Monday, November 30, 2009

What's with this sign?

This was in the men's restroom by the exhibit hall at SBL:

The first time I saw it, I thought I was in the women's restroom...

The building and its effects

“When we think that religion is what goes on in a building of recognizable ecclesiastical architecture, the damage comes in the perfectly natural human tendency to minimize religion in other places. When we think of religion as what transpires on Sunday morning, the harm lies in the tendency to suppose that what goes on at other times, in factories and offices, is not equally religious. When we think of religion as the professional responsibility of priests, clergymen, and rabbis, the major harm lies in the consequent minimizing of the religious responsibility of other men and women. The harm of too much localizing of religious responsibility in a few — however dedicated they may be — is that it gives the rank and file a freedom from responsibility which they ought not to be able to enjoy.”—Company of the Committed, page 9

<idle musing>
Which results in the dichotomy of secular and sacred. A classic example is the cabbie in my preceding post. I'm sure he didn't see the disconnect between his actions and the music; he probably is a good churchgoer and thinks of himself as a good christian.
</idle musing>

SBL, the return flight

As I was saying on Wednesday when the Internet got cut off...Our return trip to the airport in New Orleans began with two cabbies fighting over us. The one cabbie wanted all 6 of us (which would have cost us more), but the person at the Marriott told him he could only have 3 of us. So, another cabbie claimed three of us. The first cabbie began to object, loudly, that he was first and should get all 6 of us. Meanwhile, the other cabbie filled his cab and left. Another cabbie came up and three of us proceeded to move to his cab. The first cabbie had already loaded 4 of our suitcases and seemed to think that meant he got 4 of us, all the while making his claim loudly. In the end, 3 of us went in each cab, with the suitcases unevenly distributed. When we arrived at the airport, the first cabbie seemed to think that since he had 4 of the suitcases, he should be paid more. In the end, after Dave had called him on it, he agreed to the posted fare. The irony of all this is that he had Christian music going in his you sense a disconnect here? Then again, if your theology is one of substitution without transformation, maybe not. But, that is a subject for another day.

Because we got done so early, we had quite a bit of time at the airport, so we had one last New Orleans lunch. I really do like New Orleans food; I like spicy foods. So we waited for our flight, some of us reading, others knitting, others napping (or napping while reading...), some trying to make the wireless work (it was free, and worth every penny of it, but no more than that...). Then comes the lovely news that because of a glitch with Airtran, our flight to Atlanta was delayed ½ hour and our flight out of Atlanta was delayed a full hour. We were already getting into Indianapolis at 11:15 or so; now it would be about 12:15. From Indianapolis to Warsaw in about 2.5-3 hours; can you say tired?

The flight to Atlanta was without incident, but once we got there, the gates had all changed. No problem, except that our flight was sharing a gate with another flight. Talk about confusion. One person missed their flight; I think she ended up spending the night in Atlanta. Our plane was on the ground and waiting for us, but we couldn't embark; the flight attendants were still in the air on a different flight. Ah, the joys of air transportation: crowded flights, tight security, getting charged for luggage, late flights, should I continue?

Anyway, when the flight attendants came rushing up, there was a round of applause. They missed the irony, but I can't blame them. They probably wanted to get going as badly as we did. We embarked and left Atlanta behind on our way to Indy, arriving about 12:15. Disembarking, we headed for the baggage claim; we could still get home at a fairly reasonable time—NOT! We watched as another flight's luggage was unloaded within 5 minutes of their landing. We, on the other hand, waited for our luggage to be unloaded for 45 minutes! No explanation was given; we just had to wait. In the end, we arrived home after 4:00 AM EST. Our return trip had taken us more than 13 hours...needless to say, none of us were at work at 8:00 that morning :(

ἐν παντὶ εὐχαριστεῖτε· τοῦτο γὰρ θέλημα θεοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ εἰς ὑμᾶς. (I Thes. 5:18)
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (NRSV)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

SBL Day 4 and return

I got into the exhibit hall a bit early (one of the doors wasn't latched all the way), so I decided to try something new for the last day. I took all the books off their stands, except the new releases. Then I put them spine up on one table, creating a bargain-like look (it also allowed us to get a head start on tear down, but that wasn't the reason).

It was interesting to watch the response as people came in. Even though the prices were identical, people would grab a book and possessively hold it while looking at the next book. The attitude around the table was also less relaxed and more tense. Interesting, isn't it? I'm not sure I will do it again; I don't like the selfish attitude that it surfaced, but interesting, all the same.

Because I had a head start on tear down, we got done about 1/2 hour earlier than usual. So, we grabbed a cab—actually two—and headed to the airport. Getting the cab was an interesting experience. I'll post pictures on Monday and continue; right now they are cutting off the Internet to update the firewall...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The purpose of the law

“The law was never intended to serve as a foundation for the Christian life. We have no right or scriptural basis by which to select portions of the Mosaic law and claim that these should supervise believers. Paul teaches that believers are led by the Spirit and are not under the law. Thus, even the Ten Commandments are not designed to guide our daily living. The Ten Commandments are described as a ministry of condemnation that brings death. Who wants that in their life? We’re also informed that sin gains an opportunity through commandments, including the “Big Ten.” The law causes sin to increase, not decrease. Therefore, we can expect more struggle and more sinning if we adopt the law as our guide for living. Conversely, our release from the law directly results in a release from sin’s power. Apart from law, sin is dead.”—The Naked Gospel, page 232

<idle musing>
This is very hard to get some people to understand. They feel certain that without the law to keep them in line, they will wander. Why don't they understand that the law can't keep them from straying? (honest question)
<idle musing>

Monday, November 23, 2009

God is good--to me

“The idea that “Christ through me” could be frightening is rooted in a faulty sense of God’s character. What’s not to like about a God who is always for us and doesn’t hold anything against us? If we’re hesitant to relinquish our daily lives to God, it’s because we don’t yet trust his goodness.

“Sure, we may know that God is good. But “God is always good to me” is an altogether different thought...”—The Naked Gospel, page 195

<idle musing>
This is a really interesting idea; I need to think about it.
</idle musing>

SBL Day 3

Another busy day (aren't they all?). I finally heard registration figures today. There were 4600 preregistrations, but the final total is right around 4300. That compares to around 6000 preregistrations last year, with a figure around 5700 attendees. So, a 20% drop in attendance.

I must say that the conference feels about 20% smaller this year. There is less of a buzz around the conference hotels and the the exhibit floor seems less crowded. But, we're still selling books at a good clip, for which I am thankful.

Monday night is always our Eisenbrauns dinner. The dinner always happens the last night and is a chance to reflect on what has happened, what we would do differently, what we would do the same, and what we've learned about the industry. During the conference we are so busy and running in different directions that we don't always have a chance to keep up with each other, so this is a good chance to do that. Oh, and the food is always excellent. Tonight was no exception. I can't remember the name of the place, but it was on Dauphine street, about 3 blocks in. Good food, good company, good year at SBL.

Here's some pictures of the booth:

Gina, getting ready for the day

A view of the new release tables

Your friendly Eisenbrauns staff (from right to left: Dave, Marti, Gina, yours truly) (Merna is taking the picture)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

SBL days 1 & 2

Boy, these last two days have been a bit of a blur. The first day started out a bit slow until people found us. We are in a side room this year, off the main hall. The signage could be better, but people have found us—and bought books.

We have a lot of new books this year, and are almost sold out of A Manual of Ugaritic; there aren't a lot of A Syriac Lexicon left, either. We're totally out of The Ideology of the Book of Chronicles and Its Place in Biblical Thought. It seems I never bring enough of some titles, and too many of others. If only I could read the minds of our customers and bring all the right books!

Saturday night I made it to a few receptions: the SPS/WTS, Augsburg/Fortress, and de Gruyter. Tonight (Sunday), I managed to find a bit of floor space to hear N.T. Wright speak. After the question and answer section, two of us stood around and talked theology for about an hour before I headed off to the Brill reception. Now, I'm ready for sleep...tomorrow comes early.

Speaking of which, the number of people in the workout room the last two days is zero. Yes, a goose egg; nada; zilch. I noticed that at a conference earlier this year; the attendance to a workout routine seems to have been one of the victims of the economic downturn. Never mind that it doesn't cost anything; the right way to assist in the economy is to stop exercising. I know, it doesn't make any sense, but that's what I have seen this year in my travels.

Friday, November 20, 2009

New backdrop

I mentioned the new backdrop for the Skyline in the last post, but neglected to post a shot of it. There are over 160,000 book covers in the image! You need to come by booth 704 and see it in person:

But it's sounds so touchy-feely...

“Christ living through you is not a feeling. It’s not an emotional experience that you pursue. Having Christ live through you is really about knowing who you are and being yourself. Since Christ is your life, your source of true fulfillment, you’ll only be content when you are expressing him. As you express him, you also express who God has made you to be.

“God doesn’t override us. However, God hasn’t left us to our own devices to cope with life and be godly. Either of these extremes can harm our understanding of the gospel. God wants us to know that his Son works in us, through us, and alongside us since we’re spiritually joined to him. Having Christ live through us begins with knowing that his life resides in us.

“In all of this, we’re talking about a knowing, not a feeling.”—The Naked Gospel, page 194

<idle musing>
We were discussing this concept of Christ in us with some friends once. The comment was that it sounded like you do whatever you feel like, it's too "touchy-feely" and not rational enough. But, as Farley points out, that's not true.
</idle musing>

SBL day -1

Today was a bit busy. I spent a good deal of it running back and forth between ASOR, ETS, and SBL. By the end of the day, I really needed a shower :)

We have 6 booths at SBL this year and have rearranged our floor plan to give us more space for books. I think you'll like it. We also have a new back drop behind our checkout this year. I posted a picture of it below. It contains over 160,000 book covers; Andy had to split it into 5 different files to keep his computer from crashing.

Setup went amazingly well, considering that at first there were only two of us instead of the normal four. Marti was stuck in Indianapolis overnight because of the FAA computer screw-up; Dave was tending ETS so I could do SBL setup. That left Gina and me. I don't know why, but it seemed to go faster this year. By the time Marti rolled in a little after 10 (she had a 6:00 AM flight!), we already had the backdrapes up, the tables draped, the posters up, and we were ready to work on books and the Skyline. I had already made one trip to ASOR for stuff we needed and had transferred some stock from ASOR to ETS as well—I was sure loving that the three conferences are only 2 blocks apart this year!

By 2:00, Jim had delivered all the ASOR stock and was helping Dave inventory and box the ETS produce. When Jim had to leave for a meeting around 3:00, I took over. We were completely done with setup by a little after 4:00—an amazing accomplishment! If we hadn't needed to inventory and move the ETS stuff, we would have been done even earlier. I don't know what was happening, but I sure am thankful!

Here's some pictures of the setup:

Gina, putting together book risers

David Orton of Deo (we distribute Deo in North America)

Gina and Marti setting up the rest of the Skyline display

Putting the finishing touches on the Carta posters

Thursday, November 19, 2009

ETS day 2

Busy day, not for sales, which were a bit less than yesterday, but for interaction with people. Really, that's why we do conferences; sales are nice because they pay for the conference, but the real reason we do them is so we can interact with people. I can't even begin to remember all that stopped by, so I won't even start (I know, a cop-out).

I managed to get around to a few other vendor's booths today. There's some good stuff out there. I grabbed a copy of The Faith of Jesus Christ: at the Hendrickson booth. It was just published, even though our website says January. It looks very good; I can't wait to read it. While at the Hendrickson booth, I got a copy of another Michael Bird book, also just published: Crossing Over Sea and Land:. Good reading ahead!

Well, tomorrow I head over to SBL right across the street for setup. The FAA mess this AM really has caused problems for us. Marti got stuck in Indianapolis until 6 AM tomorrow. At least Gina got out; she just arrived about an hour ago. If Dave hadn't come yesterday, it would be a real mess; Dave will man the ETS booth while Gina and I do setup and pray that Marti gets in on time!

OK, time for dinner. I'm getting hungry.

Just live, will ya...

“It’s frustrating to operate under a counterfeit belief system and not know why it fails you. I know, because I’ve been there. But the message of “Christ in you” is the real thing — the word of God in its fullness.

“Today’s alternative is a message that’s an inaccurate part of the whole. All around us, we’re inundated with a lackluster gospel that advocates partial forgiveness, a pressure-filled motivation for behavior change, and the promise of earned rewards in heaven or a cash return while on earth. This counterfeit is the reason that the church sometimes doesn’t appear much different from the world. It’s time for us to start over, if necessary, and seek the real thing.

“Jesus Christ in us as our resource for everyday life is our only hope for any real change.”—The Naked Gospel, page 192

“Of course, sometimes we still turn dependency on the indwelling Christ into an opportunity to self-examine and introspect. And this isn’t any better than any other religious move: 'Am I abiding? What do I need to do to abide better?'

“The term abide, I’ve noticed, is often used by those who seek something to do in order to maintain the reality of Christ living through them. The word abide simply means “to live,” and Christ already lives in Christians! Some have made it out to be something beyond what Jesus intended it to be. Christ abiding in us is a truth, not a command for us to keep up our end of some bargain. Of course there are moment-by-moment choices to walk by faith, but the religion of “I must get Christ to abide in me” is a self-focus that is not the intention of the New.”—The Naked Gospel, page 193

Yep, he's right

Who? Why David Ker, of course:

...since Americans don’t really believe the Bible, oh, they say they do, but they don’t lay hands on the sick or cast out demons or any of that other stuff that Jesus was always telling his disciples to do, so they get these weird peripheral applications out of Bible texts.

<idle musing>
Read the whole thing for the context, otherwise you will miss the whole point. He isn't talking about charismata, he is talking about worldview. And, he's right.
</idle musing>

What is in that box?

We are staying at the Hampton Inn in New Orleans. It's about 3 blocks from the conferences and about a block from Bourbon Street. As many of you know, I judge a hotel on two things: the exercise room and the breakfast they offer. Well, this hotel has an adequate exercise room: two treadmills, two ellipticals, and one stationary recumbent bicycle; it also has free weights, if you're into that kind of thing.

The breakfast is sorta ok. The eggs are powdered, the potatoes are reconstituted—fairly typical hotel fair. They do have fresh fruit, bagels, yogurt, juice, etc. So, you can get a decent breakfast; it's just that the hot part is disgusting :(

But, that is all an aside from the point of this post. For the last two mornings, as is my wont, I went up to the exercise room at about 6:00 AM for my morning 1/2 hour of cycling. Both mornings, there was another gentleman there before me. Yesterday he was finishing up his run on the treadmill, after which he went over to the weight machine. Only, he didn't do anything except sit there with his eyes glued to a box that was elevated about 6 feet off the floor. He sat that way, as if transfixed, for about 20 minutes, occasionally lifting a few weights. Then, he suddenly got up, as if released from a trance, and left the room.

This morning, he was already done with the treadmill and was sitting by the weight machine already. Again, he was sitting, as if spellbound, looking at that same box, elevated about 6 feet above the ground. And, just like yesterday, after about 20 minutes he suddenly got up and left the room.

This box has noise coming out of it, and characters that look like people moving around on it. I think some people call it a television. So, what is in that box that kept him so mesmerized?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


“If we approach the Christian life in a mechanical way, trying to imitate the actions of Jesus in the gospels, we’ll inevitably fail. The “What would Jesus do?” philosophy is not the same as the “Christ in you” approach. We’re called to look within, to discover the life that is instinctive to us as new creations, and to live from that life. Imitating the actions of others, even the Jesus of the gospels, is nothing but a shallow, mechanical act that is not reliable under pressure.”—The Naked Gospel, pages 190-191

<idle musing>
Live what you already are in Christ. Don't wait for death to experience the rest of God.
</idle musing>

ETS day one

We got into New Orleans yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon. Setup for ETS started at 5:00 PM, so Jim and I headed over to the Sheraton to set up. I brought too many books to use all my nice bookstands and risers—as usual. So, after setting up all the risers and putting out bookstands, I had to tear them all down again. Lost about 1.5 hours on that...

We had sent a backup shipment of newly published books to the hotel, so I had to run back and forth with a two-wheeler from one hotel to the other. It was a beautiful night, so that wasn't too burdensome. But, UPS managed to misplace 3 boxes. Unfortunately those boxes contained Siphrut 1 & (A Severe Mercy and Chosen and Unchosen). Not a good thing :(

The day started out slow, but got busier as it went on. In the end, we had a good day actually selling out of a few titles. Here's a picture or two:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

and they're off!

At least some of us are, anyway. Jim, Merna, and I are on our way to New Orleans. In fact, as you read this (due to the power of scheduled posts), we are somewhere between Indianapolis and Atlanta. The rest of the gang who will be there for SBL are leaving either Wednesday or Thursday.

I am attending ETS; Jim and Merna are taking care of ASOR. So, if you are attending either one of those, come by and see us. We won't even make you buy a book! But, I bet you will; we have some great titles this year and, as always, some great deals. I will be posting pictures tomorrow, as well as commentary on the conferences.


“'To me, to live is Christ and to die is gain' (Philippians 1:21).

“Notice that the apostle doesn’t say that Christ is important to him. He says that “to live is Christ.” Paul is not trying to give Christ a proper place among other things. Instead, he is recognizing the fact that Christ is everything to him. We may nod our heads in agreement, saying, “Yes, Christ is everything to me.” But do we grasp the truth that Christ resides just beneath our humanity? That he is actually fused to our own person? Here Paul captures our attention with some radical statements:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20

“Paul claims that he participated in a crucifixion of sorts, and as a result Christ now lives in him. Many people make this claim out to be either symbolic if true or insane and untrue. But to claim anything short of this is to adopt a partial gospel. The very core of the New is that through Christ we receive what we lost through Adam, namely, the literal presence of the divine.

“This is real Christianity. A promise of heaven is not restoration of life. Studying a book written by God himself is still not restoration of life. Attending weekly gatherings in a building is not restoration of life. Even changing one’s behavior in dramatic ways is not restoration of life. Of course, these things may result from restoration of life. But they’re certainly not the means to life, nor are they a confirmation of the experience of life. Restoration of life occurs when God himself, through the person of Christ, resides within us.

“Anything short of this is weak religiosity.”—The Naked Gospel, page 189

<idle musing>
Yes! Real-life Christianity today! Not just in the future, but now! Life that is alive and moment-by-moment dependence on Christ via the Holy Spirit. No more partial gospel (Debbie calls it a decapitated gospel), but full restoration in Christ.
</idle musing>

Monday, November 16, 2009


As you probably have guessed by now if you follow this blog much, I enjoy experimenting in baking. This weekend was no exception, with various experiments that failed spectacularly or turned out nicely.

I am always trying to get more whole grains into my baked goods, so back in January I tried substituting whole wheat flour for the unbleached flour in cornbread. It was a failure; the taste of the whole wheat overpowered the cornmeal—yes, this is about successes, hold on :) Well, Saturday, I decided to try dark rye flour instead of unbleached flour. It looked pretty strange going into the pan; it was very dark and almost playdough™-ish in texture. I wasn't too hopeful...25 minutes later, out comes this nicely dark, slightly risen pan of batter bread. I put the knife in to cut it, pulled out a piece, letting it cool for a few seconds before tasting it. Hey! It was pretty good; in fact it was so good that I'm going to make it that way all the time. Well, for visitors I might make it with unbleached flour so they don't freak out at the dark color :)

Second experiment: I thought that since that turned out, maybe I could go with a rye only rye bread. I know, there isn't much gluten in rye flour, almost none, in fact. But, maybe...well, I should have stopped at the kneading stage. It had a very strange texture and didn't get springy at all. But, hey, what have I got to lose? I let it rise, and rise, and rise. Right, it didn't! Oh well, maybe it will still make a loaf that is edible. So, I formed the loaf and let it rise, only it didn't. That's all right, I'll bake it anyway. It might make a nice solid loaf, sort of like a cracker. Thirty-five minutes later, not done. Let's give it another 10 minutes. OK, the edges are starting to burn, better take it out. This, my dear reader, was a complete flop. It is finding its way into the compost pile.

Somewhat discouraged, but not to be deterred, I decided to use whole wheat flour instead of the unbleached flour in the rye bread. Hmm, it feels more normal as I knead it. It actually rose, although not as much as normal. It formed a nice loaf, and then rose again. Thirty-five minutes later and I had a very nice, although dense, loaf of rye bread. Ah, but will it taste like rye bread? Nope! It tasted like whole wheat bread. But wait! As it cooled, it began to taste like rye bread. Maybe there's hope...sure enough. Once it was cool it tasted like rye bread, just very dark. Success! But a few hours much fiber is in that monster? Too much! Intestinal problems...I don't think I'll try that one again!

Oh, did I mention that I had just eaten whole wheat waffles an hour before the rye bread? Maybe it isn't the rye bread alone...

Hippo hunting?

David Ker has been musing this month on his life as a missionary. Very honest, but with a good sense of humor. If you have been missing the fun up until today, you can catch-up by going here. It is definitely worth your time.

The advantages of being chosen

Somehow this missed being posted last week, so enjoy it today, instead:

“To be sure, there are benefits to being specially loved and blessed by God, yet it becomes clear throughout the biblical story that the people of Israel are often less than excited about their special relationship to YHWH. They are led into a wilderness, encounter lack of water and food, and often complain that it was better to be slaves under Pharaoh. While we might be quick to condemn Israel in this, it may also be instructive simply to allow the story to communicate what it does. Israel did not find it being a possession of YHWH particularly easy or advantageous. By and large, the people of Israel do not seem to recognize the gift that YHWH is giving to them because their life now has very high expectations...Life would probably be easier without such obligations. To maintain otherwise reads against the thrust of the story as the Bible presents it.”—Chosen and Unchosen, page 173

<idle musing>
Sounds only too familiar, doesn't it? As long as we think we have to maintain the obligations, it is way too difficult.
</idle musing>

Friday, November 13, 2009

Performance-based faith

“The message of “Jesus plus nothing” from start to finish is often too humbling for us to swallow. Instead, we opt for performance hoops to jump through in order to impress God. Sure, we trust him alone for salvation and a place in heaven. But when it comes to daily living, it’s difficult to fathom that he wants to be our resource and carry the load.

“Growth doesn’t happen by trying harder. It doesn’t occur by a “two steps forward and one step back” approach. Genuine growth occurs as we absorb truth about who we already are and what we already possess in Christ.

“Believers shouldn’t passively sit around waiting to receive something new — more cleansing, more of the Holy Spirit, or more of whatever popular teaching says is lacking in us. We have everything we need for a godly life. We have an unshakable kingdom, an eternal covenant, and every spiritual blessing. We are complete and lack nothing. The only logical response is to spend our lives reminding each other of these extraordinary truths and giving thanks to our God.

“Requesting and possessing are polar opposites. Once a person is in Christ, they are a possessor, not a requester. We see this point illustrated in the Lord’s Supper. We shouldn’t participate in this celebration in order to obtain something. Instead, we are to celebrate the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of Jesus Christ. Just as this celebration is based solely on the work of Christ, we should conduct all of our business in the light of what he has already done.

“To thank God for every spiritual blessing and then to ask him for more patience, for example, is to ignore Christ within us. Isn’t patience part of what we need for a godly life? Do we have all the patience we need already implanted within us or don’t we? Through the Scriptures, God answers this question with a resounding yes. Because we possess Christ himself, and since Christ is not lacking in patience, we already have all we need.”—The Naked Gospel, pages 187-188

<idle musing>
</idle musing>

Review of Chosen and Unchosen

Chosen and Unchosen

Chosen and Unchosen
Conceptions of Election in the Pentateuch and Jewish-Christian Interpretation
Siphrut: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures 2
by Joel N. Lohr
Eisenbrauns, 2009
xviii + 254 pages, English
Cloth, 6 x 9 inches
ISBN: 9781575061719
List Price: $39.50
Your Price: $35.55

Chosen and Unchosen is the second book in the new Eisenbrauns series Siphrut: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures. The book is a revision of Lohr's doctoral dissertation, but it doesn't suffer from dissertationitis—the tendency to footnote every other word and repeat the same thing 27 times. Indeed, it is a good read, although slow going at times because of the content.

The book is divided into two sections: section one (about 1/3 of the book) is devoted to an overview of Christian and Jewish work on election in the last 50 years. The second section is a close reading of four sections of the Pentateuch where the chosen encounter the unchosen. Lohr chose the Abimelech/Abraham story, Pharaoh's daughter, Balaam, and Deuteronomy 4, 7, and 10, which features the herem, or ban.

The section on Pharaoh's daughter saving Moses is a textbook example of what a close reading should look like. Lohr picks up details that most interpreters miss; the story is richer after reading Lohr's exposition.

Balaam has suffered some bad press in the history of interpretation, including inner-biblical interpretation. Lohr seeks to read the Numbers account of Balaam on it's own terms, ignoring the later interpretation as much as possible. The result is a prophet who knew and feared God; a prophet who dared to stand up against a king and bless Israel when he had every reason not to. If we did not know the later history of Balaam, how he ended up betraying Israel into sin, we would never guess that he would die the death he did at the hands of Israel. I would say that this is the strongest section of the book and worth the cost of the book by itself. I will never read the Balaam story in Numbers the same.

Turning to Deuteronomy, Lohr confronts the issue of herem head-on. While you have to admire someone who is willing to take on the challenge of explaining herem (the ban) and trying to understand it, it still is less than satisfying. Despite an excursus and an appendix, I felt like he could have said more. Lohr himself admits that herem makes no sense to the modern mind. In my opinion, this is the weakest chapter. I would like to have seen him develop Deuteronomy 10 further, with the stranger dwelling among Israel and how that affects the unchosen theme. But, in the introduction he said this was but a first step in exploring the ramifications of being chosen and unchosen. As a first step, it is admirable.

On the whole, this book is well worth reading, especially the chapters on Pharaoh's daughter and Balaam. The weakest chapter, Deuteronomy, perhaps couldn't have been written any other way; there is just too much happening in Deuteronomy 10 to easily distill it down. Indeed, whole books have been written, and even they fail to do it justice.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Raised with Christ

“The Bible talks about considering ourselves dead to sin and realizing that God has raised us up and seated us with him (Romans 6:11; Ephesians 2:6). In light of these truths about our nature, we’re told to not let sin reign and to set our minds on things above (Romans 6:12; Colossians 3:2). This is not nurture talk; this is nature talk!

“Too often, I see the church today functioning like any other morality-focused social group. It’s time for us to wake up and realize that being born of the Spirit means we possess an amazing life within us. Because we’re already different on the inside, we can live differently on the outside.”—The Naked Gospel, page 186

<idle musing>
Yep. Dead, buried, raised, seated. I like that.
</idle musing>


“Balaam, a foreign prophet, clearly knew the God of Israel, and the text reveals no discomfort with such an idea. Perhaps this is instructive for contemporary life when one encounters people outside the 'chosen'—outside one's community of faith.”—Chosen and Unchosen , page 199

<idle musing>
Interesting thought, isn't it? "The text" can be dangerous to our preconceptions, can't it?
</idle musing>

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Slaves to whom?

“The Israelites are not 'freed' in the exodus, but in a sense, simply change ownership: they become 'slaves of God.'”—Chosen and Unchosen, page 76

<idle musing>
I think this is something we forget; Paul talks about the same thing in the New Testament. We are not our own; we were bought with a price.

Americans don't like that kind of talk! We're "the land of the free" after all! to sin; free to be moody and mean; free to gossip and talk behind each others backs. Oops, that isn't sin anymore; we've defined it away—of course, that also means we don't need repentance anymore, nor a savior. Kinda lonely out there, isn't it, being your own savior and all?
</idle musing>

Rewards or relationship?

“Sometimes we attempt to live a godly life in the hope of earning rewards in heaven. But it’s very difficult, if not totally unrealistic, to live for something far off in the future. Although the idea of living to earn future rewards might sound practical from a natural perspective, it’s simply not rooted in God’s Word. The motivation for daily living within the New Testament centers around acting like the person you truly are and benefiting from Christ’s life in the here and now.

“Paul urges believers to walk in a manner worthy of their calling (Ephesians 4:1). In Romans, he highlights the teaching that there’s no benefit to sin and that the outcome of those things is death (Romans 6:21 – 23). At no time are we told to live an upright life in order to garner a more righteous standing or to collect prizes in heaven. Quite the opposite! We’re urged to grasp an important spiritual truth: when we come to Jesus Christ, we receive his life. Through our expression of him, we find fulfillment.”—The Naked Gospel, page 182

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


“...motivating much of the contemporary discussion and the underlying phobia of God's particularism in choosing Israel is a fundamental assumption that universalism is inherently good, while particularism is inferior, deficient, or just plain bad...the modern preference for universalism as well as the widespread belief that universalistic texts are somehow superior to others is the result not of biblical teaching but of Enlightenment ideals, particularly in the writings of Kant.”—Chosen and Unchosen, page 34

<idle musing>
Hmmm...something to think about, isn't it? How much of our interpretation is based on modernist (and post-modernist), Aristotelian logic? Too much, I wager.
</idle musing>

Monday, November 09, 2009

Chosen and Unchosen

“The basic premise that election entails nonelection is undoubtedly true. Difficulty arises when adding additional premises. Clines [in The Bible and the Modern World, pages 100-101] seems to add the premise that being unchosen means experiencing the opposite of God's love or election; namely rejection, humiliation, destruction or being beyond the pale of God's workings. The problem with models of this sort, I think, is that often the focus is on biblical examples that are easy to assemble and then to criticize...the result is a picture of God that resembles more a devil than a deity, a God who shows love to his people while slaughtering others, simply because they are not elected.”—Chosen and Unchosen, page x

<idle musing>
I will be excerpting from Chosen and Unchosen this week and then post a brief (maybe!) review at the end.
</idle musing>

Review of ZIBBCOT

I recently received a set of Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary on the Old Testament from Zondervan via Emily Varner (thanks Emily!). First off, let me say that I can't begin to do this set justice in a short (or long!) post. When they say illustrated, they mean illustrated. I don't think I have found a two page spread that doesn't have at least one photo, map, or drawing on it—and they are relevant to the text's discussion, not just filler. (OK, I just did: the endnotes don't have any pictures.) On some pages, the photos take up over half the spread; it's a feast for the eyes. And, they even have a picture index, topical at that! Oh my, the picture index also includes an index of texts, sorted by region of origin. Did you know that they even include the Tel Zayit abecedary? This is definitely up-to-date.

The first thing I do when I get something like this is check the abbreviations section. That alone tells you a whole lot about what you will find in the text. The abbreviation section is 9 pages long, and covers just about every major journal and reference work in the field, not just English ones, either. Next, I checked the bibliography, or rather, bibliographies. There is a general bibliography, and each biblical book has an annotated bibliography at the end, before the endnotes for that section.

Having been thoroughly encouraged by what I found so far, I began looking over the individual sections. There is a main text, but also sidebars and charts. The sidebars highlight items in the main text that may need a bit more explanation or are translations of ANE texts that relate; they have their own set of endnotes. The main text follows a traditional commentary approach in that there are section headings with verse numbers. The difference is that, unlike a traditional commentary, the notes relate to cultural background—this is a Bible backgrounds commentary, after all :)

I have looked through Genesis quite closely, and some sections of Jeremiah. I have to say that this commentary is high quality. The contributors are first-rate scholars, and the sections they were assigned play to their strengths. For example, Leviticus is done by Roy Gane; if you can't get Milgrom (and he's Jewish, so you can't!), then the next best person is Gane. In fact, I think Gane is right in his correction of Milgrom's atonement theology.

While the commentary is unabashedly conservative Evangelical, it presents multiple sides to issues in a fair and balanced manner. The authors make their preferences known, but do so in a way that doesn't demean the other opinions—a definite plus, in my book.

So, what don't I like about the set? Basically, one thing. Endnotes. With modern typesetting/prepress software, there is no reason that endnotes should exist. I understand that in a work like this, which is aimed at multiple markets, the scholar and the interested lay person, that footnotes could be distracting. But, don't you think that people could ignore them if they don't want to read them? I hate having to keep a marker at the end of a book to flip back and forth all the time. Usually, what I do in a case like this is pre-read the endnotes; it isn't great, but at least I know when I hit a note what it is about. (Yes, I pre-read endnotes; I read dictionaries of the fun of it. I even read grammars of dead languages as a recreational activity! There's no hope for me...)

This is definitely a set worth owning if you are interested in the ancient Near East and how it intersects the biblical world. John Walton and all the contributors should be proud of the results. Now, excuse me, I'm going to go read some more in it...

Update, November 10: After an exchange of e-mails with John Walton, I have to agree with Zondervan's decision to go with endnotes. John's argument was that if they had used footnotes, on some pages over half would be notes. This would result in people being intimidated by it; they would think it was written strictly for a scholarly audience when it isn't. Consequently, they would put the book back on the shelf and walk away.

It's too bad this is true, but it is. As a marketer, I understand. As a (wanna be) scholar, it bothers me. But, the book is eminently readable and deserves to be read and used. I would have made the same decision, although reluctantly.


This has been an interesting Monday; I feel like I haven't gotten anything done. But, I have. The SBL shipment left; the ancient Near Eastern catalog came in. And, I spent 2 hours at the dentist's office getting prepped for a crown. That's got to be why. Taking 2 hours out of a day is bad enough, but then having someone pound on your jaw with a sledgehammer for those 2 hours...ok, it isn't that bad, but now that the Novocaine has worn off it almost feels that way. The tooth doesn't hurt, but the jaw is sore, if you know what I mean.

OK, I still have to put together a new 10-day sale and try to figure out why the Deal-of-the-day isn't coming out correctly...

Friday, November 06, 2009

Eternal life

“Who is the only person whose life had no beginning? Then if you have eternal life, whose life do you possess? Eternal life doesn’t primarily involve heaven, church services, or even the Bible. Eternal life is not merely a better life or a better purpose for life. It’s an altogether different life. It’s God’s life. Here we don’t reference religious notions. Instead, we’re discussing Eden matters.

“If there were no church buildings, no Bible studies, and no other saints on the planet, you’d still need eternal life. If you were stranded on a deserted island, you’d still need eternal life. The essence of the gospel meets that basic need. The fundamental promise within the New is divine life restored within humanity.”—The Naked Gospel, page 174

“Eternal life is Jesus’ life. Jesus declared himself to be “the resurrection and the life” and “the way and the truth and the life” (John 11:25; 14:6). He also stated, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). Clearly, our eternal life is tied up in him. Our new spiritual life is actually his life.

“So we don’t have a spiritual gift package awaiting us in heaven. We have Jesus Christ in us right now. In fact, it’s his life that saves us. We recognize the importance of Jesus’ blood for our forgiveness. But Jesus’ death alone isn’t sufficient to save us! His death on the cross doesn’t provide the life we need. It is actually Jesus’ resurrection that saves us...

“The life we possess within us is not Jesus the Man who lived, taught, and died after thirty-three years on earth. Sure, that’s part of his track record. But the life housed within us is the risen Christ, who now sits right beside God. Hence, we’re not being asked to imitate the recorded actions of Jesus of Nazareth. Instead, we’re invited to allow Jesus to do what he has always done — be himself. The risen Christ wants to do this through our unique personalities in every moment of every day.”—The Naked Gospel, pages 177, 178

<idle musings>
I like that; it is very freeing. Just let Jesus live through you; forget the guilt trips, the performance based stuff, all the σκυβαλα, as Paul called it. Just hang on to Jesus and let him live through you.
</idle musings>

Last minute details

It's that time of the year when all the last minute details jump out at you. I'm getting our shipment ready to go to SBL; it has to leave Monday in order to get there without a penalty—and the last thing I need is a penalty! They already charge an arm and a leg for drayage! So, my time today has been spent building the skid of display material, making the pick-up appointment, running to the print shop to get the order forms, on and on the list goes...all the last minute stuff.

Don't get me wrong here, I really love this stuff. It just all seems to pile up at the last minute. You seem to be on schedule, everything is ready...then, BOOM something you forgot, or something is late, or... Yep, it's that time of year :)

So, after the SBL shipment goes on Monday, the ASOR shipment goes on Wednesday, and the follow-up ETS shipment goes on Thursday, I have nothing to do about conferences for 2 days. Then, Tuesday morning, November 17, I'm off to the airport and the conferences.

Once I get to New Orleans and get checked into the hotel, I head on over and set up the ETS display. ETS starts on Wednesday at 9:00 AM...I'm tired just thinking about it. I think I'll just live a day at a time. Maybe that's why Jesus said not to worry about tomorrow, eh?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Rewards and behavior

“As humans, we always seem to be looking for a punishment- or reward-based motivation to keep our behavior on track. While we’re more apt to dismiss a blatant guilt motivation, the picture often painted is that God will be doling out mansions of various sizes and other merit-based awards when we hit heaven. Christians have commonly used the term rewards to refer to extra square footage or certificates redeemable for crowns and jewels in heaven’s gift shop.

“In reality, the term rewards does not appear anywhere in the New Testament. The apostle Paul speaks of a “reward” (singular, not plural) or a “prize” in the context of running a race and reaching the end. But Paul also notes that everything else is like garbage next to knowing Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:8). Given this truth, do we really believe that God will be awarding larger homes and nicer jewelry to those who depended on Jesus more?

“God doesn’t want us to think and act in certain ways because we’re seeking to accumulate heavenly merchandise. Just as Paul was willing to lose all things for the sake of knowing Christ, we too should make it our agenda to know him. For more wealth in heaven? No, we want to know him simply because it’s the greatest thing going on planet Earth.”—The Naked Gospel, pages 168-169

<idle musing>
Kind of doesn't sit too well in our over-merchandised society, does it? Kingdom values usually don't!
</idle musing>

More new books

We unloaded the last of the pre-SBL books that will be published by Eisenbrauns this year; four books came in the last 7 days:

Last Friday:
Law from the Tigris to the Tiber

Law from the Tigris to the Tiber
The Writings of Raymond Westbrook
Vol. 1: The Shared Tradition
Vol. 2: Cuneiform and Biblical Sources
EIS - Eisenbrauns
by Raymond Westbrook
Edited by Bruce Wells and F. Rachel Magdalene
Eisenbrauns, 2009
2 vols.; Vol. 1: xx + 512; Vol. 2: xx + 556, English
Cloth, 6 x 9 inches
ISBN: 9781575061771
List Price: $119.50
Your Price: $107.55

A Syriac Lexicon

A Syriac Lexicon
A Translation from the Latin, Correction, Expansion, and Update of C. Brockelmann's Lexicon Syriacum
This book is heavy and may incur additional shipping charges.
EIS - Eisenbrauns
by Michael Sokoloff
Eisenbrauns, 2009
Pp. l + 1,684, English and Syriac
Cloth, 7 x 10 inches
ISBN: 9781575061808
Your Price: $149.50

and two yesterday:
A Manual of Ugaritic

A Manual of Ugaritic
Linguistic Studies in Ancient West Semitic - LSAWS 3
by Pierre Bordreuil and Dennis Pardee
Eisenbrauns, 2009
xii + 355 pages + CD with PDF and photos, English
Cloth, 6 x 9 inches
ISBN: 9781575061535
List Price: $69.50
Your Price: $62.55

The Retelling of Chronicles in Jewish Tradition and Literature

The Retelling of Chronicles in Jewish Tradition and Literature
A Historical Journey
EIS - Eisenbrauns
by Isaac Kalimi
Eisenbrauns, 2009
xx + 395 pages, English
Cloth, 6 x 9
ISBN: 9781575061498
List Price: $59.50
Your Price: $53.55

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

It is finished

"Are you consumed with your sins when God says he remembers them no more? Are you willing to agree that the focus is no longer on your failures? Will you please the Father through obsession with the Son?

“The Son of God has finished his work. He is risen and is now seated in heavenly places. There’s only one appropriate response. All eyes on him!”—The Naked Gospel, page 139

<idle musing>
He doesn't continue on with the thought, but Paul says that we are seated with him in the heavenly places. Doesn't that blow your mind? It sure does mine.
</idle musing>

Thought for the day

I was recently flipping through a new book (I do that a lot...) and ran across this thought:

Theology has too often been an instrument for the king or the powers that be, in ancient and modern times. Some theologians are providing intellectual support for global capitalism, the new empire, or simply the current unjust status quo. In that task they come close to certain currents of secular thought that take God (and God's poor) out of the public discourse. Idolatry and atheism are, of course, directly related to the exploitation of the poor.—Rooted in Jesus Christ, page 4

<idle musing>
It's too bad, but he's right...
</idle musing>

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


I'm going to review the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary on the Old Testament soon. But, in the meantime, you've got to see this video (it helps to know John).

Are we REALLY pure?

“Nonbelievers are spiritually harnessed to the power of sin. As a horse is led by reins, nonbelievers are controlled by the reign of sin. When a person comes to Christ, their old self, which was controlled by sin, dies through the work of the cross. A new self is raised through resurrection in Christ. If we’re in Christ, we don’t have to submit to sin any longer. We’re free to choose expressions of life instead of always expressing sin and death: We know that our old self was crucified with [Christ] so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with [made powerless], that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Romans 6:6 – 7

“Paul goes on to urge us to count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God (Romans 6:11). Some English translations use the term reckon here: “reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin” (NKJV). Whether one prefers reckon or count or consider, it makes little difference as long as we realize that our reckoning is not what causes this to become reality. Instead of our “making it a reality,” we’re invited to bank on the fact that our death to sin is already real.

“Some would put the burden on Christians to believe hard enough in order to make our death to sin a reality. This isn’t the meaning of reckon or count or consider. These words mean “to rely on the fact” that you’re dead to sin because God has already said it is so (and it is so!): “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).

“Here we’re invited to live in reality. If we’re living under the assumption that sin is the most natural thing for us, then we’re being deluded. We’re different from the way we were before. We’re now alive to God, and we must come to grips with an essential truth: It is more normal, more fitting, and more like us to display the fruit of the Spirit than it is for us to display sin!”—The Naked Gospel, pages 125-126

<idle musing>
Hmmm....doesn't that sound like Christianity 101? Then why don't we let it happen? Farley takes that up, too:
</idle musing>

"“...we use terms such as positional truth and heavenly bookkeeping. We say we’re forgiven and cleansed “in God’s eyes.” But then we claim that Christ’s death does not translate into “once for all” forgiveness in the here and now. Perhaps it just feels too easy: “You mean I don’t have to do anything? That doesn’t sound right.” Our human pride won’t allow us to enjoy that kind of grace.

“Some exhort believers to do something, such as asking for forgiveness, to impel God so that he will actually forgive and cleanse them. This certainly satisfies us; there’s nothing like a daily list of sins to pore over to relieve us from guilt.

“Some claim a procedure is necessary to “appropriate” or “activate” forgiveness. They say we must “keep short accounts” of our sins and ask God to forgive and cleanse us in order to “make it real in our own experience.” But didn’t God announce that only one thing — blood — brings forgiveness and cleansing?

'Without realizing it, we end up believing that Christ’s blood has real effects only for heaven. If we want to maintain a cleansed state before God here on earth, we begin to think it comes through a work that we initiate through remembering, confessing, asking, and claiming. Ultimately, it becomes our responsibility to make the cross carry real benefits in the present.

“In adopting this fine-sounding belief system, we fail to recognize that the cross is a historical event. Its effects are already accomplished, no matter what we believe or claim. We don’t initiate forgiveness, because we cannot. Only blood brings forgiveness. Our acts of remembrance, confession, asking forgiveness, and claiming — whether done with good intentions or not — don’t cause more blood to be shed.”—The Naked Gospel, pages 135-136

<idle musing>
Yep, Christianity 101.
</idle musing>

Another sale

I didn't post this yesterday, but I should have. Eisenbrauns is running another great sale. We even invented a new holiday to celebrate it; from BookNews:

We've invented a new holiday here at Eisenbrauns--International Hug an Archaeologist Day! To celebrate it, we put together an early ASOR sale. Now is your chance to pick up some of those titles you have been looking at for a while. And, you can do it at savings up to 80% off. But time is limited--the sale ends November 15. Oh, you can purchase even if you aren't an archaeologist...

Monday, November 02, 2009

Good news/bad news?

euangelion vs. dysangelion, or for the purist, εὐαγγέλιον versus δυσαγγέλιον (not sure if the accents are coming through correctly; they look almost like breathing marks to me).

In Greek there are frequently prefixes that are applied to a word to change its meaning. For example, the prefix εὐ (EU) makes a word mean good. So, since αγγέλιον (angelion) means an announcement, εὐαγγέλιον means a good announcement, or as we would say more idiomatically, good news. On the other hand, there is a prefix that makes things negative: δυς (DYS). We see this in English with words like dysfunctional—the negation of functional, i.e., it doesn't work correctly. So, δυσαγγέλιον means a bad pronouncement, or better, bad news.

So, what am I getting at? Well, much of what passes for gospel these days seems to be more δυσαγγέλιον than εὐαγγέλιον.

Who are we, anyway?

“But today we are often willing, even eager, to state that we’re sinful like everyone else. We think we’re being humble to claim that we’re no better than anyone else in the world around us. But the New Testament paints a very different picture. Apparently, we’re aliens in this world, and our citizenship is elsewhere.”— The Naked Gospel, page 118

<idle musing>
Why? Why don't we take the scripture at face value here? People are anxious enough to jump on "bible bandwagons" in other areas where the text is less than clear. Why not here, where the texts are very clear? Is it too good to be true? Remember gospel means good news; what could be better news than this?
</idle musing>