Reading the Psalms as Poetry: The Synecdoche, Merism, and Chiasm

In the last post, where I introduced some of the foundational concepts of Hebrew poetry, I noted that parallelism is the primary structural feature rather than meter. In order to see some of the more intricate ways Hebrew poets leveraged parallelism, let’s look at one particular psalm, which contains a few short examples. Psalm 134 is familiar to anyone who has attended in Eastern Orthodox wedding or a hierarchical divine liturgy. It is…

How to Read the Psalms as Poetry: Some Fundamental Principles (Part 1)

About 1/3 of the Old Testament can be classified as poetry, and a good deal of its prose texts contain elements of poetic language that elevate its style. Unfortunately, though, a good many people who read the poetic texts of the Old Testament, chief of them being the Psalms, are unable to appreciate the full beauty of its poetic style. This is often due to poor translations as well as just not knowing what to…

YHWH Among the Gods: Sorting out the Tetragrammaton

The original “four letter word” was not a cuss word. In fact, it came to be understood as the holiest name of God, ineffable and unspeakable by all save the high priest, who could only speak the name once a year on Yom Kippur. It could only be written, and when it was, it was done with great care. Later Jewish tradition would forbid the destruction of any manuscript that could possibly bear it…

Why do Christians not Celebrate Jewish Feasts?

The feasts of the Jewish liturgical calendar are biblical commemorations, either being commanded by God in the Bible to be observed or otherwise commemorating a biblical event. Why then do Christians not celebrate them? This question always comes to my mind around Hanukkah, which is a beautiful story surrounding a miracle that occurred at the reconsecration of the Second Temple after the Maccabean revolt and recapture of the Temple Mount. The story is…

Just What Does “Hosanna” Mean Anyway?

For all Christians celebrating Pascha on the Julian Calendar, this is, of course, Palm Sunday, a feast of remarkable theological depth beyond the basic biblical narrative. The entire feast is set, as it were, within Psalm 118 (117 LXX), wherein we find the origins of the exclamation, “Hosanna!” But what exactly does this word mean anyway? In verse 25 of the Hebrew text of the psalm, we find: אנא יהוה הושיעה נא  ˀānnā…

Is Cannabis Mentioned in the Bible?

In a departure from the normal serious fare here at DH, I offer this quick look at a curious issue that I feel needs to be addressed. I recently ran across a statement from the popular website Lifehacker in an article about the scientific data concerning the affects of cannabis, which read: Although marijuana has been used for centuries as a medicine and as an inebriant (it’s even mentioned in the Old Testament…

The Evangelism of the Virgin: Proclaiming Shalom to Zion

I’m breaking radio silence (almost done!) to offer a short meditation for the feast of Annunciation. I attended a local Greek parish this morning, and was delighted to hear the the service of Annunciation (orthros and the Divine Liturgy) in Greek. I was reminded that the Greek term for “Annunciation” is Ὁ Εὐαγγελισμός, “The Evangelizing.” Perhaps we don’t think of Gabriel’s annunciation to the Virgin as being “evangelism,” or that she was “evangelized.” Yet,…

Radio Silence

I beg everyone’s patience and prayers as I make a last, concerted push to finish my dissertation, hopefully by Pascha. Unfortunately, this is a matter of necessity that I cannot delay, so I will not be able to post anything meaningful here until that time. Thank you all for your continued readership, -Eric

Which English Translation of the Bible is Best?

I am asked this question quite a bit, and unfortunately, I am always a bit noncommittal given the fact that I do not use English translations very often. Nevertheless, I will give my recommendations: For devotional readings for Orthodox Christians, I recommend the New King James Version (NKJV), or if you prefer, the King James Version (KJV). I find the KJV family of translations to have the greatest accuracy as well as…

The Injustice of Death: In Memoriam of Fr. Matthew Baker

  Like everyone who had even the smallest amount of contact with him, the news of the untimely death of Fr. Matthew Baker hit me hard, perhaps harder than I was prepared for. After all, I had never met him in person, but our occasional discussions in a private Facebook group had a very important and lasting impression on me. Facebook! For such was the effect of this man’s brilliance, his perspective, and…