Thursday, December 22, 2011

Oldest Catholic University in the World Remains Catholic in Name and in Reality

The Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium will continue to keep its name Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. In international contexts both Catholic University of Leuven and University of Leuven can be used. With this name the university will also keep its Catholic identity, as a text approved by the Board of Trustees on December 22, 2011 states.

The text which the Rector of KULeuven sent earlier today is found below:

Dear members of the university community,

After an extensive debate over its identity, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven has finalised its mission statement.This document describes the university's Catholic tradition, its identity, its value system, its role as a critical centre of thought in and for the Catholic community, and emphasises its openness to all worldviews. ‪

From its Christian perspective, the university aims to give shape to this long-present openness in a proactive way. As the updated mission statement affirms: "From its Christian perspective, the university endeavours to be a place of open discussion of social, philosophical and ethical issues and a critical centre of thought in and for the Catholic community."

‪The mission statement also emphasises the university’s autonomy. Managerial autonomy is an essential condition for academic freedom. In recent decades, the university has taken care to protect its institutional autonomy and the Catholic Church has always respected this. The university wants to make its identity and autonomy explicit, both in its structure and in its pedagogical project.

‪From this perspective, the university will expand its course offerings in perspectives on religion and meaning, philosophy and ethics to include insights from diverse human perspectives and worldviews as well as from the natural and social sciences, cultural studies and the arts. This effort will be initiated by the Academic Council.

‪The university seeks to further integrate openness, from a Christian perspective, in its staff policy, social engagement, diversity policy, social services for students, treatment of bioethical questions, mission and task of the university parish, development cooperation and humanitarian relief efforts, etc.

Apart from focussing on its philosophical profile, the mission statement also emphasises the university's international orientation, the intensity and interdisciplinarity of its research, the quality of its education and the importance it attributes to serving society in diverse domains.

‪In terms of institutional structure, KU Leuven's Board of Trustees and the General Meetings of the partner university colleges within the KU Leuven Association will be reorganised into a governance union in early 2012. This means that the various general meetings will be composed identically. The reorganisation is being carried out in the context of the integration of the academic programmes of the university colleges into the university. It should be clear from this new institutional structure that the university maintains a close association with the Catholic community, and this in full autonomy. The composition and chairmanships of the aforementioned bodies will be determined by the Board of Trustees in 2012.

Based on extensive consultations, 'KU Leuven' has been chosen as the university’s ‘corporate’ name, effective today. This name, referring to Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, is widely recognised as a household name in a Flemish and Belgian context. In an international context, the name may also be complimented when necessary or desired with the appended name ‘Catholic University of Leuven’, depending on the context or target group, or ‘University of Leuven’, as is already commonly done.

Mark Waer

Jef Roos
Acting Chair of the Board of Trustees

Saturday, December 3, 2011

CBL: Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and the Scriptures

Prof. Dr. Eibert Tigchelaar in the text below gives the rationale of the Colloquium Biblicum Lovaniense LXI.

Traditionally, the phenomenon of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha has been related to the canonization of the Hebrew Bible (or, at least, of the Law and the Prophets), and to the belief that prophecy and inspiration had ended with Ezra. Thus, it was broadly held that Jewish authors who wrote in the Hellenistic and Roman periods could only present their own views if they would write anonymously or pseudonymously, attributing their own writings to ancient biblical figures up to Ezra. At best, these pseudepigraphic writings would shed light on forms of apocalyptic Judaism in the centuries at the beginning of the era (ca. 200 B.C.—200 C.E.); at worst, their authors were accused of pious fraud.

In the last decades, the publication of all the Dead Sea Scrolls, changing ideas about the canon of the Hebrew Bible and the canonical process, renewed discussions about the phenomenon of pseudepigraphy and concepts of authorship in ancient writings, and a focus on practical and literary aspects of the production, reception, and transmission of texts in Antiquity, all have forced us to reconsider the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha in relation to the biblical scriptures. In this colloquium we will focus on different aspects of the relationship between texts generally referred to as Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and the scriptures of what we now know as Old Testament or Hebrew Bible. The invited contributors of the main lectures have been asked to discuss concrete exegetical and/or literary issues, which show how specific pseudepigrapha interact or intersect with scriptures, but also to touch upon more general and historical questions, how the phenomena of pseudepigraphy and pseudepigraphic texts relate to issues of scripturalization and canonization.

The colloquium will not only focus on the well-known Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, composed before or around the beginning of our era, which were already collected in the early-twentieth century collections, but also on comparable texts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls as well as somewhat later Old Testament pseudepigrapha. Concretely, contributors are asked to tackle one or more questions from the following clusters of questions. (1) What is the relation between a specific Old Testament pseudepigraphon (or group of related pseudepigrapha) and the scriptures? For example, does the pseudepigraphon use scripture, and, if so, how? Are we dealing with interpretation of scripture? With extension, or expansion? Are those pseudepigrapha parabiblical works? What is the function of the work’s pseudepigraphic attribution? More generally: is a specific relation to the scriptures essential to these pseudepigrapha? (2) How does the phenomenon of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha relate to the canonical process, both when those pseudepigrapha were produced, and when they were transmitted, translated, and collected? What internal and external evidence do we have for a formal or qualitative differentiation between pseudepigrapha and scriptures? (3) What was the function of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha in Christianity? In general, the issues of the use of and/or allusions to the well-known pseudepigrapha in the New Testament and Early Christian literature have extensively been dealt with. What were the attitudes of early Christians towards Old Testament pseudepigrapha? And why did Christians compose such pseudepigrapha? What does this tell us of Christian views on the Hebrew scriptures?

In this way, the proposed topic of the CBL 2012 interacts with several issues that are in the center of recent research, such as (1) the relation of parabiblical (or parascriptural) literature to biblical texts or scriptures and the canonical process; (2) the study of the production of texts in antiquity, and the issues of authorship and pseudepigraphy; (3) the reception and transmission of texts and traditions alongside the biblical tradition.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Stage property maker or a tent-maker?

Many readers of the NT - when asked about the profession of Paul - would certainly answer that he was a tent maker. The Acts of the Apostles (18:3) describe the occupation of Paul as σκηνοποιός. The Vulgate does not translate this word, just offers a partial transliteration (σκηνο - sceno) and partial translation (ποιός - factor) into scenofactor. The vast majority of the English translations render this word as tent-maker. Tent-making is supposed to be the craftsmanship that Paul shared with Priscilla and Aquilla.

The word σκηνοποιός is a hapax legomenon in the entire New Testament. Also in the contemporary extra-biblical writings it does not appear frequently. However, the 2nd century CE author, Julius Pollux noted that σκηνοποιός and μηχανοποιός are similar occupations linked with the theater and making the properties of the stage (Onomasticon). In Comedia Adespota the word σκηνοποιός means exactly “a stage property maker.”

The tension between these two translations of σκηνοποιός is visible when comparing various editions of Bauer's Dictionary. The fifth German edition (1958) prefers a maker of stage properties. The sixth edition, revised by Kurt and Barbara Aland, tends to translate σκηνοποιός as tentmaker. The third English edition (2001), redacted by Frederick Danker, supports the stage-related translation.

We support the translation of σκηνοποιός into modern English as maker of stage properties. One of the question could be: is it necessary to presuppose what Paul's occupation was to interpret his letters?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Understanding What One Reads II

Book presentation: Understanding What One Reads II (14 October 2011, 6:00 pm-6:30 pm)

The book on the page of the publisher.

To celebrate Professor Jan Lambrecht’s 85th birthday the research group of Exegesis, Hermeneutics and Theology of the corpus Paulinum and corpus Johanneum organized a conference to honor him. In continuation of a tradition that started twenty years ago the celebration of his birthday was accompanied with a publication of a Festschrift in his honor. For the celebration of his 65th birthday in 1991 his former doctoral students offered a Festschrift to him and this resulted in the publication in 1992 of Sharper Than a Two-Edged Sword: Essays in Honor of Professor Dr. Jan Lambrecht S.J. (Louvain Studies, 17/2-3). His 75th birthday in 2001 offered an occasion to honor him in a more extensive way and a number of international scholars contributed to a Festschrift in his honor, and this resulted in the publication in 2002 of Resurrection in The New Testament: Festschrift J. Lambrecht (BETL, 165) (can be consulted on google books). And this year for his 85th birthday Lambrecht wrote his own Festschrift, entitled Understanding What One Reads II: Essays on the Gospels and Paul (2003-2011) (Annua Nuntia Lovaniensia, 64) and during the conference this Festschrift was presented.

The book was presented by the editor Veronica Koperski (Barry University, Miami). She honored her Doktorvater and told a story about the cover of the book, which shows rubbings of the floor of the cathedral of Florence. As Veronica explains in the preface to the book: ‘The cracks in the stones’ - done by Melissa Behrle - at first brought to mind the brokenness caused by the scandals in the church, but further reflection caused her to understand that the wearing down of the stone was caused by the faithful who continued to come to pray there during the centuries, and that this could be seen as cause for hope." Afterwards she presented the book to Lambrecht who proudly and amidst loud and warm applause received the book that is hot off the press.

Reimund Bieringer gave an overview of the book in three parts, and the focus of each part was respectively on past, present and future. (1) Past: in this part he explained how this book fits within the oeuvre of Jan Lambrecht since 1994 only focusing on his collected essay volumes. In 2005-2006 Lambrecht has published extensively on the analysis of the Nieuwe Bijvelvertaling, a Dutch Bible translation from 2004. In 2003 Understanding What One Reads: New Testament Essays (Annua Nuntia Lovaniensia, 46) (can be consulted on google books) was published. This was an attempt to collect the shorter writings of Lambrecht of the period 1992-2002 into a volume that would be more accessible. The cover and the title of this first volume is a reference to Acts 8:30. It is about the encounter between Philip and the Ethiopian official who is reading the prophet Isaiah. Philip asks him whether he understands what he is reading, and in reply the official asks for guidance. This book contains 22 articles, 10 of which deal with the Synoptic Gospels and Acts (5/10 on the relation between Mk and Q), 11 on the Pauline homologoumena and 1 on Revelation. (2) Present: in this part the present book, Understanding What One Reads II, was presented. This book supplements the first volume and is a collection of Lambrecht’s essays which he has written in the period of 2003-2011, the majority of the articles have been published in journals or festschrifts. There are 35 articles of varying length, 12 articles focus on the gospels (3 on Mark 13), 22 on the Pauline homologoumena (8 on Romans and 7 on 2 Corinthians). The final article deals with Dei Verbum. The majority of the studies are strictly scientific, some studies were written for a non-specialized audience and some were presented at conferences. The shorter articles are replies to recent publications in leading international journals (e.g., Bib, CBQ, ETL, NTS). The emphasis in this book is. e.g.. on a careful analysis of grammar, line of thought, structure, reasoning, style, etc. The studies are a result of a close reading of the text and demonstrate a concern for sound method. Concerning content the book deals, e.g., with parables, πίστις Χριστοῦ, death of Jesus, eschatology, etc. Lambrecht also enters into discussion with specialized authors, among them are, e.g., Jean-Noël Aletti, Sandra Schneiders, Albert Vanhoye, Michael Wolter etc. (3) Future: as technology evolves Lambrecht also has discovered the internet as a publication platform and uses the advantages that this medium offers. On his personal website you can find his biography and a bibliography of his oeuvre in canonical order, which demonstrates that Lambrecht is a prolific writer from both an academic and a pastoral perspective. It is also good to know that on Lambrecht’s website some otherwise unpublished articles are accessible in digital form.

Soeng Yu Li

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Tribute to Charles Kingsley Barrett

The well-known New Testament exegete C.K. Barrett passed away on August 20th, 2011. He was born on May 4th, 1917 in Manchester. After completion of his doctorate in Cambridge, he was appointed lecturer (1945) and subsequently professor (1958) of Divinity at Durham University, where his spent most of his working life.

Barrett was a highly renowned scholar in the field of the interpretation of the letters of Paul and the Gospel of John. He was a person of outstanding knowledge of the history and languages of Mediterranean at the time of the New Testament. His scholarship attained international prominence. Pope Benedict XVI expressed his appreciation for Barrett’s work in his book: Jesus of Nazareth.

Barrett was a Methodist minister since 1944. His student and friends say that his scientific work and Christian ministry were welded together into a harmonious unity.

From among his numerous publications we highlight the following:
A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, London 1957.
From First Adam to Last: A Study in Pauline Theology, London 1962.
The Gospel According to St. John: An Introduction with Commentary and Notes on the Greek Text, London 1965.
A Commentary on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, London 1973.
The Gospel of John And Judaism, London1975.
A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, London 1994.
Jesus and the Word and Other Essays, Princeton, NJ 1995.
Paul: An Introduction to His Thought, London 1996.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Reconciliation in Interfaith Perspective

Jewish, Christian and Muslim Voices


Bieringer R., Bolton D.


Jewish, Christian and Muslim Voices brings together scholars from Jewish, Christian and Islamic backgrounds to discuss the concept of reconciliation from within their respective traditions. These scholars focused on whether a common understanding on reconciliation is possible between the Abrahamic religions. In this volume the papers are arranged in two parts. The first contains generalized studies that approach the topic from a broad perspective. The second presents specialized studies that focus on specific issues like Islamic normalcy, the relationship between forgiveness and ethics or a comparison between Eastern and Western Christianity. The Jewish equivalent of reconciliation is discussed by Adele Reinhartz and Didier Pollefeyt. Reimund Bieringer, Roger Burggraeve, Yves De Maeseneer, David Pratt and Nico Schreurs focus on various aspects of the Christian understanding of reconciliation from many different perspectives. Finally Zeki Saritoprak and David Bolton as well as Marcia Hermansen and Julianne Funk Deckard deal with Muslim equivalents to reconciliation. The various studies brought together represent a great diversity of perspectives on reconciliation. While reconciliation is primarily a Christian concept coming from the Pauline tradition, it is important to see that similar ideas are present in both Judaism and Islam. Though differences remain, the contributions do demonstrate that not only is an Abrahamic trialogue on this subject possible, but that it is beneficial for all involved and that it has undoubted potential for further development.

The book can be acquired on the website of the publisher: Peeters

Thursday, September 1, 2011


The research group Exegesis, Hermeneutics and Theology of the corpus Paulinum and corpus Johanneum
announces an international conference in our Faculty which will take place on October 14-15, 2011 and has as its title:

“Between Hermeneutics and Exegesis: Cases from the Pauline Letters and the Gospel of Mark".

For the complete program please click here.

To register please click here.

We would like to invite you to participate in the conference.

Organizing committee:
Reimund Bieringer
Ma. Marilou Ibita
Dominika Kurek-Chomycz
Emmanuel Nathan

Monday, July 11, 2011

The first African Woman to Defend PhD in NT Exegesis at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven!

It was a bright Tuesday afternoon, July 5, 2011. I sensed an atmosphere of joy and excitement as I entered the Promotion Hall. People from all walks of life waited patiently. Conversation was done in low tones as if it was a retreat session. What a memorable event! Exchange of greetings and smiles among people conveyed inner feelings of happiness, a day difficult to forget. Right in front of the hall was the doctoral candidate, Gisela Nneka Uzukwu. She welcomed family and friends with a handshake and her disposition seemed serene and confident.

At 1:32 the session started with a brief introduction by the Dean of the Faculty of Theology, Prof. Dr. Lieven Boeve. This was followed by the presentation by Gisela. The topic was“The Unity of Male and Female in Christ: An Exegetical Study of Gal. 3:28c in Light of Paul’s Theology of Promise.” Isolating Gal. 3:28c within its immediate literary context of Gal. 3:27-29, Gisela indicated that her work is divided into two parts and ten chapters. Chapters 1-5 focused on a critical discussion of important aspects in the history of interpretation of Gal. 3:28 and chapters 6-10 discussed Paul’s theological interpretation of Promise. The candidate pointed out that there has been an overwhelming scholarly discussion in relation to her topic. She presented some scholarly discussions bringing out clearly her research hypothesis, research questions and her unique contribution to the debate. Gisela presented the results of her findings in clear terms stating that Gal. 3:28c is not a pre-Pauline text but is uniquely Pauline.

After the presentation the Promoter Prof. Dr. Bieringer congratulated Sr. Gisela. He pointed out that the doctoral defense is a climax of eight years of study in Leuven. Prof. Bieringer described Gisela as a student who was active in international conferences and presented many papers and articles in international journals and series. Gisela was appraised for being at home with her materials. Prof. Bieringer noted that the text of study has been described as “a manifesto of Christian feminism.” He also observed that there has been recent disillusionment in the feminist study of the text. He reiterated the candidate’s claim that Gal. 3:28 is a thorough part of Galatians.

The three correctors of the thesis Prof. Dr. Thomas Söding from the Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany. Prof. Gilbert Van Belle and Dr. Anthony Dupont both from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, made critical comments and asked questions which were effectively tackled by the candidate. The jury adjourned for deliberation. After the deliberation, the Chair of the defense Prof. Boeve proclaimed Sr. Gisela a doctor. The session ended with reception. A thanksgiving Mass was celebrated at University Parish International Community (UPIC). Sr. Gisela enjoyed the presence of many friends and well wishes including Sisters from her congregation. The day will live long in the memories of people.

John Nat Tucker

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Paul’s Jewish Matrix

To mark the ‘Year of St Paul’ in 2009, the Cardinal Bea Centre for Judaic Studies of the Pontifical Gregorian University, in collaboration with the Pontifical Biblical Institute, the Centre for the Study of Christianity of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Catholic University of Leuven and the Papal Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, organized an international symposium on the subject of ‘Paul in his Jewish Matrix’. This was held in Rome from 20 to 22 May, 2009, and was attended by scholars from Italy, Israel, the United States and Belgium, both Jews and Christians. The present volume is a collection of most of the papers and lectures presented at the symposium.
-- Thomas G. Casey and Justin Taylor, “Editors’ Foreword,” Paul’s Jewish Matrix, Bible in Dialogue 2 (Rome: Gregorian & Biblical Press, 2011) 9.

Emmanuel Nathan and Reimund Bieringer, “Paul, Moses and the Veil: Paul’s Perspective on Judaism in Light of 2 Corinthians 3,” Paul’s Jewish Matrix, ed. Thomas G. Casey and Justin Taylor Bible in Dialogue 2, (Rome: Gregorian & Biblical Press, 2011) 201-228.

The first part of this essay, “On Paul’s use of καταργέω and τέλος" in 2 Cor 3:7, 11, 13 and 14,” is by Emmanuel Nathan (201-219) and the second part, dealing with the “Glory and the Veil,” is written by Reimund Bieringer (219-228).
In order to clarify the exceptionally difficult and controversial text found in 2 Cor 3:7-18, Nathan enters into a detailed discussion of καταργέω and τέλος to a large extent in response to Hans Windisch’s influential commentary of 1924. A review of the complex exegetical decisions allows him to repudiate Windisch’s position that 2 Cor 3:7-18 offers a negative assessment of Judaism. Yet at the same time Nathan offers a word of caution that the sheer ambiguity of καταργέω and τέλος, together with locating their referents, contributes to the uncertainty of what exactly Paul means. Even though Paul can, and should, be appreciated within his Jewish matrix, he believes that this ambiguity has helped to contribute to the later understanding of the old covenant that is abolished.
In the second part of this essay, Bieringer argues that the main theological concept in 2 Cor 3:7-18 is δόξα, and concludes that in this context it intends to communicate the nature of the deity in its manifestation. Even though Paul in 2 Cor 3:7-18 does not speak about Judaism explicitly, the implications for the Jewish matrix of Paul’s ‘post-Damascus view of Judaism’ become manifest especially insofar as the continuity between the old and new covenant is considerably more evident in this text than has been hitherto recognized by many interpreters. The antithetical terminology is evident throughout the passage and, even though it is not consistent with the emphases of the entire text, great care must be taken not to actualize the dangerous potential that a possible misreading of such antithetical language carries with it.

-- From the introductory essay by Karl P. Donfried, “Paul’s Jewish Matrix: The Scope and Nature of the Contributions,” Paul’s Jewish Matrix, ed. Thomas G. Casey and Justin Taylor Bible in Dialogue 2, (Rome: Gregorian & Biblical Press, 2011) 24-27.

The book is available on the page of the publisher.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Can Textual Criticism Be Exciting?

Ian A. Moir once lamented that textual criticism is often regarded as the “Cinderella” of biblical studies – and as such often meets with contempt and prejudice. Today, this observation still rings true. It seems to me that the general attitude towards NT textual criticism is that it is tedious, troublesome, boring work. There is perhaps some element of truth in that, given the terminologies, methodologies and theories involved, not to mention the demands of acquiring knowledge about the manuscripts, the Greek language and exegetical skills. But is textual criticism really as boring as it is often made out to be? In my experience, there is reason to answer in the negative because textual criticism sometimes only appears boring and scary for similar reason why some of us have a phobia of mathematics – we fear what looks incomprehensible.

Last academic year, I did an internship at the Institut für Neutesta- mentliche Textforschung (Münster, Germany) which gave me the chance to participate in their ongoing project Editio Critica Maior. My major task was the transcription of a manuscript of Mark’s Gospel (the 11th century minuscule 2487) by using a computer program called “jEdit”. I first underwent one full week of learning at the Institute where I was introduced to the fundamental knowledge of Greek palaeography and the Greek NT manuscripts. They also briefed me on how to operate the jEdit program and the instructions concerning transcribing a manuscript electronically. Thereafter, I was allowed to bring my work back to Leuven (so my internship did not interfere with my regular classes).

One of the interesting aspects of my on-the-job training was the study of the characteristics of the manuscript that I was working on, e.g., the handwriting style of the scribe. As you may know, minuscule manuscripts were written in cursive. The scribe also employed ligatures and abbreviations when copying the texts. This made deciphering the texts a very difficult task at the beginning of my transcription. As a sample of the challenge I faced, can you figure out the Greek words in the two pictures below?

Problems such as these are, in my opinion,
actually quite interesting (and dare I say fun) in that they require the sort of keenness and skills of a detective trying to solve a case. To give another example of the “detective” work involved. In the picture below, the letter ε is written above the word αυτους.
Pic 3

The problem is to decide whether the scribe is making a correction or just squeezing the letter ε in by writing it interlinearly above the word αυτους. Figuring it out will require studying the scribal habits – in this case it is likely a correction (from αυτους to εαυτους) because the scribe does not use interlinear letters elsewhere.

So, while textual criticism may appear incomprehensible at first glance, once we overcome the initial fear and really try to tackle it, we will come to see the charm of challenges that textual criticism presents. Also, thanks to this internship, I have become more confidence to read and work with manuscripts (e.g., checking textual variants in original manuscripts). I hope that, by sharing my internship experience, I can inspire more interest in textual criticism as well as in the project Editio Critica Maior.

Loretta H.Y. Man

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Interspaces between Word, Gaze and Touch


Interspaces between Word, Gaze and Touch
The Bible and the Visual Medium in the Middle Ages. Collected Essays on «Noli me tangere», the Woman with the Haemorrhage, the Head of John the Baptist


Prof. Barbara Baert


To understand the origins, spread and changing functions of images in Christianity requires an interdisciplinary approach. This book will explore the limits and possibilities of such an approach, against the background of current methodological developments. The rise of visual studies and the re-evaluation of anthropology have contributed to a favourable climate for interdisciplinary research in the humanities. With regard to the Bible and the Visual Medium, the basic focus this book is concerned with, a strong new pact has been forged between Theology and Art History. Carefully calibrated methodologies have been developed to unite the world of the word and the world of the visual medium as a truly interdisciplinary research object. Historical-critical exegesis, church history, iconology and cultural anthropology together provide foundational support for knowledge of broader visual themes, and the functions of works of art. In their interplay they become the gateway to the Interspaces of word, gaze and touch.
The three chapters of this book plumb the interspaces between the world of texts (word), images (gaze) and sensation (touch). The choice of the three themes was carefully considered. They provide an optimal means of testing the strengths and limitations of the most recent interdisciplinary research in the study of the Bible and the visual medium. Furthermore, they take on exceptional forms at the intersection of the interspaces. Finally, each of the themes is anchored in a particular biblical phrase, which sealed its most influential pact between word an image, and gave rise to impressive visual traditions within Christianity: Do not touch me (John 20:17), Who touched my clothes? (Mark 5:30), He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30).

The is book available on the page of the publisher.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The “dark” passages of the Bible

We invite your comments concerning the following passage of Verbum Domini:

  • Which texts would you consider the “dark passages” of the Bible?
  • Is “the correct interpretation” a remedy for these passages?

The “dark” passages of the Bible

In discussing the relationship between the Old and the New Testaments, the Synod also considered those passages in the Bible which, due to the violence and immorality they occasionally contain, prove obscure and difficult. Here it must be remembered first and foremost that biblical revelation is deeply rooted in history. God’s plan is manifested progressively and it is accomplished slowly, in successive stages and despite human resistance. God chose a people and patiently worked to guide and educate them. Revelation is suited to the cultural and moral level of distant times and thus describes facts and customs, such as cheating and trickery, and acts of violence and massacre, without explicitly denouncing the immorality of such things. This can be explained by the historical context, yet it can cause the modern reader to be taken aback, especially if he or she fails to take account of the many “dark” deeds carried out down the centuries, and also in our own day. In the Old Testament, the preaching of the prophets vigorously challenged every kind of injustice and violence, whether collective or individual, and thus became God’s way of training his people in preparation for the Gospel. So it would be a mistake to neglect those passages of Scripture that strike us as problematic. Rather, we should be aware that the correct interpretation of these passages requires a degree of expertise, acquired through a training that interprets the texts in their historical-literary context and within the Christian perspective which has as its ultimate hermeneutical key “the Gospel and the new commandment of Jesus Christ brought about in the paschal mystery”. I encourage scholars and pastors to help all the faithful to approach these passages through an interpretation which enables their meaning to emerge in the light of the mystery of Christ.
[Verbum Domini 42]
Access to the entire document in 9 languages.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Colloquium Biblicum Lovaniense

Colloquium Biblicum Lovaniense LX
Bijbelse Studiedagen te Leuven
Journées Bibliques de Louvain
July 26 – 28, 2011

The Apocryphal Gospels within the Context of Early Christian Theology

President: Jens Schroeter

Sponsored by: Katholieke Universiteit Leuven | Université Catholique de Louvain | FWO / FNRS, Brussel

Invited speakers:

  • Jens SCHROETER (HU-Berlin): The Apocryphal Gospels within the Context of Early Christian Theology
  • François BOVON (Harvard Divinity School): Jésus en Égypte: Les évangiles apocryphes de l’enfance comme livres utiles a l’âme
  • Geert VAN OYEN (UC Louvain): Het Protevangelium Jacobi: een apocriefe tekst buiten categorie
  • Rémi GOUNELLE (Strasbourg): Les Actes de Pilate: un évangile judéo-chrétien?
  • Stephen J. PATTERSON (Eden Theological Seminary): Platonism in the Apocryphal Gospels
  • Judith HARTENSTEIN: Erscheinungsevangelien (Gespräche mit dem Auferstandenen) im Kontext frühchristlicher Theologie: Anknüpfungspunkte und Besonderheiten der christologischen Vorstellungen
  • Jörg FREY (Zürich): Apokryphisierung im Petrusevangelium
  • Pheme PERKINS (Boston College): Jewish Christian Gospels: Primitive Tradition Imagined
  • Ismo DUNDERBERG (Helsinki): Johannine Traditions in the Second Century
  • Paul-Hubert POIRIER (Laval): L’Évangile de Thomas (NH II,2), témoin de la théologie chrétienne primitive
  • Tobias NICKLAS (Regensburg): Das Judasevangelium
  • Christoph MARKSCHIES (HU-Berlin): Apokryphen als Zeugnisse spätantiker mehrheitskirchlicher Frömmigkeit – das Beispiel des Bartholomäusevangeliums
  • Enrico NORELLI (Geneve): Les premieres traditions sur la Dormition de Marie comme catalyseurs de formes
  • Joseph VERHEYDEN (KU Leuven): The Early Church and “the Other Gospels”

Detailed description and the programme: Colloquium Biblicum Lovaniense

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The New Testament and Rabbinic Literature

The present book brings together the contributions of the foremost specialists on the relationship of the New Testament and Rabbinic Literature. It contains the proceedings of a Symposium held at the K.U.Leuven in January 2006. The contributors, from different European countries as well as from Israel, present in detail the history of rabbinical scholarship by Christian scholars and deal with the main issues in the study of rabbinic materials. As could be expected, much attention is given to halakhic issues, but literary questions in Midrash, Targum and Mystical Literature are also dealt … read morewith. All contributions are in English, and the volume is completed with a very large “cumulative bibliography” which will enhance its usefulness.

Biographical note

Reimund Bieringer

is professor of New Testamentat the Faculty of Theology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and author of numerous books and articles on New Testament topics, particularly on Paul.

Florentino García Martínez

was Professor of Early Judaism and Dead Sea Scrolls at the Universities of Groningen (Netherlands) and Leuven (Belgium). He is the editor-in-chief of the Journal for the Study of Judaism and editorial secretary of the Revue de Qumran. He has written numerous books and articles on Second Temple Judaism and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Didier Pollefeyt

is professor of Jewish-Christian Relations at the Faculty of Theology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.

Peter Tomson

is professor of New Testament, Patristics and Rabbinics at the Faculty of Protestant Theology in Brussels, Belgium. He is General Editor of the Compendia Rerum Judaicarum ad Novum Testamentum.

Table of content

Contributors include: William Horbury, Isaiah Gafni, Giuseppe Veltri, Günter Stemberger, Catherine Hezser, Roland Deines, Peter J. Tomson, Lutz Doering, Friedrich Avemarie, Thomas Kazen, Jan Joosten, Menahem Kister, Miguel Pérez Fernández, Martin McNamara, and Crispin Fletcher-Louis.

The is book available on the page of the publisher.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Diversity and Equal Opportunity

As a part of a faculty-wide process of reflection on the question of Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the Research Unit of Biblical Studies organized a meeting on Friday, April 8, 2011. The Research Unit followed its own approach to this process.

The meeting commenced with a short presentation of the status quaestionis of 2 Samuel 11 – the story of David and Bathsheba. Alexander Abasili presented a wide range of approaches to the first sexual encounter between David and Bathsheba. This event has been interpreted in exegetical literature on the one hand as an abuse of power, power rape, rape with the pen, sexual assault or sexual rape. On the other hand, there is the theory that blames Bathsheba for what happened seeing her as tempting David in an effort to improve her status. For discussion of these various positions see: Alexander I. Abasili, “Was it Rape? The David and Bathsheba Pericope Re-examined,” VT 61 [2011] 1-15: 15.

The reflection on 2 Samuel 11 was a departure point for the debate about equal status of faculty members with regard to their power(position in the faculty), gender, religion, culture, status etc.

The discussion continued in small groups. The results of the meeting will be collated and presented, when the faculty meets as a whole to discuss the topic at a symposium on April 27, 2011.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Jesus - god as every other or God as no other? Larry Hurtado’s Antwerp Lecture on Jesus Devotion

A large group of students of the Biblical RU from Leuven attended the seminar and lecture offered by Prof. Larry Hurtado in Antwerp last Monday, April 4th. Hurtado himself claimed that his lecture dealt neither with New Testament Christology nor with early Christian Christology but with Christian doctrines on Jesus Christ. It has to be noted that Hurtado uses very cautious language, for instance, he says “convictions” instead of “dogmas” with regard to early Christian claims about Jesus.

Hurtado’s lecture entitled “How on earth did Jesus become God?” dealt with the significance of the resurrection in the early Jesus-devotion. There are three factors which are crucial for the devotion of Jesus: (1) personal continuity between the Galilean teacher and the risen Christ, namely that the risen Jesus and pre-paschal Jesus is the same person, (2) the fact that Jesus has been raised – passive voice on purpose, due to the fact that Jesus devotion was essentially related to devotion to God, the Father and (3) that “the risen Jesus” is depicted as an exalted figure. Moreover, Hurtado underlined the importance of the revelatory religious experiences of Jesus’ disciples after his resurrection. For his perspective it does not matter whether God really spoke to these people, he investigates the fact that these people were convinced that God spoke to them.

Whether or not one believes or not that Jesus is/was g(G)od is not actually a matter of dispute either for Hurtado. His aim is rather to show the process of shaping the conviction that Jesus is a divine figure in Early Christianity. It is known that the ancient Roman religion had many gods. New gods appeared, old ones were removed from the cult on a daily basis. The only criterion of being a god was being the object of a cultic worship. It did not matter whether one believed in a certain divinity or not. Only the cult and sacrifices testified that someone was a god. In the margin Hurtado noted that the definition of atheism radically changed since Antiquity: then an atheist was one who did not worship, while today an atheist is someone who does not believe in God. Early Christians were accused of atheism in the Roman Empire. So, what was unique and special with regard to the “deification” of Jesus? According to Hurtado there are three main differences: (1) this cult appeared very early among the followers of Jesus. In Hurtado’s opinion this devotion commenced even before the Damascus-event [conversion/call? of Paul], so about 15-20 years after Jesus’ execution. The proof for this is that Paul in his letters does not refer to any debate on Jesus’ status – his divinity is taken for granted. (2) Truly remarkable diversity and intensity in the Jesus-devotion unparalleled among the other cults. (3) The cult of Jesus happened in the framework of a monotheistic religion. Hurtado refers to a number of categories of beings residing in the divine spheres, i.e., angels or divine angels. However, Jesus does not stand as another God, nor as simply a divine agent. His divinity was indeed entirely dependent on the divinity of the Father: therefore Jesus is depicted as “son of God,” “lamb of God,” etc. of God. Hurtado agrees that from today’s perspective this kind of devotion can be labeled as “subordinationism.” However, for example in the fourth gospel the evangelist struggles to find a balance in describing the relationship between Jesus and God: equal, intimate or subordinate. So Hurtado’s view appears to be rather controversial.

During the seminar discussion many fascinating topics emerged. For example, the relationship between teaching and devotion. Namely, what was first? Hurtado’s opinion is in line with the following chain: god – dance – myth. So at the beginning God revealed himself, then appeared devotion/cult and at the very end came the formulation of teaching. That is why different teachings are based on the same devotion, not the other way around.

Although Hurtado’s claims seems reasonably we raise some criticism. For instance, what is the historical evidence for his hypothesis of the radical religious experience of Jesus' followers? Since the only criterion of being god in Antiquity was that someone was the recipient of veneration (cult - praxis/liturgy) we have to ask about early Christian liturgy. Is our knowledge sufficient concerning early Christian liturgy to allow Hurtado to make such claims?
Moreover, we note that Hurtado doesn't touch upon major issues that would be of value to his hypothesis (as, for instance, the pericope of true worship in John 4). Finally, although the lecture and seminar were really insightful and fascinating, neither of them actually offered an answer to the question posed in the title: “how on earth did Jesus become God?”

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The earliest Christian writings (probably)

BBC reports that in northern Jordan a substantial amount of writings has been recently found. The collection contains circa 70 items. Since they are (1) in a form of a book, not a scroll, they (2) have an image of Menorah and a cross and (3) they enclose an expression to be found also in the Book of Revelation (I shall walk upright) is has been argued that this writings might have been of the Christian origin.

However, “Christianity” of these writings raises serious questions. Firstly, since menorah is clearly not a Christian symbol, we may ask whether a cross was really Christian symbol in the first century CE. Secondly the text of Revelation is not specific text, everyone can go uprightly, not necessarily a/the Messiah, etc.

Do You think that this discovery may teach us something on the Christianity in times between Jesus’ crucifixion and first writings of the New Testament?

Also see a discussion on

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

God's Word in English. Conference on KJV in Leuven

It was a privilege to listen to the four very engaging presentations on Friday afternoon, March 25. Here are some of my impressions. (1) We started off with Isabel Rivers' presentation on Philip Doddridge’s New Testament: The Family Expositor (1739-56). What I found fascinating was that Doddridge’s work was actually a “commentary” on the New Testament in order to be accessible to both learned and unlearned. Even if the end product was less successful than he had hoped for, it was actually an early example of the multi-purpose “study Bibles” that are intended for both the specialist and the interested. (2) Ellie Bagley caught everyone’s attention by interspersing her discussion on The Influence of the KJV on the Revised Version¬ with early 20th Century Irish newspaper reports of KJV “Bible-burning activities,” allegedly initiated by Roman Catholics, as concrete examples of ongoing Protestant-Catholic conflict concerning the translation of confessionally sensitive terms (e.g, “do penance” vs. “repent”, “congregation” vs. “Church”). There is something about book burning that just makes you want to sit up and pay attention, especially on a warm afternoon after lunch. Bagley’s animated description of events contributed to this. Her examples clearly illustrated “the cultural baggage of the KJV and the Revised Version” – the presence of elements of Protestant ideology in the KJV that Catholics in turn strenuously objected to and found heretical. Yet the disputes did not end without fruit. For Bagley, one of the good outcomes of the debate was the revision of the KJV where most of the Catholic criticisms were considered favourably. Nevertheless, it was this “Catholic influence” on the Revised Version that made it less popular than the KJV!

Two more interesting papers on translation followed. (3) The title alone of Creighton Marlowe's The Bible Has Lost its Soul made me really curious. How could one claim that the Bible had lost its soul? The answer came in the form of word counts. Marlowe presented his “soul-searching” of the Bible, word counts of the noun “soul” in 6 English Bibles, in comparison to the KJV’s use of the term. His analysis revealed that out of the 537 occurrences of the word “soul” in the KJV, an average of 66% are missing in the English Bible translations of the 20th century (NKJV, NIV, NASB, NRSV, GNT, CEV). (4) A translation issue was also the focus of the final paper, Reimund Bieringer's Junia and Her Female Colleagues in the KJV, an analysis of the women figures in the Pauline letters, particularly Junia who “suffered the fate of being changed into a man”. Thanks to Biblical exegesis Junia’s gender has finally been recovered! The issue though is not just about her gender but on the role she played in the early Church considering her gender. Now, I need not spell out what the implications of this would be for the role of women in the Church today. Bieringer’s study focused on whether there was a translation tendency in the KJV which either decreased or increased the importance of women in the Pauline corpus. The result of his study revealed the complexity of the work of translators and the difficult decisions they sometimes have to take. He further concluded that whereas the RSV followed the KJV very closely, the NRSV is closer to Tyndale.

The presentations were very interesting and enlightening. Unfortunately, three of the presenters had to either speed up or shorten their presentations due to time limitations. Nevertheless, we had an intellectually stimulating afternoon which ended with the offer of a free academic guided tour in Leuven under the guidance of Prof. Guido Latré.

Joan Infante

God’s Word in English - The King James Version as Translation

Monday, March 21, 2011

Prof. Judith L. Kovacs at the Faculty of Theology, KULeuven

Last week Leuven played host to Prof. Judith L. Kovacs, Associate Professor of the Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia. Currently on research leave at the University of Oxford, she came to Leuven to give two presentations on her research interests. These included the writings of Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150 - ca. 215) and the patristic exegesis of the First Letter to the Corinthians.

On the first day, 14 March 2011, Kovacs led a seminar entitled, “Rival Interpretations of Jesus’ Baptism. Clement of Alexandria and the Followers of Valentinus.” Kovacs made known the results of her research on Clement’s first book of the “Paidagogos” (The Instructor). The sixth chapter of this book was considered by Kovacs to be an exegetical debate between Clement and certain followers of Valentinus. Moreover, from Kovacs’ perspective it was also a valuable source of information on Valentinian teachings not preserved elsewhere. From the beginning, Kovacs reasoned that Clement reacts to the critique of his Christian community and to the accusation that the members of his community are mere “babes” who follow “childish and contemptible” teaching. However, she saw the interpretation of Jesus’ baptism as the core of the exegetical debate. On the one hand, the followers of Valentinus believe that Jesus’ baptism is composed of two episodes: the baptism of John and the descent of the dove, both with a typological significance. On the other hand, Clement draws attention to the narration of the Gospels and to the impossibility to separate these two events when taking into account the adverb “immediately” (cf. Mt 3,16-17). Kovacs further argued that the climax of Clement’s defence of the Church’s baptism was the understanding of this baptism as “filtering of the spirit.” In her conclusion, Kovacs set the stage for future research on Clement’s writings by asserting the need for a careful reassessment of what has usually been perceived as mere adaptation of Gnostic theology and terminology.

Questions and remarks followed the presentation. One of the first questions referred to the difference between the interpretation of the baptism as “filtering the spirit” and that of “washing away sins.” Kovacs stated that while the two expressions have in common the outcome of purification, they must be seen as carrying different connotations. The discussion then evolved to the difficult problem of perfection in the writings of Clement. Thus, it was examined if perfection is for Clement an immediate or a durative process. Kovacs pleaded her case maintaining that Clement is not consistent in his writings and different views on perfection are encountered in his “Paidagogos” and his “Stromateis.” Furthermore, a participant proposed two levels of reading Clement’s text according to the addressee’s level of education, while another participant put forward a challenging understanding of Clement’s text as an advertisement for his Church. Kovacs appreciated both proposals. To conclude, the seminar proved to be a fruitful environment for Kovacs to test her claims and findings and to be enriched with new ideas and suggestions.

On the second day, 15 March 2011, Kovacs delivered a public lecture entitled, “The Patristic Paul. Early Christian Readings of 1 Corinthians.” Her argument was structured around four main points. The first part of the lecture dealt with the history of the First Letter to the Corinthians and emphasized the fact that early Christians did not make any distinction regarding the author(s) of the Pauline Corpus. In the second part, Kovacs developed her argument by pointing to the surviving patristic commentaries on the First Letter to the Corinthians and to the chapters of this letter that raised the interest of the patristic writers (e.g. chapters 2-3, 7, 15). In the same vein, the third step of Kovacs’ argument identified the most influential patristic interpreters: Origen of Alexandria (ca. 185-ca. 254), John Chrysostom (ca. 347-407), and Augustine of Hippo (354-430). Finally, the last part of the lecture offered a perspective on the purpose and nature of the patristic commentaries, illustrated with excerpts from the patristic interpretations of the First Letter to the Corinthians. Kovacs was concerned with how patristic writers approached Paul and how the scholars using the historical critical method did that. The lecture ended with Kovacs’ conclusion that for patristic authors the interpretation of the biblical text was a pathway to God and the final outcome of their exegesis was the knowledge of God.

Following Kovacs’ lecture the questions and remarks centred on the methodological issue of bringing together patristic and historical-critical exegesis. Kovacs testified that she feels sometimes “schizophrenic” with her attention divided between patristic and historical-critical exegesis. In response to her problem, one of the professors from the audience proposed analyzing patristic exegesis with the same historical-critical method as used for the biblical text. Another issue was raised with regard to the difference between the homilies and the commentaries on the First Letter to the Corinthians. This time Kovacs articulated her reply by affirming that there is a clear difference in the audience, but the aim of both literary genres is the spiritual transformation of the addresses. Lastly, one participant was troubled by the Chrysostom’s interpretation of Paul’s wisdom in the First Letter to the Corinthians (cf. 1,10-17). Is John Chrysostom attributing Paul’s wisdom to the power of God or to rhetoric? Kovacs asserted that it seems that the power of God functions alongside Paul’s rhetorical skills in Chrysostom’s understanding of Paul’s wisdom. This time also, the audience proved to be ready to engage with Kovacs’ assertions in an academic and constructive way.

Teodor Brasoveanu

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Agents of Resurrection - Lecture by Dr. Benjamin Wold

On 10 March 2011, Dr. Benjamin Wold, visiting lecturer from Dublin, delivered a paper entitled “Agents of Resurrection in 4Q521, The Sayings Source Q and 4QPseudo-Ezekiel” here in Leuven.

Dr. Wold is a researcher and lecturer in New Testament and Christian Origins at Trinity College in Dublin. His research interest is how scripture was used in Early Judaism, the New Testament and Early Christianity. He has also researched on Apocalyptic and Wisdom Literature from the Second Temple Period.

Wold’s lecture is being prepared for publication in the journal ZNW and an earlier draft had already been presented in Dublin (to be found here). Wold deals with the theme of messianic/prophetic figures and their agency in resurrection as described in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Q. Wold challenges the opinions of John Collins and Émile Puech who claim that the agent of resurrection in 4Q521 should be equated with the prophet Elijah. Wold provides grammatical evidence that in 4Q521 ii one may read the word messiah either in the singular or in the plural. This allows for inclusive interpretations of the passage that not only one specific figure is the anointed one. Wold further argues that the prophetic/messianic figure being an agent of resurrection could be the prophet Ezekiel. In order to substantiate his claims, Wold refers to another scroll found in the caves – 4QPseudo-Ezekiel. While admitting that his argument is not wholly conclusive and might fail to convince some, Wold nonetheless attempted to make as persuasive a case as possible.

A lively discussion followed the lecture. In general, questions were raised in the form of objections to the paper’s claims. One of the objections was that Wold’s use of the term “agency” seemed to confuse its usage with the concept of “power”. Thus, it was not clear to one participant how Ezekiel’s ‘agency’ was similar to that of Elijah, who seemed to display a greater power in actually raising the widow’s son, and on whom it was more conceivable that the evangelists were seeking to model Jesus’ power to raise the dead. Another objection was in the difference in genre between Ezekiel’s “vision” of dry bones and the more ‘narrative’ presentations of Elijah’s, Elisha’s and Jesus’ resurrection stories. A third objection got caught up in the confusion between the vision of the Dry Bones in Ezekiel 37 and its reworking in 4QPseudo-Ezekiel. One participant did not agree that the revivification of the dry bones illustrated individual resurrection, but sided rather with the view that it should be understood as a metaphor for the national restoration of Israel. Somewhat taken aback by the vigorous response, Dr. Wold nonetheless held his ground and defended himself both artfully and with restraint.

Friday, February 25, 2011

David Bolton's doctoral defense

On 14 February 2011, David Bolton defended his dissertation, Justifying Paul Among Jews and Christians? A Critical Investigation of the New Perspective on Paul in Light of Jewish-Christian Dialogue, for the Doctor's degree in Theology at K.U.Leuven. The dissertation was the culmination of four years’ fruitful work and engagement as a doctoral researcher in an interdisciplinary research project, directed by Prof. Dr. Didier Pollefeyt and Prof. Dr. Reimund Bieringer entitled, “New Perspectives on Paul and the Jews,” which investigated the role of Pauline theology in the process of Christian self-definition with respect to the Judaism of its time. As an exemplary work in interdisciplinarity, David’s dissertation brought together two domains of theological study into his work: (1) Pauline studies and the evaluation of a particular paradigm within that – the New Perspective on Paul; and (2) the study of present-day Jewish-Christian dialogue, particularly the place (if any) that Paul and his theology might have within that. The examining jury reflected the interdisciplinary nature of David’s dissertation. These were represented by (1) Prof. Dr. Philip Cunningham (2) Prof. Dr. Peter Schmidt,and (3) Dr. Marianne Moyaert.
Everyone acknowledged the excellent quality of David’s work. Perhaps because of this, the jury felt it their duty to ask some very searching questions, which made for a most interesting debate, all the while civil and entertaining. Space constraints make it impossible to list all the questions that were asked by the jury, but here is a short paraphrase:
(1)Prof. Cunningham felt that David had presented Paul’s covenant theology a little too linearly in terms of salvation history, perhaps brought on by David’s use of the analogy of Russian nested dolls. David had argued in his thesis that the image of Russian nested dolls aptly captured how in Paul’s thinking each preceding covenant (Adamic, Noahide, Mosaic, Davidic) was transcended and included by each successive covenant. [Just as an aside: Prof. Cunningham actually produced little Russian nested dolls to illustrate his point and this made for very entertaining viewing.]
(2) Prof. Schmidt felt that David took the concept of covenant too literally and asked what relevance the notion of covenant had in today’s world, when the image of “cutting” a covenant and walking between two broken pieces was completely alien to us, and when no one any longer believed in the real historical existence of Adam or Noah.
(3) Dr. Moyaert asked perhaps the most provoking question: if, as David argued, Paul was indeed a ‘soft supersessionist’ (i.e., that the covenant in Christ now superseded previous covenants by ‘transcending and including’ all previous covenants), and if, (as it seemed to Dr. Moyaert) David approved of Paul’s reading of covenant theology, then did this not imply that the Church had a duty to continue Paul’s mission of proclamation and evangelization to Jews today?

No one in the audience was left in any doubt that here was a candidate who had to defend his thesis to the letter. The Dean of the Faculty of Theology, Prof. Dr. Lieven Boeve, who chaired the defense, on subsequently awarding Dr. David Bolton his degree, remarked quite aptly, “This was truly a defense and we all witnessed how you ably defended yourself today.” After that, as was befitting the occasion, the champagne was popped and the new Doctor of Theology was warmly congratulated by all in attendance.

Emmanuel Nathan

Friday, February 11, 2011


From February 2 until 10, 2011 a group of 20 members of the Faculty of Theology of K.U.Leuven visited Athens and Corinth in Greece as part of a study trip which at the same time is a credit course. During the trip members of the group took turns writing blog entries which can be accessed via this blog. Members of the didactic team of the course wrote an epistle from Greece to those who had stayed back in Leuven, imitating the letter form found in the undisputed Pauline letters.

1:1 Maricel, Malou, Dominika and Reimund, servants of the Lord Jesus Christ to the church that is in Leuven. 1:2 Grace and peace to you from our God and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 1:3 We thank our God every time we remember you and pray for you thinking that we are in sunny Greece while you are suffering the cold of winter. 1:4 We give thanks to God for your ongoing support and interest in our adventures and daily toils and for the fact that some of you will come to meet us in the middle of the night to help us complete our journey back to Leuven. 1:5 We are immensely grateful for your help in setting up the ERASMUS exchange with the Scholi Theologiki in the ancient city of wisdom. 1:6 Even Socrates rejoiced when he heard about it.

2:1 We are happy to report that our theological exchange with the sisters and brothers in Christ in Athens was very fruitful and enriching. 2:2 It was accompanied by the open flood gates of heaven and assured that we were purified by the time we arrived at the university. 2:3 Even though the Faculty was still undergoing a time of testing {Other ancient authorities read [exam period] }, many professors and students participated in the exchange. 2:4 Leonidas, the president of the postdocs, prepared a sumptuous meal for us in the study room of the Faculty. 2:5 For many this was the first contact with Greek food, and it was love at first bite.

3:1 During our trip we were exposed to Ionic, Doric and Corinthian architectural styles. 3:2 Which one will be used in the remodeling of our own theology library in Leuven? 3:3 While we were weathering the rain storm in Athens, the members of our group who came from the five continents, different Christian traditions and different theological subdisciplines did not yet know each other. 3:4 Gradually the group got to know each other better in the small groups of the rooms which was also the subdivision which we used when we had to go by taxi. 3:5 As we visited one site after another, were guided by one tour guide after another and were stunned by the natural beauty of Greece, we all grew closer and new friendships began to develop. 3:6 The didactic team met every evening until late at night enjoying good Nemean wine with Corinthian pizza and souvlaki. 3:7 We also savoured delicious Greek chocolate pastries for dessert which made us wonder where the makers of Belgian chocolates got their training. 3:8 The close friendly cooperation of the members of the didactic team even at the wee hours of the morning reminded us of the cooperation between Paul, Prisca and Aquila, Phoebe, Andronicus and Junia and so many others.

4:1 We are very grateful for the presence of Xenia and Konstantina, our Athenian ERASMUS students who were the epitome of Greek hospitality. 4:2 They were never tired to translate for us or to show us the way to the next place. 4:3 With their joyful nature they cheered up both the members of our group and the people we met in Greece. 4:4 We appreciate this so much, knowing full well that these days are not easy for Xenia after the recent loss of her father Christos who even on his deathbed was thinking about how to welcome us. 4:5 On the second evening Xenias mother Elvira and sister Evangelia came to meet us and we had coffee near the Acropolis Museum. 4:6 It was very meaningful to us to be able to be in solidarity with them at this time of loss.

5:1 On our journey from Athens to Corinth we were wondering what went through Paul’s mind as he himself travelled the same distance, after having been politely dismissed at the Areopagus. 5:2 Like Paul we travelled along the Saronic Gulf, only that we had the luxury of a comfortable coach.

6:1 In Corinth many participants made acquaintance for the first time with Greek Orthodox liturgical tradition. 6:2 The Vespers service with the sisters’ community of the monastery of St. Patapios was for many the first experience of prayer that was governed by very different principles than the ones they were used to. 6:3 We were invited into the mystery of God in a language and in icons unfamiliar to many of us. 6:4 For some all they could filter out were the many signs of the cross and the many repetitions of “Kyrie, eleison”. 6:5 The Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning in the cathedral of New Corinth put us in touch again with the rich tradition and the deep prayer of the Greek Orthodox Church. 6:6 As some of us were already seated on the bus to leave, we were invited to coffee and cake, much as we know it from UPIC. 6:7 What was still foreign in the liturgy came closer in the warm hospitality of the Corinthian Christians. 6:8 As we read the full quote of the song of love in 1 Corinthians 13 at the entrance of the cathedral, we realized that they truly live out the words of the first bishop of Corinth (as the list of 89 bishops of the succession of this church attests).

7:1 From Corinth we made several excursions into time and space, visiting sites at which we saw excavations of the various periods of Greek (pre-)history: Mycenae, Nemea, Kenchreai, Epidauros, Ancient Corinth, Acrocorinth, Isthmia, Olympia and Eleusis. 7:2 Even though there was not a direct link to Paul in every one of these places, they still helped us to come to know the ancient people on whose shoulders Paul stood. 7:3 Student presentations as well as both formal and informal discussions in situ enabled us to deepen our appreciation for the link between exegesis and archaeology, between ancient stones and ancient texts. 7:4 The highlight for many of us was the two hour visit to the archaeological site of Ancient Corinth with the expert guidance of Prof. Kathleen W. Slane and Dr. Ioulia Tzonou-Herbst which brought to life Roman Corinth for us and the kind of place Paul would have found there upon arrival. 7:5 Few of us had realized before that Paul found Corinth still very much a construction site.

8:1 Greet our brothers Lieven and Didier for us. 8:2 The church that met at the coach of Dimitra and Blasios greets you. Jarek, our brother blogger sends greetings. 8:3 He advises you to click the right hand panel of the blog to see the photos. 8:4 Joan, Soeng Yu and Bincy, the coworkers of the Lord, send greetings. 8:5 Niranjan, Claude and John, the presbyters of Asia and Africa send greetings to you. 8:6 The intercontinental room church of Michael, Nathan and Jarek invites you to the joy of pillow fight. 8:7 Our brothers Thomas and Joseph, presbyters from the land of Saint Thomas send greetings. 8:8 William and David, experts in Corinthian restaurants, greet you. 8:9 Even the Greek goddesses in human form to whom daily flower offerings were presented, extend their blessings to you. 8:10 Greet each other with the holy kiss. 8:11 The grace of Christ be with all of you. Amen.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Conference: Paul's Doctrine of Justification by Faith

The Department of New Testament of the Evangelical Lutheran Theological Faculty at Comenius University in Bratislava (Slovakia)announces the following International Interdisciplinary Academic Research Conference:

"Paul's Doctrine of Justification by Faith in the Context of Jewish-Christian Dialogue".

The conference is part of their three year project "Corpus Paulinum as Interreligious Dialogue Paradigm in Multicultural Society".

Dates: May 5 - 6, 2011.

Place: Evangelical Lutheran Theological Faculty, Comenius University in Bratislava, Bartókova 8, 811 02 Bratislava, Slovakia.

  • The deadline for submission of abstracts with proposed title of contributions is: February 28, 2011.
  • Full texts of accepted papers are to be submitted by April 30, 2011 to the following address:

For more information please consult: the page of the conference

Friday, January 21, 2011

Paul as an Anomalous Diaspora Jew? (Lucky 1000 Competition)

We invite your comments concerning the following thesis of John Barclay (“Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora: From Alexander to Trajan (323 BCE – 117 CE)”, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996, pp. 393-395):

“In his conceptuality Paul is most at home among the particularistic and least accommodated segments of the Diaspora; yet in his utilization of these concepts, and in his social practice, he shatters the ethnic mould in which that ideology was formed. He shows little inclination to forge any form of synthesis with his cultural environment, yet he employs the language of a culturally antagonistic Judaism to establish a new social reality which transgresses the boundaries of the Diaspora synagogues. By an extraordinary transference of ideology, Paul deracinates the most culturally conservative forms of Judaism in the Diaspora and uses them in the service of his largely Gentile communities. It is hardly surprising that this anomalous Jew should meet both puzzled and hostile reactions in Diaspora synagogues. However scriptural he claimed his theology to be, and however much it was couched in traditional Jewish terminology , Paul’s assimilating practices and his lax (or at least inconsistent) observance of the law earned him suspicion, opposition and even punishment in the synagogue. … The very fact that Paul could speak so persuasively in the traditional Jewish idiom, made him all the more insidious a foe to those who judged his teaching subversive. The majority of Paul’s Jewish contemporaries (both Christian and non-Christian) found his mutation of the Jewish tradition incomprehensible or unattractive. The majority of his Gentile converts, and most subsequent readers of his letters, could only see their distance from, not their common destiny with, Jews. Thus, most unwittingly, Paul fostered the fateful division between Christianity and Judaism.”

Lucky 1000 Competition!

Since we are fast approaching 1000 visitors (!) we are organizing a small competition.
Here are the details:

1) Anyone can participate.

2) To *win* a participant has to:
a) comment on the post "Paul as an anomalous Jew"
b) be visitor number 1000
c) leave behind his or her name and email address so we can identify the winner

3) The *prize* is (drum roll please) a book and the privilege of participating in this unique biblical blog hosted by students at Leuven!

Interested? Then post your comment today!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Good news for students/doctoral students wishing to present at SBL!

Today the message below was sent out by SBL.
It contains important information which revises the rules we had posted earlier:

The Executive Committee of Council met on 12 January 2011 to discuss concerns over the recent policies regarding student participation in the Society’s Annual Meeting. The policies that were announced in November 2010 required all students without a doctoral degree to submit to the Program Unit Chair the full text of the paper they intended to read and limited the number of sessions student can participate in (as panelist, presenter, and respondent) to one.

The action taken by the Executive Committee of Council, effective immediately , is to postpone the implementation of these policies and to undertake additional discussion of these matters at the Spring 2011 Council meeting. This action thereby sets aside these requirements and restrictions until 2012, pending further review.

I want personally to thank the members of the Student Advisory Board and the network of OSRs for the conversations we have had concerning these matters. They are active advocates for student interests. Please do continue these conversations with me or with representatives on SAB. SAB will provide a report directly to Council in April.

On behalf of Council, we look forward to receiving your suggestions and proposals for discussion and review, and we are especially grateful for your active participation.

Giving a Better Meeting Presentation

For all those who prepare a meeting presentation we post a link to the guidlines provided by SBL.

The document in in PDF format. You can download it by clicking here

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