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Power, Sex, and Academia: Still a Problem?

The recent (and justified) furore over the sexual aggression against young women by the Hollywood producer raised two thoughts again.  First, it hasn’t been mentioned that the US President is himself an admitted sexual predator who bragged about his own sexual aggression as a “perk” that came with being a media star.  You know, with all the justified outrage over Weinstein, maybe some recollection that the problem isn’t on the West Coast alone!  I don’t like bullies, whether Hollywood moguls or obsessive reality-star-cum-President.

But my other thought was the first-hand accounts from women who have told me about their own experiences of unwanted sexual aggression during their time as graduate students, and from very prominent NT scholars (which I posted about earlier here).

The figures in question are now deceased, so no more worries about them (except for the continuing effects of their offences).  But I’m left still with the uncertainty over whether such despicable actions remain part of academia, with particular concern about scholars in my own field.  Yes, the women who come forward to expose such actions and individuals in any area of life are brave and should be supported by the rest of us.  But I also think that my fellow males in academia who share my abhorrence about this sort of behaviour should help to promote an atmosphere in which it is clearly not tolerated, not overlooked, not excused.  Men need to talk, among themselves, about how unwanted sexual advances are just not on.  Perhaps also, as I suggested in that earlier posting, especially senior academics (who aren’t so vulnerable to intimidation) should accept the responsibility of speaking with known offenders, and help to expose those who persist in their offensive actions.

Exalted Human Claims in the time of Jesus

The discussion of Andrew Loke’s new book in which he proposes that Jesus saw and spoke of himself as “truly divine” reminded me of some interesting Qumran fragments and the discussion about them.[1]

These fragments are often referred to by scholars as portions of a “Self-Glorification Hymn” in which an unidentified human figure (it seems) portrays himself as exalted to heavenly status, sitting prominently among “the gods” and given vast heavenly secrets.  The texts in question are:  4Q471b and 4Q491c, and also 4Q427 (which is a portion of 4QHodayot (the Qumran “hymn collection”).[2]

The speaker in 4Q427, for example, declares himself “a friend of the king [likely here God], companion of the holy ones [angels],” and claims to have an incomparable glory given to him.  In 4Q471b, the speaker declares “who is like me among the gods,” and “who can be compared to my glory.”  In 4Q491c also, the speaker likewise claims an incomparable glory, and says “I am counted among the gods and my dwelling is in the holy congregation.”[3]  And note that the speaker of these texts is portrayed as apparently still living a mortal existence.

The point is that such notions of heavenly exaltation of selected human figures were in the air of second-temple Jewish tradition, which is why I wrote that Loke’s proposal that Jesus saw himself as bearing some kind of “divine” status is not inconceivable, in principle.  The question is whether the extant Gospel traditions provide us with evidence that Jesus actually did teach his disciples something along these lines.

The fragmentary nature of these Qumran manuscripts, and the absence in the fragments of any explicit identification of the speaker, have combined to generate various scholarly proposals about who this figure is.  Martin Abegg, for example, reviewed briefly previous scholarly proposals (e.g., by Maurice Gaillet, Morton Smith, and John J. Collins), concluding that “the Teacher of Righteousness [a figure mentioned in some other Qumran texts], the acknowledged founder of the Qumran community, is a strong candidate.”  Abegg also suggested that it is possible that the claim of heavenly ascent was made on his behalf by the author of the text(s).[4]

Abegg proposed that we may have a somewhat analogous kind of claim and experience portrayed by Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:2-5, where, among his “countless visions” Paul describes being caught up into “the third heaven” and hearing marvellous things that he is not free to share.

But Morton Smith (one of the earlier scholars to comment on these Qumran texts) went much farther, proposing that they support his claims that Jesus himself had similar visionary experiences and even “founded a mystery cult” with himself as its object.[5]  Smith pointed to the narratives of the transfiguration (e.g., Mark 9) and resurrection-experiences as reflecting the sort of mystical experiences that Jesus promoted.[6]

Smith’s proposals about Jesus and his supposed “mystery cult” haven’t caught on with other scholars, regardless of their individual religious stances.  But in an earlier work, J.D.G. Dunn urged readers to consider more seriously what sort of piety and religious life/experiences Jesus may have had.[7]  I agree.  A historical approach to Jesus should make ample room for him as a devout Jew of his time, not a modern systematic theologian (or liberal Protestant, or Cynic teacher, or whatever), but a Jewish man who not only talked about God but likely had religious experiences as well.

[1] Curiously, I don’t recall Loke dealing with these texts.

[2] These and other Qumran texts are available in Hebrew and English translation in Florentino García Martínez and Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar, The Dead Sea Scrolls, Study Edition (2 vols.; Leiden:  Brill; Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1997-1998, paperback edition, 2000).

[3] In Qumran texts, heavenly/angelic beings are often referred to as “gods” (Hebrew: elim].

[4] Martin Abegg, “Who Ascended to Heaven?  4Q491, 4Q427, and the Teacher of Righteousness,” in Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed. Craig A. Evans and Peter W. Flint (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 61-73, citing 72.  In a more recent study, Eric Miller proposed that the figure in these texts is Enoch, and the texts are an imaginative literary meditation on him (as reflected also in portions of 1 Enoch and other texts):  “The Self-Glorification Hymn Reexamined,” Henoch 31.2 (2009):  307-24.

[5] Morton Smith, “Two Ascended Into Heaven: Jesus and the Author of 4Q491,” in Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed. J. H. Charlesworth (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 290-301, citing 291.

[6] Smith, “Two Ascended,” 298-99.

[7] J. D. G. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit: A Study of the Religious and Charismatic Experience of Jesus and the First Christians As Reflected in the New Testament (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975).

“The Son of Man”: An Obsolete Phantom

In recent comments, some have pointed to scholars who have posited that when Jesus used the expression “the son of man” he was referring to some other, future figure, not himself.  This is a view that once was quite widely shared, and so will be found frequently in older commentaries and studies, and may still be found from scholars who haven’t kept abreast of analysis of the evidence over the last several decades.

The reason that it no longer has the same appeal is that this view rested on the accompanying and likewise once widely-held assumption that “the Son of Man” was a well-known title for an eschatological redeemer figure, a heavenly being who supposedly was expected widely in second-temple Jewish tradition.  So, on this assumption, when Jesus spoke of “the son of man,” he obviously couldn’t have been referring to himself as an earthly/mortal man.  Indeed, so the assumption went, when he used the expression everyone then would have recognized that he was referring to this supposed other/future figure, for (to reiterate the crucial assumption) “the Son of Man” was supposedly a well-known appelative for this heavenly redeemer being.

But at least from the 1970s onward, it has become increasingly widely granted that, in fact, there is no evidence for the supposed use of “the son of man” as a fixed title for any figure in second-temple Jewish tradition.[1]  There are texts that describe a heavenly being who will come and lead God’s people in triumph, such as the Melchizedek figure in the Qumran text, 11QMelchizedek.  But he’s called “Melchizedek,” not “the son of man”!  And it appears that some expected the archangel Michael to serve in this role, but he too isn’t ever referred to by the title “the Son of Man.”  As for the messianic figure of the Parables of 1 Enoch, I’ve repeatedly reminded readers that there too we don’t actually have “the son of man” as a fixed title for this figure (e.g., here).  (The English translations all too typically mislead readers by rendering several Ethiopic expressions used in the Parables by this one fixed translation.)

So, “the Son of Man” wasn’t actually a familiar title for a well-known eschatological redeemer being/figure in second-temple Judaism.[2]  And so when Jesus used the expression he can’t have been referring to a figure using a title that people would have readily recognized as designating some other, future eschatological redeemer.  You see?  The crucial basis for taking Jesus’ use of the expression as referring to some other figure was washed away.  So the consequent structure built on that basis cannot continue to stand.

We are left, thus, with what is rather clearly how the Evangelists read and intended the expression:  a peculiar self-designation idiom used in the Gospels only by Jesus (some 80x).  A “son of man” is, of course, an idiomatic way of designating a human being in ancient Semitic languages (Hebrew & Aramaic), and “sons of man” the plural equivalent.  But the particularizing forms in Greek (ο υιος του ανθρωπου), or Aramaic (בר אנשא), or Hebrew (בנ האדם) are hard to find.  So “the son of man” seems to have been something of a linguistic innovation, and would have had the sense of “the/this son of man” (in particular).  All of the Gospel sayings where Jesus is portrayed using the expression are easily read as sentences where he simply refers to himself, making this or that statement about himself under this peculiar phrase.  There is neither need nor (more importantly) any evidential basis for taking the expression as referring to some other/future figure.  The expression “the son of man” itself simply has this particularizing force, isn’t a title, and didn’t carry any automatic referential force. It is the sentences in which it is used that make any statement about “the son of man,” and in each case the statement says something about Jesus.

[1] Among early and crucial studies were Geza Vermes, “The Use of Bar  Nasha/Bar Nash in Jewish Aramaic,” in An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts, by Matthew Black (3rd ed.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967), 310-30; Ragnar Leivestad, “Exit the Apocalyptic Son of Man,” New Testament Studies 18 (1971): 243-67.  On the various linguistic issues and texts, see now the multi-author volume, Larry W. Hurtado and Paul L. Owen (eds.), ‘Who Is This Son of Man?’  The Latest Scholarship on a Puzzling Expression of the Historical Jesus (London: T&T Clark, 2011).  I note in particular my own concluding essay.  The pre-publication form is available on this blog site here.

[2] Cf. John J. Collins, “The Son of man in First-Century Judaism,” New Testament Studies  38(1992): 448-66, who argues that there, though “the Son of Man” was not a fixed title there was a “concept” associated with the figure of Daniel 7:13-14.  Quite possibly so.  But the crucial point is that Jesus’ use of “the son of man” didn’t reflect some supposedly recognized title.  A crucial early study of how the Daniel 7 figure was treated in ancient Jewish tradition is Maurice Casey, Son of Man: The Interpretation and Influence of Daniel 7 (London: SPCK, 1979).


“The Son of Man”: Encore

In comments responding to my recent postings on Andrew Loke’s book, some have pointed to the remarkable messianic figure in the “Parables” of the composite writing known as 1 Enoch (chaps 37-71).   It has become now somewhat fashionable to date the Parables earlier than previously, now often to early first century CE (instead of late first century CE or later).  And there are often references to the remarkable messianic figure of this material as “the son of man,” with the purpose of positing this figure and expression as an explanation of Jesus’ use of the Greek equivalent.

The date of the Parables, their original language (the material survives only in Ethiopic and in manuscripts of the late medieval period) and provenance, all remain, however, matters of scholarly guesswork.  And it bears noting that the only fixed title of the messianic figure in the Parables is “the Elect/Chosen One”.  There are four distinguishable Ethiopic expressions that are often (and, to my mind, misleadingly so) rendered “the son of man,” giving the impression that it too is a fixed expression in the Parables.  It isn’t.  And the Parables don’t likely provide us any magic key for accounting for Jesus’ use of the expression “the son of man” as his characteristic self-designation.

I’ve posted on these matters earlier here , here, here,  here, and here, but readers new to this site may not know to search back posts.

“Divine Christology”: Loke Replies

After my posting yesterday here, pointing to the new book by Andrew Loke, and offering some reasons for my inability to assent to his argument, he sent me a reply.  For the purposes of scholarly dialogue and public information, I agreed to post his reply.  I have added a few comments in return, these enclosed in square brackets and identified by “LWH”.

Dear Professor Hurtado,

Thank you for posting your review of my book. It is an honour to see my book reviewed on such a respectable blog which I have greatly benefited reading for a number of years now. Nevertheless, I am concerned about several points you mentioned in your review.

First, you wrote that I argued that the disciples’ experience of Jesus’ resurrection “had the effect of somehow making them remember more fully what Jesus had already taught them about his person.” But that was not what I argued. What I argued was not a matter of the disciples remembering, but what they would have found convincing. As I wrote on p.162: “It can be argued that Jesus did claim to be truly divine ‘pre-resurrection’ but this was not widely accepted by his disciples until after the resurrection appearances. This is understandable, for given their Jewish monotheistic faith, it would have been much harder for them to believe that a flesh-and-blood figure was also truly divine than to believe that he was (say) a human Messiah. The resurrection appearances, however, were the final pieces of evidences which caused them to believe that God had vindicated Jesus’ ‘pre-resurrection’ claims through the miraculous resurrection. . . . .”

[LWH:  OK, Andrew. No intentional distortion on my part.  In my description of your position, I was attempting to capture and convey your argument that Jesus had declared his divine status, but only after their experience of the risen/exalted Jesus did they come to accept it, and to “recall” that Jesus had declared his divinity to them.]

You wrote “But the fact remains that there was no such cultic reverence of Jesus until after the experiences of his resurrection/exaltation.  This still seems to me to make these experiences the crucial factor in generating the conviction that it was now right to give Jesus cultic devotion.”  However, this objection does not take into account the distinction between necessary conditions and sufficient conditions which I spell out in my proposal. I agree that the disciples experiencing Jesus’ resurrection/exaltation was a crucial necessary condition for generating the conviction to give Jesus cultic devotion. However, I presented many important arguments on pp.117-151 for why it was not a sufficient condition and that Jesus’ claims were also a necessary condition; and these arguments deserve the attention of the reader.

[LWH:  My brief blog posting wasn’t the place for a detailed engagement with the specifics of your arguments, Andrew.  You and I have had extensive email exchanges in which I’ve offered specific critique of some of your claims and arguments.  And can I observe, that in referring to the resurrection experiences as “a crucial necessary condition” you are granting them a rather important role, as I do.]

You wrote that “critical analysis of the historical traditions does not yield evidence that Jesus himself actually claimed to share in divine glory and status during his earthly career.” In Chapter 7, I developed the proposals by Wright, Lee, Bock, Grindheim et al and argued that there are evidences that Jesus indicated his divinity pre-resurrection. I also stated a number of reasons for thinking that the post-resurrection appearances are veridical (p.160).

[LWH:  As you will know, Andrew, the various scholars that you cite (and one could add others) contend that Jesus’ words and actions narrated in the Gospels reflect him acting with unique divine authority.  Some would collapse the distinction between this and claims to divinity, others wouldn’t.  In any case, outside of the Gospel of John, it is difficult to find statements in which Jesus explicitly declares that he is a divine being and should be worshipped.  And it is the latter phenomenon that in the ancient world was most indicative of a figure being treated as divine.]

You wrote “Loke contends that for earliest believers, Jesus was their supreme authority, and so if Jesus didn’t declare his divinity his followers wouldn’t have accepted the notion. But, as I read the evidence, for earliest believers the crucial matter was what God had declared about Jesus, what God had done in making Jesus the ‘Kyrios’.”  I agree with you that for earliest believers the crucial matter involved what God had declared about Jesus. But what I contend is that the earliest believers were convinced after the resurrection appearances that the most authoritative source of information for knowing what God had declared was Jesus whom they regarded as the Ultimate Prophet whose authority surpasses even that of Moses and the Torah (pp.166-167). Thus, if Jesus did not regard himself as divine, the divinization of Jesus would have been rejected by the earliest Christians as a serious falsification of Jesus’ intention and a violation of God’s will (see Chapter 6).

[LWH:  It seems to me, Andrew, that your final sentence is a non sequitur, or at least is not a necessary follow-on from what precedes it.  Yes, of course, the experiences of the risen/exalted Jesus conveyed to early believers that Jesus is now enthroned as Kyrios and as the ultimate revelation of God’s purposes, surpassing all that went before (e.g., Hebrews 1:1-4).  But I find no statement in the NT that reflects your final sentence, that unless the earthly Jesus declared his divinity and demanded worship, it would have been rejected by his followers.]

You wrote “I remain persuaded that powerful religious experiences of the kind that I have sketched…conveyed that conviction.” But you did not mention my criticisms of those charismatic experiences you cited, viz. that they did not involve a sizeable group (p.126), that there was considerable suspicion about such experiences (p.128), that Paul’s frequent references to his own revelations did not secure widespread agreement among Christians concerning his views (pp.128-130), etc.

[LWH:  Once again, Andrew, your complaint fails to take account of the clearly-stated concise nature of my posting.  Granted, you offer objections to my proposals, and I think I indicated that there were more arguments in the book that I didn’t mention.  I read your critique of my views and, to your frustration it appears, I remain unpersuaded.]

There are many more arguments I presented in my book which are not reflected in your brief review and my brief response here. [LWH: Yup, and I repeat that I stated that.]  I hope readers will check out my book for themselves, and pay particular attention to the 14 historical considerations I listed in Chapter 8, the arguments I offered against alternative proposals in Chapters 5 and 6, and the evidences concerning Jesus’ pre-resurrection claims in Chapter 7.

[LWH:  My posting was intended to acknowledge your book, and to point interested readers to it.  I, too, hope that others will read and weigh your arguments.]

Andrew T. Loke, MBBS MA PhD (Research Assistant Professor, The University of Hong Kong)

The Origin of “Divine Christology”?

A new book presents the argument that the key reason that Jesus became a recipient of worship in earliest Christian circles is that he claimed divinity and the right to receive worship:  Andrew Ter Ern Loke, The Origin of Divine Christology, Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series,169 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017).

As it appears that I am Loke’s main dialogue partner in his book, and my proposals the main focus of his criticism, I should offer a response.  From my 1988 book, One God, One Lord:  Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism (3rd edition, London:  Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015) onward through my 2003 book, Lord Jesus Christ:  Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Eerdmans, pp. 27-78), I’ve proposed several “forces and factors” that prompted and shaped earliest devotion to Jesus.  These include “ancient Jewish monotheism” exhibited particularly in the “cultic (worship) exclusivity” in which the one deity of biblical tradition was worshiped to the exclusion of the many other deities of the ancient world; the impact of Jesus himself in his historical work (which, with other scholars, I contend generated the expectation among his followers that he was or would be declared Messiah, and the corresponding charge against him that led to his crucifixion); powerful religious experiences in the “post-Easter” period that generated the strong conviction that God had raised Jesus from death and exalted him to heavenly glory, and now demanded that Jesus be reverenced accordingly; and the “religious environment” of the Roman era, which both provided earliest believers with some conceptual resources and terminology, and also helped to generate a foil against which to articulate and express Jesus’ uniqueness.

The historical data indicate that a robust incorporation of the risen/exalted Jesus into the devotional life of Jesus-believers erupted early and took hold quickly, as evident in the constellation of corporate devotional practices that I have repeatedly specified and that comprise a novel “dyadic” devotional pattern in which “God” and Jesus receive cultic reverence. The question is how to account for this, given that these earliest Jesus-believers were all Jews and that the “cultic exclusivity” characteristic of ancient Jewish tradition worked strongly against giving worship to any second being/figure alongside the one God.

As I see no evidence that the “historical” Jesus himself demanded (or received) such cultic reverence, and there are early texts that emphasize God’s resurrection and exaltation of Jesus and the consequent demand that Jesus should be reverenced (e.g., Philippians 2:9-11), this dyadic devotional pattern appears to me to be a response to what earliest believers perceived to be God’s actions and requirement.  The further question, then, is how this perception and conviction came to them.  My own proposal is that early experiences of the risen/exalted Jesus, prophetic utterances and inspired odes expressing Jesus’ exalted status, and “charismatic exegesis” of biblical (OT) texts all combined to generate the guiding conviction that God now required that Jesus should be reverenced as sharing in divine glory.

It is this emphasis on “post-Easter” revelatory experiences that Loke finds objectionable, and against which he argues.  He contends, “Any implementation of new worship patterns based on the kinds of religious experiences which Hurtado suggests (i.e. visions, charismatic exegeses, etc.) would likely have met widespread dissent for at least quite some time among the earliest Christians (especially among those more traditionalist Christian Jews).  And yet, shockingly, there is no hint of such disagreements or even discussions among Christians concerning the worship of Jesus in the earliest Christian documents” (129).

In Loke’s view, “earliest Christians regarded Jesus’ teachings as the supreme indication of God’s will,” and so “if Jesus did not claim to be divine” then his followers “would probably have reasoned that this was not God’s will” (130).  That is, Loke’s explanation for the early eruption of Jesus-devotion is that Jesus himself taught his disciples that he was divine and deserved such reverence, and in Jesus’ resurrection they saw all this divinely vindicated.

In principle, Loke’s proposal is entirely possible. We don’t know of other ancient Jews (or at least those who continued to identify themselves within ancient Jewish tradition) who taught that they should be worshipped, so it would appear to have been a rather novel thing for Jesus to have done so.  But the idea that a particular human figure should be treated as a deity was by no means foreign in the larger environment of the Greco-Roman era.  Still, I don’t find Loke’s case persuasive, and I’ll sketch what seem to me to be some major problems with it.

First (as Loke concedes), the evidence indicates that Jesus was not given the cultic reverence in question until the “post-Easter” period.  So, if Jesus taught his original disciples that he was divine and should consequently receive worship, why didn’t they respond accordingly?  Loke answers that, although Jesus expressed his divine status to his disciples, they didn’t quite “get it” until after they experienced God’s resurrection of Jesus.  This, Loke argues, had the effect of somehow making them remember more fully what Jesus had already taught them about his person.  But the fact remains that there was no such cultic reverence of Jesus until after the experiences of his resurrection/exaltation.  This still seems to me to make these experiences the crucial factor in generating the conviction that it was now right to give Jesus cultic devotion.

Second, critical analysis of the historical traditions does not yield evidence that Jesus himself actually claimed to share in divine glory and status during his earthly career.[i]  Instead, the classic instances where Jesus makes such claims for himself are scenes where the risen/exalted Jesus speaks, e.g., Matthew 28:16-20; Luke 24:44-52.  Loke, however, contends that, “whether the indication [Jesus’ claims to divinity] happened ‘pre-resurrection’ or ‘post-resurrection’ does not matter; all that matters is that the indication was perceived to have come from Jesus” (159).  But it seems to me that, in historical terms, it matters a great deal whether the “historical/earthly” Jesus claimed divinity and demanded worship during his ministry, or (as I think the evidence shows) earliest believers experienced the risen/exalted Jesus expressing God’s exaltation of him to divine glory.

I’m not talking about the theological/religious validity of these claims or worship practices.  I’m focusing on the historical factors and process that generated them.  It’s a fallacy that I’ve identified earlier here to presume that the validity of “divine christology” rests on whether the “historical” Jesus himself claimed divinity.  A lot of traditional Christians presume this, as do a lot of others, including some so-called “Evangelical Unitarians,” and also non/anti-Christian voices (including, e.g., some Muslim apologists).  But, as I read the evidence, for earliest believers, the crucial theological basis for acclaiming Jesus in “high” Christological terms and for including him as a recipient of corporate devotion was what they held that God claimed and demanded.

There are other issues raised in Loke’s book that also deserve attention, but I confine my attention here to this historical question.  Loke offers a bold and vigorously argued case, but I don’t find it persuasive.  It still seems to me more fitting with the evidence to infer that earliest believers experienced the risen Jesus as given divine glory, exalted to God’s “right hand,” and made to share in the divine name (Philippians 2:9-11), all of which took their previous estimate of Jesus to a categorically new level.  To be sure, the experiences of the risen Jesus validated their previous estimate of Jesus as God’s Messiah, and validated Jesus’ teachings and actions as the unique and eschatological agent of God’s purposes.  But in their experiences that struck them with revelatory force, God’s resurrection of Jesus comprised still more:  the exaltation of Jesus to heavenly glory, his installation as “Lord” and the one to whom all creation should now give obeisance, in obedience to God’s actions and will.

Loke contends that for earliest believers, Jesus was their supreme authority, and so if Jesus didn’t declare his divinity his followers wouldn’t have accepted the notion.  But, as I read the evidence, for earliest believers the crucial matter was what God had declared about Jesus, what God had done in making Jesus the “Kyrios”.  Granted, the traditions in the Gospels have the risen/exalted Jesus declaring God’s bestowal on him of authority and glory (e.g., Matthew 28:18), but it was God’s new actions of resurrection and exaltation of Jesus that made any such declaration and conviction valid.  And I remain persuaded that powerful religious experiences of the kind that I have sketched (which include experiences of the person of the risen Jesus) conveyed that conviction.


[i] Of course, by a “critical analysis” of the evidence, I mean that (as agreed widely among NT scholars) the distinctive self-declarations of Jesus in the Gospel of John should be taken as retrospectively shaped by “post-Easter” experiences and convictions.  See, e.g., my essay, Larry W. Hurtado, “Remembering and Revelation:  The Historic and Glorified Jesus in the Gospel of John,” in Israel’s God and Rebecca’s Children:  Christology and Community in Early Judaism and Christianity.  Essays in Honor of Larry W. Hurtado and Alan F. Segal, ed. David B. Capes et al. (Waco, TX: Baylor Univesity Press, 2007), 195-213, and republished in Larry W. Hurtado, Ancient Jewish Monotheism and Early Christian Jesus-Devotion:  The Context and Character of Christological Faith (Waco:  Baylor University Press, 2017),  483-506. The pre-publication version is available on this blog site here.


Summer Biblical Study in Cambridge, 2018

The “Vacation Term for Biblical Study” (VTBS) has announced early-bird bookings for the 2018 sessions to be held in Cambridge:  two back-to-back weeks, 29 July – 3 August, and 5-10 August.  Each week is a complete programme unto itself, so you can book for either week or both.

The annual VTBS (now held in Cambridge) offers week-long lecture courses from nationally and internationally recognized scholars in biblical studies and related subjects.  In the 2018 session, the week 1 programme features Professor Timothy Lim (on the formation of the OT canon), Dr. Kathy Ehrensperger (on Paul’s Corinthian correspondence), and Professor Frances Young (reading the Bible with the Church Fathers).  Week 2 features Dr. John Jarick (on 1-2 Chronicles), Dr. Catrin Williams (on John’s Gospel and its use of the OT), and Dr. James Carleton Paget (on Jesus in ancient anti-Christian polemic).

Numbers are limited, so early booking is advised, and will also entitle you to a discounted fee (until 31 December).

For more information about the programme, booking arrangements, and other matters, go to the web site here.

Conference on Atonement, June 2018

I pass on notice of a conference on “Atonement:  Sin, Sacrifice, and Salvation in Jewish and Christian Antiquity,” scheduled for 4-6 June 2018 in the University of St. Andrews.  It promises main presentations from some key figures, and invites short paper proposals from others.

Call for Papers (Final)

Forthcoming Essay Collection on Textual Criticism and Manuscripts

I note that my forthcoming collection of selected essays in the LNTS series is now available for pre-order and at a reduced price:   Texts and Artefacts:  Selected Essays on Textual Criticism and Early Christian Manuscripts (London:  Bloomsbury T&T Clark), the publisher’s online catalog entry here.

These essays were all published previously in various journals and multi-author volumes, with the exception of the third one in the volume, reviewing the significance of NT papyri, which appears here for the first time.  I’ve updated some of the earlier ones, and have tried also to cross-reference them all to one another.  Although each has its own particular focus and point, there is some unavoidable overlap and duplication of some data.

The first first four essays are more readily recognized as text-critical studies:

1. The New Testament in the Second Century: Text, Collections and Canon
2. The Early New Testament Papyri: A Survey of Their Significance
3. New Testament Scholarship and the Dating of NT Papyri
4. God or Jesus? Textual Ambiguity and Textual Variants in Acts of the Apostles

The remaining eight essays focus on early Christian manuscripts and/or particular physical/visual features in them:

5. The ‘Meta-Data’ of Earliest Christian Manuscripts
6. Manuscripts and the Sociology of Early Christian Reading
7. The Origin of the Nomina Sacra: A Proposal
8. The Staurogram in Early Christian Manuscripts: The Earliest Visual Reference to the Crucified Jesus
9. A Fresh Analysis of P.Oxyrhynchus 1228 (P22) as Artefact
10. The Greek Fragments of the Gospel of Thomas as Artefacts: Papyrological Observations on Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 1, Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 654 and Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 655
11. Who Read Early Christian Apocrypha?
12. P45 as Early Christian Artefact: What it Reflects about Early Christianity

I’m grateful to Chris Keith for the invitation to assemble these essays, and to the editorial and publishing team at Bloomsbury T&T Clark for all the work involved in preparing this volume.

Patristic Citations . . . Encore

In a previous posting I complained that some scholars point to the use of biblical texts in early figures such as Justin Martyr as evidence that these biblical texts were circulating in a very “loose” way, with “wild” variations in the copies at that time.  My complaint against this argument is that the way ancients used/cited texts is not to be confused (or taken as evidence of) the ways that texts were copied.  There were different protocols and practices.

In looking again today at the classic little book by Eric G. Turner, Greek Papyri:  An Introduction (Oxford:  Clarendon Press, 1980), I came across again his discussion of ancient anthologies and their import for textual criticism (pp. 91-92).  We know that ancient writers tended to make excerpts of texts that they intended to use as sources for their own works.  We also know that people of the Greek and Roman eras made collections of passages from writings, anthologies, sometimes from various writings and topics, and sometimes passages assembled on a given topic.

Turner urges that this kind of writing is important for textual critics.  As he notes, “in anthologies, in which a passage detached from its context is copied and recopied without being checked against the original, the chances of deviation from that original are high and are generally acknowledged to be so . . .” (p. 91).

It is worth noting that Justin was a teacher and claims to have had his own school in Rome.  Further, analysis of his biblical citations suggest that he likely made use of harmonized texts created by merging passages from the various Gospels.  That means, that Justin isn’t necessarily (or at least not always) a direct witness to the text of a given Gospel, as his actual source-item is itself a secondary composition, not a copy of that Gospel.

Turner’s remarks, in short, seem to me to reinforce my cautions about playing off Justin’s citations of biblical texts against the evidence of actual early copies of those texts.

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