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Biblical Studies Carnival CXXII (March 2016)

Posted by NT Wrong on April 1, 2016


Yeah, I’m back yo – for a limited time only!

I’ve rounded up the best of biblical studies blogging from March 2016 – despite rumors of the death of blogging sometime last decade, and beset on all sides by the continued preponderance of Very Conservative blogs and the ongoing tyranny of male WASP bloggers.

So please check out the links below … which are accompanied by my own helpful comments and observations.


Early Christianity

cxxii-BauerIn what can only be described as “an inspired burst of pedantic and nerdish endeavor,” Wayne Coppins (German for Neutestamentler) has compiled bibliographies for dozens of German New Testament scholars. Wayne calls his endeavor Bibliographies of Neutestamentler/innen in the German Language Sphere (BNGLS). It is a fantastic resource, and I, for one, became physically excited on discovering it.

The Gospels and Jesus

cxxii-zuckermanThe doyen of Secular Studies, Phil Zuckerman (The Secular Life) interviews Bart Ehrman about his latest book, Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior (HarperCollins, 2016). Phil asks Bart why he prefers to describe the Gospel writers as “remembering” stories about Jesus, instead of having “made shit up”. Bart answers that much of what the biblical writers remembered was shit which earlier followers of Jesus had already made up.

cxxii-bart-ehrmanFor his own part, Bart Ehrman (The Bart Ehrman Blog) promotes his book with a number of posts this month. He gives notice of an interview on American Freethought Podcast, hosted by John C. Snider and David Driscoll (available on YouTube). In another post, Bart summarises the purpose of the book as follows (in a post unfortunately only available behind a paywall):

If Misquoting Jesus was about later scribes; and Jesus Interrupted was about problems with our written sources; Jesus Before the Gospels is about what was happening to the stories of Jesus before they were written down in the Gospels. It is about the oral traditions that were in circulation prior to their production in writing… But in order to find out what the process of oral transmission was like, I decided to do something I had never done before and that the vast majority of New Testament scholars have never done.  I decided to see what experts think about how memory works.   Not experts on the historical Jesus or the Gospels or the New Testament or early Christianity.  Experts on memory, experts working in the fields of psychology, sociology, and anthropology.

cxxii-memories-are-optional-peekasoTechnically, of course, Bart is right that the “vast majority of New Testament scholars” have never examined experts on memory. But New Testament scholarship is a diverse field, which explains why memory studies are not conducted by the vast majority. Whereas, within Jesus studies over the last decade or so, memory studies have saturated the field. Jesus scholars who have engaged experts on memory would include, inter alia, Dale Allison, Chris Keith, Birger Gerhardsson, Werner Kelber, Alan Kirk, Barry Schwartz, Kenneth Bailey, Richard Bauckham, James Dunn, Rafael Rodríguez, Zeba Crook, and Anthony Le Donne – and in addition there have been several conferences or SBL sections and numerous special editions of New Testament journals devoted to memory studies. I hope that clears up any potential misunderstanding of Bart’s words.

And I just noticed Rafael Rodríguez’s serial review of Bart’s book, beginning March 31 on The Jesus Blog.

cxxii-maryDid Mary have sex with Joseph and produce little brothers and sisters for Jesus (or half-brothers and half-sisters)? Catholic New Testament scholar Brant Pitre (Catholic Productions blog) argues no, imaginatively harmonizing information about Jesus’ relatives across all four canonical gospels to argue that the term ἀδελφοὶ refers to his cousins. Protestant New Testament scholar Anthony Le Donne (The Jesus Blog) argues yes, pointing out that, while ἀδελφοὶ can mean many things, in Mark 3:32-34 and 6:3 it most probably means brothers.

cxxii-tverbergLois Tverberg (Rabbi Jesus) discusses the crowds who opposed Jesus in the Passion narrative (part 1; part 2; part 3). She argues that “the people who called for Jesus’ crucifixion were not the same crowd as those who hailed him as Messiah the week before.” There is also some discussion of the use of messianic ‘prophecy.’

cxxii-anonymousNeil Godfrey (Vridar) provides a helpful counter to Brant Pitre’s recent apologetic book, The Case for Jesus (Penguin, 2016), on the issue of the anonymity of the canonical Gospels. Neil rebuts Pitre’s reactionary arguments that the canonical Gospels came with handy titles identifying their authors as Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John. Neil achieves this by juxtaposing Pitre’s arguments for named Gospels with Bart Ehrman’s arguments for anonymous Gospels (in Jesus Before the Gospels).

cxxii-kokMichael Kok (The Apostles’ Memoirs) looks at the Synoptic Problem, Markan priority, and the case for and against Q. He also explores some alternatives to the two most popular explanations of the Synoptic Problem, the two-document hypothesis and the Farrer hypothesis, because neither of them work – indicating that a more complex solution is required. Michael surveys theories of Luke’s Use of Matthew and Q (see also the post by Michael Bird and the guest post by Ron Price), Luke’s Use of Matthew, Q, and Papias, Matthew as the Last Gospel (and Part 2), that Luke’s main sources were Paul and Mark’s Gospel, and Proto-Luke (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4). If that wasn’t enough, he also examines How Did Matthew Use His Sources?, whether Luke Knew Matthew’s Editorial ChangesThe Lack of “M” in LukeAlternating Primitivity, and Ancient Compositional Practices, in addition to providing a list of Online Resources about Q.

cxxii-congdonDavid Congdon (Unsystematic Theology) defends Bultmann’s oft-maligned statement from New Testament and Mythology, that “we cannot use electric lights and radios and, in the event of illness, avail ourselves of modern medical and clinical means and at the same time believe in the spirit and wonder world of the New Testament.” David rightly points out that Bultmann does not thereby show that he “had sold his soul to modernity.” Instead, Bultmann is here drawing a proper contrast between “the cultural context of the ancient world” and “the very different … one we inhabit today.”

cxxii-talentsLoren Rosson (The Busybody) has a post on what must be one of the longest footnotes in John Meier’s Marginal Jew series: a 1500-word critique of Richard Rohrbaugh’s interpretation of Jesus’ parable of The Talents. So Loren’s basically written an even longer footnote on a long footnote. At issue is whether Jesus’ version of the parable, before its retelling in Matthew and Luke, presents the Master as oppressive or good in the way he treats the third slave. Rohrbaugh, a prominent member of the cxxii-wicked-tenantsContext Group, interprets Jesus as opposing the elite systems of exploitation. Maybe. But I wonder whether Jesus, whose proclaimed Kingdom of God did not so much oppose as mimic the prevailing systems of power, was really so opposed to the elite in his society. Or did he, albeit with a slight apocalyptic flavor, desire a bit of that elite power for himself?

Loren also wonders what Jesus meant by the Parable of the Wicked Tenants: was it a martyr prophecy or a critique of violence? He’s undecided, but outlines the different interpretations.

cxxii-simcha-jacobovici-nailsTV journalist Simcha Jacobovici (The Times of Israel blog) claims to have found Jesus again. This follows Simcha’s earlier cases of Jesus Pareidolia. Simcha has earlier claimed that he found Jesus in a Jerusalem tomb… which didn’t belong to Jesus. Simcha has also claimed to have seen a Jesus-fish engraved on a burial box… which is clearly really an engraved vase. Simcha has, further, claimed to have the nails which were used to crucify Jesus… which were ordinary ancient nails. Simcha has, in another case, claimed to find a hidden allegory to Jesus and his wife in a “Lost Gospel”… but which turned out to be a completely different story (Joseph and Aseneth) which was neither “lost” nor a “Gospel”. This time around, Simcha claims to have seen Jesus in a Dead Sea Scroll (4Q541). But as Deane Galbraith (Remnant of Giants) points out, the possible mention of crucifixion in 4Q541 is not a “new” “discovery”; 4Q541 is not a text which “explicitly” mentions Jesus (whose name does not appear); interpretation of the fragmentary 4Q541 does not involve a cover-up by scholars but a highly ambiguous and uncertain text; and 4Q541 is not a text that was written after Jesus was alive, but 100-150 years before Jesus. Simcha should consider leaving things to the experts, instead of peddling crap theories for crap TV programs.

cxxii-naghammadiLarry Hurtado summarizes two recent articles which have cast doubt on the well-known account of the finding of the Nag Hammadi codices. In these articles, Larry finds support for his estimation that “these texts weren’t the ‘scriptures’ of this or that supposed version or sect of early Christianity, but, instead, probably circulated among loose networks of like-minded individuals who had a particular penchant for things esoteric.” Therefore, Larry contends that the Nag Hammadi texts are not representative of any widespread type of Christianity practiced in Egypt or elsewhere in the fourth century CE. This is a leap too far, Lazza! If there is doubt about the connection of the codices to the Pachomian monastery, this provides no support for the contention that the texts belonged only to ‘elites’ cxxii-secundusand not also to a widespread group. Furthermore, we have plenty of corroborating evidence to show that gnostic Christian groups who employed such texts were widespread, such as the St. Antony literature and the official documents opposing Manichaeans.

Matthew Ferguson (Κέλσος) discusses “the genre of Greek popular biography, through the examples of the Certamen of Homer and Hesiod, the Aesop Romance, and the Alexander Romance, and why I think that the Gospels of Jesus in the New Testament belong most to this genre.” The post is a version of his paper recently presented at the SBL Pacific Coast 2016 Regional Meeting at Claremont Graduate University on March 13-14, 2016 – and it is very informative.


cxxii-trump-corinthiansDavid Pettigrew (Corinthian Matters) draws our attention to a very useful and up-to-date open-access, searchable comprehensive bibliography for Corinthian Studies.

cxxii-hateplowMichael F. Bird (Euangelion) wrongly interprets the phrase πίστις Χριστοῦ in Paul as a subjective genitive (for shame!), noting a 2016 SJT article in which Morna Hooker does the same (oh the embarrassment!). The misinterpretation of πίστις Χριστοῦ by a few muddle-headed eisegetes overlooks at least a hundred reasons why πίστις Χριστοῦ is an objective genitive.

cxxii-laoshi-chiouFor International Women’s Day, Lao Shi (Jennifer) Chiou (Chiooulaoshi Blog) discusses the women deacons, teachers, and apostles mentioned in Romans 16. In particular, she examines Phoebe, Priscilla, and Junia, concluding, “如果以上的解讀是正確的,那麼姊妹在初代教會中就已擔任執事、教師、使徒,並非只在家裡相夫教子而已。” Having spent a few hours each day for the last year and 9 months learning Chinese, I can honestly say I quite agree.

cxxii-excited-for-haysNijay K Gupta (Crux Sola), Matthew Montonini (New Testament Perspectives), and Michael Bird (Euangelion) are unnaturally excited about Richard Hays’ upcoming release. It’s a book called Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels (Baylor, June 2016)Hays’ long-awaited Gospels version of his very influential Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (Yale UP, 1989). The title of the forthcoming book includes, therefore, an intertextual echo of the former book, inviting us to read the latter in light of the former, and vice-versa, with metaleptic significance that exceeds the original author’s, or indeed the alluding author’s, intentions. Oh the anticipation. I am creaming my pants.

cxxii-maussMatthew Bates (OnScript) takes it into his own hands to interview Prof. John Barclay about his major new book on Paul’s theology, Paul and the Gift (Eerdmans, 2015). The interview really only gets started at 6:35 in the podcast, after some strange small-talk concerning sausages, Central Otago Pinot Noir, and sportsjackets.

Second Century

cxxii-hurtadoEnrico Tuccinard’s stylometric analysis of of Pliny the Younger’s letter to Emperor Trajan (“An Application of a Profile-Based Method for Authorship Verification“, February 14, 2016) reached the conclusion that “its stylistic behaviour appears highly different from that of the rest of Book X” of Pliny’s letters. Tucchinard seeks to explain the differences in style as the result of later Christian “interpolations”. In just over two weeks, Larry Hurtado had appraised himself of stylometric analysis and reacted stroncxxii-melitogly against Tuccinard’s analysis, asserting that we shouldn’t accept the letter’s inauthenticity, or even its partial inauthenticity, just yet.

Alin Suciu claims that he has found a part of Melito of Sardes’ De Baptismo – in a fragmentary Sahidic papyrus manuscript. If Alin is correct in his identification, it would be a highly significant find.

Early Judaism

cxxii-hansonIn their Impolite Conversation podcast no. 9 (at Marginalia), Tim Hill and Dan Clanton interview retired Harvard Professor of biblical studies, Paul D. Hanson about his new book, A Political History of the Bible in America (Westminster John Knox, 2015). The interview kicks off at 3:05, and in it we discover that the book treats God’s sovereignty as the “core” of the Bible and attempts to measure the various parts of the canon against that alleged core. It transpires that the book doesn’t have much to do with the Bible in America, but is mainly about political systems in the Hebrew Bible and Hanson’s theological and distinctly American appraisal of them.

cxxii-MowczkoMarg Mowczko (New Life) asks whether Genesis 2:18, 20 infers that women have a special obligation to be helpers of men. She argues that the passage sets out a role not for women but for all human beings.

cxxii-boyarinDeane Galbraith (Biblical Studies Online) provides links to Prof. Daniel Boyarin’s three-part 2016 Shaffer Lecture in Theology, on March 8th, 9th, and 10th: “Enoch or Jesus? The Quest of the Historical Metatron.” In the lectures, Boyarin discusses the Jewish tradition of an Almighty God who shared heaven with his intrepid sidekick God, the Son of Man / Enoch / Jesus Christ / Metatron – a binitarian tradition which, Boyarin argues, preceded the separation of Christianity from Judaism and continued largely independently of Christianity for centuries thereafter.

cxxii-jan-joostenWilliam A. Ross interviews Prof. Jan Joosten, who is currently the Regius Professor of Hebrew at the University of Oxford on Septuagint Studies. In the interview, Prof. Joosten states his hope for the full integration of LXX studies into biblical studies, “causing a long overdue upheaval in biblical studies,” while bewailing the OT – NT divide which acts as a barrier to that integration.

cxxii-moses-and-the-tabletsJason Schulman (New Books Network) interviews Prof. Benjamin D. Sommer about his new bookRevelation and Authority: Sinai in Jewish Scripture and Tradition (Yale University Press, 2015). And Joseph Ryan Kelly (Marginalia) interviews Benjamin Sommer about the same book. Sommer outlines a “participatory” theory of revelation in the Hebrew Bible, in which “God in some way, outside of language, perhaps, revealed God’s will to the Jewish people, and the Jewish people – starting with Moses, but going on into other generations into the present and into the future – then have to respond to that will, interpret that will and, you might say, translate that will into their own language, for a human community, for their own time.” Leaving aside the non-scholarly question of the truth or untruth of this theory of revelation, I found quite interesting and plausible Sommer’s additional claim that this theory of revelation was implicit in parts of the Hebrew Bible itself.

cxxii-maccabeesJim Davila (PaleoJudaica) notes a series of three videos by Dr. Sylvie Honigman and Ancient Jew Review on 1-2 Maccabees, based on her book Tales of High Priests and Taxes (University of California Press, 2014).

cxxii-enochMichael Heiser (The Naked Bible Podcast) provides a one-hour discussion of the importance of 1 Enoch in early Judaism and early Christianity. How important is this text? Very important. Often more important than the writings attributed to Moses. Michael begins with the Qumran material and proceeds to the early Christian texts in the New Testament and beyond.

cxxii-psalm-inscriptionBob MacDonald (Dust) examines the Masoretic cantillation marks of the inscriptions to the Psalms. And he sets them to music, following the rules of Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura, and declares that they are beautiful. I would have expected more flats; most of these Psalms are the blues.

cxxii-ashurWill Brown (The Biblical Review) reviews Beate Pongratz-Leisten’s Religion and Ideology in Assyria (de Gruyter, 2015). Will points out the potential of the book for understanding “how various tropes within Assyrian ideological discourse may have influenced ancient Israelite religion and kingship.”


Seal bearing the inscription "to Elihana Bat Gael"

Christopher A. Rollston (Rollston Epigraphy), Ryan Thomas (Religion and Literature of Ancient Palestine), and Leen Ritmeyer (Ritmeyer Archaeological Design) discuss two Iron Age seals found in the Givati Parking Lot Excavation, in Jerusalem. The two seals were discovered by digging up a section of
the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, which has involved the forced eviction and relocation of many of its Palestinian inhabitants. One of the Iron Age seals belonged to “Elihana bat Gael” (Elihana daughter of Gael), rare for belonging to an Iron Age woman in ancient Palestine. As the theophoric “el” shows, her name derives from devotees of the god El not Yahweh. Coincidentally, “El” is also a theophoric in the name of the group responsible for the Givati Parking Lot Excavation: Elad (i.e., the City of David Foundation). This month, excavators also destroyed a Palestinian children’s playground and a few Palestinian houses, in the hope of finding further artifacts from those who lived there 2500 years ago, and who are apparently more important than living people.

Moby Dick

Jim West (Zwinglius Redivivus) notes Alex Joffe’s reply (“How to Chase a White Whale“, March 2016) to Thomas L. Thompson (“Biblical Archaeology: The Hydra of Palestine’s History“, October 2016) in Bible & Interpretation. Joffe accuses Thompson of being guilty of the same error committed by his fundamentalist counterparts. Thompson’s method, claims Joffe, still involves the priority of the text, “but only in order to reassert his disbelief.”

Theory and Reception

cxxii-young-messiahJames McGrath (Exploring Our Matrix) reviews Christian film The Young Messiah (dir. Cyrus Nowrasteh, March 11, 2016), based on the novel Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt (Knopf, 2005) by Christian novelist Anne Rice, which narrates Jesus’ return from Egypt at age 7 or 8. James summarizes: “this is a fascinating imaginative exploration of what the childhood of Jesus might have been like, and not a historical reconstruction, much less a depiction of ‘what really happened.'” Peter Chattaway (Filmchat) also provides an informative review. And Ben Witherington (Bible and Culture) has an interview with Anne Rice. James (McGrath; not Jesus’ brother/cousin) also participates in a webchat with director Cyrus Nowrasteh, along with other Patheos bloggers,  Deborah Arca, Kate O’Hare, and Paul Asay. I haven’t seen the film, and based on the video clips which Matt Page (Bible Films) has assembled, I won’t be in any hurry to watch it.

cxxii-shakespeare-bibleDavid B. Gowler (A Chorus of Voices: The Reception History of the Parables) discusses Shakespeare’s use of the parables of Jesus (Part 1; Part 2; Part 3).

cxxii-George_Washington's_bibleSteve Wiggins (OUPblog) discusses Sleepy Hollow (2013-), which is now in its third season. Steve examines the prominent role of the Bible in the television series, both in respect of its content and physical presence.

cxxii-Life-of-Brian-fuck-offJames Crossley (The Jesus Blog) notes his article for the British Communist Party, “Splitters! The Death and Resurrection of the Radical Jesus, from the Life of Brian to Jeremy Corbyn.” James discusses some of the different uses to which Jesus has been put in recent politics. He discusses the tolerant, loving, and kind “Liberal Jesus,” the more Marxist-inspired “Radical Jesus,” as well as the Jesuses of the Right, the individualist Jesuses of both Thatcher and also maybe surprisingly, Monty Python’s The Life of Brian (both fl. 1979).

Textual Criticism

cxxii-tommy-wassermanTommy Wasserman (Evangelical Textual Criticism) tries to convince readers that textual criticism is “flourishing” in biblical studies. Meh. But at least he provides a useful summary of the units and seminars which feature the … er, ahem … exciting and invigorating world of biblical textual criticism.

cxxii-tvKris Lyle and Chris Fresch have relaunched Old School Script, a blog whose focus is linguistics, including especially discourse analysis. One post this month examines the importance of word order for understanding the meaning of John 4:16. As they summarize, “it’s not what you say but how you say it that matters.”

General Biblical Studies

cxxii-wisdom-commentary-seriesTheophrastus (BLT) informs us of a new feminist commentary series which is to feature every book of the Catholic Bible. It’s called The Wisdom Commentary (Liturgical Press), named of course after the proverbial Ms. Hochma.

cxxii-liv-liedLiv Lied (Religion – Manuscripts – Media Culture) follows up on her 2015 International Women’s Day blog post on aggressive and gendered responses to her academic blogging, with a 2016 International Women’s Day post which advocates staring back at trolls.

cxxii-researchNijay Gupta (Crux Sola) continues his blog series in which he asks prominent biblical scholars how they do research. In March 2016, Nijay adds replies by Dr. David Horrell, Prof. Helen Bond, and Dr. Craig Blomberg (yes, he does research! who knew?) to the earlier replies by Dr. David deSilva, Prof. James D.G. Dunn, Dr. Michael J. Gorman, and Dr. Michael Bird.

cxxii-james-davilaJim Davila (PaleoJudaica) celebrated his 13th year of blogging, which is like since 4 BCE in human years. Jim provides links to his favorite posts of the last 12 months, including his corrections of various erroneous news stories. They’re well worth the read!

cxxii-dictionary of daily lifeRichard Goode (Newman Research Centre for the Bible and Its Reception) reviews the first two volumes of the Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity edited by Edwin Yamauchi and Marvin Wilson (Hendrickson, 2016-). Goode summarizes, “Yamauchi and Wilson have put together a dictionary that covers all those often over-looked, but nonetheless essential, aspects of everyday life in Antiquity. Entries on Alcoholic Beverages, Aphrodisiacs & Erotic Spells, Barbers & Beards, Dentistry & Teeth, and Doors & Keys rub shoulders with others on Butchers & Meat, Bottles & Glass, Food Production, and Furniture. Topics like these are important helping us to form a clearer understanding of the ancient world and also in throwing light upon the biblical texts.”

Review of Biblical Literature

cxxii-rbl66 new book reviews appeared on The Review of Biblical Literature blog during March.

I’ve fixed a glitch on the RBL site which made it hard to open the reviews. So here they are, free for everybody to read:

Upcoming Conferences

And there were a few conference announcements:

Future Carnivals

If you’re interested in signing up to host a future Biblical Studies Carnival, contact Phil Long (email or @plong42). The next three Carnivals will be hosted by:

I’ll be back in another seven years (D.v.). Until then.

In His grip,
Bishop N.T. Wrong
Universalist Church of Durham, NC

Posted in Biblioblogs | 11 Comments »

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 | Comments Off on Happy Birthday, Thomas Thompson!

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 »

Biblioblogger of the Year

Posted by NT Wrong on January 1, 2009

biblioblogger1Jim West has kindly picked me as the First Annual Biblioblogger of the Year.

“The criteria are quite simple: the Blogger of the Year is that biblioblogger who, in my humble estimation, causes the most stir in the biblioblogging empire with their wit, insight, and comprehensiveness.”

Thanks, Jim, you’re such a sweetie.

Update: And Scott Bailey, of Scotteriology fame, kindly designed a framed plaque – which is going straight to the Pool Room.

Update again: And look at Antonio’s cup!

Posted in Biblioblogs | 3 Comments »

A Place for all Off-Topic Hobbyhorse Comments

Posted by NT Wrong on December 17, 2008

narcissusThere are a few people in this world who indulge themselves in their personal hobbyhorses at any opportunity. A few of them make comments on this blog. As I am not a censor of comments, I have created this post for you all to indulge in your cyber-self-gratification. You’re welcome to bookmark this post, and whenever you feel like going off on a tangent, please post your meandering ramblings and esoteric theories here. It may well be that one day we will look back and say, ‘Gosh, so-and-so was onto this well before any of us!’ It’s possible, but I’m guessing that even with the benefit of hindsight we will look back on these comments and go, ‘WTF?’.

(This will also be where I move off-topic hobbyhorse comments. Feel free to move any such comments found on your own blogs here, too.)

Posted in Biblioblogs | 64 Comments »

April DeConick’s ‘More Scientific’ Biblical Studies – Proposing a Middle Range Theory

Posted by NT Wrong on December 9, 2008

In a recent series of posts, April DeConick has been talking about social memory, again. In particular, she’s airing some of the issues raised in the Memory and Textuality session, at which she was the respondent. April has an excitement about the area of memory which is contagious:

“I think that the study of human memory is the future of biblical studies. The people that are giving papers in the memory sessions are really on the cutting edge of future methodology. They are setting us on a new course.”
– April DeConick, SBL sessions: Memory and Textuality

In her latest post, she proclaims that biblical studies should become more scientific in its study of the processes behind the writing of biblical texts:

“In order to know how this process [of memorizing] worked [in the ancient world] and how it might have affected the composition of our texts, it is essential in my experience to experiment and to read in cognitive psychology which tells us how human memory operates and affects the transmission process. When we compare the results of this knowledge with what we see in our texts, it is really quite amazing what we can learn about the ancient people processes.”
– April DeConick, ‘Become more scientific’

I am in fundamental agreement with her on this point. Although it pushes us outside our comfort zones, and if done badly can result in worse results than not being done at all, the potential for new and better ways of understanding the texts is huge.

I’ll suggest a way to do it, too. I think we could apply the basic archaeological theory called “middle range theory” as a model, an approach originally put forward by Lewis Binford and the ‘New Archaeology’ of the 1960s — although adapted for the subject-matter of biblical studies. At its simplest, “middle range theory” involves the systematic study of the complex interrelationships between modern material artifacts and their related modern human cultures, for the purpose of applying this interrelationship to the ancient material artifacts that archaeologists dig up. Although we can study how material artifacts are used by living peoples today, we can only study the material artifacts of ancient peoples. We have no direct access to their minds, to their cultures. So middle range theory serves to fill this gap, a bit like this:


The basis for Binford’s method is simple yet compelling:

“if a distinctive combination of material traits could be demonstrated to correlate with a specific pattern of behavior in living societies, the discovery of the same combination of material traits in the archaeological record would permit similar behavior to be associated with a [material] archaeological culture.”
– Bruce Trigger, A History of Archaeological Thought (2006): 508.

Some might object that people aren’t as predictable as pottery, so any scientific study is doomed to be uncertain. This is undoubtedly true. But I have a couple of rejoinders. First, in the humanities nobody is aiming for certainty. Lack of certainty is a given, whether our methods are more or less robust. So, why not aim for more robust methods? Second, what is the alternative? In the absence of tested assumptions, people tend to fall back on a version of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Just-So Stories’. That is, they tend to ask, ‘what would I do in their situation if I were a first-century illiterate peasant?’ And although this is something of a caricature of the alternative, under the “Just-So Story” approach there is a much higher risk of our interpretation of ancient cultures being determined by our untested current prejudices. At the very least it opens up new possibilities for interpretation. There are many aspects of biblical studies which a more scientific approach would benefit from — not every aspect, but certainly a great number.

So, I agree with Dr DeConick — biblical studies should become more scientific. Whether this should be carried out by specialist biblical scholars (knowledgeable of both biblical studies and, say, cognitive psychology) or ‘outsourced’ to other disciplines is an interesting question. But, either way, in order to be successful, a “middle range theory” for biblical studies should certainly be carried out by trained experts. That’s my one proviso. Otherwise – bring it on!

Posted in Academia, Biblical interpretation | 14 Comments »

Bible Scholar or Biblical Scholar?

Posted by NT Wrong on December 9, 2008

It’s the term which is most used to describe practitioners of the discipline. But it’s routinely rendered in two different ways. What should it be: “Bible scholar” or “biblical scholar”?

This is the sort of debate which has the potential to make the Jew/Judean debate insignificant in comparison.

The term “biblical scholar” appears to be more prevalent in the scholarly literature. But “Bible scholar” is used not infrequently. Can we get assistance from comparative disciplines? “Classical Scholar” is the normal designation, but “Classics Scholar” also gets employed. Is the use of one term over the other a recent development? While Google Scholar states that the biblical scholar : Bible scholar ratio is 16:100, the ratio for works since the year 2000 is… 16:100. Is there a distinction to be made between those who study the Old Testament or Tanakh and New Testament, and those who focus on non-canonical literature? The adjective “biblical” should encompass related literature, whereas the noun “Bible” does not. Does the magisterium, the Society of Biblical Literature, assist us? Not really. For every couple of references to “biblical scholar” on the SBL site, there’s one to “Bible scholar”. The discipline does seem to prefer “Biblical Studies” as the object of its study, however. After all, “Bible Studies” sounds a bit too much like an eager church group than the rigorous discipline which is Biblical Studies…

The entry for Naomi Liebowitz (“The World’s Greatest Bible Teacher”) in Great Jewish Women (1994) uses both “Bible scholar” and “biblical scholar” on the first page. Hector Avalos et al, in their introduction to This Abled Body (2007) describe Bruce C. Birch as a “Hebrew Bible scholar” but in the next sentence describe Janet Lees as a “socially committed biblical scholar”. Is the adjective more feminine? Is it less authoritative than the definitive noun? Is ‘biblical’ a little more postmodern? Bob Ekblad, in Reading the Bible with the Damned (2005) describes himself as a “biblical scholar” in one sentence, and then as a “Bible scholar” in the very next. How can the discipline continue with such terminological confusion?

What do you think?

Update: The results are overwhelmingly in favour of “biblical scholar” over “Bible scholar”.

Posted in Academia | 16 Comments »