Challenging Gendered Leadership in the Old Testament: A Webinar at Co-Laborate

HERE is a webinar I was invited to speak for at “Co-Laborate: Men & Women Together: Pentecostal Theology & Praxis” with host Dr. Debbie Fulthorp on Tuesday, July 31, 2018. I spoke on the topic “Challenging Gendered Leadership in the Old Testament”.

The three primary ideas/images regarding the role and function of women in leadership in the OT that I selected to share about are:

  • Mother
  • Prophet
  • Wisdom

I present a few texts from the OT in reference to each idea/image and offer these as related to my own hermeneutic of discerning the trajectory of Scripture rather than simply extracting principles. I regard such images in the OT as indicative of what the Spirit has always been at work doing to empower for life and redemption.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the webinar and any of the texts and subjects discussed (provided it is done with civility and love).

Old Testament Commentary Survey (5th Ed.) – A Review

Longman Survey 5thNow in its fifth edition (the first published in 1991), Tremper Longman III (PhD Yale University) “Old Testament Commentary Survey” (Baker Academic, 2013) offers a helpful updated appraisal of commentaries on the OT. I am thankful for the review copy that Logos provided for me and am delighted to recommend this volume as an essential tool in discerning how best to select volumes to consider for building a commentary library of the Old Testament. The accessibility and search-ability of the Logos version made reading and reviewing a volume like this one far easier especially given the heavy use of abbreviations (which were all hyper-linked to pop-up when the cursor was placed over them).
Who has Longman written for: “This guide is for anyone, layperson or minister, who desires to buy a commentary. It lists a number of works available for each book of the Old Testament, briefly summarizes their emphases and viewpoints, and evaluates them. This guide will be especially helpful to seminary students beginning to build the reference library that will be crucial to their preaching and teaching ministries” (p.2). Arguably he meets this aim for his targeted Evangelical audience.
There are a number things worth mentioning about this volume. One, Longman’s own criteria for recommending a commentary or not recommending it. Two, its already being out of date once it is published because of the current proliferation of commentaries and the need to be concise.
First, his comments regard several specific criteria that loom large throughout:

  • Evangelical issues
  • critical perspectives in light of “Evangelical” tendencies
  • theology
  • ancient Near Eastern context
  • readability
  • insightfulness

I wonder if any future update might better clarify Longman’s own understanding of “Evangelical”? He uses the term throughout this volume but never offers even a cursory summation of just what he means by it. Perhaps a brief explanation would better orient future readers as to what he means. Otherwise it seems based upon a simple acceptance that if one has uttered the “shibboleth” of “Evangelical” somehow they are sharing common knowledge and therefore stand on common ground. But in this highly diverse contemporary milieu of “Evangelicalism” found in the U.S. context (which it is supposed Longman has primarily in mind) it would perhaps go further to clarify his sense of the term even in broad brush strokes (e.g., issues of inspiration and authority of Scripture, canonical appropriation of any given text of Scripture, etc). Some of these are latently implied. For instance, when Longman seems to propose that engagement with the NT plays into this. This is how I understand his appraisal of “critical” perspectives that he deems to differ with “Evangelical” tendencies.
His own expertise (ANE and theology) is paramount in his appraisal process and thus might best explain why he focuses on such as criteria worth mentioning throughout. On his comments pertaining to readability, one wonders if he has done any readability tests (there are many available) or is he simply commenting on what he regards as highly readable. How does this align with average readability among laypersons and ministers? Or is this just a highly subjective proposal based upon his own judgment of what constitutes being “readable”? Finally, it might be beneficial if there were a comment or two explaining what he deemed “insightful” in the volumes he states are such*. Perhaps this is asking a bit much of a book that covers a LOT of ground in making such recommendations already, but he has already offered some comments on particulars in certain volumes. Why not explain if it pertains to such issues as authorship, theology, genre-classification, exegesis, etc.?
This second issue (involving all such published reviews of other literature) is not against Longman who has done a fantastic job since the first printing of aiding the layman, pastor and scholar alike (within the broad tent of Evangelicalism) in trying to wade through the multiplicity of commentaries on the market. This critique is inherent to the form of literature. For instance, Daniel Block’s excellent commentary on Deuteronomy (NIVAC, 2012)–though I understand from conversations with him that he will be able to also publish a stand-alone with Eerdmans (?), the total absence of the Abingdon Old Testament Commentary series (fifteen of which have been published since 2001), or Paul Shalom’s highly regarded recent contribution “Isaiah 40-66” (ECC, 2012)–a series which shows great promise to the scholar and yet the series is not even mentioned for review despite volumes also published on Exodus and two on Psalms.
Longman offers a terrifically insightful study of commentaries by describing whom each volume (and set) might best be appropriated: L(ayperson), M(inister/seminarian), or S(cholar). He ranks each by half-star increments (from 1/2 to 5 stars) with five stars being his strongest endorsement. He bases it on the aforementioned criteria and specifies within the commentary how one might understand his rankings: “One or two stars indicate that the commentary is inferior or deficient, and I discourage its purchase. Four or five stars is a high mark. Three, obviously, means a commentary is good but not great. I also use half stars in order to refine the system of evaluation” (p.2). He does not rank his own publications, but does include brief discussions of them. Certainly he understands well the writing of commentaries as he himself has written many in different series on top of being an editor for several. His own commentaries are listed together in Appendix B on p.153:

  •   Job. BCOTWP. Baker Academic, 2012. 496 pp.
  •   Proverbs. BCOTWP. Baker Academic, 2006. 592 pp.
  •   “Ecclesiastes.” In Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs. A. Konkel and T. Longman III. CsBC. Tyndale, 2006. 400 pp.
  •   Ecclesiastes. NICOT. Eerdmans, 1998. xvi/306 pp.
  •   “Song of Songs.” In Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs. A. Konkel and T. Longman III. CsBC. Tyndale, 2006. 400 pp.
  •   Song of Songs. NICOT. Eerdmans, 2001. xvi/238 pp.
  •   Jeremiah, Lamentations. UBCS. Baker Books, 2008. xvi/412 pp.
  •   Daniel. NIVAC. Zondervan/Hodder & Stoughton, 1999. 313 pp.
  •   “Nahum.” In The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical and Expository Commentary. Ed. T. McComiskey. Vol. 2. Baker, 1993. Pp. 765–829.

Several humorous side comments are offered throughout, but here are several of note which speak to Longman’s own eschatological perspective (or at least away from those which he would self-identify):

  • For instance on Cooper’s commentary on Ezekiel in the NAC series, Longman writes: “This commentary is informative on a basic level but not too profound or thought-provoking. It adopts a dispensationalist and premillennial approach, which I personally find difficult to accept. So if that is your view, add a star. LM[two stars]” (p.108, bolding mine).
  • Or Baldwin’s commentary on Daniel (TOTC): “Baldwin is a balanced and sane exegete, which is important to note in a commentary on a book that attracts some wild ideas. ” (p.111, bolding mine–it would be interesting to hear some of the “wild ideas” he might have had in mind as he wrote this).

Anyone looking to gain free digital access to a number of other commentary reviews (including taking into account Longman’s own) should visit bestcommentaries.com.
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Longman was my second reader for my M.Div.Honours thesis and had commented in his formal review about my own “insightfulness”. Perhaps this is my own curiosity showing in that he did not comment on the specifics of what he found insightful in that work. FWIW, he gave me very high remarks and grade. 🙂

Wrestling with Unicorns

unicornYou read that right. Yesterday I wrestled with unicorns…all afternoon. And not just your run of the mill mythic Greek unicorns. No. I wrestled with the Biblical variety. In case you have no clue what I’m talking about, you might be surprised to find that “unicorns” are mentioned in the Bible (or at least in the King James Version of the Bible). [1]
Here are the passages where “unicorn/s” are referred to: Numbers 23:22; 24:8; Deuteronomy 33:17; Job 39:9; Psalm 22:21; 29:6; 92:10; and Isaiah 34:7. This is quite a list. I know I was surprised by it.
Perhaps you are actually wondering why I would be concerned about “unicorns” (the Hebrew is  רְאֵ֖ם or r’m) in the Bible and spend my afternoon studying them? Well, as it turns out, I have a friend who is a professor in Canada who emailed me an extended question on the topic, because someone had asked him about it. Here is part of his question (where he is citing the person who brought it to him):

“Psalm 92:10 is very clearly saying that this animal has one horn, while Deut. 33:17 is clearly saying that this animal has two horns. Therefore, whatever the r’em is, it must be an animal that could have either one or two horns.”
As such, this individual believes that the “wild ox” translation of most of our modern versions is actually misleading and inaccurate and we should be sticking with the LXX  (KJV) rendering of rhinoceros/unicorn.

Unicorn on the Black ObeliskAnd here is my reply:

Technically Psalm 92.10 (or more specifically the MT 92.11) only refers to “the horn” of the r’m. This does not require it to have only one horn, but only notes “the horn” of this creature as if to specify a type rather than delineate the number of horns this creature has normally. For instance, I could refer to something being “like the tusk of the elephant” but this does not mean that elephants only normally have one tusk, but I would be referring to the general category, or exemplar of just one of the tusks of the elephant. I could be wrong and perhaps the plural form for “horns” in Deut.33.17 is intended to refer to multiple horns or to the significance of the horn of this creature, but it seems more likely in that case to actually be referring to multiple horns on the single r’m.
On the NIDOTTE [2], it doesn’t have ANY mention of this term as a synonym or anything. Too bad really. And the TWOT doesn’t have anything besides “wild ox”. 🙁
The Black Obelisk [3] also contains images of monkeys (?) and elephants (on another side of it). These are the only two of the four sides depicted in ANEP. However, on yet another side there are what appear to be some sort of an ox and a buffalo and in their middle is a one-horned ox-like creature also being brought as tribute to Shalmaneser (this is a photo from the British Museum: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fuzitalondon/320861479/). So PERHAPS it is a reference to a one-horned creature, but there does not appear to be anything requiring such. Not sure what to think about it. If only there were actually a depiction with a cognate term used so that potentially one might know what is being referred to precisely.
The cognate occurs in Ugaritic r’m : rum “buffalo” UT 49:VI:18, plural rumm (UT 51:I:44; 62:19; 2 Aqhat VI:21 [where his “sinews” are considered “splendid”). For more contemporary citation references: 4.i.44 (in the land of Ym’an there are 10 thousands of them); 5.i.17 (captivated by a pool of water much like the appetite of lions in the wasteland, or the desire of dolphins with the sea and hinds with springs of water), 6.vi.18 (the brutality of the battle between Mot and Baal is compared to the goring of this creature) in Gibson who provides the gloss “wild ox”. [4]
Interestingly enough EVERY occurrence in the Hebrew Bible is in a poetic statement. Not sure what that might mean, but it is interesting nevertheless.
My likeliest explanation for “unicorn” is it derives from the Vulgate [5] which translated the LXX which started with “one-horned”. Not sure where the LXX derives this from, other than potentially their own understanding of the Psalm passage about the singular “horn” of this creature. Granted (as is witnessed on the Obelisk) there is some sort of creature known to the ANE which had a single horn (or so it appears as such), but this does not necessitate the same creature for the Hebrew r’m.

So that is the gist of my wrestling with unicorns in the Bible. However, the story isn’t quite complete, because when I arrived home my oldest daughter (Abbi, 11) showed be a video that her sixth grade class had made which was based on the topic they had been discussing yesterday…which just happened to have been “unicorns”. 🙂 Coincidence…you be the judge. 🙂
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[1] Wild ox or buffalo seems to be the preferred translation in many other versions.
[2] He had asked about the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (5 vols; Zondervan, 1997). I also looked at the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament ()2 vols.; Moody, 1980) which is why I mention it next.
[3] In one of the commentaries he had consulted there was mention made that the Black Obelisk had a picture of a one-horned creature along with other livestock, but sadly that particular side of the Obelisk is not pictured in James Pritchard’s The Ancient Near East: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures (2 vols.; Princeton, 1971). So I included a link to it as photographed in the British Museum.
[4] UT refers to Cyrus Gordon’s Ugaritic Textbook: Grammar, Texts in Transliteration, Cuneiform Selections, Glossary, Indices (Analecta Orientalia 38, Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1965). The Gibson text I refer to is Canaanite Myths and Legends (2nd Edition; New York: T&T Clark, 2004). While I did not mention it in my response, one also finds a cognate in the Aramaic and, yet earlier, Assyrian rimu.
[5] The Latin Vulgate translates with the English equivalents of “unicorn” and “rhinoceros”. This appears to be following the Greek Septuagintal translations (LXX).

Do We Really Need the Old Testament?


As someone who serves as an Instructor in Old Testament at one college (Providence University College and Theological Seminary) and an Assistant Professor whose primary focus is in Old Testament at another college (Trinity Bible College), this question has significant concern for me.
Yet, more significantly this question is of paramount concern for me as one who professes faith in Christ…that is, it is a thoroughly Christian question that must be answered in the affirmative. What do you think about John Oswalt’s “Seven Minute Seminary” answer to this question?
Recommended Reading
Seitz, Christopher R., The Character of Christian Scripture: The Significance of a Two-Testament Bible (Studies in Theological Interpretation; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011).

Evil Spirits in the Old Testament

ImagePrepping for lectures this coming week on the books of Samuel, I returned again to an article by Robin Routledge (Academic Dean of Mattersey Hall; Author of the well-received Old Testament Theology: A Thematic Approach) entitled, “‘An Evil Spirit from the Lord’ — Demonic Influence or Divine Instrument?” (Ev.Q. 70.1 [Jan-Mar 1998]: 3-22). His discussion of the connections (and disjuncture) between the Testaments concerning “evil” spirits offers potential direction in the development of a biblical demonology (or perhaps a more broadly conceived pneumatology).
I find his own proposal at least more satisfactory than Hermann Gunkel’s proposal about there really only being “spirit” (whether good or “evil” being regarded as secondary) in the OT.* Though, the distinguish-ability of  רוּחַ (ruach) in the Hebrew Scriptures is certainly not always an easy task. Nor is it made more simple by the descriptive  רָעָה  (ra’ah) often rendered “evil” or “troubling” in connection with the S/spirit (1 Sam.16:14-16, 23; 18:10; 19:9; cf. Judges 9:23; 1 Kings 22:22).
I can appreciate Dr. Routledge’s proposal to read the NT “against the background of the Old” in order to potentially gain a “proper understanding of the Biblical whole” (3). Essentially, his argumentation boils down to ANE perspectives on the “divine assembly” in relation to the Israelite appropriation of such and thus allows for a multiplicity of “spirits” in the realm of the God of Israel. He extrapolates that this line of reasoning may in fact be conducive to a better understanding of the the inter-relation of Old and New Testaments on the issue of the “evil” and “unclean” spirit/s.
Here’s the Abstract on Routledge’s article:

This article considers two important questions raised by 1 Sa. 16:14, namely what does the OT understand by the term ‘evil spirit’, and, what is the relationship between such spirits and Yahweh? Although demons come to prominence in later Rabbinic writings, the OT accepts the existence of supernatural beings, good and evil and of a heavenly assembly, presided over by Yahweh, to which all such beings may have access. This suggestion, that the scope of the divine assembly is much more comprehensive than is sometimes envisaged, points to Yahweh’s control over evil spiritual beings and their instrumentality in the fulfilment of the divine purpose. The moral question this raises is given some consideration, and the consistency between Old and New Testaments is noted.

What are your thoughts on Routledge’s article? Is this helpful for a biblical theology of “spirit/s”?
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* The Influence of the Holy Spirit: The Popular View of the Apostolic Age and the Teaching of the Apostle Paul (Reprint of English translation by Roy A. Harrisville and Philip A. Quanbeck II; Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2008), 5-6.

Pentecostalisms, Peacemaking, and Social Justice/Righteousness

I’m thrilled to once again be attending the annual meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies (SPS).  This year it is being hosted by Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA from March 1-4 (which promises to be much warmer than Karlstad).  The topic is one I find close to my heart — Pentecostalisms, Peacemaking, and Social Justice/Righteousness” and this year I will be chairing one of the Bible sessions.  It looks to be an interesting conference.  You can view a PDF of the sessions HERE.  

The two presenters and their respective papers I will be chairing are:
“‘New Treasures and Old’: (Re-)Reading the Old Testament Theologically with Early Pentecostal Mothers and Fathers” — Chris Green, Bangor University (Wales)
“‘Tell Me the Old, Old Story’: The Hymns and Testimonies of Ancient Israel and American Pentecostals” —
Meghan Musy, Missouri State University

I am thrilled to be able to chair the session (especially as it pertains to the joint topics of Pentecostals and the OT).  Also, its a delight to be able to chair for Chris Green…who I’ve found helpful in several previous sessions of SPS concerning the integration of the sacraments — and a sacramental appreciation — and Pentecostal theology and praxis.


On a related note…I realized I still haven’t joined Pentecostals and Charismatics for Peace and Justice, but will have to rectify that this year.  By joining you can elect to receive a PCPJ mug, shirt or book (Pentecostal Pacifism by Jay Beaman).  This group was formed by Paul Alexander (and several others of like mind) of whom I intend in 2012 to read his “Peace to War: Shifting Allegiances in the Assemblies of God”.

Reflections on the Old Testament

If you haven’t read them already (and chances are that you haven’t since I’ve just posted the last two within the last  couple of days) and have an interest in Old Testament studies…I’ve posted some of my own reflections on the Old Testament over at my Scribd account.  You can find them through my Writings tab HERE (as well as a few of the other things I’ve written).  I’ve posted four different papers on the OT (hopefully worth a read):

Formation of Canonical Texts: The Question of the “Original” Text of the Old Testament 

Formation of the Old Testament Canon or The Formation of a Community

A Midrashic History of the (Hebrew and Greek) Old Testament Text 

Reflections Towards an Interpretation of the Old Testament 

While these were done for assignments in a course on OT Text and Interpretation…I would still appreciate any feedback or critique you have.  I’m always game for improving what I’ve written and working through my understanding.  Hopefully they are worth the read….if not you can let me know that too…but do let me know gently… :-).

Happiness All Around

Several fun notes about my recent happenings:

Cambria (my five year old) was home from church yesterday with a fever so my wife and I swapped.  I stayed home for Sunday School with Cam (since she teaches pre-school) and she stayed home for service (since I preach).  So for S.S. Cam and I discussed the story of Esther, Haman and Xerxes (which was the lesson for her S.S. that morning) and we decided we should color pictures of the MANY parties that were thrown by Esther.  Cam determined that apparently I am quite the artist (I did do a “stunning” Esther with Haman sitting next to her on the couch begging for mercy and Xerxes returning mouth agape in anger :-)…if you can image anything like chubby stick people with colored pencils and crayons.  We had to include balloons to make sure it was a party and Cam just wasn’t convinced my scene was very authentic since everyone (including the king and Haman) were wearing dresses).  Oh well.  So much for authenticity.

I was overjoyed today to finally receive the complete set of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics (14 volumes) for ONLY $99 from CBD!  I had ordered it back in March and just received it in the mail today (even though the official publication date isn’t till November 2010.  I can’t wait to work my way through the set for my leisure reading (yes it isn’t a part of any required reading for Seminary and yes I do consider it “fun” and leisure reading and I’m still not exactly sure where in the world to store them until I’ve read through them all :-).

On another note…I’m posting a paper I turned in last week where I gave an all-too brief history of the Old Testament text (Hebrew and Greek), but chose to do so in a midrashic form just for the fun of it.  Hopefully Dr. August Konkel enjoys reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it…now to move from the “origins” of the Old Testament to the “originals” of the Old Testament…a far more complex and yet more interesting (from my perspective) topic to engage.

Imaginatively entering the world of the Hebrew Bible…Karl Barth…text criticism…a wife and children that understand my many addictions and love me anyways…life is good!

Jesus and the Old Testament

There was a wonderful and concise blog post over on the Desiring God Blog that I rather enjoyed (you can read it here). It’s about the fact that there was never anyone who knew the Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible) better than Jesus. (I especially thought the quote at the end was noteworthy…and quite funny). How well do you know and care for the Old Testament?

Why We Should Read, Preach, and Teach the Old Testament

A friend of mine (Dave Peters) just posted some great comments (from Dr. Philip Ryken) about why we should read, preach and teach the OT (31 Reasons).  My own thought is that in our contemporary church setting, it would appear too often one of two extremes concerning the OT predominate: either improper understanding and over-emphasis (leading to forms of legalism) or improper understanding and no emphasis (leading to an emasculated Biblical worldview).  Understanding of the OT should be paramount for every Christian (it was the original Scriptures of the Early Church after all) as it is foundational to understanding the NT.  We cannot shy away from the difficult and ugly found in the OT, because it declares the LORD as truly Lord of all and points ahead to ultimate redemption in Christ Jesus.

Preach it Dave 🙂 !