Recthsgeschichtlicher Kommentar z NT

During a brief visit to Germany this week I became aware of a new NT-commentary project in process. At the present time it is called Rechtsgeschichtlicher Kommentar zum Neuen Testament (RKNT), and is planned to be published in two volumes.

The project has its own webpage here. It tells about the idea behind the project,  who is working on it (ca. 36 persons), and the planned content of the two volumes to be published.

The presentation of the project (in German) is given thus:

Bibelwissenschaft und Rechtswissenschaft haben ein Gebiet gemeinsam, dessen Erforschung noch aussteht: die Rechtsgeschichte des Neuen Testaments.In diesem Kommentar arbeiten ausgewiesene Fachleute der Romanistik, der Judaistik und der Neutestamentlichen Wissenschaft zusammen, um auch Nichtfachleuten darzustellen, was in den Texten jeweils auf dem Spiel steht.

This is an interesting idea and project. You may also check on the webpage what texts they are to deal with; I for my part was somewhat surprised that the Steven-episode of Act 6 is given so little attention in their outline.


The commentary as such raises also another issue to me: what is happening to the ‘Commentary-genre’?  We now have a lot of specialized commentaries out there, focusing on some specific aspects of the texts. Let me mention some of the series that come to my mind:

Social-Science Commentary (Fortress Press)

Papyrologische Kommentare zum Neuen Testament (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht)

The Social-Rhetorical Commentaries (by Ben Witherington)

The Two Horizons New Testament Commentaries (Eerdmans)

A Postcolonial Commentary on the New Testament Writings (1 Volume, t&t clark)

Others might surely be added, but these are probably the most prominent. We thus have a  wide field of topics covered by these, and more is probably to come. So, coming from a situation when there was a lot of ‘historical-critical commentaries’ to chose, we now also have to be sure to check up these more specialized volumes.

I do think the whole genre of NT commentary-genre is in a period of change and (probably,) improvement. It might be that the time of the all-embraching commentary is over (and probably has been for some time). In this the commentaries  simply mirror the diversity of methods in vogue in New Testament exegesis.

But will the time ever return when you can sit down with a good  ?00 pages volume, thinking: this will be the one? Probably not!

Paul the Missionary

My Review of

Eckhard J. Schnabel, Paul the Missionary: Realities, Strategies and Methods (Downer’s Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2008). Pp. 518. Paper. $32.00. ISBN 978-0830828876.

has now been posted at SBL’s

You can access the review at or directly at

Orality and Scribality

If asked what is new in the horizon of Biblical scholarship, one aspect that should be mentioned is the interest now in how stories and sayings where transmitted in an oral culture. Some prponents of this new interest are stting that there has been much to great emphasis on the textual transmitting to the cost of aspects of oral transmission of the biblical stories.

However, a certain emphasis on an oral stage of e.g., the New Testament texts has not been totally neglected, compare the interest of ‘Traditionsgeschicht’e and ‘Formgeschichte,’ and some further and later elaborations. This new emphasis on orality is nevertheless to be welcomed. A short but good introduction and assessment of some of this more recent research can be found in JDG Dunn’s Jesus Remembered (2003), pp. 192-254.

Now, however, there has been produced a film that presents and discusses these new developments, made by Eugene Botha:

Orality, Print Culture, and Biblical Interpretation.

A trailer of the film can be downloaded at

The background of the film is work carried out in a SBL Seminar, carried on from 2005-2008. I have not seen the film yet, only the trailer, and the announcement on this webpage seems a little bit influenced by a wish to present a definitive new ways of Biblical Interpretation, and as in some other cases, a little overdone. But this new emphasis and research interest is surely something to be welcomed, and something we have to take note of in studies of both testaments of the Bible.

Several of the scholars involved in biblical orality studies in recent times are invoved in this fil production. We quote from the webpage:

In this controversial new film the ramifications of Orality Studies and its impact on New Testament Studies are explored by a number of prominent Biblical scholars like Werner Kelber, Jimmy Dunn, Phil Towner, David Rhoads, David Carr, Gosnell Yorke, James Maxey and others. The interface of Orality Studies and Performance Criticism and the implication of this for Bible Translation are also explored.

How ‘controversial’ this film will be remains however to be seen. I hope it will be representative and thus informative on what is going on in this department of biblical studies.

A Split Jewish Diaspora

I would like to point your attention to a two-part article of which especially the first part should be very interesting not only for students of Diaspora Judaism, but also for readers of the New Testament:

Arye Edrei and Doron Mendels A Split Jewish Diaspora: Its Dramatic Consequences
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 2007 16: 91-137.

Abstract:  “This article proposes that a language divide and two systems of communication have brought to a serious gap between the western Jewish Diaspora and the eastern one. Thus the western Greek-speaking Jews lost touch with the Halakhah and the Rabbis, a condition that had far-reaching consequences on Jewish history thereafter. The Rabbis paid a high price for keeping their Halakhah in oral form, losing in consequence half of their constituency. An oral law did not develop in the western diaspora, whereas the existing eastern one was not translated into Greek. Hence it is not surprising that western Jews contributed nothing to the development of the oral law in the east. The Jewish communities that were isolated from the Rabbinic network served as a receptive basis for the development of an alternative Christian network by Paul and the apostles, which enabled it to spread throughout the Mediterranean basin. The Jews that remained ‘biblical’ surfaced in Europe in the Middle Ages.”

Arye Edrei and Doron Mendels,  A Split Jewish Diaspora: Its Dramatic Consequences II
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 2008 17: 163-187.

Abstract: “The article deals with the consequences of the split Diaspora that was described in Part I of this study (published in JSP 16.2 [2007]: 91-137). This second part demonstrates that the gap between western Jews and eastern ones continued and even widened in the early Middle Ages. The Jews in the west either converted to Christianity or remained biblical Jews. The latter were more agreeable to the Christian environment in Latin Europe, but at the moment the Rabbinic Law and lore started to arrive in Europe, the friction between Christians and Jews increased dramatically. Also, this study shows that the Jews living in the Byzantine Empire underwent the same processes that were experienced by their brethren in Latin Europe due to lack of communication with Rabbinic Judaism. In both Greek and Latin Europe, the Rabbinic revolution arrived circa the ninth century. This article also discusses various reactions to the earlier part of the study and thus add some useful information, clarify and strengthen some of their arguments in part I.”

Abraham Terian on Philo

Prof. Abraham Terian, who has written extensively on Philo of Alexandria, and who is the leading expert on the Armenian textversions of Philo’s works, has kindly pointed out to me some of his relevant articles on Philo. These I find especially valuable as the i.a., discuss aspects of chronology of Philo’s works, and have set forth viewpoints that have found a wide readership and acceptance. I would be very happy if some of these could be published electronically on the web, and thus be even more accessible.

Students of Philo should be aware of esp. the following studies by prof. Terian (a fuller bibliography can be found here):

“A Critical Introduction to Philo’s Dialogues.” In W. Haase, ed., Hellenistisches Judentum in römischer Zeit: Philon und Josephus, Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt, II Principat vol. 21.1-2. Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1984, 1:272-294.

This is the first of three articles devoted to the chronology of Philo’s works, demonstrating that Philo’s “Philosophical Works” or “Dialogues” belong to the closing years of his life, not to his school-days as previously thought.

“The Priority of the Quaestiones among Philo’s Exegetical Commentaries.” In David M. Hay, ed., Both Literal and Allegorical: Studies in Philo of Alexandria’s Questions and Answers on Genesis and Exodus. Brown Judaic Studies 232. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1991, pp. 29-46.

This second article on the chronology of the works of the voluminous author, demonstrates that the Quaestiones are the first of Philo’s three grand commentaries, not the last as previously thought.

“Back to Creation: The Beginning of Philo’s Third Grand Commentary.” In David T. Runia and Gregory E. Sterling, eds., Wisdom and Logos: Studies in Jewish Thought in Honor of David Winston. Brown Judaic Studies 312. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1991 [=The Studia Philonica Annual 9 (1997)] 19-36.

This third article on the chronology shows the blunders that creep in when De Opificio is placed at the beginning of Philo’s collected works, when in reality it marks the beginning of his third grand commentary or the Exposition of the Law.

I would like to suggest that some of these should be published electronically on the web, and thus be even more accessible, like for instance the introductory studies that are available on my Philo page.