Saturday, March 31, 2007

Morning Walk in Chelsea this week


On the left is our walk along W19th between 10th and 11th Avenue towards the water and our first view of the Frank Gehry building. Something is being built just before it so you won't see this view for long. On the right is the front of the Gehry building looking south. Its on 11th Avenue opposite the Chelsea piers. The glass exterior is created to be seen as sails from the Hudson River. Off we went to walk on the piers looking south down the Hudson to the Statue of Liberty.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Speaking of historical biography: blogging before breakfast

John Barton reviews David Rosenberg's Abraham: The First Historical Biography (Basic Books) in TLS (March 23, 2007). Rosenberg reconstructs Abraham as an educated Sumerian, a trained scribe, who belonged to a family that made statues of the gods. All events in Genesis about Abraham are regarded as historical. Abraham translates Sumerian sensibility into a culture that would become Israel. Rosenberg believes that Abraham may have written a record of his life on cuneiform tablets which found their way to the royal archives in Jerusalem. In the 10th C BCE they were translated into Hebrew and reworked into a strand of narrative material scholars call J (in it God is identified as Yahweh--or Jahwe to German speaking scholars).

Of course this connects to The Book of J written with Harold Bloom in 1990 in which J, a learned princess created a literary masterpiece, the J source which translates material from Sumerian and Akkadian into classical Hebrew. Barton thinks that J is later than Rosenberg proposes, not written by a Judaean princess, and that the reconstruction of Abraham's life in the new book is "wildly speculative." Why would Abraham be a Sumerican scribe? How Hebrew culture was a transposition of Sumerian culture is unexplained. Charitably, Barton considers the value of Abraham to be philosophical: Rosenberg's Abraham may never have existed, but is a figure around which ideas like the nature of religious culture clustered. Might the same be said of Judas in regard to ideas about discipleship, human nature, and free will at a later time and place?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Gospel according to Judas by Benjamin Iscariot part 2

To what genre does this book belong? Historical fiction? Its selectivity is based on what Prof. Francis Moloney deems historically possible as far as Judas is concerned. Such ideas are clarified in the glossary at the back. In the Q&A session, Prof Moloney clarified that the book for him was a repudiation of the work of Dan Brown and Richard Dawkins. "I have written 35 books as a New Testament scholar and if any of them sell 1,000 copies I am happy. But collaborating with Jeffrey Archer offered me a wider platform and I was glad to take it in order to say something plausible and responsible about Judas and his relationship to Jesus."

What Prof. Moloney deems historically implausible are what he calls Jesus' "nature miracles"--walking on water and changing of water into wine. Jesus performed miracles, but "nature miracles" like these were incorporated into biblical material by Christians who understood that that alongside the God of Israel, Jesus was also "Lord of the sea and master of nature." Similarly, Prof. Moloney thinks biblical accounts of Judas' death--that he hanged himself (Matthew 27:3-10) or that his bowels gushed out (Acts 1:18) are attempts by gospel writers to further "blacken Judas' name in the light of Old Testament predictions" but it never happened. As for the 30 pieces of silver, "no serious NT scholar accepts that this ever happened." Glossary note xli explains, "The details come from Zacheriah (sic) 11:12 and 11:13 (see Matt 26:15 and 27:5), and a collection of texts from Jeremiah 18:2 ('the potter's field' see Matt 27:7) and Jeremiah 32: 7-9 (the purchase of a field for pieces of silver, see Matt 27:7-9)." This is a particular kind of NT scholarship. It sifts through NT material to determine by means of certain criteria which materials are historically plausible. These materials then can be used to reconstruct, for example, a life of Jesus, or, in this case, a life of Judas. However, scholars disagree over construction of reliable criteria to sift though materials in the gospels. To see the results of applying different criteria to material from the period of Christian origins for reconstructing the life of Jesus, just look at the contrast between the publications of Luke Timothy Johnson, "The Living Jesus," and John Dominic Crossan's Galilean peasant. And compare both of those to Paula Fredriksen's "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews."

Jeffrey Archer writes a story that has a beginning, a middle and an end using these tools. Mark's chronology is followed and Judas hands Jesus over for his own safety mistakenly trusting a scribe with whom he has negotiated beforehand. Judas retreats to Qumran after Jesus' trial and death where he narrates the gospel to his son Benjamin before being crucified by the Romans.

This book is not only what Prof. Moloney deems possible but what he would like it to be. Jeffrey Archer concurs. Jesus smiles frequently in the book. Confusing ideas in the gospels such as Jesus' use of the term "Son of Man" are (mostly) explained by Judas to the rest of the disciples as allusions to Ezekiel and Daniel "to emphasize the difference between the mortal prophet and God, who always makes allowance for the weakness of human beings" (p.38). A suffering "Son of Man" however is still an enigma to all disciples (and scholars). Judas also mistakenly thinks that Jesus is a Son of David in the sense of being the Davidic Messiah and he hopes that Jesus will enter Jerusalm in triumph to claim the Davidic throne of Israel. The book is sympathetic to such misunderstandings and calls them such.

Such reconstructions lay bare our own prejudices in this case, about Jews and women. Even if Judas lives and dies as a Jew he is locked into the closed religious system of (a reconstructed first century) Judaism. In the world of this gospel, women are the objects of Jesus' healing touch and the occasion for him to publically breach Jewish traditions of purity (p.9). Such reconstructions of first century Judaism are unentable and dangerous, as Ed Sanders, Amy-Jill Levine, and Paula Fredriksen have taught us in their published works.

In red ink for the biblical text, #30 (p.25) declares "Jesus selected twelve men to be by his side..." and the marginal note says, "see Matt 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16." But this is a text that doesn't exist! None of these texts identify the 12 as men. The selection of 12 men is how Prof Moloney reads the text. Thus the gospel according to Judas continues on the next page, "As well as these twelve men, Jesus also gathered around him a group of women who had been loyal to him from the beginning of his ministry," and they are Mary Magdalene, Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward and several others who remain anonymous. Then comes the red text: "They gave of their time and money." Again, this text exists only in the mind of Prof Moloney perhaps as wishful thinking. The marginal note says, "see Luke 8:1-3." Luke 8:1-3 names a third woman, Susanna and concludes, "and many others, who provided for them out of their resources." Luke's identification of three women "and many others" has been reduced to two women "and several others" in The Gospel according to Judas. Moreover, "providing for them out of their resources" is rather more substantial than "gave of their time and money" which is how the Gospel according to Judas renders the service of women. And since the Moloney/Archer gospel does not quote the dialogue between Jesus and the woman at the well in John 4, or the encounter between Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7), the place of women amongst Jesus' followers is severely diminished. I would not be the first to speculate about the consequences of including women disciples as dialogue partners of Jesus and other disciples. Indeed, as a result of Jesus' encounter with the Syrophoenician woman, he changes his mind about ministry. Judas never benefits from such enriching dialogue partners in the Moloney/Archer novel.

In short, while this is unconvincing historical fiction, it is a fascinating reconstruction of how a branch of Roman Catholic scholarship sees Jesus' relationship to Judas. What would other Roman Catholic scholars like Raymond Brown (who had much to say on the subject of Jesus and women in John's gospel) have thought of this project? As for me, I'd prefer the gospel texts in all their richness and confrontive complexity when it comes to Judas. And I'd like to see some responsible historical fiction.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Gospel according to Judas by Benjamin Iscariot part 1

Yesterday's evening discussion of "The Gospel according to Judas by Benjamin Iscariot" began with a description of the project's origins (Cardinal Martini recommended Prof Moloney to Lord Jeffrey Archer as one of his best students) and evolution (total working time of 600 hours and 11 editions).

Selection of material in the book is made according to the principle that events described in it must be possible even if they are not probable. However, everything is written from the perspective of Judas. The chronology and geography of Mark (the oldest gospel) is followed when Jesus' ministry in Capernaum gets underway and we travel to Caesarea Philippi before moving south to Jerusalem. But additional material includes the confession of Peter from Matthew 16 and the birth of Jesus from Luke.

Scriptural citations are in red and marginal notes identify either the text or the source of the paraphrase. Judas occasionally reads scripture strangely: he believes that Jesus is first born of the marriage of his father Joseph and his mother Mary. Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and of Judah and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us? (Mark 6:3) to which is appended in the glossary at the end the remark, "Judas as a Jew could only accept Jesus as the firstborn of a lawful Jewish wedlock." So Judas' reading of the text supplies Joseph as Jesus' father -- in spite of the plain sense of Mark.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Wikipedia, Warts and All

Although the idea may have been creative, Larry Sanger, who may or may not have been one of Wikipedia's co-founders in 2001, now wants to start something completely different: Citizendium. Thereby he hopes to avoid Wikipedia's twin problems of vandalism and inconsistency. I think the idea of Wikipedia is interesting (collaboration) but accuracy has never been its strong suit. Entries can be in a state of flux. Which may be an accurate reflection of our state of knowledge.

Someone recently polled me by email asking if I thought Wikipedia had an anti-Christian bias by which he meant favoring CE over AD referring to dates. Oh dear. I replied that problems (other than referring to BCE or BC) with Wikipedia are well known and didn't seem to me to be evidence of anti-Christian bias. However, others have objected rather more vociferously. Conservapedia, for example, has entries on falsifications of Wikipedia.

So I thought I'd take an entry relevant for today: the Annunciation. For someone who knows nothing about the topic, it seems OK. I might change some of the content (the sentence, "In the Bible, the Annunciation is narrated in the book of Luke" isn't actually correct) and grammar (just read the first two sentences). And I'd prefer another translation of Luke's gospel. Whatever its faults, however, this entry is a lot better than the one for Conservapedia. For the Annunciation itself, I'd prefer to reflect on this.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Who Was Judas?

Paul Vallely in The Independent yesterday asks about the rehabilitation of Judas. If you happen to be in New York City next Monday night, come along to the seminary from 7.30-9pm in Matthew's Lounge where you can hear a Roman Catholic opinion on this topic in the shape of a new book, "The Gospel According to Judas, by Benjamin Iscariot." Published simultaneously in eight languages on Tuesday (March 20), the book is by Lord Jeffrey Archer and Prof Francis Moloney and a work of fiction presented in the form of Scripture, complete with numbered verses, pages in gold trim and key passages highlighted in red ink.

In the story of Judas, Professor Moloney opines, every single one of us can find ourselves. "Failure lies at the core of human experience," he said, "and both human and Christian maturity emerge from an ability to handle failure." The mystery of Judas is, in the end, the mystery of all of us.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Love is stronger than death

Between the news from the UK of the defeat of the SOR regulations in the House of Lords last night (168-122), the opinion piece by Sir Elton John in the Guardian "Comment is Free" section of today's paper that homophobia is alive and well pointing to the case of William Hernández, 35, the Director of Asociación Entre Amigos (Between Friends Association) in El Salvador, and the courageous statements from our House of Bishops responding to the Primates' Communique, I want only to say, "thank you" to the House of Bishops particularly my own bishops Mark Sisk, Cathy Roskam of New York and Chilton Knudsen of Maine but most especially to my New Testament colleague Professor Kathy Grieb of Virginia Theological Seminary for her presentation to the House of Bishops earlier in the week: "Interpreting the Proposed Anglican Covenant through the Communique." It is a stellar exercise in interpreting primatial hermeneutics, clarifying Episcopal polity and suggesting a way forward. I particularly appreciated the last four paragraphs.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

In case you thought we'd gone soft...GOD HATES SHRIMP!

Just in case anyone had the impression we liberals are too nampy-pamby, I'm here to clarify occasions for judgment: G-d hates shrimp! Whoever said we don't take God's word seriously...

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Irish Identity=genetics? NOT!

A tiny but riveting skirmish has been playing itself out this month on the pages of the New York Times about genetic similarites between the English on the one hand, and the Irish, Scots, and Welsh on the other. Geneticists Stephen Oppenheimer and Bryan Sykes at the University of Oxford, argue that the people of the British Isles are more closely related than the history books had suggested. According to these scientists, "the core populations of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales are of very much the same stock, with only minor add-ons at the edge from Viking and other invasions." Trouble is, no one of Irish, Scots, or Welsh extraction responding to the research fails to note the source: an English university! Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Excerpt from Jesus' Family Values on Ekklesia

Thanks to Simon Barrow, Ekklesia yesterday posted an excerpt from the conclusion of JFV. I'm grateful for Simon and the good work of Ekklesia and thank Church Publishing for permission to reproduce an excerpt. Also, I begin a six week module on this topic at General starting next Tuesday March 20th from 7.30-9.00pm in Sherred 1B.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Glimpses of daylight?

Fascinating new developments today in the way Jesuit liberation theologian Jon Sobrino has been denounced by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith but the denunciation unimplemented and left to be interpreted by local bishops. Isn't it a strange thing to be enthusiastic about degrees of silencing or about nuances of condemnation as in the following example??

A prominent Southern Baptist has made a pronouncement on gay identity in an interview with Time magazine:-

"We sin against homosexuals by insisting that sexual temptation and attraction are predominately chosen," wrote the Rev. Albert Mohler, the influential president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mohler's position is a startling departure from years of insistence among fundamentalists that gay rights advocates are wrong when they say homosexuality is not something they choose.

The sin of homosexuality however has not changed, nor is moral responsibility removed. I can't decide which news item is more hopeful...or less depressing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Being Gay in Ghana, Kenya, and ?Cameroon

The BBC has a report on gay and lesbian Ghanains. It follows a story about a gay Kenyan who is also a Christian. As a student, he finds it easier to be gay in the UK:-

I really hate the way people run to the Bible just to justify their biases and fears. If they knew more about Christianity they would accept homosexuals or anyone else for who they are.

Personally, I wouldn't condone gay marriages because of my beliefs, but I must confess there are times when I really would like to be in a long-term relationship.

He says there are all sorts of gay Africans. He speaks of learning to accept himself:

The same goes for African leaders that believe homosexuality is unAfrican. They are like ostriches sticking their head down in the sand and oblivious to the world around them.

After the outing campaign in Cameroon, I thought there was no way I would see acceptance of homosexuality in Africa in my lifetime.

But I am hopeful: when you look at how things have changed in Africa in the last 50 years, it will happen - it'll just take a long time.

Perhaps these laws banning homosexuality are a government's form of accepting it, but accepting it in the wrong way.

He refers to a story from the beginning of March about a newspaper editor in Cameroon who was sentenced to four months in jail for defaming a minister by claiming he was gay.

Standing Stones at Callanish



From the Writer's Almanac for today:-

"The Stones at Callanish" by Roger Mitchell. Copyright from The University of Akron Press.

A boarded-up hotel beside a fishing pier, a pub.

Above them both, a church crouched on a hill. Whoever brought

Christ to this desolate coast did it

with sword and fire, and it's not clear today

whether it took, or whether the slow seep

of centuries, the long winter nights,

would ever let anything be that wasn't

as sullen as the hill. The village

is that way, too. When you step outside,

there it is, the universe, all of it,

the glare of it pure, God's unshaven face

so close your skin rasps. Whoever raised

the stones did a good job of vanishing, too,

though the longer I stand here, the more

it seems it was deeper into the genes

they went, not just into the air.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Scribe 1: "Mariame"; Scribe 2 added: "and Mara" (Stephen Pfann's reading of the Talpiot ossuary)

Stephen Pfann's reading of the "Mary ossuary" to be "Mariame and Mara" is the first interpretation of the inscription that makes sense to me. Mariame is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Miriam (Greek: Mariam). First, the bones of a woman named Mariame were interred in the ossuary and later, the bones of another woman named Mara (a short form of the name Martha) were added.

The first archaeologists read the inscription "Mariamenou Mara" i.e. "Of Mariamene, also known as Mara." But, as can be seen by Pfann's illustrated reading of the inscription, the Greek genitive ending isn't clear. Instead, Pfann proposes to read the Greek "kai" (and) in a cursive script instead of -nou, i.e. the masculine genitive from the diminutive form Mariamenon. To my untrained eye this seems a better reading of the script. Whether the first name has anything to do with a form of Mary Magdalen(e)'s name is an open question.

Thursday March 22nd: Angels of Light: Ethiopian Art from the Walters Art Museum

At the Museum of Biblical Art (1865 Broadway at 61st Street, New York, NY 10023-7505), there will be a preview for "Angels of Light" and a lecture with Dr. Gary Vikan on Thursday March 22nd at 5.30pm.

Dr. Vikan's lecture is: Sacred Image, Sacred Power: Icons in Ethiopia

Dr. Gary Vikan, Director of the Walters Art Museum, will explain how Ethiopian icons helped the worshipper communicate with the divine.

Museum of Biblical Art
Telephone: 212-408-1500
Fax: 212-408-1292
Email: info@mobia.org
Online: www.mobia.org

Sunday, March 11, 2007

First Century Use of Mariam not Maria contd.

In the first century we find other uses of the name Mariam to describe Jesus' mother and the women to whom the resurrected Jesus appears in John 20.

It is interesting to note that Luke identifies Jesus' mother by the name Mariam in the account of Gabriel's visitation. We might translate "Miriam." Everything in Luke 1:4-2 draws on the Greek translation of Hebrew Scriptures from names to language to motifs: Jesus' mother is a devout Jewish woman who recites God's acts in Israelite history as a picture of bringing down the proud and raising the lowly. In the same way Matthew identifies Jesus mother as Mariam at 13:54-6,

Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue. They were astonished and said, "Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds? Is he not the carpenter's son? Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?Are not his sisters all with us? Where did this man get all this?"
To identify Jesus' mother as Miriam makes complete sense when speaking of Jesus' origin and family in Nazareth.

John uses the name Mariam when describing the encounter of Jesus with the woman at the tomb in John 20: 16, 18. Here, Jesus calls her by her Hebrew name ‘Mariam,’ to which she replies ‘Rabbouni’. The encounter between Miriam and Jesus takes place at the Hebrew level of the text and it is because he calls her by her Hebrew name that she recognizes him. Too bad English translations do not reflect this Hebrew dialogue. In 20: 1, 11 otoh, the narrator identifies her as Maria. I discuss these passages and manuscript readings in Mariam, the Magdalen, and the Mother (2005).

On the name Mariamene in the Talpiot inscription, from PaleoJudaica.com for Wed March 7th comes a post from Dr Alexander Panyotov of the University of St. Andrews suggesting three different interpretations:-

A. Mara son/daughter of Mariamenon/Mariamene

The obvious hitch in this reading is that the inscription starts with name in genitive, which, of course, should be read as ‘Of Mariamenon/Mariamene…’. This doesn’t, however, contradict the reading above. It is not impossible that the person who inscribed the text in Greek was still following the local manner of writing (i.e. from right to left). Or, just, the Greek text was arranged in a different way for reasons we don’t know. The name Mara occurs on inscription, dated to the 1st century CE, from Taucheira-Arsinoe in Cyrenaica. The editors of SEG (vol. 16, 1959, no. 918) and the Lexicon of Greek Personal names (vol. 1, 1987, p. 298) consider Mara a feminine name. This reading, however, presumes that the name is in the nominative.

Another possibility is to read the name Mara as the genitive form of Maras. The Doric genitive singular ending –a, was, in later periods, applied to feminine and masculine names ending in –as. According to Tal Ilan’s lexicon the name Maras occurs on papyri from Egypt. However, I was not able to double check her sources (we don’t have the books she refers to in the library). Thus, the inscription could also be read as:

B. Of Maras son/daughter of Mariamenon/Mariamene.

or

C. Of Mariamenon/Mariamene daughter of Maras.

It is, of course, possible that we can have reading C with the name Mara in the nominative – although not grammatically correct it really depends on the level of knowledge of Greek, which the author of the inscription possessed. This, we just don’t know.

My observations are preliminary. I was not able to consult Rahmani’s corpus and have been working with the photos published on the Discovery website. This means that I am not aware of the archaeological and epigraphic context of the tomb. There are many questions still withstanding. Like, was the inscription added later to the ossuary? Do we know if some of the ossuaries, or the whole tomb, were re-used (which means inscribing new names, formulas, etc.)? Whatever the case, I think that this inscription does not mention a person with alternative name, but follows a standard Greek funerary formula.

--
Dr Alexander Panayotov
School of Divinity
University of St Andrews
St Mary's College, South Street
St Andrews KY16 9JU
Scotland/UK

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Copyright vs. Putting Books Online

Today's Guardian has an article on Google's library digitization project. Within ten years they are planning to scan every book ever published. Where does that leave authors? In an address to publishers given this week by Thomas Rubin, Associate General Counsel for Copyright, Trademark, and Trade Secrets at Microsoft, at the Association of American Publishers Annual Meeting held at the Yale Club in NYC, Microsoft puts the issue this way:-

Will we choose a path that nourishes creativity and innovation over the long term and that preserves incentives for authors to offer their best works online? Or will we choose a path that encourages companies simply to “take” the works of others, without any regard for copyright or the impact of their actions on authors and publishers too? Microsoft, I’m pleased to say, has chosen the former path. At its soul, Microsoft is an innovation company, and we’ve been working hard for many years to develop innovative technologies that allow readers to experience books online in new and exciting ways.

Amongst examples of the Microsoft principle to expand access and respect copyright is the British Library’s “Turning The Pages 2.0” technology. Launched in late January, it is built on Microsoft’s .NET 3.0 engine which is integrated into Windows Vista and also available as a separate download for Windows XP. This technology makes it possible for Internet users to view old texts no longer under copyright that would not otherwise be accessible to the public.

Rudin continues with the contrast between Microsoft and Google:

Google takes the position that everything may be freely copied unless the copyright owner notifies Google and tells it to stop. Microsoft and most other companies, by contrast, take the position that they should get the copyright owner’s consent before they copy. The Copyright Act, in our view, supports this approach.

Reaction has been swift and the point about access (e.g. to obscurer books) well taken. “The goal of search engines, and of products like Google Book Search and YouTube, is to help users find information from content producers of every size,” wrote David Drummond, senior vice president and chief legal officer for Google, in response to Rubin’s remarks. “We do this by complying with international copyright laws, and the result has been more exposure and in many cases more revenue for authors, publishers, and producers of content.”

Drummond also noted that “in the publishing industry alone, we work with more than 10,000 partners around the world to make their works discoverable online.”

Ed Black, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, also spoke in Google’s defense, and asserted that Rubin’s speech was a “mischaracterization of copyright law.”

“Contrary to Microsoft’s suggestion, every unauthorized use of a copyrighted work is not infringement,” said Black, according to Vnunet.com. Black observed that Microsoft’s own search functions cache and index web pages, also arguably a form of copyright violation.

“Microsoft would do well to consider that its own business depends on fair use before brushing aside that important doctrine,” Black said.

Google has been offering alternatives to Microsoft for some time of which this is another example. Most authors and publishers, however, along with legal experts, disagree with Google’s rather novel assertion of “fair use”. In fact, they (including a subsidiary of Pearson, publisher of the Financial Times) have sued Google over its copying of the millions of books that its library partners – in the US and elsewhere – are making available. Stay tuned!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Samuel Barber's Adagio from the String Quartet (Opus 11)

Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings (Opus 11), first performed in 1938, is one of the most loved pieces of modern music. It was played at John F. Kennedy's funeral, but perhaps it is best understood (thanks to delanceyplace.com) as one of the twentieth century's most powerful love songs:


"Barber had met and fallen in love with his fellow-student at the Curtis Institute, the composer Gian Carlo Menotti, in the autumn of 1928 and--though you would hardly believe they were more than devoted friends from Barbara B. Heyman's otherwise thorough biography--they were to share a house as lovers for over thirty years. The summer of 1936, which Barber spent with Menotti in the Austrian mountain village of St. Wolfgang, was one of the most idyllic times either could remember, and it was toward the end of their stay there that Barber wrote to the cellist Orlando Cole: 'I have just finished the slow movement of my quartet today--it is a knockout!' When, encouraged by Arturo Toscanini, Barber made a five-part arrangement of the String Quartet's Adagio for strings orchestra and Toscanini duly conducted it, the Adagio entered the orchestral repertoire ... [and] won the praise of Barber's contemporaries. Copland praised its 'sense of continuity, the steadiness of the flow, the satisfaction of the arch that it creates from beginning to end,' asserting that 'it comes straight from the heart,' while William Schuman thought 'it works because it's so precise emotionally ... you're not aware of any technique at all.' And Virgil Thomson came closest to the reason why when he described it as 'a detailed love scene' --a fact which its subsequent memorial usage has all but obliterated."

David Nice, Elegy: Music for Strings, Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Neeme Jarvi, Notes on the Music, Chandos Records.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Juliet Crawley Peck

Juliet Crawley Peck died in January 2007. She was a woman of courage and vision who in response to the tragic death of her second husband Rory Peck in 1993, created (with the help of his friends) the Rory Peck Award and Trust in 1995. The trust recognises and honors freelance cameramen and women everywhere, and helps the families of those who have been killed by raising funds to assist them. She was a committed Christian who all her life believed that she could make a difference in the world whilst having a good time along the way. Her obituary in the Times UK (alas now not available on line) describes a talk she gave in which she alludes to Jesus' parable about a grain of mustard seed as an analogy for her work of minute beginnings.

International Women's Day is a good day to remember these women and others like them and I thank my father, the Rev. Robert Stanley Good, for these references.

Angela E. V. King, former UN Assistant Secretary General

Angela E. V. King, former United Nations Assistant Secretary General died recently in New York City.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon issued the following statement on King’s death:

"Angela King led the United Nations' efforts for the empowerment of women with knowledge, passion and courage as the United Nations worked to translate into practice the Beijing Platform for Action and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. A fervent champion of the equality of women and men, and women's enjoyment of their human rights, she knew that all parts of the United Nations had a responsibility to uphold those principles -- including in the area of peace and security. Ms. King's advocacy and partnership with civil society paved the way for the Security Council’s landmark resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security -- the Council's first recognition of women's essential role in peacebuilding, peacemaking and peace negotiations. She was equally committed to championing the cause of women staff members in the United Nations, and their equal opportunities in the workplace. Her work for gender equality crowned an almost 40-year career with the United Nations, during which she also served as Chief of the United Nations Observer Mission in South Africa at the time of the country's first democratic, non-racial elections. She will be mourned with profound affection and respect by many friends and allies around the world."

Freedom to Protest Peacefully: International Women's Day

26 prominent women’s rights activists were arrested in Iran on March 4 and on Tuesday, March 6, the arrested women started a hunger strike inside the prison to protest their arbitrary detention. Human Rights Watch calls for their release.

Article 27 of the Iranian constitution stipulates that “public gatherings and marches may be freely held, provided arms are not carried and that they are not detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam.”

The women in detention are: Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani; Parvin Ardalan; Sussan Tahmasebi; Nahid Keshavarz; Mahbubeh Hosseinzadeh; Asieh Amini; Shadi Sadr; Minoo Mortazi Langerudi; Fatemeh Govarai; Shahla Entesari; Mahbubeh Abbasgholizadeh; Maryam Mirza; Maryam Hosseinkhah; Nahid Jafari; Azadeh Forghani; Jila Baniyaghoub; Elnaz Ansari; Jelveh Javaheri; Zara Amjadian; Zeynab Peyghambarzadeh; Nasrin Afzali; Mahnaz Mohamadi; Somayeh Farid; Rezvan Moghadam; Sara Loghmani; and Maryam Shadfar.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Women's Way Forward (from Tanzania)

Anglican Women Delegates to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women who have pledged to stay in relationship.
(Photo by Leo Sorel; permission to use given by ENS)

Anglican Women delegates to the UN Commission on the Status of Women met this week in NYC and issued this statement on March 3rd. It affirms an intention:

"to remain resolute in our solidarity with one another and in our commitment, above all else, to pursue and fulfill God's mission in all we say and do."

Acknowledging the "global tensions so evident in our church today," the women delegates "do not accept that there is any one issue of difference or contention which can, or indeed would, every cause us to break the unity as represented by our common baptism. Neither would we ever consider severing the deep and abiding bonds of affection which characterize our relationships as Anglican women."

"The arguments are all a male ancient power play for territory and ownership of space, be it physical or theological," agreed Phoebe Griswold, a UNCSW delegate from the United States. "The women's ways forward have to do with working for the welfare of creation and the full flourishing of humankind."

Throwing decorum to the winds in reacting to costs of Tanzania visit

Chris Bryant, a gay Labour MP and former vicar, asked Stuart Bell, the MP for Middlesbrough who represents the church commissioners in parliament, how much it had cost to send the archbishops of Canterbury and York to the Anglican bishops' conference in Dar es Salaam last month. Cantuar's trip cost £2,094, while Ebor came in at a pricier £2,866. However, the honorable member's reaction was unrestrained. 'It is particularly depressing," he said, loudly, "that the two British archbishops chose to side with the fundamentalist BIGOTS from other parts of the Anglican communion, rather than representing the ordinary faith of most Anglicans in this country, who are entirely tolerant and decent!"

Stuart Bell was indignant: the money had been well invested and well spent, he said. "If he wanted to talk about bigotry and extremism, he could not have done better than he did today!" Arguing that the conference communique produced a common statement on the subject of gay bishops, Mr. Bell concluded, "Blessed are the peacemakers." Mr Bryant was unimpressed. The reporter hoped that he would rise "to condemn Mr Bell's reply as a load of old cassocks," but the discussion moved to other topics.

Jesus Machine by Gilgoff

Yesterday Terry Gross interviewed Dan Gilgoff about his new book The Jesus Machine: How James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and Evangelical America Are Winning the Culture War (March 2007, St Martin's Press). I have reviewed this book for Tikkun's next issue and when its published, I'll post a link to the review.

Monday, March 05, 2007

First Century Use of Mari(h)am not Maria

This will be a brief post (with a follow up later in the week) reacting to discussions of the name MARIAMENE (the Greek inscription on the ossuary in the debate on Jesus' family tomb is MARIAMENOU MARA).

In the Coptic text of the Gospel of Thomas at Saying #21 (36:34) and Saying #114 (51:91) a woman is named Mariham. The Coptic text of the Gospel of Thomas (NHC II,2) was translated from Greek in the mid-4th Century. Three Greek papyrus fragments of Thomas were found at Oxrhynchus: P. Oxy. 1, P. Oxy. 654, and P. Oxy. 655 and published in 1897 and 1904. P. Oxy 1 is plausibly dated after 200CE; P. Oxy. 655 between 200 and 250CE. It seems that the Coptic text of Thomas is translated from an underlying Greek text. There are differences between the Greek fragments and the Coptic text but it is possible that the Coptic is based on a version of one of the papyrus fragments. While none of the Greek fragments contains the name Mariham, if the Gospel of Thomas is dated to the late first century as an interpreted collection of Jesus' oral sayings, then the Gospel contains two first century examples of the name Mariham.

Mariham in the Gospel of Thomas is most likely one of Jesus' disciples. However the form of her name does not correspond to forms of the name Mary Magdalen(e) that we find in the Greek New Testament: Maria (or Mariam) he Magdalene (Mark 15:47 and 16:1 for example). What do we make of this difference? Are there two different ways to refer to Mary (Magdalene) in the first century? Is the Mariham of the Gospel of Thomas who asks Jesus "whom are your disciples like?" and who stands in opposition to Peter at the end of the text a composite figure?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Tomorrow in Staten Island

Tomorrow at St John's Episcopal Church in Rosebank, SI at 4pm I'll be discussing the noncanonical gospels of Thomas and Mary along with the alleged tomb of Jesus.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The New Religious Right from Across the Pond

Fascinating article from the Spectator on the New Religious (American) Right. You may have to register to gain access.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Coming to terms with the lives of German NT scholars

From The Association of Contemporary Church Historians (Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchliche Zeitgeschichtler) Newsletter - March 2007 - Vol. XIII, no 3

Review by John Conway (of the Krondorfer contribution to) Björn Krondorfer, Katharina von Kellenbach, Norbert Reck, Mit Blick auf die Täter. Fragen an die deutsche Theologie nach 1945. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus 2006 ISBN- 13: 978-3-579-052274 317pp.

Björn Krondorfer and Katharina von Kellenbach, who teach at St. Mary's College of Maryland, have done much to promote the cause of Christian-Jewish reconciliation in the German context. For Germans, far more than in other countries, the prerequisite for such a task is the willingness to engage in Vergangenheitsbewältigung - in this case with the long history of German intolerance, prejudice and persecution of the Jewish people, which culminated in the Holocaust. As is well known, such attempts to come to terms with the Nazi past after 1945 were only reluctantly and fitfully undertaken, and are indeed not yet complete. What role did the churches play? What theologies were preached and practised? In Krondorfer's view, the eminent scholars and preachers of the Evangelische Kirche failed in their duty to set an example of public repentance and contrition, or to lead their audiences towards a new theological understanding of Judaism and its relationship to Christianity. His questions about German post-1945 theology are, in fact, much more directed to the theologians themselves and their own personal failure to adopt any public stance out of which a new beginning could be undertaken.

Krondorfer backs up his challenging contentions by examining the autobiographies written by German theologians since 1945, approximately 35 in all, in order to see how they undertook their own coming to terms with the past. His findings are astonishing - and deeply disappointing. He shows that, with only a few exceptions, this entire group of theologians wrote their autobiographies with apologetic purposes. They demonstrate how decisively their minds and careers were fashioned by the dominant nationalist and racialist ideologies of early 20th century Germany. Equally disappointing was their failure, even after the crimes of the Holocaust were well known, to engage in any confession of Christian complicity, or of repentance or reparation towards any of the victims of German aggression, especially the Jews. Instead the key notes of these writers are self-justification and self-exculpation. To be sure, after 1945, Martin Niemoeller publicly, in numerous sermons and speeches, acknowledged his own and Germany's guilt. His call for repentance was, however, strongly opposed and bitterly resented. And even he, in later years, took a very generous attitude towards the earlier misdemeanours of many of his compromised clerical colleagues in the church of Hessen-Nassau. Not until we come to the youngest post-war generation do we find a different tone.

Krondorfer divides his theologian-authors into different cohorts, according to their ages. He persuasively argues that these men (almost all were men) gained in their youth a set of political ideas which influenced their subsequent lives. He begins with the oldest and distinguished bishop, Theophil Wurm, born in 1868, whose memoirs were written when he was over eighty, but which still reflected the values he had learnt under the Kaiser's rule. Wurm and his generation (and his sector of German Christianity) suffered the terrible shock of the German defeat of 1918. As conservatives, their world fell apart. They soon came to blame, not their misguided rulers, but the victorious Allies. The Treaty of Versailles very quickly became the symbol of how Germany was being oppressed, and they themselves victimized. The tone of self-pity, or preoccupation with their own fortunes, runs throughout. The rise of Hitler could then be explained as the result of Allied vindictiveness, and his struggle to regain Germany's place in the world, justified. Germany's defeat in the second war could also be seen as a recurrence of German victimization. Wurm was one of those who loudly protested Allied occupation policies after 1945, and could believe these moves were prompted by a deliberate attempt to starve the German race out of existence. He led the vocal chorus of self-pitying lamentation about the hardships suffered by Germans. Not a word about the far greater sufferings imposed by Germans on the many other peoples of Europe, let alone on the Jews.

For a slightly younger cohort, Krondorfer subjects the autobiographies of Walter Künneth and Helmut Thielicke, neither of whom could be accused of pro-Nazi attitudes, to an insightful but biting analysis. Here too he finds that the desire to escape from any acknowledgment of guilt leads to an evasiveness, when the actual fate of the Jews is hardly mentioned at all. Neither of these men showed a willingness to speak out about German guilt or to say words of sympathy for the Germans' victims. Instead their concern is all for the suffering Germans, for whom they show a commendable pastoral care, but whose crimes they seek to downplay or relativize. So too their emphasis is on the fate of the bombed-out or the expellees from the east, not on the concentration camp inmates so brutally mistreated or willfully murdered. In the end, Krondorfer affirms, it is the tone of self-exculpatory rectitude which is so irritating. He closes his essay with a expression of indignation and exasperation: "The language used in these theologians' autobiographies lacks experimental liveliness; the contents show only too clearly an unwillingness to reveal the whole personality. What is missing is any sign that these authors felt anguish or that they experienced moments of agitation, chaos, fragmentation, questioning, searching, exposure, nakedness, incompleteness, blundering, face-to-face honesty, intimacy, or vulnerability. When we of later generations read these polished and orderly self-justifications, we can only wish that, in our post-Auschwitz world, some theologian at some point would be ready to stutter or stammer a genuine apology and a meaningful confession of guilt."

New Greek and Roman Galleries opening at the Met Museum April 20th

On April 20th the newly redesigned and refurbished Greek and Roman galleries will be opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The new galleries will house objects created between about 900 B.C. and the early fourth century C.E. Works on view will trace the evolution of Greek art in the Hellenistic period and the arts of southern Italy and Etruria, culminating in the rich and varied world of the Roman Empire.

Thousands of works from the Met's permanent collection will be displayed in the new Leon Levy and Shelby White Court (formerly used as a grand restaurant) and now redesigned as a private Roman villa with marble floor, garden court and a new second story. This will provide a grand stage for a comprehensive installation of the largest selection of these works ever shown at the Met, including portraits of famous—and infamous—Roman emperors such as Augustus, Caligula, and Antoninus Pius. A display of Roman funerary sculpture, featuring the highly ornate Badminton Sarcophagus with its depiction of the triumph of the god Dionysus, will also be on view, and architectural fragments from the emperor Domitian's palace on the Palatine in Rome will be displayed here for the first time in many years.

Galleries around the new Roman court the new Roman Court will present works from the Museum's rich collection of Hellenistic art as well as the arts of South Italy and Sicily. The display of these works will provide a vital artistic and historical link between the Greek and the new Roman galleries. Of particular interest will be a new Hellenistic Treasury. An expansive new balcony overlooking the Roman Court will be devoted to Etruscan art, featuring a rare Etruscan chariot as its centerpiece. The chariot has been restored prior to its return to permanent public view for the first time since the early 1990s.

These new galleries will present more than 6,000 works of art, some of which have not been on view in decades, and that have never before been available to the public. Highlights include the Statue of an Old Market Woman, a Roman statue from the first century A.D. that presents a realistic depiction of an elderly woman in an elegant dress, thong sandals, and a crown of Dionysiac ivy leaves. She is dressed for a festival, and the chickens and basket of fruit she carries are probably offerings for Dionysus, god of wine. Hellenistic and Roman artists introduced accurate characterization of age and emotions. Also on view will be the life-size Bronze Statue of a Boy (Roman, Augustan period, late first century B.C.–early first century A.D.) depicting a youth on the threshold of adulthood. Treasured more highly than marble, bronze statues were common in the Hellensitic and Roman periods but were routinely melted down in later periods, making this life-size bronze a rare treasure.

Anyone care to join me for a visit?

David Bentley Hart's new translation of The New Testament

David Bentley Hart's new translation of the New Testament is a breath of fresh air: responsible, creative, and inspiring. Yale Unive...