Gary Greenberg's blog on biblical studies and related matters

God’s Footnotes

On many occasions, one or another of the books of the bible cites a so-far undiscovered written source as an authoritative proof that what the biblical author said was true. I like to think of these instances as God’s footnotes. So, here’s a theological question: If a biblical text cites a so-far undiscovered written text as an authoritative source for a claim in the bible, should that so-far undiscovered text be treated as an additional canonical biblical book?

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The Eucharist Problem: John vs. Paul

I’m pleased to report that Bible and Interpretation just published an article by me titled The Eucharist Problem: John versus Paul. It argues that John, writing about a half-century after Paul, preserved a pre-Pauline form of the Eucharist teaching and that Paul’s revelation is a radical reinterpretation and explanation of what Jesus must have meant when he delivered the version preserved by John.

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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Podcast: On Genesis Chronology and Egyptian King-lists

Last month I did a podcast on Miguel Connor’s Aeonbytes and we did about two hours discussing my new book, Genesis Chronology and Egyptian-King-lists. You can catch it here. The first half is for any listener. For the second half you are asked to become a member or patron.

Over the years I have done a few broadcasts with Miguel with regard to my other books.

For Who Wrote the Gospels go here. Transcripts of this interview are available at Part 1 and Part 2.

For The Judas Brief go here.

For 101 Myths of the Bible go here.

Did Mark think Jesus was a Davidic Messiah?

Paul, Matthew and Luke all portray Jesus as a descendant of David. Matthew and Luke even provide Jesus with a lengthy genealogical trail showing his Davidic relationship. Mark, on the other hand, has no birth story and does not appear to recognize or accept that Jesus was a descendant of David. Let’s look at the evidence.

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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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Release set for “Genesis Chronology and Egyptian King-lists.”

Genesis Chronology and Egyptian King-lists: The Egyptian Origins of Genesis History, Volume 1: Egypt’s Dynastic Period should be available for purchase sometime in the next couple of days, depending upon how quickly the distributor’s computer’s talk to Amazon’s computers. I expect the book to also appear on the Barnes and Noble site. As soon as I have links, I’ll post them.