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Scripture Bulletin
Volume XLIV No 1 - January 2014 E-mail
Written by The Editor   
Monday, 06 January 2014 15:22


One of the aims of Scripture Bulletin has been to keep a wider readership abreast of some of the best developments in biblical studies. In the first article of this issue, Charles Buttigieg provides an in-depth survey of recent scholarship on Ben Sira, including an analysis of the book’s complex textual history, theories about its structure, and consideration of its theological message.

Within the New Testament, the Apocalypse of John is as memorable for what John hears as for what he sees. In our second article, Andreas Hoeck examines one of the many voices heard in Revelation, the ‘loud voice from the throne’ (Rev. 21:3). In contrast to the reluctance of many commentators to specify the identity of this voice, Fr Hoeck argues that this is the voice of one of the four living creatures, from whom the reader of Revelation can expect a particularly prominent message.

The final article of this issue, by Dominic White OP, explores the origin of a non-canonical saying of Jesus, which Clement of Alexandria traces to ‘a certain Gospel’. This Mystery Saying is attested, in differing forms, no less than nine times in early Christian literature. Fr Dominic argues for the authenticity of this dominical saying, and examines the probable content of the ‘mystery’ to which it refers, not least the knowledge of creation.

Many readers of Scripture Bulletin will have been saddened to hear of the recent death of the eminent Dominican New Testament scholar, Fr Jerome Murphy-O’Connor. Renowned for his work on Paul, and his extensive knowledge of the history and archaeology of the Holy Land, he was also a regular contributor to Scripture Bulletin in its early years. May he rest in peace.

Ian Boxall

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The Book of Ben Sira: Connecting the Jews All Over the Greek World E-mail
Written by Charles Buttigieg   
Monday, 06 January 2014 15:16

The book of Ben Sira  is signed by its author, Jesus son of Eleazar, son of Sirach (50:27). Hence the author’s name was Jesus, Eleazar his father, and Sira his grandfather. From the prologue we know that his grandson translated the book into Greek from the original Hebrew.   Unlike most other wisdom works which do not seem to reflect closely a particular period, the book was written in a precise period dominated by Hellenism.  A Judean scribe of encyclopedic intelligence, Ben Sira lived with his family in Jerusalem  where he conducted a wisdom school (51:23) and wrote the book between 195 and 175 B.C.  Being a traditionalist and an innovator at the same time, he did not directly claim to be a prophet, although he stated that his teaching was inspired in 39:6-7.

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‘My Mystery is for Me’: a Saying of Jesus? E-mail
Written by Dominic White OP   
Monday, 06 January 2014 15:01

For it is not in the way of envy that the Lord proclaimed in a certain Gospel (τινι εὐαγγελίῳ), ‘My mystery is for me, and for the sons of my house’ (μυστήριον ἐμὸν ἐμοὶ καὶ τοῖϛ ὑιοῖς τοῦ οἴκου μου). 

So says Clement of Alexandria (ca.150-215) in a passage of the Miscellanies (Stromateis) on the opinions of the Apostles regarding the veiling of the mysteries of faith. But which Gospel could be the source of this saying (henceforth ‘the Mystery Saying’)? It is not found in the canonical Gospels. In the same passage Clement quotes extensively from the canonical New Testament (e.g. Eph. 3:3-5; Col. 1:9-11, 25-27; Heb. 5:12-14, 6:1), and from the Epistle of Barnabas. Also he often cites the lost Gospel of the Hebrews and the Gospel of the Egyptians. The former is cited also by Didymus the Blind, Jerome and Origen, and only Origen wrote of it disapprovingly.  Fragments of the Gospel of the Egyptians survive only in Clement, who notes in one passage how it is misused by heretics, probably Gnostics.  But these numerous citations make it unlikely that either of these extra-canonical texts is the unnamed ‘certain Gospel’. Ehrmann and Pleše follow the scholarly tradition of classifying the Mystery Saying as an agraphon, an ‘unwritten thing’: that is, words ascribed to Jesus which have been transmitted outside the canonical Gospels.

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Identifying the Great Voice in Rev 21:3a E-mail
Written by Andreas Hoeck   
Monday, 06 January 2014 15:07

A rather thorny issue is the identification of the ‘loud voice from the throne’ that makes its appearance in the book of the Apocalypse of Saint John (Rev. 21:3a). The majority of commentators argue that it is not opportune to attempt to identify the subject of this voice.

However, we opine that the matter deserves a closer look not least due to the portrayal of the throne in Rev 20:11:

'I saw a great white throne and the One who was sitting on it. In his presence, earth and sky vanished, leaving no trace' (NJB).

First of all, this seemingly mysterious agent is not incorporated into the schematic description of the line of communication in Rev 1:1, and thus appears to be unquestionably of minor importance in the revelatory process as such. Yet, the intensity of performance and the momentous character of its message – directly preceding the divine voice in Rev 21:6-8 – suggests its weighty role within the present discourse.  Its superlative content, Rev 21:3b-4, arouses deep excitement and curiosity.

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Book Reviews - January 2014 E-mail
Written by The Editor   
Monday, 06 January 2014 14:52

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