Saturday, November 10, 2012

"Homer and Christ" - Prof. Karl Olav Sandnes in Leuven

From October 17-19, 2012, in the framework of an ERASMUS exchange, Prof. Dr. Karl Olav Sandnes from Norwegian School of Theology enjoyed the opportunity to visit KU Leuven’s Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies. At the invitation of Prof. Dr. Reimund Bieringer, he delivered a three-part lecture entitled “Homer and Christ: The Development of Early Christian Hermeneutics” which proved to be a tour de force on the hermeneutical challenges faced by the early Christian Church. The point of departure was represented by several photos of Papyrus Bouriant and by Raffaella Cribiore’s assertion according to whom: “Education became a powerful agent for preserving ‘Greekness’” (Gymnastics of the Mind. Greek Education in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001, 9). In adding to these, Prof. Sandnes emphasised the fundamental role played by Homer and his oeuvre in Greek encyclical studies. Finding herself in the impossibility to skirt this reality, the early Christian Church was confronted with the issue of dealing with pagan texts. However, Homer’s place in encyclical studies was already under criticism since Plato (The Republic, 379 d - 391 c) and the insufficiency of these studies was contended by people like Seneca (Ep. 88). In this respect, allegory came to be considered as an easy way out of criticism (cf. e.g., Od. 12, Penelope and the suitors). Similarly, a distinction began to be operated between propaideia, comprised of the study of letters and literature, and paideia, consisting in philosophy or virtue (e.g., Philo of Alexandria, On Mating with the Preliminary Studies). In this context, the Christian attitude towards Greek paideia varied from direct opposition to it (e.g., Tatian of Syria, Oratio ad Graecos 1.3; Didascalia Apostolorum 3.3-18), to a middle position of a noxious but required process (e.g., Tertullian, On Idolatry 10), and to its understanding as propaideia for faith (e.g., Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis 15.3; Origen, A Letter to Gregory; Basil of Caesarea, Ad Adolescentes 4.4-5, 4.8-9; Gregory of Nyssa, De Vita Mosis 1.15). A special case presented by Prof. Sandnes was that of Augustine who reversed the propaedeutic logic (cf. Augustine, Conf. 1.13.22, 1.15.24) and argued for the importance of primary studies. Nevertheless, Augustine appeals also to the notion of usus and seems to plead for a criterion to assess human culture (cf. Doctr. 1.7). At the same time, Augustine’s stance testifies to the fact that the attitude towards encyclical studies is intrinsically connected with the discourse on pagan culture. 

In Prof. Sandnes’ own words Homer became “a catchword for the relationship between Christians and pagans.” As the completion of his lecture was approaching, Prof. Sandnes shared with the audience the observation that both those who were building a case against Greek paideia and those who were arguing for a content-based discernment of it invoked Scriptural passages in their argumentations. While he declared himself in favour of the latter opinion, Prof. Sandnes stated that he is not entirely convinced by the arguments put forward for it. Following this line, he voiced a challenging question: Why is the New Testament so silent about this topic? By way of conclusion, Prof. Sandnes admitted that he does not possess a final answer to this question, but that he can offer some considerations. Firstly, he believes that it took some time for the theological thinking to become mature enough to address this issue. Secondly, perhaps this hermeneutical issue was not a real concern in the first century. Thirdly, he mentioned the nature of Paul’s letters which do not represent faith treatises and refer to local issues. Last but not least, Prof. Sandnes maintained that one can deduce the notion of usus from Paul’s correspondence (cf. Gal 3,24; Phil 4,8-9; 2 Cor 10,4-5). According to him, truth and wisdom might be found outside the Christian community, but they should be looked at from a critical perspective.

Teodor Brasoveanu

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Ma. Marilou Ibita's doctoral defense

Last April 26, 2012, Ma. Marilou “Malou” Ibita defended her dissertation entitled If Anyone Hungers, He/She Must Eat in the House” (1 Cor 11:34): A Narrative-Critical,  Socio- Historical and Grammatical-Philological Analysis of the Story of the Lord’s Supper in Corinth (1 Cor 11:17-34) under the direction of Prof. Dr. Reimund Bieringer.  The event was chaired by the dean of the Faculty, Prof. Dr. Lieven Boeve and the dissertation was defended in the presence of three correctors, viz. Prof. Dr. Ekaterini Tsalampouni from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Prof. Dr. David Horrell from University of Exeter, and Prof. Dr. Joseph Verheyden from KU Leuven.  Amid the downpour outside and the friendly jest of one of the jurors of not being able to take his lunch due to the “unholy” schedule of the defence, (viz. 13:30), Malou presented her dissertation, answered questions, and parried with the  jurors  with wit, confidence, and mastery.

Using a variety of methods as reflected in the title, Malou defended the hypothesis that Paul’s command in 1 Cor 11:34 (εἴ τις πεινᾷ, ἐν οἴκῳ ἐσθιέτω, ἵνα μὴ εἰς κρίμα συνέρχησθε. τὰ δὲ λοιπὰ ὡς ἂν ἔλθω διατάξομαι) can be interpreted to mean that Paul advocates a celebration where the hungry members of the Corinthian ἐκκλησία, together with the rest of the ἀδελφοί (brothers and sisters), eat a satisfying κυριακὸν δεῖπνον (bread – meal – cup) with the same food and drink at the same time and ἐν οἴκῳ  (in the house)  where  they gather (possibly in a rotating manner) in order to uphold, nurture and maintain their symbolic universe in the making that is encapsulated  in the celebration  of the Lord’s Supper.   Whereas common English translations of 1 Cor:11:34  reads “If you are hungry, eat at home, so that when you come together, it will not be for your condemnation” (NRSV, cf. NAB, RSV), Malou’s study has shown that a more contextually appropriate translation of 1 Cor  11:34  is “If anyone hungers,  he/she must eat in the house (i.e. in the place where the ἐκκλησία gathers as κατ᾽ οἶκον ἐκκλησίᾳ) so that when you come together [to eat the Lord’s Supper], it will not be for your condemnation.”  The number of methods that have been used to study the pericope and the total number of pages of the dissertation (around 500) reflect the thoroughness with which research on the topic has been done.
Fittingly, the defence was followed by a reception with an Eucharistic celebration and a Filipino snack afterwards.  

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Dieu. Jan Lambrecht's Speech During the American College Alumni Reunion, June 26-27, 2012

Rev. Fr. Jan Lambrecht SJ, emeritus professor of New Testament Exegesis and Biblical Greek of the Faculty of Theology of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, recently gave a much appreciated after-dinner speech during the American College Alumni Reunion at Leuven. His words are inspired by St. Paul’s farewell speech to the elders of Ephesus in Acts 20:18-38. The American College, founded in 1857, served the Catholic Church of the United States of America as a major seminary for the formation of priests. In 2011 the American College seminary was closed, but the building was acquired by the university. After a phase of renovation, the College will reopen as a center for contacts of the university with the Catholic Church in the United States of America. Throughout his active career in the Faculty as a professor, as a dean and as a spiritual director, Prof. Lambrecht has been a friend of the American College.
For a biography and a bibliography of Prof. Jan Lambrecht, see:

Jan Lambrecht's Speech During the American College Alumni Reunion,  June 26-27 2012

My Dear Friends,

After the main course of this exquisite meal now something serious, a brief "homily".
In the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 20, we read the farewell discourse of Paul. It is at the end of his third and last missionary journey, and Paul is returning to Palestine, to Jerusalem. In Miletus, Asia Minor, he summons the elders of Ephesus.

For the sake of our actualization tonight the alumni of the American College are these elders coming from "Ephesus", that is America, to Europe, that is Leuven. And Paul represents the staff of the College as well as the professors of the university.
There will be three points in this toast: testimony, farewell, and final wish.

In his address Paul testifies and repeats, in an almost apologetic manner: I spent my whole life with you. I proclaimed the kingdom. I have kept back nothing. I delivered the message.
That is what the American College and the university have been trying to do, during more than 150 years, with open mind, in all honesty and courage.

As Paul finishes speaking, he kneels down with the elders and they pray together. Loud cries of sorrow and weeping... The Leuven American College is closed; it does no longer exist. What a pity! The elders are distressed. An immense sadness remains.
Moreover, one should realize: the elders will never see Paul's face again!
And this is precisely also the case this evening: it is not just a good-bye, an "Auf Widersehen". No, it most probably will be a final farewell. So emotions abound...

At the end of the discourse Paul cites a saying of the Lord which is not to be found in any of the gospels. It may be our ultimate wish and the permanent motto of our life, that of the staff, the alumni, and the professors alike.
Jesus says: "Happiness lies more in giving than in receiving". Of course, we know this and we have experienced that happiness, but so often we forget the wonderful Pauline Jesus-logion. So once again, Acts 20, verse 35: "Happiness lies more in giving than receiving".

Jan Lambrecht SJ

A group photo of the participants of Alumni Reunion American College

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Moschos, son of Moschion, an assimilated Ioudaios?

Moschos, son of Moschion, is “the first Greek Jew” (Lewis) depicted on a manumission inscription. This inscription is dated in the 3rd century BC. It was found among epigraphic remains from the temple of Amphiaraus (associated with Asclepius) in Oropos. The inscription was erected by a Ioudaios, with the Greek name of Moschos (calf).

For more than 50 years, Moschos, son of Moschion, has been considered a Ioudaios assimilated to the Hellenistic culture. On the one hand, in the opinion of some scholars Moschos is either highly assimilated (Barclay, Lewis) or even a defector (Wilson). On the other hand Moschos’ Jewishness was neglected (Cohen) or considered marginal (Leigh). The chief argument for these claims is Moschos’ alleged participation in the pagan cult,  i.e., “incubation” in the Amphiareion.

However,  the inscription does not allow us to do draw such conclusions. The inscription tells us only that a person seeing a dream was ordered by Amphiaraus  and Hygieia to erect the inscription.
Even if Moschos was the one with the dream, the inscription does not allow us to assume that he took part in the ritual of incubation. Ancient Greek authors (e.g. Iamblichus) when referring to the dreams in the cultic context of the Asclepian cult use the word oneiros, while here the word enupnion, depicting an usual, night dream, is employed.

If Moschos himself was responsible for the inscription’s wording, he obviously refers to himself as Ioudaios. Thus Moschos is at least not entirely assimilated, but underlines his Jewish roots.
Finally, what about Amphiareion. Why the inscription was erected there? The inscription does not mention any illness. Is it right to assume that the temple was frequented only by sick people?

jarek moeglich

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Tribute to F. W. Danker

The eminent lexicographer Frederick W. Danker passed away on February 2nd 2012. He was born on
July 20th, 1920 in Frankenmuth, Michigan. He completed his studies in the Concordia Seminary and obtained a PhD in Classics at the University of Chicago, Illinois. From 1954 he taught in Concordia Seminary.

Danker’s contribution to New Testament scholarship is one of the most substantial in recent history. He is best known for his thorough revision of the English version of Bauer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, which was released as the 3rd edition in 2000. It is said that for ten years, Professor Danker worked on BDAG for twelve hours a day, six days a week.

In 2004, a Festschrift with the title “Biblical Greek Language and Lexicography: Essays in Honor of Frederick W. Danker” was published to celebrate Danker's work, including 18 essays by Peter R. Burton, Rykle Borger, William A. Johnson, Richard E. Whitaker, Trevor Evans, Stanley Porter.
Prof. Danker was Christ Seminary-Seminex Professor Emeritus of New Testament at the Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago, Illinois.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Zotero - a review

For many of us, typing and editing footnotes and the bibliography can be a real chore. Thanks to reference management software, this task has been made easier. However, after a not so good experience with a few programs two years ago (i.e., compatibility issues) and wasting my money, I decided to surf the web and search for a software that will organize my bibliography for free. True enough, a few weeks ago I chanced upon Zotero. For someone who is not computer savvy, I find Zotero very user-friendly, especially with its simple step-by-step user guide. Since Zotero works with the web (i.e., Firefox), it can grab the bibliographical data from materials in those sites that it recognizes, like Google Books. This means no more typing of bibliography entries, although you may need to do a bit of editing for some parts of the entry, like adding the place and year of publication. Finally, what I consider to be the best features of Zotero, are (1) it allows you to store bibliographical data and (2) you can use it to cite sources for footnoting and bibliography in your written work – and both these actions for FREE. However, if you plan to store your pdf files in your Zotero account, you need to increase your storage capacity and this means you have to pay. I still need to explore the other features of Zotero and I don’t know what problems I may find, but for now I am very happy there is a program called Zotero!

If you want to check it out, here is the link to Zotero:

Joan Infante

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The New Perspective on Paul Re-visited: James D.G. Dunn Conducted a Doctoral Seminar in Antwerp

On Monday, 12 December 2011, under the auspices of the Universitair Centrum Sint-Ignatius Antwerpen and in cooperation with the University of Antwerp, Philosophy Department; Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, Research Unit Biblical Studies; Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Faculty of Theology; and Faculty of Protestant Theology, Brussels, Prof. James D.G. Dunn, emeritus professor and member of the British Academy, led a doctoral seminar on Paul. In the first part of this seminar, Prof. Dunn offered a brief review of his famous “New Perspective on Paul”, followed then, in the second part, by a session of questions and answers.

From the beginning Prof. Dunn set the terms of the discussion by quoting Rom 3,28 and Gal 2,16 and by asserting the centrality of ‘justification by faith’ to Paul’s thought. The traditional view of this matter was comprised in three dimensions: a) the individual coming to faith and finding peace with God (e.g. Augustine, Luther, Bultmann); b) the opinion that Paul constructs an argument against the belief that one can secure God’s blessing through good works (e.g. pastoral circles); c) the idea that for Paul the Gospel stands in antithesis to the Law and this being the reason why he rejects Judaism and the Law. Taking into account the traditional view, Prof. Dunn singled out a few aspects which arose from dealing with this view. First of all, it seems that the expression “the righteousness of God” (Rom 1,16-17) was often misunderstood due to the Platonic framework of interpretation. The Hebrew construction has a relational connotation in the Old Testament and can be better translated into English as “vindication, redemption by God??.” On this account, it points out to God’s commitment which He took by Himself towards the whole creation and especially to Israel. A remarkable parallel is to be found in 1 QS 11,11-15, where one can notice the dependence on “the righteousness of God” for salvation. Secondly, it was E. P. Sanders who, in his Paul and Palestinian Judaism (1977), challenged the traditional Christian perspective on Judaism as false or biased. For him, everything starts with the recognition of the divine initiative. The Law is given to the covenantal people and it is the answer of Israel to God’s saving grace. In this last regard, the Law shows them how they should live and not how to become the people of God. Thirdly, Prof. Dunn mentioned K. Stendahl’s work, Paul among Jews and Gentiles (1976), and his conviction that Paul’s preaching did not develop out of relief from a bad conscience. Conversely, Paul’s content of the Gospel draws more on his conversion, on his seeing of the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Cor 9,1ff). Justification by faith is Paul’s response to the question of how can the Gentiles share in God’s saving righteousness. Going a step further, Prof. Dunn proposed “The New Perspective on Paul” (1982). In his judgment, Paul reacts against the Jewish belief that Gentiles as such were outside the covenant or were seen as sinners (cf. Gal 2,15; Ac 10,11-15.28). Furthermore, the Law is the paidagogos (cf. Gal 3,19-25; Eph 2,14-15) and its mission was to protect/guard Israel. When Paul writes “works of law” in Gal 2,16 he has in mind circumcision and the laws of clean and unclean which become boundary markers in Peter’s understanding. For Prof. Dunn, Lev 18,5 has the meaning of “by doing these things, this is the way you should live.” It is about covenantal nomism. In the same vein, Prof. Dunn asserted that Paul has his own version of covenantal nomism. Although Paul speaks about “justification by faith not by the works” (Gal 2,16; cf. Rom 3,28) he holds as well the “judgment according to works” (cf. Rom 2,6-11; 2 Cor 5,10). Prof. Dunn’s conclusion was that a solution which keeps both aspects together will resolve the problems between the old and the new perspective on Paul, between Catholics and Protestants, and perhaps between Eastern and Western Christianity.

The second part of the seminar turned into a lively dialogue with unexpected questions and unexpected answers. Among the first issues raised by the audience was the one concerned with the idea of salvation for non-Jews. This idea, already present in the Old Testament, might have been lost along the way and Paul seems to have been the one to recover it. Prof. Dunn replied that according to Galatians 3 there were three strands in the Abrahamic promise: the seed, the land, and the blessing of all the nations in Abraham. Paul builds upon the third strand of the promise and sees the Gospel as the covenantal grace of God to save the Gentiles. Another issue questioned the place of the new perspective on Paul in current scholarly research. In response, Prof. Dunn humorously quoted S. Gathercole who said that the new perspective on Paul was in fact the old perspective of his generation. Additionally, Prof. Dunn remarked that the merit of the new perspective was to draw attention to some missing or neglected elements and dimensions of the debate and to bring a balance between the covenant and the Law. One of the participants was preoccupied with the loss of interest in Paul from the side of the Rabbinic Judaism and with the broad perspective of the Second Temple Judaism. This time Prof. Dunn stressed the fact that Paul is for him an authentic voice of the Second Temple Judaism and that the rabbis considered Paul as a traitor. He also stated that the rabbis cut themselves off from the broad perspective of the Second Temple Judaism regarding Israel’s blessing to the nations. Lastly, the question of who would Paul have liked to be received a very short and comprehensive answer: a man in Christ. As the time allotted for the seminar quickly elapsed, Prof. Dunn brought the seminar to its end by thanking the organizers and the participants and by declaring himself happy with the discussions that followed his presentation.

Teodor Brasoveanu
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