I was delighted to contribute an essay to the hot-off-the-press Festschrift honoring my doktorvater, Samuel Greengus. Many thanks to the scholars who were kind enough to endorse my essay, “The Administration of Copper Tools at Umma in the Ur III Period”:

“The finest piece of bathroom reading ever produced.”
—Seth Sanders

“This upturns everything I know.”
—Timothy Michael Law

“The most exhaustive treatment of the most obscure trivia.”
—Angela Roskop Erisman

“Charles who?”
—Roger Scruton

“[Insert title here] is a compelling book sure to delight its readers.”
—N.T. Wright

“I now know more about how the powers that be repressed vulnerable people through the technicalities of the transfer of copper in a specific town during a tiny window of time four thousand years ago.”
—Cornell West

“I embrace this essay.”
—Miroslav Volf

“Let’s do a podcast about this.”
—Mark Goodacre

“I don’t know where to begin…”
—Jacob L. Wright

“I’m busy grading.”
—Thomas Bolin

—Jeff Cooley

In all seriousness, it was an honor to be a part of this project to give back a tiny fraction of the kindness that Sam has shown me.

Windows to the Ancient World of the Hebrew Bible

Windows to the Ancient World of the Hebrew Bible
Essays in Honor of Samuel Greengus
EIS – Eisenbrauns
Edited by Bill T. Arnold, Nancy Erickson, and John H. Walton
Eisenbrauns, 2014
Pp. xvi + 286, English
Cloth, 6 x 9 inches
ISBN: 9781575063027
List Price: $59.50
Your Price: $53.55

I had a great time talking with Walter Brueggemann the other day. You can see my interview of him over at Marginalia or you can scroll down through the “Films” menu at the top of this site. Cheers!

Here are my favorite books that I’ve read in 2013 (not necessarily published in 2013) in absolutely no particular order. I’d also love to hear from you on which books were your favorites. Best wishes and happy reading for 2014!

Jon Levenson, Inheriting Abraham

Levenson is one of my favorite scholars of biblical studies and he’s on my “read everything s/he writes” list. Inheriting Abraham is a completely fascinating look at the traditions of Abraham as they appear in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Levenson argues (persuasively, IMO) that the traditions are different enough that we should no longer talk about “Abrahamic” religions as if they all share the same understandings about this figure. And, as a bonus, I interviewed Levenson about this book for Marginalia.

Stephane Michaka, Scissors

An completely engrossing and wonderfully written novel inspired by the short story writer, Raymond Carver, along with his wife and editor. If you are a writer yourself, you will love this book. And if you’re not, you’ll still love it.

Russell Norman, Polpo

My favorite cookbook. A true work of art and the recipes are deliciously, traditionally Venetian while still easy to prepare.

Timothy Michael Law, When God Spoke Greek

What is the Bible? Why do different Christian traditions use different forms of it? This is a fascinating and helpful book for anyone interested in studying the Bible and learning of its origins and reception within Christendom.

Stephen Harrigan, The Eye of the Mammoth

A collection of essays so well written that you’ll be fascinated with as obscure things as the scientific study of road kill.

R. W. L. Moberly, Old Testament Theology 

Along with Ben Sommer and John Rogerson, Moberly is one of my favorite scholars to read on the topic of theology of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. This book reads representative passages from the Hebrew Bible in light of the insights of contemporary criticism as well as received traditions of the Christian faith to form a very substantial and thoughtful picture of the messages of the Old Testament.

Verlyn Klinkenborg, Several Short Sentences about Writing

If you read one book about the craft of writing make it this one. It is both inspirational and practical. Also, check out my interview with Klinkenborg for Marginalia.

Salman Rushdie, Joseph Anton

Rushdie’s memoir that focuses on his life under the fatwa. Like all of Rushdie’s work, the writing is fabulous and the story moves at a good clip.

Miguel A. De La Torre, Latina/o Social Ethics

This book challenges the traditional foundation of Christian Ethics by exposing the fact that these approaches support the structures of those in power instead of the marginalized of society. It will change the way you view the entire field of ethical studies.

Matthew Specktor, American Dream Machine

This novel sets the standard for stories about Hollywood. It has a main character that you will simultaneous love and hate, and it’s ending is one that you’ll never forget.

Paul Theroux, Last Train to Zona Verde

A travel memoir from an absolute master. If you’ve ever wanted to wrap your head around the glories and challenges of Africa, this is the book for you.

Tim Parks, Italian Ways

It’s a book about exploring Italian via the railroad. It’s one of the most incredible books I’ve read. Do yourself a favor and read it.

Julian Barnes, Levels of Life

It’s Julian Barnes. He explores his grief and experience of loss at the death of his wife. One of the most tender, insightful, and profound books I’ve read.

Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss

Wiman explores his return to the Christian faith after receiving a diagnosis of terminal cancer. His reflections are anything but neat and tidy but rather the complex thoughts of one of the most interesting poets of our time.

Christopher M. Hays and Christopher Ansberry, Evangelical Faith and the Challenge of Historical Criticism

Evangelicals have tended to have a reactionary stance toward mainstream biblical scholarship in which they retreat into traditionalism and fail to be honest with the reality of the biblical text. Hays and Ansberry show that this is not only unhelpful but completely unnecessary.

Michael Frayn, Skios

A novel which produces hilarity through unfolding chaos.

Giacomo Leopardi, Canti and Zibaldone

Leopardi was a linguist, poet, and polymath. Canti is a collection of some of his stark poems mainly about Italy and Zibaldone is his collection of notes. Both are tremendously fascinating and pleasures to read.

But the fact that it can be read apart from these larger contexts is no argument that it ought to be or that interpreting it only according to its ancient authors’ intentions yields the best reading. Indeed, the very question of authorial intention is enormously complicated when the text has many authors, has been repeatedly redacted, and now forms an integral part of a completed set of books to which many more authors and redactors have contributed. Considering Genesis in isolation inevitably impedes our understanding of the importance of the scriptural canon by which it comes to us.

Ronald Hendel leaves the impression that nowadays the book of Genesis can be handled credibly only by artists, activists, and antiquarians. A fuller study would have to take account of its role in modern Jewish and Christian religious thought, where those who have pondered themes central to Genesis—creation, election, promise and the baffling workings of providence, for example—have made rich and productive use of the book. It would also have to take account of the fact that throughout the world, Genesis is read and expounded in synagogues and churches by and to educated, scientifically literate people. On the question of how we are to understand that important reality, The Book of Genesis: A Biography, illuminating on so many other things, needed to say more.

Jon Levenson

I have short piece up on the School of Christian Thought’s blog. Here’s the first paragraph to whet you appetite, click here for the whole thing.

The first time I heard the song must have been as I was weaving in and out of traffic. I was too impatient to wait for the DJ to name to title so with one eye on the road and the other on my phone I shazam’ed it. “Monkey Gone to Heaven” by The Pixies. By far my favorite song from them. Their music is a mix of discordant sound, screaming, and catchy loops; normally not my cup of tea. But anytime someone mixes environmentalism, a great hook, and esoteric Hebrew numerology they’ve won my heart…wait, hold up–do monkeys really go to heaven?

Marginalia: A Review of Books in History, Theology & Religion releases new reviews on the last Tuesday of the month but in between these times we release interviews or essays as well. So, you might want to check the site periodically to see if anything is new or you can follow us on Facebook or Twitter where we announce new stuff.

Today we released two stellar pieces that you will want to read:

David H. Aaron, Professor of Hebrew Bible & History of Interpretation at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati, writes on the art of the review essay. He gives very helpful advice to anyone who is thinking about writing this kind of piece.

Brennan Breed, Assistant Professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary, examines the reception history of Genesis 3:22-24 in a completely fascinating review essay.


This is one of the coolest projects that I’ve been a part of. We launch on Tuesday. Get ready.


Marginalia Review of Books
Contact: Timothy Michael Law (Publisher and Editor-in-Chief)
Phone: +49-151-504-70298 (Germany)
Email: tmlaw@themarginaliareview.com
Twitter: @MarginaliaROB
Facebook ID: themarginaliareview

The Marginalia Review of Books (http://themarginaliareview.com), a new international publication in the disciplines along the nexus of history, theology and religion, launches Tuesday, January 29.

Marginalia aims to correct what its Publisher and Editor-in-Chief believes to be a downward spiral. “We want to rehabilitate the ailing book review,” said Timothy Michael Law, currently an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow in the Georg-August Universität, Göttingen (Germany). “We are hoping to create a new standard that puts a premium on quality in both style and substance. Penetrating analysis and engaging prose should be held together.”

Law says the review is often the genre of academic writing that suffers the most neglect, but that it should receive more attention. “The review is functional as a service to each discipline of the academic community by separating the wheat from the chaff. But it is also an art worth recovering, since it can be the only vehicle that communicates our research to those outside of our specialized societies.”

Managing Editors Charles Halton and Anthony Apodaca are also hoping to test the limits of what is possible in academic publishing. Halton said, “Our creativity as scholars should not be limited to the construction of our ideas but should also include the forms of their expression. The web presents us with an opportunity to re-conceptualize the ways in which we package, mediate, and analyze our thoughts.” Marginalia will provide space for readers and authors to interact, create digital panel discussions on the most pivotal publications, and publish long form and peer-reviewed essays.

As important as quality and creativity are to Marginalia, General Editor David Lincicum, University Lecturer in New Testament in Oxford, insists that the editors are just as committed to making reviews more discoverable than those in traditional print journals. Joining the open-access movement, Marginalia will publish all content without charging the reader, directly challenging traditional publications that require readers to login from a university network or pay a hefty subscription.

Marginalia’s Advisory Board consists of more than thirty of the world’s leading scholars in the fields of history, theology and religion, and nearly forty early career scholars serve as Review Editors for the publication.

Editorial Board

Publisher and Editor-in-Chief: Timothy Michael Law (Göttingen)

General Editor: David Lincicum (Oxford)

Managing Editor: Charles Halton (Houston)

Managing Editor: Anthony Apodaca (New York)

Secretary: Daniel Picus (Brown)

Advisory Board

Marc Van De Mieroop (Professor of History, Columbia University)

Gebhard J. Selz (Chair of Old Semitic Languages and Oriental Archaeology, Vienna)

Anthony Sagona (Professor of Classics and Archaeology, Melbourne)

James Rives (Kenan Eminent Professor of Classics, Chapel Hill)

Jan Joosten (Professeur d’Ancien Testament, Strasbourg)

John Barton (Oriel and Laing Professor of the Interpretation of the Holy Scripture, Oxford)

Athalya Brenner (Professor Emerita of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Amsterdam)

Reinhard Kratz (Professor of Old Testament, Göttingen)

Anna Passoni dell’Acqua (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan)

Maren Niehoff (Associate Professor of Jewish Thought, Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Charlotte Hempel (Senior Lecturer in Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judaism, Birmingham)

Markus Bockmuehl (Professor of Biblical and Early Christian Studies, Oxford)

Mark Goodacre (Associate Professor in New Testament, Duke)

Daniel Stökl Ben Ezra (Directeur d’Études, École Pratique des Hautes Études Paris)

Willem Smelik (Senior Lecturer in Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic, London)

Joanna Weinberg (James Mew Lecturer in Rabbinical Hebrew, Oxford)

Andrew Louth (Professor of Patristic and Byzantine Studies, Durham)

Sarah Foot (Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History, Oxford)

Susan Boynton (Professor of Music, Columbia)

David J. Wasserstein (Professor of History, Jewish Studies, and Classics, Vanderbilt)

Adam Silverstein (Reader in Jewish Studies and the Abrahamic Religions, King’s College, London)

Anthony Grafton (Henry Putnam University Professor of History, Princeton)

Diarmaid MacCulloch (Professor of the History of the Church, Oxford)

Mona Siddiqui (Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies, Edinburgh)

Sholeh Quinn (Associate Professor of Islamic Studies, California Merced)

Ellen T. Charry (Margaret W. Harmon Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology,Princeton)

Joel Rasmussen (University Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Christian Thought, Oxford)

Aaron Rosen (Lecturer in Sacred Traditions and the Arts, King’s College London)

Nathan Abrams (Director of Graduate Studies and Senior Lecturer in Film Studies, Bangor)

Jeremy Begbie (Thomas A. Langford Research Professor of Theology, Duke)

Alan J. Torrance (Professor of Systematic Theology, St. Andrews)

Murray Rae (Head of Department of Theology, Otago)

David Rechter (University Research Lecturer in Modern Jewish History, Oxford)

Shmuel Feiner (Professor of Modern Jewish History, Bar-Ilan)

Charles Jones (Head Librarian, ISAW, New York)

Review Editors


Ancient Near East & Semitics

Jonathan Stökl, Leiden;
Ola Wikander, Lund

Graeco-Roman Religions

Ioannis Mylonopoulos, Columbia;
Ivana Petrovic, Durham

Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

Angela Roskop Erisman, Xavier;
Ingrid Lilly, W. Kentucky;
Jonathan Stökl, Leiden

New Testament

Jane Heath, Durham;
Michael Thate, Yale

Theological Interpretation and Reception of the Bible

Brennan Breed, Columbia, Atlanta

Qur’anic Studies

Asad Q. Ahmed, Berkeley;
Rachel Friedman, Berkeley

Early Jewish History

Alison Schofield, Denver;
Sharon Weisser, Jerusalem

Rabbinic and Late Antique Jewish History

Holger Zellentin, Nottingham;
Shai Secunda, Jerusalem

Medieval Jewish History


Modern Jewish History

Simon Rabinovitch, Boston;
Adam Mendelsohn, Charleston

Early Christianity

Andrew Radde-Gallwitz, Loyola Chicago;
Mark DelCogliano, St. Thomas

Late Antique Christianity

Julia Konstantinovsky, Oxford;
Emilio Bonfiglio, Geneva

Medieval Christianity

Patrick Hornbeck, Fordham;
Helen Foxhall Forbes, Exeter

Modern Christianity

Joseph Williams, Rutgers

Early Islamic History

Asad Q. Ahmed, Berkeley;
Rachel Friedman, Berkeley

Medieval Islamic History

Blain Auer, Lausanne;
Matthew Melvin-Koushki, Oxford

Modern Islamic History



Historical Theology

Darren Sarisky, Cambridge

Constructive Theology

Benjamin Myers, Queensland;
Brandon Gallaher, Oxford

Philosophical Theology

Chris Barnett, Villanova


Religious Studies

Kerry San Chirico, Hawaii;
Phillip Francis, Harvard

Abrahamic Religions

lisha Russ-Fishbane, Wesleyan;
David Shyovitz, Northwestern;
Stephen Burge, Ismaili Institute, London

Dharma Traditions

Philosophy of Religion
Matthew A. Benton, Oxford

Religious Ethics

Religion, Culture, and the Arts
Ayla Lepine, Courtauld London


French and German

Carolyn Rosen, Royal Holloway London; Felix Albrecht, Göttingen

I’m trying to rethink the ways in which I teach Old Testament introduction and I came up with an assignment that I hope will interest the students:

The Story of Genesis Through the Sistine Chapel

Using the Vatican’s interactive guide and virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, follow the “Central Stories” which depict Michelangelo’s interpretation of Genesis 1-9. Read Genesis 1-9 for yourself and in a two page, double spaced, essay compare and contrast Michelangelo’s interpretation of Genesis 1-9 with your own reading. Students might find it helpful to consult the class textbook for this assignment as well.

Interactive Guide: http://mv.vatican.va/3_EN/pages/CSN/CSN_Volta_StCentr.html

Virtual Tour: http://www.vatican.va/various/cappelle/sistina_vr/index.html

I aso made a short video that provides a little introduction to the assignment. Sure it’s cheesy and my dog snores in the background but who says education has be so stuffy? As always, let me know what you think.