Thursday, October 18, 2018

Benjamin Laird Reviews Biblical Canon Lists in JETS

Another review of The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity has appeared. Benjamin Laird of Liberty University’s School of Divinity has reviewed it positively in the most recent issue of JETS (61.3; 2018: 617–9). In his introductory remarks, he notes the influx of publications on the biblical canon in the last quarter century but also that there is a paucity of works “designed to serve as a resource for those engaged in the study of the primary sources” (p. 617). In his estimation the book contributes to filling this lacuna, at least as far as the early canon lists are concerned.

Laird’s concluding remarks are positive but perhaps hint at some of his own disappointment with the book:
In sum, The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity is a unique, well-written, and clearly presented volume that provides both students and scholars with a valuable resource for the study of the canonical history of the biblical writings. Gallagher and Meade are to be commended for producing a definitive and up-to-date study of the early canon lists in an accessible format. The value of the book is apparent in the fact that the greatest disappointment many readers may have is that it is not wider in scope (p. 619).
As a New Testament professor, Laird comments on the usefulness of the book as a guide to the extant canon lists but also notes:
It should be kept in mind, of course, that because the authors focus specifically on canonical lists, several witnesses to the early state of the biblical canon receive only limited attention or are not discussed. What might be known, for example, of the state of the NT canon from the testimony of several notable church fathers such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian receives only scant treatment given that their extant writings do not contain explicit reference  to the content of either the OT or NT in the form of a list (p. 618).
He also includes a comment on Marcion to the effect that since the field has given considerable treatment to him in recent years, the volume might have included more substantive treatment of him and what his writings (known from his critics) might contribute to our knowledge of the early NT canon.

Laird would have liked more treatment of biblical manuscripts than our chapter six provides. Specifically, he would have preferred more treatment of those early MSS that do not preserve the whole OT or NT such as P46.

I appreciate Laird’s overall positive review of our book. Two comments are in order. First, we do acknowledge our book’s limits on p. xv:
Lists are not the only means by which early Christians expressed themselves on the subject of the biblical canon. Scattered comments on individual books or groups of books pepper patristic literature. We have not seen fit to collect all these comments. Some authors of fundamental importance—Irenaeus of Lyons, or Clement of Alexandria, or Tertullian, for example—left behind nothing that could be considered a canon list, though any canon history would have to give serious attention to their statements and practice. They do not receive extended treatment here because their works transmit no canon list, a decision which demonstrates that this book is not a full canon history but a tool for such research.
Second, it’s interesting to me that James Walters’s review of our book in Reading Religion expressed confusion over the presence of a chapter on full biblical MSS in the book in the first place and Laird would have liked more comment on them. [UPDATE 10/18/18: see Walter’s tweet thread for a helpful correction to my understanding of his review]. The former didn’t see what contribution a chapter on full MSS made for the volume, while the latter thinks that such early MSS “often contain valuable insight into the early state of the NT canon” and would have wanted more.

It seems clear to me, then, that the opposing sides in the canon debate interpret the evidence of MSS for the formation of the NT canon very differently. For the one side, full biblical MSS may not tell us anything about the canon, and for the other side, they may grant valuable insight.

[UPDATE based on his thread: rather than Walters and Laird being on opposite ends of a spectrum, they would agree on the value of MSS for the history of the canon; Walters actually concludes that perhaps early MSS may be more important than the lists themselves, a point I’d like him to tease out for me in the future.]

In other news, I have contributed a chapter to Elijah Hixson and Peter Gurry’s forthcoming Myths and Mistakes volume on this very question. But I don’t think I’ll let any cats out of their bags until the book is released. :-)

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Forthcoming Festschrift for Harry Gamble

Next month SBL Press has a Festschrift for Harry Gamble coming out. I can’t find a table of contents for it so, if anyone knows what’s in it, let me know in the comments, please. The table of contents is available at the link to Amazon. From the publisher:

A book about the role of books in shaping the ancient religious landscape

This collection of essays by leading scholars from a variety of academic disciplines explores the ongoing relevance of Harry Gamble’s Books and Readers in the Early Church (1995) for the study of premodern book cultures. Contributors expand the conversation of book culture to examine the role the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Qur’an played in shaping the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religions in the ancient and medieval world. By considering books as material objects rather than as repositories for stories and texts, the essays examine how new technologies, new materials, and new cultural encounters contributed to these holy books spreading throughout territories, becoming authoritative, and profoundly shaping three global religions.


  • Comparative analysis of book culture in Roman, Jewish, Christian, and Islamic contexts
  • Art-historical, papyrological, philological, and historical modes of analysis
  • Essays that demonstrate the vibrant, ongoing legacy of Gamble’s seminal work


Paperback $32.95
ISBN 9781628372236
Hardcover $47.95
ISBN 9780884143291 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

ETC Interview with Caio Peres

In this installment of the ETC interview series, we diverge from our normal practice of interviewing established text critics to interview a (recent) student. I met Caio Peres through my wife and we have corresponded for a few years online. Some of that correspondence was about textual criticism  during his class on the subject with the good folks at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam where he received his Master (Research) in Theology and Religious Studies in 2018. He currently works as a social worker for a missionary NGO in the south part of São Paulo and in this interview I wanted to hear his perspective on theological training in his native Brazil and what it was like to study abroad. Enjoy!

Peter: Caio, tell us a little bit about your background and what got you interested in the Bible? What’s your primary area of research interest?

Caio: I am married to Dorothee and have a four year old son, Mikael. I am Brazilian and grew up in one of the largest cities of the world, São Paulo. When I was very young my mom went through a process of conversion, so I would go to an evangelical church on Sundays since I can remember. However, there were no religious disciplines in my household. In part because my father is not a Christian, nor religious in any sense, and in part because common Brazilian evangelicals, like my mom, do not integrate their faith with everyday routines. Nonetheless, I remember that at a certain age, my mom would read a Bible verse for me in the morning at breakfast, before I would go to school.

Two experiences in my life, roughly at the same period, got me interested in the Bible. The first was attending a Bible study service at my former church. The guest pastor, who is well known in the Brazilian evangelical context, was the first I saw to include some aspects of textual interpretation and theological implications. At the time this was very different from all the spiritual and life-lesson kind of approach to the Bible that I have known for a long time. It was more rational, organized and intellectually stimulating. The second was meeting my wife. She is Dutch and I met her in Brazil, when she was doing a short-term mission work at a children’s shelter near São Paulo. She comes from a family of several Christian generations. Her household dynamic was very different than mine. Christianity really formed how they lived and saw the world around them. And this was very clear in their strong missionary commitment. That made me realize how much the Bible could penetrate our own lives, but for that to happen I had to become familiar with it. These two experiences led me to commit to the study of the Bible and to missions in social ministries for children at risk in Brazil.

This last development also guided my research interests. After a couple of years flirting with Reformed theology, I got hooked by Biblical Theology during seminary, and the Bible was never the same again for me. I started seeing interesting possibilities of integrating my studies of the Bible and my interest in social issues. Thus, I started to research the Latter Prophets, especially the Book of the Twelve. For reasons that I do not recall clearly, I got interested in Temple and cultic matters. So, at the moment, my primary area of research is the theology of the cult in ancient Israel, including ritual analysis from an anthropological perspective. I am especially interested in commensality and family relations in the context of the ancient Israelite cult. From a broader perspective, my aim is to understand how household dynamics and practices inform the religious conceptions of ancient Israel. Looking at these matters from my missionary perspective, this is highly important in the Brazilian context. To look at cultic practices and religious conceptualizations with an eye on family dynamics and table fellowship might be fruitful for people living in shanty towns, where broken families abound and basic human necessities, like food, are scarce. Especially because in this exact context is where we can find the highest numbers of small Pentecostal churches.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

2,000-Year-Old Hebrew Inscription Contains Rare Spelling of Jerusalem

Several sources today reported on an inscription dated to the Second Temple period that contained the word “Jerusalem,” but I couldn’t find an actual transcription of the three short lines. I offer my amateur attempt here and accept any correction in the comments. The inscription is pictured here and I took this image from Biblical Archaeology.

חנניה בר

Hananiah son of




from Jerusalem

All the hubbub here is over the spelling of Jerusalem with the ending לים -lym, which is rare in the Hebrew Bible (e.g. Jer 26:18: וִירוּשָׁלַיִם and a few other places [Esther 2:6, 2 Chronicles 25:1, 2 Chronicles 32: 9, and 2 Chronicles 25:1]), even though the Qere received and preserved by the Masoretes usually (always?) included a hireq vowel to insure it would be pronounced -ayim even without the yod in the Kethib: יְרוּשָׁלִַם (e.g. Isa 3:8).

Thus what is of some interest here is that those rare spellings of Jerusalem with yod in MT are confirmed in the record at least as far back as the late second temple period and the pronunciation of the Qere, perhaps, is supported by this inscription as well. Other than that, this inscription is unremarkable on this point.

I’m more interested in the apparent Greek name, Dodalos, aren’t you? And what is the actual function of br “son” in this inscription? Anyways, I’ll let others speak to these matters.

Monday, October 08, 2018

An Affordable Reissue of Letis’s The Ecclesiastical Text

If you’re interested in the intersection of theology and textual criticism, you might want to know about a recent reissue of Theodore Letis’s 1997 book The Ecclesiastical Text: Criticism, Biblical Authority & the Popular Mind. Among other things, Letis argues in this book that the inspired New Testament text is to be found in the apographs (copies) rather than in the autographs (originals), offering a direct critique of B. B. Warfield and others in the process. For the basic argument, you can also read his article in the Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology [PDF].

We’ve written about Letis before on the blog (here and here). While I don’t usually find his text-critical views convincing, I do enjoy reading him and often learn new things when I do. Although he died around 2005, some have taken up Letis’s mantle over at the website and their accompanying Facebook group. Sadly, the typesetting of this new edition is worse than the old one, but the $100-cheaper price tag means it’s actually affordable. There’s also a Kindle edition for $10.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Call for Papers for 2019 IOSOT Meeting at University of Aberdeen

The International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament has posted its call for papers for the meeting to be hosted by the University of Aberdeen on August 4–9 2019. Of course, the meetings for IOSCS, IOQS, IOMS, and ISLP happen concurrently as part of this larger meeting. For general information, see the main page here. To submit a paper proposal, click here.

Presidential Address and Main Papers are to be delivered by the following:
Joachim Schaper (Aberdeen)
Göran Eidevall (Uppsala)
Jan Christian Gertz (Heidelberg)
Innocent Himbaza (Fribourg)
Jeremy Hutton (Wisconsin-Madison)
Matthijs de Jong (Dutch Bible Society)
Israel Knohl (Hebrew University)
Corinna Körting (Hamburg)
Timothy Lim (Edinburgh)
Bernhard Maier (Tübingen)
Luca Mazzinghi (Gregorian University)
Sara Milstein (British Columbia)
Walter Moberly (Durham)
Hindy Najman (Oxford)
Susan Niditch (Amherst)
Meira Polliack (Tel Aviv)
Sophie Ramond (Institut Catholique de Paris)
William Schniedewind (UCLA)
Hans Ulrich Steymans (Fribourg)
Loren Stuckenbruck (LMU Munich)
Andrew Teeter (Harvard)
David Tsumura (Japan Bible Seminary)
It looks to be a wonderful time.

Monday, October 01, 2018

The Septuagint at the Denver Meetings


It’s that time of year again when those presenting at the society meetings begin to panic because they now wonder how they will write those papers they proposed several months ago. At least that’s what my friends tell me ;-).

The Septuagint or Greek Old Testament will be featured in a number of sessions at ETS and SBL/IOSCS. These are the main sessions treating the Greek Old Testament. If I have missed any papers that you know of, please add them in the comments.


3:00 PM-6:10 PM Septuagint Studies Tower Building Mezzanine Level — Denver
Moderator: Jennifer Brown Jones (McMaster Divinity College)

3:00 PM—3:40 PM Edmon L. Gallagher* (Heritage Christian University) Jerome on the Septuagint as Christian Scripture

3:50 PM—4:30 PM Gregory R. Lanier (Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando) William A. Ross (University of Cambridge) How We Produced “Septuaginta: A Reader’s Edition” ... and What We Learned

4:40 PM—5:20 PM Christopher J. Fresch (Bible College of South Australia) The Septuagint and Discourse Grammar

5:30 PM—6:10 PM Zachary A. Vickery The Translation Technique of LXX-Ruth

I’m disappointed to have to miss some of this session due to my own paper at 4:40 PM—5:20 PM: The Canonicity of Esther in Early Jewish & Christian Sources: A Case Study for Evaluating Canon in the Old Testament Historical Books session at the Tower Building Majestic Level — Savoy. But I hope to make some of these papers before and after my own.


(1) International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies

1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Aspen Room B (Third Level) - Embassy Suites Downtown (ES)
Theme: Prophets in the LXX
Leonard Greenspoon, Creighton University, Presiding

John D. Meade, Phoenix Seminary
The Dream for a “Field for the Twenty-First Century” Endures: A Description and Defense of the New Critical Edition of Job 22–42 (30 min)

Abstract: Publishing “a Field for the Twenty-First Century” remains the aim of the Hexapla Project, and after many years of waiting, the release of its first edition, A Critical Edition of the Hexaplaric Fragments of Job 22–42, is planned for winter of 2018. In light of this development, I want to (1) review the aims of the Hexapla Project, (2) describe the format of the new edition vis-à-vis prior editions, and (3) reply to some recent criticism of the project with specific examples from the new edition of Job 22–42. The new edition surpasses the previous editions of Frederick Field and Joseph Ziegler both in terms of evidence and method, and this advance will be demonstrated with examples from Job 22–42. Finally, Olivier Munnich has offered some recent criticisms of the Hexapla Project, which I will address in the final part of the presentation.

Matthew Albanese, University of Oxford
Old Greek Isaiah 13:19: Misunderstood Hebrew and Constructive Greek (30 min)

Johanna Erzberger, Cardiff University
Echoing Prayers: The Prayer of Repentance (Bar 1:15-3:8) in the Book of Baruch and in the Context of Intertextual References between Bar, Dan, and the Versions of Jeremiah (30 min)

Miika Tucker, University of Helsinki
The Translation Character of Septuagint Jeremiah (30 min)

Business Meeting (30 min)