Wednesday, January 31, 2007

N. T. Wright page latest

There's a new article on-line at the N. T. Wright Page:

Jesus’ Self-Understanding
Originally published in The Incarnation, ed. S. T. Davis, D. Kendall, G. O’Collins 2002, Oxford: OUP, 47–61

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Margaret Mitchell in North Carolina

Margaret Mitchell is to be this year's Kenneth W. Clark lecturer at Duke. Details are on Duke Divinity School's website:

2007 Kenneth W. Clark Lectures
The Gospel of Mark and the Media Revolution

March 21-22, 2007
Duke Divinity School
Dr. Margaret M. Mitchell, the 2007 Clarke lecturer, is Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature in the Divinity School, and the Department of New Testament and Early Christian Literature at the University of Chicago


Wednesday, March 21 at 9:00 a.m.
The Gospel of Mark as Textual Ephiphany
Room 0016, Duke Divinity School

Thursday, March 22 at 2:30 p.m.
The Gospel of Mark and Digital Hermeneutics
Room 0016, Duke Divinity School

These are free public lectures. No pre-registration is necessary.

Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza in North Carolina

Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina is to host a lecture by Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza. These details are from their website:
Harvard University Professor Dr. Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza will present the Mary Frances Preston Lecture in Biblical Studies at Meredith College on Tuesday, February 13th at 4 p.m. in the Seby & Christina Jones Chapel. The title of Fiorenza’s lecture will be “The Power of the Word: Scripture and the Rhetoric of Empire.”

Fiorenza is an internationally recognized scholar in the area of Biblical interpretation and feminist theology. She is the Krister Stendahl Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School. Her teaching and research focus on questions of Biblical and theological epistemology, rhetoric and the politics of interpretation, as well as on issues of theological education, radical equality and democracy.

Fiorenza is a co-founder and editor of the “Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion” and a co-editor of “Concilium,” an international journal of theology.

She was elected the first woman president of the Society of Biblical Literature and has served on the editorial boards of major Biblical journals and societies. In 2001, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her published work includes In Memory of Her, which has been translated into 12 languages; Jesus and the Politics of Interpretation; and Wisdom Ways: Introducing Feminist Biblical Interpretation. In June 2007, she will publish her latest work, The Power of the Word: Scripture and the Rhetoric of Empire.

The Mary Frances Preston Lecture in Biblical Studies is made possible by funding initiated by Mr. and Mrs. Charles D. Barham, Jr. Preston was the author of the textbook Christian Leadership, and director of religious education at the First Baptist Church of Raleigh for 19 years. This year’s lecture was also presented with the support of the Staley Lecture Fund.

The lecture is free and open to the public. A small reception will be held after the lecture in the Jones Chapel Common Room.

For more information, contact the Meredith College Department of Religion and Philosophy at (919) 760-2361
Thanks to Joel Marcus for the notice.

Older Review of Biblical Literature alerts

I have been so far behind since Christmas that I missed the chance to add notices of SBL Review of Biblical Literature reviews, so here's a round-up of all the ones I missed. As usual, it's those under the NT heading:

Martin M. Culy
I, II, III John: A Handbook on the Greek Text
Reviewed by Jan van der Watt

Daniel J. Harrington
The Letter to the Hebrews
Reviewed by Martin Karrer

Howard Clark Kee
The Beginnings of Christianity: An Introduction to the New Testament
Reviewed by Clare K. Rothschild

Patrick Mullen
Dining with Pharisees
Reviewed by Daniel Maoz
Reviewed by Julia Fogg

Christa Müller-Kessler
Die Zauberschalentexte in der Hilprecht-Sammlung, Jena, und weitere Nippr-Texte anderer Sammlungen
Reviewed by John Engle

Alan G. Padgett and Patrick R. Keifert, eds.
But Is It All True?: The Bible and the Question of Truth
Reviewed by D. A. Carson

Michael Pietsch
"Dieser ist der Sproß Davids .": Studien zur Rezeptionsgeschichte der Nathanverheißung im alttestamentlichen, zwischentestamentlichen und neutestamentlichen Schrifttum
Reviewed by Walter Dietrich

Anthony B. Robinson and Robert W. Wall
Called to Be Church: The Book of Acts for a New Day
Reviewed by Ronald Clark

David Toshio Tsumura
Creation and Destruction: A Reappraisal of the Chaoskampf Theory in the Old Testament
Reviewed by Daniel Maoz
Reviewed by Julia Fogg

Michael Pietsch
"Dieser ist der Sproß Davids .": Studien zur Rezeptionsgeschichte der Nathanverheißung im alttestamentlichen, zwischentestamentlichen und neutestamentlichen Schrifttum
Reviewed by Walter Dietrich

Anthony B. Robinson and Robert W. Wall
Called to Be Church: The Book of Acts for a New Day
Reviewed by Ronald Clark

Gillian Beattie
Women and Marriage in Paul and His Early Interpreters
Reviewed by Judith Lieu

James D. G. Dunn
The New Perspective on Paul: Collected Essays
Reviewed by Kathy Ehrensperger

Bart D. Ehrman
Studies in the Textual Criticism of the New Testament
Reviewed by J. K. Elliott

Murray J. Harris
The Second Epistle to the Corinthians
Reviewed by H. H. Drake Williams III

Hugh M. Humphrey
From Q to "Secret" Mark: A Composition History of the Earliest Narrative Theology
Reviewed by Kari Syreeni

Christian Münch
Die Gleichnisse Jesu im Matthäusevangelium: Eine Studie zu ihrer Form und Funktion
Reviewed by Ruben Zimmermann and Georg Gäbel

George L. Parsenios
Departure and Consolation: The Johannine Farewell Discourses in Light of Greco-Roman Literature
Reviewed by Jan van der Watt

Todd Penner and Caroline Vander Stichele, eds.
Moving Beyond New Testament Theology? Essays in Conversation with Heikki Räisänen
Reviewed by Christopher Tuckett

Evan Powell
The Myth of the Lost Gospel
Reviewed by Jim West

Kiwoong Son
Zion Symbolism in Hebrews: Hebrews 12:18-24 as a Hermeneutical Key to the Epistle
Reviewed by Martin Karrer

Richard Valantasis
The New Q: A Fresh Translation with Commentary
Reviewed by Joseph Verheyden

C. K. Barrett
St. Paul: An Introduction to His Thought
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

Jean-Marie van Cangh and Alphonse Toumpsin
L'Evangile de Marc: Un original hebreu?
Reviewed by Sylvie Raquel

W. V. Harris, ed.
The Spread of Christianity in the First Four Centuries: Essays in Explanation
Reviewed by Hennie Stander

Richard A. Horsley, Jonathan A. Draper, John Miles Foley, eds.
Performing the Gospel: Orality, Memory, and Mark: Essays Dedicated to Werner Kelber
Reviewed by Alan Kirk

Marko Jauhiainen
The Use of Zechariah in Revelation
Reviewed by Stephen Moyise

Frank Stern
A Rabbi Looks at Jesus' Parables
Reviewed by Innocent Himbaza

Reuben Swanson
New Testament Greek Manuscripts: Variant Readings Arranged in Horizontal Lines Against Codex Vaticanus: 1 Corinthians
Reviewed by Claudio Zamagni

Fabian Udoh
To Caesar What Is Caesar's: Tribute, Taxes, and Imperial Administration in Early Roman Palestine 63 B.C.E.-70 C.E.
Reviewed by Daniel Schowalter

Roger David Aus
Imagery of Triumph and Rebellion in 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 and Elsewhere in the Epistle: An Example of the Combination of Greco-Roman and Judaic Traditions in the Apostle Paul
Reviewed by Fredrick J. Long

Matthew C. Baldwin
Whose Acts of Peter? Text and Historical Context of the Actus Vercellenses
Reviewed by Thomas J. Kraus

Paul Borgman
The Way according to Luke: Hearing the Whole Story of Luke-Acts
Reviewed by Gert J. Steyn

Jörg Frey and Jens Schröter, eds.
Deutung des Todes Jesu im Neuen Testament
Reviewed by William Loader

Erik M. Heen and Philip D. W. Krey, eds.
Reviewed by George H. Guthrie

Francis J. Moloney
The Gospel of John: Text and Context
Reviewed by Paul Anderson

James L. Resseguie
Narrative Criticism of the New Testament: An Introduction
Reviewed by Patrick E. Spencer

Marianne Blickenstaff
'While the Bridegroom Is with Them': Marriage, Family, Gender and Violence in the Gospel of Matthew
Reviewed by Elaine Wainwright

Thomas C. Ferguson
The Past Is Prologue: The Revolution of Nicene Historiography
Reviewed by Mark Weedman

Amy-Jill Levine, ed., with Marianne Blickenstaff
A Feminist Companion to John: Volume 1
Reviewed by Mary Rose D'Angelo

R. S. Sugirtharajah
The Bible and Empire: Postcolonial Explorations
Reviewed by Jason T. Larson

Review of Biblical Literature latest

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

Joseph F. Kelly
An Introduction to the New Testament for Catholics
Reviewed by Peter J. Judge

André Lemaire, ed.
Congress Volume: Leiden, 2004
Reviewed by William Johnstone

Rueben Swanson
New Testament Greek Manuscripts: Variant Readings Arranged in Horizontal Lines against Codex Vaticanus: 2 Corinthians
Reviewed by Michael F. Bird

W. Randolph Tate
Interpreting the Bible: A Handbook of Terms and Methods
Reviewed by Steven L. Mckenzie

Gerd Theissen
Le Mouvement de Jésus: Histoire sociale d'une révolution des valeurs
Reviewed by Odette Mainville

Rochus Zuurmond
Novum Testamentum Aethiopice: The Synoptic Gospels. Part 3: The Gospel of Matthew
Reviewed by John Mason

Neotestamentica latest

Thanks to Holger Szesnat for the note that the latest Neotestamentica is up: abstracts, two sample articles and all the book reviews:

Neotestamentica Volume 40 [2006], Issue 2

Ossom-Batsa, George
Bread for the Broken: Pragmatic Meaning of Mark 14:22-25
[pp. 235-258; abstract online; article online (PDF)]

Snyman, Andries H.
A Rhetorical Analysis of Philippians 3:1-11
[pp. 259-283; abstract online]

Smith, Kevin and Arthur Song
Some Christological Implications in Titus 2:13
[pp. 284-294; abstract online]

Strelan, Rick
'We Hear Them Telling in Our Own Tongues the Mighty Works of God' (Acts 2:11)
[pp. 295-319; abstract online]

Thiselton, Anthony C.
The Significance of Recent Research on 1 Corinthians for Hermeneutical Appropriation of This Epistle Today
[pp. 320-352; abstract online; article online (PDF)]

van Aarde, Andries
Ebionite Tendencies in the Jesus Tradition: The Infancy Gospel of Thomas Interpreted from the Perspective of Ethnic Identity
[pp. 353-382; abstract online]

Vos, Johan C.
The Destructive Power of Atonement Theology.
[pp. 383-401; abstract online]

Various Authors
Book Reviews
[pp. 185-226; all online (PDF)]

JSNT Latest

The latest JSNT is available on-line to subscribers (abstracts free for all):

Journal for the Study of the New Testament -- Table of Contents Alert

A new issue of Journal for the Study of the New Testament
has been made available:

1 March 2007; Vol. 29, No. 3


Structure versus Agency in Studies of the Biblical Social World: Engaging with Louise Lawrence
Zeba A. Crook
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 251-275

Structure, Agency and Ideology: A Response to Zeba Crook
Louise J. Lawrence
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 277-286

The 'Ghost' of Jesus: Luke 24 in Light of Ancient Narratives of Post-Mortem Apparitions
Deborah Thompson Prince
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 287-301

What Should a Commentator Aim to Do, for Whom, and Why? Introduction to a Discussion Focused on Andrew Lincoln's Commentary on the Gospel of John
David G. Horrell
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 303-304

The Purpose and Value of Commentaries
John Nolland
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 305-311

The Art of Commentary Writing: Reflections from Experience
Margaret Y. MacDonald
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 313-321

Why Write a Reception-Historical Commentary?
John Riches
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 323-332

Why Comment? Reflections on Bible Commentaries in General and Andrew Lincoln's The Gospel According to Saint John in Particular
Adele Reinhartz
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 333-342

A Christology too Far? Some Thoughts on Andrew Lincoln's Commentary on John
Wendy E.S. North
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 343-351

From Writing to Reception: Reflections on Commentating on the Fourth Gospel
Andrew T. Lincoln
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 353-372

Book Review: Locating Paul: Places of Custody as Narrative Settings in Acts 21-28
Steve Walton
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 373-375

April DeConick's Forbidden Gospels Blog

I'd like to join others who have welcomed April DeConick to the blogosphere:

The Forbidden Gospels Blog

Prof. DeConick begins with a kind of prospectus focusing on canonical bias in the academy, Beyond the New Testament Canon, and continues with an interesting post on What does the Gospel of Judas REALLY say? in which she joins with those who are voicing their concerns about the National Geographic team's translation and interpretation of the Gospel:
. . . My examination of the Coptic transcription has led me to think that certain translational errors and one mistaken reconstruction of a Coptic line led the team to the erroneous conclusion that Judas is a saint destined to join the holy generation of the Gnostics. The result is that certain claims have been made by National Geographic that the Gospel of Judas says things it just does NOT say: Judas is the perfect enlightened Gnostic; Judas ascends to the holy generation; Jesus wants Judas to betray him; Jesus wants to escape the material world; Judas performs a righteous act, serving Jesus by “betraying” him; Judas will be able to enter the divine realm as symbolized by his vision of the great house; as the thirteenth, Judas surpasses the twelve disciple, and is lucky and blessed by this number.

I have been speaking to audiences about this situation in a public lecture series I started this semester, The Forbidden Gospels, and I am writing a book for general audiences (What Does the Gospel of Judas REALLY Say?) as quickly as I can. It will include a corrected translation and interpretation, one in which Judas is as evil as ever.
Well, I am looking forward to both the blog and the book. I have April DeConick's recent books on the Gospel of Thomas in front of me (it was published in the series I edit) and they are important contributions to Thomas studies.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Scottish Journal of Theology latest

The latest issue of the Scottish Journal of Theology is now available on-line to subscribers (abstracts free for all):

Scottish Journal of Theology
Volume 60 - Issue 01 - February 2007

Of interest on the NT front is the following:

Peter's death in Rome? Back to front and upside down
Markus Bockmuehl
Published Online: 25-JAN-07
[ abstract ] pp 1 - 23

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Harvard Theological Review latest

The latest Harvard Theological Review (100/1, January 2007) is now available to subscribers. One article of interest is:

“Half God, half man”: Kazantzakis, Scorsese, and The Last Temptation
Graham Holderness
Published Online: 22-JAN-07
[ abstract ] pp 65 - 96

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Jew and Greek in Christ

On The Busybody, Loren Rosson has an interesting post headed In Christ There Is Jew and Greek, developing from his earlier post Controversial Studies and the Question of Motive: The Apostle Paul; this is a quotation:
Paul was no more an egalitarian than Jesus, and by the time of Romans he had even given up on the apocalyptic formula of Gal 3:27-28 (cf. I Cor 12:13). The reason is simple: Gal 3:27-28 was offensive, impractical, and doomed to fail in the ancient Mediterranean, where different ethnic groups, genders, and social classes could get along only by preserving their identities. Attempts to eliminate distinctions in honor-shame societies only encouraged groups to re-assert their identities in aggressive ways. That's why there is Jew and Greek in Christ, after all.
I am inclined to agree with Loren here, but with the qualification that Paul's thought becomes most clear when it is interpreted in its eschatological context. For "egalitarian" in scholarship on the New Testament, we should substitute "eschatological". The reason that Paul can say, in Gal. 3.28, that there is no Jew nor Greek "in Christ" is that we should remember that "in Christ" is itself an eschatological concept. Those who have been baptized into Christ, those who have "put on" Christ are those who share his destiny, those who belong to the one who will return to establish his reign. It is in that future that there will be no Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free. What being "in Christ" means is having the hope of salvation, a future in which such distinctions will have no meaning. It stands to reason for Paul and his contemporaries that there is still male and female in the present. There is no attempt to abolish gender differences. Likewise there is still slave and free in the present. He is not trying to change the social order. It will be God who does that thing which is promised to those currently "in Christ".

Inaccurate Greek Electronic Texts

Over on b-greek, Alan Bunning has an interesting and troubling post about the multitude of inaccuracies in the on-line Greek NT texts many use so regularly:
I got tired of the myriad of inaccuracies, sloppy scholarship, and proprietary nature associated with the New Testament Greek texts and decided to start collecting my own accurate electronic versions. I have gone through hundreds of websites and several Bible programs collecting copies of the various Greek texts . . .

. . . . Common sources such as the Online Bible, Broman, Unbound Bible, and CCAT all had various errors. Not one single text for any version I examined was entirely correct, although a few were really close . . . .

. . . . I have since begun looking at the morphological parsings and links to root words, and am even more appalled at the magnitude of errors. It is far, far worse than I ever imagined . . .
The whole post is worth reading.

Update (23.52): James Tauber's comment is worth adding here as an update: "As I've just noted in an email reply, people continue to distribute very old versions of the morphologically tagged texts that have continued to be corrected and made available at

It is a wasted effort to try to correct these older versions when much newer versions are available. They are still not perfect, but are a much better starting point."

Update (Wednesday, 7.36): See too the helpful comments from Rick Brannan, beginning "Wherever possible, Logos/Libronix uses texts and databases from known, reputable sources. Thus our editions of UBS4 and NA27 -- different editions, with paragraphing, casing, accent and punctuation representative of their printed edition -- have solid pedigrees; they're not simply downloads from some anonymous web site . . . ." But read the whole.

Amy-Jill Levine Interview

The Sun Herald features a little interview with Amy-Jill Levine:

Author tackles Jewish-Christian relations, views
In her new book, "The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus" (HarperSanFrancisco; $24.95), Levine, an Orthodox Jew, tackles 2,000 years of Jewish-Christian relations.

She talked about Jesus' parables, the challenges of interfaith dialogue, her childhood experience of anti-Semitism, and whether she's still interested in being pope.
It's an enjoyable read, but too short.

New Testament Studies latest

The January issue of New Testament Studies is now available on-line to subscribers:

New Testament Studies
Volume 53 - Issue 01 - January 2007

The Messenger, the Lord, and the Coming Judgement in the Reception History of Malachi 3
Published Online: 22-JAN-07
[ abstract ] pp 1 - 16

Historiographical Characteristics of the Gospel of John
Published Online: 22-JAN-07
[ abstract ] pp 17 - 36

Acts 2.36 and the Continuity of Lukan Christology
Published Online: 22-JAN-07
[ abstract ] pp 37 - 56

Paul and Theodicy: Intertextual Thoughts on God's Justice and Faithfulness to Israel in Romans 9–11
Published Online: 22-JAN-07
[ abstract ] pp 57 - 80

The ‘Transgressor’ and the ‘Curse of the Law’: The Logic of Paul's Argument in Galatians 2–3
Published Online: 22-JAN-07
[ abstract ] pp 81 - 93

Slavery, Sexuality and House Churches: A Reassessment of Colossians 3.18–4.1 in Light of New Research on the Roman Family
Published Online: 22-JAN-07
[ abstract ] pp 94 - 113

Confession of the Son of God in Hebrews
Published Online: 22-JAN-07
[ abstract ] pp 114 - 129

Die betörenden Worte des fremden Mannes: Zur Funktion der Paulusbeschreibung in den Theklaakten
Published Online: 22-JAN-07
[ abstract ] pp 130 - 145

To access this issue visit: Tables of contents and article abstracts are free to all on Cambridge Journals Online. Access to the full text is available to users whose institutions subscribe. If your institution does not subscribe why not recommend New Testament Studies to your librarian today and gain access 24-hours a day. Visit:

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Where has Peter Kirby gone?

You know when your contributions on the net are valued when you become really conspicuous by your absence. Several of Peter Kirby's websites seem to have gone down over the last week or so, including his Gospel of Thomas commentary, formally at, which now has a "This website is for sale" notice. His Christian Origins blog has a "This account has been suspended notice", likewise his own site. Early Christian Writings is still available, though.

Dunn and Wright in conversation

Over on The Paul Page, there is now a transcript of the following:

An Evening Conversation on Paul with James D. G. Dunn and N. T. Wright
This article is an edited transcription of the second of a two-part conversation recorded on October 25, 2004. The original audio file can be downloaded from New Testament Seminar: Audio Archives
Wright: Jimmy began the last session by quizzing me about the phrase “the third quest for the historical Jesus,” which I coined, and so I’m going to begin this session by quizzing him about the phrase “the new perspective on Paul,” which he coined.

Jimmy and I go back a long way when it comes to the new perspective, but the phrase “new perspective” comes from a lecture in 1982 which was published in 1983. So, Jimmy, where is the new perspective now? And in a nutshell, because obviously we could talk about it all night, how do you see the debate sitting now?

Dunn: Let me go back and set the scene a little . . .

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Jack Bauer = Jesus?

This Dallas Morning News article celebrates the return of 24 tonight (in the US; UK viewers will have to wait a little longer) by drawing some parallels between Jack and Jesus. It's penetrating stuff, e.g. both have long hair and a beard:

[Spoiler alert: don't read on if you haven't seen the conclusion of the fifth season]

What would Jack do? Tune in to '24'
TV: Watch for a miracle as Christ-like parallels continue in premiere
As a shackled and guarded Jack Bauer shuffles off a transport plane eight minutes into tonight's season premiere of 24, one word comes to mind: Jesus. That's an observation, not an exclamation.

The counter-terrorist agent, his hair long and beard scraggly, is being released from the custody of Chinese authorities. He is bowed, his back crisscrossed with scars from torture. Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) has not spoken in the nearly two years since he was snatched by Chinese agents (in last season's finale).

Two years: His 40 days in the desert, so to speak.
You get the picture.

Latest Tyndale Tech: Web Bible Tools

The latest Tyndale Tech (November 2006) is now available on-line. If you are unfamiliar with the Tyndale Tech phenomenon, this is an occasional email from David Instone-Brewer of Tyndale House, Cambridge, UK, which is always full of interesting helps for the those looking to expand their knowledge of and expertise in technical helps for Biblical study. After a month or two, the emails appear on the web site, as now with the latest:

Finding the Right Web Tool for the Job

I endorse what David says here, especially the enthusiasm for Zhubert.

One minor whinge about the Tyndale Tech emails -- the right click is disabled on links, so it's not as straightforward to copy links and bookmark them as it would otherwise be.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Jim Caviezel to reprise Jesus role

Courier News has the interesting story that Jim Caviezel, who starred as Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, is now to reprise the role in an all-star cast in an audio Bible:

'Passion' star reprises Christ role in audio bible
Thomas Nelson Inc., one of the world’s largest seller [sic] of bibles, announced today that it will be releasing a 25-hour, 20-CD, star-studded audio bible production of The New Testament.

"The Word of Promise: New Testament Audio Bible" is scheduled to be released in October in association with Falcon Picture Group.

The dramatic bible was the brainchild of Carl Amari, CEO of Falcon Picture Group, who is also a producer and distributor of audio dramas and founder of Radio Spirits.

Amari approached actor Jim Caviezel (“The Passion of the Christ,” “Déjà vu”) to play the lead role of Jesus Christ, after working with him on the 2004 family-friendly film “Madison.”

Caviezel said he relished the chance to explore the character in a new medium. He also is co-producing the project with with Amari and best-selling author and broadcast journalist Raymond Arroyo.
Michael York is another old Jesus film actor to be involved. He is narrator in this production, and was John the Baptist in Jesus of Nazareth (dir. Franco Zeffirelli, 1977).

Biblical Studies Carnival Best of 2006

I want to join with the many other bibliobloggers who have given the thumbs-up to Tyler Williams's excellent round-up of the year:

Biblical Studies Carnival: Best of 2006

Why is the Historical Jesus Quest so difficult?

I begin a course on the Historical Jesus at Duke tomorrow and I am putting together the teaching materials at the moment. As I introduce the topic, my mind turned to why it is that we have to spend such a lot of time trying to get our heads round this topic. Here are my summary reasons as to why the Historical Jesus Quest is such a massive task:

(1) So much data is missing, e.g. there is so little on Jesus’ life before 30.

(2) The data we do have is highly prejudiced, mainly pro-Christian propaganda.

(3) The sources we have are disputed -- different scholars value the sources differently

(4) The sources are sometimes contradictory and difficult to interpret.

(5) Our distance from the data is so great – we read our own prejudices into the texts.

(6) And now there is so much secondary literature available that it is difficult to navigate our way through it all.

(7) Jesus is a figure in whom so many have a stake, and the quest is often controversial.

I will go on to tell the students, though, that the news is not all bad. We are actually surprisingly well informed about Jesus compared to many other figures from the ancient world.

The Verhoeven Jesus film

Over on FilmChat, Peter Chattaway mentions this New York Times piece:

Paul Verhoeven Goes to War One More Time

the second half of which turns to Verhoeven's oft talked-about desire to make a Jesus film (remember his involvement with the Jesus seminar, for example):
It is a firm belief of Mr. Verhoeven’s that nothing is sacred, and his next project will probably serve as ample demonstration. He is finishing a book on Jesus, to be published later this year. A self-described “non-Christian,” he has been involved since the mid-’80s with the Jesus Seminar, an association of Bible scholars devoted to investigating the historical authenticity of the words and deeds of Jesus.

Summarizing the contents of his monograph, Mr. Verhoeven said: “Thesis No. 1 is that Jesus was a man. That’s already a big thing, as opposed to what Christianity says, that he was the son of God.” The book will be based on a close reading of ancient texts, he said, “eliminating everything that’s not possible, in my opinion.” He added: “It’s impossible that Jesus would have multiplied all this bread, isn’t it? And the resurrection. All these things that are not possible are not possible.” . . .

. . . . Mr. Verhoeven said he hopes his Jesus book is the first step toward his dream project, a Jesus movie, one that he said would be like no other: “My hubris tells me it would be more normal and more real.” Dismissing “The Passion of the Christ” (“It’s just about torture”) and “The Last Temptation of Christ” (“Basically fictional”), he said the only such film he admired was Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Gospel According to St. Matthew”: “He gives it a Marxist spin, which made the Jesus more belligerent, much stronger, more like he really was, I think.”

He hastened to add that despite this confrontational stance, his Bible studies were motivated by an intellectual ardor. “I’m a big fan of Jesus,” he said. “I think Jesus was an extremely interesting, innovative, talented person, a theological genius, and as a poet, his parables are absolutely magnificent. He’s like Mozart.”

Mr. Verhoeven knows his approach is risky. “To do this movie in the U.S. might not be without personal danger,” he said. “The power of the screen is so enormous. That’s why I’m writing the book first. It gives me time to think if I want to get into hotter water than that.”
Well, if the film ever comes off, it should be fascinating.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Should we blog our pre-publication ideas?

In James Crossley's interesting recent blogger of the month interview, he makes the following comment:
I think it is pretty clear to anyone who might read the blog that I am reluctant to put anything particularly new on the blog unless it is published or being published. I didn’t consciously make this decision but I just can’t bring myself to put too many pre-publication ideas.
On Reception of the Bible, John Lyons echoes this "reluctance to put pre-publication work on a blog" and contrasts this with people like me who are more willing to discuss ideas pre-publication. I suppose my way of thinking about this would be to ask why not discuss your research on your blog? To me the advantages are fairly obvious -- one is experimenting, thinking out loud, attempting to articulate one's views, getting feedback, getting pointers to useful bibliography and so on. All of these things help one to hone one's writing and to come up with a stronger final product at the full publication stage. I'd be more worried about going to final publication without having aired the ideas and a good deal of the writing in a public setting beforehand.

So what are the disadvantages of airing one's research at the pre-publication stage in one's academic blog? John's take is as follows:
Without a great deal of thought, I am beginning to wonder if this has something to do with how you approach blogging as an outlet for your work. You might, of course, not care about publishing your work in academic outlets, but I doubt that is the case with Mark and Jim (or with the others mentioned above). I am sure they are confident that their work is still publishable despite their blog offerings (after all, Mark has now published a 'substantially revised version' of his previously offered review of The Nativity Story in the--admittedly not very prestigious-- SBL forum). From his comments Mark appears to value the feedback he has received, apparently seeing it as akin to that which he might receive at a conference. Yet to me there is something public about the internet that makes me doubt anyone will want to take it for a journal. I have no evidence for this, but it seems very real to me.
I am highly sceptical of the latter, and I would be surprised if a serious journal were to reject something because the ideas were worked out in part in an academic's blog. After all, it has long been the case that journal articles take over material previously circulated in conference proceedings or collections of seminar papers, and likewise papers temporarily posted in full on the net. I doubt that piecemeal, incomplete research that is under development on a blog would fair worse. And if the journal were to question the academic's pre-publication blog musings, the more fool them. Who would reject a paper for a journal because it had previously been read in academic settings like a conference? If one were very nervous about such things, one could always remove an offending post at a later date. To be honest, I have been tempted to do the latter for other reasons, that I would prefer to direct people to the more fully formed and mature expressions of my ideas, but on balance I quite like the idea of the raw, under-development piecemeal blog research ideas to be there for future consultation too.

In short, I don't think that blogging pre-publication ideas is at all a bar to full publication. Indeed in my experience, it works the opposite way. For me, blogging sometimes encourages publication. A simple example is the one mentioned by John, my underdeveloped musings on The Nativity Story, which subsequently evolved into a fuller, more polished review for the SBL Forum. I wouldn't have written the SBL Forum piece if I had not begun reflecting out loud on the film in the blog. I can illustrate a more complex version of the same kind of thing. Back in 2004, about one in every three entries in this blog focused on the latest news on The Passion of the Christ. When I finally got to see the film, I offered My Thoughts in a rolling post, with no intention of developing for publication. But Bible and Interpretation picked up the post and asked if I would develop it for their site and the result was a new piece called The Passion, Pornography an Polemic. In turn, Robert Webb saw my interest in the film and asked me to contribute to the book he was co-editing with Kathleen Corley called Jesus and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. The article I wrote for that book, on "The Power of The Passion: Reacting and Overreacting to Gibson's Artistic Vision", bore only a distant relationship to that original blog post, but it was from that that it was ultimately derived. And without it, I might never have been encouraged to write the fuller piece.

I suppose that is my justification for airing pre-publication ideas, but it is also an encouragement to others to do the same. There is an element of risk or adventure about trying out ideas on one's blog, but the risks sometimes pay off and lead one in unexpected directions. I might add, though, that in spite of all that I have said, I only occasionally engage in this kind of thing. The majority of my research ideas don't get developed here in the blog but rather through reading, teaching, thinking, reflection, sharing with friends and so on. I am currently working on the Gospel of Thomas but how often have I blogged on that here? Next year I am hoping to begin writing my book provisionally entitled ________, _________ and _____ but I don't feel comfortable even mentioning that here yet. It seems, then, that there are some research ideas that one feels more comfortable about sharing than others, and I am not sure that I can articulate why that is the case, or what the criteria are. Like John, I want to give this some more thought.

Update (17 January, 08:52): On Reception of the Bible, John Lyons gathers together all the links on the biblioblogs to subsequent discussion of this issue, and weighs in again himself on this interesting topic.

Gospel of Judas books galore

In On Not Being a Sausage Deirdre Good has a useful round-up on the New Books on the Gospel of Judas and it is a surprising number. She mentions the extraodinary news that broke at the weekend in The Sunday Times that Jeffrey Archer has a book due out on Judas, co-written with Frank Moloney, this March (Archer writes Gospel of Judas), already mentioned by Jim Davila on Paleojudaica. I first heard of the story on Andrew Marr's Sunday AM on BBC1. What interested me was the general surprise with which Marr and Ann Leslie greeted the idea of rehabilitating Judas, a useful reminder that however much we might think that the media has been saturated with stories about Judas over the last year or so, that is a pretty jaundiced, religion students' perspective. It had clearly completely passed by educated and intelligent readers like Marr, and required a recognisable tag like "Jeffrey Archer" to deem it noticeable.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Biblical Studies Carnival XIII and January's biblioblogger

Tyler Williams has published the latest Biblical Studies Carnival and it's another fantastic round-up. One of these days someone will come up with a dud in this genre, but it's not happened yet:

Biblical Studies Carnival XIII

And another regular feature on the biblioblogging scene is up too:

Biblioblogs: Blogger of the Month: James Crossley

It's an interesting read and there is a lot of good sense spoken.

Christmas Bible TV

Before going away, I blogged briefly on upcoming Christmas TV of interest to the topic of this blog (Christmas TV on Bible Films and The Secret Family of Jesus). The real highlights of Christmas TV viewing were largely non-biblical, Doctor Who, Vicar of Dibley and Torchwood, though the latter came in with some great Biblical language and themes in its superb conclusion the other night, mentioned already by Jim Davila on Paleojudaica and discussed by Pete Phillips on postmodernbible (Torchwood . . . and Torchwood's Abaddon). I didn't catch much of The Secret Family of Jesus, though some who did have commented on my blog post. I saw enough of it, though, to catch both James Tabor and Richard Bauckham. I was particularly pleased to see that Bauckham was involved since he has been somewhat media-shy in the past and the programme can't have been all bad if scholars like Bauckham and Tabor were involved. On New Year's day I caught some of The Secret Life of Brian and was pleased to see a little more of the famous Muggeridge / Bishop / Cleese / Palin exchange. Speaking as both a Christian and a Pythonist myself, I am almost as baffled now as I was when I sneaked in to see it aged 13 that many Christians found it so objectionable. Michael Palin made the excellent point in the previously mentioned exchange that Jesus is represented reverentially in the film on the one occasion we see him, played by Ken Colley (whom Palin mentions by name). Perhaps this would be a suitable occasion for me to mention something I sometimes say when teaching Jesus films, that Ken Colley must have been cast because of his resemblance to Robert Powell, whose Jesus in Jesus of Nazareth (1977) was still very fresh in viewers' minds in 1979. (The picture above shows Colley as Jesus in the dim distance, from the opening scene of the film).

Happy new year

Happy new year to everyone. I am just back from a great Christmas and new year and look forward to getting back to blogging soon. (The link is to Viola's blog on our break, from which the picture to the left is taken, at about 00.05 on New Year's Day).