Some quick and short book notes

My image.

As is my wont, I’m excited about a few books, two popular and two more academic.

First, Peter Enns has a new book coming early next year, How the Bible Actually Works: In Which I Explain How An Ancient, Ambiguous, and Diverse Book Leads Us to Wisdom Rather Than Answers—and Why That’s Great NewsEnns is one of my favorite authors, an academic who can also write for normal people. In fact, my Mom’s been reading his Genesis for Normal People and loving it. (Enns has been on the Maxwell Institute Podcast a few times and spoken at BYU.) For a content summary from the publisher, see here.

Second, Kyle Grenwood’s edited collection, Since the Beginning: Interpreting Genesis 1 and 2 through the Ages should appear in the next month. Greenwood’s book on science and cosmology in the Bible is on my top 10 list for the early chapters of Genesis.

A claim is often made like “Christians have always interpreted Genesis literally until science came along!” There’s a lot wrong with that claim, which I’ve written about…somewhere. I can’t find my own darn post. Greenwood’s volume will not be the first to tackle the various interpretations of Genesis throughout the ages, but I hope will do it well and in an accessible and popular way. It’s no good for academics to know this stuff if it doesn’t filter down to popular discussion and debate. Continue reading “Some quick and short book notes”

A Christmas Plug

The Real St. Nicholas

The Real St. Nicholas

One of the best ways for laypeople to learn about the history, text, interpretation, archaeology, and lands of the Bible is through reading Biblical Archaeology Review. In spite of the name, it’s not just about archaeology. It used to have a sister magazine called Bible Review which was more focused on text and interpretation, but they’ve been combined. BAR (the frequent acronym) contains writings by scholars (Jewish, Christian, LDS, nothing particular) written for laypeople, so it’s meant to be accessible and up-to-date.  It also means that you’ll see things that challenge, things written from different worldviews or religious presuppositions, and, often, rejoinders by other scholars who disagree. So you’ll also learn to recognize good scholarship and quality argument.

I’ve pulled out three Christmas-y articles to show the kind of thing they do. First, Hebrew Bible scholar William H.C. Propp writes a tongue-in-cheek piece about relating Christmas and Santa Clause to asherah, the ancient mother goddess/tree/grove that Israel sometimes worshipped. The title riffs off an ancient inscription which some read as “Jahweh and his asherah.”

As it turns out, Propp was also “principal bassoonist of the North Coast Symphony Orchestra of Southern California and conductor of the La Jolla Renaissance Singers.” His musical life (and Jewish upbringing) contributed to another Christmas piece, with some history and critique of Handel’s use and abuse of the Hebrew Bible in writing The Messiah. This is article two.

Article three focuses on the how December 25th came to be celebrated as Christmas.

All three can be downloaded from here. Check out BAR. And if you’re interested in St. Nicholas, read this post.

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Old Testament Resources Part 3: Paradigm Changers

George Cattermole, "The Scribe" public domain.

George Cattermole, “The Scribe” public domain.

I’ve put together a collection of samples from these books.

First, note that LDS Perspectives is beginning a string of Old Testament-related podcasts, today with Philip Barlow (author of the excellent Mormons and the Bible), Cory Crawford the following week, and then me talking about what’s going on in Genesis 1, Moses, and Abraham. Continue reading “Old Testament Resources Part 3: Paradigm Changers”

Old Testament Resources Part 2: Bible, Translation, and LDS Tradition

Public domain,

Public domain

This is the second in a series of posts about resources for study and teaching the Old Testament in 2018. If you feel overwhelmed by the information below, I recommend going back to the first post, a shortlist of five books to give you a leg up, without lots of discussion to cut through. Future posts will provide resources on “paradigm changers,” the JST, history/culture of the Old Testament, the early chapters of Genesis, creation/evolution, how to profitably study, take notes, teach, etc. Continue reading “Old Testament Resources Part 2: Bible, Translation, and LDS Tradition”

Virtual Sperry Fireside On Reading the Old Testament in Context

If you missed attending one of my firesides or the Sperry Symposium, this is for you. I recorded the audio/powerpoint from my final presentation last weekend, which benefitted from having done it three times.The length is about 1:10, and unfortunately I cut the audio before I closed with some testimony about the utility of the Old Testament, my appreciation for it, etc. The first slide is up for almost two minutes, they do change. And below are books/authors I quote or allude to in the slides. The actual paper has many more references, of course, and I’ll be posting it in chunks. (And if you want to link, please link to this post, not direct to the youtube video.) Continue reading “Virtual Sperry Fireside On Reading the Old Testament in Context”

Fireside books and references

1myxx4These are books/authors I quote or allude to in the slides of my fireside/Sperry Symposium presentation. The actual paper has many more references, of course. I’ll be posting it in entirety, first in chunks as posts, and then as a complete pdf file. What is listed below will also overlap with my Recommended Resource for the Old Testament posts, coming in November.

Becoming “Competent Readers,” Learning the “Rules of the Game,” Reading with Ancient Eyes

The Bible is Weird

Study Bibles

  • Harper-Collins Study Bible– Based on the New Revised Standard Version, this is often assigned for New Testament 101, or Hebrew Bible 101 at colleges. The publisher is the Society of Biblical Literature, and translation and notes are done by a variety of scholars, so there’s little religious bias.
  • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible–  Based on the conservative Evangelical translation New International Version, this translation is demonstrably quite biased; it cheats. However, the notes (at least, the OT notes I’ve checked) are great. As you might guess from the title, the notes and essays focus on the cultural backgrounds, those things ancient audiences (likely) knew which moderns don’t. Review here. It’s edited by John Walton, an Evangelical scholar I like, and my understanding is that the notes and essays are derived or shortened from this stand-alone series. EDIT: I just learned that you can get these notes with the New King James Version (NKJV) translation, instead of the NIV. I strongly recommend that over the NIV. The NKJV is basically an update to the English of the KJV, so it retains most of the archaicness and problems of the KJV text. But that’s preferable over the deceptiveness of the NIV’s modern (but strongly biased) translation.
  • Jewish Study Bible– This translation and notes/essays are all written by Jewish scholars, which means it only covers the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. It’s a fantastic resource that will enlighten and challenge (since, for example, Jews are unlikely to interpret Isaiah as messianic prophecies of Jesus.) I enjoy contrasting its views with those of the NIV.
  • NET Bible-The advantage of this is it’s entirely free and online at, and in free App form, called Lumina. There are thousands and thousands of footnotes, often about translation or background.

Hebrew-focused translations with notes. 

On Bible translations, and using Free Greek and Hebrew tools, see

On genre, listen/read my podcast here.

Others Quoted/alluded to

As always, you can help me pay my tuition here, or you can support my work through making your regular Amazon purchases through this Amazon link. You can also get updates by email whenever a post goes up (subscription box on the right). If you friend me on Facebook, please drop me a note telling me you’re a reader. I tend not to accept friend requests from people I’m not acquainted with.

Evolution and the Fall

I received a trio of books recently, so I’m providing some brief thoughts on what I’ve read so far.

fallFirst, Evolution and the Fall is an anthology of essays edited by William Cavanaugh and James Smith. The latter was featured on the MI Podcast talking about secularism and his book How Not to Be Secular: Reading Charles TaylorOf course, I had just submitted the final version of an article on the nature and translation of Adam in Genesis 2-3 (my paper from the Mormon Theology Seminar on Genesis 2-3 in 2013, coming in print soon). And of course, that meant there was great material in this book I wish I had seen earlier. The problem, as the evangelical editors state, is this. Continue reading “Evolution and the Fall”