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 (http://store.fortresspress.com/store/product/4747/Studying-the-New-Testament-A-Fortress-Introduction) 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 http://www.bookreviews.org/subscribe.asp.

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.

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...