Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Matthew 8:5-13 in the latest JBL

The latest edition of JBL is up; it includes a brief analysis ("The Centurion in Matthew 8:5–13: Consideration of the Proposal of Theodore W. Jennings, Jr., and Tat-Siong Benny Liew," by D. B. Saddington) of a recent attempt to argue that the centurion of Matthew 8 and his pais are man-boy lovers. Saddington notes that the centurion was probably not Roman, which argues against their focus on Roman data; and in any case the data only provides one illustration of a long-term relationship such as that presumably presented in Matthew 8.

Memphian Patrick Gray has an interesting article on Presidential Addresses (discussed in a previous post), and Joel Marcus provides a typically useful read, "Crucifixion as Parodic Exaltation." Perhaps this means part two of his valuable Mark commentary is on the way.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Paul Pop Quiz Answer

Thanks to those who posed answers. I'm sure Paul did indeed teach a cluster of truths "everywhere--in all the churches." But the specific quote I had in mind is found in 1 Corinthians 4:17, which I think is the only place where Paul explicitly says something like, "I taught ____ everywhere in every church."

I'm tempted to think NIV is a tad underwhelming here in its last segment, and lacks the emphasis of the Greek: "Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church. " Timothy isn't just going to remind them of things that "agree with" what Paul teaches; he is going to remind them of precisely what Paul taught them in word and deed, which they are failing: they were failing to live a Cross-shaped life (suing one another, privileging personal pleasure, ignoring the poor at the Lord's dinner).

Paul gives his "Spiritual C. V." in a variety of ways in the Corinthian correspondence, but in particular there are five places which emphasize his cross-shaped way of life: 1 Cor 4:8-17; 9; (2:2-5 is also a possibility); 2 Cor 4:7-18; 6:3-10; 11:19-33. This is how Paul lived when with them, it's how he lived in front of all churches at all time, and it's the content he taught them: Cross as benefit, and Cross as way of life. (Is there a connection with e.g., Mark 8:34-38?)

The implications for a truly "Pauline" ministry are startling.

Monday, April 10, 2006

"Gospel" of Judas

National Geographic has very graciously made this available online (pending of course additional manusript analysis and reproduction) in English (pdf) and in Coptic. Typical gnostic stuff, which means it will sound quite odd to anyone unfamiliar. Still worth a read, though. If anyone can advance a good argument for calling this a "Gospel," I'd love to hear it.

Thanks to Blogfather for this and loads of other info in a "megapost"; he also has an excellent review of this, which I was unable to watch as Natl Geog channel only comes to my mother-in-law's television.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Music for Biblical Studies

I'll leave the classical stuff for Jim West. Here are the latest spinning in my library on itunes as I write: Vigilantes of Love, Sufjan Stevens, Death Cab for Cutie, Jose Gonzalez (HT Kevin Cawley of Cawleyblog.com), Without Gravity, Derek Webb (Mockingbird), Cocteau Twins; but the pick of the crop right now is Matisyahu, "King Without a Crown." If you haven't heard this, you MUST check it out. Imagine an Orthodox Jew running his religious expectations and praxis thru a musical grid of 311 or The Clash...not sure why he can get on MTV2 when Xian artists as explicit cannot, but I'm all for it nonetheless. Wikipedia has him down as a Hassidic reggae artist, but I'm not sure reggae quite captures it as the sound is to aggressive for my definition of reggae.

Its use for biblical studies should be clear after a listen--Matisyahu has a nice way of putting you in ca. 1c context of messianic expectation and Jewish devotion to YHWH, Torah, etc., combined with some religious instruction for doubters. But the music really makes it worth listening to in any case. Note the connection wikipedia makes between his name and the name of the father of Judas Maccabee...

Friday, April 07, 2006

Around the Biblio-Blogosphere

Let's start at home--take the pop quiz on Paul below! Ben Witherington (among many others) goes off on the big Gospel of Judas craze; don't forget this airs on Natl Geog channel Sunday evening. James Crossley reports on the secular panel at SBL/AAR; his paper looks very interesting. And Mike Bird announces yet another publication, mostly a collection of previously published material.
Also online is the new JBL, with an article from a local scholar, Patrick Gray of Rhodes College (my alma mater), on presidential addresses; he notes that Muilenberg, Sandmel, and Schussler Fiorenza put out something of lasting value and influence, but that this isn't always the case; speaking of Case, I couldn't find Shirley Jackson Case's address (messianic consciousness, 1926 or '27) even mentioned on Google. Patrick did a good article on movies and the Bible in the classroom recently for SBL Forum. And good reviews of an interesting new work on early Jewish and Christian monotheism, a recent personal interest, are worth reading.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Pop Quiz on Paul

What did Paul explicitly say that he "taught in every church?" If you're bold enough, please note your first answer in the comment section (and don't change it based on others' answers); feel free to go anonymous if you'd like. The answer is forthcoming...
Notes and Quotes on 1 Corinthians

I recently completed a bit of study on 1 Corinthians. Some observations:

Fee’s excellent quote (p. 3 of his commentary), that Corinth was like the NYC, LA and Las Vegas of the Roman Empire rolled into one, is appropriate. But as I was driving through Corinth, MS last week, it occurred to me that America as a whole fits the bill in the same way those three cities do. It’s too easy to point the finger at Ken Lay, Lower Manhattan, Casino Row, or Miami Beach and find a comparison with Corinth that won’t implicate me and my lifestyle and worldview. Call us the United States of Corinth. It’s as close as we get to a mirror in Scripture (apart from the ever-frequent comparisons with Imperial Rome), which would make the Puritans and religious Founders—who looked to Israel for a model--cry.

It’s worth reckoning with the fullest force of quotes like the following, particularly for the modern American (=Corinthian) problem :

“When Paul writes autobiographically, he writes paradigmatically,” says M. J. Gorman, Apostle of the Crucified Lord (Eerdmans, 2004), 258. And how many times in the Corinthian correspondence does Paul offer his "cruciformity C. V."?

“By grasping for material advantage now, the Corinthians are jeopardizing their far greater reward in the coming age.” Hays, First Corinthians, 96.

“His gospel may generate problems, not solve them, for the word of the cross poses a challenge to the comfortable assumptions of Paul’s readers.” Hays, 13.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Meaning in Structure: What does a literary device mean?

Matthew claims a 14x3 sructure for his genealogy of Jesus; the final “fourteen” has only thirteen names. What does this mean? I’m not going to spill the beans on what I think Matthew is doing, nor give a thorough review of all the questions involved or possible answered. But I want to use this particular structural question here to point up one huge problem for the scholar, teacher, or preacher in narrative analysis of Scripture: the question of intentionality and meaning in literary design. Just because a chiasm or pattern is present (or appears to be present) does not necessarily mean that the center (or alternatively, the bookends) is stressed….there are at least seven reasons why such patterns might be found, and some of these could easily overlap, of course. These are specific for Matthew’s genealogy, but most apply to other literary structures as well.

(1) Aid for memory
(2) Beauty for the sake of beauty-- if you're going to make a list, why not make it interesting?
(3) Deviation from the theme can highlight an important person, story, or concept. Here I would offer the observations of many that there might be significance in the number 41 (Augustine—40 representing Israel, then Messiah), or that the third shortened “fourteen” represents God’s grace in shortening the time to Messiah. Stendahl of course famously thought that Jesus was 13th and “Christ” 14th. Given the “kingly” emphasis of this lineage, we might also note that there were 41 divinely authorized kings over the tribes in the OT. I don’t know if any of this is correct, but I would be surprised if Matt really had “problems counting.” It’s certainly possible that was the case, but there’s a good bit of strategic work that’s been put into this piece.
(4) Utility—ease of use for those who have to sit through a rather long list.
(5) “Order” for the sake of order—perhaps to reflect “divine order”; this is similar to 2) above. The more orderly or sophisticated the literary work, the higher it would be valued, I reckon. For Matthew of course, the number three, seven, and fourteen seem important for religious reasons; 6x7 could be important, some suggest, as some sort of apocalyptic symbolism, suggesting the advent of the “seventh seven,” the truest or highest stage of Israel, or her telos, in Messiah. Luke's genealogy, by the way, suggests that structuring along the lines of "seven" carried artistic or religious significance.
(6) Intangibles: Maybe Matthew had triplets turning 14? Or fourteen-year-old twins and a thirteen-year-old?
(7) Reader invention: Maybe Matthew had no purpose to speak of?!
(8) As yet unknown: the wild card in every scholarly discussion. A great many texts and ideas from Mt's day are unknown; it's possible we'll never know precisely what he intended.

Anyone have anything to add? Anyone wish to cast a vote on Matt’s purpose here?