Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Inscriptions on Apostates

I an currently reading Stephen Wilson's Leaving the Fold: Apostates and Defectors in Antiquity (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004). It includes some good epigraphic evidence for either Jewish acculuturation to pagan culture or for apostasy altogether:

Moschos, son of Moschion, a Jew, as a result of a dream [has set up this stele] at the command of the god Amphiaraos and Hygeia, in accordance with the orders of Amphiaraos and Hygeia to write these things on a stele and set [it] up by the altar.

Series of Inscriptions at the temple of the god Pan

Bless God! Theodotos [son] of Dorion, a Jew, rescued from the sea.

Ptolemaios [son] of Dionysios, a Jew, blesses the god.

And some others like this one from North Africa:

In memory [plus chi-rho symbol] of the blessed Istablicus who is also called Donatus. Installed by his brother Peregrinus, who is also called Mosattes, once a Jew.

This inscription from Italy in the fourth to fifth century implies a Jew's conversion to Christianity:

Here lies Peter, who is [also called] Papario, son of Olympus the Jew, and the only one of his family/people who has deserved to attain the grace of Christ.

See Wilson, pp. 52-65.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Willitts at 36

I turn 36 years old today. And I have to say that I can't imagine being happier with where my life has taken me. It has taken me 36 years, but I really believe that I have found my sweet spot and I am hoping to say here doing what I am doing for a long time. I have been given so much by God and most of what I have dreamed of for my life has and is coming true. What a great place to be. I know that life is much about surviving very difficult times and let me say we have had our share of dark days with infertility. In addition, my Ph.D. experience was not exactly a walk in the park. But here I am with a degree from Cambridge--or should I say soon to be when James Carleton Paget finally gets around to checking off on my revisions that have been sitting on a table in his office since August of 2006, a wonderful post at a great university and a great faculty, a condo in the city of Chicago, a beautifully pregnant wife, twins on the way, and a great new church.

Please praise God with me for his goodness in my life, in spite of my own unfaithful and wayward heart.

And 36 is still mid-thirties!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Witherington on 1 John 2.2

In his recent book Letters And Homilies for Hellenized Christians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy And 1-3 John, Ben Witherington says this about 1 John 2.2:

"In any event, we must note that the verb tense is present continual: Jesus is now, and always will be, the believer's offering for sin. But notice the stress that Jesus' atoning death was not merely for the sins of believers, but for the sins of the world. He is not the Saviour merely of the community, but of the world - a thought developed futher in 1 John 4:9-14, showing that a narrowly sectarian reading of the soteriology in 1 John is wrong."

"In the end, it is not an either/or matter, for both propitiation and expiation are necessary to take care of the sin problem and reconcile God and humankind. And the marvel is that the advocate is propitiator, expiator and propitiation all in one."

Chris VanLandingham, Judgment & Justification

One provocative volume on Pauline studies in recent days is by Chris VanLandingham, Judgment and Justification in Early Judaism and the Apostle Paul (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2006). Available in the UK and Europe through Alban Books for £16.99 and through Hendrickson in the USA for $29.99.

VanLandingham (henceforth VanL.) contests the picture of second-temple Judaism as having a soteriological structured along the lines of E.P. Sanders' "covenantal nomism" and argues that it was more works orientated than is often recognized. At the same time, VanL. advocates that Paul is in many ways equally works orientated in his view of final justification by works. In this sense VanL. argues against the grain of both revisionist and reformed readings of Paul and Judaism. He wants to reevaluate the relationship between divine grace and human rewards as they relate to the destiny of the individual in Judasm and the writings of Paul. He writes:

"My thesis is that in the letters of Paul and in much of the literature of Judaism from the Greek and Early Roman periods, a post-mortem or Last Judgment of God determines an individual's eternal destiny. Moreover, both corpora agree that an individuals' behavior during his or her lifetime provides the criterion for this judgment: good behavior is rewarded with eternal life, bad behavior with damnation . . . This book also examines the notion of divine recompense within the framework of God's grace and mercy as understood in early post-biblical Jewish texts and in Paul's letters. God's grace and mercy may be present throughout a person's life, working on his or her behalf; but one's deeds determine approbation at the final judgment. On this subject, I find no difference between Paul and his Jewish contemporaries" (p. 15).

In chapter 1 VanL. looks at the theme of the election of Israel and he finds that in accounts of Abraham's election that divine grace is remarkably absent - election is a result of Abraham's obedience. In chapter 2 VanL. examines the criteria for eternal life. VanL. maintains that in much literature it is not God's covenant with Israel but one's behaviour that determines one's destiny. VanL. shifts his focus to Paul in chapter 3 and he asserts that at the final assize God could potentially reject believers for moral failure and God's judgment is principally retributive and behaviour forms the "sole" criterion. Then in chapter 4 VanL. offers his solution to the paradox of justification by faith and judgment according to deeds. VanL. contests the forensic meaning of justification and contends that it refers to forgiveness of sins and freedom from sin at the beginning of the Christian life. He writes in his conclusion:

"What happens to the Christian initiate at the time of faith or baptism of course has an effect upon how that person will be judged by God, but he or she is not ultimately approved solely because of the work of Christ, or because of baptism, or because of faith in Jesus as Christ and Lord. The Last Judgment is not a judgment over the work of Christ or even over what the Holy Spirit has done in the believer; it is a judgment over the individual and what he or she has done. The work of Christ has made it possible to receive approbation in a judgment according to deeds, but not because God is merciful toward the Christian based on Christ's merit, nor because in God's perception Christ's death has made it as though the Christian has never sinned. Rather, the process of salvation is worked out as follows: At the time of faith, a person who has been 'made righteous' is forgiven of past sins (which then become a dead issue), cleansed from the guilt and impurity of sin, freed from the human propensity to sin, and then given the ability to obey. The Last Judgment will then determine whether a person, as an act of the will has followed through with these benefits of Christ's death. If so, eternal life will be the reward; if not, damnation"
(p. 335).

I do not have time to enter into a major discussion with VanL.'s book. But if he is right it would have tremendous repercussions for understanding Judaism and Paul. Overall, VanL. offers a very careful analysis of texts from second-temple Judaism and Paul and his case is worth listening to as he questions many assumptions, both modern and ancient, about Judaism and Paul. In the final analysis, however, I am not convinced by much of his exegesis and I hope at a later date to offer a more extensive article review and engage with his treatments of 1QS and Romans 2 in particular - But that's for another day.

The commendations include:

“With Judgment and Justification Chris VanLandingham enters the fray that is the study of the Apostle Paul against his Jewish backdrop. But rather than simply logging another entry into the catalog of oft-repeated and well-worn arguments, VanLandingham proffers a thesis sure to challenge the positions of all parties in the debate. To those who have followed and advanced the “New Perspective” on Paul first put forth by E. P. Sanders, VanLandingham marshals an impressive array of evidence culled from Jewish sources to argue that the mainstream Judaism of Paul’s day was indeed a religion that urged good works as the path to God’s favor. He radically reinterprets the doctrine of “justification by faith” by arguing that Paul himself fits well into the mold of contemporary Judaism by teaching that those who have experienced forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ must themselves produce a life of good deeds to secure a favorable judgment in the end. Not only will the arguments of this book change the landscape of Pauline studies, but they should also be heard as a contributing voice to Christian theology. This book is not just an engaging piece of scholarship; it will prove to be one of those rare scholarly works that challenge the convictions of those who read it.”
Jeffrey S. Lamp, Associate Professor of New Testament, Oral Roberts University

“Chris VanLandingham’s stunningly provocative and well-argued thesis demands careful engagement. E. P. Sanders was simply wrong as were those who built uncritically on his foundation. Election in Second Temple Judaism was a reward for obedience. Salvation was earned as quid pro quo. The Apostle Paul, for his part, agreed with his Second Temple peers and encouraged his hearers to accrue the good works necessary for the reward of eternal life. Justification (by faith), never employed in forensic contexts, has been almost completely misconstrued. VanLandingham calls for a complete overhaul in our understanding of both Second Temple Judaism and Paul. The theological implications would be breathtaking.”
A. Andrew Das, Niebuhr Distinguished Chair and Associate Professor of Theology and Religion, Elmhurst College

Chris VanLandingham earned his Ph.D. in Judaism and Christianity in the Greco-Roman World from the University of Iowa under the supervision of Dr. George Nickelsburg. He has served as an Assistant Professor of Ancient History at Oral Roberts University and as an Adjunct Professor of Ancient History at St. Gregory's University, both in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Friday, February 23, 2007

An Evening with Johannine Scholarship

I do not have a TV license since I refuse to pay the extortionate fee for one (i.e. £150 = $300 USD = $400 AusD) and I was thus unable to watch the world club challenge between the Brisbane Broncos and St. Helens. Unlike American baseball's "The World Series", the "World Club Challenge" is a Rugby League match that actually includes more than one country. Instead, I spent my time contemplating the sublime mysteries and heavenly ministries of the enigmatic Fourth Gospel with a glass of Italian red wine and a dutch beer to nurture my mind for the task.

I had with me a copy of Andreas Kostenberger's volume on John (BECNT). The author's preface mentions some well-known bloggers such as Alan Bandy, Mark Ownens, and David Croteau (not to mention Kostenberger's own blog Biblical Foundations). I think Kostenberger gets John's Purpose correct when he says: "John's overaching purpose is the demonstration that the Christ, the Son of Ggod, is Jesus (20:30-31). The prologue places the entire Gospel within the framework of the eternal, prexistent Word made flesh in Jesus (1:1-18). The first half of John's narrative sets forth evidence for Jesus' messiahship in the form of seven signs (1:19-12:50; cf. 20:30-31). John also includes Jesus' seven 'I am' sayings ... and calls numerous (seven?) witnesses in support of Jesus' claim, including Moses and the Scriptures, the Baptist, the Father, Jesus and his works, the Spirit, the disciples, and the evangelist himself. Representative questions concerning Jesus' messiahship serve to lead the Gospels' readers to the author's intended conclusion: the Christ is Jesus (e.g. 1:41; 4:25; 7:27, 31, 52; 10:24; 12:34)." (p. 9).

A second book that I browsed through was Martin Hengel's scintillating work Johannine Questions. A summary of Hengel's view of the authorship and origin of John's Gospel and the Johannine Letters is found on pp. 102-8. Hengel says this: "Despite all the tensions and breaks, no New Testament thinker has such integrating, fusing power as the author of the Fourth Gospel. This power not only shaped his unique language but at the same time brings together in his work the threads of the history of religion from all sides: from Qumran, Jewish apocalyptic and wisdom literature; from rabbinic Midrash and from Jewish hekhalot mysticism to Philo, the Hermetica and - later - Gnostic texts. The Jewish element predominates, but the Hellenistic aspect is not absent" (p. 104).

What Must I do to Be Saved?

A forthcoming book from Sheffield Phoenix Press is What Must I Do to Be Saved? Paul Parts Company with his Jewish Heritage by Barry D. Smith. The Blurb reads:

How can one escape God's wrath and gain eternal life? On this crucial theological question, Paul differs from other members of the second-Temple Jewish community. Their soteriology is synergistic: for them, though eschatological salvation is due to God's merciful removal of human guilt, obedience to the Law is also indispensable. The divine and the human co-operate.

Paul however believes that under such a scheme anything less than perfect obedience to the Law is futile. In consequence, if there is to be salvation for sinful humans, it must be a salvation independent of all human effort and achievement, and thus solely through faith. Contrary to the recent consensus, Paul's concern was not primarily the inclusion of gentiles into the church.

This non-synergistic soteriology of Paul's may seem undermined by some of his own statements, that believers must submit to eschatological judgment and that the person without good works will be disqualified from eschatological salvation. But this conclusion is incorrect. For what he holds is that the good works indispensable for salvation are necessarily performed by the believer as manifestations of the indwelling Spirit present in those who have faith in Christ.

I would like to hear what Smith means by 'indispenable' as to whether or not he means 'grounds' or 'evidences'. On the one hand, as I argue in The Saving Righteousness of God, Paul's anthropological pessimism about human beings being able to do the Law is matched only by his pneumatic optimism that Christians through the power of the Spirit can fulfill the Law. And yet, the basis of acquittal in the final assize is not the spirit-enabled-obedience of Christians as much as it is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which enact the verdicts of the final day. Obedience, faithfulness and love are manifestations than authenticate and validate our faith and prove the integrity of the faith that we profess.

Barry D. Smith is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Atlantic Baptist University, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. He runs a very helpful NT resource website called: The New Testament and its Context.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Schlatter on New Testament Theology

This quotes come from Adolf Schlatter:

New Testament Theology itself sharpens our eyes for this independent life of the church by showing how primitive Christianity’s expression of its faith was rooted in its own historical situation, and is therefore something individual and unrepeatable. By confronting us with the peculiar life of the apostolic community and clarifying it for us, New Testament theology makes it impossible for us to transform the New Testament into a series of abstract statements and models that hover around suspended over and above reality. It also strengthens our awareness of the need for dogmatic work, because when we are thus aware that what was once the case can only become real in a particular moment of the past course of history, then the question cannot be avoided: How is what once happened in the past made new in the present? How can we verify that something is the cause of our own being alive when it came into existence in a life that has in part become foreign to us?

Adolf Schlatter, “The Theology of the New Testament and Dogmatics,” in The Nature of New Testament Theology, ed. Robert Morgan (SBT 25; London: SCM, 1973), 117-66.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Pauline Myths: Judaisms and Judaizers

In the course of Pauline studies there are two terms that float around with great frequency, and yet they are little more than semantic myths, words with near technical meaning and near universal assent, but they do not match up to the reality which the word puportedly represents. What are these words?

1. Judaisms. It is often touted that second-temple was so diverse that it is more accurate to speak of Judaisms rather than a singular Judaism. What's the problem here? Well, that there was diversity in second-temple Judaism is a no-brainer, one only has to compare Philo and the Dead Sea Scrolls to figure that one out. Nonetheless, despite the penchant for diversity in second-temple Judaism, authors of this period (like Paul) who were fully aware of the diversity of belief and practice among their co-religionionists always refer to Judaism (Ioudaismos) in the singular! See e.g. 2 Macc. 2.21; 8.1; 14.38; 4 Macc. 4.26; Gal. 1.13-14 (and at least one inscripton from CIJ which I cannot track down).

2. Judaizers. It is common to refer to Paul's opponents as Judaizers and where this term designates Paul's Jewish Christians opponents it is a misleading designation. Why? Well, to begin with only Gentiles can Judaize. One who judaizes is a Gentile and it means to take on, in whole or in part, Jewish customs. In Galatians 2, Paul reprimands Peter (not for judaizing himself) but for forcing Gentiles to judaize. Similarly, Josephus (Wars 2.463) points out that the Syrians in Antioch sought to attack the Jewish populace but had to be wary of the judaizers and this clearly refers to Gentile adherents/sympathizers to Judaism. Where this term designates Gentiles who follow or propagate a Jewish lifestyle (and it could arguably be used to describe certain Gentiles in Romans) it is indeed appropriate - but not for Paul's Jewish Christian adversaies in Antioch and arguably Galatia. I got this insight while reading Mark Nanos' The Irony of Galatians and wish I had applied it in my recent Paul book where I did use the term judaizers. Oh well, all the more reason for a second edition one day - Lord and Paternoster willing.

Friday, February 16, 2007

New Blogs 16

One of our students at HTC, David Kirk, has started his own blog called vorsprung durch theologie which is a series of reflections on his study of a theological degree. Nice things are said about studying the New Testament and a certain New Testament lecturer called Mike Bird. Sadly, his marks were given before I could read the blog posts! With a name like Kirk he might also be in good company.

Welcome David!

Monday, February 12, 2007

John 1:50-51: Jesus' Affirmation or Correction?

John 1:47-51 narrates Nathanael's encounter with Jesus, his climactic confession and Jesus' enigmatic response. Traditionally Jesus' response has been viewed as somewhat of an implicit correction of Nathanael's inappropriate nationalistic expectations. In order to back up this reading reference is made to two pieces of evidence from John. In the first place, a typical hand waving toward the direction of John 18:36 is offered. Here Jesus is quoted by John as saying "My kingdom is not of this world". While this is no doubt an important passage, what exactly is meant by the clause in John's Gospel is not only a crucial question, but also one that needs careful reevaluation--this will not be undertaken here.

Still, the main piece of evidence offered in support the traditional "correction"-reading is John's Jesus' reference to the "Son of Man" (v 51). With this phrase John is clearly making reference to the Danielic Son of Man in Daniel 7:13-14. It is thought by many that this reference "is less laden with political overtones than are the designations such as the just-used 'king of Israel'" (Koestenberger 2004: 87; citing also the work of Carson & Burge).

This explanation, to my mind, fails on two accounts: (1) It does not appreciate the inherent connection between the Jacob's Ladder allusion and the essence of the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam 7; Psa 89) apparently maximized by John; and (2) the politically charged context of Daniel 7:13-14.

On the basis of these observations, which admittedly need to be developed--and will in a forthcoming blog, I assert that far from muting the political overtones of Nathanael's statements, John's Jesus intensifies them beyond Nathanael's conception by forging the Davidic and Danielic ideals together to show that in Jesus of Nazareth heaven and earth meet.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

2 Peter and Jude - Interviews with Leading Scholars

In my research and teaching, I have tended to focus on Jesus, the Synoptic Gospels, and Paul. That leaves a bit of a gap when it comes to the Catholic Epistles. I find that many of my students have a reasonable grasp of the Gospels and Paul, but the Catholic letters remain an obscure and distant body of writings - kind of like an old Aunt that you know you should visit cause she's filthy rich, but have never got around to seeing her. In sermons, Bible studies, and lectures, James usually gets some good air time, but not as much as Paul. To try stimulate interest in these letters and to get people up to date on what scholars are saying about them, I am in the process of collecting some "virtual interviews" with several scholars who have written or are currently writing commentaries on 2 Peter and Jude. So far there is:

Peter Davids
Bob Webb
Thomas R. Schreiner

I hope to have more to follow. I also intend on picking scholars who have a variety of approaches to the question of the authorship of 2 Peter.

2 Peter & Jude Interview - Thomas R. Schreiner

Thomas R. Schreiner is James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of several volumes including Paul, Apostle of God's Glory in Christ, Romans (BECNT), and 1-2 Peter, Jude (NAC).

MB: Earlier on in your career you worked on the Synoptics but have specialized for the most part on Paul. How hard was it moving from Paul to 1-2 Peter, Jude? What did you learn in the process?

TS: One of my goals was to respect the distinctive contribution of Peter and Jude, and hence I tried to explain the argument in the letters instead of reading Pauline theology into the letters. Reading is hard work, and it is always difficult to discipline ourselves to follow the line of thought that an author pursues. 1-2 Peter and Jude emphasize that believers are to live a transformed life, and that God judges those who give themselves over to evil. Such themes are a helpful corrective for those who misunderstand Paul’s theology of grace, and it seems from 2 Pet. 3:15-16 that some of Peter’s readers fell prey to that very mistake.

MB: In your view, what are the best arguments for and against Petrine authorship of 2 Peter? Where do you come out on that one?

TS: Perhaps the best arguments against Petrine authorship are the Hellenistic terms used in 2 Peter and a style that differs from 1 Peter. The most significant argument supporting Petrine authorship is the self-claim of the letter (2 Pet. 1:1, 16-18). Indeed, the claim of the author that he heard God’s voice on the mountain and was with Jesus on the mountain amounts to deception if the author is not Peter. Further, as I argue in my commentary, evidence is lacking that pseudonymous writings (especially epistles) were accepted as authoritative during the NT era. The difference in style and terminology between 1 and 2 Peter may be explained by an amanuensis (either in 1 or 2 Peter or in both) or the particular situation Peter faced. Finally, arguments from style are notoriously subjective when we are testing 2 Peter against 1 Peter since the books are exceedingly brief. Some scholars also argue that the theology of 2 Peter is early catholic and departs from 1 Peter which is often seen as more Pauline. I don’t have space to defend my view here, but I argue in my commentary that the introduction to 2 Peter (1:1-4) demonstrates that the new life demanded by believers is rooted in God’s gracious work in their lives.

MB: Does postulating 2 Peter as a ‘Testament’ or as ‘pseudonymous’ adversely affect one’s view of biblical inspiration and the canonization of the New Testament?

TS: The question needs to be answered carefully. If the author of 2 Peter practiced deception in writing his letter so that he could dupe the readers into thinking Peter wrote the letter, then biblical inspiration and canonicity are both threatened. Others argue that pseudonymity was well-accepted during the NT age, or that 2 Peter is a testamentary writing, so that it was clearly evident to the original readers that the author who wrote the letter was not genuinely Peter. If such a view could be demonstrated historically, then the inspiration and canonicity of the NT are not called into question, for everyone would have recognized that the author was not truly claiming to be Peter. The problem with such views, however, is the lack of evidence that pseudonymous writings were accepted as authoritative. Further, it cannot be substantiated from early church history that 2 Peter was accepted as authoritative or recognized as a ‘transparent fiction.’ Ultimately, then, testamentary or pseudonymous views of 2 Peter undercut its authority and inspiration, for there is no evidence in the NT era that pseudonymous writings were accepted as authoritative, or even that was acceptable to write in someone else’s name.

MB: How does 2 Peter 1.10, ‘make your calling and election sure’ relate to the Reformed view of election?

TS: In context Peter argues that one must practice the godly virtues listed in 2 Pet. 1:5-7 to make one’s calling and election sure. Peter does not focus here on one’s subjective assurance regarding one’s calling and election. Rather, the point is that one must practice such virtues in order to obtain a final reward (eternal life) on the last day. Still, if believers are not living in a godly way and have given themselves over to evil, they should (by implication from 2 Pet. 1:10) examine themselves to see if they are truly believers.

MB: When Jude quotes 1 Enoch, does he think of Enoch as Scripture and did Jude really believe that Enoch uttered the prophecy that he is purported to have?

TS: It is unlikely that Jude thought 1 Enoch was part of inspired scripture. We need to remember that 1 Enoch is not considered to be canonical scripture by Judaism, Roman Catholicism, the Greek or Russian Orthodox, or Protestantism. Citing a quotation from another source does not indicate that the entire work is inspired, even if the saying drawn upon is true. For instance, Paul quotes Aratus (Phaenomena 5) in Acts 17:28, and he does not intend to teach that the entire work is inspired scripture. Similarly, he quotes Epimenides in Titus 1:12, without any notion that he accepted the truth of the whole work. It is difficult to see how Jude could be citing an actual oral tradition from the historical Enoch since the book of Enoch was in circulation in Jude's day and was well known in Jewish circles. Jude almost certainly derived the citation from the book of 1 Enoch, and the latter is clearly pseudepigraphical. We would be faced with having to say that Jude knew that this specific quotation from 1 Enoch derived from the historical Enoch. It is better to conclude that Jude quotes the pseudepigraphical 1 Enoch, and that he also believes that the portion he quoted represents God's truth.

MB: Who were the ‘false-teachers’ in Jude?

TS: In the history of scholarship the opponents have usually been described as Gnostic or as representing some kind of incipient gnosticism. Evidence for full-fledged Gnosticism is clearly lacking in Jude. If we restrict ourselves to the letter, we can say that the opponents came from outside Jude’s community and that they were libertines. Perhaps they distorted Paul’s theology of grace as in 2 Pet. 3:15-16.

MB: If you had to preach one passage on 2 Peter and one passage from Jude, which passages would they be and why?

TS: That is a hard question to answer! I think I would preach 2 Pet. 1:5-11, for Peter emphasizes that those who enter the kingdom live a new kind of life. Good works are necessary for eternal life. Then I would probably preach Jude 1-2, 24-25, so that God’s people would understand that God keeps those whom he calls, so that we would have confidence that the God who called us will give us strength to do his will.

MB: I understand that you are currently working on a New Testament Theology. What contribution do Jude and 2 Peter make to the theology of the New Testament?

TS: I just turned in my manuscript for my NT Theology, but it will not appear until June 2008. Jude and 2 Peter remind us of a truth that is very unpopular today. God judges evil, and those who give themselves over to evil will not enjoy an eternal reward. Any theology of grace which teaches that it doesn’t matter how Christians live has forgotten about Jude and 2 Peter (and other parts of the NT as well!). Both Jude and 2 Peter also remind us that believers must persevere to the end in order to be saved, but at the same time they comfort us with the truth that the God who called us will strengthen us to do his will.

MB: Thanks Tom!

2 Peter & Jude Interview - Peter H. Davids

Peter Davids is another Candadian scholar and he is Professor of Biblical Theology, St. Stephen’s University, New Brunswick, Canada. He is the author of commentaries on James (NIBC, NIGTC) and 1 Peter (NICNT), co-editor of the Dictionary of the Later New Testament and its Developments, and recently published a commentary on 2 Peter and Jude for the Pillar series.

MB: Most New Testament scholars focus around the Gospels or Paul, and yet your academic writing career seems to have centred upon the Catholic Epistles including commentaries on James, 1-2 Peter, and Jude. What has led you into the study of the Catholic Epistles?

PD: It was really quite a happenstance. I had arrived in Manchester for Ph.D. study and discovered that my thesis topic was already being researched at Cambridge. I reflected on what could be a new topic that had to do with biblical ethics and came up with James, having remembered that I had trouble finding material for a paper on James back in seminary, so the field had to be more open. Some years later after my thesis and a commentary on James, F.F. Bruce, who knew of the commentary project and that it was about finished, wrote to ask me to write on 1 Peter in the NICNT, since the person who had had the topic for 25 years had finally admitted that he would not finish it.And the rest is, as they say, history.

MB: In your view, what are the best arguments for and against Petrine authorship of 2 Peter? Where do you come out on that one?

PD: The best argument for Petrine authorship of 2 Peter would be that we know so little of the biography of Peter. Thus it could be that he somehow got a very good Hellenistic education and was thoroughly enculturated in that world. Against it would be that 2 Peter not only is so Hellenistic, but it also uses scripture totally differently than 1 Peter. It is hard to see the same person writing both, not just because the Greek is different, but because the handling of scripture is different. I personally take something of an agnostic stance. I can describe the author and then I let the reader decide whether Peter could fit that picture.

MB: Does postulating the 'Testament' genre for 2 Peter adversely affect one'sview of biblical inspiration and the canonization of the New Testament?

PD: In my view, no, not if, as Bauckham does, one argues that the genre was transparent. There would be no deception in that case. Likewise another evangelical who has written on the topic argues that 2 Peter is a transparent collection, just as Proverbs collected material from previous writers. This collection is designed to preserve Peter (some sections he argues are genuine traditions from Peter), Jude (2 Peter 2), and in a way Paul (the reference to Paul). Of course canonization would not be affected in any case, for it was a decision that this book was to be read in church. One can hold that the justification was not sound, but the final judgment was good - it is a book that is worth reading in the church (which meant that it would instruct the faithful, since most of them could not read and depended on what was read in church).

MB: What problems concerning eschatology had to be addressed in 2 Peter bythe author?

PD: The denial of final judgment. That was the big issue. And if there is no final judgment, then Jesus could not be returning.

MB: When Jude quotes 1 Enoch, does he think of Enoch as Scripture and did Jude really believe that Enoch uttered the prophecy that he is purported to have?

PD: I cannot get into the mind of Jude so I do not know what he thought. But I do know that he cites 1 Enoch as the only scripture that he quotes. Now does that mean that it was canonical for him? To ask that question is to ask ananachronistic question. Jews did not have a fixed canon when Jude was writing - that would come a century or so later. So all we know is that Jude considers it part a prophetic scripture worth quoting.

MB: Who were the 'false-teachers' in Jude?

PD: People from outside the communities he addresses who had entered them and were promoting lifestyles that Jude believes are unethical.

MB: What do you think is the significance of 2 Peter and Jude for Christians today?

PD: Both works remind us that to deviate ethically from the standards of Jesusis to abandon Jesus as Lord, to apostatize. Both books warn us of the consequences of such an act. Jude shows us how not to cut off from such people, but to be compassionately reaching out to them. 2 Peter teaches us that Jesus is already the reigning Lord and that he will indeed return to purify the earth, judging the deeds of people. This reminds us that we must live every day in the light of that judgment. That is much more, but that outlines the main points.

MB: What publishing plans do you have for the future?

PD: I am planning to start a Greek text commentary on 2 Peter and Jude, which will examine the Greek grammar in detail, a sort of a cross between Zerwick and a traditional commentary, perhaps more in the direction of Zerwick.

MB: Peter, thanks!

2 Peter & Jude Interview - Bob Webb

Dr. Robert L. Webb is a Canadian scholar who specializes in both the Historical Jesus and the Catholic Epistles. Bob was also Michael Bird's associate supervisor for his Ph.D thesis (so blame him!) and Bob has written or edited several volumes including John the Baptizer and Prophet: A Sociohistorical Study (1991), Nag Hammadi Texts and the Bible (1993), Jesus and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ (2004), and Reading James with New Eyes (2007). He is also editor of the Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus.

MB: You have chosen two areas of specialization in your research, historical Jesus and the Catholic Epistles, what prompted your interest in these two areas?

BW: My interest in historical Jesus was spawned by a desire to round out my study of the NT, for I had focused on Paul in my M.Div. thesis and on 1Peter in my Th.M. thesis. I wanted to do something in the Gospels, and the subject of historical Jesus was (and still is) a hot topic. It sparked my interest and has held it ever since. My interest in the General Letters arose out of my Th.M. thesis. I find these "more neglected" books provide abreadth of diversity to NT studies that is lacking if one only focuses on Paul.

MB: In your view, what are the best arguments for and against Petrine authorship of 2 Peter? Where do you come out on that one?

BW: Well, to answer you first question, I'll say, "See my commentary when it is out." But on the second one, I do conclude that 2 Peter is a pseudepigraphic text.

MB: Does postulating 2 Peter as a 'Testament' or as 'pseudonymous' adversely affect one's view of biblical inspiration and the canonization of the NewTestament?

BW: Not in the least. I view this somewhat simply: The reason the books of the NT are considered authoritative and therefore canonical is because they are understood to be inspired by the Spirit of God. It is on the basis of their divine origin that they are authoritative, and not on the basis of the particular human author that was the inspired instrument. While these texts are fully inspired they are also fully human, in that human processes--including language, style, rhetoric, etc., but also pseudepigraphy--could be used in the process.

MB: What is your take on the reference to the transfiguration in 2 Peter 1.16-18?

BW: I'm not quite sure what you're getting at with this question, but my understanding of these verses is contrary to most modern commentators. Most understand the phrase in v. 16, "the power and coming" of Christ (better translated "powerful coming") as referring to the yet-future coming of Christ. In this view, then, the author uses the transfiguration in vv. 17-18 as proof of this claim about "the powerful coming", and so the transfiguration must then interpreted as somehow proleptically anticipatingthe yet-future coming of Christ. In contrast, my view is that the referentof the phrase "the powerful coming" of Christ (v. 16) is to the first coming of Christ; that is, to the past life of Jesus understood as a "powerful coming" in which God manifests himself as coming to his people in the ministry of the earthly Jesus. In this view, then, the transfiguration in vv. 17-18 supports this claim: the glorification and the heavenly voice demonstrate what God was doing in the ministry of the earthly Jesus, and in this view the transfiguration does not need to be 'transformed' (bad pun) into a proleptic anticipation of Christ's yet-future coming. Again, for full argumentation I'll refer you to my commentary.

MB: When Jude quotes 1 Enoch, does he think of Enoch as Scripture and did Jude really believe that Enoch uttered the prophecy that he is purported tohave?

BW: I'm not sure that it is quite as cut-and-dried as your question implies, for it depends on how one is using the term "scripture." So I'll answer but without using the term. Jude views Enoch as a text that has weight/authority in his community and was understood to convey truth. And so he cites it. Did he think it actually went back to Enoch? No. I think most literate people in his day would understand the genre characteristics of pseudepigraphic texts of apocalypses like 1 Enoch.

MB: What benefits are there to a socio-rhetorical interpretation of 2 Peter and Jude?

BW: A socio-rhetorical reading (as per Vernon Robbins' understanding) provide a inter-woven tapestry of ways of understanding how texts convey meaning. Thus a full socio-rhetorical interpretation provides an opportunity to explore a text from these various perspectives. It helps one to surface elements that might be missed otherwise.

MB: What do you think is the significance of 2 Peter and Jude for Christians today?

BW: The significance(s) will vary depending upon the context of today's readers. But to make one, rather general observation, truth still matters, whether doctrinal or ethical.

MB: You are the head of the Methodological Reassessments of the Letters ofJames, Peter, and Jude section at SBL. What has that seminar done in the past and what are they doing in the future?

BW: We are actually a "consultation" which has a three-year mandate: examine each of these letters in light of recent methodological developments thatare most often applied first to either the Gospels or to Pauline literature. So, we are exploring such methods as socio-rhetorical readings, post-colonial readings, narrative readings, etc. These are showing the riches that can be gleaned from fresh readings of these texts. We are going into the third of our three years. We intend to follow up with an application to become a full-blown section with a longer mandate. We will probably drop the "Methodological Reassessments" element in our name and simply focus continued study on these letters. We have not yet developed any particular themes yet.

MB: You are currently writing a commentary on 2 Peter and Jude, any idea on a possible publication date?

BW: [Sigh!] Writing a good commentary has proven far harder than I had ever thought! Knowing what it takes to write a good one has helped me understand why there are so many poor commentaries on the market. I hope to be finished within the next two years.

MB: Thanks Bob!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Paul, the Law, and the Jews

Did Paul expect Jewish Christians to adopt the non-Torah policy that he had for Gentiles?

"Because Paul cannot yield on this point [the gospel is available to Gentiles without having to proselytize] does not mean that he opposed all things Jewish or that he would discourage Jewish Christians from following a Jewish lifestyle after they had become Christians. This stipulation that Jewish Chrsitians recognise the right of Gentile Christians to be accepted into the people of God and continue to live a Gentile (Christian) lifestyle, does not mean that such Jewish Christians as recognised this, should not also have the freedom to continue to live in a Jewish life style. New Testament scholars have in the past tended to presume that all Jewish Christians who wished to continue to follow a Jewish life style must necessarily deny the right of Gentile Christians to follow a Gentile lifestyle. But logic does not demand this conclusion. The two positions i.e. Jewish Christians continuing to follow a Jewish pattern of life, and Gentile Christians continuing to follow a Gentile pattern of life, are not mutually exclusive."

William S. Campbell, Paul's Gospel in an Intercultural Context: Jew and Gentile in the Letter to the Romans (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1992), 100.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Saving Righteousness of God

Today I received in the post copies of my book, The Saving Righteousness of God: Studies on Paul, Justification and the New Perspective (Carlisle, UK: Paternoster, 2007). I hope this book comes across as being soundly biblical, compelling in its arguments, gracious and fair in its criticisms of others, and a useful tool for the church in an age of controversy over Paul's theology of righteousness.

For those interested, you can order copies from Paternoster now. I imagine that it will be available from Amazon and Koorong shortly. Here are the endorsements:

"In a debate where the worst of Protestant in-fighting has been revived and the 'spirit of slavery' has been more influential than 'the Spirit of adoption', Michael Bird's treatment is more than welcome. His is a calm, judicious and eirenic voice amid the welter of paranoid accusation and counter-accusation, which ought to be heard widely, and - more important - ought to be heeded. Perhaps then the world will be able to say again, 'See how these Christians love one another' - without sneering!'
- James D. G. Dunn, Emeritus Lightfoot Professor of Divinity, University of Durham.

"For fair treatment and thoroughness of coverage, including that of literature which usually flies under most scholars' radar, this book is probably unmatched."
- Robert H. Gundry, Scholar-in-residence and Professor Emeritus, Westmont College.

"The so-called 'new perspective' continues to exercise a profound effect on studies of both Judaism and Paul. Students may well be confused by the complexities of the debate, but Michael Bird helpfully shows how fruitful insights can be derived from scholars on both sides of it. This fresh and sane approach to a difficult area will clarify the essential issues for students and preachers alike as they wrestle with expounding the thought of Paul for the contemporary church."
- I. Howard Marshall, Honorary Research Professor of New Testament, Aberdeen University.

"The study of what Paul means by 'justification' has hopped its railed, and now scholars from opposing perspectives - traditional Reformed theology and the New perspective - have exited the train and are standing on opposite sides of the track tossing stones at one another. Michael Bird has called for a peace plan, and his proposal of an incorporated righteousness not only offers peace but can actually get the train back on its tracks so we can get on with moving the gospel into our world. This study deserves a 'nobel peace prize in Theology'".
- Scot McKnight Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies, North Park University, Chicago.

My deepest thanks to my family, friends, colleagues, students, several editors of journals and at Paternoster (Anthony Cross and Robin Parry), for the generous words of the above-named scholars, and esp. my daughters to whom the book is dedicated.

As Beethoven often wrote at the end of his compositions, SDG!

The Work of the White Bull (Cow) in 1 Enoch 90:37-38

I have been reading a great deal of Jewish literature of the Second Temple Period. I am teaching a class on the backgrounds of the NT and we are reading much of the Apocrapha, Pseudepigrapha, the sectarian literature of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Aboth, Josephus, and Philo.
Recently, I read carefully the Animal Apocaplyse found in 1 Enoch 85-90. It is a fascinating presentation of the history of Israel from creation to consumation and it told in the form of an allegory. (Is this your picture of the messiah?)

The vision concludes with Israel's regathering as God's flock back within the borders of Israel and the captial city of Jerusalem. Of the greatness of that day, the author in 90:36 states, "I noticed that the house (Jerusalem) was large, wide, and exceedingly full." The statement echoes the restoration prophecies of Isa 54:1-3. Israel's restoration is complete. Throughout the vision Israel is presented as sheep. And YHWH is called the "Lord of the Sheep". Although prior to this restoration they are prone to stray and wonder, now they are made white and clean; signifying their purity.

At this point the traditional view of the latter day events, which is perhaps most authoratively presented inNickelsburg's commentary, is as follows. 90:37-38 presents the resolution of the whole vision: the return to the beginning when there were no sheep or beasts of the field and birds -- these latter animals (delinated in 89:10) are Gentiles. Here the author sees a white bull born, persumably irregularly born from the restored sheep. The bull becomes the agent of transformation not only for the beasts of the field and the birds, but also for the sheep: "all" are transformed into white bulls. The vision's culmination is a Adamic state where there is no longer distinctions. Hence, the enemies of the sheep are eliminated through the transformation of the whole of the created order. Nickelsburg summarizes:

“Although the author’s lengthy narration of Israel’s history dominates the Vision, that history must be placed in the context of the whole Vision. Israel’s story stands in the broader context of humanity’s story, and the nation’s deliverance from its enemies is a first step toward the re-creation and reuniting of the whole human race. That ultimate reconciliation emanates from within Israel, with the appearance of the great white bull that is described in the language at home in Davidic messianic speculation. But the symbol of the bull and the transformation that ensues take that human story back to its pre-Israelite beginnings. Through the re-creation of the whole human race God will accomplish what failed with the first family and with their counterparts who came out of the ark . . . The coming deliverance of a decimated Israel portends the salvation of all humanity” (Nickelsburg 2001: 356-57, emphasis added).
Nickelsburg further argues that the white bull is a Davidic Messianic figure on the grounds of a textual emenadation which echoes the earlier reference to David in 89:46. Thus, in concert with Ezekiel 34, 1 Enoch presents the Davidide appearing subsequent to the restoration of both houses of Israel in order to become a "leader among them" (90:38). The eschatological figure symbolized by the same animals as the early patriarchs implies a return to the beginning. While the significance of the transformation into bulls is debated, it is at least possible to see a connection to both a new Adam and Abraham as the conduit of blessing to the nations (Gen 12:1-3; Psa 72).
Nickelsburg's comment is not too far off the mark when he states: "The soteriological imagery of this author is daring and perhaps without parallel in pre-Christian Jewish literature" (407). However, I think there is a hint of this universal soteriology in Psalms of Solomon 17 as well--I argue for it in my forthcoming book.
Yet, I have a few significant observation that to my mind call into question this traditional view at least in the details if not in the big picture of Gentile inclusion in the salvation of Israel.
(1) The identity of the white bull as a Davidic Messiah is far from certain. The conclusion rests on the shakest of foundations: an emendation of the text. Yet this identification is made much of by Chae in his recent work call Jesus as the Eschatological Davidic Shepherd, pgs. 109-15. Without that emendation there is nothing else in this text that would suggest a Davidic Messianic figure.
(2) It is not at all obvious what the connection is between the return and restoration of the sheep to their home and the birth of the white bull. There is no reason to presume that the bull comes from the sheep. There is a clear transition statement in 90:36 and a new beginning in 9:37. The bull could have been born from the beasts of the field; while I am not suggesting this, it seems to me that this would make more sense in the context than presuming without evidence that it was born from a restored sheep.
(3) Therefore, it seems that we should not take the "all" in 90:37 inclusively to apprehend both the beasts of the field and the birds and the restored sheep. Rather the context suggests that the "all their kindred" is a reference to all the varieties of the beasts of the fields and the birds delinated in 89:10: lions, leopards, wolves, snakes, hyenas, etc. Thus, the eschatological vision is of two classes of creatures the restored sheep and the newly transformed white bulls.
(4) This interpretation is strengthed, I think by noting that YHWH is characterized as the "Lord of the sheep" even after the transformation. This significance is seen in the fact that only after the sheep were created was God referred to as the "Lord of the Sheep". In the beginning he was not referred to as such. Thus, if there were no more sheep, as the traditional view argues, it seems that the title of YHWH have disappeared.
In conclusion, I suggest that this text radically, although not signularly within Second Temple Judaism, promlegates the view that the Gentiles will be included in the renewal of creation. However, it appears to me that there are still two categories of creatures in the eschatological age: sheep and bulls. Furthermore, both are presented as purified and renewed.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

G.E. Ladd on Salvation

The eminent Baptist NT scholar G.E. Ladd wrote:

"Salvation consists of fellowship with God in the midst of earthly existence and will finally mean the redemption of the whole man together with his environment ... In sum, the Greek view is that 'God' can be known only by the flight of the soul from the world and history; the Hebrew view is that God can be known because he invades history to meet men in historical experience."

The Pattern of New Testament Truth, 39-40.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

New Blogs 15

A new NT biblioblog is on the scene: NT Today by Matthijs den Dulk, a graduate student at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

There are some posts here and it is worth checking out.

Welcome Matthijs!

HT: Jim West

News from Singing in the Reign

Over at Singing in the Reign we have two announcements:

(1) The new co-blogger is Dr. Brand Pitre. Joel and I met Brand at SBL in D.C. last November and we had a great time chatting about stuff. Also, Brand is the author of Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of Exile which is a good read and it is so close to my own Ph.D thesis at times that it is almost scary how similar Brand and I are on some issues.

Michael Barber reports that She Said Yes meaning that Michael and Kim are getting married. Scot Hahn told me what a lovely girl Kim is and it is our hope that they are very happy together.

Friday, February 02, 2007

My Coach Taylor Moment

One of my favorite TV shows these days--besides 24--is called Friday Night Lights. An aspect of this week's episode involved an interaction between Coach Taylor and Smash. Smash is a very talented running back for the Dillon Panthers who had dabbled in performance enhancing drugs. After finding this out Coach Taylor decided not to expose Smash but to keep it "in house" and just discipline him--had he reported it Smash would have lost his opportunity for college scholarships; his football days would have been over. Well, the discipline was severe. So severe that it was taking Smash's spirit (one aspect of it was Coach bench him during final and most crucial game of the season). Coach Taylor's wife confronts him on his harsh disciple of Smash (I love this show in part because that kind of think always happens to me--Karla will tell me I am doing something wrong and she is so often right). Well in one of the final scenes of the show, Coach Taylor goes to Smash's house and apologizes for how harsh he had treated Smash and they go play some touch football with neighborhood children.
Well, this is my Coach Taylor moment this week. Today in class I went off on my students in my Gospel of John class for their lack of participation in the discussion. So, like Coach Taylor, I had to apologize. I realized only after class that the majority of my students were just trying to get the 153 pages of reading done for the last topic so you could turn in the reading report today. and hadn't even begun to prepare for today's topic. I also realized that they hadn't been asked to interact with me and the material in such a confrontational manner up to that point in the class. So my expectations of them were not clear.

For the class to work and to have a vibrant and lively experience, I believe it requires that the class together creates a space within which we can think about John's Gospel together. This requires that participants come prepared for our class sessions having read the Gospel passage and the secondary literature related to it. I don't like to "lecture" through a biblical book and I personally don't feel that it is the best teaching method for a book study. I have reams of notes and outlines of lectures on biblical books from college and seminary that are completely useless to me now. The best we can do is get students to think about the text for themselves with the help of good commentaries and our nudging.
I hope you have a great weekend and cheer on the Chicago, BEARS in the Superbowl. Mike you know the superbowl don't you??

Colossians in Focus

Here's my translation of Colossians 3.1-17 and note in bold the questionable translations that I have made. Feel free to offer critical comments.

If then you have been raised with Christ seek the things above where Christ is, enthroned at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things above and not on the things of earth. For you have died and your life has been hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, is manifested, then you also will be manifested with him in glory. Therefore, put to death the members of your earthly being, sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed which is idolatry. Because of which the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience and in them you formerly walked when you lived in these things. But now you also put off all such things, anger, wrath, malice, slander, and perverse talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, stripping off the old man with its deeds and having clothed yourselves with the new man which is being renewed according to the image of the one creating him. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcized and uncircumcized, Barbarian, Scythian, slave, and free; but Christ is for all and in all. Therefore, as God’s elect, holy and beloved, cloth yourselves with hearts of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bearing with one another, and if anyone has a complaint against someone, forgiving each other just as the Lord graciously forgave you, and thus so with you too. And to all these virtues add love, which is the bond of perfect unity. And Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, into which you were called in one body - and so be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing each other in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with thanksgiving in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Let me offer two notes on application.
(1) On forgiveness in v. 13. This is a word that is used often in the NT (see Col. 1.14 and the link with redemption) and we use it all the term in talking about relationships. As a matter of definition forgiveness means that I forfeit the right to demand reparation or reprisal for your misdoing even though I am the offended party (think on that!). Forgiveness does not mean that I no longer feel the pain and anger of your hurtful action, but I give-up my right to show my hurt and seek reprisal. That is what God does in the cross. He does not forget our sin in the literal sense but God gives up his right to inflict a judicial recompense upon us. That becomes a model of human relationships too. As someone once said, "To err is human, to forgive divine."
(2) Count yourselves dead to sin in v. 5. Biologist E.O. Wilson noticed that colonies of ants communicated through a complex system of chemical pheromones that could indicate certain things such as danger, hunger, mating and even death. Ants that emitted the pheromone of death were carried away from the nest. Wilson decided to experiment and see what would happen if a fully functional ant was sprayed with the death pheromone. He found that the death-smelling ant, despite being alive and healthy, was picked up by other ants like a dead ant and carried away from the nest and dumped. The ant would return to the nest and resume work, only to have the same process repeated again and again. This provides a fine analogy for Christians who live between the ages and have a life that is hid with Christ in God, but also wait to be revealed with Christ in glory (Col. 3.3-4). They are to put death earthly things even if they are not quite dead yet.

Deissman on Colossians

While reading through Alexander Maclaren's commentary on Colossians and Philemon, I found that someone had scribbled this quote on the inside of the front cover:

"When I open the chapel doors of the Epistle to the Colossians it is as if Johann Sebastian himself sat at the organ."
- A. Deissmann.

Does anyone know if this is an agrapha of Deissman or does it come from a written source?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

On Writing (1): Finding time to write

I like to keep myself active with the keyboard and juggle a few projects at once. People ask me what writing habits I have and how and when I write. Here's the Bird-Method.

  • I get up around 7.00 a.m. and wake, feed, dress kids and help my dear wife get them ready for school.
  • I get to work about 0815 and get a cup of tea, turn on my computer, check the mail, and annoy my bosses secretary with requests for sweeties.
  • At 0830-0850 is German practice: vocab, read an EJTh book review, Deutsch Bibel.
  • Then 0850-0900 is general prayer and readings from the Book of Common Prayer
  • At 0900-09010 I work on my Evangelical Missal project and collect a written prayer, a Bible reading, a stanza from a hymn, and part of a creed, catechism or confession which I hope to turn into a book by the end of the year.
  • The rest of the day is determined by preparation, teaching, answering emails, and admin. Where possible I try to get the odd two-hour block of writing time. During the day I am working on the Two Views of Christians Origins book with James Crossley.
  • Try get home by 1720 and help my wife with dinner, cleaning up, feeding kids, night-time routine with kids (prayer, Bible reading, memory verse, story, game) and then coffee with my wife Naomi. Possibly a shower around 1930 (this is Scotland afterall).
  • Around 2000-2045 I like to work on book reviews. I'm currently reading Phil Towner on the Pastorals.
  • Then 2100-2230 is more writing time working on soon-to-be finnished projects. At the moment I'm doing some stuff on Jewish views of Paul for a journal article.
  • At 2230-2315 is a minor project I plug away at, at the moment a commentary on Colossians.
  • 2315-2330 is Greek devotionals and prayer.
  • 2330-0000 is blogging time, Aussie red-wine, and kicking an orange ball around my living room in order to wind down.

And so ends a day in the life of Mike Bird!

The Imperial Cult in Asia Minor

"The cult was a major part of the web of power that formed the fabric of society. The imperial cult stabilized the religious order of the world. The system of ritual was carefully structured; the symbolism evoked a picture of the relationship between the emperor and the gods. The ritual was also structuring; it imposed a definition of the world. The imperial cult, along with politics and diplomacy, constructed the reality of the Roman empire."

S.R.F. Price, Rituals and Power: The Roman Imperial Cult in Asia Minor (Cambridge: CUP, 1984), 248.

New SBL Forum

The latest SBL Forum features the following article:

Teaching the Bible in Babylon: Reflections on Joining the Biblical Studies Diaspora
Michael F. Bird

The article is a reflection on my journey from Australia to Scotland and it offers some advice to others who are thinking about moving overseas to take a job in biblical studies. There is humour within!