Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Biblioblog Carnival Cometh

Biblical Studies Carnival 19 is on the way on Biblische Ausbildung and Stephen Cook is asking for nominations. Since I've been off the radar for a bit, it'll be one I'm looking forward to to fill in some gaps while I am away.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Back in Blighty

I meant to post here last week before leaving for the UK but it was the usual last minute rush and I didn't get a moment. Anyway, I'm back in the UK at the moment, enjoying some holiday, seeing family and friends and so on. Last week we were in a lovely cottage in a remote part of the countryside in South Wales, so remote that my mobile phone couldn't pick up a signal, the blogging machine couldn't connect and even the radio reception was pretty poor. (It was bliss, actually!). I'm now in South Derbyshire at my parents' place, where I was brought up, and the blogging machine is now functioning again, so I may get a chance to write the odd post. I have about three hundred emails to work through, so my apologies if you are waiting for one from me.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Syneidon Research Project

I'd like to mention the Syneidon Research Project, which is based at the University of Birmingham and describes itself in the following way:

Syneidon: A Non-technical Introduction to the Biblical Study of the Old and New Testaments
The work of Biblical scholars is usually published in specialist journals which, together with their highly technical language, remain inaccessible to the general public. SYNEIDON is dedicated to providing an accessible and non-technical introduction to the academic research of the Old and New Testament for everyone who wishes to widen their understanding and appreciation of these texts, regardless of faith or academic ability.
The creator is Richard Goode, a recent PhD from Birmingham, a student of David Parker, who I got to know well while I was in Birmingham. This new project looks really worthwhile. Helen Ingram, one of my former PhD students, who wrote on Jesus and Magic, is also involved in the project. There are already lots of useful resources available on the site, and they encourage you to get involved in their Forum. I am looking forward to seeing how this project develops, and I wish them all the best for its success.

Tom Wright on the Resurrection: Online Video

The N. T. Wright page notes a new online lecture from N. T. Wright, available to download as an MP3, or to watch as a .mov file:

Can a Scientist Believe in the Resurrection (MP3)
Can a Scientist Believe in the Resurrection (Streaming Video)
Can a Scientist Believe in the Resurrection (Video Download)

The location is the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion at St Edmunds College, Cambridge (and that link will take you to several other lectures on the topic "Science and the Bible"), and the date is 15 May 2007.

Crossan and Tabor in Jerusalem

This will surely be a good one for the Biblical Studies blog carnival next time -- A Matter of Method is the title of a post today on The Jesus Dynasty Blog and details a visit of John Dominic Crossan to Jerusalem and the conversations with James Tabor and Shimon Gibson, with some great pictures.

Travel Diary: Seattle to Home

We had an excellent day exploring Seattle on Wednesday, with most time spent at the Space Needle and the Science Fiction museum. The latter was enjoyable but it had a pitifully tiny amount on the longest running SciFi TV series ever -- one paltry picture of the fourth doctor with the Daleks! The Sound and Vision museum connected to it was well worth visiting, though, with a superb "oral history" project, just the kind of thing to appeal to academic types like me. The journey home on Thursday was a marathon one; we were up at 4am and home at 11pm, with about five hours spent in Atlanta airport. I hope to post some more pictures over on the Americanization of Emily in due course.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Vetus Latina Updated

Hugh Houghton has been in touch to let me know that the Vetus Latina website has been updated, with more links to online manuscripts, and some older links have been removed:

Vetus Latina - Resources for the Old Latin Bible

I'll add a link to my TC pages in due course.

Codices Electronici Sangallenses (CESG) – Virtual Library

ITSEE News reports "this superb digitisation project" which "has expanded its collection to include 144 complete manuscripts, and over 57,000 high quality digital images":

Codices Electronici Sangallenses (CESG) – Virtual Library

On Faith latest

The On Faith column at the Washington Post / Newsweek seems to be getting ever more prolific. The latest topic is:

What is the place of questioning in faith? Does questioning tenets or traditions make your faith less valid?

A couple of NT scholars have contributions to the latest topic:

Marcus Borg, Blind Acceptance is Idolatry
John Dominic Crossan, Questioning and Conscience

Bible and Critical Theory Latest

The following went out with the latest from the SBL Review of Biblical Literature but I thought it would make good sense to place the news in a different post here:

The following reviews have been published in Bible and Critical Theory.
To register for free access to BCT reviews, email Sarah Cannon (sarah.cannon@lib.monash.edu.au) and request to have an account set up to access all the reviews published in BCT.

The Bible and Critical Theory

Volume: 3, Number: 1. February 2007

EDITORIAL (free article)
Roland Boer

"Power, Eros, and Biblical Genres," by Christine Mitchell (free article)

"Liberation Story or Apocalypse? Reading Biblical Allusion and Bakhtin theory in Toni Morrison's 'Beloved,'" by Bula Maddison (free article)


Review of Jacques Berlinerblau, The Secular Bible
by Mark G. Brett

Review of Hugh Pyper, An Unsuitable Book
by George Aichele

Review of A. K. M. Adam, Faithful Interpretation
by Mark Sneed

Review of Pierre Grelot, The Language of Symbolism
by George Aichele

Review of Linda Day and Carolyn Pressler, eds., Engaging the Bible in a Gendered World
by Esther Fuchs

Review of Choi Hee An and Katheryn Pfisterer Darr, eds., Engaging the Bible
by Carolyn J. Sharp

Review of Sandra Polaski, A Feminist Introduction to Paul
by Gillian Townsley

Review of Mary Ann Beavis, Jesus and Utopia
by Darren Jorgensen

Review of G. Gerlardini, ed., Hebrews
by Christina Petterson

Review of Daniel Bodi, The Michal Affair
by Peter D Miscall

Review of David Penchansky, Twilight of the Gods
by Michael Carden

Review of Kim Paffenroth, Gospel of the Living Dead
by Richard Walsh

Review of Biblical Literature Latest

Latest from the SBL Review of Biblical Literature under the NT and related heading:

Robert Jewett
Romans: A Commentary
Reviewed by James D. G. Dunn
Reviewed by Friedrich W. Horn

Katherine Doob Sakenfeld, ed.
The New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible: A-C
Reviewed by Walter A. Vogels

Esther Straub
Kritische Theologie ohne ein Wort vom Kreuz: Zum Verhältnis von Joh 1-12 und 13-20
Reviewed by Andrew T. Lincoln

Alfons Weiser
Der zweite Brief an Timotheus
Reviewed by Raymond F. Collins

L. L. Welborn
Paul, the Fool of Christ: A Study of 1 Corinthians 1-4 in the Comic-Philosophic Tradition
Reviewed by Russell Morton

Nicola Wendebourg
Der Tag des Herrn: Zur Gerichtserwartung im Neuen Testament auf ihrem alttestamentlichen und frühjüdischen Hintergrund
Reviewed by Markus Oehler

Duke Religion Blog: Eric Meyers on the Talpiot Tomb

Our Duke Religion Blog is steadily getting going, and the latest post is from Eric Meyers, offering a previously unpublished piece on his thoughts on Another Ossuary Story: The Tomb of Jesus, written in the days immediately preceding the airing of the documentary.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Travel Diary, Bellingham to Seattle

We are into our third day of our trip to Washington state now. I spent Monday afternoon at the Logos Bible Software offices in Bellingham and was treated to the full tour from Mike Heiser, and met some old friends and some new ones, including fellow bibliobloggers Rick Brannan and Daniel Foster. The Logos offices are in an old law firm building and so are quite grandiose, but I got the impression of a happy and industrious centre with a surprisingly large staff, working away on a variety of projects with some energetic collaboration. Several of the key players treated me to a full, illustrated exposition of various projects currently underway, and the time went very quickly. To be honest, I was bowled over by what the software does, and so from that point of view it was a complete success on their part. I was quite persuaded of how valuable it would be for me to own! I won't try to list all the different things that appealed to me, but perhaps more of that anon.

The family joined us for an evening meal at a very nice restaurant by the water, and then we dashed off to the centre where I was to give my lecture, at about 7pm. I had a good audience, 80 or 90 I'd guess. I spoke for 45 minutes on the topic, "Did Jews in Jesus' Day Expect the Messiah?" and I felt that it was a receptive and enthusiastic group, and they asked questions for over half an hour. Many of the questions were highly informed and quite intelligent, e.g. there were some students down from Trinity Western. This was the first time that I had talked outside of the Duke classroom on the topic of messianism in the second temple period, and I found it pretty stimulating; it is always more enjoyable to talk about work in progress than to be looking back on previous work. The act of articulating my argument and laying out some of the evidence helped me to see where I needed to do more exploration; and several of the questions helped me to hone the issues too. All in all, it was a profitable evening at the end of a most enjoyable day. I was well looked after by Logos, and I felt honoured to have been invited.

The next morning, Tuesday, we set off for Seattle where we are spending a couple of days before returning to North Carolina. We went on the underground tour, which takes you to the original street level of the city, c. 150 years ago, before a major fire. We found a great English-style pub called the Elephant and Castle, which is where the picture above was taken. (I was going to put in a picture of my talk, but it came out a little blurred, and the one above is much nicer). I enjoyed my pint and bangers and mash very much -- it was a pretty good effort at being British. I also liked the poster above -- take a look at the quotation if you want to see something uplifting.

Since the work-related element of the trip is now complete, I will return now to everyday blogging, but probably not until we are back in North Carolina again soon.

Update (11.37): there is a little more over on The Americanization of Emily.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Travel Diary: Bellingham, WA

As regular readers will be aware, I occasionally write a travel diary here, on condition that the trip is in some way work connected. The current journey is to Bellingham in Washington state, right up in the north-western bit of the United States, almost as far from North Carolina but still within the States as you can get. The occasion is a lecture I am giving tomorrow in the Logos Lecture Series. Logos Bible Software is based up here in Bellingham, and I am looking forward to meeting some of the folk and seeing the heart of operations. There is a little biblioblogging synergy happening here since Logos have their own blog, Logos Bible Software Blog, and so too does Rick Brannan of Ricoblog, though I expect him to be on paternity duty at the moment since he is now a proud father.

It was the strangest feeling to make our journey up here. It took us almost as long as it takes us to get to England, and there are big timezone adjustments too (from Eastern Time to Pacific Time), and yet here we are, after all those hours, still in America. It was one of those experiences that brings home just how enormous the USA is. We got up at 3.25am, having had a late night too, after packing, cleaning and sorting things out (and finding just enough time to watch last night's fabulous episode of Doctor Who, written by Steven Moffatt, called Blink). Our flight from Raleigh-Durham was at 6.05am; we got into Atlanta at 7.30, set off from there at 9.30 for Seattle, arriving at 12pm (3pm EST). It was AirTran, and so no TV or food, and I slept the entire way, with just a few minutes of Horbury's Messianism and the Cult of Christ before drifting off each time.

It is a pleasure on this occasion not to be travelling alone this time, and the kids are able to come too, having finished school last Thursday. We hired a car in Seattle, and drove the 98 miles or so to Bellingham, stopping off for a nice Italian on the way. Seattle looks like a great city and we return there for a little bit of holiday on Tuesday. I put on the car in the radio but couldn't find Frasier Crane's show. What we saw of the State, though, looked very nice, with as many trees as where we live in NC, but a lot more mountains.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Faith and Works with Crossan, Wright and Others

I have recently been following with interest the new column in the Washington Post / Newsweek headed On Faith, which asks a controversial question and gets an array of contrasting expert views. This week's question is What's more important from a faith perspective? Being saved, or doing good works?. Three NT scholars on the panel have responses:

N. T. Wright: Start by Understanding Salvation
John Dominic Crossan: Both/And not Either/Or
Paula Fredriksen: Now or Later?

Fredriksen's is rather terse, just two or three sentences. All are quite interesting, though none will hold any surprises to those familiar with their work. The column is set up like a blog, so you can add your own comments into the debate.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Not the Messiah Reviews in

Over on Filmchat, Peter Chattaway has a round up of reviews for the Premiere of Not the Messiah, the oratorio based on Monty Python's Life of Brian (last Friday). See Not the Messiah -- the premiere reviewed. Sounds pretty promising to me, e.g. see especially the comments by Robert Cushman of the National Post:
As well as being a filleted adaptation of the movie, the new piece functions as an homage to, or more frankly, an exploitation of, all things Python. For example: As is well known, Brian was born in a stable to the Non-Virgin Mary while a more momentous birth was taking place just next door. ("Is it A.D. yet?" "It's about a quarter to.") And There Were Shepherds -- that's the title of one of the numbers, if an oratorio has numbers. In it, the shepherds sing about how happy they are in their jobs because, simply, "we like sheep." They don't, they make it clear, have much time for any other variety of livestock. They are as enhusiastic about sheep as others have been known to be about Spam . . . .

. . . . But much of the evening's appeal undoubtedly depends on its sense of lesemajeste. I don't mean by that irreverence towards the Bible. The show begins with a rather heavy-handed anti-hymn, O God You Are So Big ("and we are garbage in your sight") and it retains the exhortations of Brian, the reluctant messiah, that his flock should learn to think for themselves. But this element is muted, and the music actually dilutes it.

Logos Lecture: Messiah and King

Over on the Logos Bible Software Blog, there is a nice note headed Mark Goodacre is Coming to Town concerning my Logos Lecture next Monday in Bellingham, WA. The title is "Did Jews in Jesus' day expect the Messiah?" Since I am busy preparing the lecture at the moment (with the Test Match on in the background, of course, with England faltering a little on 166 for 5, having been on a commanding 112 for 1 at lunch), here is a taster of the argument of the paper:
Did Jews in Jesus’ day expect the Messiah? Yes, many of them did, but the term “Messiah” is not as important in the literature as the term “King”, and the question which we really should be answering in the affirmative is: Did some Jews in Jesus’ day expect a new Davidic King? Old Testament texts commonly reinterpreted as pointing to a future Messiah are actually speaking about the restoration of the Davidic monarchy. Other Jewish texts, both those that predate the New Testament and those contemporary with the New Testament, are also speaking about the restoration of the Davidic monarchy. They are prophesying the arrival of a new King in David’s line. Where the term “Messiah” occurs, it is used as an eschatological synonym for “King”. The term “Messiah” only took on decisive importance in emergent Christianity, where it was used to express the notion that the story of salvation was not yet complete. God’s Anointed was born of David’s line, had died for people’s sins, was raised from the dead and exalted to heaven. In the future, at the end, Jesus would return as King.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

More on the Synoptic Problem Poll

I enjoyed April DeConick's rather forthright post Let's Get "Real" About the Synoptic Poll in which she responds to my Synoptic Problem Poll: Some Reflections. I actually agree with most of what April says here. Of course Brandon's poll was not "scientific", and that's why I spoke of it as providing a "snapshot of what some people think about the Synoptic Problem at the moment". It's nothing more than that and of course it cannot be translated into what the academy in general thinks. Where I suppose I differ from April is in my reading of the situation in the academy at present, where I feel that there is greater receptivity to Q scepticism than there has been in the past. Perhaps that is just my generally optimistic nature, but I don't think so. In most recent literature on Q, there has been a willingness to engage with alternatives in a way that was less in evidence a decade ago. Ultimately, though, and I am sure April will agree with me here, it is the arguments and the evidence that matter . If Q theorists have the better arguments, they will win the day. I don't think that they have -- and I am pleased by those who have already been persuaded about Marcan Priority without Q -- but I am not cynical about academia, and if I and other Q sceptics are unable to persuade more colleagues of our theory, then I hope that we will have the grace and integrity to say that we are wrong, or that we have argued badly.

P. J. Williams Response to Perrin

Previous posts in this series:
In my review, I drew attention to some critical reviews of Nick Perrin's previous book, Thomas and Tatian, with which Perrin had not engaged in the current book. Perrin's response answered directly one of the reviews I had quoted from, by Peter Williams. I am grateful now to Peter Williams for the following response.

[Technical note: the response uses SPAtlantis (transliteration font) for the Syriac in Pete's comments, and the SP fonts for quotations from Nick's post (SPEdessa and SPAchmim). For some reason, SPAtlantis does not show up when I am viewing this post in Firefox but it does when I am viewing it in IE; but Firefox does show the other fonts. If you prefer, you can download this response as a PDF. Another good illustration of unicode being preferable, though I admit to ignorance about unicode Syriac fonts.]

Response to Nick Perrin

I am grateful that Nick has chosen to engage with my little review of his work in EJT.

I do indeed chide Perrin for arbitrariness in reconstruction and GT9-10 is a good example of this. We have two different Coptic words (pkah and pkosmos, normally rendered ‘earth’ and ‘world’ respectively), which most naturally are derived from two different Greek or Aramaic words. My point is that (lm) would be a more natural word to reconstruct behind Greek /Coptic kosmos in GT10. Even if the likelihood of )r() vs. (lm) were 50/50 (which it is not), Perrin would be choosing between possibilities in order to get a word play. He cites OS Luke 12:49a as proving his point and says ‘It seems to me rather hubristic – not to mention methodologically suspect – to try to improve on the word choice of the OS composer himself’. I am certainly not doing that. Rather, the OS supports my point: Greek ‘earth’ is rendered by Syriac ‘earth’, not by the word ‘world’. It is consistent with my position not his that speakers of Coptic, Greek and Syriac, and consequently translators between these languages, generally distinguished between the words ‘earth’ and ‘world’. However, I am open to the possibility that these words were sometimes interchanged if someone can adduce examples.
Before I leave off with Williams, we note that he is unhappy with my translating ptwma (body/flesh/corpse) with rSB (flesh): ‘similarly tendentious renderings from Coptic back to Syriac are 'corpse' rendered by 'flesh' (p. 106).’ The Coptic term has a wide range so there are other ways to go with the Syriac. But are there any Syriac options necessarily better than rSB (flesh)? Not in my mind.
I would reply that Coptic ptwma would most naturally represent Syriac sheladda (s6ld); cf. OS Matthew 14:12); or failing that pagra (pgr); cf. OS Matthew 24:28). ‘Corpse’ and ‘flesh’ are not the same thing.
NP: ‘A number of scholars, for example, feel that there is a Hebrew or Aramaic wordplay going on behind Matt. 7:6. Perhaps you feel – because there is no way of eliminating experimental bias in discerning semitic puns there – that such arguments are a priori unsustainable? I am not so prepared to send the likes of Dalman and Black packing.’
One of the problems for those who reconstruct Aramaic behind Greek (and other) texts is that they have relatively few ways of demonstrating Aramaic. Alleged word play and mistranslation are two of the most common. Thus, of necessity, they reconstruct a punning Jesus, and mistranslating evangelists. Even while we acknowledge success in their arguments, we also acknowledge that, given their mission, it would have been hard for them to have reached any other conclusion.
NP: ‘Finally, while there are errors in the book (I am painfully aware), and while I am not the Aramaicist that Williams is, and confess to my error of adding a y to )Ns (p. 105). One example does not constitute ‘scores of errors.’ Even if Jesus felt that one yod was of crucial importance (Matt. 5:18), Williams is going to need more than a misplaced yod to overturn my argument. (For the record, I had two Syriacists diligently serving on my dissertation committee – one being a leading Aramaicist / Syriacist – and they both expressed general satisfaction with the technical aspects of my argument, at least as far as the Syriac went.)’
I cannot comment on the committee’s competence in Aramaic, nor have I seen the thesis that they saw. I have only seen the published version. If you want an example of errors we could just focus on three pages from pp. 65 to 67, which deal with GT9-12.

p. 65.

1) )rmywn – delete n
2) b(wr) – I presume that b)r() was meant
3) fn. 37: beth lacks ligature with alaph

p. 66

4) )rmt wrongly written for )rmyt
5) b)r() used when b(lm) would be more natural
6) fn. 38 nuhra and nura described as ‘homophonous’

p. 67

7) First three Syriac words lack ligatures
8) zdyq should be in the emphatic state
9) fn. 40: ‘It is of added interest that in Syriac the phrase “from us” (… man) would hardly be distinguishable from the following vocable “who?” (… man). Thus the Syriac text would exhibit anadiplosis (the rhetorical device of beginning a sentence with the same sound that completed the previous sentence).’ Unfortunately ‘from us’ in Syriac is menan not man, which rather spoils things.

Points 5) and 9) are the only ones that significantly affect the argument. Now I am prepared to admit that it may be that my snobbery prevents me from seeing some of the better arguments in Perrin’s work since I am put off by the fact that most pages of his section on catchwords contain technical errors. However, Perrin does need to clean the presentation up, remove a number of spurious arguments and then present us with what remains. If he does not like my choice of pp. 65-67 and feels that I have not done him justice, perhaps he could suggest some other pages which he believes contain fewer errors.

P.J. Williams

Tom Wright "Wrightsaid" answers

On the N. T. Wright page, there is the latest in the series of "Wrightsaid" posts where Tom Wright answers questions put to him by anonymous punters. This is one of the odder instalments, with most of the questions asking about how Wright conceives of Jesus' knowledge of his divinity in relation to the creeds, the kinds of question that make me go "Huh?!":

Wrightsaid Q & A for June 2007

Monday, June 04, 2007

Synoptic Problem Poll: Some Reflections

Last Wednesday, Brandon Wason started a poll on the Synoptic Problem, asking which solution people thought best. Naturally, I cast my vote for the Farrer Theory, having spent a lot of time arguing in favour of this solution and against other solutions, especially the Two-Source Theory and the Griesbach Hypothesis (list of publications on my homepage, with some full text reproductions). Brandon's poll provides a nice snapshot of what some people think about the Synoptic Problem at the moment, and several comments on the poll provide interesting perspectives on some current thinking about the question. I would like to comment on both.

First, the poll. At present, the Farrer Theory is coming in second (with 108 votes) to the Two Source Theory (with 136 votes). In the current Biblical Studies Carnival, Danny Zacharias nicely summarizes where things stand:
Farrer adherents are sad that the two(four)-source hypothesis still comes in number one, Two/Four source adherents can't believe how many hold to the Farrer hypothesis, and all NT scholars gasped at how many votes the Augustinian hypothesis received.
But I must admit that I am not sad at all about this. On the contrary, I am delighted to see the Farrer theory coming in so hot on the heels of the Two-Source Theory, which, after all, has enjoyed ascendancy for over a century, and is accepted with little question in standard introductory textbooks (admittedly with some fallacious arguments). To come anywhere near the Two-Source Theory against those odds is very encouraging. To put this in some kind of historical perspective, less than ten years ago Stephen Patterson reviewed Christopher Tuckett's Q and the History of Early Christianity and commented on Tuckett's spending time arguing against the Farrer Theory, which he described in passing as "more obscure" than Griesbach.

Lest Q sceptics become puffed up with such apparent progress, however, April DeConick sends a sobering comment on the Forbidden Gospels Blog:
I am a little concerned with some of what I'm reading across the blogworld tonight regarding the results of the Synoptic Problem Poll on Novum Testamentum. Although it is fun to see what the blogging world thinks about this, it would be completely inaccurate to interpret the results of the poll to mean that the Two/Four-Source Hypothesis is losing ground in the Academy, or that the Academy is flirting with the Augustinian model, or that it has found the Farrer hypothesis convincing. Although this might be happening in the blogging world, it is not happening in the Academy. Quelle still reigns there.
I think my own reading of the situation is not quite so negative for Q scepticism. It is, of course, difficult to take a snapshot of where things are in the academy on the question, but I would be inclined to take the recent poll more seriously, and for several reasons:

1. I think we should be careful about placing too strong a wedge between "the blogworld" and "the Academy". There are plenty of authors and readers of blogs who are part of the academy in the sense of being professionals in the field. There are still more who are the professionals of the future, including graduate students. So I would want to stress that while the two worlds are not, of course, the same, there are significant degrees of overlap. And as Doug Chaplin observes,
Both DeConick’s post, and the Brandon Wason’s own comment on it imply that the strange results are simply down to the voters not being academic specialists in the field. Some of that may well be the case, but without asking a question about people’s expertise, it remains a deduction.
I would make a different deduction and it would go something like this: the poll reflects some movement away from the confidence in the Two-Source Theory that characterized previous generations of scholarship.

2. This is a particularly difficult one for me to judge, as a player in the drama, but I think that there are reasons to be less sanguine about the future for the Two-Source Theory than April is. There are several senior academics who have expressed uncertainty about Q in recent times; some have been kind enough to suggest that my Case Against Q was a contributing factor. The impression that I have had over the last few years is that the Synoptic Problem is being discussed again in fresh ways. Here at Duke, for example, I don't pick up much enthusiasm for Q.

3. There has long been a difficulty over discussion of the Synoptic Problem in the guild in that there is far greater diversity of opinion among experts on the Synoptic Problem than there is among others. I suppose that that is natural in any area, but it is worth noting that the major books to come out on the Synoptic Problem over the last decade or so have been written from a variety of perspectives, and this suggests a trend away from straightforward acceptance of the Two-Source Theory that was dominant a generation ago.

The comments on the current poll help me to get a feeling for why some are still unpersuaded by my own case against Q, and I am grateful for those, and would like to offer a few thoughts on them. Doug Chaplin is not persuaded because, he says, "I can’t understand why Luke, if using Matthew, would omit Matthew’s special Petrine and ecclesial material." Making cases for why a given evangelist may have omitted given material is always a tough one because it is necessarily educated guesswork and informed speculation. The architecture of the Two-Source Theory enables it to dodge the kind of questions that other theories face here because it is written into the fabric of that theory that no evangelists ever really omitted anything much. Most of Mark is included in Matthew and Luke and we don't have access to Q so we cannot compare like with like. The genius of the Two-Source Theory is that it reduces the amount of material omitted by Matthew and Luke to a minimum (Mark) or an unseen text (Q). Yet, what is easy to forget here is that actually Luke does omit a lot of Mark, some of it thought by some to be so inexplicable that special theories are produced to explain it. I am thinking especially of the Great Omission (Mark 6.45--8.26). As it happens, I think that Luke's omission here is explicable, but my point is that even the 2ST lives with a lot of omission of apparently congenial material.

That general point to one side, I do not find it at all surprising that Luke omits Matthew's Jesus' commendation of Peter in Matt. 16.17-19. To quote from a recent article,
It is one of the many curiosities of synoptic source-criticism that it is often said that Luke could not have known Matthew because of his non-inclusion of Matt. 16.17-19 (commendation of Peter), while nothing is made of his non-inclusion of Mark 8.33 // Matt. 16.22-23 (condemnation of Peter). But Luke’s omission of all of that material in his version of the Caesarea Philippi incident is unsurprising in the light of his treatment of Peter in Luke 22.31-32, which prophesies his sifting by Satan (cf. Mark 8.33 // Matt. 16.23), and his future strengthening of the brethren (cf. Matt. 16.17-19). For Luke, given a different Peter pattern in Luke-Acts, the Peter pattern of Matthew’s Caesarea Philippi, commendation followed by condemnation, is not an option and it is omitted. (Mark Goodacre, “The Rock on Rocky Ground: Matthew, Mark and Peter as Skandalon” in Philip McCosker (ed.), What Is It That the Scripture Says?: Essays in Biblical Interpretation, Translation, And Reception in Honour of Henry Wansbrough Osb (Library of New Testament Studies; London & New York: Continuum, 2006): 61-73).
But I enjoyed Doug Chaplin's reflections on the textualization of Q, and I endorse a lot of what he says, though I would want to note that Q as an ordered, written text is a theory largely demanded by the evidence in that Matthew and Luke are often much closer together in double tradition material (Q) than they are in triple tradition (Mark), and there are marked similarities in the sequence of material that make multiple, vaguely defined sources potentially more problematic than Q.

In comments on Brandon Wason's original post, Steve Walton writes:
I’m a believer in Markan priority, but sceptical about Q and completely unconvinced that Luke used Matthew. The comment ‘unscrambling the egg with a vengeance’ applies so powerfully to Luke’s treatment of Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, scattering it in bits all over Luke’s Gospel - I can’t imagine why someone would do that.
I am naturally pleased to hear of Steve's commitment to Marcan Priority and Q scepticism (that's already more than half-way there!), but I can't resist a little comment on the rest of what he writes here. Since I have a chapter in The Case Against Q headed "Unscrambling the egg with a vengeance", I suppose that I have failed in persuading Steve on this one. Nevertheless, I am surprised to see this old chestnut coming up again, and perhaps I could refocus the issue by asking what one would expect Luke to do if he were faced with such a sustained, lengthy monologue? When we remember that Luke cuts the length of the Marcan speeches like Mark 4.1-34 and 9.33-50, omitting some and "scattering" the remainder, I would expect him to do the same with a far, far longer monologue like Matt. 5-7. Indeed the anomaly for the Farrer theory would be if Luke had maintained the Sermon in toto. Often, Luke is refreshingly consistent.

In another comment, Ryan Jones says:
Okay, I know I need to sit down with my crayons and my pencils and a Greek Synopsis, as Mark Goodacre’s blog reminded me a few days ago. But, ah jeez, I just don’t know when I’ll have that kind of time. Besides, I don’t see how I could come to anything more than a tentative solution anyway. Is the payoff really that great? I am skeptical when I see scholars making confident exegetical, historical, or theological conclusions that rely on a particular one of these hypotheses being true. Like household chores, I know it’s something I really ought to do but I’m putting it off.
I know the feeling. But I would say that the "payoff" comes not just in helping one to test out different synoptic theories but also in getting to know the texts of the Synoptic Gospels, improving one's Greek, in practising redaction criticism, and in exploring the greatest literary enigma of all time. Doesn't that sound tempting?

Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism

Matt Brook O'Donnell has been in touch to confirm (see previous post) that the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism has moved to a new, more stable location. And Volume 4 (2007) has now been opened with its first article:

4.1. David Reis, Flip-Flop? John Chrysostom's Polytropic Paul

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Nicholas Perrin Responds

I recently composed some reflections on Nicholas Perrin, Thomas, the Other Gospel (see Nicholas Perrin, Thomas, the Other Gospel: Reflections) and I am grateful to Nick for his full response to that post in what follows, which I am delighted to post here:

[Technical Note: Nick's post below uses the Scholars Press Legacy fonts SPAchmim (Coptic), SPEdessa (Syriac) and SPIonic (Greek), which you can download from the SBL site. I have not converted to unicode because it would take too long, but if you can't read this and don't want to download the fonts, I have also uploaded it as a PDF with the fonts embedded.]

Response to Mark Goodacre

Dear Mark,

I am honored that you have taken the time and the effort to patiently work through my book, and then respond to it at length on your blog. I am gratified by your positive comments and thank you for them – I am particularly gratified to hear your intention to use the book with Duke undergrads. But I am also thankful for your criticisms. These challenge me to think through my position anew; they also give me the opportunity to restate and defend my position, hopefully in fresh and clarifying ways.

As for the level /audience /pitch of the book – this was one of the most difficult aspects in writing it. While straddling on the monkey bars of popular and scholarly genres, it is inevitable that I shift my weight now onto the one foot (at the risk of frustrating some) and now onto the other (at the risk of shooting over the heads of others). Hopefully, there will be something for everybody, “as much as they were able to hear,” as it were.

My second frustration with writing the book was in not being able to engage the spectrum of positions – and you’re right about not giving due space to Tuckett and Snodgrass in the bibliography. An oversight, indeed. I also wish I could have given more space to Risto Uro, especially as his point regarding secondary orality is very salutary. However, unlike my three interlocutors, Uro has never drawn up a comprehensive and cohesive scenario.

Though you have made a number of other sage remarks I would like to pass over them in order to go straight to your first two points of criticism: (1) catchwords and (2) the Diatessaron and John. I think that will be enough to bite off in one blog.


First, let’s talk about catchwords. Here you rely heavily on the reviews of Williams and Joosten. The former I have read; the latter I confess I have never heard of until now. I remember Williams contacting me shortly after the book was released as he was quite keen to review it. After reading his review for myself, however, I found it rather disappointing. Let me explain why by going to the portion you quoted:
Though this conclusion may seem impressively supported, in fact recurring problems in his reconstructions considerably reduce its support.
Now follow some examples:
Firstly, the reconstructions are not straightforward. Thus from the Coptic word 'earth' (saying 9) and the Coptic word 'world' (saying 10) he reconstructs the Syriac word 'earth', despite the fact that Syriac has a perfectly good word for 'world' (pp. 65-66).
Williams takes up my handling of GT 9 (‘did not take root in the soil’ [epesht ka6 = e)n th= gh=|| ? = )(r)B ?]). and GT 10 (‘I have cast fire upon the world’ [|||e`\n pkosmos eis6hhte = e)pi\ to\n ko&smon ? = )(r)B ?]) and chides me for using )(r)B in GT 10. I suppose he wanted me to use a different word, perhaps )ML(. My only reason for using )(r)B, he implies, is because I want to make a connection between GT 9 and 10 in the Syriac. But if he has a problem with this, he should take it up with the author of the OS Luke 12:49a, where Jesus says, “I have come to cast fire upon the earth ()(r)B),’ and the OS version of the Parable of the Sower in the triple tradition where )(r)B also occurs just at this point (see, e.g. OS Matt 13:8 par.) . (It seems to me rather hubristic – not to mention methodologically suspect – to try to improve on the word choice of the OS composer himself.) Thus there is every reason to believe that the Diatessaron used the exact same constructions in his rendering of Luke 12:49a and the Parable of the Sower, and if Thomas used the Diatessaron and wrote in Syriac, then these two words would have likely occurred in precisely this juxtaposition. So then, rather than being evidence for my being arbitrary, Williams’s illustration splendidly underscores the fact that for a large portion of this experiment my hands are tied; my word choice is controlled by the extant Syriac witness.

Willliams continues with his charge of tendentiousness:
When it suits Perrin to render Coptic 'world' by Syriac 'earth' it is so rendered (p. 78), but on other occasions the Coptic word 'world' is rendered by Syriac 'world' (p. 83). The author is thus selecting the words used in his retroversion in order to create catchwords.
The first sentence I confess is true, for I try my best to use the appropriate Syriac given the context. But what about the second statement: am I really selecting words in order to create catchwords? Perhaps I am ‘creating catchwords’ in a sense. But in each of these instances, if I am tendentiously creating catchwords in the Syriac, what Williams does not tell the readers of his review is that I am showing the very same ‘favoritism’ to the Greek and Coptic! Because I have assigned the same catchword status to the Greek and Coptic versions on the basis of a semantic repetition, the precise Syriac reconstruction of the words in this case is moot. Williams’s criticism is equally non a propos when he says I’m tendentious in my linking ‘evening’ and ‘night’ (p. 115) and ‘belongings/estate’ and ‘house’ (p. 124), for again, all three languages earn ‘catchword points’ – again, on the basis of semantic overlap. The reader may be suspicious of such connections, but actually I am being generous to my devil’s advocate. If you think about a law of ratios, each and every three-way draw certainly doesn’t help my overall argument, but works against it. If these instances are among Williams’s best examples of my tendentiousness (cases in which my allegedly ‘creating catchwords’ actually blunts my argument), his charge does not even come close to being sustained.

Before I leave off with Williams, we note that he is unhappy with my translating ptwma (body/flesh/corpse) with rSB (flesh): ‘similarly tendentious renderings from Coptic back to Syriac are 'corpse' rendered by 'flesh' (p. 106).’ The Coptic term has a wide range so there are other ways to go with the Syriac. But are there any Syriac options necessarily better than rSB (flesh)? Not in my mind. But forgive me for thinking that – whatever the precise Syriac words – something is going on when GT 55 contains the word ‘hate’ (which can be expressed in Syriac as rSB) and then GT 56 contains the word ‘body/flesh/corpse’ (which can be expressed in Syriac as rSB). Coincidence? Perhaps. But then precisely the same coincidence reoccurs when a term denoting ‘body/flesh/corpse’ (GT 80) is again juxtaposed with a term denoting hatred (GT 81). (This by the way is as good as explanation as any for the doublets in Thomas.) There are similar such instances of word pairings, which I mention in Thomas, The Other Gospel; the statistical probability of such collocations being random is nil. I do think this pretty powerful evidence. And I don’t think, as Joosten apparently wants to say (and as Mick Jagger wants to sing), that this is ‘Just my imagination running away with me.’

Finally, while there are errors in the book (I am painfully aware), and while I am not the Aramaicist that Williams is, and confess to my error of adding a y to )Ns (p. 105). One example does not constitute ‘scores of errors.’ Even if Jesus felt that one yod was of crucial importance (Matt. 5:18), Williams is going to need more than a misplaced yod to overturn my argument. (For the record, I had two Syriacists diligently serving on my dissertation committee – one being a leading Aramaicist/Syriacist – and they both expressed general satisfaction with the technical aspects of my argument, at least as far as the Syriac went.) I’m glad you note, Mark, there are reviews of Thomas and Tatian out there that are (far) more sanguine than the viewpoints of Williams and Joosten.

But let’s get back to the question of ‘fudging’ the catchword analysis, especially your concerns:
Perrin's answer to the perceived problem of "fudging" is to assert the statistical improbability of certain patterns of words occurring in the text by accident (pp. 87-8), but this avoids engaging with the most important question, which is not about "a blend of speculation and luck" (p. 87), but is rather about experimental bias, the selection of specific retroversions that make catchword links where other retroversions would not have done. Given the extent to which Perrin's case relies on the retroversion + catchword argument, criticisms of the earlier book need to be taken seriously. It may be that a good counter-argument can be made, but if so, it needs to be made rather than ignored.
I make no claims to pure objectivity, but I do try to be honest. The case I have set forth is cumulative as virtually any argument which seeks to discern an original language of composition beneath a translation must be. Undoubtedly, choices, even guesses, have to be made – hopefully they are good and reasonable cases, and attain to some level of certainty. This is something that has to be argued out on a case-by-case basis, which I try to do as concisely as possible in my footnotes. If this doesn’t satisfy your issue of experimental bias, may I ask you, how would it be possible to make any argument for a document having been originally written or rehearsed in a language other than the one represented in the extant text? A number of scholars, for example, feel that there is a Hebrew or Aramaic wordplay going on behind Matt. 7:6. Perhaps you feel – because there is no way of eliminating experimental bias in discerning semitic puns there – that such arguments are a priori unsustainable? I am not so prepared to send the likes of Dalman and Black packing.

Of course if you’re looking for a kind of objective, positivistic evidence that can be verified or falsified, you will be disappointed. Linguistic retroversion is based on educated guesswork. I have done my best in this regard – but the OS has provided a helping hand at a number of points too. Neither can I verify or falsify catchwords (be they semantic or phonological), any more than any one can prove the existence of a single pun in the Shakespeare corpus. But our inability to prove a pun, either in Thomas or in Shakespeare, doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. It is a rather narrow epistemological framework (and I have a sneaking suspicion this is what Joosten is laboring under) that regards the unverifiable as inadmissible. (By the way, while it may be within the linguist’s remit to determine whether I have matched the right Syriac word-sound with the right Coptic word, you don’t have to be a Syriac or Coptic scholar to judge whether word plays are going on. At those places where my matches are deemed reasonable, I would far more trust the judgment of a student of poetry than an unimaginative linguist or text critic.) If historiography is the act of asking readers to reconsider a limited set of facts by giving them a new way of looking at those facts, then I am simply doing history of a linguistic sort. Nor should it be said that the thesis of Thomas and Tatian doesn’t amount to much because it is merely reconstruction. All history is reconstruction.

My chapter four has other arguments in addition to the catchwords argument. What about my argument that seven points of divergence between the Oxy. Fragments and the Coptic can be explained by a parent Syriac text? What about my argument regarding the Thomasine Syriac redaction? What about my argument that Tatian and Thomas Christianity eerily share many of the same distinctive practices, and that it would have been nigh impossible for Tatian to have inherited these practices from Thomas Christians, although the reverse is entirely possible (Other Gospel, 99-106)? Admittedly, catchwords are an important piece of the pie of Thomas, The Other Gospel, but it is only one piece of larger argument.

Diatessaron and John

So as not to wear out the patience of your blog readers, let me say just a few things about the Diatessaron and John. I do remember reading Parker’s review and the question he raises there. I suppose I am not as personally bothered as you or David. I don’t, at any rate, consider the relative absence of Johannine material a “problem.” Perhaps I should, but let me tell you why I don’t.

First, it is very hard for me to think of any Johannine speech material of any length that would make any sense in a document like Thomas. Generally, when Jesus speaks in John, he is either speaking in the midst of narrative (which Thomas eschews given the nature of what he trying to do), dealing with topics Thomas doesn’t care about (pneumatology, unity) or he is speaking self-referentially (e.g., the I AMs) – while Thomas buys into Johannine protology, he would have been less happy with the claims Jesus makes for himself in the gospels as a whole.

Second, while people often make a big deal out of Q and Thomas (you and I know better!), what is more significant is Thomas’s penchant for the parable material within the double tradition. Judging by Irenaeus’ words (Adv. Haer. 2.27.1) – and he could not have been completely wacked on this – a number of sects were adapting the parables to ‘ambiguous expressions.’ In reading the parables, each such individual would ‘discover for himself as inclination leads him.’ And ‘in accordance with the number of persons who explain the parables will be found the various systems of truth.’ Apparently, at the end of the second century, parables held a certain fascination for a vast number of sects. Could Irenaeus be talking about Thomas Christians? It is entirely possible. If so, we might expect Thomas Christians to have something of a fixation with parabolic material, including Jesus’ enigmatic statements like, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar…’. As you know the parables are found only in the synoptic material, not the Johannine material.

I know you have raised more issues than I have covered, but for now I must stop – especially if I have any hope of your readers following me to the end. More later on the Diatessaron and the Greek fragments.

Again, Mark, my many thanks. I have appreciated the interaction.

All best wishes,


Bibilioblog Carnival (May)

Danny Zacharias has done a fine job on Deinde in the latest, welcome instalment of the Biblioblog Carnival:

Biblical Studies Carnival 18

I'd like to make a comment on one element here, the Synoptic Problem Poll, but I'll do that in a separate post.

Thanks, Danny, for taking the trouble on another excellent carnival post.

Friday, June 01, 2007

"All-you-can-eat blog buffet"

That's a nice phrase from the interview with Rick Brannan, this month's Biblioblog Blogger of the Month, used to describe what is now on offer to biblioblog consumers. The image is apt here in the US. One of my most striking memories of my first few weeks in America was a visit to a place called "Golden Corral" which offers a remarkable all-you-can-eat buffet for less than $10 a head including steak, Mexican, Italian, NC style "barbecue" and so on. And this place was populated by some seriously obese people.

Of course you should read it all, but I was particularly interested in this section that follows on from the use of the above image:
It will be interesting to see how the marketplace of blog-readers (are there really people who just read blogs and don’t blog at all?) responds to the increasing supply. Say’s Law (supply creates its own demand) has long been held untenable. Because I write something doesn’t mean that someone will read it. “If you build it, he will come” only works in the movies.

I think the supply of blogs that are actually aggregated and read will shrink as blog-readers reach their consumption limit. They’ll focus back on the blogs regularly posted with articles that provoke thought, and some of the excess blogs will either stagnate in-place or go away — which is why I think good group blogs have the best chance in the longer run.

And I think that’s a good direction, overall.
I know that I had to admit this finally when I dropped my old comprehensive blogroll, because it was tough to keep up to date, and replaced it with the dynamic Google blogroll, which is much easier to manage. What I have noticed, though, since going over to Google, is how few blogs every jump out of limbo status. I used to drop blogs manually into limbo if they had not posted for a month. Now, with Google, there's no need to do that -- if the blog doesn't post, it doesn't appear on the blogroll. Yet, it is very rare for one of those limbo blogs to get reignited. In other words, I think sustained provision is not becoming that much greater. Rather, every time a strong new blog becomes established, a couple more quietly bow out.

New Testament Studies latest (53/3), and free access to 53/1

The July issue of New Testament Studies is now available, subscribers and subscribing institutions only, but abstracts free for all:

New Testament Studies
Volume 53 - Issue 03 - July 2007

A Third Form of Righteousness: The Theme and Contribution of Matthew 6.19-7.12 in the Sermon on the Mount
New Testament Studies, Volume 53, Issue 03, July 2007, pp 303 - 324
doi: 10.1017/S002868850700015X, Published online by Cambridge University Press 31 May 2007
[ abstract ]

Matthew 7.21-23: Further Evidence of its Anti-Pauline Perspective
New Testament Studies, Volume 53, Issue 03, July 2007, pp 325 - 343
doi: 10.1017/S0028688507000161, Published online by Cambridge University Press 31 May 2007
[ abstract ]

A Second Glance at Matthew 27.24
New Testament Studies, Volume 53, Issue 03, July 2007, pp 344 - 358
doi: 10.1017/S0028688507000173, Published online by Cambridge University Press 31 May 2007
[ abstract ]

Die Verschonung des samaritanischen Dorfes (Lk 9.54-55): Eine kritische Reflexion von Elia-Überlieferung im Lukasevangelium und eine frühjüdische Parallele im Testament Abrahams
New Testament Studies, Volume 53, Issue 03, July 2007, pp 359 - 378
doi: 10.1017/S0028688507000185, Published online by Cambridge University Press 31 May 2007
[ abstract ]

The Pericope of the Adulteress Reconsidered: The Nomadic Misfortunes of a Bold Pericope
New Testament Studies, Volume 53, Issue 03, July 2007, pp 379 - 405
doi: 10.1017/S0028688507000197, Published online by Cambridge University Press 31 May 2007
[ abstract ]

Abkehr von der Rückkehr: Aufbau und Theologie der Apostelgeschichte im Kontext des lukanischen Diasporaverständnisses
New Testament Studies, Volume 53, Issue 03, July 2007, pp 406 - 424
doi: 10.1017/S0028688507000203, Published online by Cambridge University Press 31 May 2007
[ abstract ]

Common Ground? The Role of Galatians 2.16 in Paul's Argument
New Testament Studies, Volume 53, Issue 03, July 2007, pp 425 - 435
doi: 10.1017/S0028688507000215, Published online by Cambridge University Press 31 May 2007
[ abstract ]

Die Sternenfrau und ihre Kinder (Offb 12): Zur Wiederentdeckung eines Mythos
New Testament Studies, Volume 53, Issue 03, July 2007, pp 436 - 457
doi: 10.1017/S0028688507000227, Published online by Cambridge University Press 31 May 2007
[ abstract ]

For those without institutional access, note that 53/1 (January 2007) is currently available free to all, and includes articles by David Miller, Richard Bauckham, Kavin Rowe, B. J. Oropeza, Timothy Gombis, Margaret Macdonald, Scott Mackie, Monika Betz. Grab them while you can because the free access changes from time to time (which is why I no longer link to these on the NT Gateway -- I have been stung that way before).