On Papyrus 104, Scribal Assimilation, and Matthew 21:44

A few months ago I posted some reflections on work I was doing on one of the earliest extant papyrus fragments of the NT (P.Oxy. 4404, or 𝕻104 in NT parlance). This endeavor eventually turned into an article dealing with whether this particular fragment supports the possibility that Matthew 21:44, which occurs at the end of the Parable of the Wicked Tenants, is original to Matthew or was “interpolated”by a scribe at some relatively early date from the same verse in Luke 20:18 (a process called scribal “assimilation”). The article also involves quantitative analysis I conducted in other “assimilations”/”interpolations” elsewhere in the Synoptic gospels as well as some discussion of the various arguments for or against the theory with respect to this verse.

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JETS Review of Wes Hill’s “Paul and the Trinity”

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Earlier this year, Dr. Wesley Hill (Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at the Trinity School for Ministry) published his Durham dissertation with Eerdmans, entitled Paul and the Trinity: Persons, Relations, and the Pauline Letters. It argues a straightforward thesis that, within Pauline studies, is fairly revolutionary (but which, within the Reformed circles in which Wes and I respectively run, is, of course, “no big deal”): namely, that trinitarian categories that are often seen by scholars to be late and post-Pauline—and, thus, should be excluded from the discussion—can and should be brought to the table in exegesis of Paul’s letters.

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New Article in JBL on a Septuagint Translation Conundrum

The most recent issue of the Journal of Biblical Literature (134/3) includes an article I wrote on a peculiar translation issue in the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek translation called the Septuagint (see my intro here). The passages in question contain a word (tsemach) that is usually translated in English Bibles (ESV, NIV, KJV, etc.) as “Righteous Branch” or just “Branch.” The Greek word used in the LXX translation of these passages (anatole) is rather peculiar and has generated a lot of debate. It also happens to play a major role in one of the chapters of my dissertation, so this article was a side-branch (pun intended) off the main line of my research as I explored the various issues related to this translation. I was pleased to have it accepted by JBL. Many thanks to Chris Fresch for providing comments on the draft of the article before submission.

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What’s Happening with the Greek Verb?

On July 10–11, a massive Greek nerdfest is being held in Cambridge (at Tyndale House) on Linguistics and the Greek Verb. The conference is being chaired by a friend of mine, Chris Fresch (who will soon be taking a teaching post in Australia after completing his PhD at Cambridge), and Steven Runge (from Logos).

Available for preorder at Logos

The focus of the conference is, in effect, to shed some light on the latest things happening in the study of the Greek verbal system. It may look like arcane stuff, but much of it will be informing your Bible translations for years to come. So even if you don’t know or care what aspect-prominence or grounding mean, in years to come your handy thinline or study Bibles will be impacted by this kind of research.

I am attending (most of) the conference and will post a summary of the major points in the papers I attend below. Fortunately, the papers from the conference will be published soon enough in The Greek Verb Revisited.

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A Biblical Theology of Holy War, Pt 6: The Covenant Maker

Since the Vietnam and Korean wars in the U.S. (though the roots were there before, no doubt), there has been a tendency in the U.S. among some groups to voice a strongly critical opinion regarding U.S. military troops. They are often seen less as brave freedom-defenders and more as villains for fighting various wars against Iraq, Afghanistan, and others. Note, for instance, the critical backlash against American Sniper and the charge that  the deceased Chris Kyle is not a patriotic American soldier but an Islamophobic, Arab-hating, blood-thirsty criminal.

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In response, there has been an equally strong counter-reaction that has lauded American soldiers (the yellow ribbon magnets, etc.), zealously defended Chris Kyle, and treated all soldiers as heroes.

While the public ostracizing of returning troops may not be as strong now as it was with Vietnam, the anti-soldier attitude is still present.

This state of affairs is interesting in that it ignores a key feature of warfare: the soldiers themselves do not pick which battles to fight. Their leaders do. Yes, the soldiers pull the triggers and make decisions in the field and so forth—and they are responsible for their actions—but in principle the war is the leader’s war. Any blame for whether a war is just or unjust falls primarily on the one who wages it, not the ones who are sent.

While my goal here is not to get into the modern war question, this analogy does bring us to an important aspect of the OT cherem.

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Oxbridge Biblical Studies Conference 2015: Paper Lineup

The agenda for the Oxbridge Biblical Studies Conference on May 1, 2015, is set. We have a great group of presenters and an interesting faculty discussion on the schedule, as well as a “field trip” to visit  a collection of ancient manuscripts.

*** (Updated on May 4 with photos from the event) ***

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Aramaic Starter Kit

Aramaic, the neglected biblical language.

Aramaic is the third language (after Hebrew and Greek) in which portions of the Bible were originally written.  Genesis 31:47, Jeremiah 10:11, Daniel 2:4b–7:28, and Ezra 4:8–6:28, 7:12–26 are composed in Aramaic, accounting for about 268 total verses in the OT. Given that the total corpus is somewhat small (only about 1% of the OT by verse count), the language is infrequently taught at the seminary level. However, the language is hugely important historically, as it was the lingua franca (common language) of much of the Jewish and early Christian world. In fact, it is considered firmly established that Jesus’ primary spoken language was Aramaic, which is partly evidenced by several words in the Greek NT that are transliterations of Aramaic words.

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Connecting Biblical Scholarship to the Church