Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Review of Biblical Literature Latest

Latest from the SBL Review of Biblical Literature under the NT and related heading (composite post of the last three announcements):

Bradford B. Blaine Jr.
Peter in the Gospel of John: The Making of an Authentic Disciple
Reviewed by Stephan Witetschek

Markus Bockmuehl and Donald A. Hagner, eds.
The Written Gospel
Reviewed by David C. Sim

Sebastian Brock
The Bible in the Syriac Tradition
Reviewed by H. F. van Rooy

Gregory W. Dawes
Introduction to the Bible
Reviewed by Randall L. McKinion

Jane DeRose Evans
The Coins and the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine Economy of Palestine
Reviewed by Mark A. Chancey

Victor Paul Furnish
1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians
Reviewed by Eduard Verhoef

Paul M. Hoskins
Jesus as the Fulfillment of the Temple in the Gospel of John
Reviewed by Mary L. Coloe
Reviewed by Nicholas H. Taylor

Ådna Jostein, ed.
The Formation of the Early Church
Reviewed by Markus Oehler

Bart J. Koet
Dreams and Scripture in Luke-Acts: Collected Essays
Reviewed by David L. Tiede

Jerome H. Neyrey
Give God the Glory: Ancient Prayer and Worship in Cultural Perspective
Reviewed by Tony Costa

Birger A. Pearson
Ancient Gnosticism: Traditions and Literature
Reviewed by James F. McGrath

Calvin J. Roetzel
2 Corinthians
Reviewed by Frank J. Matera

Karl Friedrich Ulrichs
Christusglaube: Studien zum Syntagma pistis Christou und zum paulinischen Verständnis von Glaube und Rechtfertigung
Reviewed by Günter Röhser

Ward Blanton
Displacing Christian Origins: Philosophy, Secularity, and the New Testament
Reviewed by Claire Clivaz

Brian Brock
Singing the Ethos of God: On the Place of Christian Ethics in Scripture
Reviewed by Jan G. van der Watt

Albert Eichhorn; trans. Jeffrey Cayzer
The Lord's Supper in the New Testament
Reviewed by Sakari Hakkinen

Volker Gäckle
Die Starken und die Schwachen in Korinth und in Rom: Zu Herkunft und Funktion der Antithese in 1Kor 8,1-11,1 und in Röm 14,1-15,13
Reviewed by Stephan Witetschek

Mike Graves and David M. May
Preaching Matthew: Interpretation and Proclamation
Reviewed by Craig S. Keener

Fredrik Lindgard
Paul's Line of Thought in 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10
Reviewed by Thomas Schmeller

Mark Roncace and Patrick Gray, eds.
Teaching the Bible through Popular Culture and the Arts
Reviewed by Leonard Greenspoon

Brian S. Rosner
Greed as Idolatry: The Origin and Meaning of a Pauline Metaphor
Reviewed by H. H. Drake Williams III

John H. Elliott
Conflict, Community, and Honor: 1 Peter in Social-Scientific Perspective
Reviewed by Pheme Perkins

Cristina Grenholm and Daniel Patte, eds.
Gender, Tradition and Romans: Shared Ground, Uncertain Borders
Reviewed by Angela Standhartinger

John Paul Heil
Ephesians: Empowerment to Walk in Love for the Unity of All in Christ
Reviewed by Timothy Gombis

Lieve M. Teugels and Rivka Ulmer, eds.
Midrash and Context: Proceedings of the 2004 and 2005 SBL Consultation on Midrash
Reviewed by Alex P. Jassen

Joseph B. Tyson
Marcion and Luke-Acts: A Defining Struggle
Reviewed by Dieter T. Roth

Journal of Biblical Literature Latest

Latest from the Journal of Biblical Literature, Volume 127, Number 2 / 2008 under the New Testament heading:

A Ghost on the Water? Understanding an Absurdity in Mark 6:49-50
p. 345
Jason Robert Combs

Moral Vision and Eschatology in Mark's Gospel: Coherence or Conflict?
p. 359
David J. Neville

"Will the Wise Person Get Drunk?" The Background of the Human Wisdom in Luke 7:35 and Matthew 11:19
p. 385
Thomas E. Phillips

Ioynian (Romans 16:7) and the Hebrew Name Yêunnī
p. 397
Al Wolters

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Christopher Stead Obituary

I missed this one a couple of weeks ago in the Telegraph:

Canon Christopher Stead
Patristic scholar who wrote about the philosophy of the early Christian Church– and trains

I have only ever known him as a Patristics scholar, but the obituary carries the delightful additional information of his love of trains -- with a picture -- and this gem:
At 89 he published The Birth of the Steam Locomotive, a scholarly study reflecting a life-long interest.

When living at the 13th-century Black Hostelry, the former monastic infirmary at Ely, he used to maintain an O-gauge model layout in the attic, which had a branch line that went through a hole in the wall to deliver Christmas presents to his oldest son's bedroom.
Although he died on 28 May, The Times does not yet appear to have published an obituary. Today's Independent, though, has the following:

The Rev Professor Christopher Stead: Scholar of patristic thought who was the last Ely Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University
Lionel R. Wickham

More on Henry Chadwick

I noticed the obituaries in The Times, The Guardian, the Telegraph, the Church Times and Cambridge University on Thursday (Death of Henry Chadwick). There are several more to mention. The Times has more personal memories in Lives Remembered,
“There are only two types of young man to whom I would refuse admission to the House,” he said (with a clear glint in the eye). “The first is the young man who, by the tender age of 17, claims to have read the complete works of Dostoevsky.” After a beautifully timed pause for thought, he continued: “The second is the young man who, by the tender age of 17, actually has read the complete works of Dostoevsky!”
The New York Times has an obituary too:

Henry Chadwick, Scholar of Early Christianity, Dies at 87

And on Saturday, The Independent published an obituary by Andrew Louth, from which I will excerpt the last paragraph:

The Rev Professor Henry Chadwick: Historian of the early Church who held the Regius Chairs of Divinity at both Oxford and Cambridge
Andrew Louth
. . . . He was a tall man, with a slight stoop that gave him a somewhat Olympian air, enhanced by his habitual courtesy. He did not so much speak as pronounce, though this did not diminish the warmth of his conversation. In lectures, however, he performed, and, a born rhetorician, gave impeccable scholarship elegant expression. In a story he told against himself, he used to relate how, when giving some lectures in America, he was struck by three girls who came faithfully to his lectures and listened without taking notes; towards the end of the series he asked them how they had liked his lectures, and they replied saying they had no interest in what he was saying but just loved listening to his voice. He was an adornment to the world of academe; we may never see his like again.

SBL Secret Mark Session

As Stephen Carlson (Hypotyposeis) and Loren Rosson (The Busybody) have mentioned, we have a session on Secret Mark in the Synoptics Section this year. The SBL On-line program has recently been updated so that it includes the following details:
SBL 24-97 Synoptic Gospels
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Room TBD - Hotel TBD

Theme: Secret Mark after Fifty Years

Mark Goodacre, Duke University, presiding

Birger A. Pearson, University of California, Santa Barbara, "The Secret Gospel of Mark: A Twentieth-Century Fake" (20 min)

Stephen C. Carlson, Duke University, "Can the Academy Protect Itself from One of Its Own? The Case of Secret Mark" (20 min)

Allan J. Pantuck, UCLA, "Can Morton Smith's Archival Writings and Correspondence Shine Any Light on the Authenticity of Secret Mark?" (20 min)

Scott G. Brown, University of Toronto, "Fifty Years of Befuddlement: Ten Enduring Misconceptions about the 'Secret' Gospel of Mark" (20 min)

Charles Hedrick, Missouri State University, Respondent (20 min)

Bart Ehrman, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Respondent (20 min)

Discussion (30 min)
More from the SBL program in due course.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Death of Henry Chadwick

I was sorry to hear of the death of Henry Chadwick on Tuesday, also mentioned by Rob Bradshaw on Today's Times has the obituary:

The Very Rev Professor Henry Chadwick: priest and scholar

The end of the obituary mentions his college sermons. That was the only time I met him, when he came to preach at Exeter College when I was an undergraduate there. I still remember the topic, the Good Samaritan, and our discussion afterwards, which was about jazz and the Beatles.

Rob Bradshaw mentions the obituaries in the Telegraph and The Guardian. Tomorrow's Times has a piece in Lives Remembered, which, as usual, raises a smile:
. . . . Towards the end of his time as Master of Peterhouse, he confided to me that he had concerns about moving his books from the Master’s Lodge to his rather smaller house in St John’s Street, Oxford. “Do you have many books?” I fatuously asked. “About 20,000,” he replied, without any apparent perception that this was unusual.

When he was kind enough to sponsor my application for a reader’s ticket for the Bodleian Library, he signed off the necessary form as “Henry Chadwick, Master of Peterhouse”; but, clearly concerned that this style might not cut much ice at Oxford, he added “and sometime Dean of Christ Church”. There was not much space left after that but, evidently still uneasy, he found room to add “and Curator of Bodley”. In his covering letter to me, he wrote: “I hope the enclosed does the trick . . . ” It did.
There are also pages at the University of Cambridge tomorrow (though it wrongly gives his age as 88) and tomorrow's Church Times. The latter also has an obituary but it is subscription only.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

How do you make a Pharisee?

Did you know that you can get a drink in north Germany called a Pharisee? Essentially it is a cheeky cup of coffee, with the rum hidden in the coffee beneath the whipped cream -- it is pretending to be one thing and it is manifesting itself as another. I sometimes use this as an illustration in class when we deal with Christian caricatures of "Pharisees" and I am looking to establish that everyone understands the Pharisee = hypocrite motif in Christian history, ahead of engaging, of course, in some proper historical exploration of who the Pharisees really were.

The Pharisäer got its name, according to legend, like this:
A peasant by the name of Peter Georg Johannsen celebrated the baptism of his seventh child in 1872. Amongst the guests was the reverend Bleyer, who had strictly forbidden that his fold should imbibe alcohol. No true baptism was complete without some alcohol to celebrate the baptised, however, so the cheeky farmer had an idea: he mixed rum with sugar, poured hot coffee on the mixture and put whipped cream on top, thus preventing the rum from evaporating and giving this neat trick away through its aromatic smell. The reverend just got plain coffee with the whipped cream on top. The guests got merrier and merrier by the minute, and a good deal noisier, too. Fate took its due course, and eventually the reverend got hold of a 'wrong' cup. On realising what had been going on, he exclaimed:

Oh ihr Pharisäer!
This version of the legend is told on a nice BBC page, Pharisee - a Coffee with Spirit that also tells one how to make a Pharisäer. And the same page links too to the birthplace of the drink, in Nordstrand -- see Pharisäerhof Nordstrand.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Orality and Literacy V: Illiiterate Tradents?

I hope that it is already apparent that I regard James D. G. Dunn's article, “Altering the Default Setting: Re-envisaging the Early Transmission of the Jesus Tradition,” New Testament Studies 49/2 (2003), 139-75, as a very important and challenging contribution to the discipline. His approach in this article is summarized effectively in the following paragraph:
In a word, we naturally, habitually and instinctively work within a literary paradigm. We are, therefore, in no fit state to appreciate how a non-literary culture, an oral culture, functions. And if we are to enter empathetically into such a culture it is essential that we become conscious of our literary paradigm and make deliberate efforts to step outside it and to free ourselves from its inherited predispositions. It becomes necessary to alter the default settings given by the literary shaped
software of our mental computers. (142; emphasis original).
In previous posts in this series, I have attempted to argue that Dunn is overstating the case for the extent of our immersion in a literary culture. He is offering a valuable corrective but it is a perspective that may need a little nuancing. What Dunn describes is not our broader culture but the rarefied atmosphere of the academic sub-culture. His characterization of "our print-determined default setting" (150) and the"blinkers of a mindset formed by our print-dominated heritage" suggests that he is not engaging with the secondary orality of our culture and is inclined to over-emphasize elements in the academic's experience of the world. In this post, however, I would like to begin to think a little more about the other element in Dunn's contrast, the "oral culture", the "non-literary culture" that he says informed Christian origins.

The description of the world in which early Christians moved as an "oral culture" may be unhelpful. It is a world more accurately characterized as one in which there was interaction between orality and literacy, a "rhetorical culture" to use the term coined by Vernon Robbins. It is my working hypothesis that Dunn underestimates the importance of literacy in emerging Christianity and I will attempt to explain why by focusing on one element in Dunn's article that is shared with other studies of early Christianity, the issue of literacy rates and their relevance to the development of the synoptic tradition.

Now, Dunn is surely right to remind us of the extent of illiteracy in in this period. Citing Harris and others, he says that "literacy in Palestine at the time of Jesus would probably have been less than 10 per cent" (148). But what is the relevance of this frequently made observation to the discussion of the Synoptic Problem and the transmission of Jesus tradition, the elements at the heart of Dunn's study? The Gospel authors were of course literate, so the issue of literacy rates appears to be focused on (a) the pre-gospel period and (b) the mindsets of and the communities in which the evangelists moved. But how important is that fact of widespread illiteracy in these areas? Dunn writes:
In my judgement, discussion of possible allusions to and use of the Jesus tradition, both within the NT epistles (Paul, James, 1 Peter), within the Apostolic Fathers, and now also within the Nag Hammadi texts, has been seriously flawed by overdependence on the literary paradigm. For if we are indeed talking about largely illiterate communities, dependent on oral tradition and aural knowledge of written documents, then we have to expect as the rule that knowledge of the Jesus tradition will have shared the characteristics of oral tradition. That is to say, the historical imagination, liberated from the literary default setting and tutored in regard to oral culture, can readily envisage communities familiar with their oral tradition, able to recognize allusions to Jesus tradition in performances of an apostolic letter written to them, and to fill in ‘the gaps of indeterminacy’ in other performances of that tradition. (169-70)
I am particularly interested in the words underlined in the passage. The assumption appears to be that the tradents were illiterate or that the illiterate community members were themselves acting as tradents. Perhaps this was the case but I am not sure that this is self evident. After all, "aural knowledge of written documents" presumes literate community members reading out these documents, something that will itself have invested those who were literate with a particular authority that could not be shared by those who were illiterate. Might the same have been true also of tradents more broadly, of those who were sharing oral traditions about Jesus? How many of the early Christian tradents were literate?

Let us take a moment to think about the early Christian tradents we actually know about. The most well known, Paul, was of course literate. His sharing of Jesus tradition in places like 1 Cor. 9, 1 Cor. 11 and 1 Cor. 15 is a case of a literate tradent sharing Jesus tradition with another literate tradent (the reader of the letter) who will then share that tradition with his or her hearers. Here we have a clear example of the kind of interaction between orality and literacy that characterizes the development of Christian origins, or, more specifically, between literate tradents and (presumably) illiterate hearers of the tradition. Presumably Apollos too was literate (e.g. Acts 18.24) and so were Silas, Timothy and, we would have thought, Phoebe, Barnabas, Prisca and Aquilla and many others. If we can trust Luke, it is broadly implied that James too is literate (Acts 15.20), and his importance in the emerging Christian movement (cf. Josephus, Ant. 20) may also suggest literacy.

It is reasonable to assume that such people were participating as literate tradents in a culture in which there was interaction between orality and literacy. But we can go a little further than this. The tradition itself presupposes literate tradents. In 1 Cor. 15.3-5, he presents what he has received as of first importance (i.e. major, early tradition) and which he also passed on to the Corinthians (παρέδωκα γὰρ ὑμῖν ἐν πρώτοις ὃ καὶ παρέλαβον), "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures". The content of the tradition invokes what is written. It is difficult to imagine illiterate tradents having success with the sharing of material that itself presupposes literacy in this way.

Additional note 1: I have deliberately used the term "literate" in a generalized way of those who would be able to dictate a letter, or to read and understand writing. The meaning of "literacy" of course changes, and there are different kinds of literacy even today, and different degrees of competence. We too readily think of (the physical act of) writing when we talk about literacy, and one of the difficulties for us is to imagine our way into a culture where the educated did not need to be and usually were not good scribes. More too on this in due course.

Additional note 2: Before anyone else says it, what about Acts 4.13, where Peter and John are described as ἀγράμματοί? Does this mean "illiterate"? This post is long enough already, so I will add a comment on this verse in my next post in the series.

Backing up Zotero

I have been an enthusiastic advocate of Zotero, the bibliographical research tool plug in for Firefox. A couple of months ago, my laptop crashed. I felt quite smug when the computer guy at work began the speech about backing up and I explained that I had multiple back-ups, on flashdrives, on Google docs, on GSpace and elsewhere. (He still felt obliged to finish the speech, shaking his head about how academics just don't back up their data and how baffling it was, etc.) But there is one thing I had never even thought about backing up, my Zotero data. I suppose on some level I imagined that it was being stored out there in some dark corner of cyber-space, but it is not. The whole lot got lost when the computer crashed beyond repair. So I read Tim Bulkeley's entry on Sansblogue today with interest:

Back Up Zotero!

A useful post. Let's hope that in the long term Zotero provide a decent, easy back-up service. Also, it would be helpful to have an easy sharing facility so that one could straightforwardly transfer the data from one computer to another.