Friday, November 23, 2007

Quote of the Day

I am still left wondering what one has really gained by the application of the criteria of authenticity. If I apply these criteria to a given saying or deed, what assurance will it provide for me? Does it really anchor the idea in the historical person of Jesus? Can we really separate the authors from their traditions? Can we really distinguish the author’s historical point of view from the story they narrate? The fact is these criteria cannot be applied neutrally and will be affected by the one using them. Moreover, it is unrealistic to think that these criteria can act as a neutral arbiter between two competing views.

Joel Willitts, Presuppositions and Procedures in the Study of the ‘Historical Jesus’: Why I Decided Not to be an Historical Jesus Scholar, JSHJ 3.1, p.107

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Christmas still looks good, Q not so much. . .

First McGrath. Then Goodacre, and now back over on Exploring Our Matrix, James McGrath offers some more thoughts on how the differences make Q. I must disagree.

Why, for example, would we assume that Luke, once he'd decided to alter Matthew's genealogy, would bother to laboriously copy "more of the names" the same? That seems remarkably tedious to me, I probably couldn't be bothered were I him.

The reason for that is probably my biggest problem with McGrath's line of reasoning: It requires us to assume that Luke was naive. If Luke wasn't naive, he probably couldn't be bothered either.

Surely if Luke sat down with Matthew and Mark in front of him, fully intending to redact them in to something new, he would be fully aware that Matthew had done the same. The Exodus symbolism is patently obvious to us, for example, why should we assume that Luke missed it? And if he didn't, why would he regard it as authoritative in the sense that he does Mark?

If, continuing with the Exodus example, Luke rejects Jesus as the second Exodus--even symbolically--why would he wish to keep Matthew's infancy, knowing full well what Matthew has created? There doesn't seem to be much room in Luke's gospel for a second Moses--this would seem to be a reasonable position to take.

Even beyond Lukan sympathies, surely some of Luke's narrative was influenced by a knowledge of historical realities. While I have no pretenses about "Luke the Historian," it's easy to see, for example, why he might omit the slaughter of the innocents: He knew it wasn't true. If you were Luke, and realized that, how seriously would you take Matthew's narrative? How much authority would you grant it?

And there are points of similarity between the infancies. Perhaps most notably in the case of the virgin birth. The virgin birth fairly reeks of Matthean creation to me, so how does Luke know it? We might get around this by suggesting that Luke had received oral tradition that was shaped by Matthew, but now we've just moved the problem back. Surely Luke didn't hear only the virgin birth, so why did nothing else he received orally make the cut? Why did he revise that oral tradition? Q doesn't solve that difficulty. The differences don't make Q, Q just makes the differences somebody else's problem.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Blog Reading Level

Huh. Go figure.

I have to say, I'm more than a little skeptical of the results (NTGateway is apparently "College Undergrad," while Hypotyposeis is "High School." Man, those are some smart kids). But, skeptical or not, I'll let it feed my ego for today. At least until it gives me a complex wondering whether or not my blog is unaccessible. . .

ETA Apparently my most recent post made me smarter. Now I'm:

That I'll definitely let feed my ego.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Blomberg on the Synoptic Problem

Over on The Stuff of the Earth, Michael Pahl has an interesting post regarding Craig Blomberg and the shift toward the Farrer-Goulder hypothesis in solving the Synoptic problem (though, in the light of this shift, should we perhaps start calling it the Farrer-Goulder-Goodacre hypothesis instead?).

What's particularly neat about it isn't that the shift is occurring, so much as what should be attributed as its cause. Goulder has indicated in the past that he always achieved local success in persuading people against the 2SH. People he engaged were more likely to be persuaded by him, and the effect was diminished the farther one got away. This would seem to indicate that while it's ultimately Goodacre's (and Goulder's, and Farrer's, of course) argument that's winning the day, it's his presence online that opened up the battlefield. Yet another example of how the digital age is changing the playing field.

In a similar vein, I'd encourage readers to view Goodacre's post on synoptic problem terminology, particularly the comments by Frank McCoy. As one who thinks that John's copy of Luke wasn't much farther away than Luke's copy of Matthew, I definitely sympathize with McCoy's points.

Update Be sure to check out Hypotyposeis, where Stephen Carlson weighs in on the question of synoptic terminology

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Essential Reference Collection

I was asked recently "How many of these do you actually use?" referring to my numerous Bible Dictionaries, Encyclopedias and the like. While my answer, "All of them," was not dishonest, it might have been a little disingenuous--some of them get used an awful, awful lot more than the others. So today we honour those, with a list of the essential reference books for any dilettante exegete. Primary sources are a given, so won't be included in the list (if you don't have a hard or digital copy of the Nag Hammadi finds, or Josephus, you probably shouldn't be getting a Bible Dictionary yet anyway).

1) The Anchor Bible Dictionary One of the priciest tomes on the list. Six volumes, 350 bucks, worth every penny. It's not the best because it's popular, it's popular because it's the best. Do yourself a favor and buy the digital version from Logos.

2) The IVP Dictionaries Yeah, yeah, I'm sneaking three books in here, but only because they're a series. The Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, The Dictionary Of Jesus and the Gospels and The Dictionary of the Later New Testament and its Development. There's also some OT volumes, which I don't have, so can't really comment on.

3) The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible I debated whether or not this one should appear, for two reasons. Firstly, it's a primary source, which I said I'd neglect at the outset. But it's not one most people have (or think to get), so it passed that test. The second is that how valuable one finds it depends on how sectarian one views the creation of the texts: It's more difficult to view it as a very valuable witness if we consider it being created in isolation. Since I tend against this view, it finds its way here.

4) Oxford Dictionaries of. . . I have half a dozen of these, so I'm sneaking a bunch in again. While not as thorough as some of the other volumes named here, the Oxford Dictionaries nonetheless provide a quick, useful overview of their entries (Oxford Dictionary of the Bible, Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion, Oxford Dictionary of People and Places in the Bible, etc.)

5) The IVP Bible Background Commentary (OT & NT) Snuck two in again. I'm crafty like that. A normative commentary will help you see how someone else has understood it. These "Bible Background" commentaries will help you understand it yourself.

6) Harper's Bible Dictionary This, the Anchor Bible Dictionary, and Eerdman's Bible Dictionary almost go without saying. . .

7) Eerdman's Bible Dictionary . . .But I'll say it anyway.

8) Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (NT) A collection of ancient citations and applications of Biblical passages. You'll need to take out a second mortgage to buy it, but it'll be worth every penny. Peter Kirby's e-catena provides something similar, but it's nowhere near as exhaustive. The OT volumes aren't quite finished yet (I believe 3 still remain), but I can't justify the purchase for the OT anyway, being somewhat outside of my area of interest. Do yourself a favor again: Get it from Logos. Also available on Accordance for you Mac cultists :P

Friday, November 02, 2007

Free Access to Sage Journals For the Month of November

Wow. This jaw-droppingly good news was just passed on to the XTalk list. Free registration is required, and all things considered, a small price to pay.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Bibliobloggers at Eisenbrauns

Eisenbrauns sale for Nov. 2007 features a selection from the Biblioblogosphere. I'll probably take the opportunity to pick up a new copy of The Case Against Q, since my daughter has taken to ripping pages out of my existing one. Other must reads for anyone looking for a good deal, Carlson's The Gospel Hoax and Crossley's The Date of Mark's Gospel (though the cover displayed is for the wrong book). While I haven't yet read April DeConick's The Thirteenth Apostle, at 15 bucks I shall have soon--one really can't go wrong at that price.

Biblical Studies Carnival

Time for the obligatory mention of this month's Biblical Studies Carnival (the 23rd), over on Ancient Hebrew Poetry.

He also includes a post script, calling for more atheist or Jewish bibliobloggers. While I wouldn't deny the heavy presence of evangelical bibliobloggers (and the frequent debates pertinent only to them), I think his overall sentiment might reflect more what's on his blogroll than what's in the blogosphere. In many cases, I'd think the reason that so few non-Christians partake in some of the discussions isn't so much that we aren't here, or don't have a voice, it's that we simply don't care--that's not a dig at those who do, it's just that the subject matter of the "monologues" frequently isn't of interest to us (for an easy example, it doesn't matter how many times the Good Doc West mentions Zwingli, I'm still not going to read him).

Does Hobbins' sentiment, "It bothers me when Bible blogdom becomes a monologue among like-minded Christians," really hold to blogs such as The NT Gateway? The Forbidden Gospels? Hypotyposeis? The Busybody? The answer to all of these seems to be a resounding "no."