Thursday, August 29, 2013

Quote of the Day: Pelikan on Jesus

"Jesus is far too important a figure to be left only to the theologians and the church." (Jaroslav Pelikan, Jesus through the Centuries, xv)

I'll be thinking on that as I go to my Jesus and the Gospels class today.

Early Christian Texts and Translations

I have posted a special section for Early Christian texts more generally.  This includes apocryphal works as well as what we used to call "patristics."

For texts, I have PG Migne and PL Migne.  For translations, the websites of Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) and Early Christian Writings.  There is also a little link to that has a translation to a few extra-canonical gospels.

I didn't notice any high resolution photographs for original manuscripts for this section, but would love to hear of any website that has them.

I will put more up as I find more or as people send links to me.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Nag Hammadi and Related Literature--manuscripts and translations

For my second installment of updating my sidebar to make it more useful for those seeking to find online resources for ancient manuscripts, texts, and translations, I have now added a section for Nag Hammadi and Relate Literature.  For manuscripts, all I have are the Tchacos Codex high resolution photographs.  If the digitized manuscripts Nag Hammadi Codices, Berlin Codex, etc., are also online, I am unaware of it.

I didn't see anything for the Coptic text itself online.  But there are a couple online translations.  I have a link to both English and French translations of the Nag Hammadi Literature.

If anyone has any other links for texts or translations for Nag Hammadi and related works, please send them to me and I will add them to my website.

Schiffman "Outside the Bible"

Larry Schiffman has a brief post on the significance of extra-canonical books for the study of ancient Judaism.  It is extremely relevant for my current course, "Forbidden Scriptures," in which we read several of the texts he discusses there.  Check it out!

Biblical Manuscripts, Texts, and Translations Online

In an effort to make my blog not merely a place where I offer occasional news or offer up an initial essay (in Montaigne's sense) of my thoughts on an ancient text from time to time, but a place that can be useful for students of the ancient world, I have begun to organize my sidebar to be a database for online resources for ancient manuscripts, texts, and translations.

My first category is, naturally enough, Biblical Manuscripts, Texts, and Translations.  I have a few listed toward the top of my sidebar.

Perhaps the most significant digitized manuscripts for the Bible I have come across are the Codex Sinaiticus and the Aleppo Codex.  This summer, Trinity College of Dublin also made their famous Book of Kells available online.  If anyone knows of any other biblical manuscripts available in high resolution photographs online, please let me know, and I will create a link to it here.

I have also placed Nestle-Aland's 28 for the New Testament text.  Unfortunately, the critical apparatus is not online.  I have not found an equivalent for the Hebrew Bible (e.g., BHS), LXX, or Vulgate as of yet.

I have also posted some translations, most of which can be found on the University of Michigan's website: King James, Luther's, Rheims, and RSV.

I hope this can be of use for everyone out there.  Next I will begin two separate link lists for Jewish and Christian manuscripts, texts, and translations respectively.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Blackboard versus Blog (Review)

I posted several years ago an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education on the relative merits of using blackboard versus using blogs.  I had, at the time, never used blackboard as an instructor, but now I am at an institution that does use Blackboard.  I have, nonetheless, been toying around with creating a blog for some of my courses for students to present material to one another, comment on each other's work, and ultimately present it in a format that is accessible outside of the university in a public (hyper)space.

For disseminating course materials, I think one would have to supplement a blog with dropbox or google docs, but I think it is worth reconsidering.

Here is the old link.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Fall Semester Offerings

Today is the first day of class for the University of Mississippi.  Here are the courses I am offering this semester.  Have a great semester everyone!

Hebrew Bible/OT
The Bible has been one of the most influential collections of literature on religion, other literature, society, and culture.  The stories of Abraham and Moses and the words of Jeremiah and Isaiah have had a profound impact on Jewish, Christian, and Muslim cultures from popular films to politics.  Despite this apparent familiarity, the Hebrew Bible (a.k.a., the Old Testament) can often be very strange and disorienting for modern readers.  In this class we will recover Hebrew Bible’s strangeness by reading it anew in its ancient Near Eastern context.  To do this we will critically examine the biblical books’ transmission, development, historical contexts, and literary aspects. 

Jesus and the Gospels
“He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’” (Mark 8:29). 

In addition to the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, more than 50 gospels were written by early Christians in antiquity, such as the gospels of Thomas, Peter, Mary, and even Judas.  Each gospel has its own distinctive view of Jesus.  Why do these gospels portray Jesus in the way they did?  What do these portrayals tell us about Jesus, and what do they tell us about the gospel writers themselves?  In this class we will learn how various scholarly methods can illuminate the gospels, using the different views of Jesus as a vital lens to study and understand the variety of emergent Christian groups.

Forbidden Scriptures
The books of the Bible are only the tip of an iceberg of a vast collection of ancient literature produced by ancient Jews and Christians, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Book of Enoch, and the Gospel of Thomas.   Why were these books excluded from the Bible?  Why have they been lost, forgotten, or even banned?  In this class, we will examine several ancient Jewish and Christian writings that were omitted from the Bible, placing them in their historical contexts and in dialogue with canonical texts in order to gain a more complete understanding of ancient Jewish and Christian cultures.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hebrews 9:23 Really Bothers Me

After publishing my recent book, I am of course in need of a hiatus from Hebrews and am off to different research projects, particularly my Christian Moses stuff.  But when I return to Hebrews--and I shall return--it will likely be because of Hebrews 9:23, a line that has bothered me every time I've read it.  Quoting from the RSV:

"Thus it was necessary for copies of the heavenly things to be purified by these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these."

Before this in chapter 9, there is a conflation of several sacrificial rites from the Day of Atonement (Lev 16) to the blood used to establish the covenant (Exod. 24:6-8), etc.  These rites established and purified the earthly sanctuary (the copies of heavenly things).  But that is not the part that bothers me; it is the second phrase.  While the better sacrifices refers to Jesus', why, oh why, would the heavenly things / heavenly sanctuary need to be purified at all?  Is it impure, defiled in some way?  If so, how might one defile the heavenly sanctuary?  Is it due to human defilement?  Or, perhaps, angelic defilement?

One could argue that it is inaugural purification (inaugurating the new covenant in the way Moses did the old); I am not remembering off the top of my head, but I think this position is favored by Erich Gräßer and several of his followers; it does, indeed, have some benefits.  Its simplicity is attractive.  On the other hand, Hebrews still seems to associate the inaugural blood with purgative rites, ridding one of sin.  Moreover, it seems to me that this phrase is encapsulating: that is, it is referring to all the rites just mentioned and not just the inaugural one.

Or one could argue that it somehow relies upon what Jacob Milgrom has pointed out in his famous article "The Priestly Picture of Dorian Gray": the magnetic character of sin and how the Day of Atonement and other ceremonies have a predominate function to purge the sanctuary of people's sin.  Could the people's sins be, likewise, affecting the heavenly sanctuary, which, as the heavenly sanctuary, needs a greater sacrifice to purge it?

Or, a combination of both.

Or...something else.  Indeed, while I address this verse in my book, I don't think I've found an adequate answer.

I at least see a conference paper in my future on this question, and then we'll see from there.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Sabbath and Sanctuary Available!

My book, The Sabbath and the Sanctuary: Access to God in the Letter to the Hebrews and Its Priestly Context, is now printed, published, and available for purchase from Mohr Siebeck!  Check it out here and order it for your libraries today!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Elizabeth Castelli Weighs in on Aslan's Zealot

In a Nation piece full of gems, Elizabeth Castelli summarizes many of the critiques Bible scholars have been making of Reza Aslan's new book, Zealot.  The final paragraph is worth reproducing:
Simply put, Zealot does not break new ground in the history of early Christianity. It isn’t clear that any book framed as a “the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth” could, in fact, do so. Indeed, if it had not been thrust into the limelight by an aggressive marketing plan, the painfully offensive Fox News interview, and Aslan’s own considerable gifts for self-promotion, Zealot would likely have simply been shelved next to myriad other examples of its genre, and everyone could get back to their lives. As it is, the whole spectacle has been painful to watch. And as it is with so many spectacles, perhaps the best advice one might take is this: Nothing to see here, people. Move along.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Historical Jesus and Reza Aslan Roundup at Paleojudaica

I haven't wanted to wade into the fray of Reza Aslan that I have seen raging online, on television, and by all my scholarly friends on facebook for two reasons: (1) I haven't read the book; (2) I have been busy moving from Illinois to Mississippi for my new job at the University of Mississippi.  But Jim Davila has a nice roundup of relevant and interesting posts, ranging from positive to negative views of Reza Aslan's book.

Gospel of the Grateful Dead

It has been long observed that Deadheads have the makings of a religious movement.  I remember as an undergraduate reading Catherine Albanese's America: Religion and Religions, in which she included the Grateful Dead.  Evidently, at the moment, we are in the most important part of the Deadhead liturgical year: the Days Between.  Named after a Grateful Dead song, it is the days between August 1 (Jerry Garcia's birth) and August 9 (his death).  So, there is a short article in the Huffington Post reminding us of this enduring movement:
Every religion struggles to redefine itself after the death of its charismatic founder. Often times, this process takes the form of establishing and edifying the authoritative scriptures and commentaries of the tradition. For Jerry Garcia, evangelizing did not happen through sermons or speeches, but rather through his concert performances. Accordingly, Garcia's numerous concert recordings endure as the foundational texts of the Grateful Dead canon.