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In: Scripture and Traditions
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3 Maccabees is among the most neglected books of the Old Testament Apocrypha. This new commentary is one of very few written in the last century, and it is the only full-scale commentary in English. The volume includes a fresh translation of the Greek text of Alexandrinus, an introduction, a section by section commentary replete with cross-references to ancient literature and citations of modern scholarship, a bibliography, and indices. A novel contribution of the commentary is an interpretation of 3 Maccabees as, in part, a narrative satire on the cult of Dionysus.
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Dionysius of Halicarnassus, rhetorician and historian in Rome during the waning years of the first century B.C.E., wrote an essay on Thucydides in which he noted that some critics faulted the great historian of the Peloponnesian War for the arrangement (ταξις) of his work. They complained that Thucydides "neither chose the beginning of the history that was needed, nor did he fit it with a suitable ending." These critics insisted that "by no means the least important part of good arrangement was to choose a beginning, prior to which there would be nothing, and to conclude the matter with an ending in which nothing seemed to be lacking" (On Thucydides 10). If we overlook for the moment that Thucydides's history differs significantly in literary terms from the Gospel of Mark, we might find it remarkable how the same criticism has been leveled against the author of the second gospel. The oddity of Mark's ending at 16:8 is well known, but the beginning of Mark is also inauspicious. Does he, like Thucydides, suffer from faulty ταξις? This paper will examine the beginning of Mark's gospel and propose, or in truth, recall and corroborate, a rather pedestrian explanation of its many peculiarities.

In: Novum Testamentum
In: 3 Maccabees
In: 3 Maccabees
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The only narratives of Jesus’ birth locate the event in Bethlehem, but the adult Jesus is consistently associated with Nazareth. How do we reconcile these two indisputable facts? Some dismiss Bethlehem as a theologoumenon, a theological fabrication. Others insist on Bethlehem based on the census of Quirinius. In the present volume, N. Clayton Croy argues that both are wrong. Instead Jesus’ birthplace was determined by the scandalous nature of Mary’s pregnancy, with it being necessary for Mary and Joseph to escape the inevitable shame of an ill-timed conception and decamp to a less hostile environment. In this light, a Bethlehem-born Jesus who grew up in Nazareth should never have been considered problematic.
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I summarize the book’s argument, affirm that a Bethlehem birth is the most plausible thesis, and offer both corrective and constructive contributions to the debate.

In: Escaping Shame: Mary's Dilemma and the Birthplace of Jesus
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I put forward my thesis for the relocation of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem: the motivation of shame. Regardless of Mary’s guilt or innocence in the matter, she would have faced social opprobrium for an ill-timed pregnancy. Neighbors would assume that she had conceived Jesus apart from her betrothed. I survey the topic of illegitimacy in Greco-Roman and Jewish milieus. Then I examine the specific evidence for shame and apparent illegitimacy in the case of Jesus. Regardless of how Jesus’ conception occurred, Mary would have faced ostracism and Jesus would have faced significant obstacles if it were common knowledge that Joseph was not his biological father. The evidence for this is mostly implicit, but is found in all four Gospels as well as later Christian texts. Rabbinic writings, although they are much later, also reflect calumny about Jesus’ parentage.

In: Escaping Shame: Mary's Dilemma and the Birthplace of Jesus
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Luke accounts for the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem by reference to a census under Quirinius that required Joseph and Mary to return to their ancestral home. The difficulties with Luke’s account are well-known. According to Emil Schürer’s classic treatment, there are five significant problems: (1) Apart from Luke 2:1 there is no record of an empire-wide census in the time of Augustus. (2) A Roman census would not have required Joseph to travel to Bethlehem. (3) It is unlikely that a Roman census would have been conducted in Palestine during the reign of Herod. (4) Josephus says nothing about a census in Palestine during the reign of Herod. (5) A census held under Quirinius could not have taken place in the reign of Herod, for Quirinius was not governor of Syria during Herod’s lifetime. In sum, the problems with Luke are considerable. Finally, a grammatical solution that would translate Luke 2:2 as “This was a/the census before Quirinius was governing Syria” is shown to be highly unlikely.

In: Escaping Shame: Mary's Dilemma and the Birthplace of Jesus
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Abstract

There are two indisputable facts about the birthplace of Jesus. The only explicit biblical statements about his birth locate that event in Bethlehem, but the adult Jesus is consistently associated with Nazareth. A survey of scholarly views shows that, while the opinion is not unanimous, a broad range of scholars asserts that Jesus was born in Nazareth.

In: Escaping Shame: Mary's Dilemma and the Birthplace of Jesus