Interview: discussing the Saint John’s Bible with Jonathan Homrighausen

Jonathan Homrighausen is a PhD candidate at Duke University, working on Hebrew Bible. He’s also a writer and scholar on Scripture, art, and interreligious dialogue. While he was working on his MA at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA, he began researching The Saint John’s Bible. His interest continued to develop to the point that he wrote a book about it: Illuminating Justice: The Ethical Imagination of The Saint John’s Bible (Liturgical Press, 2018), which ‘explores the call to social ethics in The Saint John’s Bible, the first major handwritten and hand-illuminated Christian Bible since the invention of the printing press.’

If you’re interested in the history of the Bible, biblical manuscripts and their physicality, art and the Bible, the liturgical use of the Bible, or just the Bible, period, you’ll enjoy this interview. Here’s the questions I asked Jonathan:

  1. First, what is The Saint John’s Bible? When, where, and how did it come about?
  2. Can you tell us about your professional training and how The Saint John’s Bible became of interest to you?
  3. I’ve read that this is the first Bible of its kind made since the popularization of the printing press. What does this mean and how does it help us understand the history of the Bible?
  4. Many of us might not think much about the intersection between art and the Bible. How does The Saint John’s Bible shed light on that relationship?
  5. My friend, Michael Barber of the Augustine Institute in Denver, has said something to the extent that we sometimes forget the Bible’s purpose was liturgical or sacramental long before it became an object of research. How does The Saint John’s Bible help us think about the liturgical purpose of the Bible?
  6. Your book, Illuminating Justice: The Ethical Imagination of The Saint John’s Bible, ‘explores the social ethics in The Saint John’s Bible’. How does this Bible uniquely provoke ethical/moral thinking? Or, another way of asking: How does the Bible provoke ethical/moral thinking in a way that’s different from any other Bible I might purchase?
  7. If I wanted to see The Saint John’s Bible, what would I have to do?

Interview: discussing Flood Mythologies with Erica Mongé-Greer

Erica Mongé-Greer returns for another interview. If you haven’t watch our discussion of Creation Mythologies, I recommend doing so. But if you have, or Flood Mythologies just happen to be more your thing, you can jump right into this one!

In this video, we discuss ANE Flood Mythologies such as the Atrahasis, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and Genesis 6-9.

Here’s the list of questions I asked:

1. This week my students will have read about the Great Deluge in Genesis 6-9. In the context of the Book of Genesis, what’s the point of this story? Why does Yahweh God flood the earth?

2. The Hebrews/Israelites/Judahites weren’t the only people from the Ancient Near East to talk about a giant flood. The Epic of Gilgamesh, which seems to have Assyrian and Babylonian influence, and the Atrahasis does the same. Can you tell us about these stories?

3. Chronologically, what’s the relationship between these three stories? Which one do most scholars think came first and how does this impact our understanding of the Bible?

4. How does the character of Noah compare to the characters in the Atrahasis and Gilgamesh?

5. In Genesis, what’s the Creator’s rationale for destroying humanity with a flood and how does this compare to the rationale in the Flood Mythologies?

6. Why is it important for students of the Bible to understand the Ancient Near East, Israel’s neighboring cultures, and comparative flood mythologies?

7. Some readers are concerns with the question ‘did this flood really happen?’ How important is this question? What should our focus be when reading these narratives?

Interview: discussing Creation Mythologies with Erica Mongé-Greer.

Today I interviewed Erica Mongé-Greer, a PhD candidate at University of Aberdeen in Scotland. Erica is also an adjunct professor who teaches courses in Hebrew Bible, ancient Near Eastern culture and Semitic languages, like Hebrew and Akkadian. Her most recent faculty postings were at Northwest Christian University and University of Oregon in Eugene, where she lives with her partner, Joshua, their two children, Caleb and Emma and adopted dog, Zuzu. Erica’s research includes justice for the poor in the Hebrew Psalter, biblical ethics, and religion in science fiction.

We discuss ANE Creation Mythologies such as the Enuma Elish, the Memphite Theology, and Genesis 1-2. It’s a fascinating discussion that I believe my students will enjoy! Here’s the list of questions I asked:

  1. First, tell us about your professional training and what it is that you research and teach?
  2. This week my students will have juxtaposed the First and Second Creation Narratives of the Book of Genesis, so they’ve seen how these stories, while stitched together, are different. In the context of the Ancient Near East, how are these Israelite/Judahite accounts unique?
  3. My students will be reading excerpts from the Enuma Elish. Can you provide us with an overview of this creation account?
  4. How is Marduk, the patron god of Babylon, similar to and different from how the Hebrew account presents their god?
  5. In the Book of Genesis, taking both Creation Narratives into account, how would we summarize the purpose of humanity and how does this compare with the Enuma Elish?
  6. While my students won’t be asked to read from the Memphite Theology, it’s still relevant to this discussion. What is it and what story does it tell?
  7. Why is it important for students of the Bible to understand the Ancient Near East, Israel’s neighboring cultures, and comparative creation mythologies?

Discussing the Book of Revelation

Last week I had a chance to chat with my friend and mentor, Dr. Jeff Garner, on the topic of the Book of Revelation. Here’s the video:

As a way of ‘footnoting’ this interview, I wrote ‘Meditating on the Apocalypse’ before the discussion so people can access my influences (including some really great recent articles by people like Allison Murray, Elizabeth Dias, and Kelly J. Baker).

Interview: discussing the Apostle Paul with Dr. Michael Barber

Yesterday I had a lengthy conversation with Dr. Michael Barber of the Augustine Institute in Denver, CO. We talked about his new book Paul, A New Covenant Jew: Rethinking Pauline Theology, the Apostle Paul himself, Paul’s letters and theology, and why Paul is meaningful to Catholics, Protestants, and even non-Christians.

Some parts the video are a bit choppy due to Internet connection. For that, I apologize. But overall it’s a great conversation that I hope y’all enjoy.

Here are the questions I asked Dr. Barber during our interview:

  1. Tell us why I’m talking to you about the Apostle Paul. What does Paul have to do with your research? 
  2. Can you provide a short biography of Paul? Who was he? Why is he important? What does he have to do with the eventual shape of Christianity?
  3. A couple weeks ago my students encountered the Resurrection Narratives of the Gospels. Soon they’ll read Paul’s explanation of the resurrection from his First Epistle to the Corinthians. Additionally, they have a basic understanding of Jewish apocalypticism. Can you connect Jesus’ resurrection, apocalypticism, and Paul’s worldview together for us?
  4. Many of my students have spent time learning about the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants. As you explain in your book Paul, a New Covenant Jew (co-authored with Brant Pitre and John A. Kincaid), Paul values these covenants but he interprets then in relation to the ‘New Covenant’. What’s this New Covenant and what does it have to do with the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants?
  5. What’s central to Paul’s theology? What’s the the core of his thought? 
  6. While I teach at an Episcopal high school the religious-majority is Catholic. You’re a Catholic scholar. What’s one thing you wish Catholics understood better about Paul? And then let’s flip it around and tell me what’s one thing you wish Protestants understood better about Paul?
  7. Finally, what’s the relevance of Paul for my students who aren’t religious or who come from religious traditions other than Christianity? Is there anything in Paul’s thought that they can find valuable?

Interview: discussing the doctrine of the Ascension with Dr. James F. McGrath

In this interview with Prof. James McGrath, the Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University, we talked about the Christian doctrine of the Ascension, how it has been understood, how it should be understood, how it connects to the Parousia, and why any of this matters at all. I hope you enjoy!

Here are the questions I asked Prof. McGrath:

  1. Explain to my students why I’m talking to you about this subject. In other words, what’s the focus of your research and academic career?
  2. This week my students will be reading the Resurrection Narratives in the (canonical) Gospels. They’ll notice that only the Gospel of Luke mentions Jesus’ ascension directly (though there’s a sense that Jesus will be departing soon in the others). Why is this?
  3. If I were living in the first century, and I was told that the Messiah had gone to be with the Father but would return, and that when he had gone to be with the Father he ascended into the sky, how would I have understood this? Would I have thought he went into the sky, literally? Would I have understood this to be a metaphor?
  4. What purpose did the doctrine of the Ascension serve for early Christians and their proclamation of the Gospel? In other words, what’ the point of the doctrine?
  5. As modern people, our cosmology is different from that of the ancients. In your opinion, how should modern Christians understand the doctrine of the Ascension? Does it have worth today?
  6. The Ascension seems to be connected closely to another doctrine that my students will encounter soon: the Parousia or ‘Second Coming/Appearing’ of Jesus. What’s the connection between the Ascension and the Parousia? 
  7. While many of my students identify as Christian, many others don’t. In your opinion, why is studying ancient texts like the Gospels of the Book of Acts, and thinking about Christian doctrines like the Ascension, valuable exercises? Are they valuable for Christians only or is there a reason that non-Christians should have at least an academic interest in these topics? 

YouTube instructions in Google Classroom

Yesterday, I uploaded my first, short test video to Google Classroom. I’ve been using Google Classroom for a couple years already, so my students are comfortable with the platform. Also, my employer uses Google for a lot, so take that into consideration, since it means I’m not paying for extra space and such. But for those looking for a way to do assignments online, Google Classroom is a nice option.

First, you can upload assignments as Google Docs or Forms. If Docs, you can make sure each student gets their own individual version of the assignment. There’s more to say, but Google has said it already, so check out ‘Google tools help schools impacted by COVID-19’.

One of the things students might miss is your in-person instructions. Anyone who has made something using IKEA products knows that you might be better off checking YouTube for an instructional video. I want to have instructional videos, not just written text. So, I did a test run and it’s easy and it works.

If you have a Google account, go to YouTube. On the upper right-hand side you’ll see a little camera icon. Click it!

I recommend using the ‘Upload Video’ option, since ‘Go Live’ requires a certain number of subscribers, I think. Next, you can use your desktop to record a video and then upload it. Or you can use the YouTube app and record using your phone (which is what I did).

Make sure you give the video the setting ‘Unlisted’ under visibility. This means only people with the link can see it.

Once you’ve done this, place the link into the feed of your Google Classroom. Voila! You have video instructions.