Wednesday, November 22, 2006

SBL Day 2 (Saturday)

One of the changes in recent years is the arrival of 9 a.m. meetings. I can't say I am too keen on this innovation. That extra morning used to give one a chance to get everything in order before the serious business began. Now, the conference comes crashing in very quickly. Straight after my breakfast meeting, I dashed to the Convention Centre for the first time to catch the first Synoptic Gospels session. I prioritize Synoptic Gospels sessions because I co-chair the section with Greg Carey and I regard it as important to try to hear all papers in the section if at all possible. A particular highlight for me was Stephen Carlson's paper Luke’s Panel Technique for an “Orderly” Account, which I found pretty persuasive -- and very interesting. I hope he has the chance to publish this in due course.

I forgot to take my badge with me this year. In fact I don't remember receiving it. But it turns out that it is very easy to get a replacement.

Later on Saturday was a session I had put a lot of work into organizing, the second Synoptic Gospels session, this time on the Birth Narratives. The session was chaired by Loveday Alexander and was divided into two. The first half celebrated twenty years of Jane Schaberg's The Illegitimacy of Jesus, with Schaberg giving a review of the book and reactions to it and Gail Streete offering her reflections. Sadly, Amy-Jill Levine, who was to be the second respondent, was unable to make it to the meeting because of ill health. The second half was led off by David Landry, whose paper looked at Luke 1-2 as a "hostile takeover" of Matthew 1-2, developing the idea that Luke disliked Matthew's Birth Narrative and tried greatly to improve on it. There were two responses, one by Robert Miller and one by John Darr. I was particularly intrigued by Robert Miller's response, which confirmed a point I make in the first chapter of The Case Against Q, that the majority of those who accept the Q hypothesis do so because they have not given the Synoptic Problem any extended critical thought (note that I say the majority, and not everyone -- I know there are plenty who do, of course). Miller said that he had devoted a total of no minutes thinking about the Synoptic Problem over the last twenty years, a claim he repeated when pressed in various of the questions. Actually, the Q sceptics were out in force; I am afraid that I asked a question and so did Ken Olson, Jeff Peterson and Mark Matson.

John Darr's response had one particularly entertaining moment. Landry had extolled the virtues of Luke's birth narrative, denigrating Matthew's in the process. Darr began his piece by pointing out, facetiously of course, that Matthew's Birth Narrative provides us with a rationalization for giving and receiving Christmas presents, and that we should therefore celebrate his contribution.

It was a good session. I suppose that one thing that I found a little disappointing was that there was not as much dialogue between the two halves of the session as I had hoped. And I suppose us Farrer types slightly skewed the discussion at the end by asking all the tough questions on Luke's use of Matthew.

Speaking of Q, I did manage to get to some of the first Q section dealing with the Christology of Q, and which included a paper from Harry Fledderman.

Saturday evening was the Continuum (T & T Clark) dinner at Clydes restaurant, an enjoyable evening not least because I was lucky to be on a table with some great people. The food was OK and the wine was great. The dinner represented something of a move from former years when Continuum, like everyone else, had receptions. This was a more select gathering and, to be honest, a much more enjoyable occasion.


Anonymous said...

The birth of Jesus has three different dates according to the New Testament. Luke placed the date at 6 AD, at the census (Luke 2:1-3) and at 2 BC per the calculation of John the Baptist's arrival less thirty years (Luke 3:1 and 3:23). Matthew placed the date at the end of Herod the Great's reign, or from 9-4 BC. Obviously, there is a consistency problem with the Gospel accounts. However, most scholars come to the conclusion that Jesus was born in 9-4 BC. This dating is dependent on the "star of Bethlehem" story. The only other account of the "star of Bethlehem" comes from the Slavonic Josephus. This account placed the birth in the early years of Herod, around 25 BC. The "star of Bethlehem" may have been a Christian story, not an historical reality. This story may have had its origin in the Star Prophecy, where many Jews believed that a world ruler would come from Israel. (Josephus attributed the Star Prophecy to Vespasian.) In reality, the "star of Bethlehem" story has two possible dates. Most follow Matthew, who placed the time towards the end of Herod the Great's rule (9-4 BC). I follow the Slavonic Josephus, which dates this story about 20 years earlier, from 30-25 BC. The earlier dating has the following advantages: 1. According to Epiphanius, James, the brother of Jesus, died at the age of 96 in 62 AD. This would have yielded a birth date of 35 BC. This advanced age may be an exaggeration as the same church historian stated that James died a virgin. According to Paul, James was a married man. So, it is very possible that 96 years old is a slight stretch. However, James was probably a very old man at his death (80-96?). The birth of Jesus in 30-25 BC fits in quite nicely with James' age. 2. The Slavonic Josephus placed the beginning of John the Baptist's ministry at 6 AD, during the reign of Archelaus. This John was very fiery, the same as in the Gospels. However, the Slavonic version stated that John preached a nationalism identical to Judas the Galilean. The placement of the John passage was right before Josephus claimed that Judas the Galilean was a preacher different than all the others. Josephus also called Judas a wise man and a clever rabbi. (Josephus never said a word about Jesus!) 3. If Judas the Galilean was born about 25 BC, then he would have been 30 years old at the census uprising (6 AD and the introduction of John). At least, the earlier scenario about Jesus' (Judas the Galilean's) birth fits the other facts (James, John the Baptist and the age 30).

Unknown said...

I have seen the exact same post on several web sites... and it seems to just be a cut and paste from some saved statement.

Could you please post your source for Epiphanius? Which writing does he state the birth and death of James?

Interestingly enough the birth date of James would seem to be more in agreement with the ancient church's understanding that James and the other brothers of Christ were older siblings from a previous marriage of Joseph.