Welcome to the Carnival
Coming back to host a Biblical Studies Carnival many years after I last did so (but that was on another website and besides the blog is dead), I’m struck by how much things have changed. The biggest of those changes – at least as I see it – over the intervening years is the present lack of interaction among bloggers compared to the past.
From time to time in recent years there has been an occasional flurry of posts, when the big beasts of the bibliobloggging jungle have bestirred themselves, but those are rare and tied to controversies like the Gospel of Jesus Wife, or the Jordanian Lead Codices.
No such major alleged forgery has brought bloggers together around the same topic in October, and so this carnival is a personal selection of largely disconnected posts (with one or two actual interactive conversations) that have for one reason or another caught my eye. (A note of thanks is owed to Bob MacDonald who was helpful in drawing a number of posts to my attention, many of which I have included below.)
So, on with the Carnival. I hope you find it informative, and even, possibly, just slightly entertaining.
There may be no discussion of forgeries, but there is no end to Bible Conspiracy theories. Jonathan Bernier notes and refutes a new (to me) one: that Christianity was invented by Roman aristocrats first to pacify the Jews and then any lower order that wished to revolt against a governing one. Apparently the book/theory has been around for more than a decade.
James McGrath continues to chronicle the travails of those who argue with Jesus-mythicists, here relating (with accompanying video) one person’s reflections on their debate with Richard Carrier (the Donald Trump of mythicism) who manages to produce a useful set of alternative facts to avoid an unpalatable reality.
In a rare example of blog interaction, there’s been a running dispute between Michael Kruger and John Meade on the development of the NT Canon, increasingly focussed on the popularity of the Shepherd of Hermas, and the possibility of it being regarded as a canonical text. See (in order)
- John Meade on Canon and Manuscripts
- Michael Kruger’s first response.
- John Meade’s rejoinder
- Michael Kruger once more
I confess that I’m more persuaded by Meade. I can’t help but feel, especially reading his post on the anniversary of the reformation, that Kruger appears to have a dogma in this fight.
Hebrew Bible / First Testament
The semi-anonymous RJS guest posts a reflection on Scot McKnight’s blog, looking at the imagery of the potter in Jeremiah 18, especially focussing on the concept of God changing his mind.
Ancient World Online announces some additions to the Cuneiform Commentaries Project, for those who like to get their ANE background material raw.
Bob MacDonald continues to work his way through a wide range of Hebrew Bible texts, for example this exploration and translation – or at least a translator’s gloss – of Isaiah 33
Michael Satlow reflects on the intersection of the decalogue and capitalism, with the help of a recent book.
Posting on how the Canaanites got a raw deal, Pete Enns (although he doesn’t put it quite like this) shows how a canonical-narrative reading of the Bible can create its own theological problems.
The problems many Christians seem to have with the Hebrew Bible are well illustrated by Ben Witherington’s post on principles for interpreting OT narratives. Personally, I find this approach too simplistic: how can anyone regard the delightfully subversive and humorous short story that is the book of Jonah as a “go and do likewise” example of obedience?
And it’s not exactly Hebrew Bible, but Anthony Le Donne notes this Aramaic sung version of Psalm 53, as some Georgian monks give Pope Francis a glimpse of their worship.
Looking at early Judaism / early Christianity, Anthony Le Donne has an interview with Jordan Ryan about his work on the first-century synagogue. It’s absolutely fascinating, not least as a reminder about how evidence can overturn scholarly consensus. But I’m also struck by the oddity that a post extolling the value of historical materiality pays such a tribute to the work of an idealist historiographer like Collingwood.
On an entirely related topic, Jim Davila points to this article on the archaeology of Magdala, and just how important it is for understanding the Judaism of first-century pre-revolutionary Galilee. He also has a whole year’s advance notice for a book edited by Richard Bauckham which looks like it will be a comprehensive collection on what we know of Magdala, and what it tells us about Galilee with some clear entailments for early Judaism and Christianity.
Andrew Perriman posts an argument on Jesus’s expectations for the restoration of Israel according to Matthew’s gospel. There’s a lot of meat in detailed reflections on a number of specific Matthew texts, slightly undermined by the early assertion that “the Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels announced a coming judgment on the state of Israel” which sounds far too anachronistic to my ears to serve as a comment on the first century.
Taking the story of the massacre of the Innocents, Bill Heroman reflects on what he sees as a problem in relating narrativity and historicity. He suggests that arguments over the historicity of the text allow scholars to avoid the awfulness of the story.
On Overthinking Christian Paul Moldovan interviews David Gowler about his understanding of the parables.
Earlier in October Larry Hurtado posted on “the Son of Man” contenting himself with pointing out its linguistic idiosyncrasy as an undoubted self-reference characteristic of Jesus. Some ten days later, Andrew Perrimam professed himself a little mystified. He wants to explore the reasons for this unusual self-designation, and suggests that they are “allusive and evocative”. In particular he notes both Ezekiel and Daniel, to suggest both prophetic calling, and representation of faithful Israel are key to Jesus’ linguistic choices. He concludes: “The Son of Man” is a shorthand way for Jesus to tell a story about himself.” I think it might be more likely that it’s yet another way for Jesus to pose a question about himself.
The Centre for the Study of Christian Origins posts Mark Goodacre talking on John and the Synoptics. Definitely a video for the watchlist.
Tim Gombis is continuing his series on the exegesis of Romans in debates on homosexuality. He seeks to situate Rom 1:18-32 within the overall rhetorical and theological strategy of the letter. I haven’t seen this particular argument before, and it’s well worth pondering. The series introduction comes from early September. This month he posted part 3 and part 4
On the Centre for the Study of Christian Origins blog, Mark Lamas Jr. offers a rather different view in his detailed examination of what is commonly held to be Paul’s strongest condemnation of gay sex – Rom 1:26-27. You should be warned there is explicit discussion of types of sexual activity not commonly mentioned on biblioblogs, and even illustrated by ceramic Roman porn.
Among many other posts from Phil Long, I particularly note his overview of 2 Corinthians. While he appears to go with the scholarly majority that sees it as compiling several (fragments of) Pauline letters, he also offers a coherent structure of how the whole hangs together which either calls that thesis into question, or suggests a not inconsiderably skilful editor.
The other of his posts I single out for mention here is his summary of the question “How “Roman” Was First Century Philippi?” Naturally it also touches on the controversial question of how anti-imperial Paul might have been.
Michael Kok continues posting lecture notes. His set on 2 Peter has an interesting selection of quotations from its early reception history, illustrating the considerable doubt over its authenticity.
Preparing the way for the new Tyndale House Greek New Testament, Peter Williams notes that the Gospel of Mark is available as a free taster. One feature of this edition is that it seems it will draw attention to characteristic if unusual spellings such as Luke’s use of γείνομαι for γίνομαι.
(Incidentally, I was reminded in conversation the other day that not everyone who would benefit is aware of the excellent online resource from the German Bible Society: the texts of NA28, BHS and Rahlfs LXX are available online for those who haven’t yet invested in Bibleworks, Accordance or Logos. )
But how do we get to the text? CBGM is recurring but hardly memorable acronym for a hard-to-get-your-head-around approach to establishing the text for the technologically literate text-critical cognoscenti. Tommy Wasserman notes the forthcoming introduction to the Coherence Based Genealogical Method which he has co-written with Peter Gurry. It is, allegedly, understandable by a non-specialist.
Peter Gurry looks at the argument over measuring the paragraphoi in Vaticanus, and in particular Richard Fellows’s disagreement with Philip Payne’s NTS article. As he points out, since an ancient scribe wouldn’t have used a ruler for hand-inscribed marks, it’s almost certainly inappropriate to use a ruler to analyse them. . (Fellows’s post is here: and Payne’s responses and further dialogue can be found here.)
Esteban Vasquez (re)produces a revival from what he calls “the golden days of Bibliologdom.” (Ah, those golden, olden days when your humble author went by the name metacatholic!) An interaction with a post from 2008 may seem somewhat belated, but the issue – translation and the specialist vocabulary of Scripture is perennial, and remains controversial. What happens when the word is, or has been, ordinary vocabulary on the way to acquiring a specialist use?
Scot McKnight draws attention to David Bentley Hart’s translation of the New Testament, in a post in which most every argument is open to question. And really, choosing amongst the plethora of Bible translations ought be listed under “First World problems”, as I commented here. (And while it’s not really a blog post, see also Wesley Hill’s review of Bentley Hart here. )
Also on the practice of translation, from a missionary who’s been deeply engaged with it, comes Eddie Arthur’s take on the task: Painting Green Thoughts with Purple Paint.
If you want a surfeit of recursive translation, Wayne Coppins offers a translation of a German discussion of a translation of Luke’s Greek, specifically that of γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ in Luke 22:44. He adds his own constructive comments to the translation.
Somewhat out of the normal run of posts here, the Patrologist challenges the practice of setting students a piece of Bible translation as an exercise for assessment. (It may of course have other value in helping people engage with the nuance of a text.) He’s quite scathing about how little (in his view) it achieves.
And, verily, shouldest thou request and require odd wisdom regarding the translation of the Word, then get thee to the Babylon Bee, and delight thy soul in the treasures therein to be disclosed.
Book Notices and Reviews
Steve Walton previews The Urban World and the First Christians, of which he’s one of the editors. These essays are the fruit of a Cities of God conference organised by the Centre for the Social-Scientific Study of the Bible in 2015.
Outside the direct field of Biblical Studies, but highly relevant to the fashionable subject of Roman urbanism, is Sarah Bond’s review of a collection of essays: Urban Craftsmen and Traders in the Roman World.
Phil Long reviews David Gowler’s book on the reception history of the parables.
Larry Hurtado reviews a new book on divine Christology: Andrew Loke, The Origin of Divine Christology, (Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series, 169) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017. It’s in the style of giving a tutorial to someone who has entered the arena of his expertise. In this case he offers a gentle demolition of the case that Jesus expected to receive worship during his ministry. He follows this up with a second post continuing the tutorial in dialogical style. There are some subsequent references too.
Anthony Le Donne previews his top three choices from the new Eerdmans catalogue.
It’s not social media as we know it, but Jim West posts a notice about the Dictionary of the Bible and Ancient Media, which sounds intriguing.
Christopher Skinner gives notice of his co-edited, forthcoming, collection of essays on what some say is a barely existent topic: Johannine Ethics. I am intrigued, and will wait to see what it does with how (what I continue to see as) Johannine sectarianism colours the language of love.
One other forthcoming book notice, of one which, rarely, we get in the UK before the US (yay!) is The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity. There’s a fuller notice here. I’m looking forward to getting my paws on this one.
And finally …
Just making it in to the carnival comes something I have no idea how to classify, though I was half tempted to put it among the conspiracy theories. Jim Davila points to a claim to have identified Joshua’s “sun standing still over Gibeah” with an ancient eclipse. The main author, Colin Humphreys, who tried to perform a similar act of exact dating for the Last Supper a few years ago, is an expert in materials science. His co-author, Graeme Waddington, is described as an “Oxford astrophysicist”: I have no reason to doubt the “astrophysicist”: but I infer from Google that “Oxford” means “lives in Oxford” not “is a fellow”. Whether the dating of an eclipse to 1207 BC is scientifically verifiable is outside my expertise, although the degree of precision – October 30 – given the calendrical complications involved, leads me to suspect this pudding is overegged. What I seriously doubt is any connection between the literary description of Joshua and any historical occurrence of an eclipse. It’s all a bit too much Bible Code for me.
I conclude with a rare post from Chris Brady who draws attention to a new episode in the intermittent and many-headed argument about scholarship and confessionalism within SBL, and in particular in the reviews of RBL – many of us will just have to sit back and yawn, since RBL went behind a members-only paywall. Hey, who knew academic societal membership and university awarded postnominal status indicators were not fully synonymous with good scholarship?
(edited 13:38, 01/11/17 to tidy up a confused and potentially ambiguous sentence and a typo.)