Wednesday, December 29, 2004

How to help the Tsunami Victims

Beliefnet have a helpful list of relief charities which are helping victims of the earthquake and tsunamis in South Asia:

How to Help the Tsunami Victims

It also notes the blog for ongoing updates and help:

The Real King Herod

Well, our telly has gone on the blink here (perhaps Who Wrote the Bible? was just too much for it), but it's worth noting that Channel 4 in the UK are again providing the most interesting NT related programming:

The Real King Herod

It's 7.00 pm on Channel 4 today. I don't know anything about this one beyond what is on the useful website above. I can't even work out from that which company has made it. I once took part in a programme with a similar title for Channel 4 called The Real Jesus Christ but The Real . . . is a pretty standard title for this kind of documentary.

Helenann Hartley mentioned Let's hear it for the King of Judea on Radio 4 the other day, a programme I managed to catch some of, but alas it does not seem to be archived on the Radio 4 site any more. It was Terry Jones doing the business and a very enjoyable programme. Let's hope the Channel 4 one tonight is also worth watching.

Michael Pahl's blog

A warm welcome to the blogosphere to Michael Pahl, who teaches New Testament at Prairie Bible College in Alberta, Canada and is a PhD student here in Birmingham:

The Stuff of Earth

Friday, December 24, 2004

Christmas wishes

This blog is closing down for Christmas now, with very best wishes for a happy Christmas to all my readers, with many thanks for your encouragement and contributions in the last 12 months. Here's a nice animated Christmas card sent out by Jeffrey Gibson on a couple of the e-lists,

A Christmas Card

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Crossan on the Nativity

Beliefnet has this story:

The Nativity Story's True Message
John Dominic Crossan on the characters in Jesus' birth story--the Magi, shepherds, angels--as anti-Roman protesters.
Interview by Deborah Caldwell

One thought that amuses me about the major new stress in Crossan on Paul and early Christianity as anti- Roman Empire is that this brings Crossan closer to Wright than ever before, does it not?

Don't miss the links to other interesting material from Crossan on the same page.

Who Wrote the Bible? Press Release

University of Birmingham have a press release on Who Wrote the Bible?:

Beckford's Bible Investigation Broadcast on Christmas Day

And it makes it onto the main University of Birmingham homepage over Christmas, which is nice to see.

Oded Golan indicted

This has already been mentioned elsewhere (Hypotyposeis, Biblical Theology, Xtalk); it's "breaking news" -- Oded Golan is to be indicted next week on a range of charges including forgery of the inscription of the James ossuary. This is from this morning's The Times story:

Burial box of Jesus's brother is hoax, say experts
From Ian MacKinnon in Jerusalem
AN ISRAELI collector of antiquities who stunned the world with a find that he said was the burial container of Jesus’ “brother”, James, is to be charged with forgery.

Justice Ministry officials said last night that Oded Golan would be indicted next week on a range of charges that would include forgery over an inscription on the stone container that carried the script in Aramaic reading: “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus”.

Six others are also to be charged.
The same story is in a variety of other places, but the information is essentially the same.

Top Five Posts

Here is my attempt to take up the challenge and find my top five posts, with some appended comments:

What Jesus really looked like (updated) (February 22)
This post was cathartic. I have seen so many misrepresentations of the project I was involved with back in 2001 that I finally decided, on seeing yet another of these, to try to set the record straight, at least as far as my own involvement was concerned, not that any of the articles concerned ever these days mention me in connection with this, perhaps a good thing.

My thoughts on The Passion of the Christ (concluded) (March 6)
This post was the most memorable of the year to me without any question. It came after I had spent months following The Passion controversy with interest and had finally got a chance to get to a preview screening. Looking back at this post, I see that my initial thoughts after this first viewing have not changed substantially after repeated viewings. I also see that my emotions were running pretty high after seeing the film, as indeed was the case with so many others. I subsequently revised this blog post for an article in Bible and Interpretation and was then revised again, much more thoroughly, as an article in the Passion of the Christ book edited by Robert Webb and Kathleen Corley.

Bruce Chilton sees the Passion and hates it (concluded) (March 18)
I choose this as a representative example of many such posts I feel I have written in the last few months, and which ultimately informed the article I referred to above. Chilton's reaction to the film was typical of the vast majority of scholars' reactions to the film, condescending, overstated and with some odd misreadings.

A Throttle to Knowledge? Response to AKMA on "Links Pages" (June 11)
This was a post I enjoyed writing because it gave me the chance to engage critically with a fellow blogger's interesting proposals for the future, or, perhaps more accurately, to criticise his diagnosis of the problems with the present. AKMA offered a lucid answer to this post, and it sat in my pending tray still not answered over six months later. And in that respect, this is also typical of what happens on this blog.

More on how to read a scholarly paper (December 17)
This was a recent post, reacting to responses to an earlier post I had made on the same topic, and was the result of some personal reflections on my own experiences of presenting papers. Like all the most enjoyable and rewarding blog posts -- to me at least -- this one was part of a dialogue with the other bibliobloggers. I look forward to many more of the same in 2005.

M. R. James

There was a real treat on BBC4 last night, the beginning of an M. R. James season, with a documentary about the man followed by a quite amazing 1968 adaptation of Whistle and I'll Come to You directed by Jonathan Miller and starring Michael Hordern. Here are the web pages on the season, which feature some interesting bits and bobs, with a breakdown of other treats to come:

M. R. James Season

I am looking forward to The Treasure of Abbot Thomas tonight. The NT link here, in case you are unfamiliar with the work of M. R. James, is that he was the author of The Apocryphal New Testament and other works on Christianity from the first century to the mediaeval period. Lots of his translations from The Apocryphal New Testament are on-line, though not always in the best editions.

One remarkable fact I learnt last night was that James had mastered Ethiopic by the age of 12 when he went up to Eton.

If you have never read his ghost stories, give them a go. I once took them with me on a caravan holiday to Cornwall. They are full of the wonderful dusty old world of libraries, parchments and middle aged professors on holiday. Christmas time is a great time to be introduced to them.

Update (24 December, 00.54): Jim Davila comments on Paleojudaica.

Robert Beckford on FiveLive

It was good to catch my colleague Robert Beckford on FiveLive this morning discussing Who Wrote the Bible? (don't forget, if you are in the UK, Christmas Day 8.30 pm). He described The Observer article about "Lies and Spin" as itself an interesting piece of spin.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Best ofs

In The First Annual Ralphies, Ed Cook challenges other bibliobloggers to come up with their own best-ofs. I doubt that mine will be of much interest to anyone who reads the NT Gateway Weblog since they are not exactly NT-related, but here are mine anyway, since Ed does ask us all:

Best Fiction: I haven't read a single fictional book published in 2004. Sorry.

Best non-fiction: very tough. I must admit that I am surprised how much I have enjoyed Crossan and Reed's In Search of Paul, though there must be some other hightlights that I am forgetting. Why is it that amnesia sets in the moment one is asked to do this?

Best Film: on Film 2004 tonight, Fellowship of the Ring was at the top because of its late 2003 release. If I'm allowed that, I'd have that. If not, I'd probably say Spiderman II. Honourable mentions: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Bride and Prejudice, Farenheit 911 and The Passion of the Christ.

Best TV programme: Curb Your Enthusiasm (US); Little Britain (UK). Also enjoyed Smallville, Tru Calling, 24.

Best album: Scissor Sisters, with Franz Ferdinand a close second.

Best single: Band Aid 20, even though not a patch on the original, which still moves me to tears.

Best gig: The Fall, Stourbridge (actually the only gig I went to in 2004).

Most missed: John Peel

It's good to see Helenann Hartley pitching in with her Best ofs for 2004. I love Father Ted and The West Wing too. If I'm allowed repeats, I should probably also add The Prisoner on BBC4 earlier in the year, a real treat.

Still biblioblogging

There is a lot more around on nomenclature, including a whole range of new suggestions (see Ricoblog and links). I'm afraid the original is still the best for me; I am stubbornly agreeing with Rubén Gómez and will continue to be a biblioblogger. But I do like Ed Cook's extra, related term biblioblogdom and have already started adopting that one myself.

Putting the Chi back into Xmas

I am delighted to see Ed Cook in Ralph the Sacred River, homing in on something that has always annoyed me, perhaps because I too was taught the proper derivation at my mother's knee, that "Xmas" is not a sacreligious attempt to write Christ out of Christmas (I've heard entire sermons based on this premise). One might as well tut-tut at the Chi-Rho in the catacombs.

Cana Excavations

I haven't got round to this, but it is getting covered well elsewhere in biblioblogdom. Paleojudaica covers the story, with some useful comments, and links to other sites.

Top Five Posts?

AKMA has been resisting the new blogging trend to list what you think of as your own top five blog posts of the year, but finally succombs:

Top Five

Dylan's Lectionary blog also manages the task successfully. Apparently this stems ultimately from encouragement by Bob Carlton. I tend to share AKMA's reservations with doing this. It seems horribly self indulgent. But I might have a go, especially if other bibliobloggers are inclined to have a go too.

Helenann Hartley's New Blog

I am delighted to see my friend Helenann Hartley joining the blogosphere:

Helenann Hartley

She describes the blog as "General musings on daily life with a focus on all matters religious". Although clearly there are reflections on more than just academic Biblical Studies, I think we might just be able to welcome this blog into biblioblogdom. I look forward to reading the blog and, of course, I have added it to my blogroll. Welcome, Helenann!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Princeton Colloquium on Heresy

This notice was sent in by Holger Zellentin:
Making Selves and Marking Others: Heresy and Self-Definition in Late Antiquity

Colloquium at Princeton University, Department of Religion, January 16-18, 2005

Organized by Peter Schäfer, Holger Zellentin, and Eduard Iricinschi, hosted by the Department of Religion

(Please check for updates)

Participants: William Arnal (University of Regina), Averil Cameron (Oxford University), John Gager (Princeton University), Michelle Garceau (Princeton University), Gregg Gardner (Princeton University), Martha Himmelfarb (Princeton University), Caroline Humfress (University of London), Eduard Iricinschi (Princeton University), Karen L. King (Harvard Divinity School), Richard Lim (Smith College), Kevin Osterloh (Princeton University), Elaine Pagels (Princeton University), Yannis Papadoyannakis (Princeton University), Annette Yoshiko Reed (McMaster University), David Satran (Hebrew University), Peter Schäfer (Princeton University) Philippa Townsend (Princeton University), Burton L. Visotzky (Jewish Theological Seminary), Israel Yuval (Hebrew University), Holger Zellentin (Princeton University)

For the full program, please go to

If you plan to attend, or if you have further questions, please contact Holger Zellentin ( or Eduard Iricinschi (

Who Wrote the Bible?

It is good to see the media picking up a bit on the forthcoming Channel 4 documentary Who Wrote the Bible? even if the way The Observer spins the story (below) is a little unfortunate (I doubt the word "lies" is used in the film). The picture left is of Robert Beckford who presents the programme which will be broadcast in Christmas day at 8.30 pm on Channel 4 in the UK. I was involved with this programme myself and did some filming with Robert in Rome for the section on the Gospels. Channel 4's own on-line feature on the programme is here, with an excerpt below:

Who Wrote the Bible?
Take the Five Books of Moses, which open the Bible and include the world-famous stories of the creation, the Garden of Eden and Noah's flood. Known in Hebrew, the language they were written in, as the Torah, these books contain the foundations of Judaism and Christianity. It turns out that the Books of Moses weren't written by Moses at all, but by four anonymous writers, each with his own particular view to promote. These writings were only brought together when an Israelite king found them useful to promote his political agenda, many centuries after the time of Moses. Says Beckford: 'King Hezekiah turned the Bible into a party political manifesto for monotheism. He definitely knew something about spin.'

The same goes for the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Beckford dives down into the ancient catacombs beneath a church in Rome to discover why Mark, the first Gospel writer, started to write about Jesus in the first place – as an encouragement to the first generation of Christians, who were facing persecution. He discovers that although the Gospel writers seem to be giving us direct reportage from the life of Jesus, each of them actually had his own spin on the story. While Matthew was keen to show how Jewish Jesus was, for the Jewish wing of the early church, Luke pushed the Roman angle. He packaged the teaching and miracles of Jesus to show that even civilised Roman citizens could believe in him.
I like the idea of "diving down into the ancient catacombs"; it was actually more of an early Sunday morning stooping stroll. I kept a Travel Diary when out in Rome (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3).

There is already some media comment, including this piece from The Observer

Bible is 'lies and spin,' says C4
'Sensationalist' film sparks anger among church groups
Jamie Doward, religious affairs correspondent
Sunday December 19, 2004
Evangelical groups are angry that Who Wrote the Bible?, which will go out at 8.30pm, paints a negative picture of Christian organisations and suggests links between them and the troubles in the Middle East . . . .

. . . . 'Channel 4 has a record of going for the more controversial take on religion,' said David Hilborn, head of theology at the Evangelical Alliance. 'They want to go down the more sensational route to grab people's attention.'

Beckford defended the provocative timing of the documentary. 'To have faith in the world is to ask dangerous questions. Why not make the question at Christmas when we hear about this son of God who was born in dubious circumstances in a place which was the armpit of the world?' . . .

. . . . He produces archaeological evidence to suggest the Bible's claims that the kingdoms of David and Solomon dominated the 10th century BC were wrong, an error that raises profound claims about the genesis of Christianity.

He declares the New Testament a 'masterwork of spin written by people who were nowhere near the events they describe, all gathered by powerful editors who kept out ideas they did not like'. . . . .
Jim West blogs a link to an Ekklesia piece:

Evangelicals criticise channel 4 documentary about the Bible

This has much of the same content. I doubt the evangelicals concerned have actually seen the documentary. I have not been able to get hold of a preview tape myself, though I've tried, but the participants are hardly representatives of a sensationalist view of things; indeed the directors even secured a late interview with Tom Wright in order to add a touch of purple to proceedings.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Review of Wright on Romans

The N. T. Wright page has added a reproduction of a review of N. T. Wright's commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, which appears in the New Interpreter's Bible Commentary series (Volume 10). The review is from the Westminster Theological Journal and some of it will only make sense to those interested in the "Reformed tradition":

N. T. Wright, “The Letter to the Romans: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections.”
Pages 393-770 in vol. 10 of The New Interpreter's Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes. Edited by Leander E. Keck. Nashville: Abingdon, 2002. Pp. xviii + 1011. $70.00, cloth.
Originally published in Westminster Theological Journal, 2003, Vol. 65, No. 2, 365-69
J. R. Daniel Kirk

On the whole, Kirk likes the commentary. One sentence struck a chord with me, "One complaint about the commentary stems from the way Wright pawns off as “obvious” readings that are, in fact, quite novel to himself and sometimes questionable." This is a common element in Wright's rhetorical strategy -- compare his use of the term "common sense", especially in the Resurrection book, where by "common sense" he means the Tom Wright view.

Early Christian Writings etc. update

Peter Kirby has put aside some time to work on his Early Christian Writings and Early Jewish Writings websites and is soliciting comment -- see the Christian Origins Blog. He has already made some adjustments to the new template, including dropping the candles at the top, a wise move in my view (see previous blog entry on).

James Ossuary latest

Stephen Goranson has the latest on the James Ossuary on Xtalk:
CBS 60 Minutes 7pm EST Sunday 16 Dec. has scheduled a report on the ossuary, with Bob Simon.

Fox News, I'm told, will also report on it that night at 9.

After the SBL meeting a message at reported hearsay that there exists a 1970s photograph including the full ossuary inscription and a 1970s Golan girlfriend.

Reportedly, a judge set a deadline of 1 Jan. for filing charges or not.
Update (11.50): in a correction to the previous message, Stephen Goranson notes, " indicates their ossuary report will be on 19 Dec. at 7 (or after football). He continues, "The foxnews show, I'm told, ia a one hour special titled "The Birth of Jesus" and may in part deal with the ossuary, 19 Dec. and rebroadcast 24 or 25 Dec."

Thursday, December 16, 2004

More on how to read a scholarly paper

A couple of weeks ago, I offered some further reflections on the topic How to read a scholarly paper in dialogue with some of the other biblioblogs. I'd like to return to the topic again to comment on some of the subsequent comments. First, there were some excellent comments on my post. Ken Litwak noted that lectures and conference papers are different things in that one can control the expectations and knowledge-base of one's students, not so with the conference audience. I understand the point, though I would want to note that in my own experience the knowledge-base and expectations of the conference audience are in many ways clearer than those of my undergraduate audiences. Segments of the latter retain the capacity to surprise me over what they have not grasped on regular occasions. With an SBL audience, you can take for granted the key terms, the key authors, the consensus positions and so on. But Ken adds that his own SBL paper featured precise comparisons of the LXX and the Greek NT and that this would not have lent itself to powerpoint. Unfortunately, I missed Ken's paper and would certainly not presume to comment on what would work best for him and his topic. But I would add that in other cases, the precise detail is often the very thing that does lend itself to visual aids because it helps the listener to focus on the specific detail to which the speaker is drawing attention. As I mentioned before, my preference is for hand-outs over powerpoint because of the all too frequent technical anxieties and because, if I have understood correctly, it is the preferred option of some disabled members of the audience.

But John Poirier agrees completely with Ken and writes:
For many papers I've heard at conferences, I would have felt cheated if they had been merely presented as lectures, without all the fine details and precise nuances of the argument being given. I'd rather be bored than short-changed: READ the paper.
I understand Jack's point here but disagree with it, at least as far as my own experience goes. For me, the very problem with the paper that is read-out, and especially the one that is "speed read", is that the fine details and precise nuances of the argument are lost. However much one thinks that one is putting together a persuasive, detailed argument when one is writing it in the privacy of one's study, the fact is that the nuances and the detail often gets lost in the reading out, especially in the absence of a hand-out or some powerpoint. The question I am asking myself here is how much of the read-out paper am I actually hearing? If I am "bored", to use Jack's word, don't I lose the detail and the nuances while I am daydreaming about Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

Larry (no surname) comments that in presiding at sessions, it is worse if your speakers have a non-read-out paper than if they have a read-out one. I am not so sure; as Tim Bulkeley says, there are offenders of both kinds. Tim has some useful advice:
Yes, you are presenting complex arguments that need the solidity of well prepared (and probably read) text, but if you do not engage with the audience they might as well stay at home and READ the paper when it is published. That way they avoid quite a few duds ;)

So... read the complex detailed bits, but speak to the body.
The comments here about staying at home and reading the paper get to the heart of my concern here. If all we do is to read out a proto-article, why not just distribute it at the session and let everyone read it in their own time, so picking up more of the detail and nuance, and then have more time for discussion?

For blog comment, see Stephen Carlson's updated entry on Hypotyposeis, Torrey Seland's update in Philo of Alexandria blog, David Meadows's comments in RogueClassicism and Edward Cook in Ralph the Sacred River. Responding to my point about the disjunction between our tendency not to read in everyday lectures against reading in conference presentations, Edward comments:
Part of the problem is (and I don't want to get too political here) the reversal of the power relations at a scholarly gathering. One's students are in a very real way in one's power; if they are lucky, you are a benign, charming, personable, just, and funny dictator. But at a scholarly presentation one is at best among equals, and at worst in front of those who may have something to say about how one's work or reputation may either grow or wither. In either case, the audience has to be won over. If they already know and like you, this will be easy; if not, the work will be harder.
This is an excellent point, and well made, and one I quite understand. I suppose I would add that I am not saying that it is an easy option to speak / present rather than to read aloud. But if our profession is about communication of ideas, then the highest challenge is indeed the coherent articulation and presentation of our ideas to our peers, and perhaps it is one that we would benefit from engaging in. Edward elaborates:
Therefore I wish to question the assumption of "friendly faces." In general, I think one can and should assume basic good will in the audience; however, many of us have seen, during the question period, the spectacle of self-important senior scholars skewering hapless grad students or young scholars just (as it seems) for the fun of it, or because one of their own pet ideas has been questioned. I think that first-time presenters are often intimidated by the presence in the audience of revered or venerable names previously known only from books or journals; and this fear can lead to nervously presented and feebly defended presentations, or to a dogged (and dull) effort to cover all the bases.
Also agreed, though I would say that an audience is sometimes the more generous when they perceive that the speaker is struggling; on good days, they will be tougher on the seasoned speakers who have that touch more confidence and enjoy the challenge of the battle. But I'd add too that the agonising scenario painted above is in any case related more to the question-and-answer session than to the paper proper. And the speed-reading of a ready-prepared proto-article is not a great way to lay the ground work for a successful question-and-answer session. Perhaps if the culture were to shift in favour of speaking / presenting, the question-and-answer session would not be so agonising.

And finally, Edward writes:
Two things are necessary to solve this problem; one is the growth of courtesy on the part of long-time practitioners of scholarship to those entering the guild. Perhaps we have already seen the last of the ritual disembowelings! I fervently hope so. The other thing is the growth in awareness of what we have been talking about: how to make a paper clear, interesting, and compelling.

Does the SBL offer any kind of advice to first-time presenters? It seems to me that this is something its Career Services department could fruitfully address. (Perhaps it already has; I'm coming late to the discussion.)
The latter point is a great idea. I know that there was a leaflet available at this year's SBL for first time attendees, but I don't think there was anything about first time presenters. The former point is a good one too. We need leadership from the "long-time practitioners of scholarship", the top brass. I might not have thought about presenting a paper rather than reading one if I had not heard one of the scholars I most admire presenting rather than reading papers, Michael Goulder. So an appeal to the top brass: set us an example on how to do it.

Biblical Studies Bulletin 34

Grove Books' quarterly newsletter, Biblical Studies Bulletin, edited by Michael Thompson, now has its December issue on-line:

Biblical Studies Bulletin 34 (December 2004)

It includes some book notices and book reviews and the latest in its "Comments on the Commentaries" series, focusing on recent commentaries on Ephesians. One comment of my own -- I found the remarks about John Muddiman's commentary disappointing -- it is not helpful to characterise it as "fairly thin", nor is it really correct to say "He holds to pseudonymous authorship".

Speaking of the "Comments on the Commentaries", section of the BSB, there is now a helfpul index available to these:

An Index to "Comments on the Commentaries"


On The Coding Humanist, Eric Sowell notes this link ranking tool:

PubSub LinkRanks currently comes in at 25,374 in the rankings, down 456 from yesterday. The front page has a PubSub Matching Engine which in theory means that you can match up topics of interest with a subscription that delivers new items on those topics as they appear.

Death of Carsten Peter Thiede

Also from Franz Böhmisch on Mikra the news of the death yesterday of Carsten Peter Thiede, aged 52; this is from

Carsten Peter Thiede ist tot
Nach einem Bericht des evangelischen Nachrichtendienstes „idea“ ist der berühmte Papyrologe überraschend gestorben

Abschiedsvorlesung Erich Zenger

This link appeared courtesy of Franz Böhmisch on Mikra:

"Gott hat keiner jemals geschaut" (Joh 1,18): Die christliche Gottesrede im Angesicht des Judentums
Erich Zenger
Abschiedsvorlesung 14. Juli 2004 (Vortragsmanuskript)

Biblica latest

Here's one I haven't had a chance to blog until now, the latest Biblica:

Biblica 85 (2004)

You'll have to scroll down to get to Fasc. 4, the one that has recently been added. It's mainly OT this time, but there is one NT related piece:

Jean-Noël ALETTI, «Les difficultés ecclésiologiques de la lettre aux Éphésiens. De quelques suggestions» , Vol. 85 (2004) 457-474 (HTML) [PDF]

RSS feed for JTS

On Hypotyposeis, Stephen Carlson points to an RSS feed available for the Journal of Theological Studies. I look forward to other publishers following suit on this.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Brian Capper

I happened across this homepage tonight:

Dr Brian Capper

Brian is a reader in Christian Origins at Canterbury Christ Church University College. Like all the best homepages, it provides lots of on-line full-text reproductions of his articles, which I'll look to add to the NT Gateway when I next do an update.

Two-Sauce Theory update

It is possible that some might have missed the comments on The Two-Sauce Theory, including Wieland Willker's diagramme:

This comes close to my attempted formulation of Q =(Matthew minus Mark) divided by Luke-pleasingness.

Review of Biblical Literature latest

Latest from the SBL Review of Biblical Literature under the New Testament heading:

Silzer, Peter James and Thomas John Finley
How Biblical Languages Work: A Student's Guide to Learning Hebrew and Greek
Reviewed by Nijay Gupta

Dunn, James D. G. , ed.
The Cambridge Companion to St. Paul
Reviewed by Jerry L. Sumney

Painter, John
Just James: The Brother of Jesus in History and Tradition
Reviewed by William Wilson

Song, Changwon
Reading Romans as a Diatribe
Reviewed by Ron Fay

Song, Changwon
Reading Romans as a Diatribe
Reviewed by Runar M. Thorsteinsson

Thorsteinsson, Runar M.
Paul's Interlocutor in Romans 2: Function and Identity in the Context of Ancient Epistolography
Reviewed by James Sweeney

Trenchard, Warren C.
A Concise Dictionary of New Testament Greek
Reviewed by Daniel Arichea, Jr.

Williamson, Lamar
Preaching the Gospel of John: Proclaiming the Living Word
Reviewed by Joseph Matos

Wright, N. T.
The Resurrection of the Son of God
Reviewed by Pieter G. R. De Villiers

Wucherpfennig, Ansgar
Heracleon Philologus: Gnostische Johannesexegese im zweiten Jahrhundert
Reviewed by Michael Kaler

Google Scholar Firefox Plug-in

Attention fellow Firefox and Google Scholar users: there is a plug-in available for Google Scholar for Firefox. One click and it's loaded and appears as one option in your search box on the top right of your browser. Thanks to Michael Pahl for this, which is on BioMed Central:

Google Scholar Firefox Search Plugin

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

SBL Call for Papers

The Call for Papers for the 2005 SBL Annual Meeting went on-line yesterday. It does seem so recent that the San Antonio meeting finished. The deadline for proposals is 1 March 2005. The Synoptics Section call for papers looks like this:
At the 2005 Annual Meeting, the Synoptic Gospels section will have one themed session on "Gender, Space and Identity" as well as two open sessions, for which paper proposals on any topic relevant to the Synoptic Gospels are invited. Please submit your proposals directly via the SBL web site. If you have any questions, please email the chairs of the section, Mark Goodacre ( and Greg Carey (
From the look of the Call for Papers, several other sections are experimenting with expanding to two open sessions.

Nikkel on SBL

There is some new content for December on the SBL Forum. I enjoyed reading the Report from the Annual Meeting by Paul Nikkel (of deinde). An excerpt:
Although the Annual Meeting offers up a vast selection of sessions and papers of merit, it also struggles against its own mass with a tendency to offer up much more quantity than it can afford. Fragmentation is expected and even necessary in a large academic conference; however, along with an increase in valuable sessions there seems to be an increase in sessions that appear to duplicate existing frameworks. Along with these redundant sessions there are also a number that have long since passed their prime and new consultations shimming up two sessions with identifiable dross.
The question of quality of sessions is a concern and I wonder whether it could be come more of a concern still with the expansion in the number of sessions next year. I asked a former colleague in San Antonio if he was reading a paper at the AAR and he replied, "No, the bar is set far too low for that." I don't think that that is yet the case over the SBL, that senior colleagues are deterred from offering papers because they perceive the overall quality to be too low, but it would be presumably be a concern if that were to become the case.

Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism

Thanks to Matthew Brook O'Donnell for alerting me to updates in the following journal:

Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism

I've added this to my Journals page. It used to be there some years ago, but got removed when the journal hit problems. Its first issue was in 2000 but then nothing appeared for some time, and the journal vanished from the web altogether, its URL poached by someone else. It returned in December 2003, now hosted at McMaster (see blog entry on). Now Volume 2 has been announced with a 2001-5 date. There are currently three articles on-line:

Zeba Crook, The Divine Benefactions of Paul the Client
Hans Förster, 7Q5 = Mark 6.52-53: A Challenge for Textual Criticism?
Malcolm Choat and Alanna Nobbs, Monotheistic Formulae of Belief in Greek Letters on Papyrus from the Second to the Fourth Century

Matt O'Donnell writes:
We are actively seeking new articles, to complete Volume 2 (which we hope to do by the summer and then to see it out in print by the end of the year), and to go into Volume 3.

The scope of the Journal is broad, covering the texts, language and cultures of the Graeco-Roman world of early Christianity and Judaism.

From editorial statement (

"...the scope of this journal remains broad, with articles welcome on many areas of relevance to the journal’s aims. Nevertheless, the approach of the journal is also specific—to publish only the highest quality articles that examine the ways in which the Greco-Roman world was the world of the New Testament and early Judaism. The emphasis in the journal is thus on a range of possible approaches and bodies of material, including historical, linguistic, papyrological, epigraphical and synthetic studies of the kind that are often lacking in other journals. In fact, we encourage contributors to attempt to draw various areas of related knowledge together in their submissions."
The journal plans to keep material on-line for a year or so and then to push into print with Sheffield Phoenix Press, at the same time removing that volume from the web. So it's an interesting experiment in mixing on-line and print publication, though I think a little odd. Just as people are picking up the on-line versions of the articles and citing them, and creating some presence on the internet for their authors, they go to print only, and it's a pretty expensive print journal at £80 / $140 (institutional) or £40 / $70 (individual), and it is going to take some time for libaries to start picking up that first volume.

Two-Sauce Theory

Thanks to Jeff Peterson for the link to this picture, its source not quite clear, but somewhere in Cambridge, which explains a lot:

The Two-Sauce Theory

Google pens agreement with libraries

In addition to the earlier story, thanks to Jeff Peterson for this one:

Google pens agreement with libraries
New York: Popular internet search engine Google has reached an agreement with four universities and one public library to scan their books and make them available the digitised contents of the same, aiming to challenge competitors Yahoo and Microsoft.

California-based Google sealed the agreement with Harvard University, Oxford University, The University of Michigan, Stanford University and The New York Public Library.

The project will take around five years to be completed and will deliver a database of volumes that Google users can search, according to the Forbes Magazine.
Scrappleface is not amused but very amusing:
If the project succeeds, the source said, public libraries could dispose of their collections of flammable dust-magnets (trade jargon for 'books') and could finally focus on their primary mission -- reheating homeless people while they surf the net at broadband speeds.

"And for those who enjoy a lazy afternoon reading a book, doing so online will enhance their enjoyment of this leisurely pursuit," said the Google source. "In fact, with a dial-up internet connection it could take as long as three leisurely minutes just to turn the page."
Thanks to Jeff Peterson for the latter link too.

Update (20.16): The Stoa provides some useful links for more on this story, New York Times, BBC etc. And now (20.19) see also The Guardian.

Zhubert's Greek New Testament Browser

This was posted today on b-greek by Carl Conrad and is a fine new resource, with lots of potential for further development too:

GNT Browser

This is how Zhubert describes the resource:
Complete GNT online - source text is from jtauber, based on Nestle Aland 26
Parsing - available for every word, just hover over the word with your mouse
Word Detail Page - click on a word while reading and see detailed information about that word
Word Study - from the detail page, you can conduct a study on every use of the form or the root
Graphical Occurrence - from the word detail page, shows occurrences of both root and form by book
Basic Root Definitions - simple lexicon entries, right now very woeful, from Perseus...soon you will be able to correct these!
Grammar Reminder - a simple reminder as to the most basic grammar via your sidebar

And more to come...suggestions welcome! zhubert at zhubert dot com
This site is well worth a visit and already does a lot of interesting things. Because the CMS is set up blog-style, you can also subscribe to its feed, and I've added it to my blogroll. I'll be keeping an eye on the promised developments.

I have added a link to my Greek New Testament Texts page and with the promised additions, I can see this one moving up the page as time goes on.

Update (20:03): enthusiastic endorsements from James Tauber and Rubén Gómez.

Update (22:31): Tim Bulkeley also enthuses.


I've been enjoying following all the different suggestions for renaming the collective term for the increasing number of those blogging on academic Biblical studies. Ed Cook in Ralph the Sacred River, for example, suggests Bibliablogger and Stephen Carlson in Hypotyposeis thinks that that might work. Eric Sowell, The Coding Humanist, has a useful summary post. Well, I am going to stand out from the pack and be boring and conservative and state my preference for the existing term biblioblogger. It's already in use and has been for some time; googling for "bibliobloggers" (etc.) does bring us all up; it's much easier to say than the alternative bibliablogger, which people will misspell anyway; the other alternatives all have major drawbacks; and I rather like the way that the term biblioblogger just evolved and dropped into everyday blogging usage. A term that evolves and gets used in such a way is always more likely to stick around than one that is artificially created. The fact that no one can remember who first used the term biblioblogger is itself a hint that the term we have got is in some way natural and easily usable. (I think it was David Meadows in Rogueclassicism who first used it, but I can't find the origin of it in his blog if so). The only disadvantage, it seems to me, is the possible confusion with blogs about bibliography or books, and I doubt that that confusion is a problem in the contexts in which we use the term biblioblogger, so I don't think that there is any need to be concerned about that.

Update (11.10): David Meadows emails to say that the earliest reference he can find to this is on RogueClassicism on 27 January 2004. Like me, he does not see the problem with the term -- "there are piles of blog titles which evoke various things which have nothing to do with what an academic scholar in the field might immediately thing of (e.g. Tacitus has nothing to do with Tacitus, etc.)".

Google Scholar and Google Suggest

Because it came up while I was in Texas, I never did get around to blogging on Google Scholar, but I assume that all my readers have heard about this by now, a fine new resource, and probably destined to become the first stop for research students in the future. I am impressed already by the way that it works, even if it puts Bill Farmer at the top of a search on "Synoptic Problem", and my guess is that it will continue to improve with time, feedback and further refinement. There is an associated blog, On Google Scholar which is worth adding to your blogroll.

Meanwhile Google Weblog points to another new Google Beta called Google Suggest which is good fun -- type your search term in and a wealth of suggestions appear.

Lacus Curtius Maps

I've adjusted a URL on my Maps page, Some Maps of the Roman Empire, Part of Lacus Curtius, Bill Thayer's fine web site on Roman antiquity.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Cities of Paul

Another press release from Fortress:
Fortress Press Releases Monumental Resource on the Cities of Paul

MINNEAPOLIS (Dec 9, 2004)— Cities of Paul: Images and Interpretations from the Harvard New Testament Archaeology Project is now available from Fortress Press.

This dynamic resource on CD-ROM includes nearly 900 images from sites in Greece and Turkey (ancient Asia Minor) illuminating the religious and civic lives of peoples encountered by Paul and other leaders in the earliest churches. Cities featured include Athens, Olympia, Corinth, Pergamon, Delphi, Philippi, Isthmia, Ephesus, and Thessaloniki. In addition to photos, the CD-ROM includes maps, bibliographies, glossary, indexes, and especially detailed historical information about the sites and artifacts.

Each slide is accompanied by an explanation of the image and the particular elements in the photograph. Users can create their own “slide show” presentations using the images and commentaries or typing in their own on-screen texts to appear with each photo.

Publications with slides from the ancient Mediterranean illustrating archaeological sites of the New Testament and early Christianity usually present materials only from Palestine and offer no more than brief captions for each slide. This series is designed to overcome these deficiencies. Slides of ancient architecture, coins, sculptures, and inscriptions are included, as well as various maps and floor plans, are

Concentrated on those areas of the Greco-Roman world in the Aegean, western Aisa Minor, Macedonia, and Greece. Each slide is accompanied by a full description of the object presented, scholarly discussion of its significance, and bibliography. Materials are not limited to the time of the early Christian mission but try to expand the horizon by including significant finds from the Hellenistic period as well of the time of the first extant Christian archaeological monuments.

This stunning array of images and commentary is a powerful tool for teaching, scholarship, and reference. It brings alive the world of the early Christians for students and lay persons alike. Rather than try to “illustrate” the New Testament, these images, using the most up-to-date results of archaeological scholarship, are intended to further a better understanding of the world of early Christianity and present visual images and explanations of the cities and societies in which early Christians lived and Christian missionaries worked.

Helmut Koester is John H. Morison Research Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School. He is the chair of the New Testament board of Hermeneia and author of three previous books from Fortress Press, including Introduction to the New Testament (2 vols., 1982), Lent (Proclamation, 1974), and Trajectories through Early Christianity (with James M. Robinson, 1971). He has led groups to archaeological sites throughout Greece and Turkey for more than twenty years.

Minimum System Requirements

Macintosh: System 9.x; 800 x 600 resolution monitor; 440 Mz PowerPC processor

Windows: Windows 2000; 800 x 600 resolution monitor; 440 Mz PowerPC processor

ISBN: 0-8006-3673-2

Special introductory price for limited time: $199.00

To order Cities of Paul call Fortress Press at 1-800-328-4648 or visit the web site at To request exam copies please call 1-800-426-0115 ext. 234 or email

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Fortress Teaching Awards

This press release is from Fortress:
Fortress Press Presents New Teaching Awards

MINNEAPOLIS (December 9, 2004)— Fortress Press presented two new teaching awards at this year’s annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature conference in San Antonio, Texas, on November 21.

Two scholars—one teaching undergraduates, the other teaching graduates or seminarians—received awards in recognition of their innovative teaching, their approaches to subject areas, or their communication with today’s students in biblical studies, religious studies, theology, ethics, or ministry. Candidates were nominated by peers and chosen by independent judges.

Alicia Batten, Assistant Professor of Religion at Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Washington, received the 2004 Fortress Press Award for Undergraduate Teaching. Batten was commended particularly for her upper-division course on the historical Jesus that correlates biblical studies with service learning as an integral component.

Under her guidance, students work with vulnerable or disadvantaged people, experiencing a new dimension to the deeper levels of academic study of the New Testament. Batten stated, “Challenging undergraduates to think historically and critically about biblical texts and ancient figures such as Jesus can be difficult sometimes, and thus it is wonderful that Fortress Press is encouraging innovative ways of trying to engage students today.”

David Rhoads, Professor of New Testament at Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago received the 2004 Fortress Press Award for Graduate and Seminary Teaching. For a couple of decades he also has given oral performances of the gospel of Mark in a dramatic setting before church groups and classes. His innovative teaching methods particularly include diverse methodologies for studying the Bible and other pedagogical strategies, and creative writing assignments. “The challenge for me, “ stated Rhoads, “is to teach the Bible in such a way that students themselves are transformed by the engagement—by encountering the text through new media (such as performance), by applying new methods, by connecting the text to contemporary problems (such as the environment), and in dialogue with people of different cultures.”

In presenting these awards, “Fortress Press joins professors from around the country in acknowledging the talents of these innovative educators and presents them as models for the academic community,” said Fortress Press publisher, Scott Tunseth. “We hope also in this process to identify teaching strategies to inform development of future textbooks.”

Fortress Press is recognized worldwide as a leader in biblical and theological studies and is noted for its significant publishing in the areas of Jewish-Christian studies, African American religion, religion and science, and feminist theology. The Fortress Press program is academic, ecumenical, inclusive, and international. Fortress Press, the academic book imprint of Augsburg Fortress with editorial offices in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.A. Augsburg Fortress is the publishing house of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

To learn more about Fortress press visit

AKMA is still having random thoughts

Just in case, like me, you had been thinking that AKMA had not had any random thoughts for the last few weeks, I found out today that the blog is still going strong, but that the RSS feed has changed. The old RSS feed link is moribund; the new one is I'd have thought that it was just me having missed an announcement, but I notice that over 100 Bloglines subscribers still subscribe to the old feed, so it's probably worth my mentioning here. The blog central has a new look but is still available at the same URL here:

AKMA's Random Thoughts

A Covenant to the People, A Light to the Nations

Annette Yoshiko Reed sends round a "reminder in advance of the impending December 15th deadline for applications for participation in the pre-Colloquium graduate student Seminar connected with the up-coming McMaster Colloquium "A Covenant to the People, A Light to the Nations: Universalism, Exceptionalism, and the Problem of Chosenness in Jewish Thought" (seminar: May 17 2005; colloquium: May 18-20 2005). Full details are available on this web page:

A Covenant to the People, A Light to the Nations

Review of Biblical Literature latest

Latest from the Review of Biblical Literature under the NT heading:

Estévez López, Elisa
El Poder de una Mujer Creyente: Cuerpo, identidad y discipulado en Mc 5, 24b-34. Un edstudio desde las ciencias sociales
Reviewed by Violeta Rocha

Kovacs, Judith and Christopher Rowland
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

Lioy, Dan
The Decalogue in the Sermon on the Mount
Reviewed by Jonathan Lawrence

Nicholl, Colin R.
From Hope to Despair in Thessalonica: Situating 1 and 2 Thessalonians
Reviewed by Peter Williams

Olmstead, Wesley G.
Matthew's Trilogy of Parables: The Nation, the Nations and the Reader in Matthew 21:28-22:14
Reviewed by Garwood Anderson

Witherington, Ben III
The New Testament Story
Reviewed by Sean Kealy

Witherington, Ben III
The New Testament Story
Reviewed by James Sweeney

Mahony, Kieran J. O., ed.
Christian Origins: Worship, Belief and Society
Reviewed by Thomas J. Kraus

Zetterholm, Magnus
The Formation of Christianity in Antioch: A Social-Scientific Approach to the Separation Between Judaism and Christianity
Reviewed by Matt A. Jackson-McCabe

Testament of Abraham on-line

Which reminds me that I went to the only on-line English translation of the Testament of Abraham available, at New Advent, and it is completely unusable -- riddled with errors, not even ordered properly, clearly not even proof-read before it was uploaded to the web. A real shame. One difficulty here is that it is not straightforward to see who to correspond with about this. It is frusrating because the possibilities for on-line open resources are so strong. Stick an on-line edition up there and each user can help you polish your edition until it is perfect.

In line with this, I have typed up the Greek text of the Apocalypse of Peter, the other text we covered in our post-graduate Greek class this year, with a view to opening it up for others to use and improve. I'll upload that text next week.

But back to the Testament of Abraham again, I have been impressed with the Online Critical Pseudepigrapha and have used the Testament of Abraham Recension A for our classes. The only problem with that project at this stage is that it does not provide printable texts. If you try to print up from the web pages that are there at the moment, you will struggle to get anything decent looking. What I did was to copy and paste the whole lot into a fresh document and re-format and print. (If anyone at the OCP wants a copy of that document, I'd be happy to send it over). So I would recommend that a facility is added to convert to PDF or similar on the fly so that an individual who needs a printed version can use one. To see the kind of thing I mean, have a look at this, which has a PDF button at the top:

The Passion and Resurrection Narratives from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

And see my brief blog post on.

Update (19.25): Ian Scott and Ken Penner email from the Online Critical Pseudepigrapha and confirm (a) that an overhaul of the user interface is planned soon, once the Testament of Job edition is complete and (b) that a more printer-friendly option should be integrated; they have the texts in .doc format for internal use so it will be straightforward to make those more widely available.

Blogging at its best @ Paleojudaica

On Hypotyposeis, Stephen Carlson suggests that this post on Paleojudaica might be come a classic:

Philo or the Pseudepigrapha

I agree; great post. I'm interested by this paragraph in particular:
Some other pseudepigrapha are likely to be Jewish but cannot be shown to be so beyond reasonable doubt, such as various bits of the Sibylline Oracles. Other texts may be Jewish but then again may not be, such as the Testament of Job and Joseph and Aseneth. Still others are often used as Jewish texts but in my opinion are probably Christian compositions; for example, the Testament of Abraham.
I had never read the Testament of Abraham before until we covered it in our post-graduate Greek class here in Birmingham this term. What an interesting text. And the thing that continually occurred to us was that this could so easily be a Christian text in toto. Reading it with a knowledge of the Greek NT continually reminds one of little phrases and ideas from the Greek NT, especially the fascinating section on the broad and narrow way but also elsewhere.

Kirby on Firefox

If you have downloaded Firefox, you'll probably be using it as your default browser by now and you'll agree with everything that Peter Kirby says below in his Christian Origins blog. If you haven't downloaded it yet, Peter Kirby provides the best endorsement I've seen of it so far:

Get Firefox Now

So what's stopping you?

End of term struggle

As you may have noticed, nothing here now for days. It's the end of term struggle, which combines an even bigger workload than usual with an even greater level of fatigue than usual. There's lots of interesting stuff on the other biblioblogs, though, and I might even get around to drawing attentioin to some of my own favourite posts in recent days when I get a moment, though I often think that when I've been unable to blog, and then fail to get round to it.

Friday, December 03, 2004

How to read a scholarly paper

On new blog Ralph the Sacred River, Edward Cook has some interesting comments on "How to read a scholarly paper", following on from Torrey Seland's comments and mine, and see now also Stephen Carlson in Hyptoposeis. Let me second Stephen's and Torrey's pleas for handouts. I must admit to finding a well structured outline on a handout a real boon to listening to a paper. What worries me about preparing handouts for conference papers, and this is reflected also in Stephen's comments, is the concern about numbers. It is so difficult to guess the audience you are going to get, especially at the SBL. And do you take a sheet and hope to goodness that you can find reasonably priced photocopying facilities at your destination, and the time to use them? If you're coming from the UK, you then have to make sure you've prepared it in American letter size rather than A4. Well, down that route lies too much anxiety. So you do it before you go and you end up with your suitcase half-full of handouts which, in your neurosis, you think might be needed for your session. Well, for all the stress, I'd encourage people to go for the handout solution as far as possible. I'm a big user of handouts in everyday undergraduate lecturing. One additional advantage is that it is the preferred option of some disabled users. In fact I recall sitting next to someone with poor eyesight at a conference paper where OHTs (Overhead projector Transparencies) were used and he could not see anything on screen at all, and was not able to follow the paper.

Ed writes:
First of all, it's too scary to present without anything written at all. Mark, good for you, but this is going to be beyond most of us. There's always the possibility that you may dry up or space out in the middle of your talk, and you've got to have something in front of you to help out. HOWEVER: Don't bring an entire paper that you're planning to have published somewhere. Prepare a reading script instead. I always do this now; a reading script is different than a full-blown scholarly treatment, in that it's shorter, hopefully clearer, and leaves out subsidiary and supporting material that is inessential for oral presentation. I've learned that for a 20-25 minute presentation, a script of 10-15 pages is ample.
I agree with this absolutely. I should add here that I am not personally in favour of presenting "without anything written at all". I think it is worth taking a script, as a kind of security blanket, or to take a card with some headings and some key-words on it, or whatever prompt might be useful. For myself, I take written bits and bobs and have them ready in case needed, but aim to be familiar enough with the material and the structure of what I want to say that I will only refer to those if necessary.

The reason for my bringing this up in the first place is the idea that there is something necessarily superior, something more academically appropriate about reading a paper. This is the thing that I am struggling with. What I remain bothered about is the disjunction between the way we all work in our day-to-day lecturing and the way we behave at conferences. What I suspect is that one has simply not caught up with the other. We are in the habit of reading out papers not because we have thought it through and have decided that it is the best way to communicate with other scholars but because it is an academic convention, something we have all inherited, that we assume is the way to do things without question. A hundred years ago, I'd bet you'd hear most of your undergraduate lectures read-out by your lecturers. Under such circumstances, it was natural to read-out conference papers too. But now none of us read out lectures to undergraduates, do we? So this is how I am beginning to see it, with apologies if I am overstating the case. If we are comfortable lecturing ex tempore on a day-by-day basis, over a much longer time period (hour long lectures), on topics that are not always intimately related to our research (we all lecture on stuff we have never written on), to people less patient than scholars (undergraduate students), then surely it is a more straightforward thing to talk for 20-25 minutes to friendly faces on material we know intimately?

Zeba Crook's English Synopsis Update

Back in May, I blogged on Zeba Crook's English Reader's Synopsis. Zeba now has an updated version setting out the advantages of this proposal, and providing some samples of the Synopsis at the following URL:

English Reader's Synopsis

As I commented previously, this looks like a valuable project, if I have some qualms about the use of reconstructed Q here for the reasons previously articulated, especially that it will negate the usual pedagogical advantage of having two columns for double tradition. When I teach the Synoptic Problem to introductory classes, the kind of audience that this Synopsis is aimed at, I find it straightforward to explain triple tradition by showing a Synopsis in three columns and double tradition by showing a Synopsis in two columns. It would be impossible to do that with this Synopsis. The Synoptic Problem is already complicated enough, and the pedagogical disadvantage for the introductory student of double tradition in three columns would, in my judgement, cause problems. Moreover, I would always prefer, even with more advanced students, not to have a Q column present since this potentially forecloses the question of the solution to the Synoptic Problem, so limiting the usability of the Synopsis.

Christian Origins new look again

I mentioned recently the new look for Peter Kirby's Christian Origins pages. Don't forget to have a look at them here:

Text Information Page with Javascript Menus

I must say that I do like the new look, though I wonder whether the candles at the top might look a bit more cheesey with regular viewing than they do now on first viewing. In the past I did rather admire the clean, lean, basic look, a kind of no-nonsense approach that drew attention to the subject matter. But these days one has to signal to one's users, I suppose, that one is bang up to date, and design is a way of alerting users to the importance of the content. I like the javascript menus. They loaded straight away for me (with a broadband connection and using Firefox).

In those menus, I am pleased to see Q now listed among "hypothesized sources". I am less sure about the Gospel of Thomas appearing among "Dialogues with Jesus"; and some would prefer not to see it listed with "Gnostics", but then I see that it is also listed among Apocryphal Gospels.

I am not generally particularly keen on textured backgrounds, but the one chosen here makes it straightforward to see the traditional-style bright blue hyperlinks. The standard text also shows up without too much trouble against this background, but I wonder if it works as well as a straight colour background would.

One other thought. I have been impressed with those who are now using blogging software as their CMS, e.g. The Stoa and the Synoptic Problem Website. This is something I'd like to do for the New Testament Gateway proper when I have time to rework it. On Peter's case, he has something similar in areas like the Gospel of Thomas Commentary, which enables user commentary. Perhaps this would be worth thinking about for the Christian origins websites as a whole.

Anyway, my own thoughts remain enthusiastic -- I'd encourage Peter to go with it.

Australian Biblical Review

Thanks to Felix Just for this one:

Australian Biblical Review

This is a nicely designed website and features lists of contents, subscription details and full texts of book reviews published in ABR since 2002, several of which are well worth reading. I've added this, too, to my Journals page.

The Bible and Critical Theory

Thanks to Michael Pahl for this one:

The Bible and Critical Theory

This is a new journal based at Monash University. It's an e-journal with full text available in HTML or PDF formats. It describes itself like this:
The Bible and Critical Theory is an exploratory and innovative internet journal. Fully peer-reviewed, the journal explores the intersections between critical theory, understood in the broad sense, and biblical studies. It publishes articles that investigate the contributions from critical theory to biblical studies, and contributions from biblical studies to critical theory.
I've added a link on my Journals page.

Google Search on NT Gateway

Back in September, I reached my limit of 1,500 documents at Picosearch, the free search engine I was using for the New Testament Gateway and the NT Gateway Weblog and replaced it on the blog with a Google Search. I find that I use that search facility myself all the time when looking for material on my own pages and that is probably a good sign. So I've now also replaced the Picosearch on the New Testament Gateway main page with the Google Search. And in due course, I'll make the adjustment on the rest of the pages too.

Further NT Gateway updates

I have also updated the URLs for Stephen Carlson's Synoptic Problem Website on Synoptic Problem and Q and on two related pages. I've abandoned the attempt to list articles on Q separately from articles on the Synoptic Problem and have centralised them in Synoptic Problem and Q Books and Articles.

I have updated the E-Lists and Textual Criticism: Journal and E-List pages with Wieland Willker's new Textual Criticism e-list, which is the effective replacement for TC-List, which now appears to be completely defunct.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Mahlon Smith's sites

Mahlon Smith has moved his websites to a new permanent URL at I have now completed the process of updating my links. There are too many to list here, but let it suffice to say that I think that the NT Gateway now has the updated links to all of his pages, including Into His Own: Perspective on the World of Jesus, Synoptic Gospels Primer, Jesus Seminar Forum and Virtual Religion Index, and all the sub-pages in various different places.

Staley on John Adjustments

I've corrected and updated the URLs and information for Jeffrey Staley's articles on John on my Gospel of John: Books and Articles page.

Evelina Meghnagi

In my report on the Fulco and Fitzgerald session at the SBL, I included a brief comment on the following:
Also on the question of anti-Judaism, Fulco mentioned an assistant he had -- don't remember the name -- on the language coaching on set. She was Jewish and apparently frequently sat down with Mel Gibson to discuss the question of the representation of Jews and Judaism in the film. She made suggestions for improvements to the film throughout, including something to do with the depiction of the Last Supper.
Evy Nelson helpfully emails with the name of this person, Evelina Meghnagi, and there is an interesting article here that fills in a little more background:

Jewish actor traded role in ‘Fiddler’ to play a high priest in ‘The Passion’
By Ruth E. Gruber

The actor in the headline here is Olek Mincer who plays Nicodemus in the film, but the article discusses not only his views and Maia Morgenstern's (Mary), but also Evelina Meghnagi's:
Meghnagi, who was born in Libya, recently described to the Rome Jewish monthly Shalom her growing uneasiness with the production as it progressed. She said she felt so strongly about it that she refused to allow the use of some of her music in the soundtrack.

“As I instructed the actors how to speak in Aramaic,” she said, “I began to understand from the screenplay that not only would this be a blood-soaked and violent film, but also that I found myself facing a story in which the director, Mel Gibson, restored the responsibility for the crucifixion of Christ to us Jews.”

Morgenstern, on the other hand, has told interviewers that she does not think the film is anti-Semitic.

The daughter of Holocaust survivors, Morgenstern told The Associated Press that any political message the film offers is “about the responsibility and impact political and military leaders can have in manipulating the masses and interfering in people’s conscience, particularly at a moment of crisis as it was then.”

Mincer, also the child of survivors, agrees with Morgenstern.

Mincer said he doesn’t believe Gibson is anti-Semitic, and he hopes that the controversy around the film could ultimately have a positive effect."
I found the article an interesting comment on Fulco's postive spin on Meghnagi's role and then all the more interesting for the comments of Mincer. I had not been aware of him before. The article's conclusion:
Mincer said that he had experienced some qualms while performing in “The Passion of the Christ,” but in the end — like Morgenstern — he concluded that “this was a film, a work of art; we are actors and we serve art; this is our profession.”

Still, he admitted, he didn’t know how he would have behaved if the character he played would have had to have acted violently against Jesus.

As it was, he said, the violent aspects of the movie in a way had strengthened his own sense of Jewish identity. they also provided him with new insights into Christianity.

“The violence carried out on Jesus by the Roman soldiers made me think of the millions who were killed during the Shoah, during the Russian pogroms, in medieval bonfires,” he said. “Maybe because I myself am Jewish, it made me think of Jesus as a brother who suffers.”

It was important to remember, he said, that “Jesus, his mother, father and all the apostles were Jews; the first Christian martyrs were Jews; the Romans did not distinguish between Christians and Jews who were not Christian.”

He said that during the production of “The Passion,” he and the other Jewish cast and crew members became close. Meghnagi in particular, he said, also tried to influence the production by pointing out certain errors in how Judaism or Jewish practice was portrayed.

“I have to tell you that during the long periods of waiting off the set, I would sing songs in Yiddish with one of the American actors,” Mincer said.

“I felt a little clandestine in doing so, but at the same time not alone; it gave me a sense of belonging,” he said. “And watching the bravura and professionalism of Maia Morgenstern filled me with pride for Yiddishkeit.”
The mention of Meghnagi there is presumably what Fulco was talking about in the session. I've looked around on the net to see if there is any further information available about her views on the film. The only thing I've discovered is that she also appears in the film -- as a woman in Herod's Court (see IMDb entry on).

Who Wrote the New Testament? DVD

This press release was sent to me by Beth Read of the Bible Society:

Bible Society has followed up its enormously successful partnership with Welsh TV channel S4C on the film The Miracle Maker, with the DVD release of a new co-produced documentary. Who Wrote the New Testament? follows a fascinating trail across Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Italy and Greece to explore the composition of the New Testament. Whose fingerprints does it bear? How did it come together and why were other documents related to the origins of the faith, which is today followed by two billion people, left out?

A Welsh version of Who Wrote the New Testament? has already been screened on S4C and the series has been sold for transmission to six other international broadcasters. Next year, it is expected to be screened on The History Channel.

Filmed on location, the programme transports viewers from an ancient monastery at the foot of Mt Sinai – the source of Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest manuscript of the Old and New Testament in existence – to other sites associated with the New Testament and other related writings. With contributions from many biblical scholars, including Bible Society President Rt Revd Tom Wright, it asks key questions about the New Testament’s authors and the shaping of the Bible. It turns out that the process was far less straightforward than the production of most modern day blockbusters!
In looking at which compositions the Church accepted into the Bible and which it rejected, the programme is intentionally open-ended and sometimes controversial.

Philip Poole, Bible Society’s Deputy Chief Executive, explained that the S4C-commissioned programme invited Bible Society comment but was ultimately an independent production. “It highlights many of the questions and debates at the heart of modern biblical studies,” he said. “Bible Society isn’t afraid of that. We have every confidence in the Bible’s ability to withstand scrutiny and so we are very keen to stimulate debate whether that is the questioning of the mass media or the interrogations of the scholarly community.”

Suited as much to individuals with an interest in biblical history as to church groups and theological students, Who Wrote the New Testament? also has a free online study guide to each episode specially commissioned by Bible Society.

Who Wrote the New Testament? (ISBN 0564 03536X) is priced £20 and available from Bible Society’s distributor Marston Books on 01235 465612 or visit

Bible Society is the DVD and video distributor of The Miracle Maker to the Christian marketplace. The film is a production of S4C Films with the participation of British Screen and Icon Entertainment International in association with BBC Cymru/Wales.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Apostle Paul Video

Enis Sakirgil gets in touch to draw my attention to this video project:

Apostle Paul and the Earliest Churches

From the look of it (there are some clips), it is a kind of documentary film in which various of Paul's missionary centres are visited, following the Acts story. The website features a nice Timeline:

Timeline of Apostle Paul's Life

The data is taken from the conservative, Acts-based chronology from the Blue Letter Bible, but it works with this to creat a nice moving timeline, with clickable Bible references.

Review of Biblical Literature latest

Latest from the SBL's Review of Biblical Literature under the New Testament heading:

Weren, Wim and Dietrich-Alex Koch, eds.
Recent Developments in Textual Criticism: New Testament, Other Early Christian and Jewish Literature. Papers Read at a Noster Conference in Münster, January 4-6, 2001
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

Ben-Daniel, John and Gloria Ben-Daniel
The Apocalypse in the Light of the Temple: A New Approach to the Book of Revelation
Reviewed by Ronald Clark

Reviewed by Renate Viveen Hood

Reviewed by Markus Zehnder

Ehrman, Bart D.
A Brief Introduction to the New Testament
Reviewed by Casey Elledge

Evans, Craig A., ed.
From Prophecy to Testament: The Function of the Old Testament in the New
Reviewed by Maarten Menken

Murphy-O'Connor, Jerome
Translated by Dominique Barrios-Delgado
Histoire de Paul de Tarse
Reviewed by Dennis Stoutenburg

Uro, Risto
Thomas: Seeking the Historical Context of the Gospel of Thomas
Reviewed by Thomas J. Kraus

Weihs, Alexander
Die Deutung des Todes Jesu im Markusevangelium: Eine exegetische Studie zu den Leidens- und Auferstehungsansagen
Reviewed by Douglas Geyer