Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Worried about your business here on earth after the Rapture?

Well, you can now be raptured up with full assurance that your business will not go unattended to. "How's that?" you ask...well, You've Been Left Behind.com, of course!

That's right, the kind people at You've Been Left Behind.com will store for you 50 emails to be sent out in case of your being raptured (by the way, you sure do have a lot of reprobate friends who aren't being raptured...). They also have data storage services. All of this for the low, low cost of $40/year! Store up those digital treasures!

My question is: What if you wrote 50 really mean, nasty emails and as you're being raptured, they're sent out....does God unrapture you? These are the theological questions of our time.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Julian the Apostate and the Jerusalem Temple

Julian the Apostate is a curious figure in Christian history. Raised as a Christian, he was a self-proclaimed Apostate later in life. He took a bath in bull's blood (the taurobolium) in order to wipe out his Christian baptism as a child. Julian is intriguing because of how much he knew about Christian beliefs (vs. the earlier pagan writers). Warren Carroll, in his second volume of his History of Christendom series (titled: Building of Christendom), discusses Julian's plans to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.

"He, Julian the Apostate, unchallenged autocrat of the Western world, would rebuild the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, overriding and cancelling out Christ's prophecy of its destruction which had been so memorably fulfilled." (Pg 52)

He then cites a Roman historian who was a contemporary of Julian (he served on the Persian frontier with Julian in 363 - ibid), Ammianus Marcellinus:

"Though Alypius (JM: The man in charge of the operation under Julian) pushed the work forward energetically and though he was assisted by the governor of the province, frightful balls of fire kept bursting forth near the foundations of the temple and made it impossible for the workmen to approach the place, and some were even burned to death. And since the elements persistently drove them back, Julian gave up the attempt"

Oddities in Antiquity - Birth Stories

Long before Thomas Beatie walked the earth, Zeus himself was giving birth to children. Indeed, there are two "odd" birth stories from Zeus - that of Dionysius and that of Athena.

Zeus had taken for himself a lover by the name of Semele, the daughter of Cadmus (the House of Cadmus is popular in Greek literature). Zeus and Semele conceived a child. Hera, being her usual self, was jealous of Zeus' affection for Semele and told her, basically, "Zeus doesn't really love you; if he did, he would show you his full glory." Semele begins to think Hera's right and so when she sees Zeus the next time, she asks him for a favor. "Of course you're carrying my son - whatever you'd like." She asks to see him in his full glory - Zeus responds that that isn't a very wise idea. She insists. Zeus then shows her his full radiance, lightening bolts and all. Semele, being a mere mortal, cannot handle it and dies. Zeus takes the fetus from her womb, cuts his leg, inserts the fetus, and sows it up. A few months later, Dionysius...

The second odd birth story is that of Athena's. Zeus hears a prophecy that he will be usurped by the offspring of Metis (the goddess of wisdom). So, up on Mt. Olympus one day, Zeus challenges Metis - he basically bets her that because she is so great (oh, you flatterer you...) that she could not turn herself into something as insignifcant as a fly. Metis, up to the challenge, does exactly that and is swallowed by Zeus. However, 9 months later Zeus realizes he has a rocking headache and out of his head bursts Athena in full battle gear.

Brant Pitre's Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of Exile - Chapter 1

Big thanks to myself for buying me a copy of Brant Pitre's Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of Exile: Restoration Eschatology and the Origin of the Atonement (Baker Academic, 2005). As mentioned previously, this is Pitre's Notre Dame dissertation edited for publication.

Pitre opens his book by stating that he is attempting "to trace the development and shape of the concept of eschatological tribulation in late Second Temple Judaism (Pg 2, emphasis his). Secondly, Pitre desires "to determine whether the historical Jesus ever spoke of or acted ont he basis of his own expectation of a period of eschatological tribulation."(Pg 3, emphasis his). Pitre discusses various historical criteria that he employs and adds another: the criterion of "historical congruence" or "contextual plausability" (pg 28). He defines this criterion thusly:

The basic principle of this criterion is as follows: to the extent that features of a saying or deed of Jesus "fit" or are congruent with what is known of his historical setting, especially the context of late Second Temple Judaism, the plausability that they originated with Jesus is increased.

He gives a brief overview of the work of various scholars, showing us a snapshot of contemporary academic work on this question. The most important assessment, in my mind, is that of N.T. Wright's work. Wright's work on Exile is absolutely critical and a breath of fresh air in New Testament scholarship. However, according to Pitre, Wright has accented the wrong exilic syllable, stating: "To put it bluntly: while Wright is absolutely right about the importance of the 'exile', he is fundamentally wrong in his understanding of it." (Pg 32). Pitre critiques Wright's notion that Jews (i.e. those from Judea) considered themselves still in exile, that the Babylonian exile had not ended, though they were back in the land, because there was a foreign force occupying the land (the Romans). However, Pitre notes that Wright does so by confusing the terms "Israelite" and "Jew" (whereas all Jews are Israelites, not all Israelites are of the Tribe of Judah) and thus forgets that "there was not only one exile in Israel's history, but two." (Pg 33). Wright also has to redefine what "exile" means in order for it to fit his theory. Pitre's work is here to correct this notion and build upon it.
As such, the Second Temple literature that Pitre surveys in Chapter 2 shows that though the Jews were in the land, their laments of still being in exile were for the fact that the Assyrian Exile of the 8th Century BCE had not yet ended. Israel was still in exile in the Second Temple period and this is the key to understanding much of what Jesus does and teaches.

More on Chapter 2 later...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Two new books

A couple of new books arrived in the mail today:

Farmer's "The Synoptic Problem"- whereas I've read a lot of articles that cite Farmer and a lot of people who have given me Farmer's argument, I haven't read Farmer myself and I figured it was about time.

John Wenham, "A Fresh Assault on the Synoptic Problem: Redating Matthew, Mark, and Luke" - this should be interesting. Wenham describes himself as an "undogmatic Augustinian" in the Introduction and I didn't think there were too many of these guys left. He thanks people like Peter Head, Michael Goulder, and Bernard Orchard (who co-authored my favorite book on the Synoptic Problem, "The Order of the Synoptics: Why Three Synoptic Gospels?") for reading over his manuscript.

Also, I will be posting about Brant Pitre's "Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of Exile" soon. Without being overly zealous, I honestly think Pitre's work could cause a major paradigm shift in so many aspects of NT scholarship. Dr. Pitre's ideas have implications for source criticism, Christology, Pauline theology, etc.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Should I buy this book?

Should I buy Hujo Meijboom's, "A History and Critique of the Origin of the Marcan Hypothesis 1835-1866"? I'm very interested in the Synoptic problem, but I've never heard of this guy. Any advice?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Arrived Today: Brant Pitre's Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of Exile

I have heard nothing but good things about this book, so when I arrived to SBL I was all set to buy it. I held off on getting it until the end of my trip and much to my chagrin, the book had been sold out. After a few days of sobbing, I pulled myself together and vowed that I would buy it after I began this spring semester. This is Pitre's dissertation, edited for publication with Baker Academic. He originally published it with Mohr Siebeck. As I read through it, I'll try and post some interesting things from the book.

Also in the mail today I received my Greek version of Sophocles' Antigone, the text we're translating for my Greek class this semester. If you're the praying type, I need some prayers on this one - I barely understand Poetry in English, much less in Greek.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Triumphal Entry: An observation

This came up in my Greek and Roman Religions class. Most are familiar with the myth of the Phoenix, a being that dies and then rises from the ashes to live again. Interestingly, this comes up in Jesus' triumphal entry.

Greek NT:
τῇ ἐπαύριον ὁ ὄχλος πολὺς ὁ ἐλθὼν εἰς τὴν ἑορτήν, ἀκούσαντες ὅτι ἔρχεται ὁ ἰησοῦς εἰς ἱεροσόλυμα,ἔλαβον τὰ βαΐα τῶν φοινίκων καὶ ἐξῆλθον εἰς ὑπάντησιν αὐτῶ, καὶ ἐκραύγαζον, ὡσαννά· εὐλογημένος ὁ ἐρχόμενος ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου, [καὶ] ὁ βασιλεὺς τοῦ ἰσραήλ.

New American Bible:
On the next day, when the great crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went out to meet him, and cried out: "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, (even) the king of Israel."

The "palm tree" from which the "palm branches" come is called a φοινιξ, -ικος - a phoenix! Here in John 12, the people are waving symbols of Jesus at Jesus as He rides by.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Return of "Early Christian Writings"

Everything is once again right with the world. Peter Kirby's "Early Christian Writings" is back up.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Guild of Biblical Minimalists may lock me up...

Indeed, this semester I'm taking a class on Archaeology of the New Testament world. My professor is Dr. Laura Mazow whose doktorvater was none other than....you guessed it....William Dever. Soon, I too will be asking questions like, "Did God have a Cousin Whom He Refused to Talk to at Parties?" I hope the guild won't think less of me.

I'm actually very much looking forward to the class as I'm painfully unaware of archaeology and its relation to NT studies.

I'm also taking a class with Dr. Jonathan Reid who did his doctoral work under Heiko Oberman. Oberman's book, "Luther: Man Between God and the Devil" is very informative.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New books!

As promised, here's a picture and list of new books that I have received/bought since SBL. Needless to say, I'm going to be busy for awhile.

Mary Healy, "Gospel of Mark (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture)" (Although I dislike the name of the series, I really have enjoyed what I've read thus far)

Ben Witherington III, "New Testament Rhetoric: An Introduction Guide to the Art of Persuasion in and of the New Testament" ( I haven't even cracked this one yet. I have pretty much liked everything I've read by Witherington other than his "What have they done with Jesus?")

Hahn, Parry, Bartholomew, Seitz, Wolters, Eds., "Canon and Biblical Interpretation (Scripture and Hermeneutics Series, Vol. 7)" (Hahn's article is absolutely amazing! It has really helped me clarify my thoughts on Scripture, liturgy, and exegesis.)

Scott Hahn, Ed., "Letter and Spirit, Vol 4: Temple and Contemplation: God's presence in the Cosmos, Church, and Human Heart (A Journal of Catholic Biblical Theology)" (This series is absolutely phenomenal. Contributors include Brant Pitre, Scott Hahn, John Cavadini.)

Michael Bird and James Crossley, "How did Christianity Begin?: A Believer and Non-Believer Examine the Evidence" (I'm really looking forward to this one - Dr. Crossley is a really smart and very kind guy...that Michael Bird on the other hand...)

Margaret M. Mitchell, "The Belly-Myther of Endor: Interpretations of 1 Kingdoms 28 in the Early Church" (This is the part of the LXX that gives me my favorite Greek word εγγαστριμυθος - "belly-myther"! Mitchell has a lecture online for free on this very topic.)

David Alan Black, Ed., "Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: Four Views" (This book arose out of the conference held at SEBTS a few years ago on the last 12 verses in Mark - contributors include Black, J.K. Elliot [whose position seemed, to me, at the time, the strongest], Daniel Wallace, Maurice Robinson, and Darrell Bock)

Peter Kreeft, "Best Things in Life" (I received this book on Monday and finished it in one sitting - NT scholarship would do itself a giant favor if it required people to read the great Philosophers)

G.K. Chesteron, "Saint Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox" (Who doesn't like Chesterton? This is a great intro to Thomistic thought. Far less complex and boring than Etienne Gilson's, "The Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas".)

Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), "Jesus of Nazareth" (I read this when it first came out and didn't understand the negative reaction, so I'm reading it again. Personally, I think a philosophically informed exegete scares modern NT scholarship.)

Scott Hahn, "A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God's Covenant Love in Scripture" (Hahn did his Marquette dissertation on covenant and kinship. I'm about half way through the book and it has not disappointed.)

Christoph Von Cardinal Schonborn, "From Death to Life: The Christian Journey" (A towering genius for sure.)

J.B. Bury, "The Ancient Greek Historians" (I'm taking a class this semester on Greek and Roman religions, so I figured this would help. I'm trying to broaden my understanding of the world of the New Testament.)

Michael Holmes, Ed.,"The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations" (Another gem - I'm so happy to have gotten this at SBL.)

"The UBS Greek New Testament: A Reader's Edition" (I bought this because of the great reviews I had seen, particularly on Nijay Gupta's website - I believe his words were "life changing". It really has been nice to sit and read without flipping back to a dictionary, though I worry this could make me lazy.)

Not Pictured:

Karl Adam, "Roots of the Reformation" (Probably one of the best, though shortest, books I've ever read on the Reformation. A bit more informed on the underlying philosophies of Luther and Calvin's thought than Belloc's "How the Reformation Happened")

New Years Resolutions

I've had a wonderful Christmas break and I hope everyone whose life is dictated by semesters has as well. As many people do, I've given myself a few New Year's resolutions for 2009 -

1)Read atleast 3 books a week - I basically do this, but sporadically. I need to be more consistent. I tend to build up momentum in my reading, then drop off for a bit. I also need to be more focused in my reading.

2)Read a chapter of the Greek New Testament every day - This was one of the two pieces of advice that Joachim Jeremias would give to graduating students.

3)Quit getting on the computer as much - Blogging is fine; I learn a lot from blogs. But, I can waste ridiculous amounts of time reading websites that have no value. If I want to meet my reading goals, I need to spend less time online and watching TV.

4) Quit eating so much fast food - This is difficult for a college kid, but I figure as James Crossley gets older, someone has to be the best looking one in Biblical studies.

5) Write better blog posts - As I learn more, my posts should reflect this. "Better" is going to be hard to quantify, so I'd really appreciate it if you can write "boo" or something discouraging on bad posts. Positive reinforcement is for hippies who care about self-esteem.

A quick note: I've added Fr. James Swetnam, S.J.'s website to the blogroll. Fr. Swetnam is probably the leading Catholic authority on Hebrews (and has some fantastic arguments in favor of Pauline authorship). Fr. Swetnam was one of my professors at Franciscan University of Steubenville - he has retired as the Vice Rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.

Tomorrow will be a post about all the new books I've bought/received since SBL with pictures!