Thursday, December 26, 2019

My Favorite Books of 2019

I entitled this blog Chastened Intuitions as a way of recognizing that our gut feelings about something need reshaping in light of research and exposure to other perspectives. Reading is a powerful way to pursue that kind of learning. I read 40 books in 2019. The five listed below made the most significant contribution to my own growth, chastening my intuition in important ways.

Surprised by Jesus Again: Reading the Bible in Communion with the Saints by Jason Byassee

I encountered this book as a skeptic, but I was quickly disarmed, even charmed. I did not find every reading persuasive, but I was won over by his central thesis. Byassee winsomely, playfully invites Christian readers of Scripture to delight in its mysteries and to participate in God's passionate quest to lavish his love an on ever-widening circle of faithful followers. He is right to chide biblical scholars for our lack of imagination. Reading this book has reignited my passion for a pedagogy that ushers fellow readers of Scripture into a place of wonder. A finalist in the Christianity Today 2019 Book Awards, this book is well worth reading.

The Liturgy of Creation by Michael LeFebvre

Given LeFebvre's brilliant doctoral work on Old Testament law, I expected this book to be carefully researched and lucidly written. I was not disappointed. LeFebvre skillfully brings into focus the parts of the Pentateuch readers are most likely to skip, showing how the purpose of each calendar notation in the Torah, including its opening chapter, is liturgical―to order the work and worship of the covenant people. His reassessment of Genesis 1 moves beyond the stalemate in the creation debates without recourse to extrabiblical or scientific arguments. His thesis grows organically from a close reading of the biblical text. LeFebvre shows himself to be a master teacher with pastoral sensitivity, able to patiently explain what he has so carefully studied. This book will change the way I teach the Torah. I can't wait to share it with my students!

Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour

A powerful and enlightening story of a Palestinian Christian living in the aftermath of WWII. His story unveils the dark side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, its origins outside the land of Palestine, and the way both sides have been caught in the crossfire between nations whose complex interests are not above board. Chacour's hope is that Arabs and Jews can learn to live together as neighbors. He has devoted his entire life to this aim: PEACE. Such an eye-opening and hope-filled book!

Hope for the Oppressor by Patrick Oden

Hope for the Oppressor is a brave undertaking. Patrick Oden suggests that efforts to liberate the oppressed will never be successful until oppressors experience liberation, too. Without true liberation of all parties, new cycles of coercion result. But there's hope. He locates that hope in Christian community, where our notion of selfhood can be reconceived and our fractured selves healed in light of God's holy love. Oden's thesis is grounded in theologically rich readings of biblical texts and skillful engagement with historical and systematic theology. His book issues a life-giving invitation for all of us — those with privilege and those without — to participate in a different kind of kingdom. His book has the potential to fuel a revolution for those who dare to reexamine their lives in light of his claims.

Phoebe by Paula Gooder

How does a woman with a slave name end up delivering Paul's letter to the Romans? How does she have the means to undertake such a journey? How was she educated to the point that Paul chooses her to explain his letter? What did she think of the church in Rome? Gooder answers all these questions in a compelling way. She kept my attention from beginning to end. Friends who are not biblical scholars have enjoyed the book, too. Together with Holly Beers' A Week in the Life of a Greco-Roman Woman and Ben Witherington III's Priscilla, 2019 was my year to discover what is was like for women of the Roman Empire in the first century.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Podcast Tour: Bearing God's Name: Why Sinai Still Matters

I've had several opportunities to interview about Bearing God's Name across a wide range of venues. As the interviews go live, I'll keep adding the links below. Choose your favorite and give it a listen!

Podcast Interviews

The Naked Bible Podcast with Michael Heiser (74 minutes)
We discuss the nature of Old Testament law, the heart of biblical theology, and what it's like to be a woman in the world of biblical scholarship.
Heath in Pursuit with Heath Hollensbe (48 minutes)
This was such a fun interview! We talk about the Ten Commandments, the beauty of the Old Testament, the power of liminal space, how to find Jesus in the Old Testament, and more.
The Shaun Tabatt Show (29 minutes)
Shaun asked such great questions! We talked about the relevance of the OT and what we miss if we "unhitch" from it, the uniqueness of God's personal name, the power of liminal space, the literary structure of Exodus, the Ten Commandments, my favorite Hebrew word, the meaning of Exodus 20:7, and how it relates to the Lord's Prayer. I also tell the story of some miracle french bread.
Disrupters Podcast with Esau McCaulley (48 minutes)
Esau and I discussed my journey into biblical studies as a woman and consider ways to encourage women and minorities in scholarship. I tell stories of how I was disruptive as a kid. I claim that the lists of names in Numbers are very good news. We also touch on the book, in particular reconciling my very positive view of the Torah with Paul's view. Esau wants you all to know that he started reading my blog long before I was famous. 
Food Trucks in Babylon (Western Seminary) with Patrick Schreiner and Todd Miles (51 minutes)
In this interview I show how uncultured I am when it comes to eating out, and I make my best attempt to bridge to the disciplines of theology and New Testament studies. This was a good conversation about what's at stake when we "unhitch" from the Old Testament.
Bible Project with Tim Mackie and Jon Collins (56 minutes)
Join us as we talk about the Name Command (Exodus 20:7), how the Israelite high priest is a visual model of the role of Israel as a nation, how this relates to the temple being the "place of the name," and how God's name is profaned and sanctified. We touch on the Lord's Prayer, John's vision in Revelation, and the way the my book breaks new ground in publishing. As a bonus, we also talk about how we met and how Ray Lubeck influenced all three of us. Little known fact: Jon Collins was one of my first students!
OnScript with Matt Lynch (55 minutes)
We discuss what's new about the new covenant, what it means to be God's treasured possession, and how to interpret the command not to "take" God's name in vain. I talk about the influence of my mentor, Daniel Block. We also do a "speed round" in which I answer the question, "How do you solve a problem like Maria?"
The Outpost with Josh McNall

Radio Interviews

Prairie Radio with Dan Callaway (17 minutes)
We discuss the release of Bearing God's Name and some of its big ideas.
Songtime Radio with Adam Miller (27 minutes)
We talk about why the Old Testament is essential for Christians and how we can find grace in it.
Remnant Radio with Josh Lewis and Michael Roundtree (66 minutes)
We talk about the OT law and how it applies to Christians, how different denominations count the 10 commandments differently, what's new about the new covenant, and how Jesus relates to the law.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Author Interview: Holly Beers, "A Week in the Life of a Greco-Roman Woman"

Holly Beers, Westmont College,
Author of A Week in the Life
of a Greco-Roman Woman

Holly Beers is the author of the recently released A Week in the Life of a Greco-Roman Woman (IVP). Holly's book joins a growing number of works of historical fiction written by New Testament scholars. My copy is still in the mail on its way to me, but I have heard excellent things about it and can't wait to dive in. New Testament professor Nijay Gupta of Portland Seminary says, 
"I highly recommend Holly Beers’ new A Week in the life of a Greco-Roman Woman. Beers knows her ancient social context, but she crafts a nice story to bring it all to life. This is something I am going to try to use in the classroom the first chance I get!"
Holly, please tell us a bit about yourself -- where and what you teach, where you studied, what your areas of interest and expertise are. 

I'm from a small town in Minnesota and did my undergraduate (North Central University, Minneapolis) and master's (Bethel Seminary, St. Paul) work close to home. My PhD is in New Testament from London School of Theology. I teach at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, where the weather is beautiful but, to my sorrow, it does not snow at Christmas. My main specialties include Luke-Acts (my favorite is Acts, of course -- best book in the Bible!), the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament, Second Temple Judaism (the world of Jesus and Paul!), and New Testament ecclesiology (or: how Jesus' first followers "did church"). A growing area of interest and expertise for me is Pentecostal hermeneutics. I was raised Pentecostal and still consider that my tradition, and I am increasingly interested in how the global Pentecostal church is shaping biblical interpretation. 

Image result for holly beers week in the life of a"How did you get connected to this project?
I met with Dan Reid from IVP (who's now retired) several years ago when he visited Westmont. He asked if I knew of the series, and I did, as I'd read Ben Witherington's A Week in the Life of Corinth. He said that they were looking for someone to write a volume on a woman's life in the first-century world. That was the beginning of this book, as I started to imagine who the woman might be and what her life would look like. 

How long did it take you to write it?

Good question. I had planned on two years, but then I was in a Vespa accident; those injuries (concussion and broken wrist) delayed me a bit. I had a draft done in about three years, I think.

What was the most challenging aspect to figure out?

I had never written a novel before, so that was rough at first. I've read probably thousands of novels in my lifetime, because that's what I do for fun, but I'd never written one. I got into the habit of praying every time I sat down to write. I'd say something like: "Spirit of God, help me. You know I've never written a novel. Write with me and through me today." Honestly, I feel like the book is really co-authored; it's me and the Holy Spirit! 

What was one of the most exciting discoveries you made as you researched?

It was exciting to learn that women's lives were probably much more varied in the ancient world than people often assume today. They were not living cloistered lives behind closed doors; that would only have been an option for the very wealthy. Most women would have had to be out and about as a practical necessity. They would have gone to the market, interacted with a variety of people, and even worked in family trades and businesses. 

Without spoiling the story, can you tell us a bit about the Greco-Roman woman who is the main character for your novel? What is her name? What is she like? What challenges does she encounter?

My main character's name is Anthia. She is strong, practical, and thoughtful. She encounters the challenges of everyday life in her world, which include mourning the death of a close friend; keeping Artemis, the patron goddess of Ephesus, happy; helping to ensure that her family has something to eat every day; supporting her extended family; managing her husband's unpredictable temperament; raising her young son; and managing her pregnancy. 

With Holly Beers at SBL in San Diego, 2019
Who do you envision reading this book?

I've always wanted to write a book that my mom could read. She loves the Bible and cares deeply about faith, but doesn't have formal theological training (besides having me in her life). This book is really for those who want to learn more about the world of the Bible in an accessible way, and I envision those people as being both inside and outside Christian faith. I also hope scholars read it, and that it shapes their vision of the New Testament world and the way that they communicate it to their students. It would also make a good text for a classroom. 

What are you working on next?
I have a couple of projects in the works. The first is an investigation of the use of the Old Testament in some of Paul's letters. First I'm working in Colossians, then I'll head to Ephesians. I'll be writing a commentary on Colossians and/or Ephesians for a new New Testament commentary series that is geared toward serving Christians who are charismatic or Pentecostal (broadly defined), including people outside of North America and Europe. I've always wanted my scholarship to serve the church, and this opportunity is one that still surprises me and humbles me.

Thanks, Holly, for telling us about your work!

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Blog Tour: Bearing God's Name: Why Sinai Still Matters

Bearing God's Name: Why Sinai Still Matters (IVP) releases December 10, 2019, but it's already had a second printing! This is due in large part to those who have have helped me get the word out by interviewing me for their blog or magazine, and for those who have spread the news on social media.

Below are links to blog and magazine interviews about the book. I'll keep adding to this post as new opportunities arise, so check back later for more!

Interview with Jen Pollock Michel for the December
issue of Christianity Today
Magazine Interview 

Jen Pollock Michel for Christianity Today

Blog Interviews

Jen Jones and Me at the IVP booth at SBL
with the recently-released Bearing God's Name
Ian Paul for Psephizo

Jennifer Brown Jones for Life Beyond #Blessed

Andrea Bridges for The Well, InterVarsity's blog for Women in the Academy

Kelley Maranto Mathews for Patheos

Sandra Glahn for Aspire2 

Canadian Society of Biblical Studies (about Bearing YHWH's Name at Sinai, my published dissertation on which Bearing God's Name is based)

Guest Blog Posts

Cateclesia Institute (coming soon)


Library Journal



Robert Mayer for Only Visiting This Planet

Michael Philliber for Deus Misereatur

Kenson Gonzalez for Viviendo Para Su Gloria

Bible Study Magazine

Faith Today

Bible Today