Peter J. Williams Profile picture
Bible & ancient languages. Principal @Tyndale_House Cambridge. Opinions my own, etc.
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4 Jul
THREAD: Learning Greek to read the New Testament.

For anyone interested in the NT I recommend learning Greek to help you follow details more closely.

This thread reviews some of the ways you can do that.

Others are welcome to use it to advertise their favourite Greek links.
I'm a pedagogical pluralist, which means that I'm happy to encourage many different ways of learning.

The key ingredients for a course or teacher are:

(1) competence
(2) ability to inspire

The order in which you learn topics, or the pronunciation you use matter far less.
I also want to say up front that you should not be afraid of learning a little Greek.

'A little knowledge is a dangerous thing' doesn't apply provided you know that you know little and surround yourself with people who know more.
Read 18 tweets
26 Jun
THREAD: Wife-Sister narratives in Genesis.

3x in Genesis a patriarch claims his beautiful wife is his sister, from fear of being killed by locals out to get her (chs 12, 20, 26).

Stories are united by the word הָרַג ‘kill’ which does not occur in the intervening narratives.
The narratives are also united by the rebuke of the pagan king to the patriarch:

12:18 ‘What is this you’ve done to us?’ מַה־זֹּ֖את עָשִׂ֣יתָ לִּ֑י

20:9 ‘What have you done to us?’ מֶֽה־עָשִׂ֤יתָ לָּ֙נוּ֙

26:10 ‘What is this you have done to us?’ מַה־זֹּ֖את עָשִׂ֣יתָ לָּ֑נוּ
Each story shares significant features with one other story, but not with both:
Read 20 tweets
3 May
A thread on 'finally' in Paul's letters.

(Thanks to @jeremytreat5 who inspired me to dig)

This usage occurs 6x: 2 Cor 13:11; Eph 6:10; Phil 3:1; 4:8; 1 Thess 4:1; 2 Thess 3:1.

It's furthest from end in Phil 3:1, but still some way to go in 1 Thess 4:1.
Although 5/6 are followed by 'siblings' & mean the same, no two are alike in Greek:

2 Cor 13:11 Λοιπόν, ἀδελφοί
Eph 6:10 Τοῦ λοιποῦ
Phil 3:1 Τὸ λοιπόν, ἀδελφοί μου
Phil 4:8 Τὸ λοιπόν, ἀδελφοί
1 Thess 4:1 Λοιπὸν οὖν, ἀδελφοί
2 Thess 3:1 Τὸ λοιπόν, προσεύχεσθε, ἀδελφοί
'Finally' is a latecomer, mainly an innovation of the KJV (1611).

KJV has 'finally' for 5/6, but 'furthermore' for 1 Thess 4:1.

Then RV & its children (ASV, RSV, ESV) have 'finally' for all 6.

NIV has 'finally', 'further' & 'as for other matters' each 2/6.
Read 9 tweets
1 Apr
Thread (2nd expanded edition) on Jesus’s Parable of the Two Sons (Luke 15:11-32)

This remarkable story of <400 words is both stunningly simple & packed with layers of meaning & deep allusions which outwit the most knowledgeable audiences.
It’s 3rd in a series of 3 stories about what is lost:

1/100 sheep lost

1/10 coins lost

Then 2 sons, both lost, though 1 is found again, & the fate of the other depends on the audience's response.
As @jamesbejon points out in an inspirational thread

The sheep is lost by going away

The coin is lost staying at home

This story tells of two sons, 1 lost by going away & the other lost at home.
Read 64 tweets
3 Mar
My 1st move is to find common language.

Gen 38 where Judah wrongs Tamar contrasts with Gen 39 where Joseph resists Potiphar’s wife.

But Joseph in Gen 39 parallels Tamar of 2 Sam 13.

Only Joseph & Tamar have a ketonet passim “robe with long sleeves”(?) (Gen 37:3; 2 Sam 13:18)
Both are seized by someone alone in the house who says ‘lie with me’ (Gen 39:12; Sam 13:11).

Meanwhile David saw Bathsheba, who was good of appearance & took her (2 Sam 11:2, 4).

The sequence ‘saw ... good ... took’ occurs both for Eve (Gen 3:6) & the Sons of God (Gen 6:1-2).
The Dinah & Levite’s concubine incidents have features in common, eg the guy ‘speaks upon the heart’ of the woman (Gen 34:3; Judg 19:3). Fine words, but clearly no real love.

Narratives like these reveal deep connections showing the depth of human sin & God’s grace.
Read 3 tweets
2 Feb
I've argued that Judges & Ruth fit together.

Now how Ruth & 1 Samuel fit together.

There are numerous connections, esp. between the last ch. of Ruth & 1 Sam 1.

E.g. unique phrases:

Ruth 4:15 "she is more to you than seven sons"

1 Sam 1:8 "Am I not more to you than ten sons?"
Both books begin with Ephrathites/Ephraimites (Ruth 1:1 & 1 Sam 1:1)

Naomi self-describes as Mara 'bitter' (Ruth 1:20)

Hannah is described, by the same root, as 'bitter of soul' marath naphesh (1 Sam 1:10)

Both have 'give seed' in a wish (Ruth 4:12; 1 Sam 1:11)
Both have 'God of Israel' in a wish:

'may a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel' (Ruth 2:12)

'may the God of Israel grant your request' (1 Sam 1:17)

Adjacent chapters both have 'and she bore a son' (וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן, Ruth 4:13; 1 Sam 1:20) & naming
Read 6 tweets
13 Jan
THREAD: The book of Ruth

Begins as if it's going to be a story about a man:

'In the days when the judges judged there was a famine in the land, and a MAN of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, HE and HIS wife and HIS two sons.'
Immediately *famine* & *sojourn* co-occur

as they do in Genesis 12:10--the 1st time either term occurs in the Bible.

So we're in an Abraham-like situation.

A man is on the move, with his family, away from famine, to sojourn in another country.
Strangely enough he's leaving Bethlehem, which means 'house of bread' (beth = house; lehem = bread).

We have 2 reasons to think names in this book bear significant meanings:
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21 Dec 19
SEASONAL THREAD: in Isaiah 9:6 is the child to be born called ‘Wondeful’, ‘Counsellor’ (2 titles as in the KJV below) or ‘Wonderful Counsellor’ (1 title as in most modern translations)?
The 2 title version certainly sticks in the mind after hearing Handel’s beautiful ‘For unto us a child is born’, here with the @londonsymphony
The 2 title version seems general among Reformation translations (Here’s #Luther’s 1545 translation): ‘Wunderbar, Rath’, also separating out ‘mighty God’ as ‘Kraft’ & ‘Held’, taking ‘ēl ‘god’ in the sense of strong one.
Read 13 tweets
17 Nov 19
THREAD: on demon possession

The term ‘demon-possessed’ is common in modern Bible translations (eg ESV, HCSB, NIV, NKJV at Matt 8:28) & has become a standard phrase.

It conveys to people that 1 or more demons possess a person.

That’s the problem. We’ll see there’s been a shift.
The Greek is usually a single verb daimonizomai, which we might literalistically render as ‘be demonized’.

But earlier translations tended to express that the person had the demon, not the demon, the person.
The #LindisfarneGospels give us beautiful Latin with Anglo-Saxon glosses above.

Here’s Matthew 4:24: Latin et qui daemonia habebant ‘and whoever had demons’.

You can probably make out the words ‘devil’ & ‘have’ in the Anglo-Saxon.

So the people have the devils, not vice versa.
Read 10 tweets
30 Oct 19
THREAD: How did Judas Iscariot die?

In a recent debate with @BartEhrman

at 43-52 minutes we fell to discussing the mode of Judas’s death. Bart said that the accounts of Matthew & Acts were irreconcilable (& also reconcilable if you tried hard enough).
I made a couple of tactical mistakes:

1. not challenging his substitution of my word ‘headlong’ by ‘headfirst’ at 46:48 & 48:52.

2. focussing on the lexeme in Matthew, not the one in Acts.
But given enough time the tortoise can still get further than the hare. So here are some more leisurely reflections.
Read 24 tweets
21 Oct 19
Remember: no Church Father ever thought that John 1:1-18 were the Prologue of John’s Gospel.

Pass it on.
Sinaiticus has ekthesis at 1:6 and 1:26, but not at 1:19.
Alexandrinus has big letters with ekthesis at 1:1, 6, 9, 14, 15, 16, 18, but not 1:19 (though that does begin the top of a column).
Read 28 tweets
8 Oct 19
THREAD: What happened to Phinehas?

Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron has a celebrated place in history (e.g. Psalm 106:30) for his zeal for God's law.

He famously skewered with his spear a couple caught in flagrante delicto & thus turned away God's indignation from Israel.
Interestingly the woman in this couple was Cozbi the woman from Midian.

Her name is probably related to #Akkadian kuzbu which means 'sex appeal':

That's an insight into a biblical story you couldn't get till the 19th century when Akkadian is deciphered.
I've mentioned Phinehas in relation to another thread, since he's the 3rd generation from Aaron & Moses.

Judges ends with 2 stories set 3 generations from Aaron/Moses & the immediately following book of Ruth likewise is set 3 generations after then:

Read 9 tweets
5 Oct 19
THREAD: How Judges & Ruth fit together

Of course, Ruth is set in the time of Judges.

It begins, ‘In the days when the judges judged...’

But the connections go deeper...
Greek manuscripts Codices Vaticanus (4th century) & Alexandrinus (5th century) have Ruth after Judges

But surviving mediaeval Hebrew manuscripts place Ruth with Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Lamentations & Esther in the 5 Megilloth (scrolls).
Judges (depending how you count) can be seen as recording 6 major judges (full stories) & 6 minor (minimal details).

Arguably they’re getting progressively worse.

Then there are 2 ‘appendix’ stories:

Chs 17-18 Danites’ idolatry-violence

Chs 19-21 Benjaminites’ sex-violence
Read 24 tweets
19 Aug 19
THREAD: The Bible’s most gory story

It’s the disturbing account of the rape & dissection of the Levite’s concubine (Judges 19-21)

With lessons about male violence against women #vawg
The story is set during the time of the judges, when there’s little government.

The 1st & last verses remind us that there was no king (Judges 19:1; 21:25), which has already become a motif (17:6; 18:1)

It’s at the climactic point of the Bible’s goriest book.
Other Bible books relate more deaths, but Judges, with Adoni-bezek’s thumbs/big toes cut off, Eglon’s belly stabbed, Sisera’s temple pierced, Abimelech’s skull crushed, Samson’s eyes gouged out, & the concubine dissected depicts more body damage than the whole rest of the Bible.
Read 39 tweets
12 Jul 19
Thread: Matthew 27:51 records an earthquake at the time of Jesus's death.

28:2 has an earthquake (aftershock?) connected with the resurrection.

Of course, Jerusalem can be affected by earthquakes.

Is there any evidence for these ones? says yes.
Through that site I got hold of the 2002 German doctoral dissertation of #ClaudiaMigowski…
P. 82 of this dissertation has a chart of various earthquakes as reflected in sedimentary rock deformations.

The rather interesting one is that shown for (approximately) AD 33.
Read 4 tweets
17 May 19
Thread: clearly, as Bart Ehrman says, Peter was an Aramaic speaking peasant.

He knew no Greek.
He came from Bethsaida (John 1:44), which became a Greek polis (city) around AD 31 but studiously avoided learning Greek.

He traded in fish, but made sure he only sold to Aramaic speakers.

He lived in Capernaum on an international trade route, but avoided talking to foreigners.
He fished on the Sea of Galilee, but if in the middle of this little lake his boat met boats of fishermen from the Greek-speaking Decapolis on the far shore he made sure only to use Aramaic or sign language.
Read 6 tweets
9 May 19
Thread: Matthew’s Gospel has 5 main blocks of speech:


Each speech block ends “When he/Jesus had finished...” (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1)

But there’s more structure yet, and a textual variant...
The 1st, 3rd & 5th speech blocks go like this:

8 beatitudes (ch 5)

8 parables of the kingdom (ch 13)

7 woes (ch 23 NIV ESV #NA28 #THGNT)

or 8 woes (KJV & #textusreceptus)

This is a case where I would love to be persuaded that it should be 8 8 8.
Johann Albrecht Bengel 1687-1752 observed the parallel between the blessings (beatitudes) of ch 5 and the woes of ch 23.
Read 11 tweets
29 Apr 19
Thread: How the resurrection accounts agree in speech details.

This suggests they didn’t make those bits up.


As is well known, the Easter narratives in the 4 gospels differ considerably.
On certain things they agree:

-1st person(s) to tomb = female

-Tomb seen before Jesus

-Brightly clad being(s) met at tomb

But they differ on number of women, angels/men, sequence, positions, speech, etc.

That’s what makes their agreement in some small details more striking.
Comparing Matthew with Mark we see the tendency throughout the gospels for them to agree more when speech is quoted than when the narrator is talking.

Narrators naturally have more freedom in choosing their own wording, than in truthfully reporting that of others.
Read 10 tweets
14 Mar 19
Thread: in Bart Ehrman’s engaging book ‘The Triumph of Christianity’ he makes some approximate calculations of how many Christians there were at various stages.

The numbers he gives for early years appear rather low.
Acts claims there were 120 before Pentecost (1:15)

3,000 more at Pentecost (2:41)

5,000 men (4:4)

Even more (6:1)

Even more + many priests (6:7)

Economy-affecting numbers in Ephesus (19:24-27).

Eventually ‘myriads’ (10,000s) among Jews (Judaeans?) alone (21:20).
Ehrman can reject these as exaggerated, but on his numbers they are not only exaggerated, but we have to suppose that the narratives project onto early periods numbers which didn’t even exists at the (later) time of writing.
Read 8 tweets
2 Mar 19
Thread: Omission of urination from Bibles

In the King James Version, David says:

“So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that pertain to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall.” (1 Samuel 25:22)
The phrase “that pisseth against the wall” occurs another 5 times (1 Sam 25:34; 1 Kings 14:10; 16:11; 21:21; 2 Kings 9:8)

All 6 occasions occur in formulae speaking about exterminating for a particular person (Nabal 2x; Jeroboam; Baasha; Ahab) all who urinate against the wall.
The KJV here is literal, but modern translations, even generally literal ones, usually avoid the bluntness of the KJV and simply use the word ‘male’:

Here’s 1 Kings 16:11:

he left him not one that pisseth against a wall (KJV)
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