Friday, May 29, 2009

Are Republican Policies Good as Gospel

My esteemed co-blogger might be in a better position than me to comment on this (since Joel is a LU grad). But in an article at CT, I found this description of Liberty Universities "distinctives" rather concerning:

"An uncompromising doctrinal statement, based upon an inerrant Bible, a Christian worldview beginning with belief in biblical Creationism, an eschatological belief in the pre-millennial, pre-tribulational coming of Christ for all of His Church, dedication to world evangelization, an absolute repudiation of “political correctness,” a strong commitment to political conservatism, total rejection of socialism, and firm support for America’s economic system of free enterprise."

Why would anyone put support for political conservatism in the same category as assent to a Christian worldview? Is it me, or has GOP political and economic policies suddenly become Christian orthodoxy? What is more, what do they say about most Christians in most of the world who do not share those GOP beliefs - are we heretics or caught in grievious sin and error? Those American Christians can be strange people!

Don't get it, just don't get it!

A Hole in the Gospel

Over at Jesus Creed my friend and colleague Scot McKnight endorses Richard Stearn's (President of World Vision) new book The Hole in Our Gospel: What does God expect of Us? The Answer that Changed my Life and Might Just Change the World with this glowing endorsement:
This book belongs in every church library; every pastor needs to read it; and every adult Sunday school class in our country needs to read it and face the facts -- and think of how best to respond. That's my endorsement of this book.
Scot goes on to say the central questions the book addresses are:
Does the biblical gospel include justice for the world? Or is justice for the world secondary to the gospel? These are the questions we need to discuss. Where do we define the gospel? From Luke 4:18-19 (gospel of kingdom) or from the message of personal salvation in Romans?
I picked it up today!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Is this Dispensationalism?

Can you identify from what source this quote is drawn?
It seems that Paul envisaged the "church" as co-existing in close relation to, but also distinct from historic Israel until such times as Israel may be fully restored. Paul's view of Jews and gentiles is that they remain distinct entities, a distinction that abides, even though all is relativized in Chirst . . . Paul would never confuse Israel and the gentiles, so that although in God's purposes, the two are intertwined and closely related, they remain related but separate entities.
Darrell Bock, Progressive Dispensationalism
William Campbell, Paul and the Creation of Christian Identity

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Generalist vs. Specialist - SBL Forum

Sometime ago (in fact, a long time ago) I wrote a blogpost on specialists and generalists in biblical studies. More recently, at the May issue of SBL forum, I've teamed up with Craig Keener to write:

Let us know what you think!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Preaching in Brisvegas

Tomorrow I head off to Brisbane, Australia for a quick visit. For those friends and well-wishers in Brisbane (the closest thing to Zion on earth), I'll be preaching at the morning service of Acacia Ridge Presbyterian Church on Sunday the 31st of May.

Strangely enough, last time I was in Brisbane the drought was so bad that I think everyone in the city had been rationed with 2 litres of water a day for drinking, bathing, toileting and had to wash their cars with saliva (slight exaggeration). Well, from recent news reports it sounds as if the drought might be over, but only because Brisbane has morphed into an antipodian Atlantis with much of it six feet underwater. See photos here!

Difference Between Luther(anism) and Calvin on Justification

Calvin and Luther undoubtedly shared a perspective of a forensic act of justification based on an alien righteousness imputed to believers. Yet while some try to pass off Luther and Calvin as essentially twins on the subject, some differences do remain. These differences are competently exposited by Mark Garcia in his book Life in Christ: Union with Christ and Twofold Grace in Calvin's Theology. Garcia writes:

"Unlike his Lutheran counterparts, Calvin did not ground good works in imputation or justification but in union with Christ. In contradistinction with Melanchthon, for example, Calvin argued a positive, soteric value of good works as the ordinary prerequisite for receiving eternal life. It appears that basic differences exist in their respective understandings of justifying faith: at the heart of the inseparability in Calvin's unio Christi-duplex gratia formulation is a justifying faith defined not only passively, as resting on Christ alone, but actively, as an obedient faith that, resting on Christ alone, perseveres in the pursuit of holiness" (p. 260).

Gracia goes on to note that many in the Reformed tradition (e.g. Charles Hodge) have given sway to the Lutheran view rather than following Calvin when they assert that sanctification is the logically corollary of justification. Garcia states: "Within Calvin's soteriological model, to make sanctification follow justification as an effect is to concede the theological possibility that one may be truly justified but not yet sanctified, with the result that the legal fiction charge, to which Calvin was always sensitive, would be validated" (p. 264). I think on Calvin's model that there is no split nano-second of delay between justification and sanctification as both occur in Christ.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Old Testament Theologies

What are the best Old Testament Theologies around these days?

Walter Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy

Brevard S. Childs, Old Testament Theology in a Canonical Context

William J. Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel. A Theological Survey of the Old Testament

William Dyrness, Themes in Old Testament Theology

Paul R. House, Old Testament Theology

Walter Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament (vols. 1-2)

John Goldingay, Israel's Gospel

Bruce Waltke, An Old Testament Theology

Have I missed any?

Tormenting Gk Texts Students

In my Greek Texts III class today, we finished off the semester (and their undergraduate Greek) by getting them to translate one final Greek text, not from a UBS4 or NA27, but from an actual manuscript! Here's what they had to translate from Codex Vaticanus:

What is the book, chapter, and verse for this passage?

What word is missing here compared to the UBS4 version?

Calvin and His Time

W. Robert Godfrey has a good article at CT about Calvin and His Time.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Stephen Fowl on Theological Interpretation

Over at Christian Theology on the Bible, Chris Spinks is posting a series of quotes from Stephen Fowl's forthcoming book on Theological Interpretation of Scripture in the Cascade Companions series. In the first installment, Fowl writes:

For the most part, the various interpretive practices common in the pre-modern period arise from Christian theological convictions. Scripture was seen as God’s gift to the church. Scripture was the central, but not the only, vehicle by which Christians were able to live and worship faithfully before the triune God. It is also the case that faithful living, thinking, and worshipping shaped the ways in which Christians interpreted Scripture. At its best, the diversity and richness of the patterns of reading Scripture in the pre-modern period are governed and directed by Scripture’s role in shaping and being shaped by Christian worship and practice. Ultimately, Scriptural interpretation, worship, and Christian faith and life were all ordered and directed towards helping Christians achieve their proper end in God.

It is important to understand that the difference between modern and pre-modern biblical interpretation is not due to the fact that we are smart and sophisticated while they are ignorant and naïve. Instead, modern biblical study is most clearly distinguished from pre-modern interpretation because of the priority granted to historical concerns over theological ones. Ultimately, if Christians are to interpret Scripture theologically, the first step will involve granting priority to theological concerns. This, however, is to anticipate my conclusion.

On theological interpretation, see also the excellent series of posts by Michael Gorman.

I think theological interpretation is a great thing, and I honestly intend to employ some of it in a forthcoming NT Theology that I'm about to start writing (Lord willing, in a year from now). My only whinge is that more people seem to be talking about theological interpretation than actually doing it!!

Billings on Calvin and Participation

I'm currently reading through J. Todd Billings on Calvin, Participation, and the Gift and I enjoyed this quote about participation and imputation in Calvin:

"As Calvin later states it, imputation and regeneration constitute a double grace (duplex gratia) and are inseparable. On the one hand, in contrasting his view with thinkers who make human merit a ground for justification, Calvin can say that 'in us there is nothing'. But this is after saying - through a participation in Christ - believers have wisdom, purity, power, life and all that Christ has. the moment of reception is inseparable from the moment of empowerment by which believers are enabled to 'grow into a holy temple'. The wondrous exchange in imputation draws believers into a transforming union with Christ, even as transformation of believers does not provide the ground of this union."

What does it mean to "fear the Lord"?

We all know that the "fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov. 9.10). But what does it actually mean to "fear the Lord"? I think the answer is provided by Deuteronomy 10:

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 - "And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?"

Deuteronomy 10:20 - "Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name."

In sum, the fear of the Lord is to follow, love, obey, and serve him!

German Commentaries: Mark

There seems to be a slight neglect of the Gospel of Mark by the Germans in recent decades in view of the dearth of Markan commentaries. However, I recommend these three commentaries.

Gnilka's commentary:
1978. Das Evangelium nach Markus. EKKNT. Düsseldorf, Zürich; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Benziger; Neukirchener Verlag.

Pesch's commentary:
1979. Das Markus-Evangelium. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.

Schnackenburg's two-volume commentary:
1984. Das Evangelium nach Markus. 4th ed. Geistliche Schriftlesung. Düsseldorf: Patmos-Verlag.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Matthew 1:1: "Son of Abraham" a proposal by Leroy Huizenga

I recently stumbled across a brief and altogether interesting article on Matthew 1:1 “Jesus, the Messiah, son of David, son of Abraham” by Leroy Huizenga at Wheaton College while I was perusing the periodical shelves (HBT 30 [2008]: 103-13). I offer a summary and a short analysis.

First, Huizenga believes the phrase serves as a title for the whole Gospel and not simply for the genealogy or the infancy narrative or the first major section (1:1—4:16). Given how thoroughly interwoven is the concept of Jesus’ Davidic identity through the whole Gospel, the retrospective look back after reading makes this conclusion clear.

Second, Huizenga makes the important connection between the son of David and son of Abraham. He asserts, essentially, that what is true for the phrase “son of David” must also be true for “son of Abraham”. Thus, one would expect to find a significant thread sown through the Gospel that connects to this title.

These two points are largely well established within the field, but Huizenga then takes a step in a new direction by attempting to show that what Matthew has in mind is not Abraham, so much as Isaac, “the son of Abraham”. The force of his argument is that Matthew’s Gospel contains a robust Isaac typological intiated by this title: “in his first coming, Jesus was not only the Davidic Messiah but also the antitype of Isaac” (108). Central to this typology, for Huizenga, is the Akedah, Isaac’s willing sacrifice of himself. The consequence of which is a Christological category complementary to Davidic Messianism, namely, the sacrificial death of the Messiah. Huizenga writes, “The two categories of Messiah and crucified savior are wrapped up together in the one person, Jesus, with the Isaac typology providing the conceptual category of the atoning death of a martyr” (107). He concludes then the two titles provide a thematic symmetry for Matthew’s Gospel.

Finally, Huizenga’s article briefly points out places in Matthew where allusions and echoes to the Isaac story, and more specifically to the Akedah, have been overlooked. First, pointing out the correspondences between Matthew’s birth narrative and that of Isaac’s in Genesis 17 he summarizes:
The Matthean Jesus and the Isaac of Jewish tradition . . . bear striking resemblance to each other: both are promised children conceived under extraordinary circumstances, beloved Sons who go obediently to their sacrificial deaths at the season of Passover at Jerusalem at the hands of their respective fathers for redemptive purposes (110).
Second, Huizenga highlights “precise verbal allusions” to the Septuagint’s Genesis 22—most notably in the Baptism, Transfiguration and Passion narratives.

What do we make of Huizenga’s idea? First, I think he is absolutely correct in his estimation of the programmatic nature of the opening phrase for Matthew’s Gospel. Second, Huizenga has usefully flagged an important and underappreciated aspect of the First Gospel’s cultural context. The evidence for a “robust Isaac typology” is present; and such recognition, at the very least, opens the door wide to fresh readings of particular passages in Matthew. More profoundly, however, the appreciation of an Isaac typology, if we were to agree with Huizenga, would pair it with Davidic Messianism as the central argument of the Gospel. It is this latter point that I still have yet to fully embrace with him.

I am convinced that Matthew has an Isaac typology, but I am less so that the title “son of Abraham” leads by straight line to the Akedah. It is difficult to deny that Mount Moriah would not have been an obvious anti-type for Mount Golgotha in the mind of a Jewish believer in Jesus; however, it is much more difficult to pin the title “son of Abraham” down so specifically. I have wondered, mostly in my own mind and not often aloud, whether or not the titles, “son of David, son of Abraham” were aimed as a barb at the Herodian dynasty; a dynasty that continued into the late first century (Agrippa II). This as least seems possible for two reasons: (1) Jews regularly disparaged Herod as a "half-Jew"; and (2) the intense focus on Herod the Great in the opening scenes of the narrative. More likely, however, the title "son of Abraham" seems most appropriately a reference the fact that as the Davidic Messiah, Israel's vocation, given first to Abraham, comes to its completion. This completion is evinced in the narrative in the so-called Great Commission—a better label I think is the "Great Implication"—likely has Abrahamic echoes.

In any event, Huizenga offers an important observation about Matthew in this good article.

Walter Kaiser and Jewish Exegetical Methods in the NT

I've been reading Walt Kaiser's essay on "Single Meaning, Unified Referents" in Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. While some of it is okay, I confess to being concerned and confused by the subsection, Did the NT authors use the Jewish exegetical methods of their day? I am confused because Kaiser denies the presence of midrash in the NT to illuminate OT texts. (Midrash is a Jewish argumentative form usually consisting of a main text that is explained and interpreted by a second text). I find this strange because Paul clearly uses midrash in Romans 4 where he links Gen. 15.6 and Psalm 32.2 as part of his exposition of logizomai (credit, reckon, impute). In Romans 5 he uses a qal wahomer (an inference a minori ad maius or from lesser to greater) about reconciliation. Against Kaiser, I would say that Psalm 16 is messianic in canonical perspective and in light of the revelation of Jesus Christ's life, passion, and exaltation; but I find it difficult to retroject that back into the mind of the Psalmist. I recommend the studies by Richard N. Longenecker (Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period) and Hermann Bateman (Early Jewish Hermeneutics and Hebrews 1:5-13: The Impact of Early Jewish Exegesis on the Interpretation of a Significant New Testament Passage) as pretty definitive proof that NT authors did use Jewish interpretive devices in their exposition of Scripture.

A more pressing problem for Kaiser is Paul's use of allegory in Gal. 4.24. The word allegoreo does not mean the "grammatico-historical method". Calvin struggled with this one as well since he rejected rabbinic interpretation, Origen's allegory, and medieval allegory too. On this, you really must read John Thompson's article on "Calvin as biblical interpreter" in the Cambridge Companion to John Calvin available on Google Books. Calvin seems to follow Chrysostom in regarding this use of Genesis 21 in Galatians 4 as a typological link and not a whole scale departure from the original sense. Calvin was, with due restraint, still open to figurative readings of Scripture.

Kaiser also quotes Louis Berkhof and John Owen against the concept that Scripture has multiple-meanings. In terms of negating arbitrary and fanciful allegorizing of Scripture, I think that is generally correct. The WCF 1.9 states: "The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one)" and this is a clear attack on the classic medieval interpretation of Scripture with four senses of literal, allegorical, moral, and spiritual. but it is not a denial of typology, canonical readings, or even situating the biblical interpretation in its ancient and cultural context. The fact that one uses Scripture to interpret Scripture requires some model of typology and also validates the canon as an interpretive context. The catch cry ad fontes requires us to examine all ancient sources of relevance to the biblical texts. And we should be like Calvin and Luther who knew the Church Fathers and cite them at length in biblical study too.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Craig Blomberg on N.T. Wright's new book

My friend Craig Blomberg offers some glowing thoughts on N.T. Wright's new book on justification. He writes:

"In the past, Wright has often made sweeping pronouncements about how the Reformation was wrong on some key point, but if one keeps patiently reading one later discovers him saying instead that it’s merely a case of putting Reformation concerns into a larger perspective. Piper, on the other hand, has not always represented Wright well, I suspect in large part because he has not always understood him well.Justification: God's Plan & Paul's VisionWright’s new Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision (London: SPCK; Downers Grove: IVP, 2009) is an outstanding book. Written in lively, if somewhat polemical style, not encumbered with many footnotes, Wright has here laid out his views with exemplary clarity. In fact, he is affirming all the major Reformation perspectives on justification. The only one he denies is one that was unique to one wing of Calvinism and not even to the entire Calvinist movement. While warmly embracing the representative, substitutionary atonement of Christ through his crucifixion and emphasizing the legal, courtroom context of justification as a metaphor for the declaration of right standing before God not based on anything of our meriting, Wright does deny that Paul, or any other Scriptural author, teaches that the righteousness God imputes to us on the basis of Christ’s cross-work has anything necessarily to do with combining what has been called Jesus’ active obedience (his sinless life) with his passive obedience (his atoning death). And when one looks at the texts often cited in support of such a doctrine (most notably 1 Corinthians 1:30 and 2 Corinthians 5:21), one does indeed look in vain for such a distinction."

Note the critiques by Scott Clark and Justin Taylor of Craig Blomberg's understanding of Christ's active obedience. Part of the issue is how one understands the difference between Christ's active and passive obedience (apart from the question is whether the distinction is even biblical). See Daniel Kirk's excellent discussion of the subject published in SBET and introduced here.

A few thoughts. First, Craig Blomberg much like N.T. Wright, does not engage in a concerted historical discussion of Christ's obedience in Reformed thought and obviously they do not qualify as experts on the subject. Second, as Dan Kirk shows, the WCF mentions only the "obedience" of Jesus Christ and the devisers of the Confession decided to omit the adjective "whole" leaving option the possibility that it is only Christ's passive obedience that is reckoned to believers. Third, the NT clearly (in Rom. 5.17-18; Phil. 2.8; Heb. 5.8) emphasize Jesus' passive obedience. Fourth, we have to distinguish between the imputation of obedience and views of the imputation of merit. Merit is a medieval idea and not a biblical idea. Jesus does not rack up a bunch of frequent flyer points and then give them to you so you can fly to heaven. Instead, as the obedient second Adam and as the faithful Israel he is qualified for his task of redemption. He dies on the cross to take our sin, and he is raised for our justification. Jesus is justified in his resurrection and we are justified insofar we have union with him. And in that union his justification and the basis for it are counted as ours! In other words, Jesus' obedience is not an abstract transaction of merit, but it is the fulfilment of a redemptive-story and is part and parcel of our participation in Christ.

Con Campbell on Union with Christ

Although this is about a week too late for my Pauline theology students, this discussion on union with Christ with Con Campbell is worth checking out. Con Campbell is a NT guy at Moore College with expertise in biblical Greek, an evangelist, and a gifted jazz musician too (so look at for him at SBL New Orleans playing his horn in some bar).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

D.A. Carson on the Gospel Coalition

Over at CT, Susan Wunderink has a good interview with D.A. Carson on the Gospel Coalition. Carson makes some good points on what it is like to work with others in a post-denominational age, their refusal to export TGC overseas so as to avoid becoming another instrument of American hegemony, and some positive comments on women serving in local churches from a Complementarian perspective using the Sydney Anglicans as a model (I have to confess that because TGC does not have a single woman on its board, I've always had a question mark about whether it would serve to promote women in Christian service). A good interview that is worth reading.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

German Commentaries: Matthew

Here is the first installment of recommended German commentaries on the New Testament. We will go book by book. For Matthew there are three:

Joachin Gnilka's two volume commentary:
1986. Das Matthäusevangelium: I. Teil. HTKNT. Freiburg: Herder.
1992. Das Matthäusevangelium: II. Teil. HTKNT. Freiburg: Herder.

Ulrich Luz's four volume commentary:
1990. Das Evangelium nach Matthäus 2. Teilband: Mt 8-17. EKKNT. Düsseldorf, Zürich; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Benziger Verlag; Neukirchener Verlag.
1997. Das Evangelium nach Matthäus 3. Teilband: Mt 18-25. EKKNT. Düsseldorf, Zürich; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Benziger Verlag; Neukirchener Verlag.
2002. Das Evangelium nach Matthäus 4. Teilband: Mt 26-28. EKKNT. Düsseldorf, Zürich; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Benziger Verlag; Neukirchener Verlag.
2002. Das Evangelium nach Matthäus 1. Teilband: Mt 1-7. EKKNT. Düsseldorf, Zürich; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Benziger Verlag; Neukirchener Verlag.

Wolfgang Wiefel's one volume commentary:
1998. Das Evangelium nach Matthäus. THKNT Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt.

Stephen R. Holmes on Evangelical Doctrines of Scriputre

Stephen R. Holmes has an interesting article in Evangelical Quarterly called, "Evangelical doctrines of Scripture in transatlantic perspective," EQ 81.1 (2009): 38-63. Basically, Holmes notes that references to "inerrancy" are basically lacking from British confessional/doctrinal statements in the last hundred years. He thus asks: "It seems to me surprising that so central a claim on one side of the Atlantic should be virtually unknown, or if known unaccepted, on the other."

Holmes does not deny that inerrancy at its most basic level is merely the confession that the Bible is without error in those things it affirms and this reflects a generally known position within Christian churches through the ages. He also refuses to buy into the view that B.B. Warfield invented inerrancy (in fact it was first articulated at Vatican I in 1870!). Holmes provides a list and analysis of British evangelical statements on Scripture and notes that "inerrancy" is noticeably absent and the main terms that have been used are authoritative, inspired, infallible, and sufficient.

In the end, Holmes thinks that the main reason for the difference is that Evangelical American Theologians have preferred a correspondence theory of truth with its emphasis on fact and meaning, while British Evangelicals have been more influenced by Romanticism with its emphasis on experience, image, and vision. He rejects the correspondence theory of truth because (a) the philosophical objections are devasting, and (b) classical Reformed theology and the nature of Scripture itself should lead us to a different account of truth. For Holmes, faith must go beyond assent to factual accuracy and requires an element of personal appropriation as well. [Incidentally several years ago Ben Myers had a very good article review of Peter Jensen's book on the doctrine of Revelation in Churchman where he pointed out that propositional and personal revelation are not mutually exclusive - MB comment].

He goes on to say that "those who want to claim inerrancy as the primary attribute of Scripture have the worst of this argument, particularly when it comes to Jn 14:6". The affirmation that God's truth takes the form of propositional statements (found in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics) leaves Holmes asking if "the framers of that article had opened a Bible" before since there is a diversity of literary forms in the Bible itself. In addition, he finds Scripture speaking about itself in profoundly dynamic terms like "living and active" and thus its power is not in the power of propositions, but in the effectiveness of the Word. Finally, he regards biblical epistemology as principally about transformation by Scripture and assimilation to Scripture.

In his conclusion he states: "So, I think there are very good reaons to resist a full-blown inerrantist account of truth as merely propositional truth and the Bible as no more than compendium of true propositions. I feel more comfortable with the British tradition of insisting that the inspired text wants to do something, or, and perhaps better, that the Holy Spirit wants to do something through the inspired texts, so that conformity of life is what the Scriptures demand ... that said, the Scriptures do make propositional claims, both vital ones ('On the third day he rose from the dead') and incidental ones ('Joiada son of Paseah and Meshullam son of Besodeiah repaired the old Gate'); faithfulness to the Christian tradition, and, the sort of rich account of truth I would want to embrace, leads me to believe, despite all the problems, that it is probably necessary to affirm all such propositions are true. So if asked the narrow question, 'Is the Bible inerrant?' I think I want to say that it is, but that is not an especially interesting or important claim". Holmes concludes with these words: "By graciously inspiring the original writers of Scriptures, and by gracious illuminating our minds, God has given us a written testimony of what he requries of us, a testimony which is truthful, and clear and complete in its essential points. This I offer, humbly but seriously, as a more adequate doctrine of Scripture than any I find in the Evangelical confessions, on either side of the Atlantic Ocean."

As a point of order, I would press Holmes on one issue. He says that "I would not baulk at 'inerrant', but 'truthfulness' or 'trustwrothiness' seem to me to be more comprehensive terms that cope better with the actual literary forms of Scripture". That said, the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy states that Scripture is true and trustworthy so there is no inerrancy vs. trustworthy dichotomy that Holmes implies. You could say that one is the flip side of the other. Personally, I prefer describing how Scripture is true rather than describing how it is not untrue. But that's another matter.

Regardless of whether you agree with Holmes or not, he does make a good observation, namely, that British Evangelicalism has never really taken to using the word "inerrancy". My own tradition uses the word "infallible" and we have to ask whether the word "inerrancy" properly represents the grammar of catholic and global perspectives of the veracity of Scripture. On the one hand the concept of inerrancy clearly can be found in Church History, and yet have not the precise formulations of inerrancy from Princeton to Chicago somehow shaped by the unique American context? Can one recognize the cultural contingency of how inerrancy has developed or been expressed in the US without resorting to the assertion (or is it an accusation) that it was somehow invented by B.B. Warfield? But that, again, is another matter for some American grad student to ponder.

Centrum Paulinium and the Mother of Paul's Theology

When people speak of the centrum Paulinium (the centre of Paul's theology), they usually mean the centre of his soteriology: justificaiton by faith, union with Christ, reconciliation, etc. But perhaps the answer lies elsewhere. I'm struck by two "mothers" each claiming to be the maternal progenator of NT Theology. Martin Kahler said that "mission" was the mother of all theology, while Ernst Kasemann said that "apocalyptic" was the mother of all theology. Much like Solomon, how can one identify who the real mother of NT theology. In this case, much like a surrogate pregnancy, I think we have to have two mothers, esp. for Paul.

I think mission is the mother of Pauline theology insofar as Paul's call to go and be the apostle to the Gentiles is the central driving force of his theology. What is more, Paul's theology is done on the mission field (not in a seminary, college, university, or academy) and on the move and he has to literally walk and talk his way through several challenges (relating to pagans and Jews) and many crises (Antioch, Galatia, Corinth, Jerusalem).

Yet apocalypticism is the mother of Pauline theology to the extent that just about everything in the NT is pervaded by eschatology. Now, when Kasemann said "apocalyptic" he meant the shadow of the parousia casting itself upon the present time. But since Paul believed that Christians were the one's upon whom "the end of ages had come" (1 Cor. 10.11) then this eschatological perspective permeates everything. Now all apocalypticism is eschatological, but not all eschatology is apocalyptic. The apocalyptic aspect of his thinking comes through in Galatians, 1 Thessalonians, Romans (and I would even say Colossians). That is defined, chiefly, by a pessimistic view of the current age, a dualism of good/evil and now/then and heaven/earth etc. Paul believed that the God of Israel had radically acted in Jesus to save persons from the current evil age (Gal. 1.4; Rom. 1.17; Col. 1.12; 1 Thess. 1.10 etc.).

Are these the are the two "mothers" of Pauline theology?

I should also say that the centre of Paul's soteriology is a different matter, but with Marshall, Martin, and Stuhlmacher I'd probably say that "reconciliation" is the most elastic and comprehensive description of it. Although something participationistic based on being "in Christ" (and not to discount other metaphors too like sacrifice and justification) is also quite important.

Monday, May 11, 2009

NewJoint British-American Ph.D Programme

For a new trans-atlantic initiative for creating employable people with a Ph.D. check this out! Several British univerities who performed poorly in the RAE might want to explore this addition to their current programme.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Book Notice: J.R. Daniel Kirk - Unlocking Romans

J.R. Daniel Kirk
Unlocking Romans: Resurrection and the Justification of God
Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008.
Availabe at

The publication of the doctoral thesis by my buddy Daniel Kirl (of Sibboleth) is now out and it is schmicko! Back in 2002, I wrote a 25, 000 word B.A. Hons. thesis on: "The Relationship Between Resurrection and Justification in Pauline Soteriology with Special Reference to Romans". I'm glad to say that Dan Kirk has written on the same subject but in far better depth and detail than what I did back then.

This book stands in a "progressive reformed" mix as Kirk moves freely between Sanders, Wright, Hays, and Dunn one the one hand and Vos, Ridderbos, and Gaffin on the other hand. Kirk's central thesis is that the question of God's faithfulness to Israel - one of theodicy - is answered by Paul through his explication of the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the manifestation of God's faithfulness and is the justification of God himself. Viewed this way, I would say that Romans for Kirk really becomes an exposition of Paul's speech in Pisidian Antioch narrated in Acts 13.32-33: "We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus".

The strenght of Kirk's volume is how he shows that the general statements about salvation must be understood in light of particulars. For example, definitions of grace, work, faith, and law must be related to YHWH's relationship to Israel and not treated as timeless theological terms (p. 5). There is a very good discussion on Rom. 4.25 (pp. 76-81) and he sees Jesus' justification as his resurrection. He also provides some thoughtful points about 'salvation-history' vs. 'apocalypticism' and christological continuity (I want to write a book on this one day). Importantly, Kirk sees justification/resurrection and the theodicy issue in Romans as a way of bringing together soteriology and ecclesiology. He states: "Paul is giving there a christological revision of the identity of the people of God and these, in turn, are the people who have been and will be justified ... Thus, while we may not want to say with N.T. Wright that justification is about ecclesiology before it is about soteriology, he is certainly correct to keep them in closest connection" (p. 223) and "This is yet another reason why ecclesiology and soteriology are inseperable: to be in Christ is to be in his body, the church; to be justified is to be in unioon with his resurrected body" (p. 224). Kirk is also well balanced on final justification, living out resurrection in the present live, but without shifting into a double justification of faith and works: "The death and resurrection of Jesus are sufficient and effective for justification, and they also both spill into the present such that the justified sinners are now able to do deeds of righteousness which are congruous with such a juridical verdict" (p. 225) and "In Paul, the future vindication is the consummation of the verdict of justification that is issued when the gospel message is heard with faith (4:24) it can be based on works that are performed within the orb of Jesus' death and resurrection because this is the person and place in which the grace of God has been manifested, because transfer into this realm is based solely on the grace of God, and because this is the place where there is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. Such a sphere of obedience is fitting for the God whose righteousness is manifest in the resurrected Christ" (pp. 226-27).

One or two minor criticism come to mind. I think Kirk could have been a little kinder to Luther, since it might be a matter of refining some of his points rather than leaving them behind (p. 4). Also, while covenant faithfulness is certainly part of what God's righteousness means (esp. if you read Rom. 1.16-17 in light of 3.3-4), but I think that God's righteousness is a far more comprehensive term than his "covenant faithfulness" and also connotes his intent to establish justice throughout all of creation (hence the echoes of Psalm 98 that Mark Seifrid and Douglas Campbell both agree on).

Kirk has written a very good book and reading it was certainly a bit of deja vu for me, Recommend to anyone who wants to go deeper into Romans.

Review: Jesus and the Origins of the Gentile Mission

Over at RBL, Andreas J. Kostenberger provides a review of my first book Jesus and the Origins of the Gentile Mission which is quite sympathetic, though Kostenberger critiques my lack of salvation-historical focus in the book. I have no problem with a salvation-historical view on the part of the Evangelists or Paul to the effect that salvation comes to the "Jew tirst and then the Gentile". Yet my reservation in applying this scheme to Jesus has always been (and which typified E.P. Sanders' critique of Joachim Jeremias) is that on such an approach you can too easily end up with Jesus offering salvation to Israel, knowing that they will reject it, so that the real mission and the real offer of salvation can then be given to the Gentiles. Instead of viewing Jesus' mission to Israel as the bottleneck which must be traversed before the real mission to the world can proceed, I prefer to see Jesus as focused on Israel so that the Gentiles get "in" but only on the back of a restored Israel. Following T.W. Manson, I have always contended that it was probably Jesus' view that a restored Israel would transform the world. On either account, Andreas offers some cogent remarks worth digesting and he himself has written a great deal on mission in relation to the Gospel of John and the New Testament in general.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Today with Calvin

Today's Calvin reading is ICR 3.1.1-4. Excellent stuff, Calvin really is the theologian of the Holy Spirit.

"We must now examine this question. How do we receive those benefits, which the Father bestowed on his only-begotten Son-not for Christ's own private use, but that he might enrich poor and needy men? First, we must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us. Therefore, to share with us what he has received from the Father, he had to become ours and to dwell within us. For this reason, he is called "our Head" [Eph. 4:15], and "the first-born among many brethren" [Rom. 8:29]. We also, in turn, are said to be "engrafted into him" [Rom. 11:17], and to "put on Christ" [Gal. 3:27]; for, as I have said, all that he possesses is nothing to us until we grow into one body with him. It is true that we obtain this by faith. Yet since we see that not all indiscriminately embrace that communion with Christ, which is offered through the gospel, reason itself teaches us to climb higher and to examine into the secret energy of the Spirit, by which we come to enjoy Christ and all his benefits."

Robin Parry on Jude and 1 Enoch

My buddy and some-time editor, Robin Parry, raises some good questions about Jude's use of 1 Enoch.

Andrew Gregory on the non-canonical Gospels

As a follow-up to my earlier post on the Gospels making come back, in the latest issue of Evangelical Quarterly (81.1 [2009]: 3-22), Andrew Gregory of Oxford Uni has an excellent article entitled, "The non-canonical gospels and the histoircal Jesus - some reflections on issues and methods".

In the article, Gregory looks at the genre of "Gospel" and asks whether the non-canonicals qualify. Contra Tom Wright, he argues that dismissing them from the genre is premature. We need to remember that many of these Gospels exist only in fragments so it is impossible to determine their literary texture and these non-canonical texts represent a tertiary stage in the development of the Gospel genre which means that they are probably dependent upon the canonical Gospels. Also, there are generic affinities between the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, and the canonical Gospels in terms of containing a biographical narrative.

Gregory also evaluates the Gospel of the Ebionites, P.Oxy 840, PEgerton 2, the Gospel of Peter, and the Gospel according to Thomas in terms of their value for being for the historical Jesus. While leaving the door open for some authentic material in the Gospel of Thomas, he is rightly suspect of their historical utility for shedding light of the historical Jesus.

He concludes in the end: "Neither here nor elsewhere in this essay do I wish to argue that any text labelled generically as a gospel must be a reliable source for the historical Jesus. But I oppose utterly any attempt to deny ancient texts this title if that is intended as a way of ruling them out of the discussion without first reading them on their own merits and asking what, if anything they might contribute to a historical reconstruction of what Jesus may have said or done" (p. 20).

A few comments:

1. Gospel genre. A reading of the earliest Gospels (i.e. the canonical one's) gives the impression that a Gospel is a biographical story about Jesus climaxing in his death and resurrection and consists of narrating the a biographical story as a continuation of the story of Israel. The "Gospels" are also an expression of the "gospel" proclaimed in the early church (see further F.F. Bruce, "When is a Gospel not a Gospel?" Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 45 (1963): 319-39. Of course, who is to say what the limits of the Gospel genre are? There are those who think that the category of "Gospel" should include any document that purports to give an account of the life/teachings of Jesus (see Philipp Vielhauer, Geschichte der urchristlichen Literatur: Einleitung in das Neue Testament, die Apokryphen und die Apostolischen Väter [Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1975], 614 W. Schneelmelcher 1991: 78; Helmut Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1990], 46). We should also remember the words of Origen, "The Church has Four Gospels, but the heretics have many" (Hom. Luke 1) which implies that the other Gospels are indeed "Gospels" but they do not accord with the "gospel" of the orthodox church.

2. Gospel of Thomas and Authenticity. Gregory suspects that logia 8, 82, 65-66 might have some claim to dominical authenticity. I confess that I am optimistic about the possible authenticity of logia 82, 97, and 98.

Latest Tyndale Bulletin

The latest issue of TynBul 60.1 (2009) includes the following articles:

Kit Barker
Divine Illocution in Psalm 137: A Critique of Nicholas Wolterstorff's 'Second Hermeneutic'

Hetty Lalleman
Jeremiah, Judgment and Creation

Robert Simons
The Magnificat: Cento, Psalm or Imitatio?

Christopher M. Hays
Hating Wealth and Wives? An Examination of Discipleship Ethics in the Third Gospel

Jake H. O'Connell
Jesus' Resurrection and Collective Hallucinations

Christoph Stenscheke
Reading First Peter in the Context of Early Christian Mission

Jan Henzel
Perseverance Within an Ordo Salutis

Michael P. Theophilos
The Abomination of Desolation in Matthew 24:15

N.T. Wright Video on Justification and God's Plan

IVP has put up this video on about N.T. Wright's book on Justification.

HT: Art.

Craig Keener love his Bible

Check out the interview with Craig Keener at Koinonia on his favourite book .

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Next Big Thing in NT Studies: Gospels

What is going to be the next big thing in NT studies in the next 2-7 years? As I gaze into my crystal ball, I think it is going to be "Gospels and Non-canonical Gospels". I wouldn't say that the third quest for the historical Jesus has run out of steam (forthcoming volumes by John Meier, Craig Keener, Dale C. Allison, and even Michael Bird will keep it on the radar), nor has the "New Perspective on Paul" aged over the hill quite yet (forthcoming volumes by Doug Campbell and Michael Gorman alone will continue to stimulate discussions on Pauline soteriology and no doubt we all await volume 4 of N.T. Wright's COQG), but I sense a degree of fatigue in the discussions as most scholars in these debates have pretty much said everything that they have to say.

What is more, several things tip me off to look towards Gospels for the future.

1. Gospel of Judas. It looked as if study of the "other" Gospels from Nag Hammadi Codices had teetered out, but the publication of the Gospel of Judas by National Geographic (plus no small amount of sensationalism in the press) certainly reinvigorated the discussion. At SBL in 2007, I felt like I was the only person there who had not written a book on the Gospel of Judas. On the Gospel of Judas see the books by Simon Gathercole, April DeConick, and a good and sane intro is available from Peter M. Head, “The Gospel of Judas and the Qarara Codices: Some Preliminary Observations.” Tyndale Bulletin 58 (2007): 1-23.

2. Move beyond apologetic models. Discussion on the Gospel of Judas did open the subject of what is the difference between the canonical and non-canonical Gospels. It is a good opportunity to break down certain assumptions about the non-canonical Gospels. Not all the non-canonical Gospels were "gnostic" (most students I meet don't really know what gnosticism really is) and not all non-canonical Gospels are "heretical" (e.g. Gospel of Peter, Hebrew versions of Matthew, etc.).

3. Testing old assumptions. Nicholas Perrin's published dissertation on the Gospel of Thomas and Tatian, even if you don't agree with him (see discussion here), goes to show that there is still alot of work to be done in source criticism esp. if you take the time to learn the primary languages that are very rarely learned, i.e. Syriac, Coptic, and Ethiopic. This is better avenue for study than the tiresome hypotheses of a Q-Gos. Thom seedbed for Christian Origins prevalent amongst the Ivy League Gnostics. Likewise, Stephen Carlson's work on the Secret Gospel of Mark has shown how a bit of healthy scepticism can leave many assumptions of scholarship on shakey ground.

4. On publications, there have been a spate of introductions to the non-canonical Gospels and I recommend those by Hans-Joseph Klauck and Paul Foster. There has also been a number of publications of early Gospel Fragments edited by Thomas Kraus, Micahel Kruger, and Tobias Nicklas, Stanley and Wendy Porter, and by Andrew Bernhard which provide a good collection of the primary source texts for us to use.

5. Paul and the Gospels could be a big area too. David C. Sim continues to write a spate of articles articulating the anti-Paulinism of Matthew and I and Joel Willitts are editing a LNTS volume about the relationship of Paul to the canonical Gospels and Gospel of Thomas with an all star cast.

6. Christology of the Gospels. Synoptic Christology will be a new growth industry too. Simon Gathercole's book on Pre-Existence in the Synoptics and C. Kavin Rowe on Lord christology in Luke have begun breaking down the myths of the "low" christology of the Synoptics. The challenge is to situate the christology of the Synoptics in the context of early Christianity but also in relation to views of intermediary figures in second temple Judaism as well as in proximity to Graeco-Roman writings about divine figures. I myself would love to one day do something on the Marcan Jesus and the God of Israel. Though I expect Richard Bauckham will have much to say about that in his forthcoming two volume work on christology and monotheism.

7. Gospel Sources. I think that the field of studies in memory, orality, and texts provides many new exiting vistas for studying the Jesus tradition (see Tom Thatcher's study on John in this regard). Likewise, is it possible to adopt the Farrer-Goulder-Goodacre view on the Synoptic Problem (Luke used Matthew and no Q), but still retain a place for some shared written and oral traditions between Matthew and Luke?

8. The Gospel audiences is still very much uncharted territory. I think Richard Bauckham and co. have taken us beyond the "community" hypothesis in its 20th century form at the height of form and redactional critics, but there are still many hold outs. Bauckham was more careful on this than his critics suppose, he did not deny that the Gospels circulated initially among an immediate audience, only that they were not intended exclusively for that immediate audience. I've had my own dig at the so-called "Marcan Community". In addition, Edward Klink is editing a volume on the Gospel Audiences and it includes my own essay on the audiences of the non-canonical Gospels (Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Peter, and Jewish Christian Gospels).

9. Many prominent scholars are moving into the field of Gospels research. Richard Hays is now working on echoes of Scripture in the Gospels, Francis Watson is about to start research on the non-canonical Gospels too, Luke Timothy Johnson keeps writing absolutely brilliant essays on the Gospels for various festschriften (see volumes in honour of Robert Morgan and Richard Hays), Simon Gathercole is writing a commentary on the Gospel of Thomas, Andrew Gregory will eventually publish some great work on the Jewish Christian Gospels.

So, if you're looking to do a Ph.D, my advice, start learning either Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopic and find something on the Gospels.

Monday, May 04, 2009

"We believe ... justified by faith" - Peter in Acts and Galatians

In Gal. 2.16 the "we have believed" (episteusamen) probably refers to Jewish Christians (not Jews or only Apostles) like Peter who agree on a commonly agreed gospel. This would suggest that belief in righteousness by faith was not a Pauline invention, but was part of the shared understanding of the Jerusalem church. This counters the assertion of Albert Schweitzer that righteousness by faith was Paul's own articulation which emerged from (a) an antithetical response to the proselytizers who argued for righteousness by works of law, (b) out of exegesis of Hab. 2.4 and Gen. 15.6, and (c) because it is less convoluted than justified by solidarity and union with the Christ. (I should note that Richard Hays and E.P. Sanders also recognize that righteousness by faith is not a uniquely Pauline formulation). But what interests me is that Gal. 2.16 seems to correspond to Peter's speech in Acts 15 at the Jerusalem Council which also refers to believing in Jesus and being saved by faith. In which case, Paul is certainly putting forth an authentic Petrine position in Gal. 2.16 and not a straw man argument nor is he misrepresenting Peter to the Galatians. In other words, the episteusamen of Gal. 2.16 corresponds to the pisteuomen of Acts 15.11!


Gal. 2.15-16: "We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified" (ESV).

Acts 15.8-11: And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will” (ESV).

What are the Best Hebrew Grammars?

From a survey of the readers, what are the top Hebrew Grammars for teaching students:

Mark David Futato, Beginning Biblical Hebrew
Page H. Kelley, Biblical Hebrew: An Introductory Grammar
Gary D. Pratico and Miles V. Van Pelt, Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar
Allen P. Ross, Introducing Biblical Hebrew
Other ???

I've used Ross a bit and, while it's thorough and systematic, it struck me as a book better for training linguists than pastors.

Pauline Studies News and Bits

A few bits and bobs about Pauline studies: Michael Thompson reviews N.T. Wright's new book on Justification at Denver Seminary Journal. Gordon Fee has a new commentary coming out on 1&2 Thessalonians in the NICNT series. Bill Mounce blogs on the women "being saved by childbearing" in 1 Tim. 2.15.

Biggest Issues Facing Evangelicals - Michael Jensen

Michael Jensen has a great post on the top theological issues confronting evangelicals today. Well worth reading and, for the most part, I agree with him. But I would have added other issues too such as how the church can relate to a more aggressive secularism that is intolerably pluralistic in some western countries, how to build post-colonial relationships with churches in the majority world, and better theologies of gender/sexuality.

Phil Ryken responds to Carl Trueman about COE Evangelicals

Over at Reformation21, Phil Ryken (Senior Pastor of 10th Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, member of the Gospel Coalition Board, and member of WTS-Philadelphia board of governors) has a very wise and godly response to issues facing evangelicals in the Church of Scotland over sexuality, which stands in deliberate contrast to Carl Trueman's ungracious and unfortunate remarks against evangelicals in the Church of Scotland. The post begins:

I too have joined the list of Carl Trueman's colleagues who have signed the "Statement to Commissioners at the forthcoming General Assembly of the Church of Scotland." Further, I believe that Dr. Trueman's response in "It must be spring. . . . ." is ill-timed and unhelpful.

Well done to Pastor Phil and do read the whole post!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Red Head Messiah

My friend Michael Whitenton reminded me of this DSS text:

“Red will be his hair, and moles will be on […] and tiny marks on his thighs, and they will be different from each other … [Al]l their designs against him will fail, and the joy of all living things will be great […] his purposes, because he is the Chosen One of God.” (4Q534 f1i.1-3; 9-10a).

This verifies what I've been telling my students for years, the ultimate messiah is a red-head with an Australian accent.

The Unity of Scripture - The Rule of Faith?

According to Irenaeus (Haer. 3.4.1-2), the rule of faith is: "one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and all things therein, by means of Christ Jesus, the Son of God; who, because of His surpassing love towards His creation, condescended to be born of the virgin, He Himself uniting man through Himself to God, and having suffered under Pontius Pilate, and rising again, and having been received up in splendour, shall come in glory, the Saviour of those who are saved, and the Judge of those who are judged, and sending into eternal fire those who transform the truth, and despise His Father and His advent." Strictly speaking, Irenaeus calls this the "ancient tradition" which he says even the illiterate Barbarians have accepted.

The regula fidei is a summary of Christian teaching in narrative form. P.M. Blowers ("The Regula Fidei and the Narrative Character of Early Christian Faith," Pro Ecclesia 6 [1997]: 208) writes: "The Great Church committed itself not to a universally invariable statement of faith but to variable local tellings of a particular story that aspired to universal significance." It may be the case, then, that the narrative of the regula fidei is itself birthed from the narrative of the biblical witness to the act of the triune God in Jesus Christ and this is what constitutes the unity of Scripture.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Latest Issue of JETS

The latest issue of JETS is now out with an important article by Dan Wallace on NT Text Criticism titled "Challenges in New Testament Textual Criticism for the Twenty-First Century". The article was his address this past year at the ETS annual meeting in Boston. 

Also, this issue includes reviews of both my book Matthew's Messianic Shepherd-King (154-56) and Michael's SROG (173-75). 

In addition, I reviewed an important book titled Elements of Ancient Jewish Nationalism by David Goodblatt (129-32).