Some bloggers I know have been listing their top posts for 2011, or their favorite posts from other blogs. I’ll be doing something like that in this post.
On my blog, my focus this year was largely on my reading for my comprehensive examinations in rabbinics and Hebrew Bible. I like a lot of the posts that I wrote for that, especially the ones about John Van Seters’ work. Van Seters, in my opinion, is not always the easiest author to read, but there was a sense of satisfaction that came to me when I took a look at some of his arguments and broke them down so I could understand them, and my process for doing that was blogging. I am also glad that I got to write some posts that can be a source of information for anyone interested. For instance, I had long heard that the camel was not a domestic animal in the time of Abraham and that Genesis is thus inaccurate on this issue, and I also knew about scholars who disagreed with that claim. But I did not know what the evidence was, pro or con. As a result, I did some research and I wrote a post about it: The Domestic Camel.
Also in 2011, I have done a weekly blog post on the Book of Psalms. Before I got into this project, I was afraid that blogging through the Psalms would be rather boring, since many of the Psalms say the same sorts of things. Well, so far, I have blogged about Psalms 1-57, and I’m not bored yet! Each Psalm, in my opinion, has its own eccentricities. There are hard verses, and interpreters have different views about what those verses mean. The whole experience of researching the Psalms and their interpreters has been satisfying, and it’s gotten better with time.
Other posts have been a pleasure for me to write. I have enjoyed reading about Second Temple and rabbinic views about the Torah, and whether or not Gentiles had to observe it. I was glad to finally read Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois for Black History Month, since I heard about them on one of my favorite miniseries, Roots: The Next Generation, but I did not know precisely where they differed. Women’s History Month was also good, for I learned about feminist and womanist Christology, as well as feminist constructions of history. In the process, I have taken a look at my own theology and approach to the Scriptures—-Do I pick and choose what I will believe in the Bible, and, if so, what is my criteria?
Starting in 2011, I began to attend a Presbyterian Church (USA), which is walking distance from where I live. I have appreciated the hospitality of the people there. I think that blogging through my church’s Bible study on Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God helped me to get more out of it. My favorite post from that experience was The Am Ha-Aretz, Sinners, and the Prodigal Son.
My blog has gained new readers and commenters this year, and I have appreciated their insights, as well as the insights of long-time readers. I’d like to highlight one interaction that I had that taught me a valuable lesson. In my post, Childs on the Covenant Code and Exodus 24, I said that Exodus 21:21 says that if a master beats his slave and the slave gets up after a day or two, then the master will not be punished. I had long assumed that the law was saying that the master would not be punished if the slave survived the beating, but he would be punished if the slave died. Paul D., however, brought to my attention translations that said that the law is saying something different: that the master is not punished if the slave lives for a few days and then dies. I checked out the Hebrew, translations, the Septuagint, and Jewish and Christian commentaries and learned that there was a strong tradition that interprets the verse as Paul does, but there were a few that read it my way. I guess my lesson there was that what I assume the text means is not necessarily what the text means, or the only way that the text can be interpreted.
I did not blog as much about entertainment as I have in previous years, but there were a few posts that were meaningful to me: my post on my favorite 15 Smallville episodes (which I posted on the day of the final episode), and my post on the Temple Grandin movie. I also enjoyed writing about Terra Nova (see here).
I read a lot of blog posts, but I did not always pay attention to who was writing them. One controversy this year was over Rob Bell’s Love Wins, which has been accused of promoting universalism (the view that all will be saved in the end). I really appreciated one post that I read (whose author I forget) that argued that there are different ways to interpret the Bible on this issue, which contradicts the claim of my conservative Christian friends that Rob Bell and his supporters were neglecting the plain words of Jesus and were preferring their own wishes instead. I think that there are different ways to interpret passages in the Bible. Universalists choose to take Paul’s statements about Christ saving all or reconciling all literally, and they harmonize what the Bible says about eternal punishment with that concept—-by noting that eternal punishment can be a temporary period of correction, since eternity in the Bible is not always forever and a Greek word for punishment can mean correction. Other Christians, by contrast, believe that eternal punishment is literally eternal punishment, and so they harmonize the passages about God saving or reconciling all with that particular concept—-by saying that God is offering to reconcile all but that people still need to believe, that all does not necessarily mean every single person but rather people from every group, or that salvation does not always mean eternal salvation. In my opinion, none of these groups is being unfaithful to the Bible. They’re just prioritizing different things, and harmonizing other elements of Scripture with what they choose to prioritize.
I’ve learned of new blogs this year, which I really enjoy: JohnShore.com, Fallen From Grace, Think and Wonder. Wonder and Think…, Respectful Atheist, and The Screaming Kettle. Some of these are from atheists, and some are from unconventional Christians. I have appreciated their honesty and also their tactfulness, which sometimes coexists with their edginess.
I’d now like to highlight some of my favorite posts or series for this year:
Rachel Held Evans had some excellent posts in her “Ask A…” series. Ask a Gay Christian, by Justin Lee, was my favorite, for Justin struck me as a person who recognized and respected that people (including himself) are in different places on their spiritual journeys, and so he did not look down on gay Christians who chose celibacy. Justin Taylor’s post, Ask a Calvinist, was also good. I did not expect to like it because I hate Calvinism and find a lot of Calvinists to be self-righteous and annoying. But Taylor was quite judicious and tactful in his presentation.
From Rachel’s blog (see here), I learned about David Nilsen’s blog, and I really appreciated his series on teaching children about the Bible and his family’s reasons for leaving one church to search for another.
Finally, I have enjoyed some of Rodney Thomas’ posts. His critique of William P. Young’s The Shack was excellent. I liked it because I consider The Shack to be an overrated book, and it was interesting to see how the book actually reinforces stereotypes. Rodney’s thanksgiving post was also good because it sought to transcend the usual patriotic and politically-correct narratives about that holiday.
I’ve enjoyed 2011, and I wish you all a Happy New Year!