The Ancient Patronage System

I read this passage today in Adrian Goldsworthy's Caesar: A Life Of Colossus and thought it was a great (albeit basic) description of the ancient patronage system, a system in full-force during the days of Jesus. Moreover, this system can be detected in many of the NT stories, as Malina, Pilch & others have repeatedly pointed out. As you read the following paragraph, do any specific biblical stories come to mind?

"Informal ties of favour and obligation bound Roman society together in a system known as patronage. The patron was the man with wealth, influence and power, to whom the less well off (or clients) came to ask for help, which might take the form of securing a position, winning a contract, assistance in business or legal disputes, or even at its most basic level gifts of food. In return the client had duties to assist his patron in various ways. Most would come to greet him formally each morning. The number of clients a man had added to his prestige, especially if they were distinguished or exotic. Senators might well include entire communities, including towns or cities in Italy and the provinces, amongst their clients. It was quite possible for a patron, even some less distinguished senators, to in turn be the client of an even more powerful man, although in this case the name itself would not have been used" (pg. 38).


Getting German (Masc. Nouns): Free Program By Pisteuomen

Here is another learning module that I have created and am offering for free!!! This module deals with German nouns and offers tips for spotting nouns that are masculine in gender. The interface is straightforward and easy-to-use, it has two sections for extra vocabulary (common & theological) and best of all, it is free. This module is to be used in conjunction with, other, forthcoming ones. So, check back often to see if the new ones have been created. To download "Getting German" (Masc. Nouns), click the icon below.

*Note, this has also been added to the "My Free Resources" page. A link to that page can be found in the page tabs above.


Does The Beginning Of Mark Affect The End? Studies in Mark, Pt. 80

While I am quite comfortable with the decisions I've made concerning the beginning of Mark's Gospel, the end has left me in a rather enigmatic state. Lately, I've been wondering if it might be the case that Mark's beginning helps us make sense of his ending? Here's what I've been thinking (and two papers at SBL helped me clarify some issues surrounding this matter, notably, those of Eve-Marie Becker and James McGrath): If Mark's beginning is "Isaianic", that is, drawing on and shaped by Isaiah, then this affects how we understand whether or not 16.9-16 were originally included or not.

So, for instance, when Mark quotes Isa. 40.3 at the start of his text, he is surely being purposeful about it. But what is the purpose? My thinking is that, if one goes back to Isa. 40.3 (and the surrounding texts), they will see that Isaiah is concerned with "the sin of the people being paid for", a comforting message, "the glory of the Lord revealed", "good news", etc. To put it more succinctly: Isaiah is concerned with telling the good news. Mark picks up on this. Thus, at the commencement of his story, he's making the point, right from the get-go, that the "good news" already began with the words of Isaiah--this was something the prophet was already interested in and talking about. Thus, Mark's "arche" (lacking the definite article and to be translated as "a beginning") is indefinite for a reason: While this is "a" beginning in the history of the Gospel, it is certainly (for him) not "the" beginning; it began back in Isaiah and is now coming to fruition! For Mark, Jesus' coming is only one beginning in the story; we might understand it like a late chapter in a book that introduces a new setting and new characters, which, all the while draws off of "the" beginning. For Mark, "the" beginning lies with Isaiah.

What this suggests (and at the cost of being too short-winded I am going to leave some things out and simplify others) is that what Mark is more concerned with than anything else is the telling of the "good news". It might even be fair to say that he's not concerned in the first place about God, Jesus, Jerusalem, John the Baptizer, etc., but rather, his main concern is with making sure the "good news" is told. Mark, then, is not content-focused but proclamation focused (I am wondering here if my view of Mark as a traveling monologist is even more supported by this?) Even more, he wants to make sure that it is clear that this telling of the "good news" is a continuation of the telling that began with the prophet Isaiah. Seen in this light, it appears, then, that Mark is narrative-focused.

Now, if the above suppositions are correct, that Mark's main intent is on the transmission, that is, the telling / proclaiming of the story (good news), then this might affect whether or not we take 16.9-16 as original or not. If the above view is adopted, it would only make sense that 16.9-16 are original. Why? Well, if Mark's foremost concern is with telling the story, then it is highly unlikely that he would have ended his account with persons not saying anything! No, it is imperative for Mark to have the story itself continue as well as the telling of it. In other words, it would be out of Markan character and purpose to have ended the "good news" at 16.8, which is bad news because it is ultimately the "end" of the proclamation of the "good news". Instead, it is more in line with Mark's purpose to have the story continue.

In my head, this all makes sense. With that said, I still have not totally made up my mind as to whether this approach is correct or not. For me, the verdict is still out on Mark's ending but taking a narrative approach like this has certainly led me to lean more in one direction. Any thoughts?


Happy Thanksgiving

I just wanted to wish all of my readers a Happy Thanksgiving. Also, thank you for reading Pisteuomen and interacting with me (and other readers). This site has become, and is continuing to become, a great place of critical thinking, biblical discussion and Christian community. Yesterday I wrote my 700th post and surpassed 40,000 visits; I am repeatedly impressed with the gains this site is making and I hope that it can become something of a mainstay in the bible blogging world. So, thanks again for reading and have a blessed holiday! Now, go eat some Turkey!!!


"A Little Leaven" Has Become Just That

Look, I'm not into mudslinging; that's just not who I am or what I'm about (I hate politics for that very reason!). I do, however, enjoy debating as well as having good, civil arguments. I also enjoy a good sense of humor. When I first came across Chris Rosebrough's site, A Little Leaven, I thoroughly enjoyed it because of some of these things. But as time has worn on, now, I just can't help but think that his constant beating up on well-meaning Churches and ministers, his belittling of women in the ministry and his ability to be able to label others heretics is nothing but a little leaven itself. Now, I'm not suggesting here that Mr. Rosebrough or any others who might contribute to the site are heretics. Indeed, the site often does a good job of calling out some of the trite practices of Christianity today. But all of the name-calling, labelling, judging, etc. has just become too much. Not only am I taking this blog off of my page reader, I am done visiting it for good. I would encourage others to do the same. While I don't agree with everything people like Rick Warren, Rob Bell and other well-known Christians espouse, neither do I call them heretics and condemn them--what good does that do for anyone? Mr. Rosebrough, I think it is time to take the plank out of your own eye and start practicing some humility! Like leaven, a little hate and dissension can go a long way.

SBL Bests

If everyone who attended SBL were rating their "bests", of course, they'd all be different. Regardless, here are my "SBL Bests". If you attended, why not share your bests too. If you do this, let me know so I can add a link to your post here.

Best Overall Session: Diversity In Earliest Christianity (James Dunn, Jeffrey Peterson, Marcus Bockmuehl, Jerry Sumney, Jennifer Knust)

Best Paper (content): Jerry Sumney "The Death of Christ & Paul's Opponents in Earliest Christianity"

Best Paper (presenter): James McGrath: "Mark's Missing Ending"

Best / Most Memorable Quote: "We must remember that Paul didn't invent Christ-centered faith but rather, he entered it."

Best Place To Eat: Dillon's

Can you think of any other topics or items you'd add to the list?


SBL Ends, Reading Begins

So, if you're reading this, I'm probably en route to MI right now from Boston. SBL is over and now, it's back to family, work, etc. It's also time to read. In addition to the other books that I picked up at SBL, on my way out yesterday, I picked up a terribly unique book on the Gospel of Mark. I've never seen anything like this. It's Steve Ross's Marked. This book is insane! It is a comic book retelling of Mark's story, kind of arranged in a modern setting (see an example of a page to the left). I'm already a few pages in (and trying to adjust to this type of reading, which I have never been fond of!) but I like it...in an odd way. I hope to post a bit more about it in the near future. Anyway, SBL was good and I hope to post some more on that soon too. Blessings to everyone!


Bible Bloggers Dinner Attendees & Their Sites

We had a great time at the bible bloggers dinner last night. Here are the names, site names and urls of those who attended; we had 23 in attendance. Thanks to Dillon's for hosting us and being so accomodating. Check out the blogs listed below, some new, some mainstays. Blessings!

* Ken Brown - Christian Orthodoxy (c-orthodoxy.blogspot.com)
* Charles Halton - Awilum (awilum.com)
* John Hobbins - Ancient Hebrew poetry
* James McGrath - Exploring Out Matrix (exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com)
* April DeConick - Forbidden Gospels (forbiddengospels.blogspot.com)
* Jared Calaway - Antiquitopia (antiquitopia.blogspot.com)
* Ben Blackwell - Dunelm Road (dunelm.wordpress.com)
* Matthew Montonini - NT Perspectives (newtestamentperspectives.blogspot.com)
* Jim Getz - Ketuvim (jimgetz.org)
* Mandy Park - The Floppy Hat (thefloppyhat.com)
* Calvin Park - The Floppy Hat (thefloppyhat.com)
* Patrick Gardella (an avid blog reader without a blog)
* Tonya Hall - Hebrew & Greek Reader (hebrewandgreekreader.wordpress.com)
* Daniel Rodriguez - Hebrew & Greek Reader (hebrewandgreekreader.wordpress.com)
* Adam Couturier - Thoughts From A... (parkersmood.wordpress.com)
* Josh McManaway - A NT Student (ntstudent.blogspot.com)
* Eric Sowell - Archaic Christianity (archaicchristianity.com)
* Christian Brady - Targuman (targuman.org/blog)
* Joe Weaks - The Mac Biblioblog (macbiblioblog.blogspot.com)
* Chris Heard - Higgaion (higgaion.heardworld.com)
* Doug Mangum - Biblia Hebraica (bibliahebraica.blogspot.com)
* Michael Halcomb - Pisteuomen (michaelhalcomb.blogspot.com)


SBL: Purchased Books

So, I've decided to take it easy on book shopping this year but I have picked up 3 good buys...each of them Markan, of course:

* Mary Healy: Mark (Catholic Commentary Series)
* Robert Stein: Mark (Baker Exegetical Commentary Series)
* Eric Stewart: Gathered Around Jesus (Matrix Commentary Series)

I've had my eye on the Zondervan Grk & Heb readers but I think I'll hold off. Anyway, hope everyone at SBL is enjoying it. Hopefully, after tonights blogger's dinner, there'll be some posting about it on other blogs (I won't be able to post until tomorrow). Blessings to all!


SBL Bloggers Dinner

*Note: My computer has run into some issues here at SBL, so, unfortunately, I can't really post updates. That siad, here are the updated plans for the Sunday night dinner gathering for Bible / Theology Bloggers (mainly, I updated names to the list; I posted them in the order in which they came, so, hopefully, there will be room for everyone at the dinner. I will call and ask them to add a few spots to the reservation but I can't promise anything. The original reservation was for 15.).

Time: 7pm
Location: Plaza Level: In Front of Exhibition Hall B Doors (click here for map)
Attendees: * Michael Halcomb, * James McGrath, * Nijay Gupta, * Josh McManaway, * Ken Brown, * Douglas Mangum, * Eric Sowell,* Donald Kim,* P. Gardella, * James Leonard, * Chris Brady, * Tarcizio Carvalho, Brandon Wasson, John Hobbins, Calvin Park, Mandy Park, Chris Weimer
Restaurant: Dillon's (955 Boylston St. - click here for site , click here for menu)

Dillon's is about a one minute walk from the conference center. Again, we will meet outside the book exhibit in front of entrace hall B doors. See you there!


SBL: Lecture Downloads

So, even though I am en route to Boston right now and SBL hasn't officially started for me (it will about 5pm this evening), I figured I'd go ahead and let you in on the lectures that are available for download (.pdf and .doc files). Most of the papers are NT oriented and center around The Gospels, The Paulines, Biblical Law and other things. By following the provided links below, you will have access to over 30 papers from this year's conference and over 60 from past conferences. Enjoy!

* Contextual Biblical Interpretation
* Romans
* Cross, Ressurection & Diversity in Earliest Christianity
* Biblical Law

Update: Here is Ben Witherington's paper that I heard him deliver a little bit ago; it was good. Enjoy!

* Ben Witherington: The Rhetorical Character of Hebrews


SBL: Heading to Boston

Well, I'm getting ready for SBL and it seems like I'm just rushing to get the things done that I need to before I leave. Looking ahead though, I'm excited to get to see some of my old professors (Jerry Sumney, Ben Witherington, etc.) present papers, meet up with some old friends, catch up with bible bloggers and meet new folk. Hopefully, I'll get to see some of the town this year as I didn't see any of San Diego last year. Anyway, I don't have much time to blog right now but as long as there's web access in Boston, I'll post some stuff about SBL periodically. If you're traveling to Boston this weekend, be blessed and travel safe!



I was reading a book review today and was reminded of the teaching that spiritual gifts have ceased (cessationism). I hadn't thought of this view in some time but I found myself dwelling on it for a while after this reading. In my view, how one views "spiritual gifts" is actually--in anthropological terms--shaped by the culture or culture that one is a part of and whether or not that worldview embraces or adopts such practices. Still, I'm wondering what you think about the matter? Are spiritual gifts part of your spiritual culture? Are they part of your worldview? Are they legitimate? Have they ceased? Do Christians today have the same spiritual gifts as those in antiquity?


New Bible Translation: The Voice

Check out this new message-esque Bible translation called "The Voice". It's very non-literal, of course, but is highly artistic. For instance, the first few verses of Jn. 1 read: "1Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking. The Voice was and is God. 2This celestial Voice remained ever present with the Creator; 3His speech shaped the entire cosmos. Immersed in the practice of creating, all things that exist were birthed in Him. 4His breath filled all things with a living, breathing light. 5Light that thrives in the depths of darkness, blazing through murky bottoms. It cannot, and will not, be quenched."

I tend to shy away from translations like this, which is not to say they have no value, they do, but sometimes they take artistic licensing way too far. Anyway, check it out for yourself. To download the entire text of Jn., click here: The Voice: John.

Your Blog & Google

From time-to-time I like checking out what Google has compiled about my blog, so, I go to my webmaster acct. and give things a look. However, not everyone has a webmaster account, so, they cannot do that. Yet, there are some ways to see what Google is saying about and doing with your blog posts. Go to google.com and in the search bar, type in some of the following things and check out the results:

site:michaelhalcomb.blogspot.com (replace my site name with your own each time)

The "site" tool allows you to search your site. The "link" tool allows you to see what other sites link to yours. The "cache" tool allows you to see your site's cache or history. The "info" tool provides info about your site. The "related" tool shows sites that are similar to yours. Pretty nifty!


Free Capo Converter Software (By Pisteuomen)

As any well-rounded guitarist knows, a capo is not only a handy tool to have but using it is also a resource needed for learning how to become a better musician. A capo is a handy tool for changing the pitch and key of a guitar. Think of it this way: If you play an "A-chord" without a capo (e.g. in the "open" position) you get an "A-sound". However, if you were to put a capo on the first fret and play an "A-chord", no longer would you have an "A-sound", now you would have a "G#-sound". Pretty cool eh? Or, is it confusing? Well, whichever it is to you, take note that I have created a capo converting program and am offering it for free here on Pisteuomen. It's very user-friendly and helpful. It's called the "Pisteuomen Capo Converter 1.0". You can download the program by clicking the package icon below. Enjoy!!! Oh, and if you use it, why not let me know what you think? I'll try to add this to the "free software" browsing tool soon.

SBL: Sites Within Walking Distance of Hynes

Yesterday during our worship gathering, I was talking to a gentleman who just so happens to be from Boston. I told him that I was going there for four or five days to a conference and he proceeded to tell me about all sorts of things in the area. Eventually, he just wrote up a short list of great places to visit that are within walking distance of the Hynes center. Here's the list:

1. Fenway Park
2. Public Garden & Boston Commons
3. John Hancock Building
4. Prudential Center (revolving restaurant)
5. Christian Science Church World Headquarters
6. Trinity Church / Copley Square
7. Fanuel Hall
8. Old North Church (Think "Paul Revere")
9. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (arts)

Within a short driving distance, he noted that one could also visit MIT as well as Harvard Square / University.

Just thought I'd pass the information along. By the way, I know that SBL is incredibly fast-paced and that from sun up to sun down there's always something going on. But if anyone has some spare time and would like to hang out, I'm up for it. I like being around people, so, drop me an note via the comments section here or email.


A Heart For Africa

If you are a regular reader of Pisteuomen, you know that in more ways than one, Africa has a special place in my heart. At the moment, my wife and I are in the process of adopting a son from Ethiopia which we are incredibly excited about. Also, one of my college soccer buddies, Daren Wendell, whom I've mentioned repeatedly on Pisteuomen, has become a great voice for African relief/aid. You can read more about his "walk around the world" HERE but I just want to take a moment and thank him for what he's already accomplished. In the last few months, Daren has raised so much awareness for the blood & water crises in Africa. He's also raised a lot of money, upwards of $10,000. Just last week, he spoke at a youth conference in IL and recieved a huge response. After taking a short hiatus from walking to do speaking events, documentaries, conferences, etc., Daren is hitting the road again tomorrow. Please, pray for him, encourage him and check out his cause. Click the following link to reach his site: The Earth Expedition. You can even watch his journey via live GPS tracking...pretty nifty!!! Godspeed Daren, as you head back out tomorrow!


Does God Speak To You?

Recently, I wrote a post venting some of my frustration about people who are always saying "God spoke to me and said..." At the time, I found it uncanny how many people I had heard say this. The thing is, people can rarely ever prove that God spoke, it's like, well, you just have to take their word for it. For instance, someone recently told a family member of mine: "I think the Lord is telling me to try to date so and so (another family member)." Clearly, this person was being manipulative. But then, I really think that there are legitimate instances where God speaks to people. So, I guess I'm wondering, are there any bloggers out there to whom God has spoken or speaks? If so, how does it happen and how do you know?


The Most Valuable Markan Resources: Studies in Mark, Pt. 79

As we all know, when it comes to Mark's Gospel, scores of great resources exist. Indeed, even I have enough books and journal articles on Mk. to fill numerous bookshelves. I have vocalized my opinion more than once on Pisteuomen regarding these resources. I have said, for example, that finding a commentary on Mk. that makes new contributions to the field and offers fresh insights, etc. is tough. Having read nearly every major English commentary on Mk., I can honestly say that for the most part, it is all regurgitated information--every commentary sounds pretty much the same. Not only is this problematic in the way of commentaries but when one consults homiletical texts concerning Mk., they find the same things (e.g. the authors of the homiletics books were, of course, drawing knowledge from the commentaries). It is more than clear to me that if you want to find anything new in Markan studies, journal articles (and occasionally monographs) are the way to go. Having said that, I want to offer here what I percieve to be the most helpful texts at the forefront of their genres when it comes to Markan studies. This was difficult to boil down and I could list many more but in my view, these are the best places to start! In fact, these are the resources I find myself returning to (in their respective genres) more than most others.

* Commentary: Ched Myers, Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark's Story of Jesus *Note: I must qualify my ranking here by saying that I think Myers often goes too far with his political readings and that he even has the identity of "the strong man" wrong. However, when it comes to commentaries, this one is different than all of the rest and as such, yields the greatest amount of unique insights and fresh contributions to the genre of Markan commentaries!

* Homiletical Resource: Richard Swanson, Provoking the Gospel of Mark: A Storyteller's Commentary (Year B)

* Monograph: David A. Fiensy, Jesus the Galilean: Soundings in a First Century Life

* Book: Whitney Shiner, Proclaiming the Gospel: First-Century Performance of Mark

* Layperson's Guide: N.T. Wright, Mark For Everyone

* Historiography: Sean P. Kealy, Mark's Gospel: A History of its Interpretation

* Collected Essays: Janice Capel Anderson, Stephen D. Moore, Mark & Method: New Approaches in Biblical Studies

* Journal Article: Pieter J. Botha, The Historical Setting of Mark's Gospel: Problems and Possibilities

* Textual Resource: Robert A. Guelich / Craig A. Evans, "Mark" Word Biblical Commentary (A & B)

* Video: Max McLean, Mark's Gospel: Told By Max McLean

* Devotional: David L. Miller, Friendship With Jesus: A Way to Pray the Gospel of Mark

SBL Dinner Reservations Set

Here are the updated plans for the Sunday night dinner gathering for Bible / Theology Bloggers.

Time: 7pm
Location: Plaza Level: In Front of Exhibition Hall B Doors (click here for map)
Attendees: * Michael Halcomb, * James McGrath, * Nijay Gupta, * Josh McManaway, * Ken Brown, * Douglas Mangum, * Eric Sowell,* Donald Kim,* P. Gardella, * James Leonard, * Chris Brady, * Tarcizio Carvalho
Restaurant: Dillon's (955 Boylston St. - click here for site , click here for menu)

Dillon's is about a one minute walk from the conference center, the restaurant was very willing to accomodate us and they have a menu with much variety, which is a good thing anytime a group is dining together. If you want to be part of this, please, let me know as soon as possible. Again, all are welcome, even those of you who have just begun blogging or are seriously considering it. Or, you may be an avid blog reader but not writer, well, you're welcome too. I have made reservations for a party of 10-15, so, there are still some seats available and if we exceed that amount, I'm sure that they'll make room for more (especially if we let them know ahead of time).

SBL: Sharing A Cab

If there are no delays regarding my flight times for SBL, as it stands, I'll be arriving at Logan Intl. Airport on Friday the 25th between 3-4pm (arrv. time says 3:39pm). I'll be traveling from Logan to the Sheraton, next to the convention center. If anybody is arriving around the same time and is traveling downtown and wants to share a cab, let me know. (Public transit, which I mentioned HERE, is not going to work out for me.)

On the flip side, I'll be heading back to the airport on Tuesday the 25th around 4-4:30am because my flight heads out around 6:30am. If anyone wants to split a cab to the airport, I'd be more than glad to do that as well. Drop me a note here and we'll work something out.

Blogging SBL

Are there any bloggers out there who plan on blogging SBL? For those who are expecting to blog the event, I thought I'd try to get a short list going here ahead of time so that if people were interested, they'd know who they could follow. Also, I will follow your posts too and once or twice over the course of the conference, update the entire list. Leave a comment if you plan on doing this.


SBL Bible Bloggers Sunday Night Dinner

Just a quick note on the Sunday night dinner gathering for Bible Bloggers. I'm working on choosing and contacting a restaurant downtown at this point. As far as the time and metting place as well as attendees, here are some more details:

Time: 7pm
Location: Plaza Level in Front of Exhibition B Doors
Attendees: * Michael Halcomb, * James McGrath, * Nijay Gupta, * Josh McManaway, * Ken Brown, * Douglas Mangum, * Eric Sowell,* Donald Kim
Restaurant: TBA

If you want to be part of this, please, let me know as soon as possible so that when I make reservations at a restaurant, I'll know how many seats to tell them to reserve.


Niebuhr, Christ & Culture and Evangelism

Chances are, if you've been through Bible College, Seminary or have taken some kind of Christian Ethics course, you've read or at least heard of Richard Niebhur's famous Christ & Culture book. I think that Niebhur's 5 points are still highly relevant and important for dicussions concering things like evangelism and its relationship to Christianity today. He talked about 5 models or ways that Christians often looked at the world:

1. Christ against culture (e.g. Church versus the world, trying to "save" the world; tend to be exclusivist)

2. Christ of culture (e.g. How the Spirit has worked throughout history; tend to be a culturalist)

3. Christ above culture (e.g. History is preparing us for God's reign; tend to be a synthesist)

4. Christ & Culture in Paradox (e.g. History is tension / "already not yet"; tend to be dualistic)

5. Christ Transforming Culture (e.g. Focus on the present and how God is working in it and what He wants us to do; tend to have a conversionist mentality)

Which way do you view things? Or, do you have a different lens that you see things through?


My Free Bible Resources (A New Way To Browse Them)

Last month on Pisteuomen, I mentioned some of the free resources that I have created in the past. Well, since I have created a new tool to browse through some of those resources, I thought I'd go ahead and mention them again. Besides, I've had a number of new readers latch on to Pisteuomen since then, so, if you're one of them, check out some of the free stuff below:

(Click the photo to download the free product.)


The Relationship Between Mk. 14.2 and Jn. 18.28: Studies in Mark, Pt. 78

My last two posts have focused on both the “time of day” that Jesus was crucified and the actual “day” of His crucifixion. In this post, I want to piggyback on some of my thoughts there and think here, about the religious leaders and two of their hesitancies: 1) Their fear of riots (Mk. 14.2) and, 2) Their fear of not being able to participate in Passover events (Jn. 18.28). It is my contention that if we can square these two passages, the things that I have said so far, become even clearer.

Here are the two passages: Mk. 14.2 says: “For they said, ‘But not during the Feast or the crowds may riot.’” Jn. 18.28 says: “…But it was morning and they did not want to enter into the Praetorium in order that they did not become ceremonially unclean (for) they wanted to eat the Passover."

In these two passages, the players are the same: the Jewish religious officials. While they have two concerns (mentioned above), these concerns focus on the same thing: Passover Week. Now, I have argued repeatedly (see posts #76 and #77) that in the Gospel accounts (with the exception of, perhaps, Matthew), the words “Feast (of Unleavened Bread)” and “Passover” can almost always be used synonymously. I have already given numerous examples in both the NT and OT where this is the case, so, I will not do that here.

So, there is one way in which these two verses reach consensus: They are not talking about the Passover meal proper but rather, the entire week, that is, all 7 days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, also known as Passover Week. Another place they connect, which has not been given its due among scholars is that in both passages, there is a tentativeness that exists. This is where I suggest that it is entirely possible that, while the religious had their plans, they did not necessarily work out exactly how they wanted them to. Back in 1881 Milligan and Moulton started in this direction but ended up going a different way.

Just as well, they did not consider some of the evidence in Mk. that helps this assertion. For instance, they overlooked the fact that in Mk., the religious leaders are constantly plotting to arrest, try and kill Jesus but repeatedly things do not work out as they wish. Furthermore, they overlook the fact that in Mk. 11-14, much of the point in having Jesus “show up” the religious leaders is to show both how wrong they can be and that things don’t always go their way; indeed, Jesus makes them and their plans look foolish time and time again. The fact is: things didn’t always go the way they had hoped or planned.

The same can be said of Mk. 14.2: While they didn’t want to carry things out during the Feast (of Unleavened Bread) they did; certainly, when Judas made his move, they were forced to. When it comes to Jn. 18, the issue is not whether they will be able to eat the Passover proper but whether they will defile themselves and thus be excluded from the week of festivities.

This is where Mk. 14.2 helps us a lot. The word “εορτη” whether translated here as “Feast” or “Festival” should be seen as referring to the ongoing Feast / Festival that has already started. This is what they do not want to mess up (either by causing riots or becoming unclean). However, when Judas hands Jesus over, they must arrest and try Him under the cover of night (or there is a very great chance that riots will ensue). On the one hand, they didn’t get what they wanted (to wait for the festivities to be over) but on the other hand they did (to remain clean and to try Jesus).

In the end, Jesus, who is killed during Passover, is viewed as the Passover sacrifice. Just as well, the Gospels give a succinct account of how these things happened and I find both terribly fascinating and accurate.


7 Additions To The Blogroll

I have not updated the Pisteuomen blogroll in a while, so, I thought I'd take some time to do that. I have added 7 sites (to the "blogroll tab" above) that I read quite often. These sites are maintained by: Scott Bailey, Ken Brown, James McGrath, John Hobbins, Doug Mangum, Mark Goodacre and Bill Heroman.


Thoughts On People Saying "God Spoke To Me And Said To..."

Lately, for some reason, I've come across scores of people--who refer to themselves as Christians--that have all had one thing in common: They keep using the phrase "God spoke to me and said to __________ ." (we could fill in the blank here with any number of things). What is it about people that make them say these kinds of things? I kind of promised myself a long time ago, after hearing this so much and even doing it myself--when I was unsure as to whether or not God had actually said something--that I would never ever presume on God again. In other words, I made a purposeful decision to say "I will never just assume that God was bidding me to do something or that He was saying something." Yes, I know, this seems like I have "little faith" or that I am a "doubting Thomas". Still, I feel safer this way. Sure, I may never know with one hundred percent certainty that God said or did something, I may always question it and wonder but at least I haven't wrongly presumed on God (good or bad). I've realized that there is a distinct difference in saying that God did or said something and going through an experience and reflecting on it in light of what you know about God! The latter is what I tend to do. As for the former, what do you think about it?


The Day Jesus Was Crucified: Studies in Mark, Pt. 77

In study #76 of my “Studies in Mark” series, I explored some issues surrounding the “time” of Jesus’ crucifixion in the four Gospel accounts. In the main, I gave some thoughts on how time was viewed, understood and used in Mediterranean antiquity and how these factors should be borne in mind when reading the various NT accounts. In the end, I concluded that in the work titled “John” (and the same is true of Luke) the author’s are using temporal approximations—in more simple terms: they were saying “Jesus was crucified at about or around such and such time of day.” John says Jesus was crucified at about Noon while Mark says it was 9am. The fact is, John is clearly approximating when he uses the word “about” (again, Luke does the same). Mark does not offer a specific word that denotes approximation; at first glance he seems to be more specific. However, given the cultural norms of time-telling back then, any seemingly specific time that was given should still be taken lightly. To find out more why, click HERE.

Of course, scholars have thought through and argued over the supposed discrepancies between the Markan and Johannine accounts. Some have suggested that the authors have different narrative and theological agendas and that this accounts for the tensions. Others have suggested that a textual variant, that is, the changing of the Greek digamma to a gamma is the answer. Others, particularly fundamentalist atheists have contended that the “contradictions” between Mark and John on the foundational event of Christian, the crucifixion, shows that the Bible is wholly untrustworthy. I do not hold any of these views. As I explained in study #76, there is another, easier and more contextual way (in my view) to make sense of all that is being said.

Just to be clear about where I’m going with this post, I should probably recount the argument that I’m going against. The argument is as follows: John’s work says that Jesus was crucified on the evening before Passover (Nisan 14) and Mark’s says He was killed on the day of Passover (Nisan 15). He couldn’t have been killed twice and thus, He couldn’t have been killed on two different days, so, how might we make sense of this? Well, to go ahead and answer the obvious, I will say that Jesus was killed once, on one day and that the day was the 15th day of the Jewish month called Nisan. He was killed during the 2nd watch of the day, which would have been between 9am and Noon (remember, Jewish days were divided into four watches and the nights were also separated into four watches, totaling eight periods of three hours each in a 24-hour span).

Instead of contending that Jesus was killed a day earlier than He was supposed to be as many scholars have done, that is, that He was killed on Nisan 14—and as a result cannot be viewed as the “Passover Lamb”—what I am going to offer here is a simple timeline of how the Gospels lay out the events. This timeline shows that, indeed, the authors are all in agreement that Jesus was killed on Nisan 15 and was viewed as the Passover Lamb (of course, John’s theology emphasizes the “Lamb” aspect more than the other accounts). Before going on, I should point out two things: 1) All of the Gospel writers, with the possible exception of Matthew, refer to the Passover at some point as a weeklong event as well as a single meal! So, when we read the accounts we have to strive to understand which use is taking place. 2) The “Feast of Unleavened Bread” was also called the “Passover” (e.g. Lk. 22.1). Here’s the timeline:

· Day 1 of Passover, Nisan 14, is the Feast of Unleavened Bread. That afternoon/evening (3pm-6pm), as all four Gospel accounts note, Jesus ate a meal with His disciples (Lk. 22.7-16, Jn. 13.1-2, Mt. 26.17-21, Mk. 14.12-8).

· Day 2 of Passover, Nisan 15—Preparation Day—begins (according to Jewish time) around the time Jesus and his followers finished eating, that is, some time between 6 and 9pm. (Remember, Jewish days were reckoned quite differently than our days are now. Instead of their days ending at 11:59/Midnight, they considered the end of the day pretty much when the sun fell.) So, Nisan 15 begins between 6-9pm and will end on Nisan 16 around the same time. Still on day two of Passover, we find that all of the Gospel accounts tell different aspects of Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection. If I were to offer a timetable of events for Day 2, as to how the Gospels portray them, here’s what I’d offer:

o 1st watch of the night: Jesus and disciples finish the diner (6-9pm: Jn. 13.1-5)
o 2nd watch of the night: After dinner Judas takes off (9pm-12am: Jn. 13.29)
o 3rd watch of the night: Peter denies Jesus (12am-3am: Jn. 18.27-34; Mt. 27.15-35)
o 4th watch of the night: Pilate releases Barabbas on the “Feast Day” (3am – 6am: Mk. 15.6-20; Jn. 18.38-40; Lk. 23.16-25)
o 1st quarter of the day: Jesus given to Pilate for crucifixion around the “sixth hour” (6am – 9am: Jn. 19.12-16)
o 2nd quarter of the day: Jesus dies on “Preparation Day” (9am-12pm: Lk. 23.50-6)
o 3rd quarter of the day: Joseph of Arimathea goes for Jesus’ body (12pm – 3pm: Mk. 15.42-7)
o 4th quarter of the day: Jesus’ body is laid in the tomb on “Preparation Day” (3pm – 6pm: Jn. 19.41-2)

· Day 3 of Passover: On this day, Nisan 16, which is the 7th day of the week and thus the Sabbath, begins around 6pm – 9pm. All four Gospel accounts speak of this day and have nothing major take place on it (see: Lk. 23.55-6; Jn. 19.28-31; Mt. 27.62-3; Mk. 16.1-2). Note that nothing happens until, as Mk. 16.1-2 says, the “Sabbath had passed”!

· Day 4 of Passover, Nisan 17, which his the first day of the week is the day the tomb has visitors and that Jesus’ body is gone. The Gospel accounts all attest, numerous times, that on the “third day” (that is, after He was killed), He was raised, which was also the first day of the next week. See: Mt. 16, 17, 20 and 28; Mk. 9, 10 and 16; Lk. 9, 18, 24; Jn. 20. Also, see Acts 10.

I should note here that there is no “inerrantist” doctrine undergirding or driving my views here. Neither is there a maximalist mentality that is fueling me. Likewise there is no “evangelical” agenda hidden or embedded in what I’ve offered here. While many will resort to such labeling, I will argue that it is simply fictitious. All I’ve attempted to do here is to take the Gospel accounts at face value, in accord with how time was understood and reckoned in the NT and explain what’s said. Everything pans out smoothly and comports well. There is no need to resort to literary, theological or philosophical theories. As I’ve shown, there is a simple way to understand it all (one has to wonder whether or not scholarship has purposefully made this issue harder to understand than is necessary and riddled it with doubt for sheer academic reasons!).

In the end, the accounts are straightforward and pretty self-explanatory—though a little cultural context does need some explaining! As much as some would like for things not to work out this way, the fact is, they do. In my view, there’s no reason to crucify these accounts in the ways that some scholars have. Indeed, we can say with clarity and ease of mind: The Gospels make sense when they talk about the day Jesus was crucified.

*Note: This post has been added to the "Studies in Mark" page mentioned above!


Raymond Brown On God's Revelation

I ran across an interesting quote by R. E. Brown recently that stopped me in my tracks--mainly because I was surprised to hear it coming from him. Here it is:

"The most crucial difference between McHugh and me may lie in a judgment on whether God's revelation, given to us once and for all in Jesus Christ, had to be understood totally by first-century Christians. I think that it did not and that those Christians wrote the NT with only a partial understanding of the revelation they described. That is why I maintain the need for a church which through the Holy Spirit can enable later generations to see in Christ aspects that first Christians did not see when they wrote their text."

-R. E. Brown, Biblical Exegesis & Church Doctrine, 73.

I don't know about you but I have a bit of trouble employing this type of theology and reasoning. What thoughts do you have on this?


SBL - Getting From Logan Airport To Downtown On The Cheap

SBL-goers, if you're flying into Logan Airport in Boston, save yourself some money by not taking a cab! You can hop on the rail, located at the airport and it will take you right downtown. The cost is supposedly much less than hailing a taxi. For more info, click this link which actually allows you to download some transportation maps as .pdf files: From Logan Airport To Downtown Boston. Also, click HERE for an interactive map of downtown.


SBL Biblio/Biblica Bloggers Sunday Evening Dinner

If you are a biblio / biblica blogger and are attending SBL, you are invited to our annual gathering which, this year, will take place on Sunday evening. Whether you've just started blogging, have been blogging for years or are even considering blogging, you are welcome. We're going to meet up at the convention center and walk to a restaurant from there. A more specific time, restaurant location, etc. will be given soon. Please, if you are coming, leave a comment here so we can reserve seats at the restaurant ahead of time (this will make things go much smoother, give us more time to chat and take a lot of stress off of the restaurant employees. I will make reservations for us beforehand and post those soon enough.

***Update: Here is the list of those who have signed up to attend so far. If you leave a comment noting that you plan to attend, I will add your name to the list.

* Michael Halcomb
* James McGrath
* Nijay Gupta
* Josh McManaway
* Ken Brown
* Douglas Mangum
* Eric Sowell


The Time Of Jesus’ Crucifixion in Mark and John: Studies in Mark, Pt. 76

As many New Testament scholars have pointed out, those from the New Testament era and more specifically, the non-Roman Elite of the NT era, understood “time” differently. Bruce Malina, for instance, has repeatedly shown that while 21st century Americans are predominantly future-oriented people (e.g. retirement funds, savings accounts, planning for education, hoping to get married, waiting to have kids, etc.), those we read of in the NT were quite the opposite—these agricultural and usually lower class personages were present-minded folk. In fact, Malina has argued that no NT personage could have possibly had a future orientation similar to that of a 21st century American. For the sake of argument and belaboring, I will say here that this is a view I, for the most part, share (I say “most part” because I certainly have not done away with the “already, not yet” aspect so apparent in the NT documents).

As Cadbury has pointed out, the NT word “hora” (English “hour”) is only attested to one time in a single Roman inscription from the first century. When the term “hora” was used it was not employed with exactitude and preciseness; especially not in terms of the type of precision time telling that occurs in civilized nations today. And this is not a point that is special pleading or begging the question. Indeed, this is a very important point when it comes to understanding certain portions of the NT. I will come back to this in a moment but I should also point out here that in antiquity, another factor that contributed to the issue of “approximating time” was that sundials and water clocks were not terribly accurate. As seasons changed and the sun moved, the length of certain hours in the day varied. Cadbury has also shown that in the ancient world, the notion of “seconds” or “minutes” didn’t even exist.

In the NT, “hora” can actually even refer to the whole length of “daytime” (that is, the time that the sun is up until it sets; see: Mt. 14.15, Mk. 6.35 & 11.11). “Hora” was also used to denote a “twelfth” of a day (Jn. 11.19) or even a specific moment (Mt. 8.13, 9.22, 15.28). When it comes to nighttime, we are well aware (and as I showed HERE) that the evening was divided into “four watches” (see: Mk. 13.35 and Acts 23.23) for biblical references to this. Just as well, daytime could be reckoned into fourths (e.g. Mt. 20.1-9). What this all means is that there is more than enough proof, even within the NT itself, that time telling was different then from now. Was it impossible to suggest “specific” times for things? No (see: Jn. 1.39, 4.52 for example)! But should we take what we do have with care and scrutiny? Yes!

So, NT personages would have tended to divide up time up like this: Into two main halves (daytime and nighttime), which broke down into fourths (four watches of night and four periods of daytime).

At this point, I’d like to offer an example in the form of a question: If someone in this society were to say today, “I’ll see you this evening” what would that mean? What “time” would they be referring to? Well, typically, in the U.S. “evening” refers to the period between 6pm – 9pm. Night tends to mean “10pm – Midnight”. However, if I were working with someone all day and when we were clocking out and heading home I said “Have a good night”, I would not be referring the hours from 10-12pm, no, I’d be referring to the time we left work until bedtime or even tomorrow morning. While we can be more specific with time, we still have general designations. In fact, if we are always overtly literal, we still have confusions.

However, I want to submit that these types of “generalities” or “approximations” were the norm when it came to time telling in antiquity. Overlap always existed. Specificity wasn’t an issue. This is something that we’re hung up on today that they were not hung up on in antiquity. In fact, I would contend that when we read of the crucifixion in both the Gospels that bear the names of Mark and John, this must all be borne in mind. Why? There are 2 reasons: 1) The authors may have been operating on different time schemes (see more on that HERE), and 2) It is likely that the authors were, whatever time table they may have been using, simply approximating things.

The Greek word “hos” in Jn. 19.14 is translated as “about”. Thus, the portion of the sentence containing this word is translated as “…it was about the sixth hour”. Notice how the author is approximating by using the word “about”. By ancient standards, this could have been anywhere from Noon - 3pm. Now, in Mk. 15.25, the text says: “And it was the third hour when they crucified Him.” By ancient standards, the third “hora” was not 3 O’clock, as we understand it but the quarter of the “daytime” ranging from 9am – Noon. (*Note that in Lk. the word “peri”, meaning “about” is also used of the sixth hour…there is a lack of specificity for a practical reason and it runs throughout nearly all of the NT texts—that’s how time was reckoned!)

Now, I realize that many will dub this “exegetical gymnastics”, label it as “conservative”, “evangelical”, “theological eisegetical” or whatever. This is all simply not true. I am attempting to look at the information and see if it fits together in a succinct way, before writing it off. Are there other ways of looking at the time issue? Yes. There is the digamma / gamma argument, the genre argument, the theological agenda argument, the error argument, etc. Do any of these hold water? It is possible. However, it makes clear sense to me (and without theological pre-dispositions) that what the two Gospels say, comport well with one another.

All I am suggesting here is that where there seems to be a tension between Mark and John, there is a plausible answer in terms of how time was told in antiquity. Such an endeavor, as I have argued is neither biased or out-of-bounds! The language of “approximation” when taken with the widespread practice of “approximation” must be taken into consideration. I am simply contending that some time between 9am and Noon, the events of the crucifixion were taking place.

On a closing note, it might also be worthwhile to point out, as I have already done in brief, in some dialogue with others (HERE), that Mark and John also viewed the events of the crucifixion a bit differently. Where the events are a complete whole or single unit for Mark they are split by John’s author. On these matters, I’m afraid we cannot be more specific than this. While many Christians let their doctrinal values cause them to overreach on things, we must not here. To read the texts with a more specific tint is to reach too far. To force the authors into being terribly specific about time is a stretch and cannot be sustained very well. At this point, that’s why I subscribe to the view proposed here.

Here are some suggested articles on the matter:

· Bruce Malina, Windows on the World of Jesus: Time Travel to Ancient Judea
· Oscar Cullman, Christ and Time
· Bruce Malina, “Christ and Time: Swiss or Mediterranean”
· R. E. Brown, Gospel According to John (Doubleday)
· J. E. Bruns, “Use of Time in the Fourth Gospel”
· J. V. Miller, “The Time of the Crucifixion”
· A. Mahoney, “A New Look at ‘The Third Hour’ of Mark 15.25”
· Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (Eerdmans)
· J. A. Cross, “The Hour of the Day in the Fourth Gospel”
· H. J. Cadbury, “Some Lukan Expressions of Time”

These articles and books, among others, are good conversation partners when discussing and dealing with the above topic. *Note that this article will be added to the "Studies in Mark" page above.


SBL Bible Bloggers Get-Together

So we can go ahead and make some more progress, if you are a Bible blogger and are interested in meeting with others, which of the 3 times would work out best for you: 1) Saturday lunch, 2) Saturday dinner, 3) Sunday lunch, or 4) Sunday dinner? As it stands, Saturday lunch and Sunday dinner seem to be the best options.