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Abilene - Index & Update

In case you missed them, I posted three times about Abilene, a small region north of Galilee, beyond Mount Hermon (west of Damascus). Abilene was, for some years, the tetrarchy of a man named Lysanias. According to my research, it seems to have been annexed by Rome in 32 AD and split between Sidon and Damascus. I personally believe this event increased the anxiety of Herod Antipas, if ever so slightly, given the post-Sejanus political climate of 32 and 33 AD.

All three posts went up in November. Here are their links:

And now I have one update to include: In the first two posts, I'd left out any consideration of Abilene after 32 AD. In fact, Josephus tells us that in 37 AD, Caligula gave "the tetrarchy of Lysanias" to Herod Agrippa [along with the recently embattled Gaulanitis and the rest of the late Philip's tetrarchy; no doubt Caligula in early 37 was heavily influenced by his chief advisor Macro, by the way]. [Note: Contrary to a common misconception, Macro & Caligula did NOT give ANY territory to Aretas the Nabatean in 37.]

So Damascus remained autonomous in 37, under the Governor of Syria, but evidently it lost its recently granted territory in Abilene. Perhaps Governor Flaccus' settlement in 32 AD didn't achieve the desired effect, perhaps the Sidonians and the Damascenes quarreled even more with a common border, or perhaps Macro & Caligula had some other reason for giving the city and region around that key mountain pass to Agrippa instead. Whatever the case, the fact that Abilene went to Agrippa in 37 does not mean it stayed with Lysanias up to that point.

Therefore, as in earlier posts, I stand by the logic that Damascus and Sidon must have been disputing over the territory of Abilene, which means Lysanias was dead or gone by that time (but not before 28 AD). Also, as I said in earlier posts, if the Damascenes & Sidonians were somehow fighting over the very peak of Mount Hermon, then all this would be incorrect, but as much as that seems highly unlikely, I stand by my conclusions for now. :)

Abilene and Herod Antipas

Note: this conclusion follows my previous posts: Abilene in 32 AD and Lysanias, Tetrarch of Abilene.

Whatever details of history led to the apparent annexation and dissolution of Abilene in 32 AD, the fact of it probably had at least one small impact on the New Testament Story. The event must have served as one more reminder to Herod Antipas that Rome was always prepared to seize direct control over eastern territory, whenever conditions were right. In fact, Antipas already knew this very well, because Rome had claimed three other kingdoms in Syria's orbit since their failure to control Armenia after 2 AD. (The Empire annexed Judea in 6 AD and Cappadocia & Commagene in 18 AD.) Granted, Abilene was not a major territory, but neither was Galilee, relatively speaking. Therefore, even though the end of Lysanias' Tetrarchy was a minor event in history, it had greater significance to Herod as part of the larger pattern.

In short, Abilene reminded Antipas (age 53 in 32 AD) how important it was to govern well, maintaining local & regional stability. Ironically, this reminder came one year after the trouble of 31 AD, when the executions of John the Baptist and Aelius Sejanus had already left Herod with a bit more local unrest [not to mention much more personal uncertainty] than usual. And that unfortunate timing, in turn, makes the memory even more likely to have lingered, in some sense, until Good Friday, April 3rd, 33 AD. To say the very least - but emphatically, given the context - Herod's fairly recent thoughts about the former tetrarchy of Lysanias could not have diminished his cautiousness that morning in deciding what to do with Jesus.

In other words, while Herod Antipas certainly had many good reasons for smartly declining Pilate's offer of jurisdiction over the controversial, potentially insurrection-sparking trial of Jesus Christ, one of those reasons, perhaps not the absolute least, was the recent loss of Abilene.


Why I'll Never Go Pro (Scholar That Is)

Here's one example:

Finegan's Handbook of Biblical Chronology draws some conclusions I agree with and some I do not. I believe I know which are right and wrong. And I honestly think that I'm right. But to WRITE any paper explaining that, I've got to master his whole thought. Specifically, for one example, I've got to figure out WHY he denied Josephus' years on Archelaus' reign and argued for variant textuality on Josephus' statements about Philip's reign. It won't do, in a paper, to assume this attempt was merely a sloppy convenience poorly justified. Instead, I have to examine his evidence for the second claim and then point out that, even if we accept it as such, that only gives us a contradiction in Josephus' accounting and no reason to accept one over the other. But THEN, if I actually (properly) go THAT far, I've got to go on to consider, seriously, whether any other solutions exist to the problem as he laid it out.

And all I realy WANT to do is go over that which seems to work far, far better. Like so:

Philip cannot have died when Finegan says he did because of the other issues going on in the region in those extra two years. If Philip wasn't dead, Aretas would have fought PHILIP for Gamala, not ANTIPAS as he did. [More to the point, if Philip wasn't dead, Aretas probably wouldn't have gone into Trachonitis or the Golan. Philip governed the Arabs in his tetrarchy very well.] I'd have to find some appropriate way to say that Finegan included less than one paragraph about Aretas in his entire Handbook and a regurgitated non-contextualized summary without any analysis or consideration of consequence, at that. Sigh. BUT THEN I'd probably have to go on to justify my feeling that the Nabatean history is so absolutely vital to the whole situation. And so on.

I'd probably have to close with a complimentary statement about Finegan such as that he should easily be forgiven because he bit off more than any one man could possibly hope to chew. And I'd WANT to add: I bet I know how he felt.

ANYWHO... I MAY or MAY NOT ever get as far as defending these Year Books formally. Time will tell. Fish or cut bait. Reconstruct? Or defend? What would Doctor Johnson advise me to do? ;) In some ways, however, these weaknesses of mine are also strengths. How would I ever have built my own reconstruction if I'd spent twelve years absorbing, rehearsing, adopting and merely adapting or modifying the mindset and opinions of other scholars?

By the way, SBL is in Boston this week. I actually wish I was there. But at the same time, I don't. I've got a lot of work left to do...

Repeating Predictions Beforehand

Sportswriters thrive on predictions. Pundits speculate endlessly. Successful ones are praised. It's been eight years since Tim Russert said, "Florida, Florida, Florida" and he's still remembered for that one line, on top of his greatness. Newspaper headlines LOVE to say Such and such MAY happen soon! and - just as much - So and so SAYS such and such WILL blah blah blah. Even religious movemets, right to this day, thrive on repeating predictions that may or may not prove to come true. I've even heard of bestselling book series being written, all based on nothing but predictions. ;)

Recently, Barack Obama gained extra momentum because so many people were saying, "I think he will win." In fact, a lot of great political and religious movements, historically, became great because a Leader made promises and predictions beforehand... which later also happened to come true. When the leader's predictions did become true, the belief of the followers became that much more resolute. Their faith in the leader became stronger and more fanatical.

Watch TV interviews with any championship team in sports and they'll tell you about the moment their coach got them to believe in themselves (actually, something greater than themselves - themselves collectively, as a team). Of course, that's also the moment they increased their faith in their coach.

As I say, this happens all the time, mainly in successful movements and group endeavors. But Mark Goodacre (and most of critical scholarship along with him) doesn't think the followers of Jesus - who watched him fulfil one set of predictions in dying and rising again - would have published another set of their Lord's predictions (that I gather Mark may believe Jesus DID make) about the destruction of Jersualem before it had happened. To his great credit, Mark says the issue is NOT about whether Jesus made the predictions. Mark says,
[The issue] is about observing the literary function of successful prophecy in the narrative in which it appears. The prediction only gains traction because the reader is saying, "Hey, yes! I know what that's about!"
Well, actually, Mark, History shows that a lot of predictions gain plenty of traction before they come to pass. As I've tried to show, examples from everyday life positively abound. :)

Such waves of anticipation uniformly lose all traction when hopes get destroyed. But the movement crescendos triumphantly when the Leader's predictions, published and repeated for months or years beforehand, are consummately fulfilled. And then the real bandwagon swell begins. At that point, even former detractors say, "Yes, look. It happened. Let's get behind this." (Been watching the news this past week?)

Clearly, therefore, I feel there's no reason to doubt whether Matthew and Mark could have written their versions of the Olivet Discourse decades before 70 AD. In fact, I think it's far more likely, given the increasing success of the christian movement afterwards, that they each spent a decade or two publishing and repeating the Lord's predictions about Jerusalem's destruction beforehand.

This isn't purely a matter of faith. This is logic with a different set of premises. :)

Update: Mark posted again about this issue on 12.23.08.

Lysanias, Tetrarch of Abilene

My main interest in Lysanias, tetrarch of Abilene, began in hopes of finding a comparative case study (however minuscule) to make with Herod Antipas, beginning from the New Testament's brief reference to Lysanias as a contemporary client prince in the neighborhood of Galilee. In this post, I'll explore the historical possibilities for Lysanias' career and attempt to move beyond all such speculation in favor of a few modest and reasonable conclusions about Lysanias and his tetrarchy, Abilene. (My opinion on Abilene's significance for Herod Antipas will appear in a separate post.)

Luke's Gospel tells us a man named Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene when John started Baptizing (which I take as 28 AD, the 15th calendar year of the rule of Tiberius). Aside from Luke's testimony, we have nothing else to date the rule of Lysanias, except that it must have begun after the death of Zenodorus in 20 BC, and it seems to have ended no later than 32 AD (based on historic and geographic considerations I mentioned in the previous post). If the name itself is any indication, Lysanias may stand at the end of the dynastic line that ruled Iturea and Trachonitis, ending with Zenodorus, the greater part of whose kingdom was given to Herod the Great in 20 BC by Augustus himself - though other parts of Iturea were given at that time to Syria, under the territorial care of Berytus, Sidon and Damascus. Abilene, at this time, seems to have remained independent, but we do not know why.

There is plenty of room for speculation, and some value in considering it briefly:

If Lysanias was the son of Zenodorus, that may have been one reason for Augustus to leave the tiny stretch of Abilene under his care. Or Herod could have let him keep it, since the North side of Mount Hermon was otherwise inconvenient to Israel. In any case, Abilene was essentially the sole east-west pass through Lebanon’s mountains. As such, it was a small, high traffic area without any natural boundaries for defense. Leaving it to be managed as an independent unit may have seemed more expedient for all involved, at the time. Besides, the land was desirable, as the dispute over it (between Sidon and Damascus in 32 AD) would later show. In that light, giving Abilene to a small independent dynast could have been the best way to stave off that controversy in dividing up Iturea.

Whatever the case, it is possible, if just barely, that such a dynastic Lysanias could have inherited the management of Abilene and kept it from 20 BC until 32 AD. Any relative of Zenodorus, claiming the tetrarchy by age 20 or so, would have to last 47 years to reach the time of John the Baptist – an audacious stretch in longevity for the ancient world, but not impossible if there was some decent amount of revenue in the situation. Further, if the dispute in 32 AD was fresh, and presuming it was based on Lysanias’ removal (by natural death or otherwise) the tetrarch would need to have reached the very ripe age of 71 (more or less). Again, this is all mere speculation, but it shows the case to be possible, if not overwhelmingly plausible. However, it may also be the case that Lysanias was related to Zenodorus but very young indeed at his death in 20 BC. In that situation, an older relative may have served as regent of his tetrarchy until the lad came of age, and Lysanias could die in 32 AD being possibly as young as 52. Finally, it's possible the dispute of 32 AD may not have been fresh when Flaccus finally arrived to mediate. If Abilene had lingered in dispute for a year or three before (while Syria's Governor Lamia was still ruling the province in absentia), then Lysanias could have gone as early as 29 AD (when John the Baptist was arrested), in that case dying or leaving as young as 49.

Of course these are merely boundaries for our consideration. We can’t reconstruct very much at all (with certainty) about Lysanias, but we don’t need to. Lysanias has extremely slight importance to the New Testament text, or it's story. As stated above, believers only need to suppose that he must have been tetrarch of Abilene for at least a year or so around 28 AD. But the above speculation shows a much longer career is possible, at the very least. The variables and uncertainty which defy our desire for more specifics do, at least, also defy any attempts to claim Lysanias himself was unhistorical. Therefore, academic work on Lysanias, whether faith based or critical, must ultimately rest in uncertainty.

In all this, however, we do find a few minor points that can be stated with some measure of confidence:

Based on Luke’s testimony, we may accept that there was a man named Lysanias who governed the tiny crossroads area called Abilene at least by the time of John the Baptist. This Lysanias may or may not have been related to the earlier [albeit intermittent] dynasty over Iturea whose line ended with Zenodorus. Whatever his identity, personal status, or length of his rule, there is one detail of Abilene as a tetrarchy that history does seem to confirm [with the aid of geography]. The removal of local authority over Abilene must be judged as the most likely cause for the land dispute between Sidon and Damascus in 32 AD. Therefore, although we cannot date the beginning of Lysanias' tetrarchy over Abilene, we may conclude that it lasted no later than 32 AD. Whether Lysanias died or was otherwise removed, control over Abilene reverted to the Empire, and it's management was entrusted to local and provincial authorities in Syria.

My next post will briefly address why I believe all of this was somewhat significant to Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee.

(for still more, try my search bar for "Abilene")

Abilene in 32 AD

I'm not out to speculate. I'm not doing apologetics. I'm simply (merely) hoping to reconstruct one plausible most-likely scenario for the historical context of the entire New Testament. (!!) Sure it's ambitious, but it's not unreasonable. Not as long as I avoid "cool ideas" (among other things).

For example, I will NOT be staking any strong claims about Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene. He isn't important. Abilene doesn't link to anything that needs explaining. No other events depend on that bit of Luke 3:2. And that one extra historical reference isn't necessary for fixing the chronology, especially since Lysanias is such an obscure reference to begin with. BUT... even though it's nonessential business, I'd still like to say as much as feasible. Which ain't much:

Abilene streteched around the northern foot of Mount Hermon, straddling the pass from the Golan to the valley of Lebanon. Luke's reference tells us Abilene had its own Tetrarch when John began baptizing (in 28 AD, according to Cheney's chronology) but history records no such Lysanias after that date. So we might speculate that the tetrarchy was dissolved sometime soon after, if we also suppose that Luke's purpose for including Abilene in the first place was to place these events nearly prior to that dissolution. Such speculation seems even more tempting in light of the following details from Josephus' Antiquities.

It so happens the new governor of Syria in mid & late 32 AD, L. Pomponius Flaccus, had to settle a dispute between Sidon and Damascus over the boundaries of their territory (probably late that summer). Now, the territories of Sidon and Damascus seem to end at Mount Hermon, at Philip's tetrarchy below there, and at Abilene above there. Since Philip was still alive in 32 AD (and we should doubt the two cities suddenly wanted to jockey for position on the inconvenient side of a mountaintop), is there any other geographic option than to consider they were fighting over Abilene? I don't think there is.

The temptation, then, is to assume "Abilene" dissolved in 31 or 32. And something similar to this does seem to be apparent but it could have been sooner, especially considering there had been no Roman Governor in Syria for a decade to that point! Clearly, we can only imagine whether Lysanias was still tetrarch up to that point, and what kind of personal circumstances he might have felt in conjunction with this supposed dissolution. So without evidence or at least solid reasoning in support of any particular conclusion, I've got no cause or need for going any further. It just doesn't matter in any significant way.

This is unfortunate, because Jesus passed through (or at least very near) Abilene right about that time.

According to both Cheney AND Hoehner's chronologies, it was early in 32 AD when the Lord took his disciples on a tour outside North Galilee. Scholars have suggested different routes, and one of the likely paths would have taken Jesus right through the Lebanon valley and around Mount Hermon... through Abilene.

Again, I won't be inventing things. If there were some other data here, I'd be more likely to speculate. I still say the Gospels' claims of a census are grounds that demand reconstructing a plausible scenario for it, from 9 BC, thru 8 BC, into 7 BC. But there are no claims or extra details allowing/requiring me to reconstruct any details of Abilene in 32 AD. (Gladly. And sadly.)

Whether or not Jesus walked through Abilene in early 32, or passed just south of it... Whether or not the tetrarchy of Lysanias actually dissolved in 32 AD or some time before then... Whether or not Lysanias himself was related to the line of Zenodorus, as his name suggests... Whether or not Jesus' travels in 32 were impacted (or enabled) by the political situation (or void) in the Lebanese region formerly known as Ituraea... Regardless of all that, the most I can/will say about Jesus and Abilene is probably going to be something like this:

In early 32 AD, Jesus and his disciples toured the lands north of Galilee, around the territory of Tyre and Sidon, from the Sea to Mount Hermon. In mid 32 AD, C. Pomponius Flaccus had to settle a territory dispute between Damascus and Sidon. As it happened, these were the same regions Jesus had just been through a few months before. (And then a footnote will mention that the dispute likely involved the lands formerly known as Abilene, which probably indicates that the tetrarchy of Lysanias had ended somehow in the previous three years, due to unknown circumstances.)

I wish I could say more. I always love finding extra details. But I'm not inventing stuff. I'm just putting big puzzle pieces together. I'm only filling in blanks that absolutely need and deserve to be filled in. There will be disclaimers that talk about lack of certainty on specific issues. But the task is to put together one plausible reconstruction of everything we CAN say did happen and/or most likely happened. Abilene just isn't solid enough to say much more about than I've said here. Sadly.

And now I have a point.

I'd LIKE to find something about Lysanias to support my view of Eastern Rulers under Tiberius. I'd LIKE to find something in the dissolution of Abilene to support the idea that Herod Antipas was getting just a bit more nervous about Roman annexation of eastern lands leading up to the time of the crucifixion. Gee, I'd LIKE to find anything about Abilene OR Lysanias that would connect with ANYTHING in 32 AD, if not previous and future years as well. I'd LIKE that. But it doesn't look like-ly. And though I don't get bonus points for admitting what I totally have to admit anyway, I'm just saying it.

And that's the whole reason I made this post.


House Church Confession

Jesus Christ is the only Oil that greases the gears of Church Life. Finding the right people to meet with isn’t as tough as being one of those people. We failed in so many ways. We found Christ, together. We found Grace… for a time.

I long for more someday.

John the Baptist and Sejanus - 1

In my last NT Chronology post, I showed the year of John’s ministry can be narrowed down between two possible years. The Baptist started preaching in 28 OR 29 AD. Harold Hoehner and Jack Finegan took 29. I follow Johnston Cheney in taking 28. There are lots of connected issues to consider at this point, which I listed but haven’t posted about (yet). But the one major issue that I’ve not seen addressed by anyone before now is the questionable sequence of two famous deaths: John the Baptist and Sejanus the Prefect.

If Hoehner and Finegan are right about the Gospel’s chronology, then John the Baptist died several months into the winter that followed the violent death of Sejanus [in Rome, October 18, 31 AD]. But if Cheney (and I, myself) are correct, then Herod Antipas executed the depressed prophet about eight months before Sejanus went down. [If I’ve somehow missed previous discussion on this point, please let me know. Where is it?] Either way, John died soon before the third Passover of Jesus' ministry (when he fed the 5,000). But was that 31 or 32 AD? Was Sejanus alive or dead? Those are two very different scenarios, with all kinds of potential implications, depending on many things.

Questions abound. Just how much had Herod Antipas actually invested into the future prospects of Sejanus maintaining power? To what degree were Antipas & Sejanus actually “allies”? How much local instability was Antipas risking from the public backlash about John? How much political danger would a secret ally of Sejanus fear he was in so far away from Rome, and yet (on the other hand) how concerned would such an ally have been throughout the first several months of backlash, regardless of the distance? How much had Antipas already worried about the Eastern policies of Tiberius up to that point? And finally (unfortunately) the whole thing may also depend on just how drunk Antipas might have been when Herodias & Salome tricked him into a really dumb promise, whether he was thinking soberly when he offered "up to half my kingdom", and what he actually meant by that. So altogether, as these things usually go, the whole thing may be ultimately be improvable. For which, Praise the Lord, cause you still got to have faith!

But we should still reconstruct the one most plausible scenario. Therefore, aside from general academic interest, I believe these are worthwhile considerations about questions which may not have been asked before now. There may be some details and angles in this to surprise us all. Naturally, as a supporter of Cheney’s Four Year Chronology, I’ll be arguing that Herod was far more likely to have executed John in early 31, before Sejanus was gone, than in 32, when there was much greater uncertainty. Up to this moment, I actually continue to find this scenario to be most convincing, but the opposing view will only disappoint me if I don't give it a good, hard shake as well.

For more about the death sequence of the Baptist and Sejanus, watch this space…

Galilee and other Pocket Regions

As far as I can tell, Rome never *started* a war in Asia (Minor OR Major). (Makes them one step smarter than Vizini's Rule, imho.) They finished a few wars, settled a few, and avoided a few. They made quick strikes and left. They stepped in when the King died or was easy to depose. They did what they had to, but no more than they could afford to. They held onto a few key spots and kept control of the rest with intimidation, mostly. Rome took Ephesus ~150 years before they claimed all Anatolia (Turkey). And Pompey took Antioch ~170 years before all parts of Syria and Palestine were annexed officially into the Provinces. (It was the same way in other regions they conquered, naturally. The Romans were good at this!)

I'm pretty sure the Eastern rulers knew what was coming. I'm positive Herod Antipas had deep personal concerns after the fall of Cappadocia and Commagene in 18 AD, which came just 12 years after his brother lost Judea. But I need to get a broader picture of the region at large. I need to find some academic ways to confirm or reject these strong impressions of mine.

So now I'm wondering: How much was Galilee really just Sepphoris and it's region, which happened to include half the Lake? In that sense, would Antipas take any comfort from the ongoing security of the "Kingdom" of Emesa (a dynastic city-state north of Lebanon)? I still think it's far more likely the wealth and size of Galilee make Antipas feel like a bigger target for an Empire whose European conquests had dried up, but whose need for new revenues had not. However, I'm trying to be thorough and cautious. To what degree can I reasonably suggest that Antipas must have lived constantly with these concerns? And how strongly would these things have motivated Herod Antipas to make his inevitable entreaty to Sejanus in the late 20's? Finally, how much can the situation (as just given) be viewed as evidence in support of personal conclusion that Antipas DID in fact make that purported alliance with Sejanus (even if it wasn't a plot to kill Tiberius, as Josephus tells us Agrippa later claimed)?

So - for starters - it all boils back to Geography. How does Galilee really compare with Emesa? Or with Cappadocia? And what about the tetrarchy of Abilene? Not that it's easy to reconstruct tetrarchial Abilene with much certainty, but the timing and geography suggests it's dissolution was part of the territorial dispute between Damascus and Sidon. (Before or in 32 AD.) And what can we surmise about Antipas' view of the Decapolis cities? Mainly, what really made Galilee different, if anything, from those other pocket regions within the Roman Near East?

For one thing, I'm finally reading ALL the way through Fergus Millar's The Roman Near East 31 BC - AD 337. And I'm finally digesting the whole region, including cities I never once cared to know this much about. The cities of the Phoenician coast, Lebanon and the Decapolis had their own history in the region and their own relationships with Rome. The client kingdoms of Arabia and Anatolia had their own ways of trying to maintain imperial favor. And meanwhile, Herod Antipas was really just ONE of those client rulers. Galilee was just ONE of those pocket regions. He didn't only compare himself with his brothers in Judea and Trachonitis (like we often do).

Antipas must have naturally compared himself with other client rulers and city-regions. Right?

Human beings learn how to behave by watching others. The desire to stay independent made Herod Antipas just like all the other Middle Eastern rulers in that era. So I expect he had his eyes on them, to see how they were keeping up. And I expect to learn more (by looking at them all) about all of these questions.

Galilee was one of the regions Rome would eventually want direct control of in the Middle East.... and even if they wouldn't *start* "a land war in Asia" in order to get it, I still figure Antipas had to know what was coming. I intend to show that his goal was to prevent it... just like his father Herod the Great successfully prevented it... and that even up to the moment his career ended, in 39 AD, Herod Antipas thought he was still succeeding.

I think the basic view here is simple and obvious, but I'm trying to NOT be overly simplistic about it. And I'm trying to be thorough. As always, any help would be appreciated...

Top 50 Bibliobloggers Team Results

Warning: Humor is rare on this blog. The following post is supposed to contain a little. Here goes...

This very day, on All-Saints Day, 2008, the 63% Good Bishop N.T. Wrong told us the results of a Blog-race we didn't know we were having! Teams were set according to Bishop Wrong's homemade Liberal/Conservative classifications and the "runners" finished in order of our Alexia ranking for unique blog visitors in October. Individual results and links have been posted. (Yours truly managed to come in 49th.)

Here are the team results:

The "Fairly Conservative" team dominated the race with 23 Bloggers out of 50. Their top five, Mark Goodacre (#3), Jim West (#6), Claude Mariottini (#7), "Bibbiablog guys" (#8), and Michael S. Heiser (#10) scored a very impressive 34 points. (Remember, in team racing, the low score wins!)

The "Liberal" team was a distant second with 54 points, but scored impressively pound for pound. With only six runners in the 50 Blog race, their top five all placed in the top 20! James McGrath (#1), Airton Jose da Silva (#5), Jim Davila (#11), Phil Harland (#18), and Iyov (#19) each contributed to earning their hard fought "first loser" status.

Third place went to the "Very Conservative" team (on which I placed, but did not score). Managing a respectable 90 points with ten runners, the "VC" were led by their top five of Ben Witherington (#4), Nick Norelli (#13), the Ev.Text.Crit. team (#22), Rod Decker (#23) and Jin Yang Kim (#28). Seriously, how did I get put with these losers!?! ;)

Finally, in a dramatic tie for third, the "Very Liberal" team also scored 90 points, led by the Guild of Biblical Minimalists (#9), N.T. Wrong (#14), James Crossley (#16), Antonio Lombatti (#17) and Roland Boer (#34). But the Very Liberals beat the Very Conservatives pound for pound, with only seven runners on their team in the top 50.

There was almost controversy when the British judge tried to have the Guild disqualified for keeping a "Fairly Conservative" Blogger as their C.E.O. But when the Bishop pointed out that their C.E.O. was our Godfather, we all kissed his ring and genuflected, leaving him to congratulate his fellow Liberals - er, I mean Minimalists. ;)

In other Top 50 Race news, crowds wondered why nearly half the 50 runners were "Fairly Conservative". Scot McKnight (#2) qualified as an independent runner for being unlabled in the directory. And David Ashford (#27) was unable to help any team as the lone "Conservative Liberal" in today's race. Amazing! Somehow, the qualifiers kept him from joining any of the Conservative or Liberal teams. Poor David was seen after the race comiserating with a used Jack O'Lantern.

After the race festivities included a tour through the 35th Monthly Biblical Studies Carnival, courtesy of Duane Smith.

Bibliobloggers take your mark! November's "cross country race" has just begun! :)