Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Scholars with world wide reputations

Amos Oz, A Tale of Love and Darkness (2003) writes:

"As the years passed I became aware that Jerusalem, under British rule in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s must be a fascinatingly cultured city. It had big businessmen, musicians, scholars, and writers: Martin Buber, Gershom Scholem, S. Y. Agnon, and a host of other eminent academics, and artists. Sometimes as we walked down Ben Yehuda Street or Ben Maimon Avenue, my father would whisper to me: "Look, there is a scholar with a worldwide reputation." I did not know what he meant. I thought that having a worldwide reputation was somehow connected with having weak legs, because the person in question was often an elderly man who felt his way with as stick and stumbled as he walked along, and wore a heavy suit even in summer."

Virtual Tour of Masada

For a virtual tour of the site of Masada, go to:


You will need a high speed link to see it.

HT to Elliott Malki and Peter Feinman.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Noli Me Tangere from the Prayer Book of Charles the Bold

Noli Me Tangere from The Prayer Book of Charles the Bold: A study of a Flemish masterpiece from the Burgundian court by the late Antoine de Schryver, translated by Jessica Berenbeim, and reproducing all the book's miniatures, and some of its calligraphic pages (Getty Publications, 2008).

Seminaries & Sex

PBS, Religion and Ethics Newsweekly has a segment this Sunday March 27th (tomorrow) on Seminaries and Sex. The segment mentions the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing which published a report earlier this year charging that seminaries and rabbinical schools are failing to give the next generation of clergy resources to meet the challenges around this topic. Martin Marty helpfully wrote (after reading the report):

Their two-year study finds that more than ninety percent of the thirty-six leading seminaries surveyed do not require full-semester, sexuality-based courses for graduation, and two-thirds do not offer a course in sexuality issues for religious professionals.

I am happy to say that at the seminary where I teach we will be offering a new course on sexuality and social justice in the fall. Details forthcoming.

Who Was Jesus? on the Discovery Channel

Starting on Sunday April 5th at 8pm, the Discovery channel begins a three-part series, Who Was Jesus? Check your local listings.

Part 1: Childhood--The dramatic reality of the Age of Jesus. A journey through the Holy Land with three expert guides who investigate the latest archaeological and historical evidence to put together a portrait of the early years of Jesus and the forces that shaped his life.

Part 2: The Mission--Three experts unearth the reality of Jesus's life and times, and discover a world of starvation, injustice and desperation for salvation. Jesus was one of many miracle makers who sought to make their people free.

Part 3: Last Days--Jesus entered Jerusalem at the start of the final week of his life. Everything he did was a political challenge to the Roman authorities and the High Priest of the Temple. Three experts unearth the reality of his attempt to free his people from oppression.

One of the experts is Prof. Rachel Havrelock, at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Another is Prof. Byron McCane , Chair of the Department of Religion at Wofford College, Spartanburg, SC.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Feast of the Annunciation

Ann Fontaine has some good things to say about the Feast of the Annunciation today at Episcopal Cafe.

Over at America, John Kilgallen notes that Mary said, "Yes" to her God without knowing what her love for God would entail.

But this overlooks a careful reading of Luke. Mary's first reaction to the angel's message is concern followed by "considering in her mind what sort of greeting this might be." This is a verb of cognition connoting to reason, ponder, consider, argue and discuss. Jesus and the disciples do it often in the gospels. But translations and interpretations tend to minimize women's intellectual activities, and particularly this young woman's. When the angel clarifies, she has another query: "How will this be since I do not know a man?" So Mary's assent, when it comes, is on the basis of careful inquiry and consideration.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Reformist Translation of the Qur'an

Irshad Manji blogs a new reformist translation of the Qur'an available without cost. She says:
"this translation exposes just how orthodox the “moderate” and “mainstream” renditions of the Quran actually are."

Friday, March 20, 2009

Holy Women at the Sepulchre on loan at the Frick

The Frick collection is displaying Zurbaran's 1633 "Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Rose" on loan from the Norton Simon museum in Pasadena, Ca. I'm off to see it this weekend. It's connections to Mary are explored here. Also on loan from the same Museum is Peter Paul Rubens, "The Holy Women at the Sepulchre." On the left we see a Magdalene figure with bare feet.

On Wednesday March 25th from 6-7pm at the Frick, a lecture is being given by Peter C. Sutton, The Susan E. Lynch Executive Director, Bruce Museum, Greenwich, "'Why seek ye the living among the dead?' Peter Paul Rubens's The Holy Women at the Sepulchre from the Norton Simon Museum." The lecture is free with Museum admission.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Meeting Deadlines and New Projects

Although I have managed to meet a deadline of March 20th for a manuscript, its remains to be seen whether the publishers find the manuscript satisfactory. So in the meantime, on to the next project. This is an article on Revelation for a book tentatively titled "The Westminster Handbook to Feminist Biblical Theology." After saying some things about propositional and existential revelation, I will be re-reading Sandra Schneiders' book The Revelatory Text with an eye to her notions of interpretation of text as spiritual transformation. For an example of revelation as spiritual transformation, I will look at Mary Magdalene in John 20.

And with a bit of spare time on my hands, it turns out that GenderAnalyzer is correct! This blog is written by a woman.

Monday, March 16, 2009

March 20-22 Profs Eric and Carol Meyers at Westchester Reform Synagogue

Professors Eric and Carol Meyers will be at the Westchester Reform Synagogue March 20-22.
On Friday, March 20 at 7:45 p.m., Shabbat evening services will include a lecture given by Dr. Carol Meyers entitled, “Meet the First Lady: Eve’s Roles and Relationships.” On Saturday, March 21, Dr. Eric Meyers will first present a lecture at 10:30 a.m., “Exile and Restoration: Crisis and Creativity,” and then at 4 p.m. he will lead a lecture/study session on the topic, “Archaeology is Politics: Excavations in Israel.” The weekend will conclude on Sunday, March 22, with a joint lecture at 11 a.m. entitled “Jews, Romans and Christians: Discoveries at Ancient Sepphoris.”

This weekend-long lecture series is free and open to the public at Westchester Reform Temple, which is located at 255 Mamaroneck Road in Scarsdale, NY.
Reconciliation: How One Denomination Has Come to Terms with its Anti-Judaic Heritage
7:30 pm Wednesday, March 18, 2009 In Seabury Auditorium at General Theological Seminary.

In 1994, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America issued a "Declaration to the Jewish Community" in which it repudiated Martin Luther's anti-Jewish writings, expressed its sorrow for their baleful effects in subsequent generations, and affirmed its "urgent desire to live out our faith in Jesus Christ with love and respect for the Jewish people." Dr. Sherman,who chaired the committee that prepared the Declaration, will discuss how it emerged, how it was received,
and how it has been followed up in the years since.

Presented by the General Seminary’s Center for Jewish-Christian Studies & Relations

Thursday, March 12, 2009

That first day of teaching

Teachers face this every day. Ms Mentor over at the Chronicle for Higher Education has a great post on how we might cope with stage fright.

  • Take deep breaths before you enter the classroom
  • Stretch your arms
  • Recite nonsense ("My baby does the hanky-panky"). Once you start the performance, as every pianist, actor, or athlete knows, your body will calm down. That's why performers plan grand entrances, and late-night comics do monologues. Start your class with laughter if you can, but weepy or disgusting can also be riveting.
  • (my additions) Look people in the eyes
  • Focus on someone out there rather than how you feel
  • Start with what you know and are comfortable with
  • Smile
  • Treat people with respect
  • Take every question seriously

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tonight: Politics in the Church: The Changing Face of Evangelical Christianity

Pulitzer Prizewinning author and New Yorker writer Frances FitzGerald delivers the first of three lectures in the series Politics in the Church: The Changing Face of Evangelical Christianity.

In this lecture, FitzGerald will define American evangelicalism in religious and cultural terms, finding its origins in the First and the Second Great Awakenings, outlining its distinctive characteristics, and showing where the split between evangelicals and mainline Christians began.

Frances FitzGerald has been writing about evangelical Christianity in America since 1981. A regular contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books, FitzGerald won a Pulitzer Prize for Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam. Her other books include Cities on a Hill; Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars, and the End of the Cold War; and, most recently, Vietnam: Spirits of the Earth.

Part of the Joanna Jackson Goldman Lectures in American Civilization. 7:00 PM
South Court Auditorium. Tickets: $15 general admission/$10 Library Donors and Seniors/FREE for students with valid ID.

I will be attending the third lecture on March 25th.
At the establishment of the White House Council for Women and Girls today, the remarks of the President included the following:-

Well, today, as we continue our celebration of International Women's History Month, I'm proud to sign this executive order establishing the women's -- the White House Council on Women and Girls. It's a Council with a mission that dates back to our founding: to fulfill the promise of our democracy for all our people.

I sign this order not just as a President, but as a son, a grandson, a husband, and a father, because growing up, I saw my mother put herself through school and follow her passion for helping others. But I also saw how she struggled to raise me and my sister on her own, worrying about how she'd pay the bills and educate herself and provide for us.

In so many ways, the stories of the women in my life reflect the broader story of women in this country -- a story of both unyielding progress and also untapped potential.

But at the same time, when women still earn just 78 cents for every dollar men make; when one in four women still experiences domestic violence in their lifetimes; when women are more than half of our population, but just 17 percent of our Congress; when women are 49 percent of the workforce, but only 3 percent of our Fortune 500 CEOs -- when these inequalities stubbornly persist in this country, in this century, then I think we need to ask ourselves some hard questions. I think we need to take a hard look at where we're falling short, and who we're leaving out, and what that means for the prosperity and the vitality of our nation.

He pointed out that these issues are not just "women's issues":
When women make less than men for the same work, it hurts families who find themselves with less income, and have to work harder just to get by. When a job doesn't offer family leave, that also hurts men who want to help care for a new baby or an ailing parent. When there's no affordable child care, that hurts children who wind up in second-rate care, or spending afternoons alone in front of the television set.

In the end, while many of the challenges women and girls face are new, the work of this Council is not -- it's been with us for generations. Frances Perkins, who was President Franklin Roosevelt's Secretary of Labor, and the first woman to serve in the Cabinet -- a great hero of the New Deal -- described it well when she said, "I had a kind of duty to other women to walk in and sit down on the chair that was offered, and so establish the rights of others long hence and far distant in geography to sit in the high seats." To sit in the high seats.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Manuscript deadline: March 20

I'm hoping that I can meet a manuscript deadline (March 20) for a new book. Details later. Right now I'm creating charts for relationships among the synoptic Gospels and Herod the Great's family tree. The first is easier than the second! We are also on the lookout for good maps of the Mediterranean world, one of territorial Israel, one of Asia and Greece, and one tracing the spread of Christianity at the end of the third century CE.

Monday, March 09, 2009

JCC: Prof Berlin on the Maccabees

Mon, Mar 16
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Session 4: Andrea Berlin — New Light on the Period of the Maccabees: Excavations at Tel Kedesh Dr. Berlin of the University of Minnesota, a PhD in Classical Art and Archaeology, will discuss excavations at the largest tel site in Israel’s Upper Galilee, which provide new evidence of political and social interactions among Jews, Phoenicians, and Greeks in second century BCE Palestine.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Matthew 10:34-38 and Households Left Behind

This morning's adult education took place on time with all of us remembering to put our clocks forward one hour. The topic under discussion was households and families in the time of Jesus. It included consideration of the vexing passage:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me."

We note the composition of the household to be what we would call an extended family today. We observe that the household conflict is not between husband and wife or son and daughter. I invite/coerce five people to be the household in which inter generational conflict exists. They adopt various kinds of confrontational postures towards each other. I then imagine the occasion of the conflict to be the younger generation leaving the household to follow Jesus. Another person takes the role of Jesus passing by the household, inducing the younger generation to follow, thus leaving the household behind. "Good riddance!" says the "father of the household." "You'll be back, I know!" says the "mother of the household." Discipleship from the point of view of households left behind looks rather different.

This morning, after everyone had resumed their seats, someone observed that this little episode of the household was probably typical of other episodes in the gospels where Jesus summons disciples. It describes, she said, the call of the two sets of brothers who were fisherfolk:

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him (Matthew 4:18-22).

When someone independently applies an interpretative paradigm to other passages and says so out loud, I jump for joy. Then someone else proposed that Simon Peter's mother-in-law was healed and restored to a household (Mark 1:30-31) rather than the household being torn apart. We discussed interpretative possibilities of this passage including the translation "he (Jesus) served them." We imagined households like that of Joanna and Chuza, Herod's steward (Luke 8:3) in which women leave to follow Jesus with or without the husband's consent.

Towards the end of the discussion, someone says that he infers from what we have investigated so far that the picture of households and "family values" around Jesus is more complicated and nuanced than we had hitherto thought. Right, I said. Disciples that follow Jesus can be both biological brothers and "brethren" within a community of siblings. And I thanked everyone for their contributions. Our discussion resumes next week.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The payoff for reading the Bible?

David Plotz opined this week on Slate that:

(Reading) the Bible has brought me no closer to God, if that means either believing in a deity acting in the world or experiencing the transcendent. But perhaps I'm closer to God in the sense that the Bible has put me on high alert. I came to the Bible hoping to be inspired and awed. I have been, sometimes. But mostly I've ended up in a yearlong argument with God. Why would He kill the innocent Egyptian children? And why would He delight in it? What wrong did we do Him that He should send the flood? Which of His Ten Commandments do we actually need? Yet the argument itself represents a kind of belief, because it commits me to engage with God.

That's exactly the point! Its not so much where you end up as your commitment to the reading, the thinking, the engaging, the arguing and the discernment. This is what its all about...

Friday, March 06, 2009

Ephesians 5:21-22--Women and Men

The ESV Online Study Bible is available in March 2009 without cost. Here's why I won't be recommending it.

Principles of Marriage
Scripture Reference
Marriage is part of the “mystery” of God's willEph. 1:9; 3:3; 5:32
Paul's instructions are directed to Spirit-filled believersEph. 5:18
Wives are called to submit, men are called to loveEph. 5:21–33
Headship entails authorityEph. 5:23–24 (cf. Eph. 1:22; 4:15)
Submission is still required of Christian wivesEph. 5:22; Col. 3:18 (cf. Gen. 2:18; 1 Cor. 11:3)
Marriage involves spiritual warfare, which requires husbands and wives to put on the full armor of GodEph. 6:10–18

Ephesians 5:21 (KJV) actually speaks of mutual submission: "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." The section begins with a reference to fear of God and it ends in 5:33 with the verbal form of fear or respect. 5:22 should be rendered by an ellipsis: "Wives...to your own husbands as to the Lord" since the verb is absent from the Greek text.

Anyone who wants a broader discussion could look at Carolyn Osiek's A Woman's Place: house churches in Earliest Christianity (2005 Fortress), chapter 6, "Ephesians 5 and the Politics of Marriage" which sets this passage in the broader context of women's role in managing house churches and the entire letter to the Ephesians. Here's a review of the book from RBL.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Terry Gross interviews Bart Ehrman on the Gospels

Here's a link to an interview with Prof. Bart Ehrman (UNC Chapel Hill) on his new book published by HarperOne, Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them). A discussion ensues focusing (amongst other things) on Jesus' last words on the cross which in Mark are "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" and in Luke, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." To conflate these two accounts does justice to neither gospel since a different portrait of the dying Jesus exists in each gospel. In Luke, Jesus exercises self-control and addresses remarks to another person crucified next to him. In Mark, Jesus' anguish is palpable. In John's gospel, Jesus' death is his exaltation to God.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

This is my favorite treasure in the British Museum: the Lewis Chesspeople. Perhaps made in Norway, about AD 1150-1200, and found on the Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland, the chess pieces consist of elaborately worked walrus ivory and whales' teeth in the forms of seated kings and queens, mitred bishops, knights on their mounts, and standing warders and pawns. We know almost nothing about their discovery. Here's a queen.

Podcast Conversations with contributors to Borderlands of Theological Education

 Just thrilled that our podcast conversations with contributors to Borderlands of Theological Education are available here: https://podcast...