Friday, June 30, 2006

Markus Bockmuehl's new book

Markus Bockmuehl lectures at Cambridge University (see his website: New Testament Teaching Resources) and he has a new book out entitled: Seeing the Word: Refocusing New Testament Study (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2006).

I haven't been able to find out much about the contents, but I imagine that it might be similar to his articles on New Testament study such as the following:

2004. ‘What’s Under the Microscope? Revisiting E.C. Hoskyns on the Object of New Testament Study.’ Theology 107: 3-13.

1998. ‘Humpty Dumpty and New Testament Theology.’ Theology 101: 330-38.

1998. ‘“To Be or Not to Be”: The Possible Futures of New Testament Scholarship.’ Scottish Journal of Theology 51: 271-306.

Israel, Palestine, the Church, and Eschatology

Several things prompt me to write a post on the controversial topic of Israel and Palestine. I was spurned on by the intriguing post of Ben Witherington Pray for Peace of Jerusalem and Madeleine Albright's book The Mighty and the Almighty which you can read about at CT that (apparently) makes some reflection on God, America, and Politics post-9/11.

Let me say that I am convinced of two basic premises: (a) Israel has the inalienable right to exist in peace, free from terrorism and violence. Suffice to say, I am not a big fan of the President of Iran. (b) The Palestinians need a homeland and one free from walls, check-points, tanks, and rocket attacks. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank is completely illegal.

I am not a fan of the mainline American denominations that want to divest funds from Israel and fail to censure acts of terrorism against the small Israeli state. (In fact some of these denominations love to complain about the human rights abuses perpetrated in Israel, Iraq and Guantanamo bay, but curiously never get round to mentioning absuses perpetrated in Sudan, Saudi Arabia, China or North Korea). I am even less of a fan of ultra-conservatives in American Churches that support Israeli policies uncritically on the grounds that the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948 was a fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

Acts 13.32-33: 'And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus.'

2 Corinthians 1.20: 'For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.'

(Those who are familiar with Graeme Goldsworthy's work will know that these verses form the rubric of his approach to biblical theology).

As I see it, God's promises to Israel were complete and fulfilled in the handing over and raising up of Jesus by God the Father. There is of course still the hope that national Israel will respond to the message of Christ (either as individuals or en masse) but the establishment of Israel in 1948 was not something forecast in the Book of Revelation which we must uphold despite the cost it brings upon the Palestinians.

Let me also be clear that I do not think the Church completely replaces Israel (contra Covenant Theology); nor do I think that a hard and fast distinction can be made between the Church and Israel (contra Dispensationalism). Instead, the church is the representative of Israel in the Messianic age and by virtue of their faith in Jesus Christ they are constituted as the people of God in the era of the New Covenant. I think this comports with the more or less "Reformed" view, but I've had people tell me that I sound like a progressive dispensationalist too.

For sound and sober reflections on the topic from a progressive dispensational perspective I recommend the article by Darrell Bock Some Christians See a 'Road Map' to End Times from the LA Times.

I recommend also the following resources:

Colin Chapman, ‘God’s Covenant – God’s Land,’ in The God of Covenant, eds. Jamie A. Grant & Alistair I. Wilson (IVP, 2005), 221-56.

Gary M. Burge, Who Are God’s People in the Middle East? What Christians Are Not Being Told About Israel and the Palestinians (Zondervan, 1993).

Gary M. Burge, Whose Land? Whose Promise?: What Christians Are Not Being Told About Israel and the Palestinians (Pilgrim, 2003).

Thursday, June 29, 2006

1689 LBC (11.2) on Justification

Faith thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; yet it is not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.

A useful site: Text Excavations

One superb site I just found is called Text Excavation run by Ben C. Smith which contains an excellent listing of primary sources for ancient Jewish and Christian texts. Including things like a list of all patristic sources that make reference to Jewish Christian Gospels. Includes translations and primary source languages! Besure to browse it. Ben, you deserve a coke!

Where I'm going next week?

See if you can guess the places where I'm going next week:

1. A conference associated with the name of the guy on the left and I look forward to meeting the Australian expat on the right.

2. Then for a holiday I'm off too:

3. After which time I will be besieged by my:

Chrysostom on Rom. 16.7

"Greet Andronicus and Junia ... who are outstanding among the apostles": To be an apostle is something great. But to be outstanding among the apostles - just think what a wonderful song of praise that is! They were outstanding on the basis of their works and virtuous actions. Indeed how great the wisdom of this woman must have been that that she was even deemed worthy of the title apostle. (In ep. Ad Romanos 31.2).

For an alternative perspective on Rom. 16.7 see the post at CBMW.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Sexuality in the Bible

For those in denominations fighting over issues pertaining sexuality and the Bible in the PCUSA, United Methodist Church, or the Episcopalian Church (or is it Episgaypalian, I can't remember anymore?) you may find resources by Dr. Robert Gagnon especially helpful. His book The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Nashville: Abingdon, 2001) is simply the best one around. I can honestly say that I have never seen a book with so many endorsements from top scholars inside the dusk cover (from Moo to Aune!). Otherwise, more recently, there is Thomas R. Schreiner, "A New Testament Perspective on Homosexuality," Themelios 31 (2006): 62-75.

The Bird's Nest

I should probably take the time to mention my wife's blog The Bird's Nest which could probably be subtitled: "The Britification of Three Aussie Girls". Which includes photos of some of the most gorgeous girls in the world!!!

A Prayer of John Chrysostom

Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen.

The Gospel for all Nazarenes?

It is often thought that the Gospels were written for isolated and introspective communities. So Matthew was written for a 'Matthean community' and Luke for a 'Lucan community' etc. When Richard Bauckham questioned this assumption in the book The Gospel for All Christians, and advocated that the canonical Gospel authors probably had broader audiences in mind, several scholars responded by appealing to the extra-canonical Gospels (e.g. Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Peter, and Gospel of the Hebrews). The argument goes something like this:

(1) The extra-canonical Gospels are sectarian and were written for sectarian groups.
(2) The canonical Gospels also exhibit sectarian tendencies.
(3) Therefore, the canonical Gospels were written for sectarian groups as well.

I'm in the process of contesting this claim. Let me give one example. Let's take the Gospel of the Nazarenes (read about it at Text Excavation). It is thought that this Jewish Gospel was composed for a small Jewish Group called the Nazarenes known to Jerome and Epiphanius. Yet Tertullian (Adv. Marc. 4.8; cf. Acts 24.5) notes that the label ‘Nazarenes’ was used by Jews to designate Christians in general and not a specific group of Christians. If ‘Nazarenes’ in Gospel of the Nazarenes has this Jewish meaning of ‘Christians’ in general, then we may have here a document effectively named, to Jewish ears at least, the Gospel of the Christians. One can scarcely think of a more universal title for a book. Thus, some of the extra-canonical Gospels may not be quite so sectarian as many persons think.

Is the Gospel of Peter Docetic?

For translations of all of the patristic citations and papyri fragments associated with the Gospel of Peter see the site Text Excavation.

Eusebius mentions Gos. Peter on three occasions (Hist. Eccl. 3.3.2; 3.25.6-7; 6.12.1-6) and on the third he records that about the year 200 Bishop Serapion of Antioch prohibited the reading of the Gospel of Peter in nearby Rhossus, a city of Syria lying northwest of Antioch. On a former visitation to that church he had allowed the congregation there to read the Gospel of Peter (a work till then unknown to him) in its services. Afterwards however, when heresy broke out in Rhossus some appealed to the Gospel of Peter in support of Docetism. Serapion then scrutinized the document and, finding some parts of it to be unorthodox, he rejected it as a forgery.

The text which Serapion refers to is probably to be identified with the Akhmim fragment. (But for a more careful opinion see Paul Foster, ‘Are there any Early Fragments of the So-Called Gospel of Peter?’ NTS 52 [2006]: 1-28). A translation is available on the above site or try the one at Gospel Net.

Is the Akhmim fragment/Gospel of Peter docetic? Have a look at 4.10; 5.19.

There are several verses that are often thought to support a docetic interpretation. The comment that during the crucifixion ‘he kept silent as though he had no pain’ (Gos. Pet. 4.10) could imply an absence of physical suffering or valiant heroism. Just before he dies the Petrine Jesus cries out, ‘my power, my power, why have you forsaken me’ (Gos. Pet. 5.19) which might signify the departure of the Logos, divine aeon, or Christ-Spirit from Jesus upon his death. Alternatively, ‘power’ (dunami) could be a circumlocution for the divine name (e.g. ‘The Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power’ in Mk. 14.62, Mt. 26.64; cf. ‘power of God’ added in Lk. 22.69) and is an alternative citation of Ps. 22.1-2. The statement here is no more docetic than Mk. 5.30 where Mark reports that ‘Jesus knew in himself that the power proceeding from him had gone out from him’. The same is perhaps true of the following phrase where it states ‘and after saying this he was taken up’. This could conceivably mean a variety of things including the separation of a heavenly being from the man Jesus at the cross, a confusing reference to an ascension of Jesus’ Spirit at the cross, or merely exclaiming that Jesus died and went to be with the Father somewhat akin to the Lucan Jesus’ prayer: ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’ (Lk. 23.46). If one were concocting an explicitly docetic and/or gnostic interpretation of Jesus’ death then something akin to the Nag Hammadi Apocalypse of Peter would be more appropriate. There Peter witnesses Jesus ‘seemingly’ being seized to be crucified and he then looks upon the cross and observes the ‘living Jesus’ above the cross laughing, on the cross is someone else a ‘substitute being put to shame who came into being in his likeness’, and the ‘Saviour’ explaining the events of the cross to Peter (Apoc. Pet. 81). In retrospect, the Gospel of Peter is not explicitly docetic but it was obviously congenial to a docetic interpretation given its use by Docetists in Rhossus and Serapion himself claimed no more than this. The author(s) may have docetic sympathies or consciously embedded docetic features in the document in deliberately cryptic fashion, but this element is clearly subdued and does not dominate the text. Another possibility is that the docetic elements represent a later gloss.

If the Gospel of Peter is not explicitly docetic it may not be as sectarian as many scholars suppose and it may have been written to be read alongside (or in lieu of) the canonical Gospels.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Where Christology Titles Mix

In reading through John 1.49-51 I was amazed how the Christological titles Son of God, King of Israel and Son of Man all occur in such close proximity. Are these titles synonymous, do they overlap conceptually, or are they different ways of expressing Jesus' messiahship?

The Messiahship of Jesus in the Gospels is one of my "rolling" projects. I've written one article on it so far (on Mark) and hope to write one per year on the Messiah in Luke(-Acts), John, and Matthew, and will hopefully publish them in a collected volume. I'm pursuing this because I think that the Evangelists spend alot of time trying to convince people that Jesus is the Christ. Why did they do that and what did they would achieve by doing so? In the case of Mark, I think he's making an apology for the cross (HT to Bob Gundry) and proclaiming the authority of the crucified Messiah.

For that reason I'm looking forward to Graham Stanton's paper at BNTC on this very topic of the Messiahship of Jesus in the Gospels.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Grading Papers

I have had a lull in blogging since the frenzy of marking began about 3 weeks ago. So I'm back, at least until I go on my summer holiday to cornwall with my Aussie in-laws, for a while.

After marking papers on Pauline Theology I have discovered some startling facts:

- Galatians 6 is part of Paul's narratio.

- Certain scholars of a liberal bent regard substitutionary atonement as a form of "comic child abuse".

The Son of God and the Cross

In an article on the Gospel of Mark (RTR 2005) I argued that Mark is an apology for the cross and that Mark wants his readers to believe that Jesus is the Son of God not despite the cross, but precisely because of it!

In support of that idea I found this interesting quote from a footnote in Scot McKnight's book on Jesus and His Death:

"From saying that Jesus was the Messiah despite the event of the cross they came to say that he was the Messiah in virtue of that event."
- W. Manson, Jesus the Messiah (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1943), 169.

Parousia for Paranesis

What function does the parousia (second advent or return of Christ) have in sections of the NT? I am convinced that it is not simply an encourgement for people to buy fire insurance so that they will spend eternity playing volley ball on the clouds with the angels in heaven. It is about the consummation of God's justice in a world that is brutal and dark. It is an encourgement to the oppressed and downtrodden. It is an exhortation to discipleship and perseverance. Consider these two exhortations from two different writers:

"For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words." (1 Thess. 4.16-18)

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Heb. 10.24-25).

I wonder how the parousia fits into a view of Christian discipleship and ethics without lapsing into a Left-Behindesque fiasco?

Luke, Shame, Kingdom, and Prayer - some reflections by a NT tutor

After teaching a course on Jesus and the Gospels which focuses on Luke's parables and another course on Luke-Acts, it has really driven home to me just how many of Luke's parables, esp. those about prayer, appeal to God's honour or not shaming God as a basis for prayer or action.

The parable of the friend at midnite (Lk. 11.5-8) makes the point that God welcomes "shameless" audacity (anadeia) in prayer and will answer because his honour is on the line.

The parable of the persistant widow (Lk. 18.1-8) likewise appeals to God's honour as the basis of his action since he does not want to be worn down or shamed like the unjust judge with the widow.

The parable of the Shrewd Manager (Lk. 16.1-14) seems to propose the idea that the role of disciples is to accrue honour to God by placing others in his debt.

What is quite shocking about many of Luke's parables is that the figures who symbolize/represent God are quite harsh or unsympathetic. Consider these three examples:

1. The "man of noble birth" in the parable of the Ten Minas (Lk. 19.11-27) who was probably based on Archelaus son of Herod the Great.

2. The "manager" in the parable of the Shrewd Manager (Lk. 16.1-14)

3. The "friend" in the parable of the Friend at Midnite (Lk. 11.5-8).

What does this tell us about Luke's doctrine of God? Is Luke being ironic? Is Luke trying to drive home the impartiality and severity of God's judgments? Of course such parables need to be juxtaposed with the parables of Luke 15 and the "lost things" like the coin, sheep and son which underscore the radical compassion of God. Still, it makes for some interesting thinking.

Adolf Schlatter

For an appreciation of the work of Adolf Schlatter see the post by Andreas Kostenberger at his blog Biblical Foundations.

Baur und Bauer

For two studies that deal with the works of F.C. Baur and Walter Bauer see:

I. Howard Marshall, "Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earlier Christianity," Themelios 2.1 (1976): 5-14

Paul Hartog, "Goulder, Baur, and the Corinthian Correspondence: A Review Essay of Michael D. Goulder’s Paul and the Competing Mission in Corinth", JBS 6 (2006)

Unity of the NT - Lemcio

According to E.E. Lemcio "Unifying Kerygma of the New Testament," JSNT 33 (1988): 3-17; idem, JSNT 38 (1990): 3-11, the kerygmatic core of the NT is six constant elements including:

(1) God who (2) sent or raised (3) Jesus and (4) calls for a response, i.e. receiving, repentance, faith, (5) towards God (6) which in turn brings various benefits such as salvation, redemption, reconciliation etc.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Three Guys Called "Chuck"

If I had to ever so briefly summarize the history of twentieth-century NT research in Britain it would have to be based around three guys called "Chuck": Charles Haddon Dodd, Charles F. D. Moule, and Charles Kingsley Barrett.

What are the three best and/or most useful works by this trio of Charles'? Here's my take:

C.H. Dodd

See his list of works here

1) The Parables of the Kingdom
2) Apostolic Preaching and its Development
3) History and Interpretation in the Fourth Gospel

That reminds me of a limerick about him I heard from Don Carson:

There once was a man called Dodd
Who had a name that was exceedingly odd
He spelt, if you please,
His name with three D's
When one is sufficient for God

C.F.D. Moule

1) The Origins of Christology
2) The Phenomenon of the New Testament
3) The Birth of the New Testament

C.K. Barrett

1) The Gospel According to St. John
2) International and Critical Commentary on Acts
3) From First Adam to Last: Study in Pauline Theology

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Pistis Christou - a bibliography

Since Richard Hay's book The Faith of Jesus Christ, there has been an explosion of articles and studies weaving their way through the pistis christou ('faith of Christ') debate. To date I am not aware of any extant bibliography that catalogues all of the materials both pre- and post-Hays.

Would anyone like to join with me in composing such a bibliography? What I have in mind is something like what I've done for my New Perspective on Paul Bibliography. The plan is to make it available on-line for everyone to see and use. Who is up for it?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Fourth Race

If I had to give a local church a name, and since "Scum of the Earth" is already taken, I'd probably go for "Fourth Race". The name is taken from Aristides, Apol. 2 (Syriac).

Since, then, we have addressed you concerning God, so far as our discourse can bear upon him, let us now come to the race of men, that we may know which of them participate in the truth of which we have spoken, and which of them go astray from it.

This is clear to you, O King, that there are four classes of men in this world:--Barbarians and Greeks, Jews and Christians. The Barbarians, indeed, trace the origin of their kind of religion from Kronos and from Rhea and their other gods; the Greeks, however, from Helenos, who is said to be sprung from Zeus. And by Helenos there were born Aiolos and Xuthos; and there were others descended from Inachos and Phoroneus, and lastly from the Egyptian Danaos and from Kadmos and from Dionysos.

The Jews, again, trace the origin of their race from Abraham, who begat Isaac, of whom was born Jacob. And he begat twelve sons who migrated from Syria to Egypt; and there they were called the nation of the Hebrews, by him who made their laws; and at length they were named Jews.

The Christians, then, trace the beginning of their religion from Jesus the Messiah; and he is named the Son of God Most High. And it is said that God came down from heaven, and from a Hebrew virgin assumed and clothed himself with flesh; and the Son of God lived in a daughter of man. This is taught in the gospel, as it is called, which a short time was preached among them; and you also if you will read therein, may perceive the power which belongs to it. This Jesus, then, was born of the race of the Hebrews; and he had twelve disciples in order that the purpose of his incarnation might in time be accomplished. But he himself was pierced by the Jews, and he died and was buried; and they say that after three days he rose and ascended to heaven. Thereupon these twelve disciples went forth throughout the known parts of the world, and kept showing his greatness with all modesty and uprightness. And hence also those of the present day who believe that preaching are called Christians, and they are become famous.

So then there are, as I said above, four classes of men:--Barbarians and Greeks, Jews and Christians.

Christians constitute an ethnicity of their own where other ethnicities do not matter. Neither Jew nor Gentile, Greek nor Barbarian, American nor Arab. Being among the Christianoi is to have both a religion, an ethnic identity, and a nationality distinct from the world but remaining in the world. This fourth race is meant to be the true Adamic race modelling before the world what God intends humanity to be: redeemed, renewed, transformed and conformed to the image of God's Son.

[On the topic of church names the weirdest one's I've heard of are "Matthew's party" and "The Holy Church of Whooping Satan's Butt". I think I'll stick with "Fourth Race"].

Monday, June 19, 2006

Euangelion is now 1 year old!

It is now the first birthday of this blog Euangelion. I hope the last year of content has been true to it's name. There should be alot more to come of news, quotes, and reflections on biblical studies and Christian Origins. Can I ask those out there in the blogosphere what have been the most memorable posts at Euangelion?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Judaisms and Christianities

In a recent post Mark Goodacre writes:

Is it just me or is there something rather annoying about the trend over the last twenty years or so to talk about early Christianity as "Christianities" and early Judaism as "Judaisms"? I must admit that I am hoping that this is going to prove to be just a fad and something that we will look back on in twenty years time as an odd terminological aberration that characterized a particular kind of scholarship at the turn of the millennium.

The diversity of beliefs among Jewish authors and groups in the second-temple period has led some to speak of ‘Judaisms’. For example Kraft and Nickelsburg (1986:2) write, ‘early Judaism appears to encompass almost unlimited diversity and variety – indeed, it might be more appropriate to speak of early Judaisms.’ Yet one must wonder if this term, 'Judaisms' is really helpful at all. ‘Judaism’ in the singular is a word that was used by Jews themselves in the second-temple period: 2 Macc. 2.21; 8.1; 14.38; 4 Macc. 4.26; Gal. 1.13-14 (see for discussion Cohen 1999: 7-8, 105-06). These Jewish authors were probably more aware of diversity and varieties of Jewish belief than modern authors are. Judaisms can give the wrong impression that there was no underlying beliefs or praxis that held Jewish groups, however diverse, together. Several scholars then, whilst fully recognizing the varieties of Jewish belief, employ the singular noun 'Judaism' as a general term to refer to the religion of the Jewish people (e.g. Sanders 1990: 255-56; Bauckham 1993: 137-38; Goodman 1994: 39; Barclay 1996: 401).

I think the same goes for 'Christianities'. Ever since Bauer's Heresy and Orthdoxy and similar works by Koester and Robinson Trajectories in Early Christianity, Dunn Unity and Diversity, and more recently with volumes by Pagels and Ehrman, there is a tendency to over-play diversity in the early Christian movement. In fact using words like 'diversity' function much in the same way that 'kerygma' and 'hermeneutics' did a couple of generations ago: it is scholarly lingo that indicate that one is part of the NT academic club. Over and against 'unity and diverstiy' I prefer the terms 'complexity and accordance' because in some literature diversity means hostility, competition and opposition; whereas some groups were different but compatible (I think of Pauline and Johannine Christian groups for instance). Likewise, unity can be thought of as unanimity which is not the case and some Christian groups held to an accord of commonly agreed beliefs about Jesus as Messiah, Lord, Jewish Scriptures, monotheism, etc. To say that Christianity was diverse is a no-brainer, but that does not provide a license for anachornistic labels such as 'Christianities'.

Barclay, J.M.G. 1996. Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora from Alexander to Trajan (323 BCE – 117 CE). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.

Bauckham, Richard. 1993. ‘The Parting of the Ways: What Happened and Why.’ ST 47: 135-51.

Cohen, S.J.D. 1999. The Beginnings of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties, Uncertainties. Berkeley: University of California.

Goodman, Martin. 1994. Mission and Conversion: Proselytizing in the Religious History of the Roman Empire. Oxford: Clarendon.

Kraft, Robert A. and Nickelsburg, George W.E. Editors. 1986. Early Judaism and Its Modern Interpreters. Atlanta: Scholars.

Sanders,E.P. 1990. Jewish Law from Jesus to the Mishnah. Five Studies. London: SCM.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Early Catholicism

The favourite slogan and label “early Catholicism” is less helpful for understanding Luke; it cannot really make any contribution to a historical and theological understanding of earliest Christianity. On the contrary, it fits all too well with today’s widespread desire for handy clichés. As far as Luke is concerned, both his enthusiastic conception of the spirit and his understanding of the ministry of the church, which at least outside of Jerusalem still did not have any hierarchical structure, fail to match the label … The auctor ad Theophilum is oriented more on the past period of Christian origins than on the arrival of the second century.

Martin Hengel, Earliest Christianity (trans. John Bowden; London: SCM, 1986), 65.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Confession

I have a confession to make, but before I do let me tell you of my miserable and wrteched state. I am shrouded in shame and self-loathing, I am consumed with guilt and selfj-mockery, I am unworthy to be called a NT scholar, I should be slapped in the face with a soggy fish for my sin, I should even be tied to a chair and have my eyelids glued open and be forced to watch a video tape of "Al Gore's greatest political speeches" as my penance. My sin is this: upon inspecting my library I discovered that I do not own one single commentary on the epistle of James.

Oh Saint James the Just forgive me for neglecting your wisdom in my study.

On a happier note, which commentary on James is the best? Moo, Davids, Bauckham, Johnson, who is the greatest on James?

Tom Wright's letter to the ECUSA

Rt. Rev. Dr. Tom Wright has written a letter to the ECUSA convention entitled: The Choice Before USA. The conclusion reads as follows:

"If these resolutions [ECUSA's reponse to the Windsor report] are amended in line with Windsor, and passed, then the rest of the Communion will be in a position to express its gratitude and relief that ECUSA has complied with what was asked of it. Should that happen, I will be the first to stand up and cheer at such a result, and to speak out against those who are hoping fervently for ECUSA to resist Windsor so that they can justify their anti-ECUSA stance. But if the resolutions are not amended, then, with great sadness and with complete uncertainty about what way ahead might then be found, the rest of the Communion will have to conclude that, despite every opportunity, ECUSA has declined to comply with Windsor; has decided, in other words, to 'walk apart' (Windsor 157)."

That is Anglican-speak for "it's time to see who is bluffing?"

What is the Historical Jesus?

I've finally been able to get to Scot McKnight's book, Jesus and His Death, and the opening chapter on historiography, postmodern and post-postmodern, is superb. I found this little gem of a quote too:

"What do historical Jesus scholars mean when they speak of the historical Jesus? ... the historical Jesus is a narrative representation of the existential facts about Jesus that survive critical scrutiny."

Recent SBC events

The SBC convention in Greensboro, NC has elected Dr. Frank Page as the SBC President which sounds like a good thing. In particular, I hope he can steer the SBC back towards the middle-ground within evangelicalism rather than out to the theological right. I really, really, really liked this quote from him (HT: CT): "I believe in the Word of God," he said. "I am just not mad about it. Too long Baptists have been known for what we are against. Please let us tell you what we are for." To my SBC friends, I hope you are listening to this. My old theology professor Jim Gibson (a Wheaton and Dallas grad) said that the difference between an Evangelical and a Fundamentalist is that a Fundamentalist is more excited about what he's against (anti-NIV, anti-charismatic, anti-ecumenical, anti-alcohol etc) while an Evangelical is more interested in what he is for, i.e. gospel proclamation, God's glory, Spirit led holiness, kingdom building missions, discipleship and so forth.

On the other hand, I read over at RNS this report:

Southern Baptist delegates meeting here on Wednesday (June 14) approved a resolution that declared their “total opposition” to alcohol use in this country. The statement was amended to specifically urge that no one be appointed to Southern Baptist-related trustee boards who is “a user of alcoholic beverages.” While one pastor pointed to biblical references to wine as a reason not to pass the statement, others said it was important to take a stand on the biblical admonition against “the very appearance of evil.”

I come from a family and a non-Christian lifestyle where alcohol abuse or abuse caused by alcohol was rampant, but I do not find in Scripture any calls for the complete and total abstination from alchol for Christian leaders. No doubt getting drunk is ruled out but a glass of cab sav at dinner with a pasta cabonara is heavenly. Watch out for my future post: "What wine would Jesus drink?" Wolf Blass cab sav yellow label of course! Folks, read Rom 14-15 and 1 Cor 8, alcohol is adiaphora. But those who enjoy a drink should exercise their convictions loving so as not to offend the weaker brother.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Books on Scripture

Over at Reformation 21 D.A. Carson has a reviews on three books about Scripture by Tom Wright, John Webster, and Peter Enns.

I should also plug HTC's college Principal, Andrew McGowan, who has a volume on Scripture coming out some time next year with IVP. It is one that promises to set forth a European, as opposed to a North American view, of inerrancy and inspiration.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Current project

My EABS paper is entitled: The Historical Jesus and the Early Christian Gentile Missions - Continuity and Discontinuity.

This paper addresses the issue of continuity and discontinuity between Jesus and the early church regarding the salvation of the Gentiles. The first phase of the study is to examine the variety of Gentile missions in the early church paying particular attention to their distinctive characteristics and motivations. The second phase outlines the basic contours of Jesus’ view of the Gentiles which are shaped principally by his restoration eschatology. The third phase compares and contrasts these perspectives with a view to identifying how the missionary ethos of the early church is both continuous and discontinuous with that of the historical Jesus.

Here's some choice quotes from the work-in-progress:

The irresistible expansion of Christian faith in the Mediterranean world during the first 150 years is the scarlet thread running through any history of primitive Christianity.
- Martin Hengel, Between Jesus and Paul: Studies in the Earliest History of Christianity (trans. John Bowden; London: SCM, 1983), p. 48.

The mission is not so much a matter of a “realized eschatology” as of a substitute for an eschatology that has been deferred.
- C.K. Barrett, ‘The Gentile Mission as an Eschatological Phenomenon’, in Eschatology and the New Testament: Essays in Honor of George Raymond Beasley-Murray (ed. W. Hulitt Gloer; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1988), p. 71.

In retrospect, the absence of debate over the Gentile mission as such and the limitation of debate to the status of Gentiles in the church and to relations between them and Jewish believers positively support the Jesuanic origin of that mission, for otherwise the debate would probably have started with the question of evangelizing Gentiles versus waiting for them to stream in at the consummation.
- Robert H. Gundry, Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993), p. 767.

Die Bekehrung der Heiden ist die Erfüllung der Verheissungen an Israel …Dies stimmt mit dem jüdischen Gedankengang überein, nachdem die Heiden in der Endzeit sich dem wiederaufgerichteten Israel anschliessen warden.
- Jacob Jervell, ‘Das gespaltene Israel und die Heidenvolker,’ ST 19 (1965), pp. 80-81.

My Contribution

The obvious problem in addressing this topic is that different groups in the early church sometimes had different ideas about Gentiles or how the Gentiles should come to faith (with or without Torah?). Many of the Hellenists, Paul, Peter, James, the Judaizers and John did not always see eye-to-eye on this topic. After noting this diversity I also argue that:

"At the same time there was some degree of cross-fertilization between the two missions as Barnabas belonged to both the Jerusalem church and also to the Hellenistic Christian mission to the Gentiles. Despite the scholarly penchant for divisions, diversity, and rival factions in early Christianity we are also given a picture of a movement in the New Testament that was in some respects relatively homogenous. Paul’s collection for the saints in Jerusalem was an olive branch trying to bring Gentile and Jewish Christians together. In 1 Cor 15.11, Paul assumes that the Corinthians could have heard the same Gospel from Peter or James and in Gal 1.6-9 the other ‘gospel’ is one different from the one that he and the Jerusalem pillars agreed on. Hill is right to say: ‘Paul assumed that the Jerusalem Christians were Christians, that there was a unity and a consistency to the gospel both they and he preached (Rom. 15:27; Gal. 2:7-10).’ According to Ellis, the apostolic missions of James, Paul, Peter and John worked in a cooperative enterprise to ‘promote the messianic person and teaching of Jesus’. That means that we are dealing with more than two missions and those missions often co-existed, co-operated, clashed, and even coalesced in hybrid form."

Jesus, the Tribulation and the End of the Exile

I've been working my way through the book by Brant Pitre, Jesus, the Tribulation and the End of the Exile (WUNT 2.204; Tubingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 2005). All in all, it's a good read and it scores a lot of points. It's a long, long book, but I recommend at least reading the conclusion which is a good precis of the project. The length is attributable mainly to Pitre's rigorous and thorough argument for the authenticity of every logion he addresses.

In sum, Pitre's contention is that the eschtological tribulation provides the background to much of Jesus' teaching and also his death; accordingly echoes of Schweitzer, Allison, Wright, and Meyers abound. He gives the mandatory outline of the tribulation in scholarship (chapter 1), surveys the tribulation in second-temple literature and notes how it was integral to Jewish restoration eschatology (chapter 2), he examines several of Jesus' sayings about entering into the peirasmos (Lk. 11.4 and par.) and how the tribulation has already begun in the death John the Baptist (chapter 3), the Olivet discourse of Mark 13 gets a thorough treatment with elaborate arguments for its authenticity (chapter 4), and finally he proposes that Jesus understood his death in terms of tribulation whereby his death would become an eschatological passover and inaugurage the end of exile and new exodus.

Pitre's discussion of the exile is sober and effective (Wright is right that the Jews were still in exile but about the wrong exile; the Assyrian exile was on-going, the Babyonian exile was over). He also says alot of things about Jesus, the salvation of the Gentiles, and the End-of-Exile/New Exodus which could have easily come straight out of my thesis (Doh!).

I only have two small quibbles with this book: (1) In discussing the various passages for his thesis, Pitre typically exegetes a passage before discussing its authenticity. That can give the impression that "authenticity" is merely an afterthought to his exegesis, and he doesn't pay as much attention as he should to the redactional activity of the Evangelists. (2) He does not really distinguish between remnant theology and restoration theology. Trying to establish a remnant within Israel is not the same as trying to restore all of Israel. Leander Keck and Mark Elliott have argued for remnant theology over restoration theology. Pitre, like Ben F. Meyers, seems to regard these themes as almost the same.

But this is a good book and one worth being familiar with, esp. for everyone doing HJ research. If Ph.D cands. want a lesson in thoroughness, this is a decent book to consider.

Note: A fuller review will be published in European Journal of Theology.

Friday, June 09, 2006

2006 Scottish Postgraduate Conference - NT Papers

At the recent Scottish Postgrad Conference there were some interesting papers at the NT session including:

Judy Diehl (Edinburgh)
Character Development in John 17 and the Farewell Discourses

Mark DeNeui (Aberdeen)
The Body-Metaphor in Greco-Roman Usage

Scot Becker (Aberdeen)
The Resumption of Biblical Narrative in Luke and 1 Maccabees

Rohintan Mody (Aberdeen)
The Relationship Between Daimonia and Idolatry in 1 Cor. 10.20

Joseph R. Dodson (Aberdeen)
The Personification of Creation in Wisdom of Solomon and Romans

Micahel Leary (Edinburgh)
Book Culture in Early Christianity: Text, Technology, and Early Christian Theology

But without doubt the highlight of the day was the panel discussion and seeing Simon Gathercole talk into a lamp that he thought was a microphone.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Frank Thielman on Faith-based and Secular Histories of Early Christianity

Whereas both the New Testament theologian and the secular historian are interested in the history to which the canonical text give access, they differ on the importance that they grant to the perspectives of the texts themselves. Historians who stand outside the church employ every means at their disposal to render the perspectives of the canonical texts inoperative in their thinking. The texts then provide the raw data with which the secular historian attempts to reconstruct the story of early Christianity according to another perspective. The New Testament theologians, however, through the basic insight of faith, want to embrace the perspectives of the texts on the events that provoked their composition. The perspectives of the texts on the history of early Christianity are not husks to be peeled away so that the historian might see more clearly. They are not merely historical data that provide information about early Christian religion. For New Testament theologians who regard the texts as authoritative, the perspectives of the texts speak of their true significance. They are, in other words, objects of faith.

Frank Thielman, Theology of the New Testament: A Canonical and Synthetic Approach, 31-32.

New Blogs

Matthew D. Montonini has a M.Th from Ashland and has started his own blog called Pauline Perspectives: Old, New & Fresh: A place to discuss Paul's life, theology, and use of Scripture. I think we may have start a new blogging category called "NPPBlog". Matt has a couple of posts up already including one one Paul and sin, as well as his justification for starting a blog on the interpreation of Paul.

He has links to David DeSilva's homepage where I learnt that DD is writing the NICNT commentary on Galatians due out in 2010. (On a side note, my NT 101 students can't decide whether they loath DD and his NT Intro, or whether they loathe me for making them read 200 pages of it in one week).

Welcome to the blogosphere Matt!!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Charity Auction - HC Kee's book on Christian Origins

To understand the historical beginnings of Christianity requires one not only to examine the documents that the movement produced, but also to scrutinize other evidence—historical, literary, and archaeological—that can illumine the socio-cultural context in which Christianity began and how it responded to the influences that derived from that setting. This involves not only analysis of the readily accessible content of the relevant literary evidence, but also attention to the world-views and assumptions about reality that are inherent in these documents and other phenomena that have survived from this period. Attention to the roles of leadership and the modes of formation of social identity in Judaism and the continuing influence of these developments as Christianity began to take shape is important for historical analysis.

Distinguished New Testament scholar Kee performs such readings of the texts and communities in this dazzling study of early Christian origins. In methodological terms, the historical study of Christian Origins in all its diversity must involve three different modes of analysis: (1) epistemological, (2) sociological, and (3) eschatological. The first concerns the way in which knowledge and communication of it were perceived. The second seeks to discern the way in which the community or tradition preserving and conveying this information defined its group identity and its shared values and aims. The third focuses on the way in which the group understood and affirmed its ultimate destiny and that of its members in the purpose of God. These factors are interrelated, and features of one mode of perception strongly influence details of the others, but it is useful to consider each of them in its own category in order to discern with greater precision the specific historical features of the spectrum of facets which appear in the evidence that has survived concerning the origins of Christianity.

I have acquired myself a second copy of H.C. Kee, The Beginnings of Christianity Context and Controversy (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2005). The volume is essentially a Christian Origins version of a New Testament Introduction. It retails for about $25-27 (USD).

I would like to sell the book and give the proceeds to my favourite charity being
Compassion UK

I would like a potential buyer to send me a cheque or international money order made out to Compassion UK and I will happily forward the cheque onto them. I will then mail the book to the buyer free of charge!

Let's start the bidding at USD $15.00 (a bargain) and we'll see by Friday who the winner is. So who wants a choice book on Christian Origins going very cheaply! C'mon, it's for a good cause!!

Monday, June 05, 2006

ETS Paper Accepted

I've had a paper accepted at the Evangelical Theological Society meeting in Washington.

The paper is entitled, Meeting the New Perspective Half-Way: Jew-Gentile Relationships and Justification by Faith in Paul.

Here's a foretaste:

I enjoy asking my undergraduate students why or for what purpose did Christ become accursed on the cross in Gal. 3.13? My students always reply with something along the lines of “so that we might be forgiven, so we could be redeemed, have peace with God, and have eternal life, etc”. I then ask them, what did Paul think was the purpose of Christ being cursed? The answer of course is provided in Gal. 3.14, “in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit”. Whereas my students always answer in terms of individual, vertical, soterilogy; Paul’s answer is along the lines of corporate, horizontal, pneumatology and ecclesiology. Whatever the failings of the New Perspective, and there are a few, I suspect that they on the right track on some points.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Purpose and Preservation of the Jesus Tradition

Thanks to Eisenbrauns, IBR, and the Apollos website, my 2005 article: Michael F. Bird, “The Purpose and Preservation of the Jesus Tradition: Moderate Evidence for a Conserving Force in its Transmission.” Bulletin for Biblical Research 15.2 (2005): 161-85 is now available online.

Here's the blurb:

An important preface to historical Jesus research involves formulating a theory of the transmission of the traditions underlying the Gospels. Scholarship frequently exhibits either an inherent skepticism towards trying to uncover how this tradition was handled or else is saturated with multiple proposals concerning the means of its formation. In any event, important questions to be asked include what purpose the Jesus tradition had in early Christian circles and what factors or controls may have enabled that tradition to be effectively preserved. This study addresses such questions and, with careful qualification, contends that the Jesus tradition probably had a variety of functions in the early church and there were several reasons why the words and deeds of Jesus may have been consciously preserved.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Hey, I'm on Amazon!

My book Jesus and the Origins of the Gentile Mission (Library of New Testament Studies; London: Continuum, 2007) is now available for ordering at Sorry, it isn't released until January so it unfortunately won't be available for Christmas!

Gos. Thom. 114 and Mary

Simon Peter said to them, "Make Mary leave us, for females don't deserve life." Jesus said, "Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven." (trans. Stephen Patterson and Marvin Meyer)

See the string of comments and posts at Early Christian Writings

What I find incredible is the claim that this logion was added by orthodox persons in order to discredit the Gospel of Thomas by making it sexist. There are several reasons why this is unlikely.

(1) There is no mss to my knowledge where 114 does not occur. It is certainly in the Nag Hammadi version. This is a gnostic collection, not an orthodox collection and we have no reason to think that orthodox scribes have tinkered with Thomas' textual tradition.

(2) If an orthodox scribe were to get a copy of Gos. Thom. I think that he (or she) would be more inclined to destroy it than to edit it. But let's say that the scribe was a bibliophile and couldn't bring himself to burn any codex or papyrus. If he did want to correct the document he would be more likely to add a comment decrying one of the gnostic distinctives about gnosis or God. He might also insert a remark about the incarnation or of christology that was uncompromisingly orthodox and was opposed to gnostic understandings of the person of Christ.

(3) Other gnostic writings such as Pistis Sophia 1.36 and the Gospel of Mary 9.1-10 include negative remarks about Mary by Peter and the other disciples. Derogatory remarks against Mary as in Gos. Thom. 114 are not unique to Gos. Thom. Given that in many gnostic writings that Mary was the gnostic par excellence (she is called the "the pleroma of pleromas" in Pistis Sophia 1.19) these conflict stories are most likely symbolic of the persecution of gnostics (represented by Mary) by the orthodox church (represented by Peter).

(4) The concept of salvation by androgyny (i.e. by becoming male) was not unknown in gnostic writings. First Apocalypse of James 41.15-19: "The perishable has gone [up] to the imperishable, and [the] element of femaleness has attained to the element of this maleness." Hippolytus (Ref. V. 8. 44.) says of that the Nassenes believed that "spiritual beings will come to 'the house of God'; there they will cast off their garments and all of them will become bridegrooms, having been made male by the virginal Spirit." Gnostics could renounce all gender distinctions as in Gos. Thom. 22 and the Nassenes (somewhat akin to Gal. 3.28) or else associate becoming "a living spirit" with maleness.

(5) I am hesisitant to try to "deconstruct" certain peoples motives, but I suspect that the rationale for making Gos. Thom. 114 an orthodox interpolation is perhaps more cultural than textual. Some people like the spirituality and religion of the Gos. Thom. but don't like the apparent denigration of femaleness in 114, therefore, they plead "interpolation" and attribute this sexist remark to the orthodox church.

Friday, June 02, 2006

John Armstrong on Questions for Reformed Christians

John Armstrong has a good post on Questions I Ponder as a Reformed Christian.

I ask myself these same questions all the time!!!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

New Books - 1

Westminster John Knox has a new book list and the interesting volumes include:

Charles B. Cousar, An Introduction to the New Testament: Witnesses to God's New Work

Francois Bovon, The Last Days of Jesus

M. Eugene Boring, Mark: A Commentary (NTL)

Luke Timothy Johnson, Hebrews: A Commentary (NTL)

James G. Crossley, Why Christianity Happened: A Sociohistorical Account of Christian Origins (26-50 CE)

Shaye J. D. Cohen, From Maccabees to the Mishnah

Anne Loades & Robert MacSwain, The Truth-Seeking Heart: An Austin Farrer Reader

Wayne A. Meeks, Christ is the Question

Tom Wright, The Scriptures, The Cross and the Power of God


- Cousar's NT commentary should be interesting, although I'm also waiting to see the one by Kostenberger and Quarles before I put away DeSilva. I tend to think that a NT Intro is good for about 5-7 years before it becomes dated, unless it gets revized regularly like Bob Gundry's.

- Johnson on Hebrews, should be good. I like anything he writes.

- Crossley on Christian Origins, well, I can feel an extended review article coming on prior to our melee next year on the topic.