Saturday, September 30, 2006

New Blogs XI

Through Evangelical Textual Criticism I have discovered the blog The Amsterdam NT Blog by Jan Krans and Martin de Boer of the New Testament department of the Faculty of Theology at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam.

Jan and Martin, welcome!

Wedderburn on Pauline Chronology

Mark Goodacre has made some interesting posts on why Gal. 2.1-10 = Acts 15. See his The Jerusalem Council: Gal. 2.1-10 = Acts 15 and The Jerusalem Council: Gal. 2.1-10 = Acts 15: Response to Critics including responses from Ben Witherington and others.

I thought I would add to the mix Alexander Wedderburn's reconstruction of the chronology (not because I fully concur with it, but because I find it interesting). This occurs in his book A History of the First Christians (London: T&T Clark, 2004), 91-120.

Wedderburn's approach is as follows:

Galatians 2.1-10 = Acts 11.27-28 and Acts 15
Galatians 2.11-14 = Acts 18.22

His chronology follows this path (p. 103)

30 Crucifixion of Jesus
31-32 Conversion of Paul
33-34 First visit to Jersusalem
Paul in Syria, Cilicia
44-49 Famine in Judea
45-46 Second visit to Jerusalem
Conference/Antioch collection
46-47 First missionary journey (Acts 13-15)
48-51 Second missionary journey
49 Claudius' edict
49-50 Paul's arrival in Corinth (1 Thess written)
51-52 Quarrel in Antioch (Acts 18.22 and Galatians written soon after)
52-57 Third Missionary Journey
Gathering of the Collection
Apostolic Decree
57 Collection journey, Paul arrested
57-59 Paul's imprisonment in Caesarea
59-60 Festus arrives as procurator and sends Paul to Rome
60- Paul in Rome

The chronology I have preferred (with modification) is found as an appendix in Ben Witherington's book The New Testament Story

Friday, September 29, 2006

Theological Terms and the Princess Bride

When students and scholars use technical theological terms the wrong way (like Hypostatization, Apocalyptic, Sitz im Leben, Hermeneutics etc) I always feel like quoting the movie The Princess Bride: "You keep using that word, but I do not think it means what you think it means".

Anyway, that is my introduction to what I really wanted to say: the entire Princess Bride Screen play is available here.

Journal of Theological Studies 57 (2006)

The latest issue of JTS 57 (2006) features the following articles:

Jean-Claude Haelewyck
The Relevance of the Old Latin Version for the Septuagint, with Special Emphasis on the Book of Esther

Michael F. Bird
The Markan Community, Myth or Maze? Bauckham's The Gospel for All Christians Revisited

C. M. Tuckett
Nomina Sacra in Codex E

Andrew Cain
Vox clamantis in deserto: Rhetoric, Reproach, and the Forging of Ascetic Authority in Jerome's Letters from the Syrian Desert

Dirk Krausmüller
Divine Self-Invention: Leontius of Jerusalem'S Reinterpretation of the Patristic Model of the Christian God

Theodora Antonopoulou
Eustathius of Antioch and a Fragment Attributed to Patriarch Photius

D. C. Parker
Review Article: The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. By BRUCE M. METZGER and BART D. EHRMAN. Fourth Edition. Pp. xvi + 366. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005

Thursday, September 28, 2006

T.W. Manson - Jesus and the Non-Jews

Thanks again to Rob Bradshaw for uploading another significant short study onto the web. This time it is: T.W. Manson, Jesus and the Non-Jews. This is a brief lecture about materials pertaining to Jesus and Gentiles in the Gospels. And it is important, let me tell you why.

In many studies of the historical Jesus and the early Christian mission, particularly those with a salvation-historical focus, it is commonly argued that Jesus limited his mission to Israel (e.g. Matt 10.5; 15.24) because the Gentiles would be saved later. In which case, the mission to Israel by Jesus is a bottleneck that has to be traversed before the real mission to the Gentiles can get underway. Jesus' mission to Israel becomes a matter of form and polity in giving Israel first bite of the salvation-historical pie in full knowledge that they will reject it and that the rest of the pie will go to the Gentiles (I think that this is E.P. Sanders' problem with Joachim Jeremias).

In contrast, Manson had a different perspective. In his view Jesus' mission to Israel was part of a larger narrative. Jesus went to Israel because a transformed Israel would transform the world. Thus, we should refrain from saying that Jesus went to Israel because the Gentiles would get saved later; instead, Jesus went to Israel because he was a prophet of restoration eschatology, calling Israel to embrace the kingdom and the covenant, and those who accept the calling would become the Israel of the new age and they would fulfill the covenantal role of being a light to the nations (Isa 42.6; 49.6) and be a kingdom of priests (Exod 19.5-6).

In other words, the continuity between Jesus and Paul is not with the periodizing framework of "Jew then Gentile" in Rom 1.16, it is rather in the narrative framework embedded in Rom. 15.8-9 "Christ became a servant of the circumcized on behalf of God's truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs, so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy".

The Samaritan Messiah, the Taheb

In studying the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman in John 4, I was struck by the statement of the woman "I know that Messiah is coming (the one called Christ); whenever he comes, he will tell us everything" (4:25). While I did not know much about the Samaritans, I did know that they only viewed the Torah as sacred Scripture. So I wondered how a Samaritan would not only have had a belief in Messiah, but would have referred to him as such.

There are obviously two levels that must be kept in mind when dealing with a question like this. The first is what is most likely historically and second what can we assert John himself crafted in his telling of the story?

The answer to the first question is that in fact Samaritans did have a concept of an eschatological figure (in this sense a Messiah) called the Taheb, although the term comes from a 4th c. Samaritan text (cf. Marqah Memar 4:7, 12). The word means restorer (when not a proper name "repentant") and is linked with the expectation of a prophet like Moses who will arise (Deut. 18:15, 18; cf. John 1:21).

Thus, it is likely that the woman and her community held the belief in a Messanic figure, but did not refer to him as the "Messiah", but perhaps "a prophet" (John 4:19). It is possible historically that the Samaritan woman used the term that Jews would most commonly use to refer to this eschatological figure seeing that she was in dialogue with a Jew. More likely however, is that John in reporting the event uses the Hebrew/Aramaic term Messiah.

For more information on the Samaritans see

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

What is "the Gospel"?

Michael Bird and I are working on a definition of the "gospel" for something we are planning to co-publish and we would like your feedback. What do you think about this definition? What are we leaving out? What are including that you think is not essential? How would you define "the Gospel"?

Here is our working definition:

The gospel announces the good news that God's Kingdom has come on the earth in the life death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Lord and Messiah, in fulfillment of Israel's Scriptures. The gospel calls for faith, repentance and discipleship -- its conconmitant effects include the forgiveness of sins, justification, reconciliation, adoption, judgment, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. What accompanies the proclamation of the Gospel is the work of the gospel exemplified in works of liberation and mercy.

Bart Ehrman on the Web

Over at ETC Peter Williams has an excellent interview with Bart Ehrman.

One can also read a debate of Bart Ehrman vs. William Lane Craig on the resurrection.

My main point of contention with Ehrman is that he maintains (at least in his SBL lecture last year) that "we cannot talk about the Word of God because we do not have the original words", and yet, he continues to write historical books about Jesus, Paul and Mary Magadalene which is only possible if the textual tradition has some integrity and if the autographs in some way corresponded to historical people and events. Ehrman the textual critic cries that "the Emperor has no clothes" while Ehrman the historian is holding a fashion parade with Jesus, Paul and Peter on the cat walk.

Authorship of the Pastoral Epistles

Robert Bradshaw of Biblical had uploaded onto the web, articles by Stan Porter and Robert Wall from BBR on Authorship of the Pastoral Epistles. These are probably two of the best articles on the subject that I have read and well worth reading. Wall and Porter are good scholars who are aware of the canonical and interpetive issues at stake too. Do read them if this area interests you. Which reminds me that a paper is to be presented at ETS evaluating I. Howard Marshall's view of metonymity for the authorship of the Pastorals. For those interested the references are:

Robert W. Wall, "Pauline Authorship of the Pastoral Epistles: A Reponse to S.E. Porter," Bulletin for Biblical Research 5 (1995): 125-128.

Stanley E. Porter, "Pauline Authorship and the Pastoral Epistles: A Reponse to R.W. Wall's Response," Bulletin for Biblical Research 6 (1996): 133-138.

Name that Quote?

Who said:

"Bad history will result in bad theology. (Try to imagine a Christianity centered on a sixth-century Norse Jesus slain by invading Finns. It won't work)."

Monday, September 25, 2006

Bauckham on Eyewitnesses

Thanks to the lads at Apollos one can now download the article by Richard Bauckham, "The Eyewitnesses and the Gospel Traditions", Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 1 (2002): pp 28-60 on-line at their website. At the moment the Apollos website hosts over 1000 quality articles and studies and if those guys can get some donations they will be able to post even more resources on-line for students, scholars and pastors. I know from experience that such resources are much cherished by those who live in developing countries so please consider a donation.

Quotes from the Ode's of Horace - I

"What slim youngster, his hair dripping with fragrant oil,
Makes hot love to you now, Pyrrha, ensconced in a
Snug cave curtained with roses?
Who lays claim to that casually chic blonde hair in a braid?" (1.5)

"Others can praise in their verse Mitylene, Rhodes and its glories
Great Ephesus, high-walled, twin harboured Corinth,
Bacchus's home town Thebes, or Delphi, haunt of Apollos
Or Tempe up in Thessaly." (1.7)

"Thou son of Saturn, father and protector
Of humankind, to thee Fate has entrusted
Care of great Caesar; govern, then, while Caesar
Holds the lieutenancy." (1.12)

"Chloe, you will not venture near,
Just like a lost young mountain deer
Seeking her frantic dam; for her each
Gust in the trees is a needless fear" (1.23)

"When somebody as dear as he is dead,
Grief must be huge and uninhibted.
Melpomene, to whom, God-given, belong
Lyre and clear voice, teach me a funeral song.
So, now Quintilius sleeps the sleep which men
Never recover from; and who knows when
Honour, Good Faith and naked Truth will find
His parallel again among mankind?" (1.24)

"To each his life-work. Let the Calenian
Prune back his vines. Let merchants with moneybags
Swill out pure gold cups the wines they
Buy on the profits from Tyre and Sidon" (1.31)

"Guard Caesar bound for Britain at the world's end,
Guard our young swarm of warriors on the wing now
To spread the fear of Rome
Into Arabia and the Red Sea coasts" (1.35)

Trans. James Michie.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Fox now has a Christian Movies Wing

According to ABC News (that is the Australian Broadcast Corporation) Fox is set to make a number of Christian movies including an adaption of Milton's Paradise Lost and one on the Nativity Story.

Spokesman Steve Feldstein assures the company's just tapping into a massive US market:

"All of this programming is entertainment first. We're not in the business of proselytising or preaching." [Heaven forbid!]

Saturday, September 23, 2006

John's Gospel for Jewish believers in Jesus

As I began studying John's Gospel recently, in preparation for teaching undergrads, I was surprised to discover that John's Gospel is perhaps the most Jewish of the four Gospels even exceeding my beloved Matthew.

While no doubt a debatably viewpoint, I am growing in my conviction that the Fourth Gospel was written by a Jew, for Jewish believers in Jesus. The purpose of the Gospel then is
to confirm for these Jewish Jeshua believers that they were remaining faithful to the Jewish faith.

For a strong defense of this view, consult the excellent commentary by Craig Keener.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Christian Claims as Blasphemous to Jews

I'm currently working on an article on Jesus and the Parting of the Ways between Judaism and Christianity. One thing that I find intriguing is that a number of charges laid against Jesus at his trial/interogation are used against Christians in other literature. Consider the one of blasphemy in Mark 14.64 which is brought against Christians in Acts 6.11 and Justin, Dial. Tryph. 38. In fact the latter reads:

And Trypho said, "Sir, it were good for us if we obeyed our teachers, who laid down a law that we should have no intercourse with any of you, and that we should not have even any communication with you on these questions. For you utter many blasphemies, in that you seek to persuade us that this crucified man was with Moses and Aaron, and spoke to them in the pillar of the cloud; then that he became man, was crucified, and ascended up to heaven, and comes again to earth, and ought to be worshipped."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Aristotle on Righteousness

To righteousness it belongs to be ready to distribute according to desert, and to preserve ancestral customs and institutions and the established laws and to tell the truth when interest is at stake, and to keep agreements. First among the claims of righteousness are our duties to the gods. Then our duties to the spirits, then those to country and parents, then those to the departed; and among these claims is piety … righteousness is also accompanied by holiness and truth and loyalty and hatred of wickedness (Aristotle, On Virtues and Vices, 5.2-3).

In view of this is it fair to think of Aristotle's view of "righteousness" as essentially about distributive justice, or does it also contain a sense of right relationships, i.e. fulfilling one's civil and ceremonial duties to others, divine and human?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Quotes about the Gospel

My co-blogger (Joel Willitts) and myself have come up with a rather novel and subversive idea, namely, that the centre of Evangelicalism is not inerrancy, complementarianism, or the confession (i.e. the 1689 LBC, the only truly reformed confession :). Instead, the centre of Evangelicalism is the evangel! Whoa! Now before you say, "Avert your eyes children, he may change form!" Or, "Let's burn this heretec like a grilled cheese burger" hear me out. I'm not denying the veracity and utility of those other things, but they are not the sine qua non of Evangelicalism. For us what defines, characterizes, shapes, inspires, drives, nourishes, and permreates Evangelicalism and and Evangelical Theology should be the evangel!!!

What the word ‘evangelical’ will objectively designate is that theology which speaks of the God of the Gospel.
- Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology: An Introduction (trans. Grover Foley; Great Britain: Collins, 1963), 11.

A renewed theology will be evangelical, that is, centered on the gospel of reconciliation and redemption as attested in Holy Scripture.
- Donald G. Bloesch, A Theology of Word and Spirit: Authority and Method in Theology (Downers Grove: IVP, 1992), 124.

Evangelical Theology should be a Theology of the Gospel.
- Kevin J. Vanhoozer, ‘The Voice and the Actor: A Dramatic Proposal about the Ministry and Minstrelsy of Theology,’ in Evangelical Futures: A Conversation on Theological Method, ed. John G. Stackhouse (Regent: Regent College Publishing, 2000), 61.

To be ‘evangelical’ is to read Scripture in the light of the euangelion that lies at its heart.
- Francis Watson, ‘An Evangelical Response,’ in The Trustworthiness of God: Perspectives on the Nature of Scripture, eds. Carl Trueman and Paul Helm (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), 287.

Revelation does not merely bring the gospel: the gospel is revelation.
- Klyne Snodgrass, ‘The Gospel in Romans: A Theology of Revelation,’ in Gospel in Paul, eds. L. Ann Jervis and Peter Richardson (JSNTSup 108; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994), 108.

The gospel stands at the beginning of the story that explains why there are Christians at all, on the boundary between belief and unbelief – often, for the hearer, prior to a knowledge of the Bible itself. For the person entering from the outside, the gospel is the introduction to the faith, the starting-point for understanding. It then rightly becomes the touchstone of the faith. Since this is where faith begins, it is essential that faith continues to conform to it.
- Peter Jenson, The Revelation of God (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2002), 32.

Communio Sanctorum

Following up on my post about Steven Harmon and Baptist Catholicity, I came across an interesting site called Communio Sanctorum — A Reformational Contribution to Catholicity which also discusses the issue of Catholicity from a Reformed perspective. There is some interesting discussion going on there and Wyman Richardson has some interesting things to say about NT Wright and Written Prayers.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Essays for NT students

It's that time of year again where I must ponder what assessment ventures to set before my undergrads. Something that will challenge their thinking and stimulate their minds about the New Testament as both History and Scripture. Well, this is what I'v chosen this year:

NT Introduction

What are the warning passages in Hebrews warning against?

What is the centre of New Testament Theology?


“Romans 14.1-15.13 is a manifesto for unity in the ethnically diverse house churches in Rome.” Discuss.

Who is the “I” and “wretched man” of Romans 7:7-25?

Write an exegesis paper on Romans 11.25-32.

Write an exegesis paper on Romans 16.1-7.

Exploring other Faiths

Judaism: ‘Who are God’s People in the Middle East?’

1 Corinthians

Is the resurrection body of believers the same as the resurrection body of Christ according to the Corinthian correspondence?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Issues in the Study of Early Christianity

This evening I've been browsing over Gerd Luedemann, Primitive Christianity: A Survey of Recent Studies and Some New Proposals (London: Continuum, 2003) and it has got me thinking about the field of study itself.

First, what should the discipline be called:

1. New Testament History
2. Christian Origins
3. Primitive Christianity
4. Urchristentum
5. Beginnings/Anfängen of Christianity

Are these terms synonymous or are we talking about different fields? Is NT History limited to the NT canon while Christian Origins is broader?

Second, what is the content of this discipline, is it Theologiegeschichte (theological history), Religionsgeschchte (religious history), Literarischegeschichte(literary history), or Sozialgeschicte (social history). Does it have to be only one and how do these sciences interact?

Third, what is the terminus for a study of early Christianity: 70 AD, 100 AD, the death of Ignatius, the time of Justin Martyr, Constantine - is there a clear end point which marks the transition from "early Christianity" to "early church history"?

Social-Science Bibliography

From the University of Melbourne, Australia, I have come across a useful bibliography on sociological studies of the New Testament called New Testament World/Backgrounds.

Reviews of Nicholas Perrin on Thomas and Tatian

Nicholas Perrin (Wheaton, IL, USA) has argued in several works that the Gospel of Thomas was dependent on Tatian's Diatessaron, see: Nicholas Perrin, Thomas and Tatian: The Relationship Between the Gospel of Thomas and the Diatessaron (AB 4; Leiden, Brill, 2002); idem, ‘NHC II,2 and the Oxyrhynchus Fragments (P.Oxy 1, 654, 6550): Overlooked Evidence for a Syriac Gospel of Thomas,’ VC 58 (2004): 138-51; idem, ‘Thomas: The Fifth Gospel?’ JETS 49 (2006): 67-80.

I find Perrin's proposal very attractive, but confess that I remain agnostic about the overall thesis. I think the strength of Perrin's arugment is that a Syrian provenance for Thomas seems quite probable, the Diatessaron may have been the first or only Gospel-like piece of literature available in Syriac at the end of the first century, the reconstruction of common catchwords in Syriac is suggestive of a Syriac original for Thomas, and perhaps the order of the sayings in the Diatessaron in comparison with Thomas is a possible indication of dependency. On the other hand, an original Greek text for Thomas is not impossible esp. since we do have Greek fragments. What is more there are simply too many unknowns in the equations to be decisive, esp. when we are talking about Syriac texts which we do not have access too. Like many others, I am simply not qualified to be able make an informed decision about matters pertaining to Syriac or the Diastessaron in order to either affirm or disagree with Perrin's proposal. That being said, if Perrin is correct then there's a lot of North American scholarship that can be taken to the trash can for good.

Mark Goodacre coveniently lists the reviews of Perrin by David Parker, Paul-Hubert Poirier, Robert Shedinger, and Peter Williams.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Around the Blogs - I

For a biographical portrait of NT Wright check out the account written over at Adversaria and then go read the alternative version "NT Wright the Real Story" at Waiting Room of the World. HT: Jim West.

Everyone who teaches Greek must read the post over at Codex called, Dr. Seuss Learns Greek - blogs rarely make me laugh but this was hillarious. HT: Michael Pahl There's also one on Hebrew too.

All Baptists are henceforth to go read Timothy George's essay in First Things called Southern Baptists after the Revolution HT: Denny Burke.

There is also a BMCW review available of Mark Chancey's recent book: Greco-Roman Culture and the Galilee of Jesus HT:

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Gospel of Justification?

A term that gets tossed around quite a lot in Reformed Evangelical circles is the, "The Gospel of Justification" (In fact, a book has recently been published with this very title, see Wayne C. Stumme, ed., Gospel of Justification in Christ: Where Does the Church Stand Today? [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006]). But I confess that I find this term misleading and unhelpful.

1. This is simply not the language of the NT. There are more common references to the "gospel of God" (Rom. 1.1; 15.16; 2 Cor. 11.7; 1 Thess. 2.8-9) and the "gospel of Christ" (Rom. 15.19; 1 Cor. 9.12; 2 Cor. 2.12; 9.13; 10.14; Gal. 1.7; Phil. 1.27; 1 Thess. 3.2). Surely it makes better sense to have the grammar of our faith permeated and nourished by the language of Scripture itself.

2. The Dik- word group (words for "righteousness" and "justify" etc) very rarely occur in proximity to euangelion ("gospel") or euangelizomai ("I preach the gospel"). In Rom. 1.17, Paul can say, "For in the it [i.e. the gospel] a righteousness of God is revealed". Note what Paul does not say. He does not advocate that the gospel is the righteousness of God, but he says that the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel. Furthermore, the dikaiosyne theou ("righteousness of God") is not a cipher for the imputation of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, but with its OT background it refers more properly to God's saving activity or to God's saving righteousness and is broader in scope than merely justification itself. Rom. 1.16-17 introduces all of Romans, chapters 1-16, and not merely Romans 1-4.

3. An additional problem is that the "gospel of justification" as I have heard it explicated seems to spend an incredible amount of time making sure that one has the correct understanding of imputation. Thus, the gospel of justification becomes in reality the gospel of imputation. Now I'm not trying to denigrate the idea of imputation, but I suspect that in such an emphasis Jesus becomes the presupposition for the gospel rather than its primary content.

4. Lastly, if the subject of the gospel is the object of faith, then it appears that some preachers and commentators are regarding jusitification and imputation as that which one must believe in order to be saved or justified. In which case, one is justified by believing in justification through imputation. But the gospel I find in the NT makes Jesus Christ the subject of the gospel and the object of faith. One is saved and justified, not by believing in justification and/or imputation, but by faith in Christ (e.g. Rom. 10.9-10). Jonathan Edwards warned against confusing doctrinal statements about justification with the article of justification itself (The Works of Jonathan Edwards [Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1974], 1.654).

5. Less we think that justification has no relationship to the gospel, far from it, justification by faith remains Paul's most coherent and robust theological expression of the gospel when the gospel is challenged by Torah-centred Jewish Christians who urge Gentiles to do the works of the law to either complete what is lacking in their faith or as a condition for eschatological vindication.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Hellenists in Early Christianity

I'm currently reading through Todd Penner's interesting book, In Praise of Christian Origins: Stephen and the Hellenists in Lukan Apologetic Historiography for an review article which will be part of my 'triology' of articles on Luke-Acts for next year. I found one interesting quote in Penner from T.W. Martin:

‘Thus, it is now thought that it was this community of Christian Hellenists who accelerated the transferral of the Jesus tradition from Aramaic into Greek, who helped bring Christian theology fully into the realm of Greek thought from free Aramaic pre-acculturation, who were instrumental in moving Christianity from its Palestinian setting into the urban culture of the larger Empire, who first saw the implications of Jesus’ resurrection for a Law-free Gospel for the gentiles (and for Jews), and who were the bridge between Jesus and Paul. These Christian Hellenists were the founders of Christian mission outside Palestine, and a theological tradition capable of articulating a gospel for the Greco-Roman world.’

T.W. Martin, ‘Hellenists,’ ABD 3.136.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Exciting Publishing Event in Pauline Studies

It is with great joy that I announce what may well be one of the biggest events in Pauline studies since St. Paul the Evangelist said to Tertius, "Terty, my boy, get ready to take a letter, let's see if those Gentiles in Rome will give me a stash of cash on my way to Spain. Something rhetoricalesque should do the trick!"


The Faith of Jesus Christ:
Exegetical, Biblical, and Theological Studies

Edited by Michael F. Bird and Preston M. Sprinkle
Due for release mid-late 2008

The “Faith of Jesus Christ” represents an attempt to grapple with one of the most perplexing problems in Pauline studies, namely that of the pistis christou debate. The topic is now well rehearsed in contemporary scholarship and this volume sheds new light on the question by presenting rigorous exegetical studies from both sides of the debate. It also brings creative new proposals to bear on the problem, and orients the discussion in the wider spectrum of historical, biblical and systematic theology. The “Faith of Jesus Christ” represents the most penetrating and comprehensive attempt to date to grapple with the significance of Jesus’ faithfulness and obedience for Christian salvation and the extent to which it is represented in key biblical texts.
Contributors lined up so far include:

Stanley E. Porter (McMasters Seminary)
Barry Matlock (Sheffield University)
Douglas Campbell (Duke University)
Mark A. Seifrid (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)
Paul Foster (New College, Edinburgh)
David DeSilva (Ashland Theological Seminary)
Peter Bolt (Moore Theological College)
Ben Myers (University of Queensland)
Joel Willitts (North Park University)
And other luminaries yet to be confirmed.

More anon.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Odes of Horace and Augustan Propaganda

Quintus Horatius Flaccus (b. 65 BC, d. 8 BC) fought initially on the side of Pompey against Julius Caesar during the civil war that marked the end of the old republic. Despite being on the loosing side, he eventually found favour with Caesar Augustus and became a successful poet. In his Odes, book four, ode five, there is a poem addressed to Augustus. It includes this stanza:

As long as Caesar is safe, who would fear the
Parthian, who [would fear] the frozen Scythian, who
[would fear] the swarms which savage Germany breeds?
Who would worry about war with fierce Spain?

The poem with a very good commentary can be read here.

The ode is a good example of Roman propaganda which connected the welfare and propserity of the empire with the coming of Augustus.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Teaching and Preaching Hebrews

I'm in the process of reconsidering which NT courses to teach in the future at HTC. I'm seriously considering introducing a course on Hebrews and Revelation. And that of course leaves open which text books to use. Well, on Hebrews, I have to recommend these books:

Andrew Lincoln, Hebrews: A Guide (London:T&T Clark, 2006)

This is the best overview of the theology, themes and critical issues of Hebrews that I have seen to date. Lincoln is perhaps a little more optimistic about the application of rhetoric to Hebrews (but so is DeSilva), still, this is a solid read and absolutely ideal for students.

David A. DeSilva, Perseverance in Gratitude: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Epistle "to the Hebrews" (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000).

A good commentary on Hebrews with excellent sections on Apostacy and Perseverance. DeSilva's articles in Tyndale Bulletin are also worth reading.

A mention in despatches should also be made about:

Craig Koester, Hebrews (AB; New York: Doubleday, 2001) [The only reason I chose DeSilva over this was because it was cheaper - otherwise it was equal in value].

Daniel Harrington, What are They Saying About Hebrews? (New York: Paulist Press, 2005)

Who the Heck is Ilse Fredrichsdorff?

Who the heck is Ilse Fredrichsdorff? In reading over Robert Yarbrough's excellent book, The Salvation-Historical Fallacy (p. 342, n. 9) he gives this quote from the preface of M. Albertz, Die Botschaft des Neuen Testament (1947-57) which left me gob-smacked:

"This book is dedicated to the young brethren of the Confessing Church. I was united with them in my office as leader of the Office of Theological Examination of the Confessing Church in Berlin-Brandenburg. I was all the closer to these brethren, whose status was illegal from the start, in that perforamnce of my ministry resulted in the loss of my freedom as well as my ordination, withdrawn by a bogus ecclesiastical authority. This book's dedication bears two names [one is Erich Klapproth, the other is] Ilse Fredrichsdorff ... When the church struggle began she was a young girl belonging to the Confessing Church congregation Nicolai-Melanchthon in Spandau. Through our congregation she came to take up theological study. She studied in our theological college and in Basel with Karl Barth. She became curate of the only truly evangelical confessional school that could be established under the Third Reich, the school for non-Aryan Christian children who were no longer permitted to attend the public school. During the war she reamined in congregations northeast of Berlin, in that region where the last battle prior to Berlin was waged. She was so much in demand for her pastoral skills that the major of the troop emplacements behind which lay the villages she served repeatedly requested her aid among the troops. Later she led the displaced congregations with the word of God, went back to the hunger zone as much as possible, and, after she had buried hundreds of the thousands who perished, succumbed herself to starvation (II/1, 13-14)."

Baptist Catholicity II

In reading over Steve Harmon's book Baptist Catholicity, he makes some controversial points about baptism and justification.

Harmon urges Baptist's to recognize the legitimacy of other Baptisms in other denomiantions, even paedo-baptism. He argues:

There is indeed one baptism practiced by the church in its catholicty - a baptism that includes both 'beliver's baptism' as a baptismal practice most appropriate to New Testament-like experiences of adult conversion and infant baptism as a baptismal practice most appropriate to the experience of being nurtured from infancy toward faith by family and congregation - and this one baptism belongs at the beginning of one's journey of faith rather than at multiple subsequent points along that journey. (p. 126)

He also suggests that the Baptist World Alliance should give consideration to joining the Methodists and recognizing the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed in 1999 between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation (p.199). I think this would be a mistake since the 1999 declaration is a fudge that does not do justice to the reformed objections to the tridentine formulations. The document (which I have read in-depth) does point out some common ground and remove unhelpful caricatures, but it fails to deal with the central differences between them.

What was also interesting was that for Harmon, the main thing that prevents him from joining the Catholic church was his support for the ordination of women (p. 200).

In sum, the main strength of Harmon's book was urging Baptists to rethink the idea of liturgy and the role of tradition in relation to biblical authority. This is a book well worth reading. Other reflections on this book are offered by Sean the Baptist.

BNTC 2006 Highlights (For Me)

The BNTC in Sheffield was a glowing success. Congrats to the Sheffield biblical studies department for organizing a good show. It was the first BNTC that Mark Goodacre had missed in 10 years, and my first BNTC. I arrived a day early and got to walk around Sheffield (in the pouring rain) which included a look around the bookshops, checking out the library, and browsing the botanical gardens.

Graham Stanton's paper "Messianism and Christology: Mark, Matthew and Luke", was of natural interest to me since I'm working on a rolling project on Messianism in the Gospels (publishing one article a year on the subject). In the seminar groups, the Jesus Seminar,
James Crossley presented a rationale for a secular/socio-economic approach to historical Jesus studies. James did not convince everyone that "conversion" is essentially about sociological integration and any persuasion of beliefs is secondary. My own paper on Matt 8.11-12/Luke 13.28-29 went okay, although Maurice Casey and James Crossley took exception to my view of the temple demonstration was (partly) concerned with censuring Jewish nationalism, but I'll throw in my load with Wright, Evans, and Davies.

Crispin Fletcher-Louis gave a provocative paper on "Jewish Monotheism and NT Christology: Reflections on Recent Developments" and his idea that humans are the idols/icons of God was much pondered.

Peter Williams gave a superb lecture (both in content and in presentation) on the prologue of John's Gospel noting that the early ms and early interpreters usually make the breaks at v. 5 and sometimes v. 14.

Maurice Casey's main paper on "The Solution to the Son of Man Problem" was a summary of his research on the topic and follows up on Vermes' proposal of "bar enasha" as a self-reference.

I got to meet John Nolland (another member of the Aussie biblical studies Diaspora) and Sean Winter.

For me the highlight was the Acts seminar where we debated the unity of Luke-Acts. I gave an overview of research since 1993 and C. Kavin Rowe (Duke) and Andrew Gregory (Oxford) in turn presented their own ideas in relation to reception-history and what that contributes to the topic (see the 2005 issue of JSNT). Steve Walton put together a good and interesting seminar.

Andrew T. Lincoln was elected as the new present of BNTC and in talking with Andrew I learned that he actually reads this blog ocassionally - so congrats to Andrew.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

First Week of Teaching a NPU

Many of you have already come to know the experience of beginning a teaching career. Someone recently compared it to starting up a business. The first weeks, months and perhaps years are incredibly stressful and busy as you prepare new courses and lectures, hang with students and faculty and become acclimated to the institution.

At the end of my first week at North Park, I am relaxing on this Saturday morning with a cup of coffee taking stock of the week. My days have been long and full and I find that I am just a step (perhaps even a half-step) in front of the students. I am getting into my office early in the morning before my 9:15 class and just pulling off the printer my class notes as I dash to teach. What a pace!

However, I love this job! I love interacting with the students in my classes. I love the challenge of teaching the Bible to undergrads who have very diverse backgrounds and interests -- most haven't cracked the spine of a Bible. I am having a blast.

This is a long weekend for universities in the US as Labor Day is Monday. Perhaps I will get a couple of steps a head of my students this weekend, but probably not. I will probably watch baseball, hang with family and go to a movie instead; I really want to see the movie Invincible.