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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Evangelicals against and for (against) ‘Postmodernism’

Posted by NT Wrong on November 28, 2008

There seem to be at least two ways in which evangelical Christians have misappropriated the term “postmodernism”. One of these ways is described by Robert C. Greer in Mapping Postmodernism, and can also be seen in the blurb to G.K. Beale’s book and in William Dever’s rant against minimalists. This approach is a retrenchment back into what was falsely assumed to be a doctrinally secure positivism. Here’s Greer (p. 14):

“A number of books have been published in the 1990s and early 2000s excoriating postmodernism and admonishing the Christian community to stand firm against the postmodern tide saturating the West. In the pulpits, on the radio and on television, this same message has been presented. With Bible in hand the Christian believer argues for absolute truth, often with the words ‘Thus sayeth the Lord” serving as a centrepiece to his or her arguments. Hence, where polemical works had previously targeted secular Christianity as one of Christianity’s chief foes, the new foe is postmodernism. Only by understanding and embracing that which constitutes absolute truth, leaders within the Christian community explained, could the battle be waged successfully.”

Here’s an example, in the introduction to The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World (2007) by John Piper, Voddie Baucham, D. A. Carson, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll, and David Wells:

“Many would have us believe that life is hopelessly fragmented and truth an elusive dream. The authors of this book beg to differ and enthusiastically point us to the cohesive centrality and absolute supremacy of Jesus Christ.”

The other approach is that followed by those sympathetic with ’emergent/emerging’ movements, and involves taking those bits of ‘postmodern’ thinkers which attack secular modernism, and thereby providing a defence of the same absolute truth of Christianity, without being quite so explicit as to the grounds (if any can be spelled out) for such absolute truth. It’s the ‘Christianity is absolutely true, because all truth is relative, and so my claim for absolute truth is equally valid’ argument. It’s never said like that, of course, because that would expose the odd inconsistency of the position — using a relativistic epistemology to support absolute truth, and then naming that absolute truth as specifically traditional orthodox Christianity. And the problem is deeper than that. There’s a careful selectivity from thinkers who are grouped as ‘postmodernists’, taking only those parts of what they say that can be useful, while refusing the full (anti-authoritarian, indeterminate, anti-metanarrative) implications of what they are saying.

Neither approach has much interest in what the so-called ‘postmodern’ thinkers say. One simply opposes it, the other mines it for material. Both are defensive positions, and where there’s defense, there’s usually tendentious use rather than reading. But in that dichotomy, which is really a sliding scale, I guess I’m revealing I think modernism has a few good and worthwhile features, yet.

Posted in Books, Fundamentalism | 3 Comments »

Peter Enns: ‘Leading Postmodernist’

Posted by NT Wrong on November 27, 2008

kjv1611In the ‘What Planet are Conservative Evangelicals On?’ Category, G.K. Beale has released a book which seeks to reinstate old-fashioned ultra-inerrancy as “a fundamental part of [evangelicalism’s] vibrant future”.

But wait, it gets nuttier…

The book’s blurb, which reflects the substance of Beale’s complaint against Peter Enns in his earlier book review, describes Enns as a “leading postmodernist”!!!

“In The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism, Beale vigorously yet even-handedly meets the challenges presented by leading postmodernist Peter Enns.”

For those who don’t get the joke, Enns is very conservative himself — but hasn’t got quite as big an inerrancy-carrot stuck up his ‘authorized version’ as those ultra-conservative fundie fringers who inhabit the atavistic hovels of darkness called the Westminster Theological Seminary and Wheaton College.

But what gets me is the “postmodern” label. Hasn’t this just become an empty label fundamentalists apply when they realize they have no idea what’s going on? Does anyone believe that Peter Enns is the new Derrida? If Peter Enns were to opine that “there is nothing outside the text”, he would only be affirming sola scriptura, not irresolvable textual indeterminacy.

What’s more, “postmodernism” occurred in the 1980s. It’s over. Well over. Times and ideas have changed. There’s only one source printing books which rant about “postmodernism” these days: conservative evangelical publishers.

Update: Art Boulet at Finitum Non Capax Infiniti provides a review that dares to go beyond the book’s blurb and finds even more nuttiness

Posted in Books, Fundamentalism | 13 Comments »

Christmas Comes Early – From Margaret Barker

Posted by NT Wrong on October 23, 2008

Available from today, October 23, 2008, is Margaret Barker‘s latest book, Christmas: The Original Story. Margaret Barker is former President of the Society for Old Testament Study and author of a number of books on Enochic Judaism and the Jewish Temple.

“I’ll be interested to see how the public reacts to it, because, the Christmas story is something that’s got a lot of emotional capital tied up in it. I think if I were to write a radical book about Obadiah, no one would worry as much. But when you’re doing a Christmas story people [say], ‘oh hands off, that’s ours, don’t touch it’. But I hope I have set it in its real historical and cultural sense, so that people can glimpse maybe what the authors were really writing…”
— Margaret Barker

Margaret Barker discusses her new book in a taped conversation over lunch with William Hamblin. You can even watch Margaret Barker eating!

It is entirely coincidental that the date of release coincides with the date the world was created, as cleverly determined by Bishop Ussher.

Posted in Books, Dead Sea Scrolls, Early Christian literature, Early Jewish literature, Jesus & Christ | 2 Comments »

Dreams of Ascent and Resurrection: New Book from Frances Flannery et al

Posted by NT Wrong on October 3, 2008

The SBL October 2008 Newsletter announces the publication of Experientia, Volume 1: Inquiry into Religious Experience in Early Judaism and Christianity, edited by Frances Flannery, Colleen Shantz, Rodney A. Werline. Frances Flannery (aka Flannery-Dailey) is author of the masterful guide to ancient Jewish vision reports, Dreamers, Scribes, and Priests: Jewish Dreams in the Hellenistic and Roman Eras (2004) and founding editor of GOLEM: Journal of Religion and Monsters. The new book looks a useful resource, especially in light of recent discussions on this blog of visionary experiences of Jesus’ resurrection.

Publisher’s blurb:

This collection investigates the phenomenon of religious experience in early Judaism and early Christianity. The essays consider such diverse phenomena as scribal inspiration, possession, illness, ascent, theurgy, and spiritual transformation wrought by reading, and recognize that the texts are reflective of the lived experiences of ancient religious peoples, which they understood to be encounters with the divine. Contributors use a variety of methodologies, including medical anthropology, neurobiology, and ritual and performance studies, to move the investigation beyond traditional historical and literary methodologies and conclusions to illuminate the importance of experience in constructions of ancient religion.

Posted in Apocalyptic, Books, Early Christian literature, Early Jewish literature, Gospels, Jesus & Christ, Judeo-Christian Practices | Comments Off on Dreams of Ascent and Resurrection: New Book from Frances Flannery et al

This is What Church Should Feel Like – Palahniuk

Posted by NT Wrong on September 16, 2008

“But anytime Rant had an orgasm, or the moment after we’d been rammed by another team, right when he blinked his eyes and seemed to realize he wasn’t dead, he’d smile and say the same thing. At that moment, Rant would always smile, all dopey, and say, ’This is what church should feel like’.”
– Chuck Palahniuk, Rant, 215.

Posted in Books, Religion & Society | Comments Off on This is What Church Should Feel Like – Palahniuk

Review of Biblical Literature – Sep 13, 2008

Posted by NT Wrong on September 14, 2008

There’s some interesting stuff in the latest Review of Biblical Literature, including:

Wazana, Nili, כל גבולות ארץ All the Boundaries of the Land: The Promised Land in Biblical Thought in Light of the Ancient Near East (Hebrew) (2007)

Wazana’s study of biblical descriptions of Israel’s borders provides comparisons to aNE data and detailed studies of the biblical texts. Interestingly, she finds that some ancient descriptions of borders refer to actual ‘lines’, contrary to what you find in a lot of scholarly literature. She also examines the ideological function of the various types of texts. Invaluable for understanding books like Joshua.

Fishbane, Simcha, Deviancy in Early Rabbinic Literature: A Collection of Socio-Anthropological Essays (2007)

There are ten essays in the collection, four of which are previously unpublished. Fishbane covers a number of ‘deviants’ in Rabbinic literature: bastard mamzerim, long-haired Nazirites, leaky menstruating women, Rabbinic magicians and female witches, skanky ho’s, spazzy physically handicapped people, dirty Samaritans, perverse Goyim, etc.

Crook, Zeba A. and Philip A. Harland, editors, Identity and Interaction in the Ancient Mediterranean: Jews, Christians and Others: Essays in Honour of Stephen G. Wilson (2007)

Comprising …

Kim Stratton – curse rhetoric in early Judaism and Christianity
Adele Reinhartz – why is Caiaphas ignored by historians of 2nd T Judaism?
Willi Braun – meals and social formation
Philip Harland – how meal stereotypes were used as polemical social labelling
Richard Ascough – not only Christians were involved in missionizing activities
John Barclay – ioudaios in Josephus = ethnic ‘Judean’
John Kloppenborg – the author and recipients of the Letter of James as Jewish-Christians
Laurence Broadhurst – newly discovered musical papyri and Gnostic musical texts
Larry Hurtado – textual transmission and Christian identity
Edith Humphey – naming as crafting identity in Revelation
Michele Murray – evidence in Apostolic Constitutions for continued Christian attendance at synagogue, observance of festivals and Sabbath, and no ‘parting of the ways’
Roger Beck – 8th -century AD ‘Horoscope of Islam’
Graydon Snyder – Ethiopian Jews, including DNA analysis supporting their conversion to Judaism rather than ancestry in Dan
Alan Segal – Daniel Boyarin on division between Christianity and Judaism
Robert Morgan – theological and historical approaches to biblical studies should be kept separate
William Arnal – the need to separate traditional biblical studies into seminaries, as distinct from comparative religious studies of Jewish and Christian religions in the Academy

Posted in Academia, Books, Early Christian literature, Early Jewish literature, Historical Books | Comments Off on Review of Biblical Literature – Sep 13, 2008

Review of Biblical Literature – September 6, 2008

Posted by NT Wrong on September 5, 2008

Let’s have a look at what’s come up in the Review of Biblical Literature over the last month or so that could be of interest…

Boer, Roland, editor, Bakhtin and Genre Theory in Biblical Studies (2007)

This very good collection of essays includes contributions from John Anderson, Roland Boer, Martin J. Buss, Judy Fentress-Williams, Christopher Fuller, Barbara Green, Bula Maddison, Carleen Mandolfo, Christine Mitchell, Carol A. Newsom, David M. Valeta, and Michael Vines. There’s interesting applications of Bakhtinian genre-theory to illustrate the usefulness of Bakhtin’s reformulation. Gunkel commented on the volume, in an exclusive interview with the N. T. Wrong Blog: ‘Vell, ve vould have gone about it in a more disciplined vay, but nevertheless, this book is sehr gut!”

Grabbe, Lester L., Ancient Israel: What Do We Know and How Do We Know It? (2007)

Brian Schmidt reviews Lester Grabbe’s latest, a “prolegomena” to a history of Israel. (Is anything further possible, nowadays?) The Deveresque subtitle of Grabbe’s book is a good description of the content, and Grabbe examines a good number of the available methods: social science, archaeology, longue durée, ethnicity, ideology, new fundamentalist approaches, maximalists and minimalists, and the name-calling and shenanigans in what is the most heated topic in Hebrew Bible studies. Grabbe offers methodological principles for history writing. Reviewer Brian Schmidt makes some wise comments about the — at best ambiguous, probably simply wrong — commonplace that ‘archaeology cannot disprove the bible’. Schmidt’s comments on ‘Canaanite’ and ‘literacy’ are also valuable.

Metso, Sarianna, The Serekh Texts (2007)

From the author of The Textual Development of the Qumran Community Rule (1997), an examination of the various scrolls of Serekh ha-yachad, with discussion of their relation to CD also. The volume forms part of the ‘Companion to the Qumran Scrolls’ series.

Tischler, Nancy M., Thematic Guide to Biblical Literature (2007)

This looks like a handy guide to the use of biblical themes in Western literature. The reception of biblical themes is arranged topically: (1) Creation, (2) Earthly paradise, (3) Nature, (4) Animals and humans, (5) Temptation and Sin, (6) God’s Love, Human Response, (7) Friends and Family, (8) Love and Marriage, (9) The Hero, (10) Women as Heroes, (11) The journey of life, (12) Slavery and Freedom, (13) War, (14) Good people, (15) Justice, (16) Government and Politics, (17) Predestination and Free Will, (18) Truth, (19) Death and Afterlife, (20) Last Days. According to the reviewer, the book examines how different people have struggled with these broad questions. In confining itself to ‘Western’ literature, early Jewish and Rabbinic literature is not covered.

Rake, Mareike, “Juda wird aufsteigen!”: Untersuchungen zum ersten Kapitel des Richterbuches (2006)

Klaas Spronk provides a very good review of this book. Rake provides a historical-critical analysis of Judges 1-2, in a book based on her dissertation. She provides a “thorough survey” of theories of development, before offering her own radical reconstruction of the text, which allows her to reverse the majority opinion of influence — she concludes that Joshua is dependent on Judges 1-2, although the direction of influence is complex and uncertain.

Pruin, Dagmar, Geschichten und Geschichte: Isebel als literarische und historische Gestalt

This book analyses the different Jezebel traditions in the Bible and its reception, and also attempts to retrace the development behind the stories.

Younger Jr., K Lawson, editor, Ugarit at Seventy-Five (2007)

The papers derive from the Midwest Regional meetings of the American Oriental Society at Trinity International University (Deerfield, Illinois), in February 2005 — which was held to commemorate the 75th anniversay of the discovery of Ugarit (Ras Shamra). The first five essays deal with the Ugaritic texts. Mark Smith looks at various aspects of Ugaritic religion. Dennis Pardee looks at RIH 98/02 (discovered in 1998), a song to Attartu with parallels to Exod 15 and Judg 5. Nic Wyatt discusses the divinity of kings. Wayne Pitard discusses the monsters Anat fought in the Baal Myth. Pierre Bourdreuil looks at new texts from the House of Urtenu, including some new data on the rapi’uma/rephaim. The last three papers deal with archaeological or historical issues, including a survey of the evidence for the origins of the Arameans by K. Lawson Younger.

Posted in Archaeology, Biblical interpretation, Books, Criticism, Dead Sea Scrolls, Historical Books, Historiography, Reception, Ugaritic | Comments Off on Review of Biblical Literature – September 6, 2008

Umberto Eco Invented Dan Brown

Posted by NT Wrong on August 29, 2008

“The author, Dan Brown, is a character from Foucault’s Pendulum! I invented him. He shares my characters’ fascinations—the world conspiracy of Rosicrucians, Masons, and Jesuits. The role of the Knights Templar. The hermetic secret. The principle that everything is connected. I suspect Dan Brown might not even exist.”
– Umberto Eco, ‘The Art of Fiction No. 197’, Paris Review 185 (Summer 2008)

I loved reading Foucault’s Pendulum. It’s a perfect novel.

Posted in Books, Literature, Religion & Society | 2 Comments »

Returning the Bible to Fantasy

Posted by NT Wrong on August 29, 2008

“The Bible must be taken out of context. Re-turned to and into fantasy.”
– Jack Zipes. “The Messianic Power of Fantasy in the Bible.” Semeia 60 (1992):7-21, 8.

Paul Farrell returns the Bible to fantasy in his collection of children’s Bible stories, Illustrated Stories from the Bible (that they won’t tell you in Sunday School) .

His book includes all the children’s favourites, including ‘Jeptha’s daughter’, ‘Little Gershom’s Penis’ (Gershom is Zipporah’s son), ‘Moses Helps God to Understand’ (Num 13-14), and ‘When Jesus Drowned the Pigs’.

This page is from ‘The Slaughter of the Midianites’, which always gets the kiddies off to dream-land:

Posted in Books, Humour, Justice, The Bible | 2 Comments »

Tim LaHaye Beware! – The ‘Right Behind’ Novel Series

Posted by NT Wrong on August 14, 2008

I just noticed Roland Boer’s new novel series: Right Behind.

In the best tradition of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins, Roland Boer is publishing the novel in serial form (on his blog) — free to the masses. Boer is understood to be writing the series by automatic writing. By reading Das Kapital backwards, in the original German, he is able to invoke the restless spirit of a nineteenth century man by the name of ‘J. N. Darby’, who tells him a small part of the story every few days.

Here’s the links to the story so far:

    Chapter 1 – ‘Ruptured’: Sections 1, 2, 3, and 4
    Chapter 2 – ‘Jesusland’: Sections 1, 2, 3, and 4

I very much like the title. The cover design is mine, with thanks to Donatello.

Posted in Books, Fundamentalism, Humour, Literature | 1 Comment »