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.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Synoptic Problem & Gospel Genre

Today in my NT 101 class I covered the Synoptic problem. I spent 20 minutes explaining the various options accounting for a literary relationship between the Synoptics Gospels. Afterwards, I got the students to work in pairs and spend 15 minutes reading over Mk. 4.30-32/Mt. 13.31-32/Lk. 13.18-19 (the parable of the mustard seed) and asked them to decide which ‘solution’ to the Synoptic problem that they thought best explained the textual data before.

The results were:

Farrar-Goulder 4 votes
Griesbach 1 vote
4 Source Hypothesis 2 votes

(Note for Mark Goodacre and company, over half of my NT 101 undergraduate class thinks you’re right!)

On Gospel genre, Scot McKnight’s charming little illustration about the Alexandrian librarian prompted some good discussion too on what kind of literature the Gospels are!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Wikipedia and Theopedia

The on-line "pedias" are a fairly helpful tools that I have discovered of late. They are written, obviously, by people who actually know something about their field.

The Theopedia: An Encyclopedia of Biblical Christianity has an interesting article on the New Perspective on Paul. Although clearly biased against the NPP, it contains a concise summary of the debate with some good links to other websites.

The Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia (sounds notoriously NZish) is another good resource, especially for students looking for a general overview of a topic. From the Wikipedia I did a few random searches and here are the results:

Karl Barth

Synoptic Problem

Helmut Koester

Paul of Tarsus

Imperial Cult

When I initially tried to search “Parting of the Ways” I was taken to an article on an episode from the British Sci-Fi series Dr. Who! When I looked up Jewish Christianity I found a link to Christianity and anti-Semitism which was were I want to go. Actually, the article on anti-semitism was quite a good read.

These are tools I shall recommend to students, although one should teach students to be discerning about anything that they read on the net! I'm sure many of you can sense the irony to that!

Biblical Theology and Old Testament Scholars

Given the large number of OT scholars who are engaged in Biblical Theology (e.g. James Barr, William Dumbrell, etc.), I'm beginning to think that Biblical Theology was created so as to give OT scholars an excuse to stray into New Testament studies!

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Faithfulness of Jesus Christ

Thanks to a young TEDS graduate named Josh Jipp, over the past few years I've found myself intrigued by discussion of the faithfulness of Christ or PISTIS CHRISTOU in several places in Paul's letters (Rom. 3.22, 26; Gal. 2.16; 3.22; Eph. 3.12 and Phil. 3.9). Richard Hays book on the topic is excellent, though perhaps overstated, and he invigorated a debate that had become stale. John McRay in his recent volume Paul: His Life and Teaching has an interesting chapter on the genitive construction and opts in favour of a subjective genitive, i.e. Christ's faithfulness. He schemetizes his argument for the subjective genitive as follows (pp. 258-59):

1. The construction pistis followed by a genitive of person or of a personal pronoun occurs in Paul's writings 24 times. All of them refer to the faith of the individual, never faith in the individual.

a. 20 times of individual Christians.
b. Once of God himself, Rom. 3.3
c. Twice of Abraham, Rom. 4.12, 16.
d. Once to anyone who has faith reckoned as righteousness, Rom. 4.5

2. A change of idiom occurs in Gal. 2.16.

There is the change from pistis christou with episteusamen Christon Iesoun.

3. The Syria Peshitta understands it as a subjective.

a. Gal. 2.16: "Therefore we know that a man is not justified from works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus the Messiah, and we believe in him, in Jesus the Messiah, that from his faith, that of the Messiah, we might be justified, and not from the works of the law."
b. Eph. 3.12:"In him we have the boldness and teh access in teh confidense of his faith".

4. Luther was the first exegete to translate the construction as "faith in". [Note, this is patternly false!]

In sum, I think it highly probable that Eph. 3.12 is a subjective genitive since the definite article + the genitive normally indicates a subjective genitive. The thought also comports closely with Hebrews 3.6 which espouses a similar idea. I think it most probable that Phil. 3.9 is a subjective gentivie due to the parrallelism of the verses and the preceding context of Phil. 2.5-11 which emphasizes the obedience of Christ. I translate Phil. 3.7-9 as follows:

For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as human filth, in order that I may gain Messiah and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but one that comes through the faithfulness of the Messiah, the righteousness from God based upon faith.

I don't think the references in Galatians and Romans are subjective genitives since Paul is simply being emphatic (not redundant) in Rom. 3.22 about justification being by faith. Perhaps the most compelling piece of evidence against a widespread reading of the subjective genitive is that the Greek-speaking early church Fathers like Chrysostom did not interpret them as subjective genitives!

The best summary of the debate I have read comes from Tonstad, Sigve. 2002. ‘pistis christou: Reading Paul in a New Paradigm.’ AUSS 40: 37-59.

A good refutation of the subjective genitive interpretation can be found in the Pauline Theologies of either James Dunn or Thomas Schreiner.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Foolishness of the Cross - Part 1

My name is Jose Samblanco and I live in a rural village of Peru and, most imporantly, I am the apostle to the Internet. I’m here, on-line, proclaiming to you the good news about Carlos Hernandez. Carlos Hernandez was a Peruvian peasant. He was a prophet mighty in word and deed as attested by many miraculous signs. But his own people did not recieve him. Carlos was accused of being an Al-Qaeda terrorist, he was handed over to the authorities, and was executed on the electric chair. But God did not let Carlos languish in death and decay, but Carlos has been raised by God and is now the exalted Lord of the Cosmos. I am here to tell you that Carlos was electrocuted for your sins. Furthermore, it is exclusively by faith in King Carlos that you receive the hope of redemption.

I’ve even written a hymn about Carlos:

Carlos was there on that horrible chair
They tied him down with bolts and then zapped him with 40 000 volts
It was for you that our saviour fried and died
Despite the fact that his hair caught on fire, this one is God’s true Messiah.
The wisdom of the world has been refuted because Carlos was electrocuted
He is my saviour and my lamp, because he absorbed every deadly amp
Now I know that God does care, ‘cause he sent Carlos Hernandez to the electric chair.

I’ve also written other hymns like, “In the chair of Carlos I Glory” and “When I cling to that old rugged electric chair”. Now this new religion has spread rapidly here in Peru and some people even wear gold electric chairs on their necklaces, we put chairs on top of places of worship. In fact in Peru, the Red Cross has changed their named to the Red Chair. Athletes, prior to a big race, don’t make the sign of the cross, instead they make the sign of the electric chair as a gesture of good luck. They pretend to sit down and then shake themselves uncontrollable for about 5-10 seconds. Knowing this I would like to call you to have faith and allegiance in Carlos Hernandez as your Lord and Saviour.

Back to Reality

This gospel of Carlos Hernandez is obviously quite absured. However, I must wonder if the message of the cross, i.e. the message of a crucified saviour, sounded altogether different to audiences in the Greco-Roman world.

This leads me to question: what is the folly of the cross and what does it mean to be a fool for Christ?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

New Blog

In glancing over Ben Myer's Faith and Theology blog, I noticed that Michael Jensen had his own blog called 2 + 2 = 5.

I met Michael briefly last year and he is an up and coming Aussie Theologian with a particular interest in political theology. It sounds like he's currently doing his Ph.D at Oxford Uni. His Dad happens to be Peter Jensen, one of the key leaders of the Anglican Evangelicals - a great speaker, evangelist, and theologian! I thoroughly recommend Ben's review article of P.Jensen's The Revelation of God in RTR.

Hopefully we can listen to some interesting discussions between Michael and Ben on topics of a theological nature (they some to have a liking for Juengel in common at least).

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Alexamenos Graffito

I'm beginning to tire of too much academic posting, and I'll be focusing over the next few weeks on the cross and offering some Pastoral reflections. To begin with I'd thought we'd all consider the 'foolishness of the cross' as demonstrated in the Alexamenos Graffito.

The inscription contains a man with a horse's head on a cross with some individual raising a hand to him in devotion and the inscription reads:


Or in other words: "Alexamenos, worship God."

The inscription is from first century Rome and constitutes the first known evidence of anti-Christian graffiti. Cited from .

Rodney Decker's website

Now go ye all and read 1 Corinthians 1.18-2.2!

Paul and the Historical Jesus

This quote from Jerome Murphy O'Connor:

The historical Jesus is fundamental to Paul's theology. The disciple who wrote Ephesians caught the Apostle's approach perfectly when he presents Jesus as the truth of Christ (Eph. 4: 21). When his converts attempted to separate the Christ of faith from the Jesus of history, Paul resisted by insisting that the Lord of Glory was the crucified Jesus (2 Cor. 2: 6), and by stressing that Christ had been recieved 'as Jesus the Lord' (Col. 2: 6). The implication tha tPaul had preached the historical Jesus is formally confirmed by his condemnation of anyone 'who preaches a Jesus other than the one we preached' (2 Cor. 11: 4).

Paul: A Critical Life, 91.

We can all pray that Jerome has a quick recovery from his very serious illness.