Monday, September 28, 2015

2015 Lund Lectures at North Park Theological Seminary

Professor Nils W. Lund
Dean and Biblical Scholar at North Park (1922-54)
For many such as myself, the Nils W. Lund Memorial Lectureship held annually at North Park Theological Seminary here in Chicago is a real treat. It provides an opportunity for faculty, students, and friends of the seminary to hear first-class scholars speak on the salient cultural issues of our day and offer a theological response from, and for, the Christian church. This year, following the theme of the Symposium for the Theological Interpretation of Scripture on Race and Racism, North Park Theological Seminary has invited Associate Professor of Old Testament Bo Lim from Seattle Pacific University, and Professor of Biblical Studies Emerson Powry to be our plenary speakers. 
   CovTV, the media division of the Evangelical Covenant Church, kindly live-streamed and recorded the lectures, which are posted below. The first lecture (Wed Nov 3) by Dr. Lim is entitled: "A Tale of Romance or Spousal Abuse?: Love and Violence in the Book of Hosea" where he works through the violent sexual metaphors used by prophets to describe God's judgment on Israel and the nations.
There is a problem with the audio, so scroll for ward to 1:37

The 2nd Lecture is entitled: "Prophetic Ministry Among Exiles: The Contribution of Asian and Latino/a American Biblical Interpretation."  Concerning the latter, Bo does an excellent job surveying the history of interpretation on the problem of exile, frames exilic discourse in the Old Testament with sociological models that help us recognize different types of emmigration/exile patterns (some forced by conquest; others voluntary), and then carefully argues how modern immigration movements by Asian and Latino/a Americans parallel ancient exile patterns, when the analogues fall apart, and why exilic texts speak powerfully to immigrant communities. 

    The following day (Thu Nov 4), Dr. Powry gave his first lecture covering the New Testament canon on the topic: "The Pastor's Counsel to Enslaved Christians." Emerson focuses not only on the interpretation of biblical texts concerning ancient slavery at the advent of early Christianity but provides insights on the history of the texts' reception, especially among African American congregations, and the latter's own painful history of slavery in the United States. 
The 1st lecture begins at 14:57

Both the 1st and 2nd lectures are in the same video clip, but jump to 14:57 for the 1st lecture without the introduction, and for the 2nd lecture, scroll to 1:52:11.

This is the same video but the 2nd lecture begins at 1:52:11

Concerning the 2nd lecture entitled "'Slaves of God': Another Look at Paul's (Ironic) Identity Marker," Emerson investigates Paul's use of the self-designation "slave of [Jesus] Christ" (δοῦλος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ; Rom 1:1; also Gal 1:10; Phil 1:1) and challenges the idea that Paul somehow tries to redeem the metaphorical use of the term δοῦλος by adding a measure of dignity to it since the worth of the slave is attached to the (high/glorious) stature of the Master himself (contra the classic thesis of Dale Martin's Slavery as Salvation - 1990). Provocatively, Dr. Powry argues that Paul did not remove the shame component intrinsic to ancient forms of slavery. Theologically, Paul was challenging his congregation that the cost of following Christ and declaring Christ as Lord meant, in fact, that the Christian will experience shame, suffering, and indignation. The faithful Christian is not spared from the shame associated with being a slave (of Christ) or the cross-bearing life. That was a stunning challenge!
    I hope the links above make these four lectures readily accessible to you. Enjoy and be blessed! MJL

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Mummy Masks and Roman Egyptians

One of the best exhibits at the Getty Villa was the display of mummy masks from Roman Egypt. The use of portaits painted on the head of a mummy is a combination of Egyptian burial customs and Roman individualized portraiture traditions. Often wood panels are used for the portrait and later inserted into the mummy's linen wrappings. Pigments were suspended in bee's wax and brushes used to paint the face of the dead onto the panel. Sometimes a hardening agent like eggs yolk was applied. 
   Besides the excellent example of the mummy mask shown in my previous post, here are some of the other mummy portraits on display at the Villa (forgive some glares; I did my best to try to get a clean photo through the protective glass of the display):
Portrait of a Roman-Egyptian Man (AD 200-25)
Cropped hairstyle reflects the Severan era
Photo by Max Lee © 2015
Portrait of an Roman-Egyptian Woman  (AD 170-200)
Dress, jewelry, and hairstyle depict a matriarch of wealth
Photo by Max Lee © 2015
Portrait of a Roman Egyptian Man (AD 200-50)
holding a glass of wine and garland of flowers which
are typically associated with funeral rites
Photo by Max Lee © 2015
Rarely does one find a perfectly preserved mummy in antiquity, but the Getta Villa has one on display which shows nicely how the wood panel portraits like above were inserted in the wrappings of the mummy. Below is the mummy of the Roman Egyptian Herakleides (AD 50-100): 
Mummy Body of the Roman Egyptian Herakleides (AD 50-100)
Photo by Max Lee © 2015
Photo shows how the mummy portrait panel was inserted in the wrappings
and the body itself was decorated further with symbols of protection and rebirth
Photo by Max Lee © 2015
We are not exactly sure why the Egyptians created headmasks (often gold) which later evolved into the Roman practice of life-like portraits on wood panels inserted on top of the head coverings. But it may be that the spirit of the person was believed to be wandering around during the day and in order to return to its body at night, the portrait was there to help the human spirit recognize its own body.
     Also worth noting is how the name of the man was written in Greek just above the feet. It's hard to see but you can make out ΗΡΑΚΛΕ[ΙΔΗΣ] if you stare at the photo below:
The feet of the mummy body with the letters ΗΡΑΚΛΕ- - - - written in Greek
just above to the left. The missing letters are visible upon closer inspection
though hard to see in the above photo
Photo by Max Lee © 2015
I find the exhibit utterly fascinating for the example of cultural assimilation that has taken place among Egyptian religious practices. The portraits are ethnic Egyptians but these Egyptians are dressed like Romans! The names are spelled out in Greek. The ancient Mediterranean world was far more cosmopolitan than we might initially suspect, and the influence of Rome affected even the burial rites of the colonized population.
   But there is another reason why I wanted to see this exhibit. Sometimes, instead of linen, strips of papyri were used with glue to make the cartonnage, or the cardboard-like materials created from plastering the mummy wrappings, much like children who make crafts from paper-mâché. Sometimes, the papyri they use are recycled from written texts and scrolls. The trick, then, is how to peel away the layers of paper-mâché papyri from the mummy mask or body and recover the written texts they contain. For New Testament scholars, much ado has been made about the possibility of a Gospel of Mark fragment discovered in a mummy mask (yet to be verified by the way!). More on this in the next post. For now, enjoy the photos from an incredible exhibit at Getty.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Walking through a Roman Villa at Getty

During a research trip to the libraries of UCLA and my alma mater Fuller Theological Seminary this past August 2015, I finally got my chance to visit the antiquities exhibit of Greek and Roman artefacts at the Getty Villa (not to be confused with the Getty Center in Los Angeles, which houses its medieval through modern works of art). The Villa is a stunningly beautiful campus on the hills of Malibu with a seaside view of the Pacific Ocean in California. Its artefacts are housed in a museum that is designed and (re)constructed after the architectural design of the Roman Village of Papyri (Villa dei Papiri) once owned by Lucius Calpurnius Piso, Julius Caesar's father-in-law, and home for one of 1800+ carbonized papyri scrolls at Herculaneum. So you can see why, beyond going to Italy directly, I would want to see not only their exhibits but walk through a reconstructed Roman villa itself! Here is my virtual tour of the villa replete with photos.
Welcome to the Getty Villa!
Photo by Max Lee © 2015
   As you enter into the Villa off the Pacific Coast Hwy (#1), you drive uphill into the museum entrance and present your tickets (by the way, you have to plan ahead and reserve a free ticket online before you come to the museum), pay for parking, and then walk up to the museum on a stone road that has the texture and feel of roads from Pompei.
   As you walk up the steps, the first sight you see is a reconstructed Greek theater:
Reconstructed Greek theater at the Getty Villa
(compare it to an actual Greek theater at Epidaurus)
Epidaurus is way more impressive but this was a nice first impression
Photo by Max Lee © 2015
Then you head through the entrance of the villa itself:
Entrance into the Roman domus (house)
Photo by Max Lee © 2015
You are then in the atrium area, with the impluvium (sunken part of the atrium which holds rain water) at the center, and each of the surrounding rooms along the walls is its own exhibit.
Atrium with the impluvium at the center and around the walls
are the doors to the rooms with exhibits (Greek and Roman artefacts)
Photo by Max Lee © 2015
The designers even included the compluvium on the roof (how the rain water comes in) in the atrium design.
Compluvium (hole to allow rain water through the roof)
of the Roman domus at Getty
Photo by Max Lee © 2015
Once you leave the atrium area, you then enter into the peristylium (roofed area with surrounding colonates) of the Roman house (domus) where additional rooms have more exhibits, and in the center are the basin and fountain. 
First peristylium with long basin (pond) and accompanying
Roman statues (imitations) before you enter the larger outdoor graden
Photo by Max Lee © 2015
But the above is the smaller garden area. Outside is an even larger peristylium and outdoor garden which tries to be as authentic as possible with the kinds/types of plants that are grown in ancient times, including herbs, grapes, and pomegranates.
View of the Peristyllium+Garden from the 2nd floor view of the Getty Villa
 (modeled after the Village of Papyri in Herculaneum, Italy)
Photo by Max Lee © 2015
When you walk along the walls, they painted imitations of the kind of frescos you would see if you actually visited Herculaneum. They also have some of the actual frescos but understandably not in the garden areas but in the (protected) exhibits at the Getty.
Fresco of a Peacock from Herculaneum (AD 70) on Exhibit at Getty
Photo by Max Lee © 2015
   In the weeks ahead, I will be posting more photos of the actual artefacts themselves that I took when I visited the museum's exhibits. The Getty villa actually has quite an impressive display of artefacts from the classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods. The most amazing exhibit was the mummy masks from Roman Egypt. I posted this photo of one of them on a past tweet but here it is again (below). 
Portrait of a Roman Egyptian woman Isidora,
a wealthy matriarch wearing fine jewelry from El-Hibeh,
Egypt (AD 100-10), painted on the mummy wrappings
Photo by Max Lee © 2015
All I can say, if you get to the southern California area, treat yourself to Getty Villa. It was an amazing day. Having now walked through a reconstructed Roman villa (imitation) of incredible architectual beauty, I am even more eager to some day visit Herculaneum itself and see the actual Roman Villa of Papyri along with other archaeological sites. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Reading the Bible Interculturally

I wanted to give a quick post about the latest issue of the Covenant Quarterly that has, with volume 73, no. 2, officially turned digital (the last print issue was 73, no. 1). Articles are freely available on the journal website (here). This latest issue is dedicated to the task of reading the Bible interculturally. I wrote the first article, and it was not an easy one to compose. 
   Many evangelicals are wary of contextualized readings of Scripture because of the dangers of "eisegesis," or reading into the text ideas or concepts that are foreign to the Bible. But I have argued that an appreciation of how Asian American, African American, Latino/a American, and other ethnic groups interpret the biblical text actually does the opposite: it acts as a mirror to our own presuppositions and biases, and it provides needed tools for exegesis and hermeneutics. Check out the issue by following the links above to the PDF copies of the articles. Below is a snapshot of the contributors and articles titles. 
Covenant Quarterly 73, no. 2 (2015)
dedicated to the topic of Reading the Bible Interculturally (RBI)
One more note: I'm thrilled that past students of mine, Nilwona Nowlin and Erik Borggren, have authored two of the articles in this issue. It is also a thrill to have Dr. Bruce Fields from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School contribute his fine plenary paper for the journal, originally read at North Park's Eaton-Jones Memorial Lectureship last Spring 2015. Kudos also belong to Hauna Ondrey, an assistant professor of church history at North Park, for her fine editorial work. Enjoy!