An Adjustment to my Writing Schedule

JimCarreyTypingThere is good news and bad news. Either way, consider this an update to Rick’s 2018 Writing Schedule.

The good news is that I’m actually getting regular (small) chunks of time that I can use for writing. This has been almost impossible since Josiah was born (Feb. 2017) but for the past few weeks has actually been possible.

The bad news (well, for some, maybe): I’d earlier mentioned that I would spend a large chunk of my 2018 (and 2019) writing and research time working on a new introduction, translation, and commentary of the Acts of Pilate A, Acts of Pilate B, and  Descent of Christ to Hades. In the past weeks, I’ve decided that I really don’t want to do that. I’ve got the Greek text together for Acta Pilati A and Descent of Christ to Hades, and I do plan to put out a reader’s edition of it in the Appian Way Greek Readers series. I have not yet decided if I want to translate the text for inclusion, or review and modernize the translation from ANF 8, but am leaning toward modernization, primarily because I simply want to wrap up that chunk of research and work. A reader’s edition seems the best way to button it up and move on.

I want to wrap it up because I’ve also decided that I really need to get back into the Pastoral Epistles. I’ve got the Lexical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles: Second Timothy halfway written and would like to put some sustained effort in on finishing it and then starting in on the Titus volume.

In the midst of it all, I plan on continuing to blog (sporadically, likely) on Stuff Early Christians Read. I’ve really been enjoying looking at 1st–4th century manuscripts that are neither LXX nor NT, but ostensibly Christian. I hope to write short entries on many more manuscripts. I’m very eager to learn how interesting or useful y’all find that sort of stuff, so if you have any feedback on these posts, please let me know.

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Christ’s Resurrection in the Apocryphal Gospels

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The apocryphal gospels — those documents that relate stories about Jesus but are not considered to be in the canon of scripture — also relate details and aspects of the story of Christ’s resurrection that are not known from canonical gospels. These are typically interweaved with details knowable from the canonical accounts.

The translations below are taken from my book, Greek Apocryphal Gospels, Fragments, and Agrapha: A New Translation, published by Lexham Press. The book is also available for users of Logos Bible Software. The Logos version also has the Greek sources available as a separate resource.

Gospel of Peter

The Gospel of Peter, known from a codex dated between the fifth and eighth centuries, was found in a cemetery in Akhmim, Egypt. It contains some very familiar details and some rather fantastic details of Christ’s resurrection. Here is a selection from GPt 9.35–10.42:

9.35 Now on the night when the Lord’s Day was drawing on, as the soldiers kept guard two by two in a watch, there was a great voice in heaven, 36 and they saw the heavens opened, and two men descend from there with much light and come close unto the tomb. 37 And the stone that had been cast at the door rolled away of itself and made way in part, and the tomb was opened, and both the young men entered in.

10.38 The soldiers, therefore, when they saw it, awakened the centurion and the elders (for they were also there keeping watch); 39 and as they told the things that they had seen, again they saw three men coming from the tomb, two of them supporting the other, and a cross following them. 40 And the head of the two reached to heaven, but that of him who was led by them overpassed the heavens. 41 And they heard a voice from the heavens, saying, “You preached to the ones who are sleeping?” 42 And a response was heard from the cross, “Yes.”

The detail in §10 about the two giant men (angels, their heads “reached to heaven”) and the even more giant cross that overshadowed them is certainly not witnessed in the canonical accounts. Even more interesting is the cross, personified, responding about preaching to those who “were sleeping.” Though please note Mark Goodacre’s conjecture that instead of “cross,” we should read “crucified one.”

Acts of Pilate (Gospel of Nicodemus)

The text known (in its Greek edition) as the Acts of Pilate is also known as the Gospel of Nicodemus in its Latin edition. It was very popular, translated to several different language editions over the centuries and even in to modern times. There are three primary parts: The trial and death of Christ, a part with Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus with details on the resurrection, and the Descent of Christ to Hades.

Here is Act. Pil. §13, styled as a discussion that takes place within the synagogue. The context is that the ruling Jews had locked up Joseph of Arimathea in a room and sealed it because of his involvement in putting Jesus’ body in the tomb. The synagogue was meeting the next day (Sunday) to discuss what to do with him. However, when they went to get Joseph, they discovered that he had somehow been taken away from the locked, guarded, and sealed room.

13.1 And while still seated in the synagogue and astonished because of Joseph, there came some of the guard that the Jews had asked Pilate to keep the tomb of Jesus, lest his disciples should come and steal him away. And they reported, saying to the rulers of the synagogue and the priests and the Levites what had happened: “Somehow there was a great earthquake, and we saw an angel descend from heaven, and he rolled away the stone from the mouth of the cave, and sat upon it. And he was shining like snow and like lightning, and we were very afraid and pretended to be dead. And we heard the voice of the angel speaking with the women who waited at the tomb: “Do not fear, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. Now go quickly, tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead, and is in Galilee.”

2 The Jews said, “Which women did he speak with?” Those of the guard said, “We do not know who they were.” The Jews said, “What hour was it?” Those of the guard said, “Midnight.” The Jews said, “And why did you not take the women?” Those of the guard said, “We became like dead men through fear, and we did not look to see the light of the day; how then could we take them?” The Jews said, “As the Lord lives, we do not believe you.” Those of the guard said to the Jews, “You saw so many signs in that man, and you did not believe, how then should you believe us? Truly you swore rightly ‘as the Lord lives,’ for he does live.” Again those of the guard said, “We have heard the reports of the one who asked for the body of Jesus, that you secured him and that you sealed the door; and when you opened it you did not find him. So you give us Joseph and we will give you Jesus.” The Jews said, “Joseph has departed to his own city.” Those of the guard said to the Jews, “And Jesus is risen, as we have heard from the angel, and he is in Galilee.”

3 And the Jews, upon hearing these words, were exceedingly fearful, saying, “Take heed lest this report be heard and everyone starts to listen to Jesus.” And the Jews took counsel and laid down a large sum of money and gave it to the soldiers, saying, “You say: ‘While we slept his disciples came by night and stole him away.’ And if this comes to the governor’s hearing we will persuade him and secure you.” And they took it and did as they were instructed.

Again, several details from the canonical accounts, but there are also significant expansions. There are more details given about what happened at the tomb, more details from the soldiers, and even some confrontation between the soldiers and synagogue leaders (you show us Joseph, we’ll show you Jesus) where the soldiers end up with assurances from the synagogue leaders that they’ll be protected if the governor hears what really happened.

So why is this stuff important if it isn’t in the canonical gospels? It shows us, again, that early Christians weren’t stupid. They had questions about things known from the New Testament, because they didn’t make sense. They were amazing and fantastic, and they believed them, but there were still questions they had about the whole thing. They fabricated some details in their telling and retelling of the stories, but that only shows us what information they found necessary to add to make sense of it all. This helps us understand what these early Christians believed, what they read, and how they assimilated it all.

To podcast or not to podcast?

So, a few weeks back, I asked the following question on the Twitter.

I kept the poll open for a week.

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That’s  pretty strong response.

I’m still not totally convinced, though. Heck, I can hardly find the time to write stuff on this site, let alone produce a podcast.

Also, I’d need to do it super cheap. Like, no monetary cost. Zip. Zero. Zilch.

I’m concerned about storage and video is big, but I guess that’s what YouTube / Vimeo / et. al. are for. Or go audio only, though there’s still a storage question (soundcloud)?

Basically, I want to prepare (outline main points), record in one take (warts and all) on my phone, and then publish. Probably solo, at least for a bit. Low tech pirate radio stuff. 10-15 minutes, nothing long and arduous.

Is this possible? Am I crazy for even thinking it? I mean, I already have a basic outline and plan in my head for, say, the first 10–15 episodes. Anybody out there pull off something similar?

On Creating an Annotated Edition of the Greek Acts of Pilate

As I shared in a previous post, one of my projects for 2018 (and 2019, likely) is an introduction, translation, and brief commentary on the Acts of Pilate, which is also known as the Gospel of Nicodemus in its Latin tradition.

Most of you know that my day job for the past two decades (wow, now I feel old) involves processing and analysis of texts in the Biblical languages (Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin) and also English. So I’m a little peculiar in how I approach a project like this.

If I’m translating something, I want a transcription of the Greek text I can use. And by “use” I mean analyze, correct, and append. I want a basic edition of the Greek text annotated with dictionary/lemma forms, with morphology data, and with English glosses. I’ll use this data as I work through the translation.

Unfortunately, creating and annotating the electronic edition is usually the most labor intensive portion of the whole task. But it is also, to me, the most valuable. If I didn’t care about the annotation data (and possible derivatives, like a Greek Readers Edition), I’d just work the text and translate away. But creating the annotation gives me an anchor to look back on. I’ll remember when I looked up that weird word that is likely a Latin loanword (this happens more than I’d realized in the Acts of Pilate), and I find this important.

So I find or make a transcription. Sometimes this even involves typing the Greek or some portion thereof, which can be slow-going, but is also good for familiarizing oneself with the text.

Next step: A few passes looking for typos and correcting them. I’m definitely old-school here; I just see typos much easier on paper than on the screen. So I usually print out the transcription at a larger-than-normal font size (typos scream when they’re bigger, trust me), and mark it up. Then I incorporate those changes back in the transcription.

When that feels good, then it’s write some code to compare words against existing morphological databases. James Tauber’s MorphGNT.org is one source, Perseus is another. If you have half an idea what you’re doing (and understand a bit about Greek and Unicode), you can grab these sources and create a fairly decent dictionary to do brute-force lookups to initially populate a new Greek text with lemma and morphology data. Since I’d like to think I have at least half an idea on these things, this is the way I roll.

Note I say initially because, particularly for participles, nouns, and adjectives, there is need to review and revise based on context (particularly when drawing from Perseus data). And it won’t populate for every word, which means you’ll need to devise a system to track missed items and re-integrate them back into your data. I’ve been doing this long enough that it isn’t usually a big deal (cross your fingers, Brannan!).

Once all of this is done, I have an initial edition of the text to start a translation from. I’ll write some code to output the transcription with morphology and glosses as an HTML document, and that’s what I’ll consult as I translate (and review the morphology data and glosses). It looks sort of like this:

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By the time I get to the translation, I’ve already spent a fair amount of time in the Greek text, which I think is beneficial.

My approach with the Acts of Pilate will be slightly different, however.

Thanks to our good friend (to whom all NT and Early Christianity folks are in immense debt), Constantine Tischendorf, there are two (yes, two!) editions of the Acts of Pilate, commonly referred to as Acts of Pilate (A) and Acts of Pilate (B). Most translations/editions focus on Acts of Pilate (A) for the first 16 chapters, but snag the 11-chapter piece known as The Descent of Christ to Hades from Acts of Pilate (B) because it isn’t in the Acts of Pilate (A).

I’m not planning on doing that. I’m planning on giving the full treatment to both Acts of Pilate (A) and Acts of Pilate (B). This means I’ll have to get text for B. My current plan is to complete the draft translation of Acts of Pilate (A) and then start the transcription of Acts of Pilate (B).

My ultimate plan/hope (if the typesetter is adventurous enough) is to table the “A” and “B” portions in the translation, so the differences can be more easily seen in the shared portions of the text. Arranging the translation(s) as such should also help me more easily isolate the areas of difference that require comment.

(For the record, apart from noting differences between A and B, and perhaps some text-critical interaction, my hope for the commentary portion is to focus on the use of OT and NT material in the progression of the narrative. But we’ll see if that happens.)

After all of this is done, then I’ll have to write the introduction, without getting too carried away. After all, the Acts of Pilate, whether you know it or not, was a very popular text in antiquity (and straight through to modern times). There are scads of different versions of it in scads of different languages.

Apparently people were really curious about what happened during the trial, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Who’d’ve thunk it?

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.

Lexham Press to publish my Apostolic Fathers and Greek Apocryphal Gospels

It’s a long headline, but I’m not sure how to make it shorter. And it’s true; Lexham Press will be publishing my translation of the Apostolic Fathers and my introduction and translation of several Greek editions of Apocryphal gospels, manuscript fragments, and agrapha. They’re targeted for Fall 2017, which means they should be (fingers crossed!) on the tables at SBL in Boston along with other forthcoming Lexham Press titles.

I’m thrilled about this. My books are being published in the Lexham Classics series, which means my stuff is on the same page as works by Martin Luther, Louis Berkhof, and G.K. Chesterton. And the covers are pretty sweet too.

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These have been available for Logos Bible Software for while (see here and here), and they’ve been well received. When folks have asked me about print editions, I’ve had to direct elsewhere. Now I’m happy to finally be able to point to these Lexham Classics editions.

I’ll pass along more info when I have it. There are a bunch of other great books in the Fall 2017 Lexham Press Academic Catalog, so do give it a look.

SBL 2017 Paper: Sounding Biblical: The Use of Stock Phrases in Christian Apocrypha

Update (2017-09-11): Due to a family situation, I will not be attending SBL in Boston this November. This paper will likely be presented at a future SBL.


As I mentioned a few weeks ago, my proposal for the open Christian Apocrypha session was accepted. I described it to a friend like this: “Hey, I snuck a corpus linguistics paper into the Christian Apocrypha section!”

Here’s the abstract for those interested:

There are certain phrases that, due to familiarity and usage, seem biblical upon hearing or reading them. That is, they sound like language used in the Bible. Phrases like “in the beginning,” “all the creeping things that creep,” and “truly, I say to you.” This paper uses a variation on what are known as n-grams to isolate stock phrases and explore their use and effect in apocryphal works. The First Apocryphal Apocalypse of John (1AAJn), which the author is presently researching for volume 2 of the “More New Testament Apocrypha” project, is used as a test case. The entirety of the Septuagint and Greek New Testament are used to identify five-word clusters of shared vocabulary that repeat with some frequency in biblical literature (“stock phrases”). 1AAJn is then compared to the biblical literature to locate possible stock phrase usage within 1AAJn. If time and space permit, Greek editions of other writings (Apocryphal Gospels, Apostolic Fathers, possibly some non-Christian writings) will also be evaluated at a high level to determine use or non-use of stock phrases in composition.

 

NT Apocrypha: The Second Apocalypse of John

Flammarion Woodcut, via Wikimedia Commons.

Yesterday I blogged about my introduction of and translation to John and the Robber, a nice and relatively unknown piece of Christian (New Testament) Apocrypha. I also mentioned Eerdmans’ New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, Volume 1.

A volume 1 usually implies the intent of a volume 2 and that is the case with New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures. I’ve recently committed to write another piece for volume 2. This next one is a bit outside of my wheelhouse as it involves an apocryphal apocalypse, but I chose to do it anyway; largely because it was there and needed to be done. And, I think, it’ll be fun.

I’ll be writing an introduction and translation to The Apocalypse of Saint John the Theologian; which is also known as The Second Apocalypse of John and The Later Apocalypse of John.

Constantin Tischendorf

The Greek text is available in, of course, Tischendorf’s volume of apocryphal apocalypses. Did that guy ever sleep?

Constantiunus Tischendorf, Apocalypses Apocryphae: Mosis, Esdrae, Pauli, Iohannis, item Mariae Dormitio, additis evangeliorum et Actuum Apocryphorum Supplementis. Hermann Mendelssohn: Lipsiae, 1866. Pp. 70–94.

Edition also found in:

John M. Court, The Book of Revelation and the Johannine Apocalyptic Tradition. JSNTS 190. Sheffield Academic Press: Sheffield, England. 2000. Pp. 32–46.

Court reproduces Tischendorf’s edition, with his own translation on the facing page and notes.

Since I didn’t have a digital non-image edition of Tischendorf’s Greek text, I figured I’d key it in. It isn’t that long, so no biggie. It just took a few mornings. I started with Court’s edition of Tischendorf, as the diacritics were clearer in the print than my PDF of Tischendorf. Then I proofed against Tischendorf.

Now I’ll be able to do other stuff with the text as I begin to actually work on the text over the next weeks and months. You’re welcome.

Since you may not read Greek, here’s a translation from the Ante Nicene Fathers, volume 8. Of course I’ll do my own, but I haven’t started yet, and that one will be in the forthcoming volume 2 (so probably not released on the blog).

The full citation, if you’re interested:

Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: The Twelve Patriarchs, Excerpts and Epistles, the Clementina, Apocrypha, Decretals, Memoirs of Edessa and Syriac Documents, Remains of the First Ages (vol. 8, pp. 582–586; The Ante-Nicene Fathers; Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886).

If you find this useful, interesting, or helpful, please let me know.

NT Apocrypha: John and the Robber

9780802872890I just realized that I have not mentioned this on the blog. But recently I wrote an introduction and translation for a neat piece of Christian (aka New Testament) Apocrypha known as John and the Robber. It is a great little apocryphal story of the apostle John, post-Patmos, in Ephesus and his encounter with the bishop of Smyrna and a robber.

This will be published in Tony Burke and Brent Landau’s forthcoming New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures (Volume 1), to be published in November 2016 by Eerdmans. So keep an eye out for it, the volume looks to be awesome.

Note: I mention this because a volume 2 is in the works, and I’ve recently been working on a submission. More later.