Friday, November 30, 2007

A High View of Scripture - Part 1

I'm now reading through Craig D. Allert's book A High View of Scripture? The Authority of the Bible and the Formation of the New Testament Canon (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2007).
In the Introduction Allert introduces his book by saying that it's not the history of the canon, rather, it is about how the historical formation of the New Testament canon should influence the evangelical doctrines of Scripture. He says, "Most evangelicals, particularly at the popular level, have what I call a 'dropped out of the sky' understanding of the Bible" (p 10). What that means is that evangelicals treat Scripture as the primary source for their faith without properly recognizing how this collection came into existence. Allert takes exception to L.I. Hodges' proposal that either one works deductively from the self-teaching of Scripture which interprets the human phenonemon within that grid, or else one works inductively from the phenomenon of Scripture even if it requires a modification of Scripture's own self-teaching. The former is a "high" view of Scripture and the latter is a "low" view of Scripture. In Allert's opinion: "The problem here is not that evangelicals have a high view of Scripture but rather that a high view of Scripture has been usurped by verbal plenary theorists - the determination of what is high and what is low comes from them. The difference between a high and low view of Scripture has been reduced to the difference between what the Bible says or teaches (high view) and what the Bible is or its phenomena are (low view) - yet surely what the Bible is has much importance for what the Bible says, and a high view needs to take this into consideration" (p. 11). That sets him towards his task which is "how a historical understanding of the formation of the New Testament canon should inform an evangelical doctrine of Scripture" (p. 12).
In chapter one Evangelicals, Traditionalism, and the Bible Allert looks at evangelicalism and its approaches to the Bible (from a decidedly Canadian perspective). Importantly (and do heed this) Allert is writing as a self-confessed evangelical who believes that Scripture is inspired. He follows Dave Bebington's quadrilateral approach to defining evangelicalsm (biblicist, crucicentric, conversionist, and activist) and notes the diversity within the evangelical movement as a whole. Allert believes that evangelical debates with liberalism have forced it into a form of "traditionalism". He writes: "Evangelicalism has a narrow theological foundation because it has mostly focused its theological liberalism. Many evangelicals today affirm the essentials that grew out of that battle with little understanding as to why these doctrines were raised above others ... This traditionalism has left evangelicals not only with withered roots as to the sources of the early church that should assist in sustaining it, but also with a mentality that protection of the essentials is more importaht than understanding how they actually came to be essential" (p. 35). His recipe for the volume is then to broaden evangelicalism's narrow theological foundation by considering how the formation of the New canon can make us all more faithful evangelicals.
At this point I have voice my utter disgust at Allert's project: He has written the book that I've been planning to write for the last two years (curse his Canadian socks). I agree with his diagnosis of the problem (lack of historical awareness of how the Bible was formed) and his prognosis (it gives us a skewed "Bible fell from the sky" bibliology). The question is will his procedure lead to an enrichment of an evangelical bibliology and maintain a genuinely high view of Scripture that is historical informed and consistent with Scripture's own self-teaching? How does Allert intend to explain Jude's incorporation of 1 Enoch, the Synoptic problem, Paul's use of the extra-biblical "rock" story in 1 Cor. 10, the churches preference for the Septuagint over the Hebrew text, biblical parallels to ANE traditions and second temple literature, and the fact that the church did create the Bible rather than merely receive it* in a way that satisfies those who pursue a deductive theological approach? I guess we'll see!
* I would say that God used the church to create the Bible that he intended us to have. But I don't think it is the case that the church merely discovered the canon whereby certain documents forced themselves onto the church by virtue of their inspiration. The issue of which documents are inspired was precisely the question!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Lost in Transmission, by Nick Perrin

Nick Perrin's new book is called Lost in Transmission? What we can know about the words of Jesus? The blurb reads: "Bart Ehrman, in his New York Times bestseller, Misquoting Jesus, claims that the New Testament cannot wholly be trusted. Cutting and probing with the tools of text criticism, Ehrman suggests that many of its episodes are nothing but legend, fabricated by those who copied or collated its pages in the intervening centuries. The result is confusion and doubt. Can we truly trust what the New Testament says? Now, Wheaton College scholar Nicholas Perrin takes on Ehrman and others who claim that the text of the New Testament has been corrupted beyond recognition. Perrin, in an approachable, compelling style, gives us a layman's guide to textual criticism so that readers can understand the subtleties of Ehrman's critiques, and provides firm evidence to suggest that the New Testament can, indeed, be trusted."

Monday, November 26, 2007

Interview with Tomas Bokedal

I thought I would interview my latest friend in this part of the world, Dr. Tomas Bokedal now of Kings College, Aberdeen University.

How did you come into biblical studies?
I started to read the Bible when I was ten. I took the path to biblical studies as a scholarly discipline by first doing physics, philosophy and literature. But as soon as I had done my first theology course, I knew this was what I should be doing.

How as a Swede do you find life in Scotland?
As a Swede I love the nature, the hills and the sea. Outdoors is perfect. I also find some cultural similarities between Swedes and Scots, football, language etc. I’m impressed by the educational system in Scotland. People is very friendly here!

What is your book The Scriptures and the Lord: Formation and Significance of the Christian Biblical Canon about?
My book explores the emergence of the Christian biblical canon and its significance for the early as well as for the contemporary church. I present some major challenges to previous research on the biblical canon (earlier dating, fine-tuning of the concept of canon, emphasising the codex format, effective-history, liturgical aspects, the use of nomina sacra, and the Rule of Faith). I defend the apostolic formula "the Scriptures and the Lord" as a good summary of the Christian canon. All in all you could say my book is about the formation and significance of the Christian Bible: how, when and why?

Where does one go on-line to purchase a copy of your book?
I’m afraid one has to contact me. It’s also available in a few libraries and I am presently revising it for a second edition.

What are you teaching at Aberdeen and what areas would you be* interested in supervizing a Ph.D?
This year I am teaching on the following courses: Jesus of Nazareth: Life, Teaching, Context; Earliest Portraits of Jesus; Method in Theology; and Paul of Tarsus (for details, see my webpage). I am presently supervising in the areas of Synoptic Gospels and Paul. Of particular interest is the various and detailed use of the Old Testament in the New.
I very much welcome new PhD students. It would be great if someone would like to write on the so-called ‘testimonia hypothesis’ or on the early kerygma. Of course any good topic is interesting. Doing PhD studies is so much fun and the student’s own interest must be a guiding principle.

What do you hope to write on in the near future?
At the moment I am writing a paper on the development of the nomina sacra. Another paper treats the role of hermeneutical reflection in New Testament canonisation. In the near future I hope to be contributing in the areas of Synoptic Gospels and New Testament theology.

What do you see as the relationship between faith and scholarship?
To me, this relationship is crucial. The truth seeking of good scholarship has the potential of serving the interest of Christian communities and vice versa. Philology, history and theology are of great interest to both.
Most important of all, Tomas and I are probably the only two NT scholars in the world who both have a background in military intelligence!!!

Senior NT Job at Aberdeen

Kirby Laing Chair of New Testament Exegesis
School of Divinity, History and Philosophy
University of Aberdeen
Closing Date: 31-Mar-2008

We wish to enhance our investment in New Testament research and teaching by appointing an exceptional scholar of international standing to the Kirby Laing Chair of New Testament Exegesis. Your role will involve providing intellectual and personal leadership for research and teaching activities e.g attracting high calibre postgraduate students, raising research income, strengthening the taught and research postgraduate programmes, and contributing to the department's undergraduate teaching. In addition, there is a major role to play in maintaining established links between New Testament studies and other biblical and theological fields within the School of Divinity, History and Philosophy.
You must demonstrate a distinguished record in research/publication, teaching and strategic management of a team. Analytical skills of the highest level, sound judgement and excellent communication skills are also essential.
We invite interested candidates to submit an initial application. Suitably qualified individuals will be invited to visit the University informally before any formal interview. We would hope to have
completed interviews by April 2008, and that you would take up the appointment in September 2008.
Further details:

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Gordon Fee, Pauline Christololgy

Gordon D. Fee
Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Study
Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007.
Available from in the USA
Available from Alban Books in the UK
For a more extensive review see posts by Chris Tilling.
"I have attempted a Pauline Christology that is primarily exegetical, looking for the Christology that emerges in each of the letters in turn and thus trying to analyze each letter on its own terms." - from the introduction.
In the introduction Fee begins by noting that Paul rarely engages christology on its own and his statemetns about Christ are normally integrated into his soteriology. The other problem is the contingency of Paul's christological remarks based on the ocassional nature of his letters. On top of that, Paul more often than not assumes a certain christology rather than argues for it (with assumptions often shared by his readers). From a methodological vantage point, Fee takes a canonical approach in privileging no particular document and he tackles the letters in roughly chronological order. The theological difficulty in Paul's christology is that he was an avid monotheist, Paul was supremely interested in salvation in Christ and not in creating a Nicene or Chalcedonic formula. But for Fee, Paul has a thoroughgoing "christocentric worldview that he can hardly talk about God without also mentioning Christ" (p. 8). Fee also includes a review of modern Pauline christologies from Bousset to Hurtado. The chapter also closes off with brief some remarks about key texts such as 1 Cor. 8.6, Col. 1.13-17, Phil. 2.6-11, and Paul's use of the LXX.
In Part I, Fee surveys the Pauline correspondence and includes analysis of the key christological texts in each book. Each chapter closes with appendices that list the pertinent texts in Greek and an analysis of grammatical usage of key terms. In Part II, Fee provides a synthesis of the key themes and ideas including: "Christ, the Divine Savior", "Christ: Pre-existent and Incarnate Savior", "Jesus as the Second Adam", "Jesus: Jewish Messiah and Son of God", "Jesus: Jewish Messiah and Exalted Lord", "Christ and the Spirit", and two appendices about "Christ and Personified Wisdom" and "Paul's use of Kurios for Christ in Citations and Echoes of the Septuagint". This is a magisterial treatment of the topic. Highlights for me included Fee's explication of Exodus and David themes in Col. 1.12-14, his change of mind on the meaning of "Lord" as Christ in 2 Cor. 3.16, and in particular his arguments against an Adam christology in Phil. 2.5-11 and against a Wisdom christology as the source of Paul's christology.
This is a fab book and well worth adding to the library. Pauline specialists will need a copy.

New Blogs 18

My good friend Matt Montonini has a new blog called New Testament Perspectives which will be a good read.
Also, for me, other highlights at SBL were:

1. Denny Burke in his ETS presentation being the first individual in history to point out that I am not a heretic when it comes to justification (I owe Denny a beer!). He also gave a good paper on Rom. 4.25 and pointed out that I don't know the difference between a noun and a verb.
2. Jason Hood gave an excellent paper on evangelicals and the atonement which I hope he publishes some time soon.
3. I saw Stan Porter buy a copy of the Scofield reference Bible. After the initial "what the ..." Stan explained that it is an important book in terms of the history of interpretation.
4. I saw Todd Penner of Austin College wearing socks and sandals (he evidently got the idea from N.T. Wright last year).
5. Talking to Matt Montonini's wife Faith on the phone.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Great Exchange

I'm reading through Michael Holmes' excellent translation of the Apostolic Fathers (3rd edition, Baker, 2007 - do buy this book) and read this amazing quote from the Diognetus:
"He did not hate us, or reject us, or bear a grduge against us; instead he was paitent and forbearing; in his mercy he took upon himself our sins; he himself gave up his own Son as a ransom for us, the holy one for the lawless, the guitless for the guilty, the unjust for the just, the incorruptible for the corruptible, the immortal for the mortal. For what else but his righteousness could have covered our sins? In whom was it possible for us, the lawless and ungodly, to be justified except in the Son of God alone? O the sweet exchange, O the incomprehensible work of God, O the unexpected blessings, that the sinfulness of many should be hidden in one righteous person, while the righteousness of one should justify many sinners? (Ep. Diogn. 9.2-5).
If I didn't know better I would have sworn that I was reading either Calvin, Luther, Owen, or Piper.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Phenomenon of Scripture

At the ETS banquet Andreas Kostenberger gave a good run down on the history of Evangelicalism in the United States (an important qualification!) through the publication of the book Quo Vadis Evangelicalism? which contains a number of plenary addresses by former ETS Presidents. (Say, did any one else note the irony of the fact that Quo Vadis was originally a Catholic novel and movie about how St. Peter returned to Rome to be martyred and how the designated ETS President was meant to be Francis Beckwith who converted to Catholicism ealier this year?).
Kostenberger made some remarks about a doctrine of Scripture which I found stimulating. I think he said something along the lines of: While some might want to focus on how the Scriptures came into being, we can still regard Scripture as inerrant as it arises out of a theological inference from the truthfulness of God. If God is truthful then his word will be truthful. What Kostenberger has in mind here is the book by Craig D. Allert A High View of Scripture who argues precisely for a phenomenological approach to the canon and a doctrine of Scripture over and against purely theological models.
Here's my thoughts: (1) I haven't read Allert's book yet, but I am definitely going to. (2) I have no problem with using theological reasoning from God to Scripture. For instance, I have no problem in inferring that the faithfulness of God translates in the faithfulness of his word. The problem is, however, when you then infer what that faithful, truthful, or trustworthy word will or must look like. Does inerrancy or infallibility follow logically from the faithfulness and truthfulness of God? I do not think it does. Even worse, you could use the same kind of a priori theological reasoning to argue for the KJV-only view or the Majority Text position. Anyone writing a doctrine of Scripture must hold in their hands a copy of Codex Vaticanus and ask, "Why does this exist and why does it look how it does?". Similarly, they should wrestle with the differences between the MT and LXX and note how the NT authors more often than not use the LXX even with its textual eccentricities. If the NT authors were so interested in the original autographs then why did they do that? Once one has a grip on the who, what, and how of Scripture, then one may speak of what God's faithfulness to his word does look like.

Engaging with Barth

There is a new book out called: Engaging with Barth edited by Dave Gibson and Daniel Strange (IVP). It has some good contributors including Mark Thompson (Moore Theological College) and Andrew McGowan (Highland Theological College) and others. Prima facie it is a bit disappointing that no evangelical Barth scholars like John Webster or Bruce McCormack were invited to contribute a paper. But the current crop of contributors will certainly give Barth a good go over and I anticipate a wide range of receptions to Barth. Otherwise, the volume looks good and I really wish Evangelicals would take Barth more seriously rather than roll their eyes at him as just another branch of liberalism. Bruce McCormack once said at a conference in Edinburgh: (1) Barth was not an Evangelical; (2) On all of the major issues of historic orthodoxy Barth is on the side of the angels; and (3) Barth can give Evangelicals some good theological resources with which to under take the theological task and to help them engage with neo-liberal theologies too.

New Journal in Biblical Studies

I just received this email from Nicolae Roddy

THE ORTHODOX CENTER FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF BIBLICAL STUDIES (OCABS) is pleased to announce the launching of its new, on-line academic journal, The Journal of the Orthodox Center for the Advancement of Biblical Studies (JOCABS). The mission of JOCABS is to promote scholarship in biblical studies, homiletics, and religious education among Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians around the world. Although submissions in English are preferred thus ensuring greater accessibility, academic papers in other languages (especially Arabic, Armenian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, and Spanish) will be considered by our multi-lingual editorial board and its international associates. Articles may be submitted in the following areas:

Old Testament and Cognate Studies. Including (but not limited to) critical studies in Hebrew Bible; Septuagint; Pseudepigrapha; Ancient Near Eastern History and Culture; Syro-Palestinian Archaeology.

New Testament and Cognate Studies. Including (but not limited to) critical studies in New Testament; Early Christian Literature; Apocryphal Literature and Traditions; Classical Studies; Archaeology of the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

The Bible in Homiletics and Christian Education. Including theoretical and methodological studies dedicated to the practical applications of biblical scholarship to both preaching and pedagogy.

Book Reviews. Submissions of critical reviews of books related to the field of biblical studies will be accepted and invited.

JOCABS is committed to promoting scholarship among scholars and graduate students and encourages them to submit papers to its peer-reviewed process. The first issue will appear in the Summer of 2008, and semiannually thereafter. For additional information, please contact Dr. Nicolae Roddy, at or Fr. Vahan Hovhanessian, at submit an article online, please visit

ETS/SBL 08 Round Up

Rather than do a couple of short posts, I thought I'd give an extended summary of how the conferences went for me.
My shoes lasted the whole trip and (so far) there have been no travel hitches. However, tomorrow is the day before Thanksgiving so it's the biggest travel day of the American year, storms are predicted for the mid-west, and I have a sad feeling that I may never see my luggage again when it gets on the plain. Overall it's been a enjoyable and fun conference. All of my books sold out in their respective stalls. Let me add also, that I did see D.A. Carson, and he did recognize me! So I repent in sackcloth and ashtray.
My paper on Justification/Obedience in Romans 2 went well. I argued that the doers of the law who are justified (Rom. 2.13-16 and 25-29) are Gentile Christians. Doug Moo had a few probing questions, but on the whole, the paper was well received. In the afternoon, Doug Moo gave an excellent paper on Justification and Obedience which was superb (watch JETS for when it comes out). John Piper's evening lecture on the work of Christ was okay. I appreciated what John was doing, but I felt that he unfairly belittled Doug Moo's paper because I think that one can indeed over-emphasize alien righteousness over and against the call to faithfulness and obedience. In fact, Doug Moo did a good job of showing that justification is in a sense "not-yet". Stan Porter's paper on Matthew 28.19-20 and the grammar of obedience was interesting and he gave the best exposition of the relationship between the imperative verb and the participles I have heard (D.A. Carson and Dan Wallace copped some flack from him). I had lunch with some cool guys centred around Chris Bruno and hangeronerers and that was a blast. The Bauckham and Eyewitnesses seminar was alright, but nothing that rocked my world. The ETS banquet included a good summary of the historical of the publication and was appropriately closed off by Andreas Kostenbeger. Once again, many friend were caught up with, esp. those of a Southern Baptist Variety! On Friday, Timothy Gombis gave a sooporb paper on the New Perspective and Romans. It was a rigorous argument for an apocalyptic and pastoral reading of Romans. Expect big things from Tim in the future. Sadly, I had to head off and I missed other NPP papers and the panel review of Scot McKnight's book on Jesus and His Death. The San Diego weather was great and I got to see my usual array of friends too.
Well best of all, I got into membership. John Goldingay's paper on Israel and canonical stuff (I came in half-way) was good, but sadly Chris Seitz's plane was delayed and he could not respond. The IBR worship with N.T. Wright (PBUH) on Ps 98 and Matthew 13 was good as well and Wright (PBUH) was in his usual good form. Not the least of which I learned that Wright (PBUH) missed the SNTS meeting this year because he was at an evangelistic meeting in the UK. I didn't go to Wright's (PBUH) lecture on "God in Public" because it was packed so I couldn't get in. [Note: PBUH = Peace Be Upon Him].
If you missed the "Faith of Jesus" debate then give yourself an upper-cut. It was fantastisch! Although we may now have to rename the book Doug Campell Contra Mundum. There were papers by Stan Porter, Doug Campbell, Barry Matlock, Preston Sprinkle, Ardel Caneday, Francis Watson, and Ben Myers. Ben Myers did well despite being the theologian (or lamb) among the Pauline sholars (or wolves). I could not forget meeting Chris Tilling in person and seeing other bloggers like Jim West, James Crossley, Brandon Wason and many, many others. The panel discussion on Bauckham's book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, was good, but Adela Yarbro Collins basically ripped into any historiographical perspective that includes faith or belief in the miraculous. James Crossley gave some arguments against miracles figuring in historical studies. As suspected, Bauckham's replies were both adequate and penetrating. Particularly in his call for "humility" and I wonder who he had in mind? The sites of Asia Minor presentation was okay with many piccies of Ephesus and Rome. Part of me wishes I had made the DSS exhibit, but once you've seen one bit of Hebrew scrawled on sandpaper you've seen them all. My birthday included me getting $175 worth of free books from various generous publishers who wanted to celebrate my birthday with me. I did a Viva for Aberdeen Uni and that went well. The student in question adequately defended a sound thesis. The Johannine literature section was probably the place to be this year and Sandra Schneider should be made an honorary Protestant for her paper. Robert Culpeppar gave a good paper on his journey through Johannine studies and he adopts a modified "community" view. D.A. Carson also did the same topic and it was most interesting. The highlight was when Carson recounted how C.K. Barrett said to him at his viva: "What makes you think that John would be slightly interested in your thesis?". The 1 Esdras consultationg was okay, except for the presenter who went over time and said "in conclusion then" four times before the end. The receptions were fantastic, esp. Scottish Universities Reception, Baker and Sheffield/Phoenix. Many friendships were made, many deals were done, and many careers ruined no doubt as well.
The books I picked up (most of which were free for me) include:
Charles Talbert, Ephesians and Colossians
J.S. Russell, The Parousia (free from the preterist society).
Phil Johnston, The IVP Introduction to the Bible
D.A. Carson & Greg Beale, Commentary on the NT use of the OT
Markus Bockmuehl, Philippians (BNTC)
John Piper, The Future of Justification
Michael Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers
Walter Schmithals, The Theology of the First Christians
George Strecker, The Theology of the New Testament
M. Eugene Boring, Mark
Adela Yarbro Collins, Mark
Greetings to all I met and saw there. And that is that!

Monday, November 12, 2007

New Testament Theology - Method

How does one identify the theological contribution of a NT book? Often this is done in categories drawn from systematic theology, e.g. Christology, Soteriology, Ecclesiology, etc. While this approach is not always unhelpful, it can obscure the language and framework in which a biblical author operates. I think that a way to unearth the theological contribution of a given book is in the following method:
1. Examination of Contextual Concerns
By this I mean looking first of all at the distinctive literary form of each document, examining issues of provenance, background, sources, and even the occasion for its composition. The problem here of course is that these matters tend to be highly disputed (e.g. dating of Hebrews and Revelation). It is quite tempting to presuppose them as they long essentially to the genre of "NT Introduction", but one needs to grasp the nettle here before launching into a NT Theology.
2. Inter-textuality
I am convinced that the OT indeed forms the sub-structure of NT Theology (C.H. Dodd) and further to that, that the underlying story of Israel has paramount significance for the story of the Christians and their own theological constructions (e.g. Marvin Pate et. al.). It was reading Peter Stuhlmacher and Craig A. Evans that really drove this home to me as to the importance of the OT in the NT for NT Theology! That's why I'm definitely gonna have a careful read of the new volume by Carson and Beale as a point of entry into the topic. Use of the OT in any given NT document shows their distinctive use of OT types, patterns, and promises and how they connect the story of Jesus, and the church, to the story of Israel.

3. Intra-Canonical Relations
Another feasible direction to take is to situate a NT document in the wider context of early Christianity. The best example of this that I have seen is in Craig Koester's Hebrews commentary where he tries to situate Hebrews against several contexts, e.g. Paul, Hellenists, Jewish Christianity, etc. (see also L.D. Hurst's monograph on Hebrews). How does a given document compare or contrast to other NT documents? For example, Hebrews and Colossians may be at one in criticizing angel-devotion. How does Hebrews on the Law square with Galatians?

4. Theological Consideration
An obvious task is to explicate the theological content of each biblical book. The problem, however, is that usually the topics for discussion are directly importedt from Systematic Theology which can create a round peg vs. square hole situation some times. Any biblical theology worth its salt should allow the author to speak to the issues that he wishes to address in his own language and towards his own purposes. Nonetheless, it would be good to have a number of fixed topics that each NT writer could contribute in a seminar style discussion (a la G.B. Caird). For me these fixed points are: (1) The relationship between Jesus and God; (2) The construal and effect of eschatology of the document; (3) Contribution to community and spiritual formation; (4) analysis to ethics and praxis of the Christian life; and (5) Relationship of the believer to Christ.

5. Reception-History
A final area worthy of investigation is how a document was initially received and interpreted in the early church as a key into its theological meaning.

David Black on being a NT Scholar

Over at David Black on-line, Black writes:
'I have never considered myself an homme-de-lettres in the sense of a "New Testament scholar," for all such notions, in my view, are inordinately superficial. I do not believe that a distinction is to be made between the academic study of Scripture and the devotional reading of same. That is, quite simply, a false disjunction. For me, study and devotion are two sides of the same coin: I study the Bible devotionally, and I perform my daily devotions scientifically. The academic and the affective go hand in glove. Some, I think, are vaguely shocked whenever I say this, but I am quite sure it is not necessary to sacrifice Athens for Jerusalem.'
The whole post is a good example of how to balance academic and devotional study of Scripture.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

My ETS-SBL Curse

Once more I go to ETS-SBL in fear and trepidation because:
1. My footwear always malfunctions by either disintegrating or shrinking (last year in DC was agony walking around).
2. Cab drivers always ask me about my accent and want to know if I'm from Milwaukee on the grounds that I look "square and goofy" (true story).
3. Someone always accuses me of heresy.
4. Someone always hands me a pamphlet on why I should home school my kids.
6. I always say "Hi" to N.T. Wright and he never remembers who I am.
7. I always say "Hi" to D.A. Carson and he has a vague recollection of who I am.
8. Some waitress gives me the "look" when I ask her for a half de cafe mochacino with extra sprinkles and a short of caramel.
9. I often end up at the wrong hotel or the wrong convention centre when I arrive in location.
10. I always forget to rock up to some dinner, lunch, or breakfast I was supposed to go to, and incur the disfavour of some friend.
Coming highlights of ETS-SBL
1. Seminar panel reviews of R. Bauckham's book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses at both ETS and SBL.
2. Seeing Ben Myers who, no doubt, will be shadowed by his adoring American fans who will sit around him and listen to his every word.
3. The Faith of Jesus Christ Seminar including the main event: Barry Matlock and Doug Campbell going toe-to-toe, mano-e-mano, no holds barred good old hoot nanny of show down. There will be blood (and possibly wool) on the floor when that one is done. It will be an event to tell your children and your children's children that you were there in Diego for that battle royale.
4. No doubt on Sunday, someone will come up to me and offer to buy me a New York Steak for lunch and a couple of Eerdmans titles because it is my birthday.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Eastern Orthodox Church - Through Western Eyes

After a visit to Christian Focus Publications, I came away with a copy of Robert Letham's book, Through Western Eyes: Eastern Orthodoxy, A Reformed Perspective. The book did not start well since it begins with this opening sentence: "The doorbell rings. Outide there stands a complete stranger. It is obvious he is from Australia - the hat, with pieces of cork dangling of a string to ward off the flies, is a giveway, and so too is the tanned complexion. First impressions are confirmed by the nasal draw. Apparently, he is a distant cousin. How can this be? He seems so different and alien from one's comfortable surroundings in the English Home Counties. Heis a stranger." This is an example of how you can have a relative who is so completely different. All I can say is: (1) The idea that all Australians walk around with hats with corks in them is a myth; (2) What "nasal drawl" are yout talking about? If you want to talk to someone who is nasal got to Connetticut or New Hampshire where they drink "corfee"! Anyway, my Australian drawl aside, Letham's book is interesting.
Personally, I've always been fascinated by the Orthodox Church. Nice hats, funky beards, and you get to wear black alot. More seriously, I love much of the Greek liturgy esp. that associated with John Chrysostom. In a forthcoming devotional that myself and Jim Hamilton have written, I quote a fair bit of Chrysostom. I think the Orthodox Church (OC) has a better explanation of how the eucharist can look and taste like bread and wine and yet be the body and blood of Christ. I would paraphrase their answer as: "Stuffed if I know, it's just a mystery." I think that is better than the Roman Catholic Church's reply: " Well, you see, there was this guy, Aristotle, who like had this really cool theory about substance and accidents, and you see, the thing is ..."
A few interesting points:
- Athanasius was accused of corruption and organizing the kidnap and murder of a rival bishop. Out of46 years as a Bishop he spent 17 in exile. (I get the feeling that certain orthodox bishops in the American Episcopal Church could find themselves deposed and exiled soon enough!).
- The Arians were known to take out contracts to have certain opponents assassinated by professional hitmen.
- Gregory Nazianzen was ordained as a priest against his will and at the behest of a mob.
- John of Damascus did very well as a theologian under Muslim rule.
- Cyril of Lukaris (1572-1638) Patriarch of Constantinople from 1620 until his death, spent time in Poland in 1596 to strengthen the Orthodox against the Greek Catholic Church. He worked alongside Lutherans and Calvinists and eventually became convinced of Calvinism.
- The OC uses the Septuagint rather than the MT as their OT (why don't we all!). Although I do not know what Letham was thinking when he said that the LXX was the version of the OT that "Jesus and the apostles usually cite" (though Stan Porter would probably be open to the possibility that Jesus did on some ocassions teach in Greek). The OC also includes Jubilees, Mart. Isaiah, and the Ass. Mos. in their apocrypha.
- According to the Orthodox Theologian Theordore Stylianopoulos, the Bible itself is not revelation, but merely the record of revelation. I think Daniel Fuller and perhaps even G.E. Ladd held to something similar, but I would need to confirm that.
- You get a lot more Scripture read in an OC church service than you do in most Evangelical churches.
It is an interesting book with a fairly balanced intro to the OC.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Justification Debates at ETS

Over at CT, ETS acting president Hassell Bullock of Wheaton College is interviewed on what to expect at the forthcoming ETS meeting. Included is a question on renewed debates about justification:
"I believe there is a need for discussing the basic doctrines of our faith over and over again, not with the intent of discovering a new doctrine, but discovering new dimensions of old doctrines. Since the doctrine of justification was the "watchword" of the Reformation, and thus the one doctrine, perhaps above all others, by which Protestantism distinguishes itself from its Catholic and Orthodox communions, it is only wise that we should talk about it and try to understand why our understanding distinguishes us from other Christian brothers and sisters. In so doing, I hope we shall come to a better understanding of the theological dilemma we have and do face, and find that behind the doctrine of justification stands our common Lord. From my point of view, this is not likely to erase the reformers' understanding of justification, but hopefully will bring us to a better understanding of each other, and that can only be a touch of God's grace."
I thinks this is good advice! I do not see any need to abandon the essential architecture of justification as bequeathed to us from the Reformers, however, we have to recognize that the Jew-Gentile issue has alot to do with the content and context of Paul's debates about justification. Thus, covenant membership is at the very least a consequent of being justified by faith.
On another matter, Bullock is asked:
Is there any merit to suggestions for changing the ETS doctrinal basis?
"The recent return of Francis Beckwith, the ETS president, to the Catholic faith of his childhood, has obviously and understandably created questions within the society about the adequacy of our theological basis, which is quite brief: "The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory." The society was founded upon a simple theological basis rather than a statement of faith, with the intention of providing a broad evangelical basis for academic discussion, thus allowing and encouraging diversity within unity. While the proposed amendment will not change that basis, it will expand the statement quite significantly, and, while solving one problem, may create others.
However the society decides this issue, I hope ETS will continue to see itself as a wide space for discussing biblical-theological and related issues within the bounds of an unshakable commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture."
My own view is that a doctrinal statement of Inerrancy and Trinity is inadequate for defining both the boundaries and breadth of the society. I agree with Denny Burke and Ray Van Neste that we should adopt the UCCF, but I would also prefer that the UCCF statement be adopted as it currently is with no additions or revisions.

Mark's Christology

How is this for a statement:
Mark’s story of Jesus essentially unpacks the designation ‘Jesus Christ’ from the incipit so as to show that the Messiah that Christians confess is made known as the:
-The Son of God who is beloved by the Father, commissioned for his messianic mission by reception of the Spirit, and exercises command over God’s enemies be they demons or the armies of Rome.
-The Son of Man who is authorized to speak for God, appointed to suffer and rise from the dead, and to judge the inhabited world.
-The Son of David who heals the afflicted of Israel and is greater still than David himself.
- The King of the Jews who, in an ironic twist, at the end of his triumphus is enthroned as the King of Israel on the cross and there reveals the true power of his kingship by refusing to save himself by saving others instead.

SJT Lecture

Some of you might be interested to know that Bruce L. McCormack of PTS will be delivering the Scottish Journal of Theology Lectures at St Andrews University the week of December 3-6, 2007. His lectureship is titled 'The Eternity of the Eternal Son: A Reformed Version of Kenotic Christianity', and will include four lectures.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

What is Typology?

One thing I find that I have to explain to my students if the difference between prophecy and typology, esp. in relation to the OT quotes in Matthew 1-4.
According to Michael Fishbane, typology "sees in persons, events, or places, the prototype, pattern, or figure of historical persons, events or places that follow it in time" (Biblical Interpretation and Ancient Israel [Oxford: Clarendon, 1985], 350).
The difference between typology and allegory is, according to Anthony Thiselton (The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 730): "The major difference between type and allegory is that the former is grounded in history and the presupposes corresponding events; the latter is ground in a linguistic system of signs or semiotic codes and presupposes resonances or prallels between ideas or semiotic meanings".

See for an overview W. Edward Glenny, "Typology: A summary of the present evangelical discussion," JETS (1997).

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Latest Tyndale Bulletin

Tyndale Bulletin 58.2 (2007) is out and includes:

Gerald A. Klingbeil and Martin G. Klingbeil
The Prophetic Voice of Amos as a Paradigm for Christians in the Public Square

Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer
The Compassionate God of Traditional Jewish and Christian Exegesis

William Varner
A Discourse Analysis of Matthew's Nativity Narrative

Peter Ensor
The Glorification of the Son of Man: An Analysis of John 13:31-32

James M. Hamilton
The Seed of the Woman and the Blessing of Abraham

David H. Wenkel
The 'Breastplate of Righteousness' in Ephesians 6:14: Imputation or Virtue?

Harold G. Cunningham
God's Law, 'General Equity' and the Westminster Confession of Faith

Stephen E. Witmer
Taught by God: Divine Instruction in Early Christianity

Lee S. Bond
Renewing the Mind: The Role of Cognition Language in Pauline Theology and Ethics

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Latest Issues of JETS

The latest issue of JETS 50.3 (2007) includes:

Sydney H. T. Page
Satan: God's Servant

Michael Graves
The Public Reading of Scripture in Early Judaism

Clyde E. Billington
Goliath and the Exodus Giants: How Tall Were they?

J. Daniel Hays
The Height of Goliath: A Response to Clyde Billington

Lee M. Fields
Proverts 11:30: Soul-Winning or Wise Liviing?

Herbert W. Bateman IV
Defining the Titles "Christ" and "Son of God" in Mark's Narrative Presentation of Jesus

Michael J. Thate
Conditionality of Jonn's Gospel: A Critique and Examination of Time and Reality as Classically Conceived in Conditional Constructions

Steven R. Tracy
Patriarchy and Domestic Violence: Challenging Common Misconceptions

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Prayer for the Ordering of Pastors

From the Book of Common Prayer, this is something that I think should be read at ordination ceremonies:

Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,
And lighten with celestial fire.
Thou the anointing Spirit art,
Who dost thy seven-fold gifts impart.

Thy blessed Unction from above,
Is comfort, life, and fire of love.
Enable with perpetual light
The dulness of our blinded sight.

Teach us to know the Father, Son,
And thee, of both, to be but One.
That, through the ages all along,
This may be our endless song;

Praise to thy eternal merit,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Don Garlington responds to Phil Ryken

Below is a post from Don Garlington who responds to an article by Phil Ryken. My own response is located here.
A Brief Response to Philip Ryken
Don Garlington

Although a number of issues arising from Philip Ryken’s article Justification and Union with Christ. could be addressed in detail, I will confine my remarks to the following.
According to Ryken, the thrust of my response to John Piper’s Counted Righteous in Christ (“Imputation or Union with Christ? A Response to John Piper,” Reformation and Revival Journal, 12, No. 4 [2003], 45-112) is that we “must choose one doctrine or the other in articulating the theology of salvation” (italics added). This, however, fails to take account of the introduction and conclusions of that response. In the former, what I said was this:

It must be clarified from the outset that this response to Piper’s book represents a kind of “mediating” position. Not that the purpose is to bridge a gap simply for the sake of being a “peacemaker,” but rather that the baby is not to be thrown out with the bath water. That is to say, the intention of the doctrine of imputation is not to be disputed: our righteousness comes from Christ and is for that reason an “alien righteousness.” However, it is a question of modality…. It is the contention of this paper that the free gift of righteousness comes our way by virtue of union with Christ, not imputation as classically defined (pp. 45-46).

In the latter, I wrote:

In closing, it must be placed beyond all doubt that imputation as a concept is hardly objectionable: what evangelical could, at least with any degree of consistency, protest the notion that Christ has become our righteousness in the gospel? But as pertains to a strict doctrine of imputation, exegesis of texts must be the deciding factor. It has been the contention of this paper that exegesis will steer us away from imputation to union with Christ (p. 101).

True enough, I see lots of evidence for union with Christ and none for imputation. Nevertheless, the choice is as not as stark as Ryken would have us believe. My position is somewhere between that of Piper and Robert Gundry. Consequently, as I actually stated, the baby is not to be thrown out with the bath water, and imputation as a concept is hardly objectionable. No reader of my essay was forced to choose one or the other as far as the practical consequences are concerned. That is to say, Christ and Christ alone is the source of our righteousness, by whatever modality it comes.
To take matters a step further, my principal problem with Piper is not imputation as such, but two other factors. For one, there is Piper’s attack on a salvation-historical hermeneutic. Those who embrace such a “new paradigm,” as Piper dubs it, are consigned to the company of Paul’s opponents in 2 Corinthians­, who, as Paul himself exclaims, are the agents of Satan disguising themselves as angels of light! As much as anything else, it is this breathtaking condemnation of other Christians that evoked my reply. For another, there is Piper’s emphatic denial that justification entails liberation from sin. It is certainly ironic that Reformed exegetes of the likes of John Murray do affirm that justification is “from sin” (Acts 13:39; Rom 6:7) in the sense that Paul intends the phrase, i.e., liberation from sin’s dominance (Rom 6:18). Among other things, that is the function of justification. Such, I think, is a larger issue than imputation as a theological category.
Since Ryken has chosen to subsume my views, along with those of Michael Bird and N. T. Wright, under the heading of “Current Distortions of Biblical Justification,” I would submit that the contemporary justification debate has been tarnished precisely by a distortion of the theology of those of us who differ with Ryken, Piper and others. A glaring example is Ryken’s partial and out-of-context quotation from my conclusions: “Garlington intends to offer an exegesis that will ‘steer us away from imputation to union with Christ’.” This is but the final sentence of a paragraph that maintains that imputation as a concept is hardly objectionable, because Christ has become our righteousness in the gospel! I would hope for better things in days to come.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Martin Hengel on the Origins of Christology

‘The comparison of the three hymns in the Johannine Prologue, the Letter to the Hebrews and the Letter to the Philippians shows, first of all, that christological thinking between 50 and 100 C.E. was much more unified in its basic structure than New Testament research, in part at least, has maintained. Basically, the later developments are already there in a nutshell in the Philippian hymn. This means, however, with regard to the development of all the early Church’s christology, that more happened in the first twenty years than in the entire later centuries-long development of dogma.'
Martin Hengel, ‘Christological Titles in Early Christianity,’ in The Messiah, ed. James H. Charlesworth (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), p. 443.

The First Liberal Theology: Docetism

"The blood of Christ was still fresh in Judaea when His body was said to be a phantasm"
Ignatius of Antioch
I used to think that "Liberals" were out to destroy or deliberately pervert Christianity. I have learned, to the contrary, that they are in fact trying to save it by making its beliefs and doctrines more amicable to the Spirit of the Age (I have my own views about whether that is desirable or even possible). The first liberals in that regards were docetists. They had to confront the problem of how could a great teacher sent from heaven and now enthroned in heaven possibly suffer (let alone exist) in human form. For instance consider this quote from Ovid (Fasti 3.701f):
I was about to neglect those daggers that pierced
Our leader, when Vesta spoke from her pure hearth:
Don’t hesitate to recall them: he was my priest,
And those sacrilegious hands sought me with their blades.
I snatched him away, and left a naked semblance:
What died by the steel, was Caesar’s shadow.’
Raised to the heavens he found Jupiter’s halls,
And his is the temple in the mighty Forum.
But all the daring criminals who in defiance
Of the gods, defiled the high priest’s head,
Have fallen in merited death. Philippi is witness,
And those whose scattered bones whiten its earth.
This work, this duty, was Augustus’ first task,
Avenging his father by the just use of arms.
This is about the apotheosis of Julius Caesar who became a god and was taken away by Vesta just before his attackers set upon him, leaving only a vague naked image or a shadow to be murdured by his assassin's daggers. What else would the gods do for one who was so great and now set among them?
You can understand then the context in which docetism emerged. It was out of a desire to venerate Jesus and to accentuate his greatness in terms that were readily acceptable to persons in the Graeco-Roman world. It witnesses to the acculturation of christology.

Being a 'Jew' or a 'Judean'

Among the on-going debate (see here from Phil Harland) as to whether or not Ioudaioi should be translated as "Jew" or "Judean", is one piece of evidence mostly overlooked from Epictetus:
‘Why, then do you call yourself a Stoic, why do you deceive the multitude, why do you act the part of a Jew, when you are a Greek? Do you not see in what sense men are severally called Jew, Sirian, or Egyptian? For example, whenever we see a man halting between two faiths, we are in the habit of saying, “he is not a Jew, he is only acting the part”. But when he adopts the attitude of mind of the man who has been baptized and made his choice, then he both is a Jew in fact and is also called one’ (Epictetus. Diss. 2.9.19-20, trans. W.A. Oldfather, LCL).
I have to ask does being a "Jew" here refer to belonging to the geography or ethnography of Judea? I don't think so. So I still find reason to think that, at some points at least, Ioudaioi can be broader than Judean. In Epictetus is seems highly religious and even related to a certain praxis.

Wellhausen on Jesus as a Jew

J. Wellhausen's dictum is well-known: ‘Jesus was not a Christian, but a Jew’. What is a little less known is that he also said a few paragraphs later: ‘one may be justified in maintaining that what is un-Jewish in him, what is human, is more characteristic than what is Jewish’.
J. Wellhausen, Einleitung in die drei ersten Evangelien (1911), pp. 102-3.
This calls to my mind something that Ernst Käsemann said in a radio broadcast where he said about human beings that "each man has become his own Jew". Yet ironically, being a Jew inwardly is regarded as being a good thing by Paul in Rom. 2.25-29.

William Lane Craig on Dale C. Allison "Resurrecting Jesus"

Over at Reasonable Faith, William Lane Craig offer's a good critique of elements of Dale C. Allison's book Resurrecting Jesus.
Does anyone know of a site where the Craig vs. Crossley debate is available?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Christology of 1 John

Another good quote from Martin Hengel:
'The first letter of John, which takes the intentions of the Gospel further, defines this precisely: “Whoever does not love does not know God; for God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might love through him (4.8ff). This means that in the Son who has become human, God’s love, his very nature, has become manifest for humankind; God himself comes to them. The incarnation of the love of God, not the deification of Christ, is the main theme of Johannine theology.'
Martin Hengel, ‘Christological Titles in Early Christianity,’ in The Messiah, ed. James H. Charlesworth (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), p. 432.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Michael Gorman's New Book

A book worth putting on your list at ETS/SBL is:

Reading Paul
by Michael J. Gorman

“This splendid introduction to the Apostle Paul is the best book of its kind. . . . [It is] thoroughly clear and readable. . . . I will assign this as required reading for students in my introductory New Testament course and put it in the hands of as many pastors and laypeople as possible.”
—Richard B. Hays, The Divinity School, Duke University

“As someone who has gotten to know Paul by deeply immersing himself in Paul’s writings for many years, Michael can be the mutual friend who orients you and helps you relax in the presence of a truly awe-inspiring person.”
—Brian McLaren, author of A Generous Orthodoxy

Gorman's other book Apostle of the Crucified Lord is excellent and I've used it in study and in class several times. Gorman is a great author, if only he could be persuaded to write a short commentary on Galatians!!!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Story of Ernst Lohmeyer

Over at the IVP blog, there is an excellent account of the life of the German NT scholar Ernst Lohmeyer. I think I have read portions of Das Evangelium des Markus (on Mk. 13.10 and 14.9 from memory). It was my first introduction to German written in Gothic script (now that's hard going). Anyway, it's a wonderful story of his opposition to the Nazi's and his death at the hands of the Soviet Union. Lohmeyer was later exonerated and there is now a house in Greifswald named in his honour

Praise God for Fundamentalists?

John Piper posts a response to a Fundamentalist resolution on his ministry. I commend John for being gracious in his response. I hope this leads Fundamentalists to start reading or to keep reading Piper's books, his sermons, and attend his conferences. But I cannot praise God for them. Here's why:
1. Shall we praise God for their legalistic approach to the faith which (for example) makes one's views of alcohol a basis for fellowship and discipline (I was raised in a house with alchol abuse so don't anyone even think about getting up on their high horse and lecturing me about alcholism and its effects)? [Note: Piper has an excellent sermon on this topic in DG archives].
2. Shall we praise God for the racism of some Fundamentalists who believe in racial segregation and prohibit inter-racial marraiges and so deny the great Reformed doctrine of justification by faith where God vindicates Jews and Gentiles from sin and calls them into one fellowship and into one family of faith?
3. Shall we praise God for the KJV-only crowd among Fundamentalists whose views are based on a mixture of historical ignorance and cultural arrogance?
4. Shall we praise God for Landmarkers whose views are based on doctrinal innovation and historical revisionism and pervert the sacrament of God?
5. Shall we praise God for the eschatology of some Fundamentalists and how they support the state sponsored persecution of our Arab Christian brothers and sisters in the Holy Land in the name of their esoteric reading of Revelation? [Note: I am told that 1 Kings 21 about Naboth's Vineyard is the most frequently preached text in Palestinian Christian churches!!!]
6. Shall we praise God for their separation (sometimes even two degrees of separation) from those who maintain a biblical and orthodox faith over secondary matters and so destroy the unity of the body of Christ?
Short answer: Not on my watch! These things I'm ranting about aren't just little quirks we can shrug off and roll our eyes about, it is really bad stuff. We need to protect the flock from this stuff.
As a shepherd of my students and as a servant in my church, I have to guard against serious errors and aberrations of the faith from both the left and the right. Now I can tolerate people more moderate than I am and I can tolerate people more conservative than I am. But there are extremists of the left and the right who are not playing with a full theological deck. Less I seem too harsh, I have met Fundamentalists, I have heard them preach, and I have seen what they do to people, churches, and families. It is slavery to the traditions of men and it is captivity to a certain culture. My Bible says that "For freedom Christ has set us free" and we are free from such slavery.
A qualification. Not all Fundamentalists are KJV-only, Landmarker, pro-segregationists. Many are just highly conservative individuals who grew up in a certain religious tradition. Some are more "liberal" on separation than others. Neither are they devoid of love or compassion, let it be known that I never said that. But on the whole, the ethos and dynamics of the movement, as well as its distinctive beliefs, can be a very dangerous threat to the fabric of the gospel and the mission of the church. We should guard the good deposit of the gospel against errors, from both liberals and fundamentalists.