UPDATE: If you missed the live stream you can still watch it here.
Mark Goodacre (Duke University) and Simon Gathercole (Cambridge University) will be discussing the Gospel of Thomas this morning at 9a ET. Both have written books on Thomas recently, so it should be good. If you have some spare time go here.
Francesca Stavrakopoulou was interviewed on BBC Radio 5 live about a variety of things related to the Christmas story: “Hebrew expert: ‘Virgin Birth a Mistranslation’”. One of those things is Matthew 1:23′s use of Isaiah 7:14 to argue that Jesus’ “virgin birth” was foretold by the prophet. She argues that since the Hebrew עלמה means “young woman”, unlike the LXX’s παρθένος, which means “virgin”, that the whole concept is based on a “mistranslation”.
T. Michael Law contest this claim, arguing that παρθένος is used in the LXX of Genesis to describe “young woman”, not necessarily “virgin”, and therefore it is an acceptable translation. You can read his response here: “Was the Virgin Birth a ‘mistranslation’?”
For the Erasure Conference wherein scholars imagined a world without particular documents or events Mark Goodacre of Duke University wrote a fascinating paper titled ‘A World without Mark’. In it he images three scenarios: (1) “I would like to erase Mark from the surviving manuscript record, imagining that Mark was indeed written, and that it was a source for Matthew and Luke, but that no witness to it survived antiquity.” (2) “Mark is erased from history only to resurface as a handful of manuscript fragments in the 1890s and 1900s, and a more complete textual witness in 1945.” (3) “Finally, and most drastically, we will imagine that the boy who would have grown up to be the author of Mark’s Gospel did not survive childhood and that his Gospel never existed.”
To see where Goodacre takes these scenarios read his paper here.
Yesterday I listened to Mark Goodacre’s recent podcast where he rethinks the walking, talking cross of the Gospel of Peter 42. It is one of the strangest parts of the story where Jesus and two other super tall men come from the grave and then a voice speaks from heaven asking if the Gospel was preached to those who are “asleep” (i.e. dead). As the document reads the cross (tou staurou) responds “yes”.
Goodacre suggests that the earlier version of the Gospel may not have said this. He proposes that instead there was a nomina sacra in place of the full word for cross, the sta. If this is so a scribe may have read sta as being short for staurou but Goodacre proposes that the word may have been a form of staurothenta which means crucified one and appears in 56.
One proposal he makes to support this is that the “Harrowing of Hell” which is popular in early Christian imagination and mentioned in 1 Peter 3.19-20; 4.6. This event always has Christ as the one preaching to the dead. So it would make sense that Jesus is the one addressed in the Gospel of Peter and that an earlier version read “the crucified” rather than “the cross”.
Of course, Goodacre admits that our lack of MSS on the Gospel of Peter makes it impossible to prove this point. I found the argument interesting. You can listen to it here.
In his book The Synoptic Problem, p. 14 (free online here), Mark Goodacre says this of reading the gospels in harmony:
“This way of reading the Gospels is not simply a recent and popular development. It is the way in which they have been read for most of their history. It proceeds in part from an embarrassment that there should be four Gospels in the Bible and not one. If we are to think of the ‘gospel truth’ and the reliability of Scripture, there might seem to be a problem in the fact that the first four books of the New Testament announce themselves as the Gospels According to [sic] Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.”
There is something to this. Bart Ehrman has critiqued Christians who ignore the differences between the gospels saying that doing this is creating one’s own gospel, a fifth gospel. On the other hand, I know in some traditions that the canon takes precedent so that the individual gospels find greater meaning together (e.g. so that the high Christology of the Gospel of John should impact how one reads the Christology of the Synoptics).
What do you think is the benefit of reading each gospel giving attention to its separate and distinct voice and what could be the benefit of reading them together? Do we do each gospel injustice by reading them together (making a fifth gospel)? Is there a time to read the gospels together (e.g. liturgy) and a time to read them separably (e.g. historical research)?