Gary Greenberg's blog on biblical studies and related matters

Theological Studies reviews my book “Proving Jesus’ Authority in Mark and John.”

Theological Studies 80(3) recently published a nice review of my book, “Proving Jesus’ Authority in Mark and John.” A couple of briefexcerpts:

” The result is a fine inquiry which. . . represents a positive contribution to Johannine and Synoptic scholarship. “

“Some of G.’s keen observations are well taken and should generate further discussion. In fact, their presence makes the book recommended reading for serious students of John’s Gospel.”

“As for his readers, both the general audience and specialists will be treated to a well-written, provocative, and informative inquiry into a lingering mystery in New Testament studies.”

Did John Historicize the Parable of the Wicked Tenant?

One of the most significant disagreements between John and the synoptic gospels (Mark, Luke, Matthew) revolves around Jesus’ last visit to Jerusalem. The synoptic gospels place the incident over three days in the last week of Jesus’ life. John places the visit over several months and ends it at about three months before Jesus is arrested. Where the synoptic gospels say Jesus went to the Temple during those three days, John says Jesus was hiding away to avoid arrest (on the theological principle that his hour had not yet come.)

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Book Review: Paul vs James

Paul vs James by Barrie Wilson ($1.99 from Amazon)

(Note: This is a Kindle book but at last check it didn’t appear to be downloadable to the Kindle device. I used the Apple kindle app to read it. I assume the Android app will also work.)

Paul vs James is an historical novel that explores the conflicts between the apostolic Jerusalem church of Torah-based Christian Jews, originally led by James the Just, brother of Jesus, and the diaspora Pauline church that rejected Torah and promoted unity among Jews and Gentiles. Set shortly after the deaths of the two title characters, as the Romans prepare to march on Jerusalem to put down the Jewish rebellion, the story focuses primarily on Mattai, and his family. Mattai, a Torah-loving rabbi and craftsman who belonged to the Jerusalem church, fears the imminent Roman assault and flees with his family to Antioch, where they establish a new life among other followers of James and the Jerusalem church, and he brings with him a secret document that he kept hidden for over two decades, one which plays an important role later in the story.

As Mattai and the family settle in to the life and rhythms of Antioch, where he and his church members are a distinct minority, the Sabbath service is visited by some followers of Paul’s teachings, among whom are future leaders of the Christian movement, and they came there to recruit members from Mattai’s congregation. This leads to a series of debates and arguments over the correct teachings of Jesus, a debate over whether to follow the teachings of Jesus while he was alive versus the alleged revelations to Paul after the death of Jesus. Wilson imagines that these sort of debates led to the creation of some of the formative documents in early Christianity.

One of the great virtues of this fiction format is that it can transform the trials and tribulations of the characters from sociological abstracts in a lecture to characters enmeshed in society, traditions, worries and concerns. Rather than a dry lecture about how some unknown individual may have written some document, Wilson’s arrangement allows you to see how characters deal with and react to problems as humans, rather than cardboard cutouts. I particularly enjoyed the fleshing out of the story with the frequent insertion of practices, traditions and diversity of thought within the Jewish community that would have no place in a basic lecture about document source criticism.

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem: Chronological and Narrative Problems

The Triumphal Entry scene in the Gospels depicts a large crowd hailing Jesus as King of the Jews. From a political-historical standpoint, this is problematic. The Romans would not tolerate an unauthorized individual being hailed as the king of the Jews and would likely crack down on such a demonstration and take such a person into custody as soon as possible. The Romans simply didn’t tolerate such actions. However, Mark shows Jesus coming back to Jerusalem day after day with no Roman interaction, although the Romans would have had large numbers of troops stationed in and around Jerusalem during the Passover holiday period. From a literary standpoint, I also note that after Mark depicts Jesus being hailed by the large crowds as the Davidic Messiah that adulation disappears from Mark throughout Jesus’ return visits to Jerusalem. No one during the subsequent visits declares him to be the Davidic heir. Why not?

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I have an article coming up on the Bible and Interpretation site

I recently submitted an article to Bible and Interpretation titled “Roman Days, Jewish NIghts, and the Gospel Calendar Problem.” It should appear in the latter part of July and I’ll post a link when it is published. The article examines some of the chronological issues affecting the gospel narratives that arise from the fact that the authors of the Gospels used a Roman calendar day (sunrise to sunrise) to describe events unfolding according to the Jewish Calendar day (sunset to sunset.) It discusses the impact on such issues as when the Sabbath started and ended, on what days Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread occurred, and the so-called Day of Preparation.