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Friday, October 03, 2008

Guild of Biblical Minimalists

First the arrival of Bishop Wrong, now...the Guild of Biblical Minimalists.

46 Comments:

Blogger Jim said...

i noticed that you were listed as an associate member- so congrats.

October 03, 2008

 
Anonymous steph said...

I expect the pendings will be forever pending. :-)

October 04, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

There must be plenty of good hypocrites out there in University chairs who would merit the 'Billy' Award. But why must one denounce only fundamentalistic interpretations? Does this indicate a subtle bias? Given that fundamentalistic has fairly specialised connotations, why not denounce Catholic interpretations also, Dr West? Yeah! Denounce Herr Ratzinger's published views. And award a double 'Billy' for coming out from under the bed and being honest instead being a Billy Liar.

October 04, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

So we have a new religion - The Church of Latter Day Minimalists. The true prophet and high priest being one Dr West, well known as a self-appointed high priest of the internet, interceding on behalf of the gods of academia uttering his prayer beginning "readers might like to". The godhead of the Minimalists to which all shall bow down is a self-contained quintilogy of hairy omniscients who can operate completely independently of their worshippers if they so wished. The high priest Dr West, who also thinks he is omniscient, prays that everyone will be converted to his way of thinking and come and worship at the feet of the godhead. He even writes special material so that mortals belonging to the unclean lower echelons down below can understand what the godhead has been telling him.

The new religion isn't really that new at all. It began when the godhead (gang of five old pals) and the high priest were filled with spirit one day and thought they would have a bit of a laugh, as they lay slain in the spirit on the pub floor. They had the bright idea of following St ignatious,, ecouraging folk to say one thing and believe another, awarding a 'Billy' to the best liar in the medieval tradition of the saint. Of course the awardee had to pay his indulgence to merit the 'Wright', sorry Billy' award. To be able to lie and achieve this award, would mean that the awardee had to be well and truly under the influence visiting all the pubs in Cambridge beforehand buying rounds for the godhead and the high priest. Then the potential awardee must confess to the gods of the Minimalists that he/she has sinned greatly in not acknowledging them as the founts of all biblical truth. After that, he/she can say anything they like, so long as they keep buying the rounds.

October 05, 2008

 
Anonymous steph said...

Get over it Geoff. Philip Davies is the godfather. Maybe you're just upset because he didn't invite you.

October 05, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

So how do biblical minimalists view arguments from silence? For example, there are no Pharisees in the DSS and Philo. Pharisees in the writings attributed to Josephus look like later interpolations, as they do in the NT. Jacob Neusner implies that Pharisees kept a very low profile. According to Sanders, Neusner said that "they dropped out of society". Also Sanders wrote that Neusner is "reluctant to attribute even the earliest stratum of rabbinic literature to the Pharisees", and "Thanks largely to the work of Jacob Neusner, many scholars have now come to realise that rabbinic literature must be used as evidence for pre-70 Judaism with extreme caution." So with all these negatives, one must have doubts about the pre 70 existence of Pharisees. Pharisees did not exist pre 70. Thus they were included in the NT later along with their characteristic law-related regulations as in Mk.7.

But that does not mean that the prophet did not come across problems related to traditions of the elders such as hand-washing within his own community of prophets or Essenes. For a start, doesnt' it seem strange that the prophet should have had his supposed enemies the Pharisees gathered around him at mealtime? (Mk.7:1). This was pretty obviously an editor's/story teller's fundamental mistake. Those gathered around were his friends or disciples who had just come from the market where the Essenes sold their food they had grown and gathered. His friends/fellow prophets began eating with unwashed hands. The elders of the Essenes challenged the prophet and reminded him about their usual practice of washing hands before eating. He simply replied that it was impure spirits that go into a person's heart that make a person unclean because unclean spirits (not thoughts) come out of men's hearts.

So the addition of Pharisees as opposition characters along with their emphasis on food related laws, was part and parcel of the editor's pauline introduction of his Jesus.

October 05, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Steph,

I get pretty uptight when confronted by condescending elititism (personified by this group) and the mutual back-scratching within it.

My grandfather being a Butler for 44 years to Sir William Dugdale and my mother being "in service" to him as a housemaid has not helped either. A La Republique!

October 05, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

I hope these Minimalist jokers are not indulging themselves at the taxpayer's or anyone else's expense. If they are, that would really make me choke Steph, to say the least.

October 05, 2008

 
Anonymous steph said...

Yup, I love my back being scratched.

October 05, 2008

 
Blogger N T Wrong said...

Be careful what you say about the Minimalists, Geoff. We have our people everywhere.

Many members of the Guild have also infiltrated the membership of the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy, the ranks of The Gay Agenda, and the radical branch of the Militant Atheists.

October 06, 2008

 
Anonymous steph said...

and then there are the minimalist WsMD

October 06, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Don't worry about me. I always keep my trusty axe under my pillow. And I can run a bit too. Doing the Coventry half on 19th Oct.

In any case, you should have realised by now, that anyone who pulls rank on me, like a certain person who fancies himself as an expert in Greek, is in for a fight. And when it comes to aliases, who is N T Wrong when all said and done? It wouldn't be him at it again, by any chance, would it?

As for minimalism, I would have thought that the NT variety is much more to be valued than the OT variety of professor Davies. After all, if you cut out Jesus, the Christ, the crucifixion, the resurrection, John the Baptist, Paul, the miracles, the mission to Gentiles and all the other pauline interpolations, what have you got left, if not traditional Jewish prophets? Then my little OT minimalists, be less naively literalistic about the writings attributed to Josephus, and you just might get to the truth about earliest so-called 'Christianity'.

And I vote Westy for the 'Billy'. He's the best 'Billy' in the business. How on earth does he face his congregation? Perhaps he's the only one there. But I'd much prefer the award be a 'Ratzinger' as symbolic of the the tradition of St Ignatious.

Just think what my evangelical wife and friends of the local Baptist Church would think if they read this.

October 06, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

And then there is that transition period between the OT and the NT. What do the OT minimalists do about that? Suddenly it seems they must become maximalists for a while as must NT minimalists. Because it was in this period that major changes were afoot in Israel's history that were to affect it for ever. This territory belongs to both types of minimalist who can no longer be minimalist because there is too much information to be so. Here again simplistic, literalistic interpretations of the writings attributed to Josephus (say about Queen Salome and the so-called Pharisees) can get academic folk into trouble.

So how about an NT minimalist group that might condescendingly allow in the OT minimalists, on lower levels of course, provided the latter buy all the beer and confess what an arrogant gang they are, to put it mildly.

October 06, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

About that transition period, I have just ordered The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Hasmonean State by Hanan Eshel. Seems as though Eshel at least is not minimalist.

Westy is doing a rolling review of the book in his bog. He does enjoy rejecting comments. But that's what you get from someone with a gang mentality.

October 08, 2008

 
Blogger Jim said...

i always wanted to be in a gang but never managed it. indeed, *sniff, sniff*, i was always chosen last at sports...

i'm going to go lament my childhood now.

October 08, 2008

 
Anonymous steph said...

Geoffrey is surrounded by gang members in this post.

October 09, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

The residents of Cambridge should be warned that the Davies gang is about to ride into town joined by the arch villain wild 'Billy' the West and the rutin tutin red-head Steph Get-Your-Gun. This gang of minimalists will remove everything that folk value and afterwards will celebrate, carousing in all the saloons leaving a trail of havoc.

'Billy' didn't seem to like it when I suggested the Alexander Jannaeus was a Seleucid, and that the term Kittim in the DSS always applied to Seleucids and never to Romans. And given the ridiculous extant accounts in the writings attributed to Josephus, it doesn't take too much of a stretch to realise that Alexander (Zebina as he's first called) wasn't killed (in what looks like an interpolation), but in fact killed Hyrcanus I and Hyrcanus' two sons Aristobulus and Antigonius, and married Hyrcanus' unnamed (note) wife who was in fact Salome the supposed wife of the dead Aristobulus. Thus Alexander became king. Kenneth Atkinson can eat his hat. An by the way, there were no such characters as 'Pharisees' then, but there were prophets regarded as 'seekers of smooth things who despised the law', even back then James.

October 09, 2008

 
Blogger Leon said...

I have always thought that these so-called biblical minimalists are one of the most fraudulent movements in academia. They are not really minimalists, are they? If they promote the idea that the Bible is mostly historical fiction with only a minimum of historically authentic data, that is actually a maximalist position.

In science, genuine science, minimalism means only one thing: You accept the data that we have, eliminating only that for which there are excellent reasons to do so, and you then look for the simplest theory that will explain this data. In my own work, I call it minimal reconstruction of the evidence. The belief that it is all or mostly fiction is actually a big leap — it is maximal reconstruction — and has to be justified by an extremely strong evidentiary argument. These scholars, however, seem to think that assertion is all it takes. They disguise what they are doing by calling themselves minimalists, when the truth is they are maximalists — hence the fraud. There is no field like biblical scholarship. It kind of takes your breath away.

Leon Zitzer

October 10, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Hi Leon

Do you have to believe everything you read? If some of the stuff was written today, wouldn't you be saying, "Now come on, your having me on?"

Take for example Alexander Jannaeus. Do you really believe he was the son of Hyrcanus I? Alexander was supposed to have been hated by his father Hyrcanus as soon as he was born. And the editor of the writings attributed to Josephus even concocts an explanation for the hatred. (Ant.13:12.1) Alexander never was the son of Hyrcanus. Nor were any so-called Pharisees ever strung-up by Alexander. There was some pretty serious covering-up by Flavian priestly editors going on in these texts surrounding Alexander and Hyrcanus. Somehow the DSS will give us the truth. And you don't look to wild west Billy for that.

October 10, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Leon,

How about this then from someone who describes himself as one of "we historians"? - I am referring to McKnight on page 172 of How did Christianity Begin? He wrote: "Here we come to a fundamental conclusion: all history is literary, is imaginative and is a reconstruction." He describes facts as being "interpretations of data". Of course it is in the interpretation where the problems arise. The existence of data, like the text of the NT or the writings attributed to Josephus, does not mean it should automatically be assumed as true.

October 10, 2008

 
Anonymous steph said...

Leon, I'm sorry you have misunderstood 'minimalists'.

'They' don't promote the bible as mostly historical fiction. In fact, they operate as 'minimalists' not 'maximalists'. Consider the work of some of the members of the guild before you leap.

October 11, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

So Steph, since you know about minimalists why don't you explain what they write about, with some examples? And don't be afraid on treading on the toes of the Guild who seem to be a bunch of arrogant hard nuts operating in a world of their own.

October 11, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

James when you have a book in electronic form, why on earth don't you produce a decent index? If you want a good example, look at Eisenman's James the Brother of Jesus. Or does the fault lie with the publisher?

October 11, 2008

 
Blogger Leon said...

I have read about minimalists before. I have always seen them described as seeing a minimum of historical authenticity in the Bible. If I am mistaken about that, I would like to be given some particular examples. Certainly in historical Jesus scholarship, I can definitely give many examples of scholars who do not follow scientific minimalism and are always leaping to conclusions. I could give dozens if not hundreds of examples. Breaking the rules of science is par for the course in historical Jesus scholarship. But if it is different in Hebrew Bible scholarship, I would like to see examples.

And it is not a matter of believing everything you read. The first obligation in science is to see if there is a way to make sense of the data we have and not to rewrite the evidence. This is rarely done in biblical scholarship.

Leon Zitzer

October 11, 2008

 
Anonymous steph said...

well I'm not an arrogant hard nut operating in a world of my own and I can't tread on my own toes. Have a look at the list of members on the webpage. Take the owner of this blog for a start.

October 11, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Steph, I was asking you to explain what you understood by the term minimalist with examples.

As for the arrogant hard nuts, look no further than the gang of five and Billy the West - hardly a bunch of Enid Blighton Noddies. Mind you, Westy does write Noddy stuff for those down there in the pews - ask him.

October 12, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Talking about data, does anyone else think that the data about king Agrippa II is wrong? Was he in fact made king of Judea immediately on the death of his father? If he was, we could start doing a McKnight - a "literary imaginative re-construction" of quite a chunk of Jewish history.

October 12, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

What about a Guild of McKnightists!

October 12, 2008

 
Anonymous steph said...

Minimalism, Geoff, is about assessing the material, comparing the evidence, including everything with explanation, and formulating theories which may not be simple as simplicity may compromise he complexity of historical reality. There is no 'eliminating' of material or presuppositions of fiction. Now Geoff, I am interested in New Testament, so perhaps you should explore the published work of the NT members of the Guild. And arguments from absence are not evidence of absence.

I do sincerely hope you overcome your infatuation with Jim. It is weird, it must be unhealthy for your psychological well being and it's just a bit creepy.

October 13, 2008

 
Anonymous steph said...

Has it ever occurred to you that the "Guild" might not be completely serious? Have you ever wondered who invented "minimalists"? Perhaps not the "minimalists"? But perhaps you ought to be very very worried...

October 13, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Steph,

In your definition of what minimalists do, there appears to be very little difference from McKnight's definition of what historian's do.

But I am left with the haunting suspicion that much of the data we have in both the NT and the writings attributed to Josephus has been tampered with on a large scale. And I am convinced that much of the literalistic interpretation of that data builds a pack of cards, one literalistic scholar citing another. In fact the reading and citing of too many other scholars is a great hindrance to independent thought, particularly when one considers the background of most of the scholars in this game.

October 13, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

This is for Steph, and James. It illustrates how some 'data' has been distorted. James uses a literal interpretation of the story in his book Why Christianity Happened, page 167.

JOSEPHUS'S EDITOR DISHES THE DIRT ON BERENICE AND HER BROTHER AGRIPPA II(Ant.20.7.3)

Now bear in mind that Josephus was given access to Agrippa II's correspondence which no doubt contained the original data. So Agrippa was hardly likely to say anything that would incriminate himself and his sister Berenice in incest. Also Josephus would not have incriminated his friend Agrippa II. And Josephus's Flavian editor was obviously aware that Agrippa II was already dead.

So would Berenice have proposed to Polemo, king of Cilicia something like this? "My dear Polemo, if you want to marry me and gain access to my wealth, you must first be circumcised and become a Jew." Just the sort of proposal that would make any man rush to tie the knot, somewhat sorely, hey what!. And wouldn't it have really enhanced Polemo's street cred among the local kings? Polemo never was circumcised. Nor did he receive any proposal from Berenice, even though she was a queen. Nor did Berenice have any 'criminal conversation' with her brother Agrippa II.

The conversation was simply a private one. Agrippa II wanted Berenice's agreement to undertake a political marriage with king Polemo, not for Berenice to 'prove' anything, but to cement a friendly alliance. It was pretty obviously Agrippa who was the go-between. The marriage did not last. But that fact was incidental and known with hindsight to the editor. The point was that when Berenice married Polemo, she had to leave her priestly Jewish faith behind 'at once' because Polemo was not a Jew, and never lowered himself to be circumcised and become one. The story was simply part and parcel of the propaganda surrounding Jewishness and circumcision, deflecting attention from what was really going on within Judaism. And it had to do with the pious characters of both Agrippa II and Berenice for whom obedience of the Jewish Law was no longer a priority, but obedience of the Spirit was.

October 14, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Thus Agrippa II (like his father before him) and Berenice had gone over to the prophets and were supporters of them. She stood barefoot before Ananias's Sanhedrin (not Florus' tribunal) to beseech Ananias to spare the prophets that he was destroying. (War 2.15.1). The Roman Florus killing 'Jews' was fiction. The reality was, the high priest or ruler of the temple Ananias was killing prophets, and Berenice was defending them.

October 14, 2008

 
Anonymous Roland said...

Sweet Jesus, Geoff, something certainly got your itchy typing fingers tapping! From a 'member at large'.

October 15, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Roland, the Flavian historians had a field day with Felix. After all, with earlier emperors out of the way they could superimpose whatever they liked on Josephus' histories, and portray the former rulers as incompetent. Felix was supposedly appointed Governor of Judea in 52 CE (Ant.20.7.1), while, I suggest, in reality Agrippa II was already king of Judea, and had been so from the death of his father Agrippa I in 44. Claudius had already bestowed all of Agrippa I’s lands on Agrippa II, but he gave Agrippa I Chalcis on the death of Herod of Chalcis his uncle.

Thus the Flavian editors have as their fictitious governor, Felix an ex-slave, a seducer of married women, who gets a Cyprian Jew, a supposed magician, to act as intermediary between him and Drusilla, the sister of Berenice and Agrippa II. In the story, the magician persuades Drusilla to leave Azizus, king of Emesa to whom she was married, and marry Felix. Conveniently the story ends in a typical editor's drama with the death of the pair at Vesuvius. Now professor Martin Goodman believes this little story absolutely, bless his cotton socks. (see Rome and Jerusalem, page 120). Great story for Sunday school!

So we have more denigration of the family of Agrippa II by the Flavian editors. Drusilla was made to appear to have transgressed the ancestral laws to marry Felix. In fact she had probably ‘transgressed the ancestral laws’ when she married Azizus, and Azizus never was circumcised, because it was not considered an issue. Agrippa and family had already changed their views about the Jewish Law and had gone over to the prophets who did indeed have easier dealings with gentiles going way back to the time of the Onias prophets in Egypt.

Agrippa simply gave Drusilla to king Azizus upon his consent, not the editor’s upon his consent to be circumcised – yet more drama.

October 15, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Sorry, I meant to write "he gave Agrippa II Chalcis on the death of Herod of Chalcis his uncle."

October 15, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

What was the biggest structure in the temple? (worshippers of Sanders can go to Judaism, page 61)

October 16, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Well you guessed it! It was the "enormous court into which Gentiles could enter" (p.75 of Judaism). Sanders continues: ",and presumably they could buy in the shops immediately outside the temple walls. If there were a general view that Gentiles communicated impurity, they would have been kept further away from the sanctuary than the outer court. If they could buy in the shops immediately outside the temple, walk up the steps, and stand in the Court of the Gentiles and gawk at the porticoes, they might just touch a Jew on his or her way past the balustrade. A communicable impurity would have resulted in their being kept away from the temple mount and possibly barred from Jerusalem." So there was little communicable impurity of any great concern, despite all these uncircumcised Gentiles strolling around the sanctuary balustrade.

According to our imaginative Flavian editors of the writings attributed to Josephus there were barber shops ouside the temple walls. They did a nice little trade in circumcisions before the Gentiles went into the temple. Adverts said: "the price is a snip, me boy", or "have your end off for a shekel while you are in Jerusalem".

In reality, Gentiles in the herodian temple with its purpose built enormous Court of Gentiles, was not that big a deal, and circumcision was hardly an issue. No doubt the priests were glad to have the income from the Gentile tourists.

On page 49 of Judaism, Sanders has: "In Rome, Greece, Egypt, Mesopotamia and most other parts of the ancient world, religion was sacrifice." But he continues: "Jewish sacrifical worship was more expensive." And further: the "priestly office was hereditary, priests were forbidden to support themselves by working the land, and the care and feeding of the prieshood were substantial costs borne by the rest of society, especially farmers. Another element that made Jewish sacrificial worship expensive was the use of holocausts, 'whole-burnt offerings', of which there were at least two each day in the Jerusalem temple. Such sacrifices were unknown in Greece."

So one can imagine what some thoughtful Gentiles and Jews involved in the sacrificial worship of the temple might have been thinking to themselves about fat cat high priests and the expensive Jewish animal sacrifice. Along come the agriculturalist prophets with their anti-sacrifice, pro Spirit theology, and hey presto, they suddenly find themselves with an increased following ready to do away with traditional Judaism, circumcision and all. And the theology was of great interest to the herodians Agrippa I, II and their family.

Someone was later to write as though it was an issue:"circumcision is nothing." Many had realised that long before.

October 16, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DFTT

October 17, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Sanders was somewhat inconsistent. On the one hand he wrote:
"In Rome, Greece, Egypt, Mesopotamia and most other parts of the ancient world, religion was sacrifice." On the other: "If they (that is Gentiles) could buy in the shops immediately outside the temple, walk up the steps, and stand in the Court of the Gentiles and gawk at the porticoes, they might just touch a Jew on his or her way past the balustrade."

Sanders it seems, was quite happy to have Gentiles "gawk at the porticoes" and do all the other things he says, but not do what they apparently came to do, which was to partake in the temple cult and sacrifice that they were so familiar with generally. Thus the preoccupation of the day for the Gentile visitors to Jerusalem was sacrifice, not circumcision.

Was sacrifice in the temple at Jerusalem a better bet for cleansing, and a happier afterlife, than all the other sacrifices on offer in the ancient world? Were there other ways to God that did not involve expensive trips to Jerusalem? Were there other powerful Gentile voices, like those of the Jewish prophets, that questioned the efficacy of cultic sacrifice? And had those other powerful voices been taken notice of in Jerusalem?

October 17, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

nnjnhSteph wrote about minimalism:"There is no 'eliminating' of material or presuppositions of fiction."

I have read the Introduction to his book The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Hasmonean State by Hanan Eshel. On page 11, he encourages the reader to discount the lurid details (in the writings attributed to Josephus) surrounding the deaths of the sons of John Hyrcanus I, Aristobulus and Antigonius. One might well therefore regard this as a minimalist approach. Eshel wants his reader to accept that Joshua's curse in the DSS was partially fullfilled in the deaths of these two but that the unrealistic manner of their deaths as described (in the writings attributed to Josephus) can be rejected. The reason he gives is that Josephus could have obtained his information from an unreliable source that no longer exists written by Nicolaus of Damascus, a friend of Herod the Great. Eshel writes about Nicolaus' hostility to Hasmoneans: "it appears that some of the details he (Nicolaus) provided were not completely groundless." In other words, Eshel believes that some of the details about Hasmoneans (that Eshel attributes to Nicolaus in the writings attributed to Josephus) ARE completely groundless. So presumably Eshel rejects those details and does not consider them important. Such details include the lurid accounts of the deaths of Aristobulus and Antigonius. But is there another explanation for such accounts?

Firstly, Eshel doesn’t credit Josephus with more integrity, and that he would never have included such unrealistic lurid details in his original history, especially if he wrote it as an altruistic schoolboy exercise – as he was accused of doing in Against Apion. Secondly, Eshel does not consider that the accounts of the deaths of Aristobulus and Antigonius may have been the work of later Flavian editors, not Josephus. The genre is exactly the same as the accounts of Agrippa I’s death as recorded in both the NT and the writings attributed to Josephus. Eshel can hardly attribute the account of the death of Agrippa I to Nicolaus of Damascus. The same editors were at work. One has to suspect that some serous obfuscation was going on. More than likely Agrippa I was murdered. And the same goes for Aristobulus and Antigonius, so the former did not have his brother killed.

October 18, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

There is a remarkable statement by Eshel on page 5 of his book:

"The only accounts of the events in Judea after 134 BCE are provided by the writings of Josephus."

On page 4, he has Second Maccabees covering only 175 BCE to 161 BCE and First Maccabees covering only 167 BCE to 134 BCE.

But of course Eshel, like a true minimalist, wants to choose what he regards as acceptable and reject what he finds as unacceptable in the writings attributed to Josephus, upon which he depends almost completely.

A similar situation arises with the so-called great Jewish revolt, accounts of which are almost entirely dependent on the writings attributed to Josephus.

October 18, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Here's a question for our resident New Testament minimalist Steph. In Acts 12:20, do you really believe: "they depended on the king's country for their food supply"?

October 19, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Acts 12:20, "they depended on the king's country for their food supply"?

You get the distinct feeling the editor was clutching at straws with this one. After all why would Caesarea have had to be dependent on supplies of food from king Agrippa's country? It had a large modern port for sea-going ships that could bring food in from any region of the Mediterranean, including for example, from Egypt the breadbasket. This was not old times. So just how did the editor come to dream up the idea that the Caesareans were dependent on the king's country for their food. Did the idea come because he knew the opposite was true? 'The king's country' (all of it) was dependent on the port of Caesarea for its supply of food, particularly in times of famine.

So what would our minimalist New Testament scholars do with this ridiculous little phrase? Chuck it may be? But hang-on a minute. May be our editor was simply playing games with the original text. So let's try a little experiment. (This will really delight that well known expert in Greek who likes to think of himself as Sherlock Holmes - He might say to his mate, "its simple Dr W.") So we'll just try changing a couple of words. How about this? "they depended on THE SACRIFICES for their food supply." My! we would be into a completely different ball-game, one that would be entirely appropriate in a Jewish context, as anyone who has read Sanders will know.

October 20, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Actually, the editor knew more than I did. Agrippa I was quarrelling, apparently, with the people of Tyre and Sidon (Acts 12:20) in Syria, not with the people of Caesarea in 'the king's country' as I assumed. So may be it was possible for the people of Tyre and Sidon to be dependent on the 'king's country' for their food supply. But of course, it remains somewhat dificult not to think that the whole story about Agrippa's visit to Caesarea was contrived by the editor to cover-up what Agrippa was really about. For me, it had something to do with priests going hungry because they were not getting food from sacrifices in the temple.

October 20, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

AGRIPPA I CONVERTS TO THE PROPHETS

Assume that the original in-context version of Acts 12:20 was: “they depended on the sacrifices for their food supply” (not “they depended on the king’s country for their food supply.”) Then ‘they’ can only be the priests. There would then be a possibility that the animal sacrifices for sins had been stopped. If the sacrifices had been stopped by king Agrippa himself, then one could understand the “quarrelling” of 12:20 “with the people of Tyre and Sidon” as, in reality, “quarrelling with the priests”.

Agrippa had converted to the prophets and had banned animal sacrifices. In year 6, the last or penultimate year of his rule he issued an exceptionally large number of bronze coins suggestive of Succoth or Booths when the Spirit of the Lord was expected, a time of celebration. The obverse of the coins shows a royal canopy or booth and the reverse shows three ears of corn, beneath two leaves. The celebratory message of Succoth conveyed by these coins was later reproduced on the coins of the so-called revolt.

I suggest therefore that Acts 12:1 was originally something like: “about this time it was that king Agrippa joined (not ‘arrested’) those (not ‘some’) who belonged to the prophets (not the ‘church’)”. Obviously he would not have persecuted those who he joined.

Of course the editor’s 12:1 was simply his introduction for his imaginative fiction of James the brother of John being put to death with the sword followed by Peter being imprisoned, then released by the angel, and finding his way back to church members in Jerusalem. So our minimalist New Testament scholars can have a gay day by rejecting 12:2-18 as fairy tale.

So how did Agrippa die so “immediately”? (12:23) It wasn’t that so and so angel again, by any chance, surely! It sure flew around a bit!

October 21, 2008

 

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