Rick’s 2018 Writing Schedule

2017 was a weird year. After making logical plans regarding writing projects, my 2017 was upended when our son Josiah arrived in February. It’s not that we didn’t expect a child, we just didn’t expect him then (adoption is weird that way).

So it was good circumstance, but bad for consistent time to research, write, and edit. That said, I did manage to push out one new book for Appian Way Press at the end of the year, a Greek Readers edition of the First Apocryphal Apocalypse of John.

I’d hoped to write on (and finish) my Lexical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles: Second Timothy. But it languishes at halfway written because my schedule is really unpredictable. Maybe 2018 will be the year it gets some attention.

So what about 2018? Not too much different. Here are the major projects as I see them right now.


Introduction and Commentary on the Acts of Pilate (A and B) and the Descent of Christ to Hades

I’ve been working on digital transcription of Acts of Pilate A and the Descent of Christ to Hades; it has progressed fairly well. I’ll need to begin keying in Acts of Pilate B soon, and then doing some analysis and correction of the text. Once that’s done, I’ll focus on the translation, and then the Commentary. This actually may get published by someone other than me (that is, someone other than Appian Way Press). More details on that as they come to light.

I’m able to get this going because typing Greek is something that can be done in smaller and random chunks of time; the project may bog down after I get the transcriptions and translation complete and actually need to focus on research and writing, which require longer uninterrupted periods of time. So I really don’t think I’ll come close to finishing this work in 2018, but it has started.

Depending on the progress of the transcription, I may be able to publish a Greek reader’s edition of this text. I plan to do that eventually, but it may not happen in 2018.

Lexical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles: Second Timothy

The First Timothy volume in this series came out in 2016, and I’d really like to kick Second Timothy out the door too. However this work requires longer portions of time. That is, some work can be done in 60–90 minute chunks (the typical amount of time I’d have available in the morning) but 120–180 minute chunks are really the best. And I don’t forsee much of either, at least not in the first six months of 2018.

Other Stuff

I’m pretty much an opportunist, so I reserve the right to totally change directions if personal circumstance or opportunity warrants. But honestly, it seems I’ve barely had time to write my every-other-month Thoughts from the Church Fathers column for Bible Study Magazine (thanks for your patience, editors!) so I’m really not sure what 2018 will bring.

If attending SBL seems like it will be a reality this year, I may dust of my Stock Phrases in the Christian Apocrypha work and try to get something together there.

I’ve also (very briefly) thought about book-itizing a class I taught at church a few years back called Stuff Early Christians Read. That’s something I’d like to do some day, but I don’t know that 2018 is the time. We’ll see.


I thank God for Dysmas.

You probably don’t know the name. Heck, it probably isn’t even his real name.

But history ascribes the name “Dysmas” to one of the criminals who was executed with Jesus. Dysmas is the one who repented, Gestas is the one who didn’t (cf. Acta Pilati 9.5; 10.2).

Tonight, proofreading the Greek of Acta Pilati 26 (Dec. Christi 10), a totally fictional re-telling of what early Christians learned about what happened after Christ was crucified, I realized that the same sort of emotion, the same sort of response, that happens in this totally made-up and fictional account is the emotion and response that awaits those who call Jesus the Christ.

And people say this noncanonical literature is worthless and not worth the time it takes to read (let alone to translate). Yeah, I’ll believe that when crap like Left Behind and This Present Darkness doesn’t sell anymore.

Here’s my translation in Greek Apocryphal Gospels, Fragments, and Agrapha:

10.1 “While speaking these things, another humble person came, also carrying a cross upon his shoulder, to whom the holy fathers said, ‘Who are you, who has the look of a robber, and what is that cross that you carry on your shoulder?’ He [Dysmas] answered, ‘As you have said, I was a robber and a thief in the world, and because of this, taking me the Jews delivered me to the death of the cross together with our Lord Jesus Christ. While he still was upon the cross, seeing signs that happened I believed in him and called out to him and said, “Lord, when you reign as king, do not forget me.” And immediately he said to me, “Truly, truly, today I say to you, you will be with me in paradise.” So I came, carrying my cross, into paradise, and found Michael the archangel, and said to him, “Our Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified has sent me here; so bring me to the gate of Eden.” And when the flaming sword saw the sign of the cross, it opened for me and I entered in. Then the archangel said to me, “Wait a short time, for Adam the ancestor of humanity comes with the righteous, that they may also enter in. And now, having seen you, I come to greet you.” ’ And upon hearing these things, the saints shouted out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Great is our Lord, and great is his power!’ ”
Rick Brannan, Greek Apocryphal Gospels, Fragments and Agrapha: Introductions and Translations (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013).

Yes, great is our Lord, the one who could save one like Dysmas. And truly great is our Lord who can save one such as me.

2017 can kiss my …

I’ll let you fill in that blank.

As I have told others, there was one great thing about 2017, and his name is Josiah. Our son was born on February 10, 2017; and we met him on February 11. We received guardianship on February 14, and he was legally adopted on May 28, 2017.

Outside of that bright shining light, 2017 was a year I’d like to kick in the hiney on its way out the door.

2018, may your suckage never start, and your goodness never end.

For context, some earlier posts: Riding the Roller Coaster, When Life Sucks.

New Book: Greek Readers Edition of 1 Apocr. Apoc. John

1AAJn-Cover-Amazon-001Over the past two years, off and on, I’ve been working on a new introduction and translation of the First Apocryphal Apocalypse of John (1AAJn) for the second volume of Tony Burke and Brent Landau’s New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures series.

A few months back, I realized I had most of the parts required to make a reader’s edition of 1AAJn. I had keyed in the text and assigned dictionary forms (lemmas), morphology, and English glosses. I could write code to generate the rest needed, and then do some editing on the result to produce something that could be published.

But why would anyone want a reader’s edition of this little-known text?

1AAJn-sample-002There are all sorts of reasons, but the basic reason is: The more Greek you read, the better your Greek will get. Even if the New Testament is your swimming pool, you need to read stuff outside of the Greek NT. Apostolic Fathers are good, so is the LXX. But I thought that 1AAJn was unique because its vocabulary (and forms) are largely those found in the Greek New Testament, its content is similar to content in the canonical book of Revelation, and it “baby bear” sized: Not too short, not too long, but just right.

When you make it through this little book, you’ll have worked through a text that will make your Greek better. There’s an English translation provided too (Walker’s translation from Schaff’s Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume 9). The Greek text provides a footnote for every instance of every word that occurs 30x or less in the Greek New Testament. The footnote includes dictionary form, part of speech, number of NT occurrences, and a short English gloss. There is even an appendix in the back that provides a glossary of all the footnoted words.

About 1 Apocr. Apoc. John

The First Apocryphal Apocalypse of John, originally composed sometime between the 5th and 8th centuries, is an apocalypse structured as questions and answers with “John the Theologian” questioning the Lord Jesus. Several themes from the canonical book of Revelation are echoed. There are also several interactions with Psalms and New Testament material, and the vocabulary is largely that of the Greek New Testament.

Riding the Roller Coaster

Life is a roller coaster. And life, at present, is a doozy of a coaster. Spins, turns, loop-de-loops, climbs, rapid descents and curves. You name it, it’s there. Puts anything at Six Flags to shame.

Sleep? Yeah, right. I’m lucky to get it in 3 hour chunks. If I get more than 5 consecutive (or cumulative!) hours in a night, it’s amazing.

Quiet? Not in our house. We have an 8-month-old who I’m sure will be the kid who needs to be taught how to whisper. And a 5-year-old who loves to play cars. Crashing. Bashing. Fast. On the hardwood floor.

And there’s the 10-year-old, who is more quiet than the 5-year-old, but old enough to be riding the family waves of situational stress and distress along with us.

It seems like we slide from one crisis to another to another, whether within our own house, or with extended family. All with the soundtrack of our not-so-dull-roar of life in the background. And foreground. (But no “Frontground”. Let the reader understand.)

I’m irritable. I’m stretched thin. I’m tired. And sometimes, after the kids are in bed, I just sit at the top of the stairs and cry.

I was reminded again today, though, that in the midst of it all, God is there. Life can be crazy, but the God who gives faith and hope until we no longer need it (1 Cor. 13:8–13) — this God is there. Present. With me, and with those I love.

For the briefest of moments today, I had peace from this thought: I am his, and I cannot be taken from him (John 10:27–29).

μαρανα θα (1 Cor. 16:21). Come, Lord Jesus (Rev. 21:20).

Why a paper on “Stock Phrases” in Christian Apocrypha?

8ara1How did I end up thinking about stock phrases, and in Christian apocryphal texts at that?

Well, I was (and still am) working on an introduction and translation to the First Apocryphal Apocalypse of John (1AAJn) for volume 2 of Burke & Landau’s New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures.

One of the things I wanted to do was take a more rigorous look at intertextuality. And by “rigorous” here I mean “write some code and compare a lot of data.” Based on way-old experimentation of mine from 10–15 years ago (anyone remember “tri-logs?”) and more recent popularization of n-grams by Google, I thought it would be interesting to compare ngrams (but form the n-grams based on Greek lemmas instead of the inflected forms in the text) between a base corpus of the LXX and NT and noncanonical works like 1AAJn. My straightforward theory was that there would be clusters of n-grams located in the noncanonical works and those would represent probable intertextual units.

It all seems well and good, and it even works out. Here’s a basic dump of the larger intertextual relations I found between the LXX+NT and 1AAJn (note LXX references use the LXX versification scheme, so Psalms is weird). The number in parentheses is the number of clustered n-grams from the LXX+NT reference in the 1AAJn reference.

  • 1AAJn 8.4 possible reliance on Psalm 88:45 (7x)
  • 1AAJn 8.4 possible reliance on Psalm 88:46 (5x)
  • 1AAJn 12.5 possible reliance on Psalm 102:15 (12x)
  • 1AAJn 12.5 possible reliance on Psalm 102:16 (6x)
  • 1AAJn 12.6 possible reliance on Psalm 145:4 (15x)
  • 1AAJn 13.7 possible reliance on 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (9x)
  • 1AAJn 15.6 possible reliance on Psalm 50:9 (7x)
  • 1AAJn 15.7 possible reliance on Isaiah 40:4 (11x)
  • 1AAJn 15.7 possible reliance on Luke 3:5 (16x)
  • 1AAJn 15.7 possible reliance on Isaiah 40:5 (4x)
  • 1AAJn 15.7 possible reliance on Luke 3:6 (4x)
  • 1AAJn 16.4 possible reliance on Matthew 24:30 (9x)
  • 1AAJn 19.4 possible reliance on Psalm 101:26 (8x)
  • 1AAJn 19.4 possible reliance on Hebrews 1:10 (8x)
  • 1AAJn 19.4 possible reliance on Psalm 101:27 (7x)
  • 1AAJn 19.4 possible reliance on Hebrews 1:11 (7x)
  • 1AAJn 21.4 possible reliance on Matthew 28:19 (4x)
  • 1AAJn 21.5 possible reliance on Psalm 9:18 (9x)
  • 1AAJn 21.6 possible reliance on Psalm 48:15 (5x)
  • 1AAJn 22.4 possible reliance on Psalm 17:42 (9x)
  • 1AAJn 22.5 possible reliance on Romans 2:12 (9x)
  • 1AAJn 23.3 possible reliance on Psalm 124:3 (5x)
  • 1AAJn 25.3 possible reliance on Psalm 36:29 (7x)
  • 1AAJn 26.2 possible reliance on Deuteronomy 32:8 (4x)
  • 1AAJn 26.2 possible reliance on Odes 2:8 (4x)
  • 1AAJn 27.6 possible reliance on John 10:16 (15x)
  • 1AAJn 28.2 possible reliance on Psalm 105:3 (6x)

This is all fine and good, and pretty much what I expected to find. What I didn’t expect to find was how several of the smaller or even single clusters represented some sort of common almost Bible-ese phrasing. Like “the heavens and the earth” or “the moon, the sun, and the stars” or even “upon the face of all the earth” (which happens frequently in the LXX and also in 1AAJn).

These smaller clusters of ngrams didn’t seem to have particular value in the exact reference or context; it was more like the phrasing of the canonical material was being (deliberately?) used in the noncanonical material. It was using biblical-sounding language to describe biblical sorts of things in noncanonical material. It could be a clue to register, or it might be an effort to make this noncanonical thing sound canonical, or it might just be using common language (a stock phrase?) to talk about common things. I’m not sure, but it was interesting enough it seemed like someone should look into it further. So I pitched the paper. And I’m still digging.

If you have books or articles to point me to, I’m all ears. Even better (especially for articles) if you can send along PDF too. Let me know in the comments.


What’s next for the Appian Way Press?

If you’re wondering what I’ll publish next with Appian Way Press, read on to find out.

Appian Way Press

AppianWayPressThis is a very good question.

We’d hoped to publish the Second Timothy volume in Rick Brannan’s Lexical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, but Rick’s progress on that has been slow due to lots of life changes with a new son. It means Rick doesn’t have much extended time to spend researching and writing that volume, and its production has lagged.

So Rick has been looking for a project he could make progress on with random spots of time, usually not more than 90 minutes or so. He thinks he’s found something to fit that bill.

In researching and writing a new introduction and translation to the First Apocryphal Apocalypse of John for volume two of Burke and Landau’s New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, Rick prepared an edition of Tischendorf’s Greek version of the document. The vocabulary is mostly also found in the New Testament. It is not…

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