Biblical Studies Carnival for July 2019

Lindsay Kennedy at My Digital Seminary posted the Biblical Studies Carnival for July. Lindsay was a bit concerned his carnival was “a little more sparse than I would have liked,: but July is a slower time for academic bloggers. Nevertheless, he does a great job finding quite a few excellent academic posts this month. He begins with an update on Larry Hurtado, including a heartfelt tribute to Hurtado by Nick Norelli. He has a link to some discussion of the supposed first-century Mark fragment, a dumpster fire which continues to burn hot this summer. There are good sections for book reviews and podcasts as well.

Since I took over as the “keeper of the list” of Biblical Studies Carnivals in August 2012, I have tried to encourage new bloggers to host carnivals. I have tried to draw in more women as hosts, although that has not always been successful. If you are a new blogger, a graduate student or established scholar who is actively blogging, I would love to have you host a future carnival. Contact me if you are interested or have questions. Seriously….PLEASE email me  (plong42 at gmail.com) or direct message on Twitter (@plong42) to volunteer. You can also leave a comment here with your contact info and I will get back to you.

As you can see there are some gaps in the schedule and there is no one for the rest of the year after (November and December open) and I would like to start getting hosts for 2020. Hosting the carnival is a great way to draw attention to your work and to quote Jim West, “It’s Fun.” So consider hosting in the near future.

You can also review older carnivals by browsing this tag. Follow me on twitter (@plong42) if you are into that sort of thing. I have a Biblical Studies magazine on FlipBoard, an essential app for your iOS device. I use it on my iPad for news and other special interests (including biblioblogs).

My New Book: Galatians: Freedom through God’s Grace

My new book, Galatians: Freedom through God’s Grace, is now available through Amazon with the Kindle version coming soon.

I have been working on this book for a long time, and I am glad to have it in print.You can also order it through the Wipf & Stock website (it is a little less expensive there, they will charge shipping so it is about the same as Amazon Prime). If you are a blogger and want to review the book Wipf & Stock has a “Request Review Copy” on their page and they can send you a copy.

Craig Keener’s commentary on Galatians also came out recently and I am happy to say at 156 pages, my book is almost as long as his bibliography.

I intended this book as a basic introduction to Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. I divided the book into fourteen chapters (plus one chapter for the introduction). I think it would fit nicely into a Sunday School or small group Bible Study for a quarter. In fact, the book has its origins as a Sunday Evening Bible Study at my church.

Here are my goals in this book in contrast to other styles of commentaries already on the market.

First, this is not an exegetical commentary. I do not comment on the Greek text nor do I try to solve every difficulty in the text. Perhaps I will return to the text of Galatians and produce a more formal and scholarly commentary in the future, but the goals of this commentary preclude me from dealing with more technical aspects of the letter. I rarely comment on Greek grammar except where it is critical to the meaning of a verse. While I do include some cultural and historical background in order to illuminate the text, I do not claim to be comprehensive in this area. There is far more to say about the background to Galatians than I cover in this book. There are several places in the book where I reflect some insights of the so-called “new perspective on Paul,” but this book is neither a critique nor a defense of this view of Paul’s letters.

Second, I do not intend for this book to be an expositional commentary, although that is the closest model. Expositional commentaries focus on an English translation and attempt to explain the details of the text. My goal is not necessarily the details but the overall point Paul makes in the letter. I will therefore move through Galatians in sections and comment on the most important aspects of each section to understand what Paul is trying to say both to the original readers and to Christians living in similar situations in the twenty-first century. I have attempted to ground this contemporary application in the text of the Bible.

Third, I intend this book for laymen, Bible teachers, and busy pastors who need an overview of the main issues in the book of Galatians. I envision this book being used in a small group Bible study or Sunday School class as a supplement to reading the letter to the Galatians. No book should ever be used to replace reading Scripture, but perhaps this book will help readers to better understand some nuances of Paul’s thought in his letter to the Galatians.

Here is how you can help me out. First, buy a copy of the book for yourself (I do not mind if you want to wait for the less expensive Kindle version). Second, recommend your church library purchase a copy; if you attend a Bible College or seminary, request the book for your library.

If you do buy the book please leave a review on Amazon. You can even review the book if you did not buy it from Amazon. Just a few kind words would really help others to purchase the book. It is incredibly important to have good reviews on Amazon these days, so please leave your comments and rating at Amazon and I will be eternally grateful.

In old news, Jesus the Bridegroom is only $10 for Kindle, and I see a few cheaper copies both new and used if you want a print copy. Again, please consider leaving a review for that book as well.

So what’s next? I have two or three similar books in process, I hope to have Ephesians finished this fall.

 

Eerdmans Sale on Kindle Books for July 2019

During the month of July, Eerdmans has some great deals on Kindle versions of recent publicationsAlthough I prefer real books to digital (and Logos books to Kindle), these books are worth the price. If you do not own a Kindle device, you can get an App on most devices to read Kindle books. I use the iPad Kindle App, it is very convenient for travel (or reading in the dark).

Although used hardback copies are available for less, George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (1974) is $4.99. This was one of the most influential books on evangelical scholarship. Ladd “popularized a view of the kingdom as having two dimensions: ‘already/not yet’” (The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax, A Theologian You Should Know).

Commenting on Ladd’s legacy John D’Elia said

Ladd’s legacy within evangelical scholarship is hard to overstate. I argue in the book that he carved out a place for evangelicals in what was then the threatening and bewildering world of critical biblical scholarship. By demystifying the methods of critical scholarship, Ladd made them available to evangelicals who wanted to use them in their study of the Scriptures. Historic premillennialism, then, is really an incidental part of Ladd’s story.

A few other interesting titles:

Michael F. Bird’s The Gospel of the Lord: How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus (2014), 3.99. I reviewed this book in three parts starting here. To quote myself:

Michael Bird’s The Gospel of the Lord: How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus is a study of the origins of the New Testament Gospel. The first three chapters concern the pre-literary forms of the Gospels, focusing on the shape of the Jesus tradition. He includes a chapter on the Synoptic Problem and another on the genre of the Gospels, two often discussed issues in Gospels introductions. Finally, he concludes the book with a chapter on the reason four Gospels were included in the canon of Scripture rather than only single story of Jesus. Each chapter concludes with a related excursus. While most excurses are brief expansions on some technical aspect of a chapter, some of Bird’s excurses are long enough to be chapters on their own. The book was named one of Christianity Today’s top books of the year in the Biblical Studies category.

Michael Green’s Thirty Years That Changed the World: The Book Acts for Today (2004) is a quick overview of the book of Acts.

Anthony J. Saldarini, Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees in Palestinian Society (2001, The Biblical Resource Series; $2.99). An excellent academic text on Second Temple Judaism.

Reinhard Pummer, The Samaritans: A Profile (2014, $2.99). I reviewed this book in 2016, concluding:

Pummer’s introduction to the Samaritans goes beyond the usual topics to include the whole history of Samaritan culture. By blending literary and archaeological sources, Pummer presents a clear and concise picture of the Samarians both in antiquity and in the modern world. Although the arrangement of topics is sometimes odd, this book will be a useful contribution to the ongoing study of the Samaritans.

William Dever’s Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel (2008, $3.99) caused a bit of a stir when it was published. Ziony Zevit blurbbed the book:

“Once again William Dever has written a page-turner for thoughtful individuals interested in the Bible. This time, however, he explores what most biblicists ignore — the folk religion of ancient Israel, the religion as lived and practiced. . . Although written for the general public, this is one book that scholars cannot afford to miss. . . Writing in a personal style sprinkled with anecdotes, Dever has produced a rare work — a book that may be read and appreciated by all who take the Bible, archaeology, and history seriously. Packed with information, crackling with brilliant observations.”

For church history, Michael Graves, The Inspiration and Interpretation of Scripture: What the Early Church Can Teach Us (2014, $3.99). I reviewed the book here.

Here is a different sort of title for me: Dale Allison’s Night Comes: Death, Imagination, and the Last Things (2019,$1.99). This short book was developed from Allison’s Stone Lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary in October 2014. As he notes in his preface, these essays are edited and are more like a series of thoughts and reflections on life, death and the afterlife. As the book develops, there is a sense of Allison’s struggle as a scholar to deal some very basic issues human existence. You can read my full review of the book here.

There are quite a few others, so poke around the Eerdmans books on Amazon and see what you can find.

The sale runs through the end of July 2019.

Book Review: Adam Winn, Reading Mark’s Christology Under Caesar: Jesus the Messiah and Roman Imperial Ideology

Winn, Adam. Reading Mark’s Christology Under Caesar: Jesus the Messiah and Roman Imperial Ideology. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2018. 187 pp. Pb. $24.00   Link to IVP Academic  

This volume is an update to his 2008 doctoral dissertation at Fuller Theological Seminary, published as The Purpose of Mark’s Gospel: An Early Christian Response to Roman Imperial Propaganda (WUNT/2 245; Mohr Siebeck: 2008). As Winn explains in his acknowledgment page, that book was “strongly criticized.” After taking part in the SBL Mark Group for several years, Winn was motivated to move deeper into the world of Roman imperial ideology in order to “make sense of the disparate pieces of Mark’s Christology.” In the Gospel of Mark, Winn thinks Jesus “out-Caesars Caesar” (p. 116).

Winn, Reading Mark's ChristologyThese “disparate pieces” include Mark’s use of titles, stories in which Jesus demonstrates power (miracles, healings, exorcisms, revelations by supernatural beings, popularity and proclamations by crowds), the suffering of Jesus, and the so-called messianic secret. Although these various parts may be accounted for through form and redaction criticism (the various bits come from different sources), Winn considers narrative criticism the only way present a compelling Christology from Mark’s Gospel. He initially followed the lead of Robert Gundry who suggest Mark is an apology for Jesus’s shameful crucifixion, but in this study he uses a historical-narratival method using the final form of Mark’s gospel. He wants to set Mark’s gospel into a particular sociocultural and historical setting (p. 24). That setting is the Roman world after A.D. 70.

Winn devotes about half of the first chapter arguing for this date and provenance and then argues the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70 played a central role on Flavian propaganda. Vespasian needed a major military accomplishment to legitimize his and his son’s claim in the imperial throne. The destruction of Jerusalem was presented as a major victory and was celebrated through triumphal processions, coins and architecture. This was a “theology of victory,” the gods favored the Flavian dynasty and supported it through a series of miracles prophecies and other portents. In fact, Josephus, Tacitus, and Suetonius all report the tradition that Vespasian fulfilled prophecies from the Hebrew Scriptures when he conquered the east (p. 45). The Gospel of Mark “strips Vespasian of is powerful victories and places the victory into the hands of Jesus” (p. 164).

Chapters two through five apply this historical setting of the book to the several common ways scholars have sought to develop Mark’s Christology. First, Winn examines Mark’s Christological titles (Messiah, Son of God, Son of Man, Son of David, and Lord). He concludes these titles can be understood apart from their imperial context and are not necessarily responses to Vespasian’s imperial propaganda (p. 68). Second, Winn surveys the presentation of Jesus as a powerful miracle worker, especially during the Galilean ministry (Mark 1-8). Mark presents Jesus as the true Christ and Son of God in contrast to the propagandistic claims of Vespasian (p. 88). Third, Winn turns his attention to the suffering of Jesus in Mark 8:22-10:52 (the rest of the passion narrative is covered in chapter 7). Winn argues that an imperial reading of Mark eliminates the perceived tension between Jesus as a powerful miracle worker and his suffering and death. The disciples do not fully understand the suffering of Jesus the Messiah, drawing a parallel to the Roman readers of Mark’s Gospel (p. 115). Fourth, Winn interacts with David Watson’s Honor among Christians (Fortress, 2010) as he re-examines the so-called secrecy motif in the light of his “Roman reading” of Mark (chap. 5). The Roman political strategy of recusatio meant Roman emperors often refused public honors. Winn illustrates this with data from Augustus and Tiberius. Winn concludes Mark is contextualizing Jesus in a way which would have resonated with his Roman readers (p.129). Like the emperor, Jesus refuses public honor as a result of his powerful healing ministry.

Winn devotes a short chapter to Jesus and the temple, including the temple action, Jesus’s teaching in the temple and apocalyptic discourse. The temple action is a symbolic destruction of the temple (p. 138); Jesus is establishing a new messianic community as a replacement for the temple itself (p. 140) and marginalizing the sacrificial system (p. 142). Since Mark wrote the apocalyptic discourse after the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, the “desolating sacrilege” may be a future eschatological sign (p. 145).

Finally, Winn examines the passion narrative through the lens of Roman imperial ideology. The so-called cry of dereliction, when Jesus cites Psalm 22 from the cross, is the unity between the powerful Jesus and the suffering Jesus. Although he is suffering, Psalm 22 looks forward to the glory and vindication after the resurrection. Regarding Roman imperial ideology, Winn sees the passion as a Roman triumph. He offers a series of observations to support this. For example, Simon carrying the cross parallel to a Roman official escorting a sacrificial bull and carrying a double-bladed axe; Jesus is the sacrificial animal and Simon carries the instrument of his death (p. 159). Since a Roman triumph ended at the temple of Jupiter, the Capitolium (caput is the Latin for “head), Winn sees a parallel with Golgotha, the place of the skull (p. 160). Winn sees this as a creative narrative which has a “clear and significant payoff for Mark’s Roman readers living in the shadow of Flavian propaganda” (p. 162). The suffering and death of Jesus is not a weakness, but a sign of strength and power. As with any literary allusion to culture, a reader sees what they want to see. Although it is possible to read the passion of Jesus as a parody of a Roman triumph, it is difficult to imagine the original readers fully appreciating the subtly of Mark’s allusions.

Conclusion. Winn argues Mark’s gospel presents Jesus as a powerful man but also as one who suffers tremendous shame. Both themes are present throughout the gospel of Mark and it is problematic to emphasize one over the other. Suffering and power are “Christological poles” which may seem to stand in tension, but they form a coherent unity when read in the light of Roman political ideology according to Winn’s reconstruction (p. 164).

NB: Thanks to IVP Academic for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

 

Kindle Deals on Second Temple Judaism and the New Testament Backgrounds from Eerdmans

I was poking around on Amazon looking for something else, and noticed several excellent Kindle deals on a few older Eerdmans publications. I have all these books in my “real book” library and can state with confidence these are all worth owning and reading. I prefer physical books, but for a only two or three dollars, it might be worth your time to read these using your Kindle device or Kindle app on your iPad (or other tablet).

Beyond the Essene Hypothesis, QumranThere are two from Gabriele Boccaccini: Beyond the Essene Hypothesis: The Parting of the Ways between Qumran and Enochic Judaism (Eerdmans 1998), $1.99 and Roots of Rabbinic Judaism (Eerdmans, 2001), $1.99. John J. Collins said “Gabriele Boccaccini’s earlier book, Beyond the Essene Hypothesis, has been hailed as one of the most original and provocative works on Second Temple Judaism in recent years. He has now written a wide-ranging and ambitious typology of Jewish intellectual history in this period. He brings a fresh and original perspective to the material, and his bold reconstruction is sure to be controversial.”

Speaking of John Collins, his Between Athens and Jerusalem: Jewish Identity in the Hellenistic Diaspora (Eerdmans, 1983) is $2.99. This is the companion to The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature (Eerdmans, 2010) and covers the non-apocalyptic intertestamental literature. These two books are excellent introductions to the literature of the Second Temple Period. I used both books frequently in the Second Temple Period Literature series over the past few summers.

There are also two by Bruce Winter. After Paul Left Corinth: The Influence of Secular Ethics and Social Change (Eerdmans, 2001) is $2.99. This is one of my favorite books ever, essential reading for understanding the situation behind the Corinthian letters. I read this soon after it was originally published, my copy is extremely marked up and my notes on 1 Corinthians are deeply indebted to Winter’s book.

Winter’s Roman Wives, Roman Widows: The Appearance of New Women and the Pauline Communities (Eerdmans, 2003) is only $1.99. “In ancient Roman law ‘you were what you wore.’ This legal principle became highly significant because, beginning in the first century A.D., a new kind of woman emerged across the Roman Empire — a woman whose provocative dress and sometimes promiscuous lifestyle contrasted starkly with the decorum of the traditional married woman. What a woman chose to wear came to identify her as either new or modest. Augustus legislated against the new woman. Philosophical schools encouraged their followers to avoid embracing her way of life. And, as this fascinating book demonstrates for the first time, the presence of the new woman was also felt in the early church, where Paul exhorted Christian wives and widows to emulate neither her dress code nor her conduct.”

I have no idea how long these deals will be available, so grab the Kindle version of these excellent resources before they are gone. I am not affiliated with either Eerdmans or Amazon, but I do like passing on good book deals when I see them.

Great Deals on Second Temple Judaism, the New Testament and early Christianity Books

Dead Sea ScrollsIf you are looking for some good resources on Second Temple Judaism, the New Testament and early Christianity (and do not mind kindle books) there are some great deals from two different publishers right now. First is James Vander Kam and Peter Flint, The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Significance For Understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus, and Christianity (HarperCollins Publishers, 2002, reprint 2013). This is a popular introduction to the Dead Sea Scrolls and might be a bit out of date, but for $1.99 it will serve as a good introduction to this important collection of Second Temple Jewish Literature.

The Nag Hammadi library is the other collection of literature discovered in the mid twentieth century. The collection included the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary and many other Gnostic texts. For a limited time, you can purchase Marvin Meyer’s updated edition The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The Revised and Updated Translation of Sacred Gnostic Texts Complete in One Volume (HarperOne, 2010). Gnostic expert Elaine H. Pagels wrote the introduction to the volume. This book is also only $1.99 in Kindle format.

From Wipf & Stock, two volumes of Mark Nanos’s Collected Essays are on sale through August 24 2018. Reading Romans within Judaism: Collected Essays Vol. 2  and Reading Corinthians and Philippians within Judaism: Collected Essays of Mark D. Nanos, vol. 4 are both only $2.99 for the Kindle edition. Both books were published in 2018 and contain previously published articles and papers. To have these article collected a single volume is extremely helpful. I was very happy to see Wipf & Stock publish the collections. The paperback edition of these books are $40 each, so this is a very good deal on an excellent collection of essays.

That makes four books for abut $10. The only drawback to these books is the Kindle format. I still prefer a real physical book, but the savings for these books is significant. These are limited time only offers (and I have nothing to do with the prices on Amazon; I am just the messenger here). So grab them while you can…

Following Jesus in Galilee 

The tour today focused on sites in the Jesus sits in Galilee. We left about 8 AM and made a stop at Yardenet, the pilgrim baptism site on the Jordan River. This is a location that is set up for large groups to come in and participate in a baptism in the Jordan River, although this is not the site Jesus was likely baptized. He was probably baptized near the Dead Sea since those were John the Baptist was baptizing in the Gospels. Nevertheless this is an interesting location because it preserves A portion of the Jordan River for Christian pilgrims. We didn’t perform baptisms today, but I did read from the Gospel of Matthew and talked briefly about Jesus is the beginning of Jesus’s ministry.

From the baptismal site we drove through Tiberius to Mount Arbel. This is not so much a biblical site, but a hike up to the top of Mount Arbel to view the sea of Galilee. From the top of the cliffs we can see the west and north quarters of the sea, essentially where all of the Jesus sites are located. We always take a group photo at the carob tree at the top of the hill but it was struck by lightning recently and there is nothing but a little stub left.

IMG_2036Returning to the shore of the sea of Gallilee we stopped at Migdal. Although it was the home of Mary Magdalene, the place is rarely mentioned in the Bible. However, a first-century Synagogue was recently excavated along with an unusual carved stone found near the center of the synagogue. The signs of the site suggest the stone is carved to look like the second temple, although this is not particularly conclusive.

But I think it is interesting that this is a first century synagogue not far from Capernaum. Although there is no evidence Jesus taught in this particular synagogue, the gospels portray him is teaching in many of the synagogues in Galilee. So it gave us an opportunity to discuss what teaching at the synagogue might have been like. There are a number of other excavated buildings adjacent to the synagogue including what appeared to be two or three mikvoth. These were not mentioned on any of the signs, and the brochure was late on details. Site costs 10 shekels for students and 12 shekels for adults, so groups will have to weigh the cost for such a short visit. I was told if I made arrangements ahead of time we could have a guide for the site.

IMG_2097.JPGAfter eating lunch and doing some shopping at Nof Ginnasar we arrived at the Mount of Beatitudes about 2 o’clock. All of the Catholic sites are closed from noon until two, and there were only two of the buses waiting in line when we arrived. Neither of these groups seemed to enter the actual garden or visit the church. The group was able to visit the chapel, and then we gathered on the rocks near the front of the garden to read the Sermon on the Mount, then had a few minutes to pray and read the Bible privately. This was one of the best visits I have had to the Mount of Beatitudes since it was so quiet and reflective.

We went back to the shore of the Sea of Galilee to visit Capernaum. For most the highlight here is Peter’s house, although it is difficult to see much of the house due to the large church built over the top. There is also a beautiful synagogue, although it dates to the fifth or six century, long after the time of Jesus. For me, the highlight of a visit to Capernaum is walking out in the beach near the Sea and reading the Bible. In this case I read Mark 2 since the healing of the paralytic takes place at Peter’s house.

B95DF6B5-E0D7-4DF4-8C38-1FFEBAB181EC-6811-00000EC051F24456

 

It was getting late in the day so we continued around the lake to Kursi, the traditional site of  the exorcism recorded in Mark 5. There is a small Byzantine church on the site which has only partially been restored. We talked through the story, look at the cliffs and wondering how the pigs made the leap into the sea. The simple solution is the pigs were far closer to the Sea than the impressive cliffs.

When we finally turned back into the Ma’agan parking lot we had traveled around the whole of the Sea of Galilee. My students were very tired out by this time and were looking forward to the pool or a nap before dinner.

Tomorrow we enter Jordan and visit Jerash on our way to Petra.