Author Archives: Nitsav

On Why None of You Should Go to Grad School

Our series on graduate application and study will continue in the future. In the meantime, this article is a must read for those considering it. (Hat tip: Stephen M.) My undergrad profs at BYU did a good job discouraging us, or at least, making us aware of the harsh realities that almost inevitably awaited. Is it the bravest and smartest or the most clueless and optimistically naive who persevere on to and through a PhD?

Edit: I should point out, the article is specifically about Humanities PhDs, and when I say “you” I mean LDS considering graduate school in ANES/Bible/theology, etc.

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Scripture Reading, Goals, and Motivation: a photo

Part iv of the Hebrew series is coming. In the meantime, here’s a picture with commentary of my little desk where I try to do a good bit of my reading. Continue reading

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How to Teach Yourself Hebrew from Scratch: Part III

Part I. Part II.

Vocabulary and Reference materials

Learning vocabulary-  On the plus side, there’s only 8,446 distinct vocabulary words in the Hebrew Bible, and many of those come from shared roots, such as MeLeK “king,” MaLKah, “queen,” maMLeKah “kingdom,” MaLaK “to reign as royalty,” etc. (Roots are much more important and prominent in Semitic languages than in English.) By comparison, there are estimated to be “a quarter of a million distinct English words, excluding inflections, and words from technical and regional vocabulary not covered by the OED” according to this webpage. Continue reading

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How to Teach Yourself Hebrew from Scratch: Part II

Let’s assume at this point that you’re someone who took a year of Hebrew in school, but it was a long time ago.  Or,  you have worked through a grammar on your own. You’ve learned some basics, but you’re not quite ready to dive into Isaiah. What to do? Continue reading

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How to Teach Yourself Hebrew from Scratch: Part I

Inspired by a post at BCC and in lieu of a lengthy comment, here are my suggestions for teaching yourself Hebrew. Continue reading

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Santa and His Asherah

This is a hilarious spoof, care of Bible Review and William Propp of UCSD. Kevin Barney’s recent Dialogue article reminded me of it, and since it’s the season… enjoy, but do not take seriously!

By William H.C. Propp Bible Review, 14:6 (December 1998)
The ancient Near Eastern roots of American Yuletide customs are manifold and fascinating. I will concentrate here on just two major points: that the Christmas tree was originally a symbol of the Canaanite goddess Asherah and that Santa Claus is an avatar of Asherah’s consort, the high god ‘El, who is equivalent to the Israelite Yahweh. I will conclude by showing that the customs of Christmas were brought to America by the Canaanites themselves.
The coniferous Christmas tree, whether real or stylized (made of metal or plastic), is customarily hung with bright votive offerings: tinsel, metallic globes, colored lights, etc. Small figurines of humans and animals may also adorn the shrub. The custom of decorating a Christmas tree is very old, as shown by a second-century C.E. description of Syrian practice:

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Applying to Graduate Programs, (part iv): Language Study

Language study is unavoidable in these fields. I once heard Jerome Murphy O’Connor state that every Biblical scholar needed to know at least what he called the “seven basic languages- English, French, German, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic.” How should an undergrad choose his/her courses to prepare for graduate study in Religious/Biblical/ANE programs? Continue reading

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