Archives for December 2011

The Weekly Hit List: December 23, 2011

There are several blogs that have recently engaged with Christian Smith’s The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture.

Here are a couple:

Soliloquium Blog

Hope Abbey Blog


Miroslav Volf’s A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good has also gotten some recent attention by various bloggers.

Here are a few:

CLR Forum

John Piippo Blog

Once Upon a Truth Blog

Keith Clark began a series of posts on Christian Scharen’s Broken Hallelujahs on his Exploring Apprenticeship Blog.

Tripp York wrote a brief review of Lee Camp’s Who Is My Enemy?, calling it “[p]robably one of the most important books in theology/Christian ethics published this past year.”

Check it out here.

Broken Hallelujahs Giveaway Winners

Congratulations to our winners: John Berard, Jonathan Hallewell, Dan Allison, Jennifer Lanthrope, and Nick Norelli!

They have each won a copy of Christian Scharen’s new Brazos book Broken Hallelujahs: Why Popular Music Matters to Those Seeking God.

Merry Christmas from all of us at The Brazos Blog!

Lectionary Reflection for Christmas

From Luke (BTCB; forthcoming) by David Lyle Jeffrey, commenting on Luke 2: 1-20

One striking thing about Luke 2 is another, starker juxtaposition: the holy can appear in the midst of much that is public and profane. Rome’s imperial power, proclaimed in the decree of Caesar Augustus “that all the world [hyperbole for Roman Empire] should be registered” (2:1; KJV’s “that all the world should be taxed” reflects the reason for the census), is a reminder of the rule over Judea of an alien secular power. Caesar’s proclamation itself was hardly good news. There was a species of peace to be sure (pax Romanum), the kind of brutally enforced social quietude often found under tyranny. Quirinius, the governor of Syria, decreed the Roman census that, though first enforced in this district, was not the first ordered by Caesar. Nor was the idea that everyone should go to his own city unusual for such a Roman census, though it may indicate an expedient adaptation to Jewish custom by which registration in one’s ancestral home would seem a natural way to pay taxes. It is also possible that Joseph had ancestral property in Bethlehem, rented out in his absence, perhaps, to kin.

Although Bethlehem may derive its name from a pre-Jewish settlement, it has the sense in Hebrew of “house of bread”—an etymology of interest to later commentators. The Septuagint does not in fact refer to it as a “city of David”; that appellation is found only in the Masoretic Text, yet another reminder that Luke is indebted to Semitic sources. Yet Luke does not mention the prophecy in Mic. 5:1–2, even though he continues to stress (cf. Luke 1:31–35) the lineage tracing to David. Details concerning the attempt of Joseph and Mary to find a temporary dwelling (usually translated “inn”) are sparse, and it can be helpful to a modern reader to know some of the pertinent cultural context. The Greek term katalyma signifies a building that is probably not in our sense an “inn,” but rather a public shelter. The former would be designated a pandocheion, a commercial inn such as is designated in Jesus’s parable about the good Samaritan. A katalyma is not like this; it is rather a sort of guestroom in a private dwelling, and to stay there one would presumably have to know the owner. If Joseph had been renting out his own ancestral property, he might well have expected to be able to stay in its katalyma while in town for the census. Moreover, the laying of Jesus in a “manger” or feed trough may not indicate, as typically imagined, a barn or “stable” in our Western conception of those terms, as the repeated term might seem to warrant. Bailey shows that for Joseph and Mary to have been turned away from an already occupied katalyma (“guestroom”) almost certainly indicates that their intended hospice was in a simple family dwelling. A typical Palestinian family home would have a larger family room adjacent to a “stable” or animal shelter, it being at a lower level, with an opening, at head height for the animals, into the general family room. Hollowed out of the tufa rock along the ledge separating the stable from living quarters were the feed troughs. The animals would actually have their heads in the family room as they ate. There is a mundane sense in which an ox could hardly avoid knowing his owner, or an ass his master’s crib (Isa. 1:3); this adds to the bite in the taunt of the Lord as recorded by Isaiah, a recollection of which carries a homely poignancy in this manger scene. The slope of the overall Palestinian dwelling was a practical requirement since animals were kept at the lowest level; typically the guestroom would be at the highest level, literally “an upper room.”[1] To the early Christian mind, especially for Palestinian followers of Jesus, the connection of this hospice to the “upper room” of the Last Supper in which Jesus himself would eventually play the part of host, and thus of Bethlehem, the “house of bread” to the “bread of life” of the Thursday supper and Eucharist, would have come more naturally from the literal sense than it does for most of us.

©2012 by David Lyle Jeffrey. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Brian Walsh on The Drew Marshall Show

Brazos author Brian Walsh was recently interviewed on The Drew Marshall Show concerning his recent book Kicking at the Darkness: Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination.


You can listen to the full (26 min) interview here:


Brian Walsh Interview on The Drew Marshall Show


Behind the Book: Dan Taylor

This is Dan’s third of three posts on his new Brazos book, Creating a Spiritual Legacy.

One of the categories I suggest when encouraging people to list their ideas for stories centers on family holidays. Since we are in the Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years season, make a list of traditions, practices, and specific events that you associate with these and other holidays.

Where did you generally meet for Thanksgiving or Christmas? Who was often there? What were favorite dishes served? Was their a usual order of events (open presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day)? We always had vegetable soup on Christmas Eve. I didn’t like vegetable soup, but since I knew we would be opening presents within an hour, it was my favorite meal of the year.

As well as thinking about what you usually did, give thought to specific holiday occasions. I remember the Christmas when I was 12. We didn’t have much money (I think we got foreclosed on not longer after) and the presents under the tree were sparse. When we three boys sorted them over and over again in the days before Christmas, as was our practice, we could tell they were mostly socks and other necessities. I figured I was old enough to take it like a man, so I feigned great enthusiasm for my new socks as we opened presents.

When all was opened—and it didn’t take long—my father sent my older brother out to the garage. He came back with a huge smile. Then it was my turn. I opened the door to the garage and there, sitting on a ping-pong table, were three new bikes. It took my breath away.

 Everyone has holiday stories—of delights and disasters and everything in between. Many of them convey important values, insights, and life lessons. Some are just fun to tell. Give it a shot.

The Weekly Hit List: December 16, 2011

Tony Jones wrapped up his three-part blog series on Christian Smith’s The Bible Made Impossible with Entry 3: The Fatal Flaw.

In the comments section of the third entry you can follow an exchange between Tony and Christian Smith.

Tony Jones’ previous entries:

Entry 1: The Ailment
Entry 2: The Cure


Greg Metzger wrote a piece for Books & Culture titled “Applying Volf,” in which he uses principles from Miroslav Volf’s A Public Faithas he discusses Christian leaders who become active political voices.Check out the article here.


Christian Century also recommended A Public Faith on a list of ‘Theology and Spirituality’ books. Check it out here.

Daniel Taylor’s Creating a Spiritual Legacy was listed among five “Great Gifts to Give: For the Spiritual Seeker” on the Spirituality & Health magazine website. 

Publishers Weekly recently posted a positive review of David Benner’s upcoming Brazos book Spirituality and the Awakening Self: The Sacred Journey of Transformation.

Broken Hallelujahs Giveaway

Don’t forget to enter our latest giveaway.

Five winners will receive a free copy of Christian Scharen’s Broken Hallelujahs: Why Popular Music Matters to Those Seeking God.

To enter, click here.

Winners will be announced in next week’s Hit List.

Lectionary Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

From Luke (BTCB; forthcoming) by David Lyle Jeffrey, commenting on Luke 1: 26-38

When Gabriel tells Mary of her aged cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy, it serves to signify that “with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37); this immediate analogy with another providential event in her family seems intuitively confirming for Mary,just as the typological element in Gabriel’s speech provides confirmation for Luke as narrator (Aquinas,Catena Aurea 3.35, quotes Chrysostom to this effect). Much in Gabriel’s proposal is drawn together in very few words, and the response to it by Mary is now immediate: “ecce ancilla Domini” says Mary in the famous Vulgate Latin translation: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord” (KJV). Mary here offers herself as the doulē, or “bondservant” of the Lord, in words that recall Hannah (1 Sam. 1:11) as well as anticipating the exuberant citation of Joel’s prophecy cited in Acts 2:18. These echoes strengthen our appreciation that Mary’s words are a prayer, offered not to Gabriel himself but to the Lord; she adds a distinctive remark that clarifies her understanding that what is said to her, as in all of these other parallels, is a fulfillment of the word of God himself. For two millennia her words have signified for Christians the obedient heart that remains exemplary for all the faithful: “Be it unto me according to thy word” (KJV). Medieval painters, for whom this scene is cherishable, found it appropriate for altarpiece painting precisely because it reveals that through her obedience the Word is made flesh. Accordingly, they developed a visual iconography that is faithful to Luke’s narrative in such a way as to make of their work a verbal as well as visual icon. In the “Ghent Altarpiece” of the Van Eyck brothers, for example, Mary’s ecce ancilla Domini appears over her head as she looks up, praying, but the words are upside down and reversed, so as to indicate that she speaks neither to us nor to the courtly Gabriel, but directly to the Lord. Typically when Gabriel “appears” in annunciation paintings (especially after Giotto) his courtly body language bespeaks the posture of a royal suitor; also typically he finds Mary reading a psalter or the prophecy of Isa. 7:14; her “be it unto me according to thy word” is often signified by her hand held, palm down, over the open page of scripture (e.g., Roger Van de Weyden, “Three Kings Altarpiece”).[1] In this context we are led both by Luke’s narrative and such well-composed painterly commentaries to see Mary as a devout virgin being “courted,” and her willing obedience as an exemplar for all faithful persons in whom, in a real and analogous sense, the word of the Lord seeks also a nuptial habitation. Calvin reflects a long tradition of earlier biblical readers: “Now if the holy virgin showed herself the handmaid of the Lord precisely in submitting herself freely to his command, then it is the greatest insult if we deny him, by fleeing from him, such obedience as he deserves and asks” (1972: 1.31).

©2012 by David Lyle Jeffrey. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.


Video: “Broken Hallelujahs” as a Theology of Culture

Continuing our series of videos with Christian Scharen, this clip addresses the idea of brokenness and suffering, central themes in Scharen’s new book Broken Hallelujahs. Also, be sure to enter for a chance to win a copy of this book in our current giveaway (details in the post below)!

Giveaway: Broken Hallelujahs by Christian Scharen

We will be giving away 5 copies of Christian Scharen’s new Brazos book Broken Hallelujahs: Why Popular Music Matters to Those Seeking God.

To enter, simply fill out the form below.

Winners will be announced on the December 23 Hit List.

Check back here at The Brazos Blog tomorrow for another video from Christian Smith.

Click here for video 1 and video 2.

This giveaway has expired.

The Weekly Hit List: December 9, 2011

Several blogs have referenced or reviewed Christian Smith’s
The Bible Made Impossible this week:

Matt McCullough reviewed it at the Gospel Coalition website.

Tony Jones did several posts on the book:

Entry 1: The Ailment
Entry 2: The Cure

Scot McKnight made a reference to The Bible Made Impossible that points to the necessity of Smith’s book. Check it out here.

A piece from Samuel Wells, which is an excerpt from his book
Be Not Afraid: Facing Fear with Faith, was posted on

A Gospel for the Rich

Lee C. Camp’s Who Is My Enemy? was reviewed by Joe James on the blog “Ends & Means.”


Daniel Taylor’s Creating a Spiritual Legacy was reviewed in the latest Englewood Review of Books.

Creating a Spiritual Legacy Giveaway Winners

Congratulations to the winners of The Brazos Blog Giveaway.

Karl Persson, Kyle Stevens, Craig Higgins, Dan Jesse, and Duane Young will each receive a free copy of Daniel Taylor’s Creating a Spiritual Legacy: How to Share Your Stories, Values, and Wisdom.

Check back next week for our next giveaway.

Video: The Dangers of a Constricted Imagination

 In this new clip, Christian Scharen discusses the dangers of a constricted imagination.