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Idle musings of a (formerly former) bookseller

Idle musings by a once again bookseller, always bibliophile, current copyeditor, proofreader, and former cabin housekeeper/maintenance guy. Complete with ramblings about biblical studies, the ancient Near East, bicycling, gardening, or anything else I am

Updated: 2018-04-26T04:38:15.516-05:00


Still good


Out of curiosity, I was looking back over the first dozen or so posts that I had ever written (way back in 2005) and saw this one entitled Worship? Already back then I was pulling quotations from books and thinking along the same lines I do now. Because I know most of you won't click through, here's the core of it:
As a matter of fact, the purest worship—like the purest gift—has little or nothing to do with the satisfaction of the worshiper or the giver, but with the satisfaction of the recipient. We seem to have a good deal of misunderstanding at this point. So frequently we judge worship by the pleasure or fulfillment it gives us. There could hardly be a more dramatic perversion. Worship is not about me; it's about God. When I become absorbed with how much worship benefits my person, I make myself the object of worship rather than the God I profess to adore. If in my worship of God I happen also to be blessed it is a happy coincidence, and I can indeed see it is a blessing, because it isn't the point of worship and I am fortunate therefore to receive it. But God is the issue of worship, not I or my pleasure.—Grace in a Tree Stump, 17 (emphasis added)
It's still true! The other day I was reading an article (can't find the reference right now) that compared modern "worship" to a sexual orgasm. Sadly, I think they are correct. Here's hoping and praying for a revival of true holiness and godly fear. May God deliver us from our idols!

Update: Here's the link: A Call to Reject Orgasmic Worship and Return to Liturgy. I disagree that the return to liturgy is the answer, but he certainly put his finger on the problem!

Where is boasting?


To put it starkly: God has to make Godself known in order to be known, and the way God wishes to be known makes all the difference as to whether God is known at all. The initiative must come from God’s side, since human striving cannot bridge the gap between Creator and creation. All these points lead to the conclusion that knowing God is not a human achievement but a kind of participation in grace. The solving of an investigative mystery brings with it the accolades of human achievement, but with knowledge of a revelational mystery, a sense of devotion, attentiveness, and dependence to that which is given is crucial to acknowledge.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 53 (emphasis original)

Lego Classicists?


I didn't know there was such a thing as Lego Classicists! But this showed up on Eisenbrauns Twitter feed today!

Let's start at the beginning


As to the first point, God is an infinitely rich, superabundant mystery. Such is what is involved when confessing God as Creator. Too often the radicality of this confession is lost in the midst of other pressures and tangents associated with the language of creation. But the claim that God is Creator assumes that creating ex nihilo is a unique act undertaken uniquely by a unique Agent. These claims underscore the point of God’s transcendence. We must make the claim of God’s transcendence noncontrastively or noncomparatively, for only in this way can God be spoken of as fittingly engaged and involved with all that is.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 52

Embrace the mystery!


This last way of expressing the point hints at an important feature of senses of mystery for theological purposes. Boyer and Hall quite appropriately find themselves brushing up against the Creator-creation interface when speaking of the fittingness of mystery for speaking of God. Essentially and ultimately, when Christians dare speak of their God, they do so within the conditions of their creaturehood; they attempt such work as creatures who are struggling to account for their source, their Creator. Such conditions make the category of mystery quite fitting for describing God, given that creating is a unique kind of activity and that creaturehood is a category largely registered in terms of limitations or boundaries.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 51

Never-ending mystery


Quite the opposite, however, is true for revelational mysteries. Here the mysterious sense is not something to be overcome but, rather, something to be apprehended and taken into account as such. This prospect is not to be lamented but rather championed and celebrated in that a revelational mystery, by continuing to retain its mysterious quality, has an available storehouse of riches to be perpetually discovered and mined. The specific kind of ignorance at work in this case is not so much an exposure of human frailty as it is an invitation to anticipate surprise, awe, wonder, and amazement. A revelational mystery has the potential for being beautiful, true, and good in that it can enrapture and enchant those engaging it.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 49 (emphasis original)

Table of Contents for Forti, Like a Bird on a Roof"


Here's the Table of Contents for Forti, "Like a Bird on a Roof":
The Psalms as Liturgy
Imagery, Metaphor, and Simile
Synopsis of Research on Metaphors in the Psalms
The Focus of Investigation and Methodology
Chapter 1 Faunal Imagery in Psalmodic Refrains
Psalm 49:13, 21: A wisdom motif of human ignorance and the futility of wealth—בהמות ‘beasts’
Psalms 59:7, 15; 22:13–14, 17, 21–22; and 118:10–12: Animal imagery as representing the psalmist’s adversary
Psalm 59:7, 15: Wild-dog imagery to denote the psalmist’s enemy—כלב ‘dog’
Psalm 22:13–14, 17: Bulls, mighty ones of Bashan, lions, dogs, and wild oxen as metonyms for the psalmist’s adversaries—כלב ‘dog,’ פר ‘bull,’ אריה ‘lion’
Psalm 118:10–12: Bee imagery as denoting the psalmist’s enemies—דבורה ‘bee’
Chapter 2 Faunal Imagery as Secondary Interpolation
Proverbs 1:10–19
Psalm 84:4: Intimacy with God—צפור ‘bird’ and 'sparrow' דרור
Psalm 102:7–8: Desolation and isolation—קאת ‘great owl,’ כוס ‘owl,’ and צפור ‘bird’
Psalms 33:16–17 and 32:8–9: Wisdom motifs within theological contemplation—סוס ‘horse’ and פרד ‘mule’
Psalm 32:8–9 83
Faunal Imagery in Psalmodic Refrains
Faunal Imagery as Secondary Interpolation
Index of Authors
Index of Scripture
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Table of Contents for Rollston's Enemies and Friends of the State


For some unknown reason, the ToC of Enemies and Friends of the State isn't showing up on the web site, so here it is:
Part 1: Setting the Stage
Defining the State (pp. 3-23). Alexander H. Joffe.
The Politics of Voice: Reflections on Prophetic Speech as Voices from the Margins (pp. 25-56). Miriam Y. Perkins
Part 2: The Ancient Near East
A Land without Prophets? Examining the Presumed Lack of Prophecy in Ancient Egypt (pp. 59-86). Thomas Schneider.
A Royal Advisory Service: Prophecy and the State in Mesopotamia (pp. 87-114). Jonathan Stökl.
Prophecy in Syria: Zakkur of Hamath and Luʿash (pp. 115-134). Hélène Sader.
Prophecy in Transjordan: Balaam Son of Beor (pp. 135-196). Joel S. Burnett.
Part 3: Prophets in the Deuteronomistic History and the Chronicler
Prophets in the Early Monarchy (pp. 207-217). William M. Schniedewind.
Friends or Foes? Elijah and Other Prophets in the Deuteronomistic History (pp. 219-256). Gary N. Knoppers and Eric L. Welch
Unnamed Prophets in the Deuteronomistic History (pp. 257-275). Jason Bembry.
The Prophet Huldah and the Stuff of State (pp. 277-296). Francesca Stavrakopoulou.
Prophets in the Chronicler: The Books of 1 and 2 Chronicles and Ezra–Nehemiah (pp. 297-310). Lester L. Grabbe.
Part 4: Prophets in the Prophetic Books of the First Temple and Exilic Periods
Prophecy and the State in 8th-Century Israel: Amos and Hosea (pp. 313-328). Robert R. Wilson.
Enemies and Friends of the State: First Isaiah and Micah (pp. 329-338). J. J. M. Roberts.
Jeremiah as State-Enemy of Judah: Critical Moments in the Biblical Narratives about the “Weeping Prophet” (pp. 339-358). Christopher A. Rollston.
Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (pp. 359-383). C. L. Crouch.
Obadiah: Judah and Its Frenemy (pp. 385-394). Alejandro F. Botta and Mónica I. Rey.
The Prophet Ezekiel: State Priest, State Enemy (pp. 395-410). Stephen L. Cook.
Yhwh’s Cosmic Estate: Politics in Second Isaiah (411-430). Mark W. Hamilton.
Part 5: Prophets and Patriots of the Second Temple Period and Early Postbiblical Period
Haggai and Zechariah: A Maximalist View of the Return in a Minimalist Social Context (pp. 433-448). Eric M. Meyers.
Apocalyptic Resistance in the Visions of Daniel (pp. 449-462). John J. Collins.
References to the Prophets in the Old Testament Apocrypha (pp. 463-485). Robert J. Owens.
Prophets, Kittim, and Divine Communication in the Dead Sea Scrolls: Condemning the Enemy Without, Fighting the Enemy Within (pp. 487-512). James E. Bowley.
John the Baptizer: More Than a Prophet (pp. 513-523). James D. Tabor.
Jesus of Nazareth: Prophet of Renewal and Resistance (pp. 525-544). Richard A. Horsley.
Late First-Century Christian Apocalyptic: Revelation (pp. 545-564). Jennifer Knust.
Oracles on Accommodation versus Confrontation: The View from Josephus and the Rabbis (pp. 565-581). Andrew D. Gross.
Index of Authors (pp. 583-591).
Index of Scripture (pp. 592-613).
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Mystery as an ever-deepening experience


[A] theological account of mystery must be of another order. They [Boyer & Hall The Mystery of God] argue that God is a mystery who reveals Godself through what God does within various contexts; that is, God is a revelational mystery. On this score, the mystery in question is to be considered primarily in terms of what is known: Christians behold a self-disclosing God, and within such moments of disclosure God is apprehended as One who defies categorization and definition. Notice the distinction: people approach an investigative mystery out of ignorance with the goal of finding more so as to explain it away, whereas a revelational mystery involves some basis of knowledge that over time reveals ever deeper and richer dimensions that cannot be adequately categorized or defined. Boyer and Hall summarize the point as follows: “A revelational mystery is one that remains a mystery even after it has been revealed. It is precisely in its revelation that its distinctive character as mystery is displayed.”—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 48

I wish I had said this!


From today's Anxious Bench
Here, ironically, the attempt by some evangelicals to sanctify Donald Trump might work well if given a quarter turn: he is no Cyrus, a pagan ordained of God to restore Jews to Israel, but Nebuchadnezzar, the pagan invader of Israel ordained of God to punish them for their unfaithfulness, and banishing the best of them from the promised land in the bargain. As intriguing might be the possibility of seeing that pagan’s later fate play out again—that is, to see the proud trumpet of egotistical greatness reduced to crawling around like a beast in the field, eating grass and growing literal instead of just figurative claws (Daniel 4)—one’s relish at the prospect bespeaks an unsanctified longing of its own.

Nothing quite like turning the mirror back on oneself, is there? Before congratulating ourselves that we haven't fallen prey to nationalism, perhaps we should find the log (whatever it might be) in our own eye.

What's your starting point?


I sometimes point out to my students that Protestant primers of theology commonly have a first chapter on revelation or the Bible, whereas their Orthodox counterparts often start with a treatment of mystery. The differences here no doubt relate to the various ways that theologians view God-knowledge. Whereas some Christians may be suspicious of the term “mystery," a renowned theologian like Vladimir Lossky can make the following claim: “In a certain sense all theology is mystical, inasmuch as it shows forth the divine mystery.” For such an assertion to make sense, we need to recognize a certain epistemological sensibility present here involving how we form and develop God-knowledge.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 47–48

First, let's define the terms…


If the term “mysticism” is to be of any use for Pentecostals, it will have to be conceived, appropriated, and applied largely in emic (i.e., insider) ways. “Mysticism” would have to be a term Pentecostals use of themselves to affirm their identity as distinct from, and yet part of, the larger Christian world. It would have a use different from that of religious studies scholars. Such distinctions are difficult, if not impossible, to maintain for those who both use and hear the term. Many contemporary discourses tend to overlook such distinctions, even while claiming to be accommodating uniqueness, diversity, and openness. But such is the challenge with any range of terms, including “scripture,” “tradition,” “experience,” “spirit,” “the sacred,” “charisma,” and “sect.” For widely employed language to be useful for specific ends, it must be deliberately and determinedly limited. The running assumption in what follows is that this process can and should happen in the case of “mysticism" as Pentecostals articulate their identity in productive ways.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 47

The act of theologizing and the Holy Spirit


Origen strives after consistency within a given methodology, and his starting point includes a rationalistic rigor. lrenaeus, in contrast, is striving after faithfulness within an economy of holiness—the theater of God's participation and engagement with the world that leads to its healing and divinization.

As I understand them, Irenaeus’s vision and those like it will typically be appealing to Pentecostals. This vision calls for the systematic theologian and his or her writing, speaking, and conceptualizing (i.e., systematizing) to be located within the economy of God's activity and purposes. On this score, sanctification is a more fundamental category than scholarly completeness—conviction and passion are more determinative here than coherence and rationality. What sets the tone for Pentecostal theologizing is the reality and confession that God is at work in the world, including the academic realm. With such a baseline and orienting claim, Pentecostals cannot help but think that falling prostrate on one’s knees in prayer is more basic to a faithful form of engagement than typing one's thoughts on a keyboard. The prayer-logic, however, can be sustained to a deeper level still: typing on a keyboard can in some sense—when it is construed as an activity within the framework of God’s self presentation and work—be a prayerful act of faithfulness.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 35–36

I like that: "typing on a keyboard can in some sense—when it is construed as an activity within the framework of God’s self presentation and work—be a prayerful act of faithfulness." I'd like to think that's what I do when I'm editing and marketing books.

Print versus digital


I'm reading a report about the differences in comprehension and analytical thought between digital and print (ironically, I'm reading it digitally on a MacBook Pro!). After pages of conflicting studies and evidence of reader preferences, here's what he says:
How is the current threat of digital distraction any greater when reading an e-book versus a print codex? Isn’t it just as easy to put down a print book and pick up a tablet or smartphone as it is to close out your e-reading app and start browsing Facebook? The answer, in my view, is no, and again I return to neuroplasticity. The digital environment is literally rewiring our brains to seek stimulative, short-­term gratification at the expense of our ability to think and read in depth. In this situation, how much more challenging is it to read at length on the very same screen from which your brain expects quick scanning, 140-­character tweets, and amusing cat videos than it is to read from a printed page or on a dedicated e-reader that does not offer such opportunities for distraction?

Thus the digital reading environment offers not a difference in degree but a difference in kind, one that is transformational in nature rather than evolutionary. As the digital age unfolds, it is likely to substantially alter both the nature of reading and the nature of the book itself as deep linear reading fades in importance and functional tabular reading becomes more widespread than ever. This will in turn alter the way people write and even the ways they think, leading to a likely decline of deep analytical thought for the purpose of forming broad conceptual frameworks in favor of a more immediate, purely functional form of decision-­oriented thinking based on rapidly acquired snippets of information.—Reading in a Digital Age doi: (emphasis original)

I agree. I read voluminously—both digitally and in print—and I know it is much easier to get distracted when I'm reading on a screen. Take this study as an example. I keep getting distracted by incoming email. I get tempted to check this or that. Not so when I grab a book. Consequently, I remember better what I read in print than what I read digitally.

Learning styles?


I've been hearing about learning styles for what seems like forever—especially related to language acquisition. It sounds good in theory, but...
“by the time we get students at college,” said the Indiana University professor Polly Husmann, “they’ve already been told ‘You’re a visual learner.’” Or aural, or what have you.

The thing is, they’re not. Or at least, a lot of evidence suggests that people aren’t really one certain kind of learner or another. In a study published last month in the journal Anatomical Sciences Education, Husmann and her colleagues had hundreds of students take the vark questionnaire to determine what kind of learner they supposedly were. The survey then gave them some study strategies that seem like they would correlate with that learning style. Husmann found that not only did students not study in ways that seemed to reflect their learning style, those who did tailor their studying to suit their style didn’t do any better on their tests.—The Atlantic, April 11, 2018


The spiritual matters


[I]f theology is to be theo-logical (i.e., properly about God), then it must be understood as directly related to spirituality. To separate the two is always a theological mistake. If the object of theology is the God of Christian confession, then how and in what manner this object is engaged and known is significant.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page 31 (emphasis original)

Your way of life matters


On Pentecostal terms, the life of piety is the essential and orienting grounding for one's work of theological reflection. This way of putting the matter may sound altogether too pietistic for some, but early Pentecostals were explicitly disposed to consider the theological effort as necessarily dependent upon something greater than intellectual prowess and creativity. There was something vitally at stake for them in assessing and taking into account a person's Spirit-imbued power and anointing before moving on to evaluate his or her theological proposals. The theologian, in other words, had to be located within a broader context and reality, one in which spiritual matters were front and center.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 20–21

Amen and amen! That's why Barth's theology, as interesting and provocative as it is, doesn't pass the scratch and sniff test. Anyone who can justify having their mistress move into the family dwelling and live with them has a serious issue. It will affect their theology in ways that aren't immediately obvious, but are foundational.

The tools are missing


Pentecostals have repeatedly tried to account for something that can be labeled "Pentecostal theology," but they have struggled mightily before such a task largely because of the fragmented nature of the contemporary theological enterprise out of which they have pursued such work. Pentecostal scholars often have had some intuited sense of what Pentecostalism is generally and experientially, but they have been ill served by the academy in finding categories and methods that can help them account for and articulate what they know at a tacit and visceral level about their tradition.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 6–7

Academic theology and life


Academic theology in the modern West has taken a number of twists and turns, but the divide between theology and spirituality is a legacy that more often than not obfuscates a working understanding of the Christian life. Whereas Christianity is in many ways declining in the trans-Atlantic North, it is flourishing in the global South, and these developments may well represent at least a partial indictment of some of the most troubling features coming out of the modernization of the West, one of these being the splintering and dissolution of theological knowledge. As a case in point, those in the global South are often able to speak of God out of a more confident posture than their Northern counterparts. Sadly, the latter, in a manner further indicated their malaise, might deem the former as naive and simplistic; the former constituency, however, may very well claim to be the future of Christianity on this planet, asserting that the latter have lost their theological and spiritual bearings.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page xvi

I guess you could call me naive! I firmly believe in the active presence of the Holy Spirit in the individual and the world. Anyone who has followed this blog very long should be aware that I frequently bemoan the "practical atheism" of most christians in the Western world in general and the US specifically. If we don't believe God is active in our lives on a daily basis, talking to us, prompting, empowering us, then what is our claim to historic Christianity?

Grammar fun!


This was on yesterday's Eisenbrauns Twitter feed. For those of you who might not get it, a verbal system in a language typically is either tense (time) prominent, aspect prominent (type of action—continuous, intermittent, etc.), or mood prominent (command, wish, statement, etc.). What she is saying is that she got so engrossed in an aspect paper that she forgot all about tense. OK, it sounds flat when you have to explain it…

New book!


Today we begin a new book, Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition. Here's the first excerpt:
Pentecostalism is best understood as a mystical tradition of the church catholic. The claim may not be self-evident to readers because of the number of reservations and objections on a host of matters, but I would say that this way of casting Pentecostalism is the most faithful way to preserve its traditional impulses, concerns, priorities, and overall ethos—features that continue to be present in its most vital contemporary forms. These mystical features have been prominent at different stages of the church's history, but sadly, Protestantism generally and evangelicalism particularly have often avoided or dismissed these as part of the gospel witness.—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, page xvi (emphasis original)

I would qualify that statement a bit and say that the Reformed wing of Protestantism and evangelicalism has avoided it. The Wesleyan-Arminian wing, and to a lesser extent the Lutheran-German wing have embraced it. One only needs to consult Wesley's writings to see the embrace of the best of the mystical tradition, and it continued through out the nineteenth century as well. In the Lutheran-Germanic wing you have the pietistic impulse, which emphasized the mystical.

Because the Reformed are the ones who tend to write the history books and control the narrative, the assumption is made that they speak for all. Not much different than now, is it, with the Gospel Coalition claiming to speak for evangelicalism. But, that small caveat aside he is correct and this book looks to be a marvelous read. Come along for the ride!

There really is continuity


[T]he double name formed by the personal name “Jesus” (yšwʿ as the short form of yhwšʿ, yhwšwʿ / ”Ιησοῦς) and the title “Christ” (mʿsyḥ, mšyḥʾ / μέσσιας, χριστός) programmatically encapsulates the New Testament. Thus, when read as a sentence, the name Jesus Christ means “(The one who is called) ‘Yahweh is deliverance’ (is) the Anointed One/ Messiah.” On the basis of the divine names used in the Bible, the Old and New Testaments can be read as a reflection of the history of Yahweh and Jesus Christ. A textual linchpin of such an approach oriented around the names “Yahweh” and “Jesus Christ” is the motif of the transferral of God’s name to Jesus Christ in Phil 2:9–11 (cf. Isa 42:8).—The Development of God in the Old Testament, page 63

That's the final extract from this book. Quite short compared to the last one, isn't it? It's really a nice read at only 150 or so pages. Next up is a book that I received from Eerdmans about a year or so ago: (image)

It all ties together


The theological question of Jesus Christ necessarily leads to the question of the nature and development of God in the Old Testament; to reflection over God’s role as creator and as director of history by accompanying, freeing, teaching, and sanctifying his people; as well as to the interpretation of metaphors for God’s wisdom, kingship, and role as shepherd and father, which also took on significance in the New Testament. Christology thus requires a presentation of the basic theologies in the Old Testament and of a theology of the Old Testament. The history of Yahweh that emerges in the Old Testament and the theologies of creation, history, law, the cult, and wisdom collected therein—which, from the perspective of the New Testament, find their goal (τέλος [telos]) in the spatial-temporal focus and embodiment of God’s actions through Jesus Christ—thus contribute to the history of God in the New Testament, to the discourse on Jesus Christ, and to a biblical theology.—The Development of God in the Old Testament, page 101

April snow brings May flowers?


The weather forecast for the beginning of April. Seems more like February, but after all, this is Minnesota!

Yep. They pegged me


Debbie pointed this picture out to me at the local library. Not sure where it came from, as I can't find it online anywhere.

She laughed when she saw it, because it describes me when I get involved in reading a fiction book. Can you relate?