Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The End of an Era

If my memory serves me right, as of 01 Nov 2007, Prof. Richard Bauckham officially retires from St. Andrews University. This is a huge loss for St. Andrews and Scotland since Richard is retiring to Cambridge where he'll undertake some part-time teaching in one of the theological colleges down there and also engage in more sustained research and writing. Given Richard's poor health a few years ago, this is probably the best thing for him. It also means that Richard can now finish some major projects he's got on the horizon including:
John commentary in the Two Horizons series.
John commentary in the NIGTC series.
Two volumes on Monotheism and Christology.
Luke commentary for the ICC series.

So happy retirement to Richard, and many productive and blessed years be ahead of you.
Though with Richard's departure I have to face up to a monumental problem since it means that I am now officially the shortest NT scholar in Scotland (woe is me!).

(Wait a minute! How tall is Dr. Alison Jack of Edinburgh Uni? Could someone measure her to see if she's taller than 168 cm? Maybe I'm not the shortest after all?)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bird on Imputation (Once Again!)

Over at Reformation 21, Philip Ryken has an article on Justification and Union with Christ. During the course of discussion I get a mention under the heading "Current Distortions of Biblical Justification" as an example of one (along with N.T. Wright, Bob Gundry, and Don Garlington) who rejects imputation in favour of union with Christ. Sigh! I have been here before and I am loathe to enter into it further. But since my good name is at stake I offer a slight qualification.
1. My point is that in terms of exegetical content, no single verse establishes the confessional formula that Jesus' active obedience is imputed to me while my sins are imputed to Jesus. Some verses come very close, some verses say part of this, but no single text gives us all of it. Most texts speak of believers being justified through union with Christ (e.g. Gal. 2.17; 2 Cor. 5.21, Rom. 8.1, etc) and I have termed this "incorporated righteousness". In many cases what is spoken of is believers participating in the vindication of Christ as achieved in his resurrection (e.g. Rom. 4.25; 1 Tim. 3.16). I'm glad to say that I am in good company with Mark Seifrid and Richard Gaffin being very close to this and Brian Vickers is probably not far off either.
2. What I am objecting to is what Ryken says here: "The biblical terminology for imputation—chiefly the verb logizomai, “to count” or “to reckon”—is only used in some of these passages (which are briefly considered here, giving only the broad outlines of a full exegesis). However, the concept of imputation is logically present in all of them. In each case God declares sinners to be what they are not in themselves, namely, righteous in his sight. In other words, God justifies them. He does this on the basis of the saving work of Jesus Christ, which is imputed to them by faith". I wouldn't reject all of this, but the content in bold sounds like special pleading. This sounds to me a bit like saying: "Well some texts don't actually mention imputation, but of course we know from the confessions that that is what they mean". But in Philippians 3.9 the preposition ek is not a synonym for logizomai. In 2 Corinthians 5.21 ginomai/poieo is not a synonym for logizomai either! These texts do not deny imputation, they are consistent with imputation, but they are not saying that Jesus' active righteousness is imputed to believers. As an exegete, I cannot and will not call an Egg an Ostrich in order to keep my Reformed Club Card.
3. Lo and Behold, I actually do believe in imputation (shock, cry, gasp)! The question is how do you get there? Well, you can either argue that the usual proof texts really do teach imputation and everyone who denies it is a Wrightophile who has gone off the edge (this is my own caricature and nothing to do with Ryken's article). Or you get your methodology (w)right and shift from exegesis, to biblical theology, to systematic theology. Exegetically I think that "incorporated righteousness" is a good description of what is happening at the exegetical level in these verses (see Timo Laato's essay in JVN vol. II for something similar). If we ask, "how does union with Christ or incorporation into Christ justify?" then I think something along the lines of imputation is required or even necessitated. If we take the forensic nature of justification, the representative nature of Adam and Christ, the language of "reckoning", the idea of righteousness as an explicit "gift" then the only way to hold it all together is with a theology of imputation. So imputation is a coherent and legitimate way of explicating the biblical materials in the domain of systematic theology; but we do violent damage to the text if we try to read each text as proving this systematic formulation. Let the text say what it says, nothing more and nothing less.
4. I think Mark Seifrid hit the nail on the head in his 1992 dissertation when he said that alot of these debates are between those who want to read the Bible historically, and those who want to read the Bible theologically. Truth be told, I want to do both, but I'm finding that Systematic Theologians do not want to allow the Bible to be read with any sense of historical contingency or allow meaning to be determined by reading the Bible alongside other ancient writings (ANE or second-temple Judaism). That just won't do!
So in sum, I am not trying to play off imputation against union with Christ. My concern is to differentiate between exegetical and doctrinal formulations and not to confuse the two (because they often are confused!). I am convinced that, understood in that sense, Ryken might even be sympathetic to my viewpoint. For those interested in what I do say on justification/imputation see my Saving Righteousness of God and (for a simpler and less technical exposition) A Bird's Eye View of Paul (out early next year).

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Book Buying List for ETS-SBL

This year my shopping list for SBL is:

Charles H. Talbert - Ephesians and Colossians (Paideia).
M. Eugene Boring - Mark (NTL)
A.Y. Collins - Mark: A Commentary (Hermeneia)
Jacob Myers - 1 & 2 Esdras (AB)

Any one of these books would make a great birthday present for someone (with red hair and from Australia) who just happens to be celebrating their birthday at SBL (18 Nov 07).

Two Recent Articles at CT

Over at Christianity Today there is an article on Taking Revival to the World about Australia's largest church, Hillsong (AOG). This church is somewhere between a denomination and an empire. It has off-shoots across the world esp. in London. It produces some funky worship music ('Shout to the Lord' is a classic), Hillsong does some good work with the poor and underprivileged in Sydney, they run a big annual conference, and politicians of all stripes court the favour of the church (all the more significant since in Australia the church is normally a political non-entity in Australia, so the fact that this church has captured political attention means it now captures media attention and secular fundamentalists complain that this is a sign that we are turning into a GWBush theocracy). But Hillsong is not exactly known for its wonderful Bible exposition and their prosperity gospel is about as edifying as a Hillary Clinton pro-abortion speech. For American readers, Hillsong is perhaps understood as a cross between Crocodile Dundee and Joel Osteen. I know some lovely Christian people who have come from Hillsong and their music is somewhere between inspiring and wish-washy depending on the song. The article by Cassandra Zinchini is worth reading.
The other CT article, The Crisis of Modern Fundamentalism by Collin Hansen. AllI can say is that if you think that John Piper is a dubious or dangerous character then your theology is about as messed up as can be imagined. I find it ironic that Fundamentalist leaders are crying foul that many of its ranks are joining evangelicalism (perish the thought) and yet some evangelical leaders are urging their peers and people for the need to return to Fundamentalism (go figure). As an external observer, American Fundamentalism is not really a return to the Bible as much as it is an indigenized American religion with roots in revivalism, it is a philosophical response to the Enlightenment and a political response to secularism, it is a culturally contingent form of Christianity that owes its beliefs and tenets just as much to its own cultural environment as to the Bible, and its has its own doctrines that cannot be derived from anything near Scripture. The separatist and sectarian ethos of Fundamentalism means that it has more in common with Qumran than with Jesus, Paul, Luke, and John. Let me add these caveats: I am not using the word 'American' for all things bad with religion and Fundamentalism has rightly tried to resist assimilation with a post-Christian culture, and they did it well. I want to affirm the fundamentals of the faith and stand in the tradition of historic orthodoxy and the Rule of Faith. But I'd rather be stripped naked, tarred, feathered, and paraded around Tenessee Temple University while wearing a sign saying "I am Bill Clinton's love child, so make me governor of Tenessee" before I became a Fundamentalist. I have no great love for liberalism, and I know that my own brand of evangelicalism ain't perfect either, but I'm concerned and confused as to why some leaders are telling us to be more like Fundamentalism. Rather they should be telling evangelicals to be truly evangelical in their worldview, ethos, politics, and theology.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Son of Man as Messiah?

‘We professors have been taught and have taught that “the Son of Man” is a term or title that is to be distinguished from the term or title Messiah. Now, with the recognition that the Parables of Enoch are clearly Jewish, Palestinian, and probably pre-70, we should re-think this assumption.’

James H. Charlesworth, ‘From Messianology to Christology: Problems and Prospects.’ In The Messiah: Developments in Earliest Judaism and Christianity. Edited by James H. Charlesworth. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992., p. 31.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Pre-Christian Messianic Interpretation of Daniel 7

That Daniel 7.9-14 was interpreted messianically is evident from 1 Enoch and 4 Ezra. However, both of these documents (in their final form) clearly post-date 70 A.D. Is there any evidence for a pre-Christian messianic reading of Daniel 7? There probably is in the "Son of God" text from Qumran, 4Q246 2.1-10! The text reads:

"He will be called the Son of God, they will call him the son of the Most High. But like the meteors that you saw in your vision, so will be their kingdom. They will reign only a few years over the land, while people trample people and nation trample nation until the people of God arise; then all will have rest from warfare. Their kingdom will be an eternal kingdom, and all their paths will be righteous. They will judge the land justly, and all nations will make peace. Warfare will cease from teh land, and all the nations shall do obeisance to them. The great God will be their help. He Himself will fight for them, putting peoples into their power, overthrowing them all before them. God's rule will be an eternal rule and all the depth of [the earth are His]. (Trans. Wise, Abegg, Cook)".

Is this "Son of God" a self-divinized king like Antiochus Epiphanes IV, Israel, an angelic figure, or a Jewish monarch? What is interesting is that John Collins (Sceptre and the Star, pp. 163-69) opts for a messianic meaning and he says the text as indebted heavily to Daniel 7. He notes the points of comparison: (1) 2.5 with "its kingdom is an everlasting kingdom" = Dan. 3.33; 7.27; and (2) 2.9 with "his sovereignty will be an everlasting sovereignty" = Dan. 4:31; 7:14. In addition, there is, like Daniel 7, an intimate relationship between the Son of God figure and the people of God. The Son of God figure is followed by reference to transient human kingdoms and the conflict between peoples which is once more reminiscient of Daniel 7. Other texts in Qumran also given "Son" or "Son of God" a messianic meaning, e.g. 4Q174, 4Q252. Collins concludes: "The Son of God text suggests that the messianic interpretation of Daniel 7 had begun already in the Hasmonean period" (p. 167).

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Rudolf Bultmann Evaluated

Sean Winter writes:

"I have read enough Bultmann to agree with John Ashton's brilliant summary: '...yet over them all Rudolf Bultmann, unmatched in learning, breadth and understanding, towers like a colossus. Nevertheless, in spite of his pre-eminence, every answer that Bultmann gives to the really important questions he raises - is wrong ... if one were to try and distil the essence of Bultmann's achievement into a single word ... the best word, I think, would be penetration - the peculiar ability to see John clearly and to see him whole.' (Understanding the Fourth Gospel, 45)."

There is no doubting Bultmann's mastery of ancient sources, his pastoral concern for the human condition, his penetrating analysis of source and theological issues, but I still think he's so overrated. What I really don't like, well:
  • I find his existential Deism nauseating.
  • There is more to Romans than a diatribe.
  • His History of the Synoptic Tradition asserted more than it argued and is methodologically defunct.
  • There never was a Gnostic Redeemer myth nor was there ever any proof for it in the first place.
  • He was wrong to cordon off Christianity into Palestinian, Hellenistic, and Gentile varieties.
  • His depiction of Judaism as pure legalism is both inaccurate and has had horrendous effects in Pauline studies.
  • His best book A Theology of the New Testament gives us 30 pages about Jesus and 120 about a fictitious Hellenistic Community.

Let me say that I do however like Bultmann's TDNT articles and he found a way to momentarily stop liberal protestants from becoming atheists and post-Christian secularists. In terms of twentieth-century Germans, give me Zahn, Schlatter, Pannenberg, Stuhlmacher, and Hengel any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

I dedicate this post to my good friend Jim West!

Rising Stars in NT Studies

In my journeys and readings I have come across several younger scholars (i.e. still in their 30s) that I believe will make significant contributions to NT studies in the near future. I have already learned much from them and they will be one's watch and one's to read in times ahead.

C. Kavin Rowe is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Duke University. His Ph.D thesis Early Narrative Christology: The Lord in the Gospel of Luke is published by Walter de Gruyter and Kavin has written some excellent articles in the field of Luke-Acts.

Simon Gathercole is Lecturer in New Testament Studies and Fellow, Fitzwilliam College at Cambridge University having moved there recently from Aberdeen University (for such betrayal he will be forced to watch re-runs of the soap opera "Neighbours" for 10 000 years in purgatory). Simon epitomizes the "generalist" scholar and he has written in several areas across biblical studies including Pauline soteriology, christology of the Synoptic Gospels, Tobit, the Gospels of Judas and Thomas, and he even ventures into Systematic Theology on occasions.

Andrew Gregory is an Anglican priest and Chaplain and Fellow of University College, Oxford, and a member of the Theology faculty at the University of Oxford. He has written on the reception history of Luke-Acts, the Four Gospels, edited works on the Apostolic Fathers, and he is currently working on the Jewish Christian Gospels. Even better yet, Andrew has red hair!

Paul Foster is Senior Lecturer in New Testament at New College in Edinburgh. He is a prolific author and has covered areas as diverse as the Gospel of Matthew, the Synoptic Problem and Q, the Gospel of Peter, Justin Martyr, and the Apostolic Fathers.

Timothy Gombis is Assistant Professor of Bible at Cedarville University. He has previously published articles in Westminster Theological Journal, Novum Testamentum, Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Tyndale Bulletin, and Journal for the Evangelical Theological Society. He has done some good stuff on Paul and Ephesians.

J. Ross Wagner is Associate Professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary. He has written some excellent studies on intertextuality including Isaiah and Paul and also on Psalm 19 and early Christianity.

No doubt others could be named, and I am sure that there are some very good female scholars out there as well, I am limited to my circles of travel and reading.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Latest BBR

The latest issue of Bulletin for Biblical Research includes:

Preston M. Sprinkle
The Use of Genesis 42:18 (not Leviticus 18:5) in Luke 10:28: Joseph and the Good Samartian.

David L. Baker
Finders Keepers? Lost Property in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical Law.

Elmer A. Martens
Impulses to Mission in Isaiah: An Intertextual Exploration

Robert E. Picirilli
Time and Order in the Circumstantial Participles of Mark and Luke

Stanley E. Porter
Time and Order in the Circumstantial Participles of Mark and Luke: A Response to Robert Picirilli

Aida Besancon Spencer
The Denial of the Good News and the Ending of Mark

Robert H. Gundry
New Wine in Old Wineskins: Bursting Tradition Interpretations of John's Gospel (Part Two).

Timothy Wiarda
What God Knows When the Spirit Intercedes.

Victor A. Copan
Mathetes and Mimetes: Exploring an Etangled relationship.

Frank Thielman
Setting the Record Straight: Robert W. Yarbrough's Reassessment of the Discipline of New Testament Theology

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"Textual Criticism and Theology"

Over at Evangelical Textual Criticism, I've posted a summary of and interaction with David Parker's recent article on "Textual Criticism and Theology" from the Expository Times.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Howard Marshall: Aspects of Atonement

I've just finished reading through Howard Marshall's new book Aspects of Atonement. The main strength of this book is not in some wild and outrageously new intepretation of Jesus' death, rather, its strenght lies in the common sensical and straight forward argumentations that typifies Marshall's approach. Marshall engages a topic that is heated, disputed, prone to misunderstandings of the text, and prone to misrepresentations about what recent interpreters think the text says. To cut a long story short, Marshall believes in penal substitution, but he also shows how the death of Jesus must be understood in categories wider than penal substitution.

Chapter one: The Penalty of Sin

Marshall here sets out the debate about penal substitution and offers a discussion about biblical metaphors and he offers several "basic affirmations" including:

1. We are saved from the consequences of our sin by the grace of God and not by anything that we ourselves can do.
2. In the death of Jesus, the Father and the Son are acting together in love, so that there is no question that the Son was acting to persuade an otherwise unwilling Father to forgive; the source of the atonement lies in the gracious agreement of Father and Son.
3. The decisive element in our salvation is the death of Jesus, or rather, the death and resurrection of Jesus.
4. This death is the death of one who is, at one and the same time, the Son of God and the sinless human being, the second Adam.
5. It follows that the incarnation was an essential condition of that saving action.
6. The salvation secured by the death and resurrection of Jesus becomes effective through the work of the Holy Spirit and through the faith of the recipient.
7. The main results of the atonement are, negatively, to deliver us from the guilt and power of sin and, positively, to restore us to a right relationship with God with all that that involves (pp. 9-10).

Chapter two: The Substitutionary Death of Jesus

Here Marshall discusses the holiness and wrath of God (with a good discussion of P.T. Forsyth) and how it relates to various metaphors for atonement: sacrifice, curse, redemption/ransom, reconciliation, forgiveness. Marshall also deals with the view that penal substitution implies a violent and angry God. In an extended footnote he takes Joel Green and Mark Baker to task on the grounds that: (1) Their book ignores or caricatures the NT teaching on wrath and judgment; (2) The sacrificial languge of the NT is largely set aside and its implications ignored. I like Marshall's quote about Gal. 3.13: "Jesus bears the curse of God on our behalf. If that is not penal substitution I do not know what it is". Marshall does note though that one aspect that does count in Green and Baker's favour is Acts where "Salvation is understood as status-reversal, but what makes the status-reversal possible is not disucssed" (pp.53-54). On the allegation of divine child abuse he says: "There is an indissoluble unity between Father, Son, and Spirit in the work of redemption. The recognition that it is God the Son, that is to say quite simply God, who suffers and dies on the cross, settles the question finally. This is God himself bearing the consequences of sin, not the abuse of some cosmic child" (p. 56). Marshall does however think that what some Evangelicals say about Jesus' death (e.g. Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 575) assert an unbiblical position that God was angry with his Son, but this is a clear minority position (p.63). He regards Rom. 3.25 as teaching both expiation and propitiation or when sin is cancelled God's wrath is appeased (p. 42). Against those who link penal substitution to limited atonement (e.g. Jeffery, Ovey, and Sach, Pierced for our Transgression), Marshall says: "Those of us who were brought up on Hammond, T.C. In Understanding be Men were forewarned against that misapprehension. The doctrine of penal substitution is not part of package which also contains as essential the concepts of particular election and limited (or definite) atonement" (p. 63). In the end, Marshall prefers the term: "substitutionary suffering and death" (pp. 65-66).

Chapter three: Raised for our Justification

This was a chapter near and dear to my heart. Marshall shows how atonement, forgiveness, and justification are indebted to BOTH the cross of Christ and the resurrection of Christ. Sad to say, I have not yet convinced Marshall that 1 Tim. 3.16 refers to "justification" as opposed to "vindication".

Chapter four: Reconciliation: Its Centrality and Relevance

Marshall proposes that reconciliation is the central concept underlying the biblical teaching on atonement (somewhat reminiscient of R.P. Martin). He concludes with these words: "I would claim, then, that our enquiry has demonstrated that reconciliation is a model that expresses clearly the basic pattern of human need, God's action, and the resultant new situation that shapes all the biblical imagery of salvation, and that it does so in a way that is particularly comprehensive and is especially relevant in a world where the need for new relationships between human beings is so clamant" (p. 132).

All in all this is a good little book and one for all young students and pastors should read. This is classic Marshall (not bad for an Arminian!) and welcome successor to his earlier book, Jesus the Saviour.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Undergraduate Research?

Do you think undergrads can do research? Do you promote research among undergrads with whom you work? Do those of us whose job is primarily among undergrads by definition miss out on supervising and promoting research projects among students? Are there limitations with undergrads that prohibit research on the New Testament and Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity?

Perhaps you are like me and believe that while there are clearly limitations at the undergraduate level on the depth of research, it is possible and commendable to supervise and promote research among undergrads. I would like to know if you are supervising research with undergrads and what lessons you have learned in the process. What are the limitations you have discovered?

I am working on a Research Assistant Program in corrdination with our university which is beginning to encourage (provide financing in other words) for undergraduate research. Here is a draft description of the program I am seeking to establish.

Research Assistant Program

Professor Joel Willitts, Ph.D.
Biblical and Theological Studies
North Park University

Learning is best done in community and for this reason students and professors benefit from pursuing academics in relationship. An undergraduate setting is an ideal time for students with interests in graduate work in biblical studies to begin developing skills in the basics of research method and critical thinking. Strong graduate programs in biblical studies are highly competitive and demand increasingly better preparation at the undergraduate level. What is most needed for an exceptionally prepared application to graduate school is (1) a developing research facility and evidence of critical thinking sometimes evinced in a piece of written work and (2) a strong academic recommendation. In addition, professors in undergraduate settings like NPU have significant course loads and the ability to continue working on research projects becomes acutely challenging. A research assistant program, then, can be an effective tool for both student development and professorial research.

The student will assist in research projects and the more general academic responsibilities of the professor as well as be responsible to conduct individual research on a topic in the area of the New Testament or Second Temple Judaism.

Student Responsibilities
1. Student will have taken one year of Greek.
2. Student will purchase the following books:
  • Booth, Wayne, Gregory G. Colomb and Joseph M. Williams, The Craft of Research, 2nd ed.(University of Chicago Press: Chicago) 2003 (ISBN: 0226065685)
  • Turabian, Kate L, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 6th ed. University of Chicago Press: Chicago) 1996 (ISBN: 0226816273)

3. Student will work between 5 and 10 hours a week. This may vary significantly from week to week but the balance of personal research and assisting the professor will demand time.
4. Student will assist the professor in research and writing projects in whatever capacity is needed. Professor will seek to match gift and skill sets to particular tasks.
5. Student will assist the professor in academic administrative duties, e.g. data entry.
6. Student will present their research at an academic meeting, e.g. University Symposium and/or ETS/SBL regional meeting

Thursday, October 11, 2007

4Q521 and Lk. 7.22-23 - Evidence for A Messianic Jesus?

Does 4Q521 teach that certain mighty-deeds will be performed by the Messiah and how does these relate to Lk. 7.22-23/Mt. 11.3-6 (= Q 7.22-23)?


[The hea]vens and the earth will obey His Messaih [... and all that]at is in them. He will not turn aside from teh commandments of the holy ones. Take strength in His service (you) who seek the Lord. Will you not find the Lord in this, all you who wait patiently in your hearts? For the Lord will visit the pious ones, and the righteous ones He will call by name. Over the meek His Spirit will hover, and the faithful He will restore by His power. He will glorify the pious ones on the throne of the eternal kingdom. He will release the captives, make the blind see, raise up the downtrodden. For[ev]er I shall cling to him ... and [I shall trust' in His loving kindness, and [His] goodness of holiness and will not delay. And as for the wonders that are not the work of the Lord, when He [...] then he will heal the slaint, resurrect the dead, and announce glad tidings to the poor. He will lead the [hol]y ones; he will shepherd [th]em; he will do and all of it ....

Lk. 7.22-23

And he answered them, "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. 23 And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."

Joseph Fitzmyer and Michael Labahn (among others) argue that the deeds are done by YHWH and not by the Messiah, while others such as Craig Evans and John Collins see this as describing activities of the anointed one himself. Here's my take: (1). Many texts do not make such a sharp bifurcation between what God does and what the Messiah/Davidic king does. Ezekiel 34 is a prime example where God says "I will come and shepherd my people" and it is also said a few verses later that a Davidic shepherd "will come and shepherd my people" and so forth. In the Psalms of Solomon 17 the focus is not merely on the Messiah but on God as King and God's own deliverance and actions for the Israelites which are correlated (somehow) with the activities of this Davidic king. (2) In Lk. 7.22-23 the question and answer seem to have a clear messianic sense. The title "coming-one" certainly designated an eschatological deliverer and quite probably a messianic figure. Jesus' oblique answer would suggest that the signs speak for themselves and John the Baptist and his disciples should not mistake the reception of the kingdom with its reality and the reality is attested by the mighty deeds that follow the Isaianic script for restoration. (3) The fact that the Qumran text begins with "heaven and earth will listen to His Messiah" implies that the Messiah is the one doing many of these actions described below. (4) That makes sense of the allusion to Isa. 61.1 where it is the "Anointed One" who preaches good news etc. (5) Lk. 4.18-21 and Q 7.22-23 provide an incidence of multiple-attestation where the activities of Isa. 61.1 are correlated with what Jesus is doing and in the last instance in the context of a messianic question.

HT: My thanks also to an email correspondence with Craig Evans on this matter!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Latest issue of JTI

The latest issue of Journal of Theological Interpretation is out and includes:

The (Re)Turn to Theology
Joel B. Green (now of Fuller Seminary!)

Reading the Bible with Eyes of Faith: The Practice of Theological Exegesis
Richard B. Hays

Texts in Context: Scripture in the Divine Economy
Murray Rae

Mission, Hermeneutics, and the Local Church
Micahel A. Rynkiewich

Trust and the Spirit: The Canon's Anticipated Unity
Christine Helmer

Christ in All the Scriptures? The Challenge of Reading the Old Testament as Christian Scripture
R.W.L. Moberly

Interpretation on the Way to Emmaus: Jesus Performs His Story
D. Brent Laythan

A "Seamless Garment" Approach to Biblical Interpretation?
Michael J. Gorman

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Two Views on NT Theology

It is a remarkably interesting exercise to compare the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas presidential addresses of Martin Hengel (1993) and Wayne A. Meeks (2004) and what they both have to say about the field of New Testament theology.[1] Both addresses set forth a proposal for the future direction of scholarly study of the New Testament and, while they share a commitment to historical study of the New Testament and other sources, they have violently different opinions about the role of biblical theology in that future.

Hengel notes the efforts of several scholars (e.g. W. Wrede, G. Lüdemann, and H. Räisänen), who have made the NT canon obsolete as a historical entity with the result that: ‘In place of Introduction to the New Testament we are to have the History of Early Christian Literature; in place of a New Testament Theology, the History of the Religion of Earliest Christianity.’[2] He says in counter-point:

"To be sure, I cannot share this fear of the concept ‘theology,’ the Christian understanding of which is ultimately grounded in the Prologue of John. It is not by chance that an irreducible connection between the word of God, faith, and history is presented to us in this particular passage. The concepts theologos, theologia, and theologein enter at first on the basis of the Johannine logos in the language of the early Church Fathers and preserve over against the Greek environment a wholly new meaning. Our discipline would self-destruct were it to give up the question of truth pressed by Pauline and Johannine theological thinking and transform itself into a merely descriptive history of religion. For this is the salt that seasons our work and warrants its existence."[3]

Hengel acknowledges that study of the NT should be comprehensive and the boundary of study should be expanded to include the Judaism of the early Hellenistic period and in reference to Christian writings the upper echelon should pushed up towards the third century CE.[4] At the same time, Hengel affirms the value of the canon precisely on historical grounds since the decisive boundary-markers for the canon have already been established by 180 CE. In Hengel’s view, the writings deemed canonical by the church are not only earlier than the extra-canonical writings, but also:

"[T]he genuine Corpus Paulinum and Johanneum together with the synoptics represent the basis of Christian theology—who would doubt this? And on what would it base itself otherwise, if it expects to be and to remain Christian theology? And what authorizes the existence of our Societas, if these things were no longer so? These texts do certainly form the center of our efforts, but we shall only do them justice if we draw the circle around them more broadly, so that we grasp them in relation to their Jewish and Hellenistic antecedents as well as to their early Christian effects."[5]

According to Meeks New Testament scholars need to press on in the pursuit of history, they must pay greater attention to Wirkungsgeschichte (or reception-history), and they also should ‘erase from our vocabulary the terms “biblical theology” and, even more urgently, “New Testament theology”’ and whatever ‘contribution these concepts may have made in the conversation since Gabler, we have come to a time when they can only blinker our understanding’.[6] He substantiates that on the grounds that, first, biblical theology smuggles in a cognitivist model of religion that privileges doctrine at the expense of life. Second, biblical theology claims textual and historical warrant for propositions that emerge out of the relationship between text and reader and tacitly masks authoritative truth claim embedded in biblical texts. Third, biblical theology has functioned ideologically in order to secure one’s beliefs in a theological hierarchy within the church.[7]

There are elements from both addresses that I would be prepared to affirm and reject. Against Hengel, I find it fiercely ironic that he should minimize the significance of Religionsgeschichte when he himself has led a resurgence in the new Religionsgeschichte schule in New Testament christology (along with Richard Bauckham and Larry Hurtado)[8] in undermining the older theories on christological evolution asserted by Wilhelm Bousett and Rudolf Bultmann and their theological progeny. Moreover, Hengel has not assuaged the doubts of those who think that one can and should construct a Christian theology from sources broader than Paul, John and the Synoptics. For example, Helmut Koester writes: ‘The canon was the result of a deliberate attempt to exclude certain voices from the early period of Christianity: heretics, Marcionites, Gnosticism, Jewish Christians, perhaps also women. It is the responsibility of the New Testament scholar to help these voices to be heard again’.[9] Who decides the ‘theological quality’ of Mark over the Gospel of Thomas or Marcion’s Luke over canonical Luke? Against Meeks, I would be prepared to argue that George Lindbeck’s attack on the cognitivist model of doctrine is greatly overstated and amounts to a straw man argument. Alister McGrath has shown that the cognitivist-linguistic model has a lot more going for it than what critics acknowledge.[10] Likewise, theology does not necessarily promote antipathy towards authentic Christian living, but rather, it constitutes the generative force for a Christian praxis soaked in the world of the biblical texts. In addition, while all truth claims may amount to a claim to power, those who attempt to deconstruct these truth claims are themselves engaging in an ideological power play by attempting to dismantle the permanent structures of human existence (church, society, collective identity) in order to create a vacuum that can be filled with another ideological platform that is instantly immune from criticism since all criticism are a claim to power.

[1] Martin Hengel, ‘Aufgaben der neutestamentlichen Wissenschaft,’ NTS 40 (1994): 321-57 = ‘Tasks of New Testament Scholarship,’ BBR 6 (1996): 67-86; Wayne A. Meeks, ‘Why Study the New Testament?’ NTS 51 (2005): 155-70.
[2] Hengel, ‘Tasks’, 72.
[3] Hengel, ‘Tasks’, 72.
[4] Hengel, ‘Tasks’, 72-73.
[5] Hengel, ‘Tasks’, 74.
[6] Meeks, ‘Why Study the New Testament?’ 167-68.
[7] Meeks, ‘Why Study the New Testament?’ 168.
[8] Martin Hengel, The Son of God: The Origin of Christology and the History of Jewish-Hellenistic Religion (London: SCM, 1976); Richard Bauckham, God Crucified: Monotheism and Christology in the New Testament (Carlisle, UK: Paternoster, 1999); Larry Hurtado, One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988); idem, The Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003).
[9] Helmut Koester, ‘Epilogue: Current Issues in New Testament Scholarship,’ in The Future of Early Christianity: Essays in Honor of Helmut Koester, ed. Birger A. Pearson (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991), 472.
[10] George A. Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Post-Liberal Age (Philadelphia, PN: Westminster, 1984); Alister E. McGrath, The Nature of Doctrine: A Study in the Foundations of Doctrine Criticism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990).

Friday, October 05, 2007

Ad Fontes not Fads

If you read only one thing this week, I would hope that it is this piece from Martin Hengel now available on the IBR webpage.

Martin Hengel, "Tasks of New Testament Scholarship," BBR 6 (1996): 67-86.

"New Testament scholarship must move beyond its current preoccupation with faddish methods (as evidenced by several variations of the so-called new literary criticism) and return to a solid grounding in history, primary source materials, archaeology, and competence in the pertinent languages. This also entails familiarity with early Judaism, the Greco-Roman world, and early patristics. The exemplary contributions of major biblical scholars of the last century are viewed."

Teaching Textual Criticism

Over at ETC, I've added a post about Teaching Textual Criticism.

Divorce and Remarriage in the New Testament

Over at Christianity Today, David Instone-Brewer of Tyndale House has an article on: "What God has Joined: What does the Bible really teach about divorce?". This is a topic that needs to be approached with great exegetical precision and applied with great pastoral sensitivity. I've always found the exception clauses of Matthew most perplexing (I've flirted with the incest interpretation in the past), but Instone-Brewer's approach that sees Jesus as refuting the "any cause" ruling of the Hillelites seems plausible.

Arab Christians in Israel

Jim West has a post on Christians, Israel, and the Palestinian Question which is quite coincidental since at our missions prayer lunch at HTC on Wednesday we had a guest speaker from Israel. Sadly his name alludes me, but he was an Arab Christian from Israel, specifically, the Galilee, and a lawyer by vocation. He gave a good overview of Christian groups in Galilee/Lebanon including the Marionites, the Orthdodox Church, Protestants, and the Greek Catholic Church (about 300 years ago a number of Greek Orthodox churches seceded and entered into fellowship with Rome although they retain their own liturgy and rites which are still Orthodox for the most part). Our speaker told the story of how Israeli troops forcibly expelled whole villages and simply told them to go Lebanon. These were Christian villages that have never resisted Israeli rule/occupation (delete as preferred) or fired a shot in anger. His attitude towards Israel was one of frustration rather than hatred and he just wanted a fair deal, a place to live, and some political rights for Arab Christians. He talked about how Christians largely run the education and health care system in the Galilee and the ministry that they have there. It was a good talk! Personally, I remain perplexed as to why certain Christians, predominantly Americans, feel a closer degree of affinity with the secular state of Israel than they do with Palestinian Christians! I'm not anti-Israel (I think that the President of Iran, Ahmydinnerjacket [sic], has more fruit cakes in his head than an Aussie Christmas party) but we should support the plight of our Christian and brothers and sisters in the land of Palestine and object when they are boxed into ghettos.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

SNTS membership

I was elated this morning when I get an email informing me that I have been accepted into membership of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas (= Society for New Testament Studies). I am most grateful to Dr. Rick Strelan and Prof. Michael Lattke for nominating me. It is a real priviledge to be a member. I had an absolute ball of a time as an invitee to the SNTS meeting in Aberdeen last year and I got to meet many European scholars that I do not normally cross paths with. Robert McL. Wilson told me that he and his wife used to plan their holidays around the annual SNTS meeting and when he thought about not going one year, his wife insisted they go or otherwise she would not get the chance to meet all of the friends she had made over the years. Next years meeting is in Lund, Sweden which would be nice to go to.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Review of Yarbrough: The Salvation-Historical Fallacy

Andy Naselli offers an excellent review 0f Robert Yarbrough's The Salvation Historical Fallacy which is worth checking out. I purchased this book at last year's BNTC and still have not got around to reading it. Andy also offers a summary of some of the reviews of Yarbrough's book from JETS, Biblica, and CBQ which is handy.

The Death of Charles Moule

I think that the history of British NT scholarship in the twentieth century could be said to revolve around three guys named "Chuck" (Charles Kingsley Barrett, Charles Haddon Dodd, and Charles Moule). Alas, I have just learnt today the sad news that Charles Moule has passed away. Only yesterday I was reading Moule's sober and succint work, The Origins of Christology (Moule believed in a messianic Jesus!). See the Obituaries here:

The Reverend Professor CFD Moule

The Rev Professor C. F. D. Moule

I remember hearing D.A. Carson talk with great respect and affection about Charles Moule. Carson tells the funny story about how Moule was asking him what he thought about the pistis christou debate. After some discussion Moule turned around and said, "It really is a load of rubbish isn't it!" Carson then sent Moule some articles to read in order to help him, "keep his disgust fresh" as Carson put it.

HT: Jim West

Monday, October 01, 2007

If you like the Apostle Paul and love a good pun ...

Well, today we finally decided on a name for my new Paul book. It will be called ...

A Bird’s Eye View of Paul: The Man, His Mission, and His Message
(Nottingham: IVP, forthcoming May 2008).

This is not a joke, we're serious! When Phil Duce (IVP) suggested the title to me I nearly fell off my chair in laughter. Several minutes and several hankerchief full of tears of laughter later I began to think that it could actually work. I don't know what reviewers will make of it, but at least the title is catch.

In sum the book is meant as a fresher on Paul for pastors and as an introduction to Paul for lay people and undergraduate students.