Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Third Quest for the Historical Jesus is over

So says Craig Evans in the first of a series of posts on the Future of Historical Jesus Studies over on Near Emmaus.  I am pleased to hear this.  I have been in favour of abandoning "the third quest" of the historical Jesus for some time (see also NT Pod 49: What is the Third Quest of the Historical Jesus?).  The term has been a tough one from the start, but became increasingly so as the 1990s progressed.  But let's please not start talking about "the fourth quest" or any similar terms.  Let's just talk about historical Jesus research and have done.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

BBC finally doubting the fake metal codices

Many of us have known from early on that the metal codices that emerged earlier this year are fakes. Note in particular Jim Davila's Fake Metal Codices Watch and Tom Verenna's essay at Bible and Interpretation.  As Jim Davila now notes, the BBC begins backtracking and as Jim West says, It's nice to see the BBC catching up with what we all knew months ago. The new article:

Doubts over authenticity of "ancient Christian" books
Kevin Connolly

One of the disappointing things here is the lack of reference to the earlier article by Robert Pigott, which needs explicit correction. After that article appeared on 29 March, I wrote a friendly email to Robert Pigott (5 April) explaining that the consensus among experts was that the codices were fakes, and offering to point him in the direction of some clear, helpful blog posts and articles by experts. He never replied.  Nevertheless, progress is progress even if it is done in this way by a different writer apparently unaware of previous mistakes.

Update: further comments from Tom Verenna.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Giant Jesus and the Walking, Talking Cross

Over on Remnant of Giants, Deane Galbraith (Tyrone Slothrop) comments on Bart Ehrman's Huffington Post column in Jesus was a Giant! … or was he, really? Bart Ehrman in the Huffington Post on the most famous passage in the Gospel of Peter:
The Giant Jesus and the Walking-Talking Cross. Remarkably, the Gospels of the New Testament do not tell the story of Jesus emerging from the tomb on Easter morning. But the Gospel of Peter does. In this text, discovered near the end of the nineteenth century, Jesus comes out of the tomb as tall as a mountain, supported by two angels, nearly as tall themselves. And behind them, from the tomb, there emerges the cross, which has a conversation with God in heaven, assuring him that the message of salvation has now gone to those in the underworld. How a Gospel like this was ever lost is anyone’s guess.

- Bart Ehrman, “What Didn’t Make It Into The Bible?”, The Huffington Post, 21 July 2011
The quotation actually illustrates splendidly one of the reasons that I offered in my recent conference paper for suggesting that a conjectural emendation is required here.  The paper was called "A Walking, Talking Cross or the Walking, Talking Crucified One? A conjectural emendation in the Gospel of Peter 10.39, 42" (Abstract). The paper was based on a blog post from last year and in due course, I will be expanding the paper for publication.

What the quotation above illustrates nicely is the narrative oddity of the giant Jesus, who is stretched beyond the heavens, from where God addresses not the crucified one but the cross, which has apparently come out of the tomb and remained on earth, something that makes no narrative sense at all, even within the bizarre logic of the Gospel of Peter.  Here's a brief section from my paper:
There are certain advantages that this reading brings. There are advantages both to the broader narrative context and the pericope itself. With respect to the broader narrative, now it is no longer the case that a cross emerges from a tomb that it never entered. With respect to the narrower context, it overcomes the incongruity that the three men all stretch as far as – or beyond – the heavens, but the voice from heaven then addresses the cross back on earth.  In the revised reading, the voice in heaven directly addresses the crucified one, who is beyond the heavens.  Moreover, on the usual reading, the witnesses should be able to see the cross speaking, so there is no need for the note that they “there was heard the answer, 'Yes'”, a line far more appropriate to the reading with the conjectural emendation. On this reading, they only hear the answer because it is the crucified one speaking, and his head is beyond the heavens. Further, the conjectural emendation removes the extraordinary situation whereby Jesus is upstaged, at his own resurrection, by his cross.

KGO Radio God Talk online

My chat with Brent Walters on KGO Radio's God Talk is now also available online, either to listen again or to download.  It's a phone conversation so don't expect studio audio quality at my end.  It's a general chat about the business of interpreting the Bible.  The programme is on every Sunday morning, and this segment is the third hour on Sunday morning, 24 July.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Guesting on KGO Radio this morning

I'm going to be Brent Walter's guest on God Talk on KGO Newstalk 810 San Francisco this morning, at about 7am their time, 10am EDT. We'll be chatting about the interpretation of the Bible.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Blog titles beginning with "A" to "Z" on your reader

I wonder if, in time, with the proliferation of blogs, we will see more people trying to label their blogs with titles beginning with the letter "A"?  If you use a reader and have not done your own sorting, the blogs you subscribe to are likely to appear in alphabetical order.  So in my reader, which sorts alphabetically, "A 'Goula Blogger", often pops up at the top of my list and gets read first.  If there is anything on "Abnormal Interests", that is also likely to be read quickly.  So too AKMA's Random Thoughts.

If, on the other hand, your blog begins with "Z", that drops right down any list ordered alphabetically.  So if you were to label your blog after a Swiss reformer, for example, it might run the risk of getting read later than everything else, and some time after fatigue has set in.

What I am wondering is whether we may, in time, see the equivalent of the Yellow Pages phenomenon of "Aardvark Double Glazing".  Perhaps an "Abba Aramaic blog"?  Or an "Aaron 's Pentateuchal Thoughts"?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Where single attestation is preferable to multiple attestation

Further to my thoughts about the contradiction between "multiple attestation" and "embarrassment" in Historical Jesus Research, I'd like to throw out a related thought that I think compromises the value of the "multiple attestation" criterion.  Sometimes single attestation might in fact be a far better indicator of historicity than multiple attestation.

Mark is often rightly seen as more primitive in its representation of Jesus in comparison with Matthew, Luke and John.  There are moments where Mark provides a rough witness to an earlier stage of the tradition, where single attestation is a better indication of historicity than multiple attestation would be.  Where Jesus heals the Deaf Mute with physical agents (Mark 7.31-37) and where he heals the Blind Man of Bethsaida with some apparent limit to his abilities (Mark 8.22-26), these pericopae are not included by Matthew and Luke, no doubt because of the uncongenial picture of Jesus they imply.  Here, single attestation is a better indicator of primitivity than multiple attestation would be.  To put it another way, is the Multiplication of the Loaves, attested six times in the Gospel tradition, the more likely to be historical than Jesus spitting in the mouth of the deaf mute, which is attested only once?

I am aware, of course, that multiple attestation, as it is usually configured, refers to multiple independent attestation, and so one is searching for material that occurs in allegedly independent sources like Mark, Q, Thomas and John.  Notwithstanding my scepticism about the existence of Q and the independence of Thomas, the point still stands by analogy between the written Gospels and attestation in traditions, that uncongenial material will often have dropped out, so that some of the more unusual, primitive features will be at best singly attested where they are attested at all.  In this context, multiple attestation is actually a weaker indication of historicity than is single attestation.

Monday, July 18, 2011

On the contradiction between "multiple attestation" and "embarrassment" in Historical Jesus Research

I am writing a piece at the moment on the criterion of multiple attestation in Historical Jesus research and I came across this nice piece of wisdom in a quotation in an article by John Lyons:
"I can’t help thinking that one cancels out the other. If everyone, Q, an independent Thomas, Mark, Matthew, Luke all have this same material, who is embarrassed about it? The multiple attestation is itself an argument against embarrassment" (W. J. Lyons, “A Prophet Is Rejected in His Home Town (Mark 6.4 and Parallels): A Study in the Methodological (In)Consistency of the Jesus Seminar”, JSHJ 6 (2008): 59-84 (79).
It turns out that it's something I once said here on the NT Blog while I was reflecting on an SBL session that used the criteria of multiple attestation and embarrassment side by side. I am grateful to John for drawing attention to the passing comment (and, incidentally, for his article, which is an excellent discussion of the problems with the way that the Jesus seminar uses Historical Jesus criteria) because I think there may be something in it.

What other area of the humanities would manage to come up with something so counter-intuitive as criteria that apparently contradict one another?  When we are embarrassed about something, do we keep repeating the information?  If members of the early church were seriously embarrassed about John's baptism of Jesus, for example, why did they keep repeating it, even celebrating it?  Would multiple witnesses really begin their accounts of the "good news" by trumpeting something they all found embarrassing?

If a tradition is multiply attested, it is a tradition that on some level the evangelists were proud to repeat.  When they were embarrassed about things, they could easily omit them.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Biblical Studies Carnival, July 2011

Chris Brady does an excellent job with the Biblical Studies Carnival for July but he is understandably exhausted after doing it and exhorts everyone to help out with the next one.  I understand what Chris means. I have never done a carnival and I am afraid that the task is far too daunting for me to take on.  Thanks to everyone who does the job, and exhortations to everyone else to help out.

Logos Android App Beta now available

I'm excited to hear of the Public Beta of the Logos Android App which is now available.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Thanks to Deane Galbraith for a note about a new online journal out today:

Relegere: Studies in Religion and Reception
Relegere: Studies in Religion and Reception is an independent, open-access, peer-reviewed academic journal dedicated to the promotion and dissemination of innovative research in reception history, broadly conceived, within and across religious traditions.
There are some fascinating articles in the first edition of the journal, including one by James Crossley on the Life of Brian that is well worth a read.

Congratulations to all concerned on this new venture.

Bloomsbury buys Continuum

Continuum, one of the major academic publishers in our area, and the home of the premier series the Library of New Testament Studies, has been acquired by Bloomsbury:

This piece, from the Independent, says that "the purchase of Continuum from Nova/ Paul Investments Capital was a "transformational step" in its strategy to grow its academic and professional division".  More here in The Bookseller.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Latest JBL

Details of the latest Journal of Biblical Literature

Volume 130, Number 2 / Summer 2011 of Journal of Biblical Literature is now available on the website at

This issue contains:

       Differentiation in Genesis 1: An Exegetical Creation ex nihilo
       Richard Neville
       URL of article:

       Sexual Desire? Eve, Genesis 3:16, and
       Joel N. Lohr
       URL of article:

       The Story of Saul's Election (1 Samuel 9-10) in the Light of Mantic Practice in Ancient Iraq
       Jeffrey L. Cooley
       URL of article:

       The Rab Šāqēh between Rhetoric and Redaction
       Jerome T. Walsh
       URL of article:

       Did Nehemiah Own Tyrian Goods? Trade between Judea and Phoenicia during the Achaemenid Period
       Benjamin J. Noonan
       URL of article:

       The Dangerous Sisters of Jeremiah and Ezekiel
       Amy Kalmanofsky
       URL of article:

       Suspense, Simultaneity, and Divine Providence in the Book of Tobit
       Ryan S. Schellenberg
       URL of article:

       A Centurion's "Confession": A Performance-Critical Analysis of Mark 15:39
       Kelly R. Iverson
       URL of article:

       Divine Judgment against Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11): A Stock Scene of Perjury and Death
       J. Albert Harrill
       URL of article:

       What Do the Gentiles Have to Do with "All Israel"? A Fresh Look at Romans 11:25-27
       Jason A. Staples
       URL of article:

       Does περιβόλαιоν Mean "Testicle" in 1 Corinthians 11:15?
       Mark Goodacre
       URL of article:

       Blessing God and Cursing People: James 3:9-10
       Dale C. Allison, Jr.
       URL of article: now defunct

I've just noticed, after receiving a comment over on the NT Gateway, that is now defunct.  Has anyone archived the site and uploaded elsewhere?