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Monthly Archives: September 2015

New Dissertation on Deut 32

TinaDNilsen

Research Fellow at the School of Mission and Theology, Stavanger, Norway, Tina Dykesteen Nilsen, have submitted her dissertation to the School and her work has now been accepted as worthy of the public defense thus:

Wednesday September 30, at 5.15-6.00 am, Nilsen will deliver her test lecture over the given topic:

“Moses in biblical memory across the different genres of literature”.

Thursday October 1., at 10 pm Nilsen will publicly defend her thesis: The Origins of Deuteronomy 32: Intertextuality, Memory, Identity.

Her opponents will be: Professor Diana Edelman, Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo, and Professor Karl William Weyde, Norwegian School of Theology, Oslo.

The work of the evaluation commitee has been led by professor Magnar Kartveit, School of Mission and Theology, and her mentor has been professor Knut Holter, School of Mission and Theology.

Her abstract runs thus: “Ever since its Mosaic authorship was questioned more than 150 years ago, the origins of Deut 32:1–43 have been disputed, forming the raison d’être of this dissertation. The dissertation is structured in three parts. Part One gives an introductory chapter, situating the thesis in relation to other quests, and explaining the research question: What is the compositional relationship of Give Ear to other texts, and what are its origins? Chapter Two summarizes research history, looking at criteria that have been used for dating the text, with conclusions ranging from the eleventh to the fourth century BCE. It also presents views on the compositional relationship of Deut 32:1–43 to other biblical texts. Chapter Three prepares the ground for my research by establishing the text from the perspectives of delimitation, integrity, relation to narrative framework and textual criticism. Part Two focusses on what and when. Chapter Four outlines theories and methods of intertextuality, particularly from a diachronic perspective. Chapters Five to Eight asks what is similar and dissimilar when Deut 32:1–43 is compared to a wide but ever narrowing range of other texts, looking at metaphors and similes, lexemes and phrases, lexical fields, linguistic features, forms, themes and parallel texts. Chapter Nine builds on the results from these analyses when shifting focus to when Deut 32:1–43 was composed, concluding that it is probably contemporaneous with Isa 1; 34–35; 56–66, placing it in the first half of the Persian period. Part Three focusses on why and by whom. Chapter Ten looks at theories of social memory and social identity formation and how these are applied to biblical texts, particularly from the Persian period. Using these theories as frameworks, Chapter Eleven asks why Deut 32:1–43 may have been written, discussing the text both within and without its present setting in Deuteronomy. Chapter Twelve pushes the question of who may have composed Deut 32:1– 43, using hypotheses of scribal activities to argue for an origin within an isaianic group of scribes in Yehud. The dissertation provides contributions in the following research areas: the origins of Deut 32:1–43; the relationship of Deut 32:1–43 and other texts; the relationship of Deuteronomy and the Book of Isaiah; memory and identity as constructed in Deut 32:1–43; the larger debate on memory and identity in Yehud, particularly in my proposal that some texts may negotiate between different positions; the larger debate on the origins of the Hebrew Bible in light of texts as scribal products, particularly my proposal of loose groups that interact, allowing for texts crossing boundaries. “

Her dissertation is availably in extenso by clicking HERE (pdf file)

Did Jesus Speak Greek?

didjesusspeakDid Jesus speak Greek?

In a recent posting about the languages used in Eretz Israel at the time of Jesus: Did Jesus speak Greek, it is argued that Greek was much more in use in the first century AD than usually argued, and that the possibility that Jesus knew some Greek should be reconsidered. His conclusion to the question posed in the headline is: “Can we know for sure that Jesus spoke Greek? No. Is it reasonable to assume that he could speak Greek and did upon occasion? Yes, I believe so. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the variations in the Gospels among the sayings of Jesus reflect that fact that he said more or less the same things in Aramaic, Hebrew, and/or Greek.”

See then the more and even better argued article by G. Scott Gleaves, with the same title: Did Jesus speak Greek?, to be found here. His conclusion runs thus: “The “growing mass of evidence” has now become a convincing witness to the wide use of Greek in Palestine even among the members of the inner circle of disciples who followed Jesus.”

Then there is a book out by the very same author dealing with this question:

G. Scott Gleaves, Did Jesus Speak Greek?: The Emerging Evidence of Greek Dominance in First-Century Palestine. Pickwick Publications, 2015.  240 pp. (Also available in Kindle version)

G. Scott Gleaves is the Dean and Associate Professor of New Testament Studies and Christian Ministry of the V. P. Black College of Biblical Studies and Kearley Graduate School of Theology at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama.

Review of Bekken, The Lawsuit Motif in John’s Gospel..

Bekken_Lawsuit

 

The last book by Prof. Per Jarle Bekken, (University of Nordland, Norway) “The Lawsuit Motif in John’s Gospel from New Perspectives:Jesus Christ, Crucified Criminal and Emperor of the World”  (Leiden;Brill,2014) has now received its first review. Jo-Ann A. Brant has a quite favorable review (though not without some qualifications)  in the last issue of The Journal of Theological Studies.

“IN order to add nuance to our understanding of the lawsuit motif in the Gospel of John, Per Jarle Bekken engages in a series of comparative studies of aspects of the motif found in various Philonic treatises as well as P.OsloII 17. The results of these studies are presented with great attention to method and logic in seven chapters. Bekken frequently breathes new life into historical critical arguments of notable twentieth-century scholars that have been neglected, often because they were dismissed by scholars such as Raymond Brown, whose work we still regularly consult. His aim is to demonstrate the verisimilitude rather than historicity of the forensic material in John. By exposing John’s concern for legal precision, Bekken gives us a glimpse not just into the mind of the author but into the ethos of the audience for which he wrote, an audience that did not dismiss Jewish law as irrelevant and one that found the intricacies of legal arguments and trials interesting and demanded that the righteousness of Jesus measured up to first-century Jewish expectations.”

See more here. (needs a subscription).

Review of Studia Philonica 2014

Matthew Kraus, at University of Cincinnati, has a review in Bryn Mawr Classical Reviews of StudiaPhilonica Annual 2011:

David T. Runia, Gregory E. Sterling (ed.), Studia Philonica Annual: Studies in Hellenistic Judaism, Volume XXVI. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2014. Pp. ix, 274.

“The Studia Philonica Annual celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary last November, a fitting indication of the flourishing state of Philonic studies and a far cry from the short-lived and less polished Studia Philonica of the 1970s. The annotated (2011) and provisional (2012-2014) bibliographies of works directly or significantly addressing Philo and eight book reviews are preceded by eight articles. The articles reflect a range of interests: philosophical/theological issues, Philo’s patristic Nachleben, and a Special Section on non-biblical Hellenistic Jewish and non-Jewish sources. The conceptual and methodological sophistication of these articles appears throughout.” …. Continue reading by clicking here.

The linguistic situation of first-century Judaea

In a posting on his Blog on Sept 7, Larry Hurtado posted some comments that I would like to quote in extenso here:

On Linguistic and Textual Complexity in First-Century Christianity

September 7, 2015

In responding to an excellent paper at the British New Testament Conference held here (3-5 September), I recalled the need to take account of the linguistic situation of first-century Judaea.  We are accustomed to refer to the everyday use of Aramaic as the principal native language of the time, but we should also note that, especially in urban centres such as Jerusalem, we’re really dealing with a rather heavily bi-lingual setting.  It is evident that Greek was (and for a long time had been) used quite a good deal, and that for many Jews Greek was their first language.  This is reflected in the portrayal of the Jerusalem church in Acts of the Apostles, with a strong contingent of Greek-speaking Jews alongside the Aramaic-speaking Jews making up the church.

These Greek-speaking Jews had likely relocated to Jerusalem from their birthplaces in various Diaspora locations, where they had grown up with Greek as their primary language.  The now-famous Theodotus Inscription reflects this.  It is a dedicatory inscription for a synagogue established in first-century Jerusalem for Greek-speaking Jews from the Diaspora.

Similarly, especially in light of the biblical manuscript finds in the Judaean desert (e.g., Qumran), we now know that the text of biblical (“Old Testament”) writings was more diverse than some earlier generations of scholars realized.  The familiar form of the Hebrew text (the “Masoretic” text) is attested, but so are other variant-forms, including Hebrew texts that seem to form the basis for some of the distinctive features of the Greek translation (sometimes referred to as the “Septuagint”).

All this means that earlier suppositions that a term or concept derived from Greek must reflect a secondary, later, perhaps Gentile circle of early Christianity are now shown to be simplistic.  If the earliest circle of Jerusalem-based believers included both Greek-speaking and Aramaic-speaking people engaged in active cooperation and fellowship, then the development of earliest beliefs, and the activity of earliest scriptural exegesis among the young Jesus-movement could well have drawn in terms and concepts from both languages . . . from the outset.  Moreover, the influences could well have gone in both directions, for we should not presume that in the Jerusalem church of that day Greek-speaking Jews deferred to Aramaic-speakers.  Instead, there was likely a very lively sharing of insights and discoveries.

And, given the textual diversity of that time as well, we should not imagine that their textual resources were confined to what we know as the Masoretic and Septuagint forms.  There was diversity in the text of the Hebrew biblical writings, and also some diversity in the text of the Greek translation of these writings. And any/all forms were likely regarded as “scripture,” giving a wealth of textual resources on which to draw as earliest Jesus-followers sought to understand their experiences and sought to frame ways to articulate and justify their beliefs.

Update:

He follows up this post with a few comments on Sept 11: click here.

Review of ‘Torah from Alexandria’ to come

leviticus
The third volume of Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel on Torah from Alexandria: Philo as Biblical Commentator, is now out.

I am to write a review of this volume for SBL Book reviews; it will probably be printed late this year.

Publisher says:

“The third volume of Torah from Alexandria sets on display how Philo interpreted the role of the Temple, offerings, festivals, dietary practices, marital laws, and laws of purity. While Philo always remains firmly committed to the importance of the actual religious act, he consistently derives ethical lessons from these ritual practices, thus putting him alongside the great Jewish philosophers of history. Reading Philo alongside Rabbinic wisdom, Greek philosophy, Patristic writers, as well as Medieval and modern authors, breathes new life into the complexities of Leviticus and reinstates Philo’s importance as a biblical exegete…..”

“Rabbi Michael L. Samuel has meticulously culled from all of Philo’s exegetical comments, and arranged them according to the biblical verses. He provides extensive parallels from rabbinic literature, Greek philosophy, and Christian theology, to present Philo’s writing in the context of his time, while also demonstrating Philo’s unique method of interpretation. Torah from Alexandria gives Philo a voice which he so richly deserves as one of the most profound Jewish exegetes and theologians.”