Category Archives: Article Abstracts

Review of Coloe, Mary L. “Welcome into the Household of God: The Foot Washing in John 13.”

Coloe, Mary L.  “Welcome into the Household of God: The Foot Washing in John 13.”  Catholic Biblical Quarterly 66, no. 3 (2004): 400-15. [Israel/Herod/Ritual/Liturgy/Worship/Ablutions]

This paper builds upon a theory presented by the author in two previous books on the Gospel of John.  Her thesis is that John is portraying Jesus as a Shepherd-King who through laying down his life for his friends brings them into the “household” of God.  She applies “narrative criticism” to gain insight into the episode of the washing of feet in John 13.  She begins with an outline of the narrative structure of the story and proceeds with her analysis of each part of it.  The prologue to the story in verses 1-3 reproduces several themes from the prologue to the whole gospel found in John 1.  The emphasis is that the “hour” of Jesus’ death and glorification has arrived.  She then observes that the remainder of the chapter, including the verses after the foot washing episode, are a unit and are in chiasmatic form which she calls “reverse parallelism” of a, b, c; c’, b’, a’.  She leads readers through an analysis of this idea, including a side-by-side comparison of the major elements of the two sections.  This is important in the overall interpretation of the foot washing story.

The washing of feet itself grows out of the ancient cultural notion of hospitality, especially at a meal.  The story of Abraham in Genesis 18 is cited as an illustration. When insights from extra-biblical sources relative to the passage are included, “Abraham is established in the Jewish tradition as the great model of hospitality.” (p. 408)  The subsequent dialogue with Peter reveals that Jesus is extending an invitation to the disciples “to become participants with Jesus in his ‘hour.’” (409)   Here, however, Coloe begins to turn away from the traditional interpretation of this pericope as an “example of humility” to her theory of the creation of the household of God.  This is where the chiasm is useful.

The context of the story as found in John 13:1-3 is one of love and Jesus returns to this idea in the second half of the passage when he gives the disciples a new commandment to love one another as he has loved them.  For Coloe, this makes the washing of feet a “model” and an “expression” of love.  How so?  This becomes evident as she continues her analysis to the end.  Her final section is titled: “Interpreting the Foot Washing as Welcome into God’s Household.”  “From the first eighteen verses,” she writes, “the Evangelist begins to develop a metaphorical framework based on the Middle Eastern social structure of the ‘household.’”(411)  “For the disciples, foot washing is a proleptic experience of the welcome into the Father’s household that will be accomplished at the cross.” (412)  Foot washing here is a model of love as the love of Jesus is demonstrated by laying down his life, which Coloe argues is symbolized by the washing and becomes a pattern for the relationship of those drawn into the household of God.  She further argues that just as the Middle Eastern custom of washing of feet is an act of “welcome” to the house of the host, so this “primary perception” would be taken for granted by the disciples, but the questions remain as to what they are being welcomed into, and why was Jesus performing the action?  It’s meaning becomes evident “later” when on the cross Jesus commends his mother into the care of John, thus symbolically creating the “household” of God.  This is why the context of love is critical, “for love is the essential dynamism of any household.” (415)

Review of Ryken, Leland, James C. Wilhoit and Tremper Longman III, eds. “Adoption.”

Ryken, Leland, James C. Wilhoit and Tremper Longman III, eds.  “Adoption.”  In Dictionary of Biblical Imagery,14-15.  Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998. [Israel/Christian/Theology/Family]

The five references to adoption in the New Testament, all in the writings of Paul, have great significance because of its conceptual power and “its relationship to many other familial ideas.”  It always refers “to the blessing of God’s people by their heavenly Father.”  The social context apparently does not derive from known Jewish customs of adoption, although the Old Testament does have a “clear sense of God adopting the king” (Ps. 2:6-7; 2 Sam. 7:14).  This adoption of the king “as a representative of Israel may very well lie behind Paul’s use” of the term.  Accepting Christ is the vehicle by which one becomes adopted as God’s people, “in much the same sense as God redeemed Israel and made this people his ‘Son.’” (Hos 11:1)

In the ancient world family membership was “the primary context of social, religious, economic and political security and fulfillment.”  Moving from one family to another was life changing.  In this context adoption communicates “a whole set of nuances of God’s blessings on his people.  “Adoption is listed among the greatest blessings of God upon Israel and Ephesians 1:5 names it as a chief blessing of the Gospel.  It is an “expression of electing love of God which transfers the adopted child from the family of disobedience to the family of God.”

Review of Bokovoy, David E. “Ancient Temple Imagery in the Sermons of Jacob.”

Bokovoy, David E.  “Ancient Temple Imagery in the Sermons of Jacob.”  In Temple Insights: Proceedings of the Interpreter Matthew B. Brown Memorial Conference “The Temple on Mount Zion” 22 September 2012, edited by William J. Hamblin and David Rolph Seely, 171-85.  Temple on Mount Zion Series 2.  Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation / Eborn Books, 2014. [Israel/Mormon/Symbolism]

Bokovoy’s essay is simple in concept.  The temple, though not frequently mentioned in the Book of Mormon was a focal point of religious devotion and this importance may be seen by reading many of the sermons in the book through the lens of temple worship.  They reflect temple imagery and performances.  This is especially true in two sermons by Nephi’s younger brother Jacob whom Nephi had consecrated a priest–presumably a temple priest.  These are found in 2 Ne. 9 and Jacob 1-3.  Jacob’s sermons “suggest a profound familiarity on” his part “with the rituals and concepts connected with Israelite temple worship.” (p. 173) His sermons treat such temple-related concepts as coming unto Christ, entering his rest or coming into his presence.  The Psalms of prayer are cited or alluded to in temple contexts, and Jacob places great stress on holiness (pp. 177-180), as well as referring to the gate and the way, also both temple-related concepts.  For the most part the argument is cogent and sensible.  Only in a place or two does it seemed unnatural and forced. He concludes something quite different in his discussion of the gate and the way from that which Elder Stapley draws from those ideas.  Thus I have reservations here, but remain open to his ideas based on further study and thought.

Review of Bauckham, Richard. “The Parable of the Royal Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1-14) and the Parable of the Lame Man and the Blind Man (Apocryphon of Ezekiel).”

Bauckham, Richard.  “The Parable of the Royal Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1-14) and the Parable of the Lame Man and the Blind Man (Apocryphon of Ezekiel).” Journal of Biblical Literature 115 (Autumn 1996): 471-88. [Christian/Theology/Marriage]

The Parable of the Royal Wedding Feast in Matthew 22:1-14 shares a general theme of the wedding of a king’s son with a rabbinic parable of the Lame Man and the Blind Man.  This article seeks to make the point that many Jewish and Christian parables are misinterpreted by those who ignore the first step of interpretation which is to determine that all elements of the story contribute to a coherent plot.  He argues that in the parables which are the subject of this study do possess a coherent plot.  There is little here of value regarding understanding the wedding symbolism.  The most important insight in this respect regards the man without a wedding garment.  “Wearing festal garments indicated one’s participation in the joy of the feast.  To appear in ordinary, soiled working clothes would show contempt for the occasion, a refusal to join in the king’s rejoicing. …this is no ordinary act of dishonor to a host but a matter of political significance.” (p. 486)  He concludes by arguing that the point of the parable is that the king is trying to furnish the wedding banquet with worthy guests, but the man without the garment is equally as unworthy as those who reject the invitation. , because of his contempt.

Review of Ryken, Leland, James C. Wilhoit and Tremper Longman III, eds. “Circumcision.”

Ryken, Leland, James C. Wilhoit and Tremper Longman III, eds.  “Circumcision.”  In Dictionary of Biblical Imagery,148-49.  Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998.

This is a brief but fact-filled article largely about the symbolism of the rite as a symbolic act that is a powerful image throughout the Bible.  It was the sign of the covenant between God and Israel, with him promising “I will be God to you and to your descendants after you.”  (Gen. 17:7 RSV, cf. Deut. 7:7-9).  It was a rite performed by virtually all the societies in the ancient Near East, but its meaning among all but the Israelites is unclear.  In Israel it had a “clearly defined theological significance.”  An early example accomplished by a ceremonial flint, (Josh. 5:2), rather than a knife, “suggests the great antiquity of the rite….”  Before there was a central temple, circumcision was the “main symbol” of God’s covenant with Israel.  The implication is, however, that there was an evolvement, through which circumcision began to decline in importance.  David was asked to pay a bride price of 100 foreskins of the Philistines, thus making an automatic equation between circumcision and a Philistine.  “Uncircumcised” became an epitaph for the wicked and godless. (Judg. 15:18; 1 Sam. 17:26; 2 Sam. 1:20.)  Ezekiel applies the label to most of Israel’s enemies. (Ezek. 32:17-32.)  The charge of uncircumcision was also leveled at Israel.  Jeremiah said their “ears” were uncircumcised so they do not hear. (Jer. 6:10) He said all of Israel was uncircumcised in heart. (Jer. 9:26; and 4:4.)  Thus circumcision came to symbolize the obedience of the heart and disobedience would lead to the loss of covenant blessings. (Deut. 10:16; Lev. 26:41).  Stephen uses the same argument.  (Acts 7:51)  For Paul it was the new creation that counted. (Gal. 6:15; 5:6, NIV.)

Review of Parker, Jared T. “Cutting Covenants.”

Parker, Jared T.  “Cutting Covenants.”  In The Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament, edited by D. Kelly Ogden, Jared W. Ludlow, and Kerry Muhlestein, 109-28.  Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2009. [Israel/Sacrifice/Offerings/Covenants]

According to this article covenant making is important as indicated by the fact that some form of the  term appears 555 times in the Standard Works compared to 627 instances for “faith” and 628 for “repentance,” (and I might add, 50 times for “grace”).  The Hebrew term for “cut a covenant” appears about 90 times, although it is not always translated that way in English.  It involved the ritual of slaughtering an animal, separating its parts, then entering into a covenant.  The metaphor of the sacrificed animal appears to be that if the parties to the covenant violated it they would suffer a similar fate.  Two examples of “cutting a covenant” are in the Old Testament: (1) between God and Abram in Genesis 15:7-21, and (2) between Zedekiah and the people of Judah in Jeremiah 34:8-22.  Three major purposes relating to the covenant with Abram are discussed on pp. 114-115.  The historical and cultural background of these episodes may be found in several extra-Biblical examples of similar treaties and covenants made in the ancient Near East.  Also, echoes can also be heard in the Old Testament practice of circumcision, the Sinai covenant of Exodus 24, episodes of blessing and cursing, and in the mention of the new covenant. The cursings are penalties for violating the covenant.

Review of Ragavan, Deena. “Entering other Worlds: Gates, Rituals, and Cosmic Journeys in Sumerian Sources.”

Ragavan, Deena.  “Entering other Worlds: Gates, Rituals, and Cosmic Journeys in Sumerian Sources.”  In Heaven on Earth: Temples, Ritual, and Cosmic Symbolism in the Ancient World, edited by Deena Ragavan, 201-21. The University of Chicago Oriental Institute Seminars 9.  Chicago: The University of Chicago, 2013. [Mesopotamia/Cosmology/Ritual/Guardians]

This study follows the lead of Arnold van Gennep’s famous The Rites of Passage in considering doors, gates, and thresholds as boundaries between worlds.  In this case Ragavan studies the Sumerian temple gates in the late third and early second millennium B.C.  She begins with an overview of Mesopotamian cosmology from this period which is derived from somewhat scanty written sources which describe the journeys of the sun god Utu and of the goddess Inana into the netherworld.  In Sumerian cosmology the eastern gate is the entrance for the sun into the visible sky and the western gate for its exit into the netherworld.  Gates are considered the border between the living and the dead. Mesopotamian cities were surrounded by monumental walls with large gates.  Inside, another wall surrounded the temple precinct.  The numbers three and seven are associated with the gates through these walls, but the numbers may not be literal.  In Inana’s journey into the netherworld she passed through seven gates guarded by seven chthonic gods.  At each gate she was stripped of jewelry and clothing until she was finally vulnerable without all power and life.  Ragavan says it is not clear from these stories if the gates into the netherworld and into heaven were identical “although they both fulfilled an equivalent function.”(p. 205) The number seven is important symbolically in Sumerian cosmology.  There were seven planets, earths, heavens, and gates.  Similar to the later use of the number symbolically among the Israelites, the number meant “totality” or a “large, complete, or innumerable unit.”(p. 206) Continue reading

Review of Negev, Avraham, ed. “Arad.”

Negev, Avraham, ed.  “Arad.”  In Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land, 27-8.  Englewood, NJ: SBS Publishing, 1980. [Israel/Arad/Design/Furnishings/Priesthood]

About twenty percent of this article is devoted to the “most remarkable discovery at Arad”–the temple which was found in the north-western corner of the citadel.  Its orientation was similar to that of the Temple of Solomon.  It was a rectangular building with two rooms, the western most room was a raised holy of holies. Two incense altars, a relatively large courtyard to the east, bases of pillars such as those of Jachin and Boaz and an altar for burnt offerings were found at the site.  Two Hebrew ostraca were also found with names of priestly families known in the Bible–those of Meremoth and Pashhur.  The altar was not used from the end of the 8th century BC and the temple was destroyed with the erection of the last Israelite citadel in the second half of the 7th century BC.

Review of Thompson, John S. “The Lady at the Horizon: Egyptian Tree Goddess Iconography and Sacred Trees in the Israelite Scripture and Temple Theology.”

Thompson, John S.  “The Lady at the Horizon: Egyptian Tree Goddess Iconography and Sacred Trees in the Israelite Scripture and Temple Theology.”  In Ancient Temple Worship: Proceedings of The Expound Symposium 14 May 2011, edited by Matthew B. Brown, Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Stephen D. Ricks, and John S. Thompson, 217-41.  Temple on Mount Zion Series 1.  Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: Interpreter Foundation/Eborn Books, 2014. [Egypt/Tree of Life/Symbolism/Theology]

Recent scholarship has identified manifestations of female sacred tree motifs in extra-biblical texts of ancient Israel and surrounding nations which raise questions about the nature of early Israelite religion.  Similar motifs connecting sacred trees with female figures are also present in the Book of Mormon.  This paper explores those images in Egypt during the time of the Israelite kingdom and the same concepts in Israelite religion. Continue reading

Review of Aharoni, Yohanan. “The Horned Altar of Beer-Sheba.”

Aharoni, Yohanan.  “The Horned Altar of Beer-Sheba.”  The Biblical Archaeologist  37 (March 1974): 2-6.

Archaeology in Israel exploded in the decades following the Six-day war in June of 1967.  In the 1930s and even late 1940s, Albright said that many questions about the temple had no answer or parallel from archeology.  This began to change and this article is one example.  Prior to this the only sacrificial altar known of was at Arad, but it did not have “horns” or they were broken or destroyed in the destruction.  At Beer-Sheba a horned altar was found reused as part of a repaired wall of a storehouse complex in Stratum II, belonging to the 8th century B.C.  The only previous horned altars found were apparently small incense altars found at Megiddo.  The stones of the Beer-Sheba altar were smoothed ashlars, an apparent contradiction to the biblical law found in Joshua 8:31 and elsewhere.  However, because the scripture specifies “iron tools” a literal interpretation may have led them to use bronze tools instead.  One of the stones “has a deeply engraved decoration of a twisting snake, an ancient symbol of fertility widely dispersed throughout the Near East.”