Baker Academic

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Joan Taylor responds to the Israel Folau Controversy

The Jesus Blog is honored to, once more, feature a guest post from Joan Taylor, Professor of Christian Origins and Second Temple Judaism at King's College, London.

Her latest book, by the way, is fascinating. Have a look:

On April 10, the Tongan-Australian Rugby star Israel Folau expressed on social media his views on God’s plan for gay people, namely: “HELL – unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.” He stated that "hell waits" for drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators.

For this, he was hit with immediate censure. Rugby Australia decided to terminate his $4 million contract for breaching their code of conduct. The media and huge numbers of people around the world have joined together in condemning his remarks. He has now notified Rugby Australia of his intention to contest their decision.

He posted a saying from Jesus: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake” (Matt. 5:10-11). He has apparently expressed that he wants to do what God wills, and would sacrifice his rugby career. He is determined to follow what is written in the Bible.

And frankly it looks quite a lot like he is being severely condemned for quoting the Bible. This is a man of faith who wants to do the right thing.

In my view, the central problem is not with what is written in the Bible, but with certain Bible translations. The Bible was not written in English, and what is being quoted by Israel Folau as God-given wording is in fact a very dubious rendering of the original Greek. As someone who has spent my academic career working on the Bible and its historical context, I have long been worried about the way that passages of the Bible have been translated and/or interpreted to justify oppression rather than liberation, abuse rather than care. Over history, the Church has condoned numerous heinous crimes by basing itself on wrong understandings of what was written in the Bible. In this case, there is a glaring problem in the verse that Israel has used to justify his views. But he is, it seems, in a faith context in which this has not yet been explored. It is vital this is explored right now.

I am sure that Israel thinks he is abiding totally by what was written by the apostle Paul, using words that are part of Holy Scripture. When he stated that drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators were bound for Hell he is resourcing a translation into English of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (6:7-10), written in Greek. There is a picture online of Israel Folau reading the Bible as translated into English in the King James version, produced in 1611, and here the passage reads:
7.Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? 8 Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren. 9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
The trouble is that the Bible as quoted here is an old English translation that has been identified as seriously faulty.

So let’s look at Paul, to begin with. He was on a mission to spread the word about Christ and worked hard to found churches. These were made up of men and women who were both slaves and non-slaves, Jews and non-Jews. Here in this passage he wanted to advise them about the right way of behaving, and deal with situations when they were harmed. Paul’s letter here is to the church he co-founded at Corinth, a Roman city in Greece, and this was a city in which men could behave badly. He starts off in this passage saying that Christian men should not go to court to challenge when they were defrauded of money. Actually, only free men could do this, but Paul says that even they should not try to seek justice in the court system. He then lists actions of men who were unrighteous and harmful and says – effectively – that they would not inherit the Kingdom of God. There was no point in seeking redress in court when harmed by them, because they would not be included in God’s perfect world when it came about anyway.

This is not ‘Heaven’: the Kingdom of God’ is a kind of utopia, and there was a kind of karmic concept of good following good, bad following bad, though with the difference that God can intervene and forgive at any time with repentance and changed actions, and you try to live now as if living in the Kingdom. And it is full of surprises. As Jesus said to the legal experts of his time, “The tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God ahead of you” (Matt. 21:31).

Would the wrongdoers go to Hell? In Paul’s way of thinking there was not really ‘Hell’ as such. “Hell”, as a later concept, was a blend of Roman Tartarus (a place of punishment), Gehenna (a rubbish tip where things got incinerated), and Hades/Sheol (a shadowy world of death-sleep). The King James version often translates the words Gehenna and Hades as “Hell”, so it is easy to get the wrong idea. Paul thinks of new life in Christ, in community, and a new way of being; the opposite of this was the punishment of destruction/death, given God’s anger about evil actions. This is not great, but it is not Hell (as in a place of torture), see 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10.

In terms of the apostle Paul’s own concerns with sexual immorality, Paul wanted people to be celibate like him, and even marriage was a concession (see 1 Corinthians 7), so he does not map on to contemporary understandings of relationships very well. Nevertheless, a key concern for Paul was love and respect. If I don’t have love, he said, I am just a sounding gong and clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1): all noise, nothing else. I am convinced that what Paul wanted to see was loving relationships. The concern for loving, respectful behaviour underpins everything he says about how people relate to each other. Even the threat of death/destruction was designed to make people realise there was a chance for true life, here and in the future, and in this passage it is actually a prod towards forgiveness. The point is: do not seek redress in court. Let it go. Turn the other cheek.

But who are the wrongdoers? What Paul wrote in his letters is not always crystal clear. Paul was very concerned here with the right way for men to behave, and Paul’s real concern is with abusive behaviour that attacked the weak. He is particularly concerned with what men should do, because men had the most power in society and could abuse, but we need to understand the behaviours in the light of what happened in the Graeco-Roman world in the first century, and the concerns are quite specific.

So, in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 we have a list of male vices. Being a male adulterer, for example, was a huge man-to-man abuse, in that the adulterer was ‘taking’ another man’s wife. My own translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9 would be: “Or do you not know that unrighteous men shall not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: neither whoremongers (pornoi), nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor spineless cowards (malakoi), nor ‘male-bedders’ (arsenokoitai), nor thieves, nor covetous, drunk or reviling men, shall inherit the Kingdom of God”.

In the Greek text it seems very clear that the concern Paul has is with damaging male behaviour that would lead to a complaint by another man. All these can easily get lost in translations, done by different committees of translators at different times. So, one of the greatest outrages of Bible translation ever done has been that the word arsenokoitai is translated as ’homosexuals’ in many English Bibles from the 20th century onwards. The problem for all translators is that arsenokoites is a rare word. However, studies have shown that it is always associated with vices of seizing, or raping, and therefore it should be understood as involving male-on-male rape or coercion, and socially at the time it would be more connected with pederasts seizing boys. This behavior does not in any way map on ‘homosexuality’ as we understand it: it is not a word about same-sex love. It is a word describing abusers. To translate arsenokoitai as indicating homosexuals is utterly, totally mistaken, wrong, and itself a kind of abuse by faulty translation.

In the Jerusalem Bible and New Revised Standard Version we have 'sodomites’, which would only be right if the sodomy was understood as forced. The King James Version has more vaguely 'abusers of themselves with mankind‘, which does at least still ensure that the fundamental concern is with abuse (though here it is of themselves). But all these get interpreted as indicating ‘homosexuals’ thanks to certain interpretive trends.

Furthermore, malakoi, literally ‘softies’, indicates spineless cowards and weaklings in other comparable lists of male vices, but is translated in the King James Bible as ‘effeminate’, again making the Bible condemn male to female transgender people or indeed any male who seems to be ‘girly’ in the eyes of certain beholders. This again is wrong translation, and its ramifications are incredibly serious, as we see.

I am summarising here what has been written about by excellent scholars of the Bible and in many books and articles by gay Christians. Among the best work, I recommend: Dale Martin, ‘Arsenokoités and Malakos: Meanings and Consequences,’ in Biblical Ethics and Homosexuality: Listening to Scripture, ed. by Robert L. Brawley (1996).

How could such English translations be so wrong, you may ask? The problem is that the King James Bible translators did not have access to all the wealth of comparative Graeco-Roman texts we have today. Then, 20th-century translation teams have tended all too quickly to follow what had already been faultily established. In terms of modern English Bibles, I would like to say there is one that has got it right, but this is not yet so. We have a huge lag between scholarship on this passage and some better Bible edition that will sort out a translation that has been responsible for untold misery and misunderstanding.

The passage in question is not the only one used by Christians to condemn homosexuality, but all of these other texts have also been shown to be either misinterpreted (not taking into account the historical and cultural contexts) or mistranslated. There is resistance to this correction. Once a view is formed, about the right wording, it is incredibly hard to change. But this change is absolutely vital. The Bible was not written in English. We sometimes need to work very hard to understand its meaning.

Truly, however, Paul never wrote that ‘homosexuals’ are going to Hell unless they repent. His Greek words have been lost in translation, bent into a meaning that fitted a world intent on condemning gay people. It is one of the worst things that has ever happened to his words.

And it is truly ironic that Israel Folau is accused of transgressing a code of conduct on account of abusive statements, when Paul was identifying precisely the harm done by abusers.

Our thanks to Joan Taylor for this thoughtful reflection.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Statement of Solidarity with our Jewish Neighbors

The following is a letter jointly authored by the faculty of United Theological Seminary, of which I count myself a member. This was written last year but seems relevant today.

Statement of Solidarity with our Jewish neighbors

March 24, 2017
In light of the demonstrable uptick in anti-Semitic incidents since November, we the Christian faculty at United Theological Seminary offer this statement of solidarity with our Jewish neighbors:
Locally and globally, we have observed bomb threats targeting Jewish centers and schools, desecrations of Jewish gravestones and defacements of Jewish institutions. While this has been a national trend, we witnessed one such incident at a local institution — a public act of hatred in the form of a swastika.
We are greatly disturbed by this trend along with its historical precedents and implications. Not only does this activity evoke the hostility toward Jewish life and culture in Europe leading up to the Shoah, it is a symptom of the present political climate in America. In short, we acknowledge that these are acts of terror specifically targeting our Jewish neighbors. We also acknowledge that these incidents are part of a larger social trend, one that injures a wider network of neighborly relationships. Recent reports of our Muslim neighbors who have helped to restore Jewish cemeteries after vandalism are inspiring. We count this show of friendship as a courageous example for Christian hospitality.
We therefore stand with our neighbors and denounce this trend as both anti-Semitic and anti-Christian. Such hatred stands in opposition to the good news upon which our faith is built. Central to historic Christian doctrine is extravagant love as taught by the author of our faith, a rabbi who was first and foremost a Jew. We believe that Jesus’ entire life was lived as a Jew and that his central mission sought the wellbeing of the Jewish people and their neighbors. We also believe that Jesus’ command to love our neighbors extends the ancient Jewish teaching that all humankind is made in the image of our Creator and deserves respect. As such, symbols of hate are an affront not only to those targeted but to all of G-d’s children.
At the same time, we acknowledge that Christian history is replete with examples of Christians perpetrating or condoning acts of hatred. We at United Theological Seminary hope that we can help to break this pattern and to seek the well-being of our Jewish neighbors. Toward that end, toward the world to come, we stand and will act as we are led in the days to come. If there is a seed of collaboration to be planted here, we stand at the ready to listen and to participate. We invite others in our community to do the same.
In determined hope,
The faculty of United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio
Peter Bellini
Sarah Brooks Blair
Presian Burroughs
Wendy Deichmann
Thomas Dozeman
James Eller
Phyllis Ennist
Lisa Hess
Harold Hudson
Justus Hunter
Vivian Johnson
Scott Kisker
Anthony Le Donne
Luther Oconer
Andrew Sung Park
Joni Sancken
Jerome Stevenson
David Watson

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Game of Thrones Religion Book

Everyone needs a hobby and mine is teaching seminarians at a United Methodist place of higher learning. My day job is that I think deeply about fantasy literature, fake religions, and real baseball. The following book thus combines two of my central professional interests. Moreover, it is presently the number one rated new release in the category of comparative religions on Amazon:

Gods of Thrones will do three things for you. It will explain the fictional religions in George R. R. Martin's fantasy. It will explain ancient and modern religions using examples from the novels and HBO show. And it will bring more texture to your favorite plots, characters, and fan theories by explaining how the ancient and medieval worlds worked.

Here is an excerpt:
Premodern Jewish mythology tells of a subhuman creation called the golem. In most iterations of the story, the golem is formed of clay or mud and then animated by a rabbi or sage. In early forms of the myth, the golem is unable to speak, lacking much intelligence. But the golem is usually obedient, following directions well (albeit taking some directions too literally). As the myth evolves in later centuries, the golem gets too large to control or goes on a violent rampage. The golem is created by writing the holy name of God (or a variation of it) on the creature’s forehead or inserting a piece of paper with the name into its mouth. In some stories, the word “truth” is used. In order to decommission the golem, one letter is removed, changing the word from “truth” to “dead”. The most famous golem myth is set in 16th-century Prague. In this story, the golem is created to protect Jews against anti-Semitic attacks.  
 . . . perhaps the best analogy for Ser Robert Strong is the golem myth. First, both Frankenstein’s monster and Osiris are intelligent and able to speak. But like the golem, Ser Robert is mute and functions as an automaton. Second, neither Frankenstein’s monster nor Osiris serve as a personal bodyguard. But like the golem, Ser Robert’s primary purpose is to defend. Indeed he is reanimated specifically to fight Cersei’s enemies. Ser Robert’s story and golem mythology differ, however, in their religious significance. The golem is created by a holy man to defend the pious. By contrast, Ser Robert is reanimated by an infidel and thought to be an abomination. So it seems that Ser Robert Strong is stitched together using parts of multiple fictions.
As you can see, I take my day job very seriously.


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Jesus: A Beginner's Guide

My most recent book, is now in print and can be purchased using your favorite legal currency. The idea with this book was to play in the space created by Jaroslav Pelikan. In other words, this is heavy on "Jesus through the centuries" and reception history. That said, the book begins with some basic historical Jesus elements and introduces early Christian literature. I conclude with a Jesus in pop-culture section. My hope is that this book might work as a supplementary text for classes on Christianity or World Religions.

Here is some praise for the book.

"I loved this book and will definitely be using it in my teaching. Hope the following will suffice: Le Donne's writing never fails to evoke, entertain and educate students - and this volume on Jesus is no exception. Covering Jesus' construction within historical enquiry to reception in pop culture this will be a welcome addition to the reading lists of many undergraduate programmes and an invaluable and accessible teaching resource."
- Louise Lawrence, University of Exeter

'This little book punches far above its light weight. In Jesus: A Beginner’s Guide, Anthony Le Donne has given us an excellent short cultural history of Jesus. From the letters of Paul to the Gospel of Mary, from the Alexamenos graffito to Timothy Schmalz’s “Homeless Jesus,” from Clare of Assisi to Martin Luther King, Jr.,  it is all here, expertly narrated and beautifully illustrated." 
- Matthew V. Novenson, University of Edinburgh

"Fresh, punchy and perfectly crafted for those with little or no background in this field of study,
Le Donne explains Jesus not only in terms of long ago, but through the centuries to today. He traces not one Jesus but many, each reshaped for different reasons. Ultimately, this book presents Jesus as a remarkably malleable entity, and yet a figure who is as critically relevant now as ever."
- Joan E. Taylor, King's College London

"As fascinating as it is wide-ranging, Anthony Le Donne's Jesus: A Beginner's Guide is a master class on a two thousand year long tradition of questing for, commemorating, and creatively appropriating Jesus. From magic bowls to Muhammad Ali, and with equal parts wit and learning, Le Donne canvasses a captivating range of sources to produce an engrossing account of the one the most important figures in history."
- David Lincicum, University of Notre Dame

Monday, August 13, 2018

A Book or Four

I realized a few days ago that in 2017 and 2018 I've published 4 books. This, of course, is too many. Therefore it is highly likely that a couple of these books will not be good. I am sorry to say that I am too close to the problem to see it clearly. The best course of action is for you to buy all four and determine for yourself which of these books were not worth reading. I have just finished a rough draft of number five (due out in November) so you will have to wait until then to determine how bad that one is. The worst part of all of this is that I've neglected this blog too often as a result.

This week I plan to pick up the pace a bit by writing about my writing.

Sacred Dissonance was cowritten with Larry Behrendt and published with Hendrickson. It is the book that took the longest and required the most of me in terms of emotion, new research, and personal reflection. Rather than recap the book, here is an email I wrote Larry yesterday.

Larry, it's been a minute since we discussed Xty/Judaism stuff. I had an experience this morning that I thought I'd share.

So for our birthdays (which are only days apart), Sarah and I bought each other a year-long Sunday subscription to the Times. When I had this idea I imagined myself sitting down with coffee and the paper on the front porch. That's exactly what I did this morning. I read a couple articles on the front page, looked at the best-seller list, and opened to the sports page. I can't tell you how much nostalgic joy I got from the tactile experience. So much of my youth was spent underlining stats and circling boxscores. There were no boxscores today. That was sort of jarring. But the AL and NL league leaders were there just as I remembered them. 20 years ago I might have written out several permutations of a trade to land Nick Markakis so I could flip him for some other player that always has a strong second half. Having the paper in my hands brought back the feeling of all of those wasted hours. With one key difference. The "leaders" section for batters begins with a category called "batting." This, of course, refers to batting average, a stat that I view with different eyes. For pitchers, the top categories is called "pitching." This is essentially a wins-losses stat. Not only do I look at this stat differently, I no longer care about it. It's interesting but it's not telling. Even so, I enjoy the experience of revisiting those old, outmoded categories. They are meaningful touchstones. They are part of the entire experience of holding a newspaper in my hands and wasting time with baseball. But nostalgia is almost always tinged with lament. I've changed. Baseball has changed. The world has changed.
This is not the place to reproduce the entire text or Larry's reply. The gist of this exchange was my sense that I experience the sacred far less now than I once did. Whether it is my relationship to the Church or baseball, I am simply in a different place than I once was. I have different categories by which I process the world. While I don't regret the path I've taken, I do miss crossing the border from mundane to sacred. This isn't a loss of faith or devotion. I still enjoy baseball (except when it sucks) and I still love my church (except when I don't). But my new categories incline me less to sacramental experience.

I think that my pursuit of Jewish-Christian dialogue was a decision to chase the sacred. In writing this book I wanted to understand what Larry finds sacred in Judaism and Jewishness. And I wanted to see my own tradition anew through his eyes. But the process of our dialogue has become sacred on another level. My pursuit of the sacred (because it's always something of social construct; see e.g. baseball) required some community of devotion. For me, people who are hanging out at the borders of Christianity are best equipped to help me process my own experience. Somewhere along the way, the process of dialogue itself became sacred to me. But, as the title of the book suggests, it is not a process that requires harmony of belief, praxis, or symmetry. It is an altogether different experience of the sacred.


Sunday, June 10, 2018

BASP Subscriptions

I'm happy to pass along the following from William Johnson of Duke University.  Some readers of the Jesus Blog may be interested in this offer for annual subscriptions to the Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists.


Dear colleagues,

If you have papyrological interests, I want to point out to you the great deal offered by the American Society of Papyrologists. An individual ASP membership costs $35, and for that you will an annual subscription to theBulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists, almost 400 pages of high-quality papyrology spanning a wide range of subject matter, from editions to essays. Our new arrangement with Peeters Publishers allows us to offer this without shipping or other additional costs. 

Where else can you subscribe to a papyrological journal for $35? (Or $16 if you are a student!)

To become a member, simply go to:

and click on the membership button.

Memberships also go to support the Society’s other activities, for which see the blurb below.

With best wishes to you all,

William Johnson
Secretary-Treasurer, American Society of Papyrologists

Kiffiak Book Giveaway

Over at the Zurich New Testament Blog, they're running the following promotion for a free copy of Jordash Kiffiak's Responses in the Miracle Stories of the Gospels (WUNT 2; Mohr Siebeck).  Readers of the Jesus Blog may have interest in winning this study of over 700 pages!


This is your chance to win a FREE COPY of the acclaimed, 700+ page study by Jordash Kiffiak, “Responses in the Miracle Stories of the Gospels”!
The book has been praised by Andreas Lindemann in no uncertain terms:
Man wird bei einem derart umfangreichen, m. E. im besten Sinne als „innovativ“ zu bezeichnenden Werk Fragen und Einwände vorbringen können. Gleichwohl scheint mir die Studie von Jordash Kiffiak im Ansatz und in der sorgfältigen Durchführung der Frage nach der Bedeutung der „responses“ in den Wundererzählungen in ganz besondere Weise erwähnenswert zu sein.
(“With such an enormous work - and in my opinion one to be labeled ‘innovative’ in the best sense of the word - one might be able to raise questions and objections. Nevertheless the study of Jordash Kiffiak in its approach and meticulous execution regarding the question of the meaning of the ‘responses’ in the miracle stories appears to me to be worthy of mention in a very exceptional way.”)
To take part in the competition, you’ll need to do two things.
1. Write a two- or three-sentence comment, telling us why you need this volume from Mohr Siebeck’s WUNT II series.
2. Submit a one-page (500 words max.) piece, giving a fuller explanation of your rationale.
The prize will be awarded on the basis of not only logical argumentation but also creativity!
Note: this competition is for graduate students. Your document will need to have your full name, status (MA student, PhD candidate), program/specialization (NT, early Christianity, early Judaism etc.), current year of studies, title of MA thesis (if relevant) or PhD thesis, and the name of your institute. Send it to by Thursday 14 June 2018.
You can read a blog post summarizing the book here:

All the best!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

"Christian Origins and Social-Scientific Criticism: Past, Present, and Future" Schedule—Chris Keith

I'm happy to share the schedule for the Centre for the Social-Scientific Study of the Bible's upcoming conference on May 25 at St Mary's University, Twickenham on "Christian Origins and Social-Scientific Criticism: Past, Present, and Future."  If you've not registered yet and would like to join us, you can do so here.


‘Social-Scientific Criticism’ now serves in New Testament studies as an umbrella term for a variety of critical approaches to early Christianity, which include cultural anthropology, social identity theory, social history, ancient and modern media studies, memory theories, human geography, ancient and modern politics, race theory, trauma studies, and others.  This conference gathers leading scholars to discuss the progress of the scholarly discourse from initial applications to the current state, as well as offer thoughts about the future. 

8.00–9.00       Registration
9.00–9.10       Welcome
9.10–9.20       Introduction to the Conference (Chris Keith) 

Session 1: Theoretical Origins and Texts
9.20–9.50       ‘From Honour and Shame to Theorizing Christian Origins’ (John Kloppenborg)
9.50–10.20     ‘Competitive Textualization in the Jesus Tradition’ (Chris Keith)      
10.20–10.50   ‘The Letter to Titus as a Site of Memory’ (Michael Scott Robertson)

10.50–11.20   coffee and tea break

Session 2: Violence and Identity
11.20–12.10   ‘Violence as Social Currency in Early Christianity’ (Sarah Rollens)
12.10–12.40   ‘The Death of John the Baptist and the Sociology of Beheading in the Ancient World’ (Nathan Shedd)
12.40–1.00     Open Discussion

1.00–2.00       Lunch

Session 3: Space and Language
2.00–2.40       ‘Diverse Futures of Social-Scientific Criticism of the New Testament: Affective, Spatial, Cognitive, and Digital Turns’ (Louise J. Lawrence)
2.40–3.20  ‘Apocalyptic Language in the New Testament: Can Cognitive Linguistics
Help?’    (Jamie Davies)

3.20–3.40       coffee and tea break

Session 4: Ethnicity, Race, and Ideology
3.40–4.10       ‘Whose Race Needs to be Noted? Further Reflections on Whiteness and Biblical Studies’ (David Horrell)
4.40–5.10       ‘Social-Scientific Criticism and the Bible: Investigating Ideological Trend’ (Taylor Weaver)

5.10–5.30       coffee and tea break

Session 5: Politics and Social-Scientific Criticism
5.30–6.00       Keynote Address:  ‘Cults, Martyrs, and Good Samaritans’ (James Crossley)
6.00–6.20       Respondent:  Hannah Strømmen
6.20–6.40       Respondent:  Yvonne Sherwood
6.40–7.00       Discussion

7.00                supper at La Dolce Vita for those who have reserved a place, otherwise the St Mary’s dining room will be open

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Adele Reinhartz on the Gospel of John—Chris Keith

Over at Ancient Jew Review, Adele Reinhartz has a fascinating retrospective on her contributions to the scholarly study of the Gospel of John.  Johannine scholars will no doubt recognize Reinhartz as a giant in the field, and rightly so.  She pitches these thoughts as a "break-up" with the Beloved Disciple, however.  She notes that she's come to abandon her three-tiered reading of the Fourth Gospel, thereby abandoning also the (still dominant) idea that the Gospel tells us something concrete about the Johannine community.  She now affirms that the Gospel moves on a "historical level" and a "cosmological level," not an "ecclesiological level."  She also notes that she's now convinced that the Fourth Gospel's anti-Judaism is not simply part of its overall narrative package, which it offers to Jewish readers, but the core of its rhetorical construction, which it offers to Gentile readers.  The whole retrospective is fascinating, and Reinhartz's work is as important now as it has ever been.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Another Fake Bites the Dust

I confess that whenever I hear about some newly discovered bit of fancy material evidence, I'm immediate skeptical. This was the case when I first learned of the so-called Jordan Codices. It turns out that caution was indeed warranted. While the artifact uses ancient materials, they are most likely forged says the Department of Antiquities Director General, Monther Jamhawi.

The trouble, it seems to me, is twofold as we lay another forgery to rest.

1. Forgers are good at their jobs and getting better.

2. Media coverage of the fraud will always been less than the coverage of the initial "discovery."

These two points are related. One wonders if the goal of the forgers isn't to fool folks only for a few years. A few years is enough time to ride a media wave and monetize it.

Bottom line: one doesn't need to fool experts forever; one only needs to rely on the facts that it will take a few years for refutation and that media coverage will atrophy over time. This brings me to a third point.

3. I have no doubt that the initial stories of these codices will continue to circulate and fool folks who are seeing them for the first time. Search engines will grab the initial reports more readily (as they have been more trafficked) and bury the reports of refutation over time (as they are less trafficked).

So you can expect to see these pop up from time to time on social media for years to come.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Image of Cerula, Catacomb of San Gennaro

BBC 4 reports on an image found in a catacomb in San Gennaro, Naples. The image suggests that Christianity continued to employ female bishops as late as the fifth century.

The super-duper, dynamic duo of Helen Bond and Joan Taylor featured here:


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

An Article on Renan

Will Theiss has written a nice article on Ernst Renan for Marginalia. It provides fascinating backdrop for Renan's scholarship and (I don't mind saying) is beautifully written.