Biblical Studies Carnival #167: December 2019

bruegel.jpgWelcome to the Biblical Studies Carnival and happy new year! I have the privilege of rounding up some of my favorite Bible-related posts and publications from the month of December. Although it took some work, the hosting the Carnival makes me appreciate all the more the blood, sweat, and tears that go into continuing the online conversation about the Bible.

So with no further ado, I hope I’ve found something for everyone!

Christmas & Hanukkah

Despite the business of December, many had opportunity to contemplate the meaning(s) of the season.

At Amy Jill Levine guides us through the nativity accounts (i.e. “Jewish stories told by Jews”): The Jewish Origin-s of the Christmas Story.

Over at Psephizo Ian Paul has a number of insightful Christmas-related posts: What does Joseph add to the story of Jesus’ origins in Matthew 1? and When was Jesus really born? (spoiler: not in December!) and Has Christmas been hijacked?.

At Canon Foder Michael Kruger takes aim at your nativity scene: Think You Know the Christmas Story? Here are Five Common Misconceptions.

At P.ost Andrew Perriman lays out the nativity stories in all their mundane historical-political glory: Twelve important things to keep in mind about the Christmas stories. He starts off “Let’s be blunt. Christmas has nothing to do with God coming to earth as a helpless babe to save humanity from sin, etc. That is another matter, it’s not what’s being said, it’s not the burden of the stories in Matthew and Luke. These narrate the birth of a king who will deliver first century Israel from a national crisis. When the angel says to Joseph that Mary’s son will “save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21), he means that Jesus will save Israel from the concrete social-political-religious transgressions that have brought the nation to the brink of catastrophe.”

Though in my estimation he does not go nearly far enough, Mike Bird gives the Christmas story a political bent in this excellent WaPost article: The true meaning of Christmas: Trust God, resist empire!. He concludes “[Christmas] is the annual reminder that God’s liberating love will always find us in the darkest corners of the world. Christmas is intended to be a bold political profession by Christians to trust God and to resist empire.”

At Anxious Bench Philip Jenkins asks why John 10:22 tells us that the festival of Dedication takes place in winter: Jesus at Hanukkah: Winter is Coming.

James Tabor expounds on Hanukkah’s relationship with “the last days” in Daniel Chapter 11 and “Failed” Predictions: Some Hanukkah Thoughts and the Messiah’s birth in Hanukkah & Christmas, but What About Kislev 24.

At Muddling Through the Universe Peter offers some thoughts on how culture has transformed the Christmas story: From History to Mythology.

Dale Tuggy of puts forward an “incarnation-free” reading of the Matthean and Lukan birth stories: Have Yourself an Incarnation Free Christmas.

NT “Santa” Wright comments on the historicity of the birth narratives among other things: #3 Qs on Christmas, the historical Jesus, Bart Ehrman & The Ascension.

The folks at the New Testament Review podcast remember Brown’s careful and critical study of the traditions relating to Jesus’ birth: Christmas Episode: Raymond Brown, The Birth of the Messiah.

Neil Godfrey of Vridar continues his review of M. David Litwa’s How the Gospels Became History: Jesus and Mediterranean Myths: Jesus’ Genealogy and Divine Conception. A great look at how Jesus’ miraculous birth might have been understood by its Greco-Roman audience.

Dan DeWitt at ChristianityToday exposes C. S. Lewis as a pious Grinch: “In his book Miracles, Lewis called the birth of Jesus ‘The Grand Miracle,’ and he compared the Incarnation to the missing part of a novel or a symphony. This lost piece, once found, makes sense out of the rest. Christmas allowed Lewis to have a total worldview, a way of understanding both the universe and the human experience. For the adult Lewis, Christmas could not—should not—be reduced or relegated to greeting cards or the giving of obligatory gifts. Christianity was a total philosophy, a thing so serious that it alone gave real reason for joy.”

Richard Beck at Experimental Theology questions the Evangelical insistence that God’s saving power resides exclusively in the crucifixion: How Christmas Saves us.

Hebrew Bible

In addition to Amy Jill Levine’s piece, produced a number of exciting articles on the Hebrew Bible this month:

  1. Professor Marc Zvi Brettler locates the oft-overlooked perspectives of ancient Israelite women in Psalm 113 and Hannah’s song: A Women’s Voice in the Psalter: A New Understanding of Psalm 113
  2. Professor Israel Knohl argues the Hebrew Joseph has his origins in the Egyptian vizier Baya: Joseph and the Famine: The Story’s Origins in Egyptian History
  3. PhD student Noam Cohen considers the confounding use of Jacob as a moral exemplar in Hosea: Hosea’s Characterization of Jacob

Dr. Mike Bird at Euangelion helpfully lays out nine prominent Jewish conceptions of God’s kingdom: Jewish views about the Kingdom of God.

Doug at Liturgica examines messianic expectation in last Biblical prophets: Waiting for the return of the King: at the end of the First Testament.

Amy Merrill Willis at Bible Odyssey has a brilliant and concise piece on Daniel: What events does the book of Daniel predict?—She considers the lived-in historical experiences and the hope-for historical outcomes that gave rise to the book of Daniel.

Michael Morales of Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?
A Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus fame interviews Ian J. Vaillancourt concerning his new book: The Multifaceted Saviour of Psalms 110 and 118.

John L. Mackay walks us through Saul’s enigmatic encounter with the departed Samuel: What Does It Mean that Samuel Was Brought Up from the Dead? (1 Samuel 28).

At Theology Pathfinder Derek Demars reviews Reading Genesis Well by C. John Collins. “[Collins] steers a course between two bad extremes: on the one hand, treating Genesis as all myth with no real history behind it; on the other, treating it as a purely ‘scientific’ history (by modern standards) with no rhetorical symbolism or poetic imagery.”

New Testament

Amateur Exegete has produced a tour-de-force on Markan christology; analyzing each critical passage in turn: A Brief Response to Erik Manning on Markan Christology. Those seeking to harmonize the Biblical traditions concerning Judas’ death would do well to wrestle with his post Revisiting the Death(s) of Judas: Triggerman’s Novel Approach.

Paul at Overthinking Christian quite wisely discusses our tendency to impute modern ideologies onto Biblical heroes in his review of Romans Disarmed by Sylvia Keesmaat and Brian Walsh. Paul also reviews Scot McKnight’s new book Pastor Paul: Nurturing a Culture of Cruciformity in the Church: “Rooted in realism as well as in the world of the New Testament, this is the best resource on pastoring that I have encountered, and one of the best books on Paul the apostle, beautifully capturing Paul’s vision and legacy for what it means to pastor.”

Craig Keener responds to recent new coming out of Bethel Church in Christianity Today: Every Grieving Parent Can Hope for Resurrection. His discussion of miracles as signs pointing toward future outcomes is much appreciated.

Wright and Bird team up to tackle John’s Gospel at the Zondervan Blog: Interpreting John’s Gospel, by N. T. Wright and Michael F. Bird. They argue that John portrays Jesus’ life as a new Genesis and as a new Exodus. The Evangelist receives this vision both through historical memory and through his experience of Jesus’ spirit.

Bill Mounce continues his careful study of the Greek text in Who are What is the Bread of Heaven? (John 6:33) and Two unusual time designations (Matt 26:55,64).

A new New Testament Greek grammar has arrived. Author Heinrich von Siebenthal discusses his approach at the Zürich New Testament Blog: Ancient Greek Grammar for the Study of the New Testament.

Gary Greenberg at his blog Bible, Myth, and History considers competing conceptions of John’s baptism in John’s Baptism of Jesus. And in The case for a proto-gospel Gary announces his upcoming book in which he argues Mark and John share a literary source.

At Open Our Eyes, Lord! Gary Shogren defends a high Christology in Paul: Paul agrees: Christ is Immanuel, God with us

Neil at Sign of the Rose draws out the meaning of πίστις in the first Gospel: Faith in Matthew’s Gospel—”In Jesus we have a person where the spiritual side of reality associated with the God of Israel is able to act upon the earth and against the demonic forces that enslave, the sin that condemns and the lack of holiness that excludes. Faith or belief in Matthew’s gospel seems to reflect an openness or an awareness of this reality that some have while others do not.”

Jacob Prahlow of Pursuing Veritas continues his series on the puzzling relationship between the Odes of Solomon and John: Odes and John: Perspectives on Relationship.

James McGrath at Religion Prof has done us the great service of collecting articles relating to the much-debated Christology of Early Christian Hymns.

Brandon Crowe at Ligonier’s Tabletalk defends the doctrine of the Son’s eternal generation: God the Son.

Richard Rohrbaugh at puts forward a radical, even revolutionary, reading of the parable of the Talents: What Does the Parable of the Talents Mean?

Phil Long at ReadingActs has been hard at work perusing the letters of John: Who wrote 1 John, What was the situation behind the letters of John?, 1 John 1:1-2 – Eyewitness to the Word of Life, 1 John 1:5-7 – If We Claim to Have Fellowship with God. Phil does an excellent job of uncovering the situations and rhetoric behind the texts.

Liturgica lays out the (apocalyptic) structure and purpose of the Lukan journey cycle: To infinity and beyond! (journeying via Jerusalem) – Luke’s journey structure.


Andrew Perriman announces his new book available now: End of Story: Same Sex Relationships and the Narratives of Evangelical Mission. For an introduction to his thoroughly novel and thoroughly Biblical arguments see Same-sex same solution? Does the Jerusalem Council suggest a way forward?

The videos coming out of The Accessible Faith Project YouTube channel are informative, refreshingly impartial, and fun: 5 of the Most Misunderstood Books of the Bible

At The ANE Today Joan Taylor asks What did Jesus look like? and Shawn Zelig Aster considers the Israelite and Judahite Ambassadors to Assyria: “These ambassadors were essentially co-opted by the Assyrian empire, as part of its larger strategy of co-opting local elites… Local kings who cooperated with Assyria became tax-farmers, and ambassadors who cooperated with Assyria became emissaries for Assyrian ideology, responsible for propagating this ideology in their kingdoms.”

Alastair Roberts at presents his complementarian reading of Genesis 1 and 2: Man and Woman in Creation (Genesis 1 and 2).

At the Unbelievable? podcast Tom Holland and AC Grayling debate the origins of Western morality: Did Christianity give us our human values?

Jonathan Tjarks at The Gospel Coalition reflects on popular American religion: Your Neighbor Is Probably a Unitarian Universalist.

Kathleen Gallagher Elkins at Ancient Jew Review considers the ancient link between martyrdom and motherhood: Mary, Mother of Martyrs.

In true Bart Ehrman fashion Bart Ehrman has announced his new book: Heaven and Hell in a Nutshell—”The idea that a person dies and goes to heaven for eternal reward or hell for everlasting punishment is never taught in the Old Testament. Even more surprising, it is not what Jesus himself preached.  Or his earliest followers.”

Finally, December would not be complete without best-of-the-year lists. Christianity Today has put together its 2020 Book Awards, Andrew Wilson reviews the year at Think Theology, and Paul at Overthinking Christian recounts his favorite books of the year: Best Reads of 2019.

New Books

I’ll close with some new publications that look promising.

Upcoming Books

I want you for the next Biblical Studies Carnival!

Before you go, be sure to check out Derek’s Carnival from last month if you missed it. Here are the hosts for the next few months:

After March the year is wide open, so if you manage a Bible-blog and are interested in hosting, please contact Phil Long of Reading Acts via email at or twitter dm @plong42. It’s a lot of fun and helps keep the conversation going!

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