The New Testament Quest
Bias in Biblical Scholarship?
The subject of bias in biblical scholarship is poorly understood and often simply bandied about as a blunt instrument. This isn’t a good idea, so consider the below: What is Bias Two of the definitions from the OED are worth relaying: Is bias a problem for biblical scholarship? On the view that the aim of much biblical scholarship is the publishing of research to be commended to any and all readers in the guild or outside, bias of the first definition is potentially problematic. By the definition, it seems very negative, but by the example, it is not so clear.…read more
How to Read Books, Write Essays, and Pass Comprehensive Exams (or, How to Become a PhD Candidate)
In North American PhD programs, a differentiation is made between a PhD “student” and a PhD “candidate”. When a student is accepted into a PhD program in North America, his or her program begins with the requirement to complete a number of courses/seminars/colloquies/other activities. The courses range from being fairly broad (e.g., Pauline studies), to fairly specified and/or technical (e.g., linguistic modelling), to professionally relevant (e.g., pedagogy). One or more courses will usually be devoted to research methodology, and a student may also take a number of directed research courses as a part of their coursework which might be highly…read more
St. Paul in Raphael’s School of Athens?
I love the book of Acts. I also love and study Greek history, thought, religion, and language. Naturally, Acts 17 stands out as a passage of import to those who love to think about the New Testament and the Hellenistic world. I also have an untutored fondness of Renaissance art. I claim no expertise in the way of the Renaissance masters, and can only identify the works of a few. One work I shamelessly enjoy (“shamelessly” because one gets sheepish about one’s cultured fancies when they are ubiquitous in pop culture) is Raphael’s School of Athens. I enjoy it enough…read more
Albert Schweitzer was one of the great men of the twentieth century. The breadth of his abilities, the depth of his thought, and the endurance of his legacies are testaments to the man’s greatness. His autobiography, Out of My Life and Thought, is a modern classic, but it is his Quest of the Historical Jesus that remains fixed in the minds of students and scholars of the New Testament as a paradigm-shifting work in the study of the historical Jesus (it’s worth noting his major contributions to Pauline studies as well: The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle, and Paul and…read more
Ancient Greeks, Resurrection, and the Gospel of Luke.
“It was left to Christianity to democratize mystery” A. D. Nock Greeks apparently did not believe in resurrection. At least, this is what we are told or what is suggested by pretty much the consensus in biblical studies. Individual resurrection is most often presented as a wholly unique Christian category (even against Jewish categories–though one wonders why Herod Antipas could at one time imagine that Jesus was “John the Baptist, risen from the dead”; read: a human individual physically resurrected at one point in time); I don’t agree with the consensus, and neither should you. Now the problem with this…read more
“What if it were True? Why study the New Testament”
In a previous post, I mentioned that there are many good reflections out there about the nature of New Testament studies (articulating in better words what many of us apprehend with less clarity, or less occasion). A new essay in New Testament Studies by Christopher Kavin Rowe fits the bill (even while I did not have it in mind when I wrote that post–it was not yet published). It considers the nature of understanding and the way in which students and scholars interact with and understand the New Testament. Its occasion is that it is written largely as a response…read more
From my bookshelf. Gasque, A History of the Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles
I’ve decided to highlight books I’ve read or am reading that should be of interest to students of the New Testament. These books range from conservative, to skeptical, to radical, or may be neutral with respect to the New Testament but relevant to it (i.e., classical and post-classical history, language resources, works of philosophy, etc.). W. Ward Gasque, A History of the Interpretation of The Acts of the Apostles. Wipf & Stock, 1989. This book is a second, updated, edition of W. Ward Gasque’s published PhD dissertation under F. F. Bruce at the University of Manchester. That study was completed…read more
Did Luke use Josephus? An excerpt.
It might surprise some people who think that a late dating for the book of Acts is a novel scholarly movement that the question of Luke and Josephus is not new. In reality, the late-dating position goes back at least to nineteenth century German higher criticism, and the Luke-Josephus relation was discussed in literature centuries ago, anticipating the modern period, and was also discussed in the early church. Some think that Steve Mason has recently (in the grand scheme) settled the issue in his Josephus and the New Testament (1992, 2nd ed. 2003), where he does conclude Luke knew something…read more
Some Thoughts on the Second Century
The work of the renowned German theologian and lexicographer, Walter Bauer, in his Rechtgläubigkeit und Ketzerei im Ältesten Christentum—Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity—has enjoyed a long life and legacy in New Testament studies and early Patristic studies since its initial publication in 1934 in German, and especially since its translation into English by Paul J. Achtemeier under the auspices of Fortress press in 1971. This work essentially sought to question the “classical theory” of early Christian orthodoxy that “truth preceded error,” and that this truth and was known everywhere in every church. Bauer’s question mark in this regard seems…read more
The Secret History of the New Testament?
In the summer of 2021 I read a book called The Immortality Key: The Secret History of the Religion with No Name, by Brian C. Muraresku. It’s one book in a what is now practically a genre of books which discuss the apparent psychedelic roots of religion/ancient history and cultures. I have some interest in the latter, but those which concern religion–and early Christianity–interest me especially. A Scandalous Introduction I first became aware of the psychedelic thesis of religion when I encountered John M. Allegro’s book The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross. Allegro’s book also has its place in the…read more
Some Reflections on the Nature of New Testament Studies
Whence and Whither New Testament Studies? The study of the sacred texts of Christianity has been going on since before the sacred texts of Christianity were explicitly codified into a canon (or canons) and broadly accepted (the debated issues are complex and remain some 2,000 years later). In addition to the fact of the study of these texts, books about studying the Bible (of varying size and quality) have been written for centuries up until the present. I have many reflections about this; most are probably not worth uttering (being the scholarly neophyte that I am). There are books, essays,…read more
A Timeline of Key Events Leading up to the New Testament
As a follow-up to some recent posts about mining good New Testament introductions for some contextual historical information, I here offer a timeline of key events leading up to the time of the New Testament. There is always a risk in presenting such a timeline: what to leave in, what to leave out? Yet, as I think it is very useful for the student to have some contextual-historical bearings, here is a timeline of twelve major events which bear varying historical significance to the New Testament. Below the chart I give a brief description of each event (with, as it…read more
To Know Greek
Literacy has been an obvious concern in the Judeo-Christian and Western intellectual traditions since time immemorial; those who would be students of these cultures, would be literate. The critical event in the development of literacy to this end is the ability to read. Reading comes first after speaking and before writing, and only when one can read—and read well—is a world of understanding open which would otherwise be closed: a world of understanding books. This remains true today in critical ways with modern languages–despite the rise of audiobooks and podcasts–but it is especially so of historical and ancient books. But…read more
Was Paul “Greek”? Pt. 2
This post is a summary of my peer-reviewed article “ ‘Our’ Poets at Athens? Reconsidering a Variant Reading in Acts 17,28”—access the full article with all Greek data here. In the last post, I gave a basic introduction to the ways in which Paul can be seen as Greek, and how that identity fits within the complex world of identities in a cosmopolitan Greco-Roman society. I concluded that Paul certainly was Greek in important ways and surveyed very briefly the usual evidence brought forward to make the case. However, I also indicated that there may well be better evidence—direct evidence—for…read more
Was Paul “Greek”? Pt. 1
SEE PART 2 HERE It is obvious and demonstrable (to most) that the apostle Paul was a Jew: he clearly identifies himself as such in various of his letters (see, for example, Phil 3:5–6; Rom 11:1; 2 Cor 11:22). For those who see the book of Acts as providing valuable evidence for Paul’s biography (as I do), his status as a citizen of Rome has long been acknowledged: Acts 16:37 and 22:25–28 indicate Paul’s Roman citizenship and many if not most scholars (classicists included) see the case as essentially clear. While there are all sorts of fruitful debates and discussions…read more
The Origins of Christmas?
Merry Christmas Eve–of course–but why? That is, why now? How did Christians come to celebrate Christmastime beginning on the evening of December 24? And why do we celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25? This might seem to be a question for early church history, and not New Testament studies (yet, are the two so separate?). It must be asserted, however, that any journey to understand the New Testament cannot be confined to the goings on of the first century alone, or the New Testament texts alone. Just as relevant historical contexts are a matter of the centuries leading…read more
Understandings of the Lukan Census
A. J. M. Wedderburn was a professor of theology who taught at the University of St. Andrews, the University of Durham, and was finally chair of New Testament Theology at the University of Munich (he is now retired). He wrote numerous significant monographs, and numerous articles, and is regarded as first-class scholar by the academy. In 2002, while he was still teaching at the University of Munich, a Festschrift was published in his honour, with Sheffield University Press, edited by Alf Christophersen, Carsten Claussen, Jörg Frey, and Bruce Longenecker. Festschriften (the plural of Festschrift) are collections of writings presented in…read more
Basic Resources for NT History Pt. 2
Getting Started with a NT Introduction In the previous post, I briefly described the usefulness of the New Testament introduction and why a reader shouldn’t be concerned to select only from what is newly published. I mentioned that I would introduce what I think are three solid New Testament introductions as good places to start to understand the historical contexts of the New Testament. Of course, you will find much than that in a New Testament introduction (and many other volumes dedicated to New Testament history itself), but each of the volumes I discuss here contains a good amount of…read more
Basic Resources for NT History Pt. 1
See PART II here. The historical context leading up to the time of the New Testament is vast and complex. This article will introduce the “New Testament Introduction” and its basic usefulness. In the next article in the series, I will discuss three specific New Testament introductions. Whence “New Testament Introduction”? One of the biggest challenges when embarking on a quest to understand the New Testament is the paralysis that comes along with the sheer volume of publications in the field of biblical studies. It’s for our own good, I’m sure! Publishers are only ever motivated by the good of…read more
The New Testament Quest is a site where I write under four categories. One. The primary texts of the New Testament. Language, linguistics, exegesis, interpretation, etc. Two. The historical and literary contexts of the New Testament (including various and sundry topics people raise as relevant background for understanding). Three. Books relevant to the quest (for critique or commendation). My interests are eclectic, my sophistic powers of articulating relevancy, unmatched. This will, however, mostly be New Testament stuff. Four. Academics and academia. How to read, how to study. If, when, and where to study formally. Learning foreign languages, academic culture, etc.…read more
I am on a quest to understand the New Testament.
Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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