Category Archives: Pseudepigrapha

Eucharist? Not bloody likely — The Gospels, Didache, Joseph and Aseneth, and Reality “#thelostgospel”

Pollen Comb of Honeybee Hive
Jewish bees? Gentile bees? If they are pollenating, one is Jesus and the other is Mary Maggie-pie. Pollen Comb of Honeybee Hive (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Long before the “lost gospel” was found, Dr. Mark Goodacre had a webpage devoted to the pseudepigrapha tale. You can find it here.

In Wilson and Jacobovici’s book they declare, without regard for logic, that the story in Joseph and Aseneth 16 is the “First Holy Communion Ever.” One would think that this audacious statement would be backed up with well supported facts. One would think…

This is how chapter 16 reads,

And the man said to her, “Bring me, please, a honeycomb too.” 2. And Aseneth said, “Let me send someone my lord, to my family estate in the country and I will get you a honeycomb.” 3. And the man said to her, “Go into your inner room and you will find a honeycomb there.” 4. And Aseneth went into her inner room and found a honeycomb lying on the table; and the comb was as white as snow and full of honey, and its smell was like the breath of life. 5. And Aseneth took the comb and brought it to him; and the man said to her, “Why did you say, ‘There is no honeycomb in my house?’ And lo, you have brought me this.” 6. And Aseneth said, My lord, I had no honeycomb in my house, but it happened just as you said: did it perchance come out of your mouth, for it smells like myrrh?” 7. And the man stretched his hand out and placed it on her head and said, “You are blessed, Aseneth, for the indescribable things of God have been revealed to you; and blessed too are those who give their allegiance to the Lord God in penitence, for they shall eat of this comb. 8. The bees of the Paradise of Delight have made this honey, and the angels of God eat of it, and no one who eats of it shall ever die. 9. And the man stretched his right hand out and broke off a piece of the comb and ate it; and he put a piece of it unto Aseneth’s mouth. 10. And the man stretched his hand out and put his finger on the edge of the comb that faced eastwards; and the path of his finger became like blood. 11. And he stretched out his hand a second time and put his finger on the edge of the comb that faced northwards, and the path of his finger became like blood.

Now that you have read it, let me post it again with portions in bold,

And the man said to her, “Bring me, please, a honeycomb too.” 2. And Aseneth said, “Let me send someone my lord,  to my family estate in the country and I will get you a honeycomb.” 3. And the man said to her, “Go into your inner room and you will find a honeycomb there.” 4. And Aseneth went into her inner room and found a honeycomb lying on the table; and the comb was as white as snow and full of honey, and its smell was like the breath of life. 5. And Aseneth took the comb and brought it to him; and the man said to her, “Why did you say, ‘There is no honeycomb in my house?’ And lo, you have brought me this.” 6. And Aseneth said, My lord, I had no honeycomb in my house, but it happened just as you said: did it perchance come out of your mouth, for it smells like myrrh?” 7. And the man stretched his hand out and placed it on her head and said, “You are blessed, Aseneth, for the indescribable things of God have been revealed to you; and blessed too are those who give their allegiance to the Lord God in penitence, for they shall eat of this comb. 8. The bees of the Paradise of Delight  have made this honey, and the angels of God eat of it, and no one who eats of it shall ever die. 9. And the man stretched his right hand out and broke off a piece of the comb and ate it; and he put a piece of it unto Aseneth’s mouth. 10. And the man stretched his hand out and put his finger on the edge of the comb that faced eastwards; and the path of his finger became like blood. 11. And he stretched out his hand a second time and put his finger on the edge of the comb that faced northwards, and the path of his finger became like blood.

Let me take them in order.

  • Honeycomb is the Torah, the words of God (see Sirach 24)
  • Myrrh, is associated with the Wisdom of God, which is the Torah (See Sirach 24)
  • Shall never die – language connected to Genesis 3.22 and the honeycomb which gives life.

These three things are all connected to the Wisdom tradition of the Jewish and then the Christian people. In this tradition, Wisdom is the Torah and it is the Torah that gives eternal life. Wisdom plays a significant part in deuterocanonical literature, such as Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon, as well as in Jewish mysticism and developing Christian theology. You can see this in Hebrews and John. Why are these two latter books so important? Because Wisdom becomes Jesus Christ. If Christians understand Wisdom as Christ (this is apparent in Paul as well), then it is unlikely such an imagery could get so mangled as to produced what is suggested in the “decoded” allegory. Rather, what is better sensed in chapter 16 is a conversion story where one food (or Law) is replaced by another (in this case, a pagan food for the Torah).

But, what about the sign of the cross and the eucharistic symbology? I think it is possible to see a connection there, although we may run into parallelism, which Wilson and Jacobovici have done, if we believe this language is a code. The meal imagery is easily explained as a conversion process, yet, there is a nagging parallel to Christian practices as developed late in the 4th and 5th centuries. How late? Around the time this document was no doubt written.

Possibly, there are two “liturgical” images here:

  • Eucharist
  • Sign of the cross

If you are Orthodox, you will recognize a similarity to the Epiklesis of the Divine Liturgy.  It evolved from the Apostolic Tradition usually attributed to Hippolytus (c. 215). What is most interesting is that the section on the Eucharistic prayer is commonly thought to be a later addition, perhaps even from the 4th century (albeit with earlier layers of tradition). At the time of Hippolytus, however, sign of the cross-as-invocation was still performed upon the forehead (as found in Tertullian). It wasn’t until the 5th century we begin to see the connection between signing the cross on the holy bread and the turning of that bread into the body of Christ:

With regard to other points of theology, we may note that Cyril very strongly insists on the Real Presence and on Transubstantiation, of which he gives a most accurate definition: “That which seems bread is not bread but the Body of Christ; that which seems wine is not wine but the Blood of Christ.” “It is not ordinary bread (ἄρτος λιτός), but the Body of Christ.” “As Christ changed water into wine, so does he change (μεταβάλλει) wine into his Blood.” Christians who receive holy communion become “of one Body and of one Blood with Christ” (σύσσωμοι καὶ σύναιμοι Χριστοῦ) and are “Christbearers (Χριστοφόροι).” Transubstantiation takes place, he says, “by the invocation of the Holy Ghost.”5 The holy Eucharist is a “spiritual sacrifice” and a “sacrifice of atonement.”1

Today, the rite looks like this:

(The Priest signs the Holy Bread with the sign of the Cross, saying quietly:) And make this bread the precious Body of thy Christ:

(The Priest makes the sign of the Cross, saving quietly:) And that which is in this cup, the precious Blood of thy Christ:

(The Priest makes the sign of the Cross over both the Holy Gifts, saying quietly:) Changing them by thy Holy Spirit: Amen, Amen, Amen.

Again, we are fluctuating between the 3rd and 5th century, with a date of the 4th century as probable for the inclusion of this specific invocation (over the bread, with the sign of the cross) into the liturgies of the various Sees. But, what does the first images of the Eucharist look like?

If we go to the Synoptics (no earlier than 73 with Mark), we get the image of a traditional Passover seder. Once we turn to Acts (I would place this work into the early 2nd century), the “breaking of the bread” becomes an event to celebrate the growth of the Church. However, if we turn to Paul and 1 Corinthians 11.23–26 (mid 50’s), we see a communal rite, sacred nevertheless, that is supposed to harken back to Jesus. Some could see the revelation of this rite to Paul as a spiritual vision, rather than Paul taking up an already standing tradition. It would be difficult to argue this position, as the meal was already present among the Jews, albeit with different intentions.

The earliest non-canonical detailing about the sacred meal comes from a first century document called The Didache. This preserves the Eucharist like this:

9.1 Now this is how you should engage in giving thanks, bless God in this way.
9.2 First, at the cup, say:
We give thanks to you, our Father,
for the holy vine of David, your servant, which you have made known to us.
Through Jesus, your servant, to you be glory for ever.
9.3 Then when it comes to the broken loaf say:
We give thanks to you, our Father,
for the life and knowledge which you have made known to us.
Through Jesus, your servant, to you be glory for ever.
9.4 For as the broken loaf was once scattered over the mountains and then was gathered in and became one, so may your church be gathered together into your kingdom from the very ends of the earth.
Yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever.
9.5 Only let those who have been baptized in the name of the Lord eat and drink at your Eucharists. And remember what the Lord has said about this: do not give to dogs what is holy.

The issue with excluding the Didache has somehow preserving a “truer” (code for non-Pauline) Christianity is that we have enough textual studies between Mark and Matthew and Paul to suggest that the Didache (which used Matthew) recognized Pauline Christianity. (See here, here and here to begin correctly the view that the Didache is “Pauline free.”) Note, the Didache does not use code language, allegory, or otherwise. Unlike 4th century eucharistic rites, it doesn’t include the epiklesis or sign of the cross. Rather, follows Pauline order in the wine and the bread.

Before I leave this alone, let me decode “Pauline Christianity.” For many who use this term, it means the pro-inclusion-of-Gentiles into Israel’s covenant. Note what Jacobovici has said,

“Someone might say to me, why are you finding so many great things, why nobody else? I tell you why. Because I’m Jewish, I’m not Pauline—I don’t think inside a Christian box… I’m not a theologian, I’m not a Christian, and I see that in this world you can look at texts with fresh eyes and see new things.”

While I am not going to answer the racist undertones of that statement, let me point out the false dichotomy of such a view. Paul was Jewish. Many of the people he spoke to and wrote to were Jewish. We have scant evidence Paul was overly successful in converting Gentiles. Indeed, whereas the Epistle to the Romans was written to a Jewish and Gentile audience, Paul didn’t establish this community. To be Pauline is to be Jewish. If you look at the language in Joseph and Aseneth as liturgical and then compare it back to the earliest record of the sacred meal (1 Corinthians 11.23–26), you will even see a Pauline influence!2 But, you have to backwards read and treat it as something more than it is. But this goes further. Many in early Christianity still considered themselves Jewish, still used the synagogues, and still, alongside the Rabbis, brought to life new theology. In fact, real scholarship (usually called “the parting of the ways”) reveals a centuries-long relationship between Jews and Christians that aided both peoples. If anything, by comparing the 4th century Christian liturgical development, 2nd Temple Jewish mysticism, and the 5th century Joseph and Aseneth what could be revealed is a confluence of Jewish and Christian mysticism lasting well into Christendom.

What we should see here is the fallacy established by Wilson and Simcha, but also a chance to see either an interpolation of Christian conversion rites into a Jewish story or still yet a novella that contained Jewish-Christian mysticism recognizable to and aiding both Jews and Christians. It is not impossible the imagery of Joseph and Aseneth provided fodder for developing liturgies, or vice versa. What is impossible is to say that this mystical tale known nearly from its inception “is either lost or a gospel” (see here as well) and that it represents the earliest image of the Eucharistic celebration.

  1. Adrian Fortescue, The Greek Fathers (London; St Louis, MO: Catholic Truth Society; B. Herder, 1908), 157.
  2. Why? Because Paul was a Jewish mystic and the Christianity he left us shares an intimate relationship with Jewish mysticism!

20th century reading reveals super-secret details of the life of an allegorical novella

English: Photo of Jonathan G. Meath portraying...
“Snow is the air, election days have passed, the leaves are brown and another non-scholar has a book out with a “startling revelation” about Jesus. It’s almost time for me!” English: Photo of Jonathan G. Meath portraying Santa Claus. Date approximate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By now, you’ve read that Simcha Jacobovici  and Barrie Wilson are publishing a new book along with a new documentary proving that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had two sons. This was expected, as this book has been on the “on hold” shelf (or whatever it is you want to call) for a while now.

There are two perspectives you need to see first.

One is Dr. Robert Cargill. I stress the doctor part for various reasons. Unlike others, he has the academic chops, prowess, and beard to actually comment on this. In 2013 he wrote,

Anyone attempting an allegorical interpretation of Joseph and Aseneth, and arguing for anything other than an apology for why Joseph married a non-Israelite (and the daughter of a pagan priest at that), is grasping at speculative straws, and attempting (like the author of the Syriac text) to stretch the text into something it was never designed to do. Whether it be a gnostic interpretation of the text, or an attempt to argue something truly ridiculous and sensational, for example, that the story somehow represents Jesus and Mary Magdalene (as “Bride of God”, requiring an appeal to separate Gnostic texts like Pistis Sophia, the Gospel of Mary, and the Gospel of Philip), and that this allegorical representation from sixcenturiesafter the life of Jesus, relying on the weaving together of multiple Gnostic texts composed a full century after the life of Jesus, somehow provides “evidence” of aspects of Jesus’ actual, historical life – such allegorical interpretations are the height of unsubstantiated speculation.

Cargill has a review (since most of the book is now available online) up.

Another is Dr. Mark Goodacre who actually devotes time to literary practices of early Christianity was on Good Morning America.

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By the way, Goodacre wrote a piece on this in 2013.

One of the reasons this should be dismissed is the dual claim of lost and gospel attached to this story. As Cargill noted in the linked-to piece, the story has long been known and is not actually a gospel. It simply fits as a novella.

Further, other authors long before Jacobovichi and Wilson has noted supposed parallels, such as Edith Humprey’s excellent book on Joseph and Aseneth, 

Certainly, we have no parallel more exact than that of the Christian Eucharist and Chrismation, and yet the book is lacking in unambiguously specific Christian references. The paucity of evidence concerning Judaisms at the turn of the eras (in which earliest ‘Christianity’ is to be situated), and our access to this time through mostly later texts, adds to our difficulty in making sense of such phrases, and may continue to lead some, such as Ross Kraemer, to decide for a later date for our piece. It is becoming clearer that several concepts that we normally associate with Christianity were more broadly acceptable in this time of formation—for example, evidence for belief in ‘two powers’ in heaven, a mystical teaching later proscribed by the rabbis (cf. A.F. Segal, ‘Heavenly Ascent in Hellenistic Judaism, Early Christianity and their Environment’, ANRW, II.23.2, especially pp. 1352–68; idem, Two Powers in Heaven: Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism [Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1977]). Such fluidity between turn of the era Judaisms (which included formative Christianity) may possibly apply to liturgical language that we now know only in the Christian context….

And…

our considerations of genre forbid that we see in Aseneth simply a hidden apology for an alternate temple.1

Humprey’s book, unfortunately is not cited. Perhaps it is because of her stern and well-evidenced warning against rampant parallelism, hasty interpretation, misunderstanding of genre (as well as the inability to properly access the context).

(Anthony Le Donne, James McGrath, Jim West, Greg Carey, Steve Caruso, Jim Davila, Jimmy Akin)

By the way, there is now a Bingo game for the upcoming press conference.

  1. Edith McEwan Humphrey, Joseph and Aseneth (Guides to Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha; Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000), 59–61.

Review, @degruyter_TRS “The Rewritten Scrolls from Qumran: Texts, Translation, and Commentary”

 The Dead Sea Scrolls, as a mystical object the majority of Jewish and Christian believers still ignore, is relatively new. As an object of study, newer still. Yet, in recent years scholars have paid more attention to the content of the scrolls more than the scrolls themselves. We have come to understand a lot about these lost desert communities, isolationists who had retreated to wait for the end of their world. While many scholars focus on the more well-known works, there is still room yet to explore the richness of works largely ignored. Such is case with Ariel Feldman (Ph.D, University of Haifa) who has turned his attention the rewritten Joshua Scrolls (4Q378, 4Q379, 4Q522, 4Q123, 5Q9, Mas 1039-211).

There is not merely a propositional monograph supported with eruditic footnotes. Rather, Feldman presents us a unique type of scholarship, so that while he examines the scrolls for their connectivity, he likewise gives us a solid commentary on the fragments therein. This book of 9 chapters is divided into several parts. First, Feldman gives us an introduction to the history of these particular scrolls. In the first chapter, Feldman makes the argument (as he reminds us in the final chapter) that Joshua is the most rewritten book among the Minor Prophets. He then gives details about the scrolls themselves. Following this are several chapters dedicated to succinct literary and contextual commentary on the various scrolls and fragments. Following this are two concluding chapters arguing for various positions on composition and vorlage. His conclusions, because he has invested such a great amount of work in the preceding chapters, are almost unquestionable at this stage of scholarship.

I will briefly focus on the commentary section. For this, I will use his chapter on 4Q378 (the second chapter of the book), for no other reason than the material provides for an allusion in my New Testament studies. We are introduced to the manuscript itself, giving us the sequence of fragments. Following this is the author’s summary of the contents. For this scroll, we are introduced to one relatively free of narrative but filled with discourses. The author gives us an approximate span of the canon where the fragment would appear. The central portion of each chapter is the text and commentary. The text, of course, is given in the original language. The commentary covers the text, different readings, and includes the author’s comments. I am reminded most of the Hermeneia series. After this, there is a detailed discussion of the contents of the fragment, calling attention to (in this case) Joshua and Moses and Joshua’s succession. Finally, Feldman gives us a list of biblical allusions and discusses provenance.

In total, this is a highly detailed and much needed contribution to these scrolls. If all such Dead Sea Scroll fragments were treated in such a manner, scholarship in this area would find itself near completion. I am most impressed with the attention to detail of the text and the sharp focus of the commentary. Feldman does not get bogged down into outlying issues but remains focused on the fragments and their suspected place as rewritten Scripture. Anyone studying this area, as well as the New Testament or Second Temple Judaism must find this book a necessity.

Satan: Accuser or Executioner?

I had the privilege today of interviewing Dr. Ryan Stokes of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He told me about his research on satan (both a noun and a verb in biblical Hebrew). Stokes has concluded that the Satan in the Hebrew Bible is not an accuser but actually is Yahweh’s executioner. The article on this topic is in the June 2014 issue of Journal of Biblical Literature. My interview with him is here on MAP.

 

@dageshforte

In the Mail: @DeGruyter_TRS “The Rewritten Scrolls from Qumran: Texts, Translation, and Commentary (Beihefte Zur Zeitschrift Fur Die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft) “

Among the unknown Jewish writings that emerged from the caves of Qumran are five scrolls rewriting the Book of Joshua. The present volume offers a detailed analysis of these texts and explores their relationship with each other and other Second Temple Jewish writings concerned with the figure of Joshua. The first full-blown study of this group of scrolls, this book is of interest to students and scholars working in the fields of the Dead Sea scrolls and ancient Jewish biblical interpretation.

Part of my dissertation is looking at rewriting… so this will come in handy, I believe.

Revelation 10 and the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice (4Q400-7)

English: Qumran refectory (locus 77) Français ...
English: Qumran refectory (locus 77) Français : Qumran réfectoire (locus 77) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Again, sorry for the brevity, just wanted to put this out there. By now, you know I am working on my 3rd book, one that is taking a different look at Revelation. As I write the book, it slowly changes. I don’t think it will morph anymore, mind you, but what started off as X has now become Y. Or something like that. Anyway,

Read Revelation 10.1-11. Note especially Revelation 10.4-5 and seven thunders speaking unknown things. We find this in the Qumran collection called the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice (4Q400-7). There are nine fragments. One reads,

the third of the chief princes. He will exalt the God of the exalted [an]gels seven times, with seven words of wonderful exaltations.1

And

seven mysteries of knowledge in the wonderful mystery of the seven regions of the hol[y of holies … The tongue of the first will be strengthened seven times with the tongue of the second to him. The tongue of the second to him will be strengthened]

seven times with (that) of the third to [him. The tong]ue of the thi[rd will] be strengthened seve[n times with (that) of the fourth to him. The tongue of the fourth will be strengthened seven times with the tongue of the fifth to him. The tongue of the fifth will be strengthened seven times with the tongue of]2

There is more in the fragments, but this should give you a taste. What are this fragments thought to represent? Why… an ancient liturgy.

Boom.

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  1. Florentino Garcı́a Martı́nez and Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar, “The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (translations)” (Leiden: Brill, 1997–1998), 815.
  2. Florentino Garcı́a Martı́nez and Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar, “The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (translations)” (Leiden: Brill, 1997–1998), 821.

Some affinity between Revelation 9 and 4Q300 (also 1QMysteries)

English: Stained Glass depiction of Revelation...
English: Stained Glass depiction of Revelation 3:20 “Jesus at the Door.” Window attributed to the Quaker City Glass Company of Philadelphia, 1912. Installed in St. Matthew’s German Evangelical Lutheran Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, I don’t want to really get into this at the moment, but if you look at Revelation 9, you will see something very similar to the DSS fragment below. See this brief paper by Torleif Elgvin, especially the part where he mentions Flusser’s arguments on 1Q27 and how it influenced the Rosh Hashanah liturgy.

My goal is not to suggest John used 1Q27, but to show the use of ‘smoke’ in both, as (as it appears to me) something similar… like an ancient liturgy.

Frag. 1 col. I (= 4Q299 1; 4Q300 3)

1 […] all […]
2 […] mysteries of sin
3 [… all] their wisd[om]. And they do not know the mystery of existence, nor understand ancient matters. And they do not
4 know what is going to happen to them; and they will not save their souls from the mystery of existence.
5 And this will be for you the sign /that this is going to happen./ When those born of sin are locked up, evil will disappear before justice as [da]rkness disappears before
6 light. As smoke vanishes, and n[o] longer exists, so will evil vanish for ever. And justice will be revealed like the sun which regulates
7 the world. And all those who curb the wonderful mysteries will no longer exist. And knowledge will pervade the world, and there will ne[ver] be folly there.
8 This word will undoubtedly happen, the prediction is truthful. And by this he will show you that it is irrevocable: Do not all
9 nations loathe sin? And yet, it is about by the hands of all of them. Does not praise of truth come from the mouth of all nations?
10 And yet, is there perhaps one lip or one tongue which persists with it? What people would wish to be oppressed by another more powerful than itself? Who
11 would wish to be sinfully looted of its wealth? And yet, which is the people not to oppress its neighbour? Where is the people which has not
12 looted [another] of its wea[lth? …] … and the exits […]1

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  1. Florentino Garcı́a Martı́nez and Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar, “The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (translations)” (Leiden: Brill, 1997–1998), 67–69.

More with the non-Gnostic Thomas and Watson @eerdmansbooks

The more I read, the less I believe anyone in the near future will have enough newness to add to the discussion. Watson is slowly taking all ground in the discussion of Gospel writing.

Anyway, while continuing to read Watson’s chapter on Thomas, I was pleasantly surprised to see him speak to the “gnosticism” of Thomas. Beginning on 221 with a discussion of what gnostic really means in regards to early belief systems and later literary developments, Watson cautiously demonstrates the uniqueness of Thomas among other Gnostic literature, arriving at the conclusion whereby we doubt Thomas‘ usually stated (by some) reason of its place at Nag Hammadi. This is very interesting because while Thomas does include secret sayings and a few liberating tendencies, we should no longer really ascribe to the book the belief system of later gnostics if we actually compare it to other gnostic literature. I mean, rightly so, the Fourth Gospel is sometimes alluded to as a gnostic type of literature. Further, we know from reading Clement of Alexandria the word and connotation of ‘gnostic’ was often a positive appellate for early Christians.

This can go further, of course, but we won’t.

Anyway, I found Watson’s allowance for a non-Q sayings collection (SC) as typified by Thomas 271) very interesting. By creating so an allowance, scholars can allow for Papias’ Logia and the unattributed sayings scattered in early Christian writings as still a non-Q document. I believe, if I have read him correctly, his thesis still allows room for Mark Goodacre‘s proposal for a Thomasine redaction of the Synoptics. He does, after all, allow for the independence of the SC and the narrative of the Gospels (272).

To show how a SC may provide a link between orality and textuality, Watson delves into Mark 4. Here, I am not so sure about his hypothesis, with Watson almost insisting on a shared source between Mark and Thomas. This is where Watson seems to diverge from Goodacre’s excellent thesis.

Further, Watson attempts to demonstrate Thomas as a SC, but not the SC that gave rise to Mark and Matthew. (Luke is still dependent upon Mark and Matthew.) He allows for Thomas to be only a descendent of an SC. Here, I find it interesting Watson has not referred to John Horman‘s book on a common Greek source shared by the authors of Mark and Thomas. 

As I said in my own recent work, I do not believe Mark created everything without an oral tradition. Again, there are some markers of a previous oral tradition for Mark, but I do not think a sayings collection is needed any more than a complete oral tradition.

I am hesitant to admit this, but a SC would help to answer some of the unknowns in the search for Mark’s literary sources, especially, as Watson points out, in the parables. Even without a narrative, several of the statements in Mark 9.14–29 (specially v19, 23, and the exorcism formula in v25) could be part of the SC collection. Watson is right to recommend that any such SC remain hypothetical rather than scholars spend time producing a critical edition, as they have done with Q.

 

Canon, Thomas, Francis Watson (@eerdmansbooks)

I’m posting this under my new category of doctoral work. I will use this as a way to track different things that come to my attention I will need as I explore my thesis. 

And several thrilling chapters where I was able to watching Francis Watson demolish the need for Q, the author now turns to the place of Thomas in the Synoptic discussion. I have recently found this very interesting as I started to lay out my prospectus for my Ph.D. work. I will focus on the Fourth Gospel’s use of Deuteronomy. Because this hypersensitivity to the issue of Thomas among the Gospels, Watson’s statement on 218 caught my eye,

The enduring influence of the canonical decision is also evident in connection with the Gospel of Thomas…, which, some decades after its discovery, has still not been successfully integrated into any overarching account of gospel origins.

I need to keep this truth in mind as I explore my own thesis for the next few years.

Where do you think Thomas fits into the canonical discussion?

@eerdmansbooks’s interview with @goodacre

As you recall, I placed Mark Goodacre’s book as my top book for 2012. It is just that important to the search for literary sources and writing styles of early Christians. Anyway, Eerdword has a video interview with the professor up at their blog:

Mark Goodacre is associate professor in New Testament at Duke University and author of Thomas and the Gospels: The Case for Thomas’s Familiarity with the Synoptics, in which he argues that, rather than being an early, independent source, the enigmatic Gospel of Thomas actually draws on the Synoptic Gospels as source material.

via Video Interview with Mark Goodacre « EerdWord.

Insert Pun about the Virgin Birth – My take

First, it begins here with comments by Dr. Francesca Stavrakopoulou, an expert in the Hebrew bible. T. Michael Law, the expert in the Greek Old Testament, known in the heavenly tongue as Septuagint, weighs in about the mistranslation part. Mark Goodacre finds his mic. John Barton, a colleague of Jim’s via SOTS, weighs in as well.

Dr. Stravrakopoulou suggests that Matthew reads Isaiah 7.14 as a mistranslation resulting in the understanding a virgin birth. The Law is laid down on whether or not the LXX Isaiah is a mistranslation or not. The LXX is not a mistranslation (in part, as there is no real whole translation theory until after the time of Jesus) but a re-authoring. That’s my pet theory, I guess. Anyway, Goodacre does a great job (warning, British accent that lulls you in) of discussing the use of Scripture in telling the story.

However, Barton is the focal point for me.

that no one would have translated parthenos as virgin unless there had ALREADY been a virgin-birth tradition.

There is a very important virginal/extra-natural birth tradition pre-dating Matthew’s retelling the story of Jesus. Noah, at Qumran and in Enoch (an obviously important book to early /an/Christians, is presented as havingmiraculous birth. I am also going to go into my other pet theory, that the genealogy has something to do with Stoicism, etc… although this is not well-defined and thus, I’ll leave this for later.

A few other areas to look:

  • Virgil in the fourth Eclogue, recognized by the Patristics as problematic so re-interpreted. 
  • Augustus was said to have had his birth announced by portent among other supernatural occurrences

There iss a fertile ground in Matthew’s world not for a mistranslation, but for the use of portents, births out of the natural order to explain surprise births, and to highlight the divine qualities of a person. This is not, in anyway, required to be connected to a Greco-Roman schema of demigods and the such. Matthew, no doubt, intended his audience to understand that Mary was impregnated according to God’s will, the first factor in the greatness of Jesus and used his bible, the LXX (because, as T. Michael Law would have it, God Spoke Greek), to do so. He was not the first Jew to promote the divine-ordained, and free of the sins of this world, birth of a prophet to other Jews, but followed a rather Jewish pattern as seen in the Genesis Apocryphon and Enoch, books and thoughts closer to the authors of the Gospels and much more palatable to their audience than Greco-Roman myths.

This gets into the post-/structural debate of placing emphasis. Either we place it on Matthew or the audience, although I like the middle ground myself. We can reasonably identify certain qualities of Matthew and we can reasonably identify the audience in a certain social situation, but not the initial reception beyond that of acceptance. My supposition is that Matthew very well intended that the audience would understand the story as meaning that Mary was impregnated by an angel/holy Spirit but accepting a presented literary structure is not the only goal of the author — I would contend that Matthew would rather have wanted his audience to receive what he meant by the inclusion of this story. An example I used in discussing this with a friend via phone was Virgil reading his poem about the ascendency of Rome and Augustus to the Emperor Augustus who knew very well many of the events enshrined did not occur as written and more than likely, if reception history is the judge, understood the intended allegory.

Anyway, here is my 2.5 shekels.