“Mark, wanting to make a theological point, locates the event in a place whose name is associated with casting out demons – the language, as Marcus points out, does kinda support this. This strengthens the exorcism theme of the pericope– seems legit. A few years later, Matthew, using Mark as a source for his own gospel, either misses Mark’s theological point or wants to achieve something else with his text and attempts to “correct” the event’s location. He deals with a remaining issue by locating the herd “some distance away” rather than on the hillside next to the lake. Around 150 years later Origen comes along, and, knowing that Matthew’s attempted fix isn’t watertight, relocates the event to Gergasa based on what is probably an ancient tradition.” – @bibhistctxt
- Last month @MiraScriptura interviewed biblical scholar Tzemah Yoreh on topics including the Supplementary Hypothesis, his academic work (the guy is working on a second PhD), New Testament source criticism (i.e. the Synoptic Problem), and more. @MiraScriptura utilizes Yoreh’s website when working on his mirror reading material and so I know that he was excited to get to interview him!
- @Bibhistctxt wrote a piece covering the geographic issues inherent to both the Markan and Matthean versions of the exorcism of Legion (Mark 5:1-20; Matthew 8:28-34). The central issue is over the location of Gerasa (Mark) and Gadara (Matthew) and their relationship to the Sea of Galilee. The portrait painted in Mark is that the exorcism happens on the shores of the Sea such that when the demon-possessed pigs rush off the cliff they don’t have to run very far. Matthew apparently recognized this problem in Mark and changed the town to Gadara but even this doesn’t help as much as you’d think. And then there are textual variants and interpretations of early Christian writers! It’s a freakin’ mess!
- I got behind in @StudyofChrist’s ongoing series covering the book of Isaiah but I’m nearly caught up! Here is what I’ve watched recently.
- His video on Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Isaiah 8:1) covers the attack of Assyria on Israel in the eighth century BCE. Maher-shalal-hash-baz means something like “rush to the spoils” and is intended to be a preview of how the Assyrians will carry off the spoils of Israel in war (8:4).
- The next video begins to cover the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem during the reign of Hezekiah. One prominent figure that plays a central role in all of this is Merodach-baladan who, as @StudyofChrist points out, foments rebellion against Assyria which leads ultimately to the siege on Jerusalem.
- The siege itself, described in both the book of Isaiah and in Assyrian records, is the topic of the next video. My favorite part is all the trash-talk between the Assyrian king’s representative and the king of Judah which amounts to, “Hey, your army sucks and your god will be of no help to you.” He also teases that we have three sources for the siege: the Hebrew Bible, Assyrian records, and Herodotus (with Egyptian records).
- Back in November Candida Moss wrote a piece on the Pericope Adulterae (i.e. John 7:53 – 8:11). In it she discusses a new book that has come out on the text entitled To Cast the First Stone: The Transmission of a Gospel Story. As Moss discusses, the book shows that the pericope has long been noted as missing from manuscripts of John’s Gospel. This was first observed in the fourth century but it apparently was a significant issue. The pericope’s varying interpretation has made it a classic and Moss’ piece discussing it and To Cast the First Stone is a great introduction to it.
- Does morality depend on God’s existence? This is the question Jason Thibodeau answers in a post from November of last year. The argument he puts forward is based on the suffering of children caused by torture. Step-by-step he shows that torturing a child is morally wrong for reasons that are valid whether or not God exists.
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“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 History.com 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.
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“Israel did not ‘believe’ in dragons anymore than their neighbors did. When Israel says God defeated the dragon, they use this myth in two ways. Most of the time, as in Psalm 74; Isaiah 27:1, where the dragon is named Leviathan just as in the Canaanite myth; and Isaiah 51:9, they are saying, ‘Whatever you Canaanites mean when you say ‘Our god defeated the dragon’–it’s true of our God, not yours. Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is the one who defeated the dragon, whatever that means.’” – Robert Miller II
- @StudyofChrist’s video on the identity of Immanuel in Isaiah 7 is superb. He analyzes the text, draws from commentaries, and shows that at least in the context of Isaiah the reference is to a child born in the 8th century BCE and not Jesus. The video is longer than usual but it is well worth the twenty minutes it would take to watch it.
- Back in October of 2018 Robert Miller II wrote a short piece for ANE Today on “Dragons in the Bible and Beyond.” He notes that dragon myths typically involve a conflict between the dragon and a storm deity. In the Baal Cycle the Litan is the creature Baal defeats, a beast who is depicted as a “fleeing serpent” (cf. Isaiah 27:1). Considering how often dragons appear in some form or fashion in prophetic literature, this is an excellent introductory article. Miller has also written a book on the topic entitled The Dragon, the Mountain, and the Nations: An Old Testament Myth, Its Origins, and Its Afterlives.
- New Testament scholar Michael Bird has a brief review of Donald Hagner’s latest book How New is the New Testament: First Century Judaism and the Emergence of Christianity. I have benefited from Hagner’s commentary on the Gospel of Matthew and will hopefully get my hands on this volume in the near future. Bird notes that this volume is based on lectures Hagner gave in the Philippines and that in their written form the author suggests that Christianity is not something other than Judaism but is rather “the fulfillment of Judaism.” Perhaps, but I would be interested in seeing how my Jewish friends might view such a position.
- Phil Long over at Reading Acts posted a short piece on whether Saul’s encounter with Jesus in Acts 9 constitutes a call or a conversion. He writes, “Using modern Christian categories like “conversion” and “call” to describe Paul’s experience is a mistake. Paul’s experience in Acts 9 is quite unique in salvation history.” He also notes that while some have tried to place Paul’s theology within the spectrum of Judaism, this misses the radical nature of some of Paul’s teachings.
- A couple of years ago Pete Enns wrote a brief post over on his website on how the biblical genealogies were not intended to convey “history” but rather something else. He writes, “The biblical writers were not ‘historians’ writing ‘accounts’ of the past. They were storytellers accessing past tradition to say something about their present. That includes genealogies.” Amen.
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“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
- @StudyofChrist has begun a series covering the book of Isaiah and offers an overview, a look at the Syro-Ephramite War, and the prophecy of Isaiah 7:1-9 as it relates to the identity of Shear-jashub. What I know about the book of Isaiah could maybe fill half of a 3×5 card and so I’ve found his work personally beneficial. And all this steps from answering the question of whether Isaiah predicted a virgin birth.
- Scholar of the Hebrew Bible Francesca Stavrakopoulou’s 2011 series The Bible’s Buried Secrets is available to watch on Netflix in the US. The first episode on King David explores the historicity of the character and looks at the archaeological evidence for both David and the notion of a united monarchy in the tenth century BCE. The second considers the relationship of Yahweh to the Canaanite pantheon and whether Asherah represents Yahweh’s consort. The final episode looks at the Garden of Eden and the story of Genesis 2-3.
- The January 2019 Biblical Studies Carnival came out on February 1 and was put together by Jim West. (I will be doing the Carnival for August of 2019 so look for that on September 1. You know, right around the corner.)
- @MiraScriptura has come out with his series covering the Northern Elijah and Elisha narratives that appears in the Deuteronomistic History.
- The first episode (#21) introduces the subject emphasizing that this is political propaganda. In that episode he brings up “M,” shorthand for “Miracle Men,” which some have taken to be an independent source that covered the lives of Elisha and Elijah.
- The second episode (#22) covers the narrative concerning Elijah’s escape to the Brook Cherith (1 Kings 17). In the accompanying blog post, @MiraScriptura notes that the narrative “primarily concerned with Elijah’s reputation, his place of residence, what happened at the Brook Cherith, which Elohim he served, and if Yahweh was the Elohim of Israel.”
- The third episode (#23) covers the narrative of the widow at Zarephath (1 Kings 17) and the opposing narrative suggests that not only is the “widow” actually Elijah’s wife but also that he ate the widow’s son because it wasn’t his child since she had apparently cheated on Elijah. In the accompanying blog post he suggests that the Hebrew verb in 17:21 translated as “he stretched himself” would imply that the opposing narrative intended to convey the idea that Elijah was measuring the boy in preparation to eat him. It is true that mādad is used to refer to measuring out distances, etc., but here in 17:21 the verb is ytmdd, a Hithpael imperfect form of mādad and is therefore reflexive action. Perhaps the opposing narrative had employed some other verbal form.
- I will be listening to the rest of the episodes in the coming week and will include them in the next Roundup so stay tuned!
- @Paulogia0 recently posted a video offering a non-supernatural explanation for the origin of Christianity. Of note is his claim that the early disciples, especially Peter, had a vision of Jesus born from the grief (and perhaps guilt) that he experienced in the wake of Jesus’ unexpected death. I’m not sure if Paul has read Gerd Luedemann’s The Resurrection of Jesus: History, Experience, Theology (Fortress Press, 1994) but this is a view that Luedemann himself endorses and one I find plausible or at least more likely than resurrection. One correction to offer: Saul the persecutor did not change his name to Paul. Saul was his Hebrew/Aramaic name and Paul his Greek.
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“The dude really needs to sit down and read something beyond McDowell, because at the moment his knowledge of scholarly consensus and methodology (and the evidence at hand) is enormously dime store apologist level.”
– Chris Hansen on J Warner Wallace
- Over at his website Biblical Historical Context, blogger and Twitter user @bibhistctxt has a post up on whether the author the epistle of Jude used the apocryphal 1 Enoch in places like Jude 1:14-15. Virtually every biblical scholar except the ultra-conservatives (i.e. John MacArthur) agree that in the background of the text of Jude is 1 Enoch and @bibhistctxt shows why.
- Last week I tweeted out my appreciation for a video from @StudyofChrist that appeared on his YouTube channel on whether the Lukan genealogy of Jesus is about Mary’s line, a claim made frequently by pop-apologists to reconcile the Matthean and Lukan genealogies. But I wanted to include it in a Weekly Roundup also so here it is! It was great and as I related in a comment on the video, this is one I plan on keeping in my back pocket for any future discussions with pop-apologists using the argument.
- Chris Hansen () has begun a series briefly taking pop-apologist J Warner Wallace to task for his shoddy work in Cold-Case Christianity. In his first post, Hansen goes over some of Wallace’s outlandish material, including his suggestion that unbelieving scholars place the writing of the canonical Gospels in the second century. In the second post, Hansen deals with Wallace’s intrusion of his experience as a cold-case detective into investigating the nature of the Gospel accounts. These posts are relatively short and do a good job of nailing Wallace to the wall for his “terrabad” work.
- Bill Mounce asks the question everyone is asking – Why do translators use the singular “net” in Mark 1:16 when the word is plural in 1:17? I must confess, that is puzzling. My translation of 1:16 reads, “And walking along the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting nets in the Sea, for they were fishers.” As Mounce explains, there is no direct object that follows “casting” and so it is implied by the context. But considering the context includes 1:17 where the word for “net” is plural, it is strange that translations don’t insert a plural “net” in 1:16.
- In a paper that appeared two weeks ago in the Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Hans Moscicke discusses the exorcism of the demoniac of Gerasa from Mark 5:1-20 and its relationship to the scapegoat traditions of the Second Temple period. Interestingly, and somewhat related to @bibhisttcxt’s post on the relationship of Jude and 1 Enoch, the pericope in Mark seems to have borrowed imagery from the book of 1 Enoch as well, specifically the so-called Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 1-36) and Moscicke discusses this and the relevant scholarship on the subject.
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“I think we have to allow that John’s Gospel differs from the Synoptic Gospels in this fundamental respect: it is not an attempt to remember the historical Jesus; it is an attempt to restate the significance of the historical Jesus from a later theological vantage point, shaped in particular by a bitter controversy with the Jews.”
– Andrew Perriman.
- While cooking dinner the other night I was able to get caught up on @StudyofChrist’s series on the Lukan genealogy. In three videos he covered the issue of Arni and Admin (Luke 3:33), the problem of patriarchal names (i.e. Simeon, Judah, Joseph; 3:29-30), and the identification of Neri and Rhesa (3:27). I love the fact that @StudyofChrist is more than willing to buck the scholarly trend if he finds their arguments lacking. This tells me he is thinking through what he’s talking about rather than just parroting what he’s read. Follow him on Twitter and subscribe to his channel!
- Over at The Daily Beast, biblical scholar Candida Moss has written a short piece asking the question, “Did Christian Historians Exaggerate Persecution by the Romans?” In it she examines the claim by Eusebius that Christians were sent to mine in Phaeno, a city in the southern Levant, and that while there many were killed for their faith. Recent archaeological evidence done by anthropologist Megan Perry suggests that this probably wasn’t the case. In all likelihood, this is yet another example of Christians exaggerating the ways in which Rome persecuted the faithful.
- I don’t post to it at all and I really should because the Biblical Studies Carnival is a fantastic monthly resource that offers links to a variety of material from many different biblical scholars covering topics related to the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and more. The November 2018 Carnival was put together by Bob MacDonald, a software engineer with a passion for biblical studies, particularly the Hebrew scriptures. There are some really great links in MacDonald’s Carnival but two stood out to me: Andrew Perriman’s “Why did the Jews accuse Jesus of making himself equal to God?” and a new translation of the books of 1-2 Samuel by William Whitt (which you can download as a PDF).
- In searching for free resources related to biblical studies for my iPad I came across some that are pretty darn useful. One of them is an app called “Greek Kit” that can create a list of all the Greek words – nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc. – that appear in a section of the Greek New Testament and give you a complete run down of each with their meaning. And if you’d rather not have all the words, you can select by type (i.e. 1st declension nouns or contract verbs or particles) and by frequency (ranging from all words to those that appear only two times). Some features of the app are locked and are only available by purchase but this basic feature is helpful because you can take the list of words and then select “Review” and it will go through each word in a slideshow. Beginning students of New Testament Greek can benefit from this tool as would seasoned veterans.
- (Print-Only): The December 2018 issue of American History featured a fantastic article on George Washington entitled “Don’t Print the Legend” by Peter Henriques of George Mason University. We are all familiar with the myths that have developed around Washington: the chopping down of the cherry tree, the prayer at Valley Forge, and so on. But these are myths about Washington that have no basis in solid evidence.For example, the story of a young Washington chopping down the cherry tree and fessing up to his inquiring father was first told by Parson Mason Locke Weems in his sixth edition of The Life of Washington. Evangelical historian Peter Lillback, in a bid to rescue the story from the claims of skeptical historians, wrote in his biography of Washington entitled Sacred Fire that a German-made vase which appeared at some point during the American Revolution showed Washington as a young boy holding a hatchet next to a tree with the initials “GW” nearby. However, Henriques followed up and found the vase and it doesn’t say “GW” but “CW.” And the individual painted on the vase is a man, not a boy, and the tree isn’t even a cherry tree! Henriques writes, “In short, this container has absolutely nothing to do with George Washington.”As a side note, I met Lillback in 2010 or 2011 when he was at a Presbytery meeting in Mississippi for the Presbyterian domination wherein I served as a youth pastor. His book on Washington was on sale at the meeting but I never had any desire to pick it up. By that time I had long been disabused of my David Barton informed beliefs about the Founding Fathers. If memory serves, he gave a brief talk at the meeting but I wasn’t all that impressed.
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“The death of the messiah [in Mark’s Gospel], at the hour of the cross, is the advent of the υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, who has come with great power and glory (13:26).”
– Danny Yencich
- On 11.25.18 Twitter users @Shann_Q0 and @paulogia0 had a discussion with pop-apologist SJ Thomason covering a wide-range of topics including Gospel authorship, the historicity of the Resurrection, the growth of Christianity, and more. I think both Shannon and Paul did a pretty good job of sticking to the facts and resting their laurels on a lot of New Testament scholarship. Thomason, on the other hand, offers the same pat answers that the pop-apologists she reads give. Also, Thomason seems to be easily distracted and I’ve noticed this in other YouTube conversations, her Twitter posts, and even in her blog posts. In any event, I really appreciate the work that Shannon and Paul put into the conversation with Thomason. They both come across as very genuine, humble, and knowledgeable people. Not bad for a couple of heathens!
- Twitter user and blogger @apetivist wrote a blog post entitled “The Problem of Evil or Suffering by Apetivist.” It isn’t intended to be a thorough discussion of the problem of evil but it does raise some interesting points. For example, often Christians employ a free will defense in a bid to rescue God’s omnibenevolence. But as Apetevist points out, many of those same Christians believe that in the future eschaton all sin and evil will be purged from the world. If that’s the case, why couldn’t God keep and maintain such a world now? Therefore, God’s omnibenevolence is questionable.
- Over on his YouTube channel @StudyofChrist is working through the genealogy of Luke’s Gospel, addressing specific errors within the text. I was able to work through three: “All the alleged Errors in Luke’s Genealogy,” “Why is there an extra Cainan in Luke’s Genealogy? part 1,” and “Why is there an extra Cainan in Luke’s Genealogy? part 2.“ As he is wont to do, @StudyofChrist goes deep into both biblical texts, ancient manuscripts, and extrabiblical sources. His is fascinating work. Like and subscribe to his work if you haven’t already!
- Self-professed Bible “nerd” Daniel Kirk did an interview with Pete Enns and Jared Byas on their The Bible For Normal People podcast discussing my favorite book of the Bible: the Gospel of Mark. There’s plenty of neat tidbits about the social circumstances in which the Gospel was written and how the narrative structure works within it.
- Danny Yencich, a PhD student in New Testament and Christian Origins at the University of Denver, wrote a piece last year in the Stone-Cambell Journal entitled “Sowing the Passion at Olivet: Mark 13-15 in a Narrative Frame.” The gist of the piece is that Mark 13, traditionally seen as an entirely apocalyptic passage, may in fact be foreshadowing the events that take place in the Passion narrative. This view isn’t unique to Yencich but he does succinctly put together the evidence for such a view and it is one that I find intriguing. While undoubtedly the Olive Discourse is apocalyptic in nature, a fact that Yencich essentially concedes, there are particular words and phrases that evoke the Passion narrative that follows. These include the use of the verb paradidōmi (13:9), the idea of “eschatological darkness” (13:24), and more.
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