The conversation will stream live here.
But the fact that it can be read apart from these larger contexts is no argument that it ought to be or that interpreting it only according to its ancient authors’ intentions yields the best reading. Indeed, the very question of authorial intention is enormously complicated when the text has many authors, has been repeatedly redacted, and now forms an integral part of a completed set of books to which many more authors and redactors have contributed. Considering Genesis in isolation inevitably impedes our understanding of the importance of the scriptural canon by which it comes to us.
Ronald Hendel leaves the impression that nowadays the book of Genesis can be handled credibly only by artists, activists, and antiquarians. A fuller study would have to take account of its role in modern Jewish and Christian religious thought, where those who have pondered themes central to Genesis—creation, election, promise and the baffling workings of providence, for example—have made rich and productive use of the book. It would also have to take account of the fact that throughout the world, Genesis is read and expounded in synagogues and churches by and to educated, scientifically literate people. On the question of how we are to understand that important reality, The Book of Genesis: A Biography, illuminating on so many other things, needed to say more.
I have short piece up on the School of Christian Thought’s blog. Here’s the first paragraph to whet you appetite, click here for the whole thing.
The first time I heard the song must have been as I was weaving in and out of traffic. I was too impatient to wait for the DJ to name to title so with one eye on the road and the other on my phone I shazam’ed it. “Monkey Gone to Heaven” by The Pixies. By far my favorite song from them. Their music is a mix of discordant sound, screaming, and catchy loops; normally not my cup of tea. But anytime someone mixes environmentalism, a great hook, and esoteric Hebrew numerology they’ve won my heart…wait, hold up–do monkeys really go to heaven?
Marginalia: A Review of Books in History, Theology & Religion releases new reviews on the last Tuesday of the month but in between these times we release interviews or essays as well. So, you might want to check the site periodically to see if anything is new or you can follow us on Facebook or Twitter where we announce new stuff.
Today we released two stellar pieces that you will want to read:
David H. Aaron, Professor of Hebrew Bible & History of Interpretation at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati, writes on the art of the review essay. He gives very helpful advice to anyone who is thinking about writing this kind of piece.
Brennan Breed, Assistant Professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary, examines the reception history of Genesis 3:22-24 in a completely fascinating review essay.
This is one of the coolest projects that I’ve been a part of. We launch on Tuesday. Get ready.
Marginalia Review of Books
Contact: Timothy Michael Law (Publisher and Editor-in-Chief)
Phone: +49-151-504-70298 (Germany)
Facebook ID: themarginaliareview
The Marginalia Review of Books (http://themarginaliareview.com), a new international publication in the disciplines along the nexus of history, theology and religion, launches Tuesday, January 29.
Marginalia aims to correct what its Publisher and Editor-in-Chief believes to be a downward spiral. “We want to rehabilitate the ailing book review,” said Timothy Michael Law, currently an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow in the Georg-August Universität, Göttingen (Germany). “We are hoping to create a new standard that puts a premium on quality in both style and substance. Penetrating analysis and engaging prose should be held together.”
Law says the review is often the genre of academic writing that suffers the most neglect, but that it should receive more attention. “The review is functional as a service to each discipline of the academic community by separating the wheat from the chaff. But it is also an art worth recovering, since it can be the only vehicle that communicates our research to those outside of our specialized societies.”
Managing Editors Charles Halton and Anthony Apodaca are also hoping to test the limits of what is possible in academic publishing. Halton said, “Our creativity as scholars should not be limited to the construction of our ideas but should also include the forms of their expression. The web presents us with an opportunity to re-conceptualize the ways in which we package, mediate, and analyze our thoughts.” Marginalia will provide space for readers and authors to interact, create digital panel discussions on the most pivotal publications, and publish long form and peer-reviewed essays.
As important as quality and creativity are to Marginalia, General Editor David Lincicum, University Lecturer in New Testament in Oxford, insists that the editors are just as committed to making reviews more discoverable than those in traditional print journals. Joining the open-access movement, Marginalia will publish all content without charging the reader, directly challenging traditional publications that require readers to login from a university network or pay a hefty subscription.
Marginalia’s Advisory Board consists of more than thirty of the world’s leading scholars in the fields of history, theology and religion, and nearly forty early career scholars serve as Review Editors for the publication.
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief: Timothy Michael Law (Göttingen)
General Editor: David Lincicum (Oxford)
Managing Editor: Charles Halton (Houston)
Managing Editor: Anthony Apodaca (New York)
Secretary: Daniel Picus (Brown)
Marc Van De Mieroop (Professor of History, Columbia University)
Gebhard J. Selz (Chair of Old Semitic Languages and Oriental Archaeology, Vienna)
Anthony Sagona (Professor of Classics and Archaeology, Melbourne)
James Rives (Kenan Eminent Professor of Classics, Chapel Hill)
Jan Joosten (Professeur d’Ancien Testament, Strasbourg)
John Barton (Oriel and Laing Professor of the Interpretation of the Holy Scripture, Oxford)
Athalya Brenner (Professor Emerita of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Amsterdam)
Reinhard Kratz (Professor of Old Testament, Göttingen)
Anna Passoni dell’Acqua (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan)
Maren Niehoff (Associate Professor of Jewish Thought, Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Charlotte Hempel (Senior Lecturer in Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judaism, Birmingham)
Markus Bockmuehl (Professor of Biblical and Early Christian Studies, Oxford)
Mark Goodacre (Associate Professor in New Testament, Duke)
Daniel Stökl Ben Ezra (Directeur d’Études, École Pratique des Hautes Études Paris)
Willem Smelik (Senior Lecturer in Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic, London)
Joanna Weinberg (James Mew Lecturer in Rabbinical Hebrew, Oxford)
Andrew Louth (Professor of Patristic and Byzantine Studies, Durham)
Sarah Foot (Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History, Oxford)
Susan Boynton (Professor of Music, Columbia)
David J. Wasserstein (Professor of History, Jewish Studies, and Classics, Vanderbilt)
Adam Silverstein (Reader in Jewish Studies and the Abrahamic Religions, King’s College, London)
Anthony Grafton (Henry Putnam University Professor of History, Princeton)
Diarmaid MacCulloch (Professor of the History of the Church, Oxford)
Mona Siddiqui (Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies, Edinburgh)
Sholeh Quinn (Associate Professor of Islamic Studies, California Merced)
Ellen T. Charry (Margaret W. Harmon Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology,Princeton)
Joel Rasmussen (University Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Christian Thought, Oxford)
Aaron Rosen (Lecturer in Sacred Traditions and the Arts, King’s College London)
Nathan Abrams (Director of Graduate Studies and Senior Lecturer in Film Studies, Bangor)
Jeremy Begbie (Thomas A. Langford Research Professor of Theology, Duke)
Alan J. Torrance (Professor of Systematic Theology, St. Andrews)
Murray Rae (Head of Department of Theology, Otago)
David Rechter (University Research Lecturer in Modern Jewish History, Oxford)
Shmuel Feiner (Professor of Modern Jewish History, Bar-Ilan)
Charles Jones (Head Librarian, ISAW, New York)
Ancient Near East & Semitics
Jonathan Stökl, Leiden;
Ola Wikander, Lund
Ioannis Mylonopoulos, Columbia;
Ivana Petrovic, Durham
Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
Angela Roskop Erisman, Xavier;
Ingrid Lilly, W. Kentucky;
Jonathan Stökl, Leiden
Jane Heath, Durham;
Michael Thate, Yale
Theological Interpretation and Reception of the Bible
Brennan Breed, Columbia, Atlanta
Asad Q. Ahmed, Berkeley;
Rachel Friedman, Berkeley
Early Jewish History
Alison Schofield, Denver;
Sharon Weisser, Jerusalem
Rabbinic and Late Antique Jewish History
Holger Zellentin, Nottingham;
Shai Secunda, Jerusalem
Medieval Jewish History
Modern Jewish History
Simon Rabinovitch, Boston;
Adam Mendelsohn, Charleston
Andrew Radde-Gallwitz, Loyola Chicago;
Mark DelCogliano, St. Thomas
Late Antique Christianity
Julia Konstantinovsky, Oxford;
Emilio Bonfiglio, Geneva
Patrick Hornbeck, Fordham;
Helen Foxhall Forbes, Exeter
Joseph Williams, Rutgers
Early Islamic History
Asad Q. Ahmed, Berkeley;
Rachel Friedman, Berkeley
Medieval Islamic History
Blain Auer, Lausanne;
Matthew Melvin-Koushki, Oxford
Modern Islamic History
Darren Sarisky, Cambridge
Benjamin Myers, Queensland;
Brandon Gallaher, Oxford
Chris Barnett, Villanova
Kerry San Chirico, Hawaii;
Phillip Francis, Harvard
lisha Russ-Fishbane, Wesleyan;
David Shyovitz, Northwestern;
Stephen Burge, Ismaili Institute, London
Philosophy of Religion
Matthew A. Benton, Oxford
Religion, Culture, and the Arts
Ayla Lepine, Courtauld London
French and German
Carolyn Rosen, Royal Holloway London; Felix Albrecht, Göttingen
I’m trying to rethink the ways in which I teach Old Testament introduction and I came up with an assignment that I hope will interest the students:
The Story of Genesis Through the Sistine Chapel
Using the Vatican’s interactive guide and virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, follow the “Central Stories” which depict Michelangelo’s interpretation of Genesis 1-9. Read Genesis 1-9 for yourself and in a two page, double spaced, essay compare and contrast Michelangelo’s interpretation of Genesis 1-9 with your own reading. Students might find it helpful to consult the class textbook for this assignment as well.
Interactive Guide: http://mv.vatican.va/3_EN/pages/CSN/CSN_Volta_StCentr.html
I aso made a short video that provides a little introduction to the assignment. Sure it’s cheesy and my dog snores in the background but who says education has be so stuffy? As always, let me know what you think.
It’s January 2. You’ve had some nice time off during the holiday season and you’ve recovered from New Year’s Eve. Now it’s time that we get back to work. I’m the first to admit that my writing needs improvement. With that in mind, here are four tips to help you and me become better writers in 2013.
In 1688 the first anti-slavery statement was drafted on US soil by Dutch and German Quakers in Germantown, Pennsylvania. Then, 150 years ago Abraham Lincoln read the Emancipation Proclamation that brought to an end legal slavery in the United States. Yet, blacks continued to suffer under many forms of oppression from lynching mobs to Jim Crow laws. While history books typically say that Jim Crow ended in 1965 with the Voting Rights Act which outlawed discriminatory voting laws, in many ways Jim Crow still exists but in different forms.
In The New Jim Crow Michelle Alexander outlines how “by targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control—relegating millions to a permanent second-class status—even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness.”
As we begin the new year, 150 years after the scourge of slavery was officially brought to an end (although by some estimates there are currently 20.9 million worldwide victims of slavery), I think it would be beneficial to reflect on how our perceptions, actions, political positions, and so on serve to create an environment in which all members of our society can flourish or whether we are creating structures that actively suppress and repress significant portions of our society.
It is all the more important that people of religious conviction reflect on these topics. To be sure, religious individuals and communities often were early and strong proponents for ending slavery, righting injustices, and supporting the oppressed. Yet, often times religion was used in efforts to keep blacks enslaved and to spread mortal fear within black communities long after the Emancipation Proclamation. As James Cone has shown in the Cross and the Lynching Tree, whites used the symbol most closely associated with Christianity, and even Jesus himself, the cross, to strike terror in the hearts of black communities as they left crosses burning in yards and limp dark bodies swinging in the trees.
Thankfully, it is now rare indeed to encounter burning crosses but as Michelle Alexander has shown there are structures and policies which work to repress blacks and other minorities. This fact should be abhorrent to anyone who has an interest in the Hebrew Bible. The biblical prophets often saved their most scathing comments for people who participated in and supported structures like this. When the prophets encountered these situations they often called for the wholesale destruction of the present power structures and called upon God and his people to create a new and just order in their place.
One such prophet was Amos. And maybe Amos is a good place for us to begin our reflection this new year. To that end, John Barton has written a nice, brief book on the theology of Amos that would be a helpful complement to our study:
For the biblical prophets, policies that create enslavement are forces of evil in the world. And those who work to perpetuate these policies are complicit in this evil. People who are a part of a religious community that holds the Bible dear do not have the option of keeping quiet in the face of these realities. For instance, the Babylonian Talmud says that if someone remains silent even though they had an ability to speak then they will be punished:
Whoever is able to protest against the transgressions of his own family and does not do so is punished [liable, held responsible] for the transgressions of his family. Whoever is able to protest against the transgressions of the people of his community and does not do so is punished for the transgressions of his community. Whoever is able to protest against the transgressions of the entire world and does not do so is punished for the transgressions of the entire world (Shabbat 54b).
And, Jesus reiterates the Golden Rule to “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31).
I think 2013 presents a strong challenge to the American Christian community in particular. For far to long many of us have used our positions within society to ensure our continued economic and social dominance. We have enjoyed a comfortable life on the backs of others. But, do we care about following the prophetic model that we see in the Hebrew Scriptures of challenging societal structures that oppress and enslave? Do we care about following Jesus’s teachings to love others and work towards systems that will benefit them just as they benefit us? And, how will we vote in 2013 and in the future? Will we continue to support politicians and policies that create a new Jim Crow or will we rediscover a biblical vision of peace and justice for all?
If you are interested in learning about ancient Mesopotamia it’s hard to do better than A. Leo Oppenheim’s classic book, Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead Civilization. The University of Chicago has now made it freely available as a pdf download. Happy reading.