Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Student Journal for New Testament Studies

It has come to my attention (via ETC), that there is a new on-line (and traditional) publication called the Student Journal for New Testament Studies, featuring articles written by grad (or advanced undergrad) students.

The journal currently has three articles to read: one on the Didache, one on Luke 23:32-43, and one on the Historical Jesus.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Marquette Scripture Project blog

Graduate students and professors at Marquette are discussing theological interpretation of Scripture on this new blog.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Gal 2.1-10 = Acts 15: How firm a foundation?

The identification of Gal 2.1-10 with the events of Acts 15 often serves as a foundation for interpreting both texts based on the tendencies evident in their differences. I have seen assignments for undergraduate surveys, discussion prompts for graduate seminars, and doctoral exam questions that ask the student to compare the two passages, identify their differences, and discuss what those differences suggest.

But how confident can we be in this identification? At first glance, it might seem that we can be very confident: Both texts describe trips to Jerusalem to discuss the circumcision-free gospel, and dating Galatians after Acts 15 might allow Paul to have been in north Galatia (Acts 18.23). Addressees in north Galatia are said to be preferable to south Galatia because of Paul's use of the “ethnic” term “Galatians” (3.1) and the double silence about ethnic Jews: Unlike 1 Corinthians and Romans, Paul does not address Christians with Jewish backgrounds separately, and we have no evidence of a Jewish population in north Galatia. Based on these factors, influential commentators like Betz and Martyn assume the identification of the passages with almost no argument.

I want to suggest that this confidence is misplaced. The argument from north Galatian addressees, based as it is on an ambiguous use of an ambiguous term (Paul could be using it sarcastically—imagine a European calling a Dutch Boer a “foolish African” fifty years ago) and a double argument from silence, is too weak to settle the argument. All we really have, then, is the prima facie similarity between the two accounts.

The problem is that there is a third account, Acts 11.27-30, that also deserves consideration. When the three accounts are compared, the identification of Gal 2.1-10 with Acts 15, although still possible, becomes less of a foregone conclusion.

Gal 2.1-20

Acts 11.27-30

Acts 15

Trip occasioned by “revelation.”

Trip occasioned by Agabus's prophecy.

No revelation or prophecy.

Second trip to Jerusalem (critical for Paul's argument).

Second trip to Jerusalem.

Third trip to Jerusalem.

Private meeting with “pillars” to discuss circumcision-free gospel.

No meeting mentioned.

Public discussion of circumcision-free gospel.

Spying “false brothers.”

No mention of “false brothers.”

Mentions of Christians teaching the necessity of circumcision.

“Pillars” require care for the poor, Paul was already eager for this.

Trip undertaken for material relief of Christians in Jerusalem.

No mention of poverty or material needs.

Acts 11.27-30 thus has three seemingly unrelated correspondences (prophecy, trip sequence, and material needs), no contradictions, and two silences, the most important of which is plausibly explained by Gal 2's description of a private meeting. Acts 15, on the other hand, has two correspondences (subject of discussion and presence of opponents), at least two contradictions (trip sequence and the nature of the discussion), and two silences.

Naturally, conservative commentators such as Longenecker and Bruce, who seek to avoid contradictions whenever possible, have gravitated towards Acts 11. Even if one is not committed to avoiding contradictions, however, I think this comparison shows that Acts 11.27-30 is a viable candidate. Whether or not to correlate Galatians with Acts is not at issue; the question is which is the best correlation, and with what degree of confidence we can make that correlation.

In the end, both are possible, but the degree of confidence often accorded to the correlation with Acts 15 seems unjustified. It can be a tentative conclusion, but interpretive edifices built upon it must, by definition, be at least as tentative. Studies that do so, while not invalid, should acknowledge the shakiness of their foundation.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Software for SBL style??

Does anyone know of bibliography/footnote software that includes SBL style?

I've tried to use Endnote but it's never worked out.