Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Peril of Modernizing Jesus 3: The California Jesus strikes back!

One should note the recent books by William Arnal, The Symbolic Jesus: Historical Scholarship, Judaism and the Construction of Contemporary Identity (London: Equinox, 2005); and John Kloppenborg and John Marshall, eds., Apocalypticism, Anti-Semitism, and the Historical Jesus: Subtexts in Criticism (JSNTSup 275; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2004) that attempt to exonerate proponents of the Jesus Seminar/Q-Thomas/Cynic-Jesus mould from claims that their studies are liberal agenda driven and anti-Jewish.

To give their due: I think these books demonstrate two things.

First, Crossan, Funk, Mack et. al. are not anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic. For instance in the case of Crossan his book Who Killed Jesus? Exposing the Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Gospel Story of the Death of Jesus (San Francisco: Harper, 1996) is very much post-Holocaust sensitive. Furthermore, his collaborative project with Jonathan Reed (Excavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts [San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2001]) pays far more attention to Jesus’ Jewish environment.

Second, they teach us: ‘Let he who is without theological agenda write the first book review’. We should all be very careful before speculating as to the motives and agendas of other authors, lest our own motives be interrogated!

However, despite these impassioned apologies for the Jesus Seminer/Q-Thomas/Cynic-Jesus guild, I think two criticism stick:

(1) These authors do consciously de-Judaize Jesus. By ‘de-Judaizing’ I do not mean ‘anti-Jewish’ or completely ‘un-Jewish’. De-alcoholized wine still retains a small measure of alcohol, but not enough to impact the drinker. Thus by ‘de-Judaizing’ I mean the act of moving Jesus’ Jewishness to the periphery or else negating its effect by blanketing it with a Hellenistic overlay.

Consider this quote: Mack (Myth of Innocence, 73) writes: ‘The Cynic analogy repositions the historical Jesus away from a specifically Jewish sectarian milieu and toward the Hellenistic ethos known to have prevailed in Galilee.’ It doesn’t get much plainer than that!

Also, (2) the non-eschatological Jesus is a strangely convenient icon for the liberal-left in the US. Alas, nothing is new, let us heed the words of Henry Cadbury (The Peril of Modernizing Jesus, 26): ‘Thus the apocalyptic element in the gospels has been frequently laid almost exclusively to the account of the evangelists, not because there is any real evidence that Jesus also did not share it, but mainly because it is uncongenial to the present day critic.’

In Apocalypticism the essays by Kloppenborg and Arnal endeavor to show that the shoe is on the other foot and that theological agendas are discernible amongst those who advocate an eschatological and Jewish approach to Jesus. Kloppenborg states that apocalypticism is invoked to provide the ‘conceptual work’ for constructions of the historical Jesus grounded on ‘finality, ultimacy, uniqueness and Christology’ (pp. 20-21). Arnal posits a correspondence between the Jewish Jesus and a subtextual defense of traditional Christianity (pp. 46-47). But that door swings both ways since it may be distaste for the uniqueness or finality of Jesus that leads to a rejection of eschatology and a dislike for traditional Christianity that requires a rejection of Judaism as a framework for Jesus studies. Additionally, there is a wide cross-section of scholars who locate Jesus in a Jewish and eschatological matrix including Jewish scholars (Vermes, Fredriksen), liberal protestants (Sanders), evangelicals (Wright, Evans, McKnight, Twelftree) and Germans (Hengel, Holmén). Yet the Jesus Seminar/Q-Thomas/Cynic-Jesus guild appears to radiate (as far as I can see) from a certain strand of North American liberal scholarship. Until a broader constituency of adherents to the Jesus Seminar/Q-Thomas/Cynic-Jesus view is found, such scholars shall have to suffer the perceived suspicion that their approach is a Trojan horse carrying liberal social, political and cultural agendas. They have made their exegetical bed and now they shall have to sleep in it!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Yeshua is my Yoda

What? I got that quirky line from a rapper named, get this, 50 Shekels! He is ‘the world’s most kosher MC’. His real name is Aviad Cohen. He has an interesting story. Originally he was the Jewish youth’s poster boy. He tried different brands of Judaism (Reform, Progressive, Orthodox etc) but became disenchanted with them. He would ask rabbis about Jesus but got told not to mention that name. Eventually, he went out and bought a copy of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and through it he became a believer in Jesus and I think he has hooked up with the Jews-for-Jesus group. He now sings about Jesus the Messiah. His testimony is a cracking read – I recommend it. Go to the ‘Jewk-box’ on the same website and listen to his reading of Psalm 140 with its powerful and dramatic musical accompaniment.

Go listen to it now! If he had an Australian distributor I’d buy his CDs – maybe when I’m in Scotland.

Lecturer in Studies in Religion at University of Sydney

POSITION: Lecturer in Studies in Religion
DEPARTMENT: School of English, Art History, Film and Media
TYPE: Academic
AVAILABILITY: Internal & External
REF NO: B25/006067

Applications are invited for a Lecturer in Studies in Religion, in the School of English, Art History, Film and Media.

The successful applicant will be required to teach undergraduate and postgraduate units of study, to conduct research and to supervise postgraduate students in the area of contemporary religion, with reference to popular culture and to the Australian and regional context. Essential criteria include a PhD in Studies in Religion; tertiary-level teaching and lecturing experience; proven research ability relative to opportunity and evidence of further research potential. Desirable attributes include administrative experience, professional experience such as membership of national or international bodies in a relevant field, evidence of potential for future development, and evidence of ability to work cooperatively with others.

The position is full-time fixed term for three years, subject to the completion of a satisfactory probation for new appointees. Membership of a University approved superannuation scheme is a condition of employment for new appointees.
For further information, contact the Head of School, Associate Professor Adrian Mitchell on (02) 9351 2208 or e-mail at
Remuneration Package: $75,136 - $89,223 p.a. (which includes a base salary Lecturer Level B $63,491 - $75,395 p.a., leave loading and up to 17% employers contribution to superannuation)

The Peril of Modernizing Jesus 2. The Big Tent Revival Jesus

Evangelicals have not been immune from the temptation to construct a Jesus in their own image. The Jesus I was nurtured on as a young believer was more of a theological symbol for atonement theology than a historical person with a historical message. What was really important was that Jesus had a sin-less birth and died a sin-bearing death – his ministry was merely for the purpose of getting ready for Calvary. Resultantly, the Jesus sometimes espoused in the evangelical tradition often looks like a travelling evangelist who proclaims his deity, announces his intent to die for sins, proffers some stringent moral advice for the interim, and bids himself adieu as he moves on to the next crusade. I awoke from my dogmatic and pietistic slumbers when I read Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God p. 14!!! At this point I left the ‘Matrix’ and entered into a wonderful and exciting world of Gospel and historical-Jesus studies that I have found far more enriching, invigorating, refreshing, and challenging than any of the caricatures of the ‘Big Tent Revival Jesus’ (BTRJ).

However, the BTRJ model persists. As much as I like Robert Stein’s books (esp. his Luke commentary and monograph on the Synoptic Problem) I think he produces a quote indicative of the BTRJ:

Whereas Israel longed for the coming of the Messiah to restore its political fortunes and free it from its enemies, Jesus saw Israel’s need differently. What Israel needed was the once-and-for-all sacrifice that would solve the deeper and more important need of its relationship with God. How could human forgiveness be achieved? And how could the righteous standing before God resulting from this forgiveness be lived out in daily life? Jesus saw that this was the greatest need facing the people of Israel. As a result, he understood his messianic mission as bringing about the new covenant promised by the prophets through the sacrificial offering of himself. With this would come the answer to Israel’s and humanity’s greatest need – forgiveness, which allowed sinful people to have fellowship with a holy God (Jesus the Messiah, 151-52).

What's wrong here:

(1) Stein eclipses the significance of Jesus’ mission to Israel (cf. Mk. 7.27; Mt. 10.5b-6; 15.24; 19.28) by perceiving Jesus’ vocation as being principally to create the conditions necessary for universal atonement. I would regard the prediction of Jesus’ suffering and vindication as authentic, but on this view Jesus’ ministry is abstracted from the social and political climate of first century Palestine and from the hopes of the Jewish people. Jesus’ announcement of a ‘gospel’ (or more likely its Hebrew or Aramaic equivalent bsr) has as its background the programmatic announcement that the day of national restoration is dawning (Is. 40:9-11; 41:26-27; 52:7-10; 61:1; Pss. Sol. 11:1-4) which means a new exodus, a regathering of the twelve tribes, a righteous Davidic king, judgment for those who oppress the Jewish nation, vindication for Israel, and a new covenant etc. The death of Jesus must be coordinate with his mission of national restoration or else the mission to Israel is reduced to a salvation-historical bottleneck that must be somehow traversed before the real mission of going to the cross can follow.

(2) Stein moves too quickly to atemporal theological categories. Stein is quick to point out the universal significance of Jesus’ death as making available the reconciliation of humanity to God. Theologically speaking the notion is entirely legitimate, I do not dispute it, but Stein bypasses the vehicle which brings it. According to Paul, Luke, Matthew and John, the inclusion of the Gentiles and the prospect of eternal life are possible only via the story of Jesus as the fulfillment of the story of Israel. In the end it is a transformed Israel that transforms the world.

(3) I think there are two bad implications of this view. (a). It reduces Christology to Soteriology. (b) It contributes to the evangelical bias of privileging those portions of Scripture which speaks of salvation as the deliverance of souls from eternal judgment when in fact the word sozō most frequently denotes escape from death (see Marshall, Luke, 245).

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Praying the New Testament

I often feel that Christians need to capture the language and grammar of the NT in their prayer life. Not for the purpose of impressing others with the number of Bible quotes you can fit into your prayers. Rather, we should allow the rich and vibrant language of the NT to shape the most intimate aspects of our prayers offered up to God. Let me give two examples:

1. A godly lady at my church drew up a prayer card using Paul's language from Ephesians. It is an interesting exercise to look at the things that Paul prays for:

That God will give us the spirit of wisdom and revleation in the knowledge of Him.

That we would know the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe.

That God would grant us according to the riches of his glory to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in our inner-being.

And so on. I keep the card in my office on my desk and during the day I try to pray through Ephesians!

2. A second thing I do is use Revelation 1.5 as a concluding benediction in prayer time with my daughter Alexis (5 yrs old). We always finish our prayers together with the words:

"And we pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ - the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth."

Not only a prayer couched in biblical language but also (I hope)enriching her understanding of who Jesus is!

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Peril of Modernizing Jesus 1: The California Jesus

Several scholars have cast Jesus in the mould of an egalitarian Jewish peasant who stands in proximity to the tendencies of Cynic philosophy. Cynicism was a movement in the Greco-Roman world deriving principally from Diogenes of Sinope (fourth century BC). Cynics were typified by a simple and counter-cultural lifestyle which emphasized minimal possessions, freedom, living according to nature, itinerant movements, and renunciation of social norms. These scholars also emphasize a distinct lack of apocalyptic eschatology in Jesus’ teaching and stress the Hellenistic background to the sayings of the Jesus tradition. What is wrong with this picture?

(1) The assumption upon which the hypothesis depends is that Galilee was largely hellenized and urbanized. However, recent archaeological and literary studies have tended to emphasize the Jewish nature of Galilee and the type of urbanization and hellenization associated with a Cynic presence in Galilee is entirely absent. Jonathan Reed comments: ‘In this context it should be stressed that lacking a substantial component of gentile inhabitants, having only two Jewish cities in their infancy of Hellenization, and lacking much evidence for interregional trade, notions of Cynic itinerants influencing Jesus or his first followers makes little sense. Though the scholarly comparison of Jesus’ teaching with that of Cynicism merits attention as an analogy, any genealogical relationship between Jesus and Cynics is highly unlikely.’ (Archaeology and the Galilean Jesus, 218).

(2) Several advocates fail to emphasize the differences between Jesus and Cynicism. There are no references to Jesus or his followers committing acts that Cynics were infamous for such as defecating, masterbating or copulating in the streets. The Cynics were largely an urban phenomenon, whereas Jesus focused on rural areas.

(3) Much of the Cynic thesis depends on the work of John Kloppenborg who stratifies Q into an earlier sapiential (Q1) and a later prophetic layer (Q2). The earliest edition of Q was supposedly a Cynic-like document with prophetic and apocalyptic accretions added later. But to assume that one can use the manuscripts of Matthew and Luke to discriminate between composition and redaction in Q is sheer make-believe. Does anyone think that they can use the text of Luke and Matthew to determine pre-Marcan redaction of Mark?

(4) There is also a strong methological objection to the Cynic approach. Although historical reconstruction is highly indebted to studies in background and environment one must avoid what Samuel Sandmel called ‘parallelomania’. Analogy does not prove genealogy. Philo quotes the Cynic tradition extensively, but this does not necessarily make him a Cynic.

This ‘Cynic Jesus’ may be a convenient icon in an anti-Reagan or anti-Bush rally, but it comes at a price, that is, it is historically suspect. John P. Meier writes: ‘A completely un-eschatological Jesus, a Jesus totally shorn of all apocalyptic traits, is simply not the historical Jesus, however compatible he might be to modern tastes, at least in middle-class American academia.’ (A Marginal Jew, 2:317). On a sardonic note, Richard Burridge declares that the Jesus Seminar, ‘has produced a Jesus who is not Jewish in his teaching, but more like a Greek wisdom teacher or philosopher, and he’s against sexism, imperialism and all the oppressiveness of the Roman empire. In other words, he’s a Californian’. (Jesus Now and Then, 32). Gerd Theissen is similar: ‘The “non-eschatological Jesus” seems to have more Californian than Galilean local colouring.’ (The Historical Jesus, 11).

Latest RBL

Pate C. Marvin, J. Scott Duvall, J. Daniel Hays, E. Randolph Richards, W. Dennis
Tucker, and Preben Vang
The Story of Israel: A Biblical Theology
Reviewed by Brian Jones


Kratz, Reinhard Gregor
Das Judentum im Zeitalter des Zweiten Temples
Reviewed by Lester Grabbe


Hultgren, Stephen
Narrative Elements in the Double Tradition: A Study of Their Place within the
Framework of the Gospel Narrative
Reviewed by Matthew C. Baldwin

Penner, Todd
In Praise of Christian Origins: Stephen and the Hellenists in Lukan Apologetic
Reviewed by William Malas

Penner, Todd
In Praise of Christian Origins: Stephen and the Hellenists in Lukan Apologetic
Reviewed by Torrey Seland


Marshall, I. Howard
Beyond the Bible: Moving from Scripture to Theology
Reviewed by John William Vest

Sugirtharajah, Rasiah S.
The Bible and the Third World: Precolonial, Colonial and Postcolonial Encounters
Reviewed by Bonnie Roos


Lopez, David A.
Separatist Christianity: Spirit and Matter in the Early Church Fathers
Reviewed by Shawn Keough

Lopez, David A.
Separatist Christianity: Spirit and Matter in the Early Church Fathers
Reviewed by Mark Weedman

Milavec, Aaron
The Didache: Faith, Hope, and Life of the Earliest Christian Communities, 50-70
C. E.
Reviewed by Mark Bredin

Milavec, Aaron
The Didache: Faith, Hope, and Life of the Earliest Christian Communities, 50-70
C. E.
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

Osburn, Carroll D.
The Text of Apostolos in Epiphanius of Salamis
Reviewed by Tommy Wasserman

Osburn, Carroll D.
The Text of Apostolos in Epiphanius of Salamis
Reviewed by Peter Williams

Comments: I've already read Marshall's book and it is well worth checking out.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

A Sunday in Reformed Scotland

As an undergrad my Church History lecturer gave us this amusing hand-out on the Scottish Reformation (it is from M. Galli et. al., "Sunday in Reformed Scotland" Church History.

Worship in post-1560 Scotland was radically simplified. About a half-hour before Sunday worship, a bell rang warning the town of the beginning of worship (why people needed to be warned will be seen in a minute).
With a second bell, the reader's service began: the lay leader reader the Scriptures and some prayers and led the congregation in singing metrical psalms. This part of the service lasted an hour and closed with the ringing of a third bell. The minister then entered the pulpit. A Psalm was sung between prayers and then came the sermon, followed by more prayers, the Creed, and the benediction.
This was the first of two Sunday services. The second service was usually held in the afternoon and was largely devoted to teaching from a catechism - that of Calvin or Heidelberg or a catechism for children. Eventually, the service became known as the "Catechisms" and was required to be held in every church.
The Scottish reformers laid great emphasis upon faithful attendance at both of these Sunday Services. At Aberdeen, for example, the town council insisted that all city officials, their families, and their servants attend worship. Beginning in 1598, fines were imposed on those who missed services, husbands being responsible for their wives, and masters for their servants.
Other towns used other methods to honour the day. At Glasgow, a piper was threatened with excommunication if he played between sunrise and sunset on Sunday [this I agree with :) - MB]. At St. Andrews, five men were imprisoned for three hours for missing the sermon.
Another problem was members' rushing out of church before the benediction. At some churches, therefore, a fine was imposed for leaving early; at others, guards were simply posted at the doors. Today such measures seem harsh. But to the reformers, the work was an all-or-nothing proposition. Nothing less than the reform of every Scot was their goal.

This make me curious of what worship will be like at Dingwall Baptist Church (near Inverness in Scotland) when I move over there in a month or so!

Friday, June 24, 2005

New Book Purchase

I finally took the plunge and picked up Wright’s commentary on Romans in the New Interpreter’s Bible series. It was originally selling for $115 (AusD) but I got it on sale for $85. My ‘justification’ (not in the sense of covenant membership but legitimization and/or rationale) for the purchase was that I’m teaching a course on Romans in the future and I don’t have too many Acts commentaries and the one by Robert Wall that comes with it looks okay. Of course, it was so expensive that I remain too scared to take it out of the plastic wrapping.

In this Christian bookstore another thought dawned on me. Why is it so, when guys like me have kids who own nearly the entire Veggie Tales DVD collection and I get conned into buying tacky merchandise like Bob the Tomato colouring-in pens, that the Big Idea dudes still manage to go bankrupt?

Back to Wright. Within the Reformed camp Wright invokes fierce debate. Some on the left see him as a hermeneutical Messiah, and others on the right think only a Sith Lord would say something good about N.T. Wright. That opens up the question of the whole New Perspective debate! Maybe later?

Musings on the New Perspective on Paul

1. Was Judaism Legalistic?

No. I think Sanders has destroyed the caricature of Judaism as an external religion of ritual or one characterized by ethical rigorism. However, studies by Gathercole, Eskola, Carson et. al, and Hamilton have shown that for some Jews Law observance could serve as both a community marker and also the basis for vindication at the eschaton. I think that within second-temple Judaism there were diverse approaches to the Law regarding its social and soteriological application.

2. Is Paul confronting legalism or ethnocentrism?

In my mind – both. The biggest issue that Paul encountered in Galatians and Romans was not resisting legalism, but trying to get Gentile Christians accepted as Gentiles by Jewish Christians into fellowship as equals. However, I feel that in passages like Rom. 4.4-5 and Phil. 3.7-9 (cf. Acts 15.1-5) that Paul does negate the possibility that divine vindication is achieved on the basis of expressing one’s Jewishness through performance of the Law. Paul’s criticism of the Law can be for either ethnocentric or nomistic reasons.

3. Is justification about covenant membership?

No . . . But!

No. I don’t think justification can be reduced to covenant membership because:

(a) From a lexical standpoint the dik- word group doesn’t mean covenant membership. You won’t find any such connotation in BDAG, LSJ or MM.
(b) I think the NPP confuses the context of Paul’s arguments about justification (Jew and Gentile relationships) with its content.
(c) Justification is fundamentally a vertical category esp. in Romans 5 and James 2.
(d) Against Wright in particular I would say:
i. He gives the impression of reducing justification to an analytic judgment based on regeneration.
ii. He runs the risk of subsuming sanctification under justification. Especially when he says that the final verdict is made ‘on the basis of an entire life’. Makes me edgy depending on what he means (works; perseverance, faithfulness?).
iii. The problem with Wright is pinning him down. His article on ‘justification’ in New Bible Dictionary is fine by me. However, I detect a change in Climax of the Covenant and What Saint Paul Really Said that really reduces justification to an ecclesiological doctrine. Then again, his recent works on “The Shape of Justification” in Bible Review, “Justification and New Perspectives” from the Edinburgh Dogmatics Conference, and his “Romans” commentary in NIB, strike me as reaching a defensible balance between the forensic and covenantal dimensions of justification.

But. Dunn and Wright are in the right zone!

(a) Paul is not attacking an abstract and atemporal merit theology. Paul is not trying to answer the question: “What must I do to be saved?” Instead, I think the fundamental issue with him and Judaism is: “Who are the people of God and in what economy will they be vindicated by God?” [Wright sometimes thinks justification is only about the first half of this question].
(b) Justification is covenantal insofar as it is the nexus through which we enter the messianic cosmopolitan community.
(c) As I argue in my forthcoming TynBul piece: in justification God creates a new people, with a new status, in a new covenant, as a foretaste of the new age.
(d) Wright and Dunn do not appear to be semi-pelagian legalists. They emphasize the necessity of divine grace (not in a synergistic sense) and the sense of assurance believers can have facing the final judgment. Neither of them are Tridentine: “If any man say he be justified apart from works of charity let him be anathema.”
(e) Justification means the end of all boasting – personal and national.
(f) I would identify myself with other scholars who are unconvinced, yet highly sympathetic to the NPP (e.g. Tom Holland, Frank Thielman, Tim Chester).

Stuff I’ve written or got coming out includes:

“Incorporated Righteousness: A Response to Recent Evangelical Discussion Concerning the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness in Justification.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 47.2 (2004): 253-75.
“When the Dust Finally Settles: Reaching a Post-New Perspective Perspective.” Criswell Theological Review (Spring 2005).
“Justification as Forensic Declaration and Covenant Inclusion: A Via Media Between Revisionist and Reformed Readings of Paul.” Tyndale Bulletin (2005/6)
“The New Perspective on Paul: An Annotated Bibliography.” On-line article published at The Paul Page: Dedicated to the New Perspective on Paul. Webmaster Mark M. Mattison.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Latest JBL Issue

The new Journal of Biblical Literature has been posted to the web site:

Current Issue: 124.2, Summer 2005

Articles in the current issue:

Exodus 31:12–17: The Sabbath according to H, or the Sabbath according to P and H?

The Ambidextrous Angel (Daniel 12:7 and Deuteronomy 32:40): Inner-biblical Exegesis and Textual Criticism in Counterpoint

On the Dating of Hebrew Sound Changes H > H and G > and Greek Translations (2 Esdras and Judith)

Defending the “Western Non-Interpolations”: The Case for an Anti-Separationist Tendenz in the Longer Alexandrian Readings

The Character of the Lame Man in Acts 3–4

1 Corinthians 11:3–16: Spirit Possession and Authority in a Non-Pauline Interpolation

The Last Battle of Hadadezer

The God of Covenant

Jamie Grant and Alister Wilson (my future colleague and predecessor!) have edited a cracking book on the theme of covenant in biblical theology.

The reference is: Jamie A. Grant and Alistair I. Wilson, The God of Covenant: Biblical, theological and contemporary perspectives (Leicester: Apollos, 2005).

Highlights for me include Christopher Wright’s essay on covenant and mission in the OT and Kim Huat Tan’s piece that sketches an implicit covenant theology in Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom and the Last Supper traditions. Andrew McGowan makes an interesting proposal of a ‘messianic administration’ that serves as a better background for 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5 than appealing directly to a covenant of grace. Finally, I enjoyed Colin Chapman’s essay on the politics and theology pertaining to the land of Israel.
An excellent introduction not only for covenant theology, but also a great model of how to do biblical theology!

A Continuing Exile?

What can be made of Wright’s view that most Jews considered themselves to still be in exile despite the resettlement of Palestine? It is one of those things which I think is, ‘Well . . . yes and no’. On the one hand Wright is clearly correct to note that the grandiose promises of Isaiah 40-66 concerning the end of the exile were not completely fulfilled by the first century A.D. Moreover, end-of-exile like language does occur in the NT e.g. Mt. 8.11-12. But I submit that the theme of a continuing exile is not a meta-narrative but merely one metaphor of many that attempts to articulate in biblical language the fact that the hopes of restoration had only been partially realized. There were other metaphors that could signify the same point, e.g. hope for a new exodus, new conquest, quest for freedom, etc.

The lack of fulfilment of the biblical promises is underscored by an excellent quote from Joseph Klausner:

But what was the actual fact? Slavery to foreign governments, wars, tumults and torrents of blood. Instead of all nations being subject to Judah, Judah was subject to the nations. Instead of the “riches of the Gentiles,” godless Rome exacted taxes and tribute … Instead of the Gentiles “bowing down with their faces to the ground” and “licking the dust of their feet,” comes a petty Roman official with unlimited power of Judea. Instead of Messiah the son of David, comes Herod the Edomite (Jesus of Nazareth [trans. Herbert Danby; London: Allen & Unwin, 1969], 169-170)

If any budding researchers want an interim bibliography, see:

Bryan, Steven M. 2002. Jesus and Israel’s Traditions of Judgment and Restoration. SNTS 117; Cambridge: CUP. 12-20.
Dowing, F. G. 2000. ‘Exile in Formative Judaism.’ In Making Sense in (and of) the First Christian Century. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press. 148-68.
Evans, Craig A. 1997. ‘Aspects of Exile and Restoration in the Proclamation of Jesus and the Gospels.’ In Jesus in Context: Temple, Purity, and Restoration. Edited by Bruce Chilton and Craig A. Evans. AGAJU 39; Leiden: Brill. 263-93.
Garnet, Paul. 1977. Salvation and Atonement in the Qumran Scrolls. WUNT 2.3; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck.
__________. 1980a. ‘Jesus and the Exilic Soteriology.’ In Studia Biblica 1978. Sheffield: JSOT. 111-14.
__________. 1980b. ‘Qumran Light on Pauline Soteriology.’ In Pauline Studies: Essays Presented to F.F. Bruce on His 70th Birthday. Edited by Donald A. Hagner & Murray J. Harris. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. 19-32.
Jones, Ivor H. 2001. ‘Disputed Questions in Biblical Studies 4. Exile and Eschatology.’ ExpT 112.12: 401-5.
Knibb, Mark A. 1976. ‘The Exile in the Literature of the Intertestamental Period.’ HeyJ 17: 253-72.
____________. 1983. ‘Exile in the Damascus Document.’ JSOT 25: 99-117.
Scott, James M. Editor. 1997. Exile: Old Testament, Jewish and Christian Conceptions. JSJSup 56; Leiden: Brill.
Wright, N. T. 1992. The New Testament and the People of God. COQG; Minneapolis: Fortress. 268-72.
__________­. 1996. Jesus and the Victory of God. COQG 2; Great Britain: SPCK. xviii.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Review of Biblical Literture Latest

See below the following titles on offer from RBL. Notice the one on Tom Holland by yours truly.

I didn't mind Hollands book, he makes a reasonable case for a corporate interpretation of Paul's soteriology, but frequently his arguments are embellished with some unnecessary remarks, especially his acute disdain for the pseudepigrapha.

Lecturer in Christian Studies at Bristol University

See the link for yourself:

Department of Theology and Religious Studies

Based in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, you will become an active participant in the Department's Centre for Christianity and Culture. Any field of Christian studies will be considered, although preference may be given to those working within Christian-Jewish relations, philosophy of religion, or/and ethics. You should have an excellent publication record and you will be expected to teach at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Imperial Cult and the New Testament

The latest issue of JSNT (27.3 [2005]: 251-376) is dedicated to the NT and the Imperial Cult. Articles include:

David G. Horrell - "Introduction"

James S. McLaren - "Jews and the Imperial Cult: From Augustus to Domitian"

C. Kavin Rowe - "Luke-Acts and the Imperial Cult: A Way Through the Conundrum?"

Peter Oakes - "Re-mapping the Universe: Paul and the Emperor in 1 Thessalonians and Philippians"

Harry O. Maier - "A Sly Civility: Colossians and Empire"

Steven J. Friesen - "Satan's Throne, Imperial Cults and the Social Setting of Revelation"

I detect that the Imperial Cult is becoming increasingly prevalent in NT studies (esp. Pauline research). Richard Horsley and John Dominic Crossan have worked on studies about Paul over and against the claims of the Roman Empire. N.T. Wright and his "Fresh Perspective on Paul" has tried to emphasize the counter-imperial nature of Paul's gospel. However, I was just starting to get the impression that maybe people were pushing this thing just a little too far and finding it anywhere and every where - however, the recent JSNT volume is a pretty sober and balanced approach to the topic.

Probably the best introduction to the topic I have come across is from J.R. Harrison (an Aussie!) in his article: "Paul and the imperial gospel at Thessaloniki," 25.1 JSNT (2002): 71-96.

Jesus is, as Kasemann once said [I think], Cosmocrator!

Dickson on the euangel- word group in Paul

Given that this blog is specifically named euangelion it makes sense to mention works that touch upon the meaning and function of the word in early Christianity and the wider Greco-Roman world. John P. Dickson (excellent Aussie author who writes on everything from world-religions to mission-commitment in the Pauline communities) has written an interesting aritcle on the meaning of the euangel- root in Paul. The reference is:

John P. Dickson, "Gospel as News: euangel- from Aristophanes to the Apostle Paul," NTS 51.2 (2005): 212-30.

The abstract is:

Against the contentions of a number of NT scholars, the present article aims to demonstrate that the apostle Paul's gospel language never refers to ongoing Chrisitan instruction and only ever connotes announcements which are news to those who hear them. This conclusion, which is maintained even in connection with Rom. 1.15, a key text for the 'broad-ranging' view of euangel-, is shown to conform to the wholly consistent usage of gospel terminology throughout Graeco-Roman, Jewish and early Christian literature: 'gospel' is news.

Current Projects

These days my reserach projects include:

1.Ph.D Thesis. Why did the Gentile mission begin? Why did it take on the shape and character that it did? And how does that relate to the aims and intentions of the historical Jesus? For a snap shot of what I’m doing see the next issue of Currents in Biblical Research on “Jesus and the Gentiles since Jeremias: Problems and Prospects”.

2. Jesus Tradition. When I started my Ph.D thesis I had to ask whether the Gospels are interested in preserving information about the historical Jesus? My conclusion, with qualification, is that they are. My research on this topic is disseminated in two forthcoming articles in Bulletin of Biblical Research and Westminster Theological Journal.

3. Mt. 8.11-12. This verse is ordinarily cited as proof that Jesus believed that the Gentiles would be included in the kingdom. However, the parallel passage in Lk. 13.28-29 does not occur in a context analogous to Matthew’s setting with the centurion. Thus, some think the logion originally referred to the regathering of the Diaspora (esp. Dale C. Allison). I argue that Mt. 8.11-12 is put in the Gentile context by Matthew but the reference to Abraham and the inter-textual echoes of ‘east and west’ do imply that Gentiles will participate in the kingdom.

4. Criterion of Greek language. As much as I like Stanley Porter, I really don’t think he has come up with a new criterion for authenticity. Porter has proposed a purported new criterion that endeavours to uncover the Greek words of Jesus in the Gospel texts. I’m writing an article where I try to point out (graciously) the problems with this criterion.

5. The Peril of Modernizing Jesus. I intend to critique two strands of Jesus research, viz., the ‘California Jesus’ and the ‘Big Tent Revival Jesus’ and look at a more balanced approach to pursuing historical Jesus studies without falling into the perils of modernizing.

6. Third Quest. Is There Really a Third Quest for the Historical Jesus? Despite the criticisms of several scholars (e.g. Porter, Allison, Brown etc) I want to argue that Wright’s taxonomy of Jesus research is valid and there really is, amidst all the muck, a distinguishable branch of scholarship that is appropriately labelled the ‘Third Quest’ for the historical Jesus.

For those interested, that is what I'm working on these days.

To Blog or not to Blog?

Let us commence with a definition:

‘Blogging’. From the Greek word blogoō meaning to publish highly opinionated and sometimes dubious information. The publishing of information in electronic media by some twit with an opinion and a computer.

Why blog? Well, I fit the definition. But there are other reasons too:

1. Peer pressure. Everyone else is doing it.
2. Therapy. It is good for one’s mental fitness and sanity to muse aloud (or on-line) in order to clarify and mull over one's own thoughts.
3. Publish. It is a good resource for friends, students, and net-surfers who may actually learn something, be encouraged or be challenged by something that you have to say.
4. Philosophical. If I may butcher the words of Descartes: “I blog . . . therefore, I am!” Blogging gives us a new existence in cyberspace, a voice in the electronic wilderness, and a light to shine in the darkness of ignorance which we would not otherwise have.
5. Doxological. I intend to blog unto the glory of God.