Sunday, April 30, 2006

Together for the Gospel … Not Quite!

In Reformed circles there has been an explosion of posts about the conference Together for the Gospel (T4G). It sounds like it was an amazing conference featuring C.J. Maheney, Mark Dever, J. Ligon Duncan, Al Mohler, John Piper and John MacArthur – these are some big names in preaching and these guys know how to preach a decent sermon. As a card carrying Calvinist I regularly listen to sermons by these fellas, esp. John Piper and Mark Dever who I have a lot of time for. In fact, the speakers have also started their own blog and the posts are quite inspirational and encouraging. Part of me would really like to have attended the conference, but another part of me wonders if this is the kind of gospel I want to identify with! Whoa! Yes, you heard me right. How so? Well, the conference registration expressly prohibits women from attending. (I did read in the comments section of Tim Challies blog that about 60 women out of 2000 registrants did attend the conference [that's good I guess] presumably because they registered before the restriction was introduced or else because they had special dispensation. But I also read that one woman was asked repeatedly to give up her place so that a man could attend [that's bad]). The reason being that the conference is orientated primarily towards ministers and pastors, and women obviously cannot be pastors. Women cannot attend since places are limited and they might take the place of a pastor/minister who wanted to attend the conference. As the conference is rooted in complementarianism that almost makes sense. I can understand the desire to encourage, train and exhort pastors in gospel ministry. But the conference was not restricted only to pastors, teaching elders and ministers, it was open to men irrespective of what ministerial functions they are currently performing. The men who attended the conference were not vetted as to what ministerial role they had as far as I'm aware. The only group restricted from attending were women. Any man who had an interest in the conference could attend irrespective of whether or not he was actually involved in pastoral ministry. That means that some pew sitting couch potato who wanted to hear some good Bible teaching could go to the conference while a woman who is involved Christian ministry (like university mission, foreign missions, college lecturer, discipleship, women-to-women, etc) was excluded.

I’m concerned and confused by this. Why it is wrong for a woman to take the place of a pastor at the conference, while it is okay for a male pew sitting couch potato to take the place of a pastor? The only difference is that one is a woman and one is a man. I think women involved in ministry, especially those women who operate under the aegis of a complementarian ethos, would have benefited enormously from attending the conference. Our female co-workers in the gospel need to be equally equipped, encouraged and exhorted to fulfil their ministry in the Lord as much as men are. I must conclude, with great reluctance, that the word “Together” in Together for the Gospel does not seem to include women. That is a travesty and a tragedy. I want nothing to do with a gospel where “together” does not include my sisters-in-Christ who are partners and co-workers in the gospel.

At this point I will raise another topic. Article 16 of T4G states:

"We deny that the distinction of roles between men and women revealed in the Bible is evidence of mere cultural conditioning or a manifestation of male oppression or prejudice against women. We also deny that this biblical distinction of roles excludes women from meaningful minstry in Christ's kingdom. We further deny that any church can confuse these issues without damaging its witness to the Gospel."

[In fact I am concerned at the constant use of "brothers" in the preamble to the doctrinal statement because it is far from evident that this is meant in the inclusive sense of "brethren" (= brothers and sisters in Christ). There is no effort made to show that this includes the whole church comprising of men and women].

This is not only a strong affirmation of complementarianism but is an allegation that egalitarians undermine the church’s witness to the gospel. I have two problems with this: (1) I have some very good friends who are egalitarians and they are among the most faithful proclaimers, practitioners and imitators of the gospel that I know. (2) To me this statement is on par with saying that those who believe in amillenialism, those who practice paedobaptism, and those who speak in tongues are damaging the church's witness to the gospel. Although the subject of women in ministry might not be adiaphora, it is a topic where faithful, Bible-believing, Christ-proclaiming and God-honouring Christians disagree. I will not regard my egalitarian friends as “damaging” to the gospel.

Just over a month ago I spent a week at home, in bed, with chicken pox. I spent my time reading and exegeting Gal. 2.11-14. There Paul objects to the view that Gentiles converts should be forced to judaize, i.e. adopt a Jewish life-style to the point of circumcision. Paul objects to the view that circumcision puts you a little closer to the throne of God. Similarly, I strenuously object to the view that having a pair of testicles means that your ministry matters more to God than those without them [this is strong language I know, but I hope that my rhetoric emphasizes my point all the more]. I do not have a problem with “equal” but “different”. But I will fight tooth and nail, with all my strength, with all my heart, energy, and mind against those who say “equal” but “separate”. That is what Paul opposed in Antioch. Whenever anyone implies "equal" but "separate" in the Church of Jesus Christ it is not walking towards the truth of the gospel (Gal. 2.14).

Now that being said I am not trying to impute false motives to the organizers, speakers or participants of the conference. All of these men clearly value the place of women in the church as stated in Article 16: “We also affirm that all Christians are called to service within the body of Christ, and that God has given to both men and women important and strategic roles within the home, the church, and the society.” They are also committed to a complementarian vision of male-female relationships and I can respect that. Egalitarians need to remember that complementarians do not wake up every morning rejoicing in another day filled with opportunities to thwart and hamper women from exercising their spiritual gifts. T4G are not anti-women, that is clear to me. But just as Peter did not realize that by separating from Gentiles he was endangering the gospel; by restricting only women from the conference I think the organizers did not realize that they were undermining the significance of women in the church and the integrity of the gospel.

My recommendations would be for T4G in the future to do one of the following: (1) Allow women to attend the conference and to receive encouragement, exhortation and edification in the Word of God just as men do. (2) Restrict the conference to only pastors or pastoral ordination candidates so that women are not the only group restricted. Perhaps all attendees should be required to have a letter from their church saying that they are involved in ministry or are being considered for pastoral ministry. That way neither women nor male pew sitting couch potatoes will displace pastors who want to attend the conference. (3) Extend the conference by one day to include special sessions for women involved in ministry.

I am aware that there are men only and women only conferences (e.g. promise keepers), but they usually concern issues that are specific to the challenges facing each gender. In contrast, T4G is conference about the gospel. The Church comprising of Jew and Gentile; male and female; slave and free are the custodians of the gospel and not simply an elite few. In fact, in congregational churches men and women frequently have to vote on matters of faith and order giving us all the more reason to impart a gospel-centred worldview to a wide audience.

I do not habitually pray before blogging, but tonight I prayed. I prayed that I have all the facts right (I welcome correction if my research is misinformed). I prayed that I have not written in anger. I prayed that I have not over reacted. I prayed that I will graciously represent the views of T4G correctly, and I hope that I do not appear uncharitable. My objections should cross bipartisan theological lines as both egalitarians and complementarians can appreciate where I'm coming from. I'm not trying to rebuke anyone, but I have huge alarm bells ringing in my head at the moment and I'm putting up my hand so that I can say, "Hey folks, do you realize what you are implying?" I believe that T4G is a good thing since it gets people energized to gospelize - and I'm all for that. But in trying to hoist high the complementarian flag I wonder if they have (inadvertedly?) lowered the value of women in the process. I believe that “together” in the gospel must include everyone irrespective of race, age, education, social rank, economic status, ethnicity and gender – or else it is not a gospel because the gospel creates a new creation where those distinctions no longer matter in relation to the church's corporate witness (2 Cor 5.21; Gal 3.28; Col 3.11). If my tone sounds overly serious (as opposed to my usual whimsical candour) it is because the gospel is at stake.

I am currently writing a book on Paul (who bequeathed to us our many disputes about the role of women in ministry) and I am dedicating the book to my two daughters: Alexis and Alyssa. This is what I say in the dedication:

For Alexis and Alyssa
In the hope that you will both take your place together with Phoebe and Priscilla among the churches of Paul.

Posted with fear and trepidation this night for the advance of the gospel, for the sake of my daughters, for the edification of the Church, and for the glory of Jesus Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria

These views are my own and not necessarily those of any church or organization that I am affiliated with.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Jesus the Priestly Messiah - Beaten to the Punch

In reading over the contents of the latest JSHJ I gasped in horror, threw my hands in my face, banged my head on the desk, and then cried, "Damn you Crispin H. T. Fletcher-Louis, you beat me to it". The reason being is that it looks like Fletcher-Louis has written a rather good article on Jesus as the High Priestly Messiah. I was hoping to do a similar study, but no longer see the need to. In the words of the great American philosopher, Homer Simpson, "Doh!" The abstrack to Fletcher-Louis' article is cited below.


Recent study of the priesthood in Second Temple life and thought invites a reconsideration of Jesus’ self-understanding. The appeal to Psalm 110 and Daniel 7.13 indicates that Jesus thought that, although not of priestly lineage, nevertheless he would ultimately be the nation's king and priest after the order of Melchizedek. Mark 1–6 contains a programmatic statement of Jesus’ claim to a high priestly identity as the ‘holy one of God’ (1.24), with a high priestly contagious holiness (1.40-45; 5.25-34; 5.35-43), freedom to forgive sins (2.1-12) and the embodiment of divine presence in a Galilean cornfield (2.23-28). As true high priest he makes divine presence ‘draw near’ to God's people (1.15), where before they had to ‘draw near’ to the Jerusalem temple. The hypothesis that Jesus thought he was Israel's long-awaited eschatological high priest resolves otherwise intractable problems in historical Jesus scholarship. This is Part 1 of a two-part essay.

Although some argue that traditions of a priestly messiah had little to do with either Jesus' or the early church's messianic hopes (e.g. Dunn, Jesus Remembered), other have maintained that there is likely to be some point of contact. Hebrews is evidently one example, but do we find priestly-messiah traditions earlier than that in the primitive Jesus movement.

My contribution to the debate was (I think I'll give it up now) to outline incidents and episodes in Jesus' life where Jesus appears to exercise priestly perogatives. For example:

• Cleaning lepers (e.g. Mk. 1.40-44)
• Statements about the temple tax (Mt. 17.24-6)
• Statements about what is clean/unclean (e.g. Mk. 7.1-15)
• Giving to temple (Mk. 7.9-13; 12.41-44)
• Dispensing Forgiveness (Mt. 6.8-10; Lk. 7.47)
• Binding/Loosing (Mt. 18.18)

Other interesting background features are:

- The Christology of Hebrews as a Christian expression of priestly-messianic traditions.
- Obviously the idea of two messiahs in the DSS, one Davidic and one Aaronic.
- The interpretation of Zech 6.12 in the LXX, MT, DSS and Tgs.
- Priestly-Messianic traditions outside the Qumran scrolls, e.g. Tg.Sam. 5.35 ‘I will raise up before Me a trustworthy priest, who will minister according to my word, my will, and I will establish for him an enduring kingdom and he will my Messiah all the days’.

Other written works of relevance include:

Horbury, William. "The Aaronic Priesthood in the Epistle to the Hebrews." In Messianism among Jews and Christians: Tweleve Biblical and Historical Studies. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2003. 227-254.

VanderKam,James C. "Jubilees and the priestly messiah of Qumran." Revue-de-Qumran 13 (1988): 353-365

Higgins, Angus John Brockhurst. "Priestly Messiah." New-Testament-Studies 13 (1967): 211-239

Donaldson, Terry L. "Levitical messianology in late Judaism: origins, development and decline." Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 24 (1981): 193-207

Well done to Crispin for not only beating me to the punch but for pursuing this interesting subject; and probably doing it a lot better than anything I would have said anyway. This article is worth reading.

Jerome on Recensions of the LXX

With respect to purported textual families of the LXX, Jerome (Praef. in Paralipp.; compare Adv. Ruf., ii.27) states that certain regions each adopted their own particular recension of the LXX: "Alexandria and Egypt in their Septuagint acclaim Hesychius as their authority, the region from Constantinople to Antioch approves the copies of Lucian the martyr, the intermediate Palestinian provinces read the manuscripts which were promulgated by Eusebius and Pamphilus on the basis of Origen's labors, and the whole world is divided between these three varieties of text."

Thus, the idea of text-types goes back to the early fathers. However, whether this really is a legitimate description of the textual transmission of the LXX in Christian centers is another matter altogether.

New Blogs VII

On my blog roll I've added some blogs including the following:

Ek Thesis by Michael Leary. Michael is a TEDS graduate doing his Ph.D at New College Edinburgh.

Sibboleth by James Daniel Kirk who has just been appointed to Biblical Seminary in Philly.

Justin Jenkin's Pisteuo has moved to a new address.

Boanerges by Nathan Milhelis is up and running too.

Between Two Worlds by Justin Taylor contains posts from a conservative Reformed Baptist blogger.

Suzanne's Bookshelf by Suzanne McCarthy who comes from an evangelical-egalitarian perspective.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Textual Reflections on Isa 53.11

Over at Evangelical Textual Criticism, I have a post on textual matters relating to Isa 53.11

Resurrection Melee

The comments section on my last post indicates that I've found a topic (or hit a nerve) that interests a great many people. Is it necessary to believe in the [physical?] resurrection of Jesus in order to be a Christian?

It was with a wry smile that I read the post of my good friend Ben Myers on Believing in the resurrection. There Ben essentially takes Wright's side on the matter. The exchange is shrouded in irony since Myers is defending Wright and I'm disagreeing with Wright - a rather odd turn of events for those who know us. Many thoughts come to mind (like et tu Benjamin?). I'm rather reluctant to disagree with Ben on anything, he's smarter than me and he's a very amiable chap too (like Iago from Othello "I'd rather die than speak ill of Michael Cassio!"). All the same, I will venture to disagree with my learned coffee drinking friend.

Ben states:

"But the crucial question is whether any particular theological interpretation of resurrection belongs to the heart of the gospel. And it seems to me that the New Testament itself resists such a view. In fact, the New Testament witnesses don’t offer any precise theological interpretation of the resurrection. None of the Gospels tries to describe or explain the event of resurrection at all—rather, the resurrection is precisely the mystery at the centre of the story of Jesus."

I would suggest that resurrection, conceived of as bodily resurrection, is itself the interpretation of the statement "God raised Jesus". Revelation and Interpretation are merged together from the beginning. The NT authors (principally Paul and the Evangelists) were not concerned simply with the Das ("that") of the resurrection, but were compelled to elucidate to some degree the Was ("what") and the Wie ("how") in some circumstances. The NT authors bracket out certain hermeneutical reflections on the resurrection including its denial (1 Corinthians 15), gnostics and docetic interpretations (John 21; Luke 24), and over-realized accounts (2 Tim 2.18). Moreover, the language of resurrection (anastasis, egeiro, etc.) did not include blank terms awaiting to be filled with meaning, but these words already carried theological baggage when they were imported into Christian proclamation. Any discourse about resurrection brought with it a series of eschatological expectations about creation, God, Israel and the eschaton. Regardless of how Christians redefined resurrection in reference to Jesus, they did not completely leave the theological baggage at the door of the empty tomb.

When Paul was faced with the question, "Well what kind of body?" Indeed, discontinuities and metaphors abound. Paul is trying to draw a picture of postmortem human existence that is simultaneously somatic, pneumatic and psychematic - not an easy task. The problem of the language is not due to the hermeneutical indeterminancy of what resurrection meant (it operates in relation to some kind of physicality) but is due to the other-worldly and apocalyptic nature of the subject. It is analagous to trying to explain the concept of electricity to a people who have only known stone-age like conditions.

Resurrection may well be eschatological and mysterious, but that does not make it a vacuum waiting to be filled with anything meeting the tastes of the post-enlightenment stomach. Here Ben would acknowledge that some interpretations of "Jesus is risen" are better than others. I would also acknowlege that salvation is not contingent upon our ability to conceptualize the confession "Christ is risen" any more than justification is contingent upon being able to theorize the mechanics of imputed righteousness. Nevertheless, the NT gives us conceptual boundaries and guidelines in which to operate in. I think that one of those boundaries is the physicality of resurrection, particularly when it was defined against competing understandings of resurrection - a process which has already begun in the NT but continued in the second century. Thus the NT documents have already started to privilege a certain band of interpretation and hem out others - so I am willing to admit that there can be a diversity of hermeneutical approaches to the resurrection within the orbit of certain boundaries (see Murray J. Harris' book on the resurrection as an example of one who pushes the boundaries in some way). But I do not think that Marc Borg or Dom Crossan's interpretation of the resurrection is in the zone so to speak.

I now hand over to Ben for the final word!

Perhaps Christopher Petersen has something to say on the topic too?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Wright on the Resurrection

In the Australian Newspaper HT: Denny Burke N.T. Wright makes the statement that it is not necessary to believe in the resurrection in order to be a Christian. Wright said:

I have friends who I am quite sure are Christians who do not believe in the bodily resurrection. But the view I take of them - and they know this - is that they are very, very muddled. They would probably return the compliment. Marcus Borg really does not believe Jesus Christ was bodily raised from the dead. But I know Marcus well: he loves Jesus and believes in him passionately.

The philosophical and cultural world he has lived in has made it very, very difficult for him to believe in the bodily resurrection. I actually think that’s a major problem and it affects most of whatever else he does, and I think that it means he has all sorts of flaws as a teacher, but I don’t want to say he isn’t a Christian.

I do think, however, that churches that lose their grip on the bodily resurrection are in deep trouble and that for healthy Christian life individually and corporately, belief in the bodily resurrection is foundational

What can be said here? Well, first, Wright still thinks that denying the resurrection is not a good thing - so let's give him that much. Second, Wright has some friends who are non-orthodox in their belief about what happened to Jesus and they still believe that Jesus is (somehow?) "Lord", e.g. Marcus Borg. He evidently doesn't want to call them sub-Christian and I can undestand that too. But here is where I must part company with a resounding "Nein"! Here's my take:

1. Rom. 10.9-10 is a locus classicus on what it means to be Christian. Here, Paul says (possibly echoing a baptismal formula) that: "[I]f you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved". It is not merely confession of Jesus as "Lord" but more specifically it is confession of Jesus as the "Risen Lord" that marks one out as a Christian.

2. The belief that Jesus "died and rose" was the most basic and primitive Christian confession and is found in various pre-Pauline fragments embedded in his letters, e.g. Rom 4.24-25, 2 Cor 4.14, 1 Thess 4.14.

3. The resurrection is bound up with the gospel in Rom 1.3-4, 1 Cor. 15.1-4 and see 2 Tim 2.8. No resurrection, no gospel.

4. How anyone can read 1 Corinthians 15 and think that resurrection is a dispensable (albeit very useful) theological accessory is beyond me. The issue in Corinth was not an over-realized eschatology (i.e. the resurrection had already happened), rather it was a complete abandonment of the resurrection altogether since it was thought to be inimical to the hellenistic mind and therefore not wise before the world.

I've been reading through Douglas Campbell's book, The Quest for Paul's Gospel; and while I am ambivalent towards some chapters of the book (it is written by a Kiwi afterall), Campbell nails this point well:

"In all these texts Paul basically claims that what has happened to Christ will, Christans believe, also happen to them. And these particular beliefs seem to be non-negotiable. To disagree with them elicits a stern textual admonishment, while, positively speaking, a great deal is based on them - no less than Christian salvation and hope!". (p. 183)

[In fact the entire chapter on "Faith" by Campbell is a highlight of the book].

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Athanasius on the Resurrection

How could the destruction of death have been manifested at all, had not the Lord's body been raised? But if anyone finds even this insufficient, let him find proof of what has been said in present facts. Dead men cannot take effective action; their power of influence on others lasts only till the grave. Deeds and actions that energise others belong only to the living. Well, then, look at the facts in this case. The Saviour is working mightily among men, every day He is invisibly persuading numbers of people all over the world, both within and beyond the Greek-speaking world, to accept His faith and be obedient to His teaching. Can anyone, in face of this, still doubt that He has risen and lives, or rather that He is Himself the Life? Does a dead man prick the consciences of men, so that they throw all the traditions of their fathers to the winds and bow down before the teaching of Christ? If He is no longer active in the world, as He must needs be if He is dead, how is it that He makes the living to cease from their activities, the adulterer from his adultery, the murderer from murdering, the unjust from avarice, while the profane and godless man becomes religious? If He did not rise, but is still dead, how is it that He routs and persecutes and overthrows the false gods, whom unbelievers think to be alive, and the evil spirits whom they worship? For where Christ is named, idolatry is destroyed and the fraud of evil spirits is exposed; indeed, no such spirit can endure that Name, but takes to flight on sound of it. This is the work of One Who lives, not of one dead; and, more than that, it is the work of God. It would be absurd to say that the evil spirits whom He drives out and the idols which He destroys are alive, but that He Who drives out and destroys, and Whom they themselves acknowledge to be Son of God, is dead.

Women Benefactors and Church Leadership

It seems evident to me that women provided patronage and support for Jesus and his Galilean rentinue, and in the Pauline and Johannine churches too. See Luke 8.1-3 (Joanna and Susanna), Acts 12.12 (Mother of Mark), Rom 16.1-2, (Phoebe), 1 Cor 1.11 (Chloe), Col 4.15 (Nympha), Phil 4.2-3 (Euodia and Syntyche), Acts 16.14-15 (Lydia), 2 John 1-2 (chosen lady).

Where did patrons, especially female patrons, fit into the leadership structures of the early church? Did they have any role, voice, influence or determination in proceedings by virtue of their patronage? In other words, how did the cultural dynamics of patron-client relationships affect leadership structures in the early church (esp. in relation to female patrons).

The reason I ask is because we are used to talking of Elders and Deacons, but where did patrons fit in?

Rom 2:12-16 - Justification to the Doers of the Law?

Rom 2:12-16 is an interesting passage to examine. Is there an antinomy between being "justified by faith" and being "justified according to works"? There are several ways of understanding this passage:

1. Paul is simply being inconsistent and this contradicts other statements he makes
2. The passage is an interpolation in Romans
3. Paul is speaking hypothetically of what would happen if someone really did "do" the law
4. The main point is the impartiality of God and the terms are introduced merely to underscore that point
5. It refers to Gentile Christians who fulfill the law

I have my own preference (5), but I won't go into that here. What I want to do is set forth a criteria upon which one can assess the various options for understanding Rom 2.12-16 within the context of both Romans and Pauline Theology. Any solution given for must explain the following:

(1) The meaning of judgment according to works in second-temple Judaism and the degree to which it is a foil for Paul’s own views.
(2) The context of Rom 1:18-3:20 as a negative indictment of the sin of Jews and Gentiles.
(3) The emphasis upon the impartiality of God and the false presumption of Jews in their elect status in Rom 2:1-29.
(4) The outcomes espoused in Rom 2:12-16 are categories of justification and condemnation respectively.
(5) The identity of the persons described in Rom 2:1-16 (“one doing good” v. 7; “one who does good” v. 10; “doers of the law” v. 13; and “Gentiles” v. 14) and in Rom 2:25-29 (e.g. Jews, Proselytes, Pagans, Christian Gentiles).
(6) The identity of the law in Rom 2:15, 25.
(7) The relationship between faith and works as the basis of justification in Pauline theology as a whole.

Finally, I leave you with a quote from Joseph Fitzmyer:

This Pauline message of judgment is what the Christian needs to hear first, and in the light of that message the message of justification by grace through faith takes on new meaning. It is only in light of divine judgment according to human deeds that the justification of the sinner by grace through faith is rightly seen. Hence there is no real inconsistency in Paul’s teaching about justification by faith and judgment according to deeds.

Fitzmyer, Romans, 307.

Jumping on the Da Vinci band wagon

Yes, it's true. I'm jumping on the Da Vinci code band wagon. Given that the Da Vinci movie is coming out in less than a month I thought that I would do a lecture in Inverness on the subject so as to explain what the issues are and how Christians should be respond. What are these "other" Gospels? Who was Mary Magdalene? Did Constantine invent the Bible and the Divinity of Christ?

But I am definitely not going to write a book on the topic: Bart Ehrman, Ben Witherington, Darrell Bock and Peter Jones (and a host of others) have said all that needs to be said.

Must Have Primary Sources

Stern, Menahem. Editor. Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism: Edited with Introductions, Translations and Commentary. 3 vols. Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1974.

An exhaustive compilation of Greco-Roman authors who mention Jews.

J.B. Frey. Editor. Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaicarum. 2 vols. New York: Ktav Publishing, 1975 [1936-52].

A list of extent insciptions relating to Jews in the Mediterranean.

These are excellent, albeit underused sources, that can aid in understanding Jewish communities (and thus by implication Christian communities) in the ancient world. An obvious benefit is looking at the attitudes of Greco-Roman authors to sabbath keeping, abstaining from pork, and circumcision. The number of proselyte inscriptions in Rome women (mainly) is equally illuminating.

I would urge all students of Christian Origins to read through these two books (rare and hard to find) at least once in the course of their research.

Ben Witherington's New Book

Ben Witherington has a new book out featuring sermons of his based on 25 years of preaching. It also includes an essay on preaching by Ellsworth Kalas.

I've heard Ben Witherington preach at the Baptist Theological College in Sydney and he is quite good, he has a real pulpit presence, and he allows the text to dominate his sermon. The only thing better than hearing Ben Witherington preach is to hear him sing! He sounds like a cross between George W. Bush and Tom Jones.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

New Blogs V

I thought I would mention the following blogs that I've come across and learned of in recent times:

The first is by my friend Cameron West (Brisbane, Australia) with his self-entitled blog Cam. Came is an emergent-esque Aussie who has an interest in biblical studies and is a fan of Grenz, Wright, and Vanhoozer.

The second is by Daniel Bradley (USA) who is doing an MA in Theological Studies and looks like he is getting ready for doctoral studies some time soon. The name of his blog is Kerygma. I hope from the name that doesn't mean that he's Bultmannian - that'd be a real shame!

Otherwise, in blogging news in look's like a heap of young bloggers are thinking about heading off to the American South-East to do Ph.D's, including Brandon Wason (Emory Uni, Atlanta), Cynthia Nielsen (Uni of Dallas), and Celucien Joseph (Emory, or SBTS, SEBTS). I could handle having some friends in Atlanta, I got a taste of the chicken they have there and I often sit awake at night pining for it.

Mmmmm ... chikin!

Evangelical Exegetes Hall of Fame II: Paul Barnett

Paul Barnett -
Former Lecturer at Macquarie University
Adjunct Lecturer at Moore Theological College and Regent College
Former Anglican Bishop of North Sydney
See his profile at Sydney Anglican Media


[Note Paul did not publish his first book until he was over 50 years old!]

Is the New Testament History?, Hodder and Stoughton, 1986

The Message of 2 Corinthians BST, IVP, 1988

Bethlehem to Patmos, Hodder and Stoughton, 1989

Apocalypse Now and Then, Reading Revelation Today - Aquila, 1989

The Two Faces of Jesus, Hodder and Stoughton, 1990

The Servant King, Reading Mark Today - Aquila, 1991.

The Truth About Jesus Aquila, 1994

Truth and Reality: The Resurrection of Jesus (with D. Petersen and P. Jensen) Aquila, 1994.

Commentary on Paul's Second Epistle to the Corinthians NICNT Eerdmans, 1997.

Jesus and the Logic of History IVP (UK), 1997.

Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity 1999

Current Projects

After Jesus: The Birth of Christianity - 3 vols. planned.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

J.P. Gabler on Biblical Theology

What is Biblical Theology?

"There is truly a biblical theology, of historical origin, conveying what the holy writers felt about divine matters; on the other hand there is dogmatic theology of didactic origin, teaching what each theologian philosophises rationally about divine things, according to the measure of his ability or the times, age, place, sect, school, and other similar factors. Biblical theology, as is proper to historical argument, is always in accord with itself when considered by itself - although even biblical theology when elaborated by one of the disciplines may be fashioned in one way by some and in another way by others."

How is Biblical Theology Done?

"Above all, this process is completed in two ways: the one is in the legitimate interpretation of passages pertinent to this procedure; the other is in the careful comparison of the ideas of all the sacred authors among themselves."

What Relation is Biblical Theology to Dogmatic (Systematic) Theology?

"And finally, unless we want to follow uncertain arguments, we must so build only upon these firmly established foundations of biblical theology, again taken in the stricter sense as above, a dogmatic theology adapted to our own times."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Definition of Salvation-History

When some people throw around the term "salvation-history" I often feel like quoting a line from the Princess Bride (with a Spanish accent): "You keep using that word, but I do not think it means what you think it means".

Well here's a good definition from Robert W. Yarbrough:

"[We] may say at the outset that 'salvation history' denotes the personal redemptive activity of God within human history to effect his eternal saving intentions. This activity finds fulfillment in the ministry of Jesus foreshadowed in various Old Testament writings and institutions and culminating in the New Testament message of his death, resurrection, and eventual return."

"Paul and Salvation History," in Justification and Variegated Nomism: Volume 2 – The Paradoxes of Paul, eds. D.A. Carson, Mark A. Seifrid, and Peter T. O’Brien (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2004), 297.

Scot McKnight on Penal Substitution

Over at Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight has a series on the atonement (a good little preview to his forthcoming book). He tackles the debates and furor surrouding penal substitution with soundess and insight. As I read him Scot is emphasizing two things: (1) An orthodox theory of the atonement is much broader than penal subtitution and we should get out of the default setting of thinking that atonement exclusively = penal substitution. (2) We should be wary of caricatures of penal substitution that do not account for the Trinitarian nature of the atonement or those that fail to demonstrate that substitution relates to representation, and that the cross relates to the resurrection and pentecost.

The posts can be read here under the headings "More Thoughts on Penal Substitution".

Since the term penal substitution are so theologically loaded, overly sermonized, miscaricatured and despised, perhaps there are other ways in which we can express the main point about the execution of God's justice against our sin in the Son (e.g. Rom 8.3). One way (which Scot intimates) is the idea of place-taking expressed best in the German word Stellvertretung.

Here we can have both inclusive and exclusive place-taking.

1. Inclusive: Jesus suffers inclusively and he takes the place of Israel and Adam as he is one of them and shares in the solidarity of their suffering, alienation and death (martyrological and representation).

2. Exclusive: As the representative of Israel and Adam, Jesus suffers exclusively as one who suffers for many, as their substitute, so that they need not suffer (substitution).

My thoughts here arise out of Peter Bolt's gem of a book The Cross from a Distance: Atonement in Mark's Gospel, p. 70.

Why Read the Epistle of Jude?

St. Jude Thaddeus, by Georges de La Tour. c. 1615-1620

One of my other hobbies is James and Jude in early Jewish Christianity. But I confess that I've been absorbed mainly with Jesus and Paul in recent times, plus the odd exile out to Ephesus and Patmos to hang with John. So I haven't always given Jesus' two brothers the study time that they are due. But I'm planning on doing a series of chapel talks about Jude starting on Friday. Here is why I think we should read Jude:

Jude is one of the least read books of the entire New Testament. I speculate that many Christians know far better the words to the Beatles’ song "Hey Jude" than they know the message of the epistle of Jude. Well, its only one chapter, in fact a mere 25 verses, and if you happen to blink whilst flicking through the Bible you are quite likely to miss it. But what Jude lacks in length it makes up for in content. It is a powerful message for a church to cling to its precious faith, to persevere amidst a compromising age, to be inwardly renewed and outwardly effective and most of all, to glorify in God and exalt in Jesus Christ.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

What does the Resurrection mean?

I have adapted a sermonette on the resurrection that I read at Ship of Fools which I think comes from Tom Wright. Anyway, I think it is a brilliant illustration that both arch-conservative and hyper-liberal interpretations of the resurrection have got it wrong. The resurrection means something much more richer and provocative. Here's my revamped version of the Ship of Fools illustration:

What does the resurrection mean? Well, on any given Easter Sunday there are usually two kinds of sermons that you can hear that try to explain the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection.

In the first kind of sermon, the Rev. Johnny Pulpit-Thumper Jr of Beechcroft Bible-Believing Baptist’s-R-Us Community Church, preaches every Easter Sunday on the reality of the resurrection of Christ. He believes earnestly in the angels who were there, the physical resurrection of Jesus, and the empty tomb. He also loves to give a good bashing to the liberal parish down the road, especially the Rev. William Humbug III who does not believe that Jesus really rose from the dead.

Rev. Pulpit-Thumper finishes his sermon as he does every Easter by quoting the hymn "You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart!" The application of his sermon is also the same every year, Jesus is alive and that proves that one day we can go to heaven to be with him. We can escape this world and go to the blissful abode of heaven where they will be no sin, death or godless left-wing political parties.

Alas, the poor Rev. Pulpit-Thumper has missed the point. Much of what he says is true, but giving us assurance that when we die we will go to heaven is simply not what the Easter stories were written to convey.

As for the second kind of sermon, down the road at St. Marcion’s, Rev. William Humbug III (Ph.D, Th.D, DD, OBE and DUI) takes a last sip of Bundaburg rum and cola in the Rectory before entering the pulpit. Rev. Humbug is in his usual form this Easter. He says, “We know that the literal meaning of the resurrection stories can't be true. Modern science has proven that miracles don't happen, that dead people stay dead. Anyway, it hardly seems fair that God would raise his son only to leave millions of children around the world to languish in death.” – his God is an equal opportunity saviour. Thus: “A real physical resurrection, as believed by naïve-literal-fundamentalists-bigots is out of the question; it is an offense to our faculties of reason”.

So the stories of the appearances and the empty tomb were probably made up many years after. The learned Rector wants to make this quite clear: the Easter stories are a remythologization of the primal eschatological drama, which caught the disciples in a moment of sociomorphic, possibly even sociopathic, empathy with the apocalyptic dénouement. Well, the congregation didn't quite get that, but they don’t get very much of what Rev. Humbug says anyway.

When it comes to the "meaning" of Easter, Rev. Humbug is direct. Now that we've got away from that banal supernatural nonsense, the true meaning of "Resurrection" is clear. Resurrection is a new way of understanding the human dilemma, breaking down social barriers in society and espousing a new ethic of inclusively towards tax-collectors, prostitutes, gays, and even Manchester United supporters. Resurrection is not a heap of superstitious non-sense about dead corpses coming back to life, but a manifesto for social action to affirm the “otherness” of everybody.

Both sermons strike me as amiss. Rev. Pulpit-Thumper thinks the resurrection is just proof that we can go to heaven when we die. Meanwhile Rev. Humbug tries to make resurrection out to be a metaphor for a bunch of postmodern psycho-babble that has nothing to do with the New Testament.

Well, what is Easter really about then? I would say this: God's new creation is launched upon a surprised world, pointing ahead to the redemption and the renewal of the entire creation.

That's the point which all the Gospels actually make, in their own ways.
• Jesus is risen, therefore God's new world has begun.
• Jesus is risen, therefore, God’s verdict against us has been transposed into God’s vindication of us.
• Jesus is risen, therefore, the tyrants and despots of the world should tremble and quiver – because God has exalted Jesus and every knee will bow before him.
• Jesus is risen, therefore Israel has been restored and the plan for the nation is fulfilled in him.
• Jesus is risen, therefore, death has been defeated.
• Jesus is risen, therefore, creation groans in anticipation of its renewal.
• Jesus is risen, therefore, we will be raised also to live in God’s new world.
• Jesus is risen, therefore, go and make disciples in his name.

The resurrection means that God’s new world has broken into our own world, and we are heirs and ambassadors of that kingdom that has come and is still coming.

But that implies something else. The resurrection means that we have the task of proclaiming, embodying, and demonstrating before the world exactly what this new creation is and what it looks like.

Paul concludes 1 Corinthians 15, not by saying, "So let's celebrate the bliss of heaven that awaits us." He says, "So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steadfast, always enthusiastic about the Lord's work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless."

In other words, resurrection means mission.

One of the creators of Apple Computers, Steve Jobs built a very successful computer company. But Jobs soon discovered that if his vision was to reach fruition they needed greater management expertise. So Jobs approached John Sculley, then President of PepsiCo. There was absolutely no reason why Sculley should leave a highly paid position in a world leading company to go work with a bunch of computer nerds in a fledgling industry. Not unsurprisingly he turned Jobs down. But Jobs wouldn't take no for an answer. He approached Sculley again. Again Sculley turned him down. In a last ditch effort Jobs passionately presented his visionary ideas to Sculley and he asked Sculley a question that forced him to accept. The question was this: "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?"

"Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?" Indeed Jobs and Sculley did change the world.

Jesus comes to us with the same question: "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugary water or do you want a chance to change the world?" Most of us spend our lives making sugared water, or do you want to be an ambassador of the risen Christ.

(Donald William Dotterer, Living The Easter Faith, CSS Publishing Company,

What then is Easter about? What are we celebrating? What is the significance of Jesus' resurrection? Well, it testifies to God's faithfulness to Israel, it shows that God has launched the most ambitious phase of his plan to repossess the world for himself, it means that death is not Lord but Jesus Christ is Lord, our condemnation has been changed into vindication, the new creation has begun, and we labour in the task of bringing the life of heaven to bear upon this sin cursed earth!

One final thought:

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Heb 13.20-21.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday Thought: Penal Substitution

I spent a number of years in the Australian Defence Force and learned this illustration from an Army Chaplain.

During WWII a number of prisoners were suffering horribly from malnutrition and disease in a POW camp in the pacific. The prisoners wanted to escape, not merely for freedom from capture, but to find adequate food and respite. The punishment for trying to escape was to be mercilessly flogged in front of the whole camp.

One man tried to escape for want of food but was captured in the process. However, he was so malnourished and ill that a flogging would surely kill him. Knowing this, the chaplain of the camp made a request to the camp commandant that he be flogged in the prisoner’s place. The Japanese commandant was bemused and curious of this western altruism and so gave permission.

The POWs were assembled to the centre of the camp, two Japanese guards stripped the Chaplain, tied him to a post with his hands above his head, and then proceeded to flog him. The prisoner who originally tried to escape was made to watch. He looked on as soldiers flogged the Chaplain, they flayed his flesh without reserve or mercy, they flogged up when he screamed in pain, they flogged him when collapsed, and they flogged him even when he lost consciousness. The Chaplain’s body was bruised and blooded nearly beyond recognition. The prisoner who tried to escape could only gaze in pity and the man who had saved in his life. He returned to his barracks and that night he wrote in his diary: “In watching that poor man suffering only now to I understand what the Scripture means when it says of Christ he himself bore our sins in his body upon the tree [1 Pet 2.24].”

I find myself committed to penal substitution in light of Scripture, and I find myself moved by penal substitution in light of the grace that undergirds it.

One of my favourite verses concerning the atonement is 1 Pet 2.24: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”

But what is so amazing here is that the penal substitution model and the moral example theory go hand in hand together! Christ bore (anenegken, lit. carried away) our sins for the purpose that (Gk. hina) we might die to sin and live unto righteousness!

In my mind Scripture teaches the penal substitution model, moral example theory, and the cosmic victory view. Do we have any grounds to say that one story or one particular “version” of the atonement is more central than the others? Is an elevation of penal substitution over the other biblical models due to (a) misreading Paul who is more variegated on the atonement; or (b) even if penal substitution is Paul’s atonement-metaphor-of-choice, does it somehow privilege the Pauline corpus over the rest of the scriptural testimony?

I believe in and love penal substitution. I believe it is central, but whether or not it is the “centre” I leave as an open question.

My favourite writings on penal substitution include:

J.I. Packer, “What did the Cross Achieve? The Logic of Penal Substitution”.

Simon Gathercole’s article in Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology in 2004 [I do not have the details on hand at the moment].

D.A. Carson, “Atonement in Romans 3:21-26,” in The Glory of the Atonement
Biblical, Theological & Practical Perspectives
, eds. Charles E. Hill and Frank A. James III (IVP).

John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1986).

I. Howard Marshall, The Work of Christ (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1994).

Although everyone should be getting ready for Scot McKnight’s book on the atonement which will present a rich blend biblical imagery concerning the saving significance and the saving power of Christ’s death! After seeing a sneek-peak of a draft, I anticipate that it will be challenging, edifying and controversial.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Evangelical Exegetes Hall of Fame I: Longenecker

In beginning my posts on Evangelical Exegetes Hall of Fame I need to make a few qualifications. (1) It is not meant to be a form of "hero-worship" or akin to an "exegetical idol" show. (2) The purpose is to highlight the contribution of many evangelical scholars to biblical studies and so demonstrate that faith-based scholars can make a difference.

My first pick is Richard N. Longenecker.

Richard N. Longenecker, Distinguished Professor of New Testament
B.A., M.A. Wheaton College; Ph.D. New College, University of Edinburgh;
D.D., Wycliffe College, University of Toronto.

Books by or edited by him include:

- Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period
- Paul, apostle of liberty (Twin brooks series)
- The Christology of Early Jewish Christianity
- The ministry and message of Paul (Contemporary evangelical perspectives)
- New Wine into Fresh Wineskins: Contextualizing the Early Christian Confessions
- Galatians (WBC)
- Acts (EBC)

- with M. Tenney, New Dimensions in New Testament Study
- The Challenge of Jesus' Parables (McMaster New Testament Series)
- Into God's Presence: Prayer in the New Testament (McMaster New Testament Series)
- Patterns of Discipleship in the New Testament (Mcmaster New Testament Studies)
- Road from Damascus: The Impact of Paul's Conversion on His Life, Thought, and Ministry
- Contours Of Christology In The New Testament (Mcmaster New Testament Studies)
- Community Formation: In the Early Church and in the Church Today

Longenecker was also a translator for the NIV.

We can wait eagerly for his NIGTC commentary on Romans. My favourite book of his is his Galatians commentary which is my first port of call for looking up anything on Galatians.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Robert Wuthnow on Evangelicals

Over at RNS there is this quote from Robert Wuthnow on Evangelicals:

Quote of the Day: Princeton University Professor Robert Wuthnow

(RNS) “Academics often think of conservative Christians as rubes and dupes. The reality is that the real movers and shakers behind the evangelical movement are highly educated, thoughtful people with entrepreneurial skills, wealth and extraordinary management savvy.”

-- Robert Wuthnow, professor of social sciences at Princeton University, commenting on a comprehensive study by D. Michael Lindsay, a sociology department doctoral student he is advising. Lindsay's study of the evangelical elite will be completed this summer. He was quoted in the Princeton Weekly Bulletin.

Passion Week Quotes from CT

Richard A. Kauffman over at Christianity Today has a list of quotations to stir your heart and mind for Holy Week.

JESUS WENT TO JERUSALEM to announce the Good News to the people of that city. And Jesus knew that he was going to put a choice before them: Will you be my disciple, or will you be my executioner? There is no middle ground here. Jesus went to Jerusalem to put people in a situation where they had to say yes or no. That is the great drama of Jesus' passion: He had to wait upon how people were going to respond.
Henri J. M. Nouwen, "A Spirituality of Waiting," The Weavings Reader

I'D ALWAYS KNOWN, in one place in my throat, how Jesus must have cried in the garden—crying not to die, because there was no fear of death, and not to leave his friends, because he walked alone, and not to suffer, because the blood and bruises and thorns were part of his perfection—but crying because he could not find his Father's face, because when he would suffer all that he could bear, the pain of every person, living and dead, in that dark moment, there was really nobody there.
Paul Shepherd, More Like Not Running Away: A Novel

IN THE CROSS IS SALVATION, in the Cross is life, in the Cross is protection from our enemies, in the Cross is infusion of heavenly sweetness, in the Cross is strength of mind, in the Cross is joy of spirit, in the Cross is the height of virtue, in the Cross is perfection of sanctity. There is no salvation of the soul, nor hope of everlasting life, but in the Cross.
Thomas á Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

HE DIED, but he vanquished death; in himself, he put an end to what we feared; he took it upon himself, and he vanquished it; as a mighty hunter, he captured and slew the lion.

Where is death? Seek it in Christ, for it exists no longer; but it did exist, and now it is dead. O life, O death of death! Be of good heart; it will die in us also. What has taken place in our head will take place in his members; death will die in us also. But when? At the end of the world, at the resurrection of the dead in which we believe and concerning which we do not doubt.
Augustine, Sermon 233

THERE IS WONDERFUL POWER in the Cross of Christ. It has power to wake the dullest conscience and melt the hardest heart, to cleanse the unclean, to reconcile him who is afar off and restore him to fellowship with God, to redeem the prisoner from his bondage and lift the pauper from the dunghill, to break down the barriers which divide [people] from one another, to transform our wayward characters into the image of Christ and finally make us fit to stand in white robes before the throne of God.
John Stott, The Preacher's Portrait

EASTER is not the celebration of a past event. The alleluia is not for what was; Easter proclaims a beginning which has already decided the remotest future. The Resurrection means that the beginning of glory has already started.
Karl Rahner, Everyday Faith

On a lesser note, I woke up this morning for my first day of Easter holidays only to discover that I have chicken pox. So this will probably be my last post for a while as I'm about to tie oven mits to my hands to prevent me from scratching the poxes forming on my back, arms, legs, arm pits, mouth, tongue, and gums! If anyone needs me I'll either be in bed reading up on Gal 2:11-14 or else walking through the streets of Dingwall yelling "unclean, unclean".

Otherwise I hope ya'll have a blessed Easter.

Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!!

Incident at Antioch

The confrontation between Cephas (Peter) and Paul at Antioch narrated in Gal 2:11-14 is one of the most significant events in the history of the early church. It is an event that one needs to grapple with in order to understand the character and context of early Christianity. I've been studying over this passage alot recently and I've become convinced of two things:

1. The problem was not with the food in these Jew-Gentile fellowship meals (i.e. whether it was kosher or not). Although some Jews would never eat with a Gentile (e.g. Qumran, Acts 10.28; Jub 22.16) most Jews in the Diaspora did engage in some kind of interaction and association with Gentiles and without compromizing their Jewishness (e.g. Ep. Arist. 172-86; Josephus, War 2.461-63; 7.41-62; Apion 2.39). Larry Hurtado writes:

[A]lthough 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 Galatians (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.

Larry Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ, p.162, n. 18.

2. The real problem was not the food but the company it was consumed in. The objection of "those of the circumcision" and "certain men from James" was that these meals made Gentiles equals and not simply guests in the Jewish Christian community! Gentiles did not have to judaize/do works of the law/be circumcized in order to have the membership status and privileges of Jews. Circumcision of Gentiles is what links Gal 2:1-10 and the rest of Galatians with Gal 2:11-14. Paul Barnett writes:

The “truth” of the gospel was upheld when belonging to Christ was deemed sufficient for “righteousness” for God and for “inclusion” (proslempsis) in his covenant people (Rom 11:15). That “truth” was overturned, however, when the “works of the law,” including circumcision, as demanded as necessary for righteousness and inclusion. The “truth of the gospel” was under threat in Jerusalem when the “false brothers” attempted to impose circumcision on Titus, when the agitators in Galatia insisted on circumcision for Gentiles, and in Antioch-on-the-Orontes when, in effect, circumcision of Gentiels was made a condition of table fellowship with Jews.

Paul Barnett, “Galatians and Earliest Christianity,” RTR 59 (2000): 124.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Markus Barth

One author I've enjoyed in recent times is Barth, no not Karl, his son Markus.

His Bio is available at the centre of Barth Studies at Princeton. I include here a small summary:

Markus Barth (b. October 6, 1915 – d. July 1, 1994) studied Protestant theology in Bern, Basel, Berlin, and Edinburgh. From 1940 to 1953 he was pastor in Bubendorf near Basel. In 1947 he received a doctorate in New Testament from the University of Göttingen. Between 1953 and 1972 he held professorships in New Testament at theological schools in Dubuque (Iowa), Chicago, and Pittsburgh. From 1973 to 1985 he was professor of New Testament in Basel.

Since 1940, Markus Barth was married to Rose Marie Barth-Oswald (b. November 19, 1913 – d. September 2, 1993). The couple had five children: Peter, Anna, Ruth, Lukas, and Rose Marie, who all live in Europe.

Among a variety of theological interests, three issues were of special importance to Barth:

First, the understanding of the “sacraments” Baptism and Lord’s Supper, to which he devoted two major books: “Die Taufe - ein Sakrament?” (1951), which offers a close look at the New Testament texts on Baptism; and “Das Mahl des Herrn. Gemeinschaft mit Israel, mit Christus und unter den Gästen” (1987, abbreviated English version: “Rediscovering the Lord’s Supper”, 1988), which offers a study of Pauline and Johannine texts and reconsiders the meaning of the Lord’s Supper with attention to its original social and religious context.

Second, the theology of the Pauline and Deutero-Pauline Epistles, which he often taught in class and which he discussed extensively in three major commentaries: Ephesians (1974), Colossians (1994), and Philemon (2000, posthumously); since he regards both Colossians and Ephesians as authentic Pauline letters, these commentaries can be read as a comprehensive presentation of his theology of Paul.

Third, the Jewish-Christian dialogue, which for him included reflection about religious as well as political matters, for example, the theological importance of Judaism for Christianity (and vice versa) or the achievements and failures of Zionism. Two of his writings on this subject are: “Israel and the Church” (1969) and “The People of God” (1983).

He also published a comprehensive study about the meaning of the Apostolate (“Der Augenzeuge”, 1945) and a brief “narration with wonder and admiration” on “Justification” (1971) as well as numerous articles in books and journals.

Significant Works

His most significant works (for me) include:

- His commentaries on Colossians and Ephesians in the Anchor Bible series. He in fact defends Pauline authorship for what it's worth.

- His volume on resurrection with Verne H. Fletcher, Acquittal by Resurrection (New York: Holt, Rinehard and Winston, 1964).

"The legal ground of justification – and the reason to praise God as the justifier of the wicked lies in Jesus Christ exclusively . . . It lies in his death and resurrection, not in his teaching, or in our obedience to it. Man’s faith has a part in that legal ground only in as much as it is faith in Jesus Christ." (p. 94)

- A little known but thought provoking article: “Jews and Gentiles: The Social Character of Justification in Paul,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 5 (1968): 241-67. Barth, yes a Barthian, launched the New Perspective years before Sanders or Dunn. Read this quote:

"A careful analysis of Galatians 2:15-21 indicates that no one can claim God's jutice for himself - God's impartial judgment through the death of Jesus Christ involves Jews and Gentiles. Justification is a social event. It ties man to man together. Justification by works would segregate men because each person selects his own arbitrary criterion of good works. Justification by grace, however, brings people together in reconciliation, even those of alien background, like the Jews and Gentiles." (p. 241)

"For Paul one's justification is closely related to the question of Jewish-Gentile unity." (p. 242)

"For the two themes, justification by faith and unity of Jew and Gentile in Christ, are for him obviously not only inseparable but in teh last analysis identical." (p. 258)

"Sharing in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the means of justification: only in Christ's death and resurrection is the new man created. But this new man is not any individual, this one or that one: he is created from at least two: a Jew and a Greek, a man and a woman, a slave and a free man, etc." (p. 259).

Interesting stuff in terms of how it foreshadows guys like Sanders, Wright and Dunn.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

John Armstrong on Denominations and Polemics

The maverick Reformed Baptist John Armstrong makes offers up a prayer for unity in the PCA That It Will Thrive in the Next Generation.

I know that within the reformed fold John is not everyone's cup of tea, so I don't believe everyone will concur with his remarks. Although I have many fine friends in the PCA, I'm not in the denomination and I make no pretense as to being able to evaluate the validity of his remarks. All the same, I think what he says could be applied to alot of denominations, especially the Baptist one's that I'm involved with. I have met people who honestly believe that revival will only happen when everybody to the left of them is run out of the denomination.

I have learnt that it is important to stand for the truth, for the gospel; but it is equally important to "speak the truth in love" (Eph 4.15), and to "make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification" (Rom 14:19).

I'd rather be a peace-maker than a heresy-hunter; I'd rather build the kingdom than erect a doctrinal fortress.

Forthcoming volume on Paul

I've just received the word from Paternoster that my volume on Paul has been accepted for the Paternoster Biblical Monographs series. The volume is entitled:

The Saving Righteousness of God: Studies on Paul, Justification, and the New Perspective

Here is the outline (to date):

The Riddle of "Righteousness"
"Raised for our Justification"
Incorporated Righteousness
When the Dust Finally Settles: Reaching a Post-New Perspective Perspective.
Righteousness as Forensic Declaration and Covenant Inclusion
Justification to the "Doers of the Law"?
A Bibliography of the New Perspective

Insomnia, Church History, and Star Wars

I suffer from chronic insomnia, so I make the best of it by writing and reading from 9.00 p.m. - midnite most nights. Last night, however, I still couldn't get to sleep until 1.00 a.m. because I could not help but think of moments in Church History that could be adequately summarized by quotations from Star Wars. Either I have an unhealthy fixation on Star Wars for a man in his early 30s, or else I need to start taking some sleeping pills. Anyway, this is what went through my mind:

Justin Martyr to his disciple Tatian: "You were the chosen one Anacan, you were supposed to destroy the Sith, not join them". [Incidentally, these are words that I shall repeat to Ben Myers if he ever turns into a Liberal!]

Marcion to the Bishop of Rome: "I've become more powerful than any Jedi!"

Paul to the Emperor Nero: "Strike me down Vader and you'll only make me twice as powerful".

Ignatius of Antioch writing letters to his chruches: "I am a jedi, as my father before me".

Author of the Gospel of Thomas explaining his literary work to his friends: "You must free yourself from the narrow and dogmatic view of the Jedi and embrace a more comprehensive understanding of the force".

What Cerinthius would say to Irenaeus: "Only a Sith Lord believes in absolutes".

Latest issue of JTS

See below for the list of contents from the latest issue of JTS.

James Barr
Is God a Liar? (Genesis 2–3)—and Related Matters

Jane Heath
Ezekiel Tragicus and Hellenistic Visuality: The Phoenix at Elim

Guy Williams
An Apocalyptic and Magical Interpretation of Paul's ‘Beast Fight’ in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 15:32)

John C. Poirier
Symbols of Wisdom in James 1:17

Joseph G. Mueller
Post-Baptismal Chrismation in Second-Century Syria: A Reconsideration of the Evidence

Theodore de Bruyn
P. RYL. III.471: A Baptismal Anointing Formula Used as an Amulet

Paul L. Gavrilyuk
Universal Salvation in the Eschatology of Sergius Bulgakov

Michael C. Rea
Polytheism and Christian Belief

Johan Leemans
‘At that Time the Group Around Maximian was Enjoying Imperial Power’: an Interpolation in Gregory of Nyssa's Homily in Praise of Theodore

Bruce A. Lowe
Oh DIA! How is Romans 4:25 to be Understood?

[Bruce Lowe is a good friend of a mine. He has a Ph.D in Chemistry, he's an ordained Pressy ministry, and is doing his Ph.D in NT at Macquarie Uni under Chris Forbes and Bruce Winter. It's a good article and I think the title is very witty! I wonder who gave him the idea? Romans 4.25 is a trickly little verse and I think Bruce handles it well].

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Pauline Theology Resources: Barry Smith

Dr. Barry Smith of Atlantic Baptist University has an excellent page on Pauline Theology. It contains essentially his lecture notes, but they are well researched and well set out (temptating as it is to cut and paste them into my own notes, I sharen't). Worth browsing over.

Monday, April 03, 2006

New Blog by Alan Streett

Alan Streett has his just started his own blog called Already/Not Yet that is dedicated to the topic of apologetic related items from news around the world.

New Book on New Testament Theology

The Nature of New Testament Theology: Essays in Honour of Robert Morgan

Edited by: CHRISTOPHER ROWLAND (Queen's College, Oxford) and CHRISTOPHER TUCKETT (Pembroke College, University of Oxford)

Foreword by Rowan Williams

1. History and Theology in New Testament Studies: John Ashton (Oxford University)

2. Biblical Theology: An Old Testament Perspective: John Barton (Oxford University)

3. Apocalypticism and New Testament Theology: Adela Yarbro Collins (Yale University)

4. New Testament Interpretation as Interpersonal Communion: The Case for a Socio-Theological Hermeneutics: Philip Esler (University of St Andrews)

5. The Nature of New Testament Theology: Morna Hooker (Cambridge University)

6. Does a Theology of the Canonical Gospels Make Sense? Luke Timothy Johnson (Emory University)

7. Paul in New Testament Theology: Leander E. Keck (Yale University)

8. The Contribution of Reception History to a New Testament Theology: Ulrich Luz (University of Berne, Switzerland)

9. Women in Early Christianity: The Challenge to a New Testament Theology: Margaret Y. MacDonald (St Francis Xavier University)

10. Deutero-Paulinism, Pseudonymity and the Canon: John Muddiman (Mansfield College, Oxford)

11. Towards an Alternative to New Testament Theology: 'Individual Eschatology' as an Example: Heikki Räisänen (University of Helsinki)

12. 'Action is the Life of All': New Testament Theology and Practical Theology: Christopher Rowland (Queens College, Oxford)

13. Theory of Primitive Christian Religion and New Testament Theology: an Evolutionary Essay: Gerd Theissen (University of Heidelberg, Germany)

14. Does the 'Historical Jesus' belong within a 'New Testament Theology'? Christopher Tuckett (Oxford University)

15. The Gospel of John and New Testament Theology: Francis Watson (University of Aberdeen)

16. The Theology of the Cross and the Quest for a Doctrinal Norm: Michael Wolter (University of Bonn, Germany)

17. The Trinity and the New Testament: Frances Young (University of Birmingham)