Monthly Archives: December 2008

Give thanks . . .

. . . to the Lord, for He is good.

Give thanks for all the good you have witnessed, experienced, and, hopefully, prayerfully, inspired thoughout the year.

Give thanks for all the good that you will witness, experience, and, prayerfully, inspire in the coming year.

Give thanks to have suffered and had your faith made stronger by it.

Give thanks for your future suffering, so that your faith will always increase.

Give thanks always to God, Who loves and saves.

For He loves you, and will save you, if you will have it.

Posted in Theobabble | Leave a comment

Kadesh and Petra

A couple of weeks ago, I became the happy owner of a Tübinger Bibelatlas (thanks Eisenbrauns!). It’s a beautiful atlas, though still not close to the absolutely magnificent Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World. While flipping through and reading what text there is, the relatively extended essay “Comment on the Sinai Map” by Götz Schmitt caught my eye. The Sinai Map is one of the four maps not originally appearing in the Tübinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients (or TAVO), which is the source for all the other maps, but which were produced especially for inclusion in the Tübinger Bibelatlas, and so the extended description of the map was considered necessary. There is a very interesting passage in Schmitt’s essay (“Comment on the Sinai Map,” col. 1 [there are no page numbers]):

There are two central issues for the geographical interpretation of the texts: Kadesh and Paran. The approximate location of Kadesh is taken from the list of borders in Num 34:3-5/Josh 15:3f. and Ez 47:18. According to this, Kadesh was on the southern border of Judah between the Dead Sea and the “Brook of Egypt” (Wādī Ġazza or Wādī l-ʿArīš). The name appears in ʿAin Qudēs; however, there is more in favor of the oasis and ruins at ʿAin al-Qudērāt ca. 10 km farther north. In the older sources, Kadesh is not of great significance (it is mentioned only in Num 13:26 and 20:1). It acquires this for the first time in Deuteronomy. Presumable reflected in this is an increased significance of Kadesh at that time. This corresponds to the archaeological discovery at Tall al-Qudērāt, a fortress that had existed in various times since the 10th century and was without equal in the region during itls last phase at the close of the monarchy.

Later, in the Roman period, we find Kadesh identified with Rekem, i.e., Petra, and correspondingly, Mount Hor with Ğabal Hārūn near Petra. E. A. Knauf has shown that we have to reckon with this secondary positioning of Kadesh even in Biblical texts (Biblische Notizen 61, 1992, 22-26). The negotiations that Moses held from his location in Kadesh for permission to pass through Edom (Num 21:14-21) have no meaning at all unless Kadesh Petra is meant. At best, passage through a small corner northwest of Edom would come into question, when viewed from the actual, Judean Kadesh. In any case, we now must deal with the question of what is meant by “Kadesh.” The list of borders in Num 34, through which we learn the true location of Kadesh, belongs to an addition of the Priestly Source. That the authors of the original text were also familiar with the content of this document is quite probable in view of the mention of the Wilderness of Zin. Thus, Kadesh in the Priestly Source is still the Kadesh south of Judah. The Mount Hor of the Priestly Source is probably there, as well, one station away from Kadesh. Just as Moses died near the border of the Promised Land, so too did Aaron.

So, there are several things going on here, but the most intriguing, indeed compelling, item is the equation of Kadesh with Petra. Knauf’s article, short as it is, packs alot of information into it in this regard. We’ll get to that in a moment.

First, I feel the need to note some of my own objections to some of the above, as I’ve dealt with several of these subjects in the past. The Shihor of Egypt, the border between Egypt and Israel, was at the easternmost branch of the Nile, not at a further distance from Egypt. Further, I tack otherwise in regards to the Documentary Hypothesis (that is, that it’s malarkey, and further, it is malarchy), describing an alternative perspective on the issue in two separate posts here and here, which I’ll expand upon in the future. My discussion will proceed in keeping with those perspectives. One may follow along or not as one wishes.

Continue reading

Posted in Biblical Studies | 7 Comments


Via Laurence Mellerin on the Hugoye list comes news of the fantastically useful Biblindex, the Index of Biblical Quotations and Allusions in Early Christian Literature. I gasped when I read his message (demonstrating an all too high Patristic Geek Quotient). As described on the site, the index covers:

This site already allows simple interrogation in a corpus of about 400,000 biblical references, from the volumes of Biblia Patristica, CNRS Editions, 1975-2000, and unpublished archives of the Center for Patristics Analysis and Documentation (CADP). The Biblindex project is carried out by the Institute of Christian sources, part of the UMR 5189 HiSoMA (History and Sources of the ancient world) of the CNRS and funded mainly by the Cluster 13 of the Rhone-Alpes Regional Council.

Can be consulted on this website:

– Data of the published volumes of Biblia Patristica, Index des citations et allusions bibliques dans la littérature patristique, Editions du CNRS (ca. 270,000 biblical references, with updates on 5000 references) : 1. Beginnings to Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian, 1975 – 2. The third century (except Origen), 1977 – 3. Origen, 1980 – 4. Eusebius of Caesarea, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius of Salamis, 1987 – 5. Basil of Caesarea, Gregory Nazianzen, Gregory of Nyssa, Amphiloque of Iconium, 1991 – 6. Hilary of Poitiers, Ambrose of Milan, Ambrosiaster, 1995 – 7. Didymus of Alexandria, 2000 – Supplement, Philo of Alexandria, 1982. [The titles marked with a hyperlink can be purchased on the site of CNRS Editions, others are exhausted.]

– Unpublished data from the archives of Biblia Patristica (ca. 100.000 references): these data are unverified (they appear in red)

– Biblical indexes of Bernard of Clairvaux’s thirteen first volumes published in the series Sources Chrétiennes (ca. 13.200 references)

Unfortunately, funding for the project is currently suspended, so that development of the website is in abeyance. The search feature is not intuitive, so read the instructions before attempting to search, otherwise the results are less than ideal.

For anyone familiar with the Biblia Patristica indices, in particular, this is a real source of pleasure. The volumes are very difficult to find. To have the index completely available online, including an additional body of citations, is extremely helpful. This online index will be of great use to those working on Patristic Biblical commentary. Let ‘s all hope the project with soon receive funding again, so that it will continue to be of use to all Patristic scholars and students.

Posted in Patristics | 4 Comments

Slava Bogu!

Just because!

Posted in Eastern Orthodoxy | 7 Comments

Short ‘n’ sweet

Here’re some quick little book reviewlets of some things at hand.

Father Elijah: An Apocalypse by Michael D. O’Brien (Ignatius Press, 1996)
This was a real page-turner. This is the tale of a Carmelite monk, a convert from Judaism, who is called to confront the Antichrist. Cameo appearances by Pope John Paul II, (then) Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, and the Archangels Raphael and Michael. It had me completely involved until the last two chapters, which are, admittedly, something of a denouement. Overall, though, it’s a great read. Kind of like a religious spy story. Great fun for a cold winter! Or an age of incipient darkness! Appearances can be deceiving, especially to those who’ve willingly abandoned their spiritual foundation and sense and who avidly pursue the destruction of everyone else’s. What is especially chilling was that much of what is described in its pages is here with us now. Little imagination was necessary to visualize the society described in it’s pages, because It’s setting could be today. That could not have been said when it was written. Closer and closer…. (Let the reader understand.)

Piranesi: The Etchings by Luigi Ficacci (Taschen, 2006)
This is one of Taschen’s 25th anniversary special editions. If you don’t know Taschen books, you’re missing out. They use beautiful thick quality paper, fully illustrated, and mysteriously but thankfully inexpensive. This book, including images of all the known works of Piranesi cost around $10. It is admittedly a small format, roughly (9×7 in, 23×18 cm) but if you’re that into seeing detail, just scan the pictures; they’re so well photographed that the detail in a scan of the images in the book is amazing. It’s Piranesi!

Anathem by Neal Stephenson (William Morrow, 2008)
I positively despised this book. It’s as dated as his other books. He raids religion, specifically monasticism, for the entire framework of his imaginary world, yet roundly bashes religion throughout. Further, pretending to a deep philosophy (which is tedious in direct proportion to its pretention), it is instead laughably philosophically jejune. The story was simply stupid. Reading this was a waste of time. That it made first place in the New York Times bestseller list only means too many people read crap.

Paul: His Story by Jerome Murphy-O’Connor (Oxford, 2004)
Page 2: “Paul was a Galilean by birth.” The supporting note: “Jerome is the only author to assert Paul’s Galilean origins (Commentaria in Epistolam ad Philemon, on vv. 23-4 and De viris illustribus 5). He derived it from a source whose credibility is strengthened by the fact that its creation profited no one.” Uh huh. I put the book aside at that point. Why? Jerome’s commentary on Philemon describes that the parents of Paul and the entire region of Gischala in Judea was destroyed by the Romans, the people were dispersed (though not enslaved) and the family ended up in Tarsus, whence they later sent Paul back to Judea. The whole thing seems solely to have been a concoction to explain why, as Jerome goes at length to desribe, Paul describes himself as a Benjaminite and Israelite, because even in Jerome’s mind, these labels were tied to birth in the places so named. So, Paul, according to this reckoning, must have been born in Israel in Benjamin. The problems with this are several: 1.) As the modern Jerome notes, Gischala is in Galilee, not in Judea, not in Benjamin; had Jerome known that, he would certainly not have valued this fabulam as he calls it, and would not have mentioned it; 2.) There is no record in Josephus, as surely there would be had it happened, of a massive Roman devastation of Galilee in the first decade or so of the common era; 3.) If the Romans had attacked and had taken the people, they would’ve enslaved them as they did to numerous other conquered Jews before and after, which would clash with the account of Paul’s actually having been born a Roman citizen (Acts 22.28), for born citizenship would’ve required at the very least his father to have been a Roman citizen, and certainly not a slave. This failure in reasoning on the very second page of the book elicited no warm and fuzzies for this reader. I’m not about to waste my time on a so-called history that’s essentially a house of cards built on toothpick stilts. I don’t appreciate such flippancy and incaution in such a serious endeavour.

Hellenistic Commentary to the New Testament, editors M. Eugene Boring, Klaus Berger, Carsten Colpe (Abingdon, 1995)
I’m very disappointed with this volume. Aside from the unusual expansion of “Hellenistic” to cover things even written in Hebrew in the 8th century AD (cough–false advertising–cough), the truly fascinating and applicable actually really truly Hellenistic literature has been largely ignored. I suspect that this is likely because much Hellenistic literature proper is not already available in English translation, which seems to have been one of the guiding lights of this project. That’s truly unfortunate. I got much more really intriguing Hellenistic input out of the excerpts and discussions in Robert Grant’s Gods and the One God and Peter Green’s Alexander to Actium than from this work, unfortunately. A compilation of real Hellenistic texts that relate to various subjects in the New Testament would be fascinating, and even enjoyable. Forcing the collected material into arrangement by book and chapter and verse of the New Testament writings is also too much. It appears to be out of print. Not such a loss….

Collected Ancient Greek Novels, edited by B. P. Reardon (University of California Press, 2008)
This volume is especially beautiful in contrast to the one just covered. It is ideal as a collection of literature in translation. Leave the works with short, not too wordy introductions, give them good, readable, contemporary translations, bind it in an inexpensive but well-made volume, and let the reader do the rest of the work. This is perfect. Though these “novels” themselves are rather formulaic, they’re not without a certain winsome charm. Some, however, are quite shockingly alien, reminding us that though these works are entirely the product of human minds and hands, the cultures, worldviews, and even thought processes of the ancient world from which they come are not to be easily equated with anything familiar to us in today’s world.

Hermetica by Brian Copenhaver (Cambridge, 1992)
Speaking of alien human worlds! These translations are clear and contemporary, but the meaning is almost completely opaque in some passages. Copenhaver’s book is thus appropriately 49 pages of introduction, 92 pages of translation, and 168 pages of notes. This is the seventeen chapters of the Corpus Hermeticum, and the Asclepius. The notes are a labour of love, it seems. Copenhaver in them seems to be one of those Victorian gentlemen who knows absolutely everything (and them some) about everything (and everything else) and shares it in the most avuncular tone. I love that.

The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, Second Edition edited by Hans Dieter Betz (University of Chicago Press, 1992)
Another peek into alien human worlds. This one is beautifully done. The translations include all the bizarre magical language, indications of language, very helpful annotation via footnotes, and also include line drawings of any illustrations from the papyri covered here. Again, this is just how I like it: get out of the way and let the texts speak for themselves. The annotations are not too many, and are short and sweet, mostly dealing with issues of language and pointing to parallels amongst the various papyri. This one is “Volume One: Texts.” It isn’t specified in the Preface what will comprise volume two, but four other works in preparation at the time of its writing are mentioned: 1.) an index of Greek words; 2.) a subject index based on the English translation; 3.) a collection of parallels between the papyri and early Christian literature (this sounds very useful and interesting, and, in fact, fun!); 4.) a comprehensive bibliography. Perhaps 1, 2, and 4 will make up volume two? All four? Perhaps there won’t be a volume two now? One wonders, as it’s been sixteen years already.

Posted in Review | 14 Comments

A Jewish Family

(In a small valley opposite St. Goar, upon the Rhine)

Genius of Raphael! if thy wings
     Might bear thee to this glen,
With faithful memory left of things
     To pencil dear and pen,
Thou wouldst forego the neighbouring Rhine,
     And all his majesty—
A studious forehead to incline
     O’er this poor family.

The Mother—her thou must have seen,
     In spirit, ere she came
To dwell these rifted rocks between,
     Or found on earth a name ;
An image, too, of that sweet Boy,
     Thy inspirations give—
Of playfulness, and love, and joy,
     Predestined here to live.

Downcast, or shooting glances far,
     How beautiful his eyes,
That blend the nature of the star
     With that of summer skies !
I speak as if of sense beguiled ;
     Uncounted months are gone,
Yet am I with the Jewish Child,
     That exquisite Saint John.

I see the dark-brown curls, the brow,
     The smooth transparent skin,
Refined, as with intent to show
     The holiness within ;
The grace of parting Infancy
     By blushes yet untamed ;
Age faithful to the mother’s knee,
     Nor of her arms ashamed.

Two lovely Sisters, still and sweet
     As flowers, stand side by side ;
Their soul-subduing looks might cheat
     The Christian of his pride :
Such beauty hath the Eternal poured
     Upon them not forlorn,
Though of a lineage once abhorred,
     Nor yet redeemed from scorn.

Mysterious safeguard, that, in spite
     Of poverty and wrong,
Doth here preseve a living light,
     From Hebrew fountains sprung ;
That gives this ragged group to cast
     Around the dell a gleam
Of Palestine, of glory past,
     And proud Jerusalem!

William Wordsworth, composed 1828, published 1835.

Posted in Poetry | 2 Comments

Jews in the Nineteenth Century

Some remarkable circumstances attest, without a prolonged detail of their miseries, that they have been a people everywhere peculiarly oppressed. The first unequivocal attempt at legislation in France was an ordinance against the Jews. And towards them alone one of the noblest charters of liberty on earth — Magna Charta, the Briton’s boast — legalized an act of injustice (Articles xii, xiii). For many ages after their dispersion, they found no resting-place in Europe, Asia, or Africa, but penetrated, in search of one, to the extremities of the world. In Mahometan countries they have ever been subject to persecution, contempt, and every abuse. They are in general confined to one particular quarter of every city, (as they formerly were to old Jewry in London) ; they are restricted to a peculiar dress ; and in many places are shut up at stated hours. In Hamadan, as in all parts of Persia, “they are an abject race, and support themselves by driving a peddling trade ;—they live in a state of great miser, pay a monthly tax to the government, and are not permitted to cultivate the ground, or to have landed possessions” (Morier’s Travels in Persia, p. 379). They cannot appear in public, much less perform their religious ceremonies, without being treated with scorn and contempt (Sir J. Malcolm’s History of Persia, vol. ii, p. 425). The revenues of the prince of Bohara are derived from a tribute paid by five hundred families of Jews, who are assessed according to the means of each. In Zante they exist in miserable indigence, and are exposed to considerable oppression (Hughes’ Travels, vol. i. p. 150). At Tripolit, when any criminal is condemned to death, the first Jew who happens to be at hand is compelled to become the executioner ; a degradation to the children of Israel to which no Moor is ever subjected (Lyon’s Travels, p. 16). In Egypt they are despised and persecuted incessantly (Denon’s Travels in Egypt, vol. i. p. 213). In Arabia they are treated with more contempt than in Turkey (Niebuhr’s Travels, vol. i. p. 408). The remark is common to the most recent travellers both in Asia and Africa (Morier’s Travels in Persia, p. 266. Lyon’s Travels in Africa, p. 32), that the Jews themselves are astonished, and the natives indignant, at any act of kindness, or even of justice, that is performed towards any of this “despised nation” and persecuted people.

Rev Alexander Keith, 1854

Posted in Judaica | 2 Comments