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Forgery. Another Deceived Deceiver (Part 1)

ANOTHER EXCERPT FROM MY FORTHCOMING SCHOLARLY DISCUSSION OF FORGERY AND COUNTERFORGERY, WHERE IN THE INTRODUCTION I CONTINUE MY ANECDOTES OF FORGERIES THAT CONDEMN FORGERIES AND DECEIVERS WHO GET DECEIVED, THIS TIME BY LOOKING AT A CHRISTIAN EXAMPLE (SEE MY EARLIER POST ON THE DUPED HERACLIDES) This ironic phenomenon has its rough parallels in the later Christian tradition. To begin with, we might look at a work universally recognized as pseudepigraphic, the late fourth-century Apostolic Constitutions, a so-called “church order” allegedly written by none other than the apostles of Jesus (hence its name), but in reality produced by someone simply claiming to be the apostolic band, living three hundred years after they had been laid to rest in their respective tombs. FOR THE REST OF THIS POST, log in as a Member. If you don't belong -- JOIN!! We will be considering other aspects of this text in a later chapter. For now it is enough to note that the book represents an edited composite of three earlier documents still extant independently, the third-century Didascalia [...]

Forgery and Deceived Deceivers

I mentioned in my previous blog that I am reading through the page proofs of my scholarly book Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics. And I suggested that I might give a few extracts to give some idea of what the book looks like. Much of the book is hard hitting scholarship that only inveterate philologists could love (or like). I can give a taste in later posts, if anyone's interested. But I start off on a light note, in part to get people interested (even scholars have to be interested!). I open with the following anecdote. If you've read my popular book Forged, the final part will sound familiar. This is how I would (and do) do the same bit for a more scholarly audience. (I have not included the footnotes here) ************************************************************************************************************************ Heraclides Ponticus was one of the great literati of the classical age. As a young man from aristocratic roots he left his native Pontus to study philosophy in Athens under Plato, Speusippus, and eventually, while [...]

So Much For THAT Idea….

My plan over the next three weeks was to write the seven chapters of my Bible Introduction.   The best laid plans....   On the theme of "life sometimes interferes" I was presented yesterday, to my chagrin, with two tasks that require my attention, right away.  Both of them unpleasant.   Ugh. As I have indicated on this blog, I have a couple of books in the publication pipeline.  One is The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research, which I am co-editing with my friend Michael Holmes (it's the second edition; the first edition came out in 1995 in honor of Bruce Metzger; it is being published by E. J. Brill in the Netherlands).   This book consists of a collection of essays on every major aspect of New Testament textual criticism, for scholars and their students who are already abreast of the basic issues in the field.   The other is my scholarly version of the forgery book, Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics (being published by Oxford University Press). As fate [...]

2017-12-19T00:13:03-05:00July 29th, 2012|Bart’s Biography, Book Discussions, Public Forum|

Silvanus as Peter’s Secretary?

QUESTION: What do you make of the author's reference to a Silvanus in 1 Peter 5:12? Could it be that this really is Peter saying he used a secretary to write this letter? I know you said there is little to no evidence that people used secretaries, but what do you make of this reference to a Silvanus? RESPONSE: Yes, this is a question that I deal with in my book Forged, and that I deal with at yet greater length in the book coming out in the fall, Forgery and Counterforgery. Several points are important to make about the question, but first a bit of background. FOR THE REST OF THIS POST, log in as a Member. Click here for membership options. If you don't belong yet, JOIN!!                 Background.   Scholars have long noted that the book of 1 Peter is written in elegant Greek, and that it seems highly unlikely that an Aramaic-speaking fisherman of the lower classes (which Peter must have been), who is called “unlettered” (literally, “illiterate”) in Acts 4:13, [...]

2020-04-03T19:30:22-04:00July 28th, 2012|Catholic Epistles, Reader’s Questions|

Autobiographical. Metzger and Me: My PhD Exams

I CONTINUE MY RECOLLECTIONS OF MY EXPERIENCES WITH MY MENTOR, BRUCE METZGER: Metzger directed my PhD exams, and was responsible for writing the questions for one of them. To explain that situation requires a good bit of background. In a typical PhD program, at the end of two years of taking seminars (usually three a semester, for four semesters), a student takes the PhD exams. These go by different names: “Comprehensive exams” (that’s what we called them at Princeton Seminary); “Preliminary Exams” (i.e. preliminary to writing a dissertation); “Qualifying exams” (i.e. that qualify you to move on to the dissertation stage) – all of these refer to the same battery of exams. In most respects the way it was set up at Princeton was fairly typical – it is the way we also have it set up in the PhD program that I teach in at UNC. Here at UNC, students take five examinations, each of them four hours in length, followed by a two-hour oral examination before the examining committee. At Princeton we took [...]

Resurrection and Resuscitation

The following is just a small chunk that I've written up for my Bible Introduction on the idea of "resurrection" -- in relationship to other views of afterlife in the Bible. It's short, but it's the last sentence that is very much worth thinking about (most people haven't thought about it; I know I never did, until fairly recently). ************************************************************************************************************** Many readers of the Bible are surprised to learn that the ideas of the afterlife in the Hebrew Bible are not closely related to what most people think today.   The idea that after you die, your soul goes either to heaven or hell (or even purgatory) is not rooted in the Jewish Scriptures.  The few passages that refer to an afterlife in the Hebrew Bible assume that after death, a person goes to “Sheol.”  That is not the Hebrew equivalent of “hell” – a place of punishment for the wicked.  It is the place that everyone goes, good or evil.  It is sometimes spoken of as a place of rest (remember how Samuel was not [...]

Paul in Acts: Part 3

I mentioned in my previous posts that there are discrepancies between Paul’s letters and the book of Acts in both major and minor ways, and in my last post I dealt with some differences that appear when one looks closely at the details (the issue I addressed: what does Paul do immediately upon his conversion).  There are many instances like that throughout Acts:  if you compare what Paul has to say with what Acts has to say, on the same topic or about the same  event, you will find differences, and often these differences matter a lot to the overall narrative. There are also of differences that emerge from the overall portrayal of Paul and his Christian mission.   In this post I’ll deal with one example, and in a future post with one other. For this Post:  Paul and the Other Apostles.   One big area of interest is Paul’s relationship with those were apostles before him.  This consists principally of the former disciples of Jesus (Peter, John, etc.) and Jesus’ own brother James, who was [...]

Accessing the Squirrel

Some members wrote me to say they  had trouble accessing the second (and most interesting!) part of the Metzger and the Squirrel story a couple of days ago.  Sorry not to respond sooner; I've been galavanting hither and yon.  The mistake was mine (I hit a wrong button when posting the story), but it has been corrected, and you should be able to access it now.

2020-04-03T19:30:56-04:00July 24th, 2012|Public Forum|

Autobiographical. Metzger and Me: The Squirrel Story, Part 2

HERE I CONTINUE MY REMINISCENCES OF BRUCE METZGER, MY MENTOR As I indicated on my previous post, for years friends of mine were eager for me to find out whether the story about Metzger and the squirrel really happened. They wanted me just to ask Metzger. But there were problems with that. Among other things, if it had happened, he almost certainly wouldn’t remember, since it would have simply been something that happened with no significance to him – only to the one who thought it was very odd that Metzger would happen to know what the Greek word for squirrel was and that he would volunteer it at that rather inauspicious moment. Moreover, there were aspects of the story that did not “ring true.” Metzger was not heartless toward other living beings and he was not one to boast about his knowledge about Greek -- or about anything else. Years later something happened to me that made me realize that the narrative itself could not be true... FOR THE REST OF THIS POST, log [...]

Paul in Acts: Part 2

My post on the portrayal of Paul in Acts generated a considerable response, so I thought maybe I should say a few more words about this issue in another post – or in a series of posts, if need be. Some responses have suggested that maybe “Luke” (we don’t know the author’s real name, so we may as well call him this) had sources of information available to him for the book of Acts, just as he clearly did for the Gospel (e.g., the Gospels of Mark and Q). I think this is absolutely right, he almost certainly did have sources. Otherwise he would have had to make everything up himself, and I don’t think there’s any way that happened. There are too many close parallels to what Paul has to say about himself -- even though on closer look, in almost all these parallels there are striking discrepancies; so Luke had sources, but the sources were not completely reliable; and he altered them as he saw fit. FOR THE REST OF THIS POST, log [...]

Autobiographical. Metzger and Me: The Squirrel Story

I CONTINUE MY POSTS ON MY MENTOR BRUCE METZGER As with all great men, Metzger was widely talked about among those who knew and revered him. There were lots of stories told about Metzger at Princeton Seminary. Someone should probably collect and publish them. I was especially interested in the stories, since I came to Princeton in order to study with him. Most of the stories were meant to be funny, and we always wondered which, if any of them, were “true” (in the sense that they really happened). Far and away the most commonly told and best known story was the one I heard when I first arrived at the seminary in 1978. It is the story of Metzger and the Squirrel. FOR THE REST OF THIS POST, log in as a Member. Click here for membership options. If you don't belong yet, JOIN!! Before telling the story and explicating it a bit, I need to stress that it is hard to convey the story in writing.  It really has to be told, [...]

Paul the Persecutor and the Historical Jesus

QUESTION: You mention in your book "Did Jesus Exist?" that Paul started his persecution of Christians in the early 30s. If he was tasked with hunting down Christians by the Sanhedrin he must have had a fairly high position among the Sanhedrin (I don't mean that he was a member). How come he didn't witness the crucifixion or why didn’t he in some way have firsthand knowledge of the events in immediate connection with the crucifixion?   RESPONSE: Ah, an interesting question.  So, it’s part of a much, much larger issue.  Let me explain. We have two sources of information about the life of Paul: his own letters and the book of Acts.  There are lots of reasons for thinking that the book of Acts is not always reliable when it comes to describing events in Paul’s life.  I may devote an entire post – or maybe even a series of posts – to the question.  For now, suffice it to say that whenever you can compare what Paul has to say about his own [...]

Autobiographical. Metzger and Me: Metzger’s Faith

THIS POST CONTINUES MY RECOLLECTIONS OF MY MENTOR BRUCE METZGER. Several times in these posts on Bruce Metzger I have mentioned the fact that many of his colleagues at Princeton Theological Seminar considered him “old school,” and theologically a bit, well, naïve. It is common in theological circles to brand someone who has an older view of things that is not cutting edge as naïve. And Metzger certainly was not cutting edge when it came to theology. Metzger had been raised in a pious home in Pennsylvania and the piety and simple beliefs of his youth stayed with him through old age. As I’ve indicated, he knew billions of facts about the Bible – its teachings, its historical context, the formation of the canon, the transmission of its text, the translation of its text into ancient languages (Latin, Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Georgian, Slavonic -- and so on!), the history of its interpretation, etc. etc. But his own personal beliefs could well have been the same had he not known these billions of facts. His was [...]

Some Questions on the Greek

I'M FIRMLY ENSCONCED IN LONDON NOW (JUST SAW A BRILLIANT "WINTER'S TALE" WITH SARAH, MY SHAKESPEARE SCHOLAR WIFE WHO IS TEACHING A DUKE IN LONDON THEATER PROGRAM THIS SUMMER). I'M SERIOUSLY JET-LAGGED, BUT NOT SO JET-LAGGED AS TO AVOID MY BELOVED BLOG! HERE'S ONE I'VE BEEN SAVING UP FOR A RAINY DAY. IN LONDON, IT'S *ALWAYS* A RAINY DAY..... QUESTION: I am curious as to what role paleography has had in dating various manuscripts from early Christian writings. As I am aware, the canonical scriptures of the New Testament were written in Koine Greek. Were there any writing style changes over the period of the composition of these works or subtle changes in the Koine dialect to assign them into known date ranges? Can scribal copies be detected this way or were most or all copied true to the original? Lastly are you aware of other languages used to compose original, non-canonical works from the earliest Christian writings?   RESPONSE: There are actually four questions here, although that may not be obvious.  I’ll answer them [...]

Reflections on Books

I’m off to the airport in three hours, to spend the rest of the summer in London. As I think I mentioned before, Sarah is a Brit – grew up in London – and her family is all there. We have a flat in Wimbledon, and usually spend six weeks or so there during the summer, and sundry other times throughout the year. Sarah this year is teaching the “Duke in London” summer program, which is all theater: they study a play in class during the day, then go see it performed that evening. Really interesting and invigorating, but a *lot* of work (for Sarah). She’s been there for the past two weeks already. I have finished the eight chapters of my Bible Intro that deal with the Hebrew Bible; after this the book will include be a transitional chapter into the New Testament (dealing with Greco-Roman world, Judaism in the period, and so on), then five chapters on the NT, and a final chapter on the canon and text of both testaments. I hope [...]

2020-05-08T12:44:40-04:00July 16th, 2012|Book Discussions|

Autobiographical. Metzger and Me: Serving as his Teaching Assistant

THIS IS A CONTINUATION OF MY RECOLLECTIONS OF MY TIME WITH BRUCE METZGER, MY MENTOR AT PRINCETON THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY FOR SEVEN YEARS (BOTH MY MASTERS AND PH.D. DEGREES) In addition to studying with Bruce Metzger for seven years, four of them as his PhD student, I also served as his teaching assistant on a number of occasions. Teaching assistants normally help with the teaching of a large lecture course. Sometimes that means meeting with groups of students regularly – once a week – for a discussions section dealing with aspects of the course. And always it means helping with the grading, or – even more commonly – doing all the grading! The professor then lectures, gives assignments, directs the course – and the T.A. (= teaching assistant) does all the grunt work. It’s part of the training. Metzger tended to have large courses for the MDiv students (Masters of Divinity is the basic degree for training to become a minister; MDiv students already have a college degree) – because so many of the students revered [...]

Wisdom as God’s Consort in the Beginning

I'm pleased to say that I met my goal of getting the eight chapters on the Hebrew Bible for my Bible Introduction written now, just in time for me to fly outta here. I head to London for the rest of the summer on Monday. But I will keep up with the blog from there! Below is just a short little "box" that I include in my discussion of the book of Proverbs.   *********************************************************************************************************************** Box 1.2: Woman Wisdom as God’s Consort? We have seen that in ancient Israel Yahweh was sometimes thought to have a divine consort, his “Asherah.”  This was never accepted by the strict henotheists who wrote the historical and prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible, but in Proverbs, a book of Wisdom, there is a passage that some interpreters have thought represents a kind of modified or “tamed” view of Yahweh and his divine female companion from eternity past.  Here she is not Asherah, but Wisdom herself, shown to be speaking in Proverbs 8: FOR THE REST OF THIS POST, log [...]

Possibly of Some Interest

  Some of you may get the magazine Biblical Archaeology Review.  It often has interesting stuff in it, forthe non-specialists.  Here's the announcment of a recent article of possible interest.   Biblical Views: The Value of Methodological Doubt Ron Hendel Defends Critical Biblical Scholarship   What's the use of critical Biblical scholarship? If you asked evangelical Calvinist philosopher Alvin Plantinga, he'd probably say "not much." He compares the endeavor to mowing the lawn with nail clippers. Instead he believes only in the inerrancy of scripture, trusting that the Holy Spirit will reveal everything one needs to understand the Bible. Ron Hendel, on the other hand, the Norma and Sam Dabby Professor of Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, believes that critical Biblical scholarship and the methodological doubt that accompanies it are valuable tools for understanding and appreciating the Biblical text. Unlike the certainty that accompanies Plantinga's belief in the inerrancy of scripture, the questioning of authority and tradition that comprises methodological doubt can ultimately lead to greater clarity and more solid faith, [...]

2017-12-20T12:26:11-05:00July 13th, 2012|History of Biblical Scholarship, Public Forum|

Autobiographical. Metzger and Me: My Dissertation Proposal

THIS IS A CONTINUATION OF MY REFLECTIONS ON MY RELATIONSHIP WITH BRUCE METZGER, MY MENTOR. SEVERAL PEOPLE HAVE ASKED WHAT HIS VIEW WAS OF MY LEAVING THE FAITH. I'LL DEAL WITH THAT DOWN THE LINE. (AS IT TURNS OUT, IT'S VIRTUALLY A NON-EXISTENT PART OF THE STORY....) In graduate school different professors have different approaches to evaluating and grading term papers. Some professors are completely anal about it and insist on correcting every mistake, rewriting every sentence, and reformulating every idea. Not many are that way, thankfully, since doing all this takes an enormous chunk of time (and a very large ego). I never had a professor like that, but I have known some over the years. Others make extremely judicious and helpful comments, sometimes at great length. My teacher Paul Meyer was like that at Princeton Seminary. The comments he made on our papers were in depth, always on target, and superior in quality to any of the scholarship we read all semester in the class. Meyer never published much himself – he threw [...]

A Virgin Birth? The Importance of Context

I continue to be writing up a storm, making just the progress I've wanted on my Bible Introduction. Gods willing, I will finish chapter 8 tomorrow, which is all of the chapters dealing with the Hebrew Bible. I was eager to finish this part of the book before the weekend, because on Monday I head overseas for the rest of the summer (Sarah and I spend a good chunk of every summer in London; she's a Brit, and has been there already for a couple of weeks, teaching a Duke summer school program abroad). I hope to finish the NT section while I'm there, but that won't take as much work, in a sense, since I have, well, written about the NT before. (In another sense it takes a lot more work -- about 35 years worth altogether). While I'm away, I will certainly keep this blog going full steam. In case you wondered! Below is a little section from my opening chapter of the Intro. Remember: this book is for 19 year olds, most [...]

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