Saturday, May 29, 2004

Invigilation Blues

It's examinations time in the U.K. and no doubt some readers will be wondering how they are going to cope with the three-hour stint of invigilation. I had missed this earlier this week, but I caught a mention of this news item on Have I Got News for You? on BBC1 and so looked it up. Here it is in BBC News On-line:

Teachers reveal exam hall games
Teachers have revealed some of the tricks they use to avoid boredom during exams - including pencil-sharpener races and spotting the ugliest pupil in the hall.

I am lucky this year and haven't had to do any invigilation. (The usual arrangement here is that most members of academic staff will do at least one stint of invigilation each summer). I usually cope with it by making sure I have an idea to work on during the three hours, something that actually requires some sustained, uninterrupted thinking. I remember once planning a book while invigilating; another time I chewed over an element in the Synoptic Problem until I'd cracked it to my satisfaction. It serves as a useful reminder to me that sometimes too much reading and writing can obscure some free thinking.

Tom Wright does Face to Faith

In today's (now yesterday's) Guardian, Tom Wright does a Face to Faith for Pentecost:

The spirit of the age
Tom Wright

Historical Jesus: Courses

I've updated my Historical Jesus: Courses page -- deleted Terry Paige's "Life of Christ" course because it is no longer available and changed the URL for Santiago Guijarro's El Jesús Histórico. The page is looking a bit sparce these days. Perhaps everyone is using e-learning environments like WebCT within their university and college settings these days.

Craig Evans

Craig Evans has added a couple of items of interest to his homepage:

Da Vinci and the Code Breakers
Brown’s curious theories of Gospel sources and what he thinks is the true story of the historical Jesus find no support in sober scholarship—whether Protestant, Catholic, liberal, or conservative. Instead, what Brown gives us is a fascinating amalgam of legend, unsupported theories, and egregious inaccuracies when it comes to his most important documents. He would have us believe that the true story of Jesus is preserved in Gnostic Gospels and the symbols and metaphors of the Priory of Sion, the Masons, the Knights Templar, and other groups of Medieval origin.

Dateline special report: The last days of Jesus
Scholars explore history behind famous story
By Stone Phillips

This report features interviews with Craig Evans, Paula Fredriksen, Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan and Tom Wright. The piece concludes with some reflections on these interviews by Stone Phillips and some of Craig Evans's reflections about the process.

Church Times article on The Passion

This week's Church Times also reports on the Emma award for The Passion of the Christ:

Gibson’s Passion is a box-office winner
by Bill Bowder

The article explains that the film has not been such a hit in the U.K. and was out-grossed by Scooby-Doo 2.

And for some summary of some Muslim reactions to The Passion of the Christ, see this article in Christianity Today:

Fascinated with The Passion
Gibson film draws big Muslim crowds.
By Deann Alford

Friday, May 28, 2004

David Aune homepage

On my Index of Scholars: A page, I've added the following new homepage:

David E. Aune

It has a full list of publications, some course outlines and some pages on Near Eastern Archaeological Sites, pictures and descriptions of archaeological sites Gamla, Chorazin, Sinai and Qasrin. It looks like there is more to come.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Simple Parallel Bible

On Bible Software Review Weblog, Rubén Gómez points to this excellent site:

Simple Parallel Bible

This is one that I can't adequately explain all the advantages of -- just go and play with it. This is how the site advertises itself:
The Simple Parallel Bible is a search and lookup tool that can be freely added to any PHP/MySQL website. It lets you link to multiple passages, in parallel (for side-by-side comparison) or in a list, all with a single link and without leaving your own site.
This is a versatile and very useful tool and, like many of the best on-line tools, its beauty is its simplicity. There is no question about what catches my interest -- its ability to create user-defined Synopses of the Gospels. The site itself illustrates this function, though it does not use the word "Synopsis", with this example:

Rich Young Ruler

Rubén Gómez illustrates it with this example:

Parable of the Salt

The point here is not just that there is a nice simple Gospel Synopsis in English available here. For that, you can do no better than John Marshall's Five Gospels Parallels. Rather,it is that the user can define what passages s/he wishes to view. Let us say that I want to look at the Temptations together, I type matt 4.1-11|mark 1.12-13|luke 4.1-13 into their search box and get this:

Temptations of Jesus

Or without even going to their search box, I can just write in URLs in this format:|mark+1.12-13|luke+4.1-13, substituting, of course, the passages I wanted to see together. Now the Temptation narrative is a pretty usual parallel to view and you can view it this way in all the Synopses. So let us say that I wanted to do something more unusual and to view Matt. 12.46-50 // Mark 3.31-35 // Luke 8.19-21 (Jesus' Mother and Brothers) alongside Luke 11.27-28 (Women in Crowd), I simply type in matt 12.46-50|mark 3.31-35|luke 8.19-21|luke 11.27-28, or I write|mark+3.31-35|luke+8.19-21|luke+11.27-28 and I get my parallel thus:

Matt. 12.46-50 // Mark 3.31-35 // Luke 8.19-21 and Luke 11.27-28

Now all that needs doing is to introduce the same techniques with the Greek NT and we will have something even more useful.

What a useful resource; this is just a taster. More on this anon.

Youngquist, Matthew and Q

The following Claremont doctoral dissertation is available at UMI (with thanks to Jacob Knee for drawing my attention to this):

Linden Eric Youngquist (PhD, Claremont Graduate University, 2003; 352 pages; adviser: James M. Robinson):

Matthew and Q
Gospels scholars have suggested in various ways that the author responsible for Q was also responsible for Matthew. This insight is interesting because, while it is fundamental to the two-source hypothesis that Mark and Q are combined in Matthew because the author had some affinity to both documents, it is assumed that the Gospel is an expansion of Mark. Such an approach is helpful in explaining the final shape of Matthew, which, from chapter 12 on, at least, follows Mark's storyline. On the other hand, this perspective struggles with the anomaly that Matthew rearranges Mark freely in Matt 3-11. The possibility that Matthew's is an expansion of Q suggests that, from a literary perspective, Mark may have been adapted to Q's concerns, which may explain better Matthew's use of Mark. The purpose of this paper is to explore the nature of the relationship between Matthew and Q. The first chapter reviews how the Matthew/Q connection has been understood. The thesis adopted is that Matthew is better understood as a literary expansion of Q, rather than as a second edition of Mark. Chapter two considers Matt 3–11 as an adaptation of the opening sections of Q, whose purpose is to reiterate Q's original missionary practices, which Matthew still considered valid. Chapter three analyzes Matt 12-28 and shows that Matthew adopted Mark's story to depict narratively the conflict between Jesus and Israel's leaders implied in many of Q's sayings. By incorporating Q into Mark's narrative about Jesus' death and resurrection, Matthew moved beyond Q's view that Jesus' mission was limited to Israel, and offered the prospect of a world-wide mission led by Jesus' disciples instead of the Pharisees. The impetus for this change was the Jewish war and the emergence of the Pharisees as the leaders of Judaism in its aftermath. That is, Matthew rewrote Q using Mark in order to preserve Q's message and, at the same time, to direct the community to a mission that included the world.

E-Search the Scriptures

Ken Ristau has a useful article in Faith Today May / June 2004:

E-Search the Scriptures
Online resources and Bible software bring a scholar’s library into any home or office
Ken Ristau

The article mentions several on-line resources like, the OTGateway and my NTGateway (thanks). It then goes on to review the various pieces of commercial Bible Software available and is particularly enthusiastic about Accordance.

Just recently I have started reading Ken Ristau's blog:

I first came across this new blog in Bible Software Review. Note that the most recent entry is on the new Accordance web site.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Open Source Scholarship

On Sansblogue, Tim Bulkeley reflects on the question of Open Source Scholarship, prompted by an interesting post in Deinde, Why is Open Source Scholarship So Threatening?. This is not something I have done a lot of thinking about, but Tim's inclination is roughly where I am on this:
On the whole my own inclination is to agree with the suggestion that scholars ought naturally to be inclined towards an open source model. However, one must then work out how to ensure that the activity remains scholarly. David Clines several years ago addressed some of these issues in his article "Publishers: Who Needs Them?".
I think the question that is asked in Deinde (see above) is probably not the right one. Open source scholarship is not so much "threatening" or "frightening" as it is worrying. The concerns that are expressed are concerns about quality. They think that many might ultimately make do with second-rate scholarship and that this will result in a depression of standards. It may be, however, that the concern is ill-founded. What is genuinely interesting about the open-source model, which is in any case borrowed from computer programming, is that it may have the potential to produce quality scholarship but by a different route. The process of getting to that quality product is different from what we are used to in peer-reviewed books and articles. But perhaps some of these projects will succeed in that communities of intelligent and well-informed contributors can hone the products until something of real value to the academic community is produced.

I wonder whether the concerns about quality can be addressed straightforwardly in given projects by the publication of the names of recognised consultants. This is something I have suggested before, for example in relation to the Open Scrolls Project. A consultative committee can not only provide guidance as the given project progresses, but also acts as a signal to others that the project should be taken seriously, so that it markets the potential quality of the product.

One interesting model here is the Those who have attended the CARG sessions at the SBL Annual Meeting will have heard reports on this. They used to have a pretty useful web site with lots of examples of their project, appeals for help and so on. But at the moment it just has a holding page of a couple of "under construction" paragraphs. I hope that that doesn't show that open source scholarship like this is a struggle because it is a very interesting project.

Medieval Institute Commentary Series

Further to my posts on The Church's Bible and the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Larry Swain draws my attention to a series of commentaries translated and published by Medieval Institute Publications:

Medieval Institute Publications Commentary Series

Guardian's UK University Tables

This may be of interest to some in the U.K.: The Guardian has today published its university guide for 2004:

2004 University Guides

The tables produced relate to teaching quality only and do not take research into account; they are explained as follows:
The tables, which assess quality of teaching, are meant as a guide for undergraduates choosing full-time degrees at universities and higher education colleges and do not include any research data. Our tables have been compiled by Campus*, a department of Brunel university.
The table for Theology and Religious Studies is available from the following URL:

Theology and Religious Studies

While Cambridge comes out top overall, Oxford pips them to the post for Theology and Religious Studies.

Passion wins Emma award

Thanks to Helenann Hartley for sending this over. It is from BBC News on-line:

Passion wins Emma media awards
Biblical epic The Passion of the Christ has been honoured at the at the 2004 Ethnic Multicultural Awards.

Mel Gibson's movie was named best film at the media awards - known as the Emmas - on Monday evening.

Romanian actress Maia Morgenstern won the award for best film actress for her portrayal of Mary, mother of Jesus.

Monday, May 24, 2004

SBL Review of Biblical Literature

The lastest from the SBL Review of Biblical Literature:

Black, Stephanie L.
Sentence Conjunctions in the Gospel of Matthew: καί, δέ, τότε, γάρ, ουν and Asyndeton in Narrative Discourse
Reviewed by Daniel Gurtner

Carson, D. A.
New Testament Commentary Survey, Fifth Edition
Reviewed by Steve Patton

Fee, Gordon D.
To What End Exegesis?: Essays Textual, Exegetical, and Theological
Reviewed by Mark D. Given

Goodacre, Mark
The Synoptic Problem: A Way through the Maze
Reviewed by Mark A. Matson

Jeremias, Joachim
Jesus and the Message of the New Testament
Reviewed by Scott Kulla

Kim, Seyoon
Paul and the New Perspective: Second Thoughts on the Origin of Paul's Gospel
Reviewed by Mark Reasoner

Köstenberger, Andreas J.
Studies on John and Gender: A Decade of Scholarship
Reviewed by Judith Hartenstein

Kroeger, Catherine Clark and Mary J. Evans, eds.
The IVP Women's Bible Commentary
Reviewed by K. Jo Ann Badley

Rollston, Christopher A., ed.
The Gospels according to Michael Goulder: A North American Response
Reviewed by Peter Carrell

Scott, Bernard Brandon
Re-imagine the World: An Introduction to the Parables of Jesus
Reviewed by Dennis C. Stoutenburg

Walter, Matthias
Gemeinde als Leib Christi: Untersuchungen zum Corpus Paulinum und zu den "Apostolischen Vätern"
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

Whealey, Alice
Josephus on Jesus: The Testimonium Flavianum Controversy from Late Antiquity to Modern Times
Reviewed by Dennis C. Stoutenburg

King, Karen L.
What is Gnosticism?
Reviewed by Marvin Meyer

The Church's Bible

I referred on Friday to the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series published by IVP. Jeff Peterson draws my attention to a similar series underway at Eerdmans under the general editorship of Robert Wilkens. The title is The Church's Bible and there is one volume available so far, on Song of Songs by Richard A. Norris, Jr. The Eerdmans web site does not even begin to rival the IVP one on the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, but there is some information available here:

The Church's Bible

Taking another look at Paul

Thanks to Mark Nanos for sending over this interesting article from the Kansas City Star

Taking another look at Paul
Researchers are clearing apostle's name of anti-Semitism associations

The article features quotations from John Gager, Lloyd Gaston and Mark Nanos and is surprisingly helpful for a journalistic piece. Good for Tammeus and the Kansas City Star. Anyone who makes an effort to communicate the results of recent New Testament scholarship in a reasonable and balanced way gets the thumbs up here.
"The dismal picture of Judaism in Christian history is drawn largely from a misreading of Paul's own letters," Gager says. "This anti-Jewish Paul has played an enormous role in the history of Christian dogma and practice." . . . .

. . . . "Eventually," Nanos says, "I hope that engaging each of the flashpoints that have been taken to demonstrate Paul against (Jewish) identity and behavior (will) show quite the opposite."

It will be important, he says, for Christians to understand that Paul's "struggle with his fellow Jews was engaged in from within Judaism, not from outside (and) not against … Jewish people who did not agree with him, but on their behalf."
There's another piece on Paul the same day (last Saturday) referenced by Bible and Interpretation. It appears in

Scholars defend St. Paul
Two new books consider the case against the apostle, often faulted for his views on slavery and women.
By Richard N. Ostling

No interviews here, but a mention of Tom Wright and then a summary of some of the views of Ben Witherington III.

Deinde's Biblical Studies Search

On Sansblogue, Tim Bulkeley draws attention to a useful feature on the Deinde site:

Biblical Studies Search
The search engine works by searching an indexed database of selected sites. There are around 80 sites which are currently indexed by the crawler, all of these sites are related to biblical studies and are made up of an array of online papers, informational pages, news and blogs. Originally we set the crawler to follow all links on the sites up to a certain depth, however as can be imagined this quickly got out of control with many sites indexed that were not related to biblical studies. The crawler is now set to only crawl within the domain it begins in. While this does result in clean and controlled results it also means that pages which are linked to an outside domain do not show up.
This looks like a very useful resource. A similar useful resource to which I've drawn attention before is Teologiportalen but the advantage of Deinde's search is that it provides results specially honed for Biblical scholars and students.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture

I've just been surfing around the InterVarsity Press web site and came across a large section of it devoted to this series:

Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture

The project is described in the following way:
The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture does what very few of today's students of the Bible could do for themselves. With the aid of computer technology, the vast array of writings from the church fathers--including much that is available only in the ancient languages--have been combed for their comment on Scripture. From these results, scholars with a deep knowledge of the fathers and a heart for the church have hand-selected material for each volume, shaping, annotating and introducing it to today's readers. Each portion of commentary has been chosen for its salient insight, its rhetorical power and its faithful representation of the consensual exegesis of the early church.
You can read more about the project on the site; it is now about three-quarters complete and most of the NT volumes are out. It is a very useful site and a good example to other publishers on how to catch an academic's interest. There are not only full details of each of the volumes but also lots of excerpts from them, for example these PDFs:

Christopher A. Hall and Thomas C. Oden, Introduction to Mark

Arthur Just, Introduction to Luke

For the full list of what is available, go to the Volumes and Editors page and then click on individual titles to read the excerpts, which always include the introductions and some sample commentary. Also on the site is a nice list of useful web sites:

Links to Related Web sites

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Association Internationale Bible et Informatique, Leuven

Tim Bulkeley emails to mention that he is trying to get together a 60-90 minute slot with 15 minite presentations and panel discussion around the theme "e-gesis: the impact of computer mediated communication on biblical interpretation" for the forthcoming Association Internationale Bible et Informatique conference in Leuven, 23-24 July. The call for papers is available here:

Association Internationale Bible et Informatique
AIBI-7 CALL For PAPERS 2004, 23-24 juillet 2004, K.u.Leuven (Belgique)

Tim mentions this in Sansblogue here:

Studying the Bible in an Electronic World

In the Footsteps of Saint Paul, Edward Stourton

Two years ago I was lucky to be consultant on an excellent BBC Radio 4 series called In the Footsteps of Saint Paul, produced by Phil Pegum and presented by Edward Stourton. British readers will know Ed Stourton from BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Stourton has now produced his own book based on the series and it is reviewed in this week's Tablet by Karen Armstrong:

Sympathy for a maligned disciple
In the Footsteps of Saint Paul
Edward Stourton
Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99
I myself made this journey some 20 years ago, at the very beginning of my own career as a writer and religious historian. When I was invited to make this television series by Channel 4, I was still sceptical about faith and hostile to religion. This, I thought, was my chance to tell St Paul exactly what I thought of him: it was he who had transformed the loving message of the gospels into a hard, authoritarian dogma, and had in the process bequeathed to the Christian Churches some of their worst failings, such as anti-Semitism, misogyny, and a preoccupation with complex doctrine.

Instead, in the course of my journey, I found that I had to revise these prejudiced opinions and discovered, much to my surprise, that by the end of the trip I felt very close to Paul. Stourton seems to have had a similar experience. This is not a scholarly book. Stourton recoils in mock horror from the crowded bookshelves that are positively groaning under the weight of heavy tomes on New Testament scholarship. It is a pity that he did not take the time to read a few of them. Biblical criticism need not be a dry-as-dust discipline; it can lead to intellectual illumination and new spiritual insight. Stourton, however, has relied on the works of a couple of doughty Victorian clergymen, some travelogues and a few modern scholars. Nevertheless this is a genial, attractive and highly readable introduction to the life and times of Paul and will dispel some of the common misapprehensions about his contribution to Christian history.
It is good to see Armstrong not only endorsing Stourton's refusal to engage in Paul-bashing but also speaking well of the value of reading some New Testament scholarship. Armstrong herself reads widely and so is not to be faulted for herself not being bang up to date on that scholarship when she writes later in the review:
Paul did not see Jesus as a divine figure, and neither did the other New Testament writers, with the possible exception of St John. St Luke, who is the evangelist whose theology is closest to Paul’s, simply calls Jesus a prophet, even after the Resurrection. There is usually a clear distinction in the texts between Jesus, the Kyrios Christos, and God himself.
In the light of Bauckham, Wright and now most prominently Larry Hurtado, this may well need rethinking.

Review of Wright's Resurrection

On Xtalk, Jim West points to this review of Tom Wright's book on the resurrection from Human Events Online:

Gibson's Passion Then Wright's Resurrection
by James C. Roberts

This is essentially a sympathetic summary of Wright's book, and is useful for that.

Kloppenborg Articles on-line

John S. Kloppenborg has made available on his homepage PDFs of several of his recent articles:

John S. Kloppenborg Publications:

“Isa 5:1-7 LXX and Mark 12:1, 9, Again.” Novum Testamentum 46/1 (2004): 12-19

“On Dispensing with Q? Goodacre on the Relation of Luke to Matthew,” New Testament Studies 49/2 (2003): 210-236

“Egyptian Viticultural Practices and the Citation of Isa 5:1-7 in Mark 12:1-9.” Novum Testamentum 44/1 (2002): 134-159

-- with Robert A. Derrenbacker, Jr. “Self-Contradiction in the IQP? A Reply to Michael Goulder.” Journal of Biblical Literature 120 (2001): 57-76

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Jesus Box Documentary on Radio 4

I mentioned the Jesus Box documentary the other day. It was broadcast earlier today and you can now listen it archived on-line:

The Jesus Box

The programme is presented by Jerome Murphy O'Connor and produced by Adele Armstrong. It's about 28 minutes long and well worth a listen, especially if you have been following the James ossuary saga over the last eighteen months or so. Murphy O'Connor patiently takes one through the story and the evidence and does not express an opinion of his own at any stage, and finally leaves the question of authenticity open.

He interviews Oded Golan twice, once at the beginning of the programme and once at the end. He also speaks to André Lemaire and Hershel Shanks and gives a good deal of air time to Yuval Goren of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who makes clear that he thinks that the box itself is 2,000 years old but that the inscription is not. He speaks about the ways in which an individual could scan in to a computer ossuary inscriptions, manipulate the chosen ones using photoshop, produce a transparency and then etch the result into the box. At this point, Murphy O'Connor asks if this is what Goren thinks Oded Golan did. Goren says that he does not know if this is what Golan did, but he knows that it is clear that this is what the forger did. However, later in the programme, Goren explains about the items that were found in Golan's apartment and includes among these computer equipment that could have been used in the way described.

Gabriel Barkay also appears as a critic of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and there is also an interview with Amos Bein, director of the Geological Survey of Israel. Murphy O' Connor also speaks to a dealer in antiquities (couldn't hear his name) and there is some speculation on whether the IAA have come down heavily on Golan because they are very keen to clamp down on looting, and see going after antiquities dealers as a good way to do this.

Towards the end of the programme, Murphy O'Connor puts the question to Yuval Goren: what is the evidence against Golan? Murphy O'Connor says that he was shown materials but that the IAA subsequently asked him not to use the recorded material in the programme. But they assert that they think they have enough to put Golan behind bars (their phrase).

Murphy O'Connor then returns to Oded Golan, who says that he is restricted in the answers he is allowed to give. When he is asked, "Did you forge the Jesus box?" he replies, "Of course not." Golan says that he wants to go to court to clear his name. Meanwhile the IAA say that they are only "weeks away" from charging him with forging Jesus box but also whole multitude of other artifacts too, including Jehoash tablet. The programme concludes with some discussion of the politicization of the whole antiquities business.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Gospel of Mark runs into problems

As I have commented before (e.g. here), Visual Bible International's next planned project has been The Gospel of Mark. VBI are the group who produced Matthew and The Gospel of John. But now it seems that The Gospel of Mark may be running into trouble. This is from the Globe and Mail

Drabinsky sequel a question Mark
Cash-flow difficulties at Visual Bible International appear to have halted plans by former theatre impresario Garth Drabinsky to produce a "sequel" to The Gospel of John . . .

. . . . Yesterday, however, a spokesperson for Visual Bible International said that a decision hasn't been made as to what VBI's next production will be. It "may or may not be The Gospel of Mark," she said . . . .

A call earlier this week to the Los Angeles agent of Henry Ian Cusick, the actor who starred as Jesus in The Gospel of John and was touted to play him again in Mark, revealed that its client has "received no offer. " A spokesperson for Toronto Film Studios, where many of the interiors of The Gospel of John were shot, said "we haven't been contacted yet" by VBI about booking space this summer or fall. Moreover, an advisory committee of scholars used to comment on the accuracy and authenticity of VBI scripts has yet to discuss or approve a third draft of the Mark script prepared by John Goldsmith, the British screenwriter of The Gospel of John.

Visual Bible has been rocked in recent months by en masse resignations of its board of directors and poorer-than-anticipated sales of the three-disc DVD and three-tape VHS sets of The Gospel of John that went into retail outlets across North America April 6. In a filing made April 23 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, VBI said that unless sales of its John DVD/video set improve considerably -- as of last month, it had "generated in excess of $5-million in sales"-- and additional capital is raised, it "will certainly be in default [on its debts] and may be forced to cease its operations." . . . .
I'll keep a look out for news on this. As a fan of The Gospel of John, I'd be sorry to see the plans for Mark dropped.

There are more on Visual Bible International's problems in this article, also from the Globe and Mail:

Falling sales, criticism dog Drabinsky venture
Visual Bible left with only one director as company admits it's in trouble
As sales stalled, the company's board has been embroiled in controversy. In February, Toronto businessman Steven Small quit as chairman and sent a letter, filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, strongly criticizing the company. A few weeks later, four other directors quit -- including former Ontario Premier Mike Harris and Elly Reisman, a Toronto developer whose group is owed about $14-million (U.S.). Only one director remains.
This report also reveals that the chief academic consultant on The Gospel of John, Peter Richardson, has resigned from the board:
Among the many advisers on the project were Peter Richardson, a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto's Department of Religious Studies. At the film's opening, he said the film's producers "caught the atmosphere better than I would ever have dreamed that they could do."

Prof. Richardson resigned from the board in March. He was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Gospel of John goes International

The Gospel of John has been out for months in the USA and Canada, indeed long before The Passion of the Christ. But the film remains pretty much unheard of in UK and elsewhere. This may now be about to change. According to an article in Variety, Global Cinema Group has now acquired international distribution rights. Full )short) article here (subscription):

Global to preach 'Gospel' to int'l markets
Plummer-narrated pic reunites Cineplex Odeon exex

Monday, May 17, 2004

SBL San Antonio Housing and Registration

Details on the Housing and Registration for this year's SBL Annual Meeting are now available:

SBL 2004 Annual Meeting

Review of Bibical Literature latest

Latest from SBL Review of Biblical Literature include:

Bailey, Kenneth E.
Jacob & the Prodigal: How Jesus Retold Israel's Story
Reviewed by David Reed

Bevere, Allen R.
Sharing in the Inheritance: Identity and the Moral Life in Colossians
Reviewed by Moyer Hubbard

Grant, Robert M.
Paul in the Roman World: The Conflict at Corinth
Reviewed by Moses Taiwo

Hock, Ronald F. and Edward N. O'Neil, eds.
The Chreia and Ancient Rhetoric: Classroom Exercises
Reviewed by Allen Kerkeslager

Kraftchick, Steven J.
Jude, 2 Peter
Reviewed by Thomas J. Kraus

Painter, John, R. Alan Culpepper and Fernando F. Segovia, eds.
Word, Theology, and Community in John
Reviewed by Steven A. Hunt

Pao, David W.
Acts and the Isaianic New Exodus
Reviewed by James P. Sweeney

Skarsaune, Oskar
In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity
Reviewed by Daniel E. Goodman

Fee, Gordon D.
To What End Exegesis?: Essays Textual, Exegetical, and Theological
Reviewed by Craig D. Bowman

Moore-Jumonville, Robert
The Hermeneutics of Historical Distance: Mapping the Terrain of American Biblical Criticism 1880-1914
Reviewed by Alan J. Hauser


Also on Bible Software Review Weblog, Rubén Gómez points to a blog I'd not run across before:


This is Tim Bulkeley's blog. You may know him form his fine Postmodern Bible Commentary on which I heard him give an excellent presentation at last year's SBL Annual Meeting in Atlanta, GA. And this gives me the opportunity to mention his article on the current SBL Forum:

Hypertext and Publication in Biblical Studies

Blogwatch: Bible Software Review on Macs and Accordance

It's good when a blog entry generates discussion elsewhere, whether in other blogs, through emails or in the blog comments feature. On this occasion one of the things under discussion is my ignorance alongside Mac users' passion -- and especially passion for Accordance. In discussing the recent Biblical Studies Bulletin 31, which contained a review of Accordance, I made some throw-away comments about Mac users' passion. The post has generated several comments here, but see also Rubén Gómez's remarks on Bible Software Review Weblog and the places he links to there. I've made a strong mental "note to self" for future reference: don't make ignorant remarks about Macs! I stand corrected. I am delighted to hear that one can right-click on a Mac, and I'll be telling my colleagues who do not have the relevant mouse to do this that they can get one. Anywyay, let me also repeat my earlier remark that I appreciate Rubén Gómez's informed and balanced comments.

Archbishop gets inside Mary Magdalene's mind

It is the tenth anniversary of the ordination of women. Yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury gave a sermon in which he gets inside the mind of Mary Magdalene. Ruth Gledhill excerpts the sermon on today's Times:

The lament of the Magdalene, a scorned woman in another time
Ruth Gledhill

But you can read the complete sermon on the Archbishop of Canterbury's web site:

Sermon to mark the 10th anniversary of the ordination of women
Sunday 16 May 2004
But it’s harder with the ones who know me better, the ones who knew him better. They remember who I was, they remember the seven devils. When they listen to me, they think, ‘Yes, she lived in a world of terror and fantasy and pain all those years, she’s had a life that’s been so damaged, you can’t really be surprised if she’s still only half in touch with normality.’

They’ll say that and mean it kindly, of course. It’s true; I lived with devils, I was being eaten alive from the inside for years. Normality? I don’t know what it means really. But which of us does? I think most people are being eaten alive most of the time, but they don’t notice it. I just didn’t have the defences, didn’t have the language or whatever. I just gave in, and let my mind fill up with strangers, with voices accusing me and screaming at me. Perhaps it’s what most people only know when they have nightmares, the feeling of being completely helpless, completely despised and hated. Only I had it all day and every day . . . .

Sunday, May 16, 2004

The New Testament: An Orthodox Perspective

This is another one sent in by Holger Szesnat:

Excerpts from the "The New Testament,An Orthodox Perspective"
Volume One: Scripture, Tradition, Hermeneutics
Theodore G. Stylianopoulos

Although it says "excerpts", it looks like the whole of Volume One.

This is on the Holy Trinity Orthodox School web site and it features lots more full-text material under "Textbooks", including:

Edgar J. Goodspeed, A History of Early Christian Literature

It is very useful to have this available on-line. The site does not give any indication of the full bibliographical details, unfortunately. It is worth adding that Peter Kirby has available on the Early Christian Writings web site another of Goodspeed's books:

Edgar J. Goodspeed, An Introduction to the New Testament (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1937)

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Journal of Theology for Southern Africa

Thanks to Holger Szesnat for this URL change:

Journal of Theology for Southern Africa

Now adjusted on the Journals page.

Cambridge post

The Tyndale House web site has details of a new post available in Cambridge:

Sir Kirby Laing Senior NT Lectureship (PDF file) Article Reproductions

Many thanks to Holger Szesnat for this extremely useful listing of full text articles available on Robert Bradshaw's web site:

M. L. Bailey, "Guidelines for Interpreting Jesus' Parables," Bibliotheca Sacra 155 (1988): 29-38

S. M. Baugh, "Cult Prostitution in New Testament Ephesus: A Reappraisal" Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 42(3) (1999): 443-460

W. S. Baxter, "Mosaic Imagery in the Gospel of Matthew", Trinity Journal 20(1)(1999): 69-83

F. F. Bruce, The Davidic Messiah in Luke-Acts. In: G A Tuttle (ed). Biblical and near Eastern Studies: Essays in Honor of William Sanford Lasor (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978): 7-17

J. D. Charles, "Engaging the (Neo)Pagan Mind: Paul's Encounter with Athenian Culture as a Model for Cultural Apologetics (Acts 17:16-34)"
Trinity Journal 16(1) (1995): 47-62

R. T. France, "Inerrancy and New Testament Exegesis", Themelios 1(1) (1975): 12-18

C. Gempf, "Pseudonymity and the New Testament" Themelios 17(2) (1992): 8-10

J. Goldingay, "The Old Testament and Christian Faith: Jesus and the
Old Testament in Matthew 1-5 Part 1"
, Themelios 8(1) (1982): 4-10

J. Goldingay, "The Old Testament and Christian Faith: Jesus and the
Old Testament in Matthew 1-5. Part 2
, Themelios 8(3) (1983): 5-12

W. Grudem, "The Meaning of Kephale ('Head'): An Evaluation of New
Evidence, Real and Alleged
. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 44(1) (2001): 25-65

A. J. Köstenberger, "Gender Passages in the Nt: Hermeneutical Fallacies Critiqued". Westminster Theological Journal 56(2) (1994): 259-283

M. J. Kruger, "The Authenticity of 2 Peter", Journal of the Evangelical
Theological Society
42(4) (1999): 645-671

R. N. Longenecker, "'Who Is the Prophet Talking About?' Some
Reflections on the New Testament's Use of the Old"
, Themelios 13(1) (1987): 4-8

B. M. Metzger, "English Translations of the Bible, Today and Tomorrow",
Bibliotheca Sacra 150 (1993): 397-415

B. M. Metzger, "Theories of the Translation Process", Bibliotheca Sacra 150 (1993): 140-150

B. M. Metzger, "Persistent Problems Confronting Bible Translators", Bibliotheca Sacra 150 (1993): 273-284

R. Nicole, "The Canon of the New Testament", Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40(2) (1997): 199-206

B. D. Smith, "The Chronology of the Last Supper", Westminster Theological Journal 53 (1991): 29-45

J. A. D. Weima, "The Pauline Letter Closings: Analysis and Hermeneutical Significance", Bulletin for Biblical Research 5 (1995): 177-198

Biblical Studies Bulletin 31

Grove Books' Biblical Studies Bulletin is a very useful occasional newsletter edited by Michael Thompson of Ridley Hall, Cambridge. The latest is now available on the web:

Biblical Studies Bulletin 31 (March 2004)

As usual, there is plenty of interest. It begins with the editor's review of The Passion of the Christ and I am happy to see that his viewpoint is quite similar to mine. The violence is graphic but not pornographic, the film is "not an attempt to portray 'what really happened,'" and the anti-Semitism charges are overstated:
For those who do not share Gibson's particular tradition, this well-acted film still has much to offer, and I am very glad that I saw it. The crucifixion did not move me as much as Peter's denial, the scourging, and a scene when Jesus stumbles and Mary in a flashback remembers running to rescue him when he was a child. Satan is present as tempter in Gethsemane at the start, and his repeated appearances effectively emphasize the constant temptation Christ endured of seeking a way of escape.

No one can see this film without being reminded that our redemption was costly and painful. If I were an incumbent, I'm not sure I would take my congregation to view The Passion, but it deserves to be seen. I would certainly plan an adult education programme to help people reflect on what it does and does not tell us about the death of Jesus. His crucifixion is a fact of history; rather than playing a game of distraction with side issues about the film, Christians have been given a brilliant opportunity to discuss the meaning of that fact.
The editor also has a software review of Accordance 6, which he obviously likes:
What makes it so good? Simplicity of use, intuitive controls and layout, powerful and sophisticated search criteria, speed, quality and range of available modules (far too many to begin to list here), easy import and export of data in a variety of formats, excellent online help, and a responsive development team immediately come to mind . . . .

. . . . . Full details can be found at the Accordance website ( The good news for PC owners is that a free Mac emulator is available to enable them to join the Accordance party ( But there's a better way: simply get a Mac and say goodbye to computer worms and viruses!
And say goodbye to a few other things too, like right-clicking your mouse! I am one of those who is always a little taken aback by the sheer passion some have for Accordance and the Mac. I can't say that I am convinced that Accordance is so obviously superior to the Gramcord PC alternative. When we bought Gramcord for Windows for use here in Birmingham, I wondered whether it would be preferable instead to purchase Accordance and get an emulator to run it, but it was not clear to me that this represented any substantial advantage over Gramcord for Windows. I feel a bit like an unbeliever looking in when I hear the Mac devotees celebrating the wonder of Accordance. It is probably something we PC users simply will never understand unless we convert. And let's face it, that's not going to happen.

BSB 31 also has a useful computer corner, in which Mike Thompson is kind enough to mention this blog. He also draws attention to Paleojudaica and Hypotyposeis. There are a couple of other links that look very useful but require some more exploration:

Dr Constable's Bible Study Notes and Commentary


Bible Research
By Michael Marlowe

I know that I have visited this latter site before, but I fear that I've never listed it or blogged about it and it clearly is a particularly useful site. Constable's site is essentially hundreds of pages of commentary on the Bible in PDF files from a conservative perspective.

Update (23.56): in Bible Software Review Weblog, Rubén Gómez makes some sensible and balanced remarks about Accordance and Macs. I bow to Rubén's superior knowledge here; I just get a bit taken aback by the passion that the Accordance supporters like the review references above exhibit, especially when the old chesnut of "Get a Mac and you can run Accordance and do without viruses" comes out.

Review of Goldberg, The Curse of Ham

This week's Church Times has the following review:

David M. Goldberg, The Curse of Ham: Race and slavery in early Judaism, Christianity and Islam [sic; it's actually Goldenberg]
Review by Revd Dr Pridmore
The premiss of the view that the infamous curse of Ham is a curse on all black people is the claim that Ham himself was black. The name "Ham", it is argued, means both "black" and "hot"; so the curse applies to black people from hot places like Africa. But this etymological connection cannot be sustained, and the claim is wholly spurious.

To appreciate the full weight of Goldenberg’s argument at this point requires a familiarity with Proto-Semitic linguistics — and, in particular, with the distinction between velar fricatives and pharyngeal fricatives — which this reviewer admits he lacks. One must defer to the specialists, but such is the clarity and cogency of the mainstream of Goldenberg’s discussion that there is every reason to trust his treatment of technicalities.

In fact, for so massively erudite a work this book is remarkable accessible. Goldenberg is sufficiently persuaded of the importance of the case he is making — that the Bible does not measure people’s worth by the colour of their skin — not to encumber the main body of his book with the kind of extended academic argument in whose thickets most readers would soon be lost.

Jesus Box Documentary on Radio 4

On Wednesday coming, BBC Radio 4 are broadcasting a documentary about the James ossuary. I talked to the producer about this a few weeks ago, just before she was about to go to Jerusalem in connection with this, and it sounds like it is going to be a really interesting documentary (in spite of the reference to a "limestone coffin" in the blurb below):

The Jesus Box
BBC Radio 4
Wed 19 May, 11:00 - 11:30 30 mins
In September 2002, archaeologists stumbled across what's been described as the biggest biblical find since the Dead Sea scrolls. A limestone coffin with the words 'James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus' was found in Jerusalem. But what's the meaning of this extraordinary discovery? An elaborate fake or the oldest archaeological link to Jesus?

Biblical archaeologist Jerome Murphy O'Connor picks through the evidence in a journey that takes him from the Wailing Wall to the archaeological bowels of the Sorbonne and asks whether we really are one step closer to proving that Jesus of Nazareth existed.
For readers outside the U.K., it should be available to listen to in the on-line archive after the broadcast. I'll post a link here.

Passion of the Christ DVD release

The Passion of the Christ is to be released on DVD and VHS in the USA on 31 August this year; no news yet on other countries. Press release here on MovieWeb (but you can find it in several other places):

The Passion of the Christ to hit DVD on August 31st
The Passion Of The Christ DVD is presented with a maximum bit rate, 5.1 Dolby Digital and 5.1 DTS, offering viewers the highest quality picture and audio. The film, which was shot in Aramaic and Latin, is presented with English subtitles on VHS and English and Spanish subtitles on DVD. Priced to own, the DVD is available in Widescreen or Pan And Scan for $29.98 and the VHS is $24.98.

Beginning June 1 at the film's website -- -- information will be available regarding bulk orders and high-quality, visually stunning customized church sleeves and other downloads encouraging church ministry participation. Additionally, the site will feature trailers, film synopsis, cast biographies, and soundtrack background, among other information. For retailers from the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA), the DVD/VHS will be distributed through Zondervan, a leading international Christian communications company.
There are to be no extras except the 2 minute 45 second trailer. DVD Town reports the rumour that a "special edition" is in the works for Christmas / Easter release.

Update (17.19): the DVD release has an official page at Twentieth Century Fox Home Video available here:

The Passion of the Christ DVD and Video

Not much there yet but the announcement.

Gospel According to God

On the Biblical Studies e-list, Cynthia Edenburg mentions a new film directed by Assi Dayan called The Gospel According to God apparently released this week in Israel. There's nothing on IMDb about it, so I've had a look around elsewhere. The only material I can find is on this last Thursday:

A director plays God
By Goel Pinto
The movie is set in the middle of 2001. God, played by Dayan, and his son Jesus (Gil Kopatch), are sitting idle in heaven. In Dayan's view, heaven looks like a piece of Tel Avivian rooftop, just without the solar panels and water tanks. God, wearing a tattered robe that exposes a large cross, sits sloppily in front of a television set on which Vered David (Channel 1 news announcer) is shown reporting a war, alternately with Yaron Pe'er (from the shopping channel) tempting viewers to buy house slippers.

An emissary (Zion Baruch, a member of the Ma Kashur trio) appears on the roof and hands God a letter reminding him that on January 1, 2002 he has to send his son to Earth in order to redeem mankind.

To this end four characters come to Jesus' aid: Luke (Roberto Pollack) teaches him about his personal history and explains where and how the renewed redemption will take place; Torquemada (Golan Azulai), a homosexual who headed the Spanish Inquisition, teaches Jesus how to withstand suffering; Joan of Arc (Dana Parnas) teaches him love; and Mother Theresa (Erica Knoller) teaches him how to speak in front of a crowd.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Life of Brian on Hollywood Jesus

David Bruce's Hollywood Jesus web site has a new page available to celebrate the re-release of Life of Brian and it includes a review by Jenn Wright:

Monty Python's Life of Brian (2004)

See also Mike Gunn, on the related web site hosted on Hollywood Jesus called After Eden, for some extraordinary stories about Life of Brian:

Of Peace and Cheese
A Journal Entry for May, 2004
I first discovered the insidious plot to prevent a new generation of American audiences from seeing this movie -- while I was vacationing a couple of weeks ago in Florida. When I tried to rent Life of Brian in an unassuming retirement community video store, they didn’t have it. As the clerk explained, “Every time we try to carry the movie, someone steals it!” There’s no crime in that community! I didn’t see one cop for 9 days; but they can’t keep a copy of this movie in their video store? We can no doubt thank a community of fundamentalists doing their part for the “Kingdom of God.”

Life of Brian on Fresh Air

Thanks to Jim West for the notice that Fresh Air have a feature on Life of Brian. Details are available here:

Fresh Air: Life of Brian

You can listen to the programme from that link and also hear some archive interviews, Graham Chapman from 2 July 1987, John Cleese from 22 September 1990, Michael Palin from 17 April 1990 and Eric Idle from 6 October 1999.

TC-List and Textual Criticism

Wieland Willker sends over a reminder that he has set up a new e-list on Textual Criticism on Yahoo!Groups:

Textual Criticism

His hope is that this will simply be a temporary group while TC-List is on hiatus. Both Jim Davila and Jim West have also posted notices of the new list.

I wonder if TC-List has gone for good? The last that was heard of it was this message from Jimmy Adair, the coordinator, on 26 February this year:
When the tc-list started in 1995, we used free software called majordomo to run the list. After a few years, we switched to a Web-based program called Lyris. One of my previous employers purchased the software so that they could host other lists, and the tc-list piggybacked on their license. Since the founding of the Religion and Technology Center (RelTech) in 2001, we have been using the same software, but two factors are affecting current performance: (1) the total capacity for the lists hosted on the site is supposed to be 500, and we're right at--or over--that limit; (2) the version we're running is so old that it is no longer supported; we're running 4.0, and the current version is 7.8. It's apparent that we need to upgrade. Whether that will solve all the problems people experience on the list is questionable, but it can't hurt!

As some of you know, the tc-list is associated with TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, and both are hosted by RelTech and made available on our servers free of charge. I'm the director--and currently the only full-time employee--of RelTech, which is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation. In the past we've always funded upgrades, disk space, etc., ourselves, and I've done the majority of the maintenance work myself. I'm happy for RelTech to continue hosting the list as in the past. However, at the moment RelTech doesn't have the money to pay for an upgrade to the new software, so I have a proposal for the members of the list. The cost of the upgrade is $350, and I think that members of the list can raise this amount without any problem. I will donate a small amount myself, and I invite others to do the same. If you want to donate, please send a check to the address given in my signature line, below. $10 or $20 from several people will add up quickly. All donations to RelTech are tax deductable, and I'll be glad to send everyone a receipt for tax purposes. If we raise more than $350, I'll use the extra to have a former colleague do the upgrade (he is the one who installed Lyris in the first place), and if there's any left over, I'll apply it to the Biblical Manuscripts Project (

Make checks payable to "Religion and Technology Center," and write "tc-list" in the memo field. Thanks for your help and your support of the tc-list!
I have written to Jimmy to ask if there is any further news about the list. It would be a shame if it has finally gone to ground since it is one of the oldest of the Biblical E-Lists on the net. Only b-greek, as far as far as I am aware, is older. I wonder whether anyone did stump up some cash to try to rescue it? My guess is that people would be generally unwilling given the free availability of either advertising based e-list software (like Yahoo!Groups) and university based majordomo software (like that we use for Synoptic-L). If I hear any more, I'll post here. In the mean time, it looks like Wieland's list is the place to go, with 77 members so far and counting.

Blog back soon

You can tell that I've been under massive pressure over work recently; it's not often that there are days at a time when I can't even grab a moment to blog. It will be back soon.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Blog email change

A reminder that from time to time I change the blog email to run away from spammers. I use the Bloglines facility to do this. I just mention it here lest you have put my blog email in your address book. Please don't do that because the old addresses go defunct. If you have my work email address in your address book, that's of course fine and still going.

Gospel of John Passion on-line

The American Bible Society has made available a lengthy segment of the Visual Bible's The Gospel of John on-line:

The Gospel of John: View the Video

It's a thirteen minute clip of part of the Passion Narrative in John, from about 19.13--20.17 (breaks off rather abruptly). You can view for broadband or dial-up; it is a very good quality clip, not quite DVD quality, but nof far off. The scene includes several features of interest that have been discussed here (e.g. here and here) Note in particular the way that Jesus' crucifixion is depicted, with nails through the wrists and through the ankles, in the style explicated by Joe Zias. And in relation to recent discussions about the titulus, you can see the full titulus here, in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, very clearly.

Something I noticed when looking at this clip is that the film provides an apparent explanation for Mary Magdalene thinking that Jesus was the gardener. It's because he is apparently doing some gardening!


I ran across this on Jim West's Biblical Studies web site:

für Hermeneutische Theologie e.V.
Sitz: Marburg/Lahn
Um die Beschäftigung mit dem Werk Rudolf Bultmanns und dem Programm einer Hermeneutischen Theologie zu fördern, wurde am 12. März 1998 die Rudolf-Bultmann-Gesellschaft für Hermeneutische Theologie gegründet. Als Sitz der Gesellschaft wurde Marburg/Lahn gewählt, wo Bultmann studierte und wo er von 1921 bis zu seinem Tode 1976 als akademischer Lehrer tätig war.
These pages give details of the society's annual conference, which takes place in March of each year, and provides a useful bibliography, available in PDF, HTML or Word.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Article about JBL

The SBL Forum this month has an article providing some information about the Journal of Biblical Literature:

Journal of Biblical Literature Today
Susan E. Haddox

It's an interesting insight into some of the behind-the-scenes issues, for example the review process:
Even articles clearly unsuitable for publication, often by amateur scholars, receive consideration. O'Day generally assigns these articles to Emory doctoral students, who benefit from learning how to respond to papers in a professional manner. The typical well-researched and organized article gets two reviews. If there is a split between the two about whether the article should be accepted, it is sent out for a third read. In this way, the weight of the decision rests with the reviewers, rather than with the individual editor. O'Day prefers this approach because it respects the peer-reviewed nature of the journal and scrupulously protects the double-blind review process, in which neither the reviewers nor the author knows the identity of the other.
There are also some interesting figures on the number of articles submitted and how these break down into different areas, the numbers of men / women / US / non-US etc.

Richard Kiley as Matthew and as Luke

Here's something I'd never noticed before. Richard Kiley, who plays the "old Matthew", the narrator of the Gospel, in the Visual Bible's Matthew (Reghardt van den Bergh, 1996), also voices "Luke" the narrator in Jesus (Krish and Sykes, 1979), my least favourite Jesus film.

Pagels answers Witherington on Thomas

The sixth and final intalment of the Scholarly Smackdown on beliefnet between Elaine Pagels and Ben Witherington III, "Did Paul Distort Christianity", has now been published:

Scholarly Smackdown Round 3: Elaine Pagels

Pagels's post is (at the very least) a useful summary of her thinking on The Gospel of Thomas, on which she clearly thinks that Ben Witherington III's thinking is out of date since she refers repeatedly and disparagingly to what they learned in graduate school, e.g. here:
A further indication that Thomas is not "Gnostic," by your own definition, is that it does use the Old Testament in a very positive way—just as the Gospel of John does. Both frame their views of the gospel with midrashic interpretations of Genesis 1. Recognizing this has led scholars far beyond what you learned as a graduate student from Bruce Metzger, and what I learned in graduate school. That's why those of us working in this field—including Birger Pearson—have come to recognize these texts not as "Gnostic"—whatever that fuzzy term meant—but as early Christian, and immersed, like all the early Christian sources we know, in the Hebrew Bible.
Final reflection on the two Beliefnet Scholarly Smackdowns: so far they are a useful but flawed experiment. What they have been good at has been giving the reader a flavour of each of the author's views. They are useful mini-articles. What they have been less good at has been the (unfortunately titled) "smackdown" of the title, which I am told is a wrestling analogy. There is precious little wrestling here! Because the scholars concerned (Crossan, Pagels and Witherington) have been encouraged to write relatively lengthy, self-contained emails, the actual critical engagement has been too limited. There has been too much talking past one another. If you want a good quality of interaction, I still think you have to go a long way to beat Xtalk at its best. It's not always at its best, of course, but when it is it's the most stimulating around.

Witherington reviews The Gospel of John

Christianity Today have today published a review of The Gospel of John by Ben Witherington III:

The Gospel, Literally
A Break-through film makes the Word visible.
Reviewed by Ben Witherington III

I think Witherington gets this about right, especially over Cusick's performance:
There is a warmth and passion to Cusick's portrayal that is winsome and captures your attention, drawing you in. When he tells his first followers, "Come and see," immediately you want to do so.
Witherington is clearly a bigger fan of Jesus of Nazareth than I am, though, and he compares elements of that film favourably with The Gospel of John. Like Adele Reinhartz [para. 6], Witherington comments on the film's inclusion of Mary Magdalene among the group following Jesus. Like me, he also draws attention to the fact that the film does not identify the woman taken adultery with Mary Magdalene, though I'm not sure that that identification is so much a "mistake" as an inevitable, if regrettable, piece of typical Jesus film harmonizing.

Minor comments: I'm pretty sure Zeffirelli is spelt with two "f"s and not one.

Review of Biblical Literature Latest

Latest reviews published on the SBL Review of Biblical Literature include:

Barrett, C. K.
On Paul: Essays on His Life, Work and Influence in the Early Church
Reviewed by Ian Scott

Bevere, Allen R.
Sharing in the Inheritance: Identity and the Moral Life in Colossians
Reviewed by Outi Leppa

Carson, D. A.
New Testament Commentary Survey, Fifth Edition
Reviewed by James P. Sweeney

Davis, Basil S.
Christ as Devotio: The Argument of Galatians 3:1-14
Reviewed by Ian Scott

Pao, David W.
Acts and the Isaianic New Exodus
Reviewed by Scott Spencer

Cruden of Concordance Fame

The first concordance of the Bible I bought, while still at school, was by Cruden. I was told the legend: he was a madman who channelled his madness into the production of the first ever concordance of the Bible. It turns out that the truth is even more interesting. A new book by Julia Keay looks at Alexander the Corrector and it has an enthusiastic review in The Independent:

Alexander the Corrector, by Julia Keay
Trials and triumph of a pedant in Bedlam
By Jonathan Sale
In this excellent biography, Julia Keay tells the extraordinary story of the Scottish scholar who, on the point of being ordained, was incarcerated on grounds of insanity. Cruden's reputation for madness survives in, for example, his entry in my copy of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. However, Keay presents evidence that he was not mad, but put away by a powerful Aberdeen family to silence him. He had discovered that a girl whom he was unsuccessfully courting was pregnant by her own brother. Later, the incestuous lady set herself up as the "wife" of another brother.

John Barton reviews K. A. Kitchen

Also in this week's Church Times:

K. A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003)
Review by John Barton
He is, in general, sceptical of all readings of the Bible based on an analysis of its literary character, seeing it instead as a huge repository of facts. I am sure he is right to think that the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of historical scepticism. But the solution cannot be to go back before critical intelligence was applied to scripture.

Review of Lapham on the NT Apocrypha

There's a lively review in the most recent Church Times of the following:

Fred Lapham, An Introduction to the New Testament Apocrypha (London & New York: T & T Clark, 2003)
Review by Leslie Houlden
But in one case the editor’s campaign has already had a resounding victory, in every school and church in the land. Sydney Carter’s hymn “The Lord of the Dance” had its origin in the Acts of John, from the mid-second century, where Jesus is depicted, just before his Passion, standing in the midst of his disciples and bidding them join hands and dance with him.

Now, none of the canonical writers thought of that, did they; and is it not wonderful?
Yes; and I didn't know that.

Bibliography on Gospel Synopses and Harmonies

Lorin Cranford has the following useful resource:

Bibliography on Gospel Synopses and Harmonies

Acts-L materials

I recently asked about the whereabouts of the Acts-L older materials. Thanks to Mike Parsons for following this up. They are now located here:

Acts-L WWW Page

I've made the updates on my E-Lists and related pages.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

How to be an historical consultant: Robin Lane Fox

I've often talked here about the role played by historical consultants in films and documentaries (and I have written a little about my limited experience of the latter). In RogueClassicism David Meadows draws attention to the following delightful piece in today's Times:

Into battle with Alexander
Oliver Stone is turning the deeds of Alexander the Great into a sword and sandals epic. Historian Robin Lane Fox agreed to advise on period detail — just as long as he could lead the cavalry
Big movies are notorious for trampling on history; I have just given the year’s biggest movie the chance of trampling on a historian. In November, Oliver Stone’s film about Alexander the Great will burst on the world. I have been the film’s historical adviser and in September last year I galloped on my stallion across the Moroccan desert at the head of Oliver’s cavalry charge. We were filming the battle of Gaugamela, Alexander’s greatest victory over the Persians . . . . .

. . . . . My colleagues told me that for historians, Stone was supposed to be like Satan, perhaps because they had seen his film of Nixon and I had not. Like the poet John Milton, I have to say I quickly became very fond of Satan. Anyway, the claim that Stone has no historical sense is completely untrue.

I was stretched, as he was, by constant consultations which were concerned to do as much justice as possible to the little evidence which we have . . . .
The full story is apparently to be told in a documentary this week:

Charging for Alexander
BBC Four, Tuesday, 8.30pm.
Historian Robin Lane Fox is one of the world's leading experts on Alexander the Great. His advice has been sought by some of Hollywood's biggest filmmakers as they've looked to bring the life of history's greatest military commander to the big screen.

Now Oliver Stone has succeeded where other directors have failed, with his film Alexander, set to reach cinemas later this year with Colin Farrell in the title role. Naturally, Stone turned to Lane Fox to help him get the film's historical details right, and Lane Fox agreed, on one condition. He wanted Stone to help him fulfil a lifetime ambition: to ride with the Macedonian cavalry.

Charging for Alexander follows the eccentric don from his Oxford home to the film's Moroccan desert set, where he dresses in period armour and encounters a sceptical crew, a foul-mouthed leading man, and a director who insists on making up historically inaccurate names for his soldiers. The experience marks a bizarre change from Lane Fox's usual life as a teacher, but will he make the final cut?
Definitely on the one to watch list.

Peter and Paul and Jesus film trivia

Following on from my previous blog entry, the IMDb entry for Kenneth Colley, who plays Jesus in the opening (post-credit) sequence in Life of Brian, lists him as an actor in another New Testament related film after Life of Brian, the TVM Peter and Paul. I can recall seeing this on television over twenty years ago and particularly remember Anthony Hopkins's Paul shouting at Peter at the Antioch incident, "You are like a reed!" I have wanted to get hold of a copy of this for some time, and it seems that it is now available on video, in the USA at least, so that's a must. While looking at the IMDb on Peter and Paul, I noticed that it features José Ferrer (1909-92) as Gamaliel. He played an excellent Herod Antipas in The Greatest Story Ever Told. In fact, the cast of Peter and Paul looks remarkable -- Raymond Burr as Herod Agrippa, Herbert Lom as Barnabas. I am looking forward to seeing it again.

Second Coming of Brian

Good to see reference to the twenty-fifth anniversary release of Life of Brian on Paleojudaica; this is from the Houston Chronicle

'Passion' gives 'Life of Brian' something to celebrate
The Orlando Sentinel
Pythoner Eric Idle suggested Jesus Christ, Lust for Glory, playing off the British title of Patton: Lust For Glory, Jones recalls.

"The more we worked on it, the more interesting and outrageous it became. We reread the Gospels, changed the story to Brian, a contemporary of Jesus. We realized, very quickly, that the real humor lay not in what Christ said, but in the fact that 2,000 years after Christ, you've got everybody still killing each other because we can't get together on how we should worship and accept his message of peace and love."

In other words, people were misunderstanding the message of Jesus, right from the start. "Blessed are the cheesemakers," one character thinks he hears Jesus say off in the distance during the Sermon on the Mount.

Python and future Brazil director Terry Gilliam did the exceptional biblical production design, "but we lucked out in shooting in Monastir, Tunisia, the same place Franco Zeffirelli made Jesus of Nazareth," Jones says. "A lot of the same sets were still there. Just had to dress them up a bit.

"Of course, it also meant that you could be shooting your version of the Sermon on the Mount, and some elderly Tunisian extra would say, 'Well, that's not the way Zeffirelli did it.'"
I've heard this before, but I love that story. One thing I like to point out when showing students the Sermon on the Mount scene from Life fo Brian is that the Pythons also clearly chose an actor who looked like Robert Powell's Jesus to play Jesus in that opening scene, the only time Jesus appears in the film. The actor is a certain Kenneth Colley, about whom IMDb gives us this trivia, "The only actor to play an Imperial officer in more than one Star Wars film (not including extras)."

Highway of Holiness

An article on Christian History and Biography discusses "divine purpose" in current popular culture:

The Lord of the Rings, The Passion of the Christ, and the Highway of Holiness
Has God been "re-routing" us through popular movies, books, and cultural events?
By Chris Armstrong
One recent cultural event has come not so much as a push, but as a dynamite blast, helping to clear from the highway's on-ramps a huge, craggy stone of falsehood. This "blast" is Mel Gibson's portrayal of the Passion of Jesus. Not without flaw, this movie nonetheless serves the church in the best possible way: it reminds us that the common portrayal of Jesus as a Nice Man with a moralistic message is a hollow fiction. The Nice-Man Jesus crumbles before the truth of who he actually was and what he did for us. Gibson has dealt a strong blow to the complacency of quasi-Christian moralism, clearing the way to the atonement Christ provided through his sacrifice.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Harry Hahne homepage

I have added the following new entry to the NTGateway Scholars: H page:

Harry A. Hahne

Hahne is at Golden Gate Seminary in the USA. It's a homepage with lots of information including full-text articles on Biblical Studies and Computer-Assisted Bible Research.

Scholarly Writing as Adventure

One of the new essays on May's SBL Forum is:

Cheryl A. Kirk-Duggan, "A Brewing Thought, a Spot of Tea: Scholarly Writing as Adventure"
This essay considers some of my rubrics of writing in general, and writing a thesis/dissertation in particular, as a creative, fulfilling adventure.
It's a lively and enjoyable piece and ideal for you if you are struggling with writing a dissertation at the moment. The author explains her metaphorical strategy for avoiding writer's block and for enjoying the creative experience of writing. I have one query about the beginning point of the essay, though:
Writing tends to be the bane of existence for many teachers and students in higher education. Put simply, writing is often a necessary, but neither a sufficient nor a satisfying burden.
Is this so? I must admit that writing is pretty much my favourite part of the job; I just wish I could find more time to do it -- that's where my burden lies and I guess that that's the same for many colleagues. Would that we had the more time to indulge in the adventure that Kirk-Duggan describes!

English Reader's Synopsis

I commented yesterday on Zeba Crook's homepage. I would now like to draw attention to this element on his homepage:

An English Reader's Synopsis

This is an introduction to a project on which Crook has been working for some years. There are several examples in the PDF file to which the above page links. Crook is attempting a major English language Synopsis in which the use of a "source language translation" (i.e. literal, non-idiomatic) will help the reader to see as many of the actual agreements in the Greek as possible, agreements that are sometimes obscured in "target language translation" Synopses like Throckmorton's Gospel Parallels. Stephen Carlson makes some useful comments on this in Hypotyposeis and asks about the target audience for the proposal. I would say that there is a potential market at least among the growing number of undergraduate Theology students in the UK who do not do Greek. Greek went optional on the Theology BA Honours in 1995 here in Birmingham and most, if not all, other British Universities are the same. When I was in Oxford, Greek was still compulsory for Single Honours Theology BA students but I understand that this is the case no longer. But the students without Greek still want to do courses on Jesus and the Gospels and it will be useful to be able to push them towards a resource like the one proposed by Crook. When I am teaching New Testament courses to our undergraduates, I make use of my own simple English language Synopses, some of which I have made available on-line (I have a lot more, so perhaps I ought to think about making those more broadly available too). We have now moved Greek Synopsis work into the Level 2-3 Greek New Testament courses.

There may be sufficient interest for an English language Synopsis like the one Crook is proposing for a more general audience, but I don't know.

Some further comments on the proposal:

(1) Its essential ethos is right. I recall E. P. Sanders complaining that the Funk Synopsis matches up parallels in the RSV that are not actually present in the Greek. I have not checked up the Funk Synopsis to see if that is right or not. See Robert Walter Funk, New Gospel Parallels: Volume One, The Synoptic Gospels (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985). Even that is not true, the comment points up the potential danger with using "target language translation".

(2) Crook explains that "Each gospel is presented in its own order, indicated when the gospel name and passages appear in bold lettering". This sounds like a good idea for combatting the big problem over how to order a Synopsis. For English-only readers, one should probably be especially conscious of the difficulties they might have in finding parallels and anything that facilitates their easy handling of them should be encouraged. If I understand Crook's proposal correctly, pericopae will be repeated in that particular Gospel's relevant order where that Gospels is out of sync with one or both of the others.

(3) I am fully behind the importance of teaching textual criticism to users of the Synopsis. I wonder, though, if the textual apparatus provided is a bit too detailed for an English language only reader. I am not sure if the target audience is conceptualised clearly here. The list of witnesses in the selected cases where textual apparatus is provided is too terse and focussed for non-Greek readers. I would have thought that something that explains the most important variations is required or the student will ignore it.

(4) My major qualm about the proposal is the use of the reconstructed text of Q in the Synopsis. On one level, this is a useful and interesting way of showing students where the IQP's Reconstructed Q comes from, i.e. from Synoptic comparison between Matthew and Luke. But my concern is that the use of Q limits the usefulness of the Synopsis in a fundamental way by foreclosing one of the key issues in Synoptic Problem research, which is the very reason for looking at a Synopsis. Instead of acting as a tool for students to investigate and test the Q hypothesis, the actual printing of the reconstructed text of Q inevitably gives Q a tangibility, a concrete presence, that makes it harder to encourage students to test the hypothesis. In my experience of teaching the Synoptic Problem, many students have difficulty grasping the Q hypothesis -- it takes a lot of patient explanation -- and they are quickly put off if they hear about its chapter and verse numbers, its reconstructed text and so on. In fact I tend to avoid talking about the properties of reconstructed Q in introductory lectures because it unduly biases the students against the Q hypothesis. I want them to understand the hypothesis and to judge it as fairly as possible and not to be biased against it by leaping ahead too quickly to reconstructed Q. This may just be my experience; it may just be Birmingham students! But I know that I would find it tough to introduce a Gospel Synopsis to undergraduate students that features the text of Q, with verse numbers and the like. I am afraid that many of them would simply refuse to take it seriously, for all my attempts to defend it.

(5) There is a related practical issue. The introduction of Q turns the three-column Synopsis into a four column Synopsis (and more when Thomas and John come in too). I think this is potentially problematic on two fronts. First, it reduces the simplicity of the presentation, thinning out the columns and crowding the page. This is a shame in a Synopsis that is designed to appeal to undergraduate students. Second, it radically alters the opportunity to colour the Synopsis. In my own view, it is greatly fortuitous that there are three Synoptic Gospels and three primary colours and that the combinations between them make colouring both intuitive and fun (see previous blog entry and discussion in my The Synoptic Problem). I'm not sure how one would encourage students to colour a four-column Synopsis. Would one leave Q white? Would one colour in-line with the colouring of Matthew and Luke so that one could see how the wording of Q had been reconstructed? Either way, it seems to me that the problem is that one weakens the gift we have been given of three Synoptic Gospels.

(6) A related problem is that I would find it less straightforward to use a Synopsis like this in teaching the Synoptic Problem. Pure triple tradition is still in three columns, so one has the link there between triple and three columns. But the pure double tradition is in three columns, Matthew, Q and Luke, and so it's less straightforward to explain these "triple" and "double" tradition terms. This might sound like an overly simple point but I reckon that it is a very useful way to begin the discussion of the Synoptic Problem and to go from triple tradition and double tradition to possible explanations of these.

My critical comments should not detract from the fact that, to repeat, I think this a very interesting proposal with some real merit.

Update (3 December 2004): Zeba Crook has uploaded a new version of the proposal here:

English Reader's Synopsis