Bushfires in Australia

I don’t know what gets into the international news, but a very large area of Australia is currently on fire or burned out as a result of the worst bushfires in several decades.  Because Australia is dry and we like our trees and our native eucalypts (gum trees) burn well, we get bushfires every summer.  However, this means we’re good at dealing with them, so most years property is lost, but not lives.  When people die, it’s usually only a very few.

This year is different.  Just a few minutes ago, the confirmed death toll in Victoria was 128, with a warning that it could go as high as 230.  The latest report in the Australian newspaper says

The weekend’s blazes are likely to have destroyed almost 1000 houses. They wiped two whole towns – Marysville and Narbethong – off the map and left the town of Kinglake decimated.

There are more fires burning on the Central Coast of New South Wales, although I don’t think people are dying there, and then in Queensland there are floods!!  Bear in mind when looking at these figures that the population of Australia is only 21 million.

There are stories of firefighters who have lost their own homes while out trying to save the homes of others.  Recovery workers are going through the wreckage of burned out houses and dragging out the bodies of whole families who died.  Most of the fire fighters are volunteers. They are all well trained but quite a few will be dealing with the reality of death from bushfire for the first time.

There is a higher death toll than in either of the other big fires in our history, but our population is also significantly higher, so I’m not sure if this really is the worst since European settlement.  It’s one of the three worst, though.

Armidale, where I live, is a long way from these fires and the surrounding area is not drought affected, so any fire that might start would be far easier to control. However, one of the areas affected is Churchill, where I lived in my last chaplaincy placement at Monash Gippsland campus.  From what we are hearing, the house we lived in then has almost certainly been burned and quite likely the homes of friends who still live there. The Fire Service is almost positive that this fire was deliberately lit.

If you are the kind of person who prays, please keep the people who have lost homes and loved ones and the emergency service personnel working in the area in your prayers.

Update 23 February

Yesterday was declared a national day of mourning and there was a memorial service in Melbourne, with live feeds all over the country.  The official death toll is over 200, with the homes of over 7,000 people destroyed.  There are still fires threatening other places near Melbourne and people were told that if they hadn’t got out by early this morning, it was too late to try to leave and they had to stay and try to defend their homes.  Just horrible.


Biblical Studies Carnival XXXVIII

I’m sorry this Carnival is a bit late.  January was supposed to be a quiet month, but it wasn’t and February is always horrific and my wretched internet connection at home keeps dropping out.

Comings and Goings and Things Slightly Off  Topic

During the course of January, NT Wrong announced the end of his postings, although he leaves us with some fascinating material and intends to continue the Top 50 biblioblogs of the month listing. Voice of Iyov also finished, but its author has taken it down, so we can’t go back to read our favourite bits. 😦 Also during January, the Review of Biblical literature launched its blog, a very good reason for subscribing to a feed aggregator if you don’t already! What a pity it happened too late to be listed as a pink blog in the NT Wrong bibliblogs directory.  We also got the welcome news that Peter Kirby’s Early Christian Writings site is back.

Although not strictly speaking biblioblogs, the OnLine Christian Colleges blogsite posted its guide to the Top 100 Theology blogs during January.  They also published 100 Free and Useful Online Tools to Study the Scripture – not quite what I would have called it, but those who know me well know that I have serious grammar tragic tendencies. 🙂

And although not strictly speaking orthodox biblioblog subject matter, the most popular topic of the month would have to have been Barack Obama’s inauguration.  I am currently trying to work out whether I can successfully adapt the first part of  Gene Robinson’s prayer for use next time I’m on the intercessions roster in church.

And hey, while I’m doing “not strictly biblical studies”, those who preach as well as doing biblical studies and would like to get some insight into the way one rabbinical student deals with her Scriptures, I’d recommend a visit or three to Velveteen Rabbi.  Rachel Barenblat, its author, posts more preaching-related than straight exegetical material, but I really like her Radical Torah posts .

Real Biblical Studies Posts at Last!

Hebrew Bible and related posts

Over the course of the month, Suzanne McCarthy has produced an 11- part Babble from Babel series, which she describes  thus:

a light commentary on comparative features of Jerome’s and Pagnini’s Latin translation of the Babel story from Gen. 11. Attention will be given to any unusual or usual features of this text including imagery, alliteration, gender, brick-making and so on. It is written in the spirit of my earlier Lindisfarne series and resembles the underside of an embroidered tapestry.

Suzanne has also been blogging about women Bible translators, but I suspect that I’m not supposed to link to the index post because it came out on 1 Feb.

Jan Pieter van de Giessen offers a series on scribal oddities in the Hebrew Bible at Aantekeningen bij de Bijbel. They’re in Dutch, but you could always use Babelfish to get the gist of them: Afwijkende letters in de Hebreeuwse Bijbel – part 1; part 2; Part 3 and Part 4.

Jim Davila has, as usual, done a great job of highlighting media reports about Ancient Judaism-related items over on PaleoJudaica.  The one I’ve chosen to link to is  about the capital of the Queen of Sheba which provides the text of an article from the Yemen times, plus links to a range of other relevant items.

A relative newcomer to biblioblogging is Martin Shields at Shields Up. He has a four part series on a foreignising translation of Genesis 1:  Part I; Part II; Part III; Part IV.  Duane Smith looks at  *’nk/tin”, a wide spread Ancient Near Eastern lexeme for “tin” and how its meaning helps us understand Amos 7:7-8.  There is also  KAI 25, “An Amulet for Rakab-El”, the first of a series of posts on inscriptions from Zincirli.  The series is in preparation for Pardee’s publication of the much discussed new Kuttamuwa Inscription.

I am also told that Claude Mariottini has an interesting post on transvestism in Ancient Israel in which he argues that “Deuteronomy 22:5 is prohibiting a specific kind of transvestism, one in which men dressed as women and women dressed as men would identify themselves as servants of Asherah, prostitute themselves in the temple of Yahweh, and thus bring ritual impurity to the worship of the God of Israel.”  Unfortunately, Claude’s site hangs my browser, so I am passing this on, sight unseen.

Update: I have just discovered that Claude’s site only hangs my Firefox – it works in Internet Explorer and is, indeed, an interesting post!!

Jim West on his eponymous blog (sounds better than the “self-titled album” of the music industry, doesn’t it?) ask for recommendations to put in a more centrist annotated bibliography for Old Testament Studies.

Early Christianity

During January, on the NT  front Mike Bird got more skeptical about Q. Quite a number of people drew attention to the two part Premier Christian Radio debate here and here between Mike and James Crossley based on their book about how Christianity began. Note that these are direct links to podcasts of the radio broadcasts, not to a blog.

James and April DeConick also posted on The Jesus Project on their respective blogs, Earliest Christian History here and here and The Forbidden Gospels Blog here and April also began a series with the provocative title The Jesus Seminar is Bankrupt which she has continued into February.

As usual, Mark Goodacre’s New Testament Gateway offers a good overview of New Testament related posts around the web.

Bill Heroman of Bible/History Blog asks “did Drusus’ Death Hurt Herod?”  I don’t know but others might have an opinion.

Lots of people also posted on Christian theology, but these posts fall outside the guidelines for this Carnival, so I haven’t included them.


David Lang who blogs at Accordance 8 Bible Software has a great series of posts against something he’s dubbed “Strongnosticism” – the tendency to use tools such as Strong’s numbers to look for “secret knowledge” in the original Hebrew and Greek. The three posts discuss how to use language study tools properly and how to avoid common exegetical mistakes. While it focuses on the use of Strong’s number resources in a specific software program, the hermeneutical principles it covers apply to the use of all basic language study resources. Look here, here and here.

One of the good things about biblioblogs is that almost all their authors are bibliophiles, prone to putting up book reviews.  While generally not as erudite or formal as the ones you find in RBL or the reviews section of your favourite biblical studies/theological journal, they have the advantage of being written by someone whose approach to the discipline you know something about.  All you need to do is to read some of the rest of their blog and you will have some idea about whether their “totally excellent, highly recommended” book will actually meet your needs.  And if the review doesn’t answer your burning question, many of them will respond if you ask them.  Here are two examples from January:

Stephen L. Cook, Conversations with Scripture: 2 Isaiah (Harrisburg, PA: MorehousePub., 2008) reviewed by Tim Bulkeley of Sansblogue, in a three part series here, here and here

James Dunn’s 1 Corinthians (London: T and T Clark Study Guide, 1995) reviewd by Chris Tilling on Chrisendom

Next Month

Next month’s Carnival will be hosted by Darrell Pursiful over at Dr Platypus. Despite the name, Darrell is neither Australian nor living in  Australia, unlike Mike Bird of Euangelion, Ben Meyers of Faith and Theology or Roland Boer of  Stalin’s Moustache.  Unfortunately, only one of them blogs biblical studies rather than theology. 🙂

Update 2: I forgot to mention that in the three plus years since the Carnivals began, this is the first one to be done by a woman.  I looked fairly hard and found that very few women blog biblical studies – a significantly lower proportion than the proportion of women who do biblical studies.  Funny.