Friday, November 27, 2009

Chris Tilling, Michael Gorman, and Douglas Campbell talk about Douglas Campbell

Chris Tilling posted a few thoughts about the session on Campbell's Deliverance of God and an interesting conversation ensued in the comments. Campbell and Gorman both make appearances, as does Richard Hays via Tilling's memory.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Audio from Romans as Christian Theology Session

Thanks again to Andy Rowell for recording this.

The papers are from Beverly Gaventa, Richard Hays, and Michael Gorman.

Update: the file only contains Gaventa's presentation.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

David Knauert Memorial at SBL

Matt Schlimm has just organized a memorial session at this year's SBL meeting in New Orleans to remember the all-too-brief life of our friend and colleague David Knauert (Hebrew Bible PhD, Duke 2009). It will be held Sunday (Nov 22) 7-8:30pm in Napolean A1 at the Sheraton Hotel.

More SBL info

Andy Rowell has discovered that a good number of presentations are missing from the list below. Here's one that looks particularly interesting (I will buy beer for anyone who records this):

Development of Early Trinitarian Theology
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Studio 7 - MR
In this introductory session, scholars in biblical studies and patristics will discuss the state of the conversation in each discipline. Presentations followed by moderated discussion among the panelists and audience.

Mark Weedman, Crossroads College, Presiding
Christopher Seitz, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, Panelist
Kavin Rowe, Duke University, Panelist
Matthew Levering, University of Dayton, Panelist
Matthew Drever, University of Tulsa, Panelist

I have an idea of what Kavin is going to say, and it's very interesting, to say the least.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

SBL Program changes

Just wanted to post one update on the information that Nathan posted about Duke students presenting at SBL.

Tommy Givens and I were to present on Sunday morning in the Matthew section, but we are now presenting Tuesday morning at 9am in Rhythms Ballroom 1-SH. So if you go to hear us on Sunday morning, you will be sadly disappointed...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wish I were going to SBL 2009

I'm staying home this year. I feel a little left out, so this is my attempt to involve myself.

Here's a list of Duke-affiliated presenters (thanks Stephen).

Lots of these presentations sound great. There is one, however, that I've actually read, and it's fantastic: Hans Arneson's "Vocabulary and Date in the Study of Wisdom: A Critical Review of the Arguments”. If you're at all interested in the question of when Wisdom of Solomon was written, you do not want to miss this paper. I don't want to spoil the surprise, so I'll just say that it appears Arneson has demolished the widely accepted argument for determining Wisdom's date.

Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 4:00 PM
Kathy Barrett Dawson, “Intertextuality and Mimetic Reversal in Galatians 1-2: Pauline Autobiography and the Inclusion of the Gentiles” in 21-308 Biblical Criticism and Literary Criticism

Jill Hicks-Keeton, “Remember and Believe: Psalm 69:9 in the Johannine Temple Logion” in 21-322 Intertextuality in the New Testament Consultation

Richard B. Hays, “Spirit, Church, Eschatology: The Third Article of the Creed as Hermeneutical Lens for Reading Romans” in 21-336 Theological Hermeneutics of Christian Scripture

Lauren K. McCormick, “Ba'al's Guiding Light: Shapsh and Magic in the Ba'al Cycle and Other Texts” in 21-337 Ugaritic Studies and Northwest Semitic Epigraphy
Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 9:00 AM
Matthew Thiessen, “Abolishers of the Law and the Early Jesus Movement” in 22-129 Matthew

George Thomas Givens, “From the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel to All the Nations: A Challenge to Supersessionist Readings of Matthew” in 22-129 Matthew

Anathea Portier-Young, “Toward a Theory of Early Jewish Apocalypses as Resistance Literature” in 22-145 Social Sciences and the Interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures

Jill Hicks-Keeton, “Diasporic Space in Tobit” in 22-146 Space, Place, and Lived Experience in Antiquity

Bradley R. Trick, “Misinterpretation as Interpretive Key: Jesus’ Use of Ambiguous Parables to Harden Hearts” in 22-147 Synoptic Gospels
Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 1:00 PM
Eric Meyers, “From the Upper Galilee to the Lower Galilee: Reflections on the Rural-Urban Divide” in 22-203 Archaeological Excavations and Discoveries: Illuminating the Biblical World Joint Session With: Archaeology of Religion in the Roman World, Archaeological Excavations and Discoveries: Illuminating the Biblical World
Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 4:00 PM
Elizabeth A. Clark, “Christian Literary Culture in Late Antiquity: A Response” in 22-317 Eusebius and the Construction of a Christian Culture Consultation

Erin Darby, “Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Ghost?: The ‘Apotropaic’ Clay Images of Iron II Judah in Neo-Assyrian Context” in 22-327 Israelite Religion in its West Asian Environment
Monday, November 23, 2009 at 9:00 AM
Bradley R. Trick, “‘Lest Their Hearts Understand’: Hardening Hearts through Misunderstanding in Isaiah 6:1-9:6” in 23-119 Formation of Isaiah

David M. Moffitt, “New Papyrological Evidence Regarding the Meaning of the Term Proselyte” in 23-136 Papyrology and Early Christian Backgrounds

Hans Arneson, “Vocabulary and Date in the Study of Wisdom: A Critical Review of the Arguments” in 23-141 Pseudepigrapha
Monday, November 23, 2009 at 4:00 PM
Albert McClure, “Solar Functions of Messengers in Zechariah 1:7-6:15” in 23-305 Book of the Twelve Prophets

Mark Goodacre, “How and Why the NT Gateway was Rebooted, Revitalized and Relaunched” in 23-308 Computer Assisted Research

Ken Olson, “A Eusebian Reading of the Testimonium Flavianum” in 23-319 Historical Jesus
Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at 9:00 AM
Lori Baron, “Interpreting the Shema: Liturgy and Identity in the Fourth Gospel” in 24-109 Construction of Christian Identities

Stephen C. Carlson, “Origen's Use of the Gospel of Thomas” in 24-112 Function of Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphal Writings in Early Judaism and Early Christianity

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tendencies of the Pre-Synoptic Tradition

Anyone interested in the Historical Jesus of course needs to have some theory of the pre-synoptic tradition, that is, the sources (oral and/or literary) that lie behind Matthew, Mark, and Luke. For several decades, the dominant paradigm has been that originating with the form critics, with Rudolf Bultmann's History of the Synoptic Tradition being perhaps the classic statement of this approach. This paradigm, however, has recently been challenged by several scholars, notably James Dunn and (even more so) Richard Bauckham.

Dunn and Bauckham argue that the understanding of the pre-synoptic tradition derived from the form critics is defective (and one consequence of this is that it hinders our study of the Historical Jesus). Their main bone of contention is that the form critics have failed to appreciate the importance of distinctively oral modes of tradition transmission, by examining the pre-synoptic tradition through the lenses of a 'literary' paradigm. Dunn argues, instead, that the community as a whole would keep a close guard on the original tradition, whilst allowing limited variety within original pattern; Bauckham, of course, argues that this regulation comes from eyewitnesses.

The strengths and weaknesses of their positive proposals have been much debated, and I do not intend to engage them here. The question that I do want to engage is whether a broadly 'form critical' approach is really so unhelpful in understanding the pre-synoptic tradition.

The basic proposal which I would like to advocate is that the tendencies we see operating between the synoptic gospels provide us with evidence of the kinds of tendencies that would have been operative in the pre-synoptic period. This is what I take to be at the heart of the 'form critical' approach. Consider an example: in the synoptic gospels, it is widely agreed that there is a tendency to make more explicit and/or pronounced the subordination of John the Baptist to Jesus (seen, for instance, in the accounts of Jesus's baptism). From this, it is suggested, we can infer that in the pre-synoptic tradition, there may have been a similar tendency to increase subordination of John the Baptist to Jesus. One practical outcome of this approach might be that where, in the Markan tradition, we see subordination of the Baptist to Jesus (e.g. Mark 1:7), we might suspect (though not necessarily affirm) that this subordination is itself the result of a tendency that was also found in the pre-synoptic tradition. (I probably should emphasize that this is only a possible example of the kind of thing I am talking about; I am not especially interested here in making a strong claim about this particular tradition!)

As I see it, there are two possible objections to this line of reasoning. The first is that it is inappropriate to speak of 'tendencies' of the synoptic tradition at all. This criticism, if made, would probably be justified with reference to E.P. Sanders' Tendencies of the Synoptic Tradition (which of course was the inspiration for the title of this post!). However, the kinds of 'tendencies' of which Sanders is rightly critical are not those I am suggesting we should detect in the synoptic and (hence) pre-synoptic tradition. Sanders criticizes detection of 'mechanical' tendencies such as length of pericope, addition of names, and so on. It is not clear, however, that his criticism would apply to a tendency such as 'subordination of the Baptist to Jesus', which does not require a dubious regularization of the development of the tradition.

The second objection is this: that we cannot move from characterization of the synoptic tradition to characterization of the pre-synoptic tradition, because the pre-synoptic tradition was in some way 'fundamentally different'.

I would like to argue, however, that this objection does not go through. Firstly, this objection is often made from the perspective of 'oral vs. literary': the synoptic tradition (as we have it in our gospels) is of course written, and therefore it is illegitimate to infer from it the tendencies of the pre-synoptic tradition, which was oral. Even if this were true of oral traditions (see below), this objection would not apply to any of the written sources that Mark and the other evangelists used. So wherever we postulate a written source, it does not seem unreasonable to see some similarity between the tendencies of the synoptic tradition and the tendencies of the pre-synoptic tradition.

What, then, of 'oral' sources (to which Mark especially presumably had some access)? If we are to make any claims about developments of the tradition in cases where that tradition was orally transmitted, we need a theory of oral tradition, which in turn needs to be based on evidence, and I would suggest that the best evidence we have for how oral traditions were treated and developed is in fact the synoptic gospels themselves (rather than theories drawn from totally different geographical and/or temporal contexts). I am not saying, as does, for instance, Dunn, that the variant synoptic traditions themselves directly attest to oral traditioning (though this may be true in some cases). All I am suggesting is that the closest evidence we have to the treatment of Jesus traditions in the pre-synoptic period are the synoptic gospels themselves, and therefore, despite being written documents, the synoptic gospels should be given pride-of-place as evidence in our discussion of pre-synoptic tradition.

In conclusion, then, if the synoptic gospels are our most temporally and geographically proximate evidence for the pre-synoptic tradition, then in our discussion of the pre-synoptic tradition (whether oral or literary) the best place to start is with an examination of the tendencies that can be detected between these documents. From there, we can move on to tentatively identify possible tendencies in the pre-synoptic tradition. This is not an illegitimate construction of non-existent 'tendencies', nor is it a failure to understand 'oral tradition': it is simply an employment of the best evidence we have for the pre-synoptic tradition, namely, the synoptic gospels themselves. Therefore, recent criticisms of this sort of approach (e.g. from Dunn and Bauckham) are arguably misguided.

Monday, November 9, 2009

More on Douglas Campbell's DOG

Andy Rowell has organized all (or nearly all) the online reactions to The Deliverance of God to date.

Thanks for doing this Andy!

Friday, November 6, 2009

AAR Montreal

Today I arrived in Montreal for the Annual Conference of the American Academy of Religion. I forgot how fantastic Montreal is! To those who are currently in Montreal, here are a few things you must hit:


  1. Schwartz’s Montreal Hebrew Deli. This restaurant, just up the road from the Palais de Congrès (at 3895 St Laurent Boulevard), will blow you away. It is a Montreal institution that has been around for 80 years.
  2. Mont Royal. This is just west of Schwartz’s. There is a nice park at the base of the hill and an invigorating but brief climb to the top of the mountain that affords you a beautiful view of the city. Those who have watched the movie “Jesus of Montreal” will find this place rather familiar. Those of you who haven’t watched the movie should.
  3. The Old City (Vieux-Montreal). This is just south of the Palais de Congrès. Apart from some beautiful buildings such as the Basilique Notre-Dame, there are numerous great restaurants and bars on the picturesque cobblestone streets.
  4. Don’t be afraid of poutine. Yes, it consists of three forms of fat (French fries, beef gravy, and melted cheese curds), but life is short.


I wish I had more time here to enjoy the sights, not to mention Tim Hortons (which is on the ground floor of Palais de Congrès), but  after some conference-related activities, I have to make my way back to Durham tomorrow afternoon. My only solace is that the weather in Durham is supposed to be in the 70s, while here it is in the 30s.


In two weeks, I hit New Orleans for the annual conference of SBL. So the French connection continues, but the weather will improve.