Episode 3: Slavery in the Ancient Mediterranean World and the New Testament with Robin Thompson

In this episode, we explore the heart-wrenching and often divisive topic of slavery in the Ancient Mediterranean World and its relation to the New Testament and the earliest Christians. Robin Thompson (PhD, Dallas Theological Seminary) is Adjunct Professor of Theology at Houston Baptist University and a visiting professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. She has written several academic articles and papers on slavery and the New Testament and was recently recognized with a Regional Scholar Award by the Society of Biblical Literature. As she has not yet published her own work in book form, here are a few resources she recommended on the topic:

Scot McKnight, Philemon, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Eerdmans, 2017).
Keith Bradley, Slavery and Society at Rome (Cambridge, 1994).
Henrick Mouritsen, Freedmen in the Roman World (Cambridge, 2011).
Jennifer Glancy, Slavery in Early Christianity (Oxford, 2001).
Jennifer Glancy, Slavery as Moral Problem: In the Early Church and Today (Fortress, 2011).

Short video clip of the English Standard Version (ESV) Translation Committee debating the translation of δουλος (slave) in the New Testament.

This episode is a bit longer than usual, but I think most listeners will appreciate taking the extra time to learn more about this topic.

To explore more resources for engaging the New Testament or to keep up with my research and musings, visit my website: christophermarsh.org.

Episode 2: Intertextuality and the Old Testament in the New Testament with Mario Melendez

In this episode of the Engaging the New Testament podcast, we will be exploring intertextuality. Basically, “intertextuality” means the use of one text or set of texts in another text, like when someone in a movie or on a website quotes someone else or purposely says something to remind you of another work, person, or event. Specifically, we will be looking at the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament. This vast topic can be quite dense and complex, but Dr. Mario Melendez of Oklahoma Baptist University has joined me to break down the topic for us. Dr. Melendez teaches Hebrew and Old Testament at OBU, but his research often crosses the boundaries between the Old and New Testament writings. His dissertation involved the use of Habakkuk 2:4 in the New Testament, and he is currently producing a series of books for reading through portions of the Hebrew Bible and the Greek New Testament for Glossa House. He is also the author of Third Culture Faithful and regularly is invited to speak on issues of multi-ethnic ministry.

To explore more resources for engaging the New Testament or to keep up with my research and musings, visit my website: christophermarsh.org.

Episode 1: New Testament Text Criticism with Elijah Hixson and Peter Gurry

In this episode of the Engaging the New Testament podcast, we explore the fascinating topic of New Testament textual criticism. Textual Criticism, in a nutshell, is the study of how we establish the most accurate text of the New Testament. This area of study is critical for understanding the New Testament, but many people struggle to understand it much less keep up-to-date on the topic. Well, Elijah Hixson and Peter Gurry are out to help! They have co-edited the book Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism, which gives an accessible, up-to-date discussion of New Testament textual criticism that addresses common misconceptions. Dr. Gurry (PhD, University of Cambridge) teaches at Phoenix Seminary and co-directs the Text and Canon Institute. Dr. Hixson (PhD, University of Edinburgh) has been a researcher at Tyndale House, Cambridge and now works for the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM). Both blog at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog.

If you are a scholar or student, be sure to check out the Text and Canon Institute’s upcoming colloquium, Origen as Philologist, March 11–12, 2021.

To explore more resources for engaging the New Testament or to keep up with my research and musings, go to my website: christophermarsh.org.

Episode 0: Introduction

I’m starting a new podcast called Engaging the New Testament! It will feature interviews with New Testament scholars and other experts to help us wrap our minds around important issues that help us better understand and engage the New Testament text and early Christian beliefs and practices. Hopefully, this ends up being helpful and piques your interest! Available on major podcasting services (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, and PodBean).

The Longest OT Quotation in Paul, Pt. 2: Poetic Structure

As promised, here is my form analysis of Paul’s catena in Romans 3:10-18. Most of the material here is drawn from a paper I did for Dr. Benjamin Simpson in his Romans Exegesis course at Dallas Theological Seminary in the Summer of 2019.

The Greek is layed out in lines, with repeated words or related terms in bold, notable assonance is underlined, and proposed rhymes are matched by color.

καθὼς γέγραπται ὅτι:

Οὐκ ἔστιν δίκαιος οὐδὲ εἷς,
οὐκ ἔστιν ὁ συνίων,
οὐκ ἔστινἐκζητῶν τὸν θεόν.
πάντες ἐξέκλιναν
ἅμα ἠχρεώθησαν·
οὐκ ἔστιν ὁ ποιῶν χρηστότητα,
[οὐκ ἔστιν] ἕως ἑνός.

τάφος ἀνεῳγμένος ὁ λάρυγξ αὐτῶν,
ταῖς γλώσσαις αὐτῶν ἐδολιοῦσαν,
ἰὸς ἀσπίδων ὑπὸ τὰ χείλη αὐτῶν·
ὧν τὸ στόμα ἀρᾶς καὶ πικρίας γέμει,

ὀξεῖς οἱ πόδες αὐτῶν ἐκχέαι αἷμα,
σύντριμμα καὶ ταλαιπωρία (ἐστίν) ἐν ταῖς ὁδοῖς αὐτῶν,
καὶ ὁδὸν εἰρήνης οὐκ ἔγνωσαν.
οὐκ ἔστιν φόβος θεοῦ ἀπέναντι τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν αὐτῶν.

My English translation is an attempt to draw out some of the poetic elements of the Greek while also rendering the passage in poetic English.

For it is written:

No one is righteous.
No one understands.
No one seeks God.
Everyone turns away,
Each one made worthless.
No one does kindness.
No one.

Tapped tombs are their throats.
Their tongues deceive.
Viper venom is on their lips.
Their mouths are full
of curses and bitterness.

Their feet are swift to shed blood.
In their path is ruin and misery;
The path of peace they know not.
Before their eyes there is no fear of God.

Here, Paul strings together a sophisticated, structured chain of quotations from the Hebrew scriptures. Several scholars argue that this chain of citations is a pre-Pauline structure, perhaps a Jewish or Jewish Christian testimonia or florilegium (Fitzmyer 333-34; Longenecker 334-36, 354-58). Scholars cite Psalm of Solomon 17:15, 19 (Jewett 259), the Damascus Document 5:13-17, and Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho 27 as parallels (Thielman 181).  However, if Paul did not compose this ad hoc, then there is no reason to doubt Pauline composition of these verses for the present context (Thielman 181; cf Kruse 165-66), while also recognizing the significance of the poetic composition in these verses (see especially Seifrid[1] 616-17).

The basic structure of the passage follows the pattern of the ten commandments (cf. Exod 20) and the Great Commandment of Jesus (cf. Matt 22:37-40; Mark 12:29-31) by moving from a relationship before God (Rom 9:10b-12) to relationships with people (vv 13-17) and then concluding with a restatement of people’s relationship to God (v 18). The first section gains structure from the repetition of οὐκ ἔστιν which occurs at the beginning of five of the seven lines in verses 10b through 12. The second section is characterized by body parts (throat, tongue, mouth, lips, feet, eyes), and has parallel structure, chiastic structure, and a rhyme scheme (cf. Seifrid 616-17). The first, third, sixth, and eighth lines end in αὐτῶν (vv 13a, c, 16, 18), the central lines (vv 14-15) each end with a suffix with μ, and the second and seventh lines end in -σαν (vv 13b, 17). These differing structures for each section of the catena demonstrate that Paul is not only arguing that people have turned away from God theoretically, but also emphasizing their demonstration of this in their relationships to other people.

Paul primarily uses passages from the Psalms[2], quoting the Septuagint translation of Psalm 13:1-3, 5:10, 139:4, 9:28 (10:7 MT), before quoting Isaiah 59:7-8, and finally ending with the second half of Psalm 35:2. While the initial passages originally referred to the Gentile nations, Isaiah and Psalm 35:2 (MT 36:1) refer directly to Israel and people under the law. So it seems that Paul draws a picture from the lesser to the greater: the Gentile nations turn away from and do not seek after God, but the Jewish people have proven just as guilty according to their own law. Therefore, “no one does what is right before God” (10-12).

While there is no clear meter to this passage, as would have been common in Greco-Roman poetry, there are significant poetic conventions in play. Since Paul is primarily quoting psalms and was himself a Jew, it would make sense that he uses a semitic, psalm-like structure less focused on strict and consistent meter. The interesting thing about the catena is that it does have clear Greco-Roman poetic features in addition to parallelism and repeated words and phrases. Recognizing that my analysis is tentative, it seems like there is an obvious rhyme scheme that follows the parallelism in the second section (ABACCABA; vv 13-18), especially in light of the fact that Paul altered one of the passages to fit this scheme. In a later post I will explore in more depth the specific ways in which Paul works each of these quotations into this catena.

Hopefully you find this useful and interesting! I am intrigued to know if anyone more skilled in scansion can find any significant meter in these lines. Greek scansion is a skill I have yet to pursue in depth and develop to proficiency, so I would appreciate any feedback on this analysis and insights into the meter of the passage.

[1] Mark A. Seifrid, “Romans,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 607-93.

[2] Longenecker takes this as evidence that this is a pre-Pauline composition, since Paul most often quotes from the Pentateuch and the prophets (334-36).

The Longest Old Testament Quotation in Paul

In Romans 3:10-18, Paul brings out the longest string of quotations from the Hebrew scriptures of anywhere else in his letters. Here are the facts: this passage is nine verses long and quotes six passages without breaking (cf Rom 15:9-12). There are at least five psalms quoted (Pss 14:1-3, 5:10, 140:4, 10:7, and 36:1) and one passage from Isaiah (Is 59:7-8), and almost all are quoted directly from the Septuagint – with a few important exceptions. The whole string of passages deals with humankind’s turning away from God and harming of other people. It has been understood alternately as either supporting evidence for Paul’s argument that all humanity is unrighteous or an indictment of unrighteousness against all humanity.

However we look at this passage it can be described as a catena or “chain,” linking several passages of scripture together as part of an argument or liturgical work. Rabbi’s apparently called similar practices “pearl-stringing” (Moo, Romans, 210), and several Jewish and early Christian followed a similar practice. The more broad term was Florilegia – “a collection of excepts from prior writings; an anthology fr. Lat. ‘a gathering of flowers'” (DeMoss, Pocket Dictionary for the Study of New Testament Greek, 57).  This term has been applied to several of the Dead Sea Scrolls (4QFlor, 4QTest), and can be applied to early church writings called catena commentaries which strung commentary from the church fathers allongside the biblical text (DeMoss, 28-29).

Some have gone further and asserted that Paul is here quoting a prior-composed early Christian hymn (Keck, Käsemann) or synagogue liturgy (Schmithals). These scholars have noted the highly structured language and the key junctures at which the quotations differ from their Septuagint reading in order to conjoin euphonously. Thus, they argue that this was previously composed material, similar to other New Testament hymnic or creedal material (e.g. 1 Cor 15:1-11; Phil 3:5-11; Col 1:15-20 among others).

Others, while recognizing the well-composed aspect of the passage, argue that Paul himself may have composed these quotations poetically, possibly for the very occasion of writing this passage to the Romans (Longenecker, Koch, Stanley). While many have expressed frustration with the varied and sometimes haphazard attempts at identifying “traditional” material in Paul, recognizing Paul himself as an option for the origin of some of these prior-composed materials may provide several fruitful avenues of exploration (see the discussion of this in other New Testament passages in Gordley, New Testament Hymns).

Either way, it is helpful to recognize the compositional choices made in these verses. Even if Paul used a prior tradition, he clearly chose the material carefully – or adjusted it himself – to clearly articulate his argument. In a couple of future posts I plan to share my analysis of these structural components.

To be continued…

Greek New Testament(s): A Comparison of the Reader’s Editions

I was incredibly blessed by my placement in history to have a wealth of tools available for studying the New Testament. As I am told, only a few years ago, if a first or second-year Greek student wanted to engage substantively and prolongedly with the Greek New Testament he or she required not only the New Testament text in Greek, but also a Greek lexicon (dictionary) as well as one or more of a number of helps such as Zerwick and Grovesner’s A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament which could assist in taming strange, previously unencountered syntax dragons. This was not only cumbersome but also discouraging. However, now the aspiring student has several one-volume options from which to choose.

A one-volume “Reader’s Edition” of the Greek New Testament provides many of the necessary aids to jump headfirst into the text quickly and easily. Primarily this aid is provided through short, contextual glosses of Greek words that show up infrequently in the New Testament and thus are likely to be unfamiliar to the new student. However, there are now a number of such works each with unique benefits and quirks.

The primary contenders in English are fourfold: two from Zondervan, one from the United Bible Societies, and one from Crossway/Tyndale House.

Zondervan’s Reader’s Greek New Testament

Zondervan HGRB

The earliest one produced that is still widely available is Zondervan’s A Reader’s Hebrew and Greek Bible published in 2010. This volume is based on the text underlying the TNIV translation, mainly based on the UBS4, and like several of these volumes, it glosses Greek words that occur less than 30 times in the New Testament. You can find more information from the publisher here.

The Pros: This volume contains both the Old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek, both with glosses for unfamiliar and infrequent vocabulary. It contains a dictionary at the end of the New Testament section with glosses for every word that occurs 30 times or more in the New Testament, as well as several helpful maps for quick reference. These features mean you can bring this Bible to church without raising eyebrows, and it comes with nice looking leather binding.

The Cons: The glosses are all run together in paragraph format at the bottom of each page, which means finding the correct gloss in the footnotes can become quite a quest. The thin, italicized font compounds this issue. In addition, there are helpful footnotes illuminating where the TNIV base text differs from the UBS4. However, these fall far short of a textual apparatus for anyone interested in wrestling with significant textual problems as they engage the text, and they are based on an older edition of the standard Greek New Testament.

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The most up-to-date offering from Zondervan is A Reader’s Greek New Testament, 3rd Edition. Which is one volume offering most of the same features as A Reader’s Hebrew and Greek Bible but with the text updated to that of the NIV2011 based primarily on the UBS5/NA28 Greek Text. You can find more information from the publisher here.

Pros and Cons: This volume is the slimmest of all the reader’s editions and sneaks easily alongside a thinline English (or other translation) Bible into church. However, the thinness comes with the cost of the glosses being paragraphed together and more difficult to sort through. Most of the pros and cons of A Reader’s Hebrew and Greek Bible apply to this volume except the font has been drastically improved and it uses a more current textual basis.

The German Bible Society’s Reader’s Edition

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The next volume, produced by the German Bible Society, is The Greek New Testament: A Reader’s Edition. This volume features the exact same text as the UBS5/NA28 along with running textual glosses and a few notes by Florian Voss. This reader’s edition has, perhaps, the most features of any of the editions. It not only has glosses, a dictionary, and maps, but it also features selected textual notes on some of the most significant variants, a more thorough dictionary by Barclay Newman, and the same English section headings as the UBS5. Again, it glosses words occurring less than 30 times in the Greek New Testament. You can read more about it on Hendrickson’s website here.

Pros: This version has the same format and layout as the UBS5, which will be familiar to most students of the Greek New Testament. The English section headings and normal font make it easily readable and navigable. The glosses are neatly organized in columns beneath the text, and the most significant textual variants usually get a note with some information about the witnesses. Furthermore, the maps are the same fine topographical maps that come in the NA28 and UBS5 texts, but in a larger format so they are much easier to read and use for reference. All difficult verb forms are parsed in the glosses (i.e. -μι verbs, verbs with differing stems in the future, aorist, and perfect).

Cons: Currently, only a hardcover is available from the publishers, and this volume is substantially thicker than the Zondervan reader’s version. However, this lack is made up for in the fact that the glosses are more easily accessible. Only one contextual gloss is given per word in most instances, as opposed to the Zondervan versions which often give several options.

The Greek New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House

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Finally, the newest work available is The Greek New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge, Reader’s Edition published by Crossway. The text of this volume is based on the recent Greek New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House. It is similar in size and format to the German Bible Society reader’s edition, but with a few significant differences. Most significantly, it is the only edition that glosses words occurring less than 25 times in the Greek New Testament. You can find more information from Crossway here.

Pros: The Tyndale House version features a beautiful type and very nice binding and packaging. If you want to have fewer glosses to be distracted by, this version is for you, since it glosses fewer words than any of the other versions. It is also available in a fine leather binding, which makes it easier to handle than the German Bible Society version. It features the text of the Tyndale House Greek New Testament which is very recent and has a slightly different approach than the NA28/UBS5 editions. Like the German Bible Society version, glossed and difficult verbs are parsed in the glosses and only one contextual gloss is given in most instances.

Cons: Awkwardly, this edition has no textual notes, even though it is from a very recently published Greek text. The paragraphing is awkward with the paragraph being indented and the first line pushed flush left. There are also no maps or supplemental materials provided in this edition.

Conclusions

I currently own three of these four reader’s Greek New Testaments and find various uses for each of them. Although I do not own a Tyndale House reader’s edition, I have interacted with it through friends who have let me look over their copies.

All in all, each version has a place. If you want the whole Bible in the original languages in one all-inclusive package, the Reader’s Greek and Hebrew Bible will serve you well. The thinness of the font and density of the glosses can be overcome for the convenience of having both the Old and New Testaments easily at hand. If you are competent in syntax, only need an occasional glance toward the glosses, and want more options when you check the glosses, then Zondervan’s A Reader’s Greek New Testament, 3rd Edition is for you. This is the version I bring to church or take to the coffee shop because of its portability. If you want the best of all the features (access to the standard text, and text-critical notes, limited syntactical help) all in one volume, then I recommend the German Bible Society’s The Greek New Testament: A Reader’s Edition. This is the version I use most often as a New Testament Student, and it seems to give the most mileage for assistance in reading large swaths of text. Finally, if you simply want a nice-looking and feeling reader’s edition with some good, interesting, and recent scholarship behind it then the Tyndale House version may be for you.