Friday, December 30, 2005

Wright the Heresiarch

Chris Tilling has called attention to the invective polemics of a certain C. Matthew McMahon against Tom Wright on the website A Puritans Mind. The post in question can be read here (the whole string is quite a read). This is what McMahon had to say:

Wright is a heretic. A heresiarch. He will forever burn under God's righteous wrath and under the solemn and scornful gaze of the Lamb of God for all eternity if he does not change his theological views before he dies, or rather, his lack of good theology! He is a false teacher, and one of the most influential heretics of the century because he affected people at the seminary level - where pastors are trained and scholars born - and has infected a good number of churches, right down to the layman and youth of the day.

Well, what can I say:

First, I have long been cheesed off with how some of Wright’s critics speak about him. Actually, by the time I read McMahon’s ad hominem rantings I’d finished the cheese and moved onto the wine and crackers; and at the moment I’m in a cab with Ben Myers and Chris Tilling and we’re off to the Pink Pussy Cat to have a light drink (notice the inter-textual echoes of Blackadder series 4). I never ceased to be amazed at how many of those who purport to love the doctrines of grace seem to demonstrate so little grace in their character and conduct towards others.

Second, I’ve posted on several occasions about Wright and the NPP, see the my posts Musings on the New Perspective and Paul and Judaism. I also recommend Doug Green’s sober comments about Wright for a similar evaluation.

Third, several opponents of Wright read a few lines out of WSPRS (which is both his best and worst volume) and take him to task over that. This ignores the fact that Wright has made some effort to qualify his views in subsequent works (see especially his articles on Justification on the NT Wright Page). To prove that I’m no sycophant I’ve put my criticisms of Wright in print (CTR and forthcoming in TynBul), but as a critic I still think one can admire several facets of his studies and enjoy his writings.

Fourth, when people tell me that Wright denies the reformed doctrine of justification, I often ask them “which one?”. There was a diversity of views about justification among the Reformers and Puritans!!! Compare the Augsburg and Westminster Confessions or even Richard Baxter and John Owen, they do not say the exact same thing. Martin Bucer held to a “double justification”! Go figure that one out.

Fifth, of all the theological and moral villainies in this world, why does Wright get so much attention? I find that religious pluralism and world poverty are far more worthy foes with which to battle over.

Sixth, whatever his failings, Wright is an interpreter for the Reformed tradition and his scholarship is stimulating and rewarding for those of us who read it. He belongs in the Reformed camp (although many of us will not always like the camping gear he brings with him). As far as Reformed Theologians go, many went to Philadelphia to sit at the feet of Cornelius Van Til; and behold, one greater than Van Til is here!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas and Other Things

After the Christmas and Boxing Day break several things should be noted:

First, Michael Pahl's blog Stuff of the Earth is one year old. Congrats to the tall, lanky, puck-loving, Canadian!

Second, what I got from Christmas. A Star Wars Light Sabre, Star Wars III DVD, the complete works of Shakespeare, and a pair of Homer Simpson socks (I also have Robert Gundry's Matthew commentary and Terence Donaldson's Paul and the Gentiles in the mail).

Third, Christmas service was good with much worship and rejoicing.

Fourth, I've been compiling my list of quotes and Take-home points from Hurtado. It was a good book, I learned much from it:

Philo, Embassy to Gaius, 118: “Sooner could God change into a man than a man into God” – in context of criticizing Gaius Caligula’s purported apotheosis.

On Q and diversity in the early church: “Furthermore, often (perhaps characteristically) within each group was a variety or repertoire of christological beliefs, emphases, and modes of expression. The particular repertoire may have varied somewhat from group to group, and within a given group likely varied across the decades of the first century too. Therefore, we should avoid simplistic notions that 'diversity' in first-century Christianity necessarily means multiple groups of relatively monochrome character in beliefs, rhetoric, and the kinds of text they produced. There were divisive differences. But, perhaps more characteristically, they were various groups of varying polychrome character engaging in a lively interchange with one another.” (Larry Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ, p. 244).

On Jewish and Gentile fellowship: “First, although some Jews refused any meal with Gentiles under any circumstances, for many, probably most religious Jews in the Hellenistic-Roman period, eating ordinary meals with Gentiles was not an insuperable problem; any claims by scholars to the contrary are simply misinformed. In principle, so long as the food on the table fell within what was permitted for Jews to eat under Torah (e.g. no pork), and so long as eating did not implicate a Jew in participating in a feast in honor of a god (e.g. no libation of wine or consecration of meat to a god), there was no major problem. Second, Jewish Christians’ objections to eating with Gentile Christians in Acts (11:1-18) and Galatins (2:11-21) were not about what food was served, but about having meal fellowship with Gentiles whom they regarded as incompletely converted. This issue was not 'purity laws,' but the requirements for treating Gentiles as fully converted to the God if Israel.” See further Bockmuehl, Jewish Law in Gentile Churches, 56-61; 71-75; Peter Tomson, Paul and the Jewish law, 222.-58; John Painter, James the Just, 67-73. (p. 162, n.18)

On the Gospels: “In short, this all amounts to a shared programmatic effort to locate Jesus in a specific historical, geographical, and cultural setting. It represents an insistence that the Jesus whom the writers and intended readers of these Gospels reverenced (who include Gentile and Jewish believers in various locations in the Roman world), and were to see as linked with God’s purpose in a unique way, is quite definitely Jesus of Nazareth. He is not some timeless symbol, not a mythical figure of a 'once upon a time,' but instead very specifically a Jew whose life and activities are geographically and chronologically located in a particular place and period of Jewish history in Roman Judea.” (p. 266).
Thus, contra Bultmann and friends, the Gospels are not commentaries on a post-Easter Kerygma, but have an interest in the person of Jesus in his historical setting.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Last Post Before Christmas!

As we near the blessed day of Christmas, here's my final round of what's happening around the biblioblogosphere.

First, there is an on-line debate going between Alan Segal, Larry Hurtado and John Kloppenborg entitled The Jesus and the Gospel—What Really Happened?.

Second, the Expository Times has a good article by Helmut Koester on the Apostolic Fathers.

Third, Ben Myers has a series of interesting posts on the Virgin Conception.

Fourth, a new Blog Biblicalia by Kevin Edgecomb is up and running.

I had a good day including the pleasure of delivering the Christmas address to the Dingwall Academy (= High School). My parody of the "Cult of the Jolly Fatman" went down well and I hope I was able to impart to the kids that Jesus, not Santa, is the reason for the season.

Have a blessed and joyous Christmas

Mike Bird

Monday, December 19, 2005

Jerome Murphy-O'Connor

Jim West reports some good news that Prof. O’Connor is making a good recovery from illness. Why, only today I was perusing through his book Paul: A Critical Life, which is a good overview of the Apostle.

Megiddo Prison website

The ancient Church found at Megiddo prison now has its own website at Armageddon Church. It contains a resource of news and information about the find and its significance. The mission statement of the website reads:

Our mission is to promote Holyland's most ancient Church, recently discovered in Megiddo prision. Armageddon is intended to address the general public, offering a wide range of articles and interviews. We hope you will enjoy the history, the symbolism, the meaning, and lighter sides of this amazing discovery.

We will not focus on the Archaeological aspect (for the Archaeological aspect please visit the Israel Antiquitoes Authority-IAA).

We believe that the ancient Church belongs to no one and to everyone. So, if if you have an idea, a thought or an article you wish to share, we will be happy to publish it on our site.

Should be a site to watch in the future.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Wanted: Home-Group for Developing Emergentesque "Communion" Liturgies

Building on a previous post Communion: A New Perspective (nothing to do with Sanders, Dunn or Wright) I’m looking at trying to formulate a new way of doing communion particularly for those of an evangelical/emergent flavour. Let’s get away from the tid bits of bread and grape juice and break bread together in the name of the Lord Jesus the way that they did in the first century. Is there any folk out there in Scotland (or perhaps elsewhere if we can work it) who are willing to let a young NT scholar loose on their home-group and introduce strange biblical ideas about communion, the Lord's Supper and worship into their home-group meetings? This will hopefully lay the bedrock for a future study of communion in the early church and how to apply it to the postmodern church.

New Blog

It is my pleasure to introduct into the biblioblogosphere (which is open to all persons regardless of race, gender, and theological orientation; although red-head reformed baptists need not apply, we have already met our quota) CELUCIEN JOSEPH and his self entitled blog. The sub-title reads:

For His glory- This blog exists to display the excellencies and glories of God in Christ Jesus, His Son.

Anyone who lists me on their sidebar next to N.T. Wright and William Lane Craig (both of whom inspired me to become a Christian scholar) is in my good books.

I wonder if he and Joe Cathy go to the same gun-club!

"Christmas is Cancelled" - Gerd Lüdemann

In a recent letter concerning Christmas Gerd Lüdemann writes:
The biblical accounts of the birth of the Jesus, the supposed Son of God, are mere inventions and have little relation to what really happened. Historical research has demonstrated this once and for all. Ten unquestionable facts argue against their historical credibility:

1. Written centuries earlier, the quoted words of Old Testament prophets did not predict the coming of Jesus, but referred to events and persons in their past or immediate future. They would have been shocked by the notion that Jesus' birth was the fulfillment of their prophecies.
2. The New Testament authors derived most events of the Christmas story from prophecies of the Old Testament and misrepresented their original intent in order to make them seem to point to Jesus.
3. The notion that Mary's pregnancy did not result from intercourse with a male is a canard. The claim of a virgin birth has two sources: the mistranslation of "young woman" by "virgin" (in a passage that clearly did not refer to Jesus!), and the desire of Christians to place their revered leader on the same level as other ancient "sons of God" who were likewise born without participation of a male.
4. The reported worldwide census ordered by Caesar Augustus did not occur.
5. The reported murder of children in Bethlehem ordered by Herod the Great did not occur.
6. Jesus was born in Nazareth, not in Bethlehem.
7. The angels in the Christmas story derive from primitive mythology.
8. The shepherds who kept watch over their flocks are idealized representatives of the poor and outcast, persons emphasized by Luke. They do not appear in Matthew's story.
9. The magicians from the East are idealized representatives of the Gentiles and of eternal wisdom. They do not appear in Luke's story.
10. The story of the star of Bethlehem is a fiction intended to emphasize the importance of Jesus - and, of course, to provide an entrance cue for the magicians from the East.

The logical conclusion is unavoidable: the Christmas stories recounted by the Bible and those Christian churches that present them as actual events have lost all historical credibility. Surely Jesus of Nazareth would not wish Christians to spread lies about him!

(My thanks to Jim West for first posting the letter on his site)

It appears that we have all been jipped and Christmas (the nativity scene, "a child born unto us", and even harking ages) is all a rort. Why did I buy all those Christmas presents?

I don't mind some of Lüdemann's earlier works on Acts, Paul's Opponents and Pauline Chronology (though his book on the resurrection is aweful). But to be honest, Lüdemann strikes me as bit of an iconoclaust who likes to poke fun at the Christian faith and do so with a very condescending tone (e.g. "supposed Son of God").

Mark Goodacre offers a good response at NT Gateway on his entry Lüdemann on Christmas. Suffice to say, Lüdemann is not holding all the aces and things are not quite so black and white as he would like us to believe.

Books I've found helpful on the birth narratives are: Raymond Brown, The Birth of the Messiah , Robert H. Gundry, Matthew, and Markus Bockmuehl, This Jesus.

Now I'm not denying that Lüdemann raises some interesting issues, in particular Christian Midrash of 1 Samuel, parallels with birth stories in the greco-roman world, and Christian exegesis of Isaiah 7.14, etc. But I do take exception to the mocking tone of Lüdemann and he seems a little too sure of himself. It is scholarship like this that reminds me of Percy Shelley's poem of the ruins of the ancient fictive kingdom of Ozymandias.

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away

Now I'm no English literature guru (please consult Ben Myers for that) but some of those "supposedly" learned scholars who claim that Christianity is so obviously false, so historically spurious, and only pious fools cling to its beliefs, remind me of Ozymandias. They both make great boasts, but ultimately they shall be remembered only for their arrogance.

If I wrote the canon . . .

If I wrote the canon this would be the order:

1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
1 Timothy
2 Timothy
1 Peter
2 Peter
1-3 John


Well John should be first, afterall, "In the beginning was the Word". John is the new Genesis for the New Testament.

Next is Mark due to Marcan priority then Matthew, follwed by Luke-Acts as a two part literary unit.

Thereafter I would try to put in the Pauline epistles roughly in chronological order but also trying to keep the sets together, e.g. 1 & 2 Corinthians and 1 & 2 Thessalonians. I'd like to group the captivity letters together: Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon. Additionally, Colossians and Ephesians naturally go together as do the Pastorals.

In the Catholic epistles, Hebrews is a good transition from the Pastorals to the Petrine letters since they are both Hellenistic and/or Paulinesque.

I would want to place 2 Peter and Jude side by side since they contain similar material and place James and Jude side by side since they both claim to be written by a relative of Jesus. Finally, the letters of John and of course Revelation, which means that my canon is bracketed by a "Johannine Inclusio".

Not that there's anything particularly wrong with the order of the current NT canon as it stands, but if a church council was convened to re-order the books, this is how I would do it.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

More on Hurtado's Lord Jesus Christ

Here is an interesting (though not necessarily ground-breaking) quote from Hurtado pp. 267-68.

[T]he canonical Gospels emphasize an explicit, larger "narrative world" or the story line into which they place their stories of Jesus. This narrative horizon extends both backward to include the story line of the Scriptures of Israel (Tanach/Old Testament) and forward chronologically to the eschatological triumph of God's purposes ... If the biblical sweep of the horizon "backward" in time gives the meaning-context of Jesus, the eschatological sweep of the horizon "forward" holds out the hope in which following Jesus is to be ventured, and the divine purpose that Jesus serves.

The Annual F.F. Bruce Lecture

At HTC the annual F.F. Bruce lecture was given this year by Dr. David Wenham of Oxford University. The lecture was entitled: "The Greatest Sermon ever Preached" and expectantly was about the Sermon on the Mount. David's lecture was basically in two parts, first, arguing for the essential authenticity of the Sermon. Secondly, addressing the view that the Sermon is at odds with Paul's view of justification and grace. Thereafter, David gave a good exposition of its major themes and motifs and it was an enjoyable lecture to attend.

The highlight was David's opening story about F.F. Bruce. David spent time with Bruce at Manchester and David told the story of how Bruce claimed that as a Scot he could understand the plight of the Jewish people who were oppressed by a foreign power!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Jesus the Stonemason

As a tekton, what was Jesus' vocation? In most translations of Mk. 6.3; (cf. Mt. 13.55; Gos. Jas. 9.3; Justin, Dial. Tryph. 88) it is usually assumed that he was a carpenter. However, the word has a fairly broad meaning and it can denote a general "craftsman" a "builder" or most often I find a "stonemason". Unfortunately due to a history of translation, not to mention the near canonical status of Josh McDowell's book More than a Carpenter in evangelical cirlces - the notion that Jesus was a carpenter is a translation rarely challenged. I touched on this topic a bit in parts of my doctoral thesis that did not get included in the final revision. I thought it more likely that Jesus was stonemason given the meaning of the word tekton in some strands of Greek literature and he and Joseph probably assisted in the rebuilding of Sepphoris a few miles away from Nazareth after its destruction by Varus' troops (Jos. War 3.31-32; Life 347-48). This has been successfully argued in a recent article: Ken M. Campbell, "What was Jesus' Occupation?" JETS 48.3 (2005): 501-20. This is probably the best review of the evidence I've seen to date. See also Richard A. Batey, "Is not this the Carpenter?" NTS 30 (1984): 249-58 and John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew, 1.278-85.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Larry Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ

My next book review project is Larry Hurtado's, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. (Why I keep agreeing to write book reviews I just don't know, I'm always pushed for tme, but when a book review editor dangles a cool book in front of your face what can ya do!) There is a version at Amazon that is searchable if you want a preview. I also recommend the review by Moschos Goutzioudis at RBL for those interested.

Hurtado takes to task the religionsgeschictliche Schule particularly that associated with Willhelm Bousset's Kyrios Christos. Whereas Bousset argued that the title Kyrios("Lord") for Jesus emerged out of the Hellenization of the Christian faith in Gentile Christian circles, Hurtado argues that the title Kyrios does not represent a terminological or theological innovation among Gentile Christians who appropriated the term from pagan cults:

(1) The term was used by Greek-speaking Jews for the Hebrew tetragrammaton (Yahweh) and was part of the religious vocabulary of Greek-speaking Jews.

(2) Claiming that Jesus was "Lord" goes back to Jewish Christian circles as evidenced by 1 Cor. 16.22 where Paul cites the Aramaic invocation maranatha.

(3) Several pre-Pauline passages refer to Jesus as Lord and involve reorientating biblical phrases and applying them to Christ, e.g. Phil. 2.9-11; 1 Cor. 8.5-6.

See Hurtato, pp. 20-21.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Lost Blog about Honour and Shame

I was surfing around the blogosphere and I came across a choice entry on someone's blog about honour in the ancient world with a list of quotes from Aristotle, Plato, etc. about honour (or "honor" for you illiterate yanks). Has anybody seen it anywhere?


Found it: It was at The Agora @ the internet by J. Archer. Now I can go to bed.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Like the . . . of horses

A couple of more choice quotes from 1 Enoch:

"And as I continued to see in the vision, behold, from that time, one of the four, among those who had come out, was stoning from the sky, and gathering and taking away all the mighty stars, whose sexual organs were like the sexual organs of horses; then he bound all of them hand and foot, and cast them into the pits of th earth" (1 Enoch 88.2; Isaac, OTP, 64). See also 1 Enoch 86.4; 90.21 for the same.

I wish I had Nickelsburgs Hermeneia commentary at hand before I even try to explain this one. I wonder if it is a sign of deformity, the consequence of angelic/human progenty, or else a compliment! Combined with my rabbinic reference to b.Niddah 13b people might start to think that I have a lewd mind.

Otherwise, I'm about to sit down and listen to the complete works of Les Miserable, down half a bottle of Aussie cabernet merlot, and read the latest issue of New Testament Studies.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The "deeds of the Satans"

Reading through 1 Enoch 65.6, I found a notable quote:

"An order has been issued from the court of the Lord against those who dwell upon the earth, that their doom has arrived because they have acquired the knowledge of all the secrets of the angels, all the oppressive deeds of the Satans, as well as all their most occult powers ..." I find the plural very interesting. Does this suggest that "Satan" is the sum of demonic forces responsible for pouring out evil into the world and teaching sorcery to people?

I find it interesting that in the NT, Satanas usually has the definite article which makes me wonder if we should opt for a translation of "the Satan". I also wonder what that would mean for one's interpretation of angels and demons in biblical perspective?

General Stuff going on around the biblioblogosphere

First, Mark Goodacre is the Blog of the Month at Biblioblogs. A good interview with a guy who may be remembered as the Jedi Knight of NT bloggers.

Second, Ben Myers is finishing his summary Karl Barth which has been a good read.

Third, the femo-bibliologgers have added another feather to their quiver in Powers Court who links to a stack of other female bibliobloggers such as the Magadalene Review and especially Rebecca Writes who sidebar has a “league of reformed bloggers” that is so huge that it must be seen to be believed!!!

Fourth, speaking of gals, there is an interesting article by F.F. Bruce on women in ministry available here

Otherwise, I’m off to read Jim Hamilton’s latest article in Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology “God with Men in the Prophets and the Writings: An Examination of the Nature of God’s Presence”.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Son of Man, Servant of the Lord, and Messiah

I've always wondered if the Servant passages of Isaiah 42-55 were read messianically in pre-Christian Judaism. I know of at least two possible places:

(1) Zech 3.8 which speaks of "my servant, the branch". And "branch" has davidic/messianic connotations as is evident from Isa. 11.1 ("out of the stump of Jesse ... a Branch will bear fruit")and Jer. 23.5; 33.15 ("righteous Branch").

(2) The Targum of Isaiah also adds a messianic reference to Isaiah 53 (I don't have it on hand so you'll have to believe me).

Of course, the Zech. 3.8 passage could be said to be rather oblique if not tenuous, and the Targum of Isaiah may date no earlier than the 4th century AD. Is there any first century (BC or AD) evidence for a messianic reading of the Isaianic Servant? I believe there is in 1 Enoch. Let me show you my argument:

(a) The mysterious "Son of Man" figure in 1 Enoch is clearly a takeover from Daniel 7, however, given his function in 1 Enoch 46, 48 he takes on the messianic roles of establishing righteousness, defeats worldly kings, and rules on Yahweh's behalf. I contend that the Enochic Son of Man is essentially a variation of a messianic theme.

(b) The Son of Man is called a "light of the gentiles" in 1 Enoch 48.4, which is a clear echo of Isa. 42.6 and 49.6. In fact, like the Servant of Isaiah and Daniel's Son of Man, the Enochic Son of Man is the representative par excellence of Israel.

(c) Therefore, one can posit a pre-Christian "messianic" reading of Isaiah's Servant via the Enochic Son of Man!

(d) The implication being that the early Christian reading of the Servant of Isaiah was hardly unprecedented and was probably rooted in Jewish messianic expectation.

(e) The centre of gravity to my argument is that the "light to the gentiles" passage in 1 Enoch 38 pre-dates Christian exegesis of Isaiah and is not a later Christian interpolation into the text.

Any thoughts?

The Rabbi's and Weird Stuff

I was once reading through the Babylonian Talmud (as you do) and I came across a stipulation by a certain Rabbi Ishmael that made me fall off my chair and burst into tears of laughter.

The rabbi's had a law for everything, not necessarily because they were concerned with inventing legalistic minutia, but because they wanted every area of life to be governed by the implications of God's law, and I mean every area! For those whose curiosity has been aroused I recommend you go and read the tractate b.Niddah 13.b.

The first part of the quote runs: "It was taught at the school of R. Ishmael, Thou shalt not commit adultery implies, Thou shalt not ..." I cannot complete it without blushing! Go have a look for yourself if you're not squimish.

Of course, the next time someone threatens to have me bound, hand and foot, I shall ask if they are implying something.

My thanks to Jim West at Biblical Theology for finding this reference.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Angelic Tardiness

I try to vary my reading between secondary and primary source material. I've finished reading Thomas Tobin's book on Romans, but before I start Larry Hurtado's The Lord Jesus Christ, I'm gonna read over 1 Enoch again. Today, I found one very interesting quote from 1 Enoch 18.14-16:

(Then) the angel said (to me), "This place is the (ultimate) end of heaven and earth: it is the prison house for the stars and the powers of heaven. And the stars which roll over upon the fire, they are the ones which have transgressed the commandments of God from the beginning of their rising because they did not arrive punctually. And he was wroth with them and bound them until the time of the completion of their sin in the year of mystery." (Isaac, OTP, 1.23)

In the Army we used to have to do push-ups if we were late for anything, or in worse cases, we'd get charged with absence from a place of duty (ask an ex-Military Policeman like Jim West, he'll know all about it). But I have to say that the Angels got the worse end of the deal.

Mother of All Commentary Lists

If ya want to know who is writing what commentary in what series then I suggest that you check out the list at Parableman. There is a list for authors in a whole heap of series like ICC; Hermeneia; NICNT; ICC; NLT; WBC, etc.

For instance, in the NIGTC series Richard Bauckham is doing John and Richard Longenecker is doing Romans. This and many more secrets will be revealed in the list. Also, Robert McL Wilson’s Colossians and Philemon commentary in the ICC series is now available.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Thomas Tobin, Paul's Rhetoric inits Contexts

One of the best books on Romans I've read in a while is Thomas H. Tobin's Paul's Rhetoric in its Contexts: The Arguments of Romans.

Tobin advocates that the best way to understand Romans is not a verse-by-verse approach, but rather, through an argument-by-argument analysis.

He thinks Romans needs to be understood in light of two context: First, the Roman Christians (Jews and Genitiles) who have been expelled from the Roman Jewish community, but still maintain observance of the ethical aspects of the Jewish law. They have also heard reports about Paul and his churches (mediated through persons mentioned in Romans 16) and they regard Paul with some suspicion. Reports about his epistle to the Galatians raises their concern that Paul is anti-law and anti-Israel. They have also heard reports of the antinomian and outlandish behaviour of Corinthians and are worried that Paul's law free gospel and idea of law-free spirit-walking ethics promotes vice rather than cures it. They do not think Paul's gospel can create ethics superior to the Greco-Roman world (which the Roman Christians think that they have in the Mosaic law). Second, the situation of Paul himself. The primary Pauline context is his experience of the risen Christ that has lead him to believe that righteousness is through Christ, not through the law, and is equally available for Jews and Gentiles. Also Paul's debates about the law in Galatia that led him to make some stark and strongly worded remarks about the law.

In this context, Paul is attempting to assuage the Romans about any reservations they have about him and persuade them to adopt his point of view about the law and Christian behaviour. Towards that end Paul significantly re-thinks and revizes some of his earlier statements in Galatians about the law and Israel and appeals to convictions common to both himself and the Roman Christians.

Strengths of the book:

1. I am now a believer in the rhetorical approach to Romans. Previously I had wondered whether the whole rhetoric thing was just a convoluted way of saying that the epistle has a beginning, a middle and an end (see the book by Phil Kerns in the SNTS series). But the parrallels in language that Tobin draws with Epictetus and Paul has convinced me that Romans is a rhetorical piece.

2. Tobin gives an excellent overview of the situation of Christianity and Judaism in Rome in the 30s-50s AD.

3. Tobin puts forward a good case for the thematic and rhetorical unity of Romans 8-11.


Tobin supposes that the Roman Christians observed only the ethical aspects of the law. However, this presuposes that the law could be divided into civil, cermonial and ethical aspects; a tripartite distinction that far as I know does not precede Aquinas (I wait to be corrected on that). Thus, for the Roman Christians nomos was nomos and it had to be obeyed in its entirety, even if they were convinced of the moral superiority of the law over the perceived immorality of the Greco-Roman world.

Tobin makes too much of every little difference between Romans and Galatians to the extent that Paul is back-tracking over everything. There is no doubt that Paul uses a much different "tone" in talking about the law than in Galatians, but I'm not so sure that retreats so completely from his previous polemics.

I think Romans 5 and 8 should be viewed and transitory sections that recapitulate main themes and prepare the way for following material, rather than seeing Romans 8-11 has a cohesive unity.

Overall verdict:

All in all I have found this book helpful in preparing my course notes on Romans, it has stimulated my thinking about the letter, it is well written, well argued, and certainly worthy of purchasing.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Studies on Pre-Existence

I’ve noted several studies on the pre-existence of Jesus that have either just come out or are coming out in the near future.

Douglas McCready, He came down from heaven: The pre-existence of Christ and the Christian faith (Leicester: IVP, 2005)

Accompanying all the new studies of the life of Jesus has been the question of Jesus’ identity. Was he anything more than a human creature? A key issue in this debate is the claim of Jesus’ pre-existence as the divine, uncreated Son of God before his incarnation on earth. Doug McCready provides a thorough survey of the doctrine, covering New Testament teaching, Jewish and Hellenistic background and historical development. He carefully weighs the evidence and engages the arguments for and against the orthodox Christian conviction of Christ's pre-existence. Drawing on expert scholarship McCready makes this important subject of debate accessible to students and other non-experts who want to know the evidence and arguments for this central doctrine of Christian faith. This book will be especially useful as a supplementary text for theology courses on Christology or in biblical studies courses on the New Testament witness to Jesus Christ.

Aquila H.I.Lee, From Messiah to Preexistent Son: Jesus' Self-Consciousness and Early Christian Exegesis of Messianic Psalms (WUNT 2.192; Tuebingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 2005)

Aquila H.I. Lee explores the development of early Christian understanding of Jesus as the preexistent Son of God. He first reviews recent attempts to explain the development as a result of the influence of Jewish angelology and similar speculations. In the second part he argues that neither the personification of various attributes of God, including wisdom, nor speculations about principal angels and a preexistent messiah in Second Temple Judaism ever provided a ready-made category for viewing Jesus as a divine and preexistent being alongside God. An examination of the Synoptic evidence for Jesus' self-consciousness of divine sonship and divine mission in the whole context of his life and teaching shows that his self-understanding was open to interpretation in terms of pre-existence. The author also examines the early Christian use of Pss 110:1 and 2:7 against this background. He proposes that the root of preexistent Son Christology is to be found in early Christian exegesis of these two messianic psalms (the catalyst) in the light of Jesus self-consciousness of divine sonship and divine mission (the foundation). The tremendous impact left by the resurrection event and the resulting conception of Jesus "literally" enthroned to God's right hand led them to see Jesus as the preexistent Lord and Son of God. In the final part of this book Aquila Lee argues that the pre-Pauline 'sending' formula "God sent his Son" (Gal 4:4-5; Rom 8:3-4; Jn 3:16-17; and 1 Jn 4:9) derives from this understanding of Jesus as the preexistent Son of God rather than from divine wisdom christology.

Simon Gathercole also has a book coming out next year on the subject (I saw a poster for it at SBL) which should be interesting.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The doctor is in!

Today I received six little words from the University of Queensland Graduate school that has made my day:

"Congratulations - your award has been approved"

Yes, it is official - I am now doktorb!

It has been a long journey, from undergraduate studies at the Queensland Baptist College of Ministries to honours and Ph.D at the University of Queensland - 7 long, fun and hard working years For me it is a sharp contrast to remember that I couldn't even get into Uni after High School (my grades weren't good enough) and I'm now a doctor of philosophy.

People to thank along the way:

My wife Naomi, for her love, patience, long-suffering, affection and encouragment along the way.

My friends and family at Grace Bible Church, esp. Dave and Craig.

My teachers at QBCM esp., Jim Gibson, Les Ball and Jeff Pugh.

Advisor and examiners who got me to do the hard work - Rick Strelan, Bob Webb and Scot McKnight.

My colleagues at HTC who took me in on the good faith that my doctorate would be awarded in the near future. I hope I have vindicated their trust.

Ben Myers who's friendship this last couple of years has been very helpful and enriching: only a true friend will either help you move house or proof read stuff for you.

And, of course, the Calvinist in me means I have to finish with the words:

"May I boast not in my own academic achievements, but only in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ"

Soli Deo Gloria

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Congrats Alexis Jayne Bird

My daughter, Alexis, has succeeded in memorizing Colossians 1:15-20! Well done to my gorgeous little princess.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

More on the Jesus Creed

I'm preparing my devotional for chapel tomorrow and I'm basing the talk (indeed a whole series) on studies from Jesus Creed.

In Mark 12.28-34, I was initially struck by the co-location of the shema of Dt. 6.4-5 and the commandment in Lev. 19.18 which look alot like a form of "prophetic criticism" (see works by James Sanders and Craig Evans on this). In prophetic criticism, competing interpretations of scripture are undermined, not by forcing a new interpretation onto the same text, but taking a disputed text and combining it with another text so as to produce a whole new meaning through the creative juxtaposition of two biblical passages. A further example would be Luke 4.16-30 where Luke depicts Jesus as combining Isa. 61.1-2 with the Elijah and Elisha narratives giving a whole new interpretation to the issue of the identity of the people of God and God's relationship to those normally regarded being outside the covenantal relationship.

Getting back to Mark 12.28-34, Jesus redines what it means to be loyal to Israel's God and how to live obediently as the renewed Israel. As Mcknight suggests, loving God meant living Torah, but Jesus' prophetic criticism shows that living Torah also means loving others.

Wright also makes a good point in his Mark for Everyone Commentary, do Christian churches look like a community fixated on loving others? Are Christians concerned or content merely in saving their own souls/hides from the flames of eternal torment; or are they concerned with loving God and loving others as Jesus suggests and making that a manifesto for their lives?

Women and a Synagogue Prayer

I came across an interesting quote about women in the church on the NT Wright page from a paper entitled, "Women’s Service in the Church: The Biblical Basis"

Remember the synagogue prayer in which the man who prays thanks God that he has not made him a Gentile, a slave or a woman – at which point the women in the congregation would [thank] God ‘that you have made me according to your will’. I think Paul is deliberately marking out the family of Abraham reformed in the Messiah as a people who cannot pray that prayer, since within this family these distinctions are now irrelevant.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The New Perspective

The New Perspective on Paul remains a hot topic of contention in Reformed-Evangelical circles these days and NT Wright in particular comes under a lot of criticism. One the best reviews of the debate about Wright’s orthodoxy comes from Doug Green of Westminster Theological Seminary who gives a balanced appreciation and critique of Wright’s views here.

Friday, November 25, 2005

New Sites and Associations

I would like to point out a couple of websites that have just come to my attention.

First, Jim Hamilton at Antiphon points out that Tom Schreiner’s webpage is full of several of his articles and book reviews. I quite like Schreiner’s Pauline theology book, especially his section on how he abandoned transformative justification for a forensic model.

Second, for the Textual Critical buffs out there, Wieland Willker has a fairly interesting and thorough site on various ms (one of the PDF files is over 400 pages long!!!). The site is called An Online Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels.

Third, I have added the New Testament Society of South Africa to my side-bar to give the list a more international field (yes, there are biblical studies groups outside North America).


Fourth, there is Justin Jenkins of Pisteuo who hails from California (he must know Brandon Wason at Novum Testamentum since California is such a small place)

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Jesus Creed

It pains me to say, but I have only now just started reading Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed. Truth be told, I have never liked devotional books much, I find them too light and fluffy, kinda like some American fastfood outlets (esp. that infernal McGridle - I mean really, who puts a pancake in breakky burger!). But Jesus Creed is both intellectually engaging and spiritually moving - a rare trait in books. Makes me wish that more Historical Jesus scholars would try write popular and devotional works (to his credit Wright does it a bit and I think Mark Alan Powell has a similar project coming out soon).

In the opening two chapters what struck me hardest was the idea of reciting the Jesus Creed at the start of a lesson, and finishing off with the Lord's Prayer at the end. Although the Paulinist in me wants to interject 1 Cor 8.6 as a christocized shema in there somewhere too (maybe during the coffee break). If I can arouse enough interest, I may try start up a study group at college to go through chapters one week at a time every Friday at lunch time. Hmmm, we'll see how we go.

Forthcoming Commentaries

Do you ever wish you knew what commentaries were coming out in the various series and who the authors were? Well my commentary intelligence network reports the following:

Robert L. Webb, 2 Peter and Jude (NICNT)

Scot McKnight, James (NICNT)

R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (NICNT)

Rikki Watts, The Gospel of Mark (NICNT)

James Dunn, The Gospel of Mark (ICC)

Richard Bauckham, The Gospel of Luke (ICC)

John McHugh, Gospel of John (ICC)

E. Earle Ellis, 1 Corinthians (ICC)

Graham Stanton, Galatians (ICC)

Karl Donfried, 1 & 2 Thessalonians (ICC)

Loveday Alexander, Hebrews (ICC)

David Horrell, 1 Peter (ICC)

Dale C. Allison, James (ICC)

D. moody Smith, Johannine Epistles (ICC)

Stanley E. Porter, Book of Acts (NIGTC)

D.A. Carson, Johannine Epistles (NIGTC)

Steven Walton, Book of Acts (WBC)

Craig A. Evans, Matthew (Cambridge Commentaries)

Gregory K. Beale, Colossians (BECNT)

D.A. Carson, Hebrews (BECNT)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Highlights of SBL

What were the highlights of SBL for me?

(1) Most of all it was meeting people who have been central in my work in the last three years: Bob Webb and Scot McKnight. Bob's advice was crucial to me in the final stages of my thesis and he also helped me get over the line with a few journal articles I did for JSHJ. Scot was very generous and encouraging to me along the way and was instrumental in getting me over the examination line. Joel Willitts was also good to seen in the flesh.

(2) Meeting all the bloggers was great too: Stephen Carlson, Mark Goodacre, Joe Cathy, Jim "Zwingli rocks" West, Brandon Wason, Alan Bandy, James Crossley, Michael Pahl, et al.

(3) The book stalls: I thought ETS was great and then I saw the awesome stalls at SBL. It was the El Dorado of biblical studies books. I remember walking in and thinking: "Wow, the legends are true!" And the extra discounts at T&T Clark on the last day. Here is the list of the books I bought:

Howard Clark Kee, The Beginnings of Christianity

D.A. Carson, et. al. Justification and Variegated Nomism vol. 2.

James Crossley, The Date of Mark's Gospel

Richard A. Horsley, ed. Christians Origins

E.P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism

Charles Talbert, Romans

Bart Ehrman, Lost Christianity's

Peter Enns, Incarnation and Inspiration

Markus Bockmuehl, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Jesus

D.A. Campbell, The Quest for Paul's Gospel

Markus Bockmuehl, ed. The Written Gospel

Markus Bockmuehl, This Jesus

Alexander Wedderburn, A History of hte First Christians

Martin Hengel, Four Gospels, One Jesus

George Nickelsburg, Ancient Judaism and Christians Origins

(4) Meeting many Australian scholars who are part of the Aussie biblical studies Diaspora like Doug Green, Bruce Winter, and Rikki Watts.

(5) The session on the Authority of the Bible with Crossan, Martin, Wright and Ehrman. One of the first books I'm gonna read in the near future is Bruce Metzger's gem on textual criticism and the recent summary of research by Eckhard Schnabel. I need to get more serious about staying up to date on TC matters.

Last Day at SBL

The Pauline soteriological group had a good session of Israel and supersession. Was Paul a supersessionist?

Bruce Longenecker presented a good paper that included a taxonomy of various types of supersession. The controversial aspect was whether those who advocate a two covenant view of salvation (one for Jews and another for Gentiles) represent a form of soft supersession since they critique Israel's failure to embrace the Gentile mission.

The strength's of Longenecker's proposal were: (a) Paul believed that Israel had a soteriological deficit and not merely opposition to the Gentile mission; (b) Paul's supersession is part of an indigenized Judaic supersession; (c) Gal. 2.9 implies that there was a gospel for the uncircumcized; (d) Paul's concern for the poor shows his compassion for Israel (Longenecker is writing a book on this later theme).

Douglas Harink argues that the role of Israel is neither here nor there for Paul. The centre of Paul's theology is its apocalyptic dimension and the defeat of the old age through the death of Christ. The messianic community (church) is not a replacement of Israel, but a symbol of the new creation to come; in one sense the new community will be replaced by the new creation.

I will now elaborate on Dunn's response to Bailey:

(1) Bailey overstates his case by saying that 90% of words were preserved in a given account.
(2) Weeden applied Bailey's theory "too woodenly" (Dunn's words) and the informal controlled tradition has no exact and concise criteria.
(3) Contrary to Weeden's supposition of Bailey's anecdotal evidence, the parallel stories actually reads like two juxtaposed versions of the Synoptics.
(4) At the end of the day the versions Weeden offers, whatever their differences, are still the same fundamental story.
(5) Weeden assumes that the stories have an original version upon which to be compared with R. Hogg's stories. Yet if the story was performed several times there can be no talk of an original.

I would add:

(6) Even if all of Bailey's examples are not good examples of "informal controlled oral tradition", Bailey's model is still intuitively compelling.
(7) I would add that the absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence - since all it would take is some young anthropologist to go to the woopimanagooey tribe of New Zealand and discover a tribe that transmits its traditions analagous to Bailey's model.

Monday, November 21, 2005

SBL Again

To those who mocked my TC Heresy of writing a commentary on a single text type I say unto ye: "Ha!". I just heard Stan Porter say the exact same thing on a panel discussion on the Book of Acts!!! Yes, Michael Pahl, I'm talking about you! Maybe my idea for a commentary series based on reception and transmission of mss will one day come to fruition. Actually, it was a good discussion by five very different commentators: Loveday Alexander (history), Joel Green (history is overrated), Beverly Gaventa (Acts is about God), Robert Wall (left before it started) and Stanley Porter. Porter is also going to write the Acts commentary in the NIGTC series. Two things about Porter to note: (1) I have a terrible habit of disagreeing with him lately on matters such as the use of Greek as a criterion of authenticity in historical Jesus research and his critique of "Third Quest" for the historical Jesus. (2) I secretly harbour the ambition to equal or suprass the size of his publication lists in the ETS and IBR newsletters.

The Historical Jesus seminar had as its highlight Thomas Weeden's critique of Kenneth Bailey's idea of "informal and controlled" oral tradition. James Dunn made a good response in defense of Bailey. And for those interested, you can check out my two cents towards the debate in recent articles in WTJ and BBR. I think Bailey gives us a model much better than Homeric epics, slightly better than Gerhardsson's rabbinic models, and a lot better than Kelber's written vs. oral hermeneutics of transmission.

Lastly, I went to the rhetorical criticism section and enjoyed I. Howard Marshall's paper on the structure of the Pastoral Epistles.

I also bought some new shoes since my other one's disintegrated. Having to throw my shoes away was a hard experience, since they were the parade shoes I was issued when I joined the Army 13 yrs ago - it was the end of an era in footwear and all the more significant since I buy a pair of dress shoes about once every decade. If only women were like that hey!!! I'm gonna copy nasty comments for that one!

Tomorrow or the next day I will blog on what books I bought ($200 US were spent all up - oh forgive me my darling wife!).

Sunday, November 20, 2005

SBL continued

Today included breaky at Dunk'n'Donuts which was packed with most of Philadelphia's police force.

First session this morning was the bibliobloggers with papers from Jim Davilla and Rick Brannan - pretty good session about the pros and cons of blogging; and something about women not being involved due to some apparent moat created by naming the community bibliobloggers (don't ask, I don't understand it myself).

Next session was Mapping Memory with Horsley, Kelber and Thatcher - not bad. I agree that the old Form Criticism stuff needs to be throne out, but I'm waiting to see the value of the stuff to come for "social memory theory".

Something I've failed to mention is that I've spent some time with Brandon Wason lately (good young guy) which has been good; and also met Michael Pahl. I had lunch with Bob and Pat Webb. Later on I had drinkies with Joel Willitts and James Crossley, and James and I are planning on getting our own TV show on the BBC: Bird, Crossley and the Question of God.

Later on was the Hendrickson and Scottish Uni's reception which were great and I met a whole heap of scholars like Bruce Longenecker and Paul Forster.

Tomorrow is the Acts session; and apparently Stan Porter is writing in the NIGTC volume on the Book of Acts. Must buy shoes, postcards and presents for my wife and kids.

So many guys have their wives here (like Bob Webb with Pat) and I wish my wife was here too!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

More on SBL Day 2

Additionally greetings include meeting Don Garlington (Toronto), Steven Walton (LBC) and, Doug Green (WTJ), and Joel Williams (Columbia).

A highlight of the arvo was the NT textual criticism seminar on Biblical Authority that was packed - it had Crossan, Wright, Ehrman and Dale Martin.

There were alot of good one liner's (too many to remember). I felt the weight of Ehrman's case that the diversity of manuscripts and intra-canonical textual diversity makes any notion of authority problematic. I don't agree with him though - I never ceased to be amazed how scholars think that just because Lk and Matt change Mk at times that they must have repudiated his entire work - it just does not follow. Lk and Matt follow Mk's outline, sometimes follow him word for word, they expand his material where his interests meets theirs. They modify, polish, tone down at times, but I don't think they repudiate his work or try to replace it - if they do, they do a poor job of it. Martin's paper was like King David: started well, but ended poorly. Martin sounds like a postmodern neo-Barthian theologian who wants to drive a wedge between history and theology. Crossan was okay, but I don't think he said anything new. Wright set forth a good case for the authority of Scripture being God and God expressing himself a story which carries (in some way) God's authority.

ETS and SBL Part 3

Well, the less said about my ETS paper on "Is there anything distinctive on the 3rd Quest for the Historical Jesus" the better. Sadly, I was competing with Richard Hays and James Dunn in parallel sessions and it seems that I did not have the draw power to attract the masses. When I first started talking there were only two people in the room - me and the moderator! I was just about to abandon the effort when four guys walked in, so I at least had some audience. But doing the last session on the last day, up against big name presenters, is something I don't want to do again!!!

And I have learnt that SBL is big and I mean BIG - we ain't in Brisbane anymore tot.

The Friday night IBR session was really good, with great presentations of OT ethics by Gordon Wenham and Chris Wright. I also got to meet Bob Webb, whom I am indebted to on several fronts and Doug Green.

To be honest, as this is my first ETS/SBL, I have learnt that the papers are probably the boring or mundane part. It is the networking and conversations that are great. So far I've been able to greet the following guys:

Alan Streett (Criswell), Graham Twelftree (Regent), James Dunn (Durham), Richard Longenecker (Toronto), Echard Schnabel (TEDS), Steven Walton (LBC), and David DeSilva (Ashland - who was apologetic that several of his chapters in his NT introduction were upside down). Also, Charles Talbert signed my Romans commentary that I got real real real cheap. Instead of $50 it was $16!

After being in the exhibit hall for ten minutes I met none other than Count Dooku himself (i.e. James Crossley) who was dressed, no surprise, in black. It was good to meet him and James is a great guy if you can understand him beneath that convoluted pommy accent.

I went to a historical Jesus seminar this morning on Robert Miller's Book Jesus at Thirty, which to be frank does not sound like a good book. Anyone who thinks that they can map Jesus' psych profile is just kidding themselves and Miller's take on the origins of the birth narratives was unconvincing.

This afternoon I attended Kloppenborg's assessment of the Jesus traditions in the epistle of James which wasn't bad.

I saw alot of books that Ben Myers of Faith and Theology would like:

- Douglad Groothius, In Defense of Natural Theology (well, Ben might not like it, but he needs to read it).
- Jaroslav Pelikan's Acts Commentary
- Vanhoozer, Wright, Treier, Dictionary for the Theological Interpretation of Scripture (which has been selling like hot cakes around here).

Besides spending $10 on a glass of wine (bad US wine at that), things in Philly are okay. SBL rocks!

Note for Kyle Wells, go to the Mohr-Siebeck stand and buy the book on Paul and Power - someone might have beaten you to the punch!!

Soon I'm going to the session with Wright, Ehrman and Crossan on the authority of Scripture (or perhaps the lack of authority if we follow Ehrman). Note to self: write an article engaging Ehrman since this guy has a socio-pathic hatred of orthodox Christianity.

Haven't seen Jim West (code named 'Bulldog') around, he might be building a shrine to Bultmann next to Prometheus books! Stephen Carlson's book on Secret Mark is selling well as are several of McKnight's books. I started off slightly violating my book buying budget, but now it is more of depriving its liberties and utter mutiny. More tomorrow.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

ETS Day One and Two

Day One was fun with several weird and odd things happening to me, but I will blog only the events which I can narrate without incriminating myself or others.

First, I got a free book from Fortress Press (Nickelsburg on Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins). I also picked up Justification and Variegated Nomism volume 2, Richard Horsley Christian Origins, and tomorrow I'll probably pick up one other volume. My thanks to Alan Bandy for some advice (mostly reminding me of my own philosophy of only buying books I need or have already used).

Second, I met a lot of people like Stan Porter and bloggers like Alan Bandy and Jim Hamilton and several other notable people.

Third, Jamie Grant made it to the US with a new passport (praise God)

Fourth, I had dinner with the gals from Christians for Biblical Equality and that was a hoot.

Fifth, I sat in some good papers including a review of Scott Peck's work on demon possession and the best presentation on egalitarian vs. complementarian views I have ever heard.

Day Two was a good day as well.

The first paper I attended was Q, Mark, Luke, Matthew: the Correct Order of Synoptic Development? By Leslie Robert Keylock. It argued that there was indeed a Q (contra the Goodacre-Farrar-Goulder hypothesis: note that Mark Goodacre is now included as a progenitor or propagandist of the thesis) and that Matthew was the latest Gospel (a la Hengel) but Matthew and Luke have no literary relationship.

Anthony Bradley of Covenant Seminar gave a paper on The Emergent Church: Ancient Roots of a Modern Movement, yeah Right? He argued that the diversity and pagan background of the Roman world provides Christians with a similar context in which they can subvert the culture (esp. Hip Hop culture) with Christian values.

I attended three papers at the Gnostics and Gnostic Gospels session including:

Jonathan M. Watt (Geneva College) on The Absence of Context in the Theory of Competing Christianities
Stanley Porter (McMaster Seminary) gave an excellent argument for dating John’s Gospel between 70-100 AD based on pEgerton 2 and p52.

Brad Mellon (Bethel Seminary) gave a presentation on The non-apostolic preaching of the Cross which argued that the Gnostic Gospels didn’t have any atonement theology like the canonical Gospels. My immediate response would be: Well duh? Pagels would probably respond by saying “Praise the Sophia in me that we have been able to deconstruct and be liberated from that theology of divine child abuse, God the Father abusing and killing his own son”.

The plenary session by D. Jeffrey Bingham (Dallas Theological Seminary) gave an excellent exposition on trends accounting diversity in the early church from Baur to Ehrman. Email him and ask for a copy.

Michael Svigel (Dallas Theological Seminary) gave a paper on “You got to know when to hold’em: Trumping the Bauer Thesis” not too bad, but I think he tries to project too much of the orthodox theology to the immediate post-Easter setting.

I got to meet a lot of good people like Joel Willits (North Park/Moody), William Barclay (Reformed Theological Seminary), I. Howard Marshall (Aberdeen) and Mickey Klink (Talbot).

I have bought several books but will blog on them separately – tomorrow is the 50% sale!

Must go and rehearse my paper on “Is there anything distinctive about the Third Quest for the Historical Jesus”

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Philadelphia so far!

The Bird has landed in Philly! But not without much stress.

First, my colleague, Jamie Grant, was unable to accompany me on the trip because, as we learnt at Inverness Airport, his passport is not machine readable and therefore not able to get the Visa waiver! Last I saw Jamie was in London on his way to the American consulate to get a visa.

Second, sitting around Gatwick airport for 8 hrs waiting for flights was about as much fun as parsing Hebrew verbs or reading John Kloppenborg's Q fantasies!!!

Third, the flight wasn't too bad. "Batman Begins" and "The Island" being reasonable in-flight movies. Got some reading done, especially a new article in NTS about the Gospel of Thomas - which any reasonable minded person will know is a 2d century document. Though the snoring American in the baseball cap was annoying (really why do these people have to wear baseball caps inside planes?)

Fourth, the cab driver who met me at the airport was a suicidal Rastafarian lady who drove faster than the jumbo I fly in on. After hearing my accent she asked if I was from Arkansaw or Missouri. I asked why and she said, I quote, "You look square and goofy". Even worse, she took me to the wrong flipping hotel. Another cab and $75 later I finally arrive at the proper Hotel in Valley Forge and find a huge list of emails waiting to be answered the moment I turned on my laptop (sigh).

Fifth, I miss my wife and kids already. Give me cuddles with my little-babes and smooches with my righteous-babe any day.

I really hope these conferences will be worth all the pain, strife and struggle.

And only for the reason that I am exhausted, confused and hungry, I'm going to insert a trivia question. Note this quote:

"Not I for sport and nor for duty, but for my own peculiar end - I am not what I am"

What Shakespearean character uttered that amamzing quote (hint not from Romeo and Juliett or Macbeth).

Saturday, November 12, 2005

ETS and SBL and IBR and AAR and Blog Reports

The gathering in Philadelphia next week of biblical scholars and theologians will probably have an unprecedented number of blog reports coming out. First there's ETS with the evangelicals (like myself and Alan Bandy) pumping out reports if we can access a CPU. Inbetween is IBR followed up with SBL where we will probably rendezvous with most other bloggers sometime or other. I'm sure they will be a lot of session reports and digests of seminars.

My itinerary is pretty full as I want to finally meet my associate doctoral supervisor (Bob Webb) and a whole host of "virtual" friends that I have acquired over the past three years. I'm trying to spread myself out over a lot of different sessions (Historical Jesus, Synoptics, Paul, James, Jewish Christianity) which comes from my ethos of being a "generalist" in NT studies.

Hope to see you there if you're going! I tend to stand out with bright red (a la Rudolph the red nose reindeer) hair. I can be found inbetween sessions drooling over the many book stalls (especially Fortress, Westminster/John Knox, Baker, Oxford Uni Press etc). But don't bother looking for me at the gay hermeneutics sessions, in the words of Austin Powers, "Not my bag baby!"

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Confusing World of "Evangelicals"

This week I’ve read two articles on the word ‘Evangelical’.

The first is by Paul Trudinger On Reclaiming the Term ‘Evangelical’ for its Rightful Use in a recent Expository Times piece who states: “For ‘evangelical’ is a grand, large and liberating word, rightly understood and rightly used, descriptive of what is central to the life of all persons who put their trust in God and seeks to do what God requires of them in the words of Micah 6:8 …’ Of course Trudinger thinks that Martin Buber and Gandhi were evangelicals too! Trudinger accuses evangelicals of hypocrisy for going on their ‘March for Jesus’ parades when they should be doing acts of compassion and social justice instead. Let me make three quick responses: (1) The evangel of Trudinger sounds a lot like the kind of evangel that Karl Rahner warned us about: ‘A God without wrath, who takes men without sin, to a kingdom without judgment’. His evangel is theological impoverished and morally bankrupt – so he’s more than welcome to it. (2) As for liberals being concerned with justice and Evangelicals being obsessed exclusively with saving souls, well, I never ceased to be amazed by liberals, rather like Trudinger, who used to volunteer to come over to Australian colleges and seminaries from North America and to lecture us about social justice and ending poverty. Strangely enough, they always insisted on flying business class! Now there’s an illustration of hypocrisy. (3) In my experience (admittedly biased) there are more Evangelicals out there working with the marginalized, disempowered, abused and impoverished than liberals – in fact, I heard of a survey in the UK that made exactly this point (though I cannot confirm it at this point). If Trudinger thinks evangelicals have no concern for the poor he should read McKnight’s Jesus Creed. Game, Set, Match – Evangelicals!

In another article, John Armstrong writes a piece called Why I Am Not an Evangelical and he opines that those on the far right of evangelicalism (politically and theologically) have hijacked the meaning of the name so that “Evangelical” is almost synonymous with fundamentalist. I understand his concern, but outside the US we don’t really have the same problem of fundamentalists trying to use the term evangelical to describe themselves. Most fundamentalists I have met dislike Evangelicals with a passion.

In sum, we have a liberal who wants to be known as an ‘Evangelical’ and then we have an Evangelical who doesn’t want to be called an ‘Evangelical’ anymore.

Add to the mix Ben Witherington’s recent book The Problem with Evangelical Theologies featured in an article in Christianity Today and you have some interesting discussion.

Love them or hate them, Evangelicals make our world a more interesting place!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Gospel to Romans and RBL

I gave up listing all the latest RBL reviews long ago, but I have included my own review of Brian Incigneri The Gospel to the Romans. This review is a foretaste on my current research project about the illusive quest for the “Marcan Community”.

In the RBL email I received there was an error as I did not write a review of Garrow, Alan J. P. The Gospel of Matthew's Dependence on the Didache.

Note: I have also added several new resources to the sidebar including “Find Articles” and “Bible Centre” which have some good resources.

Monday, November 07, 2005

"Forgiven" by Thomas Blackshear

One of my favourite pieces of contemporary Christian art (which I have a copy of on my desk) is Thomas Blacksher's Forgiven:

This reflects to me the power of the resurrected Son of God to save those who cannot save themselves. The man is a plain, average Joe (like us), he is powerless, and yet with what strength he does have he still holds on to the weapons of execution so he is guilty as a naked gun. The man's face is a mixture of pain, anguish and guilt. And the only thing that sustains him is the strength and grace of the risen Lord. Note, where blood has fallen, lilies are growing = new life begins!

Library Update

My library has finally arrived. Ooh how I missed my books - my IVP black dictionaries, my silver NSBT, my primary source stuff (DSS, Jos., Philo etc) and who can forget such items as WBC and NICNT commentaries. And of course my favourite part of the collection: COQG. Then there's BDAG (the only book I have that is listed on my insurance policy). Oh yes, my massive collection of photocopied journal articles. No more long trips to the library several times a day to check articles and reference alas - the Bird Cage is now fully operation.

Some other things arrived too: my wife's clothes, my daughters' toys and their insulin.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Ancient Church ruins discovered in Israel

In a BBC report Israeli officials say they have discovered what may be the oldest Christian Church in Israel- on the site of a maximum security prison. Israel's Antiquities Authority said the church at the Megiddo jail dated back to the third or fourth century AD and was "a once in a lifetime find". It contained a mosaic bearing the name of Jesus Christ in ancient Greek, fish murals and an altar, officials said.
The dig took place near the biblical site of Armageddon in northern Israel.

My comment is that anyone building a church in Armageddon was probably not expecting the great battle to take place any time in the near future!

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Son of Man who is still in heaven

While I'm in the mood to discuss textual critical stuff, one variation which fascinates me is John 3.13

"No one has ever gone into heaven except
the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man"

Yet several witnesses (A, Caesarean text, 050, 063, f1, f13 et. al.) adds a little bit on the end.

"No one has ever gone into heaven except
the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man who is in heaven"

I don't have my library with me so I have no John commentaries and or Metzger to consult to find a solution (but the good news is that my stuff arrives on Monday, only took 4 months for the stuff to get here from Brisbane :| ).

Does the addition "who is heaven" convey the idea that Jesus' divinity (the Logos?) was still in heaven whilst he was on earth?

Hmmm. Has anyone written a Ph.D on this variant?

New Testament Theology

I’ve been preparing a lecture on an “An Introduction to New Testament Theology” and I’ve come across some good resources on the web including:

Grant Osborne’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology article on NT Theology

Rodney Decker also has a good bibliography on the subject.

Mention should also be made of Frank Thielman’s new NT Theology book: Theology of the New Testament: A Canonical and Synthetic Approach

The blurb reads:

Studying the theology of the New Testament can be a daunting task, even to the knowledgeable Bible student or pastor. Each of the twenty-seven books, written by various authors, has its own theological emphasis and nuances. How do we elicit a coherent message from such theological diversity, especially given that some of the theological statements in the New Testament seem to be at odds with one another? Is such an endeavor achievable or even valid?Theology of the New Testament takes a balanced approach in response to these challenges. Frank Thielman presents a theology of the New Testament that is careful to take into account the cultural and historical circumstances surrounding each book and the New Testament as a whole. He not only examines each book’s theological content individually, but also in relation to the rest of the New Testament, particularly within each of the three theological units that comprise the New Testament: the gospels and Acts, the Pauline epistles, and the general epistles and Revelation. This canonical and synthetic approach honors both the theological diversity of the various books and the theological connections between the books. In the end, Thielman finds a unified theological vision of the New Testament, anchored in the centrality of Jesus Christ. Frank Thielman’s Theology of the New Testament is an outstanding achievement. The book is marked by scholarly depth, exegetical rigor, and theological profundity. Both students and professors will profit immensely from this lucid treatment of the theology contained in the New Testament documents. Thomas R. Schreiner Professor of New Testament, The Southern Baptist Theological SeminaryAn accessible presentation of the key theological points of the New Testament books by an accomplished New Testament scholar and teacher. Its clear style, lucid organization, and sound theological insight make it a prime resource for serious students in both the academy and the church. Karen H. Jobes, PhD Associate Professor of New Testament, Westmont College

Ben Myers and Milton

Our evangelical-Barthian friend (I know that makes about as much sense as military intelligence or fried ice – but that’s just how he is folks) Ben Myers has scored a goal and Walter de Grutyer is going to publish his doctoral thesis Milton’s Theology of Freedom. Bravo and well done Ben! Have a short-black on me! His book will be a must buy item.

More on Textual Criticism

My idea of writing a commentary based a single text-type has prompted some interesting responses. Peter Williams, over at Evangelical Textual Criticism has an interesting response to my post. He seems moderately in favour of the idea and notes that for a long time most commentaries were based on a single text-type (e.g. Lightfoot etc.) In the comments section below, Stephen Carlson notes that the approach I’m putting forward sounds like a “copy-text” approach and modern TC is pretty much based on copy-text of Codex Vaticanus at any rate!

Is it possible to:

1. Focus on a single text (like Lightfoot did) and then examine the text in and of itself, paying attention to details of textual transmission, corruption, restoration, wirkungsgeschicte, scribal activity, and of course exegesis of the text.

2. Still keep on an eye on what Paul may have originally written using the standard canons of TC.

Maybe we can start a new commentary series called:

The Lightfoot Textual Commentaries: Textual Tradition, Reception-History, and Exegesis

I got dibs of p52 (Rylands)! See it here

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Writing a NT commentary

I have this insane idea for biblical studies. Why is it when scholars write a commentary on a NT book that they inevitably use either UBS4 or NA27? The fact is that no extant manuscript conforms to the text of UBS4 or NA27 so they are writing a commentary on a manuscript that does not physically exist. Let me qualify that: (1) I believe that it is worthwhile to comb the various witnesses and try to establish what is probably the original autographs; (2) I'm not advocating the superiority of any one particular textual witness like the Western Text or anything like that.

But why doesn't someone take, say, the earliest manuscript on Galatians (p46, ca. 200 I think) and write a commentary on that manuscript and argue in the footnotes passages where they think other readings are to be preferred. I put this forward because, although I believe in the eclectic approach, at the end of the day there will always be an element of doubt as to our ability to reconstruct the original autographs with any certainty. Alternatively, p46 is a real manuscript not an imagined one, and the question that can be asked is to what degree does p.46 legitimately represent the original autograph.

Is using a real manuscript (as opposed to a hypothetical one)as a template for the text of a commentary an act of textual critical heresy; or am I onto something?

New Blogs

I have added 3 new blogs to the side bar:

Chris Tilling and his Brainpoo

Mark Owen with his New Testament Round Table

Peter Head, Peter Williams and Simon Gathercole et. al with Evangelical Textual Criticism

My side bar is beginning to get out of hand!

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Michael Bird interview: The Man Behind the Blog

Brandon Wason and Jim West have honoured me by interviewing me at as "Blog of the Month". Thanks fellas, the interview was great fun and made me think. The interview can be read here.

The End is Nigh!

No, I'm not talking about the rapture index. My Ph.D examiner's reports are in and the final verdict is . . . . pass with minor corrections. Examiner 1 was very gracious and generous and wrote a very commendable report of my thesis. Examiner 2 was positive but noted several pages of typographical errors and bid me to rethink a few things. The corrections are nearly done and I should hopefully send off the corrected proofs by the end of the week. Then soonafter I shall be Doktorb! Though I doubt conferral will be before ETS/SBL.

Makes me want to sing BBC's Songs of Praise most popular hymn (according to last Sundays survey) - Great is Thy Faithfulness!

What I'm reading at the moment

I'm working my way through Thomas H. Tobin's, Paul's Rhetoric in its Contexts: The Argument of Romans. And soon, Nickelsburg on Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins. Thereafter, I've gonna get stuck into a backlog of Pauline stuff by Stephen Westerholm and Guy Waters. Probably a few RBL reviews thrown into the mix as well.

I'm also reading through a stack of articles (and actually getting through them) from various festschriften, themelios, CBQ, NTS and a very good article from RevQ about theological diversity in the Pauline epistles (I think Mark Goodacre had the link up for a while, but now I can't find it). I find it ironic that the kerygmatic theologians like Butlmann argued that Christians had no interest in Jesus' life but were fixated on the significance of his death and resurrection. Yet Bultmann's disciples, like Robinson and Koester, advocate that the earliest Christians had no interest in the cross and resurrection but focused on Jesus as a sapiential sage.

Birthing the New Testament

There is a new book available on the origins of the New Testament that may prompt some response and controversy.

The Birthing of the New Testament: The Intertextual Development of the New Testament Writings

Thomas L. Brodie

Many are saying that the prevailing paradigm of NT origins is going nowhere. In its place, Brodie's stunning book invites us to suspend all 'knowledge' we already have about the history of the NT's development, and to be willing to entertain the following thesis.

Everything hinges on Proto-Luke, a history of Jesus using the Elijah–Elisha narrative as its model, which survives in 10 chapters of Luke and 15 of Acts. Mark then uses Proto-Luke, transposing its Acts material back into the life of Jesus. Matthew deuteronomizes Mark, John improves on the discourses of Matthew. Luke-Acts spells out the story at length. Add the Pauline corpus, the descendant of Deuteronomy via the Matthean logia, and the NT is virtually complete.

This is a totalizing theory, an explanation of everything, and its critics will be numerous. But even they will be hugely intrigued, and have to admit that Brodie's myriads of challenging observations about literary affinities demand an answer.

It is also available for review at RBL for any interested reviewers!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Latest issue of BBR

The lastest issue of Bulletin for Biblical Research is out and includes the following articles:

Michael F. Bird, “The Purpose and Preservation of the Jesus Tradition: Moderate Evidence for a Conserving Force in its Transmission.”

Steven M. Bryan, "The Eschatological Temple in John 14."

David M. Hoffeditz and Gary E. Yates, "Femme Fatale Redux: Intertextual Connection to the Elijah/Jezebel Narratives in Mark 6:14-29."

Brent Kinman, "Jesus' Royal Entry into Jerusalem."

Gerald A. Klingbeil, "Cultural Criticism and Biblical Hermeneutics: Definitions, Origins, Benefits, and Challenges."

Jacob Neusner, "The Kingdom of Heaven in Kindred Systems, Judaic and Christian."

Biblical Studies Conference in New Zealand

Over in the eighth-state-of-Australia, i.e. New Zealand, there is a conference due to take place (not about sheep or rugby) on biblical studies. Here's the details:




Papers include:

10.30-11.10 am: Judith McKinlay, "Huldah speaks again.' (40 mins)

11.15-12.15 am: James Harding, 'In the Name of Love: Resisting Reader and
Abusive Redeemer in Deutero-Isaiah' (60 minutes)

1.15 -1.55 pm: Geoff Aimers, 'All the President's Men: Poetics and
Characterization in the book of Job.' (40 mins)

2.-3 pm: Robert McIvor, 'Oral Societies and the Limitations of Human
Memory: Implications for the transmission of the Jesus traditions.' (60

3.30-4.10 pm: Tom Innes "The influence of the OT Jubilee on the shaping of
Luke's gospel, with the focus on Luke 4:18-19.' (40 minutes)

4.15-4.45 pm: Kath Rushton 'Some Implications of Wisdom and Friendship in
John' (30 mins)

4.45 - 5.30 pm: Derek Tovey, '"John I know, and Jesus I know, but what is
History?" Reflections on historical method in Casey and Blomberg.' (40 mins)

9-9.40 am: Paul Trebilco 'When did "Christians" first call themselves
"the Believers"?' (40 mins)

9.40 -10.40 am: Gillian Townsley 'Gender Trouble in Corinth: Que(e)rying
Constructs of Gender in 1 Corinthians 11.2-16' (60 minutes)

11.10-11.50 am: Peter Carrell 'Into the breech again: pronouns, childbirth,
woman, and silence
in 1 Timothy 2.11-15' (40 mins)

11.50-12.30 pm: George Wieland 'Crete and the Letter to Titus' (40 mins)

1-2 pm.: Margaret Eaton and Edmund Little 'How Should We Understand
Difficult Texts?'

2-3 pm: John Hale (with Donald Cullington) 'John Milton's Christian
Doctrine: Six Problems'

3.30-4.10 pm: Martin Williams 'The Flood, Baptism, and Salvation in 1
Peter 3:21' (40 mins)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Celsus and the Parting of the Ways

"There isn’t a dime of difference between Jews and Christians."
– Pagan author Celsus according to Origen, Contr. Cel. 3.1.

When did pagans/Roman authorities make a distinction between Jews and Christians? Here's some thoughts about it happening fairly early in some parts of the Empire:

a. The origination of the title "Christian" (= little Messiah) in Antioch in the early 40s (Acts 11.26) may have been a derogatory term coined by Jewish leaders or local authorities.

b. Tacitus' account (Ann. 15.44.2-8) of the persecution of Christians under Nero assumes that Christians were an identifiable group in Rome separate from the synagogues.

c. The collection of the fiscus judaicus or Jewish war reparation tax for the reconstruction of a Roman temple was possibly a catalyst for Christians to no longer identify with Jewish communities or even the Jewish lifestyle (since those who followed Jewish customs were also taxed). Perhaps the tax prompted Christians to "come out of the Jewish clauset" to make a pun?

Given this info, I would not advocate that the divide between Jewish and Christians identity was hard and fast, and some Christian communities (like those known to Matthew and John) strived to remain within the Jewish constituency and saw themselves as the fulfillment of Judaism or at least embodying its highest ideals, as opposed to a replacement to Judaism and the Jewish people. However, I would advocate that a demarcation between Jews and Christians was already ripening in the mid first century.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Jewish and Christian Texts

Rafael Rodriguez at The Verily Verily raises some good questions about the Jewishness of the NT. He opens up by alluding to Nickelsburg’s new book Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins (which I’ve flicked through and intend to buy at SBL/ETS) on how a hard and fast distinction between Jewish and Christian texts is a false dichotomy. I couldn’t agree more. The NT remains firmly within the orbit of Jewish belief , although one does observe within the NT practices and beliefs that gradually led to the dis-synagoguing of Christians (cf. Jn 9.22; 12.42) and resulted in Christians being marginalized from Jewish communities (cf. Rev. 2.9). Still, even texts which seem overtly Christian (like Luke-Acts) should be regarded as a variation of a theme within ‘common Judaism’. What made Christian writings Christian was a theological aspect (esp. christology), hermeneutical aspect (reinterpreting the Jewish Scriptures through a christological lense) and a functional aspect (operating as Scripture in Christian gatherings). Christian Scripture, its interpretation and composition, marked a variation between and a reaffirmation of ideas and beliefs within second-temple Judaism.

At the same time, there probably did come a time when Christian Scriptures began to be recognized as inappropriate for Jewish audiences. In b.Shab. 116 it states that Jews should not bother saving ‘the books of the minim’ from the fire. The books in question probably refer to the Gospels. Also, b.Meg. 9a chastises the LXX probably because it functioned as Christian Scripture. Of course, how far these Talmudic views can be exported into the first and second centuries is an open question.

I think a larger question looming in the back ground is not how one distinguishes a Jewish writing between a Christian one, but how did one tell a Christian from a Jew? And, when did Christianity break with Judaism – more anon on that one.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Gal. 6.16 and Philo

Galatians 6:16: And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

In this verse is Paul calling Christians 'the Israel of God' somewhat akin to a "new" Israel. There are so many issues at stake here including like is the kai connective or explicative, is Paul referring to all Christians or only to Jewish Christians. Stuff that I have found helpful on the topic includes:

Scot McKnight, Galatians (NIVAC - no library so I can't give page numbers).
Andreas Köstenberger, 2001. ‘The Identity of the ISRAEL TOU THEOU (Israel of God) in Galatians 6:16,’ Faith and Mission 19.1: 3-24.
Gregory K. Beale, "Peace and Mercy Upon the Israel of God: The Old Testament Background of Galatians 6, 16b," Biblica 80 (1999), 204-223.

For me there are four argments which clinch the deal:

1. Paul, after arguing for the unity of Jews and Gentiles, is unlikely to split them up at the end into Gentile and the Israel of God.
2. Elsewhere Paul uses language reminiscient of Israel to describe Christians, e.g. Phil. 3.3.
3. Given the benediction at the end of 2 Corinthians, it is unlikely that Paul would ever offer a blessing on Israel irrespective whether they believe or not.
4. And what I find interesting, is that according to Philo Israel (esp. "the Israel who sees God" in Philo, Migr. Abr. 113-14; Conf. Ling. 56; Rer. Div. Her. 78) is more of a philosohical description rather than an ethnic designation. Thus using "Israel" in a non-ethnic sense is possible for Jewish authors.

New Blog - CrossTalk

Ardel Caneday has a blog on Romans called CrossTalk which presents a fairly rigorous examination of the epistle. Highlights so far have included discussion of the ‘righteousness of God’ and arguments for a subjective genitive reading of pistis christou. Well worth reading. I look forward to hearing what he has to say about Romans 4.25!

Caneday (not pronounced Candy, so I’m told) has also written a good book with Thomas Schreiner on perseverance (The Race Set Before Us) and several interesting articles, the best one’s I’ve read have been in TrinJ and BBR. His interests, as far as I can tell, are the Gospel of Mark and Paul which are incidentally for many of my interests too. He is also known to my ‘virtual’ friend Josh Jipp.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Corinthians and Eschatology

When I first took an exegesis class on 1 Corinthians I was told that the problem was an over-realized eschatology, i.e. the belief that the eschaton had already dawned in its fullness. This accounted for the belief that there was no resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 since it had already happened in some 'spiritual sense'. This over-realized eschatology view is expounded classically by Thiselton in his NIGTC commentary and in a few earlier studies. However, Richard Hays in his 1 Cor commentary argues that the problem was the exact opposite - the Corinthians did not have enough eschatology. Scholars mistakenly read into 1 Cor 15 the over-realized eschatology countered in the Pastoral epistles?

So, was the problem at Corinth an over-realized eschatology or not enough eschatology? This a Ph.D thesis for some brave soul!

Books I'm buying at SBL/ETS

I've got my immediate wish list for the various book stalls at SBL/ETS:

Charles Talbert, Romans
George W. Nickelsburg, Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins
John P. Meier, Marginal Jew, vol. 2

John Nolland on Matthew will be tempting; as will Justification and Variegated Nomism vol. 2. I'll see how I go facing temptation. Of course, there are a hundred or so book retailers and it will be quite difficult to keep myself fiscally restrained at every point. But I'll stick to my philosophy: use a book before you buy it; that' what I tell students anyway.

These are books I've used and I've decided that they would be good to have on hand for future course preparation and research. I am hoping to get them with the big discount that everyone keeps telling me about! If I've been informed correctly, the biggest discounts are available on day one, right?

Oh gosh, I miss my library (which should have docked in London last Saturday along with my wifes clothes, baby toys, some insulin for the kids and other non-essential stuff). I fear that pirates in the Strait of Malacca have captured the boat and ditched my books over the starboard side. In doing my lesson prep you have no idea how many times I wish I had my four black IVP dictionaries? Then I have to walk all the way down to the library two or three times a day to look up stuff (aagh!).

That reminds me of a cool Erasmus quote:

When I get a little money I buy books; and if there is any left I buy food and clothing.

I dedicate that citation to my good friend Ben Myers just to show my fondness for Erasmus (at this point at least).

Friday, October 14, 2005

Things to Come in Bloggerdom?

Here is the Top Ten Things I’d like to see happen in Biblio-Blogdom in 2006 (but probably won’t)

10. Sean the Baptist to change his first name to John
9. Sean du Toit to come to Scotland to do a Ph.D
8. Michael Pahl to send me a bag of Tim Horton’s donuts
7. Brandon Wason to start a website called ‘X-Box anonymous’
6. The Sheffield War to go nuclear
5. Scot McKnight to renounce baseball and to embrace the gospel of cricket
4. Ben Myers to make his own recording of Dylan songs
3. Jim West to claim to be a living reincarnation of Zwingli
2. James Crossley to blog on “Why I decided to become an evangelical”
1. Mark Goodacre to blog on “Kloppenborg is right! 10 reasons why I believe in Q”.

Sorry, it's Friday afternoon, lectures are done for the week, I was in one of my whimsical moods!!!

I hope none are offended, but all are amused!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

S.S. Smalley and New Revelation Commentary

This is just out from IVP

A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Apocalypse
Stephen S. Smalley

The Blurb from IVP reads:

The Revelation to John by Stephen Smalley is a magisterial interpretation of John's Apocalypse as a grand drama, which can only be properly understood in light of John's Gospel and letters and in the context of the Johannine community. As such, it offers the reader a significantly different approach to this enigmatic text than that offered by most contemporary commentaries. Working directly from the Greek text, Smalley offers a masterful analysis of the critical and literary dimensions of the Apocalypse for students and scholars alike.

Why isn't Alan Bandy at Cafe Apocalypsis, our resident Revelation blogger, onto this one! Tut, tut, tut - you're gonna have to lift your game Alan and keep us informed of these developments :)

Tom Holland - Contours of Pauline Theology

Tom Holland's book Contours of Pauline Theology has its own website that lists various reviews and details. See Contours

The strength of Holland's book is that it places Paul firmly in a Jewish context, sees Paul as thinking in corporate categories, and readily engages contentious issues in Pauline soteriology concerning sacrifice and justification.

Anthony Thiselton gives the book a positive evaluation in his ExpT review which is available from the website.