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Monday, 22 August 2016

My first publishing experience in biblical studies

This article is an anecdote about my first experience publishing in a biblical studies academic journal.1 I hope the reader will forgive any self-congratulatory exuberance inherent in writing about one's writing. (Perhaps I am betraying my greenhorn status by expressing excitement over an achievement that for professional biblical scholars is par for the course.) All glory goes to God, whose I am and whom I serve. My hope in writing this anecdote is that it will prove useful to other amateur biblical scholars who aspire to publish.

Over the past two years I co-authored two articles with Dr. Guy Williams, who specializes as a Pauline scholar.2 Both articles have been accepted by the Journal for the Study of the New Testament and published in the September 2016 issue, comprising 56 pages combined.3 Their titles are, respectively, Diabolical Data: A Critical Inventory of New Testament Satanology and Talk of the Devil: Unpacking the Language of New Testament Satanology.

I am a statistician by profession, and am also in the latter stages of an Honours degree in theology through distance learning (at King's Evangelical Divinity School in the U.K., which I highly recommend). I've long had an interest in marrying my statistical background with my interest in the Bible by applying statistical analysis to biblical texts. I've also long been interested in Satan as a theological concept, owing in large part to my upbringing in the Christadelphian sect, which has a unique interpretation of the biblical devil and Satan. In 2013-14 I engaged in some correspondence and online discussion with Christadelphians about the prevalence of Satan in the New Testament. My interlocutors had claimed that Satan is prominent in the Synoptic Gospels and Acts but marginal in the rest of the New Testament. This claim struck me as suspect, and I did some preliminary statistical analysis which confirmed my suspicions, publishing my findings on this blog.

However, one of the challenges I faced in conducting this statistical analysis was the uncertainty of the data set itself: how many references to Satan are there in the New Testament? One can easily count up the number of occurrences of the Greek words satanas and diabolos, but it is not obvious that every instance of these words does refer to Satan (e.g., John 6:70). Moreover, there are numerous other New Testament terms that do seem to refer to Satan, such as 'the evil one' (Matt. 13:19), 'the god of this age' (2 Cor. 4:4) and 'the ruler of this world' (John 12:31). I couldn't find any scholarly source that sought to identify all New Testament references to Satan, offering critical exegesis of uncertain cases. Hence, I resolved to create this data set, reasoning that this would not only assist me in my own statistical analysis but would be a tool for broader research Satan in the New Testament. This was the genesis of the research project that eventually resulted in these two articles.

By the end of 2014, I had a working manuscript where I had attempted to identify every reference to Satan in the NT, with recourse to the academic literature and my own exegesis to decide uncertain cases. I also included some statistical analysis of this data set. I had never published in biblical studies before and was then only a first year theology student. Knowing that most biblical studies journals have rejection rates in the 80% range, I knew submitting my manuscript to a journal would be a long shot. Enter Dr. Guy Williams. I had read his excellent monograph on The Spirit World in the Letters of Paul the Apostle (based on his Oxford University doctoral thesis) and had asked him some questions about it via email, and been impressed by his thoughtful replies. He had also humoured me by reading and commenting on some of my quasi-academic, but somewhat amateurish, online articles about Satan. I decided to send Guy my manuscript and ask him whether it looked remotely publishable to him, and if so whether he might be willing to collaborate with me to refine it into a publishable form. To my delight, he responded in the affirmative on both counts (while graciously offering to give feedback and still let me submit it myself). Better still, he had an idea for taking the project further by turning it into a two-part series which he would co-author. The first study would create the data set by identifying all New Testament references to Satan. The second study would then analyse the data statistically but also contextualize the analysis by looking at hermeneutical issues in New Testament Satanology. I enthusiastically agreed. In the end, I wrote most of the first article and Guy most of the second, but it really was a joint project as we offered each other useful input and suggestions at every stage of the writing and revision process. The effective collaboration we were able to develop despite sitting on separate continents and never meeting face to face is a testimony to the power of globalization.

We submitted both articles to JSNT4 in May 2015. We heard back after the peer review process in November and were thrilled to receive a positive response. Both articles were accepted pending some revisions, the most significant of which was that we needed to interact more with German scholarship in our exegesis. (This is a standard requirement of the major biblical studies journals, and understandably so.) My German is very limited, but Guy can read German fluently and I can read French almost fluently, so we decided to bolster our literature search by consulting additional works in both these languages. Doing so proved very useful, as it helped us to identify some probable NT references to Satan that we had previously missed. Another issue was that our articles were too long for the journal, so we needed to find ways to cut down on the word count. This was achieved primarily by reducing the bibliographic material. We submitted our revised versions at the end of January 2016.

The editorial process of preparing the articles for publication began in earnest in May. This, for me, was one of the best things about publishing. You get to have your work edited, copy-edited and proofread by experts for free. In the case of these two articles, the final versions are far superior to the original submissions in terms of style, compactness, and number of typo's and other errors.

All told, the experience of publishing has been tremendously rewarding and enriching. However, it has also been a tremendous amount of work. I wouldn't want to guess the equivalent number of forty-hour work weeks that went into this project, but it was not a few. My heart's desire for the two articles is that they will make some contribution to the body of academic - and ecclesial - knowledge about the New Testament, and that they will lead to other opportunities for writing and research.

I've already embarked on my next academic writing project - this time going solo, and on a completely different topic. We'll see how it turns out!


Footnotes

  • 1 I have been a co-author on a couple of other published articles/notes where my contribution involved probability and statistics, not biblical studies. See here, here and here.
  • 2 His publications include The Spirit World in the Letters of Paul the Apostles: A Critical Examination of the Role of Spirit Beings in the Authentic Pauline Epistles (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2009); An Apocalyptic and Magical Interpretation of Paul's ‘Beast Fight’ in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 15:32) (Journal of Theological Studies, 2006); Narrative Space, Angelic Revelation, and the End of Mark’s Gospel (Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 2013); article on Romans in The Oxford Handbook of the Reception History of the Bible (Oxford University Press, 2011).
  • 3 The issue has not been printed yet as I write this, but the articles have been published online already.
  • 4 As an amateur biblical scholar, one would need to choose a journal with a double-blind peer review process in which the reviewers do not know the identity or qualifications of the author. The manuscript is evaluated solely on its own merits. That said, the double-blind policy is not intended as an invitation to submit substandard material. To avoid disappointing oneself and burdening editors, it is a good idea to collaborate with an established scholar, especially for one's first publication.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

All the amēn sayings of Jesus in a table

I've lately being doing some analysis of Jesus' amēn sayings. Jesus' tendency in the Gospels to begin sayings with amēn legō humin ('Truly I say to you') is one of the most distinctive features of his teaching style, and undoubtedly historically authentic.1 There is scholarly debate over whether this saying formula was unique to Jesus,2 as well as its linguistic background. One intriguing hypothesis is that Jesus took it from the expression ē/ei mēn in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible)3 and translated it into Aramaic, whence it was transliterated back into Greek.4 New Testament scholars are generally agreed that the formula adds emphasis and solemnity to a saying.5 

I would not want to suggest that sayings of Jesus prefaced with the amēn formula are of a different order of importance from those prefaced simply with 'I say to you'. Nevertheless, in honour of this distinctive and majestic formula used by our Lord, I am reproducing in a single table all of the amēn sayings of the Gospels. I hope it may prove useful for further study. The sayings are quoted in the World English Bible, not because it is such a great translation but because the table was generated using a computer program, and the World English Bible is freely available in a text file format, which facilitated this.

There are 79 amēn sayings all together.6 Where an identical or nearly identical amēn saying occurs in multiple Gospels, it is quoted only once, but the parallel is noted.7 Hence there are 63 entries in the table. A few linguistic and statistical notes about the sayings are included beneath the table for those who may be interested.

Some think the amēn sayings are Christologically significant, telling us something profound about Jesus' self-understanding. I tend to agree. It is quite possible that the use of this emphatic formula contributed to the crowds' reaction to Jesus' teaching recorded in Matt. 7:28-29: 'And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.'

Reference
World English Bible Translation
Link
Matt. 5:18
For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished.
Matt. 5:26
Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are with him in the way; lest perhaps the prosecutor deliver you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and you be cast into prison. Most certainly I tell you, you shall by no means get out of there, until you have paid the last penny.
Matt. 6:2
Therefore when you do merciful deeds, don't sound a trumpet before yourself, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may get glory from men. Most certainly I tell you, they have received their reward.
Matt. 6:5
"When you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Most certainly, I tell you, they have received their reward.
Matt. 6:16
"Moreover when you fast, don't be like the hypocrites, with sad faces. For they disfigure their faces, that they may be seen by men to be fasting. Most certainly I tell you, they have received their reward.
Matt. 8:10
When Jesus heard it, he marveled, and said to those who followed, "Most certainly I tell you, I haven't found so great a faith, not even in Israel.
Matt. 10:15
Most certainly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.
Matt. 10:23
But when they persecute you in this city, flee into the next, for most certainly I tell you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel, until the Son of Man has come.
Matt. 11:11
Most certainly I tell you, among those who are born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptizer; yet he who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.
Matt. 13:17
For most certainly I tell you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things which you see, and didn't see them; and to hear the things which you hear, and didn't hear them.
Matt. 17:20
He said to them, "Because of your unbelief. For most certainly I tell you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.
Matt. 18:13
If he finds it, most certainly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray.
Matt. 18:18
Most certainly I tell you, whatever things you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever things you release on earth will have been released in heaven.
Matt. 18:19
Again, assuredly I tell you, that if two of you will agree on earth concerning anything that they will ask, it will be done for them by my Father who is in heaven.
Matt. 19:23
Jesus said to his disciples, "Most certainly I say to you, a rich man will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven with difficulty.
Matt. 19:28
Jesus said to them, "Most certainly I tell you that you who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on the throne of his glory, you also will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Matt. 21:31
Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said to him, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Most certainly I tell you that the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering into the Kingdom of God before you.
Matt. 23:36
Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets, wise men, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify; and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city; that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zachariah son of Barachiah, whom you killed between the sanctuary and the altar. Most certainly I tell you, all these things will come upon this generation.
Matt. 24:2
But he answered them, "You see all of these things, don't you? Most certainly I tell you, there will not be left here one stone on another, that will not be thrown down."
Matt. 24:47 (par. Luke 12:448)
"Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his lord has set over his household, to give them their food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his lord finds doing so when he comes. Most certainly I tell you that he will set him over all that he has.
Matt. 25:12
Afterward the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us.' But he answered, 'Most certainly I tell you, I don't know you.'
Matt. 25:40
"The King will answer them, 'Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'
Matt. 25:45
"Then he will answer them, saying, 'Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you didn't do it to one of the least of these, you didn't do it to me.'
Mark 3:28
Most certainly I tell you, all sins of the descendants of man will be forgiven, including their blasphemies with which they may blaspheme; but whoever may blaspheme against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"
Mark 8:12
He sighed deeply in his spirit, and said, "Why does this generation seek a sign? Most certainly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation."
Mark 9:1 (par. Matt. 16:28; Luke 9:279)
He said to them, "Most certainly I tell you, there are some standing here who will in no way taste death until they see the Kingdom of God come with power."
Mark 9:41 (par. Matt. 10:42)
For whoever will give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you are Christ's, most certainly I tell you, he will in no way lose his reward.
Mark 10:15 (par. Matt. 18:3; Luke 18:17)
Most certainly I tell you, whoever will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child, he will in no way enter into it."
Mark 10:29-30 (par. Luke 18:29-30)
Jesus said, "Most certainly I tell you, there is no one who has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or land, for my sake, and for the sake of the Good News, but he will receive one hundred times more now in this time, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land, with persecutions; and in the age to come eternal life.
Mark 11:23 (par. Matt. 21:21)
For most certainly I tell you, whoever may tell this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and doesn't doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is happening; he shall have whatever he says.
Mark 12:43-44 (par. Luke 21:3-410)
He called his disciples to himself, and said to them, "Most certainly I tell you, this poor widow gave more than all those who are giving into the treasury, for they all gave out of their abundance, but she, out of her poverty, gave all that she had to live on."
Mark 13:28-30 (par. Matt. 24:32-34; Luke 21:29-32)
"Now from the fig tree, learn this parable. When the branch has now become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that the summer is near; even so you also, when you see these things coming to pass, know that it is near, at the doors. Most certainly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things happen.
Mark 14:9 (par. Matt. 26:13)
Most certainly I tell you, wherever this Good News may be preached throughout the whole world, that which this woman has done will also be spoken of for a memorial of her."
Mark 14:18 (par. Matt. 26:21; John 13:21)
As they sat and were eating, Jesus said, "Most certainly I tell you, one of you will betray me--he who eats with me."
Mark 14:25
Most certainly I tell you, I will no more drink of the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it anew in the Kingdom of God."
Mark 14:30 (par. Matt. 26:34; John 13:38)
Jesus said to him, "Most certainly I tell you, that you today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times."
Luke 4:24
He said, "Most certainly I tell you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.
Luke 4:25-2611
But truly I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land. Elijah was sent to none of them, except to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.
Luke 12:37
Blessed are those servants, whom the lord will find watching when he comes. Most certainly I tell you, that he will dress himself, and make them recline, and will come and serve them.
Luke 23:42-43
He said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom." Jesus said to him, "Assuredly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
John 1:51
He said to him, "Most certainly, I tell you, hereafter you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."
John 3:3
Jesus answered him, "Most certainly, I tell you, unless one is born anew, he can't see the Kingdom of God."
John 3:5
Jesus answered, "Most certainly I tell you, unless one is born of water and spirit, he can't enter into the Kingdom of God!
John 3:11
Most certainly I tell you, we speak that which we know, and testify of that which we have seen, and you don't receive our witness.
John 5:19
Jesus therefore answered them, "Most certainly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father doing. For whatever things he does, these the Son also does likewise.
John 5:24
"Most certainly I tell you, he who hears my word, and believes him who sent me, has eternal life, and doesn't come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
John 5:25
Most certainly, I tell you, the hour comes, and now is, when the dead will hear the Son of God's voice; and those who hear will live.
John 6:26
Jesus answered them, "Most certainly I tell you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled.
John 6:32
Jesus therefore said to them, "Most certainly, I tell you, it wasn't Moses who gave you the bread out of heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread out of heaven.
John 6:47
Most certainly, I tell you, he who believes in me has eternal life.
John 6:53
Jesus therefore said to them, "Most certainly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you don't have life in yourselves.
John 8:34
Jesus answered them, "Most certainly I tell you, everyone who commits sin is the bondservant of sin.
John 8:51
Most certainly, I tell you, if a person keeps my word, he will never see death."
John 8:58
Jesus said to them, "Most certainly, I tell you, before Abraham came into existence, I AM."
John 10:1
"Most certainly, I tell you, one who doesn't enter by the door into the sheep fold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
John 10:7
Jesus therefore said to them again, "Most certainly, I tell you, I am the sheep's door.
John 12:24
Most certainly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.
John 13:16
Most certainly I tell you, a servant is not greater than his lord, neither one who is sent greater than he who sent him.
John 13:20
Most certainly I tell you, he who receives whomever I send, receives me; and he who receives me, receives him who sent me."
John 14:12
Most certainly I tell you, he who believes in me, the works that I do, he will do also; and he will do greater works than these, because I am going to my Father.
John 16:20
Most certainly I tell you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.
John 16:23
"In that day you will ask me no questions. Most certainly I tell you, whatever you may ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.
John 21:18
Most certainly I tell you, when you were young, you dressed yourself, and walked where you wanted to. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you, and carry you where you don't want to go."


Further statistical and linguistic notes about the sayings
  • Matthew contains the most amēn sayings (31), followed by John (25), Mark (13) and Luke (10). 
  • The Johannine Jesus always uses a double 'amēn amēn'. This double formula doesn't occur outside John except as a textual variant in Matt. 6:2, Luke 4:24, Luke 18:17.
  • In Luke 9:27, 12:44 and 21:32, instead of amēn we find the adverb alēthōs, 'truly'.12 In Luke 4:25 we find ep' alētheias, 'of a truth'. These are the only instances where the (presumed) original Aramaic word אמן has been translated rather than transliterated. They help to confirm the meaning of amēn in the other sayings. I have still counted them as amēn sayings.
  • There are 70 cases where the pronoun 'you' is plural (humin), indicating Jesus is addressing a group, and nine cases where the pronoun 'you' is singular (soi), indicating Jesus is addressing an individual.13 The three individual people who have the distinction of being the addressee of a canonical amēn saying are Peter, Nicodemus, and le bon larron
  • The word order of the formula almost never changes. The only exceptions are Luke 9:27 (where alēthōs occurs at the end rather than the start of the formula - literally 'I say to you truly') and Luke 23:43 (where soi and legō are transposed - literally 'Truly to you I say').


Footnotes

  • 1 'There can be no doubt that the expression is a historically authentic expression of Jesus' (Aune, David E. (1983). Prophecy in Early Christianity and the Ancient Mediterranean World. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 165.) I simply mean that historical Jesus is very likely to have actually used such a formula when teaching, while acknowledging that the term 'authentic' has now become very controversial in historical Jesus research. See, e.g., Keith, Chris (2016). The Narratives of the Gospels and the Historical Jesus: Current Debates, Prior Debates and the Goal of Historical Jesus Research. Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 38(4), 426-455.
  • 2 In Hebrew, אמן was generally used responsorially. However, Strugnell draws attention to a 7th century B.C. Hebrew potsherd where the word seems to introduce a saying. He translates: 'and all my brethren will answer for me (i.e., on my behalf), those who were harvesting with me in the heat of the sun, ALL my brethren will answer for me. Truly ('mn), I am innocent of gu[ilt; pray return] my garment' (Strugnell, John (1974). "Amen, I say unto you" in the Sayings of Jesus and in Early Christian Literature. Harvard Theological Review, 67(2), 177-190; here p. 178.) He is responding to other scholars who had claimed that amen is used responsorially here, i.e. 'my brethren will answer me "Amen."' The amēn I say to you formula also occurs in Recension A of the Testament of Abraham, a Jewish pseudepigraphic work. However, it is disputed whether the saying there is independent of Christian influence (Lee, Sang-Il. (2012). Jesus and Gospel Traditions in Bilingual Context: A Study in the Interdirectionality of Language. Berlin: de Gruyter, p. 352). Allison, for instance, thinks it is a Christian interpolation (Allison, Dale C. (2003). Testament of Abraham. Berlin: de Gruyter, p. 389).
  • 3 Both these Greek expressions mean something like 'surely'. For example, 'Say to them, As I live, saith the Lord: surely as ye spoke into my ears, so will I do to you.' (Num. 14:28 LXX, Brenton translation). LXX occurrences of ē mēn are Gen. 22:17; 42:16; Ex. 22:7, 10; Num. 14:23, 28, 35; Job 13:15; 27:3; Isa. 45:23. LXX occurrences of ei mēn are Job 1:11; 2:5; Ezek. 33:27; 34:8; 35:6; 36:5; 38:19.
  • 4 This is argued by Lee (op. cit.). A Septuagint background to the term was originally proposed by Berger, Klaus. (1970). Die Amen-wort Jesu. Berlin: de Gruyter.
  • 5 'There is a consensus that the ἀμήν-formula in the sayings by Jesus in the four gospels refers to emphasis and solemnity.' (Lee, op. cit., p. 356.)
  • 6 amēn occurs as a textual variant in the sayings of Luke 7:9, 7:28 and John 6:56, but since they are excluded in the NA28 critical text, I have not counted them. In Matt. 18:19, some manuscripts lack amēn, but NA28 retains it (albeit in square brackets indicating its dubious authenticity), so I have counted it.
  • 7 If an amēn saying has a parallel in which the word amēn is lacking, this parallel is not cited.
  • 8 NA28 has alēthōs rather than amēn here. However, this is semantically equivalent: alēthōs is a translation whereas amēn is a transliteration. See discussion below.
  • 9 Luke 9:27 has has alēthōs rather than amēn here. However, this is semantically equivalent: alēthōs is a translation whereas amēn is a transliteration. See discussion below.
  • 10 Luke 21:4 has alēthōs rather than amēn here. However, this is semantically equivalent: alēthōs is a translation whereas amēn is a transliteration. See discussion below.
  • 11 Luke 4:25 has ep' alētheias rather than amēn here. However, this is semantically equivalent: alēthōs is a translation whereas amēn is a transliteration. See discussion below.
  • 12 In Luke 9:27, alēthōs occurs at the end of the formula rather than the beginning, and some manuscripts insert hoti before the content of the saying, indicating that the adverb is part of the saying itself, rather than part of the introductory formula. However, NA28 does not retain this hoti, and given that Luke is here relying on Mark 9:1 as a source (where we find an amēn saying), alēthōs is probably playing the role of amēn. In Luke 12:44, some manuscripts have amēn instead of alēthōs. Hence, Luke 21:32 is the only case where we can say with certainty that alēthōs has taken the place of amēn.
  • 13 The nine individual instances are Matt. 5:26, 26:34, Mark 14:30, Luke 23:43, John 3:3, 3:5, 3:11, 13:38, 21:18.