James Crossley's blog Contact: jgcrossley10 - AT - yahoo - DOT - co - DOT - uk

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Mark 7.19c, Mark Goodacre and common rooms for the 21st century

More from the senior common room of the future! ;-)

Mark Goodacre has made a notable point on the problematic translation of Mk 7.19 (usually translated something like 'declaring all foods clean') and how the participle 'declaring' matches up with 'he said' in verse 18. I didn't write on this in The Date of Mark's Gospel because I felt my reading of Mark 7 worked withthe strongest posible translation of Mk 7.19c. Actually alternative translations would arguably have seemed, on the surface at least, to be more useful for my case. Maybe, maybe not, but back to the problems of translation.

I also have reservations about how we translate Mark 7.19 but no solution. One possibility might be the Aramaic/Syriac background. I'm remembering off the top of my head at the moment but I think, for what it is worth, one Syriac translation might have an interesting translation which ties in the food being cleansed with its transmission through the body (that's a polite way of wording it I suppose!). Matthew Black made a few comments on this (off the top of my head, again, so, again, this will need confirming) and argued something like this kind of reading was possible and that there could also be some confusion with the active and passive of the Aramaic form of cleanse (dky). Now as I can't check this at the moment I have no idea if it is a useful argument or if the relevant Aramaic texts Black cites are sufficently early or indeed if I've remembered things particularly well. But with unusual grammar some underlying Aramaic form is at least worth considering in these kinds of problems. What that does to the Greek form when read orally as Mark (Goodacre) wonders I have no idea.

Stephen Carlson's review of The Date of Mark's Gospel

Biblioblogger Stephen Carlson (hypotyposeis) has a very detailed review of The Date of Mark's Gospel. I am obviously pleased by the comments he has made and that he has paid it such a degree of attention. I am also particularly pleased that he has paid a lot of attention to the legal material and Mark 7 because I think this is the real heart of my case.

I'll only respond briefly for now on the Patristic material as presently can't check things. On Irenaeus I am not entirely hostile to the idea that he thought Mark was written after Peter's death but I just think that the evidence is ambiguous. I'm not hostile either to the idea of the post-Clement testimony for an early date being later polemic with little historical value for reconstructing first century events. This is because, ultimately, I am not convinced that the Patristic evidence holds much weight largely due to the suspicious linking of Peter and Mark and a gospel criticised for, among other things, a lack of order. I don't think this proves that Markan authorship is invented but that the internal evidence and internal evidence which contradicts the external evidence can start to carry serious weight.

I note that Stephen is happy with the minimal engagement with the whole 'Secret Mark' thing. I was always very uncomfortable with the use of 'Secret Mark' in scholarship but thankfully Stephen's book has now come out and looks like it is having a significant impact.

Stephen focuses mostly on my legal arguments and I should immediately point out that he has well and truly grasped the key point I make, one which has often been overlooked or misinterpreted in other engagements with my book. As he says:
This is where Painter’s criticism of Crossley that “the proverbial saying has implications in relation to the food laws as well as hand washing” is a little bit off: if Crossley is right about the Mark’s historical context, those implications would not be actually be perceived until the historical context changes. I think this shows how important it is to the get the context right for interpretation. If Mark was written in the 60s or 70s, Mark 7:19c clearly means what it is traditionally thought to have meant, but, if the text actually goes back to the 30s or 40s, then Mark 7:19c would have to mean something different.
Again, I would stress again, that is precisely the issue at hand.

Stephen, however, ultimately comes down against me on the historical context of Mk 7.19c.
If this redactor was sensitive enough to include vv. 3-4 for the benefit of the Gentiles in the gospel’s audience, then it stands to reason that this redactor should have clarified the true scope of v. 19c, also for the benefit of the Gentiles. The redactor’s failure to do is difficult to account for (editorial fatigue, perhaps?). On the other hand, if v. 19c was added for the benefit of Gentiles, then it places this layer of Mark in the context in which the food laws were being controverted. As Mark can be no earlier than its latest portion, this dates Mark no earlier than the 50s and consistent with modern scholarship.
In response I would argue that in a law observant gentile context where the few if any in the Christian movemnt had yet to stop observing major biblical laws (at least in the presence of the law observant), Mk 7.19c is not the kind of thing that would require further explanation for gentiles dedicated to biblical laws because it would not be an issue. We also have a historical problem here about how far gentiles had 'converted' and what kind of purity laws they were supposed to be observing. If gentiles dedicated to observing major biblical laws did not go so far as being circumcised (such people appear to be around in the ancient world) then it is difficult to see how purity laws would have any impact on them, particularly in the light of Klawans' and Hayes' respective challenges to Alon's notion of gentile impurity: i.e. there was no such thing at the time and therefore (I would add) it would have no bearing on purity issues at the meal table. In that case Mk 7.19c may have more relevance for Jewish Christians (and any gentile who gone the whole way and been circumcised) not dedicated to hand-washing. Furthermore, the whole of Mark 7.1-23 is grounded in terms of clean and unclean in relation to expanded purity and therefore there would be no need to explain what all food being clean meant: food permitted in the Bible was ok to eat and, from their perspective, the Pharisaic notion that it was unclean due to unclean hands is wrong.

I would re-stress on this point the tendency in both Mark and the synoptic tradition of portraying a Law observant Jesus coupled with the consistent and very clear emphasis on commandment versus tradition in Mk 7.1-23. With the above arguments on purity laws I think this provides an argument of collective weight for Mk 7.19c as a rejection of hand-washing rather than biblical food laws.

Stephen also raises some interesting questions relating to a potential source. Like Stephen, I'm not quite ready for this as a part of a solution to the synoptic problem but let me just add another (admittedly speculative) possibility which I'm not convinced is necessarily right but, well, whatever... Instead of thinking in terms of a source, what about sources? This would also fit Maurice Casey's work which Stephen mentions. If pushed I would probably count myself among those who kind of work with the model of Markan priority and Q but who are also open to the idea of a much looser version of this model. E.g. a great deal more randomness in the transmission of the sources. In fact Casey argues for a more chaotic approach to Q - Q as a kind of shorthand for independent traditions in Aramaic and Greek rather than a fixed literary document. Perhaps pre-Markan traditions could be labelled as Q material in this sense? But as I say I'm speculating...

Anyway, back to it. Not only should I thank Stephen for such a detailed review but I should also mention that I enjoyed reading it, particualrly the fact that he has discussed my legal arguments thoroughly and fairly. The legal material, as Stephen righty points out, is an area which deserves more serious attention, not least because it is one of the central concerns in NT texts.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

RBL reviews of The Date of Mark's Gospel: A Response

There are two reviews of the Date of Mark’s Gospel in the latest RBL by John Painter and David du Toit. Thankfully they are not scathing, they are gentle, they provide some serious engagement with the arguments and make some nice comments. There’s no point me repeating what they say (ok, one exception) so I will focus naturally enough on the criticisms and make a response.

While I’d prefer to focus on the criticisms made by the two scholars, I can’t resist in noting this comment by du Toit (which certain readers of this blog will enjoy more than others): ‘Crossley first refutes, convincingly so, N. T. Wright’s recent defence of the historicity of Mark 13.’ ;-)

While David du Toit seems to have some time for my argument on Mark 13 he does suggest that Mark 13.7-8 implies a retrospective look at wars, earthquakes and famines and therefore a later date. Even if we read this passage literally I did give evidence of such events in the 30s so this kind of reading would not contradict the early date.

One point made by du Toit is inaccurate. He argues that I make the assumption that there was a linear development of the Law in earliest Christianity based on Acts and Paul. He claims that we should look for a more non-linear and chaotic approach. But I never assumed this and do not believe it. As du Toit says it is an improbable assumption. In fact I am in complete agreement with what du Toit says, aside from the comments that it is an assumption I hold. What I was doing was showing when the first examples of non-observance were occurring. I am completely aware that there were Christians who held different views. As it happens I’ve used a kind of chaotic model of Law (non-) observance in a forthcoming book (this summer) on the spread of earliest Christianity.

On my argument concerning Mark 7 John Painter seems to imply that I rely on Matthew’s interpretation of Mark and tendencies elsewhere in Mark. This is true to some extent but my main argument is based on the role of impurity in Jewish hand-washing traditions where impurity is transmitted from unwashed hands to the food to the insides. This is why I do not think Mark 7.15, 19 necessarily goes against Jewish Law because both food and insides can be defiled in hand-washing law. Then the supplementary arguments about tendency in the tradition can be used to back this argument up.


A couple of general comments not based on the above review but more on the book and its reception. A consensus of the date of Mark variety was never going to be over turned by one book, no matter how strongly I believe it. My own view is that a consensus frequently needs wider social or intellectual shifts but that’s another question. One of my hopes about the Date of Mark’s Gospel was that it would at least make people wary about assumptions when dating the gospel. My main interest was in pushing even further for a more Law observant Jesus and Jesus movement (in certain quarters!). I think the latter now has enough scholarly backing (not to mention several big names) and will be a difficult argument to overturn.

I’m also interested in the idea of me being a conservative historian and using conservative arguments. I’ve never thought of myself in this way but I suppose in the case of the Date of Mark’s Gospel it is true as a few people have now pointed out. I plead sort of guilty. One Sheffield person now teases me by claiming I’m a maximalist! In my defence ;-) I did argue for Mark 13 being almost entirely secondary and most frequently I do tend to say that this or that could have gone back to Jesus not that it definitely does. I also argue that the tradition is pretty chaotic concerning historically useful material (about the historical Jesus that is) and that early date does not necessarily equal historical accuracy. But I’ve got to say that I’m perfectly happy to use conservative and evangelical arguments because statistically they are going to get something right. I’m not a great believer in following certain scholarly trends, as if one scholarly movement somehow is the path to the true understanding. Besides, as I’ve mentioned several times before on this blog, my view of history is less concerned for ‘did this or that event happen’ or other such questions but more ‘why did this or that happen’. For me social, geographical and economic history is of more interest.

By the way, and if you hadn't already noticed, the irony isn't lost on me that I feel the need to defend my conservtive leanings concerning the historical usefulness of the synoptic gospels.

Biblical Studies Carnival

As others have mentioned from Tyler Williams at Codex Blogspot...

Call for Submissions: Biblical Studies Carnival II

This is a call for submissions and nominations for the second Biblical Studies Carnival, a monthly carnival showcasing the best of weblog posts in the area of academic biblical studies. I will be hosting the next Carnival here at Codex on February 1, 2006.

While I will be giving preference to blog posts published in the month of January 2006, since the last Biblical Studies Carnival was in April 2005 (hosted by Ebla Logs), I will allow posts since that time (consider these the best posts of 2005).

Please read on for information about the Biblical Studies Carnival and how to submit an entry or check out the Biblical Studies Carnival Homepage for more information.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Jim West has changed

Jim West's Biblical Theology blog has died; long live First Baptist Church of Petros blog.

Here is Jim's rationale:

I have a few minutes so I thought I would offer something of a rationale for this particular site. Readers of various weblogs will know that most recently I redacted the Biblical Theology blog. That blog, it seemed to me, had run its course and it was time for a re-evaluation of its purpose, and my own efforts in the use of this important web communication tool.

So today I laid the Biblical Theology weblog to rest. It's time had come. Though enjoyable, and I believe useful to many, I thought it important to refocus. It has been my very strong feeling since my College days that people in the pew are in need of serious, disciplined, concise, and well researched biblical and theological information. Hence, with the new year comes a new direction in my own efforts in the blogosphere. The former blog focused on Biblical Theology for the academic community- and this blog will focus on biblical and theological studies for the Church itself- the community of faith.

I hope that those who valued the previous incarnation will also enjoy visiting here. Many things will remain the same. Many things will change. Stay tuned!

And for new readers, feel free to make use of the comment feature. Let me, and others, know what you're thinking and about what you are looking for.

I am exceedingly hopeful that amidst the sea of biblical and theolgical mis-information presently online this page and the companion Biblical Studies Resources pages will be an island of what the author of Timothy had in mind when he described Pastor's as those who "rightly divide the word of truth".

Friday, January 13, 2006

Paintings and Theology



Benjamin Myers has more on his essentials for theologians (novels, poems, music). This time paintings with help of Kim Fabricius.

Here's one I like: Max Ernst, Virgin Spanking Infant Jesus before Three Witnesses (1926). It isn't necessarily the most orthordox but it does raise the interesting question of who has done the wrong deed(s). And why is Mary wearing red?

Latest JSHJ

The latest Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus is out and outlined by Michael Bird. I don't seem to be able to get to the latest edition online so the electronic version might not be available just yet.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

More Dawkins

For all Dawkins fans: an interview in the Guardian with reference to the TV programme and his forthcoming book The God Delusion.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Dawkins on Religion: The Channel 4 Programme

There has just been a Channel 4 programme here in the UK by the very anti-religious Richard Dawkins on religion and why he thinks it is a bad thing. My general view of Dawkins on religion has been at best very mixed. Despite appearances I'm not anti-religious at all and I certainly don't believe religion is the root of all evil. In fact I don't think by itself it is inherently good or evil (in some ways like science you could say). As I've said before, in most cases it requires some kind of specific socio-economic context to trigger off deadly responses. It's happened with secular Marxists too which should say something.

Dawkins mentioned the key point of unshakeable belief in being absolutely right and told to believe but religion doesn't have a monopoly on this. This may be structurally the same kind of thing as religious belief of course.

And there are of course countless examples of Jew living peacefully with Muslim, Christian with Jew, Muslim with Christian or whatever. That fact alone should say something about the importance of social, ecnomic and political factors. I think there is some serious danger in blaming religion for the problems in the Middle East or wherever in that it shifts blame away from the serious damage that can be done by social, economic and political systems.

So for me there was simply not enough stress on non-religious problems. Dawkins did concede in passing problems such as 'even' social deprivation in Bradford. That is just not enough. There are plenty of available and empirically grounded historical and sociological approaches which have shown that social and economic circumstances can lead to historical change and action. Think of an example known to your biblioblogger: C1 Palestine. Did banditry emerge because of religion alone? Or did it emerge due to a complex of economic change, bad harvests, politics, and so on? Look at it this way: without religion would the world be any more safe?

But some parts of Dawkins argument cannot be denied. The religious views on condoms and AIDS was the obvious one to chose and a pretty undeniable example. Yet would such views be avoided without religion? I don't know.

Perhaps there would be more open thought without religion. There should be little doubt that secularism and the much maligned 'Enlightenment' among certain Christians has had a genuinely important influence on free thinking. As John Cleese once said in response to criticism of Life of Brian: 400 years ago we would have been burned for saying such things - I'm saying we've made an advance. But religion has had to adapt to this and some have done so positively.

So Dawkins had some perfectly senisble points. Is it really so extreme to say that tradition and authority lead to belief in some frankly weird things (also found in scholarship I would say). The hostility to evolution and scientific views on the origins of the planet in parts of the US... And so on and so on. But then all I have to say is Stalinism, though that again can structurally be seen as religious belief for all its fraudulent scientific claims.

The conversation with the Republican conservative evangelical pastor was absolutely hilarious (not to mention all too familiar), particularly the bit when Dawkins pointed out that the pastor was completely wrong on the scientific views concerning evolution.

Incidentally, Dawkins noted that no miraculous cures ever have the growing back of a severed leg. As it turns out someone tried to convert me to a conservative evangelical form of Christianity by claiming precisely that.

Dangerous ideas, the miraculous and EH Carr

Tere is a particularly interesting debate on potentially dangerous ideas in NT studies provoked by Loren Rosson. This has inevitably led to a discussion of the resurrection and the miraculous. I'm not going to say much more than I have in Loren's comments but needless to say I find it very difficult to accept that it is entirely fair for NT studies to be able to resort to the miraculous.

Anyway, I just so happened to be re-reading EH Carr's outdated but still useful book What is History? (pp. 74-75). Here's just some food for thought I though might be worth highlighting even if it might be worded a little differently these days:

'To be an astronomer is compatible with belief in a God who created and ordered the universe. But it is not compatible with a belief in a God who who intervenes at will to change the course of a planet, to postpone an eclipse, or to alter the rules of a cosmic game. In the same way it is sometimes suggesed, a serious historian may believe in a God who has ordered, and given meaning to, the course of history as a whole, though he cannot believe in the Old Testament kind of God who intervenes to slaughter the Amalekites, or cheats on the calendar by extending the hours of daylight for the benefit of Joshua's army. Nor can he invoke God as an explanation of particular historical events.'

Carr the goes on to quote Father M. C. D'Arcy who argues that the mundane explanations must come first and only then bring in the wider considerations. Carr then gives what I think is an important point:

'The awkwardness of this view is that it appears to treat religion like the joker in the pack of cards, to be reserved for really important tricks that cannot be taken in any other way.'

Carr also dismisses the idea of some supernatural 'purpose' behind history even if all the details of history are left to the secular. He concludes, 'I shall assume that the historian must solve his problems without recourse to any such deus ex machina, that history is a game played, so to speak, without a joker in the pack.' (My italics)

I also noticed this interesting quote from Polybius in a footnote: 'Wherever it is possible to find out the cause of what is happening, one should not have recourse to the gods.'

Friday, January 06, 2006

Some controversial programme

Noticed this on Yahoo news thinking it was something else but still an interesting issue.


By RACHEL ZOLL, AP Religion Writer Fri Jan 6, 7:20 AM ET

NEW YORK - Two television stations are refusing to broadcast a new NBC series about an Episcopal priest who abuses painkillers, has a gay son, a promiscuous straight son, a daughter who deals marijuana, and a wife who drinks too much.

Conservative Christian groups have condemned the depiction of Jesus as blasphemous, accusing the writers of portraying Christ as tolerant of sin in talks with the priest.

NBC affiliates KARK in Little Rock, Ark., and WTWO in Terre Haute, Ind., said sensitivity to viewers led them not to air "The Book of Daniel," which debuts Friday. In Little Rock, the WB affiliate has arranged to show the drama instead.

"If my action causes people in our community to pay more attention to what they watch on television, I have accomplished my mission," Duane Lammers, WTWO's general manager, said in a statement on his station's Web site.

The series stars Aidan Quinn as the Rev. Daniel Webster, who discusses his many troubles in regular chats with a robe-wearing, bearded Jesus. The American Family Association, in Tupelo, Miss., and Focus on the Family, the Colorado Springs group led by James Dobson, are asking supporters to lobby their local NBC affiliate to drop the show.

In a statement Thursday, NBC said, "We're confident that once audiences view this quality drama themselves, they'll appreciate this thought-provoking examination of one American family."

But the American Family Association said the series was another sign of NBC's "anti-Christian bigotry." Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, an anti-defamation group, called the series the "work of an embittered ex-Catholic homosexual."

The show's creator and executive producer, Jack Kenny, said he drew on the emotionally guarded family of his male partner for the series. He said his goal was to depict how "humor and grace" help a flawed man struggle with his faith and family. He said the writers never meant to mock religion or Jesus.

However, Bob Waliszewski, of Focus on the Family's teen ministries, said the show portrayed Christ as a "namby-pamby frat boy who basically winks at every sin and perversity under the sun."

"When the pastor's teen son is sexually active and having many romps with his 15-year-old girlfriend, this Jesus says, `A kid has to be a kid,'" Waliszewski said. "I don't think NBC would have portrayed a Muslim cleric or a Buddhist monk, the Dalai Lama, in a show this way. Why? Because they know to do so would be mean-spirited and insensitive."

James Naughton, a spokesman for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C., said a California Episcopal church is advising the series.

Naughton has read scripts for eight episodes and acknowledged that viewers could take away a troubling message about people of faith, instead of a positive one about overcoming temptation. Still, he said it was "a tremendous opportunity for evangelism for Episcopalians." The Washington Diocese has started a blog to comment on the show and invite discussion.

"To me, this is good for us no matter how it comes out because if people are talking about what Episcopalians are like, it creates tremendous opportunities for us to say, `Here's what we actually are like,'" Naughton said.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

A new book...

...by fellow blogger Peter Phillips coming out soon in the JSNTSup series. It's on John's Prologue with lots of literary theory too. And it's called, The Prologue of the Fourth Gospel: A Sequential Reading.

Phillips undertakes a sequential reading of the "Prologue of John's Gospel". By using the reading strategies of Iser, Emmott, and Eco, the book establishes a reading strategy termed sequential disclosure, which is then applied to the text. In order to arrive at the reading, preliminary chapters focus both on historical interpretation of the "Prologue", in terms of reader response and on the role of the author, the use of persuasion, and the development of irony. Special focus is given to the role of the dramatic prologue, as well as the interaction between rhetoric, irony, and community. As such, the book discusses the role of the reading process in developing a specific community language. The book focuses on the didactic role of the "Prologue" in teaching readers this language, and so including them into the Johannine community. The reading of the "Prologue" highlights the key aspects of the reading process: ambiguity and disambiguation; resemanticization; antilanguage; community development; and intertextuality. A sequential reading of the "Prologue" highlights the didactic and evangelistic role of this text.

I was once told by one of my favourite NT people that I would one day grow up and study John's gospel. While I think I may remain all Cliff Richard (IMPORTANT: only in the not growing up sense), I don't ignore it.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

D. J. Harrington and Date of Mark's Gospel

In the latest Journal of Religion Daniel J. Harrington reviews the Date of Mark's Gospel. It's a pretty nice review and he takes some of the key points seriously. I'm particularly pleased that there is another scholar open to a more Jewish view of the gospel of Mark and a more Jewish historical Jesus.

But what I found personally interesting were comments such as these: "Crossley's case for an early dating of Mark does not appear to proceed from religious conservatism." I wondered what conclusions on my religious persuasion people might come to and Harrington has of course got it right. But some get it dead wrong. Probably my favourite moment in the weird world of academia was being accused of the very opposite by one NT scholar when I was a PhD student who happened to mention my thesis (so before it was published to be fair). Yes, I was labelled a 'conservative evangelical'. I will treasure that forever and it is interesting the assumption made just because of the conclusions I had reached without me explaining the arguments.

Another interesting comment from Harrington was this: "He is, however, a conservative historian in the sense that he generally trusts what the ancient texts say (and do not say) and shows a high level of skepticism toward modern attempts at explaining them away in favor of literary and/or theological hypotheses." On the basis of the Date of Mark book that is true and I can hardly deny it. It is just strange being reminded about what I wrote a few years ago, esp. after what I've been working on this the past couple of years (although that work still forms an important basis of my next book). Also, I have not been working on those kinds of debates in the past couple of years and looking more at the general results of what we have with C1 Christianity and why we got them. Many of my views about e.g. John and certain parts of Mark are much more sceptical than the book suggests. But he point is that if pushed I think I would have to say I am more conservative in terms of historical accuracy than just about anyone outside conservative evangelical scholarship on most gospel traditions. I'm also very sceptical about denying (or proving) the historicity of this or that passage on the basis of literary structure: it tells us little as narrative is inevitable (etc. etc. etc.).

See, you do have a friend.

Arsenal 0 United 0

Well that's unsurprisingly that. Can't see Chelsea being touched this season as they relentlessly beat team after team. United may well finish second but you might hope that a weak Arsenal side wouldn't be such a great threat. United need a top class midfielder and soon. Oh well.