Sunday, July 31, 2005

Profile of a biblioblogger

On Euangelion Michael Bird profiles "the average NT biblio-blogger" and I think I'll have to stop blogging because I don't fit the bill:
Let me guess, early to mid thirties,
Well, not too far off, as it happens.
I don't think so, but perhaps I'm wrong.
erratic personality disorder created by trying to solve the synoptic problme [sic],
No, though I used to worry about how I would persuade people that Farrer, Goulder and Sanders were right. Gosh, do some people really get that bothered about the Synoptic Problem? I suppose I ought to be encouraged -- there's help at hand for them.
liable to mood swings when favourite sporting team is loosing,
Now I'm beginning to think that Michael is describing someone in particular. Incidentally, the "loosing" perhaps should be added to Michael's 10 Ways to determine if you're an NT buff, the inadvertent, mistaken use of idionyncratic New Testament vocabulary like "binding" and "loosing" in every day contexts
and centrist-right convictions on the political spectrum.
Definitely not.
Maybe we'll find out at the BNTC in early September.
Alas, I don't think I can make it this year, and it will be my first one missed since 1997, so I won't get to meet Michael and others. But let me add that if it's anything like previous years, the best conversations will take place over a beer (or two) in the bar and not at some Maccy-Ds, thank goodness.

+Thomas Dunelm's Castle

Some time ago, there was a little discussion on the biblioblogs about Bishop Tom Wright's castle (e.g. here in Tom Wright's castle and also in Paleojudaica), when it became clear that it was common for us British academics to be living in castles. Well now, Tom Wright has the full justification out in this latest addition to the N. T. Wright page:

The Bishop's Ministry at Auckland Castle
Meeting of Church Commissioners and Auckland Castle Trustees, Directors and Supporters
Auckland Castle, July 13 2005

Briefing paper from the Bishop of Durham

The long and short of it is that he's not budging from Auckland Castle. Nor should he either. I've been looking around properties in North Carolina, USA this last week and I can assure you that they are nothing like the standard castle a British academic would live in.

Monday, July 25, 2005

New PRS website

The following announcement has recently been sent around to many in the UK Higher Education establishment, specifically those working in Philosophy and Religious Studies. It relates to a new website for PRS, the Subject Centre for Philosophical and Religious Studies in the Higher Education Academy:

We are very pleased to reveal our new website for the Subject Centre.

The new site includes greatly improved searching and resource retrieval, resources catalogued by discipline specific categories, event listing for all the PRS disciplines, a new interface and design, improved accessibility for all users, a range of format choices and new information from external sites on the home page. It also incorporates the means to extract information and resources to embed in your own website (RSS).

Some aspects of the site are still under development and we need your feedback before the full launch. As a result, the site is currently undergoing user-testing, and we are very interested in your views and any suggestions for improvements as part of the development. There is an on-line form available for feedback and comments.

The new site is available as a link from the current site (home page):

We look forward to hearing from you.
The new site has several attractive features, including a right hand margin delivering news and jobs of interest from (for example) the BBC News site and the website. There appears to be an RSS feed, but I can't seem to pick it up, though, at the moment.

Ben Witherington's blog out of the closet!

I'd like to join others (Michael Bird, Jim West and Sean du Toit) in welcoming Ben Witherington to the blogosphhere. As Sean du Toit comments, this is a surprising feat of "stealth blogging" in that it has apparently been going on for several months without any of us realizing, a strong achievement these days, but one that he's not been able to get away with for ever. The assumption must be that this is the New Testament scholar otherwise known as Dr Ben Witherington III. There are several telling clues, the link to Asbury Theological Seminary where he works and to Beliefnet for which he sometimes writes. Anyway, if it is that Ben Witherington III, a warm welcome to blogging and I would like to join others in looking forward to reading your thoughts.

Update (Tuesday, 10.53 pm, Eastern Time): as Eric Manuel notes, the following page puts the identification of the blog beyond doubt:

Dr Ben Witherington III

This is located at and features a CV, a link to the blog and some reproductions of his personal works. I look forward to seeing more on this site, perhaps especially some full text article reproductions?

Review of Biblical Literature latest

As it turns out, there always seems to be a moment to blog the latest from the SBL Review of Biblical Literature. I'm in a hotel in Cary, North Carolina at the moment and so I hope that this is not too mundane a blog entry as my first from here:

Aitken, Ellen Bradshaw
Jesus' Death in Early Christian Memory: The Poetics of the Passion
Reviewed by Erik Heen

Kim, Jung Hoon
The Significance of Clothing Imagery in the Pauline Corpus
Reviewed by Lynn Huber

Kim, Jung Hoon
The Significance of Clothing Imagery in the Pauline Corpus
Reviewed by Roy Jeal

Kloppenborg, John S. and John W. Marshall, eds.
Apocalypticism, Anti-Semitism and the Historical Jesus: Subtexts in Criticism
Reviewed by Thomas Kraus

Kloppenborg, John S. and John W. Marshall, eds.
Apocalypticism, Anti-Semitism and the Historical Jesus: Subtexts in Criticism
Reviewed by Daniel Smith

Lührmann, Dieter
Die apokryph gewordenen Evangelien: Studien zu Neuen Texten und zu Neuen Fragen
Reviewed by Thomas Kraus

Rhoads, David
Reading Mark, Engaging the Gospel
Reviewed by Sean Kealy

Rhoads, David
Reading Mark, Engaging the Gospel
Reviewed by Joseph Verheyden

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Blogging break

My current break from blogging will continue, I suspect, until the beginning of August, while we work on the transition from one job to another and one continent to another. I look forward to blogging again as soon as possible.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Pete Williams's web page and more

I've refreshed my Scholars: U-Z page with new URLs for Risto Uro, Francis Watson, Rikk Watts (why don't the people organizing these pages set up forwards?) and I've added also:

Peter J. Williams

This is a page with lots of full text article reproductions, very useful indeed.

Context and Nuance in Jesus' Sayings

I have enjoyed the blogging thread initiated by Michael Turton on The Sword and followed up by Stephen Carlson in Hypotyposeis with a contribution from Loren Rosson on The Busybody. Turton's post focuses on Mark 7.15, and the undue importance that is given to this saying in the work of the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels: What did Jesus Really Say. I'd like to add to what Michael, Stephen and Loren say by noting that the undue stress placed on this saying by the Jesus Seminar focuses a problem with Historical Jesus research, like theirs, that places so much stress on the authenticity and interpretation of particular sayings. One of the reasons that I am sceptical about the general attempt to sift sayings, highlight supposedly key ones and recontextualise them is the problem of context and nuance. We do not have the equivalent of the Nixon tapes when we are doing Historical Jesus research, and even if a given saying is in some respects original, we can never recover the context in which it was said or the particular nuances Jesus might have given it. There is an excellent warning on this topic in E. P. Sanders and M. Davies, Studying the Synoptic Gospels: 188:
'Ignorance of the precise context in which sayings were formulated often prevents the recovery of precision and nuance in interpreting Jesus' teaching. Meaning is determined by context, and sayings whose context is unknown cannot be pressed too hard in the quest of original meaning. Often we shall have to remain content with a more general understanding than we might wish.'
Consider, by analogy, the following editing and recontextualizing of something I have written in recent days:
Mark Goodacre . . . . may point to the reason for the lack of consensus on consensus when he observes, "consensus emerges over time and is something that is the result of ... conversations over a beer." Indeed, rather than giving greater confidence to outsiders, this seems to only give cause for Jim West's cynicism. (There is a general consensus among experts and non-experts that beer impairs judgment.) (my
Now let us say that Ken Ristau's enjoyably facetious post was not a blog post in which the link was provided to the original context for the saying, you would get quite the wrong gist about my views on the topic, and this even when Ken quotes me verbatim (except for the ellipsis).

Let us say that Jesus did say something like "It’s not what goes into a a person from the outside that can defile; rather, it’s what comes out of the person that defiles" (Mark 7.15). Could we really conclude, with the Jesus Seminar, that "Jesus is abrogating kosher food regulations across the board--a broadside against his own religious traditions" (Five Gospels: 30-31)? It is a somewhat hackneyed analogy, but still a valuable one, that Isaiah 1.15 speaks against prayer:
So when you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide My eyes from you;
Yes, even though you multiply prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are covered with blood.
Is this Isaiah's broadside against his own religious traditions like prayer? I don't think so. But this saying recontextualized and with loss of the nuance it currently has (in Isaiah 1, I mean) could be taken quite differently.

Update (18.37): Stephen Carlson has more of interest and relevance on Hypotyposeis, and further links to more. Colo(u)r me puzzled too. What's the Jesus Seminar's colour for puzzled?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Journal Henoch and the Enoch Literature

This from Gabriele Boccaccini via Justin Winger:
I am pleased to inform you that I am the new Director of the Journal “HENOCH: Studies in Judaism and Christianity from Second Temple to Late Antiquity.”

The Journal HENOCH was founded in 1979 by Prof. Paolo Sacchi and has soon become a well-established international journal in Judaic Studies. Under my Direction, and with a new Publisher (, it will start a new series with a more defined specialization (as the new sub-title clarifies), a stronger international emphasis, and English as its main language (articles in German, French, Spanish, and Italian will continue to be accepted, however).

The new Board of Directors is made of Profs. Paolo Sacchi, Claudio Gianotto, Yaron Eliav, and myself. Prof. Corrado Martone is the Secretary of the Board.

There will be two Editorial Boards, one in Ann Arbor (the American Editorial Board, under my direction) and one in Europe (the European Editorial Board, under Prof. Gianotto’s direction).

I am committed to make the HENOCH a leading voice in the study of Judaism and Christianity from Second Temple to Late Antiquity, an important companion of the Enoch Seminars, which so much have contributed to the development of our field. The members of the Board will have the privilege of submitting articles (theirs or others’) to the Editorial Boards of the Journal, and may be occasionally asked (but ONLY if they agree to do so) to give their opinion about articles submitted to the Journal.

The first issue of the new series of Henoch will be published by the end of this year. I am asking each of you to support this new enterprise with your advice, commitment and participation. I will certainly appreciate if you could check whether the library of your Institution already subscribes to the Journal or could be interested in subscribing to the new series.

I thank you for your attention. With my best wishes.

Gabriele Boccaccini

Blogs that stall

On Biblical Theology Jim West recently commented on the necessity to do a bit of house-cleaning from time to time because of the blogs that have stalled (my term):
By housecleaning I actually mean blog-cleaning. I've run through my bloglist and deleted blogs which have not seen activity in over a month. I'm not sure if the blog owners have lost interest (how???) or other things have taken over (like what????) or they have simply dropped out (as often happens in any endeavor, doesn't it?). In any event such blog-less-ness or blog-in-activity is something akin, to me, of the dreaded "page not found" message that plagues the internet. We all have run into pages we thought very useful and then one day when we went to check something on them, they were gone. Blogs that go unused are like that in that nothing reasonably new is mentioned on them and so pointing folks to them is like pointing them to a newspaper that hasn't published in a month.
What I do is to maintain my blogroll (left) via Bloglines, which enables me to manage the blogroll very straightforwardly. Newish blogs tend to go towards the bottom of the list and then work their way up as they publish more regularly. When blogs go moribund (or stall), which is always a substantial number of new blogs, I drop them down to a kind of limbo, which I monitor via bloglines but which does not appear on my blogroll. It's a doddle to do with their "public" and "private" categories. And that also means that stuff I want to look at that has nothing to do with the discipline, I keep in my private category. It is rare for a blog that has gone to my blogroll limbo to reappear but it has happened from time to time.

But why do some blogs never really get off the ground? Well, blogging is the kind of discipline that is very straightforward to start. How long does it take on Blogger? About five minutes? Regular consumers of blogs soon fancy setting up their own -- it's how we all started, I'd suspect. But you cannot know how well suited you are to blogging until you've actually had a go at it over a sustained period of time. There's no other way to test the water, though in general I'd suspect that those most suited to blogging are those who are already heavy consumers of the internet, e.g. who inhabit and contribute to e-lists, forums, newsgroups, or already run their own websites.

Jim Davila's recent SBL Forum article on blogging concluded:
. . . . I think we can look forward to a leaner, sharper, more cautious, and better informed press corps as time passes. If you want to hasten that process, then go and start a blog. It's easy.
I enjoyed that call to action, and it is quite right that it's easy to start one. What's tougher is to sustain a blog over time. For that, you need to become an addict.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Logos edition of Apostolic Fathers

Thanks to Rick Brannan of Ricoblog fame for this important information:

The Apostolic Fathers in Greek and English (3 Editions, with Morphology)

Rick writes:
This is something we call a "pre-publication". It is best thought of as a subscription. If we have enough people show interest (i.e., "subscribe" to the offering) then we'll make this a priority to complete.

Given enough interest, we intend to publish three editions of the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, each edition having Greek along with an English translation and other ancillary matter (such as marginal notes, text-critical notes, introductions, etc.). The editions are:

- Lightfoot/Harmer's edition (1 vol, 1898)
- Kirsopp Lake's edition (Loeb Classical Library, 2 vols, 1912)
- Michael Holmes' edition (Baker Book House, 1999). We're trying to get the latest edition of Holmes to include in this package.

The Greek components of each of these editions will be morphologically analyzed.
Thanks for that, Rick, and good luck with the project, which looks eminently worthwhile.

Update (Tuesday, 15.03): I meant to mention that Stephen Carlson has already commented on this on Hypotyposeis.

Review of Bibical Literature latest

The latest from the SBL's Review of Biblical Literature under the NT heading:

Carson, D. A., Peter T. O'Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid, eds.
Justification and Variegated Nomism: Volume 2: The Paradoxes of Paul
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

de Boer, Esther A.
The Gospel of Mary: Beyond a Gnostic and a Biblical Mary Magdalene
Reviewed by F. Stanley Jones

Fitzgerald, John T., Dirk Obbink, and Glenn S. Holland, eds.
Philodemus and the New Testament World
Reviewed by Douglas Geyer

Hartin, Patrick J.
James of Jerusalem: Heir to Jesus of Nazareth
Reviewed by Peter Davids

Hartin, Patrick J.
James of Jerusalem: Heir to Jesus of Nazareth
Reviewed by Luke Timothy Johnson

Hartin, Patrick J.
James of Jerusalem: Heir to Jesus of Nazareth
Reviewed by Darian Lockett

Nwachukwu, Oliver O.
Beyond Vengeance and Protest: A Reflection on the Macarisms in Revelation
Reviewed by Heinz Giesen

Rastoin, Marc
Tarse et Jérusalem: La Double Culture de l'Apotre Paul en Galates 3,6-4,7
Reviewed by Stephan Witetschek

Talbert, Charles H.
Reading the Sermon on the Mount: Character Formation and Decision Making in Matthew 5-7
Reviewed by Robert Bryant

Less of a Consensus on Consensus

The general thread on Consensus, triggered by my post on Tom Wright on the Da Vinci Code and developed by Michael Pahl, then with further comments from Jim Davila, Jim West, Michael Pahl again and then me, is developing into a biblioblogging classic, now also with contributions from Ken Ristau, Ed Cook, Jim Davila again and Christopher Heard. The latter offers a "mild defense" (American sp.) of Jim West's comments:
. . . . While I can't endorse Jim's "definition" completely, Jim has hit on a tendency that is one of my own pet peeves. In my opinion, academics should immediately abandon the practice of using phrases like "It is generally agreed ..." as if those were arguments in favor of what follows. Sentences in the form "It is generally accepted that P," if they are true, serve at best as useful "tag lines" to a summary description of the state of scholarship on a particular topic (or public opinion, or whatever is under discussion). However, sentences like "It is generally accepted that P" can never prove the truth of P, because the number of people who agree that P is true is actually irrelevant to the question of whether or not P is true. Besides that, it seems to me that statements like "It is generally accepted that P" are quite often not true as they stand—by which I mean that P is often not as "generally accepted" as the statement claims.
Christopher is here bringing up some useful questions on the rhetoric of appeals to consensus, and I share some of Christopher's concern. As someone standing outside the consensus on one major issue (the Synoptic Problem), I have found it frustrating to see appeals to consensus used as an excuse for a refusal to think. Indeed, I have argued that the repetition of the consensus view simply because it is the consensus view is one of the things that has contributed to the dominance of that view. (As an aside, I have been happy to see on several occasions in recent years new students and new books speaking of the lack of consensus now on the Synoptic Problem; I sometimes hope that the tide might be turning). I'd like to add a couple of further comments on the way that appeals to consensus work:

(1) The kind of statement Christopher points to, "It is generally accepted that . . . " are as often, perhaps even more often, used in counter-consensus discussions. Have a look at the SBL Abstracts of a given year. Each time you get an abstract beginning with "It is generally accepted that . . ."; "it is axiomatic that . . ."; "the consensus on such and such is . . . .", you can be sure that it is the preface to someone who is about to disagree with that consensus, to attempt to break new ground in that area. This is one of the striking things about the use of this kind of language in scholarship -- sometimes you only begin to see that a consensus exists on a given issue when someone is smart enough or bold enough to question it. We've all experienced that thrill of being present at a paper that makes us seriously question a view which to that point we had taken for granted. An illustration: the existence of Gospel communities. It was the Bauckham edited book, The Gospels for All Christians that revealed the existence of a consensus so prevalent that no one up to this point was even bothering to argue for the existence of the thing this book was challenging. One of the things I love about the whole business of academia is the excitement of experiencing a convincing challenge to consensus.

(2) Appeals to consensus as an excuse for not thinking about the issue, or of bolstering an argument on something else, are indeed pretty lazy but I think that they are also quite vulnerable. I like to ask my students, if they do use one of those appeals, "But what is it about that consensus that you find persuasive?" I like to challenge people to try to think of fresh reasons for supporting a given consensus if they are persuaded by that consensus. And, as Christopher's remarks make clear, there is a danger in appealing to consensus when you may have someone respond with, "I disagree; I don't think the consensus lies there." And this is where this thread began, with my own remarks on where Tom Wright was placing the consensus, I thought incorrectly.

Update: Here's an article that looks worth reading on the general topic, John Poirier, “On the Use of Consensus in Historical Jesus Studies,” Theologische Zeitschrift 56 (2000): 97-107.

Update (20.33): Jim West comments.

Update (20.35): Joe Weaks comments:
. . . . Frankly, we can not decide for our own on every issue within Biblical scholarship--not even the most senior scholars can do that. One simply does not move from extensive study to the necessary intensive study of every single topic. We depend upon others' dating of material, generic conclusions, authorial speculations, etc. This is why we must be careful in these discussions to not suggest scholars, commentary writers, etc. should not appeal to consensus.

In the absence of it, we are empowerd to say nothing.
That's a useful corrective, but I don't feel so negative. Our field is not that huge. It only feels that way because of the increasing specialisation. And this is all a good reason for post graduate students to become minor experts in as many topics as possible. After all, one has to teach across a range of subjects; some intensive course work on a given topic can persuade one of how to approach a consensus well. Joe continues:
Having said that, a real downside is that the senior scholar is innately resistant to being convinced by an argument that overturns a consensus assertion when it would seem to render her/his past publications that assume that opinion outdated and hardly worth reading anymore. (The exception might be, of course, if the challenge to consensus is the work of their own scholarship.)
Again, I would not be quite so pessimistic. There are plenty of examples of scholars changing their mind on issues they've published on because they are persuaded by the evidence / the new presentation of the evidence. In the end, it is the ultimate test of a scholar's integrity and humility. Are you prepared to change your mind in the face of strong evidence and good argument to the contrary? Speaking for myself, I love getting a chance to change my mind on something when someone persuades me -- that's one of the great excitements of scholarship.

Update (Tuesday, 21.00): Jim Davila comments further and usefully on Paleojudaica, in particular to nuance one my points above:
. . . . We've even reached the point of specializations within specializations. It used to be that Qumran studies was a subfield of biblical studies. Now it is not only an independent field, it's one that itself contains various subfields. I can't form an expert opinion on every question in Qumran studies even though it's one of my areas of specialization . . . . When I teach -- even honours seminars on Qumran, let alone introductory Bible classes -- I rely very frequently on consensus positions rather than my own intensive research. I expect Mark does the same. If not, my hat is off to him.
Actually, I research everything I teach on in infinite detail and that's why I never sleep. No, of course. But I suppose that I like to encourage post graduate students to pursue the goal (fiction?) that it's possible to keep one's ear to the ground in such a way that one has a good feel for the lie of the land (sorry for the mixed metaphors). It's why attendance at conferences is so valuable, and attendance there at a range of presentations, if possible. It's why attendance at as many seminars at your own institution as you can make is valuable -- I always think it a mistake to cherry pick to the extent that you are preferring that extra hour and a half reading yet another article in the library vaguely related to your topic over going to hear a good speaker in the general area. And add to that that being a post-graduate can be a very lonely business -- it's always worth taking the opportunity to mix with people at seminars; goodness, you might even make some new friends! I am keeping the focus on post-graduate students because I think it is so easy there to get so very specialized on account of the need to get one's thesis finished, when the longer term goals of keeping a good bird's eye view are what will help, including with the thesis.

Widow's Mite @ Laudator

Don't miss a useful post on The Widow's Mite on Laudator Temporis Acti.

1 Peter page

I have also updated my 1 Peter page, refreshing the links and adding:

Karen H. Jobes, “Got Milk? Septuagint Psalm 33 and the Interpretation of 1 Peter 2:1-3”, Westminster Theological Journal 64 (2002): 1-14

Moises Silva on Galatians

I followed a link in Michael Bird's Euangelion to the Westminster Theological Journal and noted a couple of links I should have added some time ago. Here's the first:

Moises Silva, “Abraham, Faith and Works: Paul's Use of Scripture in Galatians 3.6-14", Westminster Theological Journal 63 (2001): 256-67

I've added it to the Paul: Books and Articles page.

James Crossley's new blog

Another new blog on the block (now a weekly treat!):

Earliest Christian History
James Crossley's blog. Mostly covers Christian origins but but will stray into general history, politics, music and possibly football

James is the co-chair of the Jesus Seminar at the British New Testament Conference and the author of a recent volume in the JSNTS called The Date of Mark's Gospel.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Neville Birdsall Obituary

The Times today has an obituary of Neville Birdsall:

J. Neville Birdsall
March 11, 1928 - July 1, 2005
New Testament scholar and champion of the traditional skills of textual criticism

It is written by my colleague Prof. David Parker.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

BNTC 2005 latest

Although no longer secretary of the British New Testament Society, its website is still hosted here and I offered last year to continue to maintain it, though at that stage I did not realize, of course, that I would not be in the UK for much longer. Anyway, I've begun to do the work for one last time and some of the latest details are now available, specifically the Jesus Seminar, the Paul Seminar and the Acts Seminar.

Update (18 July, 21.20): Acts Seminar page updated with abstract from Jenny Read-Heimerdinger.

SNTS Monograph Series

On Ricoblog, Rick Brannan draws attention to this useful section of the Cambridge University Press website:

Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series

It allows one to view the series by author, date, list number and so on -- a very useful feature -- and it has excerpts available. I would very much like to see T & T Clark putting something similar together for the Library of New Testament Studies and I have got in touch with them to encourage them to take something like this seriously.

Footnote: why is the SNTS Monograph Series always listed as the Society for New testament Studies Monograph Series and never Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas Monograph Series? I wonder if it is because it has a UK publisher; perhaps they were nervous about the Latin for marketing purposes? But then they are one of the most prestigious academic publishers so that seems unlikely.

What is consensus?

Michael Pahl picks up on my post on Tom Wright on the Da Vinci Code and asks some interesting questions about what is meant by "consensus" in scholarship. The post is followed up with an interesting response by Jim Davila on Paleojudaica and some cynical comments from Jim West on Biblical Theology. Michael Pahl then responds further in the Stuff of Earth.

I have enjoyed the above posts and would like to add a couple of comments of my own.

(1) The Tom Wright piece that began the discussion interested me because it seemed to appeal to a consensus that I wished to dispute. And herewith lies the importance of the idea of consensus in scholarship, that by appealing to consensus one is making a public claim that is subject to disagreement and even refutation. When one appeals to consensus, one is doing something that is potentially risky because the appeal relies on a certain self-evident acceptance that what one has described would be accepted by one's peers. So if someone comes along and says, "No, it's not the case that the consensus is that the Gospels were all written by the 80s", the original appeal can looks pretty flaky. In other words, appeal to consensus is not something to undertake lightly. And that pressure itself exercises an influence -- it constrains the scholar not to make an appeal unless s/he thinks that the appeal will meet with widespread recognition.

(2) A related point. Michael brings up the question of polling and the like. Michael's second and third questions are "Who gets to be part of the polling sample? . . . ." and "How does one actually go about doing the polling to assess consensus? . . . ." But I am not sure that consensus can be easily and necessarily equated with "the majority view". A given consensus emerges over time and is something that is the result of the combined force of monographs by experts, the introductory level text books, websites, the passing comments in conference papers, conversations over a beer etc. I am not being facetious about the importance of the latter -- it is in the casual discussions that one begins to feel the existence of a consensus, or the lack of one. Of course there is some relationship between consensus and majority view -- I cannot imagine a consensus that is not also the majority view -- but consensus is about much more than just a count of heads.

Let me illustrate the point with Historical Jesus studies. These comments are, of course, subject to disagreement and refutation, but my reading of the current scene would be to say that the majority of scholars and graduate students hold broadly to the view that Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher (or words to that effect). But this is not the consensus view because there is a significant, vocal minority who hold to a different view, a view most commonly associated with John Dominic Crossan in particular and the Jesus Seminar in general. It's possible that in due course one or other of these views might attain to a consensus, I'd guess the apocalyptic Jesus view because I am persuaded, broadly, by those arguments, but I don't think that it could yet reasonably be called a "consensus".

(3) Another related point. It is often the case that a statement of the lack of consensus on a given point can be useful. Take, for example, the question of Thomas's knowledge of the Synoptic Gospels. Here is an area where I think it can be reasonably said that there is no consensus. And that is a useful thing to know -- I would mention something like that in my teaching so that it could give the students something of a feel of the lie of the land, or of a hotly disputed topic. Similarly, in another area that interests me, the question of Johannine knowledge of the Synoptics: there is no consensus in that area.

(4) Michael also raises the question of the expertise of those who are involved in establishing and declaring consensus,
"Who gets to be part of the polling sample? Only those working within a particular historical or theological perspective or methodological paradigm? All those who have published scholarly monographs on the subject? All scholars who have studied the subject in depth, whether they've published on it or not? And who determines what makes a "scholar" or appropriate authority on the subject?
This is an area where sometimes one needs to break the question down a little. I wrote in my introductory book on The Synoptic Problem that I thought that there was a major difference between those who might be regarded as experts on the Synoptic Problem, or specialists, and the rest. Among the former group, the specialists, there is no consensus -- those who have published on the Synoptic Problem in the last generation have come from a variety of perspectives and there is real disagreement on a solution. Among the latter group, I think that there is still a broad consensus, a consensus in favour of the traditional Two-Source Theory. I mention that as an example of the difficulty of judging the niceties of the establishment of consensus, and an interesting case of disagreement among specialists that has not always filtered down to the rest.

The Mystery of Mar Saba @ Hypotyposeis

One not to miss -- an interesting post on Hypotyposeis on the links between James M. Hunter, The Mystery of Mar Saba first published in 1940 and the Secret Gospel of Mark discovered by Morton Smith in 1958. There's a link to a post on a blog called Christian CADRE that spells out the story and provides further links of interest.

Say it with awe update

My quest to discover if the "Say it with awe" anecdote is apocryphal or not has not made a lot of progress, but I am grateful to Evy Nelson for mentioning this blurb on the film in Turner Classic Movies, which notes:
This anecdote probably never happened, but when John Wayne heard the story he even admitted to friends and associates that it made a great tale.
It's an interesting addition to the end of the anecdote and it appears elsewhere on the net, though never -- as far as I can find -- with any original attribution. It's also interesting because it is typical of the development of apocryphal stories and urban legends that they can add a statement of comment on the traditional story, a statement that distances the teller from the story so as to inoculate the teller against charges of naiveté and provide a clear indication that the teller is smiling too. It has the effect of underlining what a great story it is that the teller has told, with self-conscious recognition of its legendary origin.

Incidentally, I have added a link to the above blurb on my Greatest Story Ever Told page. I have also updated that page with links to the DVD release. I don't own that yet, but only the VHS, so I'll get hold of it, not least because it apparently has "New documentary including on camera interviews with the director and cast" and "Original "Making Of" documentary". You can buy it second hand for a snip too. It looks like that 2 DVD set is only available in the US (Region 1) and not yet in the UK, where we just have the ordinary DVD.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


I received the email below and it may be of interest to some readers. I've used the site and it looks useful:
My name is Lucy. I would like to inform you regarding a new web site that I hope you will find interesting for you and for the readers of the NT Gateway Weblog. is a free innovative service of finding the best price on a purchase of several books together. This service is more useful than the standard services which perform one book comparison at a time, and can save more money when buying several books together. In addition to this multiple book comparison approach, offers another unique service of comparing book prices on Amazon wish lists.

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Barnes Tatum on Jesus

The Westar Institute have added a reproduction of an article by W. Barnes Tatum on the film Jesus (dir. Roger Young, 1999):

Jesus -- the Mini-Series: A Review
By W. Barnes Tatum, reproduced from The Fourth R 13/4 (July/August 2000)

I've added a link on the relevant page.

New Testament in Plain English Blog

Thanks to Dave Rattigan for letting me know about a new blog. Seems like it's a blog a day at the moment!

The New Testament in Plain English
A living project where mavericks and scholars translate the Bible into an English for everyone: The PROCESS is the AIM

It's interesting as a multi-author blog. One of its contributors is Wayne Leman and we already know him from Better Bibles Blog. Dave Rattigan is currently just given as "Dave", with no profile. The others are "King of Peace" and P. James Bowen. So my usual plea for full names.

E-Lists page adjustment

I have adjusted the NT Gateway E-Lists page with the up-to-date information about the new Synoptic-L. Incidentally, one hundred people are now signed up. That's good going for less than a week, but it's still much less than half of the original subscribers, so some have not yet caught up or are taking the opportunity to sign out.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Tom Wright on Da Vinci Code

There's another interesting link on the N. T. Wright page. It seems that Tom Wright has read The Da Vinci Code and is inspired to comment:

Decoding Da Vinci (1.8 Mb PDF)
Borderlands: A Journal of Theology and Education 4 (2005): 24-7
. . . . The fantastic popularity of The Da Vinci Code is only partly explicable by its being a real page-turner. Even I, while laughing at its ridiculous thesis, wanted to know what would happen next. (The end, by the way, is a total disappointment.) It plugs in to a major alternative view of Christian origins which has enormous energy behind it just now, especially in America. People want to believe something like this. The only real questions are, Why? And Is there an answer?. . . . .
Not surprisingly, Wright uses the article as a platform for refuting what he sees as "the mainstream liberal-American ‘myth of Christian origins’ which is widely believed, indeed taught, in many churches and seminaries" and he goes on to enumerate the items and to offer counters to them. Some comments:
By contrast, the canonical gospels – despite every effort to prove the contrary – are still regarded by the great majority of scholars as early, written by the 80s of the first century at the latest, i.e. within fifty years of Jesus’ lifetime. Here we are back with some of the foundational historical work done by two former Bishops of Durham, Lightfoot and Westcott. The New Testament
documents are solidly rooted in the first century. The gospels are dependent on traditions that are very early indeed. Professor Richard Bauckham of St Andrews, who knows more about early Christian traditions than most other scholars put together, is about to publish a book arguing for a much stronger eye-witness content in the canonical gospels than has normally been supposed.
The first sentence is an overstatement. I don't think the majority, let alone the great majority, date all four canonical gospels to the 80s, and certainly not the 80s "at the latest". My reading of the consensus would be that Mark is written by the 80s -- it's usually dated somewhere in the late 60s to early 70s -- but that Matthew, Luke and John are variously dated anywhere from the 80s to the early second century. The statement that "the gospels are dependent on traditions that are very early indeed" is also an overstatement. I would say that the consensus view is that the Gospels may contain some traditions that are early; the jury is very much out on how many, how far, which ones. On the Bauckham note, I look forward to the book. This is the first that I have heard of it, though Bauckham's article on the same topic in the first issue of the Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus is worth a look.
. . . . a strong political critique . . . . Jesus is Lord, therefore Caesar isn’t. That is there in Paul. It is there in Matthew. In John. In Revelation. That is why, from at least as early as the second century, the Roman empire was persecuting the people who were reading Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul and the rest – not, we note, the people who were reading ‘Thomas’, ‘Philip’ and the other Nag Hammadi codices. Why would Caesar worry about people rearranging their private spiritualities?
I recall Wright making a similar remark in his address at the BNTC last year and I am intrigued by it. How do we know that those being persecuted were those reading what became canonical? I suppose that there are signs that Ignatius was reading books that became canonical. No doubt there is other evidence too, but it's going to be a tough one to demonstrate, I'd have thought.

More on the Tom Wright Page

Another new article on the N. T. Wright Page:

Paul in Different Perspectives
Lecture 1: Starting Points and Opening Reflections
Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church, Monroe, Louisiana
3 January 2005

There's a link to another article too, and I want to comment on that separately.

Say it with awe

I enjoyed Jim Davila's post Apocrypha Now! on Paleojudaica concerning an urban legend on Ben Hur, with the link to the article here:

Apocrypha Now! Urban Legends of the Silver Screen
David Emery

Let me add something that I suspect of being an urband legend. In The Greatest Story Ever Told, there is a famous cameo for John Wayne. Here's a typical version of the story, from an interview with the late Brandon Lee:
Lee: Nope, no John Wayne. Did you ever hear the story about John Wayne when he was in Greatest Story Ever Told?

MAL: No.

Lee: Well, there he is at the bottom of the cross, Christ is dying, and I believe his line was, "Truly he was the son of God." So he said the line and the director came over to him and said, "You think could you do that with a little more awe?"

He said, "Sure," and so they roll the cameras for a second take and he said, (Brandon assumes a Texas twang) "Aweeee, truly he is the son of God." [laughter] It's suppose to be a true story, I don't know. [Source: Brandon Lee's Last Interview]
Well, I suspect it's just a great urban legend. I wonder if there is any way of finding out whether it is for certain though. Some internet sites hint that they think that it is (e.g. here). George Stevens and John Wayne have both been dead for a generation, so no one can now ask them. I wonder if anyone else has ever made an informed comment?

Welcome to the Busybody

Welcome to a new blog that's going to be well worth watching:

The Busybody
Just as cooks pray for a good crop of young animals and fishermen for a good haul of fish, in the same way busybodies pray for a good crop of calamities or a good haul of difficulties that they, like cooks and fishermen, may always have something to fish out and butcher. (Plutarch, "On Being a Busybody")
Loren Rosson III

I'd expect Loren to be adept at the art of blogging since he often has useful posts to e-lists I frequent like Xtalk. Indeed, you'll find links to a few of Loren's posts in this blog. I've added The Busybody to my blogroll.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Synoptic-L move

Synoptic-L, the e-list for the discussion of the Synoptic Gospels is now hosted by Yahoo!Groups (see previous post on the move). A small number of list members voted in the poll about the future host, having been given the option of either Yahoo!Groups or Google Groups. There was a small majority in favour of the former. In order to move everyone over, I've had to send invitations in batches of 50 at a time. If you have not received one and think that you should have done, please go to the new home. If you would like to join the group but have not had the chance in the past, please feel free to apply by going to Yahoo!Groups, or, to find out more, please go to the group's homepage:


N. T. Wright page latest

The N. T. Wright page has several new articles, including:

Women’s Service in the Church: The Biblical Basis
A conference paper for the Symposium, ‘Men, Women and the Church’
St John’s College, Durham, September 4 2004

Paul and Qumran
When Paul shuns the “works of the law,” is he referring to the very works commended by the Dead Sea Scroll known as MMT?
Originally published in Bible Review 14 (October 1998) (no pp. given).

The New Inheritance According to Paul
The Letter to the Romans re-enacts for all peoples the Israelite Exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land — from slavery to freedom
(Originally published in Bible Review 14.3 (June 1998) (no pp. given)

And there are a couple of others too with more of a church-based focus.

Terrorist attack on London

It has been a very depressing morning and I don't really know what to say about the breaking news of terrorist explosions in London. I must admit that I have rather dreaded something like this, as so many of us have, since 9/11 and Madrid. I was due to meet two people from Continuum this morning to talk about the Library of New Testament Studies and after something of a wait, I was relieved to hear that they were both OK and had made their way back to their office in London, though of course they'd been unable to get out of London to Birmingham. For what it's worth, I thought Tony Blair hit exactly the right note in his statement at lunchtime.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

New blog:

My previous post took me to which I like to visit from time to time and I noticed that Robert Bradshaw now has a blog to back up the site, so you can be bang up to date on all the new articles he adds with admirably regularity: (blog)
This weblog documents the development of, including announcements of forthcoming material
Robert Bradshaw

I've added it to my blogroll, of course, along with all the other new biblioblogs on the block. Welcome, Robert.

The most recent blog entry gives a flavour of what the site does regularly, adding new reproductions of key evangelical academic material on the NT, this time the following paperback:

I. Howard Marshall, Eschatology and the Parables (London: The Tyndale Press, 1963) [PDF]

Bailey, Informal Controlled Oral Tradition article

On Primal Subversion, Sean du Toit notes the addition of a nicely produced on-line reproduction of an influential article:

Kenneth E. Bailey, "Informal Controlled Oral Tradition and the Synoptic Gospels"
Themelios 20.2 (January 1995): 4-11

It is hosted on Robert Bradshaw's I say "influential" because Jimmy Dunn makes a great deal of it in his recent Jesus Remembered and Tom Wright, likewise, though to a lesser extent, in his Jesus and the Victory of God. Xtalk subscribers and some others will be familiar with the devastating critique of Bailey's thesis by Theodore J. Weeden, not yet published but accessible from the Xtalk archives (though I have not the precise link for the latter); likewise Ken Olson has persuasively criticized the Bailey case, also in Xtalk and not in print. Anyway, the presence of the article on-line is a very helpful contribution to the continued debate. I also look forward to Ted Weeden's paper on this topic at the forthcoming SBL Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.

Synoptic-L's Yahoo!Group woes

Several have blogged on the temporary hiatus for the ANE list (e.g. Stephen Carlson on Hypotyposeis, cf. links there). It seems that the list was suspended when its then listowner took up a position in Athens (traffic suspended May 16 2005). Jim West reports that David Meadows may be about to pick up the baton, which would be good news.

The issue of ANE's future prompts me to blog on my woes with relocating Synoptic-L, the e-list for the discussion of the Synoptic Gospels. The list has been hosted here in Birmingham since its inception in 1998. Throughout that period it has also been archived by Yahoo!Groups and its earlier incarnations FindMail and egroups. This kind of arrangement used to be quite common -- a list hosted by majordomo software in a university (or similar) would often not have an archiver, and FindMail used to offer an archiving service for such groups. Such a group would be called (by FindMail and then egroups) a "remote list". Everything except the archiving was run from the host in its remote location. Yahoo!Groups took over the same arrangement when it bought up egroups, continuing to archive for any group that was remotely hosted, but it no longer offered the service to newly established remote groups.

Because of my forthcoming move away from Birmingham, a new host needs to be found for Synoptic-L. I thought that the natural thing was to move the group to Yahoo!Groups. It used to be possible to do this by the simple flick of a switch -- you would go, on egroups, to the Management area, and would change the group from remotely hosted to being hosted by egroups, ensuring continuity of archive but change of host. The same thing is unfortunately not the case with Yahoo!Groups. So I wrote to Yahoo!Groups help to ask if it would be possible to do the simple switch. My goodness, what hard work it was. I would never get a straight answer, or anyone that wasn't doing a good impression of the borg. In other words, it was never clear whether I really was talking to real people, even though it would be signed by people. I would keep explaining the situation over and over again and get responses that did not address it at all, except to say in auto-generated style things like, "We have ascertained that you are the owner of this group; could you explain exactly what the problem is?" I would then explain yet again and would get a message back saying "Unfortunately you are not the owner of this group. Please refer to the group owner." And eventually I had a message asking me not to contact them any further.

So it was not possible to combine the archive and the hosting, alas. There were two options for the future host, one to go with Yahoo!Groups under a new name and another to go with Google Groups under the same name. There is a poll at the moment to see what the list members think.

I suppose that this experience and that of the ANE List does show that the commercial group hosts, Yahoo!Groups, Google Groups and the like, are the long term future for the e-lists. In time list-owners leave the universities where their lists are based, and the disruption is avoided by the use of Yahoo!Groups and the like. But given the real struggle of talking to Yahoo!Groups when something does come up, I'm not sure I am happy with the way the future looks on this.

N. T. Wright page latest

Thanks to David Mackinder for the note that there's a new link on the N. T. Wright page to Tom Wright's sermon 'Shipwreck and Kingdom: Acts and the Anglican Communion', delivered at the close of the Anglican Consultative Council in Nottingham, 29 June. The link given there is to a blog called Titusonenine, but for those who would prefer to read it sans comment, it's also reproduced at Anglican Mainstream.

Pasolini visits the Holy Land @ FilmChat

I am gradually catching up with what I've missed on all the blogs in recent weeks and here's a post that's unmissable for Jesus film buffs:

Pasolini Visits the Holy Land

In it Peter Chattaway describes a film shown as part of a Pasolini retrospective all about Pier Paolo Pasolini's scouting trip to Israel to search for locations for The Gospel According to St Matthew:
. . . . there was Seeking Locations in Palestine for The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964), a sort of diary-on-film in which Pasolini tours the Holy Land -- usually in the company of a Catholic priest, Fr. Andrea Carraro -- and comes to the realization that he may not be able to make his adaptation of Matthew's gospel there after all. Since this is a very hard film to come by, I took notes obsessively during this particular screening.

The film opens with a farmer threshing his grain, and Pasolini tells us, "That's what I sought with great hope, a biblical, archaic world." At Mt. Tabor, where the Beatitudes were delivered, he says, "I was struck by the poverty and humility of this place," and soon after, he says of another place, "Capernaum is sublime for its smallness, its bareness, its lack of scenery." But already he bemoans how the nearby landscape has been "contaminated by modernity ... These houses could be seen in Rome or Switzerland." Fr. Andrea suggests that he should continue with his travels through Palestine, absorbing the spirit of the place, and then feel free to recreate the biblical story in whatever setting seems right to him. Pasolini replies, "I think I have completely transformed my idea of sacred places. Rather than adapt places, I must adapt myself.". . . .
This is just an excerpt -- it's all worth reading. I'd love to see the film. I hope someone releases it on DVD. Thanks to Peter for this excellent summary and related observations.

Scripture Indexing

On Deinde, Danny Zacharias has an interesting post on the trials of preparing a scripture index:
If you are an author, do you do the indices yourself (you or a student) or do you pay the company to index it? And if you do the index yourself, or are a TA who does it for your prof, how do you go about doing it? What is the method to your madness? I am very interested to know. Why, you ask? Because it takes a really long time, and if someone has a simpler method, I want to know!!
It's an interesting question. My answer is that Sheffield Academic Press, who published my first book (Goulder and the Gospels), did the Scripture / Ancient Literature index themselves, so too the Author Index. They used to say that they had software that did it and it was a service they offered to all authors. Alas, I had a lucky introduction into the world of indexing, assuming that this was standard. More recently, I've come to realize that it is rare for publishers to do this work and they do rely on authors to do it. I did all indexes for The Case Against Q and Questioning Q, for example, and the authors for the Library of New Testament Studies are also asked to produce their own (or pay a fee to Continuum to do it).

I am interested to hear that some authors ask TAs to do this work for them, something I'd not realized before. Here in the UK, I'd say that the use of TAs by lecturers is uncommon -- we are not that well resourced. Perhaps things will be different for me when I am at Duke. I hope Danny is getting paid well for it because it is tedious work.

And no, I don't have any great method myself, except to make sure that I have everything available on PDFs so that I can search them easily. But I think I've done it all manually.

Update (Thursday, 21.16): On Deinde Danny Zacharias comments further:
. . . . Finally, Mark Cannon from Asbury sent me an email pointing me to this link which is a process for indexing. From what I read, this is a bit of a dated process, and is more geared towards a subject index (if I am not mistaken, I think publishers usually take care of the subject indexing, someone correct me if I am wrong!). . . .
You are wrong! Well, at least in my experience, publishers like Continuum and SPCK require authors also to take care of subject indexing. But more importantly:
So, almost immediately after I blogged on indexing, I had an epiphany. All this technology, and nothing to help poor me in this process? Well I wouldn't stand for it. So I went to and, made a request for a program, and whammy! I have already found a coder who is willing to make the program for a very small fee in a cross-platform code (Java). Why no big fee? Well this info will come in handy for me, and perhaps for you as well. There are alot of competant coders out there who need experience to put on their resumé, so money is not a problem, they just want you to give them a good online rating. I am excited. If the guy can do what I want the program to do (and he assures me it will be no problem) then it will cut the indexing time down more than half....and if it doesn't, well I'm no worse off than now. I will inform everyone on how the program works, as I have two indexing projects come August for my profs. If after that the program is working well, it will be for sale from the author (part of the low fee deal...I'll encourage him to keep the fee low) and I will let you know about it. Oh happy day!
Great! Keep us informed, Danny.


I am happy to join Jim West in welcoming another new biblioblog:

Meditations on biblical studies, church life, and any other topics I find to be of spiritual interest
Christopher Heard

Christopher Heard is well known to many of us through his fine iTanakh. I am interested that Chris has gone the route of fully differentiating the blog from the gateway site. I have gone a slightly different route in tying this blog to my NTGateway, but it's something that's always under review. Anyway, welcome Chris.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Café Apocalypsis

I am usually the last on the scene these days, but I'd like to join other bibliobloggers (including Michael Bird, Stephen Carlson and Jim West) in welcoming a new blog:

Café Apocalypsis
Brewed with a metaphorical, esoteric, and eschatological blend of aromatic Biblical Studies

The author is given only as "Alan". I have to admit that I do like to know a bit more about the author of a blog than just a first name. Who are you?

Update (Wednesday, 20.38): on his Novum Testamentum blog, Brandon Wason notes that the author is Alan Bandy. On CaféApocalypsis, Alan expands the profile and notes all the welcomes.

In the same post, Brandon Wason asks: "By the way, who came up with term biblioblogger"? Was it Goodacre? West?" It was neither. I think it was David Meadows -- see my post on Bibliobloggers from last December.

Review of Biblical Literature Latest

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

Esler, Philip F.
Conflict and Identity in Romans: The Social Setting of Paul's Letter
Reviewed by Margaret Aymer

Esler, Philip F.
Conflict and Identity in Romans: The Social Setting of Paul's Letter
Reviewed by Darian Lockett

Finlan, Stephen
The Background and Content of Paul's Cultic Atonement Metaphors
Reviewed by Christopher Mcmahon

Loader, William
The Septuagint, Sexuality, and the New Testament: Case Studies on the Impact of the LXX in Philo and the New Testament
Reviewed by Robert Hiebert

Miller, Patrick D. and Beverly Roberts Gaventa, eds.
The Ending of Mark and the Ends of God: Essays in Memory of Donald Harrisville Juel
Reviewed by Sean Kealy

Miller, Patrick D. and Beverly Roberts Gaventa, eds.
The Ending of Mark and the Ends of God: Essays in Memory of Donald Harrisville Juel
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

Mullen, J. Patrick
Dining with Pharisees
Reviewed by Peter Smit

SBL International

I've never yet been to an SBL International Meeting and would have loved to have gone this year to Singapore but could not. So it's a great pleasure to see several bibliobloggers giving us a feel for their own highlights of the meeting. On Gypsy Scholar Jeffery Hodges has a bunch of blog links related to the meeting and I particularly enjoyed looking at Mark Cheeseman's thoughts on Deinde, several of which reflected discussions several of us had after last year's SBL Annual Meeting (e.g. here in the NT Gateway blog). In particular, the following caught my attention:
Of course, one can learn just as much from listening to bad papers as good papers. I was constantly left wondering why it is that people come to a presentation with way too much to present. I know the temptation, I feel in myself. I have a 7,500 word version of the paper I presented, and I had to cut it down to 3,000. You don't do that without stressing and worry over the entire arguments that get deleted out. But realistically, I knew I could only deliver 3,000 words in 20 minutes, which would allow 10 minutes for that all important question time, where in many cases, it was the point at which people's presentations really got interesting. Yet, time and again people gave presentations that left no time, or only a minute or two for questions. In a number of cases, people spoke way too quickly. That was a real problem with the range of countries represented there. Whoever was presenting, if they spoke too fast there would be people struggling to understand what they were saying. It really doesn't help if half (or more) the audience doesn't even know what you are saying.
Spot on. Mark also writes:
Blogging is really difficult. Difficult to do well anyway. I haven't blogged very much, I will admit to finding it quite a challenge to say something interesting about each day at the conference. It wasn't that there was nothing interesting to say, but it was difficult to say in a short space something that might be interesting to people.
I know what you mean, Mark, but you're doing a fine job -- so just trust your instincts and do more of the same.

Update (23.15): Thanks to Jeffery Hodges for sending the following useful set of links to his SBL blogging:

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Bird on Arnal et al

It's good to see Michel Bird, in his new blog Euangelion, commenting on Bill Arnals' new book, The Symbolic Jesus:

The Peril of Modernizing Jesus 3: The California Jesus strikes back!

There are some useful comments here and it reminds me that I really must get round to blogging my comnents on Arnal's book. I have read it through a couple of times and have made some extensive notes. When time allows, I would like to add my comments here.

Make Poverty History

I'm going to break my self-imposed protocol of not blogging outside academic NT topics today, but I'm sure it goes without saying that it's worth doing. There's only one thing that I want to blog about on an historic day (I hope) like today. I am sure that you've all already done this, but just in case you've not yet found the link or have not yet got around to it, or were enjoying U2, the Scissor Sisters, Madonna or Robbie Williams too much to get to the net:

Live 8: The Long Walk to Justice

Wouldn't it be fantastic if we look back on today in twenty year's time and thank God that it was our generation who took seriously the challenge to make poverty history?

Update (Tuesday, 23.24): Richard Anderson comments; Danny Zacharias comments.

Friday, July 01, 2005

A conjuring trick with bones

It's good to see Helenann Hartley setting the record straight on a famous (mis)quotation of David Jenkins, former Bishop of Durham. Philip Davies had written a piece in Bible and Interpretation called Do We Need Biblical Scholars?, a segment of which is quoted by Helenann:
When, a few decades later, a former Bishop of Durham, David Jenkins, referred to the resurrection issue as "juggling with bones" and dismissed the idea of a literal understanding of the stories of Jesus’ post-mortem appearances, he immediately came under attack not only from churchgoers and from the media but also from his fellow-clergy, many of whom had presumably been taught as students precisely what Jenkins was saying! It is hard to know how many might have privately agreed with him, but it seems that they felt his public remarks could cause them acute embarrassment if they were themselves challenged by one of their own congregation.
Helenann comments:
Unfortunately, yet again, the former bishop of Durham, David Jenkins (who confirmed me) has been misquoted. Bishop Jenkins did not say that the resurrection was like 'juggling with bones,' what he said was that the resurrection was 'more than just juggling with bones.' It's a subtle distinction, but rather changes the sense of the argument. People always refer to Bishop Jenkins as 'the heretical bishop' or words to that effect, and he is continually misquoted. So I've done my bit to try and correct that!
In the spirit of Helenann's corrective, let me offer my own. I remember watching the interview with David Jenkins in 1984; it was on the ITV Sunday lunch time programme called Credo if I remember correctly (I was a precocious 17 year old and at the time I wanted to go into the church). What I recall is that Jenkins did not say that the resurrection was "more than just juggling with bones" but rather that it was not "a conjuring trick with bones". I've googled for "conjuring trick with bones" and Said What? gives this as the quotation:
I am not clear that God manoeuvres physical things... After all, a conjuring trick with bones only proves that it is as clever as a conjuring trick with bones...
Wikipedia has it much shorter and more how I had remembered it, as "not just a conjuring trick with bones". The article notes also that York Minster was struck by lightning in the year when he was consecrated bishop there. It reminds me of a question I did on my Oxford entrance examination General Paper in November 1984, which was words to the effect of "When lightning struck York Minster recently, could this be regarded as an act of God?" I can still remember elements of my answer, that there was something to be said for Jenkins's scepticism over the historicity of the virgin birth stories, and that if the lightning were a divine act, it seemed rather ham-fisted since (on this theory) God did not manage to time it so that it hit York Minster when Jenkins was present. Wouldn't He just have zapped Jenkins directly rather than cause all that damage to property?

Anyway, that's a digression. What's interesting about googling on this topic is that it confirms Helenann's essential point about the misquotation. Take, for example, a page called Fifty Years of Anglican Liberalism, which has it like this:
In 1984, David Jenkins, Anglican Bishop of Durham, described Christ’s resurrection as “a conjuring trick with bones” (“English Bishop Calls Christ’s Resurrection Conjuring Trick,” AP, St. Louis Post Dispatch, Oct. 28, 1984).
One of the things that is so extraordinary about the way that this line gets misquoted is quite what the misquoters think it means. Are they assuming that Jenkins was saying that someone (one of the disciples?) performed a "conjuring trick with bones"? That Jesus did? I can't make any sense out of what they think they are charging Jenkins with having said. But perhaps that's just thinking about it too much, something that those who are misquoting are not doing.

The most interesting piece to turn up is from The Guardian from 1999 and is all about how this particular mis-quotation is a good example of something that simply resists correction:

Quote unquote
The Readers' Editor on... incorrect statements that keep coming back
Ian Mayes
Bishop Jenkins is at present writing his autobiography and, when I spoke to him he rather wearily conceded that he would have to spend more time dealing with the matter in his book than he really wanted to.

As the wrong version ran and ran, the Bishop did wonder why those repeating it never consulted him. "I thought they would have had the courtesy to ask what I really said." One feels driven to conclude that the wrong version with its apparently irresistible catchphrase, "a conjuring trick with bones", is still found preferable to the right one.
I wonder if there is a fuller account of Jenkins's actual interview out there anywhere?

Neville Birdsall

I have just heard from my colleague David Parker that Neville Birdsall died in the night, just after midnight. The funeral is to be on Monday 11 July at St Andrews Church, Haughton-le-Skerne, Darlington Co Durham (to be conducted by the Vicar, Revd Dr David Bryan), at 14.00, to be followed by crematorium at Darlington crematorium at 15.15. They have asked for family flowers only. They will nominate an appropriate charity should people wish to make a donation in memoriam. The service will include a requiem mass and communicant members of all denominations will be invited to take communion.

Neville Birdsall was a fine scholar who made a major contribution to New Testament textual criticism and he will be greatly missed. I was lucky enough to get the chance to see Neville recently at the Fourth Birmingham Colloquium on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (see the picture there of Neville entertaining a group with his anecdotes), which turns out to have been his public swan song.

Update (Tuesday, 23.01): Stephen Carlson comments on Hypotyposeis.