Thursday, January 30, 2014

Gospel of Jesus' Wife - Smithsonian documentary in French

Back in September 2012, Smithsonian Channel were planning to air a documentary on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife. Once it became clear that there were several in the academic community who were uncertain about the authenticity of the piece, Smithsonian postponed the documentary and to this day it has not been broadcast in the USA.

However, it seems that it was in fact broadcast in France under the title Révélations sur la femme de Jésus and the film has found its way onto Youtube here:

The film has French commentary rather than subtitles, so you will need competent French to be able to follow it.  I must admit to enjoying watching the documentary.  It is beautifully produced, it largely avoids sensationalism, and gives lots of screen time to the three key players in the story, Karen King, Roger Bagnall and AnneMarie Luijendijk.  Luijendijk is even flown to Cairo for the documentary and discusses the Gospel of Philip there.  She also visits Nag Hammadi and gives the story of the find (genie and all) over against a new dramatization of the find in a one-person version.

The only other academics who appear in the piece are Dom. Henry Wansbrough, in Ampleforth, Robin Griffith-Jones, Master of the Temple in London, and Alberto Camplani, who speaks to the issue of the authenticity of the fragment.

It looks like the documentary added in some footage after scholars began to question the authenticity of the piece, and Francis Watson's piece even gets a screenshot:

Francis Watson's essay appears on-screen in Révélations sur la femme de Jésus
This is around the 32 minute mark.  The only scholar brought on to discuss the authenticity of the piece is Camplani, and there are several shots of this article:

Alberto Camplani's article appears on-screen in Révélations sur la femme de Jésus
The documentary goes to King and Bagnall after the authenticity issues are raised, but the footage of them appears to be drawn from the same filming some time before September 2012.

It will be interesting to see if the documentary does eventually appear on screen elsewhere, and it will be interesting to see also if the articles about the fragment appear in the Harvard Theological Review this year.

Thanks to Andre Gagne for the link to the Youtube version of the film.

A Short Film on Luke's Genealogy

I have always been fascinated by the genealogies of Matthew and Luke (Matt. 1.1-17, Luke 3.23-28) and have even recorded podcasts on them (e.g. NT Pod 9). Yet they get so little exposure and discussion in popular circles. So it's a pleasure to see this quirky little film that illustrates Luke 3.23-28:


The work is by Aaron Soldner and it is hosted at Spark and Echo Arts.  Thanks to Nathan Sherrer for letting me know about it.  Nathan tells me that anyone who would like more information or would like to connect with Aaron can write to him (  or to executive director Jonathon Roberts (

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My interview with Robert Orlando, director of A Polite Bribe

Last Thursday, we held a screening at Duke University of Robert Orlando's film about Paul, A Polite Bribe. I was privileged to get the chance to talk to Robert before the screening of the film, and the conversation was captured on video and is now available here:

APB Prescreening Interview Duke-720 from A Polite Bribe on Vimeo.

See this link for my posts on: A Polite Bribe.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Q or not Q? Is there any shift?

Michael Goulder
Chris Keith asked earlier today whether I was still in the minority about Q.  His post generated a decent comments thread as well as a monster comments thread on Facebook (which is so often now the more lively place for conversation on these things).  I don't doubt for a moment that the Farrer theory is still the minority position, but I have been glad to see a good number of people coming over to the side of the angels as time has gone on.

I certainly feel much less lonely than I did fifteen or twenty years or so ago when it was automatically assumed in the USA that anyone who denied the existence of Q must also, of necessity, deny the existence of Marcan Priority too.  Indeed, Q sceptics probably thought the earth was flat too, and that Elvis was still alive.  I well remember Stephen Patterson describing the view as even more obscure than Griesbach.

It was something of a shock to me to discover just how deeply embedded belief in Q seemed to be, especially after I was cocooned by my Oxford education, where, in the 1980s, everyone seemed to be sceptical about Q (E. P. Sanders, N. T. Wright, John Fenton, Eric Franklin and later, John Muddiman).

Michael Goulder (above) always used to feel that he was "contra mundum" on Q and he was delighted when Ed Sanders declared his (moderated) support for his theory in the book he co-authored with Margaret Davies in 1990.  I have been lucky to have found myself a little less isolated, but even if that were not so, I would not be ashamed to find myself in the same camp as two of the finest minds (I would say the two finest minds) in NT studies in recent decades.

But now, Anthony Le Donne wants to know just how popular the Q theory is these days -- and you can vote over on the blog he shares with Chris Keith -- Do You Q?  So who do you side with?

Memories are short in the blogosphere, but a handful of regular readers may remember that back in 2007 there was a similar poll run by Brandon Wason.  The poll itself has now gone, but my post on it survives.

Update: revised link.  Already interesting results. If you have not done so already, go and vote now!

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Apostle Paul: A Polite Bribe comes to Duke this week

I have talked on a couple of previous occasions about Robert Orlando's film about Paul (The Apostle Paul - A Polite Bribe in New York).  Here's the website:

A Polite Bribe

It includes trailers and lots more information about the film, including excerpts of the featured scholars, including local stars Douglas Campbell and Bart Ehrman.

This week the film comes to Duke.  On Thursday 23 January, at 7.30pm, please come along to the free screening at the Full Frame Theater on the Tobacco Campus (pictured below).

There are also two bonus events.  First, at 6pm, I will be interviewing the director Robert Orlando.  If you can make it for this event, please be there in good time because the event is being recorded and we will close the doors at six.  There will be a 30 minute break between the interview and the film's screening at 7.30.

After the screening, there will be a panel discussion featuring director Robert Orlando and participant Douglas Campbell.

This event is free and open to the public, but space is limited, so please get there early.  Don't worry if you can't make it for for the pre-film interview at 6pm; we are expecting the largest audience for the film screening itself.

Full Frame Theater, Tobacco Campus, Duke University
The timetable looks like this:

6pm: Mark Goodacre interviews Robert Orlando

7.30pm: The Apostle Paul: A Polite Bribe (free screening)

8.50pm: Panel discussion featuring Robert Orlando and Douglas Campbell

If you have any questions, please be in touch.  I look forward to seeing you there.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Beyond Belief: Archaeology and Religion

I have always enjoyed listening to Beyond Belief on Radio 4, especially since they started releasing it as a podcast.  Back in the day I used to guest on the programme myself, but these days one of the plusses is that I often know (or know of) other contributors to the programme.   This week's episode featured renowned Hebrew Bible scholar Francesca Stravrakopoulou in a thoroughly enjoyable discussion of "Religion and Archaeology".  Listen here:

Beyond Belief: Archaeology and Religion

Or do what I do and download the podcast version here:

Podcasts and Downloads: Beyond Belief

A couple of highlights: some discussion of a "Christian Zionist" viewpoint at the mid-point of the episode, and a reference towards the end to Dr Stavrakopoulou's hate mail.

Before posting this, I thought to myself, "I bet Jim West has already posted on this," so I took a look and I was not wrong!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Biblical Studies Online Website

Several have already publicized this great new resource from James Crossley and Deane Galbraith, both friends of the bibliobloggers:

It uses a blog format, with individual tagged posts, to create a nice series of topics that can expand as time goes on, covering a good, full range of topics of interest to scholars and students of the NT.  I particularly like the stress on audio and video resources, and I've already found all sorts of things I did not know existed (like Chris Rowland lecturing on William Blake).  

I am looking forward to watching this site develop and to discovering lots of new resources.  I've added a link over on the NT Gateway, on the Biblical Resource Index Pages page.

Francis Watson discusses Gospel Writing

Eerdmans has posted a new interview, this time with Francis Watson, all about his excellent Gospel Writing: A Canonical Perspective. It's about 25 minutes long, and is in black and white for added gravitas:

HT: Matthew Montonini.

Library of New Testament Studies Latest

Here's the latest from the Library of New Testament Studies. Interested in making a proposal to the series? Please get in touch with me, or see the further information and proposal forms.

T&T Clark
Bloomsbury Highlights
The Library of New Testament Studies Series
The Library of New Testament Studies explores the many aspects of New Testament study including historical perspectives, social-scientific and literary theory, and theological, cultural and contextual approaches.
Attitudes to Gentiles in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity
Attitudes to Gentiles in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity
Edited by David C. Sim & James S McClaren
Explores the attitudes to Gentiles in ancient Jewish literature and in many of the New Testament texts.
More info »
The Throne Motif in the Book of Revelation
The Throne Motif in the Book of Revelation
Laszlo Gallusz
This volume argues that the throne motif constitutes the major interpretive key to the complex structure and theology of the book of Revelation.
More info »
The Elijah-Elisha Narrative in the Composition of Luke
The Elijah-Elisha Narrative in the Composition of Luke
Edited by John S. Kloppenborg & Joseph Verheyden
An examination of the composition of the gospel of Luke with reference to the Elijah-Elisha narrative.
More info »
The Earliest Christian Meeting Places
The Earliest Christian Meeting Places
Almost Exclusively Houses?
Edward Adams
Adams examines the evidence surrounding house churches in Early Christianity.
More info »
Paul's Financial Policy
Paul's Financial Policy
A Socio-Theological Approach
David E. Briones
Investigates the reason for Paul's seemingly inconsistent financial policy, insofar as he accepts monetary aid from the Philippians but refuses it from the Corinthians.
More info »
A Scriptural Theology of Eucharistic Blessings
A Scriptural Theology of Eucharistic Blessings
Susan I. Bubbers
This study shows the scriptural justification for the expectation that the Eucharist is a place where God will bless believers with freedom and formation.
More info »
'God is One'
'God is One'
The Function of 'Eis ho Theos' as a Ground for Gentile Inclusion in Paul's Letters
Christopher R. Bruno
Examines the two key Pauline texts that link the confession of God as one with the inclusion of the Gentiles.
More info »
Incorporated Servanthood
Incorporated Servanthood
Commitment and Discipleship in the Gospel of Matthew
Ben Cooper
Cooper argues the Gospel of Matthew was composed in part to evoke a commitment to God through which 'compliant' readers are made disciples of Jesus.
More info »
Bloomsbury Academic & Professional — Awards for Academic Excellence 2013
The Bookseller Academic, Educational & Professional Publisher of the Year
Independent Publishers Guild Independent Publisher of the Year
and Academic & Professional Publisher of the Year
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Tuesday, January 07, 2014

The Apostle Paul - A Polite Bribe in New York

SVA Theater advertises A Polite Bribe, 19 December 2013
I have previously mentioned Robert Orlando's film A Polite Bribe, a documentary that uses animation and interviews with top New Testament scholars to tell a compelling narrative about Paul's life.  On 19th December, I was invited to the the New York City premiere of the film, and so I got a chance to see it on the big screen, to meet Robert Orlando and others involved with the film, and to witness a fascinating post-film discussion.

The screening took place in the SVA Theater in West 23rd Street in Manhattan which was, as it happens, just a short walk from my hotel.

Gerd Luedemann
It was great to see a film about the New Testament getting this kind of billing, and to see a New Testament scholar's name up in lights!  Gerd Luedemann, who features prominently in the film, was the guest of honour, and he gave a short lecture as a kind of pre-screening extra.  Prof. Luedemann's style is old-fashioned but authoritative -- he held open his book and read radical statements with a calmness that belied content that would be surprising to many in the audience.

Luedemann really came alive in the question and answer session, though, and when it was time to pause ahead of the pre-screening break, the questions from the audience were still coming thick and fast.

The film itself is quite original.  As regular readers will know, I am something of a consumer of documentaries about the New Testament, and I can't recall having seen anything quite like this.  Its chief focus is on Paul's collection for the saints in Jerusalem.  It tells the story of Paul's troubled relations with James, Peter and the other apostles in Jerusalem, and explains how he became fixated on what it calls his "polite bribe".

The film uses an unseen narrator and a unique animation style that somehow manages to capture the
sense of this as another world.  Orlando avoids usual documentary distractions of shots of present day Jerusalem, Antioch, Corinth, and so on.  But most strikingly, the story is told primarily by means of multiple modern-day Biblical scholars.

Many of the top shots are there.  They include documentary regulars like Bart Ehrman and Tom Wright, new documentary stars like Candida Moss, and many I have not seen before on film, Philip Esler, Douglas Campbell, Amy-Jill Levine.  Orlando seems to get the best out of them all.  Ben Witherington III appears often and is surprisingly amusing.  Indeed, many of them appear relaxed and even humorous, perhaps because they all get a little more than the usual twenty second soundbites.

I was impressed by the way that the film manages to weave a story that scholars know well into a narrative that would be comprehensible and compelling to those with no knowledge of the field.  It's certainly something I would enjoy using in the classroom, but I suspect that those who will enjoy it most will be those who are unaccustomed to reflecting critically on Paul's biography.

Although the film occasionally utilizes the Acts narrative, it tells its story primarily by means of an epistles-based chronology, and it is this angle that will prove refreshing to scholars who try so hard to underline the importance of beginning with the letters.  And from a scholarly perspective, perhaps the most surprising thing -- and something I asked Orlando about in the Q&A that followed the screening -- is its integration of scholars from a variety of different perspectives who end up telling a continuous story, from Luedemann to Witherington, from Ehrman to Wright.

A Polite Bribe is not perfect, of course, and students and scholars of Paul will have their niggles.  I felt that it telescoped the separate Jerusalem visits of Galatians 1 and 2 in such a way as to make it a little confusing for those unfamiliar with the text, and I shared James McGrath's puzzlement over the conflation of the terms Nazarene and Nazirite.  Paul also becomes a more lonely and isolated figure in the film than I think is likely to have been the case given the friends and partners in mission that we repeatedly witness in the letters, but this is, I suppose, a necessity of effective story-telling.  Overall, though, the film does a great job of illuminating Paul's life by focusing on a key issue, the "polite bribe" of the title, that is little known outside of academic circles.

Gerd Luedemann, Robert Orlando & Dave Gibson
After the screening, there was a Q&A chaired by Dave Gibson of the Religion News Service in which Robert Orlando responded to questions about the film and how he put it together.  There was some (but much less) response also from Gerd Luedemann.

I'd recommend the film to anyone interested in Christian origins.  Several screenings have been advertised for the coming weeks, and we have one at Duke on 23 January, which I'll discuss further in due course.

Update (10.10pm): Joshua Paul Smith has an interview with Robert Orlando about the film on the Near Emmaus blog.