Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sirach as Scripture in Judaism?

jefferson-bible-1.jpgMy good friend Dr. Jeff Morrow (Seton Hall) has an excellent post up over at the excellent blog Caritas et Veritas on the formation of the canon of Scripture.

It is astonishing to me the way certain myths persist in scholarship. One example is the traditional narrative about the formation of the canon. I don't have time to write a long post on this topic. Years ago I covered the development of the canon in a three-part piece I posted (part one, part two, part three). I wrote that piece years ago and I'd love to revisit it some time in the future. Although I'd like to go back and tweak it in parts, I'd still stand by what I said in the conclusion:

Don't Worry, Be Happy: The Readings for the 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my LORD has forgotten me.”
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you. (Isaiah 49:14-15)

Today’s first reading is from the second half of Isaiah (40-66), which is, for the most part, one long word of comfort to Israel concerning the glories of the coming age.  In this passage, “Zion” is urged to take comfort in the fact that the Lord has not forgotten her.  Zion was the location in Jerusalem of the royal palace and government of the Kingdom of David.  (If you want to see it live, come with me in May to Jerusalem).  The Kingdom of David is, according to Raymond Brown ...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Jesus as the Davidic Messiah in Matthew (Part 2 of 2)

Following up from part 1, here's the rest. Am I missing any major piece of the puzzle here that wouldn't require a lot of explanation?

6.          Jesus’ Davidic Exorcistic and Healing Powers. Jesus’ exorcisms and healings seem especially tied to his role as the Davidide. The blind healed by him address him specifically as “son of David” (cf. Matt 9:27; 20:31). Likewise, accounts of his exorcisms are linked with his role as the “son of David” (cf. Matt 15:22). Indeed, David was associated with exorcistic and healing abilities (cf. 1 Sam 16:14–23; Josephus, A.J. 166–68; 11QPsa XI, 2–11; L. A. B. 60:1). There are also numerous ancient references to Solomon’s abilities as an exorcist and healer (cf. Wis 7:20; Josephus, A.J. 8:42–49; Apoc. Adam 7:13).[1]
7.          The Twelve Appointed by the Son of David (Matt 10:1). Jesus’ appointment of “twelve” no doubt had multifaceted significance. Given the other Solomonic echoes present in Jesus’ ministry, it is perhaps noteworthy that Solomon appointed twelve officers (1 Kgs 4:20). Furthermore, as many have noted, the imagery likely points to eschatological hopes involving the expectation of the ingathering of the twelve tribes, including the twelve northern tribes lost since the Assyrian exile.[2] Indeed, the image of a Pan-Israelite kingdom was uniquely linked with David and Solomon, the two kings who alone reigned over all twelve tribes. Not surprisingly then the hope for the restoration of the twelve tribes was frequently linked with Davidic figures.[3] Thus, as others have noted, the period of the united kingdom of David and Solomon provided the ideal model for futurist expectations.[4] Scholars have therefore suggested that Jesus’ ministry in Galilee should be understood against such a backdrop, i.e., as an attempt to restore the unity that once existed under David and Solomon.[5]
8.          Jesus’ Solomonic Wisdom. That Jesus is able to answer those with “hard questions” appears related to Solomonic traditions. As the Queen of Sheba came to “test” (LXX 1 Kgdms 10:1: πειράζοντες) Solomon with hard questions, Jesus responds to those who sought to “test” him (cf. Matt 19:3: πειράζων; 22:35: πειράζων).
9.          The Son of David Enters the City. The picture of Jesus riding on a colt into a city amidst a shouting crowd clearly resembles Solomon’s coronation (1 Kgs 1:33, 38). Matthew specifically links Jesus’ entry into the city with Zechariah’s eschatological prophecy of a coming king (Zech 9:9), a passage that appears modeled on Davidic and Solomonic traditions.[6] Indeed, the evangelist clearly links this event to Davidic traditions: the crowd responds, “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Matt 21:9).[7] Although some scholars question whether Jesus actually intended the allusion,[8] to think that he was not aware of what his action would evoke stretches the imagination, especially given the fact that others apparently readily made the connection to Davidic traditions!
10.          The Passion of the Davidic King. It is particularly in the passion narrative in Matthew’s Gospel that Jesus’ royal identity is especially underscored. he suffers as “the King of the Jews” (Matt 27:29, 37). Caiaphas directly links Jesus’ supposed identity as “Christ” with “divine sonship status,” a connection which as we mentioned above suggests a Davidic pedigree to his messianic identity. The connection between his messianic role as his identity as son of God is also made by those at the foot of the cross (Matt 27:40, 42). In light of this it is perhaps significant that Jesus’ passion is consistently linked with imagery from Davidic psalms (e.g., Matt 27:46=Ps 22:1; Matt 27:29=22:8; etc.)—i.e., Jesus’ suffering is cast in Davidic terms.[9] Indeed, there are numerous parallels between David’s suffering and Jesus’: (1) like Jesus, he was himself betrayed by a confidant (1 Sam 15:21); as Jesus does after the Last Supper, David went up to the Mount of Olives when his life was being sought (1 Sam 15:23; Matt 26:30); David’s betrayer hung himself, like Judas (1 Sam 17:23; Matt 27:5).  

[1] Especially important is the combination in Josephus’ account of Solomon’s exorcistic abilities with his role as healer (cf. A.J. 8.45: “And God granted him knowledge of the art used against demons for the benefit of healing men” [Marcus, LCL]). See also the discussion in Meier, A Marginal Jew, 2:689. In addition, see the exorcistic connections made with Solomon in the Aramaic magical texts discussed by Loren Fisher, “Can This Be the Son of David?,” in Jesus and the Historian: Written in Honor of Ernest Cadman Colwell (ed. F. T. Trotter; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1968), 82–97; J. A. Montgomery, Aramaic Incantation Texts from Nippur (Philadelphia: The University Museum, 1913), 232; Cyrus H. Gordon, “Aramaic Magical Bowls in the Istanbul and Baghdad Museums,” ArOr 6 (1934): 319–34, 466–74; C. D. Isbell, Corpus of the Aramaic Incantation Bowls (SBLDS 17; Missoula, Mont.: Scholars Press, 1975), 108-111, 114-115.   
[2] Sanders writes, “The fact is that the number twelve itself, a part from the details of any individual saying, points to ‘all Israel’” (Jesus and Judaism, 104).
[3] See, e.g., Isa 9:1–9; 11:1, 11–13; Jer 23:5–6; 30:1–11; Ezek 34:23–31; 37:15–19; Pss. of Sol. 17:31. As Laato points out, the two most celebrated Davidic kings after Solomon, Hezekiah and Josiah, both exhibited the concern for the northern tribes (2 Chr 30:10; 34:6, 33). See Antti Laato, A Star is Rising: The Historical Development of the Old Testament Royal Ideology and the Rise of the Jewish Messianic Expectations (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997), 233.
[4] In fact, the Dead Sea Scrolls frequently merge historical texts about David with an eschatological expectations (e.g., 4Q174 [4QFlorilegium] frags. 1 col. i, 21, 2; 4Q457b [4QEschatological Hymn]; 4Q504 (4QDibHama) I-II; 4Q522 [4QProphecy of Joshua] IX]. See Yuzuru Miura, David in Luke-Acts, 70–77. See also Shemaryahu Talmon, “‘Exile’ and ‘Restoration’ in the Conceptual World of Ancient Judaism,” in Restoration: Old Testament, Jewish & Christian Perspectives (SJSJ 72; ed. J. M. Scott; Leiden: Brill, 2001), 119: “the glorified ‘golden age’ of David and Solomon . . . becomes the matrix of an idealized portrayal of a future reconstitution of the realm . . . in its former boundaries, with its sociopolitical institutions and apparatus.” Likewise, see Aune, “Restoration in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature,” in Restoration, 159: “[the restoration was] often linked with the related themes of the recovery of the land and the re-establishment of the monarchy. . .”
[5] In particular, see the insightful research in Joel Willitts, Matthew's Messianic Shepherd-King: In Search of the The host Sheep of the House of Israel' (BNZW 127; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2007). Willitts writes, “Within the parameters of the Gospel of Matthew, the mission of Jesus and his disciples to 'the lost sheep of the house of Israel' is particular, temporal and Galilean. It is a mission to remnants of the Northern Kingdom within the Greater Galilean region who still lay in exile’” (229). See also David Ravens, Luke and the Restoration of Israel (JSOTSup 119; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 99: “This restoration did not just entail the Jews alone but something altogether more grand: nothing less than a return to the unity that had once existed under David.”
[6] It seems clear that the imagery in Zechariah 9:9 was linked with Davidic traditions. Not only does the passage use language reminiscent of Solomon’s entrance into Jerusalem (1 Kgs 1:33, 38), the vision also includes language in verse 10 (ומשלו מים עד־ים ומנהר עד־אפסי־ארץ) which also appears in Psalm 72, a psalm whose superscription links it to Solomon (וירד מים עד־ים ומנהר עד־אפסי־ארץ). In addition, the territory mentioned in Zechariah 9:1–8 includes the boundaries of David’s empire. See P. D. Hanson, “Zechariah 9 and the Recapitulation of an Ancient Ritual Patter,” JBL 92 (1973): 48–50 [37–59]; idem., The Dawn of Apocalyptic (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1989), 317–20; Wilhelm Rudolph, Haggai, Sacharja 1–8, Sacharja 9–14 (KAT 13/4; Güttersloh: Mohn, 1976), 170.
[7] It should also be pointed out that the crowds’ action of spreading garments on the ground before him (Matt 21:8), mirrors the way the people greet the newly crowned king of Israel in 2 Kings 9:13. This parallel has been noted by many scholars, e.g., Brent Kinman, “Jesus’ Royal Entry into Jerusalem,” in Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus (WUNT 247; eds. D. L. Bock and R. Webb; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2010), 405 n. 58; R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 779; William Craig Lane, The Gospel of Mark (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 433. Against this backdrop it is interesting that the crowds also seem to evoke Tabernacles imagery by citing Psalm 118 and using branches (cf. Matt 21:8; John 12:13), a feast which also seems to have been linked with the enthronement of the king. See Andrew C. Brunson, Psalm 118 in the Gospel of John: An Intertextual Study on the New Exodus (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003), 42–45. The use of such imagery does not necessarily imply that the entrance took place on Tabernacles as T.W. Manson suggested (“The Cleansing of the Temple,” BJRL 33 [1950–1951]: 271–82), but may imply an improvised celebration (e.g., France, Gospel of Matthew, 779), which was meant to evoke such traditions.
[8] See, e.g., Paula Fredriksen, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews (New York: Vintage, 1999), 247.
[9] For a fuller discussion see Stephen P. Ahearne-Kroll, The Psalms of Lament in Mark’s Passion: Jesus’ Davidic Suffering (SNTSMS 142; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

No, Archaeology is not the Enemy of Faith

This was a spot I did about a month ago on Catholic Answers radio. I'll be doing another show with them next month (March 11, 4pm), when I'll be talking about the Catholic Church's teaching on the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture. I am also slated to return on May 20 (4pm) to discuss the "Synoptic Problem," that is, the question of the relationship of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke to one another. I'll just say that Mark Goodacre will be getting some publicity on that one!

What is the Biblical Form of Church Government?

Yesterday's feast day, the Feast of the Chair of Peter, and today's Feast of St. Polycarp (an early bishop), bring up to my mind the issue of the structure and government of the Church.

During my years of training to become a Calvinist pastor, the issue of church polity was quite a live one.  Calvinists themselves do not agree on what is the "biblical model" for church government.  Presbyterian, Reformed, and Congregational denominations share a Calvinist doctrinal heritage but different governing structures.  There was more or less a consensus that the New Testament was unclear about the manner in which church leaders should be selected and what their roles were.

It may be true that the New Testament leaves much unsaid about the role of church leaders, but I don't think it is as unclear as we thought it was.  Rather, I think that what was clear was not seen by us, because it was unacceptable and unworkable for us.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Thanks Lubbock!

I know I speak for Dr. Hahn and Dr. Pitre when I offer my heartfelt thanks to all those who came out to the Footsteps in Faith conference over the past weekend in Lubbock.

About 1,500 people showed up for this exciting event.

As it is every year, the conference was a blast. In particular, it was great to spend time with Bishop Placido Rodriguez. In addition, it was an honor to once again spend time with the good people involved with the Footsteps in Faith organization as well as all of the participants. With each year the faces are getting more and more familiar! Praise God!


My Review of Brant Pitre's "Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist"

Jesus+and+the+Jewish+Roots+of+the+Eucharist.jpgBrant Pitre's book Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist has now reached the status of run-away best seller! Over the past couple of days it has reached the #1 and #2 position in a number of key categories on ("Books on Catholicism," "History of Religions," "Judaism," etc.).

Some of the reviews are embarrassing--to the reviewers (though they seem to fail to realize it).

The reaction to the book has exposed the fact that anti-Semitism is alive and well. One reviewer who trashes the book, promotes another in its place: 
Judaism Discovered: A Study of the Anti-Biblical Religion of Racism, Self-Worship, Superstition and DeceitThe Traditions of the Jews.
Seriously. . . stop beating around the bush and tell me what you really think! 

The book is likely to also upset other people harboring other kinds of prejudices (see below).

Anyways, here is the review of the book I posted up at It is aimed at popular readers. I suppose I ought to write another to encourage academics to pick it up as well.

Brant Pitre's book, "Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist", is a tour-de-force of biblical scholarship and theology.

Although Jesus clearly stated that "salvation is from the Jews" (John 4:22) and although he told his disciples, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you" (Matt 23:2-3), far too often the Jewish roots of Christianity have been ignored. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Jesus as the Davidic Messiah in Matthew (Part 1 of 2)

I am currently working up an article on the imagery of the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" in Matthew 16:18. As part of the article I'm discussing the Davidic Christology of Matthew. I'm trying to be as thorough as possible. I'm going to post the first five illustrations here and then follow-up with five more. 

1.      “The Son of David” (Matt 1:1). Matthew begins his Gospel by connecting Jesus’ role as the Χριστός to his identity as the “son of David” (Matt 1:1). The genealogy that follows in chapter 1 further undercores Jesus’ Davidic lineage.[1] As scholars note, its division into three sets of fourteen generations also seems to underscore its Davidic nature since fourteen is the numeric value of David’s name in Hebrew. Further reinforcing the impression that this sort of gemetria is at work is the fact that David’s name is the fourteenth name on in list.[2]

Friday, February 18, 2011

"Be Perfect": The Readings for the Seventh Week of Ordinary Time

The readings for the Seventh Week continue to explore Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.

The First Reading, from Leviticus 19, recalls that fact that ancient Israel was called to be a holy people because God dwelled among them.

The Book of Exodus ends with the completion and dedication of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness of Sinai.  God’s presence inhabits the Tabernacle, in the center of the Israelite camp.  From one perspective, the Book of Leviticus (most folks’ least favorite book of the Bible, although the one on which I wrote my dissertation) can be understood as a collection of laws to teach Israel how to live in the holy presence of their God.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: #1 in Catholic Books on Amazon!

I don't know how long this will last (probably not long!), but as of today, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, which was released two days ago, is ranked at #1 in three bestsellers lists!:

#1 in Books on Catholicism
#1 in Books on Judaism
#1 in Books on Ritual

I am a happy man.

To top it all off, on the Catholicism list and Ritual list, I'm shoulder to shoulder with my two favorite Catholic authors: Pope Benedict XVI and Scott Hahn.

Thanks again to everybody who helped with this project, especially the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, who gave me a generous grant to begin the research some five years ago.

Ad majorem dei gloriam!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Join Us In Lubbock, TX This Weekend!

This weekend Scott Hahn, Brant Pitre and I are returning for another conference with Bishop Placido Rodriguez and the Footsteps of Faith organization in Lubbock, TX. This year's theme is "Faith, Family, and Culture".

I'll be giving two talks. The first will focus on the Holy Family in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2. The second will look at the new translation of the Roman Missal (i.e., the Mass).

This conference is always a blast. Bishop Rodriguez is a shepherd with a heart for God's people and it is always an honor to be with him. And the people who come out for this conference are truly an impressive group--here you'll find over a thousand Catholics will well-worn Bibles in hand, ready to study God's Word!

Please consider showing up if you're in Texas. You can find out more information about the conference here.

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist Released Today!

Today's the day! After five years of research, and many months of waiting, my new book, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, was officially released by Doubleday Religion today, February 15th! 

As many of you know, I've been working on two manuscripts alongside one another for the last several years: one a readable and accesible book with Doubleday Religion and another longer academic monograph on Jesus and the Last Supper with Eerdmans. (The latter is still in progress.) These years of research on the eucharistic words and deeds of Jesus have been some of the most exciting of my life; it's tremendously gratifying to finally get to share some of it in print with a wide audience.

Here's a brief description from the Random House website, as well as the table of contents:

About The Book
In recent years, Christians everywhere are rediscovering the Jewish roots of their faith. Every year at Easter time, many believers now celebrate Passover meals (known as Seders) seeking to understand exactly what happened at Jesus’ final Passover, the night before he was crucified.
     Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist shines fresh light on the Last Supper by looking at it through Jewish eyes. Using his in-depth knowledge of the Bible and ancient Judaism, Dr. Brant Pitre answers questions such as: What was the Passover like at the time of Jesus? What were the Jewish hopes for the Messiah? What was Jesus’ purpose in instituting the Eucharist during the feast of Passover? And, most important of all, what did Jesus mean when he said, “This is my body… This is my blood”?
     To answer these questions, Pitre explores ancient Jewish beliefs about the Passover of the Messiah, the miraculous Manna from heaven, and the mysterious Bread of the Presence. As he shows, these three keys—the Passover, the Manna, and the Bread of the Presence—have the power to unlock the original meaning of the Eucharistic words of Jesus. Along the way, Pitre also explains how Jesus united the Last Supper to his death on Good Friday and his Resurrection on Easter Sunday. 
      Inspiring and informative, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist is a groundbreaking work that is sure to illuminate one of the greatest mysteries of the Christian faith: the mystery of Jesus’ presence in “the breaking of the bread.”

Table of Contents
Foreword by Scott Hahn
1. The Mystery of the Last Supper
2. What Were the Jewish People Waiting For?
3. The New Passover
4. The Manna of the Messiah
5. The Bread of the Presence
6. The Fourth Cup and the Death of Jesus
7. The Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith
8. On the Road to Emmaus

For a full list of thanks-givings, you can see the acknowledgements section of the book. But I would like a take a moment here to especially thank my good friend Scott Hahn, who graciously agreed to write the Foreword to the book, my editors at Doubleday Religion, especially Gary Jansen and John Burke, for their fantastic hard work in bringing the whole thing to fruition. 
Last, but certainly not least, I want to thank my wife Elizabeth, to whom the book is dedicated, for everything. To top off what is already a great day, the book, which is dedicated to Elizabeth, was (in God's providence) released on her birthday! 
Happy birthday, my love. I hope you like your present.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Jesus, the Divine Law-Giver: Thoughts on the Lectionary for the Sixth Week of Ordinary Time

In the Gospel Reading for today’s Mass (Feb. 13), we continue to read from the Sermon on the Mount (Mat 5:17-37):

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.
I have come not to abolish but to fulfill....

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you, whoever is angry with brother will be liable to judgment ....

“You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery.
But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust
has already committed adultery with her in his heart....

It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.
But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife - unless the marriage is unlawful -
causes her to commit adultery....

“Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow.
But I say to you, do not swear at all....

In this Gospel Reading, Jesus “dares” to correct not only the common interpretations of the Law of Moses, but even (in places) the Law of Moses itself!

Friday, February 11, 2011

What is the Pillar and Bullwark of the Truth?

Here’s one of those verses I never saw for thirty years before becoming a Catholic:

1Tim. 3:14   I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that,  15 if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.

St. Paul here asserts that the Church is “the pillar and bulwark of the truth.” (I accept Bo Reicke’s arguments that the pastoral epistles are genuinely Pauline.)

Can a Calvinist call the Church the “pillar and bulwark of the truth”?  I submit: only with difficulty.  A Calvinist is much more comfortable calling the Scriptures the “pillar and bulwark of the truth.”  But that verse isn’t in the Bible.

What ecclesiology is assumed by the statement “the Church ... [is] the pillar and bulwark of the truth”?

I suggest it entails an ecclesiology in which the Church is a (1) single, (2) visible body.

If the Church wasn’t a single body, it could not serve very well as the “pillar and bulwark” of the truth, because one would not know which of the various churches was teaching the truth.

If the Church wasn’t a visible body, it could not serve very well as the “pillar and bulwark of the truth,” because it could not be identified with certainty, nor could it speak with clarity.  An invisible, voiceless Church cannot be the support and defense of the truth.

Therefore, I submit that St. Paul assumes that Church is a single, visible body.  His ecclesiology is Catholic.

But everyone is free to contradict me.  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Confession iApp

The priest who is co-leading a pilgrimage to the Holy Land May 9-18 with me, Fr. Dan Scheidt, was part of the team who came up with the first iApp to receive an imprimatur.

Father Dan was the theological consultant for the project, and then got the finished app an imprimatur from Fort Wayne-South Bend's (think "Notre Dame's") Bishop Kevin Rhodes.

Friends from South Bend sent me an announcement a few weeks ago:

The app received an imprimatur from Bishop Kevin C. Rhodes of the Diocese of Fort Wane - South Bend, IN. It is the first known imprimatur to be given for an iPhone/iPad application. The text was developed in collaboration with Rev. Thomas G. Weinandy, OFM, Executive Director of the Secretariat for Doctrine and Pastoral Practices of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Rev. Daniel Scheidt, pastor of Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Mishawaka, IN.

The release of the app follows Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for January 2011: "That young people may learn to use modern means of social communication for their personal growth and to better prepare themselves to serve society."

To see the app, click here.

For an example of the buzz it's creating in the news media, click here.

To go on a pilgrimage with this amazing priest, click here.

UPDATE: The buzz has already reached the Vatican: click here.

UPDATE: Interview with the South Bend creators of the iApp: click here.

Monday, February 07, 2011

In the Beginning, God Created ...

Speaking of translations, the Mass readings for today (Feb 7) began with Genesis 1:1. The version used in mass is an adaptation of the NAB, and reads:

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland ...

Interestingly, "when" is not in the Hebrew. The Hebrew, according to the Masoretic pointing, reads "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." I did a study on this some years ago, and all the ancient translations--the Greek (LXX), the Latin (V), the Syriac (S), etc.--also read "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."

Nonetheless, the NAB's reading--with the slipped-in "when", which makes v. 1 a temporal clause with v. 2, rather than a separate sentence--is the current "fashionable" approach. That's how the NRSV and the New Jewish Publication Society (NJPS) versions also read. What's the agenda here?

It also raises an interesting question. What does it mean to say, "The text means X," when there's no evidence that anyone understood the text to mean "X" prior to, say, your own generation? Second Temple Judaism, the New Testament authors, the Church Fathers, the Medievals, etc. all read "In the beginning God created ..." What does it mean to now say, that's not the "meaning" of the text? Can the "meaning" really be different than what everyone understood the meaning to be? Whatever one's answer, it's an interesting question.

Friday, February 04, 2011

The NAB: Why It's Better to Stay Literal When Possible

Adding on to Michael's comments below on the NAB, I want to point out my personal pet peeve with the translation.

The RSVCE, 2nd ed., provides a fairly literal translation of Psalm 8:4-6:

What is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him little less than the angels,
and you have crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands,
and have put all things under your feet.
The NAB, however, renders v. 4:
What are humans that you are mindful of them,
Mere mortals that you care for them?
Rendering the Hebrew "son of man" as "mere mortals" has multiple difficulties--moving from singular to plural, introducing the concept of "mere," and guessing that the sacred author's intention was to stress the mortality of humanity as the salient issue in his poem.

But most of all, based on Psalm 8:4-6, Daniel 7:13, and other texts, the title "Son of Man" acquired a messianic sense in Second Temple Judaism (i.e. the Judaism of the New Testament). The "Son of Man" in some pseudepigraphal Second Temple documents, like 1 Enoch, is a supernatural savior figure, not a "mere mortal"!

This sheds light on what Jesus meant when he called himself "The Son of Man." He was not claiming to be mortal. He was claiming to be the one who has "dominion over all the works of [God's] hands", and who has "all things under his feet" (see Ephesians 2:22!). That Jesus meant his self-identification as "Son of Man" messianically is clear in his testimony before the Sanhedrin (Matt 26:54).

My point is, the NAB translation obscures the messianic reading of Psalm 8 and removes the verbal connection with Daniel 7 and Jesus' preferred form of self-identification. The intertextual dynamics of Scripture are obfuscated.

Having said that, let me also state that I appreciate the NAB translation of the Gospel of John, which highlights the "I AM" statements of Jesus. On the "I AM's" of John, the shoe is on the other foot: the various forms of the RSV add in too many words in English, obscuring the literal sense of the Greek.

The New American Bible Shakes Its "Booty": Why I'm Not Dancing

(Yes, I reposted this with a different heading. This title was better.)

Apparently we won't have to read about the "booty" of Israel's enemies in the revised version of the New American Bible due out in March . . . which is good. Why? Fr. Jenson explains:
The word "booty" also has taken on the slang meanings of "buttocks" or sometimes, "sexual intercourse," instead of its primary meaning of "plunder," such as a marauding army might acquire.
Am I the only that finds it funny that a biblical scholar just used the word "buttocks". Maybe it's just late and I'm in a silly mood.

Other changes?

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Join Me Saturday for a Study of the Gospel of Matthew!

If you're in Southern California please consider coming out for the 3rd Annual Biblical Studies Conference at St. Louis De Montfort Catholic Church in Sante Maria. Yours truly is speaking on the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel from which the Sunday Gospel readings are being taken this year.

The event is FREE.

Location: St. Louis De Montfort Catholic Church (website)
Address: 1190 E. Clark Ave, Sante Maria, CA 93455

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Shock Video!: Planned Parenthood Covers Up Underage Sex Trafficking

Obviously more will have to be done to verify this video, but the truth is--video like this is hard to dispute. I don't really know how there can be any "explanation" of this. This is HORRIFYING. These people are soul-less. (That of course is not theologically precise but let's not quibble here.) Please help spread this around. Please. Sex trafficking of minors isn't simply a problem in other countries but children are being abused right here in the States. Take a stand. And once again it seems amateurs are forced into doing the kind of investigative reporting the mainstream media should be about. UPDATE: More on the investigation here. This is not an isolated incident.