Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Maccabean Revolt and the Ambiguous Identity of Gentile Christ-Believers in Acts

My major priority right now is finishing a draft of an essay that I am to present at the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies in Ottawa at the end of the month. I am posting a (lightly revised) version of the abstract I submitted in January because I hope to comment more on questions related to the paper in a bit:
In this paper I will argue that Luke draws on the familiar storyline of the Maccabean revolt both to present criticism of Paul and to respond to it. The claim that Paul, like the Hellenizers of the Maccabean era, defiled the temple, and taught against the law and the people (Acts 21:28) treats Paul’s Gentile mission as a threat to Jewish identity. Luke responds by reversing the Maccabean “script”: Instead of collapsing a distinction between Jews and Gentiles, Luke maintains that the charges against Paul confuse Paul’s instructions to Gentiles with his instructions to law-observant Jews, and suggests that it is not Christ-believing Jews, but Paul’s Jewish opponents who violate the law and are thereby responsible for the temple’s demise.
It is not coincidence that my paper deals with some of the same issues I was working through last year (here, here, here, here, and here).

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

C.S. Lewis on Evil and its Remedy

On Evil:
"We have all often spoken--Ransom himself had often spoken--of a devilish smile. Now he realized that he had never taken the words seriously. The smile was not bitter, nor raging, nor, in an ordinary sense, sinister; it was not even mocking. It seemed to summon Ransom, with horrible naïveté of welcome, into the world of its own pleasures, as if all men were at one in those pleasures, as if they were the most natural thing in the world and no dispute could ever have occurred about them. It was not furtive, nor ashamed, it had nothing of the conspirator in it. It did not defy goodness, it ignored it to the point of annihilation." 
 ...and its remedy:
"It is not from the making a story that I shrink back, O Stranger," she answered, 'but from this one story that you have put into my head. I can make myself stories about my children or the King. I can make it that the fish fly and the land beasts swim. But if I try to make the story about living on the Fixed Island I do not know how to make it about Maleldil. For if I make it that He has changed His command, that will not go. And if I make it that we are living there against His command, that is like making the sky all black and the water so that we cannot drink it and the air so that we cannot breathe it. But also, I do not see what is the pleasure of trying to make these things."
Making the story "about Maleldil"--I take it that that is what Paul meant by "anything without faith is sin" (Rom 14:23).

Quotations from C.S. Lewis, Perelandra (New York: Macmillan, 1944), pp. 110, 112

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bibleworks 10 Stuttgart Original Languages Module and Alternatives

Image courtesy of Bibleworks
Technical post alert: One of the biggest reasons to upgrade to Bibleworks 10 is that it is the only version of Bibleworks that supports the new Stuttgart Original Languages Module (SOLM), which provides you with both the most recent and yet-to-be-released texts, and also the critical apparatuses of the Hebrew Bible, Greek New Testament, Septuagint, Latin Vulgate, and Gospel of Thomas published by the German Bible Society. These are the standard original-language scholarly editions of these biblical (and extra-biblical) texts, so if you are a Bibleworks user and are looking for an electronic edition of the most up-to-date German Bible Society texts* with a critical apparatus, you may want to purchase SOLM. Unfortunately, the add-on will put you out an additional $200 (thank you, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft), but when it is compared with what other major Bible software companies offer, it is still an exceptional deal:

Olivetree offers the NA28, the Rahlfs-Hanhart LXX, and BHS with morphological-tagging, dictionaries (Newman, LEH, and BDB), and critical apparatuses, for a combined total of $279.97, but they periodically offer says at up to 50% off for their original languages texts--so wait for the sale. The advantage of Olivetree is that their texts display beautifully on Android, iOS and even Blackberry devices as well as Mac and Windows. The disadvantage is their very limited to non-existent original language search capabilities.

Several years ago Logos came out with the Stuttgart Electronic Study Bible. That appears to have been more-or-less superseded or replaced by the German Bible Society Bundle, which was last updated in 2009. I am told that Logos does not currently have permission from the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft to package the NA28 with other bundles, so to get a close equivalent to the Bibleworks SOLM you would need to purchase the German Bible Society Student Edition (for $217.95) as well as the NA28 with critical apparatus for another $99.99, for a total of $317.90. That will get you the BHS, Rahlfs-Hanhart LXX and NA28 all with morphological tagging and critical apparatus, as well as the UBS4, NA27 (with the same), the Vulgate with text and apparatus, a version of the texts of BHQ that were published by 1995 (apparently just Minor Prophets and Proverbs), and a German equivalent to Newman's Greek-English dictionary, and a Hebrew/Aramaic-German dictionary.

Accordance offers a critical morphologically-tagged text and apparatus of BHS, Rahlfs-Hanhart and NA28 in their Academic Bundle Blue - Level 1 for $400. The bundle includes a lot of other useful stuff, but no Vulgate or Gospel of Thomas. There may be a closer equivalent to the Stuttgart package.

What sets the Bibleworks Stuttgart Original Language Module apart (aside from its price) is not only what it offers now, but what it promises for the future: In addition to morphologically-tagged texts and critical apparatuses of BHS, NA28 and Rahlfs-Hanhart, and the text and apparatus of the Vulgate, customers will receive a tagged text and critical apparatus of UBS5, the Gospel of Thomas (in English, German and Coptic) when they are available, as well as BHQ when it is available (ca. 2020)! (Although the Bibleworks website doesn't explicitly say that BHQ will also include the all-important BHQ apparatus, Mike Bushell confirms that it "should.")

*Bibleworks 10 comes standard with a morphologically-tagged version of NA28 and BHS (without apparatus), so there should be no difference in search results between these two versions and the SOLM editions. There are a few very minor differences between the text of the LXX in Bibleworks 10 and the SOLM Rahlfs-Hanhart edition, which may affect search results in a few cases. The yet-to-be released BHQ will also, presumably, differ from the text of BHS.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Russian Schism and Protestant Individualism

Practicing levitation in the Ochocos

"Containing within it a germ of Protestantism, the Russian Schism cultivated it to its limits. Even among the Old Believers, the true preserver of the ancient heritage and tradition is the individual person. This person does not live in the past, but in the present; the adopted tradition, here shorn of an advantage over the individual in terms of living wholeness or catholicity (as in the Universal Church) and being in itself no more than a dead formality, is revitalized and reanimated merely by the faith and devoutness of its true preserver - the individual person. No sooner, however, does a position of this kind start to be aware that the centre of gravity is shifting from the dead past to the living present, than the conventional objects of tradition lose all value, and all significance is transferred to the independent, individual bearer of that tradition; from this there proceeds the direct transition to those free sects which notoriously claim personal inspiration and personal righteousness as the basis of religion" - V. S. Solovyov as quoted in David McDuff's introduction to Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment (translated by David McDuff; London: Penguin Classics, 1996) pp. 26-27.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Bibleworks 10: Is an upgrade worth it?

Technical post alert: I switched from Gramcord to Bibleworks in 2004, when I was given an unused copy of Bibleworks 4. I upgraded immediately to version 6, and have remained current ever since. Although I am not an uncritical user, I still think Bibleworks is unparalleled for nitty-gritty, day-to-day work in the original languages, where you need easy access to concordances, lexica, and grammars; Bibleworks is also cheaper than the major alternatives (see my overview here).

Version 10 has just been released. Is yet another upgrade worth it?

To make it worthwhile, an upgrade needs to provide new features and resources that I will use a lot, not simply a library of reference books that I may consult from time to time. Before I get to what's new in Bibleworks 10, here are some features that made previous upgrades worthwhile, from my perspective:

Bibleworks 9

An array of New Testament textual criticism resources, including high resolution photos of major NT manuscripts, was the primary draw for Bibleworks 9, but the "fourth column" + "use" tab is probably the single biggest reason (aside from cost) why I haven't jumped ship for another program: Simply place your mouse over a word, and the fourth column performs an instantaneous search that gives you an immediate sense for word frequency and usage. Check out the video for more detail:

I use this feature all the time. To my knowledge, no other Bible software program has anything comparable.

Bibleworks 8 added two high-quality Hebrew Grammars (Waltke-O'Connor, Joüon & Muraoka), as well as Wallace's Greek Syntax, the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha in Greek, and Schaff's edition of the church fathers, among many other new features and resources. (Bibleworks maintains its own complete list here.)

Bibleworks 7 shipped with tagged versions of the Apostolic Fathers and Philo, as well as A.T. Robertson's big Greek grammar, and a version of Tov's parallel aligned Hebrew Bible/LXX. Need I say more? (There was indeed much more.)

Bibleworks 6: The reason I switched to Bibleworks in the first place was the morphological-tagged version of the works of Josephus in Greek that came with version 6. At the time, Bibleworks was, I believe, the only Bible program that offered Josephus.

Bibleworks 10: If you purchase Bibleworks new, it comes with all of the above. But what's in it for up-graders?

To be honest, my first reaction was to be a little underwhelmed: I don't need greater mac compatibility or care that much about new colour options; ditto for the epub reader; screen scaling will come in handy from time to time, but I mostly display Bibleworks on an external monitor; hi-res images of codex Leningradiensis are great, but arguably not as important for work in the MT as the images of codices א, A, B, D (in version 9) are for work in the NT. I am also disappointed that the critical apparatuses in the Stuttgart Original Language Package are an extra add-on. (Update: more detail here.)

On the positive side, I am very interested in the New English Translation of the Septuagint, Danker's Concise Greek-English Lexicon, and the tagged version of the Hebrew text of Ben Sira; and the new screen layout options + forms tab is potentially a game-changer like the "use" tab was in version 9:

(Click here for a full list of the many new features and resources in version 10. I only mentioned those that caught my eye.)

Count me in. 

Update: More detail in this follow-up post:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Why you should go on Briercrest's next study tour to Israel and/or Turkey and Greece

"Once again we realized how necessary it is to see in order to understand, and especially to hold in the memory. Knowledge gained from books is certainly not enough, for names which are not attached to any reality are nothing more than ghosts. Ghosts of cities, shadows of men, vague floating shapes, without solidity, though one tries to capture it with the aid of a drawing, a photograph or a vivid description. All students of archaeology know this by experience: nothing can replace actual contact with the object. That is why museums are so important; because there one can recognize the long chain of human history stretching out continuously from its beginning, but in which, instinctively we have a special interest in detecting and observing the first links. But the object is a prisoner in its glass case. Torn from its natural surroundings it has lost its true speech. Nevertheless it exerts a pull, it beckons one to take the road." - André Parrot, as quoted by Ferrell Jenkins (HT: Todd Bolen)
Here is a link to Briercrest's 2013 study tour of Turkey and Greece (related blog posts here). Briercrest study tours of Israel took place in 2009 and 2011.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Church Fathers on Paul's Wife

Yes, I also ask you loyal yokefellow (σύζυγος), “Help these women who struggled beside me in the Gospel." (Phil 4:3)

Commentaries on Philippians mention, as a matter of course, that Clement of Alexandria took the "loyal yokefellow" of Phil 4:3 as a reference to Paul's wife. To find out where Clement says this, you apparently have to go back to the 19th century (e.g., J.B. Lightfoot and Eadie), when NT scholars thought it was worth reading the church fathers. (BDAG also includes the references.) As usual, going ad fontes, repays the effort:

Clement of Alexandria (d. 215) discussed Paul's "yokefellow" in book 3 of his Stromateis, but--unless you read Latin--you can't find the passage in Schaff, the most widely-available English edition of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, because Clement's description of the sexual practices of heretics didn't pass T&T Clark's Victorian-era censors. Thanks to Henry Chadwick, there is a modern English translation, which has been made available online here. Here is the relevant psassage:

Even Paul did not hesitate in one letter to address his consort (σύζυγον). The only reason why he did not take her about with him was that it would have been an inconvenience for his ministry. Accordingly he says in a letter: 'Have we not a right to take about with us a wife that is a sister like the other apostles?' But the latter, in accordance with their particular ministry, devoted themselves to preaching without any distraction,and took their wives with them not as women with whom they had marriage relations, but as sisters, that they might be their fellow-ministers in dealing with housewives. It was through them that the Lord's teaching penetrated also the women's quarters without any scandal being aroused. We also know the directions about women deacons which are given by the noble Paul in his second letter to Timothy. Furthermore, the selfsame man cried aloud that "the kingdom of God does not consist in food and drink," not indeed in abstinence from wine and meat, "but in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit."
(The passage was not as clear as I expected until I checked the Greek and found that the word Chadwick translates as "consort" is the same word, σύζυγος, that is translated as "companion" or "yokefellow" in Phil 4:3.)

When we look at the context, we find that Clement refers to Paul's wife in order to argue--against the followers of Basilides, who rejected marriage altogether--that marriage (and sexual relations within marriage) is okay. Like the clean and unclean food of Romans 14, marriage, for Clement, is an adiaphora.

Clement's younger contemporary, Origen (d. 253/4), had rather different reasons for mentioning Paul's wife.Origen's commentary on Romans 1:1 seems to suggest that slavery to Christ excludes the possibility of sexual relations:
Paul, then, if certain traditions are true, was called while in possession of a wife, concerning whom he speaks when writing to the Philippians, “I ask you also, my loyal mate, help these women.” Since he had become free by mutual consent with her, he calls himself a slave of Christ. But if, as others think, he had no wife, nonetheless he who was free when he was called is yet a slave of Christ. In fact what does it mean to be a slave of Christ? It means that one is a slave of the Word of God, of wisdom, righteousness, truth, and of absolutely all the virtues which are identical with Christ himself. - Origen, Romans 1.1.3 (trans Schenk p. 62)
Origen returns to Paul's marital status in his commentary on Romans 4:

In order that we might remove such objections in a fitting way let us shift the explanation of [Abraham’s] dead body to say that Abraham was not dead with the infirmity of old age but in accordance with that power which the saints have at work, first of all, in themselves, and which they also admonish others to possess by saying, “Put to death your members which are earthly!” For I consider it to be absurd that we should fail to believe that this good which Paul possessed in himself—seeing that [Paul] would not command to others what he himself did not do this good which Paul possessed, I say, Abraham did not possess, so great a patriarch that the Apostle even calls him his own father. In [Abraham] as well, then, there was this mortification of the members. He was not enticed by luxury; he did not burn with lust like those of whom Paul says, “It is better to marry than to burn.” This same good was also in Sarah; and therefore it is written about her, “womanish things had ceased to function in Sarah.” For in her there was none of that feminine lasciviousness or the dissoluteness of incontinence, nor were either of them carried off unwillingly into the enjoyment of lustful desires. 4.6.7 (Schenk p. 271):
Here we learn that Abraham and Sarah couldn't have children because they had advanced to such a degree of godliness that they had lost all sexual desire. They had succeeded in putting their bodies to death, as Paul instructs the Romans to do in chapter 6. Paul, says Origen, would not have exhorted the Romans to such a state of sanctity, if he did not possess it himself.

Truly the world has changed