Sunday, January 27, 2008

Why I don't believe in "timeless truth" or "eternal principles"

The following picture, scanned from page 24 of J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays's textbook, Grasping God's Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting and Applying the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), nicely illustrates one of the most common evangelical approaches to applying Scripture:Their method, like the picture, is simple: 1) Find out what the text meant in its original context; 2) consider differences between the biblical context and our own; 3) "Cross the principlizing bridge. What is the theological principle in this text?"; 4) Consider how contemporary Christians should apply the theological principle in their own context.

Hays and Duvall add that theological principles should be "reflected in the text", "timeless and not tied to a specific situation", and not "culturally bound"; they should also "correspond to the teaching of the rest of Scripture" and be relevant to both original and contemporary audiences.

For help distinguishing between timeless and culturally bound principles, one may consult William J. Webb's image of the "Ladder of Abstraction" (or--for much more detail--the monograph from which it is taken):

(Chart scanned from page 53 of William J. Webb, Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis [Downers Grove, Il.: InterVarsity, 2001])

Webb explains: "[H]ow high one climbs on the ladder of abstraction to form a principle depends upon the similarities and the differences between the ancient and modern worlds. Differences push one up the ladder; similarities push one down" (54). If we lived in an agrarian society the command not to gather the gleanings of the harvest would still apply today. Since we don't, we need to translate the rule in Lev 23:22 into a principle--such as "feed the poor" or "love your neighbour" that will suit our very different context. For an appreciative review of Webb's approach see this post (the first in a series) on Scot McKnight's blog.

The model has the advantage of being memorable and simple, even mechanical. I like how the first picture highlights the differences between the biblical world and our own. What I don't like is the assumption shared by Duvall, J. Daniel Hays and Webb, that one crosses the "bridge" by abstracting a transcultural principle from the particularities of the text. Not only does the attempt do violence to Scripture, the goal is unattainable. As Richard B. Hays declares in The Moral Vision of the New Testament (HarperCollins, 1996), “It is impossible to distinguish ‘timeless truth’ from ‘culturally conditioned elements’ in the New Testament" (300).

Hays's point is that the biblical text is inextricably bound to its context. We don't notice this all the time because in some passages our worlds overlap enough with the world of the text that the process of developing analogies (not principles!) between the two is relatively straightforward. When we do notice differences, the attempt to bridge them by abstracting principles blunts the force of the text. If we read the Sermon on the Mount as advocating the ideal of love, we don’t have to be disturbed by its concrete demands. Here's Hays again:

  • “If we read the New Testament and find only timeless moral principles, we are probably guilty . . . of evading Scripture’s specific claims upon our lives” (294).
  • “Let there be a moratorium on such preaching [that refers to the underlying principle of a text]! The New Testament’s ethical imperatives are either normative at the level of their own claim, or they are invalid” (294).
  • “One would think that the intellectual climate of the late twentieth century would have exposed the futility of such a project, but one still encounters the distinction, perhaps most often and most astoundingly among Christians who imagine that it will somehow enable them to hold on to the authority of Scripture: authority is tacitly transferred from the historically conditioned text to the suprahistorical truth that is somehow packaged in a historical wrapper. The difficulty with this way of conceptualizing Scripture is evident: once we have the truth, we no longer need the wrapper” (300).
So I reject the idea of "eternal principles" and "timeless truth" precisely because I want to hold onto the authority of Scripture, to let it speak on its own terms.

I also like Richard B. Hays's suggestions about method, as long as it is recognized that the process of reading ourselves into the story cannot finally be reduced to a series of mechanical steps:

Like Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Richard B. Hays says work on NT ethics (the subject of his book) should begin with careful exegesis of historical, literary, and intertextual contexts. Part of this process involves identifying whether a passage speaks in the mode of rule, principle, paradigm or "world formation." "We should not override the witness of the New Testament in one mode by appealing to another mode." However, “The New Testament is fundamentally the story of God’s redemptive action; thus, the paradigmatic mode has theological primacy, and narrative texts are fundamental resources for normative ethics” (303). Hays also agrees that Scripture should be read canonically, but he resists harmonization, arguing that we should let "substantive tensions" within the canonical text remain. As a way of synthesizing the Scriptural teaching, it should be viewed through the focal images of community, cross, and new creation. Hays suggests that this is a way to keep from placing too much emphasis on one type of text to the exclusion of others. If there is no room for the cross (or the new creation) in our hermeneutic, then something is missing (292-3).

In the end, says Hays, “The use of the New Testament in normative ethics requires an integrative act of the imagination; thus, whenever we appeal to the authority of the New Testament, we are necessarily engaged in metaphor-making....Metaphors are incongruous conjunctions of two images . . . that turn out, upon reflection, to be like one another in ways not ordinarily recognized. They shock us into thought by positing unexpected analogies—analogies that could not be discerned within conventional categories of knowledge” (300).

“The fundamental task of New Testament ethics is to call us again and again to see our lives shattered and shaped anew by ‘reading’ them in metaphorical juxtaposition with this story” (302).

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Prophet David

In Advanced Greek Exegesis a couple weeks (!) ago now, we took a quick look at the passage in Acts 2 where Peter quotes Psalm 16:8-11, labels David a prophet, and claims that David foresaw the resurrection.

David is identified as a prophet in other roughly contemporary Jewish texts, and it may be that Peter simply takes this assumption for granted. But a verbal link between the Psalm and its interpretation makes me think that the identification of David as a prophet who "foresaw" the resurrection was prompted by the Psalm itself: The same rare verb translated "foresaw" (προοράω) in Peter's explanation (Acts 2:31) also shows up at the beginning of the Greek translation of Psalm 16:8, which is quoted in Acts 2:25-28. But while this connection between the Psalm and its interpretation works in Greek, "foresaw" is not a viable translation for the Hebrew word lying behind the Greek translation. In other words, the argument of Peter's Pentecost sermon appears to depend on an interpretation conceivable for a reader of the Septuagint, but impossible for a reader of the Hebrew text. (Presumably, Peter's Pentecost sermon was originally given in Hebrew or Aramaic, not Greek.)

This raises a number of interesting questions: What does one do when the NT quotes or argues on the basis of a Septuagintal text that differs from the Hebrew? What sources lie behind the speeches in Acts? Are the methods of early Christian exegesis normative for later Christians? We will return to Peter's Pentecost sermon and these questions in the weeks ahead. Part of what makes the course so exciting (and frightening) is that I don't have all the answers worked out in advance.

For the curious, Greek and Hebrew versions of Psalm 16:8-11 are presented below:

LXX Psal 15:8-11

BHS Psal 16:8-11

I saw (προωρώμην) the Lord always before me for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken. Because of this my heart rejoiced and my tongue exalted, and my flesh will also dwell in hope because you will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor will you let your holy one see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life, you will fill me with joy with your presence.

I have set the LORD before me always, because he is at my right hand I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; my flesh will also dwell in security because you will not abandon my soul to Sheol; you will not let your holy one see the Pit. You will make known to me the path of life. In your presence is fullness of joy...

προωρώμην τὸν κύριον ἐνώπιόν μου διὰ παντός, ὅτι ἐκ δεξιῶν μού ἐστιν, ἵνα μὴ σαλευθῶ. διὰ τοῦτο ηὐφράνθη ἡ καρδία μου, καὶ ἠγαλλιάσατο ἡ γλῶσσά μου, ἔτι δὲ καὶ ἡ σάρξ μου κατασκηνώσει ἐπ᾽ ἐλπίδι, ὅτι οὐκ ἐγκαταλείψεις τὴν ψυχήν μου εἰς ᾅδην οὐδὲ δώσεις τὸν ὅσιόν σου ἰδεῖν διαφθοράν. ἐγνώρισάς μοι ὁδοὺς ζωῆς· πληρώσεις με εὐφροσύνης μετὰ τοῦ προσώπου σου, ...

שׁוִּיתִי יְהוָה לְנֶגְדִּי תָמִיד כִּי מִימִינִי בַּל־אֶמּוֹט לָכֵן שָׂמַח לִבִּי וַיָּגֶל כְּבוֹדִי אַף־בְּשָׂרִי יִשְׁכֹּן לָבֶטַח כִּי לֹא־תַעֲזֹב נַפְשִׁי לִשְׁאוֹל לֹא־תִתֵּן חֲסִידְךָ לִרְאוֹת שָׁחַת תּוֹדִיעֵנִי אֹרַח חַיִּים שֹׂבַע שְׂמָחוֹת אֶת־פָּנֶיךָ ...

Here's Peter's interpretation (Acts 2:29-31):

My fellow brothers, it is possible to say to you confidently that the patriarch David both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, since he was a prophet and knew that God swore an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw (προϊδὼν) and spoke concerning the resurrection of the Messiah that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.

Ἄνδρες ἀδελφοί, ἐξὸν εἰπεῖν μετὰ παρρησίας πρὸς ὑμᾶς περὶ τοῦ πατριάρχου Δαυὶδ ὅτι καὶ ἐτελεύτησεν καὶ ἐτάφη, καὶ τὸ μνῆμα αὐτοῦ ἔστιν ἐν ἡμῖν ἄχρι τῆς ἡμέρας ταύτης. προφήτης οὖν ὑπάρχων καὶ εἰδὼς ὅτι ὅρκῳ ὤμοσεν αὐτῷ ὁ θεὸς ἐκ καρποῦ τῆς ὀσφύος αὐτοῦ καθίσαι ἐπὶ τὸν θρόνον αὐτοῦ, προϊδὼν ἐλάλησεν περὶ τῆς ἀναστάσεως τοῦ Χριστοῦ ὅτι οὔτε ἐγκατελείφθη εἰς ᾅδην οὔτε ἡ σὰρξ αὐτοῦ εἶδεν διαφθοράν.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Erasmus on Scripture and Theology

Some of my favourite Erasmus quotes:
“Another, perhaps, even a non-Christian, may discuss more subtly how the angels understand, but to persuade us to lead here an angelic life, free from every stain, this indeed is the duty of the Christian theologian.”

“The journey is simple, and it is ready for anyone. Only bring a pious and open mind, possessed above all with a pure and simple faith. Only be docile, and you have advanced far in this philosophy. . . . This doctrine in an equal degree accommodates itself to all . . . . not only does it serve the lowliest, but it is also an object of wonder to those at the top. . . . It keeps no one at a distance, unless a person, begrudging himself, keeps himself away."

“In this kind of philosophy . . . life means more than debate, inspiration is preferable to erudition, transformation is a more important matter than intellectual comprehension. Only a very few can be learned, but all can be Christian, all can be devout, and—I shall boldly add—all can be theologians.”
These are all from Erasmus's Paraclesis, which I believe he published as the introduction to his 1516 edition of the Greek New Testament.

My Favourite N.T. Wright Quotes

“To affirm ‘the authority of scripture’ is precisely not to say, ‘We know what scripture means and don’t need to raise any more questions’” (The Last Word [New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005], 91).

“I take it as a method in my biblical studies that if I turn a corner and find myself saying, ‘Well, in that case, that verse is wrong’ that I must have turned a wrong corner somewhere. But this does not mean that I impose what I think is right on to that bit of the Bible. It means, instead, that I am forced to live with that text uncomfortably . . . until suddenly I come round a different corner and that verse makes a lot of sense” (N.T. Wright, “How Can the Bible Be Authoritative?” Vox Evangelica 21 [1991]: 30).

Feels like I'm turning a few corners in Gospels this semester.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The difference two months make

Shoshana on her two month birthday (Jan 15, 2008):We were surprised she still fit her red suit.

For the sake of comparison, this picture was taken on December 14th, one day shy of her first month-day:
This picture was taken on November 21st when Shoshana was 6 days old:

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Blogging Prospectus

The following are a few of the things I would like to blog about over the next months as I have time:
  • A few people responded to my rejection of the idea that one can extract timeless truth from the Bible and discard the culturally conditioned husk. I would like to offer an explanation, which will likely be built around a few choice quotations from Richard B. Hays's excellent, The Moral Vision of the New Testament (HarperCollins, 1996).
  • My post on Francis Watson got me thinking about the production rates of NT scholars. In my view, quantity of publications is a doubtful measure of academic success. The flourishing Biblical Studies publication industry is as likely a sign of cancer as it is of health. But I think it will still be interesting to find out what, on average, can be expected of first-rate scholars.
  • "Sundays" are for I finish chapters. If the 2 page/week trend continues, this may take a while.
  • Maybe I will have more to say in the "What's in a Name?" series.
  • I will certainly post more pictures of Shoshana to make sure my family keeps checking the blog from time to time.
  • I also have some ideas for one-off posts.
  • Other suggestions?
Okay, back to work!

Sundays are for...Course Prep

When I began this blog in February of last year, I was half-way through an emotionally and physically draining semester teaching Romans and three other classes, and commuting two and from Saskatoon on weekends to spend time with my wife. My original "About Me" stated: "My voice will only intervene in the unlikely event I have something to say." My first entries, posted between mid-February and mid-March, were a series of quotations I had been saving that were not easily available online. Then the well ran dry.

Eleven months later I have a backlog of blog ideas that I would develop if I had time, but a new very full semester is now underway. When faced with a choice, I am likely to choose sleep over blogging. (t. could compile a longer list of activities that should take precedence over blogging.)

With this course line-up, I feel like a captain responsible to steer several different ships into harbour several months down the road. Maybe I'm a tugboat operator. I am at the foot of a mountain, unsure how I will make it to the top by the end of April. I begin each week at the top of a slide:
When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide
Where I stop and turn and I go for a ride
Till I get to the bottom and I see you again
(cue the U2 version of "Helter Skelter")
In short, after two days of class, I could use another sabbatical.
The first picture of this morning's beautiful hoar frost was taken from my study window at home. The second shot is from our back porch. Unlike this photograph, I can certify that both were taken in Caronport.

Friday, January 11, 2008

C.H. Dodd on Theology vs. what God has done for *me*

If even Paul, who does in his letters so "unlock his heart," found a securer basis than his own "experience" for the theology he taught, still more is this true of other New Testament writers, whose experience in any case has to be conjectured, since they say nothing about it. This was not what early Christian preachers talked about. On the day of Pentecost, we are informed, their theme was not the amazing experience of being possessed by the Holy Spirit: it was "the mighty works of God" (τὰ μεγαλεῖα τοῦ θεοῦ, Acts ii.11). Similarly, in the First Epistle of Peter, those whom God has "called out of darkness into his marvellous light" do not talk about the experience of enlightenment, but about "the victorious achievements" (ἀρεταί) of God (I Pet. ii. 9).
C.H. Dodd is responding to earlier attempts to discover the origins of Christian theology in the experience of the New Testament writers, but the point still bears repeating.

The quotation is from the conclusion to According to the Scriptures: The Sub-Structure of New Testament Theology (London: Nisbet, 1953), which is available online at, I hope.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Eric Ortlund, my OT colleague in the Seminary here at Briercrest, has started a blog entitled Scatterings. Eric is a gentleman and a scholar; he also has a wicked sense of humour, which he has apparently passed along to his son.

For a sampling from Scatterings, check out this post on "Englightenment vs. Communal Learning." Excerpt:
I started a OT study group last semester at the seminary. I told the guys on the first day that I wanted this to be intentionally different from how the Bible is usually studied in seminaries and professional societies in North America....So I told the guys on the first day that I wanted to rebel a bit in our study group. First, it would be an exercise in communal learning: we would learn not so much from each other (although that would happen), but together. If I think I can just go off by myself and learn all there is to know about the Bible, I'm kidding myself. Second, we would not be experts, we would be beginners; instead of having pre-established methods which we brought to the text, we were going to start each chapter fresh, always feeling a little off balance, always feeling that we might need to re-think how we approached the text at all.
I wish I had time to join.

Monday, January 7, 2008

What's in a name? A Growing Bibliography

The T&T Clark Blog links to several essays available for free download in the Philip Davies festschrift, In Search of Philip R. Davies: Whose Festschrift Is It Anyway? (Duncan Burns and John W. Rogerson, eds; T&T Clark, 2008?). One by R. Barry Matlock caught my eye: "Jew by Nature": Paul, Ethnicity, and Galatians." A quick scan of the article shows it is long on theory and short on application to Paul, but Matlock is evidently working on a larger project on the same topic.

Here's another 2007 monograph on ethnicity in Paul:

Hodge, Caroline Johnson. If Sons, Then Heirs: A Study of Kinship and Ethnicity in the Letters of Paul (Oxford, 2007):
Abstract: Christianity is understood to be a “universal” religion that transcends the particularities of history and culture, including differences related to kinship and ethnicity. This portrait of Christianity has been maintained by an interpretive tradition that claims that Paul eliminates ethnicity or at least separates it from what is important about Christianity. This study challenges that perception. Through an examination of kinship and ethnic language in Paul's letters, this book demonstrates that notions of peoplehood and lineage are not rejected or downplayed by Paul; instead they are central to his gospel. Paul's chief concern is the status of the gentile peoples who are alienated from the God of Israel. Ethnicity defines this theological problem, just as it shapes his own evangelizing of the ethnic and religious “other”. According to Paul, God has responded to the gentile predicament through Christ. Using the logic of patrilineal descent, Paul constructs a myth of origins for gentiles: through baptism into Christ the gentiles become descendants of Abraham, adopted sons of God and coheirs with Christ. Although Jews and gentiles now share a common ancestor, Paul does not collapse them into one group. They are separate but related lineages of Abraham. Kinship and ethnicity work well in Paul's arguments, for at the same time that they present themselves as natural and fixed, they are also open to negotiation and reworking. This paradox renders them effective tools in organizing people and power, shaping self-understanding and defining membership. This analysis demonstrates that Paul's thinking is immersed in the story of a specific people and their God. He speaks not as a Christian theologian, but as a 1st-century Jewish teacher of gentiles responding to concrete situations in the communities he founded.
The OUP webpage for the book also includes chapter abstracts.

Since the flood of publications on the meaning of Ioudaios--or on ethnicity in Early "Judaism" and "Christianity" more generally--is not likely to abate soon, I might as well keep tracking them here:

Dunn, James D. G. "Two Covenants or One? The Interdependence of Jewish and Christian Identity," Pages 97-124 in Geschichte--Tradition--Reflexion. Edited by Hubert Cancik, Hermann Lichtenberger, and Peter Schäfer. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1996.

Goodblatt, David M. Elements of Ancient Jewish Nationalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Jones, Siân and Sarah Pearce, eds. Jewish Local Patriotism and Self-Identification in the Graeco-Roman Period. JSPSupp. 31. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998.

Porton, Gary G. "Who was a Jew?," Pages 197-220 in Judaism in Late Antiquity Part Three: Where We Stand: Issues and Debates in Ancient Judaism. Edited by Jacob Neusner and Alan J. Avery-Peck. Leiden: Brill, 1999.

Kessler, Gwynn. "Let's Cross that Body When We Get to It: Gender and Ethnicity in Rabbinic Literature." JAAR 73, no. 2 (2005): 329-359.

Neusner, Jacob. "Was Rabbinic Judaism Really Ethnic?" CBQ 57, no. 2 (1995): 281-305.

Udoh, Fabian. To Caesar What is Caesar's: Tribute, Taxes and Imperial Administration in Early Roman Palestine (63 B.C.E.-70 C.E.). Providence, RI: Brown Judaic Studies, 2005.
David Hindley comments: He seems to suggest that from the time of the early emperors onward Jews enjoyed a quasi-political "ethnos" which guaranteed certain rights and privileges to the members, regardless of place of residence. These included the right to practice ancestral customs unmolested, right to assemble for worship according to these customs, and transport money offerings to Jerusalem. I believe that he thinks this "ethnarchy" was centered on the temple in Jerusalem, sort of like a "temple state."

Earlier posts in this series:
Part 1: On Jews and Judeans, Israelites and Israelis
Part 2: Ioudaios according to Shaye Cohen
Part 3a: Ioudaios according to Philip Esler
Part 3b: Philip Esler Responds to Shaye Cohen
Part 4: Judean vs. Israelite according to John H. Elliott
Part 5a: Ioudaios according to Steve Mason
Part 5b: Ioudaios according to Steve Mason
Part 6: Preliminary Conclusions
The Translation of Ioudaios and the Parting of the Ways

Sunday, January 6, 2008

"Sundays" are for Volf - Interlude

My "younger" (older) sister drew my attention to this example of Volf putting the theory he develops in Exclusion and Embrace into practice. Volf is listed as one of the authors of, "Loving God and Neighbor Together," a Christian response to the Muslim open letter, "A Common Word Between Us and You." But since Volf heads up the Yale Center for Faith and Culture that published the response, I suspect he is its primary author.

At any rate, Volf's involvement in the response takes on added significance when you remember that he is a Croatian, and that Exclusion and Embrace was written out of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia in which Muslims played a role. (I could make this point a lot stronger if I could equate Muslim Serbs with the cetnik fighters Volf describes as his enemies in the preface to Exclusion and Embrace, but I confess that I remain baffled by the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.)

This post is an interlude, since I haven't read the chapter in Volf's Exclusion and Embrace for this week. There are three more chapters to go, and they all look good: "Oppression and Justice," "Deception and Truth," and "Violence and Peace." We'll see what happens next week. I fear that between being a dad and preparing for classes, I will have time for little else.

Friday, January 4, 2008

John Strugnell Obituary by Jerome Murphy-O'Connor

Jerome Murphy-O'Connor has an excellent write-up about John Strugnell in the most recent English edition of the École Biblique's Nouvelles de Jérusalem (scroll down to about the middle of the document). Since I have not seen this obituary mentioned elsewhere online, I thought it was worthy of special mention here as well as on my growing list of John Strugnell Obituaries. Some highlights:

He was only 24 and still working on a graduate degree at Oxford [when he joined the official team of Dead Sea Scrolls editors], but he came strongly recommended by G. R. Driver as the most promising semitist of his generation. Even before university he had been privileged to receive the extraordinary linguistic training, which characterised the classical departments of the best English schools. At St Paul’s in London, he once told me, his class was challenged over one weekend to translate verses of the song “O Clementine” into Greek that could be sung to the same tune. Others of that age-group report that he read a Hebrew bible for recreation while walking.

Always available to our students, his presence also drew other scholars to the École Biblique....Many will recall with pleasure the stimulation and entertainment provided by colleagues from a number of different countries as they debated the day’s decipherments at the evening meal. Strugnell would have liked to formalize this arrangement.

What Strugnell published on the scrolls is minimal by comparison with the output of others of his colleagues, but it was of exceptional importance. He preferred to work in collaboration, and the form it took was typical. He was the first to permit doctorate students to work on unpublished scrolls, but he did not give them minor fragments of negligable importance. He entrusted them with uniquely valuable documents. ... [Eileen Schuller] wrote, “I've been in contact with a couple of friends these last days and we've been sharing memories of John from our student days, and we all agree on the same points: his dedication to his students, expressed in his willingness to read whatever we submitted; to take it seriously enough to make detailed comments and criticism; to encourage us to express our own views (even when they disagreed with his). Long after we graduated, he continued in that role, especially offering us encouragement as we began our teaching and publishing”.

One of Strugnell’s most unusual claims to fame was to have been the author of a review longer, and much more valuable, than the book he was sent to assess. He began to write his review of John Allegro’s Qumran Cave 4.1 (4Q158-4Q186) in French because he thought that only a brief notice would be necessary for the Revue Biblique. As he went through it, however, he realized that more and more corrections were necessary. Still writing in French he effectively re-edited all of Allegro’s texts. When Strugnell had finished, the review was far too long for the Revue Biblique and much more suited to be an article in the Revue de Qumran. This demanded a introduction, which he thought should be in better French. The translation was provided by de Vaux, but without any indication. I still vividly remember the gales of laughter when the packet containing the proofs was opened after lunch. Jean Carmignac, editor of the Revue de Qumran, had made dozens of corrections in de Vaux’s French and virtually none in Strugnell’s!
HT: Eileen Schuller

Planes, Diapers and Josephus

We enjoyed an unexpected six hour layover in the Calgary airport on our return from Portland, thanks to the unparalleled service of Air Canada. To be fair, I neglected to double-check the posted departure time against our itinerary until ten minutes before leaving for the airport. Although we still arrived at check-in just under an hour before the posted departure time, the special Air Canada check-in line was closed, and we missed our outgoing flight. We then missed our connecting flight from Vancouver to Regina, etc., etc.

The layover gave me just the opportunity I needed to finish the final volume in the Loeb Classical Library edition of Josephus. I began working through the original Loeb edition of Josephus seven years ago, while I was a visiting research student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The first three volumes--Josephus's life, the Contra Apion, and the Jewish War--are forever connected in my mind to the commute on bus number 19 between our apartment on Ushishkin street in downtown Jerusalem, and the Mt. Scopus campus of the Hebrew University. (There is nothing like reading Josephus's description of Herod's temple and the first Jewish revolt while riding around the enormous site of the temple mount.) That the remaining six volumes of the Jewish Antiquities took much longer to complete, I attribute to the massive reduction in commuting time after our return from Israel and eventual move to Saskatchewan. If you have ever visited Caronport, you will know what I mean.

The layover in Calgary also gave me the chance to conduct an impromptu survey about diaper sales on concourse A. My advice to parents of newborns: Plan for a day-long layover, and throw in a couple extra diapers for other parents in need. Oh, and avoid Air Canada if possible--they don't offer complimentary diapers.