Monday, April 21, 2008

The Passion: More Q&A

It has been a few weeks since The Passion aired on BBC1 and I have not blogged on it for a while. It may be over, for now, in the UK, but there are important things to look forward to. The first will be the DVD release at some point in the coming months. The next will be the American broadcast next year on HBO. No doubt there will be other broadcasts too throughout the world at different stages, and I will keep my eyes open for what is going on. I may also, from time to time, offer further reflections on The Passion as time goes on. My recent return to England was quite refreshing in the number of people who talked to me about their experiences of watching The Passion -- there was so much positive feedback. I don't have a lot more to talk about at the moment, but I want to draw attention to one more addition to the BBC's Passion website, more "Q & A" with Nigel Stafford-Clark (producer) and Frank Deasy (writer):

The Passion: Questions and Answers II

These questions and answers relate primarily to episodes 3 and 4, on the crucifixion and resurrection (warning: contain spoilers!).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Death of Krister Stendahl

I was very sorry to hear of the death of Krister Stendahl, one of the giants of New Testament scholarship, tonight (Jim West's blog).

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Travel Diary: Synoptic Problem Conference IV

Thursday, Heathrow Airport, 15.34: Checked out of Lincoln College this morning, after a nice breakfast which featured two slices of British back bacon. Last time I will get any of that until August. I was disappointed to have to miss the last couple of sessions, the first of which featured Christoph Heil on Reconstructing Q, Stephen Patterson on Thomas and Eric Eve on the Synoptic Problem without Q. Heil's paper was not online before the conference, so it was a particular shame to miss his. Eve's was so full of good sense that I doubt I would have had any comments of my own to throw in. Patterson's was one of the papers I would have particularly liked to have discussed -- the subject is one of great interest to me in my current research. There was also a plenary scheduled for people to reflect on future directions. But I was already on the coach to Heathrow, listening to the Russell Brand podcast and reading the latest Doctor Who Magazine. I met up with the family, who had come down from Peterborough, and we are about to fly. There is no wireless here, so I will upload this post when I get back to Raleigh. It will be pretty late because we are flying into DC and driving down from there.

This conference has been excellent. It was very well organized and ran very smoothly; congratulations to Andrew Gregory, Paul Foster, John Kloppenborg and Joseph Verheyden for a job very well done. The catering at Lincoln College was excellent, and the location ideal -- bang in the centre of Oxford (and right next to my old college). In spite of the number of papers, the programme did not feel crammed, and I appreciated the free time on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, and the free time again after 9pm or so. The number present, forty or so, was about right to ensure good discussion after each paper and set of papers. Any more, and it would have become unwieldy. By the end of the conference, one had the feeling of having got to know almost everyone.

Each session worked very well, with a general theme and three or so presentations followed by discussion. The only one that did not quite work, in my opinion, was the session that paired David Peabody with Kathleen Corley -- these were such very different papers that the discussion was less focused than it was for the other sessions where things were more naturally related.

The academic quality of the papers and the discussion was very high. I have to admit that I was initially a bit sceptical about the decision not to invite "position papers", or to have individuals arguing in favour of given theories, but it turned out that this was a brilliant decision. The encouragement to all presenters to be as balanced and fair as possible, and the invitations to read papers on specific themes, led to pretty helpful discussions with a marked lack of polemic; there was more light than heat, to use the cliché.

All in all, an excellent conference and a very enjoyable few days away. Congratulations to all involved!

[Actual time of upload, Friday, 15.25, back in Raleigh, North Carolina.]

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Travel Diary: Synoptic Problem Conference III

Oxford, Thursday, 00:47; last full day of the Synoptic Problem conference. First session, 9a.m.: Andrew Gregory chaired what was perhaps the meatiest section yet, four papers on issues relating to compositional issues and the Synoptic Problem. Three of the presenters were present and Gregory summarised the fourth paper, Kirk's, on "Memory, scribal media and the synoptic problem". Alex Damm spoke first on "Ancient Rhetoric and the Synoptic Problem"; then Robert Derrenbacker talked about "Ancient Compositional Practices and the Synoptic Problem"; then Gerald Downing on "Writers' use or abuse of written sources". Discussion was wide ranging and enthusiastic. There was perhaps most discussion on Gerald Downing's paper, and some comment on his claim that the minor agreements are in fact problematic for all synoptic theories. Several of us have picked up the feeling that this session provided a good indication of where the debate is likely to develop in the coming years -- compositional issues are clearly going to be key in future discussion of the Synoptic Problem.

After morning coffee, the next section was chaired by John Kloppenborg and featured two main papers, Eugene Boring on "The 'Minor Agreements' and Their Bearing on the Synoptic Problem" and Peter Head on "Textual Criticism and the Synoptic Problem". John Kloppenborg also read out a summary of Robert Stein's paper, "Duplicate Expressions in Mark". The discussion focused mainly on Gene Boring and Peter Head's papers. I attempted to make my point, with respect to Eugene Boring's paper, that the postulation of a "Revised Mark" may not actually aid the Two Source Theory with respect to the Minor Agreements since a Revised Mark might, in fact, have been less like our Matthew and Luke than our Mark is. On such a scenario, there might in fact have been more minor agreements in the earliest texts, and not less. I had only limited success articulating this point, however, and it may be that I need to think carefully about how to articulate it more clearly on future occasions -- or to drop it.

Before lunch, there was a group photograph. Just as we were gathering, I had a phone call from Q; we had planned to get together today, as we usually do when I am in the UK. Someone suggested that Q take the group photograph, which he was delighted to do. I hope that some kind person will email me one of the photographs taken so that I can upload it to the blog. After the photograph, Q and I wandered to the covered market, as we used to do when we were students together, and enjoyed a splendid lunch in Mortons.

The next event on the schedule, after tea, was my paper, the third of the main papers, on "The Evangelists' Use of the Old Testament and the Synoptic Problem". I enjoyed speaking on the topic, and was honoured to have it chaired by my Doctorvater John Muddiman. I began my talk by sending Michael Goulder's greetings to the conference. (I had spent Sunday afternoon with him). The discussion after my paper was perhaps a little more subdued than some of the other discussions, and I hope that that was not a reflection on its quality or interest. Nevertheless, there were lots of useful and interesting questions, including from the chair.

Drinks were at 6.30; dinner was at 7. The main course was duck and it was excellent. Once again, the relatively early end to proceedings allowed a little time for additional socializing for those so inclined.

Alas, I have to miss the last morning of the conference. I need to get the coach to Heathrow to meet the family and get the plane back to DC, and I don't think I will be able to make it to any of the morning activities. Nevertheless, I hope to add concluding comments tomorrow. Needless to say, an excellent conference, intellectually stimulating and conducted in a generous, positive spirit. Congratulations and thanks to the convenors, John Kloppenborg, Andrew Gregory, Paul Foster and Joseph Verheyden, who have done a superb job.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Travel Diary: Synoptic Problem Conference II

Oxford, 01:02: second day of the Oxford conference on the Synoptic Problem at Lincoln College. One of the participants here teased me about whether or not I might blog what I had for breakfast today. So in his honour: breakfast today was sausage, egg and tinned tomatoes; it was perfectly fine but to have been perfect it would have needed (at least) good British back bacon and black pudding. But of course the catering people here don't know how much the British ex-pats present hanker for such things, and the breakfast was very nice.

Today was the first full day of the conference. The sessions all take place in the same room, a very Oxford kind of conference room, in which we all sit around the table rather than in rows. There were two separate sessions this morning, separated by coffee, and each with a series of three papers summarized. In session 1, Paul Foster chaired. William Loader talked about Synoptic Perspectives on Jesus and the Law, and his summary was in fact an interesting supplement to the paper he had uploaded, with reflections on how the evidence appeared from the perspectives of the Two-Source Theory, the Griesbach Theory and the Farrer Theory. This has become something of a pattern here -- these are the three theories mainly on the table and which receive the attention from most presenters. Duncan Reid then talked about the miracles from the perspective of differing Synoptic theories. Duncan is one of John Kloppenborg's students in Toronto. Charles Hedrick was not able to be present, so Paul Foster read a 15 minute summary of his paper. There was a broad discussion afterwards.

The second session was chaired by Joseph Verheyden. Kathleen Corley spoke about White Male dominance of Synoptic research, and David Peabody talked about Reading the Synoptic Gospels from the perspective of different source hypotheses, though he focused, inevitably, on the Two-Gospel Theory. I found Kathleen Corley's paper a bit disappointing, not least because it did not engage with the Synoptic Problem at all, so we did not get any closer to an answer to the question posed. I also doubt her thesis, that men are inclined towards Synoptic research because they identify with the historical Jesus. The third paper in the session was from Udo Schnelle, who was not present, and a summary was read, in German, by the chair.

After lunch, it was free time, and then tea. The second main paper was John Kloppenborg on Synopses and the Synoptic Problem. This was perhaps the paper that I found the most engaging in the conference so far, and it generated lengthy and helpful discussion afterwards. Dinner is finished in good time each evening, allowing plenty of time for a bit of socializing afterwards.

The way in which the discussion is being conducted at this conference is excellent. There are a few agenda-heavy questions, with repetitions of the protagonist's particular theories or perspectives, but on the whole, the discussions are tending to air issues of interest to all present, and across a range of areas.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Travel Diary: Synoptic Problem Conference I

Oxford, England, 00:22: caught the train down from Birmingham to Oxford this morning, a journey that I did many times as a student; tried to finish reading one of the conference papers that I hadn't yet read and fell into a deep sleep. Walked up to Lincoln College, the location for a conference on the Synoptic Problem to celebrate the centenary (forthcoming) of the Oxford Studies in the Synoptic Problem of 1911. The idea is that the essays written for this conference will be revised for the volume to be published in time for that centenary.

I am enjoying being back in Oxford. I spent ten years here, nine of them as a student. I met my wife here and we had our first daughter here. The conference location, Lincoln College, is next door to my old college, Exeter, and I have already enjoyed walking around favourite old locations. Oxford does not change much, and the only major difference about the kind of student accommodation we are in is the addition of en-suite facilities to make the place more conducive to conferences like this. Back in my day, I had to walk down four flights of stairs to the basement to the shared, stone showers. Students today have it easy.

The conference began with lunch in the hall and then the first session of summarized papers. There are forty-three people in attendance, and most of these are presenting papers, most in summarized format. The essential idea is that the papers are written in advance and uploaded to the web (Papers), allowing plenty of time for discussion in each of the sessions, though not all have actually written their papers in advance, so some of the summaries are first-time presentations.

Eugene Boring chaired the first session and there were three papers, all from conference conveners, Andrew Gregory on Literary Dependence and the Synoptic Problem, Paul Foster on the History and Demise of M and Joseph Verheyden on Proto-Luke. Each one spoke for 15-20 minutes and the discussion was then another 45 minutes or so. Perhaps the majority of questions went to Paul Foster on his M paper, including my own on the question of "legendary" elements in M narrative material and John Kloppenborg's on the modelling of the theory. There were also comments from F. Gerald Downing, William Loader, Stephen Patterson and David Peabody.

One of the nice things about a British conference is that one breaks for tea at the proper time; I have been in America long enough to have forgotten what a pleasure it is to have a tea break at a conference. There were large, metal pots of tea of the old-fashioned catering variety.

We went from tea to the first main paper, Christopher Tuckett on "The Current State of the Synoptic Problem". The paper was ideal for the context. It was generally regarded as fair, rigorous, thorough and balanced, even if some would disagree with particular arguments, or particular selections of material covered. I was honoured that Prof. Tuckett referred to my work several times when discussing the Farrer Theory, and afterwards David Catchpole, who was chairing the session, offered "the oppressed minorities" a right to reply, me first on Farrer and then David Dungan on Griesbach. The discussion ranged to a variety of other topics, with comments and questions from, among others, Bob Derrenbacker, F. Gerald Downing, Dennis Macdonald, Maurice Casey (about the absence of Aramaic Q the survey), Paul Foster (why is Luke's use of Matthew more popular than Matthew's use of Luke?), Joseph Verheyden (are the 2ST crowd more introspective and prone to questioning their hypothesis than advocates of other theories?), William Loader (concerning the regular usage of the Synoptics in sabbath-by-sabbath worship, asking whether this distinguished them from other Graeco-Roman texts with which they are regularly compared) and others.

One general question that has already begun to raise its head is the one relating to oral tradition, literary dependency and modes of contact between documents and traditions. My guess, at this stage, is that that the issues here will recur over the coming days.

After Prof. Tuckett's paper, there were drinks. At this drinks reception, David Catchpole announced that the purpose of the volume for which we are writing is the celebration of the work of Christopher Tuckett. Prof. Catchpole spoke and Prof. Tuckett responded, thanking those assembled, but offering special thanks to David Catchpole, Bob Morgan and Christopher Rowland, all of whom were present.

From the drinks reception, we went to the hall for dinner. It was an excellent dinner -- fish course with a nice white wine; chicken for the main course with an acceptable red, and some kind of cakey pudding that I forget because of the arrival of the port.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Travel Diary: Oxford Synoptic Problem Pre-Conference II

Birmingham, 00.19. After an excellent weekend with my folks in South Derbyshire, we have spent the day in Birmingham, seeing old friends. Early start tomorrow to travel down to Oxford for the conference.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Travel Diary: Oxford Synoptic Problem Conference Pre-Conference Post

The new series (the fourth) of the new Doctor Who starts on BBC1 tonight (6.20pm) and we have flown over to England specially to see it. While here, I am planning to attend the Synoptic Problem Conference in Oxford (my paper). It gets underway on Monday at Lincoln College, Oxford and I must admit that I am looking forward to it very much. I have read most of the papers that are already online (see link above) and there is clearly going to be a lot of interest to talk about. I have brought the blogging machine with me and I am hoping to blog the conference as we go through, but it will depend a bit on whether there is wireless at Lincoln College. If there isn't, I will still write notes as I go through, but won't be able to upload until the end of the week. For now, I am enjoying some time at my parents' place in Derbyshire.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Synoptic Problem Conference Paper

There is a conference in Oxford next week to celebrate the forthcoming centenary of Oxford Studies in the Synoptic Problem. The conference has a website and many of the papers have been uploaded already:

Oxford Conference on the Synoptic Problem

Although not yet on the site, my paper is available, and I have uploaded it here:

The Evangelists' Use of the Old Testament and the Synoptic Problem (MS Word)

The Evangelists' Use of the Old Testament and the Synoptic Problem (PDF)