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?

Pastoral education – for the future

At my institution, The School of Mission & Theology, there will be held a conference on Wednesday April 15 and Thursday April 16. The main theme for the conference is “Neste generasjons presteutdanning” (‘Pastoral education for the next generation’). Participants are invited from several other theological institutions, including also some relevant organisations etc.
The program will be thus:
onsdag 15. april
1030 Lunch MHS
1130- Prof. Alister E. McGrath: ”The future of theological education”
1330 Responses by Prof. Terje Stordalen, Faculty of Theology/University of Oslo &
Bishop of Agder Diocese Olav Skjevesland

1330 Kaffepause

1400- Prof. Alister E. McGrath: ”The future of the theologian”
Responses by Prof. Vidar Leif Haanes, Rector of Norwegian School of Theology & Secretary General of the Association of Clergy Revd. Gunnar Mindestrømmen
1600 End

1800- 2100 Middag på Utstein Kloster

torsdag 16. april

0900 Lektor Hans Raun Iversen: ”Presteutdanning i det nye Europa: Kontekstuelle og strategiske perspektiver”
Respons ved ekspedisjonssjef Ingrid Vad Nilsen/Kirkedepartementet & prof. Trygve Wyller, dekan ved Teologisk fakultet/Universitetet i Oslo

1105 Andakt
1120 Lunch

1200- ”Input vs output”
1330 – Hvem utdanner vi? (rekruttering)
– Hva utdanner vi til? (relevans)
– Hvordan samarbeider vi? (koordinering)

Korte innlegg og rundbordssamtale ved dekaner/rektorer ved de tre teologiske fakultetene. Plenumssamtale.

1330 Avslutning og kaffe

Knowledge of Greek and Preaching

Some time ago, Robert I. Bradshaw, who runs the impressive site Biblical, published an article by the late F.F. Bruce that I found quite interesting. On the one hand, I found prof. Bruce writing in an easy style I have never seen from his pen before, on the other hand, prof. Bruce makes some statments about the need for pastors and pastors to be about their need to keep up, or to learn the Greek language, and to read not only the New Testament and the Septuagint, but other literature in Greek too.:

F.F. Bruce,
‘The Greek Language and the Christian Ministry,’ originallly printed in
Clifton Theological College Magazine (Trinity Term 1956):5-10.
The article is now available at

Prof Bruce strongly argues for the need for a good knowledge of Greek by saying: ” The Minister who keeps up his study of Hebrew and Greek has an advantage over his collegue who lets them go, such as a man with normal vision has over one who is colour-blind.” (p. 6).
Our students of today struggle with the Greek and Hebrew languages, and quite a lot of them put the Biblical Hebraaica on the shelf as soon as they have graduated, and not a few also let their Greek go. I have also noticed, by being a listener to several sermons through the years by various pastors, that only rarely do I hear a sermon through which I can realize that this person has studied theology, not to say: he knows his or her Greek. Nuances in the texts are then missed, and all too often I hear personal opinions uttered where there should have been arguments based on Greek linguistics.

Prof. Bruce’s reminder is a relevant one; don’t be colour-blind! Check out this article, and brush up your Greek, and use it in your sermon preparations.

Bryn Mawr Classical Review

If you want to keep you self updated on recent books published in the field of classical studies (including archaeology), the Bryn Mawr Classical Review is the site to visit. You may also subscribe to their reviews.

In a recent editorial note, the editors state that:

“Bryn Mawr Classical Review is moving — to Bryn Mawr. Since our inception in late 1990, we have been hosted on the server of the Center for Computer Analysis of Texts at the University of Pennsylvania. There are many reasons for that persistence. One of us was then at Penn, the CCAT founded by Bob Kraft was already a leader in humanities computing, and since then inertia, respect for readers’ habits, and the very kind generosity of Penn humanities computing have all made it simple to stay as we were. The time has come now to move homes, with the journal coming to reside fully within the College whose extraordinary tradition in Classics gave it birth.

The senior editors are grateful to our colleagues at Penn, most notably in recent years Warren Petrofsky and Jay Treat, but going back many years to others, including Bob Kraft and the late Jack Abercrombie and the inimitable Ira Winston, and others whom we are sorry not to be able to catalog comprehensively here.

Links to the old addresses will “resolve” (as they say) to the new site, but of course there will be some hiccups in finding familiar material. This is an opportune moment to say that there are other sites from time to time that seem to take it upon themselves to archive BMCR postings. Go now, then, to have a look at to see the new site and make sure you can recognize the real thing. Many readers will also want to bookmark our blog site, where new reviews are posted and comments encouraged/welcomed/posted. The URL there is ”

The site is hereby recommended!