Even the earliest Christian theologians recognized that the cross was a simple intersection of horizontal and vertical lines, but also knew that these were indicated dimensions (height, depth, width) as well as compass points (North, South, East, and West).
Jensen’s The Cross shares the same virtues as Fine’s. Like Fine, Jensen not only discusses material artifacts, pictorial images, texts from the Bible and later theological reflection and debate, she has other material available to her: she narrates the story of the True Cross, traces the evolution of the cross as an object of veneration, demonstrates cross-piety in hymnody, and discusses what I’ll call invisible ritual crosses, namely, the sign of the cross with which Christians mark themselves by gesticulation.
Steve Fine assures us that they are not doing so, but the whole idea of matching Cross and Menorah volumes invites an immediate question: is there anything uniquely or especially valuable in focusing on such symbols? Do all religions have core symbols?
At the 2018 meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Denver, two program units collaborated in reviewing two books published by Harvard University Press: Robin Jensen’s The Cross: History, Art and Controversy (2018) and Steven Fine’s The Menorah: From the Bible to Modern Israel (2016).
In the ancient Mediterranean, the divine was an active participant in the economy. In Divine Accounting: Theo-Economics in the Letter to the Philippians, I investigate how early Christ-followers used financial language to articulate and imagine their relationship to the divine.
“One plus one plus one cannot equal one. Neither does the Old Testament equal the Tanakh. They are not one.”
“The Bible is, and will likely long continue to be, both building material and building. It’s a treasury of the ancient world, a storehouse in which lie a large percentage of the glittering gems which survived the ancient Levant in any form. And it’s a doorway through which the ancient Levant continues to shape the present, as well as the history of how this heritage has been repeatedly reshaped and by whom.”
Borders change, today and throughout history. Incorporating maps into the classroom encourages the students to view this for themselves and to begin to understand the myriad of ways that politics shapes geographical borders.
“Performing the banquet shifted their analysis from the realm of the academic into the realm of something that is socially functional, assisting with student thinking about the ancient texts as representative of real people and their actions and beliefs.”
These essays were part of a panel at the Society of Biblical Literature 2018 Annual Meeting titled, “Textual Objects and Material Philology,” inspired in part by the publication of Snapshots of Evolving Traditions (eds. Lied and Lundhaug).
Papers from the 2018 Society of Biblical Literature’s review panel on Maia Kotrosits’s Rethinking Early Christian Identity: Affect, Violence, and Belonging (Fortress, 2015).
In 2017, the Religious Worlds of Late Antiquity SBL section organized a review panel to discuss Todd Berzon's Classifying Christians: Ethnography, Heresiology, and the Limits of Knowledge in Late Antiquity. During the month of July, AJR will feature the panelists' responses.
What was the ordinary, nonelite experience of the Roman religious world? How far can we recover the everyday interactions of Romans and their deities in the republican and early imperial periods?
Katherine Shaner’s book is a careful and rigorous examination of the extent of enslaved leadership in antiquity as well as the prevalence of scholarly erasure of that leadership.