Wednesday, April 30, 2008

New Book: On Eagles' Wings

Edited by Michael Parsons, David J. Cohen
On Eagles' Wings: An Exploration of Strength in the Midst of Weakness

Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2008.
Retail Price: $26.00; Web Price: $20.80

This is a volume of practical, scriptural, and contemporary essays exploring the idea of strength in weakness in the context of Christian life and ministry. Biblical scholars, theologians, and Christian ministry practitioners have thought about the biblical paradigm of strength in weakness within their own areas of expertise and interest. Biblical scholars encounter the idea of strength in weakness in both Old and New Testament passages that suggest human weakness and divine strength. The people of Israel, a community reliant on grace, exemplify this theme. Mark's portrayal of Jesus Christ indicates that it is in weakness that Christ saves. Paul's paradigm for ministry suggests the same. Theological chapters engage this teaching of strength in weakness as it surfaces in Luther's life, in Calvin's view of prayer, in Barth's theology, and ultimately in the divine dealing with the world. Pastoral theology demonstrates this theme's foundational significance for a suffering church in its mission to the world as well as the theme's importance for preaching the leading of God's people today. Drawing together scholars from fields of biblical studies, systematic theology, and pastoral theology, On Eagles' Wings questions an overemphasis on power in today's church. The authors propose various ways that ministry and mission may be best engaged with a biblical humility and with reliance on God's grace.

My own essay in this volume is called: “Obi-wan Kenobi, Neo, and Mark’s Narrative Christology,” 51-62.

Enns/Westminster Follow-up

Alot has been blogged on the Enns/Westminster melee at the moment. The most significants parts are:

1. WTS release of the Official Theological Documents surrounding the discussion that took place at WTS-Philly about Enn's book (I think releasing these publically has been a generous act by the seminary and makes their decisions and actions transparent to some degree).

2. Peter Head blogs on: Peter Enns, Westminster, Inerrancy, and Textual Criticism. Peter hits the nail on the head when he says: At a fairly basic level this reflects an important debate about the role of the phenomena of Scripture in clarifying and modifying a doctrine of Scripture derived initially from Scripture's direct self-testimony; with a predictable division between the biblical scholars ('yes the phenomena are really important' - see the Hermeneutics Field Committee's Reply to the HTFC, pp. 28-97) and the systematicians ('phenomena? ha! they didn't pose a problem in the 17th century so why worry about them now?').

3. Ben Myers offers some brief reflections The theological basis of Peter Enns' suspension where he says this: They counter Enns’ whole approach by asserting that 'Scripture’s author is God, who uses actuaries’ or ‘tabularies’ to write His words,' so that 'what men write down is as much God’s own words as if He had written it down without human mediation.' (Am I dreaming? Did a committee of theologians really produce that statement?) You can see why Enns felt it was necessary to write a book like this. If this is right, and I haven't read the whole report yet, then you've got to say that this is simply bizaar. Can we even conceive of Scripture without human mediation? Would God himself directly write 1 Cor. 1.16 about Paul forgetting who he baptized? If one conceives of Scripture as the dictation of divine propositions about theology (i.e. a confession) then that view could work, but it sure doesn't work with what we have before us in narratives, letters, homilies, apocalypses, psalms, proverbs, and prophecies.

4. Ben Byerly offers some insights (as an ex-WTS student) entitled, Lillback's attack on Enns. Ben's not exactly objective on this one (he should probably drop the rhetoric a gear or two), but he does point out some elements of the report that are questionable.

Let me state my interest in this matter. I'm not trying to accuse or exonerate any one. I'm concerned exclusively with what this entire debate means for evangelicals working in the field of biblical studies.

Student's Say the Darnest Things!

My students have given me much comic relief in class in recent days. Here are three examples:

1. Why attractive actors should not play Jesus.

While watching the Gospel of John on DVD in class one of my female students mutters another student, "I have trouble watching this when Jesus looks so cute". This created much amusement, shock, and laughter and was good evidence of why the iconoclasts were probably right. During the scene from John 13 when Jesus disrobes to wash his disciples feet the female student was warned "Don't get too excited now!".

2. Q &A.

Lecturer: What is allegory?
Student: Wasn't he the former Vice-President of America?

3. Satan and Scotland.

Student: Where does Satan come from?
Lecturer: I don't know. Paisley perhaps?
Student: The place or the person?

(Paisley is a city near Glasgow known for its high crime rate and Ian Paisley is the head of the Northern Irish government and is known, more in former times than now, for his intense dislike of Catholics).

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Latest CBR 6.3 (2008)

The latest issue of Currents in Biblical Research includes.

David M. Valeta
The Book of Daniel in Recent Research (Part 1) Currents in Biblical Research 2008 6: 330-354. [Abstract] [PDF] [References]

Michael F. Bird and Preston M. Sprinkle
Jewish Interpretation of Paul in the Last Thirty Years Currents in Biblical Research 2008 6: 355-376. [Abstract] [PDF] [References]

Chris Keith
Recent and Previous Research on the Pericope Adulterae (John 7.53—8.11) Currents in Biblical Research 2008 6: 377-404. [Abstract] [PDF] [References]

James C. Vanderkam
Recent Scholarship on the Book of Jubilees Currents in Biblical Research 2008 6: 405-431. [Abstract] [PDF] [References]

Monday, April 28, 2008

Book Review: The Solution to the "Son of Man" Problem

Maurice Casey
The Solution to the ‘Son of Man’ Problem
LNTS 343; London: T&T Clark, 2007.
Available (US) and Continuum (UK)
My thanks to T&T Clark/Continuum for a review copy!

Maurice Casey is a foremost expert on the relation of Aramaic to the Gospels and the dizzying debates surrounding the ‘Son of Man’ title. This volume is a significant publication that summarizes and expounds further Casey’s Aramaic approach to the Son of Man problem.

In chapter one, ‘The State of Play’ Casey gives a historical survey of how ho huios tou anthropou has been translated and interpreted from the Patristic period down through to the current scholarly setting. He notes the frequent attempt to link the phrase to Dan. 7.13, its christological use as an affirmation of Jesus as human in the early church, the development of the Menschensohnbegriff (son of man concept) especially in Germany climaxing in the notion of a primordial myth, and sometimes even as a referent to Jesus as a Son of Adam. He sets this in contrast to semitic approaches to the phrase beginning with Hugo Grotius, that identified the underlying Aramaic as idiomatic for ‘man’.

In chapter two Casey provides a study of 53 Aramaic texts drawn from inscriptions, rabbinic literature, Syriac texts, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Casey argues that Aramaic was a relatively stable language and that the ‘son of man’ idiom was a general statement for ‘man’ and could be used in a definite or indefinite state. He emphasizes that the generality of a given saying may vary considerably as bar (e)nash(a) sayings can refer to the speaker, a group of people including the speaker, or to someone else based on the context. This is a welcomed corrective to Vermes.

In chapter three, Casey sets his sights on criticizing the ‘Son of Man’ concept (Menschensohnbegriff) and he engages in a study of Daniel 7, 1 Enoch, and 4 Ezra 13 towards that end. He argues that the Son of Man in Dan. 7.13 is not a Messiah but is a symbol for the Saints of the Most High and what is genuinely interesting is that he surveys the Syrian Christian tradition which located Daniel 7 against the backdrop of the Hasmonean struggle against the Seleucid dynasty. Casey also argues for an Aramaic tradition underlying 1 Enoch and that the ‘son of man’ in 1 Enoch refers to Enoch himself and not to a Messiah. He similarly argues, based on textual considerations, that the term ‘Son of Man’ is not used in 4 Ezra.

In chapter four, an Aramaic reconstruction of six authentic sayings is given (Mk. 2.27-28; 9.11-13; 10.45; 14.21; Mt. 11.19/Lk. 7.34; Mt. 12.32/Lk. 12.10 with Mk. 3.28-28). Casey argues that these sayings have a Sitz im Leben in the life of Jesus and they only make sense when the original verses are reconstructed in Aramaic and this provides an ‘overwhelming argument’ for his particular perspective on the Son of Man materials. The following chapters contain Casey’s reconstruction and examination of several units including Mk. 2.1-12 (chapter five), Mt 8.19-20/Lk 9.57-58 (chapter six), Lk. 12.8-9/Mt. 10.32-33 and Mk. 8.38 (chapter seven), Lk. 22.48 (chapter eight), the passion predictions (chapter nine), and some eschatological dominical sayings (chapter ten) with attention paid to their significance for the Son of Man debate and the historical Jesus.

Chapter eleven covers the evolution of the Aramaic bar (e)nash(a) into the Greek ho huios tou anthropou. Casey examines the translation process of authentic sayings, the midrashic creation of new sayings, and the rewriting of authentic sayings in order to create new Son of Man sayings. The Greek expression was given to bar (e)nash(a) for sayings that refer predominantly to Jesus. The Greek word for ‘son’ huios was a natural translation of bar or ben. In regards to the definite articles in the Greek, the first definite article ho makes reference to Jesus emphatic while the second definite article tou is more or less generic. This creative outburst resulted in the invention of a christological title to show how Jesus himself was indicated in the original Aramaic idiom. This titular sense was enhanced by Mark’s appeal to Dan. 7.13 to create two parousia sayings in Mk. 13.26 and 14.62. Casey’s burden is to show that an idiomatic usage of bar (e)nash(a) would not necessarily lead to a translation of ho anthropos or ho huios anthropou. I tend to think, following Bauckham and Hurtado, that the double articular Greek construction, inelegant as it is, was given to emphasize the particular emphasis that Jesus attached to the Aramaic phrase. I would also ask, however, if Mark can cite the anarthrous hos huios anthropou on Dan. 7.13 LXX to create a Christological title, then why cannot someone earlier in the tradition or even Jesus do the same based on the Aramaic? Nothing necessitates a Marcan provenance for the connection of the Son of Man (in Greek or Aramaic) with Daniel 7.

Casey goes over the Johannine Son of Man sayings in chapter twelve. He concludes that the Son of May sayings in the Gospel of John are essentially taken over from the Synoptics and incorporated into the author’s midrashic use of Scripture. ‘Son of Man’ is a title that discloses the humanity of Jesus and none of the sayings are based on an underlying Aramaic source.

In his conclusion Casey emphasizes once more the apparent problem of the Son of Man debate is caused by ‘a massive degree of ignorance compounded by ideological bias’ (314) and he then proceeds to summarize the various chapters of the book.

Along with Mogens Müller’s book, Casey’s volume is among the first ports of call for anyone wrestling with the Son of Man problem. It caps a life time of study on the subject and show cases Casey’s impressive command of all the relevant primary and secondary literature (thankfully all Aramaic and German quotes are translated). I suspect that scholarship has finally taken notice, at least in part, to what Casey, Lindars, and Vermes (as well as those before them from Grotius to Wellhausen) have been saying: the Aramaic idiom needs to be factored into any solution to the Son of Man problem. There are discernible strengths to this volume particularly in Casey’s penetrating critique of the Menschensohnbegriff and I found his chapter on the formulation of the passion predictions to be highly illuminating.

There are three major criticisms I have with this book. First, Casey often derides those who write about the Son of Man from the Christian tradition (German Lutherans are a preferred target). I do not for a minute deny that presuppositions and theologically informed views have influenced these scholars, however, Casey nowhere acknowledges his own presuppositions and how they influence him. The implied author of this book (i.e. Casey’s representation of himself) is that of an objective and secular critic who has come to liberate us from the shackles of theologically loaded interpretations of the Son of Man. But I suggest that the existence of such an ideal objective and impartial author is just as mythical as the existence as the ‘primordial son of man’ known to occasionally haunt the lecture rooms of German universities. Casey’s dislike for orthodox Christianity is easily documented (see his responses to S.E. Porter, N.T. Wright in various articles and his monograph on John’s Gospel) and one wonders if this atheological aesthetic has impacted some of his conclusions (i.e. he likes to make sure nothing supports orthodox christology!). This leads to my next second point, that Casey has not definitively refuted a link between the idiom bar (e)nash(a) and the kebar enash in Dan. 7.13. Let me preface that by saying that not every Son of Man reference in the Gospels is necessarily a quote or allusion to Dan. 7.13, and they may simply be an expression of an Aramaic idiom as Casey rightly notes (e.g. Mk. 2.10). What is more, the authenticity of several texts (e.g. Mk. 13.26, 14.62) are complex in their own right and although I do not subscribe to Casey’s view that they are secondary formulations that refer to Jesus’ parousia, I recognize the validity of the tradition-historical questions that he raises. What is more, ‘Son of Man’ is not a technical title for ‘Messiah’. Nonetheless, Casey objects to combining the Aramaic idiom with the human figure of Dan. 7.13 on the grounds that, the ‘one like a son of man’ is an ‘abstract symbol of the Saints of the Most High’ (p. 30). He also rejects the messianic interpretation attached to the Son of Man expression as well. In response: (1) The symbolism of Daniel 7 uses metaphors that are plastic and oscillate between being inclusive and exclusive. For instance, the beasts clearly symbolize the four pagan kingdoms (e.g. 7.23), but they also symbolize the four kings (7.17). So a beast can symbolize both a kingdom and an individual king. Can we say the same about the ‘one like a son of man’ who is the heavenly counterpart of the four beasts and the little arrogant horn? He clearly symbolizes the ‘Saints of the Most High’ but given the royal description and royal role that he executes can we see here an implied reference to a Jewish king? Casey is forced to regard the beasts as a symbol (a king) for a symbol (kingdoms) and then deny that the symbols can be individual despite the fact that an individual interpretation is given in 7.17! (2) The fact is that there arose a tradition of messianic exegesis of Daniel 7 in 4Q246, 1 Enoch, the Gospels, and 4 Ezra which indicates that a messianic interpretation of Dan. 7.13 is both primitive and possible at the time of Jesus. Third, Casey’s Aramaic reconstructions are suggestive of semitic sources underlying the Gospels in certain places and he probably bring us as close to the words of Jesus as we can go. However, he occasionally gives the impression that he is providing us with the actual words of Jesus as he often makes a point why Jesus preferred one word over another. This is perhaps true for one or two short proverbial sayings (like maybe Mk. 10.45), but what Casey has really done is reconstructed a possible Aramaic tradition lying beneath the Greek text of the Gospels. That tradition is likely to be a paraphrase, summary, digest and gist of what Jesus said depending on what one makes of the oral tradition. For the most part (and I allow some exceptions) the Jesus tradition, regardless of what language we find it in, contains the ipsissima vox not the ipsissima verba of Jesus.

Perhaps the greatest contribution of Casey’s volume is a healthy reminder that all scholars of the Greek New Testament would do well if they also master the semitic languages of Palestine, the Hebrew Bible, and the eastern church.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Scot McKnight: A Community Called Atonement

I've just got around to re-reading Scot McKnight's volume A Community Called Atonement from the Living Theology series edited by Tones Jones (Nashville: Abingdon, 2007). To put this book in context, the great writings on the atonement by a previous generation of great scholars (Leon Morris, J.I. Packer, and John Stott) focused on defending key doctrines like penal substitution, propitiation, and justification over and against an onslaught of assaults. However, today the battle ground has shifted some what. The doctrine wars have been fought and won (for the most part) within evangelicalism, but now the challenge is "what difference does it make?". The question evangelicals in their 20s and 30s are asking is not, does the Bible teach penal substitution, but what mileage does one get out of believing in it? A generation of young Christians (and I count myself among them) are dissatisfied with bumper sticker slogans like "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven" which sounds like an apology for a person with right doctrinal beliefs but lives no different from unchurched Harry or pagan Peter. That's a fraud and pomo folk can smell it a mile off. My Theology lecturer at college once to the story of a church that held an evangelistic outreach event but the congregation failed to invite anyone to it. When a survey was done to find out why no-one invited their non-Christian friends along, one person answered that "the gospel was not working in my life so I thought it would be a sham to invite someone else to consider it". This, I reckon, is the problem; what difference does the atonement make in life and living? Scot's book then is a welcomed corrective on two fronts: (a) he situates the atonement in the wider span of redemptive-history as he relates the cross to the Adam/Israel story, to Jesus' kingdom message, to the resurrection, and to Pentecost, and he also shows theTrinitarian nature of the atonement as well; and (b) he demonstrates how the atonment is transformative at both the personal and communal level.

Scot clearly believes in penal substitution (PS). The question is whether PS is merely one club in the golf bag, or whether PS is the golf bag itself from which the various clubs are drawn out of. Scot argues that no single theory of the atonement is the "fairest one of all" and all are part of the golfer's (i.e. Christian's soteriolgoical) repertoirre. I am sympathetic to the arguments of I. Howard Marshall, Thomas Schreiner, and Mike Ovey et. al. that PS is the golf bag itself or the central atonement theme which drives all the others like Passover sacrifice, Christus Victor, Reconciliation, etc. However, the looming doubt in my mind is created by the Book of Acts where PS does not appear at all, rather, Luke focuses on forgiveness of sins, status reversal, and the gift of the Spirit. Why does this deposit of apostolic preaching contain so little reference to the cross let alone PS if PS is THE central doctrine of the New Testament? Scot is fairly well balanced overall here. He rejects the allegation that PS amounts to child abuse but also asks advocates of PS to listen to their critics. He adds that the atonement needs to be orientated in the Trinitarian life of God and the atonement reflects both God's wrath and love. For Scot though, the bag that holds all the clubs together (recapitulation, ransom, satisfaction, substitution, representation, and penal substitution) is what he calls Identification and Incorporation which he gleams from Heb. 2.14-18 and is probably best understood as a modified verions of the recapitulation theory.

On justification, Scot maintains that justification is indeed "forensic" and he freely uses the concept of "imputation". What is added by Scot, however, are his observations that justification relates to the story of Adam-Israel-Jesus, it brings Gentiles into one family with Jews, justification is part of God's act of making the whole world right, and he gives a polite nod to the New Perspective on Paul in so far as that justification needs to be given a more relational understanding.

The final section of the book, "Atonement as Praxis: Who Does Atonement?" is worth the price of the book and is well worth reading if you're getting ready for Easter. Scot covers topics such as Atonement and Fellowship, Atonement and Justice, Atonement and Mission, Atonement and Living the Story, and Atonement and Baptism, Eurcharist, and Prayer. So put down your Left Behind novel and stop watching "Lost" and read this section if anything this year.

There are one or two things I'd tweak in this book. For instance, I'd like more on sin as rebellion and I wonder if Scot pushes the broken eikon thing a bit too far at times. But otherwise this is a classic resource on the atonement, it is eminently readable but certainly not simplistic. Anyone interested in asking the question "what difference does it make?" should read this book.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Pastoral Reflections on the Pastoral Epistles

For the last week I've been reading through the Pastoral Epistles (PE) in my nightly reading routine. Several things continue to stand out for me:

1. About two years after I became a Christian I was being posted to Townsville in northern Australia (a divine punishment for making jokes about how fat pregnant women were). I was in a young church with a young pastor, but I was well discipled and the young pastor instilled in me a love for Christian learning . He introduced me to apologetics which lead in turn to theology and then of course to biblical studies (in other words, blame this guy for all my heinous crimes). I shall never forget that just before I was about to leave, I was given as a farewell gift a copy of Millard Erickson's Christian Theology. And on the inside was inscribed the words of 1 Tim. 4.16: "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers". Those words have stuck with me ever since and it is wise counsel to give any young person heading off from the watching eye of their parents, family, and church.

2. The PE are often regarded as about being about doctrine, doctrine, and doctrine. Now that is true to some degree, but love, faith, and godliness are all interrelated to the "right" belief as well. Illustrative of this is 2 Tim. 1.13 where Timothy is exhorted: "What you have heard from me, keep as the pattern of sounding teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus". Doctrine without love or faith is a cerebral cult of the mind.

3. The PE emphasizes salvation by grace. We all know Tit. 3.5 as the sola gratia proof text. But consider the wider context: "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good". The trinitarian framework here is most striking as is the link with "washing" which could denote regeneration or baptism (or both). We should note that doing what is good is one of the immediate goals of salvation by grace. I would also add 2 Tim. 1.8-9: "But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done, but because of his own purpose and grace." Again this is clearly teaching salvation by grace alone, but the call to salvation is also a call to a holy life. In my mind, all of this underscores the transformative power of grace, not just as something believed in, but something that is relied upon in our lives.

4. The PE have somethings to say about gender roles (e.g. 1 Tim. 2.11-15) and the inspiration of the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3.16), but the hinge upon which the theological and pastoral exhortation of the PE turn is the gospel (1 Tim. 1.11; 2 Tim. 1.8; 2.8). What was "entrusted" to Paul and is now given to Timothy and Titus is the gospel (1 Tim. 1.11; 6.20; 2 Tim. 1.14; Tit. 1.3). In my mind, the centre of pastoral ministry, Christian discipleship, and even evangelicalism is not a specific view of Scriptural authority (i.e. infallibility or inerrancy) or a specific view of gender (e.g. patriarchy or egalitarianism) but the gospel. The mark of the true Pastor is how he (or she) articulates, proclaims, guards, lives, and passes on the gospel of God.

5. My favourite verses in the PE has to be 1 Tim. 5.23: "Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses". At the end of a long week in the labour of the Lord I look most forward to a nice glass of Aussie Merlot on a Friday night.

There endeth the lesson!

Evangelicalism: Sacrament and Word

Is evangelicalism too logocentric in its worship services? In Tom Wright's lecture at Calvin College on the Sacraments (see the clip below), he makes an interesting point that in some churches there is such a focus on the preached Word and on the centrality of the pulpit that the sacraments are pushed to one side with the result that the service becomes more like that of a Mosque with all Word and no Sacrament! Now, Wright can't be accused of having a low view of preaching, consider the following quote: "A church without sermons will soon have a shrivelled mind, then a wayward heart, next an unquiet soul, and finally a misdirected strength" (Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship [London: SPCK, 1997], xi). I do get what he's saying since I've been in (= orchestrated and lead) services where the whole worship and prayer session is merely an extended overture to the sermon. I've also been in churches where the eucharist or Lord's Supper is served at every service (esp. Anglican and Church of Christ congregations) and if often becomes very mechanical and meaningless. I've also noticed that some liberal churches include more Bible readings than some "Bible believing" churches. I do wonder then how one integrates this all together: Prayer, Sacrament, Praise, and Word. Perhaps it's time that evangelicals (re)discovered liturgy.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday is for Ad Fontes

Every Friday night I chill out with a curry, a bottle of read wine, and some primary source reading. Recently I've been reading through Plutarch's Roman Lives which has been quite enjoyable. Tonight was life of Pompeius Magnus who celebrated triumphs from three different continents and in one of them Aristobolus of Judea was lead in captive during his triumph.

"Banners paraded at the head of the procession showed the countries and peoples over which the triumph was being celebrated. They were as follows: Pontus, Armenia, Paphlagonia, Cappadocia, Media, Colchis, the Iberians, the Albanians, Syria, Cilicia, Mesopotamia, the inhabitants of Phoenican and Palestine, Judea, Arabia, and all the pirates who had been defeated on the land and at sea. In the course of these campaings he had captured at least 1, 000 strongholds, about 900 towns and cities, and 800 pirate ships, and had founded thirty-nine new colonies."

So, what did you accomplish by age forty?

Nazarene Rap

This is just too hilarious to pass up!

HT: Ben Myers

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Infallibility vs. Inerrancy: Reformation 21

Over at Reformation 21, there is a review article by Martin Downes entitled, Is Inerrancy Unbiblical, Rationalistic and Presumptuous? A critique of A.T.B. McGowan's proposal for evangelicals to reject inerrancy which deals with Andrew McGowan's book The Divine Spiration of Scripture.

I don't want to offer a counter-response to Downes' article as I'll leave it to Andrew to respond himself if he chooses to (although I don't think that the central focus of Andrew's article is against inerrancy as much as it is reconfiguring a doctrine of Scripture as part of a doctrine of God). But a number of questions do come to my mind. Now before I press ahead let me say that I ask these questions as one who is committed to the authority and veracity of Scripture. I write as one who regards the Word of God as "true and trustworthy" and I have laboured elsewhere to show that the Gospels are historically reliable accounts of Jesus' career. In my mind, the Bible teaches history, theology, and ethics and it is "true" on all three counts. I teach my students that the goal of their instruction is that they would know better the Word of God and the God of the Word!

(1) To what extent is it legitimate to derive a theology of Scripture from a priori inferences about God? Does "God is X and therefore Scripture is Y" constitute a reasonable argument? At one level I want to say "yes" as I would maintain that the faithfullness of God means that his Word will also be faithful and reliable. But does an a priori inference allow us to determine what the phenemenon of Scripture must have been and to define further the standards upon which its "faithfulness" must conform to? I am not so sure on that one. (2) The WCF 1.5 and 1689 LBC 1.1 all use the phrase infallible to define the veracity of Scripture (the Anglican 39 Art. 6 speaks of "sufficiency"). Does a preference for "infallible" over "inerrant" constitute a doctrinal abberration? Is the entire Reformed Tradition, as exemplified by the confessions, an insufficient theology of Scripture? As I read the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy the impression I get is exactly that: infallibility alone is insufficient (see esp. art. 11 and 19.III.C). I remain concerned and confused as to why persons, however polite and well intentioned, imply that my Reformed Baptist heritage that has been around for 400 years just ain't good enough any more (and the same is true for Presbyterians)! It was good enough in 1689 and it is jolly well good enough now! Can one become a liberal by holding fast to 400 years of tradition? (3) Is there any cultural or historical contingency to the Warfield/Henry articulation of inerrancy? Keep in mind that inerrancy was articulated during the height of the fundamentatlist versus liberal controversy of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. There was the "Battle for the Bible" in North America which was really about the struggle between Modernity and Revealed Religion. Christianity was subjected to a critique based on the assumptions of post-Enlightenment philosophical rationalism. Did Christians such as Warfield and Henry try to defend Scripture by using the same tools of philosophical rationalism such as a foundationalist epistemology and objectivist views of historical knowledge? Has the inerrancy of the autographa always been the rubric upon which Christians at all times, in all places, and in all ages have articulated the authority and veracity of Scripture, or was it a new way of defending the Bible against an atheistic worldview birthed out of of the rationalist impulse of the time in the particular setting of North America? In other words, is inerrancy a "catholic" doctrine?

The Chicago Statement provides the best exposition of inerrancy to date and one that tries to nuance the term where it needs to be. If I had to choose between "errancy" and "inerrancy", I'd choose inerrancy any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Still, I am reminded of the words of Howard Marshall who said that if you need fifteen pages to define one word, may be you should just get a new word. I have an old explanation in mind: "The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience, although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and his will which is necessary unto salvation ... All of which are given by the inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life." (LBC 1.1-2).

New Book on Calvin

Thanks to my friend, Joe Mock, for telling me about this book, Calvin, Participation, and the Gift: The Activity of Believers in Union with Christ by J. Todd Billings (Oxford: OUP, 2008). Book is available here. The blurb reads:

Is the God of Calvin a fountain of blessing, or a forceful tyrant? Is Calvin's view of God coercive, leaving no place for the human qua human in redemption? These are perennial questions about Calvin's theology which have been given new life by Gift theologians such as John Milbank, Graham Ward, and Stephen Webb. J. Todd Billings addresses these questions by exploring Calvin's theology of "participation in Christ." He argues that Calvin's theology of "participation" gives a positive place to the human, such that grace fulfills rather than destroys nature, affirming a differentiated union of God and humanity in creation and redemption. Calvin's trinitarian theology extends to his view of prayer, sacraments, the law, and the ecclesial and civil orders. In light of Calvin's doctrine of participation, Billings reframes the critiques of Calvin in the Gift discussion and opens up new possibilities for contemporary theology, ecumenical theology, and Calvin scholarship as well.

New Blog 21

I'm glad to announce that the Presbyterian Theological College in Sydney has its own blog. PTC-Sydney has some great people, they often get some great speakers in such as Don Carson, Tremper Longman, Bill Dumbrell, and Paul Barnett, and the annual the Eliza Ferrie Lecture is always worth attending if you're in Sydney at the time. I love the motto of the college: "developing leaders who understand, communicate, and live out the Scriptures in order to serve God's people".

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Latest JSHJ 6.1 (2008)

The latest issue of Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus includes:

"Did the Historical Jesus Prohibit All Oaths? -- Part 2", by John P. Meier.

"A Response to John P. Meier's 'Did the Historical Jesus Prohibit All Oaths?'" by Donald A. Hagner.

"The Prohibition of Oaths and Contra-scriptural Halakhot: A Response to John P. Meier" by Jonathan Klawans.

"The Historical Jesus and Oaths: A Response to Donald A. Hagner and Jonathan Klawans" by John P. Meier.

"A Prophet is Rejected in His Home Town (Mark 6.4 and Parallels): A Study in the Methodological (In)Consistency of the Jesus Seminar" by William John Lyons.

"Eyewitnesses and the Oral Jesus Tradition" by James D. G. Dunn.

"Morton Smith as M. Madiotes: Stephen Carlson's Attribution of 'Secret Mark' to a Bald Swindler" by Allan J. Pantuck and Scott G. Brown.

HT: Bob Webb

Pericope adulterae

Over at CT there is an article on the Pericope adulterae: Is 'Let Him Who Is Without Sin Cast the First Stone' Biblical? by Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra. It includes this quote:

"Such judgments [about the inauthenticity of the pericope] raise questions about what words like canonicity and inspiration mean for evangelicals. If we reserve the word inspired for the text in the earliest manuscripts, yet accept that other material (such as the pericope adulterae) should be included in our biblical canon, are we implying that select biblical passages may be canonical yet not inspired? If so, what should we do with this distinction?"

My questions are:

1. Would you preach this text? Me, personally, no! But it is a charming story about forgiveness and grace and I can refer to it on those terms.

2. How do you explain this to Christians without undermining their confidence in the Scripture? Some Christians have a view of Scripture that is totally ignorant of the area of textual criticism and they get squirmy with the questions it raises (this is why there are Textus Receptus-folk and KJV-only fruit cakes in the first place). In other words, they accept the authority of the text but have never wrestled with the phenomenon of the text. This is why pastors should run an adult Sunday school study on textual criticism.

I have to say that some time ago I read a comment at the Christianity Today news site where one unfortunate chappy claimed that "using an Alexandrian text will lead to an Alexandria spirituality, read your King James Bible!". In making an educated guess of this chappy's position I would love to ask, "Does using a text reconstructed by a Catholic humanist professor lead to a Catholic spirituality?" (immense apologies to my Catholic friends!).

The Teacher-al Tension

This week in my Paul course we are discussing Paul's eschatological tension. This post is rather like a therapy session as I feel the pressure of the end of the semester and the concomitant grading task and what I will call "the teacher-al tension".
While I am only teaching three courses, and this is a light load for some university profs, I have a total of about a 100 students. I have chosen to offer mostly essay based exams, because I think that these type of exams provide a better indication of the level of comprehension than do standardized type exams (e.g. Scantron). I do use the latter, but less often. This philosophy however creates a tremendous amount of work for me especially during the end of the semester when these are combined with grading research papers.
I find myself feeling the pressure of writing projects that can't be touched to say nothing of contributing to the blog. I sat this morning and wrote in my journal about the handful of smallish things I have going that are forced to the the back burner because of my teaching responsibilities. This is a constant tension for me and I am sure that I'm not alone. With a young family there is only so much time left for work and as our semester draws to a close in just a couple of weeks, I find that all my time is taken grading research papers and exams.
It is very difficult task indeed to live in the tension of teaching and writing. Still, it is a gift from God to even have the tension. Thanks be to God!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Gospel: Implication and Content

I've been listening to N.T. Wright's interview at the Asbury Theological Seminary Chapel which was most interesting (esp. his response to John Piper's book) with Ben Witherington III chiming in as well. But one thing that grabbed my attention is Wright's articulation of Rom. 3.27-30:

"Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one. He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith (ESV)"

Notice the beginning of v. 29 "Or is God the God of the Jews only?" which begins with the disjunctive particle ē. Clearly here an ethnocentric soteriology is the antithesis to justification by faith. Let me contrast that with Mark Dever's T4G address cited below, which makes confronting ethnocentrism in the church an implication of justification. There Dever maintained that one can get justification right but get the implication wrong. This is why in conservative circles in the USA you had Christians who believed in the gospel but also believed in racial segregation - they just got the implications wrong. But what Paul is saying is much, much stronger than that, according to Paul you cannot believe in justification by faith and an ethnocentric (or segregationist) ecclesiology because they are mutually exclusive, hence the "or"! Paul poses to his audience an argument of alternatives and they asked to choose one option. Now keep in mind, Dever and Wright both agree that ethnocentrism and segregation in the church are out of step with the gospel, the question is how does that principle relate to the gospel (or more accurately to justification). Rather than say that justification is a vertical event between God and human beings with horizontal implications for human relationships, I'd rather say that justification is both a vertical and horizontal event where the content and context are not neatly distinguished. That said, I think Paul premises the latter on the former but without reducing the horizontal elements purely to an implication, since the horiztonal and vertical elements of justification are bound up together even if one has a logical priority.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Father God!

The prayerful cry of every Christian is "Abba, Father". I don't know of any song that captures more profoundly the feelings of utter dependence and inexpressible joy in the knowledge of our heavenly Father than this song:

I sing my girls to sleep every night singing this song and it is in my top three favourite worships songs. The doxologically challenged need not bother, you won't get it.

Asiatic Rhetoric

In his Roman Lives, Plutarch notes the popularity of Asiatic rhetoric (usually a more flowery and bombastic form of rhetorical delivery than its Attic counter-part) where he says of Mark Antony: "He adopted the so-called Asiatic style of speaking, which was flourishing with particular vigour just then and which bore a considerable resemblance to his life, in that it was kind of showy whinnying, filled with vain prancing and capricious ambition" (2).

How Not to Improve Your Theological German

If want to improve your theological German then don't bother watching this clip (unless you have some strange affection for cheesey 1980's video clips).

The Gospel of John and the OT

"While John does quote the Old Testament to speak of promises fulfilled in Jesus, more often he draws out the significance of Jesus' deeds or words by explaining them in terms of motifs and imagery drawn from the pages of the Old Testament and from Jewish interpretive traditions".

M.M. Thompson, 'The gospel according to John,' in The Cambridge Companion to the Gospels, ed. Stephen G. Barton (Cambridge: CUP, 2007), 185.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mark Dever on "Gospel"

I'm listening to (and enjoying) Mark Dever's T4G sermon on "Improving the Gospel: Exercises in Unbiblical Theology" which I found thought provoking. I like the way that he actually "gets" some of the challenges to the gospel in the NT. It is good to hear a Reformed guy say that the problem in Galatia was that by adding law observance to the gospel the influencers were implying that one had to become a Jew in order to become a Christian! Since I'm keen on anything to do with "gospel" I'll survey Dever's sermon and add some comments. Dever lists five "cries" which he regards as threats to the gospel and to the sufficiency of Christ:

1. Make the gospel public. Dever critiques N.T. Wright's desire to see the church shape human society and culture including its laws and structures. I concur that the effect of the gospel cannot be confused with its contents, though I have to ask, does Wright actually state that Christian cultural influence is what the gospel is about or even the central mission of the church (no references come to my mind)? Wright is big on social justice and debt relief for Africa, but I'm not sure if he frames it in the terms that Dever alleges. Yet Dever makes a good point by referring to Jer. 29.7, "seek the welfare of the city" that Christians can make a difference in the world in terms of schooling, poverty, and sex trafficking, etc. But then again I wasn't sure on his, "dont' ask me about politics and constitutional law, because I'm just a pastor who is into the cross of Christ". That's the kind of bifurcations that Wright is rightly warning of. I think Dever should have engaged Abraham Kuyper instead of N.T. Wright on the subject of the Christian, the gospel, and the state and the dialogue might have gone in a different direction. To be fair, Dever believes in both compassion and evangelism, but maintains that they are not both part of the gospel. I know what he's getting at, but I have to ask, what do you do with those statements in Gospels (like Lk. 4.18-21, 7.22-23) where Jesus says that "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to preach good news to the poor"? In my mind this clearly mixes compassion and evangelism together. When Dever says, "don't make the gospel public" I can relate to that in so far as not making the gospel a bunch of public social policies, but the gospel is the public announcement that the crucified and risen Jesus is Lord and Saviour, and his lordship has immense consequences for all human institutions and structures.

2. Make the gospel larger. Is salvation only about souls being saved? Again Dever's point is about the danger of confusing the implication of the gospel with its contents. He is right that the gospel is transformative and is not merely a compilation of moral positions and the unity of Jews and Gentiles in one body is a chief result of the gospel (e.g. Eph. 3.6 - this is great stuff by Dever!), but again, Lk. 4.18-21 is a good example as you can get of doing the gospel which does take on elements of socio-economic liberation (I'll side with Colson over Dever on his exegesis of that text). Did the pro-segregationalist Christians understand the gospel correctly but merely got its implications wrong? Dever says "yes," but I'm not so sure. Maybe the reason they messed up the implications of the gospel is because they had an erronneous conception of the gospel to begin with (although perhaps the matter was alot more complex than all of this in any case and it was alot more than "gospel" that lead to pro-segregationist views).

3. Make the gospel relevant. I like Dever's critique of the homogenous church principle. I concur and I think that it is not biblical and has had horrendous consequences in Africa leading to Christians vs. Christians violence. All the same, I've seen the sociology behind conversions at work in a positive way where some persons belong to a community and then come to believe with the community in Jesus as Lord and Saviour, which runs in the face of some evangelistic models. Importantly, Dever is not anti-contextualization, he only he wants to make sure that the process of conceptual transference does not to tinker with the message in order to make it more digestible. He wants to retain the offence of the gospel across cultural boundaries even if it is articulated in slightly different terms.

4. Make the gospel personal. Here Dever is at his best. The true test of gospel conversion is becoming a disciple and participating in a community of believers. Gifts are given by God for service in the local church and disciples should be active in a community of believers. His best point is that a low view of the church can lead to a low view of the gospel.

5. Make the gospel kinder. Dever is right on the money in that God is not a utilitarian in trying to do the greatest good for the greatest number. Dever regards this as the root of the other four problems: a man centred gospel. God's purpose is not to save the most sinners possible, but to bring glory to himself. Evangelism then should be motivated by the quest to bring glory to God.

I found myself enjoying and benefitting from this sermon, several minor points I'd tinker with myself, but his main point is worth pondering: how do we differentiate the gospel from its implications. Also the relationship between a biblical meta-narrative running from Fall to New Creation and the gospel declaration of Jesus' death and resurrection is another good topic of discussion. Food for thought!
If you haven't read it, then can I urge you all to read F.F. Bruce's little book, The Defense of the Gospel in the New Testament which covers some similar terrain.

One Down Five to Go!

Today I received my copy of A Bird's Eye-View of Paul and it looks swish. My thanks to IVP for doing a cracking good job of getting it out. I owe this book to James Crossley since it was written while waiting for him to finish revisions on another book we're doing together - so here's to you James! I sincerely hope this blesses whoever reads it and their faith in God and vision of God's kingdom is refocused and re-energized as a result. This is one book where my humour goes kinda rampant so be warned! A new book always feels like (well kinda sorta) a child going off to college: you send them out into the big bad world and hope they'll handle the reviews that come their way. I shall be celebrating tonight with some of Livy's Lives and a bottle of Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cab-Sav! Other books coming out in the next twelve to fifteen months include:

1. How did Christianity Begin? A Believer and Non-believer Examine the Evidence (with James Crossley). London: SPCK, Sept 2008. This is now at copy editing stage. James Crossley has been great to work with (despite his incessant "you're distorting what I'm saying"). Rebecca Mullhearn is a great editor with good ideas and even when she sent us back to formulae she was a great encouragment the whole way. Maurice Casey gives me a bit of slap down in the end, but the highlight of the book IMHO is Scot McKnight giving James Crossley six of the best trousers down! Might be out in time for BNTC, but probably not!

2. Crossing Over Sea and Land: Jewish Proselytizing Activity in the Second-Temple Period. Tuebingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 2008. I'm currently finishing this off right now. It is a prequel to my Ph.D thesis. I'm trying to build on the work of Scot McKnight and Martin Goodman and say some original stuff about Jewish missionary activity in Colossae and how Paul's Judeo-Christian opponents relate to Jewish proselytizing efforts.

3. The Faith of Jesus Christ: Exegetical, Biblical, and Theological Studies (with Preston Srpinkle) . Milton Keynes: Paternoster, Jan/Feb 2009. I just got the last essay for this today and it will be at proof and copy editing stage in the next couple of weeks. If you are into Pauline studies this will be THE book of 2009 as we have a cast of all-stars going head-to-head and mano-e-mano. The Pistis Christou debate will never be the same.

4. Are You the One Who is to Come? The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2009. This is at proof reading stage before it goes to Baker. Alas, I must sadly part company with Father Fitzmyer and Jimmy Dunn on this one and throw in my lot with Hengel, Evans, and Wright as I believe that the historical Jesus' career was "performatively messianic". This book is the attempt to prove so!

5. Colossians: A New Covenant Commentary. Oregon: Cascade, July 2009. This will be my summer project (along with writing a course on "Reformed interpretation of Romans from Calvin to Cranfield"). I'm longing to write a commentary on my favourite epistle of the New Testament and dive into Markus Barth's own commentary as well as recent commentaries by M.M. Thompson, Ben Witherington, and Doug Moo too. It is part of a new commentary series edited by myself and Craig Keener with a line-up of great scholars from around the world (I mean Asia, Africa, America, Australia). I'll blog more on that in the future.

As J.S. Bach wrote after all of his works: SDG!

Latest EJT 17.1 (2008)

The latest European Journal of Theology includes:

Pierre Berthoud
"The Reconciliation of Joseph with his Brothers: Sin, Forgiveness and Providence"

Jan Henzel
"From Discord to Concord"

Giedrius Saulytis
"A Small Nation with a Big Soul: Reflection on the National Character of Lithuanian People"

Pavel Hanes
"Christianity in the Post-Marxist Context"

Philip Ziegler
"Review Article: Studies in Postliberal Theology"

Mark Elliott
"Review Article: Craig Bartholomew, Anthony Thiselton (Gen Eds.), Scripture and Hermeneutics Series, Vols. IV-VII (2003-2007)"

Latest RTR 67.1 (2008)

The latest Reformed Theological Review includes:

Michael Russell
"On the Third Day, According to the Scriptures"

Barry Webb
"The Wars of Judges as Christian Scripture"

John S. Ross
"Man about Town: Robert Murray M'Cheyne in London (1839)"

Paul and Rhetoric - where to start?

My good friend Dr. Bruce Lowe of RTS-Atlanta, wrote me and gave some excellent advice about where to start studying rhetoric in terms of its relevance to Paul's rhetorical discourse. Bruce states: "Cicero's De Inventione and pseudo-Cicero's Rhetorical Ad Herennium are considered to be by far the best sources if you are thinking about NT rhetoric. Over and again I find people in the literature affirming these as the best sources, mainly because they seem to have had the same Greek teacher (thus the belief for a while that they were both from Cicero). They were both first century BC and yet also had an influence on Latin rhetoric. So if someone argued that Paul was only influenced by the Greek tradition... these are your best sources... yet they were also foundational to 1st cent. AD Latin rhetoric too." Thanks Bruce!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Richard Bauckham's New Christology Book

In glancing over Paternoster's most recent catalogue I noticed that Richard Bauckham's newest book, Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament's Christology of Divine Identity should be out soon (in the catalogue it lists the release date as Dec 07 but Amazon says Sept 08). The blurb reads:

"The basic thesis of this important book on New Testament Christology, sketched in the first essay ‘God Crucified’, is that the worship of Jesus as God was seen by the early Christians as compatible with their Jewish monotheism. Jesus was thought to participate in the divine identity of the one God of Israel. The other chapters provide more detailed support for, and an expansion of, this basic thesis. Readers will find not only the full text of Bauckham’s classic book God Crucified, but also groundbreaking essays, some of which have never been previously published."

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Reformed and New Perspectives on Galatians 2:16

The latest issue of Expository Times is out (119.7 [2008]) and it has a cracking good article by Stephen Chester (North Park Seminary) on, "When the Old Was New: Reformation Perspectives on Galatians 2:16". Chester locates Luther's and Calvin's comments on Galatians 2:16 in light of the reformation context, in juxtaposition to Erasmus, and focuses on "works of the law", "justification by faith", and "the beliver's faith or Christ's faith". Interesting points of the article are:

1. On "works of the law" Chester notes the similarities between current discussions of "boundary markers" and reformational discussions over Jewish "ceremonies". The reformers rejected the notion of works of the law as merely the ceremonial aspects of the law and argued that Paul's point was orientated towards the entire law (cf. Gal. 3.10 too). On this point they were undoubtedly correct and Chester shows how the reformation reading is able to maintain the unity of 2.15-21. Nonetheless, Luther and Calvin pay very little attention to the Jew/Gentile relationships that were an issue here. Chester is worth citing at length:

How plausible is the proposition that by "works of the law" Paul intends to refer to primarily to some aspects of its observance rather than to the whole? True, recent advocates for understanding the phrase as focused on the boundary-marker function ofthe law accept that the phrase does refer to all that the law requires, but contend that some parts are more prominent than others. Their position is more subtle than was that of the Reformers' opponents, but is it any less vulnerable to the rejoinder that much of Paul's sebsequent argument in Galatians concerns the whole law? Where is the particular focus on boundary defining practices? The ability to offer plausible interpretations, opposed to those of the Reformers, of texts such as Galatians 3:10 and 3:18 therefore becomes a key test for the revised understanding of "works of the law". On justification, Luther and Calvin especially are able to read Galatians 2:15-21 in a unified manner. Paul speaks in his remarkable way in 2:19-20 about the relationship between the believer and the divine precisely as a further unpacking of what he said about it at 2:16. Galatian 2:19-20 concern justification. This statment makes excellent sense given that the climactic statement of 2:21 so clearly concerns justification. Can alternative readings of justification, more concerned with identifying the people of God, provide a similarly integrated and plausible exegesis of 2:15-21?

As regards "works of the law", it is certainly true that to understand them as boundary makers [sic?], separating Jew and Gentile, which Paul believes to have been overcome in Christ, offers a valuable theological resource for today's diverse global Christianity. A theological reading of Galatians would be inadequate that failed to draw attention to the contemporary implications of the disputes concerning different ethnic groups and their customs in the early churches at Antioch and Galatia. Yet, as we have seen, Reformation readings do not entirely neglect this dimension of Paul's argument. Calvin especially is deeply conscious of the shift in Paul's argument between the particular instance of Jew/Gentile relationships in the church and the wider principle that justification depends entirely upon grace, irrespective of human attempts to please God by our actions. In exploring the relationship between particular instance and wider principle it is possible to read Galatians in a way that holds the Reformers correct about "works of the law" and yet also devotes proper attention to Jew/Gentile relationships in the church and their contemporary implications.

2. Chester also points out that Calvin and Luther did not disconnect justification and christology as much as their later interpreters did (as by e.g. Melanchthon and Perkins). Both Calvin and Luther connect justification to union with Christ in Gal. 2.19-20.

3. Chester notes that both the Reformers and their Catholic interlocutors understood ek pisteos christou as "by faith in Christ". This pistis christou debate was a non-entity during the Reformation.

This is a fine article, let me add a few comments stimulated by Chester's article:
  • I think it is certainly correct that "works of the law" means simply the works which the law requries. However, this is not an atemporal statement of human effort to please to God, and it includes commandments that set-apart the Jewish people from Gentiles. A cursory reading of Menahem Stern's Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism shows that it was the peculiar behaviour of Jews that stood out to pagan authors (esp. circumcision, sabbath keeping, and the food laws). Thus, "works of the law" designates the epoch of the Sinaitic legislation but also the distinctive social practices of the Jewish people. In other words, it denotes the entire Mosaic code and the Jewish way of life as codified in the Torah.
  • In SROG I explored more fully the link between 2.11-14 (Antioch episode) and 2.15-21 (justification by faith). The question is, how do you get from a debate about food and fellowship to some dramatic and powerful statements by Paul about righteousness by faith? What starts off with a basic discussion of maintaining Jewish distinctiveness in a mixed Jew/Gentile setting soon gives way to a more fundamental question of the individual's relation to God and what mediates that relationship: law or Christ. For Paul, "righteousness" is not a cipher for "covenant status" or "identity legimitation" but it refers to one's status before God at the eschaton in light of the final judgment. Of course that of itself has huge sociological consequences for one how initiates and integrates non-Jews into Jesus-believing fellowships with other Jesus-believing Jews.
  • Before lampooning "boundary markers" as Jewish "ceremonies" redivvus, see Dunn, "The New Perspective: Whence, What, and Whither?" p. 25, n. 106.
  • Chester has confirmed for me what is my basic suspicion. We have no need to abandon the basic theological architecture bequeathed to us by the Reformation, but we have to recognize and grasp more closely the sociological dimensions of Torah concerning group identity and group boundaries etc, and also the ecclesiological implications of justification.
  • As I've said before: justification is the act whereby God creates a new people, with a new status, in a new covenant, as a foretaste of the new age!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Jesus "Ministry"?

Should we talk of Jesus' "ministry"? Or should we talk about his vocation, his mission, his work, and his range of activities instead? The word "ministry" can obviously conjure up a very specific Christian understanding of a religious vocation which is anachronistic to import into Jesus' context. In Christian depiction Jesus is undoubtedly a servant or minister to Israel (e.g. Rom. 15.7-8), but what word should we use to describe Jesus' activities that respects the language of the Gospels to describe what Jesus was doing but at the same time fits into the religio-social sphere of Palestinian Judaism? Is a reference to Jesus' "ministry" a too Christian designation to use?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Book Notice: 1-2 Thessalonians by V.P. Furnish

Victor Paul Furnish
1 and 2 Thessalonians (ANTC)
Nashville: Abingdon, 2007.
Available at Alban Books in the UK
Available at in the USA

Furnish is well known from his work on 1 and 2 Corinthians and he turns here to the Thessalonian correspondence. He regards 1 Thessalonians as Paul's first letter and essentially as a pastoral letter. He contests the view that Thessalonica had a sizeable Jewish population (contra the impression in Acts 17) since there is little literary and archaeological evidence for a sizeable Jewish presence in Thessalonica and 1 Thessalonians itself does not deal with Jewish issues like circumcision and food sacrificed to idols. Instead, the Thessalonian converts were mostly Gentiles and probably from the artisan class. The letter is thoroughly theocentric and the predominant themes in Furnish's view include election, faith, love, and hope. 1 Thessalonians is a theological-ethical writing. He accepts the integrity of 1 Thess. 2.13-14. Furnish regards the "word of the Lord" in 1 Thess. 4.15 as a piece of "prophetic speech authorized by the Lord" and stems from either the Christian prophetic tradition or as Paul's own prophetic word. He regards the "peace and security" of 1 Thess. 5.3 as a reference to the pax et securitas of the Roman imperial cult and that: "There is good evidence that this slogan reflects the poltiical ideology of the imperial cult in Thessaonica, which accorded lavish honors to Rome and Caesar . . . Paul forsees the ultimate destruction for those who, living in the darkness of unbelief, place their trust in the poltical might of Rome rather than in the saving power of God" (p. 108).

Furnish regards 2 Thessalonians as a deutero-pauline letter which exhibits features of deliberative or advisory rhetoric. The letter aims to persuade about certain views of the end time and dissuade certain attitudes and behaviours in the community. The main themes of the letter are indebted to the eschatological traditions of formative Judaism and early Christianity and explicates the ideas of election, salvation, and there is a deliberate futurizing of eschatology. Furnish regards the "man of lawlessness" as a false prophet and suggests that 2 Thessalonians has a bleaker view of non-Christian pagans than the authentic Pauline letters.

This is not a bad commentary, it is brief, often insightful, and offers sound and straight forward judgments. It is not in the league of Malherbe, Best, or Morris, but is useful nonetheless.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Sleep is Overrated

Ever since being a teenager I've suffered insomnia, during my time in the Army we could get as little as ten hours sleep over 3-4 days, I've learnt (for the most part) to do without out it, and even now sleep often seems a necessary intrusion into all the things I'd like to do. But I'm glad to say that Julius Caesar agreed. Plutarch says that Caesar, "considered rest no more than an investment for future action".

The NT and Intertextuality

I've just noticed a new book out from SBL, The Intertextuality of the Epistles: Explorations of Theory and Practice edited by Thomas L. Brodie, Dennis R. MacDonald, and Stanley E. Porter.

Mark Nanos on the “weak” in 1 Corinthians 8—11, Part Two

Mark Nanos argues in his yet-to-be-published paper “The Polytheist Identity of the ‘Weak,’ And Paul’s Strategy to ‘Gain’ Them: A New Reading of 1 Corinthians 8:1—11:1” that the ‘weak’ are polytheists, that is non-believing Gentile idolaters. These Mark asserts “are not resistant to eating idol food; rather, the impaired have always eaten idol food as an act of religious significance . . . the impaired are not insecure in their faith, they do not share faith in Christ with the knowledgeable” (12).

I want to agree with Mark's interpretation because I share his conviction that Paul practiced the Torah out of a deep sense of faith and conviction and therefore he would not have agreed with that idol food is of no consequence. I come to this passage ready to receive a fresh interpretation based on a new paradigm. And while Mark offers several compelling and fresh insights the whole argument for me is still wanting. This is the case for several reasons and it is not that my mind is made up, but I will not be convinced of Mark’s thesis until he can adequately answer the following issues sufficiently:

(1) The meaning of adelphoi (1 Cor 8:11-12). Try as he may Mark does not provide a sufficient case for taking adelphoi in the context of 1 Cor 8—11 as a reference to non-believing Gentiles. While showing the widespread usage of “fictive kinship” in the Mediterranean world and its potential reference to humankind (pp. 25-31), he cannot show Paul generally in this letters nor specifically 1 Corinthians uses the term in any other way than to refer to fellow believers. I think he undermines his case when he appeals to 1 Cor 5:9-12 where Paul explicitly distinguishes between idolaters and those who call themselves “brother or sister”. Mark I need something more to be convinced.

(2) Paul’s argument in 1 Cor 8:1-13 and within it the significance of the term “knowledge” as well as Paul’s concern for the potential defilement of more believers (1 Cor 8:7). Here I can do no more than point out that Paul’s concern seems to be related to the elitism of some who think they have “knowledge”, but don’t reflect the life concomitant with true knowledge (8:1-3). For Paul the issue “concerning eating things sacrificed to idols” (8:4), of which they asked, revealed this fact in the recipients. While Paul asserts that all men don’t have the knowledge of the oneness of God, he nevertheless is interested here in the issue within the context of the believing community. This seems to be is the significance of the term “defiled” (moluventai) in 8:7. The potential for defilement of more believers--ultimately apostasy I think is in view--(8:11) is the issue. Thus Paul’s concern is the potential of idolatry and its consequence for a Christ-believer more than the present practice of idolatry by non-Christ believing Gentiles.

Furthermore, if the term “knowledge” understood so narrowly to be the only a reference to something that differentiation between those in or out of Christ faith, then it makes no sense why Paul would need to state emphatically that not all have this knowledge (8:7). The receipts being former idolaters themselves would clearly know that their fellow Corinthians who were not Diaspora Israelites would not have this knowledge. What appears to be the sharp edge of Paul’s pastoral exhortation is his point that there are those among their “family” who struggle to comprehend the implications of the Gospel. It is those “weak” who Paul is concerned for.

The final two issues I will only mention:

(3) The function Paul’s appeal to ancient Israel’s example (1 Cor 10:1-22). If apostasy is Paul’s real concern in 1 Cor 8 than his appeal to ancient Israel makes clear sense.

(4) Paul’s assertion that he became “weak” to win the “weak” (9:22) would be hard to comprehend if the “weak” are defined only as polytheists in the context. How can we think that Paul became a polythesist in any real sense? Note the different grammatical structure in 9:22 from the other items in 9:20-22 where "as" (hos) is used.

I am of the mind at least for now that while there are many problems with the traditional reading, which Mark usefully points out, these are not insurmountable and the underlying presuppositions that have informed the interpretation don’t need to be shared. So I will continue to hold to a more traditional interpretation with significant revisions.

On the whole, Mark does make a compelling argument that the “weak’ or “impaired” as he calls them, can in abstract be a reference to non-believing Gentile idolaters. His mention of Romans 5:6-10 seems to justify this sense of the term. Furthermore, it is not at all impossible or improbable that Paul would have had just the concern Mark asserts about the conduct of Christ-believing Gentiles. He would certainly be concerned with the conduct of believers with respect to the outsider and it is probable that he would have had a more specific concern that believers’ participation in the eating of idol food or the temple cults would be a obstacle to the truth of the Gospel. This is all quite true no doubt. Thus the question for me is not whether Mark rightly describes a Pauline concern—this is incontestable and perhaps even present; yet the significant point is whether in fact this is Paul’s primary concern here in 1 Corinthians 8—11. What’s more, is it even possible that within this context both concerns, that is inside and outside, are present, which then would account for the difference in discussions in chapters 8 and 10 respectively.

I think that the hypothesis that best explains the passage is one that focuses on the real and every present danger of further apostasy by members of the community of Christ-believers. Within the culture of Corinth there would no doubt have been tremendous pressure on Christ-believers to either apostatize completely or at the very least to practice some form of syncretistic worship.
Perhaps the most profound observation to make of this passage is that Paul lays the responsibilty at the feet of the members of the community of faith to keep this from happening. If only we would take that kind of responsibility for other members of Christ's church.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Advice to Ph.D Candidates

Through a variety of experiences (including my own) I have seen that Ph.D candidates in NT studies have some kind of aversion to incorporating Graeco-Roman literature into their study. They are keen on the Old Testament, Josephus, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Rabbinic literature in relation to their thesis topic, but Graeco-Roman sources rarely warrant a mention yet alone concerted engagement. The underlying assumption (in practice if not theory) is that the New Testament authors were immersed in the Jewish world but only minimally in the Graeco-Roman world. There are a number of reasons for this ranging from lack of familiarity to lack of accessibility to the primary sources (or in some cases even pure dogged laziness and ignorance). But I beg all Ph.D candidates to consider the fact that (1) the New Testament was written (as far as we know) in Greek, the lingua franca of the eastern Mediterranean, (2) most of the New Testament was written outside of Palestine (James, Jude, and Matthew might be the exceptions), (3) the interface with Hellenism and Roman society was arguably one of the driving forces behind the sociology and theology of Diaspora Judaism and early Christianity, and (4) most of the early churches were located in the major Graeco-Roman cities and thus the life of the polis (culture, history, religion, literature, etc) was of paramount import to the New Testament authors and audiences. In other words, if you're gonna write a thesis on 1 Thessalonians, do not include twenty-six references to a fourth-century targumim and no references to any Graeco-Roman authors or inscriptions from Thessalonica. Here I commend David Aune as a model of how someone can let a mastery of Graeco-Roman sources illuminate their study of the New Testament (while remaining cautious of parallelomania).

Let me suggest a 12 step plan to get up to speed on Graeco-Roman sources:

1. Read Menahem Stern on Greek and Latin Authors and Jews and Judaism which is a great resource for what pagan authors thought of Jews.
2. Read lots of the articles out of Dictionary of New Testament Background edited by Evans and Porter.
3. Read Homer which was the "Bible" of Hellenism.
4. Read some histories like Herodotus, Suetonius, Tacitus.
5. Read at least one of the rhetorical handbooks by Quintillian or Aristotle.
6. When it comes to Paul read the Hellenistic Commentary on the New Testament by Borging, Berger, and Colpe (I imagine Helmut Koester's Cities of Paul and Paul and His World would be also helpful).
7. Read or eat Loeb Classical Library volumes for breakfast.
8. Read or beg, borrow, or acquire as many volumes of New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity as you can legally acquire.
9. Read or at least peruse David deSilva's Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture.
10. Although I haven't read it, The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era: Exploring the Background of Early Christianity by James S. Jeffery looks readable and informative.
11. Try read as much papyri (Greek magical or Oxyrhynchus) and archaeological stuff as you can find, esp. anything by Johnathan L. Reed and more recently John McRae's book on archaeology looks good too.
12. Get your church, seminary, or university to send you on a study trip to Greece and Turkey (while you're there send me a post-card, some fresh Greek olives, and stay out of the Turkish bathhouses).

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Seyoon Kim's Forthcoming Book

Seyoon Kim's latest book, Christ and Caesar: The Gospel and the Roman Empire in the Writings of Paul and Luke is due for release in September which is apparently a critique of the "fresh perspective" or anti-imperial (= anti-American?) interpretation of Paul.

My own view on this is: (1) Yes, alot of the counter-imperial stuff on Paul is blown out of all proportion and Paul is turned into a socially progressive anti-reagan and anti-bush UMC minister in Connecticut (no offence to UMC ministers, it's just a caricature). (2) But at the end of the day you only have to read Acts 17.7, 1 Thess. 5.3, and do a short word study of 'gospel', 'Lord', 'grace', and 'parousia' in the Greco-Roman sources to see that Paul's gospel is theopolitical, which is hardly surprising as Israel's prophetic hopes had always been theopolitical too.

HT: In Light of the Gospel

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Purpose of (Luke-)Acts?

The proposed purposes for Luke-Acts are manifold. To name but a few:

1. Replacing apocalyptic enthusiasm for the parousia with "salvation-history".
2. Legitimizing the identity of Christian Gentiles (a favourite these days).
3. Reconciling Pauline and Petrine Christianities.
4. An apology for the Apostle Paul.
5. To evangelize Jews of the Diaspora.
6. To extol the virtues of the Christian community as worthy of imitation.
7. An attempt at biography/historiography relating to Jesus and the history of the early Christian mission.

There are elements of all of these that I find plausible on some level or other. As Kasemann said, you do not write the history of the church if you're expecting the world to end tomorrow. The place of Gentiles in the church is certainly a key concern for Luke. There is no doubt that Luke does flatten out many of the controversies and divisions in the early church, although it is definitely not a white washed account. The fact that Paul gives his testimony twice under forensic conditions shows that Luke wants to exonerate Paul from certain charges. While some might argue that these Christians are a threat to the Roman system of justice and social order, Luke is keen to show that Roman justice ain't quite so just for those on the bottom rung of the ladder. The emphasis on "Jesus as the Messiah" in Acts could be indicative of an attempt at creating a missionsschrift like other Jewish Hellenistic apologetic-propaganda literature and this is enhanced by the inclusion of a life of Jesus. There is nothing to say that Luke is not simply wanting to convey information to interested parties (adherents and critics of Christianity) like Theophilus about Jesus and the apostolic mission. I'm no fan of the "Lucan community" hypothesis (see Dale C. Allison and Richard Bauckham) but we cannot discount the value of Luke-Acts as part of general Christian instruction either.

But one verse that I regard as key in locating Luke's purpose is Acts 28.21-22 "'They replied, 'We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our people who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect'" (TNIV). Does this reflect the Sitz im Leben of Luke and his readers and foster the occasion for Luke to write his two-volume work? Is Luke writing to correct misinformation about Jesus and "the Way", trying to refute several allegations about how followers of Jesus disrupt the peace and security of society, and to defend Paul in particular from various rumours and charges? I find that it is often at the end of a document that one finds a window into the concerns of the author since that is where he impart his main point to his audience. In this sense, I tend to think of Acts as having a number of purposes and uses (which are not the same thing) but perhaps the apologetic purpose stands out as the strongest candidate.

CT Articles: Proselytizing and Poverty

There is again a couple of fine articles at CT on:

Justice for the Poorest. I'm into anything that the International Justice Mission does. Do read this!

The Politics of Proselytization. I suspect that this subject will become more and more volatile in the West with every year that passes as pluralism cannot tolerate proselytizing.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Book Notice: Meet the Rabbis by Brad H. Young

Brad H. Young
Meet the Rabbis: Rabbinic Thought and the Teachings of Jesus
Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007
Available from Alban Books
Available from

When I teach on NT backgrounds, the content and relevance of rabbinic literature is often hard to impart to students. There's a lot of material to cover such as the Mishnah, the two Talmuds, Midrashim, Tosefta, etc. Brad Young has done a good job of showing the relevance of alot of this literature to the Gospels through his study of rabbinic teachings. One of the good things about Young's book is that he approaches the subject as a devout Christian but is willing to listen to these texts on their own terms and without pre-judging them as inferior to his own religious tradition. He gives a sympathetic treatment of the Pharisees and goes so far as to say that: "The church has at times read the Gospels as if Jesus were a Christian pastor attacking the leaders of a synagogue" (p. 35). The best parts of Young's book are: his discussion on the Pharisees, his introduction to Jewish literature, and his description of Jewish piety.

An outline of Young's book includes:

Part I: Introduction to Rabbinic Thought
1. Introduction to Rabbinic Thought
2. Masters Teachers and Their Disciples
3. Torah Is More than Law
4. The Great Sanhedrin
5. Parallel Rabbinic and New Testament Texts

Part II: Introduction to Rabbinic Literature
6. Introduction to Early Jewish Writings
7. Ethics of the Fathers
8. The Amidah Prayer
9. Maimonides Third Principles of Jewish Faith
10. Hillel's Seven Principles of Bible Interpretation

Part III: Introduction to the Rabbis
11. Meet the Rabbis
12. Both Torahs Were Revealed at Mount Sinai
13. Utopia or Actions Plans

Part IV: Study Helps

One place where I'd disagree with Young is that I'd be somewhat more cautious about how far back alot of these rabbinic traditions go and we have to avoid parallelomania in tracing the relevance of rabbinic materials for the New Testament.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Chilton on Pagels and the Gnostic Gospels

In the pages of the New York Sun, New Testament scholar Bruce Chilton subjected Elaine Pagels’ 1979 bestseller The Gnostic Gospels to a bright-light re-evaluation. Among his conclusions:

"Ms. Pagels’s … anachronisms have undermined public understanding of early Christianity. Gnosticism proved to be the most powerful philosophical and religious movement of its time because it insisted without compromise that the only truth that atterstranscendsthiscorruptworld. Gnostics often denigrated women as creatures of corruption, condemned any disagreement with their teaching as materialist fantasy, and denied that sexuality had any place in the realm of spirit. Trying to turn this orientation into existentialism, or feminism, or an embrace of the world’s physicality, will only work with an extremely selective handling of the evidence, and deploys a laundered view of its subject … Gnosticism is a deeper and darker force than the revisionist scenario that makes it the prop of modern liberalism. After 30 years, it is time to move beyond the anachronism of The Gnostic Gospels."

HT: PaleoJudaica.

Peter Bolt: Living with the Underworld

Dr. Peter Bolt of Moore Theological College has a new book out called, Living with the Underworld which is published by Matthias Media (Australia and USA). The blurb includes:

Do these words speak of a frightening spiritual reality? Or are they the silly remnants of a more superstitious age?

The modern world seems to lurch between these two attitudes. At one level, we have never been more sceptical about ghosts and demons and Satan. And yet there are many, even in Western societies, who are deeply fearful of evil spiritual forces. There are yet more still who find the topic fascinating and endlessly devour movies and TV shows that exploit these ideas and themes.
Christians also often swing between paying the devil far too much attention, and not enough. Some Christian groups become obsessed with notions of ‘spiritual warfare’ and ridding people of demons, whilst other Christians regard such talk—even though it is found in the Bible—as outdated and part of the superstitious misunderstanding of the world from less enlightened, less scientific times.

In Living with the Underworld, the head of New Testament Studies at Moore Theological College, Peter Bolt, takes readers on a breathtaking journey through the spiritual underworld revealed in the pages of Scripture, and shows how Jesus came to reveal its true nature, neutralize its power, and liberate us to live without fear.

Living with the Underworld does not dismiss the Scriptural evidence of the spiritual underworld, but nor does it go beyond what we can know about that realm. Peter Bolt explores what God reveals to us in the Bible, and very helpfully points us to the power and significance of the cross. In so doing, he reveals a little-understood framework for understanding the life, death and resurrection of Jesus—a framework that will enlarge and enlighten evangelical thinking.

Biblical Criticism and Confessionalism - The Round-Up

We've had some good discussion on the post below about Biblical Criticism and Confessionalism. In particular, we've had a good mix of comments from a systematician in Martin Foord, a biblical theologian in Jim Hamilton, and from a text critic in Peter Head. A dream-team colloquium on the subject! For what's it's worth, let me give a run down on my approach:

1. What is the "Reformed Orthodox" view of using extra-biblical sources in exegesis? What led you to this answer and what (if anything) makes your answer prescriptive?

For me this question is about balancing two reformed distinctives: (1) Using scripture to interpret scripture, and (2) Ad Fontes or "back to the resources" - both principles are valid. The first principle is justified based simply on how often NT authors cite, allude, and echo the OT. Indeed, the OT was the only "Bible" of the Church for the first century of its existence and it provides the sub-structure of a NT Theology. But let's take a phrase like "works of the law" which does not really occur in the OT, but it does occur in 4QMMT. Is it theologically legitimate to allow a study of 4QMMT to shape our view of what Paul means by "works of the law" just as much as we would allow the OT to do the same? In my view, it is not merely a theological possibility, but a theological necessity that we do so! We must excavate and interrogate every crumb of evidence, canonical and non-canonical, in order to be able to understand, obey, proclaim, and theologize the text. To quote Foord, "The Bible is sufficient to lead one to salvation" but the inspiration of human beings requires us to investigate the human language, culture, and context in which the revelation was given. This is what Enns was trying to do even if he did not bring the divine element back into the equation to everyone's satisfaction.

2. Why is Genesis 1-3 similar to the Enuma Elish? On what do you base your answer?

I am naturally resistant to thinking of the Bible as "myth" since that conjures up notions of "fairytales" or else a fancy way of expressing ideas of things that "never were, but always are" and other ahistorical concepts (although I do recall Derek Kidner's TOTC Genesis commentary saying that Genesis 1-11 contains a mixture of "history and parable"). Enns tries to nuance his definition of "myth" but I think that he probably could have done a better job of assuaging his critics. I also think Foord and Hamilton are right when they point out that one possible explanation for the simililarity is that Genesis 1-3 is a concerted polemic against ANE creation stories. Thus, Enns' view of a shared conceptuality is one possibility and a polemic against ANE creation stories is another possibility. But on what basis does one prefer one possibility over the other? Is there strong internal evidence from Genesis 1-3 that implies a deliberate and aimed polemic at the Enuma Elish and ANE stories, or is this inference made in order to safe guard one's doctrine of Scripture? In other words, can and should one allow theological implications to determine the historical and literary relationship between two or more documents? To give another example, I have come across people who strenuously deny any notion of literary dependence within the Synoptic Gospels because in their view it would undermine inerrancy. Do we want to go there? I am not necessarily embracing Enns' view point (although I certainly understand its attraction), nor am I denying a polemic in Genesis 1-3 against ANE creation stories as an alternative, but I want to know why does one prefer one view over another? A theology of Scripture must surely include the phenomenon of Scripture (Enns and Carson agree). If not, there is always the danger that inferences about the text will inevitably replace listening to the text and hinder our entrance into the world of the text that we are being drawn into when we study Scripture.

3. Did the Apostle Paul believe in the inerrancy of the autographa? Why are Paul's citation of Scripture often different from the wording and meaning in the original Hebrew Bible and even the Septuagint (to give one example: Isa. 59.20 cited in Rom. 11.26-27)?

I heartily endorse Hamilton when he points out that Paul certainly considered the OT "true and trustworthy". Hamilton is also right when he says that each OT citation and allusion needs to be taken on a case-by-case basis as to what it does with each OT text. I would also be prepared to argue that in most cases the original context was of paramount significance for Paul (e.g. his usage of Hab. 2.4), but at other times it was a key word that drew his attention (e.g. Gen. 15.6 and Ps. 32.2 in the LXX). But if Paul felt free to approximate, re-word, and modify his text then he was more concerned with the meaning and significance of the text than with preserving the exact words of an autograph. I think it evident that Paul was not operating with modern standards of precision. While alot is made of 1 Tim 3.16, I think Rom. 15.4 is the place where we get Paul's quinessential view of Scripture. In other words, perhaps Paul was more concerned with how the divinely given Scripture functioned in the believing community than with finding the best way to describe their veracity.

4. Did the historical person of Enoch prophesy about the coming of the Lord (Jude 14-15)? Why does Jude cite this extra-canonical source (an Enochic tradition?), without differentiating it from the Hebrew Scriptures that he also quotes in his short epistle?

This is topic is as hairy as an Italian gorilla called Harry! I am of the view that Jude is quoting a version of 1 Enoch 1.9. Here I confess that I do not think that Enoch made this prophetic announcement and this was a legendary story written to fill in the gaps of the biblical story typical in Jewish expansions on Scripture. Every bone in my body wants to say Jude and his readers knew that this text was a legend, but I'm not 100% sure. Peter Head gives us food for thought: "'What is the most natural conclusion to be drawn from what Jude actually says?' Hence I get to my first point above: 'Jude believed (and wrote and taught) that the historical Enoch uttered this prophecy.' Let the Scriptures speak without constraining them beforehand. That is part of Prof Enns' point which I would support". Rather than presume upon what Jude and his readers did or did not think about 1 Enoch 1.9 (which we simply don't know for sure), I'm more inclined to say, at a minimum, that Jude cites this text/tradition simply because it made his argument more compelling and perusasive to his audience. Jude and his readers regarded this text/tradition as valid and veracious on some level. But it is a genuine possibility that Jude and/or his valued 1 Enoch 1.9 in the same way that they valued narratives from the Torah about Balaam's error and Korah's rebellion, and perhaps for the same reasons. Is there anything in Jude that indicates otherwise (if there is I'd love to know)? I suspect that the only reason to discard this possibility is a theological presumption based on what that possibility would entail for a doctrine of Scripture. As with the Enuma Elish, to what extent do we allow theological implications to determine the why and how biblical authors used non-biblical documents?

Thanks for all who chimed in. Finding an answer to these questions that satisfies everyone's sensibilities and concerns is practically impossible. I suspect that we (and I include Peter Enns here) would all agree with what the BCP says:

"Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience, and comfort of your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which You have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ."