Saturday, January 31, 2004

Review of The Gospel of John

There's far too much around about The Passion of the Christ at the moment, especially for a film that hasn't been released yet, so it's nice to see a really glowing review of The Gospel of John on the National Review Online:

The Word, According to John
A Gospel on the silver screen.
By S. T. Karnick

The article has a useful run-through various Biblical epics and then talks about The Gospel of John which the author clearly loved:
Given the amount of talk involved, even for a three-hour film, one might expect The Gospel of John to come off as somewhat static and preachy, but it is not so at all. Saville uses a wide variety of cinematic techniques to keep things interesting. The camera moves about constantly, prowling through streets and passages, panning about, and shifting from one character to another, to give the viewer something interesting to look at while Plummer narrates. The visual tableaux are often quite beautiful, especially in the use of contrasts between light and shadow, but never in a way that distracts the audience from the story. In addition, the producers took great care to make the settings and costumes look as true to the time as possible, giving the film a new and interesting look. Even the soundtrack reflects this care, as the arranger included authentic recreations of instruments of the time.

In addition, Saville evoked an excellent performance from Henry Ian Cusick as Jesus Christ. Cusick presents the Christ as significantly more cheerful and self-assured than most such depictions have been. He smiles easily and often, and has a pleasant but strong demeanor and can be quite determined when that is appropriate. This makes his Christ rather less enigmatic than is usual for a screen depiction of Jesus, and it does not in any way decrease our reverence for him — the main point of John's Gospel, after all, is Christ's divinity. Given that emphasis, Cusick's and Saville's choice to show Jesus as a person who enjoys life and particularly enjoys serving God, his Father, in addition to being supernaturally wise, temperate, loving, and courageous, is exactly right . . . . .

. . . . . the film takes on the style of an A&E biographical documentary: A narrator tells the story, and actors clad in period costume reenact the events in settings as realistic as the producers can afford (which in this case, as mentioned earlier, are very persuasive indeed). The camera moves about the settings while Plummer articulates the Gospel text, just as the shot in a TV documentary pans across a still photo to create some sense of movement while the narrator describes the events it shows. Black-and-white flashbacks are also used to good effect here, tying the narrative strands together visually as Plummer recites the text.
Good analogy -- it does have that feel. I haven't finished watching yet, but at this stage I'm a little less enthusiastic about Christopher Plummer's narration which is surprisingly wooden and sometimes intrusive. I'd have liked to have seen more imaginative use sometimes of the ambiguities over narration / dialogue / monologue in the film, e.g. as soon as the narrative reaches John 3.16, Christopher Plummer's narration comes muscling in with "For God so loved the world . . ." And elsewhere Plummer gives us the crowd's thoughts rather than the words being put in the mouths of members of the crowd. But these are niggles; it's a joyous outing so far (I'm up to Chapter 8 now). I agree with Karnick about the flow of the narrative, the use of black-and-white flash backs and so on.

Karnick comments that in Cecil B. de Mille's The King of Kings (1927), one can actually see what Jesus writes in the ground in the story of the woman taken in adultery in John 8. Since I don't have a copy of the film (I should get one), I don't know what he writes. Does anyone happen to know? Are there any other Jesus films where we can see what Jesus writes? I can't think of any. He doesn't write at all in this scene in Last Temptation. In The Gospel of John it's not easy to see what he is writing -- it looks like some kind of symbol.

Another review from a week ago from The Wichita Eagle:

'Gospel' brings the Bible to life

Interesting conclusion -- something I'd been thinking about:
The film is fortunate in its casting, which borrows mostly from British television and theater. Daniel Kash is an impetuous Simon Peter, Stuart Bunce an observant John, Scott Handy a wild-eyed yet tender John the Baptist.

Yet this lily-white casting is also the main awkward element. Brown, black and olive-skinned extras abound, yet all Christ's close friends are Caucasians. In a movie that strives for fidelity to the story from which it springs, couldn't we have more honesty about the people who lived 2,000 years ago in the Middle East?

Matthew Parris worries about what day Sunday is

There's a nice article in this week's Spectator about Sunday; Matthew Parris thinks he might have produced "the definitive analysis of the problem about Sundays":

The question that just won’t go away: is Sunday this week or next week?
Matthew Parris
So my editor was right. For the Creationist, Saturday being the Sabbath, the new week must start on Sunday. The Bible confirms this. Matthew xxviii 1: ‘In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.’ Dozens of New Testament references suggest the same convention. The early Palestinian Church followed it.
I'm not sure about "dozens"; nor am I sure about this:
So why did Christianity depart from the convention? Why did we not designate Saturday as our Day of Rest, and Friday and Saturday as our weekend?

As so often, St Paul seems to be the problem. In his arbitrary way, Paul started talking as though the Early Christian Holy Day had been switched from the Sabbath to the following day. He did not say why, but we can be pretty sure he was not relying on anything Christ said, or he would have cited Him. It is a fair assumption that Jesus, a good Jew, observed Saturday as His Holy Day. Paul was vague, however. The first text explicitly to mention Sunday worship is Justin’s First Apology, c. ad 150.
"As so often", Paul is cited as "the problem" without any corroborating evidence. Jesus is cited as "a good Jew" but Paul not. It's interesting just how easy it is in the journalistic world to blame Paul for everything. But then Parris also wants to "stop people with doctorates calling themselves doctors", so what would I know?

Opponents of Allegory

Another article has been placed on line by Christian History, who release their print articles incrementally over the weeks:

Opponents of Allegory
The scholars at Antioch rejected allegory in favor of history. But their interpretive method led some into heresy
by Steven Gertz

On-line book on John 1-4

Roberta Allen has sent over a link to this on-line book of c. 100,000 words in PDF files on John's Gospel. The author received a First Class honours degree in Theology from Westminster College, Oxford. I have not had the chance to read the book yet and in linking to it here I am going on initial impressions that it is worth looking at. So by all means send me any feedback on this:

Interpreting the Interpreter: Intertextual Midrash in John's Gospel 1- 4
Roberta Allen

Post-it notes from the papal kitchen

Jeff Peterson sent over this delightful piece from the Catholic World News

Post-It notes from the papal kitchen

It focuses on the pope's alleged opinion of some soup he had for dinner one night, in a series of emails beginning with "The boss said the soup was good. Nice work" through "Still hearing from all sides about your famous bouillabaise. You should chisel the word "Good!" on the plinth above your stove" to "The claim that he would have intended the word "good" in a positive sense is preposterous prima facie and does not merit credibility. A memorandum indicating the contrary that purports to have been issued from my office is a transparent forgery" and so on. Well worth a read.

This parodies the debate of a week or so ago of whether the pope did or did not say "It is as it was" about The Passion of the Christ. That story and the surrounding issues still have not gone away. One of the latest and most thorough pieces is here in yesterday's National Catholic Reporter which brings us up to date on the controversy:

Pope on Gibson movie: Was it as it was?
Sifting through spin and Vatican speak

It explains the situation from the beginning to now in the best way I've seen yet and it has the following conclusion which resonates with British readers in the week of Hutton:
Where does all this leave us?

No one can have ironclad certainty about what the pope said. Based on Navarro’s Jan. 22 statement, it is possible that the pope said something like “It is as it was,” but intended this as a private reaction. My original source continues to insist this is the case. On the other hand, there is no clear confirmation of the remark.

No one comes out of this mess looking good.

The makers of the film have been widely accused of either lying about the pope’s comment, or abusing John Paul’s confidence by publicizing a private remark. If either of those charges is true it would be reprehensible, but if not, their reputation has been done a serious injustice.

Reporters, myself certainly included, look like naifs who have been spun every which way, or worse yet, like willing partners in someone’s dishonesty. If nothing else, it’s a wake-up call about the dangers of reliance on anonymous sources, a fact of reporting life in the Vatican. Officials here rarely speak on the record, so those of us who cover the Vatican are constantly dealing with unnamed sources. This incident undoubtedly has raised the bar on caution for all of us.

Different blog email

I've scrapped the previous blog email address since it is getting so furiously spammed that there have been occasions when I have accidentally missed the odd authentic email. I'm trying something different, a bloglines email address that one can repeatedly change so as to run away from the spam. The only unfortunate thing is that it is unmemorable, so you'll have to go to "Click here to send email" which appears on the main page at the top, or in the header information if you are reading in an aggregator.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Search for a Blog Reader

Since Blogger began to provide xml site feeds to enable their blogs to be read in an aggregator / blog reader, I have been looking for a good blog reader (see previous blog entry). Newsmonster I still cannot even persuade to install and Bottom Feeder has problems with the Blogger xml feeds and messes up any entry featuring links, especially adjacent links. My next attempt has been with Macromedia Central which features a nice looking Blog Reader. At first I thought that this was my solution. It looks good and it has no trouble representing the blogger xml site feeds neatly. But it seems that there are problems with this too. There's lots of other rubbish packaged in with it -- movie finders, weather finders etc., and all USA-based. It's very patchy in what it seems able to fetch from the blogs I want to read and it's "refresh" button doesn't appear to do anything. It's also not versatile enough. What I like about Bottom Feeder, if only it rendered the xml feeds intelligibly, is its versatility within given blogs and blog entries. My guess is that most of my readers simply read on the web since I've not had any feedback on this topic.

New York Times on Jesus Films

There's a fine article in today's New York Times on Jesus films, triggered of course by The Passion of the Christ:

Enraged Filmgoers: The Wages of Faith?
The obvious thing to say about the skirmishes over "Passion," which will either subside or intensify once the movie opens nationally on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25, is that, since those earlier dust-ups, the sides have reversed. The conservative Christians who were so vocal in their condemnation of Mr. Godard, Mr. Smith and, especially, Mr. Scorsese, are now equally vocal in their defense of Mr. Gibson. An ugly undercurrent of anti-Semitism ran through some of the attacks on those supposedly sacrilegious movies, directed not at the filmmakers, none of whom were Jewish, but at the producers and studio heads who have periodically served as convenient targets for conspiracy-minded demagogues. Similar insinuations bubble beneath the surface of some of the defenses of Mr. Gibson's reportedly pious picture, which is itself accused of fomenting anti-Semitism by placing the blame for Jesus' death on the Jews.

This reversal is testimony both to the endlessness of the culture wars and to the changed landscape of battle. Those Catholics and evangelical Protestants who felt alienated from much of American commercial culture and who informed the earlier protests, have not only a powerful and glamorous Hollywood ally in Mr. Gibson but also a growing sense of cultural and political confidence. More and more it seems that religious expression — in the form of best-selling thrillers, pop music, movies and television programs — is entering the mainstream.
The article discusses Ben Hur, The Robe, King of Kings and how about this for a characterisation of The Greatest Story Ever Told?
In that film, Jesus, played by the young Max von Sydow, wanders through a Holy Land that resembles nothing so much as an endless showbiz talk show, populated by the likes of Shelley Winters, Telly Savalas and John Wayne, temporarily exchanging his cavalry badge for centurion's armor.
The article focuses specially on Last Temptation of Christ and Pasolini's The Gospel According to St Matthew, both of which the author obviously admires.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Scathing article on The Passion

Rochelle Altman on Ioudaios points to a really scathing article on The Passion of the Christ in

Inside Mel Gibson's "Passion"
A clergyman infiltrates the grass-roots campaign for Gibson's new Gospel film to catch a screening and reports that Jews, Arabs -- and Christians -- should be worried.
By Cintra Wilson

The author has interviewed Rev. Mark Stanger, "canon precentor and associate pastor of San Francisco's premier mainstream Episcopalian church" who has seen the film and clearly hated everything about it. Much of the article is patently absurd, e.g. the claim that it is somehow anti-Arab on the grounds that Aramaic sounds a bit like Arabic:
Anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim. Some of those words in Aramaic sound a little bit like Arabic -- Arabic is a Semitic language too. [In the film, it came off like] nasty foreigners were doing this thing to our beautiful Jesus. So when Mel Gibson said in the interview that the reason for the other languages was to highlight the brutality, that kind of freaked me out.
I'm sure I don't need to point out the weaknesses in this! Much of the rest of the article is in the same vein and is pretty useless. But there were two elements of interest to me. One was a link to a site all about The Passion Outreach which features a short interview with James Caviezel (two and a half minutes). The other was the dismaying news that it seems Mel Gibson is still caricaturing Biblical scholarship:
Mel Gibson in his remarks after the film took a potshot at contemporary biblical scholarship -- he called scholars "revisionists" who think the gospel writers had agendas.
We need to add the rider that this is only a reported impression in an often silly article, but if it is accurate I think it a shame that this line is still being taken. The idea that opposition to this film comes from contemporary liberal Biblical scholars who do not want the Bible story retold is nonsense, especially in the light of The Gospel of John, which used several Biblical scholars of "liberal" leaning and otherwise, including Christians and Jews, and which is a literal word-for-word retelling of the Gospel of John, of all the Gospels the one most open to charges about anti-Judaism. It may well turn out that there is nothing to worry about over The Passion of the Christ, but if there is it will not be because it is somehow too close to the Passion Narratives of any or all of the canonical Gospels.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Crossan views The Passion

It turns out that not only were Foxman and Bretton-Granatoor present at the Global Pastors' Network preview screening of The Passion of the Christ last week, but so too was John Dominic Crossan. Crossan does not comment on the content of the film, but is critical of the secrecy surrounding it in this article on BeliefNet:

'Something Between Cover-up and Censorship'
A leading Bible scholar reacts to the secrecy surrounding an advance screening of 'The Passion'
John Dominic Crossan

Also included is a scan of the confidentiality agreement they had to sign.

RogueClassicism on the megasite discussion

David Meadows comments on the inter-blog discussion about megasites between Torrey Seland, Jim Davila, Stephen Carlson and me (what he calls the "biblioblogs"):

Maybe a Rant ... Megasites, Blogs, and Classics

There are some useful reflections here from the overlapping but different perspective in Classics. I haven't time to comment at the moment but will return to this later.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004


I mentioned recently that there is now a site feed available for this blog. Let me fill in a little more detail if you are unfamiliar with this. If you are in the habit of reading this blog and several others, you can access them from one place using an "aggregator" or "newsreader". Up until recently blogger, which powers this blog, did not provide the site feeds that are necessary to make reading in an aggregator possible. But that has now changed. Now blogger automatically generate a site feed in XML so that you can use the aggregators, newsreaders and so on and pick them up. The name given to this site feed is "Atom". Read more about atom here:

What is Atom?

I've only recently got into this game myself and so far with only mixed results. First, what newsreader or aggregator does one use? Newsmonster comes highly recommended but I can't get past first base on this -- I've downloaded the programme but it will not install. If anyone has any suggestions on that, I'd be grateful. Several of the others require one to part with money; one that doesn't is BottomFeeder. I found this straightforward to download, install and begin to use, but there's a problem with it -- the site feeds from blogger based sites don't represent properly in the content window (mine, Paleojudaica, Hypotyposeis, etc.). It seems especially not to like links. So while one can monitor the appearance of new posts in one's favourite blogs, one still has to open in one's browser. On the other hand, non-blogger based feeds seem to work fine, e.g. AKMA's. So if anyone has any bright ideas on how this could be fixed, I'd be interested to hear them.

Foxman and Bretton-Granatoor Critique

If you've been following the news stories surrounding The Passion of the Christ, you will be familiar with the name Abraham Foxman, one of the critics of the early script of the film and at the centre of the anti-Semitic charge. Up until the weekend he had not been able to get to see the film and finally sneaked in to see it with a group of Christian pastors in Florida. There are lots of stories on the net about this, but this article in is written by Foxman (along with Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor) and gives their current thinking:

'Passion' relies on theme of anti-Semitism

Symposium on The Passion of the Christ

This article by Steve Gertig in The Gateway (The University of Nebraska at Omaha's Student Newspaper) advertises an academic symposium on issues arising from The Passion of the Christ:

UNO, Creighton to host Mel Gibson's Passion symposium
UNO and Creighton University will host a symposium on the movie The Passion of the Christ, to discuss the movie's meaning Thursday . . . . Bill Blizek, a professor of philosophy at UNO and editor of the Journal of Religion and Film, is the organizer of the event. He said that UNO and Creighton felt the need to have the forum because it is a "powerful movie" and has a famous director. Blizek said "Mel Gibson felt moved to make the movie."
There is also news that "If you can't make it, UNO's Journal of Religion and Film and Creighton's Journal of Religion and Society will have transcripts on their respective Web sites. Indeed if you hop over to the Journal of Religion and Film, it has a full programme in PDF:

Exploring Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ'

There are some very interesting looking papers.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Mel Gibson Interview on The World Over

The EWTN site has now added an archived version of Raymond Arroyo's "new exclusive second interview regarding 'The Passion of the Christ'" which was first broadcast over the weekend:

The World Over
In the interview, Gibson breaks his silence, speaking for the first time about charges that his film, The Passion of the Christ is anti-Semitic. He talks about his bold vision for the project and his motivation for making the film. Gibson tells Arroyo, “It reflects my beliefs-I’ve never done that before.” He also candidly comments on the controversy surrounding the movie, his resistance to altering the film, and his personal commitment to press forward: “I don’t know if I will ever work again. I’ve said that this is a career killer and it could well be, but that doesn’t matter because I don’t care,” Gibson says in the interview. Based on biblical accounts, the movie, "The Passion of the Christ," depicts the last 12 hours of Christ’s life on earth and will be released in the U.S. on Ash Wednesday, February 25th. EWTNews Director, Raymond Arroyo was on set, in Italy during the filming of “The Passion of the Christ” last year, and is the only broadcast journalist to conduct an extended interview with Mel Gibson about the project.
Thanks also to Helenann Francis for this news item from the BBC:

Flak for Jesus film 'to worsen'

Peter Gabriel and The Passion of the Christ

Interesting little Passion-related story on the Always On Network / Blog, Davo's Dispatch #2:
Speaking of events of Biblical proportion, one of my dearest Davos friends, musician and social activist Peter Gabriel, told me a story about "The Passion of the Christ." The controversial new film depicts the last 12 hours of Christ’s life on earth, and it turns out that the movie’s Website had incorporated some of Peter’s songs without permission. This fact set in motion a dialogue between Real World (Peter’s entertainment company) lawyers and those of the movie producer, Mel Gibson.

As Peter explained it, Mr. Gibson called him immediately to apologize and ended up making a donation to Peter’s non-profit organization, Witness, for his penance. He also agreed to send a tape of the movie to Peter for his private viewing. "I watched it and wept," Peter recounted. He says it is a very violent movie, but well directed with amazing cinematography.

And the controversy that the film is anti-Semetic [sic], painting Jews as "the killers of Jesus"? Peter points out, "Well, the Pharisees certainly didn’t look too good, but neither did the Romans."
I'm not quite sure where the "some of Peter's songs" is coming from; an earlier version of the teaser trailer used a Peter Gabriel track and that may have been on the official web site -- I can't recall. I do remember clearly that there were a bunch of samples of Peter Gabriel's songs on the site that describes itself as "the premier international fan site", which has been around for some time; and that site did remove the Peter Gabriel songs pretty quickly after they'd arrived.

Incidentally, the official site now does have John Debney listed as the one who has scored the film, with a little bio.

Supersites Question again

Stephen Carlson makes some useful comments on the discussion we've been having on the future of the "megasites" or "supersites". I particularly like his focus on the question of the role of the "editorial judgement of their [the sites'] builders". He also reflects on my comments on the way that specialized areas interact with the supersite model:
The way I see it, there are still plenty of opportunities to carve out a niche for yourself specializing in a segment you feel most passionate about (that passion will sustain your motivation during the tedious parts like keeping links up-to date). If could be anything, such as "Anything you wanted to know about Philemon but were afraid to ask" as long as you have the passage and the editorial work is good. If the specialized site is good enough, some of the burden undertaken by the megasite maintainers can be eased.

Review of Biblical Literature

Latest additions to the Review of Biblical Literature on the NT side are:

Berger, Klaus
Translated by Charles Muenchow
Identity and Experience in the New Testament
Reviewed by Douglas Geyer

Das, A. Andrew
Paul, the Law, and the Covenant
Reviewed by Jerry L. Sumney

Dubis, Mark
Messianic Woes in First Peter: Suffering and Eschatology in 1 Peter 4:12-19
Reviewed by Eric J. Greaux

Jones, F. Stanley
Which Mary?: The Marys of Early Christian Tradition
Reviewed by Stephen W. Felder

Reiner, Andy M.
Miracle and Magic: A Study in the Acts of the Apostles and the Life of Apollonius of Tyana
Reviewed by Kimberley Stratton

Gospel of John (Visual Bible) -- First Reflections

My DVDs of the new Visual Bible Gospel of John film arrived today. Unfortunately I have too much marking, teaching preparation and admin. to do to find time to watch it all so I'm taking it in segments. I've enjoyed it very much so far. It's nice to have a Jesus film in which Jesus appears from pretty early on. As Christopher Plummer narrates the Prologue, there are nature scenes, sunsets etc., John the Baptist comes in and gradually you see Henry Ian Cusick as Jesus walking -- but his face only finally revealed at the end of the Prologue. Cusick has a warm smile and seems rather engaging.

The film does have that typical Bible-film look about it. John the Baptist looks like an actor with a false beard and lanky long hair. Nothing has ever quite got the blood and dirt in the way that The Last Temptation of Christ managed, though I suppose The Passion of the Christ looks like it is going to be far more graphic in its violence than anything we've seen before.

I was intrigued to see how they would depict John the Baptist's speech about the dove descending on Jesus -- would they make it a baptism scene, i.e. would they allow themselves to be influenced by the Synoptic context? In fact they don't show Jesus getting baptized by John but they do show him arising up out of the water -- in flashback -- as John tells the crowd about Jesus.

The Wedding at Cana has Jesus' mother dressed in traditional blue so that she is instantly recognisable. In some ways this is a bold decision given that so few Jesus films do dress her in icon blue. The words of the Good News Bible, "Madam . . .", along with Jesus' smile, tend to make his words to her less harsh than they might otherwise have been.

The Temple scene is pretty interesting -- Jesus is quite animated -- far more so than in the older films like The Greatest Story Ever Told (Max von Sydow as Jesus making a carefully choreographed token effort at causing a scene) but it does not compare to the Scorsese (Last Temptation of Christ) temple scene -- one of the finest moments in Jesus film history. The scene did remind me of the Scorsese temple scene, though; the way that the Jewish leaders come down the steps to see what is causing the commotion and find themselves confronting Jesus directly -- this was very similar to Last Temptation even if it looked like a rather pale reflection of it.

Though I'm only up to the end of John 2, it's already clear to me that the production values are a bit higher than they were with the previous Visual Bible outing, Matthew, but it is only a bit. It does have a very similar feel to it, Christopher Plummer's narration relentlessly marching on just as Richard Kiley's did in Matthew. A nice feature of that film is missing in the new one. In Matthew, we sometimes see the aged apostle dictating to his scribe and it created a feeling of distance between the text and the events being narrated. But in Gospel of John the narrator is unseen. One improvement with Gospel of John is that we don't have the Bible verse ticking away in the corner as we did with Matthew. More reflections as I watch my way through it.

Incidentally, getting hold of it is not easy if you are outside the U.S.A. or Canada. It's not been shown in any British cinemas to my knowledge and there is no video or DVD release here. You can't order it from the official site because it will not ship to the UK or elsewhere. But there is a way round it if, like me, you are desperate to see it -- new copies are appearing every day or two on ebay. And if you are lucky (I was), you can even get it just a touch cheaper than it is on the official site, though the price gets pushed right up to the limit and sometimes over it. Also, it's useless if you haven't got a multi-regional DVD player because the ones on sale in the U.S. are all Region 1.

On-line extract from Funk's Grammar Introduction

Carl Conrad announced on b-greek today that he has now has the following ready in PDF format:

Robert W. Funk, A Beginning-Intermediate Grammar of Hellenistic Greek2 (Missoula, Montana: 1977) Volume I, pp. xxv-xxxii, 1-30

Conrad explains it like this: "an extract from Robert W. Funk's 3-volume textbook of Koine greek, first published in 1973 and long out of print. The materials here extracted set forth the rationale of Funk's method and sketch the linguistic framework on which the textbook and teaching program are organized. I have long thought that these are the principles that ought to govern the teaching and learning of ancient Greek at any level, whether Homeric, Classical Attic, or Koine."

RSS feed

There is now an RSS feed available for this blog so that you can read it in an aggregator alongside your other favourite blogs. This is the link for the site feed:

Site feed

And it is in the column on the left (scroll down a bit). Some readers have asked about this but others may have no idea what I am talking about, so I'll explain a little more later.

European Association of Biblical Studies

Thanks to Jim West for this link:

European Association of Biblical Studies

This is a new society "created in order to promote biblical and related studies in Europe". The web site provides information about officers, the constitution, forthcoming conference, links and so on.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

More comments on the supersites

Jim Davila and Torrey Seland comment further on the megasite question. I like Jim's comment that "There's plenty of room for experimenting in cyberspace". One thing is clear to me and that is that I would not enjoy the role of a kind of general editor of a megasite; I'm not too keen on anything that would take the fun (for me) out of the work on the web.

Latest Explorator

The latest Explorator has been posted:

Explorator 6.39

It includes a link to an article on the James ossuary from the Toledo Blade. It is by David Yonke and is all about James Harrell's views:

Debate continues over authenticity
UT professor says Israeli study flawed
. . . . "What I think happened is that they threw this committee together very quickly. It's like a road accident: The first people on the scene are not always the best to help. That's exactly what happened. I think there will be another, better-qualified committee to study it and issue a new report."

Dr. Harrell said Dr. Shanks has asked him if he would consider organizing such a blue-ribbon panel.

"I sort of welcome the opportunity, and in a way I don't," Dr. Harrell said. "It's such a controversial issue. You can get caught up with it. Not everybody's going to be happy with what you do, no matter what your conclusion."
Also included is a link to this New York Times article explaining the bizarre events of this week surrounding the Vatican and The Passion of the Christ:

Mystery Drama, With the Pope Cast as a Movie Critic

It doesn't add much to what we already know, but it's clear and full.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Fulco speaks on The Passion

William Fulco of Loyola Marymount University is the man who did the translating into Aramaic and Latin for The Passion of the Christ. Thanks to Jim West on Xtalk for the link to this article in the Naples Daily News by Terry Mattingly which features some comments from Fulco:

On Religion: 'Passion of Christ' has been passion of others

Another idea on supersites

Wieland Willker comments on the discussion that has been going on between Torrey Seland, Jim Davila and me on the future of the megasites (see my most recent post with links; and Torrey Seland's most recent post with links). Wieland writes:
I think this cannot be done by one individual alone. I would therefore suggest that we should gather certain individuals for small sections. Every individual is responsible for one section under the head of the NT-Gateway. This way everything looks the same and is easily navigatable. This is already the case with the "Open Web Directory" where you can become an editor of a certain category (check An editor should keep the links up-to-date, add new links, and have some comments now and then. The only problem I see at the moment is how to manage the access authorization for the editors.
I have wondered about something like this before and it might provide a useful way of getting the balance right between an evolutionary approach and some degree of prescription or organisation. However, at this stage, at least as far as the NT Gateway is concerned, I am a bit concerned about the idea because (a) it might take as much organisation and maintenance as the doing the site myself; (b) it would -- as Wieland mentions -- mean organising access authorization for the editors; (c) there is the risk of patchiness across the site, with some editors doing their sections well and others less well; and (d) I am not sure that the NT Gateway would be the right forum to do this -- there are other megasites and I don't particularly want to land myself with a kind of imperialistic role! But on the other hand I don't want to pour cold water on this; I am intrigued by the suggestion and there may be something in it. Let me think a little more.

One final comment on how something like this is actually evolving already. On many occasions I simply point to a place where you can go to get the best gateway on a given subject. I have a little section of Judaica, for example, which just points to some of the major places to go for extra information -- it would be madness even to try to be comprehensive there. Likewise the Gospel of Thomas. Even though that is one of my research interests, there is no point my trying to provide a comprehensive set of links because one already has Steve Davies's Gospel of Thomas homepage, so I point to that and one or two other leading resources. My guess is that this is the way that things will continue to develop, so unofficially bringing about something like what Wieland is suggesting but on a more organic, evolutionary model.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Peggy Noonan on the Vatican Passion story

Yesterday I commented on the intrigue growing around whether the Pope did or did not say "It is as it was" about The Passion of the Christ. Some pretty serious charges were beginning to emerge. Now Peggy Noonan, who was one of the two first journalists to have reported the Pope's alleged comment, has set out the case from her perspective, in the Wall Street Journal Opinion Page (with thanks to Jim Davila for the link):

'Passion' and Intrigue
The story of the Vatican and Mel Gibson's film gets curiouser

If you've not been following it, the gist is this: the Vatican apparently reported the Pope as saying "It is as it was" and then a month or so later apparently denied it. Both Noonan (one of the journalists at the centre of this) and Steve McEveety (the producer of The Passion of the Christ) have emails from the pope's official spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, which seem to back up the quotation, unequivocally in the case of the McEveety one (sanctioning that the quotation is to be repeated "again and again and again"). Navarro-Valls apparently claims that the email to McEveety is not genuine but fabricated. Have a look at Noonan's full and patient examination of all this which concludes with a paragraph beginning, "Believe me, it is painful to be accused however implicitly of being the accessory to a lie" and with the promise of more to come.

One thing that is not yet clear to me is whether the emails to McEveety have been analyzed. The EWTN report yesterday said "Noonan and Dreher were able to establish that the email message to McEveety was sent from Navarro-Valls' email address, and relayed through a computer at the Vatican". Noonan's article, however, only confirms that the email to her was relayed through the Vatican and her email is nothing like as unequivocal as McEveety's.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

More on The Passion soundtrack -- Gibson sings!

Some more news has emerged on the soundtrack for The Passion of the Christ. It seems clear that John Debney has composed and recorded the score (see previous blog entries on this), that Mel Gibson himself sings on it and that the singing will be in Aramaic. No mention of Lisa Gerrard. This article from Music in the Movies:

Mel Gibson sings in 'Passion Of The Christ'
The score will be available on CD from Sony Classical on 24th February, one day before the film's world premiere. The music is written for orchestra and choir singing in Aramaic (the film's dialogue is also in Aramaic and Latin). According to a press release, director Mel Gibson lended "his own voice to the singing and chanting" in the score.
One of the most recent publicity trips has been to Florida and you can watch a short video about it at

Gibson Visits Florida To Promote 'Passion'

EWTN on the Vatican Passion story

There's a little more concrete information on this story on EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network):

Vatican Public-Relations Debacle on Gibson's "Passion"
. . . Meanwhile two prominent American columnists reported that, shortly after the Pope's comment was reported, Navarro-Valls had encouraged McEveety to use the quotation. In separate columns published on January 22 in response to the denial from Archbishop Dziwisz, Peggy Noonan and Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News reported that they had seen an email message from Navarro-Valls to McEveety, in which the papal spokesman told the film's producer that he should feel free to cite the Pope's comment "again and again and again."
Confronted with that email message, Navarro-Valls denied that it was authentic. But Noonan and Dreher were able to establish that the email message to McEveety was sent from Navarro-Valls' email address, and relayed through a computer at the Vatican. On January 22, Navarro-Valls issued a short, bland statement confirming only that the Pope had indeed seen the Passion. Without directly responding to reports that the Pope had issued a one-sentence comment, the Vatican spokesman concluded: "It is the Holy Father's custom not to express public judgments on artistic works-- judgments which are always open to diverse evaluations of an aesthetic nature."
EWTN are to broadcast an interview with Mel Gibson over the weekend, first showing 8 pm (USA) ET. I am not familiar with EWTN but it looks like you can watch live over the internet, so it might be worth tuning in. Full details here:

The World Over with Raymond Arroyo

Bible Review, February 2004

There is a new Bible Review available for February 2004. Unfortunately, they seem to have discontinued their practice of making selected articles available on-line. Now it's just a teaser paragraph for each one:

Bible Review, February 2004

It also seems that they have scrapped all their older on-line full text content -- very disappointing. I'll give it a little to see if any of it returns but if not, I'll have to take off the links to individual articles on the NT Gateway.

SBL Mark Group Web Page

The Society of Biblical Literature Mark Group now has its own web page with details about the group, how to propose papers and so on:

The Mark Group of the Society of Biblical Literature

Sources confirm Pope's Passion Quotation

Like everything to do with The Passion of the Christ, this story doesn't go away. And all the time the film is getting lots of free publicity. It is sometimes said that Scorsese used the controversy surrounding The Last Temptation of Christ as a means of generating and encouraging the necessary free publicity for a film that otherwise would not have done so well at the box office. Anyway, the latest is that CNN's Vatican analyst John Allen feels quite sure that the pope did say this and has sources who, he says, confirm it. This article from

CNN Vatican Analyst: Sources Confirm Pope's Mel Gibson Quote

Meyers on James Ossuary "pure hearsay"

There are some useful reflections on the article on the James Ossuary by Eric Meyers in both Paleojudaica, "I'm not going to put much stock in it until the anonymous archaeologist goes public and gives us a firsthand account I can evaluate for myself", and Hypotyposeis -- excerpt:
"Unfortunately, the anonymity of the witness is a serious cause for concern, and until the person is willing to come forward and be "cross-examined" to determine if that's what he really told Meyers or whether his recollection is solid, the charge has to be considered pure hearsay. It is also unfortunate in terms of being able to evaluate the charge that "the dealer's shop has recently closed and the one-time owner of the ossuary has since moved to Europe." All we're left with is the word of an anonymous source, a level of reporting that is usually considered to be insufficient in modern journalism."

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Bruce Winter, Roman Wives, Roman Widows

Thanks to Loren Rosson on Corpus Paul for reference to this new book:

Bruce Winter, Roman Wives, Roman Widows: The Appearance of New Women and the Pauline Communities

It is published by Eerdmans who provide this blurb:
In Roman law you were what you wore. This legal principle became highly significant because, beginning in the first century A.D., a “new” kind of woman emerged across the Roman empire — a woman whose provocative dress and sometimes promiscuous lifestyle contrasted starkly with the decorum of the traditional married woman. What a woman chose to wear came to identify her as either “new” or “modest.”

Augustus legislated against the “new” woman. Philosophical schools encouraged their followers to avoid embracing her way of life. And, as this fascinating book demonstrates for the first time, the presence of the “new” woman was also felt in the early church, where Christian wives and widows were exhorted to emulate neither her dress code nor her conduct.

Using his extensive knowledge both of the Graeco-Roman world and of the New Testament writings, Bruce Winter shows how changing social mores among women impacted the Pauline communities. This helps to explain the controversial texts on marriage veils in 1 Corinthians, instructions in 1 Timothy regarding dress code and the activities of young widows, and exhortations in Titus for older women to call new wives “back to their senses” regarding their marriage and family responsibilities.

Based on a close investigation of neglected literary and archaeological evidence, Roman Wives, Roman Widows makes groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of first-century women, including their participation in public life as lawyers, magistrates, and political figures, which in turn affected women’s ministry in the Pauline communities.
See also the companion web site at Tyndale House which features a Photo Gallery.

Conference Announcement: New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers


A Conference to be held at Lincoln College, Oxford, 5-7 April 2004

Speakers include:

Bart D Ehrman
John Kloppenborg Verbin
Helmut Koester
William Petersen
Frances Young

A limited number of places is available (residential, £160; non-residential, £80)

Further information, including the full list of speakers and booking form, is available at the conference website:

Announcement forwarded by Andrew Gregory.

UK release date for The Passion of the Christ

I've been looking out for a UK release date for The Passion of the Christ and at last there seems to be one. BBC On-line, at the end of another article about the pope's (non)endorsement of the film, gives 26 March.

More doubt on the James Ossuary -- Eric Meyers

You may have seen this already, but it's worth mentioning again if not. This from Bible and Interpretation today:

Well-known Israeli Archeologist Casts More Doubt on Authenticity of James Ossuary
Ossuary spotted in dealer's shop lacking the “brother of Jesus” element of the inscription
Eric Meyers

Filología Neotestamentaria

You wait for a bus for an hour and two come at once. BSW are really pulling out the stops at the moment and now have added another volume, full text on-line:

Filología Neotestamentaria 9 (1996)


Sebastian Schneider, «Glaubensmängel in Korinth. Eine neue Deutung der ,Schwachen, Kranken, Schlafenden' in 1 Kor 11,30», Vol. 9 (1996) 3-20

Dave Mathewson, «Verbal Aspect in Imperatival Constructions in Pauline Ethical Injunctions», Vol. 9 (1996) 21-36

J. K. Elliott, «The Greek Manuscript Heritage of the Book of Acts», Vol. 9 (1996) 37-50

Ramón Puig Massana, «Acerca de una reciente publicación de José O'Callaghan sobre los papiros de la cueva 7 de Qumrán ("Los primeros testimonios del Nuevo Testamento. Papirología Neotestamentaria", El Almendro, Córdoba, 1995)», Vol. 9 (1996) 51-60

Josep Rius-Camps, «Las variantes de la Recensión Occidental de los Hechos de los Apóstoles (VII) (Hch 3,1-26)» , Vol. 9 (1996) 61-76

Jenny Heimerdinger, «Word Order in Koine Greek. Using a Text-Critical Approach to Study Word Order Patterns in the Greek Text of Acts», Vol. 9 (1996) 139-180

Jeffrey T. Reed and Ruth A. Reese, «Verbal Aspect, Discourse Prominence, and the Letter of Jude» , Vol. 9 (1996) 181-200

Josep Rius-Camps, «Las variantes de la Recensión Occidental de los Hechos de los Apóstoles (VIII) (Hch 4,1-22)» , Vol. 9 (1996) 201-216

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Review of Biblical Literature latest

These arrived last week but I left the email on my work PC (and blogging is mainly done from home). The titles below are those specifically relating to the NT.

Review of Biblical Literature

Beavis, Mary Ann, ed.
The Lost Coin: Parables of Women, Work and Wisdom
Reviewed by Athalya Brenner

Hagner, Donald A.
Encountering the Book of Hebrews: An Exposition
Reviewed by Goutzioudis Moschos

Hays, Richard B.
The Faith of Jesus Christ: The Narrative Substructure of Galatians 3:1-4:11
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

Levine, Amy-Jill and Marianne Blickenstaff, eds.
A Feminist Companion to Luke
Reviewed by Esther Fuchs

Smith, Dennis E.
From Symposium to Eucharist: The Banquet in the Early Christian World
Reviewed by Peter-Ben Smit

Verhey, Allen
Remembering Jesus: Christian Community, Scripture, and the Moral Life
Reviewed byJennifer Wright Knust

Webb, Joseph M. and Robert Kysar
Greek for Preachers
Reviewed by Kerry Robichaux

Or did he?

Thanks to Jim West for this link from

Mel Gibson Rebuts Vatican Denial
Mel Gibson's spokesman issued a statement late Monday saying there is no reason to believe the Vatican's denial that the Pope commented favorably about the controversial film "The Passion of the Christ." . . . .

. . . . . "Based on all previous correspondence and conversations held directly between representatives of the film and the official spokesperson for the Pope, Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, there is no reason to believe that the Pope's support of the film 'isn't as it was'."

Monday, January 19, 2004

Pope did not say "It is as it was" after all

I commented on Saturday on Frank Rich's article, Chutzpah and Spiritual McCarthyism, which went investigating the pope's apparent endorsement of The Passion of the Christ. Well now it seems that the Vatican is denying that the pope ever said this. This story is already getting repeated everywhere, but its origin seems to be this article from the Catholic News Service:

Pope never commented on Gibson's 'Passion' film, says papal secretary
By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope John Paul II never said "It is as it was" after watching Mel Gibson's film on the passion of Jesus, said the pope's longtime personal secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz.

"The Holy Father told no one his opinion of this film," the archbishop told Catholic News Service Jan. 18 . . .

. . . . . The co-producer of the film, Steve McEveety, was in Rome in early December to host private screenings of a rough cut of the film for Vatican and other Catholic officials.

After the pope and Archbishop Dziwisz watched the film, the archbishop met with McEveety and with Jan Michelini, an assistant director of the film.

According to published reports, McEveety and Michelini said Archbishop Dziwisz told them the pope reacted positively to the film and said, "It is as it was."

But, Archbishop Dziwisz told CNS, "That is not true."

"I said clearly to McEveety and Michelini that the Holy Father made no declaration," the archbishop said.

"I said the Holy Father saw the film privately in his apartment, but gave no declaration to anyone," he said. "He does not make judgments on art of this kind; he leaves that to others, to experts."
There is a little more in the New York Times in an article by Frank Bruni:

Vatican Raises Doubts About Pope's View of 'Passion' Film
Until Archbishop Dziwisz's interview with the Catholic News Service, a news agency for Catholic publications that is affiliated with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, no Vatican official had gone on the record to confirm or deny the pope's reported remark.

That Archbishop Dziwisz spoke out is extremely unusual. He is closer to the pope and spends more time with him than virtually anyone else at the Vatican. Partly because of that, he almost never gives formal interviews to reporters.

His decision to talk to Ms. Wooden suggests that either he, the pope or other Vatican officials close to the pope had become concerned about the degree to which the pope's imprimatur was being placed on "The Passion."

A telephone message left today at Icon Productions, which is responsible for the movie, was not immediately returned.

One prominent Roman Catholic official close to the Vatican said today, "I have reason to believe — and I think — that the pope probably said it."

"But I think there's some bad feeling at the Vatican that the comment was used the way it was," the official added. "It's all a little soap-operatic."
Curiouser and curiouser.

RSS feeds?

Two correspondents have recently asked me if there is an RSS feed so that they can view this blog using an aggregator. I'm afraid that at the moment the answer is no. Although I host this blog on the NT Gateway's server space, I use the blogger software to run it and at the moment blogger does not support RSS. They do have it available on their "blogger pro", but upgrades to blogger pro are currently suspended. But they promise that they should be introducing RSS feeds soon. I'll make an announcement when it is available.

Origen: Friend or Foe?

Christian History magazine steadily makes more of its articles in a given issue available on the web. The latest to be added from Issue 80 (Fall 2003), with its special focus on The First Bible Teachers, is an article on Origen:

Origen: Friend or Foe?
He has been called the father of Christian biblical exegesis, the first systematic theologian … and a heretic. How should we assess his legacy today?
by John R. Franke

AKMA Wrights off Bishop Tom

Thanks to AKMA for some interesting comments on Tom Wright on postmodernity:

Wright on [Postmodernism]?

What Christian Theologian are you?

I took the What Christian Theologian are you? quiz and discover that I am Erasmus. A bit of fun for an idle moment.

On-line Bible commentaries in "simple English"

I've just been sent over this URL by Keith Simons. My guess is that it won't be of much interest to most readers of this blog because it is aimed at those who require a simple English resource, but I mention it anyway. It is developed by a group called Wycliffe Associates and is a site full of Bible commentaries and other materials written in what they call "EasyEnglish" (all one word):

EasyEnglish Info

Sunday, January 18, 2004

David Trobish on Acts 15 and Galatians

I've added a link on Paul: Books, Articles and Reviews to the following article reproduced on David Trobisch's homepage:

David Trobisch, “The Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 and Paul's Letter to the Galatians", Christopher Seitz and Kathryn Greene-McCreight (ed.), Theological Exegesis: Essays in Honor of Brevard S. Childs (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999) (PDF file)

Hollywood Jesus on The Passion of the Christ

I've mentioned the Hollywood Jesus web site before, and specifically on The Passion of the Christ. It has now added a lot of additional material including a review of the film by David Bruce:

The Passion of the Christ: A Hollywood Jesus Movie Review

Hollywood Jesus on Pasolini's Gospel According to St Matthew

I've added a link to my page on the Pasolini film, The Gospel According to St Matthew:

Hollywood Jesus: The Gospel According to St Matthew

This is a useful breakdown of the film into segments with clips in Real Video alongside the corresponding portions of text from Matthew's Gospel.

Latest Explorator

Explorator 6.38 now available and, as usual, full of interesting bits and bobs.

Shoemaker on the Virgin Mary: Review

Stephen J. Shoemaker, Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002) is reviewed pretty favourably in the latest Bryn Mawr Classical Review:

Review by Adam H. Becker, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2004.01.07

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Carlson's Review of Foster, Part 3

Stephen Carlson's excellent review of Paul Foster, "Is it Possible to Dispense with Q?", NovT 45 (2003): 313-337 continues on Hypotyposeis, now in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5. I have commented on Parts 1 and 2. I'd now like to comment on Part 3. Carlson comments on Foster's attempt to bring Luke's Prologue into play against the Farrer Theory, and specifically Luke's mention of the πολλοί (many) predecessors. As Carlson points out, the Two-Source Theory is no better off than Farrer here (Mark and Q rather than Mark and Matthew) and he makes the useful point that the wording "a narrative (or account, διήγησιν) of the events that were fulfilled among us" could tell in Matthew's favour since that sounds more like a description of Matthew than of Q.

I would add that Foster is walking a difficult line here. On the one hand, in the context being discussed above, he is keen to criticise Farrer and Goulder for their minimal sources position, no Q, no M, no L, and to make this criticism in the light of Luke's Preface. On the other hand, later in the article, he wishes to criticise me for not adhering to a minimal sources position, arguing that my acceptance of the role of oral traditions places me in a "thin end of the wedge" situation, that if I accept the role of oral tradition, I may as well accept Q. There is one minor problem and one major problem here. The minor problem is that Foster is misrepresenting Austin Farrer's views. As Carlson points out here, and as I pointed out to Foster before the publication of the article, Farrer accepted the role of oral tradition alongside Matthew's use of Mark and Luke's use of both (particularly "Dispensing": 85). The major problem is that the acceptance of the role played by oral tradition in the development of the Gospels is, I think, a real strength and it cannot realistically be used against me. Two-Source theorists do not see the acceptance of the role of oral tradition as compromising their theory and nor should Farrer theorists either. The only reason that we have got into the kind of situation where people think it is a weakness is because of the way that Michael Goulder has attempted to set up the terms of the debate. He set up a kind of hard-line version of the Farrer theory in which there are only literary sources with no oral tradition. He has been rightly criticised for this by E. P. Sanders and M. Davies, Studying the Synoptic Gospels, Eric Franklin, Luke: Critic of Matthew, Interpreter of Paul and most extensively by me in Goulder and the Gospels, Part 2 and Case Against Q: 64-66 (etc.). All in all I think Foster needs to decide whether it is a weakness for the Farrer theory to embrace a role for oral tradition (Farrer, Sanders and Davies, Franklin, me), in which case it is necessary to explain why this is not a weakness for the Two-Source Theory, or whether it is a weakness to deny a role for oral tradition (Goulder), in which case there can be no objection to my endorsement of it. Otherwise we simply have a "heads I win, tails you lose" scenario.

On a related note, Farrer was ahead of his time in dispensing with M and L as Streeterian written sources that could be dated and located. I've read very little in recent times that endorses M and L as literary entities, one of the few being Kim Paffenroth's The Story of Jesus According to L (JSNTSup, 147; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), cf. my review.

Latest on The Passion of the Christ

The new theatrical trailer (2 mins.) for The Passion of the Christ is also now available on the official web site (and they have retained the "teaser" trailer there too):

The Passion of the Christ Official Web Site

While on the topic, see also this interesting article from the International Herald Tribune (but originally in the New York Times?) investigating the inside story on the Pope's apparent endorsement of the film:

Frank Rich: Chutzpah and spiritual McCarthyism

McEveety declined to speak with me, but last week I tracked down Michelini, an Italian who lives in Rome, by phone in Bombay, where he is working on another film. As he tells it, McEveety visited Rome in early December, eager "to show the movie to the pope." Michelini, it turned out, had an in with the Vatican. "Everyone thinks it's a complex story, the pope, the Vatican and all," Michelini says. "It's a very easy story. I called the pope's secretary. He said he had read about the movie, read about the controversy. He said, 'I'm curious, and I'm sure the pope is curious too.'"

A video of "The Passion" was handed over to that secretary - Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, whom Vatican watchers describe as second in power only to the pope - on Dec. 5. The archbishop later convened a meeting with McEveety and Michelini in the pope's apartment. There, Michelini says, the archbishop quoted the pope not only as saying "it is as it was," but also as calling the movie "incredibile."
Update: here's the link to the (same) story in the New York Times, courtesy Paleojudaica and Explorator.

BSW Multi-Library Search Engine back on the web

After a year or more of absence, I had dropped the link to BSW's Multi-Library Search Engine from my Bibliography: Search Engines page but -- as so often -- not long after dropping the link it has returned:

BSW Multi-Library Search

If you've not used it before, this is a useful bibliographical tool which searches from one page the extensive collections THEOLDI (at the University of Innsbruck), COPAC (Union of universities in the UK and Ireland), LCOC (Library of Congress Online Catalogue), PIB (Pontifical Biblical Institute) and articles in some on-line journals (e.g. Biblica).

Friday, January 16, 2004

Helen Bond on Caiaphas

Helen Bond's new book on Caiaphas is now out. It is published by Westminster John Knox who have details here:

Caiaphas: Friend of Rome and Judge of Jesus?
"This is a book about Joseph Caiaphas, the longest serving Jewish high priest of the first century and, along with Pontius Pilate, one of the men who sent Jesus of Nazareth to his death." --from the Foreword. "Written in a thoroughly accessible style and displaying easy mastery of the historical sources and mature judgment on controversial matters, this book will provide a much valued resource for scholars of ancient history as well as students of the Gospels and Acts." --James D. G. Dunn, Lightfoot Professor of Divinity, University of Durham. "Well written, thoroughly researched, and probably a definitive study of Caiaphas. A fine example of the rigor expected of a scholar of antiquity, and especially marked by its readability and attractiveness for nonspecialists and scholars alike." --Jackson P. Hershbell, Professor Emeritus of Classical and Near Eastern Studies, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. HELEN K. BOND is Lecturer in New Testament at the University of Edinburgh. An expert on the history and archaeology of first-century Judea, she is author of the groundbreaking Pontius Pilate in History and Interpretation.

ISBN: 066422332X. Price: $24.95
See also Amazon (US) and Amazon (UK).

New Passion of the Christ Trailer

A new trailer has been released today for The Passion of the Christ. It's longer than previous versions (2 minutes) and you even catch a little bit of Jesus speaking in Aramaic at the Last Supper. It's only available at the moment on a new Yahoo! Movies page:

Yahoo! Movies Exclusive: The Passion of the Christ

I've had a look round and the other sites -- including the official one still have the shorter, "teaser trailer". I've added a link to the Yahoo! site on my page on The Passion of the Christ.

Review of Gospel of John

There is a review, not ever so favourable, of The Gospel of John in the Star Tribune's Movies section:

The Gospel of John
Despite the filmmakers' efforts to make "The Gospel of John" into a dramatic feature film, it never quite makes it beyond the Sunday School lesson stage.

You may need to register to view the article (free).

Thursday, January 15, 2004

More on the future of the megasites

Torrey Seland commented on the future for his pages, mine and others like them. I had responded here; Torrey replied; Jim Davila offers his response; and Torrey responds. After a little more thought, I find myself in sympathy with what Jim Davila is saying. The evolutionary model is the right one and the attempt to introduce hierarchical structures, centralisation, too much control could be unwieldy and to the detriment of all of our sites. Our sites are powered by energy and enthusiasm and my guess is that others are like me -- they do it because they enjoy doing it. To be frank, when I look for things that I can cut back on, my preference is always to cut back on things other than the internet stuff. I suppose that where Torrey was hitting a note with me was in the thought that one day it will all become too unwieldy, too much for individuals working in isolation. I always have a backlog of links to add to the NT Gateway, some sent to me by kind individuals who cannot work out why it is taking me so long to add their link, many that I have found myself and are awaiting the next spare moment. But in the end they do make it onto the site and I don't think I have a bigger backlog now than I've had in the past. So I'm not too concerned at the moment. What I would be interested in would be some dialogue about the future and being British, beer or wine is fine with me too. Unlike Jim, I won't be in Groningen but I will be in San Antonio, so we could take it there.

A couple of further notes: (1) By "SBL sponsored", I wasn't thinking about web space. I used to host the NT Gateway at the University of Birmingham web site but moved it to its own domain for a variety of reasons a few years ago. Perhaps the major reason was simply reliability -- I wanted a much more robust server than the university was providing. I fund the name and the web space through book purchases that are made through the site -- they just cover costs. So I'm not in loss through the site though I'm not in profit either. What I have wondered about a few times, and I've even approached SBL about this in the past, is the notion of a kind of SBL seal of approval for a handful of key sites in the area. In a way the SBL does that now to some degree with its Sites of Interest on the new web site. I would be interested to talk to them further about the way in which we can all interact with them in this kind of area. I've just been invited to join the SBL Forum Advisory Board and look forward to talking about issues connected with the web. (2) Felix Just, S. J. did moot something more formal for the future of academic Biblical-related web sites, a kind of SBL-sponsored loose confederation of key sites. The strength of his proposal was that it combined the evolutionary model with some degree of control and structure. His plan, if I remember it correctly, was that SBL centralise a gateway or portal and that individuals underneath that umbrella do their work, e.g. he would have the Johannine Literature covered. Wherever possible, the sections, groups, consultations etc. at SBL would be those responsible for that area of the web. I've had a look and see that Felix's draft proposal is still on-line:

Recommended Biblical Resources

I think this was either Nashville 2000 or Denver 2001, in the CARG (Computer Assisted Research Section). It was enthusiastically received in the session but I don't think that anything further has come of it and perhaps now nothing will. Still, it's an interesting idea.

Scholars: T

I've refreshed my Scholars: T page -- lots of wandering scholars' faculty pages and home pages. I've deleted the link to Tom Thatcher's. He used to have a huge and interesting web page with full-text reproductions of articles and more, but it's been off the web now for well over a year. I saw Tom briefly at the SBL in Atlanta; we share the same birthday (date and year). The other revisions are new URLs for Charles Talbert, William Telford, Bruce Terry (massive site) and Mary Ann Tolbert.

Mary of Magdala pages

Polebridge Press, the publishers of Karen King's recent book on Mary Magdalene, have a mini web site in connection with the book. It's clearly aimed primarily at the press but there are some useful features including excerpts, an image of Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 3525 and the text from Papyrus Berolinensis:

[Note: there is a far, far better image of Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 3525 on the P.Oxy. web site].

Filología Neotestamentaria

BSW announced today that they have made available on-line Vol 10 (1997) of the journal Filología Neotestamentaria (Vol 11, 1998 and Vol 12, 1999 have been available for a while):

Filología Neotestamentaria 10 (1997)

Christian-B. Amphoux, «Quelques remarques sur la formation, le genre litteraire et la composition de l'Évangile de Marc» , Vol. 10 (1997) 5-34

J. Smit Sibinga, «Serta Paulina on composition technique in Paul» , Vol. 10 (1997) 35-54

G.H.R. Horley and John A.L. Lee, «A lexicon of the New Testament with documentary parallels: some interim entries, 1» , Vol. 10 (1997) 55-84

Ernesto Borghi, «La notion de conscience dans le Nouveau Testament: Une proposition de lecture» , Vol. 10 (1997) 85-98

Josep Rius-Camps, «Las variantes de la recension occidental de los Hechos de los Apostoles (IX) (Hch 4,23-31)» , Vol. 10 (1997) 99-104

Simon Légasse, «Vas Suum Possidere (1 Th 4,4)» , Vol. 10 (1997) 105-115

J. Duncan M. Derrett, « 1Artoj and the comma (Jn 21:9)» , Vol. 10 (1997) 117-128

Roy R. Jeal, «A strange style of expression: Ephesians 1:23» , Vol. 10 (1997) 129-138

Maria-Irma Seewann, «Semantische Untersuchung Zu PW'RWSIS, Veranlasst Durch Röm 11,25» , Vol. 10(1997) 139-156

Pagels in National Catholic Reporter

National Catholic Reporter has an article / interview on Elaine Pagels, "Scholar stirs controversy with views on early Christian development". It's only available to subscribers, but this extract courtesy of Maurice A. O'Sullivan:
"Oh, this was gentle," she said of the stinging rebuke of one critic, a fellow scholar who, to put it charitably, did not like her latest book, Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas. The critic, Luke Timothy Johnson, said Pagels adhered to a "stunningly simple argument." . . . .

. . . . Pagels argues that early authority figures within the church, particularly Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyons, concluded that the writer of the Gospel of Thomas erred in suggesting that Jesus taught "that we have direct access to God through the divine image within us," Pagels writes. In contrast, the majestic Gospel according to John -- which Pagels believes was probably written in response to Thomas, with the two texts "in dialogue" but also often in conflict -- took a far different view of Jesus and his ministry and proved more useful in uniting the growing Christian movement.

If Thomas believed humans should try to emulate Jesus as a way of discovering inner divinity, John's Gospel "succeeded ever after in persuading the majority of Christians," Pagels writes, that "only by believing in Jesus can we find divine truth." . . . .

. . . . "The history of Christianity is not a triumphal march of ideas but a series of intense arguments and conversations," Pagels said. "I love that side of it."

Others are less enthusiastic. In a review for the independent Catholic magazine Commonweal, Johnson, who teaches New Testament and Christian origins at the Candler School of Theology, took Pagels to task for needlessly defending noncanonical texts that honor spiritual experience over "the rule of faith (or creed)."

"Welcome to another exercise in revisionist history," Johnson wrote, adding that Pagels' "historical point is that the good stuff lost out. Her normative point is that Christianity has to claim its inner Kabbalah [Jewish mysticism] if it is to appeal to people like Elaine Pagels."

Pagels understands Johnson's critique, but maintains she is not so much saying that "the good stuff lost out" as arguing that contemporary Christianity is richer by having a wider range of early texts from which to draw. . . . . .

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Memorisation Software Reviewed

Ken Penner on b-greek draws attention to the following web site which reviews Memorisation Software including several of those linked on my Greek NT Gateway: Computer Software page:

Memorisation Software Reviewed

FlashWorks and VocabWorks both get four pencils (good).

Mel Gibson interviewed on The Passion

Raymond Arroyo has interviewed Mel Gibson about The Passion of the Christ and this is to air in the USA on EWTN Global Catholic Network between January 23-26. Apparently he addresses the anti-semitism issue and also comments, "I don’t know if I will ever work again. I’ve said that this is a career killer and it could well be, but that doesn’t matter because I don’t care":

EWTN to air 2nd Exclusive Interview with Mel Gibson on "The Passion of the Christ"

The film also features in Empire Online which reports that Gibson "has secured a massive distribution deal for the movie"; it also notes that "The film's full trailer looks set to be released this weekend":

Power Push For Passion

The source for this appears to be Variety -- see this at

Passion Opening Wide

This includes the additional information that it will be "the widest opening ever of a subtitled movie"; the release of the new trailer is pinned here to January 16.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Now John Debney is to score The Passion of the Christ

I reported back in December that Lisa Gerrard was to score The Passion of the Christ; this after earlier reports that it would be Jack Lenz or James Horner. The latest is that John Debney is to score the film. This from Music from the Movies:

Debney scores 'The Passion of the Christ'

Debney's latest include Elf and Bruce Almighty.

The news on the Lisa Gerrard web site has changed to say now that she is co-scoring the film: "There are other brilliant composers involved, amongst them Lisa is also collaborating with Patrick Cassidy." IMDb give Lisa Gerrard and Rachel Portman as providing the music.

Michael Gorman, Apostle of the Crucified Lord

New from Eerdmans is:

Michael Gorman, Apostle of the Crucified Lord: A Theological Introduction to Paul and His Letters
624 pages; dimensions (in inches): 6.25 x 9.25; 54 illustrations; 2003
ISBN: 0-8028-3934-7
Unlike the many books that treat the apostle Paul merely as a historical figure and his letters as literary relics, this new study by Michael Gorman focuses on the theological message of Paul’s writings, particularly what they have to say to the contemporary church.

An innovative and comprehensive treatment of Paul, including commentary on all of the Pauline letters, Gorman’s Apostle of the Crucified Lord unpacks the many dimensions of Paul’s thought carefully and holistically. Six introductory chapters provide background discussion on Paul’s world, his résumé, his letters, his gospel, his spirituality, and his theology, while the main body of the book covers in turn and in full detail each of the Pauline epistles. Gorman gives the context of each letter, offers a careful reading of the text, and colors his words with insightful quotations from earlier interpreters of Paul.

Enhancing the text itself are questions for reflection and discussion at the end of each chapter and numerous photos, maps, and tables throughout. All in all, Apostle of the Crucified Lord is the ideal book for students and any other readers interested in seriously engaging Paul’s challenging letters.
The above link takes you to the Eerdmans catalogue; also available here at

King James Bible 400 years old

There was a short feature on the Today programme this morning on the King James Bible. Here's a link to the audio (about three minutes):

The King James Bible is 400 years old - an exhibition has just opened at Hampton Court

For a little more on what this is talking about, have a look at this web page:

The Hampton Court Conference

Monday, January 12, 2004

Midwife of the Christian Bible

There's a new on-line article from the latest (Fall 2003) issue of Christian History that may be of interest:

Midwife of the Christian Bible
Irenaeus identified the books of the New Testament, then showed the church how they fit with the Old.
by Fr. John Behr

See also previous blog entry on this issue.

Tom Wright or Toby Ziegler?

Viewers of The West Wing may have noticed the resemblance between Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff) and the Bishop of Durham, N. T. Wright:

How long . . . ?

On his Philo of Alexandria blog, Torrey Seland writes:
Etana turns out to be an excellent site for students of Philo and his social world too. But it makes me think about how long it is useful to keep up all these other collections of links like my own site, NTGateway, and others. I know from my own work that it eats my time, and I can't imagine how Mark Goodacre gets time to keep up his great site as a one-man work...
Have we reached the point where we should seriously consider coordinating more of this work, get some sponsors, and establish a team to work on a really megasite for Biblical studies? Viewpoints are welcome....
Torrey is asking a useful question here and I don't know that I have a good answer at this stage. Four initial thoughts, though, as well as to second Torrey's "viewpoints are welcome":

(1) When people ask me about the NT Gateway at conferences, usually to wonder out loud about how I get the time to do it all, I tend to find myself saying that I enjoy doing it and that's why I carry on doing it. As soon as I stop enjoying it, I will have to stop doing it. (It's also a fact that I work too hard, produce less research than I would otherwise do and don't get as much sleep as I should, but you don't want to hear about that).

(2) Where I was beginning to flag on keeping the NT Gateway up to date, this blog has helped enormously. For reasons I've stated before, it's much more enjoyable than just doing the NT Gateway.

(3) There is one area that I have failed to keep up to date on the NT Gateway and it is now causing me some concern: on-line articles. These are proliferating at a real rate and it is not straightforward to keep on top of them. This situation is hardly going to reverse itself and there may come a day when I have to admit defeat on this one.

(4) I've sometimes wondered out loud about the possibilities of greater collaboration and it may indeed be the way forward to begin thinking seriously about this. My hunch is that it would only work if one could involve a major organisation and the obvious one would be the SBL. But all this needs some more thought.

Let me make clear that I have absolutely no intention of stopping developing and maintaining the NT Gateway, but I do think that Torrey Seland is asking some useful questions for the long term about how we all look to the future for Biblical (and related) resources on the web.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Carlson review of Foster

Stephen Carlson is producing a fascinating review of Paul Foster, "Is it Possible to Dispense with Q?", NovT 45 (2003): 313-337 over on Hypotyposeis, so far Part 1 and Part 2. I am taking more than a little interest in this since Foster's article is largely focused on my work on the Synoptic Problem. I am writing a full-length response to Foster so will not comment at any length here but will comment on one or two things are they arise in Stephen Carlson's so far very thorough critique.

Carlson comments on Foster's brief discussion of the Farrer Theory's precursors. I would add that while of course Foster cannot be expected to cover all the proponents of the theory, there are two who are probably too important to miss, not least because I have drawn from them heavily in the material Foster is reviewing, and they are H. Benedict Green and E. P. Sanders / Margaret Davies (see my Introductory Bibliography for references).

In Part 2 Carlson makes some useful comments on Foster's claim on an "unproven assumption that is necessary for the Farrer theory", which "must hold for such a proposed solution to be even a possibility. It must be assumed not only that Matthew wrote before Luke, but also that the Matthean gospel had been in existence for "long enough" (however one may measure that) and had also circulated widely enough to come to Luke's knowledge." (315) As I commented to Foster before the publication of his review, I regard this as a clever attempt to turn a weakness for the Q theory (viz. the narrow window available for Matthew and Luke to be producing their Gospels in isolation from each other) into a strength. But the point only works with the singular quotation Foster picks from Farrer, and then only partially. Foster criticises Farrer's view about Matthew as an "orthodox Gentile Christian writing", but this view is quite singular. It is not shared by Goulder, whose Midrash and Lection in Matthew (London: SPCK, 1974) is a forthright defence of the composition of Matthew by a Jewish scribe; I think I recall Michael Goulder saying that Farrer himself was largely persuaded by the thesis in its early stages, but Farrer died just before Michael Goulder gave the first of the Speakers Lectures in Oxford that eventually became Midrash and Lection. Since I agree with Goulder and the consensus about this, it's a red herring for Foster to bring out Farrer's view here as if it is a necessity for the theory -- it is not. But in any case, Farrer's general point in context is about the prima facie case; and it is a reasonable place to begin. Consider the passage immediately before the sentence Foster picks out:
If there is no difficulty in supposing St. Luke to have read St. Matthew, then the question never arises at all. For if we find two documents containing much common material, some of it verbally identical, and if those two documents derive from the same literary region, our first supposition is not that both draw upon a lost document for which there is no independent evidence, but that one draws upon the other. It is only when the latter supposition has proved untenable that we have recourse to the postulation of a hypothetical source. (Farrer, "Dispensing": 56)
In my view, this is the right place to begin. Stephen Carlson's mention of Michael Thompson's article on the "holy internet" in this context is a very helpful one. Something I commented on in Case Against Q was the remarkable nature of Burton Mack's theory that has Luke written nearly forty years after Matthew yet preferring to use the moribund Q.

Explorator 6.37

Latest Explorator was posted yesterday by David Meadows:

Explorator 6.37

One story of interest featured is this:

Roman Anchor Found in the Dead Sea
An archaeologist from Kibbutz Ein Gedi has probably made one of the biggest finds of his career - and it happened just as he was walking along the nearby beach of the Dead Sea. He found a lead-and-wood anchor - without the lead - that probably dates back to the Roman period, 2,000 years ago. The anchor found by Dr. Gideon Hadas is 1.8 meters by 0.9 meters wide (6 by 3 feet), and weighs some 500 kilograms (1,100 lbs.). Dr. Hadas informed the Antiquities Authority of his find, and received permission to research it.
That's from Arutz Sheva. Jim Davila also blogs this and links to a paragraph in Haaretz with a picture.