Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mithras & Mithraism

In Our Time has a discussion of Mithraism this week led by Melvin Bragg with Greg Wolf of the University of St. Andrews; Almut Hintze, of the School of Oriental and African Studies, and John North, Acting Director of the Institute of Classical Studies at the University of London.

The first Mithreae occur on the banks of the Danube in the first century CE perhaps connected with the port Ostia. Extending from Hadrian's Wall to the Black Sea, the cult of Mithras offered a sense of help and salvation (perhaps in another life). We see it from the outside so it is had to reconstruct.

An Indo-Iranean god Mithra dates back to 1300BCE from the ANE mentioned in a contract with four deities to whom a king swears to keep a contract. There is a hymn to Mithra in which Mithra is invoked as an object of worship.

In the 70's, scholars challenged a connection between Zoroastrian ideas and Mithraism (posited by Franz Cumont), arguing instead that western Roman accounts e.g. by Porphyry should be examined in their own right. However, the argument of Cumont persists here. Although we have no first person singular accounts, in accounts of Mithraic mysteries and in Mithraea, an important act depicted is the slaughter of a bull.

We know a little about the initiation through seven stages of initiation indicated through revelation, perhaps connected to the seven planets. Men start as a raven and work their way up to the level of "Father" but perhaps few people made it through all seven. Here are some examples of Mithraea today (the picture is one I took of the Mithraeum in Walbrook, London in 2009).

Friday, December 14, 2012

Beauvoir and Beyond: March 2013

Beauvoir and Beyond: Philosophy and Sexual Difference
Abby Kluchin
Barnard Center for Research on Women, 101 Barnard Hall in Manhattan 

(Presented in collaboration with the Barnard Center for Research on Women)
“But if I wish to define myself,” Simone de Beauvoir writes, “I must first of all say: ‘I am a woman’; on this truth must be based all further discussion.” With this declaration—and the publication of The Second Sex in 1953—the question of “woman” becomes a proper topic of philosophical investigation, as Beauvoir demystifies the “eternal feminine” and lays bare the relationship of “masculine” and “feminine” and how they function to construct woman as Other. In the wake of Beauvoir, other feminist thinkers take up many of her questions, but abandon her existentialist presuppositions. In this course, we will examine a set of twentieth century texts that insist on taking woman, gender, and sexual difference seriously. The first half of the course will center around readings from the new unabridged English edition of The Second Sex, in conjunction with relevant primary and secondary literature, including the work of Jean-Paul Sartre and selections from Toril Moi’s Simone de Beauvoir: the Making of an Intellectual Woman. The second half of the course will consider so-called “French feminism” after Beauvoir, a designation that includes figures as diverse as Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, Hélène Cixous, Monique Wittig, and Michèle le Doueff. These thinkers diverge in a variety of ways from Beauvoir’s approach. But they continue to insist on the necessity of confronting the question of sexual difference, as well as the theorization and performance of distinctly feminine writing that they term écriture feminine or parler-femme.
Held Thursdays, 7pm
Starts March 7, 2013
Costs $315

Monday, November 26, 2012

Condensed Bible(s)

This advertisement appeared in Sunday's NY Times book review (and in many other places I'm sure). Roy Peter Clarke explains the origin of the project:

Gene Patterson, an extraordinary writer and editor, decided to undertake one final, audacious act. On a laptop from his sickbed, he created a streamlined version of the King James Bible. It turns out that even Moses needed an editor.
The Old Testament was just too long, concluded this famous son of the South, too discursive, too beside the point. There were great stories in the Bible, some of the greatest ever told. But it was too hard to get at them and to see the connections. It was as if the human authors of Scriptures, however inspired by God, had found a fertile meadow and planted a patch of kudzu.
"A lot of people want to come in the house," Patterson said of potential readers and believers, "but they can't get up the steps."

Now Gene Patterson has done some extraordinary things with words in his life. He was a columnist and editor for the Atlanta Constitution in the 60's at a time when newspapers hired writers who were also editors. he got up every day and wrote a column.

The influence of Patterson's columns became legendary. Written during the classic period of the Civil Rights movement, Gene worked to convince his fellow white Southerners that they were wrong on matters of race, and that the sky would not fall if they changed. His column in 1963 on the Birmingham church bombing, in which four little girls were murdered, was deemed so powerful that Walter Cronkite asked Gene to read it on the CBS Evening News.
"A Negro mother wept in the street Sunday morning in front of a Baptist Church in Birmingham," wrote Patterson. "In her hand she held a shoe, one shoe, from the foot of her dead child. We hold that shoe with her." Such work earned Patterson a Pulitzer Prize in 1967. 

There are however are some problems with the new condensed edition.  Roy Peter Clarke, friend and colleague of Gene Patterson indicates that the principles by which the editing and condensing was done are idiosyncratic.

Gone are the genealogies, histories, digressions and repetitions that blocked the flow of the narrative. His goal, he says, is to reveal the "thread," a story of salvation that could be read as a book.
The details of editing Scripture are messier and more problematic.
Let's take the Psalms. Psalm numbers 2, 5, 10, 12, 13, and 21 — all gone. Certainly the 23rd Psalm, which hangs on the wall of my bedroom in all its comforting glory, must have survived the knife? Not so. "Walk through the valley of the shadow of death" prevails, but not "thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil." (In an earlier version, Patterson cut "My cup runneth over" — as if to say that nothing will runneth over in this edition — but restored the line in the end.)
In the past there have been other examples of condensed Bibles. But whether we agree or disagree with the work, and whether we have other issues with Bibles that are the result of committee work in previous generations, is editing by means of undisclosed principles the answer? I don't think so. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tonight at UTS

The Deadly Link between Slavery and Environmental Destruction
A presentation by
Kevin Bales
Wednesday, November 14th
6:00 – 7:30 pm
James Chapel, Union Theological Seminary
121st Street and Broadway

All CSSR events are free and open to the public, but we ask that you please RSVP at our website:

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Maine & Maryland approve same-sex marriage

"For the first time, voters in Maine and Maryland voted to allow loving couples to make lifelong commitments through marriage -- forever taking away the right-wing talking point that marriage equality couldn't win on the ballot," said Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay-rights group in a report from PBS

In our town of Northport, 84.14% of registered voters actually voted - 950 souls out of 1,129. 55.51% voted yes on gay marriage. This is wonderful turnout and a great result!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hellenistic Alexandria

Ptolemy rule of Egypt began when Alexander the Great's army conquered it, and then Rome became its de facto ruler when Rome conquered Greece. Alexandria's demise as the premier center of knowledge began with the establishment of Christianity as Rome's official religion -- its practices in this area were deemed pagan and cultic -- and when the Christian patriarch Theophilus unleashed anti-pagan mobs in Alexandria:

"Alexandria, the capital of Egypt and the commercial hub of the eastern Mediterranean,
... had many tourist attractions, including an impressive theater and red-light
district, but visitors always took note of some­thing quite exceptional: in the
center of the city, at a lavish site known as the Museum, most of the intellectual
inheritance of Greek, Latin, Babylonian, Egyptian, and Jewish cultures had been
assembled at enormous cost and carefully archived for research. Starting as early
as 300 BCE the Ptolemaic kings who ruled Alexandria had the inspired idea of luring
leading scholars, scientists, and poets to their city by offering them life appointments
at the Museum, with handsome salaries, tax exemptions, free food and lodging, and
the almost limitless resources of the library.

"The recipients of this largesse established remarkably high intellectual standards.
Euclid developed his geometry in Alexandria; Archimedes produced a remarkably precise
estimate of the value of pi and laid the foundation for calculus; Eratosthenes,
positing that the earth was round, calculated its circumference to within 1 percent;
Galen revolutionized medicine; Alexandrian astronomers postulated a heliocentric
 universe; geometers deduced that the length of a year was 365 1/4 days and proposed
adding a 'leap day' every fourth year; geographers speculated that it would be possible
to reach India by sailing west from Spain; engineers developed hydraulics and pneumatics;
anatomists first understood clearly that the brain and the nervous system were a
 unit, studied the function of the heart and the digestive system, and conducted
 experiments in nutrition. The level of achievement was staggering.

"The Alexandrian library was not associated with a particular doctrine or philosophical
school; its scope was the entire range of intellectual inquiry. It represented a
 global cosmopolitan­ism, a determination to assemble the accumulated knowledge
of the whole world and to perfect and add to this knowledge. Fantastic efforts were
made not only to amass vast numbers of books but also to acquire or establish definitive
editions. Alexandrian scholars were famously obsessed with the pursuit of textual
accuracy. How was it possible to strip away the cor­ruptions that inevitably seeped
into books copied and recopied, for the most part by slaves, for centuries? Generations
of dedi­cated scholars developed elaborate techniques of comparative analysis and
painstaking commentary in pursuit of the master texts. They pursued as well access
to the knowledge that lay beyond the boundaries of the Greek-speaking world. It
is for this reason that an Alexandrian ruler, Ptolemy Philadelphus, is said to have
undertaken the expensive and ambitious project of commissioning some seventy scholars
to translate the Hebrew Bible into Greek. The result -- known as the Septuagint
(after the Latin for 'seventy') -- was for many early Christians their principal
 access to what they came to call the Old Testament.

"At its height the Museum contained at least a half-million papyrus rolls systematically
organized, labeled, and shelved according to a clever new system that its first
director, a Homer scholar named Zenodotus, seems to have invented: the system was
alphabetical order. The institution extended beyond the Museum's enormous holdings
to a second collection, housed in one of the architectural marvels of the age, the
Serapeon, the Temple of Jupiter Serapis. Adorned with elegant, colon­naded courtyards,
lecture halls, 'almost breathing statues,' and many other precious works of art,
 the Serapeon, in the words of Ammianus Marcellinus, the fourth-century historian,
... was second in magnificence only to the Capitol in Rome."

Author: Stephen Greenblatt
Title: The Swerve: How the Renaissance Began
Publisher: Vintage/Anchor Books
Date: Copyright 2011 by Stephen Greenblatt
Pages: 87-88
The Swerve
by Stephen Greenblatt by Vintage
If you wish to read further:
Buy Now []
If you use the above link to purchase a book, delanceyplace proceeds from your purchase
will benefit a children's literacy project. All delanceyplace profits are donated
to charity.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Colm Toibin, The Testament of Mary is at 192 Books on Nov 9th at

7pm October 9th, Colm Toibin will sign copies of The Testament of Mary, his new book at 192 Books in Chelsea NYC. Here's an article by the author explaining how he came to write the book and an excerpt. son insisted and the crowd stood by as the grave was opened and the soft earth lifted from where it lay over Lazarus's body. Once the body could be seen, most of the onlookers had moved away in horror and fright, all except Martha and Mary and my son, who called out the words: "Lazarus come forth." And gradually the crowd came close again to the grave, and this was the time when the birdsong ceased and the birds withdrew from the air. Martha believed too that time was then suspended, that in those two hours nothing grew, nothing was born or came into being, nothing died or withered in any way.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Reading the Bible In Episcopal Churches + Oct 20th discussion

Living Pulpit online has just published an article on this topic. And here's a related event for further discussion:

ALL WELCOME to join a conversation on Biblical Studies in the Congregation with Deirdre Good, Professor, New Testament, General Theological Seminary, New York City

Saturday, October 20, 2012
9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
At the Church of St. Martin-In-The-Fields,
St. Martin’s Lane and Willow Grove Avenue, Philadelphia, 19118
Phone: 215-247-7466

Schedule: 9.30a.m. coffee, tea, refreshments and introductions;
10.00a.m. presentations and resources in the parish hall

What IS biblical literacy? Do answers differ from what is understood to be literalism? Inerrancy? What does that mean?
Working with our clergy and seminary professors, how do we help to close the gap between pulpit and pew?
Congregations across the country are beginning to address these questions in varying ways. What is working?

Reading the bible all the way through on our own? Yes.
Reading the Bible together in small groups? Yes.
· Let’s pool our experiences. What is working in our congregations? How and why?

Do let us know your thoughts, and please tell us that you will be attending by simply replying to

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Magdalene: Spouse of Christ

The search for Jesus by Mary exists in the so-called Biblia Pauperum or “Bible of the Poor.” The origins of this book are unknown but by the late middle ages, there are many examples of it. Reflecting a widespread method of interpreting the Bible by means of typology, in the Bible of the Poor persons, objects and episodes from the Old Testament are seen to prefigure aspects of Christ’s ministry. The book is a bookblock with pictures and text produced by impressions from carved wooden blocks. Between 1460-90, the bookblock was a transitional form of publication leading to book printing by moveable type. Whether the book was really designed to educate the poor or whether it was intended to instruct clergy in their preaching is uncertain. However, printing undoubtedly facilitated spread of the book.
Three panels on a single page depict scenes thought to be typologically interrelated. In one example we see Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene in the garden in the central panel. This is an interpretation of John 20. Christ holds a garden implement in a garden setting. In the panel to the left we see the King of Babylon visiting Daniel the morning after Daniel had been cast into the lion’s den. Discovering Daniel to be alive brought the king great joy. The Latin above the panel continues: “Indeed the king prefigures Mary Magdalene when she went to the tomb. After she saw the Lord, she also rejoiced exceedingly because he rose from the dead.”

The central panel shows Jesus and Mary Magdalene encountering each other in the garden of John 20. Jesus is identified by the cruciform nimbus. The same figure occurs in the panel on the right in which the bride of the Song of Songs has wrapped her arms around Jesus while the scroll above her head (medieval equivalent of bubble speak) shows her speaking the words of the bride in Song of Songs 3: “Tenui eum nec dimittam: I held him and I will not let him go.” The inscriptions under the panel, “The beloved bride now enjoys the much sought spouse” and “Showing yourself O Christ you console the holy Mary” indicate that the scene is their encounter in the garden.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Tuesday September 25th from 7.30pm --9.30pm Webinar on the new Coptic fragment

A webinar and conversation about the newly discovered 4th C Coptic fragment with Profs Deirdre Good and Katherine Shaner next Tuesday.

Register here

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

New Coptic Gospel Papyrus -- Updated

Here's a link to an announcement on September 18th by Prof Karen King in Rome at a Coptic congress of the discovery of a 4th Century Coptic Gospel papyrus fragment. The link shows the text and the transcription with a translation but a better one with magnification is here. The fragment seems to indicate that some early Christians thought that Jesus had a wife (just as some thought he did not). Episcopal Cafe has just posted some initial thoughts on the text written last night. Provisional translation here

(square brackets indicate plausible conjectures):

  1. not [to] me. My mother gave me li[fe
  2. the disciples said to Jesus [
  3. deny. Mariam is worthy of it [
  4. …..Jesus said to them, 'My wife [and...
  5. …..she will be able to be my disciple [
  6. Let wicked people swell up [
  7. As for me, I exist with her because [
  8. ] an image [

Update: appropriate scholarly skepticism.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Studying Scripture in Congregations: What Works and Why

Join a conversation on

Biblical Studies in the Congregations

Deirdre Good

Professor, New Testament Studies
General Theological Seminary, New York City

Saturday, October 20, 2012

9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

At the Church of St. Martin-In-The-Fields,

St. Martin’s Lane and Willow Grove Avenue, Philadelphia, 19118
Phone: 215-247-7466

Schedule: 9.30a.m. coffee, tea, refreshments and introductions;
10.00a.m. presentations and resources in the parish hall

What IS biblical literacy? Do answers differ from what is understood to be literalism? Inerrancy? What does that mean?
  • Working with our clergy and seminary professors, how do we help to close the gap between pulpit and pew?
  • Congregations across the country are beginning to address these questions in varying ways. What is working?
Reading the bible all the way through on our own? Yes.
Reading the Bible together in small groups? Yes.
  • Let’s pool our experiences. What is working in our congregations? How and why?

Do let us know your thoughts, and please tell us that you will be attending by simply replying to the one who sent you this message. Thank you. 

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Memorizing the Lord's Prayer (in Coptic)

(If the font is illegible, please click here)

ⲡⲉⲛ-ⲓⲱⲧ ⲉⲧ-ϧⲉⲛ ⲛⲓ-ⲫⲏⲟⲩⲓ
our-father whose-in the-heavens
ⲙⲁⲣⲉ-ϥ-ⲧⲟⲩⲃⲟ ⲛ̀ϫⲉ ⲡⲉⲕ-ⲣⲁⲛ
may-he hallowed (ⲛ̀ϫⲉ) your-Name (may he be hallowed [and he refers to your name])
ⲙⲁⲣⲉ-ⲥ ⲓ̀ ⲛ̀ϫⲉ ⲧⲉⲕ-ⲙⲉⲧⲟⲩⲣⲟ
may-she come (ⲛ̀ϫⲉ) your-kingdom (may she come [and she refers to your kingdom]) 
ⲡⲉⲧ-ⲉϩⲛⲁ-ⲕ ⲙⲁⲣⲉ-ϥ-ϣⲱⲡⲓ
what-please-you may-he-become
ⲙⲫⲣⲏϯ ϧⲉⲛ ⲧ̀-ⲫⲉ ⲛⲉⲙ ϩⲓϫⲉⲛ ⲡⲓ-ⲕⲁϩⲓ
like in the-heaven also on the-land
ⲡⲉⲛ-ⲱⲓⲕ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉ ⲣⲁⲥϯ ⲙⲏⲓ-ϥ ⲛⲁ-ⲛ ⲙ̀ⲫⲟⲟⲩ
our-bread of tomorrow give-him to-us today
ⲟⲩⲟϩ ⲭⲁ ⲛⲏ-ⲉⲧ-ⲉⲣⲟ-ⲛ ⲛⲁ-ⲛ ⲉ̀ⲃⲟⲗ
and put those-which-on-us for-us away (put what we owe away for us)
[if you owe something to somebody, they say this thing is "on you"
and putting what is on you away means forgiving you]
ⲙ̀ⲫ̀ⲣⲏϯ ϩⲱⲛ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉⲛ-ⲭⲱ ⲉ̀ⲃⲟⲗ ⲛ̀-ⲛⲏ-ⲉⲧⲉ ⲟⲩⲟⲛ ⲛ̀ⲧⲁⲛ ⲉⲣ-ⲱⲟⲩ
like also-we (we also) we-put away those-which have we (we have) on-them
ⲟⲩⲟϩ ⲙ̀ⲡⲉⲣ-ⲉⲛ-ⲧⲉⲛ ⲉϧⲟⲩⲛ ⲉ̀-ⲡⲓ-ⲣⲁⲥⲙⲟⲥ
and don't-bring-us inside to-the-temptation
ⲁⲗⲗⲁ ⲛⲁϩⲙ-ⲉⲛ ⲉⲃⲟⲗϩⲁ ⲡⲓ-ⲡⲉⲧϩⲱⲟⲩ
but save-us from the-evil
ϧⲉⲛ Ⲡ-ⲭ̅ⲥ̅ Ⲓⲏ̅ⲥ̅ Ⲡⲉⲛ-ⲟ̅ⲥ̅.
with the Christ Jesus our-lord

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Walter Harrelson, R.I.P.

Walter Harrelson died last night. Scholar, teacher, gentleman, he will be remembered by all. Here's a good insight into public and other aspects of his life. The last time I saw him was in connection with possible revisions of the NRSV for the NCC. He had lost much of his sight but was enjoying life including playing golf. We saw a bluebird on his house.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Review of Chilton/Good, Studying the New Testament, A Fortress Introduction

RBL 06/2012

Chilton, Bruce, and Deirdre J. Good

Studying the New Testament: A Fortress Introduction

Minneapolis: Fortress, 2011. Pp. ix + 174. Paper. $20.00.
ISBN 9780800697358.

Moschos Goutzioudis
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki, Greece

The book introduces readers and mainly students of theological studies to the New Testament books and their world. In other words, Bruce Chilton and Deirdre Good offer an alternative but very interesting reading of the way that the New Testament books were composed in the first century. The question is how it is possible for this small book to be an introduction to the New Testament, since during the last decade we have seen many books of this kind of more than five hundred pages. In its 174 pages the book contains a brief introduction, four chapters, a glossary, and an index. In every chapter the reader can find a few maps, images, and tables and many text boxes as additional material for further reading. Although a small book in its field, this volume has all the necessary material for
students. What makes it great is the fact that nothing important is missing.

The authors of the book did not include a bibliography list in the last pages but formed a short bibliography divided into two categories in the end of each chapter. The first is entitled “Bibliographical Background,” the second “Bibliography for Further Reading.” At the end of each chapter small exercises with many questions for students to check their knowledge are included. The overall style of this book has been welcomed during the last years by many scholars who have written any kind of introduction to the New Testament. As I reviewed William A. Simmons, Peoples of the New Testament World: An IllustratedGuide (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson, 2008), and Ben Witherington III, New Testament History: A Narrative Account (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), in the past, I observed that this style of including additional material within tables or textboxes with background color is followed by many publishers. The aim is to help the students to have the texts of ancient writers, diagrams or passages, and summaries of theological ideas separately in some pages of the book.

As for the content, the first pages of this volume provide an introduction to the New Testament literature. Here the authors discuss in brief only a few contemporary approaches to the texts of the New Testament, including source criticism, social-scientific theory, redaction and tradition criticism, and, finally, reader-response criticism. Pages 14–15 contain two tables with the books of the New Testament. In the first we find the New Testament books in the order in which many scholars believe they were most likely written, with approximate dates. Chilton and Good place 1 Thessalonians in 50 C.E., considering it the first book of the New Testament, and 2 Peter in 110 C.E. as the last one. The second table contains the books of the New Testament in the order that appears after the agreement among churches during the fourth century.

The first chapter surveys the social world of Jesus. The authors here discuss many issues concerning the region of Galilee and the mission of Jesus, the figures of John the Baptist and Herod Antipas, and the temple of Jerusalem and its cult. Many text boxes with information and pericopes from Josephus and other sources within the chapter illuminate the testimonies from the Gospels about Jesus, John, and others. Chilton and Good also use a significant amount of recent evidence from archaeological excavations to illuminate the world of Jesus. Needless to say, both of them are prominent scholars who have written many books about Christian origins, Judaism in the time of Jesus, and apocryphal literature.

Paul and his letters is the subject of the second chapter. First the authors present in brief the personality and the theology of Paul the apostle; then they present his letters. In their presentation they follow the order given earlier (14), starting with 1 Thessalonians and finishing with Hebrews. Here the authors distinguish the authentic Pauline letters from the Deutero-Pauline, after the section that discusses the letter to the Philippians. Chilton and Good’s view is that Colossians and Ephesians are Timothy’s edition of Paul’s teaching. Textbox 2.4 (77) containing corpus paulinum and the authenticity of each letter is very helpful.

Chapter 3 surveys the Gospels, starting with Mark. Before Mark’s Gospel we find small units that discuss the Synoptic Problem and the Q source, as well as the latest data in New Testament research concerning Peter, James, Mary Magdalene, and Barnabas and its evidence in the Gospel accounts. What is interesting is that the authors prefer for the composition of Mark’s Gospel a date after the destruction of the temple. They also believe that Peter, James, and Barnabas seem to have influenced the Gospel of Matthew. This chapter ends with a short unit about the Coptic Gospel according to Thomas.

The last chapter is entitled “Catholic and Apocalyptic Writings.” In addition to the Catholic Epistles, we find here the Acts of the Apostles and the Revelation of John. Text boxes about Old Testament pseudepigrapha and apocrypha are provided as additional material for further study. I would like to mention that Chilton and Good claim that the change in narration from third-person singular to first-person plural in Acts is connected to Timothy, not Luke. This means that Luke was not an eyewitness in the events that are reported.

This book is easy to be read, and it contains all the information for anyone who wants to study New Testament literature and needs a good introduction to it. Greek words transliterated in English are all correct, except in only two cases. The bibliography used is up to date, and the authors many times mention classical works of each subject under discussion. The only negative point is the small size of the font used in the book. This feature makes it even more difficult for any sentence in tables to be read. I would like to see in the future more books like this, which will follow its style and have the aim to be a useful first tool for studying the New Testament books and its world. Anyone interested in this book can visit the publisher’s webpage ( for a video of the authors discussing their book. There is also a sample chapter, four brief reviews, and a table of contents (pdf files).

This review was published by RBL 2012 by the Society of Biblical Literature. For more information on obtaining a
subscription to RBL, please visit

Sunday, September 02, 2012

One day the zoo-keeper noticed that the orangutan was reading two books: the Bible and Darwin's Origin of Species. Surprised, he asked the ape, "Why are you reading both those books?" "Well," said the orangutan, "I just wanted to know if I was my brother's keeper or my keeper's brother."

Saturday, September 01, 2012

New Books: 1) Marcus Borg, 2) Three Testaments and 3) The Trouble With Atheists

Marcus Borg's new book, Evolution of the Word: The New Testament in the Order of the Books That Were Written was published yesterday. An issue with the book will be how to date particular books of the New Testament (he dates Luke Acts to the second century, for example) since dating the NT books is a contested topic. I will be reading it but in the meantime, this blurb caught my eye:

“The most helpful thing that Borg has to offer is a contextual introduction to each of the 27 books of the New Testament . . . An eminently readable and eye-opening addition to religion shelves, as well as a new and fascinating way to read the New Testament.” (Booklist (starred review) )
Publishers Weekly reports on Three Testaments: Torah, Gospel and Quran, edited by Brian Brown,  published by Rowman & Littlefield, with content licensed from the Jewish Publication Society, Sheed & Ward, and Kazi Publications. The book brings together the Abrahamic scriptures for the first time, according to Brown, in a single volume. A launch tour kicks off at Ground Zero in New York on Sept. 9, and a 9/11 event in Washington, D.C., at the Canadian Embassy gather diplomats from around the world. Similar events are planned for Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago. The tour then moves on to Toronto for a finale at the Royal Ontario Museum. Said Brian Brown, “Despite its academic patina, we believe this book may be of great interest to the American public as it moves forward in religious understanding.”

NYC people: the main event is on September 9th at 2pm at St Peter's Church near Ground Zero opened by Al-Jazeera and closed by HuffPo. There are panelists, presentations and representatives of various religious groups. 

And finally, a lovely explanation of his book Unapologetic: Why Despite Everything Christianity Can Make Surprising Emotional Sense  by Francis Spufford in the Guardian today in which he describes aspects of his faith and an argument he and his wife had that was unrelenting and unresolved. Then someone played the Adagio of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto as a result of which he reflects on the quality of mercy:

it is not music that denies anything. It offers a strong, absolutely calm rejoicing, but it does not pretend there is no sorrow. On the contrary, it sounds as if it comes from a world where sorrow is perfectly ordinary, but still there is more to be said.
I had heard it lots of times, but this time it felt to me like news. It said: everything you fear is true. And yet. And yet. Everything you have done wrong, you have really done wrong. And yet. And yet. The world is wider than you fear it is, wider than the repeating rigmaroles in your mind, and it has this in it, as truly as it contains your unhappiness. Shut up and listen, and let yourself count, just a little bit, on a calm that you do not have to be able to make for yourself, because here it is, freely offered. There is more going on here than what you deserve, or don't deserve. There is this as well. And it played the tune again, with all the cares in the world.
The novelist Richard Powers has written that the Clarinet Concerto sounds the way mercy would sound, and that's exactly how I experienced it in 1997.

So to me, what I felt listening to Mozart in 1997 is not some wishy-washy metaphor for an idea I believe in, and it's not a front behind which the real business of belief is going on: it's the thing itself. My belief is made of, built up from, sustained by, emotions like that. That's what makes it real. I do, of course, also have an interpretation of what happened to me in the café which is just as much a scaffolding of ideas as any theologian or Richard Dawkins could desire. I think – note the verb "think" – that I was not being targeted with a timely rendition of the Clarinet Concerto by a deity who micro-manages the cosmos and causes all the events in it to happen (which would make said deity an immoral scumbag, considering the nature of many of those events). I think that Mozart, two centuries earlier, had succeeded in creating a beautiful and accurate report of an aspect of reality. I think that the reason reality is that way – that it is in some ultimate sense merciful as well as being a set of physical processes all running along on their own without hope of appeal, all the way up from quantum mechanics to the relative velocity of galaxies by way of "blundering, low and horridly cruel" biology (Darwin) – is that the universe is sustained by a continual and infinitely patient act of love.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Coptic Language Resources

Lexicity Ancient Language Resources has some wonderful ones for Coptic. Here's Layton's Coptic in 20 Lessons. Here's online Crum. And some online Biblical Texts.

Yeshiva University Arch of Titus Digital Restoration Project

Professor Steven Fine

The Yeshiva University Arch of Titus Digital Restoration Project, A Preliminary Report on Discoveries at the Arch in July, 2012

Please join us this coming Tuesday, September 4, during the Academic Hour (5:45-6:45), for the first Yeshiva University Jewish Studies Colloquium of the new year

The Colloquium will meet in Furst Hall (500 West 185th Street, New York, NY 10033), room 535.

This lecture will present, for the first time in a public forum, the results of the YU Arch of Titus Digital Restoration Project pilot excursion to Rome in July, 2012.  It will highlight discoveries by an international team led by Prof. Fine that revealed the original golden pigment of the Arch of Titus menorah using the newest technological means, and plans for a full expedition in Summer 2013 (pending funding).  This lecture will explore the significance of this search for the original polychromy of the Arch of Titus for our understanding of Roman Imperial art, the vessels of the בית המקדש, and the First Jewish Revolt (66-74 CE)
Dr. Peter Feinman
Institute of History, Archaeology, and Education
PO Box 41
Purchase, NY 10577

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Parthenos--virgin, unmarried and young/unmarriageable

A new discussion by Mark Wilson of the Greek word parthenos at a recent Greek-Turkish Symposium on Epigraphy can be found here. At a paper given by the

Greek epigrapher Angelos Chaniotis, he discussed a 2nd-3rd century C.E. funerary inscription of a young Aphrodisian woman named Melition Tatis who was called a parthenos in the inscription. The proper translation of this Greek word is still debated in several Biblical texts. Is the meaning in Isaiah 7:14 “virgin” (niv) or “young woman” (nrsv)? However, all translations of Matthew 1:23, which quotes the verse from Isaiah and speaks of Mary, read “virgin.” So I was intrigued whether this newly found inscription might help us understand better how parthenos was used in antiquity.
In Chaniotis’s handout, the word was translated “virgin.” But he suggested verbally that it was better understood as a class of young women. Chaniotis shared with me later that such a use was not just localized to Aphrodisias. And I learned that parthenos and its derivatives could even be a female name, probably indicating the person’s youthful appearance rather than her status of virginity or being unmarried. Chaniotis’s research has revealed that parthenos has three closely related yet distinct meanings: virgin, unmarried, and young/unmarriageable. While it may not always be possible to distinguish among them, an awareness of this difference can help us better understand Biblical texts. For example, the niv and nrsv both use “unmarried” in Acts 21:9 to designate Philip’s daughters, a better translation of parthenos than “virgin.” Listening to Chaniotis, I was reminded again of the importance of context in translating and interpreting Greek words.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Marvin Meyer, R.I.P.

The National Geographic has a tribute to Marvin Meyer (with whom they worked on the Gospel of Judas). They cite the tribute from Chapman College where he taught:

The following letter was released from Chapman University’s Office of the Chancellor last Friday:
Our dear friend and colleague Marvin Meyer, Ph.D., Griset Chair in Bible and Christian Studies, passed away on Thursday, August 16 at the age of 64, of complications from melanoma.  As some of you know, he had battled an earlier occurrence of the disease a few years ago; successfully, it was believed.  But just last month the cancer was found to have recurred.  In typical Marv style, he maintained his optimism, asking just two weeks ago for leave from teaching and his other duties so that he could devote all of his considerable strength to what he – and we – knew was to be a titanic battle.  It was with great shock and sadness that we learned Thursday that he had lost that battle.
Marv was a remarkable teacher, a gifted translator and scholar, and a pillar of the Chapman community.  Serving as director of the Albert Schweitzer Center and Chair of the Religious Studies Department, he did so much more for the University, taking on at one point or another nearly every position of faculty leadership and service in his 27 years at Chapman.  Yet though he reached levels of fame as a scholar that few do – as a frequent on-camera commentator on History and Discovery Channel documentaries, as one of the National Geographic team of scholars who translated the famous Gospel of Judas – he was always there with a smile, his laugher infectious, engaging his colleagues in discussions of their research work or teaching or travels and offering encouragement to any and everyone. And he was always ready with a story or “magic spell,” whether it be at convocation, commencement and graduation activities, or as our first president of the Faculty Senate.
Marv brought the ancient world alive in his lucid and poetic translations and in his teaching both inside and outside the classroom, not only for students and colleagues but also for others around the globe.  Beloved by his students, he was extremely generous with his time, working individually with them, taking groups to Egypt and teaching Greek and Coptic on top of his regular courses, and challenging students to think deeply about life’s meaning and purpose in his Schweitzer and Freshman Foundations courses.  He was a true leader in challenging times and situations on campus, with a talent for putting people at ease and moderating between diverse constituencies, and he never shied away from such challenges.
What many of us will always remember is Marv’s deep love of the Gnostic authors whose writings he helped bring out from the darkness, where they had long been dismissed as heretical.  He invested decades in learning the languages so he could enable their ideas to speak in a way both fresh and true. Marv never sought fame, although it deservedly came to him — but he sought to bring ideas hidden by history into the open. If anyone ever loved learning for learning’s sake—utterly and unabashedly so–it was Marv Meyer.  And he loved even more opening this astonishing world of ideas to his students who had never thought there was a gospel beyond the canonical four. Marv helped his students to see the world with different eyes, to see how exciting and fun it could be, and always, always to think about the ethical dimension of ideas.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Richard Beard's book Lazarus is Dead on Sept 26th at 192 Books

An evening with Europa Editions
(Europa, 2012)
Wednesday, September 26th, 7PM, 192 Books

In the gospels, Jesus is described as having only one friend, and when this friend dies, Jesus does something that he does nowhere else in the Bible: he weeps. Novelist Richard Beard begins here. Mixing Biblical sources, historical detail and an infinite variety of fascinating references to music, art and literature, and abundant reserves of creative invention, Beard gives us his astonishing and amusing take on the greatest story ever told about second chances.

As children, Lazarus and Jesus were fast friends. But following a mysterious event, their friendship dwindled in early adulthood. Lazarus is Dead is set during the final period of each man's life—or, to be more precise, each man's first life. Both know the end is near, and, though they're loath to admit it, they long for reconciliation. For that to happen they will need to find reasons to believe in each other before time runs out. 

Podcast Conversations with contributors to Borderlands of Theological Education

 Just thrilled that our podcast conversations with contributors to Borderlands of Theological Education are available here: https://podcast...