Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Back to Zion

I have been in Babylon for too long (i.e. the UK) and now it is time to get back to Zion (i.e. Australia), a land Down Under, where the vegemite flows freely, where they have real mayonnaise, where the roads are wider than footpaths, and I don't have to listen to endless complaints about the Scottish Premier League. Tomorrow I fly to Australia with my eldest daughter to be reunited with my dear wife and youngest daughter. And I can honestly say that after 5 weeks I am convinced that the single parent thing is overrated, especially when you are sick with a virus for a week and still have to cook, clean, do washing, and take child to school. So I'll be off blogging for a few days and look forward to resuming it sometime after my 39 hours of airports and flights. I'm looking forward to pizza with Ben Myers and tennis with my Doktorvater! But most of all, embarcing my Bride and the fruit of my loins.

Breeding Books

If you were take I. Howard Marshall's book on New Testament Theology and Alexander Wedderburn's book The First Christians, and you forced them to breed and produce progeny, what would the result be? In other words, how do you combine New Testament Theology and Christian Origins? This is what I intend working on in the near future (commentaries on 1 Esdras and Colossians to be written first). Does Christian Origins have to be untheological and does New Testament Theology have to be less historical? How would such an approach answer the problem of unity and diversity in the New Testament and how does it meet the challenge to New Testament Theology posed by W. Wrede, H. Raisanen, and W. Bauer? What is the pastoral and theological mileage that comes out of this.?

I Confess ...

In keeping with the "Confessions" meme doing the rounds (staring with Peter Leithart), I thought I would offer my own Confessions:

I confess that sometimes my academic work has caused my faith to feel purely cerebral and my learning sometimes puffs up into pride. Thus, I am grateful for the Anglican Prayer book, the Word of God, my local church, my colleagues, my students, and the convicting power of the Holy Spirit for making sure I finish the race set before me.

I confess that I really, really don't like Rudolf Bultmann. I find his brand of existential Deism nauseating and I think his scholarship oscillates between brilliant and banal.

I confess that I'm learning to love Karl Barth (shhh, don't tell Ben Myers).

I confess that Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, is Lord of all. This is the gospel and the testimony of the early church - all else is commentary.

I confess that N.T. Wright woke me from my dogmatic slumbers and showed me a world that I had never seen before, whatever his failings, I am most grateful for this.

I confess that only two good things came out of the seventies - Me and the musical Evita!

I confess that the greatest lessons in grace, love, sin, and forgivness that I have learned came from no text book, but from marriage and parenthood.

I confess that Calvin was (pretty much) right.

I confess that I spend far too much time writing and reading about the Bible rather than reading the Bible itself and obeying what it says.

I confess that I am weary of those who define the faith so narrowly and then try to tell lay persons that they themselves are the true gatekeepers of orthodoxy. I confess that I am equally weary of those who treat Scripture as if it were a cook book where one can pick and choose recipes as one likes.

I confess that when Richard Bauckham leaves St. Andrews, I will be the shortest New Testament scholar in Scotland (sigh!)

I confess that Ben Myers and Joel Willitts are two of the people that I have the closest academic comaraderie with.

I confess that New Testament scholarship must strive for historical accuracy, theological acumen, and be placed in service of the Church.

Who Do Your Books Say that I Am?

There is an interesting piece at Christianity Today that mentions several recent books about Jesus including those by Craig A. Evans, Ben Witherington, Marcus Borg, John Piper, and Richard Bauckham.

Monday, June 25, 2007

A (Fairly) New Commentary Series from Conservative German Scholars

Before you say "Conservative" plus "German" in biblical studies doesn't make any sense, German publisher R. Brockhaus has a commentary series in production entitled Historisch Theologische Auslegung (HTA) and the authors would probably identify themselves as Evangelicals to some extent (in Germany Evangelische basically means "Protestant"). Current volumes include:

Heinz-Werner Neudorfer, Der erste Brief des Paulus an Timotheus
Gerhard Maier, Der Brief des Jakobus
Rüdiger Fuchs, Der Brief des Paulus an Titus
Eckhard J. Schnabel, Der erste Brief des Paulus an die Korinther

Aims of the series are:

1. Eine präzise und wortgetreue Übersetzung der neutestamentlichen Texte
2. Bemerkungen zum Kontext, zum Aufbau, zur literarischen Form oder Gattung sowie zum theologischen Hintergrund des Abschnitts
3. Vers für Vers Exegese
4. Zusammenfassung, in der die Wirkungsgeschichte der Verse verfolgt sowie ein Brückenschlag in die Gegenwart und die praktische Anwendung gegeben wird.

I am also under the impression that Mark A. Seifrid (SBTS) will be writing the volume on Galatians, but in German, so kudos to Mark if he pulls that one off.

The Jesus Family Tomb

Over at RBL, Jonathan Reed sticks the boot into the Jesus Family Tomb book (and rightly so). I often fear that we are witnessing the Davincification of the NT guild with some of the outlandish theories that are being put forward these days and even published. On the side, Jonathan Reed has produced some good books that I've benefitted from (see here) and I think he was probably responsible for getting John Dominic Crossan to change his mind on the Cynic Jesus perspective.

HT Jim West

Son of Man as Messiah

I continue to be impressed by the claim, fairly popular in German scholarship nowadays, that "Son of Man" was a messianic title. It certainly appears that way in 1 Enoch and 4 Ezra and also in the Gospels. Consider the following from the Fourth Gospel: "The crowd answered him, 'We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?'"(John 12:34). Clearly here Son of Man = Messiah. Yet I acknowledge that most (if not all) of the sources that make this connection probably post-date 70 AD and it might not be possible to read this perspective back into Jesus' lifetime. There also remains the problem of whether this connection occured only in Greek and whether it was possible in Aramaic and how Daniel 7 relates to the problem.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The 12 Worst Ideas to Gain Currency in NT Studies

What are the twelve worst ideas to have gained currency in NT studies in the twentieth century? I don't mean weird and esoteric stuff like "Jesus learned Buddhism in India", but more mainstream stuff that was (or still is) widely regarded and yet has been discredited? Here's my list:

1. The Gnostic Redeemer Myth
2. Form Criticism
3. The Cynic Jesus
4. The Fourth Gospel as Hellenistic Dogma in a Christian garb
5. Judaism as uniformly legalistic
6. "Early Catholicism"
7. Pre-Christian Gnosticism
8. Palestinian Christianity vs. Hellenistic Christianity
9. The swoon theory on the Resurrection.
10. Radical reader-response criticism.
11. The postulation of a "Q" or "Johannine" community
12. The view that there was no Jesus questing between Schweitzer and Kasemann.

Note: A large number of these views can be associated with Bultmann and his progeny!

Q and the Gentiles

I am slowly and spasmodically reading through James Crossley's book Why Christianity Happened? (you must read the one review of this book on the link at the bottom of the page!) and I find myself agreeing with parts and groaning at other parts of his volume.

On Q and the Gentiles (something I have thought and written about), it will take more than a footnote to H. Schurmann to convince me that Mt. 10.5-6b is part of Q and I think a better case can be made that Mt. 8.11-12/Lk. 13.28-29 does refer to Gentiles than what Crossley admits. But I do think, in general, that Crossley is correct in following Chris Tuckett about Q and a Gentile mission. Most of the mentions of Gentiles in Q are rhetorical and seem to be aimed at calling Israel to repentance (e.g. Mt. 12.41-42/Lk. 11.31-32). I surmize that Q knows of a Gentile mission, has no problem with it, but is fundamentally concerned with the renewal of Israel. A perspective that probably reflects a Judean or Galilean or Syrian provenance for the use of Q.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Messiah in John's Gospel

Late at night I have taken to watching two or three chapters from the Gospel of John Movie. Most enjoyable, and what I have noticed again and again is the importance of the is-he-or-isn't-the-Messiah motif that runs throughout. The big question of John is not: is Jesus God? But, is he the Messiah and what kind of Messiah is this?

In thinking over things, I have discovered that the studies that I have found the most helpful for wrestling with John's Gospel were ALL written by Australians (no surprises there):

Leon Morris, Jesus is the Christ: studies in the theology of John (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989).
John W. Pryor, John, evangelist of the covenant people: the narrative & themes of the fourth Gospel (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1992).
John Painter, The quest for the Messiah: the history, literature, and theology of the Johannine community (Nashville: Abingdon, 1993).
Francis J. Moloney, The Gospel of John (SP; Collegville, MN: Liturgical, 1998).

New Book by Martin Hengel

Eisenbrauns reports that Martin Hengel and Anna Maria Schwemer are co-authoring a new book called: Geschichte des fruhen Christentums: Band I: Jesus und das Judentum. Three other books in the series are planned. The blurb reads:

Der erste Band dieser auf vier Bände geplanten Geschichte des frühen Christentums umfaßt den Weg und das Wirken Jesu vor dem Hintergrund des zeitgenössischen Judentums in Palästina. Daß die Darstellung Jesu selbst bereits Teil einer solchen Geschichte sein muß, sollte heute nicht mehr bestritten werden. Jesu Wirken und Leiden muß in engem Zusammenhang mit dem palästinischen Judentum und seinen religiös-politischen Gruppen gesehen werden. Bei der Überfülle der Jesusbilder kommt den Vorfragen nach den Quellen und den Kriterien einer historischen Untersuchung besondere Bedeutung zu. Hier ist wesentlich, daß aufgrund der Quellenlage nur "Annäherungen" möglich sind und die historische Gestalt Jesu von sehr verschiedenen Aspekten aus gesehen werden kann. Martin Hengel und Anna Maria Schwemer untersuchen zunächst die galiläische Herkunft Jesu, und behandeln dann weiter das Verhältnis zu Johannes dem Täufer und den historischen Rahmen seines Wirkens. Es folgen die Form seiner Verkündigung sowie deren Inhalt, der von der anbrechenden Gottesherrschaft, dem göttlichen Willen und der Liebe des Vaters bestimmt ist. Weitere Schwerpunkte bilden Jesus als Wundertäter und das umstrittene Problem seines messianischen Anspruchs, der nicht auf die Titelfrage beschränkt werden darf. Am Ende stehen der letzte Kampf in Jerusalem, seine Passion und die Erscheinungen des Auferstandenen.

This seems to fall in line with a new genre of multi-volume Christian Origins projects as already undertaken by N.T. Wright (Christian Origins and the Question of God) and James D. G. Dunn (Christianity in the Making). I hope SCM picks up this volume and gets a English translation out soon.

HT: Matthijs den Dulk

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Raymond Brown on the Resurrection

The late Raymond Brown wrote two major works on the Birth of the Messiah and the Death of the Messiah. In the preface to the latter book he explains why he never completed a triology on the Resurrection of the Messiah.

"A surprising number of people have asked if I plan a triology to conclude with The Resurrection of the Messiah. Responding with mock indignation that I have written two books on the resurrection (a response that coveniently ignores the fact that neither is truly a commentary), I tell them emphatically that I have no such plans, I would rather explore that area 'face to face'."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Blog Interview

I have been featured in an interview over at the blog Exiled Preacher.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Who Said That?

Here's a chance to practice your theological German and ponder an old quote. Who said:

"Das ist sein Siegen und Herrschen."

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Petrine and Pauline Perspectives in the Gospel of Mark

The huge dispute between Paul and Peter in Antioch as recorded in Gal. 2.11-14 is well known. And some have argued that there is no indication that the rift between the two Apostles ever healed and Paul and Peter remained in competitition and rivalry with each other. So it goes, it was not until Luke-Acts and the rise of "early catholicism" in the early second century that this division between Pauline and Petrine Christianities was mended.

I have another proposal. Mark, according to tradition is associated with Peter in Rome. And if Richard Bauckham is correct, the Gospel of Mark shows traits of eyewitness testimony throughout (i.e. Peter's testimony). What is more, the Gospel of Mark also has a Pauline perspective of Christ's death (10.45), on the Law (7.19c), and on the Gentile mission (13.10). If these two premises are correct, do we have evidence of a synthesis of Petrine testimony and Pauline theology in the Gospel of Mark?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

New website for Wipf and Stock

Up and coming American publisher Wipf and Stock have a new website which is worth checking out. When I retire one day, I intend to buy a stack of Markus Barth books published by Wipf and Stock and sit on a beach back in Australia and read them one at a time. Joel and I have something big lined with Wipf and Stock in the near future, we cannot say just yet, but watch this space, it will be the biggest thing since Michael Jackson said, "Bubbles, why did you eat my other white glove? Now I have to go on stage wearing only one!"

The Q Theory

I'm currently reading James Robinson's book Jesus According to the Earliest Witness, and I am amazed at the certainty that some scholars possess regarding their views on the layering, stratifying, and editing of Q . Some scholars seem to act as if Luhrmann and Kloppenborg are right and that is just a self-evident fact to anyone with a Gospe Synopsis and a Ph.D. But, by analogy, if you think you can discover layers, tiers, and editorial work of pre-Marcan material by using Matthew and Luke, I think you are slightly too optimistic about the nature of the evidence and your scholarly abilities. The same is true for Q. And Q (if it existed!) is a jigsaw, and with a jigsaw you can imagine someone putting the corners together first, then maybe the frame, but after that you enter that part of scholarship where we have to say, "We just don't know!" Have a guess by all means, but let us not pretend to be certain of things which we have no right to be certain about. My biggest complaint about the Q-Thomas theorists is that they treat what is hypothetical as if it were factual (Q) and make what was peripheral out to be central (Gospel of Thomas).

Otherwise, Robinson's book contains an excellent chapter entitled, "Theological Autobiography" about his studies in Europe, his move from Systematics to New Testament, his work on Q, and the Nag Hammadi codices, and the story of the publication of the Nag Hammadi contains elements of subterfuge, intrigue, plots, and conspiracies that would leave Dan Brown in awe.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

John Piper on N.T. Wright and "works"

Over at the Desiring God website, John Piper has posted an excerpt called God Is for Us: Christ Obeyed and Died which is from his forthcoming book The Future of Justification. I won't offer too many thoughts (mainly because I'm laid flat with a virus), but one good thing I did like was that there was an emphasis on union with Christ, talk of the fruit of the Spirit, and bringing in the issue of personal assurance.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Luke and the Pastorals

One topic that continues to attract my fascination is that of the relationship of Luke to the Pastoral Epistles (i.e. author, editor, or secretary).

Several works I am hoping to read in this regards are:

F.J. Badock, The Pauline Epistles (1937).

C.F.D. Moule, 'The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles,' in Essays in New Testament Interpretation (Cambridge: CUP, 1982), 113-32 (= BJRL 47 [1965]: 430-52).

Jerome Quinn, ‘The Last Volume of Luke: The Relation of Luke-Acts to the Pastoral Epistles,’ Perspectives on Luke-Acts, ed. C.H. Talbert (Danville: VA: Association of Baptist Professors of Religion, 1978), 62-75.

S.G. Wilson, Luke and the Pastorals (London: SPCK, 1979).

Ralph P. Martin, New Testament Foundations. II. The Acts, the Letters, the Apocalypse (rev. edn; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986), 301-3.

Jean-Daniel Kaestli, ‘Luke-Acts and the Pastoral Epistles: The Thesis of a Common Authorship,’ in Luke’s Literary Achievement: Collected Essays, ed. C. Tuckett (JSNTSup 116; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995), 110-26.

I remember talking about S.G. Wilson's proposal to I. Howard Marshall (who has written commentaries on the Gospel of Luke, Acts of the Apostles, and the Pastorals) and his conclusion was that "the Greek is too different" between both bodies of literature.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Top Ten Funny Things I'd Like to see at SBL

I know it is earlier than my normal rant about SBL. But here are ten strange, funny, and weird things I'd like to see at SBL this year, including:

10. The blogger Jim West (he wasn't there last year and he's funny to look at).

9. Mark Goodacre chair a seminar with the words "The Demise of the Farrar-Goulder Theory" in the title.

8. Scholars Barry Matlock and Doug Campbell engage in a fist fight at the "Faith of Jesus Christ" seminar that myself and Preston Sprinkle are chairing. The battle royale will be called, "Mutton-Kissing Kiwi vs. NASCAR-loving Red Neck".

7. Blogger James Crossley to have an apparition of the risen Jerry Falwell as a result of the economic climate and rise of social banditry in Sheffield, leading to the sociomorphic translation of economic beliefs into spiritual ones aroused also by a deep sense of subconscious guilt for his disparaging remarks against fundamentalists in the past.

6. Blogger Ben Myers to be voted president of the Cornelius Van Til Society.

5. To have a conversation with blogger Michael Barber and see if he can talk for five minutes without using the words "Eucharist", "Exile", "Pope", or "John Paul".

4. I give a paper at the Christian Origins seminar under the pseudonymn Vladamir Luedemann (Joseph Stalin Professor of Biblical Studies at University of Wisconsin) and tout the superiority of the feminist, marxist, atheist, secular, eco, eskimo, and post-colonialist approach to biblical studies and insist that everyone else is a pseudo-scholar.

3. I persuade my co-blogger, Joel Willitts, to pretend to be my gay partner so that we can sneak into the exclusive and lush Harvard Divinity School reception as former graduates who got married in Canada last year and now teach in an Episcopal seminary somewhere in New York.

2. I see somebody actually buy one of my books!

[This next one is draw].

1a. Nick Perrin and April DeConick put aside their manifold differences when they discover that they are both crazy about collecting antique spoons and share a common interest in 19th century Italian napkins.

1b. I see N.T. Wright running for his life into a local Cathedral crying out "Sanctuary, Sanctuary, Sanctuary" as he is chased by a mob of highly conservative Presbyterians from ETS armed with pitchforks and crosses, yelling to the on-lookers "Avert your eyes people, he may change form".

[Explanation of this post: It is late, I have a badly injured hamstring and desperately require TLC, I miss my wife and youngest daughter who are in Australia at the moment, work is too hectic, my football team is not doing well, my sister-in-law has just arrived, and doing something funny makes me cheerful. So if you were target, take it with a pinch of salt, and try to laugh with me].

Friday, June 08, 2007

Sanders on Jesus as God's Viceroy

E.P. Sanders in his two books on Jesus (1985; 1993) argues that Jesus saw himself as having a decisive role in the coming kingdom, somewhat along the lines of God's viceroy. Jesus thought of himself as a 'king' (demonstrated in the triumphal entry), but not as Messiah. He argues that the disciples inferred that Jesus was the Messiah based on his identity as king. But (and here is my question), Sanders is a bit unclear as to when they made that inference. Was it pre- or post-Easter? In his 1985 book Jesus and Judaism he seems to allow for the possibility that it was pre-Easter, but in his 1993 book Historical Figure of Jesus you get the impression that it was post-Easter.

Read Sanders, 1985: 307-8, 321 and 1993: 241-42 and tell me what ya think?

A Response to my yet-published Matthew book

Recently I received an email from a young scholar friend who had occasion to read an early draft of my Matthew book coming out this fall. He asked two perceptive questions about the primary argument of my thesis and I briefly responded. I blog here the text of his email and my response. I also appreciated his comments about the implications of the thesis I propose.

I had a break in my reading agenda recently and sat down with the tome of wisdom otherwise known as your dissertation. While I am most certainly a neophyte in regards to Gospel scholarship, I really enjoyed what you had to say. I would be interested to hear how your defense went - especially considering the frequent references to your thesis "verging on the preposterous." I had a couple of comments/questions regarding your proposal though.There was a primary question that I continued to return to throughout. Assuming Matthew's hope for a concrete, geo-political restoration of territorial Israel (in whatever specific form that might be evinced), what does it mean that this hope went unrealized? If Matthew hoped for this territorial restoration, if he successfully communicated this hope, and if his audience received it in this manner, then what did they do in light of the reality of an unrestored Israel? It seems that, regardless of where you actually date Matthew, both the author and the audience would have struggled to reconcile the Gospels' message of restoration with Jesus' failed mission of restoration. (although, depending upon when it was written in relation to AD 70, I could see how they would have held out more or less hope in a territorial restoration.) How do you continue in community or in worship or the re-appropriation of Jewish theology when the basic mission of the Messiah is restoration of land and kingdom, and they were left with neither land nor empire? From what I could gather, I believe you ameliorate this tension by couching your discussion within an eschatological framework. Hence, territorial restoration is that which is hoped for - that which will come at the "end of the age." But this leads to my second question which is not unlike the first. I know I am probably missing some of the nuance, but, regarding the pragmatic life of Matthew's community, how different is an eschatological restoration from a spiritualized kingdom? Or, more directly, how would Matthew's initial audience (ostensibly wilting under the oppression of the Roman empire) have functioned differently knowing there would be a territorial restoration at the appearance of the "son of man on the clouds" as opposed to a spiritualized kingdom?

Those were my two big questions. However, as I read your work, I did so through the lens of some current personal thoughts I have been wrestling with that are more theological in nature than your exegetical study might have intended. However, as we have talked about before, I can't dis-integrate the two disciplines - how can biblical scholarship not be theological or vice-versa? At any rate, here is where I was quite encouraged and could see your study as a natural springboard for theological reflection.First, the issue of a concrete territorial restoration. It is interesting to view Jesus' mission through this lens. If, at least in Matthew, Jesus is focused on this concrete kingdom, then it follows that so should we. Rather than a detached, ethereal and disembodied utopia we describe as heaven (which has also become synonymous with "kingdom of God"), perhaps the kingdom is much more concrete. If we held to this ideal fully, then it would radicalize our understanding of evangelism, of worship, and of mission. Rather than simply understanding the Christian mission as "winning souls," our participation in the Missio Dei would include an overt and, possibly, embodied bias towards creation (the land) and the creatures (the sheep) in it. Redemption (Restoration) might be viewed not simply as a redirection of individuals' souls, but as a reorientation of individual, corporate, and systemic praxes. Second, the issue of oppression. As Matthew paints Jesus as protesting the religio-political situation of his day and establishing his mission to those who suffer under the oppressors, he shows us a Jesus who is radically concerned with social justice. (albeit, justice for the chosen remnant) I have been consummed lately with the manner and means by which followers of Christ engage with the oppressed. If the realization of Jesus' mission was to take place in stages as you suggest, then in what manner are we participating in the present stage? I know, at this point I am guilty of allegorizing your points, but I can't help it. :) However, the primary point is that Jesus was concerned with political redemption in addition to spiritual or religious redemption. In light of the Great Commission, how else are we to understand our mission if not in a very concrete, political sense?In a way, I just realized that I might have "theologized" an answer to the questions I had when reading your dissertation. Of course, I would love to hear your corrections of either my understanding of your project or my ill-fated attempts at extrapolating from your work.

Thanks for your careful and thoughtful reading of my thesis. First of all, let me say how much I appreciated the theological implications you have discussed. It was just these kinds of things that have had a lasting affect on me as a result of the research. Increasingly scholars have recongized the ethical aspects of our reading of the biblical text. They assert that the ethics of our interpretations should play a role in criteria which validates a given interpretation. I tend to think that his is consistent with what Augustine called the "hermenuetic of love". Just the kind of insights you have suggested encourages me that while I am wrong on many points no doubt, the general direction is a good one.

Perhaps I can answer your two questions with one brief response. I am willing and able to concede that at one level, in the experience of both the Matthean community and indeed ourselves as the ongoing Jeshua movement, the kingdom is experienced now primarily as a spiritual reality. I do not at all want create a fissure between spiritual and political -- I think this is one of the major flaws of the argument. In fact that is why the "spiritualized" interpretation has and can hold such sway. There has not been a physical, concrete restoration of the Davidic political-territorial kingdom. Yet, according to Matthew's Jesus, the disciples were to act in such a way as if that kingdom had indeed been inaugurated. Still the realisation was a future hope, not a present reality. Nonetheless, this is still wholly different from the traditional spiritualized interpretation (e.g. NT Wright) wherein what you see is all that there is. While in these schemes there is an already-not yet aspect, the not yet is NOT this concrete Jewish hope anymore. This difference has monumental consequences for how one thinks about the the message of the Gospel and the life of the community. To a Jewish audience with a messianic hope, the Gospel is a message of preparation (repentance, belief and obedience) in light of the fact that Israel's messiah has come and will come again. Although the language and practice of worship within the scope of a "spiritualized kingdom" interpretation and a what you might call the "concrete kingdom" interpretation might sound the same, the content of the future hope is vastly different. For the latter, the kingdom has come, perhaps you could caricature it as a present spiritual reality, but not in full. And the first installment is only the foretaste and in no way a complete experience of the future reality. I submit that those on the other side see this spiritual kingdom as what Jesus was bringing full stop, even if there is allowance for a still future realisation; it is more of the same. The tension you suggest is a true one and I am sure it was of great concern to these early Jeshua believers in their mission and increasingly so as the parousia delayed. However, I think this tension is a central component of the hope of the Gospel. The hope to which even Paul refers (Rom 11). One last point I would mention, is the fact that Jewish believers in Jesus today, stand in continuity with the Matthean community. Many Yeshua-believers maintain this same Jewish hope and understand the Gospel as a proclamation of the soon-coming kingdom of David with its concomitant blessings for themselves and Gentiles.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Bauckham on CT

Richard Bauckham has been interviewed by Christianity Today concerning his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. See here.

Status of Inerrancy

I have met some Evangelical Christians who, at the mention of the word "inerrancy" role their eyes and shake their head, and go into a long winded speech about fundamentalism and 161 reasons why they don't like the KJV or George Bush. I have met others who think that inerrancy is the centre of the theological galaxy (who needs Jesus when you have inerrancy) and make inerrancy the sine qua non of authentic faith. Let me say this: (1) If I have to choose between errancy and inerrancy, I'll take inerrancy; (2) Christians through-out the centuries have affirmed that the Bible is free from error in all that it claims, and I stand with them; (3) A case can be made that inerrancy is arguably an implicate of inspiration, so it's a theological doctrine but not necessarily a historical or biblical one (if ya don't like that one, don't blame me, blame Carl Henry); and (4) My preferred expression for a Doctrine of Scripture is the 1689 LBC which states: "The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience" (see 1689 LBC 1.1-10). That aside, I'm interested in exploring the status of inerrancy as an article of faith. The originator of a modern view of inerrancy, B.B. Warfield, and the most capable theologian of inerrancy, Carl Henry, did not regard inerrancy as the necessary criteria of an authentic Christian.

James Orr, professor at Glasgow University, a contributor to the "Fundamentals" argued that what Warfield was proposing in inerrancy was "suicidal" (direct quote). Yet Orr and Warfield remained good friends, contributed to joint publications, and promoted each other's work. Carl F. Henry was good friends with F.F. Bruce (non-inerrantist and egalitarian) and they regarded each other as good evangelical scholars. Here's my questions:
1. Did Warfield and Henry fail to see the gravity of their own views, or did they (I think rightly) put inerrancy in its proper perspective in terms of the weight that they assigned to it as a theological doctrine? Have the heirs of Warfield and Henry exceeded or abandoned what Warfield and Henry saw themselves as doing?

2. To what extent has the "Battle for the Bible" been a product of the Christianity's battle/struggle with Modernity, and have conservatives tried to win the war by using the rationalistic philosophy of the Enlightenment?

3. Do some evangelicals look down on inerrancy as if to somehow make a desperate plea to non-evangelicals to take them seriously? For example: "Yes, I'm an evangelical, but I don't believe in inerrancy, so please come to my SBL paper!" (As I bite my bleeding tongue, Russ Moore might actually be right on this one!)

My thinking on this topic has been influenced largely by my boss, Andy McGowan, see his work: A.T.B. McGowan, ‘The Spiration of Scripture,' Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology 21.2 (2003) 199-217 - excellent stuff!

Don Garlington on Gordon Fee and Paul's Christology

Gordon D. Fee
Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Study
Peabody: Hendrickson, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-59856-035-0
pp. xxv + 707

By Don Garlington

I. H. Marshall’s assessment of Professor Gordon Fee’s new book is much to the point. “Gordon Fee has done it again! Having given us the standard work of Paul’s understanding of the Holy Spirit, he has now filled a surprising gap in Pauline studies by writing a remarkably comprehensive and detailed account of Pauline Christology.” To this Paul Achtemeier adds: “Thoroughly researched, comprehensive, and wide-ranging, this solid study is arranged in such a way that it is useful not only for its impact pointing as it does to the coherence of Paul’s christological thought but also for its careful exegetical studies of individual passages” (both from the dust jacket).

The “ground rules” of Fee’s approach are set out in his Introduction, which, for the purposes of this review, can be confined to four areas. First, Fee defines “christology” quite traditionally, as relating to the person of Christ, in distinction to his work: it is a question who he was/is, not what he did for us. Yet it is acknowledged that such a distinction is not one that Paul himself makes, because “if Christ is the singular passion of Paul’s life, the focus of that passion is on the saving work of Christ” (1-2). He admits that Paul’s refusal to differentiate between Christ’s person and his work makes for a difficulty, yet in a work of this sort the line must be drawn somewhere.

Second, while acknowledging that a narrative approach to Paul’s christology possesses some benefits, Fee opts for the combination of exegetical Analysis of passages (even at the risk of repetition) and a theological Synthesis of the materials, the same structure as his earlier work on the Spirit in Paul.[i] The Analysis is discernibly more technical than that of God’s Empowering Presence, and for that reason it is likely to be less appealing to non-specialists in the field. Consequently, some readers anyway may want to reserve this segment of the book as a commentary on the individual passages without necessarily poring over the details in a cover to cover reading. However, the Synthesis lightens up and makes for easier sledding. Indeed, this portion of the book is not only theologically rich but devotional in tone. In any event, as a specialist in Paul I value the attention to detail, along with the various chapter appendices serving as compendia of the relevant passages, especially the wisdom texts, which are not so readily available.

Third, of particular interest to readers will be the relation of exegesis to the traditional doctrines of the person of Christ and the Trinity. Fee is clear that the term “christology” in the book expresses “a very focused theological concern.” The issues of Chalcedon (Christ as one person with two natures) are not raised at all, since the question of the two natures arises only after one is convinced that the proper resolution of the biblical data about the one God and the “three divine persons” has been resolved in a Trinitarian way. Moreover, the actual Trinitarian questions about the one and the three as one God (Nicea) are not raised either, since that too lies beyond Paul’s expressed concerns. At issue in Fee’s book is, in his words, “the singular concern to investigate the Pauline data regarding the person of Christ in terms of whom Paul under­stood him to be and how he viewed the relationship between Christ, as the Son of God and Lord, and the one God, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is therefore now revealed as our Father as well” (9). For Fee, the questions with which these later councils wrestled were simply not addressed by the NT authors, including Paul. Rather, they provide the “stuff” for the later theological resolutions (8). Later into the book, Fee responds to some criticisms of his use of “Trinitarian” in God’s Em­powering Presence as proper nomenclature for Pauline theology, mostly because the word carries too much of “the baggage of later discussions that are concerned with how the three divine ‘persons’ cohere in unity of being.” In place of “Trinitarian,” Fee now prefers to speak of “proto-Trinitarian” (borrowed from Stanley Porter) as “a way of designating those texts where Paul himself, rigorous monotheist though he was, joins Father, Son and Spirit in ways that indicate the full identity of the Son and Spirit with the Father, but without losing that monotheism. But even with these qualifications, the synthesis portion of Fee’s study proceeds to demonstrate that Paul embraced a “high christology.”

In the fourth place, in a preview of his ensuing analysis of texts, Fee demonstrates that Paul’s christological thought is rooted particularly in the LXX. Quite convincingly, he argues that Paul knew and drew upon the text commonly identified as the LXX and that his readers would have picked up on echoes from it. As regards the latter, Fee illustrates with such well known historical documents as the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Anyone familiar with these documents and the culture from which they arose would have no difficulty in recognizing distinctive words and phrases (such as “four score and seven years ago”). Likewise, Paul’s readers would have been able to hear “echoes” from the Greek Scripture that modern readers may not necessarily be capable of recognizing. (This, I think, goes a long way in answering in the affirmative a question frequently posed by theological students: would Paul’s readers have been able to follow his allusions to the OT?) In the exposition of texts, these observations are applied, for example, in the way in which Paul uses the title Kyrios (“Lord”), most notably without the definite article and with certain prepositions. In other words, Kyrios as the LXX’s rendering of the divine name Yahweh means that Jesus is Lord in the same sense that God is. This equation of Christ with Yahweh is demonstrated extensively throughout the book. Additionally, Paul’s familiarity with the LXX, Fee argues, accounts for Paul’s reminder to the Galatians (4:14) that they received him as “the angel of God,” a recurring OT phrase that in English is usually rendered “the angel of the Lord.” This identification is supported by the next phrase, “as Christ Jesus” (229-31). This is a remarkable insight.

Moving to the body of the book, the investigation yields expected results from an evangelical scholar such as Fee, who is fully supportive of Paul’s “high christology.” In summary: (1) Christ is the preexistent and eternal Son of God (King of Israel). (2) As “equal with God,” Jesus is Lord in the “fully loaded” sense of the term (= Yahweh). (3) He is the incarnate redeemer (savior). (4) He possesses divine prerogatives and attributes, such as God’s glory and faithfulness. (5) He shares in divine activities and purposes, including creation, forgiveness and resurrection. (6) He is a member of the “proto-Trinity.” (7) He has now been exalted on high at God’s right hand and given the name above all names. (8) To him prayer may be addressed. (9) He is an object of worship, to whom Paul is completely devoted. (10) Ultimately, every knee will bow to him and every tongue confess that he is Lord. In contending for such theologoumena, Fee is not content to fall back on orthodox assumptions regarding Christ’s person, but rather the materials are examined methodically and microscopically with the aid of the best of contemporary scholarship. And the aggregate of the evidence is overwhelming: Paul had a very high christology indeed! Perhaps the whole can be distilled by one of Fee’s concluding comments on the christology of 1 Corinthians (148):

And finally, the most challenging matter of all remains: the danger of analysis without adequate appreciation for the absolute centrality of Christ for Paul, an analysis of what Paul believed about Christ by way of what he says about his Lord that fails to comprehend and communicate his utter and total devotion to Christ—a devotion that a good Jew could give only to his God. The reason Christ is mentioned more often than God in this letter, and in most of Paul’s letters, is not that Paul is not consistently theocentric in his thinking—he is indeed. Rather, his whole world had been radically reori­ented by his encounter with the risen and exalted Lord, Jesus Christ. There is no longer any way that Paul can talk about God without at the same time automatically talking about what God has accomplished in and through his Son. And at the end of the day, however one handles the language of Paul’s express statements about Christ, there is no genuine Christology that does not account for Paul’s utter devotion to and longing for Christ, which finds expression here and in all of his letters.

To take the Analysis first, apart from the central thesis of the work, individual comments on the Pauline texts contain numerous insights for the commentator. As noted above, one of these insights is the translation of Gal 4:14 as “the angel of God,” a reference to the Angel of the Lord in the Hebrew Scriptures. Also in Galatians, there is the matter of Paul’s singular phrase “faith of Jesus Christ” (pistis Iēsou Christou). At least since the publication of Richard Hays’ Yale dissertation,[ii] there has been, as Fee observes, a groundswell of the NT scholarship that interprets the phrase as subjective genitive, i.e., pistis Iēsou Christou bespeaks Christ’s own covenant fidelity. Fee, however, takes issue with the growing consensus and argues persuasively, in my view, for the traditional objective genitive understanding of Paul’s choice of words.[iii] I personally like “adjectival genitive,” as suggested by Arland Hultgren, meaning that our faith is “Christic,” i.e., directed specifically to Jesus as the Lord of the new covenant.[iv] But in the end, objective and adjectival genitives come down to pretty much the same thing. Another instance is that in responding to those commentators on Phil 2:6-8 who have an aversion to the idea of imitating Christ, as though ethics were based finally on self-effort rather than on grace, Fee responds:

But these objections are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of imitatio in Paul’s thought, which does not mean “repeat after me” but rather (in the present context) “have a frame of mind which lives on behalf of others the way Christ did in his becoming incarnate and dying by crucifixion.” One can appreciate the desire not to let this profound passage lose its power by mak­ing it simply an exemplary paradigm, but Paul himself seems to have done that very thing (372, n. 6).

Thereafter, Fee explains, Paul follows up 2:6-8 with his own story in 3:5-14 as one who lives out the Christ-paradigm and urges the Philippians to follow his example of following the primary example, Christ, (3:15-17) and thus to live in the present in a cruciform manner. The disputed term harpagmos in Phil 2:6b is correctly taken by fee to be a “matter seized to be upon” in the sense of “taking advantage of it.” In other words, Christ’s equality with God was something that he refused to exploited for selfish ends. Rather, “he poured himself out” and became the obedient Servant of the Lord. This finds immediate application in the Philippians’ concrete situation, where Paul’s demand is for them to stop their internal squabbling (4:2-3) and get on with being God’s blameless children in pagan Philippi.[v] At the end of the day, I would add, Paul’s christology is intended to be practical: we are to imitate the incarnation by our willingness to relinquish our rights for the sake of being the servants of others.

The Synthesis brings together the exegetical data as they form a biblical theology of the person of Christ in Paul’s letters. At the forefront stands soteriology, i.e., the central role of Christ in salvation. As Fee expresses it, the phrase “salvation in Christ” serves as the basic summing up of Paul’s central theological concern. He makes four points. (1) There is a consistent “grammar” of salvation, which takes a triadic form: salvation is predicated on the love of God the Father, it is effected through the death and resurrection of Christ the Son, and it is made effective through the Spirit of God, who is also the Spirit of the Son. (2) The ultimate goal of salvation is not simply the saving of individ­uals but the creation of a people for God’s name, reconstituted in terms of a new covenant. (3) The framework of God’s salvation in Christ is thoroughly escha­tological, meaning that Christ’s death and resurrection and the gift of the Spirit mark the turning of the ages, whereby God has set in motion a new creation, in which all things eventually will be made new at the eschatologi­cal conclusion of the present age. (4) The means of salvation in Christ is his death on the cross and his subsequent resurrection, whereby people are redeemed from en­slavement to self and sin, and death itself has been defeated. This summary is then followed by a discussion of re-creation into the divine image as the ultimate goal of salvation.
Next ensues a section on the place of “Christ devotion” in Paul, including Christ as an object of worship. Writes Fee:

All of this seems natural enough to those of us who have been raised on the Christian Scriptures; but careful reflection causes one to think again. Here is a thoroughgoing monotheist, raised in a context of absolute theocentrism, who now turns the larger part of his devotion to God toward the Lord Jesus Christ. This is Christology in evidence without Paul trying to make it so, and therefore it is all the more telling (490).

Thereafter comes a chapter on Christ the preexistent and incarnate savior. Of the essence of Fee’s approach is the significant point that Paul does not seek to demonstrate preexistence and incarnation as something to be argued for. Quite the opposite. In every case, Paul is arguing for something else on the basis of a commonly held belief in Christ as the incarnate Son of God. As Fee maintains, it is precisely this reality that makes the cumulative effect of the texts carry so much christological weight.

Were Paul arguing for incarnation, then one would pursue him with regard to both the what and the how of his argumentation, as to whether it “works” or is weighty. But when it is something Paul repeatedly argues from, then at issue is not whether Paul and his churches believed in Christ as the divine, preexistent Savior but what was the nature of that belief (501).

After that, the treatment of Jesus as Second Adam is conducted along the lines of a “middling” position, which does not limit itself to explicit references to Adam, but is still less inclusive than other approaches to what else in Paul’s writings actually makes a comparison of Christ with Adam viable, based on what appear to be certain connections made by Paul between Christ and the actual language of Genesis 1-3. There is here a renewed discussion of the new creation and Christ the image of God. The upshot is that Jesus is a truly human/divine savior. The final two chapters are concerned with Jesus the Jewish Messiah and Son of God and Jesus the Jewish Messiah and exalted Lord. Here Fee examines what the data sug­gest are Paul’s primary categories for understanding the person of Christ, i.e., who it was who functioned as Redeemer and Creator of the new hu­manity. The answer of these chapters is twofold: (1) the risen Jesus is none other than the preexistent Son of God, who came present among us to redeem; (2) the risen Jesus is the exalted Lord “seated at the right hand of God,” in fulfillment of Ps 110:1. In the first instance, the emphasis is on the relationship of the Son to the Father; and in the second, the stress is on the exalted Christ’s relationship to us and to the world. Both of these themes have their deepest roots in Jewish messianism, as based on the Davidic kingship. In a manner akin to N. T. Wright, Fee surveys the Jesus story as it forms the culmination of Israel’s story: creation, Abraham, Exodus, the law, kingship and the eschatological inclusion of the Gentiles. The outcome is that Jesus as the true Israel, as well as God’s true Son, is where all Son of God christology in the NT must begin, certainly including Paul. It is biblical at its very core: the messi­anic king of Israel, God’s true Son, is not simply one more in the line of David; he turns out, in fact, to be the incarnate Son, who in his incarnation reveals true sonship and true kingship.

There is little to say but that these chapters make not only for a rich and expansive exposition of Jesus’ messiahship for Paul but as well for an ideal introduction to the apostle’s theology of the new creation. In fact, this entire Synthesis portion of the book should be required reading for students of biblical theology.

Readers may be surprised that in the two places in his letters where Paul appears explicitly to call Christ God, Rom 9:5 and Titus 2:13, Fee denies that such is the case. As regards the former, Fee concludes: “It seems incongruous both to the letter as a whole and to the present context in partic­ular—not to mention Paul’s usage throughout the corpus—that Paul should suddenly call the Messiah theos when his coming in the flesh is the ultimate expression of what God is doing in the world” (277). All things considered, he may very well be right, in spite of the fact that the majority of evangelical commentators favors the opposite conclusion. Paul’s objective in Romans 9-11 is to pursue his salvation historical argument that believers in Christ constitute the true remnant; they are the elect within the elect. As a kind of table of contents, Rom 9:1-5 sets the stage for this agenda. Paul commences by expressing his perpetual sorrow for his “kinsmen according to flesh” (v. 3). His grief is intensified by the fact that his generation has failed to enter into the historic privileges of the Jewish people, the most conspicuous of which is “the Christ (Messiah) according to the flesh” (v. 5). But the mention of the Christ, as he represents the apex of all of God’s good gifts to Israel, causes the apostle to burst out in doxology to the God who is over all, blessed forever. As Fee puts it, at this phase of the argument: “Paul now puts his emphasis on the fact that the Creator God is himself over all things, including especially the list of Jewish privileges that climaxed with the gift of ‘the Messiah in his earthly life’” (277). Titus 2:13 is understood along similar lines. The interpretation of Rom 9:5 hinges to a large degree on punctuation and word order, and Titus 2:13 too entails a certain element of ambiguity. A straightforward translation would be: “Awaiting the blessed hope and manifestation of the glory of our great God and savior, Jesus Christ.” But as is frequently the case, there is more than meets the eye in the underlying Greek. What we can state for certain is that the verse contains two pairs of unified concepts. For one, “the blessed hope and manifestation” are bound together by one article and the conjunction “and” (kai), thus making them essentially one and the same. The “blessed hope” is the “manifestation of the glory….” The other part of the sentence is likewise a grammatical unit. It is here that the famous Granville Sharp Rule comes into play, i.e., two nouns controlled by a single article and joined by kai are understood as one entity, not two. Not only so, remarks Fee, the combination of adjective-noun-and-noun-adjective occurs elsewhere in Paul’s writings. To cut to the case, the understanding of the verse hinges on the question of apposition. At first, I was reluctant to accept Fee’s proposal, but on closer examination it would appear that he is right. In terms of both syntax and conceptuality, Jesus Christ is the blessed hope/manifestation of “the glory of our great God and savior.” Although, on this reading, Paul does not call Christ God as such, here is still, as Fee maintains, a very high christology.

My qualification is that even given the likelihood of Fee’s interpretation of Rom 9:5 and Titus 2:13, it is not necessarily out of place for Paul (suddenly or otherwise) to call Jesus God, if in fact his christology is as high as Fee says it is, as per so outstandingly the worship of Jesus. If Christ is the manifestation of God’s glory,[vi] then the question arises, who else but God could be the demonstration of God’s glory?[vii] It is not at all inherently improbably or “anomalous” that Paul should denominate Jesus as God, especially in light of Fee’s efforts to demonstrate that Kyrios for Paul is tantamount to Yahweh. Of course, texts must be subjected to a penetrating analysis. But even after that, we are not in a position to assume what Paul may or may not have written. It has to be remembered that even with all the wealth of the Pauline epistles, we would need an even larger corpus of literature to determine what is actually anomalous and what is not. And even then, there is a limit to what can be deduced, because an occasional reference is not necessarily an anomaly.

Another factor that gives one pause is Fee’s insistence that there is no wisdom christology in Paul. In the discussions of 1 Corinthians, Colossians and at more length in Appendix A, it is categorically denied that Christ is depicted as personified Jewish wisdom. In a nutshell, the comment on 1 Cor 1:30 tells the whole tale: “The net result of a close look at this passage, therefore, with personified Wisdom in view brings only negative results. Paul neither here nor anywhere else in his letters makes even the remotest allusion to ‘her.’ She simply is not on his radar screen” (107). Since it would take a separate essay to engage the details of the argument, suffice it to say here that, in my view, Fee has made a strong case that wisdom is not a dominant motif in Paul’s letters. However, the problem is one of overkill. I should think D. J. Moo’s assessment, as quoted by Fee (597, n. 11), is more to the point: “the evidence for wisdom influence on the christology of the early Pauline Letters is slight and allusive.” Fee follows up with the comment: “One might add that the same holds true of the latter letters as well.” But in point of fact, he is not even willing to allow this much. His motivation is laudable enough: as personified wisdom, Christ is not to be reduced to a creature. With this I thoroughly agree, but it is not necessary to dispense with every potential allusion to wisdom in order to maintain this conviction. As for the Jewish materials, I would concur that Paul does not derive his conception of Christ from Wisdom of Solomon or Sirach. Rather, any pre-Pauline precedents would be provided by the wisdom materials of the OT, although the Second Temple texts do provide important context for Paul, a context which is not to be dismissed lightly.[viii]

I must clarify that my concern is for a biblical theology, i.e., the way in which wisdom as a divine attribute (person) finds its ultimate embodiment in the incarnate Christ. In constructing such a christology as rooted in salvation history, Prov 8:22-31 has to be given its due: wisdom, the master builder, was present with Yahweh at the time of the creation. Bruce Waltke’s exposition of this text favors seeing wisdom not simply as a literary device but as a genuine hypostasis. Its first stanza, vv. 8:22-26, is summarized by Waltke in these terms: “The first stanza establishes that wisdom’s precedence in rank and dignity over the rest of the creation is both qualitative (i.e., begotten, not created) and temporal (i.e., existing “before” any other creature).” Then, after a survey options regarding the operative verb qānâ, Waltke opts for “bring forth” in the sense of begetting.[ix]

The metaphor “brought me forth” signifies that Solomon’s inspired wisdom comes from God’s essential being; it is a revela­tion that has an organic connection with God’s very nature and being, unlike the rest of creation that came into existence outside of him and independent from his being. Moreover, since this wisdom existed before creation and its origins are distinct from it, wisdom is neither accessible to humanity nor can it be subdued by human beings, but it must be revealed to people and ac­cepted by them.[x]

If Waltke is right, then we are not so far removed from Nicea after all: wisdom (the Son) is “begotten not created.” Consequently, it is not a stretch to see in the words of Col 1:16 at least an oblique reference to wisdom’s role in the creation: “all things were created through him and for him.” Fee concedes that wisdom in Proverbs 8 may indeed be the master worker at God’s side, but it is not the mediator through whom cre­ation came into being. Rather, the whole created order is so full of evidences of design and glory that God’s own wisdom, now personified in a literary way, can be the only possible explanation for it. This, he thinks, falls considerably short of Paul’s understanding of Christ’s role in creation as expressed in Col 1:16 (1 Cor 8:6). Yet here is a case of putting too fine a point on the language of Proverbs in denying the equation of Christ = wisdom simply because of the absence of “through” in the text, as though this is the only way of expressing agency. I would ask, if wisdom was not instrumental in some way in the creation, then what was it doing beside God—simply observing? That hardly seems to be the case; there must have been some “creative” involvement. Moreover, rather than falling considerably short of Paul’s understanding of Christ’s role in creation as expressed by Paul, the activity of wisdom in Proverbs 8 would provide a confirmation and buttressing of the very high christology of Col 1:16 (1 Cor 8:6): the wisdom that designed the universe is none other than Christ! If Proverbs 8 has such a bearing on the Pauline passages, then Prov 3:19-20 and Ps 104:24 can be read in the same terms as well.[xi]

Coming at the issue from this vantage point of biblical theology, as dependent on the unity of Scripture, I would want to read Paul in the light of the Fourth Gospel and Hebrews (not to say the Synoptics also). It is commonly acknowledged that in the prologues of both documents there is a wisdom christology, particularly as it bears on creation. If, then, Paul’s letters are not to be abstracted from the rest of the NT, then an allusion to preexistent wisdom was no more a problem for him than for John and Hebrews (or Matthew and Luke).

Finally, 1 Cor 1:24, 30; 8:6 may come in for a word or two. In the first two verses, the “wisdom” of God, as Fee maintains, is God’s attribute of skillful design—he has done things well, in spite of human (mis)perceptions of his plan, the outgrowth of arrogant and self-serving pseudo-wisdom. Likewise, the whole passage of 1:26-31 plays on Jer 9:23-24, as the latter decries human wisdom and calls for Israel to glory in the Lord. So ironically, God’s wisdom has been displayed in and through the hated and despised cross—it is just the crucified Christ who is God’s very wisdom. It is in this capacity that he has been made our wisdom (v. 30). I would ask, though, is the “worldly” wisdom to be renounced by the Corinthians only of the Greek variety? We need to recall that, according to Acts 18:1-11, the Corinthian church was in part composed of converts from the synagogue, including its leader. And given the rather widely known equation of wisdom with Torah (Ben Sira, Baruch, etc., = Deut 4:6) in the Judaism of this period, it is not out of bounds to suggest that Christ has not only taken the place of sophia as the epitome of all Greek philosophical, cultural and scientific endeavors, but that he is also the one who has come to displace the hokhma commonly equated with the law of Moses. It can be both/and at the same time.

As for 1 Cor 8:6, Fee is right that Paul has the Shema in his sights: Israel’s primal confession of the oneness of Yahweh (although this is the Christian version of Deut 6:4, wherein Christ assumes the place of Lord alongside the Father). Yet intermingled with this equation of Christ with the Father is the language of creation, the final point of reference being the Genesis creation account (with its various parallels in the OT). There is predicated respectively of the Father and Jesus: “from whom are all things and for whom we exist,” and “through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” Again with Proverbs 8 and the persona of wisdom in mind, there is no reason why Paul could not be making the same allusion here as in Col 1:16: Christ as God’s wisdom is the agent of creation, although, like Col 1:16, creation expands beyond the material universe to comprehend the new creation, of which Christ also is the prime agent.

All in all, the bottom line is that Professor Fee’s book is the most thorough and compelling account of Paul’s christology to date and is nothing short of a great achievement. It is sure to remain the standard in the field for some time to come, and I am certain I will return to it repeatedly in my own research.

Don Garlington
Toronto, Ontario
[i] Fee, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994).
[ii] The Faith of Jesus Christ: An Investigation of the Narrative Substructure of Galatians 3:1-4:11 (Biblical Resource Series; 2nd ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002).
[iii] A similar linguistic analysis is provided by J. D. G. Dunn, “Once More, PISTIS CHRISTOU,” Pauline Theology. Volume IV: Looking Back, Pressing On (eds. E. E. Johnson and D. M. Hay; SBLSS 4; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997), 61-81.
[iv] Hultgren, “The Pistis Christou Formulation in Paul, ” NovT 22 (1980), 257, 259-60.
[v] See additionally Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 231-37.
[vi] Cf. James 2:1: “My brethren, show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glory” (not “the Lord of glory,” because “Lord” is not in the text). James is equating Christ with “the glory,” i.e., the Shekinah.
[vii] In a personal communication, Professor Fee responds: “Doesn’t it seem a bit strange that Paul himself sets the parameters of Kyrios and Theos in 1 Cor 8:6, and that he keeps the distinctions absolutely throughout the corpus, and that the only two possible exceptions are so only by a given reading of the passage? That is, if this is so critical, why not have at least one clear and certain expression of it?” The point is well taken, but with one qualification: it is 1 Cor 8:6 that equates “Lord” with “Father” in this Christian form of the Shema. If our “one God” is both the “the Father” and “one Lord Jesus Christ,” then certainly the way is paved for the equation Christ = God.
[viii] Fee’s scepticism that Paul knew the book of Wisdom stands out rather notably in the present climate of Pauline research. The bulk of contemporary commentators on Romans maintain that Rom 1:18-32 is modeled on passages in Wisdom 10-13. I have provided some bibliography in ‘The Obedience of Faith’: A Pauline Phrase in Historical Context (WUNT 2/38; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1991), 68, n. 13. My friend Kevin Bywater’s nearly completed thesis at Durham advances even more evidence. Moreover, Fee tends to press linguistic analysis too hard, with a minimum of attention paid to conceptual analysis, particularly by insisting that prepositions like dia must be in evidence in order to establish that wisdom was conceived of as the agent of creation in this literature.
[ix] Waltke, The Book of Proverbs (NICOT; 2 vols.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004, 2005), 1.408.
[x] Ibid., 409.
[xi] While I would grant that Paul is not dependent on noncanonical literature for his conception of Christ the Creator, Fee too quickly dismisses as context passages like Wis 7:22; 8:4-6; 9:9. In such surroundings, Paul would be informing his contemporaries that eschatological wisdom is none other than Jesus of Nazareth. This would be especially relevant in light of the customary equation of wisdom with Torah. It is further to be noted that Fee acknowledges that Jewish writers celebrate wisdom in the setting of their ardour for monotheism. Likewise, Paul maintains monotheism, but a Christian monotheism that equates the Creator Christ with the wisdom whereby God brought the worlds into existence.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Review of SROG

My thanks to Doug Chaplin of the blog Meta-catholic for his interesting review (so far) of my book: The Saving Righteousness of God.

Reading James with New Eyes

A new book that we all should note is: Reading James with New Eyes: Methodological Reassessments of the Letter of James edited by Robert L. Webb and John S. Kloppenborg (LNTS; London: Continuum, 2007).

Reading James With New Eyes is the first of four volumes that incorporate new research in this area. The essays collected here examine the impact of recent methodological developments in New Testament studies to the letter of James, including, for example, rhetorical, social-scientific, socio-rhetorical, ideological and hermeneutical methods, as they contribute to understanding James and its social context. Each essay has a similar three-fold structure, making them perfect for use by students: a description of the methodological approach; the application of the methodological approach to James; and a conclusion identifying how the methodological approach contributes to a fresh understanding of the letter.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Ben Witherington on Baptism

Just out is Ben Witherington's new book: Troubled Waters: Rethinking the Theology of Baptism (Baylor University Press, released 30 May 2007).

The blurb reads: Baptism has been a contested practice from the very beginning of the church. In this volume, Ben Witherington rethinks the theology of Baptism and does so in constant conversation with the classic theological positions and central New Testament texts. By placing Baptism in the context of the covenant, Witherington shows how advocates of both believer's baptism and infant baptism have added some water to both their theology and practice of baptism.

Review of Editio Critica Maior

What follows is a review of the Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior, Part IV - the Catholic Letters, Installments 1-4. See a web introduction here.

1. Editio Critica Maior

According to the Institute for New Testament Textual Research (INTF), the Editio Critica Maior documents the Greek textual history of the first millennium based on Greek manuscripts of special relevance for the textual tradition, on older translations, and on quotations of the New Testament in ancient Christian literature. It utilizes the coherence based genealogical method for collating the material prepared for the first time with such completeness. The selection of manuscripts rests on an analysis of the entire primary tradition. Every selected manuscript is entered into a database with all its readings and registered in the critical apparatus. The edition thus offers information to answer continuative questions: How does the text change in the course of history and why? How was a text received in early Christianity?

The ECM is scheduled to be published in five volumes:

I. Gospels
II. Acts
III. Pauline Letters
IV. Catholic Letters
V. Revelation

2. For discussion of the ECM see:

Bart D. Ehrman, "Novum Testamentum Graece Editio Critica Maior: An Evaluation"

D. C. Parker, "A Critique of the Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior"

Peter H. Davids, "Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior: A Non-Specialist's Perspective"

William L. Petersen, "Some Remarks on the First Volume (The Epistle of James) of the Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior"

Klaus Wachtel, Co-Editor of the ECM, "Response to Four Reviews of the James Volume of the Editio Critica Maior"

3. ECM, Part IV - The Catholic Letters

Each installment includes two parts: text and supplement. Part 1 (text) of all installments includes a foreword, notes on the reconstruction of the text, and the actual text itself. The text includes three parts: (1) the primary line of text, (2) the overview of variant readings, and (3) the critical apparatus. Part 2 (supplement) of the installment includes (1) abbreviations and symbols, (2) Greek manuscripts, (3) Patristic quotations, (4) versions, (5) additional apparatus, and (6) supplementary material and studies.

ECM IV/1 - The Epistle of James

The ECM differs from NA27 and UBS4 in two instances on James:

a. 1.22 - akroatai monon
b. 2.3 - ē kathou ekei

Included is also evidence from P100 (= POxy 4449) from the Oxyrynchus collection which contains Jas 3.13-4.4 and 4.9-5.1 (III/IV century).

ECM IV/2 - The Letters of Peter

There are differences with UBS4 and NA27 in sixteen places, e.g. 2 Pet. 3.10 - ouk eurethēsetai

The analysis showed the remarkable agreement of P72, P81, and 623 with the A text (= Ausgangstext or hypothetical initial text).

ECM IV/3 - The First Letter of John

The editors note that due to the simple style of 1 John, there are very few passages where difficulties lead to major variants, although the repetitive style encourages a range of variants for some expressions.

ECM differences with NA27/UBS4 include:
1.7 - omits de
5.10 - en autō
5.18 - heaton

ECM IV/4 - The Second and Third Letter of John, the Letter of Jude

What I found interesting here was the ECM preference for 'Jesus' over 'Lord' in Jude 5. Otherwise, one should consult on Jude, Tommy Wasserman: The epistle of Jude: its text and transmission

4. An Evaluation

- In terms of advancing a new methodology for textual criticism (i.e. the coherence-based-genealogical method or CBGM), the ECM is highly commendable. Alas, the days of "text types" is well and truly over. However, the CBGM does not always prove as useful for 1-3 John, Jude as it does for James and 1-2 Peter.
- There is a completeness and thoroughness to the presentation of the data that is otherwise unmatched by any apparatus, and for that reason alone the ECM is necessary for commentary writing, studies in wirkungsgeschichte, and for any serious textual study.
- If teaching a course on textual criticism or advanced Greek, a lecturer should strive to get the ECM into the hands of students and have sessions where they practice using it to discover variants and learn how to read the text.
- Another useful aspect is that the bilingual nature of the volumes (i.e. German and English) which allows one to practice reading Theological German.

These volumes are available in the UK from Alban Books.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Gospel According to Les Miserable

Once upon a time I fancied a career as a lyricist, and I wanted to write the lyrics for Broadway and West End shows and be like Tim Rice, Oscar Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, and David Zippel. I abandoned that for a military career and I abandoned that for a biblical studies career. But I've always maintained my love for musical theatre. My favourite is Les Miz.

In many ways the figures of Valjean and Javert represent two different responses to grace. Both of them experience unprecedent, unwarranted, and undeserved mercy. Valjean assaults the local bishop and steals the bishop's expensive cutlery, and yet bishop lies to the police in order to protect Valjean. He saves Valjean from prison. Valjean is amazed, astounded, and broken in the face of this grace. Valjean receives it, embraces it, and is tranformed by it.

Inspector Javert, on the other hand, is a man with a mission. He hunts Valjean relentlessly, he never asks for mercy nor ever gives any. When Valjean saves Javert's life (when Valjean has every reason to kill him), Javert is stunned and insulted by this act of grace. He mocks it, derides it, and ultimately destroys himself because of it.

Javert and Valjean represent two different responses to the gospel of God's grace. Either we can be like Valjean and weep for our sins, crumble in amazement at the depths and power of God's love, and allow grace to consume and transform us with the result that we show grace to others. Our else we can be like Javert, and say in effect, 'I would rather die than live in your debt'. That is the story and scandal of grace.

Here is the lyrics to Valjean's soliloquy:

What have I done? Sweet Jesus, what have I done?
Became a thief in the night, become a dog on the run
And have I fallen so far, and is the hour so late
That nothing remains but the cry of my hate
The cries in the dark that nobody hears
Here where I stand at the turning of the years

If there’s another way to go, I missed it twenty long years ago
My life was a war that could never be won
They gave me a number and murdered Valjean
When they chained me and left me for dead
Just for stealing a mouthful of bread

Yet why did I allow this man
To touch my soul and teach me love
He treated me like any other,
He gave me his trust, He called me Brother
My life he claims for God above
Can such things be
For I had come to hate the world, this world that always hated me

Take an eye for an eye, turn your heart into stone
This is all I have lived for, this is all I have known
One word from him and I’d be back
Beneath the lash, upon the rack
Instead, he offers me my freedom
I feel my shame inside me like a knife
He told me that I have a soul
How does he know
What Spirit comes to move my life
Is there another way to go

I am reaching but I fall and the night is closing in
And I stare into the void, to the whirlpool of my sin
I’ll escape now from the world
From the world of Jean Valjean
Jean Valjean is nothing nowAnother story must begin!

PS, listen to the version with Philip Quast playing Javert: he is fantastic! (an Aussie too).

Jewish Traditions in the Enochic Son of Man

According to G.W.E. Nickelsburg, the transcendent heavenly figure who dominates 1 Enoch 37-71, represents a remarkable syntheses of divine agents in Jewish thought:

1. Son of Man. Echoes of Daniel 7 obvious through 1 Enoch 46-47.

2. Servant of Yahweh. The naming of the mysterious figure (1 Enoch 48) is built on the call of the Servant of Yahweh from Isaiah 49 and the titles “Chosen One” and “Righteous One” are consonant with Isa 42.1 and 53.11. The enthronement of the Chosen One in 1 Enoch 62-63 is also reminiscent of Isaiah 52-53.

3. David. The David royal traditions of Isaiah 9 and Psalm 2 appear in 1 Enoch 48.8-10 where the figure is the executor of God’s justice against the rebel kings of the earth. David and the Enochic figure are both bearers of the Spirit of God (1 Enoch 49.3-4; 62.2-3).

4. Wisdom. As a pre-existent being, the Son of Man shares one of the characteristics of Wisdom.

George W.E. Nickelsburg, Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins: Diversity, Continuity, and Transformation (Minneaplis: Fotress, 2003), 104-5.

New Blogs 16

James F. McGrath, of Butler University, has a blog entitled: Exploring our Matrix. James is the author of John's Apologetic Christology: Legitimation and Development in Johannine Christology. Incidentally, we are both contributors to Who Do My Opponents Say That I Am? Investigating the Accusations Against Jesus edited by Scot McKnight and Joseph Modica.

Peter Kirby becomes a Christian

Some of you might know Peter Kirby from places such as the Early Christian Writings website (an excellent resource). Kirby also has a blog called The Darkling Thrush. He has written a post entitled: How I became a Christian which is the story of his conversion from atheism to Christianity. It is a riveting read at a spiritual, psychological, scientific, and religious level. I don't know what kind of "Christianity" he has converted too, but I recommend the post. As one who has made the journey from atheist to Christian myself, I for one enjoyed his story.

Christian Origins without Acts and Eusebius

For some time I have been meaning to respond to remarks made by James Tabor over at his blog The Jesus Dynasty. In particular, I intend to contest his view about early Christianity.

Tabor challenges what is often often assumed about Christianity, namely: (1) That "the essential story line we read about in the New Testament book of Acts is an accurate version of the early years of the Jesus movement following the crucifixion". (2) And he says: "The second grand assumption about early Christianity that I think we should radically questioned is the portrait of its clean break with Judaism and its subsequent harmonious (despite a few evil heretics) and unbroken advance into the second and third centuries." Instead, he advocates we try to reconstruct Christianity by using "Nag Hamaddi texts found in Egypt in 1945, the newly edited and translated Pseudo-Clementine literature, the Didache, and various Syriac and Arabic sources".

At another place Tabor says: "Acts and Eusebius are not 'the story,' as I have recently written, then we have a lot of hard work before us. The good news is that much survives and I can not think of any field of historical investigation that is more exciting than Christian Origins at the beginning of this 3rd. millennium. If I may misquote/misapply the prophet Hosea: After two days he cause us to live, and on the third day he will raise us up. What an amazing time in which to live."

Here's my response:

1. If Acts and Eusebius are historically defunct and not the "real" story, then it is not so much a matter of getting on with the "hard work before us", rather, we should take up a new hobby besides Christian origins (go fishing I guess or watch that prosaic sport called "the Scottish Premier League"). Without the testimony of Eusebius and Luke we have no history of Christian Origins; however biased these reporters are, they constitute our primary and most valuable witnesses to the beginnings of Christiantiy. Without them, plotting the macro-picture of Christian Origins is done with, it is "game over"!

2. Tabor beleives that the Christian bias of these document eliminates them as reliable sources. But the fact of the matter is that there is no such thing as uninterpreted history, whether that is Luke or Thomas or whether it is Eusebius or the Ps-Clementines. What is more, Luke and Eusebius are purporting to give a narrative account of history, something that was not the intention of the NH or the other Christian writings that Tabor alludes to. We should then be more predisposed to trust Eusebius and Luke in their account (or at least in places where we have no evidence to prove the contrary).

3. I for one doubt whether Luke (and Eusebius) are presenting a purely romanticized and fictitious account of Christian origins. Yes, I can give a polite nod to Luke's propensity to down-play conflicts and his Pauline sympathies (but see Martin Hengel before you call Luke a pure Paulinist, since Hengel thinks that Luke is a naughty disciple of Paul). Yet I have a hard time thinking of Luke as a complete revisionist and Acts as as being entirely biased towards ecclesiastical uniformity. George Caird wrote: "In all this Luke is undoubtedly preserving the authentic quality of primitive Christianity. If he had been disposed to read back into the age he was describing the characteristics of the age in which he wrote, we should presumably have had from him a story of a mission planned and directed from Jerusalem by the Twelve. But of such ecclesiastical theory there is not a trace in his narrative" (Caird, Apostolic Age, p. 66; cf. Hengel, Between Jesus and Paul, p. 55). Thus, when Tabor says: "book of Acts is probably the most misleading document in the New Testament canon", I think have due cause to disbelieve him.

4. Is the Nag Hammadi and these unnamed Syriac/Arabic sources (whatever they are: Diatessaron or Epistula Apostolorum) any less biased or ideological than Luke and Eusebius? Of course not! Why are they kosher sources and Luke-Eusebius are not? Tabor might say that we can peel away the biases and ideology and see what really happened. And why not so for Acts and Eusbius too? In fact, his preferentiality treatment of the NH and other "lost" sources shows the prejudical nature of Tabor's inquiry.

5. At last year's SBL conference, I heard Francois Bovon (not exactly a card carrying evangelical) decry certain approaches to Christian Origins (i.e. the Christian Origins Seminar) for moving the periphery of early Christianity to the centre, i.e. Q, Thomas, and the NH. These writings are voices from the margin, and while it is indeed necessary to integrate them into the story of early Christianity, they are cameos or extras in the larger saga.

I am not necessarily subscribing to some "big bang" theory of Christian Origins where there was a period of pristine purity and social harmony until Simon Magus, Marcion, and Hillary Clinton came on the scene (some of my American friends inform me that it is a well established historical fact that Hillary Clinton is the Jezebel of Rev. 2.20 reincarnated). I concur that there was no clean and final split between Christianity and Judaism in the first two centuries. Also, there was a genuine complexity and diversity in the early church. However, some forms of Christianity though diverse were not mutually exclusive, some groups were perhaps competitive but necessarily hostile to each other, some groups with divergent views could quite happily cooperate in a common cause. Figures like Paul, John Mark, John the Elder, Peter, and Barnabas moved across the Mediterreanean and interacted with various Christian groups and had amicable relations with them. I do not think that Christians who read the Fourth Gospel would have been puzzled or offended by what Paul wrote. While Walter Bauer (for second century Christianity) and Dom Crossan and Jimmy Dunn (for first century Christianity) have given us a picture of a highly diverse and fluid movement, many of their contentions and conclusions have been rejected and refuted. Without reading the unity of the later orthodox church into the first century, I think it wise to remember that in the first century Christians did have some sense of being a worldwide movement (if you get a chance read Paul Trebilco's inaugural professorial lecture on this subject - rivetting stuff). I think that early Christianity, despite the complexity of the movement, was a relatively small and homogenous entity, and exhibited many more characteristics of unity and accordandance than is often recognized.

The "Son of Man" Debate and Aramaic

Last year at the British New Testament Conference, I had the pleasure of meeting Maurice Casey and sharing a bottle of Australian red wine wth him at dinner (I use the word "share" rather loosely, since Maurice drank most of the bottle from what I remember). Over dinner, Maurice was celebrating his retirement and was opining the small number of Jesus/Gospel scholars who could actually read the language that Jesus spoke, i.e. Aramaic. Maurice has been at the forefront of research on the Aramaic approach to the Gospels, much in the tradition of Matthew Black and Geza Vermes. Part of the debate is whether the Aramaic bar nash(a) refers to "I" or "someone in my position" etc., as opposed to a titular usage in the Greek ho huios tou anthropou ("the Son of Man").

On the other side of the debate are scholars like Christopher Tuckett who understand "Son of Man" on the lips of Jesus as a self-reference to a corporate entity embodied in a single individual who experiences suffering and rejection and is clearly indebted to the mysterious figure of Daniel 7. Tuckett ask:

"Does not the language barrier militate strongly against such a view? Is it not the case that (assuming Jesus spoke in Aramaic) and the Aramaic phrase bar nasha(a) is such an ordinary, commonplace phrase that it simply will not bear the weight that the interpretation suggested above places on it. Are we enttield to try to work backwards from the Greek forms of the saying to any 'historical Jesus' witout first re-translating such sayings back into Aramaic and asking what such words would have meant to an Aramaic speaker or hearer? The argument has some force but, I believe, is not entirely persuasive ... Nevertheless it is now widely agreed in studies of semantics that words, or indeed phrases do not derive their meanings exclusively from themselves: meaning is often derived as much from the context in which words or phrases are used." (Christopher Tuckett, "The Son of Man and Daniel 7: Inclusive Aspects of Early Christologies," in Christian Origins: Worship, Belief and Society, ed. Kieran J. O'Mahony (JSNTSup 241; London: Continuum, 2004), 182-83.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Home Coming

After 51 days in the NICU, Zion and Mary Willitts have arrived home. Now its time for the blessed late-night feeds and sleep deprivation. We are so thankful to God for his blessings.
I had intentions of formatting my Matthew book and writing but these things will be left for another time.