What Books HAVE TO Be on the Shelf of a True Old Testament Scholar?

My Books

As a junior scholar I am still amassing my personal library (contra my wife, who already thinks I have far too many books; odd, I feel the same way about her clothes and shoes!). So I pose this question to my readers, and invite you all to comment: what books HAVE TO BE on the shelf of a true HB/OT scholar? In other words, what books should every OT scholar own, and why?

Just to get things rolling (but not usurp the conversation), here are a few off the top of my head . . .

*Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology (2 vols.) – dated, but I continue to learn from (and agree with) von Rad on many occasions!

*Walter Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy – the first truly postmodern OT theology, and one that sets out truly to read the text, warts and all, and interpret it theologically.

*Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon – DUH!

*Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar – certainly not a teaching grammar, but a great reference grammar that has stood up to time.

*Context of Scripture (3 vols.) – even for us literary/rhetorical folk, gotta have the ANE stuff covered.

*Norman Gottwald, The Hebrew Bible: A Socio-Literary Introduction – another formative book given its methodology.

*Frank Moore Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic – still a formative book several decades later; classic Cross.

*Brevard Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture – I cannot underestimate the importance of Childs in bringing about a paradigm shift in biblical studies, largely through this volume. While I am not as amenable as I once was to the canonical method as he describes it, this is truly a must have book if you want to call yourself an OT scholar.

*Emmanuel Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible – the definitive work on TC; I’ve read it and still reference it. Great resource.

*Hermann Gunkel, Psalms: Introduction to the Religious Lyric of Israel – Gunkel revolutionized study of the Psalter, and while form criticism is no longer at the fore within psalm study at present, this is a seminal volume that one must have.

*Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative – with literary/narrative critical approaches very much ‘in vogue’ right now, this is a wonderful volume, with great examples, that shows the communicative power of both what and how the Hebrew text means.

*Terence Fretheim, The Suffering of God: An Old Testament Perspective – perhaps a less familiar choice to many, this book should be read by all OT scholars–whether you agree or not with Fretheim on the presentation of God–so that you are aware of the issues involved. This book has been formative and transformative for me, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

*Phyllis Trible, God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality AND Texts of Terror – two works by a scholar I deeply respect that have also transformed biblical studies in a way that was much needed; Trible’s perspective is one any OT scholar must be familiar with.

That’s a fair start; I’m curious what others will suggest, and why.

Books I will be Reading in 2011

I’ve seen a few of these posts floating around, and I find such lists interesting. It will also be helpful for me to be intentional about thinking over what I want to get through this year. Of course, this list is only an approximation; no doubt more books will come to mind, or to my attention, or will be published this year that I simply must read. But, as it stands right now, here’s what I have on my docket, in no particular order:

Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011).
Picked this one up at SBL and am excited to take a peek at it. Those who know the topic of my forthcoming volume with Eisenbrauns will know well this is an issue that is (tangentially) relevant to my own work, and an area I hope to take up more intentionally soon. I did take a gander at the end of the book to see how Copan ‘solves’ the problem of problematic portrayals of God in the OT, and I must admit a priori I am entirely dissatisfied to see that his answer is an appeal to Jesus. Read my RBL review of Eric Seibert’s Disturbing Divine Behavior when it comes out in a month or two and you’ll know some of why I find this problematic.

Walter Brueggemann, Out of Babylon (Nashville: Abingdon, 2010).
Brueggemann has told me this will most likely be the last full-length book manuscript he will attempt, and for that reason alone I am looking forward to reading it. It is vintage Brueggemann, wrestling with issues of the prophetic with a contemporary social agenda. The comparison between contemporary America and ancient Babylon is intriguing, and I will be curious to see how this book encapsulates his thought.

Mark J. Boda, A Severe Mercy: Sin and Its Remedy in the Old Testament (Siphrut 1: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2009).
This volume, the first in a new series by Eisenbrauns, is a massive tome, coming in at over 500 pages of actual text. I am most interested in reading this work because of its inclusion in the Siphrut series, which focuses upon the synthesis/symbiotic nature of literature/literary approaches to the text and theology . . . such is my own methodological persuasion. Plus, to be entirely transparent, Eisenbrauns is publishing my dissertation in this exact same series (hopefully in 2011!), so I simply must read it!

Joel N. Lohr, Chosen and Unchosen: Conceptions of Election in the Pentateuch and Jewish-Christian Interpretation (Siphrut 2: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2009).
Again, another volume in Eisenbraun’s Siphrut series, this volume is of particular interest to me given its emphasis on the topic of election and non-election, which is a seminal and often grossly misunderstood topic–in my estimation–within the Bible. It is also relevant to my own work and understanding of Jacob and Esau in Genesis, and so I am anxious to look at how Lohr approaches this topic more broadly in the Pentateuch. I’ve read some of it, but I am anxious to dive in and tackle the rest.

Ronald Hendel (ed.), Reading Genesis: Ten Methods (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).
Another book I picked up at SBL; I have looked at one of the essays dealing with the Jacob cycle more closely for inclusion in my own forthcoming book (gotta keep the bibliography up to date!), but I am always interested in the latest work being done on Genesis. As the subtitle suggests, a number of methods are employed in elucidating the biblical text, and I look forward to seeing specifically what methods–and how–the contributors employ. I am hopeful they are not too beholden to historical-critical methodologies as I have argued in my own work that there is much fruitful work to be done outside the bounds of such an interpretive posture.

John Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2009).
I’m obviously a bit behind the curve as this book has been reviewed nearly ad infinitum on the blogs. There is a professional project that I can’t mention explicitly yet that is especially pressing me to read this volume. I don’t get involved in the origins debate, but I have gathered that Walton is saying enough unique things about the text itself that this is worth reading so as to get a sense of where work on Gen 1 has gone.

Joel S. Burnett, Where Is God? Divine Absence in the Hebrew Bible (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2010).
Joel is a former teacher of mine at Baylor, and I am excited to read this most recent work of his. Again, the topic is (tangentially) related to my own work; if it deals with the characterization or understanding of God in the OT I am all over it. I am also especially interested how Joel will negotiate and handle other works with which I am familiar on the topic–especially Crenshaw–as I still remember getting Crenshaw’s Defending God from the Baylor library for him as a part of this project.

Jerome F. D. Creach, The Destiny of the Righteous in the Psalms (St. Louis: Chalic, 2008).
I owe this book a review, which is one reason to read it, but I am also quite interested in metanarrative/holistic approaches to the Psalter. I find the work of Gerald Wilson to be absolutely transformative in Psalms scholarship, and I am always intrigued by how all those who come after him continue to wrestle with the issue and refine–and at times challenge–his seminal contributions. Creach’s ‘center’ or heart of the Psalter is the life and destiny of the righteous. I am eager to crack this one open to stay current on my own work in Psalms. I still have a Psalms article on the conclusion to Book IV I need to expand and send off!

Terence E. Fretheim, God and World in the Old Testament: A Relational Theology of Creation (Nashville: Abingdon, 2005).
Aside from Genesis, Old Testament theology ranks a close second in terms of my true loves in the guild. Fretheim’s book The Suffering of God literally transformed my entire perspective on the biblical text and its conception of God (so much so that I used it in one of my classes I am currently teaching); I have a tremendously deep respect for Fretheim’s serious theological engagement with the text and the relationship of integrity between God and creation/humanity. This, his OT theology, has been on my ‘must read’ list for a long time. Now is the time!

Brevard S. Childs, Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments: Theological Reflection on the Christian Bible (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992).
I am ashamed to admit I have not yet read this classic. Over time I have become less of an advocate of Childs’ canonical approach (for a variety of reasons I won’t elucidate here), but I cannot discount that he is a pivotal figure in the way we interpret biblical texts. I literally think we can speak of interpretation pre- and post-Childs as two quite different enterprises; he is a formative and transitional figure in the movement to more holistic approaches of which I am an advocate. To be a serious scholar of Old Testament theology, this is a must-read. And read it I will.

John Goldingay’s 3-volumes on OT Theology (Israel’s Gospel / Israel’s Faith / Israel’s Life)
A HUGE undertaking, but Goldingay is an important and recent voice to be heard (among the most recent of those doing Old Testament theology). I am actually very excited about the length of these volumes; that means I have high expectations that many of the issues so prevalent in OT theology will be addressed in some substantive way. I often find myself both agreeing and disagreeing with Goldingay, oftentimes on the same point (makes no sense, right?!), so I fully expect these to be a challenging and illuminating set of readings.

That’s a good and thorough starting list, I think. There are already a few forthcoming volumes I know I will dive into, among them David Lamb’s God Behaving Badly (IVP, June 2011) and of course MY BOOK, tentatively titled Jacob and the Divine Trickster: A Theology of Deception and YHWH’s Fidelity to the Ancestral Promise in the Jacob Cycle (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, forthcoming [hopefully] 2011).

Your thoughts? Have you read any of these?

Keeping Busy . . . (the scholarly way!)

Here’s what I’ve been up to recently, for those that may be curious:

1. Submitting the dissertation for publication.  I anxiously await (positive) news.

2. Article submissions.  My ZAW piece is tentatively set to be out in the final issue of 2010.  I have articles with CBQ and NovT under review.

3. Book reviews.  The kind folks at RBL have blessed me with four books to review for their online (and possibly print) publications.  They are:
       -Brenner, Lee, Yee (eds.), Genesis: Texts @ Contexts
       -Walsh, Old Testament Narrative: A Guide to Interpretation
-Wallace, Psalms (Readings)
       -Seibert, Disturbing Divine Behavior: Troubling Old Testament Images of God

4. Prepping for classes in the Fall (redoing syllabi, tweaking lectures, etc.)

5. Working to finish the editing for my teacher, Bill Bellinger’s, Psalms commentary, forthcoming from Smyth & Helwys.

6. SBL Papers.  Of the two I am presenting at the upcoming meeting, I have one left to write.

7. SBL Unit Proposal.  Myself and Chris Heard are working to propose a separate program unit on the book of Genesis for SBL.  I have been overwhelmed by the folk who have expressed interest in the topic, and especially by the seminal scholars who have agreed to be a part and present thus far if the unit is accepted (Terry Fretheim and Walter Moberly, anyone?).

Ahhhh, the life of a biblical scholar.

Article Accepted for Publication in ZAW!

I just received word that my article, “Awaiting an Answered Prayer: The Development and Reinterpretation of Habakkuk 3 in its Contexts” has been accepted for publication in the seminal Hebrew Bible journal Zeitschrift fur die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft (ZAW).  The article will be forthcoming, likely in the first issue of 2011. 

My basic argument in this article is that the text of Hab 3 has undergone a long and fascinating development leading to the final form of the text.  I isolate three specific redactional stages, each which adds elements that help aclimate the text to its specific context at that time.  It is a redactional and historical piece to be sure.

Now, some of you may be wondering, “Anderson doing historical-critical work?”  Yes, I can, and I did!  I wrote this paper in a course for Jim Nogalski a year or two ago, and I consider it a strong piece of work that contributes to the conversation on Habakkuk 3.  As most of you know, it is not my typical methodological mode of operation, but I am glad to show I’m not a ‘one trick pony’ (ha!).

Who is the Biggest Name in OT Scholarship? (Or, can anyone beat Brueggemann)

A colleague and I had a fascinating discussion today over whether there was anyone in the field currently alive bigger than Walter Brueggemann.  Now, of course I am entirely biased here, but if I can put some objective criteria on it: name recognition, publications, response from the scholarly community, longevity.  By what metric does one measure such a thing?

We tossed around a few names, none of which really resonated . . . . John Collins was the closest we could come up with, but even that didn’t seem the same.  There are a number of scholars who would be strong contenders but are no longer living: Gerhard von Rad or the recently deceased Brevard Childs.  We could adduce plenty of ‘up-and-comers’ (i.e., David Carr in Pentateuch or Nancy deClaisse-Walford in Psalms) or formative folks in various subdisciplines or faith perspectives (i.e., Frank Moore Cross in ancient Near Eastern studies, John Goldingay or Bruce Waltke in conservative circles, etc.). 

On the NT side of things we were able to come up with several such names: NT Wright, Bart Ehrman, Ben Witherington (for the latter two the criteria was largely publication output of scholarly and popular volumes, while with Wright I think you again have the notriety of the name . . . I wonder if Wright even would rival Brueggemann.  But that is a question for another day).

So, make your case.  Who is the biggest, most significant living name in OT scholarship, that fits the criteria expected to go along with such an accolade?  Or, put another way . . . . can anyone beat Brueggemann?  I’m not convinced anyone can, but I’m curious what names are suggested.  And why.  I am particularly interested in what suggestions other scholars would advance, but I welcome all submissions.

Blogging SBL: Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2009 (My Paper!)

This concludes my series of posts from last week’s 2009 meeting of the SBL in New Orleans (see HEREHERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE for the other posts).

My paper was slotted in the coveted 9 am slot on Tuesday morning.  It was delivered in the “Bible Translation” section, and was entitled “A Trickster Oracle in Gen 25:23: Reading Jacob and Esau between Beten and Bethel” (abstract HERE).  This was my second year in a row presenting at the national meeting, and my third paper at the national meeting (I did two last year, one in the Book of Psalms section and one in the Matthew section).  Upon arriving at the session, the other presents and I were informed we would have 25 minutes TOTAL, not 25 to read and then 5 for Q & A, so if we wanted questions we had to stop reading at 20 minutes.  Needless to say I had already chopped my paper down from about 35 pages to 12, and time was an issue, so I didn’t cut any further; my reading came in just at 25 minutes.

Given the time and day, I fully expected to have maybe a handful of folk present.  I was more than pleased, however, to have a room of about 35 people, including my Baylor colleague Roy Garton, former professor Richard Swanson from my undergrad Augustana College, my professor and dissertation advisor Bill Bellinger, and fellow bloggers Joseph Kelly and Daniel (btw, I’m still waiting for them to blog their thoughts on my paper–wink!). 

Typically when I have read papers in the past, nerves creep up.  This is to be expected, perhaps.  It was wonderful, though, this time, to have no nerves at all.  My throat didn’t go dry, I read at a good, audible pace, and most importantly, I was relaxed . . . throughout.  Even my buddy Roy and Dr. Bellinger noted as much.  I attribute that confidence to teaching.

Despite not having time for questions (although I did have some discussions during the break with people), the paper was very well received.  Many in the audience were clearly in agreement or pleased throughout, as regular head-nodding and “mmm hmmm’s” became visible and audible.  At the end of my paper, as I sat down, I was greeted by a thumbs up from Dr. Swanson, and several comments by people sitting near me (we all sat in the audience, per the convener’s request) that they “really enjoyed your paper” and it was “interesting” or “very good” or “well done.”  Given this is a vital component of my dissertation, I am pleased for the encouraging feedback.

The rest of the session was diverse and intriguing, and I especially found the paper about infinitive absolutes in Hebrew to be intriguing (how geeky does that sound of me?).  As the session ended I talked with a few in the audience, briefly, but had to run to the hotel for my colleagues who were waiting for me . . . for a 10 hour drive back to Waco.

Online Theses and Dissertations from Duke and Baylor


As we continue to move into the electronic age, theses and dissertations are now being preserved in digital, .pdf format on a great many university websites.  Many of these are, fortunately, open to the general public.  And as a graduate of both Duke, and a soon-to-be graduate of Baylor’s Ph.D. program, I thought I would share these two resources with you.

DukeSpace – Duke University online dissertations and theses

BearDocs – Baylor University online dissertations and theses

I have set these links to go directly to the Duke Div School and Baylor Religion Department contributions respectively, but do feel free to browse the larger archives. 

For what it is worth, I would highly recommend Robert Wallace’s dissertation (which has since been published with Peter Lang in their “Studies in Biblical Literature” series), The Narrative Effect of Book IV of the Hebrew Psalter.  I have used it in my own work on the Psalter, and I find it good good, especially given the importance of Book IV in the overall trajectory of the shape and shaping of the Psalter.

If you have other resources from universities of which you are aware, please share them with me and I will add to the list. 

Happy reading!

Seeking Advice: Applying for Academic Positions

I am in the process of writing a dissertation and applying for a host of positions (if I can use the word “host” for the amount that are available!).  Now, I am aware of the general process–how to write a letter of application, how to decide who would serve as the best letter writers, etc.–but I am curious to get some insight from those who have gone through the process (either successfully or unsuccessfully . . . . I trust I can learn a great deal from both!).

Basically, and quite generally, there are a few questions I have (and feel free to add whatever else as well):

-are there particular do’s/don’ts that you found surprising?  helpful?  harmful? (i.e., emailing professors at the school to which you are applying and introducing yourself . . . . good idea?  or not?)

-any specific experiences you are willing to share that were especially eye-opening?

-are there things that absolutely, without a doubt, MUST be in the application letter (and phrased a certain way), and things that have no place at all in such a letter?

Put simply, I am after any insights regarding this whole process.  I understand it is highly subjective and political, but what may heighten one’s (read: my!) chances of getting an interview . . . . . and a job?


The Composition of the Pentateuch in Recent Research: A Teaching and Study Resource (By Me)

Most of you know I took (and passed!!) my Ph.D. comps this past April and May (see HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE).  One of the questions I prepared–and answered–dealt with the history of scholarship on the composition of the Pentateuch, focusing especially upon the last 30 years.  This is certainly a still quite unsettled issue within scholarship, and it is a fascinating topic as well.  The overall trajectory has seen a movement away from traditional source criticism towards more tradition-historical approaches or even those emphasizing literary unity.

In working on this topic I did a great deal of reading, obviously.  I then synthesized and organized the information into a cogent, articulated response in outline form.  That larger, original outline was then wittled further from 12 pages down to 5.

Given the perpetual importance of this topic and the question, I have decided to share here, in .pdf format, each of the two outlines.  Please note these files, as well as anything on this blog, falls under the jurisdiction of Creative Commons Copyright law and is not to be reproduced or distributed without author’s consent.  Full attribution must be made to me as well. 

I would also be curious of your thoughts on the files, and how you plan to–or do–use them.

Here are the two files:

Outline 1 – Longer

Outline 2 – Shorter

Here is a bibliography of those sources which are treated in the outlines:

Blenkinsopp, Joseph. The Pentateuch: An Introduction to the First Five Books of the Bible. Anchor Bible Reference    Library. New York: Doubleday, 1992. 

Blum, Erhard. Die Komposition der Vätergeschichte. WMANT 57. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukurchener Verlag, 1984. 

_________. Studien zur Komposition des Pentateuch. BZAW 189. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1990. 

Campbell, Anthony F. and Mark A. O’Brien. Sources of the Pentateuch: Texts, Introductions, Annotations. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993.

 _________. Rethinking the Pentateuch: Prolegomena to the Theology of Ancient Israel. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2005.

Carr, David M. Reading the Fractures of Genesis: Historical and Literary Approaches. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996.

 Clines, David J.A. The Theme of the Pentateuch. JSOTSupp 10. 2nd ed. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1997.

 Dozeman, Thomas B. and Konrad Schmid, eds. A Farewell to the Yahwist? The Composition of the Pentateuch in Recent European Interpretation. SBL Symposium Series 34. Atlanta: SBL, 2006.

Mann, Thomas W. The Book of the Torah: The Narrative Integrity of the Pentateuch. Atlanta: John Knox, 1988.

Noth, Martin. The Deuteronomistic History. Sheffield: University of Sheffield, 1981.

_________. A History of Pentateuchal Traditions. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1972.

Rendtorff, Rolf. The Problem of the Process of Transmission in the Pentateuch. JSOTSupp 89. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990.

 Van Seters, John. The Pentateuch: A Social-Science Commentary. Trajectories 1. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999.

Von Rad, Gerhard. “The Form-Critical Problem of the Hexateuch.” Pages 1-78 in The Problem of the Hexateuch and Other Essays. London: SCM Press, 1966.

Wellhausen, Julius. Prolegomena to the History of Israel. New York: Meridian Books, 1957.

Whybray, Roger N. The Making of the Pentateuch: A Methodological Study JSOTSupp 53. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1987.

For Whom Do We Write (II): A Rejoinder to Dr. Jim Linville

Recently on Jim Linville’s ever-entertaining blog, he has interacted with my post “For Whom Do We Write? On Biblical Scholars and the Church.”  Needless to say, I strongly feel he has either misunderstood, or misrepresented, my position (and those who know me well can attest to this, if my own words are deemed unconvincing for some reason).  My original post has been the subject of some debate and misunderstanding; I am hopeful this will serve to clarify some matters.

Dr. Linville says the following:

Anderson, writing from a confessional perspective to a religious audience, does not address secular biblical scholars but discusses biblical scholarship in its relationship with the church. He writes against an elitism in theologically centered biblical research.

One final clarification: I do not mean to imply by the previous sentence that one’s scholarship must be governed by the norms and doctrines of the church.  In fact, quite the opposite; biblical scholarship should seek to inform the church. Any good and responsible theology is, at bottom, biblically based.   …    The church and/or the synagogue may accept this word or it may not.  But it is a word that is worthy of being shared.  What good, then, is biblical scholarship if it stays within a particular, “elite” circle? If we are indeed the “elite” in this regard–and we may indeed be–then does that not all the more imbue us with a responsibility to not only our own faith community, but any faith community who will hear us? 

For Anderson, academic biblical studies is at least in part an educational instrument of the church and synagogue. He is clearly not speaking for me. As an atheist, I recognize no particular obligation to teach “any faith community” anything. That is what pastors, rabbis, theologians and popes are for. It is hard to gauge how Anderson views academic biblical studies in its relation to secular research into human societies (including religious studies).

He seems to think of it as a confessional enterprise but one that operates on a very exclusive educational and intellectual level. Thus, he does not explore the issue of legitimacy that confessional approaches to the Bible face from the wider secular religious studies guild. As noted already, Avalos and Noll would raise these issues sharply while it seems that Davies would prefer to minimize their divisive impact. As noted by Davies, however, the secular biblical academic faces the dilemma that the audience that cares most about the Bible are believers. Davies, however, does not really develop his thoughts about the minority audience, i.e., other scholars engaged in wider religious studies. 

I would argue that secular biblical scholarship would do well to accept the loss of Anderson’s “faithful” audience if the results of secular research strains the relationship with the church or synagogue too far. Non religious scholars should do more to recognize their intellectual home in wider secular researches into human history, culture and religion. This would involve championing comparative studies and the methodological discussions that this would require. It would also mean becoming familiar with research into other religious traditions from around the world and encouraging students to look beyond the ancient near east or the theological heritage of the west when planning their degree programs. It would also require helping students and scholars in other disciplines, better identify sectarian influence in biblical studies. There is a reciprocal relationship that needs to be more strongly developed. Studies of ancient Israelite and near eastern religion can be assisted by familiarity with research into the wider phenomenon of religiosity. Likewise, biblical scholars should not hide their lights under a bushel, nor should they be content to let it shine from a steeple. It should be seen by other religious studies scholars as offering a valuable and academically sound illumination on the complexities of religion. 

I responded in the comments as follows:

Jim, thanks for interacting with my post. That said, I am surprised by how far from the truth you are in your description of my take on this matter. I might suggest reading elsewhere on my blog, or checking out my current article; I hardly think I’m doing cookie-cutter biblical scholarship, nor am I doing cookie-cutter theology.

Your first paragraph describing my post is a huge overstatement. First, if you read my work you will know the confessional perspective is by no means at the fore nor seminal for my interpretive work. I don’t wish to hint that I have no biases in reading of texts–we all do–but these are hardly them. Your description states the polar opposite of what I intend to say in the piece you quote at length.

You say I argue that “biblical scholarship needs to be reconciled with the needs of the church.” Absolutely not. The block quotation you provide should clarify this; scholarship written that is governed a priori by the norms and doctrines of the church is irresponsible, in a word. That’s not what I’m after. It appears to be a matter of trajectory. The church (or synagogue, or what have you) is not ‘the pope’ for my scholarship. Rather, my scholarship, I hope, will inform these communities of faith in meaningful and at times troubling ways. I trust you have read Brueggemann, Jim. Think of my scholarship in a vein similar to his massive OT theology; unsettling, yet biblical. Haunting, yet ignored. I see my role as keeping the church, synagogue, etc . . . . even the atheist, as you identify yourself . . . . honest in its engagement with the text and what the text says about God. There are hairy moments. And as I seem to have been saying a lot recently, God, Jesus, and the Cross should not be whitewashed.

You also say I argue against elitism. Well, yes and no. I’m unsure “elite” is the best word here, but I have been privvy to some very poor exegesis on my tv on Sunday mornings and elsewhere. As a biblical scholar, I am formally trained and thus have a higher competence than others who are not in these matters. There is thus a sense of responsibility that seeks to insure others are ‘getting it.’

You write that for me “biblical scholarship needs to be reconciled with the needs of the church.” Again, hardly. The block quotation you cite should clarify that in its first sentence.

Put simply, what I was trying to communicate is a call to the church, synagogue, etc. to bear in mind the weight of the academic pursuits biblical scholars undertake. It is a call (bad word choice, eh?) to communities of faith to be responsible, realistic, and honest in their engagement with the text. I don’t hear a lot of sermons on Job. I don’t see a lot of people claiming God is complicit in deception, like I do. I do, though, see a lot of whitewashed images of God, Jesus, and the cross. And while I do hope tremendously that my scholarship informs other academics and advances the field in meaningful ways, I also hope it clarifies for others another characterization of God that is quite biblical. The call is to the church to take these images and handle them responsibly, not to the scholar to write “in service” to the church where “in service” actually means “in servitude to.” That’s hardly me. Servitude to the church. No, not me. Service to academia and communities of faith. Yep. Sounds like me. And if one or the other . . . . or both . . . . of those groups dismisses what I say, then they do. All I can do is offer the voice.

I hope this clarifies my view a bit.  Thoughts?