Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hebrew Parallelism: synonymous or no?

Isaiah 42:5 Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it.

What do we have in the second part of this verse? How should we describe the parallelism here? Someone asked me recently if there was a difference between breath/spirit. Without consulting commentaries (I'm OT poor) I'm thinking this is parallelism, with no real differentiation in concepts here. That is, breath/spirit are more or less synonyms.

But studying up on the possibility of an allusion to Gen 49:9ff in Matt, I noted this in David Instone-Brewer's article, "The Two Asses of Zechariah 9:9 in Matthew 21," TynBul 54.1 (2003), 90 n.31: "Alter...argues that the second line always contributes something which is not present in the first line, so no parallelism is truly synonymous. Alter says that the second line usually adds specificity or intensification." He cites Art of Biblical Poetry, 18-22. I was taught something like this in grad school with "A, what's more, B" being the rough equation expressing this, as opposed to contrasting parallelism: "A, but B" or equivalent parallelism, "A = B".

Not sure about this one. Can we really say that "the second line always contributes something"? Anyone know for sure? Seems to me that Is 42:5c/d are more or less equivalent.

Then there's the vexing question of how NT and contemporaneous interpreters would have read such lines.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Danger of Blogs is well worth pondering, on the danger of blogs in light of C S Lewis's comments on the "tragic farce we call the history of the Reformation." I fear there is much to lose by blogging just as their is much to gain, which is why I'm grateful I have too many things on my plate to, say, refute Seyoon Kim's review of NTW's Paul: Fresh Perspectives. In a world where peacemaking "children of God" (Matthew 5:9) are scarce within the church and without, hostile blogging is very, very costly.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Blogfather on Blogging

Reading Mark Goodacre on blogging is like listening to Julia Child talk about cooking, or (conversely) getting a seminar from the Olsen twins on weight loss.

Great thoughts by Mark, particularly on writing interaction/criticism as if the person reading your blog will read it (which has already happened to me, despite the low traffic).

I have one objection though; I'm not sure his statement, "We are drinking coffee while we blog and not beer" holds up to scrutiny. Perhaps we could have blogger and typepad install some breathalizers?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

PISTIS: Lost in Translation?

I'm not going to enter the 'pistis [Iesou] Xpristou', debate here, but lexical questions about pistis arise in several places in the NT, Matthew included, and it's worth discussing. In a nutshell, the question is often asked whether the noun pistis should be translated "faith" (i.e., belief, trust) or 'faithfulness' (fidelity). Simliar questions attend the adjective (pistos and pisteuw), more so the verb than the adjective, which seems to be treated as 'faithful'. For those in the 'protestant' world, this might seem a strange question, and there seems to be among many a default to the 'belief' aspect of faith, vs. the fidelity. In fact, under the influence of Lutheranish Paulinism, 'fidelity' is frequently screened out in favor of 'belief', the latter being juxtaposed with 'works'.

In his recent commentary on Matthew, John Nolland notes (along with many other commentators) the similarity between
Micah 6:8 "do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God"
and the injunction to do the weightier matters of the Law in
Matthew 23:23 "justice, mercy, and pistis"
Nolland says that the background in Micah 6:8 suggests a "faith" translation here, analogous to Micah's "walk humbly with your God". His major argument for taking 'faith' is that Matthew always means pistis-as-belief when using the word elsewhere.

But the remainder of the uses of pistis in Matthew all come in the context of miracles; thus 23:23 should not necessarily be lined up with Matt's other (7) uses of pistis. Additionally, in the near context those who are pistos are the faithful ones doing what the Master requires (e.g., Matthew 24). Finally, "faith as faithfulness/fidelity" fits the Micah connection much better than "faith as belief/trust", since "walking" implies a life lived in faithfulness, more than "belief." Fourth, 'faithfulness' simply fits the context better than a denuded 'faith'.

I'm increasingly wondering whether we can in most instances actually separate the faith and faithfulness aspects of pistis and related words. Some exceptions might be the 'miracle'-related uses of pistis in Matthew. But the adjective pistos is probably always 'faithful'; and the implication seems to be that this is ultimately what is expected and required of God's people in the NT. I think it may be more profitable to lean toward a sort of de facto plenary reading of pistis in such passages, i.e., unless the context really does not call for 'faithfulness', as in the healing passages of Matthew.

Perhaps in this regard it is helpful to see James 2 and Hebrews 11 as lexical lessons: it ain't about 'raw belief', it's about praxis and fidelity. What do you all think? Should we see both aspects operating most of the time?

Apologies for the title. Is it just me, or does everyone use that phrase "lost in translation" now?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A Whole New Level is about the best thing I've seen on the web in a long, long time. If you have no background in 1990s rap music, then this might be of less value, but should still do you right. Enjoy.

And thanks to all of you who blogged on the World Cup. Tomorrow is the day of reckoning. I'm going to the doctor right before the US game to have my blood pressure checked (I'm not making this up). My German Reading class starts almost the very moment our game ends (and the probably vital match between Italy and Czech Republic). Whatever shall I do...

I also figured out how to add a "title" to each post. Amazing.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Macrostructure of Matthew’s Gospel: A New Proposal
in the latest edition of Biblica, by Wim Weren.
ABSTRACT: The weakness of the proposals concerning the macrostructure of Matthew’s Gospel made by Bacon and Kingsbury is that they depart from rigid caesuras, whilst a typical characteristic of the composition of this Gospel is the relatively smooth flow of the story. On the basis of the discovery that the various topographical data are clustered together by means of three refrains we can distinguish three patterns in the travels undertaken by Jesus. This rather coarse structure is further refined with the use of Matera’s and Carter’s distinction between kernels and satellites. Kernels are better labelled as “hinge texts”. The following pericopes belong to this category: 4,12-17; 11,2-30; 16,13-28; 21,1-17; 26,1-16. Each of them marks a turning point in the plot and has a double function: a hinge text is not only fleshed out in the subsequent pericopes but also refers to the preceding block. It is especially these “hinge texts” that underline the continuity of Matthew’s narrative and should prevent us from focussing too much on alleged caesuras.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Ich Liebe German: Advice on Language Training

I sometimes hear that one should take German (or French) as a course of study, rather than attempting to learn "reading" only. There seem to be two arguments for this: (1) You might as well learn to speak it. (2) Most people learn better when the "oral" accompanies the written.

Don't fall into this trap!

Today marked the beginning of the third week of Reading German at the University of Memphis (five days a week for five weeks, 1.5 hours a day plus mild homework). I highly, highly recommend such a course, particularly if you can find a teacher as good as Nele Hempel (she's transferring to UC Santa Barbara--a little too late for Brandon W, though). I've taught languages before (Spanish and English), so I've a leg up I suppose, but I really do think this is the way to go. The professor illustrated today how we are already ahead of her fourth semester German students in grammatical/syntax comprehension, paritcularly in sentence structure, phrases, and verb formation, which is by far the most difficult aspect of translating German. Granted we're all postgrads, but still, this is vastly superior to taking a huge amount of time to learn the language proper.

All we need know for reading at speed is vocabulary, and this can be added on one's own time. Translate a few times a week, add some vocab over a summer or semester or two, and wham, you can translate German for life.

We're using the expensive text German for Reading Knowledge, 5th ed., by Jannach and Kolb. I've heard April Wilson is also good, though much larger. While these are useful for individual study, I think the communitarian nature of a course, with the help of an authority make a good reading course very much worthwhile.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Around the Web>Loren Rosson will be looking at some parables from the 'peasant' perspective in an upcoming series. Should be worthwhile. I queried, and he'll involve Ken Bailey. Bailey is intriguing though mercurial, as he tends to rely quite heavily on his own experience in Arabic and Syriac texts, as well as in "oral" and honor/shame cultures (some 40 years in the Middle East), to interpret the parables and other biblical material. He may be more famous for his theories on>oral transmission and reliability, I think he lightly influences NTW there; but I think his parable material may be more valuable, if eclectic. For a sample, his website offers on Luke 16:19-31.

James Crossley has some football action (finally).
Crouch may be wasteful, but he's more useful than Owen. Beckham proved his value--playing three back and having Becks and Lennon on the wing (one to raid, one to cross) from the start would be ideal if you get Carrick, maybe, to play a holder's role in midfield for cover. Beckham is much maligned but England desperately need his crosses. Alternatively, they could play small, lose Crouch and Beckham and see what happens.
Whatever the case, I think someone in England should do a parody of Sven as the coach for Brazil; bringing in a large center forward (Brazil has some 6'8" basketball players), limiting the fluid poetry by insisting on long balls, stickign with Ronaldo till he hits 20 stone, ruining the beautiful game as we know it for yet another country. Then he gets caught chatting to Colombian drug lords ("Yes, Ronaldinho is ugly..."; "Yes, Ronaldo is quite fat..."; "Yes, I could come to Bogota and coach your squad...") on a Caribbean cruise.
I will pay to finance such a film...unless England win it all. Then hang it.

Fellow Memphian Chris Weimar has an interesting, broad spectrum blog going. An interesting post on Lucretius right now, and a>section on Matt's Gospel, including recent posts on historicity and genre. These aren't my primary interest, but I think Chris has some useful remarks on the front end. I'm not so sure it's easy to write off an interest in historicity in the opening chapters (certainly not a 'parable'!) based on the text (though many have tried!) or an interest in Jesus-as-Moses. Maybe more on that later.
Matthew Commentaries update

Professor David L. Turner (Grand Rapids Seminary) reports via email that the manuscript of his BECNT commentary on Matthew is off to Baker (shouldn't have been a long trip!). It should be released in late 2007. He also notes Bock's Matt and Mark contribution for Cornerstone Biblical Commentary is now out. Which begs a question: how many scholars have done commentaries on all three synoptics?

Thanks to Prof. Turner for the notice.

Monday, June 12, 2006

What I want:

(1) The best anagram for 'Gospel of Matthew' or related phrases.

(2) More importantly, I'm interested in tracking down some good biblio on "Matthew as a reader of Mark'. Anyone have any of this? Not just standard redaction-critical stuff, which usually focuses on isolated changes; but attention to systematic change, especially if coupled with analysis or hypothetical discussion of the ways in which Matthew wasor might have been inspired by Mark. I think there's good ground for a hypothetical discussion on how Mark could have influenced or inspired Matthew in many areas, including:
cost of discipleship; use of Zechariah; narrative alignment of JnBapt with Jesus.

Mark's interest in geography viz. Matthew has been studied but perhaps less successfully. I've also seen some good stuff on Matt as an editor (tends to shorten Mark's wordier phrases). But I'd love to see more, perhaps even Matthew as wirkungsgeschichte of Mark, "Matthew and the Earliest Reception History of Mark."

(3) Match-fixing for this Saturday's game viz. Italy...

UPDATE: Turns out the Blogfather had something similar to say in a more comprehensive fashion on Matt as reader of Mark: "Redaction criticism tends not to allow sufficiently for the effect that a source gospel might have had on a given evangelist. What if Mark fundamentally altered Matthew's views? Gospels are works of propaganda or persuasion and were presumably designed to persuade others, yet we tend to imagine Matthew taking up an utterly critical stance to Mark as if his (Matthew's) views were all fully formed before he came across Mark. My view is that Mark has a profound and overwhelming effect on Matthew, changing and developing his thinking on all sorts of fronts." He goes on to cite Matt's use of Mk's John-as-Elijah portrayal.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Bock Blog and other news

No, it's not about beer; Darrell Bock is blogging online (as noted by Mark D. Roberts and others). Looks like he's keeping his blogposts shorter than his Luke commentary. Good analysis of DaVinci Code but give us something else, something unique! (Like the updates on IBR activity!)

The US will be on the field tomorrow for their World Cup opener. The Czechs are a bit banged up, but they are loaded with talent. The US will have to play the game of their lives to win, although a draw would not be impossible. Biggest question is, will the midfield hustle and flow?

I will be in German class, but will be following on the webcast of the game.

Other observations: England looked tepid and less than thrilling despite their talent in the middle 3/4s of the field. Owen was ineffective and made me long for Rooney; I'm frankly not sure Sven knows how to use his midfield. Their defense is superb but they can't count on even one goal in every game, I'm afraid, on this evidence. Robben looked amazing for Holland, but he needs to get his team involved more--too many shots, I'm afraid. They need better teamwork in the final 1/3 of the field, imo.
I've been proud of our CONCACAF neighbors--Costa Rica nabbing goals against Deutschland; Trinidad with a miracle draw (=tie!) with Sweden; Mexico taking out Iran 'con fuerza'. All loads of fun.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Kostenberger on the Purpose and Occasion of John's Gospel

[[I tried to submit the following at Deinde, but couldn't manage it.]]
Andreas Kostenberger posts on the purpose and occasion of John's Gospel.

AK (no word if he wears number 47 during intramural sporting events) posts based largely on a large, recent article of his on the topic, available in PDF online at his website: "The Destruction of the SecondTemple and the Composition of the Fourth Gospel, " TrinJ 26NS (2005): 205-42.

Particularly astute in regards to 'occasion' is this quote from Peter Walker, Jesus and the Holy City (Eerdmans, 1996, p. 197): "As a result, if any of his readers felt bereft of the Temple and of the spiritual focus provided by Jerusalem, John would have encouraged them not to mourn the loss of the city, but rather to see what God had done for them in Jesus. . . . The Evangelist, writing after the Temple's destruction, does not bemoan its loss. . . . The presence of God has not been withdrawn, for Jesus has taken the place of the Temple. Jesus gives more than the Temple had ever given. . . . Jesus stands in the place of everything that Israel has lost."

I like this a lot, although I shouldn't like to drive too much of an analytical wedge between occasion and purpose...