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Autobiographical: Metzger and Me. The Seminar on the Canon

THIS RETURNS TO MY SERIES OF POSTS ON MY RELATIONSHIP WITH MY MENTOR BRUCE METZGER. EVENTUALLY, MANY POSTS FROM NOW, I'LL GET BACK TO THE ORIGINAL QUESTION: WHAT HE THOUGHT OF MY MOVE AWAY FROM THE FAITH. THAT'S WAY DOWN THE LINE. I return to the early years of my relationship with Bruce Metzger.   That graduate seminar that I took with him, my first semester in my PhD program, was exhilarating, and in some senses life changing.   To be sure, most of the work we did for the seminar was difficult and detailed.  Every week we had to translate from Greek or Latin an ancient “canon list” – that is, a list of books that this or that author thought should be considered canonical scripture – lists and discussions of canon from Origen, Eusebius, Codex Claramontanus, Athanasius, and so on.  One of the students in the course, as it turns out, was a Greek orthodox priest studying for a PhD.  He obviously knew Greek extremely well, better than any of us (except, of course, Metzger).  [...]

The Suffering Servant of Isaiah

I've been writing up a storm on my Bible Introduction. It's a god awful amount of work, but I'm making really good (OK, disgustingly good) progress. Here's a chunk I wrote up today, when dealing with the post-exilic prophets. It's obviously (maybe too obviously for you!) just a rough draft. Brief context: at this point I am discussing Second Isaiah (Isaiah 40-55), almost universally thought by scholars to be written by a different author from chapters 1-39 (themselves written by Isaiah of Jerusalem in the 8th c. BCE). Second Isaiah was writing after the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem (including the temple) in 586 BCE, while the leaders of the people and many of the elite had been taken into exile in Babylon, in what is known as the Babylonian Captivity. ********************************************************************************************************************** No passage of Second Isaiah has intrigued readers and interpreters – especially among Christians – more than the four passages that are dedicated to describing a figure known as the “Suffering Servant.” Some scholars have called these passages “songs,” or “songs of the [...]

2020-04-03T19:34:03-04:00July 10th, 2012|Book Discussions, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Autobiographical. Metzger and Me: Beginning the PhD Program

HIS IS A CONTINUATION OF MY POSTS ON MY RELATIONSHIP WITH BRUCE METZGER, MY MENTOR. When I entered the PhD program at Princeton Theological Seminary, my relationship with Bruce Metzger deepened significantly. At the time, the New Testament program at PTS was one of the best in the country. The faculty teaching the PhD students were all brilliant scholars; all of them except Metzger were principally known for their work in exegesis (the interpretation of the New Testament) and biblical theology (trying to explain the meaning and significance of the text for the individual Christian and the life of the church). None of them, apart from Metzger, was widely published and known outside of scholarly circles; but within scholarly circles they had a very high profile indeed. My main professors in the program were, in addition to Metzger, Chris Beker (a somewhat wild but truly genius interpreter of the writings of Paul), Paul Meyer (one of the deepest readers of texts I’ve ever known), and David Adams (a junior faculty person who had a brilliantly [...]

Autobiographical: Metzger and Me. My First Work on the Text

QUESTION: Hey Bart, I know you studied under Bruce Metzger and my question is how did he feel about your skepticism toward the trustworthiness of the N.T?   RESPONSE: Bruce Metzger and I had a long and very close relationship.  I was his student for seven years and his research assistant for the New Revised Standard Version (he was the chair of the translation committee) for a couple of years.  He directed my masters and PhD theses; he helped me break into publishing; he worked to get me into editorial positions for journals and monograph series; he guided my research until I struck out on my own.  I dare say I was closer to him than any student that he had in his four decades of teaching at Princeton Theological Seminary.   He became a kind of father figure for me.   He was a great New Testament scholar and a great man. I first heard of Bruce Metzger when I was in college studying Greek.  My Greek professor at Wheaton, Gerald Hawthorne, knew that I was [...]

The Sons of God and the Daughters of Men

Another tidbit from my Bible Introduction.  Old news for a lot of you, I know.  But it's fun to write this kind of thing up for college students, who have never heard of such a thing! ************************************************************************************************************************* One of the most mysterious and even bizarre stories in Genesis happens right at the beginning of the flood narrative, where we are told that the “sons of God” looked down among the human “daughters,” saw that they were beautiful, and came down and had sex with them leading to the Nephilim.  The word Nephilim means “fallen ones.”  According to Numbers 13:33, the Nephilim were giants.   So what is going on here in Genesis?  Apparently there were angelic beings (the “sons of God”) who lusted after human women, cohabited with them, and their offspring were giants.  It is at that point that God decides to destroy the world.  The situation was too weird even for him. This brief episode has parallels in other ancient mythologies.  It is common in Greek myths, for example, for one of the gods [...]

Introduction to the Bible: Part 1

Here is part of the opening statement in the first chapter of my Introduction to the Bible.  (It is only in rough draft -- but it gives you an idea of what I have in mind at the outset, trying to convince readers that it is indeed worthwhile to study the Bible, whether one believes it or not.  Some of you may find these statistics a bit, well, unsettling.  :-) ) ************************************************************************************************************************ Arguably the most important reason for studying the Bible – especially from a historical point of view --  is because of its importance for the history of Western Civilization.   The dominant religion of Europe and the New World for the past 2000 years has been Christianity; and Christianity, as we will see, grew out of, and alongside of, Judaism.  Both religions continue to assert an enormous influence on our form of culture.  This is true not only on the individual level, as people are guided in their thoughts, beliefs, and actions by what they learn in these religions.  It is true on [...]

2020-04-03T19:35:09-04:00July 6th, 2012|Book Discussions, Teaching Christianity|

Creation in 4004 BCE?

In my Bible Intro, I am including a number of "boxes" that deal with issues that are somewhat tangental to the main discussion, but of related interest or importance. Here's one of the ones in my chapter on Genesis, in connection with interpretations that want to take the book as science or history. For a lot of you, this will be old news. But then again, so is Genesis. *********************************************************************************************************************** In 1650 CE, an Irish archbishop and scholar, James Ussher, engaged in a detailed study of when the world began.  Ussher based his calculations on the genealogies of the Bible, starting with those in the book of Genesis (which state not only who begat whom, but also indicate, in many instances, how long each of the people thus begotten lived) and a detailed study of other ancient sources, such as Babylonian and Roman history.  On these grounds, he argued that the world was created in 4004 BCE — in fact, at noon on October 23.  This chronology became dominant throughout Western Christendom.  It was printed [...]

2020-04-03T19:35:15-04:00July 5th, 2012|Book Discussions, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Income from Books

QUESTION: Do you mind if I ask you about how the financial incentives for you compare between these types of projects? I assume that your books for scholars are not expected to make much money directly, although they are important for your career in other ways. Textbooks are very expensive compared to popular books; for example the list price for your textbook “The New Testament” (paperback) is $65. That’s actually not particularly high as textbooks go, but still at least three times as expensive as your popular books. Its also longer of course at 600 pages vs e.g. about 250 pages for “Misquoting Jesus” so they must take you longer to write. How does the compensation on your end compare?   RESPONSE: Not a problem -- there's nothing very secretive about it.   The first thing to say, though, is that authors have NO say (*NO* say!) over the price of their books.  Publishers don't even ask for an author's opinion! Scholarly books are not profitable, and usually pay nothing or next to nothing.  In lots [...]

2020-04-03T19:35:31-04:00July 4th, 2012|Book Discussions, Reader’s Questions|

My Colleague’s Archaeological Find!

You have probably noticed that almost every time an archaeological find makes its way into the major newspapers (or even the minor ones) it is a "discovery" that is very iffy, dicey, dubious, questionable and, to make a long story short, generally rejected by the real experts in the field. That's probably because real archaeologists are very careful, methodical, and, well, not all that interesting for the mass media. But they do the real work, and sometimes they come up with something really terrific. Their work may not make the front page of the NY Times, but it's the real thing, done by real, solid, labor, by real archaeologists. FOR THE REST OF THIS POST, log in as a Member. It doesn't cost much-- and all goes to CHARITY. Join today!! My colleague Jodi Magness is the real thing (I hired her into my department when I was chair, maybe 8 or 9 years ago; her office is across the hall from mine; we work together with our graduate students, etc.).   Her field is [...]

My Bible Introduction

As predicted, I began work on my Introduction to the Bible yesterday, and it has been as intense as expected.   This is to be a fifteen-chapter introduction of the entire Bible, Jewish Scripture (= Old Testament) and New Testament, Genesis to Revelation (including Apocrypha).  What a scream…. The really difficult thing for this book – as for every book – is to make it just right for the audience.  My audience in this case is not readers at Barnes and Noble (the general public) and not my colleagues among the scholars.  It is 19 year olds and their teachers.   What is tricky is the balancing act between the two.   For their teachers (who have to be thought of, since they are the ones who decide which textbooks will be used for the courses, and the whole point is to get your textbook used), I have to be knowledgable, scholarly and academically respectable, well organized, clear, and insightful.  For the 19 year olds I have to be interesting and worth the trouble of reading (and informative, [...]

2017-12-23T13:34:22-05:00July 2nd, 2012|Book Discussions, Public Forum|
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