Friday, April 27, 2007

Kneel Before God / Krypton 94342

As I was driving in my newly-repaired truck this afternoon, I heard an interesting story on NPR.
Basically, another audio Bible is coming out, but this one features an interesting cast of characters. For instance, Luke Perry (of Beverly Hills: 90210 fame) is Judas, Marisa Tomei as Mary Magdelene, Richard Dreyfuss as Moses (a better choice than Heston, I believe), and the one and only Jim Caviezel as Jesus himself (who else can play Jesus?).

The real kicker for me, though, is Terence Stamp who played Zod in "Superman II" as the voice of God. There is something ridiculous about Zod playing God.

As far as the title of the post :
"Kneel before Zod" was a line out of Superman II
"Krypton" is the planet from which Superman and Zod come from and 94342 is one of the zip codes of Jerusalem (you know, like Beverly Hills : 90210.....)

Lack of Posting : Part Deux.

If you're from the south, you may be familiar with the phrases "drive it like you stole it" and "drive it 'til the tires fall off." I took the latter a bit too literally and last week while I was driving home my tire exploded off of my truck. Everyone's alright. Unfortunately, my truck's been in the shop for the last week which has hindered my ability to go to the coffee shop which is where I write most of my blog posts. I should get my truck back today and the blogging will pick up shortly.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Lack of Posting

I apologize for the lack of posting. I was busy with the conference over the weekend and this week has been pretty hectic. The main pain has been a paper I presented in class today titled "Fetishism as a means for Alienation and Exploitation of the Proletariat." Woo hoo.

I plan on posting my review for the second chapter of Downing's "The Bible and Flying Saucers" soon.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Last Twelve Verses in Mark Conference : The Fat Lady Sang.

I just got out of the conference and I suppose I should write some initial thoughts. If you'd like a blow-by-blow account of the meeting, Alan Knox was kind enough to blog through the entire session.

All of the speakers did a fantastic job. It was interesting to find that even though one may not agree with vss 9-20 being original, there's a myriad of other theories to which one can adhere. For instance, Dr. Black and Dr. Robinson both agreed that the long ending (L.E.) is the original, but for different reasons. Dr. Robinson's appeal was primarily to internal evidence, showing how Markan 9-20 really is, giving a brief account of manuscript evidence, etc. However, Dr. Black, contrary to Robinson, holds to Matthaen priority and nearly all of his argument rests on patristic evidence. Dr. Black holds to the idea that there was initially a version of Mark, penned by Mark under the guidance of Peter, that did not include 9-20. After Peter's death, Mark added 9-20 as an homage to Peter. Thus, there were copies of Mark's gospel circulating that ended at verse 8.

Dr. Keith Elliot was brilliant. Is it just me or is there something about British theologians being the kindest people alive?! I chatted with him a bit last night after he spoke (he was the 3rd and final speaker Friday night, which was pretty amazing considering his "body time" was about 2am) and he treated me like a friend. Dr. Elliot made the case that 9-20 is not original, but that Mark did not originally end at 16:8 either. He believes that the ending was lost. He discussed the various scribes in Sinaiticus and how "D"s writing actually gets bigger (or is more spaced out) towards the end, as if he were aiming to fill up space that had originally been left for...more verses, perhaps? Wallace had dismissed the gap in Vaticanus as being something that happens in Vaticanus anyway, but Elliot had a quick response that the other three gaps (after Nehemiah, Daniel, and Tobit) are all Old Testament. Also, after Nehemiah in Vaticanus comes the Psalter, which is written in 2 columns and not 3, so it makes sense for there to be a gap. The gap after Daniel was explained easily, as it is the end of the OT in Vaticanus.

Dr. Bock and Dr. Wallace both agreed that 16:8 was the original ending. Wallace did a great job explaining the cumulative weight of evidence against 9-20 being original. He made some interesting points, noting that Smith's "Secret Mark" is actually more Markan than 9-20.

Dr. Bock had the task of wrapping everything up today. He was the last speaker and his job was basically to see where we are currently. He talked a lot about presuppositions and interpretations. He noted that all the scholars agreed on most of the facts (patristic witnesses, manuscript evidence, etc), but their interpretations were different due to the "models" in which they operated.

Some thoughts of my own:
Not enough evidence was brought forth to show that books end in a post-positive γαρ. With my little Greek knowledge, this seems somewhat awkward. Wallace mentioned that there are ancient writings that have open-ended conclusions, but didn't mention any. Bock mentioned that in the Gospels there are some "open-ended" conclusions. The end of Acts, for example. What happens to Paul? What happens to the Jews?

I didn't think sufficient evidence had been brought forth to show why anyone would omit 9-20. Either Black's or Elliot's theory seems to work better here.

It's interesting that scholars can look at 9-20 and there's a debate over how Markan or not it is. Everyone had pretty convincing arguments, Dr. Robinson's being the most in depth (concerning the vocabulary, style, etc). I suppose the only thing left for me to do is see what I think about it on my own. Sheesh. This is what conferences are for... to answer questions, not create them!

Overall, the conference was really great. Dr. Bock's lecture in the end had some good advice: don't subscribe to a brittle fundamentalism. Understand that we all have the facts (dots) and your interpretations may differ from others (how you connect those dots). I like this kind of thinking (when it's appropriate). As Dr. Bock said, if we take out 9-20, we lose nothing. Almost everything (aside from poison and snakes, which I admit is a bit unattractive and seems to be uncharacteristic of Jesus' words...but what do I know?) is included elsewhere in the New Testament.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Yet Another Blog Added To The Blogroll : Kata Ta Biblia

While waiting for the conference to kick off I realized that yet another one of my favorite blogs isn't on my blogroll. Patrick George McCullough is its author and its name is Kata Ta Biblia (according to the Bible, in Greek). Certainly check it out. I really like Patrick's blog and his love of all things Anabaptist.

Last Twelve Verses in Mark Conference Tonight!

In approximately 15 minutes I'm going to head on over and check in for the conference we're having on campus concerning the last twelve verses in Mark. I'm excited. The fact that I'm not well-versed (all my puns are intended) in this area makes it exciting. I've done a bit of reading on the matter, but I'm open to suggestions and the gentlemen presenting at this conference are scholars of first-rate caliber.

Conference website here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

New to the blogroll: Assembling of the Church

I've added another blog favorite of mine. Alan Knox is a Ph.D student at Southeastern and also serves in the college, teaching NT Greek. As you can probably tell, his blog is primarily focused on the issue of the Church and more precisely : what is the church? It's certainly interesting, so check it out here or on the blogroll.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Guard at the Tomb - "Apologetic Device" or Historical Fact?

A few months ago I attended a debate at Duke Univeristy between Joel Marcus (Duke) and Gary Habermas (Liberty) on the Resurrection. I've transcribed it if anyone wants a copy (just email me at Joshua [dot] McManaway [at] sebts [dot] edu). At any rate, Dr. Marcus said something that has intrigued me ever since. He said: I think that’s why Matthew and Matthew alone tells you about the guard at the tomb. It’s an apologetic device to defend the faith against those who were saying that Jesus’ body was stolen.

I really want to look into this more. However, I always approach any kind of historical doubt in the New Testament writings with the fact that I'm 2000 years removed from the event. I take it for granted that the author of Matthew knew far more about the events and culture about which he was writing than I do. I'm reminded of a story I heard about Luke 3:1. Luke states that Lysanias was a Tetrarch (τετρααρχουντος in Greek) about 27AD. Scholarship doubted Luke on this, knowing that Lysanias had actually been the ruler of Chalcis a half of a century earlier. Later Archaeological digs uncovered an inscription in Abila near Damascus showing that indeed, someone named Lysanias had been a Tetrarch about the time about which Luke had written.

Back to the guard: I find it really interesting that the Gospel of Peter (early to mid-second century) not only says that there was a guard at the tomb, but links him with the guard at the cross and gives him the name Petronius. Whether this Gospel was familiar with Matthew or not, I'm unaware, but the thought occurs to me: if there wasn't some historical possibility to there being a guard at the tomb, would these authors record it? In other words, nobody would write that Abraham Lincoln descended upon the South with UFO's and that's how he won the American Civil War (although I'm not entirely through Downing's book...). Why? Because this is historically implausible. Likewise, if it were completely out of the question that Roman guards sometimes guarded tombs, would we imagine that Matthew (and later Gospel of Peter's author) would record something like this?

So, if anyone has any suggestions for reading material on the subject, I'd be very appreciative.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Downing's The Bible and Flying Saucers Part I

Downing’s first chapter in The Bible And Flying Saucers (hereafter TBAFS) is on “Space and the Bible”, yet he deals more with the theological scene of his day. The chapter deals with two main camps: the “honest to God” followers of Bishop John A.T. Robinson and the demythologizers following Bultmann.

Beginning with Robinson’s ideas on the Ascension being “mythical”, Downing poses his argument that instead of the “either or” proposed by Robinson, the possibility of a third option exists: Jesus did ascend, but that it was on a “flying saucer” shaped like a cloud. The flaw in Robinson’s argument, according to Downing, is that he “failed to add that the Bible provided a vehicle – a “cloud” – to do the lifting.”[1] Downing never makes mention that Jesus on a cloud is a reference to the Son of Man in Daniel (7:13), however, it would fit well within his theory.

Downing then stumbles crudely over to the demythologization camp. He gives a brief overview of Bultmann’s ideas. Downing suggests that this ideology has separated the church into two groups: conservatives who want to interpret the Bible “realistically” and liberals who “are more concerned with ‘demythologizing’.”[2] Downing attempts to reconcile the two groups with what he calls his “realistic” reading that boils down to : UFO’s did it. Who led the Israelites out of Egypt? Why, UFO’s of course. Jesus’ ascension? You got it, UFO’s.

Apparently the main scientific criticism to Downing’s theory was that UFO’s were a post-WW II invention. Downing claims that people had seen objects in the sky for hundreds of years, however he gives no sources. He also states that the increase in UFO activity was due to the human discovery of nuclear power.[3] Downing sees nuclear power, satellites, and radio waves as a sort of cosmic “fishing hook” by which humans have managed to attract life from other planets.

Back to theological matters, Downing takes to task the demythologizers and John 20:25, the account of Thomas’ doubt. Downing rightly states that “if the Resurrection is mythological, then this passage is meant deliberately to deceive us.”[4] Downing believes that if the Resurrection is mythical, then “we have little right as a Church to preach that the ‘existential resurrection’ of Christ will ensure Christians eternal life.’”[5]

Downing concludes his first chapter with his differentiation between “truth” and “honesty”. Essentially, honesty is internal whereas truth has an external referent. Downing gives the example of a blind man being “honest” about there being no light, but not really subscribing to the truth of the matter: that light exists. Downing discusses the main difference between science and theology; that science is more focused on truth while theology is focused more on honesty. He believes Robinson and Bultmann both are being honest, but not focused on the truth.

Downing closes his chapter with a short critique on demythologization and how it limits theology to a small sphere – the world. Downing’s theory, however, leads into a whole new realm – space. The next chapter in TBAFS deals with the inhabitants of space and the probability of Flying Saucers.
[1] Downing 26
[2] Ibid. 31
[3] Ibid. 22
[4] Ibid. 34
[5] Ibid. 34

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

ΕΧΩΜΕΝ vs. ΕΧΟΜΕΝ - Romans 5:1

I was reading George Eldon Ladd's The New Testament and Criticism and noticed that he, like Ehrman in Misquoting Jesus, addresses Romans 5:1 and the issue concerning the reading of either ΕΧΟΜΕΝ (we have) or ΕΧΩΜΕΝ (let us have). The first being an indicative, the second being a subjunctive of exhortation.

Ehrman has this to say about the verse:
And so in a large number of manuscripts, including some of our earliest, Paul doesn't rest assured that he and his followers have peace with God, he urges himself and others to seek peace.
Several times in Misquoting Jesus Ehrman comes close to insinuating that entire theologies are built upon single verses. For example, in regards to 1 Timothy 3:16, Ehrman states that the verse "...had long been used by advocates of orthodox theology to support the view that the New Testament itself calls Jesus God." However, he doesn't mention that the theology of Jesus being God certainly doesn't hang upon whether this verse reads ΟΣ (who) or ΘΣ (the nomina sacra for θεος which is Greek for "God"). Take it away and you have no problem constructing a Jesus who is divine.

So, back to Romans 5:1. We have what seems to be equal weight with both readings. But lets suppose that the original text read ΕΧΩΜΕΝ. Do we have a problem? Does Paul believe that we don't actually have peace with God yet and that we should seek it? I don't think so. For one, Paul's readers would not have read this verse in vacuo. Paul has already mentioned "peace" from the Father and Jesus in 1:7 to those who are called "saints". Later Paul writes in 14:17 that the "kingdom of God is...righteousness and peace and joy...". This also seems to coincide with Paul's thoughts in Galatians 5:22 where he claims the fruits of the spirit include "peace".

Secondly, the idea of the subjunctive meaning that the saints to whom Paul wrote did not already have peace seems wrong to me. "Let us have peace" could equally mean "let us continue to have peace". For example, in 1 John 4:7 John writes, "αγαπητοι αγαπωμεν αλληλους" (Beloved, let us love one another). Do we really suppose that John meant that they had not previously loved one another or is it more likely that he was using the subjunctive to encourage his followers to continue in love for one another?
The idea that the saints already have peace is indicated by the present effects of the "justification" in vs. 1.

Take a look at vss. 8-10:
A. We were sinners, Christ died.
B. We are now justified
C. We will be saved from wrath
A. We were reconciled by the death of Christ
B. We are currently reconciled because of the death
C. We will be saved by His life

According to Paul, we are currently justified and reconciled. So, if 5:1 reads "let us have", I don't see it as Paul doesn't believe he has peace with God, rather Paul is encouraging his followers to continue in the peace of the current effects of salvation.

Monday, April 2, 2007

I Just Want To Praise U.F.O

I'm on Easter Break all this week and I had planned on getting some real work done, however my friend Mike ruined my plans when he gave me a gift today. I received my very own copy of The Bible and Flying Saucers: An Inquiry Into Some Possibilities by Barry Downing.

The TOC is as follows:

I. Space and the Bible

II. What is the probability that flying saucers exist?

III. The Old Testament and Flying Saucers

IV. The New Testament and Flying Saucers

V. Where is Heaven?

VI. Flying Saucers and the Future

A passage I read today on the Baptism of Jesus:

After Jesus was baptized, some sort of UFO apparently entered the situation for some reason (ed. note: Downing is here talking about the Holy Spirit descending like a "dove"). What did the UFO look like, and what was its mission? The question as to the physical shape of the UFO has been the cause of controversy in the field of Biblical scholarship.

The controversy isn't over whether a UFO actually showed up, but rather the shape of the UFO.

How am I supposed to study Greek participles when this is in my possession?!?!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

True Scholarship

Too often commentaries are released that are inadequate, not able to cover the breadth of Scripture. Well, thanks to Eisenbrauns, the age of wimpy commentaries is over! Take a gander at this!

To further this end, we are introducing a major new commentary series, Major Studies on Minor Biblical Books. The introductory volume, available now, is the biblical book of Obadiah, verse 1. This 500 page volume, lavishly illustrated with extensive charts and full color plates, concentrates on the overlooked importance of verse 1 in the canonical process and its implications for the entire biblical corpus, indeed for all theological undertakings. U. Will B. Bore, ed. for the series, expresses the purpose of the series very clearly, "We feel that in an age of inclusiveness and pluralism, it is only fair to examine the importance of these frequently overlooked biblical books. We are delighted that Eisenbrauns has agreed to publish this milestone in biblical studies."

Work on Volume II has already begun, which will include a whopping 479 pages on Obadiah 1:2.