Saturday, November 24, 2012

My Response to Crook's Response to My Review of Parallel Gospels

I reviewed Zeba Crook's Parallel Gospels at this year's SBL and Crook responded.  I now have a few comments on that response.  I am grateful for Zeba's thoughtful comments.  I will take his points in turn:

(1) On the lack of word-alignment, I had not realized that this was a publisher's decision rather than an author's decision.  I understand the importance of affordability but I think it is a great shame that  something so fundamental to Synopsis construction is here jettisoned because of cost considerations.

In the discussion on Monday, I facetiously suggested that one could save a lot of space by getting rid of Q from the Synopsis, thereby freeing up more space for word-alignment.

(2) On the source-language translation, I understand Zeba's decision but I disagree with it.  The difficulty is that prepositions, for example, do not exist on their own, as individual sense-units.  They only attain meaning in connection with nouns in a particular case, so it makes no sense to translate hypo always as "under" and meta always as "with".  It is misleading to translate every preposition the same way, and it is a decision that greatly detracts from the appeal of the Synopsis.

(3) I am a little surprised by Zeba's response on the inclusion of Q in the Synopsis.  I think the inclusion of Q would be defensible on the grounds that it helps to illustrate the Two-Source Theory or that it facilitates comparison between Matthew, Luke and the reconstructed text of Q, but it is surely not debatable that including one solution to the problem into the presentation of the data prejudices the reader in favour of that solution, is it?

Zeba suggests that his Synopsis offers some encouragement to the Farrer Theory, e.g. placement of double tradition pericopes in the Synopsis and also the generation of more minor agreements.  However, the point about minor agreements is at least in part negated by the fact that Q is present in this synopsis to explain key minor agreements, especially Q 3.3 and Q 4.16.

Zeba also suggests that the inclusion of Q is no different from the inclusion of Thomas or John, but there is, of course, a material difference.  Both Thomas and John are extant works with textual witnesses and patristic citations; they are not hypothetical texts. In fact, the (helpful) inclusion of Thomas and John illustrates my point well -- that a Synopsis should aim to present the data without prejudice to a given solution to the problem.  Integrating Q into the presentation of the data confuses problem with solution in a fundamental way.

But my key point here is the pedagogical difficulty of including Q in the Synopsis, which turns double tradition into a second kind of triple tradition, and makes colouring the Synopsis much more difficult.  These are issues that are worth considering further.

Zeba Crook's Response to my Review of Parallel Gospels

I am grateful to Zeba Crook for making available his response to my review of his Parallel Gospels and to Loren Rosson for posting it on his blog:

Review of Crook's Parallel Gospels

At this year's SBL in Chicago, I took part in a session on Monday afternoon, in the Synoptic Gospels section, that was devoted to  reviewing Zeba Crook's Parallel Gospels.  The other reviewers were Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, Paul Foster and Robert Derrenbacker.  My article review is available here:

Zeba Crook's Parallel Gospels: Review Article
Mark Goodacre

Update (22 April 2014): My conference paper is now revised and published in SBL's Review of Biblical Literature here:

Review of Zeba A. Crook, Parallel Gospels [PDF]
Mark Goodacre

Please cite as: Mark Goodacre, review of Zeba A. Crook, Parallel Gospels: A Synopsis of Early Christian Writing, Review of Biblical Literature [] (2014)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

SBL Chicago 2012

In the past, I have often blogged my way through the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting. Sometimes I have even sat in sessions, blogging away as I listen.  For one thing, it's been a great way to help me to stay awake.

To some extent, Twitter has changed all that. A quick tweet on your phone, with the #sblaar hashtag, and you are in touch with loads of others who are also tweeting away, most of whom you will never even meet.  Twitter has actually made blogging the SBL much easier -- it helps you to work out what's worth a blog comment and what is only worth a tweet.

If you read this year's tweets, one thing will come through again and again, especially on Saturday, the realisation that McCormick Place is simply MASSIVE.  One fellow participant said that it was far bigger than the village he lived in in Cambridgeshire.  I found that it was a huge help with the usual SBL diet issue, that one eats far too much unhealthy stuff in quantities that are too large.  Normally, one does not have to walk ten miles in the convention centre just to get from one session to the next, and so I was able to shed a few calories that way.

And that was already after one had commuted in from the hotels area, itself a couple of miles from McCormick.  You did not have to walk, though, if you did not want to.  The shuttles laid on by the society worked well and it reminded me a bit of Orlando 1998 when you could find yourself sitting next to someone interesting quite by chance, or renewing old acquaintances, or overhearing fascinating conversations.

In some years, the book exhibit has been really squeezed in space.  This year, there was so much space available that they hardly knew what to do. And yet, I don't think I visited it as often as usual because everything was so far away from everything else.  You had to plan to go to the exhibit.  You could not simply pop in for 10 minutes in between sessions.

Moreover, SBL tarting was much more difficult than usual.  I have always been an advocate of tarting one's way from one session to another.  But this year, you might have half an hour's walk to get from one session to another.  On the Saturday, I wanted to get from John, Jesus and History (superb paper by Dale Allison aligning the BD with John son of Zebedee that cohered nicely with my NT Pod on the topic) to the Second Century Intertextuality section to hear about Papias -- but I had nearly had a heart attack by the time I had arrived.

My experience of SBL this year was tarnished by the worst series of headaches I have had since I was in college.  So I was in survival mode for much of it and I must apologize to those who found me a little stranger than usual.   Nevertheless, there were a couple of highlights, one the chance to see Skyfall, on Friday evening, with old friends.  Of course the danger with doing the best thing first is that everything is down-hill from there, but it was still a treat.

I was pleased too to get some Chicago pizza on Monday evening, and some good beer, pub food and Thai food on other evenings.  It's awful to say, but eating and drinking really is the heart of SBL.  Oh, and I had an amazing breakfast on Tuesday morning at Eleven City Diner, which looks exactly what you would imagine a Chicago diner should look like, and the breakfast was fantastic, and lasted me all day. And we saw Austan Goolsbee there too (Obama's first term economic advisor, for those not as up with American politics as I am).

As usual, I seemed to have let myself in for involvement with too many sessions this year.  I enjoyed speaking on Secret Mark over at the Biblical Archaeology Society's Fest on Sunday morning and found them an ideal audience, genial but interested and full of questions (more here).   In the past, I have not bothered with a powerpoint, but on this occasion I felt that I needed to illustrate the talk, and it took us the best part of fifteen minutes to get it working.  Still, we got there in the end.

Back at the SBL, I also chaired a session that day, the first of the "Blogger and Online Publication" sessions.  The focus was on Media and Archaeology and featured Simcha Jacobovici, James Tabor, Robert Cargill and Christopher Rollston.  It was not the easiest session to chair and the attendance was poor, I'd guess thirty to forty or so.

On Monday afternoon, I was part of a panel reviewing Zeba Crook's Parallel Gospels in the Synoptic Gospels section.  The other reviewers were Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, Paul Foster and Robert Derrenbacker.  I found myself in the unusual position of being the mean guy here, since it seems that the other reviewers were all far more positive overall about Crook's new Synopsis than I was.  I will post my review under separate cover.  For what it is worth, Zeba Crook responded well  to the critique, with good humour and some good points.  The discussion flowed too in the aftermath.

I walked the twenty miles from that session in the East of McCormick Place to another in West, only just making it in time.  This was a session reviewing two recent books on the Gospel of Thomas, my Thomas and the Gospels and Simon Gathercole's Composition of the Gospel of Thomas.  The three reviewers were Stephen Patterson, Christopher Tuckett and Nicola Denzey Lewis.  I was delighted with them all -- critical but appreciative.  More than one could possibly have hoped for.  I received the reviews too late to compose a response, so I responded on the fly.  I made a fair fist of it but Simon did much better and made me laugh several times, not least in drawing attention to Dorothy L. Sayers's character the Revd. Simon Goodacre, in response to the reviewers' remarks about the remarkable similarity of our books in spite of their independence.

One thought did occur to me in that session.  Although there is the conceit that everyone has read the books in question at a book review session, in fact very few have yet had the chance even to look at them, all the more so as several have only just bought them in the book exhibit.  So it would be ideal to begin these book review sessions by allowing the authors ten minutes each to summarize their books before the reviewers are invited in.  In other words, with new books, the sessions could be crafted in such a way that they are geared towards the majority of hearers.  The reviewers too could be encouraged to address those who are not familiar with the books.  Having said that, I did think the organization and chairing of the session (by the Extent of Theological Diversity section, partnering with the Nag Hammadi and Gnosticism section) was exemplary, so it's just a small suggestion for the future ethos of the SBL.

It wasn't my favourite SBL, but that's mainly my fault, and I would like to thank the SBL for the fantastic work they put into making this such a successful meeting, and thanks too to all those who worked so hard as volunteers to make things go so well.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Karen King article in the Boston Globe

I meant to blog this last night but didn't get a chance because I was at the new Bond film, Skyfall (which is very good, by the way).  Lisa Wangsness, who has been publishing on the Jesus' Wife Fragment story from the beginning., has a new piece in the Boston Globe.  She was one of the three journalists who broke the story on 18 September (Harvard Professor identifies scrap of papyrus suggesting some early Christians believed Jesus was married) but unlike others, she has continued to follow the story and to report on the developments (Debate, doubts about a married Jesus, 26 September; Scholars begin to weigh in on 'Gospel of Jesus' Wife', 27 September) and now she has a profile piece on Karen King:

Jesus finding put scholar in spotlight
Lisa Wangsness

I have spoken to Lisa on several occasions, including one time last week while I was sitting in the carpool at school, and I get a short quotation in the piece:
“I started seeing that the lines that were being drawn between orthodox or correct Christianity and heretical Christianity couldn’t be drawn that way,” she said. “I had to step back and start sort of fresh and say, ‘What are the similarities and differences among [ancient] Christians, and how might we account for them, in terms of them belonging to this place?’”
King argued that these texts should be seen as part of the story of Christianity, not as distortions of a complete belief system articulated by the Gospels and handed down by the fathers of the early church. She contends that the early history of Christianity needs to be rewritten to include these previously marginalized voices, taking into account how “a limited set of perspectives has shaped what people believe.”
“She’s made her mark on the field by doing that,” said Mark Goodacre, a New Testament scholar at Duke University. “It’s a massive contribution to scholarship.”
The article does mention the forthcoming tests on the Jesus' Wife Fragment but there is no more information about timetable:
King is now awaiting the results of ink composition tests, which cannot establish for sure that it is authentic — but they could reveal that it is a forgery.
“I’m on the edge of my seat as much as anybody,” she said. “And we’ll see.”
The article is also mentioned by Jim Davila in Paleojudaica.

Friday, November 09, 2012

The Jesus' Wife Fragment: How the Forgery Was Done

I am grateful to Andrew Bernhard for sharing his full exposition of how the Gospel of Jesus' Wife was forged, on the basis of Michael Grondin's online interlinear Gospel of Thomas website.

I have previously blogged about Andrew Bernhard's research on the fragment (Jesus' Wife Fragment: Further Evidence of Modern Forgery), where I drew attention to what I regarded as a possible "smoking gun" for the case, the fact that the fragment takes over a typographical error in the PDF of Grondin's Interlinear.  Andrew's essay, How the Gospel of Jesus' Wife Might Have Been Forged: A Tentative Proposal, provided a brilliant analysis of the links between the fragment and Grondin's Interlinear.

But now Andrew has produced a complete analysis of the links between these works in a new essay that he has published here:

Notes on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife Forgery

The piece is a well-written, persuasive account of how he sees the forger of the fragment working, and I would encourage you to read it all with care.

Here, courtesy of Andrew Bernhard, is a summary of the findings:


1. Gos. Jes. Wife borrows the framework for a simple dialogue between Jesus and his disciples from Gos. Thom. 12.

2. All decipherable words in Gos. Jes. Wife appear in Gos. Thom. with a single exception: TAHIME (“my wife.”)

3. The words of each line of text in Gos. Jes. Wife are found in close proximity to each other in Gos. Thom.

4. The forger has slightly redacted Gos. Thom. by making masculine pronouns feminine and (attempting to) transform affirmative/negative statements into their opposites.

5. More than half a dozen notable textual features in Gos. Jes. Wife can be attributed to a forger’s dependence on Grondin’s Interlinear.


I think it is now fair to begin openly describing Gos. Jes. Wife as a modern forgery.  Although it is admittedly a novel type of forgery, its text can be explained too easily and too completely as a “patchwork” of words and short phrases drawn from the Gos. Thom. by a forger relying on Grondin’s Interlinear. The possibility that Gos. Jes. Wife is a genuinely ancient writing seems extremely remote.

Gos. Jes. Wife is intended to appear as a basic dialogue between Jesus and his disciples, and the words of both Jesus and his disciples are introduced using the same words found in the basic dialogue of Gos. Thom. 12. Every word in Gos. Jes. Wife (except one) can be traced back to Gos. Thom., and every line of text in Gos. Jes. Wife contains words found in close proximity to each other in Gos. Thom. – even when there is no obvious relationship between them (e.g., line 3). Where a word might easily have been spelled differently in the different texts, both Gos. Jes. Wife and Gos. Thom. have the same spelling (i.e., NAEI). In addition, the forger’s redactional tendencies, namely switching third-person pronouns from masculine to feminine (lines 2, 5, 7) and attempting to invert affirmative / negative statements  (lines 5 and 6), can be identified. The forger has also inadvertently included several tell-tale peculiarities in grammar and spelling that reveal the modern origin of Gos. Jes. Wife.

The forger’s “fingerprints” are discernible in every line of text that has more than one word in it. In line 1, the forger has reproduced a typographical error from Grondin’s Interlinear (the omission of a direct object marker) and a line break from NHC II. The second line has been copied verbatim from Gos. Thom. 12, except the forger has changed a third-person pronoun from masculine to feminine. In line 3, the forger has used a Coptic spelling for the name “Mary” that is barely attested in antiquity but could well be derived from the English translation in Grondin’s Interlinear. In line 4, the forger has omitted a conjunction (JE) that would ordinarily be expected, probably as the result of a line break in NHC II. Line 5 contains a simple inversion of a negative phrase found in Gos. Thom. 55, and the forger has switched its subject from masculine to feminine. Once the intended text of line 6 is recognized, it seems clear that a forger tried to compose the line of Coptic while thinking in English; relying on the translation in Grondin’s Interlinear, the forger attempted to transform an affirmative statement from Gos. Thom. 45 into a negative version but made a pair of grammatical errors in the process (i.e., two verbal prefixes modifying a single infinitive; a non-definite noun modified by a relative). In line 7, the forger has merely rearranged text from Gos. Thom. 29 and 30, switching a masculine pronoun to its feminine equivalent (for the third time in seven lines) in an effort to mask the identity of his or her source.

In the end, only a single Coptic word in Gos. Jes. Wife could not have been copied directly from Gos. Thom. This word, which instantly transformed Gos. Jes. Wife into an international sensation, appears near the center of the small papyrus fragment. It is a compound of a possessive article and feminine noun that could easily have been formed by anyone using Grondin’s Interlinear and the most widely available Coptic-English dictionary in the world: TAHIME (“my wife”).
Renewed thanks to Andrew for making this clear and convincing study available.

Gospel of Thomas Movie

Thanks to Ben Blackwell for pointing this one out (and also for plugging the all-too-often-forgotten BBC / HBO The Passion).   It's a new dramatized version of the Gospel of Thomas, and it's rather good:

It is perhaps a bit much to call it a "movie", but it is nice to have the text acted out with Jesus as a talking head, and occasional others also appearing (e.g. Jessica Taylor as Salome at the 26 minute mark is great!), and with some nice ethereal music.  It captures the mood of the Gospel of Thomas very well.

The translation used is Nicholas Perrin's.

The Youtube version above features the "Western" Jesus Christ (their terms), played by Duncan Rennie.  The "gentle" term added there relates to the tone used by Jesus in this version.  Somewhat remarkably, you can also get Jesus to speak "Mezzo" or "Passionate" by going to the website below!

Gospel of Thomas (Morphic Media TV)

The "Passionate" version is also available on Youtube here:

The main site also features a version with a "Semitic" Jesus (their terms) played by Daud Shah.  Just select "Semitic" at the bottom of the page.  I must admit that I am a bit more partial to the "Semitic" Jesus (who is not actually "Christ" in Thomas, for what it's worth).  As far as I can tell, the "Semitic" Jesus only speaks in the one way -- he is not available in Gentle / Mezzo / Passionate alternatives.

The Semitic Jesus version is also not yet available on Youtube, but I hope they make it available at some point so that more will find it there too.

This Morphic Media website is pretty remarkable -- you can even go directly to particular sayings, and control things in other ways.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Michael Pahl and the Disgrace of Cedarville University

I would like to join my voice with the many others who have expressed their dismay at the actions of Cedarville University in relieving Dr Michael Pahl of his teaching duties.

It is a decision that reflects very badly on Cedarville University and I would like to express my opinion of this in the strongest terms and say that it is a disgrace. Not only is Michael Pahl an outstanding scholar, a true star of the future, but he is also a faithful, devoted evangelical Christian whose character and commitment are without blemish.

Michael is a former doctoral student of mine and one of the most outstanding students I have had the pleasure of working with. While there is no doubt in my mind that Michael will go on to better and greater things at an institution that appreciates his gifts, it is nevertheless a bitter disappointment to see Cedarville behaving in such an appalling manner.