Growth in the Land(s) Promised to Abraham

According to the narrative of Genesis, the land promise to Abraham begins modestly near Shechem.

The promise appears in chapters 12–13, 15, 17, 22, and beyond chapter 25.

In the last phase of course, Abraham has died. But when Abraham’s descendants receive the promise, appeals back to Abraham still appear.

Interpreting the Promise(s)

But within Genesis, the different forms the land promise takes create intriguing intertextual connections within the book.

In addition, each form of the promise provided Genesis’s Second Temple readers with a distinct set of opportunities to read the scope of the promises still more broadly.

This tendency to read individual versions of the land promise more broadly appears in Ben Sira, Genesis Apocryphon, Jubilees, Philo, Paul of Tarsus, Pseudo-Philo, and R. Eliezer b. Jacob.

The broadening tendency appears differently in different authors. The Genesis Apocryphon, Pseudo-Philo, R. Eliezer b. Jacob, and most texts in Jubilees reflect more modest expansions.

The expansionist tendency in Ben Sira, Jubilees, Philo, and Paul is stronger. These witnesses find in the promise to Abraham of landed inheritance a claim for this promise to encompass the whole world.

It is by far commoner for the promise to be interpreted around the land of Canaan. But the expansionist minority reading is itself commoner than is often appreciated.


Within Pauline studies, scholars often note the parallel between Ben Sira and Paul when interpreting what Paul may mean when he identifies Abraham as “heir of the world” (Rom 4:13).

But Jubilees and Philo share the same style of reading as well, despite their giving it very different forms. And although not to the same degree, you can see similar interpretive outcomes in Genesis Apocryphon, Pseudo-Philo, and R. Eliezer b. Jacob.

If you want to read further, drop your name and email in the form below, and I’ll send you a copy of the full article.

Header image provided by Claudio Testa

How to Time Block with Todoist and Google Calendar

Among many others out there, “time blocking” is an approach to organizing your time. As the name suggests, it normally involves visual “blocks” that show how you’ve decided to budget your time.

Time blocking isn’t as useful if your approach to work needs to be highly flexible. (The larger principle of budgeting time still is. The application just needs to take a different form.)

Where you do have a known amount of time to budget, though, time blocking can be a hugely valuable practice. It can help you get the most out of the time you have. It can also help you see when you might be planning too much activity for too little time.

Time blocking isn’t tied to a specific tool. You can time block quite well on paper.

Or if you use a digital calendar, you might want to time block there. At a basic level, that’s as simple as creating an appointment with yourself.

Time Blocking with Google Calendar Alone

That’s what I did in Google Calendar for a good while. But I found two downsides to having time blocks in Google Calendar and tasks for those blocks in Todoist:

  1. I had time blocks on my Google Calendar that didn’t reflect well what was in my Todoist task list. Often, that meant I had too much to do for the time I’d allotted.
  2. I would find myself doing duplicate work to show on my Google Calendar what I already had in my Todoist task list. That helped with the overcommitment. But it also meant I was managing my system when I could be doing what I wanted to get done.

For me, a great solution turned out to be having Todoist put tasks on my Google Calendar.

Then, I could see on my calendar the impact of setting a certain task for a given day. And I only had to manage tasks (and their blocks) in one place.

If you don’t already use Todoist, try the premium version for 2 months for free.

Time Blocking on Google Calendar with Todoist

Todoist’s Google Calendar integration allows for different preferences in how you want to use the two together.

What I’ve found most effective is to first create a new calendar inside your Google Calendar account named something appropriate (e.g., “Todoist”).

Then, in Todoist’s guide for setting up a Google Calendar integration,

  1. follow steps 1–7.1.
  2. When you get to step 7.2, choose to sync tasks from “All projects.” This way, no matter where you file a task in Todoist, it can still show up on your Google Calendar.
  3. For step 7.3, choose to have tasks you create on Google Calendar go to your Todoist Inbox. Google Calendar won’t know all the projects you have in Todoist. So, it’s easiest just to send tasks created in Google Calendar to the Todoist Inbox and sort them into projects from there. But you can ignore this feature and add your tasks in Todoist only. If you do so, you get the added benefit that, whenever a Todoist task appears in Google Calendar, it will have a link back to that task in Todoist (on the words “View source” at the bottom of the calendar event). That makes it even easier to reference and complete the task from your Google Calendar.
  4. For steps 7.4–7.7, I find the following settings a good place to start.

Of course, you can choose different preferences or come back later to tweak them.

Once you have an initial setup for the integration, though, click “Connect” in Todoist (step 8) to complete the process.


With these settings:

  • Any time you add a due time to a task in Todoist, you’ll also see that task on your Google Calendar. The due time in Todoist will be the event’s start time in Google Calendar.
  • You won’t sync to your Google Calendar any tasks without a due time (which they’ll all have, by definition, if you’re using them to time block).
  • You can easily change a task’s duration in Google Calendar. That will give you a visual representation of the block of time that task should take to complete.
  • Completed tasks will automatically leave your Google Calendar.

This will leave you with a Todoist task layer that you can then show or hide in your Google Calendar to help what you want to do when. And just as important, it can help you plan what not to do in order to devote more adequate time to higher priority activities.

Header image provided by Android Community

Uncertain about Integrating History and Theology?

It can be a challenge to read Scripture as a both a historical text and one that continues to address communities of faith.

Explorations in Interdisciplinary Reading contains 10 essays to help you address this challenge.

Among these essays is mine on “Rewriting Torah Obedience in Romans for the Church.”

A Simple Guide to When You Need to Capitalize “Gospel(s)”

As SBL Press has explicitly recognized, “One of the more confusing issues that writers in New Testament studies face is when to write Gospel and when to use gospel instead.”1

The key principles are “relatively straightforward until one begins actually writing; then questions inevitably arise.”2

The SBL Handbook of Style directly addresses the capitalization of “gospel(s)” in two sections.3 And SBL Press has provided a supplementary blog post of nearly 1000 words.4

But even with all of this explanation, the issue might still be cloudy. So below, I’ve tried to digest the essential tests for when you need to capitalize “gospel(s).”

I’ve also ordered the tests in a sequence to help you avoid nonstandard capitalization (especially with tests 2 and 4). So as you work through the list from top to bottom, you can stop when you find the right category, lowercase or capitalize accordingly, and move on.

1. If “gospel” is part of a title, capitalize it.

If you’re using “gospel” as part of the name for a title of a work, you need to capitalize it.

SBL Press considers forms like the following to be titles:

  • First Gospel
  • Matthew’s Gospel
  • Gospel of Matthew
  • Thomas’s Gospel
  • Gospel of Thomas

The same convention would apply to other forms of titles for literary works (e.g., “Gospel according to Matthew”).

If you’re not using “gospel” in the context of a title, keep working through the other tests below to see whether you need to capitalize or lowercase it.

2. If “gospel” is a “generic reference,” lowercase it.

SBL Press prefers “down style, that is, the use of fewer initial capital letters.”5

One of the ways SBL style expresses this preference is that “gospel” is lowercased when used as a “generic reference.”6

But what qualifies as a “generic reference”?

SBL Press doesn’t seem to explicitly define this category. But it appears to describe a way of referencing a work in a way that also identifies the genre of that work.

(Thus, “generic” includes the notion of “genre” rather than generality alone.)

If you’re unsure whether “gospel” is a generic reference, there are two tests you can use to decide:

  1. Try replacing “gospel” with “work” to see if the sentence makes sense (e.g., “In his gospel, Matthew …”).
  2. Check whether “gospel” is functioning as an adjective to modify another noun (e.g., “gospel narrative,” “gospel writers”).

If your use of “gospel” passes one of these two tests, you probably have a generic reference. So, you should lowercase “gospel.”

If neither of these tests works, move to the next test.

3. If “gospel” refers to a proclamation, lowercase it.

Often, “gospel” doesn’t refer to literature at all. Instead, it means the good news about Jesus, the kerygma.

An example would be a sentence like “At the beginning of 1 Cor 15, Paul summarizes the gospel he preached.”

Because “gospel” here refers to a proclamation, a message, or a body of good news, it needs to appear in lowercase.

If “gospel” doesn’t refer to a proclamation, keep working through the next test.

4. If “gospel” is a stand-in for a title, capitalize it.

If you’re using “gospel” alone as a stand-in for a title, you need to capitalize it.

It can be trickier to know when an instance of “gospel” counts as a stand-in for a title. But there is still a test that can help.

If you’re unsure whether “gospel” is a stand-in for a title, replace that word or the phrase that includes it “gospel” with the full title of the gospel.

If the replacement works, “gospel” is a stand-in for a title, and you need to capitalize it.—This assumes you’ve already determined above in step 2 that your use of “gospel” doesn’t qualify as a generic reference.

A great many uses of “gospel” by itself to reference a literary work actually fall into how SBL Press defines the generic reference category. By contrast, capitalizing “gospel” by itself as a stand-in for a title is pretty rare.

So you especially ensure your use of “gospel” isn’t a generic reference before you classify it as a stand-in for a title.

5. Always lowercase “gospels” except in the phrase “Synoptic Gospels.”

The SBL Handbook of Style recommends capitalizing “gospels” when it refers to a canonical division.7 But SBL Press now prefers lowercase in this instance.8

This change means that the only time you should capitalize the plural “gospels” is in the phrase “Synoptic Gospels.” (Similarly, the shorter “Synoptics” also gets capitalized.)9

6. Where needed, revise.

In some cases, you might not be satisfied with a sentence after you apply the capitalization that results from these tests.

In that event, consider revising the sentence until you’re satisfied with the capitalization it involves.10


Deciding whether to capitalize “gospel” language can be tricky. But you can cut through confusion with the following five principles:

  1. If “gospel” is part of a title, capitalize it.
  2. If “gospel” is a “generic reference,” lowercase it.
  3. If “gospel” refers to a proclamation, lowercase it.
  4. If “gospel” is a stand-in for a title, capitalize it.
  5. Always lowercase “gospels” except in the phrase “Synoptic Gospels.”

And of course, if you aren’t satisfied with a sentence based on these principles, you can always revise it until you get it into the shape you want it.

  1. Gospel versus Gospel,” weblog, SBL Handbook of Style, 15 November 2016, §1 (italics original). Header image provided by Josh Applegate

  2. “Gospel versus Gospel,” §1 (italics added). 

  3. Society of Biblical Literature, The SBL Handbook of Style, 2nd ed. (Atlanta: SBL, 2014), §§, 4.3.6. 

  4. “Gospel versus Gospel.” 

  5. “Gospel versus Gospel,” §2.2. 

  6. “Gospel versus Gospel,” §3.3. 

  7. SBL Handbook of Style, §4.3.6. 

  8. “Gospel versus Gospel,” §§1, 3.4. 

  9. “Gospel versus Gospel,” §§1, 3.1. 

  10. “Gospel versus Gospel,” §§2.4–2.5, 3.5. 

The Odd Thing about Font and Line Sizes

When you select a font in Word, you select its size in a unit called “points.”1

But just like the font size, the font face also affects the visual size of lines and type on the page.

So if you need to space content precisely on a page, you need to recognize that font points aren’t type points.

Font Points Aren’t Type Points

In theory, one point is equal to 1/72 of an inch. (For clarity from here, I’ll call this a “type point.”)

But, by comparison with 12-point Times New Roman text,

  • Twelve-point Arial text occupies noticeably more horizontal space.
  • Twelve-point SBL BibLit text occupies noticeably more vertical space.

So not all fonts are created equal in terms of what a “point” means for a single-spaced line in that particular font.2 (I’ll call this a “font point” since it’s tied to the font size you actually set in Word.)

Font Points and Type Points on a Title Page

A Title Page as an Example

If you use the Student Supplement for The SBL Handbook of Style or something similar, Word can handle title pages quite well.3

So, you can (and should) hand off your title pages to Word so that it can take the formatting and layout minutiae off your plate.

You’ll get a better end product, and you’ll be able to spend time on the content of your research that you would otherwise have devoted to manipulating the layout of your document.

That said, I want to use a title page to illustrate how font and type points do (and don’t) work. And in particular, I’ll assume the title page framework given in the Student Supplement.

Points and Line Spacing

In this framework, if you allow a 2-inch top and bottom margin on 11-inch high paper, that allows you 7 vertical inches on the page in which to distribute content (= 11 inches total – 2 inches for the top margin – 2 inches for the bottom margin).

Line Spacing = “Exactly 12 Points”

If your text is “12-point,” Times New Roman, and spaced at exactly 12 points, you can fit 42 lines of text vertically down these 7 inches, or 504 type points because

  • 504 type points = 7 inches × 72 type points per inch and
  • 42 lines = 504 type points ÷ 12 type points per line.

Line Spacing = “Single Spaced”

But if your text is “12-point,” Times New Roman, and single spaced, you’ll be able to fit vertically down these same 7 inches only about 36.5 lines of text.

This means that, if you use “12-point” Times New Roman font, one “single spaced” line will actually occupy about 13.81 type points of vertical space on your page(= [72 type points per inch × 7 inches] ÷ 36.5 lines).4

Arial appears to take up the same amount. SBL BibLit, by contrast, occupies closer to 18.67 type points vertically on the page when you select a “12-point” font size in Word.

That means one single spaced line of SBL BibLit font occupies slightly more than ⅓ more vertical space on the page than one single-spaced line of Times New Roman or Arial.

Line Spacing down a Full Page

Down a full title page, there will be at least 8 lines of type:

  • Institution block: 1 line
  • Title block: 1 or more lines
  • Class block: 3 lines
  • Author block: 3 lines

So, if you use “12-point” Times New Roman font, you might think these 8 lines would occupy 96 type points vertically on the page (= 8 lines × 12 font-type points per line).

But they won’t. They’ll actually occupy 110.48 type points (= 8 lines × 13.81 type points per line).

Over the page as a whole, the total difference of 14.48 type points (= 110.48 type points – 96 type points) equates to about two tenths of an inch (= 14.48 type points difference ÷ 72 type points per inch). That assumes you’re using Times New Roman or Arial.

If you use SBL BibLit, the difference is greater. Eight lines of single-spaced type will be about 149.36 type points (= 8 lines × 18.67 type points per line).

That’s just shy of three quarters of an inch longer on the page than if the lines were spaced at exactly 12 type points (= [149.36 type points – 96 type points] ÷ 72 type points per inch).


Whenever you need a precise page layout, first see whether Word will handle the details automatically. It probably will.

But if not, understanding the difference between font and type points should help you achieve that layout much more easily.

Tired of fighting with Word? Want to be done with frustrated hours fussing over how to get the formatting you need?

My new guide shows you how to bypass all of this so you can let Word work for you while you focus on your research.

Garrett Thompson (PhD)

For students in any graduate program, mastering the full range of available research tools is crucial for efficient and consistent productivity. Dr. Stark has mastered these tools—the most important of which is Microsoft Word…. Students eager to take their work to the next level would do well to follow Dr. Stark’s in-depth guidance.

  1. Header image provided by Etienne Girardet

  2. For some introductions to why this is, see “Leading,” weblog, The Four-Eyed Raven, n.d.; Matt Samberg, “Line Spacing, Explained,” weblog, Medium, 15 September 2015. 

  3. Melanie Greer Nogalski et al., Student Supplement for The SBL Handbook of Style, Second Edition, ed. Joel M. LeMon and Brennan W. Breed, rev. ed. (Atlanta: SBL, 2015). 

  4. Leading.” Based on my own measurements, this seems to be slightly more accurate than the round 14 points reported by Samberg, “Line Spacing, Explained.” But Samberg’s essay still has a great deal of valuable information. 

How to Justify Your Title Page Text Blocks in No Time

When you’re working on a title page, it’s best to delegate its formatting to Word as much as possible.1

Doing so will save you time spent formatting. It can also give you a title page that’s more precisely formatted.

Before you distribute the text blocks vertically on your title page, you should be sure to segment your title page’s text blocks appropriately.2

You may also want to go ahead and format your title page text. That way, once you distribute the text on your title page, it’ll be ready to go.

Vertically Justify Your Title Page Text

Once you’ve got your title page text ready, highlight the contents of your title page—but not the section break that separates your title page from the next section of your document.

(Just for context, if you lay out your document like I recommend, that section break will go to your table of contents for long essays and your essay body for short essays.)

Then, from the “Layout” tab, choose “Margins” and “Custom Margins….”

On the “Margins” tab, set both the top and the bottom margins to 2 inches.

Then, click on the “Layout” tab. Under the “Page” section on this tab, change “Vertical alignment:” to “Justified,” and click “OK.”

When you complete this last step after you’ve properly formatted and segmented your title page text, you should then see your title page content

  • In all capital letters,
  • Centered on the page left-to-right, and
  • Distributed vertically on the page so that you have (a) 2-inch top and bottom margins and (b) even spaces between each text block on the title page that are as close as possible to 2 inches.

Double Space Your Title If It’s Multiple Lines

If your title happens to be more than one line long, the Student Supplement for The SBL Handbook of Style wants your title to be double spaced.3

So, before you move on from your title page, it’s a good time to double check whether you need to adjust the line spacing for your title.

If you do, you can change the line spacing directly from the “Home” tab. Simply highlight your title block (block 2), and change the line spacing to “2.0.”


With these simple steps, you can largely delegate your title page formatting to Word.

By letting Word handle the minutiae of your title page’s text and layout, you can avoid time and effort spent manipulating this formatting yourself.

And that’s time you’ve regained to invest into the content of your research and writing.

Tired of fighting with Word? Want to be done with frustrated hours fussing over how to get the formatting you need?

My new guide shows you how to bypass all of this so you can let Word work for you while you focus on your research.

Garrett Thompson (PhD)

For students in any graduate program, mastering the full range of available research tools is crucial for efficient and consistent productivity. Dr. Stark has mastered these tools—the most important of which is Microsoft Word…. Students eager to take their work to the next level would do well to follow Dr. Stark’s in-depth guidance.

  1. Header image provided by Etienne Girardet

  2. In these comments, I’m assuming you’re trying to format your title page as specified in Melanie Greer Nogalski et al., Student Supplement for The SBL Handbook of Style, Second Edition, ed. Joel M. LeMon and Brennan W. Breed, rev. ed. (Atlanta: SBL, 2015), §§2.8, 3.1. For an overview of the four title page blocks that the Student Supplement requires, see “The Fundamentals of How to Format a Title Page.” In the steps illustrated here, I’m assuming you’re using the most current version of Word available via an Office 365 subscription. As of this writing, that’s 16.0.12624.20278. Any reasonably recent version of Word should work similarly. But increasingly older versions may have increasingly larger differences in how they match the steps I describe here. 

  3. Nogalski et al., Student Supplement, §3.1.