Thursday, April 02, 2009
Back from SCH
I just got back from Scottish Churches House in Dunblane. It is a lovely ecumenical centre in the heart of historic Dunblane, opposite a Church of Scotland Cathedral, and not far from Stirling castle. It is an ideal retreat for small groups or a good study retreat and conveniently located between Glasgow and Edinburgh.
At the "Grasping Nettles Session" moderated by Liz Templeton, Helen Bond (Edinburgh Uni) and I discussed the topic "The Bible: Literal Truth or Metaphor". The first part was about the Gospels generally and Helen and I pretty much agreed that the Gospels include history and interpretation interweaved throughout. Although I took the more Bauckhamesque line of seeing eyewitnesses involved in creating and (to a degree) controlling the transmission of the tradition beneath the Gospels. In the second part, we briefly discussed the passion narratives and while we agreed on the basic historical outline (arrest, Jewish hearing, Roman trial, execution) we took slightly different slants on the history of the specific details. I, for instance, argued for the authenticity of Mk. 14.62 since (1) I don't think Jesus was the first one to link Daniel 7 and Psalm 110 in a messianic testimonium and the blasphemy charge is similar to what Rabbi Akiba was accused of when he said that the plural of "thrones" in Dan. 7.9 refers to one throne for the messiah and another throne for Yahweh, so Mk. 14.62 is not necessarily a Christian retrojection and it is plausible in a purely Jewish context; and (2) Jesus' words in the verse (or something very much like it) makes sense of the wider narrative to me which shifts naturally from an allegation about speaking against the temple, to a messianic question, to Jesus' affirmation of his status, which in turn led to the decision to hand him over to the Romans. Still, Helen did raise a good question as to what sources we have for the trial narratives as we have to ask whether any of Jesus' followers really knew what transpired at the trial itself (though on this see James Dunn, Jesus Remembered). It was a great little discussion and we finished up with a good exchange over the resurrection. It was a very nice audience, some probing questions were asked, I've never met so many Quakers before, and Helen is a very engaging speaker (incidentally she has a T&T Clark book on Jesus coming out in the distant future The Historical Jesus: A Guide for the Perplexed and she's giving one of the main papers at BNTC this year). My daughter Alexis was also dying to know if Helen was married to a guy called "James".
My family and I stayed at SCH that night which was refreshing, I wish I was staying on at SCH that day because they had a really great session on "The Bible - Transcending Division" which included a seminar panel consisting of a Russian orthodox priest, a Church of Scotland Minister, an Episcopalian, and a Catholic Priest all discussing the role of Scripture in their tradition. I would have enjoyed that discussion. That morning I had a very pleasant surprise when I bumped into none other than Dr. Mark Elliott (St. Andrews Uni) and Dr. Allison Jack (Edinburgh Uni) in the High Street of Dunblane. We had coffee there and then they took me to Leighton Library which is a small library left by the former bishop of Dunblane Robert Leighton (1611-84) which had some very rare and very old books. I noticed that on the shelves were accounts about the Council of Ephesus (451). Then later on I had the pleasure of having lunch with Nick Batzig and his wife Anna who were in town for a Jonathan Edwards conference and it was good to meet one of the young rising stars in the PCA.