On behalf of Iraqi Mandaeans

If you haven't already signed the Petition to help the Mandaeans attain refugee status, I urge you to consider doing so now.

You can learn more about the Mandaeans ("the last living Gnostics") of Iraq and their current plight at April DeConick's website on The Mandaeans.

The last I looked (on 12/26/07), 514 persons had signed the online petition so far . . . the goal is 1,000. Please read, and then do.


On the letteral sense of scripture

Over at Ancient Hebrew Poetry, John Hobbins links to a wonderfully outlandish Youtube video of televangelist/radio preacher Larry Ollison's "exegesis" (if that's the right word?) of Genesis 1.1 in the light of John 1.1 and Revelation 1.8, 1.11, and 22.13.

Never mind the impressive frequency of Dr. Ollison's howlers (on the difference between ρημα/rhema and λογος /logos, for example, or how the New Testament was translated from Hebrew into Greek, or that no one -- not even ancient Hebrew scribes -- has ever [until now!] had any idea what the Hebrew particle את/et really means)! He declares that the את in the Bible's opening phrase, בראשית ברא אלהים את חשמים/bereshit bara elohim et hashamayim, refers to Jesus, on the grounds that the Greek references to Jesus as the Alpha (Α) and Omega (Ω) in the book of Revelation should be back-transliterated into the Hebrew alphabet's Aleph (א) and Tav (ת) -- not as individual letters, however, but as the word את -- so that the first sentence of the Gospel of John should be read: "In the beginning [of the book of Genesis] was the word [specifically, the word את = Jesus] and the word [את/Jesus] was with God [right there next to the word אלחים/God], and the word was God [because אלחים is, of course, plural]" . . . when, that is, the Bible is read in its (il)literately truthy letteral sense.

Never mind the buckets of egregious misinformation Dr. Ollison spews forth getting there! Never mind that, for this interpretation to work, John the Revelator's blatant misunderstanding of Jesus' words would be forever enshrined in Scripture! This is figural exegesis par excellence, right up there with the Epistle of Barnabas' (9.7-9) brilliantly linguistically inapt understanding of the number of Abraham's men (318 = τιη in Greek) as a reference to the first two letters of Jesus' name (ΙΗσους) and his cross (Τ)! Whatever else one might think of Dr. Ollison and his ministry, this is patristic exegesis at its dazzlingly dizzying Bible-Code-thumping dictation-theory-of-divine-inspiration-on-steroids best. And I mean that in the nicest way, really. Of course Origen could have exegeted circles around this guy with one metaphor after another tied behind his back! But the video is still a gem.

I don't know how much education in the biblical languages Dr. Ollison has actually had . . . and to view it in all its uproariously just-enough-to-be-dangerous glory, you really should take the time to absorb his whole show on The Hebrew Language . . . but the question does underscore the need for (and the timeliness of) a conversation like the one that's been going on lately in Biblioblogland about teaching and learning the biblical languages in seminaries (start here with [again] John Hobbins at Ancient Hebrew Poetry and follow the links there).

My own first advice to anyone contemplating going to seminary (not that anyone's every asked me for it, but if they did it) would be: if you can, get an undergraduate degree (or at least minor) in Greek and Hebrew first, and run ahead of the pack by the time you're in seminary.

Let me put it this way:

  • Beginning biblical Hebrew grammar: $35.
  • Hebrew-English interlinear Old Testament: $75.
  • Seminary education: $45,000.
  • Finding Jesus in the את in Genesis 1.1: priceless.