Monday, February 28, 2011

What Was Life Like in Year One?

Scott Korb will be celebrating the paperback release of Life in Year One and will be reading from the book at the NYU Bookstore, 726 Broadway, 6:30 p.m tomorrow March 1st. NPR had an interview with Scott earlier last year. The Introduction, btw, makes it clear that this is not a book about Jesus. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

What Difference Women's Voices Make

Jenny Warner posted recently in Patheos on "A Women's Voice" and what a difference it makes in preaching. Whenever I go to speak to Roman Catholics, this is especially true. But what kind of difference do women's voices make?

I remember the first few times I heard women preach. After three decades of listening to men, it was an overwhelming experience to hear a woman's voice and perspective in that place of authority. Something in my own experience and engagement with scripture and the life of faith felt validated and empowered and healed in those first sermons that I heard.


Women might feel that the relationship and rapport established with the congregation is as important as biblical truths proclaimed. Women often remember women left out of the biblical canon and ignored in liturgy. Women's sermons might fuse teaching, preaching, prophecy and prayer. Women might dwell on female imagery for God. They might pay attention to new inclusionary ways of reading prayerbooks, bible translations and language so that all human beings are included and represented because all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God. 


The Women's Bible Commentary is a good example of biblical interpretation by women. Sharon Ringe, one of the book's editors, has some helpful things to say here. Biblical texts don't address every concern of interest to women but there are women characters in biblical texts and also concerns of interest to women's lives. Asking about these opens up the text and makes visible things that have hitherto been invisible. "Unmasking" the dominant culture is often doen best by those who live on its margins. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dr Catherine Clark Kroeger, R.I.P.

It is with deep sadness that I note the death of Dr Catherine Clark Kroeger on Feb 14th, 2011. Here is an obit. She was a scholar who spoke passionately on the topic of biblical equality of men and women.

A world-renowned speaker, Cathie traveled the globe, opposing violence and the abuse of women, while also advancing the biblical basis for the shared leadership and authority of males and females. Standing in the legacy of great evangelical leaders like Dr. Katharine Bushnell (1856-1946), Cathie offered an indomitable challenge to the hegemony of male authority which, when coupled with female submission, too often leads to abuse. Like Bushnell, Cathie worked to oppose abuse and to teach the biblical basis for the equal value, dignity, and worth of humans, as male and female.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Increase of atheists in the US

Robert Putnam gave a talk at HDS (Harvard Divinity School) on Feb 15th about the results of his analyses in the book Amazing Grace.  He notes the astonishing growth in the number of Americans, believers and nonbelievers alike, who identify with no particular religion. While that figure used to remain constant at 5 to 7 percent of the population, it has risen sharply since 1990. Now, 17 percent of citizens claim no religion, and nearly three in 10 young people are “nones.”


People are opting out of religion because it has become politicized. According to Putnam, the biggest predictor of whether a person identifies as non-religious is whether he or she is accepting of homosexuality.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

KJV and Politics

This short article by Giles Fraser makes a point about the political aspects of the KJV translation:

The translation, begun in 1604, was meant to bolster the authority of the established church. King James I ordered that the Greek word "ekklesia" be translated as "church", not "congregation" or "assembly", to give the impression that the Bible proposes top-down ecclesiastical authority. He insisted that there be no marginal notes in the text. This dangerous commentary in the more radical Geneva Bible led to the questioning of the divine right of kings.


There's some truth to this. But there's more to say. The publishers of the KJV excluded both the preface of the translators and notes that might be construed as controversial. But they did include marginal notes and footnotes discussing e.g. diverse textual traditions; disputed readings; and alternative translations of the Hebrew or Greek. Inclusion of these notes became a precedent followed by successive editions and translations of the Bible. And by including these textual notes, ordinary readers like you or I have access to the minds of these and any translators and their discussions. 


It was the translators rules not King James himself that stipulated there should be no controversial notes. Would that these rules could be published with the KJV all the time!


Ward S. Allen published the Latin and Greek notes of one of the translators of the KJV--John Bois--which he found in the Bodleian Library. These are the only notes made by any of the KJV translators and it is to Ward Allen that we owe an eternal debt of gratitude for finding and publishing them. These notes indicate, among other things, that the epistles of the NT received more attention from the translators than the gospels. And that the translators deployed words that had recently been introduced into the English language: "Godlynesse" at 1Tim 6:6 and, by way of Andrew Downes, another translator and Bois' Greek teacher at Cambridge, the verb "amaze" at 1Peter 3:6. There's scarcely a page of these notes from which one does not catch the excitement of translation.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Alan Segal

Professor Alan F. Segal died yesterday. He was a wonderful and generous colleague and friend. Alan Segal, Professor Emeritus of Religion and Ingeborg Rennert Professor Emeritus of Judaic Studies was a member of the Barnard faculty from 1980 until he retired just this past December.

There will be a private family memorial tomorrow but no public funeral. If you wish to support the Alan Segal Student Research Fund that was established recently in connection with his retirement, you may make out
checks to Barnard College and send them to Professor Elizabeth Castelli, Chair of Religion.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Future of the NRSV

At a recent meeting of the NCC Bible Translation & Utilization Committee, plans were made for expanding the readership of the NRSV. The Rev. Dr. Roy Medley, General Secretary of American Baptist Churches USA and chair of the BTU committee reported,  "One issue before the translation subcommittee is whether NRSV and the RSV can be made more accessible in language for the public while not sacrificing scholarship." 


In 2010, Harper Collins, through the Society of Biblical Literature, conducted a survey of its members about the NRSV translation which was reported at the NCC meeting. Apparently a lot of SBL members are in favour of at least a revision of the NRSV and many would prefer to see a new translation. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Egypt!

Of the many articles, blog posts and reports from Egypt, here's one from Dean James Kowalski, Dean of the Cathedral of St John the Divine here in New York City (posted Feb 11th) who has been in Egypt recently. And here is another post quoting an Egyptian woman who has been in Tahrir Square:

The story of the Tahrir Square is not about who is with Mubarak and who is against; it is about a truly civilized, very peaceful people who decided to regain control of their destiny... They will forever be responsible and work to rebuild the whole country.


Profiles of Egyptian young people in the protest are here. I'm always on the lookout for mention of Coptic Christians. Here's Anne Alexander from the University of Cambridge at the BBC on harmony between Muslims and Christians during the protest. She quotes people who believe that it is the Mubarak government that has fuelled attacks on Coptic Christians such as the recent bomb attack on Christians celebrating Coptic New Year in Alexandria. 

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Testing Google Ebooks

Would anyone like to join me in testing (or has anyone tested) the Google Ebooks format by downloading any book?
Here's a link to mine. I'll be testing it later to see if there are page numbers and thus ways to cite the text. The sample looks fine. Anyone care to share their experiences?

Dura-Europos Exhibit at BC

A Dura-Europos exhibit is now open at Boston College from Feb 5th to June 5th, 2011.


Comprising 75 of the most significant treasures from Dura-Europos, the exhibition tells the story of this vibrant multicultural city inhabiting a crossroad between major eastern and western civilizations. Between 1928 and 1937, archaeologists from Yale University and the French Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres uncovered buildings and made discoveries that fundamentally altered scholars’ understanding of religious practice in late antiquity, according to exhibition organizers.


Organized to draw visitors into different segments of the city and develop themes of contact and interaction, the range of material displayed reiterates a subtext explored throughout the exhibition—how the process of archaeology informs the past and the present. In the outside foyer, didactic panels with reproductions of archival photographs outline the history of Dura-Europos and its excavation.


Along a single street, excavators brought to light a synagogue with painted walls depicting Biblical scenes—something the world thought impossible given the prohibition against graven images in Jewish law; one of the earliest Christian house churches with the earliest-known baptistery; and a place of worship for the mystery religion of Mithraism. Many other religious buildings of Greek, Syrian, Mesopotamian and Roman deities surfaced, as did numerous cult reliefs and other sculptures, paintings, papyri, parchments, coins, well-preserved military equipment, and items of everyday use.


The exhibition presents partial to-scale reconstructions with wall paintings and computerized virtual reality spaces recreating the original settings of the art in the Baptistery, Synagogue and Mithraeum, the most well-known material from Dura-Europos. A display of sculpture and other artifacts relating to pagan religions of Dura examines the range of deities worshipped, and a room nicknamed the “talking heads” surrounds visitors with portraits and objects revealing the cacophony of languages written and spoken at Dura-Europos. Also explored are the numerous professions practiced in the city, and the identities of individuals and groups normally hidden or excluded from historical records—for example, slaves, women and children.

Organized by the Yale University Art Gallery and the McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, this exhibition has been curated by Lisa Brody (Yale University Art Gallery) and Gail Hoffman (Boston College, Classics Department) with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, Boston College, and the Patrons of the McMullen Museum. Additional support was provided by the Newton College class of 1965.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Does everyone know the Directory of Open Access Journals? It's maintained by Lund University Libraries. The opening page has an alphabetically arranged index. It lists over 4000 journals.

A good place for us to start would be the Journal of Biblical Studies. Here's the Journal of Textual Criticism and a list of journals under the rubric "theology." Here's a link to the Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality (started 2007). You can also find articles.

Codex Sinaiticus tonite (in the UK!) Now with video...


Thursday, February 03, 2011

Mary the Matador

This week's programme The Choir on BBC Radio 3 includes an interview with Jeffrey Skidmore and Ex Cathedra. (They have a fascinating repertoire. Together, they have recently recorded and sung South American music, much of it unknown to European ears including mine. See the review of "Latin American Vespers" performed at this year's Edinburgh Festival in the Guardian.)

The Radio 3 programme, available for three more days, includes an extraordinary piece of lively Bolivian Church music by composer Diego José de Salazar (1660-1799)—¡Salga el torillo hosquillo! -- subtitled "Guadalupe juegete." After the performance of the piece, Aled Jones, the host, said (47 minutes into the recording): "An unlikely image of the Virgin Mary as a matador victorious over the bull.." Apparently, in the song the bull represents (demonic) vices over which Mary triumphs.  When I get a full translation of the text, I'll post it here. In the meantime, here's another performance.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Miletus: Turning Point for Paul

Miletus--site of Paul's farewell speech in Acts 20:17-38--was the first place we visited on our 2010 trip to Turkey. According to Acts, Paul had elders brought from Ephesus to Miletus because he wanted to be in time for Pentecost in Jerusalem. But it is also possible that Paul avoided Ephesus because of his previous visit to that city as a result of which he left in a hurry. Elders in Ephesus might have been grateful to meet Paul at some distance from the city itself.

Professor Beverly Gaventa, in an article on Paul's farewell speech at Miletus in New Testament Studies 50 (2004), notes that it is Luke's last portrait of a believing community. It is the only speech in Acts Paul directs to an audience of disciples. There is nothing in it to do with initiation. Rather, it indicates gatherings of believers in Troas, Miletus and Caesarea interspersed with travel reports to present a portrait of their community life. To be sure, Paul also presents himself as hero in this farewell speech, as a model to be emulated (note the emphatic "I" in vv.23 and 25) but in conformity with God's will. Paul speaks to "overseers" appointed by God's Spirit to serve God's community.

Most helpful in her article is that the address at Miletus represents a division: from henceforth and when he goes to Jerusalem, Paul will be separated from a community of believers. He will be alone. There may not have been a believing community in Jerusalem. But the survival of believing communities does not depend on Paul or any other hero. The message of the speech is adherence to the gospel.