Book Review: New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity Volume 10 (Part 2)

S. R. Llewelyn and J. R. Harrison, with E. J. Bridge, ed. New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity Volume 10. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2013, 269 pp., paperback, $40.00.  Link

This is the second part of my review of New Documents Volume 10. Here is the first part, which includes an overview of the book up to the first two sections.

J. R. Harrison has four articles under the heading “Cult and Oracle,” including a papyri describing how Artemis overcame an evil sorcerer. The inscription is from a white marble slab from Ephesus, dated to A.D. 165. The article interacts with Clint Arnold’s Magic in Ephesus, which tends to describe Artemis as a demonic goddess, and R. Strelan’s Paul, Artemis, and the Jews of Ephesus, which argues Artemis is associated with salvation from evil spirits.  On the whole, this long article favors Strelan (summarizing his arguments concisely).  The inscription says that the temple of Artemis was a place of much gladness and that the goddess rescued the city from an evil magician who brought down a plague on the city.

NewDocs 10There are two sections on Public life in the Greco-Roman world.  Entry 11 describes a marble inscription in Latin and Greek honoring Augustus for sponsoring the paving of a street in Ephesus 22/21 B.C. While the inscription itself was discovered in 1958, an article appeared in 1991 which used this inscription to illustrate benefaction in the Roman world. Twice in this brief inscription the gift which Augustus made to the city of Ephesus is described as χάρις, a “gift.” The source of the gift is the Empire and the “sacred revenue” of the Temple.  As Harrison points out, Augustus became “an iconic example of beneficence” and a model for other benefactors to follow.  Later, Tiberius would be called “the benefactor of the world.” Since the Emperor and Empire was a source for huge sums of money, provincial elites in Ephesus found ways to exploit their patronage and line their own pockets.  Harrison cites an edict dated A.D. 44 which indicates that selling the office of priest of Artemis was a lucrative trade.  Harrison suggests that this benefaction (and corruption of the system) illustrates Paul’s use of grace-language in Ephesians as well as his frequent used of wealth metaphors in the book. “Paul’s language of ‘wealth’ in Ephesians could also be profitably looked at against the background of the wealth of the Artemis cult” (61).

Four articles comprise the section entitled “Household.”  D. C. Barker describes an Egyptian divorce agreement dated A. D. 177, on papyri. Among the fascinating details is the fact that the wife Aphrodisia is 21 years younger than her husband, Ptolemaios. From census records Barker points out that 83% of men were older than their wives, from one to thirty years older.  One of the more fascinating articles in this section is entitled “Every Dog Has Its Day.”  The text is from a limestone sarcophagus from Termessos (Psidia). This is a eulogy for pet dog, Stephanos, written by the owner Aurelia Rodope. She “wept for the dog and buried him as a man.” Harrison discusses the popularity of pet dogs in the Roman world, stating that some “Mediterranean peoples were besotted by the small white long-coated Melitaen” (127). There are many examples from Gerco-Roman literature as well as inscriptional evidence that dogs were often fed from the table.  This devotion to dogs as pets seems to stand in contrast to Jesus’ attitude toward the Syro-Phoenician in Mark 7:26.  It is customary to emphasize more negative the Jewish attitude toward Gentiles; they are “dogs.” But Harrison points out that the image of a dog could be taken as positive, indicating that after the children are fed (the Jews) it is appropriate for the dogs (the Gentiles) to receive food.

Five articles are collected under the heading “Judaica,” including a pay slip for a Roman soldier at Masada and comments on two well-known items, the Temple Warning and the Babatha Archive. The Babatha archive is a collection of documents found at Nahal Hever (near En-Gedi).  The documents are her important legal papers” and date to about A.D. 125.  The documents were stored before the Bar Kokhba revolt, perhaps hinting that she participated in the revolt.  The burden of this article is to compare the documents to Roman Law, especially with respect to marriage, divorce, polygamy, and guardianship. Babatha was a “second wife” to her husband Judah, leading G. Rowling to suggest that polygamy was not only practiced by the upper echelons of society, but may have been practiced in traditional rural areas as well (151).

Finally, three articles comprise the section on Christianity. Two of these are fourth century papyri letters from Oxyrynchus and illustrate early Christianity. Item 28 is a “Difficult Request (?) to ‘Beloved Father’ Diogenes.” It is clearly Christian because the words for Lord and God are abbreviated as Nomina sacra.  The letter was written by Barys to Diogenes. Barys describes himself as a “brother” and Diogenes as “father.” Such language for social or religious relationships is common in the Greco-Roman and Jewish world, as it is in the New Testament. In addition, Barys refers to Diogenes as “lord” (κύριε), perhaps indicating that Diogenes has a higher status than Barys.  Bridge points out the use of κύριε for a religious leader in Matt 9:28, 17:15, etc.) The letter would perhaps shed light on Paul’s letter to Philemon, especially since Barys uses the word λιτουργία (spelled λειτουργία in the NT). While the word can refer to public service, Paul used it in Phil 2:17, 25, 30 for service within the church, and in 2 Cor 9:12 for Christian giving. In the end, Bridge concludes that this letter is “two Christians in communication, one of whom has authority over the other, on the ‘secular matter’ of public service.”

Conclusion. Virtually every section of New Documents Volume 10 is worthy of attention.  The entries make for fascinating reading and they all contribute to our understanding of the world of the New Testament and early Christianity. I highly recommend this volume to students and scholars. Every serious library should own all ten volumes of this important series.  I look forward to additional volumes in the series, although my preference is that the next volume arrives sooner than ten years from now.

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

Book Review: New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity Volume 10 (Part 1)

S. R. Llewelyn and J. R. Harrison, with E. J. Bridge, ed. New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity Volume 10. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2013, 269 pp., paperback, $40.00.  Link

After a more than ten year wait, a new volume of the New Documents series has finally been released. New Documents Volume 9 came out in 2002, covering Greek inscriptions of interest to Early Christianity published in 1986-87; this new volume covers 1988 through 1992. To give you some perspective on how important this series is, I did a search in A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (BDAG), the current edition of the standard lexicon for New Testament Studies in English. There were 354 hits in 323 articles in the lexicon. BDAG only included material through volume 8 of the New Documents series. The New Documents series provides a database on which future lexical studies will rely.

Because this is such an important book, my review is quite long.  I have therefore decided to break it into two parts, the second appears here.

NewDocs 10For those unaware of the New Documents series, it began under the editorship of G. H. R. Horsley in 1981. E. A. Judge was a contributor to that first volume and now serves as the director of the project. He wrote the preface to the first volume explaining the rationale for the series. Since the publication of Deissmann’s Light from the Ancient Near East (1908) and Moulton and Milligan’s Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament illustrated by the Papyri (1930), there has been a flood of new published papyri documents and inscriptions, many which are important to historians of early Christianity as well as interpreters of the New Testament. The New Document series proposed to survey newly published material and collate that material into a single printed volume as a “fresh digest of the ancient evidence.”

That first volume covered documents published in 1976.  After more than thirty years, the series now has ten volumes which cover published material through 1992.  The tenth volume covers more years than the last and contains about 50 pages more in the main section than volume nine.  In addition, Volume ten contains six cumulative indices for volumes 6-10, including subjects, words (sub-divided into Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Aramaic), ancient authors, inscriptions, papyri, and biblical works (sub-divided into Hebrew Bible, Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Qumran, Rabbinic literature, and the New Testament).  My suggestion to E. A. Judge and the New Documents project is to merge the index for the first five volumes with this index and move the whole thing online. That would allow scholars to search the whole series from a single index, and the index could be edited and expanded.  In addition, moving the indices online would save nearly 100 pages in this volume which could be used for additional articles!

Each volume is sub-divided into sections, although the sections are unique to each installment.  For example, volume nine had two long sections for inscriptions and papyri; volume ten divides the material topically. Each entry begins with an entry number and a title for the article.  The entry begins with a physical description of the item including location, media (papyri, inscription, etc.) and suggested date. A transcription of the text is printed with the translation in a parallel column. The author of the article then provides a running commentary on the item, intentionally drawing out implications for the study of the New Testament or Early Christianity (the stated goals of the series).

In the first section of Volume 10, E. A. Judge contributes two articles on Philosophy. The second describes an inscription on a marble block from Philadelphia (Lydia) from the early first century.  The inscription celebrates a person who has become wise, but more interesting is the arrangement of the site where the inscription was found.  There is a narrow, straight path between illustrations to the left of ἀσωτία, distractions to wisdom (Luke 15:13,the prodigal son, Eph 5:18, Titus 1:6, 1 Peter 4:4), and illustrations to the right of ἀρετή, excellence of character (Phil 4:8). This illustrates the “two ways” found in a number of philosophical and biblical texts.  Judge suggests that the arrangement of the site illustrates Jesus’ metaphor of ethical life as the “narrow way” (Matt 7:13-14).

There are three articles on magic, including an interesting note on “overcoming the strong man” by J. R. Harrison. This article describes an inscription on a cameo dated A. D. 25-50 calling on Iao and Adonai (Greek transliteration of names for the God of the Hebrew Bible) to protect the wearer, one Vibia Paulina. All of the names on this early first century amulet are found in later magical texts, indicating that these sorts of “power words” were used to ward off evil.  This illustrates the use of “Jesus whom Paul preaches” in Acts 19, but also the words of the demon in Mark 1:24. In that text the demon indicates that he has knowledge of Jesus’ real name, the “Holy One of God.” The amulet uses the phrase “holy name” as one of the powerful names invoked to protect the wearer. Harrison points out a close parallel: “I know you Hermes, who you are and where you come from and what your city is, Hermopolis” (PGM VIII 13).

Conclusion (Part 1). Even though I plan to continue this overview of the book tomorrow, let me conclude this first section by saying that virtually every section of New Documents Volume 10 is worthy of attention.  The entries make for fascinating reading and they all contribute to our understanding of the world of the New Testament and early Christianity. I highly recommend this volume to students and scholars. Every serious library should own all ten volumes of this important series.