Saturday, March 31, 2007

Paul Duff on 2 Cor 3

I recently read an excellent article on 2 Cor 3 that I want to recommend to readers. As many know, this chapter in 2 Cor is perhaps the Mount Everest of exegetical challenges for Pauline scholars. What Paul B. Duff does, in his article ‘Glory in the ministry of death: gentile condemnation and letters of recommendation in 2 Cor. 3:6-18’ (Novum Testamentum, 46, 2004, 4, pp. 313-37) is to deny vv. 6-18 are a polemic against Judaism at all! Instead, the pitting of the old covenant against the new is part of an argument that maintains that the status of the gentiles before God has changed. The old covenant was a covenant of death only for those who didn’t follow the law, i.e. the gentiles (here he gathers evidence that the law was also meant for the Gentiles). This is why Paul can speak of its glory at the same time as referring to it as a ministry of death. In Paul’s ministry, the Spirit reaches the gentiles without the need for law, and thus without its condemning power. His reading is then justified in relation to the argumentation structure of vv. 7-11 and later vv. 12-18, the latter involving a rereading of ‘Israel’s hindered vision’. The veil refers to that which blinds people to the reality of the change of status gentiles enjoy in the new covenant. This reading is then tied nicely into the overall context of 2 Cor 2:14-7:4 showing that, according to his reading, 3:7-18 fits the wider context without problem, and is thus not an abstract aside on Israel, salvation history and the gentiles.

Do give this extremely thought-provoking paper a read!

Just a few quick thoughts in response before it gets too late: Does Duff’s case sit well together with the argument that Paul understands that the law brings death (and the curse) to all, not just gentile? Hence the universality of sin in Paul’s teaching. Duff claims his theory best explains the apparent paradox of Paul’s speaking of the glory of the new covenant at the same time as calling it a ministry of death. However, I wonder if Hafemann’s thesis (in his book Paul, Moses, and the History of Israel, which I reviewed here) has more to speak for it, in that the death refers to ‘the events surrounding the giving of the Law itself’ (334). One also wonders if Duffs argument, which he claims ‘has the added advantage of seeing Paul much more in sympathy with his own tradition’ (321 n. 30) can make sense of Paul heart’s desire and prayer for the Israelites to ‘be saved’ (Rom 10:1).

Any thoughts?

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Friday, March 30, 2007


‘[M]any systematic theologians . . . have become impatient with waiting for the mountains of historical footnotes to give birth to the mouse of theological insight’
- N. T. Wright

OK, it is going to get a bit silly now, but while on the subject of citations, during a recent exchange someone wrote this about good ol' me:

‘Chris Tilling: a pluralistic, relativistic butt muncher feasting on the postmodern swill of Derrida’

- Simon Hardwick

Clever, undoubtadly clever. But also a bit nasty really.

And untrue. Simon you git.

My chosen come back at the time was something like this:

‘Simon Hardwick: jumped up, post-propositionalist, ‘emergent’ loving pansy, critical realist d*ck weed with the philosophical subtlety of a randy walrus at the mating season’

But this left me feeling like I had somehow been out done, which is naturally not ideal.

Any witty insults that you'd recommend as belated response to this Simon chap? Would be appreciated.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Book reviews on Chrisendom

In the following months I will be posting considerably more book reviews (short than the Bauckham review! I.e. typically between 500 and 800 words) of some of the most exciting New Testament related works being published at the moment.

However, I was thinking of featuring in considerably more detail one or two of those sent to me for review, much as I have Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses – though perhaps not quite as thoroughly!

First off will be Gordon Fee’s fresh off of the press, Pauline Christology (my deepest thanks to the kind folk at Hendrickson for this!). Certainly in terms of my own thesis, this is probably the most important book on my ‘to read’ pile at the moment. Hendrickson have been so kind as to send me a number of great books for review that I hope you are going to really enjoy hearing about.

I am thinking of also featuring Francis Watson’s Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith and/or Westerholm’s Perspectives Old and New on Paul.

Do any of my readers have a preference as to which of the last two to feature? Or are there any other NT related books recently published that you would enjoy reading a series about here?

(A feature, by the way, will probably involve about 10-15 posts, while a review will be 1 post)


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Deserving of a good slappin'

A guest post by Cardinal Spin

Kim Fabricius has written another ‘ten propositions’ for Ben Myers’ Faith and Theology, this time ‘on being a theologian’.

Naturally, were I to meet this Kim fellow I would kick the big Jesse out of him just to see what would happen (he is a pacifist). Apart from that, I’d want to ask what the flaming hell possessed him to write this post.

For example, under point 9 he writes that ‘all believers are theologians’. Fair enough. But then in the first paragraph he claims that ‘[t]heologians are like horse manure’. Putting them both together, it becomes blatantly obvious this chap thinks all Christians are nothing but horse manure! That’s right, your believing mum, Kim Fabricius wants to tell you, is nothing but a stinking pile of shit. He waxes lyrical that your beloved believing mum has the ontological worth of a cowpat, and is as attractive as the contents of an average u-bend.

Then there is the racist anti Nile pro Zionist ranting under point 3.

While he is sure that there ‘will be no theology in the eschaton’, I’m not so sure. I’m personally expecting to daily deliver my ‘Authoritative Opinions’ (I have opinions about almost everything) on all manner of subjects for the eternal enjoyment of the elect. So there will be theology in the eschaton.


He also notes that ‘Karl Barth famously said that when he gets to heaven he will seek out Mozart before Calvin’ adding ‘Quite right’. Seeing as I’m probably going to hell for this post anyway after the last paragraph, I might as well let my hair down and make the most of it. So: Me, I’m heading straight for a privileged place at the right hand of Majesty (secured by a prayer of faith a while ago). I suspect Barth will be heading for me as well to be honest. Especially after he hears my ‘Authoritative Opinions’. But Kim continues: ‘Me – I’ll be heading for the choir of angels, to find Sandy Koufax, to see how he made the baseball sing’. What! Every sound minded person knows that baseball is just a pansy version of ‘rounders’ and so obviously was invented by a ‘spirit from underneath’. Any theologian worth his meat and two vegetables would know that (notice I don’t feel I have to capitulate in fear to feminist extremists every day by speaking of the theologian as ‘she’ all the time). Besides, after calling every Christian who ever lived a stinking pile of rotting shit I don’t think St. Peter will be unlocking the Pearly gates with too great a measure of enthusiams for Mr Kim Fabricius.

He finishes by claiming that ‘theologians do not know what they are talking about’.

Speak for yourself buttercup!


The resurrection

‘[The resurrection] is unique, but it is not just a series of events that break all the known laws of nature. It is something that reveals in an extraordinary way the true spiritual basis of all physical nature, and the ultimate spiritual goal towards which all laws of nature are directed. The resurrection of Jesus is not a bizarre divine interruption in a purely material universe. It is a disclosure of the ultimate nature of reality as spiritual, and of the final goal of the material universe as the perfected unity of all things in God’
Keith Ward, Christianity: Guide for the Perplexed (London: SPCK, 2007), 37

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

You think you've had a bad day?

Monday, March 26, 2007

The new Journal of Theological Interpretation

The Marketing Director of the Book Sales Division at Eisenbrauns e-mailed me a few days ago with a copy of the initial volume of the Journal of Theological Interpretation. The first volume has articles by Richard B. Hays (‘Can Narrative Criticism Recover the Unity of Scripture?’), Murray Rae (‘Texts in Context: Scripture and the Divine Economy’), Michael A. Rynkiewich (‘Mission, Hermeneutics, and the Local Church’), R.W.L. Moberly (‘Christ in All the Scriptures? The Challenge of Reading the Old Testament as Christian Scripture’), and a review article by Michael J. Gorman (‘“A Seamless Garment”: Approach to Biblical Interpretation?’).

Joel Green introduces the sort of questions the journal sets out to address as follows (p. 3):

  • What is the status of the theological tradition, including the tradition of biblical interpretation, in theological interpretation today?
  • What is the role of history and historical criticism in theological
  • What is the status and role of the OT in the two-testament canonical
  • What is the place of exegesis in theological method?
  • What is the nature of the “unity” of Scripture?
  • What is the role of the canon in theological interpretation?
  • Does theological interpretation extract theological claims or principles
    from the Bible?

This is honestly one of the most exciting new journals I have ever seen, engaging just the sort of questions with which many of us struggle daily. Actually, this is an area that fascinates me especially, all the more so as my Doktorvater, Max Turner, is editing (together with Joel Green) the Two Horizons Commentary Series. In the first volume you will find stimulating, highly relevant and deeply interesting material, and much more is promised for the future. It is difficult for me to welcome the concept behind this journal more enthusiastically.

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Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 28

Following is the summary of the last chapter of Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. After that I have two posts planned, the first an attempt at a humble critique of aspects of the book (Part 29), the second a short podcast over viewing the book together with a few other reflections (Part 30).

Click here for the (continually updated) series outline

Chapter 18. The Jesus of Testimony (The Final Chapter!)

If, as has been argued, the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of eyewitness testimony, then it is necessary to examine the category of testimony further, namely ‘its epistemological status, its role in historiography and its significance as a theological category’.[1] In a nutshell, Bauckham argues:
‘Testimony ... is both the historically appropriate category for understanding what kind of history the Gospels are and the theologically appropriate category for understanding what kind of access Christian readers of the Gospels thereby have to Jesus and his history. It is the category that enables us to surmount the dichotomy between the so-called historical Jesus and the so-called Christ of faith’.[2]
Drawing on the work of K. Vanhoozer and especially C.A.J. Coady, he notes how depended humans are on testimony in the run of daily life. Furthermore, Coady has shown, against the grain of modern individualistic tendencies, ‘that testimony is as basic a form of knowledge as perception, memory and inference’.[3] This means that it is necessary to ‘understand our epistemic situation in less exclusively individualistic terms, more in communal or inter-subjective terms’[4] which involves a fundamental attitude of trust. Testimony invites trust, but not blind uncritical trust. Rather, it is ‘important to appreciate the complex relation between trust and critical appraisal’.[5]
‘The situation is in principle no different than in the case of our individual perceptions, memories and inferences, which we have no choice but to trust fundamentally, while also being aware that they can mislead us and require critical evaluation in suspicious cases. It is only the excessive individualism of the modern western ideology that tempts us to the view that testimony should regularly and generally incur our suspicion, while our own perceptions, memories and inferences should not’.[6]
How does this relate to historical study? While ‘Graeco-Roman historians achieved results that we should not be too ready to suppose a historian equipped with modern historical methods could easily have surpassed’,[7] it is true that there are significant differences between ancient and modern ways of approaching historical study. Significantly, modern scholars now focus heavily on extracting evidence from the testimony of witnesses in spite of themselves, which is an important insight (cf. M. Bloch and especially R.G. Collingwood). ‘But’, Bauckham proceeds, ‘we should also note that nothing about modern historical method prohibits us from reading the explicit testimonies of the past for the sake of what they were intended to recount and reveal’[8] even if some deny that the ‘past voluntarily “gives” the historian anything’.[9] This is all the more true as this denial tends to lead to the unsustainable assertion that ‘whereas in everyday life we treat testimony as reliable unless or until we find reason to doubt it, in scientific history testimony is suspicious from the outset and can only be believed when it is independently verified’. But at this point ‘it ceases to be testimony’.[10] Testimony, despite the attitudes of much modern Gospel scholarship, invites to be trusted; comprehensive doubt is impossible.

Turning to Paul Ricoeur (and his major recent work, Memory, History, Forgetting) who makes ‘testimony as the record of memory indispensable for historiography’,[11] Bauckham seeks a ‘more adequate philosophical account of historiography than Collingwood’s’.[12] This leads to the conclusion: ‘In the end, testimony is all we have. For the historian, the testament, as a record of memory, is bedrock’.[13]

Examining in more detail the dialectic of trust and critical assessment of testimony, Bauckham argues that the evaluation is essentially an assessment of whether the testimony is trustworthy or not. In other words, ‘[w]hat is not possible is the independent verification or falsification of everything the testimony relates’.[14] While archaeological findings, for example, can ‘to a degree corroborate or discredit testimony ... [t]hey cannot replace testimony’.[15] Furthermore, ‘for the sake of maintaining the quest for the truth of history, we must allow the testimony to resist the limiting pressure of our own experiences and expectations’.[16]

This leads to an analysis of Holocaust testimonies, how this sheds light on Gospel testimony and the argument that ‘testimony can be checked and assessed in appropriate ways, but nevertheless has to be trusted. In the uniquely unique [a phrase adopted from Ricoeur] events we are considering, this is all the more true’.[17] Testimony can yield truth about the past that nothing else can. We cannot ‘suppose that we can extract individual facts from testimony and build our own reconstruction of events that is no longer dependent on witness’.[18]

The traditions in the Synoptic Gospels are, despite being close to how the eyewitnesses told them, actually told by others. However, the extra interpretive element this adds ‘does not come in between us and the realistic character of the story, as interpretation can. The authenticity of the eyewitness memory, if that is what it is, is not compromised or obscured by literary contrivance’.[19] Nevertheless, Bauckham argues that the distinction between ‘plain narratives and narratives that embody interpretation through literary devices such as intertextual allusions’ may help us to better understand the differences ‘between the narratives of the crucifixion and those of the resurrection’.[20]

‘For all the ingenuity of scholars ... [the resurrection] stories remain strangely sui generis and lacking theological interpretation. None of the standard Jewish formulae or images of resurrection occur. We seem to be shown the extraordinary novum, the otherness of resurrection, through the eyes of those whose ordinary reality it invaded’.[21]
Where does all of this lead us? ‘Reading the Gospels as eyewitness testimony’ Bauckham argues, ‘differs therefore from attempts at historical reconstruction behind the texts. It takes the Gospels seriously as they are; it acknowledges the uniqueness of what we can know only in this testimonial form ... This does not mean that historians must trust testimony uncritically, but rather that testimony is to be assessed as testimony’.[22] Especially in terms of some ‘uniquely unique’ events, testimony discloses something and ‘disclosure is what makes the category of testimony not only the appropriate one for the kind of history the Gospels are, but also the theologically appropriate one for understanding the Gospels’.[23]

‘In summary, if the interests of Christian faith and theology in the Jesus who really lived are to recognize the disclosure of God in this history of Jesus, then testimony is the theologically appropriate, indeed the theologically necessary way of access to the history of Jesus, just as testimony is also the historically appropriate, indeed the historically necessary way of access to this “uniquely unique” historical event. It is in the Jesus of testimony that history and theology meet’.[24]

[1]. Ibid., 472–73. [2]. Ibid., 473. [3]. Ibid., 475. [4]. Ibid., 477. [5]. Citing Coady (Bauckham, Eyewitnesses, 478). [6]. Bauckham, Eyewitnesses, 478–79. [7]. Ibid., 480. [8]. Ibid., 483. [9]. Ibid., 484. [10]. Ibid., 485. [11]. Ibid., 488. [12]. Ibid., 487. [13]. Ibid., 489. [14]. Ibid., 490. [15]. Ibid. [16]. Ibid., 492. [17]. Ibid., 502. [18]. Ibid. [19]. Ibid., 504. [20]. Ibid. [21]. Ibid., 505. [22]. Ibid., 506. [23]. Ibid., 507. [24]. Ibid., 508.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Quote for the Day

‘[M]uch evangelical eschatology, dominated as it is by dispensational premillennialism, fails the test of evangelicalism’s own passion that it should above everything else be all about Jesus Christ. Here, whatever judgment one makes about Barth’s Christology, his posture seems right: eschatology too must be about Jesus Christ’
(John Bolt in Karl Barth and Evangelical Theology: Convergences and Divergences [Carlisle: Paternoster, 2006], 216)

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A couple of good purchases

I return to England tomorrow, and whilst here I must boast that I showed tremendous restraint in my book buying. I only bagged two from the LST bookshop (with one very near miss). Just two! Frigging miracle! (and Anja breathes a sigh of relief)

*Lucky Git Mode*

Admittedly I have numerous review books to get to work on for this blog, so many of the most exciting books I would have wanted to buy I already have.

*Mode Off*

The near miss, which I still intend to get soon, is Neil MacDonald’s new book, Metaphysics and the God of Israel: Systematic Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2006). He seeks to write a systematic theology of God in light both the Old and New Testaments, in particular dialogue with such a variety of names as von Rad, Barth, Wright, Bauckham, Aristotle, Augustine etc. Mouth wateringly fascinating. But for another day. Jim West mentions an important link about this book here.

You may have heard of him before in relation to his monograph on Barth: Karl Barth and the Strange New World within the Bible: Barth, Wittgenstein, and the Metadilemmas of the Enlightenment 2nd edition (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2001).

Which leads me to my first buy: Karl Barth and Evangelical Theology: Convergences and Divergences (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2006). Being an evangelical enormously interested in all things Barth shaped, I snapped this up with less than a second thought. The book involves discussion on various theological themes by a variety of evangelical authors, themselves representing various evangelical perspectives. For example, John Bolt examines Barth’s eschatology in light of both academic evangelical eschatology but also its more popular face in writers such as Frank Peretti and the Left Behind series. A Pentecostal theologian examines Barth’s pneumatology, John Franke looks at Barth in terms of the ‘postmodern turn’, etc.

While he is certainly not to every evangelical’s taste, I try to read whatever Keith Ward writes. I find him to be one of the most engaging and creative Christian writers around, and he argues in a no nonsense manner which I most enjoy. His latest, Christianity: A Guide for the Perplexed (London: SPCK, 2007) was a definite and I’m already loving it.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 27

Click here for the (continually updated) series outline

Chapter 17. Polycrates and Irenaeus on John

Key clues to the identity of the author of the Gospel of John can be found also in the witness of Polycrates, Bishop of Ephesus in the late second century. Important is his letter to Bishop Victor of Rome concerning the Quartodeciman controversy which, Bauckham argues, is good evidence that Polycrates refers to the author of John’s Gospel as a John other than the son of Zebedee. This is especially clear in Polycrates’ curious mention that John was ‘a priest, wearing the high-priestly frontlet (to petalon)’. It would appear to be, given the reference to the petalon, an unambiguous indication that Polycrates portrayed John as high priest in the Jerusalem Temple. After detailing the various views on this matter, Bauckham strongly argues that, based in Acts 4:6 (and possibly facilitated by John 18:15), the tradition ‘that John the Beloved Disciple was a high priest is neither metaphorical nor historical, but exegetical’.[1] Rather typical of Bauckham’s manner of argumentation, the punch line awaits a strongly formulated conclusion:

‘[W]hen the Ephesian church looked for its own John, the Beloved Disciple, in New Testament writings other than the Gospel of John, they did not identify him with John the son of Zebedee. The identification of him with the John of Acts 4:6 makes it impossible to identify him with John the son of Zebedee’.[2]
Bauckham’s developing argument maintains that ‘in the second-century Christian traditions of the province of Asia, and especially in Ephesus, the John who wrote the Gospel of John and was the disciple that Gospel calls the disciple Jesus loved was not identified with John the son of Zebedee’.[3] This conclusion is further strengthened through an examination of Irenaeus on John. Notably, Irenaeus’ references to John do not lend at all to the opinion that the son of Zebedee is to be understood. Even though he speaks of John as an apostle, Irenaeus could use the term flexibly to include far more than just the Twelve, even to the extent of calling John the Baptist an apostle. ‘There is therefore no reason to think that either Irenaeus’s Asiatic sources or Irenaeus himself thought the author of the Gospel of John to be one of the Twelve’.[4]

But there is clear evidence in ‘two Christian works of the second century that clearly identify the John who wrote the Gospel with John the son of Zebedee’,[5] namely the Acts of John and the Epistle of the Apostles. Given recent research as to the date and place of composition of these works, Bauckham admits: ‘I am no longer confident of my earlier argument that [these works] indicate that the identification of the author of the Gospel of John with John the son of Zebedee probably originated in Egypt in the second half of the second century’.[6] Rather, the emerging definition of ‘canon’ in contrast with the Gnostic Gospels meant that ‘apostle’ came to indicate ‘reliable authority, authorized by Christ himself and generally recognized in the churches’.[7] The local Ephesian tradition identifying the author of John’s Gospel with a John other than the son of Zebedee was later lost sight of, and once John the Elder became regularly termed an ‘apostle’, he ‘very easily became indistinguishable from John the son of Zebedee’.[8]

[1]. Ibid., 451. [2]. Ibid., 452, italics suppressed.
[3]. Ibid., 452. [4]. Ibid., 462.
[5]. Ibid., 463. [6]. Ibid., 465.
[7]. Ibid., 467. [8]. Ibid., 468.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 26

This rather extensive summary of Bauckham's book is almost at an end - only two posts left (Pts 27 and 28). The whole series shall then be completed with two final posts (Pts 29 and 30) offering some critical reflections and general remarks. A 30 part review! I need to get a life!

Click here for the (continually updated) series outline

Chapter 16. Papias on John

In the previous two chapters Bauckham has argued that the Gospel of John portrays, and plausibly so, its author as the disciple it calls ‘the disciple Jesus loved’. This argument entails that the Beloved Disciple was not one of the Twelve, namely John the son of Zebedee. This is affirmed by the absence of a list of the Twelve disciples in the Gospel of John as is made in the Synoptics which, as was argued earlier, was indicative of an acknowledgment of indebtedness to the traditions of the Twelve. The names in John’s Gospel rather indicate that it draws on traditions ‘not simply from the Beloved Disciple himself, but from a particular circle of disciples of Jesus in which the Beloved Disciple moved’.[1] This conclusion is further strengthened with reference to the ‘protective anonymity’ scheme detailed earlier.

This does not mean that the question of the identity of the John ‘the Beloved’ should remain closed. Indeed, and drawing on Hengel’s work again, he asserts: ‘That the author of John’s Gospel was a John other than John the son of Zebedee is not at all unlikely’.[2] Furthermore, the evidence of what Papias said about the origin of the Gospels can be used to argue that the author of the Gospel of John is none other than ‘the disciple of Jesus whom Papias calls John the Elder’.[3] This leads to an extensive analysis of the Papias material once again that firmly associates the Gospel author with ‘John the Elder’, and not John the son of Zebedee. To strengthen this case Bauckham investigates the meaning of the John 21:23 ‘rumour’ that the Beloved Disciple would survive until the parousia, and the title ‘the elder’. To facilitate this examination, Bauckham also addresses the question as to why ‘no explicit comments by Papias on the Gospel of John have survived’[4] and argues that Eusebius had good reason to edit out much material original to Papias. However, and again breaking fresh ground, Bauckham argues in detail that some remnant of Papias’s comments on the Gospel of John can be found in the Muratorian Canon. His reasoning at this stage is a powerful blend of deep familiarity with early Christian literature and exact reasoning, which maintains that, for the author of the Muratorian Canon who drew to an extent from lost Papias material, John was a disciple but not a member of the Twelve.

‘We may conclude that what Papias said about the origin of John’s Gospel was that John the Elder, the disciple of the Lord, wrote it. He may have said that John was urged to do so by the elders, the leading Christian teachers in the province of Asia, who had known other disciples of Jesus. Papias also, very likely, said that these elders vouched for the truth of the Gospel (referring to John 21:24). He then quoted part of 1 John 1:1-4 in order to show that its author, John the Elder, was both himself an eyewitness of the events of the Gospel history and himself wrote them in his Gospel. Therefore he alone, among the Gospel writers Papias discussed, wrote the logia of the Lord in order’.[5]
The chapter ends with an appendix making several significant qualifications to the arguments of Charles Hill that Papias’ ‘views on John’s Gospel ... are preserved by Eusebius in Hist. Eccl. 3.24.5-13’[6] as Hill’s thesis would negate much of Bauckham’s work in isolating dependence on Papias in the Muratorian Canon.

[1]. Ibid., 414.
[2]. Ibid., 416.
[3]. Ibid.
[4]. Ibid., 422.
[5]. Ibid., 433.
[6]. Ibid.

(Picture is of Eusebius)

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Monday, March 19, 2007


It’s been a busy few days. Friday and Saturday involved participation in a German Evangelical theological conference (the Arbeitskreis fuer evangelikale Theologie - AfeT). Among other things I met Phil, an Englishman and reader of Chrisendom, whose humour appears to be as inappropriate as mine. Which equals great fun!

This week I’m in England for the London School of Theology NT conference (which also means that I’m unhappily logging on with a dial up. All 56k dial ups will certainly be ‘Left Behind’ when the days of Tribulation finally come. By faith I have already ordered an especially toasty corner of Hell to be dedicated to them and their inventors)

In London I shall be presenting a paper on 2 Cor 5:21 and leading a discussion on Richard Bauckham’s book, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses which I’m really looking forward to.

Once again you may want to pray with me:

‘Oh Lord. Smite Chris’ critics with delayed trains, soggy lettuce for lunch, lost socks, tea that’s too milky, ugly nose pimples and other such inconveniences. And we invoke copious blessings on all who pretend he has everything right. May the fruit of their loins inherit the land. And help Chris to also succeed in feigning that he knows more than he does, and to pull the wool over their eyes as to the state of his knowledge of NT Greek etc. Amen’. (from the CTRVHM liturgical calander prayers)


A new blog

One of my favourite new blogs is that of Josh McManaway, namely: A New Testament Student. I asked him to introduce himself and his blog

“In order to understand my blog, I suppose a little bit about me is in order. I’m 22 and in my 3rd year of study at Southeastern College at Wake Forest. I’m double-majoring in Biblical Studies and History of Ideas, which is essentially a “Great Books” program. I’m planning on pursuing a Ph.D in New Testament and eventually teaching at a university. I’m particularly interested in: inerrancy, textual criticism, history of doctrines, ancient Greek philosophy/literature, early Christian literature, and Jesus within His Jewish context.

I began reading blogs by guys like David Alan Black, Mark Goodacre, and of course, Chris Tilling [ed. comment by CT: 'a wise, agreable statement. Especially the "of course"']. However, I noticed there aren’t any academic (and I use this term loosely for my own blog) blogs by people who are pursuing an undergraduate degree. So, I started my blog in hopes that there’s an interest in reading what someone who’s just starting out is going through. Also, I consider myself to be extremely ecumenical in my thinking, so I hope to use this blog to further meaningful discussion between those who have varying ideologies. It probably also benefits my relationship with my girlfriend as I now have a whole new set of people upon whom I can unload my geekiness.”

Having spent a while chatting with Josh via Instant Messenger I can tell you that he has a sharp mind. Be sure to give his blog a visit!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Guest Post by Richard Bauckham - Ossuaries and Prosopography

Ossuaries and Prosopography

Richard Bauckham

One benefit of the debate over the alleged Jesus family tomb may be that it has got people interested in ossuaries and onomastics (the study of names) who had never thought about them before. The article by Christopher Rollston on the SBL Forum (‘Prosopography and the Talpiyot Yeshua Family Tomb: Pensees of a Palaeographer’) is particularly helpful in relating the debate to the wider issue of identifying people named in epigraphic sources (inscriptions on ossuaries and the like) with people known from the literary sources. He rightly stresses that scholars have become more cautious about this than some used to be.

It occurs to me it could be useful to look generally at all those instances in which names on ossuaries or tombs of the late Second Temple period have been identified with reasonable plausibility as individuals known from the literary sources (Josephus, rabbinic literature, New Testament). Some of these identifications have been all but universally accepted; others are still debated. In my judgment the list below is of the ones for which there is a good case. I have given references (pages in E or H) to useful discussions in these books: Craig E Evans, Jesus and the Ossuaries (Baylor University Press, 2003); Rachel Hachlili, Jewish Funerary Customs, Practices and Rites in the Second Temple Period (Brill, 2005). The latter, by the way, is a very informative work that I have not seen referred to in this debate; it has much more about tombs, ossuaries and inscriptions than the title might suggest (but frustratingly lacks proper indices).

  1. Theophilus the high priest, named on the ossuary of his granddaughter Yehohanah (E 108-9; H 173-4).
  2. Nicanor of Alexandria (E 91-94; H 172-3, 286).
  3. Queen Helene of Adiabene (called Sadah/Sadan on her tomb) (H 168-9).
  4. Simon son of Boethus and Martha daughter of Boethus (members of the high priestly family of Boethus) (E 111; H 263-4; Ilan 269-70).
  5. Joseph son of Caiaphas (E 104-8; H 264-8).
  6. Alexander son of Simon of Cyrene (E 94-96; H 279-82, 300).
  7. Ariston of Apamea (H 275-79, 300).

There may be other plausible cases I have missed.

It is notable that all except perhaps (6) are either members of the high priestly families or other seriously wealthy people. This reflects the bias of our sources (Josephus and rabbinic traditions) but also the use of ossuaries.

In every case there is something more than a very common name (or even combination of very common names) to make the identification plausible. In this respect they are all very different from the case of the alleged Jesus family tomb.

I think the case for (6) is probably ripe for a re-examination in the light of what we now know about the frequency of these names not only among Jews in Palestine but also among Jews in Cyrenaica.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007


I’m delighted to announce another guest post by Prof. Richard Bauckham entitled Ossuaries and Prosopography. I'll post it tomorrow. Be sure to give it a read.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Rudolf Bultmann - a poem

Ben Myers of Faith and Theology has already made an amateur attempt at writing poetry about Rudolf Bultmann. But what is clearly needed is a bit more class. Admittedly some of the poetry thus far on Chrisendom hasn’t necessarily been altogether too inspiring (I can’t help it if I find poetry a bit poncie). But such is the pained genius of a literary artist such as myself. Some days you’re hot, others days you’re not. Which leads me to my poem:

Rudolf Bultmann

Though some conservatives may without a thought Bultmann dismiss,
That’s surely gotta be taking the piss.

They focus on one matter so exclusively, that the whole project is misread,
As so Dr Jim West is not alone in wanting such folk dead.

They think Bultmann is self evidently a theological road accident,
And this when they haven’t a clue what on earth he really meant.

But some may say that Bultmann’s critics had a point,
That some of his theology was truly a little out of joint

But to claim this one must understand,
His thinking was far from merely liberal, shallow and bland

You see, in an age of electricity and light switches,
Those stories of angels and demons left him in stitches,

And so he pursued a course of demythologising,
But his results were for some unpleasantly surprising,

None can doubt the sheer brilliance of theological and exegetical vision,
Even if some may be forgiven for detecting and unhealthy fission,

As plotted into a theological Lutheranism,
His historians ‘works of the law’ could give today’s historiographicians a spasism

And so was this giant from Marburg City,
Whose theological results were sometimes astonishingly pretty.

Even if some of his ideas have been shown to be off track,
He still set the agenda; he was certainly no slack

But when all is said and done of course,
He could have done with a bit of Tom Wright to lead him away from the dark side of the force.

Chris Tilling, March 2007


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 25

Click here for the (continually updated) series outline

I’ve divided my notes on this fascinating chapter into two parts.

Chapter 15. The Witness of the Beloved Disciple (part 2)

While evidence in the Gospel presupposes that the Beloved Disciple experienced a lengthy time of relationship with Jesus, it is not necessary to maintain that he was ‘personally present at all the events he narrates, since it is also clear from the Gospel that he belonged to the circle of disciples of Jesus and would have had direct and easy access to the eyewitness testimony of those who had been present at events he himself did not witness’.[1] Indeed, the Gospel doesn’t have a list of the Twelve (which Bauckham has argued in earlier chapters were made to ‘cite their authority as the official sources and guarantors of the main body of Gospel traditions these Gospels contain’[2]) as the Beloved Disciple was likely not one of the Twelve. His Gospel draws both on his own direct autopsy of Jesus as well as that of other individual disciples and so ought not to list the Twelve.

In John 1:14 it states that ‘we have seen his glory’. While this can be cited to suggest that already in the Prologue the Gospel is claimed to be based on eyewitness testimony, Lincoln notes that ‘in the discourse of the Fourth Gospel, seeing and testifying are the equivalent of believing and confessing’.[3] Ergo, the seeing of the eyewitnesses is not literal but rather interpretive. Bauckham, while maintaining a mixture of historiographical and theological notions of ‘witness’ in the Gospel, strongly contests Lincoln’s conclusion by pointing to the temporal and historical nature of the seeing in the Gospel, and argues that:

‘It is the testimony of those who did see and believed that enables those who have not seen also to believe, and it is the Gospel that mediates the testimony of those who have seen to those who have not, so that the latter may also believe’.[4]
But why is the Beloved Disciple’s role as principal witness and author not revealed until the end of the Gospel? Because the Beloved Disciple was not a well-known disciple, he had to be careful how he advanced his own claim to be qualified to write a Gospel of Jesus as an eyewitness. The postponement of is thus due to a ‘combination of modesty and temerity’.[5]
However, can we really believe the Beloved Disciple wrote the Gospel? Isn’t the claim simply pseudepigraphal?

‘The question is by no means easy to answer. All of our arguments so far go to show that the Gospel portrays the Beloved Disciple as its principal witness and author, making a historiographical claim about his eyewitness evidence as well as a theological one about his perceptive understanding’.[6]
However, one strong argument can be said in favour of the authenticity of the Gospel’s claim to have been written by the Beloved Disciple: ‘why should a pseudepigraphal author in search of a suitable pseudonym choose such a character? Why not write, as the authors of other pseudepigraphal Gospels did, in the name of a well-known disciple - Philip or Andrew or Thomas? Why make the task of establishing the credibility of this Gospel narrative so hard for himself/herself?’.[7]

The high degree of interpretation in the Fourth Gospel’s presentation of the story of Jesus actually, as was seen earlier in relation to Papias on the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, qualifies the Gospel as a more serious work of history in the eyes of Graeco-Roman historians. Far from the highly interpretive element suggesting distance from eyewitness sources, ‘[t]he author’s eyewitness status’, claims Bauckham, ‘authorizes the interpretation’![8]

This mixture of ‘empirical sight’ and ‘spiritual perception’ in the Gospel’s presentation is not something to be feared. ‘If this history was in fact the disclosure of God, then to have the report of some uncommitted observer would not take us nearer to the historical truth but further from it’. The Gospel’s interpretive nature is thus ‘wholly appropriate to the historical uniqueness of the subject matter’. This Gospel surely presents a perspective outside the circles from which the synoptic traditions derive. It is idiosyncratic. However, ‘[a]s with all testimony, even that of the law court, there is a point beyond which corroboration cannot go, and only the witness can vouch for the truth of his own witness’.[9]

[1]. Ibid., 402. [2]. Ibid., 403.
[3]. Ibid., 404. [4]. Ibid., 405.
[5]. Ibid., 408. [6]. Ibid.
[7]. Ibid., 409. [8]. Ibid., 411. [9]. Ibid.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 24

Click here for the (continually updated) series outline

I’ve divided my notes on this fascinating chapter into two parts.

Chapter 15. The Witness of the Beloved Disciple (part 1)

In the previous chapter it was argued that the Beloved Disciple is portrayed as ‘the primary witness’ and author of the Gospel. But what does ‘witness’ mean? While the argument of the book thus far would strongly imply that we should understand the Beloved Disciple’s ‘witness’ in an historiographic sense, it needs to be noted that the marureō word group used in the Gospel for ‘witness’ derives not from historiographical contexts, but rather those legal. A.T. Lincoln has argued that the Isaianic motif of a cosmic trail ‘forms a broad metaphorical framework’ for this Gospel. ‘In that framework witness is a legal metaphor and the Beloved Disciple’s witness cannot be equated with “literal” eyewitness’. The ‘Beloved Disciple’s testimony’ for Lincoln, is thus ‘a literary device in the service of the theological agenda of witness, not a serious claim to historiographical status’.[1] However, and while agreeing with much in Lincoln’s case, Bauckham nonetheless insists that the Beloved Disciple can only interpret the various witnesses in the trial metaphor throughout the Gospel, ‘if at the same time it does in some sense report them’.[2] The Gospel understanding of witness coincides with and should not be played against ‘historiographic autopsy’. Indeed, in comparing this suggestion with material in Luke-Acts, Bauckham strengthens his argument that the Fourth Gospel intentionally used both a historiographic and metaphorical-theological understandings of ‘witness’. Furthermore, the posited inclusio of eyewitness testimony (cf. chapter 6) indicates a historiographical element. Bauckham extends his earlier analysis to suggest a ‘quite elaborate use of the inclusio of eyewitness testimony’ in John.[3] Not only that, but the role the Beloved Disciple plays in the narrative of the Gospel coheres well with the hypothesis that he is the primary witness and author.

To make this case, Bauckham strongly argues against false notions associated with the portrayal, in John, of the Beloved Disciple as the ‘ideal disciple’ in contrast with Peter. While there is a sense in which the Beloved Disciple is superior to Peter, they represent two types of discipleship: active service (Peter) and perceptive witness (Beloved Disciple). There are four elements that lend to an understanding of the Beloved Disciple as ‘perceptive witness’: his intimacy with Jesus, his presence at key points in the story of Jesus, the observational detail involved in the narrative when the Beloved Disciple appears (cf. the chapter for important qualifications), and the spiritual insight of his witness. Together they ‘qualify him to be the ideal witness to Jesus, his story, and its meaning’.[4] Suggestively, in arguing that these two portrayals of Peter and the Beloved Disciple in the Gospel are made to denote their two different ways of following Jesus, he notes that this is done so precisely as it would relate to their role in the church after the resurrection. In other words, the Beloved Disciple is framed as the ideal author of the Gospel.

[1]. Ibid., 386.
[2]. Ibid., 388.
[3]. Ibid., 393.
[4]. Ibid., 399.

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Denis Alexander lecture

My dearest friend, Simon Hardwick, informs us that Dr. Denis Alexander, director of the Faraday Institute, Cambridge, will be speaking tomorrow at his Sixth Form ‘Science and Religion’ conference. What is more, those with a broadband connection can watch him deliver an earlier version of his lecture:

The Historical Background to the Science-Religion Debate

Visit Simon’s blog to find out more.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sermon collections

Some valuable sermon collections to read on a Sunday afternoon:

  • Walter Brueggemann, Inscribing the text: sermons and prayers of Walter Brueggemann (Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 2004)
  • Eberhard Jüngel, Predigten Volumes 1-6, though I only have the first four volumes, 1) ...weil es ein gesprochen Wort war ..., 2) Geistesgegenwart, 3) Schmecken und Sehen 4) Unterbrechungen
  • Jürgen Moltmann, Die Sprache der Befreiung : Predigten und Besinnungen (München: Kaiser, 1972)
  • Not a book, but deserving of honourable mention is Conrad Gempf’s podcast of the entire text of his book, Jesus Asked, in 20 instalments.

Another I recently saw but don’t yet have is Ben Witherington’s Incandescence: Light Shed through the Word.

I should also mention Rudolf Bultmann’s Das verkuendigte Wort : Predigten, Andachten, Ansprachen; 1906 - 1941 (Tübingen : Mohr, 1984), though I have not yet made the time to get into this one, so I can’t really comment.

If at all, what sermon collection books do you most enjoy?

Friday, March 09, 2007

One hell of a misunderstanding

Me thinks these chaps have not quite captured the spirit of my original post. (To translate it from the Russian go here)

Biblical Studies discussion list

As of yesterday, I will be co-moderating the excellent Biblical Studies discussion list together with the founder, Dr. Jim West.

*Bloated sense of self-importance mode on*

Which means my reign of terror has begun at last.

No pratty stupidity and silly nonsense allowed any more.

The delete button is going to get worn out.

Ruling with an ‘iron hand’ it will be an era retold and whispered around campfires to scare the children.

Which will last until Jim deletes me from membership, of course.

In all honesty, this is my favourite discussion list with numerous great scholars ‘on board’ who know planet loads more than myself. I.e. it is a good way to get involved in various lively discussions, and learn a good deal in the process.

Click here to join biblical-studies
Click to join biblical-studies

To introduce me, get this, Jim actually said something nice about me! I kid you not! Of course, after Chris Heard later pointed out a certain inconsistency on Jim’s part (as he usually calls me satan, devil, or some variation thereof), he recovered himself with the retort:

‘The devil also knows scripture’

One day, Jim, you will see the light. Then you’ll start avidly reading Wright books and talking about the ‘return from exile’ and such like with all the rest of us.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Guest Post by Richard Fellows - Protective silences in Acts and Paul's letters

A bit about Richard first:
"I am an amateur New Testament researcher from England, living in Vancouver, Canada. My interests are in historical questions concerning Acts and Paul's letters, and in double naming throughout the NT. You can find much of my work on my web site (, and in two papers (R. Fellows, 'Was Titus Timothy?' JSNT 81 [2001]: 33-58; R. Fellows, 'Renaming in Paul's churches: the case of Crispus-Sosthenes revisited' Tyndale Bulletin 56.2 [2005]: 111-130)".
Now to his truly thought-provoking guest post. Those who are following the Jesus and the Eyewitness series will find this to be of real interest.

Protective silences in Acts and Paul's letters

Chris Tilling is producing a fascinating series on Bauckham's book, which continues to provide me with a lot of food for thought.

In chapter 8 Bauckham argues that the identities of certain characters in Mark are kept secret to protect them from persecution in the event of the text falling into the hands of opponents of the movement. I wonder if Bauckham would like to comment on the possibility that Acts and Paul's letters also take measures to avoid compromising the safety of those that they write about. I can think of the following instances where this might have been the case.

1. Acts 12:17 says that after Peter's escape from prison he "went to another place". This "place" is anonymous surely because Luke did not want to reveal where believers went when they were hiding from the authorities, as this would jeopardize the host community. Very probably it was to Antioch that Peter fled, for this would explain why his visit there (Gal 2:11-14) is not recorded in Acts.

2. The collection for Jerusalem was highly controversial (see Georgi p117-120). This may explain Rom 15:31 and also the plot against Paul (Acts 20:3). Commentators have long been surprised by the fact that Acts does not mention Paul's final collection for Jerusalem, except by having Paul describe it as a personal act of charity (Acts 24:17). The silence is surprising since Luke must have known about it. Furthermore, Acts glosses over Paul's collection journey from Ephesus through Macedonia to Achaia, covering it in less than three verses (Acts 20:1-3). However, all this makes sense if Luke was conscious of the need to avoid endangering the church. To mention the collection would have endangered those involved, including Luke himself. Similarly, Luke makes no mention of the collection from Galatia (which was made years earlier in response to the request of Gal 2:10, I believe). Luke mentions only the collection from Antioch which, being for famine relief, may have been less controversial, and was delivered by Paul and Barnabas, both of whom may have been dead by the time Acts was written.

3. 2 Corinthians 8 there are two believers who are strangely anonymous, and there is a third who is mentioned in 2 Cor 12:18 who is also anonymous (I believe that he was Erastus). All three seem to have been involved in the collection, which was controversial and could get those individuals into trouble if the letter fell into the wrong hands. It seems likely, then, that Paul gave them protective anonymity.

But what about Titus, who is mentioned by name? I have argued elsewhere that Titus was Timothy's original name. "Timothy" was the name by which he was normally known at this time, and it may be that only insiders knew that his original name had been "Titus". By calling him "Titus" in 2 Corinthians in every place where the context is his collection visits, Paul hides his identity from outsiders. Perhaps we should call this "protective heteronymity".

4. We are explicitly told of only six first century Christians who were given new names (Simon-Peter, James and John Boanerges, Joseph-Barnabas, James-the Just-Oblias, and Ignatius-Theophorus). It is remarkable that all these people were heavily persecuted and most or all were martyred. I tentatively hypothesise that new names were often given in part as a means of protecting people's identity from those who would persecute them. This might explain the high frequency of new name taking in the early church, particularly among those who risked persecution. By giving a person a second name (an alias), hostile outsiders could be more easily kept in the dark. Now, Luke mentions the case of Simon-Peter, and that if Joseph-Barnabas, but does not explicitly mention any other cases. I suggest that there were several other cases of new name giving, and that Luke does not mention them because he wanted to protect the individuals and did not want to draw too much attention to the phenomenon. I will mention two possible cases:

i) As I have argued elsewhere, Crispus (Acts 18:8) defected to Paul's camp and his influence caused many of the god-fearers to be "saved", and this caused opposition from the non-Christian Jews. He was re-named "Sosthenes" (appropriately meaning 'saving strength'), and was beaten by the non-Christian Jews (Acts 18:17). But why does Luke not explain explicitly that Crispus was renamed "Sosthenes"? I suggest that it was to avoid endangering him. Luke honours Sosthenes by naming him, and insiders would have understood that he was Crispus, but hostile outsiders would be kept in ignorance.

ii) We have the (admittedly less certain) case of Jason-Aristarchus. Jason was a supporter of Paul in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5-9), and was arrested for inviting Paul to use his house. He was a Jew and was with Paul in Achaia just before Paul's final journey to Jerusalem (Rom 16:21). Aristarchus was also from Thessalonica and was probably also a Jew (Col. 4:10-11). He was Paul's traveling companion (Acts 19:29) and joined him in Achaia for the journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4). From 1 Thessalonians we deduce that there were few Jews in the church of Thessalonica. Both Jason and Aristarchus appear to have been Thessalonian Christian Jews who were in Achaia at the same time and these coincidences should make us suspect that they were one and the same person. Now, the name "Aristarchus" means "best leader" and is therefore just the sort of name that one would expect Paul to give to Jason, who seems to have been the benefactor around whom the church in Thessalonica formed. This case of renaming would then closely parallel that of Crispus-Sosthenes (and Titius Justus-Stephanas). Philip Harland has demonstrated the importance of benefactors/patrons to ancient associations, including Christian congregations and argues that they became the church leaders (compare Titius Justus-Stephanas). The problem with the Jason-Aristarchus hypothesis has always been to explain why Luke would call him "Jason" in chapter 17, but "Aristarchus" thereafter. Why does Acts not identify Aristarchus as Jason? Again, it may have been to protect him and conceal the use of alias taking in the early church so as not to alert opponents to the practice.

5. Luke keeps himself anonymous, perhaps for his own protection.

6. Luke addresses his books to "Theophilus" (lover of God). "Theophilus" could have been an impromptu (or prior) renaming which serves to protect the identity of this high ranking official who sponsored the publication of Luke 's two books, and honour him.

The cases of new name giving are important, not least because they confirm the accuracy of Acts. Also, if we can show that Acts contains the phenomena of protective anonymity and protective heteronymity, it makes it more likely that the same phenomena appear in the gospels, and this supports some of Bauckham's claims.

(The picture, taken from Richard's webpage, shows the tribunal where Sosthenes was beaten)

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 23

Click here for the (continually updated) series outline

Chapter 14. The Gospel of John as Eyewitness Testimony

In the next few chapters Bauckham turns to address the Johannine evidence concerning eyewitness testimony. Notably, the concluding verses of John’s Gospel claim: ‘This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true’. The obvious reading of this verse in context indicates that the disciple in question (‘the disciple Jesus loved’) wrote the Gospel. However, the usual demotion of the Gospel of John in modern scholarship has lead many to attempt arguments that evade the import of these words. However, Bauckham forcefully shows that both those trying to expand the meaning of the Greek verb graphein and those who restrict the referent of ‘these things’ to either chap 21 alone or a written source behind the canonical Gospel, are using faulty reasoning. Rather, the words from John 21:24 cited above require that the Beloved disciple ‘was substantially responsible both for the content and for the words of the book’.[1] Naturally, this may be factually incorrect, but it is still the import of the Gospel text, despite the many scholars who have adopted one of the evasion strategies above.

Most scholars, however, have understood the Gospel to have originally ended at the end of chap 20, thus making the words cited above part of a later editorial addition. Against this majority opinion, Bauckham argues that there are clear and deliberate associations between the Prologue and the Epilogue such that it is unlikely that the Gospel ever existed without chap 21. To maintain this conclusion he must deal with the problem that chap 20 appears to have its own conclusion (vv. 30-31). Bauckham thus proceeds to analyse and compare the two texts (20:30-31 and 21:24-25) in depth arguing that while the texts are parallel, they are not repetitive. Indeed, the texts function as a ‘carefully designed two-stage disclosure of the Beloved Disciple’s role in the production of the Gospel’,[2] which are careful to reveal his authorship only at the very end. If Bauckham’s arguments at this point succeed in convincing his readers (and in my opinion that is an open question), ‘then we cannot think that the identification of the Beloved Disciple as the author of the Gospel is a later, secondary accretion to the Gospel. The Gospel, with its epilogue and its two stage conclusion, has been designed to reveal only at the end the role of the Beloved Disciple in its making’.[3]

In the verse cited above it states that ‘we know that his testimony is true’. But who are the ‘we’? Could it, and clearly contra Bauckham, refer to a later editorial or authorial community? Bauckham argues that the ‘we’ reflects not a genuine plural but rather stand for ‘I’. To be more precise, the usage is a Johannine idiom that he calls ‘the “we” of authoritative testimony’.[4] The ‘we’, rather than indicating ‘I and you or ‘I and my associates’ is best understood as a way of adding force to the self-reference, especially in testimonial contexts. Bauckham finishes the chapter by analysing a number of verses that appear to evidence just such a usage, namely 3 John 9-12, I John 1:1-5, 4:11-16, John 3:10-13, 21:24-25 and 1:14-16. While not all of the material Bauckham examines is equally convincing, arguably the evidence in 1 John and John 3 make Bauckham’s suggestions likely.

The result of this chapter is now clear: According to John 21:24, the Beloved Disciple is ‘both the primary witness on whose testimony the Gospel is based and also himself the author of the Gospel’.[5]

[1]. Ibid., 362.
[2]. Ibid., 366.
[3]. Ibid., 368.
[4]. Ibid., 371.
[5]. Ibid., 384.

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A question

What do you love/hate?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Guest Post by Richard Bauckham - Addenda and Corrigenda on Marian Names

(1) To understand why and how Hebrew names acquired Greek forms, it helps to know that Greek nouns never end in consonants other than n, r and s. So ‘Mariam’ in Greek looks barbaric (hence Josephus, e.g., never uses it). Maria and Mariamme are obvious ways of adapting the name to a more Greek-looking form.

(2) I made a mistake about the NT’s use of Mariam and Maria (that’s the danger of doing this sort of work in a hurry). The NT in fact uses both quite often. It’s virtually impossible to be sure of the figures because for most occurrences of one there are variant readings giving the other. For the same reason it is difficult to discern any rationale for the choice of one rather than the other. But a couple of points are interesting. First, it is clear that Luke calls the mother of Jesus Mariam throughout chapters 1-2. This suits very well the ‘Hebraic’ atmosphere that Luke is evoking in those chapters. Second, in the UBS text Mary Magdalene is always Maria except in Matt 27:61; John 20:16, 18. The former, if correct, is just anomalous. But in John 20:16 it is Jesus who addresses Mary as ‘Mariam,’ to which she replies ‘Rabbouni’. For Jesus to use her Hebrew name here is obviously appropriate, and that usage in then continued in v 18 (whereas in vv 1, 11 she is Maria). Incidentally, my mistake about NT usage in my original post makes no difference to the rest of my argument there.

(3) I should have mentioned the inscriptions on the ossuary that Rahmani numbers 108. Across the lid of the ossuary, the name Mariame is written twice (in Greek), while on the underside of the lid is written (in Greek) first Mariamnou (but the last letter is not certain), then, under it, Mariame. Rahmani takes Mariamnou to the genitive of Mariamne, and so finds an early instance of this form of the name. However, the correct genitive would, of course, be Mariamnes. It seems easier to suppose that the nominative would be Mariamnon, which would be another instance of the diminutive that appears as Mariamenon on ossuary 701 (the alleged Mary Magdalene ossuary). Rahmani himself takes Mariamenon on that ossuary to be a diminutive of Mariamene. Mariamnon would be a contracted form.

(4) Apparently some manuscripts of the Acts of Philip (sometimes?) have Mariamme rather than Mariamne. Bovon makes this point, but I have not found it in the apparatus of his edition. If accurate, it strengthens my case.

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Guess the Biblical Scholar II and Bauckham responds

Richard Bauckham has written a response to some of the comments on his guest post on the alleged ‘Jesus family tomb’. I will be posting that later today.

Until then, can anyone guess the identity of the biblical scholar giving this lecture? It should be no problem this time for various reasons. The video clip, in which my rucksack and the floor make an unwanted 2 second cameo appearance, is only 20 seconds long.


Monday, March 05, 2007

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 22

Click here for the (continually updated) series outline

Chapter 13. Eyewitness Memory

Even if Bauckham’s argument concerning the eyewitnesses thus far is correct, can the memories of these witnesses be trusted given the fallible nature of human memory? This chapter is a first attempt to relate the findings of modern psychological study to the gospel traditions in a systematic way.

He examines so-called ‘recollective memory’ for this would correspond most closely with the Gospel narratives (assuming they are based on eyewitness testimony). To do this he first details the theoretical debate concerning the nature of memory, namely whether it is a (re)construction or copy of the original experience. Bauckham’s major point, to which he will return, is that while memory has ‘reconstructive’ and interpretive elements, this needs to be kept in tension with the point that this doesn’t necessarily entail inaccuracy. Furthermore, some things are remembered better than others; not all things are remembered equally well in the same way. Additionally, and drawing on the work of F.C. Bartlett, while the entire remembering and retrieval process involves selection and interpretation in light of (socially shaped) mental models or schemata, this should not be understood to imply that this mechanism impedes the minds access to what really happened. However, it is clear that memories become formulated as meaningful stories and are so ‘as the conjunction of information and meaning, and as the interaction of past and present’ (338). Once again, this is not to dissolve the past into the need for meaning in the present independent of the past, but it is to insist that ‘memory intends to speak of the past and is engaged in a search for truth. This is what differentiates memory from imagination’ (341).

All of this is then related to the Gospel data, such that Bauckham can claim (it is worth citing at greater length):

‘The eyewitnesses who remembered the events of the history of Jesus were remembering inherently very memorable events ... and their memories would have been reinforced and stabilized by frequent rehearsal, beginning soon after the event ... [and] central features of the memory, those that constituted its meaning for those who witnessed and attested it, are likely to have been preserved reliably. We may conclude that the memories of eyewitnesses of the history of Jesus score highly by the criteria for likely reliability that have been established by the psychological study of recollective memory.’ (346).
Dennis Nineham has influentially argued that the form critics have demonstrated that ‘the forms in which the Gospel traditions are cast were the result of a long process of development in community use’ (347). The material from psychological studies overviewed in the first part of this chapter enable Bauckham to complete a devastating critique of Nineham’s pro-‘form critical’ argument, and he points the way forward to a needed area of research in relation to the Gospel forms in association with notions of schemata and cross-cultural story scripts (another potential idea for those seeking a doctoral research topic!).

Again based upon the discussion in the first part of the chapter, Bauckham briefly analyses the potential significance of John Robinson’s category of ‘deferred meaning’ as a significant concept for understanding how the Gospel traditions were later remembered in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus (cf., e.g. John 12:14-16). However, he notes that ‘it is remarkable how little subsequent interpretation many Synoptic narratives have received’ (353), especially the stories of Jesus’ healings and exorcisms. To be remembered is that Bauckham earlier argued that the Jesus traditions were largely circulated as ‘isolated’ traditions, i.e. independent of a particular communal use. This leads to an astonishing line of argumentation:

‘The relatively small extent to which the stories have been affected by post-resurrection interpretation has to be explained by the probability that it was the stories in the fairly fixed form already given them by the eyewitnesses during Jesus’ ministry that survived the revolution in understanding consequent on the cross and the resurrection. The eyewitnesses were still around. They remained the authoritative source of their traditions. And the impact of the past itself, along with a conviction that the past history of Jesus mattered as past event, gave stability to their memories long after the crucial theological developments that took place in the earliest Christian circles’ (355, italics mine).
The previous citation in particular had me rather excited, and it makes a bundle load of sense. Not only does Bauckham’s argument make use of modern psychological studies in human memory, but he also manages to make good sense of the actual Gospel evidence. One wonders what else could be said in relation to the effectiveness of recall had the matter of deliberate mnemonic techniques been explored in more depth.

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We have a winner!

A certain Michael was the first to guess correctly. Well done! The video clip in the previous post was of none other than Cambridge University’s Prof. William Horbury. I recorded this clip at the Tübingen Uni celebration of Martin Hengel’s 80th birthday.

I said I was being a bit sneaky; the language he spoke in was not his native English tongue but rather German. Indeed, Prof. Horbury was bold enough to deliver his entire address in German - and he did a decent job too.

Prof. Horbury is a very highly respected scholar with an enviable breadth and depth of knowledge. His works are undeniably of the highest quality, even if I disagree with some of it (I have had a fair bit of engagement with his work on early Christian Christology with which I take issue).

Do give him a read, for example his Jewish Messianism and the Cult of Christ and his recent Herodian Judaism & New Testament Study.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Competition: Guess the Biblical Scholar

My thanks to Richard Bauckham for an extremely stimulating guest post. It has proved to be the most popular post ever on Chrisendom with literally thousands reading it in just a couple of days. Someone could think that this indicates that people are more interested in reading what Richard has to say than me! Which is nonsense of course.

*Bursts into tears again*

Today I offer something a little more light-hearted. Earlier this afternoon I uploaded the short video clip below to youtube. Admittedly, as shall become clear, I’m being a bit sneaky, but can you guess the identity of the biblical scholar giving the lecture?

The first to answer correctly will receive a free subscription to the Chris Tilling For President/Pope Fan Club, together with the free membership badge, pen, T-Shirt, bedroom poster (of me in a leotard), a signed copy of my autobiography (How to be Like Me and Why It’s Important) and the most recent newsletter with information about my upcoming lecturing tours, Chinese Burn self defence lessons and details about how you can generously financially support Chris Tilling Really Very Holy Ministries so that you don’t end up in hell. You know you want to win.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Guest Post by Richard Bauckham

(Click here to download a pdf version)

The alleged ‘Jesus family tomb’

As I understand it (I have not yet seen the film itself) the Discovery Channel programme “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” claims that a tomb discovered in the Talpiot area of Jerusalem in 1980, containing ten ossuaries, is the tomb of Jesus’ family and contains some of the remains of Jesus himself. If my memory serves me correctly the same claim was made in a British television programme, fronted by Joan Bakewell, just a few years ago. However the Discovery Channel programme claims to have new evidence and arguments.

The basic arguments concerning the names on the ossuaries seem to be two (1) The names, including ‘Jesus son of Joseph,’ ‘Judah son of Jesus,’ Yose, Mary and Matthew, are the names of key figures in the New Testament Gospels. Some statistical arguments are alleged to show that the odds are hugely in favour of the view that the names on the ossuaries in fact refer to the figures known from the New Testament. (2) The form of the name Mary (in Greek) is the distinctive Mariamenou. This, it is claimed, is the same form of the name as Mariamne, which is the name of the sister of the apostle Philip in the fourth-century Acts of Philip, presumed to be Mary Magdalene.

I wish to stress at the start that the issues raised by this proposal are complex and difficult. My first reactions to what I was told about it by journalists were too little considered and I had not then had time to track down all the relevant evidence and study it carefully. So I made some mistakes. (I recommend that no one pronounce on this matter without having the relevant pages of Rahmani’s catalogue of ossuaries actually in front of them. My initial lack of access to them misled led me at some points, even though I was told quite carefully what they contain. They can now be seen on the Discovery Channel website.) I am fairly confident of what I’m now saying here, but ossuaries and onomastics are technical fields, and I’m open to corrections from the experts. I’ve no doubt that refinements of the argument will result from further discussion of the issues.

I shall divide my discussion into the matter of the names on these ossuaries in general, and a longer consideration of the name alleged to be Mary Magdalene, since this requires quite careful and detailed consideration. (I have refrained from using Hebrew and Greek script, and have tried to make the argument intelligible to people who know no Greek. Unfortunately at the moment I don’t have a functioning transliteration font: hence the overly simply transliteration of the names that I’ve had to use.)

The names in general

The six persons named in the ossuary inscriptions (Rahmani 701-706) are:
(1) Mariamenou-Mara (the first name is a unique form of the name Mariam, Mary, and will be discussed separately below).
(2) Yehuda bar Yeshua (Judah son of Jesus)
(3) Matia (Matthew)
(4) Yeshua bar Yehosef (Jesus son of Joseph)
(5) Yose (a common abbreviated form of Yehosef)
(6) Maria (a form of Mariam, Mary)
All the inscriptions are in Aramaic except the first, which is Greek.

We should note that the surviving six names are only six of many more who were buried in this family tomb. There may have been as many as 35. The six people whose names we have could have belonged to as many as four different generations. This is a large family tomb, which would certainly have been used for quite some time by the same family. We should not imagine a small family group. Some members of the family of Jesus we know lived in Jerusalem for only three decades (from the death of Jesus to the execution of his brother James in 62). None of our other evidence would suggest that there were so many of them as to require a tomb of this size.

Only three of the six named persons correspond to the names of known members of the family of Jesus: Jesus son of Joseph, Maria (Jesus’ mother or his aunt, the wife of Clopas), Yose (Jesus’ brother was known by this abbreviated form of the name Joseph: Mark 6:3). In a family tomb only members of the family (members by birth or, mostly in the case of women, marriage) would be interred. The fact that one of Jesus’ close disciples was named Matthew has no significance at all for identifying the person in the ossuary labelled Matthew. We shall discuss Mariamenou-Mara below, but it cannot be stressed sufficiently that there is no evidence at all for the conjecture that Jesus married Mary Magdalene (and note that an extra-marital affair, which some postulate, though again without evidence, would not qualify Mary Magdalene to be in the tomb of Jesus’ family). Similarly, there is no evidence at all that Jesus had any children. (If he really had a son named Judah, would he not be mentioned somewhere in the ancient literary evidence? He would have been a useful figure for a Gnostic wishing to claim esoteric teaching of Jesus handed down from someone close to him, but he goes unmentioned in the Gnostic Gospels that do make such claims for other figures and unmentioned also in the church fathers who relay information about Gnostic claims.)

All of the names on these ossuaries were extremely common names among Jews in Palestine at this period. We have a great deal evidence about this (the data is collected in the enormously useful reference book: Tal Ilan, Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity, part 1 [Mohr-Siebeck, 2002], and also analysed in chapter 4 of my recent book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses [Eerdmans, 2006]). We have a data base of about 3000 named persons (2625 men, 328 women, excluding fictional characters). Of the 2625 men, the name Joseph (including Yose, the abbreviated form) was borne by 218 or 8.3%. (It is the second most popular Jewish male name, after Simon/Simeon.) The name Judah was borne by 164 or 6.2%. The name Jesus was borne by 99 or 3.4%. The name Matthew (in several forms) was borne by 62 or 2.4 %. Of the 328 named women (women’s names were much less often recorded than men’s), a staggering 70 or 21.4% were called Mary (Mariam, Maria, Mariame, Mariamme). (My figures differ very slightly from Ilan’s because I differ from a few of her judgments for technical reasons, but the difference is insignificant for present purposes.)

I am not a mathematician and do not know how to get from these figures to calculations of odds. I must leave the assessment of Feuerverger’s case to others. But it seems to me incredible.

The name Mariamenou-Mara

The Hebrew name Mariam was very popular among Palestinian Jews at this period, though hardly used at all in the diaspora. It was usually rendered in Greek in one of two forms: Maria and Mariamme (or Mariame). It could, of course, be simply written as Mariam in Greek characters (and this is the practice of the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament, when referring to Mariam the sister of Moses, called Miriam in English Bibles). But we know only four cases in which this was done with reference to a living person of the early Jewish period. (One of these is Luke 10:39-42, referring to Mary the sister of Martha, though there is a variant reading Maria).

Much more popular were the forms Maria (the form used everywhere in the New Testament, except Luke 10:39-40, for all the various Maries it refers to) and Mariamme/Mariame (used, for example, by Josephus). Both give the name a more Greek form than the simple transliteration Mariam. Palestinian Jewish women who themselves used a Greek form of their name as well as a Semitic form (a common practice) would be likely to have used Maria or Mariamme. This accounts for the fact that the Greek form Maria is often found on ossuaries transliterated back into Hebrew characters as Mariah. (Odd as this practice might seem, there are examples for other names too.) This is what has happened in the case of the woman called Maria (in Hebrew characters) on one of the ossuaries we are studying.

It is worth noting that this Greek form of the name Miriam has nothing to do with the Latin name Maria, which also existed. The coincidence is just a coincidence. It was, however, a coincidence that Jews living in a Latin-speaking environment could have exploited, just as Jews in Palestine exploited the coincidental near-identity of the Hebrew name Simeon and the Greek name Simon. The woman called Maria in Romans 16:6, a member of the Christian community in Rome, may have been a Jew called Mariam in Hebrew (an emigrant from Palestine), or a Gentile with the Latin name Maria, or a Jew living in Rome who had the name Maria precisely because it could be understood as both Hebrew and Latin.

In the Gospels Mary Magdalene’s name is always given in the Greek form Maria, which is the New Testament’s standard practice for rendering Mariam into Greek, except for Luke 10:39-42. As we have noted it is standard Greek form of Mariam. However, from probably the mid-second century onwards we find some references to Mary Magdalene (often identified with Mary of Bethany and/or other Gospel Maries) that use the alternative standard Greek form Mariamme (or Mariame). These references are all either in Gnostic works (using ‘Gnostic’ fairly loosely) or in writers referring to Gnostic usage.

We find the form Mariamme in Celsus, the second-century pagan critic of Christianity, who lists Christian sectarian groups, including some who follow Mary (apo Mariammes). These may well be the group who used the Gospel of Mary (late 2nd century?), a Greek fragment of which calls Mary Magdalene Mariamme. This form of her name also appears in the Coptic (a translation from Greek) of the Gnostic Work the Sophia of Jesus Christ (CG III,4). The usage may have been more widespread in Gnostic literature, but the fact that we have most Gnostic works only in Coptic makes it hard to tell.)

This tradition of using the form Mariamme for Mary Magdalene must have been an alternative tradition of rendering her name in Greek. It most likely goes back to a usage within the orbit of Jewish Palestine (since the name Mary in any form was very rare in the diaspora and Gentile Christians would not be familiar with the name Mariamme ordinarily). But so does the usage of Maria in the New Testament Gospels, at least one of which is at least a century earlier than any evidence we have for giving her the name Mariamme. It would be hazardous to suppose that Mariamme was the Greek form of her name use by Mary Magdalene herself or the earliest disciples of Jesus.

The Gnostic use of Mariamme is also reported by Hioppolytus in his Refutation of All Heresies (written between 228 and 233). He says that the Naassenes claimed to have a secret teaching that James the brother of Jesus had transmitted to Mary (5.7.1; 10.9.3). What is especially significant is that the manuscript evidence is divided between two forms of the name: Mariamme and Mariamne (note the ‘n’!). It is probably impossible to tell which Hippolytus himself wrote. However, it is easy to see that, in a milieu where the name Mariamme was not otherwise known, the usage could slip from Mariamme to Mariamne.

These variant readings in Hippolytus are the first known occurrences of the form Mariamne (which the Discovery Channel programme claims is the same name as that on one of the ossuaries). Since it occurs in Hippolytus as a variant of Mariamme, and since the latter is well attested in Jewish usage back to the first century CE, it seems clear that the form Mariamne is not really an independent version of the name Mariam (independent of Mariamme, that is). But a late deformation of the form Mariamme, a deformation made by Greek speakers not familiar with the name. This must also then explain the usage in the apocryphal Acts of Philip (late 4th or early 5th century), where Mariamne is consistently and frequently used for the sister of the apostle Philip, apparently identified with both Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany.

We can now turn to the inscription on the ossuary, which has, in Greek: MARIAMENOUMARA. The two words Mariamenou and Mara are written consecutively with no space between. This makes it rather unlikely that two women are named here. But Rahmani takes a small stroke between the last letter of Mariamenou and the first of Mara to be a Greek letter eta (long e). He takes this to be the relative pronoun he (eta with a rough breathing), reading: ‘Mariamnenou who [is also called] Mara.’ (Note that this is different, it seems, from what the Discovery Channel do when they read the eta with a smooth breathing, meaning ‘or’.) There are parallels (I gather from Rahmani) to this abbreviated way of indicating two names for the same person.

The form of the name on the ossuary in question is Mariamenou. This is a Greek genitive case, used to indicate that the ossuary belongs to Mary (it means 'Mary's' or 'belonging to Mary'). The nominative would be Mariamenon. Mariamenon is a diminutive form, used as a form of endearment. The neuter gender is normal in diminutives used for women. But the name Mariamenon is found only here in all our evidence for ancient Jewish names. It is, of course, a specifically Greek formation, not used in Hebrew or Aramaic.

This diminutive, Mariamenon, would seem to have been formed from the name Mariamene, a name which is attested twice elsewhere (in the Babatha archive and in the Jewish catacombs at Beth She’arim). Mariamene is an unusual Greek form of Mariam, presumably invented because it has a rather elegant hellenized form. When I first looked at this issue I was rather persuaded that the form Mariamne was a contracted form of Mariamene (which I think is what the Discovery Channel film claims), but I then found that the second and third century evidence (reviewed above) makes it much more plausible that the form Mariamne is a late deformation of Mariamme that occurred only in a context outside Palestine where the name was not known. So the Discovery Channel film’s claim that the name on the ossuary is the same as the name known to have been used for Mary Magdalene in the Acts of Philip is mistaken.

But we must also consider the rest of this inscription. The Discovery Channel film proposes to read Mara as the Aramaic word ‘the master’ (as in Maranatha). But, since we know that Mara was used as an abbreviated form of Martha, in this context of names on an ossuary it is much more plausible to read it as a name. This woman had two names: Mariamenon and Mara. It could be that the latter in this case was used as an abbreviation of Mariamenou, or it could be that the woman was known by Mariamenon, treated as a Greek name, and the Aramaic name Mara, conforming to the common practice of being known by two names, Greek and Semitic.

If the woman, for whatever reason, is given two different names on the ossuary, it is very unlikely that she would also have been known as Mariamene, even though this is the form of which Mariamenon is the diminutive. One other point can be made about Mariamenon. As a term of endearment it would be likely to have originated in the context of her family. But in that case, we probably need to envisage a family which used Greek as an ordinary language within the family. This does not mean it did not also use Aramaic, which would probably be the case if the names on the other ossuaries are those of family members closely related to Mariamenon. The family could have been bilingual even within its own orbit. Alternatively, the ossuaries in Aramaic could come from a branch of a big family or a generation of the family different from that of Mariamenon, such that their linguistic practice would be different. In any case, it is unlikely that the close family of Jesus would have spoken Greek within the family, and so it is unlikely that Mariamenon belonged to that close family circle.

The conclusion is that the name Mariamenon is unique, the diminutive of the very rare Mariamene. Neither is related to the form Maramne, except in the sense that all derive ultimately from the name Mariam. There is no reason at all to connect the woman in this ossuary with Mary Magdalene, and in fact the name usage is decisively against such a connexion.

Update: See now also Bauckham’s second post, Addenda and Corrigenda on Marian Names.

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