Saturday, June 24, 2017

Neither Philo Nor Justus Say Anything About Jesus: Why?

Question: Why wouldn't Justus of Tiberius or Philo of Alexandria mentioned something about Jesus in their writings?

AP: First, the work of Justus of Tiberias has been lost. Therefore, we do not really know if he dedicated any space to Jesus of Nazareth.

Second, the reason that Philo did not mention anything about Jesus is quite easy to explain and understand. Jesus was not as huge of a personality as the Gospels present. Remember how they talk about large crowds turning out to follow him. Sometimes they chased him from city to another. Sometimes the crowds were so large that he couldn't get out of his boat. Actually though, for the Roman Empire, also for the chiefs of the Jews, and even those living within Jerusalem in particular, Jesus was nothing more than an unimportant figure, just like a couple of rabbis of his day who also went unnoticed––Hanini ben Dosa or Honi the Circle Drawer. These two individuals show great similarities with Jesus: They were craftsmen, teachers of the Law, doers of certain miracles. However, they are not quoted by Philo of Alexandria, who had minimal interest in Galilee.

To this we should remember, as I have emphasized on many occasions, that there were many (some eleven or twelve) Messianic pretenders since the death of Herod the Great (4 BC) until the beginning of the First Great Revolution of the Jews against Rome. And we don't know their names either.


TWH: I wouldn't be surprised if Justus of Tiberius did write something about Jesus in his writings. He was a historian, like Josephus who included some comments about Jesus––especially the Testimonium Flavianum. Unfortunately, we will probably never know. That paragraph in Josephus, by the way, is hardly the focus of his text. It constitutes only a sliver of the larger work. Josephus, we should mention, recorded that Jesus "won over many of the Jews and many of the Greeks." It would be hard to call Jesus insignificant based on that witness and on the testimony of the Gospels. Questers for the historical Jesus love to toss out details of Jesus' ministry (or shrink them down)––especially the miracles––but those discourses mentioning all of the attention that Jesus received from Jerusalem (e.g., men being sent out to watch Jesus and report on his activities) and the attention he received while in Jerusalem (e.g., flipping over the tables in the temple; fielding questions from the Pharisees and the Sadducees) would have to get thrown out as well. I'm not sure how you do that, or even how you could shrink them down.

Concerning Philo, I would say there were two factors: (1) Philo's focus, and (2) Jesus' renown had not spread, in a significant way, outside of Israel's boundaries. There is no indication, for example, that someone came from beyond Israel to hear Jesus teach or to heal someone (though you'll read about stuff like that in the apocryphal Gospels). And Philo was connected to the ruling class in Jerusalem. Sure he had contact with Israel––both Galilee and Jerusalem. That's true. But given the people that he was connected to, it would make a lot of sense why he wouldn't mention Jesus––the one who had been causing his friends and family so much trouble.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Paul And The Use Of Amanuenses

Question: Did Paul use an amanuensis, and if so, what impact did that have on the words of the New Testament?

TWH: It seems pretty obvious that Paul used an amanuensis at least once. At the end of his letter to the Romans, we find the following sentence: "I, Tertius, the one who is writing this letter, greet you in the Lord" (Rom. 16:22). You can't really get around that one. It's interesting. It makes sense that someone like Paul would use an amanuensis at times. For example, the conditions during his imprisonment seem to warrant the use of one. It's more difficult to ascertain whether Paul used amanuenses elsewhere in the New Testament.

Let me give you a couple of quick tidbits of info:
1. There was actually an Old Testament amanuensis. Do you know what his name was and for whom he wrote? You'll find him mentioned in Jer. 36:4–6 and 45:1. His name was Baruch, and he wrote for Jeremiah. It's interesting that Jeremiah is told to make use of an amanuensis. As far as I know, he's the only prophet who is.
2. There are a few Greek words that are sometimes translated as "amanuensis": προχειροφόρος (also προχειράριος), ὑπογρᾰφεύς, χειρογράφος. There may in fact be more, but these are the ones that come to mind right off the top of my head. You'll recognize that last word, I bet, from Col. 2:14, where Paul uses the neuter form χειρογράφον. That word in Colossians refers to a "certificate of debt" (for my distaste for any translation involving the word "handwritten," please see here).
There are questions surrounding whether Luke served as an amanuensis for Paul, or Sosthenes, or Timothy. Some speculate that Mark served in this capacity for Peter, others Silvanus, etc. Did these men make use of amanuenses, specifically Paul, and, if so, what sort of role did an amanuensis have on the actual words of the New Testament? That, my friends, is a seriously debated question.

The reason that scholars debate the issue of amanuenses so much is because of the differences encountered in texts by the same author. For example, why does Philippians or Romans looks so different from 1 and 2 Timothy when it comes to vocabulary, syntax, and rhetoric? In fact, it's based on these arguments that many––over the past couple hundred years––have written those letters off as not written by Paul. Discussions like this have taken place since nearly the very beginning of the founding of Jesus' church. If you do a study on when New Testament texts were accepted as part of the canon, you'll see a debate of sorts pertaining to 2 Peter. It's like for a period of time, certain groups loved it because it was super interesting, but did not believe it was written by Peter. All of this because of the difference in style––vocabulary, syntax, and rhetoric––between 1 Peter and 2 Peter. By the way, in modern times, that's the big reason people have shunned Hebrews from the Pauline corpus, which is where it belongs and where it was for most of the history of the Christian church. What scholars have failed to recognize is that authors have a wide stylistic range, much like certain syntactical constructs (e.g., the simple genitive) have wide range and certain lexemes have wide semantic range. The authors of the New Testament should be allowed to have different style depending on many factors (e.g., what side of the bed they woke up on, to whom they are writing, from where they are writing, how urgent their discourse is, etc.). Nevertheless, the differences in style have taken scholars to places for many there is no path back and most probably would rather never come back. It makes more sense, to them, to just say they are not written by the author whose name is affixed or whose name history has consistently ascribed to said text.

Some have suggested that Luke served as Paul's amanuensis based on 2 Tim. 4:11a, which reads, "Only Luke is with me." If that's the case, then Luke must have served as the amanuensis––so the argument goes. Though, with that said, people have proposed Tychicus instead of Mark (e.g., Jeremias); that of course hinges on the verb ἀπέστειλα being an epistolary aorist––and that Paul wanted and/or needed an amanuensis. Now, I'll grant that Paul was alone during this time in his life and ministry. We know what is said in 2 Tim. 1:15: "You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes." He felt completed abandoned. But I'm not sure we can make a claim that based on 2 Tim. 4:11a, Luke served as Paul's amanuensis. He could have, but I'm not sure he did or that it was absolutely necessary. Consider for a moment was C.F.D. Mouse said about Luke and his relationship to 1–2 Timothy and Titus:
"Luke wrote all three Pastoral epistles. But he wrote them during Paul's lifetime, at Paul's behest and, in part (but only in part), at Paul's dictation" ("The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles: A Reappraisal," 434). 
Therein lies the issue. What in the world is going on? Did Paul write 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus or did Luke? Did Paul tell him what he wanted to say, give Luke some talking points, and then allow Luke to fill in the parchment? Did Luke write the a letter first, give it to Paul, let Paul mark it up and give his feedback, and then have Luke rewrite it? What's going on? That's what scholars debate regarding the style and authorship. And the use of different amanuenses makes it easy to explain the differences between texts by the same author.

I mentioned earlier that the proposal that Tychicus acted as Paul's amanuensis hinged on the send-verb being an epistolary aorist and that Paul "wanted and/or needed an amanuensis." I can see why Paul would use an amanuensis for his letter to the Romans. It was longer, much longer, than his average texts. But that doesn't necessarily mean he needed or wanted an amanuensis every single time he wrote a letter. 1 Corinthians ends with Paul mentioning to his audience that he is writing a portion in his own hand. That portion is the "greeting" (ἀσπασμός, 16:21). This refers to the portion of the text that begins there in v. 19 (where the word "greet" appears four times) and extends to the end of the letter. Why mention his own hand unless the original letter featured two different scripts, one belonging to the amanuensis and the other––at the end of the letter––to Paul? But the use of the amanuensis here could be attributed to the length of the letter. When it comes to a letter like Philippians, there is nothing within the text to suggest that Paul utilized an amanuensis. Some, to be sure, have proposed Epaphroditus for this position, but where is the evidence beyond the fact that Paul sent the letter by way of Epaphroditus? I can't find any evidence in the text beyond that, and I would caution people to go only so far as the text will permit.

I might also point out another reason why people have argued that Sosthenes in particular functioned as the Corinthian amanuensis. In 1 Cor. 1:18–31 and 2:6–16, you'll find the use of the first person plural ("we" and "us"). Take a look at those texts when you get a chance. Paul identifies himself in the letter opening as the author. He also includes the name "Sosthenes. It's important to note, however, that in the one particular text where we know for an absolute fact that an amanuensis actually wrote the letter (τὴν ἐπιστολήν) Paul did not mention another person's name in the letter opening. In Romans 1, you will find Paul's name and only Paul's name. A better explanation for why Paul mentions a person's name in the letter opening is because of the content of the letter and because of the personal relationship that the co-laborer or brother had with the letter's recipients.

I've sort of run out of time when it comes to the last part of the question at hand.  Did an amanuensis write down the very words of the author? Did he transmit only the ideas of the author? Did he edit and improve the grammar and style before sending the document out? Did he translate the author's work (e.g., from Aramaic to Greek). Etc. There's a lot more to think about here, but I'll go ahead and show my cards. I opt for the former when an amanuensis was actually used. When it came to Paul, he told the person holding the reed what to write and exactly what to write––except, perhaps, when Tertius sneaked a little comment in at the end of Romans (though I could see him asking Paul if he could, and Paul nodding his head and saying, "That'll be fine"). I don't see a lot of editing––if any at all––going on when it comes to these New Testament letters. These letters were usually written out of a serious need. There was a problem in a given church (or, in the case of Galatians, a group of churches in the same region), and those letters needed to be written and carried off as quickly as possible to address said issues.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Library In Alcalá De Henares And Manuscripts For The Polyglot

TWH: The subject of my second doctorate was the Complutensian New Testament and its Greek text. The question I addressed was whether manuscripts were actually sent from Rome, from the Vatican Library, to Cisneros' team in Spain. My conclusion, based on the evidence, was no. There is a book that rarely gets mentioned, now six years old. The title is La casa de Protesilao. Reconstrucción arqueológica del fondo cisneriano de la Biblioteca Histórica “Marqués de Valdecilla” (1496-1509) Manuscrito 20056/47 de la Biblioteca Nacional de España by Elisa Ruiz García and Helena Carvajal González. It was published by my university––Universidad Complutense de Madrid––in 2011. There is a very interesting section covering the acquisitions of manuscripts in relationship to the production of Spain's Complutensian Polyglot Bible. I thought you might be interested in reading it in English, so below is my translation of the relevant section. Enjoy. *Pages 78–82.

Cisneros always wanted to know the texts of the Holy Scriptures firsthand. His connection with a Jewish rabbi to learn Hebrew during his stay in Siguenza as a member of the cathedral chapter is proof. This intellectual curiosity increased and even became a matter of concern because of the numerous variations that existed in some of the numerous publications of biblical texts that had come off the presses and started to circulate. Altering source texts in many cases had been manifested through the application of the method devised and disseminated by the Italian humanists and then used by scholars in general. It is in this environment that we must place the birth of a group of specialists in ancient languages––Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Syriac––fomented by Cisneros in order to advise on the biblical texts. The results of this exploratory and informal work may have contributed to the project of producing a purified version of the sacred sources of the Apocalypse (i.e., the last book of the New Testament).

The dates of the purchase of copies may offer some indication in this regard. In 1503 a copy containing the Apocalypse is commissioned as already noted:
[139] XI folios, from four sheets of script, on which were written the Apocalypse to C mrs. Each folio, IUC mrs. They were written and purchased in the year of IUDIII [i.e. 1503].
A few months later a Psalter in Greek was purchased. This one was included in two inventories. Though a reference appears twice, it was probably a case of double entry:
[73] § [E] n XVIII of January [of 1504?] By payroll of [S] u. Your Lordship was bought and paid a Psalter in Greek, which Your Lordship ordered to purchase for the chamber. Cost CCIIII. Received Diego Lopez de Ayala. CH 120/121 / VA 23. Inv. B 44.
[82] § A XVIII of January of the said year [1504] was purchased from Juan Martín, bookseller, a Psalter in Greek. Cost CCIIII. I myself gave to Diego López de Ayala, clerk. CH 120/121 / VA 23. Inv. B 44.
A few weeks later a large economic operation is carried out in Medina del Campo, the commercial center of the book trade par excellence. Two Bibles are mentioned that reach the highest price of the entire Inv. A and also appear to be twice entered:
[799] Two Bibles that cost LXVI ducats [24,750 mrs.]. VA 31 and 32. Inv. B 6 and 7.
[78] Two Bibles that Alonso de Salinas purchased by order of His Lordship. Retrieved in Medina del Campo on XI of February of the said year [1504] for LXVI ducats [24.750 mrs.]. VA 31 and 32. Inv. B 6 and 7.
The entries are dated in the same month and with a mention of the ambiguous annuity. Perhaps they could be the two Visigothic Bibles that interested Cisneros so much due to their antiquity and the quality. This issue will be dealt with in chapter 3.

In 1508, there was an intensification of the acquisition of sources and instruments so a review of the sacred texts could begin.
[494] Biblical text in one volume, bound, "de pligo común."
[516] The Gospels in Greek.
[526] The Gospels in Arabic, on parchment, by hand, brought to Burgos don A[lejo] Vanegas on November of 1507.
[527] The Letters of Saint Paul in Greek.
[528] Greek lexicon.
[529] Hebrew lexicon.
[530] Hebrew Bible.
[531] Portion of a Bible in Hebrew and Chaldee script, on parchment, by hand, which was brought from Talavera to Burgos on November of 1507.
[532] Salterium sancti Jeronimi.
[533] Duples Salterium.
One last contribution is due to Hernán Núñez de Toledo, who donated a manuscript of great value on those same dates:
[675] La Brivia, of hand, majuscule, on parchment, in two bodies, of old letter, bound in boards covered with black leather. VA 33 and 34. Inv. B 8 and 9. 
The dating of purchases confirmed that in 1508 the process of making a new version of the Bible was in progress and that the necessary material was being collected. Of course, the specimens that appear in Inv. A represent only a small part of the books that were to be handled in that work of purifying and establishing the texts, operation, commonly known as "correctorio." The members of the work team probably contributed their own sources, which were not part of the university library. There are also reports of loans. It would suffice to just mention the efforts of the Bishop of Málaga, Diego Ramírez de Villaescusa, with the College of St. Bartholomew in Salamanca, the intervention of Pope Leo X himself and the Vatican Library in order to temporarily yield some codices or, in the same way, the availability of the Venetian Senate.

Here is not the place to talk about the people of the Polyglot, their method and the philological differences among them. The teacher Marcel Bataillon gives us a clear and valid synopsis regarding that question.

The typographer Arnao Guillén de Brocar was called from Logroño to Alcalá to take on this great effort. On January 10, 1514, the New Testament was finished, although it did not come to light. Two years later Erasmus published his Novum Instrumentum. In 1516, the abbot of Husillos, Garcia de Bobadilla, wrote a letter to Cisneros in which he praised the author of Rotterdam and recommended that he request his collaboration in the great enterprise of the Polyglot Bible. The recipient of the letter, perhaps taking into account the opinion of a select minority of Spanish scholars, invited Erasmus to come to our soil. He declined the offer, despite the fact that after a few months the petition was renewed. The prestigious humanist in a letter addressed to Thomas More in the month of July, 1517, affirmed that "Non placet Hispania." On another occasion he stated that he did not want ἱσπανίζειν. We ignore the reasons why Erasmus was not seduced by the idea of ​​moving to Castile. From his perspective, as a northern man, he felt a certain dislike for the southern regions and, in particular, for ours, inhabited by a population that had a high degree of semitization, in his opinion.

Despite this refusal, Cisneros' team continued to work on the correction and printing of the Old Testament until the completion of the set (July 10, 1517). That date marked the completion of a monument to typographic art and, to some extent, to biblical science was a tangible reality. In spite of the enormous effort that went into making it a reality, the work had very little impact on its day due to several misfortunes. A few months after the edition came to light, the Cardinal died, without having requested the pontifical authorization. The ambitions of one and the other were solved with a requisition of the volumes ordered by Charles V. The civil war of the Communities had a tremendous effect on the College of San Ildefonso. Therefore, the copies could not be put on sale until 1522. By then other works had already been published, among them the three editions of the New Testament of Erasmus whose influence spread across Europe. The Polyglot Bible consisted of six volumes. Brocar's edition consisted of six hundred copies that sold for six ducats and half of gold. This bibliographic jewel did not get the welcome it deserved, so it was not a commercial success.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Matthew 16:18 And Whether Jesus Was The Founder Of A Church

Question: Was Jesus the founder of a church?

AP: I know I answered a similar question on my personal blog back in 2009. I'm not sure if we've carried it over to Across the Atlantic yet, but here is a short answer to the question at hand. Generally speaking, I believe that the response to critical issues issues of the Gospels comes not only from the analysis of a particular passage, but from the perspective of those shared points that define the outline of the person of Jesus, arrived at by virtual consensus among independent research. And between those points is the image––which seems to me to be irrefutable––of a Jesus who died on the cross, in a group crucifixion (as opposed to being crucified alone), condemned by the Romans for sedition against the Roman Empire. I have recently presented this picture of Jesus over a period of 75 days. If you read Spanish, I would encourage you to check it out. If not, I do hope to carry that material over to this blog, which I share with my friend and former doctoral student, Thomas Hudgins. The title of the series was "Jesus and Anti-Roman Resistance," which utilizes the title of an article written by Fernando Bermejo. The idea of a seditious Jesus is supported by thirty-five texts in the Gospels, most of them very clear.

Now, regarding the founding of a church, as we know it to exist today, it simply does not square at all with the image of Jesus––that is, the historical Jesus––that we have based on independent historical research. Let me give you a little excerpt from my book Ciudadano Jesús (, which in English is "Citizen Jesus." If I'm not mistaken, this is the first time that we are discussing this book on AtA. I hope it helps with the question at hand, and if you are interested in learning more, you can find the book here.

This is one of the most discussed passages of the Gospel of Matthew. However, many researchers, all confessional, offer a positive response to the question: Yes, Jesus founded the church more or less as we know it today, minus the defects that we know exist. This response, which has been given for hundreds of years, seems impossible. My argument is as follows. But let's first take a look at the text:
"When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, 'Who do people say that the Son of Man is?' And they said, 'Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.' 'But you,' he asked them, 'who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!' And Jesus responded, 'Simon, son of Jonah, you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.' And he gave the disciples orders to tell no one that he was the Messiah." (Matt. 16:13–20)
There are various positions taken, among the different confessional faiths, on what this text means. The traditional one is held by the Catholic Church. It is argued, especially among Catholic theologians, that the scene transmitted by Matthew is rigorously authentic and fully historical in all its details. They proclaim, therefore, that Jesus was definitely founded a church, which, in substance and in its fundamental organization, is like the one of today. The argument goes as follows:
1. Until proved otherwise, the Gospels are considered entirely historical. That includes the present text and the account it records.
2. The scene transmitted by Matthew has Semitic influence throughout the narrative. This is further support that all its details go back to the Jesus of history.
3. There is a parallel to this account in the Gospel of John, namely Jesus' commission of Peter to care for the flock of faithful (John 21:15–19). It affirms the primacy of Peter.
Bernard-Marie Ferry, in his article on "Church" in one Bible dictionary, published by Herder years ago, expands the argument as follows: "Jesus is not content with just founding the Church, but wants to provide people with a rule of life . . . It is the task of theology, though, to show whether the primacy was conferred on Peter alone or if, as the Catholic Church teaches, such primacy belongs to Peter and all his successors." That church founded by Jesus must include both Jews and pagans so that they are, continues Ferry, "a single flock with one shepherd" (John 10:16). "That is why Jesus, right before his departure from them, commands his apostles to be his witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8), to proclaim the good news throughout the world (Mark 16:16) and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19).

So here is my question: Are we sure about this traditional exegesis of Matthew 16? It doesn't look like we should be. Here is the line of thought against such an interpretation:
1. All the supporting texts quoted by B.-M. Ferry, which are summarized above to prop up the scene of Matthew, are, in the eyes of a vast majority of prestigious interpreters, including Catholics, highly suspicious and, probably, do not come from the very mouth of Jesus, but are put there by others that followed. They are late additions of a secondary Gospel tradition, not authentic, not attributable to the Jesus of history, but attached to him after the fact. For this reason, the discussion does not focus on these passages.
2. There is no account in Mark, Luke, or John that affirms the institution of the organizational system that would continue the work of Jesus after him. In fact, the word "church" is not even found in them. 
3. The contrast of this scene drawn by Matthew with the parallel of the Gospel of Mark is striking.  According to the vast majority of scholars, Mark is one of the sources of the so-called "first Gospel." (Thomas, by the way, is an advocate for the position that Matthew wrote first, not Mark. That is a very small group that thinks that way. It doesn't mean he is wrong simply because he is among the minority. It's based on the evidence that which we reach such conclusions.) Mark says only this: "Jesus and his disciples went to the villages of Caesarea Philippi and on the way he asked his disciples, 'Who do men say that I am?' They said, 'John the Baptist, and others, Elijah, others one of the prophets.' And he asked them: 'And you, who do you say that I am?' Peter answered him, 'You are the Messiah.' And he forbade them from telling anyone about him."
The fact that Mark does not mention the institution of the Church is very strange, since, according to the ecclesiastical tradition, this Gospel collects the preaching and the recollections of Peter. Wouldn't Peter have been very interested in transmitting what took place on that day when he was entrusted with such an important task. He was being named the successor of Jesus. How could that go without mention in that Gospel, which according to the tradition that argues Peter was named the successor? 
4. It is also very strange that in later texts of the New Testament like the letters to Titus, 2 Timothy, 1 and 2 Peter, 1 and 2 John, and Jude, there is no mention to the reality of a church founded by Jesus. And you could argue that those texts were more open, in theory, to point out the divine origin of an institution that was clearly defined by that time!
So, what in the world should we do with Matt. 16:13–20?

We should probably consider it a secondary text, an text added by the author of Matthew to the received tradition of Mark. I do not think it is a pure invention of the author of Matthew, but one of those cases, which we already know, in which a Christian prophet inspired by the spirit of Jesus, so they believed, spoke in the name of the Master.

A very plausible reconstruction of the process may be as follows: The Christian prophet was undoubtedly based on an authentic confession of Peter's Jewish messianism of Jesus, but then extended it with the foundation of a group that would last after his death (that same group of which the prophet was a part). And that prophet, by issuing these words "of Jesus" concerning Jesus' choice of Peter as the foundation of the group that was to continue his doctrines, formed the basis of a tradition of that community. And it is that tradition that becomes the subject of great discussion today in the twenty-first century, and the centuries since before it.

This tradition came about very early and originated on Palestinian soil, which explains how the text of Matt. 16:16 contains expressions that are better explained as an original composition in Aramaic than in Greek. This explains its Semitic flavor, without necessarily proceeding from the mouth of the historical Jesus.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Believers and Seeing The Glory Of God (John 17:22, 24)

Question: Did Jesus tell his disciples in John 17:22 that they had been given his glory, and, therefore, it can be said that they see the glory of God?

TWH: I would first recommend that a person do a study in which they trace the places where God's glory is seen in the Old and New Testaments. Trust me, it is a wonderful study. Regarding John 17:22–25, we need to put this into context. Clearly, the glory is something different than what is generally meant when we hear people talking about the glory of God in Christian circles. Jesus, for example, in 17:5 says that he wishes to be glorified with the Father and with the glory that he had (*note that it does not say "has" at this point, before Jesus is resurrected) with the Father before the world was [and which they experienced up until the incarnation]. There are a number of different passages in John that deal with the glory. First, John 1, where John mentions that "we" beheld his glory. When John says that, he is referring to Peter, James, and himself (referring to when Jesus is transfigured; see Matthew 17). Then there is the reference in John 12 to Isaiah seeing Jesus' glory (in Isaiah 6). This is completely different, both of these examples, from anything that anyone has seen or experienced in the body of Christ. What I can say about what Jesus prays in John 17:22 is this––two points:
1. Christians, like creation, proclaim the glory of God (which is to say, they declare his greatness and his supreme value) when they are one like he and the Father are one. 
2. Though Christians have not seen his glory––yet––the New Testament is clear that they will. 
This is one of the most amazing promises of eternal life. Believers will behold his glory. Jude specifically mentions that they will stand in the presence of his glory with great joy (Jude 24). Contrast this to 2 Thess. 1:9, which reads, "These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power." One of the worst parts about hell is someone will miss out on seeing the glory of God. And one of the best parts about heaven will be seeing it. That's my short answer. I hope it helps. I do not believe believers have seen the glory of God (both John and Peter mention seeing it) and they should discuss his glory appropriately by not minimizing the experience. They will see it––one day––but they have not seen it––yet. Jesus' promise is that they will. Before taking John 17:22 as support for the position that more than Peter, James, and John had witnessed the glory of God personally during Jesus' ministry, consider what Jesus prays just two verses later: "Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, will be with me where I am, so that they may see my glory, which you have given me" (John 17:24). It seems clear in my opinion that what Jesus meant in v. 22 is different than the request in v. 24. To see the glory necessitates being in the presence of God, as Jesus says, where he is.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Bible: Legends and Fantasy Or Historical?

Question: How would you describe the Bible: A bunch of legends or historical?

AP: The Bible, apart from legends and fantasies that were biased by the Jewish people, is a book that contains a great deal of useful historical data. It's usefulness, though, is seen only after we subject it to rigorous critical analysis. In addition, fantasy or not, the Bible is the foundation of our literary and artistic culture here in the West. Those who live in the West are Christians by culture. Why aren't there more Buddhists in the West? The answer is––the Bible. One cannot understand the cultural and factual history of the West apart from the Bible. We can't forget that.


TWH: Inerrant. Wholly trustworthy. A collection of texts whose origin is unlike any others in the history of the world. Because their origin reaches beyond the individuals who wrote them down, they are the only texts in the world of which we can and should expect veracity unlike the texts of the world. They are situated in history, just like every other text of history. (In other words, they have an author, provenance, date, surrounding socio-cultural and political atmospheres, etc.) But they are totally different because of their divine origin. And that means that the texts bear the imprint of the God from whom they originate. If the Bible comes ultimately from God (e.g., 2 Tim. 3:16), then we should expect accuracy and truth in what it communicates, and this includes historical matters.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Meaning And Significance Of ζῳοποιηθείς In 1 Peter 3:19–20

Question: What does "made alive in the spirit/Spirit" mean in 1 Pet. 3:19–20?

AP: This is part of a liturgical hymn used in the community associated with the author of this particular letter. Here is my own translation, translated into English of course.
"That Christ suffered once for sins, 
the just for the unjust, 
to bring us to God, 
dead in the flesh, 
he was made alive in the Spirit . . ." 
We'll pause here and make some comments, and then I'll come back and finish up the translation. It would also be possible to translate this last phrase "by the Spirit," but this would break the parallelism we find in the hymn, and so we don't recommend it. So, what's the expression mean? What does the author mean when uses the verb ζῳοποιηθείς? It means that immediately the spirit of Christ was made operative by God before his body had been resurrected. The visit mentioned in the passage, in which Christ went and made proclamation to a certain group, takes place between the death of Jesus and his resurrection. It says that he went and preached to the spirits (i.e., those whose bodies were still dead, but their soul/spirit was alive = the immortal soul is still alive without the body, which is a very Greek concept). Now, let's pick up with the translation:
". . . in which he also went and made proclamation to the spirits who had once been unbelievers, when the patience of God waited in the days of Noah, when the ark was made, in which a few, that is, eight people (= souls) were saved through the water." 

TWH: There are few sections in the New Testament that garner more attention that the one addressed here. I'm going to say, first, that I'm not convinced that this is an existing hymn that was used by Peter. This is sort of like Col. 1:15–20 in the sense that people say Paul used a hymn when he wrote to believers in Colossae. Again, I'm not sold on that position at all. My own view is that Col. 1:15–20 originates entirely with Paul and, if used in liturgical settings, only after being written down by Paul. And, until I am given something more convincing, I'm going to say the same thing about 1 Pet. 3:19–20. But what about the word ζῳοποιηθείς? Let's take a look at just a few of the passages where ζῳοποιέω occurs. We'll choose the two occurrences in John and three from the writings of Paul. The ones I am going to point out are in the active voice, whereas the occurrence in 1 Peter is passive.
John 5:21: "For in the same way that the Father raises the dead and makes them alive, even so the Son also makes alive those whom he so wishes." 
John 6:63: "It is the Spirit who makes alive. The flesh does not help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life." 
Rom. 4:17: " . . . in the presence of him whom he believed, namely God, who makes the dead alive and calls into being that which does not exist." 
Rom. 8:11: "But if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Jesus from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his Spirit who dwells in you." 
2 Cor. 3:6: " . . . for the letter kills, but the Spirit makes alive." 
Now, I've intentionally used the gloss "makes/made alive" so that you can see where it's used in the passages above. Notice everywhere we see the word in the New Testament we are talking about God doing something to someone who is dead, not something to someone who is yet to exist. In other words, we would never expect this word to be used with reference to the historical Adam, i.e., when he was created. But it makes sense that we find it used with the one known as the second Adam, that is, Jesus (see 1 Cor. 15:45). It can be used to refer to making alive that which is literally dead, as we see in the examples I mentioned, but also with reference to that which is spiritually dead (Gal. 3:21). Now this doesn't mean that the word is only used in this particular way. But this is the way that we find in the writings of John and Paul, and therefore, we can say it is most likely the way that Peter intends. Peter speaks of Jesus' death and then proceeds to discuss the making alive. Basically, Peter just says that Jesus came to life even though dead and even before the resurrection. His life is not tied to his body, physical or resurrected. There is a part of humanity that is permanently alive. And even when the body dies, that part still lives. And even before the soul is united again to its body, it still lives. Now, why would we make sure to say that the Spirit actually brings about this life-giving act? Well, it's based in part on what we find in John 6:63 and other verses, including those verses dealing with the resurrection and specifically mention that Jesus did not raise himself, but was raised. The same seems to fit with the in-between time of the death of Jesus and his resurrection. Just as he had not performed a single miracle during his earthly ministry apart from the Spirit of God, even following his dead and prior to his ascension to the right hand of the Father, he did nothing apart from the Spirit. And based on that I would feel very comfortable with translating the prepositional phrase "by the Spirit."

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Was Jesus Born In A Manger Or A Cave?

Question: Was Jesus born in a manger or a cave?

AP: According to the Gospel of Luke (2:6, 16), Jesus was born in a manger because there was no room in the inn. The Gospel of Matthew is doesn't say anything about this directly, but it seems to imply that Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the house of his parents. According to the author of that Gospel, his parents lived there, not in Nazareth. They would, therefore, have a house there and Jesus would have been born in it. The idea of the cave comes from the Apocryphal Gospels, specifically the Protoevangelium of James (18:1), which was written around A.D. 150. In my opinion, it was entirely made up. The addition to the story of the donkey and the ox in the manger is the result of legend as well, this time resulting from the exegesis of Isa. 1:3: "An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master’s manger." That verse was applied to Jesus.


TWH: We could also point out the mention of the cave in Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho (78.12–13). Justin conflates the two accounts, saying that Joseph couldn't find room in the village and so went to a cave. After Jesus was born, his mother placed him into a manger. And I cannot remember what the prophecy in Isaiah was that Justin supposedly thought pointed to the cave. (Does anyone remember what passage that was? If so, leave a note in the comment. I don't have time to track it down.) Origen did the same thing, and he even points out that, by the time he wrote Contra Celsum, there was already a cave picked out that the locals attributed to Jesus' birthplace (1.51):
"If anyone wants some additional proof to convince them that Jesus was born in Bethlehem . . . the cave at Bethlehem is shown where he was born and the manger in the cave where he was wrapped in swaddling clothes. What is shown there is famous in these parts even among those who are not part of the faith, since it was in this cave that Jesus, who is worshipped and adored by Christians, was born." 
Luke says Jesus was born in Bethlehem. I think it's a safe and reasonable conclusion to connect Luke 2:7a with 2:7b. Some people have argued at times that Luke doesn't say anything about where Jesus was born. In other words, they see a gap between "And she gave birth to her firstborn son" (2:7a) and ". . . she wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger" (2:7b).

So where did Justin and Origen get their information about the cave? We can assume that it came from Protoevangelium of James, though it may be difficult to imagine that something like this was written down before it was actually circulating among a group of people. By the way, Origen refers to another book in his writings known as the "Book of James." That work is referenced by him as the source that Joseph fathered other children before his relationship with Mary. It's a pretty safe bet that the "Book of James" is the Protoevangelium of James.

Where was he born? My answer is exactly where Luke says: In a stable, probably not too far from the inn where they sought lodging. My hunch is it was the stable connected to the inn. And if I was really imaginative, I could easily see the owners of the inn offering them the stable as the best they could do given there was no vacancy. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Exploring The Style Of Matthew In Light Of The Synoptic Problem (Part 2)

Part 1 is available here.

TWH: So, in the previous post, Antonio explored an event in Jesus' ministry that is found in each of the Synoptic Gospels. When an event is found in three texts, we call them "triple tradition" accounts. By the way, if an event was only included in two of the Gospels, they'd be called "double tradition," and if only in one, "single tradition." We need to step back and think about some of the conclusions that Antonio makes though. He begins with the assertion that Mark is the first Gospel that was written, or rather the first among the four canonical Gospels. I disagree. I argue, based on as much (and in my opinion stronger) evidence, that Matthew was the first Gospel written. My position is that Matthew wrote the Gospel down, but it was very much the Gospel of the apostles. We need to understand just how much one's position on the origin of the Gospels affects his or her conclusions in other matters, and this includes the style of Matthew.

I agree with Antonio when he says, referring to Matt. 8:14–15 and parallel passages in Mark and Luke, "It becomes obvious that each tells the same story, but each does so maintaining his own style." When he discusses what happens to this passage though, Antonio argues that Matthew has cleaned up the account. He's removed any distractions, and he's provided a personal encounter between Jesus and the woman. I'm in agreement with the latter point, namely that Matthew creates a personal encounter between Jesus and the woman, but saying Jesus removed any distractions to do so hinges on the presupposition that Mark wrote first. If Mark did write first, okay, then it looks like Matthew pruned the passage and presented the account in a manner that was different than what actually occurred. In this line of thinking, Mathew took away.

But what if Matthew wrote first? What would that tell us about the style? Well, first of all, we'd be able to make a huge observation about the Gospel of Mark. Peter, who I believe is the Gospel's source and author, expanded the details that were included in Matthew in his preaching in Rome. When we study the Gospels, looking at parallel passages is important to give us the fullest picture of what occurred. If we just looked at the Gospel of Matthew, for example, we might be tempted to stress a point that is actually nowhere in the text. In Matt. 8:14–15, Jesus comes to Peter’s home, sees Peter’s mother-in-law, and touches her hand. Warren Carter makes this observation: “[Peter’s mother-in-law] does not speak. Having noticed her need, Jesus initiates her healing” (Matthew and the Margins: A Socio-Political and Religious Reading [New York: T&T Clark International, 2004], 205; for another example, see David L. Turner, Matthew, BECNT [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008], 234). Jesus does not initiate her healing, though. He knew what he was going to do before he arrived, certainly, but he did not initiate the healing. He waited until the disciples interceded on behalf of Peter’s mother-in-law. Matthew, by the way, does not mention the request made by the disciples. Does this tell us anything about Matthew's style though? In my opinion, the reason for why these details were left out in Matthew are explained by the breadth of Jesus' ministry covered in that Gospel, especially the attention given to Jesus' teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, the parables, and the Olivet Discourse. So, is it accurate in the passage selected by Antonio at random to say that Matthew reduced the number of words found in Mark. In my opinion, no, but it all depends on what you think about the origin and dependency of the Gospels. It is interesting, though, how Matthew is consistent throughout his Gospel, which Antonio points out. Certain details surrounding events are usually left out so that miracle stories tend to move from need to encounter with Jesus. The Gospels written after Matthew are the ones that fill in the details.

Antonio mentioned that the narrative content is less semitic in Matthew, though the teachings of Jesus do include semitisms. Of this, I'm not sure. I need to think about it a little bit and do some further study. It is interesting though. If that's the case, it raises a number of questions, especially since I would expect that to be true of Mark (Peter's preaching in Rome, depending on the audience) and especially of Luke.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Exploring The Style Of Matthew In Light Of The Synoptic Problem (Part 1)

The following is taken from The Study of the New Testament: A Comprehensive Introduction by Antonio Piñero and Jesús Peláez, published by Deo in 2003. David E. Orton and Paul Ellingworth provided the translation for that volume, here modified for the blog.

AP: The focus of our attention in this post is going to be the style of the author of the Gospel of Matthew. To glean some insights into his style, it seems appropriate to illustrate what's going on by examining a triple-tradition account, in this case, Matt. 8:14–15 and the parallel accounts in Mark (1:28–31) and Luke (4:38–39):
Matt. 8:14–15: "When Jesus came into Peter's house, he saw Peter's mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her. Then she got up and began to wait on him."
Mark 1:29–31: "As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her by the hand, and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them." 
Luke 4:38–39: "Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon's mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. So he leaned over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She immediately got up and began to wait on them." 
When we view these texts in connection to each other, it becomes obvious that each tells the same story, but each does so maintaining his own style. If we count up the words that appear in the Greek text, we find the following: 30 words in Matthew, 44 in Mark, and 38 in Luke.

Let's just compare Matthew to Mark. This will uncover a number of characteristics of Matthew's style. Matthew significantly reduces the number of words in Mark. I should point out that I adopt the view known as Marcan Priority. I mention that because Thomas does not. He holds a position known as Matthean Priority. I believe Matthew used Mark, and Thomas, that Mark used Matthew. Okay, back to the analysis. This reduction in lexemes in Matthew creates a sober, elevated, and even grandiose style. He narrates what he considers essential, eliminating secondary circumstances or characters that may distract the reader (e.g., the mention of Andrew, James, and John). Matthew has put his narrative together to present a direct and personal encounter between Jesus and the patient. In Matthew, no one appears to have informed Jesus about her sickness. There are no intermediaries between Peter's mother-in-law and Jesus. It is Jesus who takes the initiative.

Matthew applies the same stylistic technique not only to the other miracle accounts in his Gospel, but to the whole Gospel in general. His is more concise and polished than that of Mark and Luke.

Regarding the language, if we compare it to Mark and Q, Matthew's Greek less semitizing and less popular, though––especially when it comes to the actual discourses of Jesus––we do find more semitisms.

Matthew makes numerous stylistic corrections to Mark's text, including the logia of Jesus. He avoids the term κράβαττος (Mark 2:4, 9, 11, 12), eliminates βοανηργές (Mark 3:17), ταλιθα κουμ (Mark 5:41), κορβᾶν (Mark 7:11), ἀββᾶ (Mark 14:36). In place of τοῖς υἱοῖς τῶν ἀνθρώπων (Mark 3:28), Matthew writes τοῖς ἀνθρώποις. For ἔσονται πίπτοντες (Mark 13:25), we find the elegant πεσοῦνται. Some instances of καί disappear, substituted by τότε or δέ, and in place of two coordinated finite verbs, Matthew writes a participial phrase (ἥψατο καὶ λέγει = ἥψατο λέγων). Very important is the influence of the LXX on Matthew. Besides the forty-three direct quotations, there are at least sixty-five allusions. The number of compounds is not less in Matthew than in Mark. The syntax does not display slips contrary to the spirit of Greek.

In relation to the structure and configuration of his Gospel, Matthew edits a text full of narrative or formal features and schemes that help above all to delimit the small sections of the work, which may be considered, in this sense, repetitive, or perhaps more didactic than the others. In effect, the abundant repetition of formulas and keywords that place the idea of a section or pericope in central position, inclusios in broad and small contexts, the chiastic structures around a center, the use of parallelism and numerous other signals that are found scattered through the Gospel as a whole, are valid structuring elements of the lesser units of the text, not thus of its structure, so that the most varied suggestions have been made.