The Challenge of Homer

The Norwegian New Testament scholar Karl Olav Sandnes has quite recently published a very interesting book for all of us who are interested in the background of the New Testament and of the Early Christians.

Karl Olav Sandnes,
The Challenge of Homer
School, Pagan Poets and Early Christianity

Library of New Testament Studies,
T & T Clark International. ISBN: 0567426645
336 Pages. $150.00

The volume starts out from the folowwing premise: “The first Christians faced two hermeneutical challenges of fundamental importnce: that of interpreting the Old Testament and how to cope with the Greek legacy embedded in Homer. The latter is not explicitly raised in the New Testament. But since the art of interpreting any text, presupposes reading skills, conveyed through liberal studies, the Homeric challenge must have been of outmost importance.”

Professor Sandnes deals with Philo of Alexandria on pp. 68-78.

A further description of this volume and a List of Contents can be found here.


NNTFF is an abbreviation for Norsk NyTestamentlig ForskerForening (Norwegian association of NT scholars), a loosely connected association of Norwegian New Testament scholars who meet twice a year. The spring meeting was held last Monday April 27 at The Free Faculty of Theology, Oslo.

The seminar had two sessions; in the first Per Jarle Bekken presented a paper on
The Criminal Proceedings against Jesus according to the Gospel of John: Some Observations on John 5:10–18 and 10:31–39 in a Jewish Context.

After a coffee break, Professor Karl Olav Sandnes, presented aspects from an ongoing research project, a presentation he labelled “Cento and Canon” – glimt fra et pågående forskningsprosjekt.” (Cento and Canon; glimpses from a current research project).

There were discussions following both papers, and both presentations  were very well received.

The next session of NNTFF will focus on two recent scandinavian books on the historical Jesus; the one by the Danish scholar Per Bilde, and the one  by the Norwegian scholar Hans Kvalbein.

PhD dissertation on Luke in Finland

There has just been a disputation in Finland, at the University of Helsinki, on the Gospel of Luke. The disputation took place April 25, and its focus was this dissertation by Anni Pesonen:

Luke, the Friend of Sinners.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Theology, Department of Biblical Studies

The dissertation is available in pdf format on this link.

The author’s abstract of her work runs thus:
“I examine the portrayal of Jesus as a friend of toll collectors and sinners in the Third Gospel. I aim at a comprehensive view on the Lukan sinner texts, combining questions of the origin and development of these texts with the questions of Luke’s theological message, of how the text functions as literature, and of the social-historical setting(s) behind the texts.

Within New Testament scholarship researchers on the historical Jesus mostly still hold that a special mission to toll collectors and sinners was central in Jesus’ public activity. Within Lukan studies, M. Goulder, J. Kiilunen and D. Neale have claimed that this picture is due to Luke’s theological vision and the liberties he took as an author. Their view is disputed by other Lukan scholars.

I discuss methods which scholars have used to isolate the typical language of Luke’s alleged written sources, or to argue for the source-free creation by Luke himself. I claim that the analysis of Luke’s language does not help us to the origin of the Lukan pericopes. I examine the possibility of free creativity on Luke’s part in the light of the invention technique used in ancient historiography. Invention was an essential part of all ancient historical writing and therefore quite probably Luke used it, too. Possibly Luke had access to special traditions, but the nature of oral tradition does not allow reconstruction.

I analyze Luke 5:1-11; 5:27-32; 7:36-50; 15:1-32; 18:9-14; 19:1-10; 23:39-43. In most of these some underlying special tradition is possible though far from certain. It becomes evident that Luke’s reshaping was so thorough that the pericopes as they now stand are decidedly Lukan creations. This is indicated by the characteristic Lukan story-telling style as well as by the strongly unified Lukan theology of the pericopes. Luke’s sinners and Pharisees do not fit in the social-historical context of Jesus’ day. The story-world is one of polarized right and wrong. That Jesus is the Christ, representative of God, is an intrinsic part of the story-world. Luke wrote a theological drama inspired by tradition. He persuaded his audience to identify as (repenting) sinners. Luke’s motive was that he saw the sinners in Jesus’ company as forerunners of Gentile Christianity.”

Ancient Jewish Magic

Searching on Google Books, I happened to discover a most recent book on Jewish magic. As I have written on magic in Philoin the D.E. Aune Festschrift, it is interesting to be aware of this volume on Ancient Jewish magic.

Gideon Bohak
Ancient Jewish Magic: A History
Cambridge University Press, 2008
ISBN 0521874572, 9780521874571
496 sider

The outline of the book is thus:
Contradiction in terms?
Jewish magic in the Second Temple Period.
Jewish magic in late antiquity: the insider evidence
Non-Jewish elements in late antique Jewish magic
How Jewish was ancient Jewish magic?
Magic and magicians in rabbinic literature

For those of my readers most interested in Philo of Alexandria, I can inform you that he deals with Philo on pp. 78-80, and in his conclusion here he emphasizes the rather meagre result of his readings of Philo: “Thus, while he provides us with what is perhaps the clearest “emic” definition of magic we shall find in any ancient Jewish texts, his discourse also is the most “magic free” Jewish mindset we shall encounter in the present chapter, and in the present study as a whole.”
The book as such can be found at

Beginning from Jerusalem

This weekend I had the pleasure of looking into the magnus opus of JDG Dunn, his volume two of
Christianity in the Making Vol 2:
Beginning from Jerusalem.
Grand Rapids, Mi; Eerdmans, 2009.

It is a great work in many ways; comprising 1347 pages, it will have to reside on my desk for a long time. And it is equally impressive considering the breadth of reading it represents, and the many interesting – some expected, other unexpected- viewpoints it presents and represents.

Its outline might give a fairly conservative impresssion; He starts with some methodological considerations concerning writing a history of Christianity’s beginnings, then turning to the first phase; beginnings in Jerusalem and up to the council in Jerusalem. The third part (pp. 497-1057) deals with Paul, and the last three chapters discusses ‘The Voiceless Peter’, ‘Catastrophe in Judea,’ and ‘The Legacy of the First Generation Leadership.’

I think everyone will profit from reading this great book, whether one agrees or disagrees.
Tolle lege!

Oxford Biblical Studies

Jim West is presenting a link to a site that might be interesting to some of you; go to
Jim also quotes from a letter which I also copy here:
“I’m pleased to let you know that Oxford’s Biblical Studies Online launched – Oxford’s latest comprehensive online resource for the study of the Bible and biblical history. We … thought it would be an interesting idea to ‘open up’ our new site and provide free access to your readership until the end of May.

You can see more about the product here , especially detail on content, features and the scholarship in the new site.

Your readers can get access to a free trial to expire end of May 2009.  They simply need to go to and type in the following authentication:

User: presspass

Password: springtime

Philo on teachers

“It is the custom of teachers, when they explain some theory to their pupils,to instruct them to remember it and say it by themselves.”
Questions and Answeres on Genesis, Book iv,45.

Gen xxiv.19: Why does she say, “And for thy camels I will draw water untill they have drunk.”
“(Scripture) dwells at length on the benevolence of the teacher who wishes not only to hand over and entrust scientific knowledge (to the pupil), but to put it in order and make it stick to him, since she gives drink to his memory, of which the camels are symbols. For genuine teachers and instructors direct their teaching not to display but to the profit of their pupils, and compel them to repeat from memory what has been said by them, thus firmly impressing upon them what they have heard.”
Questions and answers on Genesis, Book iv,106.

Modern pedagogics might have missed something?