Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Almsgiving is the ‘the commandment’ in 1 Timothy

The new issue of New Testament Studies includes my short article, “Almsgiving is ‘the Commandment’: A Note on 1 Timothy 6.6-19”.

Here’s a link to the full text.

There are two thorny problems in 1 Timothy 6:6-19. First, why does the author interrupt two discussions of money with a charge to Timothy to “keep the commandment”? Second, what on earth is “the commandment”? In this article I argue that there is one surprisingly simple solution to both of these questions.

In Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs and various rabbinic texts ‘the commandment’ refers to almsgiving. This idiom also has precursors in earlier texts such as Sirach. If one reads 6:6-19 on the hypothesis that the author was employing this idiom the whole passage snaps into focus. Verses 6-10 describe how the pursuit of money can lead to spiritual ruin. In vv.11-16 Timothy is given the antidote to such ruin. He is to A) flee from the love of money, B) pursue instead righteousness, godliness etc., and C) take hold of eternal life (ἐπιλαβοῦ τῆς αἰωνίου ζωῆς) and keep the commandment until Christ appears. Verses 17-18 repeat this advice, adapting it to apply to the rich. They are A) not to be proud because of their money nor put their hope in it; B) rather, they should put their hope in God, and C) give their money away in order to take hold of true life (ἐπιλάβωνται τῆς ὄντως ζωῆς). If “the commandment” here refers to almsgiving then the author would simply be telling Timothy the same thing that Timothy is to tell the rich: instead of pursuing money, pursue eternal life and give alms. The idiom of almsgiving as ‘the commandment’ not only explains why the author simply speaks of ‘the commandment’ with no further clarification; it also fits hand in glove with 6.6-19 as a whole.

Also, check out the article by Duke’s own Robert Moses in the same issue. "Jesus Barabbas, a Nominal Messiah? Text and History in Matthew 27.16-17.

More Moffitt

Check out this review of Moffitt's book at Chrisendom.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Dave Moffitt and resurrection in Hebrews

Recent Duke PhD grad Dave Moffitt (ass. prof at Duke div and Campbell University) has a new monograph out from Brill, Atonement and the Logic of Resurrection in the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Here's the description from Brill's site:

Scholars often explain Hebrews’ relative silence regarding Jesus’ resurrection by emphasizing the author’s appeal to Yom Kippur’s two key moments—the sacrificial slaughter and the high priest’s presentation of blood in the holy of holies—in his distinctive portrayal of Jesus’ death and heavenly exaltation. The writer’s depiction of Jesus as the high priest whose blood effected ultimate atonement appears to be modeled upon these two moments. Such a typology discourages discrete reflection on Jesus’ resurrection. Drawing on contemporary studies of Jewish sacrifice (which note that blood represents life, not death), parallels in Jewish apocalyptic literature, and fresh exegetical insights, this volume demonstrates that Jesus’ embodied, resurrected life is crucial for the high-priestly Christology and sacrificial soteriology developed in Hebrews.

This is good stuff. Check out the controversy brewing because of Moffitt's argument on this blog.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

On the lighter side of student life

I apologize for such a silly post, but this struck such a chord with me, I couldn't resist:

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Thiessen removes the scales from our eyes

Matt Thiessen, an erstwhile Duke Newt contributor, has a new book out with Oxford University Press, Contesting Conversion: Genealogy, Circumcision, and Identity in Ancient Judaism and Christianity.

Note that classy Oxford comma in the title.

See what Daniel Boyarin, John Barclay, and Daniel Schwartz say about it:

"Contesting Conversion addresses an important topic in a fascinating way. It's convincing, makes a highly significant argument cogently, and is extremely well written. The remarkable thing about the book is that Thiessen demonstrates, over and over, that texts that have been understood to support the idea of conversion via circumcision say precisely the opposite. It is not that he has come with an agenda to the texts and discovered that for which he searched, but rather that scholarship till now has done that. Thiessen removes the scales from our eyes."---Daniel Boyarin, Professor of Near Eastern Studies and Rhetoric, University of California-Berkeley

"This is a fine piece of historical investigation which successfully challenges a scholarly consensus. Exploring the insistence on eight-day circumcision in the Hebrew Bible, some strands of Second Temple Judaism, and Luke-Acts, Thiessen unearths a robustly genealogical conception of Jewish identity that defies modern notions of religion. The result is a highly significant contribution to current debates about conversion, Jewishness and ethnicity in ancient Judaism and early Christianity."---John M. G. Barclay, Lightfoot Professor of Divinity, Durham University

"Contesting Conversion argues convincingly, on the basis of a wide range of biblical and post-biblical evidence, that the notion that being a Jew is determined by birth alone, and so cannot be affected by choice, was current in antiquity and alive and well among many Jews in the Second Temple period down to the first century C.E. With regard to circumcision, which many took to be part of a process of conversion, Thiessen argues that many other Jews limited its religious efficacy to male Jewish babies and therefore denied that it could turn a Gentile into a Jew. This book is a welcome and important balance to research into the ethnic vs. religious nature of ancient Jewishness, especially insofar as such research often builds its notions on the basis of rabbinic and Christian universalism."---Daniel R. Schwartz, Professor of Jewish History, Hebrew University

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Seth Schwartz on Gospel Communities

But to conclude [along with Neusner] that we must assume the falsity of attributions [in rabbinic literature], that therefore (?) the documents are essentially pseudepigraphic and can be assumed to provide evidence only for the interests of their redactors, is in fact no longer a skeptical but a positivist position and is less plausible than the one it replaced.


Here Neusner, along with many other scholars of ancient Judaism, was influenced by an important tendency in New Testament scholarship, though he applied its methods in an uncompromising way. It is not uncommon among New Testament scholars to posit a discrete social context to serve as a hermeneutical framework in which to set each Gospel. This method has an element of circularity to it, since the hypothetical context is inferred mainly from the Gospel itself, but it is not unilluminating. However, scholars are frequently seduced by their own creations: the hermeneutical models are reified into real communities, which are supposed to have existed more or less in isolation from each other, so that each literary work is approached as if it here the hypostasis of a single monadic community. When the same technique is applied to Jewish literature of the Second Temple and rabbinic periods, the result is "Judaisms," a term introduced by Neusner and widely adopted. Once again, what started as interpretive restraint ended in implausible positivism: because it is advisable to read the literary works on their own, even though they obviously have close relatives (and because their social context is on the whole poorly known), each work begins to seem utterly different from its congeners and so must be the product of an impermeably discrete social organization.

Imperialism and Jewish Society, 200 B.C.E. to 640 C.E. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 8-9. Emphasis added.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Baptism in Paul

For some reason the "screen" is too small on the blog. The only way to see the whole thing is to click on it to go to Youtube.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Breaking: Lead Codices Revealed to be the Q Document

The lead codices found in Jordan have been identified as the Q document, a hypothesis no more.

Until today there was no evidence for Q except for the fact that Matthew and Luke have material in common that isn't in Mark, so this is obviously a huge find.

Read the full story here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Goodacre's Way through the Maze online in toto for free

Mark Goodacre's fantastic popular introduction to the synoptic problem is now available online for free.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

T.J. Lang on Luke 17 in JSNT

"The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it" (Luke 17:22).

In the new JSNT T.J. Lang argues that there are two kinds of "seeing" in this verse. The upshot is a fresh and convincing read of the passage as a whole. From the abstract:

This article argues for a reading of Lk. 17.22 as antanaclasis, which is a form of rhetorical wordplay in which the same (or a similar) term is repeated, but in two different senses. According to this reading, Jesus introduces his discourse to the disciples (vv. 22-37) with the prediction that in the coming days they will desire to ‘see’ (as in witness) one of the days of the Son of Man but they will not ‘see’ (as in comprehend) these days when they occur among them so long as they fail to understand that suffering is primary to the Son of Man’s identity. Such a reading coheres with the larger Lukan theme of the blindness of the disciples to the necessity of Jesus’ passion. Such a reading also requires a rethinking of the assumption that the subject of Jesus’ discourse in 17.22-37 is the parousia.

The day in question, then, is the Passion, which the disciples do not "see". The implications are significant: contrary to the assumption, common since Conzelmann, that Luke presents a wholly deferred eschatology, Lang shows that Christ's apocalypse begins at the cross.

The same issue also has a discussion of Kavin Rowe's World Upside Down, including Matthew Sleeman, John Barclay, and a response from Rowe himself.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Mere metaphor?

Janet Martin Soskice on the problem of assuming that biblical metaphors are always "mere" metaphors:

Jesus' phrase 'this bread is my body'. Is this metaphorical or not? The question is frequently asked as though one's answer will settle an enormous theological though, could we but acknowledge that phrases such as this one were metaphorical, we would be freed from the metaphysical difficulties which have troubled centuries of theological debate. But to think in this way is to fall back into the ornamentalist theories of metaphor against which we have been arguing from the beginning of the book. Even a conservative, catholic Christian could acknowledge that Jesus' phrase 'this is my body' is, or was, metaphorical but in doing so he would make a linguistic and not an ontological point. It would be analogous to acknowledging that the phrase 'there is a strong electrical current flowing through the wire' is, or was, metaphorical. The point at issue is not really whether we have metaphor here, but what the metaphor is doing: is it simply an ornamental redescription, so that Jesus has redescribed bread in an evocative way? or is the metaphor genuinely catachretical, not a redescribing but a naming or disclosing for the first time? It is one's metaphysics, not metaphor, which is at issue. To put it another way, the question is not simply whether we have a metaphor here or not, but what, if anything, the metaphor refers to or signifies.

Metaphor and Religious Language, (OUP, 1985).

Friday, February 4, 2011

Details on Richard Bauckham at Duke

What was once whispered in the hallways is now proclaimed from the Divinity school website. Here are the details on this year's Clark lectures:

Established in 1984, the Kenneth Willis Clark Lectureship Fund honors the life and work of Reverend Professor Kenneth Willis Clark, a Divinity School faculty member for 36 years. Each year this fund enables the Divinity School to offer a distinguished program with special emphasis on New Testament studies and textual criticism.

These are free public lectures. No pre-registration is necessary.

Individualism and Community in the Gospel of John

Guest Speaker: Richard Bauckham
Richard Bauckham was until recently Professor of New Testament Studies and Bishop Wardlaw Professor in the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, and is now Professor Emeritus at St. Andrews. He retired in 2007 in order to concentrate on research and writing, and is Senior Scholar at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, where he does some teaching for the Cambridge Federation of Theological Colleges. He is also a Visiting Professor at St. Mellitus College, London. From 1996 to 2002 he was General Editor of the Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series. He is an Anglican (but not ordained), and was a member of the Doctrine Commission of the Church of England for some years. In 2009 he was awarded the Michael Ramsey prize for his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, and in 2010 the Franz-Delitzsch-Award for a volume of collected essays, The Jewish World around the New Testament. His other publications include God Crucified: Monotheism and Christology in the New Testament (1998) and The Theology of the Book of Revelation (1993).

Lecture 1
Thursday, February 24, 2011
4:00-5:15 p.m.
0016 Westbrook, Duke Divinity School

Lecture 2
Friday, February 25, 2011
12:20-1:20 p.m.
0016 Westbrook, Duke Divinity School

Please contact Jacquelyn Norris at (919) 660-3529 with any questions.

HT: Mark Goodacre

Monday, January 17, 2011

SBL postpones implementation of new policies for students

From the recent mass email:

The Executive Committee of Council met on 12 January 2011 to discuss concerns over the recent policies regarding student participation in the Society’s Annual Meeting. The policies that were announced in November 2010 required all students without a doctoral degree to submit to the Program Unit Chair the full text of the paper they intended to read and limited the number of sessions student can participate in (as panelist, presenter, and respondent) to one.

The action taken by the Executive Committee of Council, effective immediately , is to postpone the implementation of these policies and to undertake additional discussion of these matters at the Spring 2011 Council meeting. This action thereby sets aside these requirements and restrictions until 2012, pending further review.

I want personally to thank the members of the Student Advisory Board and the network of OSRs for the conversations we have had concerning these matters. They are active advocates for student interests. Please do continue these conversations with me or with representatives on SAB. SAB will provide a report directly to Council in April.


John F. Kutsko
Executive Director
Society of Biblical Literature

A wise move, I think.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy Newt Year and an SBL Student Survey

First of all, Happy Newt Year to you all! Here's to a year filled with the passing of courses and prelims, progress on dissertations, graduations, publications, jobs, and success wherever you are along the way.

As you probably know, SBL recently changed the criteria for student papers at the Annual Meeting. The main two changes are as follows:

1. All students without a doctoral degree are required to submit to the Program Unit Chair the full text of the paper they are proposing to read.
2. The number of sessions a student without a doctoral degree can participate in will be limited to one.

The first point has generated quite a bit of discussion in the blogosphere. For some examples, see the original email from SBL Executive Director John Kutsko on Pat McCullough's blog and a response by James McGrath. The most obvious problem from my point of view as a student is that I am not going to take time away from my dissertation in February to write a paper that may or may not be accepted for the Annual Meeting. Nor is it clear why this step is necessary for students who have successfully presented papers in the past. This rule will severely limit my ability to participate in future meetings and, I feel, diminishes the benefits of my SBL membership. No doubt there have been valid complaints about the quality of papers at the meeting, but this blanket rule assumes that (1) students are the only ones submitting poor quality papers, and (2) steering committees for the individual sections are incompetent at screening the abstracts they receive. I am sure you can come up with additional points in favor of or against these changes.

The good news is that it seems that SBL wants to hear from us. Pat McCullough posts some good suggestions here, one of which involves completing a survey that will provide data directly to SBL's Student Advisory Board. Pat mentions January 10 as a deadline for completing the survey and for submitting formal written responses to the Board. So I just wanted to encourage y'all to fill out the survey and make your voices heard.