Moses in the Koberger Bible (1483)

Ralph W. Klein, who is the curator of the Gruber Rare Books Collection and Other Rare Books at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, led a 90 minute tour of the English Bible and the collection of Luther of the rare book room at March 26, 2010. For detailed information please visit the website of the Gruber Rare Books Collection and Other Rare Book.

Moses in Koberger Bible (1483)

During the tour, I was so impressed by an illustration of the Koberger Bible (1483) which is one of the pre-Reformation Bibles in the rare book room. The illustration describes Moses’ figure presented in Josephus: (1) the mother of Moses places Moses in a basket in the Nile; (2) Pharaoh’s daughter saves him and rears him; and (3) at right, based on the tale from the historian Josephus, the infant Moses takes the crown from Pharaoh’s head (Exod 2:1-10).

Josephus narrates the story of the infant Moses being brought to Pharaoh by Pharaoh’s daughter and trampling upon his crown:

She [Pharaoh’s daughter] put him [the infant Moses] into her father’s hands; so he took him, and hugged him close to his breast; and on his daughter?�s account, in a pleasant way, put his diadem upon his head; but Moses threw it down to the ground, and, in a puerile mood he wreathed it round, and trod upon it with his feet (Ant. 2:234).

The rabbinic midrashic tradition recounts the similar tale (Tanhuma Exodus 8; Midrash Exodus Rabbah 1.26; Midrash Deuteronomy Rabbah 11.10; Yashar Exodus 131b-132b). In the midrash, it is Moses who takes the crown from Pharaoh’s head and places it upon his own as a clear intimation that he would some day displace Pharaoh. The infant Moses in the rabbinic tradition is an anti-imperialist. In Josephus, however, it is Pharaoh himself who proceeds to place the crown upon Moses’ head. Josephus may particularly sensitive to the charge of Jewish aggressiveness that such a presentation, like the tale of the infant Moses, would suggest. Hence, when Moses removes from his head the crown that Pharaoh had placed upon it, Josephus is careful to add that he does so out of mere childishness (νη?ι??η?α) (Feldman 1998, 383).

Reference List

Feldman, Louis H. Josephus’ Interpretation on the Bible. Berkeley: University of California, 1998.

 Josephus, Flavius ; Whiston, William: The Works of Josephus : Complete and Unabridged. electronic ed. of the new updated ed. Peabody : Hendrickson, 1996, c1987.


Triune Atonement: Christ’s Healing for Sinners, Victims, and the Whole Creation

Triune Atonement by Andrew S. Park

Triune Atonement by Park

In this recent book, Triune Atonement: Christ’s Healing for Sinners, Victims, and the Whole Creation (2009), Andrew Sung Park attempts to explore the biblical and theological meanings of Christ’s atonement for victims, oppressors, and nature from a Korean American perspective. Park underlines a new understanding of Christ’s death outlining two main parts: Part 1: Atonement History; and Part 2: The Triune Atonement.   

In Part 1, Dr. Park reviews the history of atonement by examining the major atonement theologies developed from the second century C.E. (Irenaeus) to the twentieth century C.E. (Tillich). He examines the main points of each theology of atonement using primary resources and evaluations. His critical review of the theology of atonement allows him to argue the fact that “most of them basically leave untouched the issue of the liberation of victims and their healing (p. 37).” Based upon his critical review of the development of this atonement of theology, in Part 2, Park develops his main theme of Jesus’ atonement for victims, oppressors, and all creation. In this matter, he rejects the traditional theories of atonement.   

 Why, then, the triune atonement? His idea of the triune atonement comes mainly from the Gospel of John and from the church fathers. He articulates that the Paraclete (παράκλητος) whose functions are to intercede, to comfort, and to help the victims. His intention is to highlight the significance of the work of the Paraclete involving the person of Jesus and God. In his introduction to the book, Park clearly asserts that “the church has not explicitly explained the work of the Paraclete for our atonement, but God has transformed, saved, and liberated people through the Paraclete (xiv).”   

Park argues that “Jesus’ cross restores victims’ integrity and dignity by repudiating the idea of a sin-punishment formula (p. 69).” This means that Jesus’ atonement includes both the victims and the oppressors. He emphasizes the idea of “sin-forgiveness” formula instead of the “sin-punishment,” as he suggested in his previous book, From Hurt to Healing (2004) in which he advocates a theology of the wounded. Park believes that the Bible shows that “the God of the Hebrew Bible is the God of mercy and grace,” and God even forgives people with no punishment as expressed in Jesus’ parable of the lost son in Luke 15.   

One of the most intriguing arguments in this book is the suffering of nature from abusive treatment by humans. His book ends with his own reflection on the passage of Isaiah (Isa 11:6-9) as follows: “Here the predators and the victims eat and play together, and the oppressors and the oppressed rest and enjoy each other in God’s creation. When we come to live with God’s nature in harmony, we will be able to acclaim God with shouts of joy (p. 108).” Thus, this book underlines the renewal of God’s whole creation. Park’s theology on atonement moves further from the redemption of humanity (both victims and the oppressors) to the restoration of the whole creation.   

One thing I want to make clear is that his book attempts to explain the meaning of Jesus’ atonement for victims and victimizers from an Asian American perspective. Park approaches this topic with the Korean term han. While he clearly defines the Korean word han to describe Jesus’ atonement for the victims, he does not develop how this particular Korean term han furthers soteriology in the idea of Jesus’ atonement for oppressors and the whole creation.

A Liverly New Interpretation of Genesis: Original Sinners

Today, I got a new book entitled Original Sinners by John R. Coats. As soon as I got the book, I looked at the contents. In his new interpretation of Genesis, Coats, former Episcopal priest, explores the strengths and weaknesses of the characters in the book of Genesis. Beyond the biblical scholarship, I think that his theological reflection on the people and stories of Genesis can help our own life, family, and colleagues. Senior Publicity Manager, Heidi Metcalfe introduces this book as follows:

Coats demonstrates how we can view the characters and stories on Genesis as metaphors in which to see the best, the worst, and all the intermediate states in ourselves- greed, generosity, betrayal, growth, and trasformation and redemption.  

I recommand the book anyone who wants to reflect the significance of the stories of Genesis for our contemporary life, not to explore the socio-historical contexts from which the book of Genesis emerged.

The 352nd Meeting of the Chicago Society of Biblical Research

The 352nd  meeting of the CSBR (Chicago Society of Biblical Research) was held at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. The meeting, in particular, was to honor the scholarship of Professor Hans Dieter Betz. Two scholars who are former students of Dr. Betz offered their tributes to Dr. Betz: Clare K. Rothschild and Margaret M. Mitchell.

Meeting of Chicago Society of Biblical Research

In the session, three papers were presented, and the followings are the abstracts: 

1. Revisiting the Judicial Species of Rhetoric for Galatians by Troy Martin (Xavier University)

 The primary purpose of this paper is to evaluate an old suggestion by Cornelius a Lapide and Heinrich August Schott about the syntax of Galatians 1:6-7 that supports Hans Dieter Betz’s association of Galatians with forensic rhetoric. Rather than connecting εἰ μή in verse 7 to the preceding relative clauses as do all other commentators, they connect these two words to Θαυμάζω in verse 6. According to them, εἰ μή introduces a protasis for an apodosis that begins with Θαυμάζω. The resulting syntax indicates that Paul adopts the rehtorical strategy of “shifting of blame” in this attempt to persuade the Galatians to return to his gospel. Since shifting of blame is a recognized strategy in forensic rhetoric, their explanation of the syntax of Galatians 1:6-7 makes this part of the forensic species of rhetoric useful for understanding one aspect of Paul’s rhetorical strategy in Galatians.

2. The Depictions of Paul and Other Jews as Present and Former Persecutors in the Acts of the Apostles by James Kelhoffer (St. Louis University)

This paper examines persecution as a basis for legitimacy in the Acts of the Apostles. In particular it considers Luke’s negative depictions of Jews as persecutors and Luke’s characterization of Paul as the persecuted former persecutor.

3. The Cultic Status of the Levites in the Tmeple Scroll: Between hermenutics and History by Jeffrey Stackert (University of Chicago)

The complex views of Levitical cultic status in the Pentateuch continued to develop in Second Temple Jewish Literature. In several texts (e.g., Chronicles, the Testament of Levi, Aramaic Levi, Jubilees), the status of the Levites vis-à-vis the priests changes and even improves relative to their rank in pentateuchal Priestly literature. Perhaps no Second Temple text, however, is more noteworthy on the question of the relative status of priests and Levites than the Temple Scroll. By both mediating between biblical Priestly and Deuteronomic perspectives and innovating beyond them, this text introduces cultic privileges for the Levites unattested in other Second Temple literature. In this paper, I will attempt to explain the Temple Scroll authors’ exegetical engagement with their biblical sources as a basis for their novel presentation of Levitical cultuc rights. I will also consider the historical conditions that facilitate the legal innovations that the Temple Scroll introduces with regard to Levitical cultic status.

11Q5: Psalm 151 (A Poetic Midrash on 1 Sam 16:1-13)

The Mesoratic text does not include Psalm 151 into the Psalter. It was known in Greek, Latin, and Syriac translation before the discovery of the Dead Sea Psalm Scrolls. Psalm 151 in the scroll (11Q5 Col. XXVIII) is longer than that of the Greek. It has been published with discussion by J. A. Sanders (1963). Sanders defines Psalm 151 in the scroll as “a poetic midrash on 1 Sam 16:1-3,” composing a new poetry out of older biblical passages. I will discuss Psalm 151 in the scroll (11Q5 Col. XXVIII) with the discussion of the midrash interpetation of 1 Sam 16:1-13.

 Manuscript of 11Q5 Col. XXVIII (Psalm 151A and B) 


 Transcription of 11Q5 Col. XXVIII (Psalm 151 A and B)

transcription-of-11q5 Col.XXVIII

The transcription is taken from Dead Sea Scrolls Electronic Library (Revised Edition; Leiden: Brill, 2006).

Translation of 11Q5 Col. XXVIII (Psalm 151 A and B)

3. Hallelujah! A psalm of David, son of Jesse. I was smaller than my brothers, youngest of my father’s sons. So he made me a

4. shepherd for his sheep, a ruler over his goats. My hands fashioned a pipe, my fingers a lyre,

5. and I glorified the Lord. I said to myself, “The mountains do not testify

6. to Him, nor do the hills proclaim.” So-echo my words, O trees, O sheep, my deeds!

7. Ah, but who can proclaim, who declare the deeds of the Lord? God has seen all,

8. heard and attended to everything. He sent his prophet to anoint me, even Samuel,

9. to raise me up. My brothers went forth to meet him: handsome of figure, wondrous of appearance, tall were they of stature,

10. so beautiful their hair-yet the Lord God did not choose them. No, He sent and took me

11. who followed the flock, and anointed me with the holy oil. He set me as prince to His people, vacat ruler over the children of

12. His covenant vacat

13. [Dav]id’s first mighty d[ee]d after the prophet of God had anointed him. Then I s[a]w the Philistine,

14. throwing out taunts from the [enemy] r[anks     ]

The translation is taken from Dead Sea Scrolls Electronic Library (Revised Edition; Leiden: Brill, 2006).

LXX and 11Q5 Psalm 151 A by Sanders


LXX and 11Q5 Psalm 151 B by Sanders


Sander’s translation of LXX and 11Q5 Psalm 151 A and B here. For variant translations of Psalm 151 A, see Sanders’ book (pp. 100–103).

This psalm consists of two parts: (1) David’s anointing by God’s messenger (vv 1-5); and (2) David’s defeat of the Philistine warrior (vv 6-7). As we can see from the comparision of LXX Psalm 151 with 11Q5 Psalm 151 (Sanders divides 11Q5 Col. XXVIII into two parts: Psalm 151 A and 151 B), Psalm 151 in the scroll is different from that of the Greek. Sanders points the beauty and integrity of the Hebrew psalm in the parallelism between v. 1 and v. 7:

Whereas Jesse, David’s father, had made the lad shepherd and ruler over his flocks, God made him leader and ruler over his people. This parallel structure is truncated in the Greek to the bland statement in Greek verse 1, “I tended my father’s flock” [my emphasis].

This parallelism shows the contrast between Jesse’s intention and God’s intention. The most interesting omission in the Greek is the section appering in the scroll in verses 2b and 3, and this portion reinforces the contrast that is found in the parallelism:  


David’s election in 1 Sam 16:7 is the crux of the poetic midrash: “The Lord looks upon the heart” (יהוה יראה ללבב). As Sanders argues, however, the biblical passage fails to state what God saw in Dvid’s heart. The portion that is preserved in the scroll (vv. 2b-3) supplies the poetic midrash. David rendered glory to the Lord within his soul (v. 2b) event though he is insignificant in the outward appearance. The symbols in the next verse (v. 3), in my view, demonstrate a rhetorical contrast between significance and insignificance in the outward appearance:

The mountains do not witness to him, nor do the hills proclaim; the trees have cherished my words and the flock my words.   

David is identified with the insignificant trees and flock. The Lord who can see into the heart has seen and heard everything David has done and said (v. 4). Thus, God heeded David’s piety of soul by sending the prophet Samuel to take him from behind the flock to make him a great ruler. In this respect, the emphasis on David as a musician, especially in the Hebrew version, is significant; David rendered glory to the Lord within his soul. The tradition about David’s responsibility for making musical instruments is attested in 1 Chr 23:5, 2 Chr 7:6; 29:26-27, Neh 12:36, and Psalm 151:2.  

The Hebrew version provides more sophistigated midrash interpretatation of 1 Sam 16:1-3 than the Greek version. Sanders concludes his discussion on the main theme of Psalm 151 A (11Q5 Col. XXVIII) as follows: 

Psalm 151 A [in the scroll] makes a great point of insisting that David, unlike his brothers, is samll and humble (vv. 5 and 6), but in his soul wants only to glorify God wih his homemade lyre.

God chose not the brothers; rather he chose the little shephered behind Jesse’s flock and exalted him as leader of the covenant people (בני ברית).

Reference List

Charlesworth, J. H. and J. A. Sanders. “Psalm 151.” In The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. 2 vols. Edited by J. H. Charlesworth. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983, 1985. Vol. 2, 612-15.

Flint, Peter W. The Dead Sea Psalms Scrolls and the Book of Psalms. Leiden: Brill, 1997.

Harrington, Daniel. “Psalm 151.” In Harper’s Bible Commentary. James L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row, c1988.

Sanders, J. A. The Dead Sea Psalms Scroll. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1967.

________. The Psalms Scroll of Qumran Cave 11 (11Qpsa). Oxford: Clarendon, 1965.


When and Why was the Second Temple Rebuilt?

In his current article, Dr. Ralph W. Klein responds to Diana Edelman’s proposal (The Origins of the ‘Second’ Temple: Persian Imperial Policy and the Rebuilding of Jerusalem, Equinox Publishing, 2006) that the Second Temple was actually built during the reign of Artaxerxes I (465-425 B.C.E.) rather than Darius I (516 B.C.E.). Edelman asks the question: “What benefit would have accrued from rebuilding the temple under the reign of Darius while Jerusalem remained unoccupied and in ruins?” By answering the question, Edelman proposes a prominent hypothesis that “Artaxerxes I initiated a single project to rebuild the temple and to fortify Jerusalem at the same time” [my emphasis]. Klein summarizes Edelman’s evidences for her attempt to a late date of the Second Temple as follows:

In support of her hypothesis she discounts the eight dates in the prophets Haggai and Zechariah that link them to the reign of Darius I (Hag 1:1, 15; 2:1, 10, 20; Zech 1:1, 7; 7:1), arguing that they were calculated secondarily, based on the prophecy in Jeremiah of restoration after seventy years (Edelman, ch. 2). She also calls into question the historicity of the account of the building of the temple in Ezra 1-6, arguing that it is based only on what could be learned from a series of biblical passages (Ezekiel 40-48; Second Isaiah; Haggai and Zechariah, including their dates; and 1 Chronicles 22-2 Chronicles 7; Edelman, ch. 3). Two additional chapters investigate the size of Yehud in the fifth century (ch. 4) and the archaeological data that support her hypothesis (ch. 5). Chapter 6 contains her description of the pragmatic issues that led Artaxerxes to fortify Jerusalem and rebuild the temple at the beginning of his reign (Klein 697-98).

Klein argues that Edelman’s “late date for the Second Temple is not plausible” (Klein, 701). He explains the chronological problems with Joshua and Zerubbabel, and clearly states that Joshua, Zerubbabel, and Nehemiah are not contemporaries at all. Thus, Klein’s disagreement with Edelman’s hypothesis is based on his literary analysis of the chronological account for Joshua and Zerubbabel. I also think that Edelman “must resolve the chronological problems with Joshua and Zerubbabel” (Klein 701).

But I’m interested in the social context for rebuilding of the Second Temple. It is reasonable to go back to her initial quesitons: “How would either king (Cyrus or Darius) have benefited from a pilgrimage site in a destroyed city in an underdeveloped? Why was the Second Temple rebuilt?

In chapter 5, Edelman discusses the archaelogical data for her hypothesis. She argues that “the settlement patterns within its boundaries in the Persian period at large shows that a series of administrative sites were established on S-N and W-E lines leading from the coastal plain and Beersheba Valley to Jerusalem, the new provincial seat.” In chapter 6, Edelman also discusses the pragmatic issues that the rebuilding of Jerusalem as the provincial seat should have included the rebuilding of the temple so that the local population could honor their native deity and pay their taxes in annual festivals at the site.

If the provincial seat as the Persian policy, which was taken under Artaxerxes I, is the reason why the Second Temple was rebuilt, then her proposal for a late date for the Second Temple is plausible. For the review of Edelman’s book click here

Reference List

Klein, Ralph W. “Were Joshua, Zerubbabel, and Nehemiah Contemporaries? A Response to Diana Edelman’s Proposed Late Date for the Second Temple.” JBL 127/4 (2008): 691-702.

The Problem for Identifying the Qumran Community as the Essenes

One of my students sent me an email today mentioning an article of this week’s Time entitled Scholar Claims Dead Sea Scrolls ‘Authors’ Never Existed. It reports that Israeli scholar, Rachel Elior, claims that the Essenes never existed at all. Elior insists that “the Essenes were a fabrication by the 1st century A.D. Jewish-Roman historian Flavius Josephus.” Elior claims that all other ancient sources (Pliny and Philo) either borrowed from each other or retailed second-hand stories. At the end of the article, Elior proposes that the authors of the scrolls as “the renegade sons of Zadok, a priestly caste banished from the Temple of Jerusalem by intriguing Greek rulers in 2nd century B.C.” What is Elior’s evidence? She argues that some of the early Hebrew texts dating back to the 2nd century B.C. attest to a biblical priestly heritage. Elior’s main argument is that the author of the Dead Sea Scrolls is not the Essenes but “the renegade sons of Zadok.” What we know about the authors of the scrolls from the scrolls is that they were opponents of Jerusalem Zadokites. The War Scroll (1QM) gives an example of the conflict between the “sons of light” and the “sons of darkness.”  

Elior’s hypothesis is very similar to the hypothesis of Rengstorf (1960) and Norman Golb, who wrote the book, Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?-The Search for the Secret of Qumran (1995). Both Rengstorf and Golb have proposed that the scrolls found in the caves were left there by people who fled from Jerusalem with their manuscripts in order to hide them from the approaching Romans around the time of the First Jewish Revolt.

I’m convinced by Elior’s proposal that the community of the scrolls may be “the renegade sons of Zadok.” But her argument that the Essenes were a fabrication by Josephus is in doubt becuase it is her own interpretation of Josephus.

Now as we know, the theory that Qumran community might be the Essenes is a hypothesis since the word Essenes does not appear in the scrolls; they refer to themselves as men of holiness or sons of light. Thus, it is important to summrize the scholarship concerning the authorship of the scrolls. I will summarize the scholarship based on James C. VanderKam’s book The Dead Sea Scrolls Today (1994, for this issue see also Dead Sea Scrolls). 

The Essenes Hypothesis

eleazar-sukenik1Eleazar Sukenik (1947) was the first scholar who proposes that the scrolls might have a connection with the Essenes described by the historian Josephus. He supposed the connection between Qumran and the Essenes when he read the Manual of Discipline, which defined the way of life for a wilderness sect. The principal argument for identifying the inhabitants of Qumran as Essenes is that the beliefs and practices of the Essenes, as reported in ancient sources (Josephus, Pliny, Philo, and others), agree remarkably well with the beliefs and practices presented and reflected in the Dead Sea Scrolls. See also Who Wrote the Scrolls?
Problem with the Essenes Hypothesis
Todd Beall compared 27 parallels between Josephus and the scrolls. He concludes that among 27 parellels 21 are probable parallels, but 6 are apparent discrepancies between them. These 6 discrepancies are consider to be problematic for identifying the Qumran community as the Essenes. But the discrepancies are not certain. Let us examine the entry procedure between Josephus and the scrolls as an example of the parallels.
VanderKam points out that the procedure seems to move through the same stages. So the discrepancy here is not certain. He argues that “it is more likely that in the case of the entry process, Josephus and the Manual once again agree.”
Other Theories
There are two others discussions concerning the identification of the Qumran group: (1) The Qumran community is Sadducees; and (2) Qumran had not permanent residents and the scrolls were placed by residents of Jerusalem who concealed them for safekeeping during the first revolt against Rome.
schiffman_lgFirst, Lawrence Schiffman is responsible for the Qumran-Sadducees hypothesis. What is his eveidence? According to him, several of the legal views on purity defended in Some of the Works of the Torah (4QMMT) as those of the authors-the people of Qumran-have significant overlaps with positions that rabbinic literature attributes to the Sadducees. VanderKam comments on this evidence as follows:
If he is correct and if 4QMMT is a sectarian text that dates from near the time of Qumran beginnings, it would imply-in his opinion-that the sect at its inception was Sadducean or at least exhibited heavy Sadducean influences on its legal positions (94).
golbsmallSecond,  Norman Golb has proposed that the the scrolls have nothing to do with the Qumran residents. He states that the scrolls found in the caves were not left there by the residents of Qumran but by people who fled from Jerusalem with their precious manuscripts in order to hide them from the approaching Romans around the time of the First Jewish Revolt. What is his evidence? He argues that the remote area was a suitable storage for depositing valuables. The copies of the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice were found at Qumran and at Masada. It reveals that the preservation of the scrolls is not unique in Qumran.
For a more detailed update on this issue, see Douglas Mangum’s post Challenging the Essene Hypothesis.  

The Story of Cain and Abel: Why did God Reject Cain’s Sacrifice?

Cain the elder becomes a farmer and Abel the younger becomes a shepherd (Gen 4:2). Each brings an offering: Cain brings to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground (Gen 4:3); and Abel brings the firstlings of his flock (Gen 4:4). But God accepts Abel’s offering. Accordingly, Cain is troubled (Gen 4:5-7), and kills his brother Abel (Gen 4:8). The story ends with God’s punishment of Cain (Gen 4:9-15). Why did God reject Cain’s sacrifice? Does God love a meat sarifice rather than a vegetable offering?

The text does not tell us the reason why God prefers to Abel’s offering. Thus, there have been several inferential attempts to answer the question:

  1. Both Luther and Calvin explained that Cain did not present his gift by faith. Their interpretation was based on Heb 11:4 (cf. 1 John 3:12; Matt 23:35). C. Westermann suggests that the opinion of New Testament writers is based on the Rabbinic traditions of late Judaism: “Abel is ‘the just one’ his sacrifice is offered ;out of faith” (Westermann, 319).
  2. The offering itself was insufficient, either becuase Cain was stingy or becuase he violated some implicit liturgical regulation (Skinner, 105).
  3. There is a cultural conflict between farmers and shepherds. R. de Vaux argues that Cain’s story affirms pastoralism of the patriarchs (de Vaux, 13-14).
  4. The story reflects that YHWH prefers a younger to an older sibling (Goldin, 32).

The first suggestion seems to be totally out of context since the text never metions the word “faith”; thus, this is an interpretation of the story. The second suggestion is plausible. The text says that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted becuase he offered “the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions” (Gen 4:4), while Cain brought “fruit of the ground.” Cain is being condemned for failing to bring first fruits (Deut 26:1-11). But it is also a conjecture. The third suggestion needs to be reconsidered in light of recent studies of nomadisim and its relationship to settled zones in the ancient Near East. It scarcely seems so. The fourth suggestion is restated by Joel S. Kaminsky who suggests that it is about divine favoritism and the exclusivism which repeats in the cases of Ishmael and Isacc, Jacob and Esau, and Joseph and his ten older brothers (Kaminsky, 23). He argues that “the Genesis narratives are well-suited as an introduction to biblical election theology.” He focuses on the divine favoritisim rather than the issue of offering:

Cain’s failure is not in relation to the offering he brought, but in his reaction to God’s mysterious favoritism of Abel. He allows his jealousy to get out of control, even after God has warned him of this danger. Rather than accept God’s choice of Abel, he tries to overcome Abel’s election by killing him (25).

But I’m convinced by F. A. Spina’s suggestion (“The Ground for Cain’s Rejection [Gen 4]: יadāmāh in the Context of Genesis 1-11″ ZAW 104/3 [1992]) that we need to consider the issue of the text in the larger context of Genesis 1-11. Cain’s offering has to do with its source: the ground which had been coursed by God (Gen 3:17-19) so that Cain’s offering is unacceptable. Indeed, the term “ground” is the key word in Genesis 1-11. Cain was a farmer who followed in the footsteps of his father Adam, the first farmer (Gen 2:5, 15). Spina further argues that human beings continued to to sin even after the flood that is the main theme of Genesis 1-11. But the cursed “ground” became the source of blessing and and a suitable offering to God (Deut 7:12-16). 

Reference List

De Vaux, R. Ancient Israel: Social Institutions I. 1965.

Goldin, J. “The Youngest Son or Where Does Genesis 38 Belong,” JBL 96/1 (1977).

Kaminsky, Joel S. Yet I Loved Jacob: Reclaiming the Biblical Concept of Election. Nashville: Abingdom Press, 2007.

Skinner, J. Genesis. ICC. 2nd. 1930.

Spina, F. A. “The Ground for Cain’s Rejection (Gen 4): יadāmāh in the Context of Genesis 1-11″ ZAW 104/3 (1992): 319-32.

Westermann, C. Genesis 1-11. Trans. John J. Sculion S. J. Minneapolis: Augusburg Publishing House, 1984.

Gustave Doré

Gustave Doré, 1866

A Biblical Response to “Test Case for Libertarian Free Will”

A couple days ago Denny Burk published an interesting essay entitled Test Case for Libertarian Free Will. It is a reflection on YHWH’s commission to Moses (Exod 3:18-19). Burk points out YHWH’s two predictions:

(1) The Israelites will choose to follow Moses. [and] (2) Pharoah will choose to reject Moses’ directives.

With these two predictions Burk discusses the issue of “free will.” He invites readers to think about the following quesitons: “Were the Israelites and Pharoah free to choose other than what they did?”

I’d like to answer the questions from the teaching of the Wisdom of Ben Sira (Sirach). Richard J. Clifford denotes that one of the main teachings of Sirach is “divine sovereignty and human freedom [my emphasis].” It emphasizes an “obligation to reassert human freedom and responsibility” (Clifford, 130):

Do not say, ‘It was the Lord’s doing that I fell away’; . . . ‘It was he who led me astray’ (15:11-12); ‘Do not say, I am hidden from the Lord, and who from on high has me in mind?’ (16:17).

Ben Sira’s emphasis on human freedom is based on the nature of human beings (15:15) and the character of God (15:11-20). So my answer to Burk’s quesions is simply “yes.” Both the Israelites and Pharoah were free to choose what they would have chosen.

Reference List

Clifford, Richard J. The Wisdom Literature. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998.

The Continuum History of Apocalypticism

I’m currently reading the book, The Continuum History of Apocalypticism, edited by Bernard J. McGinn, John J. Collins, and Stephen J. Stein (2003). This book consists of three main parts: (1) 8 article on the origins of apocalypticism in the ancient world; (2) 7 articles on apocalyptic traditions from late antiquity to cs 1800 C.E.; and (3) 10 articles on apocalypticism in the modern age. This book is a condensation of The Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism, 3 vols (1998). As the title of the book indicates, the topic of apocalyptic or apocalyptic movements may be the most continuous literary genre from ancient to modern times.

Continuum History of Apocalypticism (2003)

Continuum History of Apocalypticism (2003)

Since the word “apocalypticism” is ambiguous, the authors of this book have not attempted to impose a strict definition of apocalypticism, but to include a broad range of materials that may be regarded as apocalyptic in various aspects. For example, Richard J. Clifford traces the roots of apocalypticism in ancient Near Esastern myth, whereas Anders Hultgard provides an exposition of Persian apocalypticism.

In my view, the articles in this book do an excellent work on the variety of the genre “apocalypticism.” Their works invite us to think about the following questions: “How would you define the genre of apocalypticism?” “What do you see in both ancient and modern writings that could be cateorized to the genre?” Like all other encyclopedia contribute to their own fields, this book contributes to the discussion on the literature of apocalypticism.

The editors see that apocalypticism, throughout the history, not only has been the source of hope and courage for the oppressed, but also has given rise to fanaticism and millenialism. The following quotation may explain well their goal for collecting the articles to this book:

The essays in this volume seek neither to apologize for the extravagances of apocalytic thinkers nor to excuse the perverse actions of some of their followers. Rather, they strive to understand a powerful, perhaps even indipensable, element in the history of Western religions that has been the source of both good and evil, and still is today.


Part 1: The Origins of Apocalypticism in the Ancient World

1. The Roots of Apocalypticism in Near Eastern Myth (Richard J. Clifford, S.J.)

2. Persian Apocalypticism (Anders Hultgard)

3. From Prophecy to Apocalypticism: The Expectation of the End (John J. Collins)

4. Apocalypticism in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Florentino Garcia Martinez)

5. Messianism and Apocalypticism (James C. VanderKam)

6. The Eschatology of Jesus (Dale C. Allison, Jr.)

7. Paul and Apocalyptic Eschatology (M. C. de Boer)

8. The Book of Revelation (Adela Yarbro Collins)

Part 2: Apocalyptic Traditions from Late Antiquity to ca 1800 C.E.

9. Apocalypticism in Early Christian Theology (Brian E. Daley, S.J.)

10. Byzantine Apocalypses (David Olster)

11. Apocalypticism and Church Reform, 1100-1500 (Bernard McGinn)

12. Radical Apocalyptic Movement in the Late Middle Ages (Gian Luca Potesta)

13. Images of Hope and Despair: Western Apocalypticism ca. 1500-1800 (Robin Barnes)

14. Jewish Apocalypticism, 670-1670 (Mishe Idel)

15. Isalamic Apocalypticism in the Classic Period (Said Amir Arjomand)

Part 3: Apocalypticism in the Modern Ages

16. Apocalypticism in Central and South American Colonialism (Alain Milhou)

17. Apocalypticism in Colonial North America (Reiner Smolinski)

18. Apocalypticism in Mainstream Protestantism, 1800 to the Present (James H. Moorhead)

19.  Apocalypticism Outside the Mainstream in the United States (Stephen J, Stein)

20. The Growth of Fundamentalist Apocalyptic in the United States (Paul Boyer)

21. Apocalyptic Movement in Latin America in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Robert M. Levine)

22. The Messianism of Success in Contemporary Judaism (Aviezer Ravitzky)

23. The Resurgence of Apocalyptic in Modern Isalm (Abba Amanat)

24. Apocalypticism in Modern Western Europe (Sandra L. Zimdars-Swartz and Paul F. Zimdars-Swartz)

25. Apocalypticism in Eastern Europe (J. Eugene Clay)