A Pause – and What’s Been Happening on This Side

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by Neil Godfrey

The reason I’ve been slow to complete a new post lately is mainly because I’m buried in so much new reading. The major reading project that has taken most of my time is attempting to get on top of the relationships between the various Old Testament and Second Temple books as they address, in particular, the Fourth Servant Song (Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12) and the Suffering Servant. The Suffering Servant — and his Messianic function — did have an impact on some Jewish sects before Christianity emerged on the scene. The difficulty is – and this is why I’ve been so involved in more reading than writing lately — that each book I read raises further citations that I am keen to track down and also read more fully.

Recently I read and wrote about Raglan’s hero classification scheme. That, and hearing that another scholar (another one who is primarily an ancient historian and not a theologian) had applied Propp’s work on folktales to the story of the Exodus, prompted me to read Propp’s Morphology of the Folktale. I have nearly completed this now and have been wondering if and how it might apply to the Gospels. Reading this has meant I’ve had to pause my study of Lévi-Strauss’s The Raw and the Cooked that takes another perspective on the way mythology is put together. I don’t know yet how much of all of this I’ll find applicable to the Gospels but I’m interested in working on that project once I’ve got a handle on both Propp and Lévi-Strauss.

And I’m also reading several articles (some quite lengthy ones) that a few readers have asked me to take a look at and comment on.

So it’s been a time of learning more than writing lately. (But the act of organizing thoughts for writing, and double-checking things, is also when I learn the most thoroughly.)

My writing outlet has come in sporadic comments on the earlywritings.com forum and the occasional comments on other blogs. 

I still want to resume several other series of posts but they’ll just have to wait. I need to work, too.

I almost posted a couple of links to interested news stories. One was on research demonstrating that problem gamblers were more likely to be cured of their habit if given educational information. That is, they were more likely to stop serious gambling once they understood how the mathematics really were stacked against them than when treated by other means addressing “addictions” per se.

I liked that. It shows, I guess, that we are more rational than we sometimes give ourselves credit for.

Oh, I’ve also been surfing other biblioblogs lately, too. I am thinking it might be an idea to do a review of them. I have yet to find one that is free of Christian or political ideological interest. Maybe I haven’t looked hard enough yet. Despite that, however, there are a very few that look quite interesting and usefully informative. I should write about those.

I am dismayed to be reminded how so very — can I say “immature”? — some of the bloggers sound as they vent and fan their apologetic interests. I’m reminded of the psychological impact of cults and can see the same sorts of stunting of psychological maturity among some of the most verbose blogging Christian scholars.

Oh and one more thing, I also learned that Peter Kirby seems to be handling the biblioblogging rankings now. Last I had heard the scholars had banded together to remove Vridar from the show altogether. Now I see Vridar is back in the listings. But woe oh woe — it is a lowly #29 last time I looked. It used to be in the top 10. No doubt that has something to do with the slower pace of activity here. I’d like to find ways to make the blog more widely relevant and to come to the attention of more of those who would be interested in the sort of stuff Tim and I write about.

And must not forget to do a proper review of Richard Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus. 

Thanks for reading. Cheers.



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Neil Godfrey

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7 thoughts on “A Pause – and What’s Been Happening on This Side”

  1. Thank you Neil and Tim for your reading and writing. I haven’t found a better biblioblog than this one. But I am very interested in your survey and comments of others. Enjoy your summer, too.

  2. As happens so many times for me, real life has gotten in the way of writing for Vridar. Like Neil, I’ve still been reading quite a bit, and I intend to continue with the Memory Mavens soon. However, working on the road takes its toll on the brain, and I frequently find that my road to hell (or at least to bed) is paved with good intentions.

    I’ve also been thinking a lot recently about the psychological and social effects of Mithridates VI of Pontus on the Romans — as well as the population of Asia Minor, Syria, and Palestine — in the period from about 120 BCE to 135 CE. Maybe I’ll have something in a few days.

    In the meantime, thanks for reading Vridar.

    1. It does look interesting but. I checked a few reviews of his work on the databases and some are kind but not positive. Not that reviews alone should tell us how to think, of course. But in this case there does appear to be room for caution. See the worst review at Mark Goodacre’s blog.

      He rewrites more than just Mark. His Retelling the Law

      “Using the method of critical intertextual research, this book demonstrates that Deuteronomy (written c. 500 BC) is an Israelite sequential hypertextual reworking of Ezekiel, that Genesis and Exodus-Numbers (written c. 400 BC) are Israelite sequential hypertextual reworkings of Deuteronomy, and that Samuel-Kings (written c. 300 BC) is a Judaean sequential hypertextual reworking of Deuteronomy. Consequently, the book disproves the theories of the existence of the so-called sources or traditions of the Pentateuch. The recognition of the fact that the Pentateuch is an Israelite and not a Judaean work may have great consequences for the dialogue between the monotheistic civilizations in our world and for peace initiatives in the Holy Land.

      He argues Luke followed Mark and Matthew adapted Luke. From another review of his Q or not Q?:

      If the Tuckett Festschrift may leave the reader frustrated
      in the quest for the final answer to the SP, Q or
      not Q? is quite clear in supporting one particular
      solution, namely 2GH. Now it has to be said that the
      use in his sub-title of the phrase ‘So-Called’ does not
      inspire confidence, for some reason; it arouses the
      premonition that we may be in for a rant. And so we
      are, for what follows is a polemic against Q. After a
      bit, however, it settles down into academic mode,
      with a serious consideration of the arguments and a
      careful survey of the field, although it is clear from
      the outset where Dr. Adamczewski stands.

      The author
      is Polish, the publisher German, and the command of
      English is uneasy. The first chapter is an undeniably
      helpful, if slightly cramped, survey of a range of
      scholarly positions. His assessment is at times reminiscent
      of those formulae in the Book of Kings, where
      monarchs are judged by how well they walked in the
      footsteps of their ancestor King David; here it
      is a question of whether or not particular scholars
      believed in Q at the start of their career, and what
      subsequently happened to their faith.

      He makes the
      very acute point that we have at least one ‘Marcan’
      text that is dependent on Mt and Lk but does not in
      any way resemble Mk 1:1–16:8, namely the ‘Long
      Ending’, Mk 16:9–20; this might seem an argument
      against the 2GH, but as it turns out, Adamczewski is
      arguing for that hypothesis, an order of dependence
      that goes Mk-Lk-Mt (indeed, it later turns out, [Paul]-
      Mk-Lk-[Acts]-Mt); this is a direction that is normally
      laughed out of court, but Adamczewski is well aware
      of the need for careful methodological and herme-
      neutical analysis, and at least produces a case to

      In the second chapter he attempts to find
      reliable criteria for assessing the direction of literary
      dependence, and applies them to a most interesting
      analysis of Mk 1:14–2:28 and parallels. The order
      that emerges is then supported by three chapters of
      redaction-critical analysis on how the three Synoptic
      evangelists used their sources.

      In chapter 3 he argues
      for at least some dependence on Paul on the part of
      Mark, and comes up with some undeniably new
      reflections, for example on why Mark calls Galilee a
      ‘Sea’, and suggests that Mk’s structure alludes to
      specifically Pauline texts, and also, remarkably
      enough, to the Iliad: ‘Jesus as Hector’ is an idea that
      will have scholars spluttering over their computers.

      the next chapter, he argues that Luke reworks Mk,
      using motifs from LXX, Paul, other Marcan texts,
      certain Jewish and Samaritan traditions, and even
      Josephus. The Lucan travel narrative refers to Paul
      (who is mentioned at Mk 9:38–40, if you can credit
      it), being based on Galatians 1:1–2:20; the Lazarus of
      Luke 16:20 is, so it turns out, none other than Paul

      In chapter 5, we look at Mt’s sources, who
      include James, 1 Peter (neither of whom is the ‘pillar’
      of that name), Acts and Paul, all intended to demonstrate
      that Paul’s Gentile mission was never seriously
      questioned by the Jewish Christian authorities. Mt, it
      seems, reworked Acts (for example the procurator’s
      wife who is sympathetic to Judaism appears at Acts
      24:24 and at Mt 27:19 – and I would wager that very
      few readers had ever thought of that).

      The upshot is
      that there is no such thing as Q, nor even any need for
      it; Paul had a role in forming the Synoptic tradition;
      there are (at least six) reliable criteria for establishing
      the direction of dependence; there are frequent references
      to ‘hypertext’ and ‘hypotext’, which may have
      you reaching for a dictionary; and it is almost impossible
      to reconstruct early Christian oral tradition
      behind the gospels; intertextuality matters.

      concludes that ‘The interplay of various literal,
      allusive, metaphoric, symbolic, adapted and other
      levels of referential-intertextual meaning is therefore
      an inherent phenomenon of the synoptic tradition,
      and it is by no means peculiar to, for example the
      Fourth Gospel.’ (p. 446)

      So there you have it. Will it
      fly? Possibly not, for these are very new ideas, and we
      do not easily cope with new ideas in the guild. The
      deeper question, however, is the methodological one:
      what counts as proof in this area, and where do we go
      from here? — Nicholas King, The Heythrop Journal, LIII 2012.

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