Sep 282013


Previously I knew that this letter has been dated variously from the first to the third century, but just today I read that some scholars recently judge that it is most likely a Christian composition dating to the fourth century.

While the Syriac letter of Mara bar-Serapion frequently comes up when discussing non-Christian references to Jesus, there is precious little recent scholarly interpretation of the letter and its context online. (A little searching does, however, turn up a conference report from 2009, a webpage produced prior to that conference, and a brief exchange on Crosstalk from 2000.) The dating of the letter to 73 AD (or “later than 73 AD”) is widely cited, but most writers online either don’t know why it’s dated then or just choose not to discuss the reasoning.

The reasoning isn’t hard to follow, on the view that the letter is genuine: Continue reading »

Sep 252013

I just got through a first read of Hedrick and Mirecki’s Gospel of the Savior: A New Ancient Gospel. The first thing that strikes me is a comparison between the reception of the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of the Savior, the two new ancient gospel texts published recently. There was a little hive of publishing activity regarding the Gospel of Judas, but almost nothing regarding the Gospel of the Savior has come out in book form since it was first released.

I attribute this to the sensationalism of the initial publication of the Gospel of Judas but also, secondly, to the very fragmentary form of the Gospel of the Savior. You can’t easily just sit down with the latter in translation and muse about it. Everywhere you must first wrestle with the difficult questions of what might be in those lacunae, the missing parts of the text that lie beyond, in every direction, that which we actually can read. Continue reading »

Sep 242013

I am starting back from nothing in two ways today. I am starting this blog, which launches into the biblioblog part of the blogosphere. While I will be writing about the themes of my existing websites (Early Christian Writings, Early Jewish Writings, and Christian Origins), I may stray into other topics and other projects. This will be my only blog, so it will be a reflection of what I’m thinking about or working on at the time. My blog is informal and may not even reflect my own views a week from now, so if you see something wrong, a comment would be appreciated. May I always be open to a change of mind and ready to admit a mistake!

I am also starting my library from nothing, or almost nothing, because I did have four books on the Dead Sea Scrolls that my sister had found left in her apartment. I had sold all of my books because I had been moving around a bit, most importantly to Norway where I met my wife and married her in 2012. Last year, we found out that I would not be able to immigrate to Norway to be with her, so I packed my life back into two bags, and now we have an apartment in California. Continue reading »