Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Happy New Year

The NT Gateway blog is now taking a break for a few days until the weekend. I would like to wish you a very happy new year and thanks for reading and sending feedback and contributions. I look forward to seeing you in 2004.

The Good Book: Paul: Web Site

The web pages for the final programme of the BBC Radio series The Good Book have now been added:

The Good Book: Paul

It includes some excerpts from the Accompanying CD Pack to which I contributed. I'm afraid it's been a bit clumsily abridged (e.g. hanging colons where there the booklet contains quotations from the Bible). But let me take this opportunity to do a commercial for the thing that is here excerpted: the Good Book Pack features the entire series on CD and accompanying illustrated materials, the NT parts written by me. I haven't seen the OT materials but I know that at least some has been written by Walter Moberley. It's only £7.95 including p & p and you can order it now -- should be available in January. One of the reasons it is so well-priced is that it is a non-profit making educational resource funded by the BBC and the Jerusalem Trust (And I'm not on commission!).

Monday, December 29, 2003

The Independent on Tom Wright

It's all Tom Wright these days and according to yesterday's Independent, "The new Bishop of Durham has arrived with a bit of a bang" and "Yes, you can expect to be hearing a lot more of Dr Tom Wright":

Tom Wright: It's not a question of left and right, says the combative priest who opposes the war in Iraq and gay bishops
The Monday Interview: The bishop of Durham
By Paul Vallely

BBC Religion News Review 2003

It's the time of year for news reviews; one that may be of interest to readers of this blog is the BBC Religion and Ethics News Review for the year. It includes topics that have been discussed here (e.g. Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ) and hyperlinks to BBC on-line articles and audio clips from the Sunday programme:

BBC Religion and Ethics News Review 2003

Ancient Biography

Over on N. S. Gill's Ancient / Classical History blog is a link to a useful essay on Ancient Biography:

Ancient Biography: Cornelius Nepos - Plutarch - Tacitus - Suetonius

It looks like it's been adapted from a piece by Robert W. M. Greaves on Suite 101. Both sites are so cluttered with advertisements and pop-ups that it becomes tough to read or concentrate on reading, but the essay is of interest.

Another Vermes Review

I've been noting reviews of Geza Vermes's new book, The Authentic Gospel of Jesus Christ as they appear (e.g. here). The latest is in last week's Daily Telegraph and is by Damian Thompson:

Jesus Christ, in his own words

Crossan on Matthew's Birth Narrative

Bible and Interpretation today flags up this article from Beliefnet by John Dominic Crossan:

A Christmas Message From Matthew
What was the gospel writer trying to tell us about Jesus in his opening chapters?

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Radio Programme on The Passion of the Christ

On Point radio, which is based in Boston, MA, USA, broadcast an interesting discussion of The Passion of the Christ on Friday. It features several of those who have been at the centre of the controversy over the film , Peter Boyer, Michael Medved and Paula Fredriksen. It is an interesting listen of about 35 minutes or so:

The Gospel According to Mel

Tom Wright on the Origins of Christmas

Tom Wright had an article in the Christmas Eve edition of The Times reflecting his irritation with people cleverly telling him that Christmas is really an ancient pagan festival:

The origins of Christmas Day are no mere pagan festival

The Good Book, Programme 6

It's the sixth and final part of The Good Book on BBC Radio 2 tonight. It's entitled Paul - The Founder of Christianity. You can listen live at 8 p.m. on the radio or via the web; or subsequently you can listen on the web site. There will be some clips of me tonight, and also of Paula Gooder, Jimmy Dunn, John Barclay, Helen Bond, Kenneth Newport and Ian Boxall. The web site will also be updated with fresh information after the broadcast:

The Good Book

100 Greatest Musicals

Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar both featured in the 100 Greatest Musicals on Channel 4 this Christmas, Godspell at 72 and Jesus Christ Superstar at 28. The Godspell section included some footage of David Essex and Jeremy Irons in the stage version of the show from 1971 and a clip from a 1972 programme called Box Office Christ -- an interview with David Essex. Matt Lucas was one of those commenting on Godspell and said that the best way to punish your children is to sit them down in front of it. I know whenever I show clips to students, they usually roar with laughter.

Latest Explorator

The latest Explorator has been posted by David Meadows:

Explorator 6.35

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Happy Christmas

The NT Gateway blog is now taking a Christmas break, probably until the weekend. Wishing you a very happy Christmas.

More reviews of Vermes

Thanks to Helen-Ann Francis for pointing out that in this week's Times Literary Supplement Christopher Rowland reviews Geza Vermes, Larry Hurtado and Jimmy Dunn. Wow -- that is some heavy reading! Unfortunately they are not on-line, though the on-line samples of the 18 Dec. edition include this review by David Melling of Margaret Barker's The Great High Priest:

Solomon and Jesus

Christmas TV

In the USA, Discovery have a day of repeats of NT related documentaries on Christmas day, three of which I was involved with either as a participant or consultant or both, Jesus: The Complete Story, Mary: Mother of Jesus and Who Was Paul?. Thanks to Bob Schacht on Xtalk for drawing attention to this.

Meanwhile on the History Channel, there is a programme called Banned from the Bible, blogged by Jim Davila the other day. It's in a series called Time Machine but there is nothing much on the History Channel web site about it. Don't know if or when we'll get this one in the UK.

As for me, I'll probably watch the Bond film and Some Like it Hot!.

The Real Jesus Christ

While listening to BBC Radio FiveLive this morning, I caught a trail for The Real Jesus Christ. This is an hour long documentary introduced by Clive Anderson which was first broadcast on Christmas Day last year. It's to broadcast again on Christmas Day this year at 9 a.m. I was one of the participants (though not a consultant on this one so I am unresponsible for all the other content!) and there are also contributions from Tom Wright, Bishop Spong and lots of others. There's no sign of any repeat fee in the post yet. I've had a look and it is already available on-line / still available from last year:

The Real Jesus Christ

Gary Anderson reviews Wright

Also alerted in Bible and Interpretation, who are on top form today, is a review by Gary Anderson of Tom Wright's latest massive tome on the resurrection. It is taken from the journal First Things 137 (November 2003): 51-54:

Books in Review: The Resurrection of the Son of God

Anderson makes some useful observations but I am troubled by the conclusion of this paragraph:
I believe that Wright has shown with utmost clarity that the doctrine of the resurrection was deeply embedded in the fabric of the early Christian movement. The tendency among certain scholars to claim that a wide swath of early Christianity, represented by the circle of “Q” (a presumed common source of the synoptic Gospels) and the Gospel of Thomas, advanced a view of Jesus bereft of crucifixion and resurrection is just not tenable. Whatever one makes of “Q,” it should be clear by the close of this volume that the thought-world of the Gospel of Thomas is a late development and best understood against the backdrop of second-century Gnosticism. Indeed, most serious scholars of Gnostic sources have been saying this for some time. The explanation for why the books of Crossan and Elaine Pagels have such currency lies within the realm of the sociology of knowledge, not the history of early Christianity. That story has yet to be told.
I think one has to be careful of remarks about "serious scholars of Gnostic sources" lining up behind one particular view. This approaches polemic and is unhelpful. Though I don't always agree with them, and although I was disappointed by Pagels's recent Beyond Belief, I regard Pagels and Crossan as serious, imaginative, exciting scholars whose work is not so quickly dismissed. As it happens, I don't think that Wright does that with Crossan, at least not in Jesus and the Victory of God, but I've yet to read the latest book on the resurrection. I'll get round to it at some stage but it is so long. Why have all the recent books from British scholars all been so long -- Dunn, Hurtado, Wright? How do they expect us to find time to plough through them when we have books of our own to write?!

Questions about the Nativity

This one alerted in Bible and Interpretation, an article by James Carroll in Boston.com News:

Questions about the Nativity

It aims to set out some of the facts on the Birth Narratives in Matthew and Luke and is a useful introduction to the issues. It's interesting that even in this kind of article, though, the author imports elements from our oral tradition of the birth narratives, ". . . . that the three Wise Men traveled from the East". He also begins with "Our calendar assumes that Jesus was born in the year 0". No it does not -- it assumes he was born in the year 1. I still find it very common for people not to realise that there was no year 0. I sometimes ask students why it was that some people were making a fuss about 2000 not really being the millennium and it is very rare for people to know. (As for me, I had a party in both 2000 and 2001!).

The article ends with quite an interesting challenge:
Most Christians are effectively fundamentalist in their beliefs, with little capacity for critical thought about sources, doctrines, and theology. Church leaders and scholars have kept it this way for the sake of their own power, but in a new era of inflamed religious conflict, childish passivity by a broad population in matters of faith is irresponsible.

Review of Biblical Literature latest

Someone over at SBL was working late last night and sent round the latest update from Review of Biblical Literature. Here are the NT related titles:

Beaton, Richard
Isaiah's Christ in Matthew's Gospel
Reviewed by Daniel M. Gurtner

Cantalamessa, Raniero
Frances Lonergan Villa, translator.
Life in Christ: A Spiritual Commentary on the Letter to the Romans
Reviewed by Jeffery S. Lamp

Koester, Craig R.
Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel: Meaning, Mystery, Community
Reviewed by Eric Wallace

Nave, Guy D.
The Role and Function of Repentance in Luke-Acts
Reviewed by F. Scott Spencer

Smith, Dennis E.
From Symposium to Eucharist: The Banquet in the Early Christian World
Reviewed by Jonathan Schwiebert

Wenham, David
Paul and Jesus: The True Story
Reviewed by Craig A. Smith

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Karen Armstrong reviews Geza Vermes

I referred recently to a feature on Geza Vermes in The Independent. Jim Davila blogs the review in The Guardian and now we can add a third review, this time by Karen Armstrong and in The Sunday Times:

Review: Religion: The Authentic Gospel of Jesus by Geza Vermes

No Ordinary Joe

There's a most entertaining article on Joseph in The Times by Waldemar Januszczak:

Art: No Ordinary Joe

The article is essentially about the depiction of Joseph in art, but it involves some reflection too on the Biblical account. A couple of excerpts:
It occurs to me that you may not, perhaps, be fully au fait with Joseph’s story, and that before we embark on any explanations of why the poor blighter has been so badly coloured by artists, we need first to agree on his basic outlines. These are godless times we are living through, and even among Sunday Times readers there might be those who have never picked up a Bible and familiarised themselves fully with Joseph’s tale, or considered properly the psychological dynamics of his impossible situation. Until you think about him specifically, he is, after all, just the old boy at the back. That is his tragedy.

[ . . . ]

Now, you do not need me to tell you what Middle Eastern men are really like. You do not need me to tell you what all us men are really like when it comes to the subject of our wife’s fidelity and her required ability to keep her knees clenched for anyone but us. The Bible demands many difficult reactions of its heroes, but surely the reaction it demands of Joseph — that he allows himself to be cuckolded by the Holy Spirit, then joyously permits his spouse to be used as an incubator by God — is the sternest test of religious devotion set to anyone in the 2,337 pages of the King John. Would you do it? Would I do it? Would anyone do it?

Joseph is the ultimate dumb consort. And, inevitably, a certain amount of stupidity is assumed of him as he fulfils this role. His modern equivalent would be Denis Thatcher or the Duke of Edinburgh. Like them, his job is to be there, yet somehow not to be there. But whereas Prince Philip is excused the odd foray into eccentricity and naughtiness, and Denis was allowed his tipples and his interesting array of awful opinions, Joseph is trapped for eternity in a state of profound goodness. See how Giorgione has him glowing like a log fire with golden kindliness. Joseph is simply not allowed to have any foibles or eccentricities, because anything that draws attention away from the miraculous scene we are witnessing must, in these circumstances, appear flippant or, worse, heretical.
Januszczak wonders at why Joseph does get depicted as an old man in contrast to the youthful Mary given the absence of any indication from the New Testament. But while absent from the New Testament, apocryphal texts do make Joseph considerably older than Mary, e.g. the second century Protevangelium of James in which Joseph is already a widower with sons.

Sir Frederic Bartlett - The War of the Ghosts

I caught this fascinating programme earlier today on Radio 4:

Sir Frederic Bartlett – The War of the Ghosts

This is another blog entry (see previous) not directly connected to the NT but of related interest. The programme explores Bartlett, a psychologist at Cambridge University in the earlier part of the twentieth century, and his experiments on memory. Here's the programme's blurb:
When the British psychologist Sir Frederic Bartlett was working at Cambridge University during the First World War, memory had only just started to be considered a psychological rather than a philosophical subject. A German psychologist called Herman Ebbinghaus dominated the field. He had spent days at a time learning lists of nonsense words, testing himself to see precisely how many he could remember. But a game of Chinese Whispers gave Bartlett an idea which he developed into a radically different approach to the study of memory. He discovered that when he asked people to repeat an unfamiliar story they had read, they changed it to fit their existing knowledge, and it was this revised story which then became incorporated into their memory. Bartlett's findings led him to propose 'schema' - the cultural and historical contextualisation of memory, which has important implications for eyewitness testimony and false memory syndrome, and even for artificial intelligence!
You can listen on-line. There are presumably some implications here for the question of memory and oral tradition in early Christian literature; cf. Crossan's interesting discussion of the issue in The Birth of Christianity.

Stylometry unravelling literary problems

Thanks to David Gentile on Synoptic-L for the link to this very interesting article by Erica Klarreich from Science News Online:

Bookish Math: Statistical tests are unraveling knotty literary mysteries

Its theme is the use of stylometry to solve difficult literary problems, with a special focus on The Royal Book of Oz, which has been subjected to analysis by José Binongo. He has been able to demonstrate that it was written by Ruth Plumly Thompson and not Frank L. Baum. The article does not discuss the New Testament though there have been some attempts to use stylometry to analyse problems in NT texts. The difficulty, I suppose, for many of the NT issues is that one does not have the same kind of definitive, large samples of writings from the authors in question, as one does have in the case of Ruth Plumly Thompson and Frank L. Baum. David Gentile, who provided this link on Synoptic-L, has his own Statistical Approach to the Synoptic Problem.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Word and World

Thanks to Holger Szesnat for drawing my attention to this journal:

Word and World

This quarterly journal of theology is based at Luther Seminary, St Paul, MN, USA and it is "meant for readers throughout the church who are concerned for Christian ministry in and to the world". There is detailed information and full text availability on many back issues, all of which are helpfully indexed by theme and author. There is lots of interesting material here and I hope to draw attention to some of the interesting articles in the near future. But in the mean time, do browse around it. I've also added it to my Journals page.

Rod Mullen on The Expansion of Christianity

My colleague Rod Mullen has a new book just out from Brill. Details:

The Expansion of Christianity: A Gazetteer of its First Three Centuries is published in the Vigiliae Christianae Supplements series. The volume covers the geographical spread of Christianity in its first three centuries. It is arranged by continents - Asia, Europe and Africa - to show the gradual development of Christian communities down to the Council of Nicaea in 325. The area surveyed stretches from Wales to the borders of India, and from the Northern coasts of the Black Sea to the plains of Morocco. The result is a picture not only of the outward development of early Christianity but of the variety that existed within it as well.
Leiden: Brill, 2004
ISBN 90 04 13135 3 (hardback)

Comments on James Ossuary

Many readers will have seen this, but the consistent high quality of Stephen Carlson's Hypotyposeis blog is maintained in a fascinating post on the James Ossuary:

James Ossuary Analysis Flawed?

It makes some very useful observations on James Harrell's questioning of the Israeli Antiquities Authority's report on the ossuary.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

The Good Book: Jesus

The fifth programme in the BBC Radio series The Good Book aired tonight (last night) at 8 p.m. If you missed it you can listen on-line. There are a couple of bits of me in this one; there was also a little bit of me at the end of the Isaiah programme. Here's the link to the web site for the latest programme, which features interviews with Ben Witherington III, Richard Burridge and me, some material written by me, a quiz and the link to the audio of the programme:

The Good Book: Jesus

The piece headed Biography is excerpted from a booklet I wrote to accompany the programme, but unfortunately it's been excerpted in such a way that the connecting links between the sentences and paragraphs do not always make sense.

Explorator 6.34

The latest Explorator has been posted by David Meadows

Explorator 6.34

It includes a round-up of the latest on the James Ossuary.

Best of British Blogging

Nice article in last week's Guardian on some quality British weblogs:

The best of British blogging

Friday, December 19, 2003

Geza Vermes in The Independent

There was an article on Geza Vermes in yesterday's Independent, referenced by Bible and Interpretation:

Geza Vermes: A child of his time

The occasion is Vermes's new book The Authentic Gospel of Jesus. I've not yet seen it myself and probably won't rush to do so -- I found the other follow-ups to Jesus the Jew (an all time classic) pretty disappointing. The article, based on an interview with Peter Stanford, doesn't tell you a lot; there is some spurious journalistic nonsense about Vermes easily being able to "pass for one of Santa's elves"; but there's an interesting concluding passage, the first line of which is pretty exaggerated, but the rest is worthwhile:
"For years," he says with a chuckle, "before Jesus the Jew, there had been no books on the historical Jesus, but since then one book after another has been published and what sounded at that time something absolutely revolutionary and very sensational has become almost a cliché. Everybody talks of Jesus the Jew today."

Latin today

There's an enjoyable article in The Economist, taking its lead from the fact that The Passion of the Christ has Latin dialogue. One interesting note on the film is that William Fulco, who provided the Latin and Aramaic dialogue, clearly agrees that the Latin is not appropriate, "You could argue, as he does, that Greek would often be more appropriate, and that the conscripted troops in Judea spoke little Latin". It does make one wonder about the tortuous process that led the film to use Latin (cf. earlier comments on this). One cannot help thinking that it must have had something to do with Gibson's alleged fondness for the tridentine mass. Anyway, here's the article:

Latin Today: Roman Rebound

Thursday, December 18, 2003

New Testament on Google Print

I thought I'd try Google Print for New Testament titles. At the moment Print.Google.com New Testament brings up just two offerings, a very short excerpt from Raymond Brown's Introduction to the New Testament and a fairly short excerpt from Walter M. Dunnett, Exploring the New Testament. So at this stage at least there is vastly less than is available on Amazon's "search inside the book", e.g. the latter has the entire text of Raymond Brown's Introduction to the New Testament. But no doubt this will change as time goes on.


Google has been testing a new service which will search the texts of published books, thereby imitating and rivalling the recently launced service from amazon to do the same (see recent blog entry following on from Tyndale Tech). It's not been launched with any sort of major fanfare but news features have begun to appear on this over the last day or so, e.g. this one at ZDNet:

Google tests book search

And Google itself has a short page here:

About Google Print (BETA)

The latter has the following great introduction, "Google's mission is to provide access to all the world's information and make it universally useful and accessible. It turns out that not all the world's information is already on the Internet, so Google has been experimenting with a number of publishers to test their content online."

New Testament Studies

As Jim Davila blogged, the October edition of New Testament Studies is now available on-line, contents and abstracts for all and full text for individual or institutional subscriptions:

New Testament Studies

Vol. 49/4 (October 2003):

‘Christus starb für uns’. Zur Tradition und paulinischen Rezeption der sogenannten ‘Sterbeformeln’.

The Justification of Wisdom (Matt 11.19b/Luke 7.35)

‘Ungefähr 30’: Anmerkungen zur Altersangabe Jesu im Lukasevangelium (Lk 3.23)

Can Everyone be Wrong? A Reading of John 11.1–12.8

Of Cherubim and the Divine Throne: Rev 5.6 in Context

Recapitulation and Chronological Progression in John's Apocalypse: Towards a New Perspective

Does the ‘We’ in Gal 2.15–17 Include Paul's Opponents?

Rm 1.11–15 (17): Proemium ou Propositio?

What did Paul mean by ‘Those Who Know the Law’? (Rom 7.1)

Who saw the Greek letters first?

I wrote up Stephen Goranson's report that "the Greek letters [on the Absalom tomb] were first noticed by an art history student," but John Poirier writes that "in his presentation at the SBL meeting in Atlanta, Joe Zias was very clear in saying that, when the art student showed him the picture, he (Zias) noticed what looked like an inscription above the portion of the photograph that the student was interested in, and that when Zias pointed out the possible inscription to the student, she denied that there was anything there. So, while it's true that the inscription was first noticed in a photograph owned by an art student, it was Zias (not the student) who first saw the inscription."

Pope and The Passion Update -- ADL Statement

Here's a fuller article on the Pope's viewing of The Passion of the Christ; it's by Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal:

'It Is as It Was'
Mel Gibson's "The Passion" gets a thumbs-up from the pope.

And ADL have issued a press release on the reported viewing -- this from the ADL web site:

ADL Reacts To Reports the Pope Has Screened Mel Gibson's Film 'The Passion'

New York, NY, December 17, 2003 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today reacted to media reports that Pope John Paul II recently previewed Mel Gibson's film, "The Passion of Christ" and indicated through an intermediary his approval of its account of the events leading up to the Crucifixion of Jesus.

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:
If in fact Pope John Paul II has screened Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ" and if in fact his reaction to the film was positive, as has been reported, then we respect his statement. The Pope has a record and history of sensitivity to the Jewish community and has a clear moral voice and understanding when it comes to anti-Semitism.

However, we must reserve final judgment on "The Passion of Christ" until we have an opportunity to see the film. We hope that Mel Gibson has heard our concerns and those of Christian and Jewish scholars and religious leaders, who expressed unease about the earlier version of the film and its potential to fuel, rationalize and legitimize anti-Semitism.

If Mel Gibson has changed the film, which he has referred to all along as a "work-in-progress," then we would welcome that. We would like the opportunity to screen the final version for ourselves to see if the scenes of concern have been changed, and if so, publicly congratulate him.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

[End of press release]

Comments on Zechariah and Simeon inscriptions

Stephen Goranson makes some useful comments on Xtalk concerning the recent articles on the Zechariah and Simeon inscriptions including some corrections, "The latter article [Jerusalem Post) includes many mistakes. E.g., Greek letters were first noticed by an art history student, not by viewing the monument directly, but in a particular photograph. And the article mixes up which inscription relates to Lk. 2:25. And it gives the wrong century for the opening of the Cairo Geniza (E. Puech in Rev. Biblique July 2003 gives that text)."

Scholars: E

I've refreshed the Scholars: E page -- new URLs for Hans-Joachim Eckstein, Bart Ehrman and Craig Evans.

Zechariah inscription at "Absalom's Tomb"

A couple more items of interest on Paleojudaica, articles from the Christian Science Monitor and the Jerusalem Post on the discovery of the Greek inscription ("This is the tomb of Zechariah, martyr, very pious priest, father of John") at the traditional site of Absalom's Tomb:

Grave Discovery

New find, old tomb, and peeks at early Christians

The second (Christian Science Monitor) is all about Joe Zias and has a picture of him alongside the cast made; the first (Jerusalem Post) focuses on Emile Puech and Shimon Gibson without even mentioning Zias. There's an odd contradiction here too. In the first article, Puech says "'They [Zechariah and the old man], were both priests and that might be why they were buried there,' says Puech, noting that the tomb lies directly on the path from the Old City to the Kidron burial area." (The "old man" referred to here is Simeon, whose name is also found here, apparently a reference to the man in Luke 2.25-35). In the second, we read "Foerster discounts that Zacharias was buried at the site, saying that during the 1st century those monuments belonged to the Jewish priestly families of Jerusalem, and Zacharias did not belong to such a family." Do we know that? If Zechariah is an historical figure, Luke may imply that he and Elizabeth lived in or near Jerusalem (Luke 1.5-25), though when Mary visits Elizabeth, she goes εἰς πόλιν ἰούδα (to a town / city of Judah).

The Pope and the Passion

This article from the Washington Post reports on an alleged endorsement of The Passion of the Christ by the Pope ("It is as it was"):

For Mel Gibson's 'Passion,' Praise From a Tough Critic

Thanks to Jim Davila for the notice.

In Our Time on the Alphabet

In Our Time this morning focused on the origins of the alphabet; one of the contributors was Alan Millard whom I know from his Reading and Writing in the Time of Jesus. The programme featured one of those great radio moments when one of the other contributors said that ancient scribal schools were about as big as "this room"; Melvyn Bragg then had to describe the room to listeners. You can listen on-line:

In Our Time
At the start of the twentieth century, in the depths of an ancient Egyptian turquoise mine on the Sinai peninsular, an archaeologist called Sir Flinders Petrie made an exciting discovery. Scratched onto rocks, pots and portable items, he found scribblings of a very unexpected but strangely familiar nature. He had expected to see the complex pictorial hieroglyphic script the Egyptian establishment had used for over 1000 years, but it seemed that at this very early period, 1700 BC, the mine workers and Semitic slaves had started using a new informal system of graffiti, one which was brilliantly simple, endlessly adaptable and perfectly portable: the Alphabet. This was probably the earliest example of an alphabetic script and it bears an uncanny resemblance to our own.

Did the alphabet really spring into life almost fully formed? How did it manage to conquer three quarters of the globe? And despite its Cyrillic and Arabic variations and the myriad languages it has been used to write, why is there essentially only one alphabet anywhere in the world?
The other contributors were Eleanor Robson and Rosalind Thomas.

And speaking of radio programmes, Stephen Carlson has posted comments on Fresh Air featuring Bart Ehrman.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Bart Ehrman on Fresh Air

Today on Fresh Air is an interview with Bart Ehrman. If you are in the US, Fresh Air is distributed via satellite to public radio stations on Monday to Friday at noon, 3 and 7 p.m Eastern time. If not, archives of each programme are available on the site and you can listen on-line. I'll post a note here as soon as the archived version is availbale. Thanks to Nichael Cramer on Ioudaios and b-greek for this. Details:

Fresh Air
Theologian Bart D. Ehrman. He’s the Bowman and Gordon Gray professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. His new book, Lost Christianities: The Battle for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew, chronicles the second and third centuries before Christianity as we know it came to be. Ehrman has also edited a collection of the early non-canonical texts from the first centuries after Christ called Lost Scriptures: Books That Did Not Make it Into The New Testament.
Update (20.38): you can now listen on-line -- just click on "current show" or "archived show" from the main link.

BSW developments

I've sometimes expressed my disappointment over the BSW: Biblical Studies on the Web site recently because a once fine site has been badly in need of an overhaul -- its links pages years out of date, the Multi-Library Search having disappeared and so on. I've also found it impossible to communicate with them -- emails simply bounce. (The one thing that has remained up-to-date has been their free on-line version of Biblica, a very useful contribution). But the good news is that there is some movement on the site. Some of you may, like me, have received a circular yesterday advertising their service to provide "a new means of sharing biblical links and allow you to insert your own contributions into our site Biblical Studies on the WEB". The idea is to build a directory by soliciting contributions:

WWW Biblical Theology Index

I've had a go with it myself and have submitted a handful of links (of my own, I'm afraid!) and it works well, instantly adding them to the site. It looks like I am one of the first people to do this -- there are only a few other links currently available.

It's a great idea and has the potential to be pretty useful. But at this stage my main concern would be that it is potentially open to abuse. Will the site simply fill up with dodgy submissions and self-promotions? The site maintainers are hoping to overcome this problem by checking the site on a weekly basis and weeding out anything that is inappropriate. But it will need some devoted and knowledgeable staff to do that if the number of submissions does rise. There is also the problem of the marginal cases -- the site could get filled with sites that are in that fuzzy area of are they / aren't they quality academic resources. But I don't want to be negative; I'm just mentioning some potential qualms; let's hope that these potential problems are easy to overcome. All strength to their arm for coming up with the innovative resource. I would want to encourage people to submit their quality links to the site, and ideally not just their own materials but those of others that they find useful.

Email contact to BSW does seem to be working again now, and I hear from Roger Boily that the site is in the process of moving hosts so that further fixes should be on the way.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Understanding Ancient Greek Voice

This just announced on the b-greek list. Carl Conrad, Associate Professor Emeritus at Washington University, has posted a very useful new pedagogical introduction to ancient Greek voice entitled, "Active, Middle, and Passive: Understanding Ancient Greek Voice." In his own words "it is an 8 pp. brief introduction intended (a) as an introduction to ancient Greek voice for students, (b) as a demonstration of how I would go about teaching voice to English-speaking students if I were still in the active teaching profession":

Understanding Ancient Greek Voice (PDF)

SBL Call for Papers

The call for papers for the SBL Annual Meeting 2004, San Antonio, Texas has gone on-line today:

SBL Annual Meeting 2004: Call for Papers

Closing date is March 1 2004.

SBL Forum Update

The SBL Forum has been updated with some fresh articles focusing on the topic of the moment, Mary Magdalene, with this blurb:
Well-known characters in the Bible are not always known well. This month the Forum explores the identity and representation of Mary Magdalene in early Christian literature. Who is Mary? and What are scholars discovering about her in canonical and noncanonical gospels?
Opposition as Index of Importance: The Case of Mary Magdalene
by John Dominic Crossan

Mary of Magdala: Christian Polemics and Demonic Influence
by Ann Graham Brock

Mary of Magdala in Early Christian Coptic Literature
by Karen L. King

Select Bibliography on Mary
by Ann Graham Brock

Mary Magdalene in Recent Literature
by Birger A. Pearson

Latest Tyndale Tech emails on-line

The two most recent Tyndale Tech emails from David Instone Brewer are now also on-line at:

Tyndale Tech (November 2003): Full text bibliography and journals on the web

Tyndale Tech (December 2003): Full text books on the web, free and subscription

What he has done is to combine details from the two separate emails originally sent to create the themes above. As I've often commented before, they are full of useful materials. If you don't already subscribe to these emails, I'd encourage you to do so -- they are always full of interesting and useful material. If I were to pick out one thing that I have found particularly new and helpful, I'd note the Tyndale Catalogue's facility to link to on-line versions of books at Amazon. David points out that books with this facility at Amazon actually outsell those without it, something that might give a second thought to those nervous about placing full texts of books on-line. I wonder, though, whether this may be due in large part to the fact that the books Amazon has full-text searches for are already the more popular books on their site, those marketed in a bigger way by their publishers, so the fact mentioned may not be particularly telling.

In the second of the two emails, David also lists with links a good number of books that are available for full-text searching at Amazon -- also very useful.

One thing now to add to the bibliographical resources listed (see also WWW links for finding books and articles) is BiBIL, on which I've been blogging recently. If I might be so bold, I would also be inclined to draw attention to the NT Gateway as a good resource of links to on-line books and articles and it has the added advantage of being categorised by topic. Further, the NT Gateway's page on Journals provides a fuller and better and more fully annotated list than those listed by David, especially the bsw one which is now very out of date.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Explorator 6.33

As usual on Sundays (well it's now Monday here, but for some of my readers it is still Sunday), the latest Explorator from David Meadows is out:

Explorator 6.33

Time Magazine on Lost Gospels

Time Magazine this week has a feature on "Lost Gospels" with a nice cover story picture. You have to be a subscriber to read it all and I am not so have only read the first page of the main story, but it does mention Bart Ehrman's new book so there may be more discussion of that in what remains:

TIME Magazine: The Lost Gospels

Mark 14.65 and parallels

At the SBL Annual Meeting Synoptics Section a couple of weeks ago, Loveday Alexander responded to papers given by Richard Burridge, Mark Matson and Margaret Mitchell. In her response she commented that sometimes the exegete can gain some help in interpreting a given passage by looking at the Synoptic parallels. This had been a theme of Mark Matson’s paper on Matthew for readers who already knew Mark. Loveday went on to give an example of a place where, she claimed, none of the Synoptic Gospels made sense on their own. All are in their own way obscure and only become clear when one looks at them together. She attributed the observation to George Caird, I think only in oral material though I’d be interested if anyone happens to know of a place where he made these observations in print. The passage concerned is Mark 14.65 and synoptic parallels. Here is the passage in Synopsis:

Matt. 26.67-8 Mark 14.65 Luke 22.63-4
Τότε ἐνέπτυσαν εἰς τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐκολάφισαν αὐτόν, οἱ δὲ ἐράπισαν λέγοντες, Προφήτευσον ἡμῖν, Χριστέ, τίς ἐστιν ὁ παίσας σε; Καὶ ἤρξαντό τινες ἐμπτύειν αὐτῷ καὶ περικαλύπτειν αὐτοῦ τὸ πρόσωπον καὶ κολαφίζειν αὐτὸν καὶ λέγειν αὐτῷ, Προφήτευσον. Καὶ οἱ ἄνδρες οἱ συνέχοντες αὐτὸν ἐνέπαιζον αὐτῷ δέροντες, καὶ περικαλύψαντες αὐτὸν ἐπηρώτων λέγοντες, Προφήτευσον, τίς ἐστιν ὁ παίσας σε;

The passage is a notorious one for Synoptic students because it features such a blatant example of a Minor Agreement between Matthew and Luke against Mark, something that is straightforwardly explained on the theory that Luke knows Matthew as well as Mark but something that has always been a problem for the Two-Source Theory, so much so that some of the leading proponents of that theory have resorted to conjecturally emending Matthew’s text to remove the agreement with Luke, so that it would, like Mark, lack the clause τίς ἐστιν ὁ παίσας σε; (Who is it who smote you?).

Michael Goulder has argued, rightly in my view, that it is not acceptable to emend the text conjecturally purely to save a particular Synoptic theory. I have written about this Minor Agreement myself, most recently in The Case Against Q, pp. 157-60. But I don’t want to focus any further on the difficulty this Minor Agreement poses for the Two-Source Theory, at least not directly; rather, I would like to challenge Loveday Alexander’s claim that none of the three texts make sense on their own. I think that each text does make good sense in context within the narrative of each of the Synoptic Gospels and I will attempt to explain why.

First, the most difficult of the three, Mark. The difficulty with Mark on first reading is that given our familiarity with Matthew and Luke, we are expecting to see that additional question, τίς ἐστιν ὁ παίσας σε; (Who is it who smote you?). Clearly some scribes felt the same way and added the words in. However, recent narrative criticism has shed some useful light on the way the charge “Prophesy!” works here in Mark. In the end it is Mark’s account that is the richest and most rewarding of the three as a literary piece.

To see this we need to look both at the immediate context and the broader context in Mark. In the immediate context, while Jesus is being tried by the Sanhedrin and subsequently mocked (Mark 14.55-65), Peter is in the vicinity (Mark 14.54 and 14.66-72). In this classic example of Marcan intercalation, Jesus is being mocked with the charge “Prophesy” while Peter is in the very act of fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy of a few hours earlier that on this very night he would deny Jesus three times (14.29-31). The dramatic irony here is clear, profound and typically Marcan. The readers have been given privileged information; they can see what those mocking Jesus cannot see.  The observation that this is what is going on here in Mark has been made in a number of commentaries, including those by Morna Hooker, A Commentary on the Gospel According to St Mark (London: A & C Black, 1991), p. 363, and Donald H. Juel, The Gospel of Mark (Interpreting Biblical Texts; Nashville: Abingdon, 1999), p. 27.

But we might add two more elements here that are not commonly noticed. First, the people (τινες) who are mocking Jesus are themselves, while they taunt Jesus to prophesy, engaged in fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy that he will be mocked and beaten (Mark 10.34). Moreover, only a few lines earlier, Jesus has again been prophesying, that “you will see the Son of Man seated on the right hand of the power and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14.62). No doubt Mark feels that his readers will see this fulfilled in their lifetimes, so further adding to the dramatic irony of the “Prophesy!” taunt. In both Matthew and Luke, the addition of the “Who is it who smote you?” question diminishes the dramatic irony of the Marcan scene but it does not in any way make their scenes less coherent than Mark’s. Now the charge is explicitly one about second sight: "Prophesy! [Matthew adds "to us, Christ"] Who is it who smote you?"

There is, however, one oddity in Matthew’s account, and it may be this that is in Loveday Alexander’s mind, and perhaps Caird’s before her, and it is the fact that in Matthew – unlike in Mark and Luke – Jesus’s face is not covered. What sense does it make to taunt Jesus to identify his assailant if he can see them all? There are a couple of ways of reading this text that make good sense of it. One possibility, suggested to me by my former doctoral supervisor John Muddiman, is that those mocking Jesus are taunting him to name the one who struck him and not to point a figure to the one who did it.

A second possibility, defended in Michael Goulder’s recent article in Novum Testamentum, is to notice that it would be absurd to depict the mockers spitting into Jesus’ face if they have just covered it. For the spitting to be as nasty as the narrative requires it to be, they need to be spitting into Jesus’ face and not onto a piece of cloth that covers it. Goulder further suggests, following Jarmo Kiilunen, that they are hitting Jesus from behind while he is being spat upon from in front, so again Jesus would not know who has hit him. What seems clear is that there is little difficulty in making good narrative sense of the Matthean scene.

As far as Luke’s scene is concerned, commentators are united in finding his coherent so there is little need for further comment. It’s worth adding in relation to the above, though, that Luke retains Mark’s covering of Jesus’ face and drops the spitting, so that now there is a blindfold and a straight question asking Jesus to identify his assailant. In short, all three accounts make good sense. In Matthew it is important to take his wording seriously and to use one’s imagination about the scene that is actually being narrated; in Mark it is important to pay attention to both the immediate and the broader narrative context.

The Good Book Programme 4: Isaiah

It's the fourth programme in the series The Good Book tonight, 8 p.m. on BBC Radio 2, narrated by Sir Derek Jacobi. Listen live on the radio or the internet or listen on-line after the programme has aired:

The Good Book

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Oxford Scholarship Online

Oxford University Press has a new service to provide on-line full texts of certain books in its catalogue. If you are at a participating institution, you can read the full texts; but everyone has access to table of contents, abstracts and search facilities of the selected volumes. I'm lucky enough to have access via my university and it's a fine looking service -- much thought has gone into the aesthetics of the thing. Go to this link for the service home:

Oxford Scholarship Online

Or go here for the Religion titles:


Or go here for Biblical Studies:

Biblical Studies


J. K. Elliott (ed.), The Apocryphal New Testament
James Barr, Biblical Faith and Natural Theology
Steven J. Friesen, Imperial Cults and the Apocalypse of John - Reading Revelation in the Ruins
Tania Oldenhage, Parables for Our Time - Rereading New Testament Scholarship after the Holocaust
Marie Noonan Sabin, Reopening the Word - Reading Mark as Theology in the Context of Early Judaism
Anna Wierzbicka, What Did Jesus Mean? - Explaining the Sermon on the Mount and the Parables in Simple and Universal Human Concepts
Paul B. Duff, Who Rides the Beast? - Prophetic Rivalry and the Rhetoric of Crisis in the Churches of the Apocalypse

Digging Back Toward Jesus

Jim Davila blogs this interesting article in the Washington Post. It is by Bill Broadway and features Craig Evans, Jonathan Reed, Hershel Shanks and Paul Maier:

Digging Back Toward Jesus
Biblical Archaeology Uncovering Evidence About Places and People's Lives in Gospel Times

Friday, December 12, 2003

In Our Time on the Devil

In Our Time on Radio 4 yesterday morning had the Devil as its topic. Worth a listen if you didn't catch it:

In Our Time
In the Gospel according to John he is ‘a murderer from the beginning’, ‘a liar and the father of lies’, and Dante calls him ‘the ill Worm that pierces the world’s core’. But Milton’s description of him as a powerful rebel was so attractive that William Blake declared that Milton was ‘of the Devil’s party, without knowing it’. To ordinary folk the Devil has often been regarded as a trickster, a tempter, sometimes even a figure of fun rather than of fear.

How did this contradictory character come into being? Why did it take so long for him to become an established figure in Christianity? And if the Devil did not exist, would we have had to invent him?


Martin Palmer, theologian and Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education and Culture

Alison Rowlands, Senior Lecturer in European History at the University of Essex

David Wootton, Professor of Intellectual History at Queen Mary, University of London

Resource Pages for Biblical Studies update

Torrey Seland yesterday updated his pages; the additions are all on the Philo page:

Resource Pages for Biblical Studies

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism is back

Some time ago the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism disappeared from the web. I removed all my links to it in June 2003. This was a new electronic journal based at the University of Surrey Roehampton and the original plan was to place articles on-line as they appeared and then to produce a print version at the end of the year. The print version was to be published by Sheffield Academic Press. One full volume appeared in the year 2000 but nothing subsequently appeared and then even that disappeared. But now it has apparently been resurrected over at McMaster Divinity College in Canada which is where Stanley Porter, the editor, is now based. There is just a paragraph's information about the journal, but happily the volume from 2000 is back on-line:

Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism

Update: link added to the NT Gateway: Journals page.

Lisa Gerrard

I reported that Lisa Gerrard is to score The Passion of the Christ; Wieland Willker tells me that I should not express my ignorance on who she is quite so blatantly. It's music for intellectuals, apparently, and that will be why I've not heard of her. So this ignoramus has now been to her web site, lisagerrard.com and read more about her. There is a paragraph on The Passion of the Christ, dated today (11 December):
Prayers answered is the only way to put it. The film depicts the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ's life. The film is in Aramaic the native language of Jesus Christ and is directed by Mel Gibson. For more information visit the official website.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Sheffield Phoenix Press launched

In the autumn of 2001 Sheffield Academic Press became part of the Continuum publishing group. Continuum have also over the last couple of years purchased T & T Clark and Trinity Press International, and these three imprints -- Sheffield, Trinity and T & T Clark have now been merged into one imprint entitled T & T Clark International, and several of us attended the launch at the AAR/SBL Annual Meeting in Atlanta.

But here's an interesting development. The Department of Biblical Studies at Sheffield University have announced the launch of a new press, strongly resembling what used to be Sheffield Academic Press, with the same aims and emphases and with some of the same personnel (David Clines, Cheryl Exum and Keith Whitelam). It also looks a bit like there are some hard feelings about the Continuum buy-up of Sheffield Academic Press since Sheffield Phoenix Press is committed to undertake "to be an independent company (not part of a conglomerate); to be managed by academics for academics (not in order to maximize profit); to be led by the publishing ideas of academics (rather than commissioning scholars to carry out the agenda of the publisher)" and so on. Anyway, here are the full details:

Sheffield Phoenix Press

Another fan site for The Passion of the Christ

I've often mentioned The Passion fan web site here; for a while I thought it was a clever means of providing official information about the film without being official, if you see what I mean. There's little doubt that at least for some time it had some exclusive access to official materials. But anyway, now that the official site has been launched, and the fan site has moved over to being ad-sponsored, I've come across another fine site that is in many ways superior to the one that always gets mentioned:

The Passion of the Christ

I'm afraid there's no more distinctive way to refer to this one than that. Its author calls himself "Godfather" -- very helpful! But it's a useful enough site with lots of information and links, if a rather annoying white-writing-on-black cramped content frame. It features the original four-minute trailer introduced by Mel Gibson as well as the one-minute fifty second trailer that now seems to be getting replaced with the newer, shorter trailer everywhere else. Anyway, I've added this web site to my page on the NT Gateway on The Passion of the Christ.

Musical score for The Passion of The Christ

So who is scoring The Passion of the Christ? A report today in Music from the Movies mentions a certain Lisa Gerrard:

Lisa Gerrard to score 'The Passion of the Christ'

Apparently she contributed music to the score of The Gladiator.

Earlier reports suggested that Jack Lenz was to be responsible for the music (e.g. this Catholic Herald report or here from Lenz entertainment). Still earlier reports had suggested James Horner (refuted here at Music from the Movies).

Peter Gabriel and The Passion of the Christ

One interesting element from the review just mentioned:
Continuing his habit of working with the best cinematographers in the world, Gibson has collaborated here with Caleb Deschanel, whose lush, painterly aesthetic is a perfect match for the film’s almost otherworldly feel. His imagery is perfectly complemented by, unfortunately, the temp-tracked music of Peter Gabriel’s PASSION, which, honestly, works better here at times than it did in the Jesus film for which it was written, Scorsese’s THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST. Combined, they have the power to put the viewer in a trance-like state.
I had blogged a month or so ago that Peter Gabriel scored The Passion. This information was taken from the Passion fan site FAQ; in fact they even included audio samples of the music. It was also clear from the on-line trailers that this was the music that was being used. But it now seems that the Peter Gabriel score was simply borrowed from The Last Temptation of Christ as a temporary measure. The new, official much shorter trailer (available on the official Passion of The Christ site) has different music. And the fan site has dropped the faq entry on Gabriel as well as all the audio samples they had available. So it seems pretty clear that Peter Gabriel is not responsible for scoring The Passion of The Christ.

Harry Knowles and The Passion of the Christ

I commented the other day that I had no idea who Harry Knowles was. David Mackinder helpfully explains that "Harry Knowles is the wunderkind behind the Ain't it Cool film website (http://www.aintitcool.com); he earned some notoriety a few years ago because of his ability to find out information about upcoming films and to affect their box office success; it seems he's now in process of turning from poacher to gamekeeper, as he's become a producer." That web site follows up the special screening of The Passion of the Christ that they were given with a couple of long-ish, very interesting reviews from a "Mr Beaks" and "PetSnakeReggie":

Mr Beaks & PetSnakeReggie share their critical views on THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST!

In spite of that rather unpromising title, this is well worth reading.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Vatican views The Passion of the Christ

Officials at the Vatican were allowed a viewing of The Passion of the Christ at the weekend. Father Di Noia of the Doctrinal Congregation provides this pretty full interview and it is clear that he really loved the film. Reading this interview from Zenit does make one want to see it too:

Mel Gibson's "Passion": On Review at the Vatican

Latest Review of Biblical Literature

The latest additions to the Review of Biblical Literature include:

Bauckham, Richard
Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels
Reviewed by Sharyn Dowd

Gilmour, Michael J.
The Significance of Parallels between 2 Peter and Other Early Christian Literature
Reviewed by Thomas J. Kraus

Levine, Amy-Jill and Marianne Blickenstaff, eds.
A Feminist Companion to Mark
Reviewed by Stephen W. Felder

Meyer, Marvin
Secret Gospels: Essays on Thomas and the Secret Gospel of Mark
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

Sandnes, Karl Olav
Belly and Body in the Pauline Epistles
Reviewed by H. Drake Williams III

Scott, Douglas
Edited by S. R. Llewelyn
New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity: A Review of the Greek Inscriptions and Papyri Published 1986-87
Reviewed by John S. Kloppenborg

Hafemann, Scott J.
The God of Promise and the Life of Faith: Understanding the Heart of the Bible
Reviewed by Mark Gignilliat

van Kampen, Kimberly and Paul Saenger, eds.
The Bible as Book: The First Printed Editions
Reviewed by Patrick Graham

Viviano, Benedict Thomas
Trinity--Kingdom--Church: Essays in Biblical Theology
Reviewed by Kathryn Greene-McCreight

Monday, December 08, 2003

Tyndale Tech and Theology Portal

David Instone-Brewer yesterday issued a follow-up to his latest Tyndale Tech email, this one drawing attention to more full-text availability on the internet. I'll pick out a few highlights over the coming days, as usual (and may also comment that Tyndale Techs remain NT Gateway - free zones). David is also singing the praises of the new Theology Portal (cf. my blog entry on) and this reminded me to add a proper entry on the NT Gateway Resources page which I've now done:

General Resources: Religion and Theology

What is Mel Afraid Of?

Here's an odd article on The Passion of the Christ from MCN (Movie City Center) Notepad:

What's Mel Afraid Of?
The Passion of the Christ's Surprising Public Premiere

It's by David Poland and is all about a preview screening of the film to a certain Harry Knowles. The author is apparently quite upset about all this, concluding with "I cannot support this unique and uniquely grotesque road to release". But it's all a bit of a mystery to me -- perhaps because I have no idea who Harry Knowles is.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Biblical Studies Foundation

The Biblical Studies Foundation site has had a major redesign. They have also announced the second beta edition of the new NET Bible. This may have been on the site for a while -- I don't recall the last time I visited and the changes are not dated.

Minor Updates

A couple of minor updates on the NT Gateway to report: new URL for VocabWorks on the Greek NT Gateway: Computer Software page and a new URL for the Polyglot Bible on the Bible Translations and Editions page; thanks to Andy Parker for the latter.

The Good Book, Programme 3

The third programme in the series The Good Book was broadcast tonight at 8 p.m. on Radio 2. If you missed it, you can listen on-line, and there are other resources available on the site including Biography from W. L. Moberley, some Experts' Notes from Sue Gillingham, Paula Gooder and Edward Kessler and more:

The Good Book: David

Looking back over last week's episode, it's nice to see my colleague Robert Beckford's face staring out from the Moses' pages.

Explorator 6.32

Latest version of Explorator posted by David Meadows:

Explorator 6.32

Couldn't blog all day Sunday -- blogger seemed to be down.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Bibliography: General Helps

I have updated my Bibliography: General Helps page too. I have refreshed a couple of the links, deleted a moribund one, reorganised the page and added two new links, Tyndale House Library Catalogue and Free Out of Print Book Search. The former has one particularly useful feature -- it brings up links to full-text searches on Amazon (though these searches are not working at the point of writing this entry, at Amazon's end and not Tyndale's). The latter is a useful resource from Peter Kirby, author of the Early Christian Writings web site and more. Go to:

Bibliography: General Helps


I also commented the other day that I thought the Multi-Library Search at BSW had not been functioning for some time. Since then I've tried writing to BSW at three different email addresses all advertised on their site and all bounced straight back. So I think it's safe to assume that they have not got their act together and I've dropped that entry from the Bibliographical Search Engines page.

Red Light Green again

I commented yesterday that one of the advantages of Theoldi is that it provides bibliography-ready citations. Since I've begun using Red Light Green (see blog entry on), I've noticed that one of the massive advantages is that it can format your citations for you according to Chicago style, Harvard style etc. -- very useful. But it only lists books, so one still has to use Theoldi for articles.

Friday, December 05, 2003

The Passion of the Christ official website

The official web site for The Passion of the Christ has been launched. It has a new, shorter teaser trailer (though you can still see the longer one at the Passion fan site) and some information about the film -- cast and crew, pictures etc. It's a new site and so parts of it have "coming soon":

The Passion of the Christ

You can register for the latest news. You'll probably need to turn up the brightness on your monitor. There's a rather dubious comment under "Background Info" to this effect,
All the characters in the film are heard speaking the languages they would actually have spoken at the time. This means Aramaic for the Jewish characters, including Christ and his disciples, and "street Latin" for the Romans. Greek, which was commonly spoken among the intellectuals of the period was not quite as relevant to the story.
The latter comment is a fudge if I've ever seen one; it looks like the problem is that the film was shot with Latin dialogue and that only subsequently was it realised that they should have used Greek.

Update: I've added a link to this new official site to my page on The Passion of the Christ


Stephen Carlson recently mentioned the BiBIL web site on his blog. This was demonstrated by Thomas Naef in the SBL Computer Assisted Research Section in Atlanta a week or so ago and it seems like an excellent resource. BiBIL stands for Biblical Bibliography of Lausanne. Here's the URL:


I've written to Thomas Naef to ask for permission to added it to my All-in-One Biblical Resources Search but have not heard anything yet.

I like to put this kind of resource to the test by checking how they perform on the author I know best -- me. BiBIL returns six titles for Goodacre, two out of three of my books and four out of twelve of my articles. So we could give it about six out of ten. By way of comparison, I have done the same search on Theoldi, which also managed two out of three of my books but six out of twelve of my articles. So Theoldi performs a bit better -- let's give it six and a half out of ten. Let's try another search.

The author I know second best is Michael Goulder. Let's compare performance again. BiBIL finds 36 titles for Goulder; Theoldi finds 49. The difference here is date -- BiBIL's cut-off seems to be about 1985 or so whereas Theoldi's appears to be 1981 or so. So again Theoldi wins, but this time by a higher margin.

One additional advantage of Theoldi is its output -- it provides its results in bibliography-ready format -- very helpful indeed for authors checking references. But BiBIL has two advantages over Theoldi -- it gives a bit more detail on entries (e.g. book ISBNs) and it has more advanced searching facilities, e.g. Greek and Hebrew facilities. So I think I'll continue using Theoldi, but will also be turning to BiBIL from time to time.

Pirated version of The Passion of Christ

In a piece on Pirated Movies, the LA Times mention that:
The FBI began investigating the unauthorized release to the New York Post of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ" two weeks ago; by the time that probe began, federal authorities already had launched a broader investigation into the unauthorized copying of numerous other first-run films, according to sources.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Latest Biblica on-line

Biblica 84/4 (2003) is now available here:

Biblica 84 (2003) (scroll down for Fasc. 4)

It includes the following NT articles:

Christoph G. Müller, "Der Zeuge und das Licht. Joh 1,1–4,3 und das Darstellungsprinzip der su/gkrisij, pp. 479-509

Stefano Romanello, "Rom 7,7-25 and the Impotence of the Law. A Fresh Look at a Much-Debated Topic Using Literary-Rhetorical Analysis", pp. 510-30

Sigurd Grindheim, "What the OT Prophets Did Not Know: The Mystery of the Church in Eph 3,2-13" , pp. 531-553

John J. Kilgallen, "Martha and Mary: Why at Luke 10,38-42?", pp. 554-561

Latest Biblical Theology Bulletin

Further to my previous blog entry on the improved LookSmart's Find Articles site, they have uploaded the latest (Fall 2003) edition of Biblical Theology Bulletin. Contents are as follows (all full text articles free to access for all):

Nanos, Mark D, editor. The Galatians Debate: Contemporary Issues in Rhetorical and Historical Interpretation.(Book Review)
by Richard B. Cook

William G. Dever, Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?(Book Review)
by Ralph K. Hawkins

Beatrice Bruteau, editor. Jesus Through Jewish Eyes: Rabbis and Scholars Engage an Ancient Brother in a New Conversation.(Book Review)
by John F. Craghan

Roland E. Murphy, O. Carm., feminist mentor: rightly did the maidens love him.
by Carole R. Fontaine

Roland Murphy, The Pontifical Biblical Commission, Jews, and the Bible.(Book Review)
by Amy-Jill Levine

Postmodernism and the interpretation of biblical texts for behavior.
by John F. O'Grady

The book of Isaiah--Theses and Hypotheses.(Critical Essay)
by J. Clinton McCann, Jr.

A season for thanksgiving.(Presenting the issue)
by David M. Bossman

Find Articles improves site

FindArticles.com has been transformed -- and greatly for the better. Its new name is LookSmart's Find Articles. Everything is at the same address as before, a huge relief because it would have involved a massive amount of updating on my part, but there are two major improvements: (1) the site looks much better; (2) journals can now be browsed issue by issue. This is a major advance over the old version of the site, for which one could only search out articles and could not browse. Homepage for the revamped site:

LookSmart's Find Articles

The two major journals of interest to New Testament scholars and students hosted here are:

Biblical Theology Bulletin


Harvard Theological Review

You can access both, of course, from the NT Gateway: Journals page.

Willem-Jan de Wit on 4Q521

There's been some discussion of 4Q521 on the Xtalk list recently and this link has just come up:

Expectations and the Expected One: 4Q521 and the Light It Sheds on the New Testament
Willem-Jan de Wit

It's an on-line version of a thesis submitted for the Dutch equivalent of a Masters-title, which the author received cum laude from the Faculty of Theology at Utrecht University in 2000. It was supervized by Prof. Dr. P.W. van der Horst (Utrecht) and examined by him with Dr. L.T. Stuckenbruck (Durham, UK). It's a good piece of work, especially at Masters level, though I would have liked to see a more nuanced discussion of the source-critical issues involved in the section on 4Q521 and Mat 11:2-6 // Luke 7:18-23; de Wit looks at the possibility that Matthew knew Luke, following Hengel's sketch, without looking at the more detailed -- and I would say much more plausible -- view that Luke knew Matthew. But that comment aside, this is a useful piece of work and well done to him for putting it on the web.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Magnus Zetterholm

Thanks to Magnus Zetterholm for pointing out his new web page to me; it's now added to my Scholars pages under "Z" and that's not very common. Dr Zetterholm also points out to me that he has a new book out from Routledge that may be of interest:

The Formation of Christianity in Antioch: A Social-Scientific Approach to the Separation Between Judaism and Christianity. London: Routledge, 2003. ISBN: 0415298962

This book deals with the question of how Christianity in the beginning of the second century became a non-Jewish, Gentile religion. Since Christianity was originally one of many Jewish factions within the diversified Judaism of the period, the problem of its separation from Judaism is a major puzzle in the history of Western civilization. While previous attempts to solve this problem have focused mainly on ideological aspects, this study emphasizes the interplay between sociological and ideological elements.

It is argued that the separation between Judaism and Christianity in Antioch was a result of the socio-political situation in the Roman Empire and ideological elements within the Jewish faction of the Jesus movement that primarily concerned the status of Gentiles within the movement. The separation was mainly a separation between Jews and Gentiles within the Jesus movement. The Gentile adherents to the movement strove to become a legally recognised voluntary association completely separated from Judaism. The anti-Judaism of early Christianity was used as a resource in this struggle of independence, as part of the programme of convincing the civic authorities about the reasonableness of allowing Christianity to become a legally-recognised collegium.

Latest on The Passion of the Christ

This article from Reuters:

Gibson delays Vatican screening of Jesus film

And this by Kathryn Jean Lopez on the National Review Online:

Mel Gibson, Feminist

And previously from The Age (Australia) a report that Billy Graham (unlike the Pope!) got a private screening of the film and loved it:

Evangelist gives his blessing to Gibson film

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Theology Portal

There is a fine new resource from Denmark called the Theology Portal. It describes itself in this way:
The Theology Portal gives access to resources on the net. 2 different tecniques are used to perform automated selection of resources.

In Portal 1 a direct search in Google is performed. The search is delimited by the portal, so that the actual search is a "search within result" in a existing search set.

In portal 2 a search is performed in a delimited number of resources on the net, selected by experts.

The Theology Portal covers the subject Christian Theology, defined as the academic discipline carried out at universities in Europe.
I've run a few searches on it myself and it seems pretty impressive -- try both the Quick Search and the Advanced Search for different results:

Theology Portal

I am going to write to the owner to see if they will grant permission for me to add this search to the All-in-One Biblical Resources Search.

Jesus film

I was delighted to see that the version of Jesus shown on BBC2 yesterday and today was the international version and not the CBS version; it's twenty minutes or so longer and has a far superior ending, the "I am with you always . . ." saying segueing into Jesus in contemporary garb in Malta getting mobbed by children. It's difficult to imagine why CBS cut it from the version they broadcast. It's also not on the VHS release which I have, and I don't think it's on the DVD (though I don't own that).

A few more tidbits from this film. Portrayal of Pilate: Gary Oldman plays Pontius Pilate in a manner so reminiscent of Michael Palin's Pilate in Life of Brian that I think it must be deliberate. Location: much of the film was made in Ouarzazate in Morocco. I visited Ouarzazate in January this year for the filming of the BBC/Discovery documentary on St Paul and it was delightful to see it in the Jesus film. There's a real industry there of filming of contemporary Biblical films and documentaries -- even a complete temple construction which was apparently left some years ago by an Italian film company and now it gets used regularly in other films and documentaries. When it was used in St Paul apparently it was crumbling a bit so it had to be touched up with CGI for the TV. I loved visiting Ouarzazate -- some delightful locals who had clearly got used to film crews hanging around there. One other thing about this Jesus film -- the official CBS site seems to have vanished so I've deleted the link on my page for this film and have added instead a link to the extensive Hollywood Jesus review. See:

Jesus (1999)

Monday, December 01, 2003

Biblical Interpretation

Jim Davila blogged this the other day; I'm behind the times. Here's the contents breakdown for the current Biblical Interpretation (11/3). You can only view the articles if you have an institutional or personal subscription, I'm afraid:

Editor's Preface

Leviticus 16 Als Mitte Der Tora
Rolf Rendtorff

In Words and Pictures: the Sun in 2 Samuel 12:7-12
Van Ellen Wolde

A Prophet Tested: Elisha, the Great Woman of Shunem, and the Story's Double Message
Yairah Amit

Gazing Back At the Shulammite, Yet Again
Athalya Brenner

Seeing Solomon's Palanquin (Song of Songs 3:6-11)
J. Cheryl Exum

Torah and Anti-Torah: Isaiah 2:2-4 and 1:10-26
Francis Landy

Proving Yahweh Killed His Wife (Zechariah 5:5-11)
Diana Edelman

Rhetorische Fragen!? Eine Aufkundigung Des Konsenses Uber Psalm 88:11-13 Und Seine Bedeutung Fur Das Alttestamentliche Reden Von Gott Und Tod
Frank Crüsemann

Psalms, Philippians 2:6-11, and the Origins of Christology
Adela Yarbro Collins

Narrative Christology and the Son of Man: What the Markan Jesus Says
Instead Elizabeth Struthers Malbon

Ezra-nehemiah as a Narrative of (re-invented) Israelite Identity
Philip F. Esler

Israel's Holy Seed and the Foreign Women of Ezra-nehemiah: a Kristevan Reading Harold C. Washington

'Job the Dog': Helene Cixous on Wounds, Scars and the Biblical Text
Hugh S. Pyper

The Morning After in Corinth: Bread-and-butter Notes, Part I
Alice Bach; Jennifer A. Glancy

Stabat Mater? Re-birth At the Foot of the Cross
Ingrid Rosa Kitzberger

We Felt Like Grasshoppers: The Little Ones in Biblical Interpretation
David E. Orton

Evil At Odds with Itself (Matthew 12:22-29): Demonising Rhetoric and Deconstructive Potential in the Matthean Narrative
Bruce W. Longenecker

Revelation, Atonement and the Scope of Faith in the Epistle to the Hebrews: a Deconstructive and Reader-response Interpretation
Dan O. Via

The Syrians in the Book of the Divided Kingdoms: A Literary/theological Approach
David Jobling

'Rouzing the Faculties to Act': William Blake, Merkabah Mysticism, the Theology of Liberation and the Exegetical Importance of Experience
Christopher Rowland

Biblical Scholarship in Public Discourse
Norman K. Gottwald

Loitering with Intent: Biblical Texts in Public Places
R.S. Sugirtharajah

Toward a Pastoral Reading of the Bible Not Confined to the Church
Jorge Pixley

Questing or Sense-making? Some Thoughts on the Nature of Historiography
Bernard C. Lategan

"Ja, Bin Denn Ich An Gottes Stelle?" (Genesis 50:19) Beobachtungen Und Uberlegungen Zu Einem Schlusselsatz Der Josefsgeschichte Und Den Vielfachen Konsequenzen Aus Einer Rhetorischen Frage
Jürgen Ebach

Discoursing Old Testament Theology
Ben C. Ollenburger

Historical and Canonical Aspects of a New Testament Theology
Robert Morgan

Biblical Challenges to a Theology of Love
Werner G. Jeanrond

SBL Review of Biblical Literature

New in the Review of Biblical Literature:

Eve, Eric
The Jewish Context of Jesus' Miracles
Reviewed by Douglas Geyer

Levine, Amy-Jill and Marianne Blickenstaff, eds.
A Feminist Companion to Mark
Reviewed by Barbara Reid

Malina, Bruce J., Gerd Theissen and Wolfgang Stegemann, eds.
The Social Setting of Jesus and the Gospels
Reviewed by Robert Derrenbacker

Müller, Mogens and Henrik Tronier, eds.
The New Testament as Reception
Reviewed by Maarten Menken

Wilson, Mark
Mastering New Testament Greek Vocabulary Through Semantic Domains
Reviewed by Edward M Curtis

Jesus film on BBC2 today

The 1999 American Jesus film (dir. Roger Young, starring Jeremy Sisko as Jesus) gets its first network TV broadcast in the UK today. They are showing it in two parts and the first part is on BBC2 this afternoon at 1.30 p.m.--3.00 p.m. It could be a better slot, but at least it's getting aired. I quite like the film -- it has some great moments, e.g. Jesus dancing. There are two different versions of the film and I am hoping it's the version I haven't seen. The one on commercial video release is the shorter version without the post-resurrection scene and with a lot of other material cut. The best place to go for details on this, including clips of the footage that was cut is:

Hollywood Jesus: Jesus mini-series

Gospel of John on Sunday programme

Yesterday's Sunday programme on Radio 4 carried a feature on The Gospel of John including an interview with Philip Saville (director) and an interview with Peter Malone (film critic). You can listen again by going to the web site and clicking on the link:


Sunday, November 30, 2003

Newsweek on Karen King and Mary Magdalene

There's a major feature in this week's Newsweek on Karen King, Mary Magdalene and Biblical women. You can view it all on-line here:

The Bible's Lost Stories

Features pictures and a radio special. One thing's for sure -- Karen King and Elaine Pagels have got their publicity machines working brilliantly -- their agents have certainly been busy.