June 28, 2014

I love Bibleworks  – I use it everyday. But a few years ago I wanted to have my students buy Bibleworks and they had to pay more than $300. For a researcher like myself, it is a no-brainer to invest in heavy-duty software, but I did feel bad having my seminary students fork over so much when they would not end up using all the features.

Last year I was very excited to discover www.stepbible.org – a new *FREE* Greek software program designed by Tyndale House (Cambridge, UK). It just went through a major revision and operates very smoothly. Obviously, since it is free, you are not getting things like Louw-Nida, BDAG, or access to Dead Scrolls. But it meets the basic needs of seminary students. Here are the key features:

-Quick lexical access to LSJ (and Thayer’s I presume) when you hover over a word in the NT text (Greek, or even English).

-Ability to do word (and multiple words) search in English translations like ESV and NIV (no NRSV or NET, sadly)

-Ability to do word searches easily in Greek

-Shows Greek interlinear if you want

-Ability to Greek word search the Septuagint

-Helps students identify “related” Greek words.

There are also some public domain commentaries (Luther, Lightfoot, K & D)

There are lots of “free” Greek-English Bible websites, but stepbible seems to me to be the best for teaching Greek word studies and for getting students quick and easy access to Septuagint.

August 2, 2013

Warren Carter has written a handy little book (~150 pp) on the background and context of the New Testament called Seven Events That Shaped the New Testament World (Baker, 2013). So, what are the “big seven”?

(1) The Death of Alexander the Great (and the Hellenization of his conquered lands)

(2) The Process of Translating the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek (and the influence of the Septuagint)

(3) The Rededication of the Jerusalem Temple (and the legacy of the Maccabean revolt)

(4) The Roman Occupation of Judea (and the challenge of faith and cultural adaptation and resistance for Jews)

(5) The Crucifixion of Jesus (and the subsequent interpretation of Jesus’ death)

(6) The Writing of the New Testament Texts (and the various genres of the texts)

(7) The Process of “Closing” the NT Canon (including the criteria and controversy)

So – what is my estimation of the book?

The Strengths

Perhaps the three best qualities of this book are that (1) Carter is an expert when it comes to the historical and social issues of the second temple period, and also life in the Roman Empire. In the early chapters of the book, I deeply appreciated  his socio-historical analysis. (2) Carter is an outstanding communicator and he sprinkles pithy statements and dashes of humor throughout which makes it easy reading. (3) It is short. What a treat to be able to get through the book in just a few hours of reading!

On the chapter on the Septuagint, here is a choice quote that shows Carter’s penetrating analysis:

For Jewish people in the cities across the ancient world where Hellenistic culture was well established, the translation [LXX] was a way of making and marking their way in the Greek world. It recognized and legitimated their hybrid existence. They lived with a foot in each of two cultural camps. The translation upheld Jewish identity and practices. But by rendering the writings in Greek, it signified the Jews’ presence in and an openness to a context of Greek culture. They did not flee it or fear it at all; yet in embracing it and being embraced by it, they did not completely capitulate to it, nor were they assimilated by it. The translations recognized and shaped a tensive existence, a hybrid life lived in two worlds simultaneously in the interaction of cultural traditions (p 34).

Brilliant!

In the next chapter, he addresses a variety of responses to persecution and pressures from anti-Jewish forces. I think his very basic taxonomy is helpful; Jews ranged across these options: alliance, flight, nonviolent defiance to death, and fighting (p. 54).

I also appreciated his take on works and grace in early Judaism.

First-century Judaism is not based on works whereby people try to earn God’s favor, as many Christians have thought. It is not ignorant of grace. It is not dead and obsessed with ritual. Rather, it is rooted in God’s gracious initiative expressed in the covenant and the giving of Torah; this requires human obedience in lived faithfulness, in which failure is inevitable but forgiveness is available (61)

Carter gives a tip of the hat here to covenantal nomism, but it is expressed so carefully and makes important corrections to problematic assumptions.

The chapter on crucifixion is also very helpful, mostly for how Carter succinctly communicates.

 Crucifixion was reserved for lower-ranked, more marginal, and provincial folks like violent criminals and , typically, rebellious slaves….In addition to punishing violent criminals and slaves, crucifixion was especially used to punish rebellious foreigners. Brigands, violent terrorists, or guerrilla fighters attacked the personnel and property of ruling powers, whether during war or in times of social unrest. Retaliation was always swift and violent: crucifixion was the fate of many. (p. 89)

This is a great wake-up call to any Christian sentimentality towards the cross. It was repulsive and degrading. It was reserved for the most despicable enemies of the state. This is a wonderful introduction to the question – what kind of perception did the Romans have of Jesus such that this was his punishment?

Weaknesses

While I found the earlier chapters very informative and engaging, as we got into the last two chapters, I found the information less striking, and also less relevant to the main subject at hand (shaping the NT world). As we leapt from 30AD to the writing of NT texts and beyond (as far as 397AD), I wondered – why not include the destruction of the temple (70AD)? After all, it appears to have been a major point in the beginnings of the “partings of the ways” (and thus the formation of a distinctively “Christian identity”) and also a hinge point for the dating of the Gospels (though where one falls, before or after, is a matter of debate).

Also, I think he pulled the “Paul didn’t write these texts (Colossians, Ephesians, 2 Thessalonians, PE)” trigger took quickly. My understanding of the state of the discussion in 2013 is that Colossians and 2 Thessalonians, even if they are not card-carrying members of the “authentic club,” still should hardly be lumped together with the dubious authorship of the Pastoral Epistles (so the guild has largely agreed). Also, if Carter included a discussion of the role and influence of a letter secretary, I must have missed it, yet that is a major factor on the table of this discussion. I don’t want to be painted as the nay-saying fundy here, but this seemingly casual bifurcation (letters that Paul did write, those he didn’t write) does not keep up to the same standard of up-to-date scholarship demonstrated in the earlier chapters. If you are interested in getting into this topic further, see my article on authorship and Colossians in a recent Current in Biblical Research.

One more thing

I hesitate to raise this matter because I don’t want to sound too political, but in the end I think if you are considering using this as a textbook, you ought to know: in one sidebar discussion, Carter makes a statement that sounded kind of universalistic. Now, I am not saying students shouldn’t talk or think about this, but it felt one-sided and out of place with no exegetical explanation or discussion. This could catch students off guard and give folks the wrong impression about Carter’s concerns or agenda. In a discussion of social “identity markers” (like circumcision for Jews), Carter makes an analogy regarding cultural markers in the church today, and the potential problems caused by litmus tests and divisions among Christians on matters like homosexuality. He goes on to say this:

Paul declares that because of God’s faithful purposes, ‘all Israel will be saved,’ and it is not at all obvious that in context he limits this to those who believe in Christ (Rom. 11:26).Nor it is clear that God is as committed to assigning people to hell as our politician and his allies [he mentions a hell-fire politician earlier in the sidebar]. Paul describes God’s work in this way: ‘God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that [God] may be merciful to all’ (Rom. 11:32). If ‘all’ actually means ‘all,’ declaring who is going to hell may not be on track. (44)

I am just not sure where Carter is going with this, and I think he could have made his point about cultural identity markers in another way. For what its worth, I think a “you-don’t-have-to-believe-in-Jesus-to-be-accepted-by-God” approach to Romans needs more defense than appeal to Romans 11. Remember in chapter 10 (just one chapter before), Paul presupposes that being saved involves calling on the Lord (10:13). 10:9 makes it clear this “Lord” is Jesus. The calling requires believing –  believing in Jesus (10:14; cf 10:17).

Again, this was a surprising little statement in a book focused on setting the scene of the New Testament. I think it was out of place, and too brief and vague to be of any proper value in the wider purpose of the book.

We Can All Learn From Carter

Do not let these caveats turn you away from what is overall an articulate work. The best thing this book does is say — you gotta understand the events and cultural situation of Jews (and eventually Christians) in the Hellenistic and Roman worlds if you really want to make sense of the whole New Testament. While I decided not to use this as a textbook,  I have already introduced quotes from the book into my lectures. For more information, Carter has a couple of videos on the book produced by Baker.

November 1, 2012

So, am I a Bibleworks, Accordance, or Logos user [NB: not a very good pick-up line BTW]? Answer: yes, yes, and yes. On my Mac, I run Bibleworks, Accordance, AND Logos! What can I say? I have moved so many times in the last 6 years that I do my best to make sure most of my library and research resources are online!
Anyway, today is not only the first of the month (two days from my birthday!), but also it is the day of the release of Logos version 5. When version 4 came out, whenever that was, I was eager to upgrade because it enabled me to use Logos on my ipad (something that has kept me awake during many a dull sermon and meeting!).

What about version 5? Is it worth the upgrade? From what I gather, the upgrade is not really a matter of adding more books to your collection, but using your Logos resources more efficiently and effectively. I am playing around with version 5 now and I will eventually do a more thorough review, but, for now, I wanted to direct you to the short “What’s New in Logos 5” video.
As of late, let me list the top 4 reasons I use Logos
1. Quick access to commentaries, dictionaries, and lexicons.
2. Greek word search of Greek classical literature. Now that Logos has the large collection of Greek texts, I turn to it quite regularly.
3. Images – they have some great pictures and maps for classroom use.
4. Septuagint/MT study – they have some neat tools for finding out what LXX Greek word tends to correspond to particular Hebrews MT words (and vice versa) in a given OT text.
More to come…

October 18, 2012

The latest Currents in Biblical Research is out (Oct 2012) and includes articles on the Septuagint and the Gospel of Thomas.

September 28, 2012

A new book from Eerdmans (2012) caught my attention recently and I think it is an outstanding volume: A Companion to Biblical Interpretation in Early Judaism (ed. M Henze). You may recall that in 2004 Henze edited a book called Biblical Interpretation at Qumran (also Eerdmans). Now, he has collected essays from experts of early Judaism on a range of techniques applied by Jews and Jewish communities in antiquity. This is an extremely valuable collection of trenchant essays – up-to-date, balanced, incisive treatments of biblical interpretation in all its complexity, diversity, and fluidity.

Here is the TOC:
Part I
“The Beginnings of Biblical Interpretation,” (James Kugel)
Part II: The Hebrew Bible/OT
“Inner-Biblical Interpretation” (Yair Zakovitch)
“Translators as Interpreters: Scriptural Interpretation in the Septuagint” (Martin Roesel)
“The Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in the Targums” (Edward Cook)
Part III: Rewritten Bible
“Biblical Interpretation in the Book of Jubilees: The Case of the Early Abram” (J. van Ruiten)
“The Genesis Apocryphon: Compositional and Interpretive Perspectives,” (Moshe Bernstein)
“Biblical Interpretation in Pseudo-Philo’s LAB” (Howard Jacobson)
Part IV: The Qumran Literature
“The Use of Scripture in the Community Rule” (Shani Tzoref)
“Prophetic Interpretation in the Pesharim” (G. Brooke)
“Biblical Interpretation in the Hodayot” (S.J. Tanzer)
Part V: Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments
“The Use of Scripture in the Book of Daniel” (Henze)
“How to Make Sense of Pseudonymous Attribution : The Cases of 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch” (Hindy Najman with Itamar Manoff and Eva Mroczek)
“The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs: A Not-So-Ambiguous Witness to Early Jewish Interpretive Practices” (Robert Kugler)
Part VI: Wisdom Literature
“Biblical Interpretation in the Book of Ben Sira” (Benjamin Wright III)
“Pseudo-Solomon and His Scripture: Biblical Interpretation in the Wisdom of Solomon” (Peter Enns)
Part VII: Hellenistic Judaism
“The Interpreter of Moses: Philo of Alexandria and the Biblical Text” (Gregory Sterling)
“Josephus’s Biblical Interpretation” (Zuleika Rodgers)
Part VIII: Biblical Interpretation in Antiquity
“Biblical Exegesis and Interpretations from Qumran to the Rabbis” (Aharon Shemesh)
In total, the book is more than 500 pages.
There were three essays that particularly caught my attention and I will highlight them below.
Zakovitch on Inner-Biblical Interpretation: He notes that one factor that undergirds Scriptural interpretation in the OT itself is the desire for God’s word to speak freshly in every era: “Interpretation is always relevant; it is an ever-current indicator of a generation’s contemporary concerns” (29). He also points out that giving attention to how extra-biblical texts “use” Scripture might help us see those same methods already at work in the OT, even if they are used only in a rudimentary or implicit fashion (39).
Roesel on the LXX: Roesel’s discussion of the LXX is fascinating. He explains that a certain interpretive philosophy supports the translation assumptions at work in the NETS collection that has recently been released. Editorial director of the project Albert Pietersma guided the translators to follow an assumption of interlinearity – that the original purpose and use of LXX was to be set alongside the Hebrew Scriptural text.

According to Pietersma, many of the translations of the LXX are not meant to be read independently. The Greek text was translated as a tool to understand the Hebrew, a “crib for the study of the Hebrew” [quoting Pietersma]. Only at a later stage in the history of reception were the Greek texts read independently. (p. 71)

If Pietersma is right, this has huge implications for the interpretration of the LXX, namely that the “connotations of the Greek words [should] stay in the semantic range of the Hebrew” (72). Roesel rejects this theory. First, Roesel argues that the “interlinear” trend cannot be traced back to the 3rd century BC. Also, the kinds of interlinear texts we do have knowledge of are “not coherent texts but lists of words and phrases that should be used as examples” (p. 73). Also, Pietersma’s theory does not account for the frequent appearance of neologisms in the LXX. I would be very interested in a response to this essay from Pietersma, because Roesel’s counter-arguments seem to me to be worthy of one.
Najman on Pseudonymous Apocalyptic Literature: Hindy Najman is interested in why writers of apocalyptic texts attribution authorship to a different, usually well-known, figure. She wishes to set aside modern notions of authorship that paint the true author as a forger.

An alternative is to consider the notion of a discourse tied to a founder: a practice of ascribing texts to an ideal figure, in order not only to authorize the texts in question but also to restore the figure’s authentic teachings” (326).

Pseudepigraphy, then, is an author’s attempt to reactivate the teachings of a holy man from the past, whether Moses, or Ezra, or Baruch. This is not just an act of deception, whether pious or deviant. It is a pedagogical choice, not (merely?) an ideological one.

By assuming and emulating such figures as Baruch and Ezra in pseudepigraphal attribution, the writers of these texts become these characters, insofar as they — like the heroes they invoke — struggle to recover a perfect, holy, and idealized past in the face of destruction. (327)

I think Najman is on to something, though I wonder if Revelation is a special case…
While a number of the chapters are illuminating, the most rewarding discussion appears in the introduction (“The Beginnings of Biblical Interpretation”) by James Kugel. Looking at the big picture of how Jews of the second temple period thought about Scripture (based on their own “uses” of it), he isolates four “basic assumptions” that appear to be pervasive.
1. “The Bible is fundamentally a cryptic document;” that is, “Often, when it seems to be saying X, what it really means is Y.” Thus, many interpreters are on the look out for hidden meaning.

2, “The Bible is a great book of lessons” – “Although most of its various parts talk about the distant past, its words are actually aimed at people today.”
3. “The Bible is perfectly consistent and free of error or internal contradiction” – if an error is perceived, it must be an interpretive mistake, not a problem that exists in the text itself.
4. “Every word of Scripture comes from God…Even the psalms, whose words seemed to be directed to God, were nonetheless held to have come from God, indeed, to be a form of prophecy” (see pp. 14-15).
Kugel clarifies that we do not read these assumptions written out anywhere. They were unconscious. 

Nevertheless, a careful reading will reveal that they underlie virtually everything that was written about Scripture during this crucial period and thus had a great deal to do with the ‘spin’ that accompanied the Bible from antiquity through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and — to a great extent — even into our own day (15)

May 25, 2012

See here.

I have been eagerly waiting for this issue to come out because I have a small piece in here on mirror-reading. I owe a huge, huge debt to one of my Doktorvatern, John M.G. Barclay, for his care in historical method and this article (as noted in the first footnote) is dedicated to him. Also, I am deeply grateful for Simon Gathercole’s editorial comments and recommendations. He also happened to be my external examiner for my thesis back in 2009. Simon holds JSNT authors to the very highest standard for quality writing and he came back to me several times after reading my paper over and over – he always had new comments!  I really admire how seriously he takes his role. So thank you, thank you, thank you! Anyway, the names of the articles are below.
Joshua D. Garroway, “The Circumcision of Christ: Romans 15.7-13”

David L. Mealand, “Hellenistic Greek and the New Testament: A Stylometric Perspective”
Denny Burk, “The Righteousness of God (Dikaiosunē Theou) and Verbal Genitives: A Grammatical Clarification”

Nijay K. Gupta, “Mirror-Reading Moral Issues in Paul’s Letters”
Jason Whitlark, “The Warning against Idolatry: An Intertextual Examination of Septuagintal Warnings in Hebrews”


May 6, 2012

link to Tyndale website.

The Definition of the Term ‘Canon’: Exclusive Or Multi-Dimensional?
Michael J. Kruger (Reformed Theological Seminary)
p.1
There has been an ongoing debate amongst biblical scholars about how to define the term ‘canon’. In recent years, one particular definition­that canon can only be used to refer to books in a fixed, final, closed list­has emerged as the dominant one. Moreover, some scholars have argued that this is the only legitimate definition that can be used. This essay suggests that a single definition fails to capture the depth and breadth of canon and may end up bringing more distortion than clarification. Instead, the complexities of canon are best captured through using multiple definitions in a complementary and integrative manner.
Heptadic Verbal Patterns in the Solomon Narrative of 1 Kings 1–11
John A.Davies  (Presbyterian Theological Centre, Sydney)
p.21
The narrative in 1 Kings 1–11 makes use of the literary device of sevenfold lists of items and sevenfold recurrences of Hebrew words and phrases. These heptadic patterns may contribute to the cohesion and sense of completeness of both the constituent pericopes and the narrative as a whole, enhancing the readerly experience. They may also serve to reinforce the creational symbolism of the Solomon narrative and in particular that of the description of the temple and its dedication.
‘Certainly this Man was Righteous’: Highlighting a Messianic Reading of the Centurion’s Confession in Luke 23:47
Matthew C. Easter (University of Otago)
p.35
This essay expands on common readings of the centurion’s confession of Jesus as dikaios (‘righteous’, ‘innocent’) in Luke 23:47. Many interpreters take the centurion’s words in Luke as his recognition of Jesus’ political innocence. While not denying a Lukan insistence on Jesus’ innocence, this essay argues for a fuller reading of the centurion’s words that accounts for the christological potential in his calling Jesus dikaios. Whether historically-speaking he knew it or not, this centurion in Luke’s narrative world stands as one of the first people to recognise the crucified Jesus as the Christ.
The Manumission of Slaves in Jubilee and Sabbath Years
Michael A. Harbin (Taylor University, Upland IN)
p. 53
Debt in the Old Testament economy was problematic, and our understanding of it is even more problematic, especially with respect to debt slavery. It is suggested that several common misunderstandings have contributed greatly to the problem. First, the Hebrew word ‘ebedcan be translated servant or slave and in the latter case it can denote both debt slave and chattel slave. In many cases there is a failure to make these distinctions. Second, there is a tendency to categorise all debt the same, regardless of the size. Third, a misunderstanding of the purpose of the jubilee has led to confusion regarding its role with respect to slavery and the manumission of slaves. Specifically, while the sabbath year guidelines included debt slavery, the jubilee by its nature did not involve slavery at all. Because the land ‘sale’ was really a land-lease, there was no debt involved, and the Israelite who ‘sold’ his land was not enslaved. It is then suggested that one option for the Israelite who ‘bought’ the land was to employ the ‘seller’ to work the land as a hired hand, which would explain the admonition that he was not be viewed as a slave.
Pistis Christou in Galatians: The Connection to Habakkuk 2:4
Debbie Hunn (Dallas Theological Seminary)
p. 75
The coherence of Paul’s argument in Galatians 2:15–3:14 depends upon strong links among the phrases. Therefore the reader who understands a single use of in the passage can correctly infer basic aspects of the others. Therefore ek pistews in Habakkuk 2:4, because it is cited in Galatians 3:11, informs the discussion about pistis Christou in Galatians 2:16, 20; and an Old Testament prophet speaks in a present-day controversy. Habakkuk, by using ek pistews to refer to the faith of Gentiles, testifies that pistis Christou in Galatians refers to human faith as well.
Early Christian Eschatological Experience in the Warnings and Exhortations of the Epistle to the Hebrews
Scott D. Mackie (Venice, CA) or (Venice, Calif.)
p. 93
This essay examines the characteristics and rhetorical function of the many eschatological experiences found in Hebrews’ warnings against apostasy and exhortations to persevere. In these two contexts we see the vital connection of the author’s hortatory effort to the community’s eschatological experiences. Warnings of the dire consequences of forsaking the community are often substantiated by appeals to the community’s eschatological experiences, both past and present. Similarly, exhortations to persevere are frequently supported by reminders of past and present supernatural experiences. The primary experiential motif found in these exhortations pertains to the community’s identity as the family of God. This essay concludes with the novel claim that the author’s Christological doctrine, hortatory effort, and the community’s eschatological experiences are mutually interdependent.
The Affective Directives of the Book of Revelation
Andy Harker (Nairobi, Kenya)
p. 115
In contemporary study of the Johannine Apocalypse both at the academic and popular levels there continues to be a strong bias towards questions of hermeneutics and semantics. This is true despite the calls of many commentators and pastors over the last two millennia to receive the prophecy as pictures to move the heart rather than puzzles to tease the mind. This paper adds volume and clarity to their call. The approach here is an emic one­How does the text itself invite the recipient to engage with its words? Picking up on J.-P. Ruiz’s suggestion that Revelation is punctuated by ‘hermeneutical imperatives’ (sc. Rev. 1:3; 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22; 13:9-10, 18; 17:9; 22:7, 18-19), this article argues that these texts are just as much, if not more, ‘affective imperatives’ or better ‘affective directives’. Thus to read the book in line with its own explicit directions is much more a matter of being moved at the level of the heart and will than of solving a hermeneutical conundrum.
Back Under Authority: Towards an Evangelical Postcolonial Hermeneutic
Peter H. W. Lau (Seminari Theoloji Malaysia)
p. 131
A postcolonial approach is gaining acceptance by many scholars as a fruitful way of interpreting the Bible. Yet a postcolonial approach raises issues for those who hold a ‘high’ view of Scripture. Five issues will be demonstrated through an analysis of Mary Donaldson’s reading of the book of Ruth, with the outcome being that the authority of Scripture is decentred. Nonetheless, a postcolonial approach can still be usefully adapted by those with a ‘high’ view of Scripture. This article will present an alternative postcolonial reading of the book of Ruth that uses biblical theology to help maintain the central authority of the biblical text.
Dissertation Summaries:
Affirming the Resurrection of the Incarnate Christ: A Reading of 1 John
Matthew D. Jensen (Sydney, Australia)
p. 145
It is often claimed that 1 John contains no references to Jesus’  resurrection. However, for this claim to hold, a possible allusion to the resurrection in the opening verse of 1 John needs to be denied. There are three reasons given to discard this allusion. First, under the influence of the historical reconstructions that dominate the interpretation of 1 John, the opening verses of 1 John are often understood to affirm the incarnation and not the resurrection. Second, the allusion to the resurrection is rejected because of the similarity between the prologues of the Gospel of John and 1 John. Since John 1:1-18 affirms the incarnation, so too must 1 John 1:1-4. Third, the allusion to the resurrection is dismissed due to the apparent lack of other references to the resurrection in 1 John. The thesis proposes that 1 John affirms the resurrection of the incarnate Christ in the context of an intra-Jewish disagreement over Jesus’ identity. The thesis presents a reading of 1 John that flows from understanding the opening verses of the book to be affirming the resurrection of the incarnate Christ.
An Exploration of Early Christian Communities as ‘Scholastic Communities’
Claire Smith (Sydney, Australia).
p. 149
In 1960, Edwin Judge described the early Christian communities as ‘scholastic communities’. Since then, he has continued to explore this aspect of early Christian communities. However, while his pioneering work in this field has become a standard point of departure for the socio-historical study of the early Christian movement, his ‘scholastic communities’ description has received scant attention. By contrast, scholarship on the formation and social character of early Christian communities is dominated by the search for antecedents, influences, and analogies or models from antiquity, none of which adequately accounts for the Christian communities, or recognises the priority of educational activities reflected in Judge’s characterisation. Moreover, the approach of these studies is problematic, because without a prior description of early Christian communities on their own terms, comparative approaches risk overlooking, distorting or misunder­standing aspects of early Christian communities that are not repeated in other social phenomena.
Lexical Dependence and Intertextual Allusion in the Septuagint of the Twelve Prophets: Studies in Hosea, Amos and Micah
Myrto Theocharous (Greek Bible College, Athens)
p. 153
As the Septuagint is becoming increasingly important in studies of Second Temple Judaism, the interest of scholars is shifting away from the mere use of the version as an adjunct to the textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible. The process of sifting secondary readings in order to arrive at the ‘pure’ form of the Hebrew text has been the main preoccupation of textual critics for centuries. LXX readings were commonly retroverted into Hebrew in order to offer more pristine readings than have survived in the MT. Other ways of explaining deviations (e.g. translational factors, influence of late Hebrew/ Aramaic) were generally neglected and a different Hebrew Vorlagebehind the LXX was commonly assumed.
Text, Context and the Johannine Community: A Sociolinguistic Analysis of the Johannine Writings
David A. Lamb (University of Manchester)
p. 157
This thesis examines the social context of the Johannine writings from the perspective of sociolinguistic theory of register. In particular, it considers the validity of the Johannine Community model. The idea of a distinct Johannine community lying behind the production of the Gospel and Epistles of John has become, to use Thomas Kuhn’s terminology, a paradigm within Johannine scholarship over the past fifty years. The key works in establishing this paradigm were the two large Anchor Bible commentaries on the gospel published by Raymond Brown in 1966 and 1970, and the slim volume published by J. Louis Martyn in 1968, History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel. Other scholars, from Wayne Meeks and his 1972 essay ‘The Man from Heaven in Johannine Sectarianism’ onwards, have used sociological insights to depict the Johannine community as a sectarian group, opposed both to wider Jewish society and to other Christian groups.

March 29, 2012

I am preparing a course for next year on Early Judaism and the New Testament for undergraduate Scripture majors. As of yet, I have taught mostly intro courses and exegesis courses, so this will be a welcome addition.
In terms of textbooks, there is a great wealth of resources. Do you have favorite introductory books on early Judaism?? Do share!
I will share some of my own thoughts and preferences.
When I was in seminary, I did an independent study with Sean McDonough on the Jewish World of the New Testament. He had me read James VanderKam’s An Introduction to Early Judaism. This book has the advantage of being concise (~250 pp.) and accurate. When I was working for Hendrickson Publishers (before my PhD), we published Frederick Murphy’s excellent Early Judaism: The Exile to the Time of Jesus. What I like about Murphy is that he includes a discussion of Jesus (ch. 9) and Jewish foundations for NT Christology (ch. 11). Still, at 400+ pages, it is a bit too long and also it focuses on history and culture, perhaps to the exclusion of talking about literature (like Josephus, Philo, DSS, etc…)

Shaye Cohen’s From the Maccabees to the Mishnah is a classic and very good on cultural issues, but I want something that helps make the connection between understanding early Judaism and interpreting the NT. I also considered George Nickelsburg’s Jewish Literature Between the Bible and the Mishnah. It is obviously more textually focused, but I want something that does history and literature both.
So, I have tentatively decided to go with The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism (eds. J.J. Collins and D.C. Harlow). It has the advantage of having articles on both texts (OT Pseudepigrapha, Philo, OT Apocrypha, etc…) and historical and cultural issues (Essenes, Pharisees, etc…). Additionally, it contains NT related articles (e.g., on the New Testament books individually, as well as particular articles on Jesus and Paul). I like having short(ish) articles from the dictionary to assign which make for easily digestible readings from one class session to the next. Sometimes book chapters can be unbearably long and tedious. Dictionary articles tend to be more succinct.
In addition, I am tempted to use Craig Evan’s masterful resource, Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies (again, published by Hendrickson while I was there, but I was working in sales and marketing, not editorial). This is not really a “read this cover-to-cover” kind of book, but as a go-to reference, it is unparalleled. Also, the introduction has a great little section on why background and contextual Jewish and Greco-Roman literary works are important, and also the methods for and pitfalls of doing this kind of research (see pp. 1-7). Towards the end of the book he has a helpful series of case studies called “Examples of NT Exegesis” where he briefly examines things like The Parable of the Talents, the comment “I Said, “You Are Gods,”” and Paul and the first Adam. Many would say you really get your money’s worth with the appendixes (when did we stop calling them appendices?). He offers a massive list of parallels he has discovered between ancient texts and the NT. I always take a quick peek at this list when I am doing research.
I also wanted to spend a few weeks in the class looking at particular aspects of the NT from this Jewish context. So, I think I will also assign Scot McKnight’s A New Vision for Israel: The Teachings of Jesus in National Context. Scot is such a great, great, great example of a competent exegete and I wanted to pick something that is well-written and represents a perspective within the “Third Quest.” Wright and Meier’s works are too dense for a two-week study. McKnight’s book comes in just over 200 pages and treats subjects like the God of Jesus, the Kingdom of God, and the Ethic of Jesus.
On the Paul side, I plan on using some short articles by E.P. Sanders, part of N.T. Wright’s Paul: Fresh Perspectives book, and part of Ben Witherington’s The Paul Quest. In addition, here are some other articles/book chapters I plan on using.
-Sandmel’s classic “Parallelomania,” JBL (1962) 2-13.
-In Mark Reasoner’s Documents and Images for the Study of Paul (Fortress), the introduction has a nice caveat on making too much or too little of parallels.
-I plan on drawing a bit from Silva/Jobes’ phenomenal Invitation to the Septuagint.
-In terms of the DSS, George Brooke has  a nice chapter on “The Qumran Scrolls and the Study of the NT” in his The Dead Scrolls and the New Tetament.
-Oskar Skarsaune’s book, In the Shadow of the Temple is very well-written and has a helpful chapter I might use on the city of Jerusalem and the operations of the temple.
-When it comes to setting Paul within Judaism, John Barclay has a useful JSNT article “Paul Among Diaspora Jews: Anomaly or Apostate?”. James Dunn has an article called “Paul: Apostate or Apostle of Israel?”
-What about the history of the Dead Sea Scrolls? I just finished reading Timothy Lim’s The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Very Short Introduction. There is some good information, but I think Lim did not write at an evenly basic level (he slips into technical language too often). On my shelf (yet to read) is VanderKam’s The Dead Sea Scrolls Today.
-For Josephus, Steve Mason’s Josephus and the New Testament has some excellent advice for how NT researchers can use Josephus effectively and responsibly.
I know all this sounds like a lot, but I plan on having students read mostly short articles (perhaps 3-4 between meetings). they will also read healthy portions of primary texts. Fun, fun, fun!
Again, if you have article/essay/book suggestions, I am all ears…

March 28, 2012

Yesterday, I found the latest issue (22.1, 2012) of Bulletin for Biblical Research in the mail. I was pleased to see articles by my friend Joel Willitts and also my buddy Aaron Sherwood, who studied at Durham when I was there.
Joel’s article is a fascinating piece on “Messianism” in Matthew and the Psalms of Solomon. While many NT scholars are quick to contrast the two texts, Joel shows care in recognizing the similarities as well.
Aaron offers a discourse analysis on Eph 3:1-13 and demonstrates that Paul shows a very positive perspective concerning his imprisonment in these verses.

I am partway through reading Preston Massey’s article, “Disagreement in the Greco-Roman Literary Tradition and the Implications for Gospel Research.” If I understand his argument correctly, he shows that there are many examples of GR texts where the authors are explicitly trying to correct the historical errors of another text. Gospels scholars have long argued that when discrepancies in the Gospels appear, it is one Evangelist contesting another (like Matthew correcting, or disagreeing with Mark, Luke with Matthew; John with everyone). However, Massey (convincingly, I think) shows that we are missing explicit discussion in the canonical Gospels where one Evangelist says another one is wrong – and such overt statements are rather common in GR texts. That does not mean that we must conclude the Evangelists never disagreed, but Massey ends the article by advising caution. Do not use statements that imply “blantant” and “sharp” disagreement among the Evangelists, he advises. When the Evangelists have different information on a given historical detail, Massey refers to this as “variation” and not “contradition” or “disagreement.” The semantics are important!
Also, I have an article in this issue called ” ‘What Mercies of God?’ Oiktirmos in Romans 12:1 against Its Septuagintal Background.” I had long felt that, while Romans 12:1b is quite popular (“Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice…”), scholars miss the importance of 12:1a, “In view of God’s mercies…” It is the basis for this living sacrifice – but what does Paul mean by “mercies of God”? We would expect him to talk about grace or love. Why “mercies”? When  I set out on a study of oiktirmos in the Bible, the LXX yielded a rich resource of Jewish meaning based on God’s mercies for Israel. I identify three types of “mercies” of God in the LXX: the “mercy” of divine self-revelation, the “mercy” of covenantal forgiveness, and the “mercy” of deliverance from enemies. Paul seems to draw from these types (not rigidly, but they are a good starting place) and to address the issues the early Christian churches in Rome were facing by accessing this fund of theological meaning from the LXX. Because Romans 12:1 was a major focus in my dissertation, this article grew out of that research.
There are also some good reviews, especial strong praise for fellow blogger John Anderson and his monograph Jacob and the Divine Trickster.

June 2, 2010

Having looked briefly at the SBL program online, these groups and papers looked very interesting:

Homiletics and Biblical Studies
11/20/2010
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Preaching From Mark
This session will be a panel presentation and discussion of preaching from the Gospel of Mark. Opportunity will be provided for open discussion.

Ruthanna Hooke, Virginia Theological Seminary, Presiding (5 min)
Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, Bethany Theological Seminary, Panelist (20 min)
Emerson Powery, Messiah College, Panelist (20 min)
Luke Powery, Princeton Theological Seminary, Panelist
Katherine Grieb, Virginia Theological Seminary, Panelist (20 min)
David Bartlett, Columbia Theological Seminary, Panelist (20 min)
Break (5 min)
Discussion (30 min)
Break (5 min)
Discussion (25 min)

Matthew
11/20/2010
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Matthew’s Gospel and Early Christianity: Studies in Memory of Professor Graham Stanton

Joel Willitts, North Park University, Presiding
Richard Burridge, King’s College – London
The Gospel of Jesus: Stanton, Biography and the Genre of Matthew (20 min)
Discussion (10 min)
J.R.C. Cousland, University of British Columbia
Graham Stanton and the Extra-Muros Hypothesis after 20 Years. Is it Viable? (20 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Wesley Olmstead, Briercrest College
A Gospel for a New Nation: Once More, the ethnos of Matthew 21.43 (20 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Peter M. Head, Tyndale House
Graham Stanton and the Four Gospel Codex: Reconsidering the Manuscript Evidence (20 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Anders Runesson, McMaster University
The Good, the Bad, and the Proselyte: Divine Judgment and ‘the Other’ in the Gospel of Matthew (20 min)
Discussion (10 min)

Pauline Epistles
11/20/2010
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Terence Donaldson, Wycliffe College, Presiding
M. David Litwa, University of Virginia
Transformation through a Mirror: Moses in 2 Cor 3:18 (30 min)
Jonathan A. Linebaugh, Durham University
Announcing the Human: Rethinking the Relationship Between Romans 1.18-32 and Wisdom of Solomon 13-15 (30 min)
Christopher R. Bruno, Wheaton College
Eyewitness Testimony and the Jesus Tradition in Paul: The Sermon on the Mount as the Background to Philippians(30 min)
Tom McGlothlin, Duke University
Patristic Rhetorical Analyses of Romans 3:1-8/9 (30 min)
David Briones, Durham University
Does Obligation Corrupt the ‘Purity’ of the Gift?: Comparing Seneca’s De Beneficiis with Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (30 min)

Theological Hermeneutics of Christian Scripture
11/20/2010
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: History, Historicisms, and Theological Interpretation

Michael Gorman, Saint Mary’s Seminary and University, Presiding (5 min)
Raymond C. Van Leeuwen, Eastern University
The Quest for the Historical Leviathan: Truth and Method in Biblical Studies (30 min)
Joel B. Green, Fuller Theological Seminary
Rethinking “History” for Theological Interpretation (30 min)
Matthew Levering, University of Dayton
Augustine’s Theology of History (30 min)
Jeannine Brown, Bethel Theological Seminary (St. Paul, MN), Respondent (15 min)
Discussion (30 min)

Greek Bible
11/20/2010
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: The Greek Bible and Hermeneutics
This program will feature papers addressing the relation of hermeneutic theory to the exegesis of Greek biblical versions by contemporary scholars.

Robert J. V. Hiebert, Trinity Western University / GSTS
The Rationale for the Society of Biblical Literature Commentary on the Septuagint (30 min)
Dirk Büchner, Trinity Western University
Writing a Commentary on Septuagint Leviticus (30 min)
J. Ross Wagner, Princeton Theological Seminary
“Septuagint Hermeneutics” and Greek Isaiah (30 min)
W. Edward Glenny, Northwestern College -St. Paul
“Knowledge” in LXX Hosea (30 min)
Cameron Boyd-Taylor, University of Cambridge
Do translators always mean what they say? (30 min)

John, Jesus, and History
11/20/2010
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Topical Session A: Glimpses of the Words of Jesus through the Johannine Lens

Jaime Clark-Soles, Perkins Theological Seminary, Presiding (5 min)
Peder Borgen, University of Trondheim, Trondheim, Norway. Emeritus
God’s Agent in the Fourth Gospel: Son, Prophet (like Moses?), Messiah, Son of Man, Logos? How Does the Judicial Agency Motif, as Developed in the Fourth Gospel, Cast Light upon the Mission of Jesus? (25 min)
Joerg Frey, University of Zurich (Switzerland)
Eschatology and the Kingdom in the Fourth Gospel (25 min)
Jan Van der Watt, Radboud University of Nijmegen
What is Ethical according to the Johannine Jesus? (25 min)
Linda McKinnish Bridges, Wake Forest University
Agrarian Aphorisms in the Fourth Gospel (25 min)
Discussion (45 min)

Religious Experience in Early Judaism and Early Christianity
11/20/2010
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Religious Experience in the Gospel of John

Alan Segal, Presiding
Robin Griffith-Jones, King’s College London / Temple Church
The new Temple’s new Liturgy: the Performance of John’s Gospel, its Setting and Effect (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Martijn Steegen, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium
The Eyewitness Testimony in John 19:35 as Mediation to Revelatory Experience of God (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Adele Reinhartz, University of Ottawa
Seeing the Word: The role of “this book” in the lived experience of the Johannine community (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Tom Thatcher, Cincinnati Christian University
Prophetic Speech and Sacred Time in Johannine and AntiChristian Religious Experience (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Esther Kobel, University of Basel
Experiencing the Meal: The Role of Johannine Meal Narratives in the Formation of Community Identity (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)

Historical Jesus
11/21/2010
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Partnership or Polemic: Faith and History

Mark Powell, Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Presiding
Darrell L. Bock, Dallas Theological Seminary
Faith and the Historical Jesus: Does A Confessional Position and Respect for the Jesus Tradition Preclude Serious Historical Engagement? (25 min)
Craig S. Keener, Palmer Theological Seminary of Eastern University
Methodological Assumptions in Historical Jesus Studies (25 min)
Robert Webb, McMaster University
The Rules of the Game: History and Historical Method in the Context of Faith (25 min)
Amy-Jill Levine, Vanderbilt University, Respondent (12 min)
Robert Miller, Juniata College, Respondent (12 min)
Break (6 min)
Discussion (45 min)

Pauline Soteriology
11/21/2010
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: The “Cosmos” in Paul’s Soteriology

Susan Eastman, Duke University, Presiding
Martin de Boer, Vrije Universiteit-Amsterdam
The Cross and The Cosmos in Galatians (40 min)
Beverly Roberts Gaventa, Princeton Theological Seminary
Neither Height nor Depth: Discerning the Cosmology of Romans (40 min)
Break (5 min)
Edward Adams, King’s College – London, Respondent (20 min)
Discussion (45 min)

Christian Theology and the Bible
11/21/2010
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Book Review Panel of C. Kavin Rowe’s “World Upside Down: Reading Acts in the Graeco-Roman Age”

Stephen Fowl, Loyola College in Maryland, Presiding (10 min)
Beverly Gaventa, Princeton Theological Seminary, Panelist (25 min)
Robert Wall, Seattle Pacific University, Panelist (25 min)
Douglas Harink, Panelist (25 min)
Stephen Fowl, Loyola College in Maryland, Panelist (25 min)
Kavin Rowe, Duke University, Respondent (25 min)

Rhetoric of Religious Antiquity
11/23/2010
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Is There Anything New Under the Sun? Assessing the Promise of Socio-Rhetorical Commentary For the Larger Enterprise of Biblical Interpretation

Roy A. Jeal, Booth College
Socio-rhetorical commentary on Colossians (30 min)
Charles Talbert, Baylor University, Respondent (15 min)
Fredrick Long, Asbury Theological Seminary
Socio-rhetorical commentary on Ephesians (30 min)
Klyne Snodgrass, Respondent (15 min)
Duane F. Watson, Malone University
Socio-rhetorical commentary on the Johannine Epistles (30 min)
Craig Keener, Respondent (15 min)
Discussion (15 min)

Unity and Diversity in Early Jewish Monotheisms
11/22/2010
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Key Terms in the Debate about Monotheism

Joel Burnett, Baylor University
What is an elohim? Reflections on Chronicles’ Use of the Term (30 min)
Larry Hurtado, University of Edinburgh
What comprises ‘Jewish Monotheism’ in the late Hellenistic and early Roman Period? (30 min)
Daniel McClellan, University of Oxford
What is Deity in LXX Deuteronomy? (30 min)
Michael Hundley, University of Cambridge
What is divine presence? (30 min)
Robert Barrett, Georg-August Universitaet-Goettingen
What Does it Mean to Follow Other Gods? (30 min)

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