Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Pastoral Significance of Christian Origins and New Testament Theology

I want to argue that Christian Origins and New Testament Theology have important pastoral implications. Studying Christian Origins allows us to see the big picture of the diversity and growth of the early church, and New Testament Theology enables us to grasp the complexity and accordance of theological ideas within the canon itself. Together they indicate the sociological and theological unity and diversity of early Christianity.

Why is this important? Well, I find that many Christians operate with a default "myth of Christians origins" and skewed view of New Testament Theology. What is that myth and what is skewed?

1. Well, the myth goes something like this: In the beginning was "us" (i.e. me, since all the first Christians held the same beliefs that I did, they hated the same false teachings that I hate, my distinctives were their distincitives). Things went well for us until about 100 AD when it all turned to a schmozzle and we disappeared. But the good news is that "us" is back and we have brought with us a return to the pristine era of doctrinal purity. We are the gatekeepers of truth and righteousness and the boundary of the kingdom includes us and our friends. In the immediate sense, all before us and all apart from us are dogs and devils. (Note, this is a caricature and an exageration and I do not have any body or any group in mind).

2. On another level, when students (esp. evangelical students) talk about the message of the New Testament, they usually mean Paul. And when they mean Paul, what they mean is Romans and Galatians. Their understanding (or sometimes lack of undestanding) of these two epistles often becomes the centre of not only Paul, but of the entire New Testament. Hebrews, Matthew, Revelation, and Luke-Acts are all forced into a Pauline framework.

How is this corrected? First, Christian Origins shows us the real diversity of the early church. You only have to compare the Johannine literature, Luke-Acts, and Paul to see that the saving significance of Jesus was expressed in different (I did not say contradictory) concepts, categories, and terms. Approaches to the law were diverse and pluriform as Christians struggled (in every sense of the word) to understand how the law-covenant was to be understood and followed in light of the coming Jesus/faith (cf. Gal. 3.23). A study of Christian Origins opens our eyes to the reality and goodness of diversity, so that Christians can learn to differentiate between convictions and commands, and discern between the major and the minor doctrines of Christian belief. I would also add that, despite this theological breadth to the early church, there was still unity within diversity, a unity apparent in the common kerygma of the early church. While there was diversity and complexity in the early church, it was never a free for all, and the desire to discern between true and false expressions of belief were part of the Christian movement from the very beginning. That leads us to New Testament Theology and rather than priviledging Paul to supra-canonical status (and Romans and Galatians and hyper-canonical), we should listen to each corpra on its own terms and to the issues to which they speak. A study of this kind will indicate where the theological (and dare I say) spiritual centre of gravity lies in the New Testament.

Nick Perrin: Response to April DeConick on the Historical Jesus

Dear April,
To continue with my surrejoinder and building on my previous post, I thought I would turn my attention to the issue of the historical Jesus.

In Thomas, the Other Gospel I state that your approach to Thomas “necessitates the assumption that those who preserved Jesus' memory, while duly impressed with at least some of his words, found nothing about his life or actions worth remembering.” By saying that this assumption is “necessitated,” I do not mean “logically entailed,” but rather what in my mind is the best inference given your position. In other words, if the Thomas community only preserved Jesus’ words in performance, underwritten at points by texts, but did not carry out any corresponding activity in regards to the actions of Jesus, this suggests to me that this same Thomas community didn’t find anything about Jesus’ life worth remembering. Things that are worth remembering over a span of generations are passed down either orally or textually. Since neither the Thomas’s community’s oral re-performances of the Jesus tradition nor its crisis-driven rescribing of those traditions seem to include his deeds, we must surmise that there was no community-wide interest in passing down Jesus’ story. Therefore, as far as the Thomas community was concerned, the Jesus story was not worth remembering.

A separate but connected issue comes to fore in the relationship between the Thomas traditions and the synoptic tradition. Since in your book you leave this issue virtually untouched, the reader is left on his/her own to follow through with the implications of your thesis for our understanding of the rise of the synoptic tradition. In your rejoinder you begin to connect a few of the dots I wish you would have – perhaps even should have -- connected in your monograph:

Perrin (p. 61): "She [DeConick] does not clarify how and why such speeches eventually gave rise to the narrative gospels." I cannot clarify something that I do not address in my book. Recovering is not a book about how speech gospels became narrative gospels. It is a book attempting to understand a particular case - the compositional history of the Gospel of Thomas. For what it might be worth, in fact, I don't think that speech gospels turned into narrative gospels at all. I think that speech gospels rose alongside oral narrative cycles, cycles that evidently led to Mark. Speech gospels like the Kernel or Q later were incorporated into the narrative gospels, as is the case with Matthew and Luke. But the speech gospel did not generate the narrative gospel as Perrin leads his readers to think is my position.

But this clarification still does not seem very satisfactory. Very little of Q is embedded in narrative – John the Baptist’s preaching and the temptation being notable exceptions, so it is fairly easy to image Q’s assimilation into Matthew and Luke. But where Mark parallels Thomas, the spoken material is often deeply rooted in the narrative of an apophthegmatic scene (e.g. Marcan parallels to GT 44 [Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit], 100 [Giving to Caesar]). How are we to explain the interrelationship between the narratively-embedded sayings in the Marcan tradition and those same sayings in the Thomasine tradition? It seems you really have two options: either Mark inherited the punch line (apophthegm) and then built the story around it (Bultmann), or that Mark fairly accurately preserved pre-Marcan cycles that held story and punch line together as a whole. If you forego the former option (which you appear to do in your rejoinder) and pursue the latter, this means that Thomas ingested the tradition (action + speech together), spit out the actions/narrative setting, while the synoptics – even if later than Thomas -- preserved the prior tradition with a fair degree of integrity. Mark would at any rate be shown as being more interested in preserving the context of Jesus’ words (as passed down) than Thomas, who counts on the audience’s frame of reference. Would you not then conclude that Mark’s sensitivity to the historical context of Jesus’ sayings puts him as a historical document a notch or two above Thomas? And if this is so, then we not only learn something about Jesus from the synoptic tradition, but in order to be historically and source-critically responsible we also must put Thomas in conversation with the synoptics. While there are several major aspects of Recovering that have won both my agreement and admiration, points which I do mention in my book and will do so again in closing here, your monograph seems to suggest (I know you don’t actually think this way) as if in first-century Jerusalem there was no Christianity but Thomas Christianity. In some ways, by avoiding much mention of these other Christianities, other gospels and their sources, you are avoiding a huge X-factor that complicates your thesis considerably.

Finally, a few words about the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith. You say in your rejoinder that Thomas Christianity, like “most practicing Christians today,” do not distinguish the two categories, that Thomas community could hear Jesus the Prophet as he was spiritually present to them. “There is,” you write, “no disjuncture between Jesus the Prophet and the living presence of his spirit. There is no disregard for what Jesus actually said, as Perrin appears to want his readers to believe is my position.”

Frankly, I remain puzzled. Allow me to quote your words. As you see it, the early Christian author “does not simply ‘reproduce’ the communal icons, the text may in fact be written to modify or destroy them” (11). Early Christian traditions are a “group’s ‘remembered history,’ the ‘recollections of the past that are determined and shaped by a group’ in the present’ … So the formation of communal memory is not a retrieval of past traditions and history.” (12). “To retain memory, it is necessary for us to … ‘revise personal components to fit the collectively remembered past’ so that we ‘gradually cease to distinguish them.” (14). “The community will ultimately transform its traditions” (15). While no one would disagree that early Christians shaped the Jesus tradition as per their need, this is not the same as saying what you seem to be saying: that the early Christians willy-nilly added to, subtracted from, and radically transformed their memory of Jesus. Again, if I understand you right, you are saying that what Jesus said and did was merely grist for the mill, but the grist could certainly be discarded or transmuted beyond recognition. If so, this seems not only to impose a (post)modern, Halbwachsian understanding of history on the first-century world but also, in the final analysis, to show “disregard for what Jesus actually said” -- just as I suggest it in my treatment of your book. Christians then and Christians now do distinguish what the historical Jesus said and did from what people, inspired or not, say he said and did.

Because second-century Thomas Christianity was more indebted to Greek idealism than Jewish interest in history, their Thomasine sayings collection cares very little whether or not Jesus really said what is ascribed to him. But first-century Christianity, still deeply Jewish and serious about historical events, bank on the historicity of what they preached, including Jesus’ words and deeds.

In your final cautionary notes (4 and 5), you defend your sifting of Thomasine materials. I’m not sure even the most patient blogwatcher would endure me interacting with your comments on the necessary level of detail. Instead, I will simply refer the reader to your initial discussion in your book and my response to it in mine.

Finally, thank you for advancing the conversation of Thomas studies. While as you know I have doubts about your particular reconstruction of Thomas, I think you hit the nail squarely on the head by giving fresh emphasis to the Syriac, Hermetic setting. (When that Syriac, Hermetic setting occurs is another question!) All the same, your creativity, wide-ranging research and energetic writing schedule stands as an example to us all.

In the meantime, April, congratulations on your new book on Judas. Wishing you the best and hoping we can one day continue our interchange in person.

All good wishes,
Nick Perrin

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Martin Hengel on Biblical Theology

"From this [Jesus as Messiah] flow consequences for theological reflection as well; for, as the messianic bringer of salvation, he is the fundamental of our faith, who fulfilled the Old Covenant, and breathed the breath of life into the New. His person and work charge us with the task of a 'whole' biblical theology that above all fully realizes its Jewish heritage, a biblical theology that does not eradicate the lines between the Old and New, but properly defines them. I could also express this in the words of Paul with which I began: the Jew, Jesus of Nazareth, became the Messiah of Israel in order to fulfil the promises made to the fathers, and he became for us, who have come afterwrad from all nations of the earth, 'the author of our salvation', because we experience in him what the love of God is, that we might, for the sake of such grace, praise as our Father, the God of Israel and Father of Jesus Christ."
- Martin Hengel, "Jesus, the Messiah of Israel", Studies in Early Christology (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1995), p. 72.

Martin Hengel on Jesus as Messiah

Martin Hengel writes:

"If Jesus never possessed a messianic claim of divine mission, rather sternly rejected every third-hand question in this regard, if he neither spoke of the coming, or present, ‘Son of Man’, nor was executed as a messianic pretender and alleged king of the Jews – as is maintained with astonishing certainty by radical criticism unencumbered by historical arguments – then the emergence of christology, indeed, the entire history of primitive Christianity, is completely baffling, nay, incomprehensible. But this is not all – all four gospels, and above all the Passion narrative as their most ancient, component, would be a curious product of the imagination very difficult to explain, for the Messiah question is at the centre of them all. If Mark 1–10 stands under the rubric of the ‘messianic secret’, the remainder of the gospel, following the Entry into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-11), dissolves this step by step. Is this no more than a construct than a novelistic art and christological imagination of the Evangelist? With regard to christology, are not the gospels also a part of the Religionsgeschichte derived from the Jewish heritage?" (‘Jesus the Messiah of Israel,’’ in Studies in Early Christology [Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1995], p. 14.)

What is more, for an excellent overview of the breadth and depth of Hengel's work do read Roland Deines, 'Martin Hengel: A Life in Service of Christology,' TynBul 58.1 (2007): 25-42.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Audio lecture by M.D. Hooker on 2 Cor. 5.21

As part of C.K. Barrett's 90th birthday bash in Durham, M.D. Hooker gave a paper on 2 Cor. 5.21 which is available online here (password: letmein). Following her presentation you will hear interactions from such people as C.K. Barrett, Walter Moberly, N.T. Wright, James Dunn and John Barclay.

HT: Kevin Bywater.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Gospel Coalition Documents

The Gospel Coalition was held at TEDS about a week or so ago and was set up (as far as I can tell) by Tim Keller and D.A. Carson. It is designed to run as a gospel-centred conference in years alternate to 'Together for the Gospel'. The Gospel Coalition has some Foundational Documents are now available and they include:

The Gospel for all Life: Preamble
Confessional Statement
Theological Vision for Ministry

I'm all for anything that gets people excited about the gospel and this conference seems like an exciting event for all who were involved.

HT Justin Taylor

Scepticism Towards Miracles in the Ancient World

It is often said by modern commentators that the ancients were generally open to the miraculous and the divine, being pre-scientific and all, and they uncritically accepted reports of visions, visitations, and dreams of of the gods. I found it interesting then to discover what Sextus Empiricus said: 'Madmen and mystics seem to hear divinities, while we do not' (PH 1.101).

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Latest BBR

The latest issue of Bulletin for Biblical Research 17.1 (2007), includes the following articles:

Iain Provan
How Can I Understand, Unless Someone Explains It to Me?" (Acts 8:30-31): Evangelicals and Biblical Hermeneutics

Andrew J. Schmutzer
All Those Going Out of the Gate of His City": Have the Translations Got It Yet?

Darrell Bock
Blasphemy and the Jewish Examination of Jesus

Robert H. Gundry
New Wine in Old Wineskins: Bursting Traditional Interpretations in John's Gospel (Part 1)

Guenther H. Juncke
'Children of Promise': Spiritual Paternity and Patriarch Typology in Galatians and Romans

Paul: Theology, Prayer, and Worship

Find below a quote about Paul's theology, a prayer about Paul, and a worship hymn about Paul.


Paul’s theology is not systematics; instead, he is grasped best when at least the following seven Pauline principles are kept on the table as we proceed through his letters. First, the gospel is the grace of God in revealing Jesus as Messiah and Lord for everyone who believes; second, everyone stands behind one of the twin heads of humanity, Adam and Christ; third, Jesus Christ is the centre stage, and it is participation in him that transfers a person from the Adam line to the Christ line; fourth, the church is the body of Christ on earth; fifth, (salvation-)history does not begin with Moses but with Abraham and the promise God gave to him, and finds its crucial turning point in Jesus Christ – but will run its course until the consummation in the glorious Lordship of Christ over all; sixth, Christian behaviour is determined by the Holy Spirit, not the Torah; seventh, Paul is an apostle and not a philosopher or systematic theologian. These principles spring into action when Paul meets his various threats (circumcision, wisdom, gifts, works of Torah, ethnocentrism, flesh, rival leaders, and eschatological fights about the Parousia or the general resurrection).
- Scot McKnight, Jesus and His Death: Historiography, The Historical Jesus, and Atonement Theory (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2005), 374.


O God, who, through the preaching of the blessed Apostle Saint Paul, hast caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world; Grant, we beseech thee, that we, having this wonderful conversion in remembrance, may shew forth our thankfulness unto thee for the same, by following the holy doctrine which he taught, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
- Book of Common Prayer, January 25.


Lord of glory, in our darkness
shine upon us with your light
as, when walking to Damascus
Saul beheld the vision bright:
filled with fear he learned your gospel,
then proclaimed it with delight

He who served you in the Spirit,
preached to Roman, Greek, and Jew,
and with burning love and passion
lived a message that was true;
Paul, apostle to the nations,
held the whole wide world in view.

Now, rejoicing at his memory,
in this consecrated place;
we recall the truths he taught us
and the hope of saving grace.
So, we worship you, Lord Jesus,
reigning King of time and space.

- Michael Saward, 'Lord of Glory'.

Nick Perrin responds to April DeConick

I have previously mentioned Nick Perrin's book Thomas, the Other Gospel as something I'm hoping to read in the next fortnite (alas there are essays to be marked first). But the blogosphere is buzzing with responses and reflections to Perrin's book. Mark Goodacre has offered the first of his rolling responses to Perrin's book. Over at the Forbidden Gospels blog, April DeConick (Rice University) has offered her critique of Perrin's work, particularly as it relates to Perrin's representation of her position (See Cautionary Note 1: Nick Perrin, Thomas, The Other Gospel, Cautionary Note 2: DeConick on Orality and Literacy, Cautionary Note 3: DeConick on the Historical Jesus, Cautionary Note 4: DeConick on Accretions). In light of this I have invited Nick Perrin to respond to some of the criticisms made by April DeConick so as to enable him to have a voice in a discussion that is essentially about him and his book. His response is below:


Dear April (if I may),

I must confess, when my attention was drawn to your comments on my recent book (Thomas, The Other Gospel) in your blog, I was at first a bit stunned. You seem to feel strongly that I have grossly misrepresented your work. I was quite surprised and am truly sorry you feel that way. In the world of academia few things are more troubling than the sense that one’s reviewer has missed the boat. However, after reading your blog, and having now just given your book yet one more read, I feel that I must stick my guns: I feel I have portrayed the thrust of your thesis accurately. I hope and trust that our coming into sharp disagreement with each other (I think you went first in Recovering, pp. 48-49) will not prevent us from having a lively, collegial and good-spirited interchange on your important work – or mine for that matter.

Since you are taking issue with how I take issue with you in piecemeal fashion, I shall try to work in that framework. The first item of business on your docket, it seems, is the whole oral versus scribal interplay. For now, let me stick to that, explain why I think it matters, and then make a few miscellaneous responses.

To be honest, while at points you are very clear in your writing, it is in your first chapter on methodology that you seem to be saying many things – sometimes contradictory things -- at once. If I may, let me provide an example. Toward describing how you see Thomas coming together on pp. 26-28 you (1) cite Fraade approvingly on ancient oral performance as ‘an orality that is grounded in a textuality that remains orally fluid’ (26), (2) state that ‘in such cultures there is reliance on memory with little to no dependence on external sources of information’ [presumably including texts?], even if the contents of that performance are ‘sometimes captured in our texts’ (27), and (3) draw on Lord and Ong to describe a procedure of performance that makes implies little if any use of texts (27-29). So, my question is this: which is it? Are oral performances (1) grounded in texts? (2) Only preserved in texts, but averse to using texts as a basis for performance? Or (3) virtually text-less? Your citing both Fraade and Ong with unmitigated approval seems a bit like wanting your cake and eating it too. In my view, you can apply Fraade’s comments to early Christianity, but I think it would wrong to apply Ong.

As for the mode of transmission before ‘rescribing,’ you say ‘the community will exercise control over how the traditions are passed on and reshaped’ (29) and, on the other, texts were used as aids for memory (32, 35). If the community did really control the content of the performance, as you suggest, then the texts could not have been much more than the ancient equivalent of sticky notes. Since you are unhappy with me on my p. 62 (I’m not sure which part), let me repeat a sentence from the same page: ‘ It seems to me that one cannot both emphasize Thomas’s oral constitution to the degree DeConick does and give any real place to Hermetical influence.’ I might also add a fortiori ‘ … and/or to early Christianity.’ I am aware that you see points of ‘rescribing’ at crucial, as those times when ‘old traditions were refreshed and the old ideas kept current’ (36) (btw, would not keeping old ideas current be more likely in the moment of performance?), but I fear you may be missing the point of my critique.

Christianity, like Judaism, was a religion of the book (see Bart Ehrman’s fine chapter on this in Misquoting Jesus). The Torah and the words of Jesus, inflexible hermeneutical anchors for succeeding generations of flexible interpretation, were held in highest authority in earliest Christianity. This stability was not an afterthought or established retrospectively, as you suggest, when ‘the traditions finally reached the stage that they were considered the “ancient” or “authoritative” record of the community’ (36). The resurrection event was the seed of Christianity and the basis for hermeneutical authority. In my view, your reconstruction of Thomas flounders because – with or without your notion of rescribing -- it does not fit with what we know about the early Christian’s inflexible reverence for Jesus and the book, nor does it fit with scribal Hermeticism.

Now for a few miscellania…

Elsewhere on your blog you write as follows:

Perrin (p. 65): "according to DeConick, the Thomas community orally perpetuated its memory of Jesus for a century or so" but no citation. This is not my position which is clearly laid out several times in Recovering. So I will state it again. Thomas began as a written Kernel, a notebook of speeches. This text was used by orators to preach and instruct, and so it moved into the oral environment where it was adapted each time it was performed. It was a text that moved in and out of oral and written environments. I write (pp. 62-63):

"We can imagine that the developing traditions were rescribed at crucial moments in the history of the community when members feared the loss of their traditions or when pressure within the group demanded significant reinterpretation." This process lasted for 60 to 70 years.

But on your chart (97-98) you show four successive periods of accretions (I’m sorry, April, I know you object to calling these ‘stages’, but I don’t know what else to call them) ranging from 30-120 CE. That’s 90 years, or ‘a century or so.’ I don’t think ‘orally perpetuated’ is incompatible with ‘in and out of oral and written environments.’

In regards to Papias, my pg. 59 and your pg. 57, thank you. Your comments are clarifying. If that’s what you mean, I’m good with that.

As for the rest of the comments, I think I’ll save them for my next entry when I come back to you on this historical Jesus, where they seem to fit better.

For now, here’s to continued fruitful interchange. Hopefully, we will both arise from this as better scholars. Michael, I’m grateful for your willingness to host the discussion.

All best wishes,
Nick Perrin

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Paul and Rhetoric (once more)

I'm currently writing a short piece about the value of applying the categories from rhetorical handbooks to Paul's letters. Those who want of a short and readable introduction to the subject see Steve Walton, ‘Rhetorical Criticism: An Introduction’, Themelios 21 (1996): 4-9. The problem is the legitimacy and benefit of applying the categories of oral discourse to a written medium. As such scholars such as Mark Nanos, Markus Bockmuehl, and Stanley Porter have questioned the applicability of Graeco-Roman rhetoric to Paul's epistles.

There are a whole host of issues, responses, and counter-responses that come up in assessing this subject. The conclusion I am coming to is that Paul’s letters exhibit a functional rhetoric, although evidently not a formal rhetoric. Paul did not write Galatians with Aristotle’s Rhetorica by his side, nor is it likely that he dictated Romans with a view to imitating Quintilian or Cicero. Rhetorical parallels are evident, they affect the structure of his letters and the texture of the argumentation, but they do not control or determine the various facets of his letters. A conscious or unconscious amalgam and adaptation of epistolary structures, Jewish exegetical techniques, traditional Christian material, biographical self-references, Greco-Roman rhetorical forms, sermonic exhortation and explanation, apocalyptic and wisdom motifs, evangelistic zeal, and pastoral concern make Paul’s letters what they are. As such, it is necessary to integrate a study of rhetoric, in its various forms, into a comprehensive and holistic analysis of Paul’s letters.

You know you have been working too hard when ...

You know you have been working too hard when you have a dream that you met E.P. Sanders in the car park of the supermarket Tescos and he was carrying a six pack of Fosters Beer. I had this dream the other night and it is disturbing on so many levels. Sanders was in my mind for a variety of reasons. I'd been finishing a book on Paul, I'd just sent off a review article of VanLandingham's book on Paul, and a North American friend had tried (unsuccesfully) to recruit Sanders for a big NT project that we are starting soon. Tonight, I will be reading the Gospel of John before I go to bed and hope that nothing or no-one that has anything to do with Pauline studies disturbs my sleep. Freud could have a field day with this one. But I am glad to say that no pencils or bananas were in the dream either.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Council of Javneh

In scholarship of the late 70s and early 80s much was made of the council of Javneh which was convened in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem, and this council issued a decree on the explusion of the minim (= "heretics", quite possibly Christians, cf. Jn 9.22) from the synagogues. Its imprint is said to be reflected in the bitter polemics underlying the Gospels of Matthew and John where Christians were expelled from the synagogues and responded in kind with equally vitriolic polemics. This "Javneh Myth" has been effectively attacked on a number of fronts (see David E. Aune, "On the Origins of the 'Council of Javneh' Myth," Journal of Biblical Literature 110 [1991] 491-93; N.T. Wright, NTPG, 161-65). Criticism is based on the fact that our knowledge about the council's existence and effects is quite scant, who the minim are is up for grabs and they are not necessarily Jewish Christians, and the authority that such a council would have in Diaspora synagogues in Asia Minor and perhaps even Syria is disputed. On top of that, contrary to popular belief, Pharisees and Christians were not the only Jewish groups left standing post-70 AD and finding a Jewish-Christian polemic mirrored in the Gospels is far from clear.

A mediating view is that of Philip L. Mayo in his article "The Role of the Birkath Haminim in Early Jewish-Christian Relations: A Reexamination of the Evidence," BBR 16.2 (2006): 325-44, who argues that the "cursing of Christians" (BH) was not a "watershed event" in a Jewish-Christian schism. Rather, it was a tool for shaping Judaism into its rabbinic image and the BH had no immediate effect on Jewish-Christian relations untillater. (I would add that Justin Martyr's reference to Jews cursing Christians is a good indication that by ca. 150 AD it did effect the relations). Mayo writes: "One may say, therefore, that the Birkath Haminim was certainly a factor in the early separation of Judaism and Christianity, but it was not the factor. It became one among many factors that contributed to the eventual separation that would estalbish these two religions as separate for centuries to come" (p. 343).

Monday, May 21, 2007

B.H. Streeter on Albert Schweitzer

B.H. Streeter said this about Albert Schweitzer's Quest for the Historical Jesus:

Modern lives of Christ, whether written from a radical or from a conservative standpoint, have been too modern. The pseudo-Romantic Christ of Renan, and the "beourgeois Christ" of Rationalistic liberalism are quite as far removed from the actual historica figure as the personified abstraction of scholastic logic or the sentimetnal effeminacy dear to Christian Art. But if we agree with Schweitzer here, yet it is not without a feeling that he himself cannot quite escape the charge of modernizing, and that thiks own boldly-outlined portrait is a little like the Superman of Nietzsche in Galilean robes.

Cited from John M. Court, 'Burnett Hillman Streeter,' ExpTim 118.1 (2006): 21.

Review of the new edition of Aland's Synopsis of the Four Gospels

Synopsis of the Four Gospels: Greek-English Edition of the Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum. Edited by Kurt Aland, (12th edn; Stuttgart: German Bible Society, 2001).

Available in the UK from Alban Books

This Gospel parallel compiled by the late Kurt Aland is based on the NA27 and RSV. This Synopsis remains arguably the most useful tool for students, pastors, and scholars who want to study the Greek and English texts of the Gospels side-by-side. I have an older copy of A Harmony of the Synoptic Gospels in Greek by Ernest De Witt Burton and Edgar Johnson Goodspeed, but Aland's Synopsis is far better in that it also provides an apparatus and English translation.

The introduction includes a description of the RSV text, an explanation of the apparatus and symbols of the NA27 text, and a list of Greek and Latin witnesses. After the Synopsis itself comes two indices including a list of Gospel parallels and a list of NT passages alluded to.

This Synopsis is particularly useful because it has both the English and Greek texts on opposite pages and it means that one does not need a great proficiency in Greek to make use of it. I have used Aland’s Synopsis in class as a way of introducing first year undergraduate students to the Synoptic problem. My preferred starting point is # 128 the ‘Parable of the Mustard Seed’ which is part of the triple tradition and good for discussing Marcan priority and assessing the Two-Source hypothesis against the Farrer-Goulder-Goodacre option. Pastors and those preparing sermons or Bible studies can benefit from an immediate, visual, and detailed comparison of parallel Gospel passages.

A note of advice (originating from Mark Goodacre), if you are going to colour code or mark the pages of a Synopsis such as this, then make sure that you photocopy it first just in case you change your mind from which source you think a certain text belongs to!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

New Book on the Apostolic Fathers

Paul Foster has just edited a collection of essays from ExpTim entitled The Writings of the Apostolic Fathers selling at $29.95 from continuum.

The Writings of the Apostolic Fathers refer to a group of miscellaneous Christian writings produced in the first and second centuries. The authors of these writings were considered by seventeenth century scholars to be the next generation of Apostles and as a result were named The Apostolic Fathers. Perceived by many scholars to be the most important collection of post-New Testament writings, a number of these texts were in fact considered for the Canon of the New Testament but later rejected. Their obvious significance stems from the fact that they are the first Christian writings produced outside the New Testament Canon and as such contain an essential insight into the development of the early Christian Church and Christian thinking. Much Christian Doctrine came, not from the New Testament, but from the writings produced by the early church and in particular the writings of the Apostolic Fathers. Therefore, these texts are crucial to an understanding of the shaping of Christian thought and Christian doctrine. This volume will provide readers with an overview of each of the eleven texts, together with a general introduction. Communicating the best recent scholarship to a broad audience, each chapter offers a treatment of the most controversial aspects of each text and discusses the theology of each of the writings in order to orient readers to the development of Christian thinking in the second century. Each article ends with a carefully chosen select bibliography to enable further reading

Apostolic Fathers and the Struggle for Christian Identity (Helmut Koester)
The Didache (Jonathon Draper)
1 Clement (Andrew Gregory)
2 Clement (Paul Parvis)
Fragments of Papias (Charles Hill)
The Apology of Quadratus (Paul Foster)
The Shepherd of Hermas (Joseph Verheyden)
The Epistle of Barnabas (James Carleton Paget)
The Epistles of Ignatius (Paul Foster)
The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians (Michael Holmes)
The Martyrdom of Polycarp (Sara Parvis)
The Epistle to Diognetus (Paul Foster)

HT: April Deconick

Friday, May 18, 2007

Latest Issue of SBET 25.1 (2007)

The latest issue of Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology includes:

Geoffrey Grogan
Writing a Theological Commentary: Methodology and Hermeneutical Considerations

Jamie Grant
Singing the Cover Versions: Psalms, Reinterpretation and Biblical Theology in Acts 1-4

David Gibson
The Johannine Footwashing and the Death of Jesus: A Dialogue with Scholarship

William M. Schweitzer
Rage Against the Machine: Jonathan Edwards versus the God of Deism

John S. Ross
Claudius Buchanan: Scotland's First Missionary to the Jews

Don Garlington reviews A. Andrew Das, Solving the Romans Debate

Guest post by Don Garlington

A. Andrew Das
Solving the Romans Debate
Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-8006-3860-3
pp. xii + 324

Professor A. A. Das’ most recent work on the apostle Paul is designed to challenge the scholarly (and popular) consensus that Romans was addressed to a mixed congregation of Jews and Gentiles in the Romans church(es). Rather, Das contends, the letter was intended for a congregation comprised exclusively of Gentiles. The book consists of five chapters: 1: The Romans Debate: Narrowing the Options; 2. The Ethnic Identity of the Romans Congregations: The Internal Evidence; 3: Former God-Fearers or Synagogue Subgroup?; 4. Claudius’s Edict of Expulsion: The External Evidence; 5. Reading Romans with the Encoded Audience: Romans 7:7-25 and Romans 11:25-26.

Das ties into and builds on previous attempts to argue for an exclusively Gentile readership by scholars such as Paul Achtemeier, Lloyd Gaston, Stanley Stowers and Neil Elliott. In particular, he champions but still seeks to correct weaknesses in the work of Stowers and Elliott. The gist of the argument is that Romans is addressed to an “encoded Gentile audience” (a phrase derived from Stowers). I deduce that this means something along these lines: in Romans Paul addresses Jewish issues and even addresses Jews directly (as in Romans 2:17-24), but in so doing he actually has in view God-fearing Gentiles and non-law-observant Gentiles. The former, because of their earlier attachment to the synagogue, would be scrupulous, at least to some degree, for the Mosaic commandments, whereas the latter have little, if any, interest in them at all. In a personal communication, Professor Das has confirmed my impression:

The address of the Jew in Romans 2:17 would be rhetorical and would not identify the ethnic identity of audience members, although certainly relevant in topic for God-fearing gentiles. How scrupulous these gentiles would be for the Law, I suppose, would depend on the individual, although Romans 14-15, in my mind, indicates a significant group with proclivities for Law-observance appropriate for gentiles.

As regards the purpose of Romans, Das grants that Paul would have been hoping to reconcile Gentiles on both ends of the spectrum in their respective attitudes toward Judaism, in order, with their support, to facilitate his mission to Spain. Nevertheless, Das downplays the Spanish mission as the central motivation of the letter. He believes, rather, that Paul wanted to guarantee that these Gentiles appreciated the Jewish roots of their faith and their indebtedness to Israel. Such a renewed appreciation of Israel would ease the apparent tensions in their mutual relations as regards Moses’ Law (again from the email communication).

Since this is not intended be an extensive review article, I must cut to the chase and relate my impressions of the book. First of all, this is an extremely competent and learned monograph, rich in detail and documentation and chockablock with insights. The historical treatment of Claudius’ expulsion of the Jews from Rome is especially well done. For example, Das very effectively demonstrates that the assumption of a complete expulsion of the Jews under Claudius is fraught with insurmountable problems, especially as the estimated Jewish population of Rome in the first century was somewhere between 20,000 and 50,000, far too many for a total expulsion. As Das further explains, the Romans were always “expelling” people, and in many cases it was an exercise in political posturing and was more symbolic than actual. Additionally, while I understand Romans 7:14-25 in the more traditional terms of Paul’s experience as a believer, the exegetical material (with extensive documentation) presented by Das is richly rewarding and has to be pondered seriously by any commentator on the passage. This level of scholarship is sustained throughout the entire book.

By way of a more critical interaction, I would just reiterate some familiar objections to a Gentile only readership of Romans, with a wrinkle or two of my own. All of these are addressed by Das to one degree or the other, and in most instances in great detail. At the end of the day, it is a question of plausibility, and readers will have to consult his book to adjudicate for themselves the legitimacy (or lack thereof) of my brief analysis.

For one, there is the question, How can a document that is saturated with references to Israel and the nations not be addressed to a mixed congregation? To be sure, former God-fearers would take an interest in the nation of Israel, especially in terms of its spiritual heritage and ethical values. But does it stand to reason that Paul would go to such lengths if there were no Jewish constituency of the Romans church(es) at all?

Second, the adjective “all” occurs more than seventy times in Romans, and in each instance it addresses the Jew/Gentile question. It is noteworthy that in his introduction to the letter Paul lifts titles and predicates of Israel from the Old Testament and applies them to “all God’s beloved in Rome” (1:7). For me anyway, this is all the more impactful if Jew and non-Jew alike are now the new “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16), simply because a leveling process has taken place: all without distinction are able to render to God the obedience of faith (1:5). The question arises whether ethnē in 1:5 is best taken as “Gentiles” rather than “nations.” If it is the former, then Das has a stronger case. Yet commentators are divided, and certainly a reasonable argument can be made for the latter. I prefer “nations” because, according to the account of Paul’s missionary endeavors in Acts, he commenced his preaching in various locales with the synagogue congregations. The picture in Acts thus comports with Paul’s declaration of Romans 1:16 that the gospel is for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

In the third place, there is the “theme” of Romans as articulated by 1:16-17 (actually these verses recapitulate 1:1-7). According to Paul’s own statement, salvation is for everyone who has faith, quite irrespective of national or racial origins. Certainly, it is arguable that Paul could phrase the matter as he does because the Roman Gentile Christians would want Jews to embrace the gospel. But again, it is matter of probability. As I read Paul, the thematic statement of Romans gains in power if there were in fact Jewish Christians in the city of Rome. Romans 1:16-17 is both a statement of the historical privilege of Israel (“the Jew first”) and the equality of Jew and Gentile in Christ (“also to the Greek”). These data comport nicely with the “no distinction” motif of the letter (3:22; 10:12).

Fourth, there is the matter of Paul’s Jewish interlocutor in Romans, not only in 2:17-24 but also 6:1-7:12. In these passages, Paul addresses issues arising from his preaching. From the time of Rudolf Bultmann at least, it has been more or less assumed that the technique of Paul’s argumentation mirrors the Hellenistic diatribe, especially the Stoic/Cynic variety. However, I think it much more plausible to think in terms of the synagogue debate-style, as first suggested by Joachim Jeremias and seconded by H. N. Ridderbos. Paul’s interlocutor is, to be sure, fictive. Yet this imaginary person represents real life attitudes that Paul encountered everywhere he went. If this is the actual backdrop, I would submit that it makes better sense that Paul would follow such a pattern of argumentation because of Jewish believers in Rome who might be posing the same questions as their non-Christian counterparts in the synagogues of the Diaspora.

Fifth, at the suggestion of scholars such as Richard Hays, J. C. Beker and Das himself, on its bedrock level Romans is to be understood as a theodicy; that is, in the letter Paul is justifying the ways of God to Israel. The Lord has remained faithful to his ancient people, only in the gospel of Christ, who is the law’s telos (goal and termination) (10:4). The first concrete expression of this motif is Romans 3:1-8 as echoed by 3:26. And from this vantage point, it is just chapters 9-11 that constitute the heart of the letter, because in them this theodicy theme is pursued vigorously and at length. Rather than being an appendix or a parenthesis of some sort, Romans 9-11 the high point of the epistle. I should think that such an elaborate argument for God’s continued faithfulness to Israel—in the gospel—would be more understandable and compelling if the Roman congregations were comprised at least of some Jews.

Sixth, there is the question of the “weak” and the “strong” in Rome. The issue is complicated by the fact that a number of options are open to the interpreter. My preference is to view both groups in terms of their respective attitudes. Das writes of Paul’s “obliqueness” about the weak and strong (262-63). He is right, but this can be accounted for in other terms than those suggested by him. That is to say, Jews and Gentiles equally could be “weak” or “strong” depending on their attitude and stance toward the law. Law observant Gentiles could be as weak as observant Jews, and non-observant Jews could be as strong as Gentiles who had no interest in the minutiae of the Torah. Das further maintains that the weak and the strong were not separate groups but factions within the same gatherings, otherwise there would have been no particular problem. My comeback is that the separate groups did not necessarily have to meet under the same roof in order to know the theology and practice of the others, as it were, their “orthodoxy” and “orthopraxis.” I think Paul Minear was right to highlight sociological factor of the household churches of nascent Christianity, meaning that the likely problem in Rome was that the various enclaves of “weak” and “strong” were meeting in separate dwellings and were refusing to receive the others into their homes. This would easily account for Paul’s plea, “Receive one another as Christ has received you” (15:7).

In the seventh place, there is the catena of Old Testament passages in Romans 15:9-12, all celebrating God’s reception of the nations into his family. At the risk of belaboring the point, these texts would have had their optimum impact on a Jewish segment of the church that was entertaining doubts about the calling of the Gentiles.

Finally, there is Paul’s extensive use of the Old Testament throughout the Roman letter. To be sure, God-fearing Gentiles who had attended the synagogues would have had sufficient background to follow his arguments from the Hebrew Scriptures (as in the Galatians churches also). But again, it boils down to a matter of likelihood and probability. It would seem to me that readers nurtured on the Scriptures from childhood onward would have been particularly impacted.

In his conclusions (261, n. 1), Das cites A. J. M. Wedderburn’s three criteria for a viable reconstruction of the concrete situation behind Romans: (1) Is the situation presupposed inherently plausible? Does it provide a coherent picture of the life of the Christian community in that place? (2) Is this picture compatible with what we know from other sources concerning the history of the earliest church? Is it similar to anything else we know happened elsewhere in the church of that day? (3) Does it fit in with what Paul’s text says? Does it make good sense of that text? And, according to Das, “Each of these criteria may be affirmatively answered on the assumption of a gentile audience.” I would grant that given the assumption of a Gentile audience Romans can be fitted into these criteria. Nevertheless, the assumption of a mixed congregation fits the bill as well. The bottom line, for a final time, is that of plausibility. Does the New Testament characteristically represent the earliest Christian communities as composed of only one ethnic variety, even in the case of Galatians? Judging from Acts, Paul won converts from both Israel and non-Jewish peoples, either synagogue adherents or pagans. I should think a typical example is provided by Acts 18:1-11: the founding of the Corinthian church. In fairness, though, I must relate Das’ (email) comeback:

On the concluding point via Acts, I agree that Paul began in synagogues in his ministry, but Paul has not yet been to Rome and I do believe that Christianity began in the Roman synagogues before being forced by circumstances to meet independently. Roman Christianity therefore has its own story.

In sum, at this point in time, I still need to be persuaded of Professor Das’ central thesis (though I am prepared to be convinced). Nevertheless, this is a book of outstanding value and needs to be pondered carefully by Pauline specialists generally and interpreters of Romans in particular. I am quite sure I will resort to it repeatedly in my own research. Congratulations are in order.

Don Garlington
Toronto, Ontario

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Value of a Theological Commentary

I am reviewing Stanely Hauerwas's Brazos theological commentary on Matthew's Gospel. I would like to ask a controversial question: What is the value of a commentary like this? While you might not be familiar with the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible, can a theologian not trained in historical exegesis produce a commentary that can really do justice to the issues within the text? When conversation partners are theologians (e.g. Bonhoeffer, Yoder) and philosophers (e.g Kant) instead of ancient sources (e.g. Greco-Roman authors, Pseudepigrapha) what real potential is there for laying bare the meaing of the text? -- by "meaning of the text" I am presuming that the meaning of the implied author is discernable in the communication of the text.

Perhaps one would say that appropriate expectations for a theolgoical commentary demand that it be judged differently. If the commentary is not presuming to be a historical exegesis of a NT document then one cannot be disappointed in what one finds therein. Still, does a commentary like this serve only as a vehicle for the expression of the authors views which were predetermined before coming to the text?

For example, take Hauerwas's commentary on the Sermon on the Mount. Hauerwas suggests that the "righteouness" Jesus required in 5:20 to surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees is subversion. He contends that Jesus thought the scribes and Pharisees were too eager to placate the Romans. Jesus called his disciples to live out the law to the extent that it non-violently subverted the Empire. Or Hauerwas's claim that "perfection" in Matthew 5 means non-violence. Or that the crucial issue in Jesus' teaching on marriage in ch. 5 is not a question of legal interpretation, but rather "what kind of community must a church be that does not make it a matter of necessity for such a woman [divorced] to remarry".

What do you think?

Pet Hates

On the subject of "Pet Hates" there are two things which bug me unto death.

1. Senior students who cannot, despite three years of training, do footnotes in a coherent and consistent manner.

2. Any student who quotes Matthew Henry in an exegetical paper. Thus, I have incorporated the following policy in my revision of the HTC student course handbook:

"If any student quotes, cites or mentions Matthew Henry's Bible Commentary in a academic paper they shall be subject to discipline in one of the following ways:

a. The student will be asked to completely read Matthew Henry's commentary on the whole Bible from cover to cover and then be forced to eat it, hard back cover and all.


b. A Student can opt to be beaten to death with a copy of Matthew Henry's Bible commentary.

Note, students who opt for choice (a) frequently wish they had taken choice (b) since being beaten to death is far less painful than having to actually read all of Matthew Henry's Bible commentary."

MH is fine in your sermons and devotionals if need be, but for the love of Benny 16, don't quote him in an academic paper!

Papias and the Synoptic Problem

I am currently reading (like everyone else in the blogosphere Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses) and I was intrigued by his remark where he intimates the possibility that Papias might be the earliest possible reference to Marcan priority or at least Matthean dependence on Mark:

Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord's sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements . . . Matthew put together the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could.

Does "interpreted them" refer to the words of Jesus or does it refer to interpretation of Peter's account of Jesus' words as contained in Mark? I wouldn't bet my house on it, but it is thought provoking.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Word about Jerry Falwell

I have said many times if you mention the name "Jerry Falwell" you better duck (because someone will want to punch you) or pucker (because they might want to kiss you). Falwell had a love'em/hate'em persona in the US.

I attended Liberty University as an undergraduate from 1989-1993, a university he founded in Lynchburg, VA. Furthermore, as a Youth Ministry Major at Liberty, I was involved in the high school and college ministries of Thomas Road Baptist church all four of my university years and in the last was on staff as a ministry assistant.

To be honest, in recent years I have wished to distance myself from this early influence. Not only have I had to explain how a guy goes from Liberty to Cambridge University, I have had to assure questioners that I share neither the fundamentalism nor the right-wing republicanism of Falwell and the University.

But on the day of Dr. Falwell's death at 73, I would like list some of the things I have most appreciated about him:

1) If it were not for Falwell I would have missed out on many of the most significant experiences and relationships in my life. Just a case in point, had it not been for Liberty I would not have met and married Karla; this is to say nothing of the many lifelong friends and ministry skills I acquired while a student.

2) Falwell instilled in students a belief that they could make a great difference in this world for God. He called his students "Champions for Christ". Although this seems a bit corny to me now and certainly idealistic, I drank up the cool aid he poured and believed that my life could be used by God, even in a small way, to change the world. I hope that at least in a small way, I still do believe that.

3) Dr. Falwell was a man of great integrity and discipline. It is a tribute to him that in an era when many prominent Christian evangelical leaders lived a duplicitous life, he never compromised on his moral integrity or his theological consistency.

4) Falwell was a man of pioneering visionary faith. While I can remember at a Wednesday chapel (he spoke to the student body on Wednesdays) cringing over his exposition of Romans 10:9: "if you confess with your mouth . . .", --by all accounts he was not a good expositor, which formed the basis of a message on confessing the vision the Lord has given you, the idea of visionary faith was one he indeed embodied.

Robert Kysar on John 2-5

"What we have before us is a trial scene in which the defence is arguing that Jesus is not a traitor to the Jewish faith and the Hebraic tradition, but actually one who completes the meaning of that faith and tradition. But, like one of the signs of Jesus, all of this points beyond itself to additional themes to be fleshed out in greater details. The signs and speeches of John 2–5 only whet our appetites for more. And John intends to satisfy our needs, in part at least, with food of both the earthly and heavenly variety."

Robert Kysar, John’s Story of Jesus, 38.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Review of the New Edition of Rahfls

Septuaginta: edition altera. Edited by Alfred Rahlfs and Robert Hanhart (Stuttgart: Deutsche Biblegesellschaft, 2006).

Available in the UK from Albans Books

One of the standard and most accessible editions of the Septuagint has been Alfred Rahlfs' Septuaginta. I was overjoyed when, some years ago, I was given a copy of the massive two volume hard back edition which served me well in my doctoral studies. It was using Rahlfs’ book in conjunction with studies of the OT in the NT that led me to ponder why on earth Christian colleges and seminaries fail to teach Septuagint studies when the Septuagint was largely the Bible of the early church, but that hobby horse is for another day.

The current edition is not a rewrite of Rahlfs’ text, but new textual discoveries have come to light and there have been significant changes in the science of textual criticism since Rahlfs first compiled his edition. However, in light of the forthcoming editio maior of the Septuagint by the Göttingen Academy of Humanities and Sciences it would be pointless to completely revamp Rahlfs’ edition. The revision of Hanhart is far more modest and includes (1) removing errors and misprints; (2) making several cosmetic changes to the text concerning accentuation, a correction to a perfect participle in Isa 5.17, and a conjectural emmandation in Isa 53.2; and (3) concerning the critical apparatus Hanhart eliminates several mistakes arising from comparison with the Göttingen edition, corrections to misleading simplifications of the textual transmission, and the inclusion of the uncials Q, C, and V and the recensions O and L with variants where Rahlfs only mentioned B, S, or A.

This revised ‘pocket-edition’ (I use that term very loosely given its size and weight) remains true to Rahlfs’ purpose: ‘The aim of this work is to provide ministers and students with a reliable edition of the Septuagint at a moderate price, and thus to supply an important companion and aid to the study not only of the Old Testament, but also of the New Testament’. While Rahlfs’ text is available in electronic form (e.g. Bible Works) there is still no substitute for having a good and updated critical apparatus as well. Those serious about biblical study or are interested in how the NT interprets the OT, should consider getting one.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Recent Articles on the NET

In the latest SBL Forum our techno-ninja-NT-guru blogging buddy, Danny Zacharias of Acadia Divinity School, has written a piece that every techno-numpty-NT-guy should read:

The Wired Scholar: Five Free Tools You May Not Know About
Danny Zacharias

In addition, our Zwinglophile, the Rt. Rev. Prof. Jim West, has produced an English translation of Fritz Schmidt-Clausing's original The Humor of Huldrych Zwingli: The Lighter Side of the Protestant Reformation.

Latest JSNT

Journal for the Study of the New Testament1 June 2007; Vol. 29, No. 4

The Madness of King Jesus: Why was Jesus Put to Death, but his Followers were not?
Justin J. Meggitt
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 379-413

Why was Jesus Crucified, but his Followers were not?
Paula Fredriksen
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 415-419

Meggitt on the Madness and Kingship of Jesus
Joel Marcus
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 421-424

The Unity of Luke--Acts in Recent Discussion
Michael F. Bird
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 425-448

This article surveys the debate about the unity of Luke—Acts in recent scholarship. The study concentrates on monographs and articles written after Mikael C. Parsons and Richard I. Pervo's volume Rethinking the Unity of Luke and Acts, and identifies the recent contribution that reception-history studies have brought to the debate. This is followed with a brief analysis of the flashpoints in the debate, and a discussion of what is at stake for Lukan studies.

Literary Unity and Reception History: Reading Luke--Acts as Luke and Acts
C. Kavin Rowe
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 449-457

The Reception of Luke and Acts and the Unity of Luke--Acts
Andrew Gregory
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 459-472

Critiquing the Excess of Empire: A Synkrisis of John of Patmos and Dio of Prusa
Peter S. Perry
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 473-496

Book Review: Bridget Gilfillan Upton, Hearing Mark's Endings: Listening toAncient Popular Texts through Speech Act Theory (Leiden/Boston: Brill,2006). pp. xviii + 240. ISBN 90 04 14791 8
Alison Jack
Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2007;29 497-498

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Bavinck on Humanity and Science

In "Our Reasonable Faith" (which is a popular translation and condensed version of Bavinck’s four volumes Gereformeerde Dogmatiek), Bavinck describes this ambivalence of the human condition as follows: "Man longs for truth and is false in nature… He pants for a permanent and eternal bliss and seizes on the pleasures of a moment. He seeks for God and loses himself in the creature. He is born son of the house and feeds on the husks of the swine in a strange land." And then Bavinck made a very interesting and true statement: "Science cannot explain this contradiction in man. It reckons only with his greatness and not with his misery, or only with his misery and not with his greatness. It exalts him too high, or it depresses him too far, for science does not know of his Divine origin, nor of his profound fall. But the Scripture know of both …"

Thanks to my favourite sausage eating South African, my colleague Dr. Innes Visagie, for reading this quote in our morning worship.

Two New Books from SNTS (Cambridge Uni Press)

In the latest CUP catalogue there are two new books by two young Evangelical scholars in the SNSTS monograph series which are worth taking note of.

The first is The Torn Veil: Matthew's Exposition of the Death of Jesus by Daniel M. Gurtner (Bethel Seminary, Minnesota). I haven't met Daniel, but I wonder if he had a previous career in selling curtains because he has alot to say about them. He has written over half a dozen articles about the curtain or veil in the temple as it relates to Christian and Jewish literature including:

“The Biblical Veil in the Dead Sea Scrolls.” The Qumran Chronicle 14.1 (2006): 57-79
“The Veil of the Temple in History and Legend.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 49.1 (2006): 97-114 [I have read this article it is an interesting and useful introduction to the subject].
“LXX Syntax and the Identity of the NT Veil.” Novum Testamentum 47.4 (2005): 344-353.
“The Velum Scissum: Matthew’s Exposition of the Death of Jesus.” Tyndale Bulletin 56.1 (2005): 147-150 [dissertation summary]
“The ‘House of the Veil’ in Sirach 50.” Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 14.3 (2005): 187-200.
“‘Atonement Slate’ or ‘Veil’? Notes on a Textual Variant in Exodus XXVI 34.” Vetus Testamentum 54.3 (2004): 396-398.
“The Rending of the Veil: A Look Back and a Way Forward.” Themelios 29.3 (2004): 4-14.
“Καταπέτασμα: Lexicographical and Etymological Considerations to the Biblical ‘Veil’.” Andrews University Seminary Studies 42 (2004): 105-111.

The blurb of his book reads: Daniel M. Gurtner examines the meaning of the rending of the veil at the death of Jesus in Matthew 27:51a by considering the functions of the veil in the Old Testament and its symbolism in Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism. Gurtner incorporates these elements into a compositional exegesis of the rending text in Matthew. He concludes that the rending of the veil is an apocalyptic assertion like the opening of heaven revealing, in part, end-time images drawn from Ezekiel 37. Moreover, when the veil is torn Matthew depicts the cessation of its function, articulating the atoning role of Christ's death which gives access to God not simply in the sense of entering the Holy of Holies (as in Hebrews), but in trademark Matthean Emmanuel Christology: ‘God with us’. This underscores the significance of Jesus' atoning death in the first gospel.

The TOC runs: 1. Introduction; 2. Veils in the Old Testament; 3. Functionality and identity in the ‘veil of the temple’; 4. The veil in Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism; 5. Matthew’s temple and Jesus’ death: hermeneutical keys to the rending of the veil; 6. Analysis of the Matthean velum scissum pericope; 7. Conclusion: Matthew’s velum scissum - retrospect and prospect.

The second book is The Sheep of the Fold: The Audience and Origin of the Gospel of John by Edward (Mickey) W. Klink III (Biola University, California). I have met Mickey Klink and he's doing some excellent stuff in developing and defending Richard Bauckham's The Gospels for All Christians thesis that the canonical Gospels were not written for isolated and introspective communities. A preview of his work can be found in a 2004 Currents in Biblical Research Article entitled: "The Gospel Community Debate: State of the Question" 3 (2004).

The blurb reads: The last generation of gospel scholarship has considered the reconstruction and analysis of the audience behind the gospels as paradigmatic. The key hermeneutical template for reading the gospels has been the quest for the community that each gospel represents. But this scholarly consensus regarding the audience of the gospels has recently been reconsidered. Using as a test case one of the most entrenched gospels, Edward Klink explores the evidence for the audience behind the Gospel of John. This study challenges the current gospel paradigm by examining the community construct and its functional potential in early Christianity, the appropriation of a gospel text and J. L. Martyn's two-level reading of John, and the implied reader located within the narrative. The study concludes by proposing a more appropriate audience model for reading John, as well as some implications for the function of the gospel in early Christianity.

The TOC runs: 1. The audience and origin of the Gospels: introduction and method; 2. Early Christian community: a study of the community construct and its functional potential in early Christianity; 3. Early Christian Gospel genre and a critique of the two-level reading of the Gospel of John; 4. Early Christian reader: an explication of the audience of the Fourth Gospel by inquiring for the implied reader; 5. Reading the Fourth Gospel: the function of the Gospel of John in the light of the gospel community debate; 6. The sheep of the fold: summary and conclusion.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Nicholas Perrin on the Gospel of Thomas

Today our library received a copy of Nicholas Perrin's new book Thomas: The Other Gospel which looks like a scintillating read (sigh, another book to add to the list). Perrin interacts with the work of Stephen Patterson, April DeConick, and Elaine Pagels and asserts a Syrian provenance for Thomas (specifically Edessa). Let me give a few quotes from the conclusion:

"The Gospel of Thomas was a Syriac text written in the last quarter of the second century by a careful editor who arranged his material largely on the basis of catchword connections. As far as his sources, Thomas drew primarily on Tatian's Diatessaron, but also undoubtedly drew on his memory of a number of oral and written traditions. It cannot be ruled out that Thomas preserves authentic sayings of Jesus; it is simply that, give a span of 140-plus years, this would be extremely hard to prove" (137).

"Just as Thomas and Faustus sought a less Jewish Jesus, one more in keeping with Hellenistic tastes, Bultmann too sought to extract Jesus from his Jewish context. In the process all three gave us a Jesus who could be imitated in certain respects but who in the final analysis could neither be known as human or make known the divine. 'Why speak of the dead Jewish historical Jesus,' Bultmann or Thomas might ask, 'when you have the living one, the existential Christ of faith, in your very presence?' Given the varying degrees to which my three interolocutors - not to mention Koester and Robinson - align themselves with a Bultmannian understanding of early Christianity, it is no suprise that a Jesus according to Thomas is the Jesus whom they are most satisifed." (137).

"Is this the Other Gospel we have been waiting for? Somehow, I suspect, we have heard this message before. Somehow we have met this Jesus before. The Gospel of Thomas invites us to imagine a Jesus who says, 'I am not our saviour, but the one who can put you in touch with your true self. Free yourself from your gender, your body, and any concerns that you might have for the outside world. Work for it and self-realization, salvation, will be yours - in this life.' Imagine such a Jesus? One need hardly work very hard. This is precisely the Jesus we know too well, the existential Jesus that so many western evangelical and liberal churches already preach." (139).

VanLandingham on Paul's Soteriol

I'm now turning my attention fully to Chris VanLandingham's book Judgment and Justification in Early Judaism and Paul for an article length review. In his conclusion, VanLandingham writes:

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 iin a judgment according to deeds, but not because God is merdiful 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 become a dead issue), cleansed from 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.

VanL sees Paul's language of righteousness as referring principally to cleansing and purification from sin, freedom from sin's power, and forgiveness of sin as an "initiating-event"; but it has nothing to do with a forensic declaration, it is not relational, and does not refer to acquittal at the final judgment. While I agree with several of the points he raises (e.g. Paul's dikai language is more about enacting or executing justice than with just making declarations about something [see Luke 18.1-8 and Mark Seifrid on this point]), I nonethless think that many of his arguments are contestable. More anon.

Evangelicals and Eschatology Conference Summary

Over at Vorsprung durch Theologie, David Kirk has started posting summaries of the recent St. Andrews conference on Evangelicals and Eschatology.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Evangelical Prayer Book

I've finished my part in writing the Evangelical Prayer Book (alas Evangelical Missal would be too misunderstood I now see). Here is the last page that I wrote for the book which is inspired by recent events:

O Sovereign Lord, we ask you to be compassionate to your children, and we come to you with our prayer for that part of the Body of Christ that is suffering travails and persecutions throughout the ends of the earth. We raise up before you those who have been bleeding, imprisoned, violated, tortured, impoverished and hounded by minions of evil. Vindicate the blood of those who died for making the good confession. Execute your justice and establish your righteousness throughout all the earth. Grant them mercy and comfort in their time of need and make us their advocate before the tribunals of the world. Shine the light of Christ upon them as they walk in the valley of the shadow of death and grant them a better resurrection. Chastise us Lord if we should ever fail to ever to plead their cause and fail to remember their plight in our prayers. Purify your church O Lord and may the blood of your righteous saints strengthen the church and bring those in darkness into the light.

Proverbs 24:11-12: Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, "But we knew nothing about this," does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing;
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.
- Martin Luther

Hebrews 13:3: Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

The peace of God which passes all understanding,keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God,and of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord,and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,be among you and remain with you always.

New Blogs 18

I am glad to draw attention to the fact that Michael Gorman of St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore has his own blog Michael Gorman (Biblical Theologian).

Gorman is the author of several books including Apostle of the Crucified Lord which includes excellent sections on rhetoric, Paul's spirituality, and the theopolitical nature of Paul's gospel. It is a cross between a Pauline Theology and an introduction to each of Paul's letters. Then there is his book Cruciformity: Paul's Narrative Spirituality of the Cross. A lesser known book of his that I found last year at the Wipf & Stock stand of ETS/SBL is Abortion and the Early Church: Christian, Jewish and Pagan Attitudes in the Greco-Roman World.
Whereas Gorman encourages us to see Paul's spirituality as cruciformed (conformed to the pattern of the cross) I in turn argue, in addition not in opposition, that Paul's spirituality is also anastasized or quickened by the power of Christ's resurrection.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

ETS President (reportedly) becomes Catholic

That is right, you heard me, you are not dreaming, this is not a drill! Reports are streaming in all over the blogosphere that Francis Beckwith has become Catholic! (HT Michael Barber). All the more amazing is that he is president of ETS! This could facilitate the quickest heresy trial in the history of ETS since Norman Geisler said, "This Gundry bloke, do we chuck him out or what?" But I would have to ask on what grounds can Beckwith be removed from office. As long as he adheres to the Chicago Statement of Inerrancy and the Trinity, he's technically in the ball-park. As a Catholic I think he can do that. This raises in my mind the doctrinal problem with ETS. It elevates, out of all proportion in my mind, the weight and significance of a doctrine of Scripture in comparison to other theological doctrines essential to Protestantism/Evangelicalism. I think ETS would be wiser to adopt the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship statement of faith. I will definitely be at the next ETS just to see what happens!

Teaching a Course on Paul

It appears that next year I will be teaching a course on Paul. While I can say that I know at least a few things about Paul, (well at least I think I do, others may disagree) preparing to teach a course on the subject is a daughting task. Several fundamental questions arise at the beginning:

1) What will this course be about? Paul as a historical figure, Paul's theology, Paul's letters, all of these?
2) What is essential and palatable for undergraduates? Complicated discussions about Paul and the Law will be way over their heads.
3) What about exegetical method for reading Paul? Should I introduce and have them practice exegeting Pauline texts?
4) What should I use for textbooks? Is there a good accessible primer on Paul? (Of course when Mike's book comes out this will be the class text)

If I have learned anything this first year of teaching, one cannot cover all that much in one semester with undergraduate students. I have had to reign back my expectations many times in the midst of a course.

In addition, I am an exegete by training and by passion. I would not characterize myself as either a historian or theologian, although I think exegesis involves or should involve both. So my default approach is to take students through a Pauline text and introduce Paul inductively by studying his letters. Furhtermore, since one cannot cover all Paul's letters in on semester -- at least not thoroughly, I have thought Romans would be the best text to work through. One can get at the major structure of Paul's thought and presuppositions through this letter as well as introduce him as a person.

Does anyone have recommendations on approaches to teaching Paul to undergraduates and/or suggestions for textbooks?

Latest RTR 66.1 (2007)

The latest issue of Reformed Theological Review is out:

J.V. Fesko
N.T. Wright on Imputation

[I concur with several elements of this article, esp. the critique of Wright's covenantal and apostolic reading of 2 Cor. 5.18-21. Fresko is correct that ordo salutis and historia salutis are not mutually exculsive; but sadly, I am yet to find a lexicon or Greek thesaurus that makes ginomai equivalent to logizomai.]

Andrew Cameron
How to say Yes to the World: Towards a New Way Forward in Evangelical Social Ethics

[The quote from John Webster in the conclusion caught my eye: "the gospel outbids the world every time. Jesus himself speaks more authoritatively, legitimately, winningly and interestingly than the world. If the church really loves the world, then the church ... will attend to the gospel, not as something it already knows, but as something it must always learn."]

Jocelyn A. Williams
A Case Study in Intertextuality: The Place of Isaiah in the "Stone" Saying of 1 Peter 2

[This was a good article which I very much enjoyed. Jocelyn shows the christological, ecclesiological, and paranetic function of the Isaiah texts in 1 Peter 2.6, 8. I only wish she would have included 1 Pet. 2.24-25 which I'm preaching on tomorrow!]


We had a party yesterday in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) -- with streamers, baloons, and Krispy Kreme Donunts (perhaps our international readers will not be faimilar with the greatness known as Krispy Kreme). We celebrated because our daughter Mary reached 3 lbs. While this may seem like an unusual reason to celebrate, when your baby is born weighing 2lbs 4oz, 3 lbs is a big milestone.

The last three weeks have been some of the most difficult Karla and I have faced in our 14 years of marriage. On April 10th after a month in the hospital and two months on bed rest, Karla delivered our twins at 31 weeks, nine weeks premature. I won't chroncile here the journey in detail, but I am thankful that God has given us faith to presevere and that the babies and Karla are making real progress. Many friends as well as people we don't even know have been lifting us up in prayer and we are so thankful. Furthermore, my colleagues at NPU have also been incredibly supportive providing me the opportunity to have a partial leave from teaching to attend to the family matters. I want to thank Boaz Johnson, Scot McKnight and Brad Nassif for sacrificing time and energy to support Karla and me.
I think we are slowing finding our footing, but it will still be a number of weeks before the kids come home from the hospital and some sense of normalcy returns -- if there will ever be such a thing now.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Crash Test Dummies Wanted!

I have finished writing the first draft of my new book, Paul for the People of God (tentative title for IVP) and I am looking for three readers to read over it and to offer comments on how to make it "sing and sting" and achieve its purpose with greater effect. I am after a pastor/church minister, a lay-person, and a scholar. If you fit one of these categories then I will be happy to email the manuscript to you and we can converse from there. Best way to contact me is via email or leave a comment on the blog. First in first served. It is approx 95 pages or 55,000 words.
Here is an excerpt from the preface:
"This book is meant as an introduction to the Apostle Paul for lay-persons and undergraduate students and as a refresher for Pastors and Ministers. My objective is to get people excited about reading Paul’s letters, preaching Paul’s gospel, and living the Christian life the way that Paul thought it should be lived. My aim is to go deeper into Paul but without losing people in the mire of scholarly debates and complex technicalities. I want to show that what Paul has to say to the church today is both relevant and riveting. In short, this is Paul for the people of God."
Here's the TOC:
1. What is Paul?
2. A Funny Thing Happened on the Road to Damascus
3. The Stories behind the Story
4. Reading Somebody Else’s Mail
5. The Royal Announcement
6. The Crux of the Gospel
7. The Return of the King
8. One God, One Lord: Monotheism and the Messiah
9. Bourgeois Babes, Bossy Wives, and Bobby Haircuts
10. Gospelizing 101

The OT in the NT

Greg Beale and Don Carson have edited a volume on how each book of the NT interprets and handles the OT. It is available from Baker and the blurb reads:

Readers of the New Testament often encounter quotes or allusions to Old Testament stories and prophecies that are unfamiliar or obscure. In order to fully understand the teachings of Jesus and his followers, it is important to understand the large body of Scripture that preceded and informed their thinking. Leading evangelical scholars G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson have brought together a distinguished team of scholars to provide readers with a comprehensive commentary on every quotation, allusion, and echo of the Old Testament that appears from Matthew through Revelation. College and seminary students, pastors, scholars, and interested lay readers will want to add this unique commentary to their reference libraries.


Craig Blomberg (Denver Seminary) on Matthew

Rikk Watts (Regent College) on Mark

David Pao (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) and Eckhard Schnabel (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) on Luke

Andreas Kostenberger (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) on John

I. Howard Marshall (University of Aberdeen, emeritus) on Acts

Mark Seifrid (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) on Romans

Brian Rosner (Moore Theological College) and Roy Ciampa (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) on 1 Corinthians

Peter Balla (Karoli Gaspar University, Budapest) on 2 Corinthians

Moises Silva (author of Philippians in BECNT) on Galatians and Philippians

Frank Thielman (Beeson Divinity School) on Ephesians

G. K. Beale (Wheaton College) on Colossians

Jeffrey Weima (Calvin Theological Seminary) on Thessalonians

Philip Towner (United Bible Societies) on the Pastoral Epistles

George Guthrie (Union University) on Hebrews

D. A. Carson (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) on the General Epistles

G. K. Beale (Wheaton College) and Sean McDonough (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) on Revelation

Those who find the topic of interest should also consult Craig Evans (ed.), From PROPHECY to TESTAMENT: The Function of the Old Testament in the New.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Jesus the Messiah II

Let me count down the reasons why I think that the historical Jesus made a messianic claim. I'm dealing with the arguments in order of least compelling to most compelling. So the first arguments are the least effective one's and the most forceful are at the end.

1. Allusions to David and Solomon.
The references to "greater than Solomon" (Q 11.31) and David (e.g. Mk. 2.25; 12.35-37) could imply that Jesus also saw himself in a "kingly" fashion, but it is far from certain based on these passages. The fact that Jesus performed exorcisms may also contains an implicit messianic connotation since there was an extant tradition of Solomon as an exorcist (Test. Sol. 1.5-7). In fact, a similar link of kingship and exorcisms is made in 4Q510 1.1-4. Of course greater than Solomon or references to David might imply no more than a reference to Jesus as a sage or prophet or simply "someone important" rather than setting forth a clear messianic claim.

2. The Son of David as the "Lord" in Mark 12.35-37·
This enigmatic unit questions how the Messiah can also be David's Lord. Does this show that the Messiah is more than a Son of David (i.e. heavenly or pre-existent) or does it show that Jesus tries to differentiate his davidic identity from regular messianic connotations? On authenticity some might cry: "Ha, ha, ha, it quotes Ps 110, there favourite apologetic proof text of early Christians, therefore, this story is a secondary accretion to the tradition!" A pox on thee. William Horbury has shown (Messianism among Jews and Christians, 137-42) that Jewish messianic exegesis already combined Daniel 7 with Ps. 110. While I think it hints towards a view of Jesus as more-than-just-a-messiah, it is hardly perspicuous.

3. The Christos and the Christianoi.
How does one launch a messianic movement with a messianic name centred on a figure whose second name is Messiah (Christ) - all without a Messianic claimant at the middle? I don't go for Wrede's Resurrection = Messiah and so the origin and maintenance of the messianic dimension to early Christianity needs explanation. In fact, I would say that the messianism of the early Christians was very early and very robust. Proclaiming a crucified Messiah was not going to endear you to any Jewish audience and yet the claim persisted, it was not peripheral to their proclamation and worship but central. The title Christianoi/Christiani was probably coined by Roman authorities in Antioch (Acts 11.26) given the latin designation. Notably the name Iousiani or "Jesuians" was never used.

4. Trial
Arguably Jesus was asked at his trial if he was the Christ/Son of God (Mark 14.61-64; 15.1-2). Whatever su legeis means ("you said it dude"?) in Mk. 15.2, it contributed to his death. Even if all that Jesus did was not deny the title rather than actually claim it, that would be of itself quite significant (as Dodd noted). The problem is that the trial narratives in the Gospels are historically suspect since they happened behind closed doors and they are theologically loaded. I would argue that there was probably piecemeal eyewitness testimony available to the trial from figures such as Joseph of Arimathean, Nicodemus and perhaps even the Beloved Disciple. The inhabitants of Jerusalem and pilgrims in the city for Passover would have wanted to know how did Jesus go from glorious entry to ignomious death in seven days and reports of what transpired would have got out somehow.

5. I have come sayings
Several of the "I have come" statements seem to suppose a messianic function. For instance, “I have come to cast fire” (which Grimm, Weil ich dich liebe, 85-86 accepts as messianic in orientation). See on this more recently, Simon Gathercole, The Pre-Existent Son, who admits a messianic/prophetic meaning to many of these sayings but thinks that they also include indications of pre-existence (and see the RBL review by Jimmy Dunn for a counter-point).

6. Kingdom of God presupposes a King
According to E.P. Sanders, the very fact that Jesus proclaimed a kingdom implies that he would have some role in that kingdom. Sanders goes on to say that Jesus saw himself as "God's vice-regent". On the surface I can agree with this, but again, there is some doubt. John the Baptist proclaimed the kingdom too and he did not necessarily see himself as ruling or reigning in that kingdom. The term "vice regent" might be a convenient way to avoid saying "Messiah" when the two terms might be synonymous. Or then again, do all ruling functions necessitate a messianic status or claim? But I would say the mystery of the kingdom is enthronement of the Messiah and how that will come about (see John Meier and Ben F. Meyer).

7. Shepherd Theme.
According to Ezekiel 34 the coming Davidic king would be a Shepherd King. I think it possible to say that this theme lies behind Mk. 14.27 ("I will strike the Shepherd"), Lk. 19.10 ("I came to seek and save the lost"), John 10 ("I am the Good Shepherd"), and Mt. 18.12ff/Lk. 15.4ff ("if you have a hundred sheep"). Jesus appears to have made this davidic shepherd theme paradigmatic for his teaching ministry and it explains why he focused on certain audiences such as the "people of the land".

8. Triumphal Entry + Cleaning/Demonstration in the Temple.
Jesus' entry into Jerusalem seems to echo Judas Maccabees entry and his cleansing/demonstration in the temple was messianic in the sense that the Messiah was cleanser and/or rebuilder of the temple. In fact, Herod's rebuilding of the temple was probably part of his propaganda to set forth a claim to the Jewish throne since he was an Idumean (see William Horbury on Herod's messianism). Significantly, I think it is the entry and cleansing together that constitute a prophetic-come-messianic act.

9. Titulus
All four Gospels indicate that Jesus crucified under the titulus "King of the Jews". Placards of this sought were common in Roman executions and it fits with the public warning that crucifixion was meant to make. The titulus also gave Pilate a chance to thumb his nose at Jewish pretentions to self-rule. You could also argue that it was potentially embarassing to later Christians group, although the fact that it occurs in all four Gospels might suggest that it was in fact a means to an ironic Christology and solicited the Romans, unknowingly, to be witnesses of Jesus as the Jewish King. In fact, this ironic Christology is quite apparent in John and Mark. But still, the titulus tells us something of both Jesus' trial, its outcome, and the way he was perceived by the Judean leadership and the Roman political apparatus.

10. Mark and Q
Ed Meadors argued that Q and Mark both picture Jesus as the "messianic herald of salvation" and that would give us multiple-attestation for a messianic theme dominating the christological contours of two sources. Q sceptics and those who break up Q into different tiers will no doubt scoff, but I think this is a genuinely persuasive argument.

11. Jesus and Isaiah 61.
Jesus' use of Isaiah 61 in Lk. 4.18-21 and Q 7.22 as it relates to 4Q521 is a petty good indication that his ministry was both intended and was perceived to have a messianic character.

12. The Messianic Connotations of the Son of Man.
Anything and everything about the Son of Man is contested. But I submit (on the back of U. Muller, C. Carougnis, S. Kim and others) than the Son of Man is essentially a messianic figure of some variety, and if this was Jesus' primary means of self-reference, it constitutes a fairly clear messianic claim given his actions and proclamation.

And that is a summary of what I hope to argue later in the year.