Heresy Revealed: The Capstone Paper

This spring semester i had the hilarious and deeply satisfying experience of writing heresy—Budge-Nuzzard fanfic in biblical Hebrew—for seminary credit. It was an immensely engaging and creative endeavor, and i took no end of pleasure in offhandedly mentioning “my heresy” in my advanced Hebrew exegesis class and citing Thaddeus Glapp in the biography of my capstone paper. It’s crazy to think that i was permitted to get away with this nonsense. Classical Hebrew spec-fic? Inventing words in a dead language? Graduate-level Budge-Nuzzard scholarship? Weench midrash? Gosh. i am the luckiest nerd alive.

Those of you who’ve somehow stumbled through a wormhole and into this website may already have fallen victim to The Yaunsi Heresy. If you haven’t, you’re about to. The attachment that follows contains the complete text of that heresy—with commentary, on both my work and the Budge-Nuzzard. (It isn’t all heresy. The first half of the paper teases an entire semester’s study on Hebrew narrative style and literary devices.)

Enough piffle and blather! With very great thanks to Deirdre Brouer, Hélène Dallaire, Thaddeus Glapp, and A.S. Peterson, i present to you:

Narrative Criticism in the Hebrew Bible: Capstone report


The Yaunsi Heresy is a new work of fiction in classical Hebrew based on A.S. Peterson’s lobidious tale of the Budge-Nuzzard. It will be published in serial. Click “Yaunsi Heresy” above to read from the beginning—or to hear the story read to you. 🙂

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The blessèd syllabus

Alert: This post is in English. Weird, i know.

My next Yaunsi segment is written, but my editor and i are taking Christmas off. Meanwhile, i shall regale you with news of significant nerdery. More

End-of-semester gratitude

My first semester’s finals were yesterday. Oh, i am tired—and so, so grateful.

All last week i had reminders written all over my hands. Not reminders of things i’d need for the tests, but reminders that i would survive the process. Around my thumb and forefinger i wrote, “i have turned my back on my turning back.” Last night after my Hebrew final i collapsed into a chair and curled my fingers and saw how the words made a circle, turning back, then turning back again. And i had been telling myself over and over that i must not turn back, that as weary as i was i would reap a harvest if i did not give up. At that moment the words became true. i had turned my back on my turning back. It was accomplished. i knew that i had come far and could begin to gloan upon it. As we drove home afterwards, i could feel the semester receding behind me as if time was a place.

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i am grateful for:

  • Jonathan. Oh, Jonathan. He was on call all last week, and had finals and papers of his own (he has one final yet), but he took care of all our dinners (and the dishes) all week long so that i could study. He planned our Geek family night, too. Every time i cried that i could not, could not, could not, he told me i could. He prayed for me and pastored me and served me, my priest. Every day, he preaches to me the way of Christ to the church.
  • My beautiful Hebrew family, my classroom table-mates. Asher and i had an uproarious time studying together yesterday afternoon (we were both sleep-deprived and deliriously hilarious). Atarah brought us chocolate and little hand-written cards of appreciation last night. Gadi lets me mother him. i could not have asked for a better group of people. i never expected them. They are a gift of grace.
  • Dr. Dallaire, my Hebrew professor, has been an endless source of encouragement all semester long. Last night she gave me a hug i could live in and told me i’d better write to her in Hebrew while she’s on sabbatical. 🙂 She graded our finals before leaving last night and i had an email waiting for me when i got home. For the midterm and the final both she brought us food. And one of the questions was, “True or False? Dr. Dallaire loves chocolate!” 🙂 Again, i could never have expected her. i’m so grateful for her. Just knowing her (not to mention learning from her!) this semester was the best way to begin seminary i could imagine. She taught me that seminary is not scary, but an exhilarating, encouraging, enlarging adventure. i am keeping her forever.
  • Dr. Hess, my Pentateuch and Wisdom Lit professor. i learned so much in his class, and much of it was about myself. His style of teaching and grading stretched me, and is stretching me, and i am better for it, and i will be better yet. He was an instrument of sanctification in G-d’s hands. Again, it was grace that placed me in his class this first semester.
  • My darling amanuensis Rachel. i texted her crying so many times this last week. She prayed for me and brought me ice cream and ginger soda and hugs the night before finals. She wrote me haikus to keep me going. She shares my heart.
  • Andrew Peterson‘s song “Day By Day,” and Josh Garrels‘ “White Owl,” both of which tethered my heart and my mind as i studied. i played them for hours. Hours.
  • Pete Peterson and the Budge-Nuzzard. Pete’s witness that faith does not always end in despair gave me the courage to begin seminary. The Budge-Nuzzard, in ways known only to Divine Grace, became my own story as i struggled to finish my first semester well. The fact that the story is yet unfinished may itself have been a grace, as i was able to see myself in it without the distraction of pressure or fear regarding where the story was going. The first time i read Hind’s Feet on High Places, i was too afraid of resolution to finish. In the Budge-Nuzzard, uncertainty came alongside my uncertainty and helped me along. i know that a story this weird (but i am so weird!) is an unlikely candidate for spiritual direction and courage. But—
  • My merciful Abba loves me so well. He’s close to me when i struggle. He hides me in His heart. He rejoices over me with singing. He stoops down to make me great. i so often seek life everywhere but in Him. He is gracious, and He grows me in grace. He’s teaching me to rest in Him. And He knows that i am made to respond to stories; He made me that way. So when i cry out for stories to help me along, He never shames me for needing them but instead He provides grace upon grace, and gives me stories to enlarge my heart.

This sounds like an Oscars speech. But seriously—i am so deeply grateful.

My list of things to do today includes “read a poem,” “take a walk,” and “blat at someone.” i am eager to dive back into fiction-reading (and writing). i might take a nap. i need to buy groceries. Facebook will wait until tomorrow. Short-story-writing will wait until Friday or even next week (yeah, i never did any writing in November, and i am not really sorry). For today, the theme is gratitude and peace.

The term is over. The holidays have begun. (Yes, that’s a Lewis reference, although this semester break is only a foretaste.)

Baruch atah, Adonai.

Busy, crazy, alive

Almost three weeks into my online writing class. Met with my academic advisor on Wednesday. Story Camp starts on Monday. Hosting four write-ins a week this month. My first short story is a whopping 86 words long so far.

i am probably crazy, but what fun is there in sanity?

Campus Visit

i just got back from a wonderful and energizing campus visit at Denver Seminary. Along with a tour and a chat with an admissions counselor, i was able to attend part of a class and have lunch with a professor, and those two items on this morning’s agenda have left me more eager than ever to start school this fall.

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The class i was able to attend was the first semester of Biblical Hebrew. It went a mile a minute and was conducted in a mixture of English and Hebrew, and i think i was grinning ear to ear the entire time. Yes, languages are going to be a new challenge for me, and i was a bit apprehensive about the three and a half years of language study i’ll have to do, but—the class was fun. Despite the disorientation and quick pace, the class was relaxed and the professor, and by extension the students, were having a good time. For the first time, i thought, i can do this. i even learned a few things while in the class—i was able to puzzle out two of the Hebrew names across the room from us, and learned a little something about—what else?—the grammar of Hebrew storytelling. (Start with perfect tense; continue in narrative preterite.)

The admissions ninjas (seriously, that’s what they call themselves) over at DenSem paired me up with the best OT professor they could have picked. Dr. M. Daniel Carrol R. is one of three full-time Old Testament professors, and over lunch we discovered a lot of common ground. He was raised Catholic and now attends an evangelical Anglican congregation (i have at times called myself “half Catholic” and often wonder how long it’ll take me to end up in a liturgical church of some sort). He studied English in college, and has a deep love of literature and Dickens in particular (i am a bibliophage and librarian who plans to pursue an English or literature degree after this OT degree, and i love A Tale of Two Cities). Dr. Carroll teaches OT classes from a narrative rather than historical background focus (being a writer and a narrative-lover who wants to study the OT in order to undergird my fiction-writing, this makes my heart leap!). He’s active in immigration reform (i am very concerned about the issue of human trafficking and plan to focus on immigration next year in the library, as those two issues go hand-in-hand), and, being from Guatemala, is very focused on 2/3 world culture and social ethics (one of my favourite classes during my undergrad involved reading William T. Cavanaugh’s Torture and Eucharist, about the disappearings in Chile; this was formative in developing my understanding that we Western Christians should not consider our perspective normative in Scripture interpretation).

One of the things i wanted to talk about during this visit was whether OT or Theology would be a more appropriate major for me, and while i was leaning toward OT, i was not 100% certain of that decision. i am now. Meeting Dr. Carroll was certainly the highlight of this trip. Jonathan has read his most recent book (Christians at the Border), and based on what he has told me i was already very eager to meet him, but i was surprised at how much we have in common. The other OT professors (one who focuses on Hebrew language studies and Messianic Judaism, and one who is primarily interested in Ancient Near East subjects) both will be wonderful, but i think i’ve found “my professor.” When i told him how i love the OT and the way G-d reveals Himself there, he said he hoped to see more students with that perspective. And when we met up with my admissions counselor after lunch, Dr. Carroll said he’d found a kindred spirit regarding the literary mindset. So i think we are simpatico. 🙂

Other things i was able to discuss with my admissions counselor included how i’d go about doing a double major (in case i want to add a lot of theology on top of my OT degree) and how i might be able to swap out some of the basic doctrinal surveys or other classes with more specific theology courses. (i’ve taken a lot of theology, and i do have a ton of Bible courses under my belt, so testing out or just plain swapping courses might give me a bit more wiggle room to take more electives. And i do love electives.) Unfortunately, i misread the course sequence for the OT major and didn’t realize that Anthropology and Soteriology, the elective i’m most interested in, is a theology class rather than an OT class, so it won’t qualify for my one elective slot. But i think i can work it in anyway—i really want to take that one. Dr. Carroll also mentioned that a hamartiology (theology of sin) class might be doable, and that sounds like something that would be very helpful given the questions i have about how to answer the problem of sin in a pre-Christian setting. Actually—having my elective slot open again means i might be able to take both semesters of Akkadian, and get to do a study of Gilgamesh. That would be awesome—but i probably ought to look the course catalog over again and see how Hebrew takes before deciding anything. Although i’d love to study Gilgamesh in the original Akkadian. (Wow, i’m a nerd.)

Now what remains is to follow up with one outstanding reference, and fill out my application for major (i’d been putting that off until after talking with someone in more depth).

i love this. i can’t wait.

Inquiry to admissions department at Denver Seminary

In looking over the degree options available to me at Denver Seminary, it seemed best to begin the process by sending an email to admissions prior to filling out the application. Here’s the email.
 
Hello,
 
For some time I have been considering returning to school, and lately it seems that the time has arrived to begin the process. My inclination is that I will end up pursuing an MA in Old Testament, but aside from my love of the Old Testament and a desire to study theology, I have some specific reasons for wanting to engage the Old Testament, and I wonder if you would be so kind as to hear those reasons and help me gauge whether or not I am on the right track.
 
I am a fiction writer. My primary genre is fantasy (although I am developing a science-fiction setting as well), and while all the writing I do is in one or another pre-Christian culture, I am increasingly finding myself needing to know how to address the problem of sin with my characters. For the development of themes, I look primarily to J.R.R. Tolkien, who sought to create a world and stories therein which were orthodox, yet pre-Christian. But Tolkien did not address sin as such; his world and stories discuss different themes, and where sin arises the answer seems to be a type of common grace, where one is justified by repentance, but the sin nature is not addressed.
 
As far as that goes, I am comfortable taking a similar tack. I want my stories to have a wide appeal, to slip past those “watchful dragons” and be instrumental in reshaping my readers’ imaginations and affections so as to prepare the way for the Gospel, rather than to preach it in the narrative; a clear Christ-figure is not what I am trying to write. My strong sense is that in our postmodern culture, a subtle approach will be the best beginning for those who love narrative but are antagonistic toward authoritarian presentations of truth. With two of my characters, however, I am at a point where they recognize their own depravity, and they are unable to get past their inability to walk away from their sin nature (not merely their sins), no matter how badly they want to be good and righteous. I have a strong sense that one of them, in particular, is calling out to me, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” It distresses me that in committing to a pre-Christian world, I have no answer for her, yet I believe I am called to tell such stories—that the pre-Christian setting as well as the themes of sin, brokenness, and redemption are specific to my own gift and calling.
 
This may seem backwards, as a Christian, to look for ways to answer this question without Christ rather than simply introducing Him, and I realize that without the incarnation and sacrificial atonement of Christ, there can be no final answer for sin. I would like, however, to give my characters hope, much like G-d gave Abraham hope, that an answer is coming, and in the meanwhile, discover what the Old Testament and common grace can tell me about what G-d’s answer was before Christ. My fictional worlds do not currently have a sacrificial system for expiation of sins, although that may be part of the answer (yet it does not come close to addressing the problem of the sin nature).
 
So my inclination is to study the Old Testament for clues as to how this might work. My long-term goal is to follow this degree with one in literature, so as to continue deepening my understanding of how to develop themes in my writing, but I don’t want to move forward in that without first having the strong undergirding of Scripture and theology to direct those studies.
 
In looking over the MA/Old Testament course path, I notice that there are several classes included in that degree that I am very interested in, but only one slot for an elective. Looking at the Theology and Christian Studies concentrations as well, I see that either would offer me more elective slots, but do not contain the language studies (which greatly interest me), and the OT track’s thesis option would give me some leeway to develop a particular area of interest outside of electives. Meanwhile, I have identified about twenty classes I’d love to take, all of which would have to be taken as electives (although many are only of personal interest and I might simply audit them after graduation).
 
Sorry to have gone on at such length, and I appreciate you hearing me out. Is there any guidance you can provide as to whether an OT degree is the correct path for me, considering my specific concerns?
 
Thank you very much,
Laure Hittle