On November 3, I attended the 2014 Fall Meeting of the Society for Old Testament Study in Japan (Nihon Kyūyaku Gakkai). The one-day conference was held at Hokusei Gakuen University, in Sapporo, Hokkaido.

The Former Hokkaido Government Office Building (Red Brick Office)

Three women presented during the morning session (English titles are my translations):

  1. Yoshiko Ueoka (Doshisha University, Doctoral Candidate), “Factors that Contributed to the Formation of the Sabbath Concept”
  2. Yuko Takahashi (Meiji Gakuin University), “Transformation in the View of Royal Power in Ancient Israel: With a Focus on Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomistic Historian”
  3. Kumiko Kato (Rikkyo University, Adjunct Instructor), “Parallelism in Two-Line Sayings in Proverbs Part 2 (10:1–22:16): Relationships Between Two Lines and their Effects”

Following a short business meeting in the afternoon, we enjoyed a special lecture and the society president’s keynote lecture:

  • Special Lecture: Yutaka Ikeda (University of Tsukuba, Professor Emeritus), “A Northern Perspective: Old Testament Studies as Self-Understanding”
  • Presidential Lecture: Tetsuo Yamaga (Hokusei Gakuen University, Professor), “The Prophet Elijah and the Demise of King Ahab: Historical, Tradition-Historical, and Redaction-Historical Considerations”


2014年11月3日 @ 北星学園大学


  1. 上岡好子(同志社大学大学院博士後期課程)「シャバット概念の成立要因」
  2. 高橋優子(明治学院大学)「古代イスラエルにおける王権観の変容 —申命記と申命記史家を中心として—」
  3. 加藤久美子(立教大学兼任講師)「箴言第II部(10:1–22:16)の二行詩格言の並行法 —二詩行の関係とその効果—」


池田裕(筑波大学名誉教授)「北の視点 —自己理解としての旧約聖書の学び—」


山我哲雄(北星学園大学教授)「預言者エリヤとアハブ王の最期 —歴史的、伝承史的、編集史的考察」

There will be a two-day biblical archaeology seminar in Tokyo this weekend called “Excavating the Biblical World: The Current State of Biblical Archaeology.” The seminar is being co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of Tokyo and Sophia University’s Institute for Christian Culture. All lectures will be in Japanese.

Here is my translation of the session titles, followed by details in Japanese:

November 15 (Sat)

10:00-11:30 “The Old Testament Period(s) as Seen through Archaeological Sources,” Hidetoshi Tsumoto (Research Fellow, Ancient Orient Museum

13:30-15:00 “A Land Dripping with Oil: Production of Olive Oil in Bible Times,” Takuzo Onozuka (Associate Fellow, Tokyo National Museum)

15:30-17:00 “A Glimpse of Religious Life in Bible Times through Cult Stands,” Tomohisa Yamayoshi (Adjunct Professor, St. Margaret’s Junior College)

November 16 (Sun)

13:30-15:00 “Burial Practices and Biblical Views of the Other World in Bible Times,” Akio Tsukimoto (Professor, Sophia University)

15:30-17:00 “Philology and Archaeology: Methods for Ancient Israelite History,” Shuichi Hasegawa (Associate Professor, Rikkyo University)

2014年度 聖書講座




1. 「考古資料を通してみた旧約聖書の時代」津本英利(古代オリエント博物館研究員)11月15日(土)10:00-11:30 

2. 「油滴る地−−聖書時代のオリーヴ油生産−−」小野塚拓造(東京国立博物館アソシエイトフェロー)11月15日(土)13:30-15:00

3. 「祭儀台からのぞく聖書時代の宗教生活」山吉智久(立教女学院短期大学非常勤講師)11月15日(土)15:30-17:00

4. 「聖書時代の埋葬法と聖書の他界観」月本昭男(上智大学教授)11月16日(日)13:30-15:00

5. 「文献学と考古学−−古代イスラエル史の方法−−」長谷川修一(立教大学准教授)11月16日(日)15:30-17:00

場所:上智大学中央図書館9階 921会議室

聴講料 一般:1回当日券 1,000円(前売券800円)/5回連続券 3,800円

聴講料 学生:1回当日券   600円(前売券500円)/5回連続券 2,300円


発売所:聖イグナチオ教会案内所(月曜休み)Tel 03-3230-3509

又は、上智大学キリスト教文化研究所(JR中央線、地下鉄丸ノ内線、南北線 四ツ谷駅下車)

問合せ先:〒102-8554 東京都千代田区紀尾井町7-1 上智大学キリスト教文化研究所 Tel 03-3238-3540, 3190 Fax 03-3238-4145

Philosophical Interpretations of the Old Testament, by Seizo Sekine (University of Tokyo), was recently published in de Gruyter’s Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft (BZAW) series. The book was translated by J. Randall Short (Tokyo Christian University), in collaboration with Judy Wakabayashi (Kent State University).

Philosophical Interpretations of the Old Testament is based mostly on 旧約聖書と哲学―現代の問いのなかの一神教 (Kyūyaku Seisho to Tetsugaku: Gendai no Toi no Naka no Isshinkyō; The Old Testament and Philosophy: Monotheism in the Context of Contemporary Challenges), published by Iwanami Shoten in 2008. The English volume also includes a chapter on Old Testament Studies in Japan, which is based on a paper that the author presented to the Society for Old Testament Study in Japan in 2009.

Here are the aims and scope of the book, followed by the table of contents.

Aims and Scope

Western biblical studies have tended to follow either faith-based theological approaches or value-free historical-critical methods. This monograph challenges the two extremes by pursuing the middle path of philosophical hermeneutics. While drawing on Eastern and Western philosophical writings from ancient to modern times, the author proposes original interpretive solutions to a wide range of important biblical texts, including the Akedah, Second Isaiah, the Decalogue, Qohelet, Job, and Jeremiah. Yet, this is not a collection of antiquarian studies. Readers will also gain fresh and stimulating perspectives concerning monotheism, religious faith and identity, suffering and salvation, and modern and postmodern ethics. Finally, in a supplementary essay, the author introduces readers to the history of Old Testament studies in Japan, and he outlines prospects for the future.

Table of Contents


Part I The Old Testament and Philosophy
Part II Old Testament Thought and the Modern World
Part III The Prophets and Soteriology
Part IV Old Testament Studies in Japan

Philosophical and Historical Interpretations

Historical Interpretation
Examples of Historical Interpretation
Philosophical Interpretation
Examples of Philosophical Interpretation
The Relationship between the Two Approaches and the Task at Hand
Monotheism in the Context of Contemporary Challenges

Part I The Old Testament and Philosophy

Chapter 1
Philosophical Interpretations of the Sacrifice of Isaac: Inquiring into the True Significance of the Akedah


1. An Evaluation of Kierkegaard’s Interpretation
1.1. Kierkegaard’s Interpretation
1.2. Westermann’s Critique
1.3. Questions for Westermann

2. Interpretations by Kant, Buber, Levinas, Derrida, and Miyamoto, and a Critical Summary
2.1. Kant’s Interpretation
2.2. Buber’s Interpretation
2.3. Levinas’s Interpretation
2.4. Derrida’s Interpretation
2.5. Miyamoto’s Interpretation
2.6. Critical Summary

3. Examining the Theory that Treats Verses 15–19 as a Later Accretion
3.1. Translation of Verses 15–19 and Notes
3.2. Grounds for Treating Verses 15–19 as a Later Accretion
3.3. Examining the Theory that Treats Verses 15–19 as a Later Accretion
3.4. The Theory that Treats Verse 19 as a Later Accretion

4. A Reconstruction of the Dialogue among God, Abraham, and Isaac, and their States of Mind
4.1. Silence or Dialogue
4.2. Translation of Verses 2–4 and Verse 9 with Notes
4.3. When Was Abraham “Told” about “the Place”?
4.4. Toward Understanding the Characters’ States of Mind

5. Isaac’s Feelings
5.1. The Father’s Love
5.2. Translation of Verses 7–8 with Notes
5.3. Isaac’s Self-sacrifice
5.4. Why Did Isaac Not Run Away?

6. Abraham’s Feelings
6.1. In His Relationship with Isaac
6.2. Abraham’s Logic and Conviction: With Reference to Josephus
6.3. Abraham’s Statement: Returning to the Akedah
6.4. The True Meaning of Abraham’s Statement
6.5. Faith and Unbelief
6.6. Contradictory Views of the Talkative Abraham
6.7. The One Who is Weak and the One Who Fears God

7. God’s Self-Denial
7.1. Doubts about “God”
7.2. Criticism from Philosophy of a Personal God, and its Outcome
7.3. Nishida’s Understanding of the Akedah
7.4. Abraham’s Evil and God’s Love
7.5. Summary
7.6. Self-Negation within the Creator God
7.7. Self-Negation within the Ethnic God
7.8. The Meaning of Self-Negation
7.9. Additional Comments on Agape: Agape in the Old and New Testaments
7.10. The Meaning of be-har yahwe yera’e

A Retrospect of the Main Points Concerning “the True Significance of the Akedah”
Prospects for Collaboration Between Old Testament Studies and Philosophy

Chapter 2
The Paradox of Suffering: Comparing Second Isaiah and Socrates


1. Theodicy of Suffering in Israelite Religion
1.1. Suffering of the Righteous in the Book of Second Isaiah
1.2. Max Weber’s Interpretation and its Merits
1.3. Despair in Life

2. Egoism of Suffering in Greek Philosophy
2.1. The Execution of Socrates
2.2. The Relationship between Love and Suffering in Aristotle
2.3. Hope in Life

3. Suffering as the Starting Point of Liberation from Egoism
3.1. Abandonment of Egoism
3.2. Devotion
3.3. The Paradox of Suffering

Chapter 3
Reconstructing Old Testament Monotheism: A Dialogue between Old Testament Studies and Philosophy


1. What is Problematic about Monotheism?

2. Various Views of God in the Old Testament’s Self-Understanding
2.1. The God Who Directs Israel’s Wars
2.2. The God Who Uses Other Nations to Punish Israel’s Sins
2.3. The God Who Does Not Guide History

3. Various Views of God Classified in Terms of Religious Studies
3.1. The Relationship with Polytheism
3.2. The Law of Monolatry
3.3. The Formation and Significance of Monotheism

4. Philosophical Reflections about the Concept of God

5. The Anthropological Significance of Atonement Faith
5.1. Atonement of the Righteous in Judaism and Christianity
5.2. Egoism of Suffering in Greek Philosophy
5.3. Atonement as the Starting Point of Liberation from Egoism


Part II Old Testament Thought and the Modern World

Chapter 4
Modern Aspects of the Old Testament Understanding of God: Qohelet, Schoenberg, Jung

1. Suspicions, Criticisms, and Verbal Attacks against the Old Testament God
1.1. Qohelet’s Suspicions of the God who Requites Good and Evil
1.2. Schoenberg’s Criticism of the God who Rejects Idols
1.3. Jung’s Statement that “Job’s God is a Fool”

2. A Response from the Old Testament
2.1. The Nihilism of Qohelet and his Triumph Over It: The Ontological Personal God and the Non-ontological Transcendent One
2.2. Schoenberg’s Uncertainty: Toward the Idea of Atonement Thought
2.3. What Jung Missed: Demythologizing the Creation Story

3. How Does the Old Testament Understanding of God Challenge the Modern World?
3.0 What Kind of Age is this Modern Period?
3.1. Doubts about the Concept of God
3.2. Sensitivity to Suffering
3.3. The Givenness of Existence

Chapter 5
Toward Regenerating Ethics: Seeking an Ordered Path of Joyful Coexistence


1. Two Attitudes Toward Ethics
1.1. Emotional Draconianism and Ethical Education
1.2. Theoretical Ethical Relativism and Skepticism
1.3. Aphasia and Working to Overcome It

2. Two Grounds for Rejecting Murder: Awareness of Order (Ri)
2.1. A Ktisiological Reason (Ri)
2.2. A Soteriological Reason (Ri)
2.3. Summary

3. Seven Paths (Ro) for Arriving at the Two Understandings of Order (Ri)
3.1. Religion
3.2. Philosophy
3.2.1. The Philosophical Hermeneutics of Gadamer and Ricœur
3.2.2. Plato’s Criticism of Democracy
3.2.3. Wonder (thaumazein) is the Beginning of Philosophy (philosophiā)
3.3. Science
3.4. Summary
3.5. Law
3.6. Politics
3.7. The Arts
3.8. The Art of Discovering Good Things


Part III The Prophets and Soteriology

Chapter 6
A Genealogy of Prophetic Salvation: Isaiah, Second Isaiah, and Jeremiah


1. From the Book of Isaiah
1.1. The Call of Isaiah
1.2. Early Messianic Prophecies
1.3. David’s Scion
1.4. Those Who Received Instruction
1.5. Second Isaiah’s Suffering Servant

2. From the Book of Jeremiah
2.1. Jeremiah and the Deuteronomistic Historian
2.2. False Prophets
2.3. Messiah
2.4. Sacrifices
2.5. The New Covenant

Chapter 7
The Prophets and Deuteronomism: The Book of Jeremiah

1. Questions about Authenticity

2. True and False Prophets

3. An Examination of Thiel’s Theory about the Deuteronomistic Historian’s Redactional Intentions
3.1. The Theology of Thiel’s Deuteronomistic Historian
3.2. Ideas and Expressions Unique to the Deuteronomistic Historian (Other than those Cited by Thiel)
3.3. Ideas Unique to Jeremiah

4. Interpretation of the “New Covenant” Prophecy: The First Point of Debate

5. Interpretation of the “New Covenant” Prophecy: The Second Point of Debate

6. The Prophetic Content of Jeremiah’s Authentic Texts

7. A Comparison of the Ideas of the Deuteronomistic Historian and Jeremiah

8. Revisiting Questions about Authenticity: The Task of Philosophical Interpretation

Part IV Old Testament Studies in Japan

Chapter 8
Old Testament Studies in Japan: A Retrospect and Prospects


1. A Retrospect
1.1. A Brief History of the Society for Old Testament Study in Japan and the Japanese Biblical Institute
1.2. Brief Overview of International Research Achievements
1.3. Brief Overview of Domestic Research Achievements

2. Prospects
2.1. Old Testament Studies in Japan: Reflections and Prospects
2.2. Looking to the Future of the Society for Old Testament Study in Japan



Subject Index
Author Index
Ancient Sources Index

The Japan Society of New Testament Studies (日本新約学会・Nihon Shinyaku Gakkai)held its annual meeting in Tokyo on September 13–14, 2013.

Rikkyo UniversityRikkyo University, Ikebukuro, Tokyo (Site of the 2013 JSNTS Meeting)

Here are the presenters, paper titles (translations mine), moderators, and other speakers:

Friday, September 13

Kōta Yamada, Keiwa College
“A Rhetorical Analysis of the Opening Sermon in Q”

Masashi Sawamura, Hiroshima Jogakuin University
“Instructions Concerning ἔθνος in Matthew 21:43″

Shizuka Uemura, University of Tokyo
“The Parable of the Sown Seed (Mark 4:3–8): The Light and Shadow of God’s Rule”

Kenichi Oishi, Hiroshima University
“Who is the ‘Mary, Mother of James the Less and Joses’?”

Opening Service
Migaku Sato, Rikkyo University

Manabu Tsuji, Hiroshima University
Kiyoshi Mineshige, Kwansei Gakuin University
Takashi Onuki, Jiyu Gakuen

Japanese Program

Photo of the JSNTS conferences participants


Saturday, September 14

Akio Lee, Mitaka Lutheran Church (Pastor)
“Wealth and Poverty Seen in the Relationship between City and Farming Village in the Gospel of Luke”

Keiji Kihara, Kwansei Gakuin University
“Why is ‘the Centurion of Capernaum’ (Luke 7:1–10) Similar to ‘the Story of Cornelius’ (Acts 10): Observations Concerning Luke’s Editorial Intent”

Takaaki Haraguchi, Tohoku Gakuin University
“Romans as a Diaspora Letter”

Hideki Tashiro, Seinan Gakuin University
“Usage of σκεῦος in 2 Corinthians 4:7″

Nozomu Hiroishi, Ferris University
Minoru Nakano, Tokyo Union Theological Seminary
Migaku Sato, Rikkyo University

Closing Remarks
Tashio Aono, JSNTS President, Seinan Gakuin University

Japanese Program

Photo of the JSNTS conferences participants

Jean Ska’s Our Fathers Have Told Us: Introduction to the Analysis of Hebrew Narratives (Subsidia Biblica, 13) has appeared in Japanese translation from The Board of Publications, The United Church of Christ in Japan. The Japanese title is 聖書の物語論的読み方―新たな解釈へのアプローチ (Seisho no monogatari-ron-teki yomikata: Arata na kaishaku e no apurōchi; A Narratological Reading of the Bible: An Approach to New Interpretations).

The translators are Tsutomu Sakuma (Professor of Old Testament, Sophia University) and Yoshiaki Ishihara (graduate of Sophia University’s Faculty of Theology).

Here is a look at the contents of the English edition.


English and Japanese Citations

J. L. Ska, Seisho no monogatari-ron-teki yomikata: Arata na kaishaku e no apurōchi (A Narratological Reading of the Bible: An Approach to New Interpretations) (trans. Tsutomu Sakuma and Yoshiaki Ishihara; Tokyo: The Board of Publications, The United Church of Christ in Japan, 2013); translation of Jean Ska, “Our Fathers Have Told Us”: Introduction to the Analysis of Hebrew Narratives (Subsidia Biblica 13; Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 2000).

J.L.スカ『聖書の物語論的読み方 新たな解釈へのアプローチ』佐久間勤・石原良明訳,日本キリスト教団出版局,2013年