Wisdom and Prophecy IBR Research Group Schedule

The Wisdom and Prophecy in the Hebrew Bible research group focuses on the relationship between wisdom and prophecy and how these two aspects of Hebrew literature overlap and interact within the Scriptures. All are welcome to attend and take part in the discussion.

– Rusty Osborne

Institute for Biblical Research (SBL P20-311)

Hilton – 212 (Level 2)
Friday, November 20, 2015
4:00 – 6:00pm

William R. Osborne, College of the Ozarks
Wisdom Gets ‘Tyred’ in the Book of Ezekiel

Richard Schultz, Wheaton College
Qohelet as Eschatalogical or anti-Apocalyptic Sage? Hebel, the Evil Day, and Divine Judgment in the Book of Ecclesiastes

John Hilber, Cornerstone University
The Relationship of Prophecy and Wisdom in the Ancient Near East

Daniel Timmer, University of Sudbury
Where Shall Wisdom Be Found (in the Book of the Twelve)?

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Current State of JBL and Critical Biblical Scholarship

As a person devoted to the evangelical study of the Old Testament, I personally find it quite interesting to observe how the larger, critical-oriented community of biblical studies approaches the Bible. In the most recent issue of JBL (134, no. 3 [2015]:457-70), Adele Reinhartz wrote a fascinating editorial titled “The Journal of Biblical Literature and the Critical Investigation of the Bible.” Reinhartz has served as general editor for only a short while, and it is encouraging and respectable to see her commitment to her task as reflected in the essay. First, I would encourage anyone interested in the history of biblical criticism in last century and up to the present to give the editorial a careful read. You will benefit.

However, I found one particular part of the editorial quite telling. Reinhartz first cites former SBL president Robert Pfeiffer:

“Although common sense requires a distinction in the Bible between actual events in human history and faith in a God controlling the course of history,… the method, which combines critical research and religious faith, seems to be increasing in popularity among American biblical scholars: it has received the accolade of Professor Floyd V. Filson in his Presidential Address before the Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis in 1949, and has been defended by several of its members. This trend backwards to Deuteronomistic historiography seems to me fatal to objective research, and goes hand in hand with the alarming decadence of serious philological studies in the field of Semitic and Indo-European languages on the part of young American biblical students, particularly Christian.” (Pfeiffer, “Facts and Faith in Biblical History,” JBL 70 (1951): 12.)

Reinhartz then goes on to state that “JBL‘s editorial position has been clear, however, for many years: although many of our authors have religious convictions and affiliations, the Journal does not publish papers that are explicitly confessional in nature or purpose.” This is then followed up with a footnote stating:

“Authors of these sorts of submissions are encouraged to submit their articles to one of the many fine confessional publications that have a mandate to publish such contributions. This may seem like a limitation on the spirit of openness that I, with the support of the SBL leadership, am trying to encourage, but it is required, I believe, by the diversity of our readership and our contributors, and by the emphasis on critical biblical scholarship, which proceeds by posing hypotheses and engaging in argumentation.” (p. 465 n. 24)

I appreciate the deferential bow to the “many fine confessional publications,” but I do  believe this is a substantial limitation to the “spirit of openness” so highly sought out in the academy. Statements like this simply reveal that the “openness” of many critically-minded scholars is just as dogmatic as those in the confessional realm. Both have “doctrinal boundaries.” As an evangelical Christian I am happy to place my confessional commitments on the table for all to see and then allow the larger community to evaluate my work for evidence of special pleading due to those acknowledged commitments. The proof of the pudding is in the tasting. I don’t see why this approach can’t work for both critical and confessional camps.

The last part of the footnote is also intriguing. The journal must exclude articles that are confessional in nature or purpose because JBL emphasizes scholarship that “proceeds by posing hypotheses and engaging in argumentation.” While I would like to think that I am reading to much into this, it appears that there is a working assumption that confessional studies are simply not dealing with hypotheses and argumentation. This is simply not the case. There are many confessional publications producing outstanding research that is well researched, written, and argued. Sadly, it appears that even under new leadership the true liberal spirit of JBL is still not liberal enough.

For more, read my article “Thinking Critically, Reading Faithfully: Critical Biblical Scholarship in the Christian College Classroom,” CTR 11/2 (2014): 79-89.

-Rusty Osborne

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Things an SBL President Could Say in 1960

The following excerpt is taken from the presidential address given by R. B. Y. Scott in 1960 at Union Theological Seminary titled “Priesthood, Prophecy, Wisdom, and the Knowledge of God.” While the entire article is worth reading, the opening comments are quite good.scott_rby

To begin with, we are concerned with the Bible as the sacred book of the Hebrew-Christian tradition. It lies before us as a historical document in objective form, the product of a particular ancient religious culture, to be studied by the methods of literary, historical, and form-historical criticism.

Our concern with the Bible would be much more limited if it were no more than this. To those of us, as least, who are related in varying degrees of intimacy to the Christian and Jewish religious communities, the Bible, though we delimit and define it differently, is a canonical scripture. It is the Book of the People of the People of God. It is our national heritage as a peculiar people, our family archives, the source book of our spiritual history.  It has unique meaning and authority within the community of belief which cherishes it and which has transmitted it to us from the beginnings. In this aspect we cannot be wholly detached in our study of it, for the Bible is part of us, and speaks to us as to a congregation assembled before the Lord.

There is still a third way of viewing the Bible, which really is an extension of the second. To the believing Jew or Christian the Bible in a real sense is his Book of the Knowledge of God. It provides its own distinctive answers to basic questions of religion: What is the meaning of  the paradoxical nature of man–part spirit and part beast? What is the nature of the world in which man finds himself, and why is he here? What is the all-encompassing spiritual reality with which he has to do? Who and what is God? How can man enter into relationship with God? What, if any, is the way to the knowledge of God? Has God revealed himself, and if so, to whom? how? when? and where, and with what objective result?

However one may conceive the process, the faith of the Bible postulates an actual divine self-disclosure to man. Many who cannot accept this nevertheless find in the Bible much material of interest and value for research into the history of religion as an objective phenomenon. But if ancient Israel, Judaism, and the Christian church had not believed it, they would never have come into existence, nor have preserved these writings for literary and historical study. If we would take the Bible seriously, we cannot evade the question: how and why did these ancient people reach the conviction that God had made himself known to them? That they did so is beyond doubt. If their faith was an illusion, what is the truth to be put in its place? If their faith was not an illusion, this is the most important fact with which mankind must come to terms.

The answers to such questions doubtless belong primarily to the realm of faith and confessional affirmation rather than to biblical scholarship as such, and this is not the occasion to pursue them further. But I must here affirm my conviction that biblical scholars have a responsibility to face ultimate questions raised in our field of study. We expect our colleagues, the natural scientists, to accept some moral responsibility with respect to the consequences for humanity of their professional conclusions. Are we biblical scholars to be so absorbed in the minutiae of scholarship and in our private provinces of special interest, that we–of all people–have nothing significant to say on what the Bible is all about? (Speaking for myself, I confess to a haunting doubt that the precise length of the Hebrew cubit is knowledge necessary for eternal salvation).

In this paper I want to raise a question which lies back of the religious and theological problem of biblical revelation but which is basic to its exploration. It is this. What is the nature of the knowledge of God as the biblical writers themselves understood it, and how did they come by this knowledge? It is a large area of enquiry, and in this galaxy of learning I am only too well aware of the perils of attempting a synoptic view. In looking for an answer I confine myself to the OT, though for me as a Christian the final and irrefutable evidence is the appearance within Judaism of Jesus Christ. (R. B. Y. Scott, “Priesthood, Prophecy, Wisdom, and the Knowledge of God” JBL 80/1 [1961]: 1-2. Bold emphasis mine.)

R. B. Y. Scott was a Canadian scholar who finished his career as a professor at Princeton University. While some of Scott’s comments do raise questions, overall I am impressed with the fact that Scott did not see confessional biblical scholarship ultimately at odds with serious (or even “critical”) biblical scholarship. In fact, he indicts his colleagues for spending their careers studying the Bible only to come up empty when it comes to answering the questions that really matter. I also appreciate Scott’s willingness to openly state his presuppositions from which he begins the interpretive process. Apparently, back in 1960 you did not have to pretend to be a robot in order to make objective claims about the biblical text.

I am sure that there are currently people in the SBL that would resonate with Scott’s desires. However, I think most would admit, the tone and confessional warmth of Scott’s address is by no means commonplace (or even accepted in some sectors of the society). My hope is that this generation of biblical scholars would indeed take the Bible seriously and not evade the question as to whether or not the faith found in the Bible is an illusion or not. As Scott states, this is not tangential to our discipline and may we be left speechless when queried about “the most important fact with which mankind must come to terms.”

-Rusty Osborne

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Now Available: JESOT 3.2

I am pleased to announce that we have just published the sixth issue of Journal for the Evangelical Study of the Old Testament, issue 3.2. The full issue (4 articles and 21 reviews) is free for viewing and download at www.jesot.org. Please pass the word along.

– Rusty

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Resolve to Read the Bible like a Book

This is the time of year that many people begin printing out their preferred reading plans for working through the Bible in another calendar year (see Justin Taylor’s excellent list of the various plans available here). Don’t get me wrong, I think these plans are very helpful for certain people in helping them systematically work through the Bible, and I am never opposed to people wanting to read the Bible!

800px-Lectio_divina-2However, I think there is a better way to read through the Bible in 2015–read it like a book. Instead of reading little sections from multiple places in the Bible each day, sit down and read entire books in one sitting. Certainly, books like Proverbs and Psalms lend themselves more easily to daily portions, but most other books are best encountered as entire works. This is simply how we read books. The Bible is not just any other book, but it is a book nonetheless.

I have been reading through the prophets in preparation for a class this spring, and I have been reminded of the incredible benefits of reading entire books in one sitting. For example, reading Ezekiel through in one sitting (or at least three or four) will reveal structural features like the movement of judgment–salvation–restoration that are simply missed by dividing it up over a period of thirty or forty days. It is also easier to pick up on the story that is actually unfolding in larger narrative books like Judges or 1 and 2 Samuel as well.

It seems like many people think this approach is simply unrealistic. Who has time to read entire Old Testament books (the graveyard for many a Bible reading plan)? Having four children and one of those being three months old, my wife and I are very aware of time limitations! However, it took me about 2 to 2 1/2 hours to read through Isaiah the other day. Even if you don’t have 2 hours, if you read for 30 minutes a day, you can read the book in about four or five days. Not only is this a good strategy for reading through large parts of the Bible, it makes us better readers of the Bible. It helps you understand a story when you can remember the beginning by the time you arrive at the end.

I would first recommend reading a little background information about the selected book before diving in. Next, read with a copy of the Bible that is printed in a single-column format (check out the very affordable ESV Reader’s Bible–very clean format). I simply find it difficult to read anything printed in a double-column format for an extended period of time. I would also recommend trying to find someone to join you in the endeavor. It is very enriching (and biblical) to read through entire books and have someone to talk with about it. Lastly, think of it as feasting!

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” – Matt 4:3

Photo credit: Photo-Monique (Wikimedia Commons)

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James Leo Green and the Star of Bethlehem

Green,-J.-LeoJames Leo Green (1912-1994) served Southern Baptists as a pastor and a professor. He taught at Southern Seminary and finished  his career as Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. When I attended Southeastern Seminary (1980-82) Dr. Green was well known among the more conservative students. I did not have the opportunity to take him for a class, but I was able to hear him preach. He was famous for one particular sermon from Isaiah 9:6-7 that was popularly called “The Star of Bethlehem.”

Even though Dr. Green went on to his heavenly reward 20 years ago, I still remember this sermon at Christmas time. A copy of this message preached on December 15, 1961 in the Binkley Chapel at Southeastern was transcribed and published in Faith & Mission 13/1 (Fall 1995): 4-11. It is long for a blog post, but I thought I would share the sermon here for those who do not have access to the journal. There is a special point, like the rest of the story, about the “star of Bethlehem” at the end, so be sure to read the sermon through.

The Star of God

Isaiah 9:6-7

James Leo Green

You may know it, but in the Revised Standard Version there are four titles for this king who is to come; but I still go along with Dr. Delitzsch who believes that there are five names for this marvelous Messiah who is to appear. The Hebrew itself would suggest that perhaps this is a better rendering. And finally before we have our prayer and bring our message, may I wish for every one of you a very joyful and meaningful Christmas. Now we turn in the Bible to read some verses from the ninth chapter of the prophecy of Isaiah:

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light. They that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. For unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and of peace there shall be no end. Upon the throne of David and upon His kingdom to establish it and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this. Read More »

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New Reader’s Edition of the BHS!

I am very happy for George Athas, friend and JESOT editorial board member. He and collaborators Donald Vance and Yael Avrahami have spent several years producing a new Reader’s Edition of the BHS (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia), and it will finally be available through Hendrickson/German Bible Society at the upcoming SBL meeting in San Diego. Read more about the project at his website, and find Jim West’s review here (including pics of the text).

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Getting Ready to Give Thanks: A Note on Thanksgiving in the Hebrew Bible

How do you say thank-you in Hebrew? Most tourists who visit Israel easily learn to say tôdâ to express their appreciation for kindness or good service. Modern Hebrew borrowed tôdâ, which means “thanks,” from Biblical Hebrew. Biblical Hebrew, however, uses tôdâ and its verbal root yādâ in very different ways.[1]

Giving Thanks

The verb yādâ occurs 111 times in the Old Testament with almost two-thirds of these found in the Psalms. English Bibles translate yādâ in several ways. For example, the New International Version (NIV) renders the verb in the majority of cases as “praise” (44 times), “give thanks” (35 times), and “confess” (10 times).

The original meaning of yādâ may be “acknowledge” (compare Job 40:14).[2] Scholars of a previous generation suggested that yādâ developed from yād “hand” and presupposed the idea of raising the hands in confession or praise.[3] However, most scholars today suggest the fundamental meaning of the verb is “confess.”[4] For them, yādâ conveys two ranges of meaning: (1) to confess God’s character or works, and (2) to confess sins.

Confessing God’s Character and Works

Yādâ is primarily employed in the Old Testament to confess God’s character and His marvelous works.[5] To acknowledge who God is and what He does involves praise, and this moves one to be thankful. Not surprisingly then yādâ occurs in Hebrew poetry in parallel with other praise verbs: “to praise” (Ps. 109:30), “to praise with music” (Ps. 7:17 [Heb. v. 18]; 92:1), “to remember” (Ps. 45:17 [Heb. v. 18]), “to glorify” (Ps. 86:12), and “to declare” (Ps. 30:9 [Heb. v. 10]). Therefore, yādâ functions as one of the key praise terms in the Old Testament.[6] Read More »

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The Development of the Biblia Hebraica

Until 1929 available texts of the Hebrew Bible were essentially reprints or edited versions of Jacob ben Hayyim’s Second Rabbinic Bible, first published by Daniel Bomberg in Venice in 1524/25. Ben Hayyim based his work on late medieval manuscripts and other earlier printed editions. This text served as the textus receptus behind all early Old Testament translations, such as that of Luther and the King James Version.

Beginning in 1929, Rudolf Kittel decided to jettison the later eclectic ben Hayyim text and adopt in its place the earlier text of the Leningrad manuscript B 19A (L; dated AD 1008) as a base for the new edition of his internationally acclaimed scholarly work known as the Biblia Hebraica (first published 1906). Kittel died in 1929, but ten years later Albrecht Alt and Otto Eissfeldt were able to revise and publish the edited fascicles in the third edition of the Biblia Hebraica (Stuttgart: Württembergische Biblelanstalt, 1937). Although Kittel edited only five of the twenty-one fascicles, the work has commonly become known as Kittel’s Biblia Hebraica (BHK). BHK has been criticized for its frequent willingness to correct and emend the B 19A text based on conjecture. BHK has served as the base text behind the Revised Standard Version and other translations of the Old Testament of the same period. Read More »

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Five Importants Texts for Thinking About the Old Testament Canon

Here are five important selections for understanding early Christian reflections on the Old Testament canon. It seems, from my brief study, that the first early Christian reference to the “Old Testament” as a collection of books (cf. 2 Cor 3: 14), comes from Melito (ca. AD 170). However, this text is preserved in a later text, so the dating cannot be fully substantiated. If anyone is aware of an earlier or comparatively early citation, please let me know.

For fuller, yet accessible, treatments of these and other texts on this important topic, see E. Earle Ellis, The Old Testament in Early Christianity (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991); Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church and Its Background in Early Judaism (London: SPCK, 1985, repr. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2008); and the resources posted by Ed Gallagher.

Ecclesiasticus 1:1 (my translation):

Πολλῶν καὶ μεγάλων ἡμῖν διὰ τοῦ νόμου καὶ τῶν προφητῶν kαὶ τῶν ἄλλων τῶν κατ᾿ αὐτοὺς ἠκολουθηκότων δεδομένων…

Many and great things we have received through the Law and the Prophets and the others which followed them

Philo, De Vita Contemplativa 25, speaking of the piety of the Therapeutae (my translation):

μηδὲν εἰσκομίζοντες…ἀλλὰ νόμους καὶ λόγια θεσπισθέντα διὰ προφητῶν καὶ ὕμνους καὶ τὰ ἄλλα οἷς ἐπιστήμη καὶ εὐσέβεια συναύξονται καὶ τελειοῦνται.

nor did they carry in…but the Law and the prophesied words of the prophets and hymns and the others, by which knowledge and godliness grow together and have their completeness.

Translation and reconstruction of 4Q397 and 4Q398 (Wise, Abegg, Jr., and Cook, DSS:A New Translation):

[Indeed,] we [have written] to you so that you might understand the book of Moses, the book[s of the Pr]ophets, and Davi[d …] [the events of] the generations.

Melito’s canon, as preserved in Eusebius’s Ecclesiastical History 4.26.14ff. (my translation):

ἀνελθὼν οὖν εἰςτὴνἀνατολὴν καὶ ἕως τοῦ τόπου γενόμενος ἔνθα ἐκηρύχθη καὶ ἐπράχθη, καὶ ἀκριβῶς μαθὼν τὰ τῆς παλαιᾶς διαθήκης βιβλία, ὑπο τάξας ἔπεμψά σοι: ὧν ἐστι τὰ ὀνόματα: Μωυσέως πέντε, Γένεσις Ἔξοδος Ἀριθμοὶ Λευιτικὸν Δευτερονόμιον, Ἰησοῦς Ναυῆ, Κριταί, Ῥούθ, Βασιλειῶν τέσσαρα, Παραλειπομένων δύο, Ψαλμῶν Δαυίδ, Σολομῶνος Παροιμίαιἡκαὶ Σοφία, Ἐκκλησιαστής, Ἆισμα Ἀισμάτων, Ἰώβ, Προφητῶν Ἡσαΐου Ἱερεμίου τῶν δώδεκα ἐν μονοβίβλῳ Δανιήλ, Ἰεζεκιήλ, Ἔσδρας

Therefore, coming to the East, reaching even the place where these things were preached and carried out, and having learned exactly the books of the Old Testament–putting them down, I sent them to you. The names are: the Five of Moses–Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy–Joshua son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, the four Kingdoms, the two Chronicles, the Psalms of David, the Proverbs (or the Wisdom) of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Job, the Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, the Twelve in one book, Daniel, Ezekiel, Esdras

Tractacte Baba Batra 14b(for Hebrew text):

The rabbis taught: “The order of the prophets is as follows: Jehoshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the Twelve Prophets.” Let us see: Hosea, of the Twelve Prophets, was before Isaiah, as it is written [Hosea, i. 2]: “The beginning of the word of the Lord,” etc. This certainly cannot be understood that he was the first of the prophets to whom the Lord spoke since the time of Moses, as there were many prophets after Moses preceding Hosea. And therefore R. Johanan explains that he was the first of the four prophets who prophesied at that period; viz.: Hosea, Isaiah, Amos, and Micah. Hence he was before Isaiah. Why is he placed after? Because his book is counted among the Twelve, among whom were Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, who were the last of the prophets: therefore his book is placed together with theirs. But why was the book of Hosea not separated, and placed first? Because his book is small, and if it were placed separately it would become lost. However, was not Isaiah before Jeremiah and Ezekiel? Why is he not placed first? Because “Kings” ends with the destruction of the Temple, and the whole book of Jeremiah speaks of the destruction, and that of Ezekiel at the beginning speaks of the destruction and at the end of consolation, while Isaiah’s entire book speaks of consolation: destruction was put next to destruction, and consolation next to consolation.

The order of the Hagiographa is as follows: Ruth, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, Daniel, Book of Esther, Book of Ezra, and Chronicles.

And who wrote all the books? Moses wrote his book and a portion of Bil’am [Numbers, xxii.], and Job. Jehoshua wrote his book and the last eight verses of the Pentateuch beginning: “And Moses, the servant of the Lord, died.” Samuel wrote his book, Judges, and Ruth. David wrote Psalms, with the assistance of ten elders, viz.: Adam the First, Malachi Zedek, Abraham, Moses, Hyman, Jeduthun, Asaph, and the three sons of Korach. Jeremiah wrote his book, Kings, and Lamentations. King Hezekiah and his company wrote Isaiah, Proverbs, Songs, and Ecclesiastes. The men of the great assembly wrote Ezekiel, the Twelve Prophets, Daniel, and the Book of Esther. Ezra wrote his book, and Chronicles–the order of all generations down to himself. [This may be a support to Rabh’s theory, as to which, R. Jehudah said in his name, that Ezra had not ascended from Babylon to Palestine until he wrote his genealogy.] And who finished Ezra’s book? Nehemiah ben Chachalyah.

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