Archive for January, 2008


RBL Highlights: 1/27/08

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

John M. G. Barclay, trans.
Flavius Josephus: Against Apion
Reviewed by René Bloch

Jeannine K. Brown
Scripture as Communication: Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics
Reviewed by Tony Costa

Philip F. Esler and Ronald A. Piper
Lazarus, Mary and Martha: A Social-Scientific and Theological Reading of John
Reviewed by Peter Phillips

Thomas R. Hatina, ed.
Biblical Interpretation in Early Christian Gospels: Vol. 1: The Gospel of Mark
Reviewed by David du Toit

Christine Helmer, ed.
The Multivalence of Biblical Texts and Theological Meanings
Reviewed by Christoph Stenschke

Robert Tannehill
The Shape of Luke’s Story: Essays on Luke-Acts
Reviewed by Robert F. O’Toole

Stephen Voorwinde
Jesus’ Emotions in the Fourth Gospel: Human or Divine?
Reviewed by William R. G. Loader


RBL Highlights: 1/17/07

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


BAR Highlights: 1/17/07

More recent archaeological news from Biblical Archaeology Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Still Searching for the Original Text

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

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

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


Musings on Mark: 1/16/08

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

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

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

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

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

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


Latest Issues of Harvard Theological Review and Novum Testamentum Now Online

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

Harvard Theological Review
101.1 (January 2008)

Novum Testamentum 50.1 (January 2008)


Latest from Tyndale Tech: Unicode

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

Tyndale Unicode Kit

Tyndale Unicode Keyboards

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

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

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

January 2008
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