Summer Is Here!

Well, year one is essentially complete. Yesterday (May 31, 2016), I sat for my first year board reviews and passed. The board seemed quite happy with the thesis I proposed and believed it would be an original contribution to the field. My supervisor, Helen Bond, has been an extraordinary help in guiding the research and writing process up to this point and I am thankful for her encouragement. My project originally intended to focus on Davidic kingship in Mark’s Gospel, specifically how Mark uses David as a typology / prototype for Jesus. However, between the submission of my proposal (December 2014) and my matriculation at Edinburgh (September 2015) I became very interested in ancient Rome. As I believe Mark’s gospel was written after 70 C.E. (“common era” = A.D.) and to a culturally Roman audience, I became particularly keen to Emperor Vespasian (Rome’s emperor between 69-79 C.E.) and Flavian Rome. This is also in part due to the influence of my friend Adam Winn (New Testament Professor at Azusa Pacific), who has been extremely kind to review my work and provide helpful feedback. In any case, I found that numerous scholars have examined kingship in Mark’s gospel (and the Gospels in general), though with a particular interest in ideas concerning Jewish kingship. However, the Roman context of kingship in Mark’s gospel has yet to be explored in full. This is the gap I intend to narrow by understanding and analyzing the “official” ideals of Roman rulership and then comparing them to Mark’s presentation of Jesus (forgive me for not adding more details as I do not want to list too much information on the web).

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This Roman coin depicts Vespasian on the obverse (front) side and a Jewish captive on the reverse (back). Roman coins intended to tell a story to the citizens, those who encountered the images and words on these coins regularly. Here, Vespasian’s power over the Jews and their revolt in Judaea is clearly the intended visual.

The project, then, will require a strong emphasis on Roman Classics. This involves not only work with Roman literary sources, but also numismatic (i.e. “coins”) and epigraphic (i.e. “inscriptions” / “graffiti”) works as well. My background and training has mostly consisted of Jewish studies and their relation to the New Testament. Therefore, I’ve had to learn the ins-and-outs of Classical methodology and history. This, surprisingly, has been great fun! Sadly, the field of Biblical Studies has focused so strongly on Jewish studies that Classics are generally given secondary importance. In fact, I don’t remember being assigned a single Classical Roman or Greek text in my Masters program. Also, my Masters program only required that I learn Hebrew and Greek, and not Latin (though, I took Latin on my own at Fuller). Because of these deficiencies, I find myself playing catch-up with both Latin and Roman Classics. Thus far, I’ve audited a few Latin courses and have completed the Histories of Livy and Tacitus (and they are wonderful!).

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The lettering behind Penelope’s head is an example of epigraphy inscriptions at Rome.

In another effort to sharpen my chops in Classics I recently applied for epigraphy (Oxford University and Ashmolean Museum) and numismatics (British Museum) summer school programs. Both programs were highly competitive and only admitted a limited number of students (15 at Oxford and 10 at the British Museum). I didn’t make the cut for the epigraphy school (because I was not a “Classics” student), but I was admitted to the Numismatic Summer School at the British Museum. The school takes place from July 4-8 and all expenses (including flights) are paid for by the Museum. This will be a valuable time of learning as well as connecting with experts in the field of numismatics. Additionally, with my project focusing so heavily upon Classics—especially Roman classics—it is necessary for me to be near Rome. Much of the coinage and epigraphic materials that I need for my project are held within the local museums and sites at Rome (though, many are also at the British Museum). I decided to apply for some grant money from the university and was awarded enough to cover 3/4 of my trip to Rome. So, I’ll be in Rome from July 20-27 staying at the British School at Rome. The British School brings together scholars from around the world, as well as in-house scholars, to interact and connect those people working on similar projects. Along with the school providing me access to sites generally shut off to the public, they were also able to get me into the museums where I will be able to photograph and inspect needed collections. Any researcher knows the value of obtaining personal photos of a collection in order to bypass the copyright process.

This is a Roman coin with Vespasian's head on the obverse (Front) and Judean captive on the reverse (Back). The coin tell a story of Rome's power over Judea and the Jews.
The Colosseum was a project started by Vespasian and completed by his son Titus just months after Vespasian’s death. This is one of the many important sites I’ll be investigating while in Rome.

So, it looks like this summer will be packed with opportunities and new adventures. In fact, our family heads out to St. Andrews in a couple of days for a three-day conference. We are glad to have my mom and Bobby in town presently, who will also be going with us to St. Andrews (They have loved their time here so far!). I ask that friends and family continue to pray for opportunities for both Leah (Leah will be writing on potential job prospects in the next blog) and I as we continue on our journey in Edinburgh.