Monday, December 31, 2007

"Sundays" are for Volf - Chapter 4: Gender Identity

In this fourth chapter of Exclusion and Embrace, Miroslav Volf applies his discussion of exclusion and embrace in the previous chapters to the test-case of gender identity: "the decisive question will be how the nature of God ought to inform relations between men and women as well as their construction of 'feminity' and 'masculinity' (169).

Over against some, such as Karl Barth, who argue that Scripture's use of masculine images for God means that God is primarily a model for human fathers, and others who argue as a result that we need to construct or focus on feminine metaphors for God, Volf insists that "Since God is beyond sexual difference, there is nothing in God that can correspond to the specifically fatherly relation that a man has toward his progeny....what a father can learn from God are his responsibilities as a human being who happens to be a father....Whether we use masculine or feminine metaphors for God, God models our common humanity, not our gender specificity" (171-2).

Volf then proposes a normative model for the relationship between male and female based on a relational model of the Trinity. With regard to the Trinity, the Father is first in constitution because "he is the source of divinity," but the different members are co-equal and their relationship is egalitarian rather than hierarchical. The members of the Trinity are distinct, but through self-giving they mutually indwell each other. God's purposes for humankind flow out of this relationship: "God came into the world so as to make human beings, created in the image of God, live with one another and with God in the kind of communion in which divine persons live with one another" (181).

What does this mean for gender identity? "What is normative is not some 'essence' of femininity and masculinity, but the procedures, modeled on the life of the triune God, through which women and men in specific cultural settings should negotiate their mutual relations and their constructions of femininity and masculinity" (182).

What, you ask, about the passages in the New Testament that seem to present a hierarchical pattern for male-female relations (at least in marriage)? Volf "will simply disregard the subordinationism as culturally conditioned and interpret the statements from within the framework of an egalitarian understanding of the Trinitarian relations and from the perspective of the egalitarian thrust of such central biblical assertions as the one found in Galatians 3:28" (182-3).

I am sympathetic towards Volf's egalitarian perspective, but disregarding passages as culturally relative is not, in my view, a useful way forward. This is because I reject the idea--which originated in classic liberalism but is now very popular in evangelical circles--that one can extract timeless truth and discard the culturally conditioned husk. As one of my students put it last year, the Bible is timeless in the same way that we speak of Shakespeare being timeless, even though it is obvious that one can't understand Shakespeare without knowing something about Shakespeare's historical context. (I am influenced here by Richard Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament [HarperSanFrancisco, 1996].)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Belated Merry Christmas!

I realized on December 26 that we had neglected to take any pictures of Shoshana's first Christmas. For the record, we had a quiet day. Our guests canceled due to sickness, so the three of us enjoyed our annual leg of lamb dinner by ourselves, and I had unexpected time to finish the What's in a Name? series on my "day off" in a vain attempt to keep it from interfering with more important course prep.

We are now half way through a week-long stay in Portland, introducing Shoshana to grandparents...
aunts, uncles, great-grandparents and assorted great-aunts and great-uncles:
Blogging (and course prep) will continue to be limited.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The translation of Ioudaios and the Parting of the Ways

The "parting of the ways" discussion is normally framed in terms of the eventual separation from Judaism on the part of early Christ-followers. But what if what we think of as "Judaism" was actually considered part of the Ioudaios (Jewish/Judaean) ethnicity, as Steve Mason argues?

Paul can claim to be a Ioudaios (Gal 2:15), but he states repeatedly that though there is value in being a Ioudaios (Rom 3:1), there is no longer any difference between the Ioudaioi and other nations or ethnicities (Rom 10:12); "Jewish" ethnic distinctives have been obliterated in Christ (Gal 3:28). How can there be a parting of the ways if Paul denies the continuing validity of any "Judaean" ethnic differences? Or rather, hasn't the parting of the ways already occurred for Paul?

On the other hand, Paul continues to use the language of covenant and of Israel. He is committed to the Judaean Scriptures and he worships Israel's God. If, for Paul, there is no longer any validity in the Judaean ethnos with its ancestral laws, its temple, its lineage, how does he understand his own sense of continuity with the Scriptures and the promises to Abraham? And how would his movement fit into the spectrum of Graeco-Roman categories?

What's in a name? Part 6: Preliminary Conclusions

In antiquity, Ioudaios was an ethnic term that designated the people whose homeland was Judaea, who worshiped the God whose temple was in Jerusalem, who observed the ancestral law (of Moses), and who believed themselves to be descended from Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. In other words, it combined together what we think of as geographical, religious and cultural elements. The term was ambiguous in that it could be used in a narrow geographical sense (Judaean as opposed to Galilean) as well as in its more common ethnic sense (Judaeans from Judaea and Galilee).* The Ioudaioi were an ethnic group considered distinctive in part because of their strange and exclusive views about God. There was, however, no separate religious meaning of the word. Those from other ethnicities who wanted to worship the God whose temple was in Jerusalem and adopt the Ioudaios way of life had to convert from one ethnicity to another.

[*I am now inclined to distinguish between ethnic and geographic meanings of the same term instead of dual or nested ethnicity. This would explain Acts 2:5-13 where the Ioudaioi in 2:5 (here an ethnic designator) consisted of Ioudaioi and Cappadocians (2:9; here a geographic designator). Dual or nested ethnicity could be reserved for instances where someone was a citizen of the Greek ethnos of Alexandria and a Ioudaios at the same time.]

We do not have an English word that does justice to the meaning of Ioudaios. "Jew" captures the religious, cultural and sometimes the narrow ethnic aspects of the word, but misses the strong geographical element. Translating Ioudaios by "Jew" also distinguishes the word unjustifiably from other ethnic nouns. "Judaean" by contrast, captures the tight connection between the people and their homeland, but to a modern ear misses the religious and cultural aspects of the ancient term. "Judaean" might help avoid anachronism, although the danger of anachronism will always linger. "Judaean" also lacks continuity with the ongoing tradition of contemporary Judaism.

I do not think either translation is wrong. I lean towards Judaean in academic settings because its very unfamiliarity encourages more careful reflection on what would have been meant by the term in antiquity. On the other hand, I have no desire to be innovative or to follow the latest fad in my use of terminology. The important thing is to explain the semantic range underlying the word behind our English translation. (I can imagine someone concluding, "So Jesus wasn't a Jew after all. He was just someone from Judaea who lived among a bunch of Jews." ...If one Ioudaios is a Judaean, all Ioudaioi are Judaeans.) Ideally, one would take a course on Second Temple "Judaism." Unfortunately, I do not have a handy catch-all alternative to "Judaism."

These are my tentative conclusions. I have used this series of posts to force myself to think through the literature and issues more carefully than I would otherwise do. One advantage of doing this in a public forum is that others can correct my mistakes, push me to consider implications I may have overlooked and encourage me to revise my conclusions as necessary. Please join in.

Posts in this series:
Part 1: On Jews and Judeans, Israelites and Israelis
Part 2: Ioudaios according to Shaye Cohen
Part 3a: Ioudaios according to Philip Esler
Part 3b: Philip Esler Responds to Shaye Cohen
Part 4: Judean vs. Israelite according to John H. Elliott
Part 5a: Ioudaios according to Steve Mason
Part 5b: Ioudaios according to Steve Mason
Part 6: Preliminary Conclusions

What's in a name? Part 5b: Ioudaios according to Steve Mason

The first major plank in Steve Mason's argument, summarized in the previous post, is that there was no term that meant "Judaism" in the Graeco-Roman world. This does not yet mean there was no "category of 'Judaism' in the Graeco-Roman world" because there is no one-to-one correspondence between terms and concepts. It would still be possible, in theory, to conceive of "Judaism" without being able to label it precisely. It is therefore necessary for Mason not only to show that there was no term for "Judaism" but that a concept of "Judaism" as a religion would have made no sense in the Graeco-Roman world.

2. In the second section of his essay, Mason argues persuasively--and in more detail than Esler--that "religion" is a modern category that did not exist in antiquity. What we call "religion" cuts across the Graeco-Roman categories of ethnicity (e.g., ancestral laws and customs), national cult (national deities, priests, temples, animal sacrifice), philosophy (e.g., normative texts, ethical requirements), familial traditions, voluntary associations (e.g., the cult of Isis), and astrology and magic. Whereas Cohen classifies worship of "the God whose temple is in Jerusalem" and following the Ioudaios way of life under the category of religion, Mason argues that these fall under the Graeco-Roman category of ethnicity. If the concept of "religion" did not exist, then it follows there could be no category for "Judaism."

3. "In the absence of either 'religion' or 'Judaism,' I have argued, the Ioudaioi / Iudaei of Graeco-Roman antiquity understood themselves, and were understood by outsiders, as an ἔθνος [ethnos], a people comparable to and contrasting with other ἔθνη [ethne]" (489). Here Mason's observations often parallel Esler's:
  • The labels of ancient ethnic groups were connected to the group's place of origin; the Ioudaioi were no exception. The connection with a homeland continued even when groups were under foreign control or when members of the group were living in other lands (cf. 511).
  • Ioudaioi were typically compared with other ethnic groups. They "were not often compared--as the Christians were compared (Celsus in C. Cels. 1.9, 68)--with members of cults (e.g., of Mithras, Cybele, Isis) or voluntary associations" (489).
  • For these reasons, the term Ioudaios should be translated "Judaean" at least in academic studies. "'Judaean' does not have a geographical restriction, any more than other ethnic descriptors do....'Judaean' should be allowed to shoulder its burden as an ethnic term full of complex possibilities....Using two different translations for the same word, in this case uniquely, destroys the unified conception that insiders and outsiders evidently had of the Ioudaioi" (504). However, using "Jew" may be acceptable "for popular studies, which can gently explain the historical situation" (511).
  • The construction of "Judaism" as a system was the result of "anti-Judaean sentiment" on the part of Christian authors in the 3rd and following centuries (504).
  • Finally, conversion was not religious; it involved a change of ethnicity: "[W]hat we call 'conversion' is actually a matter of adopting a new citizenship...[T]he available categories are ethnic and political, with a strong philosophical tinge" (510).
  • I agree with Mason and Esler against Cohen that a specific religious meaning of Ioudaios should not be abstracted from its normal broad ethnic meaning. Antiochus IV's death-bed conversion and the conversion of the royal house of Adiabene should be understood not simply as a religious conversion, but also as a change of ethnicity.
  • As I mentioned earlier, it is worth remembering that many of the ethnic distinctives of the Ioudaioi were decidedly theocentric. In fact, the only thing that is stressed in the 2 Maccabees account of Antiochus IV's decision to become a Ioudaios is his pledge to "to proclaim the power of God" (9:17). I am not suggesting the Ioudaioi were unique in being theocentric. Their adherence to only one God was considered unusual, however, and this eccentric belief was associated with other practices considered strange, such as circumcision, sabbath observance, and food laws.
  • While it is true that the idea of religion as a unified system is a modern construct, modern scholarly discussions of Second Temple "Judaism" actually tend to avoid presenting Judaism as a theological system abstracted from daily life. Jewish "religion," Shaye Cohen reminds us, putting "religion" in scare quotes, "was neither faith nor dogma, but action" (From the Maccabees to the Mishnah; 2d ed; p. 51).
  • I suspect there is more to be said for connections between the Ioudaioi and other non-ethnic groups, such as the cult of Isis, than Mason allows. Notice, for example, how Josephus intentionally juxtaposes a story about the priests of the Isis cult in Rome, which led to the destruction of the temple to Isis, and a story about a "certain Ioudaios" in Rome whose misdemeanor led to the expulsion of the entire Ioudaioi community from Rome (Ant. 18.65-84). Presumably both the mystery religion and the community of Ioudaioi were regarded similarly by the Romans.
Posts in this series:
Part 1: On Jews and Judeans, Israelites and Israelis
Part 2: Ioudaios according to Shaye Cohen
Part 3a: Ioudaios according to Philip Esler
Part 3b: Philip Esler Responds to Shaye Cohen
Part 4: Judean vs. Israelite according to John H. Elliott
Part 5a: Ioudaios according to Steve Mason
Part 5b: Ioudaios according to Steve Mason
Part 6: Preliminary Conclusions

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

What's in a name? Part 5a: Ioudaios according to Steve Mason

Steve Mason's tour de force, "Jews, Judaeans, Judaizing, Judaism: Problems of Categorization in Ancient History," Journal for the Study of Judaism 38 (2007): 457-512, "argues that there was no category of 'Judaism' in the Graeco-Roman world, no 'religion' too, and that the Ioudaioi were understood until late antiquity as an ethnic group comparable to other ethnic groups, with their distinctive laws, traditions, customs, and God. They were indeed Judaeans" (the full abstract is here).

I did not intend to present a detailed summary of the article, as this has already been done well by Phil Harland, but I have ended up summarizing more than I expected as I interact with and evaluate Mason's argument. If my few reservations are presented tentatively it is because I hold Mason's scholarship on Josephus and all things Greco-Roman in such high regard.

1. Mason surveys the use of the Greek terms Ἰουδαΐζω (Ioudaizo; normally translated 'to live like a Jew') and Ἰουδαïσμός (Ioudaismos; normally translated 'Judaism'), and concludes that until its use in third century Christian writings Ἰουδαïσμός never actually meant "Judaism." Like other -ίζω verbs, Ἰουδαΐζω indicated "the going over to, adopting of, or aligning with' a people or culture other than one's own" (462). The cognate noun Ἰουδαïσμός, similarly, denotes "a certain kind of activity over against a pull in another, foreign direction" (466). A better translation, then, is "to Judaize" for the verb, and "Judaizing" for the noun. The influence of Tertullian (early 3rd century) in Christian polemical writings eventually led to the use of Ἰουδαïσμός for "a system of thought removed from real life in Judaea, an abstraction to be treated theologically" (475).
  • The argument for the verb is persuasive (cf. Est 8:17 LXX; Jos. War 2.454, 463; Ign. Mag. 10.3). Although it is usually translated "to live like Jews" the only NT occurrence in Gal 2:14 works well with the sense "to adopt the practices of Ioudaioi." (Mason's argument also happens to agree closely with Cohen's chapter on the verb Ἰουδαΐζω in The Beginnings of Jewishness, 175-197.)
  • The meaning of Ἰουδαïσμός is more difficult to nail down (cf. 2 Macc 2:21; 8:1; 14:38; 4 Macc 4:26; Gal 1:13-14; Ign. Mag. 8:1; 10:3; Phil. 6:1). Mason is correct that the word denotes an activity rather than an essence (contrast Cohen's gloss "Jewishness"). The word also consistently appears in contexts that contrast the activity of Ἰουδαïσμός with an alternative way of life. But I think Mason strains too hard to show that the noun always denotes a movement away from one tradition toward another--either in oneself or by causing a movement in someone else. In some instances, simply practicing a Ioudaios lifestyle suits the context better. For example, does 2 Macc 2:21 refer to those "who fought bravely for 'the programme of Judaizing'" (468) or to those "who fought bravely for the practice of a Ioudaios lifestyle"? The latter makes more sense to me, and fits better with 2 Macc 8:1. 2 Macc 14:38 could go either way.
  • I have cited every occurrence of each word in the tagged databases in Bibleworks 7. Neither term occurs in Philo of Alexandria. The fact that neither term is common supports Mason's argument: If there was a word for "Judaism" we would expect it to appear frequently in contexts where modern scholars find discussions of Judaism (471).
  • Still, while it may well be true that the term never means "'Judaism' as a comprehensive system and way of life" before the third century CE (471), one could argue that the practice of a Ioudaios way of life is close, even if the term is only used in contexts where this way of life is set over against alternatives.
Alas, this is taking much longer than I expected. I will have to leave the rest of Mason's article and any concluding reflections that materialize until after Christmas when I should be doing more important things.

Posts in this series:
Part 1: On Jews and Judeans, Israelites and Israelis
Part 2: Ioudaios according to Shaye Cohen
Part 3a: Ioudaios according to Philip Esler
Part 3b: Philip Esler Responds to Shaye Cohen
Part 4: Judean vs. Israelite according to John H. Elliott
Part 5a: Ioudaios according to Steve Mason
Part 5b: Ioudaios according to Steve Mason
Part 6: Preliminary Conclusions

Monday, December 24, 2007

What's in a name? Part 4: Judean vs. Israelite according to John H. Elliott

One of the issues I planned to address early on in my Jewish Backgrounds to Early Christianity course next semester is the difference between the "Israelite" inhabitants of pre-exilic Israel and Judah, and post-exilic "Jews." The difference in terminology was, I thought, a helpful way of drawing attention to the radical changes that occurred during and after the exile. It is also a distinction made already during the Second Temple period. Josephus explains:
"This name [Ioudaioi], by which they have been called from the time when they went up from Babylon, is derived from the tribe of Judah; as this tribe was the first to come to those parts, both the people themselves and the country have taken their name from it" (Ant. 11.173 LCL).
Josephus's own usage is telling. The term Ἰσραηλίτης (Israelite) occurs 197 times in the first 11 books of the Antiquities, but never anywhere else in Josephus. The term Ἰουδαῖος (Ioudaios), by contrast, occurs 1241 times in Josephus, the vast majority of which occur after Ant. 11.173. (I counted only 73 occurrences in Ant. 1.1-11.172.)

If Elliott is right, I can let this difference in terminology fall by the wayside, despite the danger that one might anachronistically overlook the differences between pre- and post-exilic Israel. The burden of Elliott's article, "Jesus the Israelite Was Neither a 'Jew' Nor a 'Christian': On Correcting Misleading Nomenclature," Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 5.2 (July 2007): 119-154, is to demonstrate "the fact that Jesus was not a Ἰουδαῖος [Ioudaios]" (125).

According to Elliott, Ioudaios was an outsider term that was eventually adopted by diaspora "Jews" and even by (some?) "Judaean natives" (132; contrast 149). However, "Incontrovertible evidence shows that 'Israel' and 'Israelite' were the self-designations preferred by compatriots of Jesus in the first century when addressing other ingroup members. Jesus and his followers shared this preference" (148). Based on the written NT evidence, Elliott concludes that "Jesus never called himself a Ἰουδαῖος [Ioudaios] and was never designated as such by fellow Israelites" (146). Since Jesus preferred the term Israelite, we should adopt a rigorously emic approach and do likewise:
"Following the lead of ancient Israelite insiders using with fellow insiders their preferred nomenclature of self-identification, let us refer to the ethnic entity as 'Israel'...and to its members as 'Israelites'....This would emulate the insider usage of the Bible, much para-biblical iterature, and the Mishnah....Let us refer to Jesus and his earliest followers as 'Israelites'....Let us avoid altogether the names 'Jew' and 'Judaean' for identifying Jesus and his earliest followers since they are terms never used as self-identifiers and have either anachronistic ('Jew') or geographically erroneous ('Judaean') implications" (153).
Elliott's distinction between insider and outsider terminology is a helpful one, and I am happy to grant that "Israelite" remained in use as an insider term, while Ioudaios was the accepted outsider designator for the same ethnic group. "Israelite" was, after all, associated with the covenant, while Ioudaios was not.

However, Elliott's larger argument is seriously flawed:

1. Like Esler, Elliott thinks Ioudaios should always be translated by Judean, but while he acknowledges the term could be used to include "all of Palestine" (131), Elliott consistently sets references to Galilee over against Judea. If Jesus is a Galilean, that means he must not be a Judean (e.g., 127, 146, 150-1). This ignores the evidence for dual or nested ethnicity presented persuasively by Esler and Cohen.

2. "Israelites" could and did use the term Ioudaios when addressing outsiders (at least). If Josephus is to be followed--and he should be--Ioudaios became the normal ethnic self-designation for Greek-speaking "worshipers of the God whose temple was in Jerusalem," whether they lived in Galilee or Rome. There is no need to choose between "Israelite" or Ioudaios as Elliott implies on page 148. Both were acceptable alternatives. Calling Jesus a Ioudaios is an accurate emic description.

3. As Mark Goodacre pointed out in the crosstalk2 discussion of Elliott's essay, one can hardly claim Jesus never used the term Ioudaios or its Semitic equivalent since all we have to go on in this regard is the written Gospels.

4. If one argues, as Elliott does, that the term "Jew" is anachronistic when applied to first-century "worshipers of the God whose temple was in Jerusalem," it is inconsistent to overlook the dangers of anachronism involved in calling first-century "worshipers of the God whose temple was in Jerusalem" Israelites given the radical changes that took place after the exile.

Let's give this proposal a swift burial and move back to the question whether or not Ioudaios should be translated "Judean" or "Jew." In regard to this question, Elliott has nothing new to contribute.

Posts in this series:
Part 1: On Jews and Judeans, Israelites and Israelis
Part 2: Ioudaios according to Shaye Cohen
Part 3a: Ioudaios according to Philip Esler
Part 3b: Philip Esler Responds to Shaye Cohen
Part 4: Judean vs. Israelite according to John H. Elliott
Part 5a: Ioudaios according to Steve Mason
Part 5b: Ioudaios according to Steve Mason
Part 6: Preliminary Conclusions

Sunday, December 23, 2007

What's in a name? Part 3b: Philip Esler responds to Shaye Cohen

Much of Esler's response to Cohen is, it seems to me, beside the point. In several places where Esler points to differences, I hear both saying more or less the same thing. Esler's theoretical framework is more sophisticated and precise than Cohen's, but despite Esler's critical tone, I don't think it substantially affects the force of Cohen's argument.

For example, the question for Second Temple Ioudaioi was not, Were they "a distinct people first of all and formulated their ethnic identity--realized in boundaries between themselves and outsiders--in relation to certain cultural indicia (which changed over time), or did their sense of being an ethnic group depend on a collection of particular cultural features?" (Esler 62). This question might be important for modern scholars concerned to avoid anachronism, but Esler agrees that attempts to understand Second Temple Ioudaioi should focus on what they thought made them distinct. So it is strange that Esler accuses Cohen of elevating "descent as the prime test of ethnicity" (72) when Ioudaioi believed physical descent was, in general, central to their ethnicity. Cohen agrees with Esler that ethnicity has more to do with perception than with physical descent; he also allows that cultural indicia could change over time. His book is concerned with documenting precisely these changes.

The only substantial challenge to Cohen's position concerns his treatment of religion. Esler observes that "Cohen treats 'religion' as capable of separation from ethnic and geographic realms, attributing to it a separate province of meaning....[T]he thought that a purely religious affiliation allegedly discovered in the ancient world may be an anachronistic illusion has not occurred to him. Religion as we understand it did not exist in the ancient world, and the religious dimensions of human experience had a very different status then, being embedded in other areas of human experience, especially the family and the city-state" (Esler 73).

I agree with Esler that "religion" as we understand it today is a modern construct (I suspect Cohen would too!). I also agree that Cohen's attempt to pinpoint a specifically "religious" meaning of Ioudaios is problematic. For the ancients, sacrifice and the worship of god(s) would not normally have been abstracted from the rest of life. I also think Cohen confuses matters by giving his religious meaning the label "Jew" and his other two meanings the label "Judean." Translation and meaning are two different issues that should be considered separately.

But Cohen does manage to highlight a number of passages where what we would call "religious" elements--worship of "the God whose temple is in Jerusalem" and following "the way of life of the Jews [sic Ioudaioi]" (Cohen 79)--are closely associated with the term Ioudaios. This is because Cohen, unlike Esler, focuses on movement between ethnicities. When we ask why someone would choose to become a Ioudaios, and what this would involve, Cohen's emphasis on religious elements appears in a more positive light.

The issue of multiple or nested ethnicities is also more complex than Esler acknowledges. It is one thing to be a Galilean and also a Ioudaios who worships the God whose temple is in Jerusalem, quite another to be a Ioudaios born and raised in Alexandria who is simultaneously a member of the Greek ethnos of Alexandria with all the rights and privileges that such citizenship entails. If Philo of Alexandria (and my memory) is to be trusted, one could be a Ioudaios and a (Greek) Alexandrian, but not an Egyptian Alexandrian. (I am assuming that citizenship also implies at least one form of ethnicity.)

Now imagine another scenario which, if Philo is to be trusted, would be inherently unlikely given the historic enmity between Egyptians and Ioudaioi: An Egyptian resident of Alexandria becomes a Ioudaios by adopting the ancestral laws of the Ioudaioi, devoting himself to the God whose temple is in Jerusalem, and eventually, being integrated into the community of Ioudaioi in Alexandria (cf. Cohen 156). (Circumcision would presumably be unnecessary since it was already practiced by Egyptians.) Whether or not Ioudaios has, or would have been understood to have, a distinctively religious meaning in this context, I think we can all agree that the process of becoming a Ioudaios was decidedly theocentric.

Finally, I suspect that the extension of Greek and Roman citizenship and/or ethnicity to substantial segments of the Greco-Roman world, and the development of voluntary associations devoted to the worship of particular deities such as Isis, would affect how the ethnicity of Ioudaioi was understood.

Where does that leave us? The term Ioudaios would normally connote a package including geography, ancestry, the observance of ancestral laws, and the worship of the one God whose temple is in Jerusalem. While the term was not usually applied to "religious" elements alone, these "religious" or theocentric elements were prominent in the thinking of both Ioudaioi and outsiders, who often mention the monotheism or "atheism" of the Ioudaioi. I will wait until I have evaluated the arguments of Elliott and Mason before returning to the question of how Ioudaios should be translated.

Posts in this series:
Part 1: On Jews and Judeans, Israelites and Israelis
Part 2: Ioudaios according to Shaye Cohen
Part 3a: Ioudaios according to Philip Esler
Part 3b: Philip Esler Responds to Shaye Cohen
Part 4: Judean vs. Israelite according to John H. Elliott
Part 5a: Ioudaios according to Steve Mason
Part 5b: Ioudaios according to Steve Mason
Part 6: Preliminary Conclusions

John Strugnell Obituaries

John Strugnell, one of the original editors of the Dead Sea Scrolls, passed away on November 30. The obituaries that have appeared since then tell the story of an outstanding but tragically flawed scholar, who never published much but was deeply committed to his students. Many of his students (both Jews and Gentiles), who continued to speak of him with respect even after the scandal of 1990, are now leading scholars in Dead Sea Scrolls research.
"In all his interactions with students, he displayed his enormous erudition, ready wit, and caring nature. These students will be his true legacy to scholarship." (Sidney White Crawford on the Biblical Archaeology Society website; 11 Dec)

"Krister Stendahl, a former dean of the divinity school, described Mr. Strugnell as “a linguistic prodigy” in classical and Semitic languages and “a scholar’s scholar, one you would go to when you knew your own knowledge was not enough to solve a problem.”" (NYT; 9 Dec)
"Much of Strugnell’s most important scholarly work came in the early years of his collaboration with the Dead Sea scrolls editorial team in Jerusalem. There he showed a remarkable facility in assembling fragments, deciperhing [sic] badly damaged manuscripts, and identifying texts....Perhaps even more important to Strugnell than his own publications was his commitment to train a new generation of scholars who might work successfully on Qumran texts and in the field of Second Temple Judaism. They include Harold Attridge, James H. Charlesworth, John Collins, Carol Newsom, Eileen Schuller, Thomas Tobin, and Sze-kar Wan. He gave to his doctoral students enormous amounts of time and attention, patterned after the Oxford tutorial system in which he was educated. ...He was also remarkably generous in helping other students and professors with their projects. When I once asked why he was spending several weeks poring over a huge book manuscript written by a fellow scholar, he said, “This is going to be an important book, and I want to make it as good as I can.”" (Daniel J. Harrington in The SBL Forum; 10 Dec)
Although Strugnell was not the topic of daily conversation in 2000-2001 while I was studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the one or two comments I do remember hearing were positive.

Other Obituaries:
Hanan and Esther Eshel (Jan? 2008)
Telegraph (4 Jan, 2008)
The Times Online (29 Dec)
Nouvelles de Jérusalem (English) on the École Biblique website (22 Dec; by Jerome Murphy-O'Connor)
LA Times (14 Dec)
Harvard Divinity School (11 Dec)
The Harvard Crimson (10 Dec)
Rebecca Lesses on the Mystical Politics Blog (8 Dec)
Jim Davila on PaleoJudaica (6 Dec)
The Boston Globe (5 Dec)
Dr Jim West's blog (4 Dec; by Strugnell's daughter Anne-Christine Strugnell)

What's in a name? Part 3a: Ioudaios according to Philip Esler

In Conflict and Identity in Romans: The Social Setting of Paul's Letter (Fortress, 2003), Philip Esler, professor of Biblical Criticism at the University of Saint Andrews, argues that the Greek term Ioudaios should be consistently translated by "Judean":

1. The main reason is that Judean corresponds to ancient usage. Ioudaios is just one of many Greek gentilic adjectives that "name ethnic groups in relation to the territory in which they originated" (63). Since we translate Aiguptios as Egyptian and Suros as Syrian, we should translate Ioudaios as Judean. Indeed, ancient writers who commented on the term typically associated the name of the ethnic group with the name of the place. But just as ethnic Egyptians could dwell in Asia Minor and remain Egyptian, so Judeans could live in Rome and remain Judeans. The burden of proof is therefore on anyone who would argue that Ioudaios should be translated as something other than Judean. So far Cohen and Esler are on the same page.

2. "[T]o translate Ἰουδαῖοι [Ioudaioi] as 'Jews' removes from the designation of this ethnic group the reference to Judea, to its temple and the cult practiced there, that both insiders and outsiders regarded as fundamental to its meaning and that according with the almost universal practice of naming ethnic groups after their territories" (66). If we are talking about the connotations the term would have in the minds of modern readers I am not convinced. While "Judean" would definitely be associated with "Judea," it would not necessarily evoke the the temple or its cult in the way that the term, "Jew," with its religious connotations would. In both cases, it is necessary to inform readers what was involved in being a Ioudaios in the first century.

3. "[T]he words 'Jews,' 'Jewish,' and even 'Judaism' now carry meanings indelibly fashioned by events after the first that they are anachronistic in connection with the ancient period" (66-67). It is presumably for the same reason that Esler uses "Christ-movement" rather than Christianity and "Christ-followers" rather than Christians when discussing the social context of Paul's letter to the Romans. Observations:
  • The problem of anachronism is real, and I am willing to consider the use of "Judean" as a possible solution, so long as one is equally rigorous in avoiding anachronism in reference to first century Christ-followers and, perhaps, in reference to 7th century followers of Muhammad. (According to Wikipedia, the label "Muslim" did not come into common usage until later in the history of Islam.)
  • The label Ioudaioi unlike "Christian" was in common use in the first century. The issue is not whether to use the label, but how to translate it into English. If we were having this discussion in Hebrew, there would be no debate because the same term is used for both ancient and modern Yehudim.
  • If one chooses to distinguish between Jew and Judean, when should one switch terms? Esler proposes sometime after 135 CE when all hope of rebuilding the temple was abandoned. But this is to impose a modern (etic) category on rabbinic era Jews/Judeans/Yehudim who surely saw themselves as belonging to the same ethnic group.
  • There are, of course, also strong lines of continuity between first century Ioudaioi and contemporary Jews, just as there are lines of continuity between first century Christ-followers and contemporary Christians, and 7th century Muhammad-followers and contemporary Muslims. It is surely not wrong, at times, to focus on the continuities. Retaining the label "Jew" does this. There are other valid ways of countering anachronism.
  • (I note in passing that Esler, who elsewhere opposes tying ethnicity to physical descent, points to the conversion of the Turkic Khazars in the 9th century as one reason for emphasizing the differences between modern Jews and ancient Judeans.)
4. Like Danker, Esler is concerned about the continuing problem of anti-Semitism: "To overlook the way the cultural features expressing their boundaries with outgroups have changed across the centuries also encourages the anti-Semitic notion of 'the eternal Jew' who, it is alleged, killed Christ and is still around, to be persecuted if possible" (62-63). This argument rings hollow because it is advanced only by Christian and/or Gentile scholars. At present, Jewish scholars are not clamoring for a change in terminology.* To the contrary, the Jewish New Testament scholar, Amy-Jill Levine, claims that Esler's proposal will do more harm than good: "The Jew is replaced with the Judean, and thus we have a Judenrein ('Jew free') text, a text purified of Jews. Complementing this erasure, scholars then proclaim that Jesus is neither Jew nor even Judean, but Galilean....Once Jesus is not a Jew or a Judean, but a Galilean, it is also an easy step to make him an Aryan. So much for the elimination of anti-Semitism by means of changing vocabulary" (The Misunderstood Jew [HarperSanFrancisco, 2006], 160, 165. N.B. As I reread Levine I see that I could have footnoted her for much of the above).

5. "It is arguable that translating Ἰουδαῖοι as "Jews" is not only intellectually indefensible, for the reasons just given, but also morally questionable. To honor the memory of these first-century people it is necessary to call them by a name that accords with their own sense of identity. 'Jews' does not suit this purpose..." (Esler 68). Whatever. This is just a lame attempt to claim the moral high ground.

So we have the fact that most Greek adjectives like Ioudaios are related to place names and that, to be consistent, it would make sense to translate Ioudaios with this geographical connection prominent--that is, as Judean not Jew. We also have a problem with anachronism that can be avoided, in part, by choosing a different label than the one commonly in use. But what about Cohen's claim that Ioudaios came to be used with a distinctively religious meaning? I will consider Esler's response to Cohen in the next post.

*According to Elliott ("Jesus the Israelite," 134 n. 52), Alan Segal in Rebecca's Children: Judaism and Christianity in the Roman World (Harvard, 1986) "favours using 'Judaean' in reference to Ioudaios prior to the fall of the Judaean state and 'Jew' thereafter."

Posts in this series:
Part 1: On Jews and Judeans, Israelites and Israelis
Part 2: Ioudaios according to Shaye Cohen
Part 3a: Ioudaios according to Philip Esler
Part 3b: Philip Esler Responds to Shaye Cohen
Part 4: Judean vs. Israelite according to John H. Elliott
Part 5a: Ioudaios according to Steve Mason
Part 5b: Ioudaios according to Steve Mason
Part 6: Preliminary Conclusions

Saturday, December 22, 2007

What's in a name? Part 2: Ioudaios according to Shaye Cohen

In the latest edition of Walter Bauer's venerable Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (ed. F.W. Danker; University of Chicago Press, 2000), Frederick Danker proposes that the Greek word, Ἰουδαῖος (Ioudaios), which had in the past been almost universally translated by the English word "Jew," should be translated "Judean," adding: "Incalculable harm has been caused by simply glossing [Ioudaios] with ‘Jew’, for many readers or auditors of Bible translations do not practice the historical judgment necessary to distinguish between circumstances and events of an ancient time and contemporary ethnic-religious-social realities, with the result that anti-Judaism in the modern sense of the term is needlessly fostered through biblical texts."

This is an unusually prescriptive comment for an academic lexicon. I suspect it may have something to do with Danker's laudable concern, as a Lutheran seminary professor, to remove any basis for anti-Semitism or anti-Jewishness from popular translations of, and preaching on, the New Testament.

No such pastoral concern or hesitation about the contemporary implications of the translation of Ioudaios are evident in the much longer analysis by the Jewish scholar and Harvard Professor, Shaye Cohen. In the third chapter of The Beginnings of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties, Uncertainties (University of California Press, 1999), Cohen identifies "three basic meanings" of Ioudaios (cf. 70):

(1) Judaean (a function of ethnicity or geography) - Cohen agrees that the Greek term, Ioudaios, "originally, and in antiquity primarily" was an "ethnic-geographic" term "designating the eponymous inhabitants of the land of Ioudaia/Yehudah" (69). Cohen argues that "all occurrences of the term Ioudaios before the middle or end of the second century B.C.E. should be translated not as 'Jew,' a religious term, but as 'Judaean,' an ethnic-geographic term."

Two additional definitions emerged around the time of the Maccabean revolt "out of the clash between Judaism (the ways of the Judaeans) and Hellenism (the ways of the Greeks)...that for the first time allowed gentiles the opportunity to join the Judaean people" (105):

(2) Judaean - a citizen or ally of the Judaean state (a function of politics) - "The first definition was political: the Judaeans form a political community and could extend citizenship even to nonnatives. Such newly enfranchised citizens themselves became Ioudaioi or Judaeans. They still retained their prior ethnicity and much of their prior religion and culture, but they joined the Judaean people and declared loyalty to the God of the Judaeans" (105). The Idumaeans, who were forcibly converted by the now-independent Maccabean ruler, John Hyrcanus I, are a fine example of this political use of the term.

(3) Jew (a function of religion or culture) - Finally, after the Maccabean revolt, the term Ioudaios came to be used, on occasion, specifically for those who venerated the God of the Judaeans and observed his laws. Cohen argues that this distinctively religious use of the term, which corresponds nicely to the meaning of the English word "Jew" first appears in 2 Macc 6:6 and 9:17.
  • "People could neither keep the sabbath, nor observe the festivals of their ancestors, nor so much as confess themselves to be Jews" (6:6).
  • On his death-bed, Antiochus IV vowed that "in addition to all this he also would become a Jew and would visit every inhabited place to proclaim the power of God" (9:17).
Since in the end "Religion overcame ethnicity" (340), these two passages "mark an important turning point in the history of the word Ioudaios and, indeed, in the history of Judaism" (105).

Posts in this series:
Part 1: On Jews and Judeans, Israelites and Israelis
Part 2: Ioudaios according to Shaye Cohen
Part 3a: Ioudaios according to Philip Esler
Part 3b: Philip Esler Responds to Shaye Cohen
Part 4: Judean vs. Israelite according to John H. Elliott
Part 5a: Ioudaios according to Steve Mason
Part 5b: Ioudaios according to Steve Mason
Part 6: Preliminary Conclusions

Friday, December 21, 2007

What's in a name? Part 1: On Jews and Judeans, Israelites and Israelis

As I prepared my Jewish Backgrounds syllabus this summer--yes, Briercrest College requires second semester syllabi to be submitted at the beginning of the fall semester--I made a note to discuss the politics of naming. Should one refer to the object of our study as "Early Judaism", "Middle Judaism", or "Second Temple Judaism"? Why should we avoid the labels "Intertestamental Period" and "Late Judaism"? What is the difference between an Israelite and a Jew or, for that matter, between an Israelite and an Israeli? (Confusion between the latter two terms sets my teeth on edge.) These are--or should be--standard introductory questions in a course with the problematic title, Jewish Backgrounds to Early Christianity.

What I didn't anticipate was the need to enter the debate about the correct translation of the Greek term, Ioudaios (normally rendered 'Jew' in English), or to defend my use of "Judaism." This all changed with the publication of, and subsequent internet buzz around, two articles by J. H. Elliott and Steve Mason:
  • J. H. Elliott, "Jesus the Israelite Was Neither a 'Jew' Nor a 'Christian': On Correcting Misleading Nomenclature," Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 5.2 (July 2007): 119-154 (abstract here).
  • Steve Mason, "Jews, Judaeans, Judaizing, Judaism: Problems of Categorization in Ancient History," Journal for the Study of Judaism 38 (2007): 457-512 (abstract here).
Mason interacts directly with Shaye Cohen's, The Beginnings of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties, Uncertainties (University of California Press, 1999), which I read earlier in the summer. Elliott directs his readers to Philip Esler's response to Cohen in Conflict and Identity in Romans: The Social Setting of Paul's Letter (Fortress, 2003). Not mentioned in either essay is Amy-Jill Levine's preemptive response to Elliott in The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus (HarperSanFrancisco, 2006).

For some of the internet discussion, see this crosstalk2 thread; Loren Rosen's positive busybody post about Elliott's article here, which appears to have got the on-line ball rolling; April DeConick's critical response here; Philip Harland's summary here of Mason's article, which he claims "has put this question to rest."

I acquired and eventually read Elliott and Mason in November; I finished Esler's chapter on ethnicity this morning. In the next two or three seven or eight posts on this topic (better late than never!), I hope to summarize and evaluate both sides of the debate as I think through my own response, and determine which labels to use in class next semester. If all else fails, I can try "Jewdean."

Posts in this series:
Part 1: On Jews and Judeans, Israelites and Israelis
Part 2: Ioudaios according to Shaye Cohen
Part 3a: Ioudaios according to Philip Esler
Part 3b: Philip Esler Responds to Shaye Cohen
Part 4: Judean vs. Israelite according to John H. Elliott
Part 5a: Ioudaios according to Steve Mason
Part 5b: Ioudaios according to Steve Mason
Part 6: Preliminary Conclusions

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Jesus Asked

I listened to the first four podcasts of Conrad Gempf's excellent little entry-level book, Jesus Asked (Zondervan, 2003), on the way to Regina this morning. The entire audio book, recorded and narrated by Gempf himself, is available for free here. The "script" is engaging and the recording is easy on the ears. If I have time before the semester begins, I will listen to more as I have already jotted down some good ideas to use in my first year Gospels course. I may have to order a hard copy and consider it as a textbook. (The book, by the way, is about the questions Jesus asked.)

Gempf's blog, "Not Quite Art, Not Quite Living," has been on hiatus since September of this year, which is unfortunate. A blog name that echoes one of my favourite DA songs must be worth reading.

"Sundays" are for Volf - Chapter 3: Embrace

From time to time I wonder how I would respond to the old fundamentalist objection to the liberal social gospel: Why does Volf keep talking about the socio-political implications of the gospel to the neglect of other more important matters? Isn't the gospel really about saving souls? Leaving aside for the moment my sense that the fundamentalists and many of their evangelical successors threw out the baby with the bath water, the most convincing response is this: Volf's is a personal as much as a political challenge. The book consistently addresses my own responsibility as a Christian living in a small Christian college town--if, that is, love for God and neighbour are Christian demands.

"In all wars, whether large or small, whether carried out on battlefields...or faculty lounges, we come across the same basic exclusionary polarity: 'us against them,' 'their gain--our loss,' 'either us or them.' ...Tragically enough, over time the polarity has a macabre way of mutating into its very opposite--into 'both us and them' that unites the divided parties in a perverse communion of mutual hate and mourning over the dead." But "If there is will, courage, and imagination the stark polarity can e overcome" (99). This long third chapter explains how.

Thankfully, Volf outlines his argument at the beginning: "The central thesis of the chapter is that God's reception of hostile humanity into divine communion is a model for how human beings should relate to the other" (100). "[E]ssential moments in the movement from exclusion to embrace" include repentance, forgiveness, "making space in oneself for the other," and "healing of memory." (For the last point, see Volf's recent book, The End of Memory.)

Against the modern grand narrative of liberation from oppression which is not successful in bringing peace, Volf argues that in the present in-between time we should work toward "a nonfinal reconciliation based on a vision of reconciliation that cannot be undone" (110).

Movement 1: Even the victims need to repent, because "God's reign...cannot take place without a change of their heart and behavior" (114). They need to repent from mirroring the image of their enemies and from "the desire to excuse their own reactive behavior" (117).

Movement 2: "Forgiveness is the boundary between exclusion and embrace. It heals the wounds that the power-acts of exclusion have inflicted and breaks down the dividing wall of hostility" (125).

Movement 3: Making space for the other is modeled by the cross. At the eucharist we are summoned to follow God's pattern of reconciling the world to himself: "Inscribed on the very heart of God's grace is the rule that we can be its recipients only if we do not resist being made into its agents; what happens to us must be done by us" (129).

Movement 4: Volf concludes final forgetting is not possible before Christ's return: "as long as the Messiah has not come in glory, for the sake of the victims, we must keep alive the memory of their suffering....This indispensable remembering should be guided, however, by the vision of that same redemption that will one day make us lose the memory of hurts suffered and offenses committed against us" (138-9). Volf points out that without forgetfulness there can be no heaven: "Since I do not believe that a theodicy can succeed, I continue to believe that all those who want heaven cannot want the memory of horrors" (139 n. 27).

Enough said.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Gift Idea

If you are still looking for that perfect gift for your classically-minded friend or family member, you might consider the wonderfully detailed Roman Empire Map produced by UNRV (United Nations of Roma Victrix):
(Click here for ordering information and a description with more pictures.)

My copy, now hanging above my desk at home, was a birthday present from t. this year. It makes a nice stand-in for the ten times more expensive Barrington Atlas...which is still on my "I'm dreaming" list.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The difference a month makes

This picture was taken on November 21st when Shoshana was 6 days old:

This picture was taken yesterday (December 14th), one day shy of her first month-day.I like the pose because of how unrealistic it is. As if you can hold an alert baby on your lap and read at the same time!

Is Darrell Bock a fundamentalist?

The short answer is "Of course not!"

For the long answer see Jim West's response to Darrell Bock's CT piece, "When the Media Became a Nuisance" and the comments, where both Bock and his colleague Dan Wallace chime in. In an earlier post about the same CT article, I admitted my negative reaction to Bock's apologetic tone, but that doesn't mean he is not a fine scholar.

In a follow-up post Jim defines a fundamentalist as anyone who affirms the inerrancy or infallibility of Scripture. Fundamentalists are "guilty of bibliolatry ... because equating anything in heaven or on earth or under the earth with God, who alone is without error and not subject to fallibility, is idolatry." In the comments, Jim asserts "NONE of the Reformers would attribute to a book what can only be attributed to God." For evidence that the Reformers did precisely that, see John Hobbins on "Why I am a fundamentalist - according to Jim West's definition."

"Reading" Francis Watson

Two books I thought I should read came in the mail the other day as part of my "SBL discount" order.With the arrival of Paul, Judaism, and the Gentiles: Beyond the New Perspective (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), my collection of Francis Watson's major monographs is almost complete:
(Shoshana is filling in for the one I'm missing: Agape, Eros, Gender: Towards a Pauline Sexual Ethic [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000].)

I read Text, Church and World (Eerdmans, 1994) back in 1999 and liked it so much that I have gradually acquired three more. Unfortunately, acquiring is not the same as reading although it feels satisfying in its own way. I confess that Text and Truth (T&T Clark, 1997), Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith (Continuum, 2004), and Paul, Judaism, and the Gentiles (Eerdmans, 2007) are still waiting for my shipment of "time" to come through.

I did read the preface to Watson's latest two volumes when Paul, Judaism, and the Gentiles arrived. Both are excellent. The latter is a substantial revision of Watson's first book, published in 1986 which itself was a revision of his Ph.D. thesis, defended early in 1984. That makes an 8 year gap between his first two books, and a major, important monograph every 3-4 years since then.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

When the Media Became a Nuisance: Darrell Bock's Proposal for Restructuring Theological Schools

Darrell Bock, research professor of New Testament at Dallas Seminary, has a piece in Christianity Today explaining "How to respond to the next blockbuster book/documentary/movie that questions traditional Christianity."

In brief, Bock explains that there is a "growing public interest in Jesus and the early church," the media has caught on, and that has changed how information gets disseminated. Press conferences now take precedence over the give-and-take of academic discourse when it comes to the latest theories. Instead of getting annoyed, Bock says Christians should get informed and take advantage of the opportunity to explain "the historic Christian view." To help the church get informed pastors and theological schools must change how they do things:
"Church leaders need to do a better job of teaching not only what is in the Bible, but what is going on around the Bible....Our theological schools need to restructure the way they teach Bible courses. They need to move from a Sergeant Friday "just the facts" approach on authorship and dating of biblical and extra-biblical books to one that puts these issues in historical context and lays them against the backdrop of competing theories. In a day when many schools are neglecting these types of courses, there is an even greater need for church leaders to know the background of each scriptural book, because masses of people are engaging Christianity at this point. It's not only senior pastors who need this training, but youth leaders, as well. How many high school students are prepared for what they will hear about Christianity and the Bible in college classrooms?"
  • I confess I react negatively to Bock's apologetic tone. Granted there is a lot of rubbish out there, but I don't regard the practice of early Christian history as a safe enterprise. How is it that we can be so certain in advance that we have the right answers? Is such an assumption--I am right, you are wrong--an honest position for dialogue? I am not suggesting there is no basis for confidence, just that true dialogue implies a willingness to question one's own positions. For an alternative to Bock's apologetic scholarship, see F. F. Bruce's comments in the previous post. (Bruce, I should add, is well known for his books that defend traditional Christian views.)
  • I tend to avoid discussing traditional questions about authorship, at least in lower level classes, because in my experience students are not much interested in them. Perhaps that's because I haven't bothered to make it relevant by sketching debated options in detail.
  • Again in my experience, it is tiresome to survey issues of dating and authorship when everyone knows what the "right" answer is. A classic example is Carson and Moo's popular evangelical Introduction to the New Testament.
  • I have found that students get excited about textual criticism in my Greek Exegesis classes--no doubt because of the success of books like Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

F.F. Bruce on the Study of Greek, Evangelicals and Scripture

F.F. Bruce (1910-1990) was one of the 20th century's greatest and most well-known evangelical scholars. The following are excerpts from his memoir, In Retrospect: Remembrance of Things Past (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980):

On Greek:
  • “By all accounts, verse composition in Greek and Latin is not much cultivated nowadays. That is a pity. But it is a much greater pity that less and less importance is attached even to prose composition in these languages. It is impossible to attain real mastery in the handling of any language whether ancient or modern, without practising composition in it” (73 n. 3).
  • “Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon deals primarily with classical Greek, but no student of the New Testament can afford to ignore classical usage. I have met students who claimed to ‘know Greek’ on the basis of their acquaintance with the Greek New Testament; even if that latter acquaintance were exhaustive, it would no more amount to a knowledge of Greek than acquaintance with the English New Testament would amount to a knowledge of English. There is a story told of A. S. Peake writing a Greek word on the blackboard of his Manchester classroom, and one of his students saying, ‘You needn’t write it down, Doctor; we know Greek.’ To which he replied, ‘I wish I did.’ To know a language, even an ancient language, involves having such a feeling for its usage that one can tell, almost as by instinct, whether a construction is permissible or not, or whether a translation is possible or not” (293).
On Evangelicals and Scripture:
  • "I am always happy to be called an evangelical, although I insist on being an unqualified evangelical. I do not willingly answer, for example, to such a designation as ‘conservative evangelical’. (Many of my positions are indeed conservative; but I hold them not because they are conservative – still less because I myself am conservative – but because I believe they are the positions to which the evidence leads.)” (309).
  • “I suppose much depends on the cast of one’s mind, but I have never been bothered by ‘apparent discrepancies’, nor have I been greatly concerned to harmonize them. My faith can accommodate such ‘discrepancies’ much more easily than it could swallow harmonizations that place an unnatural sense on the text or give an impression of special pleading. If the ‘discrepancies’ are left unharmonized, they may help to a better appreciation of the progress of revelation or of the distinctive outlooks of individual writers” (312).
The whole thing makes for rewarding reading, though you should be prepared for insider stories about the Plymouth Brethren.

Monday, December 10, 2007

"Sundays" are for Volf - Chapter 2: Exclusion

This chapter unsettles, which is what a first-rate exploration of human depravity should do. Modernity made a virtue out of so-called inclusion; Volf exposes its dark underside. The 'ethnic cleansing' in the Balkans, Volf argues, was not an aberration in the civilized West: "There is far too much 'cleansing' in the history of the West for the horror about ethnic cleansing in the Balkans to express legitimately anything but moral outrage about--ourselves....[T]he medicine itself is making the patient sick with a new form of the very illness it seeks to cure" (60-61). Exclusion sometimes expresses itself as assimilation--"you can keep your life, if you give up your identity"; sometimes as domination, and sometimes as abandonment--keeping the needy at a distance so they "can make no inordinate claims on us" (75).

The answer is not the eradication of boundaries--that would lead to chaos. It must still be possible to make judgments not by achieving some objective stance from which to judge, but by being crucified with Christ which results in a "de-centered center." This "de-centered center"--for some reason the phrase reminds me of the picture in the old Four Spiritual Laws--"opens the self up, makes it capable and willing to give itself for others and to receive others in itself" (71). "[T]he will to be oneself, if it is to be healthy, must entail the will to let the other inhabit the self; the other must be part of who I am as I will to be myself" (91).

Judgement is possible, but it is not a moralistic judgment that makes black and white distinctions between the guilty and innocent, for no one is innocent. "[P]eople often find themselves sucked into a long history of wrongdoing in which yesterday's victims are today's perpetrators and today's perpetrators tomorrow's victims" (80). "In addition to inflicting harm, the practice of evil keeps re-creating a world without innocence. Evil generates new evil as evildoers fashion victims in their own ugly image" (81). (U2's "All That You Can't Leave Behind" CD came out too late for Volf to write instead, "so you become a monster so the monster will not break you.")

"Solidarity in sin underscores that no salvation can be expected from an approach that rests fundamentally on the moral assignment of blame and innocence....Under the conditions of pervasive one should ever be excluded from the will to embrace" (84-85).

I noted several quotes to consider using in my Gospels class:
  • How could Jesus attract sinners when he made such high moral demands? "The mission of Jesus consisted not simply in re-naming the behavior that was falsely labeled 'sinful' but also in re-making the people who have actually sinned or have suffered misfortune" (73).
  • The Good Samaritan: "Numbed by the apparent ineluctability of exclusion taking place outside of my will though with my collaboration, I start to view horror and my implication in it as normalcy. I reason: the road from Jerusalem to Jericho will always be littered by people beaten and left half-dead; I can pass--I must pass--by each without much concern" (77).
  • Mark 2:17: "To such a real sense of well-being of nonetheless deeply sick persons Jesus was referring when he said, 'those who are well have no need of a physician'....The truth about their sense of well-being holds them captive to the lie about their illness" (89).
I also wrote (or thought) "working relations among academics" a couple times. What I could have said was "ouch." I'll leave those notes in my copy of the book.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The difference between Greek teachers and Greek scholars

Just before E.F. Benson's description of the great (if also unproductive) scholar, Walter Headlam, Benson contrasts Headlam with his Classics colleagues at Cambridge:
"Those who lectured, those who taught, those who, like Mr Nixon, looked over our weekly efforts in Latin prose or Greek Iambics were not scholars at all in any real sense of the word: their knowledge of these languages was of the same class as that of the twenty or twenty-five undergraduates who yearly took a first in the Classical Tripos. They knew the principal dates and main operations in the Peloponnesian war, they could translate passages of Greek and Latin into grammatical English, and they could turn passages of English prose into Greek that probably bore the same relation to classical Greek, as written in the age of Pericles, as the best Baboo does to plain decent English prose of the day. ...Had any of them competed in the Classical tripos of the year, they would probably have taken quite good degrees, but there their attainments ended, and their years of teaching had not taught them anything that differentiated them from their more intelligent pupils. Their knowledge of Greek ended just about where Walter Headlam's began: his mind was Greek, and he kept on learning the lore of its ancestors." (E.F. Benson, As We Were: A Victorian Peep Show [London: Longmans, 1930], 116; cf. the Google Books edition here)
I fear that the contemporary Greek and Hebrew profs who meet Benson's description of scholars "in any real sense of the word" are few and far between. I don't aspire to Headlam's eccentric unproductivity, but I don't wish to be like his non-scholar colleagues either.

Our standard Western methods of Greek and Hebrew teaching exacerbate the problem. I sense increasing agreement that the immersion method proposed by Randall Buth is a good way to go forward. Why is it that we can claim to know Greek without being able to read (much less communicate) with the ease with which someone who "knows" German can read German literature?

Someone else to watch is John F. Hobbins, who writes:
"If you want to learn ancient Hebrew so as to savor its sounds, understand the nuances of its words and expressions, and recognize the formal structures of its poetry and prose, then you will seek to make the language your own. A standard test of linguistic competence is the ability to engage in simultaneous translation from one language to the other, unaided by a dictionary. When you are able to translate ancient Hebrew into your mother tongue without the aid of a dictionary, you will have moved in the right direction. When you are able to translate from your mother tongue into ancient Hebrew without the help of a dictionary, you will have attained a degree of active competence in the language. Your sense of accomplishment will be great, and rightly so."
Hobbins has a whole series on Learning Ancient Hebrew which is worth consulting for his insights on pedagogy. Look for the list in the left column of his Ancient Hebrew Poetry blog.

Friday, December 7, 2007

On Scholarly Productivity

The following funny excerpt is from Gilbert Highet's The Art of Teaching (New York: Vintage, 1950), 76-78:

Here is a sympathetic description of Walter Headlam, by his friend and colleague E. F. Benson. Headlam was a Cambridge don, who knew a great deal of Greek and Latin, far more than he ever communicated to his pupils and his readers. This account of his methods of working will show why:

One morning...his water for shaving was not hot, so after breakfast he put a small kettle to boil over his spirit lamp, and as he waited for that, he sat down in the armchair where he worked and casually looked at a note he had made the evening before. It was about a change of rhythm in a Greek chorus, or perhaps it was a word in his Herondas, which occurred in no dictionary, but which he knew he had seen before in some scholiast on Aristophanes. But where was the particular book he wanted? His room was lined with bookshelves, books that he was using paved the floor round his chair, and the table was piled high with them. There it was underneath a heap of others on the table, and he pulled it out: those on the top of it tumbled to the ground. He put down his pipe on the edge of the table, and as he turned the leaves, he found not just that which he was looking for, but something else he had wanted yesterday. He made a note of this on a slip of paper and picked up his pipe which had gone out. There were no matches, so he folded up the paper on which he had made his note, thrust it into the flame of the spirit-lamp and lit his pipe again. Then he found the passage he had originally started to hunt up. Awfully interesting: it was a slang word, not very polite, in use among the daughters of joy in Corinth during the fifth century B.C. These intelligent ladies seemed to have an argot of their own; there were several other words of the sort which he had come across. He became lost in this pursuit, his pipe had to be relit several times, and presently a smell of roasting metal brought him back for a brief moment to the surface of life. His shaving-water had all boiled away, and so he put out the spirit-lamp. Later in the morning his gyp [i.e. servant] came to see if he wanted any lunch ordered for him: bread and butter and cheese would do, with a tankard of beer. These were laid and left in the next room, and he wandered there after another hour or two deep in his investigation. The sight of food aroused no association of desire, but he had a drink out of the tankard and carrying it back with him, put it in a nest of books on his table. Presently more books got piled up round the tankard; he absently laid a folio notebook on the top of it, and so it completely vanished. then he wanted more books from his shelves, in one of these excursions he stepped on his pipe and broke the stem. It did not matter for there were others about, but he forgot to look for them in the heat of this diverting chase. "I shall write a monograph on the slang current in Corinthian brothels," he said to himself.

It began to grow dark on this early close of the autumn afternoon. There was no electric light in those days, and he fetched a couple of candles and put them on the edge of his table. He was hungry now, and he gobbled up his bread and cheese, wondering what time it was, for his watch had stopped. Beer too: he felt sure he had ordered some beer, but where the devil was it? It should have been on his table with the bread and cheese. He looked everywhere for it, even in his bedroom, but it was nowhere to be seen. Then his razor lying ready on his dressing-table reminded him that he had not yet shaved. It was true there was no hot water, but cold water would do, and though it was rapidly getting dark, he had not yet found any matches to light his candles. But one ought to be able to shave in the dark, he thought, for an action, often repeated, became, as Aristotle said, an instinctive process, and it would be interesting to see if he could not make quite a good job of it. He made a fair job of it, there were a few negligible cuts, and finding that he had a box of matches in his pocket all the time, he lit his candles and went back to the ladies of Corinth. then his gyp came in to see if he would go into Hall for dinner, or dine in his room: he settled to have some cold meat here, but where was the beer he had ordered for lunch? The gyp felt sure he had brought it, but evidently he was mistaken for there was no sign of it. So he brought the cold meat and another tankard and with this comfortless refreshment Walter Headlam pursued the ladies of Corinth till the small hours of the morning. The missing tankard came to light the next day.
More excerpts from Highet's source, E.F. Benson, As We Were: A Victorian Peep Show (London: Longmans, 1930), are available on Google Books here (see pp. 117-119). Headlam died at aged 42 in 1908 without completing three major editions of Classical Greek works. Whether his scholarly unproductivity was excusable or not is still debated.

Though dated, Highet's book is still well worth reading for its insights on teaching.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Advanced Greek Exegesis as a Pod- and Skype-Cast Course

As I mentioned earlier, one of the new course assignments for next semester that I am really looking forward to is Advanced Greek Exegesis. I am excited about the opportunity to delve into the fascinating topic of the use of the Old Testament in Acts (see the course description below). I am also increasingly excited about the chance to teach the course as a blended class.

Earlier this fall, the Distance Learning division here approached me about piloting the class as a podcast course. The idea is that our Monday evening classes will be recorded, and podcast students will be able to download the recording by noon the next day. To make the class more interactive for podcast students, their assignments will be due early enough so that on-site students can read and interact with them during class. This afternoon we decided to look into offering the course as a live Skype-cast where students can listen and interact with the class in real time--a much better arrangement, in my view! The demonstration this afternoon using a single microphone and a set of computer speakers in the classroom worked great. A few logistical details remain to be worked out, but I am fairly confident this will fly.

Technically, Greek Exegesis II is required as a pre-requisite, but I would be tempted to waive the requirement for any readers of this blog interested to audit the class. (Briercrest College and Seminary alumni can audit a course for free; everyone else, unfortunately, will have to pay.) Of course, to benefit from the class, you will want to have a decent reading knowledge of Greek.

The syllabus course description follows:

This course is designed to encourage greater confidence in your ability to read Greek, and to provide opportunities for you to hone your exegetical craft through the careful analysis of the early Christian exegesis of Scripture in the speeches of Acts. This type of intertextual analysis is very difficult to do without a good working knowledge of Greek since it requires paying careful attention to verbal parallels and minor textual variations that are frequently obscured in English translation. It is also very rewarding: As we study together, we will become familiar with passages that shaped how early Christians made sense of the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus and its implications for their lives. We will discover how the LXX can serve as a valuable exegetical tool, and learn to pay attention to the ways in which the first Christians read their Bible as we realize what a difference it can make in our own reading of the New Testament. We will also pause to consider what contemporary Christians should learn from the model of reading, studying, and preaching Scripture presented to us in Acts. And, of course, we will have many opportunities to strengthen our grasp on Greek syntax, morphology and vocabulary, and to grow in our confidence in working with difficult Greek passages from the NT as well as less familiar, and at times equally difficult, passages from the LXX.