Panel 1/Session A
Chair: Tom de Bruin
Sarah Shin, University of Aberdeen, ‘The Jubiliary Messiah as Kinsman-Redeemer: Implications of Old Testament Scholarship on the Jubilee for New Testament Studies and Theology’
In The Jubilee from Leviticus to Qumran, Old Testament scholar John Bergsma demonstrates how the jubilee evolved from a legal-socio-economic institution into an ethical, eschatological, and messianic concept post-exile. The jubilee’s association with liberation is eschatologized so that the eschatological jubilee is interpreted as the coming of a royal and/or priestly Messianic figure appointed by the God the go’el, and the debt addressed by the jubilee concerns not only money, but also moral-spiritual debt. He concludes, “these general observations may be of assistance in evaluating the significance of jubilary allusions or motifs in the New Testament.”
This paper explores the significance of jubiliary allusions in select New Testament passages which speak of debt forgiveness (Luke), the apokatastasis in Acts 3:21, the combined reference to Isaiah and Ezekiel in Revelation 21-22. Drawing upon Bergsma’s work and that of theologian-freedom-fighter André Trocmé, who emphasizes the jubilean themes in Jesus’ teachings, I suggest that the jubilean allusions in the New Testament reveal the opportunity to examine the theological implications of the Messiah as the go’el and kinsman-redeemer who delivers his people from physical and spiritual bondage—for the jubilee.
Ludwig Beethoven J. Noya, Vanderbilt University, ‘Exodus-Conquest & Sabbath Rest Motifs in Hebrews: Problematizing a Colonial Imagination’
In this paper, I aim to nuance the notion of resistance and anti-imperial in the epistle to the Hebrews, especially in its concept of Rest in Hebrews 3-4. I will argue that the concept of Rest in Hebrews 3–4 entails a colonial imagination that is manifested in both spatial and temporal colonization. The concept of Rest entails a desire or imagination for a particular group to occupy a space and free time for themselves at the expense of others. In doing so, such a group emulates its colonizers, the Roman Empire, its own oppressors. I will begin by considering what the concept of spatial colonization entails in the Exodus-Conquest motif. Then, I analyze temporal colonization in the Sabbath Rest motif of the Genesis’ creation narrative, along with the broader ancient and modern context. Both discussions show how the letter to the Hebrews imagines an imperial occupation of an “empty” land as well as a leisure time at the expense of others.
J. Andrew Cowan, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, ‘What Is Truth? Protectionist Doxa, Deflection, and Serious New Testament Scholarship’
In a recent article, Stephen L. Young criticized New Testament scholarship written in sympathy to the text as an illegitimate form of protectionism. C. Kavin Rowe then responded with an article characterizing Young’s approach as an exercise in deflection and arguing that serious New Testament scholarship should focus on the questions of truth that the New Testament puts to its readers. The central purpose of this papers is to reckon with these essays’ provocative claims about the methods and aims of New Testament studies. After summarizing their arguments, I highlight a few key misunderstandings and the real issue that lies at the heart of the dispute: different construals of the relationship between the New Testament and truth. The remainder of the paper then interrogates the ways in which Young and Rowe criticize and redescribe scholarship that falls outside of their preferred mode and commends an alternative path to these strategies of marginalization.
Panel 2/Session B
Chair: Julia Lindenlaub
Melissa J. Barciela Mandala, University of St Andrews ‘Reimagining Grief: A Comparative Analysis of Grief and Its Social Function in Paul and Epictetus’
This paper compares Paul (2 Cor. 2:1-11 and 7:8-13) and Epictetus on the topic of grief and its influence on their social visions with respect to the self, the other, and the divine. I employ a comparative methodology, drawing from the work of Jonathan Z. Smith, to demonstrate: (1) There is a fundamentally interpersonal element of grief in the Greco-Roman world, which is attested in both writers; (2) Pauline and Epictetan grief are not antithetical; rather the two operate on parallel social grids, with the shared goal of properly ordering relationships, yet end in different locations; (3) Epictetan grief is a fundamentally disordering agent that hinders proper social relations, whereas in Pauline thought grief is a vehicle for repentance, reconciliation, and unity with respect to the self, the other, and the divine. Grief was an essential pillar of lived experience in the Greco-Roman world, particularly within the works of ancient philosophy. Paul’s letters also feature grief language. Their shared intellectual milieu and use of λυπ- terms creates intriguing space for dialogue, highlighting areas of convergence and divergence in ways previously unexplored.
John Anthony Dunne, Bethel Seminary, ‘The Souring of the Ways: Anti-Jewish Readings of Psalm 69 as a Passion Narrative Intertext’
This paper traces one particular way that the Passion tradition of mixed/sour wine offered to Jesus developed within extra-canonical Gospels, broader NT Apocrypha, Tatian’s Diatessaron, and other early Christian writings. Notably, the divergent details regarding these offerings in the Passion narratives were harmonized out of a growing awareness of an allusion to Psalm 69 (68 OG/LXX) with its reference to gall and sour wine. The tradition comes to be stabilized as sour wine mixed with gall, even though that is not something that we see in the canonical Gospels. Further evidence that Psalm 69 controlled the harmonization of these traditions is seen from the way that Early Christians also drew upon the imprecations from the broader context for polemical leverage against the Jews. This hermeneutical and apologetic trajectory developed despite the fact that (a) the Gospels show varying degrees of awareness of the Psalm in their respective Passion accounts, and (b) they do not indict anyone making the offer, except for Luke (implicitly), when the Roman soldiers do so mockingly.
Ben Kolbeck, Kings College London, ‘Pontius’s Conscience: Pilate’s afterlives and apology in late antiquity’
If Pontius Pilate ever dreamed of timeless renown, he almost certainly would not have guessed that it would be due to his summary execution of a difficult Galilean peasant. Yet through this he became one of history’s best-known Romans, his name preserved in creedal formulae which do not even identify Jesus’ apostles.
A figure demonised as evil and pusillanimous in most medieval and modern retellings, Pilate’s position in early Christian thought is more complex. Christian authors writing under the Roman empire often went out of their way to excuse his condemnation of the son of God, and claim the governor as proto-Christian. Moreover, this tradition was not extinguished by Christianity’s emergence as the dominant religion in the late Roman empire, but was rather accelerated. Focusing particularly on John Chrysostom and Augustine, this paper explores late antique apologetic readings of Pilate and his actions, connecting them to deeply-held needs amongst many early Christian authors to integrate their identities as Christian believers with their identities as subjects of the empire which killed their god.
Panel 3/Session C
Chair: Grace Emmett
Natasha O’Hear, University of St. Andrews, ‘A Visionary Awakening: Highlights from the visual history of Acts 9.1-19 (and parr.)’
This paper will take the form of a critical summary of the visual history of Paul’s conversion on the Road to Damascus in Acts 9.1-19 (and Acts 22.6-21 and Acts 26. 12-18) moving from medieval visualisations of Paul on foot, such as that found in the 9th Century Vivian Bible, through to the extra-biblical iconographic tradition that developed of Paul as a knightly figure who is thrown from his horse at the moment of divine revelation. This well-loved iconographic theme will be explored via images from the 15th Century Livre d’Heures d’Étienne Chevalier, Michelangelo’s 16th Century Conversion of Saul, Caravaggio’s early 17th Century Conversion of Saul and William Blake’s Conversion of Saul (c.1800). Emphasis will be placed throughout on the interplay between the textual and visual traditions and in particular on how the images in question were both shaped by and, in some cases, provide insight into evolving attitudes towards the phenomenon of visionary experience. Thus we move from various artistic evocations of the (broadly) Augustinian conception of visionary experience to Caravaggio’s more personal exploration, all the way through to Blake’s visualisation of his own conception of ‘imaginative sight’. Engaging with the visual tradition in this way ultimately helps to inform a deeper understanding of this seismic moment within the New Testament corpus.”
David Ray Johnson, Regents Theological College, ‘The Visual Interpretations of the Spirit in the French Apocalypses’
The Apocalypse is a vision that has inspired copious creative expressions through visual art. Visual criticism approaches visual art as interpretation or exegesis, essentially, commentary of the biblical text as advocated by Cheryl Exum. This study examines the visual interpretations of the seven spirits and the spirit in the Apocalypse in the French illuminated manuscripts as commentary. The manuscripts include the Burckhardt-Wildt Apocalypse (1294–1300 CE), the Dresden Apocalypse (1300–1316), the Harley Apocalypse (1300–1320), Cloisters Apocalypse (1320), and the Yates Thompson Apocalypse (1370–1390). These manuscripts offer a collection of visual interpretations of the seven spirits and the Spirit, which consists of images of the seven torches, the seven eyes, and the seven horns of the Lamb in Revelation 4–5 and the πνεῦμα ζωῆς in Rev. 11.11. The images offer a unique experience of the biblical text that expresses the visual nature of the Apocalypse
Siobhán Jolley, University of Manchester, ‘There’s Something About Mary, The Memification of St Javelin and Magdalene-Madonna Conflation’
When an image of a rocket-armed saint with a Ukrainian crest in her halo went viral in February 2022, internet users and media outlets alike described St Javelin as a Mary Magdalene image. That the work is in fact a Madonna renders it an excellent case study in the conflation of these Marys in popular imagination.
Despite assertions that the icon draws on the Magdalene’s representation of repentance and rebuilding, it actually adapts Chris Shaw’s 2012, Madonna Kalashnikov. The alteration of the weapon (AK-47 to Javelin) and the attribution of the woman (Madonna to Magdalene) speaks to assumptions about the ‘underdog’ status of the Magdalene, the relationship between Church and nation, and Warner’s historic “muddle of Marys” (2013).
This paper uses the work of Warner and Kateusz and Beavis (2021) to explore the misattribution of St Javelin, arguing that the meme explains as much about the reception of New Testament Marys as it does about Western conceptualisations of Church and nation in Eastern Europe.