Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Non-canonical Gospels

There's always talks about what Gospel actually has "real" data in terms of the historical Jesus, more accurate historically, etc. etc. And one document outside of the canon is the Gospel of Peter, which I just read today from the NT Apocrypha (it's not that long, so if you're interested go here to get the Greek text). In this document, there is an interesting little section:

9.34. Early in the morning, when the sabbath dawned, there came a crowd from Jerusalem and the country round about to see the sepulchre that had been sealed. 35 Now in the night in which the Lord's day dawned, when the soldiers, two by two in every watch, were keeping guard, there rang out a loud voice in heaven, 36 and they saw the heavens opened and two men come down from there in a great brightness and draw nigh to the sepulchre. 37 That stone which had been laid against the entrance to the sepulchre started of itself to roll and gave way to the side, and the sepulchre was opened, and both the young men entered in.
10.38 When now those soldiers saw this, they awakened the centurion and the elders - for they also were there to assist at the watch. 39 And whilst they were relating what they had seen, they saw again three men come out from the sepulchre, and two of them sustaining the other, and a cross following them, 40 and the heads of the two reaching ot heaven, but that of him who was led of them by the hand overpassing the heavens. 41 And they heard a voice out of the heavens crying, 'Hast thou preached to them that sleep?', 42 and from the cross there was heard the answer, 'Yea'.

I've heard this passage being referred to from time to time to show the fantastic nature of these "later" Gospels, in particular with respect to a talking cross. I was just reminded by Brian LePort that one scholar, Mark Goodacre recently blogged about this. His suggestion is "that we conjecturally emend the text from σταυρον to σταυρωθεντα, from "cross" to "crucified", so that it is no longer a wooden cross that comes bouncing out of the tomb but rather Jesus, the "crucified one" himself." I haven't personally looked at the Greek text yet, but this is an interesting post that has generated some discussion, so go and read the Gospel of Peter if you're interested and join in the discussion at the NT Blog.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Quote of the Day

Francis Watson on Paul and Habakkuk:

If it seems self-evident that the apostle and the prophet can have little or nothing in common, this betrays the continuing influence of a hermeneutic according to which texts are addressed to and contained by their immediate circumstances of origin, and that all subsequent usage marks a deviation from their "original meaning". In the present discussion, the limitations of this hermeneutic have become clear at point after point. The text of Habakkuk explicitly presents itself as written for a future of unknown duration; it privileges the reader over the author, and confines its reference to an identifiable historical situation toa single allusion to the "Chaldeans". It is the same "canonical process", but at a more advanced stage, that leads to the incorporation of this book within the larger collection of the Book of the Twelve. While the arrangement of the book is designed to reflect the unfolding canonical history, it also expresses the conviction that these products of earlier historical situations continue to lay claim to the present, and that their pastness is to be subsumed in the message they address to the present. There is clear continuity between the text's orientation towards its future reader and the logic of the larger canonical collection. Indeed, since we possess the text of Habakkuk only within the canonical Book of the Twelve, and as part of that larger book, the attempt to restore the entire book to a Sitz im Leben within the obscurity of "pre-exilic" Judah can only be regarded as historically naive and hermeneutically perverse."

How many?

Language, לָשׁוֹן, γλῶσσα / διάλεκτος, ܠܶܫܳܢܳܐ, sprache, lengua, 언어

These are some of the languages that I've interacted with over the years and while learning a new language is hard, I suppose it's also rewarding to be able to read something in a language that looked like scribbles just a few months ago. I'm just wondering where this will end... I'd much rather be very good at a few languages than knowing a little bit of many, but with PhD applications, ability to interact with a broader scope, etc., it seems like having "acquired" numerous languages is more advantageous. This is hard though! The more I get into one language, the more I'm prone to neglecting another and then I start wishing I had some type of time-freezing machine so I can just study these languages for 5000 hours in one day. One of my professors amazes me with the ease at which he moves from one language to another, not just in terms of translations, but its linguistic tendencies, idioms, etymological background, etc. He seems to be pretty comfortable at all of the following (and this is probably not even exhaustive!): French, German, Greek, Latin, Syriac, Aramaic, and Hebrew! I hope someday I can know half as much as he does...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hab. 2:4

I've been reading through some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and today in particular, I was reading through 1QpHab (A commentary on Habakkuk) and found something interesting with regard to Habakkuk 2:4. The tradition of this text is not unanimous, as seen in the differences in the MT and LXX:

MT (2:2-4)
2 Then the LORD answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it. 3 For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. 4 Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.

LXX (2:2-4)
2 And the Lord answered me and said: Write a vision, and clearly on a tablet, so that the reader might pursue them. 3 For there is still a vision for an appointed time, and it will rise up at the end and not in vain. If it should tarry, wait for it, for when it comes it will come and delay. 4 If it draws back, my soul is not pleased in it. But the just shall live by my faith.

Hab. 2:4b in particular is cited three times in the NT: Rom. 1:17, Gal. 3:11, and Heb. 10:38 with all sorts of interesting questions surrounding those passages. It makes me think that this verse in Habakkuk was received in various but also in important ways, evinced, for example, by how Paul goes to it twice in important discussions regarding Law and faith. Now, how does this connect to the Dead Sea Scrolls? While the translators and early NT writers seemed to take this verse as an interesting point of departure for all sorts of discussions, the 1QpHab has only three lines about this verse that's relatively straightforward:

Col. VIII, 1-3
1 This refers to all those who obey the Law among the Jews whom 2 God will rescue from the place of judgment, because of their suffering and their loyalty 3 to the Teacher of Righteousness.

This is interesting because with Paul and the other witnesses, the big deal is with the "subject" of the faithfulness, i.e., individual believers, a Christian community, God, etc. But here, the focus seems to be on none of that, but rather on being loyal to the Teacher of Righteousness. It just made me wonder how else the Dead Sea community modulated faithfulness as faithfulness to their Teacher.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Does anyone else think transliterations of original languages (e.g. Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, etc.) in books are cumbersome? Not that I know every word in those languages but these wanna-be Romanizations are annoying!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Book review

New Testament Apocrypha, Volume One: Gospels and Related Writings

Editor: Wilhelm Schneemelcher
Translator: R. McL. Wilson
Publisher: Westminster John Knox, rev. ed., 2003
Paperback: 560 pp.

WJK (Thoughtful Christian)

Thanks to Emily Kiefer and the team at Westminster John Knox for this review copy. I already had volume 2 of the NT Apocrypha and was hoping to get my hands on the first volume, so this is a very welcome addition to my library.

From the Table of Contents, I can see that this book is well organized. It first begins with a General Introduction by Schneemelcher on things such as the history of the NT canon, apocrypha, testimonies of the early fathers, the history of research in apocryphal literature, and an introduction to non-biblical material about Jesus. These first 70-some pages are very helpful for one to gain some knowledge about this topic. Then it is divided into twelve sub-sections, each devoted to specific materials from the perspective of various scholars.

They are divided into: (I) Isolated Sayings of the Lord (Otfrid Hofius), (II) Fragments of Unknown Gospels (Joachim Jeremias and Wilhelm Schneemelcher), (III) The Coptic Gospel of Thomas (Beate Blatz), (IV) Jewish-Christian Gospels (Philipp Vielhauer and Georg Strecker), (V) The Gospel of Philip (Hans-Martin Schenke), (VI) The Gospel of the Egyptians (Wilhelm Schneemelcher), (VII) The Gospel of Peter (Christian Maurer and Wilhelm Schneemelcher), (VIII) Dialogues of the Redeemer (various), (IX) Other Gnostic Gospels and Related LIterature (Henri-Charles Puech and rev. Beate Blatz), (X) Infancy Gospels (Oscar Cullmann), (XI) The Relatives of Jesus (Wolfgang A. Bienert), and (XII) The Work and Sufferings of Jesus (various). These chapters contain some very interesting books that we might have heard of (from say... a certain movie?) such as the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Truth, Gospel of Philip, Gospel of Mary, Protevangelium of James, and more.

At the beginning of each chapter, there is an overview of some important topics such as the literature (e.g. different editions, translations, etc.), attestation, tradition, genre of text, provenance, theological themes, relationship to canonical Gospels, etc. [each chapter varies because not all contain any relevant information for each sub-topic]. Overall, this is an excellent volume that will be of benefit for anyone interested in the canonical and non-canonical Gospels. There is a wealth of information from a whole array of scholars that are contained in this book. I have some interest in possibly pursuing some research in this topic so this is a very important volume that I will start digging into bit by bit in the coming months.

Verdict::Recommended! (Granted that this is not really a "book" but more of a reference volume.)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Spring '11

Here at Duke, it seems like there's a mad rush to get into the classes of your choice, and it was no different this week as registrations opened up for the Spring semester. I had my eye on a bunch of classes and it looks like this will be my coursework for the upcoming semester:

Calvin and the Interpretation of John with Prof. David Steinmetz
Exegesis of Acts with Prof. C. Kavin Rowe
Seminar on NT and Ancient Greco-Roman Philosophy with Prof. C. Kavin Rowe
Greek Exegesis: Synoptic Gospels with Prof. Mark Goodacre
[informal] Readings in Syriac with Prof. Lucas Van Rompay (hopefully...)

There was a Greek Exegesis in the Gospel of John by Prof. Joel Marcus that was super tempting, but due to schedule conflicts, this is how it ended up. There's still a few kinks that needs to be worked out, but I think this will end up being my classes for the Spring. I'm loving the classes this semester, but am also excited for the Spring semester!