Biblical Studies Carnival for October 2017

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.

Bible Conspiracies

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)

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.

Jim Davila links to an article explaining why Jonah is read on Yom Kippur. Davila also links to an interesting article from Marc Zvi Brettler on the gender of God (in the Hebrew Bible)

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.

Early Judaism

Jim Davila points to a lengthy newspaper article on fake Dead Sea Scrolls.

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.

New Testament

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.

Michael Pahl blogs on hell and the possible interpretations of Gehenna (HT James McGrath, who comments on it here.)

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.

Mike Bird  points to a recent paper delivered by Tom Wright to an Orthodox / Evangelical ecumenical consolation on “Learning from Paul Together”.

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.

Textual Criticism

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.)

Bible Translation

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.

Significant, especially for those who engage with the biblical studies carnival, is a new book mentioned by James McGrath   – Theologians and Philosophers using Social Media 

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.)

12 Replies to “Biblical Studies Carnival for October 2017”

  1. Thank you for your synopses, and for your shout out to my blog. I am wondering about your comment regarding Jordan Ryan and Collingwood. Given that Collingwood was a working archaeologist and an instrumental figure in efforts to practically integrate archaeological with historical investigations, it’s not clear to me why his work is antithetical to the study of material culture. C. never denied the existence of the material world or that we can learn from it, but rather argued that the actual work of history consists of the historian thinking about the past. There’s always of course the tricky issues surrounding
    C.’s concept of reenactment, and although I will not speak for Ryan on this matter I do find that he handles this matter exceptionally well.

    As a matter of fairness: Ryan and I had the same Doktorvater and overlapped in our doctoral studies, so I’ve a bit more privy to his use of Collingwood than most would be. That said, his articles in JSHJ and CBQ give significant insight thereto.

    1. Thanks for the detailed feedback – I may need to renew my acquaintance with Collingwood. But my recollection is of someone who’s Idealism takes precedence, and that’s why I’m always intrigued to find him enlisted for critical realist approaches. Your comment suggests I should revisit that judgment

      1. Critical realists of the Lonergan persuasion engage with Collingwood because was deeply influential on Lonergan’s thinking on the philosophy of history. The early material being edited for the final volume of the Collected Works of Lonergan contains a ream of unpublished material on the philosophy of history that he wrote prior to Collingwood’s Idea of History, and it’ll be interesting to see his thoughts on the philosophy of history before encountering that work. But in any case, I think that Lonergan was basically on point in seeing Collingwood’s project as largely compatible with his own. For instance, although Lonergan’s Grace and Freedom predates Idea by a few years, I think it largely congruent in practice with Collingwood’s philosophy of history.

        More concretely, we might suggest that the crucial ideas shared by both is that 1) historians imagine the past, and 2) this imagining is conditioned and constrained by empirical data. Given two, there is no reason for materiality to be excluded from a historiography informed by Collingwood.

  2. Hi Doug,

    Thanks for your thoughts on the interview that I did with Anthony Le Donne. I’d generally echo what Jonathan says here. There’s a lot more to Collingwood than his idealism (though he himself apparently never considered himself an idealist, the label seems fair to me). One thing often forgotten about Collingwood is that he excavated Hadrian’s Wall, and was one of the first to incorporate the relatively new methods of archaeology into historical investigation. His “Roman Britain” was groundbreaking in that respect, and he discusses the use of material evidence in “The Idea of History,” (something not really done at the time) which makes him particularly helpful for those of us who work at the intersection of history and archaeology, such as myself.

    The connection between Collingwood and critical realism is also an interesting one, and Jonathan’s covered some of it here. It is clear, in reading what Lonergan and Ben Meyer say about the practice of history, that they were heavily influenced by Collingwood. Both of them are also pretty clear about the influence that they drew from him. You can especially see that indebtedness in “Critical Realism and the New Testament” and “Method in Theology.” That said, Lonergan and Meyer also raised some criticisms of Collingwood, and offered their critical realist historiography as what Meyer called an “update” to Collingwood’s “Copernican revolution” in history. If you’re interested in this topic, and how Collingwood’s thought can be sort of “updated” by the critical realists, there’s an appendix in my forthcoming book on exactly that topic.

    All the best,
    Jordan Ryan

    1. Thanks Jordan – I’m not sure how tall my reading list is getting, but I’ll look out for that!

  3. Here’s a great quote from Lonergan on Collingwood:

    “the idealism can be removed without dropping the substance of what Collingwood taught about the historical imagination, historical evidence, and the logic of question and answer” (Method in Theology, 194). I’d say that this basically sums the matter up. The principles of inference and the “inside of the event” also passed over into critical realism, and had a particularly great impact on Meyer’s work on the historical Jesus.

  4. Thanks for the detailed and informative work here. Your distinctive feedback on my suggestions via Twitter was very helpful to me in distinguishing suitable from less than suitable posts for a Biblical Studies carnival.

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