On the heels of the publication of my most recent book, I spent some time today updating my Amazon author page and Academia.edu page. Both are quick and easy ways to keep up with my more notable publications. For a complete list of publications, papers, and presentations, please refer to my cv on the About page of this blog.
I wasn’t expecting it to be released until December, as the Abingdon and Amazon pages note, but just yesterday a copy of Reconsidering Arminius appeared on my desk, courtesy of our cataloging librarian here at the Claremont School of Theology. Sometimes Christmas does come early!
This volume was co-edited by me, Keith D. Stanglin, and Mark H. Mann, and it pulls together conference papers, as well as later/additional contributions. The conference was entitled Rethinking Arminius and was held in 2012. I’ll append an abstract below.
The theology of Dutch theologian Jacob Arminius has been misinterpreted and caricatured in both Reformed and Wesleyan circles. By revisiting Arminius’ theology, the book hopes to be a constructive voice in the discourse between so-called Calvinists and Arminians.
Traditionally, Arminius has been treated as a divisive figure in evangelical theology. Indeed, one might be able to describe classic evangelical theology up into the 20th century in relation to his work: one was either an Arminian and accepted his theology, or one was a Calvinist and rejected his theology. Although various other movements within evangelicalism have provided additional contour to the movement (fundamentalism, Pentecostalism, etc.), the Calvinist-Arminian “divide” remains a significant one. What this book seeks to correct is the misinterpretation of Arminius as one whose theology provides a stark contrast to the Reformed tradition as a whole. Indeed, this book will demonstrate instead that Arminius is far more in line with Reformed orthodoxy than popularly believed, and show that what emerges as Arminianism in the theology of the Remonstrants and Wesleyan movements was in fact not the theology of Arminius, but rather a development of and sometimes departure from it.
This book also brings Arminius into conversation with modern theology. To this end, it includes essays on the relationship between Arminius’ theology and open theism and Neo-Reformed theology. In this way, this book fulfills the promise of the title by showing ways in which Arminius’ theology–once properly understood–can serve as a resource of evangelical Wesleyans and Calvinists doing theology together today.
Stephen Emmel recently made a guest post on Alin Suciu’s blog. Emmel has calculated the size of the Gospel of John fragment written by the same modern prankster who created the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife fragment. Based on the size of the fragment and its exemplar (the Qau codex), a full leaf of the Gospel of John fragment would represent either “the tallest (or widest)” of any papyrus codex “yet known.” This adds further proof against the inauthenticity of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife papyrus. To put it another way, while the physical dimensions of the Gospel of John fragment would make it the tallest tale ever, that epithet might just as aptly suit the content and creation of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.
Here is the link to the post, which provides a summary as well as the full text of the full paper detailing Emmel’s codicological analysis.
What was noted on several blogs (including this one) on April 24 has, a full week later, finally started making the rounds in mass media venues:
April 30, Daily Mail
May 1, Wall Street Journal
May 4, New York Times
May 4, PBS NewsHour
May 5, Discovery News
The unfolding of events presents a good case-in-point for the increasingly important role that blogs are playing in the study of Christian origins and scholarly communication more generally. It also shows how important open, digital access to original source texts is to the cause of scholarly inquiry and debate.
A couple weeks ago, the Jesus’ Wife papyrus was making the rounds again in mass media, mostly in articles citing chemical/material analysis “proving” its authenticity. Here is one such article:
Back in October of 2012, when Karen King (a professor at Harvard) first announced the text at a conference in Rome, I wrote the following op-ed for a student newspaper:
Just today, a blogger friend and adept Coptologist (Alin Suciu) cross-posted and confirmed the finding of a “smoking-gun” which definitively proves that the “Jesus’ Wife Papyrus” is a forgery:
The piece of paper used was authentic, but its content is just a modern forgery. Sadly, it probably sold for quite a profit on the antiquities market. Even more worrisome is how the forgery so easily fooled various scholars and how the mass media became an echo chamber, probably because the “finding” so nicely fit the trope of the scandalous and controversial, turning upside down traditional/customary beliefs about the celibacy of Jesus. Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code and its conspiracy theories about Jesus’ secret love relationship with Mary Magdalene make for good entertainment, but not solid grounds for evaluating ostensibly ancient texts.
My first monograph went to press early in March:
Mark Glen Bilby, As the bandit will I confess you: Luke 23, 39-43 in early Christian interpretation. Cahiers de Biblia Patristica 13. Strasbourg: University of Strasbourg; Turnhout: Brepols, 2013. [ISBN 978-2-906805-12-5]
Copies are currently being sold directly from the Brepols website. I have a request in for it to be sold through Amazon as well.
Despite the diligent efforts of myself, the editor and the metteur en pages, some errors did appear in the printed edition. I ask the pardon of the readers for these oversights. Kindly inform me of additional corrections by replying to this post.
Page 32 footnote 52
sermon. -> sermons.
Tables 5A and 5B -> Tables 6A and 6B
Page 170, Footnote 171
moreafter -> more after
Tables 6A and 6B -> Tables 7A and 7B
Table 7 -> Table 5
paschavi -> pascha vi
Page 255 footnote 81
nat. IV, lines 37-40 -> nat. IV, 37-40
Page 278 footnote 37
Lk 23, 39 -> Lc 23, 39
Page 282 footnote 50
fid. -> fid.
As Syriac references influences, and rapidly multiplied -> As Syriac references and influences rapidly multiplied
Esaiah -> Isaiah
19: 165-l66 -> 19: 165-166
XXXIX: 264, 266 -> XXXIX: 264-266
II, 9, -> II, 9, 1: 99
Last week was a frenzy of activity and excitement for me, especially because I had the chance to attend and speak at the 2nd York Apocrypha Symposium at York University in Toronto (http://tonyburke.ca/conference/). Tony Burke and Brent Landau organized the event. Speakers included Nicola Denzey Lewis, Lorenzo DiTommaso, Mary Dzon, David Eastman, Mark Goodacre, Kristian Heal, Charles Hedrick, F. Stanley Jones, John Kloppenborg, Lee Martin McDonald, Stephen Patterson, Pierluigi Piovanelli, Annette Yoshiko Reed (giving the keynote), Jean-Michel Roessli, Stephen Shoemaker, Glenn Snyder, Lily Vuong, and yours truly. Needless to say, I felt completely out of my league.
Fortunately, my presentation seemed to be very well received. In it, I gave a survey of the various legends about the co-crucified bandits, from their initial emergence in Palestine in the 4th and 5th century, their reformulation in an Egyptian setting starting in the 6th and 7th century, and their export to the Latin West in revised forms starting around the 11th or 12th century. I attempted to set aside the scholarly preoccupation with the names of the bandits and instead focused on the legends as various examples of the cult of Dysmas as a patron saint. Tony and Brent are starting to gather together a volume of conference papers, and I’m hoping that my paper will make an appearance there.
It is hard to summarize how wonderful the symposium was. The papers were consistently excellent, the discussions thoughtful, the conversations international in scope and import, and the times of collegiality truly refreshing and enjoyable. It was a wonderful blend of scholars of a variety of ages, backgrounds, and specializations (New Testament, Gnosticism, Apocrypha, Patristics, Medieval), and this diversity proved mutually advantageous in myriad ways. I was especially grateful to meet Mary Dzon, an English professor and Medievalist at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, who shares my fascination with the legends of the bandits. In fact, Mary has an excellent and extremely well-researched chapter on the medieval legends of the bandits. It is forthcoming in a book entitled, Diuerse Imaginaciouns of Cristes Life’: Devotional Culture in England 1300-1560 (Brepols, 2014). I’m really thankful to have been a part of such a gathering.
If I could sum up the import of the conference, I’d simply say that it exploded a lot of the conventional boundaries in early Christian studies, especially the boundaries between non-canonical and canonical literature, between so-called apocryphal and so-called Gnostic literature, between patristics and apocryphal literature, between homilies (and commentaries, and novels, and poetry, and art, and film, and comics, and even video games) and apocryphal literature. In other words, the so-called apocrypha, so often relegated to a status of ancillary curiosity, is the life-blood of Christian theology, literature, and imagination, both in antiquity and even today.
On a related note, David Eastman and I are talking about organizing a session at the upcoming NAPS (the North American Patristics Society) that looks at how the legends of the apostles are conveyed and presumed in Biblical interpretation. To paraphrase David, Augustine does not read the Pauline epistles merely as a source for theology. Instead, he reads them as reflections of Paul as a martyr, even a North African martyr. Something very similar could be said in regard to the Gospel of Luke, a topic I am currently exploring in several articles in the Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception. The books of the Bible are never detached from the legends of the persons whom tradition said composed them, nor the legends of the characters within them. To put it yet another way, Biblical studies is essentially a subspecies of hagiography. Thus, the task of critical Biblical scholarship is to trace out the fluid yet inextricable links between the stories in the holy books and the stories of holy persons (i.e., saints and their legends).
Brepols’ Autumn 2013 list of forthcoming publications includes my first book. I’m getting excited! The Cahiers de Biblia Patristica has a fairly simple cover design and doesn’t include any artwork. This blog seems like a nice place to supplement a piece of art that is discussed in the book. The Rabbula Gospels, composed ca. 586 CE in Syria, contains the earliest extant illustration of the crucifixion. It also seems to convey one of the most notable and influential tropes found in early Christian interpretation, namely, John Chrysostom’s trope that Jesus and the bandit saw each other “with the eyes of faith”. For a detailed exploration of this trope and its afterlife in homilies and art, you’ll have to read the book when it is published this November. In the meantime, I’ll leave it to you to see and decide whether Chrysostom’s trope was in the mind of the artist who gave us this illustration.
I was happy today to receive advance copies of several papers for the upcoming York Apocrypha Symposium at York University in Toronto (Sept 26-28), including papers by Charles Hedrick, Lee McDonald, F. Stanley Jones, Nicola Denzey, and Stephen Shoemaker. The event is being organized by Tony Burke and Brent Landau, two of the leading scholars on Christian apocrypha in North America. The conference builds on the one Tony organized in 2011 on the Secret Gospel of Mark, where, as he narrates, the case was decisively settled against the thesis that Morton Smith had forged the Mar Saba text.
This conference (http://tonyburke.ca/conference/) aims to be broader in scope and interests. Several of the authors of the papers have requested that they not be cited, but I hope my colleagues take no offense if I promote the conference and their papers simply by mentioning their various topics. The papers I’ve received thus far include something of an academic autobiography by Charles Hedrick and a similar appraisal by Nicola Denzey of the affinities (or, perhaps better, lament of the artificial distinction made) between the so-called Gnostic and so-called apocryphal texts, an exploration by Lee Martin McDonald of Christian apocrypha vis-à-vis the formation of Christian Biblical canons, a demonstration by F. Stanley Jones of significant, early textual variants of Jesus sayings held in common between Justin Martyr and the Basic Writing (a collection of Jesus sayings used both in the Ps-Clementine Recognitions and Ps-Clementine Homilies), an exploration by Stephen Shoemaker of the role of the (oft-neglected but previously highly popular) Tiburtine Sibyl in early Byzantine imperial eschatology and concurrently in the rise of Islam, and an analysis by Lily Vuong of the reception and textual attestations of the Protoevangelium of James in the Syriac History of the Blessed Virgin Mary. My paper will focus on a single character who appears and changes in a variety of apocrypha (over 15 distinct stories spanning the 4th through 13th century)–the so-called Good Thief crucified with Jesus. It will show how the cult of Dysmas first arose in the late 4th / early 5th century in Syro-Palestine, was largely submerged in the swell in interest in the cult of the Virgin Mary in subsequent centuries (attested in apocrypha wherein the bandit’s story is subsumed in the story of the Holy Family’s sojourn in Egypt), and finally re-emerged in a variety of 12th and 13th short stories, especially in Byzantium and the Latin West.
Some of the conclusions of this paper stem from the work I did on a critical edition, introduction and translation of a particular Byzantine apocryphon (BHG 2119y), which I have re-named “The Hospitality of Dysmas.” The translation and introduction will appear in Tony and Brent’s forthcoming collection (Eerdmans) entitled More Christian Apocrypha, aimed at supplying fresh introductions and translations of many Christian legends heretofore not included in the major collections of apocrypha (e.g., those of Tischendorf, James, Hennecke/Schneemelcher, and the recent collections of Bovon, Geoltrain & Voicu as well as that of Ehrman & Plese).
Up to the present day, European scholars have dominated the study of the apocrypha. Largely due to the concerted efforts of scholars at Harvard, Toronto, York, and elsewhere, we are starting to witness a wave of contributions (even critical editions!) to the study of the apocrypha by scholars on American shores. It’s exciting for me to see this happening and to contribute in some small way to its development.
A friend asked me about familiarity and intimacy as regards the Lord’s Prayer, particularly about the use of “Abba” and informal 2nd person address in French translations. My response follows.
Regarding the Lord’s Prayer and its use of Abba, it depends on 1) which version of the Lord’s Prayer is meant (Q, Luke or Matt), 2) the language of the prayer, and 3) how one connects the Lord’s Prayer to the mention of “Abba” elsewhere in the New Testament.
- Both Luke and Matthew draw on an earlier source (Q = Quelle) of Jesus’ teachings and parables. Luke’s version of the Lord’s prayer is significantly shorter and is probably more faithful to this source. There you only find “Father” (pater), while in Matthew it is pater humon (Father of us). Matthew’s possessive form may convey intimacy, but my sense is that the stress is more on the community—that this Gospel is adapting Jesus’ prayer as the standard form prayer for its early Christian community in Antioch. The Didache follows Matthew and expands it, providing us with the “Kingdom and Power” climax typically used as part of the form prayer by Christians throughout history. More to the point, both Luke and Matthew (and thus Q) use the Greek term “Father”, not “daddy.”
- The Syriac version (the Peshitta) has aboun (Father of us), which parallels the Greek perfectly and does not use the diminutive (baby-talk) form Abba. There are two ways of reading this—either the Peshitta (a 4th century translation) is following the Greek, otherwise it represents the original Aramaic form of the prayer. In either case, the evidence is in favor of the more formal “Father”, rather than “Daddy”, as the earliest form of the prayer.
- Still, Jesus is quoted as praying “Abba” in his prayer of surrender in the garden of Gethsemane in Mark 14:36. Though Matthew and Luke do not follow Mark here, that may be due to their reluctance to repeat Mark’s Aramaicisms, i.e., the penchant to quote Jesus in Aramaic alongside a Greek translation. Paul mentions the “Abba” prayer twice (Gal 4:6, Rom 8:15), but he doesn’t seem to have the Lord’s prayer in mind in either of these examples. The stress is actually on adoption, perhaps evoking baptism as a repetition of Jesus’ adoption as Messiah by the Father. Moreover, in his authentic letters, Paul never gives an indication of knowing of such a form prayer.
In regard to the broader question of the intimacy of the prayer, there are other factors to consider as well. The Greek of Luke and Matthew resorts to a very formal and indirect form of request (3rd person passive imperative) at the beginning (“let be made holy your name”, “let come your kingdom”), before switching to a more informal and direct form (2nd person active imperative) thereafter (“give us”, “forgive us”, “don’t lead into”). Most later translations (including English and French) attempt to convey this shift in some way. Your reference to “tu/ton” is yet another issue. In Greek and Syriac, the 2nd person singular possessive form does not convey familiarity, but simply number (i.e., God is singular not plural). I’d agree that modern French (and German and Spanish) translations do convey familiarity by using informal 2nd person forms, but I’d say that this is more of a reflection of the particular character of those languages, not of the original/early versions themselves (which do not have a distinctive 2nd person plural form for conveying respect or formality).
Even so, the very use of “Father” in the Lord’s Prayer, not to mention Jesus’ many other uses of that term, conveys a familiarity and intimacy once set within the broader context of Jewish prayer. When compared with the amidah (the “standing” prayer of early Rabbinic Judaism), the Lord’s Prayer is strikingly similar in its content, but it is also far more familiar, addressing God as Father, rather than as “God of our Fathers.” I suppose the question then is not whether the Lord’s Prayer conveys intimacy, but the degree to which and ways in which it does this in its various renditions throughout history.