Monthly Archives: April 2015

Report from the American Academy of Religion, Part 4.

Continuing yesterday’s post on the American Academy of Religion, Pacific Northwest Region, here I detail some more of the talks I attended.

3.  New Testament, Interreligious Engagement

The first talk from this session was given by Th.M. student Steven Marquardt, who examined the use of ἐκκλησια (church, assembly) in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 in the context of Pauline authorship.  He argued that the plural use of the noun here marks this verse off as non-Pauline in origin.  As he notes, Paul uses the plural, ἐκκλησιαιto denote multiple churches in the same region, which does not match this particular usage.

Of course, arguments about authorship are always dicey, particularly when based on the usage of one word in two verses.  Paul could have been inconsistent in his usage of the term.  His letters were not collections of systematic theology, but particular epistles to particular groups responding to particular situations.  The level of certainty of any argument like this is low.  But even though I wasn’t convinced by his argument, I enjoyed listening to Marquardt’s talk and getting a sense of how a biblical scholar approaches these issues.

Another talk from this session that interested me was Nijay Gupta‘s “Covenantal Pistism: Faith and Human Agency in Galatians.”  Gupta applied the New Perspective on Paul to his use of the word πιστις, looking at it especially in the context of Galatians.  He argued that πιστις did not mean “faith apart from works,” as if Paul opposes faith with works.  Instead, Paul uses πιστις to refer to “trusting faith,” faith which both believes and obeys (works).  Paul’s radical move was not arguing that one is justified by faith, but instead arguing that one can be justified by faith through Christ without Torah.  Both Paul and his opponents saw believers as justified through πιστις, but Paul separated πιστις from Torah.  I didn’t know much about Pauline scholarship before Gupta’s talk, so it was illuminating for me.  I like how careful he was in examining πιστις in various sources — Second Temple Jewish sources, Septuagint, Josephus, etc. — to get a better grasp on how Paul used it.

Since I am headed toward biblical studies in graduate school, I really enjoyed going to some talks in that area and getting a taste of the kind of work going on.  I even thought of a prospective topic to research and present at next year’s SBL.

4.  Asian and Comparative Studies

Just like at the AAR-Western Region, I was lucky enough that my talk really paralleled another talk in my panel.  The first speaker in my session, Cristina Atanasiu, an MA student in Buddhist art at the University of Calgary, presented on “The Young Prince Seated Under the Jambu Tree: Avatars of the Early Bodhisattva Image.”  She examined a particular type of Gandharan image in the context of early Mahayana sutras and Kushan material evidence, arguing that this image embodies the way in which Gandharan Buddhism supported the Kushan dynasty, since the Kushana rulers were depicted as honorary bodhisattvas.  The connections between royal patronage and art played greatly in my talk as well.  I even skipped some of my background/context material because Atanasiu covered it!

My talk was on “When Herakles Went to India: The Transformation of a Greco-Roman Hero-God in Buddhist Art.”  It went well, and I got some great feedback.  One audience member, a Buddhist studies scholar, said that I pointed out some things she had never noticed before.  If you’re curious about my talk, I’ve posted my slideshow.

Overall a good weekend.  I left energized, already planning presentations for next year’s regional AAR and SBL as an MA student.

State of the Projects, April 2015.

Well, I just got a contract for my first book with Oxford University Press.  This book, based on my years of independent research on Jesus’ tour of India and Tibet as a young man, unearths evidence that Jesus also went to China and met the Han dynasty emperor of his day.  I have also just sold the newly-uncovered scrolls that support my theory to the Smithsonian.

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Francis and the Sultan

This last month has been a success for my Francis research.  I presented my paper at the American Academy of Religion, Western Region, and got some great feedback.  April is going to be the “dead month” for this thesis.  I am presenting it at the Medieval Association of the Pacific in Reno next weekend, and May 4 I am presenting it on campus.  I hope to have it submitted the first week of May.


I may have mentioned here my work as a research assistant on a critical edition of 4QXIIg, a particularly messy Qumran scrolls of the Minor Prophets.  This last month I have gotten almost nothing done on that project, so this spring quarter I am hoping to log at least 3-4 hours per week.  Also, while I was at the AAR-PNW, I saw on the book display table Erik Reymond’s Qumran Hebrew: An Overview of Orthography, Phonology, and Morphology.  Seeing that gave me the idea to write a paper on the Hebrew variants in 4QXIIg.  This side project would be helpful to our text-critical notes, and I could present it at a regional SBL next year.  This would help me as I progress toward becoming a biblical scholar.


March was a good month for languages.  Between finishing Plato and writing a paper on idolatry and religious alterity in Deuteronomy that required me to translate Deuteronomistic passages, I got a lot of good practice in.  The Plato course in particular refreshed me on a lot of syntax I had forgotten, especially conditionals.  This spring quarter, which just started, I am studying Homer’s Iliad.  This will be my second quarter studying Homer in Greek.

This month I will also be presenting my Gandharan art research at the San Jose State University Art History Symposium, “Between Two Worlds: Syncretism and Alterity in Art.”  Between that and Reno I have an exhausting month ahead.

Onward and upward!