Biblical studies: January 2005 Archives

Happy TIME

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Taking his cue from a TIME Magazine issue focusing on happiness, Mark Roberts tackles the issue from a Christian perspective in a series he apparently finished almost a week ago. I got through half of it and then decided to wait until he was done, and I just figured out that he's moved on to a new series. I've just read the rest of it, and I can declare that it's all worth reading. It would be too much to try to summarize, so I won't try.

Dating the Edomite Nation

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Archeologists have confirmed the presence of an Edomite nation at the time the biblical accounts say there was an Edomite nation. A number of scholars have tended to doubt that there were any nations in that part of the world in the eleventh to tenth centuries, when David and Solomon reigned in Israel. According to that view, David and Solomon were chieftans of a small group of Hebrews, and Edom didn't exist as more than a small tribe until the Assyrian period in the eighth to seventh centuries. That whole view is threatened by this find.

There's been a real reversal in scholarship on issues like this. About 50 years ago the general attitude was to doubt anything in the Bible that didn't have specific evidence (besides the record in the text) confirming it. Over the last 20-30 years, the general trend in biblical scholarship is to focus more on the final text and less on whether the historical elements are genuine, but interestingly, while they're doing that, we keep finding more and more that confirms the general picture that the evidence available 50 years ago didn't support (but didn't disconfirm either). This is just one among many such finds that are showing with ordinary standards of historical research that the general picture of the historical shape of things presented in the Bible is accurate, and a number of historical views that were once considered fundamentalist reactionism are now fairly mainstream among biblical scholars. Since that thesis was considered irrational 50 years ago (even though there was no evidence against it), this is a major redirection in the tendency of scholarly opinion.

Evolution Stickers

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I was toying whether to say something about the evolution stickers fiasco. I didn't get around to completing my decision on whether I would. Sam has now beaten me to it, and I think she says everything I wanted to say (and a little more).

I know it's bad blogging practice not to link to the background to what I've just mentioned. I'm too burned out dealing with someone who turns out to be a semi-troll and a lot more people than I expected who have completely misinterpreted my words and actions with regard to the World post.

Therefore, I'm not going to comment further on the evolution stuff or seek out the links to the background on that or link to the posts I've just referenced on my own blog (which won't take too much work to locate if you really care and don't already know). Sam links to the background on the evolution stuff, anyway, so when you read her post, which was the point of all this, you can get the background from there.

James Ossuary

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Mark Goodacre or NT Gateway (which I highly recommend as a great New Testament studies blog) has some insights into what now seems to have been the James Ossuary hoax. For anyone unfamiliar with the story here, someone had found what was apparently an ossuary containing the remains of someone who had a good chance, given the information recorded on the box, of being James, the half-brother of Jesus, the author of the epistle of James, and the most prominent elder in the congregation at Jerusalem during the time much of the New Testament was being written. It turned out that the part of the inscription that most supported such an identification had too many suspicious elements, and most scholars now think it a fraud.

Goodacre's thoughts on this were interesting. Two of his points had occurred to me before. The ossuary didn't really add to our knowledge in any substantial way. I wasn't even sure why people were making a big deal about it. Also, there wasn't an incredibly strong argument that it was even James's ossuary to begin with. As I recall, Ben Witherington, the scholar who had defended its authenticity the most after the suspicious elements were made clear, thought that there were probably at least three men in that general area who could have fit the characteristics described by the inscription. That's not exactly a conclusive connection, even if the inscription was authentic. So why was this making all the headlines as if it established something important?

John 1:1 and Genesis 1

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I've seen lots of people connect the begining of John's gospel with the beginning of Genesis. It's pretty obvious, since they both begin "in the beginning". What hadn't occurred to me is that this might somewhat undermine modern scholars' attempts to fit John's use of 'logos' into some Greek mold, because there's something in Genesis 1 that we should expect it to remind us of, and this was probably most immediate in John's mind in using that term. God speaks. For more, see this excellent discussion by Jollyblogger that also connects it with the wisdom of God in Proverbs 8, which I have seen connected with Colossians 2 but not John 1.

OT and NT Resource Bibliographies

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As they do at the beginning of every year, Denver Journal has updated their Annotated Old Testament Bibliography and Annotated New Testament Bibliography. It's a pretty helpful resource for OT and NT studies, particularly with commentaries, which take up the bulk of each list. Denver Journal in general is a nice source for book reviews on biblical studies, theology, apologetics, and other subjects normally covered in seminary, and a few of the faculty who write these reviews are top-notch biblical scholars.

By the way, I'm in the process of updating my own commentary recommendations. I've added a number of forthcoming commentaries that I expect to be good, and I'm putting in links to their Amazon entries a little bit at a time. I've added a bunch of commentaries since I first posted the list in February. Once I'm done adding the links, I'll probably move it forward as a new entry, and then I'll gradually work on the next major overhaul, which will include real discussion of all the works in the list based on my own use of them and any reviews I've read. That won't done any time soon, though.

This is my sixth post for Joe Carter's collaborative project Jesus the Logician (which would better be described as Jesus' Reasoning).

"What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' And he answered, 'I will not,' but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, 'I go, sir,' but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him." (Matthew 21:28-32, ESV)

This is my fourth post for Joe Carter's collaborative project Jesus the Logician (which would better be described as Jesus's Reasoning).

In Luke 21:1-4, Jesus caps off his diatribe against the rich scribes who dress majestically, love popularity, and receive much honor from human beings but who are merely showy without real piety and in fact devour widows' houses. As he looks up while saying this, he sees rich people depositing their gifts to the temple, while a poor widow put in just two coins. He says, "this poor widow has put in more than the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." (Luke 21:1-4, NIV)

Here's my third posting for Joe Carter's collaborative project called Jesus the Logician (I don't agree with the name).

In Matthew 10:40-42, Jesus uses what's called a hypothetical syllogism. The logical form of the argument is:

1. If A then B.
2. B then C.
3. Therefore, if A then C.

Jesus' Reasoning in Mark 7:1-23

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Here is another entry in Joe Carter's collaborative project of what's being called Jesus the Logician (though I oppose that name).

Mark 7:1-23 has a lot in it that I could talk about, and I hope to get around to it at some point in my Mark Tidbits series, which I have not abandoned. I have a partially-written fourth post in that series that I keep moving forward because I haven't had the time to finish it when I haven't had something else higher on my priority list at the time.

Jesus' Reasoning in John 9:1-3

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I've been putting off contributing to Joe Carter's collaborative project of what's being misnamed Jesus the Logician, but here we go finally. Here's an instance of Jesus' reasoning strategy with his disciples that I think fits what Joe is looking for. John 9:1-3 contains a good example of a false dilemma. Jesus' disciples give him this dilemma, and he responds with the common philosophical practice of going through the horns of the dilemma by denying either of the options presented to him and saying they simply haven't listed all the options. A more exhaustive dilemma would have contained at least a third option, and that third option isn't as problematic as the two they mention.

Jesus the Logician?

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Joe Carter has begun what he's calling the 'Jesus the Logician' Project. The goal is to show how Jesus used sound reasoning, and different bloggers are contributing through discussing particular examples of Jesus' reasoning. Doug Groothius' paper "Jesus: Philosopher and Apologist" is a good example of the sort of thing Joe is up to here.

I think the name is off. A logician is not someone who uses good reasoning but someone who studies the nature of reasoning itself. The content of the logician's study is good reasoning. As Joe acknowledges, Jesus didn't do that kind of extremely abstract study (at least in any public records we have). Jesus used logic, but he didn't talk about logic itself. Then what's going on here is that Jesus isn't being shown to have been a logician but simply that he used good reasoning. Even though the name is a misnomer, I'm still going to contribute. My first post (of at least one) will follow shortly.

The Two-Sauce Theory

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There's a new controversial theory out now about where the synoptic gospels came from. It was once commonly accepted that Matthew was the first gospel written, but that view is largely out of favor, despite some vocal proponents. Most people believe Mark to be the earliest, and most people think Matthew and Luke used Mark and a hypothetical collection of sayings of Jesus now popularly called Q. Well, a new theory has appeared on the scene to rival these contenders: the Two-Sauce Theory!

Hat tip: NT Gateway

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