SBL International Preliminary Program

The SBL International preliminary program book is up.  I’m presenting on 9 July at 8.30 am – not my best time of day, but still…  Two other UNE people are also presenting – A/Prof Matthew Dillon, who was my second supervisor for a while; and Scott Charlesworth, another doctoral candidate in the School of the Humanities.  I knew Matthew was going, but only found out about Scott from looking at the program.  That’s what happens when you’re part time and have an office outside the school!  Majella (my adjunct supervisor because she is now at the University of Otago) is also presenting a paper and a number of people that I’ve known for years in various contexts will also be there, so I’m really beginning to look forward to it.

Now all I have to do is finish doing the psychology reading for my paper and start work on the biblical studies bit!! The psychology reading is absolutely fascinating, but I think I’m going to have to start a third lever arch file for it.

Easter Reflections

If we go by the secular calendar, this time last year, I was making final preparations to fly to Houston to spend five weeks at Rice University with April DeConick. If we go by the church calendar, this time last year, I had been in Houston five days and attended Maundy Thursday and Good Friday worship at the Rice Catholic Student Centre with my wonderful hosts, Judy and David Schubert.

I reflected on this as I sat in the Good Friday service in my home church this morning. There, I was surrounded by people I knew, even though my husband was home nursing a cold. The liturgy, although not actually predictable, was familiar, as was the venue. In Houston, I had been among strangers and the liturgy was in some aspects probably more predictable than the Uniting Church one and in others quite alien. Kissing the crucifix is not a part of the Uniting Church Good Friday ritual! :-)

Christmas is a part of the church calendar that stays the same each year and fits quite nicely into the secular calendar of “Christian” countries. Although the story of Jesus birth is a bit odd, it doesn’t cause major problems for the average secular member of society.

Easter moves around – doesn’t fit neatly into the secular calendar at all. This year it is so early that the uni isn’t starting the mid-semester non-teaching period with Easter as it usually does – we’re just having four days off and then it’s business as usual for several more weeks before the break. The Easter message is also much more difficult for those who don’t practise Christianity to deal with. An interesting parallel, I think.

As our pastor led us in an affirmation of faith based on 1 Cor 1: 18-25 (the foolishness to the Gentiles and scandal to the Jews bit) and talked about the coming celebration of the resurrection, I thought about the Gospel of Thomas. If ⲡⲉⲩⲁⲅⲅⲉⲗⲓⲟⲛ ⲡⲕⲁⲧⲁ ⲑⲱⲙⲁⲥ (ie the gospel according to Thomas) is an early title for the text, the Thomas community must surely have had a very different theology of what constitutes ‘good news’ to that of the more orthodox Christian communities of the time.

A gospel that doesn’t contain an account of the (crucifixion and) resurrection must consider some other thing than Christ’s triumph over the power of death to be the important part of the gospel message, because the resurrection doesn’t get a guernsey in Thomas. It has, however, been extremely important in the understanding of “mainstream” Christians for nearly two thousand years, if the creeds of the early church are anything to go on.

Deciding exactly what was the heart of the gospel for Thomas Christians is beyond me at the moment. Maybe I’ll think about it later, but just at the moment I am trying to get to the end of my reading on eyewitness testimony in the psychological literature.

A little later

Bother.  Now I’m confused.  On Good Friday last year, I went with David to a marvellous, justice-focussed Stations of the Cross in the Exxon Plaza in downtown Houston, followed by a lunch at a restaurant on the way home.  That wasn’t an alien liturgy.  I’ve done Stations many times before, beginning at Theological Hall (seminary).  I know I went to a Maundy Thursday service at the Student Centre, but I’m pretty sure I went to a Good Friday one, as well.  Maybe in the evening?  Or maybe not?

I do know that on Easter Day, I was very pleased to be at a United Methodist service at St Paul’s, also near Rice, with Judy’s brother and his wife.  The very large church was very, very full and the liturgy was in some ways very like a Catholic one, except that we didn’t kneel (Judy’s brother, who had grown up Catholic, commented on this).  In many other ways, though, it wasn’t and I felt much more at home.

However, my lack of clarity twelve months on about exactly what I did last Easter lines up very closely with the reading I’m doing about eyewitness memory.   I just checked the two emails I sent home on Good Friday and Easter Day and discovered that I did go to church at the Catholic Student Centre on Good Friday – in the evening.  The gist of my recollections was correct, but the detail was a bit fuzzy and without the emails, I really wouldn’t have been sure.  I was very much inclined to think that maybe we’d been offered the option of kissing the crucifix on Maundy Thursday, even though that didn’t make sense liturgically.

This is actually very interesting.  Might be useful for my Auckland SBL paper.

Hypertext Gospel of Thomas

April DeConick on The Forbidden Gospels Blog provides a link to Thomas Paterson Brown’s hypertext Gospel of Thomas on the Ecumenical Coptic project. This is an interlinear Coptic-English version of the Gospel of Thomas based on Guillamont, Puech, Quispel and Till’s version of the Coptic text, together with Michael Grondin’s interlinear. Underneath each Coptic word there are also links to relevant sections in Plumley’s Coptic Grammar and Crumm’s Coptic Dictionary. It provides, therefore, some helpful tools for understanding the Coptic text and the thinking behind the translation. Not, of course, a substitute for learning Coptic if you’re wanting to make a scholarly analysis of the text, but helpful. :-)  The Metalogos site has some really cool tools for study of the three Nag Hammadi gospel.

At the moment, however, it displays somewhat strangely in Firefox, which I use as my default browser. There are strange artifacts in some of the text on some pages – rectangular boxes that serve no useful purpose. It displays just fine in Internet Explorer 7. I’ve emailed Paterson Brown about this.