Thursday, January 17, 2008

RBL Highlights: 1/17/07

A few highlights from this week's Review of Biblical Literature:

Young S. Chae
Jesus as the Eschatological Davidic Shepherd: Studies in the Old Testament, Second Temple Judaism, and in the Gospel of Matthew
Reviewed by Daniel M. Gurtner

Robert B. Chisholm Jr.
Interpreting the Historical Books: An Exegetical Handbook
Reviewed by Brian D. Russell

Craig Cooper, ed.
Politics of Orality: (Orality and Literacy in Ancient Greece, Vol. 6)
Reviewed by Jonathan A. Draper

J. Todd Hibbard
Intertextuality in Isaiah 24-27: The Reuse and Evocation of Earlier Texts and Traditions
Reviewed by Jeffery M. Leonard

Steven W. Holloway, ed.
Orientalism, Assyriology and the Bible
Reviewed by Patricia Dutcher-Walls

George H. van Kooten, ed.
The Revelation of the Name YHWH to Moses: Perspectives from Judaism, the Pagan Graeco-Roman World, and Early Christianity
Reviewed by Sabrina Inowlocki

Jerome Murphy-O'Connor
Jesus and Paul: Parallel Lives
Reviewed by Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J.

Grant R. Osborne
The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation
Reviewed by Oda Wischmeyer

Megan Hale Williams
The Monk and the Book: Jerome and the Making of Christian Scholarship
Reviewed by Jonathan Yates

BAR Highlights: 1/17/07

More recent archaeological news from Biblical Archaeology Review:

In the Land of the Exodus
A magazine article describes Egypt’s tiny Jewish community.

Is It King David’s Palace?
An archaeologist guides a journalist through the Jerusalem site whose excavator has identified it as the Biblical hero’s palace.

A new card makes access to Jerusalem’s ancient sites more affordable and convenient.

Virtual Eternal City
With the help a new million dollar program, visitors to Rome can now explore 4.45 million acres of virtual terrain—complete with city bustle and friendly ancient bystanders—from the comfort of a local museum.

The Old is New
Researchers have published their reports on recent excavations at Ramat Rahel, the site of the only Judean royal palace unearthed to date.

A Step Forward
Iraqi archaeologists delivered 1,000 recently discovered artifacts to the National Museum, which has been closed since 2003, when invading US forces failed to protect the museum from rampant looting.

The Other Half
Finds near glamorous tombs of Pharaohs shed light on the everyday lives of ancient Egyptian laborers, including evidence of a labor strike.

Surprises Afoot
A US airman discovered ancient pottery fragments on the grounds of a military base near Kirkuk, in northern Iraq.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Still Searching for the Original Text

In an intriguing post entitled "The Composition of the Original Text," Dan Wallace addresses "a relatively new movement afoot in text-critical circles... the idea that the wording of the originals (also known as autographs) of the New Testament documents is not only not possible to recover, even the notion of an original is not true to history." He names Bart Ehrman and David Parker as prominent proponents of this theory; I would add Eldon Epp to the list as well, on the basis of his article in last summer's issue of Harvard Theological Review (about which I blogged here). In particular, Wallace critiques Parker's comparison of the New Testament text to the work of Shakespeare or Mozart, each of whom altered his own original creations and therefore made it impossible to speak of an "original." He counters, "In Shakespeare’s and Mozart’s case, the author continued to exercise control over the document. That is not the case with NT books." He adds that all of the New Testament texts were sent elsewhere, thus severing the author's control over them; the early church's interest in the words of the apostles would have led to a desire for accuracy; and that unlike the work of Shakespeare and Mozart, "authority," not "aesthetics," guided the transmission of the New Testament texts.

I am perfectly willing to discard any extended comparison between the New Testament and later artistic works (although I can see how such a comparison might be formed, particularly if earlier theories such as the editing of Acts by Luke were invoked), but a few of Wallace's other observations give me pause. While I certainly do not possess an encyclopedic knowledge of the theories of gospel transmission, I was unaware that the scholarly majority had determined that all of these works, in addition to the epistles, had been immediately dispatched to other locales after their composition. The Gospel of John, in particular, may have been composed and originally used by a single community. Furthermore, under certain conditions texts may be altered in the name of authority as readily as they might be changed for aesthetic purposes. To quote but one example, the infamous "Johannine Comma" (ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, ὁ Πατήρ, ὁ Λόγος, καὶ τὸ Ἄγιον Πνεῦμα. καὶ οὗτοι οἱ τρεῖς ἕν εἰσι. καὶ τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες ἐν τῇ γῇ; 1 John 5:7-8) seems to have been added in order to provide additional scriptural authority for the doctrine of the Trinity.

I would also second Epp's recent argument that an obsessive search for an "original" text often causes the critic to discard or ignore variants which have been branded as "spurious" or "unoriginal," despite the fact that their presence in the manuscript tradition indicates that they formed a part of Scripture for at least some early Christian communities (and were therefore "original" in their eyes). Many of these variants, even some which appear on only a few scraps of papyrus or parchment, still have a great deal to teach us about the individuals who copied, transmitted, and worshipped with them. And that means they're important, too.

Musings on Mark: 1/16/08

In what will hopefully become a weekly tradition, here are a few particularly juicy tidbits from Prof. Adela Collins' introductory comments in yesterday's inaugural meeting of Greek Exegesis of Mark:

One of the most provocative questions concerning Mark is the question of genre. A number of major theories have been advanced: 1) that it belongs to a unique, independent, inherently Christian "gospel" genre, a theory which was particularly popular in the 1960s and 1970s; 2) that it should be classified as Greco-Roman "biography" (Gk. βιος), a theory which has been revived in recent years by Charles Talbert and Richard Burridge; 3) that it is an attempt to accurately depict the history of Jesus of Nazareth and his first followers, a theory which was wildly popular in the early modern period but was sharply curtailed by the criticisms of Karl Ludwig Schmidt and William Wrede. In her recently completed commentary, Collins describes Mark as an "eschatological historical monograph," borrowing the term "monograph" from Hans Conzelmann's earlier commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. She applies the adjective "eschatological" in light of its pervasive apocalyptic elements, which are not present in Greco-Roman texts. She does, however, note that Mark possesses some affinities with βιος, particularly its didactic and historical sub-genres.

*Although many scholars have assumed that Mark and the other canonical gospels circulated anonymously until the second century, Collins accepts the arguments of Martin Hengel, who argues that this was not the case. As she notes, if the gospel had remained anonymous until this point, surely the early Christian communities would have selected a more notable figure (e.g., Peter) for pseudonymous attribution. Furthermore, under these conditions one would expect to see a variety of attributions, with some communities assigning the gospel to one major figure, other communities to another; no extant copies of Mark bear the name of another author.

*Two schools of thought have emerged concerning the date of Mark, with Jesus' comment concerning the Temple in Mark 13:2 ("Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down") serving as the key to both. Some have argued that this prediction indicates that the gospel was written after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE; Collins, on the other hand, argues for a date of composition during the Jewish War, possibly during the siege of the Jerusalem, but not after 70.

*The gospel's origin has been traditionally regarded as Rome, and a number of recent studies have also supported this theory, but Collins does not find the arguments convincing. Any major cosmopolitan area, including Jerusalem and Caesarea Maritima, is a possibility.

I hope that I haven't done any injustice to Prof. Collins' fine work through these brief comments. If you want to know more about any of these topics, don't ask me... pick up her commentary! ;-)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Latest Issues of Harvard Theological Review and Novum Testamentum Now Online

Thanks to Michael Pahl for pointing these out. Although full articles are available only to subscribing members and institutions (thank you, Yale University database!), abstracts may be viewed by all.

Harvard Theological Review
101.1 (January 2008)

Novum Testamentum 50.1 (January 2008)

Latest from Tyndale Tech: Unicode

The latest e-mail in David Instone-Brewer's eminently helpful "Tyndale Tech" series concerns Unicode fonts. Although Unicode fonts are quickly becoming the standard in biblical studies, many scholars and students remain largely unaware of what they are, how to find them, and how to use them in their own work. Dr. Instone-Brewer answers these and other questions with a few key links:

Tyndale Unicode Kit

Tyndale Unicode Keyboards

The first of these is Tyndale's easy-to-use installation kit for Greek and Hebrew Unicode fonts and keyboards. Full instructions are provided, although, as Instone-Brewer notes, installation is simple and intuitive. The second is a graphic which allows the user to view the Greek and Hebrew keyboard layouts. You probably won't need to use these for long, but they may be helpful in your first few weeks of typing.

Also included are links to downloadable Unicode Bibles (HB with vowels; LXX with accents; MT/LXX parallel; NT with accents), and the free Diogenes software, which can be used to search databases such as the TLG if you have the disks, or as a stand-alone lexical reference if you do not.

Whether you're a relative newcomer to Unicode (as I am) or a seasoned veteran, all of these are well worth a look.

OUP Sale at Dove

A number of excellent NT titles from Oxford University Press are currently on sale at Dove (through January 17):

Ashton, John
Understanding the Fourth Gospel
(Published 2007)
Hardcover List: $120.00 Dove Price: $95.99 Save $27.01
More Info & Ordering

Curtis, Adrian H W
Oxford Bible Atlas, 4th ed
(Published 2007)
Hardcover List: $35.00 Dove Price: $25.99 Save $9.01
More Info & Ordering

Dunderberg, Ismo
Beloved Disciple in Conflict?: Revisiting the Gospels of John and Thomas
(Published 2006)
Hardcover List: $99.00 Dove Price: $79.20 Save $19.80
More Info & Ordering

Ehrman, Bart D
Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend
(Published 2006)
Hardcover List: $25.00 Dove Price: $19.99 Save $5.01
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Ehrman, Bart D
New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 4th ed
(Published 2007)
Paperback List: $57.95 Dove Price: $46.36 Save $11.59
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Gregory, Andrew Christopher Tuckett (eds)
New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers, 2 Volume Set
(Published 2006)
Paperback List: $80.00 Dove Price: $63.99 Save $16.01
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(Published 2006)
Hardcover List: $199.00 Dove Price: $158.99 Save $40.01
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Gregory, Andrew Christopher Tuckett (eds)
New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers, Volume 1: The Reception of the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers
(Published 2006)
Paperback List: $45.00 Dove Price: $35.99 Save $9.01
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Hardcover List: $99.00 Dove Price: $79.20 Save $19.80
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Gregory, Andrew Christopher Tuckett (eds)
New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers, Volume 2: Trajectories through the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers
(Published 2006)
Paperback List: $55.00 Dove Price: $43.99 Save $11.01
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Hardcover List: $120.00 Dove Price: $95.99 Save $24.01
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Hodge, Caroline Johnson
If Sons, Then Heirs: A Study of Kinship and Ethnicity in the Letters of Paul
(Published 2007)
Hardcover List: $45.00 Dove Price: $35.99 Save $9.01
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Hvidt, Niels Christian
Christian Prophecy: The Post-Biblical Tradition
(Published 2007)
Hardcover List: $74.00 Dove Price: $59.20 Save $14.80
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Meech, John L
Paul in Israel's Story: Self and Community at the Cross
(Published 2006)
Hardcover List: $55.00 Dove Price: $43.99 Save $11.01
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Porter, J R
Jesus Christ: The Jesus of History, the Christ of Faith
(Published 2007)
Paperback List: $21.50 Dove Price: $15.99 Save $5.51
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Rogerson, John W Judith M Lieu (eds)
Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies
(Published 2006)
Hardcover List: $199.00 Dove Price: $159.20 Save $39.80
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Tuckett, Christopher M (ed)
Gospel of Mary (Oxford Early Christian Gospel Texts)
(Published 2007)
Hardcover List: $120.00 Dove Price: $95.99 Save $24.01
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This volume, the first in a major new series which will provide authoritative texts of key non-canonical gospel writings, comprises a critical edition, with full translations, of all the extant manuscripts of the Gospel of Mary. In addition, an extended Introduction discusses the key issues involved in the interpretation of the text, as well as locating it in its proper historical context, while a Commentary explicates points of detail. The gospel has been important in many recent discussions of non-canonical gospels, of early Christian Gnosticism, and of discussions of the figure of Mary Magdalene. The present volume will provide a valuable resource for all future discussions of this important early Christian text.

Pietersma, Albert Benjamin G. Wright (eds)
New English Translation of the Septuagint
(Published 2007)
Hardcover List: $30.00 Dove Price: $23.99 Save $6.01
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Monday, January 14, 2008

New Links... Check Them Out!

During the winter break, I encountered several new blogs (well, new to me) which have now been added to the blogroll, and also some excellent online resources which have been added to the "Helpful Links" section. Thanks to Nick Norelli for pointing me in the direction of these fine sites:

Greek New Testament

Online Commentary on the Greek Gospels

I also discovered Peter Coad's truly excellent Greek Bible Study, which allows the reader to view the KJV and NASB versions in parallel alongside both Tischendorf's New Testament and a graduated reader linked to William Mounce's introductory textbook Basics of Biblical Greek. The Greek texts are grammatically tagged; clicking on any word instantly displays its lexical information (as given in Thayer's standard lexicon). There is also a "verse-by-verse translation" feature. Highly recommended to Greek students of all experience and skill levels.

Finally, Prof. William Harmless' Bibliographies for Theology is another exemplary site, with entries arranged under the categories of New Testament, Early Christianity, Medieval Christianity, The Reformation, Spirituality & Mysticism, Sacraments, and Twentieth-Century Theology. Each of these categories is helpfully divided into a number of sub-categories. The perfect gateway to further reading and research, for both students and laypeople. Prof. Harmless' work on the bibliographies of the recently released English translation of Hubertus Drobner's The Fathers of the Church: A Comprehensive Introduction (soon to become the definitive introduction to patristic studies; you heard it here first) is another indication of his skill in this regard.


Another Semester Begins...

Yale's spring semester begins today. While I'm considering a few other courses, my schedule will most likely consist of the following:

REL 681: Greek Exegesis of the Gospel of Mark
(A. Collins)
REL 691: History and Methods of New Testament Study (A. Collins)
REL 854: Theology and Cinema (M. Villano)

Looking forward to another stimulating and enriching semester!