Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A Question of Method: on requiring the presence of exact verbal correspondence for qualification as an allusion

From Scot McKnight, via Deinde (my future virtual home?) "The bread of the Synoptic accounts is nearly always called artos and not azuma, the more specific word for 'unleavened bread' " (p.269), Jesus and his Death. Scot notes this as part of his argument that John, not the synoptics, is more correctly or more exactly detailing the sequence of the Last Supper in relation to Passover.

Two specific problems arise if we rely too heavily on the lack of direct parallels to disprove allusions: (1) We don’t know the origin of such allusions, and often have no access in any case to the Gk translation from which the writers were working. This is due to the shifting of the LXX in its various recensions—perhaps in response to Christian and NT usage; or in an effort to improve accuracy, or bring into line with more popular translations. (2) In at least Matthew’s case he often simply translated from Heb/Aramaic on his own, so that there is no guarantee his Greek reference/allusion will match any that we presently have.

In such cases, thematic and theological parallels are all we have to rely on. Therefore, as a matter of method I’m not convinced that a failure to find any significant, exact verbal correspondence can necessarily indicate a failure to find an allusion. It’s no stretch to imagine in Scot’s example above, that Mark and Matthew simply didn’t know enough Greek to come up with azuma; or that Mark didn’t bring it to mind (in foreign language it’s frequently easier to come up with the most common word, even when a more technical term would be more precise), and it didn’t seem out of place when Mt/Lk copied it. Or perhaps the LXX copies used by the synoptic writers (or just by Mark!) was a relatively impoverished translation which didn’t use this word.

If any of this is the case, it’s also easy to see how John, with his PASXAL emphasis, might pay more attention to an exact term than Mk/Mt. Finally, the synoptics are interested in linking the Last Supper to the feeding of the multitudes in Mk 6, 8 and parallels, where artos is present (is it Mark who links this scene verbally as well? Take, bless/thanks, broke, give). Thus the lack of verbal correspondence in the synoptics in this instance could have another explanation altogether.

There is a tendency for NT scholars to over-rely on common (thus borrowed, according to the argument) vocabulary as an indicator of the presence of an intentional verbal allusion. I suspect this as I’m reading through Nolland’s commentary, as he attempts to stab at possible allusions and “echoes”; although let me hasten to add I’m enormously grateful that he is trying, and that he has paid attention to the narrative turn in biblical and matthean studies, though without abandoning his redaction critical roots. All part of the danger and excitement of living in a post-Hays world, I suppose, where scholars regularly stretch texts by intertexting (I coin a verb) to within an inch of their lives.

But here’s my present point: I’m not sure the lack of a certain LXX verb can prove an allusion is not present. I’m not judging Scot’s point—I find it interesting—just noting a methodological problem. Am I wrong on this one?

Thursday, May 25, 2006


to Danny of Deinde for the kind offer. I'm mulling it over...I want to give the present blog a fair shake before I jump ship.
Matthew and his Canon of Scripture

Which writings were considered "Scripture" for the NT writers? A tricky question for sure. Matthew has more possible allusions to IT lit than most, though some of this could simply be the "milieu" instead of conscious allusion. In general, however, I think Matt has some idea of the canon of Scripture.

Some have noted that the end of Matt resembles the end of 2 Chr, which is the end of the traditional Heb Scriptures (Frankemolle esp., though he himself stressed the Chronicler's begin. with genealogy and ending with the commissioning, I think, not the shape of the canon). Form critics don't have much to work with IMO, and important verbal parallels are lacking. But I do think the first two words of Gk Mt ("biblos genesews," or "book of Genesis"--a title by which the first book of Moses was already known in Matt's day) are intentional pointers to Genesis, and it does not seem a stretch to have a conclusion like Matt's which might point to the end of a hypothetical canon as well. Other evidence? "the blood of Abel to Zechriah" in Mt 23:35. This is of course fun in English because it's "A to Z," which should warn us that coincidence is possible and not necessarily helpful. There's some doubt as to which Zechariah ("son of Berechiah" in the better mss) this is, as there are three choices biblically.

Strack-Billerbeck notes later Jewish confusion or interpretive equation of Zechariah the son of Berechiah (the biblical book's namesake) and Zechariah in 2 Chr 24:20. For more on this exegetical technique in Matthew, see Bauckham, "Tamar's Ethnicity and Rahab's Marriage," NovT 37 (1995). Nolland (2005) cites Knowles, Jeremiah in Matthew's Gospel: The Rejected Prophet Motif in Matthean Redaction, JSNTSS 68; SB; and M. McNamara, who discusses the parallel with Tg.Lam 2.20. The upshot of these opinions is that Matt is citing the first and last person in his canonical Scriptures to die because of righteousness, just as later Jewish authors may have done. This can't be proven, but it seems possible Matthew has done this. Since Matthew elsewhere has a knack for working allusions to Zechariah (the biblical prophet) into his material, as in 27:3-10 and 21:5, this wouldn't be surprising. I'd love to hear what Clay Alan Ham does with this in his new monograph on Zechariah in Matthew, but I have been unable to find a journal that is reviewing it (RBL isn't!) and has not already obtained a willing soul.

Any thoughts on "Matthew's canon" or the use of Zechariah?

Sometimes broken links still allow a backdoor access. Moyise's material online went offline (reported by Blogfather) when his institution changed their web address. But you can still access some at least, if you Google search for it and then choose not to download as PDF or .doc, but view as HTML. I found his interesting ‘The Wilderness Quotation in Mark 1:2-3’ in Sugirtharajah (ed), Wilderness: Essays in Honour of Frances young (T&T Clark: 2005) this way. The opening verses of Mark 1 are intriguing to me; I'm not sure I follow Watts or Joel Marcus all the way, though I think they're on the right track. I'm inclined to cut them more slack than Moyise does.
Great Idea at

...especially since Deinde is now much more user-friendly! I've been thinking about this for some time, since I frankly can't sustain my blog that well. I thought about getting others interested in Matthew to join me here, but that's probably too narrow. Of course, I don't even have a commenting account at Deinde [and I tried to post this material anonymously and could not--I kept getting a bad "form" message or something]...

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Exegetical catastrophe

E. D. Freed recently published The Stories of Jesus' Birth: a Critical Introduction, The Biblical Seminar 72 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001). This builds on his earlier work such as an article on the women in Mt's genealogy of Jesus.

His argument for the four women isn't the worst (it's also not the best), but this book contains some frankly frightening statements for something published by SAP in such a series. I admit I haven't read the whole, but this in particular was worth comment regardless of how the rest of the book turns out. The skeptic in me suggests that it goes to show that if you put the word "critical" in your work, and try to contradict orthodox belief, the standard just isn't that high (in every case). Whatever the case, this is one of the worst paragraphs I've read in "serious" scholarly literature in quite some time. From Freed, page 20-21:

"Except for a few passages in the Gospels, Jesus as a descendant of David (as in the genealogies) was never an important belief for New Testament writers. The theologian who wrote the letter to the Hebrews argues that Jesus was a priest like Melchizedek. Therefore, like that priest, Jesus had no genealogy." [I can't help myself, I have to interrupt: Hebrews says no such thing; read chapter 7 once or one hundred times and it's clear the reference is about Melch, not Jesus.] "The author of Hebrews writes that Christ was the Son of God and eternal high priest. He was 'without fahter, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.' But according to the author of Hebrews, Christ was not descended from the priests: 'He does not have their genealogy' (Heb 7:6). The important thing in Hebrews is that, as with Aaron, Christ was called by God. We might question whether the author of Hebrews was actually trying to negate the tradition about Jesus preserved in the genealogy, if not the stories of Jesus' birth altogether."

Of all the things that could be said of this, the only thing I'll waste time on here is noting Hebrews 7:14...where the author of Hebrews explicitly notes Jesus' origin from the tribe of Judah and states that it is common knowledge. (One also wonders whether Freed has ever read Paul's description of his gospel in the opening verses of Romans 1, Revelation, etc...) Did he not bother reading the chapter he was citing?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Great Literary Hoaxes

Loren Rosson's Busybody featured a great post on literary hoaxes a while back.

The focus at the Busybody is on letters, books, etc., but there's a killer literary hoax that appeared as a journal article not long ago. I think Alan Sokal's work, "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity," in Social Text 46-47 (1996), 217-252, is a true classic. For the weary or those needing sleep, see, where it looks as though Sokal has made a career out of his hoax. You can read the article in question, as well as articles where Sokal revealed the hoax and explained why he did it. Whether one agrees with Sokal or not, the hoax is a killer, and it makes a great point (from his perspective). It primarily shows that if you write about certain issues (esp. those that are PC) with a certain high diction, you can write absolute crap and get away with it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Blogging down, but not (yet) out

I've got a fair bit of work on other tasks coming up--an intensive course on reading German (my previous efforts haven't satisfied me, as I'm still lacking a few things when it comes to verbs and syntax in particular--the frustration in having more than 80 or 90 percent of a pargraph by Strecker [or doing research on aliens in German theologians like Chris Tilling] is're still left wondering what you've missed), in honor of the WC 2006--what better way to memorize paradigms than during down-time of a game?; major research/writing projects at work; and wrapping up a chapter of my dissertation.

I've also restrung my guitar for the first time in years, as I've decided life is getting bit stale--all computers and books, no art.

Among other challenges? NotaBene 8.0. I just purchased this two weeks ago and I'm struggling mightily with switching notes and writing from Word. What a pain--but it is nice to troll through one's work slowly. It really helps the editing process. I still can't figure out how you change the spacing, block quotes don't work, I can't search help despite my best efforts--I can but I can't select the page I want; I haven't found umlauts and accents (I copy paste from Word); I can't convert a document to .rtf. I found out how to search the single docuemnt in front of you but now can't seem to repeat the feat. All this makes me long for the simplicity of Word (I never thought that phrase would be typed by me--it's probably a Google hapax legomena), and the "weightier matters of word processing" such as autocorrect and underlines on grammar, spacing, etc. NB also is the slowest program on my computer--it's almost worth it to type in word, then copy paste to NB.

I'm sure it's all worth it in the long run.
Matthew resources on-line, part 3: Forthcoming commentaries

Thanks to Parablemen (would that be Parablepeople when they add a woman to the mix?) for their work on forthcomign commentaries. There's no "Matthew page" so I took the liberty of compiling from This stuff does change--the NICNT has had four people contracted; the first three died--but here's a good idea of what's about to be out there on Matthew. (Begin budgeting now!) I've included some comments as many of these are by famous folks.

I'll put the three most interesting first:
Pride of place has to go to Stanley Hauerwas, doing the Matthew commentary in the intriguing Brazos Theological commentary series. This could be the first in a while (not counting Bruner's second edition) to take a strong pacifist/anabaptist view of the SermMt et al. Many commentators, particularly popular works, also ignore much of Matthew's "sacrificial" language of Christian discipleship since so much of this is taken over by Mark--I doubt Uncle Stan will have that problem. Will he write the first-ever commentary on Matthew to drop the f-bomb and use the word 'tit' (Chris Tilling will be excited)?

Equally intriguing is the Jack Dean Kingsbury volume in the Eerdmans Critical Commentary. I don't always agree with his views on structure, and I think the literary revolution in Matt studies he helped usher in can be overblown. But the man really knows Matthew. This should be a treat, and a valuable read. Will the format will send him back to his redaction critical roots?

Richard France (R. T. France) takes the NICNT--as mentioned above, this is the cursed volume that never gets finished. Rumor has it the Eerdmans lunchroom has a dead pool going on this one, lots of cash up for grabs. This gives France yet another major crack at Matthew. His experience should prove valuable--though I'm still miffed he really shafts the genealogy in Matthew: Evangelist and Teacher (though he's not alone--Stanton can write an entire book on Matthew, A Gospel for a New People, while scarcely mentioning the way he opens...this sort of thing if nothing else meant the "narrative" revolution in Matthew scholarship was well-deserved). Will he put the nail in the coffin of the other views of Matt 24-25? Will he finally go all out on the preterist (NTW) view? Will he interact with the narrative move in Matthean studies? Rikki Watts is doing the new volume on Mark in that series, which looks fun.

All three of those are particularly exciting.

In the AB series, Matthew (replacement), John P. Meier -- long-time writer on Matthew, maybe not as good on narrative/literary aspects and use of OT as I'd like.
David L. Turner -- who is likewise maybe not as good on narrative, use of OT as I'd like -- will write for BECNT, which is nothing if not thorough, though Matt's not hurting for such at present. Turner's work, including a fair bit on the first gopsel, seems to represent the covenantal/kingdom turn from old school dispensationalism into a more mainstream evangelical approach. I like his writing. He's also writing the Matt volume in Cornerstone Bib Comm based on the NLT.
Black's NT will give Richard Beaton a crack (good published dissertation on Isaiah in Matt). Should be good, though I don't care for the format at present--I'm willing to change my mind. New Cambridge Bible Comm will have a major heavyweight, Craig A. Evans, though I doubt the format will lend itself to his abilities. Craig is a full-blooded historian so it'll be interesting to see what direction he goes with this. Daniel Doriani who is a sane writer on hermeneutics and preaching, takes on Matt in Reformed Expository Commentary, a series I'm not familiar with. David Graham is doing Two Horizons. Another hermeneutics guru, Grant Osborne, will do what may be the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary. I think D. A. Carson will be revising his EBC contribution, as I've seen him doing Matthew book reviews.

Also, presumably in the next few years we'll see Luz's second edition start trickling into English; I managed a gander at the first volume, second ed. in German at Emory last month.

Let me note in closing that I have my doubts as to whether any of these can dislodge David Garland, Smyth and Helwys, Reading Matthew, as my favorite and top recommendation, particularly for pastors and educated teachers. But I'm willing to listen and read...
Matthew online resources, part 2

I'm happy to add a few things to the previous post: as mentioned by the swain in the notes. I have used his site previously as it has a nice compendium of patristic and other material. Above all, see Rob Bradshaw's massive collection of what is largely evangelical scholarship, though with plenty of non-evangelical material as well, at Robert has done great work in getting material listed on the web.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Matthew Resources online

Free resources on Matthew, on a site that appears to be growing in size:; click on read article [external link] to read the article of your choice. And as always, has links to sites by Matthew scholar Janice Capel Anderson and others who have nice collections of free material.
Need an Idea for a Paper?

If you don't mind being flat wrong and historically aggregious, if you don't mind borrowing (it's our lifeblood), and you'd like to be provocative and thus popular, I've got one for you. The "missing generation" in the third section of Matt's genealogy--there are only 13, whereas the previous two have 14, depending on how you count-- is variously thought to reflect:

(Stendahl) 13th generation is earthly Jesus, 14th is risen, exalted Christ
(Blomberg) Matthew's counting--alternates inclusive/exclusive
(Augustine) Jesus is the 41st generation, after 40 of "testing" or purifying
(Carson and others) God's sign that he cuts short the time to Messiah out of Messiah
(Many scholars) Matthew can't count...or was true to a source, and didn't care that the 13 generations didn't square with 1:17.
(Me) Late one night I discovered there were 41 divinely authorized monarchs of Judah/Israel. It's wishful thinking, but no worse than some other explanations I've heard.

But here's an alternative worthy of publication in some our crap-passing-for-insight journals: the missing 14th generation is obviously a reference to a continued "Jesus dynasty"--his son would rule in his place, or wife, or what have you. This is also the meaing of Jesus' "I'll be with you always..." (28:20). His offspring will always be here, ruling after him, representing him. You could tie this into some of the readings of the "women" in the genealogy (which readings are not exegesis, but sexegesis). So if you want a sure fire popular paper, have at it. Maybe you could even work this into a dissertation..."Matthew and the Jesus Dynasty" or some such. Just be sure and cite me, noting I think the argument is crap in advance.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Matt 28:16-20 and the structure of GospMt

The structural role of the Great Commission is a major issue in Matthean studies. In my opinion it's safe to say that the "casual" reader would simply see Matt winding up the thrust of his whole Gospel in the final verses. But literary critics don't always agree.

Some have argued that the Grt Comm stands as a sixth or seventh (add chapter 11) or eighth (add chapter 23) "teaching block", in opposition to Bacon's old thesis and its derivatives that Matt features 5 "Pentateuchal" blocks of Jesus' teaching, with or w/out a "New Moses" or "Greater-than-Moses" emphasis. Frank Matera argued that "Matthew's Gospel can be read as a story whose plot concerns Israel's rejection of the Messiah and the consequent movement of the gospel to the Gentiles." All of these argue that in some sense Grt Comm sums up what Matthew wishes to say about Jesus.

Mark Allan Powell has argued against seeing the GrtComm as the climax of the Gospel; all the conflict, etc. in his mind points to the passion narrative as the conclusion. He argues that many narratives do not have a climax at the end, and that in Matthew in particular we have a plot that is not determined by causality, but by "teleology"; he reject the (aristotelian) three-fold division of narratives into beginning, middle, and end. He relies heavily on narrative critical analysis, including features such as the intensification of drama in the conflict narratives (notable by the "slowing" of narrative time in the passion narrative) and the repeated allusions to Jesus' rejection and death throughout the text, among other factors. The Grt Comm is not the climax, but a new beginning. I like the hermeneutical implications of that, but I think the literary analysis isn't quite complete.

But Powell tries to argue that the five major preaching blocks support his theory, as part of Jesus' conflict with Satan/apostate Jewish leadership. There is evidence for this, as the "teaching" does relate to conflict, particularly at the last (23/24-25). But at the end of the day I do not think this mitigates the role of Mt 28:16-20 in favor of Powell's view that "the passion the goal of the entire narrative," and the point of plot resolution. I also don't fully agree with Matera and others, who see a great "switch" from Israel to the nations. (Against Powell, much of the conflict isn't simply about Jesus in his day; it's proleptic, and thus not central to the temporal plot in GospMt.)

I cannot work this out in detail at the moment, but I think the story of central importance here is the story of Abe's people and their vocation (through the lens of early Xianity of course).

That is Matthew's central concern--how does Jesus finsih (fulfill) or bring a new chapter to this long history which precedes his own story of Jesus? How will Israel's vocation (light to the world, justice and righteousness among the nations, even to the nations) be fulfilled? How will the promises to Abraham of universal blessing, and to David of a son to reign and rule in righteousness, be fulfilled? Powell is correct in seeing the locus of "Matthean" plot, i.e., Matthew qua Matthew, intensified and in some sense "climaxed" in the conclusion of the conflict (suffering, death and--perhaps, as God's final blow in the battle--resurrection). But attending to this larger story is essential if we want the true meaning of Jesus' story within the larger Story where it finds meaning, if we want to understand the final five verses, and--I would argue--if we wish to apply Matthew's Gospel today.

This is a bit incomplete at the moment but perhaps we can come back to it later. I'll leave it to readers to comment.

[[I owe the quotes above to the fine analysis of Mervyn Eloff, chapter four of "Restoration from Exile as a Hermeneutical Prism for a Theological Interpretation of Matthew’s Gospel." Unpublished PhD Dissertation, University of Stellenbosch, ca. 2000. Eloff also is concerned with the "larger plot" (Israel's story) but still agrees with Powell, focusing on Exile and Sin via NTW; I think exile and sin is important, but the climax does NOT lie there, but with the larger plot, of which the exile/sin problem is but one aspect of completion.]]
A Hebrew Matthew

A post on another site led me to ask this question--does anyone know where one could find the various texts of Hebrew Matthew, beyond the one in George Howard's book on the subject?

For those that don't know, there are several medieval Hebrew manuscripts of Matthew's Gospel. Differences from Greek texts have led some to posit that they are closer to the original Hebrew or Aramaic than the Greek; Eusebius's comments on Papias, who reported that Matthew was originally written in the Hebrew/Aramaic is sometimes cited as evidence to support this. This is of course disputed (Matthias...Ebraidi dialekta ta logia sunetaxeto doesn't have to mean "Hebrew language"; it could amount to something like "Hebrew style").

I think the strongest argument against an "original Hebrew" is Matt's use of Mark in Greek. I'd still love to know some sources for the relevant, if anyone has any, although I think it's more useful for wirkungsgeschicte than textual criticism, authorship, and origins.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Top NT TV Personalities

From DaVinci and DSS to Mary and Mary, NT scholars are increasingly making the airwaves. A comment on a previous post gave me an idea. Who are the top NT scholars on TV? Anyone care to rate them (1-5 for personality, 1-5 for content) and pick a favorite? Let's try to keep the discourse on content and personality: no jokes about NTW's fro-like beard or anyone's suspect theology--unless it clouds their jdgmnt. Karen King, Craig A. Evans, Mark Goodacre (though I can't remember seeing Mark on in the States), LTJ, NTW, BWiii, A-JL, Borg, Crossan spring to mind... I'll go with BWiii, since I just knocked his Matthew commentary. His slight accent and relaxed manner is a winner (5), and his comments are accurate without being pushy or fantastic--and above all, they make fantastic sound bites (4); overall score is 4.5. Well done, Professor Witherington.

Maybe Crossley and Bird can get on TV after their book comes out--I'd love to see Mike's fire engine cranium ginger up the screen and push the limits of HDTV.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Witherington Sampler

BWiii's new Matthew commentary is now available from Smyth and Helwys. The introduction and commentary on Matt 1 are now available for review at

BWiii tracks his interest in Jesus as a wisdom figure into the "wisdom gospel," an interest which simultaneously makes this commentary unique and unhelpful (on first skim). Apparently he is going to tie each pericope to sapiential themes; the first chapter is not particularly promising in this regard. There is no lengthy, detailed interaction in the intro with those who have previously studied Matthew from a wisdom perspective, although his brief comments on this and on Matt's setting are interesting. Moreover, with the price tag, I'm not sure who this is for; it's too expensive for most folks (though the layout is certainly user-friendly--I can't speak for the CD-ROM). And scholars are going to want more depth and more exposure to Matthean debates.

But out of gratitude to the publishers for putting the chapter online, I'll reiterate my choice of David Garland's excellent commentary on Matthew, which Smyth and Helwys put out/republished in 2001. If you're a non-specialist looking for a good commentary on Matthew, it's worth more than BWiii's effort.

Also online--the new RBL has no fewer than three reviews of Keck's new Abingdon commentary on Romans, including a review by Jimmy Dunn. Sounds like it might make a nice companion to Wright, Dunn, or Moo.