Saturday, May 7, 2011
Friday, May 6, 2011
Yes blog fans it is another exciting day in blogdom. I am giving away yet another free book simply for the asking. In fact, I will be giving away many books for most of the rest of this year. So stayed tuned for Fridays and your chance to win.
Here is the description –
Documents and Images for the Study of Paul gathers representative texts illustrating Jewish practices, Greco-Roman moral exhortation, biblical interpretation, Roman ideology, apocalyptic vision, epistolary conventions, and more to illustrate the complex cultural environment in which Paul carried out his apostolic work and the manifold ways in which his legacy was reshaped in early Christianity. Brief, insightful introductions orient the reader to the significance of these sources for contemporary interpretations of Paul's life and thought. Photographs illustrate the visual environment of the Greco-Roman world; a map, a timeline, and an index of scripture passages make the sourcebook the perfect companion text in courses on Paul and his letters. A companion website offers ancillary materials.
So please enter your name below and I will announce the winner sometime on Sunday, May 8th.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
The theology I am for is a theology that takes the Bible seriously–and that Bible as we know it is, in part, the Bible as critical scholarship has opened our eyes to it. And what it means for me to be a Christian is to continue to build theology for the church trusting that this Bible we actually have is, in fact, the Bible that God wants us to have.
I thought that this story would just go away after Easter, but it’s not. I guess it has yet to air, but the sooner it is on and gone the better.
Since announcing that he has located the nails used in Jesus’ crucifixion, which were discovered in Caiaphas’s tomb, Simcha Jacobovici has been on the defensive from biblical scholars. I have expressed my own doubts here.
As the time approaches for his pseudo-docu-fraud to air, Jacobovici is trying to defend his claims so that the show is not a total flop. Experts are lining up to debunk him and he keeps making more and more ridiculous claims.
Haarettz has an interview with Joe Zias, the director of the Israel Antiquities Authority who says that these are NOT the nails found in Caiaphas’s tomb and that the reason no one knows where the nails are is because they are a common item found in tombs and therefore are not cataloged. But Zias does know the nails that Jacobovici is using for the television show. Zias claims that the nails come from a dig 30 years ago and that they sat in his laboratory for 15 years. Moreover, the nails, which are only eight centimeters long (about 3 inches), are too short to have affixed a man to a cross.
Jacobivici, of course, is having none of this. Here is a quote.
"If you lose your lottery ticket and you hear that I found it and won a million dollars, you will do anything to believe that the ticket was not yours," responds Jacobovici. "There is no logic in his story. On the one hand they say that this is a common find, on the other they remember it well."
"The bottom line is that they lost [the nails] and I found them," says Jacobovici.
But it is even stranger. The article also contains the following claims.
The journalist notes that finding nails in a burial cave is exceptionally rare, and even more so in ossuaries. Nails used in crucifixions also had a special spiritual significance, he says.
This is just outright nonsense. It is NOT rare to find nails in a tomb or near an ossuary since nails were often used to scratch the name of the deceased on the ossuary. Once finished with the nail, the inscriber would simply drop it on the floor. As Zias notes, it is not unusual to find nails in a tomb to the point that they are usually not cataloged. As far as the “spiritual significance” of nails used in a crucifixion, I cannot comment since I am sure that he is making it up and that any significance to such nails was created by later Christians selling “original nails from the cross” during the medieval period.
I will say this about Jacobovici, had he lived 600 years ago, he would have become very rich selling his “artifacts” to the faithful.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Last week’s post Urban Legends about the Bible generated a lot of attention. So I thought I would list some other things commonly thought to be in the Bible.
Three Wise Men visit Jesus
This is the easiest and probably more well-known one. We are not told how many wise men there were or their names. The number three is associated with the gifts listed: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Saint Paul was knocked off his horse on the Damascus road
Nope, it doesn’t say that. It’s not there. I regularly offer my students a $1,000 if they can show me where it says he was riding a horse. Artwork will sometimes depict Paul on a horse, but the Bible does not.
Spare the rod and spoil the child
Not there either. You can find a few verses in proverbs that encourages parents to use the rod on their children, but none that suggest sparing it will spoil the child (cf. Prov. 13:24; 22:15; 23:13-14; 29:15).
God helps them who help themselves.
Not only is this not in the Bible it’s bad theology. It has been around a long time, however. One of its earliest known expressions is from the Aesopian fable, Hercules and the Wagoneer where it is quoted as “The gods help those who help themselves.
Cleanliness is next to godliness
Not in the Bible nor does it make sense. While the Bible (esp. Leviticus) has a lot to say about cleanliness and hygiene, it is not intended to make one closer to God but instead to indicate that the Israelites were separated from everyone else for God.
The Seven Deadly Sins
While these certainly sins that Scripture condemns, they are not found in in any such grouping. The seven sins originated in the writings of medieval theologies and have been remarked upon by such personages as Pope Gregory the Great, Thomas Aquinas, Geoffery Chaucer, and John Milton. The closest, similar type of grouping is found in Proverbs 6:16-19. However, the “sins” are not the same and while God hates them it is not clear that they are deadly.
The Apple in the Garden of Eden
There was fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2, 3), but we do not know what kind of fruit it was. The apple grew out of Christian tradition and may have been a result of artists trying to depict The Fall. It might also have come from the Latin word for evil ("malum" = evil / "malus" = apple).
God helps those who help themselves
This very common phrase comes from Algernon Sydney, who wrote it in an article titled Discourses Concerning Government. It was then popularized by Ben Franklin in 1757 in Poor Richard's Almanac.
This idea behind this phrase originates from Aristotle's ethics and the direct quote comes from Rome, several hundred years before Christ. Two different Romans are generally given credit - one named Terence and the other Petronius.
What others can you think of?
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
- Seventeen percent of those surveyed believe the King James Bible was first released shortly after the time of Christ.
- Younger Americans (age 18 to 26), often categorized as considerably less religious than older Americans (age 65 and older), are equally likely to be unsure of why the King James Bible was significant (34 percent vs. 33 percent respectively).
- Non-Christians or those with no faith are approximately twice as likely to know when the King James Bible was published (32 percent), than are non-practicing Christians (17 percent).
- Approximately half (45 percent) of all Bible readers use the King James Bible; far fewer say they read the New International Version (10 percent).
- Approximately six out of 10 adults who own a Bible own a King James Bible (57 percent) whereas only one out of eight Bible owners have a New International Version (12 percent).
Monday, May 2, 2011
One big concern for the early church — and Christians to this day — is what happened to the Old Testament patriarchs and others who never knew of Christ.
A whole mythology arose about Jesus rescuing people from the netherworld after the crucifixion. The Gospel of Nicodemus, which dates to the third century and did not make the Bible cut, offers a narrative of Jesus retrieving Adam and other Old Testament figures from Satan’s clutches.
Smith describes such imagery to his students as “Christ’s commando raid on hell.” In addition, it was a popular subject for medieval artists.
“What is going on here is Christian reflection on the doctrine of salvation only in Christ, and then trying to figure out where does that leave people who a) haven’t heard about Christ or b) who lived before Christ,” Witherington said.