Quote of the Day

On healings and exorcisms in our world today, T. Desmond Alexander writes:

…It is possible for Jesus’ followers also to experience in the present something of the eschatological age in terms of healings and exorcisms. However, this will always be less than what awaits us. God may heal, here and now, but not on every occasion. There may be occasions, here and now, when evil powers are defeated, but not always. This should not surprise us. The present evil age will eventually give way to the next. If we all received from God complete holiness and wholeness now, there would be no need for the new earth. As it is, however, we live on an earth presently controlled by the evil one. Only when Satan is finally defeated shall we know life as God intended it (From Eden to the New Jerusalem,155: emphasis added).

Presently we find ourselves living in the tension of the already-but-not-yet. We are now experiencing the kingdom of God as believers, but the kingdom awaits its full consummation. We await the return of the king of kings, who will bring with him the new heavens and new earth we long for. But as Alexander states, right now we only “have a glimpse of what the coming age will be like.”

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Exegetical Sandbox: Thoughts on the Temple

I have been reading a very informative and intriguing book by T. Desmond Alexander entitled From Eden to the New Jerusalem: An Introduction to Biblical Theology. The main premise of his book is tracing The Temple motif from Gen 1-2 all the way through Rev 21-22. Although I am not unfamiliar with this line of exegetical thought (I have read a similar argument in Beale’s monumental work on The Temple and the Church’s Mission), Alexander nevertheless affirms in my mind that he is on target. While I hope to give a review of Alexander’s book in the coming weeks, this is not the point of my post.

While reading through some of Alexander’s book, I began to think of the implications it would have on my own reading of Scripture. I have long been intrigued by the church being called the temple:

  1. Οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ναὸς θεοῦ ἐστε καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ οἰκεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν; εἴ τις τὸν ναὸν τοῦ θεοῦ φθείρει, φθερεῖ τοῦτον ὁ θεός· ὁ γὰρ ναὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ἅγιός ἐστιν, οἵτινές ἐστε ὑμεῖς. (1 Cor 3.16-17)
  2. ἢ οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι τὸ σῶμα ὑμῶν ναὸς τοῦ ἐν ὑμῖν ἁγίου πνεύματός ἐστιν οὗ ἔχετε ἀπὸ θεοῦ, καὶ οὐκ ἐστὲ ἑαυτῶν; (1 Cor 6.19)
  3. τίς δὲ συγκατάθεσις ναῷ θεοῦ μετὰ εἰδώλων; ἡμεῖς γὰρ ναὸς θεοῦ ἐσμεν ζῶντος, καθὼς εἶπεν ὁ θεὸς ὅτι ἐνοικήσω ἐν αὐτοῖς καὶ ἐμπεριπατήσωκαὶ ἔσομαι αὐτῶν θεὸς καὶ αὐτοὶ ἔσονταί μου λαός (2 Cor 6.16)
  4. ἐν ᾧ πᾶσα οἰκοδομὴ συναρμολογουμένη αὔξει εἰς ναὸν ἅγιον ἐν κυρίῳ (Eph 2.21)
  5. πρὸς ὃν προσερχόμενοι λίθον ζῶντα ὑπὸ ἀνθρώπων μὲν ἀποδεδοκιμασμένον παρὰ δὲ θεῷ ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον, 5 καὶ αὐτοὶ ὡς λίθοι ζῶντες οἰκοδομεῖσθε οἶκος πνευματικὸς εἰς ἱεράτευμα ἅγιον ἀνενέγκαι πνευματικὰς θυσίας εὐπροσδέκτους [τῷ] θεῷ διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. 6 διότι περιέχει ἐν γραφῇ· ἰδοὺ τίθημι ἐν Σιὼν λίθον ἀκρογωνιαῖον ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον καὶ ὁ πιστεύων ἐπʼ αὐτῷ οὐ μὴ καταισχυνθῇ. 7 ὑμῖν οὖν ἡ τιμὴ τοῖς πιστεύουσιν, ἀπιστοῦσιν δὲ λίθος ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν οἱ οἰκοδομοῦντες, οὗτος ἐγενήθη εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας 8 καὶ λίθος προσκόμματος καὶ πέτρα σκανδάλου· οἳ προσκόπτουσιν τῷ λόγῳ ἀπειθοῦντες εἰς ὃ καὶ ἐτέθησαν. 9 ὑμεῖς δὲ γένος ἐκλεκτόν, βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα, ἔθνος ἅγιον, λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν, ὅπως τὰς ἀρετὰς ἐξαγγείλητε τοῦ ἐκ σκότους ὑμᾶς καλέσαντος εἰς τὸ θαυμαστὸν αὐτοῦ φῶς· 10 οἵ ποτε οὐ λαὸς νῦν δὲ λαὸς θεοῦ, οἱ οὐκ ἠλεημένοι νῦν δὲ ἐλεηθέντες (1 Pet 2.4-10. Although the word temple does not occur, it is safe to assume that it is alluded to in 2.5: οἶκος πνευματικὸς).

So what is the point of all of this? Well, I for one was raised in a tradition that taught that the temple will again be rebuilt in Jerusalem during the promised “millennial reign” of Christ. But the more I read the Scriptures, the more I am convinced that this is not the case. For example, The OT describes God as dwelling among his people, primarily in the holy of holies in the tabernacle and then the temple. But there is a significant change in the NT. Now, as 1 Cor 3.16 indicates, τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ οἰκεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν (the spirit of God lives in you). If the Jerusalem temple is to be rebuilt, then will the Spirit of God no longer dwell in us, but rather return to the the function of dwelling among us? In my understanding, the best illustration of this is Christ himself. In the person of Christ the fullness of the God dwells: ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ κατοικεῖ πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τῆς θεότητος σωματικῶς (Col 2.9). Also, the play on words in John’s Gospel is more than just a coincidence, for in his incarnation Jesus has tabernacled among men: Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας (John 1.14).

I am sure more can be said. But these are just some of my musings on this topic, topics of which I hope to develop more in the future. But for now I leave you with these thoughts.

Codex Sinaiticus: The Story of the World’s Oldest Bible (pt. 3)

Setting to Work

In chapter-four Parker discusses in some detail the various aspects that go into producing a manuscript in the fourth-century. Topics discussed in this chapter are focus on the materials, techniques, people, place, budget, and binding of Sinaiticus. Also included is a brief section on palaeography (the study of ancient writing). Because of the amount of detailed information contained in this chapter I will on focus on a few interesting points.

Parchment

Parker’s detailed discussion on the production of parchment in antiquity was quite fascinating. Maybe it’s me, but I found the whole process that goes into making sheets of paper suitable for writing amazing and quite remarkable really. What we have discovered from manuscripts that we have found written on parchment is that they tended to be made from the skins of sheep of calves. The process that went into skinning the animal all the way to the finished product of paper contained many time-consuming steps.

The skins had to be soaked in some form of acidic or alkaline bath. Next, the hair had to be scraped off. Once the hair was removed, it was returned to a bath for further soaking. It was then removed from its bath and stretched out and scraped thinner. Finally, after drying out and scraped for its determined thickness, it was cut to its predetermined size and rubbed with pumice stone.

What we know of Sinaiticus and the parchment used for it is that it is one of the highest quality codices from antiquity ever discovered. The amount of care, detail, and expense that was put into Sinaiticus is without compare. According to Parker

“What is certain is that the makers [of Sinaiticus] were exceptionally skilled, and that they worked with excellent materials. It is clear that no expense was spared” (45).

Usually in parchment manuscripts we would find many places of defect scattered throughout the manuscript. This is not so with Sinaiticus. While we do find defects, they are few and far between, usually found in the margins of the pages (45). Further, the difficulty finding veins on the pages is probably due to a very thorough job in draining the blood. Another aspect which indicates a more professional job in producing Sinaiticus is the thinness of the pages. Parker indicates that the thickness of the pages of Sinaiticus range from 100-150 micrometres, with the average page size somewhere in the neighborhood of 116.2. when compared to the thickness of Parker’s own book (125 micrometres) we see just how amazing this really is.

In case you may be interested in the production process of parchment, I have included this brief video illustrating for us just went into making parchment paper

The Scribes

Another informative section was on the scribes of Sinaiticus. Parker indicates that Tischendorf (the discoverer of the codex) identified four different scribes, which he labeled A, B, C, D. Each of these scribes were responsible for the writing of particular sections of Sinaiticus. Imagine the amount of hours that Tischendorf must have spent analyzing the pages of Sinaiticus and cataloguing the differences he found, and then placing these differences into four different groups. The even more astonishing thing is that he was able to accomplish this without the technology of computer readily available to us today. That alone speaks to the genius and dedication of Tischendorf. Since Tischendorf’s work there has been some changes to the number of scribes identified responsible for Sinaiticus, but nothing too radical. What can be said regarding Sinaiticus is that there were a number of scribes working on this manuscript. Both in the writings and correcting stages, scribes would assist each other in the writing of Sinaiticus.

Palaeography

Although misplaced in my opinion, the section on palaeography is an important one. No doubt a page-and-a-half summary of palaeography will not cover every aspect of the subject, nevertheless it is a vital part of a book like this. Parker briefly outlines some examples of differences in the writing style of Sinaiticus, things such as differences in letter formation, compression of the text as the scribe reached the end of a margin, spelling errors consistent with one particular scribe, etc. All of these idiosyncrasies are discovered by studying the writing style and observing changes and patterns in the text.

Another job of the palaeographer is to determine the approximate date of a manuscript. Because a scribe would not date his manuscript once he finished, it is up to the palaeographer to determine the dating of a particular manuscript. According to Parker, he is aided in such a task by means of external and internal clues. Externally, things like paper type, elaborate artwork, and historical circumstances may help shed light on a date for a manuscript. Internally, things like writing style (was the script in capital or lowercase letters?) may give clues for dating. It’s safe to assume that the job of a palaeographer is one of great detail. He must be a master of the language written on the manuscript, and he must be one of great patience and discipline.

There is much more that can be covered in chapter-four, but I will leave it here. One thing I have noticed is that Parker references Sinaiticus a number of times in his examples. It would benefit the reader greatly to access Sinaiticus online and follow along with Parker as he describes aspects of Sinaiticus in detail.

Codex Sinaiticus: The Story of the World’s Oldest Bible (pt. 2)

Making a Bible in the Year 350

After laying a historical/theological foundation in chapter two, Parker begins to turn his attention to Sinaiticus itself.

In the opening pages of chapter three, Parker lists a number of “defining characteristics” of a codex. Because a codex is written by the hand of a scribe(s), there is a certain amount of freedom in how he shapes his manuscript. He is able to define his margins at the exact length he needs for his writing. Also, he is given the freedom to include decorative aspects to the manuscript, unique to his own work. The scribe is in full control of every aspect of his work, from beginning to end.

On the negative side, because a codex or manuscript is hand written in ink this allowed for later scribes to add what he felt was missing, or correct what he felt was a wrong reading of the text. Sinaiticus was not immune to scribal corrections or additions. For example, see the image below

(Q35-F4V-C4)

What we notice is that an addition has been added to the bottom of the text by a later scribe, altering the neat flow of the block of text. At other places in Sinaiticus the original text has been erased with no chance of recovery. All of these additions and omissions are important in understanding the textual history of Sinaiticus and in aiding the recovery of the original reading. Regarding these changes to the text, Parker writes

The kind of changes that will have occurred range from alterations in the spelling which reflect the way the scribe was used to speaking the word rather than the correct spelling, through a wide range of unconscious errors, to places where conscious decisions were made (28).

The remaining focus of chapter three is on the contents of Sinaiticus. Sinaiticus originally contained the Greek OT (including the Apocrypha), the New Testament, and two additional writings: The Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistle of Barnabas. Parker gives us a survey of these textual units, including a nice analysis of each unit. The canonization of the Old and New Testament was a long and tedious process, but Parker does a nice job navigating the reader through the process in the limited space he has. While some readers may not agree with his conclusions regarding the process of canonization, one cannot argue that he presents his case in a fair and sensitive manner.

Parker concludes with the hypothesis that because Sinaiticus includes books not considered part of the canon, but nonetheless still useful for catechumens, it may be that Sinaiticus was used as a family or community Bible. As the title indicates, the making of Sinaiticus took place in the middle of the fourth-century. This was a volatile time in the history of the Church and no doubt the production of Sinaiticus was influenced to a certain degree by the theological tension in Christendom.

Codex Sinaiticus: The Story of the World’s Oldest Bible (pt. 1)

My first exposure to Codex Sinaiticus came during my first semester of intermediate Greek. I was an eager student who loved all things Greek. For a few weeks we focused on textual criticism, specifically as it relates to exegesis and interpretation. We were introduced to various manuscripts, one of which was Sinaiticus, and I remember being enamored with the story of it’s discovery in a monastery in the Sinai peninsula. Since that initial exposure to textual criticism, I have kept an elementary interest in text-critical studies.

So, when I first came across David Parker’s book my interest was piqued for a couple of reasons. The first, as mentioned above, was my continuing interest in text-critical studies. The second was my love of historical studies. I have always told myself that if I did not get my degree in biblical languages I would have majored in history, probably the history of the American and French Revolutions. But that’s a different post for another day.

Anyways, back to the subject on hand. Parker, who himself is a leading expert in the field of text-critical, has written a very helpful and informative introduction and history of the famous Codex Sinaiticus.

Every Book it’s Destiny
Parker’s first chapter is a quick overview of both the history as well as the future of Sinaiticus. Parker briefly discusses the process that went into the writing and copying of the codex. Likewise, Parker gives a concise synopsis on the the use of Sinaiticus in antiquity, explaining the number of corrections that have appeared since it’s original writing. Also included is a brief discussion on the transportation of the Codex from one place to another. A quick discussion of it’s discovery in St. Catherine’s Monestary and the dispersion of the codex to three different countries is included as well. Much of this will be show up in greater detail in subsequent chapters.

Next, Parker outlines the present project that is taking place to have the entire codex published online for all the world to see. This project also includes a conference (which took place in 2009), the present book under review, and a new print facsimile. Each of these projects are a welcomed addition for the Church and the academy.

Parker’s last section in chapter one is an outline of Sinaiticus as well as a quick reference to the pagination of the codex (this pagination key is very helpful when wanting to look up specific examples in Sinaiticus online). Included at the end of chapter one-and at the end of every chapter-are recommended resources for further study. If you are anything like me, then you will find these short summaries a gold mine of potential study.

The Christian Book in the Age of Constantine
Chapter two centers mainly around the time of Constantine. One fascinating topic was Parker’s discussion of the writing materials used in antiquity. At the time of Sinaiticus’ publication, two types of writing material were in use: papyrus and parchment. Papyrus was easier to come by and much quicker to produce than parchment. Because parchment was produced from the skins of sheep and calves, it was not as readily available for use. But unlike papyrus, which would deteriorate at a much faster rate, parchment was much more durable and withstood the elements far better than papyrus.

Another fascinating element is the theory that Sinaiticus was produced at the request of Constantine himself. While only a theory at best, there are similarities with some of the specifics for codices to be produced in Constantine’s letter to Eusebius and Sinaiticus.

What Parker does extremely well is bring the reader into the fourth-century at the time of Sinaiticus’ publication. He gives the reader a historical and theological framework by which he can understand the reasons for such a codex to have been produced. I am looing forward to the remaining chapters.

Codex Sinaiticus: The Story of the World’s Oldest Bible (A Multi-Part Review)

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I just received David Parker’s recently published biography of sorts on Codex Sinaiticus in the mail. I plan on posting reviews/synopses similar to the ones I recently posted on Burridge’s study of Gospel genre. So if you are at all interested, stay tuned.

A Synopsis of Richard Burridge’s “What Are the Gospels? A Comparison with Graeco-Roman Biography (Concluding Remarks)

With this post we bring to a close our review of Richard Burridge’s excellent study on the Genre of the Gospels. The final two chapters-a conclusion and an addition to the second edition-outline Burridge’s conclusion and synthesize his arguments, as well as include reactions to the first edition of What are the Gospels?

Burridge concludes that while there are indeed differences between the Gospels and other similar βίος literature, these differences do not place them outside the genre of Graeco-Roman Biography. Further, Burridge is clear that in order for us to fully understand the Gospels, we must understand them as they were written, namely as biography, and specifically as βίοι Ἰησοῦ. He states

To avoid the errors likely in simple application of a text to ourselves without regard for the setting and background of either, appreciation of genre is crucial as a major ‘filter’ through which the author ‘encoded’ his message, and through which we may ‘decode’ the same (247).

As a result, Burridge see three implications that arise from this

  1. Any idea of the gospels as unique, sui generis works is a nonsense: authors cannot create, and readers cannot interpret, a total novelty.
  2. We must have the same generic expectations as the author and his original readers: trying to ‘decode ‘ the gospels through a genre of modern biography, when the author ‘encoded’ his message in the same genre of ancient βίος, will lead to another nonsense-blaming the text for not containing modern predilections which it was never meant to contain.
  3. The assignation of different genres to texts results in different interpretations: one listen to the TV News with different expectations than to a fairy story

What Burridge is getting at is that the authors of the Gospels did not invent something new when they put ink to papyrus. They wrote in a genre that was easily identifiable for readers in the first-century. So, if a modern-day reader tries to read and interpret any one of the Gospels (or any ancient document for that matter) by means of modern-day principles, he will no doubt be unable to ‘decode’ what the author ‘encoded’ because he reads with the wrong pair of interpretive glasses.

With this said, the author wished that there would have been just a little more in way of application of the thesis to the Gospels themselves. As mentioned in a previous post, attention to the Gospels was devoted to only two chapters. Two chapters hardly seem sufficient to apply ones thesis in a study like this.

Nevertheless, Burridge has managed to not only write a book of significant implications for the way we do Gospel studies, but he has also made such a study accessible and enjoyable for all. There was never a moment a dry, academic rhetoric; instead the discussion was engaging and interesting at every turn of the page. I look forward to reading more from Burridge in the future.