Vienna, Venio

vienna,_austriaThe International Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature is in Vienna this year. I couldn’t pass up the chance to combine a visit to this world-class city with participation in a world-class biblical studies conference, so I’m excited to announce that I will be presenting two papers: Continue reading

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Is Every Day a Festival? (Phun with Philo)

feastIn his work on the Special Laws of the Torah (De specialibus legibus), Philo enumerates 10 festivals he finds described in the Law. The first, he says, might surprise the reader: “This festival is every day” (2.41). He goes on to explain that for the virtuous every day is, in truth, a festival. If someone were completely virtuous, her life from beginning to end would be an uninterrupted festival (2.42). How does Philo come to this conclusion? Continue reading

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Priests and Israel as Superhuman

angelIn my research on the reception of the Jewish festivals, I focus on the idea that the festivals are moments when humans can participate in the divine or heavenly life/world. A well-known example: Philo depicts the High Priest on Yom Kippur being divinized upon his entry into the Holy of Holies (Who is the Heir 84; also found in Origen and Leviticus Rabbah).

Along the same lines is an intriguing statement I have been working on this week in Jubilees 50:10. In the midst of a discussion of Sabbath halakah, the text states that Israel should refrain on that day from “any work that belongs to the work of mankind.” This strongly suggests that on the Sabbath Israel is engaging in activities that are super-human or divine. Support for this comes from numerous other places in Jubilees:

cat sabbath

I can haz sabbath?

1) Jubilees sees God as observing the first, archetypal, sabbath (2:1)–thus sabbath observance is properly a divine activity.

2) God commands the highest 2 (of 7) classes of angels to observe sabbath with him (2:17-18). The other 5 classes appear to have the task of governing the elements of the world, thus allowing the two highest classes to rest along with God.

3) God gives the sabbath as a sign constituting Israel as a special nation. Israel observes sabbath along with the higher angels and thus along with God (2:19-20). On the sabbath, they imitate God and the highest angels in resting. They imitate the angels specifically in blessing God, but also in performing other priestly labors (e.g., incense offerings).

The fact that Jubilees allows priestly work on the Sabbath indicates that it does not view such work as “human labor.” For Jubilees, angels are the original priests and Israelite priests are imitating angels when they perform their priestly work–thus it is super-human work. Israel, as a nation, is priestly (Exod 19:6, emphasized throughout Jubilees) and thus angelic, a status made especially evident on the Sabbath and festivals.apotheosis of homer

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Can You Teach Kids Ancient Greek?

I’m pleased to have another guest post from Dr. Sebastian Carnazzo (see the first here). He teaches Greek communicatively with the Academy of Classical Languages through an interactive online format. Here’s Sebastian’s report on his experience teaching 2nd graders to speak and read Ancient Greek: Continue reading

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Greek Vocabulary: Are we cooking the books?

cook-the-booksUndoubtedly the best-selling Koine Greek textbook used in seminaries and colleges throughout North America is Bill Mounce’s user-friendly grammar, Basics of Biblical Greek, which is now in its 3rd edition. Mounce requires students to cover 320 NT vocabulary words in the course of the first year (two semesters). As he describes it, once the student has learned these 320 most common words, she will know 80.25% of the words on any given page of the Greek New Testament.

I see numerous problems with this claim that I think are worth considering. Continue reading

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Video for the HBU Pauline Theology Conference

tom wrightYou might be interested in checking out the video of the two keynote addresses by N. T. Wright at the recent Pauline Theology conference hosted by Houston Baptist University:

I blogged about this conference earlier here and here. You may want to subscribe to the HBU channel, as Richard Hays will be giving the Collins Lectures there in early April, and that will likely be tubecast as well.

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HBU Paul and Judaism Conference Report

hbuI had a wonderful time last week in Houston at the Paul and Judaism Theology Conference. The conference was a two-day event hosted by Houston Baptist University. The main attractions were the keynote addresses by Tom Wright, Ross Wagner, and Beverly Gaventa. Wright, as usual, was eloquent and winsome as he summarized his take on Paul’s “reformulation” of the central beliefs of Second Temple Judaism. Wagner spoke to the controversial question of the future of ethnic Israel in Rom 9-11, while Gaventa focused in on Paul’s claim in Rom 10:4 that Christ is the τελος of the Law.

Continue reading

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Living Koine Greek in South Africa! (Guest Post)

photo_100Readers, I’m excited to present this guest post by Sebastian Carnazzo. He teaches Greek communicatively with the Academy of Classical Languages through an interactive online format. You definitely need to check out the video samples on his website (on the frontpage)–they’re great! Some feature Sebastian teaching Greek to elementary school-age kids! You may also be interested in checking out Sebastian’s recently published thesis on John 19:34 (very reasonably priced at $10).


nwu1I recently gave a workshop in South Africa and the good Daniel Streett, to whom we are all indebted for this great blog (κῦδός σοι), asked if I would share with his readership a bit about the adventure.

The event was sponsored by the School of Ancient Language and Text Studies of the North-West University of South Africa in Potchefstroom (the locals just call it “Potch” for obvious reasons).  The primary purpose was to provide training for the Greek professors in the use of TPRS.  The Latin and Hebrew professors also attended for the same reason.  The secondary purpose of the workshop was for the general enrichment of the local community by providing an opportunity to learn some Greek.  This latter group was composed of pastors who wanted to recharge their knowledge of Greek from their seminary days and others who had never studied Greek before, even a few teens.


We met for five hours a day for five days (Monday through Friday, December 2nd – 6th, 2013).  Each class period was conducted in Koine Greek through TPRS with a few minutes at the end spent in Q & A in South African English (and quite a bit of Afrikaans as well).

In the words of Marianne Dircksen, the director of the school, “From the very first day it was clear that this was going to be a full immersion Greek workshop. By using props and high energy conversation in a relaxed environment, participants learnt to listen to, understand and speak Koine Greek” (see complete article at

The Chair of the Greek Department at NWU.

The Chair of the Greek Department at NWU.

In between class periods throughout the day and in the evenings at home, the participants worked through Randall Buth, Living Koine Greek, vol. 1.  I was very pleased with the overall results.  Most of the last day was spent reading from the written form of the lessons in the back of the book accompanied by Q & A in Greek to ensure comprehension.  By the final period we had moved to Genesis 1:1-5 and John 1:1-5.  Watching the teenagers read these texts and answer questions in Greek about what they were reading surely made me smile, but the real fun was watching the faces of the Greek professors in the room.

As summarized by Dircksen, the “enthusiasm and the results obtained within a week, led to positive feedback from each and every participant and a unanimous decision to adopt this method at the North West University.”  ἐγὼ ἐφύτευσα, ἐγὼ ἐπότισα, ἀλλὰ ὁ θεὸς ηὔξανεν. δόξα αὐτῷ.

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Where to Buy a Combined Greek NT and LXX?

Wouldn’t it be convenient to have a combined Greek NT and LXX? Well, last year the German Bible Society published one. You can buy it on Amazon here: LXX-NA28 Greek Bible (Biblia Graeca). It will cost you a pretty penny, though, over $100. See Abram K-J’s post with details here.

Of course, with smartphone technology you can get apps with LXX/NT, or just browse to a site like where you can read the LXX or NT.

e-yia-yrafe-928929522-300x400If you don’t need the critical apparatus and you don’t mind reading the traditional texts, you might want to check out the Zoe Brotherhood‘s Greek Bible, Continue reading

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Did Enoch Die? (LXX, Philo, Hebrews)

fb43e322d6908a3f4f3e1799f49ae2e41813b06ef93b11c703eacc9e1196d730The Biblical notice of Enoch is brief and tantalizing: “When Enoch had lived sixty-five years, he became the father of Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after the birth of Methuselah three hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him.” (NRSV Gen 5:21-24). Several elements here caught later interpreters’ attention.

  • Enoch only lived 365 years–very short compared to the other antediluvians. The number 365 was frequently taken to have calendrical associations, since the solar year is 365 days (well, technically 365.24219647 days :) ). In some traditions Enoch reveals the Continue reading
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