I totally stole this post from Michael Barber, but who could resist. Plus, I want to all of you to be saved from academic marginalization…

If you are a serious Pauline scholar, you apparently know what he looked like.

Michael Bird, Chris TillingNijay Gupta, Ben Blackwell, Nathan Eubank–take note. If you decide on using a different picture of the Apostle on your future books on Paul, be forewarned that you will risk being marginalized. Go the safe route. Go with the majority opinion. Don’t question the emerging consensus on Paul’s appearance and opt for a more controversial position.
You’ve been warned. Your academic credibility is on the line here.

The very latest issue of New Testament Studies is now available. It features the work of several Durham alumni (including me, Jonathan Linebaugh, Helen Bond, and Daniel Frayer-Griggs) and looks to be quite well rounded, with contributions focusing on NT history, exegesis, historical theology, onomastics, gnostic gospels, and textual criticism. My piece (“Sold under Sin: Echoes of Exile in Romans 7.14-25″) takes the baton from Marc Philonenko and others in arguing that Paul was influenced by his reading of Isaiah 49-50 in the latter part of Romans 7. Here is the abstract:

Although Romans has been heavily mined for scriptural allusions in recent years, the influence of Isaiah 49-50 on Rom 7.14-25 has gone largely unnoticed. Building on Philonenko’s work on the allusion to Isa 50.1 in the phrase ‘sold under sin’ (Rom 7.14), this study seeks to identify additional echoes from LXX Isa 49.24-50.2 in Rom 7.14-25 and to interpret Paul’s discourse in the light of the sin-exile-restoration paradigm implied by both the source’s original context and Paul’s own strategic use of Isaiah in his portrayal of the plight of ἐγώ. The identification of these echoes, it is suggested, aids in interpreting the story of ἐγώ by connecting the allusions to Israel’s early history in Rom 7.7-13 to images of the nation’s later history in 7.14-25, thus showing the speaker’s plight under sin to be analogous to Israel’s own experiences of deception, death, and exile.

I have an article in the latest volume of JBL (131.3 [2012], 547-66) titled “Voluntary Debt Remission and the Parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1-13).” JBL doesn’t include abstracts, but here is a lengthy soundbite at the end of the survey/critique of existing interpretations that, more or less, explains what I try to do in the piece:

Numerous other interpretations could be presented here, each with its own shortcomings. The foregoing survey, however, has sufficiently demonstrated the common assumption underlying most of these inadequate explanations, namely, that unless the steward is deducting from his own profits, the reductions are to be viewed as hostile to his master, or in the words of Douglas E. Oakman, as “betrayal” and “an abrogation of the then-current social mores of fidelity.” Kloppenborg similarly remarks, “[T]he natural implication of the story is that the steward’s actions are injurious to the master’s interests.” Schellenberg concurs, explaining, “The expectation within the world of the parable [is] that loyal stewardship requires meticulous collection of the master’s debts.” But these assumptions rest on a limited understanding of the purpose and function of debt remission in the ancient economy. And since, as Klyne Snodgrass suggests, “[t]his is a parable where one must fill in the blanks,” in this essay I will offer a new explanation of the master’s praise based on the general custom of lease adjustment in the early empire. Through the testimony of Roman landowners such as Pliny the Younger, Cicero, and Columella, as well as those represented in leasing contracts from early Roman Egypt, I will demonstrate that the instability of land tenancy during the early imperial period quite often required wealthy proprietors to reduce debts (rents and arrears) in order to enable and encourage their repayment, as well as to secure the longevity of their tenants and their own long-term profitability. Debt remission in antiquity, then, was advantageous both to landlords and tenants, an insight that has significant implications for the interpretation of our parable (552-53).

If you interested in matters relating to the ancient economy and/or the interpretation of this confusing parable, I would encourage you to check out the article.

Congrats to John on word of his thesis being published.  His publication reminded me about a recent conversation my son and I had about my research and writing:

Son: [question about some popular book]
Me: That’s a money making kind of book. My books won’t be anything like that.
Son: If you won’t make any money, why would you write it?
The Wife: (chuckling) He wants to share his ideas and knowledge with the academic world.
Son: Dad, why don’t you just update a Wikipedia page?!?!“

While some may wonder if my work is even worthy of Wikipedia, hopefully it’s better for the peer reviewing it got. From conversations with John, I know Cambridge spends a good bit more time on copy editing than Mohr Siebeck does.

I recently came across this advice about publishing for early career scholars. It comes from a conference last year organised by the Institute of Classical Studies in London. Although written with Classical scholars in mind, much of what is said can be helpful to early career Biblical scholars as well.

The presentations offer advice on all forms of publishing, but two points stood out to me. First, many of the contributors said that they began by writing book reviews. This is indeed a good way to get started, and there are many good practical reasons to do book reviews (you get to keep that CUP book that costs $150!). But it must be remembered that book reviews don’t carry much weight on a CV. You should decide early on how to balance time between writing reviews and researching and writing for journal articles and books. If you are going to write reviews, one way to get a balance is to review books that are directly related to what you are researching.

The second point that stood out was the advice to edit a volume. I have just recently completed editing a massive volume (630 pages) and I can say that this has pros and cons. I spent a lot of time working on it, especially since I had to typeset it as well. And the indexing took forever. But the payoff has been worth it. I have had the chance to work with some leading NT scholars, and I have learned a lot about the whole process that goes into editing books.


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