Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Book Giveaway!

Ok, I wasn't going to do a giveaway, but I just couldn't help myself. So here is the week's book.

Michael Coogan The Oxford History of the Biblical World (2001). Here is the blurb.

In this impressive volume, leading scholars offer compelling glimpses into the biblical world, the world in which prophets, poets, sages, and historians created one of our most important texts--the Bible. For more than a century, archaeologists have been unearthing the tombs, temples, texts, and artifacts of the ancient Near East and the Mediterranean world. Using new approaches, contemporary scholars have begun to synthesize this material with the biblical traditions. The Oxford History of the Biblical World incorporates the best of this scholarship, and in chronologically ordered chapters presents the reader with a readable and integrated study of the history, art, architecture, languages, literatures, and religion of biblical Israel and early Judaism and Christianity in their larger cultural contexts. The authors also examine such issues as the roles of women, the tensions between urban and rural settings, royal and kinship social structures, and official and popular religions of the region. Understanding the biblical world is a vital part of understanding the Bible. Broad, authoritative, and engaging, The Oxford History of the Biblical World will illuminate for any reader the ancient world from which the Bible emerged.

So put your name below and I will choose a winner on Sunday.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

In the Mail: Bruce Fisk - A Hitchhikers Guide to Jesus

Last week the kind folks at Baker publishing sent me a copy of Bruce Fisk's new book A Hitchhiker's Guide to Jesus: Reading the Gospels on the Ground. Here is the blurb.

This imaginative approach to Jesus studies chronicles the journey of Norm, a fictional college graduate who travels to the Middle East to see if he can study Jesus and follow him at the same time, and if curiosity will make him a better disciple or no disciple at all.

Norm sets out on an adventure to investigate the New Testament and the life of Jesus for himself, hitchhiking simultaneously across the Gospels and the land. His travels offer students and lay readers a creative and engaging way to explore many of the major questions in Jesus studies today. Will Norm be able to reconcile his Christian faith with critical scholarship? As readers follow his faith journey, they learn the importance of asking probing questions. The book's lavish, journal-style interior design--featuring maps, photos, doodles, sketches, and email exchanges between Norm and his professor--makes it fun to read.

I started reading the book the other day and I cannot put it down. It is an outstanding introduction to the Gospels that integrates the questions associated with biblical criticism while at the same time thinking about the implications for faith. Fisk has done a fine job of taking the reader along the journey as 'Norm" travels through Israel learning about Jesus. It is like Gerd
Theissen's The Shadow of the Galilean, only better.

Now here is the best part. I will be participating in a blog tour that will feature reviews of Fisk's book. In the first week of October Baker has arranged for bibliobloggers to post reviews of the book. And, there will also be contests with prizes. So be sure to check back in October for the blog tour.

In the mean time, order Fisk's book. You will not regret it.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What have the Romans ever done for us?

I was writing my commentary on Thessalonians today and was thinking about what Paul meant by "gospel" in 1 Thessalonians 1:5. As I was doing some background reading I encountered a critique of "gospel" as it was used by ancient Rome. The writer noted instances when "gospel" (i.e. good news) was used by Roman emperors for political propaganda. The writer called this sort of usage the "gospel of Rome."

It has become quite popular over the last few decades for New Testament scholars to bash ancient Rome and suggest that when first century Christian writers use terms like gospel, Lord, savior, kingdom, etc, that these authors are deliberately critiquing Rome and its emperors. Some modern scholars have pushed this interpretation so far that the New Testament looks less like a theological book and more like a political manifesto. And perhaps that is part of the problem. Too often some of these interpretations of "Rome's gospel" are clearly motivated by frustration with American hegemony. And while I think American policy does need to be critiqued and criticized, I am not sure that authors like Paul and others were doing same thing with Rome as some modern scholars suggest. To hear some New Testament scholars talk there was nothing good about ancient Rome and that the world would have been better off without it.

This got me thinking: Did everyone in the ancient world hate Rome? Which then reminded me of the scene from the Monty Python film Life of Brian in which the Jewish rebels are planning to kidnap Pilate's wife because they hate the Romans. But of course, as the below clip makes clear, not everything about the Romans was all that bad.

I think there are some New Testament scholars who resemble John Cleese in this clip. They begrudgingly acknowledge the positive contributions made by Rome, but quickly brush them aside to get to what they perceive as the "real problem," and then fill in the blank with whatever it is they consider to be the long, evil shadow of Rome on the world. I would appreciate a little more balance in this area of scholarship.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What happens when New Testament scholars have too much time on their hands

This video is flying around different biblioblogs. And since I don't have anything else to post at the moment I thought I would share it with you.

Here is Richard Hays and Joel Marcus along with Norman Wirzba and Charlie Watts doing a parody of the Rolling Stone hit Satisfaction. They sing about why doctoral students can't get no inspiration.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Around the blogosphere on a Monday Morning

It has been somewhat quiet this week, but here are some things that have been of interest to me.

Over at Christianity Today, David Neff has an interesting article on why eschatology is important for our understanding of Justice.

Arutz Sheva has an article on En Gedi and the synagogue that has been excavated there.

At Religion Today, Paul Flesher asks What did a First Century Synagogue look like?

Allan Bevere is starting a new series on: What is Heresy?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Friday Book Giveaway!

Congrats to Cameron Coyle! He is the winner of this week's giveaway Christian Origins: A People's History of Christianity edited by Richard A. Horsely (Fortress, 2010).

Cameron, send your details to me at and I will send the book out this week. Remember, you have five days to claim the book or it goes back on the shelf..