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Yearly Archives: 2018

My Review of an Introductory Textbook on the Gospels

The latest edition of the Australian Biblical Review (Vol. 66, 2018) has been published. My review of Warren Carter’s Telling Tales about Jesus: An Introduction to the New Testament Gospels has also been posted in it. I hope that my review has provided a good summary of the book’s contents for lecturers who might be exploring possible textbooks to use for an introductory unit on the Gospels.


The 2018 September Biblical Studies Carnival has been Posted

Jim West has posted the 2018 September Biblical Studies Carnival. It has included several blog posts that I missed this month and maintains the carnival theme throughout. Enjoy.

August 2018 Biblical Studies Carnival

Kevin Turner has posted the latest biblical studies carnival for the month of August 2018 at his blog Monday Morning Theologian. Enjoy.

July 2018 Biblioblog Carnival

The latest Biblical Studies Carnival for the month of July 2018 has been posted by Karen R. Keen. She lists a ton of posts under the following categories:

  • Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
  • Early Jewish Texts (extra-Biblical)
  • New Testament
  • Bible and Culture
  • Manuscripts/Textual Criticism (General)
  • Pedagogy
  • Book Reviews
  • Announcements
  • Bonus: List of Women Scholar Bloggers

Enjoy the carnival!

Primary Jewish and Christian Sources Online

We concluded the posts this month with a look at a few “apocryphal” Gospels. The word connotes writings that are “secret” or “hidden”, but there is no reason why these texts should be hidden from the person in the pews any longer. As I work from within a particular Christian framework, none of these writings hold any theological authority on par with the canonical Jewish and Christian Scriptures for me. However, they are invaluable historical documents that fill out the historical and social contexts and the kind of traditions, beliefs, and practices that various groups across the Judeo-Christian spectrum were engaging, often in dialogue and debate with each other and with other groups in the larger Graeco-Roman world. Christian writers in the first few centuries did not yet know what would ultimately be decided as canonical and continued to write to either learn more about Jesus (e.g. the circumstances of his heavenly pre-existence, birth, childhood, ministry, passion, or post-ascension existence) or to interpret the person and message of Jesus through a particular theological lens, only some of which were finally judged to be theologically “orthodox” (e.g., the debate between the Gospels that presented Jesus as a dying Saviour versus as a dispenser of esoteric and revelatory knowledge). If you go to the tab “Academic Resources (External),” you can look up “primary sources” and read up some of the unofficial translations of them online. Official editions of texts may be found in the nearest academic library.

Lost Sources that We Wish We Had

A long time ago, there was a meme circulating among the biblioblogs about lost ancient sources that we wish we could recover, but I could not find some of these older posts when I typed this into a google search. I wonder what would be on your list (also note that I am not presuming any of these hypothetical sources exist but it would certainly shed some light if we discovered some source like them):

  • J, E, D, and P or whatever lost sources underlie the Pentateuch?
  • Q, M, L, other collections (sayings, pronouncement stories, miracles), signs source, passion narrative, the Logos hymn, proto-Gospels, or whatever sources underlie our New Testament Gospels?
  • Lost Gospels such as the Gospel according to the Hebrews.
  • Lost Epistles such as Paul’s “letter of tears” to the Corinthians or his letter to the Laodiceans.
  • Lost Patristic sources such as the Exposition of the Oracles of the Lord by Papias of Hierapolis.

If we were to discover these sources, I wonder what scholarly theories they would disprove or force us to heavily revise? And what new scholarly theories would they encourage us to develop?

David B. Sloan on the “Gospel according to the Hebrews”

I offered an overview of the major theories surrounding the Patristic and Medieval Christian comments on the so-called Gospel according to the Hebrews. In the debate over whether there was one, two, three, or more Jewish Christian Gospels, I support the two Gospel hypothesis (i.e. the Gospel according to the Hebrews and a Gospel known to Epiphanius). On the other hand, David B. Sloan has a website dedicating to reconstructing Q, a hypothetical common source to Matthew and Luke, and argues for the identification of Q with the Gospel according to the Hebrews (see especially his conference paper). Thus, he not only argues that there was only one Gospel that was known to our various Patristic authors (Clement, Origen, Didymus, Eusebius, Epiphanius, Jerome, etc.), but also that it was a very early source that informed the Synoptic tradition. Check out his arguments and see what you think.

Reconstructions of the Gospels according to the Hebrews, Ebionites, and Nazoraeans Online

I have been speaking about the Jewish Christian Gospels outside of the New Testament, but you may be interested in the surviving quotations or allusions to them in the sources. If you go to Peter Kirby’s website http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/, you can read about the contents that have been assigned to the so-called Gospel of the HebrewsGospel of the Ebionites, and Gospel of the Nazoraeans. Of course, this is presuming the three Gospel hypothesis. Those who argue for a single Jewish Gospel would include all these traditions in the Gospel according to the Hebrews, since the latter two Gospels are hypothetical constructs of modern scholars. Those who argue for two Gospels would accept that all the traditions of Epiphanius go back to a distinct Gospel that modern scholars have dubbed the Gospel of the Ebionites, while they would reject the existence of the Gospel of the Nazoraeans and assign Jeromes’ fragments either to the Gospel according to the Hebrews, to Jewish Christian traditions that were contemporary with Jerome, or to an Aramaic translation of Matthew composed by the Christian Nazoraeans.

The Allegedly Sinful Woman in the Gospel according to the Hebrews?

I mentioned that the story of the allegedly sinful woman was interpolated into Codex Bezae and later manuscripts of the Gospel of John. Yet the fourth century church historian Eusebius did not find it in his manuscript of John’s Gospel, nor did he identify it with the account in Luke 7:36-50, but he inferred that his source Papias had located it in the so-called Gospel according to the Hebrews (cf. Ecclesiastical History 3.39.17). Didymus the Blind was more vague when he mentions that he found it in “certain Gospels” in his commentary on Ecclesiastes. Didymus, however, cites a tradition from the Gospel according to the Hebrews in his Commentary on the Psalms 184.9-10 and it is plausible that this was one of his sources for the story. I do not think the Gospel according to the Hebrews dates back as early as Papias, but I do accept that the oral tradition known to Papias developed over time and was eventually included in this text.

This raises another issue. While there are some scholars who continue to argue for the Patristic view that there was a single Gospel according to the Hebrews that was a significant source for the early Jesus tradition (e.g., Pritz, Edwards, Sloan), the majority position is that there were three different Gospels that the church authorities mistakenly lumped together (e.g., Vielhauer, Strecker, Klijn, Klauck, Frey). The three reconstructed Gospels are an eclectic Greek text cited by the Alexandrian Fathers (i.e. the Gospel according to the Hebrews), a Greek harmony of the Synoptic Gospels cited by the fourth century Epiphanius of Salamis (i.e. the Gospel according to the Ebionites), and an Aramaic Gospel that Jerome (mistakenly?) thought to resemble Matthew’s Gospel (i.e. the Gospel according to the Nazoraeans). The last approach that has found some recent champions (Luomanen, Gregory) accepts the existence of the first two reconstructed Gospels, but argues against the existence of the so-called Gospel according to the Nazoraeans by proposing that Jerome just knew an Aramaic translation of Matthew’s Gospel circulating among Christians known as the Nazoraeans and confused it with the source cited by earlier Greek Christian commentators as the Gospel according to the Hebrews. Here is a brief bibliography:

  • Edwards, James R. The Hebrew Gospel and the Development of the Synoptic Tradition. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009.
  • Evans, Craig. “The Jewish Christian Gospel Tradition” in Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries. Edited by Oskar Skarsaune and Reider Hvalvik. Peabody: Hendrikson, 2007.
  • Frey, Jörg. “Die Fragmente judenchristlicher Evangelien” in Antike christliche Apokryphen in deutscher Übersetzung. I. Band: Evangelien und Verwandtes. Teilband 1. Edited by Christoph Markschies and Jens Schroter. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012.
  • Gregory, Andrew. “Jewish Christian Gospels” in The Non-Canonical Gospels, 54-67. Edited by Paul Foster. London: T&T Clark, 2008.
  • Klijn, A. F. J. Jewish-Christian Gospel Tradition. Leiden: Brill, 1992.
  • Klauck, Hans Josef. Apocryphal Gospels: An Introduction. Translated by Brian McNeil. London: T&T Clark, 2003.
  • Kok, Michael J. “Did Papias of Hierapolis Use the Gospel according to the Hebrews as a Source?” Journal of Early Christian Studies 25.1 (2017): 29-53.
  • Luomanen, Petri. Recovering Jewish-Christian Sects and Gospels. Leiden: Brill, 2012.
  • Pritz, Ray A. Nazarene Jewish Christianity: From the End of the New Testament Period until its Disappearance in the Fourth Century. Jerusalem: Magnes, 1988.
  • Vielhauer, Philipp and Strecker, Georg. “Jewish Christian Gospels” in New Testament Apocrypha I: Gospels and Related Writings, 560-660. Edited by Wilhelm Schneemelcher. Translated by R. McL. Wilson. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1991.


The Text-Critical Evidence for the Pericope Adulterae

For readers who are interested in the manuscript evidence for the “pericope adulterae” in John 7:53-8:11 and in other locations in the Gospels of John and Luke, see the excellent article by Chris Keith entitled “The Initial Location of the Pericope Adulterae in Fourfold TraditionNovum Testamentum 51.3 (2009): 209-231. As Chris Keith is one of the foremost experts on this text, there are quite a number of helpful posts on the subject over at The Jesus Blog where he is a co-contributor. There are also many great posts on the subject over at the blog Evangelical Textual Criticism.