Category Archives: Biblical Studies Resources

From Scribal Error to Rewriting: How Ancient Texts Could and Could Not Be Changed

Coming soon from V&R

How ancient texts could and could not be changed has been in the focus of vibrant scholarly discussions in recent years. The present volume offers contributions from a representative group of prominent scholars from different backgrounds and specialties in the areas of Classical and Biblical studies who were gathered at an interdisciplinary symposium held in May 2015 at the Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University in Tbilisi, Georgia. In the first part of the volume Ancient Scribal and Editorial Practices, the authors approach ancient scribal and editorial techniques in Greek, Latin, and Syriac sources concerning classical and biblical texts, their textual criticism, and editorial history. The second part Textual History of the Hebrew Bible focuses on scribal and editorial aspects of the textual history of the Hebrew Bible. The third part Writing and Rewriting in Translation deals with a variety of writings from the Old Testament, New Testament, Apocrypha, and Patristic texts in various languages (Greek, Coptic, Arabic, Armenian, and Georgian), focusing on issues of textual criticism and translation technique. The volume contains an especially rich assortment of contributions by Georgian textual scholars concerning ancient editorial practices and ancient Georgian translations of biblical and patristic texts. This collection of papers provides insights into a variety of different areas of study that seldom come into contact with each other but are clearly in many ways related.

New From Sheffield Phoenix

Sheffield Phoenix Press is pleased to announce a new publication: David Willgren (ed.), God and Humans in the Hebrew Bible and Beyond: A Festschrift for Lennart Boström on his 67th Birthday. The List Price is £70 / $90 / €80 and the Scholar’s Price is £32.50 / $47.50 / €37.50.

You can order the book from our website, https://www.sheffieldphoenix.com, or from your bookseller.
(ISBN 978-1-910928-62-2)

God and Humans in the
Hebrew Bible and Beyond

Edited by David Willgren

In 1990, in his important study The God of the Sages: The Portrayal of God in the Book of Proverbs, Lennart Boström tackled the issue of how the sages viewed their God and God’s relationship with the world. In honour of Boström, and in line with that study, this Festschrift takes up this issue anew. A number of international specialists, including James Crenshaw, Göran Eidevall, Mark A. Throntveit, and Antti Laato, discuss various aspects of how God and humans are portrayed in the Bible.

The first section of the book focuses on notions of God. There is a fresh look at monolatry in the Hebrew Bible, and at God’s faithfulness in Paul’s soteriology. The second section deals with humans, featuring, for example, two articles on Psalm 8.5, one with a focus on the Hebrew Bible, and the other reading the psalm through the eyes of women in Myanmar. There is also an article on angst in wisdom literature.

The third section brings God and humans into dialogue, looking at how various interpretations of suffering in the psalms shape the view of the divine–human relationship, or how God and humans relate to each other in books like Jonah and Ruth. The fourth and last section of the book focuses on God and God’s people, where new proposals are presented on the roles played by Zion and by the ten commandments.

This volume presents stimulating and up-to-date engagements with its theme, an excellent resource for scholars of both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

Series: Hebrew Bible Monographs, 85
978-1-910928-62-2 hardback
Publication October 2019.
xx + 341 pp.

More on the App Version of the Tyndale House Greek New Testament

If you’re on Instagram, Tyndale House has posted a little instructional video on their instagram page showing how to choose and use the version.

 

The Tyndale House Greek New Testament is Now Available Online and In Apps

Here’s the online location.

The THGNT text can also be accessed via the YouVersion Mobile App, which is used on over 385 million unique devices all over the world.  Download from the Apple Store, and for Android, from Google Play.

Pauline Dogmatics: The Triumph of God’s Love

Say what you must, Doug writes big books.  And when it comes to big books….

  • I like big books and I cannot lie,
  • you other brothers can’t deny…

(That’s the only part I know, sorry).

The eschatological heart of Paul’s gospel in his world and its implications for today

Drawing upon thirty years of intense study and reflection on Paul, Douglas Campbell offers a distinctive overview of the apostle’s thinking that builds on Albert Schweitzer’s classic emphasis on the importance for Paul of the resurrection. But Campbell—learning here from Karl Barth—traces through the implications of Christ for Paul’s thinking about every other theological topic, from revelation and the resurrection through the nature of the church and mission. As he does so, the conversation broadens to include Stanley Hauerwas in relation to Christian formation, and thinkers like Willie Jennings to engage post-colonial concerns.

But the result of this extensive conversation is a work that, in addition to providing a description of Paul’s theology, also equips readers with what amounts to a Pauline manual for church planting. Good Pauline theology is good practical theology, ecclesiology, and missiology, which is to say, Paul’s theology belongs to the church and, properly understood, causes the church to flourish. In these conversations Campbell pushes through interdisciplinary boundaries to explicate different aspects of Pauline community with notions like network theory and restorative justice.

The book concludes by moving to applications of Paul in the modern period to painful questions concerning gender, sexual activity, and Jewish inclusion, offering Pauline navigations that are orthodox, inclusive, and highly constructive.

Hmmm… as they say.  And hmmm…. concerning the date of publication:

Hmmm….

Silenced Women of the Bible

This will be of interest to many.  Thanks to Richard *Gere* Goode for pointing it out.

#shetoo is an exhibition by self-taught Trowbridge based artist Jen Ford, featuring a range of women who have been ‘wrongly shamed, blamed and accused’ in the Bible. Panels of commentary explaining the thinking behind the images accompany the paintings.

In profiling Eve, Tamar (pictured), Vashtar [sic!], Hagar, Bathsheba and others, Jen hopes to shine a new light on these women their stories, how God sees them, and how the Church views women.

‘Misogyny and sexism have played a great part in the way that we read the Bible and teach others from it, and as a result women have suffered greatly and often in silence,’ Jen, of Bethseda Baptist Church, explained.

‘Domestic violence, bullying, spiritual, physical and emotional abuse, continue to happen to women within church communities, and very often the Bible is used to keep them silent and oppressed.

Etc.

There are Two Essays Every Person Should Read

Kurt Aland’s The Problem of Anonymity and Pseudonymity in Christian Literature of the First Two Centuries.

Samuel Sandmel’s Parallelomania.

These are two of the most important essays in biblical studies.  They are utterly indispensable.

The Obbink Saga Continues

The ETC folk have the latest on this Museum of the Bible soap opera.

NEWSFLASH: “Professor Obbink and Missing EES Papyri” – MOTB returns 13 Papyri to EES!

Enjoy.

In Just Over Two Weeks…

If you’re in Hong Kong, join us!

You Need a Commentary That Helps Make Sense of the Bible

the-person-the-pew-commentary-seriesThe ‘Person in the Pew’ commentary series is the only series of Commentaries in modern history written by a single person on the entire Bible and aimed at layfolk .  Everyone needs a commentary on the Bible that they can understand and that answers their questions about the meaning of the text.  So I wrote one.

If you or someone you know wants to get a copy of the entire 42 volume collection in PDF format, you can do so from yours truly for the exceptionally reasonable price of  $75 by clicking my PayPal Link.  Leave your email in your paypal payment note so I can send it to you right away.

Should you only wish one volume, email me and we can arrange it.

***

Saint Paul knew more than I can ever imagine about Christians living in tension with the Gospel and with each other, and his several letters to the Church in Corinth are pivotal to the entire New Testament. Which is why I am so pleased to mention here some recent commentaries by a friend of mine, Jim West, on I and II Corinthians.

Subtitled ‘for the Person in the Pew’, and published by Quartz Hill Publishing House of Quartz Hill School of Theology, California, these two commentaries are in fact part of a much larger project by West to write similar commentaries on every book of the Bible, and to make them available in print and electronically for everyone to read. That project is now nearly completed and the results are tremendous.

I think there are three main reasons why these commentaries are so successful. First, West is a first-class Biblical scholar, one who makes the intelligent critical study of the text central to his theological interpretation. That commitment is rarer than one might imagine and to have it realized across the entire Bible is an astonishing feat that gives us now a unique resource.

Second, and delightfully, Jim West is a great writer: his pages fizz with sharp words and phrases and he appears incapable of saying anything boring about these texts. This ability keeps us reading along with him and, more importantly, reading along with Saint Paul. I have rarely come across any Christian writing project, aimed at ‘the person in the pew’, that has succeeded so brilliantly in bringing alive its subject matter.

Third, West couldn’t dodge an issue if his life depended on it, which can be an uncomfortable position for a Christian theologian. Corinth, as with most churches in most places, had some strange people believing and practising some odd things. The knack, as West points out, is to engage them endlessly with love and grace rather than self-righteous anger, but to engage them: ‘Paul lived with a purpose. And he urges the Corinthians to do the same. As we all who name the name of Christ must’ (West on I Cor. 9:27, p.60).

I am going to be talking to Jim about making these commentaries available through Ming Hua’s website, but inspect them for yourselves if you have the time: you will find them a superb companion to your own reading of the Bible and, as importantly, a great reminder of just how much the early Church struggled with some of the same problems we face now.

– Gareth Jones, Principal, Ming Hua Theological College, Hong Kong

Another Free Book from Logos, And This is a Good One

Get your copy here.

Social Memory among the Literati of Yehud

Ehud Ben Zvi has been at the forefront of exploring how the study of social memory contributes to our understanding of the intellectual worldof the literati of the early Second Temple period and their textual repertoire. Many of his studies on the matter and several new relevant works are here collected together providing a very useful resource for furthering research and teaching in this area.The essays included here address, inter alia, prophets as sites of memory, kings as sites memory, Jerusalem as a site of memory, a mnemonic system shaped by two interacting ‘national’ histories, matters of identity and othering as framed and explored via memories, mnemonic metanarratives making sense of the past and serving various didactic purposes and their problems, memories of past and futures events shared by the literati, issues of gender constructions and memory, memories understood by the group as ‘counterfactual’ and their importance, and, in multiple ways, how and why shared memories served as a (safe) playground for exploring multiple, central ideological issues within the group and of generative grammars governing systemic preferences and dis-preferences for particular memories.

A review copy arrived some time back.  I’ve worked through its contents and wish to make the following observations on the book.  But before I do, please note the Table of Contents (the contents tab on the left of the page).

There are 31 essays in this volume and all but six of them have appeared previously.  There is a fairly wide range of texts examined and most of the essays are interesting.  But three of them are VERY interesting:

  1. Reading Chronicles and Reshaping the Memory of Manasseh
  2. When Yhwh Tests People: General Considerations and Particular Observations Regarding the Books of Chronicles and Job
  3. Social Sciences Models and Mnemonic/ Imagined Worlds: Exploring Their Interrelations in Ancient Israel

The work in hand extends to over 700 pages and every page has one central point:  memory.  Or to be more precise, ‘Site of Memory’.  And what is that exactly?

‘Site of Memory’ is used here to refer to any socially constructed space, place, event, figure, text or the like- whether it is manifested ‘materially’ or only in the mind of members of a social group- whose presence in the relevant cultural milieu evokes or was meant to evoke core images or aspects of images of the past held by the particular social group who lives in that cultural milieu.

If that seems an ambitious project, it’s because it is.  How, after all, are we supposed to glean what memories various texts provoke in modern readers, much less those who lived thousands of years ago?

To state the problem another way, how are we supposed to know what the person on the other end of a phone call is saying when we only hear what the person near us is saying?  How are we to know what ancient readers hear when ancient texts speak when all we have is the text doing the speaking and not the ancient doing the hearing?

There is no doubt that we are well equipped to infer certain facts when we hear just half of a ‘call’:

‘No, I can’t make it to dinner tomorrow, how about we make it Saturday?’

‘Ok then, Saturday works.  See you at 7.’

It’s fair to infer that the person on the other end of the line has declined dinner on some day of the week and that he or she has agreed to both a time and a day.  But that’s all we know.  We don’t know the details of the restaurant or anything about the other person at all.

And that, it seems to me, is the problem with memory studies on the whole.  Texts surely do intend to provoke something in the readers.  Jeremiah’s ‘remember Shiloh’ certainly is a very fine example of that provocation to remembrance of a particular textual event.  The problem we run into though is that we may well understand Jeremiah’s meaning but we are lost in terms of his audience’s understanding of that sermon.

Ben Zvi realizes all of that, I think, which is why he writes

Of course, written texts or collections of texts are not themselves memories.  They may, inter alia, encode, communicate, shape, reshape, recall memories, but they are not memories. Only people can have memories.

Indeed!  And we are at a loss precisely because we have no people to question concerning how texts provoked or affected memories in their minds or in the minds of anyone else.

In short, then, the entire ‘memory’ project is a pipe dream.  It bears the resemblance of scientific enquiry because it uses social-scientific terminology and is very popular in various corners of biblical studies.  There are memory sessions and sections at academic conferences.  All of which serves to legitimize what is, as far as I can objectively tell, a pursuing of imaginary readings.

That doesn’t mean that there are interesting things to be found in the present volume or in the whole ‘social memory’ quest.  There certainly are.  But what are we to do with the delights we pluck off the tree of social memory studies once we have them in hand?  If we bite into them with any force at all they evaporate into the ether because they are ephemeral and imaginary.

There is plenty of ‘fruit’ to be plucked from the social memory tree here planted and tended by Ben Zvi.  Unfortunately, there’s nothing nutritious in that fruit because it consists of air.  It is wispy and attractive and tempting like cotton candy.  But like cotton candy there’s nothing to it except a bit of a sugar high headache and sticky fingers that have to be washed off before you can get back in the car of scholarship to make your way back home to the study of substantial matters.

It is impossible to ‘get inside’ someone’s head and the simple truth of the matter is, we have no idea how memories arise or affect individuals or societies.  Not in any meaningful, practical way.

I wish things were otherwise.  I wish the hopeful and helpful promises made by the memory theorists actually delivered what they hoped they would deliver.  But they don’t.

The tool doesn’t work.

New Titles from Mohr Siebeck

Essays on the Book of Isaiah, by Joseph Blenkinsopp

This volume of essays by Joseph Blenkinsopp on different aspects of the book of Isaiah is the product of three decades of close study of the most seminal and challenging texts of the Hebrew Bible. Some of the essays deal with major themes in Isaiah, for example, universalism, theology and politics, and the Suffering Servant of the Lord God. Five of them are published here for the first time.

Der Richter und seine Ankläger: Eine narratologische Untersuchung der Rechtsstreit- und Prozessmotivik im Johannesevangelium, by Benjamin Lange

The Gospel according to John is replete with legal terminology and motifs detailing the run-up to Jesus’ crucifixion – yet a formal process in front of the Jewish Sanhedrin is not part of the narrative. Benjamin Lange shows that reading the first half of the book as a metaphorical trial reveals a new perspective on the Gospel and its message. At the centre stands the paradox of Jesus as accused judge.

Glaube in fremder Zeit, by Dietz Lange

Biblical criticism and secularization mark neither the demise of Christianity nor the apex of Christian freedom. Dietz Lange shows that the loss of a cultural monopoly calls instead for a reappraisal of the certitude of faith in Jesus Christ as the »Word of God« and its non-apologetic assertion in both internal and interfaith dialogues.

Heinrich von Siebenthal’s ‘Grammar’ Will Shortly Appear in English

Under the title The “Ancient Greek Grammar for the Study of the New Testament“, and is to be published shortly by Peter Lang, Oxford.

Regrettably there’s nothing on their website yet.   But I’ll keep checking and update here as necessary.

If you aren’t familiar with von Siebenthal’s work, it’s the best Greek Grammar since A.T. Robertson’s.  And it is Christoph Heilig I have to thank for telling me about von Siebenthal’s work.

Oh, and he has also written a grammar of Hebrew!  I don’t know if there are plans to translate it or not.

2 Peter and the Apocalypse of Peter: Towards a New Perspective

Published by Brill

In the 2016 Radboud Prestige Lectures, published in this volume, Jörg Frey develops a new perspective on 2 Peter by arguing that the letter is dependent on the Apocalypse of Peter. Frey argues that reading 2 Peter against the backdrop of the Apocalypse of Peter sheds new light on many longstanding interpretative questions and offers fresh insights into the history of second-century Christianity. Frey’s lectures are followed by responses from leading scholars in the field, who discuss Frey’s proposal in ways both critical and constructive. Contributors include: Richard Bauckham, Jan Bremmer, Terrance Callan, Paul Foster, Jeremy Hultin, Tobias Nicklas, David Nienhuis and Martin Ruf.

If ever there were a theory that hung by a strand of spider web, it is the one proffered by Frey in this volume and in his earlier Commentary on 2 Peter and Jude.  The notion that somehow or other, 2 Peter is reliant upon the Apocalypse of Peter beggers credulity.  That isn’t to suggest that Frey doesn’t try awfully mightily to make it so.  But he cannot.  It simply is not a sensible theory and that, I suspect, is why only a small handful of people hold to it.

The present volume is a wonderful resource for study into the entire question.  Frey sets the agenda with his defensive essay which opens the book and then his like-minded friends muster their arguments for agreeing with Frey.  Accordingly, the contributions of Bremmer, Nicklas, and Callan (who curiously also asserts that Josephus is also somehow a source of 2 Peter), Nienhuis, and Hultin are all in basic agreement with Frey with varying degrees of separation.  The deck, then, is stacked.

Ruf, then

… questions Frey’s (and Grünstäudl’s) account of the literary connection between 2 Peter and the Apocalypse. Ruf is skeptical about the possibility of determining any kind of direct literary connection. In Ruf’s estimation there is a relationship between the two documents, but it is difficult to be more specific than to say that they are engaging in, and contributing to, the same “discourse.”

Foster and Bauckham too are skeptical (to say the least) concerning Frey’s notion of dependence.

Frey gets the last word, of course, and asserts – in quite a friendly manner – the superiority of his point of view in spite of the doubts of three of his interlocutors.

The best argued essay, in my estimation, is that of Ruf.  Towards the end of his essay he observes, quite sagely

Wolfgang Grünstäudl and Jörg Frey highlight the ideas Second Peter shares with Eastern, and particularly Egyptian, literature, while they pay less attention to its western contacts than Bauckham did. Future research will have to ponder both ‘directions’ of literary contacts and find a balance. A thorough methodological, or, rather, criteriological reflection on the categories of literary contacts and their relevance for the determination of the place of origin would be highly desirable.

And that, I think, is the crux of the issue.  It is the old old wondering after which came first, the chicken or the egg.  Frey asserts that the chicken (Apocalypse of Peter) came first and the egg (2 Peter) only later.  But how can he prove this?  And the simplest answer is- he can’t.

He tries, as do his like-minded colleagues.  But he doesn’t succeed.  His web of assertions are attempting to bear too much weight.  They cannot.  And soon, when more weight (in terms of scholarly response to the theories presented here and in his Commentary) is applied to his idea, it will come crashing down.

The second half (leaving aside Frey’s rejoinder) is just the first salvo in the chicken and egg wars.  As such, it deserves your attention and your consideration.  And it also deserves a monograph in response.

The God Who Speaks: The Bible in Today’s World

9th January 2020
13:30 – 19:30
Newman University

This study afternoon will include keynote lectures and workshops exploring how the Bible is used in contemporary political discourse, its place in Western culture, and whether it can continue to engage first-time readers. Confirmed speakers include Jim West (Adjunct Professor at Ming Hua School of Theology and minister of Petros Baptist Church in Tennessee); Symon Hill (author of The Upside-Down Bible); David McLoughlin (Founder member of the Movement of Christian Workers and Emeritus Research Fellow, Newman University) and Richard Goode (Senior Lecturer in Theology, Newman University).

The event is open to schools, parishes, Theology students, and all with an interest in the relevance of the bible today.

Registration here.

We’re looking forward to seeing you there.

John’s Letters

A new series from Kregel Academic, Big Greek Idea provides all the relevant information from the Greek text for preaching and teaching the New Testament. Each New Testament book is divided into units of thought, revealing a big Greek idea (the author’s main idea in the passage), and individual clauses are displayed visually to illustrate their relationships, portraying the biblical author’s logical flow. Greek clauses are accompanied by an original English translation.

Additional commentary explains how the syntax and vocabulary of each verse clarifies the biblical writer’s intended meaning. The authors of each volume have scoured major reference works and commentaries on each book, saving readers countless hours of research. The series is ideal for busy pastors consulting the Greek text for sermons, instructors preparing lectures, and students looking for supplementary study aids.

A review copy has arrived.  More soon.

Gospel Allegiance

Is faith in Jesus enough for salvation? Perhaps, says Matthew Bates, but we’re missing pieces of the gospel. The biblical gospel can never change. Yet our understanding of the gospel must change. The church needs an allegiance shift.

Popular pastoral resources on the gospel are causing widespread confusion. Bates shows that the biblical gospel is different, fuller, and more beautiful than we have been led to believe. He explains that saving faith doesn’t come through trust in Jesus’s death on the cross alone but through allegiance to Christ the king. There is only one true gospel and one required response: allegiance.

Bates ignited conversation with his successful and influential book Salvation by Allegiance Alone. Here he goes deeper while making his acclaimed teaching on salvation more accessible and experiential for believers who want to better understand and share the gospel. Gospel Allegiance includes a guide for further conversation, making it ideal for church groups, pastors, leaders, and students.

Baker have sent a review copy.  More soon.  By the way, my review of Bates’ earlier work is here.

Free Hebrew and Greek Paradigm Charts

Logos has a PDF you’ll want to download if you are learning, or teaching Greek or Hebrew (at the elementary level).  And it’s here.  And it’s free.

Rewritten Genesis