Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Justin Martyr on the Resurrection and Millennium

In Dial. Tryph. 80, Justin writes:

Then I answered, "I am not so miserable a fellow, Trypho, as to say one thing and think another. I admitted to you formerly, that I and many others are of this opinion, and[believe] that such will take place, as you assuredly are aware; but, on the other hand, I signified to you that many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise. Moreover, I pointed out to you that some who are called Christians, but are godless, impious heretics, teach doctrines that are in every way blasphemous, atheistical, and foolish. But that you may know that I do not say this before you alone, I shall draw up a statement, so far as I can, of all the arguments which have passed between us; in which I shall record myself as admitting the very same things which I admit to you. For I choose to follow not men or men's doctrines, but God and the doctrines[delivered] by Him. For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this[truth], and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians, even as one, if he would rightly consider it, would not admit that the Sadducees, or similar sects of Genist , Meristae,Gelilaeans, Hellenists, Pharisees, Baptists, are Jews(do not hear me impatiently when I tell you what I think), but are[only] called Jews and children of Abraham, worshipping God with the lips, as God Himself declared, but the heart was far from Him. But I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned, and enlarged, the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare.
What jumps out at me here is:
1. Not all 'Christians' believed in a resurrection and some held to the immortality of the soul (which I think describes a lot of contemporary Christians too).
2. I wonder if Justin's reading of resurrection + millennium is based on his reading of Revelation 20 or is it an independent tradition?
3. For Justin, belief in the resurrection is a non-negotiable item in his belief matrix.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Philip Towner on 1 Tim 2:11-15

I'm currently reading through Philip Towner, The Letters of Timothy and Titus (NICNT; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006) and here is a summary of what Towner has to say on 1 Tim 2:11-15.

Towner does not advocate the restriction of women from ministerial offices nor does he regard the text as a post-Pauline creation by a follower of Paul who did not share his teacher’s egalitarian view of women. He situates himself between “feminist” and “hierarchicalist” interpretations. His approach has the following characteristics and conclusions, first, Towner is highly dependent on Bruce Winter’s study about the “new Roman women” who asserted their independence with great flare even to the point of making their sexual status ambiguous by their dress and apparel. Given that Christian worship in the atrium of a Graeco-Roman house in Ephesus was a “public” space, Paul does not want the well-to-do Christian women to bring Christians into disrepute by exhibiting this new liberated femininity in public worship. Second, Towner also maintains that the heresy circulating in Ephesus does influence Paul’s restriction here, but he carefully notes the study of S.M. Baugh that has debunked the often repeated scenario that the women were influenced by the hyper-feminist Artemis cult in Ephesus, and Towner adds that there is no definite evidence that the women were even teaching the heresy. Nonetheless, Towner thinks that Paul’s need to provide instructions about marriage (2 Tim 4:3), his statement about the value of childbearing (2 Tim 2:15), the misreading of OT stories (2 Tim 1:4; 2:13-15; 4:1-5), coupled with the attraction of some wealthy women and young widows to the “new women” paradigm does connect the women to the Ephesian heresy. Thus: “Paul prohibits a group of wealthy women from teaching men. The factors leading to his prohibition are: (1) public presentation – outer adornment and apparel and arrogant demeanour give their teaching a shameful and disrespectful coloration; (2) association with false teaching – they may actually have been conveying or supporting heretical teaching” (200). Third, Towner is convinced that elsewhere women did play a public role in Paul’s churches and he detects an equality principle within the Pauline gospel (e.g. Gal 3:28). Fourth, regarding the two complementary infinitives of v. 12 (“to teach” and “to exercise/assume authority over”) he concurs with Andreas Köstenberger’s syntactical and grammatical analysis of the passage but disagrees with him that “to teach” has a positive force since the wider context suggests that the content of the women’s teaching contains heresy or the teaching itself is motivated to assert their dominance over men – in both cases “to teach” has negative connotations. Fifth, concerning the “saved through child-birth” remark in v. 15, Towner thinks that Paul “urges these Christian wives to re-engage fully in the respectable role of the mother, in rejection of heretical and secular trends, through which she may ‘work out her salvation’” (235).

An "Orthodox" Approach to the Extra-Canonicals

How are Christian interpreters to relate to the extra-canonical Gospels? A good example of how to do so, in Martin Hengel's opinion, is Clement of Alexandria. Although Clement holds to the four-fold Gospel that was handed down, he also takes the extra-canonical Gospels seriously in discussion with his opponents, e.g. Julius Cassian (a Valentinian Gnostic).

Martin Hengel, The Four Gospels and the One gospel of Jesus Christ, 17-19.

"In contrast to Irenaeus, however, he [Clement] does not reject a Gospel in principle; rather, he has quoted this saying of Jesus to Salome twice before, and on the first mention he emphasizes that it must be expounded to the Encratites in the correct way so that they are confused and refuted by it. In other words, although it does not come from a recognized Gospel it must be taken seriously because of the discussion with the opponents."

New Blogs XIV

April D. DeConick has her own blog called: The Forbidden Gospels Blog. DeConick specializes in the study of the Gospel of Thomas and Mysticism in the early church. About the blog she states: "I'm setting up this blog as a place to discuss Christian Origins with historical integrity, taking seriously and skeptically the "forbidden" gospels and what they have to tell us about Jesus and the first Christians."

She is a ferverently secularist and eschews faith-based approaches. She writes:

Those in the Academy who have not dislodged themselves from their faith operate to defend, justify and explain it in terms they couch "historical" while privileging the New Testament canon and ignoring or dissing the apocrypha. Their personal religious belief in the authority of the New Testament scripture has led them to a common (and erroneous) assumption, that the New Testament texts are the only documents that tell us about the history of early Christianity. This leads to another common (and erroneous) assumption, that these canonical texts are accurate and reliable documents for the study of early Christianity. In this way, the religious walls of the canon have imprisoned the Academy for a couple of hundreds of years, holding us back from an honest historical analysis of early Christianity.

Given the tone of this remark, I think I prefer the company of James Crossley who is somewhat more restrained in his criticism of faith-based approaches. Actually, James is probably more pro-secular than he is anti-faith!

HT: Loren Rosson
Update: Over at Deinde Danny Zacharias responds to DeConick with this remark:
"Okay, I realize that we can travel back 50 years or more an find this type of scholar who is a Christian, but today--now-- who are we talking about? There are a myriad of Christian scholars who have paved the way in the study of texts outside the NT canon. But DeConick in one brushstroke paints any confessional scholar as automatically working at a level of incompetance, one that she is free from of course."

Monday, January 29, 2007

Review of Swanson on 2 Corinthians

For those interested, my review of Reuben Swanson's New Testament Greek Manuscripts: Variant Readings Arranged in Horizontal Lines against Codex Vaticanus: 2 Corinthians is available at RBL.

I wish he'd do one on Colossians some time soon!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Peter Enns Interview

The Blue Raja (who is back after a long hiatus as far as I can tell) interviews Peter Enns about his excellent book Inspiration and Incarnation.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Trinity, Gender and Evangelicals

Over at RNS, I found this news report:

Scholars Debate Who Comes First in Holy Trinity
By Adelle M. Banks

WASHINGTON -- The Holy Trinity -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- has been a source of debate for centuries among theologians. The issue of the proper roles for men and women, a comparatively newer fight, has been brewing especially strong in the last two decades among evangelical Christians. Now the two arguments have merged into one, as some scholars link their belief in a Bible-approved submission of women to men to a belief that the Bible indicates that Jesus is eternally subordinate to God. The otherwise esoteric theological discussion among certain evangelical scholars recently went public.


At the ETS Conference in Washington D.C. last November year there was a whole session devoted to this topic with speakers including Millard Erickson, Bruce Ware, Kevin Giles and the ever-present and ever-prosaic Michael Bird.

My paper was basically a response to some recent discussions on the topic (principally Kevin Giles) and trying to find a way forward. In sum:

(1) I do not see a problem with the eternal functional subordination of the Son to the Father as long as the Son has ontological equality with the Father - that means we are not dealing with Arianism. Nonetheless, I am uncomfortable with the word "subordination" because it carries Arian overtones and I prefer to speak, with Pannerberg, of the Son's obedient self-distinction from the Father.

(2) There are texts that do speak of the Son's subordination quite clearly and yet they never cast aspersions on his deity, e.g. John 5.18 and 1 Cor. 11.1-3, 15.28.

(3) I am altogether suspicious of the fact that, generally speaking, egalitarians are non-subordinationists and, generally speaking, complementarians are subordinationists. That is too neat! I tend to think that prior theological commitments are either determining or obscuring this debate about intra-Trinitarian relations.

(4) The application of Trinitarian relationships to bolster a view about human relationships is needless and counter-productive. Unless your marriage consists of three persons (two of which are male) then the application of Trinitarian relationships to male-female relationships is going to break down at some point. What the Trinitarian model does demonstrate is that you can have subordination of rank with ontological equality in a mutual relationship of persons. What it does not demonstrate is that rank must be determined by gender! What is more, it may even be possible to construct an egalitarian argument from the Trinity (as I think Stan Grenz does) even with the Son's eternal functional subordination. Just as the Father gives authority to the Son to do his works, why cannot the husband give his authority to his wife to do his works (preach and teach)? My point is not to argue for or against any view of gender and ministry; my point is that it is fruitless to use the Trinity to settle questions related to gender relationships and I call for a moratorium on such arguments.

(5) Now you might understand why my paper achieved the impossible; that was invoke the ire of both egalitarians and complementarians - who knows, maybe that was a good thing.

I hope, with Ben Myers help, to articulate these ideas further in a joint publication.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Jesus and the Parousia - Six Theses

I've just finished writing an article on "Jesus and the Parousia". This was a most stimulating task that forced me to think through several things and gave me a chance to re-read scholars such as Beasley-Murray, Dodd, Robinson, Wright, Allison, Witherington, and McKnight. My thanks to Michael Pahl for proof reading the piece and he was able to sum up my position better than I could: Essentially a realized interpretation set within a broader inaugurated eschatology.

(1) The discourse of Mark 13 and the parables of Matthew 24–25 have as their primary referent the destruction of Jerusalem which constitutes the “coming of the Son of Man” and signifies judgment upon faithless Israel and the vindication of Jesus and his followers. Yet in many ways these enigmatic oracles either allow or even demand application to a broader scenario that includes the judgment of the nations and restoration of creation. In fidelity to the narrative of Daniel 7, the judgment rendered against Jerusalem and the Judean leadership looks beyond the borders of Palestine and will eventually extend to the nations so that the pagan beasts like Rome get their just desserts at a future point (e.g. Revelation 18). As Heinrich Holtzmann saw long ago, the destruction of Jerusalem itself marks the beginning of God’s final judgment. The “Day of the Lord” and the “coming of the Son of Man” that bring judgment on Jerusalem remains a typos for a future judgment of the inhabited world and the salvation of the elect. As Jerusalem is the epicenter of the cosmos, what happens there must eventually spill over to the entire world. The reconstitution of a New Israel is for the purpose of projecting God’s purposes into the world until the arrival of a New Heavens and a New Earth (e.g. Isaiah 66; Revelation 21–22). The fact that Jesus spoke of a future resurrection implies that he did see beyond the portentous events of 70 CE (Mark 11:18-27/Matt 22:23-33/Luke 20:27-39; Luke 14:14).

(2) A prerequisite to the final eschatological dénouement is that the gospel must be preached to all nations (Mark 13:10; Matt 10:18; 24:14; 28:19-20; Luke 24:46-48; Acts 1:8) and although this can be partly attributed to the period prior to 70 CE (e.g. the success of the Pauline mission), ultimately this prediction calls for a more expansive fulfillment and a final consummation beyond that period.

(3) If the coming of the Son of Man in the Gospels refers to a transfer of authority from YHWH to Jesus (see Perriman, The Coming Son of Man), then it arguably anticipates an on-going role in the exercise of that authority and, given the constraint of monotheism, looks forward to a time when that authority is returned to the Father (e.g. 1 Cor 15:24, 28).

(4) According to Luke, the second coming is predicated on the ascension (Acts 1:11) and heralds a future completion of the Messiah’s earthly work.

(5) Ironically the clearest mention of a second coming on the lips of Jesus occurs in the Gospel touted as being the most uneschatological of the canonical Gospels (John 14:3; 21:22). This shows that the Fourth Evangelist has not emptied his Jesus-story of apocalyptic motifs (although how these sayings relate to the historical Jesus will depend on what one thinks of John’s tradition and theology).

(6) If the Jesus tradition is employed in the “word of the Lord” in 1 Thess 4:15-17, this would support the view that Jesus was remembered as predicting a cataclysmic event that Paul believed would affect believers at a future juncture (cf. Mark 13:26-27; Matt 24:30-31). The prayerful cry of maranatha deriving from early Aramaic-speaking Christian circles (1 Cor 16:22; Rev 22:20) supposes something more than the destruction of Jerusalem and looks forward to Christ’s return as well. (For an alternative proposal for the "word of the Lord" in 1 Thess 4.15, see the excellent article in JSNT by Michael Pahl).

Bye Bye Rapture

NT scholar Ben Witherington has a post on Global Warming where he says this:

Since the rapture is not a Biblical doctrine at all but rather something dreamed up by a teenage girl in about 1820 at a revival in Glasgow Scotland and then preached by Darby and Moody neither of whom were ever Bible experts, perhaps we had better pay attention and see what a proper Christian response should be to this crisis, especially for the sake of being a good witness.
While I agree that one's eschatology should not be used as an excuse for environmental blindness or mismanagement, I'm not sure that all dispensationalists (and I'm not one) are quite so blaise about global warming.

While we're on the topic of rapture-bashing, see the article by N.T. Wright, "Farewell to the Rapture".

William Lane Craig to Debate James Crossley

When I first became a Christian my Church did a series of apologetic studies and part of the material that we used was a video of a debate between William Lane Craig and Frank Zindler. I was astouded at the depth of Bill Craig's learning and his skills as a Christian communicator. It was Bill Craig, Tom Wright, and D.A. Carson who in their own ways each inspired to become a Christian scholar in the first place. I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Craig at SBL two years ago and it was an honour. I know that evidential apologetics is not everyone's cup of tea (esp. for certain Evangelicalesque Barthians who live in Brisbane), but I have benefitted immensely from Bill Craig's scholarly output that has included studies on Christian Theism, Cosmology, the Resurrection, and Divine Foreknowledge. Craig travels the world engaging in various public speaking events and debates. A collection of his debates are available from Apollos and he has mixed it with the best included John Dominic Crossan and Gerd Ludemann. James Crossley is no dummy and he will give as good as he gets, but I think that James might find himself out-gunned by a very effective communicator.

James Crossley vs. Willian Lane Craig. It is sponsored by the UCCF and the details are:

Was Jesus Bodily Raised from the Dead?
MAJOR DEBATE with Dr James Crossley

7.30pm, Tuesday 6th March, SHEFFIELD
University Student Union Auditorium, Western Bank,
S10 2TN

I consider James a friend and I have the utmost respect for his scholarship, but as much as I like James, I'll probably be barracking for Bill Craig (sorry James, nothing personal, just business mate).

Be there or be elsewhere. I may trot down to Sheffield for the show myself!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Paul the Jew

Myself and Preston Sprinkle (blogger name Exegetical Fallacy) are currently working on an article on "Jewish Interpretation of Paul in the Last 30 years" which has been good to do. I've been reading over Hyam Maccoby and Mark Nanos. But in the course of my research I've come across a few provocative articles that are available on-line. I mention two:

The first is by Helmut Koester on Strugnell and Supersessionism: Historic Mistakes Haunt the Relationship of Christianity and Judaism (BAR) and includes this quote:
"Almost 30 years ago, a conference about Judaism and Christianity was held at Harvard University, with very high-powered participation from theologians and scholars from the USA and from abroad. But one of the key addresses was a complete disaster and caused great embarrassment. It was a lecture by the well-known German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg, who insisted that the Hebrew Bible (which he called the Old Testament) can be understood properly by both Jews and Christians only if it is acknowledged that its ultimate meaning is seen as a prophecy for the fulfillment in Jesus the Christ. I still remember that my hands froze when I wanted to join in the polite applause at the end of the lecture. On this basis, Christians can no longer claim that they are interested in a dialogue. Of course, from a perspective of traditional Christian theology, Wolfhart Pannenberg did nothing wrong. From that perspective it is also difficult to criticize those readers’ responses, which you printed, who wondered why there was anything wrong with agreeing with John Strugnell’s wish that all Jews should be converted to Christianity. However, there is neither a historical nor a theological justification for such claims."
The second is by Pamela Eisenbaum on Is Paul the Father of Misogyny and Antisemitism? (Crosscurrents) and on Gal. 3.28 she writes:

"Although I generally position myself with liberal commentators and am profoundly influenced by the new perspective in my reading of Paul, I am troubled by the inclusive reading of Gal. 3:28. At the turn of the twenty-first century, I imagine that most Americans would agree that the elimination of slavery and the obliteration of all master-slave distinctions between people is a social good, such that we feel no ambiguity about proclaiming "no longer slave or free" and meaning it literally. But how about "no longer male and female"? Do we feel the same unambiguous enthusiasm for collapsing those distinctions? Can such a claim function as part of the utopian vision for modern Americans, even those of liberal leanings? If by "no longer male and female" we mean equal political, social, and vocational opportunity for all women and men, then perhaps we might find it easy to subscribe to the dictum. But Paul does not use the language of equality; rather, he issues a call for erasing the distinguishing marks between people (if one accepts the liberal reading). Some liberal intellectuals, many who identify themselves as feminist, believe there are essential differences between men and women, differences which may or may not be complementary but which in any case cannot be transcended. In other words, erasing the distinction between women and men is neither attainable nor desirable."

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Adolf Schlatter on Prayer

"Faith is God's gift; so too is that prayer that proceeds from faith. Precisely through believing prayer we overcome that arrogance that would gladly place itself above God. And humility becomes a possibility, for we receive with thanks all good things from his hand, as we derive with supplication our actions from his will. As faith brings about deliverance from the self, prayer brings about repudiation of our selfish will - not so that we will become will-less, but so that our will might be founded on God's rule and reign."

Werner Neuer, Adolf Schlatter (trans. R. Yarbrough), p. 162.

Awesome!! This gives my prayer life the revitalizing that it needed.

This biography of Schlatter includes a number of wonderful appendices written by Schlatter; the one on prayer is a must read! So throw away your Left Behind books, for the love of Martha stop watching 24 and Lost, and go ye and read Schlatter's biography - it is much more edifying!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Seth Schwartz's Imperialism and Jewish Society, 200 B.C.E to 640 C.E.

I have been reading Schwartz's two chapters on pre-70 Palestinian Jews and have found them very stimulating and informative. He provides a very good and brief summary of the history of the period from the arrival of the Persian Empire to the division of Herod’s Kingdom among his sons (539BCE - 4BCE) (chapter one) and then an insightful dicussion of religion and society (chapter two). Among the important points he argues are the following:

1. Hellenism. Hellenism defined as taking up some Greek culture, “acting Greek”,without abandoning one’s own culture was not the enemy against which much of the energy of Palestinian Jews was directed. In fact, the evidence both literarily and materially suggests that Hellenism was a commonly embraced experience among Palestinian Jews even before the coming of Alexander the Great. Schwartz comments, “Indeed, the new literature demonstrates that the search [by modern scholars] in Jewish sources for Greek influence and native resistance in the form of opposition to Hellenism is largely misguided” (31).

2. Herod the Great. Herod’s policies turned the Jewish Palestine into a single state, a state closely tied to the Jewish Diaspora. Schwartz sees this as the enduring significance of his reign. While his sordid personal life is what tends to get the spotlight, perhaps understandably, Herod’s ambitious consolidating of his kingdom and his massive building projects made Palestine and Jerusalem its capital central to the life of Jews throughout the Roman Empire. Schwartz writes, “It was now the metropolis of all the world’s Jews, whether they were Judaean or hailed from the annexed districts of Palestine or the Roman or Parthian Diaspora. Jerusalem had perhaps long been the symbolic or sentimental Jewish center, but now it was so in reality, as well” (47).

3. God-Torah-Temple. Schwartz argues that this complex formed the ideological center of Judaism. This notwithstanding, he believes that this idea is not necessarily self-evident and doesn’t tell us anything about what was actually done in practice by Palestinian Jews. Given the diversity of Palestine and the Diaspora, it is likely that while the ideology was promoted and paid lip service the situation on the ground so to speak was likely varying depending on local custom and practice.

4. The Ideal Israelite Society. Schwartz makes an important point about Israelite society in its “ideal form”. He says that the ideological system embodied in the Torah has a vision of society that is “characterized by a mild tension between hierarchical and egalitarian principles . . . egalitarian in that all adult males share the obligation to know and observe God’s laws but hierarchical in that a hereditary priesthood is assigned a special role in maintaining God’s favor toward Israel” (64). I find this to be an important insight into the first-century Jewish worldview. In view of the recent presentation of an egalitarian Jesus (e.g. W. Carter), one needs to keep in mind that central to Jesus’ Judaism was a tension. Now it is possible that Jesus repudiated the hierarchical aspects of his tradition, but the Gospel evidence seems to point in the direction of congruity with the mild tension observable in Judaism. Perhaps Carter and others have been right to emphasize the egalitarian aspects of Jesus mission and message, but it seems to me to be inappropriate to conclude that Jesus endorsed an exclusively egalitarian message (cf. Matt 16).

5. Jewish Sects. Schwartz argues that the sects while inconsequential in the affairs of Palestinian Judaism, were not marginal as most assume. They were numberous especially in Judea. He takes Josephus's numbers as largely accurate and suggests that sectarians compromised 15 to 30 percent of the adult male population of Judea. He believes this view is plausible in view of the large amount of well-off, well-educated priestly Jews in first-century Judea.

I commend this work to those interested in studying Judaism of the Second Temple period.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Alexandra Pelosi on Culture Wars

I do not normally comment on evangelicalism, American politics and the culture wars, but I did find this snippet from RNS to be interesting.

(RNS) “I believe in the culture war. And you know what? If I have to take a side in the culture war, I'll take their side. Because if you give me the choice of Paris Hilton or Jesus, I'll take Jesus.”
-- Filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi, talking to The New York Times about her new film, “Friends of God,” about evangelical Christians. She is the daughter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Around the Blogs

First, there is an excerpt from R. Scott Clark (ed). How We Got Here: The Roots of the Current Controversy over Justification which is the opening chapter on a book raising alarm about several issues in the US (I find it most concerning that some Reformed scholars cannot say "Scripture" without also adding "as understood by the Reformed Confessions" as if Scripture needs the Confessions in order to be authoritative or comprehensible. In my view Sola Scriptura means Scripture alone or Scripture plus nothing! Not Scripture as interpreted by the Talmud. Not Scripture as interpreted by the Magisterium. Not Scripture as interpreted by the Westminster or Philadelphia Confessions. The Confessions are a wonderful and useful compendium of what Scripture teaches but they are not an extension of, surrogate for, or proxy for Scripture itself. Scripture is supreme over the Confessions). HT: Daniel Kirk. And the book is available from the Westminster Theological Seminary Bookstore.

Second, Tim Chester is doing some cool stuff on Revelation and Globalisation.

Third, Alan Street notes that Oscar Cullmann is making a reprint comeback thanks to Wipf & Stock.

Fourth, if the details are indeed accurate, Wade Burleson notes a grave travesty of injustice against a sister-in-Christ (Sheri Klouda).

Fifth, Ben Myers posts Kim Fabricius' Twelve propositions on same-sex relationships and the church. I think I'll side with Michael Jensen on that one (see the comments). Let me say, everybody is invited to my church, women, blacks, drunks, whores, poofs, druggies, and even Republicans - and come as you are! But nobody is allowed to stay as they are. And if you have to do business with God in the area of sexuality (straight, gay, bi- whatever) then so be it. For all have sinned and fall short the glory of God and need to experience the justifying and transforming power of the gospel!

Sixth, Scot McKnight has a letter to Emerging Christians which is worth reading.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

New Blogs XIII

On the blogosphere I have just come across the blog Scripta de Divinis by Tim Brookins. His blog "focuses primarily on my interests in the field of New Testaments studies and fields germane to this area." He is currently doing a series on the Apocrypha. The post on 1 Esdras is of great interest to me and Joel as we're planning on being "all about Esdras" next year!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Paidagogos in Gal. 3.24

Commentaries on Gal. 3.24 frequently draw attention to the negative portrayal of the paidagogos or "guardian" in extant literature as they were often harsh and brutal in their disciplining of youngsters. Nonetheless, some paidagogoi had a genuine affection for those in their care and while many children loathed their nurses or guardians, others developed a very strong bond with them, in some cases, a relationship stronger than with their biological parents. This is evidence by at least one inscription where an epitaph was erected by the paedagogus of a girl betrothed to marry, no less than, the Roman emperor Claudius, but unfortunately died prematurely. It reads:

"Who died on the day when the later Emperor Claudius was to have married her ... To Medullina, daughter of Camillus, espoused to Tiberius Claudius Nero Germanicus. The freedman of Acratus, her paedogogus."

Cited from CIL 10.6561 and Peter Balla, The Child-Parent Relationship in the NT and its Environment, p. 43, n. 10.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Wright Watch

N.T. Wright is in the news again on two fronts:

First, check out the article at Virtuosity about how Wright blasts an Evangelical Anglican group for threatening to withold funds from the Church of England.

Second, Jim Hamilton offers some Q & A on N.T. Wright with a string of comments.

Renan and the "Fifth Gospel"

I thought I'd throw up a short post as a follow up to Joel's excellent series about his trip to Israel.

(Photo is Tiberias by the Sea of Galilee)

In the pre-Schweitzer book of Ernest Renan, The Life of Jesus (London J.M. Dent & Sons, 1927 [1883], 27-28), one finds this quote:

"Such are the rules which have been followed in the composition of this work. To the perusal of documentary evidences I have been able to add an important source of information -- the sight of the places where the events occurred. The scientific mission, having for its object the exploration of ancient Phoenicia, which I directed in i86o and 1861, led me to reside on the frontiers of Galilee, and to travel there frequently. I have traversed, in all directions, the country of the Gospels; I have visited Jerusalem, Hebron, and Samaria; scarcely any important locality of the history of Jesus has escaped me. All this history, which at a distance seems to float in the clouds of an unreal world, thus took a form, a solidity which astonished me. The striking agreement of the texts with the places, the marvellous harmony of the Gospel ideal with the country which served it as a framework, were like a revelation to me, I had before my eyes a fifth Gospel, torn, but still legible, and henceforward, through the recitals of Matthew and Mark, in place of an abstract being, whose existence might have been doubted, I saw living and moving an admirable human figure. During the summer, having to go up to Ghazir, in Lebanon, to take a little repose, I fixed, in rapid sketches, the image which had appeared to me, and from them resulted this history. When a cruel bereavement hastened my departure, I had but a few pages to write. In this manner the book has been composed almost entirely near the very places where Jesus was born, and where his character was developed. Since my return I have laboured unceasingly to verify and check in detail the rough sketch which I had written in haste in a Maronite cabin, with five or six volumes around me."

Read the whole work at (no surprises) Internet Infidels and Schweitzer's critique of Renan in chapter thirteen of his book Quest for the Historical Jesus.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Reflections on the Holy Land, Part 2

Here is a question I have been pondering as a consequence of my recent trip to the Holy Land: How will a scholar interpret the New Testament differently (perhaps better), if she has an intimate fimilarity with the Land? Can one quantify the difference between a scholar who knows the land well and one who doesn't in their interpretation of Jesus and the Gospels? How much better will the research of a New Testament scholar be because they trimmed a balk and practiced the "waffer" method in a square or studied the pottery shards found in the dirt or dug up the walls of an ancient Jewish village? How much better will be the scholarhsip of one who has travelled the length and breadth of upper and lower Galilee, or gazed at the temple mount from the Mount of Olives or smelled the air off the sea at Caesarea, or hiked the cliffs above Qumran?

As with most things, this can't be an either/or answer. There have been plenty of NT scholars throughout the history of NT research who have made valuable contributions to the field without ever setting foot in the Land. Moreover, it is surely possible to point out flawed and weak views of scholars who know the land well. Yet, these facts suggest to me more a case of an expection that justifies the rule than undermining a basic premise that perosnal knolwedge of the Holy Land as well as biblical archaeology will lead to better interpretations. This point seems to me to be inassailable.

Reflections on the Holy Land, Part 1

I have recently returned from a ten day trip to the Holy Land and I have a lot on my mind. I plan to write a series of posts on my experience asking questions along the way. First let me begin by giving a brief recap of my trip.

The trip was one that I put together rather hastily within about three weeks. I applied for a development grant from NPU to go to Israel for academic development in the areas of geography and archaeology and I had a short window in which to use the funds--given our pregnancy.

I spent four nights three days in Jerusalem, three nights two days in Galilee and one night two days in Dead Sea region primarily in the area of Ein Gedi.

While I was in Jerusalem I attached myself to the Jerusalem University College located on Mount Zion. Dr. Paul Wright, the director of JUC, hosted me and helped me organize my trip. I am very impressed by JUC. Their location is amazing and their faculty boasts of experts in the fields of archaeology, historical geography, and rabbinics, just to name a few. Figures like Anson Rainey, recently authored The Sacred Bridge, have been teaching courses at the college for nearly 40 years. I join in for a few days on their intensive geography class. We took two walks around Jerusalem including Jewish and Christian Quarter, the City of David as well as surveyed several approaches to Jerusalem, such as the Mt of Olives, Mt Scopus, and Bethlehem.

After a few days in Jerusalem, I rented a car and drove north toward Galilee. My goal for this section of the trip was to get a sense of the Galilee that Jesus and his disciples transversed over the period of his mission. On the way, I drove west through Tel Aviv up the coastal plain toward Acre (Ptolemais) stopping in Caesarea. I visited on a windy, rainy day, but it took nothing from the power of the place that was visited by Peter, several times by Paul and the home of Eusebius and Rabbi Judah haNassi.

I spent a few hours there before continuing to head north and east through upper Galilee. What impressed upon me most was how moutainness the region is. Jesus walked the length and breadth of this most rugged of regions.

Getting to my hotel on the Sea of Galilee after dark, the following two days I visited sites such as Gamala, Sepphoris, Banyas (Caesarea Phillipi), Mt Hermon, Nazareth, Capernaum, Chorazin, Bethsaida, Mt. Tabor and Tiberias. I think the most interesting aspect of this part of the trip was to read Josephus' War as visited places like Gamala. This was true of my visit to Masada as well. In addition, I visited the Mount of Beatitudes, the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, the Church of the Primacy of St Peter and the so-called "Jesus Boat" at Kibbutz Ginosar.

The last two days of the trip I headed down to the Dead Sea region. I did some hiking on the cliffs around Qumran, visited Masada and, most excitingly, I joined in on a dig at Ein Gedi on my last day.

The trip was productive and formative for me.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Coming of the Son of Man

I have just got through reading Andrew Perriman's book The Coming of the Son of Man and the volume is best described as the indigenization of the Dodd-Caird-Wright eschatological scheme for the emerging church. At the core, Perriman is advocating a robust preterist approach to NT eschatology. Perriman proposes that in many ways we have already moved beyond the eschatological purview of the biblical authors and entered into 'the age to come'; and this is not just in Mark 13, but even many of Paul's letters and the book of Revelation lend themselves to this perspective.

Perriman runs the site Open Source Theology and this includes a page dedicated to discussion of his volume. Other reviews include: James Mercer and Chris Tilling offers some brief comments.

Perriman's book has some good things going for it. For instance, he argues that the direction of travel for the Son of Man in Dan 7.13/Mark 13:26 is insignificant (whether he descends from heaven to earth or ascends from earth to heaven) since the primary point is a transfer of authority (pp. 55, 61). I could go along with that after some more thought!

Second, there is a provcative parable at the end of the book which sums up Perriman's approach:

Let us imagine first-century Judaism as a ship - a splendid but badly run ship in which the officers and crew mistreat the passengers and squabble and fight over who should have control of the vessel. Blinded by their obsessions and jealousies, no one on the bridge notices that the ship is drifting towards a ferocious eschatological storm. When one or two men raise the alarm, they are seized as trouble-markers, brutally beaten, and thrown overboard. As the winds tear at the rigging and waves wash across the deck, a few brave souls decide to heed the warnings; they lower a lifeboat and take their chances on the rough seas. To the passengers and crew who stay on board this seems a reckless and disloyal move - and at times those clinging desperately to each other in the belly of the small boat, as it pitches and rolls, wonder if they have made the right choice. Some are swept overboard, some die from exposure and hunger. They cry out to the dark heavens, praying that the storm would cease. But they do not give up home; they believe that they have done the right thing. Then from a distance they watch in horror as the ship strikes rocks and sinks with massive loss of life - they are appalled, but they also feel vindicated. Eventually the wind drops, the waves subside. The lifeboat runs ashore on a sandy each. They have come to the end of the end; they have survived. This is the beginning of a new age.
This is certainly an interesting volume and it is a radical alternative to many traditional Christian beliefs about the end times (not least including dispensational ones). I can go along with a preterist view esp. in Mark 13 and to some degree in Revelation, but I get the feeling that Perriman has pretty much collapsed the entire eschatological scenario into pre-70 CE events. That part, I cannot go with.

Perriman is worth checking out, but for a stark alternative to read beside him I recommend Dale C. Allison's, Jesus of Nazareth: Millenarian Prophet, pp. 147-71 and also suggest the last chapters of Ben Witherington's, Jesus the Seer.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bruce Chilton on H.C. Kee's book The Beginnings of Christianity: An Introduction to the New Testament

Bruce Chilton has recently reviewed H.C. Kee's book on The Beginnings of Christianity at BAR.

Kee's volume is basically a Christian Origins approach to the NT Introduction genre. What I liked about Kee's book is that he gives good attention to the sociological side of things but without every trying to jettison the theological dimension or the "God question" out of the texts - there is no sociological reductionism and no reconstruction of mythic communities. (My own review had just been published in the UK journal Theology). A highlight of the book is the many excurses which deal with a variety of topics useful to understanding the NT, like the one on Paul and Stoicism etc.

HT: Jim West

Academic post at Kings College London

King's College London has decided to make a new appointment, and is currently advertising the post of Professor or Reader in Christianity and the Arts (details, including downloadable job spec and application form, are on the College's at website). We are very keen that the person appointed should have a strong Theological - and preferably Biblical - background.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

NT post at Nazarene Theological College

Senior Lecturer in New Testament Studies

Nazarene Theological College invites applications for a full-time post (Senior Lecturer) in New Testament studies, effective July 1st, 2007.

Nazarene Theological College is a research-led partner college of The University of Manchester. Situated in Didsbury, Manchester, the College is an institution of the Church of the Nazarene and within the evangelical Wesleyan Arminian Holiness tradition. Founded in 1944, NTC has some 250 students (both full and part time), across undergraduate and postgraduate programmes of study, representing some forty different nationalities. The College also prepares candidates for ordination in the Church of the Nazarene.

The successful candidate will join a closely-knit team of core faculty, each of whom is active in her or his own discipline.

The successful candidate will
- hold the PhD degree in an area of New Testament studies
- have an active research profile
- have prior successful teaching experience
- be able to take on a range of teaching and supervisory responsibilities, including PhD supervision, MA teaching, and undergraduate teaching
- be willing to become an active contributor to the Manchester Wesley Research Centre, based at the College
- have some experience in areas of pastoral care
- be able to take a role in student tutorial support
- be an active member in good standing of an evangelical church within the Wesleyan Tradition

In this instance, it is an advantage if a candidate
- holds a PhD from a British University
- has the ability to teach in a cross-disciplinary setting in areas of Mission Studies (MA level) and Pastoral or Social Theology (undergraduate level)
- has had cross-cultural teaching experience

Contract and Salary Range:
The appointment will initially be for a two year probationary period, with the expectation of a permanent rolling contract to take effect subsequently. The current salary range is £20696 to £23671.

Closing date: February 1st, 2007

For further information and an application form, please write to Dr Peter Rae (Dean), Nazarene Theological College, Dene Road, Manchester M20 2GU or email prae[at]

Monday, January 08, 2007

Peter Davids on the Authorship of 2 Peter

Out of all the books of the NT, the book that has its authorship questioned the most often has to be that of 2 Peter. The second letter of Peter is largely regarded as pseudepigraphical in contemporary scholarship, even by a good many conservative scholars (e.g. Richard Bauckham, David deSilva). I found Peter H. David's comments all the more interesting for this very reason.

Davids overviews Peter in the NT (pp. 123-26) and then proceeds to identify the challenges to Petrine authenticity (pp. 126-30). (1) 2 Peter is written to a Gentile audience whereas Peter himself had a ministry to the circumcision (Jews); (2) There are thematic differences between 1 and 2 Peter. (3) 2 Peter is different from 1 Peter in terms of the quality of its Greek. (4) 2 Peter is also rich in Graeco-Roman concepts and culture and there is a lack of OT references in comparison to 1 Peter. To this I would add (5) the false teachers are more gnostic-esque than elsewhere in the NT; (6) 2 Peter is dependent upon Jude [as Davids admits]; and (7) 2 Peter may assume the collection and veneration of Paul's writings.

David's states at the end: "Certainly one can mount a good defense of Petrine authorship, as Michael Green has done, or one can decide that 2 Peter must have been composed later than the life of Peter, as Richard Bauckham has done. Both Green and Bauckham are British evangelical scholars, but in either case we are working with incomplete evidence [i.e. lack of knowledge of Peter's education and background] and so cannot have a conclusive answer." (p. 130).

About Bauckham in particular he writes: "While Bauckham believes that 2 Peter is pseudepigraphical, he also believes that it is written in a testamental form and that the genre would have been recognized by any contemporary reader as being written in the spirit of Peter rather than having been writen by Peter. Thus, he argues, the document was neither intended to deceive nor did it in fact deceive its first readers. They would have thought of it as being about Peter rather than by Peter. Bauckham may be right or wrong on this, but the position he holds is fully compatible with evangelical affirmations about the trustworthiness of the canonical Scriptures in all that they truly affirm (versus what we may misread them as affirming). (130, n. 2).

Davids agrees with Bauckham that 2 Peter is a farewell speech, but he disagrees that it is a testament like Jewish testaments (e.g. Testament of Moses, Testament of the 12 Patriarchs, etc). But Davids says this in the end: "It is not unreasonable to believe that 2 Peter is pseudepigraphal, although Bauckham assumes the pseudepigaphal character of 2 Peter as being incontrovertible, which in our mind goes beyond the evidence. While it is not unreasonable to believe that 2 Peter is pseudepigraphical, one comes to this conclusion by making assumptions about Simon Peter that, while they are reasonable, are not the only reasonable assumptions that one could make. The fact is that we do not know enough of Simon Peter's history to know whether or not he could have written 2 Peter [or 1 Peter]. Given that we cannot be fully convinced one way or the other, one wonders how the first-century reader could be clear that it was pseudepigraphical, that it was a testament, and that therefore it did not intend to be anything other than pseudepigraphical? Perhaps they could; one cannot rule out Bauckham's hypothesis as totally out of the question. But to me it is not proved. 2 Peter is a farewell letter. It does show characteristics that differentiate it from 1 Peter. It does show a significant knowledge of the Greco-Roman world, including the use of key philosophical terms. But in the absence of a biography of Simon Peter and in particular knowledge of his education and his activities after A.D. 44, one cannot really know whether or not he was capable of writing it ... We do not deny the problems. We do not claim that one can show that he did write it ... In the end we have to conclude that the salutation claims that this letter was written by Simon Peter and that we by the nature of the case cannot know from historical investigation whether this is in some sense actual or is a pseudepigraphical attribution" (p. 149).

Sunday, January 07, 2007

John's Prologue

John's prologue is the key to the Gospel, and here is a gem of quote from M.D. Hooker concerning bot its significance and integrity:

John’s prologue begins and ends with references to the wider narrative: the story he is about to tell has its origins ‘in the beginning’, and it is the crucial turning point in the continuing story of God’s dealings with the world which he has made. Within that wider narrative, God’s self-revelation to his people Israel is a vital factor; how, then, does the story the evangelist is about to tell relate to the Torah, and to the promises made to Israel? John’s answer is that Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of those promises because he is the fulfilment of the Torah itself – the true embodiment of God’s self-revelation which was glimpsed by Moses on Sinai [p. 188].
The relevance of John’s prologue to the rest of his Gospel is clear, but it nevertheless stands apart from it, and it is precisely because it stands apart from it that commentators have sometimes argued that it is a later addition to the Gospel [e.g. Robinson]. This over-analytic approach overlooks the purpose and necessity of a prologue for a narrative of this kind [cf. Barrett]. John’s prologue is no more an addition to the text than were the prologues to Shakespearian plays, which were intended to enable the audience to comprehend the plot. Once you know the story, of course, the need for a prologue is not so obvious [p. 189].

Morna D. Hooker, ‘Beginnings and Endings,’ in The Written Gospel, eds. Markus Bockmuehl and D.A. Hagner (FS Graham Stanton; Cambridge: CUP, 2005), 188-89.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Theological Book Network

I have just learned of the Theological Book Network who have as their mission: "To provide quality academic books and journals to the libraries of seminaries, colleges and universities in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East that provide theological training toward the development of leaders, teachers and clergy in the Christian Church."

This sounds like a worthy cause and readers should allow others to benefit from their excess library stocks. I just came across a second copy of Stephen S. Smalley's John: Evangelist and Interpreter on my shelves and now I know where to send it.

HT:James Darlack

Friday, January 05, 2007

Cullmann on "The Return of Christ"

"But to rediscover the vigorous faith of the early Christians it is even more important to restore our own period of time to its place within the whole history of salvation, to see it as the end-time, between the resurrection and the return of Christ. The time of the Church is founded on the cross and resurrection. It lives in expectation of the Lord's return. It needs courage to consider our history in this way, but that is precisely what is implied by the faith of the New Testament. On this road, which leads from the suffering and risen Christ to the Lord of glory, our hope will no longer be a vague remembrance of overworn concepts but a living certainty in that Christ is the same yesterday, today and in the age to come. Following the example of the Church of the New Testament we preach Christ who was crucified in the past, we acknowledge courageously that Christ is the Kurios who now reigns hidden from our eyes, we pray in the truth to the Christ who is to return: Maranatha!"

Oscar Cullman, "The Return of Christ," in The Early Church (trans. A.J.B. Higgins; London: SCM, 1956), pp. 161-62.

Latest Issue of RTR

The latest issue of Reformed Theological Review 65.3 (2006) features the following articles:

Allan M. Harman
Dr. Leon Morris

Michael F. Bird
'A Light to the Nations' (Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6): Inter-Textuality and Mission Theology in the Early Church

Michael Jensen
The Genesis of Hell: Eternal Torment in the Consciousness of Early Christianity

Andrew S. Malone
Wenham's Old and New: The Elements of a Classroom Greek Text

Tom Wright and Reactions

Over at the blog Sacra Doctrina there is a post by Joel Garver about Tom Wright and Reactions which is a fair evaluation of why NTW generates so much controversy.

HT: Nate Mihelis

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Historical Jesus, the Christ of Faith and the Simpsons

If anyone wants to understand postmodern views of Christianity then watching the Simpson's is a necessary task. Ned Flanders is the most visible face of Christianity to a larger number of unchurched persons (like it or not). Most conversations that I had with non-Christians when I was in the Army often started with the Simpsons and with Ned Flanders. Young solidiers were watching the show and they had questions about Ned and ideas about religion stimulated by watching the show.

This afternoon I was watching one particular episode (Lisa the Iconoclast) where Lisa uncovers the truth about Jebediah Springfield who was not a benevolent American folk hero but a former pirate who tried to kill George Washington (so it goes). And yet at the end of it she is unable to debunk the myth because she sees that the Jebediah myth is a great source of community spirit, pride, and hope to her fellow Springfieldians. I remember thinking: my gosh, this is the Jesus of History vs. Christ of Faith debate being played out again in Simpson's mode. The idea of a "noble lie" or "magnificent myth" as the foundation of the community's values goes back to Plato and his Republic. Here's a few reflections:

1. There is and must be a discontinuity between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith, since the Christ who is worshipped is not merely a crucified criminal but is the exalted and ascended Lord.

2. James Dunn contends that the centre of the NT is the identification of the historical Jesus with the exalted Christ and so necessitates a link between Jesus and Christ in some form. For Bultmann the question of the relationship between Jesus and the exalted Christ was the driving question of his NT Theology. Although Bultmann's failings were manifold and many, I think he was asking the right question at this point.

3. I would maintain that, with Kasemann and Byrksog among others, that for Paul the one who is Kurios (Lord) is also ho stauromenos (the one crucified) and shows that the historical Jesus was properly basic to the faith of the early church and that post-easter enthusiasm did not eradicate the link between Galilee/Golgotha and the heavenly Christ.

4. A study of the historical Jesus is necessary precisely because history is the theatre of God's activities and as such Christianity cannot rest on a "mangificent or noble myth" for that very reason.

Durham Cathedral Christmas Prayer

During my visit at Durham Cathedral I got a free bookmark which features this Xmas prayer on it:

God of love, in the coming of your Son at Christmas a great light has shone upon the world. May his light fill our hearts and our homes, bring peace and good will among the nations, and lead us to worship at his manger-throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
On a similar note, I've taken to reading the English Book of Common Prayer as Part of my Morning Devotionals and I am finding it most uplifting. I have certainly over come my phobia of written prayers this way. Although I cannot see my American friends praying for the good health of the Queen!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Adolf Schlatter's Biography

At the moment I'm spending my holiday period reading certain things, one of which is Werner Neuer's biography of Adolf Schlatter. I learned from my friend and Pastor back in Australia, Craig Lloyd, the value of reading biographies. Schlatter's is a must read. Here's a few quotes or bits of trivia from what I've read so far:

Quoting Schlatter himself from a letter: "I see no comparable juncture in my life that had such a decisive effect on my personal direction. I came to the conclusion that avoding theological study to preserve faith was rank hypocrisy, and this conclusion brought decisive consequences. When people ask me to describe the day of my conversion, I am inclined to tell them that it was the day of my decision to study theology."

Schlatter got top grades in his university studies but turned down a lucrative scholarship in order to go into ministry in the Reformed church.

One of the first churches that Schlatter pastored in was Neumunster on the eastern shore of Zurich. This church had some problems including: "There was a theology professor who entered the pulpit drunk; an education director who would occasionally be found passed out on the street; a congregational leader who had amassed considerable power for himself, who publicly stated that he made use of local houses of prostitution, yet was confirmed in his church office by a raucous majority."

More anon.