Monotheism Is the Subject of the Month!

More discussion on the blogs
During October a couple of postings have been made on the subject of Monotheism, to which I have since referred. Now, Chris Tilling of Chrisendom, a graduate student at Tubingen, has also written on this subject and posted some references (about which I have also posted a comment). Of even greater interest is another response to Chris in which Nick Norelli points us to his blog where he has listed a number of articles on the subject. Well done Nick! His is good research, that may even cause some to view monotheism differently. The great difficulty for Christianity is to read Scripture in context and not through a metaphysic of ontology!

Tags: Early Church, Paul, Monothesism, Scripture

Dead Sea Scrolls Again

San Diego exhibition draws more comment

Norman Golb of the University of Chicago has some definite ideas about the origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls. To this end he has written a number of papers critiquing the current presentation in San Diego. While Professor Golb’s ideas have been rejected by most involved in the study of the Scrolls, his views have had an impact and accordingly have altered this area of study. No longer does any serious scholar accept the original idea that they were all written by the community living in Qumran. Now it is generally accepted that the scrolls were principally written elsewheremost likely in Jerusalemand then brought to Qumran.

However, Golb’s thesis that all the Scrolls were removed from Jerusalem immediately prior to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem has also been overtaken by subsequent study. Scholars at the Hebrew UniversityJerusalem, are now positing what could be categorized as older cavescaves with scrolls deposited at an earlier time, as well as later caveswhere the scrolls were clearly deposited immediately prior to the fall of Jerusalem. Carbon dating of the linen shrouds in which some of the scrolls were wrapped prior to placing in the earthen ware jars have been used to help establish these dates.

In my view, Golb’s latest paper highlights how difficult it is to take a complex issue such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and produce something that will be of genuine interest to the public. Despite the shortcomings that Professor Golb sees in the catalogue, the San Diego Natural History Museum bookstore, conveniently located at the end of the display, is replete with books on the subject. These include Golb’s own book, Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls? The Search for the Secret of Qumran, and others which present arguments that don’t always support the approach taken in the catalogue and display.

Tags: jerusalem, Dead Sea Scrolls, Archaeology, Golb, de Vaux

New Books on the Apostle Paul

Useful introductions to the study of Paul and his writings

Two additional books that I omitted from my posting about reading material on Paul are:

Bassler, Jouette, Navigating Paul: An Introduction to Key Theological Concepts, Louisville: Westminister Johhn Knox Press, 2007

Horrell, David G. An Introduction to the Study of Paul, New York; T&T Clark, 2006

I've added these to the list published last week.

On a personal note, Jouette Bassler was one of my first instructors in graduate school at SMU's Perkins School of Theology.

Tags: Paul, Apostle, Bassler, Horrell


Inscribed rock back in news
Google BlogSearch
Details: Abecedary

The discovery of an inscribed rock located in a wall at an archaeological site in Israel continues to make the news.  TodaysPittsburg Post has an interview with the person in charge of the dig, Professor Ron Tappy.  It appears that Ron Tappy is postulating that the inscription was done for magical reasons rather than scribal practice.  We discussed the inscription here in Vision.

The rock with its alphabetical inscription is also on the program for discussion at the forthcoming ASOR conference in San Diego.

Thanks to Jim Davila of PaleoJudica for the tip.

Tags: Archaeology, israel, ASOR, Abecedary

New Perspective on Paul

Suggested reading:

A friend asked for some recommended titles to read on Paul.  That's a challenge as the number of books written about Paul and his Epistles are the largest collection of books on the Bible in any library. In an attempt to provide some titles, I’ve divided the books into sections ranging from very introductory material to more specific works.

The following give a good introduction for a lay person, and introduce a reader to the issues that are to be considered.  Although largely written in the 90’s, these are still available on line at Amazon as one potential source.  Sometimes they have a later imprint date than the version listed.

Gager, John G. Reinventing PaulOxfordOxford University Press, 2000.

Horrell, David G. An Introduction to the Study of PaulNew York; T&T Clark, 2006

Sanders, E. P. PaulOxfordNew YorkOxford University Press, 1991.

Wenham, David. Paul and Jesus; The True StoryGrand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2002.

Wright, N. Tom. What Saint Paul Said?: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity?CincinnatiOhio: Forward Movement Publications, 1997.

Young, Brad H. Paul the Jewish Theologian: A Pharisee Among Christians, Jews and Gentiles.PeabodyMassachusetts 01961-3473: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997.

To address some of the more specific areas of Paul’s writings, my suggestions include the following.  Although one commentary is listed here, it is more for what is contained in the Appendix to the book, rather than the commentary itself.

Bassler, Jouette, Navigating Paul: An Introduction to Key Theological ConceptsLouisville:Westminster John Knox Press, 2007.

Esler, Philip F. Conflict and Identity in Romans: The Social Setting of Paul's Letter.Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003

Hengel, Martin. The Pre-Christian PaulPhiladelphia: Trinity Press International, Philadelphiaand SCM Press, London, 1991.

Sanders,E. P. Paul, the Law and the Jewish PeopleMinneapolis: Fortress Press, 1983.

Wenham, David. Paul, Founder of Christianity or Follower of ChristMinneapolis: Wm B. Eerdmans, 1995.

Ziesler, J. A. Pauline ChristianityOxfordNew YorkOxford University Press, 1983.

For more advanced study purposes, then I would recommend the following:

Bird, Michael. The Saving Righteousness of God: Studies on Paul, Justification and the New Perspective. Edited by Howard I Marshall, Richard J. Bauckham,  Craig Blomberg, Robert P Gordon and Temper Longman III. Paternoster Biblical Monographs. Milton Keynes: Paternoster Press, 2007.

Hafemann, Scott J. Paul, Moses and the History of Israel: The Letter/Spirit Contrast and the Argument from Scripture in 2 Corinthians 3. Edited by Howard I Marshall,  Richard J. Bauckham,  Craig Blomberg,  Robert P Gordon and  Temper Longman III. Paternoster Biblical Monographs. Milton Keynes: Paternoster Press, 2005.

Tomson, Peter J. Paul and the Jewish Law: Halakha in the Letters of the Apostle to the Gentiles. Van Gorcum, AssenNetherlands: Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1990. 

Wright, N. T. The Climax of the CovenantMinneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991.

Ziesler, John. Righteousness in the Writings of PaulChicoGa.: SBL, 1978.

The Tomson and Ziesler books would probably only be found in an academic library, but if accessible, are well worth referencing.

Lastly the following individuals writing on Paul has only been in journals.  However Pamela Eisenbaum, as a Jewess, brings a very interesting and useful perspective to Pauline studies.

Eisenbaum, Pamela. "A Remedy for Having Been Born of Woman: Jesus, Gentiles, and Genealogy in Romans." Journal of Biblical Literature 123, no. 4 (2004): 671-702.

And finally, anything by Martin Hengel, or E P Sanders, is worth a read. They, perhaps more than others have done much of the foundational work in this area.



Tags: Jesus, E P Sanders, Paul, N T Wright, Apostle, John Gager, David Wenham, Martin Hengel


James Crossley examines the subject

James Crossley, University of Sheffield, examines the definition of monotheism in his blog today as part of his promotion of his contribution to a new book. Published in Paris, this title does not presently appear on Amazon's listings in the US.

Tags: early christianity, Monotheism, Judeo-Christian monotheism, Moses, pagan monotheism

Publication of Gospel of Judas Examined

Claim of greed made again

April DeConick writes in her blog about the motivation and approach of the National Geographic in undertaking the translation of the Gospel of Judas.  DeConick basically agrees with our article that money appears to be the prime motivation rather than the understanding of the document. 

An interesting read from someone who is very involved in the subject.


April continues to outline her concerns here.

Tags: April DeConick, Gospel of Judas, National Geographic Society, Tchacos Codex

Jerusalem Tunnels were Escape Routes for Scrolls

Norman Golb speculates on the use of the recently discovered tunnel

Writing in The Daily Jewish Forward, Norman Golb opines about the use of the recently discovered tunnel that led to the pool of Siloam as one of the escape routes from Jerusalemthat Josephus discussed.  Golb, who has postulated that the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran were in fact a cache of scrolls that were secretly removed from Jerusalem prior to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE., sees the tunnel as being one of the avenues for the flight of the scrolls from Jerusalem.

Tags: jerusalem, Dead Sea Scrolls, Archaeology, Josephus, Norman Golb, Siloam

Temple Mount Architect

Leen Ritmeyer to lecture in Southern California

Leen Ritmeyer who was the architect for the late Professor Binyamin Mazar on the Temple Mount excavations conducted in the late 1960's and 70's is to visit California as part of the ASOR meeting in San Diego, November 14-16.  He will speak on the following occassions.

Thursday 11/15
Place: Town and Country Resort Hotel, San Diego, CA.
Moderator: Gary A. Byers (Associates for Biblical Research)
Time: 9:50 – 10:20 am
Title: 40 years on – Temple Mount research since 1967

Sunday 11/19

Moderator: Prof. Ziony Zevit
Time: 20.00 pm
Title: Two Temples Stood in Zion: How New Excavations, Old Photographs, Recent Observations and Ancient Texts Enable Us to See the Temples of Solomon and Herod

Leen notes: "About 10 years ago, I gave a lecture at the same venue, which was well attended by an enthusiastic audience. I look forward to being there again."

Tags: jerusalem, Archaeology, Temple Mount, Mazar

Discussion on Jewish Christianity

Panel to discuss two new books on subject at SBL in San Diego

Todays mail brought with it an invitation from Hendrickson's, publishers, to attend a panel discussion of two new books that have recently been published -- Jewish Believers in Jesus, by Oskar Skarsaune and Reidar Hvalvik of Norway, and Jewish Christianty Reconsiderededited by Matt Jackson-McCabe. (Amazon link has at least two misspellings that I noticed). The discussion will be held Monday, November 19, in San Diego during the AAR/SBL conferences.   Looking at the list of those taking part in the review, this will be one session I will definitely be attending.

Oskar Skarsaune and Reidar Hvalvik were at the Patristics Conference in Oxford that I notedhere.  I had the chance to speak with Reidar and hear his paper, but was unable to catch up with Oskar on that occassion.  Perhaps this time.

Tags: First Century, Paul, Ebionites, Jewish Christianity, Nazarenes

Was Paul a monotheist?

To question the unquestionable.

Mark Goodacre raises this question over at New Testament Gateway Mark has been reading Paula Fredriksen’s articles that are now posted on line and has noted her handling of the subject.  One article of Paula’s that I can’t find listed on line is one from the 1992 Bible Review in which she first posed the question.  The articles to which Mark refers address this same question.

“… something of a puzzle to explain how a group of Jews, known best of all in antiquity for their absolute insistence on the oneness of God and their refusal to grant worship to any other, should come in the middle of the first century to worship the man Jesus of Nazareth, whom they call the Messiah. The question becomes even more puzzling when you consider that those Jews who believed in Jesus gave him titles apparently ascribing to him qualities and actions previously reserved for God alone” (Paula Fredriksen, Bible Review, December 1992, 14-15).


On a similar note, I’m presently going through Alan Segal’s book entitled “Two Powers In Heaven: Early Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism”.  This was a redo of his doctoral dissertation at Yale, first published in 1977, but recently republished by Brill in 2002. 

See Vision article:  Monotheism

Tags: Mark Goodacre, Paul, Paula Fredriksen, Monotheism

ArchAtlas available on Line

Latest atlas of archaeology looks at earth from space

The internet continues to revolutionize the world of study especially in providing visual imagery.  The latest addition is an atlas of archaeology based on images taken from space by satellite and other ventures. The ArchAtlas is the brain child of the late Professor Andrew Sherratt who spent 30 years involved in archaeology.  The atlas had its first airing with a trial project in 2000, but now makes its full debut on the web at  

Well done Professor and those at University of Sheffield.

Tags: Archaeology, atlas, maps, Professor Andrew Sherratt, University of Sheffield

Gospel of Judas

'The Thirteenth Apostle: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says' is published

The Gospel of Judas has been previously discussed on this blog and in Vision.  Now, Professor April DeConick of Rice University has expressed why she has undertaken to write on the subject and provide a different perspective of Judas, one which harmonises more with the traditional Gospel accounts.  Writing on her blog today, April notes: 

April de ConickWhy did I write this book? I wrote this book because when I read the Coptic transliteration of the manuscript in April 2006, I realized that Judas was much more a hero in the National Geographic translation than he was in my own translation. As I worked through the Coptic and then sat and studied the text as a whole, I quickly came to see that Judas is not a good guy in this gospel. He is not Jesus' friend or the greatest disciple. I began to wonder why the NG team translated in reference to Judas "daimon" as "spirit" when its most accepted translation is "demon." I wondered why the team chose to say that Judas is "set apart for" the holy generation, when the Coptic actually reads that he is "separated from" the holy generation. And so forth.

What does the Coptic really say? The Coptic says that Judas is a demon, that he will be instrumental in bringing about Jesus' sacrifice, that this was the worst thing he could do. Jesus tells Judas that he will not go to the Kingdom, that he is working for the demiurge Ialdabaoth-Nebruel, that he will lament and grieve his terrible fate. Furthermore, the text says that Jesus will tell him the mysteries of the Kingdom not so that he will go there, but so that Judas will lament greatly his actions within the cosmic drama. Judas is separated from the holy generation. He is the thirteenth demon, which means he is to be associated with Ialdabaoth, the "thirteenth" archon or ruler in Sethian Gnosis.

Why is my translation different from National Geographic's? What is troubling to me is that the provisional Coptic transliteration which NG put out in April 2006 was not finished, but scholars published translations and interpretations based on it. It contained reconstructions of the Coptic that were erroneous, including the statement that Judas will ascend to the holy generation and that he would be taught the mysteries of the Kingdom because it was possible for him to go there. The Coptic text does NOT say this. It says the opposite, and this has been corrected (thank goodness!) in The Critical Edition that NG put out this last summer. The problem is that now the world thinks that Judas is a Gnostic hero when in fact the Gospel of Judas says nothing of this. In fact, it says the opposite. My translation is of the actual Gospel of Judas.

In reaching these conclusions, April places this Gospel squarely in the Sethian tradition.

Tags: Jesus Christ, Gnostics, Apostles, Gospel of Judas, betrayal of Jesus

Canadian Dead Sea Scrolls Conference

Researchers from three Canadian Universities gather for Conference in British Columbia

Researchers from Canadian Universities meet together for a symposium with counterparts from Israel and the US to mark the 60th anniversary of the Scrolls discovery.  The symposium was held at Trinity Western University in Langley, BC., and co-sponsored by the Canadian Bible Society and the Canadian Research Chair in Dead Sea Scrolls Study.

Emmanuel Tov of Hebrew University and editor of the DSS for the Israel Antiquities Authority, was the featured speaker at the Conference.

Heads up to Jim Davila and his PaleoJudaica for the references.

Tags: PaleoJudaica, Dead Sea Scrolls, Emmanuel Tov, Israel Antiquities Authority

Dead Sea Scrolls

Exhibition changes in San Diego

The exhibition currently being held in San Diego has undergone a major change with new documents being made available for public viewing.  Even if you have been already, this is worth a revisit.

According to comments by by Peter Flint recorded in The Canadian News, more people have viewed the exhibitions of the Dead Sea Scrolls that those of either the Titanic or King Tut.

The exhibition at the Natural History Museum in San Diego lasts until the end of December, 2007.

Compliments to Jim Davila of PaleoJudaica for the link.

Tags: PaleoJudaica, Dead Sea Scrolls, Archaeology, San Diego


“You get what you pay for!”

That sounds a strange maxim to consider with translations of the Bible.  Don’t most Bibles in any translation cost about the same today?


The statement was made by an Emeritus Professor of Classics, Carl Conrad, who moderates the online B-Greek list.  Conrad used the expression in relation to the approach used in translating Biblical texts. 


Today two common approaches exist, literal, which has been the norm since the Bible was first translated into the vernaculars as a result of the Reformation.  Since the 1940’s a new approach has been used which is called dynamic equivalence translation.  This differs from the literal in that rather than translating word for word as the literal does and leaving the reader with a sense of “how do these words relate” or “how do I relate this to myself today”, a dynamic equivalence translation seeks to translate the intent and meaning rather than just the words themselves.  Hence what is required of the reader is less with a dynamic equivalence translation than a literal.


The New English Bible (NEB) was the first translation to employ dynamic equivalence.  The English Standard Version (ESV), which is a modernization of the Revised Standard Version (RSV), holds to a more literal approach.


In addressing this issue Conrad drew attention to a comment by fellow blogger, John Hobbins "ancient hebrew poetry" whom we have previously referenced.  Speaking of John’s comment, Conrad stated: 


It seems to me that what Hobbins has to say in this blog has a bearing on lots of the short-cuts adopted by those who are endeavoring to develop some level of competence in Greek, including interlinears, parsing guides, quick-fix glossaries, quickie reference grammars, all designed to pave the way to a grasp of Greek, to which, as Euclid reputedly told the first Ptolemy about geometry, "there is no royal road." The nicely-turned formulation at the end of this blog says, "A literary [literal] translation, in order to be understood, will push the reader beyond the limits of his or her already acquired knowledge. It may have to be read and reread, perhaps with the aid of explanatory notes. A dynamic translation aims to be instantly comprehensible. Fine. But make no mistake: with fast food, you get what you pay for."


How do you bridge the gap between these two approaches to translation?  A maxim given frequently in graduate school went as follows: “If you aren’t going to learn and use the original languages, then you must use a variety of translations rather than relying on one alone.”

Tags: new testament, Greek, Bible translation, dynamic equivalence translation, literal translation

Jezebel's Ring Identified?

Researcher confirms linkage of signet ring to ancient Israelite Queen

A seal purchased in 1964 by a prominent archaeologist, Nahman Avigad has become the center of discussion again.  Clearly dating from the 9th century BCE. Avigad postulated that it belonged to Jezebel, wife of King Ahab of Israel.   Although unprovenanced, the discovery of the ring predates the known start of forged artifacts and so is accepted as genuine.


Now a researcher from the Netherlands, Marjo Korpel,  has suggested that the wording on the seal does identify Jezebel. The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz provides the details. 


A useful evaluation with photos and a reconstruction of the lettering is provided by Chris Heard, Associate Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University on his blog Higgaion.


Additonal epigraphic considerations on the lettering on the seal which leads to the connection with Jezebel is given by Chris Rollston on the American Schools of Oriental Researchwebsite.  Rollston disagrees with Marjo Korpel's reading.

Tags: Archaeology, israel, 9th Century BCE, Jezebel

Fourth Century Question

Sermons by John Chrysostom queried

Thoughts on Antiquity raises the issue of John Chrysostom and his series of eight sermons against the christians of Antioch who fellowshipped in the Synagogues with the Jewish Community.  The writer addresses the issue from the aspect of anti-semitism.  In my mind, this issue needs more careful attention than it is ever given.


These sermons, given at the end of the 4th Century, almost 75 years after christianity was declared a religio licita by Constantine’s acceptance of it as the state religion; speak to a level of diversity that is not often considered.  


Chrysostom’s diatribes—the Orthodox would consider them sermons--were delivered over a two year period against members of his congregation who went to the Synagogue to worship on Jewish Festivals. It would be easy to see people doing so on Passover and Pentecost as these Festivals were the precursors of the now accepted christian events of Easter and Pentecost itself. However, these weren’t the festivals in question.  The festivals were those at the end of the cycle, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkoth.  


And this wasn’t an isolated event.  Chrysostom’s sermons were given over a two year period, indicative of the fact that the first dosage didn’t convince the congregants who celebrated the festivals the following year to earn an even greater diatribe from their bishop.


These festivals are not given the same attention in the New Testament as Passover, Unleavened Bread and Pentecost.  However, they exist within the text.  Jesus and his family as observant Jews kept Sukkoth (John 7).  The fast associated with Yom Kippur is mentioned by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 27.9) and the imagery associated with Rosh Hashanah is well distributed through the New Testament.  These events would have remained of import to the church as long as it had Jerusalem as a focus.


The reason that “christianity” doesn’t keep these festivals differs from faith to faith, some seeing them as part of a ceremonial law and hence redundant, while others find no command in the New Testament to observe them and hence disregard them.  Other evangelical groups find them an interesting way of trying to reach out to Jews and gather in Jerusalem each year to seek to observe them with the Jewish population. This year that practice produced a marked warning from the Chief Rabbi of Israel advising Jews to avoid such Christians.


The question that really needs consideration is why people in 4th century Antioch, who saw themselves as part of the state religion, would want to keep these festivals with their Jewish neighbors.  Clearly by John Chrysostom’s statements, this wasn’t a proto ‘Jews for Jesus’ movement.  Nor does it appear that it was a few who so associated.  Rather these people sensed a need to keep those days despite the fact that the church didn’t observe them. Clearly a different hermeneutic was a work here and Chrysostom saw his role as Bishop of Antioch to change that wrong thinking and reading of Scripture.


A careful unpacking of Chrysostom’s arguments would be useful to understand the reasoning that existed.  Our thanks to Thoughts on Antiquity for raising the matter.

Tags: jerusalem, Festivals, Antioch, hermeneutics, John Chrysostom, Sukkoth

Temple Mount Plans

International involvement in the Supervision of the Temple Mount reported

Today’s online Jerusalem Post reports an interesting development relating to the supervision and oversight of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem The location of the temple which was the focus of the early church and Judaism until its destruction in 70 CE, will be placed under Jordanian custody according to a statement reported in the London based Al-Quds al-Arabi.  This is the substance of a purported agreement between the Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and the Palestinian Authorities Prime Minister Abbas.


While custody is reported to be given to Jordan, supervision of the temple mount will be given to an international body including the United Nations, Egypt, Jordan Israel and the Palestinian Authority according the to JPost report.


The report has been denied by the Prime Minister’s Office.  Understandably, it has drawn fierce criticism from the religious parties in Israel’s Knesset.  If any aspect of the report was true, it would appear that Palestinian elements were ceding control and influence over the most valuable bargaining chip in their relationship with Israel.


Jordanian involvement with the Temple Mount and the Islamic holy sites located there is not new.  Following the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, Jordan took control of the West Bank with East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount and continued in that role until driven east of the Jordan River in the 1967 war.  Apparently, the Israeli’s in their 1994 treaty withJordan included a provision for a future Jordanian involvement in the Islamic sites underIsrael’s control.  The future of the holy sites is apparently to be on the agenda for a Middle East peace conference to be held next month in AnnapolisMaryland It will be fascinating to see what surfaces at that event.

Tags: jerusalem, Islam., Judaism, Temple Mount, early Christians

Original Languages reconsidered

Did the writers of the New Testament quote from a Greek translation of Scripture?

A commonly held view of previous centuries is that the writers of the New Testament quoted from the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament Scriptures. This translation was purportedly undertaken in AlexandriaEgypt, under the patronage of Ptolemy Philadelphus who ruled in the first half of the 3rd Century BCE.  This translation is commonly referred to as the LXX. 


This concept has been contested by many protestant writers who reject the idea of the LXX with its inclusion of the Apocryphal books, a canon accepted by the Catholic and Orthodox churches.  Protestant traditions have almost universally followed the Jewish canon of Scripture and reject the Apocryphal books as opposed to the canon presented by the LXX.


Despite the differences in canons accepted by the church groups, a frequently held view is that the writers did use the Greek translations in their writings.  However, current research calls into question the dogmatic “black and white” views of the past. 


Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, people accepted that there was simply one Greek translation of the Scriptures prior to the writing of the New Testament.  Subsequent translations into Greek were made by Aquila and Theodotion to aid Greek speaking Jewish groups in the Diaspora.


Such was not the case in the discoveries of Qumran.  Amongst the few Greek scrolls found atQumran were at least two families of Greek Scriptures; those that could be identified as LXX text types and another potentially older version, which has been labeled as OG or Old Greek.  Interestingly, it appears that the Old Greek texts bear a resemblance to the later translation of Theodotion, who possibly relied on this translation for the production of his own subsequent translation in the mid 2nd century CE.  Theodotion’s translation presented a Greek translation much more in harmony with the traditional Hebrew text which came to be known as the Masoretic Text.


If alternative Greek texts existed in the first century, we could then raise the question of which Greek texts were used by the writers of the New Testament.  Personally, I see that as the wrong question.  In reality, the times of the writing of the New Testament were times of a largely oral society.  People quoted source material from memory as they didn’t have personal copies to carry with them on their travels.  The closest the writers would have been to any texts would have been the nearest synagogue to them.


Add to this, another factor that influenced the idea of the writers quoting a Greek translation of Scripture which is also now redundant.  It was held that Hebrew was not spoken in the time of Christ and the early church hence everyone spoke Aramaic or Greek.  Once again the Dead Sea Scrolls have dismissed that argument.  Hebrew was at least spoken in the synagogue and it is possible to create a scenario where people were able to converse in several languages.  So writers of the New Testament who had lived in Judaea and Galileewould have known the Scriptures in Hebrew rather than Greek.


What then of the quotations of Scripture. In reality, rather than sending a messenger to the local synagogue to copy out a section of Scripture so that it could be quoted verbatim, a person such as Paul would have quoted from memory and possibly even translated from Hebrew to Greek themselves as part of the writing project.  Hence the idea of locating an exact form of Scriptures which the writers used requires that we consider in what language the writers learned of the Scriptures to commit them to memory. 


The idea of committing Scripture to memory may be unbelievable to we who live in the 21st Century, inundated with a deluge of information and knowledge.  Yet in the first century, the simple cost of writing and of the materials for writing meant that little was written.  No daily newspapers, magazines, libraries or radio, television, videos or the internet existed to occupy people’s time, hence what was read or heard was committed to memory.


So the simplistic model of previous centuries needs to be reconsidered.  In fact considering the use of memory, and the possibility of writers translating from Hebrew to Greek for their own purposes, raises a question about Origen’s editing of the LXX that we have today.  Did he amend various Old Testament Scriptures to read exactly as they appeared in the New Testament quotations?  This charge has been leveled against Origen in the past. It may bear further study.

Tags: new testament, Greek, Hebrew, Origen, Scriptures, LXX

Biblical Archaeology

The Need for 'Caveat Emptor'

The well used maxim, caveat emptor -- let the buyer beware, highlights the need for careful consideration in all areas of life in a world increasingly given to sensational claims.  Its application to Archaeology is well set out in an article by Eric Cline, published in the Boston Globe

The desire of individuals and groups to establish every word of the Bible by historical or archaeological remains, while fascinating is not the basis of a true relationship with our Creator.  The Bible itself constantly affirms that such a relationship has to be established on faith.

Tags: Archaeology, Eric Cline, faith, Reason

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