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



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.


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