Biblical Studies Scholars and Their Thoughts on ‘The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug’

Minimalist Scholar: “Meh.”

Dead Sea Scroll Scholar: “I think it is very likely that Tauriel may have existed in a precanonical form of the book, which very well might be lost in a jar in a cave.”

Q-Scholar: “I believe that if we analyze the Jacksonian variant and the Tolkien variant we might come to find a hypothetical original, which we shall designate as the Hypothetical-V (for Valar) Source.”

Confessional Theologian: “It was a fine movie, but absolutely wrong.  Only what is in the Hobbit book is the true word of Tolkien and all other additions are late heresies.”

Gnostic Scholar: “I prefer the additional movie material to the original book.  Honestly, I don’t see what all the fuss is about.”

Old Testament Theologian: “I can definitely see the influence of the Davidic narratives on the story of Bilbo and the Dwarves.”

New Testament Theologian: “Whaaa…?  David?  I think you mean Jesus.”

Old Testament Theologian: “Same difference.”

Atheist Scholar: “I’m still irritated that Tolkien’s world has a Christian version of heaven and an afterlife in it.  WTF?”

Liberation Theologian: “I really appreciate the character of Bard; his plight is so common among God’s children, and Peter Jackson did such a great job of orchestrating the evils of economic greed and social injustice in the political hierarchy of Lake Town and the downfall of Thorin as his mind is taken by the power of the Arkenstone.”

Conservative Catholic Theologian: “Goodness you talk too much.”

Liberation Theologian: “When I can get a word in, while you’re not yelling over us, I take it.”

Anglican Theologian: “C.S. Lewis beats Tolkien any day.”

Minimalist Scholar: “Meh.”

Progressive Christian Scholar: “I think the love between Tauriel and Kili is a beautiful thing; it shows us that love can happen anywhere between any group of people, regardless of their differences.  It shows us that love is a complicated emotion and, like the love of God, knows no boundaries.”

Confessional Theologian: “Heresy!”

Conservative Catholic Theologian: “Ew.”

Progressive Christian Scholar: “Oh, shut up you two.”

Conservative Baptist Scholar: “Any love that is not between one human man and one human woman is an abomination against the Lord.  Also since all the female Dwarves have beards, we can safely assume that this movie is all part of some grand homosexual agenda.”

Maximalist Scholar: “We’ve discovered the remains of a building which might be an example of an early Gondorian style synagogue.  We’ve finally proved that Middle Earth was a real thing!”

Minimalist Scholar: “That’s…pretty stupid.”

Mormon Scholar: “We have our own version of ‘The Hobbit’ and it is waaayyyy better than yours.  And it is written in a different language–reformed Tolkieneese–so take that all you non-Mormons!”

Confessional Theologian: “Can we all agree to just ignore that guy?”

Methodist Scholar: “Can’t we all just agree that the movie and the book are separate entities and should be judged as such, without muddying the water and acting as if they should all be grouped together in the same category (and therefore hold them to the same standards)?  I mean, we all can usually separate the Gnostic Gospels and the Canonical Ones in this way—can’t we at least make a mental attempt to do the same thing when it comes to Tolkien?”

The Best Thing Ever

Is this video of a cat riding a Roomba, dressed as a shark

And for all those people who make silly arguments out there, I am now using this to end the debate:

CATROOMBA

h/t Mark Goodacre on Facebook.

Why I Love Instagram

Here are some of my favorite Instagram photos.  Yes, I took these.  No, you cannot use these photos without permission.  Yes, you can enjoy them.

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Zombie Love? Was the Historical Jesus a Zombie?

Anthony Le Donne directed his readers to Scot McKnight’s interesting analysis of the zombie theme in the resurrection narratives of Jesus.  Like Anthony, I was also amused, though there were some fatal flaws with McKnight’s arguments–mainly because he takes a canonical (re: orthodox) approach to Zombies and any True™ Z-fan will tell you that the Zombie motif is far from stable or stagnant.  In fact, the Zombie motif is constantly shifting with the social currents of the time (much like figure of the historical Jesus, actually).

But let us get on with it.  First and foremost, McKnighly lays out his interpretation of the resurrection:

Resurrection is not a natural process, and it is certainly not something that makes one “the living dead.” Jesus’ resurrection was a total physical renewal. On Easter morning, death and corruption were decisively overrun in this single human person, as every cell of Jesus’ body cast off mortality for immortality.

Resurrection, then, is what it looks like when the affects of sin are removed from a human being.

That is fine; I can respect McKnight’s faith in this regard, but then we have to differentiate the physical and spiritual act of sin-cleansing from the actually event of rising from the dead.  They may be linked, but we cannot discount the fact that Jesus shows the wounds of his crucifixion (“Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”, Lk 24.39, NIV; cf. Jn 20.20) and even demands his disciples touch them (“Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.'”, Jn 20.27, NIV… yuck)!

Though it brings me no joy, I bow to the scholarship of Licona:

“[E]ven if Jesus had somehow managed to survive crucifixion, He would not have inspired His disciples to believe that He had been resurrected. Imagine Jesus, half-dead in the tomb. He revives out of a coma and finds Himself afraid in the dark. He places his nail-pierced hands on the very heavy stone blocking His exit and pushes it out of the way. Then, He is met by the guards who say “Where do you think you’re going, Pal?” He answers, “I’m out of this hole.” He then beats up the guards, after which He walks blocks if not miles on pierced and wounded feet in order to find His disciples. Finally, He comes to the house where they are staying and knocks on the door. Peter opens the door and sees Jesus hunched over in his pathetic and mutilated state and says, “Wow! I can’t wait to have a resurrection body just like yours!”

So if the Gospel narratives of Jesus’ death are to be believed, and if Licona is a trustworthy scholar (I leave those two questions to be answered at the discretion of the reader), then we must accept that Jesus actually died and then came back to life in the flesh (according to two Gospels, at least).  We know that in most narratives, Zombies also come back to life after they die and exhibit the same wounds they had at death and experience no pain–like Licona’s risen Jesus model, Zombies are able to perform amazing athletic feats without suffering from the debilitating effects of their afflictions (death), for example they can climb building or chase after cars or leap in the air or even jump out windows and land on their feet (like cats) without once stopping because of the pain.  And they do all this with super strength and super speed, in a primal fashion, which defies all physical and natural laws and order.

McKnight then tries to find an example of Biblical Zombies and decides, to my surprise, that Adam is the best option: “Looking at other stories, the better biblical example of one with zombie-ism was actually Adam. Adam dies, yet he lives.” But this isn’t so at all.  The best other example of Zombie-ism in the Bible is clearly the case of the saints rising from the grave and walking all over Jerusalem like a pack or horde of Zombies on the prowl (for brains or sins or whatever these zombies crave):

“The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.  They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” (Mt 27.51, NIV)

Both Wright and Licona have argued that this happened (because, after all, who would make up a story like this?) so we are left with multiple examples of dead coming to life and roaming around, eating food in some instances, showing signs of exposed wounds (one must wonder in what state the dead saints must have been!), doing amazing feats (walking along roads with no signs of pain from their afflictions).

This is all just from the narrative bits now, but there is also that cannibalism thing that plays a huge role in the Zombie-ism of Jesus’ death and subsequent rising… (“Take and eat; this is my body.”, Mt 26.26-9, NIV) and the blood drinking.  This ritual cannibalism was performed by all those at the table with Jesus.  I mean, that might as well have been right out of the mind of George A. Romero!

I think we must all come to agreement here.  The historical Jesus, had he risen from the dead as described in at least some of the narratives of his resurrection, must have been a Zombie.

Apologies in advance for causing any offense; this is more of a social commentary on scholarship and some of the bizarre historical Jesuses that some scholars have proposed; as well an attempt at a humorous take on how scholarship can go seriously wrong if not done correctly.  A belated Happy Halloween to you!

Do You Like Classics and Football?

What a silly question, right?  I mean, come on, who doesn’t like Classics and Football?! Well, good on you, because I have some information you’ll be glad to read!

So for those who aren’t aware, Rutgers is responsible for collegiate football.  Seriously, look it up.  And something else you might not know: Rutgers’  first football team was made up predominantly of Classics majors!

Rutgers’ new student paper, the Daily Targum, had the good sense to show up to report on the game, which they did in astonishing detail that has often been reprinted. See here for an excellent summary (with lots of great images) from the RU Athletics website.

Unlike Princeton, Rutgers also kept a good record of its student-athletes who showed up to play that November day—27 for RU in all.

Now, a glance at the academic rolls shows that all but five of those 27 players were taking the rigorous Rutgers Classics Curriculum. The best student among them was probably the team captain, William James Leggett, Class of 1872. Before graduating, he won prizes in Latin as well as mathematics and declamation. Amazingly, he was also Targum editor, director of the baseball team, and captain and stroke of the RU crew.

But three of the members of the team were flunking freshman algebra, and one of them—Classics student William McKee ’73—had a string of absences in the week leading up the game, which the faculty marked as “excused” after the Rutgers victory.

via This day in RU history: team of mostly classicists beat Princeton in first-ever intercollegiate football game |.

With thanks to Professor Brennan on bringing this to my attention.  Rutgers, Football, and Classics: a winning combination in my book and, as it so happens to turn out, Rutgers beat Princeton that game.

Minimalists Re-enact the Last Supper

Here are my minimalist heroes, friends, and colleagues in Amsterdam proving once again that reception is everything.

NP Lemche and Philip Davies on the left, L.L. Grabbe and Thomas L. Thompson in the center.

Here is my re-imagining of the event:

I have been fooling around with editing software this evening and I think I’ve got the right combination of texture and clarity here.

 

George Athas perceptively remarks: “Minimalistically, there is no bread, no wine, and fewer disciples than we thought.  And come to think of it, it isn’t even clear whether we have a Jesus or not.”

Brilliant!  H/T Jim West.

Two in the Mail from SBL!

About this time last year I participated in an online survey for SBL concerning self-publishing and e-publishing.  I was unaware until recently that last year I had won a random prize for being a part of that survey (as do the most neurotic among us, I Googled my name in the SBL search function and found the notification).  And what was that prize?  $50 in SBL books!  And they just arrived today!  Here is what I received:

  • F. Flannery, C. Shantz, R.A. Werline , eds., Experientia, Volume 1: Inquiry into Religious Experience in Early Judaism and Christianity (Society of Biblical Lit, 2008), 272 pages.
  • New Testament Greek Manuscripts, Galatians (William Carey Int’l Univ Press, 2002). Compiled and Edited by Reuben J. Swanson, 135 pages.

Looking forward to delving into these soon.

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