Review of “The Lost Gospel” by Jacobovici and Wilson

Except it’s NOT lost, and it’s NOT a gospel.

Since I’ve already been bombarded with questions from students and readers about the latest claims made by Simcha Jacobovici and Dr. Barrie Wilson in their new book, The Lost Gospel, I thought I’d post a quick response to this latest round of absurdity by repeating and re-posting some of the comments I made over a year ago in a post announcing my spring 2014 University of Iowa course in Syriac – a post that dealt (almost prophetically) with many of the claims made in this new book.

You can read most of Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Wilson’s book online (and search for the parts that interest you) at Google Books here.

Mr. Jacobovici’s new book essentially claims that the 6th century CE Syriac language version of a Greek pseudepigraphical story entitled  Joseph and Aseneth (which I discuss in my class “Banned from the Bible: Intro to Pseudepigrapha and Apocrypha” course at Iowa) is a “gospel”, and should be read allegorically, but only after replacing every mention of Joseph with the name “Jesus”, and every mention of Aseneth with “Mary Magdalene”.

Now, if your first thought is, “WTF? This is just as problematic as the Bible Code dude, who attempts to read every passage in the Bible as an allegory for every modern event, from the Invasion of Iraq, to the Wall Street Crash, to President Obama’s election, etc.”, then you’re right on the money. It is precisely that silly – same interpretative technique, same lack of evidence, same wishful speculation. The same guy who claims to have discovered the route of the Exodus, Atlantis, the nails of the cross, the tomb of Jesus (with Jesus still in it!), and another tomb of people celebrating Jesus’ resurrection (with Jesus still in the other tomb), has now written a book claiming “evidence” that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, by swapping out the names of Joseph and Aseneth and replacing them with the names of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

By that same allegorical logic, you could swap out the names of Samson and Delilah and claim that Mary Magdalene cut Jesus’ hair. Or swap out Adam and Eve and conclude that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were the primordial couple. Or read David and Bathsheba allegorically and end up with Jesus having a son named Solomon, who is guarded by the Priory of Sion, and…well, you get the picture.

There is a reason that the scholars of the world are not paying any attention to this latest so-called “discovery”: there’s nothing there.

First things first: Mr. Jacobovici’s The Lost Gospel is neither “lost” nor a “gospel”. Scholars have known about and have studied the Syriac version of Joseph and Aseneth, located in the British Museum, for a very long time. Written by an unknown West Syriac writer dating to the late 6th century CE, the author composed an Ecclesiastical History that included a translation of part of a lost Ecclesiastical History by the Greek writer Zacharias Rhetor. The work is commonly referred to as Pseudo-Zacharias Rhetor. This Syriac text is of interest because books 1-2 of Pseudo-Zacharias Rhetor contain a Syriac translation of the History of Joseph and Aseneth, which was often skipped in English translations because it is already known in the Greek. Keep in mind that the story of Joseph and Aseneth has been well documented over the years, both by my adviser at Pepperdine, Dr. Randy Chesnutt, who wrote his dissertation on Joseph and Aseneth, and by my Duke colleague Dr. Mark Goodacre, who has edited an Aseneth Home Page now for years.

Second: We already know why the story of Joseph and Aseneth was written. The story of Joseph and Aseneth is a well-known, ancient apocryphal expansion of the biblical account of the patriarch Joseph’s marriage to Aseneth, the daughter of the Egyptian Priest of On (Heliopolis). The story of Joseph and Aseneth was composed to solve the later theological problem of Joseph, a Hebrew patriarch, marrying a non-Israelite woman (Aseneth), in direct violation of biblical commands (albeit later commands) that prohibit Hebrews/Jews/Israelites from intermarrying with other peoples, for instance, those found in Deut. 7:3; Josh. 23:12; Ezra 9; and Neh. 13:25. As prohibiting intermarriage became a bigger and bigger deal in the Second Temple period, many Jews began to see the problem with Joseph’s marriage to Aseneth, as Joseph was said to have not only married an Egyptian, but the daughter of an Egyptian priest!

In Gen. 41:45, the Bible says that Pharaoh gave Joseph one of his daughters as a wife:

“Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him Aseneth daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, as his wife.”

Gen. 41:50-52 further says that Joseph’s wife Aseneth bore him two sons: Manasseh and Ephraim, whence we get the tribal names:

“Before the years of famine came, Joseph had two sons, whom Aseneth daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, bore to him. Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, ‘For,’ he said, ‘God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.’ The second he named Ephraim, ‘For God has made me fruitful in the land of my misfortunes.'”

As one might imagine, this became a problem for Jews in the Second Temple period. Perhaps many asked, “How can God prohibit us from marrying women of another race when our patriarch Joseph did so?”

Enter Joseph and Aseneth, which was composed like so many pseudepigraphical stories of the Second Temple period and early Christian centuries to “explain away” the problem. We find these same apologetic techniques used in early Rabbinic writings as well as the Aramaic Targums, which clean up the stories of the Jewish Patriarchs by explaining away anything that might be perceived as a misdeed.

The popular ancient love story of Joseph and Aseneth serves an apology explaining why a righteous Israelite patriarch like Joseph would marry the daughter of a pagan priest. And the solution is a simple one: Joseph and Aseneth explains that Joseph’s wife, Aseneth, first converted to monotheism and belief in the Hebrew God before she married Joseph (a detail the Bible obviously “left out”). See? All better.

And that’s basically it. The biblical account says Joseph married an Egyptian woman, so Joseph and Aseneth explains that Aseneth first converted, and therefore was eligible to be married to Joseph.

Third: The Syriac account of Joseph and Aseneth in Pseudo-Zacharias Rhetor does not talk about Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and simply substituting names does not make it so. However, the Syriac account is still noteworthy because just prior to his retelling of the story, the author writes a letter to a certain Moses of Ingila, asking for a translation and whether there is a deeper allegorical (θεωρία) interpretation of the story beyond the literal narrative. Some have argued that Moses of Ingila’s response attempts to interpret the story of Joseph and Aseneth allegorically, as a gnostic union of the soul (represented by Aseneth) with the divine Logos/Word of God (represented by Joseph). Likewise, there have been many who have argued (largely unsuccessfully) that the text is an allegory, with Joseph symbolizing anything from Jesus to the nation of Israel.

For her part, some scholars have understood Aseneth’s description as the “Bride of God” in 4:2 as representative of a redeemed Israel, or of the matriarchs of the Bible, or perhaps even the practice of voluntary virginity, which was increasingly popular in Christian circles in the late first and early second centuries. The simplest answer is that one who is now a “bride of God” is one who is a “daughter of God”, i.e., “a Hebrew” (and no longer an Egyptian, at least for religious purposes), in much the same way that a “son of God” represents any “child of God” in the Hebrew text. Keep in mind that there are many “sons of God” mentioned in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament that appear to be referring to heavenly beings, from Job 1:6: וַיְהִי הַיּוֹם וַיָּבֹאוּ בְּנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים לְהִתְיַצֵּב עַל-יְהוָה (“Now it fell upon a day, that the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD”), to Job 38:7: וַיָּרִיעוּ כָּל-בְּנֵי אֱלֹהִים (“and all the sons of God shouted”), to Gen 6:2: וַיִּרְאוּ בְנֵי-הָאֱלֹהִים אֶת-בְּנוֹת הָאָדָם כִּי טֹבֹת הֵנָּה (“and the sons of God saw the daughters of men, because they were fair”), as well as in the New Testament, when human peacemakers come to be called “sons of God”: μακάριοι οἱ εἰρηνοποιοί ὅτι αὐτοὶ υἱοὶ θεοῦ κληθήσονται (“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God“).

The use of the phrase “son(s) of God” in the Old and New Testaments does not automatically mean “INSERT JESUS’ NAME HERE”.

Fourth: Simply employing symbolism does not an allegory make. So while some scholars have argued that the text is a distinctly Christian text, most scholars conclude that the text is distinctly Jewish, while allowing that the text may possess some evidence of later Christian tampering and reworking, especially those parts of the text involving Eucharistic interpretations of the meal of bread and wine found within the story. However, the attempts by multiple scholars (cf. Chap 1 of Chesnutt) to interpret the story allegorically ultimately fall short, as any allegorical interpretation must be highly selective of particular details, and therefore necessarily ignores many other details within the story that simply do not fit the supposed allegory, relegating claims of allegory to the realm of wishful thinking. The story must ultimately be read as what it is: a Jewish narrative apology for the patriarch Joseph’s mixed marriage, with possible, occasional Christian reworking.

Keep in mind that there are all kinds of allegorical interpretations of biblical texts in the first centuries BCE and CE. Chapter 15 of the pseudepigraphical Epistle of Barnabas offers an allegorical interpretation of the Creation account from Gen. 1. The first century Jewish scholar Philo of Alexandria also offered allegorical interpretations of biblical events and figures (including Joseph). The difference here is that Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Wilson are claiming an allegorical interpretation of a pseudepigraphical text, as if the text of Joseph and Aseneth were itself canonical.

When all is said and done, Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Wilson offer an allegorical interpretation of a Syriac translation of a (likely originally Greek) pseudepigraphical text, written to “clean up” the fact that the Hebrew patriarch Joseph married a non-Hebrew.

Fifth: The text used as “proof” of Jesus’ marriage dates to the 6th century CE, and only hopeful speculation pushes the Syriac version of this text back to earlier centuries. The fact that the Syriac version is composed long after an established minority tradition that depicts Jesus as Mary Magdalene’s κοινωνός, or “companion” in the Gospel of Philip, or the Gospel of Mary, which states that Jesus “loved [Mary] more than the rest of woman” – a tradition that some modern interpreters and fiction writers have argued is evidence that the Mary mentioned is Mary Magdalene, and that the two were married – does not provide “evidence” that Jesus and Mary were married. It simply means that some later author was making a contribution to this tradition. BUT, because it is written after the others, it CANNOT be used as “evidence” of ANYTHING but a continuation of the already late tradition that Jesus was married.

It would be like citing a favorable book review written by followers of Simcha Jacobovici three centuries after the publication of The Lost Gospel, and citing it as evidence that Simcha knows what he’s talking about. Such a review would contribute nothing to Simcha’s credibility, but would only serve as evidence that someone much later liked the book. Similarly, the Syriac version is a translation of a pseudepigraphical apology, upon which is forced Mr. Jacobovici’s allegorical translation. This is evidence of nothing.

Sixth: (And please remember I originally wrote the following over a year ago.) Anyone attempting an allegorical interpretation of Joseph and Aseneth, and arguing for anything other than an apology for why Joseph married a non-Israelite (and the daughter of a pagan priest at that), is grasping at speculative straws, and attempting (like the author of the Syriac text) to stretch the text into something it was never designed to do. Whether it be a gnostic interpretation of the text, or an attempt to argue something truly ridiculous and sensational, for example, that the story somehow represents Jesus and Mary Magdalene (as “Bride of God”, requiring an appeal to separate Gnostic texts like Pistis Sophia, the Gospel of Mary, and the Gospel of Philip), and that this allegorical representation from six centuries after the life of Jesus, relying on the weaving together of multiple Gnostic texts composed a full century after the life of Jesus, somehow provides “evidence” of aspects of Jesus’ actual, historical lifesuch allegorical interpretations are the height of unsubstantiated speculation.

My teacher, Randall Chesnutt, said it best in his conclusion:

“While no one doubts the presence of symbolic and allegorical elements, the trend now is toward a method which recognizes those elements of symbolism and allegory which are straightforward and explicit in the narrative of Aseneth’s conversion rather than those supposed to be encoded deep within it.” (Chesnutt, From Death to Life, p. 45).

Finally: The book’s methodology is highly problematic. Scholars won’t reject Mr. Jacobovici’s findings because of some “theological trauma” or a confessional, apologetic desire to preserve the Jesus described in the Bible. I’m an agnostic. I have no dog in the fight of whether Jesus was married or not. He could be married and have 4 kids like me and I wouldn’t care. The problem is not a theological one, it is one of scholarship, methodology, and the (mis)use of evidence. Scholars won’t reject Mr. Jacobovici’s claims because they want to defend Christianity, scholars will reject Mr. Jacobovici’s speculations because he engages in circular reasoning, lacks evidence, breaks any number of rules of textual criticism, and engages in what I’ve described in the past as “speculation wrapped in hearsay couched in conspiracy masquerading as science ensconced in sensationalism slathered with misinformation” – all of which is designed to sell books and get viewers to watch the accompanying documentary in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

So in my professional opinion as an archaeologist and a tenure-track professor at a major research university (GO HAWKS!), I must recommend against this book. Just don’t bother. Were it a Dan Brown-esque novel, positing a speculative interpretation about the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene utilizing a fanciful allegorical interpretation of a document written six centuries after Jesus came and went, I’d say buy it and have fun. Fiction can be so much fun! But the problem with this book is that Mr. Jacobovici believes what he’s writing. He believes his interpretation is true. He wants it to be true. And that hovers somewhere between comical and scary.

I HAVE read the book and it really is worse than you might imagine. The text in question is neither “lost” nor a “gospel”, and the allegorical reading of the Syriac version of Joseph and Aseneth is little more than a wishful hope that it would be so, employing little more than name substitution and a desire to prove The DaVinci Code true. Absolutely no scholar will take this book seriously. It will not change Christianity. It will not change biblical scholarship. It’s just Simcha doing what he does best: direct-to-the-public pseudoscholarship just in time for Christmas.

Profs. Oded Lipschits and David Vanderhooft win 2012 G. Ernest Wright ASOR Book Award

Dr. Oded Lipschits, Tel Aviv University

Dr. Oded Lipschits, Tel Aviv University

Dr. David Vanderhooft, Boston College

Dr. David Vanderhooft, Boston College

Congratulations are in order to Profs. Oded Lipschits and David Vanderhooft on being awarded the 2012 G. Ernest Wright ASOR Book Award.

From Eisenbrauns:

We at Eisenbrauns congratulate Oded Lipschits and David Vanderhooft, who were awarded the 2012 G. Ernest Wright Award by the American Schools of Oriental Research for their recent Eisenbrauns book The Yehud Stamp Impressions: A Corpus of Inscribed Impressions from the Persian and Hellenistic Periods in Judah.

This award is given to the author(s) of the most substantial volume dealing with archaeological material, excavation reports and material culture from the ancient Near East and eastern Mediterranean. This work must be the result of original research published within the past two years. Read more on the ASOR web site.

We’re celebrating by offering all the books they edited or wrote for us at a 30% discount.

Congratulations to my colleagues, and let us celebrate with a toast at Azekah next summer. You’re buying. ;-)

Congrats to Elaine Pagels: NY Times Hardcover Nonfiction Bestsellers List

Dr. Elaine Pagels

Dr. Elaine Pagels

Hearty congratulations are in order to Princeton University’s Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion, Dr. Elaine Pagels, for making the NY Times Hardcover Nonfiction Bestsellers List for her new book, Revelations (Viking, $27.95), which debuted at #10. This book explores the original context and meaning of the biblical Book of Revelation.

It is good to see a popular book by a reputable scholar break into the bestsellers list, as books in my favorite subjects of religious studies, science, technology, the history of the Middle East, and archaeology have been largely absent from the bestsellers list as of late. In fact, a look at the nonfiction hardcover bestsellers list over the past month demonstrates just how few works there have been in these fields (especially religious studies and archaeology):

REVELATIONS by Elaine Pagels

NY Times Bestseller Hardcover Nonfiction March 25, 2012:

1. AMERICAN SNIPER, by Chris Kyle with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. (Morrow/HarperCollins)
2. THE POWER OF HABIT, by Charles Duhigg. (Random House)
3. STEVE JOBS, by Walter Isaacson. (Simon & Schuster) (technology)
4. KILLING LINCOLN, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. (Holt)
5. QUIET, by Susan Cain. (Crown)
6. UNBROKEN, by Laura Hillenbrand. (Random House)
7. AMERITOPIA, by Mark R. Levin. (Threshold Editions)
8. BRINGING UP BÉBÉ, by Pamela Druckerman. (Penguin Press)
9. THINKING, FAST AND SLOW, by Daniel Kahneman. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
10. REVELATIONS, by Elaine Pagels. (Viking) (religious studies)
11. BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS, by Katherine Boo. (Random House)
12. FULL SERVICE, by Scotty Bowers with Lionel Friedberg. (Grove)
13. BECOMING CHINA’S BITCH, by Peter D. Kiernan. (Turner Publishing)
14. UNORTHODOX, by Deborah Feldman. (Simon & Schuster) (religion)
15. HOUSE OF STONE, by Anthony Shadid. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) (history of Middle East)
16. HILARITY ENSUES, by Tucker Max. (Blue Heeler Books)
17. THE PEOPLE’S MONEY, by Scott Rasmussen (Threshold Editions)
18. COMING APART, by Charles Murray (Crown Forum)
19. THROUGH MY EYES, by Tim Tebow with Nathan Whitaker (HarperCollins)
20. SPACE CHRONICLES, by Neil Degrasse Tyson (Norton) (science)
21. ONCE UPON A SECRET, by Mimi Alford (Random House)
22. INDIVISIBLE, by James Robison and Jay W. Richards (FaithWords) (religion and conservative politics)
23. ABUNDANCE, by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler (Free Press)
24. THAT WOMAN, by Anne Sebba (St. Martin’s)
25. OUTLAW PLATOON, by Sean Parnell with John R. Bruning (Morrow)
26. DON’T PUT ME IN, COACH, by Mark Titus (Doubleday)
27. IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS, by Erik Larson (Crown)
28. HEAVEN IS FOR REAL, by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent (Thomas Nelson) (spirituality)
29. RELIGION FOR ATHEISTS, by Alain De Botton (Pantheon) (religion and atheism)
30. TURING’S CATHEDRAL, by George Dyson (Pantheon) (technology)
31. CATHERINE THE GREAT, by Robert K. Massie (Random House)
32. THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE, by Masha Gessen (Riverhead)
33. MOB DAUGHTER, by Karen Gravano with Lisa Pulitzer (St. Martin’s)
34. A UNIVERSE FROM NOTHING, by Lawrence M. Krauss (Free Press) (science)
35. WHY BE HAPPY WHEN YOU COULD BE NORMAL?, by Jeanette Winterson (Grove/Atlantic)


NY Times Bestseller Hardcover Nonfiction March 18, 2012:

1. AMERICAN SNIPER, by Chris Kyle with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. (Morrow/HarperCollins)
2. KILLING LINCOLN, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. (Holt)
3. STEVE JOBS, by Walter Isaacson. (Simon & Schuster) (technology)
4. THE POWER OF HABIT, by Charles Duhigg. (Random House)
5. BECOMING CHINA’S BITCH, by Peter D. Kiernan. (Turner Publishing)
6. INDIVISIBLE, by James Robison and Jay W. Richards. (FaithWords) (religion and conservative politics)
7. UNBROKEN, by Laura Hillenbrand. (Random House)
8. AMERITOPIA, by Mark R. Levin. (Threshold Editions)
9. BRINGING UP BÉBÉ, by Pamela Druckerman. (Penguin Press)
10. QUIET, by Susan Cain. (Crown)
11. THINKING, FAST AND SLOW, by Daniel Kahneman. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
12. BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS, by Katherine Boo. (Random House)
13. UNORTHODOX, by Deborah Feldman. (Simon & Schuster) (religion)
14. ONCE UPON A SECRET, by Mimi Alford. (Random House)
15. COMING APART, by Charles Murray. (Crown Forum)
16. HOUSE OF STONE, by Anthony Shadid. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) (history of Middle East)
17. HILARITY ENSUES, by Tucker Max (Blue Heeler Books)
18. FULL SERVICE, by Scotty Bowers with Lionel Friedberg (Grove)
19. SPACE CHRONICLES, by Neil Degrasse Tyson (Norton) (science)
20. THROUGH MY EYES, by Tim Tebow with Nathan Whitaker (HarperCollins)
21. OUTLAW PLATOON, by Sean Parnell with John R. Bruning (Morrow)
22. MOB DAUGHTER, by Karen Gravano with Lisa Pulitzer (St. Martin’s)
23. THAT WOMAN, by Anne Sebba (St. Martin’s)
24. THE SCIENCE OF YOGA, by William J. Broad (Simon & Schuster)
25. STRATEGIC VISION, by Zbigniew Brzezinski (Basic)
26. CATHERINE THE GREAT, by Robert K. Massie (Random House)
27. ABUNDANCE, by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler (Free Press)
28. A UNIVERSE FROM NOTHING, by Lawrence M. Krauss (Free Press) (science)
29. ALI IN WONDERLAND, by Ali Wentworth (Harper/HarperCollins)
30. ENEMIES, by Tim Weiner (Random House)
31. IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS, by Erik Larson (Crown)
32. ELIZABETH THE QUEEN, by Sally Bedell Smith (Random House)
33. BOOMERANG, by Michael Lewis (Norton)
34. KISSES FROM KATIE, by Katie Davis with Beth Clark (Howard)
35. IS EVERYONE HANGING OUT WITHOUT ME?, by Mindy Kaling (Crown Archetype)


NY Times Bestseller Hardcover Nonfiction March 11, 2012:

1. AMERICAN SNIPER, by Chris Kyle with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. (Morrow/HarperCollins, $26.99.)
2. ABUNDANCE, by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler. (Free Press)
3. KILLING LINCOLN, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. (Holt)
4. STEVE JOBS, by Walter Isaacson. (Simon & Schuster) (technology)
5. INDIVISIBLE, by James Robison and Jay W. Richards. (FaithWords) (religion and conservative politics)
6. AMERITOPIA, by Mark R. Levin. (Threshold Editions)
7. QUIET, by Susan Cain. (Crown)
8. BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS, by Katherine Boo. (Random House)
9. UNBROKEN, by Laura Hillenbrand. (Random House)
10. BRINGING UP BÉBÉ, by Pamela Druckerman. (Penguin Press)
11. ONCE UPON A SECRET, by Mimi Alford. (Random House)
12. COMING APART, by Charles Murray. (Crown Forum)
13. UNORTHODOX, by Deborah Feldman. (Simon & Schuster) (religion)
14. HILARITY ENSUES, by Tucker Max. (Blue Heeler Books)
15. THINKING, FAST AND SLOW, by Daniel Kahneman. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
16. FULL SERVICE, by Scotty Bowers with Lionel Friedberg (Grove)
17. WHILE AMERICA SLEEPS, by Russ Feingold (Crown)
18. THROUGH MY EYES, by Tim Tebow with Nathan Whitaker (HarperCollins)
19. MOB DAUGHTER, by Karen Gravano with Lisa Pulitzer (St. Martin’s)
20. EISENHOWER IN WAR AND PEACE, by Jean Edward Smith (Random House)


NY Times Bestseller Hardcover Nonfiction March 4, 2012:

1. AMERICAN SNIPER, by Chris Kyle with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. (Morrow/HarperCollins)
2. AMERITOPIA, by Mark R. Levin. (Threshold Editions)
3. KILLING LINCOLN, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. (Holt)
4. STEVE JOBS, by Walter Isaacson. (Simon & Schuster) (technology)
5. BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS, by Katherine Boo. (Random House)
6. ONCE UPON A SECRET, by Mimi Alford. (Random House)
7. QUIET, by Susan Cain. (Crown)
8. BRINGING UP BÉBÉ, by Pamela Druckerman. (Penguin Press)
9. UNBROKEN, by Laura Hillenbrand. (Random House)
10. HILARITY ENSUES, by Tucker Max. (Blue Heeler Books)
11. COMING APART, by Charles Murray. (Crown Forum)
12. THROUGH MY EYES, by Tim Tebow with Nathan Whitaker. (HarperCollins)
13. THINKING, FAST AND SLOW, by Daniel Kahneman. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
14. THAT WOMAN, by Anne Sebba. (St. Martin’s, $27.99.)
15. ALL THERE IS, by Dave Isay. (Penguin Press, $24.95.)
16. UNORTHODOX, by Deborah Feldman. (Simon & Schuster) (religion)
17. THE SCIENCE OF YOGA, by William J. Broad (Simon & Schuster)
18. MOB DAUGHTER, by Karen Gravano with Lisa Pulitzer (St. Martin’s)
19. ALI IN WONDERLAND, by Ali Wentworth (Harper/HarperCollins)
20. ENEMIES, by Tim Weiner (Random House)
21. ELIZABETH THE QUEEN, by Sally Bedell Smith (Random House)
22. FULL SERVICE, by Scotty Bowers with Lionel Friedberg (Grove)
23. IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS, by Erik Larson (Crown)
24. CATHERINE THE GREAT, by Robert K. Massie (Random House)
25. FAIRY TALE INTERRUPTED, by RoseMarie Terenzio (Gallery Books)
26. STRATEGIC VISION, by Zbigniew Brzezinski (Basic)
27. HIDING FROM REALITY, by Taylor Armstrong (Gallery Books)
28. THE MAGIC ROOM, by Jeffrey Zaslow (Gotham)
29. THE WORLD AMERICA MADE, by Robert Kagan (Knopf)
30. A UNIVERSE FROM NOTHING, by Lawrence M. Krauss (Free Press) (science)
31. AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL, by Ben Carson with Candy Carson (Zondervan)
32. BOOMERANG, by Michael Lewis (Norton)
33. JACK KENNEDY, by Chris Matthews (Simon & Schuster)
34. HEAVEN IS FOR REAL, by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent (Thomas Nelson) (spirituality)
35. KISSES FROM KATIE, by Katie Davis with Beth Clark (Howard)


NY Times Bestseller Hardcover Nonfiction February 26, 2012:

1. AMERITOPIA, by Mark R. Levin. (Threshold Editions)
2. HILARITY ENSUES, by Tucker Max. (Blue Heeler Books)
3. AMERICAN SNIPER, by Chris Kyle with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. (Morrow/HarperCollins)
4. STEVE JOBS, by Walter Isaacson. (Simon & Schuster) (technology)
5. KILLING LINCOLN, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. (Holt)
6. QUIET, by Susan Cain. (Crown)
7. ONCE UPON A SECRET, by Mimi Alford. (Random House)
8. BRINGING UP BÉBÉ, by Pamela Druckerman. (Penguin Press)
9. BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS, by Katherine Boo. (Random House)
10. UNBROKEN, by Laura Hillenbrand. (Random House)
11. THROUGH MY EYES, by Tim Tebow with Nathan Whitaker. (HarperCollins)
12. THINKING, FAST AND SLOW, by Daniel Kahneman. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
13. COMING APART, by Charles Murray. (Crown Forum)
14. THE SCIENCE OF YOGA, by William J. Broad. (Simon & Schuster)
15. ALI IN WONDERLAND, by Ali Wentworth. (Harper/HarperCollins)
16. ALL THERE IS, by Dave Isay. (Penguin Press)
17. ELIZABETH THE QUEEN, by Sally Bedell Smith (Random House)
18. FAIRY TALE INTERRUPTED, by RoseMarie Terenzio (Gallery Books)
19. STRATEGIC VISION, by Zbigniew Brzezinski (Basic)
20. HIDING FROM REALITY, by Taylor Armstrong (Gallery Books)
21. IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS, by Erik Larson (Crown)
22. CATHERINE THE GREAT, by Robert K. Massie (Random House)
23. GREEDY BASTARDS, by Dylan Ratigan (Simon & Schuster)
24. DA VINCI’S GHOST, by Toby Lester (Free Press)
25. HOW TO BE BLACK, by Baratunde Thurston (Harper)
26. A UNIVERSE FROM NOTHING, by Lawrence M. Krauss (Free Press) (science)
27. BOOMERANG, by Michael Lewis (Norton)
28. THE OBAMAS, by Jodi Kantor (Little, Brown)
29. HEAVEN IS FOR REAL, by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent (Thomas Nelson) (spirituality)
30. JACK KENNEDY, by Chris Matthews (Simon & Schuster)
31. KISSES FROM KATIE, by Katie Davis with Beth Clark (Howard)
32. THE OPERATORS, by Michael Hastings (Blue Rider)
33. ALL IN, by Paula Broadwell with Vernon Loeb (Penguin Press)
34. BEING GEORGE WASHINGTON, by Glenn Beck and Kevin Balfe (Threshold Editions/Mercury Radio Arts)
35. INSIDE APPLE, by Adam Lashinsky (Business Plus) (technology)

So congrats again to Dr. Pagels, and thank you for your contributions to religious studies scholarship!

fuller seminary’s ‘the burner’ blog reviews mark driscoll’s new book on sex (er, marriage)

Mark Driscoll's "Real Marriage"David Moore of “The Burner” (Fuller Theological Seminary’s blog), has posted two reviews of Pastor Mark Driscoll’s (and his submissive-by-God’s-command wife, Grace’s) new book, Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life Together.

The first review is entitled: “(It Seems) Mark Driscoll Thinks Wives Are Only Good for Sex.” The second review is entitled “Mark Driscoll’s Chauvinist Views on Appropriate Roles in Marriage.”

Both reviews are, unfortunately, dead on.

In the first review, an editor’s note points out that the words “(It Seems)” were added to the title after complaints in the comments area that it was too harsh. They should have left it the way it was, for the review accurately articulates Driscoll’s obsession with his own powers of extrasensory perception and psychic visions (which I’ve critiqued earlier), and his ability to use them as a time-traveling voyeur to ‘see’ the sexual pasts of his wife and those he counsels.

The Burner’s review states:

Listen to how many times Mark considers women (and specifically Grace–his wife and co-author) as merely sexual beings:

“One night…I had a dream in which I saw some things that shook me to my core. I saw in painful detail Grace sinning sexually during a senior trip she took after high school when we had just started dating. It was like watching a film–something I cannot really explain but the kind of revelation I sometimes receive…Had I known about this sin, I would not have married her. But God told me to marry Grace, I loved her, I had married her as a Christian, we were pregnant, and I was a pastor with a church plant filled with young people who were depending on me.” (11-12)

“Day after day, for what became years, I spent hours meeting with people untangling the sexual knots in their life, reading every book and every section of the Bible I could find that related to their needs…I had a church filled with single young women who were asking me how they could stop being sexually ravenous and wait for a Christian husband, then I’d go home to a wife whom I was not sexually enjoying. One particularly low moment occurred when a newly saved married couple came in to meet with me. I prayed, then asked how I could serve them. She took charge of the meeting, explained how she really liked her body and sex, and proceeded to take out a list of questions she had about what was acceptable as a Christian for her to do with her husband. It was a very long and very detailed list…After they left the counseling appointment to get to work on the list of acceptable activities, I remember sitting with my head in my hands just moaning and asking God, “Do you really expect me to do this as a new Christian, without a mentor or a pastor, in the midst of my marriage, and hold on for the next fifty years?”

“Perhaps the most damaged among us are prostitutes whose bodies have been sacrificed to the god of sex.” (112)

“As with many things in marriage, communication is key. When I came to the conclusion that the cure for a lot of my moodiness was having more frequent sex with my wife, I simply told her. Yes, it’s that simple… [He goes on to state that when he tried to talk to Grace about his depression, she talked too much about emotions] The truth was I needed to have more frequent sex with my wife, and we needed to discuss how that could happen…To make matters worse, seemingly every book I read by Christians on sex and marriage sounded unfair. Nearly every one said the husband had to work very hard to understand his wife, to relate to her and when he did that to her satisfaction then, maybe, she would have sex with him as a sort of reward.”

“Some couples use [anal sex] to prevent pregnancy. In conjunction with the rhythm method of birth control in which normal penis-vagina intercourse is suspended on a woman’s days of fertility, it is possible to use anal sex as an option.” (186)

This might be a new low for Christian marriage books. Is there more to marriage that male sexual satisfaction?

In a second review, The Burner explores Driscoll’s apparent misogynistic approach to sex and marriage:

Driscoll follows this line of thinking in creative ways. The man is the really, really important one in the marriage:

“In this season we shifted into ministry-and-family mode, neglecting our intimacy and failing to work through our issues. This became apparent to me when my pregnant wife came home from a hair appointment with her previously long hair (that I loved) chopped off and replaced with a short mommish haircut. She asked what I thought, and could tell from the look on my face. She had put a mom’s need for convenience before being a wife. She wept.” (11)

See? He doesn’t hate his wife–she’s just not as important as him.

“Men, we can help our wives by serving them, especially if they are working outside the home or have children who can take forever to get down for bed. This may include, if finances permit, a housekeeper or other help to free up some of your wife’s energy.” (166)

Heaven forbid that the husband actually help his wife himself. Not to mention the implied belief that household duties and childrearing are the wife’s job.

“In choosing a church, it must be a church that the husband wants to attend. Too often the wife is the one choosing the church because it meets her emotional desires and the children’s programming needs… [He explains that men don’t like to go to church.] To curb this trend, you, the husband, need to take the initiative to find a church that you also find challenging, one that is filled with men you respect, enjoy and would pursue godly relationships with.” (59)

Poor women. They can’t distinguish between their girly feelings and their need to worship God corporately in a community of faith.

I shall also refer you to reviews by Rachel Held Evans, which in part reads:

But by far the most disturbing part of the book is the first chapter, in which Mark and Grace go into extraordinary detail about their troubled sexual relationship. In this section, Grace is often cast as the damaged and sinful wife who withholds sex from her deserving husband, Mark the hero who is justified in leaving his wife but instead comes along to rescue her. The amount of guilt and shame that pervades this part of the book makes me so sad.

I shall conclude with the following:

Mark Driscoll is now the Christian equivalent of Ancient Aliens star Giorgio Tsoukalos: His fanatic cult followers buy his skubala because they’re nuts, while the rest of us watch incredulously and protest the horrific train wreck.

I shake my head as Mark Driscoll makes his money selling harmful waste in the name of the Lord. What? You don’t think it’s about saying outrageous things to stir controversy and make money selling books? Why, there’s even a book tour and a giveaway of an iPad filled with all of Driscoll’s sermons.

you must buy this book: ‘soundings in kings: perspectives and methods in contemporary scholarship’

Soundings in Kings: Perspectives and Methods in Contemporary Scholarship

'Soundings in Kings: Perspectives and Methods in Contemporary Scholarship' by Klaus-Peter Adam and Mark Leuchter

you must buy this book, especially if you study the books of kings!
soundings in kings: perspectives and methods in contemporary scholarship‘ is the latest offering edited by klaus-peter adam and my colleague mark leuchter. if you don’t buy this book, god will exact punishment upon you like he does the chicago cubs.

from the publisher (fortress press):

The reigning assumptions in 1970s and 1980s scholarship on 1 and 2 Kings, and indeed on all of the Deuteronomistic history, have come under serious question. How can differing views of that history be reconciled? What sources were available to the authors? Should we call them “authors”? How well do the Books of Kings fit into the larger history of which they are a part; just who composed that history, toward what end, and in what context? How do the assumptions of contemporary interpreters influence the answers we give to those questions? In Soundings in Kings, international scholars pursue these and related questions by examining 1 and 2 Kings as an independent work, identifying new methods and models for envisioning the social location of the authors (or redactors) of Kings, the nature of the intended audience or audiences, and the political and rhetorical implications of its construction. Soundings in Kings demonstrates the role of Kings as a cornerstone work within the Hebrew Bible, a crossroads between prophecy, poetry, wisdom, ancestral and national narrative, and ritual instruction.

you can preview the book on google books here:

ISBN: 9780800697167
Release Date: Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Format: Paperback 224 pages 6 x 9 inche

go on, buy it!

i wonder if this talk will be any good? magness on cargill

Dr. Jodi Magness, the Kenan Distinguished Professor of Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, will give a lecture at Brite Divinity School on Thursday, February 25, 2010 entitled, "Robert Cargill's Qumran Digital Project."

Dr. Jodi Magness, the Kenan Distinguished Professor of Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, will give a lecture at Brite Divinity School on Thursday, February 25, 2010 entitled, "Robert Cargill's Qumran Digital Project."

brite divinity school has announced that dr. jodi magness, the kenan distinguished professor of teaching excellence in early judaism at the university of north carolina, chapel hill, will give a lecture in the moore building, room 201, on thursday, february 25, 2010 at 11:00 am entitled, ‘robert cargill’s qumran digital project.’

i’m wondering if she will view my research in a favorable light, or in a critical manner like she did at the recent new orleans sbl book review session, where she was among a panel of scholars that reviewed my book? will she take issue with my results (that qumran was established as a hasmonean fort and later reoccupied and expanded by a jewish sectarian community responsible for some of the dead sea scrolls in the caves nearest qumran), or my digital reconstruction modeling methodology (which is a completely transparent (via wireframes) reconstruction of all interpretations of all published scholars of every archaeological locus, distinguished by time periods), or both?

will dr. magness continue to argue that qumran was built as a sectarian settlement from the ground up?  will she argue that the dead sea scrolls were all written by essenes at qumran? some?

attend the lecture and find out!

for some background, read vol. 72, no. 1 in near eastern archaeology here. order the book online at gorgias or amazon.

i can’t wait to hear the podcast!

perhaps i’ll use my forthcoming march lecture in philadelphia entitled, ‘why the dead sea scrolls still matter’ to respond a bit. we’ll see :) -bc


update: also, don’t miss dr. magness’ main lecture on ‘the archaeology of qumran and the dead sea scrolls,’ thursday evening, february 25, 2010 from 7:00 -8:30 pm at the kelly alumni center at brite divinity school (texas christian university).

and i am told by brite that there will be no podcast. perhaps someone in the audience could tweet or blog the lectures?

i officially have my first isbn number

here is the word from my publisher, gorgias press:

======

1/7/2009 A New Series from Gorgias
The Bible in Technology (BIT) is a series that explores the intersection between biblical studies and computer technology. It also includes studies that address the application of computer technology to cognate fields of ancient history. The series provides a forum for presenting and discussing advancements in this area, such as new software or techniques for analyzing biblical materials, online projects, and teaching resources. The series also seeks to reflect on the contribution and impact of computer technology on biblical research and teaching methods.

Information Technology and Egyptology in 2008 by Nigel Strudwick
Publication of the proceedings of the 2008 meeting of the Computer Working Group of the International Association of Egyptologists (Informatique et Egyptologie), including papers on databases, complex systems, 3D modelling, textual analysis systems, the uses of the internet for sharing photographs, and bibliography.
ISBN 978-1-60724-068-6, Hardback, $106

Also in the pipeline: Qumran through (Real) Time: A Virtual Reconstruction of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls By Robert Raymond Cargill
This book proposes a new occupation model for the remains of Khirbet Qumran, the site associated with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Using the latest in virtual reality technology, the author reconstructs the site of Qumran and demonstrates that the site was initially built as a Hasmonean fortress, and was later expanded into a residence for a self-sufficient community responsible for the Dead Sea Scrolls.
ISBN 978-1-60724-058-7, Hardback

=====

so apparently i have an isbn number. i guess that makes it official. the book is an expanded revision of my 2008 doctoral dissertation. i had better get to revising. :-)

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