Tuesday, August 31, 2004

!Hero DVD Release

My DVD of the !Hero Rock Opera arrived today. I've blogged about this on various occasions in the past (New Rock Opera on Jesus, !Hero Web Site, !Hero Rock Opera, !Hero Worship, and Real Mary Magdalene). The soundtrack, written by Eddie DeGarmo, is pretty enjoyable, far preferable to Godspell but not quite reaching the heights of Jesus Christ Superstar. The DVD release is of the live stage show, but has bags of extras too (a 2-disc set). I hope I get a chance to watch it soon and will comment here when I have. Anyway, here are the details:

!HERO: The Rock Opera

Happily, I don't have to repeat my previous complaint about the price of international shipping. I got my copy for less than $30, including free shipping the UK, which at the current exchange rate is pretty good. The DVDs are all autographed, apparently, if one buys from the !Hero web site. Mine has the single word "Mark" in silver pen, presumably Mark Stuart (Petrov). As far as I can tell, the DVD is only available from that site at the moment.

I haven't yet seen any proper reviews of this DVD, which I think came out in mid-July, but there are several reviews of the CD which was released earlier in the year, e.g. this one on Christianity Today, but I think it's better than he does:

Various Artists
!Hero: The Rock Opera (Meaux Music)
by Andree Farias

Jeffers, Greco-Roman World of the New Testament

On Ancient / Classical History, N. S. Gill adds a short review of James S. Jeffers, The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era - Exploring the Background of Early Christianity. I must admit that it is not a book I had come across before. She reviews it quite favourably:

The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament

Cave of John the Baptist latest

On RogueClassicism, David Meadows posts (with permission) the complete email messages to the ANE-List from James Tabor and Shimon Gibson on the cave of John the Baptist (for previous entries here, see Cave of John the Baptist (updated) and More on the John the Baptist Cave):

James Tabor on Shimon Gibson

David Meadows also notes the following feature on Weekend Edition from last Sunday, which includes an interview with Gibson:

The Search for John the Baptist's Ritual Cave
Shimon Gibson, a biblical archeologist, believes he has found a cave outside of Jerusalem, where John the Baptist might have performed his baptisms. Other archeologists aren't so sure. NPR's Julie McCarthy reports.
Meanwhile on Paleojudaica, Jim Davila blogs this link from the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

Archeology: News from the Field

This is particularly good for some photographs by Shimon Gibson.

Update (1 September): On Paleojudaica, Jim Davila notes that there is now a transcript of the above NPR programme featuring Shimon Gibson, James Tabor and others:

Profile: Shimon Gibson's Belief That He Has Found The Site Where John The Baptist Might Have Performed His Baptisms
All Things Considered: August 30, 2004

Jesus and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ

Today is the release date for the DVD of The Passion of the Christ; I had an email from Amazon yesterday to say that mine is on the way. You'd have thought that Fox Home Entertainment would send me a free one with all the publicity I give it! Anyway, they don't need my help since it's currently ranked number 1 at Amazon.com. But what I do want to publicise a bit, partly because Continuum have asked me to do so, and partly because I have been involved with it in a small way, is the following new book:

Jesus and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ Jesus and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ

The Film, the Gospels and the Claims of History

Edited by Kathleen E. Corley and Robert L. Webb

Continuum International Publishing
August 31 2004 ISBN: 082647781X $17.95 £ 9.99

The link above takes you to a web page hosted here which gives a cover illustration, blurb, contents list and hyperlinked footnotes. The latter was my suggestion to the editors given the large number of lengthy URLs given in the footnotes to the essays, several of which wouuld be almost impossible to type accurately. The book is released today to coincide with the DVD release. Amazon have it for $12.57 and Amazon.co.uk for £6.99. I must admit that I have not yet read all of the book -- only my own and one other essay; I'll make some comments on the rest when I have received my copy (I haven't yet).

Update (20.26): I've made some adjustments to the Contents listing and Notes on the Jesus and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ page, with thanks to Robert Webb for the information.

Review of Bibical Literature latest

I'm just back from bank holiday break and hope to find some time somewhere to blog some items of interest before heading off for the British New Testament Conference on Thursday. Here are the latest additions to the SBL Review of Biblical Literature under the New Testament heading:

Barr, David L.
Reading the Book of Revelation: A Resource for Students
Reviewed by Mark Bredin

Garland, David E.
1 Corinthians
Reviewed by Garwood Anderson

Haacker, Klaus
The Theology of Paul's Letter to the Romans
Reviewed by Daniel Kirk

Lohse, Eduard
Der Brief an die Römer
Reviewed by Marco Frenschkowski

Resseguie, James L.
Spiritual Landscape: Images of the Spiritual Life in the Gospel of Luke
Reviewed by Ronald R. Clark

Winter, Bruce W.
Roman Wives, Roman Widows: The Appearance of New Women and the Pauline Communities
Reviewed by Jennifer Knust

Friday, August 27, 2004

Aramaic gets boost from Hollywood

A short piece that may be of interest from this week's Church Times:

Aramaic gets boost from Hollywood
By Bill Bowder
THE USE of Aramaic in Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ has led to a surge of interest in the language, which was spoken by Jesus and his disciples.

The Metropolitan of the Chaldean Syrian Church of the East (the Syriac Church) in India, Dr Mar Aprem, has offered a beginners’ course in his diocese of Trichur in response to the sudden enthusiasm for the ancient language . . .

. . . . Mar Aprem’s enthusiasm for Mel Gibson’s film developed when he went with some of his clergy to see the film in Easter Week, the first time he had been to a cinema in 50 years, he said on Monday.

"The film has done good. They see how much Jesus suffered," he said. "After the film, people wanted to know more. I have asked two of my clergy to conduct a beginners’ course in Aramaic at the ecumenical research institute in Trichur. When I get back, I will also offer a master-class in Aramaic for those who have already been studying it."
And have a look at the cartoon.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Passion of the Christ DVD Release

Some thoughts on the forthcoming Passion of the Christ DVD release, which must be selling at an extraordinary rate since it's already at number 2 in Amazon.com's list. This review at DVD Answers is by Richard Schuchardt and it includes some very favourable comments on the technical side, though it also wonders about the release having no extra features:

The Passion of the Christ
The Passion of the Christ is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and there is very little more to say on the subject. Simply put, this transfer is outstanding and had no flaws that I noticed. The image is full of detail and brings the haunting death of Christ to the screen with amazing accuracy. Colours are true and vivid while the blacks were solid. I did notice a little bit of grain during some of the darker scenes but the grain levels never proved to be distracting. Due to the lack of extras this transfer doesn't suffer from compression artefacts, and edge enhancements were nowhere to be seen. Overall this is a top class transfer which no doubt benefits from the decision to keep this release free of extras. In some ways this transfer is what you would expect from a Superbits title . . . .

. . . . It is becoming a rarity these days for high profile DVD releases to be barebones releases. More often than not most titles are released as two disc packages, so it was a big surprise when MGM announced that The Passion of the Christ was being released with no extras. The reason for this is still not clear, but it has been suggested that Mel wanted this release to focus on the movie only. As can be seen below the transfer and soundtracks benefit from the additional space. The more cynical among you will say that this release is a money making exercise in preparation for the expected special edition release next year. Either way, this release comes with no extras and only time will tell if we are to see a special edition release.
An article in USA Today looks at the attempts to cash-in on the release:

A 'Passion' for title tie-ins
By Thomas K. Arnold

I am a bit puzzled by this article's announcement of a DVD release for The Greatest Story Ever Told, though, since there was a major DVD release for this back in 2001 in a restored version with special features. I had a look to see if I could find anything on this new release on the web and I cannot, though I did come across an interesting piece on the release of that restored version over three years ago:

Restoring The Greatest Story Ever Told
Millimeter, March 1, 2001

BMCR Review of MacDonald on Homer and Acts

On b-greek, Maurice A. O'Sullivan notes the following review in Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2004.08.13:

Dennis R. MacDonald, Does the New Testament Imitate Homer? Four Cases from the Acts of the Apostles (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003)
Review by Manfred Lang

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Review of Bibical Literature latest

These are the latest additions to the SBL Review of Biblical Literature under the New Testament heading:

Balch, David L. and Carolyn Osiek, eds.
Early Christian Families in Context: An Interdisciplinary Dialogue
Reviewed by Timothy Gombis

Balch, David L. and Carolyn Osiek, eds.
Early Christian Families in Context: An Interdisciplinary Dialogue
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

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

Best, Ernest
Ephesians: A Shorter Commentary
Reviewed by Timothy Gombis

Gillman, Florence Morgan
Herodias: At Home in That Fox's Den
Reviewed by Eric Noffke

Matthews, Shelly, Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre, and Cynthia Briggs Kittredge,
Walk in the Ways of Wisdom: Essays in Honor of Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza
Reviewed by Donna Wallace

Roetzel, Calvin J.
Paul: A Jew on the Margins
Reviewed by Fred Rich

van Aarde, Andries
Fatherless in Galilee: Jesus as Child of God
Reviewed by Alicia Batten

Herod the Great @ Ancient / Classical History

In her Ancient / Classical History blog, N. S. Gill flags up this useful entry of hers on Herod the Great:

Herod the Great (73-4 B.C.)

James Ossuary Update @ Hypotyposeis

Don't miss Stephen Carlson's comments on the latest updates on the James Ossuary in Biblical Archaeological Review, in particular his drawing attention to the report of a lecture by Oded Golan:
There is one interesting fact that came out of Golan's remarks: I learned that Golan's mother was "a professor of microbiology in Rehovot." This fact, however, makes his story somewhat more difficult to believe that his mother was responsible for accidentally depositing the fake patina when cleaning the ossuary. What scientist goes around a son's antiquities collection destroying evidence?
Good point. It is perhaps worth adding that the Updates on the James Ossuary (and other controversial finds) is the one section of BAR that is still available on-line:

Update -- Finds or Fakes?

Marketing of The Passion of the Christ DVD

Thanks to David Mackinder for a link to the following story in today's New York Times today:

Pitching 'The Passion' DVD to Faithful Flocks
Orders for DVD's and videos are 20 percent ahead of projections, Fox executives said. Other Hollywood executives said that Fox might be shipping more than 15 million copies to retailers, a volume indicating that the studio believes the film could become one of the few R-rated movies to join the ranks of the 10 top-selling DVD's.

"It's kind of an eclectic piece people will want in their collections," said Judith McCourt, director of research at Video Store Magazine, which tracks home-video sales. "This is going to be, in some vein, as popular a movie as 'Finding Nemo,' which had long sales legs. We are going to see that kind of selling power."
It has reminded me to order my own copy. I've gone for Amazon.co.uk since the NT Gateway can take a small percentage of the order (to pay for the domain name and server).

On a related topic, I received my copy of Perspectives on the Passion of the Christ yesterday (see blog entry on). I'll post comments in due course, once I've caught up with correspondence, but so far I'm pretty disappointed -- there are repeated generalized surveys on the Gospel Passion narratives and the history of Christian anti-Semitism and so far, at least, no in depth critical engagement with the film at all.

Monday, August 23, 2004

BNTC Seminar Programme

The full seminar programme for this year's British New Testament Conference in Edinburgh is now available on-line:

British New Testament Conference 2004 Seminar Programme

Update (16.20): Several papers are available on-line temporarily for delegates to download, currently in the Acts and Hermeneutics seminars, and in Jesus one of particular interest to me, Michael Goulder's Response to N. T. Wright on the Resurrection.

Walter Schmithals on The Passion

On Biblical Theology Jim West refers to a piece on The Passion of the Christ by Walter Schmithals. It is from Die Zeit and dates back to March, but I missed it at the time:

Gewaltverherrlichung ist der Bibel fremd
Den Evangelisten ging es nicht um Jesu Qualen, sondern darum, dass er für die Sünden der Menschen gestorben ist. Davon weiß Mel Gibsons Film „Die Passion Christi“ nichts
Von Walter Schmithals

The article consists primarily of working through the Gospel Passion Narratives and contrasting their approach with Gibson's. His essential complaint is that Gibson's film dwells so much on the blood and the agony of Jesus' crucifixion that it does not have time to invest in the theological, christological and soteriological meaning of Jesus' death that is the key concern of the New Testament writers:
Aber bei allen diesen unterschiedlichen Erzählstrategien der Evangelisten spielt die besondere Qual des Leidens und Sterbens Jesu am Kreuz ersichtlich keine Rolle. Da die Kreuzesstrafe häufig verhängt und immer öffentlich vollzogen wurde, setzen die Evangelisten bei ihren Lesern mit Recht eine Kenntnis des Strafvollzuges voraus und sehen davon ab, diesem Umstand besondere Aufmerksamkeit zu widmen.

Diese Dezenz geht dem Film von Mel Gibson ab. Er folgt zwar der biblischen Darstellung, aber er ist nicht biblisch.
But I think Schmithals is missing a couple of important points. First, it is arguable that the evangelists do not need to dwell on the blood and the gore in the way that the contemporary does because the very words "they crucified Jesus" conjur up a wealth of appalling images to the ancient mind in the way that they do not for us. Our problem is that we have no acquaintance with the horror of crucifixion. Read in this light, I cannot help be struck by the horrible, eery silence of Jesus during most of Mark's crucifixion narrative (a theme I hope to develop a bit further in a paper I am preparing for the Mark Group at this year's SBL Annual Meeting).

Second, as I have often commented in the past, the idea that The Passion of the Christ falls short on the atonement is a fallacy. The film strives hard to set Jesus' death as a triumphant eschatological, salvation event in which sin is defeated and Satan is cast into hell (on more of which, see my article in the forthcoming Corley / Webb volume, on which I will be commenting in due course).

BNTC Conference Programme

The British New Testament Conference 2004 Programme is also now available on the web:

BNTC 2004 Conference Programme

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Cave of John the Baptist: James Tabor speaks

In previous posts (Cave of John the Baptist (updated) and More on the John the Baptist Cave), I wondered what James Tabor's views were on this phenomenon given his close involvement with the digs. On Thursday he posted to the ANE List:

[ANE] The Cave of John the Baptist

The archive is publicly available so non-subscribers can read the whole message. Here is one excerpt, but it is all worth consulting:
In a sentence, the connection to the 1st century rests on the ceramic evidence, which is in turn connected to ritual activities associated with water purification rites and other ceremonies that were clearly going on in this period. Those who find Gibson's hypothesis weak need to suggest plausible alternatives that take into account such evidence and offer more persuasive explanations related to what was found. The 4th-5th century pilgrim hypothesis misses the mark totally when all is taken into account. It is part of the story, but only one part, in terms of the long history of this cave, its varied use, and its earlier connection to ritual activity.

Also in the Church Times

Also in this week's Church Times a short report on the news item of the week:

Was this John the Baptist’s cave, asks archaeologist
Pat Ashworth

This is mainly worth looking at for its little cartoon ("John the Baptist's Cave: Mind Your Head").

In Book Reviews, it's nice to see a mention for the following work, for which I was one of the authors:

By BBC Staff

This is only really a notice, though. It features a link to the purchase details: The Good Book Pack

Finally, there is a review by Mark Edwards of the following:

THE SONG OF SONGS: Interpreted by early Christian and medieval commentators
By Richard A. Norris Jr, editor
. . . And is it really nothing but a love song? The austere modern critic pronounces it impossible that God should be conceived as a man with deer-like nipples, playing hide and seek with his bride-to-be through the streets of Jerusalem; but has there been a society, however “primitive” or “oriental”, in which it was thought flattering for a woman to be told that she had a nose like a tower and hair like a flock of goats?
This is in the Eerdmans series The Church's Bible, on which I have commented here before.

Review of Ruth Edwards, Discovering John

Discovering John This week's Church Times carries an enthusiastic review of Ruth Edwards's book on the Fourth Gospel:

By Ruth Edwards

SPCK £14.99 (0-281-05403-7)

The review is by Richard Burridge and he likes the book:
This sensible yet sensitively written, thoroughly well-read study provides a cautious assessment of the state of play of Johannine scholarship, in a way that is helpful for all who teach and study John today. It is the fruit of a lifetime’s study from Ruth Edwards, a Scottish Episcopalian priest who has taught at Aberdeen and Oxford.

It is comprehensive in scope, including both historical and literary approaches; it digs around behind the text, but also faces the way in which it is applied to today . . . .

. . . . More than a decade ago, I was a member of the John Seminar at the British New Testament Conference, with Dr Edwards, during the years in which I taught an undergraduate course on John. I wish this text had been available then. It will be of great benefit, not just to students, but also to churches and individual Christians, for which we owe her thanks.
The book cover picture above is from Amazon.co.uk, who have it for £10.49 (on a £14.95 cover price). I can't find the book on Amazon.com. This may well be because it does not yet have an American distributor -- SPCK do these on a case-by-case basis, e.g. a forthcoming collection of essays on Q is to be released in North America by IVP. If that is the case, and the book is as good as Burridge says it is, it is a shame.

Michael Prior Tributes and Obituaries

I was sorry to read in today's Times of the death of Michael Prior on 21 July 2004:

Father Michael Prior
Roman Catholic priest and scholar who campaigned for the rights of Palestinians
FATHER MICHAEL PRIOR was a biblical scholar who spent much of his life writing and campaigning about the rights of the Palestinians in the Holy Land. A radical priest, he was also an outspoken critic of Zionism, which, he argued in his books, articles and lectures, was unbliblical.
The obituary mentions several of Michael Prior's publications including The Bible and Colonialism: A Moral Critique. Also worth a mention is Jesus the Liberator: Nazareth Liberation Theology (Luke 4.16-30) (The Biblical Seminar; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995).

I first met Michael Prior in 2001 when I began external examining at St Mary's College, Strawberry Hill, where he was employed from 1977 until his death. The obituary describes him as "genial and with a lively sense of humour", which is exactly right -- he was a larger than life character, with real warmth. He will be missed.

The St Mary's College web site features a research profile on Michael Prior. It also has an announcement of his death:
Professor Michael Prior CM

The end of the academic year has been marked by great sadness with the sudden and unexpected death of Professor Michael Prior CM.

Michael Prior was a man of considerable academic distinction, publicly recognised earlier this year through his personal professorship, and a man of strong loyalties and of courage and conviction. He was greatly respected by the students for the personal qualities he brought to his work. He will be greatly missed. The Requiem Mass for Michael Prior was held on Friday 30 July.
The Daughters of Charity have carry the following affectionate tribute:

Tribute to Fr Michael Prior CM

And The Tablet obituary of 31 July is reproduced on this Vincentian Priests and Brothers site, with some further links too:


Friday, August 20, 2004

Beliefnet's Best Spiritual Blogs

I picked this up from Dylan's Lectionary Blog:

Best Spiritual Blogs
Beliefnet's picks for the coolest, most interesting faith-based weblogs

I was hoping to discover some new blogs of interest, but alas not, for me at least. But I was delighted to see a mentiion for Jim Davila's Paleojudaica in the list, with the blurb "Weblog about ancient Judaism (yet updated surprisingly often)". Is the implication that one would not expect a blog about ancient Judaism to be updated often? But good to see the honourable mention.

Deinde's Biblical Studies Glossary

Deinde have announced the addition of a new Glossary for Biblical Studies terms on their site. Go to:

Biblical Studies Glossary

(You will have to scroll down a little). I am all in favour of this kind of thing -- I cannot count the number of times that students have come to me asking for definitions of terms that their textbooks have taken for granted. I think we should always add a glossary in introductory text books, but I'm in the minority in thinking / executing this. One of the best I am aware of is:

A Basic Vocabulary of Biblical Studies For Beginning Students: A Work in Progress
Fred L. Horton, Jr., Kenneth G. Hoglund, and Mary F. Foskett

Also excellent is:

A Glossary of Important Terms for New Testament Studies
Felix Just, S. J.

I'm afraid that I can't resist putting them to the test on my favourite topic, the Synoptic Problem. How do they perform? Deinde gives the following:
The question of the relationship between Matthew, The most common, widely held, and probably soundest solution is the 4 source hypothesis that sees Mark as the earliest gospel, with Matthew and Luke each using Mark as a source. Matthew and Luke also used a hypothetical document called 'Q', which explains the verbatim agreements between the two. Matthew and Luke had their own unique material as well (called 'M' and 'L' respectively). So the 4 sources are Mark, Q, M, and L.
Something has gone a bit wrong with the first sentence here; presumably, it would have carried on ". . . Mark and Luke". I would personally have preferred to see more by way of definition of the problem than a launching into an alleged "probably soundest" solution too. I would also suggest that it is potentially confusing to talk about "4 source hypothesis" in this context; if one is to speak of the most popular solution, it is the "Two-Source Hypothesis", i.e. Marcan Priority + Q, and this leaves the issue of M and L, in any case unique material, to one side. I also like to see some acknowledgement of other current solutions, perhaps at least Farrer and Griesbach.

Felix Just, S. J., on the other hand, links to some major explanatory material, both in terms of the problem and proposed solutions. He links to a whole page on The Synoptic Problem and Supposed Solutions, breaking down the problem and offering details of a range of popular solutions, with illustrations.

A Basic Vocabulary site offers the following definition:
Addresses the literary relationships among the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Currently, the most prominent resolution to the so-called problem is the Two Source theory of Markan priority that posits Mark's Gospel and the Q document as common literary sources that the authors of both Matthew and Luke incorporated into their Gospels. For the latest argument against Q, see Mark Goodacre's "Mark Without Q."
This is a good, lean definition, a quick explanation of the dominant solution and a link to an alternative explanation.

Personal bias might lend support to the last of these options, but I would add a very honourable mention to Felix Just, S. J.'s materials, which allow the hyperlinking potential of the web to build up a pretty helpful introductory network of materials for the beginning student.

Let me reiterate that this my experiment with just one of 250 terms in Deinde's excellent Glossary is simply a bit of fun with just that, one out of many terms. I have not yet read all the definitions, but this looks like a useful contribution to the discipline.

RSS feed for Deinde

On my most recent visit to Deinde, I was delighted to see that they now have an RSS feed available. If you have not yet discovered the wonders of reading your blogs via an aggregator, let me recommend it. There are plenty out there. The one I use is Bloglines.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Another Passion of the Christ Book

Perspectives on the Passion I have mentioned Robert Webb and Kathleen Corley (eds.), Jesus and Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ, due out at the end of this month, on several occasions. I am familiar with it because I wrote one of the essays in it. Quite by chance, I noticed a kind of rival book on Amazon the other day, and the book cover, with a link to Amazon, appears to the left. So the cover's less interesting than ours, but what else does it have to offer? No editors are listed; the publisher is Miramax and the full title is Perspectives on the Passion of the Christ: Religious Thinkers and Writers Explore the Issues Raised by the Controversial Movie.
Well, I ordered my copy several days ago but it has not arrived yet, but I'm impressed that they've beaten us to publication given that our book is the result of intensive, concentrated hard work in a very short period of time. I'm less impressed with their publicity machine. This book has been out for over a month and I, who have more than a passing interest in the subject, had not even heard of this until I chanced upon it by accident. There have been no press releases that I've seen, no media coverage, no attempts to publicise through the internet -- at least as far as I am aware. It's pretty low in Amazon's rankings too, which suggests that it has not been successful yet in reaching a wider audience.

Here is the blurb:
Since its release on Ash Wednesday 2004, The Passion of the Christ has become a commercial success of astonishing proportions, already ranking as one of the highest grossing films of all time. At the same time, it has created a torrent of controversy and debate, provoking passionate responses — both negative and positive—from people of widely divergent backgrounds and beliefs. It has exposed fundamental differences of opinion and belief about everything from the historical truth of the Bible to the political power of Hollywood.

Perspectives on the Passion of the Christ gathers together contributions from theologians, journalists, academics, and philosophers representing a wide spectrum of views and backgrounds. From the film's theological and historical underpinnings, to its cinematic and cultural implications, here is a balanced and thought-provoking exploration of the vital questions raised by The Passion of the Christ. Jews and Christians, evangelicals and agnostics, filmmakers and scholars—the film elicits fascinating responses from all. Among others, Jon Meacham of Newsweek looks hard at the historical record and asks, "Who Really Killed Jesus?" Rev. Susan Thistlethwaite asks why such an exceptionally violent movie has been embraced by so many conservative Christians and argues that The Passion of the Christ presents Jesus as a hero in a war movie; Rabbi Eugene Korn considers the movie's potential impact on interfaith relations; and Steve Martin offers an oblique comic view, from the perspective of a Hollywood insider.

Full of insight into a phenomenon that has raised so many burning and complex issues, this collection is the indispensable guide to understanding the cultural lightning rod that is The Passion of the Christ.
Perhaps the major difference from our volume (and I hope the editors will allow me the use of "our" here, though I need to add that I am only a contributor to the volume; I have not even read the other essays, except for one) is that it features contributions from several of those who were involved with the controversy surrounding the film from the beginning, including several members of the "ad hoc committee". The list of contributors is:
Contributors include: Mary C. Boys, Deborah Caldwell, Philip A. Cunningham, Paula Fredriksen, Lawrence A. Frizzell, Eugene Korn, Linda Kulman, Amy-Jill Levine, James Martin, Steve Martin, Jon Meacham, John T. Pawlikowski, Stephen Prothero, Adele Reinhartz, Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Jay Tolson, Jim Wallis, Leon Wieseltier, Ben Witherington III
Of those, Boys, Cunningham, Fredriksen, Korn and Levine were all members of the ad hoc committee. So the book will clearly have something of a view from the inside of the controversy. The down side of that may be that that the views of all of those authors are all pretty well publicised now; Fredriksen alone has written several articles on the film and the controversy, and Boys recently published an article in Cross Currents on which I still have a half-written response for this blog. Witherington's views are known from the Beliefnet "Scholarly Smackdown", now no longer available for free on the net; his dialogue partner, John Dominic Crossan, on the other hand, contributes to our volume.

More anon when I have received my copy.

Blogwatch: AKMA on John the Baptist's Cave

Make sure you don't miss a delightful post from AKMA on the Shimon Gibson story; a couple of excerpts are included below -- but read it all:

Dear John
I think that this sort of story is what helped turn me off archaeology; this, and the weeks of grimy labor sifting sand under the hot sun retrieving nothing but potsherds . . . .

. . . . This story reflects several problematic tendencies in the popular (biblical) archaeological market. We get their textual siblings over in literary historiography, so I’m not casting stones only at the other interpreters. But there have been heaps of hermits (I just spent way too much time trying to devise a collective noun for anchorites) in the Judean wilderness about whom we know absolutely nothing. We happen to know a little about one of them: John. So when an archaeologist finds a hermit’s cave that fits what we might expect John’s cave to have looked like, someone draws the inference that it actually was John’s cave.

The Bible narratives have a power over the imagination that tempts people to lead way beyond what the evidence offers . . . . Given “evidence” over here, and “possible answer” over there, people want badly to connect them and eliminate the uncertainty that dogs inconclusive data. Plus, more people will buy a book or watch a TV special is it says “Cave of John the Baptist” than if it says “Cave of Ascetic With Lustration Pools.”

But that’s a kind of argumentation that we would never accept in other spheres. It’s all circumstantial evidence, no positive evidence (as far as I’ve seen); and though we wouldn’t expect to see a stone at the entrance of the cave saying “937 Hermit Drive, Home of John the Baptist,” we have no particular reason to think that this was John’s own actual cave as opposed to the cave of some other hermit who might have looked like John, or a cave that some post-Johannine Baptists used for memorializing John. “Man with wild hair and carrying a staff”? Must be John the Baptist!

Is the Greek of the Gospels 'vulgar'?

David Meadows points out this one on RogueClassicism, a piece in the Athens News bilingual corner:

Is the Greek of the Gospels 'vulgar'?
. . . . The Greek of the gospels was not the Greek of the intellectuals, it was the vernacular spoken at the time, one that the then 'purists' took great exception to. Manolis Triantafyllidis, the patriarch of modern Greek 'demoticism', pointed this out some eighty years ago to his purist opponents the self-appointed 'defenders of the language' (ΓΛΩΣΣΑΜΥΝΤΟΡΕΣ). Keeping his tongue firmly in cheek, he wonders how could the Holy Spirit, supposedly guiding every action of the Apostles, have made such a blunder as to use an allegedly degraded form of Greek to convey the 'Good Message' (ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΟ = gospel) to the world at large.

Prominent among the 'atticisers' of Hellenistic times was a rhetorician and lexicographer named Phrynichus, who lived under the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (AD121-180) and his son Commodus (AD161-193). Among his writings is a book vituperating against the 'degraders of Greek' - such as the Apostles - and insisting with some stridency on what he called good usage.

He thus objects, for instance, to the third person plural of the verb 'ΟΙΔΑ' (I know) which in attic Greek is ΙΣΑΣΙΝ and not ΟΙΔΑΣΙΝ as in Jesus' statement 'ΑΦΕΣ ΑΥΤΟΙΣ ΟΥ ΓΑΡ ΟΙΔΑΣΙ ΤΙ ΠΟΙΟΥΣΙΝ' ('Forgive them for they know not what they are doing'). He objects strongly to Roman imports into the language and the use of the word centurion (ΚΕΝΤΥΡΙΩΝ) by Mark (15.39). He objects to the word 'ΣΟΥΔΑΡΙΟΝ' (cloth) as used by John in describing the resurrected Lazarus: 'ΚΑΙ Η ΟΨΙΣ ΑΥΤΟΥ ΣΟΥΔΑΡΙΩ ΠΕΡΙΕΔΕΔΕΤΟ' ('and his face wrapped in cloth') as well as to the word ΦΡΑΓΓΕΛΙΟΝ (whip) coming from the Latin flagellum, that Jesus cracked to chase the traders from the temple.

He even forbids the use of the word ΠΑΝΤΟΤΕ, insisting that 'ΠΑΝΤΟΤΕ ΜΗ ΛΕΓΕΤΕ ΑΛΛΑ ΔΙΑ ΠΑΝΤΟΣ' (Don't say always but for ever). How is it then, Triantafyllidis wonders, that Jesus is quoted as saying (John 12.8) 'ΤΟΥΣ ΠΤΩΧΟΥΣ ΓΑΡ ΠΑΝΤΟΤΕ ΕΧΕΤΕ ΜΕΘ' ΕΑΥΤΩΝ, ΕΜΕ ΔΕ ΟΥ ΠΑΝΤΟΤΕ ΕΧΕΤΕ' ('you will always have the poor with you but you will not always have me'). He also objects to the use of ΒΡΟΧΗ to mean rain instead of the attic term ΥΕΤΟΣ pointing out that ancient Greeks such as Democritus and Xenophon used ΒΡΕΧΕΙΝ in the sense of to moisturise, while to rain is only and should always - or rather forever - be ΥΕΙΝ. Mathew (7.25) is then also committing a linguistic sin when he quotes Jesus as saying 'ΚΑΙ ΚΑΤΕΒΗ Η ΒΡΟΧΗ...' ('The rain fell...')

Astonishingly the 'defenders of the language' throughout history, looking backwards and being as a rule one or two steps behind the Greek speakers, seem to have never learnt anything from the repeated failures of their predecessors.

More on the John the Baptist cave

Over on Xtalk, Brian Trafford provides a link to a University of North Carolina at Charlotte Press Release dating back to 21 April 2000, over four years ago:

UNC Charlotte Professor, Students Find Pottery, Drawings in Jerusalem-Area Cave
Late last year, local residents of the Ein Kerem/Soba area of Israel’s Judean hills found a cave hidden by centuries of vegetation growth and debris. A British/Israeli archaeologist Shimon Gibson explored the cave and quickly noticed drawings or etchings that appeared to represent a man in primitive dress and several Christian symbols. Gibson called UNC Charlotte Professor James Tabor to inform him of the find and to ask if the university would like to obtain excavation rights. Tabor, a well-known biblical scholar, archaeologist and authority on John the Baptist, jumped at the chance.

Tabor and Gibson are convinced that the drawings are probably of John the Baptist, dating back to about the fifth century. Tradition holds that John was born and raised in the area and that his mother Elizabeth hid with her infant son in a cave to escape the child slaughter commanded by King Herod. There are several churches in the area dedicated to John or claiming to be sites from which he conducted his ministry.

"It makes sense that the drawings are of John," Tabor explained. "The man in the drawings, holding a staff, wearing what appears to be clothing made from hair, not cloth, and with one hand raised, is similar to the Gospels’ description of John.

"If these drawings or etchings do date back to around the fifth century, they will be the earliest known drawings of John and a most significant archaeological find," Tabor added.
I was wondering yesterday if there might be an informed comment from James Tabor on the fresh press stories about the cave that have emerged as the result of the publication of Shimon Gibson's new book yesterday. There's still nothing on his web page but this piece, from CBC News on Monday, discovered courtesy of Christianity Today's Weblog, suggests that Tabor is a great deal less sanguine about the find than is Gibson:

Archeologists dispute discovery of biblical baptismal cave:
KIBBUTZ TZUBA, ISRAEL - Archeologists in Israel claim to have found a cave where John the Baptist anointed his disciples, but an American professor who participated in the excavation remains skeptical . . . .

. . . . American religious studies professor James Tabor, who participated in the excavation with some of his students, is skeptical. He feels there is no proof that John himself actually used the cave, located more than five kilometres from the New Testament preacher's hometown of Ein Kerem, now part of Jerusalem.

However, both Tabor and Gibson agreed that the wall carvings – which depict a man wearing animal skins and holding a staff – tell the story of John the Baptist. The carvings are believed to have been made by monks in the fourth or fifth century.
Back to Brian Trafford's Xtalk message, there's another useful link on the Foundation for Biblical Archaeology site:

Suba Excavation

This project page includes some useful pictures, different from those appearing in the press reports.

For further sceptical comment on the find, see Ted Olsen's Christianity Today Weblog:

Bring Me the Stead of John the Baptist?

Here Olsen has several more interesting links, and he makes the following comments which echo those of David Meadows on RogueClassicism yesterday:
Well, if you're Shimon Gibson, you get enough amazing discoveries for multiple lifetimes. He discovered a first-century leper—a huge find, given that many scholars had argued that leprosy didn't really exist in Jesus' day and that his healings were of other skin ailments. And then there was his discovery of a shrouded corpse, which Gibson said "could be that of a witness to Christ's crucifixion" and proof that the Shroud of Turin is a fake. And then there was his highly publicized warning that the Temple Mount was in danger of imminent collapse. And his findings on the "real" Via Dolorosa. And all that is just in the last few years.

Weblog isn't suggesting that Gibson is making stuff up. He's a noted archaeologist, not some hack. But given the controversy about the last time someone claimed to have "the first archaeological evidence of the historical reality of the Gospel story," a bit more skepticism is in order these days.
Olsen also features a link to a Charlotte Observer article which does have Tabor offering some muted enthusiasm.

Update (22.18): in a comment that I have accidentally deleted, Jacob Knee notes that there is some discussion of the discovery on the ANE list including one from James Tabor himself from which this is an excerpt:
In the four seasons we worked at the Suba cave I think every Israeli archaeologist in the country came out to the site and visited, offered his or her input, and whether all agree with Gibson's conclusions at least there seems to be a consensus that this site is unique, important, and definitely related to the earliest followers of John the Baptist, if not John himself, and witness to various kinds of water purification rituals dating to the 1st century and previously unknown (foot washing, anointing, incense burning, etc.). Beyond that, the art appears to be among the oldest Christian art so far found in the Holy Land, which alone would make it highly significant. A scientific publication with the IEJ is forthcoming and involves the scientific/historical input of over 20 experts.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Cave of John the Baptist (updated)

The big news story, of course, is the discovery of the "cave of John the Baptist". Thanks to several correspondents and bloggers for drawing attention to it (royherzl, Jim West, Bob Webb, Jim Davila, Jennifer Daniel). The story is all over the news and a search of Google News will bring up multiple versions. They are all essentially variations of the one basic Associated Press story. This is it as it appears on BBC News:

John the Baptist's cave 'found'
A British archaeologist says he has found a cave used by the New Testament figure John the Baptist.

Shimon Gibson spent five years excavating the site near Jerusalem, unearthing objects apparently used in ancient purification rituals.

Images carved on the walls include that of a man with wild hair and carrying a staff, said to be reminiscent of John, whom the Bible says baptised Jesus.

Biblical scholars have questioned the find, which they say is inconclusive.
The first question that people are asking is whether this is simply more sensationalist stuff. The answer to this one is that Shimon Gibson, if somewhat given to strident claims, is a reputable scholar and the story at least deserves to be taken seriously. He is perhaps best known in recent times for his discovery of the Jerusalem Shroud, about which CTVC made a television documentary broadcast on ITV in the UK at Easter 2002, The Mystery of the Shroud. Gibson heads the Jerusalem Archaeological Field Unit, a private research group.

Also mentioned in various of the articles is James Tabor, from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, U.S.A., who was involved with the Jerusalem Shroud too. Many will know him from his web site The Jewish Roman World of Jesus.

The next and more difficult question concerns what to make of this find. As yet, the story is too young to have generated much public reaction from Biblical scholars and archaeologists and it will be this reaction that will be interesting to look out for in the coming weeks and months. But in the mean time, have a look at this interesting piece:

"Cave of John the Baptist Found"
- A Response by Todd Bolen

Todd Bolen is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at the Israel Bible Extension of The Master's College and knows Shimon Gibson and this archaeological site. He notes that the announcement has been timed to coincide with the release of Shimon Gibson's book on the subject published by Doubleday yesterday, The Cave of John the Baptist: The Stunning Archaeological Discovery that has Redefined Christian History. Bolen writes:
I believe he makes the same mistakes as previous archaeologists in jumping to a conclusion for which the evidence is slim - particularly a conclusion which associates it with the Bible and therefore makes it headline-worthy. If this was just another Iron Age cistern used by hermits in a later period, no one would care about it. But if it's identified with an important, and little-known, biblical figure as John the Baptist, the potential attention is profound and book sales multiplied . . . . And yesterday's headlines bore this out - every website I visited had a link to the story, and the book's sales rank at Amazon skyrocketed to #335.
Bolen's point seems further to be born out by the fact that as of today, the book has risen still further to #223. Speaking for myself, I'm inclined to congratulate Gibson for being a good self-publicist. Why not be savvy and link-up the release of your latest book with media reports? Clearly Gibson is an expert at this -- the Jerusalem Shroud discovery was announced by a tie-in with the TV documentary previously mentioned. I'd bet Doubleday love Gibson! (Alas, books on the Synoptic Problem are not so easy to tie-in with media stories.) But what does concern me a little, and in this I think Bolen makes a useful point, is the somewhat sensational spin not of the media reports but of the book itself. The subtitle "The Stunning Archaeological Discovery That Has Redefined Christian History" has the ring of overstatement that one would have preferred to be absent. Let us say that this was John the Baptist's cave: in what sense does that fact "redefine Christian history"? It may well corroborate, add, provide background, shed light, but does it "redefine Christian history"? Likewise, consider the first sentence on the inside of the book flap,
The first archaeological evidence of the historical reality of the Gospel story.
I suppose it depends what one means by "archaeological evidence" and "the Gospel story" but things like the Pilate inscription from Caesarea Maritima spring to mind.

One other comment from the book flap:
For here is the largest ritual bathing pool ever found in the Jerusalem area, and found in the village where John the Baptist was born . . . .
Let us here bear in mind that the only Gospel to mention John the Baptist's birth is Luke, in an account thought by many to be highly legendary in its details, and even here we have only the vaguest indication of where John the Baptist's parents lived. When Mary goes to visit Elizabeth, she goes "into the hill-country . . . into a city of Juda" (Luke 1.39, ἐπορεύθη εἰς τὴν ὀρεινὴν . . . εἰς πόλιν ἰούδα; cf. 1.65). I find myself a little concerned that our earliest extant text to deal with the question is vague and generalised about a location that is being held to be certain.

One other remark on a detail in the news story. This is taken from the CNN version yesterday, Scholar says he's found John the Baptist's cave:
Crude images had been carved on the walls, near the ceiling, and Gibson said they tell the story of John's life.

One is the figure of the man Gibson had spotted on his first visit to the cave. The man appears to have an unruly head of hair and wears a tunic with dots, apparently meant to suggest an animal hide. He grasps a staff and holds up his other hand in a gesture of proclamation.

James Tabor, a Bible scholar from the University of North Carolina, said there is little doubt this is John himself. The Gospels say John was a member of the Nazarites, a sect whose followers didn't cut their hair, and that he adopted the dress of the ancient prophets, including a garment woven of camel's hair.
No doubt this is a case of media reporting that overstates something more speculative, but it needs to be added that it is not true that "The Gospels say John was a member of the Nazarites". Luke 1.15 has "he will drink no wine or liquor" and Matt 11.18//Luke 7.33 have "John came neither eating nor driking" / "John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine". From these verses we might surmise that John the Baptist took a Nazarite vow since abstinence from alcohol was an essential element in that vow (Numbers 6.1-27), but it's only a surmise. The Gospels show no signs of the other elements in the Nazarite vow (do they?).

Update (17.05): David Meadows notes on Rogue Classicism this article today from News in Science which features comment from Michael White:
Professor of classics and director of the Institute for the Study of Antiquity and Christian Origins at the University of Texas at Austin, L Michael White, was cautious of the findings.

"As an archaeologist and biblical historian I would be very cautious of these new 'discoveries' until more evidence is presented," he said.

According to White, the site is most likely a place of veneration created in the period between the 4th and 6th or 7th centuries AD by Christian pilgrims who began to come to the Holy Land to see such legendary places.

"That would also account for the fact that there are ritual implements and baptismal pools installed in the cave. They would have been part of the first tourist trade: get baptised just like Jesus did. The Byzantine style paintings would go along with the veneration," White said.
Note also David's comments which echo mine above -- "Dr. Gibson obviously has a good publicist . . ." David has remembered several more stories about Gibson's finds and claims too -- check out the links in his blog.

Review of Biblical Literature latest

Latest from the Review of Biblical Literature under the New Testament heading

Aune, David E.
The Westminster Dictionary of New Testament and Early Christian Literature and Rhetoric
Reviewed by Mark A. Matson

Bridge, Steven L.
'Where the Eagles are Gathered': The Deliverance of the Elect in Lukan Eschatology
Reviewed by William Malas

Clarke, Howard
The Gospel of Matthew and Its Readers: A Historical Introduction to the First Gospel
Reviewed by Joel Kennedy

Clarke, Howard
The Gospel of Matthew and Its Readers: A Historical Introduction to the First Gospel
Reviewed by Eric Noffke

Kaminouchi, Alberto de Mingo
But It Is Not So among You: Echoes of Power in Mark 10:32-45
Reviewed by Douglas Geyer

Meeks, Wayne A.
The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul
Reviewed by Moschos Goutzioudis

Foskett, Mary F.
A Virgin Conceived: Mary and Classical Representations of Virginity
Reviewed by Benjamin Fiore

The only one of these I've read myself so far is Steven L. Bridge's Where the Eagles are Gathered, which is in the series I now edit, and I am pleased to see it getting a deservedly positive review. Although essentially a book on just the one verse, it has an interesting thesis, well argued.

The Gospel According to Disney

There's an unofficial feature in this blog that looks for those "Gospel according to . . ." headlines. The latest is a useful Face to Faith from last Saturday's Guardian (I'm very behind) that particularly appeals to me as one of the very few (only?) Biblical scholars to have once worked for the Disney corporation:

The gospel according to Disney
Mark Pinsky
Good is invariably rewarded and evil punished. Faith in yourself and, more, faith in some higher power is essential. That is, faith in faith. Optimism and the Calvinist paradigm that hard work is rewarded with upward mobility complete the Disney canon. All of this is presented in a context vaguely implying western Christianity. But curiously, this is a largely secular gospel almost without God or Jesus. Salvation is attained through faith and works, not by grace. There is little explicit Judeo-Christian symbolism or substance in 70 years of Disney's animation. This despite the almost pervasive use of a theological vocabulary: words such as miracle, sacrifice, and divine. It seems a contradiction, portraying Judeo-Christian values without sectarian, or even a godly context - the fruits without the roots.
Pinsky's article is a publicity flyer for his book The Gospel According to Disney: Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust.

Bible and Interpretation came back soon!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote Bible and Interpretation come back soon! and it did. Thanks to Mark Elliott for letting me know. Also noted on Paleojudaica and Biblical Theology.

Blog break

Sorry for the stalling of the blog over the last few days. I've been variously overworked, tired, ill, away, relaxing and spending time with the family, though not necessarily in that order. It's a shame to have been away from the blog because I have loads of interesting things to post, so look forward to lots of catching up.

Friday, August 13, 2004

From Jesus to Superman?

This report from Rediff Entertainment Bureau suggests that Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in The Passion of the Christ is now in the running to play Superman:

Caviezel, Fraser, Law in running to play Superman
rediff Entertainment Bureau | August 12, 2004 10:53 IST
Jim Caviezel may play another superman.

After playing Jesus Christ in Mel Gibson's smash hit, The Passion of the Christ, the devout Catholic is the frontrunner to play Clark Kent, the mild mannered reporter for The Daily Planet.

Of course, as everyone on this planet knows, when evil beckons, when trouble is on the horizon, Mr Kent metamorphoses into 'Look up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it is Superman!'

Bryan Singer, who directed both the cult classic The Usual Suspects as well as the X-Men series, will champion the latest version of the classic comic superhero.
I am tempted to go into reflections on other characters who have appeared in both Superman films and Jesus films, but I'll resist for now.

Update (18 August): From the Seattle Times, Up, up and away in search of a Man of Steel (Anthony Breznican, The Associated Press),
No superhero fits the literary Christ motif as neatly as Superman, so it's no surprise the soulful, buff and blue-eyed Caviezel is one of the fan favorites to answer a question that has perplexed Hollywood for decades: "Who can play Superman?"

Caviezel's manager, Beverly Dean, is familiar with the rumor, but calls it speculation.

"Would he like to do it? He loves Superman," she said of the actor who grew up in Mount Vernon. "But the truth is there has been no offer (and) the script isn't even finished. But absolutely he'd be interested."

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Blogwatch: Philologos on "virgin"

On Paleojudaica, Jim Davila draws attention to a Philologos piece:

Questioning Virginity

The post touches on the well-worn debate about the meaning of almah in Isaiah 7.14 and suggests:
And yet to think this really matters is, from a contemporary point of view, putting the cart before the horse. Not only needn't Jews be disturbed if the word almah in Isaiah can be interpreted legitimately as meaning "virgin," but they also should realize that such a meaning explains why Christianity came to believe in the virgin birth of Jesus in the first place. In other words, as is the case with many supposed details of Jesus' life and death in the New Testament, we are dealing here with a legend invented by Jesus' early disciples in order to portray him as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. It was only because they interpreted almah in Isaiah as "virgin," as did the Jewish translators of the Septuagint, that they imagined such a story about him.
I think that this is back to front. It is highly unlikely that the story of the Virginal Conception was invented in order to portray Jesus as the fulfilment of prophecy. Isaiah 7.14 is ill-suited to making the case that the Messiah would be born of a virgin because, as any educated Jew would have known and still knows, Isaiah 7.14 is about neither the Messiah nor a virgin! One of the things that is so striking about the use of proof-texts in Matthew 1-2 is that the author is clearly struggling to find scriptural texts that accord with a story that has already been established and developed on other grounds and by other means. Take, for example, Matthew 2.23, "He shall be called a Nazorean", the prophecy that is supposed to establish the notion that Jesus would be brought up in Nazareth. Here no-one can even be sure what text Matthew is thinking of, how much less that he invented Jesus' upbringing in Nazareth on the basis of the said text. In other words, the process that is taking place in Matthew 1-2 is not, to use the term John Dominic Crossan applies to the Passion Narrative, prophecy historicized. It is history, or tradition, scripturalized. Here the story comes first, the scriptural justification afterwards.

The term scripturalization is not my own but James Kugel's; I have been developing a case that the term can help us to understand elements in the origin of the Gospels, and especially the Passion Narratives.

In relation to the so-called Virginal Conception, it is also worth drawing attention to two important recent works which argue that Matthew does not, in fact, narrate a virginal conception at all, Jane Schaberg, The Illegitimacy of Jesus: A Feminist Theological Interpretation of the Infancy Narratives (The Biblical Seminar, 28; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995) and Robert J. Miller, Born Divine: The Births of Jesus and Other Sons of God (Sonoma: Polebridge, 2003) [See also Study Guide and Excerpt].

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

BNTC Seminar Programme

Most of the British New Testament Conference Seminar Programme is now available on-line -- titles and abstracts of papers. Some are still to come, though. Link here:

British New Testament Conference 2004: Seminars

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Semeia Offer

The SBL Site is advertising an offer to own all 91 issues of Semeia electronically for $19.95:

Opportunity to Own All Issues of Semeia for $20

Essentially this is a pre-publication offer as part of a joint project between SBL and Logos Research Systems. The feature adds, "Continued development of this product depends on the placement of a minimum number of prepublication orders, so cast your vote for the electronic Semeia today."

It is perhaps worth adding that Issues 79-81 and 83-91 (PDF) are available on the SBL site; and Vols. 19 and 60-72 are available on Ebind (see my Journals page for listing). The project to get Semeia available electronically has been a long and drawn out one, with some hiccups along the way. Once upon a time all the early issues were available on the old Scholars Press web site, but they've not seen the light of day again for some years now. So this may be a good chance to get your own personal complete run of copies for not too much, though one can't help wondering what happened to the original project to get the complete run available on-line several years ago for free public access.

Passion of the Christ Book

Jesus and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ I have mentioned this before (e.g. here), so please forgive the indulgence of mentioning it again now that there's a picture of the cover available. I spotted this on Amazon today. The publication is Robert Webb and Kathleen Corley (eds.), Jesus and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ: The Film, the Gospels and the Claims of History and it is due out at the end of this month from Continuum. (Previous links are to Amazon.com; see also Amazon.co.uk, which also has a substantial saving, or go direct to Continuum). The picture is of Grunewald's Crucifixion, which is appropriate given its apparent influence on Gibson.

Future of Scholarship in the Digital Age

Open Access News note that the presentations from the JISC/CNI meeting on "The future of scholarship in the digital age" (Brighton, July 8-9, 2004), are now online. There is nothing directly related to Biblical Studies here, but plenty of interest for reflection on the issues connected with digitization of materials, e-learning, open access and the like:

The future of scholarship in the digital age

Bart Ehrman interview on beliefnet

Beliefnet have an interview with Bart Ehrman on his recent book Lost Christianities:

The Christianity Battles
What if Ebionite Christians, Marcion Christians, or Gnostic Christians had been more convincing?
Interview by Deborah Caldwell
The early Christian Church was a chaos of contending beliefs, according to Bart Ehrman, author of Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew. Ehrman says some groups of early Christians claimed there was more than one God. Some believed Jesus was human but not divine, while others said he was divine but not human. In his book, Ehrman looks at how these early forms of Christianity came to be suppressed, reformed, or forgotten. He spoke recently with Beliefnet about what Christianity might have become if a different strain had emerged victorious from first-century intellectual battles.

Monday, August 09, 2004

A second Austin Farrer Centenary Conference

I posted details the other day of an Austin Farrer Centenary Conference in Oxford in September. Jeff Peterson informs me that there is another conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana:

Captured by the Crucified

A Conference and Spiritual Life Workshop Celebrating Austin Farrer's Lived Theology in the Centenary Year of His Birth

November 4-7, 2004

The site features a quotation from Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, "Austin Farrer . . . possibly the greatest Anglican mind of the twentieth century." There's also a photograph of the great man, which reminds me rather of my grandfather.

NTS latest

There is a new issue of New Testament Studies out:

New Testament Studies Volume 50 - Issue 03 - July 2004

Der zwölfjährige Jesus im Tempel (Lk 2.40–52) und die biografische Literatur der hellenistischen Antike

Das Vaterunser: Gründe für seine Durchsetzung als ‘Urgebet’ der ChristenheitKARL-HEINRICH OSTMEYER

From Faith to Faith: Romans 1.17 in the Light of Greek Idiom

Domestic Space and Christian Meetings at Corinth: Imagining New Contexts and the Buildings East of the Theatre

Paul's Quotation of Isaiah 54.1 in Galatians 4.27

The ‘Letter’ to the Hebrews and Its Thirteenth Chapter

Points and Lines: Thematic Parallelism in the Letter of James and the Testament of Job

Die Historisierung der johanneischen Theologie im Ersten Johannesbrief

Whence the First Millennium? The Sources behind Revelation 20

Links above are to article abstracts. Full text access is for subscriber and subscribing institutions only (but who knows? Maybe one day that will change!).

Review of Biblical Literature Latest

Here are the latest additions to the Review of Biblical Literature under the New Testament heading:

Chester, Stephen J.
Conversion at Corinth: Perspectives on Conversion in Paul's Theology and the Corinthian Church
Reviewed by Chris M. Smith

Gilbertson, Michael
God and History in the Book of Revelation: New Testament Studies in Dialogue with Pannenberg and Moltmann
Reviewed by Kyle Abbott

Grant, Robert M.
Second Century Christianity: A Collection of Fragements
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

Lieu, Judith M.
Neither Jew Nor Greek?: Constructing Early Christianity
Reviewed by Sabrina Inowlocki

Moxnes, Halvor
Putting Jesus in His Place: A Radical Vision of Household and Kingdom
Reviewed by Ronald R. Clark

Patte, Daniel, Monya A. Stubbs, Justin Ukpong, and Revelation E. Velunta
The Gospel of Matthew: A Contextual Introduction for Group Study
Reviewed by Scott Yoshikawa

Spencer, F. Scott
What Did Jesus Do?: Gospel Profiles of Jesus' Personal Conduct
Reviewed by Vaughn Crowetipton

Teaching Fellow in New Testament Studies

This message was circulated today to recipients on the British NT Society's mailing list, but it may be of interest to others:

Teaching Fellow in New Testament Studies
School of Divinity
University of St Andrews

Salary - £18,893 - £20,010 pa pro rata

We have a temporary post starting on 13 September 2004 until 30 June 2005, or as soon as possible thereafter, to provide cover while a member of staff is on Research Leave. You should have expertise in keeping with the School’s strong profile in New Testament. The School wishes to appoint a candidate whose work will duly contribute to its established reputation for excellence in both teaching and research. It is anticipated that the position may be particularly attractive to scholars who have recently completed their doctoral studies, though some experience of teaching New Testament in a university environment would be desirable.

You will be expected to teach a sub-honours module in New Testament Greek, honours modules on John’s Gospel and the Historical Jesus.

Please quote ref: JB01/04

Closing Date: 16 August 2004

Application forms and further particulars are available from http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/hr/recruitment/vacancies or from Human Resources, University of St Andrews, College Gate, North Street, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9AJ, (tel: 01334 462571, by fax 01334 462570 or by e-mail Jobline@st-andrews.ac.uk).

The Gospel According to Spider-Man

There are some enjoyable reflections on the cinema and Christianity in the current issue of Time Magazine:

The Gospel According To Spider-Man
Christians have discovered a powerful new teaching tool, and it's playing at a cineplex near you

I admit that this strays a little from the NT theme of this blog, but it's only a little, and I wanted an excuse to use that marvellous headline. A couple of excerpts:
For decades, America has embraced a baffling contradiction. The majority of its people are churchgoing Christians, many of them evangelical. Yet its mainstream pop culture, especially film, is secular at best, often raw and irreligious. In many movies, piety is for wimps, and the clergy are depicted as oafs and predators. It's hard to see those two vibrant strains of society ever coexisting, learning from each other.

Yet the two are not only meeting; they're also sitting down and breaking bread together. The unearthly success of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ helped movie execs recognize that fervent Christians, who spend hundreds of millions of dollars on religious books and music, are worth courting. Publicists hired by studios feed sermon ideas based on new movies to ministers. Meanwhile, Christians are increasingly borrowing from movies to drive home theological lessons. Clergy of all denominations have commandeered pulpits, publishing houses and especially websites to spread the gospel of cinevangelism.

The cinevangelists would say that the churches' appropriation of pop culture is nothing new. "Jesus also used stories," Johnston says. "In his day, parables were the equivalent of movies." Marc Newman, who runs movieministry.com, traces pop proselytizing back to the Apostle Paul. "In Acts there's a Scripture describing how he came to the Areopagus, the marketplace in Athens where people exchanged ideas. Paul speaks to the men of Athens and refers to their poets and their prophets. He used the things they knew as a way to reach out with the Gospel."
And you could also say that Paul (at least in Acts) was at his least successful in Athens! This paragraph is also worth mentioning:
Rarely, a Christian message is implicated in a Hollywood film. Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, in which an ordinary guy sees the light and travels far to make contact with extraterrestrials, was conceived by its original screenwriter, Paul Schrader, as Saul's transforming journey to become the Apostle Paul. The Matrix (the first one, not the sequels) was manna to hermeneuticians. In a recent Museum of Modern Art film series called "The Hidden God: Film and Faith," Groundhog Day, the Bill Murray comedy about a man who relives the same day over and over, was cited as a profound statement of faith, either Buddhist (rebirth), Jewish (acceptance) or Christian (redemption).
I didn't know that about Close Encounters and Paul Schrader, who also wrote the screenplay, with Scorsese, for The Last Temptation of Christ.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

ETS programme San Antonio

Thanks to Michael Pahl for alerting me to the programme schedule for the Evangelical Theology Society 56th Annual Meeting. As usual, this event takes place just before the SBL Annual Meeting, so it is in San Antonio from November 17-19:

ETS 56th Annual Meeting

Bible Review latest

There's a huge new catch-up Explorator out today with plenty of interest. One thing I'd missed that it includes is a notice of the latest edition of Bible Review:

Bible Review August 2004

Alas, the happy days of selected free content are over, so some of us will not see much of this issue. There is also a new edition of the following, with the same subscriber-only access:

Archaeology Odyssey September / October 2004

The Word on the Street

This story from the Lexington Herald-Leader:

Rewriting the Bible was never so hip
By Rich Copley
Genesis 1:1-2: First off, nothing ... but God. No light, no time, no substance, no matter. Second off, God says the word, and WHAP! Stuff everywhere! The cosmos in chaos: no shape, no form, no function -- just darkness ... total. And floating above it all, God's Holy Spirit, ready for action.

Not exactly the King James Bible, eh?

The verses above are from The Word on the Street, a new interpretation of the Bible by Welsh performance artist Rob Lacey.

The book is due in stores Sept. 3, from Zondervan, after a successful launch in England earlier this year.

Lacey takes familiar texts and stories and puts them in the vernacular of urban youths and young adults.
One detail of this project I've heard here for the first time is that David Trobisch has lent a hand:
Zondervan gave Lacey a "theological safety net" in David Trobisch, a New Testament language professor at Bangor Theological Seminary in Maine. He helped with the interpretation.

Sunday: Greek and Christianity

I had to get up early this morning -- very early for me on a Sunday -- to go to Pebble Mill and do a short piece for Radio 4's Sunday programme. It was just four minutes or so and the blurb was:
Tradition dates the first ever Olympic meeting to 776 BCE. The games were abolished nearly twelve hundred years later by the Christian Roman Emperor Theodosius on the grounds that they were pagan. But if that suggests a deep rooted antagonism between Christianity and the ideas that came out of the classical Greek world it would be misleading. . .
You can listen to the programme here:


Or click on the individual links for the particular segments.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

BNTC Short Papers Programme

The programme for the Short Simultaneous Papers at this year's British New Testament Conference is now available:

BNT Conference 2004: Simultaneous Short Papers

Codex: Resources for Biblical Studies

Thanks to Michael Pahl for sending this link over:

Codex: Resources for Biblical Studies

The site is by Tyler F. Williams (Chair, Religion & Theology Program; Assistant Professor of Old Testament, Taylor University College, Edmonton, AB Canada). Some of it is still under construction, but there is a lot of very useful material here. And I particularly like the lean, tidy design.

Austin Farrer Centenary Conference

Although not dealing with his contributions to Biblical Studies, which is my main area of interest in his work, this conference to celebrate the centenary of his birth is, of course, most welcome:

Austin Farrer Centenary Conference

“Austin Farrer was, by common consent, one of the most remarkable men of his generation. He possessed the qualities of originality, independence, imagination and intellectual force to a degree amounting to genius.” (Basil Mitchell). The conference to be held in Oxford to mark the centenary of his birth is designed to celebrate his achievements as philosopher and theologian, and to explore the continued relevance of his work.

When Farrer chose as the topic for his Gifford Lectures The Freedom of the Will, it was because the nature of the human person was central to his philosophical theology. It provided the key analogy to the nature and activity of God. With this clue were associated in his mind, a range of further questions: about the place of images in religious and much other thinking; about the relation between human and divine activity; the role of science in the understanding of the mind and, more generally, the relationship between religious and scientific thinking; the place of evil in the created world as understood by the sciences. All these questions will be addressed in this conference.

The speakers have all done original work on the themes Farrer addressed and will explore his continued relevance in the fields of theology, metaphysics and the philosophy of science. Nancey Murphy is well known for her work on science and religion; David Brown has produced two startlingly original books on tradition and imagination. Douglas Hedley has written illuminatingly on Coleridge’s philosophical theology and is currently working on imagination. Brian Hebblethwaite has made significant contributions to philosophy and theology and has done much to stimulate interest in Farrer in the United Kingdom and Europe, while Ed Henderson is prominent among those who have maintained a thoughtful dialogue with Farrer in the United States. Basil Mitchell was a close friend and colleague of Farrer’s whose own work has always acknowledged his influence and example.

Further enquiries and/or registration to Conference Director:

Dr. Margaret Yee, Nuffield College, Oxford, OX1 1NF, UK

Email: margaret.yee@theology.ox.ac.uk


Barabbas (dir. Richard Fleischer, 1962) gets a network screening in the UK today, BBC2, 3.15 p.m. From the Radio Times:
An impressive quasi-biblical epic, produced by Dino De Laurentiis on a grand scale and directed with a fine sense of period by Richard Fleischer. It's best remembered today, however, for the fact that the Crucifixion was photographed against an actual eclipse of the sun. Anthony Quinn does well in the title role as the murderer and thief pardoned in place of Christ, and the climactic arena sequences involving Jack Palance are splendid, but, as a whole, it's overlong and dull, like the Par Lagerkvist novel on which it is based.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Wright on the Resurrection Digested

Struggling with the thought of wading through all 740 pages of Tom Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God? Help is at hand courtesy of the N. T. Wright Page -- a nice digestible article written by Tom Wright and originally given as a lecture in 2002:

Jesus’ Resurrection and Christian Origins
The McCarthy lecture 2002, delivered on March 13,2002, in the Faculty of Theology of the Gregorian University

BNTC booking deadline

The deadline for bookings for this year's British New Testament Conference in Edinburgh is fast approaching. All booking forms must be in by 9 August. If you are intending to go and have not yet sent in your booking form, you can download one here. It's looking like an excellent conference, the society's twenty-fifth anniversary and with main papers from Tom Wright, Bart Ehrman and Judith Lieu. The majority of the seminar programme is now in and I'll be uploading details of that later today.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Blog email adjustment

I have flirted for a while with the use of Bloglines for emails to this blog. My idea was that I could adjust the bloglines email regularly and so ward off spam since bloglines offer everyone unlimited email addresses. But there were two unforeseen problems. The first is that spammers hit on you within hours of setting up a new public email address. The second is that I've had a couple of examples of people sending legitimate emails with attachments to bloglines and bloglines won't take attachments. Since I've been using Gmail, the blocking of spam has proved excellent -- the vast majority of the spam, upwards of 90 per cent, is simply filtered away. The bloglines email feeds, by contrast, filter nothing away. So I'm returning to the Blog@NTGateway.com address for this blog and scrapping the bloglines emails.

Biblical Interpretation

On Paleojudaica, Jim Davila notes the contents of the last two editions of Biblical Interpretation. I don't think I've blogged on the either of these, so mention it here. As usual, it is subscriber or institutional subscriber only, though access to the abstracts is free for all. Go to Paleojudaica for contents list, or click below for contents and abstracts:

Biblical Interpretation

Here's another interesting fact from the Biblical Interpretation site: the free issue available to all visitors changes. When I set up my Journals page three years ago, I noted that there was "free access to the January 2000 edition for all visitors". In fact, I even made this a Featured Link. But now the free issue available is January 2003. Two thoughts:

(1) If you do not have individual or institutional access to these journals, make sure you save the contents of any free issues to your PC while you have the chance. It might have disappeared before you visit again; and in time you might be able to build up a bit of a library!

(2) The fact that these free issues move confirms my decision not to index these separately on the New Testament Gateway. At first my inclination was to index such articles, but there was always the concern that they would not hang around. And that's what has now happened. For this and other reasons (like the frustrating disappearance of all those Harvard Theological Review articles on FindArticles.com), it seems that it is a good idea to prioritise the indexing of articles that appear on scholars' homepages, which tend to be more stable, and also more useful to users.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Pete Phillips's ISBL Report

They are coming in thick and fast now (well, three at least). On postmodernbible, Pete Phillips offers his comments on the International SBL Meeting in Groningen:

ISBL Groningen

On the paper sessions, Pete comments:
People are given half an hour to present but this must also include question time. So technically you time your paper for 22 minutes and leave five minutes for questions (and a few minutes for panic in the middle!). However, people tended to speak for 29 minutes thus removing most of the potential for questions. Sad really when some of the papers demanded a response and some were so shocking they deserved five minutes silence!
I know this experience from the SBL annual meeting. Two comments. First, it never ceases to amaze me that many academics have apparently not mastered the art of timing a paper. What are their lectures to undergraduates like? Would they run over into the next person's time? Second, if speakers cannot time their presentations properly, it is essential that the sessions in question are well chaired. I had my first nerve-racking experience of chairing one of the SBL two-and-a-half hour sessions last November and I found it tougher than expected, especially as several of the speakers did not behave and some were such big characters that they managed to muscle their way to snatching an extra few minutes here and there. A more seasoned chair told me afterwards that the only way to do it was to be a fascist. A method I liked was used by Eddie Adams at the BNTC Short Papers section a couple of years ago -- the use of cards with messages on them, discreetly handed to the speaker with increasing urgency as the time limit approached.