Friday, October 29, 2004

Songs of Praise

Just before I dash off again, a quick note about this Sunday's Songs of Praise on BBC1, 17.10-17.45:

Songs of Praise
Jonathan Edwards presents a Songs of Praise in celebration of the world's best-selling book - the Bible - to mark the 200th anniversary of the Bible Society.

Jonathan hears amazing and controversial stories of people whose lives have been changed forever by the 'Good Book', and introduces hymns including We Have A Gospel To Proclaim, Lord Of The Years, and Wonderful Love. There are also performances from Stuart Townend, and even a rap version of Psalm 23 from actor Rob Lacy's 'Street Bible'!
The programme features s a short interview with me too about what's in the Bible.

So What Colour Was Jesus?

It's half term week here in the UK, which means the desperate attempt to juggle an already overloaded work schedule with the kids being off school. Still, I did manage to fit in a five or ten minute telephone conversation with a BBC reporter on Wednesday morning, in between classes and meetings, who asked me for my comments as a follow-up to the New Nation poll that listed Jesus as the top black icon (on which, as it happens, I blogged on Tuesday -- see Jesus the Black Icon). The piece has been mentioned in a couple of the blogs and has given birth to a thread on Xtalk; thanks too to those who sent me over the link to the article, including Giles Wilson who wrote it:

So What Colour Was Jesus?

And I am not so self indulgent that I will quote myself here! But I will add a whimsical side note from that article -- Jesus' eye colour. The article concludes with a comment that the world of film is slowly catching up. I am not in quotation on this bit, but it was something that I explained to the reporter. In Jesus of Nazareth, Robert Powell was chosen for the role for his piercing blue eyes, which he never shuts once, on camera, for the entire piece, one of the reasons he has a rather spaced-out look. Jim Caviezel, who plays Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, also has piercing blue eyes -- it's one of the reasons he was chosen for the
role in Angel Eyes. But Gibson digitally altered the colour throughout to brown.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Review of Biblical Literature latest

Latest from the SBL's Review of Biblical Literature under the New Testament heading:

Barker, Margaret
The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy
Reviewed by Karl-Heinz Ostmeyer

Ferguson, Everett
Backgrounds of Early Christianity
Reviewed by Robert Seesengood

Grassi, Joseph
Peace on Earth: Roots and Practices from Luke's Gospel
Reviewed by Ronald Clark

Kauffman, Ivan J.
He Was Here: Those Who Knew Jesus Speak
Reviewed by Matthew Dunn

Matera, Frank J.
II Corinthians
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

McClymond, Michael J.
Familiar Stranger: An Introduction to Jesus of Nazareth
Reviewed by Lawrence Dipaolo

Wierzbicka, Anna
What Did Jesus Mean?: Explaining the Sermon on the Mount and the Parables in Simple and Universal Human Concepts
Reviewed by Hyunsok Doh

Wright latest

I referred recently to Wright on the Lambeth Commission. He also has a piece in The Tablet

The Windsor Report is a Step Towards Maturity

(And scroll down a bit).

The N. T. Wright page also gathers together some material on this, from Fulcrum, Thoughts on Concerns and Questions about the Windsor Report and last Saturday's Guardian in "Face to Faith":

Blindly embracing diversity will damage unity
Here the Windsor report restates a classic Anglican (and Pauline) doctrine: adiaphora ("things indifferent"). Some differences, particularly those involving ethnic diversity, must not be allowed to fracture communion. But one must distinguish the differences which must not make a difference and those which are bound to do so. Not all cultural charac teristics are to be embraced. The Scythians were famous for being hot-tempered; the Corinthians, for sexual laxity. Both lifestyles are ruled out, declares Paul, for those "in Christ". To insist on them is to divide the church.

The question then is: Which things come into which category? Which differences make a difference?
And the N. T. Wright page publishes this piece itself, from just over ten years ago, a bit of autobiography:

My Pilgrimage in Theology

(Originally Published in Themelios, January, 1993, 18.2, 35).

He speaks about his evangelical heritage, the growth of his ideas and depression.

First Christian Document?

Here's the link to the "listen again" of the programme about The Didache and featuring Alan Garrow:

The First Christian Document?

There's been a little discussion of this on Xtalk. I've had a chance to listen to it myself this morning. It's a useful introduction to The Didache for those unfamiliar with the work and it reflects on the possible importance of the work in early Christianity. The title is not accurate, though, since the programme has little on the claim that was flagged up here and in the advertising material to the effect that The Didache provides us with the document to which reference is made in Acts 15. For that, I think we will have to await Garrow's further work on the document, which is sketched on his Didache Cube, but on which Garrow himself is not yet convinced ("The parallels between the Didache's base layer and the Apostolic Decree are striking in several important respects. Further work is required before a link between the two may be described as firmly established.").

The documentary was very much Garrow's vehicle. Other than the presenter, Roger Bolton, the only other person to feature was Ruth Fleischer and a Messianic Jewish community. So it was in the David Starky tradition of documentaries in which only the one voice is heard, a little disappointing given the brief mention at the end of the programme that "many" do not accept the early dating of the work. But still, good to hear the BBC taking interesting materials like The Didache seriously and if Garrow himself took the inititiative on getting their interest, good for him.

Jesus the Black Icon

Yesterday's Guardian featured this article, the result of a poll in black newspaper New Nation:

Jesus the black icon tops list of greatest
Hugh Muir
He [Justin Onyeka, deputy editor] said many of the paper's readers would think of Jesus as having been black. "In the Bible he is described as dark skinned. Throughout history we have been presented with him having blonde hair and blue eyes, but that idea is not commonly believed.

"He never wrote a book, never recorded a hit song, never made a movie, never sought political office, nor did he ever have his own official website - yet he remains a major figure in the world's two leading religions."
I think he'll find that the Bible doesn't describe Jesus' appearance at all, but I am in favour of informed speculation on this.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Elaine Pagels interviews

The Memphis Flyer has this interview with Elaine Pagels:

The Gospel Truth
Elaine Pagels: writer on the Word.

It's a short piece in which Pagels reveals that she is now working on Revelation. The article concludes with this interesting exchange:
I asked my teacher, Krister Stendahl, why, when he'd studied the Dead Sea Scrolls, he never wrote about them for a popular audience. Krister, a Lutheran bishop, looked at me and said, "Well, we and the clergy were afraid it would upset people if they learned that Jesus wasn't who they wanted to think he was." Krister and others thought they were being protective. But I said to him, "That's condescending -- to think that people shouldn't know." So we went to work on the Nag Hammadi manuscripts. Hundreds of people still are. "

Sheffield Phoenix Website

At least a couple of other bibliobloggers have already noticed this, but I wanted to mention it myself since David Clines asked me to. Sheffield Phoenix Press now have their slick new website up and running:

Sheffield Phoenix Press

They don't actually refer to "Sheffield Academic Press", on which some of those responsible for Sheffield Phoenix used to work, but they speak of "the best traditions of academic publishing from Sheffield". As some will know, Sheffield Academic Press itself is now part of T & T Clark International, along with the former T and T Clark and Trinity Press International. (I should probably declare my own interest as an employee of T & T Clark International, editing the JSNTS and thus any comments I make will be influenced by my own interests).

One positive element here is the commitment "to maintain an accurate and up-to-date website". This is going to be a challenge, but it is good to see a publisher taking this seriously, not least given some of the difficulties that the old Sheffield Academic Press website faced here. I would also like to comment briefly on the commitment "to offer a 50% discount for individual scholars and students on all hardback books, year round". This is something that is still offered by Trinity Press International but which is not adequately flagged up in publicity materials, and I have been in discussions about this.

Anyway, good luck to Sheffield Phoenix. One specific, and this carries on something that was originally promised by Sheffield Academic Press, the Journal for Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism is planned initially as an internet publication (see here), but then is to remove itself from the net and be solely in printed form. I can't help thinking that this is counter-intuitive. I can see the reasons for the alternative course, from print to internet publication, so that the initial print-run taken by libraries and scholars is expanded to ultimate open-access for all. But why would one want to go in the reverse direction, from internet publication to print? In some other contexts, the move from internet to print makes some sense, e.g. if the internet publication is a temporary try-out, work-in-progress piece that finds its way to print in its more perfect form, but this is not like that -- the articles are already done and dusted in their internet format. So this policy, pretty much unprecedented as far as I am aware, is a bit of a puzzle to me.

Jesus Film Project on the Internet

Jim West draws my attention to this from the Corvallis Gazette Times:

Much-seen film ‘Jesus' will go onto Internet
Twenty-five years since its theatrical release, the world's most-watched movie, "Jesus," will make its Internet debut Tuesday.

The effort will allow people to see the two-hour film online in more than 300 separate language translations.
The article is a puzzle because Jesus has in fact been available on the internet for years, one of two Jesus films that is available wholly like this. (Quiz question: what's the other?). I looked to the Jesus Film Project website for clarification and see the same story in more detail in a press release there:

World's Most-Translated Film Makes Internet Debut
On 25th Anniversary, Film Premieres on the Web in More than 300 Languages
SAN CLEMENTE, Calif., Oct. 13, 2004—Celebrating 25 years since its theatrical release, the world’s most-watched movie, JESUS, with more than 5 billion impressions globally, is making its Internet debut, Oct. 19. In conjunction with Salem Web Network and Caliber Media Group, The JESUS Film Project will use a Streaming OS System to make JESUS available online ( in more than 300 separate language translations.

“To our knowledge, a film has never been freely available on the Internet in so many different languages,” said Jim Green, executive director of The JESUS Film Project. “The 300 plus translations available represent the heart language of more than 90 percent of the world’s population.”
It seems that what is being advertised is the film's twenty-fifth anniversary, and a bigger internet release, i.e. more different language versions (now over 300). But it is manifestly incorrect to speak about this as an "internet debut" and it is to be regretted that this marketing strategy does not take representing itself accurately seriously enough.

Radio 4 on The First Christian Document?

BBC Radio 4 are advertising a programme at the moment to be broadcast next Monday at 8 p.m.:

The First Christian Document?
Christianity as a world religion began when St Paul persuaded Jesus's Disciples, at a crisis meeting in Jerusalem, that you didn't have to become a Jew to be a Christian.

An Oxford Academic, Alan Garrow, claims to have identified the record of that meeting.

Roger Bolton investigates
Intrigued? The document in question is The Didache and the thesis is developed out of Garrow's doctoral work on The Didache (hence the term "Oxford academic" above), recently published as The Gospel of Matthew's Dependence on the Didache (JSNTSup; London & New York: T & T Clark International, 2004). I have referred here before to Garrow's Didache Cube and I note that he has prepared some materials there to accompany the forthcoming programme:

The First Christian Document?

I have to say that the thesis strikes me initially as highly unlikely, but I am always willing to learn. One thing about the blurb above concerns me a little, the notion that "St Paul persuaded Jesus's Disciples, at a crisis meeting in Jerusalem, that you didn't have to become a Jew to be a Christian". I doubt that Paul persuaded them of this -- it's not the impression given by Galatians 2 or by Acts 15. I don't think anyone significant was suggesting that Gentile Christians should be circumcised in the early years. It's why Paul is so outraged and surprised by this innovation in Galatians.

Wright on the Lambeth Commission

I tend to avoid extensive discussion in this blog of Church politics except where it directly impinges on, relates to or comes out of New Testament scholarship. That's not because I am not interested in such issues (I am) but I don't see engaging in the broader debate in this context as particularly helpful, and it is not why people read this blog. But anyway, one of the areas where the current discussions about homosexuality and the Anglican communion become relevant are, of course, in relation to the interpretation of Scripture, and I was interested this morning to read Tom Wright's insider's views of the recent Lambeth Commission. This article is in Christianity Today and after the link, I quote one pertinent element in the interview:

N.T. Wright: Anglican Report is 'Fireproofing the House'
Top theologian on Lambeth Commission talks about what happened behind the scenes, whether the report should have been tougher, and why it's critical of some conservative bishops.
Interview by Douglas LeBlanc
One of the things I find depressing about some of the upper echelons of Anglicanism on both sides of the Atlantic is that it's sort of taken for granted that we all basically know what's in the Bible, and so we just glance at a few verses for devotional purposes and then get on to the real business. I look forward to the day, and I think the report is pressing for this very strongly, when not in some kind of fundamentalistic way but with real serious creative engagement and interpretative activity with Scripture, we can actually really learn from one another and one another's readings of Scripture. Not that all readings are equally good. I would never dream of saying that, of course, as a biblical scholar. But that we do need to listen to one another in our readings of Scripture and we need to grow up in those readings. And frankly, some of the readings of Scripture which come out of the liberal tradition, and some of the readings which come out of the so-called conservative tradition are really immature readings of Scripture and need to be challenged. I and others spend our lives trying to do that.
Well, I suppose that as someone devoted to the business of reading and teaching about the Bible and Christian Origins, I would agree with that, but I found it enormously encouraging to see these views articulated so clearly and responsibly.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Scripturalization in Mark's Crucifixion Narrative

I've uploaded, temporarily at least, a copy of my paper for the SBL Annual Meeting Mark Group:

Scripturalization in Mark's Crucifixion Narrative

It's a Word document. Of course there is still lots to do on it, but at least I've begun the process of exploration which writing a conference paper offers.

Fun with the SBL Programme

I having one of my late nights doing some writing tonight, nowadays the only way I can get any writing done given supremely crowded, overworked days. Since I am working on my paper for the SBL this year, it is a particular pleasure to have my work broken up by Paul Nikkel's message on Deinde:

Testifyin' at the SBL

You'd never have guessed you could have had so much fun with the programme book; I particularly enjoyed the "Award for Transgressive Punctuation".

On the issue of titles, I have a principle that I occasionally share with post graduate students and it is to include as much of your thesis as you can into the title of the paper. It's best not to take for granted that others will read / hear / pay attention to your abstract, let alone your paper, so the title may be the only chance one gets to give many a clue to your views.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

VanderKam on the High Priests

This press release is from Fortress Press:

James VanderKam Assembles the First History of the Jewish High Priests

MINNEAPOLIS (October 18, 2004)— From one of the most authoritative and respected scholars of early Judaism comes From Joshua to Caiaphus: High Priests after the Exile, a unique history of the central actors in Israel’s religious and civil history. Beginning late in the Old Testament period and continuing for the next six hundred years, the Jewish high priests were often the most important members of Jewish society. They not only possessed religious authority but also exercised political control. This book gathers and assesses the surviving evidence about each of the fifty-one men who served as high priest from about 515 BCE until approximately 70 CE when the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed.
''The primary purpose of this history of the high priests in the Second Temple age has been to gather and assess all of the available information about each one of them, from Joshua in the late sixth century BCE to Phannias during the Jewish revolt against Rome (66–70 CE). A secondary aim has been to investigate the status of these high-ranking officials—specifically whether they also wielded civic authority. . . .

“It is worth emphasizing what this book is and is not. It is a history of the Second Temple high priests; it is not a history of the priesthood. . . . The book is not primarily a history of the Second Temple period, although the history regularly impinges on the narrative and provides the organizing principle of the presentation.''
from the Preface
“James VanderKam has written the first complete history of the high priests in the Second Temple period. Like all VanderKam’s work, this is marked by clarity of style, thoroughness of coverage, and sound judgment. An Indispensable reference work for the study of Second Temple Judaism.”

John J. Collins, Author of Introduction to the Hebrew Bible with CD-ROM

“An extremely significant comprehensive study of the high priesthood of the Second Temple. It is becoming increasingly clear how all-important the priesthood was in early Judaism. This study is now the indispensable starting point for sorting through the texts and research on this topic.”

David M. Carr, Author of Writing on the Tablet of the Heart

“VanderKam shows how to sustain a historical narrative while presenting the detailed exegesis and nuanced judgments that inform and support it. His meticulous research brings to life in their contexts the influential personages who populate the world of the Apocrypha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the New Testament, and Josephus and provides fresh insights and historical refinements for students of Second Temple Judaism and first-century Christianity. A Mature piece of historical analysis.”

George W. E. Nickelsburg, Author of Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins

James VanderKam is the John A. O'Brien Professor of Hebrew Scriptures at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. He is the author of numerous works, including The Dead Sea Scrolls Today (1994), An Introduction to Early Judaism (2001), The Book of Jubilees (2001), and The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls (with Peter Flint, 2002).

Format: Hardcover 568 pages 6 x 9 inches
Item No: 0800626176
Price: $35.00

To order From Joshua To Caiaphas please call Fortress Press at 1-800-328-4648 or visit the web site at To request review copies or exam copies please call 1-800-426-0115 ext. 234. For interviews, speaking engagements, and writing assignments please call 1-800-426-0115 ext. 234 or email

Monday, October 18, 2004

Review of Biblical Literature latest

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

Baur, F. C.
Paul the Apostle of Jesus Christ: His Life and Works, His Epistles and Teachings
Reviewed by James Sweeney

Ehrman, Bart D.
The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings
Reviewed by Lincoln Blumell

Lorein, G. W.
The Antichrist Theme in the Intertestamental Period
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

Lorein, G. W.
The Antichrist Theme in the Intertestamental Period
Reviewed by Michael Kaler

Lorein, G. W.
The Antichrist Theme in the Intertestamental Period
Reviewed by Henry Sturcke

Marguerat, Daniel
McKinney, Ken, Gregory J. Laughery, and Richard Bauckham, translators
The First Christian Historian: Writing the 'Acts of the Apostles'
Reviewed by Milton Moreland

Meyer, Paul W.
Edited by John T. Carroll
The Word in this World: Essays in New Testament Exegesis and Theology
Reviewed by Michael Gilmour

Meyer, Paul W.
Edited by John T. Carroll
The Word in this World: Essays in New Testament Exegesis and Theology
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

Meyer, Paul W.
Edited by John T. Carroll
The Word in this World: Essays in New Testament Exegesis and Theology
Reviewed by Scott Yoshikawa

Moore, Stephen D. and Janice Capel Anderson, eds.
New Testament Masculinities
Reviewed by Michael Carden

Witherington III, Ben and Darlene Hyatt
Paul's Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary
Reviewed by John Bertone

Witherington III, Ben and Darlene Hyatt
Paul's Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary
Reviewed by Fred Rich

Friday, October 15, 2004

Private Publishing and Harmonizing

[Writing on the train on the way down to London; having to get up every five minutes to close the door to stop a massive breeze.]

My post Lament over a Gospel Harmony, based on a post from Danny Zacharias on Deinde, generated a couple of comments, the first from "Jim" objecting to the term "vanity publishing" and the second from Wieland Willker objecting to the disparagement of Gospel harmonies. In response to Jim, I would note that my preferred term, and the one I used in the post, is "privately published", a term that I explained by noting that some use the more disparaging term "vanity publishing". Let me be clear here. There is nothing necessarily problematic about privately published work. Sometimes it is, quite simply, the most appropriate, the cheapest, the most cost-effective way to get something out. Most of what is published on the internet, including by established academics, is in a sense privately published -- it is not run through a peer-review process or anything else. It's simply put out there for the world to take or leave as they please. This blog is like that. In some ways the net has decreased the need for disseminating ideas by privately printed work, but the latter still often has an important place too. My dad, for example, writes on Lewis Carroll and children's literature and often finds the most appropriate means of getting his material out to those who want to read it, is to arrange publication himself. It's the same process as those who in the music industry sell CDs at gigs or via the net -- it's often more cost effective, more efficient, more direct and one retains much more control over one's product.

But in the context of my post on the topic, I was commenting on Danny's lament that this is the kind of book that gets into the "pop.christian" book shops where superior books find it more difficult to find their way to the average Church-goer. I was commenting that one should probably not be too concerned in a case like this because the book in question is privately published and it is a particular difficulty, usually, to get privately published material into book shops. That's not the function of the best privately published material, which is rather dissemination via networks of friends and the potentially interested. And it needs to be added, I think, that the publication of academic books by established publishers is often an indicator that the quality of the book in question is superior to a similar book published privately. The reason is straightforward and is nothing to do with "intellectual eggheads" or prejudice. It is, rather, because the book produced by the established publisher will have been through a peer-review process in which it is subjected to rigorous academic scrutiny by experts in the field. And it is a tough business. Much of my time is spent reviewing manuscripts for publication, and it is a demanding, if necessary, job. I would also add that if you publish with Brill, you are highly unlikely to get paid at all, let alone "paid before a single copy sells".

And so to the question of Gospel harmonies. Wieland Willker wonders why it is that they get disparaged by scholars. What is wrong with them? I think that an important point wants making here: it depends on what the function of the Gospel Harmony in question is. If the function is literary, artistic, devotional, dramatic, there often remains a role for the Gospel Harmony. I have myself written in defence of the use of harmony in The Passion of the Christ, complaining about those scholars who have overreacted to its use of harmonizing, criticizing this work of art as if it were an undergraduate essay on the historical Jesus (see "The Power of the Passion of the Christ: Reacting and Over-reacting to Gibson's Artistic Vision" in Jesus and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, Chapter 3, based on an earlier blog post, The harmonizing tradition in Jesus films). But herein lies the important point -- treating an artistic work as if it is an academic one is problematic. Harmonizing does not have a role to play in serious academic work on the Gospels, unless one wishes to argue that the major advances in critical work on the Gospels are wrong-headed. One may wish to argue that but I cannot myself imagine how such an argument could be successfully mounted. Certainly it will not do, if one wishes to be taken seriously, to ignore such work. At the very least it needs to be engaged.

In other words, it is a question of context. When my kids take part in their nativity play this Christmas, I would be an utter nerd if I were to go to the person organizing it to complain about its having harmonized the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. But when I lectured to my first year undergraduates a fortnight ago on Matthew 1-2, it would have been irresponsible for me to be involved in uncritical harmonizing.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Lament over a new Gospel harmony

On Deinde, Danny Zacharias offers a lament on a new book that harmonises the Gospels (a book also mentioned to me by Jim West, who also blogs it):

A new gospel harmony . . . a lament
Why is it that it is this type of work which receives media attention and will be carried in the pop.christian bookstores? The publisher pushes the Gospel of the Four as if this were the first concerted attempt to create a synopsis of the gospel, despite the excellent published resources and online resources as well . . . . I don't pretend to have any answers, and i know that everyone author has a right to their opinions, but how can the best in biblical scholarship penetrate the pop.christian bookstores?
Danny's points and questions are helpful. One comment: it is all the more important for scholars to look to communicate with that wider public, to communicate via books, the internet, the media, or those outside of universities and seminaries will go to less reputable sources that are willing -- and waiting -- to fill any gap. But a second comment too: I am much less concerned than Danny here. As far as I can tell, the work in question is privately published (what some more disparagingly might call vanity publishing), and the "press release" in question is presumably written by the author; it is disseminated via eMediaWire, which is a free press release service that anyone can use. It is a notorious difficulty to get privately published books into mainstream bookshops.


I have moved over to publishing my Bloglines Blogroll in the left-hand column. This makes my blogroll easier to update. The days of coding things manually are coming to an end! This makes little difference to the user except that several feeds have been added on the left.

At the same time, I've scrunched up the archiving so that archives are listed by month on the left and not, as before, by week. I figure that if people want to find an old post they are more likely to search for it than browse. And the Google search of the site, also on the left, offers a good way of doing that.

And while I'm at it, I've added one of those buttons that enables you to subscribe to this blog within Bloglines with just one click.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The Coding Humanist

This has recently been mentioned on both Hypotyposeis and goranh, which has reminded me that I had a nice email from the author of this blog several days ago:

The Coding Humanist
Eric Sowell

It includes lots of material of interest to those interested in Biblical Studies, especially if you are interested also in technical gubbins. Eric is apparently behind the fine-looking new Online Critical Pseudepigrapha on which I recently blogged. More on the latter in due course; I've decided to use its version of the Testament of Abraham for my post-graduate Greek class.

I would add a link to this new blog on my blogroll on the left but I am beginning to do this too often, so will now move over simply to publishing my more comprehensive blogroll which I use on Bloglines.

Update (09.57): Whoops -- got the wrong site. I knew Eric had designed something I'd been looking at and blogging on recently and it's not the Online Critical Pseudepigrapha, on which Eric offers some useful comments (Online Critical Pseudepigrapha), but the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (see Nice to be Appreciated).

Guardian investigates academic blogs

A colleague today handed me a useful article from The Guardian Online all about academic blogging. It's a couple of weeks old now but I must have missed it at the time. It's well worth a read:

Inside the ivory tower
Blogging is allowing academics to develop and share their ideas with an audience beyond the universities. But as Jim McClellan reports, not everyone is convinced
Academic researchers are drawn to blogs because they're useful knowledge management tools. MacCallum-Stewart says that her site quickly became a kind of "mind gym", a place to test out and develop ideas and to hone her prose style. The social networking side of blogging became very important here, she says. Her blog helped her build links and share ideas with researchers in the area at other universities.

More interestingly, her blog has drawn in non-academic readers. Writing every day for them - making sure her arguments on current popular myths about the first world war are clear and concise - has helped her prose style, she says. "I think I write in a more accessible, less academic way now," she says. The sense of connecting with a larger public is important, she adds. "You get so obsessed with a thesis. It's just you most of the time, so to be able to talk about it to all sorts of people is very useful."
I quite agree. One of the things that is indeed very useful to the individual academic blogger is the encouragement to be thinking about how to present his/her research and ideas to a broader public.
But many more traditional academics are suspicious of taking their ideas public in this way. For some, the blogging academic is the latest incarnation of the media don, ready to simplify complex ideas in return for a few minutes of fame. Others are wary of sharing ideas before they are ready - or of seeing original theories stolen before they are published.
Well, I don't worry too much about academics who think this way. I doubt that such people are genuinely concerned about one simplifying complex ideas, and I can't help suspecting that they are more concerned about their own shortfalls in attempting to communicate with a broader public. That may sound harsh, but I must admit to being puzzled by those who appear to go out of their way to avoid talking coherently to anyone other than their own students, and sometimes not even to them! It is a strange educational ethos. The worry about having original ideas stolen before publication is actually discouraged and not encouraged by blogging. With blogging one can document and date the articulation of the idea in question, often long before it finds a "final" form in a peer-reviewed article or a book.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

SBL Forum latest

The October content on the SBL Forum has now appeared:

SBL Forum

It's looking a bit sparser than usual this month; perhaps there is more to come in the coming weeks. Perhaps they should have reproduced some of the bibliobloggers' discussions on the SBL Seminar Papers online! Anyway, so far there is the following:

Obituary: Jacques Derrida (1930-2004)

The Future of Biblical Studies
Marc Zvi Brettler

Effective Learning Facilitation
Heather McKay

Carlson colours the Synopsis again

The world is divided into those who enjoying colouring their Synopsis and those who do not. Well, that's one way I like to divide the world up. I was taught to colour the Synopsis by Ed Sanders in his lectures on the Synoptic Gospels in Oxford in the mid 1980s and I was captivated by this straight away. There's no question that it is an ideal way of getting familiar with the data in the Synopsis. And everyone who has tried it at any length will have reached the stage where they become quite frustrated by it because it's never as easy to apply as you might wish. I did make the mistake as an undergraduate, though, of beginning to colour directly in my copy of Greeven's Synopsis. So I now always advise students to photocopy first and then colour; always avoid defacing books if possible, especially with coloured pencils.

I have just been teaching the Synoptic Problem and Redaction Criticism to new first year students over the last couple of weeks, so it is nice to have the topic of colouring the Synopsis come to light again on the web courtesy of Stephen Carlson's post today Multi-color Synopsis @ Synoptic Problem website, which draws attention to the relaunch of his colouring project, probably the first attempt to colour the Synopsis on the internet back in ?1996. Here's the first page of the new Synopsis:

John's Imprisonment

The first noticeable thing is the excellent and necessary move to unicode fonts from the Symbol font used in the earlier version, at the time a necessary evil. The second thing to notice is the colouring scheme, which Stephen explains in the blog entry, and which is continuous with the earlier system. One of the things that is fascinating about the business of Synopsis colouring is how different systems appear intuitive to different people, and I suppose this shows differences in how we find it helpful to view things. I remember looking at the way that other students did their revision and being surprised by how different it was to the way that I organized my own. I feel the same way now when I see how colleagues organize their hand-outs. This is something of a round-about way of saying that I don't at this stage find Stephen's scheme as intuitive as my own (explained in The Synoptic Problem: A Way Through the Maze, with English examples here and blogged on here), which to me has the advantage of giving at-a-glance visual clues to what kind of agreement one is dealing with. For example, since Mark is red, a purple in Matthew will tell us straight away that there is some Marcan material in Matthew here since purple has red in it. Or when I look at green material, I see something with no red in it whatsoever, and this is double tradition (Q) material, i.e Matthew (blue) + Luke (yellow). And so on -- I like the combinations and the way that the colours merge into one another and contrast with one another. For me it creates a kind of colour map of the Synopsis, representing visually the way in which the different agreements and disagreements are networking with one another.

But I didn't begin this post with a view to discussing again my own preferred scheme, but to commend Stephen on the re-launch of an excellent project.

Update (Wednesday, 23.32): Stephen Carlson comments and comes up with the great idea of using user-defined CSS (cascading style sheets) to override Stephen's own colour choices. I've followed Stephen's instructions and have adjusted the style sheet but can't seem to get it to achieve the desired result. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong there; is it just me? One comment, though: even if I can get it to work, Stephen's scheme works with triple tradition agreements = default / black text, and so not separately encoded, whereas mine works with triple tradition agreements as brown (i.e. expressive of blue+red+yellow, Matthew+Mark+Luke), so in order to get from Stephen's scheme to mine, the default text would also need to be encoded and not just left.

I've been thinking a little more about my scheme too and want to pose this question: what do we think we are doing when we colour the Synopsis? Well, for me one of the goals is to create a visual map of the way in which the different agreements network together, i.e. to find a way of visually presenting the contours of a given passage that one can pick up straight away. It's a bit like diagramming Greek grammar. The way the primary-colours and combinations scheme works is to present to the reader with a one-look demonstration of the different degrees of agreement and disagreement. I am not sure if I am finding a clear way to articulate this yet, and at the root of my inability to articulate it may be some misunderstanding on my part of how, for example, Stephen's scheme works, e.g. I am more familiar with primary colours and combinations in painting and paint-mixing than I am with "the primary colours of light", but in the latter does blue+red+green = black (Matt+Mark+Luke = triple agreemnt) in the same way that blue+red+yellow = brown on my scheme? It's probably just my ignorance showing here.

Update (Thursday, 16.02): Catherine Smith helps me out with the Primary Colours of Light with that link to a nice diagram. The diagrams here bear out my concern. The top one could be re-labelled according to my colouring scheme for the Synoptics, replacing blue / red / yellow with Matthew / Mark / Luke, purple with Matthew + Mark orange with Mark + Luke, green with Matthew + Luke, brown with Matthew + Mark + Luke. In fact, it occurs to me that that would be a useful way of my demonstrating my colouring scheme. But the same is not true for the primary colours of light in relation to Stephen's scheme since the latter has a rough adherence to the combinations but not a complete adherence.

One other thing -- Stephen corrects the CSS in his post on Synoptic Colors but I still can't get it to work for me. I am probably being Mr Thicko on this but can't work out what I am doing wrong.

Wright on Galatians

Another new addition to the N. T. Wright page -- what a fine and comprehensive resource it has become:

Gospel and Theology in Galatians
N. T. Wright

Originally published in L. Ann Jervis and Peter Richardson, Gospel in Paul: Studies on Corinthians, Galatians and Romans for Richard N. Longenecker (JSNTSup, 108; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994): 222–239

I was just lecturing on Galatians today too; what a fascinating epistle it is. I was encouraged by how much the students in the class today engaged with the intricacies of the epistle too. One of the most interesting comments, and it took me a couple of seconds to process it, was in response to a question I asked about whether they thought they would have been convinced by Paul if they had been in Galatia. The comment was "I think I would have been convinced by Paul's opponents in Galatia, but then I'm a woman".

Caviezel as Superman?

While on the topic, and also in homage to Christopher Reeve who died yesterday, the rumours about Jim Caviezel (Jesus in The Passion of the Christ) show no sign of abating, for example in this article in the Baltimore Sun about Christopher Reeve (A Super Man). The most thorough coverage of the rumours is in Christianity Today and most recently in this update:

Reel News: Latest reports deepen mystery behind Caviezel/Superman rumors
Jeffrey Overstreet

James Carroll on The Passion and Anti-Semitism

I mention this not because it's well-observed or well-written (it isn't) but because it typifies what is problematic about so many of the overreactions to The Passion of the Christ. It is from today's Boston Globe:

A new anti-Semitism
By James Carroll
But this year, a startling manifestation of foundational hatred of the Jewish people has occurred in the very heart of well-intentioned Christian faith. When the blockbuster DVD of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" was released a few weeks ago, the astounding appeal of an already hugely successful film was made clearer than ever. For many, this portrait of the suffering and death of Jesus is a powerful religious experience, despite its hyper-violence and despite a blatant portrayal of "the Jews" as Satan's allies in the murder of one revered as the Son of God.
There have been several examples of the same caricature in recent months, but it is still worth adding that it is incorrect and misleading to talk about "the Jews" in inverted commas in this way. The film never uses the term "the Jews" in its dialogue / subtitles (except in the phrase "king of the Jews"). Nor is it the case that the Satan figure is any more prominent among Jewish characters in the film than with non-Jewish. Indeed, it is striking that the most memorable of the Satan scenes, during the scourging, when the Satan carries an ugly baby, occurs at the moment of supreme human evil, when the sadistic Roman guards are flagellating Jesus. As I attempted to make clear in my article on the subject, there are concerns with this film, as there are with all of the Jesus films, but these concerns are not adequately addressed by misrepresentation.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Review of Bibical Literature latest

Latest from the Review of Biblical Literature under the NT heading:

Fitzmyer, Joseph A.
Spiritual Exercises Based on Paul's Epistle to the Romans
Reviewed by Preston Sprinkle

Gaca, Kathy L.
The Making of Fornication: Eros, Ethics, and Political Reform in Greek Philosophy and Early Christianity
Reviewed by Chris Frilingos

Harland, Philip A.
Associations, Synagogues, and Congregations: Claiming a Place in Ancient Mediterranean Society
Reviewed by Michael Kaler

Horsley, Richard A.
Paul and the Roman Imperial Order
Reviewed by Verlyn Verbrugge

Porter, Stanley E.
Reading the Gospels Today
Reviewed by Kevin W. Larsen

Porter, Stanley E.
Reading the Gospels TodayReviewed by Dennis R. Lindsay

And it is interesting and encouraging to see the RBL branching out into other media too. The following is a review of a DVD set:

An Archaeological Search for Jesus: Hosted by Hershel Shanks
Reviewed by Daniel Gurtner

More on the James Ossuary

On Biblical Theology, Jim West notes the latest on Biblical Archaeology Society's updates on the saga of the James Ossuary:

Hebrew Script Expert Ada Yardeni on the James Ossuary and the Jehoash Tablet

In a sentence, "In sum, I am confident that the James ossuary inscription is authentic. About the Yehoash inscription, there is more doubt."

Update (Tuesday, 21.23): I must admit that I was rather hoping that Stephen Carlson would make one of his informed comments on this latest contribution, and I was not disappointed -- see Hypotyposeis.

Farrer on-line

There are several on-line resources connected with Austin Farrer and I thought I would gather them together here on this, the centenary of his birth. First, his own writings. This article is one that he is now quite well known for. I scanned it from the pages of the volume myself and edited and uploaded, I think in 1997 or 1998. At that point there was only one scanner in the university and I had to make appointments to hire it for an hour at a time, and a slow business it was:

Austin Farrer, “On Dispensing With Q”, D. E. Nineham (ed.), Studies in the Gospels: Essays in Memory of R. H. Lightfoot (Oxford: Blackwell, 1955): 55-88

This piece was an essay added to the English translation of Kerygma and Myth by Rudolf Bultmann and Five Critics (London: SPCK, 1953):

An English Appreciation by Austin Farrer

It is made available on-line, along with the whole of that book, by Religion-Online; unfortunately, the edition does not give the original page numbers.

Sadly, that about sums up the on-line Farrer content. But here are some interesting materials relating to him:

Synoptic Gospels Primer: Austin Marsden Farrer

This is a page from Mahlon Smith's fine Synoptic Gospels Primer.

This piece, by Jeff Peterson of Austin Graduate School, was given as a paper at the SBL Annual Meeting of 2000 in Nashville, as part of a session on the Farrer Theory of Synoptic origins, at which Mark Matson and I also spoke. The respondents were John S. Kloppenborg and Elizabeth Struthers Malbon:

Jeffrey Peterson, “A Pioneer Narrative Critic and His Synoptic Hypothesis: Austin Farrer and Gospel Interpretation”, Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers 2000 (Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Paper Series, 39; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2000): 651-672

Finally, the most important for today's celebration -- an on-line transcript of a sermon preached by the Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, at Oriel Colletge on 8 September this year, at the conclusion of the Centenary Conference:

Celebration of The Centenary of the Birth of Austin Farrer, October 11th 2004

This is hosted on the Diocese of Oxford website and features a colour picture of Farrer. Here is a nice excerpt:
When I was at Cuddesdon there were two sets of lectures which made the whole experience of college worthwhile. One was by Bill Vanstone, the other was the series of Holy Week lectures by Austin Farrer. He came quietly and quickly up the aisle at Cuddesdon parish church, mounted the pulpit and without any ado talked to God for an hour before descending the pulpit and walking quickly out again with as little fuss as he had come in. It was a privilege to overhear him talking to God. I also came out of the church with a sense that as he had spoken my mind had gone click, click, click as question after scarcely formulated question seemed to receive an answer and a fresh insight. I would have been hard put to decide whether it was a spiritual experience or an intellectual treat. It was of course both. And this highlights the nature of Farrer’s genius. Genius normally consists of one talent in extreme degree. Farrer’s was of three aspects, the mind, the imagination and the spirit fused together in such a way that each reached its perfection in relation to the other two.
I found out recently too that there does exist a recording of Austin Farrer's last sermon, preached on the Sunday before he died, on "The Ultimate Hope", and it is available for sale on a CD from St Mary's Church at Temple Balsall.

Austin Farrer Centenary

Today is the centenary of the birth of Austin Marsden Farrer on 11 October 1904. Farrer, who died in 1968, was a fine philosopher and religious thinker, in the words of Rowan Williams "possibly the greatest Anglican mind of the twentieth century". His thought has been celebrated already at a special conference in honour of his memory in Oxford (Austin Farrer Centenary Conference) and another is due to run in the USA in November (Captured by the Crucified).

Although a fine theologian, Farrer had another string to his bow and was also a brilliant and much underrated Biblical scholar. What follows is a very warped personal appreciation, warped because it is partly mediated through others and is dependent on my own limited encounters with his work.

My own encounter with Austin Farrer's work has been mediated through at least two other people, Michael Goulder, whose own contributions to Biblical studies began by taking on his mantle, and John Muddiman, my doctoral supervisor, who was also a student of Farrer. One of Farrer's most well known contributions to New Testament Studies was his seminal article, itself now almost half a century old, called On Dispensing with Q, in which he made one of those great intuitive leaps that only the finest minds are able to make but which, alas, often only bear fruit many years after the genius's death. By suggesting that it is possible to "dispense with" Q, while holding on to Marcan Priority, on the grounds that a good case could be made for Luke's direct knowledge of Matthew, Farrer paved the way for the serious working out of the theory in Michael Goulder's work, almost all of it after Farrer's death. I have a personal stake in this, but would like to add that I can't help thinking that the tide is beginning to turn on the Synoptic Problem; people now seem so much more willing to acknowledge the strength of Farrer's alternative.

But On Dispensing with Q represents a minor, if interesting, part of Farrer's output on Biblical Studies. Indeed it was essentially the outcrop of his having found, when working on Matthew, that he simply could not find the Q theory plausible, in spite of the fact that it was held by all his Oxford colleagues and much of the rest of the guild. And his work on Matthew is well worth reading. I return to it regularly, and gain a little more from it on each return. I am thinking here of St Matthew and St Mark (Westminster: Dacre, 1954). I am happy to say that there is a Birmingham link here too. This book was given as the Edward Cadbury Lectures 1953-4 here in Birmingham. The Cadbury Lectures are still going strong over fifty years later; in my time here we have had Heikki Räisänen and Ed Sanders. But St Matthew and St Mark is a remarkable book in that it essentially realises that understanding Matthew provides a key to understanding Mark, and vice versa. Farrer saw Matthew, rightly in my view, as a systematic explicator of Mark's dark mysteries. Read the introduction to that book -- it has some of the best material you will read on either Matthew or Mark.

The other thing that is striking about St Matthew and St Mark is that it is essentially a development of, a reworking of an earlier work of Farrer's, A Study in St Mark (Westminster: Dacre, 1951). I remember reading this as a student and finding it fascinating in some respects but in others unconvincing. In particular, there is a problem with the extent of Farrer's attempts to understand the Marcan symbolism of numbers. And Farrer himself was not convinced and revised his thoughts in St Matthew and St Mark, though he still convinced few even in the fresh format. But what I admire here is Farrer's understanding and appreciation of the questing nature of Biblical studies (my term). I reckon that if more of us were prepared to experiment in the way that Farrer did, and if fewer of us were worried about being seen to change our minds in public, scholarship might be much more interesting. One gets the feeling when reading Farrer that if only he had long enough to meditate and work through all of this, that in the end he would get there and crack Mark's code.

One other legacy from Farrer's Biblical criticism has stayed with me from the first moment I encountered it in a library in Oxford some years ago, and it is his wonderful and disparaging use of the term "paragraph criticism" as a means of describing the work of the form-critics. Farrer was really well ahead of his years here, not only in showing some scepsis for the obsession with pericopae that characterised the work of the form-critics, but in anticipating not only redaction-criticism but also narrative-criticism, as Jeff Peterson recently argued. But I should also mention his work on Revelation, which I have never myself studied in the way I might have done because I have never spent as much time on Revelation as I might have done, A Rebirth of Images: The Making of St John's Apocalypse (London: Dacre, 1949).

A little later, I will point to some web resources on Farrer to help out in celebrating this, his centenary.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Death of Derrida

On Christian Origins, Peter Kirby notes the death of Jacques Derrida on Friday, aged 74. This is the BBC News story:

Deconstruction icon Derrida dies
Jacques Derrida, one of France's most famous philosophers, has died at the age of 74
Derrida, who suffered from cancer, died in a Paris hospital on Friday night.

The Algerian-born philosopher is best known for his "deconstruction theory" - unpicking the way text is put together in order to reveal its hidden meanings.

Fellow academics have charged that Derrida's writings are "absurd", but his mark on modern thinking is undisputed, correspondents say.

In his long career, he taught at the Sorbonne and at several American universities.

Jacques Derrida could claim to be one of the few philosophers of the late 20th Century who people other than students of the subject had actually heard of, says Paris correspondent Hugh Schofield.
In retrospect, I rather regret preferring the steakhouse to Derrida when he spoke at the SBL Annual Meeting the year before last, on a Saturday night. How fickle I am!

Here's The Guardian's version of the story:

Philosopher Jacques Derrida Dies at 74
Elaine Ganley

Friday, October 08, 2004

Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts

On the Textual Criticism e-list, which now seems to have pretty much replaced the defunct TC-List, Wieland Willker draws attention to this new resource:

Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts

Its mission statement is that "The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts desires to take high-resolution digital photographs of Greek New Testament manuscripts, preserving the treasures of the Church and making the images accessible for scholarly research" and its director is Daniel Wallace. It is apparently based in Frisco, Texas. The design is nice and the early signs are good for the site. They currently have three MSS on-line, Codex 669, Lectionary 1683 and Minuscule 2813. Worth keeping a close eye on.

Journal of the Evangelical Theology Society on-line

On Biblical Theology, Jim West notes this useful development:

Journal of the Evangelical Theology Society On-line

So far, volumes from 1996 to 2002 are available. The articles themselves are PDFs, but some of the tables of contents could do with a run through the spell-checker. Still, good news to another journal of interest to our field going the open access way.

Jerusalem Post latest on Ossuary

Stephen Carlson mentions this in Hypotyposeis and thanks also to Stephen Goranson for sending over the link. In this online edition, the interview with Hershel Shanks is not that easy to read because the interviewer's remarks are not properly distinguished from Shanks's. But here's the link:

'IAA handling James ossuary case very poorly'
Calev Ben-David

One of the interesting pieces of information comes at the end of the article, that "The IAA declined to react to the comments made in this interview. The Israel Police told The Jerusalem Post that they have concluded their investigation into Oded Golan, and have passed their findings to the State Attorney's Office, which is now weighing whether to file charges against him."

The Online Critical Pseudepigrapha

Several other bibliobloggers have already mentioned this, but some links are too important not to underline oneself. This looks like a very promising project, properly thought-through and so far beautifully executed, using sophisticated but aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly lay-outs:

The Online Critical Pseudepigrapha

The project is directed by Ken Penner, David Miller and Ian Scott. Good to see them using unicode fonts for the project, surely the future of all such projects. So far, The Testament of Job has been fully prepared with critical apparatus; also available are Testament of Abraham and 1 Enoch. There are invitations for others to get involved too. A very promising project -- all strength to their arms.

Evangelicals debate Steve Chalke on Jesus

Ekklesia has had a couple of pieces on a new book by Steve Chalke on the doctrine of the atonement, questioning how central penal substitution should be. My interest in this has been to see a couple of NT scholars croppting up. Previously it was Lloyd Pietersen, who I know from the British NT Society. This time it is my friend Simon Gathercole, who does not get a good write-up in this story:

Evangelicals debate Chalke's Message of Jesus
Evangelical scholars including James Dunn, Stephen Travis, Nigel Wright, Clark Pinnock, Robert Brow, Mark Baker and Joel Green, had all questioned the biblical basis of penal substitution, and the importance accorded to it in Evangelicalism - a point made by the Evangelical Alliance.

Opponents of Steve Chalke’s position were given equal time to speak and make their case against the book.

It was however difficult at times to work out what Dr Simon Gathercole, a Lecturer in New Testament at the University of Aberdeen and Dr Anna Robbins, a Lecturer in Theology and Contemporary Culture at the London School of Theology, were actually saying.

Review of Eerdman's Commentary on the Bible

Robin Griffith-Jones has an appreciative review of the Eerdman's Commentary on the Bible in this week's Church Times:

EERDMANS COMMENTARY ON THE BIBLE By James D. G. Dunn and John W. Rogerson
Reviewed by Robin Griffith-Jones
. . . .The range of approaches exemplified in the book is immensely stimulating. It may, however, (albeit unjustly) lessen the value of the volume as a compendium of the information that pastors and students have come to look for in a commentary . . . .

The voices we hear in this volume are the voices of those personally involved in the faith and the Church. They are well equipped to urge us, as S. C. Barton does, to take with full seriousness both the historical contingency of the text and the text’s continuing significance in the life of the Church. “We have to read it eschatologically, as the ‘word of God’ for the present with a view to the future consummation of all things.”

There is a vivid sense, here, of how intimately the text addresses these contributors and their readers as individuals: as scholars, in particular, almost all working in Britain or the United States. But the anger of the text at intractable structures of power generally reaches the reader (I think) only faintly, from the middle distance. The anger of some readers with the text — and with the endorsement it has been used to lend to those structures — is even harder to hear.
But Griffith-Jones really likes it. He comments that "The list of the 67 contributors is a roll-call of current scholarship". I am not sure about the word "current". The contributors represent the top notch senior colleagues in the guild, what my friend Michael Goulder would call "the top brass". In some ways, this is an excellent thing. But I would add something here from my own experience. As a graduate student in Oxford, I did some work, in the very early stages, for John Muddiman and John Barton on the Oxford Bible Commentary. My task was to do some research on the publications of scholars who were towards the beginning of their careers in order that the editors could assess who might be useful to approach as potential contributors, the point being to give the commentary some longevity by featuring not only the top brass but also the up-and-coming. I reckon that that was a good idea.

BBC Religion under scrutiny

Today's Guardian features news of a review of BBC's religious output:

BBC's religious and EU coverage under scrutiny
Matt Wells
Publishing the terms of reference for the reviews yesterday, the governors said the Central Religious Advisory Committee, which advises British broadcasters on coverage of religious issues, had "highlighted concern about the marginalised scheduling of much religious output, including the absence of a regular slot, and the lack of understanding of religious faiths on the part of some programme-makers".

Jana Bennett, the director of television, has agreed to develop a new religion strategy. The last one, approved two years ago, is not believed to have been a success.
Well, I'll be keeping an eye on this. I think the BBC has produced some excellent religious programming over the last few years, and I've been lucky enough to have been involved with some of it myself.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Scripturalization in Mark's Crucifixion Narrative

Things have been quiet for a couple of days on the blog because I've had the usual enormous backlog of administration, and especially an enormous backlog of correspondence, all made worse by having to prepare teaching after returning early on Monday morning from Rome. But one happy interlude has been provided by the sheer necessity to get an article written on "Scripturalization in Mark's Crucifixion Narrative", which I will be giving in the Mark Group at this year's SBL Annual Meeting. We had our Graduate Biblical Studies Seminar in Birmingham today and it gave me the chance to give the new paper, which I finished at around 2.30 a.m. last night, a first try-out. Here's a summary at the end of the paper, pending my posting the whole paper on-line at the weekend after I have done a little more tweaking:
Allow me to summarise our discussion. (1) Scholars still seldom appreciate just what an extraordinary undertaking it is to have tried to write a narrative about a hero who was crucified. (2) Mark overcomes the problem with this anomalous frightful by grounding his story in God’s will as revealed in the Scriptures. (3) The process concerned is one of scripturalization, the retelling of traditional materials in the light of the Scriptures, a view more plausible than the alternative of prophecy historicized. (4) The context for the Scripturalizing work was one in which Mark was in continuity with Christians going back at least to 50s Corinth, and no doubt to 30s Jerusalem, and it was the liturgy, something that has left its own mark on the text in circumstantial evidence.
It is simultaneously a pleasure and an irritation (but I think more of a pleasure) that one is working towards a conclusion on this kind of thing only to find oneself getting a host of extra ideas. One thing that I have been struck by has been the way in which Jesus' cry of dereliction functions in Mark's narrative. This may not make a lot of sense without the whole context, but I am in the mood to share it here. What I am concerned about is the scholarly cliché of seeing the cry of derelection as a sign of "embarrassment". Is Mark really in any way embarrassed by this moment? I don't think so. Rather, the more that one dwells on the magnitude of the task Mark has embraced, that of telling a story in which a hero is a victim of crucifixion, the more such a cry makes perfect sense.
In these verses, where Jesus is, of necessity, largely silent, the Scriptures speak all the more loudly. They provide Mark with the means of telling a plausible story (a crucified victim might be depicted uttering a few choice words, but extensive conversations are quite out of the question if one wishes to keep one’s narrative plausible) at the same time as making it theologically robust. It acts as a useful reminder that discussions about the cry of Jesus from the cross as being an embarrassment, as being the more likely historically because of that, as quite out of place. Mark is not in the least “embarrassed” by this cry. It is an ideal means of expressing plausibly the horror of the cross at the same time as reaffirming, by quoting the Psalms, that it is in God’s will.
We had two other papers today, the first my colleague David Parker discussing Textual Criticism and Theology and the second his student Richard Goode talking about Orality and Textuality in the Gospel, both stimulating.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Review of Biblical Literature latest

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

Bockmuehl, Markus
Jewish Law in Gentile Churches: Halakhah and the Beginning of Christian Public EthicsReviewed by Lutz Doering

López Rosas, Ricardo
La Señal del Templo, Jn 2, 13-22: Redefinición Cristológica de lo Sacro
Reviewed by David Brondos

Nasrallah, Laura
An Ecstasy of Folly: Prophecy and Authority in Early Christianity
Reviewed by John Marshall

Räpple, Eva Maria
The Metaphor of the City in the Apocalypse of John
Reviewed by Mark Bredin

Suh, Joong Suk
The Gospel of Paul
Reviewed by Bert Jan Lietaert Peerbolte

Tomson, Peter J.
Translated by J. Dyk
'If this be from Heaven...': Jesus and the New Testament Authors in their Relationship to Judaism
Reviewed by Michele Murray

Sample Articles and Sample Journal Copies from Blackwell

Blackwell Publishers have sent around a circular announcing the availability of sample articles and sample copies of its religion journals available on-line:
Blackwell Publishing is offering open access to some key articles from its top religion and theology journals. To access the articles, please click on the links below and select the 'sample article' displayed near the bottom of the screen.

Should you wish to access a whole sample issue online you may do so by selecting the 'View a Sample Copy' option on the left-hand side of the screen, and follow the on-screen instructions.

Dialog: A Journal of Theology

The Heythrop Journal

International Journal of Systematic Theology

Journal of Chinese Philosophy

Journal of Religious Ethics

Journal of Religious History

Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

An extra 64 pages for 2005!
Modern Theology

The Muslim World

New to Blackwell for 2004!
New Blackfriars

Includes 2 Issues of Conversations in Religion and Theology!
Reviews in Religion and Theology

Teaching Theology and Religion


Monday, October 04, 2004

Loren Rosson Reviews Passion book

Loren Rosson has a helpful review of Robert Webb and Kathleen Corley (eds.), Jesus and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ on Amazon and reproduced on the Xtalk e-list:

Jesus and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ (Amazon)

Jesus and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ (Xtalk)

In my view, he's perhaps a little too harsh on Crossan, a little too generous to me and about right about the rest, but it's a thoughtful and well-written review. I really must get my own thoughts out about this book; hope to get a chance soon.

Update (Thursday, 01.36): this has developed into a very interesting thread and I've not been able to resist sending in contributioins myself -- click on the link above to read the archive.

Blogger problems today

On Paleojudaica, Jim Davila reports on problems he has had all day with Blogger. Me too. I go to publish and it blanks on me. I try again, same result. I then find later that it has published the same entry several times and I have to go through and delete. But it seems to have cheered up again now.

Visual Bible International Update

Regular readers may know that I keep an eye on news about Visual Bible International, the producers of the word-for-word films of Biblical books, the most recent among which was The Gospel of John (dir. Philip Saville, 2003). What little news there is continues to be discouraging; this piece from is on Garth Dabrinsky, the man behing the revamped organisation:

Garth Dabrinsky
But in recent months, Visual Bible International, the Florida company for which Drabinsky coproduced his $10 million film, the Gospel of John, has been embroiled in headline-grabbing lawsuits by former officers amid reports of sagging sales and mounting debts. Drabinsky, 54, dismisses a recent lawsuit as "a joke" and blames Mel Gibson for stealing his thunder. "Obviously we were the flavor of the moment till The Passion took over," he says. "And it was kind of overwhelming."

Now Drabinsky is negotiating a new video deal for his film. But in SEC filings last June, Visual Bible --formerly known as American Uranium--declared that if income didn't materialize, the company could be forced to close up shop. Still, Drabinsky shrugs off any suggestion of impending disaster. "In business careers, there are moments of soaring highs and deep lows," he says. "^You can't lose yourself over either. You have to stay the course."
For a film with a British director and a British lead, I find it remarkable that it has still not been released in this country, either in cinemas or on video and DVD. There are ways of marketing these things! I'm not sure about the claim that The Passion had an adverse effect on this film. One could argue that the interest in that film generated a lot extra publicity at the time, and its release several months before The Passion gave it the chance for enthusiasts to get out and see it while ancipating the bigger film.

Early Christianity Glossary

N. S. Gill's Ancient / Classical History announces:

Early Christianity Glossary

It's clearly still in development, but could be another useful glossary in the long term (cf. Deinde's stronger one, and my recent blog comments on other on-line glossaries). I'd have liked to have seen some comment on the use of "A.D." and "B.C." here, at least some acknowledgement that they are not now used by many scholars. But this makes me wonder something out loud. Is there anyone apart from Biblical scholars / theologians using BCE / CE? It's been out there a long time now. Is it ever going to catch on more broadly?

Update (23.18): N. S. Gill emails to note that she has now added sentences on "B.C.E." and "C.E."

Ernest Best

I join with fellow bloggers in mourning the death of Ernest Best, announced on Paleojudaica today. I met Paddy Best just once, at the British New Testament Conference in 1998, when -- sadly -- he was clearly unwell. A fine scholar, with many a useful contribution to NT studies.

Beatification of Anne Catherine Emmerich

A footnote to my Rome Travel Diary. One correspondent noted that it really was going a bit far in my appreciation of The Passion of the Christ to be in Rome at the same time as Anne Catherine Emmerich was getting beatified! The story of the beatification is here on Beliefnet:

Vatican Set to Beatify Gibson's Passionate Muse
By Kevin Eckstrom

It's not something I've blogged about before, but I have followed the story. I knew that it was coming up soon but was still taken aback when on Saturday I asked in St Peter's Square what was going on and people said that it was being prepared for a beatification on the following day. We all had to be given special passes to be allowed anywhere near. None of the members of the crew I was with knew who she was, "I think it's some 19th Century Austrian woman". One sidenote -- while in St Peter's Square, we were constantly harrassed by the police in spite of the fact that we had permission to film there. On Sunday itself, though, we were filming in the catacombs, so were not present for the actual event.

Update (19.06): coverage of the beatification is all over the news; here's a link from BBC News, which profiles Emmerich and Emperor Karl I, who was also beatified.

Christian Origins goes blog

It's good news to see Peter Kirby's Christian Origins getting blogified:

Christian Origins

Kirby has for some time been the author of great internet sites connected with Christian Origins -- he's a massive contribution. It's a great idea to transform the Christian Origins site into a blog, or at least to blog-enable or blog-power it. It's already on my Bloglines list and I am looking forward to reading it.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Rome Travel Diary, Day 3

I got a lie in this time, until 7 a.m., because the others had some filming to do I don't remember where. They picked me up at 8 and we drove down the Appian Way to the catacombs. A little filming outside but most of it was inside the catacombs; lots of walking up and down not talking for all the in-between shots, some walking and talking, then the main piece on Mark was filmed in a spot next to a fish and Chi-Rho symbols. The questions on Mark were the same sort of thing as for Luke and John yesterday, though now with particular stress on Mark as the first Gospel. Why did he take this radical new step? Who was he? Where did he get his materials? As far as I understand it, this sequence in the catacombs will come after the material on Paul, featuring Eddie Adams out in Ephesus and filmed last week. We linked it in by talking about Rome and about persecution, and persecution as a possible back drop for Mark.

It was a bit nippy down in the catacombs and this rather focused the mind; had to make sure I didn't delay things by needing to retake anything. One long pause was caused by a camera lamp breaking, just before we were to film the Mark material. After that, we had to use the ordinary electric lightbulbs on the ceiling, and it is pretty dim down there. So Robert and I stood directly underneath the light, quite close together. Apparently it looked quite good, so I'll be interested to see it.

In between the Mark shoot and the Matthew one, it was great to get outside and bask in the warm sunshine just for long enough to thaw out. Like yesterday, I was ravenously hungry throughout -- getting up early, only a croissant for breakfast, on your feet, trying to concentrate; whatever it was I was really ready for lunch later when we got it.

We did the whole of the Matthew section inside the Sebastapol chapel and sitting down. Same format, but as with each one some specific focus on the Gospel in question. With Matthew, we really focused on the question of its Jewish nature and I attempted to explain, in response to Robert's questions about anti-Semitism, that in order to understand it we need to read it in its intra-Jewish context. I also talked a little about Matthew "re-Judaising" Mark's Jesus. Just after this interview, we did lots of shots of our walking to that spot from different angles, and so on, and Robert fell up some steps. Just after that, when he asked a question, I started giggling and the others all did too. Having gone through that barrier, it became difficult to be serious again and each time I looked at Robert, he or I or one of the others giggled. Unprofessional, perhaps, but it was quite a happy few minutes; it was so close to the end of the shoot that perhaps there was something of relief in it that we were getting to the end and that all had gone well.

I am sitting at Rome Ciampino airport now, finishing this travel diary. I have too long a journey home, with a train ride from stansted to Birmingham longer than the plane journey from Rome. But I have the paper to read, one book left, and an article to write which was due last Thursday, and I have a lot of sleeping to do. I've enjoyed keeping this travel diary and may repeat the experiment on a similar work-related occasion. Otherwise, back to normal blogging again.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Rome Travel Diary, Day 2

Up at 6 a.m. Nice to see Robert Beckford, my colleague from Birmingham, who is presenting Who Wrote the Bible. We took a taxi to St Peter' Square where the morning's filming all took place. It was the first time I'd been there and by dawn's early light, it was a wonderful sight. As the morning went on, it filled up until it was packed full of tourists and lots of priests and nuns. One happy sight was a group of nuns clearly visiting the Vatican for the first time and loving every minute of it, drinking it all in.

Our topics today were Luke and John. Although they will, of course, go later in the programme, the filming was prior. Tomorrow we do Mark and Matthew in the catacombs. It's probably the most enjoyable filming I have been involved with. I had the chance to be relaxed, to be more expansive than usual, and to talk about a topic I know something about. At one stage I even got the chance to talk about Luke's sources! Quite often when I've been involved with television, the necessity to distill everything down to just the one succinct soundbite has been the key thing. But on this shoot, at an early stage, director Polly Morland told me to be less "soundbitey" and asked both of us to explore the issues in slightly less frenetic a style. It was a particular contrast with my most recent experience, filming for Jesus' Family Tree, when much of the rest of the documentary had already been filled and the director had a very clear idea of precisely what she wanted on each question. (No criticism implied; the context and content of my contribution to each documentary is very different). Moreover, Robert Beckford's enthusiastic, engaging style of interviewing, and the fact that I was not having to give self-contained answers, made it fun.

We spent something like four or five hours at St Peter's Square; I'm not sure precisely how long it was. We used lots of different locations around there, some static filming and some of us walking around. And there were lots of long shorts of Robert and me walking around. For both Luke and John the same sorts of questions. Who were they? When were they writing? What were their sources? Were they making this up? How did they depict Jesus? What themes come through? Were they eyewitnesses?

After a pasta lunch, I was free for the rest of the day. The others went to film a sequence on canon in a library. After a good sleep back at the hotel I had a little time to explore Rome alone. I probably should have bought a guide book and map, but it was nice just to wander and see what I found. I went to the top of the Victor Emmanuel building, passing the statue to an unknown soldier, and took in the fine view of Rome. I decided to head down to the colisseum from there and stuck around there, and had a beer at the café across the road from it, before heading back to the hotel to meet the others and go out first for some drinks and then some food. The fixer, called Nancy, did all the Italian speaking for us; it was either that or the universal language of pointing and smiling. I had some calamari. Robert broke off half way through the meal to do a live interview, sitting at the table, on his mobile phone, for his radio programme on BBC WM (West Midlands). After the meal, several of us found a nice spot to have a little more red wine on one of those lovely continental late summer evenings (it feels like summer to me out here -- much warmer than England is at the moment).

Friday, October 01, 2004

Rome Travel Diary, Day 1

Friday, 23.05 BST: In my hotel room in Rome; there is no internet connection available, either wireless or otherwise, but since I have my laptop with me, and since this trip is work-related, I have decided to keep a diary as time permits. I will upload on return on Sunday night / Monday morning, and will upload in the appropriate time slots, to reflect the times when I wrote each section, as if I had also posted them at those times.

Spent much of the day travelling. For me is an excellent way of catching up on both reading and sleeping. Slept so deeply during the latter part of my train journey to Stansted that the guard had to wake me up, so it was a good thing that my destination, the airport, was the terminus.

But also read Travis Derico's SBL Seminar Paper for the Synoptics Section, "Upgrade and Reboot: A Reappraisal of the Default Setting". It is an interesting read. As I see it, the paper makes one important point: generalised appeals to "orality" are not particularly helpful given the many varieties of orality in antiquity. And there is the related point that to talk about "variability" as a general characteristic of orality simply will not do. But those important points aside, I found the paper frustrating on two levels. First, I was surprised that, given the title, a clear allusion to James D. G. Dunn's NTS article of a year or so ago, and the related book Jesus Remembered, the article did not engage Dunn's work at all. There was simply one footnote expressing general support for Dunn's project. It made me wonder whether this was a case of a paper having set out with one intention and then having gone on with another.

My second point of frustration was its failure actually to engage the case for literary interdependence among the Synoptics. The paper repeatedly talks about "Synoptic type similarities" and the levels of agreement between the Synoptics, implying that oral tradition could explain such agreement in toto. But this is such a radical case, such a major departure from the consensus view, that the vagueness with which the consensus is characterised is inadequate. I also felt that there was a basic confusion between the case for some kind of literary relationship and the case for specific solutions to the Synoptic Problem. These are different, if related points.

The next article I read was Maurice Casey's critique of Larry Hurtado's Lord Jesus Christ from the most recent JSNT, a stimulating read, at its strongest on John's Gospel (can a document that calls its opponents "the Jews" still be called a Jewish document?) and at its weakest on its characterisation of Hurtado's arguments as sometimes "evangelical". Hurtado's response is also strong, and makes some effective points against Casey. Happily, both pieces on the whole avoid the kind of polemic that can be typical of such critiques and responses, and they are far more interesting and engaging for that restraint. A word about the editor of JSNT, David Horrell: he is doing a fine job of producing these kind of exchanges from top notch scholars on recent major works of interest, and getting them out in good time. Good for him, and long may it continue. I now find that I look forward to the latest JSNT more than any of the other journals, and that certainly did not used to be the case.

Eventually I departed from London Stansted for Rome. Sadly, the associate producer of the programme was unable to come with me because of passport difficulties so we simply met at the airport and I travelled alone. Slept lots more on the plane but also finished Martin Hengel's Crucifixion, a book I have long wanted to read properly but have only recently purchased, second hand.

Rome alone, for the first time, with no Italian and little idea of where I was going was a challenge, but I did managed to find my way to my hotel with the help of a taxi driver named Paolo who pointed to key sites on the way. I'm not quite sure precisely where I am, but a late evening walk on a pleasant, mild evening, a beer and a sandwich sitting outside on a cobbled pavement and watching Friday night Rome pass by, have given me a happy first taste of the place. But it will be nice to meet up with some people I know tomorrow.