Author Archives: Ralph Smith

Biblical Allusion and the Meaning of Othello, Part II

Iago as Tempter The answer to our first question — whether or not Othello is really great tragedy — has already pointed the way to the answer for the second question — Was Othello a noble Moor or a fool? The two questions, of course, are necessarily related. The fall of a fool would hardly […]

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Biblical Allusion and the Meaning of Othello

Understanding Shakespeare’s Biblical references is vital for the interpretation of many, if not all, of Shakespeare’s plays. For Othello, it is especially important, not only because the interpretation of the play is contested among various approaches — feminist, homosexual, post-colonial, Marxist, Freudian, new historical, and others — but also and more importantly because, as I […]

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Gerazim and Ebal

Place names become fraught with meaning by association with people and events. The name “Wittenberg” calls to mind Luther and the Reformation for Protestants and Catholics alike. Geneva has a wider range of associations, but the Reformation Wall, with its four main statues of William Farel, John Calvin, Theodore Beza, and John Knox, guarantees that […]

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Hear, O Israel!

In the last 40 odd years of studying the Bible, I have read more essays and commentaries on Deuteronomy 6:4 than I can recall. I have also more than twice changed my view on what should be the correct translation of Israel’s central confession. What is so complicated? After the call to give attention — […]

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Dating Matthew, 2

In the first essay in this series, I presented a case for dating Matthew before AD 70, contrary to the present scholarly consensus. In this essay, I intend to present cultural, personal, ecclesiological, and theological arguments for a very early date for Matthew. 1 The cultural argument concerns literacy in the days of Jesus. There was […]

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Dating Matthew, 1

When might the Gospel according to Matthew have been written? Of course, any answer can only be speculation, but that does not mean we are reduced to groundless opinion. In this series of articles I point the way to an approach different from the general consensus among scholars today which posits a late first century […]

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Synopticity, II

In my first essay on “synopticity” I offered a rather rough definition of the phenomenon and important, though not exhaustive examples. In this essay, I want to introduce broader aspects of the phenomenon of “synopticity.” The first example that I have in mind is conventional stories, stories of different historical events that follow the same […]

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Synopticity, I

To the best of my knowledge “synopticity” is not a word used in theology or Biblical studies, but it seems an appropriate word to describe the kind of phenomena associated with the Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. These three Gospels tell essentially the same story with significant — sometimes puzzling — variations. It is […]

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The Original Murder

My title, “The Original Murder” will be understood by many readers, if not almost all, to refer to Cain’s murder of Abel, but I have in mind the very first murder, the one which Jesus pointed to when He said that Satan was a murderer “from the beginning.” “You are of your father the devil, […]

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Approaching the Torah

Before anything else, a word about “Torah” may be in order. I have been persuaded that “law” is a bad translation of “Torah,” even though it is evident that what is called “Torah” does have commandments, statutes, and ordinances in abundance. Why not “law?” “Law” as a translation for “Torah” is overly narrow in its […]

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Adam, Saul, Macbeth

Harold Bloom’s essay on Macbeth includes the kind of penetrating insights that make Bloom the great Shakespearean scholar that he is, but it also includes his typical and intense anti-Christian bias. “If Lear was pre-Christian, then Macbeth is weirdly post-Christian. There are, as we have seen, Christian intimations that haunt the pagans of Lear, though […]

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Every Noise Appalls

The first two essays in this series drew attention to the structure of the first part of Macbeth and to the way Shakespeare incorporates the Garden of Eden into his story. Macbeth, we saw, is a temptation story in which, compared to the Biblical story, the temptation itself is drawn out and extended. The Garden […]

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From Garden to Gate of Hell

In my previous essay on Macbeth, I pointed out that Shakespeare rewrote Scottish history to construct a play which points to Adam’s Fall — a man and a woman tempted by devils to steal the throne and become like gods. It is hard to imagine anyone in Shakespeare’s day missing the allusion, but in our […]

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Macbeth and the Fall of Adam

For anyone in Shakespeare’s audience who knew the real story of Macbeth, his play must have been surprising. Shakespeare changed so many important details of the historical Macbeth’s life that had Raphael Holinshed, the main author of the most popular history of the British Isles in Shakespeare’s day — Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and […]

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Macbeth and Nihilism

When it comes to the interpretation of Shakespeare, Harold Bloom is my favorite enemy. His writing is brilliant, his knowledge of things Shakespearean encyclopedic, and the insights he offers may puzzle, startle, or amaze, but they always educate. How then can he be an enemy? Because his anti-Christian bias is omnipresent and blatant. It is […]

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The Bard and the Book

I concluded the first essay on this topic by saying that I would introduce three books about Shakespeare and the Bible, but I decided to introduce four instead. The three books become four are: Naseeb Shaheen, Biblical References in Shakespeare’s Plays (London: Associated University Presses, 1999); Hannibal Hamlin, The Bible in Shakespeare (Oxford: Oxford University […]

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Was Shakespeare A Christian?

How would one go about answering the question posed by my title? That depends on what the question means. Obviously, different definitions of the question would require different approaches to an answer. Right off hand, I can think of at least three possible — though not necessarily mutually exclusive — meanings to the question. First […]

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Victory Food

In the nature of the case, “the” Christian meditation on Deuteronomy 14:1-21 cannot be written. Meditation offers too many possibilities, opens too many doors. There is not one and only one correct set of associations for a Christian to consider when thinking of Deuteronomy 14:1-21. We could, for example, consider how Israel kept or did […]

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You are what you eat

Deuteronomy 14 is full of allusions to events of Israel’s history and other portions of Scripture. What would an Israelite learn by mediation on these allusions? The answer, I believe, is at least fourfold. Faith, Worship, War For the ancient Israelite first hearing Moses’ sermon, or perhaps hearing it read again for the 30th time, […]

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Holy Things for Holy People

The allusion to the Exodus story is contained in the first words of Deuteronomy 14:1 — “ye are the sons of Yahweh your God” — as well as in 14:2 in the use of the technical term translated “treasured possession,” “His own possession,” “peculiar people,” “precious people,” and so forth. The two allusions together bring […]

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Forbidden Foods

I have argued that Deuteronomy 14:1-21 is an independent literary unit that applies the Third Word to the lives of Israelites from the time of Moses and Joshua. In this short pericope, Moses suggests broad and deep meaning by means of literary allusion to the stories of the creation and the exodus from Egypt. He […]

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Allusive Torah

In the first part of this essay, I argued that the story of the covenant is what unifies and grounds the laws in the book of Deuteronomy. In the third section of this essay, as part of my argument that Deuteronomy 14:1-21 forms a distinct pericope, I claimed that these verses contain a number of […]

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Jesus, David, Adam: A Reading of John 18:1-11

John 18:1-11 appears on the surface to be a straightforward, if somewhat unusual, narrative of Jesus’ arrest by officers of the chief priests and Pharisees accompanied by an apparently large group of Roman soldiers, all of them led by the betrayer, Judas. But there is much more here than what appears on the surface. Paying […]

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Sons to Yahweh your God!

This is the third in a series of studies of the Third Word, and especially of Deuteronomy 14. In 1979 Stephen Kaufman penned a groundbreaking essay on Deuteronomy, arguing that it was a meticulously structured and carefully composed book. In his view, chapters 12 to 26 in particular follow the order of the Ten Words, […]

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The Third Word

This is the second in a series of studies on the Third Word, and especially on the food laws of Deuteronomy 14. In the second part of this series, I argue that Moses’ reworking of the Ten Words in Deuteronomy 5 includes adding nuance to the Third Word. This prepares the way for his sermonic […]

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