Sunday, May 17, 2009

A quick note on criticism

In my Archaeology of the New Testament World class we had a final paper due at the end of the semester. My paper, titled, "Even the coins will cry out: Numismatic Explanations for the Jewish War" received a good grade (an A), but it also received some constructive criticism....lots of it.

I wasn't sure how to handle it. It was almost as if the grade didn't matter because I felt like my paper must be bad if it had so many notes. After about 30 minutes of feeling really puzzled I realized that I absolutely must get used to this if I'm going to go on and do graduate work. The fact that the paper received high marks should make me realize I have a good argument that after being refined could be a great argument. In fact, I'm considering rewriting it over the summer with the notes and sources that the professor provided.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday is for funny words

I've seen quite a few "Friday is for..." series and I wanted to start my own. I don't have any friends, so Scot McKnight's idea wouldn't work. However, I do like odd Greek words that I run across in my readings. Thus...Friday is for funny words.

This week's word is "εγγαστρίμῦθος": Belly-Myther.

Liddel-Scott has it listed as "ventriloquist" and someone who "prophecies from the belly." The most famous "belly-myther" is the Belly-Myther of Endor 1 Samuel 28 (1 Kingdoms 28 in the LXX). As Margaret Mitchell has pointed out, she's neither a witch in Hebrew or Greek. In fact, Mitchell has written an excellent book along with Rowan Greer on interpretations of 1 Kingdoms 28 in antiquity. A few of the passages from Patristic authors who discuss the "belly-myther" are bellow:

Justin Martyr Dialogue with Trypho105
καὶ ὅτι μένουσιν αἱ ψυχαὶ ἀπεδειξα ὑμῖν ἐχ τοῦ καὶ τὴν Σαμουὴλ ψυχὴν χληθῆναι ὑπὸ τῆς ἐγγαστριμύθου, ὡς ἠξίωσεν ό Σαούλ.
And I have proved to you that souls survive on the basis of the fact that even Samuel's soul was summoned by the belly-myther, as Saul requested.

The Martyrdom of Pionius
ἔστι δὲ γεγραμμένον ὅτι ὁ Σαοὺλ ἐπηρώτησεν τὴν ἐγγαστρίμυθον καὶ εἶπεν τῇ γυναιχὶ τῇ οὕτω μαντευομένῃ, "ἀνάγαγέ μοι τὸν Σαμουὴλ."
It is written that Saul asked the belly-myther and that he said to the woman who was divining through this means, 'Bring up for me Samuel the prophet'.

And, of course, you should read Origen's homily on 1 Kingdoms 28. I suggest picking up Mitchell and Greer's book where you can read it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Luther on Origen

An interesting quote by Luther on Origen (as quoted in the essay by Judith Kovacs in the book mentioned below):

In toto Origene non est verbum unum de Christo.

"In all of Origen there is not one word of Christ."

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Reading this semester

I've been very busy lately with exams, finishing papers, etc. It has been a great semester. I have about a week off and then I'm jumping into a summer-long Latin class. This Fall I'll be applying to graduate programs and I realize that with the economy the way it is programs that are already very competitive will become even more so. So, I've been reading books suggested to me by professors at various schools as well as working my way through U of Chicago's "History of Christianity" reading list.

Some great books and articles I've read (both on and off these lists) lately are:

Elizabeth A. Clark, "The Origenist Controversy: The Cultural Construction of an Early Christian Debate." - This book is fantastic. Though I originally was disinterested in some of the methods she uses from other fields, I found myself really enjoying the explanations they afforded. Dr. Clark's book put into perspective the social dimension of a debate between early Christians and it really helped to see why particular people held out in particular camps.

"In Eloquio Dominico: In Lordly Eloquence: Essays on Patristic Exegesis in Honor of Robert Louis Wilken." - This book has essays by people like John Cavadini, Brian Daley, Judith Kovacs, etc. Wilken is one of my favorite scholars of patristic exegesis. His "The Christians as the Romans Saw Them" was the first book I read by him and I was hooked immediately. This book is a gold mine of essays that highlight the many valuable things Patristics can teach modern Biblical scholars. I particularly enjoyed Gary Anderson's article on Adam and Eve; John Cavadini's essay on the aqedah in Philo, Origen, and Ambrose; Michael Compton's insightful essay on the significance of the names Saul and Paul; and Judith Kovacs' essay on Origen's homilies on 1 Corinthians.

Brant Pitre, "Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of Exile: Restoration Eschatology and the Origin of the Atonement." I had promised a chapter-by-chapter review of the book, but I can't find it in myself to sit down and write a short review of each chapter. The whole book is too good. I've said it earlier, but I feel like this book could cause some major paradigm shifts in historical Jesus research.

A book that doesn't deal with the early Church, but was written by a professor here at ECU is "The War Against Catholicism: Liberalism and the Anti-Catholic Imagination in Nineteenth -Century Germany". Michael B. Gross is one of our history professors here and this is an edited version of his dissertation done at Brown. Though the anti-Semitic movement in Europe is well-documented, Dr. Gross describes the anti-Catholic sentiment that played out in various facets of German political and social life.

Ben Witherington III, "New Testament Rhetoric: An Introductory Guide to the Art of Persuasion in and of the New Testament" - I really like most of what Dr. Witherington writes and this book is no exception. He was only a few feet away from me when I bought this at SBL but I was too nervous to ask him to sign snooze, you lose. At any rate, I found this a great introductory book and would probably suggest this to someone before having them read George A. Kennedy's, "Comparative Rhetoric."

A.J. Levine, "The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus." I don't necessarily always agree with Levine, but when she's right, she's very right. Her assessment of modern academics not drinking deeply enough from the well of ancient texts is spot on.

One of my really odd interests is in the Ladder Day Saints (or Mormons). Ever since I was about 17 I've really enjoyed reading LDS literature. One particular issue that I find interesting is their idea of baptism for the dead (by proxy). I recently read an article by R.E. DeMaris entitled "Corinthian Religion and Baptism for the Dead (1 Corinthians 15:29): Insights from Archaeology and Anthropology." JBL 114 (1995) 661-682.