Friday, March 31, 2006

God's Righteousness as Covenant Faithfulness

In continuing my research on justification I've been reading a bit of the history of the topic and stumbled upon an interesting find. I think I have found the earliest reference to dikaiosyne theou ("righteousness of God") being understood as "God's faithfulness" in the writings of the little known English reformer George Joye (d. 1553), who wrote:

“The righteousness which is allowed before God that cometh of faith is sometimes in scripture called His mercy or favour towards us and in us, whereby He is moved for Christ’s blood sake to promise us forgiveness and sometimes is taken for His truth and faithfulness in the performing of His promise and of this He is called just, righteous, faithful and true.”

Cited in D.B. Knox, The Doctrine of Faith in the reign of Henry VIII [London: James Clark & Co., 1961], 56.

Mark Seifrid on Justification and the Last Judgment

Mark Seifrid's 2000 faculty address at SBTS on Justification by Faith is available in MP3 and is worth listening too. One of the best expositions of Romans 2:12-16 that you'll ever hear!

Ben Myers on Wright in Brisbane

Over at Faith and Theology, Ben Myers is preparing to post his take on Wright's lectures in Brisbane and also an interview with Wright. Will be one to watch.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Quotes from Hengel

I've been reading through Martin Hengel, “The Stance of the Apostle Paul Toward the Law in the Unknown Years Between Damascus and Antioch,” in Justification and Variegated Nomism: Volumes 2 – The Paradoxes of Paul (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2004), 75-103, and these are some cool quotes I fished out.

“For him, the encounter with the Resurrected One near Damascus set before him the question of the law or Christ in the form of a soteriological alternative. For Judaism of that time the Torah was in manifold expression the essence of slavaiton, and could be identified with the fundamental religious metaphor, “life”. [m.Abot. 2.7; Avemarie]. Since the opposition between Torah and Jesus of Nazareth had made him into a persecutor, now the relationship between Christ and Torah had to become a fundamental issue, in which the inversion of the opposition immediately because apparent: he, the Resurrected One is zwh& for those who believe (2 Cor 4:11-12; cf. 2:16).” (p. 84) - for a similar view see Terence L. Donaldson, “Zealot and Convert: The Origin of Paul’s Christ-Torah Antithesis,” CBQ 51 (1989): 655-82.

“Why Arabia?” is simple. As the offspring of Israel the “Arabians” were the genealogically and geographically closest physical relatives of Israel among the “Gentiles,” since they, too, were descendents of Abraham. The offspring of Esau, the Edomites, had already become Jews under Hyrcanus and were no longer “Gentiles”. (p. 89).

“Had the earliest church in Jerusalem not recognized the Pauline mission to the Gentiles, with its particular criticism of the law, the apostle would have “run in vain,” i.e. he could not have continued it (Gal 2:2). The perspective frequently adopted today, that earliest Christianity displayed an unbridled diversity, stand in contradiction not only to the statement of Paul (1 Cor 15:11), to his remarkable attachment to Jerusalem in his later period when his connection to Antioch become looser, but also the unity of the church in the entirely of the first and second centuries, which the New Testament and post-apostolic literature attests.” (pp. 95-96).

Criswell Theological Review on-line

I received an email today from Alan Streett saying that CTR was soon to be available on-line at their site Criswell Journal.

Alan Streett has done a sterling job as an editor of getting CTR up and running again. Recent issues have covered contentious topics like the Kingdom of God, New Perspective on Paul, and the next issue is dedicated to the Emergent Church featuring an interview with Brian McLaren. All good stuff.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Gabler on Biblical Theology

In the history of Biblical Theology considerable influence has been exerted by J.P. Gabler's in his seminal essay: 'De iusto discrimine theologiae biblicae et dogmaticae regundisque recte utriusque finibus’, in T.A. Gabler and J.G. Gabler (eds.), Kleinere theologische Schriften, II (Ulm, Germany: Verlag der Stettinischen Buchhandlung, 1831): 179-98.

For those that don't know, an accessible English translation is available from the follow journal article:

John Sandys-Wunsch and Laurence Eldredge. "J. P. Gabler and the Distinction between Biblical and Dogmatic Theology: Translation, Commentary, and Discussion of His Originality." Scottish Journal of Theology 33 (1980): 133-58.

Is Gabler really the boogey-man who exiled theology away from exegesis, or is he a hero who emancipated exegesis from theological agendas? D.A. Carson's evaluation of Gabler in "New Testament Theology", DLNTD, 796-97 is quite positive and supportive. Alternatively, Guy Waters (Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul, 202) is quite scathing when he writes: "J.P. Gabler had decimated systematic theology, both as an ordering principle of biblical data and as a force within the church."

I think I'll side with Carson on this one!

Interview with Alan Bandy

My thanks to Alan Bandy for honouring me with an interview at his site cafe apocalypsis. Looks like I'm in some good company in the list of interviewees. I did not ever think I'd see my name up in lights next to Andreas Köstenberger, Craig Evans, Craig Blomberg, and other such luminaries.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Francis Watson on PISTIS CHRISTOU

Francis Watson make an interesting comment about the subjective versus genitive debate (or debacle?) of pisteos Iesou Christou in Rom 3.22:

It is striking that this passage interprets Jesus' death not as the outcome of his own faithfulness but as God's saving action. While this action has its own particular time and place, it is not closed in upon itself but forms the basis of the ongoing divine action in which God justifies the one who responds in faith. Faith, and consequently righteousness, is what is intended in God's action in the death of Jesus ... If, however, God's action in Christ intends the faith that leads to justification, this faith is itself the recognition and acknowledge of the divine saving action. In a two-way movement from Christ's death and back to it again, God's saving act in Christ seeks to elicit the answering faith that acknowledges it as what it truly is. Faith, then, is "faith of Jesus Christ" in the dual sense that Jesus Christ, the embodiment of God's saving action, is as such both the origin and the object of faith. In this way, the ambiugous gentiive formulations - "through faith of Jesus Christ", "the one who is of the faith of Jesus" (vv. 22, 26) - may be clarified, not by grammar but by context.

Francis Watson, Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith (London: T&T Clark/Continuum, 2004), 75-76.

I confess that I am gradually being persuaded on the merits of the subjective genitive!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

New Testament Theology: A New Proposal

At the moment I'm flat out like a lizard drinking (Australian idiom = exceptionally busy) with lecture prep, admin, teaching, and moving house. All the same, it still does not stop me from speculating about what I want to write about in the future. One thing I'm keen to do (sometime around 2011 Lord willing) is do a NT Theology before I turn 40.

There are some good NT Theologies that have just come out. I. Howard Marshall, New Testament Theology: One Gospel, Many Witnesses and Frank Thielman, Theology of the New Testament : A Canonical and Synthetic Approach. Add to that future volumes by Ben Witherington and Thomas Schreiner and there will be a host of NT Theologies to choose from.

My favourite volumes are the one's by G.B. Caird, G.E. Ladd, and James Dunn. I like Caird's "seminar" approach but also Dunn's emphasis on diversity.

When I finally take the plunge and engage in my own study I hope to call it: New Testament Theology: Complexity and Accordance. It will have two distinguishing features:

A. I intend to write it in sub-committee mode. So the Johannine writings form one sub-commmitte, the Jewish-Christian writings form another sub-committee, the Hellenistic Christian writings are a sub-committee, and the Pauline corpus and Pauline sympathizers are yet another sub-committee. And here is the fulcrum of the project: books can be in more than one sub-committee. For instance, the Gospel of John is simultaneously on the Johannine sub-committee (in fact it's covener), but also serves as a rep on the Jewish-Christian sub-committee.
B. The other big issue is dealing with the breadth of diversity in the NT and trying to find a sense of unity without clumsily imposing unity across the NT. I once told my supervisor Rick Strelan that I thought that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was the central theme in the NT (I'd been reading Pannenberg). He responded by asking (with a smile) if Christ's resurrection was central to Philemon - I had to say that he was right. We need to think carefully about how we construe the unity of the NT. Additionally, there is no question about the diversity of voices in the NT, but is the diversity thing pushed too far at times and why does diversity always seem to connote contradiction or opposition? Can diversity be complentary? So to avoid these problems here's my angle: instead of diversity we speak of "complexity" and instead of unity we have "accordance".

Other good NT resources include the article by Grant Osborne and the list of top NT Theologies by Scot McKnight

SBL Paper Accepted II

I got word from SBL that my paper for the Historical Jesus section has been approved. The paper is entitled: Who Comes from the East and the West? Luke 13.28-29/Matt 8.11-12 and the Historical Jesus.

The paper looks at the saying from Q and, in dialogue with Dale C. Allison, argues that it does indeed refer to the eschatological salvation of the Gentiles and not simply to the regathering of the Diaspora.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Latest issue of JETS Dec 2005

Several of the more interesting JETS article include:

Grant R. Osborne, "Historical Narrative and Truth in the Bible".

David DeGraaf, "Some Doubts about Doubt: The New Testament Use of DIAKRINO"

J. Bergman Kline, "The Day of the Lord in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ"

Scot McKnight with R. Boaz Johnson, "From Tel Aviv to Nazareth: Why Jews Become Messianic Jews".

There are some good book reviews too, memorable one's included:

Delbert Burkett, Rethinking the Gospel Sources (Michael Pahl).
James Crossley, The Date of Mark's Gospel (John P. Harrison).
L. Scott Kellum, Unity of the Farewell Discourse (Edward Klink III).
D.A. Carson, et al, Justification and Variegated Nomism 2 (A. Andrew Das).
I.H. Marshall, NT Theology: Many Witnesses, One Gospel (Robert Yarbrough).
Eckhard Schnabel, Early Christian Mission (Joel F. Williams).

Jesus and Torah III - 4 Theses

As a follow up to James Crossley's Christian Origins and the Law, I have my own four point manifesto for Jesus and Torah:

1. Jesus and his followers were regarded as law-breakers by their Jewish contemporaries. That implies that Jesus did and said things that were regarded as being highly controvesial when it came to following Torah.

2. In the Gospels Jesus is depicted as both radical in setting aside elements of Torah but also conservative in intensifying some commands further. The radical sayings about the Sabbath and disregarding the duty to bury of one’s parents were not an attempt to abrogate Torah. Instead, they were issued out Jesus’ conviction that where the mission of the kingdom and Torah conflicted that Torah had to give way. The intensifications of certain commands (e.g. prohibition on divorce and antitheses) were anchored in the view that the kingdom would transform human existence to an edenic state that would render many of the Mosaic regulations as redundant. Importantly, relaxation and intensification of the law is a standard feature of Jewish renewal movements (cf. Theissen).

3. The debate about purity in Mk. 7.1-23 represents an interiorizing of purity by Jesus so that external purity is not abrogated but relativized. What Jesus opposed was the halakhah of the Pharisees and not Torah itself. Jesus refused to make distinctive approaches to food and purity the markers of covenant identity and a criterion for participation in the future kingdom. The sharing of table-fellowship with ritually impure Jews exhibited an attitude towards purity that would later eliminate a major obstace for Gentile converts (see Schuyler Brown, ‘The Matthean Community and the Gentile Mission’, NovT 22 (1980),p. 196; cf. Schnabel, ‘Beginnings of the Mission to the Gentiles’, p. 57; Matthias Konradt, ‘Die Sendung zu Israel und zu den Völkern im Matthäusevangelium im Lichte seiner narrativen Christologie’, ZTK 101 (2004), pp. 402-3; Martin Hengel and Roland Deines, ‘E.P. Sanders’ “Common Judaism”, Jesus, and the Pharisees’, JTS 46 (1995), pp. 15-16).

4. Conflicts about Torah evolved out of Jesus’ contention that the kingdom is in some sense present and is also ready to burst upon the world and transform the structures of human existence. It is Jesus’ unique role in relation to the kingdom that propels him into intra-Jewish debates about what constitutes covenant fidelity in light of the current eschatological climate.

SBL Paper Accepted

I got word from SBL that my paper for the Synoptic Gospels section has been approved. The paper is entitled: Sectarian Gospels for Sectarian Communities? The Non-canonical Gospels and Bauckham's "Gospel for All Christians".

The paper will respond to criticism of Bauckham's GAC that comparison with non-canonical Gospels proves that the canonical Gospels were indeed written for isolated and introspective communities such as a Matthean community.

I'm looking forward to the seminary, I missed it last year, anything Mark Goodacre chairs is normally worth listening to.

New SBL Seminar

Dr. Andrei Orlov of Marquette University emailed me the following announcement:

The New Testament Mysticism Project Seminar (NTMPS) was organized under the auspices of the Society of Biblical Literature to facilitate the study of early Jewish and Christian mystical traditions in the New Testament writings. The Seminar will progress systematically through each New Testament text. 2006 SBL sessions of the NTMPS will deal with the Gospel of Matthew. The Seminar members plan to collectively write a commentary covering mysticism in the New Testament.

April DeConick and Andrei Orlov
Co-Chairs of the Seminar

Saturday, March 18, 2006

New Blogs VI

Thanks to Chris Tilling for pointing out a new blog The PT Forsyth Files: Dancing in the Crisis by Jason Goroncy.

He seems to be an Aussie expat in St. Andrews with a particular love of PT Forsyth. He links to sermons by Noel Due (ex-HTC) and Nick Needham my CH HTC colleague.

Welcome Jase.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Around the blogs

Scot McKnight has some good posts at Jesus Creed on the SBC and evangelicalism as well as penal substitution.

Alan Bandy has some good posts on faith and scholarship at Cafe Apocalypsis on faith based scholarship including interviews with Craig Blomberg, Scot McKnight, and James Crossley.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Fundamentalist versus Liberal

In light of the recent posts by Ben Myers and Chris Tilling I thought I'd add my own thoughts.

Preliminary Remarks

1. Most persons who use the term "fundamentalist" pejoratively are simply ignorant of the historical circumstances surrounding the origins of fundamentalism as a theological movement in North America in the early 20th century. Many are also ill informed about the historical, theological and cultural differences between Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism - the two cannot be equated.

2. The terms "fundamentalist" and "liberal" are often used these days as an opprobrium but they have also become relative terms, i.e. a fundamentalist is someone more conservative than me and a liberal is someone less conservative than me. (I've been called both!) To make things worse, Old Liberalism was a package and you could easily discover an Old Liberal based on certain questions, e.g. virgin birth, inerrancy, resurrection, atonement, etc. But today there are a number of theologians who don't quite fit the bill, e.g. Rowan Williams. William's has an orthodox view of the resurrection (as far as I can tell), but his views of sexuality are as liberal as Hillary Clinton speaking at an ACLU convention. In sum, other than being an insult, the terms fundamentalist and liberal don't really mean much anymore.

3. The Fundamentalis vesus Liberal controversy was really a symptom of Christianity wrestling with the challenges posed by modernity. There were two reactions to modernity: "run for the hills and hide your daughters" (Fundamentalists) or "wine me and dine me" (Liberals). As we enter into a Postmodern period the liberal versus fundametnalist controversy is no longer the defining issue for Western Christianity.

See further:
- Carl F. Henry, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism (1947)
- George Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture (1980)

Why I'm not a Fundamentalist

1. Fundamentalists major on the minors, and make minor issues tests for faith and orthodoxy (e.g. alchol, Bible translations, etc).

2. Fundamentalists fail to distinguish between what is Christian and what is the cultural Christianity that they were nurtured on.

3. Fundamentalists fail to distinguishy between areas of conviction and areas of command, and treat areas of conscience as a test of orthodoxy.

4. Fundamentalists have a view of Scripture that is docetic in that Scripture is divine but it is not human - no human processes (e.g. the Synoptic problem) are compatible with divine authorship.

5. Fundamentalists preach the authority of the text but practice the authority of the community.

6. Fundamentalists fails to appreciate the different genres of the Bible or comprehend the role of presuppositions in influencing our reading of Scripture.

7. Fundamentalists believe in theological cloning rather than theological learning.

8. Fundamentalists fail to be the salt of the earth as they are concerned almost exclusively with the minutia of doctrinal purity and correctness.

9. Fundamentalists have a lopsided soteriology as they think of salvation as purely the salvation of souls for heaven rather than the liberation of persons from sin, sickness, subjugation, and death. They aim for decisions rather than making disciples.

10. Fundamentalists fail to recognize the true marks of the Church and allow for a diversity of voices within the body of Christ.

11. Fundamentalists are more excited about what they are against, than what they are for.

12. Fundamentalists regard the Spirit as a theological entity, but not as a presence that manifests itself in worship or loving community.

Why I'm Not a Liberal

1. Liberals mimic culture to the point that they simply imitate the contemporary values of the day and wrap them up in some Christian wrapping paper. The world looks on and says, "Thanks for affirming all of my values but you can keep the wrapping paper".

2. Liberals minor on the majors - sin, atonement, and resurrection.

3. Liberals have a view of Scripture that is Arrian - it is human but not divine.

4. Liberals take Scripture to be illustrative but not necessarily prescriptive and normative for faith and praxis.

5. Liberals deny the transforming power of the gospel to liberate persons from every form of sin.

6. Liberals minimize the unique revelation of God in Christ and deny the eschatological finality of Jesus Christ.

7. The Gospel of Liberalism was what Karl Rahner warned us of: A God without wrath takes men without sin to a kingdom without judgment.

8. Liberals de-historize and de-apocalypticize the message of the Prophets, Jesus and the Apostles.

9. Liberals preach pluralism but do not tolerate anyone who fails to embrace their pluralistic ethos.

10. Liberals believe the Spirit is a Spirit of unity but not a Spirit of truth.

11. Liberals think that the only heresy is to believe in heresy.

12. Liberals think that the church is about programs and structures, when it is about creating gospel-proclaiming, Spirit-drive, Christ-centred, God-focused redemptive communities.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Musicals/Plays for Biblical Scholars and Theologians

1. Macbeth
2. Waiting for Godot
3. Galileo Galilei
4. Hamlet
5. Pygmalion
6. Trojan Women
7. Les Miserable
8. Oedipus Rex
9. Jesus Christ Superstar
10. Shadow Lands

Bloggers who remind me of musicals and plays:

Chris Tilling - Chess
Sean du Toit - Lion King
Justin Jenkins - Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure: The Musical
James Crossley - Enemy of the People
Joe Cathy - Annie get your Gun
Jim West - Fiddler on the Roof
Jim Davilla - Brigadoon
Mark Goodacre - The Master Builder
Cynthia Nielsen - Funny Girl
Ben Myers - A Man for All Seasons

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Jesus and Torah II

E.P. Sanders and M. Davies write: "Once we can discern both favourable and unfavourable portraits of Jesus, we can ask what is common to both portraits and we may have considerable confidence that what is common is historically sound". (E.P. Sanders and Margaret Davies, Studying the Synoptic Gospels [London: SCM; Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1989], p. 302).

The upshot is that the invective terms used to describe Jesus by his opponents may go some way in illuminating his aims and intentions. There are several such polemical terms used to describe him including:

1. Jesus as Mamzer, or "illegitimate son"

2. Jesus as “glutton and drunkard”

3. Jesus as “demon-possessed”

4. Jesus as “blasphemer”

5. Jesus as “lawbreaker”

6. Jesus as “false prophet”

7. Jesus as “king of the Jews”

See Jerome H. Neyrey and Bruce M. Malina, Calling Jesus Names: The Social Value of Labels in Matthew (Sonoma, CA: Polerbridge, 1988) which undertakes a study of the polemical labels used in the Gospel of Matthew.

My interest is in the designation of Jesus as law-breaker. Jesus himself provoked opposition over issues pertaining to the Sabbath (e.g. Mk. 2.24; Lk. 13.14; 14.1-6) and food laws (Mk. 7.1-23) and his fidelity to the Torah was regarded as suspect to the point that Jesus and his disciples were regarded as performing unlawful acts (Mk. 2.24; 3.4). What this label might mean for understanding the historical Jesus and the early Jesus movement is quite interesting. All the more so when it is remembered that James was martyred on the grounds of being a law-breaker (Jos. Ant. 20.200). Is there continuity between Jesus and James on this point?

For more on this topic see the forthcoming volume: Joseph B. Modica and Scot McKnight, (eds.), Who Do My Opponents Say That I Am? An Investigation of the Accusations Against Jesus (T& T Clark/ Continuum, forthcoming late 2007).

Monday, March 13, 2006

New Blogs V

Alan Bandy notes that his doktorvater, Andreas Koestenberger has his own blog entitled Biblical Foundations with a most on authorship of John's Gospel.

Daniel Kirk of Biblical Seminary in Philadelphia (I did like those cheese steaks came to think of it) has a blog called Sibboleth and deals with some interesting things.

Otherwise, I'm working hard on a chapter about "The Riddle of Righteousness" and trying to reach a verdict on every single disputed aspect concerning dikaiosyne in Paul's letters. Though I doubt if I will convince everybody. I hope to do some posts later on Jesus and Torah II as well as some radical thoughts on NT Theology.

Resources on Luke-Acts

For a helpful list of parrallels between Luke and Acts see the list from Charles Talbert, The Genre of Luke-Acts (Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1974) with hat-tip to Michael Barger.

There is also a good lecture about Acts 17 by Bruce Winter, “Introducing the Athenians to God: Paul’s failed apologetic in Acts 17?” from the European Leadership Forum.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Unity of Luke-Acts

Luke’s agenda is not to write the story of Jesus, followed by the story of the early church … Rather, his design is to write the story of the continuation and fulfillment of God’s project – a story that embraces both the work of Jesus and of the followers of Jesus after his ascension. From start to finish, Luke–Acts brings to the fore one narrative aim, the one aim of God.

J.B. Green, The Theology of Luke (Cambridge: CUP, 1995), 47.

Other Odd Musings on Luke

Currently Luke-Acts makes up 28% of the NT (compared to Paul's 24%). In addition, consider the following:

1. Calvin thought that Luke wrote Hebrews.

2. S.G. Wilson proposed Lucan authorship of the Pastoral Epistles (Ben Witherington toys with the idea too).

Both of these ideas are speculative and I don't actually go along with them (although Luke writing the Pastorals as Paul's secretary or writing on his behalf would explain alot, cf. 2 Tim. 4.11). But what would it mean for the importance of Luke as an author if these writings were somehow related to him? Would not the significance of John and Paul be eclipsed by an author who makes up between 45-50% of the NT?

Jesus and Torah: I

Here is the beginning of a forthcoming series of posts on Jesus and Torah.

Martin Hengel and Roland Deines, ‘E.P. Sanders’ “Common Judaism”, Jesus, and the Pharisees’, JTS 46 (1995), pp. 15-16.

“Jesus’ attitude towards the Torah and the temple possesses, over against that of all other Jewish groups, unmistakable, original stamp. He thereby brings something really new, and he continues this new thing in the Church made up of his disciples. Both Jesus and the Church fall outside the framework provided by the idea – valued so highly by Sanders – of a harmonious ‘common Judaism’. After all, it is no accident that he movement initiated by Jesus opened itself step by step to an increasingly ‘law-free’ Gentile mission just a short time after his death. Nor is it an accident that the three ‘pillars’ at the Apostolic Council about eighteen years later, who were closely associated with Jesus, acknowledge uncircumcised Gentile Christians who were not under obligations to the Torah as full members of the Church, destined to experience eschatological salvation. Must that not also ultimately have something to do with Jesus’ attitude? Ex nihilio nihil fit – or, to take up the illustration which Sanders himself uses (and rejects): from our historical distance, we must conclude from the smoke that there is also a fire. The persecution of the early Palestinian Church were connected with this partially critical attitude toward Torah and cult, as well as with Christology (this whole complex cannot be torn apart.) Jesus himself provided the first impetus for persecution. Early Christianity’s relatively quick break with Sanders’ ‘common Judaism’, despite the fact that it rested entirely of Jewish roots, is a phenomenon which we believe ultimately goes back historically and theologically to Jesus’ words and deeds, in combination with his claim to have been sent from God. This development is without analogy in Palestinian Judaism.”

I anxiously await comments from James Crossley (our resident expert on Law in Early Christianity) on this topic.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Caneday on Biblical Theology

Over at Biblia Theologica Ardel Caneday has a good post on Biblical and Systematic Theology. I have my own thoughts on the subject and I stand by my early theory that the discipline of biblical theology was created by OT scholars who wanted an excuse to write about the NT.

I'm thinking about writing a follow up to Ardel's popular post 21 Theses on Paul and the Law called "5 Theses on Jesus and the Torah".

Also, I found a good link with a series of interesting quotes about house churches.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Top 10 Sermons You Never Want to Hear!

The time is 2305, I have a glass of red wine in hand, just finished reading over Jimmy Dunn's Jesus Remembered, and I'm feeling kinda cheeky. So here we go, the top ten sermons you never want to hear:

10. Any sermon with the words "Purpose Driven" in the title (no offence to RW, but it's been done unto death).

9. Roses or Pansies, what flowers should we have in Church?

8. Dancing: the devil’s tool to undermine your faith.

7. Mel Gibson, Hollywood hunk or new age anti-Christ?

6. Phil 2:5-11: Gnostic Ubermensch or Pauline Zeitgeist?

5. Ten biblical tax shelters

4. Part 12 of a 3 part series on the pre-tribulation rapture

3. Twelve steps to being a more godly pet owner.

2. Homosexuality, try it before you knock it (got this one from Episcopal Life magazine)

1. Toilet hygiene: Are you keeping the whole levitical code?

More seriously, may God bless those who faithfully preach the Word in season and out of season (2 Tim. 4.1-5)!

Seminary Students Say the Darnest Things!

During the semester I have had some really good laughs at my students expense:

1. In a lecture on the book of Hebrews and I was trying to emphasis that the author's thesis is that "Jesus is Better". A better covenant, a better high priest, a better sacrifice, a better law, etc. I then said, "Jesus is better than ... starts with M and rhymes with 'poses' any idea?"
A student with straight face said, "Melchizedek".

2. In another lecture I asked my students who was the Syrian king who had the Jerusalem temple desecrated in 167 BC. The answer is Antiochus Epiphanes IV.
One student said, "Apocrypha-Faeces".

God bless seminary students.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

New Perspective III

Apparently in some circles abroad I'm getting a reputation for being a little too pro-New Perspective on Paul. Let me say a few things:

1. As one who teaches in a Reformed college I am committed to the Reformed tradition, but at the same time I refuse to anathematize Wright as proof of my Reformed orthodoxy. I rather like the guy and consider him a brother in Christ, but I don't go along with everything he says.
2. I don't consider myself a New Perspective advocate. I have criticized elements of the New Perspective in print, in lectures and on-line. But I have also been willing to affirm areas where I think that some New Perspective authors are correct or at least headed in the right direction. See here for my initial musings on the New Perspective.
3. With I. Howard Marshall I think that the New Perspective is correct in what it affirms but wrong in what it denies.
4. I am currently preparing a volume called The Saving Righteousness of God: Studies on Paul, Justification and the New Perspective, which I hope reaches a via media on several issues of debate.

Anyway, for the sake of balance, I thought that I would list my favourite criticisms of the New Perspective:

1. D.A. Carson, Mark Seifrid, and P.T. O'Brien, eds. Justification and Variegated Nomism (2 vols.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001-4).
2. Simon Gathercole, Where is the Boasting? Early Jewish Soteriology and Paul’s Response in Romans 1-5 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002)
3. Francis Watson, "Not the New Perspective" Unpublished paper delivered to the British New Testament Conference 2001.
4. Stephen Westerholm, Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003)
5. Timo Eskola, Theodicy and Predestination in Pauline Soteriology (WUNT 2.100; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1998)
6. Mark Seifrid, Christ, our Righteousness: Paul’s theology of justification (NSBT 9; Downers Grove: IVP, 2000).
7. C. Talbert, "Paul, Judaism, and the Revisionist", CBQ 63 (2001) 1-22.
8. RH Gundry, 'Grace, Works, and Staying Saved in Paul' Biblica 66(1985), 1-38.
9. Sigurd Grindheim, The Crux of Election: Paul’s Critique of the Jewish Confidence in the Election of Israel (WUNT 2.202; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005).
10. Frank Thielman, “Paul as Jewish Christian Theologian: The Theology of Paul in the Magnum Opus of James Dunn,” Perspectives in Religious Studies 25 (1998): 381-87.

Bauckham on the "Word"

‘When John uses “Word” in the opening verses of his Prologue, he means simply this: the divine Word, which all Jews understood on the basis of Genesis to have been active in the creation of all things. Moreover, there was no question of this Word being something or someone created. As God’s own Word, it was intrinsic to God’s own unique identity. To say that all things were created by the word did not compromise the belief that God alone was the Creator of all things, since his Word belonged to his own identity. In fact, to say, as John does, that all things came into being through the Word is precisely to categorize the Word as belonging to the identity of God rather than to the creation.’

Richard Bauckham, ‘Monotheism and Christology in the Gospel of John,’ in Contours of Christology in the New Testament, ed. Richard N. Longenecker (Grand Rapids, MI: 2005), 150.

New Blogs IV

I would like to notify the wider biblio-blogging community of a new blog by Christopher Petersen called Resurrection Dogmatics. The subtitle reads: This is yet another one of many "biblioblogs." Its chief emphasis will be upon nascent Christianity but will not be stymied from wading into other "waters." (the philosophical, theological, cinematical, etc) Nevertheless, topics raised by myself will principally have to do with issues related to primitive, i.e. emerging Christianity. Chris is studying at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, but hopes to study in nascent Christianity.

I am right in detecting a trend in blogs specializing in studies of certain areas of the NT and early Christianity, e.g. Alan Bandy with Cafe Apocalypsis on Revelation, and Jason Hood on Matthew, etc. Is Biblioblogging become specialized to certain corpra in the NT or will there always be the generalists about? The good thing about specialists is that they can keep us generalists up to date on scholarly debates and issues that we don't otherwise have time to track.

Welcome Chris, I look forward to your posts about "resurrection" and early Christianity.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Why write and write and write?

I was amazed, but not surprised, to learn of Ben Witherington’s publication output for this year which includes:

Commentary: The Gospel of Matthew (Smyth & Helwys)
Collection of Sermons: Incandescence. Light Shed through the Word (Eerdmans)
Christian Origins: What Have they done with Jesus? (Harper Collins)
Commentary: Socio-Rhetorical Study of 1&2 Thessalonians (Eerdmans)
Commentary: Letters and Homilies vol 1, Pastoral and Johannine Epistles (IVP

In the future BW is producing commentaries on Luke (Cambridge); Letters and Homiles vol. 2 (Hebrews, James) and vol. 3 (1-2 Peter, Jude); then Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon, and a two volume NT Theology. It’s not just the volume that is daunting; everything that BW writes is worth reading.

Is all of this necessary? What about the old days when scholars would publish a few small things here and there and finally publish a huge magnum opus at the end of their careers (e.g. C.E.B. Cranfield on Romans). I think that regular and studious writing is necessary. First, University funding is largely driven by research output (those in the UK will be all too aware of the beast called the Research Assessment exercise). In the academic sphere writing is about establishing the credentials of your department. Second, and more importantly, publishing is a means of disseminating the content and significance of one’s own studies. I take every opportunity I can to teach a class, preach a sermon, write an article or book because I believe that God has gifted me as a teacher and I want to use every opportunity I have to exercise that gift. In the movie Chariots of Fire, Erid Lidell said that he competed in races because he believed that it pleased God to see him run. When I teach or write, I feel that my heavenly Father is pleased with me and that is what drives me. I’ve also received very encouraging feed back from students who have benefited from things I’ve written which has reinforced this all the more.

One of my favourite preachers, John Piper, once wrote about “redeeming time by writing truth” where he saw writing as a real and genuine ministry of truth for the Church.

I try to make the most of my time and spend every spare second I have either reading, researching or writing. I do this because I believe that what I’m writing about matters. There are some good role models out there to aspire to. In the last year my friend Scot McKnight has written several books and has a few more coming out too (esp. on Mary and a commentary on James). D.A. Carson has stuff flowing from his pen all the time. I secretly harbour an ambition to match Stanley Porter’s voluminous research output (both quality and quantity) and I consider him the bar at which to aim.

I confess that I don’t think I’m doing too badly. I’ve got eight journal articles forthcoming, two encyclopaedia entries done, three essays for edited monographs in preparation, and four books in various stages of production. But when I compare myself to someone like BW I realise that I’m not in his league. But I take solace from of all people Homer Simpson. In one episode of the Simpson’s, Homer tries his best at being an inventor and strives to match Thomas Edison in the inventor stakes. Just when Homer gets disheartened that he can’t match it with Edison, he discovers that Edison strove to match Leonardo Da Vinci. I would really like to know who BW strove to be like as a scholar, and the same goes for Stan Porter and Scot McKnight. When I discover who they tried to emulate perhaps I won't feel so bad.

Here’s a question for us to ponder. Who are the role models for young biblical scholars, both in terms of research output, scholarly ability, pedagogical technique, and pastoral care for students? Who is your role model?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Latest Currents in Biblical Research

The latest issue of CBR 4.2 (2006) includes:

Alan J. Hauser, Scot McKnight, and Jonathan Klawans
Editorial Foreword

R. D. Miller, II
Yahweh and His Clio: Critical Theory and the Historical Criticism of the Hebrew Bible

Keith Bodner
Ark-Eology: Shifting Emphases in ‘Ark Narrative’ Scholarship

Mark Dubis
Research on 1 Peter: A Survey of Scholarly Literature Since 1985

Ellen Birnbaum
Two Millennia Later: General Resources and Particular Perspectives on Philo the Jew

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Get Ready to Rumble: Crossley versus Bird

The current debates about secular versus faith-based scholarship provides the right climate to announce a forthcoming volume by myself and James Crossley called:

Two Views of Christian Origins:
An Evangelical and Secular Conversation

To be published by SPCK around summer 2008.

Here's the concept:

The objective of “Two Views” is to present two contrasting perspectives on the history of early Christianity. The contrast is evidently sharp as one co-author comes from a conservative Christian background (Michael Bird), whilst the other co-author (James Crossley) approaches the matter from a secular standpoint. The volume works sequentially through Christian origins and addresses various topics including the historical Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, the Apostle Paul, the Gospels, and the early church. Each author in turn examines these subjects and lays out his historical arguments concerning their origin and meaning. The volume also includes responses by two other scholars (Maurice Casey and Scot McKnight) to the arguments of Bird and Crossley as to give an even handed and broad evaluation of the arguments and debates that unfold.

Forget Neo versus Agent Smith. Forget Obi-wan versus Anacan Skywalker. Forget Manchester United versus the Dingwall Academy under 14s - this will be the mother-of-all historical debates about Christian Origins. More positively, we hope that the volume will lead to a mutual appreciation of different perspectives New Testament studies.

The outline for the volume runs:

Section One – The Historical Jesus

Crossley: What’s historical about the historical Jesus?
Bird: “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee”

Section Two – The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Bird: “He is risen!” – or is he?
Crossley: Was there really a bodily resurrection?

Section Three – The Apostle Paul

Crossley: The origins of the Pauline mission
Bird: A funny thing happened on the road to Damascus

Section Four – The Gospels

Bird: Four Gospels and one Jesus
Crossley: Four Gospels and the multiple Jesus

Section Five – The Early Church

Crossley: Causal explanations of the early Jesus movement
Bird: Fish, bread, wine and the new empire of the Son

Section Six – Responses

Bird: Response to James Crossley
Crossley: Response to Michael Bird

Scot McKnight: Response to James Crossley
Maurice Casey: Response to Michael Bird

James is a most worthy opponent so it should be a cracking good scuffle and I am sure that Maurice Casey and Scot McKnight will have some learned thoughts to contribute to the debate too.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Sample Chapters from Smyth & Helwys

The American Baptist publishers Smyth & Helwys have have several sample chapters available from their excellent commentary series in PDF. Volumes include:

1-2 Samuel
1-2 Kings

The volume on Romans by Charles Talbert is superb and well worth looking over and purchasing.