Greetings! I have been a busy beaver lately and have not updated my blog as I like or planned. I just returned from a visit to Alabama for legal reasons. That trip did not end up going as expected but God is still in control. While there I still had to prepare for lessons at PaLO VErde here in Tucson. Being near a small theological library (at Heritage Christian University) afforded me the opportunity to dig into a few journals that I do not normally get too. Sooooo I followed the Pauline injunction to "redeem the time." I thought I might share some of the readings ...
Spent most of my time reading the Acts of the Apostles especially the ending ...
I read a good deal of the September/October Biblical Archeology Review ... I recommend especially Michael Homan's piece "Did the Israelites Drink Beer?" ... Through this article I tracked down Homan's much more scholarly "Beer, Barley, and shekhar in the Hebrew Bible" in Le-David Maskil, A Birthday Tribute for David Noel Freedman. Homan argues, and I think has sufficiently demonstrated, the case that shekhar is basically ale or beer. The word is usually translated "strong drink" or the like in modern English versions. Homan reviews the linguistic evidence, and probably most interesting, and the archeological data. Through Homan footnotes I discovered Magen Broshi's "Date Beer and Date Wine in Antiquity," Palestine Exploration Quarterly 139 (2007): 55-59 which examines five vats used for producing "Date Beer" around Jericho and Ein Feshkha. "Date Beer" was the principle alcoholic beverage in Mesopotamia in the Iron Age on down. These three articles are fascinating in their own right but also provide quite an interesting window into numerous passages in the Hebrew Bible and on the life of the People of God. Those interested in what the Bible says about beer but are tired of heat and smoke but no light these are worth the effort to get.
The July 2008 issue of Interpretation was themed on Gerhard von Rad. Several fascinating articles are to be found here. Bernard M. Levinson's "Reading the Bible in Nazi Germany: Gerhard von Rad's Attempt to Reclaim the Old Testament for the Church" (pp. 2338-254) was more than enlightening. Von Rad the young 30 something German scholar found himself teaching at the Nazi infested University of Jena. The theological faculty moved to sever Jesus from his Hebrew roots (denied Jesus' Jewish heritage, ceased teaching Hebrew, etc). von Rad publicly lectured there is no access to Christ except through the "Old Testament." At any rate this article is rich in nuance in demonstrating not only the genuine faith of von Rad but also of how our circumstances genuinely influence not just what we read in Scripture but how we read it.
While looking for something else I accidentally found, and got distracted by, Harvey Minkoff's essay "Coarse Language in the Bible, It's Culture Shocking!" in Approaches to the Bible: The Best of Bible Review (edited by Harvey Minkoff, published by BAR). Numerous questions pop up in this essay, like "How should we approach euphemism and rough language in Scripture." Minkoff notes that translators often have issues to deal with that are beyond simply what the Hebrew text means but rather the sensitivity of a religious public. There are many places where the Bible is far more graphic and "coarse" than what is perceived as righteous talk in Sunday school. He quotes a letter to the editor of the Oxford Study Edition of the NEB over changes in the British and American editions ... "we delicate American mortals are being protected by the coarse language of Scripture."
Finally on my way home on the plane I read through Barry L. Perryman's A Call to Unity: A Critical Review of Patternism and the Command-Example-Inference-Silence Hermeneutic. Perryman argues that in essence "patternism" is a doctrine of self-salvation built on the notion that IF humans obey God's law "well enough" God must reward us with a crown of righteousness. After arguing that "CEIS" divorces passages from their context to construct new doctrines yet many patternists do not see how the pattern demands conforming to the law of love and forbearance.
There are many positives in Perryman's Call to Unity. Patternism does not respect the narrative quality of the Gospel. This particular approach has often led to a defensive posture rather than an exploratory one. And I agree that Patternism has often led to unbelievable division with in the Lord's church.
There are some weaknesses in this work as well. On a minor note the "Inductive Method" did not begin with the 13th century philosopher Roger Bacon (p. 19). Perryman is probably parroting D.R. Dungan on this point (he cites Dungan repeatedly in this work). Francis Bacon gave this method to the world around the same time as Galileo. Bacon was a highly regarded thinker across the board in the 18th and 19th centuries. This is one of the weaknesses of Perryman's book is that it does not reflect engagement with a large body of literature on the history and development of what we might call the "restoration hermeneutic." Finally, and this is not a defense of either Patternism or "CEIS", but this hermeneutic does not necessarily lead to sectarian attitudes or legalism. Men like J. D. Thomas who were devoted to the traditional hermeneutic were men full of the Spirit and dedicated to unity.
There are so many things to read ... so little time.