Sunday, March 23, 2014

An echo of Homer in Luke 11:21-22 (?)

Ambrosian Illiad
I make a point of reading through the Gospels each time I teach Briercrest's required first year course on the Gospels. This time through, I was struck by a passage in the assigned reading that we never talk about in class:

"When a fully-armed strong man guards his own estate, his belongings are in peace. But as soon as someone stronger than he attacks and conquers him, he takes away the armour in which he had trusted and distributes his plunder." (Luke 11:21-22; contrast Mark 3:27; Matt 12:29)

According to Howard Marshall, the battle imagery in Luke's version "has as its background the OT idea of God armed as a hero for battle against his enemies (Is. 59:16–18) and the Qumranic concept of the messianic war" (Luke, 478).

That may be so, but the description also reminds me of Homer--no doubt because one of the effects of crawling through the gory details of the Iliad at the rate of a few pages every week is that one thinks differently about ancient practices of warfare. Consider this passage, one of many that describe the same basic procedure:
Both fighters at one great stroke
chopped at each other--Pisander hacked the horn
of the horsehair-crested helmet right at its ridge
lunging as Menelaus hacked Pisander between the eyes,
the bridge of the nose, and bone cracked, blood sprayed
and both eyes dropped at his feet to mix in the dust--
he curled and crashed. Digging a heel in his chest
Menelaus stripped his gear and vaunted out in glory,
"So home you'll run from our racing ships, by god,
all as corpses--see, you death-defying Trojans?"
...                                                    So he cried
and staunch Atrides stripped the gear form the corpse
and heaving the bloody bronze to eager comrades
swung to attack again, frontline assault.
(Robert Fagles translation of the Illiad, book 13.705-714, 738-741)
To my mind, this passage (and others like it) illumines the armour-stripping imagery in Luke 11, but no commentary that I consulted mentions the practice. To be sure, in Homer one only strips weapons from a foe one has killed in battle, and most commentators appear to assume that the opponent in Luke 11 is not dead, but perhaps one shouldn't press the metaphor.

I don't know whether the warfare familiar to Luke's readers (or Jesus' audience) bore any resemblance to battle in Greek antiquity. One might suppose that the better-equipped Roman army would not pause to strip the armour from defeated foes after each kill. Do we then have an echo of Homer in Luke's Gospel?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Towards a Theology of Rest: Using the Language of Sacrament and Ordinance as a Heuristic Device to Understand the Christian Practice of Rest

A public service announcement for sojourners in Southern Saskatchewan:

On Friday, March 7, Amanda Hackney will present a paper, as part of the Briercrest College and Seminary Colloquium series, entitled "Towards a Theology of Rest: Using the Language of Sacrament and Ordinance as a Heuristic Device to Understand the Christian Practice of Rest."

The colloquium will be held in room S113 @ 12:30 PM. We'd love to see you there if you can make it out.

Friday, February 28, 2014

"And forgive us our trespasses": The Lord's Prayer in English

If, like me, you have always wondered why the form of the Lord's Prayer commonly recited in church services does not correspond to any English Bible translation, you are most likely not an Anglican. Let me explain: Several years ago I decided to start a class on the Sermon on the Mount by reciting the Lord's prayer, but when I went looking for the traditional text in the King James' Version I was surprised to find it isn't (quite) there:

Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done, in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Where the KJV has "debtors," my students and I wanted to say "trespasses"--and the "trespasses" part comes from the 1662 edition of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer (BCP):

Our Father, which art in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
They Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in Earth, As it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them, that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation; But deliver us from evil:
For thine is the Kingdom, the Power, And the Glory, For ever and ever. Amen.

The earlier 1559 and 1549 editions contain the same text in more archaic spelling--except that they do not include the last line (which is also missing from our oldest and most reliable Greek manuscripts):

BCP 1559
Our Father whiche arte in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kyngdom come.
Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.
Geve us this day our dayly breade.
And forgeve us our trespasses, as we forgeve them that trespasse against us.
And lead us not into temptacion.
But deliver us from evil. Amen.

BCP 1549
Oure father whiche arte in heaven, hallowed by thy name.
Thy kyngdom come.
Thy wyll be done in earth as it is in heaven.
Geve us this daye oure dayly bread.
And forgeve us oure trespasses, as we forgeve them that trespasse agaynst us.
And leade us not into temptacion.
But deliver us from evell. Amen.

Brian Cummings notes that "The full English wording here [in the 1549 edition] follows the text of Matt. 6 in the King's Primer of 1545....The BCP form of the prayer (repeated in all services) effectively standardized usage until the 1960s."* The King's Primer was apparently the work of Thomas Cranmer, but the "trespasses" bit is indebted to William Tyndale, who was burned at the stake for translating the Bible into English, just a few years earlier. Here is the wording of Tyndale's translation (from 1526):

O oure father, which art in heven halowed be thy name.
Let thy kyngdom come.
Thy wyll be fulfilled, as well in erth, as hit ys in heven.
Geve vs this daye oure dayly breade.
And forgeve vs oure treaspases, even as we forgeve them whych treaspas vs.
Lede vs nott in to temptacion.
but delyvre vs from yvell, Amen.**

*Page 691 in Brian Cummings, ed. The Book of Common Prayer: The Texts of 1549, 1559, and 1662. Oxford World Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Quotations from the 1562, 1559 and 1549 editions are from pp. 252, 104 and 7, respectively.
**Quoted on page 35 in F.F. Bruce, History of the Bible in English (3rd ed.; New York: Oxford, 1978).

P.S. If you are interested in reconstructions of the Lord's Prayer in Hebrew, I recommend this post.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Ethnicity, Religion and the Meaning of Ioudaios in Ancient "Judaism"

I am pleased to report that the third and final article in my series on the meaning of Ioudaios has now appeared in the February 2014 issue of Currents in Biblical Research. SAGE won't let me post the full article on-line, but here is the introduction for anyone interested in an overview of the issues the article addresses, and a summary of my argument:

       Most people familiar with the Judeo-Christian tradition would be surprised by recent claims that the Greco-Roman world had no category for religion, and that the label ‘Jew’ in Bible translations and popular-level books is a misnomer. Within scholarship on ancient Judaism, debate about whether the Greek word ’Iουδαῖος (Ioudaios), as well as its Latin, Hebrew and Aramaic cognates, should be translated as ‘Jew’ or ‘Judaean’ has created a new Shibboleth. Although the traditional translation ‘Jew’ remains dominant, ‘Judaean’ is now common enough that it can be employed without justification—thanks, in part, to the influential arguments of Malina and Rohrbaugh (1992: 32), Danker (2000: 478), Esler (2003), and Mason (2007), who maintain that the religious connotations of ‘Jew’ are anachronistic, and that Ioudaios is best understood solely as an ethnic label. The debate is volatile, urgent and unresolved. According to one scholar, translating Ioudaios as ‘Jew’ has caused ‘incalculable harm’ (Danker 2000: 478). Another argues that translating Ioudaios as ‘Judaean’ threatens a slippery slope towards anti-Semitism (Levine 2006: 160, 165). Scholars must choose a translation, yet no one wants to be accused of anti-Semitism, anachronism or sheer ignorance merely by their choice of terminology. Underlying the translation debate, however, is a more crucial conversation about the meaning of Ioudaios in the Greco-Roman world, about the identity of the people it designates, and about how we study the past.
     This article addresses what is perhaps the central question in current scholarship on the meaning of Ioudaios during the Second Temple period: Did the term sometimes denote an adherent of the religion of Judaism (a religious meaning) or was it merely the name of an ethnic group (an ethnic meaning)? Section one begins by mapping the scholarly terrain, noting when scholars have isolated a religious meaning of Ioudaios and why they have done so. I then review five notable contributions from the last fifteen years in more detail, beginning with Cohen’s (1999) influential argument that Ioudaios first acquired a religious meaning during the Second Temple period, and concluding with S. Schwartz’s (2011) recent claim that a ‘disembedded’ concept of religion was a unique development among Second Temple period Ioudaioi. Esler (2003; 2007; 2009; 2012) and Mason (2007) represent the main alternative, arguing in response to Cohen that the transition to a religious meaning of Ioudaios happened much later. Since the meaning of Ioudaios is only incidental to her project, Buell’s (2005) monograph on ‘ethnic reasoning’ in early Christian discourse may seem out of place in this context, but her argument for an interrelationship between ethnicity and religion, on the one hand, and for continuity between the kind of ethnic practices employed by early Christians and Ioudaioi, on the other, offers an instructive contrast to the other contributions. In addition to introducing recent scholarship on the subject, these five case studies prepare for the next section’s analysis of methodological issues. Section two compares how the case studies define ‘ethnicity’ and ‘religion’, examines ways to bridge the gap between modern and ancient categories, and advances definitions of ‘ethnicity’ and ‘religion’ designed to help address the question of whether it is legitimate to speak of religion as an ancient category of thought and a component of the meaning of Ioudaios. Section three evaluates the case studies in light of important primary evidence.
     I argue—in substantial agreement with S. Schwartz—that if Cohen errs in suggesting that a transition to a religious meaning of Ioudaios had already occurred, Esler and Mason err in suggesting that it had not begun. The result in both cases is a confusion of categories that distorts our understanding of what it would have meant to be a Ioudaios during the Second Temple period. As S. Schwartz maintains, something like what we call religion was emerging as an ancient category before there was language to describe it. The evidence indicates that ‘What is a Ioudaios?’ was a live question in the Second Temple period, and that ethnicity was not the only ancient answer. Yet, in his attempt to demonstrate that a concept of religion had already emerged, Schwartz minimizes the extent to which conversion is still depicted in our sources as ethnic transformation, and posits a tension between ethnicity and religion that may have more to do with our categories than ancient realities. Ultimately, I argue that our conventional static categories do not do justice to the meaning of Ioudaios or to the dynamic identity of the people it designates. The most that can be said is that by the end of the Second Temple period a religious meaning was in the process of emerging.
     An appendix returns to the translation of Ioudaios. Although conclusions about the meaning of Ioudaios in the Greco-Roman world play an important role in the term’s translation, I argue that they do not settle the issue. Modern translations must also consider the reception history of the term and the contemporary political and ethical implications of its use. In the end, there are compelling contemporary reasons for translating Ioudaios as ‘Jew’ instead of ‘Judaean’.

You can also view the abstract on the CBR website (here), or read about the series and its genesis on this blog (here).

Friday, January 24, 2014

Homo Practicus: An Alternative to Homo Economicus and Homo Sociologicus

A public service announcement for sojourners in Southern Saskatchewan:

This afternoon (January 24), my esteemed colleague, Glenn Runnalls, will present a paper as part of the Briercrest College and Seminary Colloquium series entitled "Homo Practicus: An Alternative to Homo Economicus and Homo Sociologicus."

I don't have an abstract for you, but I know the paper is related to Glenn's ph.d. dissertation and, I presume, has something to do with practice theory.

 The colloquium will be held in room S113 @ 12:30 PM. We'd love to see you there if you can make it out.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Which morphologically-tagged Hebrew Bible is most accurate?

Technical post alert: While looking around for a free on-line Hebrew Bible concordance to recommend to my Hebrew students, I noticed that different electronic concordances produce different results. Here, for example, is what you get if you search for the Hebrew verb אָהַב ("to love"):

Online sources that use Strong's KJV:
209 results in 195 verses (; Crosswire's Bible Tool)
208 results in 195 verses (Blue Letter Bible)

The Grove's Center's Westminster Hebrew Morphology
215 results in 200 verses (WTM 4.2, 4.14, 4.18 in Bibleworks* and Logos)
(*Bibleworks originally gave me 217 results in 200 verses because I had selected both Ketiv and Qere readings.)

Other Logos Tagged Texts
BHS/WIVU (Werkgroep Informatica): 210 results in 197 verses
Lexham Hebrew-English Interlinear: 210 results in 196 verses


  1. I assume that the Westminster Hebrew Morphology is the most accurate. 
  2. All the online sources I have tried that give frequency information are based on Strong's concordance, which is too bad for anyone looking for decent quality, free resources. (I'm disappointed that fares no better, as its Greek New Testament resources are outstanding.)
  3. There is currently no online resource that provides full parsing information for the Hebrew Bible. 
  4. Tyndale House's Step Bible may be out to change 2. and 3., but it is not there yet. (A search for אָהַב gave me 196 verses, but no occurrence list.) 
  5. We need to remember that our digital tools still have mistakes.
  6. Please let me know if there are other resources I should be looking at.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Here's to survival in 2014

With weather like this, it's no wonder that a posture of mere survival, just getting by--but surviving nonetheless--has such deep roots in the Saskatchewan psyche. Survival also feels like the watchword for my life as I head into another semester of teaching, trying to do my best in the classroom, while staying sane and not neglecting my family too much. But let me qualify that: Although I expect to be overwhelmed this semester, it's a privilege that "survival" in my case means doing so much of what I love. The prairie has its own desolate beauty.
In addition to "survival" I have landed on a more concrete and hopeful New Year's resolution: To read through Isaiah in Greek and Hebrew along with everyone else in the "Greek Isaiah in a Year" group. At 5 verses a day, I'm hopeful that the schedule and community will help me scale Mt. Isaiah in Hebrew (and Greek) at last. It's not too late to join, if you are interested!

For the record, here's what my semester schedule looks like:
Gospels I have taught a bunch of times, Greek Exegesis and Jewish Backgrounds are prep-heavy upper-level courses, Hebrew Exegesis II is brand new.