Category Archives: CSCO

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.

Margaret Williams’ new book


On Friday 8th November we’re holding a reception in the Senate Room, New college from 4.15 – 5.45, to celebrate the publication of Dr Margaret Williams’ new book, Jews in a Graeco-Roman Environment (Mohr Siebeck, 2013). Margaret is a member of the CSCO committee and a regular participant in the Classical reading group. All welcome – as always. The event will also feature Ray’s famous G&Ts!

New Book on the Genre of Acts


I announce publication of the thesis of yet another of our recent PhD students, Dr. Sean Adams, who is currently a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow here in the School of Divinity:

The Genre of Acts and Collected Biography.  Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series 155.  Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2013.

The genre of Acts continues to be a debated topic in New Testament scholarship. Despite its literary relationship to the Gospel of Luke a majority of scholars assign these books to two different genres: Luke is traditionally viewed as a biography of Jesus, and Acts as a history of the early church. Comparing in detail the structure and content of Acts with the formal features of history, novel, epic, and biography, Adams challenges the dominant view that Acts is a history, arguing that the best genre parallel for the Acts of the Apostles is in fact collected biography; the first monograph-length work to argue for such a perspective.

By taking this view Adams addresses a number of interpretive issues. For example, it helps explain the structure of Acts, its focus on the disciples and the advancement of the Christian message, and its need to delineate in-group and out-group members, particularly through their interaction with either Peter or Paul. Additionally, it provides an interpretation for the ending of Acts that not only understands the existing ending as an intentional composition by the author, but also explains why Luke did not recount Paul´s trial and death. The shift away from Paul to the preaching of the kingdom of God reinforces the thrust found in a number of collected philosophical biographies that a disciple is only as important as his faithful adherence to and proclamation of his master´s teaching.

In this work Adams models a fluid and flexible perspective on genre. More than just a collection of formal features, Adams shows that genres are to be understood in light of their cultural context and relationships to other genres. Moreover, genres form a dynamic system whose boundaries are constantly in flux. This flexible and malleable understanding of genre provides a strong warning to biblical scholars and classicists who might be tempted to apply rigid generic definitions.

The publisher’s link on the book is here.