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Story as History - History as Story

The Gospel Tradition in the Context of Ancient Oral History

Samuel Byrskog

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Samuel Byrskog employs models from the interdisciplinary field of oral history as presented by Paul Thompson, coupled with insights from cultural anthropology, in order to examine the interaction between the present and the past as the gospel tradition evolved. The ancient Greek and Roman historians, with their use of eyewitness testimony as sources to the past and as central elements in interpretive and narrativizing processes of the present, serve as the basis for unraveling culture-specific patterns of oral history, and thus for conceptualizing similar aspects during the development of the gospel tradition. Eyewitness testimonies played a central but varying role in early Christianity. They were transmitted in the matrix of discipleship, where verbal and behavioral traditions were passed on through acts of mimesis. The folkloristic notion of re-oralization explains how oral accounts regularly interacted with written texts, indicating a vivid and engaged relationship to the past as well as the semantic significance of oral communication and performance. Factual truth was essential but inseparable from interpreted truth during the course of investigation, transmission, and composition. The gospel tradition developed through a subtle interaction between the unique historic events of the past and the various circumstances of the present. The narrative and historical dimensions of a text cannot be separated, because the semantic codes of a text are often located in the culture and not in the text itself. The gospels are therefore the synthesis of history and story, intertwining the horizons of the past and of the present in their own right.

The New Isaac

Tradition and Intertextuality in the Gospel of Matthew

Leroy Huizenga

Gospel scholarship has long recognized that Matthean Christology is a rich, multifaceted tapestry weaving multifold Old Testment figures together in the person of Jesus. It is somewhat strange, therefore, that scholarship has found little role for the figure of Isaac in the Gospel of Matthew. Employing Umberto Eco's theory of the Model Reader as a theoretical basis to ground the phenomenon of Matthean intertextuality, this work contends that when read rightly as a coherent narrative in its first-century setting, with proper attention to both biblical texts and extrabiblical traditions about Isaac, the Gospel of Matthew evinces a significant Isaac typology in service of presenting Jesus as new temple and decisive sacrifice.


The Spirit in First Century Judaism mirrors the growing recognition that the role of the Spirit in Judaism and early Christianity warrants further scholarly inquiry and moreover lays a cornerstone in the foundation of pneumatological studies by scouring the writings of the likes of Plato and Plutarch, Daniel and the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as those of Philo of Alexandria and Flavius Josephus. Levison contextualizes the material both historically and literarily, taking seriously the influence of popular Greco-Roman thinking as well as Jewish exegetical traditions. Convincingly argued, cogently presented, and thoroughly documented, this volume, in the words of the Journal of Jewish Studies, “has profound ramifications for both Jewish and New Testament Studies.”

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Edited by J.Cheryl Exum

To mark the new millennium, Virtual History and the Bible asks where we are at the fin de siècle and how we got that way. What if important events in ancient history had turned out differently? How different might the present century be?

What if Merneptah’s scribes were telling the truth when they claimed, "Israel has been laid waste?" What if the exodus and conquest had really happened? What if we had no Assyrian account of Sennacherib’s third campaign or the palace reliefs depicting his capture of Lachish? What if the Chronicler did use the Deuteronomistic History? What if Luke had never met Theophilus? What if Paul had travelled east rather than west? This is not fantasy or fiction. The sixteen essays in this volume, by eminent historians of the Bible, engage in serious scholarly inquiry into alternative historical scenarios and their potential consequences. The result is a trenchant demonstration of the ways historians set about working with the evidence in order to reconstruct the past.
Keith W. Whitelam, Lester L. Grabbe, Susan Ackerman, Thomas L. Thompson, Ernst Axel Knauf, Ehud Ben Zvi, Diana Edelman, Robert P. Carroll, Niels Peter Lemche, Joseph Blenkinsopp, A. Graeme Auld, Philip R. Davies, Loveday C. A. Alexander, Richard Bauckham, John Dominic Crossan, Pheme Perkins.

Exegesis in the Making

Postcolonialism and New Testament Studies

Anna Runesson

The last thirty years have witnessed increasing diversity in methodology and perspectives within
biblical studies. One of the most dynamic and continually expanding contributions to this
development is that of postcolonial studies, known for its fresh approaches as well as for its
complex theoretical foundations. The present book aims at introducing both student and scholar to
this emerging field. Part One discusses in a structured and pedagogical way the theoretical location
of postcolonial biblical studies as well as its critique of and contributions to New Testament
exegesis more specifically. Part Two presents five articles by scholars from Africa, Asia, and North
America, illustrating the diversity of current postcolonial studies as applied to individual New
Testament texts.

The Torah and the Stoics on humankind and nature

A Contribution to the Debate on Sustainability and Quality

J.J. Boersema

The environmental problematique is intimately bound up with deep-seated human attitudes regarding our relationship with nature. Here in the west those attitudes have been shaped to no small degree by the canonical texts of the Bible and the classical philosophers. In this book the author re-examines some of these seminal texts, arguing that what we today know as 'Christian cosmology' is in fact a grafting of classical Greek philosophy onto ancient Israelite thought, with certain valuable traditions being all but lost in the process. The dietary laws of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, in particular, still prove surprisingly relevant today. Often misread on this point, the creation narratives of Genesis can likewise serve as a rich point of departure for examining our attitudes towards the natural world. A reappraisal of these sources is necessary and feasible. There is no need for an appeal to cosmologies alien to our own culture, nor for recourse to 'New Age' beliefs in all their variety.

Edited by Stefan Alkier and Thomas Paulsen

Diese neue Übersetzung führt die Fachkompetenzen eines Theologen und eines Klassischen Philologen zusammen und eröffnet damit eine neue Perspektive auf die Offenbarung des Johannes jenseits kirchlich-konfessioneller Hörgewohnheiten.
Der Text der Johannesapokalypse wird in zwei Fassungen geboten: Während die Lesefassung die Übersetzung als Fließtext ohne Unterbrechung durch die Vers- und Kapiteleinteilungen präsentiert, bietet die Studienfassung die Zählungen der Verse und Kapitel, um so einen Vergleich mit dem Original und anderen Übersetzungen zu ermöglichen. Die Abfolge beider Fassungen macht nicht allein die ästhetische und theologische Sprachkraft dieses hochberühmten letzten Buches der Bibel auf ungewohnte Weise lesbar, sondern führt zu zahlreichen überraschenden Erkenntnissen über die sprachliche Gestaltung und den Sinngehalt dieses äußerst komplexen Textes. Der Übersetzung beigegeben sind eine Einführung mit Erläuterung der Übersetzungsprinzipien, ein Epilog, in dem zentrale Interpretationsansätze vorgeführt werden und ein Glossar mit den markantesten semantischen Entscheidungen, das sich nicht an späteren kirchlichen Traditionen, sondern am Koine-Griechisch des 1. Jh. n. Chr. orientiert.

Recognizing the Stranger

Recognition Scenes in the Gospel of John


Kasper Bro Larsen

Recognizing the Stranger is the first monographic study of recognition scenes and motifs in the Gospel of John. The recognition type-scene ( anagnōrisis) was a common feature in ancient drama and narrative, highly valued by Aristotle as a touching moment of truth, e.g., in Oedipus’ tragic self-discovery and Odysseus’ happy homecoming. The book offers a reconstruction of the conventions of the genre and argues that it is one of the most recurrent and significant literary forms in the Gospel. When portraying Jesus as the divine stranger from heaven, the Gospel employs and transforms the formal and ideological structures of the type-scene in order to show how Jesus’ true identity can be recognized behind the half-mask of his human appearance.

Corinth in Context

Comparative Studies on Religion and Society


Edited by Steve Friesen, Dan Schowalter and James Walters

This volume is the product of an interdisciplinary conference held at the University of Texas at Austin. Specialists in the study of inscriptions, architecture, sculpture, coins, tombs, pottery, and texts collaborate to produce new portraits of religion and society in the ancient city of Corinth. The studies focus on groups like the early Roman colonists, the Augustales (priests of Augustus), or the Pauline house churches; on specific cults such as those of Asklepios, Demeter, or the Sacred Spring; on media (e.g., coins, or burial inscriptions); or on the monuments and populations of nearby Kenchreai or Isthmia. The result is a deeper understanding of the religious life of Corinth, contextualized within the socially stratified cultures of the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

The Star of Bethlehem and the Magi

Interdisciplinary Perspectives from Experts on the Ancient Near East, the Greco-Roman World, and Modern Astronomy

Edited by Peter Barthel and George van Kooten

This book is the fruit of the first ever interdisciplinary international scientific conference on Matthew's story of the Star of Bethlehem and the Magi, held in 2014 at the University of Groningen, and attended by world-leading specialists in all relevant fields: modern astronomy, the ancient near-eastern and Greco-Roman worlds, the history of science, and religion. The scholarly discussions and the exchange of the interdisciplinary views proved to be immensely fruitful and resulted in the present book. Its twenty chapters describe the various aspects of The Star: the history of its interpretation, ancient near-eastern astronomy and astrology and the Magi, astrology in the Greco-Roman and the Jewish worlds, and the early Christian world – at a generally accessible level. An epilogue summarizes the fact-fiction balance of the most famous star which has ever shone.

Cover illustration: © Michael Farrell