forgive me for not reading

I’m taking a course on theological librarianship through ATLA and University of Illinois Urbana/Champlain. I enjoyed the following snippet from a book on medieval libraries:

On the Monday after the first Sunday in Lent, before brethren come into the Chapter House, the librarian (custos librorum) shall have a carpet laid down, and all the books got together upon it, except those which the year previous had been assigned for reading. These the brethren are to bring with them, when they come into the chapter house, each his book in his hand….

Then the librarian shall read a statement as to the manner in which the brethren have had books during the past year. As each brother hears his name pronounced, he is to give back the book which had been entrusted to him for reading; and he whose conscience accuses him of not having read through the book which he had received, is to fall on his face, confess his fault, and entreat forgiveness.

The librarian shall make a fresh distribution of books, namely a different volume to each brother for his reading.

From Archbishop Lanfranc’s statute for English Benedictines, dated 1070; quoted on page 35 of Clark, J. W. Libraries in the Medieval and Renaissance Periods. The Rede Lecture, 1894. Chicago: Argonaut, Inc., 1968. (Google Books)

Imagine the difference such a practice would make in theological education today. While I know that to be competent in biblical studies or theology, one must be familiar with an array of books from multiple disciplines, imagine what it would be like to assign a single book by a master theologian to each individual student, who would then be responsible for reading the book–devouring it. I have so many books on my shelves that I have not yet even tasted, let alone devoured.

Another quote is worth noting. This one is from a letter written by Sidonius Apollinaris to Nymphidius (ca. ad 472):

It is high time for you to send the book back; if you liked it, you must have had enough of it by now; if you dislike it, more than enough. Whichever it be, you have now to clear your reputation. If you mean to delay the return of a volume for which I have to ask you, I shall think that you care more for the parchment than for the work. Farewell.

Sidonius Apollinaris, Letters. Tr. O.M. Dalton (1915) vol. 2. p. 51; Book V (Tertullian.org)

Part of this quote was printed on the overdue notices put out by the British library at some time or another (see p. 52 in John B. Trotti, “The Theological Library: In Touch With the Witnesses,” in Christian Librarianship: Essays On The Integration of Faith and Profession, Ed. Gregory A. Smith. Jefferson, N.C.: Macfarland, 2002, 48-54).

It seems that not much has changed over the years, when it comes to overdue books!

For Sale: Dictionary of Classical Hebrew (vols. 1, 2, 4)

Forgive the shameless self-promotion. I’m selling three volumes of the Dictionary of Classical Hebrew on Amazon.com for $100 each. Check out the price listings at used.addall.com:

While $100 is not cheap on a scholar’s budget, the price is not bad in comparison to others. These volumes are nearly new. They only have a few bumped corners and very light shelf-ware. All three volumes are listed on my Amazon Storefront.

David J. A. Clines described the method behind the dictionary’s madness in On the Way to the Postmodern: Old Testament Essays 1967-1998, Volume 2 (JSOTSup, 292; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), 602-12 [link]. See also reviews/critiques here, here and here.

Pointers for going into an MA in NT studies?

Clifford B. Kvidahl asks:

Any pointers on doing an MA in NT?

Advice? Run away! Run far away! (Just kidding.) Here are a few points off the top of my head (in no particular order of importance or preference):

  • Choose early on what you plan to do with your degree. Don’t kill yourself over your GPA unless you’re planning to go on for further studies. There are more important things in life than your MA. I see many students at seminary killing themselves (and/or their families) because they’re being driven either by some innate streak of perfectionism or because of the general hyper-academic ethos of the community. The fact that you will be doing an MA suggests that you’re headed in the direction of further studies, so if that is the case then, by all means, kick your butt for grades. (Still, you should never, ever, sacrifice your spouse and/or your kids for the sake of your grades. When you’re on your deathbed you won’t care if your diploma is next to your bed)
  • When you’re sitting at the cafeteria talk about something other than theology, the “new perspective” or whether or not there really is such thing as a “plenary genitive.” You will be sitting next to some of the finest men and women you’ll ever meet. You would do well to get to know them as people and not only as classmates. Of course, “iron sharpens iron,” so you’ll benefit from talking shop with your friends. Just don’t do so without getting to know them as non-academic humans.
  • Languages! Languages! Languages! I wish I had followed my own advice a long time ago. Be careful not to let your favorite Bible software kill your own knowledge of the original languages. Pick up your Greek and Hebrew and read! Don’t treat the language like it’s an esoteric code, but do your best to start sight reading (even if you can’t parse everything). The more exposure you have to the languages, the better.
  • Be nice to your librarians. It’s always good to have librarians as your friends. It will you make your research time go much smoother. Also, make sure you turn your books in on time!
  • If you don’t have any librarians to befriend, be sure to get to know your professors. Ok, I admit it. Your time is most likely better spent with your professors than with librarians. I wish I had taken more advantage of my professors’ office hours. You’re paying your way through graduate school to learn, and getting to know your professors is part of this. Not all professors will “click” with you personality-wise, but it is a good idea to benefit from those who do “click.” It’s easy to get into the “I’m sure their busy, and I don’t want to bother them” mentality. Still, they have office hours for a reason, so it’s good to get to know them.
  • Don’t allow your academic rigor to replace your passion for God’s Word. Everyone (at least everyone that I’ve talked to about it) goes through a phase where they have a hard time doing “devotions” because they feel guilty for not exegeting the text in the original languages, etc. Let the text continue to be the voice of God in your life.
  • That being said, realize that God has given you your academic passion and that this passion is a part of you. Channel it into your devotional life. Realize that you very well may not be satisfied with doing devotions out of the latest “Our Daily Bread” and that you may need to delve deeper to engage your mind and your heart. Don’t sweat it.
  • Read good writers. Pick a few excellent writers (whether academics or not) and read, read, read. The more you read good writing, the better writing you’ll produce. Learn to write and speak to non-academics. Even the academics in your audience will benefit from this. Sometimes being “academic” is used as an excuse to be boring or to lack clarity. Don’t fall into this trap. Write well.
  • Get to know your background materials on their own terms. Don’t just quote from the Mishnah to bolster your paper. Get to know what the Mishnah is. You’ll never be Jacob Neusner, but learn to read and appreciate background materials on their own terms. Pay attention to the dates and theological tendencies of the material and avoid parallelomania.

These are just a few thoughts. I am sure there is better advice out there from more qualified people. Does anyone else want to chime in? Does anyone want to argue against the points above?

My Thesis: Pray for Reign: The Eschatological Elijah in James 5:17-18

I just realized that I have not posted a link to my thesis on James 5:17-18.

Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. (NIV) Ἠλίας ἄνθρωπος ἦν ὁμοιοπαθὴς ἡμῖν, καὶ προσευχῇ προσηύξατο τοῦ μὴ βρέξαι, καὶ οὐκ ἔβρεξεν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἐνιαυτοὺς τρεῖς καὶ μῆνας ἕξ· καὶ πάλιν προσηύξατο, καὶ ὁ οὐρανὸς ὑετὸν ἔδωκεν καὶ ἡ γῆ ἐβλάστησεν τὸν καρπὸν αὐτῆς.

The title is “Pray for Reign: The Eschatological Elijah in James 5:17-18.” It was finished in May, 2007, in partial fulfillment of my master of arts in New Testament degree at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Abstract

James uses the prophet Elijah as an example of righteous prayer. This thesis explores the possibility that James may have intended his readers to recognize both historical and eschatological imagery associated with the biblical prophet. First, it shows that in early Jewish literature the eschatological and historical Elijah traditions were not held in isolation of each other. Imagery from descriptions of Elijah’s eschatological return is used to describe the pre-ascension ministry of the prophet, while the eschatological mission of the prophet is described using elements of the historical narrative. Second, the thesis demonstrates that James’ prescript “to the twelve tribes of the Dispersion,” sets a tone of inaugurated and yet-to-be-consumated eschatology, and that the mention of Elijah helps form an eschatological inclusio that frames the letter. Third, the New Testament use use of Elijah’s drought outside of James is explored showing again that elements from the Elijah’s drought in 1 Kings were used in eschatological contexts, and that Elijah’s three and a half year drought, as mentioned by James, is used to illustrate a period of judgment for the sake of effecting repentance in these contexts. Fourth and finally, the images of rain and drought are viewed through an eschatological lens, revealing their role as covenant blessing and curse, and eschatological judgment and restoration. It is concluded that James’ readers could have recognized the eschatological implications of using Elijah as an example of faithful, righteous prayer, and that James assigns his readers a role similar to that of the eschatological prophet. They are called to endure in the midst of eschatological trials and to effect repentance before the arrival of the soon-coming King.

The Simpsons Talmud

Absolutely brilliant! A couple years ago, Noah Gradofsky put together a talmudic account of Krusty the Clown’s estrangement from his father (Rabbi Hyman Krustofski), and Bart & Lisa’s efforts to reunite the two. This is great. Be sure to look at the PDF version on Gradofsky’s page. Descriptions of the episode, “Like Father, Like Clown,” are available at Wikipedia, IMDb, and at the Simpsons Archive.

HT: James Davila at paleojudaica, who notes the article “The Talmud according to Bart Simpson” by Aaron Freedman at JewishJournal.com.