Character Profile: Joseph Caiaphas

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The high priest Joseph Caiaphas is known not only from the New Testament Gospels as the high priest who opposed Jesus and his early followers, but also from Josephus the Jewish historian who lived in the first century C.E. In this video Marc Turnage provides an historical sketch of this pivotal character.

LOY Excursus: Catalog of Markan Stereotypes and Possible Markan Pick-ups

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This excursus, which is a work in progress, is an attempt to identify and collect certain redactional words and phrases characteristic of the editorial style of the author of Mark’s Gospel, specifically the “Markan stereotypes” (words that appear with unusually high frequency in Mark) and “Markan pick-ups” (words that the author of Mark borrowed from other sources). We will continue to add to the catalog as further Markan pick-ups and Markan stereotypes are identified in the course of our research for “The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.”

A New Approach to the Synoptic Gospels

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It is easy to claim new solutions and new approaches to familiar problems. But in the field of New Testament research it is much harder to make these claims stick. Some years ago I wrote an article in which I attempted to correct the prevailing view that Mark was the first of the Gospels. When the article was discussed in a seminar at Cambridge, the objection was raised that there was nothing new in my contentions or approach. Perhaps not. Perhaps I am simply unable to find in the enormous mountain of scholarly contributions to our knowledge of the Synoptic Gospels the special line of solution and methodology to which I found myself driven as early as 1962.

A New Two-source Solution to the Synoptic Problem

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Despite the continuing debate between Matthean and Markan priorists, some form of the widely-accepted Two-Source Hypothesis seems necessary for a proper understanding of the synoptic relationships. The Two-Source Hypothesis as generally conceived, however, cannot cover the evidence of dependence and interdependence found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. The same must be said for the theory of Matthean priority.

My Search for the Synoptic Problem’s Solution (1959-1969)

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The Gospel of Mark was never popular in the Greek-speaking Hellenistic church. Papias, the mid-second-century bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia, was the first church father to mention the Gospel and his statement was probably dictated by the general criticism voiced against Mark by the early Greek readers of the Gospel: “Mark,” Papias says, “did no wrong in writing down the things [he had only heard Peter say].”

Gamaliel and Nicodemus

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The Pharisee Gamaliel is mentioned twice in the New Testament (Acts 5:34; 22:3). In Acts 5:34 he appears as an advocate of the nascent congregation of Jesus’ disciples in Jerusalem and is called “a Pharisee, a teacher of the Law, held in honor by all the people.” Then, in Acts 22:3, Paul says that he was “brought up in this city [Jerusalem] at the feet of Gamaliel.” Indeed, Gamaliel was an important spiritual leader of the Pharisees and a Jewish scholar. He also is well known from Jewish sources.

On “Blood” in the Apostolic Decree (Acts 15:19-20)

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Flusser and Safrai’s premise is that “blood” in this passage does not refer to the consumption of blood but rather to murder. They conclude that the apostolic decision prohibiting eating meat sacrificed to idols, fornication, and blood is equal to the rabbinic decree that under penalty of death a Jew may violate any of the commandments of the Torah with the exception of idolatry, adultery and murder.

Hebraisms in the New Testament

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A “Hebraism” is a typical feature of the Hebrew language found in another language. The majority of today’s New Testament authorities assume that Aramaic is behind the Semitisms of the New Testament, and that Jesus spoke Aramaic as his primary language. So much so, in fact, that the student who checks standard reference works is informed that the Greek words for “Hebrew” and for “in the Hebrew language” (not only in the New Testament, but in Josephus and other texts) refer to the Aramaic language.

Covered in the Dust of Your Rabbi: An Urban Legend?

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Some months ago, pastor-blogger Trevin Wax posted an article called “Urban Legends: The Preacher’s Edition.” There he lists several “urban legends” that he’s heard floating around lately in sermons. Like Internet rumors that people forward on ad infinitum, these preaching illustrations don’t have much grounding in fact.

Why Learn to Speak a Dead Language?

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Why would anyone in his or her right mind want to speak a “dead” language, a language that no one speaks? The answer: Because only by speaking a language does one internalize it, and it was high time, Randall and I felt, having tasted fluency in Hebrew, that we should gain an active knowledge of Koine Greek.

Selected Examples of Rewriting in Mark’s Account of Jesus’ Last Week

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It has been noted that in instances where Mark’s editorial hand restructured his story, Luke has preserved a more primitive form of the account, a form that is independent of Mark’s influence. Gospel scholars need to properly evaluate Mark’s editorial style and acknowledge that frequently a theological agenda influenced his rewriting.

Can Gentiles Be Saved?

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Jesus’ broadminded approach resonates with contemporary sages who belonged to the School of Hillel. In their opinion, it is better to leave God-fearing Gentiles in their blessed state with only the necessity of the moral laws given to Noah.

Being There

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One of the strongest impressions I have from my first year in Israel (1963-1964) was taking part in a Passover Seder (the joyous home celebration of Passover). It happened that during this first year in Israel my first contact with the Jewish people took place—there were no Jews living in Cleveland, Oklahoma, where I grew up.

The Synagogue the Centurion Built

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The third Evangelist recorded in the seventh chapter of his Gospel a story about Jesus, the Jewish elders of Capernaum, a Roman centurion and their affable relations. From rabbinic texts and other literary sources like the New Testament, we know that despite years of suffering brought upon the Jewish people by their Roman overlords, there were instances when Jew and Roman behaved amicably toward one another. Luke 7:1-10 stands out as one such episode.

Insulting God’s High Priest

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Recent research has shown that Sadducees, not Pharisees, were responsible for the death of Jesus. An incident recounted in the Book of Acts provides a glimpse of the Sadducean high priests’ corrupt behavior. Little wonder the Sadducees were despised by the common people.

A New Portrait of Salome

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Salome’s image has been obscured and marred due to the personas created for her by writers of the past 150 years. Salome is famous for the part she played in the execution of John the Baptist. Since 1863, she has been depicted in books and films as morally depraved. Diligent research reveals, however, that the real Salome is much different than popular portrayals.

Were Women Segregated in the Ancient Synagogue?

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Did women play a passive role in the synagogue congregations of antiquity? Were they separated from male members of the congregation during prayer and study, as is the case today? According to Professor Shmuel Safrai, the answer to both questions is a resounding “No.”