The publishing world is in a crisis. I have just learned that there are no longer enough ISBN numbers for new books because there are so many biblical Hebrew grammars taking up numbers–they are having to switch from 13 digit numbers to 21 digit numbers just to accommodate them.
With the upcoming release Jo Ann Hackett’s new biblical Hebrew grammar Karyn Traphagen has a review based on electronic galleys sent by the publisher. From her review it seems that the only thing really new about this grammar is Hackett’s terminology of the so-called waw-consecutive/conversive, etc. as the “consecutive preterite.” This is a good descriptive term but does it really justify an entirely new grammar? It doesn’t seem to me that she is doing anything pedagogically new with this book.
I think the time may have come to place a moratorium on the publication of new biblical Hebrew grammars unless they do something that present grammars do not do, that is, unless they teach people better. I think there are a couple grammars in the works that will do this but they are extreme departures from the standard deductive fare.
One of Simo Parpola’s more controversial proposals–that the Neo-Assyrians had a form of monotheism–is available for free on scribd, “Monotheism in Ancient Assyria.” This essay first appeared in One God or Many? Concepts of Divinity in the Ancient World: Essays on the concept of monotheism/polytheism in ancient Assyria, Egypt, Greece, and Israel, ed. Barbara Nevling Porter. Transactions of the Casco Bay Assyriological Institute, Vol. 1, 2000, pp. 165-209. Enjoy!
I commonly get an assertion framed as a question with the preamble: “Isn’t it possible that…” Before the student has time to finish the sentence I say, “Yes.” It just doesn’t matter what the rest of the sentence is because pretty much ANYTHING is possible. Just because something is possible in and of itself means almost nothing–it is possible that I might spontaneously combust while writing this post; is it likely?, heck no so I keep typing. However, biblical scholars keep supporting tenuous interpretations under the rubric, “it is possible…” (or the at times closely related, “it is plausible”).
I think the “it is possible” defense is used to support interpretations for two main reasons:
Someone can provide a sense of justification for holding onto opinions no matter how slim their support
One can short circuit hard thinking or opine on issues in which they are ignorant by employing the “it is possible” trump card
However, we should realize that almost any interpretation is possible to at least some degree. What we really should be asking is, “is it probable.” Those who desire properly warranted biblical interpretations and beliefs should be concerned about the likelihood that their interpretations are accurate and probable according to available data. The “it is possible” assertion provides only a thin veneer of support that is easily peeled back upon a moment’s reflection. “It is possible” isn’t saying anything because it includes everything.
The new round of book reviews in RBL is out. Among them is Gilbert Lozano’s review of Benjamin Sommer’s The Bodies of God which I reviewed here. I found it rather humorous that Lozano included a catalog of the book’s typographical and grammatical errors while Lozano’s own review contained it’s own fair share of these. For instance:
Christian readers of this book will appreciate the sensitivity with which Sommer treats this cornerstone of their belief. Protestant readers, on the other hand, will be surprised by Sommer’s comment…
As I Protestant I object to Lozano distinction between “Christian readers” and Protestants, what, am I not a Christian or something? Furthermore, this is surprising coming from someone who teaches at a Mennonite graduate school–someone who I assume is a fellow Protestant!
Lozano provides a rather detailed summary of the book but I don’t get any sense of his evaluation of it. He always keeps it at arms length and doesn’t weigh or assess it. In my opinion a summary is not a review.
If you’d like to check out my take on this book, click here, and you can see more of my reflections on writing reviews here.
I was reading Desmond Alexander’s biblical theology, From Eden to the New Jerusalem, and I came across a statement that seemed to be more speculation than real knowledge, “As regards the tabernacle [cosmic features were] conveyed through the use of fabrics that are blue, purple, and scarlet in colour, representing the ‘variegated colors of the sky’” (quoting from Beale’s “Eden, the Temple,” 16; Alexander quote is on pages 38-39). It seems to me that blue, purple, and scarlet were used because they were expensive fabrics that were therefore fit for royalty and divinity and it smacks of midrash to say that they represent colors of the sky. Anyone know of any textual link with these color used for the tabernacle because they represent the sky?
The prospect was made worse by the ability of the damned to witness the simultaneous bliss of their friends and relations in heaven; rather like economy-class passengers, huddled in the back of the aeroplane, catching an occasional glimpse behind the curtain of business-class travellers cosseted with hot towels and champagne.