Article: The Enemies Within: Gog of Magog in Ezekiel 38-39

My article entitled “The Enemies Within: Gog of Magog in Ezekiel 38-39” is now published in the open-access journal HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies (South Africa-based)! Please feel free to check it out on their website: http://www.hts.org.za/index.php/HTS/article/view/4541

This article summarizes and builds on a section of my 2016 monograph entitled Mapping Judah’s Fate in Ezekiel’s Oracles the against Nations. Since not all of you may have the time to read through the entire book, this article can help you quickly grasp some of the most interesting arguments about the Gog oracles in Ezekiel 38-39. Moreover, this article will lead you through further samples of the reception of Gog of Magog that are not found in the monograph.

Here is the abstract of the article:

The most extensive descriptions of Gog and Magog in the Hebrew Bible appear in Ezekiel 38–39. At various stages of their political career, both Reagan and Bush have linked Gog and Magog to the bêtes noires of the USA, identifying them either as the ‘communistic and atheistic’ Russia or the ‘evil’ Iraq. Biblical scholars, however, seek to contextualise Gog of Magog in the historical literary setting of the ancient Israelites. Galambush identifies Gog in Ezekiel as a cipher for Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, who acted as Judah’s oppressor in the 6th century BCE. More recently, Klein concludes that Gog, along with his companions, is ‘eine Personifikation aller Feinde, die Israel im Buch Ezechiel gegenüberstehen’. Despite their differences in detail, these scholars, such as Reagan and Bush, work with a dualism that considers only the features of Judah’s enemies incorporated into Gog’s characteristics. Via an analysis of the semantic allusions, literary position and early receptions of Ezekiel 38–39, this article argues that Gog and his entourage primarily display literary attributes previously assigned to Judah’s political allies.

Enjoy your reading! 🙂

P/S: FREE download of Mapping Judah’s Fate in Ezekiel’s Oracles against the Nations is available here: https://www.sbl-site.org/publications/books_ANEmonographs.aspx. Further publications by me can be viewed and downloaded here: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Lydia_Lee22; https://nwu.academia.edu/LydiaLee.

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Lecture: How Many Books of Esther Do We Have?

My friend Szi-chieh Yu helpfully introduced me to this wonderful website called the Bible Project. It contains many beautiful animated videos that render biblical stories accessible to everyone, everywhere. The animations are simply lovely! I notice that it defines and explains the Bible from a Protestant Christian perspective. It stresses a unifying principle underlying the Protestant Bible. As one of the videos points out, it is helpful to bear in mind that today the Bible the Protestants are using is not exactly the same as the Eastern Orthodox Christians and the Catholic Christians. The Protestants are using the Jewish Tanakh as their Old Testament (with a different structural arrangement). The Jews and the Protestants, however, can interpret the scriptural texts rather differently.

The Project’s video entitled “What Is the Bible?” also highlights that the Protestant Bible has undergone a long process of compilation. Biblical scholars have continued encountering historical artefacts (e.g., Dead Sea Scrolls, Cairo Genizah, Nag Hammadi Library, etc.) and internal literary evidence (e.g., stylistic breaks, doublets, thematic tensions, etc.) that point to the fluidity and diversity of the early scriptural traditions.

If you wish to know how diverse the early literary traditions surrounding the story of Esther (one of the stories found in the Protestant Bible today) were, why don’t you pop by for the Ancient History Public Lecture tomorrow evening (19:00-20:00)? In the lecture, we will also explore how the early Jewish and Christian writers grappled with the textual fluidity and diversity. See you there! 🙂

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Alexey Somov’s New Book: Representations of the Afterlife in Luke-Acts

Dr. Alexey Somov very kindly mentions my Revue de Qumran’s article on Sheol in his new book entitled Representations of the Afterlife in Luke-Acts. This is the first time my work has been cited! 🙂

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For those of you interested in the New Testament studies and historical concepts of afterlife, you may not want to miss out this new book!

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Here is the abstract of the book:

Questions regarding the afterlife are many, and the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts pay a great deal of attention to them: why does Luke speak about several different forms of the afterlife? Why is resurrection described as a person’s transformation into an angelic being? How many abodes are appointed for the righteous and the wicked after death? Alexey Somov addresses these queries in relation to the apparent confusion and variety found in the text, and in respect of the interrelatedness of these issues, and their connection with other eschatological issues in Luke-Acts, and in relation to the wider cultural context of the Mediterranean world to which Luke belonged.

Every culture expresses its beliefs by means of special metaphors that allow it to comprehend supernatural realities in terms of everyday experience. Belief in the afterlife was part of this metaphorical system which Luke shared with the ancient eastern Mediterranean culture. Somov takes his analysis one step further by applying Cognitive Metaphor Theory to selected metaphorical aspects of the afterlife. While the inconsistencies and incoherence of the combined metaphors may seem jarring to a contemporary Western reader, Somov’s reading enables a recognition of the specific religious metaphors used, which for Luke would have been current and widely accepted.

(excerpt taken from the publisher’s website)

Announcement: Paper Accepted in HTS Theologiese Studies/Theological Studies

Do you remember my paper on Ezekiel’s Gog of Magog delivered at the SBL international meeting in Seoul last July? I am happy to announce that it has passed the double-blind peer review of HTS Theologiese Studies/Theological Studies (ISI listed, South Africa based)!

One of the anonymous reviewers mistakenly considers me a male, referring to the author of the paper as “He.” But that is okay, as the same reviewer is very kind to say that the paper is an “excellent article” that “should be published.” Another anonymous reviewer comments that the paper is “well-informed” and “refined.”

In any case, writing this paper convinces me even more that biblical learning can often broaden our perspectives in looking at world events.

To whet your appetite to read the upcoming paper, I hereby include its abstract:

The most extensive descriptions of Gog and Magog in the Hebrew Bible appear in Ezekiel 38–39. At various stages of their political career, both Reagan and Bush have linked Gog and Magog to the bêtes noires of the United States, identifying them either as the ‘communistic and atheistic’ Russia or the ‘evil’ Iraq. Biblical scholars, however, seek to contextualize Gog of Magog in the historical literary setting of the ancient Israelites. Galambush identifies Gog in Ezekiel as a cipher for Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonian king, who acted as Judah’s oppressor in the sixth century BCE. More recently, Klein concludes that Gog, along with his companions, is ‘eine Personifikation aller Feinde, die Israel im Buch Ezechiel gegenüberstehen’. Despite their differences in detail, these scholars, like Reagan and Bush, work with a dualism that considers only the features of Judah’s enemies incorporated into Gog’s characteristics. Via an analysis of the semantic allusions, literary position, and early receptions of Ezekiel 38–39, this paper argues that Gog and his entourage primarily display literary attributes previously assigned to Judah’s political allies

Stay tuned! 😉

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P/S: My other academic papers are available for free download at http://nwu.academia.edu/LydiaLee

South Africa: Lovely Sotho and Burmese Hymns

A lovely Sotho hymn (compiled and translated by Esmari, one of our bible study group leaders)

 

Ke ntse ke lebeletse Morena (I am watchful for the Lord)
Ho tla phomola maotong a hae (to rest by His feet)
Hore ke tle ke rutwe ke yena (to be taught by Him)
Moya wa Ka o tle o tshidiswe (so that my soul may be comforted)

Ho monate-nate (x2) (It is nice, really nice)
Ho ba maotong a Jesu (to be at the feet of Jesus)
Ho monate-nate (it is nice, really nice)
Ho rutwa ke Jesu (to be taught by Him)

Thabo e kholo e teng ho yena (Great joy is in Him)
Hobane modibe o phekotswe (because a sinner is healed)
Phekolo e tswa mading a matle (the healing that comes from the wonderful blood)
A tswang lehlakoreng le hlabilweng (that comes out of the side that has been pierced)

Ho monate-nate (x2) (It is nice, really nice)
Ho ba maotong a Jesu (to be at the feet of Jesus)
Ho monate-nate (it is nice, really nice)
Ho rutwa ke Jesu (to be taught by Him)

Ntaela Jesu, ke tle ke utlwe (Tell me what to do Jesus, may I listen)
Mpontshe tsela ya hao e lokileng (show me your way that is good)
Nketelle pele Mmoloki wa Ka (lead me my preserver)
Ke se fapahe mme Ka timela (may I not detour & get lost)

Ho monate-nate (x2) (It is nice, really nice)
Ho ba maotong a Jesu (to be at the feet of Jesus)
Ho monate-nate (it is nice, really nice)
Ho rutwa ke Jesu (to be taught by Him)

An equally lovely Burmese hymn (compiled and translated by Thi Ta):

 

Lar-gya-lay, (Come oh come,)
Htar-wa-ya Pha-yar Htar-wa-ya Pha-yar ei (Let us praise Yahweh God, Oh)
Mi-ta-do ko chee mwam soe lay (Praise the love of Yahweh sovereign God)
Mi-ta-do ko chee mwam soe lay (Praise the love of Yahweh sovereign God)

All in all, a fabulous night with some of my favourite ladies!

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News: Some More Thoughts on the “Save a Dog, Eat a Chinese” T-Shirt

 

 

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Picture Credit: Heute Österreich

First a big “WOW” to the Austrian lawyer Georg Zanger, who has filed a lawsuit against the Spreadshirt company on account for the “Save a dog, eat a Chinese” T-shirt. VIENNA.AT – Vienna Online published this news on 23 March 2017. He is of Jewish descent and not a Chinese, but is willing to fight for what he thinks is correct. I wish to be like him to fight for what I think is correct, with the benefits of other peoples and not just my own in mind.

So many people know how to speak out their own perspectives in a constructive way. I should also learn to voice my own opinions in a way that improves mutual understanding. Here are my further thoughts on this incident. First, I think the T-shirt “Save a dog, eat a Chinese,” from a Chinese perspective, is suggestive of a certain form of servitude. Accidentally bumped into this 7-minute long video, where a Chinese professor (王洪涌) from Central China Normal University explains the interesting historical evolution of the Chinese characters “犬” (big dog) and “狗” (small dog). As you may know, the shape of a Chinese character and its cognate forms often suggest the words’ meanings. As she explains, the cognate forms of the characters “犬” and “狗” are related to hunting activities (e.g., 突,伏,etc.), and it can be deduced that dogs were primarily conceived as humans’ helpers to hunt other animals. There is no discussion of dog meat as a Chinese cuisine, but she does highlight how the Chinese proverbs reflect the Chinese attitudes towards dogs. On the one hand, the Chinese proverb 犬有湿草之恩, which is baed on a legend where a loyal dog saved its master from the burning fire, praises the dog’s ability to repay human kindness. On the other hand, a dog’s submission to its master can also symbolize an extreme form of servitude. So the Chinese, to my knowledge, will never dare to compare a human being to a dog unless they want to highlight a person’s despicable subjection to another person (e.g., 狗奴才,狗腿子,猪狗不如,etc.). In this light, I can understand why the Chinese (including I) are especially offended by the comparison between a dog and a human being. Such a suggestion of servitude coming from the non-Chinese with a history of imperialism can cause the Chinese deep suspicions and misunderstandings.

 

Second, the T-shirt “Save a dog, eat a Chinese commits the fault of over-generalizations and can be slanderous. The T-shirt’s statement seems to be based on a false premise that every single Chinese must have eaten a dog. The research of Frederick J. Simoons’ monograph “Food in China: A Cultural and Historical Inquiry” shows that “many ethnic groups in China rejected dog flesh…as food, some of them, such as Moslems, because they consider dogs unclean; some, such as Buddhists, because they viewed the dog as a friend and protector of the family and opposed killing dogs and eating them; and some, non-Han minorities, because they considered dogs to be their relatives. In Kwantung, the Yao, like other Yao groups in South China and Vietnam (the Man), believe they are descended from a dog ancestor and reject dogs as food for that reason, though dogs may be sacrificed and eaten by priests and the afflicted in efforts at curing illness…Among the Chinese, there has been a decline in the acceptability of dog flesh since ancient times, especially in North China” (p. 310). The book goes on to state that “in North China dog flesh is eaten as food only among the poorest sorts of people, and in South China only in certain regions” (p. 310). The article in Huffington Post suggests that “nearly 70 percent [of the people in China] have never eaten dog meat.” Moreover, it is slanderous, if not blasphemous, to accuse the Chinese Buddhists/Moslems and many other Chinese vegetarians of dog-eating.

Third, the T-shirt “Save a dog, eat a Chinese” is discriminatory in nature and is thus guilty of inciting racial hatred. According to Simoons’ monograph again, dog-eating has persisted in certain places in Europe and other parts of the world. Early in the twentieth century, “J.S. Thomson…wrote of dog eating in Germany, where, he said, roughly 8000 dogs were ‘slaughtered for food purposes’ in the previous year [1908], 1400 of them in the cities of Kassel (Cassel) and Chemnitz. Schwabe…also writes of dog eating in parts of modern Europe, and not merely in times of famine. He provides details of how the Swiss prepare ‘Dried Dog Meat,’ and presents a defense of dog eating in nutritional and other terms” (p. 309). Wikipedia contains further information about dog eating in all parts of the world. Yet the T-shirt company/designer has singled out the Chinese as the only national/ethnic group practising dog-eating. The public display of such a T-shirt on the website encourages the dissemination of national/racial/ethnic stereotypes, which can unjustly render the Chinese living in Europe the target of school, university, and workplace ridicules and bullying. The mockery can in turn escalate into more social problems in Europe. In my encounters with some non-Chinese, I have been asked the same question “Do you eat dogs” several times. My experience shows how deeply entrenched the stereotypes are. The problem is I have never eaten dog meat. And I have seldom bumped into the Asians who eat the dog meat. In fact, I have only learned about dog meat through the Western reports. I don’t deny that their reports can be true, and some do perhaps eat dog meat in certain regions. But does this jsutify the stereotypical image of ALL Chinese as dog-eaters?

Lastly, you may want to say this is all a joke/a sarcasm. Why can’t the Europeans have some fun? I can say very clearly that I have zero tolerance of people having fun (not even a little bit) on hurting human dignity, especially when it is related to my family and friends. I bet the Hutus had a lot of fun calling the Tutsis “cockcroaches” during the genocide in Rwanda (a former German and Belgian colony). I am biased. I do not endorse the abuse of animals, but honestly I am not a vegetarian. I do not assign the same value to both human life and animal life. I think the German constitution is also biased when its first article gives such a prominent place to human dignity. The first article states:

(1) Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar. Sie zu achten und zu schützen ist Verpflichtung aller staatlichen Gewalt. (Human dignity is inviolable. To respect and protect it is an obligation of every state power.)

(2) “Das Deutsche Volk bekennt sich darum zu unverletzlichen und unveräußerlichen Menschenrechten als Grundlage jeder menschlichen Gemeinschaft, des Friedens und der Gerechtigkeit in der Welt. (The German people therefore acknowledge inviolable and inalienable human rights as the foundation of every human community, of peace and justice in the world.)

I like the fact that it not only stipulates that every state power should give proper dignity to human beings, but it also suggests that the German people should take their own initiatives to respect and protect human rights. I have grave doubts that the T-shirt “Save a dog, eat a Chinese” advertised and sold by the Spreadshirt company based in Germany coheres with the emphasis on human dignity enshrined in the German constitution. But maybe we are living in an ever-changing world, where cannibalism can indeed overcome humanism one day. In that case, I can do nothing but see the T-shirts hanged all around the world to proclaim our transition into another epoch of barbarism.

P/S: I really don’t want to get into such an elaborate argument against the stupid T-shirt, if I haven’t felt that this incident is a tip of the iceberg of the ongoing racial tensions in Europe. I want to share my opinions honestly with you because I believe continuous communication can help alleviate more and more misunderstandings/racial profilings. You have perhaps read my embittered encounters with some of the Europeans/Americans in Göttingen. History can repeat itself in such a short time, can’t it? Barbaric stereotypical remarks can also come out of the mouths of the so-called “social-elites.” On 26 October 2016, Günther Oettinger, a European commissioner from Germany, for whatever conflict of interests in his mind, gave a public speech in Hamburg and described all the Chinese people as “Schlitzohren und Schlitzaugen” (sly-dogs and slit-eyes). Part of Oettinger’s speech is available on Youtube (attached below). For the Spiegel‘s report of this incident, please click here. After several days of pressure from his opponents, Oettinger did apologize for his offensive remarks. His supporters said that “his remarks merely reflected the colourful language typical of his home state.” See the Welt‘s report here. Does that mean that we should all be so engrossed in our own cultural quagmire that we should never jump out of it and critically reflect on it? In light of this, I especially admire people such as the German publisher Sebastian Marquadt who could stand out of his own cultural comfort zone and expose Oettinger’s racial slurs on Youtube. There is always a mixture of good and bad eggs in one country, right? 😉

 

 

News: Spreadshirt’s Controversial “Save a Dog, Eat a Chinese” T-Shirts

A couple of days ago, I saw this Huffington Post’s article shared by a FB friend. It offers an illuminating critique of Spreadshirts, “a German (Leipzig-based) online retail company,” which (has) advertised T-shirts with these offensive sentences: “Save a dog, eat a Chinese,” “Save a whale, eat a Japanese,” “Save a shark, eat a Chinese,” etc.

Yesterday I saw this news on a Chinese website. Due to the passionate protests of some Chinese, Spreadshirt’s branch offices in Australia, Canada, and the US have taken the T-shirts off their retail websites. However, other European (German, French, British, etc.) branch offices continue selling these T-shirts online.

This morning I was browsing the German website of Spreadshirts and have found this intriguing phenomenon. I just find it so interesting that I will post some of my observations here. Feel free to say what you think of them. When I typed the word “German” in the website’s search engine, out of the website came these T-shirts with the following words: “Proud to be German,” “Support our troops,” “Don’t play games with us, we are the German Army,” etc. There are also a lot of pictures of the German Shepherds. Luckily nothing too offensive came out when I typed “Africa,” “Britain,” or other Middle Eastern country names in the search box.

 

Below were some interesting pictures on the German website for the search word “America.” An hour or so later I could no longer find these T-shirts on the German website, and I can only guess that this European company is quite afraid to offend the US consumers by badly representing them? But, you can still find these T-shirts on the Spreadshirt website if you switch your selected region to United States. The designers of these T-shirts are registered in the US. If these US designers/customers love to express their points of view about their own country in this simplistically brutal manner (that does not explain a lot to me), it is none of my business and I can only respect (but not agree with) their chosen ways of expression.

 

I typed “Chinese,” then “Japanese,” and finally “Korean” in the search engine of the German website, and I found the following pictures. The designer who has made the T-shirts “Save a dog, eat a Chinese” and “Save a whale, eat a Japanese” is Quentin 1984 registered in Germany. Other T-shirts come from other European users. Now I have more questions than answers. 1. Hey Quentin 1984, I can understand that in the Western culture you regard dogs as your close friends, but do you really have to resort to CANNIBALISM to promote your dog-loving/whale-loving attitude? 2. Hey models, how could you put on these man-eating T-shirts with a smile on your faces? 3. Hey Spreadshirt company, what motivates you to accept and post these T-shirts online for sale? What sort of humanistic values are you trying to promote through your T-shirts in the European continent? Or do you only care about making money?

 

I am a Chinese, and I have never eaten a dog, shark, or whale. I have very seldom met other Chinese/Asian people who eat these animals. Even if some do eat these animals, I certainly don’t think of killing these people over this. Anyway, I think this Spreadshirt company has unjustly (or perhaps subconciously) helped to promote stereotypical images of other groups of fellow human beings that can lead to (un)intended harm to those fellow human beings. I am especially confused when I read the company’s statement of responsibility, claming that “there are natural limits to our freedom of expression. We do not print things that are bound to offend people, e.g. pornographic material and content designed to insult and discriminate against genders or religious and ethnic groups.” Thinking of my Chinese husband and friends living in Germany, I just hope that this company will practise what it has preached.