Biblical Studies Carnival 131 – January 2017

Cassandra Farrin | February 1, 2017

I would be remiss if I failed to kick off this Biblical Studies Carnival without pointing out the ‘yuuge’ elephant in the room, the US Presidential inauguration and change of administration.

(I bet you thought I was going to say Morgan Freeman in The Story of God or or Jude Law in The Young Pope, both of which kicked off in January. Don’t I wish!)

Many of us will, at our peril, be reviewing the role of religion in the current political climate with our students, colleagues, and religious/spiritual communities in the days ahead, so this Carnival includes a lengthy media & politics section. The usual topics appear below it. Apologies to the people who would rather hide in a desert cave!

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Religion, Media & the US Presidential Election

Inauguration: You can find a clean transcript of the Inauguration speech here, or annotated versions from a robot (really), NPR, The Atlantic, the NYT, Vox, Time, Politico, and WaPo, plus Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s decent WaPo survey specifically of the religion themes. I couldn’t find written transcripts of the inaugural prayers, but here is a YouTube compilation.

Executive Actions: Executive Orders can be found direct from the source here, and the BBC is maintaining a First 100 Days page with summaries. EOs are distinct from Presidential Memoranda, which can be found here. As of the writing of this blog post, the actions likely to make biblical studies folks sit up and pay attention are…

  • Reinstatement of the “Mexico City” policy banning international abortion counseling
  • Travel ban on all refugees for 120 days, an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees, ban on anyone arriving from seven Muslim majority countries, and a cap of 50,000 refugees
  • Nomination and (ongoing) confirmation hearings of Betsy DeVos as US education secretary

The so-called Mexico City policy is a pretty typical yo-yo measure depending on whether a Republican or Democrat is in the presidency, but the Society of Biblical Literature has issued a statement about the travel ban, and so has the American Academy of Religion. James McGrath (Religion Prof) has been regularly sharing updates about the formal responses by academic institutions and societies to this and other executive actions. I could say so much about the politics here. You and I could sit down over a cup of tea and have long conversations about this… and I’m moving on.

Rumor about Defunding NEH and NEA: Alexander Bolton at The Hill broke a story that the Trump administration plans to eliminate the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. At this point it remains a rumor, but petitions are circulating already to protect these programs.

How have bloggers been reacting to all of this? Through Scott McKnight (Jesus Creed), I came across a plea for civility from Scott Shane on “Learning How to Live with Each Other,” while Jill Hammer contributed a guest post to the Feminism and Religion blog on “Meeting Phrike: Feminist Theology and the Experience of Horror.” Paul Silas Peterson (Immanent Frame) shared his concern that the “diverse religious heritage of the Western world has been swallowed up by the fish of populism,” and Randy (Bible Study with Randy) turned to King Saul. I’m all for Jim West's short letter.

With regard to media and religion, Andrew Henry (Religion for Breakfast) shared highlights from Harvard Divinity School’s “Symposium on Religious Literacy and Journalism” in a 4-minute video, “Do Journalists Understand Religion?” Terry Mattingly’s Get Religion blog, which assesses the quality of religion reporting, reviewed coverage of, among other things, the news that the 20-year-old Religion & Ethics Newsweekly is concluding in February 2017 and the media’s struggles to handle Betsy DeVos’ faith.

Hebrew Bible/OT Literature/Archaeology

Either I don't know where to look for non-bogus archaeology news, or this subject has had a quiet month aside from fairly familiar updates about sites like Huqoq and about the mind-numbing accounts of looting and destruction of artifacts by various groups, mostly the IS, accompanied by more heartening reports like this one about preserving Assyrian epic poetry. Apparently this was a good month to post YouTube videos about how the Bible was made, however. This 50-minute video explanation of Wellhausen’s Documentary Hypothesis from Yale University popped up, but the channel seems bogus, so the YouTube gods may dispel it. Evangelical Tim Mackie posted a personable 2-hour tour of The Making of the Bible. I’ll leave the assessment of both explanations to you!

Phil Long (Reading Acts) covered a range of topics in Second Temple literature, include a couple posts on Tobit and the use of rabbinic literature, along with a thorough review of Richard A. Taylor’s Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature, which covers apocalyptic literature through the Second Temple period. Over at Theological Miscellany, Matt Lynch mourns the decline of the cheetah with a meditation on Genesis 1 & 2 and Ps 148 in terms of “creation care” (his words).

Software developer-turned-biblioblogger Bob MacDonald (Dust) has a lovely little post explaining how music works in the Old Testament. He could have had a conversation this month with James McGrath about metrical Psalms on the guitar and the Oxyrhynchus Hymn.

Biting my tongue about certain people’s courtship with Holocaust denial closer to home, I’ll just leave this here: Jim has flagged various apparent instances of Jewish Temple-denial in a not-so-neutral part of the world. Also via Jim: 18 Remarkable Facts in Jewish History and why we should care about translating the Jewish mystical text, the Zohar, into English.

Early Christianity/New Testament

Wayne Coppins (German for Neutestamentler) translated highlights on canon formation from Wolfgang Grünstäudl’s recent article “Was Lange währt…: Die Katholischen Briefe und die Formung des neutestamentlichen Kanons.” Although only a brief note, I appreciated Peter Gurry’s (Evangelical Textual Criticism) comments on textual criticism as rhetoric. Perhaps both of these would be good accompaniment to those YouTube videos I mentioned...

Jennifer Guo reviewed two books, one more generally on the New Perspective on Paul (NPP), which she observes may not find much traction in the wider guild because it treats all 13 letters as authentically Pauline, and one on an exegetical guide to Ephesians from an evangelical perspective. Marg Mowczko (New Life) wrote a two-part response to the question, “Were there women elders in New Testament churches?” (Part 1, Part 2). She offers a nuanced evangelical perspective, e.g. she assumes Timothy was written by Paul but at the same time cautions readers against oversimplifying terms like “elder” in early Christian texts. From the liberal/progressive end of the spectrum, Charles Hedrick (Wry Thoughts about Religion) mused about why Jesus doesn’t use parables in John, and I reported on the Christianity Seminar's discussion with Daniel Boyarin on the Christian invention of Judaism. Alan Siciu did what we all would do in his shoes and cheered for his new book on what he calls "a Coptic Apostolic memoir."

Brian Small (Polumeros Kai Polutropos) kept busy this month with a ton of book reviews related to Hebrews. Since I’ve been interested in hearing reactions to the new Wisdom Commentary series, I was especially glad to read this one. Brian thoroughly summarizes the content and is up front about his own social position before offering what I found to be a reasonable critique.

God Matters (Theology/Philosophy)

On the Feminism and Religion blog, Cynthia Garrett-Bond gave a difficult update on feminist theologian and scholar Rosemary Radford Ruether, who suffered a stroke last August, while Progressive Christianity.org shared a more positive update on the controversial Bishop John Shelby Spong, who also suffered a stroke around the same time.

Over at Homebrewed Christianity Tripp Fuller hosted, among other things, a podcast response to the Story of God episode that asked “Does God exist and can we know it?” Elsewhere in the Homebrewed Christianity universe, Eric Hall shared a Catholic take on a talk by John Cobb about facts and values, while Daniel Kirk and Doug Pagitt continued their march through the lectionary. Doug also ventured onto Vimeo with a 30-minute video on public theology and the Bible. Speaking of public theology, I griped a little.

Meanwhile Valentina Napolitano (Immanent Frame) explored the “love-objects of civilization” in global Catholicism, and Charles Hedrick responded diplomatically to the question, “What happened to the Gods of Ancient Greece?” Philip Jenkins (The Anxious Bench) treaded the line between philosophy and pedagogy with “The Graduate Course, and Other Mythical Beasts” while Sean Hannan over at the Chicago Divinity School blog tried to distinguish learning by doing and learning by thinking in a digital religious studies classroom. I reported on the Seminar on God and the Human Future's session on master-slave metaphors for God. Scot McKnight (Musings on Science and Theology) asked some difficult questions about freedom of religion as an inalienable right on his post “Human Rights, Another Form of Western Imperialism?”

Future Carnivals (Hosts Needed!)

Phil Long is getting a bit desperate for Carnival hosts, so if you can help us all out, please contact him via email (plong42@gmail.com) or Twitter (@plong42). Here’s the upcoming schedule & open slots:

February 2017 (posted March 1) –  Jacob Prahlow, Pursuing Veritas, @prahlowjacob

March 2017 (posted April 1) –

April 2017 (posted May 1) –

May 2017 (posted June  1) –

June 2017 (posted July 1) – Cassandra Farrin, Ethics and Early Christianity

July 2017 (posted August 1) – Reuben Rus from Ayuda Ministerial/Resources for Ministry

August 2017 (posted September 1) – Jason Gardner, eis doxan

Curious about past Carnivals? To browse the archive of Biblical Studies Carnivals, click here. Thanks for your patience with my first attempt at hosting one!

Cassandra FarrinCassandra Farrin joined Westar in 2010. A US-UK Fulbright Scholar, she has an M.A. in Religious Studies from Lancaster University (England) and a B.A. in Religious Studies from Willamette University. She is passionate about books and projects that in some way address the intersection of ethics and early Christian history.

John Singer Sargent, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose
4 replies
    • Cassandra says:

      Thanks, Gary! That explains why that YouTube channel was so odd, but it had no information in the description to give me an idea of how it ended up there. This is a much better link.

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