2018 Simultaneous Short Papers

Session 1

Dissimilar religious metanarratives, similar techniques: Herodotus and Luke’s use of the divine ‘plupast’ in their own histories

James Morgan 

University of Fribourg

In addition to Herodotus’ multiple references to divine interventions during the Greco-Persian conflict, he also refers to texts and events that highlight divine actions and speech from earlier epochs (his plupast). How does this ‘divine intertextuality’ (or religious metanarrative) undergird his narrative’s objectives? And how does this compare to or contrast with Luke’s intertextual use of OT texts and events prior to Jesus’ movement (i.e. Israel’s religious metanarrative) to support his theological and pragmatic project?

And It Was Numbered with the Harmonizations: Revisiting the Textual History of Mark 15:28

David Herbison 

Bergische Universität Wuppertal

Current critical texts of the Greek New Testament omit all of Mark 15:28. This verse, with its quotation of Isaiah 53:12, has generally been regarded as a later insertion taken from Luke 22:37. While a number of early manuscripts omit this verse, other evidence indicates that its attestation may reach back to a time as early as, if not earlier than, these important witnesses. Furthermore, there are substantial differences in both the narrative context and textual form of Mark 15:28 when compared to its proposed source in Luke, indicating that if it is an addition to Mark, it does not follow more usual patterns of harmonization as encountered so frequently in manuscripts of the Gospels. Therefore, this paper will offer a fresh appraisal of this variation unit, identifying a number of significant considerations that warrant greater attention. It will be argued that serious consideration of these features supports alternative interpretations of the data, and may even commend the inclusion of Mark 15:28 as the earliest recoverable reading. This paper will also propose ways in which the existence of this variation unit and the restoration of Mark 15:28 may inform our conceptions of synoptic relationships and aid interpretation of both Mark and Luke.

What Did Jesus Have against Goats? Setting Matthew 25:32-33 within the Context of Caprid Husbandry of Roman Palestine

Richard Goode 

Newman University College

Commentators agree that the so called parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25 draws heavily upon the shepherd imagery from Ezekiel 34:17-24. However, the Matthean text also departs significantly from it by aligning the sheep with those who will inherit the kingdom and the goats with those that will be cursed to the eternal fire. Although later interpreters have attempted to explain this distinction, no reason is given in the text. Using zooarchaeological and ethnographic data, alongside contemporary literary and documentary references to caprid husbandry, this paper explores the place of the goat within the extensive and economically significant small cattle (sheep and goat) industry of Roman period Palestine to see if they can shed any light on the attitude to goats expressed by the Matthean Jesus.

It is noted that although attempting to find solutions to Jesus’ apparent antipathy to goats will always be speculative, studies like this can be useful in providing a much clearer understanding of the place of sheep and goat exploitation within the biblical world and its texts. The motif of the shepherd is recurrent in both Jewish and Christian biblical traditions, and is closely associated with the figure of Christ. Furthermore, the vocabulary of sheep and shepherding remains deeply embedded within Christian (particularly pastoral) tradition and practise. What was it about sheep, rather than goats, and those employed to care for them, that appealed so strongly to the early Christian writers?

Session 2

The ‘Refining of Your Faith’? Metallurgic Testing Imagery in James

Daniel K. Eng 

University of Cambridge

This paper proposes that the epistle of James uses metallurgic testing-refining imagery in its opening exhortation, which provides an overarching framework for the rest of the epistle. This paper offers a contribution to the study of James by demonstrating how genuineness and purity, the linked characteristics of precious metal, serves as the major motif of the epistle.

First, this study offers a brief description of testing and refining precious metals in antiquity. Smelting of a precious metal was performed for two purposes. First, the process was used repeatedly for purification of gold or silver. Second, the same process of smelting was used once to test a metal for genuineness. If a metal survived, it would be deemed as approved.

In a survey of Jewish and early Christian literature employing metallurgic imagery, several observations can be made in light of the epistle of James. First, as with the metallurgic process itself, testing and refining are inextricably connected. Second, the imagery represents a beneficial process: God’s purification of his people—those who persevere through it are worthy.

The evidence of a framework in James deriving from testing-refining imagery comes from terminology in its opening chapter as well as its repeated concepts. First, this study demonstrates that δοκίμιον in James 1:3 and its cognate adjective δόκιμος in 1:12 carry metallurgic connotations, associated with the process of smelting metal.

Finally, this study offers a survey of the entirety of James in light of the theme of genuineness-purity. An outline of the epistle is proposed showing how the concepts recur throughout the document, and each section is given attention as the concern is developed. As a whole, the epistle offers hope to the hearer that the persevering believer will have great worth and honour in the end, like a genuine and refined precious metal.

The Logical Structure of 2 Peter 1:3-11

Matthew Joss 

University of St Andrews

When 2 Peter 1 has garnered attention, it has typically been focused on the content of a few key sections (e.g. the divine nature and the virtue list). However, there has been relatively little focus on the inner connections of the passage. The extended argument from verse 3 to verse 11 is quite moving but difficult; the logical path is not immediately evident. In this paper I seek to elucidate those logical and grammatical connections. In particular, this investigation will illuminate how the introduction moves to verses 3-4 and 5-7. Each of these sections is a sorites, a chain of thoughts with each idea building on the previous. Together these form a conditional structure. Further, the relation of the series of conditionals at the end of the passage (8-11) will be related to the previous section to show how the argument progresses through the whole of the passage.

What is a New Testament Scholar?

Dictionary definitions of scholar focus on ‘specialist’. A New Testament Scholar is a specialist. Or, according to what Wikipedia writes, a New Testament Scholar is ‘someone who has published works about the New Testament’, though, in practice it is not quite as simple as this because Wikipedia is no respecter at all of those who publish their own work. And, anyway, we all know that a New Testament Scholar is really a reader, one who is always seeking, but never managing, to keep up with the steady flow of secondary literature.

Why should I pose this question now? It is essentially because it was said at the last Annual Conference that I attended, that in the field of New Testament Research we had never before had so many ‘specialisms’. And the worry expressed then was about how we could continue to communicate across this burgeoning number of disciplines and share any common role in the futures of academe and church. It seemed to me then and it seems to me now, and all the more because of my own specialism and link with a training institution, that this is a much needed discussion.

Firstly, I will raise questions about our own and others’ expectations of what a New Testament Scholar is. Then we will consider what a New Testament Scholar might be expected to do from first principles.

For a further discussion starter, I will present from my own specialism my Rhetorical Table of the New Testament and ask if this isn’t representative of the kind of expertise all New Testament Scholars might hold in common?

And at the last, we will ask: if New Testament Scholars are to be identified by their specialisms, what are the minimum attributes that should identify them as colleagues, one of the other?

Session 3

‘You Weakened Him’: Deconstructing Jesus’ Masculinity in 'Mary Magdalene'

Grace Emmett 

King's College London

March 2018 saw the UK cinema release of Mary Magdalene, directed by Garth Davis. Despite receiving mixed reviews from the mainstream media, the film offers a fresh look at some of the biblical texts thanks to its moving portrayal of life as a follower of Jesus through the eyes of a woman: Mary Magdalene. While there is much that can, and should, be said about this film and the rich potential it offers for engaging with the gospel stories, it is the character of Jesus, played by Joaquin Phoenix, that is the subject of this paper. In particular, this paper will consider the manner in which the masculinity of Joaquin Phoenix’s Jesus is constructed, and what sort of impression the viewer is left with of Jesus as a man. By using masculinity studies as a lens for critiquing the film, this paper will argue that the character of Jesus in Mary Magdalene steers clear of the macho versus meek-and-mild binary and instead presents a man who is subversive, rugged, at times aggressive, but also has moments of weakness, champions women’s independence, and ultimately submits himself to a humiliating death. The paper is framed around the accusation that Peter makes of Mary, regarding Jesus, towards the end of the film when he says to her: ‘You weakened him’. This line crystallises the competing expectations for Jesus’ character, which is ultimately one that blurs the line between dominant and subordinate masculinity, prompting the viewer to consider again how they construct Jesus in their own mind.

The Extended Person and Extended Personal Agency in New Testament Healing Narratives

Helen C. John 

Exeter University

This paper will explore anthropological ideas of extended persons and extended personal agency (alternatives to contemporary, scientistic, Western notions of a physically-bounded and unilocal presence) before relating those notions to various texts in the Gospels and Acts. Having outlined what is meant by the above terms, an example of cross-cultural biblical interpretation in Namibia will illustrate how communities with alternative worldviews espouse ‘extended person’ notions and employ them in the interpretation of biblical texts. In particular, extended personhood/agency arose in Cross-Cultural Biblical Interpretation Group sessions conducted by this researcher in Owamboland, Namibia. Here, Jesus’ engagement with the haemorrhaging woman (Mark 5:21-45) and his healing of the man born blind (John 9:1-12) were understood in the context of personal presence and agency in/through blood, clothing, shadows, footprints, extramission, as well as absorption of the properties of other entities through consumption. This paper argues that such notions worth investigating in reference to a broader selection of texts within the New Testament, and may indicate that similar perspectives on personal agency formed part of the worldviews of the communities which generated and received those texts. In particular, certain healings are represented as being effected through bodily fluids and speech (John 9:1-12), clothing (Mark 5:21-45), shadows (Acts 5:15-16), and possessions (Acts 19:12), which could be interpreted within an ‘extended person’ framework.

Paul and ‘the Good’

Todd Still 

Baylor University

This paper posits that Paul has little to offer per se to the ancient and ongoing conversation spawned by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle and latterly taken up with aplomb by Christian theologians, including Augustine and Aquinas, with respect to ‘the common or human good’ and ‘the good life.’ This is not to suggest, however, that Paul has little to say about the good. Indeed, the apostle has a good bit to say about that which he regards to be good. 

This study commences with a number of lexical considerations from Pauline Letters. Attention is then given to how Paul speaks of that which is good in Romans in general and in 1 Corinthians 7 in particular. Next, it is noted how Paul regards the Jerusalem Collection and Philemon’s reception of Onesimus to be tangible examples of potential good. Finally, by way of conclusion, a number of summative observations are made regarding Paul’s perception of the good.