2016 SBL Bag Revealed: Doubles as a Bullet-Proof Vest!

A press release from the Society of Biblical Literature has revealed that the 2016 conference bag will double as a bullet-proof vest. “Safety for our members is our primary concern at the 2016 SBL/AAR conference,” stated the March 22 SBL press release.

The 2016 SBL bag / body armor

The 2016 SBL bag / body armor

“Although we are doing all in our power to limit the risk of shooting incidents at our annual biblical studies conference, we are very pleased with the design of the 2016 tote-bag. It folds out in less than 2 seconds into a vest which is resistant to an 8.0 g (124 gr) 9 mm caliber round-nosed full-metal jacket bullet travelling at up to 358 m/s (1175 ft/s).”

The design of the jacket met with approval from Baylor PhD student Chad Newhart, who is completing a dissertation on the use of the OT in the New. “The bag is way cooler than in past years. And I feel a lot safer knowing that it will protect me from any lone wolf attacks.”

“And with the different nationalities over in AAR,” added Mr Newhart, “We need to be on guard against possible extremists.”

The SBL bag/bullet-proof vest will be available from November 19, 2016.

Related News:

The BNTS Statement on Firearms At the Annual Meeting in Chester


Filed under Academic things

N.T. Wright sings “When the Ship Comes In”

Freewheelin’ travelling bard N.T. Wright has taken his heartfelt folk-singing to the masses. One of his most-loved tunes – judging by his many renditions – is Bob Dylan’s “When the Ship Comes In”.

We believe it is significant that Wright has chosen a song which ends with the notable line,

… And like Goliath, they’ll be conquered

Is Wright, then, a secret gigantologist? We suspect so.

May 7, 2012, the Rabbit Room

May 12, 2012, Hearts and Minds Books

And the version that Wright remembers:



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Filed under Goliath, Music

Luke’s alternating use of Matthew and Q

In earlier posts, I have discussed why I think that Luke was dependent on Matthew (agreeing with the Farrer Hypothesis), but that Luke also relied on Matthew’s non-Markan sources, “Q” (in disagreement with the Farrer Hypothesis). In brief, Luke has a tendency to follow either Mark or Matthew for extended sequences, but not both (e.g. Luke follows Matthew in Luke 3:1–4:13, but Luke follows Mark in Luke 4:14–6:19). On this basis, we have good prima facie grounds to expect that Luke sometimes preferred the source or sources underlying Matthew (i.e. “Q”) in preference to Matthew itself.

If this is the case, I think it would offer the better explanation of the feature of the double tradition (parallel passages in Matthew and Luke which do not appear in Mark) which has been described as “alternating primitivity”. Sometimes Matthew but sometimes Luke preserve the more primitive version of the double tradition. If we assume for the moment that Q exists, the inference is that, in some places, Matthew employs Q without Lukan expansions, whereas in other places Luke quotes Q without Matthaean expansions.

For example, where Luke has Jesus bless “you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God”, Matthew seems to turn the poor into the “spiritual poor”, changes the “Kingdom of God” into his more euphemistic “Kingdom of Heaven”, and switches the blessing into the third person, in blessing “the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. Luke would seem to preserve the more “primitive” version of the underlying source (“Q”). Proponents of the Farrer Hypothesis must conversely argue that Luke, who was dependent on Matthew rather than “Q”, has eliminated the distinctive Matthaean components of the blessing.

In Matt 12:40, Matthew has Jesus explicate the “sign of Jonah”, which is the only sign which Jesus says he will offer his generation. Matthew 12:40 interprets the sign of Jonah as the alleged time between Jesus’s future death and resurrection.  By contrast, Luke 11:30 eliminates Jesus’s prediction of his resurrection. Rather, for Luke, the “sign of Jonah” means the fact that the prophet Jonah’s mission was not one of demonstrating miraculous signs, but of preaching repentance. Luke’s interpretation also agrees with the following verse (also part of the double tradition), which states that the people of Ninevah, who did repent in response to the prophet’s preaching, will be resurrected at the Judgment and condemn Jesus’s generation. Although proponents of the Farrer Hypothesis are correct that Luke is dependent on Matthew, here Luke is not, and – as we should expect – his rendition of “Q” is the more “primitive”.

An example of where Matthew seems more primitive than Luke is Matt 6:2//Luke 11:4, where Matthew has “forgive us our debts” and Luke has “forgive us our sins”. Most scholars would agree that “debts” is a peculiar Jewish metaphor for sins, which Luke would be more likely to change for a Gentile audience.

The examples are all debatable; one scholar’s Matthaean expansion is another scholar’s Lukan deletion, etc. Moreover, judgments about primitivity are influenced by the need to defend either the two-document hypothesis (where Luke is usually seen as primitive, but Matthew sometimes), or the Farrer hypothesis (where Lukan primitivity must be denied), or Matthaean posteriority (where Matthaean primitivity must be denied).

Yet on my hypothesis that Luke sometimes prefers Matthew and sometimes “Q”, we have an in-built check. We would not expect Lukan primitivity where Luke is following Matthew (e.g. Luke 3:1–4:13). Conversely, we would expect Lukan primitivity in respect of Q inserted into sections where Luke is ignoring Matthew in preference for Mark (e.g. Luke 4:14–6:13). Demonstration that this is the case must await my forthcoming book on the Synoptic problem.



Filed under Ancient Jewish texts

Believing the Giant Skeleton Myth

There is a popular internet meme involving fake photographs allegedly portraying skeletons of giant humans. You’ve probably seen a few of these photographs before, for example, the one on the left below (beside the original photograph on the right):

Left: Hoax Giant skeleton photograph; right: The original photograph from a dinosaur dig in Niger, Africa, by the University of Chicago (1993)

Left: Hoax Giant skeleton photograph. Right: The original photograph from a dinosaur dig in Niger, Africa, by the University of Chicago (1993)

A recent article published in the journal SAGE Open asks: what are the characteristics of people likely to believe that the discovery of giant human bones is true?

Participants, drawn predominantly from central Europe, were presented with the following form of the myth:

giant-skeleton-found-in-indiaRecent exploration activity in the northern region of India has uncovered the skeletal remains of a human of phenomenal size. This region of the Indian desert is called the Empty Quarter. The discovery was made by the Indian Division of the National Geographic Team, with support from the Indian Army as the area comes under the jurisdiction of the Army. The exploration team also found tablets that suggest the giant belonged to a race of superhumans that are mentioned in the Mahabharata, a Hindu epic poem from about 200 BC. The government of India has now secured the whole area and no one is allowed to enter except National Geographic personnel.

The National Geographic confirmed in 2007 that the story and accompanying pictures were a hoax. The results of the 2016 study showed that significant predictors of belief in the Giant Skeleton Myth were Openness to Experience, New Age orientation, and anti-science bias:

Results showed that women, as compared with men, and respondents with lower educational qualifications were significantly more likely to believe in the giant skeleton myth, although effect sizes were small. Correlational analysis showed that stronger belief in the giant skeleton myth was significantly associated with greater anti-scientific attitudes, stronger New Age orientation, greater religiosity, stronger superstitious beliefs, lower Openness to Experience scores, and higher Neuroticism scores. However, a multiple regression showed that the only significant predictors of belief in myth were Openness, New Age orientation, and anti-scientific attitudes.

(Viren Swami, Ulrich S. Tran , Stefan Stieger, Jakob Pietschnig, Ingo W. Nader, and Martin Voracek, “Who Believes in the Giant Skeleton Myth? An Examination of Individual Difference Correlates”, SAGE Open (January-March 2016): 1–7, published online 5 January 2016, DOI: 10.1177/2158244015623592)

Thanks to Aren Maeir, director of the archaeological dig at Tell es-Safi/Gath (Goliath’s alleged hometown), for alerting me to this study. Aren also amusingly notes that, “every few months, I get an email asking me about th[ese] finds”!


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Filed under Archaeology, Biblical Giants, Cryptozoology

Luke knew Matthew, But still Q (L/MwQ): A Post-Farrer and Post-Two Documents Approach to Synoptic Composition

62432689Proponents both of the majority two-document hypothesis (2DH) and of the main alternative, the Farrer Hypothesis (FH), have usually approached the debate by arguing that the existence of Q depends on whether Luke and Matthew were independent.

Proponents of the 2DH have argued that the material shared by Luke and Matthew (but not found in Mark) must not only derive from a shared source (ie, Q) but is used in such different ways that Luke could not have known how Matthew used the Q material, nor Matthew how Luke used it. The latter point, that Matthew and Luke are independent, is often defended with the strongest rhetoric, with Burnett Hillman Streeter providing the parade example:

Subsequent to the Temptation story, there is not a single case in which Matthew and Luke agree in inserting the same saying at the same point in the Marcan outline. If then Luke derived this material from Matthew, he must have gone through both Matthew and Mark so as to discriminate with meticulous precision between Marcan and non-Marcan material; he must then have proceeded with the utmost care to tear every little piece of non-Marcan material he desired to use from the context of Mark in which it appeared in Matthew–in spite of the fact that contexts in Matthew are always exceedingly appropriate–in order to re-insert it into a different context of Mark having no special appropriateness. A theory which would make an author capable of such a proceeding would only be tenable if, on other grounds, we had reason to believe he was a crank.
The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins, p. 183

Proponents of the FH have argued just as strenuously not only for Luke’s knowledge of Matthew (L/M), but that such dependence precludes the existence of Q.

So, for example, Austin Farrer argued that all was needed to dispense with Q was to show that Luke had read Matthew:

The Q hypothesis is not, of itself, a probable hypothesis. It is simply the sole alternative to the supposition that St. Luke had read St. Matthew (or vice versa). It needs no refutation except the demonstration that its alternative is possible. It hangs on a single thread; cut that, and it falls by its own weight.
– “On Dispensing with Q”, p. 62

More recently, Francis Watson has written:

Q’s existence can only be sustained if Matthew and Luke write independently of each other.
Gospel Writing, p. 121

In each case, strong conclusions are made about the necessity for / redundancy of Q, based on the independence of Luke and Matthew / dependence of Luke on Matthew.

Let us assume, at least for argument’s sake (although, I happen to agree), that the recent defences of Luke’s use of Matthew have been successful. The “coincidences of Q” – the agreements between Matthew and Luke that cannot be well explained under the 2DH – compel us to accept that Matthew and Luke are not independent. If that is the case, there is still no logical reason why Luke might not have used both Matthew and Q (that is, some common source of Matthew and Luke in addition to Matthew). The dependence of Luke on Matthew does not logically entail that there is no Q. The case against Q is not made out by merely showing that Luke is dependent on Matthew.

In order to dispense with Q, we would instead need detailed study of every double tradition saying, to determine whether any are better attributed to a common source rather than Matthew. Luke, after all, did not necessarily think like William of Ockham: economy in the use of sources was not necessarily Luke’s modus operandi and neither should it be our approach to Luke. Luke’s reference to “many” (πολλοὶ) earlier “orderly accounts” of the events in the life of Jesus, and more traditions handed down besides – despite its vagueness and ambiguity – suggests that early authors of accounts of Jesus’ life had no great aversion to redundancy.

One might counter that my objection remains in the realms of possibility, and that we still require a good reason for considering whether parts of the double tradition were based not on Matthew but on a shared source (Q). And that would be a fair objection. But a good reason is not difficult to find in Synoptic scholarship.

We already know that Luke employs one source of Matthew to the exclusion of Matthew itself: the Gospel of Mark. Some sections of Luke follow Mark without including Matthew’s distinctive additions. For example, in Luke 4:14-6:19 there is a significant number of triple tradition pericopae in a row which follow Mark’s content, but not Matthew’s (the return to Galilee; rejection at Nazareth; healings of Simon’s mother-in-law and others; preaching of Kingdom at synagogues; the calling of the first four disciples; healing of a leper; healing of a paralytic; the calling of Levi/Matthew; the question about fasting; the question about the Sabbath; the man with the withered hand; choosing of 12 apostles; teaching and healing before crowd from Judea, Tyre and Sidon). There are too many of these pericopae in a row to claim that all of the Matthaean variants were not “Luke-pleasing”, ie., that Luke rejected them because they did not please his own authorial preferences. Luke has rather followed one of his sources for an extended sequence, to the exclusion of one of his later sources. The pericopae in Luke  4:14-6:19 form a marked contrast to those in Luke 3:1-4:13//Mt 3:1-4:11, where Luke repeatedly includes Matthew’s additions – hardly coincidentally – in the same locations: Mt 3.7b-10//Lk 3.7-9 (JBap on brood of vipers); Mt 3:12//Lk 3:17 (JBap on winnowing fork); Mt 3.27-30//Lk 11.19-23 (Beelzebub); Mt 4.3-11//Lk 4:1-13 (the temptation).

Luke’s tendency, also evident in the works of other ancient historians, is to sometimes rely on a single source to the exclusion of parallel sources. This is also this pattern in the nativity, wherein Luke excludes Matthew’s wise men, Herod’s murder of infants, and the flight to Egypt, preferring a group of family traditions which are strongly coloured by traditions about Jesus’ mother and other women. This is the pattern too in Luke’s Passion and Post-resurrection narratives, which excludes many of Matthew’s expansions (eg resurrected saints, guards, earthquake, disciples go to Galilee to see Jesus).

So if Luke possessed Mark and Q as sources, we could justifiably expect Luke to have relied on one source (Matt or Q) but not the other for the double tradition. On this basis, we have good prima facie grounds to expect that Luke sometimes preferred the source or sources underlying Matthew in preference to Matthew itself. To determine the matter, we would require a careful weighing of all double tradition pericopae, in order to ascertain whether it is more probable that they derive from Matthew or from a shared source of Matthew and Luke. In addition, we should be open to the possibility that the shared source might not be the same shared source used in other pericopae, might originally have been written in either Greek or Aramaic (or other), or may be part oral in addition to written components which are evident in certain verbatim similarities within the double tradition – and therefore may not be a unified Q. Given the baggage of Q – which today typically connotes much more than the undefined shared source(s) underlying some or all of the double tradition – it might even be better to employ a new siglum. Or an older one, like uppercase Λ (for logia).

In conclusion, the dependence of Luke on Matthew does not determine the question of Q’s existence. The Farrer Hypothesis’ compelling challenge to the Two-Document Hypothesis may, rather, be the first step in rehabilitating a reappraised Q.


Austin Farrer driving an Austin


Filed under Ancient Jewish texts

With Or Without Q: From MwQH to M+≈QH?

In 1955, Austin Farrer suggested in a relatively short article that scholars dispense with Q, the hypothetical sayings source behind the double tradition in Matthew and Luke. His alternative theory was that Luke had known Matthew, which Luke used in addition to the earliest gospel, Mark. The theory has often therefore been referred to as the Farrer Hypothesis, FH.

In 1989, the popular introductory book Studying the Synoptic Gospels by Ed P. Sanders and Margaret Davies referred to the Farrer Hypothesis as “Mark without Q” (p. 93), that is, a theory which affirms the priority of Mark without positing the existence of Q. In April 1999, Mark Goodacre adopted the phrase “Mark Without Q” as the name for his website about Q (started two years before, in 1997, with the more grandiose title “World Without Q”).

The title to Mark Goodacre's "Mark Without Q" website, ca. April 1999.

The title to Mark Goodacre’s “Mark Without Q” website, April 1999.

In a 2003 review article of Mark Goodacre’s The Case Against Q (2002), John Kloppenborg came to the decision that the “more apt name” for the Farrer Hypothesis is the “Mark-without-Q hypothesis” (NTS 49.2, p. 213). Kloppenborg further notes that this expression comprised the “original name of Goodacre’s web site” (which is not quite correct: the original name was “World Without Q”). But Kloppenborg’s own lasting contribution to this nomenclatural epic was the siglum “MwQH” — adopted since in numerous Synoptic studies. If Kloppenborg had been as internet savvy as Goodacre, we probably would have had “w/0” instead of “w”. Yet this was the early noughties after all, and Kloppenborg, as far as we know, had never used an emoticon let alone written LOL.

An interesting twist in the rollercoaster ride which is the MwQH has occurred with the publication of Francis Watson’s Gospel Writing (2013).  Watson provides a vigorous defence of Luke’s creative use of Matthew (L/M) and therefore of Q’s seeming redundancy. Yet Watson also argues that the Gospel of Thomas, in particular, provides evidence of a not dissimilar “Sayings Collection” (SC) behind the double tradition in Matthew. Although Luke did not use the Sayings Collection as Matthew did, relying instead on Matthew itself, Watson concludes that Luke also had access to this Sayings Collection.

But this Sayings Collection – underlying Matthew and perhaps parts of Luke –  is not at all dissimilar to Q itself. So the MwQH camp has now provided a defence of something fairly Q-like in Matthew and Luke. The siglum for this Q-like source should be, I suppose, “≈Q” (“almost equals Q”).

And so I ask: should we now refer to the Theory-Formerly-Known-As-The-Farrer-Hypothesis as MwQH or as M+≈QH?


Filed under Ancient Jewish texts

The Nephilim are on TV: Shadowhunters

I just watched the first episode of the new television series Shadowhunters and it’s quite watchable – even exciting. Some good casting, also, has the potential to make this adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments novel series a success. Probably even better than the film.

Katherine "Kat" McNamara plays Clary Fray

Katherine “Kat” McNamara plays Clary Fray

The shadowhunters are demon-fighting angelic-human hybrids (as a result of partaking of the Mortal Cup, given sometime in the Middle Ages by the Angel Raziel to Jonathan Shadowhunter, the first of the Nephilim).


As human-angel hybrids, the shadowhunters are loosely based on the angelic interpretation of Genesis 6:4, which describes the “sons of God” having sex with the “daughters of men”. Genesis 6:4 calls the offspring of this union … the “Nephilim”, a breed of heroes of ancient renown.

Now that Nephilim are on TV every week, the mission of Remnant of Giants is complete. Let the reader understand.


Filed under Ancient Jewish texts, Biblical Giants, Genesis 6.1-4, Nephilim, Television