Reflections & Implications of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Announcement

I’d like to provide my own thoughts on Karen King’s provisionally accepted article on The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife (GosJesWife). This Coptic papyrus fragment contains a surprising statement that could indicate Jesus as having a wife. Her 52 page article can be found here

Please note all comments regarding the GosJesWife are taken from her ground-breaking article, so I will forego with formal citations. I will not attempt to summarize her well written article or hope to add anything to her work. As a member of the broader church with some experience with archaeology, textual interpretation, and confessing Christian theology, I thought that I might offer a few reflections on this announcement. I wish to organize my reflections on three areas: the announcement, the artifact, and the text. Then I will close with thoughts on the confessing Christian implications.

I. First on the announcement, I believe that the confessing church should give Dr. Karen King of Harvard University Divinity School an overwhelming display of respect and appreciation. She has demonstrated great care in coming to her conclusions. A lesser scholar might rush to publish with limited verification and eyes full of sensationalism at possible press on a truncated review of the findings. Instead King has steadily been working on verification and careful consideration of what this textual fragment means or could mean.

I have enjoyed the careful scholarship of King having read her earlier work on the The Gospel of Mary Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle. While most scholars often present novel interpretations and seek sensational conclusion, King is refreshing in pointing to what her work can and cannot prove. Even in this recent article on GosJesWife, King makes clear her findings actually have no bearing on the historical Jesus. Her interests are in early church traditions. Publicly, I wish to thank Dr. King for her caution and precision in study and announcing with a high degree of scholarly integrity a model for all scholars of Christian relevant religious studies.

II. Secondly regarding the artifact, from the well reasoned argument that King presents I think it would be poor form for non-scholars to cast doubt on this text’s authenticity. Great care has been taken to consider the papyrus, writing style (paleography), grammar, and private owner of the fragment. It is worth noting this is dated as a 4th century fragment of a codex; according to King it has an original Greek source probably dating to the second half of the 2nd century. The most suspicious piece or unhelpful part of this fragment is that it is unprovenanced, meaning we don’t know anything of where it was found or really when. This limits our understanding of what it might mean in its context if it was found in an amulet, in a book, or any number of other locations. Finding an artifact in situ provides scholars with clear claims of authenticity as well as a better context of how it might have been used. King does not shy from this fact, but is quite honest that this is not ideal.

Additionally the language of the document is clearly Sahidic Coptic although King hypothesizes the original composition perhaps in Greek. This is a joining of both a fact and a hypothesis and each should be understood for what they are. We will return to this point below in considering the literary aspect.

III. Finally regarding the literary text, I want to ensure those less familiar with these types of finds how it relates to the canonical Christian Scriptures. The GosJesWife is not part of the received Christian NT canon; in fact, even the most diverse opinions date this much later than other NT books. This means that the confessing church should feel no fear or angst over this text as it is similar to other late found “gospels.” Gospel as a modern genre essentially refers to narrative stories (typically with dialogue as well) with the life of Jesus being a central topic. I will forego the broader debate on the genre classification of gospel to be accommodating to both canonical and non-canonical gospels.

Some of the well known non-canonical gospels are referenced by King in her study: Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Phillip, and The Gospel of Mary. These gospels are not accepted by the confessing church (almost unanimously) and do not factor into church dogma, practice, or tradition since these are later than the life of Christ and the apostolic era. Thus, confessing Christians should not be more frightened by the GosJesWife’s potential claim that Jesus had a wife than it is about the talking cross in the Gospel of Peter!

King makes clear in her article that she is not shedding light on the historical Jesus but rather as he may have been understood in later Christian generations. For the confessing church it is healthy to remember heresy has always existed. In an era that salivates at revisionist history, conspiracy theories, and minority opinions, the opportunities for fictitious embellishment is endless a la Davinci Code. The Christian church has worked through heresies from the 2nd century, and in NT canon some existed even in the 1st century.

This is not meant to downgrade the level of discovery King is announcing. This is an interesting implication of how the Christian church has consistently taken unbiblical and arguably unhealthy stances at points regarding gender and sexuality. I am personally fascinated by King’s attention, towards the end of her article, on the stated responses of Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Chrysostom. Clearly the idea of Jesus having a wife was an intellectual thread in church history. The fragment of GosJesWife shows just how ancient this is. This does not authenticate the idea, but traces well the concept in time.

One potential question to raise is, “Are we sure the statement we have really conveys that Jesus had a wife?” “Is this actually the author’s intention?” I was delighted to see King interact with Matthew 12:46-50 in her article as this was immediately where my mind went reading the translation of the GosJesWife. I think there is more work to be done here on considering how the fragmentary words could be understood rhetorically. Is there a demand that Jesus’ statement of having a wife (perhaps spiritually?) necessitate he have an earthly wife as well? The illocutionary possibilities of this speech could use sharpening. Closely related with this I would be interested in how the potential Greek source of the Coptic fragment might influence the potential meaning of “wife” in its Coptic context. I trust King’s statement that this clearly means “wife”; however, the lack of this precision in Greek raises the question in my mind if this might make this concept date to the 4th century as the fragment is dated rather than a hypothesized Greek source of the 2nd century.

Concluding implications for the confessing Christian church are limited in light of this announcement.

1. First, the Christian church should never fear discoveries and seek to hide from considerable rigorous academic efforts. I stand confidently as a confessing believer that the more evidence that is found and the more texts that are considered, the more the true teaching of the Bible will be supported. At times there may be uncomfortable tensions as more research needs to be done. I do not feel the GosJesWife is even an uncomfortable tension for us though.

2. Secondly, the Christian church has always faced varied views of doctrine. Some are quite ancient such as the relationship of the members of the Trinity and the nature of Jesus Christ. Robust debate should always be encouraged and not shirked.

3. Finally, the Christian church should continue its recent efforts to think hard and both speak and write more articulately on matter of gender and sexuality. These are matters of humanity and the Christian faith accounts for human relationships in reality with God. Thus, we must renounce ascetic practice as a means of grace. We must extol the virtues of both singleness, as dedication in purity to God, as well as sexual pleasure, within the bounds of the marriage, as good gifts from God. Others have done better work here and should be sought, but I briefly want to remind us that the controversies that come in the church from a variety of angles often reflect miscommunication by its leaders, poor practice by its followers, and an avoidance by both to confront the true issues of the day with honesty and humility.

Thank you Dr. Karen King for your handling of the announcement and provision of the article to allow a good understanding of this text and its implications to a host of people and disciplines.

Tim Barker 9/22/2012 Somerville, MA


2010 Reading List: The Challenge of 52 Books

Have you ever set a stretch goal for yourself that you weren’t sure you would ever meet? One of my life stretch goals was reading 52 books in one year. I use to never really like reading in high school. It was boring in my opinion and not nearly as enjoyable as watching sports. For 3 years of high school I read The Red Badge of Courage just so I wouldn’t have to read another book. I didn’t like to read my textbooks, so I would just listen really well in class (usually the teachers told you the same thing anyways).

Then in college I had to read. Isn’t that what college is about. After my first few weeks of reading, I found that books have interesting things in them. In fact, I found out that I wanted to read, because I wanted to know. I decided in my freshman year to start keeping a list of the books I read every year (so I wouldn’t forget them). Then after the first year I started wondering how many books I could read in a semester. I casually would take a look at the beginning of a semester what books were assigned and how many books I thought I could read. Soon it became a quiet personal challenge: “How many books can I read this year?”

That was 10 years ago and I finally settled on the goal of 52 books in a year (one a week, mathematically). As a competitor I was able to psych myself up to read sometimes when I didn’t feel like it. I would think, “Do you want to read 52 books or not?!?”

The year 2010 proved to be the first year I met the goal. I was providentially fortunate to have a lot of things going for me:
1) A requirement at TEDS to complete a Biblical Archaeology reading list before I could sit to take the Final Comp exam (talk about motivation to read!)
2) I had two different jobs this year where I was able to read one that had lots of spare time and one that actually encouraged me to read business books on the job
3) Several book reviews I sort of had to do for various reasons

So I got off to a good start in the year and worked hard to keep on track. So I reached the goal I was never sure I could ever meet –especially since I still don’t really like reading….I just like knowing. I hope that this approach inspires others to set stretch goals and keep trying to hit them. I also hope that some of you, who don’t read will think again about reading more and challenge yourself. Here’s the 2010 list below with some short remarks. I also use * to designate highly recommended works.

Shifting Sands by Thomas W. Davis,
[a history of biblical archaeology from the early days to the hey-days of Albright/Wright to the modern day. Lots of interesting gritty details and tales of personalities]

The Archaeology of Ancient Israel Edited by Amnon Ben-Tor
[a guide to archaeology in Israel’s chronological eras (paleo, meso, neolitic, EB, MB, LB, etc.) by Israeli archaeologists. Broad and lots of pics]

Symbiosis, Symbolism, and the Power of the Past Edited by W.G. Dever and S. Gitin
[A symposium of scholars with several articles about Near Eastern archaeology, especially those by Stager, Kitchen, Bietak, Dothan, Zevit, and Smith.]

Near Eastern Archaeology: A Reader Edited by Suzanne Richard
[A good secular approach to archaeology covering the gambit of approaches and eras, great first article on geography by Beitzel]

Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? by William G. Dever
[A great Syro-Palestinian archaeologist tackling the sticky issue of Israelite origin]

*Biblical Peoples and Ethnicity by Ann E. Killebrew
[a helpful book on the material culture of Philistines, Egyptian, Canaanites, and Israelites. It also taught a lot about how to reason with the material evidence]

* Israelite Religions by Richard S. Hess
[Wow! A helpful book that will give anyone a great intro to religion in the ANE and the OT. You’ll never read the Bible the same way after reading this book.]

On the Reliability of the Old Testament by Kenneth Kitchen
[A behemoth work dealing with mounds of historical and archaeological data arguing for the reliability of the OT as the title explains. The only criticism is the arrangement as he starts with the more recent and works backward toward the patriarchal era.]

The Ancient Near East: 3000-330 B.C vol. 1 by Amélie Kuhrt
The Ancient Near East: 3000-330 B.C vol. 2 by Amélie Kuhrt
[If you ever wondered what else was happening in the ANE during the biblical era (before & after too) this is a very helpful resource.]

Windows into OT History Edited by V. Philips Long, David W. Baker & Gordon J. Wenham
[Arguments from maximalists for the historicity of biblical Israel in essay format. Don’t miss Nicolai Winther-Nielsen on fact and fiction in judges, Kitchen’s article on what to expect from the United Monarchy archaeologically, and a key work by Provan.]

I and Thou by Martin Buber
[A considering of the human religion condition from a Jewish philosopher…heavy stuff]

*Justification by N.T. Wright
[If you disagree with everything you missed it. If you agree with everything without question you missed it as well. Read it.]

The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul
[A compact yet meaty book on everything you need to know about vicarious atonement…a great intro for someone or a reminder]

Warfare in the Ancient Near East to 1600 by William J. Hamblin
[An intriguing read on the topic. If the title is of interest to you, then you won’t be bored…excellent work on chariot warfare]

Military Practice and Polemic: Israel’s Laws in Warfare by Michael G. Hasel
[The laws of Deuteronomy and the place of Israel’s warfare in ANE context.]

War in Ancient Egypt by Anthony J. Spalinger
[Understand why Egypt was a great empire, perhaps why Israel was tempted to trust them in their latter biblical history.]

*The Divine Warrior in Early Israel by Patrick D. Miller, Jr.,
[a helpful textual look at Yahweh’s warfare in the OT. A theme you probably haven’t considered enough.]

Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders
[A classic –“leadership is influence” in detail...A little dated at points and arrangement is odd]

Organic Leadership by Neil Cole
[a really different approach to church leadership. Remember “different isn’t always bad; neither is it always good.]

The Sky is falling: leaders lost in transition by Alan Roxburgh
[A somewhat unique look at leadership with a lot of societal/philosophical reflection]

The Jury by Stephen Adler
[A look at the U.S. jury system through anecdotes of real cases. It’s an ugly system sometimes. Adler throws out some criticisms but also a construct to consider.]

Execution by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan
[As the subtitle suggests, it’s a book about getting things done. A good read for ideas and inspiration. Not a how-to unless you’re an executive. Now if only we can have one written for the rest of us.]

OT Ethics for the People of God by Christopher Wright
[A really interesting read that causes the reader to consider the bulk of OT material and its meaning for the contemporary church.]

Lost & Found by Ed Stetzer
[The young unchurched are surveyed for information to help those trying to reach them. The stats are weaved together with really challenging vignettes.]

Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture by Ellen Davis
[A conversation in essay format between modern agriculturists and the OT. See my Themelios review for more or read the book for all of it. ]

Cult of the Customer by Shep Hyken
[A focus on customers for a business. See my blog post below dated 6/5/2010 for more details.]

*The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and Good Growth by Fred Reichheld
[The Net Promoter Score explained and argued for by its founder and expert.]

The Toyota Way by Jeffrey Liker
[A systematic gleaning of Japanese quality management. Lots to learn from this book and company]

Noelle’s Healing by Michael Huckabee (no, not that one)
[My first fiction read of the year. A Christian bioethics book with a really interesting premise, but a somewhat anticipated ending]

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hseih
[A huge book on a work culture of happiness and how to serve customers in a similar way. The story of Zappos, it’s better after the first couple of chapters, so hang in there.]

Answering the Ultimate Question by Richard Owen and Laura L. Brooks
[More information on the Net Promoter Score and its relevant application to all sorts of businesses]

First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
[Some radical ideas for managers after surveying a bunch of the best]

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
[Economics made interesting by focusing on the motivating levers of why people do all sorts of things.]

Switch by Chip & Dan Heath
[A helpful strategy about how to bring about change]

*Take the Risk by Ben Carson
[An inspiring read from a Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon, who is a believer. He gives a helpful strategy for assessing and proceeding with risk. When I say helpful I mean really useful and memorable…I actually use it.]

Drive by Daniel Pink
[Motivation for work. How to motivate and the deepest and most useful motivating techniques.]

Federal Husband by Douglas Wilson
[In a covenant marriage with a federal representative husband, there’s a lot to do.]

Good to Great by Jim Collins
[A solid book that examines some of the best performing companies over time and their similar traits. Some real gems of wisdom here.]

The Negotiator by Dee Henderson
[A fictional work about a professional negotiator that encounters romance on the job and then finds her life in danger.]

The Early Church by Henry Chadwick
[A short overview of the early church up Augustine in a readable format]

Disability in the Hebrew Bible by Saul Olyan
[An forthcoming Themelios review will give more details. This work opens your understanding to the categories of disability in the OT and how the text uses this societal construct in legal code and idol polemics.]

Bury My Heart in Conference Room B by Stan Slap
[Value based management by focusing on one’s truest values and sharing that with direct reports to get authentic buy-in. A bit too long.]

Consensus Through Conversation by Larry Dressler
[A look at the power of consensus for decision-making and how to go about it. He kept it to the right length and to the point.]

The Early History of God by Mark Smith
[The consideration of Yahwism in the context of the polytheistic ANE. A Ugaritic master relates a multitude of ancient text to the OT.]

Ugarit at Seventy-Five ed. By K. Lawson Younger
[A compendium with several interesting remarks on the ramifications of the Ras Shamra find 75 years later.]

The Virtuous Reader by Richard Briggs
[This book considers what type of reader the OT intends, which virtues will make a reader most likely to receive its message correctly. It bases its virtuous analysis on a close reading of a few sample OT texts. A very unique project.]

Pensees by Blaise Pascal
[The French philosopher/theologian thinks about many areas of life. He musings on pleasure and death are two of the most profound sections.]

The Gospel & Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever
[A quick read that distills the issues in simple terms, yet quite convicting.]

Archaeology and the Bible by John Laughlin
[A really great intro to relationship of the Bible and archaeology. It is fairly balanced in its approach and gives a good explanation of methods and eras.]

Philistines and the OT by Edward Hindson
[A dated book on the Philistines, but still a good starting place for studying the ancient people. It gives a very helpful textual study.]

Fundamentalists in the City by Margaret Bendroth
[This book covers the history of the conflict and in Boston churches from 1885-1950. This religious history is told compellingly with special attention to local geography and religious history’s intersection with politics.]


John 6: Help to Readers

Reading John 6 as a coherent unit can be difficult at first glance. Specifically the first and second pericopes appear almost unrelated. I found Koester’s work Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel to very helpful in piecing the relationship together. In short, the relationship is contrast between the Johanine characters of the crowd and the disciples.

In 6:1-15 Jesus feeds the 5,000 near Tiberius, Galilee. The structure is a) miracle sign, the b) response of the sign observers, and c) Jesus’ response. After the crowd (oxlos) is fed, their response in v. 14 identifies Jesus as the Prophet of Deuteronomy 18:18. This prophetic, messianic connection seems well-founded as even the later document 2 Baruch conveys the sentiment. “The Anointed One will begin to be revealed…and those who are hungry will enjoy themselves and they will moreover see marvels everyday…and it will happen at that time that the treasury of manna will come down again from on high and they will eat of it in those years because these are they who will have arrived at the consummation of time.” (v. 3, 6, 8).

Jesus’ response to the crowd is to withdraw (which is better contextually and has better textual support than the possible “fleeing”). The withdrawing puts Jesus alone. Thus in fulfillment of Jesus words in John 2:23-25, He decided based on His knowledge of humans, who to entrust Himself to.

In 6:16-24 it is clear the same day is in view from vv. 1-15. The geography is moving across the Sea of Galilee from near Tiberius to Capernaum. The sign occurs in v. 19 with Jesus walking on the water during the storm and causing fear in the disciples. Jesus now speaks a crucial statement to the flow of the gospel. In v. 20, “I am; don’t be afraid.” Although sometimes translated differently, it is clear that this statement is an echo of Ex. 3:14 and Deut 32:39. It is the divine name (egw eimi) that will be presented throughout John’s gospel with further attribution such as in 6:35 “I am the bread of life” and 7 times in the rest of the book. This statement has appeared, though even more couched in 4:25.

This statement of divinity is followed by the disciples’ response thus reversing parts B & C of the previous pericope. The disciples allow Jesus to come into the boat or more dramatically dripping with Johnanine entendre they “received” (lambanw) Jesus.

Thus, John the evangelist arranges these two scenes to show a fundamental difference between the crowd of Galilee and the disciples. The crowd came for signs, thought they might actively make Jesus king, Jesus withdrew alone from them. The disciples heard the words of Jesus, received Jesus, and Jesus went with them to Capernaum (immediately apparently). John is signaling to his late first century readers the need to move from self-identifying with the seekers and the crowd (Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, the Royal Official, and the lame man). For the rest of the gospel, John writes to clue his readers into self-identifying with the disciple community (though now forming the next generation after the apostles). These disciples are “the ones the Father has given” and “know his voice.” It is to these special individuals that Jesus will meet with in an Upper Room to pass on His mission. Thus, for readers today of the gospel of John, we must see that believe the words of Jesus identifying Him as God and Messiah. Then receive Him in order to be a true disciple.


Review of The Cult of the Customer

$21.95 pp.256
The Cult of the Customer by Shep Hyken is an enjoyable work from a gifted loyalty relationship consultant. Its basic concept is to create a cult centered on the customer. The book is divided into 5 sections tied together with a vignette about a fictitious owner, who learns the lesson of the book that he needs to build a customer-centric business.

The first section of the book argues for the need to create a cult centered on the customer in one’s business. The message here need not be missed although it certainly is not unique. A key advantage of the book’s presentation is its emphasis on three forces that can work toward a cult of the customer. He explains the force of one, the force within, or the force of many. This allows the book to speak to the lonely representative trying to work in an operations-driven culture while delivering customer-centric service. It allows a force of subversives to work for customers’ benefits as well. Finally, the force of many asks decision-makers of organization if they will take the steps necessary to create a cult for the customer.

Hyken outlines the process as a five stage process: the cult of uncertainty, alignment, experience, ownership, and finally amazement. The stages work on a spectrum of consistency of exceptional customer experiences. Hyken also puts a high emphasis on treating employees in manner one wants customers to be treated. In essence employee experience enhances customer experience.

Part two of the book walks through each stage of the process toward amazement as a chapter length treatment. Uncertainty is marked by inconsistency in service, confusion, lacking communication, and employees without motivation. The Alignment stage includes a company mantra for the service they wish to provide, but the service is seeking improvement. The cult of experience means that a customer has had a positive experience, and wants to try again to see if it’s repeated. Ownership is marked by strong employee engagement and fixed processes to review and improve positive customer experiences. Recovery begins to be an intentional behavior. Finally, in the cult of Amazement customers become “evangelists” for the company sharing the positive experience with others. Employees do the same for the company and this behavior is a differentiating feature for your business. Throughout part two Hyken includes inspiring stories from real business with tangible ideas that could be transferred to various industries.

Part three marks a journey toward amazing: it looks a certain way on the inside and the outside. The inside change needed for the cult of amazement requires an emphasis on employee concerns such. The change requires fixing little things, problem solving, looking for opportunities, creating a proactive culture, and adding moments of WOW. Hyken puts a high emphasis externally on creating a story to describe the struggle for exceptional service (e.g. Branson and Virgin as the ‘David v. Goliath battle’).In order to create an “Amazement Revolution” he directs his readers to identify touch points and impact points. Touch points are transparent interactions with customers, and impact points are those behind-the-scenes moments that affect unbeknownst customers. Moments of Magic® should be the objective of employees and the reversal of Moments of Misery®.

Part four adds explanation and living illustrations for the five areas that need to happen to achieve the amazement revolution. Finally part five includes several handouts to be used with the link of www.cultofthecustomer.com which provides electronic copies of the handouts.
The only critique I can offer is a need for some clarity surrounding the ideas of cult of the customer and the cult of amazement. It seems they are almost synonymous, but at times the five stages (at times also referred to as “cults”) can muddle the spectrum. A close reading remedies this, but it could be improved.

The strengths of the book are manifold, but I will highlight three. First, Cult of the Customer (CoC) paints a clear picture of process for customer experience. It provides a roadmap on how to improve service and make it consistent. Secondly, CoC is chucked full of real-life examples drawn from customer online reviews, newspapers, and Shep’s personal experience. I think these put shoes on the concept allowing the reader to take a walk in them and see about how they will go with their outfit. Finally, CoC provides a resource for generating innovations and best-practices to be shared throughout on an organization on route to the cult of amazing customer experiences.


The God Who Hears and Sees: Genesis 15-16

I was challenged today in reading Genesis 15-16 in how God is described. In the culturally unusual events of these chapters, the modern reader can easily be distracted from the important meaning of these chapters by the author. Abram’s continued trust of YHWH, who called him, comes to the matter of progeny. The promise of a son is given and Abram believes (15:6) YHWH and it’s counted as righteousness. A covenant ceremony occurs and YHWH makes clear that the covenant will be kept unilaterally despite the coming bondage of Abram’s descendants. The promise of a great land is given.

Chapter 16, though culturally strange, sounds like how most Christians (including myself) respond to God. The moment God is done speaking in narrative time, Sarai and Abram take matters into their own hands in following conventional wisdom of how to conceive an heir. Sarai gives her servant Hagar to Abram to sire an heir. This transaction in ANE culture is not adultery, but the surrogate use of a servant on behalf of the maiden of the house. Though conventional for the time, it of course created awkwardness and tension and eventually jealousy and mistreatment.

Two amazing descriptions of God come nestled in this awkward story: One is a self-disclosure of God in His own direct speech to reveal Himself, the other comes from human speech in response to God’s disclosure of acting in history’s space and time. The son to come from Hagar will be named Ishmael, which is a verb-subject name explaining that “God (El) Hears.” The Lord explains the reason for this name as the fact that the Lord hear of your misery. The Lord continues telling what Ishmael’s life will be like.

Hagar’s response also reveals God’s character. She calls YHWH, “the God who sees me.” The seeing is not passive or incidental, but active and intentional. YHWH sees and acts on behalf of this troubled woman .

Two implications rise out of this passage, one for personal application and the second for theological importance. 1) First, the Lord hears of our miseries and He sees us. This can be an encouragement not only about who God is but about our difficult circumstances. YHWH is a God with a heart of pity toward those hurting and those seemingly alone. There is a special relation to God’s character and the most pitiful and miserable of circumstances that people find themselves in. It is those circumstances that His seeing takes action. In the course of human history of space and time He inserts Himself in order to aid the miserable, personally (He saw “me” Hagar in the passage). God also hears me in my miseries and He responds in seeing me in response. How interesting that the flow is from hearing to seeing! The self-awareness of one’s own needs often present the opportunity for God’s interruptive action into our lives. Without the acknowledgment of our misery, we might overlook the all-seeing response of God. This is the comfort of a near and knowable God.

2) Secondly, God, though near and knowable in His description in this chapter is often painted as vastly transcendent and utterly Other. These paradoxes of immanence/transcendence, knowable/unknowable, and Another/Other can create barriers in our theological formulations about God. In Chapter 16 we learn something about the methodology of Theology Proper (the study of God) in the realm of theology. God’s self-disclosure is always independent and according to sovereign choice, yet His disclosure comes both in direct, divine speech and in human language. God accommodates the explanation of His nature in anthropomorphic terms such as hearing and seeing. These allow us a metaphorical segue to God’s attributes in care/love for the hurting. God appears to have emotion and can be touched with human emotions and plights. God is alive & active in that He responds to the pain that He sees. God is a loving God, One who brings hope to the hopeless. His actions in history seem to be discernible by humans even without their recording in literary form. In other words, Hagar recognized God’s response –she didn’t need to wait to read about it in Genesis. Likewise, the actions of God in accordance with His disclosed character can be discerned in our own lives, perhaps not unquestionably but often unmistakably. These actions of God consistent with God’s self-disclosure in Scripture can be a means of understanding experientially what God is like in His attributes of immanence, knowability, and Anotherness with us.


What I'm Working On: Ugaritic KTU 2.12

I haven't posted in a while. I've been working hard on finishing my M.A. this semester. I completed a reading list of 15 books on Near Eastern and Biblical Archaeology, history, and religion in preparation for my final comp on March 19th. I also am working on all things Ugaritic for the language portion of my exam. Here is the quickest explanation of what it is.

Since I'm investing sooo much time in Ugaritic right now, I thought I'd put a text out there for everyone to enjoy!

KTU 2.12 RS 9.479A
(sorry, no way to distinguish t,h,& dotted letters. #s signifies the Shophel)

l. mlkt
thm. tlmyn

l. p'n

My translation (pretty wooden):

To the Queen
My Lady
"The Message of TLMYN
your servant.
To the feet
of my Lady
seven times
and seven more
from a distance
I fall.
With my Lady
whatever is well,
may she send word
to her servant."

So there you go a letter written to the Queen at Ugarit (assumedly). This dates some time during the Late Bronze age 1200-1000 BC.


What I Read in 2009

2009…well, I’ve read 39 books, which was 1 more than last year. I’m still hoping for 52 in a year…maybe 2010. My reading this year though mostly school directed did weave in a few other books. This list probably has an emphasis mostly on Ancient Near Eastern studies (ANE) and the soul/body problem. I hope that this list might provide you with at least one book that you should pick up and read.

Note the * marks highly recommended books. I don’t use this mark a lot. Some books are good for what they intend to do, but I use the * when I feel the book is exceptional and worth reading even if you’re not expressly looking to gain the intention of the book.

The Deliberate Church by Mark Dever-helpful for the nuts and bolts of doing church. Dever, a historian by training, and pastor in calling gives a practical guide to the issues church polity.

The Bible Unearthed by Finkelstein and Silberman
The New chronology introduced by Finkelstein is explained at a popular level in this book. The team challenges the understanding of much of biblical history attacking even the period of the United Monarchy.

In Search of the Soul edited by Joel Green and Stuart Palmer
This is a 4 views book that wrestles with the relationship of the soul and the body. I’m not sure if you’ll get all your questions answered here, but you’ll be sure to get a new set of complicated questions.

Africa and the Bible by Yamauchi
-A thorough historical treatment of the relationship of the continent of Africa and the Bible.

Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting by John W. Cooper
-A biblical theology of sorts dealing with the body/soul problem wrestling with passages and lexical terms

Embryo by George and Tollefsen
-Secular arguments for the sanctity of the embryo, not too difficult to follow showing logical reasons for the protection of embryo in practice and policy.

Israel in Egypt by Hoffmeier *
-An exceptional treatment of the question of the Israelites presence in Egypt. Hoffmeier, a trained Egyptologist shows remarkable evidence both textually and archaeologically for Israel’s presence in Egypt and its subsequent Exodus.

Marks of His Wounds by Felker-Jones *
-A Feministic understanding of embodiment in conversation with Augustine and Calvin.

From Human to Post Human by Waters
-A cumbersome read, requiring extensive knowledge of philosophy and post-humanism

Rethinking Human Nature by Corcoran
-a short read explaining Kevin Corcoran’s Constitution View of Christian Materialism in addressing the body/soul problem.

Theology and Down Syndrome by Yong *
-a very unique read, but truly mind-opening to the issue of biblically and lovingly caring for the “disabled” with a focus upon Yong’s personal robust theology of down syndrome.

The Way of Life by Gary Badcock
-a helpful book on the issue of vocation placing it in theological context with major theologians of the past.

The Ark Narrative by Antony F. Campbell
-one of the first treatments of the Ark Narrative of 1 & 2 Samuel in English. Campbell is great OT scholar and especially good in the books of Samuel.

The Hand of the Lord by Patrick Miller and J.J.M. Roberts
-a joint dissertation on the Ark Narratives of 1 & 2 Samuel, exegetical in nature, detailed in approach.

Linguistic Analysis of Biblical Hebrew by Sue Groom
This work places biblical Hebrew in the broader context of linguistics at an introductory level, so that students can graspit.

A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax by Arnold and Choi
-a little bit more readable than Waltke and O’Connor. This is able to be read through and then serves as a helpful reference.

Work in the Spirit: Towards a Theology of Work by Volf *
-Volf’s careful interweaving of theology, work, and the Christian. This should be essential reading for thinking Christians, who hold down a job.

A biblical history of Israel by Provan, Long, Longman
As the title suggests, this group limits their construction of Israel’s history to the biblical record. Following this model their treatment of the era of the Divided Monarchy could be improved.

A History of Ancient Israel and Judah by Miller and Hayes
A conservative approach to Israel’s history; however, more weight is given to archaeological evidence though the text is not forgotten. A very helpful work for the Christian student, who is familiar with the text but less familiar with archaeology and ANE history.

The End of Laissez Faire by John Maynard Keynes
-the late economist argues for his view of how American economics should influence foreign policy.

The Starbucks Experience by Joseph Michelli
-A good eye-full of what has made Starbucks successful and how this can be transferable to other businesses. As a place I love to visit, this book helped materialize my understanding of why the concept of a 3rd place is important for culture. I just would like it to be the church instead.

Oxford History of Ancient Egypt
-a historical intro. to the periods of ancient Egypt. Helpful, a bit dry at points, uneven in the specificity and readability of each chapter.

Revolution by George Barna
-Barna’s detailing of the “revolutionary” Christians, who are doing the Christian life often outside of the context of the church. It explains why they do it, how they do it, and what will happen if churches don’t get with the program. What it lacked in biblical treatment and sympathy for the apostolic model, it made up for in over-stated idealistic triumphalism for the so-called “revolutionary” Christians.

The Immigration Crisis by Hoffmeier
-the hot button issue of immigration is dealt with by an actual immigrant, who happens to be well-trained in OT and Ancient Near Eastern Studies. This allows him to clearly explain, who the strangers and aliens are in the OT Scriptures, and what bearing this information has on the church’s action toward immigrants and the socio-political consciences of Christians.

Bringing Up Boys by James Dobson
-the pop-christian-talking head gives his 2 cents on the topic. I’m sure he’s a great Dad, but this book isn’t well founded. It is basically the ramblings of a Dad shooting off on what next comes to mind. Don’t buy the book, just give your own Dad a call (or another Christian father you respect).

Life in Biblical Israel by King and Stager
-a very helpful guide to everything you wanted to know about life in biblical Israel. Archaeological data is incorporated throughout along with the biblical text to illuminate passages and giving a panorama view of what living like an Israelite was like.

Sticky Church by Larry Osborne
-this west coast pastor gives his view of small groups that has been effective for his large ministry. He sees small groups as addressing the problem of the backdoor by providing a means of connectedness. This is a sensitive and practical guide that ought to be considered by those utilizing sermon-based small groups.

Ragamuffin Gospel by Manning
-a celebration of grace through the creative word-smith of Brennan Manning. His extensive references to literature and real life provide ample glimpses of how amazing grace is. If you haven’t reveled in God’s grace lately, you need to read this one.

The Cost of Discipleship by Bonhoffer *
-a classic on the costly life of following Jesus. No cheap grace here. It was costly. If you follow Jesus you are being ask to follow and die to yourself.

The Testament by John Grisham
-one of his best as this work abuts the selfless life a missionary with the selfish and depraved lives of the rich and those who are lovers of money. Indeed the maxim he who dies with the most toys still dies is the moral, but seen through the eyes of the protagonist you see the struggle to learn it.

Treasuring God in our Traditions by Noel Piper
-I read it for my wife. It is helpful though in pondering how to live the Christian life in the context of the family. How do I communicate in traditions how much I love Jesus and why certain things are special. A good starting point for the conversation with your family.

The City of Ugarit by Yon
-an archaeological guide to the finds at Ras Shamra. The Bronze Age marvel provides tons of information on Canaanite life during and prior to the Israelite conquest.

Untold Stories by Mark S. Smith
-a survey of the study of Ugaritic emphasizing scholars, works, and schools. This gives one a doorway into the field of Ugaritics.

War Against the Idols by Eire
-a keen historian dealing with the Reformational issue of iconoclasm. He argues on the basis of historical evidence iconoclasm was a political arm of the religious movement.

The Republic by Plato
-classic philosophy that I hadn’t read ‘til this year. Helpful categories and important for political foundations.

Calvin: Origins and Developments of His Religious thought by Wendel
-a short biography begins the work and then an introduction to Calvin’s theology (though be on the look out for Wendel’s Neo Orthodoxy to show).

Creative Community by Andy Stanley
-a case for community groups from a successful programming master. Some tips on what works and some good suggestions on how to lead.

Ugaritic Narrative Poetry ed. By Simon Parker
-A SBL compilation that includes many significant translations of Ugaritic texts including the Kirta Epic, Ahqat, and the Ba’al Cycle.

A Primer on Ugaritic by Schniewind and Hunt
-A grammar for the student of Ugaritic that teaches through the genre corpuses: letters, administrative texts, legal texts, epic, and poetry.