Contains the archives of the N.T.Wrong blog, April 2008-January 2009

Sixth Anniversary of the N.T. Wrong Blog

Posted by NT Wrong on April 22, 2014


It’s been another busy year for the N.T. Wrong Blog. Since we commenced blogging on 22 April 2008, and since 9 February 2009, when we continued blogging behind a paywall for subscribed readers, we have posted 15,784 times and had 20,578,046 visitors.

Posted in Admin | Comments Off on Sixth Anniversary of the N.T. Wrong Blog

Biblical Studies Carnival XXXVII

Posted by NT Wrong on February 8, 2009

Welcome to the 37th Biblical Studies Carnival (December 2008), or ‘the Spectre of a Carnival that never was’.


A) General Matters in Biblioblogging and Biblical Studies

The featured biblioblogger for the month of December 2008 was Mark V. Hoffman, who blogs at Biblical Studies and Technological Tools, while the Number One biblioblogger on the Biblioblog Top 50 was Ben Witherington III. There is a further interview – well worth a squiz – provided by Daniel and Tonya (Hebrew and Greek Reader), who fired 20 questions at Michael Heiser, editor at Logos Bible Software and part-time UFO-expert.

December was the official month of publication of the first academic book about bibliobloggers: James Crossley’s Jesus in an Age of Terror: Scholarly Projects for a New American Century ( Equinox, 2008 ). Crossley’s book provides a review of posts from a number of bibliobloggers past and present, including Loren Rossen (The Busybody), Jim Davila (Paleojudaica), and Michael Bird (Evangelion).

Danny Zacharias (Deinde) provided a list of free biblical studies books which are readily available on the internet, with assistance in compilation provided by Bob Buller and Mark Vitalis Hoffman.

And to avoid going down any blind alleys when carrying out your biblical studies research, you should review the six common mistakes which Nijay Gupta has pointed out: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.


B) Linguistics, Text, and Translation

Danny Zacharias shared some great Greek-learning tools which he has developed: songs for learning Greek, with videos. Now, learning the Greek alphabet, the first declension, and the present active indicative has become more fun than Playstation karaoke.

A debate erupted, yet again, concerning bible translation, and the relative merits of dynamic and formal equivalency. It all stemmed from a Better Bibles Blog post in late November on Matt 9.30a, the comments section for which continued to expand dynamically, well into December. There were a number of responses from the formal-equivalent-favouring John Hobbins (of Ancient Hebrew Poetry). Mark Strauss (Koinoniacriticised the ESV. David Ker (Lingamish) opined that the REB sounds like Hyacinth Bucket to him. Jim Getz provided comments on translating The Iliad. ElShaddai Edwards (He Is Sufficient) defended the REB, and Rich Rhodes (Better Bibles Blog) just wanted to avoid Biblish.

Mike Aubrey (ἐν ἐφέσῳ) considered the Use of Linguistics In New Testament Studies, and warned us not to forget the old dead grammarians. And Rod Decker (N.T. Resources) reassured us that the Greek absolute genitive need not be all that frightening.

Steve Runge made three exceptional posts on various Greek exception clauses – but you’ll have to read them to see how they are exceptional.

After posting on loanwords from Akkadian to Biblical Hebrew every Friday for months, Duane Smith (Abnormal Interests) decided to provide a definition and discussion of the term ‘loanword’.


C) Theory and Reception

Roland Boer (Stalin’s Moustache) provided us with intriguing overviews to three of his forthcoming books. Political Grace: The Revolutionary Theology of John Calvin “examines a tension between the radical possibilities of [Calvin’s] theological system and the effort to restrain those possibilities in light of his innate conservatism.” Political Myth: On the Use and Abuse of a Biblical Theme employs Alain Badiou, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, and psychoanalysts, amongst others, to develop a political myth for the political left. Criticism of Earth: On Marx, Engels and Theology explores Marx and Engels’ engagements with theology and the Bible.


D) Early Judaism

J. P. van de Giessen (Aantekeningen bij de Bijbel) provided an interesting series on the little-explored subject of astronomy in the book of Job, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

John Hobbins examined the uses and limitations of online Hebrew resources.

Claude Mariottini continued his series on Jeremiah and Hananiah, and true and false prophecy.

Charles Halton (Awilum) linked together some comments from an article by Assyriologist Simo Parpola with Jill Middlemas’ The Templeless Age, questioning the import of the so-called “exilic period”.

Chana (Curious Jew) posted her notes from a talk by James Kugel, “Midrash Before Hazal: Why It’s Important For Orthodox Jews”.

John Hobbins examined some of the much-overlooked piyyut from Cairo Geniza and the Firkovitch collection here, here, here, and here.

Duane Smith showed an abnormal interest in the literacy of biblical kings and queens, and indeed in royalty throughout the ancient world.

Charles Halton kindly provided us with a copy of his article about figurative language concerning Ninevah in Jonah. And Michael Heiser provided a copy of his EABS paper, ‘The Concept of a Godhead in Israelite Religion’.


E) Early Christianity

Mark Goodacre’s November 2008 posting of his SBL paper, ‘Dating the Crucial Sources in Early Christianity’ received a response from April DeConick (The Forbidden Gospels), entitled ‘SBL Memories 2: Dating our sources’, to which Mark Goodacre responded in turn, and later followed up with a further post on dating Mark after AD 70, to which James Crossley (of Earliest Christian History) then responded.

Tony Burke (Apocryphicity) provided a detailed summary of the controversial SBL session on Secret Mark (cf. Stephen C. Carlson’s summary on Hypotyposeis), which provoked a response from chairperson Mark Goodacre (who had earlier commented on the session here), and elicited further responses from Evangelical Textual Criticism, Josh McManaway, and Michael Barber.

April DeConick (The Forbidden Gospels) made a passionate case for becoming more scientific in biblical studies, advocating that scholars carry out social scientific experimentation, in particular in relation to human memory – which prompted a cautionary reply from Mark Goodacre, to which April replied in turn in two further posts. Mark then provided reasons for his scepticism, in a review of April DeConick’s, “Human Memory and the Sayings of Jesus” in Tom Thatcher (ed.), Jesus, the Voice and the Text (2008). N. T. Wrong offered a suggestion as to how scientific method could be utilised.

Ben Witherington discussed the SBL session on ancient graffiti.

Ekaterini G. Tsalampouni (Ιστολόγιο βιβλικών σπουδών / Biblical Studies Blog) blogged chapter summaries of H.-J. Klauck’s new book, Die apokryphe Bibel (2008): Introduction, Chapter 1 (Gospel of Judas), 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13.

N. T. Wrong provided excerpts from his allegedly forthcoming book, 100 Reasons πίστις Χριστοῦ is an Objective Genitive, including reasons no. 1, 2, 14, 15, 19, 16, 22, 47, 63, 94, 64, 76, 81, and 33 (in that order). A blog storm ensued, with responses by Loren Rossen (The Busybody), Doug Chaplin (Metacatholic, here, here, and here), Mike Aubrey (ἐν ἐφέσῳ), James McGrath (Exploring Our Matrix), John Hobbins (Ancient Hebrew Poetry), Daniel and Tonya (Hebrew and Greek Reader, here, here, here, here, here, and here), Rick Brannan (Rico Blog), James Gregory, David Ker (Lingamish), Peter Kirk (Gentle Wisdom), and Ken Schenck (Quadrilateral Thoughts).

April DeConick discussed the ‘Judas Gem’, which she had previously discussed in relation to the SBL session on Judas. Her full exposition of these issues will appear in her forthcoming revised and expanded edition of The Thirteenth Apostle: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says.

Rod Decker discussed the ETS session on the new book, Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, which includes contributions by Walter Kaiser, Darrell Bock, and Peter Enns.

James McGrath reflected on the foibles of biblical literalism and inerrancy, here, here, and here. Martin Shields (Shields Up) problematized “the plain meaning of scripture”. Art Boulet (Finitum Non Capax Infiniti) questioned whether G.K. Beale completely missed the point in his recent book, The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism: Responding to New Challenges to Biblical Authority. Although Beale attempts to discredit Peter Enns and his views, Art suspected that the book might win the “The-Book-So-Plagued-By-Misrepresenting-Its-Opponent-That-It-Renders-It-Completely-Worthless Award”.

Tom Verenna (The Musings of Thomas Verenna) announced the commencement of the Jesus Project, or the search for the mythical Jesus.

Phil Harland (Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean) provided a podcast examining diversity amongst the various strands of Christianity in Asia Minor.

April DeConick summarised her newly released article on Valentinian sex. James McGrath reviewed Andreas J. Kostenberger and Scott R. Swain’s 2008 book on the trinity in John’s Gospel, Father, Son and Spirit, and questioned their claim to avoid anachronism. Jim West drew attention to an interview with Gerd Lüdemann. Phil Harland provided a copy of an article he assisted David Instone-Brewer with writing, published in the Journal of Greco-Roman Judaism and Christianity (2008): “Jewish Associations in Roman Palestine: Evidence from the Mishnah”. Michael Bird (Evangelion) revealed he had his hands all over N.T. Wright’s goodies before anybody else, and reviewed his advance copy of the soon-to-be-published Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision (2009), a response to critics such as John Piper. Ken Schenck began a review of John P. Meier’s epic novel, The Marginal Jesus: Rethinking the Historical Jesus (1991), which reached six parts in December: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.

And given it was the Christmas season, Ben Witherington felt the need to defend the ‘historicity’ of the Virgin Birth against all odds to the contrary, as did Joel L. Watts, while Michael W. Halcomb asked if Mary was raped by God, and James McGrath found little of historical value in the Gospel accounts. Doug Mangum (Biblia Hebraica) discussed ‘amah and betulah, while Airton José da Silva (Observatório Bíblico) questioned the political bias of the stories, Harrie A. van Duijvenbode (Aldus sprak Harrie) questioned the historicity of the stories, while Doug Chaplin noted that the Infancy Gospel of James provides the most comprehensive test of Mary’s virginity. Matt Page reviewed the BBC’s documentary, Star of Bethlehem.


F) Archaeology

The pick of the crop in this month’s spurious archaeological claims, aside from BAR that is, was the news report that a perfume bottle found at Magdala could be linked to Mary Magdalene. The claims were pooh-poohed by Mark Goodacre, Jim Davila, and Todd Bolen.

Chris Heard (Higgaion) noted that Yosef Garfinkel and Saar Ganor had posted the slideshow from their 2008 ASOR presentation on Khirbet Qeiyafa, and rightly cautioned that the ostracon is hardly proof “that David killed Goliath or anything of that sort.” Also note Duane Smith’s caution concerning the high-low chronology debate.


G) Moral Outrage and Righteous Indignation

A Newsweek article on gay relationships and the Bible provoked replies from bibliobloggers who believed that this outburst of being fair to gay people by “liberals” represented persecution of Christians: e.g. Darrell Bock, Robert A. J. Gagnon. However, some Presbyterians quite liked the popularist article: e.g. Fred AndersonJohn Shuck.

Moral outrage was voiced over Israel’s bombing of Gaza by Jim West, Airton José da Silva, and Joel L. Watts. Rachel Barenblat (Velveteen Rabbi) posted a peace-song in Arabic and Hebrew.


Biblical Studies Carnival XXXVIII (January 2009) is the next carnival in the sequence, but due to a strange anachronicity, it has already been published by Judy Redman.

Posted in Biblioblogs | 12 Comments »

That’s All Folks!

Posted by NT Wrong on January 7, 2009


Summary Stats:

“I want to be rich and I want lots of money
I don’t care about clever, I don’t care about funny
I want loads of clothes and fuckloads of diamonds
I heard people die while they’re trying to find ’em.”

Posted in Biblioblogs | 4 Comments »

Happy Birthday, Thomas Thompson!

Posted by NT Wrong on January 7, 2009

thomas-thompsonCongratulations to Thomas L. Thompson, who turns 70 today (Jan 7, 2009). Since his landmark work on the non-historicity of the patriarchal narratives in Genesis — except for a short stint as a house-painter — Professor Thompson has been at the forefront of work on myth and (lack of) history in biblical narratives. His major works include The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives (1974), The Origin Tradition of Ancient Israel (1987), The Early History of the Israelite People (1992), The Bible in History: How Writers Create a Past (London, 1999) = The Myth of Ancient Israel (New York, 1999), and The Messiah Myth: The Near Eastern Roots of Jesus and David‎ (2005).

Just to note a curious synchronicity: Thomas Thompson’s 70th birthday coincides with the 91st anniversary of the death of Julius Wellhausen.

Congratulations on reaching threescore and ten — and best wishes for the day!

“not only has ‘archaeology’ not proven a single event of the patriarchal traditions to be historical, it has not shown any of the traditions to be likely. On the basis of what we know of Palestinian history of the Second Millenium B. C., and of what we understand about the formation of the literary traditions of Genesis, it must be concluded that any such historicity as is commonly spoken of in both scholarly and popular works about the patriarchs of Genesis is hardly possible and totally improbable.”
– Thomas L. Thompson, The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives: The Quest for the Historical Abraham. Berlin & New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1974: 328.

Posted in Academia, Historiography | Leave a Comment »

Science Doesn’t Have All the Answers – Which is Why We Need Theology

Posted by NT Wrong on January 5, 2009

From Jesus and Mo.

Posted in Humour, Science | 2 Comments »

New Specialist Hebrews Blog

Posted by NT Wrong on January 5, 2009

Baylor doctoral candidate Brian Small has started a blog in 2009 called Polumeros kai Polutropos, which promises to be “dedicated strictly to the study of Hebrews”. The blog will examine the sundry and divers manners in which the Book of Hebrews has been interpreted down through the centuries.


Posted in Biblioblogs, Hebrews | 2 Comments »

Economic Crisis and The Coming Insurrection

Posted by NT Wrong on January 5, 2009

“it isn’t the economy that’s in crisis; the economy is the crisis; it’s not that we can’t get any work, it’s that there’s too much of it; all weighed in, it’s not crisis but growth that’s depressing us. We must admit that for us the litany of the stock market rates has just about as much meaning as a Latin mass.”
The Coming Insurrection, by the “Invisible Committee” (2007): 23 (L’insurrection qui vient, Comité invisible).

Posted in Capitalism | 5 Comments »

Use A.D. and B.C.! (Out with C.E. and B.C.E.!!)

Posted by NT Wrong on January 4, 2009

multifaith_calendar_2009The abbreviations C.E. (Common Era) and B.C.E. (Before Common Era) are commonly used in modern biblical scholarship to refer to the eras which were formerly known as A.D. (Anno Domini – The Year of The Lord) and B.C. (Before Christ). The usual rationale for the change is sensitivity to other religious and non-religious users of the Gregorian calendar. That is, given the number of worldwide users of the Gregorian calendar who don’t believe Jesus of Galilee is ‘The Lord’, a more neutral term is thought to be provided by ‘Common Era’.

However, what is ‘common’ about the Gregorian calendar? To the contrary, however the dating system is named, it refers to a specific tradition of the Christian West. The calendar has a very specific origin in the Christian tradition, and is calculated with respect to the estimated year of birth of the person central to the Christian tradition, Jesus Christ. (In actual fact, Dionysius Exiguus miscalculated the year of Jesus’ birth when he developed the calendar’s antecedent in AD 525, but that’s another story…)

By using ‘C.E.’ and B.C.E.’, we universalize a peculiar tradition. We make it out to be ‘common’ or ‘natural’, not requiring any special marking or qualification. As a consequence of the fact of Western power, the Gregorian calendar has been adopted as the most-used calendar in the world, and so does have some degree of ‘commonality’ in day-to-day use. But the change from A.D. to C.E. (and from B.C. to B.C.E.) obscures the particular Christian basis of this ‘common’ calendar, misrepresenting it as ‘normal’ – as somehow transcending historical particularities. By contrast, the other calendars are made out to be the only ‘localized’ and ‘particular’ calendars. While the Christian calendar is ‘naturalized’ by its designation as ‘common’, other calendars (Jewish, Persian, Islamic, Chinese, Hindu, Ethiopian, Thai, etc) are ‘artificial’ and ‘contingent’.

Stop this neo-colonialism! Use A.D. and B.C. again!! The specific marking of these older terms, which refers to the Christian concept of ‘Christ’, may well be offensive to some people. But this offence is substantial and systemic, not removeable by changing the name of the year which is dated from the birth of Christ. The hegemony of the Western calendar is a fact, and just one of the many effects of Western power in the world today — a minor but not insignificant fact, given the universal importance of local calendars in shaping culture. To obscure the Western calendar’s particularity by making it into a false universal is a double injustice — both the initial violence of changing local calendars, and then its covering up with the misleading term “common”. This is ideology at work.

Scholarship should be on the side of pointing out where injustices arise, not in covering them up.

Posted in Colonialism, Judeo-Christian Practices, Justice | 33 Comments »

Ben Witherington Makes Up Stuff about Historicity of Jesus

Posted by NT Wrong on January 4, 2009

witheringtonLeo takes apart Ben Witherington’s comments from an Australian Radio Show, ‘G’Day World’ (recorded in September 2008).

“During this very interview, he says a few things that are so untrue that it saddens me. It saddens me to hear them coming out of the mouth of someone who is seen as a respectable expert in his field by the many students under his tutelage, who naturally assume he is being honest… what bugs me is the outright falsehoods that he let slip out in his passionate rhetoric during this interview. Moreover, not only are they egregious falsehoods; they are stated so haughtily, so smugly author[it]atively that it makes them doubly shameful to my eyes.”

Leo provides a good discussion of unsupportable overstatements and assertions made by Ben Witherington, namely:

  • Witherington misquotes Greco-Roman authors as “claiming” to rely on Roman records, when they do not make such a claim (whether or not good arguments can be raised that they did rely on official records);
  • Witherington claims that Origen ‘certainly’ quoted from Josephus’ ‘Flavium Testamonium’ in the former’s commentary on John, without being able to provide support when challenged by the interviewer;
  • Witherington makes the old apologetic argument for the truth of the resurrection from the alleged behaviour of Jesus’ earliest disciples in preaching the Gospel — despite the absence of contemporary evidence, [and with recourse to the ‘the disciples must either be Liars or Truth-tellers’ false dichotomy, which depends on the omission of some far more probable further options].

While these half-truths and misrepresentations are common in popular apologetical works, Leo is correct to lament that it is a great shame a biblical scholar – widely known in conservative circles – would recite such unsupported claims to less discerning acolytes. Witherington’s comments were either misleading or plain false (although, I wouldn’t dispute his ‘honesty’, as Leo does) — and this in a field in which there is already a plethora of disinformation fed to the public.

Make sure you read Leo’s very good post, which contains transcriptions of Ben Witherington’s comments, together with Leo’s responses.

Posted in Fundamentalism, Historiography, Jesus & Christ | 14 Comments »

Ancient Jewish Magic was ‘Perfectly Rational’

Posted by NT Wrong on January 3, 2009

“As the assumption that various forces of nature have an angel “ministering” over them was common enough in late-antique Jewish culture, and given an additional axiom that angels can be adjured by humans (esp. by an appeal to the power of God, who created them and whom they greatly fear), the adjuration of angels to quell a storm, bring back a recalcitrant lover, or perform other great deeds would be a perfectly rational action.”
– Gideon Bohak, Ancient Jewish Magic (2008 )

Posted in Magic | 2 Comments »


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