Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Context of Crucifixion

On The Jesus Dynasty blog, James Tabor has posted a nice summary of the Jewish historian Josephus' references to crucifixion. Although crucifixion is naturally a focal point of Christian history, theology, and worship, many believers are largely unaware of the broader history and context of the practice. These passages from Josephus (and also Martin Hengel's brief summary of crucifixion) help to fill that gap.

On a supplemental note, it is interesting that one of the passages listed by Tabor (Antiquities 18.65, 78-80) includes one of the very few (if not the only) recorded crucifixions of a woman: the freedwoman Ide, who devised the twisted plot by which Mundus seduced the virtuous Paulina.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fun with Hebrews

Although this is only the third week of the fall semester, all of my classes are already well underway, and are engaging in some rich discussion. Hopefully I'll have more time to blog about these topics in future weeks; between classes, work at the bookstore, PhD applications, and GRE study, I've been wondering when I'll have time to eat, let alone blog!

However, I will take a few brief moments to mention an issue which arose during Greek Exegesis of Hebrews, which meets every Monday afternoon under the eminently learned supervision of Prof. Harry Attridge. We were translating and discussing Hebrews 2, and when it came time for v. 9, one of my classmates read aloud and translated the final clause (as printed in the Nestle-Aland critical edition):

ὅπως χάριτι θεοῦ ὑπὲρ παντὸς γεύσηται θανάτου
("so that, by the grace of God, he might taste death on everyone's behalf")

The translation given above is my own, but it isn't substantially different from standard translations such as the NRSV, or from the on-the-spot translation provided by my classmate. But Prof. Attridge noted that a few manuscript witnesses (0243, and the original hand of the important minuscule 1739) as well as a few patristic witnesses (Origen, Ambrose, Jerome, and Fulgentius) replace χάριτι θεοῦ with χωρις θεου, which would dramatically alter the translation and sense of the clause:

ὅπως χωρις θεου ὑπὲρ παντὸς γεύσηται θανάτου
("so that, apart from God, he might taste death on everyone's behalf")

The witness of Origen (who died c. 254 CE) is particularly interesting, as he is just a few decades removed from Hebrews' earliest manuscript witness (P46, normally dated to c. 200 CE). Furthermore, this would certainly fall within the category of the "more difficult reading," which often guides text critics in their attempts to determine which reading is more original, and which has been altered by later scribes. Bruce Metzger, however, has argued that χωρις θεου was either a simple scribal mistake (χάριτι and χωρις are somewhat similar in appearance), or originally arose as a marginal note indicating that the πάντα ("everything") mentioned in v. 8 did not include God, and then was mistakenly integrated into the text. Hmm... pretty interesting stuff... and we've got a long way to go!

RBL Highlights: 9/20/07

A few highlights from this week's Review of Biblical Literature. A few other bloggers (including Mark Goodacre and Stephen Carlson) have noted the large review Of Peter Jeffery's The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled. I share Goodacre's gratification that the RBL is expanding to include more extended, detailed articles, but I won't be able to slog through 47 single-spaced pages until Christmas break. ;-)

ESSAY REVIEW (47 pages)
Peter Jeffery
The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled: Imagined Rituals of Sex, Death, and Madness in a Biblical Forgery
Reviewed by Scott G. Brown

Martin Goodman
Judaism in the Roman World: Collected Essays
Reviewed by Judith M. Lieu

Isaac Kalimi and Peter J. Haas, eds.
Biblical Interpretation in Judaism and Christianity
Reviewed by Craig A. Evans

Michelle V. Lee
Paul, the Stoics, and the Body of Christ
Reviewed by Richard A. Wright

Alastair H. B. Logan
The Gnostics: Identifying an Early Christian Cult
Reviewed by Jon Ma. Asgeirsson

BAR Highlights: 9/20/07

More recent archaeological news from Biblical Archaeological Review:

A Second Flood?
A planned dam in Turkey will destroy an ancient Mesopotamian city.

Egypt Pines for Nefertiti

The country is miffed that its request for a 3-month loan of the famed statue of the ancient queen has been rebuffed by Germany. More international tensions may be in the offing: Egypt may soon seek to borrow the Rosetta Stone from England.

Artifacts for Rent?
A Harvard economist thinks there’s a way to cut down on the traffic in illegal antiquities: Let countries or institutions with the means rent artifacts from poorer countries that cannot afford to excavate or protect them.

Tracking the Phoenicians’ DNA

A researcher has been finding the genetic footprint of the ancient seafaring people along the trade routes they used—and has also stumbled into a very modern debate over identity.

X-Ray Vision

A new type of X-ray machine, touted as being far more powerful than its predecessors, will be used to peer into and decipher Dead Sea Scroll fragments that are too fragile to be unrolled.

Sprechen Sie Cuneiform?
A Web-based program translates English words into cuneiform or hieroglyphics.

Trying to Put a Stop to It

Prominent Israeli archaeologists and other leading figures have asked their country’s High Court of Justice to prevent further digging atop Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.