Thursday 29 May 2008

Don't scratch those emerods!

The Eternal smote the Philistines with emerods when they knicked off with the Ark of the Covenant. What are emerods? Whatever they were, the Philistines made golden images of them. Some translations suggest hemorrhoids... nasty!

But the latest BAR suggests something different. Aren Maeir argues that the menfolk had a bad case of ED.

ED? Oh, ED... to spell it out, that's erectile dysfunction.

You can follow the logic here. Sadly (or mercifully, depending on your perspective) the photographs in the print edition are missing from the online version.

Saturday 17 May 2008

The sound of canon fire

Years ago I came across a book called Are Mormons Christians? The author, a Mormon himself, naturally argued that they were. Like any work of apologetics it was weak in places, and avoided the really tough questions. But I was really fascinated by the appeal that was made to the question of the canon.

The canon is the list of authoritative books Christians use, and which we usually take for granted. But how did they get to be authoritative in the first place? Muslims, as I understand it, believe that the Qur'an/Koran was delivered intact to the Prophet, inerrant in Arabic. Mormons believe their prophet, Joseph Smith, translated the Book of Mormon with a pair of magic spectacles or "seer stones". But those are not claims Jews or Christians make about their scriptures.

Leaving aside the thorny issue of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint and Yavneh/Jamnia, why is 2 Peter in the New Testament and not 3 Corinthians, Titus and not the Shepherd of Hermas? Who decided?

The upshot was an article I eventually put together, and still exists on my original ISP server. Someone at Trinity College at the University of Toronto decided to link to it, which is flattering, but a more recent (and hopefully better) version exists here. If I get some time later this year I want to revise it again in light of a terrific little book called The New Testament Canon.

The author, Harry Gamble (University of Virginia), is one of the leading names in the field, and he is mercifully readable for the non-specialist. In less than 100 pages the reader is treated to a thorough survey sure to raise the eyebrows of anyone who has blissfully ignored the implications of questions like those above. Definitely something to add a little curry to any evangelical's diet!

Tuesday 6 May 2008

Paul and the Pastorals

As promised/threatened I've uploaded an article on the authorship of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus, the letters in the New Testament known as the Pastorals. The original version - written as a university assignment - has been modified to make it a bit more readable.