Saturday, September 29, 2007

Seeing the Glory, Hearing the Son

Most of my research time this month has been taken up with work on a paper that I am scheduled to give at Briercrest's Bible and Theology colloquium next Friday. The full title is "Seeing the Glory, Hearing the Son: The Function of the Wilderness Theophany Narratives in Luke 9:28-36."

The paper comes out of work I did this summer on connections between the transfiguration of Jesus and passages in Exodus that talk about Moses' and the Israelites' meetings with God at Mount Sinai. Most scholars who notice the connections--for example, the mountain, Jesus' transfigured appearance, glory (in Luke), an overshadowing cloud, a voice that speaks from the cloud, a response of fear--imagine the Gospel writers are setting up some sort of comparison between Moses and Jesus. I suggest up front that the web of connections is spun between events rather than people.
Instead of dwelling only on similarities between Moses and Jesus, Luke (along with the other Gospel writers) wraps the entire transfiguration narrative in a complex of allusions to the wilderness theophany narratives that are associated, in the first place, with God's covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai.

I plan to argue that memories of the covenant at Mount Sinai evoked by Luke in his transfiguration account contribute to his story of Jesus in at least two ways:
  1. The subject of Moses' and Elijah's conversation with Jesus is Jesus' "departure." The Greek word is ἔξοδος (exodos), and the other allusions to Mount Sinai in the context suggest that we should be thinking of the Israelites' departure from Egypt when we consider Jesus’ “exit” from his earthly life at his death, resurrection and ascension. Just as the exodus from Egypt formed the basis of the Sinaitic covenant, so Jesus' "departure" is associated by Luke with a new redemption. Even though Luke, in contrast to Paul, so rarely highlights the saving significance of Jesus' death, I think this passage helps us see that Luke viewed Jesus' death and resurrection as inaugurating a new covenant (see Luke 22:20).
  2. The main emphasis in this passage—one that makes sense of (most of) the OT echoes and that is emphasized elsewhere by Luke—is not that Jesus is the prophet like Moses, or even that Jesus is superior to Moses and Elijah, but that Jesus, the chosen Son must, like Moses, be heard. Just as hearing and obeying the words of God mediated by Moses was at the center of the Sinaitic covenant ceremony (e.g., Exod 19:8 LXX; 24:7), so now hearing the son forms the basis for God’s relationship with the people gathered around Jesus. For Luke, the command to “hear him” is much more than a reminder that to be good disciples his followers better listen up, and it goes beyond simply catching on that Jesus had to die (Luke 9:22-27), though this is central. For Luke, how one "hears" Jesus determines one’s eternal destiny.
I'm looking forward to some good constructive feedback at the colloquium--if not already in the comments to this post. Hopefully, a revised version of the paper will eventually appear in print somewhere. But for now I need to finish the paper!

(The blurry picture at the top is of a painting of the transfiguration in one of Cappadocia's abandoned cave churches [now part of a popular open-air museum].)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Turkey Travelogue 9a - On to Cappadocia

We asked our driver to drop us off in Denizli after we were finished in Aphrodisias. Since my dream of visiting Colossae never materialized, we found ourselves at the central bus station with 5 hours to kill before our overnight bus was scheduled to depart for Göreme in Cappadocia.

Denizli is no tourist town. The Lonely Guide provides instructions about getting there (if you must) and getting away, but offers no advice about what to do if you should find yourself stranded downtown of an afternoon. Evidently there is nothing to see. In the end, the hours in the bus stop restaurant listening to Turkish TV were a welcome break between several long days of travel. t. and I took a walk--sans backpacks and tourist hats--thoroughly enjoying our only experience in Turkey not being singled out as foreign tourists.

Since it was an overnight bus, I am not sure how we got from Denizli to Göreme, but I think we must have passed through Konya (ancient Iconium) midway between the two dots:
Thankfully, my memories of the bus careening through the dark, down a narrow, two lane highway are few.

When we arrived in Göreme the next morning, our first task was finding a place to stay. We eventually settled on the pension recommended by our host in Pamukkale. Here's a view from the terrace:
Cappadocia's main attraction is its bizarre and beautiful rock formations, resulting from the erosion of soft rock around volcanic basalt. "The end result is fascinating: huge stone mushrooms and fairy chimneys, soft ridges and deep valleys, acute edges and mild undulations - all riddled with numerous ancient cave dwellings like a Swiss cheese" (Blue Guide).

Our pension was one such cave dwelling, albeit a more modern one:

t.'s verdict: "If I had been a wine bottle or a cheese, it would have been great!"

The view from the terrace, however, was stunning:

Click here for the Turkey Travelogue Index.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

N.T. Dylan

We listened to a Song and Q&A session with Tom Wright Friday night on our way back from Saskatoon. The podcast (available at Resonate Audio here) features "The Bish" Tom Wright covering Bob Dylan, as well as Wright's take on everything from art to modern-day imperialism to the rapture. It's worth a listen if you have an hour to spare.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

What's your plague?

Next time a stranger at a bus stop walks up to you and asks, "What's your sign?" consider taking a cue from the Byzantine chronicler, Cedrenus (see here and here), and steer the conversation in a more interesting direction by responding, "Leo. What's your plague?"

Here's why: In his short summary of the 10 plagues narrated in Exodus 7-12, Cedrenus adds a new element by sequencing the plagues with the months of the year:
June - Water turned to blood
July - Frogs
August - Lice (see LXX)
September - Dog flies (see LXX)
October - Destruction of cattle
November - Blistering abscesses
December - Hail
January - Locusts
February - Darkness for three days
March - The Firstborn
April-May - Gigantic Fish (just kidding). If you were born in April or May I guess you get off easy.
I don't know where Cedrenus got the idea of identifying the month on which each plague occurred. The summary passage in Cedrenus is listed as a parallel to the summary in Jubilees 48.5 by Denis, although Jubilees doesn't tie the plagues to specific months. Here's the Jubilees passage:
"And the LORD executed great vengeance upon them on account of Israel. And he smote them with [1] blood, and [2] frogs, and [3] lice, and [4] dog flies; and [6] evil boils which break out (as) blisters; [5] and their cattle with death; and [7] hailstones with which he destroyed everything which sprouted up for them; and with [8] locust who ate the remainder which was left from the hail; and with [9] darkness, and (with death of) the [10] firstborn of men, and cattle; and upon all of their gods the LORD took vengeance and he burned them with fire." (Jub. 48.5; Wintermute's trans. in OTP; numbers in brackets refer to the biblical plague order)
I wondered, since Jubilees explains that the plagues were God's judgment on the gods of Egypt, whether Cedrenus is also criticizing the Zodiac (but then what about the remaining two months?). But I think it is more likely that Cedrenus (or his source) worked backwards from the plague on the firstborn, now associated with the feast of Passover, as Passover sometimes begins toward the end of March. If you assume that each plague took a month to complete, Cedrenus's sequence works out.
(The pictures are from my fishing outing with D&D last weekend at Buffalo Pound. I caught nothing, but came back with two large Northern Pike, thanks to the generosity of D&D. The one pictured above was a whopping 39 inches long! Both fish were still flapping, gasping, and extremely slimy when I got home and summoned t. to help me figure out how to "clean" them. We are still recovering from the experience.)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Nonagenarian NT Scholars

This morning, while perusing commentary discussions of Luke's transfiguration account, I noticed that C. F. (Christopher Francis) Evans--not to be confused with C. A. (Craig A.) Evans--was born in 1909. C. F. Evans's excellent commentary on Saint Luke (London: SCM) was published in 1990, when he was 81. As far as I know, Evans is still alive at age 98. At least he is still listed as a member of SNTS (last updated in April 2006).

This got me thinking of other nonagenarian New Testament scholars. Two others--C.K. Barrett, who turned 90 in May of this year, and Robert McL. Wilson, who turned 90 in February 2006--come to mind right away. If you know of any others, leave a comment and I'll add them to my list.

Update: How could I forget C.F.D. Moule? This book, published in 2003, says he is 94. And he is still listed in the SNTS list.

Update: C.F.D. Moule passed away, aged 98, on October 1, 2007.

Update (24 June 2008): I just learned that C.E.B Cranfield is also a nonagenarian (92 to be precise), and still actively reading recent literature on Paul!

Update (28 June 2010): Jim Davila notes that Robert McL. Wilson passed away on 27 June 2010. He was 94.

Update (28 August 2011): C.K. Barrett passed away on 26 August 2011. He was 94.

Update (7 August 2012): C.F. Evans passed away on 30 July 2012. He was 102.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Turkey Travelogue 8d - Public Life in Ancient Aphrodisias

The Aphrodisiacs Aphrodisians were into water--and a good thing too, because the city was built in a low-lying area and was subject to flooding (at least after a 4th century earthquake).

The architects responsible for the distinctive agora capitalized on the ready supply of water by building the marketplace around a long oval pool now filled with green grass:
The Aphrodisians were also into bathing. We passed two massive bath complexes including the Theatre Baths:
...and the Baths of Hadrian:

They were also into worship. In 1979, archaeologists discovered a Sebasteion, dedicated to the worship of Aphrodite and the Emperor Augustus (and family), "dated to the first half of the 1C AD" (Blue Guide):(We weren't allowed in, but the sculptures are presumably in the museum anyway. You can see pictures of some of them here.)

Traditional polytheistic Greco-Roman religion appears to have lingered on in Aphrodisias well after the conversion of Constantine. In the 6th century CE, the temple of Aphrodite was converted into a Christian basilica:

And, of course, the Aphrodisians were into theatre:
The only hill in town is a man-made tell that rises behind the theatre, built up over centuries of human habitation. (Archaeologists have found human artifacts in the tell dated to ca. 5800 BCE.) Earthquakes in the 4th and 7th centuries crippled the city, now known as Stavropolis ('city of the cross'); its changing fortunes--and the weaker condition of the Byzantine empire--called for more utilitarian structures. After the second earthquake, the tell and the ruined theatre were transformed into a fortress.

What was left of the city fell to the Selçuk Turks in the 12th century; it was abandoned in the 13th.

Click here for the Turkey Travelogue Index.

Turkey Travelogue 8c - Finding Our Way in Aphrodisias

If you are looking for spectacular Roman ruins, Aphrodisias is a great place to visit. The Lonely Planet guide describes it as "one of Turkey's finest archaeological sites....Because Afrodisias is so isolated and so much of it still survives, here more than in most other places you can get a real sense of the grandeur and extent of the lost classical cities." (Troels Myrup on Iconoclasm rated Aphrodisias at #6 on his list of top ten archaeological sites on the Mediterranean.)

According to the 6th century Byzantine chronicler, Stephanus, Aphrodisias was first named "after Ninus, the legendary founder of the Assyrian Empire" (Blue Guide, 262). Ninus already featured in a post (here) on the Byzantine chronicler Cedrenus. I never expected him to come up again!

The city apparently began as a shrine to a mother-goddess (perhaps Ishtar), later identified with Aphrodite (hence the name Aphrodisias). The city's allegiance to Rome during unrest in Asia in the first century BCE paid off in subsequent and significant Roman support. The emperor Augustus granted the city independence from the province of Asia as an ally of Rome. "Under the empire Aphrodisias was an important intellectual and cultural centre. Its schools attracted students not only from Asia Minor but from other parts of the Roman Empire" (Blue Guide). I was especially interested in the Aphrodisian school of Architecture:
"Production on a large scale was facilitated by the existence of quarries of fine white marble two kilometres...away....Eclectic in style and highly proficient technically, the sculpture makes much use of polish and drill, and also of coloured marble for pictorial effect. Not only were the finished products widely exported, but Aphrodisian sculptors were much in demand in the cities of the eastern Mediterranean" (Oxford Classical Dictionary, 120; there are pictures and a fine discussion on the Iconoclasm blog here).
The Blue Guide assured us that "[m]ost of the finds are in a well-arranged museum at the site." Unfortunately, we learned that a major museum expansion project was underway, as a result of which the museum was closed. Fortunately, many fine sculptures, such as this sarcophagus, are scattered like lawn ornaments on the grounds around the museum:
(For a taste of the museum holdings see the pictures on Phil Harland's site here.)

A large number of inscriptions have also been discovered at Aphrodisias, including the following warning against littering: "Whoever throws rubbish here shall incur the curse of the 318 fathers [of the Council of Nicaea]" (Blue Guide). More important, perhaps (!), is a 3rd century inscription that has been at the center of a debate whether or not there existed a recognized group of Gentile worshipers of the God of Israel known as "god-fearers" (cf. Acts 10:2; 13:26; 17:4). The relevant part of the inscription reads as follows:
"God our help. (Givers to) the soup kitchen. Below (are) listed the (members) of the dekany [association] of the (students) of the law, also known as those who (fervently) praise God, (who) erected, for the relief of suffering in the community, at their personal expense, (this) memorial (building)" (Cambridge History of Judaism 3.1009).
Presumably the inscriptions are located in the museum as we didn't encounter them on our trek. Update: Aphrodisias in Late Antiquity is a great site dedicated to the inscriptions of Aphrodisias.

The Blue Guide advises to leave "at least three hours" for the ruins alone. With our driver, who gave us a generous 2.5 hours, waiting for us in the parking lot I felt rather too much pressure to see everything. Before we were done, we discovered a useful path designed for tourists (but not marked on the Blue Guide map) and realized that we should have followed it.

We ended up at the Martyrium (below) after trekking for 10-15 minutes through a plowed field around the outer edge of the site. (We thought we were following D&D along a short cut, but they apparently circled back to the tourist path.) Once we got to the Martyrium we had to stop and figure out what it was and how to get back to the main part of the site:
Notice the similarity with the Martyrium in Hierapolis.

Despite the detour, we still managed to see almost everything in Aphrodisias, and, thanks to a closed museum, we had time to stop for a picnic lunch near the Tetrapylon, which "appears to have marked the junction of a north-south street with, perhaps, a processional way to the temple" (Blue Guide):
Click here for the Turkey Travelogue Index.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Turkey Travelogue 8b - Aphrodisias: Under Construction!

This is my favorite Aphrodisias photo. More to follow in the next day or so...
Click here for the Turkey Travelogue Index.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Area student (?) sells professor's book

Sometime last year I lost my prized copy of John Goldingay's Models for Scripture (Eerdmans, 1994; repr. Wipf & Stock, 2002). I read a library copy five or six years ago, found it very helpful, and periodically recommend it to others who have questions about the authority of Scripture. When Wipf & Stock brought it back into print, I was excited to get a copy of my own.

But then it disappeared. I had some vague recollection of loaning it out to someone, but I couldn't remember whom. After several unsuccessful attempts to locate the book--including an email to all the faculty at the college--I gave it up for lost.

This morning in church a senior student and John Goldingay fan informed me that he had picked up a copy of Models for Scripture at a garage sale, noticing after he bought it that it had my name on it. So I'll get my book back and be more forthright about recommending the library's copy in future. Now I need to find out whose garage sale it was...

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Turkey Travelogue Index

Turkey Travelogue 1 (June 4-5) - Culture Shock

Turkey Travelogue 2 (June 6) - To Bergama

Turkey Travelogue 3a (June 7) - Bergama/Pergamum
Turkey Travelogue 3b - Pergamum's Acropolis
Turkey Travelogue 3c - Locating "Satan's Throne" (Rev 2:13)
Update: More on Satan's Throne
Turkey Travelogue 3d - Why are there trees on ancient cultic sites?
Turkey Travelogue 4 - Kuşadasi (June 7-10)

Turkey Travelogue Maps - From Istanbul to Bergama, to Kusadasi

Turkey Travelogue 5a - Classical Views of Ephesus (June 8)
Turkey Travelogue 5b - St. Paul's Ephesus (ca. 55-57 CE)
Turkey Travelogue 5c - The Road Less Traveled in Ephesus
Turkey Travelogue 5d - The Harbour of Ephesus
Turkey Travelogue 5e - The Great Artemis of the Ephesians
Turkey Travelogue 5f - Sacrifice in the Greco-Roman World
Turkey Travelogue 5g - Selçuk Archaeological Museum
Turkey Travelogue 5h - St. John's Basilica

Turkey Travelogue - Regaining Momentum

Turkey Travelogue 6a - Paul the Traveler (June 9)
Turkey Travelogue 6b - From Ephesus to Miletus
Turkey Travelogue 6c - Priene
Update: Ephesus, Miletus, and the Ancient Aegean Coastline
Turkey Travelogue 6d - Didyma

Turkey Travelogue 7a - Pamukkale (June 10)
Turkey Travelogue 7b - Hierapolis Highlights

Turkey Travelogue 8a - Aphrodisias, but not Laodicea or Colossae (June 11)
Turkey Travelogue 8b - Aphrodisias: Under Construction
Turkey Travelogue 8c - Finding Our Way in Aphrodisias
Turkey Travelogue 8d - Public Life in Ancient Aphrodisias

Turkey Travelogue 9a - On to Cappadocia
Turkey Travelogue 9b - Göreme Open-Air Museum (June 12)
Turkey Travelogue 10a - Hiking the Cappadocian Valleys 1 (June 13)
Turkey Travelogue 10b - Hiking the Cappadocian Valleys 2
Turkey Travelogue 10c - Hiking the Cappadocian Valleys 3

Turkey Travelogue 11a - Istanbul, Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia (June 14)
Turkey Travelogue 11b - A Few More Hagia Sophia Pictures
Turkey Travelogue 11c - What does Istanbul have to do with Jerusalem?
Turkey Travelogue 11d - The Siloam Inscription
Turkey Travelogue 11e - Temple Warning Inscription, etc.
Turkey Travelogue 11f - The Instanbul Archaeological Museum (Cont'd)

Turkey Travelogue 12 - Herod the Great in Topkapi Palace (June 15)

Turkey Travelogue 13 - Welcome to Saskatchewan . . . (June 16)

Turkey Travelogue - The End.

Turkey Travelogue 8a - Aphrodisias, but not Laodicea or Colossae (June 11)

If we had been on a package tour of biblical sites, our itinerary would no doubt have included a brief stop in Laodicea, across the valley from Hierapolis. But our trusty guide books assured us there is really not much to see in this former home of the "lukewarm" church of Revelation (3:14-22). So instead of Laodicea, we decided to explore Aphrodisias, a Roman city known for its fine sculptures and extensive remains. After all, while a pilgrimage to a biblical site may be nice for "been-there-done-that" tourists, well-preserved ruins are more likely to leave a stronger impression of what life was really like. That, at least, is my excuse for returning from Turkey with only one picture of the region around Laodicea (taken on a cloudy day from Hierapolis):
Another reason for choosing Aphrodisias over Laodicea is that it was supposed to be easier to get to, as pensions in Pamukkale often arrange trips to Aphrodisias for a reasonable price. In the end, the four of us were the only passengers, and our driver offered to stop in Laodicea. We declined, partly because I was hoping for a chance to visit the unexcavated mound of Colossae after we were finished with Aphrodisias. (This will be my third year in a row teaching the book of Colossians in Greek Exegesis I, and I thought it would be fun to show some pictures of the site, excavated or not.)

The trip to Aphrodisias, which must have taken over an hour along winding roads, through grain fields, villages, and mountain forests, was an excellent chance to sample rural Turkish life. I discovered after checking the Barrington Atlas that our route also followed closely an ancient road from Laodicea to Aphrodisias: And no wonder--we had to circle a mountain to get there! Here's a satelite shot with modern roads highlighted:Unfortunately, when we raised the idea of stopping at the site of ancient Colossae after we were finished at Aphrodisias, our driver wanted another 40 YTL to take us there, which seemed exorbitant, especially as it was not entirely clear that he knew where it was we wanted to go. Once we made it back to the major city of Denizli, we were in no mood to set out through city traffic again.

Oh well, it is good to have a reason to go back!

Click here for the Turkey Travelogue Index.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Jubilees and Abraham's Maternal Grandfather

One of the neat things about Jubilees is that it fills in all sorts of gaps left by the biblical text. For example, Genesis gives us the names of Abraham's male ancestors; what about his mother and grandmother? "Proto-feminist" Jubilees (a joke!) has the answer. Have you ever wondered why Abram was named Abram? Never mind Genesis 17:5, the real reason is that he was named after his maternal grandfather.

Take a look at Abraham's family tree as it is reconstructed from Gen 11:20-32 and 20:12:
Along with a lot of other new names, Jubilees (11:15) tells us that Terah and Edna named their son Abram after Edna's father Abram, who, it so happens, was married to Terah's aunt. Sound confusing? Look at the chart (names mentioned in Jubilees are in italics):
I'm a little surprised that Jubilees appears to list Sarai as Abra(ha)m's real sister, not his half-sister as Gen 20:12 would have it.

The only real evidence that the Byzantine chronicler, Cedrenus, was familiar with this part of Jubilees is a reference to Terah's wife Edna and her father (our Abram's grandfather) Abram.
In Cedrenus, however, it is not Edna's mother but her father who shows up as Nahor's brother.

I would not have bothered to work out Abram's family tree if I were not working through references to Jubilees in Cedrenus for the Online Critical Pseudepigrapha (mentioned already here). When I first read this section of Cedrenus, I thought I saw the name of Abram's maternal great-grandfather, and I wanted to know where in the world Cedrenus got that information. In the end, all I needed to do was slow down and read Cedrenus more carefully. As he often does, Cedrenus was merely synchronizing the biblical story with extra-biblical events. In this case, he was coordinating the year of Abram's birth with the reign of Ninus, the first king of the Assyrians, and the 16th dynasty of Thebes. But the chart was interesting anyway.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Scholarship and Community (cont'd)

In an earlier post I commented that it took me a long time to realize scholarship is a social enterprise. It took me even longer to realize that this is a good thing.

Because I lean toward the inept end of the social spectrum, it is easy for me to view the social side of scholarship with suspicion. The guild can be cliquey. Some people get ahead because of who they know; some fine scholars do not get the hearing they deserve. At conferences I tend to watch for the name tags of major scholars and observe them from a distance, while others of my rank in the pecking order walk right up and engage in small talk. If I happen to know them well enough I don't hold it against them, but it is tempting to conclude that the rest of the smooth-talking crowd are simply sycophants.

Strange as it may seem, good character is not a natural by-product of the scholarly life. Left unchecked, the pressures of climbing the ladder to academic stardom are more likely to produce posturing, envy and Schadenfreude (along with a larger vocabulary). The unstated ideal of academic success, absorbed by Ph.D. students along with their comprehensive reading lists, is defined not by character, but by externals: where you work, how much you publish, and where you publish it. So when I heard Michael Stone say that my teacher, Eileen Schuller, is "a fine scholar and a very nice woman", I was surprised (although the statement is quite true). When he made a similar comment about someone else, it dawned on me that there is something to the old cliché about being a gentleman and a scholar, and that this was an ideal to which I should aspire.

According to this ideal, good scholars network not simply because it is a necessary part of their job, but because it is a function of who they are, because they genuinely care for the "other." Good scholars are not defined by the number of their publications, but by the fact that they have something to say; and what they have to say emerges from a life of disciplined study. In the end, the important thing for "good" scholars is not academic success, but becoming more fully human. In the language of James 3:13-18, it is the difference between wisdom from above and wisdom from below. (Btw, this is not to restrict "good" scholars to a particular religious tradition: Big-name mainstream scholars I've encountered have impressed me with their humility. Maybe I'm overly sensitive, but some of their big-name evangelical counterparts have impressed me with their self-importance. Of course, my experience with both groups is not statistically significant.)

One more thing related to the reality check I mentioned in my previous post: Somewhere along the line I realized that a person's most significant impact occurs through personal contact with other people. This means that my most significant impact will occur through interaction with my students, my colleagues and others with whom I have social connections--not through the monographs I have yet to publish. Based on my own experience as a student, a professor's character often leaves more of an impression than whatever it is they say in class. There is a reason why gentleman comes before scholar.


As of late Saturday afternoon, after submitting my fourth and final syllabus for the winter semester, I am officially on a semester-long sabbatical.

A colloquium paper I have agreed to present in early October should jump-start work on my major research project and keep me busy through September. Although I completed a lot of the work that will (hopefully) go into the paper this summer, the paper is not yet written.

Other sabbatical dreams include lots of time to catch up on important reading in my field, good progress on a variety of OCP-related fronts, and a head-start on class prep for second semester. Oh...and there's also our forthcoming baby to get used to.