# Thursday, October 05, 2006

Well, the portion I've read (about the first 50 pages) is less about the newfound Gospel of Judas and more about Judas in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Ehrman starts with Mark, then moves to Matthew, then Luke/Acts, then John. He notes each gospel's use and reference of Judas in an effort to begin considering the "historical Judas".

While reading, though, I've finally been able to discover what it is that I don't like about Ehrman's writing. Sure he's engaging, and he does a good job of accounting for the reader who is unfamiliar with recently scholarly/academic trends in Biblical Studies — though sometimes he can seem a bit patronizing in his descent to explain to the uninformed reader. But (and I'm willing to chalk this up to hyper-sensitivity on my part) Erhman always seems to focus on differences between accounts, going as far as calling the differences in the accounts of Judas' death in Matthew and Acts irreconciliable:

The book of Acts has a different account [than Matthew] of Judas' death and its relationship to this field. It is probably impossible to reconcile the details of these two accounts. (Ehrman, 36)

It wouldn't be so bad (to me, anyway) if Erhman actually built his argument. But he hasn't really, at least not yet. He's focused on noting differences in the Gospel accounts of Judas. But he's said very little regarding similarities between accounts outside of the flat-out obvious. He's willing to contrast differences between Gospels but he's relying on the reader to track what is similar between the accounts. So the reader is left to conclude similarities like (the list is not exhaustive, and is off the top of my head, where two or more canonical sources [Gospels/Acts] concur on some aspect of Judas' life):

  • Judas Iscariot is listed as one of the twelve
  • He was named or clearly implied to be the betrayer
  • He was paid a price for the betrayal
  • He was with the party that apprehended Jesus
  • He died an untimely, un-natural death (suicide or horrible circumstance) after his betrayal
  • His payment was associated with the purchase of the "field of blood"

Several times (at least three, I think) when he verges on getting down to brass tacks, he adds thoughts like "those are the questions we will ask at the end of the book". Like this whole paragraph (pp. 33-34), which occurs after noting that complete synthesis of gospel accounts is bad. I agree it's bad (duh!) but that doesn't mean that we throw out the vectors that do meet between accounts. Erhman (at least at present, up to and around page 50) seems to distrust all of it:

The historical conclusion is that we have different accounts from different authors writing at different times to different audiences for different reasons. Given the differences of the accounts, we will eventually want to reexamine them to see if it is possible to draw some kind of historical conclusions about what really happened. In some cases, the differences between the accounts turn out to be irreconcilable. ... [brief hint of Matthew/Acts item mentioned above] ... Accounts that contain discrepancies cannot both be historically accurate. Is one more accurate than the other? How would we know? What can we say for certain about the life of Judas — what he did and why he did it — based on our few surviving sources? Those are the questions we will ask at the end of the book, after looking at other ways Judas was portrayed, first from other surviving Christian sources such as the book of Acts, the Gospel of John, and several apocryphal works (in the next chapter), and then in the newly discovered Gospel of Judas, a book with its own agenda and distinctive portrayal of this one who betrayed Jesus. (Ehrman, 33-34).

Note the focus on differences? Why is nothing said about similarities of accounts? Why not compile and check similarties along with differences as the literature is cumulatively examined through the course of the book? Perhaps he will do this as the book progresses; I've just read about the canonical gospels. But — showing my bias here — I'd say that's our best shot at getting to the "historical Judas". Why not lay both sides of the foundation? Why save (I hope) part of it for later? Well ... focusing on differences (much like focusing on textual variants) really is the more sensational thing. And I've blogged before on what I think regarding Ehrman's sensationalistic tendencies.

So, basically, the first fifty pages of the book is less about the Gospel of Judas and more about examining Judas himself, throwing on the newly-found Gospel of Judas for good measure since we can. Let me be clear, though, that this aspect of the book (brief intro/analysis of the canonical gospels and then examining Judas' role in them) is, apart from focusing primarily on differences between accounts, quite good. There's good information here. It's the undertow of the sensationalism (again, I may be hypersensitive ... I'll easily admit that) that sticks in my craw.

Given this, the book title does seem a bit misleading (along the same lines of the the "Misquoting Jesus" title, where textual variants outside of the words attributed to Christ were, as I understand it, where most of the discussion was centered). [paragraph nixed, this isn't fair to say based on the balance of the book. RWB 2006-10-11]

I'll blog more as I get further into the book.

Post Author: rico
Thursday, October 05, 2006 1:49:45 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Via Marginal Revolution, please take note of AcademicBlogs.org, a wiki listing academic blogs by discipline and other sorts of criteria. The site describes itself as "The Academic Blog Portal".

The biblioblogosphere is woefully under-represented in the Religion/Theology section. If anyone has some spare time, perhaps at least the list from Bibloblogs.com could be added?

Update (2006-10-05): Danny Zacharias over at Deinde did his good deed for the day and added a list of biblioblogs. Thanks, Danny! Do hop over to AcademicBlogs.org and fill out what you can, even if it is adding a blurb for a non-blurbed biblioblog.

Post Author: rico
Wednesday, October 04, 2006 4:54:59 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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About two weeks ago I blogged about being offered a complimentary copy of Bart Ehrman's new book, The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot. The book arrived today. I'm planning on reading through the Gospel of Judas a few times (see my post on Erhman's essay in the National Geographic book The Gospel of Judas for some background) and then digging in to Erhman's treatment.

We'll see what I think concerning Ehrman's shark-jumping status once I get into the book. I will by all means blog my reactions as I read it.

Either way, thanks to OUP for sending along the copy of the book!

Update: I'm blogging as I'm reading through the book. Entries will be linked to here.

Update I (2006-10-04): Just a test to see how UTF8 Coptic in the proper Unicode range is handled in browsers. Nevermind me ... these are the first few lines of Kasser & Wurst's transcription of the Gospel of Judas, typos are mine:

ⲡⲗⲟⲅⲟ[ⲥ] ⲉⲧϨⲏ̣ⲡʼ ⲛ̅ⲧⲁⲡⲟⲫⲁ
ⲥ̣ⲓⲭ ⲛ̅[ⲧⲁ ⲓ̈]ⲏ̣̅ⲥ̅ Ϣⲁϫⲉ ⲙⲛ̅ ⲓ̈ⲩⲇⲁⲥ

It appears to work on my side, though it assumes you have the font New Athena Unicode installed. Note that the diaresis in the font clashes with the iauda, hence the one-dot-to-the-left look.

Update II (2006-10-05): Coptic works, for me anyway, in IE6 and FireFox It doesn't work in SharpReader (no surpise, it strips style attributes) or BlogLines. I guess I should say that it works in those two, but that the default font has no characters in the Coptic unicode range. The bytes are there, but no characters exist in the font(s) for Coptic. C'est la vie.

Update III (2006-10-05): Phil Harland, with a post titled Judas Iscariot may be evil after all, links to Jim Davila's PaleoJudaica, which has an abstract describing Louis Painchoud's contrarian critique of the National Geographic translation/commentary/etc of the Gospel of Judas. Do check it out, particularly if you think the recently found Gospel of Judas is good fodder for "rehabilitating Judas".

Update III (2006-10-10): Note a post I wrote, Ehrman on Ehrman on Gospel of Judas, (h/t to Stephen C. Carlson (Hypotyposeis)) which points to interviews and such with Ehrman on Oxford University Press' blog.

Post Author: rico
Wednesday, October 04, 2006 11:05:14 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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Ben Witherington has a post called Thoroughly Post-Modern Biblical Interpretation that is well worth reading. Go ahead, do it now.

I say: Preach it, Ben!

Post Author: rico
Wednesday, October 04, 2006 7:29:38 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Tuesday, October 03, 2006

(See Part I here, and an Overview here)

I've been examining Hans-Josef Klauck's Ancient Letters and the New Testament some more. It's fun stuff. I've made it through chapters 3 and 4:

  • 3: Nonliterary and Diplomatic Correspondance
  • 4: Poetry and Philosophy—Literary Letters

As you can see, the book isn't strictly about New Testament epistles. It is about the ancient letter form in all its major varieties. I'm most looking forward to chapters 6-8 as they are about Letters in Early Judaism (chapter 6) and then two chapters on New Testament Letters.

Chapter 3 offers some stimulating discussion of the importance of diplomatic correspondance in approaching Pauline epistles. Klauck has sections on the letter of recommendation and Hellenistic royal letters. The final section in the chapter is a serious examination of Claudius' imperial letter to the Alexandrians. He provides a translation of the letter, a full outline, and detailed analysis. The prescript of Claudius' letter sounds positively Pauline:

Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus the Emperor, Pontifex Maximus,
holder of the tribunican power, consul designate,
to the city of the Alexandrians, greeting.

Chapter 4 offers a catalogue of authors that is really quite handy. Names I'd only seen as abbreviations in BDAG suddenly have new meaning to me as a result of skimming across the text. I say "skim" because it really serves as a brief handbook to authors of Greek and Latin letters.

I've begun chapter 5, which is titled Epistolary and Rhetorical Theory. Good stuff. Gets into topoi, examines some classical letter templates and "style" handbooks, among other things.

I'll blog more after I'm a bit further along in the book.

Post Author: rico
Tuesday, October 03, 2006 9:19:59 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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I'm in a home group Bible Study that's working through Colossians. Our passage this week is Col 1.15-20. I translated this morning and wanted to share it as it is a powerful statement of our Lord Jesus Christ.


ὅς ἐστιν εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου,
He is the image of the invisible God,
   πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως,
   firstborn of all creation,
   ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ ἐκτίσθη τὰ πάντα
   for by him all things were created,
      ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς
      in the heavens
         καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς,
         and in the earth,
      τὰ ὁρατὰ
      the visible
         καὶ τὰ ἀόρατα,
         and the invisible,
      εἴτε θρόνοι
      whether thrones
      εἴτε κυριότητες
      or dominions
      εἴτε ἀρχαὶ
      or rulers
      εἴτε ἐξουσίαι·
      or authorities:
         τὰ πάντα δι’ αὐτοῦ καὶ εἰς αὐτὸν ἔκτισται·
         through him and for him all things were created;
            καὶ αὐτός ἐστιν πρὸ πάντων
            and he is before all things
            καὶ τὰ πάντα ἐν αὐτῷ συνέστηκεν,
            and all things hold together in him,
            καὶ αὐτός ἐστιν ἡ κεφαλὴ τοῦ σώματος τῆς ἐκκλησίας·
            and he is the head of the body, the church.

ὅς ἐστιν ἀρχή,
He is the beginning,
   πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν,
   firstborn from the dead,
      ἵνα γένηται ἐν πᾶσιν αὐτὸς πρωτεύων,
      so that in all things he might be preeminent;
   ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ εὐδόκησεν πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα κατοικῆσαι
   for in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell
      καὶ δι’ αὐτοῦ ἀποκαταλλάξαι τὰ πάντα εἰς αὐτόν,
      and through it he reconciled everything to himself,
         εἰρηνοποιήσας διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ σταυροῦ αὐτοῦ,
         making peace through the blood of his cross,
         [δι’ αὐτοῦ]
         through him,
            εἴτε τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς
            whether things on the earth
            εἴτε τὰ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.
            or things in the heavens.


I broke the text into two groups with each group based on a relative clause. I thought the structure of Relative Clause -> πρωτότοκος statement ->  Subordinate Clause was interesting and a good thing to base the indentation on. Again, the indentation is just me — there is no real consistent basis for newlines and indentations. I'm sure if someone really wanted to, they could go to town in seeing chiasms in this text (and some folks probably already have).

Also, Col 1.19 is interesting. English translations (ESV and NET, anyway) presuppose that "all the fullness" (πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα) is really "all of God's fullness". Surely it is, but that is no reason to insert "God's" or "of God" into the text, is it? The subject is "all the fullness". So that's why I've translated it that way above.

Post Author: rico
Tuesday, October 03, 2006 8:07:46 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Monday, October 02, 2006

Phil Harland, who blogs at Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean, has BSC:X up and ready for your perusal.

No Rico links this month, I've been busy getting ready for the November conferences (ETS and SBL) along with keepin' the home fires burning.

BSC:XI is set for Michael Pahl's the stuff of earth blog in November. Keep an eye on the biblioblogosphere (and here at ricoblog, too!) for posts you may think worthy of submitting. Oh, yeah, Michael is the Biblioblogs.com "Blogger of the Month" too, so do make sure to check out his interview.

Post Author: rico
Monday, October 02, 2006 9:02:04 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Saturday, September 30, 2006

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


Περὶ δὲ τῆς εὐχαριστίας, οὕτως εὐχαριστήσατε·
Concerning the Eucharist, Eucharistise* in this way.
   πρῶτον περὶ τοῦ ποτηρίου·
   First, concerning the cup:
      Εὐχαριστοῦμέν σοι,
      We give thanks to you,
         πάτερ ἡμῶν,
         our Father,
         ὑπὲρ τῆς ἁγίας ἀμπέλου Δαυεὶδ τοῦ παιδός σου,
         for the holy vine of David your son,
            ἧς ἐγνώρισας ἡμῖν διὰ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ παιδός σου·
            which you made known to us through Jesus your son;
      σοὶ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας.
      glory to you forever.

   περὶ δὲ τοῦ κλάσματος·
   Next, concerning the broken bread:
      Εὐχαριστοῦμέν σοι,
      We give thanks to you,
         πάτερ ἡμῶν,
         our Father,
         ὑπὲρ τῆς ζωῆς καὶ γνώσεως,
         for the life and the knowledge
            ἧς ἐγνώρισας ἡμῖν διὰ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ παιδός σου.
            which you made known to us through Jesus your son;
      σοὶ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας.
      glory to you forever.

ὥσπερ ἦν τοῦτο τὸ κλάσμα διεσκορπισμένον ἐπάνω τῶν ὀρέων
Just as this broken bread had been scattered over the mountains,
   καὶ συναχθὲν ἐγένετο ἕν,
   was brought together and has become one;
οὕτω συναχθήτω σου ἡ ἐκκλησία
likewise bring together your church
   ἀπὸ τῶν περάτων τῆς γῆς
   from the ends of the earth
      εἰς τὴν σὴν βασιλείαν.
      into your Kingdom.
   ὅτι σοῦ ἐστιν ἡ δόξα
   So yours is the glory
      καὶ ἡ δύναμις
      and the power
         διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ
         through Jesus Christ
      εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας.

μηδεὶς δὲ φαγέτω μηδὲ πιέτω
But none shall eat or drink
   ἀπὸ τῆς εὐχαριστίας ὑμῶν,
   from your Eucharist,
   ἀλλ’ οἱ βαπτισθέντες
   but those baptised
      εἰς ὄνομα κυρίου·
      in the name of the Lord;
   καὶ γὰρ περὶ τούτου εἴρηκεν ὁ κύριος·
   for concerning this the Lord said:
      Μὴ δῶτε τὸ ἅγιον τοῖς κυσί.
      “Do not give what is holy to dogs”.

* “Eucharistise” simply verbs the noun to keep the Greek wordplay in the English. It could also be translated partake in the Eucharist.


First off, the structural consistency of the section regarding the cup and the section regarding the bread is obvious, moreso in the above indented view.

Also interesting is the seemingly inverted order of the Eucharist. The cup is given thanks for first, then the bread. Today, Communion/Lord's Supper/Eucharist services (that I'm aware of, anyway) typically take the bread first, as the gospels (Mk 14.22-25 || Mt 26.26-29 || Lu 14.14-23) and First Corinthians (1Co 11.23-34) testify.

The opportunity to pray for the unity of the Church is also refreshing. This isn't unity in the way we hear of today ("can't we just all get along?") but unity in end: We are saved, and we will enter into his Kingdom. The Eucharist points toward this, reminding us of the sacrifice of Christ and of the redemption his blood purchases for us. This redemption is powerful and sacred; it glorifies Christ as he assembles his own, building his kingdom.

It would be most wonderful if this aspect of "unity" was preached more frequently, and if the other aspect ("let's just agree to be tolerant look the other way on topics we disagree on") were preached on far, far less frequently.

Because the Eucharist is sacred, it is only to be celebrated (yes, celebrated!) by those who have been redeemed; only by those who proclaim Christ as their Saviour. Mt 7.6 is quoted in support of this practice.

Next up: Didache 10

Post Author: rico
Saturday, September 30, 2006 5:42:04 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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