Radio Interview with Stephen Carlson
As Mark Goodacre mentioned on NT Gateway, the radio interview in which Stephen Carlson talks about Secret Mark can be downloaded here.
As Mark Goodacre mentioned on NT Gateway, the radio interview in which Stephen Carlson talks about Secret Mark can be downloaded here.
In Paul's True Rhetoric: Ambiguity, Cunning, and Deception in Greece and Rome, Mark Given argues that the apostle was deceptively sophistic, saying things he really didn't mean, insulting people "politely", making rules and breaking them, patronizing the Jewish people, and masquerading like a chameleon according to the company he was in. This is an important work, if at times one-sided, offering new ways to understand the various tensions and contradictions in Paul's letters. It also forces interesting questions about the nature of one's "gospel truth".
"Just as Plato's Socrates feels free to break the rules of dialectic if necessary in order to win an argument, and Aristotle can counsel the use of sophistic elenchus to defeat sophists on their own terms, so Paul feels free to leave the world of being for that of seeming, 'to become all things to everyone,' in order to propagate the truth, his gospel truth... In a Platonic-Socratic world-view, the ignorance from which humanity suffers results from the elusive and changing nature of the sphere of becoming, but in Paul's apocalyptic worldview, the deceptive character of existence in 'this world' is even more acute because 'the god of this world' is himself a diabolically clever sophist...[In either case], the deceived must first be deceived for their own good." (pp 117, 176-177, 117)This is an interesting way of looking at it, but I wonder if Paul really thought about justifying his deceptions this way. Is Given perhaps trying too hard to find a rationale here? The idea that people need to be deceived for their own good is fairly common, and one we practice all the time, if without realizing it. Paul's masquerades may simply reflect normal human behavior more than anything.
I enjoy reading Chris Heard’s blog (blogs, actually: he has a D&D blog in addition to Higgaion), even when in disagreement. Today he targets one Paul Mirecki, chair of the Religious Department at University of Kansas, who has recently gloated over the fact that he’s teaching creationism where it belongs -- in a mythology course. Mirecki is reported as saying:
"Western culture has feared nothing quite so much as it has feared deception. This concern over deception has played a fundamental role in the formulation of our doctrines of sin and salvation, our definitions of philosophical problems, our conceptions of mental health, and even our justifications of the scientific enterprise. It would not be excessive to claim that in the Western tradition deception has commanded as much aversion as death itself." (Loyal D. Rue, By the Grace of Guile: The Role of Deception in Natural History and Human Affairs; cited in Mark Given's Paul's True Rhetoric, p 5)
Tyler Williams has hit on a solution to the question of identifying bibliobloggers, by designing a seal of approval for "white male bibliobloggers everywhere, but especially in developed nations". (See all the links in Tyler's post to observations from other bloggers.) I love it.
Hardly a week goes by when I’m not working on Romans, and lately I’ve been spending time with Thomas Tobin’s Paul’s Rhetoric in its Contexts: The Argument of Romans. One of Tobin’s noteworthy contributions is his outline of the letter, particularly in how he groups chapter 8 with what follows rather than what precedes. I don’t think anyone has suggested this before.
Almost 50 years after Morton Smith's "discovery" of Secret Mark in 1958, Stephen Carlson has put the hoax to rest. His case against Smith is strong enough to be deemed conclusive, and can be summarized as follows.
(1) M. Madiotes -- the "bald swindler".Identifying these signature-confessions constitutes the bulk of the book, and it's brilliant detective work on Carlson's part. When taken in conjunction with the rest of the damning evidence, forger's tremors, and convenient "coincidences", they suffocate Smith’s hoax once and for all.
(2) Morton Salt -- the company which invented the kind of salt presupposed in Clement's letter.
(3) Jesus' gay affair -- with the young man later seen in Gethsemane, where Jesus was arrested, thus evoking the cultural milieu of America in the 1950s, where police were cracking down on gay men who met in public parks and gardens.
"As an enacted parable of the kingdom, the raising of the young man...illustrates the paradox that one must undergo death in order to defeat it. The private explanation of this parable [where the young man spends the night with Jesus] expounds this insight by using baptismal imagery of death and rebirth [naked under the linen]... Baptism imagery is used here to interpret the salvific dimension of the young man's rising according to the analogy of dying (drowning in water) and rising again, though the baptism by which the transformation is attained is not the rite itself, but a metaphorical immersion in literal suffering and death." (p 206)While Morton Smith is laughing from the grave, it would be a mistake to dismiss Brown as a fool. By all indications, he's a sharp scholar who knows his stuff (though Mark's gnosticizing of his own gospel is rather hard to take seriously). Even the best can be taken in by hoaxes, and that's what happened here. In fact, I wasn't sure how to rate this book. Does it deserve amazon's lowest rating (one-star) for building a theory of gospel origins on a prank? Or is it valuable for precisely this reason, as an illustration of academic credulity in the context of a wider hoaxing phenomenon?
Mark Goodacre and Michael Bird have commented on the paper presented by Ted Weeden regarding Bailey's theory of informally controlled oral tradition. Mark believes that "Weeden has dealt a fatal blow to Bailey's theory", and, though it pains me to say it, so do I. I've always taken oral tradition seriously -- and still do -- but Weeden has shown that we need a better model than Bailey's, which is based not only on inaccurate assumptions about oral cultures but a mishandling of the evidence to boot. We've had numerous discussions about this on the Crosstalk mailing list. For starters, see Weeden's posts here, here, and here, and then responses from these points. I rarely find myself agreeing with Weeden, but he's made an important contribution here that can't be ignored. Those (like Dunn, Wright) who continue to rely on Bailey will be resting their case on a house of cards.
"The real Paul is the reel Paul, the fisher of ignorant and deceived humanity, who keeps his audience reeling as he enmeshes them in a net woven of ambiguous, cunning, and deceptive words...[His] apocalyptic God is a mysterious, ambiguous, and finally sophistic God, who cares enough to be cunning and is devoted enough to be deceptive." (Mark Given, Paul's True Rhetoric: Ambiguity, Cunning, and Deception in Greece and Rome, pp 176, 181)
For those like myself who won't be going to Philadelphia this week-end, here's a handful of online SBL papers. They're all very good.
Alan Bandy, Mark Goodacre, and Jim West discuss a perceived need for "cautious blogging" in light of an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The issue is about how blogging may negatively impact one's reputation. Alan lists pros and cons to blogging, Mark cites a nice passage from another article called "Do Not Fear the Blog", and Jim opines that the cons listed by Alan are really not so (to which Alan responds in comments). Good observations from all.
Tolkien fans will like this. (Thanks to Siris for mentioning.) To Which Race of Middle-Earth Do You Belong? Of the ~18,000 people who have taken this, the breakdown is as follows.
Every so often comes a book that everyone needs to read, and Resurrecting Jesus is one of them. Dale Allison's sequel to Jesus of Nazareth: Millenarian Prophet is as good its predecessor, and in some ways even better. It consists of six independent essays, each of which builds on and clarifies arguments made in the previous book.
"We can still speculate on what drove Albert Schweitzer. He once wrote: 'I live my life in God, in the mysterious divine personality which I do not know as such in the world, but only experience as mysterious Will within myself.' Someone who does not find God at large in the world may well be attracted to an otherworldly [apocalyptic] Jesus... I nonetheless remain unclear as to what extent a personal theological agenda advanced Schweitzer to his Jesus. One suspects that his otherworldly ideology was partly a product of his otherworldly Jesus [rather than the other way around]... It was the interpretation of an apparent discovery, not the motivating impulse behind that discovery." (Dale Allison, Resurrecting Jesus, pp 134-135)
Check this out. Pat Robertson advises the people of Dover. Unbelievable.
Rick Brannan has tagged me, in the blogosphere equivalent of a chain letter. See here. I guess I'm game.
Chris Heard and PZ Myers call attention to the petty feud going on in the blogosphere resulting in threats of legal action. I have a low opinion of all parties involved (Paul Deignan, “Bitch Ph.D.”, and Wallace Hettle -- but especially Deignan himself; see his statements cited on Myers blog), and as Chris Heard says, let’s hope we never reach this state of affairs on the biblioblogs.
Good and bad news on the Intelligent Design front. PZ Myers reports the landslide election results for the Dover School Board. All seven Democrats on record for opposing ID won, and all seven Republicans who support it lost. Talk about a clean sweep.
Scot McKnight's Jesus and His Death is, ironically, a breath of life into a field of decay. Against the North American trend which views the question of Jesus' understanding of his own death as misguided, McKnight assumes as likely that Jesus thought he would die prematurely, in the providence of God, and would probably die at the hands of elites who saw his movement as a potential source of rebellion. "It only makes sense," he states, "that one who thought he would die, who on other grounds considered himself a prophet, also tried to make sense of that death" (p 177). Jewish leaders like this regularly looked to prototypes from the Tanakh in order to make sense of death and destiny, and even if they never saw their deaths as atoning, it was always a "short step to the atoning value of these martyrdoms" (p 179).
* In the entire gospel tradition (including John), covenant is attributed to Jesus only at the last supper, "a text cystallizing a tradition that itself became a liturgical expression in earliest Christianity." (p 308)McKnight explains further:
* Jesus based his vision on "kingdom", not covenant. "Kingdom is the term Jesus chose to build his dream on; one doesn’t surrender one’s dream terms easily." (p 309)
* The last supper betrays few signs of a covenant ceremony. The following prerequisites are missing: an oath, a promise, blessings for followers and curses for opponents, an unconditional bond for the suzerain, and a promise of blessings for Jesus’ followers. If Jesus is setting forth a new covenant, he does so without specifying it as such, "a practice abnormal in Judaism". (p 310)
* Accordingly, Jesus probably only said, "this is my blood", a tidy parallel to "this is my body". (p 310)
* There are big steps needed to get from "my blood" in the context of passover sacrifice, to "my blood of the covenant", and then to “the new covenant in my blood”. It was early Jerusalem-based Christians, or Paul and his associates, and then the writer of Hebrews, who took those steps. (p 311)
"In the exegetical workshop of earliest messianism, then, the tool of covenant became a way of sifting the relationship of believers in Jesus Christ to the scriptural revelation of Torah and its people, Israel. For Paul, it was a tool that separated the Mosaic covenant from the new covenant, primarily by recognizing the significance of the Holy Spirit. For the writer of Hebrews, it was a tool that ontologically separated the old system from the new system, primarily by recognizing the effectiveness of the forgiveness of sins through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and his intercessory powers. If Paul crossed the threshold by sorting out the relationship of the old to the new in terms of covenant, the author of Hebrews set up shop and made the category his home to an unprecedented degree." (p 303)For Paul, of course, Christ's death was many things -- an example to be followed, a ransom price, a sin offering, a passover sacrifice, and an atoning sacrifice, (all on which see Finlan's book). Covenant crops up occasionally in his letters, but not in terms of Christ's death, only to contrast how the Spirit accomplishes what the Torah/covenant could not. For the author of Hebrews, Christ’s death became not only an atoning sacrifice but a covenant-establishing event. But in the beginning, Jesus understood his death to be a passover sacrifice. That's all.
"[Jesus saw his death as] vicarious and protecting. In stating that the bread was his body and the wine his blood, Jesus suggested that he was the passover victim whose blood would protect his followers from the imminent judgment of God against Jerusalem and its corrupt leadership. We have here the first genuine glimpse of a death that somehow atones. Jesus' theory of the atonement then is that his own death, and his followers' participation in that death by ingestion, protects his followers from the Day of YHWH, which in the prophets especially is often described as the wrath of YHWH. As the avenging angel of the passover in Egypt 'passed over' the first-born children whose fathers had smeared blood on the door, so the Father of Jesus would 'pass over' those followers who ingested Jesus' body and blood." (p 339; italics mine)In claiming that passover sacrifice is a form of atonement after all, McKnight erases proper distinctions he made up to this point (see especially p 285). Atonement involved forgiving sins, whether understood in propitiary terms (appeasing an angry God with sacrifice) or expiatory terms (wiping sin away by harnessing the lifeforce in the blood of the sacrifice). Passover had nothing to do with forgiveness, nothing to do with atonement. It had to do with protection.
I’m about one third of the way through Scot McKnight’s Jesus and His Death and will have a review posted next week. It’s an ambitious work and covers a lot of ground. For now I only want to call attention to a remark made in the book about North American parochialism, especially in light of yesterday’s blogpost. McKnight writes:
With trademark wit and engaging prose, Donald Akenson contrasts, as he sees it, British and American approaches to Q:
I hadn't planned on this topic evolving into a series, but so it has. Someone recently called my attention to an article from the Boston Globe, "Gotcha! The Pleasures of Literary Hoaxing", written just a few months ago, and dealing with some of the concerns Stephen Carlson has about the terminology we use in classifying hoaxes and forgeries.