Heiser, Supernatural

Heiser, Supernatural
Michael Heiser

The folks at Lexham Press have kindly sent along a pre-release copy of Michael Heiser’s new book, Supernatural. Heiser holds a PhD in Hebrew Bible and Semitic Languages from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Supernatural is a follow-up to Heiser’s previous volume Unseen Realm (Lexham, 2015; see Supernatural, 9). Both continue following up on themes Heiser previously explored in his doctoral thesis on “The Divine Council in Late Canonical and Non-Canonical Second Temple Jewish Literature” (2004).

I’ve only just started reading around in the volumes. But, thus far, Heiser’s approach is palpably accessible, and he commendably stresses the importance of doing justice to the biblical text in a way that encourages readers to see and wrestle with what is on the pages in front of them.

I look forward to working through the volumes in more depth. Unseen Realm is already generally available. Supernatural officially releases on November 10, but it’s already available for (pre-)order.

Why Searching Shouldn't Replace Reading

As a prefatory note to this post, I’ve noted before my very great appreciation for what Faithlife does through its Logos Bible Software platform. I’ve been using Logos to some extent since the early “Libronix” versions and more so for about the past 8 years. One of the feature’s I’ve appreciated about the software is the ease with which one can report any typos one finds (select text, right-click, “Report typo”). What follows is an example of one such typo that illustrates the value of reading even when we can search in a few seconds through enough material that would take years to read. (Or, it’s an example of user error in creating a search, in which case, commenters can certainly feel free to supply the corrected search syntax.) But, careful, long-time users of other software would probably be able to point out quirks of those platforms too.

If one tries a morphology search in the Nestle-Aland 28th ed. with morphology resources (either with or without text-critical siglia), “lemma:ιουδαιζω” should pop up a drop-down to select the lemma with diacritics and make the search “lemma:ἰουδαΐζω”.

Running the search, however, gets zero hits:

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Hmm. The texts have ἰουδαΐζειν (“to live like a Jew, Judaize”) printed where it’s supposed to be in Gal 2:14. Searching the Nestle-Aland 27th ed. with text-critical siglia shows this text in its results list. But, both versions without text-critical siglia (with and without the McReynolds interlinear) show no results like the two NA28 resource results pictured above.

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Why? There may be other reasons too, but one promising candidate looks to be that the NA28 resources and the NA27 resources without text-critical siglia have had their lemmas for ἰουδαΐζειν in Gal 2:14 tagged as “ἰουδαί̈ζω”—that is, with the second iota using two characters (one iota precombined with an acute, plus a diaresis) rather than with the precombined single character ΐ (iota precombined with both an acute and a diaresis).

The moral of the story is “yes, search, but also read, note, and remember.” What Martin Luther had to say for his own day remains salient advice and is surely much truer for our own day than it was even for his:

Since it becomes Christians then to make good use of the Holy Scriptures as their one and only book and it is a sin and a shame not to know our own book or to understand the speech and words of our God, it is still a greater sin and loss that we do not study languages, especially in these days when God is offering and giving us men and books and every facility and inducement to this study, and desires his Bible to be an open book. O how happy the dear fathers would have been if they had our opportunity to study the languages and come thus prepared to the Holy Scriptures! What great toil and effort it cost them to gather up a few crumbs, while we with half the labor—yes, almost without any labor at all—can acquire the whole loaf! (“To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany that They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools,” qtd. Pratico and Van Pelt, Basics of Biblical Hebrew, §11.9)

Excerpts from Selby’s Comical Doctrine, Part 2

Rosalind Selby

At the end of chapter 1, “Questions of Truth and Epistemology,” in her Comical Doctrine: An Epistemology of New Testament Hermeneutics (Paternoster, 2006), Rosalind Selby summarizes:

If this chapter has concluded with an appropriate understanding of the logical structure of grace and faith as we contemplate how it is that we know God, it must be important to pursue it in terms of the relationship between the individual and the community. The community of the ‘church’—however we define that—is founded by and founds its texts. This is a dialectic which itself rests in the priority of the founding acts of God. The priority over community, individual and the textual conveying of revelation always belongs with God; and the Christian will take that fundamentally seriously. (52; emphasis added)

Selby’s situation of both text and community within “the priority of the founding acts of God” allows her to recognize a kind of symbiosis between text and community while giving primacy still to the divine word.

Ernst Käsemann

Not dissimilarly, Ernst Käsemann too had commented years ago,

[I]n the evangelical conception, the community is the flock under the Word as it listens to the Word. All its other identifying marks must be subordinate to this ultimate and decisive criterion. A community which is not created by the Word is for us no longer the community of Jesus. . . . Correctly expressed, the relationship of the community and the Word of God is not reversible; there is no dialectical process by which the community created by the Word becomes at the same time for all practical purposes an authority set over the word to interpret it, to administer it, to possess it. Naturally, the community has always the task of interpreting the Word afresh, so that it can become audible at all times and in all places. In a certain sense it has also the task of administering it, inasmuch as it creates ways and means for the Word to make itself heard. But possess it—never. For the community remains the handmaid of the Word. If it makes the Word into a means to itself as an end, if it becomes the suzerain of the Word instead of its handmaid, the community loses its own life. The community is the kingdom of Christ because it is built up by the word. But it remains so only while it is content not to assume control over the Word—a temptation which as been a constant threat to the Church (261).

See also: Excerpts from Selby’s Comical Doctrine, Part 1

Excerpts from Selby's Comical Doctrine, Part 1

Rosalind Selby

In her Comical Doctrine: An Epistemology of New Testament Hermeneutics (Paternoster, 2006), Rosalind Selby has several insightful observations. Summarizing the thought of Karl-Otto Apel, Selby comments:

Apel himself proposes a dialectical mediation of objective-scientistic and hermeneutical methods with a critique of ideology. Philosophical hermeneutics is reflexive in as much as the subject must self-objectify in order to be self-critical and avoid any hidden prejudices. (36)

Or, at least to avoid them as much as possible. Slightly later, Selby also reflects:

Does not the very Cogito [of Descartes] itself, far from establishing as a logical priority the existence of the doubter-who-doubts rather point in another direction? The very notion of an “I” presupposes a “not-I” over against which to define itself. But, much more than that, the very possibility of expressing cogito ergo sum depends upon the existence of, and participation in, a community of language users—teachers and preservers—who first gave the lonely thinker the linguistic tools with which to conceptualize and articulate solipsism. (37)

That such linguistic tools are strictly necessary to conceptualize solipsism is perhaps debatable (thought can happen independently of what is identifiable as language). Nevertheless, Descartes’ category of “self” as it plays out in his Cogito is certainly not one he has brought to the Cogito apart from influences from the “not-I” social community.

Review of Longman, ed., Baker Illustrated Bible Dictionary in Logos

Tremper Longman III, ed.,
Tremper Longman, ed.

Just under a year ago (July 2013), Baker released the Baker Illustrated Bible Dictionary (BIBD). The volume comes chiefly under the editorship of Tremper Longman, with Peter Enns (Old Testament) and Mark Strauss (New Testament) serving as associate editors. Logos Bible Software has been kind enough to provide a copy of their release of the text for this review.

In the preface, the editors highlight the difficulty that

the Bible is not always easy to understand. The main message is clear enough, but much remains obscure. . . . The places named in the Bible are strange, and the number of people mentioned is virtually countless. We are distanced from both the Old and New Testaments by vast periods of time and culture. (vii)

BIBD is intended to help address this situation with its “more than five thousand articles written by well over one hundred contributors” (vii). Specifically as an illustrated dictionary, a good portion of the value the text intends to provide its users comes through the various visual supplements its entries provide. The text includes “1,700 full-color pages” (Baker; Logos). Some of this color markup in the print version seems primarily to highlight particular textual elements for easier reference (e.g., 994). Consequently, not all of this information will be represented or represented in exactly the same way in the Logos version of the text, which follows the software platform’s coloration scheme conventions and may include, by default, still some further visual cues.

Fair Havens Image Export
Right click an image and choose “Image” in the menu to show export options.

Either in a physical print volume or in the Logos electronic format, the text’s main visual supplements include its more than 400 “visual illustrations, charts, pictures, and maps” in full color (front cover, vii). With its articles and visual supplements, BIBD should prove “helpful . . . to support everyday Bible reading as well as to prepare for group Bible studies or to follow up on sermons, and for many other reasons” (vii). Many visual elements do provide helpful information that is much easier expressed in images than in words. An additional benefit of the text in Logos is that images can be sent directly to PowerPoint or saved for use in other presentation platforms. Doing so may help save time in searching elsewhere for ways of showing what might be more difficult to describe with words.

A number of BIBD‘s visual elements might be more useful in explaining the reception of rather than the background for particular biblical texts. For instance, the entry on Aaron depicts a carving of Moses and Aaron by Andreas Schultze (17th c.; 1), the entry on Eschatology includes a portion of Hans Memling’s (15th c.) Last Judgment (518), and the entry on Ezekiel includes an Austrian carving (16th c.; 554). Even so, seeing options for understanding particular elements within the biblical text that differ from those to which one is generally accustomed can be helpful in showing up where contemporary readers’ unrealized assumptions may lie. The ease of searching BIBD in the Logos format may provide an additional benefit for finding and using BIBD‘s visual elements where a given element might be relevant to multiple BIBD entries but not included with each.

BIBD Lookup. After setting BIBD as a preferred resource, right-click a term > Selection > BIBD.
After setting BIBD as a preferred resource, right-click a term > Selection > BIBD.

In Logos (I’m presently running v. 5 Gold), especially if BIBD is set as a preferred dictionary, lookups from Bibles are very simple. For discussion of and instructions about setting preferred resources, see the recent “Get the Most Out of Your Logos Library” webinar. Lookups work most directly from English Bibles through the right-click menu. In theory, when working with Bibles in other languages, users with access to the Bible Sense Lexicon can pull appropriate results from that resource and then choose one of the topic guide links to collate relevant entries from BIBD and other similar Logos resources. As of this writing, BIBD does not seem to display with other similar resources in the “Topic” section of the “Topic Guide.” To the best of my understanding, however, this behavior is simply a quirk for which a remedy is being investigated. In any case, it would make a nice feature enhancement if the software could pull through Bible Sense Lexicon information to build right-click menu preferred Bible dictionary entries when using, for instance, a Biblia Hebraica or Nestle-Aland text much it does when using an English Bible. Direct lookup by opening the resource and navigating its contents tree is, of course, also an option and perhaps the one to which I still tend to default most (since it most resembles pulling a book off the shelf and working through it to whatever relevant information).

BIBD and Logos Timeline
Click a date flag in the BIBD text to open the Logos timeline and see what else was happening at or around the same time.

Another nice enhancement in the Logos version of BIBD are the timeline flags that appear with dates throughout the text. Clicking the flag will bring up the Logos timeline feature to show what else was happening at or around the time a given event is noted to have happened in BIBD. Clicking one of the timeline’s event bars then opens a fly-over menu with a list of resources that contain additional information about that event.

In short, BIBD seems to be very helpful as a basic reference text, and the visual elements it includes should be useful both for students and for teachers. Digital and print media both have their virtues, but BIBD plays very nicely in the Logos ecosystem. Some of the Logos platform’s supporting features provide helpful enhancements to BIBD, and having BIBD in one’s Logos library certainly helps foster the “network effect” that plays to the digital library’s strengths.

Sacred Texts and Paradigmatic Revolutions

Stark, Sacred Texts and Paradigmatic RevolutionsThe latest Bloomsbury Highlights notes the newly available volume 16 in the T&T Clark Jewish and Christian Texts Series. The volume is a revision of my 2011 dissertation at Southeastern Seminary and primarily explores paradigmatic, or presuppositional, aspects of the hermeneutics at play in Romans and some of the Qumran sectarian texts.

Bloomsbury presently has the hardback on sale for 10% off and is also making PDFs available at a still more substantially reduced price.

Gospel and Testimony

Richard Bauckham
Richard Bauckham

In his 2006 Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, Richard Bauckham suggests:

that we need to recover the sense in which the Gospels are testimony. This does not mean that they are testimony rather than history. It means that the kind of historiography they are is testimony. An irreducible feature of testimony as a form of human utterance is that it asks to be trusted. This does not mean that it asks to be trusted uncritically, but it does mean that testimony should not be treated as credible only to the extent that it can be independently verified. There can be good reasons for trusting or distrusting a witness, but these are precisely reasons for trusting or distrusting. Trusting testimony is not an irrational act of faith that leaves critical rationality aside; it is, on the contrary, the rationally appropriate way of responding to authentic testimony. . . . It is true that a powerful trend in the modern development of critical historical philosophy and method finds trusting testimony a stumbling-block in the way of the historian’s autonomous access to truth that she or he can verify independently. But it is also a rather neglected fact that all history, like all knowledge, relies on testimony. (5; italics original)

Thus, it is perhaps not without irony that we find ourselves still under the sway of a certain kind(s) of testimony even when we seek most to avoid or to exercise our independence from testimony of some other kind(s) (cf. Gadamer, Truth and Method, 354; Lewis, “Meditation in a Toolshed,” 215).

Augustine on Varro on the Naming of Athens

Louis Comfort Tiffany, Window of St. Augustine...
Louis Comfort Tiffany, “Window of St. Augustine” (Lightner Museum, St. Augustine, Florida; photo credit: Wikipedia)

Citing Varro as “a most learned man among the [pagans], and [a man] of the weightiest authority” on paganism (Civ. 4.1 [NPNF1 2:64]), Augustine summarizes Varro’s account of the naming of Athens (Civ. 18.9 [NPNF1 2:365]):

Athens certainly derived its name from Minerva, who in Greek is called ᾽Αθηνη [Athena], and Varro points out the following reason why it was so called. When an olive-tree suddenly appeared there, and water burst forth in another place, these prodigies moved the king to send to the Delphic Apollo to inquire what they meant and what he should do. He answered that the olive signified Minerva, the water Neptune, and that the citizens had it in their power to name their city as they chose, after either of these two gods whose signs these were. On receiving this oracle, Cecrops convoked all the citizens of either sex to give their vote, for it was then the custom in those parts for the women also to take part in public deliberations. When the multitude was consulted, the men gave their votes for Neptune, the women for Minerva; and as the women had a majority of one, Minerva conquered. Then Neptune, being enraged, laid waste the lands of the Athenians, by casting up the waves of the sea; for the demons have no difficulty in scattering any waters more widely. The same authority said, that to appease his wrath the women should be visited by the Athenians with the three-fold punishment—that they should no longer have any vote; that none of their children should be named after their mothers; and that no one should call them Athenians. Thus that city, the mother and nurse of liberal doctrines, and of so many and so great philosophers, than whom Greece had nothing more famous and noble, by the mockery of demons about the strife of their gods, a male and female, and from the victory of the female one through the women, received the name of Athens; and, on being damaged by the vanquished god, was compelled to punish the very victory of the victress, fearing the waters of Neptune more than the arms of Minerva. For in the women who were thus punished, Minerva, who had conquered, was conquered too, and could not even help her voters so far that, although the right of voting was henceforth lost, and the mothers could not give their names to the children, they might at least be allowed to be called Athenians, and to merit the name of that goddess whom they had made victorious over a male god by giving her their votes.

By this point in City of God, Augustine has already contested a good deal of Varro’s account of the gods. However interesting this etiological tale might be in itself, then, Augustine simply subjoins the response, “What and how much could be said about this, if we had not to hasten to other things in our discourse, is obvious” (ibid.).

Elsewhere, Augustine devotes some fairly careful attention to Varro’s account of the gods, frequently seeking to show how absurd Varro’s account is on its own terms. Here, however, Augustine’s extremely brief formal rejoinder certainly still strikes a similarly mocking note: this particular account of Varro’s is “obvious[ly]” too absurd even to merit serious attention at this point in argument. Yet, this rejoinder itself keenly follows on Augustine’s summary of Varro, which he has carefully shaped explicitly to include or suggest at least some of what was “too obvious to occupy space” in the argument.

BHS with WHM 4.2 (Logos ed.): An Erratum

Online, things change. In the current version of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia with Westminster 4.2 Morphology in Logos 4, the “Text” section of the Preface refers readers to http://www.wts.edu/hebrew/whm.html for Al Groves’ “Supplement to the Code Manual for the Michigan Old Testament” (last rev. June 7, 1989). As of this writing, this URL redirects to Westminster Seminary’s homepage, but Groves’ supplement is presently still available here.