Hilary Term 2015 New Testament Seminar Programme

The programme for the Oxford NT Seminar this term is now available, courtesy of Markus Bockmuehl:

Hilary Term 2015 New Testament Seminar

HT 2015 NT Seminar

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Research Intensity Rankings in Theology & Religious Studies

As all academics in the UK are aware, the REF results were published this week. This is a major research assessment exercise conducted by the research funding bodies and the UK government periodically, that takes into account research quality, but also newer measures like environment and impact. The results were analysed almost immediately by numerous outlets, but the THES rankings and analysis are likely to prove influential steers to how the data is publicly perceived, however that data might eventually translate into funding decisions.

In Theology & Religious Studies, there were some expected results – Durham did very well once more – and some surprises. Among the latter, I was surprised to see Oxford rank 12th in the THES ranking. One reason I was surprised is that we had the largest submission of FTE staff submitted (33) with a relatively strong research score overall, though we did less well on impact and environment, issues we’ll no doubt ponder over the course of the next REF cycle.

But I was also curious to see this article about research intensity. Some departments choose to submit only a portion of their staff with very strong research profiles, while other departments submit virtually all of their core people. I was curious as to how the rankings might look if we tested for ‘research intensity’, that is, a THES-like GPA expressed as the ratio of eligible to submitted staff multiplied by research output scores. So I thought I would do a back-of-the-envelope calculation to see how it would look for Theology & Religious Studies.

In the interests of ‘showing my work’, these are the numbers from which I worked. Taking the THES rankings for each university (expressed parenthetically in the list that follows after institutional name), I noted the number of FTE staff submitted, followed by the number eligible (the latter using figures from HESA, the Higher Education Statistics Agency). Expressing this ratio as a percentage, I then multiplied this by the THES Output GPA (the blue second column in the THES table), and expressed this as a new GPA for research intensity, for lack of a better term.

  • Durham (1), FTE submitted: 25; eligible: 27; percentage submitted: 93% x Output GPA, 3.11 = 2.89
  • Birmingham (2); 9; eligible: 15; 60% x 3.15 = 1.89
  • Lancaster (=3); 22; eligible: 22; 100% x 2.80 = 2.80
  • Leeds (=3); 11; eligible: 12; 92% x 3.15 = 2.90
  • UCL (=3); 7; eligible: 9; 78% x 3.07 = 2.39
  • Cambridge (6); 24; eligible: 27; 89% x 2.87 = 2.55
  • Kent (7); 8; eligible: 9; 89% x 2.89 = 2.57
  • Edinburgh (8); 27; eligible: 30; 90% x 2.89 = 2.60
  • KCL (9); 26; eligible: 36; 72% x 2.84 = 2.04
  • Cardiff (10); 9; eligible: 13; 69% x 3.05 = 2.10
  • Soas (11); 14; eligible: 19; 74% x 3.02 = 2.23
  • Oxford (12); 33; eligible: 32; 103% x 3.06 = 3.15
  • Nottingham (=13); 16; eligible: 16; 100% x 2.97 = 2.97
  • Exeter (=13); 11; eligible: 12; 92% x 2.90 = 2.67
  • Manchester (15); 15; eligible: 17; 88% x 2.71 = 2.38
  • St Andrews (=16); 14; eligible: 20; 70% x 2.90 = 2.03
  • Sheffield (=16); 4; eligible: 6; 67% x 3.00 = 2.01
  • Aberdeen (18); 19; eligible: 20; 95% x 2.54 = 2.41
  • Bristol (19); 9; eligible: 8; 113% x 2.91 = 3.29
  • Heythrop (20); 16; eligible: 40; 40% x 2.54 = 1.01
  • Open (21); 6; eligible: 9; 67% x 2.86 = 1.91
  • Wales Trinity Saint David (22); 8; eligible: 7; 114% x 2.47 = 2.82
  • Glasgow (23); 11; eligible: 13; 85% x 2.38 = 2.02
  • Canterbury Christ Church (24); 6; eligible: 8; 75% x 2.55 = 1.91
  • Roehampton (25); 7; eligible: 7; 100% x 2.64 = 2.64
  • Liverpool Hope (26); 15; eligible: 18; 83% x 2.41 = 2.00
  • Chester (27); 11; eligible: 17; 65% x 2.40 = 1.56
  • Winchester (28); 8; eligible: 8; 100% x 2.19 = 2.19
  • Gloucestershire (29); 5; eligible: 10; 50% x 2.17 = 1.09
  • St Mary’s, Twickenham (30); 5; eligible: 9; 56% x 2.29 = 1.28
  • York St John (31); 7; eligible: 14; 50% x 2.23 = 1.12
  • Leeds Trinity (32); 4; eligible: 4; 50% x 2.20 = 1.10
  • Newman (33); 2; eligible: 5; 40%; n/a

If we then turn this into a new ranking order, we get the following:

  • 1 Bristol (3.29)
  • 2 Oxford (3.15)
  • 3 Nottingham (2.97)
  • 4 Leeds (2.90)
  • 5 Durham (2.89)
  • 6 Wales Trinity Saint David (2.82)
  • 7 Lancaster (2.80)
  • 8 Exeter (2.67)
  • 9 Roehampton (2.64)
  • 10 Edinburgh (2.60)
  • 11 Kent (2.57)
  • 12 Cambridge (2.55)
  • 13 Aberdeen (2.41)
  • 14 UCL (2.39)
  • 15 Manchester (2.38)
  • 16 Soas (2.23)
  • 17 Winchester (2.19)
  • 18 Cardiff (2.10)
  • 19 KCL (2.04)
  • 20 St Andrews (2.03)
  • 21 Glasgow (2.02)
  • 22 Sheffield (2.01)
  • 23 Liverpool Hope (2.00)
  • =24 Open (1.91)
  • =24 Canterbury Christ Church (1.91)
  • 26 Birmingham (1.89)
  • 27 Chester (1.56)
  • 28 St Mary’s, Twickenham (1.28)
  • 29 York St John (1.12)
  • 30 Leeds Trinity (1.10)
  • 31 Gloucestershire (1.09)
  • 32 Heythrop (1.01)

* n/a Newman

I’ll be the first to admit that this system isn’t without problems. As HESA notes on their site, Oxford and Cambridge have the added complication of eligible academics with non-university (i.e., college-only) posts, and there is the further problem that in two cases (Bristol and Wales Trinity Saint David) small departments submitted one more FTE than apparently expected, and so their percentages go way up. And of course the accuracy of HESA’s figures for FTE staff could certainly be disputed. Finally, it’s also worth noting that the REF is not simply measuring research outputs, and so this would only affect one portion of the exercise’s concern.

Nevertheless, even bearing in mind all those caveats, I think looking at the data in this way still does yield some interesting results.

UPDATE: In light of some pushback I’ve had, I’d like to clarify that for me these results serve to underscore the artificiality of the whole REF process, and the problematic way in which one interpretation of the data is used against other departments in publicity wars, etc. In my view, the REF problematically limits the types of projects people pursue, causes conflict in the small TRS sector, and places unnecessary strain on already thin resources. I understand that research councils wish to find ways of exercising accountability for their funding, but the whole sector would be better served by less heavy-handed methods and, in general, by much more extensive investment in research – not least in the neglected humanities – by the government as a whole.


Surveys of NT Introduction in Theologische Rundschau

As I was preparing a recent contribution on F C Baur and the theological significance of NT Introduction, I found extremely valuable a series of review articles in Theologische Rundschau over the past hundred years or so: Rudolf Bultmann, “Neues Testament. Einleitung,” TRu 17 (1914): 41-46; 79-90; 125-30; Philipp Vielhauer, “Einleitung in das Neue Testament,” TRu 31 (1966): 97–155; 193–231; 42 (1977): 175-210; Jürgen Roloff, “Neutestamentliche Einleitungswissenschaft: Tendenzen und Entwicklungen,” TRu 55 (1990): 385–423; Friedrich Wilhelm Horn, “Einleitung in das Neue Testament. Tendenzen und Entwicklungen,” TRu 68 (2003): 45–79; 129–50.

I’m now delighted to learn, via Torsten Jantsch, of the most recent article in this distinguished line of contributions: Friedrich Wilhelm Horn, “Einleitung in das Neue Testament 2001-2011,” TRu 79 no. 3 (2014): 294–327. A very useful way to stay on top of current trends and chart the changing face of the discipline.

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Johannes Weiss, 1863–1914

UnknownThis year marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Johannes Weiss (13 Dec 1863 – 24 Aug 1914). The son of the noted NT scholar Bernhard Weiss and the son-in-law of the liberal theologian Albrecht Ritschl, Weiss produced an impressive number of publications over a wide range of topics, before he died just short of his 51st birthday.

The conservative American Presbyterian J. Gresham Machen met Weiss while studying in Marburg (where Weiss then was, before moving to Heidelberg). At first Machen was not terribly impressed and said so in his letters home: “J. Weiss I have only heard one morning. He doesn’t seem to be gifted with the imagination of Jülicher, but then not everybody can be a genius”. Later he wrote: “As to J. Weiss, the chief professor of New Testament, perhaps his claim to renown lies chiefly in the fact that he is the son of Bernard Weiss of Berlin – one of the greatest New Testament scholars and conservative at least in the fundamental point of the miraculous (& in a great deal else too). J. Weiss is, however, anything but conservative…..But after all, I cannot think him to be at all a scholar of the first rank, nor do I think he will ever be.” Several years on, Machen revised his opinion and said “I thought of him rather as a popularizer than as a profound scholar. I have since then come to see that this impression was totally incorrect. His Urchristentum and above all his amazing, rich and learned commentary on 1 Corinthians have made me repent of my youthful injustice to one of the ablest of modern New Testament scholars” (see Dennison 2009).

Weiss’s reputation was made on his brief study of Jesus’s Proclamation of the Kingdom of God, first published in 1892 (the basis of the English translation) and later revised in 1900. In this work, intentionally held back until his father-in-law Ritschl had died, Weiss opposed the liberal Ritschlian tradition of seeing the kingdom of God as something achieved within history by human cooperation under God. Rather, he placed a firm emphasis on the eschatological element of the kingdom,writing, “as Jesus conceived of it, the Kingdom of God is a radically superworldly entity which stands in diametric opposition to this world. This is to say that there can be no talk of an innerworldly development of the Kingdom of God in the mind of Jesus! On the basis of this finding, it seems to follow that the dogmatic religious-ethical application of this idea in more recent theology, an application which has completely stripped away the original eschatological-apocalyptic meaning of the idea, is unjustified. Indeed, one proceeds in an only apparently biblical manner if one uses the term in a sense different from that of Jesus” (Jesus’ Proclamation, 114).

If Albert Schweitzer’s programme comes to mind, this is no mistake. Schweitzer followed on from Weiss, though faulted the latter for restricting, as he thought, Jesus’s eschatological stance to his teaching, and unjustifiably refrained from extending this to his action as well. Since Schweitzer’s 1906 work was translated into English very soon after its publication, Schweitzer’s take on Weiss determined his Anglophone reception. Mark Chapman notes: “Whatever its shortcomings, in the mediation of an eschatological interpretation of the Gospels to England, Albert Schweitzer’s Von Reimarus zu Wrede was of vital importance and Weiss was known, if he was known at all, only second-hand…Thus even though Weiss’s historical scholarship, at least in respect of New Testament origins, was far more rigorous and critical than Schweitzer’s, it was through Von Reimarus zu Wrede that Weiss’s influence in England was mediated” (Chapman 2001: 76).

Eventually, however, Weiss came to be seen as an early voice for the eschatological take on Jesus that has come to dominate at least wide strands of historical Jesus work. Writing in mid-20th century, N. Perrin contended that “In retrospect one can see that the whole modern interpretation of Jesus and his teaching stems from these sixty-five pages” (N. Perrin, with reference to the first edition of Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of God, as cited in the ET). This book is still worth reading today, and offers a punchy presentation of Jesus’s eschatological preaching, even if it remains a product of its time.

Why not pay homage to the great scholar by reading some of his work? I offer here a brief bibliography of works by and about Weiss. Tolle lege!

Works by Weiss:

a) in English translation: Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of God, translated and edited with an introduction by Richard Hyde Hiers and David Larrimore Holland; Lives of Jesus Series; London: SCM, 1971 (n.b., a translation of the shorter 1892 Die Predigt Jesu vom Reiche Gottes); “Acts of the Apostles,” “Ethics,” “King,” and “Passion Week,” in James Hastings, A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels (Scribner’s 1906); Christ: The Beginnings of Dogma (1911); Paul and Jesus (1909); “The Significance of Paul for Modern Christians,” American Journal of Theology 17 (1913): 352–67; The History of Primitive Christianity (2 vols.; translated by ‘four friends’, edited by F. C. Grant; New York: Erickson, 1937; translation of Das Urchristentum, posthumously completed)

b) untranslated works: Der Barnabasbrief kritisch untersucht (1888); Die Evangelien des Markus und Lukas, with B. Weiss (1892); Ein Beitrag zur Frauenfrage (1892); Die Predigt Jesu vom Reiche Gottes (1892, 19002, 19643); Die Nachfolge Christi und die Predigt der Gegenwart (1895); Beiträge zur paulinischen Rhetorik (1897); Ueber Ansicht und den literarischen Charakter der Apostelgeschichte (1897); Die Idee des Reiches Gottes in der Theologie (1901); Die christliche Freiheit nach der Verkündigung des Apostels Paulus (1902); Das älteste Evangelium (1903); Das Offenbarung des Johannes (1904); Die Schriften des Neuen Testaments (1906-1907, a collaborative commentary on the NT for which W. was editor and responsible for the synoptics and Revelation); Die Aufgabe der neutestamentlichen Wissenschaft in der Gegenwart (1908); Der erste Korintherbrief (Meyer Kommentar; 1910); Die Geschichtlichkeit Jesu (1910); Jesus im Glauben des Urchristentum (1910); Jesus von Nazareth: Mythus oder Geschichte? (1910); Ueber die Kraft. Björnsons Drama und das religiöse Problem (1912); Synoptische Tafeln zu den drei älteren Evangelien mit Unterscheidung der Quellen in vierfachem Farbendruck (1913).

Other literature:

Brown, “Weiss, Johannes,” in Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters; R. Bultmann, “Johannes Weiß zum Gedächtnis,” ThBl 18 (1939): 242–246; F. C. Burkitt, “Johannes Weiss in memoriam,” HTR 8 (1915): 291–97; Mark D. Chapman, The Coming Crisis: The Impact of Eschatology on Theology in Edwardian England (JSNTSup 208; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001), esp. 58–80; W. D. Dennison, “J. Gresham Machen’s Letters Home from Marburg, 1905–1906,” ZNTG 16 (2009): 241–75; Friedhelm Hartenstein and H. D. Betz, “History of Religions School,” Religion Past and Present; D. L. Holland, “History, Theology and the Kingdom of God: A Contribution of Johannes Weiß,” BR 13 (1968): 54–66; B. Lannert, Die Wiederentdeckung der neutestamentlichen Eschatologie durch Johannes Weiß (TANZ 2; Tübingen: Francke, 1989); idem, “Weiß, Johannes,” TRE 35 (2003): 523–26; W. Schmithals, “Johannes Weiß als Wegbereiter der Formgeschichte,” in C. Breytenbach, ed., Paulus, die Evangelien, und das Urchristentum (AGAJU 54; Leiden: Brill, 2004), 328–54; Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, first complete edition (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001); W. Willis, “The Discovery of the Eschatological Kingdom: Johannes Weiss and Albert Schweitzer,” in idem, ed., The Kingdom of God in 20th Century Interpretation (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987), 1–14.

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Philo’s Library

I’ve just heard that the 2014 Studia Philonica Annual has been published. This contains my essay attempting to assess the books to which Philo had access in writing his work. It’s a bit speculative but was also a fun piece to write. SBL has an 18-month embargo period after publication before one can self-archive, but if anyone is working in the field and would like a PDF offprint for private use, please be in touch and I’ll be happy to send it along. Here’s the abstract:

Philo’s explicit engagement with non-biblical authors has been a topic of enduring interest in Philonic scholarship. This has often been pursued by way of studying Philo’s use of a particular author or treatise, or his treatment of a philosophical topos. Less often does one encounter discussion of two related questions: how should we characterize the distribution and frequency of his quotations; and how might Philo have accessed those sources that he quotes? Following on from the publication of “A Preliminary Index to Philo’s Non-Biblical Citations and Allusions” in a previous issue of The Studia Philonica Annual, this article analyses the data presented there with a view to sketching an answer to those questions. In particular, the present study addresses Philonic source material in a more quantitative and formal manner than in a qualitative and material one, and asks about a means of access that will occasionally require informed historical reconstruction in lieu of direct proof. Nevertheless, considering the variety of ways in which Philo may have encountered ancient texts serves to guard against the anachronism of unreflectively viewing Philo as a modern user of books.

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Graduate study in New Testament at Oxford: benefits and possibilities

There are lots of great places to pursue graduate work in New Testament, early Judaism and early Christianity, and each programme has its distinctive strengths and limitations. I’ll leave it to others to offer comparative rankings among programmes of distinction, but I think Oxford has a number of strong selling points that recommend it as a scholarly destination. Let me mention only two here.

As far as I’m concerned, the crown of Oxford is its library system: the Bodleian is a UK copyright deposit library but also benefits from a long history of book and manuscript collecting, not to mention the significant regular donation of collections that enhance our holdings and the various College libraries (incidentally, personally I’d love to see grad applications from people who wish to straddle between the Faculties of Theology and Religion and of Classics to work on the Oxyrhynchus papyri, but that’s a matter for another day). But rivalling even the glories of our physical holdings is the remarkable investment in digital resources. It’s extremely rare to find a relevant journal that is available in electronic format to which we don’t have a subscription, and we have a robust collection of databases as well as access to several hundred thousand e-books. It seems that these days I rarely have to leave my office to do serious research.

Second, the world comes to or through Oxford. In part because our library collections draw people for sabbaticals, in part because of the ceaseless conference traffic, and in part because Oxford is, like some other university towns, a kind of Athens where people go to test their ideas, we have lots of wonderful speakers and events. The Faculty of Theology and Religion’s event booklet is always crammed full of attractive seminars with world-class figures, and for the student of antiquity, Oxford feasts the intellect with offerings from the Oriental Institute, the Classics Faculty and crossover ventures like the Oxford Centre for Late Antiquity. On any given day one is missing several excellent papers or speaking events from stimulating thinkers, and it’s not uncommon to hear people complain of the strain of trying to drink from the proverbial Oxonian firehose.

Of course, both those things are also true at other universities, mutatis mutandis, and I wouldn’t at all wish to say that Oxford is unique in these ways. But it’s also true that sometimes potential graduate students consider too narrowly their chosen programme of interest without broader consideration of the research environment. Naturally I think Oxford does well on the former as well as the latter scales of vision, but I won’t say more about that now.

All this is prompted by the season: potential graduate students are pondering their applications (my deepest condolences, poor souls). Markus Bockmuehl and I are always keen to hear from good potential applicants, and it so happens that the coming year would be a good one to apply for Oxford in terms of funding opportunities. A useful new website at www.oxfordscholarships.com is being hosted by one of the new external funders to provide information, including links to various funding schemes and application details. It’s also worth pointing out that Markus and I will be in San Diego and interested in meeting prospective applicants there; we’ve set up a doodle poll here with slots available, if anyone would like to avail themselves of a meeting.

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Oxford New Testament Seminar, Michaelmas Term 2014

Markus Bockmuehl has sent along notice of this term’s NT Seminar. We’re trying a slightly new format by including the graduate events and the senior seminar in the same slot, with alternating sessions, rather than their previously separate existence as two distinct seminars. Do come along if you’re in the area!

Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford

 New Testament Seminar

Michaelmas Term 2014

This Seminar meets on Fridays 2.30 p.m. in the Gibbs Room at Keble College. All welcome.

Asterisked meetings will place particular emphasis on postgraduate training needs.

 17 October*

Introduction to New Testament Research at Oxford

Prof. Markus Bockmuehl

Keble College

*   *   *

24 October

Behind the Gospels: Understanding the Oral Tradition

Dr Eric Eve

Harris Manchester College

*   *   *

31 October*

Bibliographical Tools of the Trade for N.T. Research

Dr Hilla Wait

Philosophy and Theology Faculties Library

*   *   *

7 November*

Decoding Hermeneutics

Dr Andrew K.M. Adam

St Stephen’s House

*   *   *

14 November

The Apostle’s Hand: Galatians in the Canonical Process

Prof. Thomas Söding

University of Bochum

*   *   *

21 November

NO SEMINAR (Annual SBL Meeting in San Diego)

*   *   *

28 November*

Postgraduate Research Presentations (Details TBC)

*   *   *

5 December

‘Like the Scum of the World’ (1 Cor 4.13): Participation in

Christ’s Death in the Context of Ancient Expulsion Ritual

Prof. Asano Atsuhiro

Kwansei Gakuin University

M.B. 8.9.2014



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