Thursday, September 30, 2010

biblical studies and comparative thinking

Werner Kelber's essay, "The Work of Birger Gerhardsson in Perspective," concludes the book, Jesus in Memory: Traditions in Oral and Scribal Perspectives (Werner Kelber and Samuel Byrskog, eds.; Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2009; 173–206). I'm not the biggest fan of Kelber's work, though I have to admit that I am a beneficiary of his groundbreaking work. My first introduction to Kelber was through his seminal monograph, The Oral and the Written Gospel: The Hermeneutics of Speaking and Writing in the Synoptic Tradition, Mark, Paul, and Q (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1983), which in my initial opinion posited too-strong a disruption between oral and written communicative media. Since then Kelber himself has acknowledged this shortcoming, though he still (again, in my opinion) slides too-easily into an oral vs. reading dichotomy.

Those criticisms aside, I find myself enjoying the current essay very much, perhaps more than I've enjoyed any other thing Kelber has written. With that, I'd like to quote Kelber's analysis of biblical scholarship and why objections to cross-cultural and/or transhistorical analytical models are red-herrings.
As an academic discipline, biblical scholarship is laden with centuries of received manners and mannerisms. Not infrequently it has operated in a state of culturally conditioned and/or institutionally enforced isolation. More to the point, many of its historical methods and assumptions about the functioning of biblical texts originated in perennial working relations with print versions—typographic constructs of modernity. Plainly, New Testament (and biblical) studies stand in need of a rethinking of the communications environment in which the early Jesus tradition participated. (181)

Kelber is exactly right. The danger—for Kelber as well as for any of us who search for sociological and anthropological models to help illumine ancient texts—is thinking that we have avoided misapprehending the biblical texts while everyone else sees them through culturally inappropriate lenses. Kelber may too easily critique other scholars for assuming an inapplicable communications model, but his work also constantly reminds that our own ways of perceiving, processing, transmitting, and working with words differ in nearly every respect from Jesus, Paul, and every other figure from antiquity. Cross-cultural models help us become better aware, at the very least, of our own ways of verbalization and so to question how ancient communicative techniques and technologies may have functioned in ways different from our own.

Monday, September 27, 2010

authorial subjectivity

In my History of New Testament Interpretation course I have my students review John Sandys-Wunsch's book, What Have They Done to the Bible? A History of Modern Biblical Interpretation (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2005). I just had to share this, from the book's preface:
I should admit to a glaring weakness. I consider it important to be as fair as possible to everyone I discuss, especially to those whose opinions I do not share. However, on occasion my own opinions may seep through the prose, and a whiff of Gilbert and Sullivan whimsy may spoil the academic dignity so dear to the hearts of some of my more solemn colleagues. As an example, I find it hard to warm to Bossuet because of his treatment of Richard Simon, and I would like to record my sincere conviction that the fact that Bossuet has gone down in history with the title of Bishop of Condom is one of the few irrefutable proofs of the existence of a just God who combines righteous judgment with humor.

the stability of [hand]written texts

One of my perennial interests centers on the ways different cultural and historical perspectives influence the way we perceive written texts. This difference in perception affects every level of our understanding of texts, from what they are to what they're for to what kind[s] of information they contain. This is part of the reason I expressed an interest in reviewing Jesus in Memory: Traditions in Oral and Scribal Perspectives (Werner Kelber and Samuel Byrskog, eds.; Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2009). One of the consistently interesting scholars in these issues is Alan Kirk, who wrote Chapter 6, entitled simply, "Memory" (155–72).

I'm indebted to Alan for a number of reasons, so my comments here are not meant to be disparaging in any way. In fact, what I've read of his essay so far helpfully and honestly takes up Birger Gerhardsson's work on memory and tradition and sets it on a firmer footing. As one example, Kirk has an enviable grasp of the dynamics of fluidity and fixity at work among the evidence for the early Jesus tradition:
The formal features of such genres ensure stability and thus continuity across many oral enactments. However, through their equally core property of variability, or better, multiformity, the tradition is brought to expression in ways responsive to the different social and historical contexts in which it is enacted. (160; my emphasis)

I love that formulation: "their equally core property [relative to their stability] of . . . multiformity." Too often we think of the tradition as some "thing" that exists on its own and that suffers corruption if/as it changes. Research on memory, oral tradition, and oral performance, however, have encouraged us to reconfigure our understanding of the Jesus tradition to account for the ways the tradition could be multiply expressed in different forms, for different purposes, on different occasions, etc. The tradition contains within itself the capability of multiform expression and variation, so that change ≠ corruption.

Even so, Kirk shares an assumption (if I may call it an assumption) with the vast majority of biblical and related scholarship that the codification of tradition in written texts—even handwritten texts—stabilizes that tradition. Immediately following the excerpt quoted above, Kirk adds,
Oral genres, in other words, though stable are not fixed in the sense that the written medium fixes a text. To fix them would be to impair their capacity for oral (as opposed to written) transmission, for loss of adaptability to different social and historical settings entails erosion of relevance and hence survivability. (160–61)

I understand the basic logic undergirding this assumption. If I give a speech this afternoon, I can't "re-hear" that speech a week or even ten minutes later without the aid of some recording technology (which obviously did not exist in antiquity). But if I write a text this afternoon, I can return to that text ten minutes, a week, even ten years later and the wording will be the same then as it is today. Once inscribed, a text can be corrected, erased, commented upon, whatever. But unless I'm stuck in some J. K. Rowling story, the words set in ink won't change and, within limits, aren't even subject to change.

But Kirk's essay isn't focused on written texts; it's focused, instead, on the conjunction of memory and tradition. And I cannot see how an inscribed text fixes tradition and places limits on its variability (or, to use Kirk's preferred term, multiformity). I'm not suggesting that written traditions can't be fixed, relatively or absolutely. But the fixing (= stabilizing) of tradition requires certain social forces that transcend the presence or the absence of written texts. One need look no further than the synoptic gospels to see that, if Matthew and Luke are dependent on Mark and Q (a proposition Kirk accepts), nothing about the entextualization of the Markan or Q tradition rendered that tradition fixed. Bart Ehrman's work on "the orthodox corruption of scripture" [my comments are available here] highlights the way [hand]written traditions were still responsive to (even subject to) the social contexts in which they were employed.

Within the Hellenistic milieux of early Christianity, second Temple Judaism, Roman Egypt, etc., tradition in both written and oral expressions experienced the "core properties" of stability and multiformity. That may strike us as odd, given the ease with which we naturally expect multiple copies of [printed] texts to be identical, whether we bought them in east Tennessee or South Yorkshire. But we simply cannot even recognize the data of the ancient world—let alone account for it—as long as we think that "the written medium fixes a text."

on books and memory

I'm currently reading through Loveday Alexander's chapter in Jesus in Memory: Traditions in Oral and Scribal Perspectives (Werner H. Kelber and Samuel Byrskog, eds.; Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2009): "Memory and Tradition in the Hellenistic Schools" (113–53). Reading this essay reminds me of the most enjoyable moments of researching my PhD under Loveday's supervision; she offers very much to think about and references to a broad range of Classical data that is quite simply beyond my realm of consciousness.

But in this post I only want to repeat an anecdote from the ancient world that Alexander shares with her readers:
The ambivalent relationship between memory and text in ancient understanding is captured nicely in a floating apophthegm attributed to Diocles of Carystus: "Someone once told Diocles the doctor that he would not need any more teaching because he had bought a medical book. Diocles responded: 'For those who have studied, books are reminders, but for the unlearned, they are tombs.'" (148)

[Διοκλῆς ὁ ίατρὸς λέγοντος αὐτῷ τινος βιβλίον ἠγορακέναι ἰατρικὸν καὶ μὴ προσδεῖσθαι διδασκαλίας εἶπε· τὰ βιβλία τῶν μεμαθηκότων ὑπομνήματα εἰσι, τῶν δὲ ἀμαθῶν μνήματα.]

Saturday, September 25, 2010

re-oralizing written manuscripts

Martin Jaffee is probably one of my favorite scholars of oral tradition and the relation between orally transmitted and actualized material and the written texts in which such material exists today. Jaffee, in my opinion, has not only read John Miles Foley (something more people who cite him ought to do) but also understood him. Jaffee's most substantial work that I've read is his 2001 monograph, Torah in the Mouth: Writing and Oral Tradition in Palestinian Judaism, 200 BCE–400 CE (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press), but I've run across a number of his essays in edited volumes throughout the course of my own research.

Most recently, his essay, "Honi the Circler in Manuscript and Memory: An Experiment in 'Re-Oralizing' the Talmudic Text"—the fourth chapter in Jesus in Memory: Traditions in Oral and Scribal Perspectives (Werner Kelber and Samuel Byrskog; Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2009; 87–111)—presents an excellent example of the kind of analysis Foley advocated in his 1995 monograph, The Singer of Tales in Performance (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press). That is, Jaffee balances the primary target of his analysis (viz., an orally mediated tradition) with a respect for the inevitable field of that analysis (viz., handwritten texts). This balance eludes much of media-critical scholarship; we seem to either forget the text-based nature of all our work or to underestimate the significance of the oral milieux contextualizing our written texts.

Jaffee's essay in the Gerhardsson Festschrift offers two presentations of the Honi tradition from the Munich manuscript of the Babylonian Talmud. The first represents in English the visual appearance of that tradition in the MS Munich, "attempting to represent in English what a reader of the manuscript finds in the published facsimile edition: line after undifferentiated line of text without any of the normal cues of punctuation that would signal to a reader how to vocalize the text" (91). The second presentation employs different typefaces (italics, plain text, BOLD ALL CAPS, etc.) in an attempt
to represent visually the various oral-performative sources of textual tradition that are manifest in the editorial shaping of the material but concealed by the scribal format of the manuscript. My goal is to permit the reader to grasp the fundamental ways in which the linear, scribal version of the Talmud neutralizes the oral-performative traces of the transmitted text even as it becomes the very condition of the recovery of the text's oral life. (91)

At this point many of us textually-trained practitioners of biblical scholarship will object that Jaffee does not—indeed cannot—provide any methodologically rigorous criteria to ensure that the "oral-performative" interpretation of the Honi pericope actually obtained, either in the original composition of the MS Munich that provides the text with which he works or in that manuscript's subsequent reception. And Jaffee recognizes this problem (see pp. 96–97). But Jaffee refuses to abandon the attempt to recover oral-performative dynamics that we know with near-certainty contextualized the written textual artifacts with which we work simply because we cannot know if, or how well, we have recovered those dynamics. As Foley would say, we already de-nature oral-derived texts when our interpretations take account of their strictly textual dynamics and neglect the performative and traditional cues embedded in and yet obscured by those textual dynamics.

As a result, we cannot know with any certainty the degree to which Jaffee's "re-oralization" of the Honi pericope accurately revivifies how that pericope would have been heard by its audiences in any given cultural or historical milieu. And yet we can appreciate the way his presentation of the text in discrete "breath-units" and highlighting the multiple "voices" comprising the talmudic text adds depth and texture to the flattened words on the page. Work still remains to be done, of course. But Jaffee advances our reading of oral-derived texts. Now to turn to the gospels . . .

Thursday, September 23, 2010

David Aune on oral tradition and written texts

The third chapter of Jesus in Memory: Traditions in Oral and Scribal Perspectives (Werner Kelber and Samuel Byrskog, eds.; Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2009) is David Aune's essay, "Jesus Tradition and the Pauline Letters" (63–86). Finally. A chapter to enjoy reading. Christopher Tuckett's chapter was on form criticism, so it wasn't going to be . . . well, interesting. And Terence Mournet's chapter mainly rehearsed earlier arguments and largely failed to consider anything other than transmission of tradition.

Aune's essay, in contrast, caught my interest in that he exhibits a keen awareness of the consequences that appraisals of written texts across cultural boundaries can dramatically affect not just how those texts function but even what they are. In the case of Paul's letters, the written text could be actualized orally by being read aloud—"performed"—in a public setting, or they could be actualized textually by being copied into a new manuscript. This latter, in Aune's approach, is no less a "performance" of the Pauline tradition than the public reading.
[E]ach new "copy" of an exemplar was itself a performance in its own right, raising the question of the extent to which the traditional text-critical goal of reconstructing the "original" text is an achievable enterprise. In my own work on a commentary on the Testament of Solomon, it became evident early on that the "original text" of this second-century document cannot be reconstructed. This raises the important question about the purpose of such a commentary. In the case of the Testament of Solomon, I decided to base the commentary on a single manuscript "performance" of the text, bringing in a discussion of some of the extensive variants only when such a discussion seemed warranted. (67)

Of course (and Aune knows) the manuscript traditions for the Pauline corpus and the Testament of Solomon experience such radically different conditions that we cannot treat these traditions the same way. But in both instances, later manuscripts are not more-or-less corrupted versions of earlier texts; instead, they are performances of their respective traditions. The quality of these "performances" might vary; indeed, we would expect them to vary. But written manuscripts across a broad range of history and geography were judged by their position vis-à-vis the traditions they embodied rather than merely their fidelity to earlier manuscripts. (The word merely is important here; obviously earlier manuscripts formed an important and vital component of the tradition that was brought to bear in the assessment of later manuscripts.) In other words, texts didn't give birth to texts (the conception behind much stemmatic text-critical scholarship); cultural processes that included but transcended texts produced texts.

Aune then turns to Pierre Nora's seminal edited anthology of French history, Les Lieux de mémoire (1984–92; ET: Realms of Memory: Rethinking the French Past [1996–98]), and analyzes the Pauline tradition (with an emphasis on the Thessalonian correspondence) as primarily—and first—aides-mémoire ("mnemonic devices") and secondarily—and later—lieux de mémoire ("sites of memory"). I don't want to reproduce Aune's argument here. And certainly there are differences between Aune's own conception of social or collective memory and my own. But Aune provides a compelling and concrete way of thinking about the function of Paul's letters in various social contexts through time as well as the effect of writing in Paul's name (if the deutero-Pauline epistles are in fact pseudonymous, which Aune accepts).

Aune's essay is, unfortunately, a little sloppily edited. I noted at least two errors in Greek (e.g., παραλαμβάλειν for παραλαμβάνειν [73]), and on more than one occasion Aune refers to Pierre Nola (instead of Nora; the problem begins on p. 79). Nevertheless, this is an essay well worth consulting, and I highly recommend it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

new on my shelf

The following books have recently made their way onto one of my bookshelves. Some are new, others are new to me. If you have anything to say about any of these—whether praises, critiques, or just things to look for—feel free to leave your comment below.

Robin Lane Fox. Pagans and Christians (New York: Knopf, 1987). Pp. 799.

Andrew T. Lincoln. Truth on Trial: The Lawsuit Motif in the Fourth Gospel (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2000). Pp. xv + 527. List: $29.95.

Alan F. Segal. Paul the Convert: The Apostolate and Apostasy of Saul the Pharisee (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1990). Pp. xvi + 368. List: $23.00.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

problems with transmission

I've started into Terence C. Mournet's essay, "The Jesus Tradition as Oral Tradition," which is the second chapter of Jesus in Memory: Traditions in Oral and Scribal Perspectives (Werner H. Kelber and Samuel Byrskog, eds.; Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2009). Mournet's PhD thesis—which I believe was supervised by James D. G. Dunn at Durham University—was published as Oral Tradition and Literary Dependency: Variability and Stability in the Synoptic Tradition and Q (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2005); given the somewhat well-known disagreements between Dunn and Birger Gerhardsson it is perhaps a bit surprising that Mournet is writing this chapter in a quasi-Festschrift for Gerhardsson, though Mournet takes a respectful and conciliatory line from the start.

As I read Mournet's essay, though, and especially as I remember Christopher Tuckett's immediately preceding discussion of form criticism (21–38), I'm struck that NT scholarship seems nearly incapable of thinking about oral tradition in any terms other than "transmission." In other words, what makes "oral tradition" oral is how it moves through time and/or space: namely, by word of mouth. This seems a pretty big problem, given that for at least two decades the discussion of oral traditional texts and performances has raised a number of other, more interesting questions. Among these are:

  • How do traditional societies understand the relation between different (and differing) performances of the same tradition?
  • How do traditional societies understand the relation between different traditions within the same genre, social context, etc.?
  • How do traditional societies experience the movement of their traditions across and between media, including oral performance and written text?
  • How do media dynamics differentiate between different traditions and/or different traditional genres within the same traditional society?
  • How do traditions—whether oral, written, or oral-derived—mean what they mean, and what role do other factors (performance, language, instrumentation, etc.) play in the generation of meaning?

And so on and so on. Oral traditional dynamics present such an interesting and lively field of research, and this field is so self-evidently relevant for biblical scholarship (including, of course, New Testament scholarship). How unfortunate, then, that the legacy of German Formgeschichte has been to restrict our discussion to the rather myopic question of transmission!

Or, to paraphrase Jim Mora: Transmission?! Don't talk about transmission. You kiddin' me?! Transmisison?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Christopher Tuckett on Form Criticism

Christopher Tuckett provides an eighteen-page essay that surveys Birger Gerhardsson's nearly five-decade critique of form criticism as well as some of Gerhardsson's counterproposals regarding the development and transmission of the Jesus tradition in Jesus in Memory: Traditions in Oral and Scribal Perspectives (W. H. Kelber and S. Byrskog, eds.; Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2009). Tuckett focuses some attention on the German term Formgeschichte, for which "form criticism" has become the standard English equivalent.
The German compound noun Formgeschichte (combining Form and Geschichte) might be more literally translated as "form history"; certainly the aspect of tracing out the possible history of the development of traditions in the New Testament has always been an integral part of Formgeschichte, at least for many (German) form critics. (27)

In other words, what in German scholarship is a single discipline—Formgeschichte—has been divided into two subdisciplines in English scholarship: form criticism on the one hand and the reconstruction of a tradition's history on the other. Tuckett, however, suggests a different bifurcation:
[P]erhaps we should distinguish carefully between two issues: the use of Jesus traditions in the early church and the origin of Jesus traditions. Both are important issues, but they need to be distinguished and should not be confused. (27–28)

This is certainly a helpful proposal; we cannot suggest that just because Jesus' early followers found a particular tradition useful for their purposes (instruction, apologetics, preaching, worship, etc.) that tradition must have been created by them for those purposes. If we discount every account of Jesus' polemical victory over his opponents (Pharisees, scribes, etc.) as Christian propaganda, we are left with the hypothesis that in the first century some people found Jesus' teaching persuasive even though Jesus never bested his contemporaries in debate, and that these people later created stories of Jesus' persuasive abilities in order to cover up that fact. Immediately after the quote on pp. 27–28, Tuckett refers to the well-known British scholar, T. W. Manson:
We can list these stories in the Gospels. We can label them . . . But a paragraph of Mark is not a penny the better or the worse as historical evidence for being labelled, "Apophthegm" or "Pronouncement Story" or "Paradigm."1

1 T. W. Manson, "The Quest of the Historical Jesus—Continued," in Studies in the Gospels and Epistles (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1962), 5; quoted in Tuckett, "Form Criticism," 212n. 34.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

on burning sacred texts

The news in last few days has focused largely on Dove World Outreach Center's plans (DWOC; sorry, but I won't link to them here) to burn copies of the Quran on Saturday to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the events of September 11, 2001. This small and inflammatory (no pun intended) congregation has become such a topic of conversation that as of now their name generates nearly 3,400 hits on Google News. I suspect this story provides a comforting balance to the loudly debated mosque planned for Ground Zero. In the interest of full disclosure I should point out that I'm against both, and largely for the same reasons.

But the question I want to raise is, How would Jesus respond to DWOC's plans to burn Islam's sacred text? More full disclosure: My answer to this question is, of course, my answer and not really "what Jesus would do." Far be it from me to claim to speak for Jesus. Now let me sit in my special Holy Spirit chair and utter the words of the Lord . . .

At the heart of the Christian gospel is the story of a God who (i) created the universe and all that inhabits it by the word of his mouth and declared his creation good, and who (ii) found himself spurned by his creation in favor of lesser lights. Paul referred to this situation in terms of "exchange": an exchange of God's incorruptible glory for the likeness of perishable beings, of the truth of God for a lie, of the praise and worship of the creator for the created (see Rom. 1.23–25).

And how did the creator God respond to this affront? Did he defend his honor by condemning the shameful? Sometimes, but not ultimately. Did he defend his righteousness by condemning the wicked? Sometimes, but not ultimately. Did he uphold the truth by destroying the liars? Sometimes, but not ultimately.

The Christian gospel insists that God took a stand for honor, righteousness, and truth not by stamping on and stamping out their opposites but by allowing wicked humanity to nail him to a dead tree and hide him in a dank grave. God identified with the shameful, the wicked, and the liars in order to transform them from within. He did not defend the abstract concepts honor, righteousness, and truth but sought to bring those concepts to fruition in the lives of the very people who made themselves enemies of God. Again, Paul speaks eloquently here: "For Christ, even while we were weak, while the time was right, died for the ungodly. . . . God made his own love for us evident, because while we were still sinners Christ died for us" (Rom. 9.6, 8). God identified with the evil he sought to condemn in order to redeem the people who found themselves enslaved by evil's tyranny.

So how would this God respond to DWOC's plans to burn copies of the Quran on Saturday? I can't help but think this God would set copies of the Bible on fire. Not because the Bible is evil (again, Paul: "May it never be!"), and not because the Quran is worth defending. But despite all the charges the Christian gospel would level against the errors of Islam, the Christian God longs for, yearns for, even dies for the redemption of Muslims. This God doesn't incite the hatred of wicked humanity; rather, he invites wicked humanity to spend its hatred on his flesh. He condemns our wickedness in his own body. And he restores our broken relationship with him by washing us in his own blood. This God invites us to spend and expend our hatred on him so that we may witness our hatred overcome. This time John's words come to mind: "We love [God] because he first loved us" (1 John 4.19).

I think if we were to see Bibles instead of Qurans put to the flame, we would see the kingdom of God arising from the smoldering pages. Because that's how our God reigns: Not by out-persecuting his enemies but out-perservering them. His honor swallowed up our shame. His righteousness swallowed up our wickedness. His truth swallowed up our lies.

Shame on you, DWOC, for missing all of this.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Byrskog on haggadic tradition

I started reading the volume edited by Werner Kelber and Samuel Byrskog, Jesus in Memory: Traditions in Oral and Scribal Perspectives (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2009). This book springboards from the seminal works of Birger Gerhardsson in the areas of memory and tradition and sets the agenda for future research in these areas. I'm still reading Byrskog's introduction (1–38), which surveys Gerhardsson's work (who, I believe, supervised Byrskog's doctoral research). Byrskog provides an interesting analysis of Gerhardsson's distinction between sayings and narrative tradition:
The narrative tradition, with the exception of the imaginative, legendary haggadah type, was mainly formulated when the eyewitnesses at a later point needed to illustrate a particular question that was posed to them. (8; my emphasis)

If I'm reading him rightly, Byrskog seems to suggest (or to say that Gerhardsson believes) that rabbinic haggadic tradition stems from eyewitness memory unless it exhibits "imaginative, legendary" characteristics. This strikes me as an astonishingly nineteenth-century thing to say, as if critical scholars can accept without worry traditional materials from antiquity that transfer relatively easily into an Enlightenment framework and can discard those materials that violate Enlightenment sensibilities.

I'm not sure this approach to ancient texts can be sustained any longer. Instead, the memorial dynamics that produced more mundane "narrative tradition" also led to "the imaginative, legendary haggadah type" of Jewish tradition. Both stem from how ancient tradents (i) understood the worlds in which they found themselves and (ii) navigated the texts that explained and programmed their experiences in those worlds. These memorial dynamics are thoroughly social, and I've criticized Byrskog elsewhere on precisely this point (see chapter 3 of Structuring Early Christian Memory). Eyewitnesses at some later point may have needed to formulate accounts of their past in order to answer this or that question, but Byrskog's analysis needs to address the social factors that determined how those eyewitnesses formulated their accounts.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Why I don't take my daughters to playgrounds

Today's blogging theme appears to be, "YouTubing my way toward Saturday."

[HT: Ben Myers]

suddenly I'm in the mood for fries

This week in my first-year introduction to Jesus and the gospels we're flying through source criticism and the Synoptic Problem. This video does an . . . um, interesting job of presenting some arguments (though not really the most compelling ones) for Markan priority. It does a more admirable job illustrating (i) stop motion animation and (ii) the possibilities for using Mr. Potatohead for NT instruction.

[HT: Mark Goodacre]

. . . and by the letter Ω

Mark Goodacre notes a number of songs available to assist people learning the Greek alphabet. My favorite is probably this one; I might even add it to iTunes! But here are two others; the first is significantly more entertaining (and more accurate) than the second:

[If you're in my Elementary Greek class, do NOT follow this video's pronunciation!]

For the sake of completeness, those of you who are interested in all things alphabet should check out the recent debate concerning the origins of the alphabet. The relevant articles are linked to on PaleoJudaica (and follow the links).

[HT: Mark Goodacre]

today's show was brought to you by the letter א

Here's a brief presentation of two prominent NT scholars' views of Jesus. I've heard John Dominic Crossan speak in person and E. P. Sanders online; I don't remember either of them sounding so . . . midwestern. Still, this is nicely creative and worth sharing here.

[HT: Mark Goodacre]

My Visual Bookshelf