Tim Minchin on Evolution, Fisting, Jesus, and Church

I’ve done material about evolution before. And in Australia and Britain it barely raises an eyebrow. It’s just worth a chuckle. But in America it’s quite contentious to do material about evolution, you know. It gets a gasp. It’s the equivalent of doing material about fisting anywhere else.

– Tim Minchin

Some funny standup here:

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Because “On the Shoulders of Giants” Seemed Cliche?

wiseIn the Acknowledgments section of his recent book, Language and Literacy in Roman Judaea: A Study of the Bar Kokhba Documents (Yale Press, May 2015), Michael Wise thanks those who have gone before him in this area of scholarly research.

Yet Michael Wise does not resort to the hackneyed phrase “standing on the shoulders of giants” in order to describe his reliance on the insights of prior researchers. Instead, he offers the following acknowledgment:

Every scholar is well aware that in almost any area of research we enter as grasshoppers a land formerly (and sometimes presently) indwelt by Anakim. (p. x)

That’s very big of Michael Wise.


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Filed under Anakim, Numbers 13-14

Were the men of Sodom into Sodomy?

Sex Between Men

In my Sodomite Challenge, I argued that there is not just one double entendre in Genesis 19:5 but two. One of these double entendres is widely ‘known’. The men of Sodom employ the sexually charged verb ידע (‘to know’, ‘to have sex with’, etc) when they demand to receive the two men or angels staying the night at Lot’s house. The same sexual connotation is even more clearly present in the description of Lot’s two daughters, in Genesis 19:8.

In addition, I argued that there is an earlier sexual double entendre in the verse: the use of the phrase באו אליך הלילה, literally “they [who] came to you [ie. to Lot] tonight”, or to give it its ambiguous sexual connotation, “[the men who] gained entry to you”. On this reading, the men of Sodom believed that Lot had invited the two men/angels into his house, under the cover of night, in order to have sex with them. Why would they presume such a thing? At the very least, we might conclude that there was some presumption that male inhabitants of Sodom, of whom Lot was one, were having sex with other men. And the men of Sodom wanted some of that.

If “[the men who] gained entry to you” in Genesis 19:5a is a double entendre, sex between men must be at the centre of the sin and wickedness which the narrative alleges was being carried out in Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:20-21; 19:7, 13). This is not to say that sex between men is the sum of the sinfulness of Sodom. Genesis 18:20-21 together with Ezekiel 16:46-50 suggest that Sodom had a reputation for wickedness that was “not reducible to a single act of sin” (Lyons, Canon and Exegesis, p. 235). All I am claiming is that the narrative in Genesis 19:1-11 makes sex between men the special exemplar of this proverbially wicked city.

There has been an attempt in recent scholarship to downplay or even deny the role of sex in the sin of Sodom. Instead, recent scholarship has emphasized other grounds, in particular the gross breach of hospitality against Lot’s two guests. For example:

the Genesis 19 account specifically does not fix the blame upon homosexuality but upon the failure of the Sodomites to honor the law regarding the required hospitality to strangers
– J. Harold Ellens, Sex in the Bible: A New Consideration, p. 114

this biblical story can quite properly be read as having nothing to do with homosexuality
– M. Warner, “Were the Sodomites Really Sodomites?”, p. 9

Sometimes the motif of hospitality is defended with reference to the account of the Levite’s concubine in Judges 19, in which male-male sex is not an issue. Yet such a defence of the sin of Sodom as hospitality depends on (1) the priority of the story in Judges 19; (2) the direction of dependence from Judges 19 to Genesis 19; and (3) an assumption of the close correspondence of the contexts, meanings, and themes of both accounts, rather than any significant rewriting of the tradition that might change its significance. All of these, in particular the third, are highly contestable.

I do not want to contest the fact that the men of Sodom’s threat of violence towards two guests – their gross inhospitality toward strangers – is a part of the gross sinfulness of Sodom and grounds for its destruction. But the presence of a second double entendre in Genesis 19, in the phrase באו אליך הלילה, puts sex between men back at the centre of that “inhospitality”.

The sin of Sodom (and Gamorrah) is only alluded to at first in Genesis 18:20-21. But this sinful reputation of Sodom is explicated in Genesis 19.5a, in particular, by their expectation that Lot had been having sex with the two men. The sin of sex between men is then developed when the men of Sodom demand to get some of what they believe Lot is getting (Genesis 19:5b-9). The Sodomites’ presumption that Lot was having sex with the two men, together with their subsequent demand for sex with the two men, put same-sex intercourse at the centre of the sin of Sodom.

There has been a strategy in liberal Christian biblical interpretation, in recent decades, to draw out, to highlight, to emphasise the ambiguities of any text which might portray same-sex intercourse in a negative light. This applies not only to Genesis 19, but to all of the Old and New Testament texts trotted out in these often heated discussions. That such texts have been used by less liberal Christians as a way to clobber gays and lesbians has, of course, provided the impetus for such complexifying interpretations. But such a strategy may have obscured the (same-)sexual connotations which I argue are indeed present in Genesis 19:5a. Liberal sensitivity to the damaging effects of more conservative interpretation and contemporary use of Genesis 19 has obscured the centrality of same-sex intercourse to Genesis 18-19’s polemics against the sin of Sodom.


Filed under Angels, Biblical Giants' relatives

The Sodomite Challenge: How to Translate Genesis 19:5

Recently there was a (sometimes heated) discussion about the translation of Genesis 19:5, on a new Facebook group, the Annual Meeting Hotel Lobby: An Unofficial SBL/AAR Member Group.

Genesis 19:5 occurs in the middle of the unusual story about two  men (also described as angels) who stay the night at Lot’s house, in the city of Sodom.

The two angels (Genesis 19)

The two angels (Genesis 19)

The Hebrew MT of Genesis 19:5 reads as follows:

וַיִּקְרְא֤וּ אֶל־לוֹט֙ וַיֹּ֣אמְרוּ ל֔וֹ אַיֵּ֧ה הָאֲנָשִׁ֛ים אֲשֶׁר־בָּ֥אוּ אֵלֶ֖יךָ הַלָּ֑יְלָה הוֹצִיאֵ֣ם אֵלֵ֔ינוּ וְנֵדְעָ֖ה אֹתָֽם

The JPS translates the verse like this:

And they shouted to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that they may be intimate with them.”

The Living Bible goes for the more direct route:

[the men of the city—yes, Sodomites] … shouted to Lot, “Bring out those men to us so we can rape them.”

The translation of this verse raises interesting questions about the rendition of Hebrew double entendres in English translation, and about translation more generally. The Hebrew text of Gen 19:5 contains two probable double entendres, which are both used to describe sexual intercourse.

1. The most obvious double entendre is the use of the verb ידע, which has a variety of meanings, including “to know”, but also “to have sex with”, ie. have carnal knowledge of. The Hebrew verb has been translated very mildly in JPS as “we may be intimate [with them]”, but very explicitly as “we can rape [them]” in the Living Bible. The double entendre (although inherently ambiguous) is made clear by Lot’s subsequent offer of his two daughters as sexual substitutes for the two men/angels in Gen 19:8, and their description of the two daughters as those “who have not known [ידע] a man”.

2. The less obvious double entendre is the use of the phrase באו אליך הלילה, literally “they [who] came to you tonight”, spoken by the men of Sodom to Lot, about the two men/angels who came to Lot’s house in Sodom.  As in Genesis 16:2, the phrase could also refer to “they [who] went into you [Lot]”, ie. “they who had sex with you [Lot]”. The presence of a double entendre is supported by the description of this “entering” occurring at night (הלילה) and by the double entendre that follows concerning the crowd’s desire to “know/have sex with” the two men/angels.

So the story of Sodom in Genesis 19 evokes three types of sexual intercourse, none of which actually occur, but which are only spoken about.

  • First, the crowd infer that Lot had been having sex intercourse with the two men/angels by night (Gen 19:5a);
  • Second, the crowd of men demand sexual intercourse between them and the two men/angels, and (Gen 19:5b);
  • Three, Lot offers his two daughters for sexual intercourse with the crowd of men (Gen 19:8).

But no actual sexual intercourse takes place until, in a surprising twist, Lot has sex with his two daughters (Gen 19:30-38).

With the exception of the imagined sexual intercourse between Lot and the two men/angels, each of the other three descriptions of sexual intercourse (described or actual) involves rape: the rape of the two men/angels by the crowd of men from Sodom; the rape of Lot’s two daughters by the crowd of men from Sodom; the rape of Lot by his two daughters.

It’s a nasty little story. But I find myself agreeing with the suggestion of “Tom Wrong” that – despite the explicitly violent sexual intercourse (rape) attempted in Gen 19:5 and proposed in Gen 19:8 – the double entendres in Gen 19:5 are best rendered  in a manner that retains their ambiguity while making clear their decidedly seedy  and sordid character. Make no mistake, the story is brutal, violent, and patriarchal in the most extreme sense. So there is a good argument to make this clear, by translating the demand in Gen 19:5 in the most explicit way. On the other hand, a more muted yet sordid translation might have a similar effect, while more closely rendering the inherent ambiguity of the double entendres. So I adopt Tom Wrong’s translation:

And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who gained entry to you tonight? Bring them to us, so that we may experience them.”

– Genesis 19:5 (tr. Tom Wrong)

But how would you translate this verse? And for what reasons? Do you even think that there are two double entendres in Gen 19:5? I tag the following bloggers, to see how they would translate MT Gen 19:5 in a way that does justice both to its content and its form:

Robert Cargill, Cláudia Andréa Prata FerreiraJim LinvilleJim West, JK Gayle, Caroline Blyth, Roland Boer

See also: “Were the men of Sodom into Sodomy?Remnant of Giants


Filed under Angels, Biblical Giants' relatives

Django Django – Giant

Shrug your shoulders at the people who have done you wrong
Walking about the crowded street
The ones you love ten thousand feet

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The Slacktivist on the Different versions of David & Goliath

Fred Clark (The Slacktivist)

Fred Clark (The Slacktivist)

The Slacktivist (Fred Clark) continues to examine Goliath.

In his latest post, Fred examines the various versions of the David and Goliath story – not only its various modern film versions, children’s books, Sunday School lessons, etc, but also the different versions which exist within the Bible.

Have a read of his post here.

Also have a look at some earlier posts on this topic on Remnant of Giants.

On the different versions within the Bible:

Illustrating The Benefits of Pentateuchal Literary Criticism: The David and Goliath Story

Scott Derrickson’s Goliath: Respecting the Original

A Beginner’s Guide to Biblical Scholarship – by Jennifer Bird

On modern versions:

A David and Goliath Musical for Children on DVD

The David and Goliath Segment of The History Channel’s The Bible

Q Magazine’s comics reviewer Colin Smith reviews Tom Gauld’s Goliath

Bollywood does David and Goliath

When Goliath was in Ireland: “Dáithí agus Goliath”

David and Goliath as lovers in Caravaggio, Paul Cadmus, Charlie White, Matthew Stone, and David Dalla Venezia

Black Goliath – Bigger than The Brown Hornet


Filed under 1 Samuel 17, 2 Samuel 21 and 23, Children's lit, Goliath

Nobody will ever make an Elhanan and Goliath film

Miles Sloman as David

Miles Sloman (David)

Makenna Guyler as Michal

Makenna Guyler (Michal)

Slacktivist Fred Clark wonders what happened to the $50M David and Goliath film written and directed by Timothy A. Chey and released into US theatres in April 2015.

The answer, in short: it bombed.

The Slacktivist also discusses the account in 2 Samuel 21:18-21, in which Goliath is killed – not by David – but by Elhanan. This alternative account has inspired his delightful film poster spoof:


Alas, Timothy Chey did not include even a single mention of Elhanan in his David and Goliath – despite the fact that he claimed it was “biblically correct” compared to recent Hollywood Bible films:

I’m not only a director, but also an evangelist. So obviously, I’m not going to make a film that’s biblically not correct or does not give honor to the Lord
Timothy Chey

I can’t wait to see this on DVD. I’ll place an order right this minute, at my local Christian bookshop.





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Filed under 2 Samuel 21 and 23, Film, Goliath