Philip F. Esler on Why Identity Matters

Interesting Op Ed by Philip Esler on Bible and Interpretation.  Here is a snippet:

“Identity Matters” is the title of a recent book by a group of social scientists on ethnic and sectarian conflict.1 And so it does. If a person is explaining who he or she is or a group who they are, they are answering one of the most fundamental questions of all. It is also invariably true that people or groups answering the question “Who are you?” have a much richer understanding of themselves than outsiders will. Indeed, one of the major problems in human and social relations is the practice of stereotyping the other, of reducing the enormous complexity and richness of what it means to be the people they are to a handful of characteristics alleged to typify them.

Accordingly, when we explore issues of personal and group identity we are obliged to take the question very seriously and to be sensitive to the self-understandings of the people and groups we are investigating. If those in focus come from a different culture, we are also into the distinction between emic and the etic, between insider, indigenous viewpoints and outsider, often social science informed viewpoints. When the people in question are in the past, we encounter the additional complication of how the subsequent course of history of their descendants, physical and spiritual, affects, or should be allowed to affect, our interpretation.

via The Bible and Interpretation – Oped name.

Go there to read the rest.

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Craig A. Evans – Doubting Morton Smith and Secret Mark

Craig A. Evans has an interesting, if not thought-provoking, discussion of Secret Mark that is worth reading.  I am not sure where I stand on this debate.  I know James Tabor and Joe Hoffmann both have different opinions about Smith, and they would know better than I would (and probably better than Evans, since they were students).  But I can say I don’t accept Secret Mark as anything more than a fabrication (possibly ancient, possibly modern); I don’t believe this was part of the Markan tradition.   Either way, I suspect there will be another article soon enough arguing the opposite.  here is a snippet:

At the 1960 annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, Morton Smith (1915–91) announced that while examining a number of old books and papers in the Mar Saba Monastery in the Judean Desert in 1958 he discovered three pages of hand-written Greek in the back of a 1646 edition of the letters of Ignatius. These pages purport to be a lost letter of Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–215), written to one Theodore, in which a longer, mystical (or “secret”) Gospel of Mark is discussed. Two passages of this work are quoted, one of which describes Jesus teaching a young man, wearing a linen sheet over his “naked” body, the “mystery of the kingdom of God.” In 1973, Smith published his find, now known as the “Secret Gospel of Mark,” in a lengthy, learned volume (Harvard University Press) and in a briefer, popular version (Harper). Although a number of scholars were willing to accept the find as authentic, or at least were willing to accept Smith’s account, a number of other scholars suspected the find was a hoax and that perhaps Smith himself was the hoaxer. The matter continues to be debated.

About half of the participants view Smith’s find with suspicion, if not as an outright hoax. These include Chilton, Jeffery, Piovanelli, and me. The other half of the participants, including the hosts, remain convinced that Smith told the truth. (The authenticity of the find itself, of course, is another matter.) On his blog, Tony has chronicled his thoughts, explaining why after hearing the papers and the discussion he still thinks Smith indeed made the discovery and that Smith was not involved in any way in a hoax.

via The Bible and Interpretation – Doubting Morton Smith and Secret Mark.

 

Remaking the Shroud: Antonio Lombatti on the Shroud of Turin

A must-read article!  Check it out:

In the last 20 years I have seen many documentaries on the Shroud of Turin. Each of them promised to finally solve the “mystery” of the most controversial Christian relic of all times. I have to say that “Remaking the Shroud,” recently aired by NatGeo TV, is the best one I’ve ever watched so far. It doesn’t want us to be convinced that this medieval relic is the real burial cloth of Jesus. It doesn’t want to convey the message that this artifact is miraculous or mysterious. It simply tries to distinguish if the Shroud of Turin has to be considered an icon made to evoke and inspire the faithful or a hoax forged to fool the gullible and help medieval monasteries to make lots of money.

This is the best Shroud film ever produced probably because most of the people who have been involved in it are professional scholars and not “shroudologists”: the medievalist Richard Kaeuper (University of Rochester), who speaks on the first owner of the Turin Shroud — the French knight Geoffroy de Charny; — the archaeologist Shimon Gibson (Texas A&M University), who refers on Second Temple burial cloths and rites, the art historian William Dale (University of Western Ontario), who deals with byzantine icons; and the chemist Luigi Garlaschelli (University of Pavia), the first scientist to remake a full-size shroud.

The documentary is divided into three main parts. In the general introduction, we are told what the Shroud is: a linen bearing a double image of a (presumed) man who should show the marks of Jesus’ crucifixion. However, there are many inaccuracies and the image is anatomically incorrect. When the relics first appeared in France around 1355, the bishop ordered an inquiry and found out that such burial cloth with a double imprint did not find any confirmation in the Gospels. Moreover, the Pope who had to face the first controversy on the public display of the Shroud wrote in the bull that he be granted permission to show it, but it had to be said with a clear and loud voice that it was a mere representation of the burial cloth of Jesus and not the real one. Finally, even the owners – the French family de Charny – when asked for permission to place the relic in their church have always referred to the Shroud as a representation.

via The Bible and Interpretation.

Follow the link to keep reading.

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