Thursday, October 29, 2009

Which one to buy?? The pain of indecision...

As a poor seminarian, I always have to be judicious on which book to buy from my super long wish list of books... Anyway, the bookstore close to my school always puts on a Fall sale, where commentaries are mostly 40% off SRP and other books around 35% off. My question to you is, for the biggest bang for the buck, which one do you think is worth it??

Craig Evans, Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies, ~$23
Geza Vermes, Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, ~$14
James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Vol. 1, ~$43
D.A. Carson and Peter O'Brien, Justification and Variegated Nomism Vol. 2, ~$36
David Aune, Apocalypticism, Prophecy, and Magic in Early Christianity, ~$33
Luke Timothy Johnson, Writings of the NT, ~$30
James Beilby, The Historical Jesus: Five Views, ~$17
Joseph Hellerman, Ancient Church as Family, ~$17

I know the list is somewhat long and the interests are varied, but it's so hard just to pick one! Any thoughts?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Book review part 2

Continuing my review of Nicholas Perrin's Thomas, The Other Gospel:

Chapter 4 (The Syriac Gospel of Thomas)
In this chapter, Perrin argues that instead of the "long oral-traditioning process" for GThom espoused by the three aforementioned scholars, he believes GThom, coming from a Syriac provenance was originally written in Syriac. He compares GThom to the Diatessaron, seeing surprising similarities in their accounts. Furthermore, he does a study of "catchwords" of the hypothetical Syriac GThom and found that its huge number of catchwords solves the problem of so-called isolated sayings (instead the sayings are strung together with these catchwords).

Chapter 5 (Challenging the apostolic line)
Here he does a specific study of logion 13:

Jesus said to his disciples, 'Compare me to someone else and tell me whom I am like.' Simon Peter said to him, 'You are like a righteous angel.' Matthew said to him, 'You are like a wise philosopher.' Thomas said to him, 'Teacher, my mouth is entirely incapable of saying whom you are like.' Jesus said, 'I am not your teacher. Since you have imbibed, you have become drunk on the bubbling spring which I have dug.' And he took him, withdrew and told him three words. When Thomas came back to his friends, they asked him, 'What did Jesus say to you?' Thomas said to them, 'Were I to tell you even one of the things which he told me, you would pick up stones and throw them at me. Then a fire would come out of the stones and consume you.'

Here, Perrin finds a "deeply symbolic scene in which Matthew and Simon Pete, as representative of a particular community or communities, are made to play a second fiddle to Thomas." This is an allusion to the Gospel of Mark/Matthew, showing their "deep epistemological and therefore hermeneutical differences." Perrin believes that the christologies represented by the Synoptics and GThom are very different, and in response, this is Thomas' own assertion to the apostolic line.

Chapter 6 (An extreme makeover)
In this chapter, Perrin gets into Hermeticism that has penetrated into Syriac Christianity, stating that Tatian, impressed with the use of Hermetic language by Justin for his apologetic, then took such similar lines in Syria which provided the framework for the Thomasine community there. He concludes, "As such the Gospel of Thomas may be as much a foundational document as an apologetic tract, specially crafted to convey the community's beliefs in an idiom that would resonate with its intended audience."
In his final subsection 'Conclusion', he lists seven important points regarding the Coptic Thomas that help to tie together his point of Syriac origins (in provenance and language) along with Thomas' dependence on Tatian thought.

For a short book under 200 pages, I think Perrin did an excellent job of helping me to wet my feet on the discussions on Thomas, and while I don't think I agree with all of his thoughts throughout the book, it definitely got me thinking hard on the subject.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Oh, the joyful life of...

a NT student? Currently, I'm trying to learn Biblical Hebrew, Latin, Classical Greek, and German, all the while working through more Greek NT texts...

Why couldn't theologians of the past write in English or even Spanish??...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Book review

Thomas, The Other Gospel

Author: Nicholas Perrin
Publisher: Westminster John Knox
Paperback: xii + 160 pps.
Westminster John Knox

Much appreciation to Emily Kiefer from WJK for this review copy!

Due to time constraints with other work I have to do, I will divide this book review into two parts. Nicholas Perrin is an associate professor of NT at Wheaton College, with a PhD from Marquette who wrote his dissertation on the relationship between the Gospel of Thomas and the Diatessaron, so I don't think he's a slouch when it comes to scholarly discussions on GThom. He divides the book into two 'Parts' (which will be the way I have decided to divide my reviews): Part 1, he chose three Thomasine scholars to discuss what others are saying about the GThom and Part 2, which he titled, 'What Should be Said About The Gospel of Thomas.'

From just reading the first part last night, I can understand why the book comes so highly praised regardless of its length and relatively sparse footnotes (Part 1 ends on pg. 69 and the footnote # is at 47, averaging less than 1 footnote/page). From the Preface, Perrin makes clear, "I have written this book for two reasons. First, I write because there needs to be a scholarly yet accessible treatment of what researchers have been saying lately about the Gospel of Thomas" (emphasis mine). I appreciated the fact that Perrin does not beat around the bush discussing an endless list of journal articles and monographs with half the page filled with footnotes, at which point the reader must then wade carefully through the heavy material to decide how to best understand the current topic at hand. His points are clear and succinct. So onto the chapters:

Chapter 1 (Stephen J. Patterson)
Patterson sees GThom as telling "a story of community in social and theological flux, one that was transitioning from primitive Christianity as it was taught by Jesus into Gnosticism" (Perrin, 27). Perrin affirms Patterson's conclusion that asceticism is a central "self-defining activity" of Thomasine Christians (though he does list a few problems with Patterson taking Theissen's view that the Jesus movement was characterized by deep asceticism), but deems Patterson's source-critical analysis to be inconclusive in proving Thomasine independence of the Synoptic tradition. In addition, he criticizes Patterson for too quickly jumping on the Koester-Robinson bandwagon of seeing the logoi sophon (or a sayings genre) to which GThom belongs as being primitive, and therefore independent from and possibly have primacy over the Synoptics.
Perrin credits Patterson for successfully establishing a few points: (1) the order of GThom "cries out for explanation", (2) Thomasine Christianity was thoroughly ascetic, (3) this community adopted realized eschatology, and (4) there are analogies between Thomasine Christianity and Syriac Christianity.

Chapter 2 (Elaine Pagels)
Her main argument is seeing the fourth gospel as a response to the Thomasine community. Perrin states, "at bottom, Pagels's goal is to show that in the first three hundred years of the church's existence, certain notions attached themselves to Christian traditions, notions which, insofar as they unduly circumscribed legitimate spiritual expression, were alient o earliest Christian belief" (Perrin, 38). Perrin does not seem to be convinced of the argument that the fourth gospel casts Thomas in a negative light, especially in light of John 11:16; 14:7; 20:28.
Perrin concludes that "whatever our judgments concerning the dating of the core of the Gospel of Thomas, the evidence compels us to conclude that the collection could not have been compiled in its final form much earlier than 150 CE. This is simply because we know that at least two of the sayings, Gos. Thom. 7 and Gos. Thom. 102, are traceable to mid second-century contexts."

Chapter 3 (April DeConick)
Perrin states, "if Patterson has been the most influential within the academy and Pagels has been the most influential amidst the broader public, April D. DeConick... is poised, simply on account of her productivity, to have more long-term influence than either." DeConick offers a fourth and alternative model to three major ways scholars viewed the origins of the GThom [(1) literate model - Thomas using written gospels as sources, (2) oral-literate model - Thomas drew on both oral and written traditions, (3) redaction model - Thomas drawing on oral/written with subsequent redactions]: it is called 'rolling corpus', that the GThom evolved over time, "through multiple reperformances in an oral medium".
In response, Perrin (in chapter 6) will agree with certain parts of her argument, but in this present chapter, lists a few problems with her thesis: (1) DeConick's equivocation when it comes to the question of the historical Jesus, (2) her support of "authorship-by-commitee" of the gospels we possess, (3)her dependence on a text from Pseudo-Clementines (Recognitions), a third-century writing to illuminate her view of the transmission of the Jesus tradition.

I think it's safe to say that this merely prepares the table, so to speak, for the second half of his book, at which he will then take a stab at understanding the nature of the Gospel of Thomas. I think the brief survey in 'Part 1' was an excellent review of just what the scholars are saying about Thomas and his community in a way that is not overly technical nor biased. I didn't really mention it in the above sections, but Perrin does give credit to many of the arguments put forth by the three scholars, and he is not dismissive (in my opinion) in any way of their own attempts at understanding the question of the canonical gospels against GThom.

So far, recommended! (For those of you that are interested in the Gospel of Thomas)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Wicked Tenants Part 4

John Kloppenborg sure bangs that drum in odd fashion. I've read 3 articles from him and working through his ~500 pps. monograph, and I can't seem to find a clear answer on two things that keep popping up in his argument:

(1) Why do any Isaiah 5:1-7 LXX allusions in Mark 12:1-12 instead of a direct adoption of MT makes any of those allusions "secondary additions"?

Can't the tradition, as it shifted from Aramaic to a more Greek-friendly environment have adopted this change, albeit some of it is verbatim (i.e., use of Psalm 117:22-23 LXX in Mark 12:10-11)?

(2) In one article, 'Self-Help or Deus ex Machina in Mark 12.9?', he writes:

In this appeal to a deus ex machina ending, the framer of Mark 12.9 does not invoke quotidian legal and economic realities, but reaches back to archaic representations of God, unfettered by considerations of human justice or judicial prudence, and to archaic codes of human behaviour, when the strong took and held their possessions by force. We are left with two options. One is to insist on a metaphorical reading of the parable of the tenants as outlined above, despite the fact that what lends to the parable its primary metaphorical sense is a clearly Septuagintal allusion. But if one pursues this option, it must also be conceded that at a crucial point in the narrative – the owner’s use of self-help – the parable fails the test of realistic actions and beliefs; the parable must be interpreted as an allegory adapted from Isa 5.1–7. As a judgment parable, Mark 12.9 is a necessary component of the story and cannot be detached. But insofar as the metaphorical reading requires that the ‘host story’ be realistic in order that the metaphorical picture also be coherent, at a crucial point the logic of the host story collapses. The owner’s actions are simply not realistic as justifiable actions.

I am not sure why the 'host story' must be realistic in every minute detail that any extraordinary material deviating from that must be deemed secondary?

I'm just not convinced thus far, but we'll see after I finish reading his monograph.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Upcoming review:

I just received my second book for review, and since the last book was more "reference" material, I'm glad to actually do a review of a book. The title I received is Nicholas Perrin's Thomas, the Other Gospel. I do have some interests in doing research in the Gospel of Thomas and its relation to the canonical Gospels, so I guess this will be a good introductory book to see if this is what I want to do or not.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Wicked Tenants Part 3

Continuing the series of posts on the Parable of the Wicked Tenants, today I read Klyne Snodgrass' article in the Bulletin for Biblical Research titled, "Recent Research on the Parable of the Wicked Tenants: An Assessment". Although the article is about a decade old, he still does a good job surveying some of the interpretive thoughts that have been synthesized from this odd parable. Anyway, this is what he said:

Today, despite the recoil many still have against the word allegory, Jülicher's position has completely eroded away. Some scholars even urge the use of the word allegory to describe NT parables because parables often have more than one point of correspondence. Some would argue that allegory is not a literary genre at all but a device of meaning, and many would say no distinction can be made between parable and allegory. Both parable and allegory—if allegory is a genre—are stories with two levels of meaning. The more one is aware of OT and Jewish parables, the less one finds it necessary to denigrate allegorical significance. Note, for example, the critiques leveled against Jülicher and his followers by David Flusser and David Stern. Even scholars who confidently mark out allegory as something entirely different from a parable end up qualifying their statements to such a degree that the distinctions become unclear. Incidentally, the frequent claim that after an allegory has been interpreted the text may be left behind is simply not true, certainly not more so than for any other form of literature. Otherwise the Wizard of Oz—originally a political allegory on the gold standard, the allegorical significance of which has long been lost--would never be retold.

Snodgrass is basically trying to regain some of the ground lost due to Jülicher's influential position in his rejection of allegories (and allegorizations) and it seems that this may be a good angle to approach the Parable of the Wicked Tenants. On an unrelated note (somewhat), Snodgrass wrote in the footnote:

The Wizard of Oz is a wonderful and enjoyable story with a great deal of wisdom, but if one understands the symbolism, it is a historically rooted, howling, political satire on the American scene. The work was written in 1900, about the time of the collapse of the Populist party that was based on an alliance of Midwestern farmers and industrial workers who challenged bankers and economic interests and also wanted a silver standard to replace gold. The scarecrow represents the Midwestern farmers, the tin man the industrial workers, the cowardly lion who can roar but little else represents reformers like William Jennings Bryan (the orator who failed in his presidential campaign), and Dorothy the common person. They all travel along the yellow brick road (the gold standard) to Oz (the abbreviation for ounce) to seek favors from the the wizard (the president), who is just a common man who has power by deception.

Now only if the parable in Mark 12 along with its parallels in Mattew/Luke and Gospel of Thomas became as crystal clear as the story of Oz...

The Wicked Tenants Series:
Part 1, Part 2

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Wicked Tenants Part 2

In keeping with my continued study into the Parable of the Wicked(?) Tenants in Mark 12, I have just a few thoughts regarding the use of Isaiah 5:1-7 in Mark 12. I am reading through Kloppenborg's monograph and this is what I read today:

The relationship of texts of the Tanak to Mark's parable arose quite independently of any knowledge of the Gospel of Thomas. Even before the discovery of this gospel critics had observed both the poor fit between the quotations of Ps 117,22-23 and the parable proper, and the fact that the details in Mark 12,1 drawn from Isaiah 5 are largely irrelevant to the plot of the parable. The owner's building of a palisade and a tower and his digging of a vat have no bearing on the plot or on the outcome of the story. Indeed, Luke omitted most of these details, probably precisely because they were irrelevant. A generation ago it was standard to observe that the Isaiah allusions in Mark 12,1.9 were Septuagintal and undoubtedly secondary.1

Interestingly, Evans says:

Secondly, the appearance of some Septuagintalisms does not prove that Isa. 5:1-7 was not present in the parable from the very beginning, for Septuagintalizing inevitably took place as the Gospel tradition evolved from Aramaic into Greek. Our Greek Gospels themselves provide compelling evidence of this tendency. For example, the Aramaic-influenced paraphrase of Isa. 6:9-10 in Mark 4:12, "so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again, and be forgiven," is shortened in Matthew (with the result that the distinctive Aramaic element "be forgiven" is dropped) and then is followed by a verbatim quotation of LXX Isa. 6:9-10 (cf. Matt. 13:13-15).2

I haven't fully thought this through myself, but it's tough when two scholars make opposite arguments!

1John S. Kloppenborg, The Tenants in the Vineyard, WUNT 195 (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006), 149-50.
2Craig A. Evans, "How Septuagintal is Isa. 5:1-7 in Mark 12:1-9?", NovTest XLV, 2 (2003), 106.

The Wicked Tenants Part 1

Saturday, October 3, 2009

SAGE trial

For those of you who do not have access to SAGE online, you're missing out! Thankfully, my school provides us full access, so I've been downloading a bunch of articles (so many yet unread...), but if you don't have access to SAGE, they are apparently running a promo for free access until October 31, 2009. So click here and enjoy!

Some journals available:
Journal for the Study of the Old Testament
Journal for the Study of the New Testament
Expository Times
Currents in Biblical Research

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pauline Parallels

Pauline Parallels

Author: Walter T. Wilson
Publisher: Westminster John Knox
Paperback: xvii + 469 pps.

Many thanks to Emily Kiefer from WJK for this review copy. As the title suggests, this book is purely a guide for Pauline parallels throughout his epistles (includes all 13). There's really not much for me to review but to just give you a snippet of how exactly this book works. For example, if I turn to the page that shows Galatians 3:1-9 as the main heading:

He will first show the Gal. 3:1-9 text in full (I believe he quotes all from NASB), then lists out other 'Galatian Parallels' in full (in this case, he listed Gal. 4:6; 5:11, 16; 6:12), then moves to 'Other Pauline Parallels' (Rom. 3:28; 4:2-3; 1 Cor. 12:8-10, etc.), to 'Other Biblical Parallels' (Gen. 12:1, 3, etc.), and finally to 'Noncanonical Parallels' in which he will quote in full, Sirach 44:20 and Mishnah Nedarim 3:11 in this case.

I think this will be a tremendous asset in helping any readers of Paul see where he may be drawing his thoughts from, and not only that, how there may be continuities between one epistle to the next. He does not quote the original languages, and in the beginning he lists the translations from which he derived his quotations (such as Charlesworth's The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and sources from Loeb Classical Library).

Overall, a very good addition to my library!

The Wicked Tenants Part 1

I'm working through Mark 12:1-9 for a paper I have to write for my exegesis of Gospels class, and I will just write some of my thoughts here as it comes. It's interesting first of all to see that there are deviations in the Markan pericope from its referent, presumably Isaiah 5:1-7. I want you to notice some of the different traditions in the synopsis below:

Mark 12:1-9 (NRSV)
1Then he began to speak to them in parables. "A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watchtower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 2When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. 3But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. 4And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. 5Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. 6He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' 7But those tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' 8So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. 9What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.

Isaiah 5:1-7 (MT, NRSV)
1Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. 3And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? 5And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. 6I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. 7For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!

Isaiah 5:1-7 (LXX, NETS trans.)
1I will now sing for the beloved a song of the loved one concerning my vineyard: The beloved had a vineyard on a hill, on a fertile place. 2And I put a hedge around it and fenced it in and planted a Sorech vine, and I built a tower in the midst of it and dug out a wine vat in it, and I wanted for it to produce a cluster of grapes, but it produced thorns. 3And now, man of Ioudas and those who dwell in Ierousalem, judge between me and my vineyard. 4What more might I do for my vineyard, and I have not done for it? Because I waited for it to produce a cluster of grapes, but it produced thorns. 5But now I will declare to you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be plundered, and I will tear down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. 6And I will abandon my vineyard, and it shall not be pruned or dug, and a thorn shall come up into it as into a wasteland, and I will command the clouds, that they send no rain to it. 7For the vineyard of the Lord Sabaoth is the house of Israel, and the man of Ioudas is a beloved young plant; I waited for him to produce justice, but he produced lawlessness-- nor did he produce righteousness, but a cry!

Gospel of Thomas Logion 65 (Patterson-Robinson BWG trans.)
He said: "A [usurer] owned a vineyard. He gave it to some farmers so that they would work it (and) he might receive its fruit from them. He sent his servant so that the farmers might give him the fruit of the vineyard. They seized his servant, beat him, (and) almost killed him. The servant went (back and) told his master. His master said: 'Perhaps did not recognize .' He sent another servant, (and) the farmers beat that other one as well. Then the master sent his son (and) said: 'Perhaps they will show respect for my son.' (But) those farmers, since they knew that he was the heir of the vineyard, seized him (and) killed him. Whoever has ears should hear."

Some oddities:
(1) The perspective change from MT to LXX? (MT goes from 1st person to 3rd and back...)
(2) Wild grapes in MT to thorns in LXX?
(3) Does Mk. 12:1-9 correspond better with MT or LXX?
(4) Where does Gospel of Thomas fit in with all this?

This is it for now, but I will try to interact with the original languages in the future posts!