Sunday, October 28, 2007

Correcting Tilling and West (fraternally, of course)

I just have a few corrections here to the previous suggestions made by Chris Tilling and Jim West. Here are the real alter-egos of bibliobloggers you know and love. The biblioblogger names are actually false identities used to mask their real names, thus hiding their true agendas...

Chris Tilling--Bishop J. S. Spong (although, if he was another biblioblogger, he would likely be a "Bird")

Jim West--Anna Reinhard

Danny Garland--Michael Collins

Michael Bird--"The TScholar3000"--a robot capable of producing six academic publications in one year

Josh McManaway--John Henry Newman

Mark Goodacre--John A. T. Robinson

I also want to add one:

Joel Willitts--Jimmy Hoffa

Who was in the Burning Bush?

Since I've spent the week watching San Diego go up in flames--trees, brush and buildings all in flames--I thought I'd post on the most significant "brush" fire in Scripture.

In particular, I want to focus on one specific issue: Who spoke to Moses in the burning bush?

Your initial answer might be "God"--but let's look at this a little more carefully.
Exod 3:2-6: [2] And the angel [Heb. mal’ak ="messenger"] of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and lo, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. [3] And Moses said, "I will turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt." [4] When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here am I." [5] Then he said, "Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." [6] And he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
So who spoke to Moses, the angel or the Lord, Yahweh? Recall that YHWH literally means, "I AM". Is this the messenger of God or the great "I AM" himself?

Well, first, it is important to note that the word translated angel is mal’ak, which simply means "messenger". It often does denote angelic creatures--angels--since they are often the "messengers" of God in the Old Testament. But the word need not necessarily refer to that genus of species. In fact, it is odd that the angel is somehow both the messenger and the Lord Himself... unless, of course, you're a Christian.

In the New Testament, Jesus is described as the "one sent" by God--the Messenger or Apostle of God. In John 6:29 Jesus states: “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” Here Jesus clearly identifies Himself as the one "sent" by God.

Something similar is found in Hebrews 3:1: "Therefore, holy brethren, who share in a heavenly call, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession."

In fact, in John 8 Jesus makes a stunning claim. We'll join the story already in progress...
John 8:56-59: [56] Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he
saw it and was glad." [57] The Jews then said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" [58] Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am." [59] So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.
The crowd picks up stones to stone Jesus because they recognize what he has just done--he has claimed to be "I AM"--the Lord himself.

In other words, Jesus turns to the crowd on this day and says, "Remember that day Moses spoke to the angel/God in the burning bush? ... That was me--nice to meet you."

Well--that's a paraphrase.

Anyway, this is how the earliest Christians understood this text. The following is from Justin Martyr:

"Now the Word of God is His Son, as we have before said. And He is called Angel and Apostle; for He declares whatever we ought to know, and is sent forth to declare whatever is revealed; as our Lord Himself says, "He that heareth Me, heareth Him that sent Me." From the writings of Moses also this will be manifest; for thus it is written in them, "And the Angel of God spoke to Moses, in a flame of fire out of the bush, and said, I am that I am, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God of thy fathers… But so much is written for the sake of proving that Jesus the Christ is the Son of God and His Apostle, being of old the Word, and appearing sometimes in the form of fire, and sometimes in the likeness of angels; but now, by the will of God, having become man for the human race, He endured all the sufferings which the devils instigated the senseless Jews to inflict upon Him; who, though they have it expressly affirmed in the writings of Moses, "And the angel of God spoke to Moses in a flame of fire in a bush, and said, I am that I am, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob," yet maintain that He who said this was the Father and Creator of the universe” (First Apology, LXIII).

Friday, October 26, 2007

My Wife is Amazing...

This past Wednesday was my 30th birthday. (I can't believe I'm the same age Jesus was when he began his ministry!). So Kim, my beautiful wife, gave me the most incredible birthday present.

This is what she gave me...
Not just any version of the Talmud--she gave me the Soncino Talmud, complete with the Hebrew and English on either page!!!
She apparently sought Brant's counsel on this one. How cool is that?--she researched versions of the Talmud to make sure she got the top-of-the-line version!
What a wife!
This means the world to me!
WOW!!! I'm bouncing off the walls tonight. Can you tell?

Surviving the Great San Diego Fire

I want to thank Brant for his kind post and I want to thank all of you who were praying for us. To say that the last week has been tense would be an understatement. The fires ravaging San Diego has been like nothing I've ever lived through.

I've been through major earthquakes, within a few miles of three simultaneous tornadoes, lived through the LA riots and experienced turbulence of the worst sort while flying over the Swiss Alps (the peaks were higher than the plane!)...

I've seen fire and I've seen rain... but I ain't never seen anything like this!

On Sunday night we got a call from Kathy, Kim's sister, and her husband that a fire had broken out near their home in Ramona, a city just outside San Diego County. They had to evacuate their home as the fire came over a nearby hill top and headed straight for their house. The fire was rough for them. David--Kathy's husband--came to stay with us until they allowed people to return there. Meanwhile, Kathy and their two young children went to her parents' house. David, Kim and I spent the week watching the fires carefully, hoping they wouldn't continue our way, while we carefully monitored the situation in Ramona. It was great spending time with David--if only it could have been under different circumstances!

Indeed, the fires continued to advance towards us. We had to evacuate the school on Monday afternoon. At one point one of the four San Diego fires actually advanced 8 miles in only 15 minutes!

In Ramona they even ran out of water!

It was scary, to say the least.

We live southwest of Ramona. Throughout the week fire that began there spread in just about every direction--except southwest. In fact, the fires have burned up much of San Diego county and over 900,000 people were forced to evacuate in San Diego.

I just unpacked my luggage tonight. We're now out of the woods--thanks be to God.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fires Rage in San Diego (Where Michael lives)

Hey Everyone,

Sorry we've been away, but I've been extremely busy and Michael (if you didn't know) lives in San Diego now, where the fires are raging. So please pray for his safety (I've talked to him and he seems to be all right) and for the safety of John Paul the Great University where he works--as well as for all the other people of Southern California who are suffering right now.

On a matter of less importance, I've been preparing for the St. Paul Center's Letter and Spirit conference, which will be this weekend. I'll have updates next week as to how it went.

I'll also be taping a show with Dr. Scott Hahn for EWTN on Pope Benedict's new book on Jesus. So perhaps (hopefully) this will force me to finally do some (long overdue) posts on the book.

Thanks for your prayers for Michael and his friends and family in advance.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Review: Bird, Jesus and the Origin of the Gentile Mission (Part 1)

I am finishing up an amazing book right now written by a fellow blogger--Michael Bird. With Joel Willitts, Dr. Bird writes for Euangelion--a blog regularly visited (and mentioned) by the contributors of this site. I've always enjoyed Euangelion and the published articles written by Bird. So ever since I heard about his new book, Jesus and the Origins of the Gentile Mission (Library of Historical Jesus Studies; New York: T&T Clark, 2007), I've been eager to read it. T&T Clark's ridiculous' price tag, however, kept me away... until now.

All I can say is, wow! The cost of admission was high but it has been well worth it!

I've decided to do a series of posts on the book and highlight a few things I found especially interesting, adding some of my own comments along the way.

Consider this the first post in that series.

First, let me address why this book is important.

Ever since the rise of what has been called "Third Quest" Jesus scholarship, research has emphasized the real need to situate Jesus within his historical context--his Jewish context. Jesus was a Jew. That might sound silly to have to point out but the fact is most scholarship of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries often lost sight of that. At certain times and in certain places--especially in German around the time of World War II--scholars even tried to disconnect Jesus from Judaism. Even today one can look at movies such as Jesus of Nazareth--a great film in many respects--and see traces of this tendency to remake Jesus into a European; Jesus has blue eyes and sounds strangely English while everyone else around him looks and acts like Jewish!

Oh, to be divinely European!

However, since the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls there has been an especially strong emphasis on getting back to understanding Jesus within the context of ancient Judaism. That has been a very good thing and has produced much fruitful work. E. P. Sanders and Jacob Neusner, both Jewish scholars are just two examples of writers whose work has shed greater light upon the Gospels. Neusner has even been praised by Pope Benedict XVI.

This trend however has had one very negative consequence though--it has often times attempted to separate Jesus from the Christian faith which emerged from him! I could go on and on about the problem of the use of the criterion of "dissimilarity"--the idea that elements in the Gospels "dissimilar to Judaism and/or Christianity" are more likely to be historical than those things which correspond to both or either of the two. (See the often overlooked but incredibly insightful discussion in the first half of Gerd Theissen and Dagmar Winter, The Quest for the Plausible Jesus: The Question of Criteria [Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002]). Here let me highlight just one issue that has emerged out of the discussion: Jesus' concern for Gentiles.

Would a first century Jew such as Jesus really have envisioned the inclusion of Gentiles in the way the Church later accepted? It seems clear that Jesus was first and foremost concerned with the Jews. A verse that Albert Schweitzer highlighted is found in Matthew 10:5-6: "These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, 'Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'" Many have concluded that this verse represents the real historical attitude of Jesus. Other stories relating Jesus' concern for Samaritans and Gentiles were only later added by the Gospel writers to defend the Church's Gentile mission. The truth, they say, was that Jesus would not have likely been concerned about the salvation of non-Jews.

Now, that isn't to say that all scholars agree with this assessment. Some scholars point out that Jesus' Galilean connection essentially de-Judaizes Jesus. These scholars argue that Galilee was actually thoroughly Gentile in culture and make-up. In fact, according to some of these people, Jesus was more like a Greek philosopher (e.g., a cynic) than a Jewish prophet.

In Jesus and the Origins of the Gentile Mission, Michael Bird steers a middle course and leads the reader through many of the texts scholars of the "Third Quest" have been directing attention to for years. Some of these scholars have taken a look up close--others have stood from afar and come to conclusions based on what they saw through binoculars. Bird, however, like a thoughtful tour guide, points out shades and stripes often overlooked by less careful observers--and once one notices these subtle characteristic features one immediately recognizes their genus: first century Jewish restoration theology.

Buckle up. You're in for a heck of a ride...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Hahn & Pitre Speaking in San Diego

Just in case you haven't heard...

Dr. Scott Hahn and Dr. Brant Pitre will be speaking in San Diego.


When: Friday, November 16th @ 7pm

Where: Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Mira Mesa (link) (location / directions on Google Maps)

Tickets are $10.

I'll be introducing them.

Here's the Bulletin Announcement--if you're in San Diego, please help get it in yours:

Dr. Scott Hahn and Dr. Brant Pitre are coming to San Diego! Would you like to learn more about your faith and grow in your knowledge of Scripture and the Mass? Then don’t miss this opportunity to come and learn from two dynamic biblical scholars! This event is held at Good Shepherd Parish in Mira Mesa on Friday, November 16th at 7pm and is only $10! Pick up a registration form from the parish office or e-mail Kimberly Barber, Good Shepherd’s Adult Faith Formation Director at for a form and more details. Bring your friends and a desire to grow in your faith—you won’t be disappointed! See you there!

Just in case you need more information (say, to send to a friend who isn't familiar with either one of the speakers...)

Dr. Hahn received his Ph.D. in Theology from Marquette University. He has written numerous articles in academic journals such as Catholic Biblical Quarterly and the Journal of Biblical Literature. He is author or editor of more than 20 books, including Letter and Spirit: From Written Text to Living Word in the Liturgy (Doubleday, 2005). Hahn has received ringing endorsements from numerous leading figures in the Church such as Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. and Archbishop Justin Rigali of St. Louis. He holds the Chair of Biblical Theology and Liturgical Proclamation at Saint Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pennsylvania and is Professor of Scripture and Theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. In 2003, Dr. Hahn became the first lay person to hold the prestigious Pio Cardinal Laghi Chair for Visiting Professors in Scripture and Theology at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. He has also lectured and served as adjunct faculty at a variety of diocesan and Vatican-sponsored seminaries and institutions of higher learning, including schools in Rome such as the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross and the Pontifical University, Regina Apostolorum.

Dr. Brant Pitre received his Ph.D. in New Testament Studies and Ancient Judaism from Notre Dame, where he studied under leading scholars such as David Aune and John P. Meier. He also graduated with highest honors from Vanderbilt Divinity School and studied Archeology at Tel Aviv University in Israel. His dissertation, Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 2005), has received glowing reviews from major academic journals such as the Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus and is highly regarded in the scholarly community. He has also published articles in journals such as the Journal for the Study of the New Testament. Dr. Pitre is the Donum Dei Professor of Scripture and Theology at Our Lady of Holy Cross in New Orleans, Louisiana. Pitre also serves as adjunct faculty at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. Like Dr. Scott Hahn, Dr. Brant Pitre has the unique gift of presenting the faith in a way that is exciting and understandable to ordinary lay Catholics and is a highly sought after speaker.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Radio Star Video Couldn't Kill...

I was just looking at Brant's site and I found something I just had to share... you can see previews of his DVDs on!

Check 'em out:

Jesus and the End Times (Part 1)

Jesus and the End Times (Part 2)

The Origin of the Bible (Part 1)

The Origin of the Bible (Part 2)

These sets are really great... I've got 'em all and I highly recommend them.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Jesus and the Restoration of the Davidic Kingdom (3.2.5. Restoring the Hut of David)

At the Council of Jerusalem, related by Luke in Acts 15, James links the inclusion of the Gentiles with Amos’ prophecy concerning the restoration of the fallen tent of David (cf. Acts 15:12-19). “The raising up of the hut of David is thus a brief but direct reference to the total program of God announced to David in 2 Sam 7.”[1] Similarly, Ravens writes, “Not only does Luke look for the restoration of Israel but he as provided many clues about what form that Israel will take: it will be a reunited Israel under Jesus Messiah, the new Davidic king.”[2]
[1] Strauss, The Davidic Messiah in Luke-Acts, 190.
[2] Ravens, Luke and Restoration of Israel, 105.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Who was Melchizedek?

Targ. Neophyti Gen 14:18: “And Melchizedek, the king of Jerusalem, who was the great Shem…”

St. Jerome, Hebrew Questions on Genesis, 14:18-19: "And Melchisedech king of Salem... Because our little book is, in a word, a collection of Hebrew questions or traditions, let us therefore introduce what the Hebrews think about this. They declare that this man is Sem, the son of Noah, and by calculating the years of his life, they show that he lived up to the time of Isaac; and they say that all the first-born sons of Noah were priests before Aaron performed the priestly office. Next, by 'king of Salem' is meant king of Jerusalem, which was formerly called Salem."

St. Ephraem, Commentary on Genesis 11:2: “This Melchisedek is Shem, who became a king due to his greatness; he was the head of fourteen nations. In addition, he was a priest. He received this from Noah, his father, through the rights of succession. Shem lived not only to the time of Abraham, as Scripture says, but even to [the time of] Jacob and Esau, the grandsons of Abraham. It was to him that Rebekah went to ask and was told, 'Two nations are in your womb and the older shall be a servant to the younger' (Gen 25,22-23). Rebekah would not have bypassed her husband, who had been delivered at the high place, or her father-in-law, to whom revelations of the divinity came continually, and gone straight to ask Melchizedek unless she had learned of his greatness from Abraham or Abraham’s son.

Because the length of Melchizedek’s life extended to the time of Jacob and Esau, it has been stated, with much probability, that he was Shem. His father Noah was dwelling in the east and Melchizedek was dwelling between two tribes, that is, between the sons of Ham and his own sons. Melchizedek was like a partition between the two, for he was afraid that the sons of Ham would turn his own sons to idolatry.”

For a further discussion see, James Kugel, The Bible As It Was (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1997), 160-161; John W. Bowker, The Targums and Rabbinic Literature. An Introduction to Jewish Interpretations of Scripture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), 196-199; Scott Hahn, Kinship By Covenant: A Biblical Theological Study of Covenant Types and Texts in the Old and New Testaments (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms, 1995), 171-81.

Monday, October 01, 2007

As requested...

This blog contains numerous lengthy posts. Because of that it is often hard to find a particular post.

The following is from a comment box below.

This is interesting and it sparks a question which, I'm sure, has an answer but I haven't found the book with it. If Jesus is anointed at the beginning of His public ministry and enthroned at the resurrection-ascension, then the various trials of Christ during His ministry could be likened to the trials of David as Saul, repeatedly, attacked him. What I have not seen drawn out are the parallels to the trials of Christ and the trials of David. Maybe you have already drawn those conclusions and I missed them. Otherwise, where would you start?It seems to me the trials of David would also be a source for a suffering Messiah.Thanks for this blog and many blessings on you and your families.

Fr. Chris Podhajky

This is a GREAT question, and I'm so glad Fr. Podhajky asked it.

For anybody interested, here's my response:


Thanks for your comment. We've talked about the imagery of the "Davidic
Suffering Servant" and Jesus' Passion in the following posts:

1. Jesus and the Restoration: The Davidic Suffering Servant

2. The "Footsteps of the Messiah" and the Messianic

3. "The Footsteps of the Messiah": Psalm 89, Isaiah 53 and 1 Peter 2

I hope this is helpful...