Posts Tagged ‘biblical studies’

Everywhere, we are told to plan for the future. This is no idle counsel. Tomorrow relentlessly and suddenly becomes today.

Yet Jesus’ radical counsel removes the demands of the future from the licit objects of our fretting. Tomorrow? Fuggedaboudit.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing?

Such teaching exercises upon us an influence that oscillates between great release and immense frustration.

We want to live carefree. Yet we cannot. We know neither the language nor the rhythm of such trust.

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.

Jesus bring us closer, here, to the engine of such existential ease. Indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.

Here, at least, our need is legitimated. We are not fools to imagine that we require these things.

Foolishness is banished to the space occupied by worry about them. It is there that we are not to stand, there that our feet and hands find themselves unfit for an alien task, there that we stumble over obstacles we cannot see. But our heavenly Father knows, thus we can rest.

Jesus’ summons is not to mental relaxation for its own sake. We are not relieved of effort. Rather, we are directed to marshal our energies towards a particularly focused project.

What we are to abandon is not the irrefutable, economic sine qua non of life on earth. That would be gnostic self-deception. Rather, we are to trust our heavenly Father with all of that, if Jesus is to believed, while we bend our shoulder to this.

But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Jesus does not here call his own to self-abandonment or an excessively other-worldly state of mind. In fact, with stunning realism, today is defined in terms of its freight of trouble.

Jesus calls us to focus on the one thing we can do something about. Remarkably, it is a project that, in bearing his Father’s own name, seems as though it might have been the one thing that lies beyond our reach: the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

Before us lies one of the Christian story’s great reversals. We are told that the one thing we might be reasonably expected to accomplish—providing for our future—lies outside our control and in better hands than ours. Jesus’ Father and ours has that one covered. Paradoxically, the matter toward which we are to give ourselves heart and soul is owned entirely by God, in fact named after him: his kingdom and his righteousness.

Things are—ever, always—not as they appear.


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The abstract of this article reads as follows:

The purpose of this study is to critique some of the prevalent theories regarding the biblical alphabetic acrostics and to expose a previously unrecognized feature that most of the acrostics share: ‘Alphabetical thinking’ manifests itself differently in each poem; however, one common thread in most of the acrostics is the more prevalent use of the qatalּ form instead of the yiqtol form as compared to other poetry. This is likely a function of the versatility of the qatal to fit both the acrostic artifice and the acrostic style (aspectual orientation in particular). Two psalms, one acrostic and one non-acrostic, are analyzed and their verb usage compared. Three avenues of further study are proposed.

Noting the ‘belittlement’ of the Bible’s acrostic poems as a ‘silly trick’ that has been manifest from some quarters, Giffone attempts to allow the ‘acrostic form’ and the ‘acrostic style’ to speak for themselves.

The article helpfully surveys the absence of unifying form-critical qualities across the biblical acrostics and quasi-acrostics with the exception of the guiding role played by the alphabet itself. His article also brings the reader current with representative views regarding the purpose of the acrostics. These range from the assumption of ideological purpose on the one extreme (for example, the construal of order in turbulent times) through the thesis that ‘alphabetical thinking’ represents a memory aid and on to the minimalist idea that the arrangement is a mere aesthetic artifice. The author probes the higher-than-usual occurrence of qatal forms over prefixed yiqtol forms in the acrostic poems without evidently embracing the simple explanation that the prefixed Hebrew verb severely restricts the alphabetical possibilities and so cedes the artistic ground it normally occupies to the more alphabetically versatile qatal. After detailing various ways in which the biblical acrostics manifest their formal idiosyncrasy (both strictly and messily), Giffone elaborates a ‘test case’ via comparison of Psalms 32 and 34, with uncertain results. To this reader’s eyes, Giffone suspects that an ideological purpose lies behind ‘alphabetical thinking’ but does not find clear evidence in his study that this is so.

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This early publication of the Hebrew University Bible project is a formidable achievement that pays tribute to the inestimable labor of its editor and editorial team.

The work represents a critical edition of the Aleppo Codex of the Book of Isaiah, widely considered to be the work of Ben Asher and the biblical exemplar commended by Maimonides.

In a preface that appears in both Hebrew and English, editor M.H. Goshen-Gottstein painstakingly and with striking clarity details the philosophy and pragmatic decision-making that produced the published text with its no fewer than six critical apparatii in the light of the history of the biblical text as we know it. (more…)

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Hosea is a torturous work, not chiefly for its unending textual complications but more immediately for the fearful conundrum in which its northern Israelite originator and its Judean stewards find themselves. We read time and again that YHWH has turned against Israel, has become its chief antagonist, has determined to wipe the slate clean of his troublesome, rebellious sons. (more…)

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Joseph Naveh’s classic work constitutes ‘an attempt to survey the Aramaic epigraphic material from its very beginnings until the third century B.C.E. It examines the development of the Aramaic script in its various styles on the basis of the dated inscriptions.’ (more…)

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The writer of the Hebrews has pain in good perspective. He does not counsel the avoidance of pain but rather that strategic embrace of learning’s good pain that produces enduring character.

Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.


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Daniel, this Jewish advisor in the court of a foreign king, has perfected self-control and diplomatic restraint. He is able to recognize the majesty of a pagan king in terms amenable to the king and acceptable to the standards of Daniel’s truth. His self-image is not on the table, the hair-trigger of religious and ethnic sensitivity has not been set, the safety lock is turned to ‘on’. (more…)

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A peculiar joy mixes with the horror of realizing how daunting it is to keep up in the field of biblical studies as one peruses the thrice-yearly publication called Old Testament Abstracts. Published by the Catholic Biblical Association, Abstracts is a very handy tool for keeping abreast of the literature in a highly specialized field and making decisions about which abstracted publications to pursue and which dogs are better left to sleep. (more…)

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The author of these thirty-two short chapters begins and ends with the assumption that problems we experience with the Old Testament are our problem, not the Bible’s. This subordination of the Bible reader to the well-weathered book he holds in his hand opens doors, not to forced harmonizations of problematic passages but to fresh reappraisal of difficult texts on their own terms. (more…)

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Perhaps it requires a breakdown of certainties and ‘assured results’ like the one that has reigned in Isaiah studies for two decades to produce a book like this. In the wake of a century of historical reconstruction of the stages by which the book of Isaiah is alleged to have grown, Peter Quinn-Miscall is clear about what he feels we do not know. His ‘new way’ of reading Isaiah is meant to allow readers to make their own decisions about the ambiguities and contradictions which he believes characterise this long and eminently quotable Old Testament book. (more…)

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