Tuesday, November 29, 2005

More comments on Footsteps

Further to previous posts on In the Footsteps of Jesus, I noticed this nice comment in yesterday's Herald:
. . . . Meanwhile Edward Stourton, whose passion for scholarship comes shining through in his new series, In the Footsteps of Jesus (Radio 4, Monday), wraps his elegant diction in discreet affability. (I say, one’s lost one’s RP, Anne Simpson).
And in this week's New Statesman a really glowing review:

Radio - Rachel Cooke
Rachel Cooke
Monday 28th November 2005
. . . . This is a brilliant documentary series, one so thoroughly researched it is impossible not to feel a sense of engagement with it. I loved the papery sound of what, after all, are extremely speculative, not to say inward-looking debates (these fellows have hearts that flip over on hearing a new translation of a single Aramaic noun). But the programmes also have another ingredient: faith. For every cool offering from an academic, we hear an answering call from an intelligent believer. For the intelligent believer, the stones and the texts are in dialogue, not mutual opposition, and it was this notion that, at times, elevated In the Footsteps of Jesus, with all its facts and measured argument, to the realm of the spellbinding . . . .
Wow! Now that's an encouraging review.

Clippings Folders

Rubén Gómez comments on his Clippings Backlog and asks "Am I the only one . . . .?" No, it's at least me too. I have dozens in my clippings folder. Gems from all over the blogosphere, all sorts of interesting bits and bobs I wanted to mention and comment on. If you're thinking, "I wonder why Mark never commented on that brilliant post of mine", well, now you know. Of course one way round such things is the solo-blog, in which you only publish your own materials, don't link to others, don't have a blog-roll, but those are often the least interesting sorts of blogs.

For those who don't use Bloglines, the Clippings Folder is the place you put those blog posts (of others) that you want to save for later, to comment on when you next have a moment. But as Rubén points out, that time never seems to come. For me, it's a little like photocopying an article and not reading it, or downloading an article onto your computer and not reading it, or video-ing a television programme and not watching it. Somehow the act of clipping, photocopying, downloading or video-ing makes you feel less bad about not dealing with the item.

Bob's blog

It's a great pleasure to welcome Robert Derrenbacker to the blogosphere:

Bob's Blog

Stephen Carlson Interview Archived

The radio programme featuring Stephen Carlson talking about Morton Smith's invention of Secret Mark, Keeping the Faith, is now available in an on-line archived version, either downloadable MP3 or a Real Audio stream:

Keepin' the Faith

Monday, November 28, 2005

In the Footsteps of Jesus II

The second episode of In the Footsteps of Jesus was broadcast last night on Radio 4 at 8 pm GMT and is available on-line:

In the Footsteps of Jesus: Jerusalem

You can read the transcript; the link to the listening URL was not working earlier on, so try this URL. Today's episode features David Neuhaus, John Dominic Crossan, Larry Hurtado, Tom Wright, Geza Vermes, David Rosen and me.

Update (9.48): the URL for listening to the series at the main link above is now working.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Stephen Carlson on the radio on Secret Mark

A reminder that Stephen Carlson is on the radio right now on Keeping the Faith (6 pm, Eastern Time) and you can listen on-line at:

Listen to Will

Quick -- tune in while you can!

Update (19.23): a most enjoyable programme, a full hour on the topic, and unlike much radio it went at a leisurely pace so that there was time for the details to come through. I couldn't catch it all, unfortunately, with supper to cook, beds to make etc., but what I caught was good. One good point that I found it useful to have spelled out was the extent to which Smith disdained the fact that scholars often do not check their references; they don't do the kind of thorough research they should, something that explains the planting of the M. Madiotes clue. Highlight: Steve Shoemaker asks Stephen what Morton Smith would have thought about his book and Stephen replies: "I hope he would have said: 'Good job!'"

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Identity, Schmidentity @ Deinde

I am grateful to Paul Nikkel on Deinde for articulating some of his concerns in this post:

Identity Schmidentity: Questioning the biblioblogdom

I'd like to add a few comments on specific points:
I think the more important point to explore is the question of identity and whether the biblioblogging community has an interest in creating an identity that perpetuates the framework and power structures found in the "real" biblical studies community.
My thoughts here would be that I don't see any such interest. On the contrary, the bibliobloggers are largely rebels who do not conform to the norms of the "biblical studies community". The conversations are not limited to those with tenured academic appointments; the bulk of biblioblogdom is populated by independent scholars and graduate students and one of the joys of the scene is its fundamental democratic impulse. In this respect, it imitates the better e-lists, which have the same democratic ideal in which it is the academic quality of the post that is the guide. So I'd say that far from perpetuating the framework and power structures in the "real" biblical studies community, we are counter-cultural, risky and rebellious. Paul later writes:
In some ways I doubt that the creation of a group identity was avoidable, however I am cautious about institutionalizing the group as the voice of biblical studies...and certainly that is part of the purpose of naming and identity.
I don't think that anyone has in mind biblioblogs becoming "the voice of biblical studies". On the contrary, you'd get a pretty skewed impression of the field if you only read the biblioblogs. In fact, as mentioned above, the biblioblogs, like blogs in general, are very often voices from the margins rather than the mainstream.
As Yasmin wrote in her post referenced above, "The problem I found was not so much with their demographic per se, but I was concerned with the low self-awareness that they had towards their position of power. " There needs to be a sensitivity or at least openness in questioning what is occurring within this group identity, protesting that access to blogs is equally open to all ignores the question of why this is not reflected in biblioblogs by placing the blame on those who are not involved (after all if access is open to all it must be their fault that they are not in dialogue).
I would say here that the sensitivity is very much present among bibliobloggers. The very fact that we problematized the relative lack of female bibliobloggers indicates our awareness of and concern about the imbalance. If there were no sensitivity to key issues like this, I doubt you'd have seen such an interesting discussion in the biblioblogs over the last week or two. Instead of slapping one another on the back and congratulating each other on a job well done, many have in fact focused largely on the one major issue of "naming" that Paul brought up in the session. Paul also writes:
I would suggest that there is an interest in maintaining power structures and institutional influence found in the parallel "real world" biblical studies discipline which is reflected within the biblioblogs. The power of the blog is one that favours the marginalized and minority and it is these groups that have exploited the medium in most other areas. The power of this voice runs against a formal discipline interested in perpetuating power structures and ladders; and one way of de-stabilizing this threat is to co-opt it into functioning as a medium which supports the structure rather than undermines it.
I'm interested that Paul sees this at work in the biblioblogs because it runs so strongly counter to my own experience, on which see above.

Dr Claude Mariottini's blog

Claude Mariottini emails to let me know about his new blog:

Dr. Claude Mariottini - Professor of Old Testament
This blog is a Christian perspective on the Old Testament and Current Events from Dr. Claude Mariottini, Professor of Old Testament at Northern Baptist Seminary

Dr Mariottini has also recently returned from the SBL in Philadelphia and was in the audience of the CARG Biblioblogging session.

Death of the biblioblog?

(Cartoon courtesy Tyler Williams). Is it time to announce the death of the biblioblog? Tim Bulkeley on Sansblogue (and it was great to hear in the SBL biblioblogging session that it is in fact pronounced "Sonn-blog", French style, and not "Sanz-blog") is resigning from the biblioblogging establishment, with the following thoughts:
. . . By naming we create a group, by discussing who is in (and therefore by implication who is out!) we create exclusivity. This is no longer the spirit of Blogaria, and I regret my phrase at the session about a virtual common-room, because one of the things I've greatly valued about the virtual one (an advantage that all the "real" ones, even those that seek to be more open, fail to realise) is its openness, that you can chat to anyone there.
Meanwhile, Jim Davila has a great general post on Paleojudaica, and he includes the following comments:
For the record (and I really don't think this should need to be said), first, I -- and I'm sure all other "bibliobloggers" -- would welcome more females on the biblioblog-roll and I hope any considering opening a blog will take the plunge. Second, if you (whatever your gender) do start a blog having to do with academic biblical studies, I encourage you to write whatever the heck you want to on it and to make up and follow your own rules, and if one of us tells you to do or not do one thing or another, just take this as well-intended advice that you can follow, modify, or ignore, entirely as it pleases you. That's what I do.
Furthermore, Jim West suggests on Biblical Theology:
I've thought and thought about what Paul said and if I have him correctly, he was simply suggesting that the practice of "naming" can be at the same time an opportunity of "excluding". That is, to be sure, absolutely correct. For us to call ourselves "bibliobloggers", however, is meant not as an excluder (primarily) so much as a simple denominator. We certainly do "exclude" when we name . . . . .
. . . . In the same sense, then, "bibliobloggers" denominate themselves in order to be distinguished in practice from those who are blogging about politics or dogs or smoking or Nintendo or any of the other subjects found in the blog world.
Meanwhile, David Meadows, the originator of the term, has a helpful post on RogueClassicism from which this is an excerpt:
I think you're looking through the wrong end of the telescope guys (and a few gals) ... it's a label we 'outsiders' apply to you ... you needn't apply it to yourselves; kind of like Romans calling Hellenes 'Graeci'. FWIW, I tried to come up with something similar for my Classics colleagues and 'Classicoblogs' simply didn't have the same 'catchiness' as 'Biblioblog' and I suspect it's because I'm an 'insider' in that group (or like to think of myself as same, despite the title of my blog).
On Hypotyposeis, Stephen Carlson writes:
No matter what you call it, there still exists a community of bloggers who like to link to each other and discuss topics that could be discussed at an SBL meeting.
Of course, the key phrase here is "no matter what you call it". I don't think anyone is planning on stopping blogging, so it all comes down to what we call it, indeed whether there is an "it" at all. The fact that there have been discussions about what a biblioblog is, and whether or not individuals even think of themselves as bibliobloggers, shows what a loose confederation we are dealing with here.

I suspect that there is a misapprehension around, and that absent of it, the problem vanishes. In her interesting post, Yasmin Finch writes:
I must just note, all this debate is particularly interesting in light of the relatively relaxed style of blogging; the policing of the biblioblog seems to have a disproportionately high priority.
This is contrary to my own experience and observations. I don't think that there is any "policing" around that I am aware of, certainly none that is direct. Indeed, I would say that "the relatively relaxed style of blogging" also characterizes those writing blogs that focus on academic Biblical Studies.

This is not to say that I did not share some of the concerns voiced by Paul Nikkel in the SBL CARG Biblioblogging section, perhaps not least having seen all nine of us men on the panel that I put together (it's all my fault, you see!), and I think that what surprised me was the extent to which something so ad hoc and evolutionary was potentially coming out wrong. Perhaps it was useful to see the impression that the all white, all male panel created, even if it is true that no one was able to suggest to me others who should have been included on the panel. (Bear in mind that I was asked to put it together in February).

Where I would locate my own concern over the all-white-male pannel of last week's SBL CARG session would not be over the question of "naming", but rather over our problematizing the relative lack of female bibliobloggers. The very act of specifically drawing attention to this can isolate it as a problem that has the unwelcome effect of drawing attention to the gender of every new blogger on the block, who might thereby feel more isolated and self-conscious than they otherwise might have been. All I'd say in my defence as one of those who did problematize this would be that the alternative would have been worse: I dislike the thought of our gathering as an all-male panel and not even showing some concern about the lack of female bloggers in our area.

As an antidote to the entire discussion, Tyler Williams has the great cartoon above on Codex: Blogspot.

As my closing thought, I would say: Write your blog on what you are interested in, and if people want to read it, they will read it, no matter what categories and sub-categories it may be thought to fall under. Blog on what you want to blog on, read blogs on what you want to read, and let the blogosphere continue to evolve and develop in its own unpredictable and unique way.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Ralph on SBL

Ed Cook has a great post on the SBL:

Scattered Thoughts on AAR-SBL (Part II):
. . . . There's got to be a better method of absorbing new scholarship than listening to someone read a paper in a rapid monotone in a crowded, overheated room.
I quite agree.
I suggest, at the very least, these steps:
(1) Graduate students must submit to the session chairs a version of what they plan to present; if it's too long, it should be either rejected or returned to the applicant for revision. I say "grad students" because they were the principal offenders (although I hasten to add that I heard more than one excellent paper by grad students). The SBL should also provide training, either live or online, for those who wish to present at the annual meeting.
Great suggestions. In theory, all new presenters should submit their full papers at the proposal stage. But there is a problem with this. If you are looking at dozens of proposals, reading through dozens of full papers at submission is time-consuming. But I, for one, would be keen to see more quality control, and in the Synoptics section we have vetted full papers. An element of the problem, and this is something we have found repeatedly in hte Synoptics, is that we get a great looking proposal, with a good abstract, and it does not deliver on the day. But here, I think we could all learn from one another's mistakes and keep an eye out.

On the training, what a great idea!
(2) Each section or group should have its own website, where planning and organization can take place, including updates on the actual room location. Preliminary papers can also be posted there; or presenters can upload their handouts before the meeting.
Excellent suggestions. One of the things that has concerned me this year, and I have blogged on this, is the low profile for the sections and on-line papers (e.g. here). I don't know if I am being thick on this one, but I can't even find the general list of the sections and groups at the SBL.
(3) Insufficient use has been made up to now of recording or podcasting. It seems to me that there are plenty of low-tech options for recording and making presentations available after the meeting in MP3 or other formats. These could be made available on the section websites or through other means. This would help alleviate the problem of inattention (can one really listen to five papers in a row?), overcrowding (ever missed a paper because there was no room to sit down?), or scheduling (some of the sessions I was interested in took place at the same time as the CARG panel).
Another interesting suggestion. And so, finally, to the "biblioblogging" session:
— I enjoyed the Biblioblogging session, mainly because it was fun to see the actual human beings in meatspace who are responsible for the blogs I read daily. But here's a little two-part eyewitness test for you. (1) When the panel session began, what was the order of seating, starting from Mark Goodacre? My memory is that it was this: Mark Goodacre, Rick Brennan [sic], Stephen Carlson, Torrey Seland, Jim Davila, me (Ed Cook), Tim Bulkeley, AKMA, and Jim West. (2) When the question "How many here are bloggers?" was asked, what percentage (roughly) raised their hands? I feel that it was no more than 50%, but I believe Stephen Carlson has blogged that it was "almost everyone." Any other opinions?
On (1): yes, I think that's my memory. On (2), I would say 80%. I saw one or two indicating a half-way hover with their hands, i.e. they have a blog but don't update it regularly.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

My first American Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to American readers all over the world (including Jim Davila). I am very much looking forward to my first American Thanksgiving. It's great, for a start, not to be at work (hmm: does blogging count as work?). I am about to try to make my first ever pecan pie. Wal Mart had sold out of chopped pecans, so we had to buy a load of uncracked ones and go through and crack them one by one.

I have a great deal to be thankful for this year, a safe arrival in a new country, a lovely new home, a great new job, a great new school for the kids, new friends and the promise of happy things ahead.

Update (Friday, 20.05): the pecan pie was a success! Well, it wasn't fantastic, but it wasn't at all bad. And some even had second helpings (I made lots). I think I might be able to get used to American baking. The key seems to be: shove lots of corn syrup in there. And my own special suggestion: triple the number of pecans suggested in the recipe. Here's the rough recipe I used: Mamma's Southern Pecan Pie.

Update (Saturday, 14.35): Viola has more on our first Thanksgiving on The Americanization of Emily.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

SBL Assorted Reflections

One or two additional general reflections, of varying degrees of importance:

(1) My move to the USA makes me even more conscious of what I (and many others) stand to lose when the divorce between AAR and SBL happens. The Duke reception featured many faculty and students past and present across the two societies; I met new colleagues there too, and won't do any longer after the divorce. Likewise old Birmingham friends -- a couple of my most enjoyable meetings were with AAR members, one at Birmingham and one who used to be at Birmingham. Is there anyone who thinks that the divorce is a good thing? I haven't yet met a single one.

(2) Why do people hover around the doorways of meetings? This annoying habit gives the impression, almost always incorrect, that the room is full, and it encourages other to join the loiterers. It discourages people to cut through the loiterers and go in to the room and find a seat. I say: make a decision and go in and sit down, or leave.

(3) Why do people put their papers and books and bags on seats when they can see that the room is nearly full? If there are 10 people in a 200 capacity room, fine: spread out! But if there are only 5 or 6 spare seats, keep the seat next to you free and then those who get past the loiterers in the doorway will have somewhere to sit other than the floor.

(4) Two and a half hour meetings are too long to go without providing a 5 minute break at some point for people to stretch their legs. If you are chairing a meeting, add a leg-stretch break.

(5) The timing within the sessions could often be more precise. Let's face it, a lot of people want to go to a paper here and a paper there, and vague timings, overrunning, etc., makes that more difficult.

(6) The SBL is an enormous meeting, and perhaps because of that fact one can take the organisation for granted. In spite of the odd problem here and there, in my experience there are only ever minor glitches. The meeting is superbly organized, and it struck me this year that we really ought to say thank you a bit more often. I suppose that because we can't put a face on the organizers, we often don't take the opportunity to praise them.

Update (Thursday, 10.13): (7) Let me add my agreement with this one from Jim Davila on Paleojudaica:
One last thing: this year was the most confusing I've seen in terms of publicizing where sessions take place. I am not sure it was a good decision to remove room listings from the main program book. I appreciate that this made it easier to update the room bookings online to note late changes, but even the downloadable PDF files (which I printed out) had a lot of errors. Next time I will know to ignore them and just go with the Annual Meetings At-A-Glance booklet distributed at the meeting, which did have accurate information.

Cinema Jesus Redux

On Perspective, regular NT Gateway blog commenter Crystal has her reflections on her favourite Jesus films:

Cinema Jesus Redux

I am also a fan of the Roger Young Jesus (1999). And let me recommend in particular the so-called international version, if you can get hold of it, because it has the great post resurrection scene of Jesus in modern style dress in the streets of Malta, met by children.

Perhaps I might also add that my comments on The Passion of the Christ, to which Crystal kindly refers, were written up more fully in two other places, first a short article on Bible and Interpretation, and then a much fuller article in Jesus and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.

Also blogging SBL were:

Christopher Heard on Higgaion; and I looked through my blogroll and noticed that Higgain was missing, which I can hardly believe; now corrected.

Ben Myers mentions that Peter Leithart has also been blogging AAR / SBL at Leithart.com.

And Stephen Carlson mentions Annie Dillard at LocustYears, which is another new blog to me, and another welcome addition to the blogosphere.

Times Review of Footsteps of Jesus

The Times has a review of In the Footsteps of Jesus:

Chris Campling finds God
Edward Stourton has a gift for putting youthful flesh on desiccated historical bones. Religion, particularly the Christian one, is something of a Mastermind subject for him, and over the next four weeks he is returning to a path not so much welltrodden as worn away into an arroyo or gulch.

In the Footsteps of Jesus also gives Stourton the chance to indulge in some serious “puff-pant” documentary. You don’t know the genre? Yes you do, it’s when the presenter gives you a sense of where he is by saying: “And here we are (puff), near the top (pant) of” wherever. It works best on radio — David Attenborough has been known to use the same technique on television, but that’s because he really is knackered . . .

. . . . And there are wonderful little insights to save up for the watercooler, such as the one about Jesus choosing to reveal that He was the Son of God in the very spot where a dirty great temple appointing Augustus Caesar to the gig had been built.

And Stourton is not afraid to meander off down sidepaths when the journey looks interesting. Few of us will have lifted up the rock under which reside the Nazi pastors of Germany at the end of the 1920s, for example. Faced with the Jewishness of Jesus, they unearthed the theory that, coming from Galilee, He must have been Aryan because Aryans had invaded Galilee, and so, well, er, there you go, QED, Heil Hitler, etc. Yes, you are right, it’s good stuff. Try not to miss it.

A plea for the use of hand-outs

Torrey Seland in a photo illustrated post on Philo of Alexandria blog makes a lucid appeal for the use of hand-outs at SBL sessions:
The English of Martinez was sometimes somewhat difficult to follow, and Najman, who is an excellent scholar, is also an impresssive fast speaker, adding explanatory parantheses along the way. I must admit, however, not having English as my mother tongue, that I would have been greatly helped if there had been some handouts, giving the main aspects of the arguments presented. This is not something experienced only in this session; by no way,- many presentations suffer in a similar way. But that is no excuse. Please; do start considering using handouts.
Hence I have to wait some time to have a fuller understanding and enjoyment of these important papers.
And Torrey refers to previous discussion of the phenomenon on the blogs. I think Torrey is bang on target here, and I would add that handouts are also regularly the choice of some disabled attendees, especially those who have trouble seeing a screen. The fact is that you simply cannot predict the technology either; this year we had one speaker in the Synoptics section who needed an overhead projector, and only the front row could see the screen.

To speak for myself, it really helps me to understand, to follow and to concentrate on a paper if there is a handout.

Also blogging the SBL was:

Phil Harland on Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean blog, though his comments are only brief, and he promises something in due course on Stephen Carlson's The Gospel Hoax. Let me add here that one of the things that is so good about the number of bloggers now reporting on the SBL is hearing about meetings one could not get to. The SBL Annual Meeting is so massive that you regularly miss things you have to be at; and sometimes duty has to take priority over joy.

Photo-blogging the SBL

Jim West has put the rest of us (well, me at least) to shame in his photographic illustration of his SBL experiences on Biblical Theology. I actually took my digital camera with me this year, fully intended to use it, but never once remembered to do so while at the meeting. I need to correct that next time.

There are two special highlights among Jim's pictures. The first is the picture of the e-listers on the Saturday morning, which includes bloggers Jim Davila, Stephen Carlson and me. The other is the picture of Jim's hotel bed, which functions as a strident defence of James Crossley's controversial decision to photograph his room. It seems that Jim has the luxury of a room all to himself, not like us hard-up academics who share.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Postcolonial Biblical Reader

My former Birmingham colleague, Prof. R. S. Sugirtharajah has a new collection out, and this alert arrived today:

The Postcolonial Biblical Reader
Edited by R.S. SUGIRTHARAJAH, University of Birmingham

This wide-ranging reader provides a comprehensive survey of the interaction between postcolonial criticism and biblical studies.

For more information, including table of contents and examination copy details, go to:

Paperback (ISBN: 1405133503)
Available ROW: 15/11/2005,
Available US: 14/12/2005

Hardback (ISBN: 140513349X)
Available ROW: 15/11/2005,
Available US: 14/12/2005

Searching for the historical Jesus

Further to my previous post on the series, here's an article on it appearing yesterday in BBC News On-line:

Searching for the historical Jesus
In a series of radio programmes, In the Footsteps of Jesus, the BBC's Edward Stourton brings to life the world in which Jesus lived. In this article, he explains why tracing the historical facts about Jesus is so important.

The piece talks about Andrew Overman's excavations:
It was a fire in 1998 that gave Dr Overman his coup at Omrit; it cleared the scrub and he was able to identify the outline of a huge Roman-era temple.

He believes it was erected by King Herod to honour the Roman Emperor Augustus at the time when Augustus began to be viewed as a living god, and he has identified it as the site of Caesarea Philippi.

He is now engaged in an ambitious project to rebuild the temple; it will soon rise to its original 23 metres (75 feet) in height, once again dominating the surrounding landscape.
And there are discussions of the scandal of the "Aryan Jesus".

What's been on the BBC

I do miss the BBC while I am away; don't think I realized just how fond I was of it until I left England. I am afraid I surround myself with it here in Raleigh, and a few days away leaves me bereft. So, having first caught up on the test match in Pakistan, then Mark E. Smith of the Fall reading the football results on Saturday (wonderful and hilarious), and the very exciting Dr Who special scene featuring Chris Tenant as the Fifth Doctor, counting down to the Christmas special (hooray! I'll be in England to watch it! That alone is worth the trip back), I turned to the new Radio 4 series which premiered yesterday:

In the Footsteps of Jesus
Jesus the Jew looks at the essentials of what can really be said about Jesus with any degree of historical certainty and places Him in the context of the wandering charismatics and faith healers who were about at the time.

It also explores how His Jewish roots were gradually airbrushed out of theology, culminating in Nazi theologians who produced a Bible excised of all references to Judaism and who portrayed Jesus as an Aryan.

Regular readers may recall that I have mentioned my work on this series before (I was the historical consultant for the series). From the link above you can read the transcript and listen to the programme. And there are some photographs too.

SBL Monday: the rest

[Note, an earlier post deals with events that came chronologically after the events in this post (a bit like Luke-Acts?), because I finished that one first.]

After the Historical Jesus section at which Ted Weeden was speaking, I bought some more books, and was pleased to see that Continuum were now offering 50% discount (early 40%), so it was almost worth having waited. I say almost because I had wanted to get the three volumes of Davies-Allison on Matthew, which was super-cheap, but it seems that everyone else wanted it too and only volume 2s were left. Maybe next time. I might blog on some of my other purchases over the coming days.

I spent a little too long at the book exhibit, though, because I missed the very beginning of Stephen Carlson's Secret Mark paper. Apparently one of the speakers dropped out, so Stephen was on 25 minutes early. (Strong mental note: make extra allowances for such things in the future). But I heard almost all of it, thankfully, and it was a tour de force. Stephen presented extemp, and regular readers will know that I am a fan of that, and the talk was clearly illustrated with all the relevant samples of the hand of Secret Mark, the hands of other mss from Mar Saba, and the hand of Morton Smith himself; readers of the book will know about M. Madiotes and Stephen brought up all the relevant information about this character (I won't spoil it for those who have not read the book yet -- it's my favourite part) in dramatic fashion, with one bullet point at a time on the left, and then a photograph of Smith added on the right; at the point when it was added, there was a general laugh of surprise and recognition. Stephen added one interesting element not in the book, where the text of a word had been written around one of the foxing stains in the book.

I felt a little sorry for the speaker who was on after Stephen, since virtually the entire room got up and left just as he started, and there were only about seven or eight of us left, and some of us no doubt because we were not quite quick enough.

There was a reception for Stephen Carlson's book in the evening in the Baylor University Press suite, with some nice food (some high quality beef, asparagus, cookies). There was no booze, though, and afterwards several of us retired to the Independence Brewery Pub and continued our conversations. That pub is a definite must-visit if you are in Philadelphia -- a great variety of good draft beers and not too expensive (by American standards, at least; at $3 or so a pint, we are in the range of a standard English pub pint).

SBL Tuesday: On the Way Home

On the way home now from SBL, with a hiccup on the way (I've seen "hiccough"; is that American sp?). Half of the plane at Philadelphia airport seems to be full of Duke faculty and graduate students hoping to return to Raleigh Durham. As the plane taxi-ed off, there was a loud and not very healthy sounding vibrating buzz, apparently the air conditioning malfunctioning. We returned to the terminal and there was an inspection and after half an hour or so, just as I was drifting into a pleasant sleep while reflecting on Dale Allison's Resurrection book, and then an annoucement that we were all to get off and that there would be another plane for us. So we are now sitting at another gate, awaiting our new plane.

I usually seem to encounter some sort of big delay on the way back from the SBL and it's a great comfort this time to be travelling just within America. I am not going to have any flight connection to rush for, nor the chance of getting stranded away from home for the night. I am desperate to get home by the end of the SBL. It's not that I don't love the meeting, and especially spending time with old friends; it is just that I've had enough of it by the end and I really want to see my family again. I reckon that there are a lot of people who feel the same way; why else do so many people escape on the Tuesday morning? The last morning always feels like a damp squib to me, even if there is a good session on. And no one likes to have their session timetabled for the Tuesday morning.

And the really great thing for me this year is that not only will I not have the missed night's sleep that you always get when travelling from the USA to the UK, but also I have a holiday to go back to instead of work. It's always been a bit grim travelling as a Brit, in the past, back from the SBL and feeling the buzz of excitement among Americans who are heading home or to relatives for their Thanksgiving break. So instead of getting back on Wednesday morning, having lost a night's sleep and going straight in to teach, it's a case of going home, meeting the kids from school as they begin their Thanksgiving break, and having a break myself until next week. Gosh, no wonder Americans are always in such a good mood when they depart from SBL.

I am writing this on Tuesday morning from the airport, but I won't upload it until I'm back home. Unfortunately, the wireless internet from the airport here, as from Raleigh Durham International Airport too, costs a mint. Spending a little time at the airport did give me a second chance to get a Philly Cheese Steak. Perhaps a bit odd for breakfast, but I've eaten too much scrambled egg over the last few days, and not enough Philly Cheese Steaks. They are quite good, and the one here was better than the one I had yesterday.

Later note: I have arrived home and it's great to be back; but with some very good memories of a happy and successful SBL meeting. I have a couple more posts to go, including the rest of my Monday diary, and some general reflections, but they are only half written so will have to wait for a little.

Monday, November 21, 2005

SBL Monday afternoon

In some respects today was the most enjoyable day; I didn't feel as rough as I did yesterday, I didn't have anything to do in public, I was able to find time to buy some more books, I got to spend a decent amount of time with people whose company I really enjoy, and I went to some sessions. I went in to the first paper of the Biblical Greek Language and Linguistics section where my former PhD student Catherine Smith was presenting first and she did a great job -- there's real pride for the supervisor who sees his former students performing so well in public! Her paper was on her reconfiguring of the Synoptic data in the light of systemic functional linguistics, with focus on the parable of the Sower.

We went next to the Historical Jesus section, where we caught the fag end of an interesting discussion about Jesus' illegitimacy. There was then a paper by about Jesus and repudiaction of family ties, very well presented with a clear handout, but the method was not to my taste -- all Q / Thomas and multiple attestation. I don't have the programme with me but I think her name was Susan Griffith, but that might be wrong. I asked a question at the end about the combination between multiple attestation and the criterion of embarrassment -- I can't help thinking that one cancels out the other. If everyone, Q, an independent Thomas, Mark, Matthew, Luke all have this same material, who is embarrassed about it? The multiple attestation is itself an argument against embarrassment.

She was followed by someone whose name I don't recall (sorry!) on the Parable of the Pounds / Talents and the Archelaus background. Last up was was a brilliant presentation by Ted Weeden on Bailey's theory of informal controlled oral tradition, in which he demonstrated clearly to my satisfaction that the evidenciary basis for Bailey's thesis is flawed. A very useful, multi-page handout too. Michael Bird was there too, but I am less convinced than he that Jimmy Dunn's response at the end was adequate. I think Ted Weeden has dealt a fatal blow to Bailey's theory, at least on the evidence that Bailey himself provides.

More anon.

SBL Monday morning

Another early morning breakfast appointment, Synoptic Gospels Steering Committee. Next year I am going to give myself at least one early morning off; I am not getting my money's worth out of the hotel bed. My roommates hardly see me.

I then had the SBL Forum Advisory Board and a useful meeting, with lots of good suggestions. It finished in time for me to get to the last two papers in the Paul and Politics section, Jeff Peterson on "Paul, Passover and Politics", focusing on 1 Cor. 5.7 and featuring some stuff I want to follow up for my own research on the Passion Narratives. Then James McLaren gave an interesting paper on the identity of the man of lawlessness in 2 Thess., though unfortunately I missed quite a lot of the paper through sleep.

At lunchtime I got my first taste of a Philly cheese steak sandwich and it was pretty nice, though the place we went to was apparently not the best and there was not enough cheese in it.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Also blogging SBL today are . . . .

Joe Cathey has lots of interesting posts on the SBL, including one today on the CARG session which he describes as "one of the best that I have attended here at SBL". I must admit to enjoying it too. Stephen Carlson was up later than me blogging on SBL Saturday. Jim Davila decided to abandon the television-blogging and to go for a 15 minute (maximum allowed) stint on the computers in the Book Exhibit. Jim West has several posts, including one on the Biblioblogging session. Torrey Seland likewise comments:
The discussion had its merits; it could perhaps, at least according to my opinion, have been a little more organised as people just 'took the word' and spoke without waiting in line, or giving a sign.
I had also hoped that someone (in addition to me.......:-) had focused a little more on the future; What do we expect blogosphere will look like in two years, and/or what do we want it to look like? I presume the wild flowers will continue to grow; but if we do not get more blogs who focus more strictly on specific fields, or groups of biblical writings, we will lose some interest in the scholarly world....
I am probably to blame on both points, but I must admit to having enjoyed the easy-flowing ad-hoc nature of the discussion. People did give a sign -- they generally put up a hand or similar, and I don't think anyone hogged the floor; nor did anyone not get the opportunity to speak if they wanted it. The question about the future is a good one -- we should have raised those questions more.

Michael Bird is blogging on Euangelion. Pete Williams has an interesting take on the Wright / Ehrman / Crossan / Martin session. Rick Brannan comments on the biblioblogging session. Joe Weaks comments briefly. James Crossley is still blogging, but alas, no more interesting pics of other parts of his hotel yet. For pics, you'll have to go to Yasmin Finch (and here).

Sorry still no pics here. I couldn't really take pictures while chairing one session and speaking at another. But I'll definitely try to get a couple of pics done tomorrow.

SBL Sunday afternoon

I went to the Matthew Section at 1 today and was the first up. I presented a paper on The Rock on Rocky Ground: Matthew, Mark and Peter as Skandalon. It wasn't the best presentation I've given; I was feeling quite ill by this point (my own fault, I know), but I did get some great questions afterwards which will help to improve the paper. Steve Black spoked next, also on Peter, on whether or not he was rehabilitated in Matthew. Rodrigo J. Morales spoke on Wisdom in Matthew, the yoke saying and the Sermon on the Mount. Catherine Sider Hamilton spoke on blood in Matthew, and Daniel Gurtner talked about the temple in Matthew. There was a nice symmetry to the session, with two from Duke and two from Toronto School of Theology, two papers on Peter, two papers on the Temple. It was a really well attended session as well, and I was pleased that I had made 100 handouts.

I had a series of other meetings; ate some good Chinese; and at 9 was the Duke Reception -- full to the brim -- and my first ever. Eric Meyers stood up and introduced faculty old and new, including me, and I had lots of nice personal welcomes afterwards.

Agonies over for me. I am looking forward to relaxing and enjoying the SBL properly tomorrow. And before going to bed, I must sneak a peak at what others have been blogging of the conference to compare notes.

SBL Sunday morning

Alas, I only managed three and a half hours' sleep; I have a terrible habit of filling my schedule so full that in the end it's the sleep has has to be sacrificed, and I regretted it today. As I got up for my breakfast meeting, I felt pretty rough and felt that way all day, but managed to perk up tonight. Managed to summon up enough energy to chair a session this morning and to present a paper this afternoon, but I found neither easy. I am making a resolution that next year I will have at least one morning when I don't have to get up at 6. OK, personal whinge over; time to give my reflections on the day.

After my breakfast meeting (in a pretty posh restaurant called Soles, normally a seafood place), I went to the Computer Assisted Research Section for our much blogged-about session on The Pains, the Pleasures and the Prospects for Biblioblogging. I was asked to put the panel together for this last spring, and the personnel will be familiar to many of my readers. I gave a short introduction, and then Jim Davila presented his paper. I am delighted to say that although Jim did not jump, or wave, or produce Victor Borge style sounds when he read hyperlinks, he did do a little jump when he told us that he would not be doing any of those things. You can still read his paper on-line. As usual on these occasions, it was presented beautifully. Rick Brannan then presented his paper with a very clear Powerpoint, which made it easy to follow -- and interesting. We then took a couple of minutes while we tried to find enough chairs for all the panel. In addition to Jim and Rick, this was Stephen Carlson, Torrey Seland, Ed Cook, Tim Bulkeley, AKMA, Jim West. Each took five minutes to introduce themselves and teir blog and add some reflections. We then had a discussion amongst ourselves, and I opened up the last 40 minutes to the floor to add their own comments and questions. Rarely have I been to an SBL session with so lively but at the same time so genial a discussion. As it turned out, many of the audience were themselves bloggers, and there were useful contributions from Jo Weaks, Brandon Wason, Paul Nikkel, Chris Heard and many others.

I don't think we broke any new ground and I don't think we discovered anything about blogging that we didn't already know, but it was one of those sessions that transcended that because of the positive vibe. Am I being too upbeat about it all? Perhaps, because Paul Nikkel's question was the one that did give me pause for thought, and several of us discussed it further afterwards, including Yasmin Finch. The gist of the question was the act of defining ourselves as bibliobloggers, discussing what one is, discussing who is in and who is out; all such things are raising some walls around us, creating a community with its own way of behaving. There is some institutionalization of the charismatic routes of our blogging here. The question tapped into some of my concerns about our having an SBL session on this, though in the end the session really served its purpose well, to raise the profile of blogging in the academic context, and to provide a positive and productive forum in which lots of like-minded people were able to come together for the first time in the same place and celebrate the strengths of an activity that we enjoy, and apparently many others benefit from.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Also blogging SBL is

Peter Williams on Evangelical Textual Criticism.

Biblioblogging issues

Ahead of tomorrow's session (in fact, later today, because I'm up in the small hours), Torrey Seland has posted his own reflections which are worth reading:

Biblioblogging Issues

SBL: Saturday afternoon

I attended the first session of the Synoptics Section which was, unfortunately, pretty badly attended. Next door, afterwards, there was the best attended session of the New Testament Textual Criticism section I have been to, and it was the highlight of the meeting so far. It was something of an eclectic mix, with a panel made up of John Dominic Crossan, Tom Wright, Bart Ehrman and Dale Martin; Kim Haines-Eitzen was in the chair. The ostensible reason for the session was a review of two books, Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus and a book by Wright on Scripture, called something like The Last Word. All four speakers are fine orators and there was an extent to which the session was a battle between the four to produce the best performance and get the most laughs. Crossan was first and posed the question of Ehrman that there was more variation between the Gospels already, looking at them synoptically, than there was between the various texts of the Gospels. And he asked the repeated question about the distinction between the "Word of God" and "words of God". Second was Dale Martin who began by outing himself publicly as an amateur theologian, and who criticized Wright for making historical claims about what was in Jesus' mind, claims that had no place in responsible history. Next was Tom Wright, who defended his new 100 page book by noting that it did have oversimplification and that there was a lot more detail in some of his large academic books. Bart Erhman spoke last and gave a fine exhortation to taking textual-criticism seriously, chiding his NT colleagues for their ignorance, a point accepted, perhaps grudgingly, by everyone on the panel. There was a panel discussion, with a lot of talking past one another, and then there were questions from the floor.

I was left with the feeling that this was one of the more entertaining SBL sessions I had ever been to, and especially good in the textual criticism section. (By the way, the overall theme was the Authority of the Bible). But there was not, in the end, the kind of intellectual engagement between the panelists that would have made it truly memorable.

Tomorrow morning is the session of special interest in this forum -- a two hour discussion of what we think we are doing when we blog. Should be fun.

Update (2.01): Michael Bird (who was sitting next to Brandon Wason, and behind Stephen Carlson and me), has his reflections on this session on Euangelion. Unfortunately, I missed the end of Dale Martin's paper on account of being asleep.

SBL Saturday

I too am here in Philadelphia at the SBL Annual Meeting. The good news is that there is free wireless internet available in public areas of the convention centre and I have my blogging machine with me. Not a lot to report on yet, except that I have met lots of old friends, and some new ones, and have been able to put some faces to names too. At 11.30 a.m. was the annual e-listers meeting, where those who inhabit the email lists gather together and meet one another, and there are several group photographs taken.

It is good to see a big stack of Stephen Carlson's Gospel Hoax available just as one walks into the Exhibit Hall, and there seems rightly to be a lot of interest in it.

It is also good to see that Jim Davila is once again performing his science-fiction style feat of blogging through his television set (over on Paleojudaica). Other bibliobloggers encountered include Michael Pahl, Stephen Carlson and Jim West. On Early Christian History, James Crossley defends his controversial decision to photograph his hotel bed. But I remain a fan of the decision to publish the photograph; this is just the kind of the thing the punters want; it helps those who can't make it this year to get a taste of the SBL Philadelphia experience. Much more interesting than lots of text.

Friday, November 18, 2005

On the way to Philadelphia

Well, actually I'm not yet. Hey, the extraordinary thing about going to the SBL from within the USA is that you don't have to start your pilgrimage several days early. You can just jump on a plane and be there an hour or so later. It actually spoils the fun a bit. I have printed out my usual forty-five or so articles to read on the plane on the way there and have realized that I will only have time for two or three.

Some of the bloggers are on their way; others have already arrived. In a new all time high for biblioblogs, James Crossley has taken a photograph of his hotel bed to show that he is live in Philadelphia. This surely beats even the legendary thread in which bloggers took photographs of their desks.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

SBL Didache Consultation Unit

Of course it could be (see previous post) that there are lots of papers out there on the web but which I and others don't know about. In Hypotyposeis, Stephen Carlson draws attention to a unit in which he is responding:

Didache Consultation Unit

And there are several papers there ready to read, including:

Didache 16: The Tradition Behind 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Alan Garrow

And it is this paper to which the response is now ready on Hypotyposeis:

Response to Garrow
Stephen Carlson

But see too:

Comparing Matthew with the Didache: Some Methodological Reflections
Nicholas Perrin

I am looking forward to that one. There are several other papers too.

One question that arises in my mind is: where is the SBL page on the various sections, groups and seminars? I am sure that there was one before, but I can't find it now and have looked several times (SBL Annual Meeting). Where should I be looking?

SBL Papers on-line: why so few?

I commented earlier on the pre-SBL buzz and noted that there seemed to me to be fewer papers on-line than usual. A good proportion of those that are available are written by the bloggers, and Loren Rosson gathers a bunch of them together on The Busybody, with neat summaries. It is interesting but I suppose not surprising that bloggers are more inclined to put drafts of papers out there than are others since we are used to exposing ourselves (for want of a better term!) in public, so risk-taking, shamelessness or something has kicked in. But it does surprise me that more are not willing to make papers available in advance of the SBL. It certainly helps you to improve your paper -- you will get a good number of useful criticisms, suggestions, clarifications, extra bibliography and so on. And those like Loren who can't make it to the SBL this year get a taste of things. Others who will be at sessions get the chance to read a paper in advance of a presentation.

Enter the Bibliobloggers

Jim Davila's SBL paper for the CARG Biblioblogging session is now available on-line:

Enter the Bibliobloggers

I have read the paper and it is an excellent piece, somehow managing to present an overview of the biblioblogs and the biblioblogging phenomenon at the same time as providing a great amount of detail. The feat is achieved, as with Jim's SBL Forum article by imitating the style of the blog and adding multiple hyperlinks in the text of the piece. So underneath the surface lies a fair wack of researching relevant links among the biblioblogs.

I am looking forward to hearing Jim present the paper, and am especially curious to see how Jim tackles the hyperlinks orally. Perhaps he will go for Victor Borge style Phonetic Punctuation and have a special way of saying "Various ideas have already been suggested on some blogs about what we might want to talk about here ", with each hyperlink specially represented in some way. Perhaps Jim should jump, or wave, each time he comes to a hyperlink?

3 pm, 7 April, AD30

In Paleojudaica Jim Davila mentioned an article appearing in Saturday's Times:

Moving on from reproach to rapprochement
By Geza Vermes

It is an important article on an important topic, so please forgive me for the most minor historical question which intrigues me:
The original catastrophe struck at 3pm on Friday, April 7, AD 30, when the charismatic Galilean religious preacher, Jesus of Nazareth, expired on a Roman cross, wrongly sentenced to death as an insurgent by the governor of Judaea, Pontius Pilate, with the connivance of the local Jewish leaders.
The note that intrigues me is the date. (Interesting, by the way, that The Times still use AD in an article about rapprochement; to my knowledge the scholarly BCE/CE has made no dent at all on media consciousness.) If I have understood correctly, and this is not something I have spent any time studying, the 30 date comes out of the Johannine dating of the Passion, aligning the Passover with the Sabbath, rather than the Synoptic dating, which aligns Passover with the day before the Sabbath that year. From scouting around on the net, I see that Vermes explicates this in his book The Passion, so I will have to take a look.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Real Family of Jesus DVD

Arron in Australia mentions in an email a DVD release of the BBC / Discovery documentary entitled The Real Family of Jesus, which features some bits of me filmed in Worcester College, Oxford, and lots of others, e.g. my colleague Eric Meyers:

The Real Family of Jesus DVD

The programme never went out in the UK, but I blogged on it on 27 March 2005 and 17 March 2005. I notice that I hadn't seen it on that occasion; subsequently, I did get a DVD of the broadcast and it was fun to watch.

Do not fear the blog

On Cafe Apocalypsis, Alan Bandy mentions an excellent response to Ivan Tribble article previously mentioned. It is in the Chronicle of Higher Education today:

Do Not Fear the Blog
. . . . I blog first and foremost because it is downright fun to participate in an emerging media form. Blogs and the blogosphere are new concepts, and the possibilities for scholarly communication are endless and exciting. Because I blog I now have contacts, online and offline, with a variety of scholars inside and outside my field. They don't particularly care that my dissertation is not yet done; the typical hierarchies of the ivory tower break down in the blogosphere so that even graduate students can be public intellectuals of a kind.

Professor Tribble lamented that blogs are not peer-reviewed and wrote that that was one reason why their content was illegitimate. While it is true that the author of a blog decides what she publishes on her blog, she does not blog in a vacuum. Other bloggers can -- and do! -- react to faulty logic or misinformation. . . . .
There's more good sense in every line of the article than there is in either Ivan Tribble's initial article, or his follow up They Shoot Messengers, Don't They? (2 September) put together.

SBL Blogging and Phil Harland

The forthcoming SBL CARG session on biblioblogging generated several recent posts from me and from others (See SBL Carg Biblioblog Session, Resources for SBL CARG biblioblog session and SBL CARG Biblioblog Session: Relevant Posts) and I've just spotted an extra resource that is relevant to the discussion that I would have mentioned before. It focuses on Phil Harland's excellent Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean Blog:

Academics take up blogging
Online diaries give professors a new audience
By James Allison, Editor, News@Concordia.ca:
. . . . Harland said adapting his writing for the blog has been a balancing act between maintaining a serious tone and providing light reading for a non-academic audience. However, it has proven beneficial in helping him to develop ideas and express them succinctly.

“When you’re reading a book and come up with idea, you don’t always take the time to jot it down,” he said. “The blog is useful for grabbing those ideas and developing them further.” . . . .
One of the remarks here is particularly relevant to one of the topics of our discussion:
This semester, students in Harland’s courses will also be given the opportunity to take part in this distributed conversation. He will post entries on his blog that deal with issues raised in class and encourage students to continue the discussion online . . . .

. . . . Allowing the public to observe and participate in classroom-related discussions in the context of a blog is an innovative way of enriching the educational experience.
And I would add that the great thing about the blog-as-classroom experiment is that we all get educated. I have personally found the recent entries on Religions of the Ancient Mediterraneans Blog on the Apocryphal NT very interesting and informative.

In related news, I noticed in a CARG email from Kirk Lowery that "The Blogging session received special highlighting by SBL; see p. 12 in the Program Book." I don't have a Program Book yet -- I guess it must have got lost somewhere between the US and the UK and back -- but it's good to hear that this session has been specially flagged.

Tyndale Bulletin latest

On BiblicalStudies.org.uk, Rob Bradshaw has the list of contents for the latest Tyndale Bulletin. I must admit that it is a journal I never consult, perhaps because of its weak on-line presence, perhaps because we didn't subscribe to it in Birmingham, perhaps just ignorance. However, I had a look on my Journals page and I was pleased to see that I do list its website:

Tyndale Bulletin

And all the abstracts are listed for the latest issue:

Volume 56.2 (November 2005)

(though note that it erroneously has May 2005 at the head). One of the articles looks especially interesting to me:

The Coming of the Son of Man in Mark's Gospel
Edward Adams, (King's College, London)
This article defends the view that Mark’s sayings on the coming of the Son of Man (Mark 8:38; 13:24-27; 14:62) refer to Jesus’ parousia, against claims made by R. T. France and N. T. Wright. According to France and Wright, these sayings call attention to the vision of Daniel 7:9-14, in which ‘one like a son of man’ comes into the presence of God for the purpose of enthronement, and point to Jesus’ post-mortem vindication, not his second coming. It is argued here that the Markan passages in question link Daniel 7:13 with other Old Testament texts and motifs, in particular, texts (such as Zechariah 14:3) and images about God’s future coming to earth; the selective combination of Scriptures and scriptural images and their application to Jesus generates the essential concept of his parousia – his coming as exalted Lord from heaven to earth at the end of history.
We do have it here at Duke, so I must make a strong mental note to go and dig this one out.

Idle Musings of a Bookseller

I'll join Joe Cathey in welcoming this new blog, now added to my blogroll:

Idle Musings of a Bookseller
Idle musings of what it is like to be an online bookseller in a niche market. Complete with ramblings about Biblical Studies, the ancient Near East, bicycling or anything else I am reading (or experiencing). Of course, opinions are mine and not my employer's.

The author is given as "jps" but Joe Cathey unmasks him as James Spinti of Eisenbrauns. A welcome addition to the blogosphere.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

My SBL Paper

I have uploaded a first draft of my SBL paper:

The Rock on Rocky Ground: Matthew, Mark and Peter as Skandalon [PDF]

It's for the Matthew section, Sunday 20th at 1 p.m. It is all about the way that Matthew reads Mark, and the way that we read Matthew and Mark. I attempt to offer a little narrative-critical corrective to an overuse of redaction-criticism in Matthew's characterization of Peter. And I suggest that the key to understanding Matthew's characterization of Peter is to see that he is narrativizing the well-known claim in early Christianity that the crucified Christ was a skandalon to Jews (1 Cor. 1.23).

As always at this point, there is more work to be done on it before next week, but I wanted to get something up earlier rather than later to provide an opportunity for comments, which will be gratefully received.

Update (Tuesday, 17.45): second draft now uploaded, with some minor corrections and some additional bibliography. With some kind help, I managed to get most of my boxes of books opened yesterday and dug out a few things I'd wanted to re-read on the topic, with more of the same still to come.

Update (Thursday, 00.47): Third draft uploaded, with some additions and clarifications, and a little more bibliography.

Update (13 June 2006, 1.43): paper removed; it has been revised and submitted for publication.

Reduced Nativity Story

This morning's Sunday programme on Radio 4 announced a competition for Christmas to create a "Reduced Nativity Story":
Nativity Story competition
After the success of the Limerick competition in last year's Christmas programme, this year we're asking you to get your creative juices flowing by writing in with a "Reduced Nativity Story". Judged by Adam Long from the Reduced Shakespeare Company, we're asking listeners to write the Nativity Story in 30 seconds - for most of us that's about ninety words. There'll be a prize for the best one, and we'll read out the shortlisted ones throughout the programme.

The Americanization of Emily

Here's a new blog of particular interest to Brits in America:

The Americanization of Emily

The author is a certain Viola and the theme of the blog is "my take on relocating from the UK to the USA -- Pros and Cons, Dos and Don'ts, Loves and Hates". The title comes from the 1964 film starring Julie Andrews.

Did I mention that Viola is my wife?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Q sceptical Brits?

Over on one of my favourite blogs, The Busybody, Loren Rosson has an interesting post based on Akenson's Saint Saul:

Q: Sceptical Brits, Credulous Americans

Among other things, Loren asks:
Akenson's book was published only months before Mark Goodacre's Case Against Q -- the book which, on second reading, finally persuaded me to give up my belief in Q. I wonder what Mark thinks of Akenson's contrast between the continents, especially now that he's been transplanted to U.S. soil. Do the Brits have an edge on us here? Is it a coincidence that the three most formidable challenges to Q have come out of the U.K.? Do Americans, on the whole, need more skepticism and less credulity?
Thanks for reading my book, Loren. On this question, what I think is that all such broad-sweep characterizations are pretty useless. At best, the exceptions are so great that they render the generalizations invalid. Take the International Q Project, for example. Its strength is that it is just that -- international. Of course it is dominated by North America, but then so is everything else -- it's just that there are more American scholars out there. Or take the fact that Michael Goulder's Q scepticism has, on the whole, persuaded only a handful of Brits. Look at his peers, the great senior British NT scholars like Morna Hooker, Jimmy Dunn, Graham Stanton, Christopher Tuckett, David Catchpole, Howard Marshall, John Riches. Which of these has been persuaded by Goulder? Sadly, not a single one.

I don't think it's anything to do with great credulity or anything like that. If being on US soil has persuaded me of any generalization, it is that you can't generalize. Many of my own preconceptions about America and Americans, good and bad, have been overturned in the last two months. In any case, bear in mind that America too has produced Q sceptics, James Hardy Ropes, Morton Scott Enslin, Edward Hobbs, E. P. Sanders. I suppose that the interesting question for me is: why have these been just as unsuccessful in persuading people as the Brits mentioned? The answer is complex, and to some extent it is a thing I try to answer in the first chapter of The Case Against Q. Essentially, I think it comes down to strategy, palatability and plausibility. Farrer was no tactician (he did not think about strategy); Goulder has problems with palatability (the perceived unattractiveness of the associated claims); yet both had an essentially plausible thesis, which is why the seeds that they have sown are bearing fruit, perhaps not yet one hundredfold, but bearing fruit nonetheless.

Update (Sunday, 22.58): AKMA comments
Wasn’t it you, Mark, who proposed the Q skepticism in the U.S. tended toward the neo-Griesbach School (Farmer, Dungan, Longstaff, Peabody) whereas in the U.K. Q skepticism tended toward the Farrer-Goulder approach?

Certainly Q skepticism has a long, persistent tradition on these shores; it’s a little odd to hear that the Atlantic Isles might have an edge on us. . . .
Yes, I have certainly spent some time outlining the extent to which the dominant alternative to the Two-Source Theory in North America has been Griesbach (e.g. Case Against Q, Chapter 1). I suppose that I am being a little possessive about the term "Q scepticism" since I see Ropes, Farrer, Goulder, Franklin, Green, Drury et al as true "Q sceptics" in that they are strong Marcan Priorists, whereas the neo-Griesbach theory is sceptical not only about the existence of Q but also about Marcan Priority. I tend to think of the Griesbach theory as pivoting around their rejection of Marcan Priority rather than around their rejection of Q. The latter is something of a by-product, no? In the end, I don't suppose that that matters very much, but I hope that it goes some way to elucidating the language in my comments above.

Jesus: Stranger from heaven, Man from heaven or Son of Man?

Over on Euangelion, Michael Bird has an interesting post on a variant in John 3.13, "the Son of Man who is in heaven". I'd be interested to hear more about this from the experts. But it reminds me of a variant in the secondary literature that I found this week, and a story connected with the book there mentioned.

I have been lecturing on John this week, and on Friday we were looking at John's Christology. Naturally, I spent some time exploring Wayne Meeks's classic article, “The Man from heaven in Johannine Sectarianism”, JBL 91 (1972): 44-72, reprinted in John Ashton (ed.), The Interpretation of John (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1997): 169-206, which I regard as the desert-island-article of Johannine studies (i.e. if you only had one article that you could take, which would it be?). Anyway, I noticed Stephen Barton, "Can we identify the Gospel audiences?" in Richard Bauckham (ed.), The Gospels for All Christians: Rethinking the Gospel Audiences (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998): 173-94 refers to Meeks's classic article on 190 first by its correct title, and then twice under the incorrect title "The Son of Man in Johannine Sectarianism" (190, nn. 42-43).

Barton's variant reminds me of a story John Ashton used to tell about Wayne Meeks, viz. that he would refer to his own article, "Man from heaven . . . .", as "Stranger from heaven . . . .", apparently confusing the title of his piece with the title of Marinus de Jonge's 1977 book, Jesus: Stranger from Heaven and Son of God: Jesus Christ and the Christians in Johannine Perspective (SBLSBS, 11; Missoula: Scholars Press, 1977). I wonder if there is any truth in this?

Update (Sunday, 17.13): don't miss Ulrich Schmid's comments to this post.

Update (Monday, 09.14): Many thanks to David Mackinder in comments for the actual reference to Meeks's reference to his own article as "Stranger from heaven . . . ": "The simple answer is yes: have a look at p. 267 of the 1983 original edition of The First Urban Christians!"

Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films

Also on Codex Blogspot is a post on the Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films. It refers to a list on the Arts and Faith message board:

The 2005 Top 100 Arts and Faith Spiritually Significant Films

There are some interesting choices, not that I would want to compile even a top 10 under such a title. I am always surprised by just how much people seem to love Pasolini's Gospel According to Matthew, which comes in at 7 here. It's nice to see The Miracle Maker up there at 23, though. I was surprised to find out that none of my Intro New Testament class here had even heard of it.

Goliath's Cereal Bowl discovered

The prize for the most entertaining post on the recent important archaeological find goes to Tyler Williams on Codex Blogspot:

Giant Pickle's Goliath's Cereal Bowl Discovered

And there are some useful links to sources of information on the find, including the relevant blog posts.

SBL CARG Biblioblog Session: Relevant Posts

Further to my previous two posts (Resources for the SBL CARG Biblioblog Session and SBL CARG Biblioblog Session), I would like to draw attention to some relevant blog posts. Please let me know of useful ones I've missed.

What Should We Talk About? (on Ralph)
. . . . One thing I hope we don't talk about is the term "biblioblogger." There the term is, and we're stuck with it. And I hope we don't discuss "what is a biblioblogger," or the forgery scandal, or minimalism, or the historical Jesus, or what our desks look like, or which character from the Simpsons we are, or such worthy-but-irrelevant topics.

What Would Jesus Blog? (on NT Gateway)

This short post generated a series of interesting replies, including:

"God-Blog" or "Biblioblog". What's The Distinction? (on Biblical Theology)
. . . . To put it another way, in terms of magazines: "God blogs" are the "People" magazine of religion and religious studies while "biblioblogs" are the "Expository Times". The people interested in "People" are very likely, if they are of a religious bent, to read the "God-blogs" while the readers of Expository Times (Or JBL or CBQ or ZAW) would more likely be interested in biblioblogs. (By the way, as to which biblioblog is akin to which learned Journal I will leave to the readers decision).

CARG Biblioblogging Session @ SBL (on Sansblogue)
. . . . What's the use of blogging to a biblical scholar? or Why bother? Because if we can't answer that one we might as well all stay home, and carry on blogging...

(Would we then be "blogging a dead horse"?)
Mark Goodacre on the "God-blogging" phenomenon and academic blogs [I think this post may have been removed; it was on Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean blog]

This latter post was followed up by Tim Bulkeley on Sansblogue, Who is a biblioblogger?. See too:

jesus and biblioblogging, history and theology (from The Stuff of Earth).

See also on Deinde:

Who reads biblioblogs?
. . . . I do wonder if the 'ideal' of academics connecting with the public is actually being played out (this is a genuine question, not a rhetorical one). For instance, has Paleojudaica or any of the other biblioblogs been 'cited for clarification' in the media? Or has any of the bibliobloggers actually done a poll of its readers?
Update (23.29): On Bible Software Review Weblog, Rubén Gómez comments on Rick Brannan's paper.

Resources for SBL CARG biblioblog session

In my previous post, I began brainstorming about the session on biblioblogs scheduled for the SBL's CARG next week. Here are some of the resources that might help to guide and stimulate further thought:

The Blogosphere as a Carnival of Ideas
From: The Chronicle of Higher Education 7 October 2005
. . . . Others, perhaps the majority, see blogging as an extension of their academic personas. Their blogs allow them not only to express personal views but also to debate ideas, swap views about their disciplines, and connect to a wider public. For these academics, blogging isn't a hobby; it's an integral part of their scholarly identity. They may very well be the wave of the future.
This is a useful article, which I first saw mentioned on Paleojudaica. It touches on many of the issues already mentioned, and asks how blogging fits into the academic's career, workload, output and public perception.

Bloggers Need Not Apply
We've seen the hapless job seekers who destroy the good thing they've got going on paper by being so irritating in person that we can't wait to put them back on a plane. Our blogger applicants came off reasonably well at the initial interview, but once we hung up the phone and called up their blogs, we got to know "the real them" -- better than we wanted, enough to conclude we didn't want to know more.
This is also from the Chronicle of Higher Education, from 8 July 2005, and is a distinctly discouraging view of the potential problems with young academics blogging. I first spotted this on Ralph the Sacred River and Ed has a bunch of interesting links and comments at the bottom of the post.

Assimilated to the Blogosphere: Blogging Ancient Judaism
James R. Davila

This article appeared on the SBL Forum (April 2005) [Repeated note: the SBL Forum still does not have a browsable archive of past editions -- this really needs fixing]. It's an excellent series of reflections on Jim's experiences of writing Paleojudaica.

Biblioblog Problems and Solutions: PastoralEpistles.com as a Sandbox
Rick Brannan

This paper is written for the forthcoming session.

Do others have useful suggestions? In my next post, I would like to gather some individual blog posts on the topic that are worth reading again.

SBL CARG Biblioblog Session

Now that sounds incomprensible to the outsider, doesn't it? It stands for Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting Computer Assisted Research Section [Group], which has a session on Sunday 21st November on biblioblog, which might loosely be defined as a blog that focuses on the academic study of the Bible and related topics.

Here are the programme details:
Computer Assisted Research
9:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Room: Room 411 & 412 - Marriott

Theme: The Pleasures, Pains and Prospects for Biblioblogging

The phenomenon of "blogging", the maintenance of a regular online journal or weblog, has proliferated massively in recent times. As in all areas of life, political, religious, cultural, art, entertainment and media, so too in the area of academic Biblical Studies, the blog is an informative, innovative, up-to-the-minute way of discovering more about the subject, discussing the latest developments, interacting on controversial topics and enjoying the lighter side of the discipline. These "biblioblogs" are now widely consulted by those in the guild, and are contributing something of interest and intelligence. But what is the future of the biblioblogs? What is their scope for development? This session gathers together a panel of pioneers in this area.

Mark Goodacre, University of Birmingham, Presiding

James Davila, University of St. Andrews, Scotland
Enter the BiblioBloggers (20 min)

R.W. Brannan, Logos Bible Software
PastoralEpistles.com: Biblioblog? Annotated bibliography? Or Something in Between?(20 min)

Panel Discussion (80 min):

A.K.M. Adam, Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, Panelist
Tim Bulkeley, University of Aukland, Panelist
Stephen Carlson, Fairfax, VA, Panelist
Edward Cook, Cincinnati, OH, Panelist
Torrey Seland, Volda University College, Panelist
James West, Quartz Hill School of Theology, Panelist

The panel discussion is the thing I'd like to spend a little time brainstorming. First off, we will of course discuss issues arising directly from Rick's and Jim's papers. Rick's is already available to read here:

Biblioblog Problems and Solutions: PastoralEpistles.com as a Sandbox

and Jim's is forthcoming. But what else? Some brainstorming suggestions:

1. What is a biblioblog and are we bibliobloggers?
The term "biblioblog" originated in a comment made by David Meadows on RogueClassicism and it was gradually, and not without reluctance in some parts, adopted by those Meadows was describing. But what is a biblioblog? Is it a useful term? I am interested here in the variety represented on the panel, not least to get some of AKMA's Random Thoughts, since he has been blogging far longer than anyone else on the panel, but relatively rarely on Biblical Studies related topics. I am also interested to get some of Jim Davila's thoughts, since I regard him as the pioneer in this area. Paleojudaica was unquestionably the direct catalyst for my beginning blogging.

2. Who does it?
I am interested in the mix among the authors of the biblioblogs, from academics (what Americans call "professors"), to graduate students, to pastors, to gifted and enthusiastic independent scholars. Each group is very well represented, and it may account for the success of the biblioblogs, in particular the way that they interact with each other so well.

3. Why do we do it?
Self indulgence? Big-headedness? Altruism? Desire to communicate our scholarship to a wider public? Writing practice? Trying out ideas?

4. What do we think we are doing?
What justifications do we give for blogging?

5. What is our readership, actual and ideal?
I am sure that we all get some kind of feel for our readership through the comments we receive on blog entries, through emails and so on.

6. "Does your wife read your blog?"
As I once asked on a blog entry. In other words, we need to deal with the gender issue: why so few female bloggers. And this might also be the heading to deal with the question of what we blog about. How much personal detail is desirable / acceptable? This is one I often grapple with. In general, I have resisted personal posts, yet found that when I opened my travel diary on coming to North Carolina, I had more comments and enthusiastic responses than ever.

7. Networking and Interaction
How far do we see ourselves as a network, with our own distinctive emphases and interests, but with overlap and complimentarity?

8. How many more biblioblogs?
Just how far can we expand? At what point do we fragment and specialize to the extent that it becomes quite impossible to read everyone's biblioblog? Are we already at that point now? What if everyone blogged?!

9. What about team blogging?
Team blogs are on the rise. Is this the future for biblioblogging? What advantages do the team blogs have over the solitary blog?

Well, they are some of my thoughts about what we could talk about. In my next post, I'd like to pool some useful resources for discussion.

Update (17.08): Jim West comments on Biblical Theology, suggesting a tenth:

10. Can, and should, blogging become a teaching tool alongside classwork, coursework, and supplemental website work?

I must admit to having toyed with the idea of team-blogging as an element in student assignment for a given course, but have never experimented with it. I know others have. I wonder with what results?

(Jim's little extra refers to one of my non-highlights of the week, failing my North Carolina road test. When I told a colleague here, he told me that it didn't make me a bad person. And I would like to point out that I performed brilliantly on the written test. Mind you, it's not that difficult.)

Update (20.21): Joe Weaks comments on the Macintosh Biblioblog.

Update (Sunday, 16.38): Jim West has more on Biblical Theology:
11- Can We As Bibliobloggers contribute to the education of the wider public concerning archaeological discoveries and biblical studies by counteracting the misinformation often found in the Press.

What I mean by this of course is the fact that the news reports concerning "The Birth of Jesus" for instance (a la the dreadful DaVinci nonsense) and the finding of "proof of Goliath" for another offer bibliobloggers the opportunity to debunk the misstatements of the press. It seems to be a pressing need and one that many are simply overlooking.
Update (Sunday, 16.42): Michael Pahl comments in The Stuff of Earth. It's all worth reading, in particular:
How many more biblioblogs? I think there's always room for more blogs, and there are always more readers entering the world of the internet and the blogosphere. I do think, however, that an increase in blogging among academics, especially well-established scholars, would inevitably result in increased specialization and a blogging hierarchy, which would then result in a more well-defined readership among the various blogs. Even now, when I want to access the latest high-quality info and opinion on biblical studies matters, there are only a few blogs I'll go to. I read other blogs because they provide stimulating ideas, or clever commentary, or interesting "personality," or whatever.
Update (Sunday, 19.41): Tim Bulkeley comments on Sansblogue.