Saturday, August 28, 2010

Check Out! from Logos is the best online Bible study site I’ve used. Yesterday’s post at the Logos blog highlighted some of the great features.
Introducing the beta release: a super-simple Bible for the web that’s backed up by the incredible technology (and massive library!) of Logos Bible Software. What makes so cool?
Read the rest of the post to find out . . .

Of course, the best part for a Logos user like me is the online access to my Logos library. I have no idea what the basic resources available on the site are since when I’m logged in to my Logos account it shows the hundreds of Bibles and books in my digital library. That’s cool.

Here’s more information from the site’s “About” section: is your place for Bible study online. Part of a family of services from Logos Bible Software, it offers free access to a collection of Bibles and Bible reference works, with an easy user interface and powerful search engine.
More Content
Everyone gets free access to a number of Bibles and a few other resources. Log into (with your account, or by making a free account here) for access to dozens of free Bible study resources. uses exactly the same e-books and account management as Logos Bible Software, whether you download software or not. That means that already offers thousands of high quality resources for Bible study. You can purchase content for use with Logos Bible Software for Windows or Macintosh, or simply unlock it online at, and you’ll have access to it online at*
Anywhere Access
Logos Bible Software works on the Macintosh, for Windows, on the iPhone, iPad, and even supports mobile web browsers at Your single user account works with all of these platforms, as well as here at Purchase an e-book in one place and you can use it everywhere!* Future releases will even synchronize your notes across all the platforms.
Powerful Platform is designed to make it easy to use a Bible side-by-side with helps and reference books. But underneath it is built on the same powerful platform as Logos Bible Software 4, the world’s leading Bible software. Logos has been developing Bible software for nearly two decades. Today it is a team of more than 170 people offering more than 10,000 titles for Bible study; is our way of delivering all that experience and content to users who prefer a web interface. 
*Not all resources are licensed for online use.
Even if you aren’t a Logos user, I recommend checking it out. It looks like without logging in you can access 41 Bible versions and 2 Bible study helps. Registering for a free account promises 37 more resources. Using it might inspire you to start using Logos! It’s a great program for Bible study resources.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Daniel in Ezekiel 14: Part 1

Last week, we tackled the topic of whether a biblical writer’s reference to a biblical character from another book was historical or literary. Ezekiel 14 happens to be a classic case for such references in the Hebrew Bible, and my focus last time was mostly on the character of Job.

This time I want to open the discussion about the reference to “Daniel” in the same verses, Ezek 14:14 & 20.
Ezekiel 14:14 (ESV)
even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord God.
Ezekiel 14:20 (ESV)
even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, declares the Lord God, they would deliver neither son nor daughter. They would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness.
Is this a reference to the biblical Daniel known from the book bearing his name? It seems unlikely to me for two reasons. First, the name is spelled differently – Daniel in Hebrew is דָּנִיֵּאל. In Ezek 14, the name is spelled דָּנִאֵל. Now in the unlikely event that you don’t read Hebrew, the difference is that one consonant in the middle – yodh. Since the Masoretes were kind enough to point the name in Ezekiel with the same vowels, we read “Daniel” in the Hebrew text which makes its way into English translations as well. But, the vowels were added to the consonantal text hundreds of years later, so even the vowels are a level of interpretation. The consonants of “Daniel” are DNY’L. The consonants in Ezek 14 are DN’L. (The quote mark indicates the consonant aleph-a guttural often silent in pronunciation.) We can argue about the significance of orthography and provide counter-examples of names with variant spellings, and if there were no other candidate for who Ezekiel might be referencing, they might be compelling.

The second reason requires a little bit of background, but it has to do with the later reference to Daniel in Ezek 28:3 – same name, same spelling – important context – an oracle against the prince of Tyre.
Ezekiel 28:2–3 (ESV)
2 “Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, Thus says the Lord God: “Because your heart is proud, and you have said, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of the gods, in the heart of the seas,’ yet you are but a man, and no god, though you make your heart like the heart of a god— 3 you are indeed wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you;
Why is this context important? Well, what relevance would referencing the biblical Daniel have for the prince of Tyre?

“You are indeed wiser than Daniel.”

“Who’s Daniel?”

“You know, the Jewish sage in Nebuchadnezzar’s court in Babylon.”

“No, didn’t know that. Are you sure you don’t mean Danel from the Tale of Aqhat?”

There’s the bottom line. There is an extra-biblical literary character with the West Semitic name DN’L. He is a key character in the Tale of Aqhat, known from Ugaritic literature. A reference to this character makes sense in Ezekiel 14 in a list of 3 non-Israelite figures.

The issue, of course, is whether this Canaanite literary figure fits the description of Ezekiel for a wise, righteous leader. It is easy to assume that what we know about Dan’ilu (aka Danel or Dnil) from the Tale of Aqhat is the full extent of his legend. From there we can dismiss him as not being specifically “wise” or depicted as particularly righteous (as Dressler 1979, for example) and thus not the referent of Ezekiel.

Consider, however, this excerpt from the Tale of Aqhat that depicts Dan’ilu in the typical role of a wise judge (like Job adjudicating at the city gate; cp. Job 29:7-16).
Dānīʾilu the man of Rapaʾu, the valiant Harnamite man, Arose and sat at the entrance to the (city–)gate, among the leaders (sitting) at the threshing floor. He judged the widow’s case, made decisions regarding the orphan. (Context of Scripture, The ‘Aqhatu Legend, 1.103, 5.3.)
I am still researching this question, but at this point, these two lines of evidence are, in my mind, compelling that Daniel in Ezekiel is the Phoenician character, not the biblical sage.

1. The different spelling of the name in Ezekiel is significant.
2. The Phoenician context of Ezekiel 28 suggests a Canaanite, not Babylonian Jewish, literary reference.

Many scholars have written on this issue with the intent of proving the biblical Daniel is in view here in Ezekiel. What they fail to realize is that all of their arguments calling the connection to Dan’ilu into question do not automatically provide support for a connection to biblical Daniel. Even if the identification of Dan’ilu is incorrect, the connection to Daniel the prophet is not thereby proven. (That reminds me – the Logical Fallacies series is ripe for continuation. The above chain of reasoning bears elements of the burden of proof and false dilemma fallacies. I like to call it the “if-you’re-wrong-then-I’m-right” fallacy. It needs a catchier name though.)

In part 2, I will look further into arguments that Daniel in Ezekiel 14 is a reference to the biblical Daniel. I’m waiting to see Daniel Block’s argument in his commentary which I’m told is persuasive, so I’m keeping an open mind.

Dressler, Harold H. P. “The Identification of the Ugaritic Dnil with the Daniel of Ezekiel” Vetus Testamentum 29:2 (1979), 152-161; Hallo, W. W. and K. L. Younger. Context of Scripture vol. 1. Leiden: Brill, 1997; Matthews, Victor H. and Don C. Benjamin. “The Tale of Aqhat” in Old Testament Parallels, 70-79. Paulist Press, 2006; Margalit, Baruch. “Interpreting the Story of Aqht: A Reply to H. H. P. Dressler, VT 29 (1979), pp. 152-61” Vetus Testamentum 30:3 (1980), 361-365.

More on the Historical Bible Characters Question

Not from me, but from Bill Heroman (whom I had the pleasure to meet in New Orleans last fall). He didn't join the earlier conversation here but his conclusions are in part close to what I've been saying on the subject.

First of all, it is NOT evidence for Adam's historicity to point out that both Jesus and Paul spoke about Adam as if he were real. This is unfortunate, from one way of thinking. However, the pattern of Jesus and Paul IS an example of how we might speak and write about Adam. Thus, we might do as well as Jesus and Paul did if we continue speaking AS IF Adam were, in fact, a historical figure. (Was he? That's an important but unanswerable question. I'm saying, of necessity, we might do well to let these remain separate issues.)
Read his post - Genesis AS IF History.

If you're following the conversation here about biblical references and historical characters, I'm still working on the follow up post about Daniel in Ezekiel 14. Anybody have access to Block's commentary and want to send me the pages where he deals with the question?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Terminology Pet-Peeve: Israelites and Jews

The Jews, as a people, come into existence after the return from exile in Babylon in c. 539 BCE. Before that, they are Judahites and Israelites. It's an easy distinction to miss, but there IS a difference. I've heard the ancient Israelites referred to as Jews a few times lately from pulpits (I listen to podcast sermons, not just my local pulpit, so no indirect finger pointing). The "Jews" did not leave Egypt with Moses, conquer Canaan, and establish the kingdom of Israel. (I realize Jewish tradition, esp. the Passover haggadah, links ALL Jews to the experience of Exodus. That's a theological issue, not a historical one.)

After the kingdom splits in two (under Rehoboam, Solomon's inept son), the two kingdoms are Israel and Judah. The inhabitants of the northern kingdom were Israelites, not Jews. The inhabitants of the southern kingdom were Judahites. Both peoples are ancestors of the Jews. After the northern kingdom was taken into exile in 722 BCE, the southern kingdom received a large population bump, so Judah under Hezekiah and the following kings until the exile probably included tribes of Israel and Judah together.

If you're reading Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, or the New Testament, the people are Jews. If you're reading the books of Samuel, Kings, or most of the prophets, they're not Jews. Better to refer to them as Israelites when unified or in reference to the northern kingdom (Elijah was a northern prophet, for example). Referring to the people of the southern kingdom as "Jews" would be marginally acceptable. For a good discussion of the transition from Israelite to Jew, listen to Michael Satlow's podcast series "From Israelite to Jew" found on his blog or through iTunes.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Quest for the Historical Adam?

Not long after my previous post on taking biblical characters as historical or literal, James McGrath posted a link (via Facebook) to a BioLogos article by Tremper Longman on the question of whether or not there was a historical Adam. I plan to read Longman's thoughts and watch the video later today. But in the meantime, John Byron on his new to me blog The Biblical World interacted with the question. I agree with him that "The Bible was not written as a science and history book."

So, it's a hot topic - did all the people mentioned in the Bible really exist?

Honorable Mentions: Historical or Literary?

Back in 2008, I wrote a post dealing with the issue of whether the New Testament references to Old Testament characters can be taken as evidence for their historicity. My conclusion was that, in general, the NT writers were referring to the characters known from Jewish literature and not trying to claim historicity. I don’t believe they were concerned with those types of questions. It may have been assumed, but it didn’t matter for their theological point whether Jonah or Job really lived. What mattered was the story and the example it provided.

Before I go any further, I need to clarify that I am not questioning the real historical existence of all biblical characters. I am also not reducing the Bible to the level of pure fiction. T.C. recently questioned that ambiguity in my previous post, so I want to be clear. I believe archaeology provides strong circumstantial evidence for the existence of certain biblical people, like David, for example. The best explanation of the Tel Dan inscription is that it refers to a real Davidic dynasty. Certain biblical characters like Abraham, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, David, and Solomon are central to the story of salvation history. I’m not questioning their existence, even though I can’t prove it definitively.

The issue is whether an “honorable mention” by another biblical writer is a reference to a historical person or a literary figure. The default position seems to be to take the reference historically. Earlier I dealt with NT references to OT characters, but what about OT references to other characters?

A few days ago Jeff posted “Was Job a Real Person?” His answer:  “Of course he was!” with appeal to Ezek 14:14 for confirmation.
I realize that Ezekiel is filled with dream-like imagery, but this message from the Lord (and the rest of the section) certainly confirms to me that they were real individuals. Not that I needed any more convincing.
I’m not criticizing Jeff’s conclusion. It is a valid answer to the question, but I don’t think it’s the only reasonable answer. A commenter on his post also drew in James 5:11 to support Job’s existence and commented how he believed Jonah historical as well for similar reasons. But why jump to conclusions? Why assume the biblical writer meant to allude to a historical personage? As a 21st century reader, do you follow the reference because it’s historical or because you know the literary text that it alludes to? That’s easy . . . you know the text. You know the story.

Let’s look closer at the references in Ezekiel 14:14 (repeated in v. 20).
even if these three men, Noah, Daniel[1], and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord GOD.
Commentators often take this as a reference to 3 non-Israelite “saints.”[2] The non-Israelite identity is important for the larger theme of general or universal retribution in Ezekiel 14.  The connection of righteousness or virtue with these three is also key. Gen 6:9 reads “These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.” Job 1:1 says “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” Noah and Job are clearly held up as ideal paragons of virtue. (More to come on "Daniel.") Their righteousness is known not from history but from literature. Does the point of v. 14 require their stories to have actually happened or does it simply require one knows the story - much like a parable teaches a point?

The details given about Job’s status, wealth and family don’t prove the story is not a parable or folk tale. We don’t know where the land of Uz is. Job is identified by his character, not his patronymic (that is, no “son of SO & SO” to give a family identification). The circumstances of his suffering and restoration have all the ring of the classic West Semitic epics like Aqhat or Kirta. The fact that the reference to “Daniel” is almost certainly to a character from a non-biblical West Semitic epic further strengthens the conclusion that Job and Noah are evoked here for their literary significance, not their historical existence. (Was there a historical Noah and a worldwide flood? Still thinking that through, but I knew you’d ask.)

Acknowledging that some OT characters, like Jonah[3]  and Job, might simply be literary figures with no historical existence in no way undermines the accuracy or inerrancy of the biblical text. The issue is with the reader, not the text. The reader is demanding something of the text it never intended to give. Searching for a historical Job is, in my mind, about as likely to turn up solid results as a quest for the historical Prodigal Son (Luke 15).

Comments and discussion are welcome. My thoughts on this issue are continually in process.

[1] Daniel in this text presents a special problem that I’ll address in another post.
[2] See Leslie C. Allen, Ezekiel 1-19, WBC, and Moshe Greenberg, Ezekiel 1-20, AYB.
[3] Jonah, of course, was known from the historical books - 2 Kgs 14:25. But his literary fame comes from the book of Jonah and his fish story - a story, IMO, borrowing the character of an otherwise little known prophet.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Michael Wise Interview - Minnesota DSS Exhibit

Michael Wise
Michael Wise, master of ancient languages and my first Hebrew and Latin teacher, was interviewed by The Catholic Spirit about the Minnesota Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit (reviewed here). If you haven't yet had a chance to see the exhibit, I highly recommend it, and this interview is a good introduction on what you can expect to get out of it. Here are a few quotes:

What would you recommend that visitors take more time viewing?

There’s a portion of the exhibit given over to explaining how scribal processes work. I think it’s important for people to spend more time looking at that.
We just don’t understand how differently book culture worked in the ancient world compared to how it works today.    . . . We don’t understand how texts got made and how they got passed on. It’s well explained in the exhibit. . . .


What do you think the scrolls prove about Christianity?
My own view of Christianity is that it can’t be proven or disproved by archaeology. Every artifact we uncover . . . always requires interpretation. It’s at the sifting level that people of faith or people who want to argue against faith can always find some kind of grist for their mill. . . . The texts can’t prove Chris tia nity. Can they prove that the things we’re told about Christianity and Judaism in the Bible really were being said 2,000 years ago? Yes, they can prove that. . . .
Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we couldn’t prove, in a scientific sense of having tangible evidence, that the Bible was any older than about 1,000 or 1,200 AD. . . . Today, we can say these texts show us that the Bible is as old as the time of Jesus and more . . . there is evidence, scientifically.

Photo via The Catholic Spirit

HT: Jim Davila

Friday, August 6, 2010

Self-Taught, No Lessons - Thank You Very Much

I regularly flip through the catalogs I receive from Christian Book Distributors, but I typically haven't paid much attention to the best-selling Bible Studies of this or that preacher or pop Christian icon. Recently, I've realized that since those studies are targeted at and consumed by a large number of Christians, I should become more familiar with their approach, their contents, and their writers. This is part of a larger effort I'm making to see what popular trends are influencing the evangelical church. So, tonight I perused the most recent issue of Christianity Today and found their cover story on Beth Moore particularly troubling. Here is an excerpt that most keenly reflects what's bothering me.
Moore is truly a Bible teacher. Her teaching is rooted in her strong affinity for Scripture. She does not show much interest in theology or tradition, distrusting the way the academy has, at times, handled the Bible. "Godless philosophies have not been my temptation," Moore comments. "In my life experience, the most dangerously influential opinions have been those held by intellectuals and scholars who profess Christianity but deny the veracity and present power of Scripture." Although Moore believes that seminaries are necessary despite the "stunning arrogance" and "theological snobbery" that reside in them, she argues, "Psalm 131 reminds us that [the Scriptures] are not primarily for seminaries, dissertations, and theological treatments. They are primarily for everyday living on the third rock from the sun."
Moore is primarily self-taught. She uses commentaries and concordances when writing her studies, but she relies primarily on her own intuition when interpreting and applying Scripture.
After years of careful study of biblical exegesis and the history of biblical interpretation, I found her remarks offensive and ignorant. Only a "Bible teacher" with no formal training in biblical languages, exegesis, theology, or church history could speak with such disdain for an academic, intellectual approach to the Bible. I sensed the writer (herself a Ph.D. candidate) was also at least uncomfortable with Moore's rhetoric against theological snobbery when she wrote:
Because of this, Moore is not able to draw, as much as she might, on the solid biblical and theological scholarship that emanates from trustworthy seminaries and universities, teaching that actually guards us against heresy and reminds us of the hard lessons of history.
Unfortunately, many of the most popular Christian leaders today are primarily self-taught in the arena of biblical interpretation: Beth Moore, Joel Osteen, Brian McLaren, and Joyce Meyer to name but a few (honorary degrees don't count). Not surprisingly, I'm more a fan of pastors with theological training like John Piper or Mark Driscoll.

Halee Gray Scott, "First Came the Bible," Christianity Today (August 2010), 27. Quotations are from the print edition. The article was not available online.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hobbins, Finkelstein, and Khirbet Qeiyafa

After a blogging vacation of 11 days (an eternity for Ancient Hebrew Poetry but due to his move, no doubt), John Hobbins has returned to the blogosphere with a vengeance, posting six positively powerful pieces in a paltry period of perhaps 24 hours.

For my part, I perceived the primary project of John’s four posts posing Khirbet Qeiyafa as a possible problem for Finkelstein and his preposterous posturing on the probability of a puny Israelite polity in the 10th century BCE to be a precise paragon of perspicacity. 

1. Finkelstein on Khirbet Qeiyafa
2. Public building activity in the early monarchic period of a polity named Israel
3. Khirbet Qeiyafa: The Kiss of Death to the David-and-Solomon Naysayers
4. Khirbet Qeiyafa and Finkelstein’s Low Chronology

Here are a few quotes from part 3 that illustrate what’s at stake in this debate and why Khirbet Qeiyafa has proven to be such a key find.
Khirbet Qeiyafa poses a challenge to Israel Finkelstein’s hypothesis that the basic outline of the biblical narrative found in 1 Sam – 1 Kgs 11 is a figment of the imagination of much later writers who manipulated inherited tradition in order to place legendary figures of a distant past in a sequence and a set of historical contexts of their own devising (Finkelstein 2006).

Regardless, how can KQ be reconciled with Finkelstein’s oft-defended revisionist synthesis? Once again, in Finkelstein’s mind, the kingdom of David, the bare historicity of which he does not deny, was a polity with (1) a limited administrative capacity at most, encompassing a territorial domain spanning a few neighboring villages; and (2) a weak capability of force projection, offensive and defensive, relative to neighboring external polities.
If so, one would never have expected to find what Garfinkel and company have found at Khirbet Qeiyafa. KQ, a site by all accounts in the Judean Shephelah, was a massively fortified late Iron I/early Iron IIA settlement with public structures at its heart and on its perimeter.
Finally, the concluding paragraph from part 4. I agree that these finds should put all minimalists to shame, but I’m sure John realizes that Davies, Thompson, Van Seters, and Lemche have proven themselves remarkably resourceful in promoting their puerile premises without regard for proof or the proper presentation of logically sound arguments.
If KQ poses a challenge to Finkelstein’s chief theses, it buries those of the minimalists. Israel in Transition Volume 2, edited by Lester Grabbe with contributions by Philip Davies, Niels Peter Lemche, and John Van Seters, is due to hit the bookstores in September. One cannot help looking forward to its contents with singular anticipation. In my view, the Davies-Lemche-Van Seters-Thompson approach is equivalent to whistling in the dark. They can hope against hope that nothing turns up that discredits their conclusions. I can’t help thinking: it already has.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

All About Me

Ever since Blogger enabled static pages, I've intended to post a more complete "About" page. I've just posted the inaugural version of that page, so let me know what you think. If Tod starts posting more than twice a year, I'll let him have an "About" page, too.