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Picking up on the revived interest in the Song of Songs in biblical scholarship, the article focuses on the significance of the Song in the tradition of Jesus’ teachings. After a survey of rabbinic midrash on the Song, five examples show that Jesus as remembered in the gospel tradition expresses an unusual interest in the Song with a discreet mystical emphasis. The nuptial Christology that subsequently surfaces in Revelation and in Hippolytus and Origen suggests a continuous development as from the Jesus tradition. This continuity may explain the remarkable parallels between the interest of the Church Fathers in the Song and that of the Rabbis.
In the early third and fourth centuries respectively, Ammonius of Alexandria and Eusebius of Caesarea engaged in cutting-edge research on the relationships among the four canonical gospels. Indeed, these two figures stand at the head of the entire tradition of comparative literary analysis of the gospels. This article provides a more precise account of their contributions, as well as the relationship between the two figures. It argues that Ammonius, who was likely the teacher of Origen, composed the first gospel synopsis by placing similar passages in parallel columns. He gave this work the title Diatessaron-Gospel, referring thereby to the four columns in which his text was laid out. This pioneering piece of scholarship drew upon a long tradition of Alexandrian textual scholarship and likely served as the inspiration for Origen's more famous Hexapla. A little over a century later, Eusebius of Caesarea picked up where Ammonius left off and attempted to accomplish the same goal, albeit using a different and improved method. Using the textual parallels presented in the Diatessaron-Gospel as his ‘raw data’, Eusebius converted these textual units into numbers which he then collated in ten tables, or ‘canons’, standing at the beginning of a gospel book. The resulting cross-reference system, consisting of the Canon Tables as well as sectional enumeration throughout each gospel, allowed the user to find parallels between the gospels, but in such a way that the literary integrity of each of the four was preserved. Moreover, Eusebius also exploited the potential of his invention by including theologically suggestive cross-references, thereby subtly guiding the reader of the fourfold gospel to what might be called a canonical reading of the four.
Early Christianity is often regarded as an entirely lower-class phenomenon, and thus characterised by a low educational and cultural level. This view is false for several reasons. (1) When dealing with the ancient world, inferences cannot be made from the social class to which one belongs to one's educational and cultural level. (2) We may confidently state that in the early Christian urban congregations more than 50 per cent of the members could read and write at an acceptable level. (3) Socialisation within the early congregations occurred mainly through education and literature. No religious figure before (or after) Jesus Christ became so quickly and comprehensively the subject of written texts! (4) The early Christians emerged as a creative and thoughtful literary movement. They read the Old Testament in a new context, they created new literary genres (gospels) and reformed existing genres (the Pauline letters, miracle stories, parables). (5) From the very beginning, the amazing literary production of early Christianity was based on a historic strategy that both made history and wrote history. (6) Moreover, early Christians were largely bilingual, and able to accept sophisticated texts, read them with understanding, and pass them along to others. (7) Even in its early stages, those who joined the new Christian movement entered an educated world of language and thought. (8) We should thus presuppose a relatively high intellectual level in the early Christian congregations, for a comparison with Greco-Roman religion, local cults, the mystery religions, and the Caesar cult indicates that early Christianity was a religion with a very high literary production that included critical reflection and refraction.
It has been proposed that references to Jesus' relationship to Mary Magdalene in the Gospel of Philip represent a possible context for an early gospel fragment in which Jesus refers to her as ‘My wife’. It will be argued here that Mary's relationship to Jesus in Philip is determined by her role as privileged recipient of revelation, not by her marital status. More significant in accounting for the Jesus' Wife fragment is the Gospel of Thomas, which the author appears to have known in precisely the text-form represented by the one surviving Coptic exemplar.
Roman identity and legitimisation of imperial rule were closely connected to the mythological motive of divine descent. In this context, the myth of Romulus with the encounter between the god Mars and the virgin Rhea Silvia developed its own significance that was available for broader circles within the population of the Roman Empire. It is against this background that Luke 1.26–38 may be read as an alternative foundation narrative that assimilates essential features of the Roman myth of origin in order to reinterpret it christologically.
This article discusses two characteristics of the Jewish-Christian source in Recognitions 1.27–71, namely its fierce opposition to sacrifices and its emphasis on the historical ties between the Jews and the land of Judea. There is reason to think that this document expresses the reaction of Jewish-Christians of Judaea to the disaster of the Bar-Kokhba uprising. On the one hand, they considered the military defeat and its consequences as a divine punishment for the rebels’ attempt to renew the sacrificial cult; and, on the other hand, they fought the paganisation of Judea by defending the historical right of the Jews to possess this land.
The Letters to the Seven Churches in the Book of Revelation follow a fixed sevenfold literary pattern. The single form elements are developed in view of the special situation of each of the seven churches but, at the same time, aim to create linkages with the main body of the book. In addition, referencing between form elements within one and the same letter often help to construe ambiguous metaphors. While the seven letters all together build a unit, this unit falls into two groups: the letter to Thyatira closes the first section, the letter to Laodicea closes the second one, with the letter to Sardis serving as a hinge between the two groups. The literary and the text-pragmatic purpose of the seven letters are well combined. In the second group, the linkages serving as a connection with the rest of the book make an increasing use of motives that describe the final victory at the end of the Book of Revelation. In this way, the author tries to focus the reader's attention on this eagerly awaited future.
Surprisingly, the Gospel reaches Rome under the sign of the Dioscuri (Acts 28.11). In the first two centuries CE these saviours represent, at a broad cultural level, salvation and secure justice, deliver the message of victory to Rome, and symbolise the Empire's expansive claim on the world. In the rhetoric of ἐνάϱγεια the nautical detail marks a theological transformation: the Mediterranean becomes the mare nostrum of Christians; this transformation is plausible even according to pagan eusebeia; the gospel reveals itself as good news of victory claiming the world. It is within this illustrative logic that the noteworthy detail gains its meaning.
This article argues that John 9.4–5 should be reanalysed as an appeal parallel to 12.35–6, so that the ‘night … when no one can work’ of 9.4 corresponds to the avoidable ‘darkness’ of 12.35. Viewed in this manner, ‘night’ represents the condemned state of the unbelieving after the departure of Jesus. Jesus urges his disciples to ‘work the works’ of God so that, at the historical onset of ‘night’, the Paraclete may mediate a continuing, covert experience of ‘day’ within them. That onset, then, marks a critical phase in the eschatological separation of the ‘children of light’ from ‘the world’.
The internet publication of a Coptic Gospel of John fragment demonstrated that both it and the related Gospel of Jesus' Wife fragment were modern creations. The Coptic John fragment was clearly copied from Herbert Thompson's 1924 publication of the Lycopolitan Qau codex, and shared the same hand, ink and writing instrument with the Gospel of Jesus' Wife fragment. The present discussion will first survey the extant Coptic tradition of John's Gospel, and second outline the evidence for dependence on the Qau codex publication.
Acts 13.6–12 has been viewed as highly significant in the debate about the historicity of Acts, since the beginnings of the Pauline mission among the Gentiles are supposed to be rooted here, and the story illustrates Paul's self-understanding as an apostle. On the other hand, signs of literary creativity of the author with regard to the overall theological concept and the controversy about miracles, magic and apocalyptic traditions are clearly seen in this section that seem to contradict the description of the beginnings of the Pauline mission. This paper explores the apparent contradiction in the debate about the historicity of Luke-Acts in general and Acts 13.6–12 in particular, and shows that magic and apocalypticism can be incorporated within the ancient understanding of historical verification.
This paper argues that Matthew's so-called exception clauses to the prohibition of divorce (5.32; 19.9) make explicit what was already implicit in versions without them: that adultery required divorce. While biblical law required death for adulterers or expected it as a result of the ordeal of the suspected wife, the issue of divorce arose where communities no longer had capital rights and where guilt was not in question. Matthew's nativity story, the norms of Greek and Roman culture, notions of the defiled wife (Deut 24.1-4) and the use of Gen 2.24 to indicate permanent joining give plausibility to the thesis.
The article reopens the dossier of the sources, parallels and rewritings of 1 Cor 2.9, a saying that Paul attributes to a written source, when other sources put it into Jesus' mouth (e.g. GosThom 17). The state of research shows that the hypothesis of an oral source is generally preferred but an accurate study of 1 Clem 34.8, a parallel too often neglected, supports the presence of a written source that existed before 1 Cor 2.9. GosJud 47.10–13 will help to understand the attribution of the saying to Jesus. Finally, the article takes into account the well-known parallel in Islamic tradition, a ḥadīth qudsī.
The present essay summarises textual evidence indicating that the Gospel of Jesus' Wife is essentially a ‘patchwork’ of words and short phrases culled from the lone extant Coptic manuscript of the Gospel of Thomas (Nag Hammadi Codex ii), prepared by a forger using Michael W. Grondin's 2002 PDF edition of this manuscript. The text contains at least five tell-tale signs of its modern origin, including the apparent replication of a typographical (and grammatical) error from Grondin's edition. A direct link between it and Grondin's work also seems to be confirmed by the earliest known English translation of the fragment.
This article is concerned with material aspects of the ‘Jesus’ Wife' fragment. Following an analysis of the papyrus which confirms that it is indeed of ancient manufacture, the scientific tests carried out on both the papyrus and the ink are critically assessed and shown to be of little or no value in determining the date of the writing.
Traditionally, Pauline exegesis has tended to reduce the Judaism which the apostle encounters in his argumentation to a legalist and particularistic religion; a religion from which Paul would have distanced himself, inventing a Christianity of universal grace in his critique of the Torah. If the New Perspective on Paul allowed us to correct this legalistic reduction of Second Temple Judaism, by highlighting the dimension of election with the foundation of the covenant of Israel, the instigators of this exegetical programme have, however, assented to the hypothesis of a supersession of Jewish particularism by Christian universalism. Hence the critique voiced on this issue by the adherents of what is now called the Radical New Perspective. We are especially indebted to Denise Kimber Buell and Caroline Johnson Hodge for this wave of protest, for both authors identify the use of an ‘ethnic reasoning’ in the Pauline reworking of the Gentiles’ identity. While this critique deserves to be heard, the thesis of a logic of ethnicity and kinship at work under the pen of the apostle cannot be ratified without discussion, since it is not consistent with a rigorous examination of the letter to the Galatians. In that context, indeed, the discourse of identity is not mainly ethnic but anthropological and cosmological, since the believers – Jews quite as much as Gentiles – through baptism have to become not a ‘new people’ but rather a ‘new creation’ (Gal 6.15).
This article seeks a fresh assessment of Paul's pompa triumphalis imagery at 2 Cor. 2.14–16a by probing a number of neglected aspects of both lexical and cultural background. Included are (1) an analysis of the use of θριαμβεύω in the Greco-Roman literature, with special attention given to claims made concerning the word's use with direct objects; (2) a lexicology of ὀσμή and εὐωδία in literatures of the period; and (3) a probing of the language of ‘salvation’ in the passage, with attention given to a feature of the triumphal procession parades that has until now failed to garner attention in investigations of the passage.
Within the narrative of John 4.4–42 (the Samaritan woman at the well) the fact is mentioned that ‘Jacob's well’ had been given to his son Joseph (John 4.5). By calling Jacob ‘our father’ (John 4.12), the woman claims for the Samaritans a direct lineage from Jacob via Joseph. The Samaritans are designated as ‘children of Israel’ and members of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh (i.e. the ‘house of Joseph’). The genealogy is embedded in a motif occurring in Scripture (the encounter at the well). Thus, it is questionable whether the passage of the woman at the well can primarily be seen as ‘mission among gentiles’. The narrative focus of the passage seems to point to a mission among the ‘children of Israel’.