Welcome to the Biblical Studies Carnival XXVI, covering blog postings made on subjects of academic Biblical Studies over the course of January 2008 (give or take a nickel). It’s been a productive month, so this is a very long carnival.
I was going to use a rather humorous theme or artifice for this carnival, preceding every heading with “Jesus'” so as to have things like “Jesus’ Tomb Symposium,” “Jesus’ Seal Discovered,” and “Jesus’ Paragaogic Nun Discussion,” because it seems these days to be all the rage to claim that various things belong to Jesus: ossuaries, tombs, and whatnot; however, after reviewing the entries for the initial subject, with my levity dampened and diplomacy worn thin, my concern is to avoid making this field of studies any more of a laughingstock than it already is. If only that concern were universally shared!
To begin with, I will open this carnival with some perceptive words on the role of the critic from the well-known poet and literary critic T. S. Eliot:
At one time I was inclined to take the extreme position that the only critics worth reading were the critics who practised, and practised well, the art of which they wrote. But I had to stretch this frame to make some important inclusions; and I have since been in search of a formula which should cover everything I wished to include, even if it included more than I wanted. And the most important qualification which I have been able to find, which accounts for the peculiar importance of the criticism of practitioners, is that a critic must have a very highly developed sense of fact. This is by no means a trifling or frequent gift. And it is not one which easily wins popular commendations. The sense of fact is something very slow to develop, and its complete development means perhaps the very pinnacle of civilization. For there are so many spheres of fact to be mastered, and our outermost sphere of fact, of knowledge, of control, will be ringed with narcotic fancies in the sphere beyond. To the member of the Browning Study Circle, the discussion of poets about poetry may seem arid, technical, and limited. It is merely that the practitioners have clarified and reduced to a state of fact all the feelings that the member can only enjoy in the most nebulous form; the dry technique implies, for those who have mastered it, all that the member thrills to; only that has been made into something precise, tractable, under control. That, at all events, is one reason for the value of the practitioner’s criticism—he is dealing with his facts, and he can help us to do the same.
And at every level of criticism I find the same necessity regnant. There is a large part of critical writing which consists in ‘interpreting’ an author, a work. This is not on the level of the Study Circle either; it occasionally happens that one person obtains an understanding of another, or a creative writer, which he can partially communicate, and which we feel to be true and illuminating. It is difficult to confirm the ‘interpretation’ by external evidence. To anyone who is skilled in fact on this level there will be evidence enough. But who is to prove his own skill? And for every success in this type of writing there are thousands of impostures. Instead of insight, you get a fiction. Your test is to apply it again and again to the original, with your view to the original to guide you. But there is no one to guarantee your competence, and once again we find ourselves in a dilemna.
We must ourselves decide what it useful to us and what is not; and it is quite likely that we are not competent to decide. But it is fairly certain that ‘interpretation’ (I am not touching upon the acrostic element in literature) is only legitimate when it is not interpretation at all, but merely putting the reader in possession of facts which he would otherwise have missed.
Excerpted from the essay, “The Function of Criticism,” section IV
Fact is important, as are competence, skill, and trust, and all these are particularly at issue in one of the more recent events to shake up the Biblical Studies world in January 2008: a seminar on a tomb in the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem. In this case, various practitioners and non-practitioners are involved as critics, with facts finding themselves twisted to fictions, competencies questioned, skill doubted, and trust sadly lost. There has certainly, absolutely, undoubtedly been a failure in the critical process in the following case.
The Squalorship of Archaeoporn: One Very Empty Tomb
The Third Princeton Symposium on Judaism and Christian Origins: Jewish Views of the After Life and Burial Practices in Second Temple Judaism—Evaluating the Talpiot Tomb in Context, was held January 13-16 in Jerusalem, with an interestingly varied lineup of papers by a variety of scholars. The emphasis on the Talpiot tomb (“identified” as the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth and his family in a documentary of sorts of last year written by Simcha Jacobovici) has come to overshadow the proceedings. Almost immediately after the conference, the J9 public relations group released a statement misrepresenting both the nature of the symposium and its conclusions, indicating that the scholars involved had actually “vindicated” Jacobovici’s work and the conclusions of his so-called documentary. A further puff piece appeared in Time, and a video of the same general journalistic back-scratching quality on CNN. Jim West noted that J9, the source of the Jacobovici-supportive press release, is actually Jacobovici’s own publicity machine, and the comments to that post indicate the beginning of the true story of the conference coming out. The following day an article appeared written by someone obviously sympathetic to Jacobovici’s claims and quite content to leave the same J9-inspired spin on the symposium as one of vindication for Jacobovici, continuing (rather scandalously to many eyes) to harp on the potential of an antisemitic response to revelations about this tomb. A slightly later Haaretz article does the same. Stephen Pfann posted a short summary of the symposium, its mild tone a kind of lull before the storm, while he was soliciting statements from symposium participants particularly in response to the misrepresentations of the Jacobovici press machine. This has yielded statements, some pro, some con, from Eric Meyers, Shimon Gibson, Geza Vermes (see also here for another Vermes statement), Israel Knohl, André Lemaire, James Tabor, Chris Rollston, Jane Schaberg, and Rachel Hachlili; Stephen has also included his own statement in both long and short formats. April DeConick was also there, and posted her reflections. Chris Rollston likewise posted his take on the symposium. James Tabor, who actually strongly supports the idea that this tomb is that of Jesus of Nazareth and his family, posted his own thoughts on the symposium here, here, and here. [Though I find that last one uproariously funny, seeing that historical method has been bashed, battered and trounced in regards to this Talpiot tomb’s peculiar fame, the post simply lobbies for caution, which is no more than the conference itself did in the end. Is there a more positive or receptive caution than a negative and unreceptive caution? It appears that, in this case, caution is in the eyes of the beholder…. By the way, how many Joseph Caiaphases are known to history? Precisely one. The cognomen is unique, and of uncertain derivation. The use of such a distinguishing cognomen is what makes it entirely different from the case of the Talpiot ossuaries with their very popular names sans any distinguishing characteristics of patronymy or toponymy, much less unique cognomina. The lack of such identifying traits eliminates even the possibility of certitude. The two cases could only be compared if someone were to claim an ossuary simply labeled “Joseph” was that of Joseph Caiaphas, one-time high priest in Jerusalem.] A statement signed by a number of participants in the symposium, flatly rejecting the Jacobovici perspective, was also issued from Duke University’s Religion Department. An interview with Eric Meyers expanded on this statement. And though several have questioned the propriety of Mrs Gat’s speech at the symposium, some did so more harshly than was necessary; Stephen Pfann has apologized for having done so. Joe Zias provided us with a very interesting statement that reveals indications of some rather shady back-room machinations that led to this conference. Charlesworth’s own Princeton Theological Seminary was next to issue a statement. An interview with Charlesworth, chairman of the symposium, was also enlightening, indicating that more work is planned for the tomb itself. This, however, is almost certainly not going to occur, due to the usual Haredi intervention where Jewish remains are involved. An excellent survey of the development of the situation to this point is also provided by Stephen Pfann. In short, Pfann relates, we hear from those involved that the identification of this tomb as that of Jesus and family all hinges upon a concatenation of relationships relying upon the presence of Mary Magdalene in that tomb, particularly a form of a name that is exclusive to Mary Magdalene. And on that note, Pfann states that, contra James Tabor’s post on the above-mentioned Duke statement, he and Jonathan Price, epigraphers, agree in toto that the ossuary in question does not feature the MARIAMHNOU that has been claimed to exclusively denote Mary Magdelene. In a fascinating lesson on epigraphy dealing with letter form, and one dealing with strokes, Stephen Pfann shows the “Mariame kai Mara” ossuary’s inscription to be in two hands, one semi-cursive and one cursive, which difference certainly implies that those interpretations based upon the entire inscription being contemporary are indeed faulty. Simcha Jacobovici has replied to various articles and particularly to the Duke statement. Dua
ne Smith points to Thaddeus Nelson’s delightfully named blog Archaeoporn (a term apparently coined by Jonathan Reed in the Discovery Channel’s program The Lost Tomb of Jesus: A Critical Look, which aired immediately after Jacobovici’s, er, documentary), which situates this Jacobovici-Talpiot issue among other conspiracy theories.
You know what I’d really like to hear about? I’d like to hear more about the other things discussed at this Princeton conference: like those “Jewish Views of the After Life and Burial Practices in Second Temple Judaism.” Hopefully the volume of papers will be published promptly.
Suffice it to say, this Talpiot fiasco has become an albatross about the neck of any number of scholars. It seems to taint everyone who touches it. We can only hope that the reaction to the shoddiness of this entire enterprise will bring about changes particularly in scholarship’s interface with the media. The working basis of that relationship, indeed perhaps even the continuation of that relationship itself, quite obviously and imperatively needs to be revisited. At the very least, this naive continuation of scholarly relationships with journalistic opportunists should be ended. Perhaps we can then avoid this kind of squalorship in the future.
What’s in a name?
This subject narrowly avoided being lumped with the subject above: the reading of a newly discovered seal excavated by Eilat Mazar in her ongoing City of David excavations. A summary of the issue in in order. One of the first things one needs to know about seals (that is, the original impressing artifact or seal, rather than the impressed artifact or bulla) is that they are inscribed in reverse, so as to ensure a legible impress. There are some very few seals where the letters are mistakenly carved into seals improperly, that is, not backwards for the sake of the impression, but mistakenly forwards, which would result in a backwards-written impression. In this case, Eilat Mazar has read the seal as though it is written forwards, to yield the name תמח, a name which is known from Ezra 2.53 and Neh 7.55, that of a family of netinim or hierodules that returned from Mesopotamia to Jerusalem. Most others, however, including epigraphers Peter van der Veen (here and here) and Chris Rollston, instead read the seal’s inscription to say שלמת, likely representing the well-known name Shlomit, which likewise appears in 1Chr 23.9 (qere) as the name of a Levitical family, and in Ezra 8.10 as the head of one of the families of returnees from Babylon. Chris Heard has posted some excellent photos with tracings of the two ways of reading the seal, and using more Photosop devilry even produces an image of what a bulla made with the seal would look like. Chris likewise describes his attempts to correct (sigh) the Wikipedia entry on the seal. To that point, it seemed to most observers that the very busy Mazar had simply not had time to look at the seal closely, or some such, and so could be expected to swing around promptly to the more likely reading of שלמת or at the very least to mention it as an alternative. Then she presented her reading at the 2008 Herzliya Conference (an unusual venue, as this is a political conference dealing with Israel’s national policy) without any mention of the alternate and more likely reading. The conference was webcast, and comments on Mazar’s presentation have been collected by Jim West and Chris Heard. Needless to say, as Mazar’s funding in the City of David excavations comes in part from the Ir David Foundation, which is dedicated to purchasing and restoring properties in the City of David area of Jerusalem, some have audaciously questioned her scholarly integrity in preferring one reading over another because of her receiving funding from an organization which is so partisan, particularly when the emphasis on so many of her findings is on how Biblically-related they are, and hence, evidence of ancient Jewish presence being used to bolster one side in the tense situation in modern Jerusalem. This however, is irrelevant. As I noted above, whether the name is תמח Temah or שלמת Shlomit, both names occur in the context of the return of Jews to Jerusalem from exile, so either would indeed prove the point. The accusation of funding-related intimidation is simply scurrilous. In any case, Mazar’s initial preference for the תמח Temah reading was fortunately, however, only temporary. As she says on the BAR site,
“I accept the suggestion made by Peter van der Veen and followed by many other scholars to read Sh l m t. Actually, I love it. For the time being, this reading is preferable to my reading of t m h or h m t. This is an opportunity also to thank the many scholars who took part in the various blogs contributing their knowledge on the subject.”
While one wonders why she qualifies this retraction with “for the time being,” we might at least be glad to see that the system of scholarly cooperation and inter-recognition of collegial expertise is working well in the City of David these days, if not in Talpiot. Take a look at the rest of the goodies at the BAR site devoted to this seal, especially the high resolution photo of the seal itself. Her change elicits a very nice commendation from Duane Smith, among others, including this writer.
Palazzo o piazza?
Onward with another Eilat Mazar topic! Her interpretation of the large structure she’s excavating in the City of David as King David’s Palace has come under question in an article by Israel Finkelstein, Lily Singer-Avitz, Ze’ev Herzog, and David Ussishkin, “Has King David’s Palace in Jerusalem Been Found” (Tel Aviv 34 :142-164; an online copy is hosted by Jim West). See the posting on this article by Jim West, and note especially this intriguing comment by Aren Maeir:
As someone who has seen the evidence and heard both Eilat Mazar present her case and Finkelstien, Ussishkin, Herzog and Singer-Avitz present their counterarguments, I believe that one can say that:
1) Eilat has overstated her case that she has found “David’s palace”. She HAS found a large building in the City of David, dating to the 10th or 9th cent. BCE.
2) From an archaeological point of view, the “Hellenistic” dating that Finkelstein et al. have suggested is to say the least, very unconvincing. This though is not the place to go in to details.
Well, we certainly would like to find the right place where he can go into details! Todd Bolen is also thinking of posting his thoughts on the subject. Hopefully he’ll include some of his great photos along with them. And hopefully the discussion on this topic will continue. The paper is certainly fascinating, bringing to the fore issues with that old bugaboo “Biblical Archaeology.”
History or not?
Related to the above, and just squeezing in at the end of January, more discussion comes of “minimalism” versus “maximalism” in Biblical Studies, beginning with Claude Mariottini’s review (a version of his entry for the International Biblical Studies Writing Month, see below) of Mario Liverani’s new book Israel’s History and the History of Israel, followed by responses from Jim West and Duane Smith. Christian Brady then takes up the theme, with a short retort from Jim West. Of course, the whole issue then becomes a to-do (on the last day of the month nonetheless, when I was hoping for calm so I could post this carnival early!), with Christian surrejoinding to Jim West’s post above, clarifying whose grandmother Dr Brady was discussing and bringing up the sticky wicket (for postmodern litcrit) of authorial intent and the authorial voice (claiming it as his own! shocking!) demonstrating the falsity of Dr West’s constructed history in direct contradiction to his intent. All this while a post from Kevin Wilson, who describes himself as a “medialist” on the issue, becalms the seas, or at the very least sticks to dry land. Jim West’s final remark on the subject (only for the moment, no doubt, as the subject, quite more often than a phoenix, rises from the ashes to be gone over again and again and again) quotes someone named Bultmann. Must be a Københavner.
International Biblical Studies Writing Month
Chris Brady declared January (and a chunk of December) to be Biblical Studies Academic Writing Month, and/or International Biblical Studies Writing Month. I suppose the latter is snappier, so it gets the title. In any case, those who stepped up to the plate and completed and explicitly declared a work or works to participate were: Bob McDonald, A. K. M. Adam, (Chris Heard (one and two), Airton José da Silva, bzephyr, Tim Bulkeley, Charles Halton (intent and accomplishment), Kevin Wilson, Rick Brannan, Claude Mariottini, and likely some others who’ve slipped through the cracks, whose forgiveness I seek.
Biblioblogger or what?
April DeConick asks, What is a biblioblog and who is a biblioblogger? Hers is and she is, and that’s that, as far as I’m concerned. It had never entered my mind that she wasn’t. More elaboration on the subject comes from Chris Brady, Jim West (who doesn’t think April is, evincing some particular requirements, him probably channeling that Heinrich Twinkly guy or whatever the name is), Duane Smith with a typically abnormally interesting take, Tim Bulkeley wedging in some statistical clouds to squeeze himself into the in-crowd, Doug Chaplin meditates on the same subject, Chris Heard has a kvetch, and the mysterious bzephyr contributes a very fine roundup. My conception of a biblioblog (see below on that term) has always been rather nebulous, and so it was good to find someone making explicit the boundaries of that cloud of possibility in Stephen Carlson’s comment to April DeConick’s initial post. He wrote: “I think I once characterized the subject matter of biblioblogging as anything that could be discussed at SBL.” I find that the best description yet, particularly judging by the variety of subjects typically represented by each of the Biblical Studies Carnivals.
On the term biblioblog itself, I’m taking this opportunity to lobby for a change in the nomenclature. The discussion over the term when it was initially suggested was far too brief. The word itself is ambiguous. Are these blogs about books or about bibliographies? The element biblio- is typically used to refer to books in general (bibliophile, bibliography, etc) and not particularly to the Bible, which is connoted by biblic- as in Biblical, Biblica (the Latin adjective meaning “related to the Bible,” also used as a journal title), and here on this blog as part of its name and one of my blogroll’s categories. For those reasons, I’d like to suggest (again) a move away from “biblioblog” toward “biblicablog.” Not only is the word more precise, but it also doesn’t sound like the noise of a bubbling mire with an ancient toothless Briton sinking into it. Bibblebloggleblurgleblug. (Sorry, I’ve been reading the ghost stories of M. R. James, on which see below….)
A bunch of new blogs and websites of interest
To follow on that note, welcome to all the new biblicabloggers out there! Here are a few of them:
Professor Cláudia Andréa Prata Ferreira of the University of Rio di Janeiro has started up four new blogs: Estudos Bíblicos, Estudos Judaicos, História das Religiões e Religiosidades, and Língua Hebraica, all in Brazilian Portugese, if you can manage it.
The Centre du Recherche Français de Jerusalem has established a new website, with a nice archive of their Bulletin going back through Autumn 2002 (click Publications: Bulletin du CRFJ: Sommaires, which give links to each bulletin).
Drs Abraham David and Ezra Chwat at the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts in the National Library in Jerusalem recently started up the very interesting Hebraica blog Giluy Milta B’alma, where they’ll be presenting nifty finds from among manuscripts, particularly the Cairo Genizah corpus. Looks like great fun!
The managing editor of the extraordinary NET Bible, Professor W. Hall Harris of Dallas Theological Seminary, has started up a new blog, NET Bible Revolution. Note that the posts on that front page are only the first few sentences of the full posts. Click on each post’s title to get its full text.
The librarians of the Jewish Theological Seminary have started up a promising blog, Mekorot. As said librarians themselves say, the blog will “feature reviews and discussion of new and classic sources in Jewish Studies, bibliographical notes, and edifying tidbits.” That sounds enormously helpful. It also means I may finally have found someone to ask about the peculiarities of my 1912 Odessa copy of parts 1 and 2 of the Sefer Ha-Aggadah!
Dr David Gill of Swansea University founded (back in July 2007) the fascinating and (bitterweetly) often-updated blog Looting Matters, posting on subjects related to the trafficking in antiquities, particularly the illegal kind. There’s a wealth of stuff there, enough to make one suspicious of your local museums, even if they’re not already named there….
Peter Enns, Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Hermeneutics of Westminster Theological Seminary, has likewise founded a blog titled (somewhat clunkily, as Chris Heard notes) a time to tear down | A Time to Build Up. He’s posted a number of articles, reviews, rejoinders, and short notes in addition to the blog entries that are all interesting reading.
Whose writin’ thar?
Duane Smith, who regularly provides fascinating (or as he would say, “abnormally interesting”) posts on matters Ugaritic, surprises yet again with Semi-Literates in the Hinterlands of Ugarit? He takes a look at two tablets that pretty obviously come from hands that are not scribally trained, and that are indeed only semi-literate. Note also the contrast in a tablet written by a literate, though not scribally trained, professional, which he described in a December post, Please, Send One Scribe ASAP, with an Assyrian example, and the links there to posts by Charles Halton dealing with Assyrian literacy.
Jim West finds Malachi 1.2-3 the hardest verse in the Bible:
I have loved you, says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?” Is not Esau Jacob’s brother? says the LORD. Yet I have loved Jacob but I have hated Esau; I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.
Also look at the perceptive comments. Is it not shocking that God would hate? Duane Smith takes a different (and truly abnormally interesting—how does he manage to do that so often?) approach, showing the deep roots of this rhetorical device in Ugaritic literature, and suggests the possibility of this love-hate device to actually determine literary seams. It’s an interesting idea, and he’d like feedback on it, so please do indulge him.
Against a wall…
…what can boys do that girls can’t? Duane Smith tries to spoil that with his post On Wells and Walls. I’m not convinced of his suggestion, but it’s a certainly an interesting proposal, if not abnormally so this time. Regardless, a post on one of the most giggle-inducing verses in the King James Bible always requires attention.
On war and peace
John Hobbins has a thought-provoking pair of writings on Why church and state get war and peace wrong all the time and What does the Hebrew Bible have to say about war and peace and faith and politics?. He continues the subject with a powerful post on the life and death of the Klepper family. Just as “War and Peace” brings to mind Tolstoy, the Klepper family story brings to my mind what Dostoevsky’s character Father Zosima says in The Brothers Karamazov: “Lord, have mercy on all those who come before you.”
Sapientia Siracides vel Ecclesiasticus
There was also a nice run of posts regarding the writings, both real and purported, of Jesus son of Sirach. First came from the same John Hobbins In Praise of the Fathers (Sir 44.1-15), then an interesting Orthodox Jewish perspective on Sirach, and finally back to Sir 44.1-3. Iyov then followed up with a funny, if somewhat raunchy, excerpt from The Alphabet of Ben Sira.
Some New(ish) Books of Interest, affordable and very much not
Charles Halton noted Alan Lenzi’s new addition to the State Archives of Assyria: Secrecy and the Gods.
A book that sounds particularly fascinating, Mapping the New Testament: Early Christian Writings as a Witness for Jewish Biblical Exegesis was mentioned by Antonio Lombatti, as Jim West noted, along with his righteous indignation at the price of this volume, which seems excessive even for Brill. Of course, it’s entirely because the dollar has taken a dive lately, but that doesn’t make it any better.
Charles Halton’s review in Journal of Hebrew Scriptures of Bill Schniedewind and Joel Hunt, A Primer on Ugaritic: Language, Culture, and Literature describes quite an impressive book. It’s affordable too! Duane Smith writes on the same book, taking a footnote and running with it all the way to On the “Ugaritic” Alphabet and Cuneiform Alphabets. See especially the links to his older posts on the The Cuneiform Short Alphabet.
On the subject of book reviews, Charles Halton found a really cunning use of ellipses which created a very positive blurb out of very negative review! Make those lemons into lemonade! Also see the comments, where the author of the review (Alan Lenzi, mentioned above) sheds some more qualified light on the (redacted) reasons for his overall negative review.
Tommy Wasserman notes the release of an edition of what has been a standard for NT Papyrologists for some time already, though in dissertation form: James R. Royse, Scribal Habits in Early Greek New Testament Papyri (NTTSD 36;Leiden: Brill, 2007) . At $369 for 1058 pages, it’s a steal at not even 35 cents per page! (cough)
Has any other book switched from unaffordable to affordable after people complain about the price? In what may be a first, James Spinti tells us that Carta and therefore Eisenbrauns (both of which publishers we all love even more now, I’m sure) has lowered the price by 25% of Mordechai Cogan’s fantastically useful-sounding The Raging Torrent: Historical Inscriptions from Assyria and Babylonia Relating to Ancient Israel. As a Texan might say: “I liketa fainted!” Go order a copy now, so you can receive one promptly when they arrive in late March.
Some Free Online Reading
Various sources reported the posting of the entire contents of the Proceedings of the British Academy, Volume 143: Understanding the History of Ancient Israel . The individual articles are in PDF format, which is always nice.
Nick Norelli noted the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft has made available full online texts of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum (27th ed.), the Rahlfs/Hanhart Septuaginta (Editio altera), and the Weber/Gryson Biblia Sacra Vulgata (5th ed.). I prefer my printed copies, but it’s nice to have these searchable there on their website. Registration doesn’t appear to be necessary, but it’s also free.
The T & T Clark blogging folks also put several articles from the Philip Davies Festschrift In Search of Philip R. Davies: Whose Festschrift Is It Anyway? online for free. Free stuff from T & T Clark is fantastic particularly for United Statesians and other poor peoples of the world who can’t usually afford their books.
Also, The Atlantic has opened their archives up to free access, with a number of issues available, though by no means all. There are occasionally some interesting articles in there, one of which I note below.
Andrew Criddle at Hypotyposeis called attention to a large selection of Migne’s Patrologia Graeca, hosted by the University of the Aegean in Mytilene on Lesvos, with the individual works in PDF format. These are not scanned page images, but just the Greek text, fully accented. They lack Migne’s introductory and other notes and his Latin translations in each work. Very nice!
New Testament Apocrypha
April DeConick mentions an interesting article by André Gagné, “A Critical Note on the Meaning of APOPHASIS in Gospel of Judas,” Laval théologique et philosophique 63.2 (2007): 377-383. Apparently a subsidiary usage of apophasis as “declaration” has hitherto been preferred in translating a particular phrase in the Gospel of Judas in preference to its primary meaning, that of “negation,” which’ll be familiar to anyone who’s at all familiar with apophatic theology in Patristics (particularly the Areopagitica) and Eastern Orthodox Christian theology.
Marvin Meyers has started up a website and posted an article there, “The Thirteenth Daimon: Judas and Sophia in the Gospel of Judas,” a paper written in part in response to April DeConick’s book The Thirteenth Apostle: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says. April DeConick responds to the points in Meyer’s article in several short posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 4.1, 4.2, 5, 6, 7. She succinctly brings some serious questions to bear on Meyer’s paper, just as she has been bringing up serious questions concerning the Gospel of Judas “event” from the beginning. It’s a very interesting dialogue. Andrew Criddle contributes to the conversation with Pistis Sophia and the 13th Aeon.
While on the subject of the Gospel of Judas, Rick Brannan noted that National Geographic has posted what appears to be a complete set of high resolution photos of all the pages of Codex Tchacos.
Yet another informative post from April DeConick is Dating the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Thomas. One of the most helpful things coming from April’s pen (or keyboard) is the importance to remind us that these peculiar apocryphal gospels of various sorts came from real communities of real people, and some of those communities are identifiable through peculiarities of these texts. It’s too easy with the collection mentality that we imbibe through our reading these books in volumes titled “New Testament Apocrypha” or “Nag Hammadi Library” to anonymize them, ignoring distinctions between “heretics” and thinking of them all as a lump of undifferentiated non-canonical matter. It’s good to have a corrective to this tendency.
A little mixup (deliberate?) seems to have occurred along the way between 2 Clement in the version known from Codex Alexandrinus and that in Codex Hierosolymitanus, the outside influence being a text in 1 Timothy, as Rick Brannan shows us.
Wherein he discourses upon the mistaken broad-brush painting of our predecessors as particularly primitive
Charles Halton takes issue with the origins of Mesopotamian religion as presented by Christine Hayes in an Old Testament course at Yale.
Paragogic Nun in Hebrew
This is all about interaction with Stephen Kaufman’s article “Paragogic nun in Biblical Hebrew: Hypercorrection as a clue to a Lost Scribal Practice” (Solving Riddles and Untying Knots: Biblical, Epigraphic, and Semitic Studies in Honor of Jonas C. Greenfield. eds. Ziony Zevit, Seymour Gitin, and Michael Sokoloff [Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1995], 95-99). Charles Halton and Duane Smith brought the subject up last June, and it was revisited in January by Duane and by Peter Bekins, who gives a fine summary of Kaufman’s article. It’s these outlying peculiarities of ancient languages that can sometimes be used to distinguish between the ages of texts, or at least periods of scribal activity in those texts. In a text where the apparent rule for such a pecularity’s usage is no longer properly understood, chances are that text is later, or at least showing the effects of later scribal activity. It’s a thought-provoking suggestion.
Peter Bekins notes another interesting Kaufman article (“An Emphatic Plea for Please,” Maarav 7 (1991), 195-198.) in which we find argument for interpretation of the Hebrew particle נא swinging back to the equivalent of the English “please.”
Peter Bekins notes and summarizes an interesting article by Ed Cook, “The ‘Kaufman Effect’ in the Pseudo-Jonathan Targum,” Aramaic Studies 4.2 (July 2006), 123-132. The “Kaufman Effect” (the term used by Ed Cook) was discovered by the above-mentioned Stephen Kaufman, and describes the case of frequently copied texts having more corrections nearer their beginnings and fewer near their ends. I think this has also been referred to by others as “scribal exhaustion.” Cook takes a look at Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, and notices the Kaufman Effect in effect there.
Michael Bird asks the interesting questions about the role of textual criticism in historical Jesus study, and proceeds to give some short answers, with some very interesting links to agrapha.
Christian Askeland writes about the Gospel of Judas and Textual Criticism, along the way admirably commending April DeConick’s work on the Gospel of Judas. Her correctives have been more important and influential than most seem to realize.
Word comes of a budding field within the wider plains of textual criticism: Qur’anic Textual Criticism. In the past, this study has been hampered by not merely the attitude of Muslims toward such a project, but by the lack of ancient manuscripts to study. Here is an article from The Atlantic from a number of years ago that described the state of the question at that time, with a focus on the Sanaa manuscript cache. Now there is the revelation that an archive of microfilms of ancient Qur’anic manuscripts, thought lost during World War II, were actually simply hidden by the scholar in charge. A quick summary of these issues is also provided by Dan Reid. Several years ago, I wrote to various professors in order to find works on textual criticism of the Qur’an, expecting there to be something, but there was essentially only a handful of books, including the highly controversial one by Christoph Luxenberg (a pseudonym), Die Syro-Aramäische Lesart des Koran: Ein Beitrag zur Entschlüsselung. Perhaps with such resources as the microfilms and growing interest in the subject we will finally see the development of this field.
Some more good posts, transparently titled, by the prolific Joel Willets [Initially I’d mistakenly called these Michael Bird’s posts initially, forgetting that Joel also posts at Evangelion; my apologies Joel!]:
Brief History of Jewish Christianity, Part Two: Peter and the Twelve (188.8.131.52) See Part One, too.
And a post on Richard Hay’s view of “the Antioch incident” of Galatians 2.11-14, follwed by The Antioch Incident: Scott McKnight’s View.
Then there is A Foray into Mark Nanos’ views on the “Torah-Observant Paul”
Paul and the “weak”
Speaking of Mark Nanos, he’s got an interesting article posted on his website, “The Polytheist Identity of the ‘Weak’ and Paul’s Strategy to ‘Gain’ Them: A New Reading of I Corinthians 8:1-11:1.” Loren Rosson finds this idea to be very illuminating, describing his reasons in two posts: Nanos Stikes Again, and a longer one, Paul and the “Weak”. Chris Tilling has a short initial response to both, with more to follow.
The Synoptic Problem and Marcion
Stephen Carlson summarizes the article by Matthias Klinghardt, “The Marcionite Gospel and the Synoptic: A New Suggestion,” NovT 50 (2008): 1-27. Klinghardt brings to the table a new solution to the Synoptic Problem, one involving Marcion’s Gospel, or rather its supposed precursor. Stephen intends to post an evaluation of the theory later.
The Tale of the Snail and Regional, if not Global, Warming
Duane Smith wrote a fascinating post that anyone interested in climatological issues should be interested in, showing how something so humble as a few mollusks’ shells can allow us to chart regional climate, in this case, the Early Bronze Age in the Near East.
Reacquaintance with an Old Friend
Last summer’s interesting discussions regarding a tablet mentioning Nabû-šarrussu-ukīn were all quite fascinating. George Grena told Chris Heard about the preprint of an article including a full transcription of the tablet, “The Nebusarsekim Tablet” (abstract, full text) by Henry A. I. Stadhouders, intended to be published as an addendum to an article by Bob Becking, “The Identity of Nabu-sharrussu-ukin, the Chamberlain. An Epigraphic Note on Jeremiah 39:3″ which is itself to appear in Biblische Notizen sometime in 2008. So keep an eye out for those.
Rick Brannan (Happy Anniversary!), who works for Logos, has posted on his intended and actual presentation at this year’s BibleTech conference in soggy Seattle, and a summary of highlights with links.
The Future of NT/Biblical Studies
James Crossley wondered whether we might be about to experience a sea-change of sorts in NT Studies in the UK. Jim West in the US agrees, seeing historical criticism on the way out generally and a new literary criticism on the way in. Doug Chaplin, in the UK, disagrees, seeing (or hoping for) an ongoing role for, at the very least, the text as an historical artifact. Michael Helfied, also in the UK, likewise disagrees and wonders whether Crossley isn’t bitter about new methods catching on quickly enough in the universities there. See Crossley’s comment there in response.
On Bauckham’s Testimony of the Beloved Disciple
Nick Norelli continues his thoughtful review of Bauckham’s book, covering the Qumran Community and the Gospel of John. Here are links to the earlier installments: general, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
The Cynic Hypothesis in Christian Origins
Chris Zeichmann posts A Brief Defense of the Merits of the Cynic Hypothesis, finding special utility in it to explain certain aspects of Q. Michael Bird, who considers it “one of the worst ideas to gain currency in New Testament scholarship,” responds with several points, related to both Q and the Cynic Hypothesis. Chris then posts a short response to some of Michael’s points, and there we are! It appears that one either has the Meierian approach to Q described in Michael’s post, that it is simply a scholarly construct, or the Kloppenborgian approach to Q, in which it is possible to construct a critical edition of Q, which Chris mentions in his second post. There’s no bridging that gap, it seems.
At long last, our final category: Fun Stuff!
Peter Bekins at Balshanut somehow found online a paper written by the young seminarian Martin Luther King Jr for James B. Pritchard, “Light on the Old Testament from the Ancient Near East.”
Chris Tilling posted Pimp My Liturgy 4: The ‘Botafumeiro Incense Swing’ for Evangelicals, with a video that simply has to be seen to be believed.
While others were doing some winter reading of Dickens, Iyov was reading ghost stories written by the master of the genre in English, Montague Rhodes James, otherwise known in Biblical studies circles for his works on the Old and New Testament Apocrypha. A Pleasing Terror, published by Ash-Tree Press in 2001 and long out-of-print, includes all of James’ supernatural fiction, annotated nonetheless, and much more, besides. It’s a fantastic edition. Though, as Iyov mentions, copies are quite expensive as only 1000 were printed, a little bird tells me that a new, corrected edition is due out around the middle of this year, and in a larger run, with perhaps eventually a paperback edition if there is demand.
Stephen Carlson posted on St John’s Bread, a kind of revisionistic urban (desert fringe?) legend that changes the diet of St John the Forerunner (as we Orthodox often call him), alias St John the Baptist, from locusts to carob pods. I personally can’t decide which is a more disgusting meal….
Chris Tilling put together some very funny responses from various personages, in answer to: When asked about whether certain historical events in the life of Jesus actually happened…. Comments to that post contribute further funny ones.
Via BibliOdyssey, 15th century German blockbook illustrations of the Apocalypse!
Deane in New Zealand was wondering what Codex Lenindgradensis (I wish they’d rename the codex; that man the city was temporarily named after is a perfectly deserving subject of damnatio memoriae) has planned for its One Thousandth Birthday. He has plenty of time to wait for an invitation, though, as the special birthday appears to be coming up 27 May 2009.
And finally, if you enjoy beautifully printed and bound Bibles, then the following blog is where to go to read reviews of different editions: Bible Design and Binding, hosted by J. Mark Bertrand.
Thank you for visiting! The next Biblical Studies Carnival, the twenty-seventh, covering posts made during February 2008, will be hosted by Kevin Wilson at Blue Cord. Please send your nominations to him directly or through the submission address or page as noted on this page, under the Submitting Entries heading.
Though long, I hope this carnival was enjoyable. Have a good month, all.