Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Terence Donaldson on Matthew

Here is a few quotes from an essay on Matthean Christology by Terence L. Donaldson, ‘The Vindicated Son: A Narrative Approach to Matthean Christology,’ in Contours of Christology in the New Testament, ed. Richard N. Longenecker (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005), 100-21.

‘The narrative of any one of the Gospels is not merely a convenient receptacle for that Gospel’s christology, something that might be discarded once the christological contents have been extracted from it. Rather, christology is narratively constituted.’ (p. 105).

‘Matthew, therefore, presents Jesus as one who in his experience recapitulates the story of Israel. Like Israel of old, Jesus has been called by God out of Egypt to a life of humble obedience; like Israel, this calling was put to the test in the wilderness. The hope of the story is that, unlike Israel, Jesus will remain faithful where Israel was disobedient.’ (p. 116).

‘At the end of the story the tension is fully resolved. Jesus’ apparent defeat turns out to be his victory. Precisely because he followed the path of humble obedience to the end, refusing to use the power at his disposal to extricate himself from the consequences of his obedience (e.g., 26:53-54), Jesus is vindicated in resurrection and endowed with “all authority in heaven and on earth” (28:18). Sovereignty is won through suffering. It is precisely his faithfulness as the humble, obedient Son that makes possible in the divine scheme of things, his exaltation as the royal, sovereign Son. And as Son, who shares a name with the Father and the Holy Spirit, he is the teacher and baptismal means of identity for a new people drawn not only from Israel but from all nations (28:19-20). (p. 120).

Monday, February 27, 2006

NT Theology I: Religious Experience

An interesting point made by L.T. Johnson and Ben Witherington is that the centre of unifying threat of the New Testament is not any one doctrine, but rather it is a shared and common experience amongst believers. Witherington writes:

What we are dealing with here is a group of people who had had profound religious experiences that they interpreted as encounters with the living Lord – that is, with Jesus the Christ. To be sure, some of their leaders, such as Paul or the author of Hebrews or the Beloved Disciple, could match wits with many of the great minds of their age. But it was their religious experiences with Christ that they had in common. And it was their communities of worship and fellowship, which came into being because of those experiences, that provided the matrix for reflection about the meaning of the Christ event.

Ben Witherington, ‘Jesus as the Alpha and Omega of New Testament Thought,’ in Contours of Christology in the New Testament, ed. Richard N. Longenecker (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005), 44-45.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

New Blogs III

I've update blogroll to include some interesting new blogs:

Michael Barber and Singing in the Reign who's interests are as diverse as the Psalms and the Book of Revelation - but I have lots of time for anyone associated with the Saint Paul Centere for Biblical Theology and had the pleasure of meeting Scott Hahn at IBR.

Clifford B. Kvidahl Theological Musings with some interesting info on Ben Witherington and the ESV.

Andrew Rowell and First move thyself who teaches Christian education.

Denny Burke on biblical studies, theology and politics.

My JETS article on "Incorporated Righteousness" is now available in PDF, thanks to Sean du Toit for letting me know.

Martin Hengel - Earliest Christianity

In reading Hengel's useful book (a compilation of Acts and the History of Earliest Christianity and Property and Riches in the Early Church) I made several notes of key quotes and remarks:

‘For all his tendentious distortions, Luke’s contribution to the historical understanding of Paul is essentially greater than many scholars want to suppose today. Paul’s origins in Tarsus, his link with Jerusalem, the significance of Antioch and of Barnabas for the early Paul, the sequence of Paul’s letters, the length of his stay in his missionary centres and the chronology of his activity – all these and much else would be completely or largely unknown to us without Acts’.
Martin Hengel, Earliest Christianity (trans. John Bowden; London: SCM, 1986), 38-39.

'Luke is no less trustworthy than other historian of antiquity. People have done him a great injustice in comparing him too closely with the edifying, largely fictitious, romance-like writings in the style of the later acts of the apostles, which freely invent facts as they like and when they need them.’
Martin Hengel, Earliest Christianity (trans. John Bowden; London: SCM, 1986), 60.

‘His account remains within the limits of what was considered reliable by the standards of antiquity. That means that the author’s assurance in Luke 1.3 is more than mere convention; it contains a real theological and historical programme, though this cannot be measured by the standards of a modern critical historian.’
Martin Hengel, Earliest Christianity (trans. John Bowden; London: SCM, 1986), 61.

‘By depicting the Jewish Christians, including Paul, as essentially faithful to the law, Luke – against the historical situation of his time – is trying to say that the Christians are the true Israel and that the break with Judaism (i.e. with the community organized in the synagogue congregations of the Diaspora) was not caused by Christians, but by Jews (Acts 28.26ff.). The Christians had not left the synagogues of their own accord but had been driven out of them by force.’
Martin Hengel, Earliest Christianity (trans. John Bowden; London: SCM, 1986), 63-64.

‘The favourite slogan and label “early Catholicism” is less helpful for understanding Luke; it cannot really make any contribution to a historical and theological understanding of earliest Christianity. On the contrary, it fits all too well with today’s widespread desire for handy clichés. As far as Luke is concerned, both his enthusiastic conception of the spirit and his understanding of the ministry of the church, which at least outside of Jerusalem still did not have any hierarchical structure, fail to match the label … The auctor ad Theophilum is oriented more on the past period of Christian origins than on the arrival of the second century.'
Martin Hengel, Earliest Christianity (trans. John Bowden; London: SCM, 1986), 65.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Revelation 5 and Little Girls

My daughter Alexis has lost her first tooth and has also just finished memorizing Revelation 5 (whole chapter!). We have discussed the passage and what it means and I asked her if she understood it and she said, "Sort of" - which is probably alot closer than many learned scholars will ever be.

Read the NIV account here. Revelation 5 will probably be my text for my next Easter-time sermon.

Encountering God's Word

Down in the library I encountered a little gem of a book for undergrads called Encountering God's Word: Beginning Biblical Studies , edited by Phil Duce and Daniel Strange from IVP

· Beginning to study the Old Testament (Peter J. Williams)
· Beginning to study the New Testament (Alistair I. Wilson)
· Encountering biblical interpretation (Antony Billington)
· For the Bible tells me so? The roles of faith and evidence in believing the Bible (David Gibson)

Some of the authors will be known to others such Peter Williams of ETC and Dave Gibson of Beginning with Moses.

What was interesting was that I am just about to give a lecture on the parables and I was umming and ahhring over whether to use a Griemas diagram to outline the narrative structure of the parables. Would a structuralist approach be a bit too heavy for first year undergrads? My confidense was lifted when I realized that my predecessor (Alistair Wilson) who wrote the NT chapter recommended the griemas diagramatical approach as a way of analyzing passages in the Gospels - I then felt at ease (thanks Alistair!).

The book is a little gem for those starting serious biblical studies at either a seminary or a university. The volume is a good resource for both students and lecturers to use as an introduction to the rigours of scholarly debate and challenges to faith for biblical studies can pose.

I think I'll make my first year NT 101 class read the NT section before I set them into DeSilva's NT Intro.

The Temptations of Jesus Part II

In the temptation stories (Mark 1.12-13; Matthew 4.1-11/Luke 4.1-13) various examples and typologies emerge:

1. Jesus as the New Adam. That Jesus was with the wild beasts may recall Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden and their temptation. Also, it may recall a Jewish tradition that Adam and Eve were ministered to by Angels in the garden (Adam and Eve 4.1-2; b.Sanh. 59b).
2. Jesus as Faithful Israel. The three temptations recall elements of the Exodus story: wandering in the wilderness (Exod 16:35), hunger (Exod 16:2-8), testing God (Exod 17:1-3), and idolatry (Exodus 32).
3. Jesus as Elijah-like prophet. Elijah spent 40 days on Mt. Horeb (1 Kgs 19:8).
4. Jesus as the New Moses. Jesus was “fasting” like Moses did (Exod 24:18; 34:28). Jesus' sojourn in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights again comports iwht Moses on the mountain(Deut 9:9; Exod 34:28).

One final comment, a Christian interpolation in the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs captures the thrust of Mark’s temptation story: “The devil will flee from you; wild beasts will be afraid of you, and the angels will stand by you” (T.Naph. 8:4; T.Benj. 5:2; cf. T.Iss. 7.7).

Saturday, February 18, 2006

To my Southern Baptist Friends

After reading the posts from Jim West and the news about Wade Burleson and the Southern Baptist IMB , I felt it time to offer an alternative opinion on the issue. But let me preface my comments:

1. I have many Southern Baptist Convention friends and know fellow bloggers such as Jim Hamilton (Antiphon) and Alan Bandy (Cafe Apocalypsis) and this is not an attack on them.

2. My first theological mentor was a Southern Baptist, who died tragically in a car accident and I remember him fondly. He gave me a great gift - a love for God's sovereignty.

3. As a Baptist, I have much more in common with SBC Baptists than many other Baptist Groups of liberal persuasion.

4. I do like to clap my hands in worship, I have been known to raise my hands in prayer, my German probably sounds more like xenolalia than German, and I do own albums by Carmen - but I'm not charismatic (either in theology or personality).

5. On whether or not Burleson broke confidentiality through his blog is another matter. It was irresponsible or careless, but not necessarily grounds for expulsion. I am more concerned with the theological issue at hand concerning the bonds of Christian fellowship, the priority of the gospel, and the importance of the kingdom.

With that in mind I would like to voice my concern over what I observe to be a slide towards sectarianism in the SBC. I get the feeling that every year that the IMB meets their agenda is to exclude and disqualify another sub-group from mission in the SBC - egalitarians and now the charismatics. There are some groups in the SBC who are more excited about excluding others than proclaiming the gospel and extending the kingdom.

Now denominations are both a blessing and a bane. On the one hand they are a testimony to the continuing division of Christians which goes against Jesus' prayer in John 17. At the same time, denominations are formed because Christians believe that truth matters and we should order our worship, our church government, and our minitry according to our biblical and theological convictions. Denominations allow us to meet with other Christians who share common convictions.

But I am alarmed at the rate that some persons within the SBC want to purge their denomination of certain groups. Here's my response:

1. I am an evangelical which means that the basis of unity is the evangel - nothing more and nothing less - not women in ministry, not views of spiritual gifts, not one's doctrine of election, and not one's political preferences. Let me say that the difference between a Fundamentalist and an Evangelical is that a Fundamentalist is more excited about what he's against, whereas an Evangelical is more excited about what he's for - the gospel. So when I hear someone explain, preach, teach, pray, theologicize and practice the gospel then I know that I have found a brother or sister in Christ, and for that reason I know I will enjoy ministering beside them for the sake of Christ and his Kingdom.

2. There was a real diversity in the early church (alas, I learned long ago that not everyone was a red-head reformed Baptist), and the definition of a Christian in Rom 10,9-10 is quite broad. If you don't believe me go read Acts 6, 15 and Romans 14-15. We should expect that our churches will have a theological diversity as people arrive at theological convictions different to our own. I also believe that there are limits to the diversity that which we should tolerate so don't acuse me of being soft on doctrine.

3. Carl Henry got it right years ago when he said that Liberals minor on the majors and Fundamentalists major on the minors (re: doctrines). I think that there are 3 levels of doctrinal beliefs:

A. Essentials necessary for fellowship (e.g. Trinity, Biblical Authority, Resurrection, etc).
B. Major issues, but not necessarily divisive (e.g. church govt., baptism)
C. Adiaphora, matters of conviction (e.g. eschatology, alcohol).

I won't say that charismatic issues are insignificant - but it is clearly of second order importance in terms of faith and fellowship. In the case of Burleson we are not talking about the role of tongues in public worship - which could well be a theological distinctive for a denomination - but private prayer. If some guy wants to pray in tongues in private (like "untie-my-bowtie-who-stole-my-hondha") I don't have a problem. What a guy does on his knees at 11.00 p.m. is between him and his Lord.

4. Even worse, there is only one commandment about tongues in the NT and it is do not forbid it (1 Cor 14.39)! It sounds like Paul couldn't be an SBC missionary since he spoke in tongues (1 Cor 14.18).

5. I have a friend who is a Calvinist-Charismatic who teaches in a seminary in a predominantly Muslim country somewhere in the middle-east, and he has spoken in tongues in private prayer. I get the impression that the IMB would rather have no-one at all there training the pastors in the churches if it meant having a tongues-speaker. I retort that, the kingdom of God is bigger than the SBC. Evangelicalism is broader than the perspectivess that some in the SBC are advocating. I think everyone involved in the conflict needs to get a big dose of perspective - kingdom perspective. Let us not conspire to protect the doctrinal purity of our denomination, but let us endeavour, through toil and prayer, to extend the boundaries of the kingdom and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.

6. Here is a quote from my friend Jim West about charismatics:

The claim of the Charismatics that the grace of salvation is insufficient and requires the second grace of "baptism in the Holy Spirit" (as though that were an operation of God separate from salvation) is unscriptural. Indeed, it is anti-scriptural ... As I've mentioned before, I have no problem with Pentecostals. If a person wishes to be a Pentacostal or a Charismatic, they are more than free to do so. But persons who occupy Southern Baptist pulpits and lecterns and positions of authority on boards and committees should not be "Pentabaptilists". (Jim West).

I don't like the idea of a second blessing, it entails spiritual-have's and have-not's. But not all charismatics are like that - think of Wayne Grudem to name one. So in many ways Jim's remarks are unrepresentative of all charismatics and could perhaps be called a "staw man" argument (no offence Jim!). I hope Jim's fear of Pentabaptilists does not stem from a charismaphobia.

7. Let me offer up some words of warning with a paraphrase from Martin Niemoller:

First they came for the egalitarians
and I did not speak out
because I was not an egalitarian.
Then they came for the charismatics
and I did not speak out
because I was not a charismatic.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me

To be honest, I would rather work beside an Dispensational-Arminian-Egalitarian-Charismatic who loves the Lord and the Gospel than some of the doctrine-police who want to run bonafide Christians out of town over second-order theological issues. I still consider those guys who have a vendetta against charismatics as brothers in the Lord - but with brothers like them who the heck needs enemies!!!

8. To summarize, let me say this:

a. The gospel and only the gospel is basis for partnership in ministry.

b. Let us think beyond our own denominations and ask what will give the most glory to God and what will extend the kingdom of God.

c. Our greatest need is not to anathematize controversial figures (like Tom Wright) or to exclude those with different theological convictions (like egalitarians, charismatic); but our greatest need is for prayerful, spirit-led, gospel-announcing, Christ-centered, God-glorifying, justice-seeking, Bible-saturated Churches to get on with the business of the kingdom until the day when God is all in all.

And in the words of the great American philosopher, Forrest Gump, "that's all I have to say about that".


Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Temptations of Jesus - Part I

I'm just finished work on an article on the "Temptation of Jesus" and I thought I would write a few posts on the topic. I would like to preface the posts with two observations:

First, go to the website of the Christian parody band Apologetix, and listen to the song "Devil Went Down to Jordan" sung to the tune of "Devil went Down to Georgia" - it will blow your mind. You might want buy the album.

Here are the lyrics:

The devil went down to the Jordan
He was lookin' for a show to steal
He was in a bind 'cause Jesus came to find
The people willing to make it real
And he came upon the Son of Man
Saw He had no vittles and was prayin' to God
Then the devil jumped upon the chance to tempt Him
Said "Boy, let me tell ya, it's hot!"
"I guess you didn't know it but I'm a vittle craver too
"And kid I'm scared this desert air might get the best of you
"Now you ain't been eatin' your vittles boy
"But, kid, your dinner is due
"So if you're really God's son, then turn these stones
To bread and I'll butter it for you."
The Lord said, "I am hungry, but that would be a sin
"Cause it ain't by bread man's gonna be fed
"But by the Word God's given him."
John the Baptist washed the Lord and there's where it all starts
Cause Jesus left the Jordan and the devil hit Him hard
And if He wins we get to walk on Heaven's streets of gold
But if He sins, the devil gets your soul
The devil took Him up in space and said, "Christ, start to throw
"Yourself off of this temple top as I'm watchin' from below
"Cause I'm sure You know that God will bring
“All His angels to assist
“And then men would believe that You're Him
“If they saw You did something like this"
When the devil finished, Jesus said
"Well, you're temptin' God, old son
And it's written down in that book right there
That thing shouldn't ever be done”
Shout from the mountain what God's done
The devil ain't a match for the rising Son
You can never tempt God, did you not know
Man, he doesn't live by bread alone
The devil finally said, "Jesus, if You'll just worship me
Then I’ll give you gold that glitters
All these crowns, and all You see"
Jesus said, "Devil, just turn on back
Cause I'm never gonna buy your scam
I love God too much, I'm gonna resist
I'd suggest you'd better scram!"
And we say

You can listen to the song HERE (on the left-hand side bar).

Second, while you're listening to that consider the following: John Milton's work Paradise Regained is not set at Calvary, but in Jesus' wilderness temptations as the point where the fall and curse of Adam is undone.

Who were the Hellenistes?

Who were the Hellenists (Acts 6.1; 9.29; 11.20)?

- Gentiles Christians
- Proselytes
- Gentile Christians and Jews who did not follow law
- Diaspora Jews
- More likely is the view of John Chrysostom that it designates Jews who speak Greek as their first language.

Can early Christianity be separated into layers?

- Palestinian Jewish Christianity
- Hellenistic Jewish Christian
- Gentile Christianity

Did Hellenistic and Gentile Christianity have a syncrestic christology and liturgy borrowed from mystery cults and pagan religions - probably not!

1. Such distinctions cannot be made within Judaism (cf. Hengel: all Judaism in the second-temple period is Hellenistic Judaism).
2. Differences between Hebrews/Hellenists was linguistic, cultural and perhaps acculturation to Greek living. But these differences are not absolute and do not mean that two groups were neatly separated theologically.
3. The terminology is used loosely and people who we might call Hellenistis, like Paul, are called Hebrews, 2 Cor. 11.22; Phil. 3.5.
4. The Hellenists, like Barnabas, were equally at home in Jerusalem.

There might have been differences on views of the law and on entrance of Gentiles into the church, but we cannot be sure about radical christological differences. There was a basic unity on the content of the gospel between Greek and Aramaic speaking Jewish-Christians. In 1 Cor 15.11, Paul assumes that the Corinthians could have heard the same Gospel from Peter or James. In Gal 1.6-9, Paul argues against a different gospel, but the different gospel is different to the one that both he and the Jerusalem pillars agreed on!

“Paul assumed that the Jerusalem Christians were Christians, that there was a unity and a consistency to the gospel both they and he preached (Rom. 15:27; Gal. 2:7-10).” Craig Hill, Hellenists and Hebrews: Reappraising Division within the Earliest Church (Minneapolis: Augsburg/Fortress, 1994), 174.

See further:

Craig Hill, Hellenists and Hebrews: Reappraising Division within the Earliest Church (Minneapolis: Augsburg/Fortress, 1994).

Craig C. Hill, "Hellenists, Hellenistic, and Hellenistic-Jewish Christianity", in DLNTD, 462-69.

Martin Hengel, Between Jesus and Paul (London: SCM, 1983) 1-30.

I. Howard Marshall, The Origins of NT Christology (Leicester: IVP, 1977) 35-41.

Todd Penner, In Praise of Christian Origins: Stephen and the Hellenists in Lukan Apologetic Historiography (New York: T&T Clark, 2004).

Ben Witherington, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapdis, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 240-47.

Jeffrey Peterson, "The Extent of Christian Theological Diversity: Pauline Evidence", Restoration Quarterly 47 (2005): 1-14.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Jewish Christianity: A Definition

What exactly is Jewish Christianity? Who is a Jewish Christian? Which books in the NT can be regarded as being Jewish Christian? Should it (or they) be defined ethnically, based on praxis, or doctrinally?

James Carleton Paget is probably on the money when he (tentatively) opts for a praxis-based definition of "a Jewish Christian as someone who accepts the messianic status of Jesus (the bare minimum requires of someone wishing to be a Christian) but feels it necessary to keep, or perhaps adopt, practices associated with Judaism such as circumcision, in the case of males, the sabbath, the food laws, and other such related practices". (p.734).

Paget, J. Carleton. 2002. ‘Jewish Christianity.’ In Cambridge History of Ancient Judaism. 3 vols. Edited by W.D. Davies. Cambridge: CUP. 3:731-75.

In more recent times, some "Messianic Jews" dislike being called "Christians" since they wish to maintain that they are still Jews. Is this insistence misplaced?

Paul and the Law

Over at Biblia Theologica Ardel Caneday has posted 21 Theses on Paul and the Law which make for interesting reading!

A Citizen of Heaven and a Colonists of Jesus

In my sermon prep on Phil 3.20-21, I found useful the 10 point manifesto from Tod Bolsinger which I have reproduced below:

1. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe.

2. The Gospel is a call not only to personal faith in Christ Jesus, but also to a deeply committed and shared life in community with other believers...this community being a Colony of Heaven on earth.

3. The Colony of Heaven is to be a living expression of the Word of God, particularly the Sermon on the Mount which we hold to be the "Ten Commandments" of the New Covenant, the Constitution of God's Holy Nation, according to the Gospel of Jesus.

4. The Colony is an alien community in America, a counter-culture, sojourning here as wedded to God and declaring our Independence from the ideals, ways and the value-set of the world system which surrounds us.

5. The Colony is an incendiary fellowship, kindled at the central fire of Jesus Christ, kicking out sufficient heat to warm one another and sufficient spark in the Holy Spirit to set our neighborhood ablaze in the holy Gospel.

6. The Colony is a unified family, a brotherhood of love, caring for it's own holistically, with truth, affection and discipline in the Gospel. When one suffers, we share in his pain; when another rejoices, we share in her joy.

7. The Colony is an army of love, a militia of New Creation, moving out to conquer our neighborhood with the weapons of word and deed in the Gospel, prepared to endure the sufferings and the losses which are inevitable in any war.

8. The Colony is a specialized task force, a Spiritual Marine Corps., working hard by division of labor to advance and accomplish our mission in the Gospel. Extraordinary effort and exceptional dedication are required of all, just as the Gospel demands.

9. The Colony breathes on the Gospel, but works by the Cross. Our Life is in God, but our life in this world is cruciform. We die daily and we are ready to die finally, that Life may be the issue... for "the blood of martyrs is seed," just as we see in the Gospel.
"He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."

10. We believe the whole earth shall be Colonized by Jesus Christ while He remains upon His seat of authority at the Father's right hand in Heaven. "He will not suffer the reproach upon His Name that He was not able to convert the world in righteousness."

Friday, February 10, 2006

New Blogs

Ardel Caneday has a blog called Biblia Theologica. Ardel has written some good stuff on Mark, Paul, Persevarance and Open Theism. He hasn't posted for a while, but he always has something intelligent to say when he does write. It links to some of his other sites as well.

Wright's new debating technique: Violence!

Can you name a use for this cartoon featuring Tom Wright kapowing Marc Borg and Dom Crossan? Let me get the ball rolling:

1. Tom Wright's blogger Icon
2. The new cover for the Fortress edition of The Resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright in Dialogue.
3. A diagram explainig Tom Wright's rebuttal strategy for SBL in 2006.

I got the cartoon from Justin Junkins at Pisteuo.

Hmm, I wonder if I could insert a picture of Wright giving Bultmann an uppercut to the chin? Or maybe Tom slapping Richard Dawkins in the face with a big piece of Barramundi!

Interpretation: I think this drawing is a projection of someone's internalised hero myth, where a primeval (yet strangely postmodern) champion arises to fight and win the religious battle against a perceived enemy. Well, we all like to have heroes don't we!

To quote Bertolt Brect (Galileo):
"Unhappy a land with no Hero"
"Unhappy a land that needs a hero"
I think that sums it up.

Otherwise, I shall now observe a NT Wright moratorium for the next month!

Religious News Service - Kevin O'Brien

I don't normally comment on politics, accept when they overlap with religion. However, the following quote from RNS did get my attention:

I can respect the fact that an image of Muhammad -- even a favorable or neutral image -- offends Muslim sensibilities because it smacks of idolatry. It makes sense on its own level. What doesn't make sense is some Muslims' reaction. It's all out of proportion to the offense. In fact, it's crazy. The question is whether it's crazy enough to begin reawakening Americans to the threat they briefly understood after a different gaggle of insulted Muslims turned the World Trade Center and a piece of the Pentagon to rubble, killing 3,000 innocents. Which brings us to our own little dust-up over President Bush allowing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on overseas calls with suspected terrorist connections. The president is trying to defeat people whose zeal to obliterate your civilization has been redoubled by a newspaper cartoon. Who really scares you more?

(Kevin O'Brien is deputy editorial director for The Plain Dealer of Cleveland.)

I live next to a Muslim family here in Dingwall, who are very friendly and amiable, and I get on well with them. I imagine that they, like most Muslims living in the West or in the East, simply want to live and enjoy a happy life and feel free to practice their religion in peace with people of other religions. But how is the West to respond to Islamic extremists, institutions and governments who believe that the West must either convert to Islam or be annihilated? I'm not afraid of an American President, however inept, who can launch 1000 ICBM nuclear warheads - but I am afraid of a extremist who wants only one nuclear device! Will it come to this, who nukes who first? Let us pray that it is not!!!

SPCK Cover of Fresh Perspectives: Painting or Prediction

I wonder, is the SPCK cover to Paul: Fresh Perspectives, really Saint Paul by George de La Tour, or is it in fact a portrait of what Wright will look like in about 20 years? The similarities are striking

Forensic Justification as Legal Fiction?

Another multiple choice question. Which of the following scholars deny that justification amounts to legal fiction?

a. F.C. Baur
b. James D. G. Dunn
c. N. T. Wright
d. G. E. Ladd
e. Richard B. Hays

See the answer in the comments section.

Test your knowledge of Apocryphal Literature

Here is a multiple choice question. II Esdras refers to which document:

a. Septuagint: OT Ezra + OT Nehemiah
b. Vulgate: Nehemiah
c. Douay Bible: Nehemiah
d. Russian Bible: Paraphrase of 2 Chron 35-36 + OT Ezra + OT Nehemiah 7-8 + tale of body guards.
e. Latin Apocaypse and NRSV: 5 Ezra + 4 Ezra + 6 Ezra

See the answer in the comments section

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Paul, Works and Judaism

Besides the volume by Kent Yinger, Paul, Judaism, and Judgement According to Deeds (1999), have there been anyother recent volumes that deal with judgment, justification according to deeds? I swear I've seen one somewhere published within the last five years (after Yinger), but for the life of me I just cannot remember.

Anyone else have a better memory than mine?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Listen to the NT in Greek

Thanks to Jim Hamilton at Antiphon, I found these two sites where you can listen to the GK NT in full audio - a further way to immerse yourself in the world of the NT. I like the idea of having a sheila (i.e. female) read Romans since I would make a reasonable bet that Phoebe, as Paul's delegate , may well have read the epistle to the Roman house churches - a bit speculative, but heathily so.

Marilyn Phemister reading Westcott & Hort.

Greek and Latin Audio

1,2 Esdras Commentary

I am glad to announce a forthcoming commentary project by myself and Joel Willitts on 1,2 Esdras in the Brill LXX commentary series. Don't hold your breath, it's not due to be submitted until 2010! But the commentary is based on a single ms rather than using the LXX as a window into a Hebrew Vorlage.

New Blog: Pantodapos

A chap called Eric Sowell has a blog call Pantodapos. The subtitle reads: "Sundry thoughts, on biblical studies, theology, philosophy, greek, textual criticism, and literature. He connects to a website, Christonomy which looks like a cross between Theonomy and New Covenant Theology. I'm certainly no Theonomist, but I do like some of New Covenant Theology stuff, esp. on Baptism (not convinced that the decalogue has no abiding continuance), but NCT arguments for creedo-baptist sing and sting!

Will Jim West give me an "Amen" before Ben Myers starts yelling "Give us Barrabbas"?

Welcome aboard Eric and friends!

Books for Beginners

In a follow up to my good friend Ben Myer's Easier Things to Read before going to college or seminary, I include my own list (at least for NT studies):

Bruce Metzger, The Text of the New Testament
Gordon Fee, New Testament Exegesis
William Mounce, Basics for Biblical Greek
Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity
Gerd Theissen & Annette Merz, The Historical Jesus
Craig L. Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels
Michael Gorman, Apostle of the Crucified Lord
I. Howard Marshall, et. al, Exploring the NT volume 2: Letters and Revelation Richard Bauckham, Theology of Revelation
G.B. Caird, New Testament Theology

Wright in Brisbane

To let any Brisbanites out there know (i.e. Ben Myers), Tom Wright will be making the trip up to the sunshine state of Queensland. I have the details from Kevin Bush:

Bishop Wright will be in Brisbane on Friday 31st March till Sunday 2nd April. He will be speaking on Jesus and Christian Mission in a Postmodern World. The final venue's have yet to be determined, but the service on Sunday will be at St John’s Cathedral.

Thus it seems that there really is intelligent life north of Hornsby :)

Thanks Kevin for letting me know.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Problem with Pat

“I've been doing TV for years and years. And the problem is, I ad-lib.”

-- Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, explaining in a Thursday (Feb. 2) interview on ABC's “Good Morning America” why he suggested the United States should assassinate President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and later implied Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was God's punishment for giving up the Gaza Strip. He was quoted by the Associated Press.

I could probably think of a few other problems Pat has!!!

Wright and Justification (Again)

I get the vibe that in contrast to Climax of the Covenant and What Saint Paul Reall Said? that Wright is finally getting a better balance on the forensic and covenantal aspects of justification. Consider the following statement:

"God has declared in advance that he has dealt with sin and death, and has summoned the world to the obedience of faith, with the corollary that all of those who believe find themselves declared in advance, as part of the apocalyptic unveiling of the ultimate future, to be within God's true family, whether they be Jew or Gentiles".

1. Wright here defines justification primarily in relation to sin/death, that is overturning the verdict (death) against sin through God's saving action in Christ.
2. Covenant membership, the part that Wright gets the most excited about, is here regarded as a "corollary" of justification instead of comprising its entire content.

I hope critics of Wright are paying attention!

Eating is Believing

Back to John for the moment. One of the best articles I've read on John 6:51, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world", is by Dave Gibson, "Eating Is Believing? On Midrash and the Mixing of Metaphors in John 6," Themelios 27.7 (2002): 5-15. It is well written and an excellent article to give to theological students who are perplexed about John and eucharistic theology. Even better the article is available on-line at Rob Bradshaw's site right here. If I remember correctly David is doing some postgrad studies down the road at Aberdeen?

Added Blogs: KATA IWANNHN & Rabbi Saul

John Barach is (or was) Pastor of Covenant Reformed Church in Alberta Canada. He's got some interesting stuff on his blog and he has just agreed to take up a role planting a church in Medford (southern Oregon). His blog is According to John.

I've also added to my side bar Tim Gallant's site Rabbi Saul which often has some interesting discussion.

Wright on Philippians 3:20

I'm preparing a sermon on Philippians 3 and I came across this interesting quote from Tom Wright:

At once many modern Christians misunderstand what he means. We naturally suppose he means "and so we're waiting until we can go and live I heaven where we belong." But that's not what he says, and it's certainly not what he means. If someone in Philippi said, "We are citizens of Rome," they certainly wouldn't mean "so we're looking forward to going to live there." Being a colony works the other way round. The last thing the emperors wanted was a whole lot of colonists coming back to Rome. The capital was already overcrowded and underemployed. No: the task of the Roman citizen in a place like Philippi was to bring Roman culture and rule to northern Greece, to expand Roman influence there.

But supposing things got difficult for the Roman colonists in Philippi. Supposing there was a local rebellion, or an attack by the 'barbarian' tribes to the north. How would they cope? Their best hope would be that the emperor himself, who after all was called "saviour," "rescuer," would come from Rome to Philippi to change their present somewhat defenceless situation, defeat their enemies, and establish them as firmly and gloriously as Rome itself. The emperor, of course, was the ruler of the whole world, so he had the power to make all this happen under his authority.

That is the picture Paul has in mind in verses 20 and 21. The church is at present a colony of heaven, with the responsibility (as we say in the Lord's Prayer) for bringing the life and rule of heaven to bear on earth. We are not, of course, very good at doing this; we often find ourselves weak and helpless, and our physical bodies themselves are growing old and tired, decaying and ready to die. But our hope is that the true saviour, the true Lord, King Jesus himself will come from heaven and change all that. He is going to transform the entire world so that it is full of his glory, full of the life and power of heaven. And, as part of that, he is going to transform our bodies so that they are like his glorious body, the body which was itself transformed after his cruel death so that it became wonderfully alive again with a life that death and decay could never touch again.

Knowing this will enable Christians to "stand firm in the Lord" (4:1); and now we can see more clearly what that means. It doesn't just mean remaining constant in faith. It means giving allegiance to Jesus, rather than to Caesar, as the true Lord. Paul has described the church, and its Lord, in such a way that the Philippians could hardly miss the allusion to Rome and Caesar. This is the greatest challenge of the letter: that the Christians in Philippi, whether or not they were themselves Roman citizens (some probably were, many probably weren't), would think out what it means to give their primary allegiance not to Rome but to heaven, not to Caesar but to Jesus — and to trust that Jesus would in due time bring the life and rule of heaven to bear on the whole world, themselves included

Tom Wright, Paul for Everyone: Philippians, 126-127.

Cited from Kata John

Current Readings: Allusion and Meaning in John 6`

At the moment I'm reading Susan Hylen, Allusion and Meaning in John 6 (BZNW 137; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2005). John 6 is a juicy little passages, one of the most controversial discourses in John, the manna, the Jewish scriptures, and esp. the "eat my flesh" thing. I've never quite been able to get into anthropophagi so I'll happily side with Zwingli on this one (did ya hear that Jim West!). I've always thought that Luther's consubstantiation sounds alot like transubstantiation by another name.

Susan (the sheila on the right) teaches NT Interpretation at Vanderbilt (so we can safely assume that she's not an evangelical). After running a marathon with the historical Jesus, going toe-to-toe in the ring for 8 rounds with Paul, and doing occasional sprint-work with the Gospel of Mark, I love to sit by the pool with John and relax. This should be a good read. Here's the blurb:

Many interpreters read John 6 as a contrast between Jesus and Judaism: Jesus repudiates Moses and manna and offers himself as an alternative. In contrast, this monograph argues that John 6 places elements of the Exodus story in a positive and constructive relationship to Jesus. This reading leads to an understanding of John as an interpreter of Exodus who, like other contemporary Jewish interpreters, sees current experiences in light of the Exodus story. This approach to John offers new possibilities for assessing the gospel's relationship to Jewish scripture, its dualism, and its metaphorical language.

F.C. Baur on Substitutionary Atonement

The idea of substitution implies two things, first, that the one who is to take the place of many others, and to be counted for them, is the same as they are; and secondly, that he possesses something which they have not; that, namely, the lack of which makes it necessary that he should represent them. If Christ has died for the sins of men, then he must have been without sin himself, in order that his death, which could not be a sacrifice on his own account, might avail as the penalty of the sins of others.

F.C. Baur, Paul the Apostle of Jesus Christ: His Life and Works, His Epistles and Teachings: Two Volumes in One (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2000), 2.155-56.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Acts 2 and Peter's Interpretation of Pentecost

In Acts 2.14-21, Peter presents an interpretation of the events at Pentecost (i.e. xenolalia). In reading over L.T. Johnson's Acts of the Apostles commentary (SP) he points out a parrallel with Plato Timaeus 72B, where it was the role of a prophet to interpret ecstatic utterances from an oracle. I looked up the reference and found it interesting.

And herein is a proof that God has given the art of divination not to the wisdom, but to the foolishness of man. No man, when in his wits, attains prophetic truth and inspiration; but when he receives the inspired word, either his intelligence is enthralled in sleep, or he is demented by some distemper or possession. And he who would understand what he remembers to have been said, whether in a dream or when he was awake, by the prophetic and inspired nature, or would determine by reason the meaning of the apparitions which he has seen, and what indications they afford to this man or that, of past, present or future good and evil, must first recover his wits. But, while he continues demented, he cannot judge of the visions which he sees or the words which he utters; the ancient saying is very true, that "only a man who has his wits can act or judge about himself and his own affairs." And for this reason it is customary to appoint interpreters to be judges of the true inspiration. Some persons call them prophets; they are quite unaware that they are only the expositors of dark sayings and visions, and are not to be called prophets at all, but only interpreters of prophecy.

In the eyes of Luke's Greco-Roman readers this may give Peter a prophetic like role and underscore his authority all the more (what I think is one of the purposes of Peter's first missionary speech in Acts). I wonder what Rick Strelan has to say about this in his book Strange Acts?

A Palindrome to Ponder

Michael Thompson had this little brain teaser for NT types over at the BSB website:

One of my students pointed me to this palindrome (it reads the same from either end) in Greek which encircles a local baptismal font (and many others in Christendom). How’s your Greek? (Hint: the second word is not found in the NT, but it does feature in the LXX):


If you want the answer then click here.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Tom Wright to visit Australia

I've just found the brochure on NT Wright's home page, providing details of the Bishop of Durham's visit to Sydney. There are several sessions/events planned and they are organized by the Society for the Study of Early Christianity at Macquarie University. It will include a session on Paul with responses from Paul Barnett - now, that will be interesting. I would love to hear that one and see if the two can find any common ground.

For the love of Martha, will someone also try and get Tom up to Brisbane, if not for the surfing, sun, fishing, and golf then for the churches up there - the Brisbanites always seem to get overlooked as a destination for speakers as those arrogant southerns who organize the events (NSWers and VICers) find it hard to believe that there is intelligent life north of Hornsby and so fail to organize a Brisbane event in the speaker's itinerary!

The Faithfulness of Jesus Christ

I've always been a bit hesistant about jumping into the whole subject genitive reading of pistis christou - although I do think it makes good grammatical and theological sense in Eph 3.12 and Phil 3.9 at least. Despite my reservations, I have always believed that Jesus' obedience/faithfulness does have a big part in NT Theology/Christology. I thought about writing an article on the function of Jesus' faithfulness/obedience in NT theology, but I do not have to bother after coming across the following article:

Richard N.Longenecker, ‘The Foundational Conviction of New Testament Christology: The Obedience/Faithfulness/Sonship of Christ,’ in Jesus of Nazareth, Lord and Christ, eds. Joel B. Green and Max Turner (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994) 473-88.