The New Testament does not contain the only first-century references to Jesus. Although the fact is not well known to the general public, there is evidence outside the Bible for Jesus’ existence. In a passage generally considered authentic, the first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus speaks of “Jesus-who-is-called-Messiah.” In a disputed passage known as the Testimonium Flavianum, he not only provides a confirmation of Jesus’ existence, but actually tells us something about Jesus’ life. In “The Testimonium—Evidence for Jesus Outside the Bible,” John P. Meier examines this passage and extracts from it a historical core long obscured by Christian interpolations.
Meier is professor of New Testament at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. He received a Doctorate in Sacred Scripture, summa cum laude, with the award of a papal gold medal, from the Biblical Institute in Rome in 1976. In 1987, the U.S. National Conference of Catholic Bishops appointed him as the permanent scripture consultant to the Committee on Doctrine. The most recent of his six books is The Mission of Christ and His Church: Studies in Christology and Ecclesiology (Glazier, 1990). His Antioch and Rome (co-authored with Raymond E. Brown, Paulist Press, 1983) won the Catholic Press Association’s Best Book Award for 1983. Meier has served several terms as associate editor and general editor of Catholic Biblical Quarterly, and he is now vice president of the Catholic Biblical Association. He is currently working on a volume about the historical Jesus for the Anchor Bible Reference Library series and on a two-volume commentary on Matthew for the Anchor Bible series.
Most people know the Bible only secondhand. The standard Bible translations are great works of scholarship, to be sure, and the King James Bible has had a powerful influence over much of English literature, but Bible translations are still just that—translations. If you long to know more of the languages in which the Bible was written, two departments new in this issue may be just what you’ve been looking for. Hebrew for Bible Readers and Greek for Bible Readers will focus on important words, phrases, usage and the like to help those of us who have not mastered Hebrew or Greek to appreciate the Bible in its original tongues. Keith N. Schoville and David Alan Black, who will be the regular authors of these departments, inaugurate them with “Starting with Aleph,” and “Starting with Alpha.”
Former president of the National Association of Professors of Hebrew, Schoville is professor of Hebrew and Semitic studies at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. He is the author of Biblical Archaeology in Focus (Baker, 1979) and of numerous book reviews for Biblical Archaeology Review. Schoville and his wife raise pumpkins and maintain a fruit orchard on a small farm near Oregon, Wisconsin.
Black is scholar-in-residence at the Lockman Foundation, which produces the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and translations of the Bible into Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Hindi. Black is currently working on a study version of the NASB and also serves as adjunct professor of New Testament at the Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, Calif. His books include Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek (Baker, 1988) and the forthcoming Using New Testament Greek in Ministry: A Practical Guide for Students and Pastors. A native of Hawaii, Black enjoys surfing and portrait drawing.
A pleasing fragrance once served not only to woo a mate but to woo a god. In Egypt, in Mesopotamia, in temple ritual, incense could attract and appease the gods. But this was not the only use of aromatic substances in the ancient Near East. Aromatics were thought to possess a variety of virtues: medicinal, purificatory and apotropaic (evil-averting). In “Ancient Aromas—Good and bad,” Kjeld Nielsen surveys the uses of aromatics in the ancient Near East and the myths and reasoning that lay behind them.
Born in Denmark, Neilsen received his Ph.D. in 1974 from the Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio. He has served as minister of the national church of Denmark 005since 1974 and also lectures on Old Testament exegesis at the University of Copenhagen.
Was God an accomplice to Abel’s murder? For many Bible readers, this blasphemous question is embodied in the thought, “If only God had not rejected Cain’s offering.…” God’s unexplained rejection of Cain’s offering seems to cast him as instigator of the murder. As a consequence, scholars and lay people have long sought the reason for God’s rejection of Cain’s offering. Ronald S. Hendel considers four suggested explanations in the course of exploring a broader question, “When God Acts Immorally—Is the Bible a Good Book?”
Hendel received his Ph.D. in biblical history and Northwest Semitic philology from Harvard University in 1985. Now assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Southern Methodist University, in Dallas, Texas, Hendel is writing a new commentary on Genesis for the Anchor Bible series under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and The Text of Genesis 1–11 for Scholars Press. Hendel has previously appeared in BR with “When the Sons of God Cavorted with the Daughters of Men,” BR 03:02, a provocative of discussion of an overlooked and astonishing fragment of Genesis.
Scholars have found many intriguing similarities between the laws contained in the five books of Moses—the Torah—and those in the law codes of other ancient Near Eastern cultures. Interesting as those similarities may be, what is even more important are the ways in which the Torah differs from contemporaneous legal systems, as explained in “Biblical Law—Establishing a moral order,” an adaptation of a scholarly article by Moshe Greenberg. Greenberg concentrates on the numerous strategies employed by the Torah to limit the powers of rulers—a concept that must have struck ancient potentates as bizarre, but which won the eloquent support of the biblical prophets and can still be admired by modern democracies.
Greenberg is professor of Bible at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has also taught at the University of Pennsylvania, the Jewish Theological Seminary, Swarthmore, University of California at Berkeley and Yale. His Ezekiel 1–20 in the Anchor Bible series won a Biblical Archaeology Society Publication Award in 1984.
The New Testament does not contain the only first-century references to Jesus. Although the fact is not well known to the general public, there is evidence outside the Bible for Jesus’ existence. In a passage generally considered authentic, the first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus speaks of “Jesus-who-is-called-Messiah.” In a disputed passage known as the Testimonium Flavianum, he not only provides a confirmation of Jesus’ existence, but actually tells us something about Jesus’ life. In “The Testimonium—Evidence for Jesus Outside the Bible,” John P. Meier examines this passage and extracts from it a historical core long obscured by Christian interpolations. […]