Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Check Out the Current Version of Confessions of a Bible Junkie on WordPress!

The title says it all. If you want all the latest, juiciest, most exciting confessions, add this address to your RSS reader or blogroll: http://mjburgess.wordpress.com/

Hope to see you soon!

Friday, June 26, 2009

You Win, Nick Norelli! (For Now, Anyway)

Well, after hearing blogger after blogger sing the praises of WordPress (I'm pretty sure Nick Norelli's working on commission, and Brian Fulthorp's also been poking me from time to time), I've decided to give it a shot. I've spent a couple days choosing a template and fixing it up just right, and I think it looks pretty good! All of my previous content is now available here; please adjust your bookmarks and other links accordingly. While I may post on both blogs for a couple weeks, I will most likely transition to WordPress alone by the end of July.

See you at the new blog!

New from SBL: Hittites and Greeks

A recent announcement from the SBL:
Letters from the Hittite Kingdom
Harry A. Hoffner Jr.

This is the first book-length collection in English of letters from the ancient kingdom of the Hittites. All known well-preserved examples, including the important corpus of letters from the provincial capital of Tapikka, are reproduced here in romanized transcription and English translation, accompanied by introductory essays, explanatory notes on the text and its translation, and a complete description of the rules of Hittite correspondence compared with that of other ancient Middle Eastern states. Letters containing correspondence between kings and their foreign peers, between kings and their officials in the provinces, and between these officials themselves reveal rich details of provincial administration, the relationships and duties of the officials, and tantalizing glimpses of their private lives. Matters discussed include oversight of agriculture, tax liabilities, litigation, inheritance rights, defense against hostile groups on the kingdom’s periphery, and consulting the gods by means of oracular procedures.

Paper $45.95 • 468 pages • ISBN 9781589832121 • Writings from the Ancient World 15 • Hardback edition www.brill.nl

Sources for the Study of Greek Religion, Corrected Edition
David G. Rice and John E. Stambaugh

Since its initial publication in 1979, Sources for the Study of Greek Religion has become an essential classroom resource in the field of classical studies. The Society of Biblical Literature is pleased to present a corrected edition—in a new, attractive, and electronic-friendly format—with hopes that it will inspire a new generation of classicists and religious historians. This volume includes primary texts and documents in translation, illustrating the range of Greek religious beliefs and practices from Homer to Alexander the Great with the addition of relevant post-classical material. The sources are arranged in chapters devoted to the Olympian gods, heroes, public religion (including rural cults), private religion, mystery cults, and death and afterlife. Introductory notes place the selections in their context in Greek history and provide basic bibliography. The volume includes a glossary of technical terms, a general index, and an index of ancient sources cited. Beyond the correction of minor errors and use of footnotes rather than endnotes, the reader will find that the present volume remains true to the original.

Paper $24.95 • 230 pages • ISBN 9780891303473 • Resources for Biblical Study 14

Another OUP/Dove Sale

Selected Hebrew Bible and New Testament titles from Oxford University Press are on sale through June 30 at Dove Booksellers. Check them out here.

RBL Highlights: 6/26/09

Selections from the most recent edition of the Review of Biblical Literature:

Stephen C. Barton, ed.
Idolatry: False Worship in the Bible, Early Judaism and Christianity
Reviewed by Markus Bockmuehl

Andrew Bernhard
Other Early Christian Gospels: A Critical Edition of the Surviving Greek Manuscripts
Reviewed by Stephen J. Patterson

Walter Brueggemann
A Pathway of Interpretation: The Old Testament for Pastors and Students
Reviewed by Danny Mathews

Warren Carter
The Roman Empire and the New Testament: An Essential Guide
Reviewed by Pieter J. J. Botha

J. Harold Ellens
Sex in the Bible: A New Consideration
Reviewed by William R. G. Loader

Jonathan Gan
The Metaphor of Shepherd in the Hebrew Bible: A Historical-Literary Reading
Reviewed by Claudia D. Bergmann

Jeffrey P. Greenman, Timothy Larsen, and Stephen R. Spencer, eds.
The Sermon on the Mount through the Centuries: From the Early Church to John Paul II
Reviewed by Charles H. Talbert

Philip A. Noss, ed.
A History of Bible Translation
Reviewed by Francis Dalrymple-Hamilton

Martin A. Shields
The End of Wisdom: A Reappraisal of the Historical and Canonical Function of Ecclesiastes
Reviewed by Harold C. Washington

H. G. M. Williamson
A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Isaiah 1-27: Volume 1: Commentary on Isaiah 1-5
Reviewed by Francis Landy

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Summer Study at CCUM: Misquoting Jesus

Last Wednesday I began an eight-week summer study of Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus at Christ Church United Methodist, 4614 Brownsboro Road, Louisville, Kentucky. We had a nice turnout and some excellent, engaging discussion on the preface and first chapter of the book. Any interested folks in the Louisville area are more than welcome to join us on Wednesday evenings from 7:00-8:30. My profound thanks to Jennie Weeks, CCUM's excellent Director of Christian Education, for supporting the study in so many ways. I'll be sure to blog about our subsequent sessions!

UVA Welcomes Robin Darling Young

Next year the Judaism and Christianity in Antiquity program is excited to welcome Prof. Robin Darling Young, who will be serving as a visiting professor while Prof. Judy Kovacs is on sabbatical. I've already received some information regarding one of her graduate courses, and it looks fascinating:

RELC 5559 Reading Practices in Early and Medieval Christianity

Robin Darling Young

This course traces the origins and development of Christian ways of reading sacred texts, from the second century through the twelfth. It considers the early tradition of rewritten scripture and prophetic inspiration, and moves next to the paidetic philosophy common in the schools of the Graeco-Roman empire and adopted by Christian writers of the third and fourth centuries. It traces, also, Christian interpreters’ cultivation of the "spiritual senses" and their preparation for reading by observing various ascetic and liturgical practices. In addition it will consider the preservation of midrashic interpretation among two fourth-century Syriac authors, to demonstrate an ongoing connection, in the late ancient near east, with rabbinic interpretation. Thus the course will examine the works of interpreters from Hermas in second-century Rome, through the Alexandrians and their monastic heirs, and then, in the Latin West, authors from Augustine through Bernard of Clairvaux and Hugh of St. Victor.

For those who have the languages, there will be an opportunity for biweekly meetings to read selected texts in their original languages.

Sign me up. ;-)

Recent Research

Regular readers of this blog (all five of you!) know that I usually post my research papers from various courses at the conclusion of the semester. For the last several weeks, I've been examining questions of canon in light of New Testament textual criticism, and also reviewing the principal thematic objections to the Letter to Theodore (the letter discovered by Morton Smith which supposedly contains quotations of an esoteric edition of the Gospel of Mark). I won't get into my conclusions here... take a look at the papers and find out for yourself! ;-) Suffice to say that I really enjoyed researching both of these topics, and will certainly continue to study them in the future. In the meantime, feel free to let me know what you think... I certainly welcome any feedback or further discussion (there's only so much you can cram into twenty double-spaced pages).

“Whatever makes for progress towards gnosis” Esoterism and spiritual advancement in the Stromateis and the Letter to Theodore


The end? A canonical exploration of the conclusion(s) of the Gospel of Mark

More New Titles From SBL

(Man... my inbox was really jammed!)

Seconding Sinai: The Development of Mosaic Discourse in Second Temple Judaism
Hindy Najman

What is meant by attributing texts to Moses in the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judaism? The answer depends not only on the history of texts but also on the history of concepts of textuality. This book critiques the terms “pseudepigraphy” and “rewritten Bible,” which presuppose conceptions of authentic attribution and textual fidelity foreign to ancient Judaism, and instead develops the concept of a discourse whose creativity and authority depend on repeated returns to the exemplary figure and experience of a founder. Attribution to Moses is a central example whose function is to re-present the experience of revelation at Sinai. Distinctive features of Mosaic discourse are studied in Deuteronomy, Jubilees, the Temple Scroll, and the works of Philo of Alexandria.

Paper $24.95 • 196 pages • ISBN 9781589834248 • Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism 77 • Hardback edition www.brill.nl

Reading for History in the Damascus Document: A Methodological Study
Maxine L. Grossman

Scholars tend to view the Damascus Document as a historical source, but a reading of the text in light of contemporary (audience-oriented) literary criticism finds its emphasis in the ideological construction of history and communal identity, rather than in the preservation of a historical record. An introduction to contemporary literary criticism is followed by a series of thematic readings, focusing on historical narrative, priestly imagery, and gender in the covenant community. Each theme is examined in terms of its potential for multiple (sometimes contradictory) interpretations and for its place in the larger sectarian discourse. This study offers an alternative approach to the historiography of ancient Jewish sectarianism, acknowledging the presence of competing claims to shared traditions and the potential for changes in textual interpretation over time or among diverse communities.

Paper $32.95 • 276 pages • ISBN 9781589834279 • Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah 45 • Hardback edition www.brill.nl

The Pauline Canon
Stanley E. Porter, editor

The Pauline letters continue to provoke scholarly discussion. This volume includes papers that raise a variety of questions regarding the canon of the Pauline writings. Some of the essays are more narrowly focused in their intent, sometimes concentrating upon a single dimension related to the Pauline canon, and sometimes upon even a single letter. Others of the essays are more broadly conceived and deal with how one assesses or accounts for the process that resulted in the letters as a collection, rather than analyzing individual letters. There are also mediating positions that attempt to overcome the disjunction between authenticity and inauthenticity by exploring the complex notion of interpolation.

Paper $32.95 • 272 pages • ISBN 9781589834286 • Pauline Studies 1 • Hardback edition www.brill.nl

Paul and His Opponents
Stanley E. Porter, editor

Who were Paul’s opponents? Were they a single group, or were they different groups found at various places that he wrote to and visited? Since the time of F. C. Baur and right up to the present, scholars have been intrigued by the figures who sometimes lurk in the shadows of Paul’s writings or who sometimes emerge in full force to confront him. This does not mean that finding scholarly consensus on the nature of Paul and his opponents has been easy or has been resolved. This volume includes essays that ask pertinent questions regarding Paul and his opponents and that address some of the major current theories.

Paper $32.95 • 272 pages • ISBN 9781589834309 • Pauline Studies 2 • Hardback edition www.brill.nl

Codex Sinaiticus: Text, Bible, Book

The Codex Sinaiticus Project, an extensive effort to publish all extant leaves of the manuscript in a revolutionary electronic interface, is scheduled to be completed next month. The British Library is celebrating this achievement with a two-day conference entitled "Codex Sinaiticus: Text, Bible, Book." Details of the event, including registration fees and procedures, are available here. The keynote speaker is renowned New Testament scholar and textual critic Eldon Epp; other speakers include my own professor and mentor Harry Gamble, who will be discussing the codex's construction as an icon of religious devotion. Sounds like a pretty good excuse for a trip to London!

New Series From SBL

Two new series, Ancient Israel and Its Literature and Early Christianity and Its Literature, have been created by the SBL:

SBL ANNOUNCES TWO NEW BOOK SERIES

The Ancient Israel and Its Literature series publishes monographs, revised dissertations, and collections of essays on the history, culture, and literature of ancient Israel and Judah, particularly as these are reflected in or inform our reading of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. Works on the social world of the biblical writings, the ancient Near Eastern context in which ancient Israel and Judah originated and lived, biblical or theological themes, or other comparable areas of study will also be considered. For more information about publishing a book in this series, contact general editor Steven L. McKenzie. For a list of forthcoming titles for this series, click here.

The Early Christianity and Its Literature series publishes monographs, revised dissertations, and collections of essays on the history, culture, and literature of early Christianity, particularly as these are reflected in or inform our reading of the New Testament. Works on the social world of the biblical writings, the Greco-Roman context in which Christianity originated and lived, biblical or theological themes, or other comparable areas of study will also be considered. For more information about publishing a book in this series, contact general editor Gail R. O’Day. For a list of forthcoming titles for this series, click here.

These two new series replace Academia Biblica (formerly SBLDS); Studies in Biblical Literature (formerly SBLMS); and the Symposium Series, which SBL’s Research and Publications Committee has discontinued. Together with SBL’s Early Judaism and Its Literature series, the new series cover fully the broad range of manuscripts relating to the earliest writings of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Plus, check out these newly available paperback reprints:

Transformative Encounters: Jesus and Women Re-viewed

Ingrid Rosa Kitzberger

This composite, postcolonial, and multidimensional volume contains sixteen original essays by distinguished Jewish and Christian Scripture scholars on a wide range of perspectives on the relation between Jesus and women as portrayed in the New Testament Gospels, as historically reconstructed in the context of Second Temple Judaisms and of Mediterranean society, as well as in present actualizations. The contributions reflect the different social locations of interpreters from all continents and testify to the richness of methods employed in biblical interpretation at the end of the twentieth century, ranging from literary approaches (narrative criticism, reader-response criticism, intertextuality), historical-critical methods, archaeology, and social-scientific interpretation to cultural studies and film theory. By addressing new questions and searching for answers on untrodden paths, the vital scholarship on Jesus and women will be re-viewed, enriched, and challenged.

Paper $45.95 • 436 pages • ISBN 9781589832893 • Biblical Interpretation 43 • Hardback edition www.brill.nl

Scribal Practices and Approaches Reflected in the Texts Found in the Judean Desert
Emanuel Tov

This monograph is written in the form of a handbook on the scribal features of the texts found in the Judean Desert, the Dead Sea Scrolls. It details the material, shape, and preparation of the scrolls; scribes and scribal activity; scripts, writing conventions, errors and their correction, and scribal signs; scribal traditions; differences between different types of scrolls (e.g., biblical and nonbiblical scrolls); and the possible existence of scribal schools such as that at Qumran. In most categories, the analysis is meant to be exhaustive. Numerous tables as well as annotated illustrations and charts of scribal signs accompany the detailed analysis. The findings have major implications for the study of the scrolls and the understanding of their relationship to scribal traditions in Israel and elsewhere.


Paper $49.95 • 444 pages • ISBN 9781589834293 • Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah 54 •Hardback edition www.brill.nl

Revision of UMC Hymnal Postponed

The latest victims of the current economic climate include the planned revision of the United Methodist Hymnal, which was temporarily shelved by the United Methodist Publishing House in the midst of its most significant decrease in sales in more than two decades. Hopefully this important project will be revived in the near future. A story regarding the decision is available here.

New From OUP

Recent releases in Hebrew Bible and New Testament studies, on sale through Dove Booksellers:

Curtis, Adrian H W
Oxford Bible Atlas, 4th ed
(Oxford University Press, 2007)
Hardcover List: $35.00 Dove Price: $23.99
Save $11.01 (31%)

MacDonald, Nathan
Not Bread Alone: The Uses of Food in the Old Testament
(Oxford University Press, 2008)
Hardcover List: $110.00 Dove Price: $87.99
Save $22.01 (20%)

Niditch, Susan
My Brother Esau Is a Hairy Man: Hair and Identity in Ancient Israel
(Oxford University Press, 2008)
Hardcover List: $45.00 Dove Price: $35.99
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Rajak, Tessa
Translation and Survival: The Greek Bible and the Jewish Diaspora
(Oxford University Press, 2009)
Hardcover List: $140.00 Dove Price: $111.99
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Rogerson, John W Judith M Lieu (eds)
Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies
(Oxford University Press, 2006)
Paperback List: $55.00 Dove Price: $43.99
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Sivan, Hagith
Palestine in Late Antiquity
(Oxford University Press, 2008)
Hardcover List: $120.00 Dove Price: $95.99
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Berkowitz, Beth A
Execution and Invention: Death Penalty Discourse in Early Rabbinic and Christian Cultures
(Oxford University Press, 2006)
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Bryan, Christopher
Render to Caesar: Jesus, the Early Church, and the Roman Superpower
(Oxford University Press, 2005)
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Elliott, J K (ed)
Apocryphal Jesus: Legends of the Early Church
(Oxford University Press, 2008)
Paperback List: $29.95 Dove Price: $23.99
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Elsner, Jas Ian Rutherford (eds)
Pilgrimage in Graeco-Roman and Early Christian Antiquity: Seeing the Gods
(Oxford University Press, 2006)
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Hardcover List: $170.00 Dove Price: $135.99
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Gregory, Andrew Christopher Tuckett (eds)
New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers, 2 Volume Set
(Oxford University Press, 2006)
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Harvey, Susan Ashbrook David G Hunter (eds)
Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies
(Oxford University Press, 2008)
Hardcover List: $150.00 Dove Price: $119.99
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Hodge, Caroline Johnson
If Sons, Then Heirs: A Study of Kinship and Ethnicity in the Letters of Paul
(Oxford University Press, 2007)
Hardcover List: $65.00 Dove Price: $51.99
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Hvidt, Niels Christian
Christian Prophecy: The Post-Biblical Tradition
(Oxford University Press, 2007)
Hardcover List: $40.00 Dove Price: $31.99
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Lieu, Judith
Christian Identity in the Jewish and Graeco-Roman World
(Oxford University Press, 2006)
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Rowe, C Kavin
World Upside Down: Reading Acts in the Graeco-Roman Age
(Oxford University Press, 2009)
Hardcover List: $65.00 Dove Price: $56.50
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RBL Highlights: 6/16/09 (Part II)

More highlights from the last several installments of the Review of Biblical Literature:

Ismo O. Dunderberg
Beyond Gnosticism: Myth, Lifestyle, and Society in the School of Valentinus
Reviewed by Marvin Meyer

Israel Finkelstein and Amihai Mazar; edited by Brian B. Schmidt
The Quest for the Historical Israel: Debating Archaeology and the History of Early Israel
Reviewed by Ralph K. Hawkins

Richard A. Horsley, ed.
In the Shadow of Empire: Reclaiming the Bible as a History of Faithful Resistance
Reviewed by Roland Boer

Walter C. Kaiser, Darrell L. Bock, and Peter Enns; edited by Kenneth Berding and Jonathan Lunde
Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament
Reviewed by Stephen Moyise

David Marcus, ed.
Biblia Hebraica Quinta: Ezra and Nehemiah
Reviewed by Andrew Steinmann

Russell Pregeant
Knowing Truth, Doing Good: Engaging New Testament Ethics
Reviewed by M. Eugene Boring

Leo G. Perdue, ed.
Scribes, Sages, and Seers: The Sage in the Eastern Mediterranean World
Reviewed by James L. Crenshaw

Tammi J. Schneider
Mothers of Promise: Women in the Book of Genesis
Reviewed by Ellen White

H. G. M. Williamson, ed.
Understanding the History of Ancient Israel
Reviewed by Walter Dietrich

Robert W. Yarbrough
1, 2, and 3 John
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

Noam Adler
A Comprehensive Collection of Oil Lamps of the Holy Land from the Adler Collection
Reviewed by Jodi Magness

Janice Capel Anderson and Stephen D. Moore, eds.
Mark and Method: New Approaches in Biblical Studies
Reviewed by Renate Viveen Hood

Roger S. Bagnall, ed.
Egypt in the Byzantine World 300-700
Reviewed by David Frankfurter

David B. Burrell
Deconstructing Theodicy: Why Job Has Nothing to Say to the Puzzle of Suffering
Reviewed by F. Rachel Magdalene

Warren Carter
John and Empire: Initial Explorations
Reviewed by Stephan Witetschek

Raymond F. Collins
The Power of Images in Paul
Reviewed by Nils Neumann

Craig A. Evans, ed.
Encyclopedia of the Historical Jesus
Reviewed by Christoph Stenschke

Susan Haber; edited by Adele Reinhartz
"They Shall Purify Themselves": Essays on Purity in Early Judaism
Reviewed by Jonathan D. Lawrence

Mika Hietanen
Paul's Argumentation in Galatians: A Pragma-Dialectical Analysis
Reviewed by Johan S. Vos

Jerome Murphy-O'Connor
St. Paul's Ephesus: Texts and Archaeology
Reviewed by Jan Van Der Watt

Marvin Sweeney
Reading the Hebrew Bible after the Shoah: Engaging Holocaust Theology
Reviewed by Jon D. Levenson

Benedict T. Viviano
Matthew and His World: The Gospel of the Open Jewish Christians Studies in Biblical Theology
Reviewed by Boris Repschinski

John Ashton
Understanding the Fourth Gospel
Reviewed by Craig R. Koester

Reimund Bieringer, Emmanuel Nathan, and Dominika Kurek-Chomycz
2 Corinthians: A Bibliography
Reviewed by Victor Paul Furnish

Michael F. Bird
Jesus and the Origins of the Gentile Mission
Reviewed by Andreas J. Kostenberger

Dirk J. Human, ed.
Psalms and Mythology
Reviewed by Jeffery M. Leonard

Patricia A. Kirkpatrick and Timothy Goltz, eds.
The Function of Ancient Historiography in Biblical and Cognate Studies
Reviewed by Ernst Axel Knauf

Ilana Pardes
Melville's Bibles
Reviewed by Michael Kaler

Stanley E. Porter, ed.
Dictionary of Biblical Criticism and Interpretation
Reviewed by Christoph Stenschke

RBL Highlights: 6/16/09 (Part I)

Highlights from the last several installments of the Review of Biblical Literature:

Roger David Aus
The Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus and the Death, Burial, and Translation of Moses in Judaic Tradition
Reviewed by James Crossley

Mark G. Brett
Decolonizing God: The Bible in the Tides of Empire
Reviewed by Roland Boer

Gene L. Green
Jude and 2 Peter
Reviewed by Peter H. Davids

Michael P. Knowles
We Preach Not Ourselves: Paul on Proclamation
Reviewed by H. H. Drake Williams III

Jerome H. Neyrey and Eric C. Stewart, eds.
The Social World of the New Testament: Insights and Models
Reviewed by Heather McKay

Leo G. Perdue
The Sword and the Stylus: An Introduction to Wisdom in the Age of Empires
Reviewed by Benjamin G. Wright III

Stanley E. Porter and Christopher D. Stanley, eds.
As It Is Written: Studying Paul's Use of Scripture
Reviewed by Rodrigo J. Morales

Tom Thatcher and Stephen D. Moore, eds.
Anatomies of Narrative Criticism: The Past, Present, and Futures of the Fourth Gospel as Literature
Reviewed by Steven Hunt

Joshua A. Berman
Created Equal: How the Bible Broke with Ancient Political Thought
Reviewed by Mark Leuchter

Constantine R. Campbell
Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek
Reviewed by C. Michael Robbins

Sang Youl Cho
Lesser Deities in the Ugaritic Texts and the Hebrew Bible: A Comparative Study of Their Nature and Roles
Reviewed by Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer

A.-F. Christidis, ed.
A History of Ancient Greek: From the Beginnings to Late Antiquity
Reviewed by Douglas Estes

Lowell K. Handy
Jonah's World: Social Science and the Reading of Prophetic Story
Reviewed by Karl Moller

Richard A. Horsley
Jesus in Context: Power, People, and Performance
Reviewed by Stephan Witetschek

Peter Jeffery
The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled: Imagined Rituals of Sex, Death, and Madness in a Biblical Forgery
Reviewed by J. Harold Ellens

Edward W. Klink III
The Sheep of the Fold: The Audience and Origin of the Gospel of John
Reviewed by Cornelis Bennema

Katherine M. Stott
Why Did They Write This Way? Reflections on References to Written Documents in the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Literature
Reviewed by Werner H. Kelber

David Shepherd, ed.
Images of the Word: Hollywood's Bible and Beyond
Reviewed by Christopher Fuller

A. Philip Brown II and Bryan W. Smith, eds.
A Reader's Hebrew Bible
Reviewed by Hallvard Hagelia

Jason König and Tim Whitmarsh, eds.
Ordering Knowledge in the Roman Empire
Reviewed by Stephan Witetschek

Diana Lipton
Longing for Egypt and Other Unexpected Biblical Tales
Reviewed by Amelia Devin Freedman

Antti Laato and Jacques van Ruiten, eds.
Rewritten Bible Reconsidered: Proceedings of the Conference in Karkku, Finland
Reviewed by Sidnie White Crawford

Bryan M. Litfin
Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction
Reviewed by H. H. Drake Williams III

Scot McKnight and Joseph B. Modica, eds.
Who Do My Opponents Say That I Am? An Investigation of the Accusations against Jesus
Reviewed by V. George Shillington

Chaim Navon
Genesis and Jewish Thought
Reviewed by David M. Maas

V. Henry T. Nguyen
Christian Identity in Corinth: A Comparative Study of 2 Corinthians, Epictetus and Valerius Maximus
Reviewed by Thomas Schmeller

I'm Baaack!

After an extended hiatus to wrap up my first semester of doctoral work, I'm excited to be back among the ranks of active bibliobloggers. So put me back on the blogroll, Nick Norelli... I've got a lot of catching up to do. ;-)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

RBL Highlights: 4/30/09

Alright, after this one I'm really taking a break... promise. ;-)

William S. Campbell, Peter S. Hawkins, and Brenda Deen Schildgen, eds.
Medieval Readings of Romans
Reviewed by Francis Dalrymple-Hamilton

Adrian Curtis
Oxford Bible Atlas
Reviewed by George Athas

Lois M. Farag
St. Cyril of Alexandria, a New Testament Exegete: His Commentary on the Gospel of John
Reviewed by Hennie Stander

Terence E. Fretheim
Abraham: Trials of Family and Faith
Reviewed by Hallvard Hagelia

Susan Haber; edited by Adele Reinhartz
"They Shall Purify Themselves": Essays on Purity in Early Judaism
Reviewed by Joshua Schwartz

Justin K. Hardin
Galatians and the Imperial Cult: A Critical Analysis of the First-Century Social Context of Paul's Letter
Reviewed by Mark D. Nanos

Susan R. Holman, ed.
Wealth and Poverty in Early Church and Society
Reviewed by Preston M. Sprinkle

Henry Ansgar Kelly
Satan: A Biography
Reviewed by James A. Metzger

Dale B. Martin
Pedagogy of the Bible: An Analysis and Proposal
Reviewed by Renate Viveen Hood

Kenneth Schenck
Cosmology and Eschatology in Hebrews: The Settings of the Sacrifice
Reviewed by Jason A. Whitlark

F. Scott Spencer
The Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles
Reviewed by Gregory E. Sterling

Hilarious!

Alright... I know that I just announced a brief hiatus from blogging, but this comic (courtesy of one of my students; thanks, Lindsey!) was too funny to ignore:


"I shall return."

The now-familiar words of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, which he uttered as he evacuated the Philippine Islands in March 1942 in the wake of a Japanese invasion, only to fulfill his vow three years later...

And I'm sure that if Gen. MacArthur were alive today, and were a biblioblogger, and were inundated with all of the work and other craziness surrounding the finals period, he would repeat the exact same phrase, promising to resume his blogging duties as soon as the semester came to an end.

So, while I'm taking a temporary hiatus from blogging over the next few days as I finish everything up, don't forget about me... because I shall return (and it definitely won't take three years)!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

New Testament Notes: Week 14 (Wednesday)

Some brief notes on the development of early Christian eschatological expectations:

RELC 122 Notes: 4/23

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Coming to UVA: John M. Perkins

This just in:

Activist, pastor and bestselling author John M. Perkins,
founder of the Voice of Calvary Ministries, will present two lectures at the
University of Virginia.

Perkins will engage in a conversation with U.Va. religious studies professor
Charles Marsh, director of the Project on Lived Theology, on Wednesday,
April 22 at 7 p.m. in the McLeod Hall auditorium.

On Thursday, April 23, from 9 a.m. to noon, Perkins will give a seminar,
"American Evangelicalism and the Practices of Peace," at St. Paul's
Episcopal Church's parish hall, 1700 University Ave.

Perkins is a sharecropper's son who grew up in New Hebron, Miss. amidst dire
poverty. Fleeing to California at age 17 after his older brother's murder at
the hands of a small-town marshal, he vowed never to return to the South.
But after a religious experience in 1960, Perkins returned to Mendenhall,
Miss. to develop a ministry in poor rural communities. While in Mississippi,
his support and leadership in civil rights demonstrations resulted in
repeated harassment, beatings and imprisonment.

Perkins is the author of "A Quiet Revolution: Restoring At-Risk Communities"
and "Let Justice Roll Down," a memoir of his childhood in the segregated
South and his call to racial reconciliation and community building.

Perkins has been a regular speaker at the annual Urbana Youth Leadership
Conferences, and he has served on the boards of Bread for the World, the
National Black Evangelical Association and Koinonia Partners in Americus,
Ga. His writings on faith, racial reconciliation and poverty have appeared
in Sojourners, Christianity Today and Urban Family. In 1989, Perkins founded
the Christian Community Development Association, the organizational
infrastructure of the faith-based community-building movement, which now
includes 8,000 individual members, 500 member organizations and sites in
more than 100 cities.

These lectures are part of the 2009 Spring Institute on Lived Theology:
American Evangelicalism and the Practices of Peace: The Lived Theology of
John M. Perkins, which is sponsored by the Project on Lived Theology.

For information on the Project on Lived Theology, visit
www.livedtheology.org. For information, call 434-924-6743 or e-mail
livedtheology@virginia.edu.

Media Contact

Dan Heuchert
Media Relations
(434) 924-6857
danh@virginia.edu

Monday, April 20, 2009

Vigen Guroian on NPR

UVA's own Vigen Guroian recently appeared on NPR's Speaking of Faith. Check it out here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Summer Project: Eusebius of Caesarea's Ecclesiastical History

This week I splurged a bit, and allocated a portion of my forthcoming tax refund to a book purchase: Loeb Classical Library's two-volume edition of Eusebius of Caesarea's Ecclesiastical History. While I've had these on my wish list for some time, I was especially inspired by a recent conversation with Prof. Harry Gamble--who noted that few courses, even at the graduate level, systematically examine the work in its entirety. I'm planning to read through it this summer. Anyone want to join me? ;-)

New Testament Notes: Week 13 (Wednesday)

An introduction to the Catholic Epistles: the Letter to the Hebrews, and the First Letter of Peter:

RELC 122 Notes: 4/16

RBL Highlights: 4/16/09

Highlights from the most recent Review of Biblical Literature:

H. Ausloos, F. García Martínez, M. Vervenne, J. Cook, and B. Lemmelijn, eds.
Translating a Translation: The LXX and Its Modern Translations in the Context of Early Judaism
Reviewed by Tuukka Kauhanen

Lytta Basset
Holy Anger: Jacob, Job, Jesus
Reviewed by Jutta Jokiranta

Elizabeth V. Dowling
Taking Away the Pound: Women, Theology and the Parable of the Pounds in the Gospel of Luke
Reviewed by James A. Metzger

Kathy Ehrensperger
Paul and the Dynamics of Power: Communication and Interaction in the Early Christ-Movement
Reviewed by Thomas R. Blanton IV

Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Andrea L. Weiss, eds.
The Torah: A Women's Commentary
Reviewed by Susanne Scholz

J. Cheryl Exum and Ela Nutu, eds.
Between the Text and the Canvas: The Bible and Art in Dialogue
Reviewed by Hennie Stander

Harry Alan Hahne
The Corruption and Redemption of Creation: Nature in Romans 8.19-22 and Jewish Apocalyptic Literature
Reviewed by Ron Fay

George Heyman
The Power of Sacrifice: Roman and Christian Discources in Conflict
Reviewed by Giovanni Battista Bazzana

Heidi J. Hornik and Mikeal C. Parsons
Illuminating Luke: Volume 3: The Passion and Resurrection Narratives in Italian Renaissance and Baroque Painting
Reviewed by Hennie Stander

Elizabeth A. McCabe
An Examination of the Isis Cult with Preliminary Exploration into New Testament Studies
Reviewed by John S. Kloppenborg

Kathryn McClymond
Beyond Sacred Violence: A Comparative Study of Sacrifice
Reviewed by Leigh Trevaskis

Saul M. Olyan
Disability in the Hebrew Bible: Interpreting Mental and Physical Differences
Reviewed by David M. Maas
Reviewed by Hector Avalos

Karel van der Toorn
Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible
Reviewed by Frank Polak

New From Baker/WJK: Hebrew Bible

Via Dove. Among these titles is a study of the prophets' relevance for the modern world by a former professor of mine, Carolyn Sharp. I can think of no one more qualified to write such a book.

Evans, Craig A, Emanuel Tov (eds)
Exploring the Origins of the Bible: Canon Formation in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective
(Baker Book House, 2008)
Paperback List: $22.99 Dove Price: $18.99
Save $4.00 (17%)

Hess, Richard S
Israelite Religions: An Archaeological and Biblical Survey
(Baker Book House, 2007)
Hardcover List: $34.99 Dove Price: $27.99
Save $7.00 (20%)

Matthews, Victor H
Studying the Ancient Israelites: A Guide to Sources and Methods
(Baker Book House, 2007)
Paperback List: $24.99 Dove Price: $19.99
Save $5.00 (20%)

Seitz, Christopher R
Prophecy and Hermeneutics: Toward a New Introduction to the Prophets
(Baker Book House, 2007)
Paperback List: $22.99 Dove Price: $18.99
Save $4.00 (17%)

Sparks, Kenton L
God's Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship
(Baker Book House, 2008)
Paperback List: $26.99 Dove Price: $21.50
Save $5.49 (20%)

Niditch, Susan
Judges: A Commentary
(Westminster John Knox, 2008)
Hardcover List: $49.95 Dove Price: $39.99
Save $9.96 (20%)
Put hardcover in your Shopping Cart

Davies, Philip R
Memories of Ancient Israel: An Introduction to Biblical History-Ancient and Modern
(Westminster John Knox, 2008)
Paperback List: $24.95 Dove Price: $19.99
Save $4.96 (20%)

Sawyer, John F A
Concise Dictionary of the Bible and Its Reception
(Westminster John Knox, 2009)
Paperback List: $29.95 Dove Price: $23.99
Save $5.96 (20%)

Sharp, Carolyn J
Old Testament Prophets for Today
(Westminster John Knox, 2009)
Paperback List: $14.95 Dove Price: $12.99
Save $1.96 (13%)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

April SBL Forum

News and notes from the SBL, including the publication of an article by my former Hebrew teacher, Ryan Stokes! Congrats!

SBL E-Newsletter
April 14, 2009

Call for Papers
The Paul J. Achtemeier Award for New Testament Scholarship is open for submissions or nominations until 1 July 2009.

JBL 128.1 Spring 2009 has been posted
:

Religion and the Bible
Jonathan Z. Smith

Whatever Happened in the Valley of Shinar? A Response to Theodore Hiebert
André Lacocque

Ideology and Social Context of the Deuteronomic Women's Sex Laws (Deuteronomy 22:13-29)
Cynthia Edenburg

Samson's Last Laugh: S/ŠHQ The Pun in Judges 16:25-27

Charles Halton

Topographical Considerations and Redaction Criticism in 2 Kings 3
Erasmus Gass

Why 2 Kings 17 Does Not Constitute a Chapter of Reflection in the "Deuteronomistic History"
Hartmut H. Rösel

The Devil Made David Do It … Or Did He? The Nature, Identity, and Literary Origins of the Satan in 1 Chronicles 21:1
Ryan E. Stokes

"She Binds Her Arms": Rereading Proverbs 31:17
Tzvi Novick

Accession Days and Holidays: The Origins of the Jewish Festival of Purim
Jona Schellekens

Rachel's Tomb
Benjamin D. Cox and Susan Ackerman

April SBL Forum has been posted:

FEATURE
The Perils of Prepublication in the Digital Age: Essenes, Latrines, and the Dead Sea Scrolls
Ian Werrett

IN THE CLASSROOM
Biblical Studies in the Context of the Emerging Religion Major
Jane S. Webster

IN POPULAR CULTURE
Evil in Contemporary American Film: Deep Darkness and Eschatological Hope
Greg Garrett

The Apocalypse of John and Its Mediators, or Why Johnny Cash Wrote a Better Apocalypse than John of Patmos!
William John Lyons

Inventory Reduction Sale through April 30

Almost 300 Society of Biblical Literature and Brown Judaic Studies titles at $7 each are included in the current SBL Inventory Reduction Sale, now through April 30. Click here to browse or download an order form and list of titles.

SBL Spring Sale

Almost all new, recent, and backlisted titles are available to SBL members at a forty percent discount during the spring sale. Download the order form, then mail, fax, or phone your order by June 15. If you prefer to order at the SBL Store, make sure to use the promo code SPG2009 at checkout to receive your discount.

NEW—Special rates for RBL subscriptions:

Individuals and institutions qualifying for SBL online books are also eligible for discount subscription rates to the Review of Biblical Literature. Click on this link to access the forms.

Monday, April 13, 2009

An Interruption of Ben's Interruption of Bart (Try Saying That Five Times Fast)

Over the weekend, I came across the second portion of Ben Witherington's ongoing review and critique of Bart Ehrman's Jesus, Interrupted. I'm looking forward to reading his responses in their entirety; he provides a number of clarifications and rejoinders, and has clearly engaged the book in a thoughtful way. I was particularly struck by a few comments:
There are then three dangers we learn of when reading and critically analyzing Gibbon’s classic work [The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire]: 1) history writing that either dismisses or is dismissive of the role of God in human history, claiming that that is not a part of the historian’s task, even if there is considerable evidence to the contrary, and 2) because of its skeptical bent, history writing that is prone to revisionism of a sort that distorts rather than dissects and correctly analyzes what happened back then and back there; 3) history writing that conveys 1) and 2) in a clear and eloquent and understandable fashion such that the clarity of the explanation makes it appear that the conclusions are obvious and should go without challenge. This of course is the power of good rhetoric—it persuades without necessarily providing the detailed evidence and analysis necessary to prove one’s point.

I suspect that an overwhelming majority of historians, particularly those who operate beyond the pale of religious studies, would view the first of these dangers with utter incredulity. Supernatural elements such as miraculous events or the actions of the divine exist beyond the capabilities of reasoned, scientific inquiry and are therefore not detectable or demonstrable according to most definitions of critical scholarship. The writings of the New Testament themselves do not constitute "significant evidence to the contrary" on this point, as their critically accessible strata reveal the convictions and assumptions of their authors and recipients. (I have not been convinced by arguments such as those of Richard Bauckham that the gospels should be classified according to a more reliable genre of written materials and therefore regarded as intrinsically superior to other ancient documents with similar contents or features.) As Bultmann and so many others have rightly argued, historical research reveals the relative certainty of the nascent Christian community concerning events such as the resurrection of Jesus, but it is incapable of verifying the event itself without radically redefining the nature and practice of the discipline. Simply put, we cannot conclusively demonstrate, by means of the prevalent historiographical approaches which have evolved since the Enlightenment, that the resurrection occurred; we can only demonstrate that early Christians were certain that it had. To adapt John Meier's useful terminology, this is the point where the historical and the metahistorical come together--where research ends and faith begins.

It is of course true that Paul does not directly mention ‘the virginal conception’, but what he says is not only compatible with the idea (see Gal 4.4—God sent his son, born of woman, born under the law. Notice Paul does not say, born of a good Jewish man with proper paternity), Rom. 8.3 suggest knows of the virginal conception idea for he says that God sent his son “in the likeness of sinful flesh”. Now what is the point of the word ‘likeness’ in this verse? I would suggest Paul is saying that Jesus really had flesh but it was not tainted with human fallenness the way all other human flesh was (see Rom. 5.12-21). In other words, Paul already knows about the idea of Jesus being conceived in a pure and sinless manner. The attempt to treat the NT writers as if they were ignorant or ignored or were polemicizing against one another or lived in splendid isolation from one another does not work.

I think this is an interesting bit of exegesis, and I'm not especially inclined to disagree with it (at least, not without doing some additional reading on my own!). However, I'm curious how Paul's reference to the designation of Christ as "Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:1; italics added) might affect this conclusion. If Paul has some notion of virginal conception, why not reference it here?

In fact all of the NT documents can be traced back to apostolic sources or were written by apostles—all of them can be traced to about 9-10 persons who were eyewitnesses or apostles or both. These persons include the Beloved Disciple, Mark, Luke, John of Patmos, Paul, probably Apollos, Peter, James and Jude. 2 Peter is a later composite document made up of material from Peter, Jude, and with a knowledge of the Pauline corpus, but you will notice it does not appear to draw on non-apostolic source material. The claims that we do not know who wrote these books, or that some of them are forged are greatly exaggerated claims, that many historians like myself do not find convincing or compelling on the basis of the actual historical evidence itself.

Again, I suppose this depends upon the definitions of the terms "historical evidence" and "apostolic." The various writings of the New Testament were all eventually associated with apostolic or immediately sub-apostolic authors and traditions. Some of these were widely accepted; others were not. Eusebius of Caesarea reports that many ancient commentators considered James to be spurious, a judgment shared by many contemporary scholars. I assume that Ben's reference to Apollos amongst this list presumes that he is the author of Hebrews, a supposition for which no firm evidence exists (a number of possibilities have been proposed throughout the centuries; one recollects Origen's famous conclusion that regarding the letter's actual author, "Only God knows"). If the author of the Book of Revelation is writing at the end of the first century (as many scholars assume) and is an otherwise unknown prophetic figure (as many exegetes, both ancient and modern, have suggested), is it appropriate to identify him and his work as "apostolic"? Similarly, what of 2 Peter, which is often dated to the second century? If one accepts the traditional attributions of the later church, then the New Testament corpus can indeed be definitively linked to a handful of key figures from the inception of the movement. Many scholars, however, have not seen sufficient internal and external evidence to do so.

Check out all of Ben's musings in their entirety... they're extremely stimulating! I'm hoping to get back to them at some point.

Coming Next November: Secret Mark

Stephen Carlson notes that the upcoming SBL Annual Meeting will feature a panel discussion of Peter Jeffrey's The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled: Imagined Ritual of Sex, Death, and Madness in a Biblical Forgery. The panelists include Jeffrey himself, Robin Jensen, Donald Capps, J. Ellens, and Raymond Lawrence. This is a nice collection of scholars (I'm a particular fan of Jensen's work on early Christian art), but it seems odd to organize any kind of panel on Secret Mark without including its most vociferous advocate: Scott Brown, who responded to Jeffery's book in the Review of Biblical Literature. Guy Stroumsa, who has written on Clement of Alexandria in general and the Secret Gospel in particular, would also have been a worthy choice.

In any event, it should be a lively, captivating discussion.

Ehrman v. Colbert

In case you missed it, Bart Ehrman recently appeared on The Colbert Report to promote his latest book:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Bart Ehrman
colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorNASA Name Contest

Have You Seen This, James Tabor?

On Parchment and Pen, C. Michael Patton has posted an interesting summary of the traditions surrounding the various deaths of the Twelve. Interestingly, he apparently equates James the Less (James the son of Alphaeus) with James the brother of Jesus, as he associates the martyrological traditions of the latter with the former:

(8) The Apostle James the Lesser

James was appointed to be the head of the Jerusalem church for many years after Christ’s death. In this, he undoubtedly came in contact with many hostile Jews (the same ones who killed Christ and stated “His [Christ's] blood be on us and our children” (Matt. 27:25). In order to make James deny Christ’s resurrection, these men positioned him at the top of the Temple for all to see and hear. James, unwilling to deny what he knew to be true, was cast down from the Temple and finally beaten to death with a fuller’s club to the head.

Date of Martyrdom: 63 A.D.

Probability rating: B that he was cast down from the temple, D that he was being beaten to death with fuller’s club after the fall

Although Michael does not list the sources of these traditions, this cause of death is given, in slightly varying forms, by Clement of Alexandria and Hegesippus (via Eusebius of Caesarea). However, another account reported by Josephus (and also incorporated by Eusebius) gives the cause of death as stoning. Many scholars hold that this latter narrative is more historically probable. In general, I'm curious as to the nature of his ratings... what causes him to preference one tradition over another? Perhaps questions of dating?

Who Wrote the Book of Revelation?

Charles Garland concurs with Alan Bandy's recent post advocating John the son of Zebedee as the author of the Book of Revelation. In brief, Alan argues that the author's portrayal of himself as an authoritative yet familiar member of the community, combined with the strong Hebraic influences upon the Greek text and the geographic limitations of the Jewish apocalyptic genre, make this disciple an especially strong candidate. Personally, however, I don't feel that any of these generalizations mandate the acceptance of John as the author; they could apply to any number of potential candidates, both known and unknown. In her article on the book included in The Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Anchor Doubleday, 1992), Adela Yarbro Collins provides a nice analysis of the evidence:

One notes that the author refers to himself as “John,” but not in such a way as to point clearly to John the son of Zebedee or to the anonymous beloved disciple in the gospel of John. The name John (Gk Ioannes; Heb Yohanan) was common among Jews from the Exile onward and among the early Christians (Swete 1909: clxxv). The author of Revelation never refers to himself as an apostle or disciple of the Lord. In the vision of the new Jerusalem, the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are seen inscribed on the twelve foundations of the wall around the city (21:14). The implication is that the Church in the author’s time prefigures the new Jerusalem or that it is the earthly counterpart of the heavenly Jerusalem. The interpretation of the foundations of the wall of the city as the twelve apostles is characteristic of a time in which the age of the apostles is past. It is unlikely that a living apostle would speak in such a way. Rev 21:14 has more in common with the post-Pauline Eph 2:20 than with Paul’s own remarks in 1 Cor 3:10–15. The conclusion that best fits the evidence is that the author of Revelation is a man named John who is otherwise unknown to us (for a more detailed discussion, see Yarbro Collins 1984: 25–34).

The historical quest for the identity of the author of Revelation has yielded primarily negative results. A more fruitful line of research has been the attempt to discern the social identity of the author. Considerable research has been done on the relation of the author and his work to the phenomenon of early Christian prophecy (Nikolainen 1968; Hill 1971–72; Müller 1976; Schüssler Fiorenza 1985: 133–56; Aune 1981; Yarbro Collins 1984: 34–49). Most scholars who have written on early Christian prophecy have distinguished community, congregational, or church prophets from wandering prophets. The primary evidence for community prophets is 1 Corinthians 11 and 14. The primary evidence for wandering prophets is the Didache. The community prophets are thought of as permanent, settled members of a particular Christian congregation. Wandering prophets are generally defined as translocal leaders, who traveled from place to place, proclaiming their teaching or the revelations they had received. This is a useful distinction but should not be pressed too far, given the great mobility of persons, especially of the nonrural population, that characterized the early empire. At least two types of wandering or itinerant Christian prophets may be distinguished: (1) the prophet who traveled to a particular place to execute a divine commission (Agabus in Acts 11:27–30 and 21:10–14; Hermas in The Shepherd of Hermas); (2) prophets whose wandering was an enactment of the ascetic values of homelessness, lack of family ties, and the rejection of wealth and possessions (Did. 11–13; prophets of the community reflected in the Synoptic Sayings source [Q]; Peregrinus in Lucian’s The Passing of Peregrinus [Aune 1981: 18–19, 29]).

In particular, note the beginning of the second paragraph: "[t]he historical quest for the identity of the author of Revelation has yielded primarily negative results." I haven't seen any recent arguments that would contradict this judgment.

UPDATE: Alan had posted an extensive presentation of external arguments for Johannine authorship here. I hope to take a closer look at these in due course. Check them out!

Read This

While catching up on my blogging (I've been in Louisville for the holiday weekend), I came across this little gem from James McGrath:

The unexamined faith is not worth having. Religion has had many critics from without, and still does. But one characteristic feature of the Biblical tradition is that it is full of critics from within, those who examine their own tradition and challenge themselves first, and then their contemporaries, to rethink it and to live it differently.

There are those who would like to avoid such critical introspection and self-examination, perhaps at all costs. "Leave us alone", they might say, "we're happy as we are." But just as one might believe oneself happy living in ignorance of one's wife's affair, for example, it can also be argued that the "happiness" in such cases is illusory. One's alleged happiness is maintained at the cost of a failing marriage and a decaying relationship infested with deceit. And presumably, were the wife happy and the relationship healthy, the affair would not be occuring. And so in such cases one is in fact valuing one's own deluded happiness over the happiness and well-being of others.

Be that as it may, if someone else wishes to live in uncritical self-deception (or at least the risk thereof) they are free to do so. I'd prefer to have a healthy marriage, an honest faith, and a critical approach to life. And so, if you'd prefer not to be aware of potential difficulties with Biblical inerrancy, amd historical uncertainties about the stories contained therein, and other things that often get noticed when one examines the Bible critically, then this blog is not for you. You are under no obligation to ask the questions I am asking about my faith, any more than you are obliged to accept my answers. But don't begrudge those of us who do ask them, or who answer them differently than you might.

Well said.

April's Biblioblogger of the Month...

... is Simon Holloway, author of Davar Akher: looking for alternative explanations. Check out his riveting interview with John Hobbins here.

Update on New Manuscripts

Parchment and Pen reports that the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts recorded eight previously uncatalogued manuscripts during its recent visit to the Benaki Museum in Athens. The Center has also posted a brief summary of the trip, which may be viewed here. Check them out.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

RBL Highlights: 4/9/09

Highlights from the most recent Review of Biblical Literature:

Craig A. Evans and Emanuel Tov, eds.
Exploring the Origins of the Bible: Canon Formation in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective
Reviewed by Everett Ferguson

Travis L. Frampton
Spinoza and the Rise of Historical Criticism of the Bible
Reviewed by Seán P. Kealy

John Goldingay
The Message of Isaiah 40-55: A Literary-Theological Commentary
Reviewed by Francis Landy

Robert P. Gordon, ed.
The God of Israel
Reviewed by Bruce A. Power

Daniel M. Gurtner and John Nolland, eds.
Built upon the Rock: Studies in the Gospel of Matthew
Reviewed by J. Christopher Edwards

Justin K. Hardin
Galatians and the Imperial Cult: A Critical Analysis of the First-Century Social Context of Paul's Letter
Reviewed by Wilhelm Pratscher

Larry J. Kreitzer
Philemon
Reviewed by Torrey Seland

Jacob Neusner and Alan J. Avery-Peck, eds.
Encyclopedia of Religious and Philosophical Writings in Late Antiquity: Pagan, Judaic, Christian
Reviewed by Mark D. Nanos

Mikeal C. Parsons
Body and Character in Luke and Acts: The Subversion of Physiognomy in Early Christianity
Reviewed by Glenn E. Snyder

Judith Perkins
Roman Imperial Identities in the Early Christian Era
Reviewed by Ilaria Ramelli

Patrick E. Spencer
Rhetorical Texture and Narrative Trajectories of the Lukan Galilean Ministry Speeches: Hermeneutical Appropriation by Authorial Readers of Luke-Acts
Reviewed by Stephan Witetschek

David T. Sugimoto
Female Figurines with a Disk from the Southern Levant and the Formation of Monotheism
Reviewed by Aren Maeir

David Andrew Thomas
Revelation 19 in Historical and Mythological Context
Reviewed by David L. Barr

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

This May Have Upset the LDS, But It Made My Day

Chris Heard and Doug Chaplin both point to an unfortunate error in Brigham Young University's student newspaper, which referred to a group of Mormon leaders (known as the “Quorum of Twelve Apostles”) as the “Quorum of Twelve Apostates.” I understand why some folks might be upset, and the paper was quite right to issue a prompt clarification and apology, but it appears to be an honest misspelling rather than a blatant attack, and therefore is pretty hilarious. ;-)

Doug also mentions a few other especially amusing newspaper errors; I won't give them here so as to prolong the suspense while you head over to his blog to check them out.

Michael Bird on Martin Hengel

Over on the always-fascinating Evangelical Textual Criticism, Michael Bird has posted a nice summary of Martin Hengel's views on the transmission of the gospels in the second century, as well as some brief responses. Check them out.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

This Friday: Pantelis Nigdelis on Roman Macdeonia

This just in:

The Departments of Classics and History of the University of Virginia are
pleased to announce that Pantelis Nigdelis, of the Aristotle University of
Thessaloniki, will be giving a lecture entitled "The Institution of Ephebeia
in Roman Macedonia: A Particular Kind of Ephebeia?"

The lecture will take place at 3 pm on Friday, 10 April 2009, in the Gibson
Room, Cocke Hall. A reception will follow.

Professor Nigdelis has written numerous books and articles on Greek history,
especially on the epigraphy of Macedonia and the interaction of Greek and
Roman cultures in the area.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Manuscript Comparison Tools: A Helpful Summary

Over on Biblical Studies and Technological Tools, Mark Hoffman has posted detailed and abbreviated summaries of his comparisons of various Greek New Testament editions using the Accordance, BibleWorks, and Logos software packages, and also the Open Scriptures Manuscript Comparator available online (about which I blogged briefly here). A brief recap of his extremely useful findings (check them out for yourself if you have any interest in these topics; they're required reading):

Each program has its strengths and weaknesses. Manuscript Comparator does the best job of displaying differences, but it lacks the NA27, and results cannot be saved. Accordance does a good job of display and creates useful lists of differences, but only two texts at a time can be compared. BibleWorks has the most versatility, but it is difficult to save results. Logos has the most texts available for comparison and results export easily, but one must get accustomed to the way it displays differences.

BOTTOM LINE:

* If you don't have any of the Bible software packages, Manuscript Comparator will achieve most of the the results you need.
* If you do own one of the programs, my best advice is to familiarize yourself with the text comparison implementation in that package.
* If you are looking to buy a Bible software program, the text comparison tools will probably not be a deciding factor, but the descriptions I provide here should make you aware of what is possible with each.

I am a long-standing and enthusiastic user of Accordance, but I have occasionally been frustrated by its inability to compare more than two manuscripts or versions at a time. In addition to the tools which Mark mentions, I might also recommend Juxta, a free program which I discovered through my seminar on textual criticism with Prof. David Vander Meulen. It does not yet feature extensive support for non-Roman alphabets, but it allows the user to compare more than two texts at a time and also to quickly and easily collate and create an apparatus for a selected group of texts. Here's a screenshot of a comparison of Romans 5:1-2 between the Westcott-Hort and Nestle-Aland versions (including their punctuation):























I'm planning to use Juxta in a current project involving the earliest witnesses to the Gospel of Mark... I'll be sure to report my results.

Also, one minor note of clarification: at the beginning of his post, Mark mentions that a recent blog post of mine inspired by the debate between Bart Ehrman and James White "notes that the reliability of the Greek New Testament is at least 95% even between between the two most extreme text versions (Textus Receptus vs. Westcott & Hort." As I indicated in my post, that statistic is not mine; it was given by James White, and I have not evaluated it. Mark, however, conducted a statistical analysis (via Logos) that indicated a 93.4 percent agreement between the two, and I'm perfectly happy to accept that judgment. ;-)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

More Musings on the Determination of the Original Text

Nick Norelli reacts to a portion of an entry which he came across in The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics:
If we possessed only a handful of manuscripts for the Old and New Testaments, it would indeed be difficult to reconstruct the reading of the original. However, the large amount of textual evidence for the Old and New Testaments, while increasing the number of the textual variants, makes it easier for us to reconstruct the reading of the original text. Rather than undermining our confidence in the Bible, these variants make it possible for us to determine, with near-perfect accuracy, what God originally communicated in His Word. (p. 110)

Nick's response included the following measured words of wisdom:
At best we can know with precision what the earliest extant text said; but we can only guess with varying degrees of probability what the original text said. So when the Alands say that the original reading is present somewhere in all the variant readings, and this claim is repeated by men like Dan Wallace or James White, it’s at best wishful thinking. It’s a statement that will always need to be qualified with “I think” rather than “I know.” This isn’t to say that we can’t guess with a very high degree of probability, but if we’re honest, in the end we’ll always have to succumb to some kind of textual agnosticism with respect to the originals.

His comments are well taken, although it's important to point out that the reading which is ultimately determined to stand closest to the original is not always that of the earliest extant manuscript (and I'm not exactly sure what "textual agnosticism" means, although it sounds cool!). But I've always shared his incredulity over the Alands' absolute certainty that the original reading exists within every set of variants, even if this is true in a large majority of cases. The ending of the Gospel of Mark represents one notable instance where some scholars believe that none of the extant variants are original; Rudolf Bultmann, for example, argued that the gospel must have initially concluded with a series of resurrection appearances in Galilee. And of course (and I've repeated this so often that I feel a bit like a broken record) we have very, very few New Testament manuscript witnesses from the most dynamic period in the life of any document: the first century after its composition. So while we can feel relatively confident about the reconstructed text of the New Testament, we should bear in mind the limitations of that reconstruction.

As for the argument that variants make the determination of God's Word even more certain, this is largely lost on me. I'm not sure how particularly difficult critical decisions (e.g., Romans 5:1, which I've discussed here) would support such a view.

Latest Issue of TC Available Online

Thanks to the folks at Evangelical Textual Criticism for noting that a portion of the current issue of TC: A Journal of Textual Criticism is now available online. Thus far one review has been published:

Andrew F. Gregory and Christopher M. Tuckett, eds., The New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers, Volume 1: The Reception of the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers (Dan Batovici, reviewer)

RBL Highlights: 4/4/09

Highlights from the most recent Review of Biblical Literature:

Piotr Bienkowski, Christopher Mee, and Elizabeth Slater, eds.
Writing and Ancient Near Eastern Society: Papers in Honour of Alan R. Millard
Reviewed by Raymond Person

Gerald L. Borchert
Worship in the New Testament: Divine Mystery and Human Response
Reviewed by Tony Costa

Thomas L. Brodie
Proto-Luke: The Oldest Gospel Account: A Christ-Centered Synthesis of Old Testament History Modelled Especially on the Elijah-Elisha Narrative
Reviewed by Gerbern S. Oegema

Stephanie Lynn Budin
The Myth of Sacred Prostitution in Antiquity

Reviewed by Mayer Gruber
Reviewed by Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer

Neil Elliott
The Arrogance of Nations: Reading Romans in the Shadow of Empire
Reviewed by Glenn E. Snyder
Reviewed by Graydon F. Snyder
Reviewed by Ben Witherington III

Weston W. Fields
The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Short History
Reviewed by Eric F. Mason

Benjamin Fiore
The Pastoral Epistles: First Timothy, Second Timothy, and Titus
Reviewed by Matthew D. Montonini

Joseph A. Fitzmyer
First Corinthians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary
Reviewed by Anthony C. Thiselton

Matthew E. Gordley
The Colossian Hymn in Context: An Exegesis in Light of Jewish and Greco-Roman Hymnic and Epistolary Conventions
Reviewed by Vincent Pizzuto

Wouter J. Hanegraaf, ed.
Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism
Reviewed by David E. Aune

Edith M. Humphrey
And I Turned to See the Voice: The Rhetoric of Vision in the New Testament
Reviewed by Greg Carey

Andreas J. Kostenberger and Scott R. Swain
Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John's Gospel
Reviewed by Mary Coloe

Oded Lipschits, Gary N. Knoppers, and Rainer Albertz, eds.
Judah and the Judeans in the Fourth Century B.C.E.
Reviewed by Allen Kerkeslager

Linda M. MacCammon
Liberating the Bible: A Guide for the Curious and Perplexed
Reviewed by Martin Meiser

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

From Dove: Limited Quantity Sale

Now through April 13, buy two titles and get the third free. Sounds like a pretty good economic stimulus to me! Check out the available titles here.

Watch Your Words

Rod Decker offers a brief list of style manuals and writing guides which should prove extremely helpful to anyone in the midst of a research project (e.g., the dreaded dissertation). It's well worth a look.

He also offers an insight which I cannot echo strongly enough:

Sloppy writing is one of the scourges of the Internet, nearly equal to anonymous web sites/blogs/posts in detrimental effect—but that’s another subject! If you have something to say, it’s worth saying at least in grammatical English, but better yet, in good, clear English. If you want to be heard, write it well. There’s no excuse for sloppiness. If you don’t have time to proofread it and don’t care how it sounds, why should anyone else?

Bloggers, heed these wise words and proofread your posts and comments. Whenever I come across typos or other grammatical mistakes in the blogosphere, I find that it inevitably diminishes the authority of the writer (at least in my estimation). Take a few seconds and look over your writing before committing it to the vastness of the internet. And if you don't know how to say it correctly, perhaps you shouldn't be saying it at all.

Engberg-Pederson's Paul and the Stoics: In Two Pages!

In conjunction with Prof. Harry Gamble's seminar on Paul in modern scholarship, I foolishly volunteered to provide the class with a review of Troels Engberg-Pederson's magisterial Paul and the Stoics (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2000). This is an absolutely outstanding (albeit thoroughly challenging) and provocative analysis of the relationship between Pauline and Stoic thought. As many reviewers have noted, it is not possible to condense such a rich study into any kind of brief precis, but I crammed as many juicy tidbits as possible into a single handout. Check it out here... but more importantly, check out the entire book. It's well worth your while!

New Testament Notes: Week 11 (Wednesday)

Key issues from Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians:

RELC 122 Notes: 4/1

Biblical Studies Carnival XL

This month's carnival is hosted by James Gregory. He's done a truly outstanding job gathering together and helpfully sorting the best odds and ends from the biblioblogging world... and I should know, because several of those odds and ends came from this very blog. ;-)

Be sure to check it out... I always discover valuable posts and comments that I've missed.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ehrman v. White: A Scorecard (Opening Statements)

I've been reading through the transcript of Bart Ehrman's recent debate with James White regarding the question, "Did the Bible misquote Jesus?" The first hour was devoted to opening statements. Ehrman's remarks were pretty familiar to anyone who has read his recent popular treatments of New Testament textual criticism, emphasizing the following:

* The ease with which ancient scribes made errors

* The relative lack of early witnesses to the text of the New Testament (as he notes, ninety-four percent of the extant manuscripts date from beyond the ninth century, and many of the earliest copies are extremely fragmentary)

* The obviously large number of variant readings between the surviving witnesses (although he admits that many of these are inconsequential, relating to minor matters such as spelling)

* Passages which display significant scribal alteration/interpolation (e.g., the Pericope Adulterae, the ending of Mark, etc.)

For his part, White echoed Ehrman's earlier comment that the majority of variants are not significant in terms of the meaning of the text, noted the extreme similarities between P75 (second century) and Codex Vaticanus (mid-fourth century) and concluded that it reveals the existence of "a very clean, very accurate line of transmission... that goes back to the earliest part of the second century itself," and suggested that while there may be places in the New Testament where a single variant cannot be chosen with absolute certainty, there are not any places where all of the variants may be dismissed as a possible original. Thus he quotes Rob Bowman, who describes the text-critical process as working a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle with more than a thousand pieces in the box. "The task is weeding out the extra; the originals are there." His characterizations of brave Christians diligently copying the scriptures in the face of extreme persecution were at times overly romantic (and potentially misleading, as the first systematic persecution of the early Christian movement did not take place until the mid-third century), and his comment that "[w]e have a dozen manuscripts within the first 100 years after the writing of the New Testament" requires clarification (P46, the famous codex of Pauline writings, was certainly copied within a century of the completion of the last portions of the New Testament, but approximately 150 years after the death of Paul). Generally, however, I found it to be a vigorous, passionate presentation.

I'm eager to see the debaters engage one another directly... that should make for more exciting reading.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Two Especially Worthwhile Posts from James McGrath...

... some brief comments on homosexuality in Romans 1-3, and a review of Bart Ehrman's latest offering, Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them).

Check them out!

Forthcoming from Brill: The Pericope Adulterae, the Gospel of John, and the Literacy of Jesus

Thanks to the folks at bibbiablog for passing this one along... I'm looking forward to checking it out. Given its arguments concerning the most familiar placement of the pericope (John 7:53-8:11), I'm curious as to what judgments Keith makes regarding its alternative placements in other New Testament manuscripts (e.g., after John 21:25, after Luke 24:53, etc.). Are these also deliberate insertions? Deviations? Something else entirely?

Although consistently overlooked or dismissed, John 8.6, 8 in the Pericope Adulterae is the only place in canonical or non-canonical Jesus tradition that portrays Jesus as writing. After establishing that John 8.6, 8 is indeed a claim that Jesus could write, this book offers a new interpretation and transmission history of the Pericope Adulterae. Not only did the pericope’s interpolator place the story in John’s Gospel in order to highlight the claim that Jesus could write, but he did so at John 7.53–8.11 as a result of carefully reading the Johannine narrative. The final chapter of the book proposes a plausible socio-historical context for the insertion of the story.

Readership
All those interested in text criticism, the New Testament, the Pericope Adulterae, the Gospel of John, early Christian book culture, literacy in the ancient world, and New Testament backgrounds.

About the author(s)
Chris Keith, Ph.D. (2008), University of Edinburgh, is Assistant Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Lincoln Christian University.

The Pericope Adulterae, the Gospel of John, and the Literacy of Jesus
Chris Keith

Expected: June 2009
Series: New Testament Tools, Studies and Documents, 38
ISBN-13 (i)The ISBN (International Standard Book Number) has been changed from 10 to 13 digits on 1 January 2007: 978 90 04 17394 1
ISSN: 0077-8842
Cover: Hardback
Number of pages: xvi, 350 pp