John Barton Enters the Virgin 2012 Smackdown Fray

John keenly observes on the facebook-

Very few people ever say what you’ve said here, Michael, but which seems to me evident: that no one would have translated parthenos as virgin unless there had ALREADY been a virgin-birth tradition. It can’t have been read out of LXX Isaiah but must have been read into it. So the question why early Christians thought Jesus’ mother was a virgin must have some other answer than Isa 7, and it’s time the issue was addressed.

He is referencing TM Law’s post here.  Barton’s comment is indeed interesting and his challenge is, I think, appropriate.  Perhaps it is indeed time to take a substantive and in-depth look at the tradition rather than simply repeat old arguments.

Law v. Francesca: The Virgin Smackdown, 2012

TM Law has a few issues with Francesca’s reading of Isaiah and Matthew (referenced in her delightful BBC 5 interview earlier today).  As I suggested in a little conversation with Mark Goodacre and TM on the facebook on the subject, I don’t think at all that Matthew was so uninformed that he didn’t have a good enough grasp of Hebrew to know what Isaiah was saying.

The use of parthenos by Matthew is unquestionably a claim that Jesus was born of a virgin. But the claim is not based on a mistranslation, as Stavrakopoulou suggests. The Greek translator of Isaiah used a perfectly acceptable rendering for עלמה. It is more likely that there was already a virgin birth oral tradition, related to other Greek myths in the Greco-Roman world like that of the birth of Aeo (see e.g., Rösel, ‘Die Jungfrauengeburt des endzeitlichen Immanuel’, JBTh 6 [1991], 135–51). The Gospel writer was able to refer to the citation of Isa. 7:14 when he gave his narration of the birth of Jesus, because his readers, whether or not they were aware of the semantic shift that had occurred in the short history of this little Greek word, knew that in the first century parthenos indeed meant ‘virgin’.

I also understand that Mark will soon post a podcast on the very same issue.  So stay tuned.

Social Identity and Sectarianism in the Qumran Movement

A newly published volume on the sectarians of Qumran has appeared (with thanks to Eibert Tigchelaar for pointing it out) –

27292‘Identity’ and ‘sectarianism’, two crucial and frequently used concepts in Qumran studies, are here problematized, appraised, and redefined. Two social-scientific theories inform the investigation of the serakhim (rule documents) and pesharim (commentaries). The sociology of sectarianism is presented in retrospect in order to identify appropriate methodological tools for speaking about sectarianism in the ancient context, and for comparing sectarian stances in theserakhim. Furthermore, a social-psychological perspective into identity is introduced for the first time for appreciating the dynamic and context-dependent nature of a person’s social identity. The final chapter takes a fresh approach to the study of the pesharim, arguing for the need to read each Pesher as a whole. It analyses the prototypical ‘teacher’ and brings forward new interpretations of this captivating and cloudy figure.

Glorious.  Take note, Qumran-ian-ite-ists.

When Your Default Conflict Resolution is Murder by Gun, You Might be an American…

A 16-year-old boy fatally shot his friend with a shotgun after the pair argued over a paintball game and playfully wrestled at the boy’s home in South Dakota, according to an arrest affidavit released Wednesday.

The victim, Dalton Williams of Pierre, was found lying in the entryway of the accused shooter’s house around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday with a gunshot wound to the chest. Paramedics rushed the high school sophomore to a nearby hospital, but he later died.

The accused shooter was arrested at the home on a first-degree murder charge and was being held Wednesday in Hughes County, Pierre Police Chief Bob Grandpre said.

The local prosecutor said the teen is being charged as an adult. He has not yet been arraigned or indicted, so The Associated Press is withholding his name because he is a minor. His attorney didn’t immediately return a phone message.

The boys, both 16, were classmates at Riggs High School.

A 16-year-old witness who was hanging out with the boys told detectives that Williams and the other boy began to wrestle around jokingly after arguing about a paintball game.

The accused shooter then retrieved a semi-automatic shotgun, walked into the kitchen area and pointed it at the witness, according to the arrest affidavit.

America… Americans… Guns… Violence… Conflict…  Mix them all together and what do you get?  Death.  America’s love of death will be the death of us.

A Little Speech By Zwingli to the Authorities

On the 20th of December of 1524 Zwingli addressed the City Council of Zurich and the Church authorities as follows:

zwingli35Frommen, vesten, fürsichtigen, wysen, gnedigen, lieben herren!

Als wir bericht werdend, so verdenckt man uns, wie das wir us liebe des herschens unsere hoche und nidere gericht zuo üwer ersam wysheit handen übergeben verzuhind. Das doch nit also ist, sunder so ettlich gevärden in sölichem übergeben liechtlich erwachsen möchtind, sind wir darüber mitt flyss und ernst gesessen, und befunden, das wir hierinn üwer ersamen wysheit räts und hilf notturfftig sind.

Und ist hieruf ünser embieten und beger:

Das wir für das erst geneigt und guotwillig sind, söliche ünsere hoche und nidere gericht zuo üweren handen stellen und übergeben, wie dann üns uwer ersam wysheit hierinn am aller fuoglichisten wol weißt zuo berichten, damitt es formklich ouch ünseren biderben lüten unnachteilich und unklagbar beschehe. Und wiewol diser handel vormals ouch uf der ban gewesen, ist er doch all weg guoter meinung hinder sich gestellt.

Zuom anderen, das es ouch one nachteil zinsen, zehenden, rendten und gülten des stiffts beschehe. Da uwer ersam wysheit wol mag ermessen, das, sidmal wir die letsten sind, sölich vorbehalten nit us eignem nütz komme, sunder us sorg, das by dem Grossen Münster das belybe, damitt man die bestimpten notturfften der ler und anderer dingen halb versehen moge. Wir setzend ouch sölicher übergebnus widerlegung zu üwer bescheidenheit und guete.

Zuom dritten empfelhend wir üns all mitt allem, das ünser stifft hat, üwer trüw und früntschafft, die wir bishar by üch all weg funden habend, und erbietend uns als die ghorsamen und willigen in allen gebürlichen dingen. Wellend ouch zuo üweren diensten all zit guotwillig und bereit sin.

It may have been a little speech, but its purpose was clear- funding! Even the Reformers had to deal with the most mundane issues- like proper support for their work by the authorities.

The Hottest Selling Book in Norway is…

A new translation of the Bible!

The hottest read in Norway this year is packed with polygamy, prostitutes – even corporal punishment. But this isn’t Fifty Shades of Grey; instead, Norwegians have been rushing to pick up copies of the Bible.

Published last October, a new Norwegian translation of the Bible has been one of the top 15 bestsellers in the country for 54 out of the last 56 weeks, jostling for position with more populist titles from the likes of EL James, James Nesbø, Ken Follett and Per Petterson. It is now one of the bestselling books of the year, according to Dag Smemo, project manager for publisher the Norwegian Bible Society, with 157,000 copies sold in the last 14 months, and more time in the charts than both Fifty Shades of Grey and Justin Bieber’s autobiography.

Smemo puts the popularity of the book – among Christians and non-believers alike – down to the strength of its translation. The Bible Society worked with Hebrew and Greek experts on the original text, and then involved literary writers including A Death in the Family author Karl Ove Knausgaard to perfect it.

Very cool.  Very.

Francesca S. on the Birth of Jesus

She’s such a skeptic…

On BBC Radio 5 – Hebrew expert: “Virgin birth a mistranslation”. DURATION: 05:48

Nicky Campbell questions Francesca Stavrakopoulou, Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Religion at the University of Exeter, about the truth behind the three wise men, shepherds and Herod.

But she does a good job and nothing she says is revolutionary, shocking, or even new.  Basic stuff here.  Though, when it comes to Matthew’s skill with Hebrew, she’s a tad off target (as TM Law has just shown).