaven and let us make for ourselves a name before [we] are scattered upon the face of the earth. (more…)

This verse has been brought to my attention recently and made me realize that there was a significant difference between the MT and LXX that I missed. So I decided that for today’s Septuagint Saturdays it would be worthwhile to revisit this text. 

Previously, I noted, based on the difference between τηρήσει and שׁוף, that “it seems, to this translator at least, that the LXX has taken a little thunder out of the protoeuangelion.” While that remains true of that translational observation another, significant translational observation points in the other direction. Thus the new section of this post, below, under αὐτός vs. ‏הוא. I have also added a short ‘concluding thoughts’ section and a bibliography.

The Curse of the Snake and the Woman
Gen. 3:15 καὶ ἔχθραν θήσω ἀνὰ μέσον σου
καὶ ἀνὰ μέσον τῆς γυναικὸς
καὶ ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ σπέρματός σου
καὶ ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ σπέρματος αὐτῆς
αὐτός σου τηρήσει κεφαλήν
καὶ σὺ τηρήσεις αὐτοῦ πτέρναν

Gen. 3:16 καὶ τῇ γυναικὶ εἶπεν
πληθύνων πληθυνῶ τὰς λύπας σου
καὶ τὸν στεναγμόν σου
ἐν λύπαις τέξῃ τέκνα
καὶ πρὸς τὸν ἄνδρα σου ἡ ἀποστροφή σου
καὶ αὐτός σου κυριεύσει

Translation
15 And enmity I will place between you
and between the woman
and between your seed
and between her seed
he will lie in wait for your head
and you will lie in wait for his heel.

16 And to the woman he said,
I will greatly increase your pain
and your groaning;
in pain you will bear children.
And to your husband will be your returning
and he will dominate you.

Translation Notes
τηρεω
How this verb translates the MT equivalent will be discussed below, but my translation of this verb as ‘lie in wait for’ needs some explaining. The standard translation for this word is (more…)