Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Which Promises?

My two standard proof-texts for arguing that the promises of the OT find their fulfillment in Christ are:

2 Corinthians 1:20: For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God.

Acts 13:32-33: "We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.

I would add that the promises referred to in both passages are specifically the Abrahamic promises of blessings for the nations, land, and descendents.

Evangelical Missal

I am glad to say that I am co-operating with my friend Jim Hamilton in creating an Evangelical Missal, or a book of daily readings for Evangelicals that includes a written prayer, two portions of Scripture, a stanza from a hymn, and citation from a creed/confession/catechism. It is has been an immense blessing to myself to be preparing it as part of my quiet times. Here's an example which has as its theme the parousia of the Lord:


Let grace come, and let this world pass away. Hosanna to the God (and the Son) of David! If any one is holy, let him come; if any one is not so, let him repent. Maranatha. Amen.
- Didache 10.6.


"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (John 14:1-3).

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean (Revelation 19:11-14).


Lo, He comes with clouds descending
Once for favoured sinners slain
Thousands thousand saints attending
Swell the triumph of His train
Alleluia! Alleleuia! God appears on earth to reign.
- Charles Wesley and Martin Madan


God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord.
- BFM 2000, 10.

Paul and Women - Articles to Read

There's a lot of stuff out there on Paul and women, but works that I have found helpful of late that are both exegetically sound, theologically sensitive, and also irenic in spirit, are:

Blomberg, Craig L. ‘Neither Hierarchicalist nor Egalitarian: Gender Roles in Paul,’ in Paul and His Theology, ed. Stanley E. Porter (Pauline Studies 3; Leiden: Brill, 2006), 283-326.

Sarah Sumner, Men and Women in the Church (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2004). See the interview with Sumner here .

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Saving Righteousness of God NOW available in US

I am glad to say that my book The Saving Righteousness of God: Studies in Paul, Justification, and the New Perspective is now available on the US mainland through Wipf & Stock. Also Kevin Bywaters intends on interacting with the volume on his blog By Living Waters.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The New Covenant - Guest Post by Bill Dumbrell

I am glad to include a guest post by Bill Dumbrell on "the New Covenant" which I hope will inform many of the work that Bill has done in the past in this subject and arouse the attention of others to the significance of "covenant" for biblical theology.
- MB
The New Covenant

The New Covenant of Luke 22:20 was Jesus' only significant interpretation of the purpose of his death, fulfilling by his resurrection the prophetic expectations of a revived Israel (cf. Ezek 36:25-27, Ezek 37:1-14 and Ezek 37:14-28 with John 3 and 4). In the construction of NT theology, we must give major weight to Jesus' action. Like the intersecting covenants of the OT (see my publications, 1984, 2002) we might expect the significance of the New Covenant to control the future of the revived Israel of Acts 2 (see my Romans 2005 and, published in Australia, Galatians and John).

The onset of the New Covenant meant the full implementation of God's undertaking to Noah (Gen 6:18) to maintain his covenanted purposes for the New Creation (Gen 1:26-28; Gen 2 - see Dumbrell 2002). I note that the use of heqim berit (Gen 6:18a) in the OT always points to maintenance, not commencement. Moreover, Gen 6:18b with 6:18a indicates that the salvation of Noah is that maintenance of purpose for creation. 'Covenant' from Gen 6:18a onwards becomes the language by which God's promise structure for history proceeds. That a divine intention to bring to a conclusion the work commenced with creation should be given the title of 'covenant' should not surprise. Biblical covenants are divine promises unilaterally imposed, firmly backed by covenant arrangement.

Jeremiah's New Covenant which Jesus' death and resurrection inaugurated, but not completely implemented until the Parousia, meant the dismissal of disobedient national Israel's election for service and the end of her institutions: law, temple, sacrificial atonement etc. Divine creational law (cf. the Decalogue), however, continues with a general obligation for all and to be written in the heart of believers (OT and NT). Jesus' New Covenant meant the onset of the New Creation age begun by the appointment of a New Israel (cf. John 20:22 correlated with John 1:12).

The New Covenant was thus the implementation of the Abrahamic Covenant of which the Sinai Covenant with Israel had been a subset. Paul's New Covenant ministry (2 Cor 3:6) that recognized all of this (cf. Rom 6:14, Gal 2:23, 2 Cor 3:6) confronted Jewish Christians (cf. 3:6 - note the present of 'kills') who saw Jesus as operating within the continuing Mosaic Covenant.

This was the problem facing Paul in Galatians, Romans and 2 Corinthians and we may see traces of it elsewhere in the Pauline Epistles. Paul's in his appraisal of Israel carefully recognized the changed position resulting from the cross (cf. Rom 2:1-3:20; 9:30-10:8; 7:1-6, 6:14, etc.).

The general reluctance of NT scholarship to accept a covenant emphasis, in view of Jesus' action and the Jewish character of the early church is puzzling. It is an undervaluing of how OT theology of kingdom and covenant works its way through the whole Bible. The usual objections of lack of reference to the terms, apply to the OT as well as to the new but the notion is basic to the correlation of the two Testaments/Covenants.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Matthew's Messianic Shepherd-King to be published in September

My dissertation Matthew's Messianic Shepherd-King is scheduled to be published in September by Walter de Gruyter in the BNZW series. Here is a brief summary of the argument:
In two places in the First Gospel (Matt 10:5b-6; 15:24) the Messianic mission of Jesus and his disciples is limited to a group called ‘the lost sheep of the house of Israel’. In light of Matthews intense interest in Jesus’ Davidic Messiahship and the Jewish Shepard-King traditions surrounding King David it is argued that this refers to remnants of the former northern kingdom of Israel who continued to reside in the northern region of the ideal Land of Israel.
The Contents are as follows:
Chapter One: Introduction
Introduction to Part One: The Messianic Shepherd-King in Ancient Judaism
Chapter Two: The Davidic Shepherd-King and his Flock
Introduction to Part Two: The Messianic Shepherd-King in the Gospel of Matthew
Chapter Three: Jesus the Shepherd-King of Israel (Matthew 2:6)
Chapter Four: Sheep without a Shepherd-King (Matthew 9:36)
Chapter Five: The Struck Shepherd-King and the Refined Flock (Matthew 26:31)
Chapter Six: The Messianic Shepherd-King and the Land-Kingdom Motif: Matthew’s Hope for Territorial Restoration
Conclusion to Part Two: The Messianic Shepherd-King in the Gospel of Matthe
Introduction to Part Three: The Matthean Shepherd-King and the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel
Chapter Seven: The Lost Sheep of the House of Israel in Matthew 10:6
Chapter Eight: The Lost Sheep of the House of Israel in Matthew 15:24
Chapter Nine: Conclusion

The Forgiving Face of God

This is an article I have written for the Evangelical Covenant Church's demoninational Magazine, Covenant Companion. I thought I would share it here.

Pop-Pop’s Shining
I called my grandfather, Pop-pop—I’m not sure exactly why, but I never thought twice about it; that’s what we called him. As a child I can only remember him dressed in his blue work clothes, even on Sundays—he wasn’t a church goer, with his name “Joe” stitched into his shirt pocket. As a person, he was as blue collar as his clothes, working all his life as a mechanic. Joe Zarka smoked unfiltered Camel cigarettes and ate eggs and bacon for breakfast every morning; he was a man’s man. I loved Pop-pop, because as much as he was a hard man, I knew he loved us grandkids.

We lived next door to Mom-mom and Pop-pop and highlights of my childhood years include those countless nights when I spent the night at their house. These evenings would often have included macaroni and cheese, chocolate pudding and games of Yahtzee.

When I would spend the night, Pop-pop performed an evening ritual that I have never forgotten. After putting us kids to bed, Pop-pop would always watch the 11:00 pm news. When the news finished, he would go around to all the rooms, crack the bedroom doors, and shine his flashlight into the beds. When I was a child, and if I was with my sisters or cousins or whoever, we often be horsing around in bed, but would quickly stop what money business we were doing as he walked up the hallway. Then when he shined the flashlight on us we did our best acting job pretending we were sleeping.

I used to think that he shined his flashlight on us to make sure we were behaving, but I came to realize, upon much later reflection, that he was checking to make sure we were safe. Pop-pop loved us and felt that he was responsible for our wellbeing. Now when I think of him, I think of him shining his flashlight late at night into my bunk. When I think of my Pop-pop, I think of him shining his flashlight on me.

Isn’t this how we are, we remember significant people by things they do. Our minds capture the essence of people by their action. What action comes to your mind when you think of significant people in your life past or present? What action captures how you see God?
I think God understands that this is how we work and in the Bible he has given us an image of his activity by which we can envision his essence.

God’s Forgiving
The image is first referred to in Exodus 34, where we see an intimate encounter between God and Moses. The rendezvous takes place in the Sinai wilderness while Israel was in route to the Promise Land. Moses had just come through the most difficult test of his leadership to date. The Israelites forsook God by constructing and worshipping a golden calf (Exod 32—33). Having convinced God to remain with his people, Moses asks to see God’s glory (Exod 33:12-18). God responds positively to Moses’ request and agrees to “cause his glory to pass in front” of him, meanwhile proclaiming his “name” in Moses’ presence. However, God warns “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (Exod 33:19-20). When God encounters Moses, he shelters him in the cleft of a rock and passes by him revealing to Moses only his back. As God passes in front of Moses, he proclaims:

The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin (Exod 34:6-7a).

Moses responded to this word with the humility and worship that such a significant truth deserved (Exod 34:8).

Within these twenty-seven words the most profound reality is contained. Here we discover God’s primary activity. In these verses we find what God thinks is his most characteristic activity. The Bible provides for us an authoritative picture of God’s most distinctive practice: the act of loving and forgiving.

The Bible teaches that when we think of God, we should think of him forgiving us. As God’s presence, his face, passed before Moses, he met the God who forgives; he saw a forgiving face.

The idea that forgiveness is second nature to God is not at all confined to this one Bible passage. For example, Psalm 86:5 states, “You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call on you”; and again in Psalm 103:3, the Bible asserts “[the Lord] forgives all your sins”.

Finally, perhaps one of the more well-known verses in the New Testament, 1 John 1:9, confirms:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9 makes two significant points about God’s forgiveness. One relates to humanity, while the second to God. In the first place, the text makes plain that the forgiveness God does is not unconditional: we must “confess” our sins. Biblically confession means “to say the same thing” or “to agree”. In this context it means to agree with God about the reality and pervasiveness of sin. The verses immediately preceding and following verse nine state, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (v. 8) and “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives” (v. 10). Thus, a precondition for God’s forgiving action on our behalf is our agreement with his view of sin.

Second, and perhaps most significant, the verse teaches us about God. The passage states that God will be “faithful”. This means that he will be true to his nature and, therefore, he will forgive. In addition, the verse says God is “just”. In other words, he will keep his word of promise that when his people confess their sins he will hear and forgive (1 Kings 8:30, 46-51; 9:3).

Our Thinking and Forgiving
The Scriptures, then, encourage readers to contemplate God’s forgiving tendency to such an extent that it directs the currents of our thoughts and affects our emotions and actions.

The Bible challenges us to meditate on, embrace, and be gripped by the thought that God forgives. Here’s the big idea: when you think of God, think of him forgiving you. This simple and profound truth is grounded in God’s own personal introduction to Moses, repeated in the Psalms and affirmed in the New Testament not only in specific propositions as in 1 John 1:9, but also in Jesus’ self-giving sacrifice for sin. We might remember what the angel of the Lord told Joseph: “you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21).

When we are enraptured by the idea of God’s forgiveness, it has the potential of transforming our lives. People who encounter the forgiving God in an intensely personal manner are profoundly secure and emotionally whole, or at least becoming so. At the same time, they are deeply humble and forgiving toward others. Jesus illustrated the antithesis of this attitude and behavior with the parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matt 18:21-35).

The gist of the story involves a servant who owed his master a large sum of money. Without the ability to repay him the servant’s fate was a life of slavery. In an amazing turn of events, the master released the servant from the debt and forgave him. Although the servant was forgiven, he did not show the same kind of generosity to a fellow servant who owed him a much smaller sum and threw him in prison. The resolution of the story comes when the master reverses his decision to forgive and has the servant thrown into prison and tortured until he repays his debt. Jesus concludes the story saying, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (Matt 18:35). The rather harsh point of this parable is uncompromising: to know the forgiving God and yet not forgive is nothing short of an affront to God’s very being and is, therefore, incongruent with the nature of true followers of God the Father and Jesus his Son.

In spite of this hard word of Jesus, the reality of our broken lives makes doing forgiveness either hard or nearly impossible in certain situations. The sharp edge of this truth seems to become quickly dulled by the deeply wounding circumstances of divorce, abuse, dishonesty and broken promises. How do we forgive a father who left behind not just a family, but then a litany of broken promises? How do we forgive a person who preyed on us violating a sacred trust and steeling away our innocence? These are hard questions with uneasy answers. And while the depth of pain can be and is a shared experience, no one should presume to prescribe a method for forgiveness.

The best I can do is to remind you that God’s chief activity is forgiving sinners and to point you to God’s forgiving face, bloodied as it was, as he died on a tree forgiving those who unjustly killed him and giving his life so we can be forgiven. God’s forgiveness is able to erase every injustice and sin humanity can inflict on itself. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

New Paternoster Catalogue

The latest Paternoster Catalogue is out with some interesting volumes, including one by Mike Bird (p. 18 - for those who want to see a photo). It includes Seyoon Kim's update of F.F. Bruce's WBC 1 & 2 Thessalonians commentary, I. Howard Marshall has a new book on the atonement called Aspects of Atonement which looks good (see esp. the chapter on resurrection and justification)! Andrew Perriman has an interesting book out that combined postmodern missions and NT studies called Re:Mission.

New Blogs 17

The Church Then and Now: Currents Trends in the Church is a missional/emergent blog dedicated to missions, evangelism, postmodernism, and emergent type-stuff. It is run by Eddie Gibbs and Kurt Fredrickson both from Fuller Seminary.

New Pistis Christou Book

Over at Mohr [Siebeck] this volume has just come out and relates to the pistis christou or 'faith of Christ' debate:

Ulrichs, Karl Friedrich
Studien zum Syntagma pistis Christou und zum paulinischen Verständnis von Glaube und Rechtfertigung
(WUNT 2.227; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 2007)

Karl Friedrich Ulrichs untersucht die in paulinischen Rechtfertigungskontexten siebenmal (Röm 3,22.26; Gal 2,16.20; 3,22; Phil 3,9, vgl. 1Thess 1,3) belegte Wendung "Glaube Christi". Spätestens seit der Arbeit von Richard B. Hays 1984 zu Gal 3 ist die syntaktische Bestimmung des Genitivs, die Semantik von "Glaube" und damit die inhaltliche Interpretation des paulinischen Rechtfertigungsdenkens umstritten. Der Autor schlägt vor, die notorische Engführung einer Alternative genitivus subiectivus/obiectivus in der philologischen Debatte zu überwinden. Er stellt die in der bisherigen Forschung vorgebrachten Argumente dar, ordnet und gewichtet sie und zeigt das Problem im jeweiligen Kontext der Belege auf. Dabei wird die kontinentaleuropäische mit der - in diesem wichtigen theologischen Gedanken der Soteriologie abweichenden - angelsächsischen Forschung ins Gespräch gebracht und die Diskussion um die new perspective on Paul wird so erweitert. In methodischer Hinsicht liegt hier eine auf Kriterien der klassischen gräzistischen Philologie bezogene und das principle of maximal redundancy verwendende Untersuchung vor, die das Recht des traditionellen Verständnisses von Pistis Christou und der entsprechenden Soteriologie sowie Anliegen der neuen Paulus-Perspektive zusammenbringt. Es zeigt sich, dass Paulus dieses Syntagma prägt und damit eine Integration verschiedener von ihm aufgenommener soteriologischer Modelle (Rechtfertigung, Partizipation, Geistbegabung) leistet.

My thanks to Ben Myers for telling me of this volume!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Saldarini on Paul

Here's a good quote from Anthony Saldarini:

(1) His adherence to the Pharisaic mode of interpreting the law led him to attack a group which mounted a major challenge to the Pharisaic way of life. As some of the Pharisees had challenged and plotted against Jesus (according to the gospels), so Paul the Pharisee attacked the followers of Jesus who threatened Pharisaic influence on Jews and who more and more taught a significantly different understanding of Torah and the Jewish way of life. The Pharisees and the followers of Jesus especially clashed on the importance of purity laws, tithes and other ‘boundary mechanisms’ for maintaining the integrity of God’s people. (2) Paul kept the law as one was supposed to and achieved the righteousness from the law that was proper to it, Paul is not referring to a highly complex doctrine of works-righteousness vs. grace-righteousness, but simply saying that he lived a good life according to the rules. Paul’s point is that he was humanly acceptable according to the ordinary Jewish norms for proper behaviour toward God and fellow Jews; he had lived up to the expectation of society’s code of behaviour and could not be rejected as a disgruntled failure.
Anthony J. Saldarini, Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees in Palestinian Society: A Sociological Approach (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, 1988), 134-37.

Augustine on John's Gospel

I am currently reading through Simon Gathercole's book The Pre-existent Son (see the sidebar) and elsewhere I have come across this quote from Augustine about John's Gospel:

In the four Gospels, or rather in the four books of the one Gospel, Saint John the apostle, not undeservedly in respect of his spiritual understanding compared to the eagle, has elevated his preaching higher and far more sublimely than the other three; and in this elevating of it he would have our hearts likewise lifted up. For the other three evangelists walked with the Lord on earth as with a man; concerning His divinity they have said but little; but this evangelist, as if he disdained to walk on earth, just as in the very opening of his discourse he thundered on us, soared not only above the earth and above the whole compass of air and sky, but even above the whole army of angels and the whole order of invisible powers, and reached to Him by whom all things were made; saying, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (Lectures on St. John, 36.1).
Of note is that Augustine does not deny that Jesus' divinity is taught in the Synoptic Gospels, but he emphasizes that John accentuates it more than others.

Counter Imperial Connotations in the Acts of Paul

In the Acts of Paul (specifically the Martyrdom of Paul) there is a story of how Nero's cupbearer, Patroclus, hears Paul preach, is killed when he falls out of a window, Paul revives him, and then Nero hears that Patroclus is alive. Then we read:
But Nero, when he heard of the death of Patroclus, was sore grieved, and when he came in from the bath he commanded another to be set over the wine. But his servants told him, saying: Caesar, Patroclus liveth and standeth at the table. And Caesar, hearing that Patroclus lived, was affrighted and would not go in. But when he went in, he saw Patroclus, and was beside himself, and said: Patroclus, livest thou? And he said: I live, Caesar. And he said: Who is he that made thee to live? And the lad, full of the mind of faith, said: Christ Jesus, the king of the ages. And Caesar was troubled and said: Shall he, then, be king of the ages and overthrow all kingdoms? Patroclus saith unto him: Yea, he overthroweth all kingdoms and he alone shall be for ever, and there shall be no kingdom that shall escape him. And he smote him on the face and said: Patroclus, art thou also a soldier of that king? And he said: Yea, Lord Caesar, for he raised me when I was dead. And Barsabas Justus of the broad feet, and Urion the Cappadocian, and Festus the Galatian, Caesar's chief men, said: We also are soldiers of the king of the ages. And he shut them up in prison, having grievously tormented them, whom he loved much, and commanded the soldiers of the great king to be sought out, and set forth a decree to this effect, that all that were found to be Christians and soldiers of Christ should be slain.
The counter imperial notions here are obvious and the kingdom of God/Christ/Ages is clearly set over and against the kingdom of Rome. In fact, it is this subversive and treacherous line of thinking that Christ will overthrow Rome that is the reason for Nero's anger and violence. It makes me wonder if the phrase "soldier" in the NT (1 Cor. 9.7; Phil. 2.25; 2 Tim. 2.3-4; Philm. 1.2) is more than a metaphor but has a bit of anti-Roman sting to it. The "Fresh Perspective" was certainly operating in the late second or early third century.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Blogging through Bird

I am glad to say that Brian Brown (no, not the Aussie actor) is doing a rolling blog review of my book: The Saving Righteousness of God. I am grateful for the kind words that Brian has said so far and am most pleased that people are finding the volume helpful.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Caneday on VanLandingham

Ardel Caneday (fresh from Cambridge) gives us his response to Chris VanLandingham's book Judgment and Justification in Early Judaism and the Apostle Paul on his blog Biblia Theologica. As I'm currently reading this book (on weekends) and preparing an article review, I was most interested in his response and I am glad to say that I am in agreement with his critique.

The Fresh Perspective ain't so Fresh

I'm aware that in recent times a lot of attention has been paid in Pauline studies to the counter-imperial connotations of Paul's gospel and N.T. Wright's "Fresh Perspective on Paul" with the socio-political overtones of Paul's message. But lately I've been reading some of the works of William Ramsay including The Cites of St. Paul: Their Influence on His Life and Thought. Ramsay has a section on "The Empire as the World's Hope" and sets out the theological and political vacuum created by the Roman civil wars and how the mood was ripe for the coming of Augustus and the Imperial Cult. It seems that Ramsay beat Horsley and Wright to the punch since he argues that Paulinism and the Empire were in direct competition with each other.

"A universal Paulinism and a universal Empire must either coalesce, or the one must destroy the other."

"More able and prudent Emperors dreaded the Pauline Church, because they recognised that ultimately it must be a foe to autocracy. The Christians were, in the last resort, the reforming party: the Emperors felt that reform must affect their own power."
In Ramsay's view the failure of the Empire was (1) it was based on military and military authority that was always prone to abuse; and (2) Rome never found a way to educate and improve the lives of the masses.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Gal. 3.28 and 2 Clement 12

In reading through 2 Clement, I found this intriguing passage:

2 Clement 12:1-6 - "1 Let us expect, therefore, hour by hour, the kingdom of God in love and righteousness, since we know not the day of the appearing of God. 2 For the Lord Himself, being asked by one when His kingdom would come, replied, "When two shall be one, and that which is without as that which is within, and the male with the female, neither male nor female." 3 Now, two are one when we speak the truth one to another, and there is unfeignedly one soul in two bodies. 4 And "that which is without as that which is within" meaneth this: He calls the soul "that which is within," and the body "that which is without." As, then, thy body is visible to sight, so also let thy soul be manifest by good works. 5 And "the male with the female, neither male nor female," this meaneth, that a brother seeing a sister should think nothing about her as of a female, nor she think anything about him as of a male. 6 If ye do these things, saith He, the kingdom of my Father shall come."

This text, part of the agrapha, seems to stand within a trajectory between Gal. 3.28/Col. 3.11 on the one hand and the gnostic conception of androgyny on the other hand. The author of 2 Clement interprets this saying essentially in an ethical sense with "speaking the truth to one another" and the "good works" of the soul. Yet the reference at the end to the "Kingdom of the Father" is clearly reminiscient of same phrase in the Gospel of Thomas. Given that 2 Clement has a background in Jewish Christianity, do we have here further evidence (hinted at in Gos Thom 12) for a Jewish Christian origin for Christian Gnosticism?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Latest JETS

NT highlights from the latest issue of JETS include:

Jan L. Verbruggen
Of Muzzles and Oxen: Deuteronomy 25:4 and 1 Corinthians 9:9

Dennis W. Jowers
The Meaning of morphe in Philippians 2:6-7

Peter Jones
Paul Confronts Paganism in the Church: A Case Study of First Corinthians 15:45

Joe Noe
An Exegetical Basis for a Preterist-Idealist Understanding of the Book of Revelation

Evangelicals and Eschatology Conference

Evangelicals and Eschatology:
Edwards’ History of the Work of Redemption
to LaHaye / Jenkins’ Left Behind

Day conference with presentations by

David W. Bebbington
Professor of History, Stirling University

George M. Marsden
Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame

St Mary’s College, University of St Andrews
Monday, 30 April 2007

10:30 coffee, 11:00 start, with reception to follow
Cost: £20 staff / £10 student

Please send payment (cheques payable to St Mary’s College) by Friday, 13 April.
Short paper presentations are welcome; please send a 100- to 200-word abstract to the address below by Friday, 30 March.

Please direct any enquiries and payment to Darren Schmidt, e-mail or c/o St Mary’s College, South Street, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9JU

I'm thinking of offering a short paper on one of these topics:
  • Detoxing Dispensationalists: 10 Easy Steps
  • Lord, Saves Us from the Apocalyptic Soap Opera of the Left-Behind Series!
  • Evangelicals and the Apocalyptic Jesus: A Way Forward

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Theological Studies Position

The Biblical Seminary of the Philippines (BSOP) is searching for a lecturer in biblical/theological studies.

Ministry Description: Only about 2% of the 2 million Filipino-Chinese are evangelical Christians. Biblical Seminary of the Philippines (BSOP), a nondenominational institution, was established to help reach them by teaching, mentoring, and equipping church and mission leadership. It now also trains Chinese from other Asian nations. Some classes are taught in English; others in Mandarin.

Type of Worker Needed: The workers should have a PhD, though a ThM is acceptable. They should have teaching and church experience. They should have good English skills. Though not required, it would be helpful if they also know some Mandarin and have studied the history and culture of the Chinese.

Length of Service: Long Term (> 3years)

Gender: Male or Female

Marital Status: Married or Single

Path of Service: Interested workers need to be both accepted by OMF and welcomed by BSOP. For the latter to happen, they must agree with the BSOP Statement of Beliefs and Core Values. Plus, they should come and teach a modular course to show that they are effective in the classroom. Once here for longer-term service, they would spend their initial three months learning some of the Tagalog language and culture. Then they would be seconded to BSOP.

Life Style: Professional. Workers must feel called to the busy life of ministry in a megacity. They should be creative and flexible, while working under local leaders. They must know how to handle stress and delays. Due to the pressure of living and working in a cross-cultural situation in the tropics, they should be spiritually and psychologically mature and have a good health record.
Contact BSOP if you are interested.

Monday, March 12, 2007

What if Paul went East?

During Paul's Aegean mission, Luke reports that: "When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia , but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them" (Acts 16.7). I wonder what would have happened if Paul went into Bithynia and Pontus then into Armenia and perhaps even Adiabene (where some Jewish missionaries had found a ripe field, see Josephus, Ant. 20.17-96)? And then on to Babylon and after that, where? Parthia? Or even India? We can only speculate. Although I have not read the article yet, I hope to one day get hold of: Richard Bauckham, ‘What if Paul had Travelled East rather than West?’ in Virtual History and the Bible, ed. J. C. Exum (Leiden: Brill, 1999) 171-184.

For those of us in New Testament studies, anything east of Galatia is bit of a mystery. But you only have to read Horace and Revelation to know the seriousness of the threat that Parthia served to Roman clients in the east. The Euphrates was a de facto border between the two empires and it was not until the campaigns of Trajan 116-17 CE that Rome was able to subdue Parthia. For some useful maps of the Parthinian empire see these which include Parthia at the height of its powers. Essentially the Parthinian empire took over from the shrinking Seleucid empire and soon controlled modern Iran, Iraq, Armenia and parts of Turkey and Afghanistan.

For another good map of the Roman empire see this one which is searchable.

Looking for a page number?

In my notes, I have this quote from Bruce Chilton, Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography (New York: Doubleday, 2000):

"A straightforward reading of the Gospels’ portrait of the burial has been challenged by revisionist scholars, who theorize that Jesus died in a mass crucifixion: the body was thrown into a common, shallow trench, to become carrion for vultures and scavenging dogs. This makes for vivid drama but implausible history. Pilate, after all, had been forced in the face of Jewish opposition to withdraw his military shields from public view in the city when he first acceded to power. What likelihood was there, especially after Sejanus’ death, that he would get away with flagrantly exposing the corpse of an executed Jew beyond the interval permitted by the Torah, and encouraging its mutilation by scavengers just outside Jerusalem? Revisionism can be productive. But it can also become more intent on explaining away traditional beliefs than on coming to grips with the evidence at hand, and I think this is a case in point ..."

Does anyone have a copy of this book or immediate access to it and can they tell me what page number the quote is from? It would be a great help.

Paul for the People of God

Pauline studies is alot like the mafia, every time you think you're out they drag you back in! I'm largely a Historical Jesus specialist and Synoptic Gospels kind-a-guy, though I find myself taking extended vacations in the resort of Pauline studies and even pining for a trek in the scenic mountains of Johannine studies too. But it is back to Paul now and my latest project (this time with IVP) is this:

Paul for the People of God

This volume is designed to be an introduction to Paul for lay-people and first year seminary students. I am hoping that I can take the best insights of Pauline scholarship and show how they illuminate Paul's understanding of the gospel, of Christian community, salvation, ministry, Paul's narrative world, and controversial areas such as women and homosexuality as well. There are a stack of Pauline theologies available, but relatively few volumes that try to put Paul in the hands of the church - and that's what I want to do. Get people in my church and your church excited about Paul, thoughtfully reading over his letters, and see what he has to say to the people of God today. Here's the run down:

1. What is Paul?
2. A Funny Thing Happened on the Road to Damascus
3. Athens and Jerusalem
4. The Stories behind the Story
5. Reading Somebody Else’s Mail
6. The Royal Announcement: The Son of David, Son of God
7. One God, One Lord: Monotheism and the Messiah
8. Putting the World to Right
9. The Return of the King
10. A Peculiar People
11. Women, Slaves and Homosexuals
12. Paul at the Postmodern Areopagus

Revolutionaries and Economics

In Mk. 11.15-17 and Jn. 2.13-25 we are given two pictures of Jesus' action in the temple. Was the motivation for the cleansing/symbolic-act the intermingling of economics with religion or even the corruption of the priesthood (John), or was it because of a zealous nationalism that prohibited Gentiles from worship in the temple and had turned the temple into a talisman of national resistance against Rome (Mark)?

I think it worth mentioning that there is a link between economic oppression and revolutionary fervour so that zealotry and economics are not mutually exclusive options. Consider the following examples from Josephus:

Link between banditry and insurrection: Josephus notes how bandits urged the inhabitants of Judea to revolt against the Romans: 'Now when these were quieted, it happened, as it does in a diseased body, that another part was subject to an inflammation; for a company of deceivers and bandits got together, and persuaded the Jews to revolt, and exhorted them to assert their liberty, inflicting death on those who continued in obedience to the Roman government, and saying, that such as willingly chose slavery, ought to be forced from their desired inclinations for they parted themselves into different bodies, and lay in wait up and down the country, and plundered the houses of the great men, and slew the men themselves, and set the villages on fire; and this till all Judea was filled with the effects of their madness. And thus the flame was every day more and more blown up, till it came to a direct war' (War 2.264-65).

Link between zealots and economics: Josephus reports that when the Zealots took control of the temple and the first thing they did was to burn the records of debt: 'after which they carried the fire to the place where the archives were deposited, and made haste to burn the contracts belonging to their creditors, and thereby to dissolve their obligations for paying their debts; and this was done in order to gain the multitude of those who had been debtors, and that they might persuade the poorer sort to join in their insurrection with safety against the more wealthy; so the keepers of the records fled away, and the rest set fire to them' (War 2.427).

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Latest JSHJ (2007)

The latest Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus (2007) is out and includes the following articles:

Morten Hørning Jensen
Herod Antipas in Galilee: Friend or Foe of the Historical Jesus?

Zeba Crook
Fictionalizing Jesus: Story and History in Two Recent Jesus Novels

Crispin H. T. Fletcher-Louis
Jesus as The High Priestly Messiah: Part 2

James F. McGrath
Was Jesus Illegitimate? The Evidence of His Social Interactions

Monday, March 05, 2007

Jodi Magness's Assessment of the "Tomb of Jesus" Claim

Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina is a leading archaeologist of the Land of Israel (see right).
She has written a critical assessment of the claims made by Simcha Jacobovici's (see left) documentary on The Lost Tomb of Jesus. In her assessment titled Has the Tomb of Jesus been Discovered? she concludes:
"The identification of the Talpiot tomb as the tomb of Jesus and his family contradicts the canonical Gospel accounts of the death and burial of Jesus and the earliest Christian traditions about Jesus. The claim is also inconsistent with all of the available information—historical and archaeological—about how Jews in the time of Jesus buried their dead, and specifically the evidence we have about poor, non-Judean families such as that of Jesus. It is a sensationalistic claim without any scientific basis or support".

Deissman on the NT

According to Deissman:

The NT can be understood as "a book of peasants, fishermen, artisans, travellers by land and sea, fighters and martyrs . . . [a book] in cosmpolitan Greek with marks of Semitic origin . . . [a book] of the Imperial age, written at Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, and Rome".

G. A. Deissman, Bible Studies: Contributions Chiefly from Papyri and Inscriptions to the History of the Language, the Literature and the Religion of Hellenistic Judaism and Primitive Christianity (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1901), 392.

Dying and Rising Gods

J. G. Frazer's classic work on the history of religions, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, asserted that much of Christian doctrine can be traced back to ANE myths of dying and rising gods (e.g. Adonis, Osiris, Baal). This view has fallen on hard times in recent years with several works questioning the existence of a uniform myth about dying and rising gods that was reading and waiting in the wings to provide the propulsion behind Christianity, not to mention the methodological objections in making a straight forward comparison between the rituals, texts, and narratives of one or more religions. See further:

Jonathan Z. Smith, ‘Dying and Rising Gods,’ Encyclopedia of Religion (New York, 1987), 4.521-27

Mark S. Smith, ‘The Death of Dying and Rising Gods in the Biblical World,’ Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 12 (1998): 257-313

A more balanced approached has been that of Tryggve N. D. Mettinger, The Riddle of Resurrection: “Dying and Rising Gods” in the Ancient Near East (ConBOT 50; Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 2001) who accepts the existence of ANE myths about dying and rising gods but notes their diversity and remains agnostic about their application to Christian origins.

On the internet there are some good reasons to note as well:

Peter Goodgame, The Saviours of the Ancient World which gives a good overview of these dying and rising gods of Egypt and the ANE.

David Frankfurter, ‘Review of Tryggve N. D. Mettinger, The Riddle of Resurrection,’ in Bryn Mawr Classical Review(2002.09.07) for a good overview of Mettinger and how he relates to Smith and Frazer.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Bill Dumbrell on Biblical Theology

William Dumbrell (Th.D., Harvard University) has taught at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia, Regent College in Vancouver, the Presbyterian Theological Hall in Sydney, Macquarie University in Sydney, and Trinity Theological College in Singapore. He is the author of several works including Covenant and Creation, The Search for Order, The End of the Beginning, The Faith of Israel, The New Covenant: The Synoptics in Context, and Romans: A New Covenant Commentary (note the links are from a prominent Australian Christian bookseller called Koorong and prices are in Australian Dollars).

A central theme in Dumbrell's writings has been "covenant", especially the "new covenant". In a forthcoming article on Gen. 6.18 and Lk. 22.20, Dumbrell writes this:

"All this means that God's in-breaking salvation through Jesus, the cross and the resurrection, provides for eventual fulfilment of the Abrahamic covenant (Luke 1:72-75), and in turn leads to the fulfilment of God's total purposes for creation, which was what the Sinai Covenant was designed to effect, and would have done so had Israel seen it as a way for her to have lived as God's people. W.Foerster [TDNT 7.990-01] notes that salvation, kingdom of God, messianic jubilee, and New Covenant, are overlapping descriptions with only slightly different nuances."

Bill Dumbrell's works have several distinct strengths:

1. He takes seriously the Old Testament background of the New Testament.

2. Covenant is one of the basic building blocks of God's relationship with Israel and it carries over in some way into the new covenant era.

3. In Paul's thought, the relationship between the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and New Covenants was a central issue underpinning much of his exegesis of biblical texts and appearing in his argumentation against those who would try to proselytize his Gentile churches.

4. The correlation between the concepts of Kingdom and Covenant is helpful and accurate (Max Turner and Vincent Taylor say similar things on this point too).

At the same time, I often wonder if Dumbrell overplays the covenantal card at certain points. For instance in his reading of Gal. 2.15-21 (see his European Journal of Theology article and his Galatians commentary) I think he gives too much attention to justification as "covenant membership". I think justification is more comprehensive than this in Paul's thought and it has both horizontal and vertical elements. Secondly, the word "covenant" is very rare in the NT and when it does appear it is ordinarily in the context of discontinuity, e.g. 2 Corinthians 3 and Romans 9 (it pains me to say it, but that is one observation where the dispies are actually right!). Thirdly, I think it worthwhile to consider James Dunn's proposal that Paul has a theology of "promise" rather than a theology of "covenant" per se, esp. in Romans 9-11.

Otherwise, Bill Dumbrell has written two recent commentaries on Galatians and John which are worth knowing about and, if you like biblical theology, worth reading.

His volume, Galatians: A New Covenant Commentary is a precis of much of this thought on Paul and covenant. Here is one interesting quote: "The New Covenant in operation would permit the fulfilment of Israel's commission under the Sinai Covenant to implement the Abrahamic covenant in a way which was prevented by Israel's disobedience in the Old Testament. The New Covenant would facilitate a restored, obedient Israel, brought into being in Acts 2, to fulfil its commission imposed by virtue of its election as the people of God (Exod 19:5-6). That commission was for Israel a charge to be the light to the world, to bring about final world change and the full implementation of the kingdom of God. What the New Covenant would mean for an obedient restored Israel in the post-cross era, was world mission. We are no longer operating from Pentecost onwards in terms of Jerusalem as a world centre to which Gentiles will come in submision and obedience. The Promised Land is the now the world itself, now begun in Christian evidence to be seen as a type of the final antitype of the New Creation (p. vi)."

In another new book, John: Gospel Of The New Creation, Dumbrell gives what I would call a theological exegesis of the Fourth Gospel. He says this in the introduction: "John's is the Gospel of newness - new creation, new Israel, new covenant, new birth. It is a towering expression of Christian truth and expectation."

For those who are interested in reading Galatians and John through new covenant lenses, these volumes are quite illuminating, easy to read, and inexpensive.

My thanks to Bill Dumbrell for sending me copies!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Jesus Tomb Round Up

Given that the forthcoming documentary about the "Jesus Tomb" has captured the attention of biblical studies bloggers, I thought I would catalogue some of the responses that have been made by respected scholars. It is my sincere hope that we are not witnessing the davincification of studies of early Christianity with scholars willing to entertain imaginative and groundless theories about recent archaeological discoveries (which really aren't that recent at all) in order to seek fame and fortune.

For an introduction see Michael Pahl, otherwise check out the following responses:

Mark Goodacre
Richard Bauckham
Darrell Bock
Scot McKnight
Ben Witherington
Christianity Today article

For those who crave more information about the Talpiot tomb, I imagine that Tom Wright and Bart Ehrman will probably both have a book out on the subject by the end of next week!

My own response consists of a paraphrase of Mark Twain: There are lies, there are damnable lies, and then there are ossuary statistics!

I leave you with a quote from Ben Witherington: "Make no bones about it--they have not found Jesus' tomb."

Why Preach?

For those of us who pour our time and souls into sermons that some will find refreshing and others will forget in a matter of hours, there is an important reminder as to why we should continually mount the pulpit to preach. Tom Wright gives a good reason!

A church without sermons will soon have a shrivelled mind, then a wayward heart, next an unquiet soul, and finally a misdirected strength.
Tom Wright, Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship (London: SPCK, 1997), xi.