Things that Fascinate Me

Just a random thought for a post–a few subjects that fascinate me.

In no particular order:

  1. Greco-Roman mythology – This is a more recent development, primarily because of my research interests over the last couple of years. While mythology encompasses a great deal, my primary interests have been mythological monsters/creatures, the underworld, and religion–quite a trinity, eh?
  2. Imperial Rome – There is also plenty of mythology bound up in the study of Imperial Rome! My interests here are less on the mythological side; I enjoy reading and learning about the mystique and personas of the emperors. Yes, some of them were terrible people and committed acts that are grotesque and barbarous to modern minds (probably too for those who were the recipients of their deeds), but other aspects of their lives and influence are quite interesting. I suppose that’s why empire criticism has also been a subject on which I’ve been reading in recent years.
  3. Sasquatch, or Bigfoot – I’m not quite sure why, but I’ve always been fascinated by this legendary creature. I would trace it partly to my childhood when my uncle showed me the movie The Legend of Boggy Creek. Even now I still love that movie, bad as it may be. I have seen/currently watch also every episode of Finding Bigfoot, as well as practically every documentary ever televised on the subject. Do I believe sasquatches exist? Possibly, though without conclusive videographic, biological, and/or other compelling evidence, I’ll remain undecided.
  4. The assassination of JFK – Again, I’m not sure what’s so compelling about this, but I have been intrigued by this tragedy for many years. We were recently downtown and walked over to Dealey Plaza where the whole tragic event sequence unfolded. It was quite eerie to be sure, seeing the window from which Oswald fired his rifle, the yellow X on the street marking where Kennedy was struck, and the grassy knoll where the alleged second gunman was situated. I’m not one given to conspiracies, but I find the various theories swirling about this event fascinating (awkwardly discussed in this scene from Slacker). For the record, I don’t believe Oswald acted alone–there had to be a second gunman.
  5. 9/11 – This one is perhaps the most explicable–it was an event that happened in my lifetime, in adulthood no less. Like so many, I remember where I was and what I was doing when the news of what happened arrived. Every year I look forward to the deluge of 9/11 programs on TV. My fascination is not consumed with the conspiracies–I don’t believe it was inside job–but with the whole story. I should also say that my fascination with 9/11 is not some morbid enjoyment of watching those images and the utter dismay that came in the wake of that day–it was a horror, a tragedy. I suppose my interest in it is more contemplative, though I can’t quite explain it.
  6. Atomic weaponry  – Perhaps the most terrifying possibility that became a reality was the creation of atomic weapons. Like 9/11 and JFK’s assassination, my curiosity here is one filtered through the lens of historical observation and study. I suppose that atomic weaponry was inevitable, but it is one fruit of scientific advancement that most probably wish had never been discovered.
  7. The Mafia – I know, a trend is becoming apparent–I am intrigued by things of a less than savory nature! Like other subjects in this list, I can’t explain this one. I suppose part of my curiosity with organized crime centers on how a comparatively small group of immigrants grew into an organization that wielded unimaginable authority and control over society. I love the movies, the biographies and documentaries, and books about the mafia, particularly the obvious GoodfellasThe Sopranos, and The Godfather.

So, those are a few things that fascinate me. What about you–what plucks your strings of curiosity?

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Long Book Titles

As I’ve refined the tentative title of my dissertation a few times, it has remained thus far fairly manageable. Some of my fellow doctoral students, however, have had to trim theirs down considerably. Longer titles are commonplace in academic writing, but it seems that several generations ago there was a tendency, at least with some, to disambiguate to death their subject matter with the title. Take a look at this doozy!

The Apostolical Authority of the Epistle to the Hebrews: An Inquiry, in which the Received Title of the Greek Epistle is Vindicated, against the Cavils of Objectors, Ancient and Modern, from Origen to Sir J. D. Michaëlis, Chiefly upon Grounds of Internal Evidence Hitherto Unnoticed: Comprising a Comparative Analysis of the Style and Structure of this Epistle, and of the Undisputed Epistles of St. Paul, Tending to Throw Light upon Their Interpretation.

Rattle this off to the kids at story time and they’ll be counting sheep before the first semicolon!

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The Beginning of the End…

Well, sort of. Today marks the beginning of my last seminar of coursework in route to a PhD (only exams and dissertation will remain–piece of cake, right?).

This semester we will be studying the general epistles and Revelation, so there is plenty of fodder for lively discussions! I am a tad disappointed that my research for the semester will not have much relevance for my dissertation. The last few seminars have allowed me to research and write on topics that would in some way aid my later research, a bonus for sure, but since I’m writing on Paul it would be a stretch to tie the two areas together. Despite this, however, I am excited about my topic for the next few months. Basically I’ll be examining literary monsters/creatures from Greek and Roman literature and their relevance (if any!) to John’s Apocalypse. I’ve got a good start on it, but I always have an open ear to suggestions for resources. If you know of solid works that would relevant for this topic, please feel free to send me the info.

 

Packaging is Important

As the ever-wise George Costanza rightly noted, important things go in a case! The implication here is that things that are important need to be protected from the outside, especially items that are in transit.

The other day we ordered some new salt and pepper shakers and they arrived yesterday. The shakers were made of glass, so naturally we expected protective packaging for their journey to our home. But Amazon went above and beyond to ensure their safe arrival!

20150113_231650337_iOSThe shakers were (obviously!) in the smaller box, nicely wrapped in cellophane to keep them nice and snug. The larger box was filled with those air-filled plastic pouches to provide suitable shock absorption for the ride.

20150113_231710854_iOSOne thing is for sure–I can’t fault Amazon for being too careful!

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Book Review: James in the Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament

James (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament)

B&H | Amazon | CBD

Thanks to the kind folks at Broadman & Holman for this review copy! I received this copy free of charge in exchange for an unbiased review.

At first sight of this new series from B&H I wondered if this were simply going to be another commentary series. In part, it serves much of the same purpose as a commentary, though slightly different. While there are features present that you could certainly find in most commentaries, e.g., brief introductory discussions of date, authorship, structure, etc., there are a couple of primary differences that distinguish this series from a typical commentary.

First, these volumes are almost strictly exegetical in nature. As the series title suggests, each volume concerns the various elements that constitute exegesis of a text, though exegesis in reality involves a number of factors beyond what is presented in these volumes. The primary exegetical focus here is grammatical-syntactical and foregoes many of the elements found in traditional commentaries. Here, Vlachos discusses virtually every significant and/or difficult syntactical question, provides evidence for his interpretation, and surveys other sources to demonstrate how a particular clause, word, or other syntactical element is handled. There is little theological, historical, or other information provided, save for the instances in which historical usage helps explain a particular element.

Second, this volume (and each in the series presumably) also provides a short list of works one might consult for further study. While this is not uncommon in commentaries, these are slightly different because they are arranged thematically, rather than as simply a list of commentaries on the book of James. In addition, pastors and teachers will benefit somewhat from the inclusion of homiletical suggestions at the end of each section.

In sum, this is a very handy volume for those working through books of the NT. If you’re looking for a volume that discusses matters outside of grammar, you’ll need to look elsewhere; however, if syntax is your focus, this volume will be a handy addition to your library.

Read a sample here.

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Book Review: Roman Imperial Texts: A Sourcebook

Roman Imperial Texts: A Sourcebook by Mark Reasoner

Fortress | Amazon | CBD

Thanks to the kind folks at Fortress Press for this review copy! I received this copy free of charge in exchange for an unbiased review.

In the field of biblical studies, recent years have seen a resurgence of titles concerning one element or another of the Greco-Roman world, many focusing on the Roman empire and reading the New Testament in light of the hulking shadow it cast over the world of Jesus, Paul, and many others. Works that examine particular facets of Roman culture in the first century are certainly helpful, but Reasoner’s volume proves its usefulness not because of extended examination of Roman culture (though there is an ample of amount of such), but by providing relevant texts that depict and describe the Roman emperors and the kingdom they built and expanded. To study and attempt to understand a culture, more often than not the best place to begin is with its literature. Thankfully, ancient Romans produced a treasure trove of material to be mined.

Reasoner’s work is comprised of three parts: 1) Emperors, 2) Community and its various components, and 3) the city of Rome. The discussion of the emperors focuses primarily on texts and numismatic evidence that speak of them in terms of divinity, beneficence, and their status as sons of the gods. This, naturally, is important for studying the NT concept of Jesus as the Son of God, though Reasoner does not push terribly hard to convince the reader that Son of God language in the NT is directly related to empirical sonship, though Reasoner does believe it important. For example, Reasoner suggests that the use of the term euangelia in the Priene inscription is the use alongside which one should read the canonical Gospels’ association of Jesus’ birth, life, and teachings (30). Part two concerns community in ancient Rome and how participation in various societal events and customs helped establish and define Roman identity. For early Christians, according to Reasoner, this provided a starting point of sorts for understanding their place in the body of Christ, particularly in light of Paul’s multiple references to such through his writings. The creation of an alternative society, i.e., the church, is illuminated when reading against the various texts here provided by Reasoner. Likewise with the collegium and domus, both of which are important for understanding many things Paul (and others) teach. In part three, Reasoner discusses a few aspects of Rome as a city, particularly as it concerned its far-reaching influence in the Mediterranean and beyond. War, commerce, and games were some of the means by which Rome wielded its influence. Early Christians, of course, lived in this immense shadow and Reasoner briefly discusses how these texts might illuminate references in the NT.

One of the strengths of this work is that there is a steady eye on various concepts prevalent in the NT (e.g., Son of God) while discussing the Roman texts. This does not mean that Reasoner deviates from the path by engaging in efforts to demonstrate that certain NT ideas and/or texts are anti-imperial or otherwise; rather, he simply notes these potential connections and provides brief commentary. The reader, then, is given ample food for thought and hopefully ignites a spark to investigate any such connections further, however tentative or substantial they might be. While Reasoner occasionally tips his hand, for the most part he writes with the objective of providing a springboard for further investigation.

Selectivity is an unavoidable constraint on works such as this and will perhaps deter some in favor of other more extensive (and expensive) volumes, but for most this volume will serve as a highly accessible and immensely helpful resource for better understanding the imperial context of the NT world.

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Best Commentaries on Revelation

My last seminar this spring will be focused on the catholic epistles and Revelation. Though I haven’t narrowed my research topic for this semester yet, I will likely pick up a few commentaries on Revelation and was wondering what recommendations you might have.

I already own volumes by Osborn (BECNT), Smalley (IVP), Blount (NTL), and Mounce (NICNT). Beale is an obvious choice and I will likely invest in it as well as Aune’s in WBC, but what others? Malina’s volume I’ve considered, though I’m not sold. I’ve pondered Koester’s as well, but I don’t know that I’m going to plunk down that much change for a single commentary.

Any thoughts would be welcome!

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