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Nick Norelli

It seems that your spell checker has gotten the best of you. It changed what you surely intended to be "protology" into "proctology" above. I can empathize, as mine did the same thing to me the other day.

Jason A. Staples

Interesting that you reference Didymus the Blind, since Ehrman's dissertation was on Didymus the Blind's text of the Gospels.

It should also be noted that Bart intends to address many of these issues in his scholarly monograph on the subject. It is a bit out of the usual order that he has published the popular book before the academic piece, but that's how he's doing it.

JohnFH

Nick,

Fixed. I have a love-hate relationship with my spell-checker.

Jason,

I didn't know that. Maybe I've given him some homework.

Brooke

I kept starting to copy/paste selections into this comment, then resigned myself to a more flavorless "Yeah, what John said" comment.

To be fair, I can't imagine HuffPo to be the venue to bring out the best in Ehrman. We already have a culture in which there is no room for the picketers with the signs saying "The Truth is Complicated!" At HuffPo, I'm not sure they can spell "complicated," and I am sure that they won't pay a writer to try.

I'll be genuinely interested to hear Ehrman in 15-20 years, for the reasons you describe about the early fanaticism of the convert.

Brooke

rob

I appreciate the "why go balistic?" point. Viewed from the outside, Christians honor a canon of ancient books attributed to different authors. So what if some of those books were written by authors different than those purported? Only the ex fundy gets why it might be important, but other outsiders are probably wondering what the big deal is. Or just remembering that "Christians believe lies." So Barth is making a case that only Fundamentalists will appreciate, but his audience is non-fundamentalists.

Gary Simmons

I find Ehrman's simplifications simply maddening. But, then I indulge in a bit of righteous Schadenfreude by watching his interview on The Colbert Report.

Rob: A lot of people like to get their laughs from poking fun of Christians however they can possibly manage it. Example: comments on the debate on Gospel reliability between Ehrman and Craig Evans.

You see, when I engage in Schadenfreude, it's righteous. But when snarky anti-Christians do so on Youtube, it's shameful. But what Ehrman does is simply painful to listen to/read/watch. It's like he hit his head and somehow forgot the difference between the ancient worldview and today's with regards to historicity and truth/falsity.

Mike Gantt

I'm glad to see a biblical scholar take issue with Ehrman, because he so often gets a free ride from them. The pass is usually given on the basis that he is only popularlizing that upon which the academy (save the fundies who are barely tolerated in it anyway) agrees. Of course, this tacit imprimatur supports the massive damage Ehrman inflicts on those simple lay people who want to live by faith in Christ but who also have respect for biblical scholarship.

Thus, to borrow from Edmund Burke, all that is necessary for Ehrman to triumph is for other scholars to do nothing. I thank Christ that you, John, are not among them who do nothing. I hope the others will awaken from their slumber and follow your example.

I am not a fundamentalist either but I do believe faith in Christ is the way God would have us live.

Bryan Hodge

I'm curious as to whether he puts forth argumentation that the claimed authors are not the real authors, or if this is just asserted because it is currently the consensus among many academics? As far as I can tell, the prospect of nailing down a specific author and date for a book is often an educated guessing game with a definite start point and end point, but with a whole lot of room left in between, and really shouldn't be leading anyone to a dogmatic position based upon circumstantial evidence. If he merely uses the same arguments I've read in other scholars, he might want to tone the rhetoric down from the definite to the probable, if not to the possible "maybe." Does anyone know if he proposes something knew in his pop book?
And then, beyond this, to assert that pseudepigraphy cannot function in a literary fashion or as a faithful account of an individual or collective memory of apostolic teaching attributed to a specific apostle? I agree with you, John, this sort of rhetoric is sloppy and seeks only to ingrain in people's minds the presuppositions of the fundamentalist mentality in an effort to dissuade anyone from holding to Christian truths as legitimate. But I look forward to reading the academic monograph to see if I can learn something new from it nonetheless.

roger

Congrats, John, you have demonstrated virtually every element of the usual anti-Ehrman hysteria.

1) Name calling? Check.
2) False equivalencies? Check.
3) Strawmen? Check.

The bottom line here is a quibble with the word "lie," whether that implies malice. There is no doubt that the authors of some of the epistles (among other writings) were not truthful about their identities.

You will attack anyone whose opinion you believe will denigrate your opinion of the writings as inspired. But the fact is that the books were not written by the people that are named, that most people think of as he authors. And Ehrman's attempt to publicize the facts makes him a target of people who would rather that people not know.

Bryan Hodge

Roger,

May I ask you a question? Do you think Ehrman's analysis of the physical data refutes the metaphysical claim of its divine inspiration? Why or why not?

JohnFH

Hi Roger,

Nice of you to drop by. I hope you will stick around long enough to have a conversation.

I make no apologies for calling E a reverse fundamentalist. I motivate the characterization in my post. You are welcome to interact with my arguments.

You are also welcome to be specific about the false equivalencies and strawmen you think I have created. I took the time to lay out my differences with E. Perhaps you will reciprocate.

It's nice of you to try to reframe the question as a quibble about the word "lie." It's not that simple, but it is one starting point.

I have read countless NT scholars some of whom are Jewish and some of whom are agnostics or atheists like Ehrman. What E doesn't get is that virtually none of them go around saying that "the NT is full of lies" for a simple reason: they do not consider such a statement to be an accurate characterization.

Ehrman is free to exercise his 1st Amendment rights and put words into other people's mouths. But he can't expect others to turn the other cheek. It only makes sense to fight back. You would do the same, I'm convinced, if you were in my position.

What I do in the post is take the words out of the mouths of those E attributes them to. I re-assign them to their true author, who is none other than E. I identify false expectations. In my view, 90% of E's comments are the product of false expectations.

Perhaps E has done his homework on the issues he raises but so far I see little evidence for it.

His academic monograph is likely to be more balanced and cut out the fundamentalist/ anti-fundamentalist stuff, a distraction for anyone who truly wants to understand the politics of attribution in the ancient world both within and without the Christian community.

If so, the HuffPo piece is little more than sound and fury expressive of the state of mind of a former fundamentalist.

Mike Gantt

John, Charles Halton at Awilum has a complementary piece you might appreciate at least to some degree: http://awilum.com/?p=1665

JohnFH

Mike,

Thanks for the link. Halton's piece is hilarious.

phil_style

John,

I sometimes wonder if there is any parallel to be drawn by some of the ancient literature authorship, and the way in which people have historically spoken about military leaders.

For example, one might say that "Patton marched on Angers" when, in fact Patton might not have personally set foot in or anywhere near Angers. But the units under his command are all understood to have been "patton".

I'm not saying the comparison is identical, but rather that we might need to be careful about understanding linguistic norms before rushing to judgements.

JohnFH

I will come back to Ehrman if in the monograph in preparation he makes some progress on the many outstanding questions with respect to the politics of attribution in the ancient world.

Looney

Given the content of 2 Peter, I am wondering how many academics would consider the book to be both a forgery and also divinely inspired.

JohnFH

You might want to elaborate, Looney. It's not quite clear, at least to me, what you are driving at.

Looney

2 Peter, as with Jude, are primarily focused on false teachers. It gives prophecies of their war with scripture and their condemnation. As I see it, all teachers should proceed with fear and caution, trying to do their best to teach the Bible's message properly, since we can all fall under God's wrath.

To evaluate 2 Peter and Jude strike me almost as a conflict of interest for academics. How can I judge a document that specifically talks about me?

This is the context. So I am wondering how many theologians would claim that the author of 2 Peter wasn't Peter, so that the claims to being an eyewitness and present at the transfiguration are a lie, yet would preach the book from the pulpit and treat the content as serious.

For myself, I can't recall ever having heard someone preach on this book.

JohnFH

Hi Looney,

Now I follow your line of argument. It is true that many academics - and non-academics for that matter - would qualify as false teachers by 2 Peter's standards. Many others, however, would not, including, I would suggest, a number of scholars who are convinced that 2 Peter is a pseudepigraphon.

Case in point. Are you familiar with Richard Bauckham? It is hard to think of a NT scholar who has argued more persuasively that the gospels go back to eyewitness reports. Yet Bauckham has also argued for the view that 2 Peter was not written by Peter. This is not the place to reproduce his arguments, but here are the concluding paragraphs of the relevant section in his Word commentary:

The pseudepigraphal device is therefore not a fraudulent means of claiming apostolic authority, but embodies a claim to be a faithful mediator of the apostolic message. Recognizing the canonicity of 2 Peter means recognizing the validity of that claim, and it is not clear that this is so alien to the early church’s criteria of canonicity as is sometimes alleged. The case of the unfortunate author of the Acts Paul (Tertullian, De Bapt. 17; Green, Reconsidered, 33–34) is often referred to in this connection, together with Serapion’s investigation and rejection of the Gos. Pet. (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 6.12.1–6; Green, Reconsidered, 35–36), but, apart from the fact that the Acts Paul is not pseudepigraphal, but fictional, both cases involved unorthodox teaching, i.e. the attribution of nonapostolic teaching to the apostles (cf. Fornberg, Early Church, 18–19). Somewhat more relevant to the case of 2 Peter is Origen’s comment on Hebrews (ap. Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 6.25.13–14), which he regarded as effectively Paul’s because “the thoughts are the apostle’s,” though the composition must be attributed to a disciple (cf. also Tertullian, Adv. Marc. 4.5.4).

Of course, the authority of 2 Peter was disputed in the early church, in connection with its authorship (cf. Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 3.3.4; 6.25.8; Jerome, Ep. 120.11), and it was no doubt as a product of Peter’s own mind that it was generally accepted as canonical in the end. But we must reckon with a Gentile church which no longer understood the conventions of a Jewish literary genre, and which had had to sort out the genuinely apostolic from an abundance of late and often heretical pseudepigrapha. What the church actually recognized in 2 Peter was its apostolic content. That the NT canon should include a work which explicitly documents the preservation of the apostolic message through the transition from the apostolic age to the postapostolic age may be seen, from a modern perspective at least, to be appropriate. There is no reason why 2 Peter should not hold an honorable place in the canon of Scripture.

Bauckham, Richard J.: Word Biblical Commentary : 2 Peter, Jude. Dallas : Word, Incorporated, 2002 (Word Biblical Commentary 50), S. 161

JohnFH

I would argue once again that fundamentalists and reverse-fundamentalists come to gospels and the "last will and testament letters," both within and without the NT canon, with unrealistic and ill-fitting assumptions.

A brilliant summary of the development of the genre of "philosophical dialogue" by Plato by Charles Griswold is pertinent here. In place of "Plato," think of an author of a gospel, a letter, or a dialogue between sages in literature of Judaism or Christianity of the Greco-Roman period, and in place of the "historical Socrates," think of the historical Jesus, Paul, or Yohanan ben-Zakkai. I quote:

Plato perfected—perhaps even invented—a new form of discourse. The Platonic dialogue is a innovative type of rhetoric, and it is hard to believe that it does not at all reflect . . . Plato's response to the criticisms of writing which he puts into the mouth of his Socrates.

Plato's . . . dialogues are dramas with several formal features in common with much tragedy and comedy (for example, the use of authorial irony, the importance of plot, setting, the role of individual character and the interplay between dramatis personae). No character called “Plato” ever says a word in his texts. His works also narrate a number of myths, and sparkle with imagery, simile, allegory, and snatches of meter and rhyme. Indeed, as he sets out the city in speech in the Republic, Socrates calls himself a myth teller (376d9-10, 501e4-5). In a number of ways, the dialogues may be said to be works of fiction; none of them took place exactly as presented by Plato, several could not have taken place, some contain characters who never existed. These are imaginary conversations, imitations of certain kinds of philosophical conversations. The reader is undoubtedly invited to see him or herself reflected in various characters, and to that extent identify with them, even while also focusing on the arguments, exchanges, and speeches. Readers of Plato often refer to the “literary” dimension of his writings, or simply refer to them as a species of philosophical literature. . . . Plato's last word on . . . poetry and rhetoric is not spoken in his dialogues, but is embodied in the dialogue form of writing he brought to perfection.

End quote. Source: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/plato-rhetoric/#PlaDiaRhePoe

Fundamentalists and reverse-fundamentalists seem to suffer trauma to the extent that the NT writings appear to be like rather than unlike the writings of Plato.

Yet no one in antiquity except a sworn adversary of the content of said writings would have accused Plato of taking liberties in his style of writing that he shouldn't have.

It is, I submit, no different today. Ehrman's "full of lies" rhetoric does not hold up on the grounds he offers.

Looney

I will see if I can get a copy of Bauckmann.

"Fundamentalists and reverse-fundamentalists seem to suffer trauma to the extent that the NT writings appear to be like rather than unlike the writings of Plato. "

Could you elaborate on that some more? I have just seen worked through The Republic recently and found a number of instances where imagery is reused in the NT, yet I haven't seen anything to cause trouble for the fundamentalist. The impression I have is that the imagery is being used deliberately and thoughtfully by Paul or John. There is plenty to cause trouble for those who idolize Democracy! There is also the discussion of the evolution of morality which concludes with a requirement of heavenly intervention.

We should note that the dialog technique that Plato effectively uses elsewhere is a complete failure in The Republic. It is mostly of the form:

Socrates: "yada yada yada ... ain't that right?"
Glaucon, etc: "yup"
Socrates: "yada yada yada ... " repeating.

JohnFH

LOL, Looney. You are an acute reader.

It's not the content of the Dialogues or the Republic that, if found to some extent in the New Testament, would give indigestion to some. It is the form, the fact that "the dialogues may be said to be works of fiction; none of them took place exactly as presented by Plato, several could not have taken place, some contain characters who never existed."

What I am saying is that dialogues in the New Testament and the Talmud are no less stylized than those of Plato's Dialogues. Ehrman, reverse fundamentalist that he is, gets bent out of shape by this. At least, he pretends to, especially with the whole scale differences between the synoptic gospels on the one hand and John on the other (and the gospel of Thomas on a third).

I would counter: it's the idea that someone would write a gospel without stylizing and reshaping that is odd and historically implausible. Lying is not the issue.

Dave

Can you elaborate on what Amy Jill Levine actually wrote, and on how you are extending her argument? Was the paragraph following her name a citation? Thanks.

JohnFH

Hi Dave,

In her essay, Levine dismantles the narrative construct: misogynistic, legalistic Judaism was abolished and transcended by feminist, libertarian Jesus and Paul.

It is not her focus, but she doesn't buy the other construct either: feminist, libertarian Paul was voiced over by a reactionary conservative who wrote the Pastorals and turned Paul’s thought on its head.

If you want to read the article for yourself, say so and I will send you a pdf of the article.

Looney

John,

Here is a snippet of a classical historian criticizing another for lying (not quite, but...):

"In his thirty-fourth book Timaeus remarks that he lived in Athens continuously for fifty years as a foreigner, and admits that he had no experience of fighting and never visited plates to observe them at first hand. Accordingly, when he has to deal with such matters in his history he makes many errors and misstatements, and if he ever gets near the truth, it is rather in the manner of those animal painters who make their sketches from stuffed dummies. ..."

Polybius, The Rise Of The Roman Republic, Book XII. Polybius and Timaeus were working on the same subject matter and in the same genre, but had drastically different standards. Polybius isn't quite calling Timaeus a liar, but he is certainly calling him incompetent. At the same time, Timaeus isn't claiming to be an eyewitness to what he could not have seen.

Having read some commentaries on Plato, I am familiar with the claim that some of the dialogs appear implausible. In those cases, however, it isn't relevant and Plato's objective in presenting ideas is accomplished. The same commentaries will tell you that Xenophon's Socrates is much different from Plato's Socrates. The difference with the Bible are many, starting with the fact that the dialogs are brief and quickly transition. The other fact is that the Bible is presenting the complete person of Christ.

There are many variables in literature. Can we really argue that because two works can be classified as the same genre (with a big stretch), therefore work A must be as factually problematic as work B?

JohnFH

It is not a question of "must be" factually problematic. It is a question of "can be." Once that is admitted in theory, it then becomes a matter of investigation to what extent it is true in practice that narratives, language, and events were stylized for particular ends.

Put another way, on what grounds is a 21st century reader to insist that an ancient writer present the complete person of whom he speaks according to the conventions of this century rather than his century?

There are no grounds, except those of creative anachronism. What I'm saying is that a reverse-fundamentalist like Ehrman gives fundamentalists a bad name by associating them with his creative anachronism.

JohnFH

"Not irrelevant," to quote Seth Sanders:

As an eighteenth-century literature scholar, I find the fuss over the “truth” of memoirs to be silly and wrongheaded. . . . In the eighteenth century, one could argue, there was sometimes more truth in fictional fake memoirs than in real ones, as the fictional memoirists had more investment in conveying a sense of the true than did real memoirists, who had to avoid implicating themselves too deeply in crime and sin, and who had a motive to make themselves look good.

Still, the eighteenth century also saw the invention of the modern memoir, usually dated to Rousseau’s Confessions, a wonderful book that, in addition to lacerating self-incrimination may also contain much invention and/or paranoid self-delusion.

Source: http://quixotesteel.wordpress.com/2008/06/10/on-truth-and-the-lie/

Looney

"There are no grounds, except those of creative anachronism. ..."

There is one more challenge to be left. Yoder makes the same claims - that the gospels are full of junk - but then goes on to say that scholars can go back to the real stuff through there methods, and then writes a book claiming to fill in the truth. In fact, all he did was erase the Bible and back fill himself.

If we continue with the argument that classical literature is too much "other" for ordinary folk, we can dismiss fundamentalist hermeneutics. At the same time, we will be compelled to dismiss Augustine also, since his era is different from the NT. We are pretty much left with an assertion that only modern ivory tower scholars are capable of getting behind the curtain to see what really happened in the Bible and properly interpret. But are ivory tower scholars really capable of doing this? How would we test this proposition scientifically? And don't they have a financial stake in this belief?

There does seem to me to be a classical academic component to the argument ... knowledge isn't possible, therefore ...

terri

I've read through the lengthy comments, so if I have merged them in my mind and wind up replying to them out of order...let me know.

Here's what is at stake. Plato is not the same as The Bible. Plato's dialogs do not make the claim to be divinely inspired and delivered by God for the instruction of the church.

This is not about fundamentalism, at least not only fundamentalism.There are Christians along the entire denominational spectrum that exists, liberal and conservative, who would be troubled to discover that many things they have read and trusted are pseudo-epigraphal. That isn't how it is presented to them in sermons, Sunday School, Catechism, Bible Studies...etc.

What happens is that there winds up being a sense of betrayal that so much of their faith has been built on accepting and believing works attributed to the pillars of the faith. Discovering that these were not written by those pillars is paradigm shifting and devastating because it undermines all the ways that most of us have been taught to practice our faith and experience God.

I think it's easy on some of these biblioblogs to scoff at fundamentalists, or modernists, or "Enlightenment" rationalists.

John, you sometimes give the impression that it's just those silly fundamentalists that get caught up in these epistemological problems. If only they had had someone teach them the "right" way to read Scripture and formulate their faith...then these problems would be so easily avoided.

What I think you sometimes fail to realize is that your views, which are a combination of historical/scholarly/sometimes liberal, are in the minority.

Being in the minority isn't exactly bad....but I think you too easily dismiss the gravity of what average Christians, of all stripes, are facing.

When they discover that their teachers and ministers and those they have trusted to teach them about the most important things in life haven't gone out of their way to explain pseudo-epigrapha, but have continued Sunday after Sunday to present Scripture without these explanations, they lose trust in those teachers.

You see...it's not fair for those "in charge" to speak a common language with those who aren't "in charge" and yet mean vastly different things within that same language. Worse, doing so knowingly is just wrong. If you know that your congregation, or students in a classroom, or friend on the phone is asking you a question about whether 2nd Peter is "historical"...and you answer,"Yes," all the while knowing what they mean by their question, yet choosing to answer the question within your own framework, while ignoring theirs....then you have not been honest or reciprocal in the conversation.

Using one language to mean two vastly different things is unfair for those who don't know that you're doing it.

I think I would be a lot more tolerant of your take in these issues if I got the feeling that you recognize that those around you and probably the majority of your congregation are "modernists" and that you are sent to minister to them not scoff at the silliness of their modernism.

Instead, I'm left with the feeling that you have your intellectual cake and eat it too. You move back and forth between these two worlds easily.....which is great for you, personally.

But how about forming a bridge between the two worlds for everyone else to walk across?


JohnFH

Hi Terri,

Thank you for a honest and heart felt comment, in my view the best on this thread to date.

I am committed to helping readers, whatever their point of departure, escape from the modernist/ fundamentalist way of framing the issues. The reason is simple: the fundamentalist / reverse fundamentalist mindset brings false expectations to the texts. It misreads them by definition.

It takes patience and a strong gift of the imagination - excellent reading requires both - in order to understand the conventions of genres of literature we ourselves do not use. An example.

It was normal in antiquity for scholars in a particular tradition to write up a last will and testament, sometimes in the form of a letter, of a founding figure, with the product intended as a vehicle of the founding figure's teachings or of that subset of them which needed emphasis in a particular circumstance. If the founding figure's teachings were not available, then they were "interpolated" just as an historian like Thucydides would interpolate a speech of a general in a history, based on what he thought a general would have said on the narrated occasion.


Voila, perhaps - we don't actually know; it is plausible but not a given - 2 Peter and 1 Timothy.

To which both the fundamentalist and the modernist will respond, unless they are able to reconstruct their expectations: "in that case, the Bible depends on a string of falsehoods."

To which a student of the ancient world can only say: not so fast.

The politics of attribution of the ancient world - every culture has conventions of attribution - depended on choices that were rarely if ever examined in situ - that is the part of the definition of "conventions." That means that many texts started out being understood for what they are and quickly ended up being understood for what they are not. Beyond that annoying and complicating factor, it is not for us to say, if we are committed to a tradition that understands these texts to be a theological and moral compass, which genres are suited to the purpose and which are not. That would be a form of cultural imperialism.

Even if we have *no such* commitments, it doesn't make sense to say, "I'm all right with fables - attributed to Aesop though there is no way to tell for sure which are his and which aren't - but not with conversations between gods and people as in the Iliad, because that's just made up; and not with the Sibylline Oracles because that style of prediction was incubated and follows conventions that do not fit our cultural assumptions."

True, as you imply, it is possible to avoid taking the truth-claims of these texts seriously because they are not part of a canon we uphold (they were in antiquity, none the less). Still, the truth-claims of all these texts, the dialogues and Republic most certainly were meant to be given the highest consideration. It is a useful exercise for a modern reader to ask the question: given that Plato fictionalizes, given that he puts words into Socrates' mouth he didn't actually say (but might have said, from a certain point of view), are these matters grounds for describing Plato as a liar? Are they reasons to dismiss the truth claims Plato puts forward?

If the answer is "no," then I would say that the answer should be "no" for biblical literature as well. If the answer is no, furthermore, Ehrman's argument falls to the ground.

The case of Daniel is different again - Ernst Lucas in his contribution to ZIBBC is more successful than most at building bridges in the sense you suggest:

http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2009/10/genre-identifications-in-the-zibbc-part-2.html

Or try this post in the same series:

http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2009/10/genre-identifications-in-the-zibbc-part-1.html

Since the first goal of most religious interpreters of the Bible is to strengthen the faith of listeners, these questions are rarely if ever handled. However, I'm convinced that that is not a viable strategy. I have even called it a "faithless" strategy. Perhaps my language is too strong but I feel strongly about these things.

John

Having just finished reading E. Randolph Richards':Paul and First Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition and Collection. I find it interesting that apparently Ehrman says the following in his new book.

“Virtually all of the problems with what I’ve been calling forgeries can be solved if secretaries were heavily involved in the compositions of the early Christian writings.” [p. 134]


Regards,
John

JohnFH

Looney,

I come from a family of bankers and lawyers. If I wanted to make money, I picked the wrong profession.

At a certain point, modernists and fundamentalists alike, both of whom claim to be ordinary folk, have to decide if there is a chance that they are missing something. The funny thing is: both categories stand or fall together.


John,

I see that that sentence of his is making the rounds among Christian apologists. A curse on their house, too. Ehrman goes right on to say, "Despite the popularity of this theory, I am going to argue, once again, that it simply does not have credible evidence to back it up."

E is right about that. At the very least, I have yet to see the argument formulated in a compelling way. If you think it has, I invite you to summarize the argument or reference it.

Looney

John, I am still curious of your thoughts on my last concern: Can't the exact same argument that is made against the fundamentalist be made against John Wesley? Doesn't everyone approach a text starting from their own cultural framework? How about Luther and Calvin? Jerome knew Hebrew, but I read that it wasn't too strong and he certainly had no way to compare with other ANE sources. Augustine quotes extensively from classical sources, but he is separated both culturally and linguistically from the Bible. A Catholic catechism puts another barrier between the Bible and the student so that they are even further removed from scripture than fundamentalists. Then there are all those groups that don't even teach the Bible.

Taking the cumulative 2,000 year history of the church, is anyone left standing?

JohnFH

Now I follow you.

Of course it's the opposite. The ones who do not understand a word of the original languages and misunderstand half of what they read but get the gist and live on that basis are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Blessings accrue to a wide range of categories according to Matthew 5, but those who understand the fine points of a discipline of knowledge, whether it be music theory, Bible theory, or quantum physics, no particular blessings are said to accrue to them, and in fact none do.

According to Paul in 1 Cor 13, the only kind of knowledge that matters is relational knowledge: faith, hope, and love. The most important kind of relational knowledge is love. Not surprising given what the author of 1 John says, to wit, that God is love.

The kind of things we are talking about are examples of notional knowledge. This kind of knowledge, according to the apostle to the Gentiles, will pass away. Even now, it is of limited value.

The kind of questions that we like to dwell on, because we can, because we have resources for reaching conclusions about them that previous generations could not have dreamed to have had, questions of date, authorship, text, and provenance, questions of context, questions of the exact meaning of particular words, the history of the canon, even if we got them all right, this kind of knowledge has nothing to do with the kind of things that matter most according to the Bible, things like the restoration of all things, God reconciling himself to his creation, the one who came, not to save know it alls, but seekers.

The things that matter most according to the Bible. Do fundamentalists get them? Modernists? People in between or in another place altogether? Catholics? Evangelicals? Confessional Lutherans? High Anglicans?

In all cases, some do and some don't. At least that is my experience.

Looney

Amen to that!

Mike Gantt

Looney,

I add my "Amen" to yours! John's brief words were among the most profound I have ever read. This itself testifies to the truth of what he wrote, for in a comment to a blog post we can find a pearl of greater price than is found in many a gilded book.

My heart thrilled at those words, and I will read them again. May we all speak by the Spirit that spoke through him in that moment.

BHodges

First time lurker, just wanted to say thanks for putting this post together in response to Ehrman, and I also enjoyed the comments exchanged.

Gary Simmons

John, I'd be interested in a copy of Levine's article also, if you don't mind. Thanks!

Joseph

Terri's post echoes my sentiments exactly. As a lay Christian, hearing about pseudoepigrapha for the first time this year, my voice from the pew is:

Why hasn't anybody told me this before?!

Whether we think (like Ehrman) that pseudoepigrapha is forgery, or think (like our host on this post) that pseudoepigrapha was culturally acceptable and no concern for inspiration, I still want to know:

Why hasn't anybody told me this before?!

We protestants give such huge emphasis to bible study - these understandings can't help but change the way I think about these words.

I can't claim to be biblical scholar, but I am well-read. Your comparison of epistles to Plato's Dialogues of Socrates just doesn't hold any water for me. Sounds like a huge category confusion. Who could mistake dramatic dialogues for - what? True biographies? The memoirs of Socrates? Nobody. On the other hand, who could mistake a forged letter as being written by the real apostle. As it turns out, lots of people - especially since those forgeries that were detected (or disliked for their orthodoxy) were thrown out of the canon by 3rd and 4th century Christians.

I'm not saying we should embrace Dr. Ehrman's conclusions. I'm just saying that folks on my side of the pew never hear about, much less grapple realistically, with these issues.

Joseph

And someone looking over my shoulder has corrected me ... pseudepigrapha, not pseudoepigrapha ...

Oh well, as I said, I'm just a guy from the pew.

terri

And someone looking over my shoulder has corrected me ... pseudepigrapha, not pseudoepigrapha ...

hehehe...I realized that after I wrote my comment also...but that is par for the course for me and my terrible proof-reading skills. ;-)

JohnFH

Hi Joseph,

I am not the best person to answer your "why not?" questions, since it does not fit my upbringing. When I was knee high to a grasshopper in Sunday school, we began to learn about these things. For example, we were introduced to the mysterious "J" in second grade. He was a member of the court of King Solomon. I remember a picture of him striding across across the Judean countryside.

I don't remember a lesson about the disciple of Paul who re-presented Paul to his own generation, like Carl Sandberg re-presented Lincoln to his. The disciple who wrapped himself up in Paul's persona with great skill and effectiveness in 1 Timothy and translated Paul for such a day as his. But there is no reason why a Sunday school lesson like that could not be written.

I was treated to a perfectly liberal and perfectly pious education as a Sunday school brat. I wasn't traumatized the way you and Terri speak of. My pastor was a graduate of Boston University and had marched with MLK. His sermon illustrations tended to be taken right from the New York Times and the New Yorker - pretty lame in its own way - but he never condescended relative to us or to Scripture. Not that he talked about authorship of Bible passages from the pulpit. He nonetheless preached in such a way that what he said was compatible with the things he learned at BU.

I worked though these things as a young person without being overwhelmed, thanks to that "liberal" education.

For example, Ehrman harps on the enormous differences between the Jesus of John and the Jesus of the synoptics. He's right about that, but *no one* should need E to point that out. Most of the things E talks about are out in the open. They are visible to everyone except those who have their eyes wide shut.

I came to the conclusion when I was 12 or 13 - right about the time I had a dramatic conversion experience to Christ - that the long speeches of Jesus in the gospel of John reflect the categories and concepts of the gospel's author, that the telling of every episode was stylized in the same way as the dramatic dialogues of Plato are stylized. I saw no "category confusion" then and do not see one now. Is there not a chance at least that you are bringing false expectations to the text?

Where on earth did you get the idea that the gospel of John or any other gospel ought to reproduce the memoirs of Jesus? Or that they are "true biographies," a genre of literature that did not and could not have existed in antiquity, and would have been particularly hard for followers of Jesus to deploy, given that the Jesus of whom they spoke was someone they continued to experience in worship, who revealed himself to them in visions, who walked with them and talked with them along life's narrow way. The only thing that is surprising is the extent to which it seems possible to recover a pre-resurrection Jesus from the canonical gospels.

I imagine a court-scene in heaven that goes like this. On one side, a bunch of incorrigible modernists and fundamentalists accusing the authors of the gospel of John and 1 Timothy of not living up to their expectations. In the witness stand, there is John saying "that which we have seen, that which we have touched . . . " In whose favor do you think the judge should rule? I have no doubts.

I need to blog more about these things. Relative to 1 Timothy, I touched on the question here:

http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2008/03/a-literary-tran.html

The most important example of authorship as a hermeneutical construct in biblical literature concerns Moses, to whom all law is attributed in the Torah, even though the legal materials in the Torah represent developments and revisions that came into existence of hundreds of years after Moses, with those elaborating on it for their day referred to as sitting in the seat of Moses in the gospel of Matthew.

Go here:

http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2007/08/authorship-as-a.html

Here is a question for you and for Terri: does what I say about Moses lead you to thinking that you can reject the truth claims of Torah on that basis? I see no difference between that question and another: does what I say about the gospel of John and 1 Timothy lead you to thinking that you can reject the truth claims of both books?

If you answer "yes" I frankly think that you have a condescending attitude toward standard issue vehicles of truth of other times and places.

Mike Gantt

John,

Joseph and Terry have demonstrated that they are well able to answer your question for themselves and, in fact, I greatly look forward to your continued interaction with them.

However, I feel compelled to draw your attention to one very practical aspect of their query that I think you have overlooked. That is, the alternative view of biblical authorship you propose the pewdwellers accept is considerably harder to grasp than you suppose. To be specific, they can currently read their Bibles and accept authorship at face value. If, on the other hand, they are to accept the claims of modern scholarship (that Ehrman says should scandalize and that you say deserve no more than a yawn), that is much easier said than done. Are lay people reared in churches unlike yours to learn JEPD? Are they to discern which of Paul's 13 letters are the 7 he really wrote? Are they to know that John's claim to have laid his head in Jesus' bosom that fateful night not to be taken seriously? That is, quite apart from whether modern scholarship is right or wrong about its conclusions, there is no denying that its conclusions are not as clear and as accessible as the table of contents in a Bible. Given its complexity and relative inaccessability therefore, pewdwellers are almost forced into "Well, if I don't know which parts to trust as written, I can't trust any of it." To you, who are thoroughly educated in what can and can't be taken at face value, such a conclusion appears to be overreaction (fundamentalist dysfunction, you might call it). But please reconsider...for unless you're going to get Bible publishers to recatalog Bible contents according to current scholarly consensus on authorship (or maybe provide laminated inserts with the revised table of contents?), you're imposing a very unpleasant choice on unprofessional Bible readers: The simplicity and immediacy of face value or the complexity and uncertain knowledge of modern scholarly consensus.

terri

John,

Thank you for treating us to the retelling of your life as a theologically astute "wunderkind". That wasn't at all condescending...to use a term implied by the end of your comment.

I mean if you were so astute as a 12 year, old then the rest of us must be quite behind you in intellectual fortitude.

You wrote:

For example, Ehrman harps on the enormous differences between the Jesus of John and the Jesus of the synoptics. He's right about that, but *no one* should need E to point that out. Most of the things E talks about are out in the open. They are visible to everyone except those who have their eyes wide shut.

This is simply unfair. It wasn't until just this past year that I realized that Gospel of John makes no mention of any demons or exorcisms. Even after the last several years of my exposure to serious biblical criticism, not apologetically-driven criticism, I still hadn't "seen" that....even though it was right there in the wide open.

After the history you provided in your last comment, I can see why you are so perplexed. You have no insight or sympathy for the fundamentalist/evangelical/modernist/rationalist zeitgeist. You simply don't get it, and with your background, I don't know if you ever will.

Because you don't get it, you make too many assumptions and judgements about people like myself, or Joseph, or any other person from that particular tribe.

We didn't see these things that were in the "wide open" because every Sunday sermon, every religious broadcast, every Christian song, every Christian magazine article, every informal small group, or Bible study was built upon the presupposition that everything in The Bible was the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God Himself. That was a given. We were taught to look at individual epistles or gospels or prophets....because it was known that "the whole Bible is about Jesus...from Genesis to Revelation"(to use a common trope). It didn't matter that text A might disagree with text B because we were taught to look at the different texts as continuing chapters of one book with one author--God--not separate works from authors who probably would disagree with each other, or at the very least had far different points of views and agendas.

When you believe in the unified whole and base all of your life's decisions, all the ways you choose to think, and all of your religious experiences upon it, and then discover that there is no such thing....well that is mind-blowing.

******I started this comment, got called away from my computer and saw that Mike had replied in the meantime. He does a good job of articulating part of what I am talking about. And he said it a little less hysterically too! ;-)********

terri

We were taught to look at individual epistles or gospels or prophets should read...We were not taught to look at individual epistles, or gospels, or prophets.

JohnFH

Mike,

I for one am not in favor of teaching scripture from a polychrome Bible with each source given a color. It's a lot of fun, I admit; it can be a helpful exercise in the context of graduate study.

But if you want to be fully modern and fully ancient at the same time as it were, if you want to read ancient texts from a modern perspective but without forcing those texts into a modern straight-jacket, reading about JEDP will be of a little help, exploring the differences between the four Gospels of a bit more help, but I think there are far better more effective approaches. If you are interested in what the Bible is actually trying to communicate, try John Goldingay's Old Testament Theology and Leonhard Goppelt's New Testament Theology (just examples). Both of these scholars know the critical theories inside and out and subscribe to some version of them, and then go on to give a trust-filled reading of all the texts.

If this is about deciding whether to trust or not to trust 1 Timothy based on whether Paul or a disciple of Paul wrote it, we are back to square one.

Many rabbis preach from the Torah knowing full well that Moses is the author of Torah in the sense I refer to in the post I linked to; many pastors and priests preach from 1 Timothy with similar knowledge. Yet they do so and respect the truth-claims of the texts at the same time.

Can you explain why you have a problem with that?

JohnFH

Terri,

Touche! I've got to go and teach class now, so I won't be able to reply until this afternoon.

I would say right away that the Bible is comparable to a grand concerto, with each book representing another instrument, and with one conductor - God- of it all. The comparison stands no matter how many extra instruments modern biblical criticism posits.

Mike Gantt

John,

I luv ya, but I gotta say that when I read your recommendation that pewdwellers read Goldingay's three volumes and Goppelt's two (a total of over 3,000 pages) just so they won't embarrass themselves by saying in public, "As Paul wrote to Timothy..." I couldn't help thinking to myself "Marie Antoinette could not have said it better."

You just don't get it. Bear in mind, John, that I'm a huge fan of yours. You are a scholar among scholars and, as I wrote above, you blew me away with your summation to Looney. You are rare: a man of erudition, integrity, and upon whom the hand of God can be seen.

Bear in mind also that, as I said, and as Terri confirmed, I am only dealing with one part of the issue set she and Joseph raised, to wit, the practical aspect of rejecting face value authorship for acceptance of modern critical scholarship. Let me try again.

I am not saying that there is any rule of thumb that will make all parts of the Bible easy to understand. However, when it comes to simple matters like "Were the letters of Paul written by Paul?" you have to have some sympathy for John Doe and Jane Roe who throw up their hands when you tell them they can't necessarily trust what the pages in front of them say but neither can you tell them the correct answer quickly and easily. You've shaken their faith in the text...and now on top of that you're going to castigate them for being shaken? (Calling someone a fundamentalist is a time-efficient way of castigating.)

Consider this: I give you some food and say, "Some of this food can be eaten without cooking it first." You reply, "Which is which?" I say, "That can't be answered quickly and easily, but here are some cook books which have the answer." Unless you've got more time on your hands than most people, I'd say I've just increased the probability that you're going look elsewhere for food.

JohnFH

Mike,

Actually, my preferred description of people who get their knickers in a knot when it is pointed out that, to use Terri's example, the gospel of John leaves out exorcisms, not because Jesus was not an exorcist (of course he was), but because it does not serve John's purposes to include them, is "plain silly."

Aren't these kind of differences part of the richness of the gospel witness?

I find it comforting that John found no place for exorcisms in his gospel just as I find it comforting that Calvin has no use for the book of Revelation (he did not comment on it or sermonize on it) - even though I preach gladly and willingly on exorcisms and am convinced that authentic exorcisms occur today, and even though I preach gladly and willingly from Revelation.

Of course you are right that if I expected pew dwellers or anyone else to read 3000 pages and then get back to me, I would be out of my mind. But I didn't say that.

A scholar of ancient texts - whether we are talking about the Bible, Gilgamesh, or the Iliad is immaterial in the first instance - if she or he feels those texts have something to say of great value, will seek to overcome the natural inclination of many modern readers to never give the texts a reading on their own terms. She will defend the texts from false expectations and, at the same time, lay out alternative theories of authorship, date, provenance, etc.

Let's think a bit more about your preferred example, 1 Timothy and Paul.

In a Bible study context, I will lay out the theories about authorship carefully and, without being high-handed like Ehrman is, suggest that the view that a disciple of Paul's, not Paul, wrote the letter, accounts for the evidence best. But that is the midpoint of the conversation. I go on to help them imagine themselves as 1 Timothy's first readers, who would have been in on the fact that a teacher they revered had wrapped himself in the persona of his revered teacher. The giving and receiving of the contents of the book was not a betrayal of trust, but an extension of trust.

Put it another way: if in that Bible study situation, I allow you to discover that 1 Timothy may have been written by a disciple of Paul, your response is, "That just goes to show you can't trust the Bible," then I would have to respond: please listen more carefully. Stop being such an imperialistic reader. Let it be, for goodness' sake. If you don't want to take it from me, take it from the Beatles.

Mike Gantt

John, thanks for your thoughtful response. However, I'm going to drop out of the conversation after this comment because I have failed to communicate my point to you, and therefore I don't want to distract further from your broader conversation with Terri and Joseph. I say that I've failed to communicate my point to you because your response doesn't address it. To be responsive to you, I will say that I fully agree with your GJohn example and would readily give the same response as you. As for your 1 Timothy example, while I don't agree with it, I do think it is a reasonable argument. It just doesn't address the point I was raising.

JohnFH

Terri,

I imagine you will not be surprised if I reply that I am extremely familiar with modern misreadings of ancient texts. I teach these texts day after day, to pew dwellers, Cub scouts, high schoolers, and university students in ministry contexts; I teach and/or write about the same texts in secular contexts for university students, grad and undergrad, and academic colleagues.

I run across the modernist/reverse fundamentalist and fundamentalist approach to scripture all the time. Bart Ehrman is simply one example.

Just because brilliant scholars refuse to read the texts on their own terms doesn't make it right.

I think of you as a gifted reader who is capable or would be capable of explaining better than I can why a letter like 1 Timothy, if written by a disciple of Paul's, can be understood as an effective re-presentation of Paul in a changed situation.

Am I wrong about that?

I understand your dismay if the teachers you have had have treated you like a child too young to be told the truth about Santa - not the best analogy, but that must be how it feels.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think 12 year olds do not have difficulty for example in understanding that Leviathan is a mythological creature in the Bible and (not *but*) corresponds as such to realities of the deepest kind.

Even so, when I go over these things with college students, like you they look at me as if I had just hit them with a ton of bricks.

It can't be helped.

As far as I can see, it's all about goals.

If you have doubts about the verities of a faith in which you were raised, and you turn to historical knowledge in order to find confirmation for your doubts, you will find it.

My goals are different. I discovered early on that I had an insufficient grasp of the verities I felt inclined to reject. I realized I didn't understand what I wanted to reject. So I began a quest to understand, on the assumption, subject to dis-confirmation, that maybe these texts do have something to say of great value.

Along the way, I discovered a whole new world, the world of the ancients, in which animal sacrifice was almost universal, people kept slaves as a matter of course, and ritualized violence in disturbing ways.

I also discovered a world that was perhaps superior to ours in a number of important ways, a world in any case that has much to teach us.

To return for a moment to another matter. Why do I not say from the pulpit that Paul didn't write 1 Timothy? Why do I merely phrase things now and then such that someone who thinks - as I do - that one of Paul's disciples wrote it knows that we are on the same page?

For the reason you yourself note. If it is already a reason for scandal that John left out the exorcisms of Jesus, how much more will it be a scandal to talk about these things from the pulpit?

In short, I think you are too harsh on those who raised you in your faith. Without perhaps even knowing why, they adjusted their presentation to ensure that it would not be dismissed out of hand.

terri

First...I did not say anything about GJohn leaving out exorcisms being a scandal. I simply pointed out that I had never realized that GJohn never addressed it....even though I have read the gospels dozens...if not hundreds of times.

I didn't see it because I was trained not to see it. Even after being more knowledgable and reading with a critical eye, it was something that still escaped my attention until I was having a conversation with someone else, explaining that I really didn't believe in "spirits". It was just another reminder about how different GJohn approaches Jesus and what it thinks is most important about Jesus. I never for once thought to myself "This proves Jesus wasn't an exorcist!".

As far as being "raised in my faith", I became a Christian at the age of seventeen and most everything I learned I learned as an adult, or as a near-adult. So, the comparison to childhood, Santa, etc...is very far of the mark.

You write:

In short, I think you are too harsh on those who raised you in your faith. Without perhaps even knowing why, they adjusted their presentation to ensure that it would not be dismissed out of hand.

How is this not a form of manipulation?

If a man gets a woman to marry him by leaving out certain choice facts, and then after his new wife discovers these new fact he says he did it so that she wouldn't dismiss him out of hand....wouldn't that be a horribly awful thing to do? Wouldn't the wife rightly feel disillusioned, upset, and wronged? Wouldn't she wonder how trustworthy her husband is?

That example is truer to what modernists feel because what we have learned we have learned within a community....and when these sorts of things come out and we discover that some people, not all, willfully and purposely leave things out for "our own good" that is the true scandal.

Knowledge and language are powerful. Those who have the most knowledge and are the most skillful with language, and use it to do what they think "is best" for others without the others knowing about it, are essentially declaring their own superiority to themselves and those around them.

That is what is condescending.

This isn't exactly about texts having great value or inherent truth regardless of who wrote them.

What you mistake for modernist foolishness is actually sincere earnestness. This is devastating to Christian modernists because we have so thoroughly tried to do everything in our power to live life honoring God and spending inordinate amounts of time studying, reading, living as best we can/could according to what "The Bible says". Earnest moderns can't simply look at a command in Scripture and choose to ignore it. They either have to find a way to incorporate it, or find a credible trusted teacher to explain it away for them so that they aren't troubled by it, or wind up feeling ashamed and guilty that they don't understand or cant accept that particular Scriptural teaching.

I know, I know...it sound very silly looking at it from the outside....but it is the internal, emotional reality of many a fundamentalist/evangelical/modernist.

And....I don't think that all of the teachers in my past obfuscated about the true nature of things. I think that many of them simply didn't know any better themselves. They were taught by someone with authority, and then were themselves elevated to teaching authority without even knowing what they didn't know. Yet...that never stopped them from proclaiming with deadly certainty what they thought was true.

terri

As far as the implication of pseudepigraphy for canonicity and authority...

Yes...to some degree...I think that pseudepigrapha, within the framework that most Christians think in, makes some portions of Scripture less binding than others.

On the other hand, if we had not been taught to look at faith and Scripture in the ways that we had, but had been presented the facts and "truths" as community-held truths....like a sort of Midrash in which we were presented with the ways different schools of thought looked at things, or the philosophical underpinnings of our faith....then the whole question of what's binding might not even exist.

There would be the possibility of evaluating those truths based on community criteria, or intuitive criteria, rather than being told that, like it or not, we have to accept it as The Truth simply because it was placed in The Bible.

People aren't stupid. What you call modernism also has its share of "common sense" or "conventional wisdom". I don't think it is unique to our current age or mindset. It might exist in different qualities, or quantities than in times past....but it has never been absent. Declaring that the ancients are so different from us and understood everything so completely differently actually does more to make Scripture irrelevant than any modernist can.

You make them sound so incomprehensible to us that it seems like more of an argument to ignore what they have to say than anything Bart Ehrman can dish out.

JohnFH

Terri,

Okay. Now I understand better. I was misled by the following comment:

When they discover that their teachers and ministers and those they have trusted to teach them about the most important things in life haven't gone out of their way to explain pseudo-epigrapha, but have continued Sunday after Sunday to present Scripture without these explanations, they lose trust in those teachers.

End quote. I took that to be a reference to your teachers. In fact, you point out, and I have no reason to doubt it:

I think that many of them simply didn't know any better themselves. They were taught by someone with authority, and then were themselves elevated to teaching authority without even knowing what they didn't know.

"Not even knowing what they didn't know" is likely to be on the mark. So then, where is the manipulation? Good faith is a better description.

But I agree about the need for truth in advertising. It is the case for example that New Testament Christianity in all of its immense diversity is not only similar but very different again from Christianity as understood and practiced in the modern world. I like the marriage analogy because I do marriage prep on a regular basis and it fits. That is, two people about to be married need to know that things will happen that will change them forever and they will wake up next to their spouse someday and say, "I've changed; you've changed. We are not the same people we were when we got married." Not at all.

There is no betrayal. These kind of changes come with the territory. If the territory really changes, as it did with Job, then you're talking. But even he is able to come out on the other side - with most of his questions unanswered.

For the rest, I'm not convinced by your claim that authority is tied up with the things you say it is. Seriously, I don't follow. The reference to Midrash is interesting because Midrash is, in Jewish tradition where it occurs, taken with complete seriousness.

Go to a synagogue today and you are likely hear the passage of Torah read explained in terms of a Midrash even though Midrash is "made up" from a rationalist, common sense point of view. It's just one more example, if any were needed, of the fact that common sense is often terribly limiting.

Midrash: it's all "made up;" it may or may not be attributed to someone, but that is a non-issue with respect to degree of authority. As it should be.

At a certain point, the words of 1 Timothy stand or fall on their own. Do they have the ring of truth, and in what sense?

Of course you are right that "the gap" has nothing to do with being smart or not so smart, with being 12 years old, 17 years old, or 30 or 50. I think you express the conundrum well in the following:

Earnest moderns can't simply look at a command in Scripture and choose to ignore it. They either have to find a way to incorporate it, or find a credible trusted teacher to explain it away for them so that they aren't troubled by it, or wind up feeling ashamed and guilty that they don't understand or cant accept that particular Scriptural teaching.

That's well put but you can leave the word "moderns" out. That's the situation of everyone. It is natural too that people make different determinations about the hierarchy of truth.

Still, I can't help thinking that you are poorly served by your modernism. If the common sense of modern thinking is the benchmark against which you take ancient thinking's measure such that you find it wanting, what's left?

For Adolf Harnack, the doyen of theological liberalism, it was "the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man." Then he turned around, like all the other common-sense intellectuals of his day, and endorsed his government's choice to enter WW I.

Maybe it's better not to know what you don't know rather than know as little as Harnack did. I don't quite know what it is, but there seems to be something self-defeating at the core of theological liberalism.

Finally, one more note on "common sense." I agree with James McGrath's recent comment:

I think that religious believers who have not been trained to switch off their common sense when reading the Bible would recognize that a talking snake is an important clue about genre.

Well, yeah. Furthermore, if someone says, if that is the genre, I can safely ignore its truth claims, they make a worse mistake, even if it is a "modern" mistake.

It's doesn't matter whether we are reading Enuma Elish or Genesis 3. It takes a gifted imagination to read the text on its own terms. It is a gift worth seeking.

terri

OK....last comment from me.

I never said Midrash wasn't taken seriously. There is a difference in being aware of the different ways that people think about issues and being even encouraged to engage with those different angles, and being told that whatever is in Scripture is in Scripture and you must accept it simply because it is in Scripture.

Most of us were OK with that because we believed that all of the Scripture we had was eye-witness, historical testimony written directly by those involved in the events. Most of us were especially taught this in relation to the New Testament.

Turns out that it wasn't exactly so....or at least not in the way we thought it was so.

As far as how well modernism has served me. I have argued this particular thread with you as a modernist/fundamentalist/evangelical. Personally, I would put "post" in front of any number of those in relation to myself......but I have great sympathy for where I came from and for those who are still there and feel as if you caricature their plight and motives uncharitably.

I was hoping to make you rethink that.

As for the general point of the thread....it's all about timing and foreknowledge. Those who didn't know what they didn't know may get let off the hook....but they were usually taught by someone who did know. People may change during marriage and wind up being married to someone who is completely different 20 years later....but that's not the same as being purposely misled before you ever got married.

You wrote:

"Not even knowing what they didn't know" is likely to be on the mark. So then, where is the manipulation? Good faith is a better description.

But faith in what exactly? Faith in a human construct that you, yourself, do not take part in?

Certainly the sincerity is good....the earnestness is laudable....the passion wonderful.....but it revolves around a narrative that has been constructed by purposely left out bits.

That doesn't mean the story isn't good. It means that the story needs to be constructed differently to address these parts.

Yet...I never see anyone constructing the story to include these left-out bits. It seems everyone either likes to do a total take-down, or insist that even though we know X,Y, and Z aren't literally or historically true they are still "true".

Anyway.....I'm done. I give up and bow to your superior blogging/commenting stamina! ;-)

JohnFH

Thanks, Terri, for the conversation.

I don't know anything about the faith community which has nurtured you over the years. It saddens me to think that it misled you and betrayed your trust. If, in addition to doing that, that environment taught that if a painting by Chagall or Van Gogh or a passage of Scripture isn't a literal representation, it is inadequate vehicle of truth, I am saddened even more.

I wish you well and hope you find a community of faith that encourages you to trust that whatever is in Scripture is true yet allows you to say, "I believe, help my unbelief!" rather than force you to hide your doubts.

Gary Simmons

A few thoughts:

I think it's not always possible or even wise to try to teach someone the hard sayings of the Gospel Truth. We live in a modern culture in which literature and art are not generally appreciated as vehicles of truth. So, when people begin to take the Bible as truth, in what format do they assume it to be? History in the strictest sense. The Bible's truth makes us feel secure, and since we only draw security today from strictly cited history, we assume that it must therefore be exactly that.

And so, the problem for lay readers is at ground level working a reverse logic.

How, seriously, can we expect to fix this? Shall we abstain from textual studies as such temporarily just to convey the point that art and literature are legitimate vehicles of truth apart from history? Many churches, including the more conservative elements of the Church of Christ tradition I was nurtured in, do not have the capacity, nor the inclination, to address that most basic point. [That, and we have a rather divisive nature that would lead to a schism, no doubt.]

Our society is willing to skimp on learning classical literature, so many people are not acquainted with anything of a genre similar to the Bible. So, they fit it into the genres they know.

While this may be unfortunate, that's how it is. I don't consider it condescending to say that the problem is with our basic educational system and our basic presuppositions about what is or is not an acceptable vehicle for truth claims.

Trying to get everyone to unlearn these things would be unreasonable. Many are so utterly certain that they will not listen, even if you try. And hey -- who wants to get kicked out of a church for defending the inauthenticity of 2 Peter? Aren't there more important battles?

Or should we also tell people there's no one named James in the Bible, it's actually Jacob? And Jude/Judas are both actually Judah? And Jesus is actually Joshua?

Put on one side of the scale, these matters are lighter than the ones that should be very obvious: there is evil in this world. We all are part of it. And yet, there is a longing for something good -- something orderly and purposeful. A longing for love. A longing for justice.

"The Lord looks down on men from heaven to see if there are any who understand, who seek God..." What will he find? Likely, people quibbling over silly issues that wouldn't be so serious if people actually had an education that challenged their own cultural assumptions, but then again, it's not right to smash people for having an inadequate education.

So, we either leave it as is, or try to remedy it. Either way can be disastrous.

Joseph

John

Thanks for being so patient in this discussion. Let me see if I can put what's troubling me into words; I'm not really suggesting that it's your job to resolve these issues for me. I just want to put them out on the table.

Though this is new to me, I think I get what you are saying about the authors of ancient texts. No matter what we think about the truth of who they claim to be, or the verbatim truth of the "history" they present: on a deeper level, we should still value the truth of what they say.

I understand that I can read Plato's dialogues and (whoever's) letters to Timothy, and garner truth from the writing on it's own merits, regardless of who wrote it. In some ways, I can see how this point of view can open up a wonderful new world of insights.

But there is a difference in the way I have always read Plato (or my truly great literary love - Shakespeare) and the way I have read any given biblical writer. I have always been taught that biblical writing is "inspired". Perhaps I may be oversimplifying the difference, but here's how I've seen it:

I have read Plato and other classic authors and "cherry picked" my favorite truths from the text. I have also dismissed what they say, when I find it irrelevant, immoral, or just plain wrong. I can appreciate the whole without feeling pressured to agree with the whole.

But when I have read a biblical text, I have felt (is this the right word?) the burden of inspiration. I've had the feeling that, on some level, I must accept the whole as God-breathed and therefore true. Perhaps I can judge some teachings to be applicable only in the life-time of the author, but I have to somehow deal with every word as truth. Inspiration, as I have always understood it, has meant that when I disagree with a biblical writer, I have to assume that either I have misunderstood him, or simply that I am wrong and he is right.

Let me make this a little more confessional. There are times in my life when I suffer doubt. Perhaps these are merely stages of maturing as a Christian. I think most of us can admit that the nature of our faith and belief in middle age, is very different from what we experienced as adolescent believers. There are times in my life when I realize that I am looking at my understanding of faith in completely new ways, and I have to pause and remind myself why I have faith to begin with. Sometimes my reasons for faith change.

My understanding of inspiration fits at the heart of this. I know I'm not a child anymore, but:

"Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so."

Do I believe because the Bible is true? Is this truth self-evident as God is self-evident?

What do we mean by "inspiration," and why do we accept the existing canon as inspired. Is it simply because we accept God as self-evident, and have decided that it's illogical to assume that God would allow us live through so many generations with uninspired texts?

I wonder, John, if your view of inspiration differs from that of a majority of Christians?

There are no accusations here. These are questions that I'm truly struggling with. Forgive the rambling.

JohnFH

Gary,

I think you describe the situation with accuracy. In the end, these questions are an enormous distraction, about as useful to debate as whether to serve Communion this way or that. No matter what you say, someone will be sure you are dead wrong.

Furthermore, in the default Anabaptist framework (all religious organizations run up against this framework), dissent on such matters easily becomes grounds for separation, self-chosen or imposed.

Still, for people cursed with a commitment to intellectual integrity, these questions cannot be swept under the rug. If I blog, it is because I have in mind this ideal reader, for whom faith and doubt are not mutually exclusive, for whom faith is substantial enough that she is willing to boldly go where no man has gone before.

JohnFH

Joesph,

I hold to verbal inspiration. That is, I trust that the words of Scripture are the very words God deploys to instruct us, elevate us, humiliate us, and lead us into all truth.

I do not believe that cherry-picking is an option for the believer. On the other hand, the principle, "Scripture interprets scripture" is essential. So each individual scripture is contextualized by all others. At the same time, creeds like the Nicene creed, the Augsburg Confession, and the Heidelberg Catechism serve as benchmarks and help establish a hierarchy of truth. On top of that, Augustine's hermeneutic of love, though it can be abused, is worth activating.

All of that is a far cry from the inherent resistance in a libertarian and libertine culture (our culture) to *any* imperious standard of faith and practice.

Here's the paradox. The more a religious and intellectual tradition accommodates the modern Zeitgeist in which the only permissible form of authority is the covert kind (covert domains of authority are rampant in society), the more it sows the seeds of its own destruction.

Joseph

John


What do you mean by a covert domain of authority?

Joseph

JohnFH

Hi Joseph,

In The Culture of Narcissism, Christopher Lasch takes a long hard look at our culture and identifies symbols of wealth as those which establish powerful yet covert social hierarchies.

They are covert because they are inherent and go unchallenged. In our culture, freedom is empowered only insofar as it serves a consumer society.

Lasch went so far as to say that in our culture even art, sex and religion lose their life-enhancing potential.

The Bible teaches an alternative set of hierarchies. It is the greatest resource we have if the Christ versus culture and the Christ transforming culture paradigms are to be articulated and made effective.

Mark M. Hixon

Are you saying that the truth claims inherent in the stories of the bodily resurrection of Jesus in no way hinge on any corresponding claims of the facticity of that event? Is the question of that facticity illegitimate per se, being disallowed a priori because of a metaphysical, epistemological, or literary theoretical commitment? Did Jesus really rise from the dead bodily? Is that a silly question betraying an unsophisticated use of the word "really"? Well, maybe you're right, and asking, e.g., if Jesus really walked on water is about as silly as asking if Prometheus really had his liver pecked out by birds. Of course he did; it's in Aeschylus' play.

I think we all know what we mean when we say that there are seven undisputed authentic Paulines. We mean that Paul himself actually sat down and wrote the letter to Galatians. If anyone disputed that, we would all react in exactly the same way: "No, you're mistaken, that's an authentic Pauline". We're all realists when it comes to the authenticity of Galatians.

Would it matter if Paul didn't write Galatians? Good question. To me, it's an absurdity to claim verbal inspiration of a forgery, as if God didn't know Simon Peter didn't really write 2 Pet. But some people claim he wrote it, so God went along with that and somehow conveyed verbal inspiration to it, knowing that Simon Peter didn't write it. On the contrary, I think he wrote it. Convince me, Didymus, that he didn't.

There's an interesting scene in the movie "Agora", where the bishop is reading from 1 Tim, and the camera pans to the congregation where some guy leans over to another guy and says, "What's he reading?"

JohnFH

Mark,

No one on this thread was discussing the resurrection or Aeschylus. It sounds to me like you have prejudged one issue after another. The next thing I expect from you is a defense of the facticity of the parables.

I am convinced that you are not going to be swayed by anyone, Didymus of old or Bauckham of late. You seem to go at the questions, not with the mind of someone calmly weighing probabilities, but on the assumption that if 2 Peter were not written by Peter, your system would fall to the ground.

Fine, but what are you going to do with the rest of us, for whom the verbal inspiration of 2 Peter is not dependent on its having been written by Simon Peter?

Mark M. Hixon

Hey, John, I'm sorry if I worded my comments poorly and created confusion. I was asking a question about the nature of the ancient texts that do make a claim of some sort about the bodily resurrection. What sort of claim is precisely the pertinent question and not at all peripheral to a discussion of fundamentalism. If we rule out in principle even the possibility that the NT texts, on their own terms, are making a claim about the facticity of the bodily resurrection, then, granted, we require a different approach to these texts. What kind of texts are they then, something like plays? That was the gist of my Aeschylus remark. Talking snakes are a dead give away, no doubt, and so is a man walking on water. A view similar to yours may prove the most beneficial and reasonable way to approach these texts after all. I'm not totally convinced, but I still enjoy your website.

JohnFH

Mark,

Perhaps I create confusion for you because I don't fit easily into categories you are familiar with.

For example, you seem to want to drive a wedge between those like me who think a talking snake in Genesis 3 is a clue to the text's genre (a protological narrative which incorporates mythological motifs, just as Psalm 74 incorporates mythological motifs) and those, like me again, who see no reason to doubt that Jesus calmed a storm and walked on water.

As for the resurrection, perhaps you’ve heard the old SBL story, from the days of the great Samuel Sandmel, the first Jew to serve as its president. After listening to a long discussion among liberal Protestants who were postulating meanings of the resurrection that do not depend on the resurrection ever having actually happened, Sandmel got up and asked to speak. “I think,” he said, “that when the early Christians said that God raised Jesus from the dead, they said that because they thought that’s exactly what happened.” Stunned silence.

But of course Sandmel was right. Conservative Christians today, though of course we want to be as intellectually responsible as possible in how we affirm it, stand with the early Christians.

Liberal Christians do not; I’m not sure about Schweitzer; a lot of paleo-liberals were orthodox in a number of ways.

If you read my blog much, you probably know by now that I am more likely to stand with the early Christians against conservative Christians of our generation than the reverse.

In the case at hand, the stance of Didymus the Blind means more to me than all the bluster of those who, when push comes to shove, would rather not be a believer at all than accept the notion that 2 Peter was written, not by Peter, but by a disciple of Peter.

Mark M. Hixon

That's a great story about Sandmel.

With respect to Didymus, I would have to hear out the whole of his argument. If he, or anyone, persuades me that 2 Pet wasn't written by Peter, that's fine. I've believed for at least a decade or so (after ignoring it completely for a couple of decades) that 2 Pet is dependent on Jude and is indeed a late writing. I've only recently changed my mind about that. Believe me, it could change back! But lately I've come to feel that the reasons why it couldn't have been written by Peter himself aren't so compelling. I'll dig into Didymus in some more detail.

Mark M. Hixon

Hey, John, just a brief follow-up on your last comment. It isn't self-evident to every reader of the gospel texts that they themselves are not protological narratives which incorporate mythological motifs. I think a better image than driving a wedge would be trying to find the boundary of a magnetic field: how far away can a piece of iron be removed from a magnet and still be drawn into physical contact with the magnet? In other words, where do you draw the line? And you don't have to subscribe to Bultmann's project or Thomas Thompson's theory to know that you sometimes have extreme difficulties when you approach these texts. You can be a believer in the bodily resurrection, as I am, and still struggle hard with these texts.

The casting of demons into pigs is one good example. As a father of two sons I find the prospect of a parent taking an epileptic child to an exorcist rather than a neurologist completely horrendous. Most people, you too probably, would; and for good reason, i.e., we don't believe demonology is really the explanation for that phenomenon, nor has it ever been the correct explanation. And to paraphrase James, actions speak louder than words. In other words, my actions in such a situation demonstrate where I have found a boundary, and that will affect how I approach the text and what it might mean to read it "on its own terms".

One further connection, although we'll have to have this conversation some other time. Prometheus is a lot like a fallen Watcher, and the demons of the gospels are a lot like the ghosts of the giants who were the anomalous offspring of the Watchers. The realities of life sometimes intersect with ancient texts in complex ways that aren't always so self-explanatory.

2 Pet to Enoch to Aeschylus wasn't that big a leap!

My tendency would be to tackle Ehrman's comment that "no one on God's green earth" would accept the authenticity of 2 Pet. I would start there first but would soon move to the next level, the puzzle over the actual and authentic Simon Peter's worldview which I can't accept fully in good conscience. So it isn't the authenticity of the letter which ultimately forms the greatest problem, a problem which still exists concurrently with a belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

I really appreciate your time and the respectfulness you demonstrate by taking time.

JohnFH

Mark,

You make a number of fine points, but I do not agree with you about demons and exorcisms and things like that.

Are you familiar with Rupert Isaacson, his autistic son Rowan, and the latter's healing thanks to shamans?

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/15/books/15horse.html?_r=1

Have you ever seen someone who, whatever the "true" explanation might be, had the appearance of someone possessed, spoke in a voice not his own, and so on?

Some of us have. It changes the way you think. It makes you frame questions outside of old dichotomies, such as the one that pits modern, experimentally based medicine over against traditional methods of healing such as acupuncture or faith healing.

But to return to your issues with bodily resurrection. One thing I don't understand is why people will grant Christopher Reeve is out-of-body experience (an experience which moved him from being an atheist to a theist), but not grant Simon Peter his experience of a resurrected Jesus.

If one is the case, why can't the other also be the case? Don't get me wrong: neither have to be the case, just because Christopher or Simon says so. I'm making a comparison.

Mark M. Hixon

Hey, John, yeah, I have firsthand experience with possessions and exorcisms, having been intensely involved with a full gospel church and pentecostal circles for about 5 or 6 years in my early twenties in the mid to late 70's. Not snake handlers, mind you; but still, some of it was pretty intense. I've participated in a failed exorcism of an epileptic boy, and I have a close acquaintance who has had a successful brain surgery which saved his life and restored it to normalcy after some intense periods of life-threatening epileptic seizures.

Don't get me wrong; I believe in prayer and I don't rule out things I don't understand fully. In early 2001 I had some powerful experiences of repentance, experiences that in some instances were full of abject horror and which could be described as out-of-body experiences. Through that process I began to believe that out-of-body experiences are experiences that the brain has which are not therefore illusory just because the brain is not out of the body. Be that as it may, there's a difference between that kind of experience and a resurrection appearance to a group of people who physically touch the living body of Jesus who eats fish and honey.

That difference doesn't preclude the reality of a vision of the resurrected Jesus in a trance, like Paul had in the Temple. Or even of the Damascus road experience, in which Paul's colleagues were not blinded. A resurrected man who can appear in the first way (e.g., Lk 24) can appear in the second way; but can a visionary personage who appears in the second way also appear in the first? That's the difference.

With respect to the exorcisms, I may in fact have more anecdotal evidence for failures than you have for successes. I met Hobart Freeman years ago, about 1974 I think; he certainly had a few failures. Successes are interesting though, no question about that. But in a life-threatening situation involving a child, I know where I will immediately take him. I can pray and drive at the same time.

I'll take a look at the article about Isaacson, but I really do have to wrap this up for now. Peace.

woofin

As a regular and grateful (and perhaps somewhat crass) follower of this blog, John, I do like to be reminded every once in a while of just where you stand, purely for my own comfort!

At the end of the day, the modern reader of any given piece of biblical narrative has a need to come to some hypothesis of some factual event having occurred in the mundane historical-grammatical sense, even if it's just the hypothesis that the author made the whole thing up. We like to approach a story in the tough-guy mode of a cigar-chomping reporter with a press pass stuck in the hatband of his fedora. We trust this type of observer, and we want to know, so to speak, what he would have witnessed had he been on the scene -- far more than we want to know how we ourselves would have experienced it. We want to see the tapes from the security cameras.

JohnFH

On the other hand, woofin, I wouldn't take whatever conclusions I come to on specific questions *that* seriously.

Mark M. Hixon

Hey, John, after sleeping on it, it dawned on me that you yourself are something of the realist historian in the way you assess evidence for or against the authentic Pauline authorship of 1 Tim. The examples of Tertius and Silvanus provide some reason for admitting the possibility that the use of an amanuensis may account for the difference in literary styles of letters otherwise written by the same person. But good reason to be suspicious is not the same as evidence, so the evidence has to be weighed and sifted further. When you do that you are following more or less the same procedure as those who arrive at a result you believe is untenable; but it's the result that's in question, not the procedure, since by weighing the evidence thoroughly the way any good realist historian does you arrive at a different result which has the force of factuality in the ordinary sense. You are saying that it's factually the case that a follower of Paul, not Paul himself, wrote 1 Tim. Your view hinges on your being just such a realist historian, both because you arrive at a belief about the facts through the process and because your arrival at just such a realist belief in some cases dictates that you elaborate a sophisticated theory of attribution which isn't required of you in other cases when authenticity isn't called into question, like the letter to the Galatians. That's the gist of my original comments which intuitively, if somewhat too abruptly, make this argument.

I think we should simply relax if not dissolve the technical category 'modern' which looks to me like an overworked scholarly device incapable of demarcating in a clear-cut fashion all the dynamics involved in reading ancient texts. Perhaps we should break out of our too strictly drawn dichotomy, 'modern vs. [fill in the blank with whatever you think should be the other half of the dichotomy]', and rephrase the issue in terms of realism. C.S. Peirce may have been a realist, but was he a modernist in your sense of that word? So maybe we should shift the discussion to a question about the nature of realism without prejudging whether every kind of realism is therefore a modernism of the kind we philosophically disdain.

JohnFH

Mark,

I think you are conflating too many issues. Modernism is not really about the scientific method, the roots of which lie deep in the Middle Ages (see the new book by James Hannam).

Modernism as opposed to fundamentalism matches literalism for literalism and supposes that the heavens, since no gods have been located there by astronomers, cannot be said to be charged with divine grandeur, or referred to as the location of God's throne. Isaiah 66:1 for example is thick with truth on various levels; modernism even less than fundamentalism seems incapable of identifying those truths and building a metaphysic around them.

I see nothing of value in modernism in this sense, or in the Enlightenment in the sense of an anti-religion or its cockeyed idea of the perfectibility of man.

That said, I am happy to stand up for anyone who engages in thought experiments about author, provenance, and date of biblical writings, thought experiments that lead to non-traditional conclusions.

What I object to is someone who brings false expectations to ancient literature. I see Bart Ehrman doing this; in that sense I think of him as a reverse-fundamentalist.

Other issues, such as the nature of miracles, the difference between true and false myth, in what sense a theist can be a realist, are of great interest, but need not resolved in this context.

Mark M. Hixon

Hey, John, thanks for the conversation; I've found the whole discussion refreshing. You're right about the amount of ground we would have to cover.

I was a little confused by your rhetorical extravagance in calling down curses on a house it looked like you yourself frequently visit if you don't live there. Then it occurred to me that your theory of attribution in this one case, 1 Tim, isn't really that different from the amanuensis theory; it's just that you assume Paul was already dead when his loyal follower wrote it.

Anyway, I enjoyed it. Later.

JohnFH

It's Ehrman who thinks he's smarter than a you-know-what when he says:

[The best scholars, Jewish, Christian, and otherwise] of the Bible, including the top Protestant and Catholic scholars of America, will tell you that the Bible is full of lies, even if they refuse to use the term.

To which one can only reply: putting words into people's mouths is a wonderful way to start a conversation.

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    Great stuff from Anthony Loke, a Methodist pastor and Old Testament lecturer in the Seminari Theoloji, Malaysia
  • Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Blog
    A weblog created for a course on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, by James Davila (archive)
  • On the Main Line
    Mississippi Fred MacDowell's musings on Hebraica and Judaica. With a name like that you can't go wrong.
  • p.ost an evangelical theology for the age to come
    seeking to retell the biblical story in the difficult transition from the centre to the margins following the collapse of Western Christendom, by Andrew Perriman, independent New Testament scholar, currently located in Dubai
  • PaleoJudaica
    by James Davila, professor of Early Jewish Studies at the University of St. Andrews, St Andrews, Scotland. Judaism and the Bible in the news; tidbits about ancient Judaism and its context
  • Pastoral Epistles
    by Rick Brannan and friends, a conceptually unique Bible blog
  • Pen and Parchment
    Michael Patton and company don't just think outside the box. They are tearing down its walls.
  • Pisteuomen
    by Michael Halcomb, pastor-scholar from the Bluegrass State
  • Pseudo-Polymath
    by Mark Olson, an Orthodox view on things
  • Purging my soul . . . one blog at a time
    great theoblog by Sam Nunnally
  • Qumranica
    weblog for a course on the Dead Sea Scrolls at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, taught by James R. Davila (archive)
  • Ralph the Sacred River
    by Edward Cook, a superb Aramaist
  • Random Bloggings
    by Calvin Park, M. Div. student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton MA
  • Resident aliens
    reflections of one not at home in this world
  • Revelation is Real
    Strong-minded comment from Tony Siew, lecturer at Trinity Theological College, Singapore
  • Ricoblog
    by Rick Brannan, it's the baby pictures I like the most
  • Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
    Nick Norelli's fabulous blog on Bible and theology
  • SansBlogue
    by Tim Bulkeley, lecturer in Old Testament, Carey Baptist College (New Zealand). His Hypertext Commentary on Amos is an interesting experiment
  • Ancient Near Eastern Languages
    texts and files to help people learn some ancient languages in self study, by Mike Heiser
  • Midrash, etc.
    A fine Hebrew-to-English blog on Midrash, by Carl Kinbar, Director of the New School for Jewish Studies and a facultm member at MJTI School of Jewish Studies.
  • Phil Lembo what I'm thinking
    a recovering lawyer, now in IT, with a passion for a faith worth living
  • Roses and Razorwire
    a top-notch Levantine archaeology blog, by Owen Chesnut, a doctoral student at Andrews University (MI)
  • Scripture & Theology
    a communal weblog dedicated to the intersection of biblical interpretation and the articulation of church doctrine, by Daniel Driver, Phil Sumpter, and others
  • Scripture Zealot
    by Jeff Contrast
  • Serving the Word
    incisive comment on the Hebrew Bible and related ancient matters, with special attention to problems of philology and linguistic anthropology, by Seth L. Sanders, Assistant Professor in the Religion Department of Trinity College, Hartford, CT
  • Singing in the Reign
    NT blog by Michael Barber (JP University) and Brad Pitre (Our Lady Holy Cross)
  • Stay Curious
    excellent comment on Hebrew Bible and Hebrew language topics, by Karyn Traphagen, graduate, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia PA (archive)
  • Sufficiency
    A personal take on the faith delivered to the saints, by Bob MacDonald, whose parallel blog on the Psalms in Hebrew is a colorful and innovative experiment
  • The Sundry Times
    Gary Zimmerli's place, with comment on Bible translations and church renewal
  • Sunestauromai: living the crucified life
    by a scholar-pastor based in the Grand Canyon National Park
  • ta biblia
    blog dedicated to the New Testament and the history of Christian origins, by Giovanni Bazzana
  • Targuman
    by Christian Brady, targum specialist extraordinaire, and dean of Schreyer Honors College, Penn State University
  • Targuman
    on biblical and rabbinic literature, Christian theology, gadgetry, photography, and the odd comic, by Christian Brady, associate professor of ancient Hebrew and Jewish literature and dean of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State
  • The Biblia Hebraica Blog
    a blog about Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, the history of the Ancient Near East and the classical world, Syro-Palestinian archaeology, early Judaism, early Christianity, New Testament interpretation, English Bible translations, biblical theology, religion and culture, philosophy, science fiction, and anything else relevant to the study of the Bible, by Douglas Magnum, PhD candidate, University of the Free State, South Africa
  • The Forbidden Gospels Blog
    by April DeConick, Professor of Biblical Studies, Rice University
  • The Naked Bible
    by Mike Heiser, academic editor at Logos Bible Software
  • The Reformed Reader
    by Andrew Compton, Ph.D. student in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures (focus on Hebrew and Semitic Languages) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
  • The Sacred Page
    a blog written by three Catholic Ph.D.s who are professors of Scripture and Theology: Michael Barber, Brant Pitre and John Bergsma
  • The Talmud Blog
    a group blog on Talmud News, Reviews, Culture, Currents, and Criticism
  • Theological German
    a site for reading and discussing theological German, by Mark Alter
  • theoutwardquest
    seeking spirituality as an outward, not an inward quest, by David Corder
  • This Lamp
    Incisive comment on Bible translations in the archives, by Rick Mansfield
  • Thoughts on Antiquity
    By Chris Weimer and friends, posts of interest on ancient Greek and Roman topics (archive). Chris is a graduate student at the City University of New York in Classics
  • Threads from Henry's Web
    Wide-ranging comment by Henry Neufeld, educator, publisher, and author
  • Tête-à-Tête-Tête
    smart commentary by "smijer," a Unitarian-Universalist
  • Undeception
    A great blog by Mike Douglas, a graduate student in biblical studies
  • What I Learned From Aristotle
    the Judaica posts are informative (archive)
  • Bouncing into Graceland
    a delightful blog on biblical and theological themes, by Esteban Vázquez (archive)
  • Weblog
    by Justin Anthony Knapp, a fearless Wikipedian (archive)
  • Writing in the Dust
    A collection of quotes by Wesley Hill, a doctoral student in New Testament studies at Durham University (UK), and a Christian who seeks the charism of chastity
  • גֵּר־וְתוֹשָׁב
    by David Miller, Associate Professor of New Testament and Early Judaism, Briercrest College & Seminary, Caronport, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • ואל-תמכר
    Buy truth and do not sell: wisdom, instruction, and understanding - a blog by Mitchell Powell, student of life at the intersection of Christ, Christianity, and Christendom
  • משלי אדם
    exploring wisdom literature, religion, and other academic pursuits, by Adam Couturier, M.A. in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible (graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary)

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  • Ancient Hebrew Poetry is a weblog of John F. Hobbins. Opinions expressed herein do not reflect those of his professional affiliations. Unless otherwise indicated, the contents of Ancient Hebrew Poetry, including all text, images, and other media, are original and licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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    Copyright © 2005 by John F Hobbins.