Thursday, October 22, 2009

What Authority Do Translations of Sacred Texts Have?

Solange deSantis has a piece in RNS asking this question. She interviews Cheryl Peterson who has recently updated Christian Science's foundational text by Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,'' for a 21st century readership.

Christian Science headquarters, which is based in Boston, made no attempt to stop Petersen’s book, said Phil Davis, who manages media and legislative affairs for the church. “The copyright on `Science and Health’ lapsed many years ago, so certainly (the revision) is something someone can do if they wish,” he said.

Since “Science and Health” is regarded as a companion to the Bible, less a sacred text than a textbook, Petersen’s revision is not seen as blasphemous or as desecrating Eddy’s original writings, Davis said.

Still, Davis said he finds Petersen’s revision unnecessary. “The text as written by Mary Baker Eddy has had great import in my life. It has timeless impact and doesn’t need to be changed with the times,” he said.

Towards the end of the piece there's a quote:

Some believe a sacred text should be only studied in its original language, said Deirdre Good of General Theological Seminary in New York, and that translations are inevitably interpretations. But that view has limitations. “It looks as if Jesus spoke Aramaic. So should we learn Aramaic?” Good asked.

For a discussion of the authority of individual translations of the Bible, see my piece in Episcopal Cafe.

The Highline in Fall

Having jumped from cold back to Indian Summer, Chelsea today is glorious. Our window geraniums are in full bloom and the Highline (ht: Patrick for the photo) is gorgeous. The seminary begins a fall break for a few days and I am en route to the UK to be with my parents as my father completes another week of radiotherapy. All being well, I will arrive in time to drive us to the hospital for the last treatment of the week tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tonight's Columbia NT Seminar
Talk title: Possibilities for Parables from a Postcolonial Perspective
The paper will explore postcolonial theory in relation to parable interpretation. Navigating through multiple perspectives on what postcolonial theory is and/or should be, Colleen Conway argues that some aspects of postcolonial theory open up new avenues for understanding the parables in their gospels settings. The discussion will include a "test case" of the usefulness of postcolonial theory for interpreting the Tenants in the Vineyard.

Monday, October 19, 2009

At the Metropolitan Museum until the end of November is Vermeer's The Milkmaid on loan from the Rijksmuseum by Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675). To celebrate this loan, the Metropolitan Museum will present Vermeer’s Masterpiece The Milkmaid, a special exhibition that will bring together all five paintings by Vermeer from its collection.

Curator Walter Liedtke discusses the painting in a podcast. The subject is a kitchen servant
pouring milk from a jug into a bowl. On the table is bread which she may be making into bread porridge, a staple of Dutch diet. The woman seems to be smiling and musing about something else. To the lower right are a series of delft tiles and in front of her is a Cupid figure. The footwarmer is a symbol of amorous intentions. But Vermeer uses this artistic tradition to suggest what is in the mind of the milkmaid.

The soft focus and naturalistic daylight is striking. The viewer sees the daylight and the light through the crack in the window outside with the grainy bread on the table.
"A Soulful Journey Among Ourselves"
Women SpiritualitySponsored by The Psychotherapy & Spirituality Institute and offered in collaboration with Auburn Seminary, General Theological Seminary and Trinity Church Wall Street, this four-part series (November 11, 13,14,15) features conversations with women from across the spectrum of belief and tradition reflecting on the unique sensitivity to spirituality and God concepts that arise out of women's experience.

Facilitated by well-known author, spiritual director and corporate executive, Dr. Westina Matthews, this series promises to be a time of resource sharing, healing and renewal with and among women.

Part 1 begins on Wednesday, November 11 at Auburn Seminary (6:30 - 8:00 pm) and examines how women's spirituality inspires social engagement essential for the making of a just society. The Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook is the featured speaker. Auburn's president, the Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson will introduce the evening.

November 11, 13, 14, 15.
Cost for the series $45; $12 for each session.
For complete information, including locations of additional sessions, a list of additional speakers and complete registration information please contact Mark D'Alessio at 212.285.0043, x11 or email

Friday, October 16, 2009

Interfaith Radio on Paul the Jew

Paul the Jew

Begins at 22 min 45

Many people trace the roots of anti-Semitism back to a single moment: Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. That’s when, according to traditional teachings, Paul rejected his Judaism for the new, improved version: Christianity. Bible scholar Pamela Eisenbaum says this interpretation of Paul is not only wrong, it’s dangerous.

Interview with Pamela Eisenbaum, author of Paul Was Not a Christian: The Original Message of a Misunderstood Apostle (Harper Collins 2009)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

First Instance of the Seraph/im

Letters to the Editor in TLS, Sept 23, 2009:


Sir, – Susan Weingarten, in noting (Letters, September 11) that the first appearance of “seraphim” is in the Book of Isaiah, is quite correct if she is referring solely to angels. The Hebrew word “seraph”, from the root to burn or scorch, however, appears in Deuteronomy 8:15, as being one of the elements faced by the Children of Israel in their forty-year trek through the Desert: “who led thee through the great and dreadful wilderness, wherein were serpents, fiery serpents \[seraph\], and scorpions”. This recalls the incident when, while encompassing the land of Edom, the Children of Israel once again murmured against God’s plan and “the Lord sent seraph serpents against the people. They bit the people and many died”, as recorded in Numbers 21:6.

Shiloh, Mobile Post Efraim 44830, Israel.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Salome, the unnamed daughter of Herodias

"It probably is not completely accidental that this woman really came alive only when she was emancipated from the Bible...Theology should ask itself self-critically why this new regard took place not with but against the church's tradition."

Ulrich Luz on Matthew 8-20, p.309

See Aubrey Beardsley's illustrations of Wilde's Salome. And here is Salome Magazine:

My vision for this website is to create an safe online sanctuary where intelligent women may read weekly submissions, consider them, and provide thoughtful and respectful feedback on the issues and opinions discussed herein. Let us forge a community and come to our own individual and communal understanding about our authentic and rich veritable experiences as modern women.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

James Tissott, The Life of Christ at the Brooklyn Museum

Here's a description of the Tissott exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum Oct 17-Jan 17, 2010.

The exhibition James Tissot: “The Life of Christ” includes 124 watercolors selected from a set of 350 that depict detailed scenes from the New Testament, from before the birth of Jesus through the Resurrection, in a chronological narrative. It marks the first time in more than twenty years that any of the Tissot watercolors, a pivotal acquisition that entered the collection in 1900, have been on view at the Brooklyn Museum.

Born in France, James Tissot (1836−1902) enjoyed great success as a society painter in Paris and London in the 1870s and 1880s. While visiting the Church of St. Sulpice, he experienced a religious vision, after which he abandoned his former subjects and embarked on an ambitious project to illustrate the New Testament. In preparation for the work, he made expeditions to the Middle East to record the landscape, architecture, costumes, and customs of the Holy Land and its people, which he recorded in photographs, notes, and sketches. Unlike earlier artists, who had often depicted biblical figures anachronistically, Tissot painted his many figures in costumes he believed to be historically authentic, carrying out his series with considerable archaeological exactitude.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sermon by The Rev. Anne Kitch at the funeral of Matthew Shephard

Here's a link to the funeral sermon given by The Rev. Anne Kitch on the occasion. She is his cousin. A good time to read it.

Friday, October 09, 2009

How One Evangelical Changed on the Gay Issue

My own mother challenged me in 2003 to look at my beliefs and the true intent behind the teachings I held in blind faith. "Do you think your views are Christ-like?" she asked me. Her question was dead on: once I walked away from the Church's teachings of rejection and condemnation, my relationship with God transcended to a higher spiritual plateau. I realized an unparalleled sense of spiritual clarity when I opened my heart and mind to a genuine expression of love, compassion, and acceptance of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

This new voice—Christ's voice—became the core principles of my faith: love, compassion, and respect. That voice I now realize was desperately wanting to be heard, a voice no longer comfortable with the place in which I had chose to confine it for so long—a place of bigotry, prejudice, fear, and misunderstanding.

Brent Childers in Newsweek.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Caring for the Widows and Orphans

Over and over, from Deuteronomy via Isaiah and the Psalms to the first epistle of St James, the Bible singles out one group above all others - widows and orphans - for priority treatment. Making sure they are provided for is of the very essence of religion, St James declares. But what do they mean by widows and orphans? Centuries of interpretation of these Scriptural passages have broadened the category to include all who, like widows and orphans, are facing hardship through loss - loss of a breadwinner in the traditional sense, or loss of a job through unemployment, sickness or disability.

Clifford Longley on Thought for the Day.

In our present time, the people being left behind by this creeping return of economic optimism are those who lost their jobs, or who recently left school or college, and haven't been able to find work since.

They are the modern poor, the modern widows and orphans of our time. The International Monetary Fund tells us their number is still well below its peak. But far from being our number one priority as the Bible says, they are in danger of being forgotten.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

What Has Happened to the Jesus Seminar?

R. Joseph Hoffman sheds some light. Meanwhile, members of the Jesus Seminar seem to be in Dallas. And John Dart reports for the Christian Century last month that the Jesus Seminar is relocating to Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

In between assignments state of mind

This weekend marks one of those unusual occasions in my professional life when I am in between assignments and thus relatively unencumbered. All this hedging: it is rare enough to be noteworthy.

Done is a rewrite of a chapter that has been hanging over my head for months. Bearing down on me (but being ignored for the moment) are an essay on "The Lost Symbol" by mid-October and missing essays for Daily Episcopalian. On the not-very-distant horizon are book reviews--one for the upcoming November SBL meeting. And the chapter rewrite may receive a favorable assessment. Or it may not. On the far horizon next Spring are adjustments to a manuscript that will be published in the US after its UK publication this month, co-leading a workshop on Jewish and Christian Interpretation of Psalms and Canticles, and completion of committee work for public release. Outside speaking engagements are simply on-going.

It is so wonderful to feel (somewhat) guilt-free that I find myself thinking about trying to finish assignments more quickly. Or not agreeing to them. Truth to tell, being an academic is like spinning plates. When a grant application is submitted or a manuscript is sent off for review, or a contract for a new piece is signed, a plate spins up into the air. The trick is to stagger them so that when one plate is about to crash to the ground (a deadline), another plate is being sent spinning into the air. The problem with spinning plates is that they inevitably stop spinning and that the more you have in the air, the more successful you appear to be. Which means you must keep more and more plates spinning faster and faster.

Right now, NOT spinning plates seems like a much more attractive option. After all, there are far more tranquil images of scholars' lives. Here's a local one from the The Chinese Scholar's Garden at Snug Harbor Cultural Center on Staten Island. And being in-between assignments is a much better state of mind in which to enjoy the birthday party of a 7 year old god-child yesterday!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Vook meets NT Greek or NT Introduction

I'm having fun imagining how Vook (book + video) would present an NT Greek or an NT Introduction text book.

For Greek, a vook could:
  • demonstrate the inflected forms of nouns and verbs thus conveying that Greek is an inflected language
  • show how the alphabet is formed and words pronounced
  • illustrate semantic worlds
  • enhance word study by illustrating e.g. oikos/oikia, a Hellenistic or Roman house or household
For an NT Introduction, a vook could:
  • Present three-dimensional maps
  • Show the journeys of Alexander the Great
  • Show archaeology of places mentioned in the New Testament including "virtual tours" of Galilee and Rome (cf. recent excavations at Portus)
  • Depict the temple in Jerusalem
  • Illustrate artefacts and material evidence including ostraka, manuscripts and papyri
As I think of other things, I'll add them.

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...