Author Archives: cscoedinburgh

About cscoedinburgh

Senior Lecturer in New Testament Studies, University of Edinburgh

N. T. Wright on Endinburgh’s PhD programme


Here at Edinburgh we don’t like to blow our own trumpet – we just let N. T. Wright do it. Over at the Jesus Blog, they asked him which were the top PhD programmes in the UK. This was his answer:

I sort of declare an interest here. We have a world-class program here at St. Andrews, so of course I would say you must come to St. Andrews. But experience in the last few years is that folk have either been coming to us, Edinburgh, to Durham—some to Oxford to work with Markus Bockmuehl, some to Cambridge—but talking to students, it appears that they think that St. Andrews, Edinburgh, Durham are the three which are exciting at the moment.

We couldn’t have put it better ourselves!

Two events this week


These are both free and open to the public:

Prof Claudia Setzer (Manhattan College, New York) will give a lecture titled ‘His Blood be on  Us?: The Blame Game in Matthew’s Gospel.’ Tuesday 4th March, Lecture  Room 1, 5pm

Film screening: A Polite Bribe (a docu-drama on Paul and the Jerusalem collection, directed/produced by Robert Orlando, and starring –  amongst others – Prof Larry Hurtado). This will be followed by a panel  discussion featuring Robert Orlando, Larry Hurtado and Matthew Novenson.  Friday 7th March, Martin Hall, 4-6 pm. This event is co-sponsored by  CTPI.

All welcome!

Was Peter ever in Cappadocia?


(Helen Bond) I’m just back from a short trip to Cappadocia in modern Turkey. I had no idea it was such an interesting place – amazing rock formations, cave churches, and icons. My purpose in being there was to help to make a documentary for the BBC. Following the success of his documentary on Paul a year or two ago (In the Footsteps of Paul), David Suchet was back, this time looking for remains of Peter. Of course the natural place to go would be Antioch, but modern Antakya isn’t perhaps the most sensible place to visit just now, given its location right on the Syrian border. So it was Cappadocia. But is there any evidence that Peter ever visited this amazing place?

It seems to me that there are two things to consider:

First is the notice that there were Cappadocians at Pentecost in Acts 2.9. However we judge the historicity of these early chapters, they may well preserve a memory that Cappadocian Jews did become followers of the way early on. And if that was the case, and if they took the message back to their home land, perhaps spreading the word in their own syngagoues, it’s not impossible that someone like Peter might have visited them – particularly when Jerusalem became dangerous after the Agrippa affair, and Peter seems to have embarked on his own missionary journeys. We hear of Peter (and his wife) later on in Corinth, and perhaps he journeyed by land, taking in Cappadocia on the way.

Second is the dedication in 1Peter 1.2: ‘To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia . . .’ Like most scholars, I don’t think that this letter was written by Peter: it’s far too well written and seems to me to reflect a later time when the ‘name’ Christian was a punishable offence. But it’s clearly written by a disciple, or a ‘school’ of Peter – at the very least someone who holds the memory of Peter in great respect. And perhaps the note that Peter visited these places, or was at least acquainted with them, has some historical currency. Why, after all, choose these places rather than others?

So the evidence is far from conclusive, but there seems to be to be at least a few distant traces that do link the apostle with this weird and wonderful region. If only we knew more about what he got up to on his visits!

[For anyone interested, David Suchet’s programme will be going out at Easter, in two hour-long episodes.]



Top Reads for the Festive Break


Samuel Hildebrandt, one of our enterprising Hebrew Bible PhD students recently asked the New College faculty if they could each recommend a book for the festive period. Here are our responses (sometimes with justifications):

Dr. Sean Adams – Maren Niehoff, Jewish Exegesis and Homeric Scholarship in Alexandria (CUP, 2011).

Niehoff examines how Greek literary and scholastic culture influenced literate Jews (Aristobulus, Demetrius, Philo) living in Alexandria. It is insightful, well-researched, and makes a good contribution to understanding how Jewish and Greek cultures interacted with each other.

Dr. Helen Bond – Andrew Lincoln, Born of a Virgin? Reconceiving Jesus in the Bible, Tradition, and Theology (Eerdmans, 2013).

This is a brilliant (if lengthy!) treatment of the virginal conception/birth narratives in Matthew and Luke, asking how a practising Christian can reconcile Christian belief with the view that the story is mythical. He takes us on a tour not only of the biblical passages, but also science ancient and modern, and the rise of the doctrine of the ‘virgin birth’ in later theology.

Dr. Paul Foster – Alan H. Cadwallader and M. Trainor, eds., Colossae in Space and Time: Linking to an Ancient City (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011).

This book was particularly helpful in my own reflections on Colossae. It challenges, and largely overturns, the idea that the site of Colossae was left uninhabited after an earthquake in the early 60s. Thus it opens up various fresh interpretative possibilities for the letter to the Colossians.

Dr. Alison Jack – Norman Vance, Bible and Novel: Narrative Authority and the Death of God (OUP, 2013).

It’s a very erudite but also readable exploration of the late 19th century literary world and its relationship to biblical interpretation. If you like Thomas Hardy, or George Eliot; or a favourite of mine from my teenage years, Rider Haggard, then you will also find this book fascinating.

Prof. Larry Hurtado – Matthew Novenson, Christ among the Messiahs: Christ Language in Paul and Messiah Language in Ancient Judaism (OUP, 2012).

Also – Gillian Clark, Christianity and Roman Society (CUP, 2004).

Dr. Anja Klein – Michael M. Fishbane, Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel (OUP 1985).

Dies ist sozusagen das Standardwerk zum Phänomen der innerbiblischen Schriftauslegung, die hier an einer Reihe von Beispielen erläutert wird und dazu bietet das Werk unterhaltsame Lektüre.

Prof. Timothy Lim – John J. Collins, “Modern Theology,” in Reading Genesis: Ten Methods, ed. Ronald Hendel (CUP, 2010): 196-214.


Dr. Matthew Novenson – Brent Nongbri, Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept (YUP, 2013).

A very interesting account of the ancient and medieval (especially Jewish, Christian, and Muslim) concepts that are subsumed, sometimes problematically, under the modern rubric of religion.

Dr. David Reimer – Walter Moberly, Old Testament Theology: Reading the Hebrew Bible as Christian Scripture (Baker, 2013)

Hot off the press. Moberly’s thoughtful theological engagements with the Hebrew Bible are never less than stimulating, and I find his elegant style a pleasure to read.

Also, Bruce Gordon, Calvin (YUP, 2009)

A delightful summer read. Written while Gordon was at St Andrews (he’s now at Yale), Gordon’s biography of Calvin is one of those works which rightly deserves the accolade “masterful”! Read Gordon’s account of Calvin’s account of passing kidney stones “the size of a kernel of a hazel nut” while keeping up his prodigious commitments and you’ll never complain about working conditions again.

The Bible on British TV


(Helen Bond) History Channel’s ‘epic TV mini-series’ is due to air in the UK in the run up to Christmas, starting this Saturday (30th Nov) on Channel 5, 9-11 pm. As some of you will know, it’s a dramatic adaptation of the Bible spread over five two-hourly episodes. It’s already been seen in the US, where it attracted huge viewing figures (almost 15 million on the first night), though some controversy too, especially in its presentation of the Hebrew Bible section as little more than the prelude to the New Testament/Jesus. I was one of the historical advisers for the NT section, along with a range of other people – Craig Evans, Mark Goodacre, Candida Moss and Paula Gooder. You can find further details here:

It will be interesting to see how it goes down in the UK – and whether anyone at all watches it! If readers have any comments, I’d be very interested to hear them.