Saturday, January 30, 2010

NT Pod 21: A Historical Approach to the New Testament

With another NT Pod on the horizon, I was reminded tonight that I had not mentioned the previous episode here on the NT Blog. So this corrects that lack. Let me add a few words about where we are with the NT Pod at the moment.

This semester, I am teaching Introduction to the New Testament at Duke and I have decided to use the NT Pod to supplement the classes, to add short pieces that relate to what we are covering in class. I like to begin with some reflections on what is involved in a historical approach to the New Testament, and this gave me the opportunity to add some reflections on the topic in the NT Pod. Since the beginning, the NT Pod has had the subtitle "A Historical Approach to the New Testament" and now, in episode 21, we finally have the chance to explore what an historical approach involves.

As usual, you can find the NT Pod at its own site, you can subscribe in your reader, or you can subscribe via Duke's iTunes U.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Bible: A History First Reviews

I am delighted to see several positive reviews of The Bible: A History, the new seven part series on Channel 4 (UK), the first episode of which aired on Sunday (see my posts on The Bible: A History). The Independent writes:

The Weekend's Television: The Bible: A History, Sun, Channel 4
Reviewed by Tom Sutcliffe
. . . . The principal punchbag in this programme was Richard Dawkins, criticised by Jacobson for intemperately attacking certitude with a mirror-image certainty. I guess Dawkins's prose style riles Jacobson – its impatience and asperity with certain kinds of human folly. And one might point out (from a safe distance) that if you want to excoriate irascibility and fierceness of language, it might help to be a bit less tetchy and short fuse than Howard Jacobson. But then this was a writer's appreciation of the Creation story, from a man who understands that the Authorized Version reverberates through English prose and poetry, and isn't too worried that some people choose to take it literally . . .
There are similarly appreciative comments from Fraser Nelson in The Spectator, Atheism as Extremism, and Sholto Byrnes in The Staggers blog on the New Statesman, The Importance of Myth. There are briefer comments in The Times, but still fairly positive.

Doug Chaplin offers his thoughts on the first episode on Clayboy, Nutritious Religion? Creation and C4's Bible: a History and Matt Page has his thoughts on the first episode over on Bible Films Blog.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Bible: A History begins on Channel 4 today

If you're in the UK, don't forget that The Bible: A History begins on Channel 4 tonight, at 7pm. It's a seven part series and each week a different figure tackles a topic from the Bible (All posts on this topic). In the first episode, Howard Jacobson tackles the creation stories. Since I worked on this as Series Consultant, I am of course prejudiced, but I think this first episode is superb, engaging and nicely paced.

Channel 4 have added an a new interview on their website:

interview with Howard Jacobson

And the Telegraph have a piece on the episode:

Richard Dawkins pushing a form of 'aggressive atheism', says presenter
Professor Richard Dawkins has been accused of “parading his own failure of imagination” by failing to consider the possible existence of God in an attack by the author Howard Jacobson.
By Urmee Khan

Update: Doug Chaplin offers his thoughts on the first episode on Clayboy, Nutritious Religion? Creation and C4's Bible: a History.

Update (Tuesday): Matt Page has his thoughts on the first episode over on Bible Films Blog.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Morna Hooker to give C. K. Barrett Lecture

Thanks to Anthony LeDonne for sending this one over:

Durham University
(A public lecture open to the university community, the churches and the wider public)

(University of Cambridge)

‘Scriptural Holiness: Paul’s Understanding of Sanctification’

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Kingsley Barrett Lecture Room, Calman Learning Centre,
Science Site (behind the Library)
Stockton Road, Durham
(For map, see

Refreshments After the Lecture
Free Entry

Morna Hooker is Lady Margaret’s Professor Emerita in the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Robinson College. She was the first woman to be elected President of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, an international society of New Testament scholars. In 2004 she was awarded the Burkitt Medal for Biblical Studies by the British Academy.

Friday, January 15, 2010

World of the Bible Survey

Several other bloggers have already mentioned this, but it's worth another plug. This survey is looking for your views on the forthcoming SBL World of the Bible project. It only takes five or ten minutes to fill in, and it will be good to get your voice heard on the direction of this project. It's of special interest to me as one of the advisors. The project has already impressed the National Endowment for the Humanities who are funding it in its initial stages.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Bible: A History: air date

The date of the first episode of the Channel 4 series The Bible: A History has now been confirmed as Sunday 24 January at 7pm. Channel 4's website on the programme is here. All NT Blog posts on The Bible: A History here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Biblioblog Top 50 Archives comes back

Ask and you shall receive! After whinging about the way that people simply delete or hide massive blog archives, the archives of the Biblioblog Top 50 are back. It turns out that its authors were raptured. So those of us left behind now have the archives as well as Free Old Testament Audio's new version of the chart.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Life after the Biblioblog Top 50

Seems I am a bit slow off the mark since returning from England last week. I hadn't noticed that the Biblioblog Top 50 had finally thrown in the towel, after threatening to do so for some time. The Biblioblog Top 50 blog has gone the way of its author's earlier NT Wrong blog and has decided to hide the whole thing behind password protection. For what it's worth, I think it's a real shame. Although not as much fun as the old NT Wrong blog where it originated, the Biblioblog Top 50 was still a good laugh. I always felt that the real interest was in the annotations that accompanied the chart, the pictures and the gentle humour and sarcasm. But there were other things of use too, not least the big list that had become a great resource in its own right, and which I had linked on my NT Gateway blogs page. So that link is going to have to go. It seems that the Biblioblog search engine is still working, and that the database was last updated in November 2009, but you can no longer access it from the Biblioblog Top 50 site itself (of course). Instead, go to this Google link, or search directly from my NT Gateway Blogs page. But a search engine is only as good as the database it is searching, and if the dean of the Biblioblog Top 50 has given up that blog, it's doubtful that he is going to continue updating the complete list that feeds the search.

I now understand what I had not realized earlier, that the Free Old Testament Audio Website blog is attempting to replace the Biblioblog Top 50 itself and not just the occasional updates that used to appear on Jim West's deleted blog. So thanks to Jeremy for that, and kudos to the artist formerly known as NT Wrong that his absence is so clearly felt that others spring up to fill the void. I wish people would not do this, though, and delete or hide old blogs. It doesn't make a lot of sense. Even if you become convinced that there is so little value in it yourself that it should be removed from the web, it might just be that others have a higher opinion of your efforts and that the archives might continue to be of use. Luckily, there are ways of accessing archive material if you know how, but it would be so much more beneficial to keep the archives for such blogs publicly available. So this is me informally registering some general grumpiness about the whole business of hidden and deleted blogs, with perhaps a bit more to come in due course.

Jesus: The Evidence, Episode 3, featuring Koester and Quispel

In several recent posts, I have drawn attention to the 1984 documentary, Jesus: The Evidence. The third and final episode is also available on Youtube. The uploader has mashed the aspect ratio horribly, but it's still fascinating viewing, especially if you are interested in the history of NT scholarship. The first three minutes is here and the main part is here:

The last three minutes is here.

The topic is the resurrection, Nag Hammadi and Gnostic Christianity (and the Gospel of Thomas), Paul, Marcion and the canon, and Constantine. It features lots of a young(er) Helmut Koester (in Jerusalem and a couple of other locations, one indoors) and, like The Gnostics (1987) documentary, the late Gilles Quispel (in Rome).

Missing the biblioblog rankings?

Missing the regular updates on the Alexa rankings of biblioblogs that used to appear on Jim West's now deleted blog? Thought not. Well, in the unlikely event that you are, Jeremy at the Free Old Testament Audio Website blog has kindly stepped into the breach and has got the whole process automated. The NT Blog and the NT Pod seem to have fallen down the list since days of old, but I am in good company further down the list, so I'm not complaining (much).

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Richard Hays Megapost

For those who enjoyed the interview with Richard Hays on Hesed we 'emet, Duke ThD student Andy Rowell follows it up with a big post with tons of resources on Richard Hays including audio, video and more -- see his blog Church Leadership Conversations.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Hurtado on the ending of Mark

Back at the British New Testament Conference in (I think) September 2005, in the Synoptic Gospels section, Larry Hurtado presented a paper on Mark 16.1-8, which argued for a different view than the one now common in the scholarship, suggesting "(a) that Mark is not a dark, ambiguous text, but instead very upbeat, and (b) that the named women are not failures but to be understood as fulfilling what they were charged to do, functioning thereby as crucial witnesses to the bodily resurrection of Jesus." I am pleased to hear that this interesting paper has now been published. Here's the reference:

Larry W. Hurtado, "The Women, the Tomb, and the Climax of Mark," in Zuleika Rodgers, Margaret Daly-Denton, Anne Fitzpatrick McKinley (eds.), A Wandering Galilean: Essays in Honour of Sean Freyne (Leiden: Brill, 2009): 427-50

Friday, January 08, 2010

Interview with Richard Hays on Hesed we 'emet

Stephen Carlson has already mentioned this (also on Duke Newt), but John Anderson has a fascinating interview with my colleague here at Duke, Richard Hays, over on Hesed we' emet. It is detailed and full of interest.

The Morton Smith segment of Jesus: The Evidence excerpted

Over on Salainen Evankelista, Timo Paananen follows up my post on Jesus: The Evidence, Episode 2 on Youtube (the one with Morton Smith) by helpfully excerpting the section of Jesus: The Evidence Episode 2 that features Morton Smith, at the same time correcting the aspect ratio. As Timo says, there is a lot in the episode of interest, for me not least in seeing footage of the late Werner Kümmel, but those specially interested in Secret Mark and Morton Smith may find the repackaged clip more accessible and helpful:

Latest JSNT

While we are mentioning the Journal for the Study of the New Testament, it would be worth drawing attention to the full contents, including an article by a fellow blogger, Rafael Rodríguez, and one of my former students at Duke, Joshua Jipp, now at Emory. Click on the link for abstracts and further information:

Journal for the Study of the New Testament 32 (December 2009)

Lochlan Shelfer
The Legal Precision of the Term πάράκλητος (131-150)

Rafael Rodríguez
Reading and Hearing in Ancient Contexts (151-178)

John C. Poirier
The Synoptic Problem and the Field of New Testament Introduction (179-190)

Alan J.P. Garrow
The Eschatological Tradition behind 1 Thessalonians: Didache 16 (191-215)

Joshua W. Jipp
Rereading the Story of Abraham, Isaac, and ‘Us’ in Romans 4 (217-242)

John Poirier on New Testament Introduction and the Synoptic Problem

Over on Verily Verily, Rafael discusses Poirier on NT Introductions and the Synoptic Problem, following on from a fine article in the new JSNT, John Poirier, "The Synoptic Problem and the Field of New Testament Introduction", JSNT 32/2, 179–190. The abstract is as follows:
The synoptic problem is an important and visible subfield within NT studies, yet, for some reason, almost every NT introduction written in the past forty or so years has passed on a defective understanding of that subfield. Two problems in particular plague these NT introductions: (1) their discussions of the synoptic problem tend to rely on a logical argument disproven almost sixty years ago, and (2) they tend to misrepresent the current state of the question by marginalizing the Farrer hypothesis, which today is the Two-Source Theory’s leading competitor.
It's an excellent article, based on a paper Poirier gave in the Synoptics section at the SBL Annual Meeting in 2008. As Rafael points out, the article's claims are further born out by the recent publication of Mark Allan Powell, Introducing the New Testament, which I recently discussed in a post on Mark Allan Powell on the Synoptic Problem.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Michael Goulder

I am sorry to be sharing the sad news that Michael Goulder passed away yesterday. He was 82. Michael was a brilliant scholar and he was greatly loved. He will me remembered with great affection, and his scholarly legacy will be felt, I think, for generations to come.

I saw Michael last a couple of weeks ago, when I was over in England for Christmas. He was unwell, but I had the chance to say a last goodbye. I will write about Michael's life at greater length in due course when I have composed my thoughts. It's a very sad day.

Whatever happened to the Gospel of Mark film?

Over on The Golden Rule, Mike Koke blogs on The Gospel of Mark - A Good Hollywood Script? and embeds the teaser trailer of Visual Bible International's proposed Gospel of Mark film:

I have often blogged about this in the past (see Gospel of Mark film) and from time to time I receive emails asking if I know any more about it. The teaser trailer first came out in March 2005 and as far as I can tell, filming never began on this project, as Visual Bible International fell into every greater financial problems. It is my impression that the teaser trailer was released to encourage interest in making the film, and that it was not released after any actual filming had been done. (The video does feature Henry Ian Cusick's eyes, but this and the other images were probably gleaned from the Gospel of John filming).

There does appear to be one new piece of information, though, among comments on the Youtube upload of the teaser trailer above, as follows:
I just received a reply to my email question from Philip Saville the director himself of the Gospel of John and He replied, I quote

" Many many thanks for your enquiry about The Gospel of Mark.
Regrettably we haven't as yet been able to put it together.
Sorry to disappoint........Maybe next year?
Meanwhile I wish you and all your youtube-rs well over Thanksgiving.

Stay well
Philip Saville "
This comment is dated to November 2009. It's interesting that Saville does not declare the project dead, and the reference to "put it together" is intriguing since that expression might be more appropriate to editing rather than filming. But he may, of course, simply mean put together the funding and so on. So it is not promising.

I agree with Mike that the Gospel of Mark would be fantastic for film treatment. It ought to be more amenable than Matthew, which was the Visual Bible's first film, or John, which was their second.

2009 Review of Biblical Studies and Tech Tools

Don't miss Mark Hoffman's excellent 2009 Review of Biblical Studies and Tech Tools over on the Biblical Studies and Technological Tools Blog.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Jesus: The Evidence, Episode 2 on Youtube (the one with Morton Smith)

A little further searching on Youtube reveals that Episode 2 of Jesus: The Evidence is also available, though with an incorrect aspect ratio. This is the one I previously mentioned, featuring Morton Smith discussing Secret Mark. Smith first appears at the beginning of the 34th minute here, outside the Mar Saba monastery, so my earlier memory of the appearance turns out to be correct, and now one can see the whole context of the appearance:

There are other things of interest in this episode including more Geza Vermes and also Anthony Harvey. Ignore the "3 of 6" on the uploader's heading; this is episode 2, and the first few minutes of the episode are in a separate upload, headed 2 of 6. The character you see in the still above is Ian Wilson, the author of books on the Turin Shroud, who also authored the book Jesus: The Evidence that accompanied this series.

Jesus: the Evidence, Episode 1 on Youtube

I blogged recently about the 1984 Channel 4 documentary, Jesus: The Evidence, first in connection with Morton Smith's appearance on the programme, and then in relation to Geza Vermes's. Since then, someone has uploaded the entirety of the first episode of the documentary to Youtube. It makes fascinating viewing now over 25 years on, especially in giving us the chance to catch appearances from some famous scholars, Werner Kümmel, Dennis Nineham, I. Howard Marshall as well as Geza Vermes. There is attention to text-critical matters, Codex Sinaiticus and P52. There is a bit of discussion of P.Oxy. 1 and also Nag Hammadi and the Gospel of Thomas. There are re-enactments of Nicaea and of a young Rudolf Bultmann in the study and the pulpit, and also of the discoveries at Nag Hammadi in 1945 (with a terrible reconstruction of the codices with huge letters):

Fascinating viewing. As I mentioned previously, it is quite different from the contemporary style of documentary in that the scholars speak directly to the camera rather than to an off-screen presenter or director. Moreover, it is clear that they are speaking from a script and not arranging the words as they speak.

There is another version of the episode available here, but the aspect ratio is horrible, even if it is a bit less wobbly.

Catto on "Synagogues" in the New Testament Period

Stephen Catto has a new article at Bible and Interpretation on ancient synagogues:

‘Synagogues’ in the New Testament Period

For those who have not seen it, Catto recently published Reconstructing the First-Century Synagogue: A Critical Analysis of Current Research in the Library of New Testament Studies.

Teaching the Bible e-pub latest

SBL has released its latest Teaching the Bible e-publication, aimed at high school teachers, for January 2010:

Teaching the Bible

There is a bit of a "work" theme here, with an essay by Jim West on All in a Day's Work, and a link to my NT Pod 18 on the topic Was Jesus a Carpenter? Also featured are articles on Form Criticism by Joshua James and Moses’ Birth, the Abandoned Hero Motif, and Form Criticism by Isaac Alderman.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Not the Messiah -- listen while you can!

As Matt Page mentions on Bible Films Blog, the new oratorio based on Monty Python's Life of Brian was broadcast on Radio 3 on New Year's Day. Of course there was a lot to think about that day, not least with the regeneration of the tenth doctor into the eleventh in "The End of Time (Part 2)" (still buzzing about that one), and so it is quite likely that a lot of people will have missed the live broadcast. No need to worry! It's available on BBC's iPlayer, details here:

Not the Messiah
A comic oratorio inspired by Life of Brian, celebrating 40 years of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Eric Idle, Michael Palin and fellow Pythons join the BBC Symphony Chorus and Orchestra. Every musical style and genre is included, from Handel to Gilbert and Sullivan to Mariachi band.
Eric Idle and John du Prez: Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy)
Eric Idle (bariton-ish)
Judith ...... Shannon Mercer (soprano)
Mandy ...... Rosalind Plowright (mezzo)
Brian ...... William Ferguson (tenor)
Reg ...... Christopher Purves (bass)
BBC Symphony Chorus
BBC Symphony Orchestra
John du Prez (conductor)
With guest appearances by fellow Pythons Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam.
It's wonderful and hilarious and I strongly recommend it. And the good news is that it is not locked-down to UK listeners only, so you don't even need to perform the usual hocus-pocus to listen to it. I must admit that I've grabbed a copy while I can, pending, of course, the release of the CD in due course.

Previous posts on Not the Messiah here.

The Bible: A History Latest

I recently mentioned the forthcoming Channel 4 (UK) series, The Bible: A History (The Bible: A History, Channel 4 Series), made by Pioneer TV, on which I've been series consultant. We are now only weeks away from broadcast and the series is getting some attention around the web. Helen Bond, who appears in the episode on Jesus, today offers her reflections on Jesus through the Eyes of an Irish Republican over on Bible and Interpretation,
. . . . My role in the program was to act as Gerry’s mentor, to accompany him on his trips (including one dark evening when we found ourselves paddling in the Sea of Galilee in a thunderstorm discussing Jesus’ miracles), and to discuss the days’ findings with him every evening. We spent hours arguing whether first-century Galilee was “occupied”; the meaning of “democracy” in ancient societies; high priestly “collaboration” (and alternatives); and whether Jesus foresaw his own death. I’ve not often had the chance to discuss these things with a man who has been on the run from political authority, who has experienced internment, who has been shot at (and still bears the scars), and who is now protected from the “real IRA” who regard him as a traitor – and I have to say that I learned from him too . . .
Tommy Wasserman shares his thoughts on Evangelical Textual Criticism, Sinn Fein Leader Gerry Adams in Search for Jesus and Papyrus 45, including comments about filming of P45. And Matt Page comments over on Bible Films.

Paul writing in TV Documentaries

Over on the Dunedin School, Deane Galbraith comments on a complaint by Jack Kilmon about the way television documentaries depict Paul writing his letters, with close-ups of Paul "writing gibberish". A new documentary called "After Jesus" is the occasion for the remarks (and Deane has an enjoyable comment, "at least they are getting something right!").

One of the issues that has always bothered me on this topic is the depiction of Paul actually doing the writing when we know full well that Paul dictates his epistles (Romans 16.22; Galatians 6.11;cf. NT Pod 2: Paul the letter speaker). When I was consultant on the BBC / Discovery Channel documentary Saint Paul (2003), I suggested that it would be fantastic if we could actually depict this one correctly, and have Paul dictating. Sometimes, though, historical accuracy alone is not incentive enough so I pointed out that by having Paul dictating his letters, we make it easier to depict dramatically. If Paul dictates, we are able to listen to him speaking the words of his letters.

I am happy to say that they took my advice, and even had the scribe writing on his lap rather than on an anachronistic desk. All was not completely plain sailing, though, and they disliked the idea of actually making the scribe Tertius (Romans 16.22) and so he was merged instead with Timothy, in part because they had a limited cast. And when it came to Paul in prison, they couldn't resist having Paul doing his own scribing work. Still, it shows that academic consultants can make a slight difference to perceptions of these things. All too often, the documentary makers don't actually ask them.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to you all and thanks for reading the NT Blog throughout 2009. I haven't been posting for the last couple of weeks because I have been enjoying our traditional couple of weeks away for Christmas in England. I may (or may not) write about that a bit over on The Resident Alien, but then I haven't been near that blog for some time.

While I have been away, I have been following the progress of the NT Pod and have been pleased to see it go into the iTunes U Top 10 for the first time, mainly on account of the two seasonal podcasts I put out. It peaked last week at Number 8. I will have further announcements about the future NT Pod episodes soon.

I doubt that I will get through all the posts on my blogroll, though I couldn't help noticing after a brief scan that Jim West has deleted his blog again. I had missed this at first because Jim had unfriended me on Facebook, where he put his announcement, but I would guess that Loren Rosson is right that Jim will be back.