The Weekly Roundup – 4.5.19

“One would certainly not expect any literary reference to Christians or Christianity or Jesus himself in Roman authors of the first century.  Christianity was simply a tiny (TINY) religious movement that no one had heard of.  Most Romans would not even have heard the name Christian until probably the middle or end of the second century, well over a century after the movement started.” – Bart Ehrman

  • Biblical scholar David Glatt-Gilad addresses the issue as to why Elijah is able to sacrifice to Yahweh at an altar other than the one in Jerusalem. The Deuteronomic law prohibited sacrificing anywhere except the one designated by God which just so happened to be at the temple of Solomon. Yet in 1 Kings 18 Elijah sacrifices to Yahweh upon Mount Carmel in his famous contest with the prophets of Baal. How is this possible? Glatt-Gilad briefly discusses the rabbinic interpretations for this issue and then goes over some historical-critical responses to it.
  • @bibhistctx has continued his series on Israelite origins with a post on the Late Bronze Age collapse. As he points out, the consequences of this event are enormous but provided the opportunity for a people group like the Israelites to arise. His summary of the influence the Peleset people (i.e. Philistines) had on Egypt is vital to understanding their role in the biblical texts, including anachronistically in the book of Genesis. They loom large in Israelite memory.
  • Last year in The Journal of Theological Studies New Testament scholar Max Botner published a piece addressing Mark 2:25-26 entitled “Has Jesus Read What David Did? Probing Problems in Mark 2:25-26.” It is an interesting take on how we should understanding Jesus’ citing of scripture to support his disciples’ actions. There is much I disagree with but it is a well written and well thought out piece on the text. (See my post covering the same passage.)
  • About three years ago Justin Scheiber produced a video on the Real Atheology YouTube channel discussing the problem of divine hiddenness. For those unfamiliar with the problem, it is an argument against theism which asserts that the existence of sincere unbelief is incompatible with a God who wants to be known by and in a relationship with humans. The existence of sincere unbelief is contested by many Christians a la Romans 1:20. However, most reasonable people would agree that there are those who do not believe in God’s existence and that they do so for rational reasons.
  • Over on his blog Bart Ehrman posted an interview he did with on non-Christian sources for the existence of Jesus. He brings up Josephus, Tacitus, and others. It is a good little post discussing why we can be relatively certain there was a historical Jesus.

Featured image: Wikimedia Commons.


The Weekly Roundup – 2.8.19

“The assertion by the opposing narrative that Elijah’s wife was a prostitute and later, that Elijah ate her son, does seem a little over the top and may indicate that the opposing narrative itself was propaganda and was responding to an even earlier narrative. But that is a mirror-reading of a mirror-reading, and it’s difficult to say with any certainty.” – @MiraScriptura

Featured image: Wikimedia Commons. 

Musings on Mark: John the Locust Eater

καὶ ἦν ὁ Ἰωάννης ἐνδεδυμένος τρίχας καμήλου καὶ ζώνην δερματίνην περὶ τὴν ὀσφὺν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐσθίων ἀκρίδας καὶ μέλι ἄγριον.
Mark 1:6

I have a memory of ten-year old me riding on my bike in my neighborhood and accidentally inhaling a fly. For some reason, I remember that it tasted like lemonade as it went down. Did I drink lemonade before going on that bike ride? I cannot recall. But the memory is there, stuck in my mind.

Now, I don’t normally ingest bugs either accidentally or on purpose. Occasionally I’ll eat mud bugs (Southerners should know what those are) but even then it is only on very rare occasions. But in Mark 1:6 we read about someone who made it a habit of eating bugs: John the Baptist.

An Old Testament Prophet in the New

The description Mark gives us of John the Baptist should be a relatively familiar one. He is described as being “clothed with camel hair” and wearing “a leather belt around his waist” and his diet consisted of “locusts and wild honey.” John looks like other prophets in Hebrew literature. For example, the prophet Elijah is described in the Hebrew Bible as one who “wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather around his waist.” (2 King 1:8) In fact, the imagery Mark uses is deliberately supposed to remind the reader of Elijah as the prophecy of verse 2 comes from Malachi 3:1, and Malachi 3:1 was regularly read in conjunction with Malachi 4:5-6.

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction. (ESV)

Later in Mark’s gospel, the disciples ask Jesus, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come [before the rising from the dead]?” Jesus responds,

Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.” (9:11-13)

By this time, John had been killed by Herod (Mark 6:14-29).

So Mark’s description of John is meant to evoke images of Elijah the prophet. But what about John’s diet? Elijah is not described as eating either locusts or wild honey. The simplest answer may be that this is the kind of food you eat in the wilderness. It also speaks to the simplicity with which John lives. He is dressed in the garb of a prophet and does not eat the lavish meals of royalty. He is a simple man. He is God’s prophet.

John’s role in Mark’s Gospel is one of prophecy. He is a preacher, first and foremost, delivering a message of repentance to the people. He also prepares the way for the Messiah, Jesus the Son of God. And, as in Malachi, his calling is to draw people back together and to restore peace before the dreadful day of the LORD comes.