Panoramic Views on

Ephesus in Ephesus

I stumbled upon – an interesting site. In essence, it collects 360 degree panoramic views of various locations throughout the world, cataloged by location and linked with Google Maps. Point and click on the image above to move the picture around (both to the left and the right and up and down). This site has a great deal of potential for teachers. It allows you to virtually step inside a location and look around.

Here’s what the site says about itself:

Bringing the world to a wide audience in a new way, is a guide that lets you step inside. We bring the full spectrum of high-resolution immersive, virtual reality experience to the web. 360 Cities brings you closer to the reality of a place than has ever been possible before…

The site’s pretty nifty. The image embedded above is of ruins in Ephesus (Turkey). Below are some links to other countries of interest.

Here’s the page that’s for the Middle East in general.

There’s a similar downloadable program that is available for free from Ted Hildebrandt (professor at Gordon College in Wenham, Mass.). Get Lost in Jerusalem (550 MB download) provides similar 360 degree views of various locations in Jerusalem that allow you to take a virtual tour. If you don’t know about Ted’s Biblical eSources site, you need to take a look. He has some absolutely fantastic resources available! His bibliography on Proverbs is a thing of beauty!

Seeing demons in the Talmud

David Pescovitz at BoingBoing draws attention to Aharon Varady’s post linking ‘demons’ in rabbinic literature to “Charles Bonnet Syndrome, a disease where mentally healthy people have very strange and vivid hallucinations.” Aharon quotes from the Babylonian Talmud, tractate Berakhoth 6a:

It has been taught: Abba Benjamin says, If the eye had the power to see them, no creature could endure the demons. Abaye says: They are more numerous than we are and they surround us like the ridge round a field. R. Huna says: Every one among us has a thousand on his left hand and ten thousand on his right hand.2 Raba says: The crushing in the Kallah3 lectures comes from them.4 Fatigue in the knees comes from them. The wearing out of the clothes of the scholars is due to their rubbing against them. The bruising of the feet comes from them. If one wants to discover them,5 let him take sifted ashes and sprinkle around his bed, and in the morning he will see something like the footprints of a cock. If one wishes to see them, let him take the after-birth of a black she-cat, the offspring of a black she-cat, the first-born of a first-born, let him roast it in fire and grind it to powder, and then let him put some into his eye, and he will see them. Let him also pour it into an iron tube and seal it with an iron signet that they6 should not steal it from him. Let him also close his mouth, lest he come to harm. R. Bibi b. Abaye did so,7 saw them and came to harm. The scholars, however, prayed for him and he recovered.

(2) Cf. Psalm 91:7 which verse is quoted in some editions.
(3) The Assemblies of Babylonian students during the months of Elul and Adar, v. Glos.
(4) For really the lectures are not overcrowded.
(5) MS. M.: their footprints.
(6) The demons.
(7) He put the powder into his eye. (Soncino)

He also cites b. Ber. 43b, another passage where demons are mentioned. (Demon = מזיק maziq; pg. 755 in Jastrow.)

On a tangential note, under the entry for מזייעי (frightening demons) in Jastrow’s dictionary, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on Numbers 6:24 is cited, which contains a nifty expansion of Aaron’s Priestly Benediction:

The Lord bless thee and keep thee. The Lord make His face to shine upon thee, and gracious unto thee. The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and grant thee peace. The Lord bless thee in all thy business, and keep) thee from demons3 of the night, and things that cause terror, and from demons of the noon4 and of the morning, and from malignant spirits and phantoms.  The Lord make His face to shine upon thee, when occupied in the law, and reveal to thee its secrets, and be merciful unto thee. The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee in thy prayer, and grant thee peace in thy end.

3 Liliths
4 Psalm 91:6. Vulg. et Sept. (Tg. Ps.-J. Num 6:24-26; Etheridge’s translation)

It’s interesting that both the Soncino Talmud and Etheridge’s translation of the Targum mention Psalm 91:6-7 (vv 5-7 quoted below):

You will not fear the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day, or the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 91:5-7 NRSV Be not afraid of the terror of demons who walk at night, of the arrow of the angel of death that he looses during the day; Of the death that walks in darkness, of the band of demons that attacks at noon. You will invoke the holy name; a thousand will fall at your left side, and ten thousand at your right; they will not come near you to do harm. Targum Psalms 91:5-7 (Cook)

These rabbinic passages are quite strange. All three documents associate this Psalm with the demonic. I’m too tired to analyze this, but it seems an appropriate post for Friday the 13th, a few minutes before midnight.

It’s good to see the Babylonian Talmud getting props on BoingBoing.

The Cash Cow Lurks!

“Who loves you baby? Who gives you good credit? Who says you’ll regret it?”

Ok, so here’s an experimental post . . .For it to make any sense, you first need to watch the embedded video below. Seriously, don’t read past the YouTube stuff below until you’ve watched it!

Now, that you’ve listened to this great little video, “The Cash Cow” by Steve Taylor, read the following posts:

Now, I’m sure that the folks who participated in this bovine gathering sincerely believed they were bringing their needs and the needs of the nation to God. If there is a time we should be praying, it is now. Still, the symbolism is too uncanny. Uncanny enough that even the secular world can pick up the biblical parallels. It’s too bad that the folks who organized this gathering did not pick up on them.

Are we now drinking water made heavy with ground gold dust?

From the Valley of the Shadow of the Outlet Mall
To the customized pet-wear boutique
From the trailer of the fry chef
To the palace of the sheik
The Cash Cow lurks
The Cash Cow lurks
The Cash Cow lurks

Basic Bibliographies for Theological Research

I’ve been working on some bibliographic resources for the upcoming Fall semester at GCTS, and I thought I’d pass this along. Below is a list of basic bibliographic resources for theological studies.* These books and resources serve as “gateways” to more resources. I’ve also included a few guides to writing theology and research in general. For each entry I’ve provided the Library of Congress call number to the text in the Goddard Library (where I work). I’ve also provided links to to for purchase and for local library holdings. If you have any further suggestions for research guides in theology, pass them along in the comments.

Theological Research in General

  • Barber, Cyril J., and Robert M. Kraus, Jr. Introduction to Theological Research: A Guide for College and Seminary Students. 2nd ed. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2000. First choice for purchase (after Turabian). The paragraph style has more explanation than Stewart. Ref. BR118.B28 2000 | Amazon | Worldcat
  • Kepple, Robert J., and John R. Muether. Reference Works for Theological Research: An Annotated Selective Bibliographical Guide. 3rd ed. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1992. Ref. Z7751.K46 1991 | Amazon | Worldcat
  • Stewart, David R. Literature of Theology. Rev. ed. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003. Especially recommended for more recent material. Evangelicals are well represented. Second choice for purchase (ca. $14) after Barber (and Turabian). Ref. Z7751.B67 2003 | Amazon | Worldcat
  • Tucker, Dennis C. Research Techniques for Scholars and Students in Religion and Theology. Medford, N.J: Information Today, 2000. Very helpful, especially for undergrads, despite its simplicity and curious old fashionedness at points. Circ. BL41.T83 2000 | Amazon | Worldcat

Church History

  • Bradley, James E. and Richard A. Muller, Church History: An Introduction to the Research, Reference Works, and Methods. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995. Electronic resources mentioned should be supplemented with Stewart (above). Ref. BR138.B69 1995 | Amazon | Worldcat
  • Note also patrologies for the literature of the Early Church (most notably, Johannes Quasten’s Patrology. Ref. BR67.Q2 1983).

Biblical Studies

  • Bauer, David R. Annotated Guide to Biblical Resources for Ministry. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2003. Especially recommended as a comprehensive listing for biblical studies (327 p.). First choice for use in the library. Ref. Z7770.B38 2003 | Amazon | Worldcat
  • *Evans, Craig A. Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies: A Guide to the Background Literature. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2005. Highly recommended for Interp. students. Provides introduction and bibliography for background material. Ref. BS2530 .E93 2005 | Amazon | Worldcat
  • *Sparks, Kenton L. Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible: A Guide to the Background Literature. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2005. Ref. BS 1184 .S63 2005 | Amazon | Worldcat
  • Pay close attention to multiple bibliographies in Ref. Z7770-Z7772; Z7806; Z8455-Z8685

Bible Commentary Evaluation

  • Carson, D. A. New Testament Commentary Survey. 6th ed. Grand Rapids, Baker: 2007. Ref. BS2341.2.C33 2007 | Amazon | Worldcat
  • Glynn, John. Commentary and Reference Survey. 10th ed. Grand Rapids, Kregel: 2007. Ref. BS511.3 .G59 2007 | Amazon | Worldcat
  • Longman, Tremper, III. Old Testament Commentary Survey. 4th ed. Grand Rapids, Baker: 2007. Ref. Z7772.A1 L64 2007 | Amazon | Worldcat
  • Stuart, Douglas K. Guide to Selecting and Using Bible Commentaries. Dallas: Word, 1990. Out of date but still valuable. Ref. Z7770.S88 1990 | Amazon | Worldcat
  • *The Denver Journal. Excellent reviews and commentary lists. Before you buy, check these lists!

Style Manuals

  • *Alexander, Patrick, et al. SBL Handbook of Style for Ancient Near Eastern, Biblical, and Early Christian Studies. 1st ed. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1999. Ref. PN147.S26 1999 | Amazon | Worldcat
  • Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 6th ed. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2003. Parenthetic documentation. Ref. LB2369.G53 2003 | Amazon | Worldcat
  • LeMon, Joel M. (ed.) Student Supplement for The SBL Handbook of Style. Accomplishes what the title implies, providing guidelines for writing term papers and theses, and clearing up some ambiguities in the SBL Handbook. Available at
  • Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. 5th ed. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, 2001. Ref. BF76.7.P83 2001 | Amazon | Worldcat
  • *Turabian, Kate L. Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, Chicago Style for Students and Researchers. 7th ed. Rev. by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb and Joseph M. Williams. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2007. Basic style guide, based on the Chicago manual of style. A must have. Ref. LB2369.T8 2007 | Amazon | Worldcat

Guides to Theological Writing / Writing Well

  • *Booth, Wayne C., Joseph M. Williams, and Gregory G. Colomb. The Craft of Research. 3rd ed. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2008. Library has 2nd ed. Circ. Q180.55.M4 B66 2003 | Amazon | Worldcat
  • Core, Deborah. The Seminary Student Writes. St. Louis: Chalice, 2000. Circ. BR117.C67 2000 | Amazon | Worldcat
  • Vyhmeister, Nancy J. Quality Research Papers for Students of Religion and Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007. Ref. BL41 .V94 2007 | Amazon | Worldcat
  • Yaghjian, Lucretia B. Writing Theology Well: A Rhetoric for Theological and Biblical Writers. New York & London: Continuum, 2006. Circ BR44.Y34 2006 | Amazon | Worldcat

*This list was originally put together by the former Director of the Goddard Library, Dr. Freeman Barton. I’ve been updating it over the last few years.

Potter “according to the Scriptures”?

The Deathly Hallows book coverThis weekend, my wife and I finished reading the latest and last installment of J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series, The Deathly Hallows. I must admit I have been a late-comer to the Potter craze, having read the series only in the last year or so. I suffered from the weariness that many have had regarding Potter, worrying about its lack of reference to God (or even a god), as well as its glib portrayal of “magic.” Being raised in a Pentecostal setting — where folks could suffer from the “demon of vitamin B-12 deficiency” — I thought more than twice before delving into the witchery & wizardry of Rowling’s world. Still, my wife had read the series repeatedly, and as far as I could tell, she had NOT started to projectile vomit green pea soup, and her head never did start revolving. So, I thought it might be safe to read the books myself. (Don’t mind the ethical problem of using my wife for a spiritual guinea pig!)

Anyway, back to The Deathly Hallows. In this latest installment Rowling makes her first overt allusions to Scripture. Two verses are quoted:

“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matt 6:21/Luke 12:34; Hallows, 325)


“The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (1 Cor 15:26; Hallows, 328)

Rowling does not explicitly cite these passages as Scripture, and the characters in the story do not recognize the texts as Christian Scripture. Indeed, regarding the passage from the Gospels, Harry “did not understand what these words meant” (326). Also, Harry mistook Paul’s words about death as “a Death Eater idea” (328). Hermione corrected him, explaining that “It means . . . you know . . . living beyond death. Living after death” (328). These verses “pop up” at a key part of the book, and they fit with overarching themes of the series, and indeed this latest volume. (I won’t go into detail, as I’d rather not contribute to the mass of spoilers on the web.) I will say this. These clear references to Scripture actually pale in comparison to the symbolism (dare I say typology?) of this book.

I will be interested to see whether or not Christian opinions of Rowling’s work will change in the upcoming months. Will she be viewed as the postmodern Lewis or Tolkien? Will she be seen as an “angel of light” seeking to draw folks in to a syncretist faith? It will also be interesting to see how Rowling responds to Christian critics and fans in the near future, given the note upon which the series ends. In the year 2000, when asked about her own faith — whether she was a Christian — Rowling responded:

Yes, I am, . . . Which seems to offend the religious right far worse than if I said I thought there was no God. Every time I’ve been asked if I believe in God, I’ve said yes, because I do, but no one ever really has gone any more deeply into it than that, and I have to say that does suit me, because if I talk too freely about that I think the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what’s coming in the books.*

Similarly she responds about her belief in God/magic:

JK: I do believe in God. That seems to offend the South Carolinians more than almost anything else. I think they would find it…well that is my limited experience, that they have more of a problem with me believing in God than they would have if I was an unrepentant atheist.

E: You do believe in God.

JK: Yeah. Yeah.

E: In magic and…

JK: Magic in the sense in which it happens in my books, no, I don’t believe. I don’t believe in that. No. No. This is so frustrating. Again, there is so much I would like to say, and come back when I’ve written book seven. But then maybe you won’t need to even say it ’cause you’ll have found it out anyway. You’ll have read it.**

Now that the last book is published, and the final plot revealed, perhaps Rowling will be more forthcoming about her faith, and whether she intended to tap theological themes in a manner similar to Tolkien and Lewis.

I’m tired. I’m going to take my vitamin B-12 supplement and go to bed.

* Quoted from Max Wyman, “‘You can lead a fool to a book but you can’t make them think’: Author has frank words for the religious right,” The Vancouver Sun (British Columbia), October 26, 2000 [reproduced at].
** Quoted from Evan Solomon, “J.K. Rowling Interview,” CBCNewsWorld: Hot Type, July 13, 2000 [reproduced at].