NT Wright – Paul and His Recent Interpreters Part I (Gupta)

Wright PRII have a stack of very big books that I hope to read this summer – Longenecker’s Romans commentary, E.P. Sanders’ big Paul book, John Barclay’s Paul and the Gift, Jimmy Dunn’s Neither Jew nor Gentile. Therefore, it was a bit of a relief to tackle at the moment a “short” book by N.T. Wright, Paul and His Recent Interpreters (Fortress, 2015) – a mere 378 pages!

I am almost halfway through the book and I must say –this is the NT Wright book I have been waiting a long time for! Don’t get me wrong, I think there were some interesting moments in Paul and the Faithfulness of God, but overall it did not hold my interest. In Paul and His Recent Interpreters (hereafter PHRI), Wright does something that I think he does very well – interpret and explain interpretive patterns and trends. He did this in Jesus and the Victory of God, and he is able to understand motives and impulses that guide movements. That makes PHRI remarkable and, at least sometimes, a page-turner.

The book is divided into three main parts

Part I: Paul among Jews and Gentiles? This section (5 chapters) focuses on the history of interpretation (mostly focusing on 20th century) that led to E.P. Sanders, the NPP, and the current OPP/NPP debate (or post-NPP state).

Part II: Re-enter Apocalyptic Obviously these four chapters trace the “Apocalyptic Paul” trend from Kaesemann to Becker and Martyn to Campbell.

Part III. Paul in His World – and Ours – this is more of a grab-bag of other trends including studying Paul from socio-historical and social-scientific perspectives, Paul and modern philosophy, and more.

In the next post I will launch directly into discussing chapters, but allow me to make a few preliminary comments in this post.

Layout – I am glad Fortress put this volume in the same style as Wright’s series – very attractive font and layout.

Footnotes – while I am glad PHRI has footnotes (and not those much-despised endnotes), the book uses author-date style (no book titles in the footnotes). That requires much “flipping” for me, but I get that it is done to save space. Still, it is annoying.

Inside Man – This would be a very challenging book to write. One might expect Wright to focus on being “objective” and not rabbit-trail into his own theories on everything. Wright does, in fact, re-assert his own views along the way, but actually this didn’t bother me. Why? Because he tends to be at the center (or nearby) of many of the debates in the book. He writes, not as a sideline commentators, but in the thick of the debates. It is amazing how he has been at so many key events and involved in many critical publications. His knowledge – and his experiences – give this book added value. In many ways, it is an intellectual autobiography; it almost has the feel of a documentary. That, at least for me, has made it very engaging. For example, the reader is given access to private correspondences between Wright and Kaesemann and Wright and E.P. Sanders; Wright was also present at exclusive academic discussions, such as an interesting exchange between Hans Huebner and Martin Hengel. Those of you who are NT geeks like me will eat this stuff up!

We will begin a steady series on PHRI soon, so stay tuned…

 

 

Ehrman v. Bauckham on Eyewitnesses Part II (Gupta)

A little while back I mentioned the radio face-off between Bart Ehrman and Richard Bauckham on the reliability of the Synoptic Gospels. They returned to Justin Brierley’s show again in mid-April to discuss “eyewitness testimony” in general, but especially in first century historical works. This was an engaging, fascinating back-and-forth. There was a bit of who’s the better historian volley, and they were well-matched. This is an hour well spent!

Bart’s latest book is called Jesus before the Gospels 

For more from Bauckham, see his Jesus and the Eyewitnesses which has a new edition coming soon.

 

The Lost Letters of Pergamum – 2nd Edition (Gupta)

LLP2.jpg

For the past several years, I have consistently used Bruce Longenecker’s historical-fiction textbook The Lost Letters of Pergamum in my NT survey course. It blends engaging plot with expert insight from the Jewish and Greco-Roman world of the first century. I have not found a better textbook that connects students to the world of the earliest Christians. Students  – almost without exception – rave about this book.

Recently Baker published a second edition of the book (April 2016) – the book is essentially the same with some light edits. Firstly, the font is more attractive. Secondly, in terms of content, the preface has been re-written to allow the reader to get into the story sooner. Also, in the middle portion of the book some light edits have been made for ease of reading as well. (Someone asked me if this was a sequel – I wish! Alas, no, it is a revised edition)

I would suggest that if you already have the first edition, this new edition is not really necessary (though I dig the new cover!). If you don’t have the book at all, this second edition is the place to go, and I can imagine it also works well in an adult Sunday School as a fun way to teach about the world of the New Testament.

NB: The new edition is now in perfect alignment with the audio version of LLP – this is helpful to know if you assign LLP as a textbook and some students opt for the audio version. Or simply if someone with the audio wants to check the wording of something.

How I Do Research: George Guthrie (Gupta)

Guthrie

Last summer I got to spend a bit of time with my friend George Guthrie (Union University). I passed by George’s desk at Tyndale House and I was immediately struck by how well-organized he was, and he seemed to have an efficient system for research. Now it is time for George to share his “ways” with the world! Thanks, George!

NKG: How do you approach research as a whole? Do you have a big-picture strategy? Do your research all at once, and then write? Do you do some sketching and reflecting on paper and then dig into research? Do you go back and forth?

The method of research depends somewhat on the type of project. My larger project at the moment is a commentary on Philippians for the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series.

I begin by translating and diagramming the next passage in the book, doing a good bit of primary source study, checking word meanings, for instance, in the book, broader NT, LXX, Philo, etc. The nice thing about commentary writing is that you always know what you must do next—the book unfolds systematically, verse by verse. The hard thing about commentary writing is that you must do that next thing whether you are particularly interested in that bit or not! Yet, interest often follows a deeper look!

As for research, you access the commentaries of others as a main part of the research, and commentaries by their nature are already “sorted” in terms of the data to be accessed. You know right where to find an author’s treatment of a word or phrase in a given book. So I do not normally take notes from all the commentaries I am accessing for the project. I read widely on a given passage and write it up straight from the commentaries themselves. I do the same with related journal articles. So if I am dealing with 1:12-17 in a book, I do my own study, perhaps writing up my own basic exegesis first, and then I read secondary literature on the passage, adjusting my thoughts in places and incorporating the insights of others.

If I am writing a journal article or paper for presentation, I begin by thinking very carefully about the structure of what I want to do, using an Outliner program like Omni Outliner. I tend to take notes into a database (like Tap Forms on the Mac or an Excel Spreadsheet), adjusting the outline as I go. My notes will have fields like Author, Reference, Page Number, Image, Note, and a Key Field. The Key Field is my main tool for indicating where that note will come in my paper. I then give each note a “key” (put in a key field) according to where it comes in my outline. I sort the Key Field, and my notes are now arranged as they are going to come in my paper. I then write the paper.

In writing up my research I use the word processor Mellel, which plays very nicely with foreign languages, including Hebrew, and is brilliant once you get the hang of a “style” orientation. It is so much better than Word. And I use Mellel in combination with Bookends, a Bibliography/Reference manager. I can’t imagine writing longer projects without them.

NKG: What kind of notes do you take (ideas, quotes, etc.)? How do you organize them?

 I take notes that consist of the summary of another author’s ideas, or direct quotes. I also at times will snap an image (e.g. the layout of ancient Corinth) and include that in my database. Finally, as I have ideas that I want to pursue, I will write these in a database note as well.

NKG: What kind of tools do you use for researching and collecting information? (software? Do you store notes in Endnote? Dropbox? Evernote? Filing cabinet?)

 The library, of course. I have benefitted greatly from times at Tyndale House in Cambridge, UK, but I also appreciate our library and the Ryan Center for Biblical Studies at Union University where I teach. I also find Google Books very helpful for researching hard to find material, and I use online databases like Ebsco and the ATLA Religion and similar databases, the Duke Papyri database, the Greco-Roman material that one can now download to Logos, etc. My primary software program is Accordance, which I use on an almost daily basis.

For articles and helpful blog posts I transform them to PDF through the Mac’s “Print” function and import them directly into Devonthink Pro. I am constantly putting articles there for future reference, and those articles then are searchable. I also bring PDFs into PDF Expert to read and mark them.

Most of my actual notes are stored in a database. I have done this in Excel, and Devonthink has a decent database function (in terms of creating your own notes), but I am currently experimenting with Tap Forms. I used to use Bento, which was brilliant but is no longer available.

I am now going digital as much as possible and rarely depend on a filing cabinet any more. The ability to search thousands of documents instantly has transformed all of that, and I can simply print out a document to read if I need to.

NKG: What have you learned about doing research, collecting notes, and the process of writing throughout your career – put another way, if you could get into a time machine and go back twenty years (or ten years), what advice would you want to give to your younger self about the process of research and how you take notes and read scholarship?

Of course the main thing that has changed over the past 3 decades is the technology. But if I could go back to my 14-year-old self, I would tell me to take all the languages I could, both modern and ancient. I would encourage me to spend my summers in immersion language programs internationally. And as for research itself, I would encourage me to do lots of primary research and keep track of it carefully. As software developed I would exhort me to build a massive, searchable database of everything I was reading and studying, keeping at least summary notes that could later be searchable. And on a side note, I would also tell me to buy as much Intel and Apple stock as possible, to fund research trips in my 50s!!

 

Invitation to the Septuagint 2nd ed (Gupta)

LXX

In seminary (Gordon-Conwell) I cut my teeth on LXX-studies with the first edition of Invitation to the Septuagint (Baker, 2000, by K. Jobes and M. Silva). The same book again was used at Durham in a postgrad seminar on LXX Tobit (taught by Stuart Weeks and Loren Stuckenbruck) – clearly Jobes/Silva’s work gained notoriety and at the time it was the only “textbook” of its kind – even today hardly anything can be found so comprehensive, yet user-friendly.

A second edition – with the same structure and basic content – offers an update in light of the massive growth of LXX-studies in biblical scholarship and textual criticism (Baker, 2016). I have skimmed through the new edition and the inclusion of up-to-date scholarship since 2000 is well-integrated, both into end-of-chapter reading recommendations and also footnotes. One should note the added discussion of the “interlinear” paradigm in association with the NETS (86-90), trends in modern translation theory (303-304), and certain people added to the biographic profiles in ch. 11 (including Ziegler, Soisalon-Soininen, Barthelemy, and Wevers). Also, the appendix on LXX organizations and research projects has been updated including information on, e.g., the Brill Septuagint series and the SBL Septuagint series (quite a lot of activity and opportunities in LXX studies – it is an exciting time!).

I would say Septuagint nerds will want this update for their collection, even if they have the old edition. Folks in NT studies (like myself) ought to have one edition of Jobes/Silva, and if you never got a copy of the old edition, now is the time for the new one!

 

How I Do Research: Harold Attridge (Gupta)

Attridge.pngWe are continuing our series called “How I Do Research.” I am pleased to present an interview with Dr. Harold W. Attridge, Sterling Professor of Divinity and Religious Studies and Classics (Yale). Dr. Attridge is prolific, his outstanding Hermeneia Hebrews commentary stands out in my mind. Without further ado….

NKG: How do you approach research as a whole? Do you have a big-picture strategy? Do your research all at once, and then write? Do you do some sketching and reflecting on paper and then dig into research? Do you go back and forth?

HWA: I have followed different strategies at different times in my career. No matter what plan I’m following serendipity always has played a part.  Much of my work in recent years has been on the Gospel according to John.  Some of the most interesting (at least to me) pieces that I have produced have come from long worrying about some particular problem (Is John predestinarian? How does its symbolism work? Can we identify the gospel’s genre in any coherent way? Why is it that so many identifications have been proposed for the Beloved Disciple?) A hypothetical answer pops into my head, usually in some odd moment, and sometimes it works out.

The strategy for writing a commentary on John (just what the world needs, right?) has been to work through the text systematically at one level (analyzing text critical issues, sources, literary forms, etc.), but to intersperse that systematic approach with pursuit of some theme or issue that runs through the text.

Another source for some of my work is simply a request for a contribution to this or that publication.

NKG: What kind of notes do you take (ideas, quotes, etc.)? How do you organize them?

 HWA: When I started in the world of scholarship, almost 45 years ago, I kept a large supply of little note cards and files.  These days I am constantly making notes to myself on my computer, with separate files for bibliography, for individual chapters, for themes, etc.

NKG: What kind of tools do you use for researching and collecting information? (software? Do you store notes in Endnote? Dropbox? Evernote? Filing cabinet?)

HWA: I simply use my own computer files, regularly backed up of course.

NKG: What have you learned about doing research, collecting notes, and the process of writing throughout your career – put another way, if you could get into a time machine and go back twenty years, what advice would you want to give to your younger self about the process of research and how you take notes and read scholarship?

HWA: It’s a little more than twenty years! Good advice that one of my mentors gave me early on was simply to actually take notes from the start and keep them in some organized form.  A more fundamental issue is to decide what to research.  Having a sense of the state of the field is useful, but it is easy to fall into step with current trends. One might want to ask, “what is most intriguing?”  One might also want to roam outside the beaten paths and see what body of primary source material  is not being explored.