Tuesday, May 31, 2011

B-Greek on the move

One of my earliest experiences of the internet was going on b-greek, the Biblical Greek mailing list, back in the mid 90s. I remember thinking, "Wow, this internet thing is amazing! You can get regular 'emails' plopping into your Pegasus 'inbox' that discuss natty little problems of New Testament Greek!" I remember being so excited that I printed out the daily digest and read it on the train (from university station up to Kings Norton) on the way home.

The list has been going since 1992 and for many of us it has been a great way of discussing interesting problems in NT and related texts. Even when one is not contributing, it is often great to listen in to what others are discussing, even if there is something of a tendency towards theological topics.

Well, now it is on the move. It is morphing from an email list to a forum set-up and you can access the new b-greek here:

B-Greek: The Biblical Greek Forum

Now it is divided up into lots of little "interest groups" and there are other advantages like unicode support and better searchability. I am going to miss the old email list format, but I have already registered for the new forum and I am going to follow via RSS feed and add it to my blogroll so that I don't miss anything important.

Update (11.12am): On second thoughts, the volume of posts on the b-greek forum is going to flood my blogroll so I will take it off the blogroll for now and perhaps create a new one in due course that incorporates the other e-lists too.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rejected Exam Paper

David Rattigan this morning tweeted this hilarious Rejected Exam Paper on the New Testament, which he penned ten years ago, in the spirit of 1066 and All That. Here's the link and a sample:

Rejected Exam Paper
4. Would you say that Cleopatra was directly responsible for the corporeal decline of Herod the Great? If not, what would you say?

5. Describe, in excessive detail, the woman at the well. What were her pneumatological implications? Could you suggest a suitable remedy?

6. Briefly solve the synoptic problem (3-4 lines max). Explain why the problem still baffles scholars today, and suggest what should be done to them.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sepphoris 2011 Excavations

My colleagues Eric Meyers and Carol Meyers, and graduate student Alan Todd are pictured here excavating in Sepphoris.  There is a new blog dedicated to the dig:

David Hendin's Sepphoris 2011 Excavation Blog

It's a really thorough, day by day, detailed account and there are tons of pictures.  Really makes you wish that you were there!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sharon Mattila's Statistics and the Synoptic Problem: Some Quibbles

One of my favourite spare time activities is to dip into statistical studies of the Synoptic Problem. One day I might even write something about it. In going back over an article by Sharon Lea Mattila recently, I noticed that I had scribbled all over my print copy and that some of my scribblings might usefully be transferred to a blog post lest they get lost.

The article I wish to comment on is Sharon Lea Mattila, "Negotiating the Clouds Around Statistics and 'Q': A Rejoinder and Independent Analysis," Novum Testamentum 46/2 (2004): 105-31.  The article is a detailed, lengthy and frequently polemical response to Charles E. Carlston and Dennis Norlin, "Statistics and Q -- Some Further Observations," NovT 41 (1999), itself largely a response to an earlier article by Mattila.  For an excellent summary of  these and other works on statistical studies of the Synoptic Problem, and for full bibliography, see John Poirier, "Statistical Studies of the Verbal Agreements and their Impact on the Synoptic Problem," Currents in Biblical Research 7 (2008): 68-123.

The gist of the article is that Mattila thinks that Carlston and Norlin have overstated the case that Matthew and Luke preserved the Q sayings more faithfully than the Marcan sayings.  One of the key elements in the article is "an independent statistical analysis" that attempts to avoid what she sees as the flaws in their earlier study.

My comments here relate to difficulties with Mattila's figures tabulated on pp. 125-6 of the article:

(1) Mattila claims to avoid "such pitfalls as including sayings containing words from Scripture" (p. 121) but two of her parallels feature quotations from Scripture:
  • Matt. 10.34-6 // Luke 12.51-53 quotes Micah 7.6
  • Matt. 21.13 // Luke 19.46 is a famous composite quotation of Isa. 56.7 and Jer. 7.11.
(2) Mattila makes the interesting methodological move to count passages normally attributed to Mark-Q overlap as Triple Tradition (p. 122). In some contexts, this could be a strong and defensible move, e.g. it could help us to take seriously the existence of major agreements in triple tradition material, something that has a bearing on arguments for and against the 2ST. However, in this context, in which she is discussing Carlston and Norlin, and dealing specifically with claims about a written Q in comparison with a written Mark, she is potentially transferring material that should be in one table to the other. Four of her Triple Tradition pericopes are in Mark / Q overlap
  • Matt. 10.19-20 // Luke 12.11-12
  • Matt. 13.31b-2 // Luke 13.18b-19
  • Matt. 16.6b // Luke 12.1b
  • Matt. 18.6-7 // Luke 17.1b-3a.
It's an important difficulty with the analysis when evidence that belongs on one side of the experiment ends up on the other.

(3) Mattila includes the Lucan woes in her analysis in spite of the fact that they have no parallel in Matthew, and against her stated objective of treating Aland's synopsis divisions as the standard.  She is conscious that this is problematic (p. 121).

(4) This is a point that is rarely treated seriously in statistical studies of the Synoptics.  Parable material occupies an interesting position here in that it is both sayings  material (in attribution to Jesus) and narrative (in form).  Parallel parables appear often to be much less close to one another in wording than is other sayings material. Indeed, they sometimes imitate the way that narrative material appears. Mattila's double tradition table includes four parables across 47 verses of Matthew:
  • Matt. 7.24-27 // Luke 6.47-9
  • Matt. 18.12-14 // Luke 15.4-7
  • Matt. 22.2-14 // Luke 14.16b-24
  • Matt. 25.14-30 // Luke 19.12b-27
Her triple tradition table includes three parables across only 23 verses in Matthew (the second is the Mark-Q overlap parable of the Mustard Seed listed also above):
  • Matt. 13.3b-9 and 18-23 // Luke 8.5-8a and 11-15
  • Matt. 13.31b-32 // Luke 13.18-19
  • Matt. 21.33-40 // Luke 20.9b-15
(5) Unlike Carlston and Norlin, Mattila excludes from consideration speech from characters other than Jesus (John the Baptist, the Centurion, etc.).  I am not sure about this move, especially as they include famous examples of very high verbatim agreement, thereby potentially skewing the figures for the double tradition.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Synoptic Problem for Kindle (free)

I mentioned recently that I had made available my 2001 book The Synoptic Problem: A Way Through the Maze, with the help of colleagues at Duke University Libraries, over at the internet archive.  You can read online, download as a PDF and so on.

With thanks to one of my readers, it is now also available for free for your kindle -- just go to the archive.org page for the links.

Lead Codices and the Media

Thomas Verenna has an excellent article in Bible and Interpretation on the fake metal codices, with special emphasis on the media failure to check with the experts:

Artifacts and the Media: Lead Codices and the Public Portrayal of History

Monday, May 09, 2011

Robert Cargill lays into Simcha Jacobovici's Nails of the Cross

Bob Cargill has published an excellent, thorough debunking of the ludicrous Nails of the Cross documentary that recently aired on the History Channel:

A Critique of Simcha Jacobovici’s Secrets of Christianity: Nails of the Cross
Simcha makes two bold claims to say the least: the first is that the lost nails of Jesus’ crucifixion have been recovered, and the second is an implicit assertion that the IAA covered it up. Unfortunately for Simcha, his theory has a problem, and its name is Legion, for they are many. Any one of these problems renders Simcha’s theory impossible, and their aggregate renders the theory preposterous.
Bob does not mince his words but at the same time patiently demonstrates why the theory is so absurd. My comments on the fiasco are gathered here.

One of the elements mentioned by Bob is the work of Barrie Wilson who has apparently co-authored a book with Simcha Jacobovici to come out next year on the Arabic Infancy Gospel of the Savior.  Wilson's website provides a teaser:
A Lost Gospel of Jesus’ Marriage to Mary Magdalene
by Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson
In Bride of God: A Lost Gospel of Jesus’ Marriage to Mary Magdalene, the authors take us into the world of an early Christian community that encoded its beliefs in a now forgotten manuscript, presently collecting dust in the British Museum. In the course of the investigation, the authors decode the manuscript using techniques employed by early Christians for understanding ancient writings. Part mystery story, part adventure/travel and part historical investigation, Bride of God reveals up to now unknown details about Jesus’ family, sexuality and marriage . . . .
Good grief.

Subscribing by email to the NT Blog and the NT Pod

A correspondent asked about an email subscription option for the NT Blog.  I hadn't realized that I had not set one up and I have now done so:

Subscribe to NT Blog by Email

While I was at it, I made sure I also had an email subscription option for the NT Pod:

Subscribe to NT Pod by Email

I've added links on the sidebars of each page too.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Continued Media Fail on the Fake Metal Codices

Over on Paleojudaica, Jim Davila is keeping an eye on the Fake Metal Codices with a new and uninformed piece in the Christian Science Monitor. As Jim notes, there is no attempt to try to find experts to comment on the piece.

I was listening to a most enjoyable (but far too short) programme from BBC World Service the other day on the Hitler Diaries, Witness: The Hitler Diaries Hoax (podcast version here).  In a day before the internet and blogging (1983), it took the media about a week to realize that they had been sold a hoax.  This story has now been running for two months without any widespread recognition that they are fakes and with few serious attempts to consult experts.  It's pathetic.

Biblioblogging Carnival

Dr Jim has composed a fantastic biblioblogging carnival for the month of April:

It's the Jolly Great Hodge Podge Biblioblogging Carnival!

It's a tour de force. And it has pictures too.