Ritual Applications of Salt in Mesopotamian Texts

SaltI’m primarily posting this article from a book published in 2010 for my own records. Though, I do hope that somebody will find use of the article. I have a few ideas percolating in my brain involving salt and ritual.

“In addition to its various utilitarian functions , literary evidence confirms that salt served several purposes in ritual activities across the ancient Near East. For example, Mesopotamian texts describe the use of salt in animal and vegetable sacrifices, incense offerings, various magical rites, and ritual curses. Salt is cited also in the analogies of Mesopotamian omen literature.”
– Jeffrey Stackert (Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible; Associate Faculty in the  Department of Classics and the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago)
Read the complete article here:

Top 8 Books of 2015

I started reviewing books in February. And to be cool (or something like that), I figure I should at least post my top 8 books of the year. I chose eight because, if you ask me, it is a pretty complete number.

8) Oracular Law and Priestly Historiography in the Torah by Simeon Chavel

7) How the Bible Became Holy by Michael L. Satlow

6) The Vision in Job 4 and Its Role in the Book by Ken Brown

5) Ritual Violence in the Hebrew Bible edited by Saul Olya

4) Priestly Blessing in Inscription and Scripture by Jeremy Smoak

3) Priestly Rule by Nathan MacDonald

2) The Conflict Myth and the Biblical Tradition by Debra Scoggins Ballentine

1) A Prophet Like Moses by Jefferey Stackert

Joshua and Genocide: Major Issues for Contemporary Interpretation and Application

I find it ironic that the recent events in France and Kenya coincide, too a certain extent with my reading. Currently I am reviewing Joshua 1-12 by Thomas Dozeman (Yale University Press, 2015) and will being reviewing Ritual Violence in the Hebrew Bible edited by Saul Olyan (Oxford University Press, 2015). Both of these works relates the issues of violence and genocide.

In Dozeman’s commentary, he cites John Calvin’s commentary on the book of Joshua and notes the following:

“Despite Calvin’s quest for revelation through the literal interpretation of the book, he struggles with the ethics of the ban (God’s permission to completely annihilate all life in the urban center of Canaan). He repeatedly reflects on the inhumanity of the “indiscriminate and promiscuous slaughter, making no distinction of age or sex, but including alike women and children, the aged and decrepit”” (2015, 87, parenthesis added for context).

Calvin’s conclusion is that Joshua had no other approach to claiming the land because God had commanded it. Other traditions, of course, approach the issue in different ways. Calvin, though, was the first to wrestle with the book of Joshua as history. Regardless of the historical nature of Joshua’s historiography, Calvin was a trendsetter. The question(s) he raises must be answered in this generation as well.

Christians must examine how they understand the Bible and why they understand it how they do. What does the Bible justify to them? How does the book of Joshua fit into a peaceful, loving God?

Rather than resorting back to the solutions presented by Origen and other leaders in early Christianity, the current generation must wrestle with God’s command for genocide. And even beyond Joshua, they must wrestle with the violent aspects of the roots of Christians and Jewish history, ranging from the Maccabean revolt, in which non-circumcised people faced circumcision or death, to the justification of war for personal advancement through Biblical literature.


As for everything that happened in France and Kenya, I still feel like I am in shock. I am not sure how to respond. What do I say? I need to let the people of Paris mourn. They must have a voice. This isn’t my oppurtunity to say, “I support Paris and Kenya. Now I will change my Facebook picture”. It’s my chance to say, “I support Paris and Kenya. I hear and support them in their times of lament.”

Pseudepigrapha Saturday

PseudoBeginning this Saturday is a new series on my blog. Every weekend I will post my “Pseudepigrapha Saturday”. Each Saturday I will read and post my observations/discussion from Charlesworth’s volumes of The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. While I do hope this expands my own knowledge, I hope it provides insights to readers less familiar with the Pseudepigrapha. Perhaps I should start this Saturday, then, with a brief introduction to the Pseudepigrapha are. And, if we’re totally honest, how does one even say the word?

I hope you enjoy the reading on Saturday!

Upcoming Book Review on Shakespeare and the Bible

In contrast to much scholarship on Shakespeare and the Bible, “Shakespeare, the Bible, and the Form of the Book gives sustained attention to the Bible’s multiple forms and contested status, to the fraught tension between the Bible as transcendent Word of God and politically and historically mediated material text, and to how these interlinked phenomena were taken up by Shakespeare” (10). Shakespeare

I just started reading Shakespeare, the Bible, and the Form of the Book, edited by Travis DeCook and Alan Galey and published by Routledge, and look forward to reading of the nuances of history and Shakespeare which it illuminates. The review shall be up within the next few weeks!

Methodology of Ken Brown

In The Vision in Job 4 and Its Role in the Book by Ken Brown, Brown makes a great note about the relationship between synchronic and diachronic methodologies.

… the two dangers are parallel. Whether we focus only on the “original” form of the book and treat everything added or changed as relatively unimportant, or focus only on the “final” form of the book, ignoring whatever lies behind it, either way we prioritize a single point in its history to the exclusion of all others. Both approaches impoverish our understanding of the text in all its complexity (pg. 57).

He proceed by discussing how important it is to utilize a methodology that take into account synchronic and diachronic aspects of a book. In short, I appreciate his methodology because it, as he notes, allows the reader to observe and take seriously the various contexts in which the text(s) operated. There is no assumption that one redactor is superior to another. Additionally, more breadth of human experience and expression may be observed with this approach.


Reflections on Past Studies

As I begin to engage with philosophical discourse through literature and a Coursera course by professors from the University of Edinburgh, I notice many issues with the training I received in my undergraduate degree in Biblical Literature at Northwest University, an Assemblies of God school. During my time there, the courses required for a degree in Biblical Literature included, of course, classes focused on biblical literature, language, and, because it was an AG school, theology. One thing I was never required to engage with, though, was philosophy as a subject. I find this odd because philosophical discourse during the Enlightenment was pivotal to the rise of biblical criticism, something which is used across confessional schools.


Unfortunately, by not requiring Biblical Literature students to master a certain level of philosophy, the modern understandings of religion, ancient Israel, the early Church, the Bible, and much more become assumed. Lack of philosophical teaching and discussion prevents students from fully engaging not only with biblical literature and traditions therein, but also from engagement with what shaped and still shapes religion, whether lived or official. Plus, what better way to receive great undergraduate research papers then by discussing what “logic” is?