Thursday, May 31, 2007

Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism

Matthew Brook O'Donnell reminded me about blogging this some time ago, and then the RSS feed from the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism tonight spewed out a list of all articles published so far in the journal since 2000. It may be because the URL has changed, now at, but it reminds me that I have not recently mentioned the full ten article version of Volume 3 (2006). My memory is not good enough to recall whether any of these are new, though looking back over my blog, I see that the last time I mentioned it, in October, it had just the first four articles. This is the full line-up:
3.1. Craig Evans, Messianic Hopes and Messianic Figures in Late Antiquity

3.2. Richard Van Egmond, The Messianic ‘Son of David’ in Matthew

3.3. Ronald Weed, Aristotle on Justice (δικαιοσύνη): Character, Action and Some Pauline Counterparts

3.4. Michael Wojciechowski, Paul and Plutarch on Boasting

3.5. Barry F. Parker, Romans 7 and the Split Between Judaism and Christiainity

3.6. Craig S. Keener, Paul's 'Friends' The Asiarchs (Acts 19.31)

3.7. Lois K. Fuller, The 'Genitive Absolute' in New Testament/Hellenistic Greek: A Proposal for Clearer Understanding

3.8. Jonathan M. Watt, Contextual Disconnection in Bart Ehrman's Lost Christianities

3.9. Sean A. Adams, Luke's Preface and its Relationship to Greek Historiography: A Response to Loveday Alexander

3.10. Robert Stephen Reid, Ad Herennium Argument Strategies in 1 Corinthians
I'm guessing that that closes Volume 3, and that we can expect more for 2007 soon.

Deirdre Good on Jesus' (lack of ) family values

Religious Intelligence report on biblioblogger Deirdre Good's new book on Jesus' Family Values:

New book by Anglican scholar claims Jesus ‘had no family values’
Thursday, 31st May 2007. 4:12pm
By: Toby Cohen
AN ANGLICAN scholar has launched a new book lampooning Christian family values. Dr Deirdre Good . . . a New Testament professor at the Episcopal Church’s General Theological Seminary in New York, declared, “Jesus doesn’t have any family values” at St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace today . . . .

. . . . Explaining her controversial argument, Dr Good observed that “the word family doesn’t occur in the New Testament”.

She added: “There’s nothing about family life. Nothing about the qualities of family life. It is amazing how we’ve read qualities in to the Bible.” Dr Good posits that our Victorian understanding of family values has skewed our reading of the Bible, and that closer reading of scripture reveals ‘shocking’ truths. The front cover of her book bares Matthew 10: “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.” . . . .

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Doctor Who, Human Nature and Kenosis

Regular readers will know that it is rare for me to blog on items of outside interest, all the many non-academic interests that make life so enjoyable, British TV and radio, cinema, music, cricket, football, politics and so on. But I do make exceptions where items of personal interest intersect with the theme of the blog. The most recent episode of Doctor Who, broadcast on BBC1 last Saturday (Series 3, Episode 8), was called Human Nature, the first of a two parter with Family of Blood to follow this Saturday. It was written by Paul Cornell, who wrote the superb "Father's Day" in the first of the new Doctor Whos in 2005.

American readers will be less familiar with Doctor Who than British readers. Very briefly, it is the longest running science fiction TV series of all time, from 1963 to the present; it is produced by the BBC and is about a time-travelling alien from the planet Gallifrey called The Doctor. He travels in a blue 1960s police box called the TARDIS and has a companion, usually female. He is able to change his appearance when he regenerates, and has done this nine times. The series was cancelled by the BBC in 1989; it re-emerged briefly in 1996 for a TVM; it returned triumphantly in 2005 when it had been transformed almost out of recognition from what we were brought up with, under Russell T. Davies. The current series is the third of these new Doctor Whos, with David Tennant playing the tenth doctor.

This week's episode (30 second trailer here) saw the Doctor pursued by "the family of blood", and his only hope of escaping from them was to hide. Thus, for the first time ever, he uses the chameleon arch, in the TARDIS, to change his entire make up and transform him into a human being, his Doctor's essence now contained in an old fob watch which was not to be opened. His new life is as John Smith, a teacher in a British public school in 1913. His current companion Martha (Freema Agyeman) acts as his maid, and watches and waits until it is safe for John Smith to become the Doctor again.

The reason the episode appealed to me was not just that it was a cracking retelling of the age-old story of the alien taking on human nature and living in a particular time and a particular place, doing extraordinary things, but it was one of the best fictional attempts I have seen to work out the "emptying" of the alien's powers, to achieve kenosis before embarking on the new adventure on earth.

I recall clearly when I first heard about kenotic Christology, when reading Charles Gore when I was a student in Oxford; I remember being quite thrilled by this idea, which I had never heard in Church, and which seemed to make complete sense to me, with Scriptural precedent (Phil. 2.6-11) and intellectual coherence. I asked my Church History tutor, Geoffrey Rowell at Keble College, why more people did not see this as a solution to the profound difficulties with understanding and expressing the doctrine of the incarnation, and he agreed that it had had something of a bad press.

One of the difficulties with a kenotic Christology, I am told, is that it is extraodinarily difficult to explain what it might mean to speak of an "emptying" of what pertains to being God. In what sense is Jesus of Nazareth "God" if that character is emptied of that nature? Since I am neither a philosopher nor a theologian, I like stories that will help me to imagine my way into interesting theological ideas, and this episode of Doctor Who, for the first time that I have seen in fiction, grappled with the idea of an alien emptying himself, being transformed into a human being, and asking the question whether this is indeed the same man. Is John Smith of "Human Nature" the same person as the Doctor? He looks the same; he has many of the Doctor's traits; at night he dreams of that other life and those other adventures; but he has only residual awareness of his other identity, expressed in his Journal of Impossible Things. This short YouTube clip comes about half-way through the episode, as Martha returns to the TARDIS and has flashbacks to the key moments of the Doctor's kenosis.

Poll on Synoptic Problem

Don't forget to vote for the best solution to the Synoptic Problem (which is called "the Farrer Theory") over on Brandon Wason's Novum Testamentum blog.

Review of Biblical Literature Latest

Latest from the SBL Review of Biblical Literature under the NT and related heading. Nothing from me this time.

Eve-Marie Becker
Das Markus-Evangelium im Rahmen antiker Historiographie
Reviewed by Christine Gerber

Fiona C. Black, ed.
The Recycled Bible: Autobiography, Culture, and the Space Between
Reviewed by Diane M. Sharon

D. A. Carson and Douglas Moo
An Introduction to the New Testament, 2nd edition
Reviewed by John Paul Heil

Patrick J. Hartin
James, First Peter, Jude, Second Peter
Reviewed by Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr

Hans-Christian Kammler
Kreuz und Weisheit: Eine exegetische Untersuchung zu 1 Kor 1,10-3,4
Reviewed by H. H. Drake Williams III

Terrence J. Keegan
First and Second Timothy, Titus, Philemon
Reviewed by I. Howard Marshall

Bruce J. Malina and John J. Pilch
Social-Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul
Reviewed by Valérie Nicolet Anderson

Bruce Metzger
Apostolic Letters of Faith, Hope, and Love: Galatians, 1 Peter, and 1 John
Reviewed by Timothy Wiarda

Carolyn Osiek and Margaret Y. MacDonald, with Janet H. Tulloch
A Woman's Place: House Churches in Earliest Christianity
Reviewed by David Parris

F. Scott Spencer
Dancing Girls, Loose Ladies, and Women of the Cloth: The Women in Jesus' Life
Reviewed by Patrick E. Spencer

R. S. Sugirtharajah, ed.
Voices from the Margin: Interpreting the Bible in the Third World, 3rd edition
Reviewed by Gerald O. West

Phillip Towner
The Letters to Timothy and Titus
Reviewed by Raymond F. Collins

L. L. Welborn and Kathy L. Gaca, eds.
Early Patristic Readings of Romans
Reviewed by Peter Tomson

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Perrin Review Complete

I have now finished my lengthy rolling post offering my reflections on Nick Perrin's Thomas, the Other Gospel. It is at the same URL, Nicholas Perrin, Thomas, the Other Gospel: Reflections but I am mentioning it in an extra post here because new Blogger appears not to ping people's readers automatically on updates.

Nicholas Perrin, Thomas: The Other Gospel: Reflections

Nicholas Perrin, Thomas, the Other Gospel has recently appeared in the UK and is due to be released in the US in October. I would like to blog some of my reflections on the book here. The book comes with some overwhelming endorsements, e.g. Scot McKnight, "a stunning achievement that can set the standard for the next generation of scholarship", and to an extent these will affect the reading experience. They set up very high expectations, and it may be that those who remain unpersuaded by Perrin's case will react more strongly than they might otherwise be inclined to. As will become clear from my remarks below, I am not persuaded by its central thesis, and I will spend most of this blog post explaining why that is so.

At the outset, I should underline that the book has some very good features. In particular, I am going to find the book useful in teaching because there has been a lack of books on the Gospel of Thomas from the non-independence perspective that are at the same time accessible to undergraduates. Perrin's book uses translations of the texts and explains terms when he first uses them, synoptic problem, soteriology, ecclesiology etc. There is footnoting but it is about halfway between monograph level and introductory book level, so it's relatively unobtrusive for the beginner but present for the more advanced student. There is a fairly full bibliography too, but it's select and not comprehensive. Naturally I would throw some others into the bibliography that Perrin keeps out, e.g. Snodgrass and Tuckett would always find a place for me, as classics for the so called "dependence" argument with which Perrin is sympathetic.

On the whole I like the way that the book is pitched. It does not patronise or condescend to the reader, and it is clearly aimed at scholars as well as students. Nevertheless, there are moments where some undergraduate students may get lost, where the argument becomes quite detailed and nitty-gritty without the patient step-by-step that marks it out elsewhere, and there are moments where several scholars will be frustrated because Perrin does not engage in the kind of detailed analysis that they will wish to see. Such comments may be a little unfair given that Perrin is trying to write for a broad audience, and this is a tough balancing act to achieve, but I think the format allows him sometimes to plough a path through the space in between the introductory and the scholarly and to meet neither. I stress there the word "sometimes". Often, Perrin achieves this difficult balancing act quite well.

The book is divided into two halves, "What they are saying about the Gospel of Thomas" and "What they should be saying about the Gospel of Thomas". The first part takes a chapter each to discuss Stephen Patterson, Elaine Pagels and April deConick. The second part is an exposition of Perrin's view of Thomas, in which chapter 4 (The Syriac Gospel of Thomas) expounds his 2002 published dissertation, Thomas and Tatian, chapter 5 (Challenging the Apostolic Line) looks at the place of Thomas in the Christianity of the late second century and chapter 6 (The Jesus of the Gospel of Thomas) looks at the depiction of Jesus in Thomas, with special reference to Hermeticism, and there is a conclusion reflecting on the (non)value of Thomas in Christianity today.

I don't have a lot to say about the first half of the book. On the Forbidden Gospels blog, April DeConick has laid out a series of notes in which she comments on Perrin's representation of her work (Cautionary Note 1: Nick Perrin, Thomas, The Other Gospel, Cautionary Note 2: DeConick on Orality and Literacy, Cautionary Note 3: DeConick on the Historical Jesus, Cautionary Note 4: DeConick on Accretions, Cautionary Note 5: DeConick on Methodology). Nick Perrin is now responding to those posts over on Euangelion, Nick Perrin Responds to April DeConick. I look forward to spending more time with DeConick's posts and Perrin's response in due course. The dialogue between them should help to clarify some of the issues here.

The way that Part 1 of the book functions is to set up what Perrin thinks is wrong about current Thomasine scholarship, so it is not a survey of the full scene, unlike, say, the What are they saying about . . . series of books. This has some value, especially in terms of structure and readability -- we know exactly where we are in the book and how we should be reacting in each half. There is a downside, though, in that this kind of approach does not allow one to appreciate the broader sweep of current Thomas scholarship. In particular, I'd want to include Risto Uro, Ismo Dunderberg and Antti Marjanen in any major discussion of "what they are saying about" Thomas. Perrin does refer to these figures occasionally in his footnotes, but there is no discussion of any of them. This difficulty is particularly focused in two areas. First, Perrin discusses the relationship between John and Thomas a good deal, discussing the issue in the context of dealing with both Pagels and DeConick, but Ismo Dunderberg has written extensively (and perceptively) on this topic, and I'd have liked to have heard his insights brought in here. And second, Risto Uro has written two superb pieces on the relationship between Thomas and the Gospels, applying and developing the term secondary orality which Snodgrass had first used in relation to Thomas, but neither the articles nor the term get a mention here, as far as I could see, and this is a shame given the extensive discussion of the question of Thomas's relationship to the Gospels in the book. I suppose that what concerns me here is that the newcomer to Thomas studies could get something of a "Perrin vs. the world" feeling in reading this book, not realizing that there is a much broader range of positions in Thomas scholarship than one might pick up from the rhetorical strategy of the two-part "What they are saying . . ." and "What should be said . . ."

Let us turn, then, to the second part of the book, where Perrin forwards his own ideas on Thomas. The centre of gravity here is Chapter 4, "The Syriac Gospel of Thomas", which functions largely as a lucid summary of his Thomas and Tatian of 2002, which argued that Thomas was composed in Syriac, that this is demonstrated by the preponderance of catchwords found in a reconstructed Syriac text over against Coptic or Greek, and that Thomas's primary source was Tatian's Diatessaron. I have read that book and was unpersuaded by its thesis, so I was interested to see whether I might be persuaded second time round, all the more so given the stunning endorsements for the current book, and the passage of time since the publication of Thomas and Tatian. That passage of time has brought a good number of reviews, some highly critical of the book, but Perrin does not engage with any of them. He mentions Luomanen (p. 93) but does not mention any of the reviews of his book. I would regard those by Parker, Poirier, Shedinger, Williams and Jan Joosten (see also Quispel, Morrice and McL Wilson) as making some key criticisms of the thesis that need to be seriously addressed if it is to stand up. Perrin's inclination simply to summarise the thesis without engaging with his critics inevitably detracts from the persuasiveness of the restatement. Let me try to isolate some of the features that caused concern about Thomas and Tatian and which are not addressed in any detail here.


Perrin argues that Thomas was originally composed in Syriac because the number of catchwords in his retroversion (502) is far greater than the number in the extant Coptic text (269) or in retroverted (+ P.Oxy) Greek (263). The obvious danger here, and one of which Perrin is aware, is what he calls rather amusingly calls "fudging" (p. 87), but which I would want to call the problem of experimental bias, i.e. the one conducting the experiment is the one reconstructing the text. There is no control. So we are not really comparing like with like -- the experimenter's own retroversion is compared with an extant text. One of the best treatments of this issue is in Peter Williams review of Thomas and Tatian (EJT 13:2 (2004) 139-40), from which I quote:
Though this conclusion may seem impressively supported, in fact recurring problems in his reconstructions considerably reduce its support. Firstly, the reconstructions are not straightforward. Thus from the Coptic word 'earth' (saying 9) and the Coptic word 'world' (saying 10) he reconstructs the Syriac word 'earth', despite the fact that Syriac has a perfectly good word for 'world' (pp. 65-66). When it suits Perrin to render Coptic 'world' by Syriac 'earth' it is so rendered (p. 78), but on other occasions the Coptic word 'world' is rendered by Syriac 'world' (p. 83). The author is thus selecting the words used in his retroversion in order to create catchwords. Similarly tendentious renderings from Coptic back to Syriac are 'corpse' rendered by 'flesh' (p. 106), 'evening' rendered by 'night' (p. 115), and 'belongings' rendered by 'house' (p. 124). A significant proportion of the catchwords discovered can be accounted for in a similar way. (139-40).
In the same review, Williams speaks of "scores of technical errors" (140) that cause the thesis to fail, but on which I am unable to comment given my deficiency in Syriac, but Jan Joosten's review of Thomas and Tatian (Aramaic Studies 2.1 (Jan 2004) 126-130) makes the same points with several examples and concludes:
In the end, the compilation appears to be almost entirely useless. Nothing proves that the network of Syriac catchwords ever existed outside of Perrin’s imagination. (128)
Perrin's answer to the perceived problem of "fudging" is to assert the statistical improbability of certain patterns of words occurring in the text by accident (pp. 87-8), but this avoids engaging with the most important question, which is not about "a blend of speculation and luck" (p. 87), but is rather about experimental bias, the selection of specific retroversions that make catchword links where other retroversions would not have done. Given the extent to which Perrin's case relies on the retroversion + catchword argument, criticisms of the earlier book need to be taken seriously. It may be that a good counter-argument can be made, but if so, it needs to be made rather than ignored.

The Diatessaron and Johannine Material

In his review of Perrin's Thomas and Tatian (TC 8, 2003,, David Parker wrote:
It strikes me as very strange that, if the author was working from a harmony, he produced a text with no discernible Johannine source material. Since, if this was the form of Gospel narrative known to him, he would have had no criteria for discerning Johannine material, this result would have to be an incredible coincidence.
I had hoped that Perrin might deal with this problem in the book, but it is not mentioned, so I flag it up again here. While the Gospel of Thomas features extensive parallels with the Synoptic Gospels, it has no major parallels with the Gospel of John (only arguably a phrase here, a thought there -- nothing clear cut or extended). If Thomas's major source is the Diatessaron, this is surprising. It won't do to say that Thomas simply removed the Johannine material, because then we would be back to Thomas's familiarity with the four canonical Gospels, and the apparent economy of the Thomas and Tatian theory would be negated. Perrin's thesis is that Thomas's knowledge of the Gospels is mediated via the Diatessaron, and if his knowledge of the Gospels is mediated via the Diatessaron, why does he not feature Johannine material?

The Order of Diatessaronic Material

One of Perrin's arguments in favour of Thomas's dependence on the Diatessaron is based on the order of the Synoptic material that appears in Thomas. The argument is stressed in both Thomas and Tatian and in Thomas, the Other Gospel. There is a problem with the argument here. In all but one of the examples of Thomas following the Diatessaron's order, he is in fact also following the Synoptic order. In other words, the Diatessaron is almost always unnecessary to explain Thomas's order (I'll return to the exception below). In both books, Perrin speaks as if parallels with the Synoptic order are good enough to establish the point, but they are not. Where Thomas's order parallels the Synoptic order, it is unnecessary for it to be mediated through the Diatessaron. This difficulty was addressed in Parker's review of Thomas and Tatian (6):
His own suggestions are limited to comments on places where Thomas has the same ordering of material as Tatian. This is rather confusingly introduced with the statement that "at some points Thomas does indeed follow the order of the canonical and Diatessaronic tradition" (p. 185). But there is a problem: where examples he adduces--such as Matt 5.14b and Matt 5.15--consist of contiguous material within a given Gospel, it is hard to see why anybody should want to claim that this is evidence for having followed a harmony.
The point is not dealt with in the new book; rather, the new book simply works with the same underlying assumption, that parallels in order with the Synoptics are evidence for Thomas's use of the Diatessaron. Take, for example, the following statement:
At points the Gospel of Thomas does follow the order of both the synoptics and the Diatessaron: Gos. Thom. 8-9, 32-33, 42/43-44, 47, 65-66, 68-69, 92-93 and 93-94. (95)
My point is that the "both . . . and" is true but irrelevant. The relevant piece of data is that Thomas here follows the order of the Synoptics.

However, Perrin provides one additional example where Thomas agrees with the Diatessaron against the Synoptics. The example is:

Thomas 44 // Matt. 12.32 // Luke 12.10
Thomas 45.1 // Matt. 7.16 // Luke 6.44
Thomas 45.2-4 // Matt. 12.35, 34b // Luke 6.45

Perrin helpfully sets out the example in a clear table (96). It is difficult to quantify such things, but I would tend to feel that we would need a lot more than one example to make a strong case for Thomas's dependence on the Diatessaron. Nevertheless, if it were a very strong example, it would at least give us some important evidence, so it is worth looking in a little more detail. This is how Perrin states the case:
If Thomas were imitating the sequence of Matthew 12 this would explain Gos. Thom. 44 and 45.2-4, but would not explain the insertion of 45.1 (= Matt. 7.16). Luke as a source would explain the wording of Gos. Thom. 45, but would not explain the collocation of Gos. Thom. 45, as Matthew 12 does. The case for Thomas's dependence on Matthew or on Luke has its merits as well as its problems. The best explanation is that the hand behind Gos. Thom. 44-45 drew on a harmonization of Matthew and Luke as reflected in the Diatessaron, where, judging by the eastern witness of Ephraem and the western witness of the Middle Dutch harmony, the words of Matthew 12.32-35 seem to have attached themselves precisely at this point of the Sermon on the Mount. (95).
There are two problems with the case here. First, Thomas's familiarity with Matthew and Luke is adequate on its own to explain the order; there is no need to appeal to the Diatessaron. As Perrin's chart makes clear, there is a simple map of parallels here. Matt. 12.32-35 is in mind throughout; Luke 6.45 is parallel to the last two verses in that passage, and Luke 6.44 is parallel to Matt. 7.16. The harmonist proceeds naturally from Matt. 12.32-35 to Luke 6.44-45 to Matt. 7.16. There is nothing out of place or surprising here. The fact that these passages appear together in Aland's Synopsis and Huck-Greeven's Synopsis is not because they are dependent on the Diatessaron, or Thomas, but because there is a clear and natural pattern of parallels.

Second, Perrin's comments here assume that these parallels are undoubtedly found together in the Diatessaron, but this is by no means clear. The reference to "the eastern witness of Ephraem" is an error; as David Parker points out in his review of Perrin's earlier book (9), the passage does not even appear in Ephraem's commentary, and as he goes on to note:
The Persian Harmony contains only the material found in Matthew 12.33ff. The Arabic follows the order Luke 6.44 - Matthew 7.17f - Luke 6.45. We thus already find a dearth of Eastern witnesses to fulfil the Petersen criterion, accepted by Perrin.
In other words, it is not clear, in this one case where Perrin attempts to demonstrate an agreement between Thomas and the Diatessaron against the Synoptics, that the ordering is Diatesseronic.

The Importance of Oxyrhynchus

If I have been critical of Perrin for not always having engaged with his critics, there is one area where he does respond to some criticism of his earlier book. In a section headed "Objections considered" (97-99), he notes that some have objected that his thesis provides only a small window for the writing of Thomas. It has to be between the writing of the Diatessaron, dated to 173, and the dating of the first extant text of Thomas, P.Oxy.1, which Grenfell and Hunt dated to roughly 200. This gives a tight period for all the following to have taken place: (a) Thomas becomes familiar with the Diatessaron; (b) Thomas writes his Gospel in Syriac in Edessa; (c) Thomas is translated into Greek; (d) A Greek manuscript copy finds its way to Egypt. These things all take place within about 25 years. Perrin mounts a good defence of his thesis here, and notes that this is adequate time for Thomas to be disseminated, and he encourages readers not to be too dogmatic about the year 200. I think that that is right; palaeography is not a precise science and we can certainly allow a generation either side of that 200 date, say 175-225. There is still a lot to squeeze into one generation or so, but it is not impossible. P.Oxy. 1 could be as late as 225, but it could also be as early as 175.

I remain concerned, however, about an issue here which Perrin does not address, and which adds a difficulty for the Syriac Thomas hypothesis, the issue of verbatim agreement between the P.Oxy. fragments of Thomas and the Synoptics. There are good several examples of verbatim agreement in Greek, and one is very strong, and it is a fact widely ignored in Thomas studies. Thomas 26 in P. Oxy. 1.1-4 features a thirteen word verbatim agreement with Luke 6.42 (position of ἐκβαλεῖν agreeing with Matt. 7.5b), a fact all the more striking in that it is a very literary Greek construction, ὁ + phrase + noun, and that the piece in question is only fragmentary. This evidence needs accounting for on the Syriac Thomas hypothesis.

Overall, there remain too many question marks over the thesis of Thomas and Tatian, in spite of a helpful restatement in Thomas, the Other Gospel. What would help would be some critical engagement with the reactions to the first book.

Most of my reflections have focused on Chapter 4, which is the heart of the book, since it is the restatement of the case for the Syriac Thomas dependent on the Diatessaron. But the remaining two chapters of the book deserve mention, especially Chapter 5, "Challenging the apostolic line", in which Perrin has some interesting and helpful reflections in Logion 13. He follows others (e.g. Francis Watson) who see Simon Peter and Matthew here as cyphers for the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, and Thomas commenting negatively on them. Perrin situates Thomas in the late second century, contemporary with Irenaeus, and in tension with the combination of Mark's and Matthew's Gospels. "It is the first two Gospels together that stand opposed to Thomas" (p. 115, emphasis original). There is a lot of material of interest and insight in this chapter, but again, Perrin's late dating actually sits a bit less comfortably with his thoughts here than an earlier dating, in the 140s, for example, would do. In the 170s, we have Irenaeus's stress on the fourfold Gospel (which Perrin cites) and we have Tatian writing a harmony of the four Gospels. And then Perrin's Thomas stresses only two of the Gospels, Mark and Matthew, and has extensive parallels to only three of them, the Synoptics. A Thomas that first emerges in the 140s makes better sense; all three Synoptics are known to him; Mark and Matthew have some status, as in Papias, but Luke is a relative newcomer. John is newer still, and is not mentioned by name in Logion 13, nor is it the subject of extensive parallels. Nevertheless, this chapter is a very helpful contribution to the debate on Thomas and it is one I look forward to engaging with further in my own research.

The book is relatively free of typographical errors, but I spotted a few:

p. 95: the only sense I can make of the flow of argument on this page is to assume that paragraphs two and three have become switched around by mistake.

p. 61, n. 30: the publication date for Wrede is 1901, not 1910.

p. 133: "as late the sixth century" should be "as late as the sixth century"

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Review of Perrin on Thomas

For some reason, my reader does not seem to be picking up the updates to my rolling post on Nick Perrin's Thomas, the Other Gospel, so I am adding this extra sentence to let readers know that I am still updating that post on a regular basis and hope to have the whole review finished later today. I like to keep the same title to rolling posts because if I keep adjusting them, links elsewhere get broken. I will remove this post, and replace it with another notice, when I have finalized that post. See Nicholas Perrin, Thomas, the Other Gospel: Reflections. (I would have finished it tonight, but I was out watching the new Pirates of the Caribbean film, a film which gives you a great feeling for what eternity must feel like).

Reginald Fuller Reflections

The Salisbury Journal has some reflections on the life of Reginald Fuller today:

Reginald Fuller - A theologian of stature
Jeremy Davies

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

What did the "lilies of the field" look like?

When Jesus says "Consider the lilies of the field . . ." (Matt. 6.28 // Luke 12.27 // Thomas 36), how do you imagine those "lilies" (κρίνον)? One of my favourite internet resources is the Eikon Image Database for Biblical Studies at Yale, which here features a nice picture of what may be meant by "lilies of the field":

Anemones (Lilies of the Field) at Shechem

Review of Biblical Literature latest

The latest reviews have been added to the SBL Review of Biblical Literature and include the following under the NT and related heading, with a rather lengthy one from me on a recent volume about The Passion of the Christ:

Zev Garber, ed.
Mel Gibson's Passion: The Film, the Controversy, and Its Implications
Reviewed by Mark Goodacre

Thomas J. Kraus and Tobias Nicklas, eds.
New Testament Manuscripts: Their Texts and Their World
Reviewed by Christopher Tuckett

Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, Cettina Militello, and Maria-Luisa Rigato
Paolo e le donne
Reviewed by Ilaria Ramelli

Stanley E. Porter, ed.
Hearing the Old Testament in the New Testament
Reviewed by Michael Labahn
Reviewed by Gert J. Steyn

John Sandys-Wunsch
What Have They Done to the Bible? A History of Modern Biblical Interpretation
Reviewed by Jan van der Watt

Dieter Sänger and Matthias Konradt, eds.
Das Gesetz im frühen Judentum und im Neuen Testament: Festschrift für Christoph Burchard zum 75. Geburtstag
Reviewed by William R. G. Loader

Stanley H. Skreslet
Picturing Christian Witness: New Testament Images of Disciples in Mission
Reviewed by Dirk G. van der Merwe

Willard M. Swartley
Covenant of Peace: The Missing Peace in New Testament Theology and Ethics
Reviewed by Joel Stephen Williams

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Synoptic Project Website

Talking about Synopses, and especially colouring Synopses (Reflections on the Synopsis) reminded me that I needed to add a link to Ben Smith's Synoptic Project on The New Testament Gateway: Gospels and Acts: Texts and Synopses page. I have now done that and here is what I wrote:
The Synoptic Project
By Ben C. Smith: a superb resource which enables one to view the Synoptics in parallel in Greek and English, and then to add colour according to a variety of colour schemes. You can call up parallels either by beginning from the Itemized Itinerary or you can begin from an Inventory of Matthew or of Mark or of Luke. This Synoptic Project is not yet complete, but there is already enough done to confirm that this is likely to be an outstanding resource.
I must admit that I love playing with the colour schemes on offer, and am flattered that Ben labels one of his schemes "Goodacre" referring to the primary colours scheme I set out in The Synoptic Problem: A Way Through the Maze (see the companion website section Synopses for more).

While adding this, I realized a problem with the architecture of the NT Gateway, whereby people on the Synoptic Problem pages might not find their way to the Texts and Synopses page, so I have added a major link to the latter page on the former page. I am planning some substantial work on the architecture of the site this summer; more anon.

Reflections on the Synopsis

On Euangelion, Michael Bird has a useful Review of the New Edition of Aland's Synopsis of the Four Gospels (when he says "new", that's 2001). It is encouraging to hear that Mike gets students in class looking at the Synopsis, and that's a good reason for recommending the Greek-English edition. Here at Duke, the undergraduates in my classes rarely have Greek and so one has to work from English synopses (and I create my own for them). I would add, though, that it's good for second year Greek students to work with a Greek-only Synopsis, to take away the prop. And for those students, I'd recommend either the fifteenth edition of Aland, which includes the Gospel of Thomas in an appendix, or the underrated Huck-Greeven. Graduate students should own at least one of those and preferably both.

One opportunity for general comment presents itself here and I cannot resist taking that opportunity. I am convinced that one of the reasons for the widespread scholarly difficulties in dealing with the Synoptic Problem, and with understanding Synoptic data, is their failure to spend any time working with the Synopsis. I am not talking about casual glances, but detailed, meticulous study, ideally with colouring. Of course there are many exceptions to this, but I often find that when I talk to other NT scholars, there is no point in their student life, either as undergraduate or post-graduate students, or subsequently in their careers, when they have done any serious work with the Synopsis.

One brief and more specific comment on the closing of Mike's post:
A note of advice (originating from Mark Goodacre), if you are going to colour code or mark the pages of a Synopsis such as this, then make sure that you photocopy it first just in case you change your mind from which source you think a certain text belongs to!
Thanks for the mention. Yes, I always recommend that, and I print out my own Synopses for undergraduate students to colour. But I would discourage colouring in line with "which source you think a certain text belongs to". For me, colouring takes place prior to decisions about sources; it's a source-neutral exercise. So what one is doing when one is colouring is to find a clear and helpful way of representing the data in order to help one out with decisions about sources. The best kind of Synopsis-colouring is not about assigning to sources but is about isolating patterns of agreement and disagreement.

JTS latest

On the Stuff of Earth, Michael Pahl notes the latest Journal of Theological Studies:

Journal of Theological Studies 58/1 (April 2007)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Vermes on Ratzinger and the Quest

Over on Paleojudaica, Jim Davila points out the following article from yesterday's Times:

Jesus of Nazareth
The scholar Ratzinger bravely declares that he and not the Pope is the author of the book and that everyone is free to contradict him
By Pope Benedict XVI, reviewed by Geza Vermes

It's a very interesting review of a book I have not read myself, but what caught my interest in the review was Geza Vermes's characterization of Historical Jesus research, which works first with the common usage of the terminology "no quest" for the 1920s to the 1950s, and then with Tom Wright's term "third quest" for the breakthroughs of the 1970s and 1980s, with himself and E. P. Sanders as the major figures in it:
. . . . However, despite Schweitzer’s funeral oration, the historical Jesus refused to lie down. Around 1950, a new attempt to retrieve him was launched in Germany by Bultmann’s pupils, who reemployed the form-critical method in the pursuit of historical research. The “new” or “second quest” went on for some 20 years without much success. It coincided with the years of Joseph Ratzinger’s theological studies. However, he did not specialise as a Neutesta-mentler, but as a patristic scholar and dogmatic theologian.

The 1970s and 1980s introduced the “third quest”. By then, the dominance of German professors, with Hellenistic expertise to deal with Greek Gospels but without direct familiarity with the Jewish world of the age of Jesus, came to an end. They were replaced by British and American scholars concerned with the discovery, partly associated with the Dead Sea Scrolls, of the “Jewish” Jesus. The literary landmarks of the new era were Jesus the Jew (1973) by your reviewer and Jesus and Judaism (1986) by E. P. Sanders, both professors at Oxford. In no time, the search for the Jewish Jesus became dominant worldwide.
I think that's a great summary, with two qualifications (cf. posts here on the History of the Quest). First, I agree with Dale Allison that the period of "no quest" is a mirage and second, the term "third quest" may now have outlived its usefulness, especially having been co-opted by others who are not on the same trajectory as Vermes and Sanders. But my reason for commenting on it is that it is interesting seeing a pioneer of that quest characterizing it in this way.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Gospel of Thomas Online Commentary returns

After a hiatus of some months, Peter Kirby has resurrected his Gospel of Thomas Collected Commentary (announced on the also recently resurrected Christian Origins Blog). It is not at either of the older locations, or, which have been lost, but is now at, so we all need to update our links. I have done that on my Gospel of Thomas page.

Bauckham Collquium Starts Today

The online colloquium with Richard Bauckham starts today over on the Biblical Studies e-list, a day early by my reckoning, but that's welcome. It lasts until this time next week.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Nicholas Perrin, Thomas: The Other Gospel

My copy of Nicholas Perrin, Thomas, the Other Gospel (London: SPCK, 2007) arrived today and I am looking forward to reading it. Although Nick is based in the US, at Wheaton College, the book has been released in the UK ahead of its US release. It's already been noted by Michael Bird on Euangelion. I am going to try to read it this weekend and I hope to comment.

Update (Saturday, 16.52): April deConick registers a major protest about Nick Perrin's misrepresentation of her position on the Forbidden Gospels blog. I've not yet got to that part of the book yet, but hope to post my thoughts about the book in general in due course.

Duke University Religion Dept Blog

It occurred to me yesterday that I couldn't think of any University Religion Departments that have their own blogs, so I have suggested to colleagues that we begin one. It's experimental, of course, but I am hopeful that it may be a useful way of disseminating news and views in a team blog about what goes on here at Duke. Here's the link:

Duke University Religion Department Blog

Thursday, May 17, 2007

NT Post at St Andrews

Bruce Longenecker asked if I would publicize this very attractive job advertisement. Jim Davila has already posted on it on Paleojudaica, but just in case you missed it, here is the advertisement:
University of St Andrews
School of Divinity

Lectureship/Senior Lectureship/Readership in New Testament

Salary - £33,101 - £47,194 per annum

We are seeking applicants committed to excellence in teaching and research in New Testament. You will contribute to the School's existing strengths in exegetical, literary and historical scholarship. Specialism within the canon of New Testament is open, though a research interest in the interface between biblical studies and Christian theology and/or the history of interpretation is highly desirable. You will teach both NT content and Greek to students from undergraduate to doctoral level. You are a team player who will be fully involved in the School's research, supervisory and administrative roles.

While applications to the Lectureship are welcome from junior scholars, you will be expected to hold a PhD when you take up the position, you will need to demonstrate a capacity and commitment to research and publication as well as teaching, and you should have at least one to four major publications in print. If appointed at the level of Senior Lecturer or Reader, you would be expected to come with a strong international research profile.

This appointment is similar to an assistant or associate professorship in North America. The position will begin on 1 September 2007 or as soon as possible thereafter. Appointment at Grade 7 or Grade 8 may be considered depending on the level of appointment made.

Informal enquiries to Dr Jim Davila (Tel. +44-1334-462834; email: Further information about the School of Divinity can be found at:

Please quote ref: PS225/07 Closing date: 1 June 2007

Application forms and further particulars are available from Human Resources, University of St Andrews, College Gate, North Street, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9AJ, (tel: 01334 462571, by fax 01334 462570 or by e-mail The advertisement and further particulars and a downloadable application form can be found at

The University is committed to equality of opportunity.

Mary Douglas (1921-2007)

News has broken today in the blogosphere (I first saw it on of the death of Mary Douglas, who received her damehood at Buckingham Palace just last week.

Blogging to market your book: don't

On Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight has a great post on Blogs: A Word for Authors, with a strong prohibition: "If you have written a book, don’t create a blog to market your book". I have been asked the question by authors too, "I'm thinking of starting up a blog to get some feedback on my book", etc., and invariably the person asking the question is not a consumer of blogs, something that is unlikely to lead to successful blogging. If you solo-blog, i.e. don't interact with any other blogs, you simply won't get much attention anyway, unless, I suppose, you are a huge name. An N.T. Wright blog or a Bart Ehrman blog would, I'm sure, get some attention.

One qualifier, though, to Scot's remarks. It is quite possible for someone to begin a blog in connection with a publication, and then to move on from there. And that is one of the keys of successful blogging, to let your blog evolve. I may be wrong, but I think that James Tabor's Jesus Dynasty Blog began as a venue for information and discussion on Tabor's book The Jesus Dynasty, but it has evolved into a blog that discusses a variety of other issues related to Tabor's research, and it's one I always enjoy reading.

Report on SEBTS Conference on Mark 16.9-20

Back in April, there was a conference down the road at the Southeast Baptist Theological Seminary on Mark 16.9-20 (SEBTS Conference on Mark 16.9-20). The Baptist Press now has a report:

Scholars tussle over end of Mark's Gospel
Posted on May 16, 2007 | by Jason Hall

British Library Readers Group

On Xtalk this morning, Roger Pearse had an interesting message for users of the British Library, and it is worth sharing here:

Following the announcement that the government intends to prune its $200m budget
by up to 7%, a group to represent readers at the BL was set up in January.

"The British Library Readers Group is made up of academics, students, journalists, independent scholars, researchers and writers who are readers at the British Library. We have come together to meet one another and to represent readers to the administration and trustees of the British Library.

"Our aim is to seek constructive solutions to issues that have an impact upon our working lives in the library."

I know that I have always felt that I was sometimes one unimportant man against a vast institution. If you have ever felt the same, please join the group."

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Seven Deadly Sins in Writing

As Loren Rosson notes on The Busybody, several blogs have been reflecting on the good, the bad and the ugly in academic writing, and it has been a refreshing and interesting thread. Loren has an excellent contribution called The Seven Deadly Sins in Writing, based on a book by Constance Hale called Sin and Syntax. Some of these really ring true to what I like and dislike in academic writing and number 4, "Pretence", "Resorting to pompous, ponderous, or just imponderable nouns" is right on the mark. I would add that there is a tendency in academic prose to prefer a Latin phrase where a perfectly good English one will do, e.g. why say theologia crucis rather than theology of the cross? Or status quaestionis rather than overview of current research (or similar)? The only qualification that needs adding here is that sometimes pericope doesn't mean quite the same thing as "passage".

Of the seven sins, I think the only one I'd question is 7, Euphemism, "Describing offensive behavior with inoffensive terms, or sensitive issues with politically-correct language". I think that sometimes, restraint and even understatement is appropriate in academic discourse, especially when dealing with sensitive subjects. When one treads carefully, one sometimes has a better chance of engaging critically with opposing viewpoints. Where a topic is sensitive, a highly emotional response can detract from intelligent discussion, and so do no good in exposing the problems being studied. I would therefore add an eighth deadly sin in academic writing, or perhaps substitute this one for 7:

8. Polemic: the use of unnecessarily hostile language including overstatement, ridicule, insult and hyperbole. As a general rule, if you are writing in harsh criticism of another scholar, imagine yourself saying it out loud at a conference with the person present in the room, and ask yourself if you are comfortable with your tone.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

New article on the Talpiot Tomb

Over on Deinde, Danny Zacharias draws attention to this new article on the Biblical Archaeology Society website:

The Tomb of Jesus? Wrong on Every Count
By Craig Evans and Steven Feldman

It's a useful and clearly written piece and is a good summary of the issues. Moreover, it avoids polemic. I have one or two minor comments. First, a typo: "Mary Magdalene is healed by Jesus in Luke 8:8" should be Luke 8.2. Second, the article speaks of "Bovon’s theory that the Mariamne in the Acts of Philip was meant to be Mary Magdalene" and it argues against the identification by noting that Mariamne, in this text, is sister to Martha. But Bovon's view is more nuanced than it is presented here; I will quote a short section from an earlier post:
Surprisingly, in the light of the Discovery programme's claims, he does not make a sole identification of the Mariamne character in the Acts of Philip with Mary Magdalene. Although he says "The woman, it is my contention, is Mary Magdalene" (80), he also recognises that this literary character also has traits of Mary of Bethany. Most explicitly, note his remark:
"The text presupposes that Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany are the same person." (82, n.33).
The article also comments that "Bovon has recently stated that he does not think Mariamne is the real name of the historical Mary Magdalene". This is correct; see his short piece, The Tomb of Jesus, over on the SBL Forum. But it needs to be noted that it is not just "recently"; he had already made clear in the original article that he was uninterested in that context in the historical Mary Magdalene (see my earlier post).

A further query. Evans and Feldman say that "Some epigraphers think the Greek inscription on the ossuary actually reads 'Mariamne and Mara.'" This may well be true, though the most widely publicized revised reading was that of Stephen Pfann who reads the inscription as Mariame (no n) and Mara.

There is one fresh argument, or an argument that is fresh to me, which I found interesting:
The filmmakers also misunderstand another of the names found in the Talpiot tomb. The name YWSH should be pronounced “Yosah” (as Professor Tal Ilan in fact does in the documentary), not “Yoseh,” as the documentary consistently does. “Yosah” is not the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek form Joses, the name of Jesus’ brother (as in Mark 6:3 and elsewhere). The Hebrew equivalent is YWSY (and is found on a number of ossuaries in Greek and in Hebrew). The documentary’s discussion of this name is very misleading.
It may be that I have just missed earlier discussions of this point, but I would be interested to hear further discussion.

My only criticism of the article is that it does not directly engage the statistical case which is at the basis of the film-makers' claims, but I suppose one cannot cover every facet of the discussion on every occasion.

Trouble at Wycliffe Hall

It is not often that a theological college makes the headlines, but I am sorry to read in tomorrow's Guardian of trouble at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford:

Unholy row at Oxford's college for clergy amid staff exodus and claims of bullying
· Concern at theology school's new direction
· Governing council backs under-fire principal

Stephen Bates, religious affairs correspondent
One of England's most respected theological colleges is facing claims that staff feel bullied and intimidated as the institution becomes increasingly conservative.

The discontent at Wycliffe Hall, an evangelical Anglican college which is part of Oxford University, has seen several resignations among its small academic staff and claims that one of its most prominent members, the regular Thought for the Day contributor Elaine Storkey, was threatened with disciplinary action . . .
It is a longish article and there is some detail. Wycliffe's own website does not yet have a comment on the story.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Logos Lecture: Did Jews in Jesus' Day Expect the Messiah?

Thanks to Jim West for mentioning that I have been invited to speak in the Logos Bible Software Lecture Series. Here is my title, abstract and details from the previously mentioned page:

June 11, 2007
Did Jews in Jesus' Day Expect the Messiah?

It is popularly assumed that the Judaism of Jesus' day had a clear, well-defined expectation of a Messiah figure whom God would send to liberate them with military might. It is then assumed that early Christians, and perhaps Jesus himself, revised this expectation and proclaimed a different kind of Messiah, one who was to suffer. But how accurate is this picture? Does it explain the evidence found in the Hebrew Scriptures, early Jewish texts and the New Testament? Or should we instead think of a great variety of expectations, as many scholars argue? In this lecture, we will revisit the term "Messiah", exploring evidence that it was used as a synonym for a new Davidic "king" or "ruler". When the first Christians called Jesus "Messiah", they were speaking not only about past events and present beliefs, but also about his future return as king.

Dr. Goodacre is an Associate Professor in New Testament in the Department of Religion at Duke University. He earned his M.A., M.Phil. and Ph.D. at the University of Oxford and was Senior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham until 2005. His research interests include the Synoptic Gospels, the Historical Jesus and the Gospel of Thomas.

Each Logos Lecture Series event is free and open to the public. Dr. Goodacre's lecture will begin at 7:00 PM at Mount Baker Theatre in downtown Bellingham, WA.
Jim asks about the possibility of a recording. From my side, I have no problem with that, though I leave it to the Logos folk to see whether they wish to do that. I hope to make the full text of my lecture available in due course.

On subject matter, I will have more to say here in due course too. The key to what I wish to say is largely contained in the last sentence of the abstract above.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Fallacy of the Director as Author

I am often struck, when reading academic discussions of cinema, especially by those more accustomed to dealing with authors and texts, of something that might be called the fallacy of the director as author. This involves treating the director of a film in the same way that one would treat the author of a text, to talk about them as if they are directly responsible for every single element in the film, every look, every line, every costume, every casting decision, every lighting effect. This is not to deny that the director is, of course, the key person in the film for which s/he is responsible. But a film is at the same time always a group project, in which dozens, sometimes hundreds, of people participate. The existence of "director's cuts" of certain famous films like Bladerunner remind us that sometimes a film does not end up the way the director envisaged.

It is a fallacy that is all the more easy to commit when one is dealing with a film like The Passion of the Christ (dir. Mel Gibson, 2004), where the director in question also financed, co-wrote and co-produced the film. But even here, it is worth remembering that Gibson is not responsible for every last element in the film. Having read almost every academic piece that has been published on The Passion of the Christ over the last three years, I am constantly amazed by how rarely Benedict Fitzgerald, who co-wrote the screenplay, is mentioned. Anyone who attended the AAR/SBL session where Fitzgerald was interviewed will have been struck by just how much he contributed to the screenplay. Indeed, he explained how he had written the initial screenplay, having been drafted in by Gibson, and how Gibson contributed revisions based on that original draft, which then went through successive versions.

Another Jesus film that is relevant is King of Kings (dir. Nicholas Ray, 1961), where the director is arguably less important than producer Samuel Bronston, who made a massive, arguably decisive contribution to this film. Indeed, accordingly Barnes Tatum calls this film "Samuel Bronston's King of Kings".

I suspect that academics used to writing about texts and authors find it much easier to conceptualize a film as if it is a single author work, but this often has a distorting effect on interpretation.

Update (Monday, 19:28): I am grateful for several useful comments. In the light of these, let me attempt to clarify my point. First, of course I am aware of auteur theory and I am not trying to say in this context that there are always and inevitably problems with conceptualizing a given director as auteur, looking for his or her distinctive style, and Gibson may be a good example of a director who has such a distinctive style that he might be treated as auteur. My point in this context, though, does not relate to that but relates rather to a specific fallacy that I think gets repeated in a lot of academic writing about film, especially where that writing is done by those who are more familiar with writing about authors of texts (using text here to mean single-authored written text). It is the fallacy, as I see it, of inadvertently discussing the director of a film as if s/he is the sole author of a single text. It can generate a failure to appreciate the extent to which a film is a collaborative effort, and can thus distort one's interpretation of it, not least by discouraging one to look at distinctive and sometimes major contributions from, for example, a casting director, a co-writer, a consultant, a cinematographer. For one thing, it can discourage one from doing research on individual members of a film crew's contributions, reading interviews and so on, in which key elements in the film might be explained.

Jesus, the Gospels, and Cinematic Imagination

Thanks to Jeffrey Staley for letting me know about this interesting new book:

Jesus, the Gospels, and Cinematic Imagination

Movies about the life of Jesus continue to be a fascinating way to consider how the Gospels present an image and a narrative of Jesus. In Jesus, the Gospels, and Cinematic Imagination, Jeffrey Staley and Richard Walsh use their biblical knowledge and admiration for films to summarize eighteen popular Jesus movies and to show exactly where each movie parallels the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s life.

The authors provide teachers and students easy access to both Gospel and film parallels, enhancing the value of these select films as teaching tools and useful resources for pastors, those leading discussions of films, and libraries.

Publisher: Westminister/ John Knox
Publication Date: 10/2007
Binding: Paperback
ISBN-13/UPC: 9780664230319
Suggested Price: $19.95
Cokesbury Price: $15.96 (20% discount)

Harrington Reviews Jervis

This week's NT related Book Review in America: The National Catholic Weekly is the following:

At the Heart of the Gospel: Suffering in the Earliest Christian Message
By L. Ann Jervis
Reviewed by Daniel J. Harrington

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Herod's Tomb: Amateur Video

Since the news broke earlier this week, there has been a lot around on the biblioblogs and elsewhere on the discovery of Herod's Tomb. If you have not kept up with the latest, Jim West has, on a daily basis, posted links to all the latest news reports, photographs and more. Now, over on Beliefnet, they have uploaded an amateur video by John Spalding:

Stumbling Upon Herod's Tomb
While visiting ruins in Israel, my guide and I discovered a new dig. We didn't know what it was--but we videotaped it.
John D. Spalding

The video doesn't show you much of what turned out to be Herod's tomb, but it's an enjoyable short feature none the less.

Journal for the Study of the New Testament latest

The latest JSNT is now available, with abstracts available to all, and full content to subscribers and subscribing institutions. It features articles of local interest (Joel Marcus and Kavin Rowe are colleagues here at Duke) and of blogging community interest (we all know Michael Bird), but most importantly it looks like another cracking issue. David Horrell has done a great job with this journal.

Journal for the Study of the New Testament
1 June 2007; Vol. 29, No. 4

The Madness of King Jesus: Why was Jesus Put to Death, but his Followers were not?
Justin J. Meggitt
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 379-413

Why was Jesus Crucified, but his Followers were not?
Paula Fredriksen
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 415-419

Meggitt on the Madness and Kingship of Jesus
Joel Marcus
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 421-424

The Unity of Luke--Acts in Recent Discussion
Michael F. Bird
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 425-448

Literary Unity and Reception History: Reading Luke--Acts as Luke and Acts
C. Kavin Rowe
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 449-457

The Reception of Luke and Acts and the Unity of Luke--Acts
Andrew Gregory
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 459-472

Critiquing the Excess of Empire: A Synkrisis of John of Patmos and Dio of Prusa
Peter S. Perry
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 473-496

Book Review: Bridget Gilfillan Upton, Hearing Mark's Endings: Listening to
Ancient Popular Texts through Speech Act Theory
(Leiden/Boston: Brill,
2006). pp. xviii + 240. ISBN 90 04 14791 8
Alison Jack
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 497-498

Happy Birthday, C. K. Barrett

Over on Dunelm Road, Ben Blackwell notes that CK Barrett Turns 90 and he reports on a fine sounding get together in Durham to celebrate the happy occasion.

Kernel Thomas

On her ever stimulating Forbidden Gospels blog, April DeConick reflects briefly on a key element in her research on the Gospel of Thomas, asking What is the Kernel Thomas?. It is a post that reminds me of some interesting discussion we had on DeConick's work in our graduate course on the Gospel of Thomas here at Duke this semester. Here is the summary from the current post:
The Kernel Thomas is a name that I use to indicate the earliest material in the Gospel of Thomas. I suggest that this early material was an early collection of sayings in a speech format and that it was used by the Thomasine Christians as a storage cite [sic] for Jesus' sayings. Preachers and teachers used it as a platform for their orations.
One of the questions that this raises for me is: In what way is "Kernel Thomas" appropriately labelled Kernel Thomas? In other words, what is it about this hypothetical collection of sayings that makes it Thomasine? The character Thomas appears in the Incipit and Logion 13, but both of these are among DeConick's accretions. Looking at the character of the accretions, it is also clear that Kernel Thomas is a different kind of entity from the Gospel of Thomas, which focuses the question further. How do we know that the author or community producing the Gospel of Thomas was directly continuous with the author or community who used Kernel Thomas as their storage site for Jesus' sayings? Could it be that the Gospel of Thomas author or community had no direct relationship with the author or community behind Kernel Thomas? Is Kernel Thomas the core of the Gospel of Thomas in the same way that the Gospel of Mark is the core of the Gospel of Matthew? Or to put it another way, would we be content with thinking of the Gospel of Mark as "Kernel Matthew"? (These are intended as open, exploratory questions and not as rhetorical questions).

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Radical Improvement of Blogger

I realize that this post might be tempting fate (but I don't believe in that anyway, so I'll post away) but I must say that I am impressed with the radical improvement in Blogger over the last few weeks. Because my blog's archive is so massive, Blogger would not let me join the new, once Beta Blogger for some time, but finally it allowed me in, and now everyone has to be in and the old Blogger has been formally retired. It was a regular complaint among bloggers on Blogger that it was unreliable, that posts wouldn't post, that it would go down, that one would lose posts in progress. But all has been going swimmingly now for some time. In particular, I am happy with the way that Blogger is FTPing to my own server, at, because this used to be one of the slowest elements in the whole business. And what with labels and all too, and the integration with Google for us Googleholics, it's becoming a technically pleasurable experience to blog with Blogger. I am pleased I stuck with it in those unhappy earlier days.

Danny Zacharias's Wired Scholar

In the new SBL Forum for May, published today, Danny Zacharias has an excellent article worthy of special mention:

The Wired Scholar: Five Free Tools You May Not Know About
Danny Zacharias

Four out of the five are Google tools and Googleholics like me will already be familiar with these and using them every day. But even there, there are some extras you might not know about. For example, under the Google Books heading, Danny writes:
I currently know of two "under construction" web pages dedicated to pointing out biblical studies works that are freely available, mostly from Google Books. The first is maintained by Mischa Hooker from the University of Memphis. The links to J. P. Migne's collection are found on this first list. The second is by Bob Buller, with some collaborative efforts on my part as well. We welcome other collaborators who wish to help us maintain this list.
Those lists are both hugely helpful.

I would add a couple of quick additional advantages to the resources discussed by Danny:

(1) Back-up: In my experience (and this is the topic for another post one of these days), people only take backing up data seriously once they have had a disaster. A stolen laptop, a major computer crash, and then people begin to realize that they should have been backing up all along. One of the advantages of using Google Docs, Google Notebook and so on, and let's throw in GMail and Google Calendar, is that they automatically back up and store your data on the net.

(2) iGoogle: If you use iGoogle, customizing your homepage with all sorts of gadgets and widgets, you can throw in the Google Notebook and the Google Docs, as well as GMail, your Google Reader, your Google Calendar and so on. That makes it very straightforward for doing your research on the road, or on multiple computers.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Teaching a Course on Paul

Over on Euangelion, Joel Willitts has an interesting enquiry-style post on Teaching a Course on Paul. To me, one of the great benefits of the blogosphere is the chance to compare teaching notes, and to pick up tips from one another to use in strengthening our own teaching. There are already several interesting suggestions and remarks in comments to the post, and I will throw in some of my own thoughts based on the course I taught on Paul here this year, which I will be teaching here again next year. Here are Joel's questions:
1) What will this course be about? Paul as a historical figure, Paul's theology, Paul's letters, all of these?
This kind of question depends a bit on what the course is called, and how it is advertised. The course I inherited from EPS was called "The Life and Letters of Paul", and I am happy to say that that gives me a good deal of freedom to explore, well, Paul's life and letters. So I feel happy about dealing with all of those things Joel mentions, Paul as a historical figure, his theology, his letters. And I like to work through all the key methodological issues, Paul and Acts, Pauline chronology, the authenticity and integrity of the epistles and so on. The issue for me is focused by the fact that while some of my students will have taken my New Testament Introduction class, some will not, and so I have to factor in some introductory discussion without the introduction getting dull for those who have taken New Testament Introduction. (This is not ideal, but it is a quirk of the system here that we can't introduce prerequisites).
2) What is essential and palatable for undergraduates? Complicated discussions about Paul and the Law will be way over their heads.
There's no question but that you must do Paul and the Law if you are devoting a whole term to Paul; it is too important not to cover. And it is one of those great challenges for the teacher to find ways of teaching the more complex topics. What I like about those challenges is that they often provide the best research opportunities, because it is in thinking through the topic in question afresh that one gains fresh insights. In any case, though, I'd say students struggle more with Pauline chronology than they do with Paul and the Law.
3) What about exegetical method for reading Paul? Should I introduce and have them practice exegeting Pauline texts?
I think I'd be inclined to avoid talking too much about "exegesis" because it tends to make the students think of the text as a kind of code that needs to be cracked, and that can only be cracked if you learn about this mysterious thing called "exegesis". I talk about reading and interpreting the text, and these sound much less threatening and mysterious. But yes, one should definitely get the students stuck into the text. I set students one piece of reading from Paul before every class, and one piece of scholarship. And we also do extensive reading from the text in class. On the general question of text and theme, I try to build from the first half of the course, where I introduce the methods and the texts, to the second half of the course where we go thematic. The value of this, I think, is that it provides the proper basis for the students to understand properly things like Paul's soteriology, realizing that discussion of it is grounded in contextually specific letters; it discourages the kind of proof-texting approach that inevitably happens if one leaps straight into themes at the beginning. I like the students to get to know Paul, his personality and his life's battles before they start saying anything about his views on ethics (and so on).
4) What should I use for textbooks? Is there a good accessible primer on Paul? (Of course when Mike's book comes out this will be the class text)
I have previously commented here on my distaste for the American style textbook culture. University education, at least in the humanities, should be about critical engagement with the literature and it is difficult for students to do this if they have a central textbook that is their guide for the whole. It encourages a fact-based, accumulation of knowledge model of teaching that is condescending to university students who have come to develop their abilities to engage in intellectual exchange. Having said that, it can be useful to have a couple of good starting points for a given course. Last time around, I recommended two books as good starters for the Life and Letters of Paul, David Horrell's Introduction to the Study of Paul and E. P. Sanders's Paul: A Very Short Introduction. But they are only starter texts, and the key is to encourage students to read as widely as possible. For that, there are dozens of useful texts available on the internet, and I supplement those with one or two extras on Blackboard, as well as setting a research paper that encourages them to read more widely still.

I'll be teaching Paul again in the autumn (the fall, as it's called here) and I look forward to comparing notes with Joel and perhaps others too.

Blogger's Choice Awards

Ruth Gledhill mentions the Blogger's Choice Awards. She currently has just the one vote, which seems a bit mean, but at least it's one vote more than me. In the Best Religion Blog category there is a dearth of biblioblogs, or blogs by anyone much that I know. The first I can see is Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed, which comes in after 32 pages, and just two votes! So with just six months to go until the awards in November (!), let's get nominating and voting so that at least some of the biblioblogs are represented in the list. I have got the ball rolling by nominating the pioneer biblioblog, Paleojudaica.

NT Greek in St Petersburg

This is in from Jenny Read-Heimerdinger:
Course in New Testament Greek

Beyond the Basics


7-15 September 2007

• An intensive five-day course in NT Greek, with an introductory weekend of cultural acclimatization
• Possibility to extend stay by up to a week, with an optional course on Russian Orthodox Theology
• Hosted by the Christian University of St Petersburg, in the city centre
• Comfortable, self-catering accommodation on campus

A unique opportunity to combine advanced study of NT Greek and discovery of an exciting and beautiful Russian city.

Greek course: 30 hours tuition (equivalent 2 semesters), going beyond a basic knowledge of NT Greek and working from a range of NT texts, to study aspects of syntax and semantics that are critical for exegesis and translation. Teaching is in English.

Costs: First week, including accommodation and course fee – £135
Second week, accommodation – £12 day; optional tuition – £100
Lunch (Mon-Fri) £1.20 meal

Travel: Sample return fares from London –
KLM air £192
Ryanair + rail via Latvia £125
Visa £40

Greek Tutor

Dr Jenny Read-Heimerdinger
University of Wales, Bangor

For further details, please e-mail, or phone 01865 853978.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Plumley Coptic Grammar

Paterson Brown emails to make the following announcement:
After a half-year of most pleasurable work and a recent careful proof-read, our online edition of J.M. Plumley’s Introductory Coptic Grammar in both hypertext and MSWord is at last completed:

It’s of course an exceedingly complex text, and so has had to be compared literally letter by letter. Plus I undertook the task of inserting dots between the word elements, in order to exhibit the proper parsing throughout. Even though the occasional glitch no doubt inevitably remains, at this point the text should be basically reliable.
See my previous comments here. This is a really welcome addition to the world of online Coptic resources. Personally, I love being able to see Plumley's own handwriting too; it's that real-life link to his Tottenham vicarage study in the 1940s.

Herod's Tomb

The news breaking this afternoon around the blogosphere is that Herod's Tomb has been found by Ehud Netzer:

Hebrew University: Herod's tomb and grave found at Herodium
By Amiram Barkat, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Staff

The press conference officially announcing this is to happen tomorrow. Naturally, Jim West was the first to pick up on this, unless you count Dan McLerran who prophesied this a couple of years ago.

I look forward to watching this story, and particularly to hearing Jodi Magness's comments on this (e.g. see her 2001 article, "Where is Herod's Tomb at Herodium?").

Update (Tuesday, 9:28): Jim West points out that the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has more:

Tomb of King Herod discovered at Herodium by Hebrew University archaeologist

It includes a picture of Ehud Netzer at the press conference.

Rowan Atkinson Gospel Reading

Over on the Christian Origins list, Zeba Crook posts a link to a fine three minutes or so of New Testament related comedy on YouTube:

Rowan Atkinson Gospel Reading

It's what NT scholars in the past might have called a "midrashic expansion" of the Wedding at Cana story in John 2. Or perhaps this is an earlier, more original version of the Cana story, its great primitivity demonstrated by the presence of a couple of locutions known to have originated in Q, i.e. "O ye of little faith" (Q 14.28) and "Weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth" (Q 13.28).

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Review of Biblical Literature Latest

I didn't get time to blog this earlier this week. Everything is winding down at Duke for the summer, which means that this last week has been pretty manic, with committee meeting after committee meeting, papers to grade and work to do, but with the lull imminent, and very much looked forward to. Anyway, here are the NT related titles in the latest SBL Review of Biblical Literature:

A. K. M. Adam, Stephen E. Fowl, Kevin J. Vanhoozer, and Francis Watson
Reading Scripture with the Church: Toward a Hermeneutic for Theological Interpretation
Reviewed by Joel B. Green

Simon J. Gathercole
The Pre-existent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark, and Luke
Reviewed by James D. G. Dunn
Reviewed by Frank J. Matera

Timothy Larsen and Jeffrey P. Greenman, eds.
Reading Romans through the Centuries: From the Early Church to Karl Barth
Reviewed by Mark Elliott

Clare K. Rothschild
Baptist Traditions and Q
Reviewed by John S. Kloppenborg

Several things of interest here. AKMA has already commented on the review of his co-authored book. Dunn's review of Gathercole is interesting in relation to the SBL Synoptics Section Review of Gathercole's book last November (which I chaired and which I briefly reported on this blog) at which Dunn was rather outspoken. Another biblioblogger commented on this earlier this week, but I forgot to star it, with apologies to whoever it was because I was going to mention them.

Using Judas to Push an Agenda

Tomorrow's Church Times (it's still Thursday in America as I write, watching the British election coverage, where it is the middle of the night) features a review by Robin Griffith-Jones on two recent books about the Gospel of Judas:

Using Judas to Push an Agenda
by Robin Griffith-Jones

The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: A new look at betrayer and betrayed
Bart D. Ehrman
Oxford University Press £12.99

Judas and the Gospel of Jesus
Tom Wright
. . . .Ehrman has in mind, I think, readers who have been prompted by the Gospel of Judas to investigate the canonical stories about Jesus which they have not encountered for ages, if ever. Such readers will find Ehrman’s book well judged and informative; but perhaps fewer would bother with it if the publishers had put on the cover the one sentence (tucked away on page 145) that addresses the only question on such readers’ minds. “This Gospel appears to be using Judas to advance an agenda, and is probably not reliable as a historical source, however interesting it is for under-standing how later Christians portrayed Judas.” To make that a sensible summary, just remove one word: “probably”.

Tom Wright is impatient with the whole Gnostic industry. He reckons some people are out to make a great deal of money, and far more are deluded by America’s left-wing selective neo-Gnosticism. Of Dr Wright’s many readers, those who dislike and distrust the noisy propagation of that creed will find themselves vindicated by his short and trenchant book. I wonder, however, whether others will feel handbagged by his rhetoric . . .
I must admit that I hadn't realized that Tom Wright had written a book about Judas. Someone once told me that his scholarly books are by "N. T. Wright" and his popular, devotional ones are by "Tom Wright", and this one is therefore one of the latter kind.