Archives For NT

I am nearing the halfway point of Watson on a close read (i.e., every word, every footnote), and I found Markus Bockmuehl’s recent JTS review to be a nice summary overall. I also agreed with many of the his critiques. One small point I wish Bockmuehl would have expanded (even with just an extra sentence):

In particular, the argument from the implausibility of non-Markan, non-Q ‘coincidences’ may well attract critical attention from the friends of Q. But from another perspective it also seems less compelling the more one accepts the influence of a lively culture of individual and collective memory and performance…

GospelWritingBockmuehl follows this up by noting how little Watson deals with orality and memory–a criticism with which I agree. But this bit I’ve reproduced above seems to me unclear. The first sentence is true enough. But the second only partially. On one hand I agree. For example, the ‘coincidence’ (on the 2ST) that Matt and Luke both include genealogies (independent of one another) could be tempered by allowing for the influence of orality/memory. On the other hand, collective memory, orality, or performance seem to me unable to forcefully explain why, according to Watson, Luke and Matthew both favor the Q structure over Mark. Watson’s big point in the relevant section is that Matthew and Luke agree strikingly often in how they incorporate non-Mark material into the Markan framework–a coincidence if in fact Matthew and Luke did not ‘know’ each other.

So yes, I think a few of Watson’s Q ‘coincidences’ can be tempered when considering orality and collective memory, but other ‘coincidences’ less so, especially those dealing with authors’ editorial procedures that follow from 2ST.

A few other excerpts from Bockmuehl:

Heuristically if perhaps unwittingly, Watson’s position on Thomas resembles the approaches of Robinson, Koester, Funk, Crossan, and others who believed that the earliest gospel sources consisted primarily of disembodied sayings with at this stage little or no interest in the person of Jesus or in ‘what he did and suffered’ (which for Aristotle defined history, Poetics 1451b 11).

…At the same time, the ‘authoritative core’ argument matters especially for the four gospels. Questions of their early date, apostolic attribution, and content may of course be historically contestable; but they did in fact matter to second-century Christian writers—and the answers given did not apparently vary over time. But those ancient questions and answers are here dismissed as (it seems) methodologically irrelevant, historically worthless apologetic after the fact.

…Conversely, and perhaps more importantly, the second and third centuries already produce scholia (or indeed commentaries) on John, Matthew, and Luke—whereas it is presumably significant that none of the apocryphal gospels ever appears to have attracted any commentary tradition.

…And yet there is not a shred of evidence that any of the four gospels were ever serious candidates for exclusion (even Mark, who was rarely read; or John, whom a few crotchety anti-Montanists in Rome apparently disliked)—or, conversely, that any others (even Thomas!) were ever seriously considered for inclusion or achieved remotely comparable breadth of literary circulation, liturgical reception, or exegetical comment.


Anthony Le Donne, not only a self-described ‘moderate success’, but also hilarious, has compiled some business cards of biblical studies folks you may recognize. A few of my favorites:

Keith Enns Gupta Hurtado Moss Le-Donne

For those who may be interested, over at the New College Readers Blog I have contributed a summary of chapter 3 of Watson’s Gospel Writing.

Overall I am enjoying some of the broad epistemological/hermeneutical questions Watson raises, but I find a number of his detailed arguments about gospel origins problematic. More on this later.

Wayne Coppins’ Blog

January 29, 2014 — Leave a comment

I was delighted to discover that Wayne Coppins is blogging (via Christopher Skinner), and a quick perusal had me subscribing immediately.

I also perused his “Roadmap for Aspiring New Testament Scholars” which is full of useful information for folks at various stages of their academic career, especially early stages. One part I enjoyed was a recollection of advice Martin Hengel gave to Coppins which I quote at length:

1) Sit down and write your dissertation;

2) Make a selection of the most important works from the secondary literature, and give priority to the full range of relevant primary sources;

3) The real art of a scholar resides in the ability to improve what s/he has written.

In putting the first point first – “Sit down and write your dissertation!” – I understood Hengel to be conveying to me that I needed to get on with the work rather than endlessly worrying that I was not ready or it was not yet perfect. This was constructive as an answer to my perfectionist tendencies, which tend to result in paralysis.

For me, the second point proved especially helpful: “Make a selection of the most important works from the secondary literature, and give priority to the full range of relevant primary sources.” First, this freed me up to begin developing my thinking in relation to a selection from the massive secondary literature, rather than feeling that I should first read everything out there. This was constructive insofar as the process of reading and reading and reading and reading had the effect of making me feel overwhelmed, whereas beginning to develop my thinking in relation to a selection of sources proved more manageable. (Plus, had I adopted it at the outset, this strategy might have saved me from spending a whole year reading – and photocopying! – everything about one topic, only to realize later that I did not want to continue working on that research question.) Secondly, it reinforced my conviction that fresh thinking often takes place through interaction with the primary texts, though I would also want to stress as a corrective that it is often the secondary literature that helps us to inform and reshape our thinking in such a way that we can interact competently with the primary sources.

Hengel’s third observation – “The real art of a scholar resides in the ability to improve what s/he has written” – likewise served to constructively disable my perfectionist tendencies by driving home the point that researching and writing a PhD is a multi-stage process. In other words, it freed me up to allow myself to produce flawed work, with the understanding that I would indeed have the opportunity to improve what I had written, and that I might be better able to do so if I allowed my argument to develop further before attempting to go back over it. Similarly, I can remember Graham Stanton once looking over my draft work and then saying something like, “Well, this is not what we want, but let’s press on and we can return to it”; his point being that now was not yet the time for revision, and that I should be free to move on.

In the introduction to this review I mentioned that a basic version of Logos 5 is free for some users. Having recently updated to this free version (from Logos 4), I want to comment on some of the features new to version 5. Note that these features should be available in all versions of Logos 5.

A general observation, to begin: I anticipate these new features will be most helpful to pastors, students, and lay persons, while advanced students and certainly scholars will have the skills and resources to get at the information through other/better means.

Topic Guide. A “quick and dirty” search for digging into a topic. It will return results from any dictionaries/encyclopedias in your library, suggest similar topics, and link to some other resources such as illustrations for use in a PowerPoint or the Bible Facts (another new feature) which brings together various resources on certain topics.

Sermon Starter. This is similar to the Topic Guide, but the results it returns include resources often used in the preparation of a sermon (e.g., outlines, media, commentaries, illustrations, images designed for PowerPoint [specific to your passage or topic], links to related sermon text and audio.

I am not fond of the links to other sermons since, with all respect to those authors/speakers represented, they do not necessarily reflect diligent study and work on the texts.

Clause Search. This is a Bible search that can handle multiple terms with specific tags such as “verb” and “subject.” Searches for “God” as the subject will also return instances where God is speaking as subject, even where the noun “God” does not appear.

Timeline Upgrade. Bigger and better.

Bible Sense Lexicon. This is a sort of ‘smart’ lexicon that can especially help students or pastors who do not know the original languages understand an original word or phrase, as well as the significance of its syntax in the original sentence. I should note, however, that there is no equal substitute for knowing the original languages and, therefore, being able to use the best tools and commentaries available. One can also search a specific sense of a word (e.g., where ‘hand’ refers to power in the OT). Here’s a demonstration:

In the next post, I’ll be more specific about the features of Logos I find most beneficial for my work.

The print editions of the Nestle-Aland Greek texts include a lot of helpful information that most electronic editions in Bible software do not include (it is available via Accordance). Students with print editions may need to be reminded of this, too, as it easy to forget, not least when first learning to navigate these critical editions.

I managed to neglect the introduction (to the UBS4) when I started my first year Greek course a little over a decade ago. How?! This was the first thing I read when the NA28 landed on my doorstep in late 2012, and it was quite helpful to orient me to changes/new features of the 28th edition.

If you have not read the introduction to your Greek text for a while—and certainly if never!—do it. Students, pastors, and scholars alike would do well to re-visit the intro year by year.

And those appendices—so much information is packed into these final pages. Important information about the manuscripts used in the edition, readings of minor variants, a list of citations and allusions the NT makes of earlier texts, and a more complete section on abbreviations.

Here is one example of how I use an appendix. I am reading through the LXX of Isaiah (for research I am doing in Luke), so I keep Appendix III—Loci Citati vel Allegati (Passages cited or alluded)—open, to observe where the editors believe the Gospels and Acts cite or allude to the passage in Isaiah I am reading.

For more on how to use the NA28, one could consider David Trobisch’s User’s Guide (though Dirk’s review makes me hesitate to recommend it). I have not used it myself and don’t plan to. But by all means, start with the introduction.

Thanks to Baylor Press for allowing me an opportunity to review Matthew W. Bates, The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation: The Center of Paul’s Method of Scriptural Interpretation (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2012).

This monograph is a revision of Bates’ doctoral work done under David Aune at the University of Notre Dame. Bates begins in the first chapter with a historical survey of relevant literature and revisits and engages various viewpoints at the end of the book, chapter 6. Chapters 2 and 3 examine Paul’s own statements about Scripture and a few hermeneutically significant passages. Chapter 4 introduces prosopological exegesis before looking at Paul’s own employment of that method in chapter 5.

The monograph is wide-ranging, at times feeling disjointed, yet makes two important (and related) claims: (1) Paul’s hermeneutic is centered on the apostolic proclamation, and (2) Paul’s hermeneutic makes use of prosopological exegesis–the practice of ancient readers discerning various voices behind their Scriptures–a practice exemplified “…not just in early Christian circles, but also in philosophical paganism and Hellenistic Judaism in literature contemporaneous with Paul” (p. 215), as Bates helpfully shows in chapter 4.

Bates uses a diachronic intertextual method (explained nicely with related terms defined on pp. 53–55) whereby he focuses on Paul’s exegesis in the context of other early Christian interpretations of Scripture, including later writers. In this way, he both appreciates Hays’ method and goes beyond it (following Kristeva farther, as it were):

Hays’ intertextual model obscures the need to look beyond the source text to coeval and subsequent texts within a fully healthy intertextual model (p. 51).

This problem pervades much of the work on “OT in NT” studies, according to Bates. His inclusion of Christian “co-texts,” “post-texts,” and “inter-texts” is especially evident in chapter 5 where examples of prosopological exegesis are examined in Paul.

Two chapters are given to Paul’s own statements about his hermeneutics and the Scriptures (e.g., 1 Cor 15:3–11; Rom 1:1–6), and when taken together with a look at Paul’s use of prosopological exegesis, Bates argues that

…Paul received, utilized, and extended an apostolic, kerygmatic narrative tradition centered on certain key events in the Christ story as his primary interpretative lens–a narrative traditions that already contained a build in hermeneutic. …From Paul’s perspective, this christocentric narrative can be described as apostolic in origin and kerygmatic in content and function (pp. 56–57).

Thus an examination of Pauline texts about the Scriptures/hermeneutics (esp. 1 Cor 15:3–11 and Rom 1:1–6 ) shows that Paul’s hermeneutic is dependent on “pre-Pauline protocreedal materials” that are both apostolic and kerygmatic. From this Bates synthesizes a “mastery kerygmatic narrative” that informs Paul’s hermeneutic (eight stages) and extends it (to twelve) as follows (p. 108):

  1. preexistence
  2. human life in the line of David
  3. death in behalf of our sins
  4. burial
  5. existence among the dead ones
  6. resurrection on the third day
  7. initial appearnaces
  8. installation as “Son-of-God-in-Power”
  9. subsequent appearances to others
  10. appearances to Paul
  11. apostolic commissioning
  12. mission to the nations

Bates is to be commended for offering a genuinely new way of understanding Paul’s hermeneutic, introductions to the important notion of prosopological exegesis, the significance of precreedal material on Paul’s hermeneutic, and the significance of post-NT Christian texts for understanding Paul’s hermeneutic. The argument occasionally loses focus, but most often when it does, a nugget or two is still to be found.

One last quibble: Schleiermacher, Harnack, Schweitzer, and Bultmann are characterized as having an “unhermeneutical Paul,” by which Bates means something like a Paul who is “…driven to the scriptures only by external pressures” (p12). While the description has some heuristic value, this brief section on these earlier scholars did not give confidence that the author was sufficiently familiar with those he was summarizing.

What follows is a brief review of Daniel Lynwood Smith, The Rhetoric of Interruption: Speech-making, Turn-taking, and Rule-breaking in Luke-Acts and Ancient Greek Narrative (BZNW 193; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2012).

This monograph is a revision of Smith’s doctoral work completed under David Aune at the University of Notre Dame. In it, Smith examines the occurrence of interrupted speech in ancient Greek narratives with a view to better understand its possible rhetorical value in Luke-Acts where it is used comparatively more often.

Since extant ancient writings on rhetoric do not have discussions of speech interruption, Smith turns to modern conversation analysis theory to help define and establish criteria to identify interruption.

…a speech or other discourse may be characterized as interrupted if there is evidence of a claim of interruption, that is, a claim that the speaker’s rights have been violated. Occasionally, the narrator will flag interruptions clearly (“he interrupted him”), or a character will make a claim (“neither is it fitting to interrupt”). Typically, though, this claim will consist of a closing formula that describes the violation, or involuntary completion, of a speaker’s turn by suggesting that the speaker was still speaking (or still being heard) at the time of interruption. (p. 23)

Smith finds both intentional interruptions of hearers (where narrative conflict is usually brought out) and external interruptions by narrated events (where narrative drama is heightened) present in ancient authors from Homer to Josephus. No author examined uses it more frequently than Luke, however, whose two narratives include eight interrupted discourses each.

Smith notes ways in which Luke’s use of interruption stands out and is used consistently in the Gospel and Acts, especially in regard to key themes of Christ’s resurrection/exaltation and salvation to the Gentiles.

…intentional interruptions underscored references to the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:41; 7:57; 26:24) and to the availability of salvation to the Gentiles (Luke 4:28; Acts 13:48; 22:22; 26:24). In essence, Luke uses interruption to highlight the proclamation of God’s saving action through Jesus Christ and the availability of this salvation to all. (p. 247)

Smith is to be commended for presenting a well-founded and convincing general thesis, collating helpful data from ancient sources (nicely presented in chart-form in the appendices), and filling a gap in Lukan scholarship.

With thanks to De Gruyter for making this volume available to me for review.

Speaking of Bulmann’s Theology of the NT (which you can win), here’s a bit I like on Paul’s personification of sin in Romans:

“Sin” particularly appears in this way as if it were a personal being. It “came into the world” (Rom. 5:12) and “achieved dominion” (Rom. 5:21 Blt.). Man is enslaved to it (Rom. 6:6, 17ff.) sold under it (Rom. 7:14); or man places himself at its disposal (Rom. 6:13) and it pays him wages (Rom. 6:23). Sin is also thought of as if it were a personal being when it is said to have been dead but to have revived (Rom. 7:8f.), or to have used the Torah to rouse desire in man and to have deceived and killed him (Rom. 7:8, 11, 13), or to “dwell” and act in man (Rom. 7:17, 20).

Little as all this constitutes realistic mythology—it is not that, but figurative, rhetorical language—it is, nevertheless, clear that this language stamps flesh and sin as powers to which man has fallen victim and against which he is powerless. The personification of these powers expresses the fact that man has lost to the m the capacity to be the subject of his own actions.

–Rudolph Bultmann, Theology of New Testament (vol 1; Waco: Baylor University Press, 2007), 245.

Succinctness is something I find more in the old writers. They say more with less.

Fascinating way to reconstruct and interpret a historical event. Kudos to all involved. In NT studies, how about something similar to reconstruct stories within narratives (e.g., Sermon on the Mount, Paul’s Areopagus sermon) or the performance of whole narratives (e.g., the Gospel of Mark being read out/performed in a meeting of early Christians)? I suppose that to some extent, film can do this (and has done this) in a less interactive way (see Mark Goodacre’s many posts on such films, incl. this one).

More on the project:

The Virtual Paul’s Cross Project helps us to explore public preaching in early modern London, enabling us to experience a Paul’s Cross sermon as a performance, as an event unfolding in real time in the context of an interactive and collaborative occasion. This Project uses architectural modeling software and acoustic simulation software to give us access experientially to a particular event from the past – the Paul’s Cross sermon John Donne delivered on Tuesday, November 5th, 1622.

These digital tools, customarily used by architects and designers to anticipate the visual and acoustic properties of spaces that are not yet constructed, are here used to recreate the visual and acoustic properties of spaces that have not existed for hundreds of years.