Monthly Archives: December 2007

What is apocalyptic literature anyway?

Scholars like to toss around big words to sound smart. Bible scholars’ favorite big words are things like “eschatological,” “intertextuality,” and “apocalyptic literature.” I’ve read a lot of things that talk about apocalyptic literature, but few that sit down and try to really define it. But today I was lucky and I found two different definitions of “apocalyptic literature” in two different places. I thought I’d pass them along to you.

1. Apocalyptic literature is defined as “symbolic, visionary, prophetic literature, usually composed during oppressive conditions and being chiefly eschatological in theological content.” (NIV Study Bible – 2002)

2. “Apocalypse” is a genre of revolutionary literature with a narrative framework, in which a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial insofar as it involves another, supernatural world.” (John J. Collins quoted in New Interpreters Bible, vol. VII, p.22)

I’m not sure whether I agree with the idea of genre-definition in general (having a post-modern streak in me) let alone with the above definitions. I’m not quite sure I even understand Collins’ definition. (I’m still having a hard time figuring out how a transcendent reality can envisage something.) But here are the definitions for your enjoyment and perusal.

The Largest Crosses and Crucifixes in the World

tall_cross-706735Americans like building big things and obtaining world records. Somehow this tendency has come into the mind of many cross-builders across the world and especially the US. I think it’s fascinating, so I’ve compiled a list of the tallest crosses and crucifixes in the world. Surprisingly, the absolute tallest cross in the world is in Spain! Out of all the ones on the list, I have only seen the Cross in the Woods in Indian River, MI and The Great Cross in St. Augustine, FL. Apparently, the city of Nazareth (yeah, the one in Israel where Jesus grew up) is planning a 60 meter cross (196 ft). If I missed any that should be on the list, please comment on this post and I’ll add them.

Tallest Crosses in the World
1.) 500 ft. Basilica of the Holy Cross of the Valley of the Fallen, San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain (granite)
2.) 208 ft. The Great Cross, St. Augustine, FL (steel)
3.) 198 ft. Effingham, IL (steel)
4.) 190 ft. Groom, TX (steel)
5.) 111 ft. Bald Knob Cross, Alto Pass, IL (concrete)
6.) 98 ft. Cleveland Community Church, OH (steel)
7.) 90 ft. Fort Jefferson Memorial Cross, Wickliffe, KY (steel?)

Tallest Crucifixes in the World
1.) 60 ft. Bardstown, KY (steel) — Very ugly!
2.) 55 ft. Cross in the Woods, Indian River, MI (wood cross, bronze corpus)

Bibliography of Commentaries on Baruch

I’m about to start working on Baruch and I had one heck of a time finding any resources. It’s a deuterocanonical book named after Jeremiah’s disciple, Baruch. You can find it in any Catholic Bible but not in a Protestant Bible. It’s also really short, only 5 chapters. So these two factors have combined to prevent much publication on the book. As far as I can see, there isn’t a single full-length commentary on Baruch anywhere. But I dug up the resources I could find that had a chapter or section on Baruch. Emmanuel Tov’s book appears to be a Greek-Hebrew edition of Baruch, not a commentary. Baruch was originally written in Hebrew, so most think, but only the Greek is extant. I suppose translating it back into Hebrew could be a useful exercise. So I’ve gathered a resource list of everything I could find on Baruch in English. Some of these pieces are very short. I bet if you read some of them, they will lead you to other books as well. If you find anything worth reading on Baruch that’s not on my list, please comment on this post and I’ll add it to the list!

Update: This bibliography gets complicated because Baruch 6 is often commented on as a separate work, The Letter of Jeremiah. Both Saldarini and Harrington comment on it in the same volume as their Baruch comments. Also, I added a section that lists the re-constructed Hebrew translations of Baruch by themselves. There are three: Kneucker, Tov and Burke. Kneucker translates 1:1-5:9 (Warning!–This is a guess. I haven’t been able to get my hands on this volume), Tov translates 1:1-3:8 and Burke translates 3:9-5:9. I have seen both Tov and Burke. Burke’s introductory comments and analysis are very helpful.

Bibliography of Commentaries on Baruch

Brown, Raymond E., Joseph A. Fitzmyer and Roland E. Murphy, eds. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990.

Burke, David G. Poetry of Baruch: A Reconstruction and Analysis of the Original Hebrew Text of Baruch 3:9-5:9. Chico, CA: Scholars, 1982.

Crowley, Edward J. The Books of Lamentations, Baruch, Sophonia, Nahum and Habacuc: With Commentary. New York: Paulist Press, 1962.

Dancy, John, Wesley J. Fuerst, R.J. Hammer. The Shorter Books of the Apocrypha. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Ellis, Peter F. Jeremiah, Baruch. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1986.

Farmer, William R. The International Bible Commentary. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1998.

Harrington, Daniel J. in Harper’s Bible Commentary. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988.

Kodell, Jerome. Lamentations, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Obadiah, Joel, Second Zechariah, Baruch. Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, 1982.

Moore, Carey. Daniel, Esther and Jeremiah: The Additions. Anchor Bible, vol. 44. New York: Doubleday, 1977.

Navarre Bible, v.6. Princeton, NJ: Scepter, 2005.

Saldarini, Anthony J. New Interpreter’s Bible, v.6. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003.

Stuhlmueller, Carroll. The Books of Jeremiah and Baruch. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1971.

Tov, Emmanuel. The Book of Baruch. Missoula, MT: Scholars, 1975.

—Special: Reconstructed Hebrew Translations of Greek Baruch—
Burke, David G. Poetry of Baruch: A Reconstruction and Analysis of the Original Hebrew Text of Baruch 3:9-5:9. Chico, CA: Scholars, 1982.

Kneucker, J.J. Das Buch Baruch. Leipzig: Brockhaus, 1879.

Tov, Emmanuel. The Book of Baruch. Missoula, MT: Scholars, 1975.

—Online Resources on Baruch—
Baruch – Introduction” in Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859.

Book of Baruch” in Catholic Encyclopedia. 1907.

Book of Baruch” on

Book of Baruch” on, Believe network.

Gigot, Francis. Special Introduction to the Study of the Old Testament, Part II. New York: Benzinger Brothers, 1906.

Wikipedia. Book of Baruch.

Cover with Pitch

There’s a Hebrew word (kaphar) in Ezek 16:63 which the ESV translates as “atone.” The word can also be translated as “cover over, pacify, propitiate.” (BDB) I found it very interesting that the same word is used in Gen 6:14 when the Lord commands Noah to cover the ark with pitch. Strangely enough, the same root is used for the word which means “pitch.” Unfortunately, Gen 6:14 is the only occurrence of the word. But the image of God covering over sins with pitch is a powerful one, not that Gen or Ezek actually says that. The Ezek passage is referring to a future time when God will kaphar Judah’s sins. I suppose it also has theological implications, but I don’t want to take this too far. The point is that we can compare Ezek 16:63’s use of kaphar with Gen 6:14 and come up with the image of God covering our sins with pitch. Cool.

(Check out the picture of the guy with pitch in Trinidad.)


So I came across a word in James 5:9 (stenazo, “complain, groan”) and I was intrigued, so I looked it up in BDAG. BDAG lists a few meanings: sigh, groan because of an undesirable circumstance. Then it cites Mk 7:34 where Jesus sighs before healing a deaf man. BDAG says this meaning is “in connection w. a healing, prob. as an expr. of power ready to act Mk 7:34.” What?!

Since when does Jesus groan “as an expression of power ready to act”? BDAG, to its credit, does cite a couple older grammars, that I don’t have ready access to in my personal library. But I think the word goes a lot deeper in the NT than an isolated instance of Jesus doing some pre-healing groans.

Check out Romans 8:26 where the Spirit intercedes for us with unutterable groanings (stenagmos, a noun form of stenazo). Then look at Heb 13:17 where we ought to help our leaders do their jobs without groaning (stenazo). Now compare that to Jesus praying with loud cries in Heb 5:7 (krauges ischuras) and being heard because of his reverence.

I think the groaning he does in Mk 7:34 is more like the loud cries of Heb 5:7 than a preparatory grunt before healing.

How to Read the Bible

The Bible must be read differently than any other book. Most non-fiction books we read with an attitude of total skepticism. We want the author to prove his point to us and if we are not convinced of his position by the end, we leave the book behind looking for better books with which we can agree.

But we should not read the Bible with an attitude of skepticism. Rather, we must read it with an attitude of humble submission. Since it really is God’s word to man, we are not free to disagree and leave it behind. Instead when we confront something in the Bible that we don’t like or don’t understand or can’t accept, we must pray and ask God for the grace to understand and accept it. But even before we receive that grace, we must submit our minds and hearts to the Bible, trusting that God’s Word is better than our own.

This paradigm shift in the way we read is not easy, but it is necessary. We will never understand the Bible if we do not submit to it. We will never learn from it if we do not love it.

New Links: Bible on the Web

I added a few new links to the side-bar. Check out “Online Bible Translations” for a wonderful list of links to almost every online Bible website. It’s a super helpful quick glance at every web Bible out there. Then take a look at the “Better Bibles Blog.” This is a young blog with a great future. It gives you a place to post poor translations in whatever version you happen to be reading. If you find an error or a badly translated verse, just post it there. Hopefully future English Bible translators can use this website as a resource. Finally, go to “iTanakh.” This site is amazing. It has grouped together gazillions of Bible resources, articles, fonts, versions, software, etc. It goes on and on. I don’t agree with everything posted there (obviously), but it is an invaluable resource of information.