Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The Resurrection of the NT Pod

After spending a lot of time in university administrative jobs (Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department Chair, and so on), I find myself back in the happy position this semester of being able to devote time to the things I love doing, like teaching, research -- and my too long neglected podcast! 

I began podcasting back in 2009, and in the early years I was fairly prolific, but as life took over, I produced fewer and fewer episodes. There have been a few false dawns before, but I am happy to say that this one seems to be real!

There are three new episodes so far, one for each of the last three weeks. These are the new episodes:

NT Pod 100: New Ways Through the Maze

NT Pod 101: 100 Bible Films: In Conversation with Matthew Page

NT Pod 102: Has Q Been Discovered?

Eps. 100 and 102 are both the traditional short episodes with me talking about something, but Ep. 101 is an extended episode featuring a conversation with the brilliant Matthew Page about his new BFI book on Bible Films. Episode 103 is currently in what they call "post production" (it's another extended episode), but it will be out by the end of the week. 

To coincide with the NT Pod's resurrection, I've been finding ways of making it easier to find. It's now on Amazon Music, Spotify, and Google Podcasts, as well as Apple Podcasts, where it has always had a home (back when it was iTunes, and iTunes U). 

And today, I finished the Herculean task of getting the entire archive uploaded to Youtube. You can find every episode now on my Youtube Channel, @podacre. Please head over there to subscribe if you'd like to see some of the forthcoming video episodes of the NT Pod. 

As well as the Facebook and Twitter pages, there is now a new Instagram page. So if you'd like to stay bang up to date, please follow one of these. And huge thanks to Lauren Aguilar for her work on the NT Pod's social media profile in recent weeks. 

I am hugely grateful too to Viola Goodacre for the revised version of the NT Pod logo.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Theodore J. (Ted) Weeden Obituary

Many thanks to Ken Olson for sending over the sad news of the death of Theodore J. Weeden. His obituary is here:

Rev. Dr. Theodore (Ted) Weeden

Weeden's Mark: Traditions in Conflict was one of the first books of academic Biblical Studies I read as an undergraduate student in Oxford. I was doing the Mark's Gospel paper with Canon John Fenton at Christ Church, and I think it was the second essay (of eight) that asked us to explore Mark's portrait of the disciples, still a perennial question. 

I hadn't heard anything of Theodore Weeden for many years until one day, on the old "Crosstalk" email list (dedicated to the study of the historical Jesus), a certain "Ted Weeden" began posting. One of us asked, "Are you, by any chance, related to Theodore J. Weeden, author of Mark: Traditions in Conflict?" "The very same!" he replied. 

In the early 2000s, Weeden began attending the SBL Annual Meeting, and when I was organizing a panel on Richard Bauckham (et al)'s book about gospel communities, I invited Weeden to participate. I was delighted that he accepted, and I well remember the fondness with which he was greeted by the packed room, all of whom knew his classic book. 

As the obituary above mentions, he was involved with the Jesus Seminar and the Westar Institute in his later years, and he became very interested in Historical Jesus research. One of the most interesting contributions was his critique of Kenneth Bailey's model of "informal controlled oral tradition", which built on observations made by Ken Olson. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Dr Laura Robinson's Crocheted Dolls

 Lots of readers will know Laura Robinson from the podcast she co-hosts with Ian Mills, New Testament Review. Others will know her from her hugely popular Twitter posts. Perhaps fewer readers will know her as a master crocheter, and on the day of her recent PhD defense (congratulations, Laura!), she did an interview with Trinity Communications at Duke. Today's Duke Daily newsletter draws attention to this, and here is the feature:

Crocheted Dolls by Class of 2023 Ph.D. Highlight Women in Christianity
June 13, 2023
Shaun King, Trinity Communications

Here's the video:

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Is Mary, the Mother of Jesus at the cross and the tomb in Matthew?

It is sometimes pointed out that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, could be present at the cross, burial, and resurrection in Mark 15.40, 15.47, and 16.1. Although there are significant variants, the relevant character is generally read as

Mark 15.40: Μαρία ἡ Ἰακώβου τοῦ μικροῦ καὶ Ἰωσῆτος μήτηρ (Mary mother of James the younger and of Joses)

Mark 15.47: Μαρία ἡ Ἰωσῆτος (Mary of Joses)

Mark 16.1: Μαρία ἡ τοῦ Ἰακώβου (Mary of James)

Most commentators assume that this second Mary in Mark's list is the same woman each time, though it's confusing that Mark varies the way he names her. Some have postulated that this is the same woman as Mary the mother of Jesus, given that Mark tells us that Jesus's brothers included a James and a Joses (Mark 6.3), and Joses was not a particularly common name. This would then align Mark interestingly with John who famously does have "his mother" at the cross (John 19.25).

I think the first time I saw this identification was in Kathleen Corley's work, though I know it has subsequently popped up elsewhere.

In general, Matthew receives much less comment when it comes to this question, but while writing about female disciples in Matthew recently, it occurred to me that Matthew is even more likely than Mark to be depicting the mother of Jesus at the cross, the burial, and the resurrection. 

Matthew has parallels to all three of the Marcan passages above, though he has no Salome, and he has "the mother of the sons of Zebedee" in his parallel to Mark 15.40-41 in Matt. 27.55-56. But the other person in the lists he describes in the following ways:

Matt. 27.56: Μαρία ἡ τοῦ Ἰακώβου καὶ Ἰωσὴφ μήτηρ (Mary mother of James and Joseph)

Matt. 27.61: ἡ ἄλλη Μαρία (the other Mary)

Matt. 28.1: ἡ ἄλλη Μαρία (the other Mary)

Matt. 27.56 is pretty similar to Mark 15.40. James is no longer "the small", and "Joses" becomes "Joseph", as in Matt. 13.55, his parallel to Mark 6.3, so the same possibility obtains, that this could be Jesus's mother. With respect to Matt. 27.61 and 28.1, I have always thought that Matthew got a bit impatient with Mark's variations, and so went with the simple, "the other Mary", as if to say, "Whoever that might have been".

But it occurred to me recently that there are probably only two Marys in the whole of Matthew's gospel, Mary Magdalene (Matt. 27.56, 27.61, 28.1) and Mary the mother of Jesus (Matt. 1.16, 1.20, 1.24, 2.11, 13.55). So if we were thinking Matthew-wide of a "Mary Magdalene" and "the other Mary", the latter would clearly be the mother of Jesus. Leaving Matt. 27.56 to one side, she is the only "other Mary" in Matthew's gospel. 

The thing that is so baffling about Mark, and it now seems Matthew too, is why they are so coy about naming Jesus's mother here, all the more as Luke (Acts 1.14) and John (19.25) have no qualms about placing her in Jerusalem either during (John) or after (Acts) the Passion. It could be part of that distancing from Jesus's family that we see especially in Mark (Mark 3.21, 3.31-35, 6.1-6) but also in Matthew (Matt. 12.46-50, 13.53-58). Or could it simply be that Jesus, at this point in the narrative, has died, and so his mother is not defined in relation to him?

I don't think I'd quite realized how potentially simple the Marcan and Matthean pictures are -- only two women named Mary, one named Mary Magdalene, and "the other" the mother of Jesus, James, Joseph / Joses, and the rest. I wonder whether Luke and John, with their additional Marys (Mary and Martha, Mary of Clopas) can cause us to miss this?

Friday, June 16, 2023

Counting the Twelve (or so) Disciples

Michael Goulder once said that New Testament scholars often substitute counting for thinking, and I confess to enjoying some counting myself. I'm writing about the disciples in John's Gospel at the moment, and found myself writing that John (son of Zebedee) is the disciple mentioned most often in the Synoptics after Peter. So then I had to check to see if that is true, and it is.

It's likely that someone else has done a similar count, but if so, I couldn't find it, and Googling was useless. Anyway, here are the figures. These are numbers of appearances of each disciple (of the "twelve"; more to come on others), and not the number of times their names appear (thus passages in which disciples' names appear multiple times are counted once; "sons of Zebedee" = James and John; the Peter list includes "Simon" and "Simon Peter").

Simon Peter: 40 (Matt: 12; Mark: 14; Luke: 14):

Matt. 4.18, 10.2, 14.28-33, 16.13-20, 16.21-23, 17.1-8, 17.24-27, 18.21-22, 19.27-30, 26.31-35, 26.36-46, 26.58 and 69-75.

Mark 1.16-20, 1.29-31, 1.36, 3.16, 5.37, 8.31-3, 9.2-8, 10.28-31, 11.20-24, 13.3, 14.26-31, 14.32-42, 14.54 and 14.66-72, 16.7.

Luke 4.38-39, 5.1-11, 6.14, 8.45R, 8.51, 9.18-20, 9.28-36, 12.41, 18.28-30, 22.7-13, 22.31-34, 22.54-62, 24.12, 24.34.

James: 18 (Matt: 5; Mark: 8; Luke: 5):

Matt. 4.21, 10.2, 17.1-8, 20.20-28, 26.36-46 (plus one bonus appearance from mum in 27.56).

Mark 1.16-20, 1.29-31, 3.17, 5.37, 9.2-8, 10.35-45, 13.3, 14.32-42.

Luke 5.10, 6.14, 8.51, 9.28-36, 9.51-56.

John: 21 (Matt: 5; Mark: 9; Luke: 7):

Matt. 4.21, 10.2, 17.1-8, 20.20-28, 26.36-46 (plus one bonus appearance from mum in 27.56).

Mark 1.16-20, 1.29-31, 3.17, 5.37, 9.2-8, 9.38-41, 10.35-45, 13.3, 14.32-42.

Luke 5.10, 6.14, 8.51, 9.28-36, 9.49-50, 9.51-56, 22.7-13. 

Andrew: 7 (Matt: 2; Mark: 4; Luke: 1):

Matt. 4.18, 10.2. 

Mark 1.16-20, 1.29-31, 3.18, 13.3.

Luke 6.14. 

Judas: 13 (Matt: 5; Mark: 4; Luke: 4)

Matt. 10.4, 26.14-16, 26.20-25, 26.47-56, 27.3-10.

Mark 3.19, 14.10-11, 14.17-21, 14.43-52.

Luke 6.16, 22.3-6, 22.21-23, 22.47-53.

Matthew: 4 (Matt: 9.9-10; Matt. 10.3 // Mark 3.18 // Luke 6.15)

Everyone else appears only in the disciple lists (Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus / Lebbaeus / Judas son of James, Simon the Cananaean / Zealot, Matt. 10.2-4 // Mark 3.13-19 // Luke 6.12-16). 

It should be easy to arrange the data above synoptically too, and then to add figures for John and Acts. I'll do that soon. 

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Turin Shroud on the Sunday Programme

While writing my previous post on Talking About Jesus Films on the Sunday Programme, I ran a quick search on previous posts about Radio 4's Sunday Programme, and I didn't find one from when I was last a guest, talking about the Turin Shroud with Ed Stourton, a few years ago. I looked it up and found it, so for the sake of completeness, here is that episode:

BBC Radio 4 Sunday, 21 June 2015

The interview with me about the Turin Shroud begins at 11:53. On this occasion, I was at the studio in Salford, and not on the phone. 

Talking about Jesus Films on the Sunday Programme

 I did a short interview with Emily Buchanan on BBC Radio 4's Sunday programme last week. The topic was Jesus films, and we touch on the possibility of a new Martin Scorsese Jesus film, on The Chosen, and on several of the classics like Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Life of Brian. We also touch on the probably apocryphal story of John Wayne, in The Greatest Story Ever Told, "saying it with awe" (see previous posts on this topic here). 

Here's a link to the BBC iPlayer episode, which you can also download as a podcast:

BBC Radio 4: Sunday, 4 June 2023

The interview with me begins at about 5:10. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Jesus' Activity in the Gospels: "only some three weeks"?

There is an idea attributed to B. H. Streeter (1874-1937) that attempts to articulate how much time Jesus' narrated ministry, in the canonical gospels, actually takes up. He is reported to have said that the action described in the gospels, with the exception of the Temptation story, would actually only occupy about three weeks. The point he is apparently making is a good if rather obvious one -- that what is narrated about Jesus' life in the Synoptics and John, even if it is were all historical, amounts to the tiniest fraction of Jesus' life. 

But did Streeter actually say this, and if so, when and where? I have been searching for the origins of the idea, and the earliest reference I can find is the following:

"They [the gospels] are extremely brief - B. H. Streeter once cal­culated that, apart from the forty days and nights in the wilderness (of which we are told virtually nothing) everything reported to have been said and done by Jesus in all four gospels would have occupied only some three weeks, which leaves the overwhelmingly greater part of his life and deeds unrecorded."

This is from Dennis Nineham, "Epilogue", in John Hick (ed.), The Myth of God Incarnate (London: SCM, 1977), 186-204 (188-9). I can't find the idea that he attributes to Streeter in any of his written works, and Nineham himself does not reference it, so is Nineham reporting an oral tradition? As far as I can tell, Nineham himself did not learn directly from Streeter. Although Nineham did go to Oxford, he was too young to have met Streeter -- only 16 years old when Streeter died in a plane crash in 1937.

On twitter, Brandon Massey speculated that Nineham might have picked it up from his teacher, R. H. Lightfoot, who perhaps reported this as a Streeter comment, which I think sounds quite plausible. 

It is also possible that the "three weeks" comment is a mis-remembered or mis-applied distortion of something that Streeter actually said. What is making me wonder here is that Streeter does in fact talk about "three weeks" in a related context:

Now of the last journey to Jerusalem, and the events of Passion Week, Mark presents a clear, detailed, and coherent account; and this, dealing with the events of, at the outside, three weeks, occupies about one-third of the whole Gospel. The rest of the Gospel is clearly a collection of detached stories as indeed tradition affirms it to be; and the total number of incidents recorded is so small that the gaps in the story must be the more considerable part of it. (B. H. Streeter, The Four Gospels (London: Macmillan, 1924), 424).
And if Streeter thought that Mark's Passion Narrative occupied "three weeks", could he also have maintained that "everything reported to have been said and done by Jesus in all four gospels would have occupied only some three weeks"? So we are now at at least six weeks, and there is clearly a contradiction here, unless the oral tradition also forgets the "three weeks" of the Passion Narrative.

Chasing down oral traditions is notoriously difficult since they only survive, before and outside of oral / aural recordings, in the writings in which they are represented, but this case provides an interesting analogy to first century Jesus research. Nineham's comment in 1977 is at least forty years removed from when the historical Streeter may or may not have made these remarks, rather as Mark is at least forty years removed from what he reports about Jesus, whose actual lifetime contained a great deal more activity than is reported in (pseudo?)-Streeter's "three weeks".