Monday, September 22, 2008

The Passion Resource Pack now available

The Bible Society's resource pack for The Passion (2008) is now available to buy. It is the first time the DVD has been available to buy, and it comes with a range of educational resources. Here is their press release:
Bible Society’s Passion resource pack is now available to buy online!

Be one of the first to own the DVDs and schools and church resources. Visit to order your copy now.

Priced just £19.99, the two-DVD set featuring all four episodes of The Passion will be an invaluable resource for RE teachers across the country.

For teachers – teach The Passion, and encourage investigation.

The resource includes materials on CD-ROM for Key Stage 3, GCSE and 16+ RE. It will save on preparation time and give you a raft of new and creative ideas to engage students.

The CD-ROM is also available as a teacher’s book, priced £7.99.

For church leaders – bring The Passion to life in your church and community.

The DVDs and CD-Rom include a 4-part home group guide and creative resources. These can be used in services, Lent groups or home groups to understand, digest and explore the issues thrown up by the events that took place between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Be one of the first to own the DVDs and resources. Visit to order your copy now.
The standard release DVD will be out in October.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Secrets of the Cross, Episode 2: Who Really Killed Jesus?

The first episode of this series of four documentaries, Secrets of the Cross, was called Secrets of the Jesus Tomb and was broadcast on the UK network channel Five on 2 September (and reviewed here). The second documentary went out last Tuesday, so I am a little late with my review here.

Matt Page has provided an excellent review on Bible Films Blog and also on rejesus. Matt gets this one exactly right. There were some real strengths here -- the team of experts selected (Helen Bond, Ann Wroe, James Tabor, Shimon Gibson and one or two others) were excellent, the use of location shooting was well done, and on the whole the documentary approached its subject matter in a historically responsible way, albeit with an occasional unnecessary black-and-white history vs. theology contrast.

This documentary, which like the previous one is made by CTVC, avoided the extremes of fundamentalism on the one hand and sensationalism on the other, and it packed a decent amount of historical detail into the narration and the expert interviews without becoming convoluted. We heard about the Pilate inscription in some detail, and there was an enjoyable scene where Helen Bond, who was on screen more than anyone else, drew the key part of the inscription in the sand by the sea. As well as the experts, there was some newly filmed silent drama, in the modern documentary style, featuring a black Jesus, lots of blood, some Roman soldiers and several scenes with Pilate. It was quite well done, though it is difficult not to find it a bit distracting, especially if one is familiar with the inevitably superior film portrayals of the same events, which are of course too expensive to use in documentaries like this.

On the whole, the programme avoided cliché, though at one stage Jesus' actions "set him on a collision course" with Rome. The history was in the main responsibly done, and it avoided condescending to the audience. Among other virtues, the programme makers did not shy away from addressing the difficulty of the evangelists' portrayal of the Passion, especially Pilate's hand-washing and the crowd's blood guilt line in Matthew. The only minor criticism I would want to make would be that it presented a rather hard-and-fast line, explaining to the audience how things were without allowing for the inevitable difficulties of doing ancient history, with room for contrasting views among different scholars. Documentary makers sometimes underestimate the extent of the audience's interest in the process of doing history, and of weighing contrasting opinions.

After this greatly superior second entry in the series, I am looking forward to the third documentary, Mary Magdalene: Saint or Sinner, which aired tonight and is repeated on Sunday at 11am, and which is also available free to UK users on Demand Five.

Expository Times latest

The latest issue of Expository Times is now available to subscribers. Here are details of the articles of interest on the NT:

Expository Times
1 October 2008; Vol. 120, No. 1

Matthew and the History of its Interpretation
Dale C. Allison, JR
The Expository Times 2008;120 1-7

`For those Outside, Everything Comes in Parables': Recent Readings of the Parables from the Inside
Alison Jack
The Expository Times 2008;120 8-15

The Historical Jesus for Beginners:
James H. Charlesworth, The Historical Jesus: An Essential Guide (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 2008)
Paul Foster
The Expository Times 2008;120 33

Earliest Christianity in a Roman Context:
E. A. Judge. The First Christians in the Roman World (WUNT 229; Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008)
Paul Foster
The Expository Times 2008;120 40

J. G. van der Watt (ed.), Identity, Ethics, and Ethos in the New Testament (BZNW 141; Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 2006)
Tobias Nicklas
The Expository Times 2008;120 45-46

Sara Parvis and Paul Foster (eds), Justin Martyr and His Worlds (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2007)
Michael Holmes
The Expository Times 2008;120 46-47

John Holdsworth, Getting Started with the Bible (London: Canterbury Press, 2007)
A. Leslie Milton
The Expository Times 2008;120 47

Jan Krans, Beyond What Is Written: Erasmus and Beza as Conjectural Critics of the New Testament (Leiden: Brill, 2006)
Dirk Jongkind
The Expository Times 2008;120 49

Monday, September 15, 2008

Review of Biblical Literature Latest

It's time to catch up on the Review of Biblical Literature. These are those from the last two emails and as usual, I am listing those on the New Testament and related topics:

Frederick E. Brenk
With Unperfumed Voice: Studies in Plutarch, in Greek Literature, Religion and Philosophy, and in the New Testament Background
Reviewed by Thomas J. Kraus

James H. Charlesworth, ed.
The Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls: The Second Princeton Symposium on Judaism and Christian Origins
Reviewed by Matthew Goff

Zeba A. Crook and Philip A. Harland, eds.
Identity and Interaction in the Ancient Mediterranean: Jews, Christians and Others: Essays in Honour of Stephen G. Wilson
Reviewed by Thomas W. Gillespie

Rodney J. Decker
Koine Greek Reader: Selections from the New Testament, Septuagint, and Early Christian Writers
Reviewed by Pierre Johan Jordaan

Mark W. Hamilton, Thomas H. Olbricht, and Jeffrey Peterson, eds.
Renewing Tradition: Studies in Texts and Contexts in Honor of James W. Thompson
Reviewed by Nathan Guy

Larry J. Kreitzer
Hierapolis in the Heavens: Studies in the Letter to the Ephesians
Reviewed by Daniel Darko
Reviewed by Stephan Witetschek

Daniel L. Smith-Christopher
Jonah, Jesus, and Other Good Coyotes: Speaking Peace to Power in the Bible
Reviewed by Hector Avalos

B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort
The Greek New Testament with Dictionary
Reviewed by Allan J. McNicol

Stephen C. Barton, ed.
Idolatry: False Worship in the Bible, Early Judaism and Christianity
Reviewed by Thomas J. Kraus

Kent E. Brower and Andy Johnson, eds.
Holiness and Ecclesiology in the New Testament
Reviewed by James M. Howard

David B. Capes, Rodney Reeves, and E. Randolph Richards
Rediscovering Paul: An Introduction to His World, Letters, and Theology
Reviewed by Rodrigo J. Morales

Paul M. Fullmer
Resurrection in Mark's Literary-Historical Perspective
Reviewed by Pheme Perkins

Edith M. Humphrey, ed.
And I Turned to See the Voice: The Rhetoric of Vision in the New Testament
Reviewed by Bart J. Koet

David J. Lull
1 Corinthians
Reviewed by Anthony C. Thiselton

Steve Moyise and Maarten J. J. Menken, eds.
Deuteronomy in the New Testament: The New Testament and the Scriptures of Israel
Reviewed by Michael A. Lyons
Reviewed by David Lincicum

Stanley E. Porter, ed.
Paul and His Opponents
Reviewed by Justin K. Hardin

Journal for Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism latest

Another article has been added to the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism Volume 5:

5.5 Michael Wojciechowski, "Aesopic Tradition in the New Testament" (PDF)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Travel Diary: Minneapolis, Sunday

I had another job to do before heading back home. I talked for an hour to the Adult Education group at Westminster Presbyterian Church on what we can really know about the Historical Jesus, and how we can know it. Again, it was a good, large audience, with lots of excellent questions and comments, and I made a really conscious effort to speak more slowly so that those present could understand my foreign accent, apparently with some success. I walked them through some of the key issues in Jesus research, looking at the question of sources, explaining the Synoptic Problem and introducing them to non-canonical sources like the Gospel of Thomas, explaining historical context and introducing them to people like Josephus. And I talked about the value if beginning one's historical journey with the crucifixion and working backwards from there.

I flew back to Raleigh-Durham at lunch time and arrived at 5, catching up on a couple of articles, a couple of Russell Brand podcasts, and some sleep, on the way.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Travel Diary: Minneapolis, Saturday

This is my first ever visit to Minneapolis. At first sight, the city reminds me a bit of Seattle, which we visited last year (Travel diary). I am staying close to Westminster Presbyterian Church where I am speaking this weekend at an event co-sponsored by Luther Seminary and United Theological Seminary. There were 120 or so attending, and I am always impressed by those willing to give up a Saturday to listen to someone talking about the New Testament. I know that I am pretty loathe to give up my Saturday morning lie-in unless I really have to. The topic was "Who do you say that I am? The History of Jesus as Messiah", a title worked out in consultation with Kathy Michael, associate pastor at the church and the main organizer of the event. It arose from a series of lectures I gave earlier this year at the BAS event in Fort Lauderdale, "Monarch or Messiah? The King of Jewish Expectation and the Christ of the New Testament", itself developed from the Logos Lecture I gave in June 2007, "Did Jews in Jesus' day expect the Messiah?" The focus is my ongoing research on messianism in Second Temple Judaism and how an understanding of that material helps us to revise the way we look at Christian origins and the New Testament.

They worked me hard but made me welcome. Instead of the four lectures over two days I gave in Fort Lauderdale, here I gave three lectures in a 9-3 event, but with plenty of opportunity for questions and discussion, and breaks for coffee and lunch. I found those who came knowledgeable, interested and full of good questions and comments (as well as the odd, expected idiosyncratic contributions from two or three). Perhaps the greatest surprise, though, was the extent to which some present struggled to understand my British accent. Several people commented that they could not catch everything I was saying. It is true that when animated I do speak a little quickly, and I suppose I am going to have to work harder in future, especially with this kind of audience, to slow down a little. I have been lecturing at Duke for three years now and I often ask if they are able to catch everything I am saying, but they are just a bit too polite to tell me otherwise. It may also be an age-related issue since those who struggled to understand me were a little elderly.

The 3pm finish gave me a chance to get a nap in before we headed out for a fantastic dinner at a superb restaurant called Nicollet Island Inn. They are looking after me very well.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Travel Diary: Minneapolis, Friday

I am lecturing in Minneapolis this weekend (Minneapolis event) and regular readers will be familiar with the fact that I write travel diaries on occasions like this.

As I write, I am sitting in a familiar spot, the Varsity Grill and Sports Bar at Raleigh Durham International Airport (RDU), enjoying a nice Sam Adams. The place is bustling tonight. I think to myself, "Ah, it's because it's Friday night -- people are out enjoying themselves" but then remember that no one actually comes to a bar at an airport on a Friday night unless they are travelling. I am so used to travelling with my family recently, having taken six flights this summer, from DC to Philadelphia to London to Nantes to London to Philadelphia to DC again, that it is odd being in my own company, with just the blogging machine and Sam Adams to keep me company. I like to sit facing outwards, at one of the tall stools set up to allow you to do people watching on all the people going by, at the same time doing a little everyday eavesdropping on several conversations happening behind me.

Tonight is only about the travel. Minneapolis is a two and a half hour flight from Raleigh Durham, and I am going in tonight so that I am able to be up bright and early in the morning and to begin the study day at 9.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Minneapolis Event

I am speaking this weekend in Minneapolis at an event organized by Westminster Presbyterean Church, Luther Seminary and United Theological Seminary. Full details are here:

Who do you say that I am? (brochure) (PDF)

Here is an excerpt from the publicity:
“Who Do You Say That I Am?”… The History of Jesus as Messiah
A Day of Lecture, Exploration, and Discussion Led by Dr. Mark Goodacre, Duke University
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Westminster Presbyterian Church
1200 Marquette Avenue
Reports and travel diary will, I hope, follow.

More British New Testament Conference Reports

It is good to see some more reports coming in on this year's British New Testament Conference in Durham (see previous post):

Dunelm Road (Ben Blackwell)
Early Christian History (James Crossley)
Euangelion (Michael Bird)
Nijay K. Gupta
Sean the Baptist (Sean Winter)

These are all excellent and enjoyable reports, and I love the pictures on Paleojudaica while wondering whether that gathering is now beginning to burst at the seems?! One thing is missing in the above reports and comments, though. No one mentions the poor secretary who makes all this happen. If the job is as time consuming now as it was when I did it, Louise Lawrence definitely deserves a word of thanks.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

British New Testament Conference 2008

The British New Testament Conference 2008 gets underway today in Durham. Although the website is still hosted here on, I am not able to make it on account of being several thousand miles away, but the programme (PDF) looks interesting; see also the seminars. I look forward to reports from the ground, so far just Jim Davila on Paleojudaica.

Update (Friday): Nijay K. Gupta reports on day one.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Secrets of the Jesus Tomb, on Five

Last night, the British channel Five (one of the five network channels in the UK, and the youngest) aired a new documentary produced by CTVC (who have a short page on it here) entitled The Secrets of the Jesus Tomb. According to The Guardian, it achieved 1.4 million viewers, which is probably about par for the course for a Five documentary. Five documentaries are not aimed at a high brow audience and in general are relatively undemanding, with plenty of exposition and repetition, some over-simplification and a straightforward structure, a narrative with talking heads and some drama. This documentary sits soundly in that sub-genre. If you were looking for a BBC4 style documentary, you would be disappointed. If you are a New Testament scholar hoping to see something new or different, you would almost certainly be disappointed. But the casual viewer, with a limited knowledge of the subject area, with the telly on in the background while doing the washing up, would find it pretty easy viewing. That casual viewer might have found it enjoyable and even informative.

For those who have followed the Talpiot tomb controversy over the last eighteen months (covered extensively on this blog), this documentary would not have provided any surprises, but for those looking for an introduction to the story, it would have been useful. And the absence of Simcha Jacobovici, and a more sceptical conclusion to the documentary made it much easier viewing than the Discovery Channel original Lost Tomb of Jesus that aired in the US in March 2007.

This documentary told the story of the discovery of the Talpiot Tomb, featuring reminiscences from Amos Kloner and Shimon Gibson, and it then developed the theory that this could be Jesus of Nazareth's tomb with visuals of each ossuary, and the writing translated to English. The middle section of the documentary made the case for that identification with extensive comment from James Tabor who was apparently filmed in Jerusalem. The narration in this section featured a lot of oversimplification and side-stepping, especially the confident assertion that Jesus had sisters called Mary and Salome, and that his brothers Judas and Simon would not be in this tomb because they were still alive after 70CE. And the (I think weak) case that the so-called Mariamne inscription points to Mary Magdalene was overstated (see my posts on Mariamne, Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany, Mariamne and the Jesus Family Tomb, Mariamene and Martha, Stephen Pfann, The Statistical Case for the Identity of the "Jesus Family Tomb" and others in the series) as were several of the other elements in the case.

The middle section of the documentary was peppered also by comments from Bart Ehrman and Tal Ilan, who also appeared in the final, sceptical section of the film in which the idea that this could possibly be Jesus of Nazareth's tomb was seriously questioned. The statistical case was discussed and broadly dismissed, though unfortunately without contributions from those like Randy Ingermason who have published on this. By the end of the programme, the case for the identification was left looking pretty deflated, and our casual viewer who had held on all the way through, now having finished his washing up, might have wondered whether it was really worth spending the time on a case that seemed weak. Still more should have been done on the sceptical side, though, and I was disappointed by the lack of involvement of several experts who have contributed to the debate, especially Stephen Pfann.

The documentary makers should, however, be lauded for avoiding sensationalism and for sounding fairly reasonable, at least by the end of the programme. A few features showed some sensitivity to scholarly conventions, like the use of "BCE" and "CE" (unexplained in the programme) rather than "BC" and "AD", but at other points repeated cliché (Christianity rocked to its foundations) and banality (Jesus was not a Christian) will have turned away the educated viewer. And if they said that ossuaries were bone boxes once, they said it a hundred times.

I always look at the credits on programmes like this, not least so that I can see if I know any of those involved. One disappointment here was that there was no historical consultant or advisor listed. I think it is a mistake for documentary makers not to employ proper historical consultants. They are inexpensive, they can be a gold mine of valuable information and there are things that experts can see that the programme makers will miss. It is a way of improving the quality of the final product, avoiding errors and holding yourself to account.

Some have reacted unfavourably to the documentary, most notably Andrea Mullaney in today's Scotsman, who calls it "moronic" -- Real Life Stupidity on a Biblical Scale (HT: Jim West). Since Mullaney is rightly unimpressed by the claims explained in the new documentary, one wonders what she would have made of the original Discovery channel documentary, produced by Simcha Jacobovici, that allowed so little room for dissenting voices. Andrew Billen in The Times was not much more impressed:
The programme displayed a surer mastery of the obvious. “One of the most famous figures in history,” the commentary explained about Jesus, “the truth about his life remains a mystery. But one thing is certain: Christ was not a Christian. Christianity only came into being after he died.” The conclusion that this feeble documentary more or less arrived at was something else obvious: the tomb probably wasn't Jesus's at all.
Robert Collins in the Telegraph was a little more positive, though he ends with the comment that "Like all Turin Shroud-esque conspiracies, it’s irresistible until the contradicting evidence comes along to spoil all the fun."

Update (Friday): Matt Page comments on Bible Films Blog.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Five years old today

The NT Gateway Blog is five years old today (Previous blogiversaries: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007). And this is post number 2,853. Happy blogiversary too to Rogue Classicism, also five years old today.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Did Wright coin the term "the new perspective" on Paul?

As everyone knows, the term "the new perspective on Paul" was coined by Jimmy Dunn in 1982, on 4 November, at his Manson Memorial Lecture at the University of Manchester, subsequently published in 1983 in the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 65 (1983), 95-122, and reprinted in several places, most recently online at the Paul Page. And yet four years earlier, N. T. Wright had already used the term,

N. T. Wright, "The Paul of History and the Apostle of Faith": The Tyndale New Testament Lecture, 1978, Tyndale Bulletin 29 (1978), 61–88, reproduced at the N. T. Wright page
The debate between Stendahl and Käsemann concerns the relation, in Paul’s thought, between justification and salvation-history — between the Apostle who preached the Lutheran Gospel of justification by faith and the Paul who was called, in God’s historical purposes, to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. It would not be an overstatement to say that all the major issues in Pauline interpretation are contained (at least by implication) in this debate, and in one lecture there are therefore bound to be oversimplifications and downright lacunae. I want to try nevertheless to present what I take to be a new view of Paul. . . .

. . . . This debate has all the makings of a classic, with the agenda including wide-ranging issues in Pauline theology detailed exegesis of several passages, and challenges to traditional dogmatic frameworks, all with inescapable twentieth-century overtones. I want now to contribute to it by offering a new way of looking at Paul which provides, I believe, not only an advance in the debate between Stendahl and Käsemann but also a new perspective on other related Pauline problems. I shall first sketch out this new view and argue briefly for its central thrust, and then show how it offers new light on the debate.
Who'd have thought that Wright gave us not only "the third quest" but also "the new perspective"? He has a lot to answer for!

Bible and Archaeology Fest XI in Boston

I am speaking at the following event in November for the first time. Nice to be among the "renowned"!


Featuring 20 renowned Bible & archaeology scholars!

Boston, MA
November 21-23, 2008

Full details, with booking forms, full schedule and so on, available from the link above. My talk is on Sunday morning and is entitled "When were the Gospels written?" This is a new event for me and I am looking forward to participating.