Thoughts in the Dark

Trying to Bring Ideas into the Light

Tag: reading

Allusion and Intertextuality: Pondering my Thesis

This semester is my semester to prepare for my thesis. I am taking 6 hours of independent study; 3 hours of readings towards the thesis and writing a 30-35 page lit review, and 3 hours of a “research methods” course that will culminate in a 10-15 page prospectus detailing the thesis. I will enroll in 6 hours next semester to actually write the thesis.

My leanings so far have been towards the idea of intertextuality and illusion between the Hebrew Bible and various Ancient Near Eastern sources. This has stemmed out of my previous research (mostly done in the time in between completing my first MA and starting my second MA), including a regional SECSOR paper and a paper given at the annual SBL in Baltimore last year, primarily dealing with the divine warrior motif and its use in the Hebrew Bible.

For my thesis, I hope to begin to develop a “theology of intertextuality,” and specifically focus on how ancient materials are appropriated and put to use (Jeremy Hutton, who I am not familiar with, has written a paper dealing with one specific case, calling it “the rhetorical appropriation and subversion of hostile theologies”).

I hope to use the space on this blog to flesh out some ideas and work out how the work of various authors interact as I read and research this topic.


2013 Reading List

Some of you might have remembered my post at the end of 2012 where I listed everything I read during that calendar year. For those interested, I’ve done it again.

Last year I set a goal of 25 books and ended up reading 35. This year I decided to set a goal of 40 books, but I fell short of that goal and only read 30. I did cut out some of the fluff (none of that garbage like the books by John MacArthur or Jonathan Falwell), and a lot of the reading was geared towards the papers I wrote for SECSOR and SBL, as well as a few for the classes I took in my MA program.

Here is the list of what I read in 2013:

1. “The Problem of War in the Old Testament” by Peter C. Craigie
2. “The Divine Warrior in Early Israel” by Patrick D. Miller, Jr.
3. “The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature?” by John N. Oswalt
4. “Disturbing Divine Behavior: Troubling Old Testament Images of God” by Eric A. Seibert
5. “Yahweh is a Warrior: The Theology of Warfare in Ancient Israel” by Millard C. Lind
6. “The Divine Warrior Motif in the Psalms” by H. Wayne Ballard
7. “Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament” by John Walton
8. “Myth and Reality in the Old Testament” by Brevard S. Childs
9. “Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel” by Frank M. Cross
10. “Against Calvinism” by Roger E. Olson
11. “The Andrew Paradigm: How to Be a Lead Follower of Jesus” by Bishop Michael J. Coyner
12. “The Dawn of Apocalyptic” by Paul D. Hanson
13. “Holy War in the Bible: Christian Morality and an Old Testament Problem” edited by Heath A. Thomas, Jeremy Evans, and Paul Copan
14. “Biblical Theology: Introducing the Conversation” by Leo G. Perdue, Robert Morgan, and Benjamin D. Sommer.
15. “Sacrifice, Scripture, & Substitution: Readings in Ancient Judaism and Christianity” edited by Ann W. Astell and Sandor Goodhart
16. “Covenant: God’s Purpose, God’s Plan” by John Walton
17. “John Wesley’s Teachings, Volume 1: God and Providence” by Thomas C. Oden
18. “John Wesley’s Teachings, Volume 2: Christ and Salvation” by Thomas C. Oden
19. “John Wesley’s Teachings, Volume 3: Pastoral Theology” by Thomas C. Oden
20. “Moral Dilemmas: An Introduction to Christian Ethics” by J. Philip Wogaman
21. “Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals” by Immanuel Kant
22. “Moral Man and Immoral Society” by Reinhold Niebuhr
23. “The Great Theologians: A Brief Guide” by Gerald R. McDermott
24. “The Modern Theologians” ed. by David Ford
25. “Historical Theology” by Alister McGrath
26. “The Old Testament of the Old Testament” by R.W. Moberly
27. “Old Testament Theology: Reading the Hebrew Bible as Christian Scripture” by R. W. Moberly
28. “Invitation to the New Testament: First Things” by Ben Witherington III
29. “Exclusive Inclusivity: Identity Conflicts Between the Exiles and the People Who Remained (6th – 5th Centuries BCE)” by Dalit Rom-Shiloni
30. “Opening Paul’s Letters: A Reader’s Guide to Genre and Interpretation” by Patrick Gray 

I think my goal for this next year will be 35 books. I also would like to read at least 3 fiction titles (which you can see is a category missing in this year’s list).

What did you read in 2013?

Another Semester Bites the Dust

I teach as an adjunct at three schools. One of the three, however, dropped my class this semester due to low enrollment.

I taught Survey of the New Testament online at a Christian liberal arts university, and I taught World Religions at a local community college. What I learned from teaching these two courses this semester surprised me. Here are a few things that I learned:

(1) Knowing more than my students know on a given subject is not always enough to give me confidence in my teaching ability in that specific subject. I have a BA in Religion, but only took two classes that had to do with religions other than Christianity. I have a MA in Biblical Studies, but I only had one course in theology that discussed other religions, and even then it was set in the context of a Christian theological interaction with other beliefs. I am currently in a MA program in Applied Theology, and have done nothing with other religions. Teaching a World Religions course, therefore, has been difficult, but helpful in learning to step out of my comfort zone.

(2) Students cheat. I already knew this, but it has really come to the forefront this semester, particularly in my online course. If a professor would not let a student bring in a book or commentary to copy onto his or her final exam in class, then why would I allow a student to copy-and-paste a website into an online exam essay question?

(3) Grading takes a lot of time. A whole lot of time. This is the first time I’ve taught two courses in the same semester. I assign a lot of writing (the most students read and write, the better prepared they are for life in general, not to mention upper level courses). I, therefore, must read a tremendous amount of writing and grade it (with ample comments). I think I read about 600 or so pages of student writing this semester. Adjuncts don’t get graders.

(4) Some students will always hate your class. There are usually more students who put all 5’s on the student evaluation than students who put all 0’s, but you will still have some who give you all 0’s. It is frustrating, given the amount of time and energy I put into designing a course, writing lectures, designing discussion forums, and gathering materials (not to mention reading and grading – see #3). But it happens. Some students won’t care how much you put into it if they didn’t get the grade they wanted (or if they have to read too much, or write too much, or actually have to show up, etc.).

(5) The students who send you emails of encouragement will always make up for #4. I’ve already received 2-3 emails from students thanking me for the class and telling me how much it has changed their perspective on the New Testament or on religion, and how much they got out of it. If only one student gets a ton out of a course, it is a success. You usually get out of a class what you put into it, and this has been true for each of my students this year.

Next semester it looks like I will be teaching NT Survey online and NT Survey in a face-to-face classroom, both at a different institution. I’m excited to see what new things I learn next semester!


And it is seriously crunch time. My paper is the equivalent of a 1600-word outline.

I know my starting point, and I can see where I’m going from the work I’ve done so far, but it is just insanity trying to move from point A to point B. I look over what I have and think, “this is terrible!” But then again, it isn’t even a first draft yet, so of course it is terrible.

I view SBL as a giant pool of ideas; by presenting a paper, I am submitting my idea to the pool. If my idea sucks, it should spit it back in my face. If my idea is good, then hopefully I will receive some affirmation and then go on to turn my idea into a paper to be submitted as an article to journals.

Anybody out there reading this in the same boat as me, trying to finish up a paper that just doesn’t want to end? How are you dealing with it? It doesn’t help that I’m also working on two classes that I haven’t taught before (or at least through the medium that I’m teaching one of them), so I am writing all my material week-by-week for two classes in addition to lecturing and grading (and being a dad of a 2-year-old, looking for full-time employment and constantly sending out my CV, and whatever else I have on my plate, ha!).

I’m guessing that I just need to buck up and get it done!

To-Do List

The Fall seems to be an exceptionally busy season for me. I am working on my second MA, teaching two classes (because the third fell through due to low enrollment), and have a number of small writing projects going on. In addition to this, I have a very amazing two-year-old son and an incredible wife who both deserve more than every minute I can give them. I also am looking for a full-time job!

I am posting my to-do list here so that I can hold myself accountable. These are my goals for the Fall:

(1) Write lectures for my world religion class on a week-to-week basis. I’ve never taught this course before, so at 12:25pm today (Monday), I am writing the lecture for the 8am Tuesday (tomorrow) class. Same thing will happen on Wednesday. Also – keep up with grading for this class!

(2) Continue to build my online New Testament Intro class. I have the first 8 weeks built in Edvance360 (we are starting week 3 this Wednesday), but am trying to build a 1-week lesson each week as we move through the semester. Also, I have a ton of grading for this course, so I’m trying to keep up.

(3) Write my paper for SBL! I cannot believe that it is September already, and I have nothing beyond preliminary notes for my SBL paper (I have done a good bit of reading, at least!).

(4) I have no choice but to make an A in my September class for my MA. Class starts this Friday. I’ve already read about 800 pages of material in preparation for the course, “Ten Theologians that Speak from the Grave,” so that during the 5-week intensive I can focus on the theologians’ primary works. This course may also involve a decent amount of writing.

(5) Lexham Bible Dictionary. I have a contract for 5 dictionary articles, and have turned one in already (although they have requested a few minor revisions). I hope to have all 5 completed and turned in by December 31st.

(6) Book Reviews. I currently am reading one book for Religious Studies Review, and also have the first three volumes of Thomas Oden’s John Wesley’s Teachings read and am writing a 2,000 word review of them for Reviews in Religion and Theology. These need to be finished SOON.

(7) Find a JOB. Teaching two courses as an adjunct isn’t paying the bills. My 1-year, grant funded position at the community college last year was nice, but I need something now that it is up. With one MA under my belt, I could teach more as an adjunct (or even be hired full time at a community college), but I don’t see that happening any time soon. My next hope is for something in higher ed, just to make contacts and stay involved in education. I am, however, willing to look outside the field just to pay my way through this MA and make sure food is on the table and the lights stay on. I’m just not getting many call backs yet.

Will I accomplish all this? I believe I will! It is time to get busy …


I have not posted much recently because I have been busy writing; as I mentioned a few months back, my paper proposal to SECSOR was accepted, and this past weekend I had the opportunity to present my paper.

The presentation seemed to go great; there were four of us presenting seemingly unrelated topics, and questions were saved for the very end. I had 3 or 4 questions directed to me concerning my paper, but there was just enough unexpected overlap between papers that we could all interject with each other’s questions. This led to a Q&A discussion that lasted almost an hour!

Next step: turning this paper into a journal article and submitting it to a journal. Does anyone have any advice for that process?

A New Goal and Direction for this Blog

I have been blogging for two years now. I have a number of faithful followers as well as those who pop on in because there is a “controversy” or I use some controversial keyword (like “Mark Driscoll”). So far, I’ve had a number of thoughtful posts, but also more than a few rants. There has been quite a bit of discussion lately about the future of blogging in higher education, with special focus on blogging in the biblical studies / theology realm. A good introduction to this discussion of blogging and biblical studies can be found here, which then links to a number of other discussions (particularly of interest in Robert Holmstedt’s blog that he co-authors with my former professor, John Cook).

Ultimately, the concern is that your blog will come up (a) when you apply for PhD programs, (b) while you’re in your PhD program, (c) once you graduate and are looking for that first teaching position, and (d) when you are finally on the tenure track and up for review. The problem is that EVERYONE blogs the occasional inflammatory rant. Do we want that to get in the way of our academic progress?

That said, I am NOT going to stop blogging. Instead, I am going to change direction. I am starting a second Master of Arts degree this summer, and plan on applying for PhD programs after that. My goal is to read and write as much as physically possible between now and then. In order to organize my reading, I thought I might use this blog as sort of a “Forschungsgeschichte,” or “History of Research.” Basically, I will take notes as I read sources here on the blog, whether books, journal articles, or book chapters. I will write a “review,” followed by the pertinence to my current and (hopeful) future research.

I still will attempt to interact with the occasional current events in religion and theology, but I need to remove myself from the most inflammatory subjects for the sake of my calling and my future career.

What do you all think of this idea?

Stepping Out on Faith

How many of you have seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? I watched this movie over and over again when I was a kid. It came out when I was six years old, and I had a new hero.

One of my favorite scenes from the movie was when Indy steps out in a “leap of faith” on to the invisible bridge.


Recently, I decided to take a leap of my own. My graduate coursework was not exactly of the highest quality (maybe I should rephrase: the effort put into my graduate coursework was not exactly the highest quality!). If I want to get into a PhD program, I need to find a way to improve.

A couple of weeks ago, I made the decision to apply for and enroll in a Master of Arts in Applied Theology at Carson-Newman University (my alma mater; I received a BA in Religion there in 2007). Many people have asked me why a MA in Applied Theology; my reasoning is simply: (a) To show that I can graduate from an accredited MA program with a 4.0; (b) expand my horizons and add theology to my biblical studies background; (c) be able to relate the academy to the church, and (d) have a supervised writing statement that I have to orally defend.

That said, when I made this decision and applied, I had no clue how I was going to fund this program. The program is new, so little to no financial aid is provided by the school. I stepped out on faith, and said “God, if you want me to do this, show me how.”

And it turns out that he has! The very next week I was asked to teach an additional summer course for the community college where I am an adjunct. This would cover the cost of the summer course I planned on taking. That same day I received an email from the dean of religion at CN saying that there is a good possibility that I can teach an undergraduate course, which will cover two more courses. Later that same week, I received an email from another community college, offering my a course to teach in the fall. Suddenly, I have Summer, Fall, and most of Spring paid for!

I don’t often mix theology and emotion, although I probably should consider that to be acceptable practice. Today is different, because I am in awe at how God provides.

Amen and amen!

Reading, Reading, Reading … Writing?

I MUST get some thoughts down on paper.

I have read a couple thousand pages over these past four weeks about my paper topic, but I have not been able to scribble more than a few notes. I need to put some words down on the page. They want a draft in February for the presider and respondent, and I am NOT on target to have that done.

In other words – I need to get to work!

My goal is this: Write.

That is it; I have to write. It doesn’t matter if the writing is great, good, or terrible. I can fix that later. I just have to write this all down. Once I have a draft, I can edit to my heart’s content.

2012 Reading List

Alright, the following list is every book I read in 2012. Most of them were sent to me to review, although some were Christmas and Birthday gifts, as well as one that I borrowed from a friend (The Hobbit). Some of these books were thought-provoking and all around amazing, while others were difficult to finish and really quite miserable. My goal was to read 25 books in 2012, and I read 35. My revised goal for 2013 is 40 books! Let’s see how it goes!

1. “Why God Won’t Go Away: Is the New Atheism Running on Empty?” by Alister McGrath
2. “Civilizations of Ancient Iraq” by Benjamin Foster
3. “Mark: The Gospel of Passion” by Michael Card
4. “The Jesus We Missed” by Patrick Henry Reardon
5. “Festive Meals in Ancient Israel: Deuteronomy’s Identity in Their Ancient Near Eastern Context” by Peter Altmann
6. “Israel and Babylon: The Babylonian Influence on Israelite Religion” by Hermann Gunkel
7. “The Eerdmans Companion to the Bible” by Gordon Fee.
8. “Godforsaken: Bad Things Happen. Is There a God Who Cares? Yes. Here’s Proof” by Dinesh D’Souza
9. “Job: Understanding the Books of the Bible” by Christopher Smith
10. “Biblical hermeneutics: Five Views,” edited by Stanley E. Porter and Beth M. Stovell
11. “Psychological Analysis and the Historical Jesus” by Bas Van Os
12. “1000 Days” by Jonathan Falwell
13. “Return of the Chaos Monster and Other Backstories of the Bible” by Gregory Mobley
14. “The Later New Testament Writings and Scripture: The Old Testament in Acts, Hebrews, the Catholic Epistles, and Revelation” by Steve Moyise
15. “The Fourth Fisherman” by Joe Kissack
16. “Deuteronomy: The NIV Application Commentary” by Daniel L. Block
17. “The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins” by Peter Enns
18. “Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes” by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien
19. “Hidden in Plan Sight: Finding Wisdom and Meaning in the Parts of the Bible Most People Skip” by Boyd Seevers
20. “For Calvinism” by Michael Horton
21. “Biblical Hebrew Grammar Visualized” by Francis I. Anderson and A. Dean Forbes
22. “Why Church Matters” by Joshua Harris
23. “The Truth About the Lordship of Christ” by John MacArthur
24. “Go-Do” by Jay Milbrandt
25. “Red Letter Revolution: What if Jesus Really Meant What He Said” by Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo
26. “The Radical Question / A Radical Idea” by David Platt
27. “Christ and the Desert Tabernacle” by J. V. Fesko
28. “Francis Schaeffer” by Mostyn Roberts
29. “Leveraging Your Leadership Style” by John Jackson and Lorraine Bosse-Smith
30. “God is a Warrior” by Tremper Longman III and Daniel G. Reid
31. “Adam as Israel: Genesis 1-3 as the Introduction to the Torah and Tanakh” by Seth D. Postell
32. “Leadership in the Wesleyan Spirit” by Lovett H. Weems Jr.
33. “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien
34. “The Characterization of the Assyrians in Isaiah: Synchronic and Diachronic Perspectives” by Mary Katherine Y. H. Hom
35. “Holy War in Ancient Israel” by Gerhard von Rad

If you want to know what I thought of these books, most of them were reviewed either on this blog or in the following publications: Reviews in Religion and Theology, Religious Studies Review, The Journal for the Evangelical Study of the Old Testament, and Bible Study Magazine.