Tuesday, March 02, 2010
  Amos 7,1-8,3: cohesion and generic dissonance.
I'm delighted! My article in ZAW did appear in 2009, it's just the post to NZ and the de Gruyter's website were both slow ;)

So if you are interested in Amos, or in the ways in which Hebrew Bible texts stick together do please read:

Bulkeley, Tim. “Amos 7,1-8,3: cohesion and generic dissonance.” Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 121 (2009): 515-528.

It is currently available for a fee on the de Gruyter's website (apparently my wisdom is not priceless, but 14 pages is worth US$40 or about 3 words for every cent you pay), or perhaps a library near you has a copy, or if you promise to cite me in your own work I'll send you a copy, so enjoy ;)

Here are the abstracts (in English, French and German):

This article investigates features of the language of Am 7,1–8,3 which promote the cohesion of the text, and how these interact with rhetorical features of the text to promote a coherent message. In this passage, repetition of lexical stock is a particularly strong cohesive feature. It promotes reading the vision accounts, both the three which precede and the one that follows, with the biographical narrative in 7,10–17. Thus despite marked differences of genre and point of view, first person in the vision accounts and third person in the narrative, the sections of this passage as we have it work together. Together they promote the claim that Amos was a true prophet, and that his message of disaster for the kingdom of Israel was indeed a word from the LORD.

Cet article étudie les éléments linguistiques d'Amos 7,1–8,3 qui produisent un sens de cohésion textuelle. Il note la façon dont ces éléments fonctionnent ensemble avec des techniques rhétoriques, de façon à suggérer un message cohérent. Dans cette section du livre d'Amos, la répétition lexicale constitue une importante structure de cohésion. Cet effet encourage une lecture des récits de vision prophétiques, les trois racontés avant la narration biographique en Amos 7,10–17 aussi bien que celui qui la suit. On constate ainsi des différences notables entre les sections de cette péricope, telle que nous l'avons reçue. Ces différences comprennent le genre et le point de vue (les récits de vision sont racontés à la première personne, mais la narration biographique à la troisième). En dépit de ce décalage formel, les sections fonctionnent bien ensemble. Elles suggèrent qu'Amos était un vrai prophète, et que son message de catastrophe pour le royaume d'Israël était en fait une parole du Seigneur.

Der Beitrag untersucht die Sprachelemente in Am 7,1–8,3, die für den Zusammenhalt des Textes verantwortlich sind, und beleuchtet ihr Zusammenwirken mit den rhetorischen Mitteln für die Herstellung von Kohärenz. Dabei wird der Verwendung gleicher Begriffe etwa für die Verknüpfung der Visionsschilderungen mit der biographischen Erzählung in Am 7,10–17 große Bedeutung zugemessen. Trotz der immer wieder angeführten Unterschiede in Gattung, Intention und »Ich«- bzw. »Er«-Bericht gehen sie auf eine Hand zurück. Zusammen formulieren sie den Anspruch, dass Amos ein wahrer Prophet ist und dass seine Unheilsbotschaft für das Königreich Israel Wort Gottes ist.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010
  Amos, justice and gender
Julia O'Brien has a fine post Reading Amos in Modern Tekoa, it should suggest other neat possibilities for teaching! Though as Julia shows Tekoa today offers richer possibilities than many other sites.

But as they say "the devil is in the details", and in this case I wonder about a couple of related details. Julia "point[s] out how Amos falls short of all-inclusive justice" citing Judith Sanderson in the Women’s Bible Commentary:
  • "the description of Samaria’s women in 4:1-3 unfairly scapegoats women for the nation’s ills" does it? Or does this passage merely suggest that the women who enjoy the "good life" procured by oppression (cf 4:1 they at least enjoyed the drinkies) are condemned along with thoose who procured them these treats?
  • Amos "failed specifically to champion the women among the poor" surely 2:7b does specifically champion a class of (poor) women (servant girls) from male abuse, and states that such abuse profanes the holy reputation of God.
I don't believe that Amos is entirely free of the taint of common social attitudes of his time (though as a male I am less likely to spot examples), doubtless the book reflects the unconscious prejudices of its writers and editors, but please limit mention of this to cases where the failure to transcend time and place are clear and unequivocal.

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Thursday, February 04, 2010
  Brick walls and motherly God-talk
I've run into a brick wall working on my Amos land and territory material, a belated [well the oral paper was supposed to be only that, thoughts of publication followed the colloquium, and last year was so busy] literature search has thrown up a highly relevant article that could impact hugely on what I write, but the journal may not be available in NZ :( So, if anyone has access to
S. D. Snyman, "The Land as a Leitmotiv in the Book of Amos." Verbum et Ecclesia, 2005, 26(2) 527-542
and could scan and email me a copy, I'd be delighted :)

In the meanwhile I need to change mental gears and work on the Day of YHWH and the structure of Amos. To help me with the transition [at least that's my excuse] I have been doing the mindless but necessary job of converting more of Not Just a Father, my book on the use of motherly language and imagery to speak about God in the Christian tradition into the format that will allow readers to comment on, ask questions about and argue with my thinking paragraph by paragraph.

I am now doing chapter 5 "Theology of God as Both Father and Mother" though I have cheated a bit as chapter 3 is not yet written ;)

All I need now are people to make comments, so once again (now that I am back at work after the summer) if you know someone who might be interested in this topic please point them to the site and suggest that they really say what they think :)

But before you do that do please email the Thai prime Minister...

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Saturday, July 11, 2009
  'Exile away from his land': Is landlessness the ultimate punishment in Amos?
Here's an audio recording (made on my phone) with the presentation slides from the paper I gave to a Laidlaw Carey Graduate School seminar on The Land of Promise earlier this week. The paper is more the first stage of a work in progress than a finished work, so I would be interested in any comments you have.

The recording includes the question time from the day. The recording lasts about 30 minutes and is available in two formats:

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Friday, September 12, 2008
  Amos reviewed in BTB
I have just received another review of the Amos: Hypertext Bible Commentary "volume", this time in Biblical Theology Bulletin, by Anselm C. Hagedorn of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. I will quote the concluding paragraph:
However, these concerns are probably not the ones of the users whom Bulkeley had in mind for his commentary. There is certainly a wealth of information to be found on this CD, but the present reviewer remains sceptical whether a disc can really be an adequate substitute for some standard books such as a Hebrew Bible, a lexicon, and a concordance. Also in his goal not to offer a chosen path of interpretation for the user, Bulkeley runs the risk of losing his user/reader altogether. Sometimes it would have been helpful to know what Bulkeley actually thinks about the text, since I seriously doubt that the intended user without formal training is able to judge the scholarship adequately. All these quibbles aside, amongst the commentaries available for a general theological readership this is clearly one of the better ones.
First the detail: Hagedorn says he "remains sceptical whether a disc can really be an adequate substitute for some standard books such as a Hebrew Bible, a lexicon, and a concordance." The Logos and Bibleworks programs of course demonstrate that it can ;) But I do not see HBC_ as a competitor with these. A commentary complements such tools.

The issue that Hagedorn raises with his comment that "Sometimes it would have been helpful to know what Bulkeley actually thinks about the text" is a significant one, and one about which I still have mixed feelings.

On the one hand it is frustrating that most reviewers of the commentary assume that I believe that the book of Amos was somehow written very close to the period in which the prophetic speeches it contains are set. I don't. I am still convinced that something like Wolff's reconstruction of the redaction history of the book is likely, Coote's simplification of Wolff sometimes seems better because simpler, but at other times recognition of the complexity of everyday life convinces me that even Wolff's scheme is probably an over-simplification. But we do not and cannot know. We can make intelligent guesses, like Wolff's, about the history of the redaction of the book (though by the time I finish reading Van Seters I may be convinced we can dispense with the notion of redactors ;) But all we can know is the book, and the setting in which it presents "Amos", that is what I choose to read... My readers attributing to me a naive historicism is frustrating.

But on the other hand, I have been delighted when in one week an Orthodox Rabbi and a Messianic pastor write to me thanking me for the work, I chuckle when in the same month small groups of Brazillian Catholics were using my commentary in their study of Amos, while somewhere to the north of them whole Sunday Schools of Southern Baptists were doing the same! On the whole I would not choose to exchange this delightful (if ironic) understanding of Scripture by such diverse groups to undo the misunderstanding (of my position on the possible/likely history of composition and transmission of the book) by scholars.

It will be interesting when other writers for the series have written and we can compare how different judgement calls on this issue work.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008
  Amos review in Maarav
Jim W kindly emailed me a copy of the review of the Amos: Hypertext Bible Commentary from Maarav 14.1 which appeared recently. Since I am currently in a refugee camp I had no other way to see it. Walter Kim (Harvard) has done an excellent job of first understanding the nature and aims of the project, and then reviewing it on its own terms. He understands the medium and his criticisms are well worth consideration. Some will probably be incorporated into a second edition of Amos one day - and may well get incorporated into the changeable version earlier than that (n.b. there are two editions the stable, citable, peer reviewed edition on CD, and currently also at and the "wild" edition that I may change any time and therefore is neither stable, nor formally peer reviewed). I plan to post discussion of some of the ideas from these print reviews in the near future, but not till we are home from the camp and I have again the luxury of peace and quiet for thinking ;-)

For now I will just quote the closing paragraph, and bask!
The digital revolution has altered the way people shop and interact. In this unique commentary, Bulkeley suggests that the revolution extends to the way people learn and that the organization of information ought to reflect that transformation. The field of biblical studies is in many ways a conservative endeavor. Scholars work with ancient and venerable things. This commentary, however, suggests that one need not work with them in ancient and venerable ways. With the rise of the internet, the landscape of learning is changing, and Bulkeley helps the reader explore the possibilities of this new terrain. With a vast array of sound files, photos, encyclopedic articles, and traditional commentary on verses, readers of various levels of training and expertise can browse the commentary and construct a rather different experience, based upon the links pursude or ignored. Because the internet permits learning to occur as controlled chaos, the person who searches on the webexercises a vaste amount of autonomy in the selection and utilisation of resources. Bulkeley's commentary puts the reader in a similar position.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007
  Amos 5:18-26 - 7:1-17
Writing an interpretative contemporary adaptation of Scripture is a good way to test our understanding, and to sharpen it. Dale Campbell, youth pastor at Northcote Baptist Church (perhaps the thousands of visitors who arrive panting at the site following this link will encourage them to finish it ;-) so perhaps if you all link to the BBC site we will get a similar wake up call ;-) anyway, Dale has written such an update on Amos 5:18-7:17 (targum) and since it is really stimulating, and since he just finished my prophets class, I suggest you take a look and leave him a comment!

I'll give you just a taster to whet your appetites:
(Judgment against hollow worship - 5:18-27)
"You want Jesus to come back? Yeah right! You know when He comes, He's going to judge the wicked, don't you!!?? It's not going to be fun for you! God says, 'Nothing makes me sicker than your conferences. I want to vomit during your church services. Even though you offer your so-called 'worship' I couldn't care less! I don't listen to junk like that! Will you please just shut up already?? I don't want to be your boyfriend! I want you to be passionate about justice! I want you to live lives that are righteous! Hello? Did you organise music festivals, worship conferences and other such 'Christian' things? I'll make your 'Hill' songs into 'Valley' songs – for the 'god' that you are worshipping is the music god you've made for yourself!!! I'm going to make you completely and totally irrelevant and non influential in your own culture. No one will care AT ALL what you have to babble on about!
Incidentally I tried the same sort of thing for Amos 4:4-5 today? and I began to write an "Out of my Mind" column for the NZBaptist in 2003 using a quote from Joel Drinkard's article in which he rewrote the whole book. I planned the piece to begin like this:
This book should be banned. It attacks freedoms fundamental to our way of life, it ridicules our leaders, it seeks to undermine the very fabric of our society. It’s on sale openly in many NZ bookshops. What’s worse it’s available for free on the Internet. At least it’s not yet being taught in the schools my children attend – though I’ve heard that it might be taught in some schools.

Any book that lays siege to the way Western democracies live as blatantly as this one is probably written by a supporter of Osama bin Laden. To show you what I mean here’s an extract from near the beginning:

For three transgressions of America and for four
   I will not revoke the punishment
   because you spent millions to store surplus food
and permit varmints to eat that which could feed   thousands of starving children,
because you pour milk on the ground,
   saying the price is too cheap,
when infants in Ethiopia die without milk,
because you squander the world’s resources
   thinking only of your own comfort,
because you turn to soap operas for your moral values
   and seek success as your most important virtue.
So you shall suffer for your sins.
   Your mammoth aquifers will be squeezed dry,
your bread basket will become a dust bowl,
   your cities and your countryside will become
      polluted by sin,
   your national symbol will become the vulture
instead of the eagle.
You are big –
   you will fall hard.

Thank goodness the anti-terrorism bill was recently passed by the NZ parliament. Perhaps now we can see that such works are not distributed more widely.

Joel F. Drinkard “Thus says the Lord” Review and Expositor 92, 1995, 222.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007
  Reviews of Amos: Hypertext Bible Commentary
At last there are a number of reviews available of my Amos: Hypertext Bible Commentary, so I have begun collecting extracts and (where permission is given) the whole of short reviews on a reviews page on the project site. Naturally the extracts are chosen to represent the favourable bits ;-) though since usually this is either the introduction or conclusion this does not seem unfair!

I intend when I have time to reflect (some months away probably - maybe at the start of my sabbatical :) to respond to some of the negative comments and the suggestions reviewers have made. Some of these should lead to significant improvements in the conception of future volumes. That was one reason for sending out review copies of a work that was already available online, to get the academic "system" involved in improving the concept.

So, if you are a reviewer and I have not yet emailed you, expect some contact after the end of this year.

By the way the reviews I am currently aware of are:
  • R.E. Clements in John Day (ed.), Society for Old Testament Study Book List 2007, London: Sage, 2007, 70.
  • Joan Ferrer, Butlletí de l’Associació Bíblica de Catalunya 93: Sept 2006, 56.
  • Knut Holter, BOTSA Electronic Forum [] (2006).
  • James R. Linville, The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 69, 2007, 316-318.
  • Ehud Ben Zvi, Review of Biblical Literature [] (2007).
  • International Review of Biblical Studies 52, 2005-2006, 162.
If you know of reviews that I have not listed please let me know!

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Best paper so far at SBL award ::

For me, and any such judgement is bound to be gloriously subjective, though in this case supported (according to the clapometer) by the others in the room, the best paper so far at SBL has to be Sara Milstein's "Recapturing the Prophet: Identifying Amos' Call Narrative in 3:2-8".

Sara argued neatly and succinctly that the prey in Amos 3:3-8 is not (as is usually assumed) Israel, but Amos. The change of voice and form between 3:1-2 and 3-8 suggests that we not be too quick to identify the "two who walk together" as YHWH and Israel... None of the traps and disasters in 3-8 tells of the death of the prey, yet elsewhere Amos is not reluctant to proclaim Israel's death! The language of capture (4b & 5b) and fear (6a & 8a) serves suggest that the prophet is YHWH's prey (as Jeremiah will be in Jer 20:7ff. though the seduced Jeremiah is a human prey, while Amos the herdsman is an animal in a trap).

I haven't the space, or the memory to summarise Sara's agruments properly, sufficient for now to say that she neatly supported her claims till the conventional reading of the passage seemed forced and her reading natural. I am totally convinced by her reading, except for the name "call narrative", if Amos 3:3-8 describes or argues for Amos' call, and Sara convinced me it does, it is not a "narrative". But then as Sara points out, we name the genre after the versions in Isaiah and Jeremiah (perhaps including Ezekiel), yet Amos can (perhaps - I have doubts over the dating of the material in the book) claim "prior art". Maybe the genre already (if we include Ezekiel) quite diverse is not prophetic call narrative but something like "justification of a prophet's call".

The paper that followed Roger Nam's "Grain, Wine and Oil in the Northern Prophets:The Socio-economic Background of an Agricultural Metaphor" was also a prime example of stimulating work. Roger moved confidently from a summary recasting of the archaeological data to a comparative linguistic examination of the terms concerned. Another paper I must follow up... And perhaps more grist for a new edition of Amos ;-)

[In the interests of full disclosure of interest, I must confess that Sara cited my 1999 paper and it is always gratifying when ones work comes back to haunt one. On that, I'll wait till I read her paper at more leisure, to decide if I am convinced by her there too, or if I still stand by Bulkeley 1999!]

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

First print review of Amos Commentary

The first print review of Amos: Hypertext Bible Commentary that I am aware of (do tell me if you know an earlier one!) appeared in the Butlletí de l’Associació Bíblica de Catalunya 93: Sept 2006, 56

Since I cannot really read Catalan I would be delighted if someone could translate for me! Though with a mixture of some Spanish from a holiday during my teenage years and French I managed to decipher most of it.

Isn't it lovely that the first review should come from somewhere as far from NZ as possible in a language that has VERY few native speakers within thousands of miles of here (there must be a Catalan community in Australia, I'd guess).


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

What's next - future media ::

Christianity Today has an article “What’s Next: Publishing and Broadcasting”. (HT to Think Christian who posted snippets, and before that to Lingamish for noticing!)

Isn't it nice when the “mainstream media” deign to think about the future ;-)

Two items from the comments (on Think Christian) really struck me.

The first is daft, Donnell Duncan writes:

I have a website and I’m publishing a book soon. Even though it’s 2006, for at least another twenty years, I expect the influence of my book to extend just as far as my website.
Well no Donnell, unless your “book” is a fiction bestseller like Harry Potter or the Da Vinci Code, it's likely that a website will have far more impact.

Suppose your print book sells 1,000 copies (which at least in Biblical Studies would be strong sales) and 250 of those are to libraries. Suppose, what's more, that on average individual owners loan the book to three other people over the next twenty years, that would make 3,000 readers. Again let's assume that each library copy is read 100 times before falling to bits – 25,000 readers. Wow, that's nearly 30,000 readers over the twenty years :)

Now let's compare my Amos commentary, about 900 different IP addresses “visit” the material each day. Of course most of those are Google visitors who do not find what they want and move on, though since somebody looks at over 8,000 pages per day some visitors are reading quite a bit. If we assume one print page of your book is equivalent to 4 web pages from Amos that would be 2,000 pages of your book each day, if the book is 250 pages long that's 8 cover-to-cover readers daily, or nearly 3,000 per year. So on a conservative estimate (and every year so far readership of the online material has grown) the web “book” is about twice as influential as the print one ;-)

Dusty Bogard by contrast is a future focused commentator. He quotes Jonathan Schwartz, CEO Sun Microsystems:

I was in a European airport a few weeks ago, waiting in a lounge with about 100 other people – when I had to revise my world view. Most people had mobile handsets – we all would’ve predicted that. But no one was talking on their phone. They were all looking at them, and either browsing or text’ing or playing a game – but no one was making a voice call… Which only strengthens my belief that most people in the world will first experience the internet on their handset. Which means most businesses in the world trying to reach those consumers or leverage the internet should broaden their horizons.
Eeek, we need a .mobi domain and site optimised for WAP (and/or XHTML-MP - can anyone tell me which or how?) for the PodBible project, there's a whole bunch of potential listeners we have hardly started to supply. I'll register the domain, does anyone know someone who can turn an RSS podcast feed into a WAP or XHTML-MP site?

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