# Monday, April 17, 2006

Some may be familiar with American TV from the 1970-1980's. If you are, then you're familiar with the show called "Happy Days".

You may remember the episode when the Cunninghams (and Fonzie, and Ralph, and Potsie) were on holiday at the beach. Fonzie had a fear of water. Through a set of hard-to-believe circumstances, he is challenged to water-ski jump over a shark cage. Ever the man, he dons his leather jacket, hops on water skis, and jumps the shark to save his cool-ness.

Many connoisseurs of late 70s/early 80s TV pin this exact episode as the moment where the TV show "Happy Days" went from acceptable to bothersome. And thus the phrase "Jump the Shark" has meant similar things to me.

Here, today, it is my opinion that Bart Ehrman has "jumped the shark".

I just read his essay in the Gospel of Judas, pp. 77-120 over my lunch hour. (The essay isn't that long, the typography of the whole book is super-padded in an effort to get close to 200 pages). And while overall there is good, solid information in the essay, there are flashes where one can only say, "Why, Bart? Why?!". One of the most egregious is below.

We aren't sure when this gospel was written. The copy in our possession appears to date from the end of the third century—around 280 or so (250 years after Jesus' death). But that doesn't tell us when the book was originally composed. In the case of the Gospel of Mark, for example, we don't have any surviving copies until after the third century, but Mark, most likely the first of the canonical gospels to be written, was almost certainly composed by 65 or 70. The earlier copies have all been lost, worn out, destroyed. So too with the earlier copies of the Gospel of Judas. (Ehrman, p. 81)

Holy non-sequitur, Batman! One leaves the paragraph thinking that it's possible Judas was written at the same time Ehrman postulates for Mark—65 or 70. He leaves the comparison to Mark hanging, the last sentence of the paragraph seemingly implying (though not really) that Judas is similar. A careless reader could easily connect the lingering dots and think, "well ... if that happened with Mark, why not Judas?" 

Ehrman's following paragraph mentions that a reference to Judas (a reference, not a citation) is found in Irenaeus, which dates to around 180. This brings us closer to the likely situation. But this is Ehrman's only allusion as to date of original composition of the Judas we have until 10 pages later, pp. 91: "... most will probably date [Judas] to 140-160 or so". And it is less than clear (particularly to the careless reader) leaving the Mark-Judas comparison dangling.

My other primary reason for thinking the shark has been jumped is with the insistent lumping of orthodox Christianity ("orthodox" in a doctrinal sense [e.g. in alignment with the Apostles Creed and other ecumenical creeds]) with gnostic spiritualities. I half get the sense that if I worship at the church of Dan Brown I can still consider myself Christian. It seems as if Dr. Ehrman has the opinion that if one's religious sensibilities have anything to do with Christ in any way, then that one can be called a Christian.

But Dr. Erhman's essay itself distinguishes the problem with referring to gnostics as Christian: in general, gnostics deny that Jesus was fully God and fully man. They'd cringe at the Symbol of Chalcedon. We embrace it. Also, gnostic spirituality, as Dr. Ehrman describes it (and I think he's right) focuses on seeking salvation (freedom from material world and transference into a completely spiritual being) for one's self and achieving it by one's self. Christianity is most definitely not about achieving salvation on one's own terms. It is about the worship and glorification of God who provides salvation for us in the person and work of His Son Jesus Christ.

Lumping this all together under a label of "Christian" is not helpful to the discussion. Adding in the concept of competing "Christianities" with winners and losers (Irenaeus == 'winner'; Gospel of Judas/Gnostics == 'loser') where the winners write history and therefore define proper doctrine is a distraction.

Again, to be fair, Ehrman doesn't come out and say this straight up. But it is alluded to throughout. Language of "winners" and "losers" (or inclusion and exclusion) in canonicity battles is frequent—but Gospel of Judas doesn't appear on any canon lists we know of, does it? So how could it have been "excluded"? This style of allusion happens, for instance, on p. 116:

The New Testament consists of twenty-seven books that the victorious orthodox party accepted as sacred texts conveying God's word to his people (Ehrman, 116).

And this sort of thing is just my problem with this particular essay. Most of the essay is excellent and fairly explanatory. But then stuff like the above slips in and makes one (well, me, anyway) cringe.

And that's why I think Bart Ehrman has "jumped the shark". Not that his scholarship is suspect per se; please don't think that. It is the forced and obvious leaning toward sensationalism that I'm starting to tire of. I consistently use his edition of the Apostolic Fathers and for the most part like the translation and find the notes helpful (though a little light on the textual criticism side of things). I wish he'd return his focus to those sorts of projects.

Please, Dr. Ehrman, now that you're over the shark cage, please return to editing new critical editions and translations of some early Greek texts and leave Time, Newsweek and 60 Minutes to others.

Post Author: rico
Monday, April 17, 2006 2:54:47 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Saturday, April 15, 2006

Michael Bird, blogging at Euangelion, has two excellent Easter-related posts that you should really go read.

Thanks, Michael.

Update (2006-04-15): Here's a quote from Carson's essay:

Forgiveness, restoration, salvation, reconciliation -- all are possible, not because sins have somehow been cancelled as if they never were, but because another bore them unjustly. But by this adverb "unjustly" I mean that the person who bore them was just and did not deserve the punishment, not that some moral "system" that God was administering was thereby distorted. Rather, the God against whom the offenses were done pronounced sentence and sent his Son to bear the sentence (Ro 5.8); he made him who had no sin to be sin for us (2Co 5.21). And the purpose of this substitution was that "in him we might become the righteousness of God." (Carson, 134)


Post Author: rico
Saturday, April 15, 2006 9:36:40 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Friday, April 14, 2006

All The Way My Savior Leads Me
Lyrics: Fanny J. Crosby, 1875.

All the way my Savior leads me,
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.
All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living Bread.
Though my weary steps may falter
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.
All the way my Savior leads me,
Oh, the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way.

When we don't understand, we know the Lord is in control. We know He is working in our lives to achieve His purposes. We have no reason to doubt Him. We have every reason to glorify Him whatever our circumstance on this earth.

He is the one who was crucified. He was dead and in the tomb. Whatever happens to people when they die happened to Him. He conquered it. On the third day He rose again.

Praise His Name, He is my Savior.

[More information on the song, though I'm personally a fan of Rich Mullins' arrangement of this song.]

Post Author: rico
Friday, April 14, 2006 11:30:01 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Thursday, April 13, 2006

Note that two articles for Volume 3 (2006 edition) of the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism have been posted.

  • Craig Evans: Messianic Hopes and Messianic Figures in Late Antiquity
  • Richard Van Egmond: The Messianic 'Son of David' in Matthew

The full PDF of the articles are available until the volume is complete. Once the volume is complete, if past practice is an indicator for future expectation, the PDFs will be taken offline and the complete volume published by Sheffield-Phoenix Press. See JGRChJ's about page for more information.

Now, if JGRChJ would just have an RSS feed so I don't have to continually remember to check the site for updates ...

Post Author: rico
Thursday, April 13, 2006 10:45:23 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Wednesday, April 12, 2006

[This is part of a running series on the Didache. See the introductory post for more information — RWB]


Δευτέρα δὲ ἐντολὴ τῆς διδαχῆς·
And the second commandment of the teaching [is this]:
   οὐ φονεύσεις,
   Do not murder,
   οὐ μοιχεύσεις,
   do not commit adultery,
   οὐ παιδοφθορήσεις,
   do not sodomise,
   οὐ πορνεύσεις,
   do not fornicate,
   οὐ κλέψεις,
   do not steal,
   οὐ μαγεύσεις,
   do not practice magic,
   οὐ φαρμακεύσεις,
   do not use potions,
   οὐ φονεύσεις τέκνον ἐν φθορᾷ,
   do not murder a child by abortion,
      οὐδὲ γεννηθὲν ἀποκτενεῖς,
      nor kill the just-born ones,
   οὐκ ἐπιθυμήσεις τὰ τοῦ πλησίον.
   do not yearn after the things of your neighbor,
   οὐκ ἐπιορκήσεις,
   do not commit perjury,
   οὐ ψευδομαρτυρήσεις,
   do not bear false witness,
   οὐ κακολογήσεις,
   do not speak evil,
   οὐ μνησικακήσεις.
   do not bear a grudge.
   οὐκ ἔσῃ διγνώμων
   Do not be double-minded
      οὐδὲ δίγλωσσος·
      or double-tongued:
         παγὶς γὰρ θανάτου ἡ διγλωσσία.
         for being double-tongued is a death trap.
   οὐκ ἔσται ὁ λόγος σου ψευδής ου κενός,
   Your speech should not be false or vain,
      ἀλλὰ μεμεστωμένος πράξει.
      but verified by action.
   οὐκ ἔσῃ πλεονέκτης
   You should not be greedy
      οὐδὲ ἅρπαξ
      or a robber
      οὐδὲ ὑποκριτὴς
      or a hypocrite
      οὐδὲ κακοήθης
      or spiteful
      οὐδὲ ὑπερήφανος.
      or proud.
   οὐ λήψῃ βουλὴν πονηρὰν
   Do not enter into evil plans
      κατὰ τοῦ πλησίον σου. 
      against your neighbor.
   οὐ μισήσεις πάντα ἄνθρωπον,
   Do not hate any man,
      ἀλλὰ οὓς μὲν ἐλέγξεις,
      but some you should correct,
      περὶ δὲ ὧν προσεύξῃ,
      some you should pray for,
      οὓς δὲ ἀγαπήσεις
      and some you should love
         ὑπὲρ τὴν ψυχήν σου.
         even more than your own life.


The above sees Did 2.2-3 as one large list after the list preface. Lake breaks that into two sentences in his Greek, but has one sentence in the English. I think it makes sense to treat the list as a whole, even though the portion about abortion, infanticide and covetousness does offer explanatory expansion instead of just a verb. (Note: I was half-tempted to translate "do not yearn after the things of your neighbor" as "do not attempt to 'keep up with the Joneses' ", but I withstood the urge.).

It strikes me that many today wouldn't consider the Didachist's list of "thou shalt nots" to be too "politically correct". The baptismal candidates (likely new converts) reading this were urged to forsake, as BDAG's extended gloss words it, engaging "in same-sex activity with a young male" (BDAG, 750). This sort of practice (as I understand it) was socially acceptable to some degree or another. New converts were to stop doing it. No discussion. As well, new converts are made aware that the practice of killing a child in the womb (abortion) or killing a newly-born child (infanticide, likely through exposure) is unacceptable practice.

The other groups are guidelines with expansion. That is, instead of just listing stuff, these items have some further explanation. Being "double-tongued" is to be avoided because it is a snare that leads to death. Instead of saying different things to different people, Christians are to let their "yes" be yes, and their "no" be no. Doing otherwise will only lead to trouble. This is expanded further in the next statement, which I love -- maybe I'll make a sign and put it up on my bathroom mirror or office wall: "Your speech should not be false or vain, but verified by action." In other words, these baptismal candidates are taught that their words are to be proven by their actions. They are, to put it into Christian-ese, "walk the talk". Lies and empty words are to be avoided.

Next is a short list mentioning greediness, stealing, hypocrisy, spite and pride. This is self explanatory. Following that is mention regarding plotting evil or malice towards one's neighbor. In light of Didache 1's exhortation to love one's neighbor as one's self, this doesn't really seem necessary. But it does underscore the importance of that command by restating the same thing (in essence) negatively; one's relationship with his neighbor (fellow human being) is again brought to the forefront.

This transitions into a general statement that speaks against hatred of others. The transition seems to be moving from hating others to acting in love toward others. Instead of hating others, instead of hatching evil plots against our neighbors, we are to love others through offering correction to some of them, through praying for others of them, and through loving others of them even more than we love our own selves.

Next up: Didache 3, though I may revisit portions of the above in some more detail between now and then.

Post Author: rico
Wednesday, April 12, 2006 10:29:02 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Monday, April 10, 2006

[This is part of a running series on the Didache. See the introductory post for more information — RWB]

Didache 1.2

Ἡ μὲν οὖν ὁδὸς τῆς ζωῆς ἐστιν αὕτη·
The way of life is this:
   πρῶτον ἀγαπήσεις τὸν θεὸν τὸν ποιήσαντά σε
   First, love the Lord who made you;
   δεύτερον τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν·
   Second, [love] your neighbor as yourself;
      πάντα δὲ ὅσα ἐὰν θελήσῃς μὴ γίνεσθαί σοι καὶ σὺ ἄλλῳ μὴ ποίει.
      all that you wouldn't wish to have done to you, do not do to others.

The introduction (Did 1.1) set the contrast: There are two ways, and they are very different. One leads to life, one leads to death. The above is the beginning of clarification of the way of life. It consists of two primary aspects which happen to mirror the teaching of Jesus (cf. Mk 12.28-34) on the most important/greatest commandment. This is an ordered list that further clarifies what the "way of life" consists of. The last line (above, anyway) clarifies the second point of the list—how one is to love his neighbor. Also note that the verb ἀγαπήσεις is implied in the second list item as indicated by the brackets in the translation.

Didache 1.3a

Τούτων δέ τῶν λόγων ἡ διδαχή ἐστιν αὕτη·
The teaching of these words is this:
   εὐλογεῖτε τοὺς καταρωμένους ὑμῖν
   Bless those that curse you,
   καὶ προσεύχεσθε ὑπὲρ τῶν ἐχθρῶν ὑμῶν
   pray on behalf of your enemies
   νηστεύετε δὲ ὑπὲρ τῶν διωκόντων ὑμᾶς·
   and fast on behalf of those who persecute you.

The way of life (one of the two ways) was described in Did 1.2 as loving the Lord and loving one's neighbor as one's self. This is further elaborated in Didache 1.3a with the obvious preface followed by three imperatives (in bold above). This is the practical application. By doing these things, one evidences firstly love for the Lord and secondly love for his neighbor.

Didache 1.4

ἀπέχου τῶν σαρκικῶν καὶ σωματικῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν·
Refrain from fleshly and bodily lusts.
   ἐάν τίς σοι δῷ ῥάπισμα εἰς τὴν δεξιὰν σιαγόνα
   If someone slaps you on the right cheek,
      στρέψον αὐτῷ καὶ τὴν ἄλλην καὶ ἔσῃ τέλειος·
      turn the other one to him and you will be perfect.
   ἐὰν ἀγγαρεύσῃ σέ τις μίλιον ἕν
   If someone compels you to go for one mile,
      ὕπαγε μετ ̓ αὐτοῦ δύο·
      go with him for two.
   ἐὰν ἄρῃ τις τὸ ἱμάτιόν σου
   If someone takes away your cloak,
      δὸς αὐτῷ καὶ τὸν χιτῶνα·
      give him your shirt too.
   ἐὰν λάβῃ τις ἀπὸ σοῦ τὸ σόν
   If someone takes from you what is yours,
      μὴ ἀπαίτει·
      do not demand repayment;
         οὐδὲ γὰρ δύνασαι.
         for you are not able.

I think this is another instance of a statement followed by explanation. The statement is "Refrain/abstain from fleshly and bodily lusts". It is explained with a series of four conditional statements, each underscoring a non-fleshly response. That is, each of these statements emphasizes a reaction that is manifestly not the reflex action one would have. If one is slapped, or robbed, or forced into service, the typical reaction is to rebel and fight back. Perhaps even to do the bare minimum involved to get out of the situation. But that is not the instruction the Didachist gives here. Instead, he says, fight against the natural instinct and provide even more. Offer your face for another slap. Excel in your conscription. Offer more to the one who steals from you. In other words, be charitable with actions and response even when someone does not treat you with charity or charitable motives.

The conditional statements appear to be direct allusions to the preaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount:

  • slaps you on the right cheek: cf. Mt 5.39, Lu 6.29a
  • compels you to go for one mile: cf. Mt 5.41
  • takes away your cloak: cf. Mt 5.40, Lu 6.29b
  • takes from what is yours: cf. Lu 6.30

Again, for the Didachist, the impetus for proper action of a Christian is based on the words of Christ. This in the late 1st century or early 2nd century, before the "New Testament" as we know it had really come into being. Somehow the sayings of Jesus were known and transmitted—either in editions of the synoptic Gospels themselves, or in some other source we don't know much about.

This is interesting to me, anyway. Some posit that the Didache, or at least the first six chapters of it, functioned as a manual for new converts (baptismal candidates). You know, to acquaint them with how to live as Christians. And (at least in the first chapter) the basic instruction involved making sure that baptismal candidates knew the greatest commandment (Love the Lord) and the second commandment (Love your neighbor). And these two commandments were specifically explicated using the words of Christ as foundation for action in life. In other words, the words of Christ were foundational and normative. They were appealed to for authority in the life of a Christian. And this, likely, within 100 years of the crucifixion of Jesus.

Post Author: rico
Monday, April 10, 2006 5:40:24 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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In working on the paper for the SBL meeting in DC, I've come across a citation for an article I'm interested in reading, but the closest university library (Trinity Western University) does not have the periodical.

If anyone can help out with the article, I'd be very appreciative. Here's the citation:

Reed, Jeffrey T. 'Cohesive Ties in 1 Timothy', Neotestamentica. 26.1: 131-47. 1992.

Otherwise I guess I'll try some other schools in the area and see what I can dig up.

Update (2006-04-10): Cheers to Cliff (Theological Musings) for attempting to locate a copy via interlibrary loan.

Update (2006-04-10): Cheers also to Ken Penner for pointing me to Regent College's Library, which is just up the street in Vancouver BC. Regent/UBC was my next stop, but I don't know when I'll get up there so I thought I'd try seeing if anyone had the article handy in the interim. If interlibrary loan doesn't do it, then I'll schedule a pilgrimage north of the border.

Post Author: rico
Monday, April 10, 2006 12:31:30 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Sunday, April 09, 2006

Since everyone else is blogging about the Gospel of Judas, I figure I will too. But briefly.

Best Post about Gospel of Judas: Ben Witherington III. Awesome. And I've really got to get my hands on his Pastorals/Johannines commentary when it comes out. I'll offer again: Need any advance readers, Dr. Witherington? I'm available! And I'm into the Pastorals!

Best Aggregation of Links: Mark Goodacre's Gospel of Judas megapost. Though note that Mark links to Roger Pearse as the go-to spot for ongoing internet coverage/references.

Best Live-Blogging of National Geographic Special: Jim West. I don't have a TV, and I spent the day with Amy anyway. (My thought process: Spend the day with my beloved, or wait around to watch some seemingly-authoritative sensationalisation of a 4th century gnostic MS likely derived from 2nd century source. Now that's an easy choice, no?) I read the English translation when it came out on Friday (or whenever that was). As many others (including Jim) said: Standard gnostic fare, nothing really new to see here.

Now, if you'll indulge me, here's a tale of what I thought when reading the English translation:

What came to mind when I read the English translation of this heretical and false "gospel", you know, where Judas recieves the oh-so-typical gnostic secret knowledge, and then he betrays Jesus and therefore ushers in Jesus' death?

All I could think of was the original Star Wars movie ("Episode IV" to you young'uns). You know, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader duking it out? Obi-Wan stops and says something like, "if you strike me down, you will make me more powerful than you could ever imagine", and then Vader cuts him in half?

Yeah, that's what I thought of.

Post Author: rico
Sunday, April 09, 2006 10:50:45 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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