Monday, June 26, 2006

Scholars' web pages: Wright, Wansbrough etc.

Thanks to Imhotep Newsome for noting that I hadn't listed the N. T. Wright Page among my Scholars pages on the NT Gateway. As regular readers will know, I often refer to the latest updates on the N. T. Wright Page so it's a real oversight on my part that I had not yet linked to it in the appropriate place on the NT Gateway. Anyway, while updating that page, Scholars: U to Z, I noticed that Dom Henry Wansbrough has lots more materials available since I last visited. Check out his Booklets for some great teaching materials, including a new Introduction to Mark (Word Document), 2006.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Blogging as theological reflection answers

Now my answers to Francis Ward's questions:

1. How long have you been blogging?

Since September 2003.

2. What got you started?

Reading Paleojudaica and realizing that the blog format would help me a great deal with managing my NT Gateway website which had been on the web since 1997. I realized that I could merge several aspects of the that site (Logbook, Featured Links, etc.) into the blog and could at the same time add comment on much more.

3. Do you have a history of diary/journal/log writing beforehand?

I had a logbook on the NT Gateway, which this blog replaced. And yes, I used to write a personal diary for years, from about age 12 to about age 25. (I stopped when I got married). But this blog does not resemble a diary except on the relatively rare occasions I add a work-related travel diary here.

4. How in your own mind do you negotiate the boundary between private and public? E.g. are there things that you would not put on your blog that you would put in a journal?

I like to avoid relating personal information on this blog because I see it as self-indulgent and I don't imagine that my readers, who are here because of the academic NT theme, will be interested in my taste in music, sport, film, TV, etc. It is largely a professional blog and so I try to keep it focused. Nevertheless, I realize that the occasional pieces of personal reflection can keep the blog lively since, after all, it is not an academic journal or a published book. But the key thing for me is to keep those to a minimum and to resist the temptation to self-indulgence. But my wife has a blog too, called The Americanization of Emily and that is a very different kind of blog from this. The focus is on our recent move from the UK to the USA and occasionally I add a guest post there. Also, I know that some of the readers of that blog are readers of this one.

5. How do you decide? What criteria do you use for inclusion/exclusion?

It's about relevance to the topic of academic New Testament studies, and that is the key criterion. Related topics come in too, e.g. matters of broader interest to the British or American academic community (because I've worked in both countries and many readers are British and American academics), the New Testament in film and media (a matter of related interest, and in which I have been involved myself), academic blogging, ancient history. But the joy of blogging is that you make your own decisions about what goes in and what does not. That freedom brings a kind of responsibility, as I see it, of keeping the content interesting and relevant to your readers. There are so many blogs out there now, and dozens in the New Testament area alone, that you keep your readers' loyalty by not abusing the privilege of having the platform you have gained.

6. How much time, on average, do you spend blogging each day or week?

It varies wildly in my own case, so I can't speak of an average. I like to blog every day and my ideal is to post two or three posts a day. But there are several key constraints: (1) There are others blogging in the area and they cover a lot of the material that I might have covered if they were not there. I avoid simply repeating material covered by others. (2) There are times when I can't get to the blogging machine, and more so since we moved to the States because we have more longer-stay visitors coming over and we take longer trips away from home. (3) The email mountain often makes blogging tough. (4) I don't get enough sleep.

7. How many other people do you actively engage with – e.g. are part of your blog community?

Yes, there are is a loose community of bloggers in the area of academic Biblical Studies, and you can get a feel for the kind of people doing this by going to Biblioblog.net and Biblioblogs.com. There are also others I engage with who are not, strictly speaking, in the Biblical Studies area, but most of those I engage with are what have loosely been called "bibliobloggers". I used to read everything published on all those biblioblogs, but now I am lucky to be able to read more than five or six of them on a regular basis -- I just don't have the time to devote to that.

I organized a session at last year's Society of Biblical Literature on biblioblogging and about seven of us involved in blogging spent a couple of hours reflecting on our experiences (You'll find lots on the blogs about it from last November). One of the interesting outcrops of that session was some talk about issues of identity, of inclusion and exclusion, and in particular the issue of gender. The panel at the session was all male and there was some real concern that we were effectively setting ourselves up as a kind of in group and excluding others. As time has gone on, these concerns have dissipated a bit because the biblioblogging community (if one can still call it that) has grown out of all recognition. There are now many more women bibliobloggers, and the massive expansion of the biblioblogging community has illustrated that even if there ever were problems about identity / inclusion / exclusion, they are not here now.

The most important recent development in this area is the regular Biblical Studies Carnival. Every month one of the bibliobloggers gathers information from all over the Biblical Studies blogging community and publishes what s/he regards as the best posts of that month. It's been a great help for those like me who have lost touch with the ever expanding blogging community in the Biblical Studies area.

8. Who is your readership – literally; as far as you know?

My regular readership, in so far as I can gather from the correspondence and comments, is made up of academics, graduate students and a few undergraduate students in the area, but by far the biggest constituency is the "interested layperson", those looking to keep up with the area, or to develop their interests in the area. That includes a number of clergy too (I know it's odd to call them "lay", but I am speaking, of course, with respect to the professional academics and otherwise, not church and otherwise). I have about 2,000 visitors a day to the NT Gateway site as a whole (including the blog) and I would say that the majority of those come through Google searches.

9. and metaphorically? Do you imagine someone to whom you write/with whom you engage?

Not really. I try to make sure that I write clearly and in a way that can be understood by anyone intelligent and reasonably well informed, but if one spends too long trying to visualize one's audience, one would go nuts. To be honest, I don't like to imagine too huge an audience or I get too self-conscious. One useful lesson I have learnt too is that one should never assume that a scholar one is criticizing will not look at one's blog. There have been occasions when I have been flattered to discover that a scholar I am engaging with here has actually read what I am saying. So the moral is -- and this is something that helps with all scholarly writing -- don't write something you wouldn't be happy saying to someone's face.

10. What counts as successful blogging?

That's too big a question, really, and so many things go into good blogging. What I would say is that one needs to work hard to get the balance right. One simply cannot realistically expect a scholar's blog to have the same degree of careful research and reasoned argument that one would find in published work. The blog is often a place of experimentation and enjoyment, a scholarly playground, as it were. If one can't toss out the odd idea and try out different things and comment on what one happens to be interested in, then it is hardly worth it. But at the same time, one can be too frivolous, over-opinionated, and one has to watch out for that. It's easy to relax too much when one is blogging. For me, a professional blog is a university Senior Common Room; it is not the bar. We are drinking coffee while we blog and not beer.

11. What does blogging offer as a method of theological reflection?

To be honest, I am not very good at theological reflection and my own blog tends to veer more towards items of historical interest. That's just a reflection of my own interests. As stated previously, blogging gives one the opportunity to try things out in a more relaxed, informal kind of atmosphere, with a readership outside the four walls of one's own university. I like the democratic medium of blogging, as of the internet generally. People are judged by the academic quality of their posts rather than by their credentials, and that's one of the reasons that you get some star bloggers who are amateurs (amateurs in the sense that they are not paid academics, or graduate students in the area).

12. What potential do you see for blogging as a method of theological reflection?

See previous. Just look at the best of what's available in the current scene and imagine how that can be consolidated and strengthened.

13. Do you know of examples of theological education programmes where students are required to keep a learning journal and blog as a form of journal?

No. I've toyed with the idea myself, but I am not persuaded that it would work well. I think it would be too gimmicky.

14. Blogging and gender: do you think gender makes any difference to any of the above questions?

No, though note the above comments on when the issues was raised in the biblioblogging community. It is of course the case that women are still woefully under-represented in the guild in general, and there are also many fewer women bloggers than male ones. But I am optimistic and look forward to seeing the balance change, and doing everything I can myself to help to change things.

Latest from the SBL Review of Biblical Literature

under the NT heading:

Harrill, J. Albert
Slaves in the New Testament: Literary, Social, and Moral Dimensions
Reviewed by Joseph Verheyden

Harrill, J. Albert
Slaves in the New Testament: Literary, Social, and Moral Dimensions
Reviewed by Marcus Sigismund

Moloney, Francis J.
Mark: Storyteller, Interpreter, Evangelist
Reviewed by Heike Omerzu

Wright, N. T.
Paul: In Fresh Perspective
Reviewed by Valerie Nicolet Anderson

Wright, N. T.
Paul: In Fresh Perspective
Reviewed by Seyoon Kim

Erickson, Richard J.
A Beginner's Guide to New Testament Exegesis: Taking the Fear out of the Critical Method
Reviewed by Peter Judge

Thompson, Marianne Meye
Colossians and Philemon
Reviewed by Verlyn Verbrugge

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Blogging as theological reflection

Francis Ward emails:
-----
Hi! I’m Frankie Ward and with Elaine Graham and Heather Walton we’re the speakers at the British and Irish Association of Practical Theology conference that meets in Manchester July 18 – 20th this year, with the theme of theological reflection. I’d like to do something at the conference on blogging as a method of theological reflection – and would be really grateful if you could answer any or all of these questions – and forward them on to anyone else you know who might be prepared to answer them too. I need responses, if possible, by July 3rd … I don’t blog (yet!) so responses to my email address at fefward@btinternet.com although if there’s any way that some dialogue can be generated within whatever blogging community you belong to, it would be great to be notified of any links etc that I might otherwise miss.
Many thanks in anticipation …

1. How long have you been blogging?
2. What got you started?
3. Do you have a history of diary/journal/log writing beforehand?
4. How in your own mind do you negotiate the boundary between private and public? E.g. are there things that you would not put on your blog that you would put in a journal?
5. How do you decide? What criteria do you use for inclusion/exclusion?
6. How much time, on average, do you spend blogging each day or week?
7. How many other people do you actively engage with – e.g. are part of your blog community?
8. Who is your readership – literally; as far as you know?
9. and metaphorically? Do you imagine someone to whom you write/with whom you engage?
10. What counts as successful blogging?
11. What does blogging offer as a method of theological reflection?
1. Its opportunities
2. Its draw backs
12. What potential do you see for blogging as a method of theological reflection?
13. Do you know of examples of theological education programmes where students are required to keep a learning journal and blog as a form of journal?
14. Blogging and gender: do you think gender makes any difference to any of the above questions?
------
I'll provide my own answers to these questions on the blog later today.

Forthcoming Biblical Studies Carnival

H. H. Hardy emails:
-----
The June edition of the Biblical Studies Carnival will be posted in just a little over a week. The submissions have been sparse for this month (understandable for the first month of the summer). If you could mention the carnival on your website and/or email your own submission, I would appreciate it.

Carnival Website: http://biblical-studies.ca/carnival/

Carnival Email: biblical_studies_carnival@hotmail.com

Submission Form: http://blogcarnival.com/bc/submit_203.html
-----
I have to admit that I've not yet submitted a post to a Carnival, either one of my own or anyone else's. That's rather selfish because I do enjoy the carnivals when they are published. But it seems like self-promotion to recommend one's own posts and I am not a rich enough consumer of others' blogs these days to be able to recommend others' blog posts. This is one of those occasions where I'd say: do not do as I do. The Carnivals are such fun and so helpful, so please help out H. H. Hardy if you have a moment.

Bart Ehrman on the Colbert Report

You can see Bart Ehrman's appearance on The Colbert Report (with thanks to Jim West on Xtalk for the heads-up) on-line:

Comedy Central: The Colbert Report

As I commented on Xtalk, it doesn't make easy watching. I'd say Colbert's tactics back-fired rather. If he is attempting to make fun of fundamentalist Christians, it certainly doesn't work. If he is attempting to make fun of Ehrman, then it just comes across as bullying. Just stop going on and actually listen to what your guest is saying! I must admit that I'd take Jon Stewart over the irritating Colbert every day of the week. Stewart's interview with Ehrman a few weeks ago was a model of how to engage intelligently, by contrast. (See Bart Ehrman on the Daily Show). For one thing, it was pretty clear that Stewart had actually read and enjoyed the book.

I once did a live programme in the UK where I felt that we were on more to be laughed at than to be interviewed, and watching Bart on this programme reminded me of that. It was a programme called The Big Breakfast on Channel 4, back in the spring of 2001, when I'd been involved with the BBC's Son of God (Jesus: The Complete Story in the USA). I was on with Jean Claude Bragard, who had directed that series. My policy was just to laugh along with them rather than to get antagonised, and Jean Claude was very good and just cracked jokes, which was about the right method, I thought. Not sure how I would have coped if I'd been on my own, though.

Update (23.50): thanks for the helpful comments (see below) and emails. I must admit that I've never been a big fan of the Colbert Report -- I have found it so loud and irritating that I've never really managed to get into it in the same way that I've (just about) managed with The Daily Show. It may be that it will take a little more time. At the moment, I watch it until about 11.40, having left the channel on after Jon Stewart, and then I get annoyed and switch it off. The comments are, of course, quite right -- Colbert is ironically playing a character who is parodying right wing, evangelical Christians. What I suppose I meant to say is that in this context I don't know how well it works given that Bart Ehrman did not appear to be particularly comfortable with Colbert's character's interview and thus any attempted attack on fundamentalism backfires. All I can say is that if it had been me, I would not have been too chuffed. But then Bart at least gets on these programmes. As I mentioned previously, Bart is now -- surely -- the new Dom Crossan.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Latest Americanizing

There will be more NT Gateway blogging in due course, but in the mean time I have a post on The Americanization of Emily on World Cup Coverage in the USA.

Update (Friday, 18.16): the above post, World Cup Coverage in the USA, has now been updated further, with lots more reflections after exposure to more American coverage and more UK coverage. And Viola has her half-way stage reflections in Hurry up England, Come On.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Terminology of Christianities and Judaisms

Is it just me or is there something rather annoying about the trend over the last twenty years or so to talk about early Christianity as "Christianities" and early Judaism as "Judaisms"? I must admit that I am hoping that this is going to prove to be just a fad and something that we will look back on in twenty years time as an odd terminological aberration that characterized a particular kind of scholarship at the turn of the millennium.

I understand, of course, the anxiety people feel about attempting to convey just how varied Judaism and Christianity were in this period, and it is natural to want to stretch language norms when one is examining emerging Judaism and Christian origins. But I can't help feeling that there is nothing helpful, interesting or insightful about this particular terminological oddity. If the variety of Christianity is not properly understood as "Christianity", then I don't see how calling it "a" Christianity in any way advances the discussion. It is either a variety of Christianity that might legitimately be described as a variety of Christianity, or it is not. Calling it "a" Christianity simply doesn't change anything. Likewise Judaism.

And is it not the case that Christianity is far more diverse today than it was in the first two centuries? Many Christians within particular traditions do not recognise those in other competing traditions as Christians; there are Christian sects that are not called Christian by their founders; there are Christian sects that are not called Christian by their critics. We have every possible variety of belief and practice within contemporary global Christianity yet we don't feel the need to use the term Christianities. And likewise Judaism. Why, then, do we feel it necessary for the early centuries?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Review of Biblical Literature latest

Latest from the SBL Review of Biblical Literature under the NT and Early Christianity heading:

Deines, Roland, Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr, eds.
Philo und das Neue Testament: Wechselseitige Wahrnehmungen
Reviewed by Peter Frick

Epp, Eldon Jay
Perspectives on New Testament Textual Criticism: Collected Essays, 1962-2004
Reviewed by J K Elliot

Kysar, Robert
Voyages with John: Charting the Fourth Gospel
Reviewed by Tom Thatcher

Reasoner, Mark
Romans in Full Circle: A History of Interpretation
Reviewed by Elliott Maloney

Smith, James A.
Marks of an Apostle: Deconstruction, Philippians, and Problematizing Pauline Theology
Reviewed by Joseph Marchal

Braun, Willi, ed.
Rhetoric and Reality in Early Christianities
Reviewed by John Kloppenborg

Finlan, Stephen
Problems with Atonement: The Origins of, and Controversy about, the Atonement Doctrine
Reviewed by Christian Eberhart

Horsley, Richard A., ed.
Christian Origins
Reviewed by Clare Rothschild

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Superman and Messianic Connotations

It's nice to have an excuse to blog on the forthcoming Superman Returns and as regular readers will know, I insist on a NT related excuse before I'll blog on something. On Filmchat, Peter Chattaway (Let us now compare Jesus and Superman . . .) notices an Associated Press article:

For Some, Man of Steel Has Messianic Echo
First there were the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Now, for many Christian moviegoers comes another gospel.

As the hype machine shifts into high gear for the upcoming release of "Superman Returns," some are reading deeply into the film whose hero returns from a deathlike absence to play savior to the world.

"It is so on the nose that anyone who has not caught on that Superman is a Christ figure, you think, `Who else could it be referring to?'" said Steve Skelton, who wrote a book examining parallels between Superman and Christ . . .

. . . . Many simply see the story of a hero sent to Earth by his father to serve mankind as having clear enough New Testament overtones. Others have taken the comparison even further, reading the "El" in Superman's original name "Kal-El" and that of his father "Jor-El" as the Hebrew word for "God," among other theological interpretations.

"Superman Returns," which premieres June 28, has been drawing its own comparisons to biblical accounts, especially after the appearance of its trailer earlier this year.

The preview shows the hero with his eyes closed as the voice of his father Marlon Brando's, courtesy of 1978's "Superman" tells him he was sent to Earth because humans "lack the light to show the way."

"For this reason," continues the voice, "I have sent them you, my only son."

Online message boards and Web logs quickly latched onto the biblical resonance of those lines . . .

. . . Not everybody welcomes the Superman-Jesus comparisons.

"It's a misrecognition," said Amy Pedersen, who is writing her doctoral thesis in art history at the University of California, Los Angeles, on superhero comic books.

Pedersen said Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who introduced Superman in 1938 in a comic book, were Jews who were inspired by the Old Testament story of Moses and the supernatural golem character from Jewish folklore.

The Christian allusions are recent innovations that compromise the integrity of the Superman myth, she said . . . .
Good article -- gets the balance about right. Echoes, allusions and motifs there, part of the stock from which everyone draws; don't get your knickers in a twist about them.

Specialization within New Testament Studies

While mowing the lawn, just after catching the Brazil v. Croatia match, I found myself thinking about a conversation I'd had with a recent Duke graduate about the perils of specialization in New Testament studies and I thought I'd share my musings here. What we have in New Testament studies at the moment more than ever is over specialization within the field. It is common for scholars to introduce themselves as a "Paulinist" or a "Synoptics person" or an "expert on Revelation", or a "Luke-Acts specialist". Now there is, quite clearly, a reason for this for recent PhD graduates. You've just spent the best part of three or four years becoming the world's number one expert on a particular verse in Luke, a particular theme in Galatians, a particular manuscript of the Gospels. You are the expert; it's your special project that you've proved yourself on and you deserve your PhD. But what comes next? If you are the world expert on Luke 12.13, is it the wisest thing now to become the world expert on Luke 12.14? (NB: these are all hypotheticals, drawn at random. If I have accidentally hit on anyone's actual research topic, please be assured that it is an accident!).

What I find surprising and disappointing is the way in which we allow ourselves to feel under pressure to stick within our particular narrow fields, to draw a circle around ourselves and only allow ourselves to play within it. Of course there are many exceptions, but most of the exceptions, those who are authorities equally on Jesus and Paul, on the Synoptics and John, on second Temple Judaism and Josephus, tend to be senior scholars with already established reputations. There are several extraordinary things about our over-specialization, and we tend not to notice them because we are so caught up in the system that we ourselves bolster. Let me list a few of the oddities and absurdities as I see them:

(1) There are very few New Testament Scholars who do not in fact teach a wide range of NT and related topics. Why is it that we think that we are competent to teach Paul but not to write about him, or to offer an introduction to New Testament course without having investigated carefully the topics we are pretending to be an expert on?

(2) Given that we do teach a range of topics, it is inevitable that we are all the time thinking fresh, original, publishable thoughts on those topics. Does this mean, then, that there are lots of fresh and interesting thoughts and ideas out there that are never seeing the light of day outside the classroom because we are allegedly not experts on the given topic?

(3) We need to remember that studying the New Testament is already a specialization itself. It's already subset of other bigger topics, Biblical Studies, second temple Judaism, early Christian history, Theology, etc., yet we treat it as if it is the global header under which we select some appropriate topic.

(4) One of the dangers of "Paulinists" not publishing on the Synoptics (and vice versa, etc.) is that the practitioners of the particular topics in question become rather entrenched in their ways of doing things, and it becomes difficult for others to penetrate the new field. And frankly, there is that feeling of a massive body of literature to get through, so we stick with our given topic all too easily.

(5) The conferences are so big that they encourage us to follow, to nurture our specialization. How often do I go along to a Pauline epistles section at the SBL Annual Meeting? Well, occasionally, but not very often. How often do I go to African-American Biblical Hermeneutics? Never, I am afraid. And so on. How is the field going to resist the increasing splintering unless we find some ways to encourage people to act differently?

So what can be done about this situation? Here are some thoughts:

(a) The key, formative moments are, I think, when our graduate students are doing their research. I think we need to encourage them not to think of themselves as a developing "Paulinist" or a "Historical Jesus expert" etc. I think we ought to encourage them to aspire to be a good, rounded scholar with things to say about lots of different topics.

(b) In relation to this, we need to encourage people to avoid playing safe. Take a few risks, explore different areas, don't be afraid of making an idiot of yourself.

(c) If you have done a good, solid Masters and some good, solid course work for your PhD, you are well equipped to see yourself as expert in a variety of topics. And one consequence of this is to be careful of PhD courses that don't encourage you to be broad.

(d) Teaching is key. As a graduate student, it is ideal to get as much teaching experience as possible, and to be as broad as possible in that teaching. But don't see the teaching as something you are competent in, but think of it as developing expertise.

(e) And now some advice to myself and people like me, i.e. those whose research and writing is primarily associated with one area but who have much broader interests. Avoid the comfort zone of staying inside your own natural hunting ground (sorry about the mixed metaphors). If you have an interesting idea on a topic outside that usual hunting ground, prioritise it, or you may never emerge. And think seriously about the following:

(f) Discipline yourself at the conferences to visit sessions outside of the ones you naturally associate yourself with.

(g) Don't just read what you think you need to read in a given area to keep your teaching up to date. Read widely.

(h) It is easy to think you need to read everything in existence on a given topic before you can write an authoritative paper on it. What I'd say here is: look at the top brass who publish widely. Have they read every last article before they go to print?

Brainstorm and semi-rant over for now.

Latest Americanizing

My latest guest post on The Americanization of Emily is about How to Send International Texts (SMS). I also made a couple of small contributions to Viola's World Cup post, It's Coming Home, and am making notes on the (most enjoyable) American TV coverage for a future post.

Monday, June 12, 2006

SBL Annual Meeting 2006: Synoptics Section

Here are the details of the four sessions of the Synoptic Gospels Section at this year's SBL Annual Meeting. I won't put any of the times of the sessions on here until they are confirmed on the SBL website. I am pleased with this year's programme, I think the strongest we have ever had (if I may be so bold). It is certainly the most we've ever had, at four sessions, two themed and two open. And we had to turn away a lot of very good proposals this year, which we regretted very much.

Session 1: Open Session:

Mark Matson, Milligan College, Presiding

Stephen C. Carlson, Fairfax, VA
Luke’s Panel Technique for his “Orderly” Narration (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)

Turid Karlsen Seim, University of Oslo
The Resurrected Body in Luke-Acts (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)

Gary Gilbert, Claremont McKenna College
Luke-Acts and the Second Sophistic: Roman Imperium and Subordinate Responses (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)

Douglas Sivers, Drew University, Stewart Moore, Drew University and Joshua J.F. Wall,
Losing the Things We Do Not Have: Interpreting the Parable(s) of the Talents and Pounds (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)

Bradley W. Root, University of California, San Diego
Parable and Reality in Jesus' Galilee (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)


Session 2: The Birth Narratives

Loveday Alexander, University of Sheffield, Presiding

Jane D. Schaberg, University of Detroit Mercy
The Illegitimacy of Jesus after Twenty Years (20 min)

Gail Streete, Rhodes College, Respondent (20 min)
Amy-Jill Levine, Vanderbilt University, Respondent (20 min)

David Landry, University of Saint Thomas
Hostile Takeover: An Intertextual Reading of Luke 1-2 (20 min)

Robert Miller, Juniata College, Respondent (20 min)
John Darr, Boston College, Respondent (20 min)

Discussion (30 min)


Session 3: Panel discussion of Simon Gathercole, The Pre-existent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark and Luke (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006)

Mark Goodacre, Duke University, Presiding

James Dunn, Durham University, Panelist (15 min)
Rikki Watts, Regent College, Panelist (15 min)
Deirdre Good, General Theological Seminary, Panelist (15 min)
Maurice Casey, University of Nottingham, Panelist (15 min)
Simon Gathercole, University of Aberdeen, Panelist (25 min)

Break (15 min)

Discussion (50 min)


Session 4: Open session

Greg Carey, Lancaster Theological Seminary, Presiding

Michael F. Bird, Highland Theological College
Sectarian Gospels for Sectarian Communities? The Non-canonical Gospels and Bauckham's "Gospel for All Christians" (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)

Jeffrey B. Gibson, Harry S Truman College
The "Bread Petition in the Lord's Prayer: A Lack of Alas? (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)

Jason Robert Combs, Yale University
"They Thought it was a Ghost:" Understanding an Absurdity in Mark 6:49-50 (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)

Clinton Wahlen, AIIAS Theological Seminary
The Impurity of Spirits in the Synoptic Gospels (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)

Aaron M. Gale, West Virginia University
"A 'Golden' Gospel of Matthew?: Money, Economic Status, and Taxation in the Synoptics" (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)

What's wrong with redaction criticism?

One of my tasks this summer is to complete several encyclopaedia and dictionary entries for different projects, one of which is a short piece on Redaction Criticism. In thinking about this entry, my mind turns not just to the strengths of redaction criticm -- and some of my best friends are redaction critics -- but also to its weaknesses. Here, in summary, are my thoughts about what is wrong with redaction criticism as it is normally practised in Synoptic criticism:

(1) As normally practised, one of the goals of redaction criticism is to reconstruct the history and character of the community behind the Gospel in question. But the assumption that the Gospels are all written for a specific community has recently been called into question by Richard Bauckham et al in The Gospels for All Christians: Rethinking Gospel Audiences (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998). My own general verdict on this book is that it scores important points against the traditional scholarly view, but that it does not sufficiently distinguish between the communities from which the Gospels were written from the communities to which the Gospels were allegedly written. Gospels with large target audiences are still inevitably Gospels that reveal information about their author's context. So with some nuancing and rethinking, redaction criticism still has a role to play, but it is a role that does require some work.

(2) Redaction criticism's excessive emphasis on what is distinctive in each Gospel can be misleading. Matthew, for example, might like something in Mark so much that he reproduces it verbatim – he might think that a given section of Mark expresses his own view better than anything he can add himself. I have argued in a forthcoming article (given as a paper at the SBL 2005 Matthew Section) that Matthew's view of Peter, for example, is remarkably similar to Mark's and that we tend to miss this because we are obsessed with where Matthew is different from Mark, and so miss key ways in which Matthew underlines Mark when he reproduces material. In teaching, I try to make this point by noting the way in which students often go to quotation when they find something that they really like in their secondary literature source material. They use quotation, in other words, to underline their own view in a "they said it better than I can" sort of way. Sometimes when Matthew reproduces Mark verbatim, he does so because he has found something with which he is extra specially in agreement. We need to be wary of the assumption that Matthew includes a given passage because he is doing some kind of docile reproduction.

(3) This is a related point. Redaction criticism tends not to allow sufficiently for the effect that a source gospel might have had on a given evangelist. What if Mark fundamentally altered Matthew's views? Gospels are works of propaganda or persuasion and were presumably designed to persuade others, yet we tend to imagine Matthew taking up an utterly critical stance to Mark as if his (Matthew's) views were all fully formed before he came across Mark. My view is that Mark has a profound and overwhelming effect on Matthew, changing and developing his thinking on all sorts of fronts. He likes the book so much that when he rewrites it in order to replace it, he incorporates a large amount of it into his own work. To take one example, I have argued in an as yet unpublished piece on John the Baptist in Mark and Matthew that the idea of depicting John as Elijah was a Marcan innovation. Before Mark, it was always Jesus who had been seen as Elijah. Matthew takes the identification forward, while Luke reverts to the pre-Marcan Jesus as Elijah.

(4) Sometimes, there is too speedy a correlation between the page of the text and the evangelists and their communities. The evangelists are not always recounting material because they see a poignant or important link with the experiences in their community. Sometimes they are simply "telling the story". They are writing Gospels about Jesus, attempting to persuade readers about the good news of Jesus the Messiah's life, death and resurrection. Of course the selection, presentation and creation of material is done in engagement with their own and their communities' interests, but too often redaction criticism works as if those interests do not include some good, old-fashioned "telling the tale".

(5) One of my developing concerns about redaction criticism relates to the way that it is used in some Q scholarship. Redaction criticism is largely the means by which the text of Q is reconstructed, yet there have been recent claims that the reconstructed Q will now help us in the job of doing redaction criticism of Matthew and Luke. The circularity here ought to be obvious, but the increasingly concrete nature of the reconstructed Q text causes it to be missed.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Resurrection film

Over on Filmchat, Petter Chattaway has the scoop on a proposed new film called The Resurrection. This is via Hollywood Reporter, from Reuters:

'Resurrection' to appear at Easter
Using the Bible for its source material, "Resurrection" will tell the story of Jesus Christ beginning the day he died on the cross and ending about 40 days later with his ascension into heaven.
So it's the Luke-Acts take on resurrection, which makes sense given that this is the first serious attempt to narrate the resurrection story in sequence.
According to insiders, Sony's mid-budget Screen Gems division commissioned a script several months ago from Lionel Chetwynd, the veteran screenwriter, producer and director whose credits include the feature "The Hanoi Hilton" and the Emmy-nominated TV movie "Ike: Countdown to D-Day."

Set to produce is Tim LaHaye, co-author of the best-selling "Left Behind" series of books. A popular minister and frequent TV news pundit, "Resurrection" will mark LaHaye's first foray into mainstream filmmaking. . . .
As Peter says, this is not so encouraging, but you never know.
"'The Passion' ends with Jesus being taken from the cross, and 'The Resurrection' opens with the empty cross," a person familiar with the script said.
Is "The Passion" here referenced Gibson's The Passion of the Christ? If so, the detail is of course inaccurate because the Gibson film ends with Jesus getting up to walk out of the tomb. But I like the idea of a sequel to that film!
According to the Bible, women who visited the tomb of Jesus Christ three days after his crucifixion found it empty, and his disciples and other acquaintances, including Mary Magdalene, encountered him postresurrection on various occasions during a 40-day period.
Well, after two days really ("on the third day"). As mentioned above, this is the Lucan narrative.
The film will focus on these dramatic encounters and their implications for the Roman garrison in Judea and the broader Roman Empire, insiders said.

"This is not a fanciful rendering. It's a serious attempt to understand the Roman world in which Christ moved and the Christian era was born," a person familiar with the project said.
Sounds good. Most Jesus films are heavy on the attempt to integrate the story into the politics of the Roman world and it sounds like this is no different. Given that the resurrection is usually done so badly in Jesus films, it is intriguing to think of a film specially devoted to the topic. So often, the resurrection is but a coda to the main action of the film, and sometimes (Jesus Christ Superstar, Last Temptation) it is absent altogether.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Biblical Studies Carnival VI

For those, like me, who can't get to blogland as often as they'd like, Ben Myers has done a first class job with the latest in the Biblical Studies Carnivals. In fact, this is a model of how to do a Carnival post:

Biblical Studies Carnival VI

Review of Biblical Literature Latest

Latest from the SBL Review of Biblical Literature under the NT heading:

Evans, Craig A.
Ancient Texts for New Testament Study: A Guide to the Background Literature
Reviewed by Jerome Neyrey

Karris, Robert J.
Galatians and Romans
Reviewed by Mark Reasoner

Lincoln, Andrew T.
The Gospel According to Saint John
Reviewed by Craig Keener

Patella, Michael F.
The Gospel According to Luke
Reviewed by Joel Green

Riches, John and David C. Sim, eds.
The Gospel of Matthew in Its Roman Imperial Context
Reviewed by Markus Oehler

Stepp, Perry L.
Leadership Succession in the World of the Pauline Circle
Reviewed by Ronald Clark

van Veldhuizen, Piet
Geef mij te drinken: Johannes 4, 4-42 als waterputverhaal
Reviewed by R. Roukema

Zetterholm, Magnus
The Formation of Christianity in Antioch: A Social-Scientific Approach to the Separation Between Judaism and Christianity
Reviewed by Eric Stewart

Recent Americanizing

Although absent without leave here on the NT Gateway blog for too long, I have recently resumed my guest role on Viola's Americanization of Emily blog with an illustrated post on my first experience of an American elementary school Field Day (= Sports Day in the UK):

Field Day

I also contributed to an earlier post on Eurovision.

Apocalypse Yesterday

On Paleojudaica, Jim Davila noted the coming of 6/6/06 yesterday, and David Parker at the University of Birmingham had these reflections on the ITSEE site:

Thought for the Day
MANUSCRIPT COPIES OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION give different ‘numbers of the beast’. Exciting though this number is for people who believe the Bible literally, the interest of this number of scholars of Revelation is the light it sheds on the development and use of Revelation in early Christianity. The two numbers which are best known are 666, the number found in the majority of manuscripts, and 616, found in some of the oldest copies, and those with an early form of text . . . .
(Read on).