2014 SBL Diary Day Two: Planning for 2015

(With apologies for the protracted delay in posting. End-of-term marking and meetings are really cramping my style.)

Day 2: November 23

The second day of the annual meeting was somewhat lighter for me than the first. I began the day with a session on the Gospel of Luke held in memory of François Bovon. It was a joint session of the Gospel of Luke Section and Christian Apocrypha with the aim of looking at Bovon’s two principle scholarly passions. The session began with David Warren’s (Faulkner University) “A Biographical Sketch of François Bovon,” a candid and affectionate look back at Bovon’s personal and professional life. This was followed by Brent Landau (University of Texas at Austin), who was a student of Bovon’s at Harvard. His paper, “Blurred Lines: Apocryphal Additions to New Testament Manuscripts,” examined several interesting readings in gospel manuscripts often overlooked in CA collections. These readings include the well-known Freer Logion (Mark 16:14 in Codex Washingtonianus), Luke 6:5 in Codex Bezae, and a few variants to Matthew from the so-called “Zion Gospel Edition.” Lesser known, however, are several variants found in Latin manuscripts: Mark 16:3 in the fourth-century Codex Bobbiensis (“But suddenly at the third hour of the day there was darkness over the whole circle of the earth, and angels descended from the heavens, and as he was rising in glory of the living God, at the same time they ascended with him, and immediately it was light”) and some variants to Luke 23:1-5 in Old Latin and Vulgate manuscripts said to be Marcionite additions by Ephrem (“abolishing the Law and the Prophets” in Luke 23:2 and “he alienates our sons and wives from us, for he is not baptized as we are” [Codex Colbertinus] or “for they are not baptized as also we are, nor do they purify themselves” [Codex Palatinus] in Luke 23:5).

Landau was followed by Claire Clivaz of the University of Lausanne with “NT manuscripts as ‘beyond categories’ objects: thinking about the death of Jesus as object of reprobation.” The paper interacts with an earlier presentation and paper by Bovon (“Beyond the Canonical and the Apocryphal Books, the Presence of a Third Category: The Books Useful for the Soul,” Harvard Theological Review 105[2012]: 125-37) that he was hoping to expand into a book, but was not able to complete before his death. Bovon’s article considers the modern theological value of the ancient category situated between authoritative (canonical) texts and those that were rejected: “those that were considered profitable or useful.” Clivaz briefly discusses Bovon’s views in the introduction to her edited volume Infancy Gospels: Stories and Identities (Mohr Siebeck, 2011). In her presentation she mentioned also several early CA scholars (Fabricius, Jacques Lefèvres d’Étaples) who also valued the category.

Bovon’s “useful” category was also the focus of the first part of Andrew Gregory’s (University of Oxford) paper, “Useful for the soul? In dialogue with François Bovon on the early reception of Luke.” Gregory was unable to attend the meeting, but his paper was read by John T. Carroll (Union Presbyterian Seminary). Gregory said he found Bovon’s category problematic historically—all of the writers of canonical and noncanonical texts saw their works as “useful for the soul,” but not all ancient readers agreed. As a result, it is difficult as historians to determine what texts we would include in such a category. The second part of his paper looked at Bovon’s interest in examining the CA for their role in the composition and transmission of the Gospel of Luke. Bovon looked in particular at the Gospel of Peter’s use of Luke and concluded that the Gospel of Peter was no more or less peculiar than the NT gospels (and here, to my surprise, Gregory quoted my work on anti-CA apologetic writers and how they categorize the CA as “bizarre” in relation to the more sober canonical texts).

The session concluded with Michal Beth Dinkler (Yale Divinity School) with “‘The Thoughts of Many Hearts Shall Be Revealed’: Listening in on Lucan Interior Monologues.” Since the paper focused on Bovon’s work on Luke, I will not include a summary here.

After lunch, Brent Landau and I met with Christoph Markschies (co-editor of the revised Hennecke-Schneemelcher collection) to discuss our invitation to him to join the planning committee of the SBL Christian Apocrypha Section (to replace the departing J. K. Elliott). We had a fruitful discussion of our individual projects (his collection and our More Christian Apocrypha volumes) and of possibilities for next year’s SBL program. The discussion continued in the early evening with the full planning committee. It was decided that, like this year, we will mount four sessions. The first is a joint session with the Papyrology and Early Christian Backgrounds section, focusing on early CA extant in fragmentary papyri. The second is based on the theme of the monastic context of CA texts and manuscripts. The third looks at efforts to collect Christian Apocrypha, whether in manuscripts (e.g., Life of Mary compilations, compendia of apocryphal acts) or in scholarly collections. And the last is an open session. We discussed also a session on the CA and Digital Humanities, but will pursue this for 2016, and with putting together a session for the 2016 international meeting in Berlin. Once we arrived at this group of sessions we realized that they had a common theme: lived contexts (thus, the open session also encourages proposal submissions related to “lived contexts”). If all goes well, we will consider collecting the papers for publication. The sessions will be a combination of invited papers and submitted proposals.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent cruising the book display. My purchases included: Anne Marie Luijendijk’s Forbidden Oracles? The Gospel of the Lots of Mary (Mohr Siebeck), which features an edition and commentary on a fifth/sixth-century Coptic divinatory text (with oracles, Luikendijk says, “not intended to be read in progression or even in order, but individually, after retrieving them through a divinatory procedure ascribed to lot.”); Nicholas J. Baker-Brian’s Manichaeism: An Ancient Faith Rediscovered (T&T Clark, 2011); Jason D. BeDuhn’s The First New Testament: Marcion’s Scriptural Canon (Polebridge, 2013), which was the focus of a session scheduled, unfortunately, at the same time as the Bovon session; Stanley E. Porter’s How We Got the New Testament: Text, Transmission, Translation (Baker, 2013); Richard Pervo’s The Acts of Paul: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (Cascade, 2014); the new edition of the SBL Handbook of Style; and I completed my collection of the Polebridge Early Christian Apocrypha series with The Epistle of the Apostles (Julian V. Hills), The Acts of Thomas (Harold W. Attridge), and The Didache (Clayton N. Jefford).

Day 3: the birth of the Apocryphal Christian Texts Association. Stay tuned.

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2 Responses to 2014 SBL Diary Day Two: Planning for 2015

  1. tony,i admire your work,im always getting updated with the unpublish apocrypha that you write about,check out this book,it has more than 500 apocrypha,a huge hug.

  2. Tony says:

    Walter, thanks for passing this along. It’s quite impressive.

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