From a Trip to Marblehead

This is the best picture of several I took on a day trip to Marblehead, Massachusetts today. It’s from out by the lighthouse there, looking back across toward the very picturesque town. Click on the picture for a larger version.

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A New Book from Andrei Orlov

Andrei Orlov of Marquette University has published a new and very interesting looking book! Here are the details. It really does sound lke a fascinating book.

Dark Mirrors
Azazel and Satanael in Early Jewish Demonology
Andrei A. Orlov

Discusses the two most important figures in early Jewish mythologies of evil, the fallen angels Azazel and Satanael.

Dark Mirrors is a wide-ranging study of two central figures in early Jewish demonology—the fallen angels Azazel and Satanael. Andrei A. Orlov explores the mediating role of these paradigmatic celestial rebels in the development of Jewish demonological traditions from Second Temple apocalypticism to later Jewish mysticism, such as that of the Hekhalot and Shi‘ur Qomah materials. Throughout, Orlov makes use of Jewish pseudepigraphical materials in Slavonic that are not widely known.

Orlov traces the origins of Azazel and Satanael to different and competing mythologies of evil, one to the Fall in the Garden of Eden, the other to the revolt of angels in the antediluvian period. Although Azazel and Satanael are initially representatives of rival etiologies of corruption, in later Jewish and Christian demonological lore each is able to enter the other’s stories in new conceptual capacities. Dark Mirrors also examines the symmetrical patterns of early Jewish demonology that are often manifested in these fallen angels’ imitation of the attributes of various heavenly beings, including principal angels and even God himself.

Andrei A. Orlov is Associate Professor of Theology at Marquette University. He is the author of several books, including Selected Studies in the Slavonic Pseudepigrapha.

• Albany: SUNY Press, 2011
• 256 pages
• $75.00 hardcover 978-1-4384-3951-8

Here is the flyer with the same information.

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A Private Prayer of the Rev. Blacklock

Lord, if I preferred the fine degrees
Of Thy justice to the antipodes
Of mercy, count it not a fault.
Judgment may not with love’s vehemence assault
Thy multiple mansion, yet count me,
Count me among the just.

Count me with those who must renounce a mind
Confined
By its own infinity.
The pollen of the Law I buzzed among I reckon dust
Yet number me
Not with the worms that sting, not with the flies,
O number me among the bees of paradise.

Eric Ormsby, “Two Private Prayers of the Rev. Blacklock”, 2. From Time’s Covenant: Selected Poems.

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Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost, 1922

The Poetry Foundation hosts a video of Robert Frost reading the poem here. The way he reads “The woods are lovely, dark and deep” is breathtaking. He seems to slip out of his rote recitation for a moment, his voice touching on something of the feeling of that moment that inspired the poem all those years ago when he was a farmer on the way home one night, pausing in the woods, affected by that primeval beauty.

I post this because I drove with some friends past Derry in New Hampshire on Sunday, where Frost wrote this poem. Passing so very quickly by the woods there along the highway, I thought (how could you not?!) of that line “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep”, because they were. I’m looking forward to a snowy night walk of my own this winter, here in New England.

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Apologies and Plans

I apologize to you, readers, for not having been updating this blog for quite some time, and for even neglecting email responses. It was a surprisingly busy first semester of seminary, with more extracurricular busyness than expected. Though it’s been a wonderful experience, it’s time to get back to the grindstone and stop neglecting responsibilities. I believe this is where I kiss all free time goodbye, essentially. So there, watch it fly away, with a little tear in its eye for an old friend now lost to it….

So! Because writing is something that I’ll be doing for the forseeable future, I intend to be posting something at least once a day, whether long or short, whether of my own concoction, or parroting what others have written, or some combination of the two. The intellectual life, after a certain level, is a conversation, one held between oneself and those whom one is reading and digesting. The act of internalization involves a certain diplomacy, a dance of acceptance and rejection, of amelioration and emphasis, by which one transforms information into learning, learning into intelligence, and intelligence into wisdom. It’s an activity, not a passivity, reading, if properly done. I intend to pull out all the stops, not pull punches, realize potential, whatever your favorite cliché is, et cetera. It should be an interesting thing.

So there we go. Stay tuned, as they say.

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Pondering and plotting: Biblical resources tips?

Because of some classes, lately I’ve been thinking a little and would like to bounce something off of anyone who’d have some input. I’d be particularly interested in hearing from those who’ve been through a seminary or similar program, and/or those who have planned and implemented a really successful Bible Study program in their parish.

I’m thinking of putting together a short list (or two) of Bible Study resources for the use of seminarians not only for their own use and edification during seminary, but that would also be of permanent value in planning out Bible Study programs in their parishes after seminary, and in fact of permanent value for personal study.

Now, I’m quite familiar with the Bible, the wider ancient Near Eastern cultural context, the history of scholarship, and so on. But in seminary, we’re seeing people, my fellow students, who don’t know the general outline of, much less the stories of the Old Testament, and never mind the cognate languages and cultures and the history of the ancient Near East and such relevant matters. These people are, however, need to be brought up to speed within four years, so that they can help others to learn these things. I think I can help, and I’m not going to abandon my fellow students just because the task is a daunting one. Already I’m helping them as much as I can. One has even affectionately termed me, “The guy who knows too much!” So droll. But it’s a serious issue. If one can help in such a situation, one not only should, but must.

They’re also going to need to have a set of resources available that will be useful in planning Bible Study programs in their parishes, particularly if they’re ordained and find themselves in charge of all the educational programs of a parish, or in fact need to introduce such programs, starting them from scratch, as the case may be.

Now, my problem is that I’m familiar with rather technical works, original language lexicons, chief reference works, advanced monographs, and so on. I’m not familiar at all with the level of references and helps available to the middle range of Bible students who want solid scholarship. I’d like help from my very helpful readers who’ve had experience in these areas. I’ll make some suggestions below in various categories, and maybe we can refine them through discussion in the comments. If we go about this right, the results could (and should!) be generally useful for everyone in a similar situation.

SOFTWARE PACKAGES
I don’t want to get into a huge discussion over which software is “best” or anything like that. I think it’s clear right now that we’ve got three major players: Accordance for the Mac, BibleWorks for Windows, and Logos for both. Accordance and Logos both have mobile device versions, which is very useful. The pricing for the three varies, but essentially they share the same approach: a basic application is purchased to which one may add various purchased modules. These modules may be entire collections of books, etc, or individual ones (particular versions of the Bible, single books, etc). Logos has a staggering array of materials available, but they are not cheap. Accordance likewise has a large number of materials available, but not too much on the free end. BibleWorks is the only one of the three which makes it easy to import fully any Bible version files (or anything else for that matter). I tend to think of Accordance and BibleWorks as roughly equivalent in search and analysis capabilities, but with BibleWorks being better for importing. The mobile Accordance is great (I have it on my iPhone and iPad). Logos I have used for many years not for Bible study, but as an electronic book reader. I think that’s really what they used to be, primarily. I have a large number of books and journal runs in Logos format. It’s very nice for that. The mobile version of Logos is also great, but there’s an important proviso: one must own one of the various base packages offered by Logos (see here) in order to access your electronic library in the mobile version. So, even if you own hundreds of books in Logos, if you don’t have one of those base packages, you won’t be able to see any of those books in the mobile Logos. That’s something to keep in mind.

Now, all three of these programs can of course be used in a basic, midrange, or advanced manner. So I think that the combination of either Accordance or BibleWorks (depending on platform) along with Logos (available for both Mac and Windows) would be one item.

And within those programs, in addition to a variety of English Bibles, the user should make certain to have the following:
1.) a Greek New Testament (in the case of us Orthodox, both the UBS/NA critical text and a representative of the Byzantine Text)
2.) the Septuagint (in both the original Greek and the New English Translation of the Septuagint and/or the Brenton translation)
3.) the BDAG NT Greek lexicon
4.) the “Great Scott” (the Oxford Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon)
5.) [if the user has Hebrew] the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible
6.) the HALOT Lexicon
I think those are a core of necessities.

To Logos could be added all of the above, and any other books discussed below (though I’ve found that things with illustrations are awkwardly displayed in the mobile version, with images not being zoomable, which lack simply results in useless illustrations) if they are available in the Logos format. It’s great to have a book in Logos, as it’s searchable! There’s no need to curse the lack of an index or a poorly done index.

COMMENTARIES
I’m rather eclectic in my commentary collecting. Electronically, I like to have commentary sets that are both recent and close to complete or indeed complete. I’ll buy individual volumes in hard copy from commentary series that for whatever reason don’t cut the mustard in toto when those volumes are said by reliable sources to be excellent. But I don’t think this is a very practical way of going about it. Multivolume commentaries may simply be too much in several dimensions: cost, size, potential uselessness. Perhaps a one-volume commentary would suffice in some cases?

So, what would be a good commentary set, particularly for Eastern Orthodox Christians? The Ancient Christian Commentary is cute, but it’s not fully a commentary, is it? (I don’t own any of these.) Blurbs from Church Fathers does not a commentary make. Is there a good set that would fulfill the following requisites: 1.) not too technical: enough detail to clarify, but not so much detail as to obfuscate; 2.) relatively conservative; 3.) references the Church Fathers: a boy can dream!; 4.) good interaction with historical-critical method: discussion of the perspective of historical-critical issues, even if it doesn’t wholly accept them; 5.) coverage of ancient world: that is, it should provide some discussion of the context of the ancient Near Eastern and Graeco-Roman cultural spheres; 6.) coverage of the extended canon: the Orthodox Bible includes not only all of the books of the Protestant Bible, but those of the Catholic Bible and then some: 1 Esdras, 3 Maccabees, Prayer of Manasses, Psalm 151 and 4 Maccabees.

For one-volume commentaries, a while ago I picked up a copy of the Eerdmans Commentary of the Bible. I find it to be quite nice, a good balance of the above requirements, if a bit short in coverage. That’s the nature of one-volume commentaries. A definite plus of this single-volume commentary is that it covers all the books in the NRSV/RSV (which both include all the books of the Orthodox Bible) as well as including a commentary on 1 Enoch, which is a first, as I recall.

BIBLE ATLAS
Here, I’m all ears. I love my Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World, my Carta Bible Atlas and The Sacred Bridge, and even the Oxford Bible Atlas (although the fourth edition really needs to be bound differently so that the double-page-spread maps don’t lose content in the gutter). I also have the ESV Bible Atlas, which is a very nice production and probably exactly what I would recommend in this case. Any other ideas?

Any ideas on collections of electronic maps? These would be useful for presentations. I haven’t really looked into this, as I’ve never (yet–I shudder to think) had to do such.

BIBLE DICTIONARY
For this, I think the Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible wins hands down. For a more advanced approach, I would recommend the Logos electronic edition of the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. But perhaps there are other recommendations, as well?

VARIOUS
Something that provides a good way to track down subjects that span multiple books of the Bible so that the reader can plan a thematic Bible Study program of some sort. I know there are lots of these things, but I don’t know of any in particular. Can anyone recommend something or several?

How about some books on planning a Bible Study curriculum itself? I have some books on individual Bible Study (Traina, Methodical Bible Study, McQuilkin, Understanding and Applying the Bible, Jensen, Independent Bible Study, and Bullinger How to Enjoy the Bible, and some others probably kicking around here somewhere), but nothing on preparing a group Bible Study.

Anything else? Have there been any particular books or types of books that have been essential or very helpful in preparing Bible Study programs? That helped you learn more about the Bible itself when you were starting out? That work well for several levels of familiarity with the Bible?

Those of you readers who’ve done this kind of planning or studying already, who are in or have been through seminary or a similar program, particularly those with a robust program in Bible and some sucess in implementing a successful, appreciated, and well-attended Bible Study program, please do share some suggestions. We need all the help we can get!

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Certainly not in Berkeley anymore

Here’s a picture from out of the window of my dorm room (affectionately referred to as a “cell”: let the reader understand!) from this morning:

There was some sleet Thursday night that barely made it to the ground, and had mostly melted by morning. This was different: a steady, fluffy, snow driven by a strikingly cold wind (I need a balaclava), that just kept coming and coming and coming. There was a power outage, too. I think all our campus is back up now. I wasn’t aware that snow would cause outages. Apparently a very large tree near the campus (most still have their leaves) became overburdened with snow and just crashed to the ground, taking some power lines with it.

I had forgotten how beautiful this crisp, clear, and cold weather is. I was taken back to childhood by the sight of snowfall, and of melting piles of snow, but especially by the brisk air and the sunlight. The light has a particular quality here that I’d filed away somewhere as “autumn light”, and it’s here in all its glory. Anyhow, I love it.

We’ll see how much I love it later when the banks of snow are ten feet high and I have to fight my way through it all to get to chapel and class!

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