Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Matthew Thiessen Blog

Former Duke PhD student in New Testament, Matthew Thiessen, now at the College of Emmanuel and St. Chad and Lutheran Theological Seminary, at the University of Saskatchewan, has a new blog:

Canadian Biblical Studies Blog

Farrer Theory ignored: yet another new example

Regular readers of the NT Blog will be familiar with my occasional notices on how the Farrer Theory often gets ignored in scholarship.  The attempt to make the Griesbach Hypothesis the sole alternative to the Two-Source Theory gives scholars an easier ride, especially in introductory works, in which the establishment of Marcan Priority becomes an argument for the existence of Q.  The latest example of the phenomenon is found in Grant R. Osborne, Matthew (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010): 35-8, a preview of which can now be read online.

Osborne says that "now there are two major camps"..  The first is the "Griesbach Hypothesis" and he goes on, "there are stronger arguments for Markan Priority, especially the form called the "two- or four- source" hypothesis formulated by B. H. Streeter, which says that Matthew and Luke used Mark and Q as well as their own special material (M and L)" (36).   Osborne then provides four arguments for Marcan Priority (36-7) and concludes "All of this makes it likely that Mark was the first Gospel and that Matthew and Luke used Mark as well as Q" (37).  None of the arguments is in fact an argument for Matthew's and Luke's independent use of Mark, and so the conclusion that Marcan Priority necessarily leads to acceptance of the Q hypothesis is illegitimate.

Osborne briefly mentions the Gospel of Thomas as providing an analogue for Q, without exploring the important question of the apparent generic contrasts between the two and he adds that "recent work has made the likelihood of Q more viable" (37), footnoting Carlston and Norlin's 1999 article on statistics and Q. That article certainly points in the direction of a Q document on the assumption of the independence of Matthew and Luke, but it does not speak to the issue of Luke's familiarity with Matthew.

I am now so used to this kind of by-passing of the Farrer Theory that fresh examples come as no surprise.  I have in fact come to expect it whenever I open a new book.  I must confess to a touch of additional disappointment in this case, however, given my careful review of a book to which Osborne contributed, and concerning which we had corresponded, in which I spoke of the problems that arise from ignoring the Farrer theory and discussing the Synoptic Problem solely as a question of the Griesbach Theory vs. the Two-Source Theory (Mark Goodacre, Review of David Alan Black and David R. Beck (eds.), Rethinking the Synoptic Problem, NovT 49/2 (2007): 197-9).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Biblical Gynaecology"

I have been doing some more reading recently on Romans 16.7, the verse in which Paul greets Andronicus and Junia, "prominent among the apostles" (NRSV).  (Cf NT Pod 12: Junia: the First Woman Apostle?Programme Notes and Andronicus and Junia prominent among "the apostles"). In revisiting the article by Burer and Wallace (Daniel Wallace and Michael Burer, "Was Junia Really an Apostle?: A Re-examination of Romans 16.7", New Testament Studies 47 (2001): 76-91), I was struck by their use of the phrase "biblical gynaecology" (76 and 78).  The term seems quite inappropriate to me.

Gynaecology is the branch of medicine that deals with functions and diseases peculiar to women (OED).  In so far as there is "biblical gynaecology", I suppose that the material that would come closest would be the mention of the womb and breasts in Luke's Gospel (Luke 1.41,44, John the Baptist jumping in Elizabeth's womb; Luke 11.27-28, "Blessed is the womb that bore you . . ." and Luke 23.29, ". . . Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore").  But this is not what Wallace and Burer are discussing in their article.  Rather, they are discussing the gender of the name Junia, and asking also whether she was indeed an apostle.  This is not gynaecology, Biblical or otherwise.

My surprise at seeing the expression in New Testament Studies sent me to the net to see if it is used elsewhere and it seems that one of the authors of the paper in question, Dan Wallace, has a piece called Biblical Gynaecology in which he comments:
The issue of the role of women in the church has become so central to how many Christians think that it even deserves its own theological label. Frankly, the best expression to use is “theological gynecology,” or “the doctrine of gynecology.” Too many associations with the medical profession will prevent some from seeing how appropriate this is at first. But ‘gynecology’ simply means ‘the study of women.’ And ‘theological gynecology’ means ‘the theological study of women,’ or ‘what the Bible says about the role of women.’ So I’ll use it sporadically throughout this paper.
But gynaecology does not "simply mean 'the study of women'", even if that is the etymology of the word.  It has a specific reference to the medical profession and to issues connected with female reproductive organs.  Rather than seeing "how appropriate this is", a moment's reflection confirms how problematic it is, especially if one is aiming at a discussion that does not unduly prejudice the interpreter before one has examined the texts. It is difficult to see how it can be helpful to use terminology that risks reverting to androcentric stereotypes in which a woman's identity and function is viewed solely in terms of reproduction.

I must admit that I don't even feel comfortable with this discussion being cast in terms of "the study of women" in Paul.  Rather, it's about the study of men and women in Paul.  That might sound like a fine distinction, but I think it is important.  Casting the debate in terms that focus specially on the status of "women" in Paul's letters tacitly assumes that maleness is the norm, the expected standard for authority and status that is challenged by apparent exceptions like Junia.  The same scholars do not speak with surprise about "andrology" every time a male authority figure appears in the text.  The very problematizing of the female figure of authority as if it is in some way abnormal or surprising already casts the debate in terms that prejudice the outcome.

Esther de Boer

I am really shocked to read on April DeConick's blog of the untimely death of Esther de Boer.  She was a fine New Testament scholar and her work on Mary Magdalene in particular made a very important contribution to scholarship.   I always found her a very positive and encouraging person too.  She will be greatly missed.

Romans as a "bread-and-butter" letter redux

Three years ago, almost to the day, I was teaching the Epistle to the Romans as part of my Life and Letters of Paul class, and I blogged about a quotation from J. Paul Sampley (Is Romans a "bread and butter letter"?):
It is an apostolic response to ethnic problems in those churches, and it is a “bread-and-butter” letter written in advance of his arrival, seeking support for his mission to Spain.
I raised a couple of questions about it, first the appropriateness of the term "bread-and-butter letter" and second the matter of where the quotation is from. I had copied out the quotation some years ago but somehow managed to lose the citation. In yesterday's class on the Life and Letters of Paul, I returned to the Epistle to the Romans and again mentioned this quotation. Happily, Ken Olson managed to find it for me, and it looks like something had happened in my transcription of the quotation.  Here it is with a proper citation:
A crisis brought most Pauline letters into existence. Even Romans, written to a church that Paul’s preaching did not establish, is a “bread-and-butter” letter written in advance of his journey, seeking support for his mission to Spain (cf. 15:22-24). Ephesians, however, lacks clues concerning a concrete crisis or occasion.

J. Paul Sampley, “The Letter to the Ephesians”, in Gerhard Krodel (ed.), Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, The Pastoral Epistles (Proclamation Commentaries; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1978):  9-39 (9)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Steve Black on the Minor Agreement at Mark 14.65

The latest Novum Testamentum features an article by Steve Black on the Minor Agreement at Mark 14.65. It's a subject that I have written about myself, first in Goulder and the Gospels (JSNTSup, 133; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996), 101-7 and 125-30, and then in The Case Against Q (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2002), 157-62, so I turned to the new article with interest. The details are:

Steve D. Black, “One Really Striking Minor Agreement: ΤΙΣ ΕΣΤΙΝ Ο ΠΑΙΣΑΣ ΣΕ in Matthew 26:68 and Luke 22:64”, Novum Testamentum 52 (2010): 313-333
It is asserted that Matt 26:68|Luke 22:64(|Mark 14:65) is the most difficult of the minor agreements. Some advocates of the two-source theory have addressed this minor agreement by trying to make sense of the narrative as we have it, and others by making sense of the text as we have it (arguing for textual corruption or lost recensions). While some of these arguments are reasonable, in the final analysis they are not satisfying. Although we might remain persuaded that the two-source theory best integrates the data relating to the synoptic problem, this minor agreement reminds us that the synoptic problem is still a problem.
Black's article provides a useful and balanced discussion of the issues, even if he is inclined to be more sympathetic in his assessments of the arguments of Two-Source Theorists than I would be. I have a few comments on the article, several of which come out of my own discussion in The Case Against Q.

(1) Black uses the English translation “Who is striking you” throughout.  Although this coheres nicely with the idea that it is a "striking" Minor Agreement, I think the translation a little unusual given the aorist participle -- τίς ἐστιν ὁ παίσας σε;, usually "Who is the one who struck you?"

(2) Black notes Goulder’s contrasting explanations on the Minor Agreement, but treats them in reverse order (p. 329: “Elsewhere, Goulder suggests . . .”). His later explanation in "Two Significant Minor Agreements (Mat. 4:13 Par.; Mat. 26:67-68 Par.)," Novum Testamentum 45/4 (2003): 365-373 represents his mature, final position on the Minor Agreement and should be given priority in discussion.

(3) I argue in The Case Against Q (159-60) that Mark is here typically dark, enigmatic and ironic. The abusers are in the middle of fulfilling Jesus' prophecy as they taunt him to "Prophesy". Matthew attempts to explicate the Marcan enigma, and so to dilute Mark's dark irony, by adding "Who is it who struck you?" in a way characteristic of the evangelist.

(4) I also suggest (Case Against Q, 159, n. 26) that the parallel in the Gospel of Peter 3.9 is helpful -- here they spit into Jesus' eyes in a way that provides a helpful commentary on Matthew's spitting into the face.  It illustrates that the lack of the covering of the head in Matthew is unsurprising.

(5) The covering of the face in Mark (καὶ περικαλύπτειν αὐτοῦ τὸ πρόσωπον) is easy to understand once one notices the parallel in Cicero, Pro Rabirio 13 (Capvt obnvbito) and 16 (obductio capitis). Here, the covering of the head is a key prelude to the ignominy of crucifixion. The covering of the face in Mark is not about blindfolding and second sight but about covering and shame.

(6) Black feels that the problems here for the Two-Source Theory serve as a useful reminder of the uncertainty of the textual witness, and of the fact that our Synoptic theories are only models.  The difficulty about the idea of appealing to absent textual evidence, though, is that it cuts both ways, as I argue in The Case Against Q (161-2), in answering Kloppenborg’s position now quoted by Black:
On one level Kloppenborg is making an important point, offering a sober reminder to scholars of the Synoptic Problem that Nestle-Aland27 offers at best only an approximation to the original texts of the Gospels. The sophistication of the critical text can all too easily seduce scholars into imagining that they are dealing with something far more concrete and stable than is in fact possible.  But the relationship of our text-critical uncertainties to the question of the Minor Agreements by no means inevitably resolves itself in favour of the Two-Source Theory. There is a difficulty here that is rarely, if ever, recognised in the literature:  that while textual corruption may indeed have generated Minor Agreements, it may also has eliminated Minor Agreements. Thus the impossibility of reconstructing “with absolute precision the Greek text of any of the gospels” and our ignorance concerning “the transmissional processes by which one gospel came to be used by another evangelist” does not necessarily tell in favour of the Two-Source Theory. It is just as important a theoretical possibility that the transmissional processes, and the history of the manuscript tradition, might have limited the number of Minor Agreements we now see in our Critical Texts. Indeed one might say that the clear and well-known scribal tendency to harmonise Mark’s text towards that of Matthew may have significantly lessened the number of significant Minor Agreements we now see.
It is quite right, in other words, to bear in mind our uncertainty about the early stages of Gospel transmission when reflecting on the Synoptic Problem. But to appeal to this uncertainty as a means of dealing with the Minor Agreements is to appeal to the unknown in an attempt to avoid a stumbling block for the Two-Source Theory, an unknown that might just as plausibly reveal further and not fewer problems for the Two-Source Theory. Unless there are strong grounds for thinking that the absent evidence would indeed tell in favour of the Two-Source Theory, which there are not, the appeal to the absence cannot forward the debate.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bible and Archaeology Fest, Atlanta, November 2010

Over on Paleojudaica, Jim Davila has news of the forthcoming Bible Fest in Atlanta:

Announcing the 13th annual Bible and Archaeology Fest in Atlanta
The Biblical Archaeology Society announces the 13th annual Bible and Archaeology Fest in Atlanta Georgia where 20 scholars will present the latest research on topics such as early Christianity, Gnostic scholarship, the Hebrew Bible, and more.

The press release includes a paragraph that made me smile:
Renowned speakers such at James Charlesworth of Princeton Theological Seminary, Bart Ehrman of the University of North Carolina, Mark Goodacre of Duke University, Craig Evans of Acadia Divinity College, Ben Witherington III of Asbury Theological Seminary and many more will be presenting participants with their latest research.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

JSNT Latest

September's Journal for the Study of the New Testament is now available. As usual, lots of material of interest. Abstracts available for all; full articles to subscribers. And bear in mind that there is free access to all Sage Journals until 15 October.

Journal for the Study of the New Testament
1 September 2010; Vol. 33, No. 1

A New Perspective on Paul? Rereading Paul in a Time of Ecological Crisis
David G. Horrell
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2010;33 3-30

Honour, Head-coverings and Headship: 1 Corinthians 11.2-16 in its Social Context
Mark Finney
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2010;33 31-58

Adaptive Eschatological Inference from the Gospel of Matthew
Ben Cooper
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2010;33 59-80

Why Does the Deliverer Come έκ Σιών (Romans 11.26)?
J.R. Daniel Kirk
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2010;33 81-99

Kyrios in the Gospel of Mark
Daniel Johansson
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2010;33 101-124

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Jesus as Dennis the Menace in the Infancy Gospel

In a recent post on the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, I mentioned John Dominic Crossan's comparison of the child Jesus in the Infancy Gospel with Dennis the Menace.  When I heard him say "Dennis the Menace", I instantly thought of the character pictured above on the left, Dennis the Menace from the British comic The Beano.  It occurred to me later that since this was an American programme, Banned from the Bible, broadcast on the History Channel, he was perhaps referring to the character pictured in the middle above, the American Dennis the Menace, who is almost exactly the same age as his British namesake, both first published in March 1951.

But which one was John Dominic Crossan referring to?  Both of them are mischievous young boys, but my ignorance of the American version makes it difficult for me to compare and contrast.  The British Dennis is undoubtedly a "brat", but which would Crossan have known?  His time spent in both Ireland and America will have given him exposure to both versions, but I'd guess it's the American one he will have known best, perhaps especially if he has children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews over here.

New Testament Scholarship Worldwide on Facebook

Johnson Thomaskutty has set up a new group headed New Testament Scholarship Worldwide on Facebook. He writes:
This group is exclusively a scholarly, theological, exegetical, hermeneutical, reflective, and open-minded one by combining both the past and present New Testament scholarship worldwide.
It's an open, public group and there are already 407 members.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Typo in Elliott's Apocryphal New Testament, on Infancy Gospel of Thomas?

There is a cross-reference in J. K. Elliott, The Apocryphal New Testament: A Collection of Apocryphal Christian Literature in an English Translation (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993): 78 that I think may be in error. The passage is Infancy Gospel of Thomas 12.1-2:
Again, in the time of sowing the child went out with his father to sow corn in their field. And as his father sowed, the child Jesus also sowed one grain of corn. 2. And when he had reaped it and threshed it, he brought in a hundred measures, * and he called all the poor of the village to the threshing-floor and gave them the corn, and Joseph took the residue. He was eight years old when he performed this sign.
At the point marked here by the *, there is a footnote referencing Luke 16.7. Luke 16.7 reads, "Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’" That is clearly not right. I think the intended reference must be Luke 8.8, "Some [seed] fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.”

Update (Saturday, 13.25): In comments, Andrew Criddle notes that the word κόρος occurs both in Luke 16.7 (ἑκατὸν κόρους σίτου) and in Tischendorf's Greek A recension of the Infancy Gospel. Moreover, κόρος is a hapax in the New Testament. That is clearly the point of the cross-reference in Elliott, so I withdraw my suggestion that it is a typo, even if it is a strange choice of cross-reference given the clearer content parallels with the Synoptics here and elsewhere that are not marked. Incidentally, a look at Tony Burke's Critical Edition of the text shows some interesting variation in the Greek witnesses at this point, κόρους ρ in his Gs, μέδιμνους ρ in his Ga and μόδια ἑκατόν in his Gc (Burke, 192-3).

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Infancy Gospel of Thomas on Youtube

We are into the second week of a junior / senior seminar on the Non-canonical Gospels here at Duke. It's the first time I have taught a course like this at the undergraduate level and it is already proving really stimulating. We took as our first text the Protevangelium of James and we are now moving on to the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. It gives me the opportunity to share one of my favourite Youtube clips, an animated version of Infancy Thomas 9:

There is another short video of interest on Youtube that relates to the Infancy Gospel. It is about four minutes long and is clearly a clip from a longer documentary. From the look of it, it is an American (Discovery Channel? History Channel?) piece surveying non-canonical Gospels. Of particular interest in this clip are the comments from John Dominic Crossan, who is as engaging as ever. He comments on Jesus as a "divine brat" in the text, "Dennis the Menace as god", but adds that Jesus learns ultimately that "The function of great power and great wisdom is to do good":

Update (Friday, 9.55): In comments, Tony Burke mentions that the clip above is from Banned from the Bible (History Channel, 2003).

New Testament Studies latest

The latest NTS is out:

Volume 56 - Issue 04 - October 2010

PDF version of this Table of Contents


The Eagle and the Dove: Roman Imperial Sonship and the Baptism of Jesus (Mark 1.9-11)
Michael Peppard
New Testament Studies, Volume 56, Issue 04, October 2010, pp 431 - 451

Die markinischen Summarien—ein literarischer und theologischer Schlüssel zu Mark 1–6
Eve-Marie Becker
New Testament Studies, Volume 56, Issue 04, October 2010, pp 452 - 474

Lilies Do Not Spin: A Challenge to Female Social Norms
Lee A. Johnson, Robert C. Tannehill
New Testament Studies, Volume 56, Issue 04, October 2010, pp 475 - 490

Abraham geschworen – uns gegeben. Syntax und Sinn im Benediktus (Lukas 1.68–79)
Friedrich Gustav Lang
New Testament Studies, Volume 56, Issue 04, October 2010, pp 491 - 512

‘Some were saying, “He is good”’ (John 7.12b): ‘Good’ Christology in John's Gospel?
Jane Heath
New Testament Studies, Volume 56, Issue 04, October 2010, pp 513 - 535

Mutual Brokers of Grace: A Study in 2 Corinthians 1.3-11
David Briones
New Testament Studies, Volume 56, Issue 04, October 2010, pp 536 - 556

The Son's Entrance into the Heavenly World: The Soteriological Necessity of the Scriptural Catena in Hebrews 1.5-14
Joshua W. Jipp
New Testament Studies, Volume 56, Issue 04, October 2010, pp 557 - 575

Short Study

Keine Quästoren in Korinth: Zu Goodrichs (und Theißens) These über das Amt des Erastos (Röm 16.23)
Alexander Weiss
New Testament Studies, Volume 56, Issue 04, October 2010, pp 576 - 581

Abstracts available for all at New Testament Studies, and electronic access to subscribers.

McAfee Symposium on the Johannine Epistles

This is from Tom Thatcher -- news of a symposium on the Johannine Epistles to take place beginning a couple of days before this year's SBL Annual Meeting:

McAfee Symposium on the Johannine Epistles

The 2010 Peter Rhea and Ellen Jones
Lectures in New Testament
McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University
Atlanta, Georgia

November 17-19, 2010
Registration: $150 payable to McAfee School of Theology
Location: Atlanta Academic and Conference Center, 2930 Flowers Road, Atlanta, GA 30341

The Symposium will feature major presentations by:

D. Moody Smith, Jr
Judith Lieu
Jan G. van der Watt
Urban C. (Cam) von Wahlde

and short papers by:

Paul Anderson
R. Alan Culpepper
Peter Rhea Jones
Craig Koester
Andreas Kostenberger
William Loader
Gail R. O’Day
David Rensberger
More details here: McAfee Symposium on the Johannine Epistles

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Nathan Eubank, "A Disconcerting Prayer"

The best thing about Duke is the quality of its students.  Nathan Eubank, from our Graduate Program in Religion, has an article in the latest JBL,

A Disconcerting Prayer: On the Originality of Luke 23:34a, JBL 129/3 (2010): 521–536
Nathan Eubank

The online access is only available for SBL subscribers and for institutions with subscriptions to the JBL.

Friday, September 03, 2010

British New Testament Conference 2010

This year's British New Testament Conference began yesterday in Bangor. I have had to miss the BNTC for the last five years since I moved to the US and it always feels a bit odd not to be there. I was heavily involved with the organisation for several years, as the secretary and treasurer of the society, and I regret that I had only one chance (2005) to go along as a punter before moving away. Knowing that several bloggers are present, I am looking forward to hearing some reports. Jim Davila is a stalwart of the conference and will no doubt have reports for us; the new Sheffield Biblical Studies blog is already blogging on the ground, though without specific attribution (after the initial post from James Crossley); and Helen Bond mentions the conference on the new Centre for the Study of Christian Origins blog.

Microphone Problem Causing NT Pod Delay

If you are wondering what has happened to the NT Pod recently, I have been unable to record because my Snowball has gone on the blink. Recordings have a high-pitch noise. So I am moving over, for the time being at least, to recording in Duke's gret facilities. As it happens, these facilities are so good that I may continue to use these even after I have sorted out my microphone problem. So there should at least be a new episode next week, once I have worked out all the finer points of using the Duke facilities.

Sage Journals Free for Six Weeks

Brian LePort points out that Sage Journals are offering free online access to their journals for the next six weeks or so.  Details here:

Free Online Access to SAGE must-have content from 1999-current until October 15, 2010

Bear in mind that in our area that includes journals like the Journal for the Study of the New Testament and Expository Times.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

NT Blog Seven Years Old Today!

Happy birthday to me, seven years old today. The first post on this blog was on 2 September 2003, Welcome to the NT Gateway Weblog where I wrote that
I've been inspired to set this up by Jim Davila's fine Palaeojudaica weblog at, not least because of a comment he made in that recently that it would be helpful to have more people doing the same kind of thing. I've very much enjoyed reading his blog over the last few months and while I doubt I will be able to do as good a job as he, I am nevertheless encouraged to try something similar myself.
Well, Jim's still at it, I'm still at it, and now there are lots more people too, as well as many others who have come and gone.

For the first five and a half years of this blog, I was blogging under the NT Gateway banner, but now, as I hope you know, that has a blog of its own where I post along with Holger Szesnat, mainly on new internet items of interest that appear on the site.   So this is the first full year of the morphed NT Blog and I continue to work on my NT Pod too, a podcast that now has forty episodes and is just over a year old.

Thanks for the continued encouragement and support for these seven years.  Here's to the next seven!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Teaching the Bible e-pub latest

The Teaching the Bible epub from the SBL is back after its summer break:

Teaching the Bible, September 2010

It includes an article by Jeff Staley on The Crucifixion of Jesus in Films and in the Gospels which looks well worth a read. Thanks to Jim Dvorak for pointing out that article to me.

Biblical Studies Carnival, and Other Blog News

For the second month running, Jim West has done an excellent job of producing a Biblical Studies Carnival, rounding up all sorts of interesting posts on Biblical Studies and related areas from all over the blogosphere:

August 2010 Biblical Studies Carnival

I am proud to say that I actually remembered and got round to nominating several posts this time around.

Meanwhile, several have the good news that the University of Sheffield Biblical Studies Department has a new blog.

For those interested in who has the most popular Biblical Studies related blogs at the moment, Free Old Testament Audio Website Blog has the latest.

And while we are on the subject, I was disappointed to notice recently that the website had gone down. It looks like the domain name was not renewed, and the content has all gone, at least for now, which is a shame.